Just a Reminder
“Now then, seems I might have been with-holding some vital information from you.” Mal was leaning against the wall, arms folded and brow furrowed. “Part of bein'a captain is making sure the whole crew is healthy. Now, going in and trying to find Simon, might have ended up short a holy man. Knew Simon wasn't gonna get killed, least so long as they needed a doctor.”
There was a beat as Jack looked down at her hands. Even Inara had to look out the front window instead. Hindsight was usually 20-20.
“Now, most days, I don't have to explain myself so much. But, breakdown in communication seems to leave me without half my crew.”
Mal began to explain what his new plans were. If Riddick felt so inclined, or Imam for that matter, they could start taking the more aggressive jobs. Jobs a bit further out and a bit deeper in. Not to mention Niska was still sore at them. He'd been hiding that fact as well. A few of Niska's men had been tailing them since the train job. Nothing too troublesome, but something to be keeping an eye out for. More often than not, River might say something to him, but for times when their reader was incapacitated, it was best to have everyone on their toes.
“Now I say this for your benefit too. Can't tell if a man such as Niska is above harming a woman of your status.” Mal pushed himself off of the steel he'd been resting on. “Seems we might have ourselves a job lined up from Mr. U. Jackie, you mind jumping on the horn and finding out about that?”
“Sure thing,” Jack nodded.
“Right, Dinner in an hour. No need to dress.”
Riddick was hanging on the door frame of the mess, watching as River played a game with Imam's daughter. What was he doing? Why was he listening to half remembered dreams of a woman he'd never met? He hadn't intended to get attached, not to some teenage kid and a holy man, not to a woman he'd only known in dreams. The Beautiful he'd never even seen, scent lingering on a woman who only ever beat his ass into the ground. He should kick on at the next stop, find a job with Mr. U and get the hell away from the crazy woman on the floor.
“She is Beautiful,” River looked up at him. Her tone was final, and her eyes, half mad and misty, were staring at him. “Grandmother likes him, Big Sister likes him...She does not know yet.” The girl tilted her head. “He has gifts for her.”
Riddick couldn't help the grin spreading across his face. A habit he'd picked up from Shirah, training almost. Every warrior took a trophy, it was their way. The best trophies were meant for a mate.
“Display his power,” the young woman hummed, rising from the floor bonelessly. “She will take them now.”
“I don't even know your name,” Riddick rumbled. He leaned forward, still holding on to the steel frame.
“It is not our way,” River shook her head. Her scent was souring, fingers twitching as she thought. “He gives, can not take, must not take. They took and cut and took some more...”
Zisa rose quietly from the floor, eyes wide as she darted off to where Jack had gone with her sister and adoptive father.
“Common decency, we live in two worlds now.” Riddick let go of the door frame, moving towards her. “Shirah told me that.” Her fingers loosened in her hair, wild eyes turning to focus on him. “Old ways aren't always the best ways.”
“Adaptability is the key to survival,” River breathed. “Equivalent exchange, a name for a trophy. The Beast knows the name he gave her.”
“And Beautiful only knows him through Jack.” He was standing in front of her now, staring down at her until she turned her face to his, nearly glaring. “A name for a name.”
“And then a gift.” River ran a hand through her hair, head tilting. “And he will sit and rise like the sun and stars will fall.”
Riddick couldn't help but sit down at the table, still grinning until she began to pace, fighting with something in her head. There was something in her head, a force she couldn't fight. There was fear and anger coming off of her, mixing with the hormones pulsing through her body as the blood flowed. It made him shift, keeping an eye on her, searching for a danger he knew he wouldn't see and couldn't attack. Shirah hadn't trained him for this. If a man went mad in the slam, no one even blinked when he showed up dead. This was different though, and as much as he didn't always follow their way, he couldn't help what he'd grown up knowing. He barely glanced over when the dog jogged in, glancing around before coming to sit by him.
River stopped, coming to kneel down beside the dog under the table.
“She is broken. Not what Grandmother wanted.”
“Who gives a fuck?” Riddick reached over for a tea cup, a real tea cup like he hadn't seen for years. “I doubt anything turned out the way she wanted.” He nearly laughed when he lifted the teapot. Full of hot black; He handed the full cup under the table, pouring for himself after she took it. “One of us ended up in prison, both of us are on the run instead of fighting.”
“The old ways are not the best ways.”
Zisa came back in, pulling Jack behind her. The sister too, face drawn and searching. Both of them were worrying over the girl under the table. Saline and frustration hit him in a wave, boiling up over the wood and into his nostrils.
“River?” Jack came over, slow but sure. “You okay?”
“She is having tea.”
She was crying.
The companion was giving him a look, coming closer, fearless just like Jack. She wasn't used to running and fighting, but she could be. He could see the callous on her trigger finger; she knew how to shoot something. She knew how to hide her displeasure too. The look on her face faded, melting into a grateful smile as a mellow scent took over.
“Inara Serra, I'm glad to finally meet you,” she seated herself at the table. Her usual seat, just to the right of the captain's chair. “You saved my sister's life. Thank you, so much.”
River was a burbling mess beneath the table, complaining about the temperature on the ship and for some reason she was upset over the price of tea in Venetia. The empty cup returned to the table, fingers resting as she waited.
“This normal?” Riddick asked, pouring her another cup. Mad men and crazy women, completely fearless and the whole crew had to be feng le, what else could they be with the way they acted and reacted?
“We don't know yet. River has only been with us for a few months.” Inara chanced a peek under the table. “I think you're the first man she hasn't attacked in the past three days.”
Riddick let out a low laugh. Truth told he'd been exposed to worse from perfectly sane women. Crying didn't make him comfortable, but he'd rather deal with a woman who cried in riddles than a woman who claimed to be sane and then shot at him for letting the kettle whistle too long.
“Doesn't like guns,” River called up.
“Good to know.”
Inara was looking at him. Wondering and curious.
“You're not surprised. About River knowing.”
“Shirah was the same way,” he shrugged. “Her grandmother knew what I was thinking before I did.”
“Normal,” Inara smiled, looking into her teacup. “River needs that.”
Riddick continued to sit at the table, hand reaching over unconsciously as the dog rest it's head in his thigh. Whole ship was damn near fearless. Inara had risen to boil more water, moving around the kitchen as though it were her domain. She'd walked in the same way. This was her ship as much as it belonged to anyone else. This ship was a home.
Zisa climbed out from under the table and onto a chair, watching him through large eyes.
“Are you going to live with us too?”
“Of course he is.”
Three voices answered before he could even open his mouth.
“Good,” Zisa nodded. “Aunt Zoe will need a replacement soon. Mother says so.”
Riddick had to lean back as Inara and Jack both began to chatter, River as well had popped her head out, watching and thinking. He picked his tea up and left the dining room, intent of finding something with testosterone. Maybe Jack's man. Maybe the captain. The girls had decided he was staying and the captain might have something to say about that.
Jayne wasn't so bad. He'd decided that earlier as they rescued a man he couldn't have cared less about. Seemed to do right by Jack, kept her happy and made her smile. Had a penchant for blowing things up and taking what he wanted. Could be trouble. Then again, when a companion was taking part in illegal activities, the whole verse was headed for trouble. The men were in the cargo bay, sweat and endorphins rising in the air, the sound of harsh breathing echoing with steel.
He could see Jayne spotting the captain at an old weight bench. Well used and abused in the corner of the bay. A punching bag was jimmied to a low bulkhead and a set of mismatched weights were stacked in one of the nooks.
“I keep tellin' ya captain, weren't me set the blast of, least not the first one.”
“And I keep telling you,” Mal set the bar down and sat up. “Inara isn't meant for this kind of life.”
Riddick wasn't going to get involved. Not when he was just a guest. He did start down the stairs though, tea in one hand as he analyzed the ship as a whole.
Time to meet the captain. He'd seen him a few times before, usually in a bar and most every time he'd started a brawl. Decent enough fighter, dirty when the occasion called for it and smart enough to run when he needed to. Had a knack for dodging the Alliance and the law.
“Captain Malcolm Reynolds, welcome aboard.”
He extended his hand. The grip was firm, military. Jack said he'd been a brown-coat, apparently Imam had been too, and the first mate. A whole ship full of people who'd just as soon let him loose, if only to stick their tongues out at the Alliance. He knew this kind of person. They were the kind of person who shot the bad guy rather than deal with the law. Outlaws, Rim born, working class folk generally unaffected by President Jackoff or Prime Minster Fuckhead.
“Richard B. Riddick. Nice ship.”
The captain beamed. Worked most every time, a compliment to the ship was a compliment to the man who ran her.
“The girls keep this girl in top shape,” he patted the railing. “Jayne tells me you helped River rescue our doctor.”
“Seems like it might end up becoming a habit.”
“'nother thing to add to ship rules,” Jayne snorted. He put his hands up, as though reading a sign. “Warning, you must be kidnapped and or shot to become a member of the crew.”
“Seems reasonable,” Mal nodded. He turned to Riddick, grinning cheekily. “Feel like getting kidnapped?”
Man was smart enough not to ask about shooting.
“With a rescue party like that,” Riddick grinned. “Why not?”
“Good,” Mal nodded. “Like I was tellin' earlier. I've been thinking on taking the bigger jobs. Bigger jobs, bigger crew.”
“We're gonna have to stop picking up passengers,” Jayne grinned. There was a sense of glee coming off of the man. Obviously he wasn't a fan of tourists, Mal was rolling his eyes before turning to open his mouth. It fell closed and he almost turned back to Riddick before giving Jayne another look.
“You wanna go pick your bunk, go on. We're stopping on Venetia for supplies, get you and the bunk outfitted proper.” Mal began to ascend the stairs. “Hygiene banks in each room, real shower's just past the infirmary. Dinner in thirty.”
Riddick moved closer to the man on the weight bench.
“Need a spot?”
The man looked at him, judging, thinking. Eventually he shrugged, moving to lay on the bench before grabbing the bar.
“Figure this talk'd come one way'r nother.”
Jayne was smart. For all he played the big dummy, he was smart. He'd have to be to survive as long as he had out here. Rim born and working in smuggling, at least 35 and skilled enough to track him and River; Jack certainly knew what to look for.
“Jack says you two are a thing.”
“Yup, waitin' on a package from Ma,” Jayne pushed the weights up. “Mal's been chompin' at the bit fer me to turn her honest. Truth told, I ain't layin' with no woman ain't my wife.”
“Struck me as the type who enjoyed a brothel or two,” Riddick rumbled as he sipped at his tea.
“Stopped a month or so 'fore our girl went and turned of age.” He set the bar down and sat up. “I ain't got designs on no one but Kyra an' I seen what runnin' round does firsthand. I ain't my ole man and I ain't gonna let nuthin' destroy her like he done my Ma.”
Man was passionate about what he said. He had a determined look on his face and a fire in his eyes.
“Mrs. Jack Cobb...”
“Truth told I was thinkin' on maybe takin' her name.”
The man had some doubts after all.
“Jack won't say no.” He helped Jayne guide the weight back onto the bar. “I've seen the way she acts with you. I'm thinking she's been waiting for it to tell the truth.”
Riddick smiled at the hopefulness in the other man's face. He wasn't often responsible for making people happy. For making them smile or assuring them that they were normal.
“C'mon, Captain said dinner was coming up and I need to get my bunk picked.”
“I recommend the one across from River-girl's,” Jayne stood.
A second later Riddick was stretching his hand and Jayne was laying on the floor with a bloody nose.
“What the gorram hell was that fer?” Jayne shouted.
“Just a reminder.” Riddick was not smiling at him.