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Don't Make Any Sudden Moves

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He saw everyone who came and went here. The environment could have been tailored to him it was so perfectly suited. Warm shadowed alcoves deep enough that it was real obvious when someone tried to see into the back of them. Tables made of wood not metal, chairs of the same wood, synth-leather covering the seats, mostly clean.

There might be an occasional louder voice at the bar, in the middle of the place, but on the outskirts where he liked it, people kept it quiet. Discreet. He’d call it subtle but he didn’t find anything subtle about people in general. Loud, brash and idiotic yeah, subtle, hell no.

For all that they sought the shadows from which to do business, all of them were more at home in the light. They came here, did their business, and left again, relieved to get out into that brightness where they felt safe.

Out into the sun wasn’t the only exit, there were others. A place like this wouldn’t survive long, even on the Rim of the Alliance if it didn’t have multiple places of egress. There was one two tables down from his, leading to the cellar and from the cellar to old smuggler’s tunnels and the mines.

This planet was lucky, there were plenty that had unwelcome surprises lying in wait for some enterprising fool to terraform them and let all those ills out into the ‘verse, like spherical atmospheric Pandora’s boxes. Breathable air, sure, got it covered. How about some Bowden’s Malady to go along with it? Mineral deposits to build a dozen cities, absolutely, with a dose of frostbite as a bonus.

All of them had some sort of problem, the Helion systems needed Helion Prime to direct sunlight towards their worlds, if anything broke those mirrors… There’d be a lot of dark worlds. Coalsack systems were interdependent. One needed fresh water brought in, another you couldn’t make a weed grow and needed food shipped down to the surface. Two others, they’d grow anything and had an ocean full of fish but enough crazy electrical storms that everything might as well be thrown back to the eighteenth century for all the tech they could use.

The Aquila planets had produced more metas than three other systems combined, something caused mutations to the human DNA. Not always attractive either.

Then there was his world, Furya. Triple moons, burning mountains, carnivorous plants, and full of predators not of the common genseed. Furya mutated DNA too. Better than the Aquila system did. Furya’s mark on an individual was in the image the planet chose, not random as the variations in DNA. All of them, every grave he’d found, had similar genetic markers as his own. If you could survive Furya you could survive anything. A case of what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Literally in the case of a Furyan.

It had taken time, but he’d found his home world. Funnily enough people had settled on it. They were smart enough to not build anything too permanent. Not smart enough to leave when the planet proved almost sentient in its resistance to civilization though. Fields were as likely to swallow seed crops as they were to grow edible plants. The jungles had plenty of fallen trees that could be towed out and used for lumber, but it was more probable you’d end up a snack for one of the carnivorous plants or animals that lived there if you took the time to try and cut the trees down.

When he’d finally found Furya he had to admit to being surprised people had settled there. But not too surprised. People being stupidly opportunistic and optimistic wasn’t exactly a shock. He’d taken his time, exploring his home world, enjoying the wide expanses of wilderness.

Maybe he’d been on the run too long, had wanderlust too bad, but he hadn’t stayed. He’d go back, likely find a place he wanted to settle, get himself a ship so he could come and go as he pleased. In the meantime, he’d been on this rock for a couple weeks, working and listening to the rumors going around.

Rumors were the best way to distill truth from the lies he saw on the cortex. No matter what the Alliance thought, people weren’t always content to swallow the garbage they were being spoon-fed. And they were still plenty mad about what they’d seen in the Miranda wave.

Movement from the center of the bar drew his attention. Sure there were always people milling around but this was movement, deliberate, striking. Like a knife cutting through butter or a shark through water.

He couldn’t quite see who it was, someone short, much shorter than the rest of the people in the bar, men and women. Not really much of a feat, this moon had a lot of really big folk, Viking stock he’d heard someone joke. Some of them even met his height which wasn’t inconsiderable.

There was something of a disturbance at the bar, a man’s voice, irritated, the low tones of a female, and the man somehow ‘fell’ off his stool to the floor. Riddick chuckled to himself. There were some men who just never learned, if a woman didn’t want the attention, pushing it on her would only get them a sore pì gu.

By a quirk of crowd movement he got a clear view to the bar area, just in time to see a slender woman with the palest skin he’d ever seen turn and lean against the bar, drink in her hand. She dressed… well like a merc if he was being honest. Not guild. One of the home grown mercs that shipped out as gun hands and muscle for semi-legal work. But the looks didn’t match the clothes. Elegant features, dark hair, slightly angled dark eyes and a lush mouth screamed Core citizen. The clothes were the same as anyone else’s in the bar. Rough denim cargo pants, a tight knit shirt under another short sleeve knit shirt, this one with a logo reading 呆若木雞.

The guns she wore were more Rim than Core, mismatched but clearly well-tended, with a custom weapon harness that held a sword and axe on her back, both of them wickedly curved and not at all as common as her firearms.

He couldn’t see her feet but he’d bet real money that her boots were as strange a combination as the rest of her. And the crowd shifted again, hiding her from his sight.

A flash of white and he looked up to see her winding her way around the central bar area, walking the curved pathway in front of the alcoves and doors leading elsewhere. She stopped at a door, a thoughtful expression on her face before she continued on.

He watched as she passed his table, she moved like water, sipping her drink as she walked, slow and easy. Nothing lazy in that stride, nothing but strength in those legs, but those curves… “Yòng yí gè ā ěr dé wǎ kè cāo wǒ de liǎn,” He muttered. Nothing he admired so much as strength and the way this woman walked… Pure strength and sex.

She didn’t pause and he reminded himself that staring at her was a surefire way to draw attention to himself. The reason he was sitting in the shadowy alcove at the back of a table was to avoid attention. And hoping for a bar fight just so he’d get a chance to see her in action or get the chance to blow off some steam himself was counterproductive to the goal of going unnoticed.

She disappeared from his sight and he took a sip of his drink. Easy come easy go.

Chapter Text

It wasn’t in him to hope for the impossible. He’d found Furya, sent the Necros off to their Underverse forever, and figured he’d gotten his allotment of miracles for one lifetime. So he did not hope he’d see the gorgeous Rim dressed Core woman at the bar again. He had that much self-discipline at least.

Of course when she walked into the place, straight to the bar and collected a drink his jī ba damn near stood up and took notice. Hell if his groin had a horn it’d be sounding the charge already. Just another of God’s tā mā de jokes. Putting a woman like that in front of him, deadly and gorgeous and so clearly out of his league he might as well have tried to hump a Companion.

He didn’t think it was possible for him to be caught off guard anymore. But if he hadn’t known the place so well, known the creak of the floor, and instinctively looked towards it, she might have simply appeared at the edge of his vision.

She stood at the end of the table, the entrance of the alcove, two clay mugs of beer in her hands. If she wanted to get at her guns she’d have to drop them. No way she’d get to those pistols before he put a shiv in her throat. Be a damn shame but if it had to be done…

“Not a merc,” Low voice, like cinnamon, honey and cayenne. Smokey and sweet. “Like him. Different, stronger, stranger…” Smart, to keep her hands on the mugs, no obvious threat.

“Know what I am,” He leaned back and looked her up and down. “So what’re you?”

“May I sit?” She slid one of the mugs towards him. “Rather not take off my guns if you don’t mind. Give my word, not interested in attacking you.”

“Sit if you like,” He nodded and slid over so he could still face her, catching the mug in his hand. “Something you want?”

“You might could say,” She nodded. “Why don’t we start with what you want?” She sat so she was across from him and he could look her in the eye.

“You don’t know what I want,” He managed to keep his eyes on her face but damn that took some serious effort.

“Got an idea from the way you were staring at my backside yesterday,” She returned, smiling as she took a sip of her beer with evident enjoyment. “I’m sorry that’s not on the table at the moment.”

“That’s too bad,” He shook his head. “Because you are without a doubt the sexiest woman I’ve seen in a decade.”

“Mr. Riddick, I think you might need to get out more,” That amused voice, dark eyes gleaming at him as they met his over the rim of her mug. Those eyes almost made him forget she’d said his name when he’d never offered it.

She didn’t blink at the shiv at her throat, breathing normally, and he growled, “You’d better have a good reason for being here.”

“Very good reason,” She met his eyes, no fear and seemingly ignored the blade pressing against her carotid. “I need your help. Willing to pay for it.”

“Lady, who in the tián mì de xié 'è tā mā de do you think you’re talking to,” Riddick snarled at her. “I’m not for hire.” He wasn’t some tiān shā de merc who went around killing people for money.

“I think I’m talking to Richard B. Riddick, the man who can escape from any slam in the ‘verse,” She hissed back at him. “I don’t need you to kill anyone for me. I can kill my enemies myself.”

That was a new one. He’d had more than a few people think he’d do murder for hire, it never failed to be insulting. He hadn’t ever had anyone get insulted right back, “All right. What do you want me for then? Doubt it’s the same as why I want you.”

“Men,” She groaned. “All the blood drains to the groin and the brain stops working.” Her honest exasperation tickled him more than anything else and he chuckled.

“Can’t be the first time you’ve had someone react like this,” He shook his head, putting the shiv away, still chuckling.

“He is an anomaly,” She shrugged. “Very few men who are not Core find slender and pale appealing. Rim and Border males prefer curves, hips to grab, among other things, and skin that does not burn in the sun.”

“Right,” He didn’t see it himself. Sure, he liked curves, but he wouldn’t say he had a type, per se. “So why do you need someone who’s broken out of every slam he’s been put in.”

“Story to tell you,” She took a deep breath. “Not for the faint of heart.”


 

He stared at her when she was done and finished the beer. “You want to break into Belle Reve, using me as a diversion/trojan horse, and bust everyone out, including your Captain who got thrown in because he’s the man behind the Miranda wave.”

She nodded solemnly, “Will pay him well. And compensate him additional with work on the cortex, husk his records to remove his image. Make hiding from the law easier.”

“And what about what else I want,” He eyed her curiously. She didn’t seem the type to put her body up for sale but damn he’d be tempted even if she was.

“If he will partner with her, and still wishes the same after the job is done…” She regarded him over her beer thoughtfully. “Not entirely certain what it is he wants.”

“I want you under me,” Riddick told her bluntly. “I want to go balls deep in you and feel you shatter around me and beg for more.” The shiver that crept over her skin was not of revulsion, her eyes dilating minutely, and her tongue slipping out to wet her lips. “And you want that too. But you’re not a slut to just jump into bed with someone you don’t know.”

“The idea is not unappealing, purely from a physical sense,” She admitted. “You’re a very…attractive male. I’m not immune.”

“But you’re also a Reader and you don’t go around touching folks you don’t know,” He understood that. He wished it was as easy to block out his senses. “All right. Partners, you and me, until the job is done.”

“If she is interested,” She began. He’d noticed as she’d explained her history and the job in question that her pronouns had begun to slip a bit. Seemed like a symptom or tell, something to keep a good eye on. “Apologies, if I am interested in…more than partnership…will he…you… be interested in continuing…to work together?”

“Yeah,” He nodded slowly. “Don’t generally like people as a rule but you’re more interesting than most.” Riddick leaned back and looked at her, “You got a place you’re staying tonight? Or a ship you’re going back to?”

“Rented a room,” She shrugged. “Independent evaluation before involving the rest of the crew.”

“So maybe you could give me a little taste,” Riddick grinned. Very unlikely but so much fun to ask. And whatever else her reactions, she didn’t seem to find him offensive. “Give me something to look forward to?”

Her smile, slow, a little shy, and sweet, and touched with a wicked twist spread those lush lips, “Maybe. What satisfaction canst thou have tonight?”

Obviously a quote of some sort, he’d have to look it up, but he got the gist, “Thought maybe we could spar some… and I’d try to steal a touch or two.” He’d really like to get her under him, give them both something to anticipate when the job was done, even if their clothes stayed on. She seemed like she’d be a lot of fun.

Her smile tilted into a pleased grin, “Would like that very much. Please and thank you.” He liked that her scent matched her words and expression. A rarity these days; no one said what they meant.

“Yeah?” He grinned, “You ever gonna tell me your name?”

“River,” She half smiled. “River Tam.”

Chapter Text

Two months. He’d worked with River Tam for two months, training, flying, talking. He wanted to sink his diǎo into her more than ever, but damned if he wasn’t enjoying the rest of it.

The first thing they’d done after he met her crew and (sort of/kind of/tilt your head sideways and squint) passed their inspection was head out to a shipyard full of wrecks. “What ship would mercs use?” She’d looked at him and gestured to the yard. “Need something unnoticeable, common. Prefer something we can tear apart inside, but she can work with a ship made for cryo and containment if need be.”

“Anything with cryo’s gonna have a minimum of livable space,” He shook his head. “Better off with a hybrid ship. Not as common as cryo but they’re picking up in popularity after the Miranda wave.”

River had nodded and done something to the cortex she held, “Redefining parameters.”

It had been a long day, and by the time they were done and back at the boarding house where they’d taken adjoining rooms her scent had been almost burning and her mouth and forehead tight with strain.

“Don’t think it’ll take much to fix that boat up enough,” Riddick commented.

“Hmm…” She’d nodded and sat heavily on the edge of her bed. First time he’d seen her do anything remotely graceless. That burning quality to her scent…seemed even worse.

“What’s wrong?” He crouched in front of her. “Smells like your brain is on fire.”

That jerked a short mirthless laugh from her lips, “He is not entirely wrong.” Slender fingers pressed against her temples as she answered his next question. “Calculations, influx, so many thoughts, pushing, pressing…”

He could deal with blood, shit, flesh and bone, wounds of nearly any kind, but this… He’d never dealt with anything like this. “Right…so what do we do to fix it?”

“Cannot…” She shook her head, a near inaudible moan of pain in her throat. “Nothing to be done. Promised… not ever again…”

“Promised what,” He persisted. She didn’t seem entirely aware of what she was saying, caught in whatever was in her head.

“No more anchoring,” River’s whisper didn’t make much sense to him. “No more itching in their minds, no hooks under the skin, irritation without cause.”

Riddick tilted his head and helped her ease back, so she was mostly prone on the bed, “I’ll be right back.” A quick trip to his room, borrowing her cortex, he waved her home ship.

The First Mate, a stern and stoic woman tougher than leather and nails answered his call, “Rick.” She greeted him, “Problem?”

“What’s anchoring,” He didn’t have any time to waste pussyfooting around it. “River said it’s something she’s not allowed to do anymore?”

“Oh,” The woman nodded. “Yeah when River was getting her bearings after Miranda she had some bad days. She figured out she could come out of a bad spell by…attaching herself to someone whose brain processed things different enough from hers. Counteracted whatever was overwhelming her.”

“So why’s she not allowed to do that?” Didn’t make sense to him. You got a Reader who had bad spells but a way to fix them and you don’t let her do it? Let her suffer?

“Not many people she can do that with,” The woman shrugged. “Her brother and the Captain tolerated it best, called it an itch in their brains. They could ignore it. Gave Kaylee a massive headache. Me an’ Jayne, drove us nuts. Like putting fight or flight reflex into overdrive, damn near got in fistfights.”

“So you all just told her she couldn’t do it anymore?” He still wasn’t seeing the big deal. So she anchored to her brother for a bit until she got her equilibrium back.

He was given another shrug, “It’s pretty much for emergencies only.”

“Uh huh,” He cut the wave off before he let her know what he thought of that and brought the cortex back to River’s room. Jiàn tā de guǐ that scent would kill him. “River,” He sat next to her on the bed once he put the cortex back.

“Wonders if she could still anchor to her brother or Captain even if they are not here,” Her strained voice alarmed him more than her pallor.

“Can you?”

“Could, shouldn’t. Promised she would not,” River at least answered him. “Don’t know what it would do, at such a distance. Make it worse or better for them.”

He considered their options. He could tell that promise she’d made bound her more tightly than rope as far as she was concerned. But she hadn’t made any such promise to him. Discomfort could be ignored, God knew he was used to that. Irritation…well he’d been controlling his temper for most of his life to keep from ending up in life or death situations…more life or death situations than he’d already been dealt. He could manage an itch in his brain.

“Won’t do that to him,” She murmured. “Twelve hours…a day… she will be well again.”

“And if somethin’ goes wrong?” He usually loved the contrast between her hair and skin, but she was near death white. Not the sort of pale he wanted to see. “Try it with me and see if it bugs me the way it did your crew. Doubt you could find a brain much different from yours than mine. If I start going berserk you let go.”

River had slitted her eyes open warily, “He is certain? Don’t want to hurt him.”

“Yeah, give it a try,” He didn’t say things he didn’t mean. No point to platitudes in his opinion.

She’d fumbled for his hand, her grip strong and desperate, and he had no words for the sensation. It wasn’t as powerful as an orgasm, or as jolting as a taser burst, not as thorough as the Wrath. It reminded him of nothing so much as the feel of her skin against his, the touch of her hand magnified a thousand-strong and waking up every nerve in his body to how good it could feel. Tantalizing and perfect.

Her sigh of relief echoed the fade of the burnt scent and he looked at her curiously, “Better?”

“Much,” River murmured. “How is he?”

“Feels…” He was getting hard, wanted to roll on top of her and breathe her in, “Wǒ cào. Like if I could get inside you the world’d be perfect.” He took a deep breath and let it out, “Gimme a minute…”

“Different,” Her bemused voice drifted to his ears. “He finds the touch of her mind…arousing.”

Tài gāi sǐ le,” He groaned. Talking about it was not making it go away.

“He needs a whore?”

Like a whore could compare to her. Did she really think a whore would satisfy when it was her touch he was craving? It wasn’t as if he hadn’t made his attraction plain. Breathe, push it down, control… he’d gone five years at a time without sex. He could control this.

“Oh,” She actually sounded surprised. Just how innocent was she?

He opened eyes he hadn’t realized he’d closed and looked at her. Blushing and wide eyed over the obvious reaction of his body. “You really had no clue?”

“Not polite to listen all the time,” She demurred. “Knew of his initial attraction. Generally fades with familiarity.”

“Not this,” He touched a hand to her jaw. He’d never touched skin so soft in his life. Not really helping him control the lust flooding his body, “Not me.”

Her palm covered the back of his hand, pressing her jaw to his palm, eyelashes fanning over her cheeks as her eyes drooped closed, “He feels… so much. More…”

“Furyan,” He reminded her gruffly. “Spirit warriors, remember?”

“She remembers,” River had murmured. “Please… this… stay?”

“Yeah,” Riddick nodded. “Think we could both use the rest.”

He’d pushed off his boots, helped her take hers off, chuckling over her blushing, like sweaty socks were the worst things in the world. They’d ended up lying on her bed, River tucked against his side, until they both fell asleep.


 

“Feel better?” He’d judged it a good idea to unwrap himself from around River’s body before she woke up. She might Read it out of his mind the position they’d been in, but he could spare her the actual huge horny man rubbing his jī ba against her pì gu.

“Much, thank you,” She nodded. “Apologies for… the necessity.”

“Hey, whenever you need to do that, just let me know,” He shrugged. Sure he felt like he’d combust if he couldn’t fuck her but he felt like that more than half the time he was around her anyway. He could man up and deal with it getting stronger if it meant no migraines and a day of lost time for her.

“Will try not to need an anchor too often,” River half smiled. “Not fair to you.”

“I’d say it’s more not fair to you, having to deal with everything I’m feeling on top of what you’re feeling,” He pointed out.

The shy smile that curved her pretty mouth was better than a sunrise before his eyes changed. “Don’t mind feeling what you feel,” She offered softly. “Lots to do but… like getting to know you.”

“Yeah,” Riddick grinned. “Yeah I like this too.”