[personal profile] jaye_voy
Title: Only the Strong, 29/? (Draft Version)
Author: Jaye (Copyright June 2007)
Codes: (Vaako/Dame Vaako), Riddick/Vaako NC-17

Summary: Riddick discovers his troubles have just begun.

ONLY THE STRONG

Title: Only the Strong, 29/? (Draft Version)
Author: Jaye (Copyright June 2007)
Codes: (Vaako/Dame Vaako), Riddick/Vaako NC-17

Disclaimer: The Chronicles of Riddick and all related characters and concepts are the property of David Twohy et al. No infringement is intended or profit made. This is NC-17 for adult themes, violence, sex, and language. If you aren't interested (or aren't old enough), don't read it.

Archive: No.

Feedback: Yes, please, positive or negative, especially suggestions for improvement. E-mail is reader8901@fastmail.fm

Summary: Riddick discovers his troubles have just begun.

Note: Set immediately after the end of the movie. I've only seen the Director's Cut of TCOR, so some things might not jibe with the theatrical version.

Previous chapters: HERE

***************

CHAPTER 29

"Zhylaw sure could pick 'em."

"What?" Vaako blinked, settled his feet more firmly as he caught his breath. He didn't feel as drained as he expected; whatever that surge was, it had left him faintly buzzing with the strange energy.

He did a quick visual scan of the surroundings, but everyone seemed to be in shock. Tried to ignore the multitude of eyes fixed on him, glad the screen behind them had gone dark during his...episode. When his gaze crossed Julian Campbell's he offered a minute nod of thanks.

Campbell, of course, didn't return the gesture, but Vaako allowed himself to relax slightly. He'd taken a risk, asking the Tech to be his back-up, but it seemed he'd chosen the right person to trust with his plans.

Piles of ash still smoldered here and there, most inside the armor of the Guardian's troops. The remaining Gate protectors were standing far from their weapons.

A quick snap of his fingers got his Commanders' attention. "Troan, Jarrah," was all he said, but it put the men into motion. As Vaako's Warriors secured the guns and the area, he turned his attention to Riddick, who was standing with his arms crossed and head tilted.

Vaako didn't trust the speculative expression on Riddick's face. "What?" he asked again, wariness drawing his brows together.

Riddick unfolded his arms and reached out, tapping Vaako's chest. Vaako blinked, vaguely remembering Riddick pulling at the straps of his cuirass and top. He looked down and his jaw dropped. There was a mark faintly glowing on his skin, already starting to fade. Now that he was aware of it he could sense it as the slightest throb.

He didn't think any of the others were close enough to see it, but he turned aside regardless to fix his clothing to conceal the...brand? "What *is* that?" he hissed.

Riddick's grunt was not informative, and Vaako would swear it sounded amused. Looking up confirmed it---that wide grin was dazzling under the lights. Riddick drawled, "You don't feel dizzy or anythin', right? 'Cause usually you're quicker on the uptake."

Vaako scowled and was about to growl when Riddick provided an answer. "Seems like you just gave a demo on how the Rage of Furya's *supposed* to go down. And you didn't even kiss the concrete after---lucky fucker."

Riddick slowly shook his head. "Gotta love the irony. Z-man spent half his life scared shitless of Furyans---and he had 'em at his right *and* left hands."

"That's not...I can't possibly..." Vaako shut his mouth, hearing the faint click of his teeth meeting. He took a deep breath, pushing aside his denial, his confusion---and the implications if Riddick was correct. "What do you mean?"

"Just that you and that Purifier you left on Hell Central had more in common than bad fashion choices. Never seen him do the eyeball thing, though." Riddick shrugged and moved on, apparently, looking over the murmuring crowd. "So what happens now?"

Aereon answered as she approached bearing two large bottles. "Well, first I would suggest using this water to eliminate your rather strong stench," she said as she held out the items, "but I suppose hydration must be your first concern."

Vaako ignored her jibe in favor of scanning the bottles and their contents. At least his vambraces seemed unaffected by the day's events. "They're safe." He accepted one of the bottles and opened it, lifting it to his lips to sip the cool liquid.

He couldn't keep from focusing on the bob of Riddick's Adam's apple as the other man tilted his head back for large gulps. A silvery trail of water trickled from the corner of Riddick's mouth to make its lazy way down the strong column of his throat. Vaako swallowed, wrenching his gaze away.

Only to meet the Elemental's sharp eyes. "You've surprised me yet again, Commander," Aereon said. "I find that rather disconcerting."

"You're not the only one," Vaako muttered, ignoring Riddick's snort. He focused on his drink, letting the water soothe tissues parched from the long battle. When he'd sated his thirst he gave his bottle to Aereon and glanced over at Riddick once more. "I'm not sure what the next step should be. Protocol demands that the Guardian declare a winner of the bouts, and he opens the Gates of the Threshold for the Lord Marshal."

He paused, his gaze straying to a certain pile of ash. "But with the Guardian...eliminated, I'm not sure who has the authority to---"

"I could offer my services." Cevris's rich voice carried over to them as he strolled up, Celeste and Purifier Reese on either side.

Vaako frowned, uncertain how to word his concerns. Riddick, of course, had no such need for tact. The Furyan locked onto Cevris, his free hand straying to rest on a throwing knife. "You sure changed your tune quick now that your 'alliance' has gone to shit," Riddick said. "Thought you didn't want 'the breeder' dirtyin' up your pretty UnderVerse."

Cevris's expression sobered, and his answer held all of the deference his previous interactions with Riddick had lacked. "You prevailed against all challenges, my lord. Even those that seemed impossible to overcome." He paused, and Vaako tensed under the sudden scrutiny of dark eyes that had once read him all too well. "The means of your victory may have raised many questions, but victory it was, nonetheless."

Then Cevris looked back at Riddick and continued, "Understand, I may have...manipulated circumstances a bit, but I would never have sanctioned the Guardian's violation of the Necromonger Way."

He shrugged. "You have confirmed that you *are* the Lord Marshal. UnderVerse is now yours by right."

Vaako regarded his mentor; Cevris had the look of a man surrendering to the inevitable. It made him straighten his own shoulders, affronted by his elder's attitude. "From what I understand, there should be little opportunity for sabotage at the Gates themselves."

He glanced at Riddick, wishing he could peer behind the goggles for some clue to the other man's thoughts. "Cevris is an acknowledged authority figure, as well as one of the leaders of a cabal that sought to depose you. His stamp of approval would go far in silencing any further protests."

"I like my way of silencing 'em just fine," Riddick drawled with a stroke of the knife hilt. He handed his bottle back to Aereon with a nod before looking at Cevris and shrugging. "But somebody's gotta play slam boss, so if you want the job you got it."

Vaako froze, could sense the startled stillness in the others. Had Riddick decided that Vaako's strange manifestation made him no longer trustworthy? Perhaps Riddick viewed a fellow Furyan---assuming the theory was true---as a rival rather than an ally? Even Vaako's lips felt stiff. "I can assure you, Riddick, I'm fully capable of keeping order until you return from UnderVerse."

"You're gonna be a little busy, V." Riddick twisted his head to eye Vaako. "I ain't about to go trippin' the 'verses without back-up." He sidled closer.

The light grasp of Riddick's fingers seared the skin between the edge of the vambrace and Vaako's elbow. Riddick's voice was a low rumble in his ear, breath a hot puff against sensitive tissues. "You're with me."

"That's forbidden!" Purifier Reese broke their contact as he pushed himself between them, heedless of any danger as he thrust his face up to Riddick's. "My lord, only the Lord Marshal may make the pilgrimage---for a lesser being to even *view* UnderVerse is sacrilege."

Vaako knew he should be yanking the fool out of the range of Riddick's displeasure. But he was still reeling in shock. Since his first purification decades ago, he'd strived to be worthy of UnderVerse. To someday join the ranks of the Necromongers before him who had crossed the Threshold at the due time of their deaths.

To enter UnderVerse while still in the flesh...that was a privilege he'd never conceived of. Even when Celeste had purred assassination plans in his ears, dangling dreams of taking that last step beyond First Among Commanders to become "Lord Vaako".

But even more than that, he was stunned by the chance Riddick was taking. To allow Vaako into UnderVerse was to give him an equal opportunity to seize that realm's power---if Vaako wished, he could become a Holy Half-Dead, with all of the abilities the transformation placed at his command.

There was no guarantee that Vaako would practice what he preached and refuse the power of UnderVerse. Or refrain from turning that power on Riddick and claiming the title of Lord Marshal for himself. Keeping what he killed, according to the Necromonger Way that had been drilled into him since childhood. "Lord Vaako" indeed.

Of course Riddick had to have considered the risks---even more, since Riddick couldn't know that Vaako had reverted to an unpurified state. As far as Riddick was concerned, Vaako was purified, and held the advantage once the Threshold was crossed. Self-preservation dictated Riddick enter UnderVerse alone. Instead he wanted Vaako at his side.

Vaako sought the shining eyes behind dark lenses. When he knew he held Riddick's attention, he dipped his head once, briefly. An acknowledgment, and a promise that Riddick's trust would not be betrayed.

The nod he received in return did nothing to settle his questions or concerns, but warmed him just the same. Granted him hope for the future, and all its possibilities.

Which could be explored as soon as they could silence Reese's jabbering. The Purifier's diatribe had faded from Vaako's awareness during his few moments of reflection, but now the man's continued protests were starting to grate.

Part of him wondered why Riddick hadn't yet smacked the man upside the head. The same part wished Riddick would hurry up and get to it.

Celeste's voice startled him as she cut across Reese's rant. "Purifier, enough. You'll do yourself an injury." She glided to the man's side, sliding one arm through his and drawing him away from Riddick with the grace she was renowned for.

"You must understand, this is the dawn of a new age," she said, her tone one of such profound reasonableness Vaako blinked again.

Thought he saw Aereon and Cevris do the same as Celeste continued, "Every Lord Marshal has put his stamp on the Necromonger Way. Proposed something that was no doubt 'sacrilege' in the eyes of his people at the time. I, too, believed that the breeder had no place on the throne. But we all witnessed the utter destruction of Lord Riddick's challengers. He has kept what he killed. Surely it is a sign our god is willing to accept him, and thus the changes that will come with his reign."

The Purifier did not prove immune to such formidable charms. He quieted, frowning as he seemed to consider Celeste's words. But only for a moment.

He shook his head, the headpiece signifying his office perilously close to dislodging. "No. No matter what you say, I cannot condone such a blatant disregard for our sacred traditions."

"So you offer challenge to the Lord Marshal?" One perfectly-groomed eyebrow arched as Celeste became the picture of innocence. "Are you sure that's wise, Purifier Reese?"

The man's eyes bulged as he looked over at Riddick, who gave him a shark's grin. Reese gulped and seemed to crowd Celeste in a not-so-subtle effort to escape. "Of course I'm not challenging Lord Riddick! I simply---"

"You simply want your concerns addressed." Celeste's purr accompanied a pat to the arm she held captive. "And the Lord Marshal *has* heard you. But if his decision is unchanged, you must challenge...or acquiesce."

"I...I suppose I...must...should..." The Purifier took a deep breath and moved away from Celeste to bow before Riddick. "I will reflect upon this, my lord."

Vaako kept himself from grinning at Celeste's cleverness as Riddick dismissed the man with a nod. Perhaps it was lingering euphoria from the strange energy surge, but Vaako could envision his former mate becoming an ally in the new regime. And maybe even a friend.

In gratitude Vaako lifted up one delicate hand to bestow a kiss on the knuckles, a gesture from before their marriage, one lost years ago. "Thank you," he murmured. As he straightened he kept the hold, his thumb lightly brushing over her fingers.

Celeste's smile was teasing, but held nothing of coyness; maybe she too sensed the change, the new parameters. "Perhaps I'm simply ensuring I'm not part of your next spontaneous barbecue."

He released her with a last squeeze. "Perhaps." Or perhaps Celeste spoke the truth, and had reconciled herself to life under the rule of 'the breeder'. He hoped so. Riddick still had many challenges to face, and would benefit from such a savvy Councilor. A slight smile tugged at his lips as she turned away to once more take her seat.

"If the dramatics are finished, I suggest we begin," Cevris said, his tone and expression carefully bland. Vaako hoped as well that Celeste's defection would spur Cevris to reevaluate his own position. Cevris was held in high esteem, and there would be more trouble ahead if his capitulation to Riddick's rule was only temporary.

"Yeah, let's get this shit over with," Riddick said as he shifted to fully face the crowd.

Vaako reached out to keep Cevris from stepping away. He lowered his voice to warn, "Gerard, you'll have little opportunity for plotting if the reports of time-dilation within UnderVerse are proven true."

He paused, held the dark eyes of the man he'd looked up to for most of his life. "But even if they're not, you'll find that this room has been locked down completely, and all communications with the armada have been severed...at least temporarily."

When Vaako scanned the water he'd confirmed that Campbell had instituted comm silence. With Vaako now heading into UnderVerse, it would be up to the Second Tech to decide how long to wait before breaking that silence.

And whether to implement the rest of Vaako's plan, if he and Riddick were lost to UnderVerse forever.

Of all possible reactions from Cevris, Vaako was unprepared for the older man's rusty laugh. "I should have expected as much." His gaze flicked over Vaako, and Vaako could sense the muscles in Cevris's arm relaxing under his grip as the older man offered a slight bow before moving off to make his announcement and confer with the remainder of the Guardian's troops.

"If you don't mind I'm just going to wander over to chat with your sub-commanders," Aereon said, one brow lifting. "It might be wise to acquire something more modern than a pointed stick before you go traipsing into unknown territory."

As she moved away Vaako heard her mutter, "And I wouldn't mind packing a pistol or two myself."

Riddick grunted beside him, and the sound was definitely amused.

Vaako checked his weapons and vambraces as they waited for Cevris to finish addressing the crowd. He noticed Riddick start to do the same. Almost immediately a Warrior approached bearing a selection of energy guns collected from the Guardian's forces.

As he holstered his second pistol, Vaako looked up to see Cevris approaching with one of the Gate guards. "If you're ready," Cevris said, "we can proceed to the Threshold."

Then he and the guard walked right past Riddick and Vaako to the wall underneath the giant screen. Vaako watched the guard uncover a panel and enter a complex passcode. Riddick nudged his shoulder, and he fell into step as they crossed to a section of wall sliding aside to reveal a dimly-lit corridor. He stopped when Riddick did, before the entrance.

"After you," Riddick said to Cevris with a gracious gesture that had Vaako suppressing another grin.

Cevris raised a brow, but Vaako noticed *he* made the guard go first. When they were past the doorway the panel slid shut behind them. The blue-tinged black of Necromonger architecture was carried over into this hidden space. The ceiling arched into darkness somewhere above them, and the walls were lined with likenesses of the Lord Marshals. Their empty eyes peered down at the four of them as they made their way along the corridor, footsteps ringing.

When they reached the end the Gates rose up before them, tall as the entire structure and set with ridges and curves that seemed to undulate as they stared. Set within one of the massive panels was a single door, as tall as the Guardian had been, and as wide as the man's outstretched arms.

Before the Gates and slightly to the side was a single control panel on a podium, facing away from the Gates. Cevris and the guard strode to the station, the blue glow of the controls highlighting the planes of their faces. "When you're in position, my lord, I'll key open the portal and you can cross the Threshold."

"I ain't turnin' my back on anybody who wanted me dead two hours ago," Riddick said as he crossed to stand next to the men at the podium. In a blur of motion he had the guard in a headlock. The man flailed for a minute, then slumped unconscious in Riddick's arms. He dropped like a stone when Riddick released him. "No offense."

"None taken," Cevris said as he glanced down at the guard. "Let me know when you're ready."

Vaako kept an eye on Cevris as Riddick walked to the inset doorway, then turned his back to it and pushed up his goggles. Vaako stepped forward at Riddick's gesture, but before he could take up his own position rough hands clamped around his biceps, dragging him up against a hard body clad in a harder cuirass.

He gasped, and was suddenly engulfed in a kiss that staked an undeniable claim. Full lips pressed to his own, a determined tongue snaked in to map every surface of his mouth. Sensations of heat and wet and need fired his senses.

Broke Riddick's hold on his arms to wrap a hand around Riddick's waist and reach the other up to Riddick's nape, the barest prickle there tingling against his palm and fingers. As Riddick's hands dug into his hips he began his own plundering of Riddick's mouth---the taste of his lover somehow sharper, setting primal urges shimmering in his blood and under his skin, in rhythm with the renewed throb of the mark on his chest.

They were both gasping when they broke apart. Before Vaako could ask what was going on Riddick leaned forward and swiped his tongue across Vaako's barely-open mouth. "If you want the ex to stay healthy, keep your lips to yourself next time," he growled.

Vaako snorted and shook his head, refusing to smile. Crazy breeder bastard. He let the hand he'd cupped around Riddick's skull trail downward to graze his nails teasingly down the back of Riddick's neck. But he was deadly serious as he searched eyes that glowed like stars in the dimness of the corridor. "Are you sure about this?"

Riddick's shrug would have had him frowning, but for the tiniest quirk at the corner of Riddick's mouth. Vaako gave one last squeeze, then stepped aside to stand facing the Gates.

His left hand twitched as strong fingers entangled with his own. When he looked down he found Riddick had joined their hands palm-to-palm, fingers interlaced. He glanced up at Riddick and nodded, tightened his grip. He drew a pistol with his right hand when Riddick did the same.

"Do it," was all Riddick said. Their eyes met a moment. Then as Riddick shifted to face the podium, Vaako turned his head to face the Gates.

The opening of the portal was more like the drawing aside of a veil, the undulating waves of blue and black becoming clearer, closer, reaching out...

NEXT
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