The Ghost & the Darkness
"Gorram it Williams, I ain't got the time for your shǐ niào (shit and piss) right now," Riddick snarled into the cortex as he brought Serenity into dock at the skyplex for the fourth time in nine months. "You gotta problem with me you find me and we'll deal with it."
"The hell you don't got time now," Williams snarled right back. "You're supposed to be delivering that cargo to Whitefall. Now you're tellin' me you're back at the skyplex. What's so damn important that you can't keep your word?"
"River's gone into labor," Riddick snarled back. "Mal's appendix burst so he can't fly. River obviously can't fly. And damned if I'm going to worry about your stupid dolls when my wife's gotta have surgery to deliver. I'm goin' to stay with her an' when she's had the twins and all three of 'em are healthy then I'll think about your gorram cargo!"
"Oh," Maxx Williams was a lot of things but stupid enough to argue with a man whose wife was in labor was not one of them. "All right. Wave me when she's better and you can fly and I'll let the buyer know we're delayed due to quality control issues." Williams still wasn't entirely comfortable dealing with the man he knew was an escaped convict but since the Furyan's had cleared up Jack Leland's flags and legal troubles he had found himself doing business with Malcolm Reynolds more often.
"Yeah whatever," Riddick signed off the cortex, checked the docking seals and shut down the bridge to run down to the infirmary. River was prostrate on the exam table, breathing heavily, Mei-Ling giving her sips of water now and then. Mal had removed himself from the infirmary and was laying on the couch, limp and sweaty with the effort it had taken to move even with Imam and Jayne's help. Riddick barely spared his captain a glance as he strode past towards the infirmary. "Doc," He greeted Simon. "How're you doin' Dancer?" He forced a smile to his lips as he greeted his wife.
"Your son and daughter are arguing over who will be the eldest," River smiled at him. "Tried to explain that Simon will deliver whoever is ready first but they continue to quarrel over it."
Riddick chuckled and took her hand, "How's the pain?" He kissed her forehead and took the cloth Ciara offered to wipe down River's neck and face.
"Meditation and other tricks Richard has taught her are very helpful," River nodded. "Simon has promised to only administer local anesthetics."
"I know whatever I inject her with will just burn out too quickly anyway, and anything that would actually help would penetrate the uterine wall and hurt the twins." Simon nodded at his brother in law. "River's doing better than Kaylee was at this point, though if you tell my wife I said that I'll deny it completely."
Riddick chuckled in spite of his worry, "I ain't that stupid doc." He watched as Simon and Ciara began to prepare River for the surgery she'd need. Two months ago Simon had explained that while it was possible for River to give birth naturally, it wasn't something he was willing to risk with twins. River was very slender and the strain of birthing one baby might have been something she could handle, he was worried that giving birth a second time would be too much for her. Surgically birthing was common if the mother was small as River, especially if the pregnancy was a multiple birth. Carrying the twins hadn't been too difficult for the Reader, but both River and Riddick had agreed with Simon that a natural birth might be too much for River's slender body, strong as she was.
"Mei-Ling," He turned and looked at his daughter. "I love you baby girl, but you'd better go sit with Inara and Zoe now. This ain't something I want you to see. Hell, I ain't sure I want to see it really." He kissed the teens forehead and sent her out of the infirmary.
River laughed and shook her head at him her teasing smile lightening her face, "Richard would not leave even if it were required of him that he deliver the twins himself."
"River, I want to make sure you understand what I'm going to do," Simon began to explain until River huffed in frustration.
"Simon, I'm a genius, I'm capable of realizing that I have a body made for dance. I'm a weapon and a wife and I'm fine with that. I also realize that giving birth to twins isn't something that is entirely safe for me." She paused to take a deep breath and let it out slowly. "You're going to help me give birth via Caesarian section. Its going to be uncomfortable. And I won't be able to have sex with my husband for at least eight weeks." River rolled her eyes, "Trust me, I'm well aware of the risks. But we don't have much choice. Now will you just get on with it before I tell Richard to just slice me open and pull them out because you're dawdling and labor pains are not a fun sensation no matter how much meditation I do."
Riddick chuckled and kissed her forehead again, "Channel it towards me mate," He suggested. "I'll help you deal with it."
"You'll be sorry," River singsonged the words.
"Yeah probably, but I'd rather be sorry than have you bear all of it by your lonesome," Riddick agreed and braced himself. The wave of pain that swept over him felt like it was twisting his balls in a vice and pulling his entrails through his nose. "Gorram mate, you've been dealing with all that? You share this with me or I swear…" He gasped and took a deep breath as another wave hit him.
"You swear what?" River asked as she gasped through another contraction.
"Minute you're better I'll put you over my knee." He uttered the empty threat without hesitation. He and River had figured out months ago that she could share the pain she felt with him, as if he were a powersink for sensation. It meant he felt everything she did physically but in this situation it made labor and the pain of surgery bearable without a general anesthetic. It worked for other sensations as well, but with the amount of meditation required they'd lost control before they could manage to share more than surface pleasures. After several attempts they'd laughingly agreed to just overwhelm each other with pleasure the conventional way.
"Tease," River nearly laughed and then groaned as another contraction hit her.
"Simon she's dilated," Ciara told the surgeon. "If you're going to do it, it has to be now. Otherwise one of the twins will start to move down the birth canal."
"All right," Simon uttered a brief and fervent prayer to Hippocrates and began to draw his scalpel over his sisters bulging belly. Riddick forced himself to look away before he did something to River's brother. It was wrong for anyone to be cutting on his wife, the animal was nearly howling with rage at the thought of River bleeding. River shared another wave of pain with him and he bit back a groan. Painful as it was he'd rather bear it than let River go through this alone as other women did. He'd kill someone before she was done with labor if she hadn't found a way to share the pain of it with him. This the animal could understand, this he could do, he could take pain for her since somehow he was utterly useless in every other way at the moment.
He was aware of Simon's low calm voice, Ciara answering her voice not as calm but somehow reassuring still as she continued with her work. Zoe's voice and Imam's, close and then receding, Jayne poking his head in and yanking it back out just as quickly. Mal's voice raised to reprimand his big gun hand. Kaylee's sweet chirping and the burbling of her son at her breast. Mal again squawking, the scent of breast milk, Kaylee absently hushing her captain. River, staring into his eyes, pain again, different, emptiness, their hearts finally beating in time as their breathing synced. A baby cried, squalling at the cold bright world, indignant at the lack of warmth and harsh dry air.
Simon's voice, less calm, hurried and near frantic, movement, Ciara's voice harsh somehow, adrenaline rushing through Simon's veins, his heartbeat pounding. River's voice, soft, whispering to him in his mind. 'Richard, you must let go of me and speak to your daughter,' River's mental voice was quiet but insistent. 'Call her.'
Riddick looked away from River's eyes, had to tear his vision away from her to see Simon cradling a tiny form in his hands, his fingers removing the tissue that blocked the nose and throat, smacking the baby's bottom to startle her into taking a breath. Riddick fought for air, fought to speak and took a deep breath, "Give her to me," He held out his hand, larger than both of Simon's together. "Simon, give me my daughter."
Simon blinked and looked up at his brother in law, "I've got to get her lungs working," He explained his voice quick and determined, his hands never stopped moving.
"Simon give me my daughter or I swear you'll die where you stand," Riddick uttered the threat without thinking, he didn't have time for delay, River wouldn't have told him to do this if it wasn't needed. Simon blinked in shock and gently set the baby into Riddick's large warm hand, helping the big man cradle the little girl to his chest. "Breathe Sanguine," Riddick snarled into the baby's face. The little girl remained motionless. Riddick took a deep breath too aware of River's frantic heartbeat and roared into the baby's face, while pinching the bottom of her foot. "Sanguine! Breathe!"
Whether it was the pinch or the shouting or the combination of both, the baby shuddered and howled her fury at this mistreatment. Riddick breathed a sigh of relief and handed her over to Ciara to clean off. "All right Simon, sew my wife back together would ya?" Riddick didn't bother to see if the man did as he was told, turning back to River and helping her breathe through the pain again. It was fading, the twisting agony that had gripped him and he hoped that meant her pain was fading as well. Pinching, twisting and a strange tearing sensation that he really didn't want to dwell on or details about, and then Simon was sewing River back up, doing something that made her groan slightly and gave Riddick cramps that made him want to bend in two, but soon his mate was covered up and able to sit up a bit in bed.
"Here's your firstborn," Ciara handed River a very red and irritated little boy wrapped in a soft towel. "Older than his sister by three minutes."
River looked up at her husband, "What shall you name him?" She smiled as the baby rubbed against her breast and opened her shirt, hissing in discomfort as he latched onto her breast and began to nurse immediately.
"Already shouted our daughter's name at her," Riddick tilted his head, "You should name him."
River shook her head at him, "Tradition is that Furyan males must name their children, it means they accept the child as their own, regardless of who may have fathered them." She shrugged, "Not that there is any doubt but it is the tradition of…our people and I would like to honor it." She gave him an impish smile, "You already know the names we decided. Speak mate."
"He's Dirk," Riddick said quietly. "Dirk Tigris Furyan."
"And your daughter?" Ciara wrapped the little girl up and handed her to Riddick to hold while she waited her turn to eat. "What are you calling her?"
"Sanguine Felis Furyan," Riddick answered with a smile for his daughter. "River says we'll call her 'Guine." He sat on the edge of the bed next to his wife and watched his son nurse. "Sound good wife?"
"Sounds good," River looked at her brother. "When can I leave the infirmary?"
"I'll get Mal into a passenger bunk and we can move you to the couch," Simon smiled as he looked down at his niece and nephew and beckoned for Mei-Ling to come back into the infirmary. "I remember how excited I was when River was born," he told his older niece, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. "How are you doing?"
"Can I hold one?" Mei-Ling looked at her adopted daddy hopefully and was surprised when he immediately handed her the baby girl. "Ooohhh she's sooo tiny," The teen cooed. "Look at her fingers…little fists…just like her daddy," She sent a teasing glance at Riddick.
The big man chuckled and kissed River's forehead. "I'm gonna help Jayne get Mal moved, then we'll get you set up on the couch, all right?"
"Shiny," River smiled and watched as her husband began to hustle around, speaking with Mal as he and Jayne helped the man up. She knew he was telling Mal about William's wave, the deadline, and how she and the twins were. Imam was already stripping the couch of the old linens and making it up with fresh, removing the back cushions so it was wide enough for Riddick to sleep with his wife. Zoe had brought the wide crib she'd used for the twins down to the lounge and Inara was making it up with the soft bedding they'd bought months ago.
Zoe's bunk was a little crowded now with the youth bed in it, but she and Imam managed. Kaylee and Simon had moved into the passenger quarters and Mei-Ling had been given Kaylee's bunk with the understanding that when the twins were born she might have to share once they were older. To River's surprise the teenager had been excited by this news, and eager to get in her 'big sister' time with the twins.
Little Dirk ran out of milk and began to fuss, immediately wanting more. "Oh, its all right," Ciara had a bottle ready and handed it to River. "Or would you rather feed him Mei-Ling, while River nurses Sanguine?"
"Oh can I?" Mei-Ling's eyes lit up.
"You certainly can," River declared, "Between you and Rick I think I'll be made superfluous."
"Doubt it," Mei-Ling teased, "Daddy has other uses for you." Her teasing came along with blushes but the ribald hilarity of Jayne, Riddick, Kaylee and Ciara had inured her to most embarrassment that came along with bedroom jokes.
River giggled and nodded, "But not for eight weeks. Going to run mad before he's allowed to have his wife again." She let her daughter hand her the baby girl and got little 'Guine situated at her breast, noting how the baby was a little more polite than her brother about eating, thinking about it first before latching on.
Riddick smiled as he came back to the infirmary, "Soon's their done eatin' we can move alla ya out to the lounge." He sat down and watched as his children ate greedily, studying the differences in the two of them. His son was a little bigger than his sister, slightly darker skin that he'd obviously inherited from his father, and a lot of silky black hair like a thatch on his head. His daughter was more slender, paler skinned like her mother, again with silky black hair somehow more ordered even newly born. "Damn Dancer, you make pretty babies."
"She does at that," Jayne grinned as he entered the infirmary. "Got Mal all settled, Imam an' Zoe are with 'em." He told Riddick as he peered over Mei-Ling's shoulder at the baby boy. "What're ya callin' 'em now?" With a smile Riddick repeated the names and Jayne tilted his head. "Don't get it." He admitted. "I know they's got some meanin' but I ain't catchin' it."
"Baby daughter is Sanguine Felis Furyan," River stroked her daughters cheek. "Sanguine for bloody and hopeful. Felis for Cat. Dirk Tigris Furyan. Dirk for Dagger or Knife. Tigris for Tiger."
"Tiger tiger burnin' bright huh?" Jayne grinned, "Makes sense now." He looked at Riddick, "Did good Rick." He handed the man a cigar. "Not that you'll smoke it or anythin', but its tradition."
Riddick grinned and shook his head, "Yeah, River an' me ain't doing too bad for a murderer and a witch right?"
"You mean a weapon and a convict," Mei-Ling teased.
"Assassin and a freak?" Jayne chuckled.
"No," River smiled. "Tiger and Albatross."
"Dancer and Warrior." Ciara said it with finality.
"Don' matter what you call us," Riddick drew Mei-Ling closer so he could wrap his arm around her. "Longs you call us family."
"Can't rightly call you anything else," Zoe told him from the doorway. "It's what you are after all."
"Richard B. Riddick would never have thought that less than a year ago he would soon have a wife and three children, a family and friends all over the 'Verse." Imam chuckled as he came in to look at the new arrivals.
Ciara laughed as she leaned against Jayne, "Ain't anyone but River coulda predicted this."
"Don't gotta be a Reader to know when a man's gonna fall in love," Jayne shook his head. "Just gotta know the man's weaknesses." He shrugged as everyone looked at him. "What? Rick loves knives...an' River's the sharpest blade in the drawer."
"She is at that," Riddick chuckled kissing the top of River's head. "Did I say thank you yet?"
"For what are you thanking me?" River looked up at him curiously.
"For our family Dancer," Riddick smiled. "Iffen you hadn't heard me in the dark, found me, trusted me...I'd be alone in the 'Verse. But you did...an' now... I got a grown daughter, and the twins and you, the most beautiful deadliest woman in the 'Verse. Got family an' friends, people I can trust, know who an' what I am an' don't flinch. Can't put a price on that kinda gift."
"Price to pay is to always keep us," River looked up at him and reached one hand up to tug him down for a kiss. "We will always be yours."
"I'll hold you to that River," Riddick smiled and wondered if his face would crack from holding the grin on his lips. He hadn't ever felt this happy in his life, not even on his wedding day, he realized.
"We are complete," River murmured. "We are family. Furyan has found his mate. Weapon has found her Warrior. Dancer found her partner. Furyans bond forever."
"Yeah," Riddick agreed, his voice a quiet rumble in her ear. "Yeah we do."
Author's Note: Well I hope you liked it and it didn't get too mushy at the end. I don't want Riddick soft and squishy but I do think he'd find himself enjoying family and friends if only because it meant he could relax now and then. Life aboard Serenity would certainly keep him tough, after all with Mal's plans things never go smooth.
I may write a few one shots in this little AU to talk about Zoe and Imam and talk about Jack Leland, Rawhide and Hwa Ling but they're in the future. My big concern was to wrap up our favorite couple here. I hope you all enjoyed it.