A/N: Looks like my goal of getting this story done before the new Riddick movie came out was a success! This story IS complete. I'm just going through editing before posting, so they'll be regular updates. As noted, this was written and complete BEFORE the new movie is/was out. So, while this does include characters that appear in the new movie, it does not touch the plotline from said movie so there are ZERO spoilers involved. Breathe easy.
Thanks to my usual band of misfits- Pixie and Hellsbells- for beta reading for me, and to the new addition- Queenie- for doing so as well. You're all wonderful darlings!
Also, to see the banner I made for the story, visit my Deviantart- linked on my profile.
Riddick ran. It's what he did best. It seemed he was always running now, from mercs that dogged him everywhere he went. This latest one on his tail wasn't the usual sort. The guy had been on him quickly and never seemed to get shaken loose like other mercs did. He was good- damn good- and it pained Riddick to admit it.
He was walking through back alleys and slummy streets, trying to shake his tail in the darkness. Once he did that, he could make a dash for the nearest spaceport, steal a ship, and be off the shitty planet and hopefully get some distance between him and this merc. He knew the guy was there, even though he never saw him. It was his instincts that told him there was a hunter stalking him, and those instincts had saved him on more than one occasion.
Going through a pocket of scummy types, he then slipped down an alley, cutting across a few streets before turning down another path that led around a large warehouse. The hair on the back of his neck rose, and he only had a moment to react. Spinning, he threw his arms up to block as a blur flew from another alley. Riddick went down, a heavy weight slamming him to the ground.
When he looked up, his eyes met pools of deep blue-grey, and fangs. A large feline was straddling him, front paws pressing onto his chest. It was a muscular beast, black as the night. Although in the crummy, dim light, he could see the faint spotting coming from underneath- a black jaguar.
"Beautiful," he whispered. Any normal person would think him mad, staring straight at the snarling beast without fear. No, his gaze was one of admiration.
At his whispered word, the cat hesitated, claws that had been digging into his skin, eased slightly, the growl faltering. He knew better than to think the beast was no longer a threat, the still bared canines a clear indication of just how easily his neck could be snapped.
Riddick held perfectly still as the cat leaned in slowly, snuffling his throat. As it continued to scent him in various places though, he couldn't help but reach up and place a hand on its neck. The cat stiffened, growling lowly.
"'S'ok beautiful," Riddick intoned, his voice an equally low gravel quality. His hand slowly slid through the surprisingly soft fur, down to the creature's shoulder. He could feel the powerful muscles rippling beneath his fingers. "I ain't gonna hurt ya."
There was an almost snickering sound coming from the cat, and it changed into full blown male laughter. In the same instant, the fur beneath his fingers became flesh. Before he knew it, there was a metal cuff slapped on his wrist. His eyes flickered to view the person on top of him.
Straddling his waist was an attractive blonde male, just as beautiful as the jaguar had been. His eyes were the same startling blue, and he was well-built. His cargos were slung low onto his hips, and the white long-sleeve shirt looked good on him- though Riddick was disappointed to find he was wearing a bulletproof vest that hid a lot of what he wanted to see.
"Pretty sure it's you that should be worried 'bout gettin' hurt there, big guy," the blonde answered with a slight drawl. When he slapped the cuff onto his other wrist, Riddick's eyes narrowed. "Name's Johns," he continued with a smirk. "I'll be your transport this evening."
The shiny badge on his vest glinted as he stood, pulling Riddick up with him. The escaped convict snorted. "You ain't no cop," he grunted.
The blonde- Johns- smirked, tilting his head. "Who said I was?" He followed Riddick's line of sight and his smirked turned into a full grin. "Comes in handy. Most people don't like mercs. Myself included."
"A merc who hates mercs." Riddick's lips curled in amusement. "How interestin'."
"I'm an interesting guy," he quipped back. "Now let's go Riddick." He pulled at the restraints. "And no funny business, hmm? I really don't wanna break your neck."
Riddick sneered. "I'm worth twice as much alive."
Johns had a twinkle in his eye and he quirked his lips. "Exactly."
Chained up in the back of a skiff was nothing new to Riddick. Although his particular company certainly was different. He didn't come off as a typical merc, though he certainly had the cocky attitude of one. Riddick supposed it came with the territory though, and if the guy was as good as he seemed- which would be damn good to take Riddick by surprise- then he was probably afford a bit of it.
Once they were in the shipping lane and their course set, the blonde stood up from the pilot seat, stretching out as he did so. He could hear a few bones popping back into place, and watched Johns' whole body relax. "Mmm, much better," he whispered. He tapped a few more things on the console, before walking to the back.
"So," Riddick's deep voice broke the quiet, "where we off to?"
Johns smirked. "Butcher Bay."
"Hmm, never been." Riddick gave him a feral grin. "Always enjoy breakin' outta new places."
The merc chuckled softly, shaking his head. "Good luck with that. Hoxie's a real bastard. He ain't gonna let a convict get outta there easy."
"Where would be the fun in that?"
The laughter was a bit deeper that time, and Riddick couldn't help but quirk his lips. It was a nice sound.
Johns took his vest off, dropping it next to the small rack that served as a bed- utilitarian and military in style. The whole skiff was set up that way. "So what branch you serve in?" Riddick inquired.
"Marines," the blonde answered with a smirk. "It figures a guy like you'd pick up on that." He sat on the edge of the cot to take his boots off. "But then, s'ppose you bein' a Ranger boy gives you a bit more of an edge."
Riddick shrugged as much as his restraints allowed. "Could be. But you don't act like a merc."
Johns snorted. "Was an MP, hunted down AWOL soldiers." He looked up then, smirking. "Might say the penal system was offering the big bucks if I'd turn my skills to catchin' their bounties for 'em." He shrugged. "Somethin' to do I s'ppose."
As the blonde lay down onto the cot, head facing Riddick, the convict noted all the weapons that Johns left easily in reach should he need them. The merc wasn't worried in the least, letting all his muscles relax. Riddick's eyes traveled his form appreciatively.
"So you do it for shits and giggles?" Riddick inquired.
Blue eyes turned to him, gazing at him upside-down. "For now," he admitted. "At least it ain't borin'. And I don't have to answer to anyone."
Riddick could appreciate that. He was still curious about this particular man- something he could rarely say- but he knew he was starting to push the boundaries of what the guy was going to give up, so he accepted the silence that followed.
After a few moments, he heard Johns moving. Riddick looked just in time to watch as his body started to change. Bones shifted, fur grew, fangs flashed, and his ears and tail emerged. What was once a powerful looking man was now an equally powerful looking beast. The cat stretched out before sprawling languidly on his side.
Riddick knew how rare shapeshifters were supposed to be- especially large felines. The merc's added abilities certainly explained how he was so good at tracking. It was doubtful many could slip his nose once he'd gotten a sniff. Combine that with the tricks he would have picked up in the MMP's and he was one very unique challenge.
The quiet hum of the ship lulled Riddick, and he did his best to relax in the seat he was bound to. He continued to admire the cat as he started to drift off, noting the heavier rise and fall of the barreled chest. For some reason, he found that he really wanted to feel that ebony fur again.
The jaguar's nose twitched as Riddick reached out towards him. Even though the merc had afforded him some more room to move, he still couldn't quite reach. Deciding to try something, he clicked his tongue softly, watching ears automatically zeroing in on the sound. He repeated it, and the cat squirmed a bit, nose pointed towards him then to take a deeper sniff.
After a few moments, the semi-conscious jaguar wiggled a bit closer, putting his wet nose into Riddick's outstretched hand. Another sniff and the cat was shifting so that Riddick could lay his hand on his head. Considering it a win, the convict rubbed the soft fur, moving to scratch behind his ears.
He held back an amused chuckle as the cat pushed against his touch, and then started to purr. "Beautiful," Riddick confirmed.
It was hours later, when the console started to beep, that Riddick stirred. The sight that greeted him was one for the books- a jaguar half in his lap, half on the cot, head butted up against his hand. The sound agitated the slumbering cat, who grumbled in annoyance. Suddenly, the jaguar hissed in surprise, half jumping, half falling away from Riddick.
The convict laughed, which only grew in intensity as the merc shifted back into a human. Johns was scowling at him. He hit a couple buttons on the console to shut it up. As he shook his head, Riddick figured that if sharp noises like that annoyed his better than average hearing, than it was probably painful to a shifter.
"Asshole," Johns muttered, running his fingers through his curly dirty blonde hair.
Riddick grinned. "I didn't do anything. You're the one that practically crawled into my lap." Johns snorted, but didn't reply, so the convict decided to needle him a bit more. "Seemed to like it too if the purrin' was any indication."
"I did not purr," he snapped back.
There was a satisfied look on Riddick's face. "Mmhmm, sure you didn't beautiful."
Johns scowled at his comment but didn't bite that time. Instead, he plopped into the pilot chair, busying himself with checking flight and skiff statuses.
Riddick only chuckled, settling back into his chair. This merc was something else alright. He wouldn't mind getting to know him a bit better.
Hoxie and Johns had history. That was made painfully clear on arrival. "See ya soon, Johns," Riddick whispered, smirking at the curious look he was given as he was led away by Abbott, the Warden's second.
Really, they thought this place would hold him? It was a rather sad state of affairs when people were allowed to be so naive.
The darkness. It had always been a friend. There in the sewer system underneath Butcher Bay though, it was becoming his downfall. He met a crazy doctor living there in the darkness that was able to patch him up though.
That's when it happened. A voice, coming from the shadows. A woman? He didn't have time to process what the hell she meant by "being blind for far too long" as his whole body felt like it was on fire. His head pounded, and he doubled over with the intensity of the pain. When he opened his eyes again, everything glowed.
Johns grunted in frustration as he walked the outer docking area. He had to get outside, away from all the guards and other mercs that were staying over. They made his skin crawl. And Hoxie, well, he wasn't helping matters any.
It was all Johns could do to keep his cat restrained. He was pretty sure if he clawed up the Warden's face, he wouldn't be getting his money. Then again, it seemed the bastard was doing everything he could to not pay him. Hoxie and his fucking memory. Perhaps it would be worth letting out his claws after all.
He snorted, shaking his head. No, he could hear his father already. Not many people knew of their shifter status- that were still alive anyway. It made things... complicated. He would just have to bite his tongue and hope for the best out of the mess. He'd give it one more day before he decided to start ripping throats out. That thought made his cat purr.
There was a shifting in the shadows that he caught from the corner of his eye. He dropped into a ready stance immediately, one hand dropping to his shotgun. His nose, while not as sensitive in his human form, picked up the hint of something familiar- Riddick.
"Well, I'll be damned," he drawled out, the hint of laughter in his voice. He crossed his arms over his chest, taking a quick look around- though his ears told him that no one was nearby. "You can come out now, Riddick."
There was a deep chuckle as said convict peeled out from the shadows. "Miss me?" he mused.
Johns shook his head. "Not in the slightest," he replied dryly. He felt his cat protesting that, but he ignored it. He glanced over towards where he'd come from the merc area. "Plannin' to go somewhere?"
"Yeah, off this damn station," he replied matter-of-factly. Johns didn't even twitch when the convict walked right past him, arm brushing up against his back.
The merc took a deep breath, cursing himself as he called after the man. Riddick paused, looking over his shoulder with a slight smirk. "Let's take my ship," Johns grumbled, walking right by the other man to take the lead. There was another deep chuckle, but he could feel as much as hear him following.
They were off the landing pad before anyone was the wiser. Once they were clear of the minefield, Johns breathed a heavy sigh. "What the fuck am I doin'?" he muttered, setting in a new course towards the nearest major transport hub.
Riddick leaned over the pilot chair, his husky voice resonating in his ear. "Looks like you're aiding and abetting."
Johns snorted, spinning the chair towards another set of computers to shake the convict off. "Only helped ya 'cause the bastard didn't wanna pay up. Your ass is goin' back to Slam as soon as I can figure out who's willin' to pay the most."
"Uh huh." He could hear the smirk in Riddick's reply. "Just keep tellin' yourself that beautiful."
Johns didn't bother to hide the annoyed growl.
It was quite a while before Johns felt in control enough to turn the chair around to face Riddick. What he saw gave him pause- a shiv. The convict just sat on the edge of the cot, twirling it through his fingers, spinning it on his palm, tossing it gently into the air. Where had he gotten that? Worse, how the hell hadn't Johns heard him or been aware of what he was doing?
"Shouldn't get so caught up in your anger there Johns," the convict spoke as though reading his mind. "You start to miss things that way." Riddick plucked the knife out of the air, looking at him with a cocky smirk. "Can be very deadly. 'Specially in your line a work."
Johns scowled at him, holding out his hand and gesturing with his fingers. "Hand it over, Riddick."
"Why? If I wanted ya dead, I coulda killed ya already." He set the blade spinning on his palm again.
"My ship, my rules." Johns motioned again, happy to see the other man comply. "Got anythin' else?" he asked dryly, stashing the knife in his vest.
"Care to search me?" Riddick mused, a large grin forming on his face. It held just a hint of feral quality to it, and once again his own inner beast made its approval known.
"Fuck off," he grumbled to the other man. He stood, walking over to one of the supply lockers and pushing it open. He could feel the searing gaze on him, watching his every movement. Pulling out a couple of the crappy military rations he kept on board, he tossed one to Riddick.
"Should chain you back up," he mentioned, turning to gauge the convict's reaction. He watched the man's jaw tighten in discomfort, the strong muscles of his shoulders and thighs bunching- ready to fight or flee. "But, like ya said," he continued, "you could've killed me already. So, don't prove me wrong."
Riddick didn't reply, but the merc watched as he visibly relaxed before digging into his food. Johns lowered the cot on the opposite wall, taking a seat to eat his own food. "Where we goin'?" Riddick questioned after a while of amicable silence.
"Don't worry about it," Johns remarked. The convict didn't push, so he didn't offer more. Though, after a few minutes of quiet again, he couldn't help but remark, "You smell."
There was a snort for a reply, then, "Yeah, well, you crawl through a sewer system and tell me how well you smell on the other side."
Johns smirked at that, but then shook his head. "No, s'not that. The other people." He scrunched up his nose. Softer, he admitted, "You smell like other people." When he had turned the convict over to Hoxie, he was aware some of his scent had imprinted itself onto Riddick- between catching him and then sleeping in his lap. That thought was still embarrassing in and of itself.
Riddick was not a study in the finer parts of social interactions. Not quite sure how to respond to that, or even if there was a right way to respond, left it alone. After all, Johns was his ride out of the slammer. Granted, he was also the ride back to one, but he didn't plan on sticking around- he'd slip away when the time was right.
Thankful not to continue on that particular line of thought, Johns instead turned his attention back to the cockpit. He updated his logs- with a few colorful words added about Hoxie- and furrowed his brows. "Not sure if this fucks with my record now or not."
He hadn't realized he'd spoken aloud until Riddick replied, "If what does?"
Johns glanced over at him. "You escaping. I mean technically I signed you over, so that means successful delivery." He nodded then, satisfied with that answer. "You just became lucky 18," he mused, updating the log. "18 for 18." He smirked. Take that Dad.
"Glad I could help," Riddick responded evenly.
When Johns turned back to him to reply, he hesitated. Riddick had been wearing a pair of miner goggles when they reunited, but now he had them pulled up. His eyes had been a deep brown, yet now he was staring into a pair of glowing silver orbs. It took a moment to find his voice. "What..." He wet his lips. "What the fuck happened to your eyes?"
Riddick smirked, taking a moment before responding. "Surgical shine job. Menthol Cools go a long way on the inside." He tapped his cheekbone, pointing to his eyes. "Now, I can see who's sneakin' up on me in the dark."
Johns' brows furrowed and he frowned. He'd known of other people who'd had such a procedure done. There wasn't a high probability of success, and most people who tried either died or fried their brains from the pain. Riddick was insane for having tried something like that at all- never mind being in a Slam- though it spoke to how strong he was. Or perhaps he was simply that damn lucky.
Not helping himself, Johns moved towards him, his cat coming closer to the surface as he all but stalked at the edge of Riddick's personal space. His instincts saw a predator, a more powerful one than the last time he faced him. His nostrils flared, trying to take in more of the man's scent, but it was watered down too greatly by others he'd come into contact with. His cat was not happy about that.
In a fluid motion, Johns pounced, landing on the convict in full jaguar form. Riddick grunted when he hit the cot, but he didn't try to fight. His silver eyes sparked in the dim light, like beacons to his feline side- cats liked shiny things, what could he say?
The convict let him lean in, sniffing at his throat like he'd done the first night they met. He was pleased when he found Riddick's scent. There was a sudden urge in him to mark, to rub his own scent back into Riddick's skin and wash away any of the other offending odors. Johns blinked at that, backing away slightly in surprise at his own thoughts.
Riddick's actions stunned him more though. Without any fear, he reached up and scratched under his chin. Johns would deny the happy chirping sound he admitted to the day he died. He didn't miss how it made the man smirk. As his hand moved up towards his ear though, Johns remembered himself and snapped at him.
The man may have caught him off-guard with the scratch under his chin, but that didn't mean he was allowed to pet him all of a sudden. No one needed to be touching him. That was something only his mate would be afforded.
Mate. Challenge, his feline instincts screamed.
The silver eyes glinted again, accompanied by a more feral grin than before. Johns didn't often let his jaguar side take over, but in this they were in agreement. He wanted to challenge this animal under him, test him, find out his worth.
Johns pulled his lips back in a grin of his own, fangs glinting as deadly as the glowing eyes looking back.
Riddick had caught the challenge in those blue eyes, and he was happy to oblige. He rolled off the cot, bringing the large cat down with him. Johns used his weight though, rolling them. The momentum continued until they ended up in the middle of the skiff.
He'd remained on top, but as Riddick went to try and pin the cat he felt hind paws hit his chest. Those powerful rear legs sent him flying and he slammed into the back wall. Coming to his feet, the jaguar lunged out at him, Riddick slipping to the side before the cat could connect.
The convict was impressed, watching as Johns acted within a split second. Paws came up to stop him from slamming into the wall, and instead twisted in mid-air, pushing off the wall to swing around. Riddick smirked, and he noted the cat's lips curling in a way that may have been a grin of his own.
The two predators circled around each other the best they could in the small space, observing the other, waiting for the right time to strike. They ended up moving as one. As the jaguar left the floor, Riddick dropped to his knees, reaching up and grabbing a forearm. He drug the cat out from the air, putting him to the ground.
As he went to pin him down however, Johns started to shift back to his human form. In doing so, Riddick couldn't get a good hold anywhere and the blonde wiggled out of his grasp. "Slippery bastard," the convict muttered, hearing laughter in reply.
Johns was bouncing on the balls of his feet, lightly moving back and forth, a playful grin on his face. Riddick couldn't help but take in the sight, licking his lips. He didn't know what it was about this guy he found so intriguing. He may not have been a shifter, but he knew he was in touch with his own inner animal, his feral side.
It was why he knew exactly what Johns was up to. He was testing him, feeling him out. He was prodding at him for strengths and weaknesses, seeing just what he was made of. Some reason, that made Riddick want to show off a bit. He couldn't bring his other blades out, not without potentially hurting the merc, but that didn't mean he couldn't play dirty.
The pair ended up all over the skiff, each being pinned or hit at some point. Elbows and knees started coming into play, and Johns cursed at a particularly good shot to the midsection. However, the blonde gave as good as he got, and he was the first person Riddick could remember in a long time being able to keep up with him.
At one point he slammed into Johns so hard, he stumbled backwards and hit some of the flight controls. It pitched the skiff, throwing him sideways into another console. "Shit!" the merc exclaimed, but before he could correct anything, Riddick had slipped into the pilot chair and pulled her back steady.
Johns righted himself, punching in a few things to the computer system. "That was close," he mentioned. He looked over at Riddick then, laughter in his eyes. "Nice save. Almost forgot you used to pilot."
Riddick nodded, letting the ship go back into autoflight. He had made one hell of a Ranger, which was how he ended up going to the Strikeforce Academy. That had been the beginning of the end for him. If only he knew then what he knew now. He wouldn't dwell on it though, instead turning the chair to look at Johns.
The blonde was breathing a little heavier, sweat coating his skin, but he was grinning softly. They stared at each other for a few minutes before Riddick got up. He was slightly taller than the other man, yet even having to tilt his chin a bit to keep eye contact, Johns wasn't nervous in the least.
Riddick wanted to laugh or slap him in the back of the head- maybe both. If Johns was smart, he would be afraid. He was an animal, probably moreso than Johns. He didn't care about anything except surviving and staying free. Being around Riddick could only bring trouble to him.
As he walked back to the cot though, flopping down on it, Riddick couldn't help but wonder if perhaps the merc could make him care.