Title: Tokens of Interest

Characters: Riddick, Vaako, Dame Vaako, some hellhounds, Commander Toal, etc.

Pairing:Riddick/Vaako

Summary: Before and after the Threshold, Vaako makes an effort to forge a bond with his new Lord Marshall while observing the rites and customs of his people.

Rating: R for a lot of swearing, some violence, and some sex.

Author's Note: This fic is a result of heeroluva's generous donation for the LiveJournal community help_haiti. The request was a fic with some courtship and pursuing on Vaako's part instead of solely on Riddick's. Some details found in this story in regards to the Necromongers come from online sources and both movie scripts (Director's Cut and Theatrical Release). Some are simply made-up.

*

There was no anger. There was no fear. Instead, kneeling there on the floor of the Basilica, Vaako found himself looking forward to whatever came next with an unfamiliar hunger and strange sense of hope.

Up on the balcony, he imagined his wife was already weaving her next web of intrigues and finding a new bedmate to replace him. She'd expect him to die and doubtlessly as soon as possible. Not because she was cold or wouldn't miss him in some fashion, but because it was in her nature to be prepared. Women could be foot soldiers, of course, and they could even join the ranks of the Quasi-Dead, but the all other paths to power were closed tight against them unless they had a man or the sufficient brutal force of their own. Dame Vaako was a woman of remarkable depths and intelligence but she was not one of brawn. He was not her first husband, and in all honestly the commander had never imagined he would be her last.

Seated in the throne, Riddick unblinkingly stared out at nothing for a few seconds more before standing up.

"Fine," he murmured as if acknowledging at long last that he was stuck keeping what he'd killed for. "So I get all of this. What good is it to me?"

No one spoke although there were a few unintelligible sounds from somewhere behind Vaako. The nobles then. Possibly Zhylaw's women. The soldiers would be waiting respectfully for decisions to be made for them.

Riddick snorted, crossing his arms. "That's what I thought. I guess I'm joining your cult so it's Threshold time."

"With respect, Lord Marshall," Vaako began, lowering his head. "The trip is a long one and we're not finished here."

"Oh, trust me. You're finished here," was the breeder's ominous reply.

"I—"

"But if you all play nice," Riddick continued, addressing all of the Necromongers in front of them and the rest of the fleet listening in via feeds provided by the Quasi-Dead, "I'll find you better things to do."

Vaako drew his lips together, keeping himself from drawing more attention to himself or asking more questions as to what their new leader had in mind. Better things. That sounded promising enough.

"Stop with the bowing. Pull out of here and let's get her done."

Armor clanged and clattered as the troops rose as one and moved out of the room. They would prepare the armada and their commanders and captains would provide clearer instructions. Many were too young or new to remember the last time they'd gone to the very gates of the UnderVerse and back, but they were all indoctrinated into the Necromonger way and all of its traditions.

As expected a few of the more important commanders pushed through the ranks and came to stand next to Vaako in front of the throne. Or rather stand in front of him as Toal all but elbowed him out of his way. Looking to his right, Vaako watched Heln bravely cleared his throat, as a younger Commander named Pakin stopped next to him. The other men stayed quiet and kept their distance. Most of the Commanders were keen to remain uninvolved in manipulations and maneuvers. Like reeds or tall grasses, they would sway in whichever direction the wind blew, but they would not be the ones to alter its course. Keeping his own company to the far left of the room was Nelix, a thin, calculating man who had served with Vaako through the course of several campaigns. His fists opened and closed as he took everything in.

"For fuck's sake," Riddick murmured before sitting back down on the throne. "If you're gonna stand here, someone better say something."

"Before the armada leaves," Heln began, "it might be in your best interest to fill or re-fill certain positions."

"A Purifier has been appointed," Vaako pointed out as he turned to face them, eager to remain apart from his plotting colleagues. Several of the Commanders nodded. "That cannot be changed until Lord Riddick has—"

"We can request another First Among Commanders," Toal pointed out with what was probably intended to be an apologetic smile. It was a poorly executed expression. He was taking a great deal of satisfaction from this. He was not the only one, but he certainly didn't seem to be in the majority.

Riddick looked bored. "What's wrong with the one you've got?"

"It is Lord Vaako," Pakin coolly observed.

Riddick continued looking bored, and pointed to another one of his new Commanders. "You. Same question."

Pakin ahemed loudly and imperiously. Riddick tilted his head to glare at him. "Surely you would like to demote him, Lord Marshall."

"Because?"

"Because he cannot be trusted," Toal stated

"Something ought to be done," Pakin agreed, blinking and looking a little confused as Riddick met their concerns with a loud yawn. "He could kill you next, Lord Marshall."

Vaako had already been aware of Riddick's ability to take virtually anything in stride. It was a trait he admired. He also found himself admiring the smirk spreading itself over the new Lord Marshall's features.

"Uh huh. Whatever. So tell me…" He glanced at all of them with the exception of a slightly outraged Pakin, rolling his silver eyes before zeroing in on Toal. "What's your name?"

"Toal."

"Cool. Tell me something, Commander Toad… Does Vaako being untrustworthy make him a unique and special snowflake 'round here?"

"It is Toal, My Lord."

Riddick laughed unpleasantly and leaned forward. "Give me an answer, or I'll beat it out of you."

Looking suitably cowed, Toal tried again. "All of us have sworn a solemn oath to be loyal to the Lord Marshall until UnderVerse come. Not one of us has broken that promise or has ever considered doing so save for him."

"Doesn't matter much to me. He made an oath to a dead man I didn't especially like."

And a dead man,Vaako thought to himself, that Riddick ultimately killed.

"Anyone else here would be a better First Among Commanders than a traitor," Pakin insisted.

"You've made a few mistakes," Riddick thoughtfully replied. "First you want me to get rid of a guy who did a pretty lousy job of ghosting me the one time he tried. Second he did a pretty lousy job with that other guy too. But third and this is the important part… I don't trust any of you people so there's no reason to pass his shiny helmet off to someone else. "

"But—"

"If you guys can't play nice, you won't get to play at all. As for your vows, you're gonna have to make them all over again. Assuming I decide to keep you around."

The three co-conspirators nodded woodenly. The ones who had coolly and silently observed this interaction seemed indifferently stoic.

"Think about it. And scram."

Bowing one after another, they made an effort to hastily but steadily depart. The last to move was Nelix who simply eyed his new leader thoughtfully, and sauntered out of the room without much interest in speed.

The First Among Commanders might have left too if Riddick hadn't snatched at his arm and tugged him back.

"Fucking waste of time," Riddick growled out. "All of them. And then there's you." The breeder's breath was hot against his ear, but oddly enough Vaako didn't feel much like complaining about it. A hand wrapped lightly around his throat, squeezing gently before clamping down on an armor-clad shoulder. "Don't think you are my favorite because I dealt with the guys trying to take your lunch money. No one told me anything I didn't already know."

Vaako sighed quietly. "In that case, it's not unreasonable for you to want another second-in-command. I did try to kill you after all."

Snorting, Riddick patted his cheek in a patronizing way and released him, shoving roughly as he walked past him towards the ship's command deck. "My advice would be to try one hell of a lot harder next time."

*

It was foolish and pathetic, but he found himself wondering how he could better get to know the new Lord Marshall even as his wife paced the room calling him any vulgar or demeaning name she could think of. Some, Vaako suspected, she'd invented all on her own.

He should have cared. He ought very much to have minded, and on most occasions he would have at least acknowledged her attempts to wound his pride, but he could only think about the fact that he had someone fearless to serve. Someone who wasn't going to manipulate or be manipulated. Someone would could, in fact, succeed where Zhylaw had failed. Someone who could inspire faith, fear, and awe in others but would have little of his own to offer. This was troubling in some ways, but in others, well, whatever changes he would make to it, Riddick embodied the Necromonger way.

"You've kept your position. That's something. And there's no reason why he needs to live to see the Threshold."

"Enough."

"No," she all but hissed, turning back to glare at him. "No. I will not be silent and I will not see what you think passes for reason at this time. You have failed me once again, and for once, Vaako, you must acknowledge that your efforts thus far have not been enough."

He gritted his teeth and breathed out heavily before sighing. "We have a new Lord Marshall to serve. Things will be different and the balance we lost under Zhylaw will be restored."

She pursed her lips and eyed him thoughtfully. For a brief second, she frowned and then it disappeared as she came back to a conclusion she must have made hours if not ages ago. "Then all I've done with you is settle. Worse than that, I've settled for less than I deserve. It's hard to accept and yet it is the truth. I always knew it, but mutual affection can be blinding."

"If you feel that way…"

Dame Vaako ignored him and continued. "Ultimately, feeling or lack thereof doesn't factor in to my decision. I have no choice but to leave you if you will not challenge him or strive for greatness. I will not regret it and I hope my meaning is clear when I tell you that I will not ask anyone to spare you when the time comes."

"Suit yourself. I will make no move against you." Until the time comes.

She kissed his cheek before moving to gather up her things, which had been nearly arranged or folded and then packed in advance. He didn't ask, but he suspected she already had somewhere else to go. "As always you are full of foolish faith and lacking in any real promise."

"I will miss you."

She paused in front of the door to their room, hands clenching tightly at the handle of a large trunk as she refused to turn around to look at him. "I'll send for the rest of my belongings shortly."

He nodded although she couldn't and wouldn't see it. Just as well for he found himself momentarily blind-sided by a sad melancholy acceptance of the fact that it was over and that before too long one of them would die. The aftermath of a Necromonger marriage and breaking of sacred vows was nothing if not predictable.

As the door slid open, she added "And I'll miss you too."

*

The trip to the Threshold did in fact promise to be a long one.

The first day, Vaako was told, Riddick had kept mostly to himself and taken care of Kyra's body with a short, arguably unnecessary funeral. No one dared remind Riddick that such actions were sentimental and unnecessary. Such enlightenment would come after the trials that awaited the breeder at the Threshold, and no one foolish enough to say so had been allowed near the Lord Marshal.

Riddick spent his second day sparring with several young Lords, eying what passed for his court with obvious displeasure when they seemed reluctant not to wear hulking suits of armor in his presence. Eventually everyone seemed willing to agree since challenges to Riddick's rule weren't allowed until after he attempted the Threshold. Still, the man was restless like a wild animal, and many seemed concerned with what he would do as the journey continued.

Eventually one of the Dames urged Vaako to join them on the third day. When he refused thinking the woman was simply interested in pursuing him for some ungodly reason, she admitted she'd been set to fetch him by the Lord Marshall himself.

Vaako ignored the spark of pleasure he felt at such a summons. It quickly faded as Riddick greeted him with a terse: "You bow and I'll punch you in the face."

"My Lord?"

"This is unacceptable. I'm bored out of my fucking mind."

Blinking, the First Among Commanders wondered why this was his problem. Striving for diplomacy and tact, Vaako cleared his throat and tried to come up with a sympathetic albeit dry reply. "As much as it grieves me to find you bored out of your fucking mind…"

Riddick barked out a laugh. "Finally. A stiff with a sense of humor."

Vaako couldn't stop himself from glaring a little, but all that seemed to do was making Riddick chuckle more.

"So here's what I was thinking. Crematoria's on the way. You can run an errand for me."

He had a sinking suspicion that the mission would be one of very little importance. But such a thought was nothing compared to the displeasure he felt seeing his former wife walking arm in arm with one of Toal's cronies, another commander whose name escaped him. She smirked in his direction before leading her new playmate away.

Belatedly he realized he was expected to say something. More importantly, he was meant to acquiesce to Riddick's demands. "I… Well, of course. It goes without saying that any of us would—"

"I didn't ask for anyone. I left some friends behind and there's this guy named Toombs. He'd make a decent convert. Or you can kill him."

"Friends?"

"Yeah. Hellhounds. Bring them here."

If only his suspicion had been correct. He sighed quietly, wishing Riddick would have the decency to just kill him outright.

"Cheer up. They're in cages. You just get some grunts to wheel the damn things on a ship. If I wanted someone to go there and die, I'd send the Purifier. Man's a drag."

"I can handle the mission well enough," Vaako decided. Ridiculous or not, it would surely have to mean something to Riddick much as having the man's trust even if only because Vaako was the lesser of several thousand evils meant a great deal to him.

"Sounds good. And if you bring back some alcohol, maybe you'll be my favorite after all."

A few of the Dames and Lords looked briefly scandalized upon overhearing this remark, but Vaako felt only absurdly disappointed that the Lord Marshall meant nothing by it. In turn, Riddick looked annoyed that the teasing comment hadn't caused his First Among Commanders to scowl.

Prudently, Vaako refrained from commenting on the negative effects that alcohol had on the Purification process, and swiftly prepared to go to Crematoria for a second time.

*

The First Among Commanders received a small scratch to the cheek from one of the beasts for his troubles, but it seemed more interested in playing with him than anything else. They sniffed at him inquisitively, one of them making low purring sounds. But they were probably smelling their old friend, the distance between the planet and the armada having been a short one.

He was luckier than several of the men he'd brought along and far luckier, it appeared, than the breeder known as Toombs who seemed more likely to sit in a corner rocking back and forth than making an educated decision about converting or dying.

Leaving the man to the mercies of the Purifier, Vaako wandered into the Basilica and sternly insisted to himself that he wasn't expecting some sort of warm or favorable reception from his Lord Marshall.

What he got instead was a raised hand and a "Yo" as Riddick threw a slab of meat across the room for his friends to fight over.

"The mission was successful," Vaako wryly murmured, turning to go. Or, at least, he would go once he figured out how to navigate his way around the beasts. "The alcohol can be brought in later, I suppose."

"You're not going to be my favorite for long with an attitude like that," Riddick chided. "So get me booze and come back before I have you herded over here."

"If you like."

"I do. Very much."

Vaako quickly located the alcohol and returned. Riddick in the mean time had gotten someone to fetch glasses, but no one else remained in the room. They probably weren't all that thrilled to have feral guests onboard, but the animals seemed to have settled down. One of them brushed up against Vaako's legs before moving back to the corner of the room closest to Riddick's throne where the others waited, making rumbling sounds and watching with silver eyes.

"I hear you're single now. Congrats." When Vaako merely nodded grimly, Riddick frowned. "What?"

"It's not something one is customarily congratulated on."

"Oh?"

"There is a brief respite after a marriage is dissolved and then…"

"Then?"

"The matter is resolved one way or another. I suppose she will either arrange to have me killed or I will be forced to deal with her once the attempt goes awry. She is also within her rights to ask you to eliminate me seeing as I've failed to live up to her expectations or our vows."

"Shit. This is one slick operation you guys got going here," Riddick murmured almost approvingly before smirking. "Seems like a useless outlet for pent-up aggression though."

"There is no aggression. One simply—"

"Keeps what they kill. I know. Get some other sayings already."

Taken sort of off-guard by Riddick's weary grumbling, Vaako smiled in spite of himself and tried to think of ideas that would prove entertaining to the other man. "Occasionally there are gladiator tournaments. This often requires returning to Asylum."

"Which would be?"

"Our homeworld of sorts."

"Cool. Arrange it."

Being treated like Riddick's personal valet was rapidly getting on Vaako's nerves but he refrained from saying anything about it. "First you have to go through the Threshold and come back, but let me hasten to point out that there are a great deal of others who would be glad to do your bidding. In fact some of Scribes or possibly some of the lesser Lords would be glad to have a task to do."

"Scribes?"

"Think of them as your biographers. They record historical events and campaigns."

"Ah. Why can't I have you do this?"

"You could, but surely… That is to say I'm First Among Commanders."

"Yeah I caught that the first time."

"I should be given more responsibilities."

"I'm trying to give you some."

"Important responsibilities," Vaako stressed somewhat exasperatedly. "There is much you have to learn about our way of life and if the Purifier and Historians aren't the sort of assistance you require, I could assist you."

"Some hot chick could assist me," Riddick cheerfully mused.

"Of course. My former wife among many others would be glad to assist you," Vaako testily replied.

"Color me cynical, but new Lady Pakin would also be glad to assist me into an open grave. So thanks but no thanks."

Vaako winced upon being reminded that his wife had moved on already before setting the bottles down on a nearby table where no table had been before, glass making a faint ping sound as it came to rest on metal. The throne had changed somewhat during his absence. The spikes were gone and the seat Riddick quickly vacated in order to get something to drink looked a bit more comfortable.

"Would it demean you too much if I asked you to open up the vodka?"

"It might."

Riddick snorted and took the bottle away. "You're drinking with me."

"But—"

"As far as company goes, it's you and these guys here." Riddick opened the bottle with savage force and took a long swig. "That's the stuff. I like tea just fine, but I can't drink it all the damn time. Those fuckers might get some ideas and poison it."

Vaako considered this before accepting the glass his Lord Marshall thrust at him. "You do everyone in your armada a great injustice by misjudging so many of your people. By isolating yourself from them."

"Is that so?"

He took a drink, coughing loudly after swallowing before struggling to find his voice again. "They need you. We need a strong leader."

"Could have been you."

As far as company went, it was just Riddick and the hellhounds so he did something he had rarely did and confessed. "I don't mind that it's not. My intentions were to secure a better leader for my people. They have one now, and so I'm content."

He took a long drink and thought that perhaps the effort of poisoning himself with the grisly stuff was worthwhile if only because Riddick got up and patted him on the back until the coughing stopped.

"Stupid way of looking at it," the Lord Marshall pointed out before refilling Vaako's glass in spite of his protests. "You don't know me."

"A smart way," Vaako countered, finishing his drink and setting it down. "I watched you fight on Helion Prime and on Crematoria. A wise man knows his limits."

"Is that a Necromonger thing?"

"That's a common sense… thing."

Riddick snorted, sipped, and looked a bit more serious. "It means a lot to you though. "

"Hm?"

"This destiny shows up everyone dies crap. You've bought into it completely. They must have converted you young."

Vaako bristled at the accurate observation, and then slowly shook his head. "You'll understand it better once you've crossed over. You will embrace our faith wholeheartedly upon your return. I know you are skeptical about our beliefs, and even more so in regards to converting, but you will be the one to—"

Whatever progress they'd made seemed to evaporate between them as Riddick eyed him coldly. "Don't."

"You will have to go in order to lead us," Vaako insisted. "You killed—"

"Relax." The breeder shrugged. "I'll do it because I got nothing else lined up. I'll probably even come back, but having faith in me is a waste of faith."

"I don't think so."

Riddick rolled his eyes. "Like I said. You don't know me." After that, he focused on drinking until Vaako very politely, very stiffly bowed and left him.

*

It occurred to Vaako the next day that Riddick hadn't really left the throne room for a long period of time. The breeder, he also realized, probably hadn't been sleeping much if at all. Allowing himself a few minutes to curse his luck, the First among Commanders got to work in altering this situation. Surely having two familiar animals would allow Riddick to give himself permission to indulge in a few luxuries such as sleep. Even Necromongers couldn't go that long without investing in a few hours of it.

He didn't insult Riddick by asking if he wanted to rest or wanted a tour of the rest of his ship, but he arranged for Zhylaw's rooms to be cleared out. For the décor and furniture to be incinerated and replaced, and for some adjustments to be made to better accommodate the new Lord Marshall's pets.

"You have rooms," he stated calmly after a brief meeting mostly arranged so that Riddick could learn the names of others instead of referring to everyone simply as Hey You. In a pointless act of selflessness that would have caused his wife an endless amount of frustration, he neglected to immediately highlight the role he'd played in procuring those chambers.

Riddick looked up. "Yeah?"

"Yes. With the customary furnishings and, of course, an armory solely for your personal use."

"Never occurred to you to say something about this sooner, huh?"

"I was so busy fetching My Lord's dogs and drinks that it must have slipped my mind."

Riddick grinned before shoving Vaako out of his way. "Well, show me where they are then."

Some of his amusement wore off as he looked around the rooms, particularly the bedroom. Vaako remained a respectful distance away, growing increasingly more and more concerned by the sour, weary look on Riddick's face.

"This is nice and all," the Lord Marshall began, testing on the bed with one hand, "but I don't know about sleeping in a dead guy's bed. Especially that slimeball's. And I know you're all sort of dead, but don't debate word choice with me."

"I wouldn't dream of it," Vaako murmured, crossing his arms behind him as he moved forward to examine the bed in question. "And you needn't worry. Everything's been changed, My Lord."

"Recently?"

"Yes."

Riddick sighed looking sorely tempted to put the mattress to good use. In the end, he just shook his head. "Thing is… New sheets aren't gonna cut it."

"It's all been altered and replaced as of this morning. I am aware that I took some liberties in making decisions for you, and I know I don't know you all that well yet, but…"

The Lord Marshall laughed, perking up a little and looking amused. "I thought you didn't want to be my personal servant."

"A second-in-command does this sort of thing I'm told," Vaako retorted with a small smile.

It didn't last very long since Riddick grabbed him roughly by one shoulder half a second later. Shoving his First Among Commander an arm's length away and then holding him there, Riddick took off his goggles and stared. Vaako shifted uncomfortably, but didn't look or pull away. The moment went on for far longer than seemed advisable. He could feel the Lord Marshall's breath ghosting across his cheek and for an absurd second or two, he hoped Riddick would close the space between them and put his First Among Commanders to better use than domestic chores.

"Either you're stupid or up to something," Riddick decided in a dark, dangerous tone.

Vaako inclined his head, careful to keep his lingering annoyance in check as fingers continued to clamp down on his biceps. Through the cloth of his black suit, he could feel the warmth of the breeder's hands. For a moment, he thought it was a shame that the Threshold might deprive Riddick of some of his anger and much of his heat.

"I am neither of those things," he stiffly observed, "but there is something in it for me. I won't lie about that. The fact is that you need sleep and this is your ship."

"There's more to it than that. My peace of mind—hell, my fucking sleep cycle can't be this important to you."

It was, but Vaako recognized that such arguments would get him nowhere with a man more used to being inside a cell than out. A man who, he suddenly realized, probably thought being the leader of the Necromongers was just another sort of prison with a fancier name and better view. "Then you will have to believe that I am only doing this out of a sense of obligation to my vows and to what is right. To the Necromonger way. Everything you killed for is yours, Riddick. It cannot be denied to you."

"Can't argue with that," the breeder decided. And just like that, he released his grip and moved away.

"Just…" Vaako was too disappointed to think of anything else to say. "Is that all?" he asked when Riddick offered up nothing else to him.

"Sure is. You're useful. You have that going for you," Riddick decided before smirking and flopping down on the bed. "I'd promote you for it, but all of those options tend to suck. Get the lights before you leave."

*

As it turned out, Riddick had the attention span of a Jenisian fruit fly, and when it came to teaching him things, the information had to be straight to the point with no flowery embellishments. By the end of the voyage to the Threshold, he had picked up on enough to do a better job connecting with the other Necromongers and knew enough about their ways to understand that challenges could only be issued once he returned from the UnderVerse.

Assuming, Riddick kept reminding him, he returned at all.

Vaako nodded stiffly every time, and then changed the subject. He enjoyed the hours spent in Riddick's company up until they found themselves rapidly approaching the topic of faith which included Vaako's faith in Riddick. Dame Vaako had belittled his unshakable convictions to no avail in the past, but Vaako had no interest in acting out the same script for the breeder's benefit.

All in all, Riddick learned names quickly enough until the only one he couldn't seem to grasp was Zhylaw, but the fact that he constantly referred to him as Lord Marshall Coleslaw was fairly amusing and, after the eighteenth time, clearly intentional.

He eventually asked for a tour of the ship and various other vessels, quickly bonding with the soldiers if not with Lords and Dames. This was, to Vaako's way of thinking, more important for when he had bowed in the Basilica, he was certain the soldiers had been the first to follow suit. This was coupled with the fact that there were more of them than there were nobles.

Vaako wasn't sure why he ended the tour with his own quarters. Or, at least, he tried not to think about why he was so keen to do so. He immediately focused on the armory as his collection of weapons was second only to the amount amassed by the Historians and kept in the mother ship's archives.

Riddick was too thrilled to be surrounded by weapons to notice. He cheerfully hefted the multi-axe Vaako had attempted to use on Zhylaw and smirked. "I want this one."

He couldn't have known the implications, Vaako sternly reminded himself. There was simply no way that Riddick understood. It was no uncommon among the Necromongers to come to same-sex arrangements. The courtships were, of course, as involved as that between a man and woman, but the exchanges were different. There was no reason not to give a woman a weapon as a first Token of Interest, but it was a required rite between soldiers and men.

Riddick lightly prodded his shoulder with the flat edge of the axe. "Any thoughts on that?"

"Keep it," Vaako decided, tongue thick in his mouth although it had no adverse effect on his speech. "You can have any weapon you like."

Riddick raised an eyebrow. "Cuz I keep what I kill?"

"Because I want you to."

No one had much to say when Riddick showed off the weapon in his next round of sparring, but Vaako was aware of angry, cold, and jealous glances cast in his direction. One of them, satisfyingly enough, came from his former wife before she turned to whisper into her new Lord's ear.

Now they had arrived at the rift where one 'verse ended and the UnderVerse began. Riddick was taking everything in stride and learning to pilot the ship he'd be taking. Some old datapads were given to him with what little information could be accessed by those who were not Lord Marshalls, and the rest Riddick was using on his own. Similarly, he met privately from time to time with the Elemental who never seemed pleased with the turn of events, but remained curious if silent as she observed muttering odds at random intervals and mainly for her own ears.

"You worried yet?" Riddick asked, petting his hellhounds and gathering up what supplies he was allowed to bring with. He didn't argue against the meditation aides he'd been handed by the Purifier which would help him purge any last-minute fears or doubts that Riddick didn't seem to have, but he'd turned down the generous offer of weapons made by Dames and Lords alike. He was taking, to Vaako's embarrassment, only Igrun's knife and Vaako's multi-axe. But arguing against it would have required him to explain certain things.

"Should I be?"

"I dunno. You're the one sending me on a space walk-about through some black void. I might not come back. I usually don't come back."

It occurred to Vaako for the first time that Riddick could take the small personal vessel he'd be given to just about any other point in space if he so chose.

"Don't give me that," Riddick complained. "You wasted all this time lecturing about it. I'll go through the damned thing."

"And you'll come back."

"Yeah. As a Holy Half-dead… thing," Riddick deadpanned. "Hooray. We'll celebrate with tea."

"You'll still be yourself."

"Yeah." There was no fear there, but he recognized the look on Riddick's face. Vaako had often sought reassurances from his Dame. Not due to fear, but due to a desire not to face whatever was coming alone or without a second opinion.

"You will still be yourself," Vaako insisted, gripping lightly at Riddick's bare arm. It was only after that that he realized the significance of the gesture; he'd never so much as touched the Lord Marshall before. He found that he didn't want to stop either. He wanted to touch his face, to cup his chin in his fingers and… "You'll come back. This will not hurt you so much as make you stronger. It is true of all of us, Riddick. Kyra was still herself."

"Don't," Riddick suggested, but his tone was oddly gentle. His hand moved to touch Vaako's face before he seemed to think better of it and pulled away.

"Do you blame me for her?" Vaako asked, striving to sound indifferent and wondering briefly why he never had asked about this before. Perhaps because Riddick hadn't spoken of her since the small sarcophagus that her body had been placed in was launched out into the darkness of space.

Riddick growled and then simply inhaled sharply. "No."

Vaako nodded, unwilling to thank Riddick for such a thing. The conversion had been the best thing for Kyra, and had she lived she would have been able to tell her friend so, but only after experiencing it for himself would Riddick believe this to be true.

Remembering that he wouldn't see Riddick for quite some time, and ignoring the thought that this could be their last conversation, he searched for something more light-hearted to dwell on.

"If you do change, can I keep my shiny helmet?"

"I don't give a shit. The hell do you care if one fucking breeder comes back?"

Unwilling to think about his actions, Vaako brought Riddick's forehead against his, a gesture that wasn't uncommon between fellow soldiers. When he touched his cheek in addition to that, well, he couldn't pass that off as thinking of Riddick as his brother in arms but he had a feeling Riddick wouldn't ask about it. "Well? Can I keep the damn thing or not?"

The Lord Marshall's eyes closed briefly before he shrugged. "Sure. Keep the dogs. Keep the vodka too," Riddick advised.

They stayed like that for a second too long and then separated, neither one managing to look the other in the eye. By the time Vaako could bring himself to throw a glance over his shoulder, the other man was gone.

*

The return was all but instant, but Riddick looked different. Not older, but different. Arrogant and bloody, he commanded a new sort of respect when he walked back into the Basilica. He strangled three challengers without so much as turning around to acknowledge them.

His movements were quick and barely visible so it was hardly surprising to find him pinning the former Dame Vaako against the arm of his throne. Her dagger clattered loudly to the floor as Vaako touched his cheek, tiny droplets of blood covering his fingers when he moved them away.

At a slightly slower speed, the woman tried to use some sort of blue inky acid on him, but it hung in the air a second too long, splattering on steel-toed boots instead of Riddick's face. He made short work of her and then took her husband's head with the axe he had kept slung over his shoulder.

Vaako felt a hollow pang of pity for both of them, but it never amounted to more than that. He was glad of it.

"I'm done," Riddick decided after a few more fights that left him slightly winded and nothing more. His strange eyes –the goggles were nowhere to be seen— seemed to glow more red than silver now. Flecks of blood, dried and drying, clung to his face and forearms. "Leave."

Vaako ignored the request. It barely registered with him that such a demand had been made. Toal lightly shook his shoulder. When Vaako looked at him he noticed the animosity that had recently developed between them was gone. A warning look was there instead and he realized the room had mostly cleared while he'd been staring quite openly at Riddick.

"He can stay."

Toal nodded and followed his own Dame out of the room. The bodies, Vaako noticed, were being cleared away by soldiers. And Riddick was less than a foot away from him. He blinked a little but didn't move away. If anything, he found himself leaning slightly closer.

Riddick ran fingers over the small cut on Vaako's cheek, licking the blood away from the digits once he draw his hand back. "So. Did I change?"

"Can… I say it's an improvement?"

Grinning, the Lord Marshall leaned back and crossed his arms. "Sure, but I need to talk to you about something before you molest me."

Vaako blushed in spite of himself and cleared his throat. "I'm just in awe of… Well, you. Everything seems to have worked out."

"Whatever. I've seen that look before. I've been to prison."

"You wanted to tell me something?"

"Yeah, and it's not to confess my undying love to you if that's what you're thinking," Riddick murmured, still looking amused. "I'm kinda annoyed with you. I do all those fucking meditation exercises, right? I get to the UnderVerse through that fucking Threshold, and the first thing that happens is Z-whatever laughs at me."

"Zhylaw."

"Doesn't matter. Fuck him."

"I'm sorry he laughed at you but I fail to see—"

"Your axe. You never mentioned we were two steps away from a Necro-shotgun wedding after I took it from you."

"Oh."

"Yeah. Oh."

"I wanted to tell you."

"Uh huh. Meanwhile everyone else knew, I'm guessing. So what would step two be?"

"Eliminating one's competition and presenting one's intended with their…" Vaako paused and looked over towards the clean-up crew who were carrying what remained of Riddick's challengers away to be used as spare parts for Lensors or to be jettisoned. "…remains is usually the second rite of courtship."

"Well, shit. If the third one's a really good fuck, I guess you'll be making an honest man of me after all."

Vaako blinked and took a hesitant step back. "Wait. I didn't ask."

Riddick took a step forward. "Because I didn't give you a chance. But I thought about it while I was over on the other side. Three months is a long time to think about sex without having any."

"It was three hours. If that."

"C-dog explained that one to me."

"C…" Vaako sighed heavily. "It's Khovu. With a K. Have some respect."

"Right. Anyway, he said time's different for the dead. And now I'm all holy and shit. A religious freak like you can't resist me."

Vaako snorted. "You've got me there. How can I resist such a holy, charming man?"

"You knew what you were getting into. You gave me the axe."

"I did." Feeling a bit bolder, Vaako closed the very small distance between them and offered up a tentatively confident smile. "Because I would like very much for us to be intimate and have sex."

"For the record, that's called a good fuck."

"For the record," Vaako replied, putting his arms around Riddick's neck. The Lord Marshall just smirked. "The third rite is for you to give me a Token of Interest."

"A what now?"

"A weapon."

"Heh. You're in luck then."

"Don't be juvenile," Vaako insisted before kissing him.

Riddick didn't have much to say after that. He seemed willing to wait patiently for Vaako to deepen it before putting his own tongue to good use. Vaako couldn't see some of his movements, and decided not to think too hard about the fact that they were in Riddick's bedroom half a minute later.

"I should have known about you anyway," the smug half-dead observed, swatting at Vaako's ass as they moved apart to strip. "What sort of guy picks out another man's sheets and curtains if he doesn't want to share 'em?"

"I didn't pick them out."

"You picked the colors and got me a bed."

"You were tired."

"What sort of guy cares?"

Vaako sighed. "Please shut up."

"Didn't say I minded," Riddick soothingly pointed out, pushing Vaako towards the edge of the mattress until he sat there to avoid falling. "I think it's cute to have a concerned boytoy around."

"I'm not a boytoy."

Riddick crouched down, letting his hands wander up over Vaako's legs.

Vaako found his hands moving over the other man's skin of their own volition and his fingers grazed the Necromonger mark on the Lord Marshall's neck. "Find a better term," he insisted, digging his nails lightly into the scars.

Riddick growled low in the back of throat. "Courtesan? Concubine?"

Vaako dug his nails in deeper. "Try again."

Riddick had the gall to laugh. "Mm. Consort," he decided as the pads of his fingers massaged the other Necromonger's thighs in slow, rough circles. "Do that again." Vaako happily obliged. "Nice. Never had a consort. Could be fun. You can be one of those, can't you?"

"Who is courting whom?" Vaako sternly questioned. "Such titles are beneath me. I am First Among Commanders."

"You're beneath me though, tough guy," Riddick pointed out almost playfully. "You can be both. There's no law against it."

"That you know of," Vaako murmured, feeling some of his arguments starting to slip away as one warm hand wrapped around his cock, tugging lightly before stroking.

"You listed out all of them for me like a good boy, remember? Don't give me a hard time now."

"I'm not," Vaako insisted, eyes half-lidded but not closed completely. He found it hard not to look at Riddick.

"I'm a generous guy. Ask anyone." The Lord Marshall just grinned when Vaako snorted. "I'll keep you on a long leash. I'll only chain to my throne every other day."

"You're very annoying."

"But you haven't tried to kill me yet," Riddick pointed out, leaning closer and licking his way down Vaako's length before stroking again.

"Maybe I'm just...ngh...patient."

"I'm the one who waited three months. Thinking about how many pointless things you did just to be around me. How drunk I could get you. The whole fucking never touching me but always this close to me. Nothing else with me but your be-my-boyfriend-axe."

"I wasn't sure you'd want me."

"Because you think too much."

If anything, Vaako thought, Riddick couldn't say much about it seeing as he talked too much. But thinking that was only proving the Lord Marshall's point. It didn't matter though because by then Riddick's lips were sucking, his tongue was licking, and his teeth were grazing over his cock. And there wasn't much that Vaako felt like saying.

Having a Holy Half-dead admit to wanting him right there in front of him on his knees was almost enough to make Vaako come right then and there. He held out for the sake of proving he did have stamina and not giving his partner the satisfaction.

Riddick hardly seemed to notice his efforts. He just wiped at his mouth after swallowing once Vaako was done, and worked on moving things along.

"If I'm courting—"

Riddick laughed, pushing Vaako further up onto the mattress and turning him onto his stomach. "Let's have it be a mutual thing. Makes me feel better about trusting you."

"I could return the favor if you..."

"Later. I'm interested in the good fuck part."

"But—"

"Suck on these," Riddick suggested, shoving his fingers into past Vaako's parted lips. His thumb roughly caressed the Necromonger's cheek. Vaako bit down hard on the digits before doing as advised, and Riddick laughed. "You taught me all sorts of things, but I'm guessing this is more my field of expertise than yours."

Feeling marginally insulted, Vaako tried turning over once the fingers left his mouth, only to groan as two slicked-up fingers pushed up into him.

"Relaxe. I don't blame you, sweet thing. Just lay back and enjoy the ride."

A few more fingers joined them and Vaako bit his lip to keep from moaning at the new sensations. The heat and pressure as Riddick moved over him. He'd have to do something about being called sweet thing later on though.

"I was right about you," Riddick decided, biting at Vaako's shoulder before replacing his fingers with his own sorely neglected cock. "And you're gonna be glad you chose me."

*

Vaako woke up to Riddick playing his braids absently and two hellhounds curled up at his feet.

"I'm not giving you anything until you agree to be my Consort," Riddick insisted, shoving Vaako back down when he tried moving. He wouldn't have gotten far with the hellhounds all but sleeping on his legs, but he wouldn't have liked to sit up. "Probably won't let you out of bed either. Can't have you giving out weapons to other people."

"I could be motivated to see reason. Do I get to select the Token?"

"Hell no. I do things properly. When I court someone they know I'm courting them without some dead guy's help. I picked it out for you."

"If it's covered with rust or grime, I'll refuse to accept your offer."

"It's a half-gram heavy in places, but I figured it's technically the knife that brought us together."

Rolling his eyes, Vaako tried to bat Riddick's hand away from his hair to no avail. "You went to the UnderVerse and back and you couldn't bring me a decent weapon?"

"Selfish fucker," Riddick murmured but sounded strangely impressed. He tugged Vaako up into a kiss by his hair and Vaako returned it. "All the neat shit got brought back by those other guys and look where it got them. This knife's the only sentimental thing I own. It's the weapon I killed to keep and technically I killed to get you."

"Fair enough. I'm still not sure why I'm the Consort."

"Because I'm cooler than you," Riddick pointed out, getting up and stretching, "and I own your ass."

"You can take the Holy Half-dead out of the penal system…" Vaako muttered, rubbing his temples and getting out of the bed.

"Pretty much," the Lord Marshall agreed before heading over to the door. "So let's get to work. I got a 'verse to convert."

*