Author: Alestrel (email@example.com)
Type: Fictional Personal Slash
Pairing: Lord Vaako/Riddick
Summary: Vaako expected retribution - for Kira's death, for his treason towards the Lord Marshal, for trying to kill Riddick. What he actually received forced him to reappraise his entire existence.
There had been a moment, at the end, when he could have taken the prize. Could have cut down the grief-stricken man sitting on that big, uncomfortable chair-throne. Could have done as Dame Vaako wanted, as she had flattered, persuaded, him he wanted. The triple-bladed halberd was in his hands, Riddick focussed on the small figure dead at his feet.
Distantly aware of his wife's despairing shriek, he'd knelt instead, the legion behind him following suit, pledging allegiance to the new Lord Marshal.
You keep what you kill. Riddick - Riddick, not Vaako - had, ultimately, killed the Lord Marshal, the ultimately-fearful, unworthy ex-Lord Marshal. It was his right to keep the title.
Until someone took it from him.
And what of Vaako, First among Commanders - First only because the ex-Lord Marshal believed he had killed Riddick on that hideous, monstrous world. If he'd only braved the heat a little longer, waited to see the body incinerated by the sunrise...
Riddick should have died. He should have died.
But he did not, and Vaako now knelt, self-accused of treason towards his ruler, his religion - his reason for being. By all rights, Riddick should kill him now.
Vaako deserved nothing less. And nothing more. When Riddick came to himself, he would know this, and act accordingly.
Dame Vaako would not miss her husband, not really. All she truly desired was power. She'd insinuate herself into Riddick's bed like the snake she so resembled in those shamelessly tight-fitting, dull gold and silver-scaled dresses she so liked - the only woman amongst the Necromongers who wore anything but black or darkest grey.
Dame Vaako liked to draw attention. She felt she deserved it, for her beauty, her intelligence, her ambition. Her willingness to do anything that was needed to achieve her aims.
He told himself he would not miss her. Theirs had been a hollow show of a marriage for far too long.
He'd forgotten how to feel, except on a most superficial level. Purification took away the sensation of pain - but it also dulled everything else. Love, desire, lust, anger, none of them mattered to a Necromonger.
Rightly so. The business of the Necromongers was to cleanse or convert their universe in preparation for the Underverse. Nothing else mattered - in the grand scheme of things.
He had wondered, occasionally, if that were so, why they took consorts, partners. Habit, perhaps, a hangover from the ancient days? For stress relief? Sex? They bore no children, so it could not be for heredity's sake. He had remained with his wife because it was easier thus than trying to leave her, and her passion sometimes made him feel almost alive...
All an act, of course. Her passion was a cold, unfeeling dedication to herself when she wasn't manipulating him, and for such a strong man he was, he knew, curiously passive. He'd allowed her to dictate so much of their lives, not objected to her demanding he grew that band of hair long, despite the fact he'd always shaved it off before meeting her. Although he had to admit it was more comfortable under his helmet than naked scalp. She'd wanted it so styled because, she said, it reminded her of the mane of a stallion, a powerful, noble animal native to an almost forgotten world long ago and far away. The simile had pleased him, vaguely, to start with, then he'd grown accustomed to it, almost forgotten it, and when he finally discovered that humans rode stallions as transport, used them as dumb beasts of burden, his annoyance at his wife's veiled insult was mitigated by his realisation that yes, it was apt. She rode him, goading him in the direction she wanted him to go, and had him carry her along for the ride.
It was too much effort to be angry over something so inconsequential. It didn't really matter.
She would be angry. She would be furious that he'd failed. That she was not now the wife of the Lord Marshal. She would try to rectify that as soon as it was possible. Perhaps disguised as an attempt to console Riddick after the girl's death. That Riddick found her beautiful she knew. Or thought she did: Vaako wasn't so sure. Riddick was a lot more subtle than he first appeared.
Vaako found himself hoping that Riddick was not so easily deceived as to believe the woman could be trusted, let alone be a fit consort for a Lord Marshal...
Riddick had cancelled the destruction of Helion Prime.
This was, thought Vaako, probably symptomatic of the Necromonger way under the new Lord Marshal. Riddick did not share their beliefs - quite what he did believe Vaako didn't want to consider, but it was probably true that world-killing wasn't part of it. Much was going to change, of that they could be sure.
Vaako found himself pacing, a few steps back and forth across the floor of their quarters, his armour shed and the lights dimmed. The rooms he and his wife had called theirs for the last... how many years had it been? He'd forgotten. It sometimes felt that they had always been together.
She wasn't here. Riddick had ordered the cancellation of the Final Protocol, ordered the body of the dead Lord Marshal removed, then picked up the girl's body, holding it gently where he sat on the edge of the throne. He'd dismissed them all, abruptly, harshly, and they'd silently filed out of the vast hall, not knowing what else to do.
Dame Vaako hadn't returned to their rooms. He couldn't bring himself to be concerned as to her whereabouts...
This strange, pregnant calm couldn't last for long. At some point very soon Riddick was going to realise the power he now held, and come seeking vengeance. No matter that the girl had come to Helion Prime of her own will, no matter that she'd made the choice, if choice it could be called, since the alternative was to die in the firestorm or by the Necromongers' hands - it was Vaako's ship that had transported her from Crematoria, Vaako who had delivered her to the Lord Marshal.
Riddick wouldn't forgive him for that. Dame Vaako had reported the very interesting results of her 'conversation' with the Elemental, that Furyans would bow to no-one, would not be beaten. Killed, yes, perhaps, but never concede defeat. Vaako had seen the evidence of that on Crematoria, watched with a certain awe as Riddick and the girl had fought against wholly overwhelming odds, fought in a way he'd never seen before, fought as though they were one creature. One magnificent, powerful, invincible creature.
He'd felt an absurd surge of an unfamiliar emotion. Jealousy, he thought it was. Admiration for the skill, the ferocity, the grim determination with which they'd battled - and jealousy. Why had he been jealous?
He paused and frowned. Why? And of what? Not Riddick, he was sure: the Furyan's powerful physique and vicious twisting, turning combat style would be easily countered by Vaako's greater speed and strength and his coldly analytical mind.
Perhaps it was the passion the Furyan brought to the fight. Yes, he'd fought because he had no choice - it had been win or die. But... it seemed to Vaako that he exulted in the battle, despite the grim circumstances.
No, not a passion for fighting. It was more than that. He brought a passion to everything he did, an understated intensity, a depth of feeling that Vaako couldn’t remember ever knowing. The way he'd moved with the girl... there'd been a deep attachment there, that much was obvious from his reaction to her death. And they'd moved as one...
A sharp, stinging pain to his face. He blinked, then frowned down at his lividly furious wife, whose hand was raised to slap him again.
He caught her wrist before her palm could impact with his cheek, not because it caused him distress - what pain he could feel was trifling - but because he was suddenly weary of her abuse, her deceit, her relentless, endless taunting attempts for him to 'better himself'. She snarled at him as she tried to twist her hand free.
>"You had it all within your grasp. You could have reached out and taken it. Killed him. Been Lord Marshal!" Her voice was high, almost screeching, and he winced imperceptibly. Her other hand came up, fast, clawing bleeding scratches down his cheek before he caught that wrist as well, holding them both away from his body as she tried to kick him, the tightness of her dress the only thing restraining her. He stared down at her, seeing her as something alien as she spat at him. When had she changed from the beautiful, delicate little creature he'd first met into this shrieking violent harpy?
Sickened, he thrust her away from him and turned his back.
"I could not."
He flinched as she leapt onto his back, fingers aimed at his eyes as her teeth sank into his neck, over the Purification mark, skirt shoved up around her thighs and legs wrapped around his waist, one booted foot pressing hard against his groin. Gripping her hands, ignoring the nails tearing into his skin, he twisted and flung her onto the bed, where she sprawled back on her elbows and glared at him with helpless fury - before lashing out in a kick that caught him squarely between the legs. He grunted and stepped back, forcing himself not to double over. Purification dulled most pain, yes, but that was close to agonising.
"You are useless!" she hissed between gritted teeth. He eyed her coldly, then bowed his head perfunctorily.
"Then I will relieve you of my presence, Dame Vaako."
He turned and strode from the room, ignoring her screamed demands for him to come back at once, and made his way down to the ship's lower levels, pacing the dark corridors without noticing where he was going, wanting only to outdistance his thoughts...
The call came some time later - how much later he could not tell. The order for him to come to the Lord Marshal's office. Rubbing a hand over his eyes - how long had it been since he last slept? - he made his way back to the ship's upper levels, refusing to think of what might be about to happen.
Riddick was alone in the room, sprawled on a chair, strange silvered eyes glinting in the muted light as he gazed up at the Commander. For long moments they regarded each other, Riddick impassive but intent, Vaako resigned, then the Furyan gestured to an adjacent chair.
Hesitantly, but with a measure of relief - it would appear he'd been pacing all night and well into the following day, everything was vaguely aching - Vaako gingerly seated himself and gazed at the Lord Marshal. Riddick held still, seeming relaxed, but there was a wariness to him, as though he expected the Commander to attack.
"You look tired."
Vaako blinked: it was the last thing he'd expected to hear. Riddick flashed a quick, tight smirk.
"D'you ever see the sun? You look like a corpse." He leaned forward suddenly, nostrils flaring as he sniffed the air soundlessly. "Least you don't smell dead."
Floundering, Vaako opened his mouth, but found he had nothing to say. Riddick flicked a finger in the direction of his cheek.
"She give you those?"
Vaako's hand came up to touch the long, scabbed scratches down his cheek - he'd forgotten about them while he'd been aimlessly walking. He nodded once, and Riddick's lips quirked.
"Yeah, I kinda figured she'd be the scratchin' type. She bit you too."
Vaako had also forgotten about that. He pressed a hand to his neck, feeling a throb of pain from the Purification scar: his wife's teeth had broken the skin at the edge, and the area was surprisingly sore. Riddick tilted his head to one side.
"You wanna get that seen to?"
Vaako shook his head. It wasn't worth the effort: both injuries would be healed in a few days. Assuming he was still alive by then.
"Riddick." The Furyan interrupted. "Just Riddick."
Vaako nodded and took a deep breath.
"I will accept any punishment you see fit to give."
The Furyan eyed him coolly.
"Yeah, you will. So what do you think I'm gonna punish you for?"
"I take responsibility for your... companion's death."
"Why? You didn't kill her."
"I brought her here."
"Not anybody could make Ja... Kira do somethin' she didn't wanna do. Far's I see it, if she'd stayed there, she'd be just as dead. With you, she could'a escaped if she got the chance." He shrugged, but Vaako could somehow sense the effort it took him to remain impassive. "Was worth the risk."
Not knowing what to say, Vaako stayed silent. Riddick sighed and gazed at him.
"Now what am I gonna do with you?"
The Commander bowed his head.
"Death is the usual recompense for traitors."
"Really. I'd'a thought your lot woulda rewarded you. Seems like the sorta thing they'd do. You keep what you kill, as you say."
"My intention was to kill the Lord Marshal - and I believed I had already killed you."
"Well, I don't hold that against you. This time, anyway. Next time, I'll probably kill you. So don't try it again, 'less you really wanna die."
Vaako stared, bewildered. This was not going at all the way he had expected.
"Let your hair down."
Riddick gestured negligently to the Commander's head.
"Your hair. Let it down."
Now wholly confused, Vaako reached hesitantly to the back of his head, pulling off the beads that held the braids in place and clumsily unplaiting the long strands. As each came loose it dropped to either side of his head, falling a little stiffly around his face. Riddick nodded, then reached to take a lock into his hands, rubbing it between his fingers.
"You should wash this crap off."
The 'crap', presumably, was the lotion that held it in place. Why Riddick would care about such a thing was completely beyond Vaako.
"I had thought to shave it off."
The Lord Marshal raised an eyebrow.
"Nah, don't want you to do that."
"You... but... why?"
"Wouldn't want any of your lot thinkin' you were me. Or I was you."
Vaako blinked: there was no way in this world or any other that they could be confused for each other. He was about to point this out when he noticed the odd amused shimmer in the strange silvered eyes, and lowered his head.
"As you desire, Lord... Riddick."
He nearly gasped as warm strong fingers slid under his chin, pushing his head upwards: he jerked back, glaring at the Furyan. Riddick nodded.
"G'wan, get out of here. Take a bath or whatever you people do, then get some sleep. I want you back here in ten hours, and I want you awake, not a walking corpse. And leave the hair down."
Vaako rose, only then realising quite how exhausted he was. Bowing his head respectfully, he strode from the office, only then remembering his wife would still be in their quarters... Well, nothing else for it, all his belongings were there...
But hers weren't. In the time that he'd been gone the room had been emptied of everything that had proclaimed her presence. Too tired to be curious, he'd showered, carefully washed the lotion from his hair, then fallen onto the bed and into a deep and thankfully soothing sleep...
He felt strange when he awoke, rested, yes, but unusually cool - he'd slept naked for the first time in a long time, and had been too exhausted to climb under the light coverlet - and there was something against his face that felt very odd. Soft, but strange. He brushed it away from his eyes, belatedly realising it was his hair, freed from the plaits he'd worn for the past... however many years it had been. He ran his fingers through it, surprised by the pleasant smoothness, then hauled himself to a sitting position. Seven hours. He'd slept solidly for seven hours - longer than in a long time, years quite likely. It was peaceful here without his wife. Peaceful without her voice, nagging or cajoling or complaining. The silence was most enjoyable.
He padded to the shower, relishing the warm water, then spent a few minutes wondering what to do with his hair. Riddick had ordered him not to cut or shave it, and to leave it loose, which was all very well and good, but it flopped over his face as well as to each side of his head, and reached well below his shoulders. He wondered if tying it back might be acceptable, then reluctantly decided not - Riddick had specified 'loose'. Well, if it was appropriate he'd ask the Lord Marshal, later, if he might do something to keep it out of his way...
In the meantime, there was no harm in appearing willing by arriving early. Perhaps Riddick would agree to tell him what this was all about.
Riddick eyed the Commander, pleased and a little surprised to note he'd done as ordered: Riddick was still unused to being obeyed, and he wasn't at all sure Vaako was that practised at following orders...
He looked better, still far too pale, but the dark shadows beneath his eyes were a little smaller, and those scratches were almost healed. The bite looked inflamed, but didn't seem to be giving him grief. Most of all he looked a lot more relaxed, but then, a night without that slut of a wife of his would work wonders.
And with that hair framing his face... pretty. Very pretty. Strange for a man to be so pretty and still look like a man. This could be very interesting indeed.
Riddick inclined his head and indicated a small table covered with dishes of foodstuffs.
Halfway to the table Vaako realised he'd fallen into the habit of obeying Riddick without question frighteningly quickly. He wasn't entirely sure how he felt about that - though admittedly Riddick was a lot easier to obey than the previous Lord Marshal had been. He served himself a small plate of mixed flatbread and the uniform protein blocks that were standard Necromonger fare, then joined Riddick at the holodisplay: the Furyan had been tracking the Necromonger advance across the galaxy if what was currently floating in three dimensions before him was correct.
Riddick flicked him a glance.
"How long ago?"
"Ten years. No, your pardon. Eleven."
Riddick nodded absently.
"You been a Commander all that time?"
Vaako shook his head, causing a heavy lock of hair to fall across his eyes: irritably he brushed it back.
"I was a Captain then. I progressed to Commander four years later."
"Hm. And then First among Commanders."
Vaako swallowed and regarded the Furyan with outward calm.
"That honour was awarded for killing you on Crematoria. No doubt you will wish to rescind it."
"I dunno. D'you think I should?"
Vaako stared at the Lord Marshal, once again bewildered. Dammit, why couldn't the man act more like a Necromonger?!
"That... is not my place to say, Riddick."
The Furyan smirked.
"No, it's not. I like a man who knows his place."
Not knowing how to respond, Vaako took refuge in eating a little more, watching Riddick circumspectly as the Furyan tracked further back on the holodisplay.
"Might I ask what you're looking for?"
"Jus' wondering where the Necros came from, first."
Vaako considered the question for a moment, then shook his head, brushing back another strand of hair: this was going to become annoying very quickly, he could tell.
"Asylum, I believe. Though whether that is the home world or just a place on it I do not know. They - we - have been moving across the stars for a very long time."
"Interesting. Where are you from?"
Vaako lowered his eyes.
"I have forgotten."
"... yes..." It was whispered, and for the first time since his conversion Vaako regretted the loss of the memory. He'd been so young when he was taken. Riddick shrugged.
"Don't matter where you come from. S'what you do that matters, what you make of your life. Death, in your case."
Vaako bit back a comment pertaining to Riddick's life, killer and convict that he was as far as the galaxy was concerned - after all, who was he to judge, he who'd killed far more than Riddick could ever hope to do? The Furyan eyed him narrowly.
"So - what am I gonna do with you?"
The question was becoming unnerving. Vaako inclined his head.
"What do you intend to do with the Necromonger armada? My fate would seem to be bound up with that."
"You think so? Well, maybe it is."
There was a somewhat strained silence as Vaako tried to work out what Riddick had meant, then the Furyan took pity on him.
"OK, I'll put you outta your misery. I need someone to tell me what the fuck is going on with your people, what these things" he waved a hand vaguely towards the ceiling "all mean, who everyone is and how they think. And I want you to do it."
"'cause you owe me."
"I could'a killed you. Still could. But you're more useful alive. You stay alive, you keep the First among Commanders title - if you want it - and you tell me where I'm goin' wrong."
Vaako stared at the Furyan, not sure whether to be honoured, insulted or simply aghast. Or maybe all three.
"Riddick... I'm not sure..."
"Can you do it? If not, better say now so I can kill you and cut myself a better deal."
Vaako couldn't remember the last time he'd smiled - he wasn't at all sure he'd ever actually laughed - but he felt the slight tugging at his lips, a small, dry, wry expression of appreciation. There seemed to be no artifice to Riddick. Nothing fake at all. The Furyan's blunt pragmatism and honesty was - refreshing didn't come close. Terrifying was better. But whichever word you chose, Vaako found himself responding with an eagerness that alarmed him. He nodded an affirmative, and the Furyan's lips quirked in what could have been a smile.
There was, Vaako thought, something about Riddick that was very attractive.
Vaako slumped back on the bed and laid his arm over aching eyes, sighing quietly and wondering if he'd perhaps taken on more than he could handle. Riddick was... demanding, and he never seemed to need sleep. Not that Vaako was used to sleeping that much himself, but Riddick... The man was indefatigable...
... and he wanted to know everything, and what Vaako couldn't tell him the Commander had to find out, since the Furyan didn't seem to trust anyone else. It wasn't entirely clear whether he actually trusted Vaako, but he listened, and acted on the Commander's advice - for the most part, anyway - and seemed to believe what he was told.
For his part, Vaako made sure he was absolutely scrupulous in his dealings with the Lord Marshal. Riddick was a strong leader, quite possibly the strongest the Necromongers had ever had, and it was in everyone's best interest if he knew exactly how they operated. Even if, so far, he'd refused to allow any more converts to be made. But that, Vaako pointed out to the other Commanders, was because he didn't yet understand their religion. He hadn't seen the Underverse, hadn't approached the Threshold and glimpsed the perfection that awaited them. Hadn't been Purified. He didn't know.
Toal had glowered at Vaako.
"Then why aren't you teaching him?"
Vaako gazed around at the assembled Commanders. They were restive, as were the captains under them, and the troops under them. At present they had no purpose, and the inactivity made them ill-at-ease.
"I am instructing him. But it is not an easy task."
In fact, it looked as though it was going to prove impossible. It was certainly thankless. And Riddick kept asking questions that he couldn't answer, such as - other than the Lord Marshal's word, what proof did they have that the Underverse existed? Had anyone else ever seen it - other than when being Purified, of course, and how could they trust a body and mind in pain to see anything clearly? Exasperated, Vaako had accused the Furyan of having no faith in anything. Riddick had raised his hands, palms upwards.
"I have faith in these." He raised his right hand to touch his head. "And in this. The rest of the universe can go fuck itself."
Vaako shook his head, bewildered and angry that the Furyan wouldn't try to understand.
"Human life is a mistake, one that we are tasked to rectify. The human race is fractured, split into endlessly-promulgating false cults and creeds. We offer the only true religion, the only true peace."
"You know that for a fact, do you?"
"I have faith."
"You're a fuckin' idiot."
Vaako bristled, fists clenched. Riddick smirked.
"Yeah, come on. Explain it to me. Prove it to me."
Vaako reined in his anger, took a deep breath.
"If you will approach the Threshold - as the Lord Marshals have done in the past - you will know it for yourself."
The Furyan snorted.
"And come back half dead? Fuck that."
"Don't you want to know perfection when you die?"
Riddick laid a hand on the Commander's shoulder and leaned forward slightly: Vaako forced himself not to pull back.
"Well, now, y'see, I prefer to enjoy my time here, while I'm still alive, than put any faith in something I can't prove." He gestured downwards. "Whole planet here, all worshippin' different gods - or maybe the same god with different names, I don't know, don't care - who's to say they're wrong and you're right?"
"... I have faith..."
The silver eyes regarded him impassively, and Vaako had the strangest feeling he'd failed some kind of test. Riddick quirked an eyebrow and pulled his hand back, turning to frown at the holodisplay.
"Gotta find somethin' for you dead fuckers to do."
"We should continue with the holy mission."
"Not gonna happen. Let 'em all go to hell their own way - not yours."
"... Then what would you have us do?"
"Dunno. Still thinkin' about it..."