saga/title/fandom: The Past Never Dies chapter 13 (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.
Any doubts Jack had that Riddick might have gone soft simply vanished. She knew that all she had to do was say the word, and Riddick would kill Jubair where he lay. He waited expectantly for permission to strike, radiating danger and death. Knowing she had that kind of power brought Jack a rush that felt almost sexual. Horrified at her reaction, Jack determined that she must demand civility of both Riddick and herself.
“That’s Jubair,” Jack explained calmly. “He was courting me before Ali was born. He has a right to his anger.”
Riddick stared at her for a moment, filtering her words through his killer instincts. He reached down, grabbed Jubair’s arm, and pulled the younger man roughly to his feet. “He shouldn’t have touched you,” he grumbled, jaw tight.
Jubair found his voice. “We were about to be promised when Imam's baby was born,” he informed Riddick, haughtily. “You have no right to be seeing her.”
“You would call the woman you want to marry a whore and still expect her to want you?” Riddick's retort was frosty with suppressed rage. “Do you even know what that means?”
Lashed by Riddick’s condemnation, Jubair dropped his eyes in shame. “Yes, I know what it means. Akila, I beg forgiveness. Merely speaking to another man did not give me the right to call you that.”
Jack felt simultaneously sorry for him and ashamed of herself. She knew that she had treated Jubair badly. She had known there would be no wedding the day of Ali’s birth. However, Sahar’s near death, and the subsequent workload that had fallen on Jack’s slender shoulders, had obliterated any consideration of outside obligations. Jubair had always picked bad times to call on her, unannounced, and sinful vanity kept her from seeing him when she did not look her best.
She had, in fact, refused to see him until the fateful day when she stormed into the sitting room, prepared to send him packing, only to find Riddick there instead. And Riddick! His arrival and ill-advised revelation to Imam had taken all thoughts of Jubair out and buried them in the sand. She knew she didn’t want to marry him, and his father would not allow him to marry her once he found out she was not a virgin. However, no one had told any of this to hapless Jubair.
“Jubair, we need to talk,” Jack said, knowing she was going to need to pray forever to be absolved of her guilt over this.
“Akila,” Fatima called urgently.
Jack looked up, broadening her focus to take in the crowd that had gathered to watch their little drama. She had been so intent on Riddick and Jubair that she had blocked out everything else. Jubair’s father and a pensive Imam had just wormed their way to the front of the crowd.
“We all need to talk now,” agreed the sheik, nastily. “Before the Mullah.”
“Akila al-Walid,” the Mullah, Rafiq al-Abiad, greeted warmly, his cherubic face creased into a hearty smile. “I knew things were getting a little dull around here, but I did not know why. Now I do. You have not been sent to see me in quite some time.”
When not speaking directly to him, the villagers called him simply the Mullah. He seemed to embody the title. He was a mountain of a man, with a startling white beard. Wisps of hair that escaped his Mullah’s cap indicated that he had a full head of hair of the same color. His eyes seemed almost buried in his fleshy face, yet they missed nothing. In repose, he seemed wise and otherworldly, as if he could actually commune with Allah. His judgments were universally praised as being both shrewd and fair.
Despite all the seriousness of his work in interpreting and enforcing Chrislam law, the Mullah was actually a very merry fellow, one of Jack’s favorite people outside of her family. When she had first arrived on New Mecca with Imam, she had known nothing about her new home or its people, despite Imam’s attempts to teach her. She frequently ran afoul of this or that social rule, and was often bewildered and in trouble. Imam, who had his hands full with a vivacious young wife and a new baby, started sending her to the Mullah in despair. The Mullah was a kind, steadying presence who had helped her to first win acceptance among his people, and then to belong among them.
While she still saw the Mullah several times a year, often at mosque, she had not needed to be sent to him for instruction or correction for four years now. They no longer got to spend a lot of time in each other’s company, which she missed. Once she was eligible to be married, however, the fact that she spent time alone with even a man of the Mullah’s religious stature and integrity began to raise eyebrows and cause murmurs of scandal. They both agreed that their villagers had too little to gossip about and were careful to include a chaperone, but the inclusion of a third person spoiled the visits for both of them.
The sheik scowled, not at all amused to find this village’s Mullah and his son’s errant bride-to-be on such friendly terms. “This is not a social call,” he said dryly.
“I suppose not,” the Mullah agreed unhappily. “Is it true, habibti, that you were promised to Jubair, son of Sheik Hamdah al-Fatal?”
She shook her head, happy she could answer him with a clear conscience. “No, Father, I was not. He had asked me to walk in the garden with him. Before I could give him an answer, Sahar went into labor. We have not spoken of it since.”
He turned quizzical eyes on the sheik and his son. “If she was not promised, what then is your issue?”
“She began to see another without telling me.” Jubair’s pain was palpable.
“Is this true?” the Mullah asked her. “Who would that be?”
“The infidel, Richardson,” the sheik spat, stabbing an accusing finger at Riddick.
“I was not speaking to you,” the Mullah rebuked him. “Akila?”
“Richardson knows my father from his travels. I was not expecting him. I did not ask him to come see me. He was simply there one day.”
“But now that he has?” he probed.
“He wishes to marry me,” Jack admitted quietly.
“What do you wish?”
Jack felt stuck, unsure what to say. She knew she didn’t want to marry Jubair, of that she was more certain than ever, now that he had nearly called her a whore in a public place. Riddick genuinely wanted to marry her and make a life together. Marrying him would make her the envy of most of the single female population of the village. Sahar thought she was crazy for hesitating, and Imam saw many positive outcomes; not the least of which was that no one need ever know she was not a virgin. Everything seemed to point towards this marriage.
Insha Allah, she thought wearily. If Allah wills, who am I to say no?
Before she could speak, the Mullah said. “Akila, you have been four years choosing a husband, as Imam so graciously allowed you. Four years is a long time. From what I have heard about both these suitors, your choices will get no better. Your incessant courting is becoming disruptive. I think it best you make a decision and get it over with.”
Even the Mullah, Jack realized, sensing that Allah’s will was indeed at work.
She closed her eyes, tired of fighting the inevitable. “I will marry Richardson,” she whispered, “and I would do it now.”
“What?” the Mullah prompted, over Fatima’s gasp next to her.
Jack stood up straighter, squared her shoulders and opened her eyes. “I said I will marry Richardson, and I want to do it right now. Would you do this for me?”
“You cannot do this!” Fatima cried, affronted. “We need time to plan and to invite people and to get the food and to—Akila, I have waited four years for this day! Why will you not let me enjoy it?”
“You are not Chrislam, are you?” the Mullah addressed Riddick.
“Not yet,” he replied. “Imam has agreed to sponsor me and teach me.”
“Very good.” He gazed sympathetically back at Jack. “Akila, I cannot marry you until he becomes one of us. You know this. But everyone in this room heard your declaration. There is no question you are promised now. Go in peace.”
“Thank you for making a doting aunt happy,” Fatima gushed, looking for all the world as if she wanted to rush forward and kiss the Mullah.
Jubair approached Jack cautiously, keeping a wary eye on Riddick. “Why did you do this to me, Akila?”
At his poignant question, Jack’s heart broke for the suffering she had unwittingly inflicted on him. Jubair was in love, and she knew how awful that rejection felt. She drew him a little away from the others.
“I never meant to hurt you. I enjoy your company but, in truth, when you asked me to walk in the garden, I knew it wasn’t right. Before I could tell you, the baby came. It has been one thing after another since then. I am so very sorry, Jubair.”
“Akila, do you love him?” he persisted, misery lacing every word.
Part of me has always loved him, she recognized. “Yes,” she said, knowing he needed to hear that this was what she really wanted.
“May Allah grant you much happiness,” Jubair blessed her, even though it pained him to do so.
Jack felt too terrible to be there a moment longer. “Thank you, Jubair, for your understanding. Fatima? Can we go home now? I feel unwell.”
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