The Ghost & The Darkness

Author's Note: I'd like to begin by saying that I'm originally from Chicago and I've been to the Field Museum where the bodies of the famous lions reside. The movie made a big impression on me and I've used lines as chapter titles. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I've enjoyed writing it.

We're Not Much Good At Goodbyes

He couldn't stop seeing River walk away from him. The fury that lit his veins felt like a fire worse than any wrath he'd ever known. It wasn't anything like a quarter of an hour later that Riddick found he could move again. Of course he'd never stopped trying to regain control over his body so perhaps he'd worn the effects down, or perhaps whatever device they'd used didn't work as well on him as it did normal homo sapiens. Still, it wasn't with his usual grace that he got to his feet. Staggered was definitely the appropriate term as he gained upright status. Furiously he scowled at the direction in which the Academy shuttle had gone and limped over to where Inara was lying, still paralyzed. "This ain't gonna be graceful or polite," He told her, bending with an effort and getting her over his shoulder. "But I ain't wastin' any time."

Her mumble seemed to be in the affirmative but at the moment he didn't care. He'd never been so pissed off in his life. His mate had walked away from him. She'd warned him, told him she had to, but he hadn't been prepared for just how insane it would make his animal go. He was a little surprised he wasn't foaming at the mouth, he felt rabid. Strapping Inara into the shuttle seat he slammed the doors shut and flicked on the controls, powering the little transport up. Blitzing through the preflight checks he switched on the cortex and waved Serenity.

Mal came on and blinked in surprise when he saw Riddick but wasn't given a chance to speak. "Make sure everybody's on the ship when we dock," The convict snarled. "And that boat better be ready to sail, because I will kill someone if we do not leave the minute we can."


Mal was cut off as Riddick began to flip switches and the engines whined. A moment later they were in the air and Riddick began to push the little shuttle for speed. "Them Blue Hands River was on about showed up after the mediatin' was done," Riddick snarled. "And my wife waltzed right up to them, calm as you please and let 'em take her away, in exchange for our continued health."

"The hell you say!" Mal's outrage nearly matched Riddick's.

For some reason Riddick found that satisfying. "Yeah, so my mood ain't the best right now," he ground the words out from between clenched teeth. "So iffen there's somethin' wrong with Serenity that she ain't able to fly when we're docked you better tell me now. I'll hijack another boat if I gotta."

"How long 'til you're here?" Mal's question was practical.

"Maybe twenty minutes if I push it," Riddick checked the instruments. "River's still on planet right now. Wave Badger and tell him to look for any outgoing Alliance or private boats, small, fast moving. They'll be discreet, not flashy. Probably arrived right around the time River started to go sideways when we were visitin' him."

"I'm on it," Mal moved to turn off the wave when Riddick stopped him.

"Simon's almost as good as River on the Cortex, tell him to do a similar search. River's cortex is on our bed in the passenger dorm. And tell him to start searching for new construction, anywhere on a Core planet started right around the time he got River out." Riddick banked hard to the right and felt the shuttle shake a bit, but hold together. "ETA fifteen minutes. Riddick out."

Mal had gone through the preflight check, the start up sequence and all that prevented Serenity from roaring out of the Eavesdown docks was the docking of Inara's shuttle. Simon was sitting in the rear seat, his eyes glued River's cortex, fingers clicking away like his life depended on it, which if Riddick's expression and tone were to be believed, it did.

Jayne was down in the armory checking on the amount of explosive putty he had in stock. Mal could hear him muttering and Ciara's sweet voice chirping her replies. Zoe and Imam were in the galley with the twins, the shepherd minding the babies while Zoe used another cortex to check with some of the old contacts in the Browncoats about Alliance bases that should be defunct and strangely weren't.

The familiar sound of the shuttle engine's whine reached the Captain's ears and he frowned. Kaylee would need to look at the engine of the shuttle when they hit dirt again. Riddick had been pushing the little ship pretty hard. A loud thump, three clicks and a beep later, the shuttle was docked and Mal grabbed the comm. "We are in the air in three minutes people. Kaylee, you stand by for hard burn once we're out of atmo."

The doors to the airlock slammed open and the somehow the silence was more menacing than thundering footsteps could ever be. How Riddick could wear heavy boots, bear the weight of all his muscle and still run quickly and silently was a mystery Mal might never solve. Riddick was on the bridge faster than the captain could have imagined anyone being able to move. "We got a course yet?" The convict snarled the question.

"Badger's checkin' on the ship," Mal's voice was testy, "Zoe is looking into a few things too." Before he could bring up the wave again, Riddick had taken the co-pilot's seat and waved Badger.

"Talk to me Badger," River's husband snarled the words. "They took my wife."

"Got three possibles," Badger cut to the chase, "One of them arrived right around the time River went wobbly, but it hasn't left yet, scheduled time is in an hour. The second arrived an hour before, it departs in about five minutes, the last arrived around the same time as the first but they're not scheduled to leave until tomorrow afternoon." Badger's face was grim, "Rick, how many guys do you want? I can send over the four that gave you escort and scrounge up ten more."

"Iffen they're goin' off planet your men won't help," Riddick's scowl was ferocious, "Thanks though." He pulled a knife from his belt, absently flipping it in his hand. "Can you do a little more digging, find out destinations? Send 'em in a wave on to Simon and Zoe? We're cross checkin' a few things here, tryin' to figure where they're gonna take her."

"I'll send you everything I got," Badger promised. "Oh, and tell Zoe if you all need a safe house for her kids, I've got a nice place, heavily guarded, just in case we end up with a war on our hands."

"We'll keep it in mind," Riddick nodded grimly and Badger disappeared from the screen. It wasn't more than five minutes later, Riddick grimly staring out the bridge window while Simon worked feverishly behind him, that Simon's screen made a beep and began to fill up with information. "What've we got Doc?" The dark man's voice was dour with resolve.

"The one leaving tomorrow afternoon can't be it, they're a commercial shuttle service, small ships, elite passengers, jumping from planet to planet," Simon shook his head. "Private but they can be bought. I doubt the academy would use them."

"So it's the first or the second." Riddick looked at Mal and then took a deep breath. "They used words to make River go unconscious," He explained. "How long does that last usually?"

"Anywhere from an hour to four hours," Simon explained slowly. "I've never had to use it when she wasn't already triggered."

"So they could put her in cryo and take her back any route they cared to," Mal said slowly, "Takin' a page from your book Doc."

"Yeah," Riddick wrapped his hand around the knife blade and squeezed, breathing in the calming scent of the blood, concentrating on the pain. "Cryo could be good for us though." He said after a moment, allowing the pain and rage to clear his head of worry momentarily. "She snaps out of cryo quick thanks to her routine, the meditation and vitamins."

"But she hasn't been put in cryo after being sent to sleep," Mal muttered wincing as he watched the blood drip from Riddick's palm. "Besides, I'd wager they know 'xactly how quick she comes outa that sleep, might be they don't need cryo."

Riddick fought to keep from gripping the blade tighter, "Gorramit," He cursed and shook his head. "Until they start moving, until I got a direction, somewhere I know she's headed, we won't know who to follow."

Simon had been busily working the cortex and frowned, "And we have another problem." His voice was firm but resigned. "Badger sent all the info he had on the ships. One of them is a very small ship...probably doesn't hold many people. The owner is disturbingly familiar." He brought up a picture of a dark man with a handsome face.

"Jubal Early." Mal cursed vilely.

"River said he was a pawn." Riddick took a deep breath. "But what kind, the distraction so we chase him, or the type that makes it across the board and checks the king."

Simon cursed and shook his head. "No way to tell who the other ships belong to, one of them is on blackout, the other is simply neutral names, nothing we can use to find River."

Riddick sheathed his blade and viciously drove his fist into the inner hull. "We gotta have somethin'," His voice was a scarcely contained implosion of hostility. "Ain't losin' her," He drove his fist into the inner hull again.

Mal rubbed his hands over his face. "You got anything?" He called over to Simon, ignoring Riddick's barely restrained violence.

"One of the ships is departing, no charted course or destination given," Simon muttered. "That's the ship without Early on it." He watched as River's husband cursed again and closed his eyes concentration obvious. "What are you doing?"

"Tryin' to feel her," Riddick muttered. "But since she went unconscious, it's muted, got no real sense of direction." Frustration tightened his voice and tensed his muscles and Simon refrained from inquiring what the convict meant.

"The ship with Early on it is also departing, ahead of schedule, fast burn out of atmo," Simon reported.

"Let's go," Riddick took a deep breath. "Follow the first one that left. If I have to I can find Early again, got a few folks owe me favors." He looked at Mal, "River an' me, we made sure Serenity's got credit at fuel stations. We go for hard burn the whole way."

"Okay, the first ship that left is called the Reliant," Simon read the data off his screen. "And just based on their directions they're headed for White Sun." His voice was filled with distaste. "We'll have to figure out which core planet they're going to when we're closer."

Mal was busy getting Serenity in the air, Riddick took a moment away from cursing to watch the procedure and nodded slowly, if he had to, it was something he could do. "What about Early's ship?" He asked the doctor.

"He calls it the Bounty, ha ha," Simon frowned. "The course he filed says he's going into the White Sun system, but he doesn't have a final destination filed. Might be pushing past to someplace on the rim."

"There's a skyplex or two past White Sun," Mal grunted the words out as he fought the atmosphere. Wordlessly Riddick took the co-pilot's seat and began to help with the controls, the strength in his arms making the assent smoother until they broke atmo.

"Don't matter right now," Riddick frowned. "Just head for White Sun. I'm gonna try a few things, see if I can get a bead on River." He rose and was at the doorway when Simon called his name. Riddick turned and looked at the doctor with a barely concealed growl.

"What are you going to do?" Simon's voice was level and no one who didn't know him very well would be able to see just how panicked and afraid the doctor was, not unless they had Riddick's senses.

"Gonna see if I can find her," Riddick snarled. "Iffen I stay 'round you two I'll end up shivin' someone."

"But—" Simon barely got that word out before Riddick growled again and stalked out of the room, eerily silent even in his fury.

"Doc, let the man be," Mal's voice was quiet but Riddick could still hear it. "Get the feelin' River's the only reason the man acts half civilized an' she just walked away from him. The why of it don't matter, man's lookin' to kill some folk. Best not be in his way while the urge is on him."

Riddick's scowl didn't lighten but his opinion of the captain went up half a notch. Seemed the man wasn't entirely stupid.

Ciara and Zoe were on the catwalk speaking quietly. Inara was in the galley with Imam. The twins were asleep in Zoe's bunk. Jayne was in the lounge sharpening his knives. Simon was in the infirmary, preparing for the emergency he was certain would arrive. Kaylee was in the engine room, babying her girl along. Mal was still on the bridge, talking to Browncoats, trying to suss out where River could have been taken.

Riddick sat on the bed he and River had shared in the passenger dorm. A full two days had passed since River had walked towards the Blue Hands and he wasn't any closer to feeling her mind, where she was. The only thing he could tell was that she was alive and that her mind was fogged, something kept her from thinking clearly, kept him from fixing on her direction.

This was something they hadn't planned for, had no way of knowing what would keep River's mind from communicating with his. All he could do was breath the way River had taught him and find each person on the ship in preparation for finding her. He'd done all he could to immerse himself in her scent grateful that no one had the time for laundry, the pillowslip had a few strands of River's hair, the sheets held their combined scent, her brush had more of her hair… her axe and sword felt like her in his hands, the grips worn into the pattern of her palms.

Finally he was ready, and stalked out of the room towards the cargo bay, leaving silence in his wake as he passed. Barefoot, in loose cargos and a muscle shirt, he took his place in the center of the bay as River had taught him and began her kata, the one for meditation. He could close his eyes and move, and practically feel her beside him, his animal stretching out through his body. River had listened closely to his mind while they practiced and told him that the katas helped to join the animal fully with the man, instead of shutting it away.

Balance was the key she'd said, balance between the man and the animal. Balance between the woman and her animal. The meditation she'd done while getting tattooed had helped her focus properly. The way Riddick sank into himself when pain hit him, turning it into fury, into resolve and focus had done the same for him while he had been under the needle. Somehow claiming each other after that intensity had joined their minds. But River wasn't under him, wasn't even nearby, and he had to find her. Had to be balanced enough on his own, the beast and the man united, if he was going to find his wife, his mate again.

The end of the kata came and he flowed smoothly from the ending to the beginning again, trying to relax into the movements designed to help him attain mental balance. Whispering above him, breathing behind him, the thrum of the ships engine's beneath his feet. The buzz of a cortex screen, babies making burbling sounds in their crib, Mal's voice. Scents of metal, of gun oil, machine grease, tea and jasmine, leather, silk, paper and clover and there under all of it, blood and apples and silk and cinnamon burnt black against steel.

Far away, through the black, he opened his eyes and stared out at the stars, hearing her mind, the tired murmuring of her thoughts, images stolen from someone else's memory, captures of Spartan quarters, elegant with restraint. A ship, newer than Serenity, arched doorways, deep blue walls. A planet's glow, a white sun and his own image, his silver eyes burning as they regarded something, someone. An estate, elegant and refined, wealth with exquisitely correct furnishings. A young dark haired boy studying. Dinosaurs. An older man scolding the boy for his language. 'Simon lost his head in the heat of battle.'

Her mind, awakening, reaching out for his, beeping noises in her ears, something sticky on her temple, over her heart. Her eyes opened, a white and blue room, similar to a hospital, empty but for a bed and a monitor. A mirror on the wall smells of lies and watching eyes. He sees her cool elegant smile in the reflection and she gives it an ironic nod. She sits up on the bed, folds her hands, waits and waits until the door opens. A man in a white lab coat walks in and greets her. Her voice is polite, perfectly courteous. 'Build thee more stately mansions o my soul, as the swift seasons roll, leave thy low vaulted past, let each new temple nobler than the last, shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast.'

He knows she is speaking both to him and to the man before her physically. Her voice echoes in his mind. He feels the mental shudder as she smiles at the doctor, speaks of her need for meditation and vitamins, how pleased she is that she has improved to the point of no longer needing other medications in order to control her gifts. How glad she is that she can at last be useful to the people who helped her find this gift.

The doctor's scent dim through her nostrils reeks of pleasure and distrust. He smiles, hopeful and wary, and takes a syringe from his pocket. River tilts her head and sighs but holds out her arm. 'Soon I hope you will see that sedation isn't needful, that I am well. But I understand your concern. Tomorrow, I would like to meditate and go through my kata before the sedation if it seems feasible.'

The doctor talks a bit more, and she smiles, her face dopey and her mind calculating under it. The medicine feels like the sedatives Simon gave her, the soother she needed for a while that first year. She could burn through it if she meditated; lies down and closes her eyes, slows her breathing and the doctor leaves. Same medicine every day, immunity could be acquired, but care must be taken. Only during the time of REM sleep would it be safe to guide Serenity. Until trust could be gained, until freedoms were granted; privileges earned with proper behavior and courtesy.

Riddick cursed as he felt her mind slip away, the drugs stealing her purpose, her thoughts no longer touching his. He rose from the lotus position he'd sunk into and began to ferociously beat the sandbag Jayne had hung for sparing practice. Rage burnt through him, loss and pain fueling it. He felt a pop in his hand, pain and ignored it, seeing nothing but her face fading away from his mind, her love for him being stolen away by drugs and white rooms. Dimly he was aware of someone speaking, to him, to someone else? It didn't matter, if it wasn't River's voice it didn't matter.

Jayne sat on the steps, Ciara sitting one step below him, cradled between his thighs, watching Riddick. Zoe and Imam squeezed onto the top step beside him and Jayne glanced at Zoe's face. Dark eyes, set lips, she was worried as hell. Imam's expression was serene and concerned, and Jayne shook his head. "Know just how the man feels," he said quietly. "Let 'im beat the hell outa the bag for a spell, he needs it. Got too much mad in him to talk straight yet."

"His hands are bloody," Ciara whispered. "I think I heard something crack, but he just keeps going."

"He is a man who hates God," Imam's voice was sad. "I believe he sees this as one more evil God has done to him. The men who took his wife have no idea the fury they have unleashed upon the 'Verse."

Jayne shrugged slightly, "What'd ya expect Shepherd?" He slanted a sardonic look at Imam and Zoe. "Man was near killed at birth, raised in a foundlin' home, an' Alliance sent him to Slam for killin' a man what needed it. He's been on the run or in lockdown most of his life. River told me the first time he'd ever been happy was bein' with her. Bein' himself with her. He ain't gotta hide nothin', ain't gotta do nothin' different or change, she thinks he's perfect the way he is. An' then they take her away, take her an' make it so she's gotta walk away from him or they'll kill him an' 'Nara an' prolly all of us to boot." Jayne looked back at Riddick, "Know just how he feels, one thing in the 'Verse is yours, one person sees you as you are, loves ya anyway an' they take her? S'prised the man ain't pounded his way through the hull by now."

Riddick's voice broke into the conversation, "Kinda thought you'd be the one to figure it out." He sat down on Jayne's weight bench and regarded his bruised and bloody hands with a grim expression.

"The captain does not seem to me to be a man without understanding," Imam said quietly.

"Mal ain't pissed at the world," Jayne shook his head, "Not like me an' Rick. Mal lost his faith, lost his home, lost everything. But he's got Zoe, got the boat, even got family now. The man's broken an' that's different from mad."

"I know what Jayne means Imam," Zoe said quietly. "When you've only ever had one thing go right in your life, to have it taken away…" Her even voice broke and she took a deep breath. "You can give up, just let go of everything, or you can get mad."

"Get busy livin' or get busy dyin'," Ciara spoke for the first time. "Ain't no halfway. Halfway's for fools."

"You might say," Riddick agreed quietly. "Saw some stuff, oncet I got through the kata and into the meditatin' part. Found River, heard her, she had some things to say…gonna need the whole crew to help figure out what she meant. Some of it was for me, but some of it, I think was memories, there's a message in them, what she showed me felt deliberate, but they're monitoring her vitals, brain activity an' all so she couldn't just talk to me."

"Let's get Mal and the rest of 'em." Zoe stood, "Riddick you head to the infirmary, Simon's gonna throw a fit when he sees your hands."

"Ain't much worried 'bout that Zoe," Riddick's voice was still edgy with temper.

Jayne chuckled, "Just let him help Rick," He suggested. "He's in as bad a state as you are, hides it better is all. Raised to be proper ya know."

Ciara nodded her agreement, "It'll help you both. He needs someone to tend and your hands are pretty bad."

Riddick rolled his eyes and stalked soft-footed towards the infirmary. "Doc," He greeted the slender man with a nod. "Got news."

Simon's reaction was to jump when he was first greeted, nearly spill a tray of instruments, prevent that and then step towards Riddick only trip and nearly brain himself on the table. His only verbal response was a resigned sigh over his clumsiness, "Your hands… you really should stop hitting things." He gestured to the table and Riddick rolled his eyes and hopped up onto it.

"Yeah, well if I hit soft things could end up killin' someone an' I don' think you'd like that," He growled. "Let's wait on treatment or whatever until the rest of 'em are in here."

"Ain't gotta wait long," Mal's voice came from the doorway. The rest of the crew filed in behind him, Ciara sitting in Jayne's lap and Inara leaning against the captain. Kaylee hopped up onto the side counter, her sunny face subdued as it had been since River was taken. "Since we ain't gotten a wave today be interested to hear how you got this news."

"River an' me, we figured out how to…connect with each other," Riddick began. "Started workin' the night before she was taken, she could talk to me, an' hear what I thought back at her. I guess it'd be a step further than what she did with you on planet Zoe." He nodded at the first mate, leaning against the counter next to Kaylee, Imam on her other side.

"Makes sense, she's closer to you than anyone," Zoe nodded back.

"When they used the words on her…" Riddick shook his head. "I knew where she was, but I couldn't…couldn't hear her. She wasn't talkin' anymore, bein' unconscious, but out in the black…didn't know how I'd be able to track her. Knew generally where she was, but it's a big-ass sky, after all."

"All right," Mal said slowly. "Since Zoe said you had news. I guess somethin's changed?"

"Finally got to the point where I was balanced, way we were when we first tried connectin'," The dark man took a deep breath. "An' I found her, found her mind anyway, I guess followed our, bond, for want of a better word, back to where she was."

"So you saw her? Saw where they have her?" Simon's voice was tense with excitement even as his hands steadily cleansed Riddick's wounds.

"Got images, like captures, all sortsa stuff," Riddick began to recount what he'd seen, watched as Zoe and Ciara began to work cortexes and do searches based on what he said.

Simon shook his head. "If she was thinking of dinosaurs and cannibalism she means they're headed for Osiris." He said quietly. "That's where our parents raised us, where River first heard of the Academy."

"There ain't anything on Osiris that I can find," Ciara shook her head. "There's tons of possible locations but it'll take days to get through 'em all."

Riddick growled low in his throat at the thought of River being gone for much longer. The past two days had him ready to gut anyone who looked at him cross-eyed. He'd never felt like this, twitchy, as if his skin was too tight. Sleep eluded him, exercise only exacerbated the condition, and he was ready to hijack the boat and follow his instincts until he found his wife. "There was something she said, might not mean anythin' but…gave me the impression the place she was going was bigger than the last Academy."

"What'd she say?" Mal asked, "Maybe we can suss out her meanin'."

"Build thee more stately mansions o my soul, as the swift seasons roll, leave thy low-vaulted past, let each new temple nobler than the last shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast." Riddick took a deep breath, "Problem is that ain't alla the verse. Last line's…sorta ominous. "'Til thou at length art free, leaving thine outgrown shell by life's unresting sea."

"Yeah, that don't sound too promisin'," Mal frowned, "But could be why she didn't say it."

"Yeah, 'cept River don't ever say nothin' that's got no meanin'," Riddick scowled fiercely. "Let's head for Osiris, she's gonna try to talk to me when she's supposed to be in REM sleep, guess the brain activity is similar so their sensors'd be fooled. An' she can burn through the sedatives with enough exposure."

"She wasn't fighting?" Simon seemed very disturbed by that. "She's never given up a day in her life, I can't imagine my sister just lying down and letting them drug her."

"There's different kinds of fightin' Doc," Jayne said unexpectedly. "Clawin' an' screamin', that won't help her none, they might could dose her with somethin' she cain't burn off."

"Jayne speaks truly," Imam seconded the big man's words, "River's methods have changed, but she still attempts to evade her captors."

"Bein' sane can only help with that," Mal wasn't smiling, his dark gaze on Riddick as if he could tell just how close the man was to the edge. "I'm thinking Riddick's right, head for Osiris at a hard burn, refuel when we get there. Narrow down where she is by shuttle. Planet's a restricted landin' zone though, that's gonna be a problem."

"Everything was blue and white, clean, spartan, arched doorways," Riddick knew he was thinking aloud, "Kaylee how much do you know about ships, not just the engines but the way they're fitted out?"

"Know a bit about everything," Kaylee replied promptly. "Most Alliance ships they're built like them stupid tall buildings in the Core. Smaller job, private ships…those can be custom made, wouldn't know as much about interiors as the engines."

"I might," Inara spoke up. "Companions are often…asked to accompany the wealthy on their little jaunts. I can ask around, see if anyone recalls the type of ship with that interior." She gave the dark man on the table a tiny smile. "If you could write down anything you remember about the ship, details, wainscoting, cabinet types, anything you saw it would be helpful."

Riddick nodded, "I'll get right on it," He agreed, flexing his hands and instinctively reaching for his shiv so he could wrap his hand around the blade. Simon, more quickly than he would have thought, pulled the knife out of his hand and set it aside.

"You cannot keep injuring yourself out of anger," The elegant looking man remonstrated. "Apart from the sheer waste of medical supplies, if you get an infection or injure yourself too badly, how will you find my sister?"

"Blood helps me focus," Riddick said carelessly reaching for the knife.

"No," Simon, again very quickly, moved it farther from his reach. "I don't care if blood gives you an all natural high, you can't afford to lose any. You're the only one who can even reach River at the moment. We can't afford to have you injuring yourself."

"We'll hit Osiris pretty soon," Mal tried to soothe the two men, ineffectually but still making the attempt. "Simon, was wonderin', would your parents have anything to do with this? Would River try to contact them? Would Blue Sun?"

"I can't say what Blue Sun would do," Simon spoke slowly, obviously considering the questions. "I doubt River would contact them, she knows they loved us, but at the same time…we're an embarrassment. We reflect badly on our parents because of what I did to get her out." He frowned, "If our parents were contacted by the Alliance, or someone from Blue Sun, they might agree to send word if either of us got in touch with them. I doubt they believed anything I told them about the Academy."

"So it wouldn't be a case of turnin' River over to be tortured, so much as lookin' the other way 'cause River's misbehavin'?" Mal tried to clarify Simon's meaning.

"That's probably the nicest way you could put it," Simon shrugged. "They aren't bad people. My father was scrupulously honorable in his business dealings, cut throat but honorable. My mother wouldn't harm anyone. But they're shallow. They're…" He stopped, at a loss as to how he could explain his parents to people who wouldn't dream of abandoning a child, to Jayne who had searched for his sweetheart for twelve years, or Mal who'd risked his life for River over and over again.

"They're just Core folk," Riddick was the one who got it. "They ain't mean, just weak, little selfish, ain't ever had to worry on nothin'. Ain't used to a fuss over anythin'."

"Exactly," Simon nodded, "And when something happens for which they have no…precedent, they retreat into what they know."

"So they won't be any help," Mal cut to the chase.

"I'm ashamed to say not." Simon agreed.

"Don't be 'shamed Doc," Zoe spoke up firmly. "It's them as oughta be ashamed. You and River are upright, steadfast folk. Mal wouldn't have you as crew otherwise."

"Yeah, that's heartwarmin'," Riddick nodded, his lips twisting in annoyance. "Now can we get back to findin' my wife?"

"Riddick, you said River wouldn't be able to speak to you," Simon's voice stumbled over that phrase as if he still couldn't quite believe it. "Until she entered REM sleep...even by the most conservative estimate, that's two hours from now. I want you to sleep for at least an hour."

"Yeah, that's not gonna happen." Riddick pushed himself off the exam table and found himself blocked by Simon. "Get outa my way Doc," He warned the slender man.

"Just as you cannot continue to injure yourself, you cannot deprive yourself of sleep," Simon retorted, annoyingly confident in his medical knowledge. "Sleep deprivation results in poor decisions, impaired reflexes and reduced cognitive functions. You have to sleep for my sister's sake if not for your own."

"I'll sleep after we get River back," Riddick stalked out of the room soundless as always. Behind him he heard Mal commenting to the rest of the crew.

"Anyone else find it unsettlin' how that man can be in a towerin' rage and still walk so soft-footed Serenity don't even rattle under his feet?"


Author's Note:

Quote sources for this chapter are as follows:

Build thee more stately mansions o my soul, as the swift seasons roll, leave thy low vaulted past, let each new temple nobler than the last, shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast.- The Chambered Nautilus - Oliver Wendell Holmes

Get busy livin' or get busy dyin' - Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption - Stephen King

'Til thou at length art free, leaving thine outgrown shell by life's unresting sea. - The Chambered Nautilus - Oliver Wendell Holmes