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Righting the Universe

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art by adrianneb78239

~~~***~~~

Vaako felt himself tumbling, falling, and he didn't know how or why or even where for that matter. When he landed he was on the ground, his shoulder aching from hitting the packed earth and it was now night when just moments before it had been early afternoon and he'd been standing on the balcony of his condo.

When he looked up the sky was lit by stars--so many stars and in patterns he didn’t recognize. He’d lived on almost every continent and knew the constellations. These were different and there was something that looked like a comet zooming across the sky.

He blinked his eyes trying to clear the sight but this time when he opened them there was a woman kneeling over him. "I don't have much time," she said, and felt her black eyes looking right into his very soul. "But you're no longer in your time." She stroked the side of his face gently. "You must listen. You're over six hundred years into the future."

"What?"

The woman grasped Vaako's face in her hands and stared into his eyes. "Listen to me my child. Sometime in the next twenty to fifty years there will be a man--the one you've been looking for your entire life--he will be able to fix the past. He will be able to save the true vampires. He will be able to save my son."

Images flicked through Vaako's mind. The weak vampires of the present--the ones that couldn't walk in the day were all turning to ash. Others like him, Old Ones, were getting sick. Space travel. Colonization. Planets so far away it took years to travel to. Wars. And then there were no more vampires; of any kind. Years from now, years back, it was confusing. He saw what vampires had become--less than the ones who could only function at night. Half dead creatures looking to destroy everything in their path. To destroy the entire universe. A desert planet and a man with glowing eyes. Men and women hanging suspended. A woman, not to be trusted but used. Another man, a mad man in charge of the invaders. A gateway to the past that needed a key. Glimpses of what he would need to become--something he thought he'd left behind centuries ago.

"Who are you?" Vaako whispered, eyes wide.

"La Magra," she answered and vanished.

Where Vaako had almost been ready to stand he simply sat back on the ground. Shock on his face. His king, the man who had sired him, that had been his mother who had knelt before him. She was saying Drake was dead, but how? He should be sleeping deep in the earth. He wasn't to be awakened for another fifty years and then only by him or one other trusted by Drake.

Damn nightwalking weaklings probably did it. Did something they were neither prepared for nor understood and that had doomed them all. But why had La Magra picked him?

The images of the man she had shown him. A dangerous man. A killer, a hunter. Was he the mate he had searched for? He knew that had always been Drake's weakness--not being able to find that which would balance him.

The ground shook and Vaako looked up into the sky to see that the comet had been a ship and had entered the atmosphere of the planet he was on. The Necromongers. His future for the next fifty years.

~~**~~**~~**~~

The Incorrect Path

Richard B. Riddick was the Supreme Ruler, the Lord Marshal of the fucking Necromonger fleet. His first thought after that realization had been fuck me, followed by, this is all that damn Elemental's fault.

He slumped back on the throne and glanced at the spikes and oversized, emaciated bodies that decorated the walls in the room where he sat. The place made his skin crawl. He finally looked down at the masses of kneeling Necro soldiers and nobles. Well, mostly kneeling. That woman from before, the Dame, was standing on one of the balconies glaring at him as he sat on the throne. Her stare flicked between him and the man kneeling directly in front of the throne. He supposed she thought the shadows would hide her. They didn't.

Vaako. That was the name of the man who had just risen to stand on the steps before him. The man who had tried twice now to kill him, though their fights had always seemed to end in a draw. And the last encounter minutes ago seemed more like a distraction for the previous Lord Marshal rather than a I want to kill Riddick thing.

"Get out!"

No one moved.

"Now!"

The masses began to stand but not actually move from the room. Someone bellowed something about a pilgrimage while others shouted about destroying Helion. He was getting angry. He could feel the rage building again. But this time, when he stood, he simply let it wash through him, taking the crowd by surprise. The crowd as a whole was pushed back, stumbling several feet. Some fell to their knees while others were blown back into the raised weapons of the soldiers behind them. But the immediate crowd around the throne, they just dropped to the ground and didn't stand up again.

The only exception was Vaako who barely moved from the spot where he stood. There was just something different about the man. Riddick was fairly sure the man was not like the blond Purifier, another Furyan hiding in plain sight. His silver eyes raked over the man again, noticing for the first time that Vaako's core body temperature was actually higher than the other Necromongers.

Riddick turned back to the shell-shocked crowd and grinned in a way that bared his teeth before once again shouting, "Get out!"

This time people moved.

He dropped back to the throne and waited for Vaako to start down the stairs. "Not you, Vaako, you stay," Riddick said just above a whisper. "I want to know what's different about you."

~~~***~~~

Vaako turned slowly to face the man now on the throne. It was strange, Zhylaw with all his "otherworldly" powers had never noticed a thing. Or perhaps, it was just that Zhylaw had thought everyone was afraid of him so never really looked at what was right in front of him.

Riddick was different. He noticed everything. Vaako didn't think it was just a Furyan thing but maybe there was some base instinct in that. Vaako had always had a feeling that maybe the Purifier had thought there was something just a bit wrong with Vaako's purifications. The Purifier had not been the Furyan he had been searching for; he had been weak and Vaako knew the man he was looking for would be anything but weak. Maybe this Furyan, this Alpha Furyan, this Riddick, could actually get him home.

"Different, my Lord?" he asked. "I do not know what you mean."

"Does your Dame know?"

Vaako sighed inwardly, realizing that continuing his denial was a waste of time. He glanced towards the balcony. "She has her uses, her knowing is not one of them."

"So you know she's hiding up there in the shadows?" Riddick asked just loud enough that his voice would carry.

Vaako didn't bother to look up again. "She is always up there when the Lord Marshal is in the throne room. It makes for better spying."

"And if I wanted her in my bed?"

"Then you could have her." Vaako gave a small shrug. "If that is who you truly want."

The screech from the balcony was not a pleasant sound. Vaako shrugged at the noise and tilted his head to hear his Dame's heels clicking on the tile as she left the balcony in a fit.

Riddick laughed. "You should have a very pleasant evening."

"She will not remember if I do not wish it."

"And you ask what difference?" Riddick said, leaning back in the throne. "You want this throne?"

"No, Furyan." Vaako straightened before answering. "I want to go home and you're the key that I have been waiting for. You will set everything right."

"I'm no key."

Vaako laughed and turned on his heel, striding for the door without first waiting for a dismissal from the Lord Marshal. "Oh, but you are," he called over his shoulder. "And so much more."

~~~***~~~

Riddick need only to follow the screeching voice to find the man who intrigued him more than anything else ever had. For the past week he'd listened to the Necro commanders and those nobles that supposedly made up some type of council. That had been interspersed with a couple of assassination attempts and listening to Aereon, the Air Elemental, talk of calculations on what he should do next and how he would bring the universe back to balance and peace. But the more he listened, the more he knew she was only telling him partial truths. When he began to wonder what it would be like to slip a knife into her he would leave the room. It wouldn't help to kill her too soon.

Besides, she stayed in that wispy form of hers thinking his senses would not be able to detect the lies. This woman had caused the downfall of the Furyans. The only thought he'd had regarding that was would my life have been that different?

He was slowly beginning to think her kind could have stepped in to stop the first Lord Marshal, but they hadn't wanted to--not then. It was like they had waited for something specific. No, there was something else she didn't want him to know.

For now though it would have to wait. He wanted to know about this Vaako, the one Necromonger that was different from all the others. The one Necromonger on this ship that actually seemed to actively be avoiding him. While all the others bowed or sneered in his direction, Vaako seemed to be nowhere in sight.

He wanted to know how Vaako's talk of keys differed from what the Elemental was saying because Riddick knew there was something importantly different. Once he made his leave from the throne room or risk killing Aereon, finding Vaako had only taken him an hour of combing through the ship's many dark corridors.

He stayed in the shadows as Vaako and his woman argued. It seemed to be a common theme to their relationship and Riddick wasn't sure how that worked exactly. He'd have wanted to kill his partner if that was all there was.

The dame was trying to hatch a plan to kill him. To remove him from the throne. It seemed that while she wanted him gone she had not been behind the attempts that had happened so far. Not that he'd paused in killing his attackers to ask. Vaako was standing there with his arms crossed simply listening to the woman speak in such a sweet-honey voice that to Riddick's ears it sounded like the screech of those raptors on Hades. If Riddick had to say, Vaako looked bored with the whole thing.

"Hush," Vaako said softly and the woman stopped in mid word, her gaze seeming to go foggy. "Better."

Vaako stroked a finger down the woman's face until it was just under her chin. He brought her forward with just the lightest of gestures. She closed her eyes and Vaako lifted his other hand to tilt her head to the side to bare her long delicate neck. Vaako ran his finger down her neck and moved the top of the gown out of the way.

Riddick could just make out three things as he stood there watching. Vaako's eyes glowing a hazel light before going as black as night, his incisors lengthening to fangs as he opened his mouth and the purification marks fading to leave nothing but smooth skin. Then Vaako sank those fangs into the lady's neck and she let out a moan of pleasure before leaning in closer to Vaako as he gently sucked at the wound. Vaako pulled back and swept his tongue over the two small holes and the wound sealed.

"Go back to our chambers," Vaako said softly, his lady's attention fully on him. "We had our little talk and you are quite satisfied with it. Have a rest."

The lady blinked her eyes and stepped back from Vaako. "Does that not have promise," she said as if she was finishing a conversation. She rested her hands on Vaako's chest for a brief moment before stepping around him and back into the more lighted corridor.

When she was gone, Vaako turned and leaned against the wall clearly looking right at Riddick. "Did you enjoy the show?" Vaako asked.

Riddick stepped out of the darkness. "You are not a Necromonger," he stated, his eyes scanning the other man more closely.

"I never said I was."

"Or an Elemental. Your heart beats differently than either of those."

"So does yours."

Riddick leaned on the wall opposite Vaako, putting them mere feet from each other. "But like the old breezy broad you want something from me. Let's hear your spiel. One of you is bound to get me off this damn ship."

~~~***~~~

Vaako pushed off from the wall and began walking through the corridor. He could sense Riddick following him and between one step and another Riddick was beside him.

They didn't speak again until they were standing among the converts hanging in one of the purification centers. Their bodies were attached to a device from the top and sides where two spikes impaled the sides of the neck. The rigs were four high and probably ran fifty wide and fifty deep. "No one comes in here," Vaako said, waving his hand toward the suspended forms. "No one likes to remember their first round."

Riddick looked up at the body he was standing next to. "You hang on one of these racks?"

"For a time, twenty-seven years ago."

"It doesn't seem to have stuck."

And Vaako could see Riddick was focused at his neck. "A gift of my kind," he answered, letting his complexion also return to normal. Gone was the super pale skin and red-rimmed eyes. Vaako almost felt like himself again.

"Handy trick."

Vaako shrugged and stepped into an area that lacked a person hanging from the neck spikes. "What do you know about Earth?"

"It's dead."

"Yes," Vaako agreed and he didn't believe that would change even if Riddick was the key to saving his sire or the universe. Maybe it would take it a little longer, but he could see how the planet would get used up and tossed aside--humans had been doing that since the beginning of time. But with the ease of space travel the remaining population would, as before, just flee to other planets and start it all again.

"Almost six hundred years ago," Vaako began, "something happened. But let me start earlier than that. Thousands of years before on Earth, there was a...let's call them a second species of humans. They weren't born. They were chosen and sired. They didn't age and they were hard to kill. Some broke away from their King and began to over-sire, if you will, and it created a weakened offshoot. The true Old Ones were few and their King decided to bury himself deep within the earth."

Vaako paused. It was like telling a story without all the details but he wasn't sure how long he would have. "Those weaklings continued to multiply and bring attention to themselves. And nearly six hundred years ago, something made them dig up the King. The normal humans did something and the second race began to die or change. A few managed to get off the planet during the Great Exodus, but it was too late--they had become something else altogether."

"The Necros," Riddick said, his gravely voice ghosting through Vaako's very being.

"Almost."

"You one of those Old Ones?"

"Perhaps," Vaako replied, moving through the bodies again. "Do you know what humans called my people?" he asked, instead of explaining his answer.

He saw Riddick shake his head. "Vampire. We were myths and horror stories but few believed we really existed. The Old Ones didn't mind. The weakened ones wanted to rule the world. They drew attention to themselves and the humans started hunting us all, making no differentiation between the two types."

"This has to do with me how?"

Vaako laughed, and for the first time in almost thirty years, he moved like himself again. In the blink of an eye, faster even than the ex-Lord Zhylaw, Vaako was behind Riddick. He leaned forward and breathed in deeply and knew that scent would stay with him for all eternity. "I don't know exactly," he whispered, but he hoped to find out.

~~~***~~~

Riddick didn't flinch, but he was definitely impressed. "Then why you?" he asked, without turning his head. But he didn't miss the deep inhalation Vaako had made. So the man's senses were enhanced too.

Vaako walked around him and easily hopped up onto the ledge of one of the support beams. Riddick watched the man pace for a second before following him up and finding himself a seat on the narrow beam that ran across the room.

"You drink blood," Riddick said, leaning back, eyes focused on Vaako; listening to how the other man's heart beat--faster than a Necros, but slower than a normal human's.

"I do," Vaako answered. "But reports say you do too."

"Reports over exaggerate things," Riddick said, gruffly. They also said he was an assassin for hire. He had never killed anyone for money.

Vaako snorted, but gracefully slid down the beam to sit opposite Riddick. When he grinned Riddick noticed the fangs had not been retracted or hidden, or whatever they had been before, when Vaako had fed from that annoying woman he called Dame.

"Blood is the life source," Vaako stated, his normally hazel eyes almost black in the dim light and Riddick wasn't sure if it was the light making the eyes black now or not. "Twenty-seven years ago a woman took me out of my time and tossed me into yours in hopes of saving her son and us all from this path."

Riddick leaned forward. A woman. He'd dreamed of a woman with braids when he was child. Then again while in Butcher Bay. She had told him that he had been blind for too long and when he woke his eyes had changed--no surgery or doctor or trade needed but it did make for a good story. A story that didn't make him look insane. He'd dreamed of her again before the crash on M6-117, and once before the events on Crematoria. He now knew her name was Shirah. The last time he had seen her had been the first time he'd felt the rage released. Was it the same person?

"What does she look like?" he questioned, needing to know.

Vaako tilted his head. "Tall. Long, black hair. Black eyes. Her name was...is La Magra. She was my sire's mother. It is said she was the first vampire and then one day she just disappeared. That her son was ready and she was no longer needed."

Riddick didn't so much as sigh, but for some reason he was disappointed.

"You thought she would be someone else?" Vaako asked as if understanding the situation without knowing it. "I am sorry."

"Why should you be?" Riddick asked roughly.

"Because it seemed important to you."

Riddick didn't know how to handle Vaako. The man was a walking puzzle to him and he wasn't very fond of puzzles. "Why you?" Riddick asked again.

"You."

Riddick laughed. "What do you and I have to do with anything? We'd never met before you landed on Helion Prime."

Vaako glanced down the long line of suspended bodies. "I'm not sure I'm ready to answer that question yet."

"People keep telling me I'm the Lord Marshal. They keep trying to assassinate me because of the title, so aren't you supposed to answer all my questions?"

Vaako smirked. "You are not my king."

"But his mother sent you to me."

If Riddick didn't know better, he would have said that Vaako had blushed slightly and that intrigued him. He'd have to circle back to that later though as he had other things he needed to know. Instead he asked, "Do Necros dream in cyro?"

"No."

"Do you?"

"Yes," Vaako answered with a nod. "I think I understand. Your ghost visits in your dreams as well."

Riddick jerked his head to the side. "My ghost?"

"The woman on Crematoria. Braids, long brown hair. She was very pretty and very angry." Vaako leaned forward a little. "She is related to you."

Riddick didn't know and he said as much.

"That was not a question," Vaako said, scooting forward so that he was that much closer to Riddick when he leaned forward. "You are the last Alpha of your species. Even among the converted Furyans there was never an Alpha hidden in their ranks. I know, I looked. Just those that wanted to forget."

"My mother left me for dead in a trashcan."

"You were ripped from your mother's belly by Zhylaw based upon a prophecy the Elementals delivered to him. You and she were both left for dead. You survived."

A noise prevented Riddick from saying anything as both he and Vaako spotted a Purifier walking through the racks. Vaako drew his legs up and shifted back towards the pillar and the shadows it brought. Riddick did the same.

He followed the Purifier as the man checked a convert here and there before moving to another row. It would have been easy for either man to reach down and kill the Purifier, make him fully dead. Instead Riddick sat there quietly for several minutes and watched both the Purifier and Vaako. When the Purifier was gone Vaako glanced his way before easily dropping to the floor below.

Riddick followed. "Why you?" he asked again.

He was not expecting the answer he got. Vaako pushed him into the base of the pillar and kissed him. It was deep and satisfying and Riddick wanted more. Needed more. He even enjoyed the scrap of Vaako's fangs across his tongue and lips. Another hunter that could be his equal ran through his mind as he wrapped his tongue around one of Vaako's fangs.

Vaako broke the kiss and turned on his heel, leaving the chamber before Riddick could react. "Follow him," Shirah's voice said softly in his mind.

~~~***~~~

Vaako wasn't sure why he had done that. He hadn't been that impulsive in more than a thousand years. If not longer. But Riddick had tasted wonderful; and that one small taste of blood when his fangs had scraped against the Furyan's lip, breathtaking. Just his luck that his balance, his mate, would be a reported sociopath convicted of murder and escaping slams on a regular basis--like it was a weird hobby.

He didn't get far in the corridor or his thoughts before he was spun around and shoved into a darkened recess off the corridor. His mouth was taken in an almost savage kiss while his body was pushed into the wall. He didn't fight it, just let it happen. Enjoying it.

A tongue traveled around his teeth before the kiss was broken.

"Where did your beautiful fangs go?" Riddick's deep voice asked in a hushed whisper that caused Vaako to physically shiver.

"Retracted," he breathed out.

"Handy," Riddick murmured. "We were not done talking."

"I did not take you as one for long chats?"

Riddick leaned in and sniffed at the smooth neck before tasting the spot where the purification marks should have been. "Normally not, but there's just something about you."

Vaako placed his hands on Riddick's waist and tilted his head, giving Riddick better access to his neck. The thought that he had not reformed the purification marks flitted through his mind but was lost as Riddick began to suck at the spot and the thought was replaced with another: when he's a vampire, it will be so much better.

Riddick growled deep in his throat and let go of Vaako's neck with one more swipe of his tongue before turning his head to stare into the darkened corridor. Vaako blinked. If they wanted to continue with this then they were going to have to find some place private.

"Those things really piss me off."

Vaako eased around Riddick and looked in the same direction as Riddick. "Ah," he said seeing what had caused Riddick to break the kiss. "Lensors. The dogs of the Necros. Easily killed, not so easily ignored."

Riddick smirked at him. "No shit. Hellhounds would be better."

"Messier too."

He felt Riddick shrug and was really not surprised by Riddick's soft comment of "Like'em."

The lensor came closer and tried to peer into the recess where they were standing. Riddick slashed through the thing's neck with a blade that Vaako had not even seen the man pull. The lensor stumbled and dropped. "No challenge for something you people rely on so much."

Vaako chuckled softly. "True. And you are just as messy as your hounds would be."

"I want them here."

It was the first time Vaako had ever heard the man truly want anything--outside of being left alone that was. "Then order the fleet gone from this planet and to Crematoria, my Lord Marshal."

Riddick glanced back at him.

"Let's go," Riddick said, stepping over the dead lensor and turning in the direction that would take them to Navigation. "Then we can get back to what we were doing."

~~~***~~~

Riddick wouldn't be able to catch Vaako alone again for almost two weeks, but he was enjoying the three hounds that chased away everyone he set them upon. He would give Vaako his due, the hounds could be messy, but even he tired of assassination attempts. The hounds gave him the security he needed to be able to sleep without having to worry about being attacked.

The few times he had managed to grab more than a cat nap he dreamed of Furya, of Shirah, and of Vaako. The last dream had him wanting to find Vaako even more and he was about to get his wish.

He grabbed Vaako's arm as the man passed by at a T-junction in one of the many corridors. The soldiers walking with Vaako only paused for a moment until they saw the Lord Marshal and his three hounds then they quickened their pace to be elsewhere.

The hounds sniffed at Vaako for a second before widening their circle around Riddick to let Vaako in. "They are interesting creatures," Vaako told him.

"And messy," Riddick rumbled with a grin which Vaako returned. "Lose the camouflage."

"I cannot." Vaako shook his head slightly. "I've not fed since that day. If I remove it, I will not be able to put it back."

"Not seeing the problem."

Vaako sighed, but the purification marks disappeared, as did the red rimmed eyes. The pale skin stayed.

Riddick ran a finger down the still too pale face. "You still need to feed."

Vaako quirked an eyebrow at him.

"The Necros have acquired all the knowledge of the planets they have destroyed. The stories from Earth came with the first travelers. I used my power as Lord Marshal and the quiet of my chambers to read about vampires."

"Much of it is fiction."

Riddick grunted as he took in the deathly pallor of Vaako's face. "But am I wrong?"

"No, you are correct."

Riddick smirked and pulled Vaako to him. "You have been avoiding me again."

"I have not," Vaako pulled his arm free of Riddick's grasp. "Your Elemental doesn't seem to want me near you."

The growl that escaped from between Riddick's lips had all three hellhounds coming to their feet and closing the circle around them. "We're going to my chambers and we're going to chat."

The walk to Riddick's chamber was done with few interruptions. The hounds seemed to be as tense as Riddick and were actually growling and snapping at everyone who came near instead of their normal ignoring most and only giving chase and possible maiming of just one or two people when Riddick signaled.

The hounds stopped and started growling from deep in their throats. It was a sound Riddick easily recognized. "They really don't like that breezy old broad either," he commented. "She's up to something."

Vaako paused. "She's trying to stop me again."

"I didn't take her to be the type to cock-block someone."

Vaako grabbed Riddick's forearm and pulled him around. Riddick was once again impressed with the strength that Vaako did not use on a day-to-day basis. Stepping in closer, Vaako asked, "Is that what she's doing?"

Riddick spun them around so that Vaako was pushed into the wall. He tilted Vaako's head to the side and started with a kiss and a light bite over the jugular vein before moving up the rest of Vaako's neck and around to his lips.

Vaako's eyes were darkening and Riddick could feel the other man's incisors begin to grow. He wrapped his tongue around one of the fangs as Vaako pulled him in even closer. He switched to the other fang and pushed their bodies together until he got Vaako to moan.

But Vaako's eyes and fangs where back to normal when he broke the kissing and groping as soon as one of the hounds whined out a warning. Riddick growled before turning to glance in the direction of the hound and saw the Air Elemental glaring at them in disapproval.

"Riddick," Aereon called. "We must talk."

"I'm busy."

She cleared her throat in that way that clearly said she didn't approve and was disappointed. Riddick didn't give a shit about her approval or her plan. He still didn't know what Vaako wanted from him, but he knew what he wanted from Vaako and right now Vaako seemed to be interested in that as well.

Riddick turned to look at Aereon. "The hounds haven't eaten, I'm not above letting them feast on you," he told her.

When he started towards his chambers he kept Vaako between him and the wall. The hounds surrounded them on the other three sides. The hound Riddick had named Hunter passed the closest to Aereon and actually made a lunge at the Elemental.

"You should keep better company, Lord Marshal Riddick."

Riddick didn't respond, just unlocked his chamber door and entered with the bad company he apparently kept.

~~~***~~~

Vaako let himself be all but ushered into the Lord Marshal's chamber. The Elemental was definitely up to something. Not that he didn't want Riddick to get him home, but he needed Riddick to do it willingly. He needed Riddick to be willing to go back with him. And if Riddick wasn't, then Vaako would stay in this time and damn the consequences. He'd found his balance, the other half of his soul, he wasn't letting him go.

Riddick leaned in and whispered in his ear. "You think too much."

Vaako snorted. "You would not be the first to say that. My sire probably said that daily for the first century."

"You still need to feed."

"I will not feed from you," Vaako said, pushing lightly against Riddick's chest, but the other man didn't budge.

"The fact that your fangs are showing says different."

"Want and will are two different things."

Vaako wasn't sure what it was, but Riddick had this thing about pushing him into walls and kissing him until he couldn't think. While he was focused on what Riddick was doing to him with his tongue Vaako didn't notice that the other man had pulled a small blade and sliced along his wrist, not until the scent of blood hit him. The rich spicy scent of Riddick's blood.

"Why?"

"Drink."

"You don't understand."

"Drink."

Vaako didn't try to second guess it. He was hungry and the smell of Riddick's freely offered blood was becoming too much for him. He took Riddick's wrist and covered the small cut with his mouth before sinking his fangs into the wrist. He sucked the warm blood into his mouth and swallowed. It was wonderful. Stronger than any blood he'd ever had save his sire's. He took a few more swallows before running his tongue over the cut.

"You barely fed."

"Your blood is much stronger than almost anything I've ever had."

Riddick leaned in and swiped his tongue against Vaako's lips. Vaako took the opportunity to switch their positions, pushing Riddick into the wall and plunging his tongue into Riddick's mouth.

The grip on his waist tightened as he continued to plunder at Riddick's mouth until Riddick broke the kiss to speak. "We have on too many clothes," he said.

That's all it took for them to separate and remove their clothing. Vaako found himself on his back on the bed with Riddick stretched out above him. This time he wasn't complaining about the other man's weight pushing into him as he was rather enjoying the feeling. He arched up into Riddick as Riddick pressed down.

"Tell me how I'm the key to getting you home," Riddick asked, his lips brushing against Vaako's ear.

"Now?"

"Yes."

Vaako spread his legs a little wider and Riddick settled with a moan. Riddick paid him back by moving his hips slightly, making him moan in return.

"I don't know exactly," Vaako said honestly. "She didn't tell me. Just that I would find the man I had been looking for, and he would be the key to saving my sire. Through him we'd stop the Necros from ever coming into being."

Riddick shifted and Vaako moaned. Vaako moaned again as Riddick lapped at his throat and then began licking and sucking his way down Vaako's chest. Riddick nipped at his ribs and Vaako bucked against the other man.

"How long have you been looking for me?" Riddick asked, after licking across Vaako's balls and cock.

Vaako panted. It was becoming hard to think and Riddick was all of a sudden too chatty, but Vaako answered anyway. "More than two," he said between breaths. "More than two thousand years." He didn't bother to count the six hundred years difference with him being pulled out of one time and put into another.

Riddick took Vaako's cock into his mouth and swirled his tongue around it before sucking slightly. Vaako moaned and arched into Riddick's mouth. Vaako was coming before too long. This was his mate and his control just wasn't there at the moment. He wasn't sure how he was going to tell Riddick about balance and mates.

He glanced down his body to see Riddick working his way back up until Riddick was once again looking down into his eyes. "One more question before I take my own pleasure from you," Riddick asked, his gravely voice making Vaako shiver. "Before I make you mine. Who else on this tub have you been with?"

Riddick hadn't struck Vaako as the jealous type--possessive yes--but there seemed more to the question, more to the way it had been phrased. Vaako would admit that right now he wasn't thinking fully as to all the implications, he just gripped Riddick's arms and spread his legs even wider. "I've been celibate since coming to this time," Vaako answered, breathlessly but honestly. His dame and others he had fed from may have believed there had been sex, but there had been none. "La Magra told me I'd find you."

"You trust her that much."

"Yes," he said honestly. "You are here."

~~~***~~~

For the fourth day in a row Riddick woke up with his arms tightly wrapped around a nearly three thousand year old vampire from Earth and knew the man was his mate. Vaako called it a balance of the soul. It explained the reluctance to talk about it and the slight blush weeks ago.

Yet Vaako had not pushed his agenda--this whole key thing--at anytime. The Elemental had tried several times over the past few days to separate them. That had both pissed him off and added flame to the feeling of being lied to. The mistrust he already had for her was still growing.

Riddick released his hold on Vaako and reached up to brush the spot on his neck where Vaako had bitten him during one of their many rounds of sex the night before. He knew there would be no evidence there but he did wonder what it would be like to feed from Vaako. He'd tasted Vaako's blood several times--licking the blood from the ulaks during a sparring match, from a wound on Vaako's cheek. He wanted more.

He heard one of the hounds stand up and stretch before circling in place and laying back down. Riddick looked back down at Vaako before brushing his fingers through Vaako's unrestrained hair. He didn't know why, but in the darkness in this private chamber he had told Vaako everything--from his childhood, to what got him tossed into his first slam, his many escapes, and the events on Hades. He even spoke of Jack.

In return he had learned about the scholar turned warrior. How Vaako had bled one village dry only to save another from a similar fate centuries later. About Drake, the man Vaako called sire and friend. The other Old Ones he called friend and more importantly the ones he called enemy. How the siring process was really supposed to work and how and why it failed with the ones that could only walk at night. How he hunted some of the nightwalking kind. And then there had been whispers about the one person Vaako had sired and never knew her fate. Vaako's own personal Jack.

All three hellhounds came awake and rolled to their feet before moving to the chamber's main door. The chime sounded seconds later and Riddick knew it was the Elemental. Vaako shifted in his arms and turned to look at him. "You might as well talk to her," Vaako said softly. "She's not going to leave you alone."

"She will if I flush her out an airlock."

Vaako grinned and stroked a hand down Riddick's face before leaning in to kiss him. Vaako broke the kiss when the chime sounded again. "What fun would that be?"

Riddick grunted but got out of the bed. "Stay in here," he said, pulling on his black pants and leaving the sleeping chamber for the antechamber. One of the hounds walked past Riddick in the opposite direction and flopped down half in and half out of the door to the bedroom while the other two stayed with Riddick.

He pushed the button for the view screen and verified that it was indeed Aereon. To his surprise Vaako's dame also stood there. He opened the door. "What do you want?"

"Where is the Lord Vaako?" Aereon asked, the disgust barely concealed.

Riddick walked to the small table. He took the chair that let him look into both the bedroom and watch his visitors while keeping the two women facing away from the bedroom. "Haven't seen him since you interrupted the council meeting yesterday," Riddick stated.

The two women looked at each other and then Vaako's dame came and sat down across from him. Aereon breezed her way to stand just beside her.

"He came to me yesterday," Dame Vaako began. "He's after the throne, my Lord. Last night he told me he plans to kill you before we get to the Threshold. He's managed to convince his men into assisting him in ridding the Necromongers of the breeder who is just a pretender on the throne." She paused. "He is weak and does not believe he can remove you through one-on-one combat and..." The dame let the sentence hang.

"I warned you about that man," Aereon said hauntingly, her body not quite solid. "He's not right."

Riddick leaned back in his chair and said nothing for a few seconds. His mind coming up with another explanation that he kept to himself. He's not in your calculation, you mean.

"I see," he gave a small nod. "I will order the fleet to increase speed to the Threshold." Something he had already done the day before but she didn't need to know that.

"I think, Lord Riddick, that you should remain in your chambers for the last few days of the journey."

The two hounds that had parked themselves on either side of Riddick's chair began to fidget. Riddick reached down and stroked the hound on his left. "I'll follow your lead Aereon," he said.

The Air Elemental smiled and Riddick really wanted to test if his blade could kill her while she wasn't solid.

"That is excellent news," she said. "I see a promising reign of Lord Marshal Riddick." She tapped Lady Vaako on the shoulder. The other woman stood and gave Riddick a bow. "We will leave you to your contemplations as you prepare to meet with the Threshold's Guardian," Aereon added just before exiting the chamber.

"Thanks," he grunted.

When the door shut he stood and initiated the locks. "So, apparently last night you were in two places at once," Riddick said, turning to see Vaako leaning in the doorframe of the bedroom.

"So I hear."

"Seems we'll be locked in here for another two days."

"Whatever will we do?"

Riddick didn't say a word as he stalked back to his waiting mate.

~~~***~~~

Between Vaako and Riddick, the Guardian and his little army had been easily dispatched and now there was no one on the Platform of the Threshold. The Elemental and her group of followers wouldn't realize until it was too late that Riddick was already on the platform and that Vaako was not dead but standing with him.

They stood at the Threshold, at the entrance to the Gateway. Vaako reached out a hand and touched the smooth surface. It felt almost like glass but gave slightly when he pushed against it. The clear surface clouded for a second and then images began appearing.

Earth, more than two thousand years ago. A war. A beast and a man still fighting even as his body was giving out on him.

"Your turning?"

"Yes. My choice. My chance to find you."

Riddick grasped Vaako's shoulder and leaned forward to stroke the surface of the Gateway. "The Elemental thinks I'm here to fulfill her plan, to become the next Lord Marshal. I'm thinking it needs to be destroyed."

The images in the smooth surface changed. The Air Elemental delivering her prophecy. The raid on Furya. Riddick's birth. His mother clawing her way to him and giving the last of her life so he might live. "So tiny," were her last words even as she struggled with wrapping a small corded stone amulet around the baby's tiny wrist. His name in the Furyan alphabet.

When Vaako reached up to take Riddick's fingers from the surface the images changed once more. To Earth. A ghostly being of a man telling a crazed woman, a vampire gone mad from her turning--Danica, was the whispered name--about the King buried under the ruins of an ancient temple who would save them all from their inferior lives.

"Elemental," Vaako cursed. "They started all this. To what end?"

"They find the universe out of balance," Riddick answered, recalling something Aereon had said when she thought he was not paying attention. "But it's always circling the drain. That's what keeps it going. They want it perfect, but nothing is truly perfect unless it's alone or all the same."

"And not even then," Vaako added.

The images started moving again. Drake's awakening by the crazed nightwalker. The hunters building a bio weapon. Vaako put his palm lightly upon the surface and the image froze on one of the hunters. Male. Young, strong. Moving with grace even while downplaying his abilities and apparently making a joke even as he aimed the gun and fired. It was wrong. There was something not quite right. The images seemed to move backwards for a second until they came to the same ghostly Elemental pointing out the future hunter to the female vampire. The attack on the hunter, his unwanted changing and no siring. The hunters giving him their so called anti-serum.

"Who is he?"

"Another key, I believe." Vaako lifted his palm from the Threshold and turned to Riddick. "The King's balance. His mate. They have been planning this for centuries."

The air around the Threshold shimmered for a second and two beings began to form. Two women who were trying to save their sons and their people.

"Yes, my child," La Magra said.

"But they will not succeed," Shirah added.

Vaako looked at the two women, truly looked. He realized a sad truth at that very moment that he should have known all along. "He cannot walk through the Threshold with me, can he?"

"No child."

Riddick pulled Vaako back against him, arm tight around his waist.

Shirah stepped forward slightly, her hand just ghosting over Riddick's face. "I am sorry, my son."

Riddick growled. "I could destroy this thing before he goes through."

"Yes, but before the week was gone he would most likely be dead. The Elementals are massing. They are afraid of his grasp on you as he seems to be outside of their calculations. Without him they believe you will listen to them."

La Magra laughed at Shirah's answer. "They do not fully understand your son, do they?"

"They never will." Shirah looked at her son that she never got to raise. "You will see him again, my Richard."

Riddick shivered. It was the first time he'd ever heard his mother call his name.

Shirah smiled softly. "It will not be the last," she said, clearly seeing the emotion her son never wanted to show.

"The Universe resets," Vaako began. "Things will change."

"And yet," this time La Magra came forward. "Some things will not, child of my blood."

"What are you?" Vaako asked, wanting to know. Needing to know.

La Magra laughed again. "You are always so inquisitive. The scholar-warrior that my son saw much in." But she smiled and offered an answer. "Some say demon, others say alien. I came to Earth and fell in love. Human mortality took him away from me but gave me a son. I did not wish the same for him."

"But more than four thousand years to find his balance."

"It comes to each when the soul is ready."

Vaako growled at the answer and both women laughed.

"Time grows short," Shirah said. "The Elemental is almost here."

"You must choose," La Magra added.

"He'll go," Riddick answered. Vaako turned to look at him, ready to argue. "I trust you to find me again."

Vaako grabbed Riddick by the head and kissed him. It would be their last kiss for centuries or his final kiss if he never found Riddick again. Vaako poured everything he could into that moment.

Stepping back, Vaako reached his hand out towards the Threshold and brought up a time and place. He didn't even look back as he pushed through the Threshold and began to fall.

~~**~~**~~**~~

Backtracking to Correction

Vaako landed in an alley. Hard enough that his backside hurt. He was sprawled on his ass and how he hoped it was a puddle he landed in and not something else. If his timing and location were right he had a day to get prepared. He was thankful that he had opted to dress in black pants and a dark gray tunic. The clothing would draw no attention and it felt great to be out of the heavy Necro armor.

He already missed Riddick.

As he stood the air shimmered around him and he looked almost straight through La Magra's form. "He destroyed the Gateway," she said softly. "That timeline is about to end and this one has forked from here. I grow weaker and will not be able to help you much more."

"Is he still alive?"

"He will be. He is your future."

Vaako nodded. That would have to do for now. He had one other question and wasn't sure how to ask it but straightforward. He needed to know how this worked. "Are there two of me here now?"

"No, my child. You are you; and you will hold all your memories," she said and faded from sight.

To the empty alley he asked, "What about Riddick's memory?"

Vaako shoved those thoughts to the back of his mind. He needed to get going or this could very well be all for nothing. He needed a pawnshop and then a phone.

Twenty minutes later he had several hundred dollars in cash. It had been easy to trade the golden Necro blades and trinkets to the pawnshop broker. He glanced at the wickedly curved blades still in his possession. He would not part with the pair of ulaks until he could return them to their owner.

He found a payphone and made a phone call. The voice on the other end was a relief to hear. By the time he got to the hotel there would be a suite booked and paid for in his name with an open tab. Tomorrow his wallet and some of his personal effects would arrive.

~~~***~~~

Vaako woke to the sound of knocking. He was going to have to get used to that again. He opened the door to find a hotel employee standing there with a medium size rolling suitcase, a satchel and a backpack.

"Mr. Vaako, these arrived for you," the bellman said, rolling the suitcase into the sitting area of the suite. "As did this," he said handing Vaako a manila envelope.

Vaako took the sealed envelope. He thanked the bellman who hadn't even waited for a tip, which Vaako thought was good because he was still trying to remember what the twenty-first century was like.

Inside the envelope Vaako found his wallet, passport, a cellphone, and a hand written letter.

Theon,

You sounded troubled. You never sound troubled. You better call if you're in trouble.

Annora

It had been nearly thirty years since anyone had called him by his first name, and it was probably Annora at that. She was the only person he had ever felt the urge to sire. Drake had told him it was because he was looking for a family to call his own; someone who would be there throughout time. After the siring period, Annora--Ann now, just as his driver's license identified him as Theo--had become the family he had needed in the form of a sister rather than a child that most sirings took. And, she was obviously worried and he honestly couldn't blame her for that.

He read the note one more time, let out a laugh and flipped open the cell phone, calling his sister as he walked back into the bedroom with his luggage.

~~~***~~~

Vaako sat at the bar nursing a drink. Waiting. Watching. He counted a half dozen or so of the nightwalking vampires. There was no sign of this Danica, but the brown-haired, very human, future hunter had just walked into the club. He was tall, clean shaven, and a little leaner than in the images from the Gateway, but that might have more to do with the clothes he was wearing. Under the clothes there was still evidence of a muscular frame. He was smiling but it didn't reach his eyes.

The hunter looked like he was trying to forget. Not quite depressed, but not fully caring about the world at the moment either. The young man walked past and Vaako could smell gun oil, pain, and at the edges covered by grief, the scent he associated with people who were generally enjoying the thrill of life and its adventure.

Whatever had caused the grief and pain was overriding everything and the hunter had chosen to drown his sorrow in the wrong club. Still, the man was not too far gone as Vaako had been right to choose his seat near where he thought the hunter would--at the back corner of the bar giving them both a view of the place. He handed his driver's license and a credit card to the bartender who opened a tab before handing the two items back.

"What'll you have Hannibal?"

"Whatever's dark and on tap."

Hannibal. Now he had a name. Vaako watched as the other man sipped at the beer and observed the crowd. Hannibal was on his second beer, when a girl in a shirt that was too tight and skirt that was too short asked him to dance. Hannibal nodded, finished his drink, and followed the girl to the dance floor.

The man danced like he felt the music moving through him. Vaako got the impression that Hannibal was comfortable in himself as he danced with the girl for one song, in a crowd for another, then dancing with a man before dancing with another young woman. After half an hour Hannibal made his way back to the bar and began watching the other patrons.

A commotion at the front had him turning towards the door in time to see Danica and her bunch of nightwalking idiots and their human pets walk in as if they were royalty. Familiars, he growled to himself, something else the weak had corrupted. They all followed her like a string of puppies up the stairs to one of the private balconies that overlooked the dance floor.

Hannibal asked for cranberry juice with Sprite instead of vodka. So drowning the pain with alcohol hadn't been what the man had wanted after all. That was good to know. But there was something else. Something had changed in Hannibal as soon as he'd seen someone in Danica's crowd. Emotions had scents and the club had even more people in it now so it was a little overwhelming, but Hannibal was close enough. It wasn't as strong as Riddick's, but similar, Hannibal was hunting something. He just wasn't sure if Hannibal knew about vampires yet. Because if the man was at this club and was looking for something, Vaako had no doubt that one of the vampires was his target.

That's when Vaako saw him--the ghostly image that had spoken to Danica in the Gateway images. Not so much a ghost now but solid. The Elemental moved through the crowd as if it wasn't there. Dressed in shades of brown with ordinary features, the man wouldn't be someone most would recall. He moved up the staircase and paid no attention to anyone else in the bar.

Vaako got up from his seat and moved into the shadows he didn't know how much the Elemental knew about the future or would be able to recall during the next six hundred years, but it was probably for the best if Vaako wasn't seen at all.

Hannibal lifted his empty glass and the bartender brought him another just as the Elemental pointed out Hannibal to Danica. The female vampire leaned forward and grinned as she watched Hannibal down the drink and move back out to the dance floor. She and the Elemental talked for a moment, and for a second Vaako was reminded of that scene in Riddick's chambers of his Dame and the Air Elemental.

The brown-dressed Elemental made his way back down the stairs to sit at the opposite end of the bar. It gave the man an excellent vantage point of both Danica's balcony and where Hannibal was dancing.

Danica all but slithered down the stairs in a manner that was reminiscent of his ex-dame. Vaako guessed it was supposed to be sexy but he was still trying to figure out why Danica looked like she had dressed in the dark--animal heads on clothing were popular when he was a thousand years old. Plus, in this heat it looked even more out of place.

The crowd parted for her and she moved into Hannibal's space. The hunter actually paid her no mind for several seconds, which angered Danica into pushing the woman Hannibal was dancing with out of the way. Hannibal looked down at her and said something, and even from where Vaako stood he guessed it was something cheeky because Danica did not seem amused.

Hannibal said something else and then tried to move off. Danica was having none of that and grabbed Hannibal's wrist pulling on it. If Hannibal was surprised by how strong the grip was or by the pressure Danica was applying he didn't show it. She leaned in and said something and it had Hannibal looking up toward the balcony.

He followed the gaze and growled. Danica's big thug was holding tightly onto a young a girl and the panic was obvious in her eyes. Vaako wasn't surprised when Hannibal went quietly with Danica.

Vaako glanced over at the Elemental to see the man grinning. He spared the man another look before slipping out the side door. Vaako jogged towards the opposite building before planting his foot and using his strength to leap and twist onto the top of the garbage dumpster and then onto the fire escape of the club. He jogged up the stairs to the top and then ran across the roof to the other side in time to see Hannibal being dragged outside and being surrounded by vampires.

~~~***~~~

As soon as Hannibal was pushed into the alley he tried to keep his back to one of the walls and all of the woman's evil minions in front of him. His sixth sense had been tingling since the woman, Danica, had approached him on the dance floor. Something wasn't right, but he just didn't know what it was that had spooked him. At first he hadn't been sure if she was the one he was looking for--the one who could give him answers about Missy Little who was last seen at this club ten days ago. Now though he was betting she had answers.

And he was almost positive that Missy Little wasn't going home to her parents. This was the part of his job he hated.

When the first minion's eyes showed hunger and his teeth grew into fangs Hannibal had a moment to think have I been drugged? before realizing that what he was seeing was real. Vampires. Oh, there is so a joke in there about my life sucking in all this, he thought as he took a stance that would allow him to defend himself.

"You are going to make a delicious pet," Danica said, standing in the middle of her minions and looking him up and down like he was a piece of meat. "If you survive. Either way I'll call this a good night."

"He's the one that's been snooping about," a blond man added.

"I know," she grinned and her face held so much evil that Hannibal felt a small shiver race over his skin. "Hannibal King," she taunted. "All alone and trying to get answers to questions you don't even know to ask."

Hannibal didn't move or rise to the bait. He waited and dug his foot in. He had his gun, but how much damage could a bullet do against a vampire? He'd find out, but vampires were not what he was expecting when he took this case. A runaway on drugs maybe, but not vampires. Who the hell expects vampires?

He dodged the first vampire as it came at him and kicked the second in the mid-section. It grunted and stumbled back but not far enough, not like a human who probably would have been out of the fight or down on the ground. He'd exhaust himself with the first few attackers while the rest simply waited for him to get worn down.

The third attack pushed him into the wall and nearly took his breath away, and he knew his shoulder would be bruised. Hannibal pushed hard enough to get the man far enough back so that he was able to get his knee up, and then the man was moving back more--enough for Hannibal to get to his gun.

He brought the gun to bear and fired. The vampire rocked back and bared its fangs. So enough bullets will get them to back off, he thought. Too bad I only have the one clip.

Hannibal fired again, this time at Danica. The old adage about taking the head from the snake came to mind and he hoped it would work. Danica screamed and that's when the others rushed him. But at least I hurt the bitch, he thought.

He was pushed into the wall again, this time harder. "Dammit," he muttered, as he was then shoved to the ground. He struggled but a hit to the head and the way his attacker fell on him was hindering his movement and then he felt the fangs sink into his arm.

The pain only lasted a minute before there was dust raining down on him. Another man had joined the fight.

"Aim for the head."

Hannibal didn't need to be told twice.

~~~***~~~

Vaako was impressed with Hannibal's skills; the man hid them so people would underestimate him; and, if the crowd surrounding him had been human then Hannibal would have come out of the fight injured but alive. Vaako had seen the hunter fall under the mob in the Gateway's images. This time though, Hannibal wasn't alone.

When they rushed him, Vaako dropped to the ground behind the group. He rolled his shoulders and let everything that came with being an Old One come to the surface.

Vaako also knew he couldn't kill all of them as he needed the Elemental to resurface and the connection seemed to be with Danica. She had retreated to the back of the crowd, already bleeding and hurt from the wounds Hannibal had inflicted. Vaako simply walked up behind her, pulled her neck to the side and bit. Her blood was not tasty. It was however filling.

He released his hold and she sank to the ground in a heap that he simply stepped over. He moved through the remaining crowd quickly disabling the vampires. Hannibal had taken his comment about aiming for the head as a fact to live and two more of Danica's little horde were out for the count. The brother was Vaako's next target. Soon the man lay tossed aside and Vaako wouldn't need to feed for many days.

Vaako pulled the vampire that had bitten Hannibal off the other man before slicing the vampire through the neck with Riddick's ulaks. The vampire turned to ash and dust.

Hannibal stared up at him for a second. Several things passed over the hunter's face: pain, relief, and frustration.

"Dammit! I can't question dust!"

"Question?" And that's when Vaako got it. Hannibal was some type of cop or detective. "You wouldn't have been able to do that if you were dead either," he reminded the injured hunter.

"True," Hannibal said and Vaako found himself staring down the barrel of the hunter's gun.

"Your eyes are black."

"Just come with me and I'll tell you what you want to know," Vaako said, offering his hand to Hannibal. "But we must leave before they realize this has failed and you are not dead or turned."

"Why should I trust you?" Hannibal asked.

Vaako smirked. Hannibal hadn't immediately taken the offered hand but he kept it outstretched, waiting. "Because I just saved you and I have some of the answers you seek. Because I'm not like them," he answered.

Hannibal tilted his head to the side and Vaako got the impression that Hannibal was looking for something--as if looking into his very being. He must have come to a positive decision as Hannibal reached up and took his hand allowing Vaako to pull him to his feet.

"Who are you?"

"Vaako."

~~~***~~~

Hannibal glanced around the hotel suite, inspecting it for weapons and exits. The taxi ride to the hotel had been done in silence as neither man wanted the driver to overhear them.

"Are you going to, what's the phrase, turn me?" he asked, curiously. He could already tell this man, vampire, was different to the others. It was more than just his sixth sense talking--not that it had ever led him wrong.

"That's not for me to do."

"Even if I want it?" Hannibal egged on.

"No."

"Then who?"

"My sire."

"You're hiding something," Hannibal stated, moving to stand in front of the large window that overlooked the city.

"Yes."

Hannibal didn't turn around, but he was surprised. "Huh. Wasn't actually expecting you to be honest about that."

"I told you I would tell you what I could," Vaako reminded him. "But it's not for me to tell you why it must be Drake. That you must discover on your own."

The sky was beginning to turn pink with the sunrise. "Do you know if Missy Little is still alive?" Hannibal asked, needing to know the answer. "Her parents hired me to find her because the police couldn't."

Vaako moved to stand at the other end of the window. "I do not, but if Danica or one of her people took interest in her..."

"She was either dinner or is now a vampire."

"Yes."

He had to ask. "Can she go home if she is?"

Vaako bowed his head, but Hannibal could see the other man's reflection in the glass. He could see Vaako's eyes were closed. "The human hunters have a cure for the weakened strain that you now know as vampire. If she is still alive and not mad from her method of turning...and if she wants it, the cure might work."

Hannibal took in everything. The fact that Vaako stood in the window while the sky indicated the sun would be up in mere minutes. There were two types of vampires, and if he understood it right, not all the vampire hunters were human. More importantly, that Vaako did not believe they would find Missy alive and sane.

"What are you?"

Vaako sighed. "Old, tired, out of time."

Hannibal snorted. "You do realize that made no sense." He turned so his back rested against the window. "And I'm great at giving answers that make no sense to keep people focused elsewhere."

He saw Vaako glance his way, a smile playing at the man's lips. It softened the features and made the other man look less tense, less intense.

"They want to use you as a pawn."

"Aren't we all?"

Now Vaako turned to face him. "Isn't that a little fatalistic for someone so young?"

Hannibal laughed and pushed off from the window, where the sun was now shining brightly, to sit on the sofa. He propped his feet up on the table. "I deal with shitty stuff everyday and I imagine a lot seems young to you."

Vaako shrugged. "You need to eat. Room service and then I'll call for the concierge doctor to see to your wounds."

"That's not...never mind," he said listening to Vaako on the phone. He was hungry and his shoulder was killing him. The bite wasn't bleeding, but could it get infected?

After he'd eaten, showered and had the doctor check him over, Vaako offered the use of the bedroom, although it was more of an order really.

"After you have rested we will get you somewhere safe," Vaako told him.

"Oh no," Hannibal came back with. "I'm going with you."

Vaako turned to look back at him, as if weighing his options and looking for something in Hannibal like the other man had in him earlier. "It will be dangerous and you will most likely not approve of all that will happen."

Hannibal stood there in the borrowed robe. "You are going to your sire? He has my answers, doesn't he?" He didn't wait for Vaako to acknowledge the question, just barreled on. "I'm going with you."

~~~***~~~

Vaako hated this desert. He hated the fact that Drake had felt the need to sleep through several more centuries when he'd only been awake for a handful of years during the middle of the seventeenth century. Even worse, Vaako hated the fact that Drake would have missed finding his balance if all this hadn't happened. Vaako truly hoped that Hannibal was as strong as he thought because the younger man was going to need that strength.

He'd found his sacrifice in three individuals who were going to rob and murder a group of tourists and their families. They were trussed up like turkeys in the back of the helicopter he was flying.

Hannibal had not batted an eye when Vaako told him their fate. He guessed that he took the same view on the murder of innocent children. Vaako felt something shudder through his soul--he had killed so many while a Necromonger just so he could get back to his time. Just so he could find Riddick. Vaako wasn't sure he'd ever forgive himself even if this all worked and those people never died. He would still remember what he had done.

Vaako landed the helicopter several meters from the base of the ziggurat--the raised stone structure had been grand in its day with its geometric shape and long ramps and stairs, like the stone pyramids of Egypt. The ramp had long since crumbled from rain, wind, and time. The stairs didn't look much better as they began climbing them, pushing their three still drugged and trussed up captives in front of them.

Once on the stairs he turned to look out at the desert. He shielded his eyes with his hand; being an Old One might mean he could walk out in the daylight, it didn't mean that it stopped the sun from being bright. He quickly turned and finished walking up the stairs. The barren wasteland reminded him too much of Crematoria and what he had lost.

As soon as they stepped out of the dry desert heat and the light of the sun and into the ziggurat's open chamber Vaako tossed Hannibal a small LED camping lantern. Hannibal would need it shortly. "There are traps within. Stay when I say stay," he warned, before going to one of the stones that made up the wall and pressing it in. He repeated the action with two more and part of the floor slid away to reveal a pit with a spiral-like staircase.

Hannibal looked down into hole. "And the ghost? She going to stay put?"

Vaako's head whipped around to look down to the first landing where Hannibal was looking. La Magra stood there looking almost see-through as if her time was almost up.

"Stay," he ordered, taking a step towards the stairs before turning to make sure Hannibal had listened. The younger man nodded but continued to look down at the ghost.

~~~***~~~

Hannibal was not moving. Vampires he could take. Vampires that could walk in the sun and were several thousand years old and he now considered one of them a friend, no problem. The fact that he had a sixth sense that usually kept him safe, absolutely. Ghosts were a whole other matter that he wasn't really prepared to deal with at the moment. His head was already full and this place...it was like he had been here before, but he knew he hadn't. Damn sixth sense, he thought.

One of the would be murderers started to balk and move back towards the door. Hannibal pulled on the rope. "I'm not above pushing you down the deep dark hole just to see what'll happen."

He knew what was going to happen to the three men; they were going to be this Drake's breakfast after a long sleep. While he would normally have disapproved of outright murder he was having a hard time not seeing the little girl with a knife at her throat. Then there was the thing that if Drake rose he'd handle all the other vampires and there would be less Missy Little’s in the world. He'd told Missy's parents that their daughter had been stabbed in a mugging gone wrong and had bled out before help could arrive, when in reality she'd been drained of her life as some vampire's meal. She'd been listed as a Jane Doe in the morgue two cities away.

He watched Vaako closely. Whatever the ghost lady was telling Vaako had his new vampire friend going pale and until now, Hannibal hadn't been sure that was even possible.

Vaako glanced up at him for a moment before turning back to the ghost and their conversation. Another minute or so passed and during that time he'd seen Vaako lift one of his clenched fists to his chest. He wasn't able to tell if it was grief, relief, or some combination as the other man didn't turn back before walking down to the next level of the staircase.

Hannibal stared at the ghost who stayed where she was as if waiting for something.

"Hannibal."

Hannibal jerked back when Vaako called up to him. The other man's voice sounded rough, like he was fighting his emotions. He took a step closer to the edge and looked down.

"Yeah."

"Bring them down to the second platform and wait."

"Sure thing," he called down.

He turned to the three men. Two were still mostly out of it and the third he'd already threatened. "Let's go," he said, cheerfully. At least it sounded cheerful to his ears.

Half way down the stairs Hannibal realized the three men couldn't see the ghost. It was confirmed when they all walked through her and then stumbled down the remaining segment of stairs as if in a great deal of pain.

Hannibal stepped around her.

"I would not have hurt you," she said softly as he passed by.

He looked at her not sure what to think and said the first thing that popped into his head--something that often got him into trouble but this time just seemed right. "It seemed impolite."

She smiled and bowed her head slightly as if approving of the answer. "He's been waiting for you for so long."

"You're not talking about Vaako, are you?"

She only smiled again before fading from sight. Hannibal shook his head slightly to clear it. "Should have stayed with the whole ignoring the ghost thing," he muttered to himself.

On the second landing Hannibal turned on the lantern. It gave enough light that he could see there were at least another two levels to the pit. Just at the end of the light's reach there was an old wooden ladder protruding up from a lower level. If this place was only half as old as he thought and hadn't been occupied for at least three hundred years, that ladder wouldn't be worth touching.

The men still seemed shaken from whatever the lady ghost had done to them and seemed frozen on the landing. He pushed them further down so he was actually standing several steps past the landing. It gave him a deeper look into the pit where he could see a second wooden ladder.

It also let him look up at the underside of the stairs they had come down. The landings had sand on them, the stairs didn't. He felt a rumble and looked down, another set of stairs was extending from the wall. He'd bet good money the ladders were part of a trap.

"Come down to the landing where I left the pack," Vaako's voice called up. "And stay. Don't leave the stairs."

"Got it."

~~~***~~~

Vaako could feel himself shaking as he left La Magra. He quickly continued down the stairs, setting the releases before calling back up to Hannibal. He left the backpack on the last landing before the pit opened into a large cavern. He skirted the outer ring and set the release that raised a partial sidewalk that extended over the sand like a dock.

"Send down one of them," he ordered and wasn't surprised when the man fell from the platform above to land at his feet.

The "oops" from Hannibal he ignored. The cracking sound of bone and the moan of pain from the captive meant Vaako didn't have to worry about the man trying to run, which was good because at the moment he didn't think he cared.

He stumbled and dropped to his knees in the center of the chamber. Head bowed and hands curled in the sand, he could no longer control the shaking or the tears that ran down his face. Vaako wept; the blood tears dropped into the sand, sinking through the fine grains.

Vaako couldn't stop the tears even as a hand reached up through the sand. The tears landing in the upstretched palm. He kissed the center of the palm before wrapping his fingers around the outstretched hand and pulling.

Drake pulled free of the sand and Vaako let himself be pulled forward. He didn't even feel the bite as Drake's unhuman form sank its teeth into his neck. His sire only swallowed a few pulls before lunging forward and taking down the first sacrifice.

"Ha- -Hannibal, another."

Drake had just finished with the first man, leaving a dried husk, when the next tumbled down the stairs to land at his sire's feet. Drake angled his head as if listening before quickly pulling the second man to him. This one Drake took slower. It gave Vaako a chance to climb to his feet.

Drake dropped the second sacrifice. "What has happened, Theon, that would cause my friend to cry tears over my place of slumber?"

Vaako said nothing, just held out his wrist, vein side up. Drake would be able to retrieve some of the memories through blood. The rest they would have to discuss once they were out of this desert.

Drake took his wrist and bit. This time it hurt when Drake's teeth pierced his skin and he dropped to his knees. He didn't know how long Drake drank. Time had slowed down as the pain of the bite and the last twenty-seven years rushed through him together. He didn't know he'd made a wail of pain, not until Hannibal's voice brought him back to the present.

"Stop! You're killing him."

Hannibal stood there with the last of the sacrifices, gun drawn and pointed at Drake's head.

Drake let Vaako's wrist go as he turned towards Hannibal and the other sacrifice. His sire might not recognize the power in the gun, but he did recognize the stance of a warrior with a weapon.

It gave Vaako the time he needed to slowly climb to his feet. He was exhausted--more so mentally than physically but he was beginning to feel the effects nonetheless. "I told you to..."

"Stay on the stairs. I've still got two more before I'm not on the stairs anymore," Hannibal said, not taking his sights or aim off of Drake. "I thought you said he was your sire. Killing you is not the way to say hello."

"Hannibal..." Vaako started.

Hannibal frowned at him. "You my friend, do not have a death wish no matter how much pain you are in, so stop acting like you do. If he's going to drink you like a juice box then," and at that Hannibal pushed the other sacrifice to the sand below. "Why the hell have I been holding onto this guy?"

For some reason beyond Vaako's understanding, he'd almost immediately considered the young hunter a friend. It was more evident now that the friendship was returned because he didn't have a doubt in his mind that Hannibal would shoot Drake.

"You're going to need the juice box more than he is," Hannibal finished saying, taking one more step closer to the bottom.

Vaako smiled slightly at the nickname even as the growl on his lips turned into a sigh as Drake laughed.

~~~***~~~

Drake turned to look at the young man standing on the stairs. He had some type of weapon pointed at him--it looked similar to a weapon he had seen only once during his brief time awake in the seventeenth century. He was unsure from the memories he'd received from Vaako if the weapon would kill him, but in his current weakened state he knew it would hurt. He also knew this Hannibal was more worried about Vaako than his own safety.

He was positive Vaako had no physical relationship--blood or sex--with the young man. He had seen none of that in the few memories he'd gotten from Vaako. Mostly he had seen a man with blades in his hands and silver eyes. That man meant a lot to Vaako but also seemed to bring feelings of grief and longing. Drake knew if he asked, when he asked, that Vaako would tell him of this man. What bothered Drake more was the young man, this Hannibal, who was standing across from him. There was something about him that had his senses humming. He looked closer at the young man and felt he was clearly missing something. He breathed in deeply and the young man's scent was one he associated with a hunter even as the same scent seemed to calm the monster within him--the one that had stopped caring about humanity a long time ago. He took another deep breath, allowing him to calm and waken fully. Drake watched this hunter and Theon for a moment longer as the two continued to argue before he could not stop himself from quietly laughing.

"Hannibal," Vaako was saying. "Put the gun down."

"No," came the immediate response. "Not until you can walk without looking like you're going to fall flat on your face."

Drake looked over at his scholar turned warrior and noted that the man did not appear to be well. He knew he had not taken enough to cause this. Theon was amongst the oldest of the ones he'd given the gift his mother had left him; and one of the few he truly called friend. Something was truly wrong. He went through the memories one more time--had Vaako found and lost his balance, is that who the silver-eyed man was?

He stepped closer to Vaako, Hannibal's gun tracking him with each step. He offered his wrist to Vaako.

"Drink," he said.

"No," Vaako argued, holding up his hand to wave off the suggestion before taking a step away. Drake had forgotten how stubborn Vaako could be but the other man was quickly reminding him of that fact now.

"You have just woken," Vaako continued, taking another small step away. "You need your strength."

"As do you. Drink," Drake ordered, stepping right to Vaako's side, wrist vein side up and level with Vaako's mouth. "Your friend is correct and you will need only a few swallows. It will matter not to me. Drink."

He didn't flinch or move as Vaako bit into his wrist. Drake's focus was solely on Hannibal. The man's scent tickled his senses again as if trying to tell him something important. He played through some of the memories Vaako had given him but his answer was not there; at least not in a way he could understand. He did know one thing: Hannibal wasn't afraid of him--even in his beastly looking form.

"You're not afraid," he voiced to Hannibal even as Vaako released his wrist.

"No. The ghost woman bothered me more," Hannibal said and then ignored him in favor of checking on the one person they both saw as a friend. "Vaako?"

Vaako stepped away and straightened. Drake thought the other man looked better, stronger, but still worried about something. As for a ghost, he wasn't sure what was meant by that. Ghosts did not linger in the ziggurat.

"I'm better," Vaako said to Hannibal. "You can put the gun away."

The last of the humans Vaako had brought as food started to make a lunge for the stairs. Hannibal swung the weapon around. "You are dead either way," he said calmly, gun pointed at the man's head.

Drake had already moved and was now standing behind the last--what was it Hannibal had called them?--juice boxes. He would have to ask what exactly that meant but as it had made Vaako grin he was almost positive it was an apt description. He grabbed the man from behind, pulled his neck to the side and bit.

He saw Hannibal lower his weapon and step away with a shrug while Vaako climbed the stairs only to return with a small bag. "New clothes," Vaako said, opening the bag. "We have a place in the city once you are ready to depart."

Drake changed to his human form and almost missed the appraising look Hannibal gave him as he dressed. Part of him felt his blood rush. He'd had humans look at him before but the thought of Hannibal--this human hunter he'd only just met looking at him with interest made him feel more alive than he had in thousands of years.

~~~***~~~

Vaako climbed into the pilot's side of the helicopter while Hannibal helped Drake climb in on the other. He wasn't surprised when Hannibal opted to sit in the back. His young friend seemed to still be figuring out which column to put Drake in--friend, enemy or something else altogether. He'd told Hannibal he was doing better, that it had simply been a way to share some of his memories with his sire.

He glanced into the backseat and got a thumbs up from Hannibal. Vaako nodded in response before turning to help Drake with the headset. The flight back into the city would take two hours and most of it would be over empty desert. As soon as the helicopter was up in the air Vaako started explaining flight and the last several hundred years of history to his sire.

Hannibal remained quiet during the flight until the city came into view. "That was the quickest history lesson I've ever had," he said.

Vaako noticed his sire shiver ever so slightly when Hannibal spoke. He hid his smile; maybe this would work. Then his sire spoke again.

"Theon was a teacher," Drake said. "But you have not told me everything."

"I have not," Vaako replied, bringing the helicopter down on the roof of the hotel. "I," he began, but changed his mind. Maybe withholding certain things was not the way to move forward. "I will explain inside."

He turned to look at Hannibal and wondered how much he should tell the other man, but as if sensing something Hannibal took the choice from him and Vaako sighed but was grateful.

"Uh, uh. I'm staying. Between all those blood packets we put in the fridge and room service there's food for all of us. I'm not leaving you alone."

"Thank you."

"What are friends for," Hannibal tossed out as he led the way down the stairs and through the hallway before swiping his key to let them into the hotel's grand suite.

Vaako felt his heart beat quicken for a second. He'd missed that while he'd been a Necromonger--friendship and people he could trust. It was something Riddick had given back to him for a short time, but that relationship was currently lost to him. He took Drake through the suite before showing him how to operate the shower and bath.

"Bathe, my old friend," he told Drake. "It will give you time to settle and I will bring you something to drink. Then I will finish the tale."

When he walked back out to the main living area he found Hannibal sitting on one of the bar stools near the small kitchen. If the conversation was anything to go by Hannibal was calling in an order to room service. The young man had apparently been busy in the fifteen minutes Vaako had been with Drake. There was an almost empty bottle of water, a candy bar wrapper and an open bottle of an expensive beer sitting on the counter in front of him. The tea kettle was also bubbling water and there was a large bowl with three packets of blood.

Hannibal had paid attention to how he'd warmed the packets. The two straws sitting next to the packets caused him to laugh. Hannibal just shrugged and grinned back at him. Vaako placed two of the packets into the bowl and began pouring the water over them.

"Oh, that third one is for you," Hannibal told him when he got ready to return it to the refrigerator. "Is he going to like this bag stuff?" Hannibal continued. "It's not fresh so to speak and I guess more of a juice box than the guys from earlier."

Vaako poured out the cooling water, kneaded the packets slightly and added more water. The packets were almost ready. "It will be different. Not unlike a tv dinner compared to a fresh cooked one."

"So tasty but not delicious?"

Vaako smiled before answering. "Yes. An apt description."

He saw Hannibal roll the bottle of beer between his hands. It was the only sign that Hannibal was slightly agitated. Vaako didn't have long to wait before Hannibal spoke again.

"What if I give him my blood? Would that speed up his recovery?"

Vaako froze. That was not what he had expected. "I would not ask that of you," he said.

Hannibal gave him a look that wasn't exactly a frown or smirk. "I know," Hannibal said. "Which is why I'm offering and I know it could be dangerous."

"For more reasons than one," Vaako answered softly while letting one of his fingernail's grow to a point--another gift of being an Old One and one Hannibal had seen before. He used the nail to make a small puncture in the blood packet and then slipped the straw into the hole. Surprisingly enough, it worked better than Vaako would have thought.

"You'll need to explain that comment to me. Or does this have to do with that ghost? The one that told me that Drake had been waiting for me for a long time?"

"She spoke to you?" Vaako didn't wait for an answer. "Of course she did. Did she tell you who she was?"

"No, but I can guess," Hannibal answered, putting the bottle down on the counter top.

Vaako didn't doubt that Hannibal could. The young man was intuitive and quick on his feet, but the answer, for now, remained the same. "You cannot," Vaako said. "Not yet. There is more you need to know before you go down that road."

"Like what?" Hannibal asked.

"You are my balance."

"Shit." And Vaako wasn't sure if he or Hannibal had said that out loud as they both turned to see Drake standing not more than fifteen feet from them.

~~~***~~~

Drake had soaked in the tub for a few minutes before scrubbing the sand away from his skin. It felt good to be clean. He drained away part of the water and refilled the tub before repeating the process, letting his mind wander through more of the memories Vaako had shared with him. The silver-eyed man that dominated the memories made Vaako both happy and sad. Then there were the ships. At first Drake had thought they were sailing ships and he guessed they were even if they sailed through the stars and not an ocean.

He closed his eyes and let his hearing drift out to where Vaako and Hannibal were discussing food. Thoughts of Hannibal made his teeth and body ache in a way Drake had never experienced. It was not about food or using the man's body and tossing him aside. Instead he felt this incredible need to protect Hannibal. The need to touch him, make him smile, feel pleasure.

Drake bolted up in the tub. Water splashed over the edge as he stood. His body changing form until he calmed himself again. The man was his balance, his mate. He listened as Hannibal mentioned his ghost again. Something Vaako had seen but not shared in the memories.

He took a towel and quickly dried himself off, tossing the towel to the floor and walking towards the room where Vaako and Hannibal talked.

"You are my balance," he said coming into the room having not bothered with dressing. At his entrance and comment, both men startled and turned to look at him.

"Shit," both Vaako and Hannibal said together.

Drake saw Hannibal give his body another glance before turning to Vaako. "What does that mean?"

That one look from Hannibal had his heart beating a little faster and he stepped closer. Only to have Vaako hold out his hand, palm up, to stop him.

"I'll...we'll explain in a minute," Vaako said. "You need to get the door anyway. And eat. Then we'll all sit down and talk."

The black look Vaako gave him had Drake stepping back slightly before he could catch himself. Vaako grabbed the two packets filled with a red liquid. Blood, he realized. Both he and Vaako had just stepped into the bedroom when there was a knock on the door.

"It's the food Hannibal ordered for himself," Vaako answered his unasked question.

Drake watched as Vaako punctured one of the bags with his nail and stabbed a small round object through the hole.

"It's a straw," Vaako explained. "In this day and age, some drinks can come in pouches or boxes that store for a while and you drink through a straw. A juice box. Hannibal's little joke, but the same concept works for this."

Vaako explained about blood banks and human medical leaps as he drank the blood from the first packet. It wasn't fresh, but it would stop the immediate hunger.

"You shouldn't have told Hannibal like that," Vaako admonished him, exchanging the empty packet for a full one.

Drake growled. Vaako was overstepping his place. "He is my balance."

"Yes." Vaako agreed, taking the second pouch once it was empty. "And he is my friend, but he knows nothing about you except you are also my friend and my sire and have been sleeping under the sand for nearly four hundred years. He knows nothing of mates and balance."

Drake paced. "He is perplexing," he continued. "He was not afraid of my other form. He seemed more intrigued by it."

Vaako softly laughed. "You will find, as I have, that Hannibal has a sense about people. He is led by his intuition. It has led him here. Now it is up to you to keep him here."

Drake growled again, but this time it was in frustration.

"I believe most will be answered once I have told you my tale."

"Then let's begin."

~~~***~~~

Hannibal let the hotel employee unload the rolling cart of its multiple plates. There were three complete meals. He figured it was best to keep up appearances and besides he was hungry. He lifted all the lids on the various dishes and then sorted them by how he planned to eat them before putting just over half in the refrigerator.

He ate the chocolate cake first. The broccoli and salad was next. He was finishing the steak and baked potato when Vaako and Drake finally re-entered the room.

Vaako looked over the plates before running his finger through a bit of chocolate that had been left on the plate and bringing it to his lips to taste. Hannibal put his fork down on the plate. "Can you eat regular food?" he asked. He'd never thought to ask that before.

"Old Ones can eat small meals of food, but it's more for enjoyment and not really necessary. I still enjoy tea and chocolate."

"There's more cake," Hannibal pointed to the fridge. "If you want."

"Maybe later." Vaako offered him a small smile before continuing. "I believe you have waited long enough and I'm ready to tell my story. Then Drake will answer your questions from earlier."

"Oh," Hannibal said, standing up and stacking his dishes before turning to face the other two men in the room. He looked Drake directly in the eyes and said, "I've already figured that out on my own. Balance. The other half of your soul. Your soulmate."

Hannibal walked around the two silent men and plopped down in the big comfy chair opposite the couch. "How about we skip the ancient history stuff for now and you start with what's important."

"How do you know the ancient history part isn't important?" Drake asked, taking the end of the couch that put him closest to Hannibal.

Hannibal would have rolled his eyes but instead just answered the question. "Because you slept through the last four hundred years and Vaako did not. And I would have been dead when you woke next if Vaako hadn't woken you today."

He wasn't sure if the growl that came from Drake was supposed to scare him or not, but it didn't. It did tease his senses but he didn't find it intimidating. He came forward in his chair. "Live with my attitude and smart mouth, old man. I'm not changing."

Hannibal wasn't sure what possessed him but he stood quickly and leaned over to Drake, kissing the other man. When he pulled away and retook his seat he added, "Not even for you."

At Vaako's laugh Hannibal grinned. "You were saying?"

~~~***~~~

Vaako wasn't sure where to start so he started at the beginning with falling from his balcony and meeting the Necromongers. He skipped over La Magra being there and instead talked about the Necromonger origins and their faith. The future of humans and vampires alike. Elementals and Riddick. He didn't look at Hannibal or Drake, his focus stayed on his hands that dangled between his legs. He talked without any interruptions for nearly an hour.

The Old Ones, already outnumbered, would be hunted down, killed or imprisoned for the knowledge contained in their blood and to prevent them trying to stop the heinous experiments. The experiments would finally succeed when a man named Covu who was both infected by the blood from an Old One and was then led by an Elemental to partially step into the Gateway at the Threshold.

The first time Vaako paused Hannibal spoke.

"Those weird blades you have? Those were his, Riddick's, weren't they?"

He took a deep breath before answering Hannibal's question. "Yes." He still didn't look up.

"And the ghost?" Hannibal continued on, "She was there too?"

Hannibal was damn insightful Vaako thought. "Yes," he said again. "She's appeared to me a handful of times."

"Is she always so cryptic?"

Vaako looked up at that question. "Earlier you said she spoke to you. Did she say anything else besides what you mentioned?"

He saw Hannibal shrug and took that as a yes. Now he was curious to know what else had been said.

Drake finally broke his silence and asked, "Who is this ghost woman you have both seen?"

Vaako gently bit his bottom lip. This is the first time he could recall being nervous in quite a while. He had been hoping not to be asked that; especially not by Drake. He had hoped maybe to skip over it altogether. "There have been two," he said, trying to avoid answering fully. "The first, her name was...I guess will be in her case, Shirah. Family name Riddick." He said that last part softly.

He saw the instant when all the puzzle pieces fell into place for Hannibal and knew there would be no avoiding the conversation now.

"His mother?" Hannibal said out loud. "Huh, does that make her his mother?"

It took both Vaako and Drake a moment to realize Hannibal was looking just to the left of them. To where a mostly vapor La Magra stood.

"It does," she said so softly Vaako wondered if Hannibal would even be able to hear her.

Drake stood and moved in the blink of an eye to stand in front of the ghost. "Mother?" Drake's voice broke in the middle of the word even as he moved his hand to touch the ghost.

"Yes, my beautiful boy," she said and her form changed for a second. Looking like Drake did when he first woke. La Magra stepped through her son and paused for a mere moment before continuing. When she finished her step she once again looked human.

Drake fell to his knees, his hands landing to rest on the floor. His body seemed racked with tears even though he made no sound. La Magra stepped in front of Hannibal even as the young human tried to move towards Drake. Hannibal pulled up short, and Vaako couldn't blame him, he wouldn't have wanted to walk through the ghost either.

La Magra lifted her hand and just caressed the side of Hannibal's face, offering the young man a smile that he returned before she stepped out of his way and glided to stand in front of Vaako.

"You have done well, my child," she said, "but there is more to come." And with that she walked through Vaako and disappeared.

Vaako stumbled, eyes closed before catching himself on the arm of the couch. He knew instantly that La Magra would not be back. She had given the last of her strength to share all that she knew with him.

When he opened his eyes he saw Hannibal holding Drake's shivering form.

~~~***~~~

Drake had listened to Vaako's story. He knew his friend was not lying, but how could it be true? Had it been because he had chosen to sleep when he could no longer tolerate being alone without a mate? Yet Vaako had been willing to go on without his and would now have to wait more than six hundred years to see his again.

He flicked his eyes towards the young human--his balance who would have been taken by another. Then put on different sides of a war that could have killed him. The human's would-be cure would have stopped him from having Hannibal as a mate. Drake would have rather died than continue on again, alone.

His eyes once again focused on Hannibal. His senses taking in the man. He would not lose him.

Drake had continued to listen to Vaako's story and then the conversation about the ghosts right up until he noticed Hannibal was looking past him. He turned his head to find his mother standing there. She was the other ghost. He stood and moved. His mother.

The next thing he knew he was on the floor in Hannibal's arms and he was shaking. He didn't know if it was from sadness or rage, but the arms wrapped around him were calming.

"I will see them all destroyed," he finally said as he relaxed into Hannibal's embrace. Hannibal tried to pull back but Drake stopped him by shifting slightly and wrapping his own arm around Hannibal.

Vaako was sitting on the edge of the couch closest to them. When his old friend opened his eyes they were solid white before slowly fading back to hazel.

Hannibal reached a hand up to touch Vaako. "I prefer the black eyes, can you keep the white to a minimum."

Drake saw Vaako give Hannibal a weak smile and knew that was what Hannibal had been after.

"She gave me what she and Shirah knew," Vaako said.

Drake nodded. "My mother always liked you," he said. "She called you the Scholar and never by your name."

Vaako sighed. "We seek to find our mates, that person that will balance out our life and souls. The Elementals find the universe out of balance. I'm not sure there is a difference between them and us."

"I don't think that's true," Hannibal began. He felt Hannibal loosen his hold on him and Drake fought off the instant feeling of jealousy because he understood that Hannibal valued his friends and right now his friend was hurting.

Hannibal straightened up on his knees and looked Vaako in the eyes. "I think they seek to make it a flat line," he said. "To make it like they want. They see themselves as a balance of nature and the universe at large. But that flat line is death. They must have realized that at some point since they sent that Lord Marshal guy to kill all the Furyans. Riddick was their correction to try the whole thing again. They don't get it. The Universe, Life, it's always in motion. It is in balance because of that. It was before they started this crazy plan and will be when we are long gone."

"You are going nowhere," Drake rumbled. Vaako had been right about Hannibal, his mate was insightful with a strong intuition. He would make a wonderful and fair hunter when trained.

Hannibal shrugged. "Right. Fine, but you understand. They're not trying for balance so much as they are trying to stop it from spinning. It is what brings people together. And everyone, vampires included, are looking for that person who will make them happy for all eternity. Vampires just have more time and more need."

Vaako laughed. "It's all circling the drain."

Drake didn't know what that meant exactly but Hannibal laughed and said, "Sure. That's apropos, I guess. He said that, your Riddick, didn't he?"

"Yes."

Drake stood and leaned over Vaako. "We will make sure you get back to him," he said. "We will halt their plans for the vampires and destroy them if they insist on trying. My people, even the weak ones, will not be used by others in such a fashion."

He took Vaako's face in both his hands. "This time you will not be alone, my old friend. I owe you too much to allow that to ever happen."

Vaako looked up and met his eyes before nodding his head. Drake let go of Vaako before moving to once again sit on the couch. Hannibal moved to sit on the low table in front of him and Drake couldn't help the feeling of anticipation at having his mate so close.

"My mother showed it all to me. We cannot tell the others," he warned. It was something that would forever have to be kept a secret--even from other Old Ones.

~~~***~~~

Hannibal glanced between the two men sitting on the couch. Vaako was his friend and looked like he was drowning. Drake was the vampire king and apparently his soulmate--that sort of explained all the weird feelings he had for a man he'd just met. Just thinking that made his blood feel like it was boiling. He was at a loss as to what to do at that moment. Who to help?

Vaako took that decision from him when the other man stood from the couch and moved to the small kitchen before changing his mind and heading to the door instead.

"Vaako!" Hannibal called, standing.

"Do not worry Hannibal," Vaako said, a small grin playing at the corner of his lips. The grin was not the type that was actually all that reassuring. It was more of a smirk that implied something along the lines of: I know what's about to happen but don't want to ruin the surprise.

The grin was only on Vaako's face for a few brief seconds before it was gone. "I think you two should be alone," Vaako continued. "I'm going down to the restaurant. I'll be back in a few hours."

Hannibal walked to the door. "Vaako?" he asked, resting his hand on Vaako's shoulder. He didn't want his friend to be alone right now unless Vaako needed the time to process what Drake's mother had just done.

"You will be fine."

"I'm not talking about me," Hannibal insisted, lightly squeezing Vaako's shoulder. "Are you...?"

He wasn't able to finish his question as Vaako repeated, "I will be fine. As will you."

"Vaako," he hissed only to have Drake laugh. When he turned to glare at Drake Vaako slipped out the door. "Unfair," he muttered and just that fast Drake was standing in front of him and Vaako's escape was all but forgotten for the moment.

"Are you afraid to be alone with me?" Drake asked him.

He wasn't, not exactly. It was more a mixed feeling of apprehension and anticipation. He didn't say anything right away, instead he lifted his hand so his fingers could stroke Drake's face.

"I don't know who you are. What you are," he finally said, his hands now at the back of Drake's head. "But at this moment I don't think I really care."

And that's what scared Hannibal. He pushed the thought out of his head now that he'd verbalized it and brought Drake's mouth to his for a kiss. The kiss seared through his body as Drake moved in closer and intensified the pressure. Tongues battled until Hannibal felt Drake's fangs lengthen. He ran his tongue over the fangs and Drake moaned.

Hannibal quickly found himself lifted from the ground. He found purchase by wrapping his legs around Drake's waist even as Drake began kissing and licking his way down to his neck. He felt the scrap of Drake's fangs but no bite. Part of him was relieved while the rest of him wanted to feel Drake's fangs slipping into him.

"I want you stretched out below me," Drake said into his ear.

"Yeah, okay," Hannibal panted as Drake kissed at the other side of his neck. "We can do that."

Before Hannibal could even contemplate unwrapping his legs from Drake's waist he was on the bed and Drake was leaning over him. "Can Vaako move like that?"

It was probably inappropriate to ask about another man right before sex but sometimes he couldn't stop his brain from thinking and his mouth from talking. He laughed when Drake growled. "I really only know two vampires, you and him, and you're both several thousand years old..." Hannibal's comment was cut off as Drake settled his body between his legs causing Hannibal to wiggle slightly and then moan. "Yeah...okay, we'll discuss this later," he finally got out between gasps.

"You have on too many clothes," Drake said and Hannibal just watched as one of Drake's fingernails sharpened into a point.

"Hey," Hannibal started to protest as that sharp nail easily cut through the material of his shirt. Drake kissed his way down his chest.

"Yeah, okay, but no doing that on the jeans." He got out just as Drake popped the button on his jeans and slipped his hand inside.

Hannibal's last coherent thought for several hours was thank god I didn't have shoes on.

He woke as the sun was beginning to rise. They hadn't closed the curtain and it was bright. He rolled over and buried his head in the pillow before being shifted so his head was nestled in the crook of Drake's shoulder and an arm came to rest on his hip.

He snuggled in closer and relaxed. The night had been interesting to say the least. Sex, more sex, drinking Drake's blood, sex, but Drake had not drank his blood. Drake had said that was to come later. They had been alone in the suite the last time he'd left their bedroom to get something to drink and to eat the last piece of cake. The door to Vaako's bedroom had still been open and there had been no sign the other man had come back to the suite at anytime.

Hannibal slit open his eyes enough to look up at Drake. "Did Vaako come back?" he asked softly, the worry for his friend returning.

~~~***~~~

Drake brushed his hand down Hannibal's back. His mate had a compassionate soul. It would serve them well in their union. He could now feel Hannibal's worry through the link that was building between them. For the next few days he would feed Hannibal his blood. It would repair wounds and prepare the other man's body for the changes that would come.

Sometime in the past, even before he had slept, the method for siring another vampire had been corrupted. Cheapened. The new faster method weakened the new vampire and created no link between sire and sired. Drake believed it was the reason they were unable to recognize and create a bond with their true mates. It was the root cause for their weakened physical characteristics of having to continuously feed and not being able to walk in the light as well. They may have thought they were the top of the food chain, but they weren't.

"He did," Drake answered, brushing a hand down Hannibal's back. Enjoying the feel of his mate in his arms. "In time I will call those who can be trusted to me, but for now you and I will make sure Vaako is alone only when he needs a moment to himself."

Drake shifted them until he could lean back against the pillows and Hannibal was between his legs. "It is time," he said and brought his wrist towards Hannibal's mouth, using a nail he sliced into his wrist. "Drink, my love."

He felt Hannibal pause for a second and then he felt Hannibal's tongue swipe from his palm to the open cut before his mate latched on and began to suck. "Tomorrow," he told Hannibal. "I will bite you and by the end of the week our bond will be strong. We will be able to find each other across great distances."

Drake felt Hannibal's shiver of excitement through the bond even as the other man let his wrist go and relaxed back against him. He ran his hand through Hannibal's hair before pulling his mate around so they could face one another.

Hannibal turned to straddle his thighs and leaned in to kiss him. Drake could taste his own blood on Hannibal's lips. "You will be strong," Drake said into the kiss.

"I can feel you in my head," Hannibal said, breaking the kiss and climbing off the bed. "It excites me." He paced away from the bed before turning to look back at Drake. "It frightens me that I won't be alone with my thoughts."

"Do you want to be alone?"

"Yes. No. I don't know. Sometimes my thoughts aren't that clear. Even to me and I'm the one having them."

Drake waited and watched Hannibal pace. Letting his mate work out whatever the younger man was having trouble with.

"Sometimes I think things through and other times I don't." Hannibal shrugged. "I just act. Plus, there are things I'd never say out loud because part of me has to play devil's advocate."

Hannibal came to stand by the bed. "I don't wish either of us to ever be alone; just don't take it personally when I call you an ass."

"Or old man?" Drake inquired.

"You are old."

Hannibal grinned, trying to dodge away but Drake reached out and tumbled Hannibal onto the bed, rolling them over so his mate was laid out under him. He kissed at Hannibal's neck, laving extra attention just over the pulse point. Enjoying the way Hannibal arched and moaned.

As promised he bit Hannibal and the two exchanged blood. Drake didn't let Hannibal out of his sight for three days after that. What Drake did do was explain that the bond went both ways. That given training and several years Hannibal would be able to move faster and in a more controlled manner than he did as a human. He told him of the others he had sired. About his mother and anything else he thought Hannibal would want to know.

"You are more than half my soul," Drake whispered into Hannibal's ear as he wrapped his arms around his sleeping mate.

~~~***~~~

Vaako was leaning on the balcony when Hannibal wandered out of the suite to stand next to him. The sun wouldn't be setting for another few hours. It had been four weeks since Drake had woken. Since Vaako had explained his trip into the future. Three weeks since Hannibal had been turned and bonded to Drake. The young man was adapting very well; faster than most and Vaako guessed that had to do with it being a bond between soulmates.

"He let you out of his sight?" Vaako asked without turning around.

Hannibal snorted. "He went hunting, exploring, or something or other."

Vaako wrapped his hands around the balcony railing, rocking back on his feet for a second before leaning over to glance down at the city below. "He is still acclimating to all the changes the last four hundred years has brought," he said. "You are helping with that."

"As you are helping me," Hannibal reminded him.

"Your senses?" he asked.

Hannibal leaned with his back on the railing. "Better than yesterday. You are a better teacher than he will ever be."

Vaako let go of the railing and stepped back so he could look at Hannibal. The younger man was dressed in just a pair of jeans. There was a bruise at the juncture of his neck and shoulder and another over the heart. Vaako knew that hours ago you would have been able to see teeth marks and in another hour you would see nothing.

Hannibal reached up to his neck when he saw Vaako looking him over. "He's a little possessive," Hannibal said, dropping his hand with a shrug. "For some reason I kind of like it."

He watched Hannibal push off from the balcony rail and sit down in one of the lounge chairs. "How far had you and Riddick gone with the bond?" Hannibal asked him, his expression serious. "I can always sense Drake in the back of my mind; I know he can do the same. Are you missing that connection?"

Vaako closed his eyes and took a deep breath, once again surprised by Hannibal's insight and his compassion.

"Not quite," he answered honestly. "I..."

He needed to sit down to have this conversation. "Riddick was a force to be reckoned with. He rarely reacted the way you would think. You remind me of him a little."

"Minus the knives and slight sociopathic tendencies."

Vaako laughed. Truly laughed. "Yes," he agreed. "I drank from him. His blood was almost as strong as Drake's. I marked him. He marked me."

"But no biting biting?" And Hannibal made a hand motion while saying that which made Vaako smile.

"No, but before the Threshold and after my blood ran through him; the bond had begun." Vaako ran his hand over his thigh where Riddick had cut him during a sparring session and then licked the blood from the knife. It wasn't the first time he'd done it either. Just the first time since Vaako had bitten him.

"Furyans are," Vaako searched for the right words. "Complicated. They are a warrior race. Not as pack-orientated as they present to offworlders, but Riddick was an Alpha of his people. I'm almost positive his mother was one of their Queens."

"Like La Magra?"

Vaako hadn't thought about it like that before. "Yes," he nodded, both of them had been Queens--leaders of their people and possessed some type of connection to the Universe at large.

"And you are the one thing that could link them together."

Vaako sat up in his chair and grabbed Hannibal's wrist. If this man had not been his sire's mate he would have sired Hannibal himself. "I could kiss you," he said. That had been the answer to one of his questions: why him?

"I think that would get us both into trouble," Hannibal remarked.

Vaako grinned at the comment. "It would be worth it," he said. "Thank you."

"Putting the kissing on hold and going back to my original question. Are you missing your connection? Do you have an emptiness because I've only had Drake in my head for less than a month and I know I would miss it."

"The bond was never fully formed. I think the queens have dampened the emptiness I should have felt but I believe I will know the moment Riddick is born."

~~**~~**~~**~~

Moving Forward to Home

Most things in the future moved along as if nothing had been changed in the past, but certain things that had been seen in the reflections the Threshold had shown to Vaako had changed from what he remembered. Some of the changes were only small things, partial changes; while other things were altogether different. Altering the past could be tricky and the consequences were not always pretty.

Danica's rampage when the King of the Vampires was not found where she had been promised was one of the not pretty things. She and her followers killed more than a hundred people and burned several city blocks. The news reported it as a gang war. Danica and her brother escaped the hunters.

The vampire virus developed by the human hunters failed to work as planned. It did have one unexpected side effect, it counteracted Blade's serum. The half vampire, half human hybrid went mad with hunger attacking humans and vampires alike. It took almost ten years and a combined effort between the human and vampire hunters to track Blade down. That one effort helped bridge the gap between the Old Ones and a subset of human hunters led by Abigail Whistler and Doctor Sommerfield. It also helped that an Old One named Caulder had already been assisting them.

The vampire cure was refined thanks in part to Caulder and Dr. Sommerfield. If caught in time the effects of being turned by a nightwalking vampire could be stopped without the harsh side effects of the older serum. There was no cure for being sired, if it was done correctly.

Drake had made an appearance. It made most of the weak, nightwalking vampires go into hiding. For a while most followed the laws he laid down or risked being hunted down and destroyed. When it was needed the hunters would resurface and the cycle would begin again.

As humans ventured out into space, starting colonies and civilizations, so did vampires.

The Elementals floated about the Universe trying repeatedly to fix things. When Danica tried to raise an army of vampires against the humans and Old Ones she was finally destroyed. Her brother, Asher, was last seen living peacefully on a backwater planet.

The Necromongers never came to be, but the Elementals did help bring several generals into power and those generals wreaked chaos wherever they went.

~~~***~~~

Just over six hundred years had passed and then one day while walking on the streets of a city on another planet Vaako stumbled and grabbed at his head and chest and whispered, "Riddick."

Vaako was grateful that Hannibal was there as the other man helped him into a small alcove with a bench that was out of the heavy pedestrian traffic. "I thought it would be better knowing," he said quietly. "But these upcoming decades will be worse, I think, than the past centuries."

"You are still not alone and so much closer now," Hannibal insisted.

Vaako straightened. The hum in the back of his mind had quieted, but had not gone silent, as if the matter of Riddick's birth had sent a flare across known space to let Vaako know that he was there now.

~~~***~~~

At about the same time, in another quadrant of the Universe, an Air Elemental was whispering calculations and prophecies into the ear of a general named Zhylaw. It took the man almost a decade to build his army but once he had one, he plundered and destroyed three planets before anyone could rise against him to fight.

The next two planets he passed survived but the devastation was so great it would take generations before the planets would fully recover. Then he brought his fleet of ships to Furya with the intention of destroying all life on the planet.

He didn't succeed, but Furya suffered heavy losses even as what remained of Zhylaw's fleet limped away. Several of the female leaders were lost, among them a woman named Shirah who died in the arms of her teenage son. Her dying words would stay with the boy forever.

"The other half of your soul is out there. He's searching for you," she said just above a whisper, her hand stroking his face. "Your eyes will soon see."

~~~***~~~

Riddick hated the dreams. He'd liked them when he was little when the dreams were of another boy who wore sandals and spoke a language that Riddick didn't understand. There had been something about the boy that always had Riddick wanting the dreams to be real--wanting the boy to be real. Now he just wanted them to go away.

If they weren't of the boy they were of his mother dying, of her telling him he carried the rage of his people. He didn't carry jack. Not unless it was a blade and not since he was thrown into his first slam years back.

Riddick growled and paced, his silver eyes tracking all the guards through the shatter-proof windows. His mother had warned him he would soon see but his silver eyes and the new sight they brought had not been what he'd expected. A gift of his people she had whispered in a dream right before he'd woken from a short catnap in the sewers of Butcher Bay. He'd woken with the ability to see in the dark. Not that he didn't like his new eyes, they had come in handy escaping from Butcher's Bay and every slam thereafter.

He wanted to hate his mother for dying for him. For protecting him, but he couldn't. What he could do was make sure he didn't make the same mistake. He was a loner. It was safer; at least that's what he told himself. If he'd minded his own damn business he wouldn't have gotten thrown into his first slam for someone else's crimes. The first slam had been easy to escape. So had the second. As the bounty on his head grew, the slams he got tossed into became more challenging.

Riddick wanted his knives back, but that, he knew, wasn't happening. He was locked in a single-max security area, chained to the wall, waiting to be moved. This time he was in a cell because he couldn't let Johns kill another child to get to him. It was a weakness he'd been trying to break himself of but had not been successful as of yet. Proof, at least he thought, that he was not a psychopath. Dangerous, yes. Maybe a high-functioning sociopath, but definitely not a psychopath. He got no physical enjoyment out of killing, he was just very good at it.

He clenched his fingers into fists. He was going to kill Johns. He rolled his shoulders because he was quite positive he'd enjoy causing that death. Did that make him a psychopath? He shrugged off that thought. After all, he had thought he had killed Johns. Now he just needed to finish the job. He'd missed the sweet spot on the bounty hunter's back the first time around. Instead of killing him, Riddick had just pissed off Johns and made him a drug addict. He was now hoping that addiction would come in handy. Slow the man down, make him sloppy.

The door to the cell opened and before he could react he felt the sting of a dart in his left bicep. He knocked the dart away but already he could feel the drug taking affect. Slowing him down. He should have known Johns would cheat.

He was in a haze as he was trussed up like some kind of animal and marched onto a ship. The Hunter-Gratzner. Why did that name sound familiar? There was something at the edge of his memory--like a dream he couldn't recall.

Riddick was pushed into a cryo box and the cyro chemicals started flowing through his veins. He knew the dreams would start before the ship even left the ground.

~~~***~~~

When he heard about the attacks on the planets, Vaako had started mapping the direction of the attacking fleet. After he had narrowed down all possible paths he came up with two planets within striking distance--Padoca and Furya. He knew with all that he was that it would be Furya.

He had been to Furya only once, long before Riddick or Riddick's mother had been born. He'd wanted, for a brief moment to return there after feeling Riddick's birth but hadn't had the strength to resist his mate and not touch him. It wasn't time. He didn't want to influence things. Maybe a little bit of him was also afraid of what a living Shirah would do to him if he was discovered.

So he had decided to wait and now, as he surveyed the destruction, he wondered if he'd made the wrong decision. He had arrived too late. Zhylaw's fleet had come and gone, but without the aid of Necromonger weapons and strength, Furya had fought back.

He growled as he picked up a broken child's toy. He should have known Zhylaw would be a problem. He should have realized the Elementals would use the man's need to rule to their benefit.

"You are not psychic," a quiet voice said and he spun around to find Hannibal standing there glaring at him.

He had taken off without telling anyone. He'd been searching the rubble for two days. He hadn't fed and that was apparently catching up with him.

"I...how did you know?"

Hannibal snorted. "Still a detective, you know?" he joked and then instantly sobered. "This was Shirah's district?"

Vaako nodded. It had also suffered the heaviest destruction. He wasn't sure if that had been a coincidence or not and he didn't want to dwell on it. "Drake?" he asked instead.

"Is talking to the remaining leaders. Offering aid. They knew what he was, including the whole not being fully human thing on sight. A little freaky. And oh, they know why you are here as well."

Hannibal walked closer and reached out to rest his hand on Vaako's shoulder. "He's not here. Right after the attack several ships came and took survivors away, especially from this area."

"Slavers?" Vaako let the toy slide from his fingers to the ground below. He knew Riddick wasn't dead as the hum at the back of his mind was still there, maybe even pulsing a little stronger than it had before. "It's still not time for us to meet," he said, sadly. "He's still a teen."

"Don't know about the slavers," Hannibal said, offering his wrist to Vaako. "You need to drink. No arguing."

Vaako accepted the offer and almost instantly felt more alert. Hannibal's blood was now almost as potent as Drake's.

"What I do know," Hannibal continued as if nothing had happened. "Is that a ship on a trajectory away from this planet reported mechanical failure and was hauled to the shipyards around Gaine VII. The Furyan elders who went after them have reported that half the children and other missing have been returned. The other half seemed to be scattered throughout the shipyards."

Vaako sighed. "Riddick won't come back here," he said. "At least not for a while."

Hannibal stepped away and did a slow three-sixty surveying the area around them. "Do you know where he will be next?"

Vaako glanced down to his right before kneeling to pick up a small corded stone amulet. Riddick's name etched into it. His Furyan could be anywhere and knowing Riddick, he'd be making a name for himself real soon.

"If even part of his future is like before, he'll be famous soon for escaping high security slams." Vaako put the stone amulet around his neck. "But, I have an idea where he might be in about sixteen years."

~~~***~~~

Riddick came fully awake as the ship's alarms started blaring. He could feel the cabin venting air, the pressure changing as it did. And his left hand was free of the restraint. The dream of the hazel-eyed man was fading even as he got the binding over his eyes off. He took notice of the flashing emergency lights and venting gases, signs that the life expectancy of the ship was decreasing.

The first thing he noticed after that was the small hole in the glass door. When he looked down there was a hole just to the side of the arm restraint. It had missed hitting him by mere centimeters. He looked at the glass door again, noticing writing. It was a Furyan symbol and it was written in blood. Fresh blood he realized as his finger came away wet. He sniffed the blood before licking it from his finger. It was almost familiar.

He found the symbol again on a drawer near his cryo chamber. Popping the lock, the drawer slid open to reveal a piece of paper, a pair of goggles better than the ones Johns had taken off of him and a single small blade. He flicked the paper open and was once again surprised to see Furyan symbols as he knew that information was not in his record because he had never mentioned his home--to anyone. Thought you could use these. Now brace yourself. This ship is going down.

Riddick wasn't sure what to think of the mysterious gifts or the writing, but what he did know just by the trembling of the ship and that last surge forward, was that this ship was losing integrity as it entered atmo faster than it should.

He crawled back into his cryo chamber. It was built to withstand great forces so he knew he had more of a chance of surviving this crash if he stayed inside it. It would also have the added bonus that, should they all survive, Johns would think he was still locked up.

The ship bumped, twisted, and shuddered and then jumped slightly upward. He knew that feeling, the jettisoning of cargo pods. There were three cargo pods, two passenger pods and the command pod. He felt the ship jump upward two more times and then judder once more right before impact, as if a further attempt had been made, this time to jettison one of the passenger pods. Interesting, people called him a murderer but the pilot or whomever it was who tried to pull the release handle on the passenger pod would no doubt be patted on the head for saving as many as possible.

When the ship was down and settled, Riddick stayed in his pod, listening to what was happening as people scrambled out of their cryo chambers and the ship. He could hear a couple people crying while others were demanding answers. Johns passed by once and presumably believed that Riddick was still out; didn't even verify with a physical inspection as the sensors were all dead. It was another check in the sloppy column for Johns.

The clicking of nails or claws on steel had Riddick slanting his eyes open just a little. There was a large four-legged animal that sort of looked like an oversized dog approaching his cryo unit. It was rare and expensive for an animal to be transported in the passenger pods, but obviously it was the hound's lucky day.

"Hunter," the name was called and the animal paused and slowly turned around. Riddick got a brief glance at the animal's shining eyes as it stared up at him before bounding away.

Riddick had a moment to wonder why that scene felt familiar before he climbed out of the wreckage and made his own escape.

~~~***~~~

Vaako wasn't sure how Riddick had managed to control the urge to kill half the people stranded with him on Hades. The exceptions were the children, who seemed to be holding up better than the adults, as if crashing was an everyday event for them, and the Imam. And how the hell had these people not noticed Johns' glassy, clearly drugged eyes and the shakes? The man reeked of addiction.

He guessed people often didn't see what was right in front of them, especially as they all seemed to be buying the whole "I'm an officer of the law with a dangerous convict locked up in the ship" thing. Correction, with a dangerous convict who had just made his escape; not that Vaako was going to alert anyone to that matter.

Continuing to act as if he was listening to the others, Vaako's lips twitched into a small smile as he watched Riddick. The animal grace and speed with which Riddick moved caused Vaako's heart to beat a little faster and for a split second Riddick glanced in his direction before darting off behind the wreckage. Vaako gave his head a little shake to clear it before scratching behind the ear of the hellhound sitting next to him. "Go with him," he whispered, watching the hound trot off in the same direction Riddick had disappeared.

The main problem Vaako had with being on Hades was that he knew how this was all supposed to end; or at least how it had in the other timeline. Some things were already different with just him and Hunter onboard the ship and living through the crash. Then there were the other five survivors from the second passenger pod because Greg Owens had been in the pilot chair instead of Carolyn Fry and had prevented her from jettisoning the pod until they were closer to the ground to give those inside a higher chance at survival. Though, Owens had still died and Fry was alive and acting as captain. Vaako wasn't sure how much or when, if at all, to interfere.

Then there was the fact his skin itched and he knew what he was feeling was the raptors moving underground, preparing for their hibernation to end. Predator recognizing another predator, but he had no intention of being their prey. He looked around and spotted Jack with Shazza and two of the Imam's boys looking through the wreckage for anything useful and salvageable.

Part of him wished Drake, Hannibal, or any of their family were with him among all these strangers, but he had known that when the time came he would have to do this part alone. The hum at the back of his mind called to him like a Siren; or in this case like an Alpha Furyan looking for his mate.

The pace of the next several hours picked up as Riddick's escape was finally noticed. Vaako got himself assigned to the team searching for water. He trailed behind them as they entered the small mining site and watched the Imam's acolytes find the solar water pump.

Between one breath and the next there was a blade at his throat and a rough voice whispering into his ear.

"Who are you?"

"Vaako."

The hellhound moved around until it was sitting directly in front of Vaako, its tail picking up sand as it wagged happily back and forth while it looked up at him. He knew he should have brought Artemis as she was the calmer of all the hounds but Hunter had been Riddick's favorite.

"Do I know you?"

Vaako wanted to say, "In a manner of speaking, yes." Instead he said, "There is a possibility."

The knife dug into his skin enough to draw blood but Vaako still didn't move.

"You're not afraid."

"There are scarier things in the universe than you, Riddick."

~~~***~~~

Riddick leaned in, sniffing at the blood on Vaako's neck. It smelled familiar; like the blood from the cryo chamber. "Like what?" he asked, not moving the knife.

"Me," Vaako answered and Riddick had a split second to take that in before he found himself without the blade and looking into solid black eyes. Eyes that belonged to something not quite human. He was almost falling into them when a gun shot broke the air.

"That'll be Zeke," Vaako whispered, leaning in close enough that Riddick noticed the cut he'd left with the knife was beginning to heal. "Accidentally shooting another survivor he thinks is you."

Riddick tried to back away. This Vaako was throwing off his senses and thoughts and he wasn't sure what to think of the man whose eyes had now faded to a soft hazel.

"They're all jumping at shadows," Riddick said roughly. "They don't know what's under them."

"They're waiting for the suns to set."

Riddick didn't know what to make of that comment, as how often did a planet with three suns get dark? Nor did he know what to think when Vaako backed away and handed him the knife back. He couldn't help himself, he licked the blood from the knife and missed the look that Vaako gave him as he closed his eyes, savoring the flavor from the blade. Contrary to popular belief he didn't drink blood, but for this he could have made an exception.

When he opened his eyes, not having realized he'd closed them, the hound was still sitting in the same spot and focused on him as if expecting an order and he was the beast's master.

"Hunter," Vaako called over his shoulder to the hound. "You can play with Riddick later. Right now, we must be somewhere else." Vaako didn't look back as he walked away. "And Riddick, don't worry about the blade if it's lost, I have something better for you."

Riddick melted back into the overhangs and out of the direct line of sight of any of the other survivors, but was almost positive this Vaako would have been able to find him. His heart raced at the thought and it wasn't from fear but intrigue; he'd never found anyone who could match...maybe even best him.

By the time he circled back to the wreckage for the second time he'd acquired a bottle of alcohol--which he knew he shouldn't drink but did, a handy piece of info about their lady captain trying to dump the passenger pods, that Johns was jonesing for whatever drug he was on, and that the little skiff needed repairs and power. What he didn't have, and wanted, was more information on the other wolf among the sheep.

The next thing he knew Johns was shooting at him while the sheep were all screaming that he'd killed Zeke. No one mentioned the other survivor Zeke had killed.

He hated being restrained, but at least he was inside the wreck of a ship and out of the suns' light because Johns had his new goggles and he had just been getting used to them. He'd also lost the blade.

Fry visited him trying to get a confession. He could smell the fear on her. Just behind her in the shadows the little girl, Jack, was lurking. So was Vaako and the hound. He told Fry about the whispers under the ground. When she stepped closer he opened his eyes so she could see them.

"Where the hell can I get eyes like that?" Jack had come out of her hiding spot and was within a few feet of him before Fry stopped her.

"Gotta kill a few people," Riddick replied, deciding to go with the story he always used; especially while Fry was present. What he found surprising was that he probably would have told Jack the truth had their would-be-captain not been standing there. He was also fairly certain that Vaako already knew and that too unnerved him.

"Then you gotta get sent to a slam," he sneered the word, "where they say you'll never see daylight again. Dig up a doc and pay him to do a surgical shine job."

"So you can see who's sneaking up on you in the dark?" Jack asked, stepping closer.

He grinned. Clever kid. "Exactly."

"Leave!" shouted Fry, pointing to the exit.

"Cute kid." He only said it to get a rise out of Fry and then he only half participated in the conversation with her as he was more focused on Vaako and Jack's conversation.

~~~***~~~

Vaako grasped Jack by the shoulder as she passed him. She startled and glared up at him. It wasn't a Riddick glare, but close and Vaako didn't think that was her trying to copy Riddick. It was just a bit more proof of what he'd thought since getting the first whiff of her scent.

"He'll respect you more if you're who you are and push yourself," he said quietly. "Don't try to be him."

"What do you know about him?" she challenged. "He could take you all."

Vaako grinned. "I know more than you, Kyra."

Jack pulled away and shoved at Vaako's chest. Vaako didn't budge.

"How do you know...you can't tell anyone," Jack demanded.

"I'm not going to tell anyone," Vaako replied. "You will, when you're ready. For now I just need you to follow my instructions if you want to get off this planet."

Jack continued to glare at him. "Why should I trust you?"

The hound whined and Vaako quickly glanced over Jack's shoulder to see that Fry was now talking to Johns. He returned his focus to Jack and leaned down, his eyes changing to solid black. "Because I'm very old and know more than you."

"Your eyes..."

"Are just as natural as Riddick's are, Jack," he said, using the name she wanted to be called. "What do you remember of your parents?"

"Weren't on their planet when it was attacked but the mad man still managed to kill them when I was seven."

Vaako nodded. He remembered the attack on Balno IV. It was the last time Zhylaw's fleet had been seen. "What about other family?"

"My mom had a sister, but she died when Furya was attacked. Sahara or something like that. Neighbors took me in until I took off. Thought I'd go to Furya but changed my mind and boarded this wreck."

Vaako leaned in closer and whispered softly, not wanting Riddick to overhear. Some things his mate needed to figure out on his own. "Shirah," Vaako corrected. "Family name Riddick."

Jack stood there with her mouth open causing Vaako to laugh softly. He stepped away. "Why don't you take Hunter outside for a while?" he suggested. "When we go back to the mining site I need you to set the sand-cat to recharge and conserve. Can you do that?"

"Yeah, sure. No problem." Jack nodded, enthusiastically. "Come on Hunter," she called. "Let's see if Shazza has the other breathers done."

Vaako watched the girl leave the wreckage before walking further into the hold to where Riddick was chained to yet another support beam. "For someone who doesn't like to be bound, you've spent a fair amount of this trip that way."

Riddick growled at him and all he could do was laugh in response so Riddick wouldn't notice how the growl had sent happy little shivers through his body.

"Johns is going to come back in here in a few minutes and offer you a deal," Vaako finally said, leaning against one of the other support beams.

"He's nothing but lies."

Vaako shrugged. "No shit. Just antagonize him like you normally do."

"Are you a seer or something?"

"Absolutely not," Vaako responded, clearly disgusted with even the thought of that idea.

Riddick hadn't moved and his voice didn't change from its normal deep tenor but Vaako could still hear the demanding need for answers in the tone when Riddick spoke. "Then how do you know about my mother and Jack?"

Vaako pushed away from the wall. "I know a lot about many things. You could say long ago I was a scholar."

"You're no teacher."

"Matter of opinion," Vaako said. "But to answer your questions. My senses are better than even an Alpha Furyan, Richard." Vaako ignored the sound Riddick made when he used his first name. "Her scent is similar to yours. You no doubt can sense that on your own; just didn't know what it was. Probably why she confounds you. She is or will be, much like your mother if she survives this."

"What do..."

Vaako moved fast and was leaning down eye to eye with Riddick before Riddick could finish his question. "I met your mother once," he said, eyes turning black again. "I am older than I look."

Both their heads turned to look out the large hole in the wreckage. Screams of help, I'm here, and just screaming in general filtered in on the wind.

"They've discovered the raptors." Vaako knelt down next to Riddick's calf and slid the ulaks into the top of the other man's boot. "Don't lose those," he said. "The owner would be upset if you did."

"Aren't they yours?"

Vaako didn't answer, just faded into the darkness as Johns entered.

~~~***~~~

Riddick didn't want to know he had family out there. He didn't want to know if his life would be different had he ended up at his aunt's place after the strafing runs on Furya. Losing family twice. He didn't want to care. Caring was a weakness but this Vaako person, whatever he was, Riddick wanted him. And that too was dangerous.

Johns had been easy to goad. The man reeked of morphine. He ignored the whole thing about no shivs because the curved-handled blades Vaako had given him were pieces of art that were perfectly balanced for him--they were definitely not shivs.

Jack only glanced back at him twice during the entire hike to the settlement. She stayed close to Shazza and the hound seemed to be trailing after her like a watch dog. He picked up the bottle of alcohol the salesman, Paris something or the other, dropped and downed it with a grin. The grin grew wider as he saw Vaako roll his eyes and chuckled to himself when he heard Vaako's just above a whisper comment about him making friends wherever he went.

They marched along until the settlement and then people scattered into the different buildings. He saw Vaako lift his head and point towards the sand-cat and Jack and Hunter disappeared in that direction.

"Vaako," Shazza called to the man who was holding more and more of his attention and Riddick didn't like it when Vaako followed her. "Can we talk for a moment?"

Riddick followed them to a structure at the edge of the settlement. He came in through the back and watched from the shadows of the other room.

"I know what you are," she said. "You need to feed."

Vaako lifted an eyebrow in question. "Most who say that come at me with a weapon or run away. Not an offer of blood."

Shazza stood her ground. "It is freely offered," she said, lifting her wrist.

"It will weaken you in this heat."

Shazza shook her head. "The boys have gotten the water evaporator working and Jack told me he overheard Johns and Fry talking about the food canisters in the main hall. I can eat. That will do you no good. Please do not take offense but I would rather have you at full strength if those things under us come out."

"One question," Vaako walked to stand in front of the lifted wrist. "How do you know of my people?"

"My ancestor is one of you."

Vaako bent towards the pulse point at Shazza's neck and took in a deep breath through the nose. "Rynea," he said. "I should have seen the similarities sooner."

"You know her?"

"Yes," he said. "I accept your offer."

Riddick watched as Vaako's eyes bled to black and his incisors lengthened into very sharp points. Then Vaako was biting into Shazza's wrist. Riddick could smell the coppery scent of blood and then Shazza let out a soft sigh that did not speak of pain. Riddick clenched his fists as he continued to watch. He wasn't sure why the scene was pissing him off except that he wanted Vaako.

Vaako lifted his mouth from the wound and swiped his tongue over the puncture wounds. Riddick could see the wounds beginning to close and with seconds they were gone. "I thank you, Shazza, daughter of Rynea," Vaako said. "When we leave this hell, I will take you to her."

Shazza stepped back. "I would like that."

Riddick waited until Shazza was out the door before coming into the other room. "No guarantee she'll live," he said.

Vaako didn't seem all that surprised that he had been there the whole time. If Riddick was actually honest with himself he had a small sense of déjà vu about watching Vaako feed from a woman.

"I owe Rynea a debt and keeping her descendant alive will not even clear a part of it."

"I don't like it," Riddick said, referring to the drinking of Shazza's blood.

Vaako laughed. "I know."

Riddick reached out and grabbed Vaako's arm and pulled the other man to him. "I really don't like it," he repeated, his voice deeper, his hands tightening around Vaako's wrist.

Vaako smirked at him and then Riddick found himself on his back on the floor with Vaako straddling his chest. The teeth and eyes were back to normal and Riddick couldn't decide if he liked the hazel or the black better. He reached up and brought Vaako's head down and Vaako came willingly into the kiss. A kiss that caused Riddick's blood to feel like it was boiling. He needed more. He wanted more.

He rolled them over so Vaako was stretched out below him. "Better," he spoke roughly as he began licking at Vaako's neck, right at the pulse point. Without really looking at it, Riddick shoved the stone amulet Vaako wore around his neck out of the way for better access.

Neither man got fully out of their clothes and the sex was rough and needy on both sides. Both men had bruises and scratches before they'd even fully gotten started. Somewhere in the middle Riddick had sliced Vaako's thigh with one of the ulaks and licked and sucked at the blood. Riddick didn't know but that was the same location as from the other timeline. All Riddick knew was he liked the sounds that Vaako made.

Noises outside the building had the two men rolling away from each other instead of going for another round. "Johns will start getting twitchy very soon."

"He'll be with Fry discussing what they need to power the skiff," Vaako said, standing while pulling his shirt back on. "About how you know how to pilot."

Riddick shrugged. He would bet Vaako could fly the little skiff too. "Not everyone is going to survive this," Riddick said, running his hand over his head and realizing it was time to shave.

"I am aware of that," Vaako told him, heading toward the door. "But I plan to ensure that some do."

"Are they worth dying for?" Riddick growled. He wanted off this planet. He wouldn't mind Vaako and the hound tagging along. Jack too, he guessed. The rest were on their own.

"I don't plan to die," was Vaako's simple answer.

~~~***~~~

The water from the evaporator was exactly what the survivors had needed. The death of the youngest boy was not. Vaako was pissed at himself. He'd warned Ali away from the Coring Room. Had warned all the children away and still the child was dead.

The screams had ripped through him as they had all stood in the main hall drinking water and talking about prepping the emergency ship. Even as he followed the Imam he knew it was too late. Johns fired at the center of the door, breaking the chain and lock that held the door closed from within.

Hunter bolted past him and leapt, taking down two of the raptors with his teeth and claws. Johns had missed raptors with several shots from the shotgun, but it had been too late.

Then the survivors were all standing in one of the sample rooms while Fry turned the orrery around and around until the model of the planets all lined up and there was an eclipse. An eclipse that only happened every twenty-two years and wouldn't it just be Riddick's type of luck to crash here in both timelines within days of the next eclipse.

"Not afraid of the dark, are you?" Riddick asked, before striding from the room.

Vaako wanted to smack Riddick, but let it go, turning instead to face the Imam. "My regrets," he said, bowing his head slightly, "for the loss of your student."

The Imam did not say anything right away, just looked at him, as if seeing into his very person. "Sometimes the young do not listen," the Imam said when he finally spoke. "There is no need for sorrow as Ali is with God now."

Vaako had turned and started walking to the door when the Imam began speaking again. He didn't turn just listened.

"No matter how much you know, Old One, you are not a god. Some things still rest in his hands."

Vaako wasn't sure what the Imam knew or didn't, but what Vaako did know was that the gods were fickle. He'd grown up with the Temples of Athena and witnessed the fall of his village and way of life. His faith had been tested many times over the last millennia and with Riddick as his balance, his soulmate, it would no doubt be tested further.

As he exited the building Riddick grabbed his wrist and pulled him back into the shadows. Riddick started to say something then just pushed him into the wall and kissed him, long and hard then walked away.

Vaako sighed and stayed leaning against the wall for several minutes waiting for his blood to stop rushing. He could hear Johns yelling at Riddick for possession of a knife, Riddick was calling it a personal grooming device. It meant Riddick was probably shaving the fine fuzz from his head. Vaako sighed and pushed away from the wall. He needed to find the excavating lights the settlers would have used when they first started coring into the ground. They would be bright and hopefully keep what was to come away from the skiff.

After four buildings he finally found the lights in the back storage room of the coring building. Five of the seven were broken. One was beyond repair but he hoped that Shazza might be able to repair at least one of the others by cobbling together parts. It would be better for the skiff if there were three.

Vaako took the lights out to where Shazza and two of the other survivors were finishing the final repairs on the engine of the sand-cat. It took very little convincing for her to see why they would need the lights around the skiff.

He watched as Shazza began taking apart one of the lights. She was a natural at fixing things and it gave him a chance to listen in on the conversation between Fry and Riddick regarding Johns being an addict and mercenary and not a cop. Though, he wasn't sure Fry was buying the truth. It sounded more like this Fry had bought whatever Johns was selling. That was when Jack ran up to them and pointed at the sky. The third sun was almost in line with the first and second.

Everyone gathered around the sand-cat. "Whatever we need from the crash site, now's the time to get it," Shazza said.

Vaako pulled her aside and just barely shook his head. "We'll need supplies," he began, hoping that Shazza and the Imam could follow where he was trying to lead. "We could be stuck on that skiff for several days. Water, food..."

"There's plenty of us to split the group," Shazza picked up where Vaako left off. "And we'll be avoiding the coring room while looking for blankets and things."

The Imam nodded. "Yes, it would be more productive for the young than trying to assist in bringing back something that weighs almost as much as they do."

No one really noticed how much the final decision pissed off Johns or comforted Vaako. In the end it was decided that Hassan, Suleiman, and Jack would stay with Shazza to finish combing through the settlement for supplies and load them into the skiff. Meanwhile Marko and Douglas, two of the survivors from the second passenger pod, would finish repairing the wings on the skiff. The remaining nine and the hound would head to the wreck for the power cells and anything else they could grab.

~~~***~~~

They had three of the five cells in the sand-cat when the screeching and darkness began at almost the same time. Riddick dropped the fourth in next to the others and Vaako came up behind him with the fifth. They stepped up onto the slope as almost all of the light faded into the darkness.

"Can you see them?" Riddick asked, lifting the goggles that were no longer needed.

"Yes," Vaako replied. "But not exactly like you."

"Beautiful," Riddick whispered as the stone and sand spirals began to crumble and the young raptors took to the sky. "In a hungry sort of way."

"Everyone in or down," Vaako turned and yelled back to the other survivors, who were between the slope and the wreck, staring into the darkness. "Hunter! In!"

Riddick saw the hound bound into the wreckage right before he felt Vaako grab him and roll them to the sand. It had only been a second, but he liked the feel of Vaako lying on top of him. Then the first wave of hatchlings swept through the air just above their backs. During the first break in the wave upon wave of the small flying raptors Riddick flipped over to get a better view of them.

"You do know what they say about curiosity?" Vaako asked him, even as the other man was flipping over onto his back.

He laughed and together they watched the continuous stream fly overhead.

They lost two of the people from the second pod, Riddick hadn't even bothered to learn their names as they hadn't seemed important. The two men had tried to make a break for the cargo pod wreckage during one of the brief openings in the tides of escaping raptors. Unfortunately one of them didn't make it and had been swarmed, lifted from the ground and then torn apart. The second man was bleeding and Riddick doubted he would be leaving the cargo pod alive. Riddick had already classed him as lost.

Inside the cargo pod was not comfortable. It was hard to move around, cramped, and had no lights. If he was alone, Riddick wouldn't have minded, but most of the other survivors were making too much noise.

"Would you people shut the fuck up for a minute," Vaako said roughly and Riddick would thank him for that later.

Everyone froze. That's when they heard it, a short high-pitched click-squeal combination. It didn't take too long to realize that there was at least one of the raptors trapped inside with them.

"What is that noise?" Fry demanded.

"Echolocation," Vaako said calmly. "They see with it. You move, they'll know."

"Then how do we get the fuck out?" Johns said, spitting the words out.

Riddick ignored Johns. He'd spotted one of the raptors closing in on the guy that was bleeding and the Imam who was trying to staunch the flow of blood. He saw Vaako pull the Imam away from the man with a quiet. "You cannot help this one." And almost in the blink of an eye there were two raptors attacking and the unnamed man was dead.

"Hunter, seek," he heard Vaako order.

Riddick watched with fascination as the hound attacked and made short work of one of the raptors. When the second raptor turned to attack the hound Riddick grabbed it by the head and twisted, hearing bones pop before he pulled one of the ulaks and easily sliced through the tough hide. He liked these curved blades and had no plans in giving them back to the mysterious owner Vaako had mentioned.

The Imam swung one of the hand lights, keeping the beam aimed towards the ground and the raptor, which was more than Fry had done with the lit cutting torch. Vaako reached across the open air and grabbed the cutting torch from Fry, dimming the light slightly, while everyone watched as the raptors' skin began to burn and bubble.

"They cannot take the light," the Imam observed. "It burns them."

"What do you plan to do, old man, run out there with a flashlight?" Johns asked snidely.

"I have faith that God will provide us a way."

Riddick snorted. He didn't believe God was just going to part the raptors and let them pass, but maybe that was why Vaako was here. Since landing on this sandbox Riddick had felt like he had done some of this before but not in the same way. He was almost positive the hazel eyed child in the sandals was the grown up man in his dreams from the crash; and that both were Vaako. Maybe the Imam’s God had sent help.

He ignored the conversation going on around him and focused on Vaako who was rooting through a box with Furyan writing on the side. Riddick hadn't noticed the box before, not even when he'd been poking through the wreckage earlier. "You sure that belongs to you?" he asked quietly, coming up behind the other man.

Vaako didn't turn around. "Yes," Vaako answered equally as quiet. "Though I will owe Hannibal much for sending it along."

"Who's Hannibal?" Riddick asked, feeling jealousy begin to roll through him. He didn't understand it and he didn't like it.

Vaako chuckled. "He is an old friend."

Riddick closed the space between him and Vaako to nothing as he pressed his body against Vaako's. Vaako was his. "How old?"

"Six hundred years give or take."

That had not been the answer Riddick had been expecting. Neither was what Vaako said next.

"His balance, what you would call mate, is far older."

Riddick wrapped his arms around Vaako and gripped the edge of the box, trapping Vaako within his arms.

Vaako turned slightly so that they could look each other in the eye. "I will explain, later. I need you to trust me."

"I don't trust anyone but me," Riddick said, but didn't loosen his hold even as he leaned in and kissed Vaako. "What's in the box?" he asked.

"Something else to help us along the way, my pulse gun, which we are not telling Johns I have."

Riddick smirked. The gun looked right in Vaako's hand, more so than the ulak had before. Vaako slipped the gun into place then straightened his black thigh-length coat to ensure the gun was covered. Riddick felt Vaako reach around and pull one of the ulaks from his belt and didn't stop him.

"I need you to drink, Richard," Vaako said, slicing into the palm of his hand with the ulak. "You will need it for what is coming."

Riddick was entranced as Vaako sliced into his palm with the blade. Then the scent of Vaako's blood reached him and it was intoxicating. He drank without arguing.

~~~***~~~

When he and Riddick separated, the other survivors were discussing how to get back to the skiff. Fry was taking charge. "We stick to the plan. If we get five cells back to the skiff, we're off this rock," she said.

"I hate to ruin a beautiful theory with an ugly fact...but that sand-cat is solar," Paris said from the corner in which he was huddled.

"Not exactly," Vaako spoke up. "Had Jack flip the battery into conserve mode. It spent part of the day charging."

"Won't get us all the way back," Reed, the last of the second passenger pod survivors that had come with them said.

"No," the Imam answered. "But it will get us and the cells closer."

Johns pushed off from the wall. "You gonna carry the cells the rest of the way."

"If I must."

"We'll need light. They're afraid of our light. That means we don't have to be so afraid of them. Stuff that burns. You got any more of that alcohol, Paris?" Fry asked.

"Yes, ten or so bottles."

Fry nodded and then turned and look at all the survivors. "Good. Then we have those, the two hand lights, the torch and anything else we can find in the next five minutes."

"This type of ship should use tube cable lighting that connects to portable power stations," Reed volunteered. "We might be able to rip one of those units out."

Vaako walked over to the Imam and handed him one of the items he'd pulled from the box Hannibal had left him. "Do not use it until everything else is gone."

"Old One."

"Vaako," Vaako reminded the Imam, looking down at the emergency beam light. It would be three to four times brighter than the welding torch, but only last twenty minutes. If the sand-cat got them half way there and the other light lasted at least an hour the beam light would get the Imam back to the skiff.

"When the sand-cat dies we'll need to be ready to go the rest of the way on foot," Fry said as she approached the door that once opened would take get them closest to the sand-cat. "Riddick can lead the way," she added.

Riddick grunted, but didn't disagree and Vaako knew the other man could haul all five of the cells and lead the way if it meant getting off Hades. Riddick had done it in the previous timeline but there was no reason he needed to in this one.

The Imam was thinking ahead and for that Vaako was happy as the other survivors had just assumed Riddick should do all the heavy work. "We will need to figure a way to split the load. I can carry one if we have to run; maybe drag two if we have a way to pull them."

Vaako looked around, spotting a piece of metal sheeting that was now only partially attached to the wall. He jiggled the piece and then making sure no one was really watching him, easily pulled the piece from the wall. The cells and generator would be pulled on it until it was necessary--faster--to carry the cells. If, or rather when, that time came, Riddick would haul two of the cells and lead the way, while the other three cells would be dispersed between Vaako, the Imam, and Reed. That would leave Paris, Johns and Fry to keep the light going around them.

Johns pulled open the cargo pod door and turned to Riddick and said, "Tell me what you see boy."

"Looks clear."

Johns ducked as one of the raptors flew towards the open doorway. "Thought you said it was clear."

Vaako could make out Riddick's grin as he said, "Said it looked clear."

"How's it look now?" Johns asked, the nose of the gun raising slightly as he spoke.

"Clear," Riddick said, jumping down from the pod and over to the sand-cat and with a few clicks had it switched over from the solar panel to the battery and the engine running. The running lights flashed on to the loud squealing objection of the raptors that had been perched on the cargo pod.

The hound bounded out after Riddick and into the back of the sand-cat. Then the other survivors were doing the same.

"Let's get this thing moving, boy," Johns called.

Vaako whispered, knowing that only Riddick and the hound would hear him. "You and Johns can play later. We need to get gone."

As soon as the sand-cat started moving the others began prepping the alcohol mixture to burn and light their way. Cabling was used to tie two of the power cells together for Riddick to carry-drag. The other three cells had a cable tied to them for the same reason.

The sand-cat bounced along as fast as it could as Riddick banked left and right around boulders and through the animal boneyard. Raptors flew and scattered just outside the range of the sand-cat's lights. Their squealing-clicking noises seeming to follow the sand-cat through the darkness.

Ten minutes later the sand-cat began slowing down and the lights started blinking. "We've got another minute or so," Riddick called back.

"Get ready people," Fry called.

The sand-cat came to a stuttering halt and the lights faded into the sound of flapping wings and high-pitched squawking. "Hunter, front," Vaako ordered just as the generator came alive and the raptors that had been closing in shrieked back in pain as the area around the survivors lit up.

The sled was down and loaded, and within minutes the group was setting off at a pace just above a jog toward the settlement. Vaako knew the pace was grueling for some, but they needed to move before the light dwindled to nothing. By the time the sled came to rest at the bottom of the third valley, most of the group was already slowing from fatigue. Fry called a break and everyone tightened in closer around the sled.

"How much further?"

"About ten clicks," Riddick answered without turning to look at them.

Of them all only Vaako and Riddick were not breathing hard, which was not surprising to Vaako. The Imam was holding up better than expected. Reed, the unknown in the bunch for Vaako, was too, and, they were closer than he thought they would get and still have light.

"Perhaps it would be best to be on the next rise than in this valley for the break," Vaako suggested. "I think it flattens out somewhat before we have to run through the narrow pass cut in the stone canyon."

Fry wanted to object, but one look around told everyone this was not the place to be stopped should the light start to fade. The sounds of the raptors coming from just around the edge of the light field added to that conviction. Another ten minutes saw them at the top of the last rise and to a flatter terrain that would be easier to cross.

Vaako needed them to keep going. "We need to push on," he said. "We can take a breather again in ten."

"Who put you in charge?" Johns asked, using the shotgun in his hand to point at Vaako.

"It is an observation based on the amount of power we have left in the generator and the distance we need to travel," Vaako answered, ignoring the shotgun. "Time is of the essence and I'd like to be through the pass with all of its perches and hollowed out recesses before the light is gone."

The Imam stretched for a second before leaning down to grab the cable attached to his power cell. "I fear that Vaako is correct in his assessment."

They continued on at a slower pace, taking breaks every fifteen to twenty minutes. They were about seven kilometers out when Johns finally pulled Riddick away from the group for a little talk.

"Have fun," Vaako said, softly.

He saw Riddick give him a grin before following Johns.

~~~***~~~

Riddick could just make out the canyon. They were further along than he thought, but the raptors were tightening in on them. He was betting that soon some would be willing to brave the light for a chance at a meal.

Johns turned around to face him. "We're going to need something to distract them," Johns said. "If we could make it through the canyon and lose one, that'd be a feat."

"Depends on the one."

"What if you're one of six left?"

"I'm listening," Riddick said, and he was--to all the noises gathering around them.

Johns continued on with his plan. "Battlefield doctors have been deciding who lives and who dies for centuries. It's called triage?"

Riddick laughed. "Called it murder when I did it."

John shrugged. "Figure it's something you can grab onto. We don't need the captain, you can pilot the skiff, or Paris, he's just slowing us down anyway. There's a cable on the sled. We can drag the body behind us."

The hound at Riddick's feet growled and Johns jumped. There was enough light between them that Johns should have noticed the hound sitting there, but Johns seemed to be coming down from his high. "Skittish there?" he asked Johns, scratching the head of the hound.

"You do the girl and I'll keep the others off your back," Johns said with a grin. "Think you can handle it."

Riddick looked down at the hound. "Vaako," he commanded and the hound glanced up at him before returning to the others. "Nah, I'm thinking of getting out of the whole murdering business for a while."

Johns lifted the rifle to aim at Riddick but Riddick was already moving, charging forward and took Johns down with a tackle. The shotgun fired and a loud squeal was heard followed by the sound of ripping flesh. The raptors ate their own.

Riddick rolled off Johns. "One rule," he called out before slashing at Johns with both ulaks. He was definitely not giving these back. "Stay in the light."

He could hear Johns chambering rounds into the shotgun. The first shot took out another raptor. So did the second, but the third misfired and then Johns was in pieces and the raptors were distracted.

"Where's Mr. Johns?" the Imam asked.

"Which half?" he tossed back.

Fry shoved forward to stand in his path. "You killed him," Fry accused.

The hound growled out and moved towards Fry only to be stopped by Riddick's command of, "Hunter." The hound didn't look happy but stopped moving forward. "Sit." He scratched the hound behind the ears and stared into its eyes. "You are not getting the blades back," he said, just above a whisper knowing Vaako would hear him.

Riddick didn't know why the hound listened to him, but chalked it up to something useful and something else Vaako needed to explain. He turned back to Fry and her hostility. "No," he answered honestly. "The raptors did."

"You left him to die," she spit out.

Riddick shrugged, picking up the cable for the sled. That part was true. "He wanted me to kill you and the drunk and I'm no assassin. I think this was a better exchange."

"Lies."

The generator chose that moment to sputter. "We don't have time for this," Vaako pointed out. "And Riddick isn't lying."

"You're just saying that because he's fucking you and you think it means he'll take you with him!"

Riddick gave Fry a look that would melt steel.

~~~***~~~

This Carolyn Fry was not the one Riddick had described to him. This one was bitter and would probably kill any of them if it meant getting herself off this moon alive. This one would have gladly worked with Johns. In the back of his mind, Vaako was beginning to think that he'd taken Fry's place in this timeline and he was actually okay with that.

Whatever was going on with her, they didn't have time to waste on the argument about Johns' life and death. "We need to go," he repeated just as the generator started to sputter again.

Everyone but Fry picked up their cable and started pulling the sled toward the canyon. Fry quickly caught up with them as the raptors began a high-pitch cry.

"They're circling," Riddick yelled back.

They were half way through the canyon when the generator died and the survivors had to resort to the bottles of alcohol and the ever dimming light from the cables. Reed backed up against the wall without first looking. He was ripped upward and then sideways, screaming the entire time.

Vaako lunged forward but not to save Reed instead he sliced through the cable Reed was still holding, dropping the power cell to the sand. Paris chose that moment to run and rabbited in the other direction, destroying the generator as the tubing was pulled between him and Reed.

Hunter ran, claws digging into the wall as he bolted over the surface before leaping onto the back of one of the largest raptors they had seen. The hound's weight and claws brought the large raptor to the ground just beside Riddick.

"Grab the cells and move," Vaako called, pulling his pulse gun and firing. The blast took out the left side of the canyon. Several of the raptors were caught in the blast and became prey for others.

Vaako chanced a glance behind him to see Riddick running, pulling three of the cells while the Imam pulled the other two. Fry was holding bottles of burning liquid in each hand. Vaako jogged backwards, firing several more times.

"You had an energy weapon and didn't tell anyone?" Fry demanded. It was clear in her voice that she was accusing him of letting the others die, but Vaako ignored it. He knew things she did not, the major thing being that the weapon had lost some of its charge while being stored during their cryo sleep.

"Accusations are best saved for when we are all safely off this moon," the Imam called, even as he tried to keep up with Riddick.

Vaako felt it then, the start of the rain. He had hoped they would be back to the settlement and in the skiff before it started. "Riddick stop! Put your goggles back on," Vaako ordered. "Hunter, go to the girl." If the raptors were moving around them, hoping to be led to food, then there was a good chance the raptors would get to the settlement before them. Vaako had risked too much for the people inside the skiff to be lost, or the skiff itself to be damaged.

With that Vaako pulled out the second emergency beam light he had and shone it over the shoulders of Riddick and the Imam. The raptors squealed and backed away. He fired his pulse gun again in the opposite direction of the light, warning off the raptors from trying to get in close. He hated to do it, but he was going to have to stay on the rear. He had to hand the light over to Fry.

"Abu," he called to the Imam. "It is time for you to give the cells to Riddick. You must get back to the skiff with them."

"I understand," the Imam said, pulling out the beam light Vaako had given him earlier. The Imam kept himself between Riddick and the light. Fry did the same with hers.

"Go," he ordered.

Vaako could feel Riddick glaring at him. He lowered the setting on the gun and fired two more times. The burst radius was not as large but still did the trick. It would also give him a few more shots.

"I'm holding you to your word," Riddick said, now setting a harder pace even with the five cells he was dragging.

"I'll be there," he said.

~~~***~~~

Riddick pushed on. The thoughts in his head tumbling back and forth between not caring what happened to Vaako and wanting to keep the man at his side. If anyone had told him when he first boarded the doomed wreck that he was going to risk his life for a bunch of strangers he would have laughed.

Now he knew one of those strangers was his cousin--the last of his family. Then there was the teacher, the holy man whose faith hadn't wavered, who would not stop and who never complained; a man who simply did what he could to ensure the survival of his students. He wasn't sure how the mining chick fit in, but she meant something to Vaako. And that left Vaako and the hound. He was keeping the hound. Hunter would come in handy and seemed to be able to care for himself. Vaako he just wanted. The feeling pulled at him from deep within himself.

They crested the last rise that overlooked the settlement. The first thing he saw were several oil cans strategically placed in a circle around the skiff each burning with a fire that was slowly dimming as the rain increased.

"Move," he ordered and was surprised that the load seemed lighter until he realized the Imam was once again carrying one of the cells.

Fry stayed with them until they hit the edge of the settlement and then she burst ahead, leaving the Imam to cover all sides with a single light while carrying the cell. He saw Fry slip and slide in the mud but he didn't stop moving. Then she tripped and the light skidded away, he still felt nothing. He heard her pick herself up and limp behind them.

When he made the last turn he could clearly see the skiff. There were excavating lights a few feet from the skiff that were aimed just above eye level keeping the raptors from getting within another ten feet of the ramp. On the ramp Hunter lay full alert, eyes glowing in the darkness as he watched for intruders. Just behind him stood Jack.

"Here they come!" Jack shouted, just as the hound stood.

Shazza was already opening the floor panels so the power cells could be slid into place as he and the Imam hit the ramp.

"Get away from there," Fry demanded as she stumbled up the ramp and directly to the cells. "I'm the captain here."

Riddick shrugged and walked away but knew that Jack and the hound were both staying close to him. The Imam was seeing to his two students.

"The others?" Jack asked softly.

"Gone," the Imam answered. "Where are Marko and Douglas?"

Shazza shook her head. "Marko wandered off once the wings were repaired and we haven't seen him since the suns went dark. One of those things flew into the settlement as Douglas was resetting the fires and flew off with him. We've not left the ship since."

Riddick stood just at the lip of the ramp and he could feel when Shazza turned to look at him. "Vaako?" she asked.

"Behind us," he said. "I can hear his pulse gun." Riddick stepped onto the ramp and began walking down it.

"Riddick?" Jack called after him.

Riddick glanced over his shoulder. "Stay in the ship. We’ll be back."

"We won't leave without you," Jack said.

Riddick believed she meant what she said, but he also knew that if it was up to Fry they would be gone as soon as the power up cycle was completed and the ship's board showed green.

He found Vaako drenched from the rain and limping forward, pulse gun back in his belt. "What the hell are you doing back here?" Vaako asked him.

"Looking for you so we can bolt."

Riddick grabbed Vaako by the waist and pulled him towards him. "You're mine," he said, still not understanding his feelings for Vaako but trusting them. "I'm not giving you back."

Then they were surrounded by raptors and he got to see first hand Vaako fight with a bladed weapon and it didn't disappoint. He pulled the ulaks from his belt and sliced through the raptor closest to him. The blades were made for him and he danced through the remaining raptors with Vaako at his back. It was exhilarating. When they were done, Vaako leaned in and kissed him before backing away.

"We need to go," Vaako said, grinning at him even as the rain became heavier.

Then in the blink of an eye, Riddick saw the claw pierce Vaako's chest and Riddick started to tremble. He was beyond pissed. He felt the rage build as he realized Vaako was the person his mother had whispered about when she had said, "The other half of your soul is out there."

He screamed one name as light and power seemed to burst through his very being. "Theon!"

Images flashed through his mind. A planet made of ice. Fry standing in the place Vaako had just been. Men and women hanging from racks. Vaako and him lying together on a big bed. Jack pale and dead with a spike through her chest. His mother. And more. The Wrath of an Alpha Furyan awoke what was locked away and wiped out dozens of the raptors. He could hear the rest squawking out warnings and their heavy wings beating as they flew from the settlement.

"Riddick," Vaako coughed, struggling to pull the claw from his chest. "That's the third time you've hit me with that wrath thing."

Riddick laughed and knelt down next to Vaako, knowing the only reason he wasn't stumbling was because Vaako had given him some of his blood. He remembered it all and it was weird to have two sets of memories. If Vaako was here, then it meant the Elementals had failed in the past and Vaako's sire was still alive.

He pulled the claw from Vaako's chest and offered the other man his wrist. "Drink," he said and didn't flinch when Vaako bit into his wrist.

Within minutes they were jogging back to the skiff. The first thing Riddick noticed as soon as his feet hit the ramp was that Fry was missing and Jack was sitting with her legs drawn up to her chest, arms tightly wrapped around them and there was the scent of human blood lingering in the air.

"Where's Fry?" Vaako asked.

"She...I," Jack started. "She was going to leave without you."

Jack jumped to her feet and ran to Riddick, wrapping her arms around his waist. Riddick almost stopped the embrace for a second then changed his mind and wrapped his arms around Jack and waited. Shazza was closing the ramp and securing the door while Vaako had moved up to the pilot chair.

The Imam cleared his throat. "I believe the captain might have been sampling some of Mr. Johns' morphine. She had become unstable. Shoving people, banging the cabinets open. She threatened to leave all of us here. Young Jack..."

"Kyra," Jack said, her head still buried in Riddick's chest. "My name is Kyra."

"Young Kyra got in her way when she tried to fire the engines," the Imam started again, but it seemed Kyra wanted to finish it.

"She came at me and I just lifted the blade. I didn't mean to kill her," the young girl finished.

Shazza came forward. "I'll take her until we get into the air," she said. "To finish the tale. Carolyn ran from the ship. Those things got her."

Riddick nodded and gently pulled Kyra away from him. He looked her in the eyes. "Don't cry for her, little cousin, she doesn't deserve your tears. Stay with Hunter and Shazza," he said. "I need to help Vaako."

He climbed into the co-pilot seat. "You have a plan?" he asked.

Vaako looked his way and grinned and Riddick shivered. "I have lots of plans, but most do not include an audience," he said, pulling Riddick into a kiss. "Fly us off this hellhole, Riddick."

Riddick grinned and engaged the engine. The skiff bumped into the air and then through the upper atmosphere until they were in the darkness of space.

~~~***~~~

Epilogue

Vaako rolled onto his side, his hand running down the bare stomach of his lover, his balance, his Alpha Furyan. They were finally together as they were meant to be.

He rolled again so that he was straddling Riddick's body. "Something on your mind?" Riddick asked, grinning up at him.

Vaako felt Riddick's hands grip his waist. "Always," he replied, using his index finger to trace the bite marks on Riddick's chest and neck.

It had been two months since their escape from Hades. The La Magra, named in honor of Drake's mother, had popped out of subspace just as the Kublai Khan--a merc ship captained by a mad woman who liked to play sick games with her passengers--had tried to pull their little skiff into its hanger bay. Hannibal had informed him that the trajectory of the now heavily damage ship had it crashing on Hades. He enjoyed the irony and had not wished those people luck on that landing.

Hannibal had hugged him as soon as he was standing on the skiff's ramp. His friend had ignored the growl from Riddick with an "oh please" toward Riddick, but stepped back after a moment when he saw the other survivors standing on the ramp.

"Visitors, excellent," Hannibal had said, cheerfully. "Welcome. Also, Hunter, you are in so much trouble."

"Hunter?"

"There are puppies," Hannibal had bounced on his feet. "Drake's not amused. The other kids are."

"You are," Vaako said pointedly, knowing his friend well.

"Of course. Now who are our guests?"

After that there had been introductions and explanations. Rynea had been happy to meet one of her descendants. Shazza was staying on board for a while, having nowhere else to go and the La Magra could always use a good mechanic.

There were indeed puppies; four of them and one had taken to Kyra instantly. Kyra was also staying, and when she wasn't with Riddick she was with Shazza and Rynea. There was a planned trip to Furya in the next month for both Riddick and Kyra's benefit.

The Imam and his students were safely on Helion Prime. They received comms from them every few weeks.

Hannibal and Riddick had actually found common interests. One of them being hunting rogues. Riddick and Drake sparred once or twice a week. Vaako rather enjoyed watching them.

Annora, Vaako's sister, had paid Crematoria a visit and then compensated the warden a hefty sum worth more than the bounty on Riddick. To the universe at large, Riddick had been captured and delivered to the triple max slam and then incinerated during his escape attempt.

There had been no signs of the Elementals but they were keeping their ears and eyes open for them; and for Zhylaw. That morning they had blown up this timeline's version of the Threshold and everyone who knew what it had been seemed much more relaxed.

Vaako leaned down and kissed his mate. His vampire mate. Riddick had given them two days to get settled once the skiff had landed and then had insisted. Said he had been waiting since he blew up the threshold portal the first time and he was tired of waiting. Who had Vaako been to argue with that?

He shifted down Riddick's body.

"I think I like what's on your mind," Riddick moaned.

"Thought you might," Vaako answered with a moan of his own.

~end~



art by tarlan