Disclaimer: I own neither Riddick nor the details of his backstory.

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Another crowded dive on a world he couldn't even name, hoping the crush of people around him would ignore him long enough for his ship to get tuned and refueled, for him to buy or steal supplies.

The smell was typical-stale vomit and liquor with an undertone of urine and topnotes of unwashed people. This place was a little better than most. It was a bar for working types on a dull agricultural planet. He was unused to crowds and his sense of smell too acute for comfort. What the hell do they even grow in this place? Mostly they all smelled like dust. Everything smelled like dust. When he'd come in, mid-afternoon, the place had been nearly empty, blessedly dim, and he'd snagged the table in the back corner facing the door, his back to the wall. As always. Of course. The drinks were strong and cheap; the barman was even bigger than he, almost as ugly as some of those damn dark things, and not the talkative type. So aside from the smell, the place was perfect. That always means something's going to go wrong.

As the day lengthened, the bar grew more crowded, but no one paid much attention to the big man in the corner except one fat old whore, who made a half-hearted try at wheedling a drink from him. She'd found a sucker soon enough-no trouble there. Seemed like most people knew each other. There was a lot of shouting back and forth, and every once in a while a clump of them would burst out singing. Everyone who came in had to say a long round of hellos before they could make it to the bar.

At first there was just another commotion by the door, maybe a little more enthusiastic than some. A small woman, it looked like, with lots of light hair. She noticed him. Damn. After staring for a moment, she walked toward him. Double damn. A tiny woman like that, he couldn't just smash a fist into her face and let things go at that. Gods damn it! "I can't believe you didn't tell me you were here already!" she said loudly. Then she hugged him. It was all he could do not to snap her neck, except that she didn't smell like dust-more like real growing dirt, water, and green. He sat stunned for a moment while she slid into the chair across from him and laid her two small hands on his one large one. She was smiling.

"I'm sorry," she said, this time in an undertone that even he could hardly hear. "Really sorry. Can you just pretend like you know me, for a little while?" There was a man by the door who was interested. Lots of looks were coming their way, but this guy got up, started slinking over. The woman was talking fast. "It's Phint. I've been telling him for a year, since he got here, that I'm not interested, but he doesn't take no for an answer, so I started telling him I wasn't available." Riddick surprised himself. "Won't take no?" She woman shook her head, still smiling like her face would split open. "Around here, they used to sell women who didn't have protectors. He's an old-fashioned type." Riddick felt his mouth tighten. "Pimp?" he asked. "Slaver."

Guess he was helping out, then, dammit. Anyway, the guy had reached them. "Aw, Arenna. And here I thought you were lying to me all this time." He stank of cheap liquor, cheap cologne, and cheap whores. The woman's hands were cool and soft, plus she smelled like a forest. "No, I told you, Phint. I told you he was coming soon!" her voice was higher now, with just a bit of panic in it. "Ain't you gonna introduce me?"

Riddick stood. He topped Phint by almost half a meter. "Richard," he said. Phint did not try to shake his hand. He stared back and forth between them for a moment, then slunk away. The woman sighed. "Thank you," she said. "Look, I won't bother you. I'll just sit here for a little while and go home." Riddick wondered what kind of fairy world she lived in, that she thought slavers let go that easily. "No you won't," he said, and sat back down, sweeping her into his lap and tucking one hand between her legs.

It might've looked casual to the people around them, but she quietly struggled, and he had her pinned. He might've looked like he was whispering love words in her ear, but he was telling her stories. He told her about the slavers he had known and what they did to women. He hadn't gotten much past the beginning of the third story before she stopped trying to struggle and sagged against him. Her breath had a little catch in it, like she was trying not to cry. "Now me," he said. "I'm no slaver. And I'm no rapist. You don't have to worry about me. I'm just an escaped convict and murderer." She stiffened again and then very slowly relaxed. "Shit," she said quietly. Riddick smacked her on the rump. "Don't worry, sweetheart," he said. "I don't plan on killing you."

Then the barman was at their table, and she perked right up like an actress, ordered a round for both of them, paid for it out of pocket. "Boyfriend got no money, Arenna?" he growled at her. She shrugged. "His money's not what I need." The barman grunted and left them alone. When their drinks came, she raised hers in a toast. "Here's to my wonderful judgment of character," she said, clinking her glass to his and draining it. He snorted. But, by damn, she was still sitting on his lap, with her hair falling down all over him, and smelling green. Now that she was closer, he caught her own scent as well-not dusty like everyone else in the place and not fancy perfume, but just the smell of a clean woman: soap, skin, and softness. He took deep breaths to gulp it in. It was going to be a long night.

After a few minutes, she sighed. "Well, thank you anyway," she said. "You didn't kill anyone I know, and you got me out of a jam, so as far as I'm concerned, you're okay." Riddick stared at her dim grey outline through his goggles. That is some damn world of hers. Or maybe it's drugs. "So I guess you figured out my name's Arenna. Is yours really Richard?" He nodded once. She leaned back; he gritted his teeth to feel her curves mold against him. "And what brings you to this exciting agricultural planet?" He took a drink, and then he didn't know what to do with his hand. After a moment he tucked it back between her legs. Might as well get a feel out of it. "Ship repairs," he said. "I'm just passing through." She nodded. "How long are you here?" she asked after a moment. He shrugged. "Guy said in the morning."

"Look," she said, with another of those sighs. "I don't want to sound … forward, but I owe you. You can stay at my house, if you want. I mean, if you don't have a place to stay." Part of him wanted to wanted to leer at her, to squeeze her leg until she cried out with pain, to hurt her with crude words and threats. But she smelled like life. And he didn't have a place. Who knew the next time he'd have the chance to sleep in a bed? He nodded. "Do you want to go?" she asked. "It's, um, kind of weird, sitting here like this." If the animal Riddick laughed, he would have then. He nodded again. She took his hand and they threaded their way through the bar. As they got near the door, "Arenna!" The barman. She turned. "Be careful." She waved, and they were out, into the night.

She tried to pull her hand away, but he held on. It was so tiny. Plus, he knew what was coming, even if she didn't. Riddick heard the footsteps after less than a block. Three of them, it sounded like. Phint had some buddies. The steps came closer, then faded off to the left, and then they were in front. The girl was totally unaware. How has she stayed alive? Anyway, it was good the streetlights were so dim and sparse. There were definitely three of them, lounging in the shadows. "You know, Arenna," came the oily voice from the darkness, and she froze. "I really thought you were lying to me, all that time." Phint stepped out, flanked by two pock-faced goons. "But here he is, your famous boyfriend. Where the hell you been, boyfriend?"

Arenna was freaking out quietly beside him. Three to one odds probably seemed dire to her. Riddick felt the familiar cool wave of violence spreading from his gut. His skin prickled with it. He could smell a hunk of metal over by the wall, machine grease, and how drunk the three were. Somewhere in the alley, there were rats. "The slam," he said, his voice dead calm. The slaver laughed. "The slam! Miss Pure has herself a criminal? That's rich."

One of the things Riddick had noticed throughout his life was how much other people liked to talk. They did it all day. Even in the slam, even in the supermax, down in the dark, they'd yammer to each other all day and night through the food slots in the cell doors. You had your fight half-won by just not talking. Drove them crazy. So he stood, knowing his face told nothing, his eyes hidden. Phint's laughter died and the goons shifted on their feet. Arenna, good girl, was sidling behind him and keeping her mouth shut.

Riddick waited. He'd take the fight to a worthy opponent, but these were not it. One of the goons slid a knife from his pocket and tossed it from hand to hand. Riddick guessed they thought it was a surprise attack, but he saw it coming. The guy with the knife was fastest, and his arm was broken and shoving the blade into his own throat before he had time to register pain. Fist to the slaver's face so that he fell back, and the second goon got a swing in to Riddick's jaw before he was spun around and his neck snapped. Phint tried a tackle, but Riddick stepped to the side, lifted him from the waist, and slammed him on his head. Blood and brains puddled on the pavement.

Riddick rubbed his jaw. There was a bit of blood at the side of his mouth, but otherwise he was clean. He passed his hand over his stubbly head, breathed out the violence of the fight. He hadn't broken a sweat.

The girl, however, had. She was dead white and looked sick, staring at the bodies on the ground. "They're dead," she whispered. Fuck. If she starts crying, I'm walking away. Tears welled up in her eyes, but after a minute, just as he was ready to turn on his heel, she started to laugh. It was probably hysterical laughter, but at least it wasn't tears. She bent down into a crouch, arms around her waist, laughing. Definitely drugs. After a minute, she straightened and wiped her eyes. "Well," she said, still looking ill but with a little spirit in her face, "looks like you have killed someone I know. But I'm going to try not to mind." She walked widely around the bodies and took his hand again. Could be insanity. He shrugged and followed her home.

His ship was stowed at the edge of town, and he was surprised at how close it was to Arenna's house. He was even more surprised when she unlocked a giant greenhouse. Inside the door, he had to stop for a moment and just inhale the sweet air. It was damp, warm, and smelled of the same green that she did. She stood next to him, and he could hear the smile in her voice. "I'm a plant geneticist," she said. "I've lived here almost my whole life. My father and I came here after my mother left him. We came with the second generation of settlers. I got my degree over the Nets and took over after he died." She laughed a little. "It's a weird place, I guess. I know everyone, but I'm not a farmer. Everyone pays a tax that pays my salary. So I'm sort of alone. But it suits me."

Riddick took off his goggles, to feel that clean damp air on as much of himself as possible. She touched his hand and he turned to look at her. "Oh," she said. "Shine." He was startled-there was the slightest twitch of one eyebrow. "You know about shine?" She nodded. "I met a miner once who had it. He came here to prospect, but there's nothing but dirt on this rock." She grinned. "I should've known from the goggles. It's good I didn't turn the lights on."

She led him through the narrow aisle between plants, the occasional leaf brushing his arm like a caress. He was unused to softness, unused to this smell of life. He was used to the scent of death and of death soon to come. Everything here was rich and gentle, and the tiny bit of humanity left in him wanted to sink into it and become lost.

Her rooms were small, clean, and neat. There were a couple of hangings on the wall, and the furniture looked old but comfortable. She stood in the front room for a minute, hands on her hips, looking around. She had turned on only one small lamp. Finally she turned to him. "Look," she said, "I really owe you. I don't have money or anything to give you, but I … I mean, I don't know anything about prison. Are you hungry? Do you want a bath? . Um, just ask. I don't even know what to offer you."

Riddick's mind boggled at the thought that this gentle person could even live in the same universe he did. Just to be in someone's house, someone who seemed to have no fear of him, despite his having just killed three men in front of her-it was unthinkable. Still. She had said a bath. He told her so. She led him to the back of her house, even started the water for him, which made him think about wanting to smile. As she turned toward the door, she said, "Give me your shirt." He stared at her. "Your shirt," she said. "There's a tear in the sleeve." He looked down, and there was. Huh. "I'll fix it for you," she said. "Take your time."

He reckoned it was still early evening. Time enough to soak and more. Prison showers were two minutes under cold water, soap only if you had a clean record for the two weeks before, which he never did. He filled the tub to the brim and laid in the water until his fingers and toes pruned up and the water got cold, then he drained it out and filled it up again. The water brought out aches in muscles he hadn't acknowledged for years. He used a whole cake of soap on himself and shaved his head back down. By that point, something from the kitchen was smelling really good, and his stomach rumbled. He dried off, but he hated to put his rank clothes back on. He shrugged to himself. She can put up with the show. He wrapped a towel around his waist and followed the scent of food.

The kitchen was brighter, but not so bright that it hurt his eyes. She was stirring something in an actual pot over an actual flame. He couldn't remember the last time he'd had food that had been cooked by human hands. Whatever it was, it smelled red and warm. She turned toward him.

"Oh," she said, and her cheeks flashed dark in his sight. "Good. I fixed your shirt. I'll wash the rest of it." She held the spoon out toward him. "Stir." Bemused, he took it. He stirred the pot, breathing deeply of the rich aroma, as she retrieved his clothes and put them in the cleaner. When she came back and took the spoon from his hand, she looked up at him. "All clean?" she asked. "All clean." She bumped him with her hip. "Sit," she said. "It's ready."

He sat, crowding his bulk at her small table, and she fussed like a housewife. Whatever the stew was, it was mostly vegetables and spicy, with bread and the cleanest water he'd drunk in years. She sat across from him in comfortable silence, getting up once to put his clothes in to dry. When his bowl was empty, she got him another and set about cleaning, still in silence. "You're quiet," he said finally. She turned toward him, drying her hands and leaning against the stove. "I've lived alone for a long time," she said. "I'm not used to talking to people." She paused. "I guess you're not either." "No." By the time she was done cleaning and Riddick was done eating, the buzzer had gone off on the clothes dryer. She gathered his clothes up and handed them to him with a smile. When he came back from dressing, feeling more like a human than he had since he could remember, she was in a chair under the small lamp, reading. She had a lot of books. "Are you tired?" she asked, looking up. "No." Her Net rig was in the corner. He nodded toward it. "Mind if I use that?" She shook her head and uncurled herself like a cat. "It's protected. Give me a minute to boot it up." She bent over the rig, and he stared at the curve of her ass in her loose trousers, her slim hands moving over the keys, one reaching up to tuck her hair behind her ear. This small woman who was paying him back, bit by bit, for the trouble she had caused. He noticed that he was suddenly standing very close to her. She stumbled back into him as she stood up, and he grabbed her arms to steady her. She turned, so close that he could feel her body heat, the smell of her surrounding him. "It's up," she said, her voice catching. Her cheeks had heat again, and her mouth was parted. Was this what a woman looked like when she might say yes? "Thanks," he said, not moving, staring down at her.

For a moment it seemed that she would slide away from him, leave him to his work of flight paths and news searches. But then she reached up to cup his face, to pull him down toward her; he met her soft mouth, and after that he would not have let her go. She tasted as clean as she smelled, the faint heat of the stew still in both their mouths, and his arms went all the way around her plus some, crushing her small frame to him. She clung to him, her mouth wide and her tongue meeting his with a hunger he didn't expect. It was like the rush of violence, but warm, not cold, this desire overwhelming him. His brain disconnected-he was mouth and skin, nothing else. He lifted his head, panting for air, his mouth filled with the taste of her.

There again, for whatever time it was that night, her small hand was in his, but this time pulling him, pulling him forward into darkness, then absurdly pushing him down, and she was in his lap again, this time straddling his knees, kissing him again, filling his mouth with her tongue, her teeth nipping at his lip, and he heard himself groan. She was the color of heat all around him, the smell of gardens, and the tickle of her hair. I just put my shirt back on, he thought to himself as she stripped it off him, and then those hands, no longer cool, were all over him. She ground against him, hot. He'd had a couple of whores on New Mecca, one now and again on whatever world he stopped at for fuel and food. But that was mechanical; it helped him sleep at night. This made him want to never sleep again. She pushed at him and he let himself lean back into the bed.

"You're beautiful," she said, her fingers tracing the lines of his muscles, stomach and chest, lingering around his nipples so that he ground his teeth. "Do you know you're beautiful?" It was not something anyone said to Riddick. He'd have pulled her down onto him to shut her up, but she was tugging off her shirt, and there she was, so pale and fine, an unexpected fullness of breasts, filling his hands when he cupped them, and she arched her back, purred. He felt stupid with lust. Anyone could have had him at that moment and he would never have noticed, not with this woman grinding on him and her breasts in his hands, her nails raking across his chest.

She leaned down toward him again, her warm, wet mouth moving across his chest, collarbones, biting up his neck to meet his mouth again and he felt her struggling with her trousers. The both of them worked at it, joined at the mouth, until she wriggled free and he plunged one hand between her legs to find her sopping wet. She moaned into his mouth as he stroked her. She fumbled at his fly, and then he was moaning as she freed him and both of those soft hands wrapped around him, and he had to stop her or it would all be over too soon.

He threw her backward onto the bed, his hand never leaving her, and she gasped. He smiled to himself. Now that Arenna was under him, he roamed his hands all over her, he bit her neck, he suckled her until she whimpered. It gave him the chance to get out of his pants. To be clean, to press his skin against hers-it was dizzying. He was so hard that he ached. He nipped down her stomach, his hands gripping her hips, holding her down against the soft bed. Her hair was light-colored, but between her legs it was dark, and the scent coming off of her was rich, like sea air; when he dipped his head to taste her, she tasted of salt. She was better even than the food she had made for him, slick and warm, that small hard spot waiting for him. He lapped at her, sucked her, felt his face covered with her juices. She struggled against his hands, grinding against the sheets, breath coming in gasps. He licked her like a delicacy, kneading her hips, her ass, until she was sobbing and jerking, her hands flailing-grabbing the sheets, pounding the mattress, trying to clutch at his nonexistent hair.

Finally, Riddick trailed his tongue up her body. Her hands drew him up, and she was licking her own juices off his chin as he rammed into her, each of them groaning as he filled her, felt her surrounding him, hot, tight, and impossibly smooth. For a moment he stayed still, sheathed fully in her, her arms and legs wrapped around him and her mouth locked to his neck. It couldn't last. Soon he was thrusting, and he couldn't pull her close enough, couldn't find enough places to put his mouth or his hands, his tongue meeting hers while he tweaked her nipple hard and she dug her nails into him to pull him closer and hooked her leg behind the back of his neck.

Too soon, the universe coalesced into one point of light in the darkness and flowed out of him with a shout. As he collapsed, she wrapped her arms and legs tightly around him.

Riddick might have dozed for a while, because it seemed that suddenly he was lying on his side with his arms around her, and she was curled up with her back to him. He laid still for a moment, breathing in the scent of their sweat and musk blended together, feeling her hair tickle his skin, the warmth of her against his chest and the coolness of his back. He ran his hand down the side of her leg and felt himself stir. He propped up on his elbow, staring down at her and letting his hand explore. He teased some tangles from her hair, followed the curve of her flank, cupped one of her soft, heavy breasts. She wriggled against him, sighing in her sleep.

He moved down to position himself and entered her-she was still wet, and she gasped. He tried to stay still for a long time, feeling her clench around him as he reached around to finger her. Did she wake up or come in her sleep? Either way, she cried out, and the feel of her spasming around him made him lose control, thrust into her until he too was groaning. He slept again, still inside her.

When Riddick woke, it was later than he had slept in years. The light was still dim, but he could tell by the feel of the air. He stretched slowly. The softness of the bed felt so good. A bath, good food, good sex, and sleep-he might be a man after all. He could hear Arenna banging around in the kitchen, another voice like Net news playing softly. Didn't matter. He dozed back off.

After a short while, he woke back up again when Arenna came into the room, carrying two mugs of something with a sweet scent. She sat on the bed, laid the mugs down, and ran her hand down his back, kissed his head. He rolled over on his back to pull her in for a proper kiss. "Good morning," he said. She kissed him again, her fingers stroking his cheek, then handed him a mug. After he'd had a sip-and it was very good-she said, "So. You're Riddick."

He froze. He'd have to reach past her to the floor for the knife. The stuff in the mug was hot-it might not burn, but it would startle. And he could break her with almost no effort. But she was still sitting next to him, her hand gentle on his back, and there was no metallic tang of fear in her scent. "It's all over the Nets," she said. "I'm sorry. We have to get you out of here."

Riddick was the murderer, the big scary escaped convict with the bounty on his head, but Arenna bossed him around like a schoolteacher that morning. She shoved him into the shower, handed breakfast to him the minute he was dry, and made him drink 2 cups of the stuff in the mug. It helped that each of these was punctuated by kisses and her lithe body pressed against his.

She went with him to the dock, a large bag in her hand, where the mechanic eyed him suspiciously but didn't seem inclined to call the cops. "Come on, Mik. He's a friend," she said, and he nodded reluctantly. She paid for the repairs and the fuel before Riddick had a chance to react. She bustled him toward the door of the ship and shoved the bag at him. "It's not much," she said. "A little money. All the food in there is stuff that'll keep. Get out of here. Be safe."

You paid me back. "Thank you," he said. He saw her still watching as he closed the hatch, still watching as he took off and headed for the black sky.