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Learn to Play

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To anyone who wasn’t as intimately acquainted with the Lord Marshal as Vaako, the scene which was now playing out in the war room would have been shocking. For Vaako, it was routine. That of course didn’t make the situation any easier to deal with. Vaako held his breath as he glared at the doors for the umpteenth time, daring them to open and admit a sorry fool trying to catch him unawares.

Everything about Lord Riddick’s actions was seemingly out of character. That one so strong would be willingly on his knees; such a thing was impossible for a necromonger to fathom. It was sinful to even imagine. Unbecoming. Shameful, if you got right down to it. If the rest of the basilica knew... Vaako’s blood ran colder at the very thought. If the people found out they would be in equal turns disgusted, disturbed, and mortified. Doubts would spread like wildfire. If their leader could degrade himself this way, was he worthy of leadership at all?

In the months since Riddick’s ascension to the throne things had evened out. The Necromongers had gradually become more accepting of such a strange Lord Marshal. Yet all they needed would be one wrong person walking through that door just now, one hapless idiot, and they’d be right back to square one. All the PR work that Vaako had done to improve people’s perceptions of Riddick would shatter into a million irreparable pieces. Months of migraine inducing advisement to his Lord would be shot out the air lock. Countless hours of harassment and threats, the bitter finality of a divorce, the demotions and promotions, they would all be for naught.

Vaako grit his teeth to keep from scowling.

Even with all this potential danger however, Vaako knew better than to try and persuade his Lord to stand up and behave more in accordance to his position. He had tried before, both to convince Riddick to stop acting so foolish and to convince himself that he didn’t secretly enjoy it. On each count he had been equally unsuccessful. In time he had learned the hard way that he needed to pick his battles carefully with Riddick. The Lord Marshal could be convinced of all manner of things if the appropriate motivation or reasoning was provided, but on other matters he was unflinching.

The Lord Marshal’s deep rumbling sounds of pleasure turned to quiet laughter. Vaako tried not to stare but he knew he was less than successful. The only other time when Riddick was this loose and free with his happiness was when he and Vaako fucked, and although Vaako was loath to admit it, at those times he was usually not in a state which facilitated careful observation. Now though, as an outsider looking in, he could watch all he wanted, as blatant as he dared. Riddick clearly didn’t mind the scrutiny or else he never would have done this while Vaako was around.

With a sigh that would have be imperceptible to anyone without the Lord Marshal’s fine tuned hearing, Vaako let his gaze slip from Riddick to glance around the room once again. Even if his Lord did not recognize the potential for catastrophe here, Vaako would be diligent all the same. He would not let his Lord fall from grace all for a moment of pleasure. He would not let all his hard work and sacrifice for this man be destroyed simply because-

A strong hand grabbed onto Vaako’s wrist, it’s grip unyielding as it turned the appendage until Vaako’s hand was palm up. Vaako whipped his head around and started to growl something unsavory but Riddick cut him off by shoving a large, slightly soggy lump of heavy cowhide into his hand.

“Stop being a stiff. Throw the fucking ball.” Though the words were a command, there was a laughter to Riddick’s eyes unobscured by his trademark goggles. Vaako’s protests died on his tongue and though he took a moment to turn his disdainful glare on the toy in his hand he did as he was bade. As the leather ball sailed up and towards the far side of the room, the claws of half a dozen hellhounds kicked into a rapid staccato rhythm, each of the beasts racing across the metal floor for their prize.

When the pack was under the ball they slammed into each other, snarling and snapping as they competed to possess it. One was more nimble than the others and leapt off the back of a competitor to snatch the toy out of the air. She twisted to get her feet under her before bolting back towards her master, dodging the five losers who tried valiantly and block her way.

Riddick laughed as she neared, opening his arms as she slowed down and thumped into him gently, butting at his chest with her head before dropping the ball and panting. If Vaako anthropomorphized animals, he would have said that she was grinning.

The Lord Marshal continued to play with the female in congratulations, buffeting her head around even as he picked up the ball and handed it to Vaako again.

“Gotta learn to have some fun, Vaako.”

The First Among Commanders just shook his head and took a moment to pull off his gauntlets and set them aside. “As you command, Lord Riddick.”

As the ball sailed through the air again, higher than before, taking full advantage of the war room’s vaulted ceilings, Riddick’s laughter chased after it. Deep, rumbling, pleased, it filled the room. For a moment it was almost enough to make Vaako’s mouth twitch into something that may have been the undead cousin of a smile, but the moment passed.

Riddick himself smiled with ease as he watched his pets fight. He kept smiling as he turned to look at Vaako.

“You are infuriating, my Lord.” Vaako muttered against his better judgement, but Riddick just laughed again, softer this time.

As the hellhounds returned, the female once again in possession of the ball, they dared to swarm around Vaako the same as they did Riddick. Their bodies radiated heat as they milled about his legs, the stone-like scales which covered their bodies scraping against his armor. Vaako was about to step out of the pack and reclaim a more strategic position against the wall, but once again he found the ball settled in his hand. Riddick’s grumbling command of “Throw. The fucking. Ball.” kept him rooted at his Lord’s side.

He tried to be irritated as he tossed the ball a third time. Tried to glare at the Lord Marshal in a way which would bely the displeasure he really ought to feel. As the hounds snarls and yips echoed around the room he tried very hard not to enjoy himself, really. It was unbecoming after all. Unfit. Shameful.

“Enjoy it Vaako. For some reason the pack likes you. Don’t be stupid and piss them off.”

“Of course, my Lord.”

If Vaako reached down to stroke the ears of the female as she returned successful a third time, at least no one was around to comment.

Except of course for Riddick, but he just laughed.