After the visual message he'd received that morning, Imam found himself waiting impatiently at the very docking port Jack had flown from. The message had revealed both Riddick and Jack in the grainy image, their body language speaking volumes. Riddick had stated "we're on our way Holy Man. See you at 11:00 hours." It had disconnected with a sharp click, leaving Imam reeling in giddy relief.
Aereon had already left, insisting she was needed elsewhere and Riddick and Jack would know what to do. "I believe in them" she'd insisted simply, dismissing his continued questions of "but what of the Necromongers? Are they truly...gone?"
"The odds are good" she'd stated, smiling serenely as she'd boarded her ship.
" 'Til we meet again," Imam had replied formally, undoubtedly relieved by her reply.
Now it was nearly time for their return. He wrung his hands as he paced, his mind racing with different questions; did they know about the reports of strange rushes in the sky, or voices on coms from places once thought dead? Even how the planetary status of different worlds had changed, civilisations once thought lost forever were now thriving?
The people of Helion Prime had changed too, gone were the haunted looks in their eyes, the dark mutterings of death and destruction, the fear of the strange comets in the sky. Now they looked to the future, one that promised hope and happiness.
Halting in his pacing, he surveyed the world about him. He didn't know how, but Riddick and Jack had managed to change the dark destiny of not just this world, but others like it. For that he couldn't be more grateful.
It was hard to believe that Riddick was the same man he'd met so many years ago. Certainly it had never occurred to him that a convicted murderer would ever come to be worth anything... He shook his head at his musings, knowing Jack would adamantly argue otherwise. She would say she'd always known.
A battered cruiser growled overhead as it slid into the docking bay. With baited breath, Imam watched as the scarred ramp slowly lowered, revealing two figures silhouetted against the inner light.
One ran forward, arms outstretched. "Imam!" she cried joyfully. "How are you?!"
"Very well Jack, very well" he chuckled, hugging her. "I see he got to you in time." He nodded at the other figure that was still prowling down the ramp, silver eyes goggled.
"Imam" the man rumbled, face impassive.
"Riddick, my friend." Imam shook his hand, aware to his bones of the leashed strength in the gesture. "Thank you for saving her, for saving us."
Riddick remained silent, his features stony. Jack elbowed him, pulling a face as he caught her easily, his arm slipping possessively about her waist. Imam watched unsurprised. It looked as though Riddick had finally admitted the truth to himself.
"Riddick and I..." Jack began.
"Wait," Imam interrupted, "perhaps it would be better if we returned to mine, to where we can speak in private."
Jack glanced up at Riddick, whose face softened fractionally. "Unfortunately Holy Man, I've promised Jack I'd take her some places." He shrugged, muscles rippling.
Jack tipped her head up to look at the sky, continuing softly "further than those stars Imam." She smiled joyfully at him. "I always said I wanted to see more, explore all that is out there. I made Riddick promise." A smirk crossed her lips as her eyes glinted playfully. "I was very persuasive."
Imam cleared his throat uncomfortably as Riddick chuckled. "Don't say anymore Jack. I think you've shocked him enough."
Jack had the grace to blush, Imam noticed, even if the light in her eyes was anything but innocent.
"You don't need supplies?" He queried quickly, trying to ignore the overwhelming chemistry between the two of them.
"Nope" Jack quipped. Her green eyes glowed with excitement. "We're all set. I just wanted to see you, to let you know that we're both ok."
Riddick added "we also needed to check things out, see what happened with those Necros."
"You've managed that already?" Imam asked doubtfully.
"We updated as we flew in," Jack replied, unable to keep the smile of her face.
Imam couldn't remember the last time he'd seen her so happy, not even when she was accepted into the Academy. There was no question whether this was the right thing for her to do; perhaps it had all been leading to this all along. After being apart so long he wondered if their connection could ever be broken.
"Jack," Riddick asked, breaking Imam's reverie. "Would you mind gettin' some Altanian firebrew? We drank the last shot last night."
"Got creds?" she asked, winning free and holding out her hand demandingly.
"Women" he grumbled, searching his cargos. "Here." He tossed them to her, which she deftly caught.
"You are not worried about him leaving you?" teased Imam good naturedly as Jack walked away.
"Nah," she called back. "Big Bad couldn't fly that hunka tin without me." Looking over her shoulder, she blew Riddick a cheeky kiss, before sashaying on.
Imam glanced at him, wondering how he was going to handle a jibe like that. The 'Big Bad' shrugged, appearing resigned to Jack's antics.
"I take it you wish to speak to me alone?"Imam asked, unable to hide his curiosity. "What of?"
Riddick looked down, a muscle flickering in his cheek before he finally said "she nearly died. I nearly lost her."
There was no need to ask who, so Imam waited patiently for him as he continued.
"Don't know what I would've done..." he broke off, his jaw tight. "I want you to know I won't risk her again. She's safe with me." His voice rang with conviction as he looked him straight in the face.
Imam couldn't help but be confused. "Why are you telling me this?"
Riddick laughed harshly. "You're her guardian aren't you?"
"Yes but, it's not as if I could do anything, to you or her, if I did not agree."
"True" Riddick admitted "but this way there ain't a chance of you raising the bounty on my head to get my attention."
"That is true" amended Imam dryly. He touched the claw hanging on his necklace and asked absentmindedly "so where to next?"
"Not really sure" he admitted. "Nowhere near Furya that's for sure."
Riddick tensed, every muscle locking with suppressed power before stating darkly, "we messed with it too much."
His blunt statement had Imam eyeing him warily, before he said cautiously "it still exists?"
A heartbeat passed before Riddick slowly uttered, "yeah..."
"Hey, I got two bottles" she grinned widely, eyes flashing a rich emerald green as she rushed up.
Imam sighed at the sight of the alcohol and looked across at the battered cruiser.
"Isn't there anything I can do to convince you to stay? I'd enjoy hearing more of what happened – of Furya."
The light in Jack's eyes dimmed a little at the reminder, bottles clinking as she moved closer to Riddick. Her hand slid to his, but it was Riddick who squeezed gently in comfort.
"Another time Holy Man. Gonna go for a run first." He looked down at Jack beside him, his face revealing a glimpse of the man he could be.
Imam pretended to look stern. "Alone? Just the two of you?"
"Just us" admitted Jack, blushing vividly.
Imam, half exasperated, but unable to fight his smile sighed. "You always were insistent on going to the devil in your own way."
Both Riddick and Jack chuckled as, arms around each other's waist, they headed back to their cruiser. They were obviously keen to be on their way.
"Well," Jack called back, laughing in protest as Riddick swung her up in his arms and carried her bridal-style up the ramp. "You know what they say..."
Imam strained to hear as Jack's voice dropped to a whisper, her eyes locked in Riddick's gaze, the ramp rising as their shadows merged as one in the dim light from within. He couldn't be sure, but her husky whisper sounded a lot like,
"better the devil you know."
A big thank you to everyone, all the readers, reviewers and people who favourite-d this fic. Your support is greatly appreciated!! I look forward to your reviews...I hope this chapter was everything wanted and more. ;)