saga/title/fandom: The Past Never Dies chapter 4 (Pitch Black/Riddick)
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.
Jack, along with the rest of Imam’s household and extended family, spent the next several hours praying to Allah to spare Sahar’s life. Occasionally, she had to excuse herself from her place beside Imam on the prayer mats to tend to the baby. Little Ali would suck hungrily on her knuckle, vainly hoping for milk. She would rock him and soothe him, eventually getting him to drift back to sleep without sustenance.
At last, word came that the doctor was calling for the baby. Jack and Imam rose from their mats, Jack collected Ali from Tahirah, and they headed upstairs. They stopped in the doorway. Both Sahar and Fatima looked so awful that Jack was sure her “mother” had died, yet the doctor’s tired but serene face was reassuring.
“The bleeding has stopped,” she confirmed with quiet joy. “She will live, but she won’t be up to caring for this baby alone for several weeks. May I see him?”
In all the commotion, the doctor had not had time to do anymore with the baby than spare him a cursory glance. Taking the swaddled Ali, she set him on a corner of the bed that wasn’t bloody, and carefully unwrapped him.
“His reflexes seem normal,” she pronounced at last, as she swaddled the baby again. “That was quite a feat you performed … Akila, isn’t it?” When Jack nodded, the woman continued, focusing on Imam. “And you must be Imam Abu al-Walid? I’m Dr. Sharia el-Sherbini. There wasn’t exactly time for introductions earlier.”
“Thank you for saving my wife’s life,” he said, fervently, grabbing her hand for a moment.
“You need also thank Akila here. Her quick thinking let your son be born before he suffered brain damage from lack of oxygen and before your wife bled to death.”
“What happened?” Jack asked, more interested in an explanation than in being praised.
“From the condition of her placenta, it appears it partly detached from the uterine wall and started to tear. That’s what was causing all the bleeding. Once the baby was born, the placenta detached completely, as it should, so Sahar stopped losing her own blood through it.”
Imam grasped Jack gratefully by her forearms. “What did you do, habibti?”
Jack could feel a blush burn her cheeks. “I had the ice pick still in my hand from when I was in the kitchen. The cord was tight around Ali’s neck and he was blue, so I poked holes in the cord until it finally broke apart.”
“Allah has blessed me!” he declared loudly, embracing Jack so tightly that she was in danger of turning from red to blue.
In the ensuing silence, Sahar’s voice eked out, faint as a kitten’s. “The baby?”
Dr. el-Sherbini turned towards her patient. “Ah! You’re awake! You need to suckle this child, so he can help you heal.”
Sahar was too weak to sit up, so Imam helped her onto her side, while the doctor lay the baby down beside her. She loosened Sahar’s robes to expose a cinnamon-tipped breast briefly, before its nipple disappeared into an eager little mouth.
“Ouch,” she whimpered.
Jack noted that it seemed no matter how many children Sahar gave birth to, the shock of that first suction did not lessen.
“What happened?” she whispered, gently stroking one side of the newborn’s head while a solicitous Imam rubbed her back.
“You almost died,” Fatima related, with uncharacteristic gravity. “If not for Akila, you would not be here. Either of you.”
Sahar smiled feebly at Jack, too tired to display her normal exuberance, and motioned Jack to lean over.
“You get off the courtship circuit for a good long time now, don’t you, ‘Kila?” she nettled, clearly amused despite her close brush with death.
My “mother” is insane, Jack giggled to herself, not for the first time.
The giddy relief Jack felt at Sahar’s survival, and Ali’s complete recovery, was soon overshadowed by the enormous amount of work they spawned. First, there was Sahar herself. During the week following Ali’s birth, she was too weak to even go to the bathroom without assistance. Jack had to help her move around, feed her, bathe her and take care of her every need as she convalesced. As long as Jack brought her the baby, Sahar could feed him, but the rest of the infant’s care was also Jack’s responsibility.
When Jack wasn’t caring for either of them, she did almost everything else Sahar would normally have done for Imam and the older children. She fed them all breakfast, and then got the children bathed and dressed, supervising the two younger ones all day. She treated skinned knees, enforced nap times, played endless rounds of learning games and read mindlessly simple books aloud until she had nightmares about them.
Jack collapsed into her bed each night, often too exhausted to remove her day clothes first. One morning, she got up to find her shoes were still on. Finally, there came a day when she didn’t wake up when she should have. Imam, who didn’t have the heart to wake her, sent Tahirah in to tend to Sahar and the baby and made breakfast for the family himself.
Sahar apologized to her profusely for being such a burden and expressed extreme gratitude for all her help. Some days, that was all that kept Jack going, especially since Jubair simply refused to understand that she couldn’t see him while all this was going on. Twice, he had shown up unannounced, and Jack had hidden until he left. The last thing she wanted was a suitor to see her with her hair barely contained, and her robes stained with baby vomit and drool. She was so thoroughly annoyed with him that she didn’t care now if she ever saw him again.
Just as Sahar was getting back on her feet and Jack felt as if they might all survive, little Ali developed colic. He would wail miserably for hours, many of them when people were trying to sleep.
“He’s trying to kill me again,” Sahar muttered early one evening, after he had cried for much of the day.
“He’s trying to kill both of us this time,” Jack opined, wanting only the escape of sleep.
“Here,” Sahar said, shoving the squalling one-month-old towards her, “please take this baby somewhere before I do him harm. Sometimes, you do better with him.”
The transfer from one woman to the other stemmed Ali’s volume momentarily, but then he screwed up his face at Jack and resumed his previous decibels. His little fists and feet flailed for emphasis, as if they could somehow make the raucous sounds even louder. Jack sighed, taking in Sahar’s exhausted face, and waltzed the baby out onto the veranda.
It was a warm, gentle night, sky as black as pitch, strewn with those sparkling jewels Jack never seemed to tire of. She jostled the infant absently, making cooing sounds at him, while she paced the veranda, star gazing. As if by magic, the colic ended for the day, and Ali fell into a deep, restful sleep.
Jack eased herself carefully into a wicker chair, enjoying the blissful quiet in the absence of Ali’s cries. Gradually, she became aware of the soft sounds of the night: the breeze worrying pretty tones from a neighbor’s wind chime, the fronds of leaves in the garden brushing each other, the chirping of nocturnal insects. She closed her eyes and inhaled the cinnamon scent of the desert. She was nearly asleep when she heard it, the sound of something large moving in the garden.
Instantly, she was awake. The sand cats rarely came in from the desert to prey on people, but it had been known to happen. She was sure if that’s what was out there, the scent of milk on Ali was likely what had brought it. A human baby would make a good meal for a sand cat.
Cautiously, Jack rose to her feet, fighting panic that threatened to overwhelm her. Since rapid movement was likely to attract its attention, running for the door was not her best option. She backed, with slow deliberation, towards safety. She was almost there when she saw the briefest flash of eyes. Heart in her throat, Jack felt behind her for the door handle and slid the door open just wide enough to admit her. She slipped inside, frantically banging the door shut behind her.
Luckily, Ali slept through the entire ordeal, Jack noted as she tried to catch her breath. She could feel her heart hammering in her chest, her head light with dizziness. She had not felt such fear since she had been on that terrible planet with those flying horrors that had been intent on eating the few who survived the crash.
She had almost calmed down when Nahlah found her. “You have a guest in the sitting room, Akila,” the child informed her smugly, and something about her tone told Jack who it had to be.
After her fright on the veranda, she was in no mood for Jubair and his nonsense. Hardly able to contain her anger, Jack handed the sleeping infant to Nahlah. She pulled her scarf, which had nearly fallen off the back of her head, further forward to hide her disheveled hair. She knew it probably hung at a lopsided angle now, but she didn’t care. Glancing down at her stained robes only added to her grim satisfaction. If stupid Jubair was going to insist on coming to see her unannounced, then he deserved what he got.
Jack stomped towards the sitting room and threw open the sliding door. Furious words poured from her lips as she stormed across the threshold.
“Jubair, how many times must I—“
She was struck both still and dumb when her eyes focused on her visitor, Jubair forgotten as if he had never existed. She felt the shock clear through to her toes, as if she had been struck by lightning.
“Hi, Jack,” Riddick greeted her.
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