A/N: I have a confession. I am a HUGE Sookie Stackhouse fan, and despite Alan Ball's habitual tendency to slaughter the story line and personalities of some of my favorite characters I am also a devout True Blood fan (Woot! Fabulous Sunday night HBO programming). Now what does this have to do with River/Riddick? Well, the theme song for True Blood is Jace Everett's Bad Things; it is only consequential because it is on my Writing playlist on my Ipod. As I was trying to squeeze out the last drops of Trash from my brainpan it came on, and well my imagination started to drift….
*It's not mine*
The air outside was so thick and wet with humidity it seeped through the walls and coated everything; his skin, the table, the benches, even the food. Usually, Riddick liked the heat. He liked the smell of sweat mingled with sun-warmed foliage and the wet earth of the jungle; or the caustic burnt smell of the desert, with dry air that held scent trails for days. Swampland, however, trapped the heat and stink; the swamp was stagnant. It didn't breathe; it festered and boiled over, coating everything with bile.
The bar was nameless; just another in an endless string of places that blurred together in Riddick's memory. Smoke; cigar, cigarette, hash, the scents swirled tangibly in the air as they drifted lazily through the filthy crowd. The liquid in his glass was some travesty of an impression of whiskey; it didn't just burn, it seared its way down the throat. The fingers of Riddick's left hand drummed relentlessly against the worn table as he toyed with the glass in his right; a slight growl rumbling through his chest. The very last place in the 'Verse Riddick wanted to be was in this flea-infested swamp bar.
His contact was late. Riddick was a patient man by nature; as most men of his particular skill-set usually were. The relentless tapping of his fingers had nothing to do with impatience. It had everything to do with the fact that Andre was never late. The man had an almost compulsive obsession with timing and details; it came with the territory of being a demolitions tech. Andre being late could only mean one of two things: he was either dead or on his way to being there. Riddick was fond of living and not that fond of Andre. If the man was dead, he was dead; and if he was almost, the convict had no desire to be there with him. He drained the contents of his glass and moved to push himself away from the table.
The sudden creaking of the bar doors stopped him. The sound itself was slight and Riddick was the only one of the two dozen or so that populated the bar to look up at it. A slender woman stood in the doorway. Her eyes didn't even complete a circuit of the room before they focused right on him; not sparing a glance for anyone or anything else. Her hair was pulled into a messy bun, pinned with sleek metallic chopsticks that Riddick could guess weren't just for decoration. She was short but the musculature cut into her body was long and sleek. Her boots didn't make a sound as she crossed the floor of the bar, heading directly for his table. She was armed and it wasn't just secondhand salvaged goushi; it was custom, pricey. It, like everything about her, was a drastic contrast to the worn brown leather of the jacket she wore. The edges of her jacket cut sharply along the line of her rib cage; not caring to conceal the holsters beneath.
Cocky. Riddick almost smirked to himself as he leaned back in his booth and poured another drink.
The Separatists War had been good to Riddick; with the 'Verse blowing itself to hell, the Merc Guilds had turned their attention to more profitable wartime business and the black market was booming. Which meant that business had also been very good for one Richard B. Riddick. Universal law was a thing of the past and the 'Verse had been reduced to a chaotic power struggle that left so very many cracks one could slip right through. He wasn't overly concerned that she was a Browncoat or armed; where Browncoats went, gunfire followed, it was inevitable. It was the fact that she wasn't here for a drink and, as much as he might have liked to think as he took in the sway of her hips and the slight smirk which twisted at her lips, she wasn't looking for a fuck either.
It meant Andre was dead or the man had sold him out; in which case, he was very soon going to be dead. She hadn't fired at him yet or so much as even twitched for her guns; she wanted to talk. The question was; what could the Browncoats possibly want with him? Riddick didn't take military contracts; two years ago, an Alliance agent had caught up with him and offered him a job in trade for a clean slate. Riddick had left him bleeding out in an alleyway on Beylix. The Browncoats knew better than to offer him a job. They knew the people Riddick did work for; they knew he didn't play well with others.
"Neither do I." Riddick couldn't hide the twitch of his eyebrow as she spoke. The woman slid into his booth across from him; Riddick's right hand slid beneath the table, his left taking over his glass. She didn't elaborate any further on her statement; she stared at him. Riddick shifted in his seat under her scrutiny. Her look was unnerving; he felt a slight prick inside his head. The sudden sensation caused a reflexive grimace. Her jaw hardened. The prick turned into more of a sledgehammer; behind his goggles, Riddick's eye twitched. Her eyes widened slightly, the expression almost imperceptible.
Riddick reacted; his right hand ripped the gun from his thigh, he leveled it and found himself staring down the barrel of one himself. He smirked; she returned the expression.
"Nothing to see." Riddick growled out loudly enough for the few wandering eyes to hear and dangerously enough for them to look away. The probing sensations in his head ceased as quickly as they had started. She lowered her weapon first.
"Richard B. Riddick." She purred out the syllables of his name. "Escaped convict, murderer."
"Browncoat." He rumbled darkly, ignoring the heated chill caused by his name leaving her lips, the familiarity of his usual introduction rolling off her tongue.
"Not quite." She replied cryptically.
"Not here for a drink." It wasn't a question, but it demanded an answer nonetheless.
"Perhaps I am." She reached across the table and took a swig from the bottle between them. Her eyes didn't leave his. It was beginning to get under his skin. The woman hadn't blinked since she'd seated herself across from him.
"Don't work military." He threw back the contents of his own glass.
"We didn't come looking for you." She answered and, again, her words couldn't really be considered an answer.
"Two things about that sentence-," Riddick's voice came out graveled, his words rolling together in the beginnings of a growl, "-the first; 'We.' The second; you didn't look at a single other person in the bar." He leaned back further against the bench, giving the impression he was relaxing. "Not even Mr. Big Nose on your four, he's been watching you since you walked in." The corners of his lips twitched.
His observation had no effect. He had been expecting at the very least for her eyes to flick over and finally break that gorram unnerving stare of hers. She didn't. Her smirk deepened. "Thinks she doesn't know how to use her guns." Her stare didn't waver, though Riddick couldn't help but notice the way her eyes glazed. "Thinks if he waits for her to have a few drinks, and she doesn't leave with Bald-y, he'll have a chance once she walks out of the bar. Thinks the taser will save him."
Riddick merely raised an eyebrow. The fine hairs on the back of his neck standing at attention as a rapidly growing itch flared just beneath his skin. This girl is trouble. He thought to himself as his eyes cut to the thin piece of fabric beneath her jacket; sweat-soaked, it was nothing more than another layer of skin. Trouble could be fun. He felt the prickle around his mind return; a sudden flare of recognition in his memory.
"You have no idea." Her head ticked slightly as her eyes cleared.
River Tam. He thought pointedly.
"Escaped experiment, assassin." She added.
"So mind readers aren't just boogie men." Riddick rumbled with amusement as he holstered his gun. "Your reputation precedes you."
"As does yours." Her head ticked again, but her expression remained void of anything except the smirk which had never left it. Several minutes passed in silence.
"You sat down." Riddick broke it when his curiosity could no longer be contained.
"I didn't come looking for you, but found you I have." She tapped her temple. "You are unique. I was curious to see who the whispers belonged to."
"And what do those whispers tell you?" His lips twitched.
"The sweet spot." She whispered, her voice purring.
"Abdominal aorta." He replied appreciatively, fascinated by the tongue that had poked out to wet her dry lips.
"You're a bad man, Riddick." Her left brow arched as she leaned forward.
"And what does River M. Tam, one of the good guys, want with a bad man?" He found himself leaning in, his arms folding and resting on the table top. He smirked suggestively, a barrage of mental images flashing across his mind of all things he could do to her; none of them had anything to do with crime or the war. It was violence of another kind entirely.
To River's credit, she didn't so much as flinch at the vividly broadcasted imagery. "I want to offer you a job."
Riddick's smirk faltered and he leaned back against the booth. "Don't take sides. The 'Verse can burn for all I give a shit." He poured himself another drink. Any hope he had of enjoying the pretty little thing vanishing completely.
"Who says she's military?" River ignored her own pronoun slip.
"Color of your coat, only one type of person wears that color these days."
"Big damn heroes?" She arched her brow again and her smirk turned briefly into a genuine smile as though the words recalled a memory.
It was curious, but not curious enough for Riddick to want to continue on with the conversation. "Exactly, and just like you said, I'm a bad man. I do bad things." He sipped off his drink. "Real good too." He smirked.
"Color doesn't mean anything. The color is a memory. A token. Nothing more, nothing less." She replied. Her tone and demeanor changing so abruptly it had Riddick rethinking his desire to discontinue the conversation.
"That so?" He quirked a brow.
"So what is it you need a bad man for?" He asked, his curiosity now beyond any reservations over the wisdom of the question.
"What else?" Her smirk returned, darker than before. "Bad things."
Riddick barked out a raspy chuckle. "I'm listening."