saga/title/fandom: The Past Never Dies chapter 3 (Pitch Black/Riddick)

author: Shalimar

rating/genre: (NC-17) - het, angst, drama

warnings: het, sexual content, adult content, drug use, criminal activity, religious fusion

summary: What if Jack had stayed on New Mecca with Imam? What if Riddick had come back for her? (Riddick/Jack, Imam/OFC)

comments/disclaimers: General disclaimers apply.

Imam’s jab about Riddick had made Jack resolve to try harder to select a husband. Sahar lobbied incessantly for her to consider Sahar's cousin, Jubair, who was from her home village. She had pleaded for days that Jack grant the young man serious consideration. Jack had found it impossible to turn down a request from her pregnant “mother,” whom she adored. She had at last agreed to offer him an audience.

She was pleasantly surprised. Jubair was a somewhat shy but particularly handsome young man of twenty-seven. Jack found his dusky dark curls, warm brown eyes and self-effacing manner very attractive. Not only was he fair to look upon, but he was a complete gentleman with her and never attempted to push her farther than she wished to go. They enjoyed lively, stimulating conversation, and he made her laugh. To her astonishment, a month passed, and Jack had not told him to go away yet.

Sensing that his son might be serious, Jubair’s father decided to get involved. Sheik Hamdah al-Fatal was a rigid doctrinaire who saw Jack’s vibrant green eyes and pale skin as marks of the infidel, even though she had been received into the Chrislam faith--and lived it willingly--for five years. He found fault with everything Jack did, from her table manners to her dress to way she held her hands at evening prayer. After a miserable second month of visits by Jubair and his disapproving father, she had reached her limit.

“How do you feel about the Hisada quandary?” Jack snapped smartly one night as they sat down to dinner, knowing such a question should set the conservative sheik right off.

She was not disappointed. “You know your politics,” he noted dryly, casting a mildly scandalized eye on Imam.

“Akila is well read,” Sahar offered, hastily trying to soften Jack’s offense.

Next to the sheik, Jubair blanched as if she had just kicked him in the kneecap. Now she was disappointed, but not with the old man. If she married Jubair, she would be marrying his father. She didn’t want Jubair's every move—and hers—dictated by the wizened old stick across from her.

Jack could feel Imam’s disapproval burn her cheek without having to waste motion looking at him. There would be hell to pay later, but if she had her choice of hells, she would rather Imam’s than this man’s.

Knowing this was likely to be the last of the inquisitions she would face from this particular quarter actually relaxed Jack to the point where she was able to enjoy the rest of the dinner. That was where she made her mistake. She deliberately let herself sparkle, flirting mercilessly with Jubair to the point where the poor soul kept forgetting how to talk.

“Perhaps I was a bit hasty,” the old man offered with unexpected graciousness as the meal was ending, betraying that his son was not the only one smitten. “We do live in a more enlightened age than the one I grew up in. Allah would not have blessed women with brains had he not intended that they use them.”

Oh shit, Jack realized, dismayed, the old fart wants me now, too.

To make matters worse, Jubair blurted out a request he had not made before. “Would you walk with me in your garden?”

The garden, Jack groaned inwardly. I don’t want this yet.

It was not unusual for a couple who had almost completely concluded that they were compatible to put each other through one final test. A walk in the woman’s family garden generally led to the spreading of the man’s cloak in a secluded spot and some degree of sexual activity. Many a couple’s first child was conceived during such a walk. Having their fertility confirmed in this way was considered a blessing from Allah and an especially joyous wedding soon followed.

She shot pregnant to bursting Sahar a look of pure panic and, bless her, Imam’s wife delivered ... literally.

“My water has broken,” she whispered, with sudden urgency, her own need rendering her completely oblivious to Jack’s plight.

As one of Sahar’s birth attendants, Jack’s courtship would be put on hold for as long as the new mother needed her. She and Fatima left their places at the table and went to help a stricken Sahar maneuver her way out of the room to a secluded part of the house, where her screams would not disturb the children.

“You are in luck, Akila," Fatima snorted at Jack once they were out of earshot.

Allahu Akbar, she sighed inwardly, but grunted, “What?” at her aunt as she shouldered part of Sahar’s stumbling weight.

“You do not want to marry that boy,” she surmised, haughtily. “Now you can put him off for awhile.”

“Not even Jubair?” Sahar gasped, in disappointment, as they dragged her up the stairs to the birthing room.

Jack shuddered with revulsion. “I like Jubair well enough, but our lives would be run by his father. The way the old man was looking at me when your water broke, I think I would make for bad blood between the two of them eventually.”

“Hamdah is over sixty years old—“ Fatima exclaimed, disbelieving.

“—and obviously not dead yet,” she interjected, voice flat. “Now that I’ve won him over, he might want me as second wife.”

“Ahhhh,” Sahar groaned as a contraction hit. “He could afford you.”

While second wives were rare, they were not unheard of among the very rich. The first wife had the respectable position, being in charge of the house and the children of both women, while the much younger second wife was generally treated as a sex toy.

“No, thank you,” Jack averred, trying not to let the picture of the old man downstairs with his hands all over her naked flesh take root in her mind.

Sahar must have realized what Jack was thinking, because she started laughing so hard she nearly knocked all three of them back down the stairs. Fatima grabbed the banister as she wavered.

“Aieeeee!” she cried, struggling to balance them before they fell.

Jack matched her pull and the two of them heaved a still snickering Sahar off the steps and into the hallway proper.

“Foolish girl,” Fatima scolded, still breathless with fear from their near tumble, as they piloted Sahar to the end of the hall and into the designated room.

Jack knew this drill well now. The first time it had happened, she had been only fourteen and both she and Sahar had been terrified. Long-suffering Fatima had trained both the mother- and midwife-to-be during the same grueling session. Sahar’s first labor had lasted for twelve, long hours before finally producing little Suleiman, now a beguiling but obnoxious six-year-old. Two years later, he got a little sister, Carolyn, followed eighteen months after that by a brother, Hassan. This new one would either be Ali or Shazza, depending on its gender.

Maybe Sahar does need a friend, Jack considered, helping her to get situated on the bed.

She smiled to herself. Some days, she still had trouble imagining Imam, who had never been anything other than fatherly towards her, as a sexual being, yet the proof that this was so played at her feet everyday. It was clear from comments that her “mother” made, that she had never found him wanting in that area, despite an age difference of thirty years between them. If anything, it appeared he kept up with young wife a bit too well. Had it not been for two miscarriages, Imam and Sahar would have a half a dozen children by now.

Sahar’s next contraction brought a growl of true pain from her lips. Jack knew, without instruction, to go chill some cloths with ice water and chip some ice for her “mother” to suck on when her pains would allow it. Absorbed in the birth process, Jack had forgotten all about the fact that she had been entertaining a potential suitor when the blessed event chose to start. Jubair intercepted her on the way to the kitchen.

“When will I see you again?” he pressed, urgently.

“Only Allah knows,” she answered truthfully, her mind consumed by the task at hand.

“Surely this birth will not be unusual. It is her fourth child, after all.” Jubair spoke as if Jack should be able to promise him this outcome on the spot.

“I’m still not Allah,” she reminded him tightly as she rummaged through the cooler, looking for ice.

Tahirah, Fatima’s fifteen-year-old daughter, burst into the room. “Is it true?’

“Yes, it’s true. Go and fetch me the birthing cloths from their place. You can help me with the preparations.”

Without a word, Tahirah was off to do as Jack had bidden her.

“Jubair, now is not a good time to make arrangements,” she intoned, forestalling anymore conversation. “Later, please?”

She set herself to the task of chipping ice into slivers with a pick, ignoring him. However, Jubair continued to hover, persisting with his physical presence. Jack didn’t know what to else say to him and was saved from her plight by Fatima’s screams of panic.

“Akila! Call the doctor! There’s something wrong!” she bellowed down the stairs, and then set up a keening wail that raised the hair on the back of Jack’s neck.

“What is it?” Imam demanded, rushing through the collection of family gathering at the foot of the stairs, drawn by the unexpected commotion.

“Baba, call the doctor! Quick!” Jack implored him, feeling as if she had reverted to being his newly teenaged child instead of an adult in her own right.

Soon after, however, the plucky part of her that had always flung her headlong into danger to help a friend in need came to her aid. She took the stairs two at a time, intent on helping Fatima with whatever the problem was, confident that she could.

She was greeted by more blood than she had thought could be contained in one person. Sahar lay pale and still on the red-soaked bed, Fatima struggling to free a baby that appeared to be trapped by the cord between her smeared thighs. Its little face was nearly blue, throat strangled by the cord that had been its lifeline until now.

Without thought, Jack took the pick that she had been using to pare ice chips in the kitchen and started worrying her way through the taut cord with it. As blood slicked her hands, she prayed desperately to Allah that she not slip and puncture the hand holding the cord, or worse, the baby. After what felt like an eternity, the cord parted. Immediately, the baby’s head surged forward out of the birth canal.

“Push, Sahar!” she shouted, smacking the woman’s thigh hard.

To her relief, Sahar inhaled sharply at the pain and bore down. The baby squirted out into Fatima’s waiting hands, followed by an ominous stream of bright blood. It was a perfect little boy.

“Allah!” Tahirah gasped in fright from the doorway.

“Here,” Fatima said, thrusting the still, purplish newborn into her daughter’s arms. “Make yourself useful, habibti! Provoke this baby until he cries!”

Jack was only vaguely aware that the baby, Ali, had started to fuss as she pushed towels into Sahar, trying to stem the deadly flow that was draining her life away before Jack’s eyes. She wondered how Sahar could possibly have any blood left in her.

“Sahar!” her aunt tapped the young woman’s cheeks, frantically trying to keep her conscious. “It is not your time yet. Allah does not need you as much as my brother does. Sahar!”

The doctor, a severe but kindly woman who had come from the city to make her home here, suddenly appeared in the room. Eyes taking in the sight of so much blood, the doctor briskly took charge of the birthing room. She focused on Jack and Tahirah for only long enough to ascertain that the baby seemed well.

“It was so fast,” Fatima babbled at her, sounding as if Sahar’s plight was somehow her fault because she was the midwife. “She has not been in labor an hour.”

“You two, take the child downstairs and wait for me,” the woman instructed.

Jack turned towards her once they were in the hall, unable to keep from asking, “Will she live?”

The doctor’s only response was to close the door, her expression grave.

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