saga/title/fandom: The Past Never Dies chapter 7 (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 eyed Riddick through the glass in the sitting room door that faced the hall. Even though this was his second visit, Jack could scarcely believe he was really here. Or that, as Sahar had noted, he could be so incredibly attractive. She had thought surely her memory had embellished his appearance, but that hadn’t turned out to be true. If anything, age and facial hair had made him better looking than ever.
She stood at an angle that would make it difficult for Riddick to see her, trying to decide how best to handle him. She wanted to stay angry at him, but Imam had assured her that he had no idea what he done during his first visit. When Imam claimed that Riddick had been horrified when he had been told and had expressed remorse, she hadn't known what to think.
“Can we go in now?” Carolyn whispered loudly, barely able to contain herself at the prospect of being allowed to play in the forbidden room.
“Pleeease,” Hassan added, for good measure.
I guess there’s no help for it, Jack thought, forcing herself to step forward and reach for the door.
As she entered the sitting room, Carolyn and Hassan following excitedly in her wake, Riddick looked up anxiously at her. He was perched on a plush, crimson cushion in a spacious wicker chair. His face was open and unguarded to a degree that the Riddick she had known would have been incapable of, seeming almost vulnerable.
Maybe something has changed since we were on that goddawful planet together.
“I appreciate you letting me come see you,” he said with believable humility. “I didn’t mean to put you in the position I did last time I was here. I really fucked things up for you.”
Jack recalled how Jubair had been before the baby was born: gentle, considerate, fun to be around; she doubted he—or any other like him—would be around again. “Yeah, you did.”
Although he didn’t actually move, Jack got the distinct impression he had cringed. “I’m not very good at this.”
“Not good at what?” she lashed out. “Don’t know what to do with a woman you can’t pay for?”
Riddick’s eyes went flat and dangerous for a second, but he retained control of himself. “You know as well as I do that fathers approve most suitors, and the bride price is negotiated between the father and the suitor.”
“You also knew I had four years’ worth of suitors,” she needled, incensed. “Didn’t it ever occur to you that the reason I wasn’t already married might have something to do with what I wanted?”
“I didn’t know what to think, Jack.”
She opened her mouth to angrily correct him, but thought better of it. If she and Imam were the only two people who called him Riddick, what was so wrong with Riddick calling her Jack, like Imam did?
Riddick noticed her hesitation. “You don’t want me to call you that,” he surmised, a hint of sadness in his tone.
Something about his wistfulness touched her, effectively dousing her temper. “It’s fine when we’re alone. Or with Imam. He still calls me that where nobody else can hear.”
“How have you lived in this place?” he marveled. “So many social rules, so much custom. How can you live in a place that won’t even let you keep your own name?”
My own name, Jack smiled, rueful. “That wasn’t my real name anyway. I used it because I needed a boy name. My mom used to tell me a nursery rhyme when I was little about a boy whose name I thought was Jack B. Nimble. I had been here for awhile before I found out that was an admonition and not a proper name.”
“You tell me that story!” Carolyn piped up unexpectedly from the vicinity of their thighs.
Jack had forgotten her unwitting little chaperones were still in the sitting room. “Yes, I do,” she agreed, indulgently. “Please play with Hassan now, and let the grown ups talk.”
“Okay,” the little girl chirped and skipped over to her younger sibling, who was worrying a box of scented herbs on the table that he normally would have been scolded for touching.
“I didn’t want to use my real name anymore,” Jack continued. “I wanted to be a different person here. Akila is Imam’s first wife’s name. She died after a long illness, sometime before we all ended up on the Hunter Gratzner. When he adopted me, I took it as my given name to honor her.”
“Glad that worked out,” he affirmed, after a silence that went on a little too long.
But he didn’t ask how Imam could have adopted me … could he really have done it? Surely not.
“What is it?” he wondered, making her aware that her expression must have been conveying her inner dismay at her own foolish.
Jack laughed, feeling conspicuous. “It’s nothing, really. When I found out my father was dead, I had this sick fantasy that you had killed him so they couldn’t make me go back or put me in a girls home or something, instead of letting me stay with Imam. Just a stupid kid wish.”
Riddick’s mien was suddenly a shuttered wall. “Not so stupid,” he allowed, darkly.
She hoped she managed to hide how stunned she felt, but her mind was reeling. He really did do it. He made it possible for me to stay here and have this life. He saved my life after he left here, and I never knew.
“So how many others?” she wondered, realizing that he was still the killer Johns had warned them about. “Besides the guy who changed your records and my father, how many?”
“That’s all,” he assured her, his voice deep with conviction but soft, so as not to carry over to Imam’s two young children. “If they hadn’t outright given you back to him, they would’ve put you in some institution. Somebody else would have raped you. Even women don’t get it easy in places like that. The bastard was so far gone on drugs they would’ve finished him in a few years anyway, but you didn’t deserve anymore time in hell. I put him out of his misery, so he couldn’t share it with you.
“The guy who made my future didn’t give me any choice. He was a two-bit computer jock with a genius for ID theft. He didn’t realize how good he was; I did. Trouble is, he had a thing for gambling. A bunch of guys were looking for his head when I found him. What I paid him wiped out his debts, but guys like that don’t ever learn. He made the mistake of contacting me to demand more money.”
“So you ghosted him?” Jack slipped unconsciously into the young boy persona she had worn when they first met.
Riddick’s jaw tightened in frustration, as if he thought Jack was condemning him. “What choice did I have? If I’d given him that money, there would have been no getting rid of him. If I didn’t give him what he asked for, he could quietly turn me in for that fat reward Johns found so enticing. Riddick was declared legally dead recently, and I need him to stay that way.”
Allah, forgive me, Jack prayed before asking aloud, “And you’re sure there is no way to trace Riddick to you?”
“I know enough about networks to know the jock hadn’t transmitted the data anywhere else before he died. I burned his house to the ground so if he had it hidden in print there, it’s gone.”
“How do you know he didn’t send it print?”
Riddick considered for a moment, face vaguely uneasy. “I don’t. But it’s been two years, and there have been no hits on my current name I haven’t been able to identify. Even if he sent it print clear across the universe, somebody would have seen it by now and searched the database for me.”
“So why are you here?” Jack demanded for the third time.
He shook his turbaned head, confused. “You’re not hearing me, are you? I came for you. I spent the last seven years making it so I could get back to you and not bring danger with me.”
“Me? Why would you do this for me, somebody you hardly know?” It simply made no sense to her that he would do any of the things he had done for a skinny, bald young teenager he had known for all of two weeks.
Riddick seemed quietly hurt. “You don’t remember what happened when we parted company, do you?”
She vaguely recalled being upset that he was leaving them, but found she couldn’t remember a single detail of their actual parting. Unexpectedly, Jack felt a cold dread. What had she done?
“No,” she agreed in a faint voice. “What did I do?”
Riddick was suddenly on his feet, needing to put some space between them. He paced across the ornate, woven carpet, then turned abruptly. “Maybe I did all this for nothing,” he realized, almost as if he had forgotten that she was there.
“Riddick, what did I do?” Jack cried.
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