Witchblade: Blood Lines
(An Alternate Season Two/ Alternate Reality Fanfiction)
by Lady Cailin

Summary: Alt. Season Two. An accident reveals to Sara the events of the previous continuum, and a whole lot of things she didn't know about the Witchblade, her past, her future, and the blood that binds them all.

Disclaimer: Witchblade and related materials are copyright Time Warner, TNT, Top Crow, and subsequent companies. This Fan Fiction was not produced, and is not intended to be reproduced, for profit. No infringement of said copyrights is intended by the author and should certified officials of Time Warner, TNT or Top Crow view this, then author would like to demand a third season. Thank You.

CHAPTER ONE: Perseverance



Sara Pezzini jerked back in the seat of her partner's car, her heart hammering in her chest as he reached for the door handle. She sucked in a strangled breath and reached out blindly to grasp his arm and stop him. The sense of danger flooded her body, humming warm and fast through her veins.

"Pez? Whats wrong?" Danny frowned intently, his hand drifting from the door handle to touch the fingers that griped his arm tightly. The tension eased slightly, when he turned his attention away from Jimmy Gallo, entering the Rialto, and she found she could breath again. Everything in her had screamed not to let Danny get out of the car.

Always trust your instincts baby, any good cop does.

Pop had always had little pieces of advice like that.

They were outside of the Rialto theater staking out Jimmy Gallo, the man who had killed her father and more recently, one of her friends. Maria. Sara frowned, her grip on Danny's arm loosening. Why did she feel so distant. . .so out of it all of the sudden?

Red. Blood. Danny lying on the ground and his blood seeping out around him. Bullets. Dark eyes. Flashing lights. Blood and Blade and a scream from her soul.

"Pez?" Danny asked again, starting to look even more worried, "Whats up?"

"I changed my mind Danny, thats all." She reached over and turned the keys for him, the engine revving up with a shudder of complaint for the cold New York weather. Danny just gave her that same old 'your crazy Pez' look he loved to give her. One eyebrow raised, the forehead scrunched, mouth hanging open in confusion She'd seen that look a thousand times, and hoped to see it a thousand more. She closed her eyes briefly, the image of Gallo with his gun pointed at Danny flashing through her mind once more. Her heart continued to beat a loud melody to the tune of 'lets get out of here' as she fingered the bracelet on her wrist, finding a strange comfort in the action.

Danny continued to look at her in concern, and she forced a small smile to lift the corners of her mouth. Only this morning she had been insistent on nailing Gallo, and now she was acting like all she wanted to do was get the hell out of here and away from the stakeout that might take him down. Had it only just been this morning? It felt like longer. . .

"Don't worry Danny. We've got time."

Danny nodded once, but hesitated before turning his attention to pulling his aging car away from the Rialto. Sara turned her eyes to the world outside her window, the cold and gray world of New York in winter. She could feel the bitter cold coming off the windows and latched on to the sensation. It made her feel less. . .spacy. She felt something tug at her senses, and scanned the horizon around them. Dried up trees with iron fencing around them scattered the edges of the sidewalk. Faded blue postboxes with frost on the lids and the half melted clumps of last weeks snow flurry. Her eyes only just made out the figure of a man standing utterly still in a nearby alley, draped in shadows too dark for this time of day. He looked at her for one long moment as the car pulled from the curb, and then melted back into them, his eyes lowered in a gesture that seemed all too familiar.

"Yeah," she whispered. "Time."

* * *

Ian stood motionless, wide shoulders curled forward and dark head bowed in submission before his master, his father. Kenneth Irons.

"What went wrong Ian?" The cultured tones of Irons voice smoothed over him, civilized and yet cruelly sharp. He was not pleased. Ian lowered his head a fraction of an inch more.

"It seems Sara Pezzini did not react as planned, sir." Ian thought back to that moment as her partner's car pulled away, when Sara had looked at him through glass and shadows. Boldly, directly, as if she had known he was there. She had fingered the Witchblade in an almost soothing manor. Perhaps she had indeed known he was there.

"Then the question falls to why." Irons murmured, his lips tightening into a thin line of irritation. Ian again thought of the way Sara had held the Witchblade, and the way she had looked at him.

"Perhaps she sensed the danger of the situation through her connection with the Witchblade. It could be protecting her." Ian offered this suggestion hesitantly, and was rewarded with a sharp look from his master.

"Such idle speculation has no place in this conversation. Sara Pezzini must use the Witchblade. She must bond with it through violence." Irons finely manicured hands drummed thoughtfully on the arm of his chair, his other hand fingering a gold time piece. The silence stretched once more in the room, and Ian lowered his head, waiting for the latest plan to roll off Irons tongue, attached to his orders. He was not long in waiting. Irons voice was cool and composed once more as he turned to Ian, leaning back into the cushioned leather of his chair. A small smile graced the corners of his mouth.

"Perhaps it is time we sent the snake after the lioness," he mused aloud, his fingers curling around the cool metal of the watch. His gaze then shifted to Ian, and noted the new tension in the younger man's hands. "Take care of the other matter, and watch her closely Ian. I do not have another thirty years to wait for a new Wielder to emerge." Ian bowed his head slightly in acknowledgment, but didn't move as he sensed Irons eyes still on him, watching too closely. There was something else.

He would be questioned.

"The detective is very beautiful Ian." Ian remained silent and still, his eyes darting back and forth as his mind raced, searching for the path this line would take. His master would never have kept him here for such a casual comment. There was something more.

"She reminds me so much of Elizabeth." Ian was careful not to move, to reveal nothing. He lowered his head that fraction more once, acknowledging the statement for what it was: A warning. A reminder.

Blood of my Blood.

"You may go Ian."

He must not forget.

* * *

Ian pulled back into the shadows, watching the Asian assassin enter the building to the right of the one that held Sara Pezzini's apartment. The man was second rate, unworthy of even attempting to take the Wielder's life. Ian turned down the alley next to the building, his steps quick and silent, every movement measured before it was taken. The lock on the door which opened into the building to the right of that the assassin had taken made only a barely audible click as it gave under his handling, and his footsteps couldn't be heard ascending the flights of stairs that lead up to the roof.

The assassin was there on the adjacent roof, and Sarah's apartment lay beyond. The man was only just beginning to piece together his riffle, and Sara would not be home for another half an hour. Ian easily jumped the gap between the two buildings, taking advantage of the man's preoccupation with the riffle and assurance of his own safety. Truly unworthy of Sara.

Ian had never met a worthy opponent before Sara Pezzini. He could understand what attracted the blade to the detective. She was fearless, passionate, strong, and yet acutely vulnerable. Ian pulled behind the entrance to the roof, watching the assassin in silence. Mr. Irons had been right to warn him. He had become too preoccupied with observing the detective. He had begun to admire her. Admiration could be dangerous in this situation, and Ian had begun to fear that admiration was not all he held for her. It was a knowledge that damned him.

Blood of my blood.

She was beautiful, a woman in her prime. A warrior waiting to ascend to greatness. Ian moved quickly, snapping the man's neck and throwing him aside just as Sara had her jacket upon entering her apartment. He glanced through the scope, watching as she moved to start the coffee pot. It took a few minutes for her to move over to the window. Minutes filled with the silence of the rooftop and the cold of the evening air. But she wandered over as she always did, watching the streets she fought so hard to protect with a cup in her hand and a vacant look in her eyes. So much strength, and yet so very vulnerable was his Sara.

He closed his eyes, an ache welling within him. Not his Sara. He must remember. It was wrong, sick and twisted and she would loath him if she knew. As he loathed himself.

Blood of my blood.

Ian fingered the trigger lightly as he had a hundred times before, the feel of a single tear trail cool against his skin as he withdrew, leaving the broken gunman and his weapon as a message. Mr. Irons had not requested such enthusiasm in protection of the Wielder, but Ian was glad to give it. Even as he told himself he must guard against the emotions that caused it.

* * *

Kenneth leaned back into his seat as Ian entered the room, the slide of the doors the only indication that he was no longer alone. Silent, deadly, easily directed. Ian Nottingham was everything Kenneth could have wished for in a wielder, and everything Sara Pezzini was not. She was proving to be difficult to manipulate even at this early stage. But then, perhaps he had become spoiled by the ease with which pretenders were controlled and manipulated. He might look on this as a challenge. His first real challenge in over thirty years.

Kenneth didn't bother speaking to Ian for confirmation that Mr. Gallo's little henchman had been taken care of. Ian was nothing if not well trained. He would not have returned if his mission were incomplete. Kenneth picked up the phone casually, his every movement conducted with the lazy grace of a man well bred and rich. He pressed a button and waited in silence for Gallo to pick up the phone.

"Mr. Gallo."

"Mr. Irons. It's a pleasure as always." The voice was slightly nervous, and Kenneth couldn't help the small smile that raised one corner of his mouth.

"I'm afraid your foreign friend has been unsuccessful." He waited a moment for the words to sink in, and was rewarded with the delightful vocabulary of the Brooklyn born Gallo.

"You know how important this matter is to your future in this city. Might I suggest you take a more personal approach to this problem?" He intoned, making his point clear. Gallo quickly fired of a response, assuring Irons that he would take care of it all personally.

"Excellent Mr. Gallo. Good night." He slipped the phone back into place, smiling to himself and idly stroking the marks the Witchblade had left on his right hand so many years ago. As a matter of principle Kenneth never said anything incriminating over the phone. Ian's security measures were impeccable when it came to the privacy of his own line, but not everyone had Ian. Gallo was being watched, and not just by New York officials. Kenneth glanced at Ian and noted the tension lining his body before the other man could force it away.

"Watch her, and report back to me when she has used the Witchblade." Ian's head bowed fractionally in response to the order, and Kenneth eyed him for a long moment more before dismissing him with a silent wave of his pale hands.

* * *

Gallo snapped the phone shut, resisting the urge to hurl it out the window. That damn foreign piece he'd hired hadn't gotten the job done. He never should have gone out of town for this one. He should have done it himself from the beginning. Damn Sara Pezzini. Damn Irons too, that rich bastard, treating him like some dog who didn't know how to fetch.

He turned on the two men riding with him. Vespucchi and DeAngelo. They were both dark and large, muscle he'd hired not long after that guy of Irons had sent half his boys to the hospital. All to set up a meeting. If he just had some guys like that one, then he'd get some work done around this town.

"Tomorrow night you two are bringing me Pezzini. Not even a miracle is going to save that bitch this time."

* * *

"I'm just saying its not like you, thats all," Danny continued, following Sara through the door of their office as she stormed in and started removing her jacket with short, angry movements. He closed the door behind them so the whole precinct wouldn't be in on this little squabble. He sat down behind his desk and watched her in silence as she just stood there, looking confused and more then a bit frustrated. Sara finally pulled her hands roughly through her hair and sat down on top of her desk, facing him.

"It just didn't feel right Danny. Last time it didn't feel right. . ." Her voice wandered off and she turned her face away.

". . .Your Dad, I know," he finished for her so she wouldn't have to get the words out. "It just seemed strange is all. One minute your gung-ho about going in and bringing down Gallo. The next your turning tail and-"

Sara's head snapped up and she glared at him, her eyes flashing in that 'You had better not finish that sentence Danny' way they had. He was almost convinced she'd developed that one especially for him, she gave it to him so often. Then again, he was one of the few who had the guts to push it for her own good.

"I did not turn tail." She ground out, her jaw working. She punctuated the statement with another sharp look of warning.

"Okay, okay." Danny held up his hands. He also had the smarts to know when to back off. Maybe he shouldn't push it right now. She'd had a tough couple of months. First her dad, then Maria. She was carrying around a whole lot of guilt mixed up with grief and memories these days. Plus that whole thing at the Museum downtown. It was weird to think how close he had come to losing a partner that day.

"I should know better then to question your womanly instincts before you've had your coffee," he joked, offering her his 'truce' smile. She returned it, and the tension melted away easily. No more questions today. Just work and coffee, and training the rookie.

"McCartney's with us today," he reminded her while he pored out two cups of coffee, earning a groan as she sat down. He grinned, deciding the truce didn't mean no teasing. After all, it was Pez, how was he supposed to restrain himself?

"Hey I thought you liked the little surfer boy, him being a good kid and all." Pez smiled slightly, although he thought it was more because of the coffee he was handing her then the joke.

"You were the one who said he was hot Danny," Sara said, arching one eyebrow at him as he took a sip of his own coffee. Danny felt the liquid go down the wrong way immediately, and set down the cup before he managed to scald his lap on top of his already burning esophagus. He wiped at his mouth and gave her a mock glare.

"I never said he was hot. I said Ricki Martin was hot. Watch what you say around here Pez, you could get me in trouble with the wife."

* * *

Sara pulled her bike through the last turn before her block, almost sad to see it. Being on her bike was a good way to think, or not to think, whichever mood she was in. She could sit back and let the speed take her away from it all, or she could use it to focus everything. Tonight it had been nice to forget the world around her during the drive home. She'd taken some back roads and managed to avoid most of the traffic that typically congested the city, and then she'd let the feel of the wind calm her ragged nerves.

All in all it had been a pretty normal day. Mostly paperwork and patrolling with Danny and the rookie. It should have made her feel better. Instead the strange feeling of everything being. . .off, had persisted. It had been there since yesterday, and she'd been questioning her actions because of it. Danny hadn't helped this morning with all that probing, and those looks like he knew she wasn't telling him something. Which she wasn't, because saying it out loud meant she had jumped from being in the process of losing her mind, into the very undesired state of having already completely lost her mind.

She'd been having dreams and urges that didn't feel like her own. . . and what she thought she remembered happening in the Downtown Museum. . .it was all crazy. She was going crazy, and she refused to think about it any more. Sara pulled into the parking lot that had been more or less designated for her building, and then into the spot she had claimed years ago for her bike. She jerked off her helmet fiercely, angry with herself for having ruined the calm brought on by her ride home. Then it happened again.

A flash of a voice without words, an urge not her own. It was like fire coming alive in her blood, and it was warning her:

Danger.

A gloved hand holding a white cloth came over her mouth from behind, another hand restraining her as a strange smell hit her from the cloth. She immediately resisted the urge to breath in, struggling against the giant behind her. Another man stepped in front of her. He was dark, big, but she didn't know him.

The Voice reached out again, still very distant as she struggled, trying to tell her something. Something important. She ignored it, trying to remember her training as her body began to feel heavy, her head light. The man in front of her smiled as her eyes gave up on the struggle against the dizziness overwhelming her.

"Mr. Gallo's got plans for you tonight Detective." His grin waved in front of her vision, and then it was gone.

Along with everything else.

* * *

Her eyes were slow to focus in the variation between shadows and light of the alleyway. There were voices talking around her, deep and accented by the Bronx. But they weren't what woke her up. It was the Voice beneath her skin, running in her blood. The one from the museum, whispering to her to wake up, get up.

Fight.

Sara concentrated hard and the figures around her came into focus despite the pounding in her head. She felt like she was going the throw up all over those nice leather shoes the big guy to her right was wearing. His buddy was leaning on the wall across from her, looking bored in the dim light coming off the grime covered street lamp above her. Stairs fell into darkness to her left, down into another street, another alley that smelled like garbage. She shifted slowly, testing the ropes around her hands.

She heard a sound to her right and turned her head slowly to watch as a man stepped out of a car that had stopped in front of the entrance to the alley. The two thugs with her stood to attention as the smaller man turned towards them, straightening his coat and gloves and smoothing back his hair before making his way into the darkness.

Gallo.

Sara sat up slightly as clipped steps brought him closer to where she leaned against the bricks. She pushed her back against the wall subtly, feeling the stiff holster at her side cave in. Empty. She tried not to panic. These weren't Gallo's usual boys, and there was a possibility they weren't as thorough. They'd taken her main piece, but that didn't mean they'd found her secondary. Gallo came close, towering over her with a smile that was deformed and made monstrous by shadows warring with the bright light above them. She tipped back her head to look him in the eye. The movement allowed her shoulders to drop slightly, the extra inch needed for her bound hands to graze the side of her left boot and check.

No gun.

Her jaw tightened and Gallo motioned one of the thugs to pull her to her feet. He noticed the ropes around her wrists immediately, and frowned.

"Untie her. What the hell are you, a fucking idiot?" Gallo asked, smacking the side of the larger man's arm as he went to work on Sara's hand. He looked at Sara with a sort of a smile, as if sharing his troubles with her.

"These guys got no idea how we do business around here. How are they gonna file you away as a mugging if you got ropes on?" He pulled a gun casually as he spoke, and the thug kept a good hold on Sara's arm when her muscles tensed in response. The Voice whispered again, stronger and more insistent, but it was as if it was being restrained, held behind a veil. Her right arm tingle in response to it, and she clenched and unclenched her hand in the darkness.

"Guess its hard to find good help these days, huh Gallo?" she scratched out, her voice horse and her throat burning from whatever it was they had used to drug her. She raised one eyebrow and used that tone she saved just for him, the one that let him know she saw just what type of filth he was. Gallo's mouth tightened slightly as he waved with the gun, and the thug pushed her in front of the stairs so that she was facing Gallo as he continued to speak.

"I got a lot of memories of this alley Pezzini," he told her as he popped in a new clip. He smiled as he looked up at her, like he was relishing this moment, and the ones that had come before. "I gave your old pops the double tap in this alley."

The Voice rushed through her, roaring to be heard, but she couldn't make out the words, as if they weren't for her. She didn't care what they were. Gallo had killed her father. Rage, pure and unadulterated, welled within her, and she took a half step towards him.

Gallo smiled again as he raised the gun.

"You're a lot like him bella. He didn't beg either."

Suddenly someone was there. In the instant before Gallo pulled the trigger a man melted from the shadows around them, a man Sara recognized. That day in the museum, and after that in the alley across from the Rialto. . .and in her dreams. .

Gallo pulled the trigger without hesitation. The Voice welled up inside her again at that moment and this time it was clear, sharp.

Wait.

Everything grew heavy and out of focus, time seemed to slow down for Sara in that moment as she watched the bullet leave the chamber. She watched recognition, and a kind of panic hit Gallo's face as he looked at the man in front of her. She watched the bullet rip through the man's shoulder and head towards her. She moved forward and to the right, reaching out for him.

Now.

Time sped back up with a sudden jerk to her senses. The man hadn't yet fallen to the ground before the bullet hit Sara, but she caught his eyes in that moment. Eyes that were familiar, watching her with concern. She saw a flash of the same man standing with arms spread in a warehouse, taking bullets she knew were meant for her. . .

Then the bullet that had passed through him hit her left shoulder, and the world exploded behind her eyes.

Flames. The Rialto. A stone angel. Danny's funeral. A man in armor walking towards her. Nottingham. Snakes. A man with pale hair. Kenneth Irons showing her the mark on his hand. A man lying beside her in bed. Conchobar, silent, dead. The man in armor again, throwing out his arms and becoming Nottingham as the bullets took him. Ice. Elizabeth Bronte lying in a moment of frozen grace. A skull. Nottingham, but not Nottingham, they were fighting, and he was dead on her blade. Her blade.

The Witchblade.

Sara's eyes flew open and the gauntlet responded immediately, covering the hand that reached for the railing to her right, keeping her from falling down the stairs behind her and into the darkness beyond. She jerked herself back up, crouching down as the blade hummed on her hand. Her breathing was the only sound in the shocked silence of the alley for a moment

Sara looked up at Gallo through the wave of dark hair that fell into her eyes. His goons were a few steps behind him, looking even more stunned then he was. She stood slowly, and Gallo took a step back, his eyes fixed on the Blade and its Wielder. She let it slide from the gauntlet, its satisfaction at being released pulsing through her. She remembered.

She remembered everything.

Gallo started firing immediately, the hiss of his silencer repeating in the darkness as Sara advanced, swatting the bullets away with a cold determination in her eyes. He emptied his clip quickly, and the goons charged. The Voice, familiar and strong now, spoke.

Attack.

Yes, she agreed, and swung the gauntlet at the one to her right, knocking him back against the brick wall. Her blood rushed and everything seemed to rage into a wild type of focus in those moments. She could hear the click and slide of the second's switchblade like a crack of thunder on a silent night. She could smell his blood as the Witchblade responded and slid into his stomach. She could feel the change in the world around her as the first recovered and attempted to attack her from behind. The Blade ripped through him as she turned.

It was the look of shock on his face that brought her back to herself, made her realize what she'd done. What it had done. That damn this was egging her on just like last time, and she was letting it. She willed the blade back into the gauntlet, despite the Voice, which still hissed danger and the battle.

She could do this one on her own.

Sara turned on Gallo, pulling out the handcuffs they hadn't bothered to take from her. He backed away, towards the sole light in the alley, as if that might protect him from her.

"What the hell are you?" he asked, his voice shaky.

She reached out the gauntlet and smacked aside the empty gun from his hand, where it had hung limply in disbelief. She picked him off his feat, her eyes cold as he began to gasp for air, bringing him close so he could hear her words over the sound of his own struggle for breath.

"Justice."

She turned and threw him on the ground by the railing, snapping the cuffs in place to hold him to its rusted length.

"Your under arrest, Gallo," she told him simply, and began to ramble off his rights, looking around the alley as she did so. No sign of Nottingham. Typical. She touched her shoulder where the bullet had entered. Damn thing was still in there. She'd have to go to the hospital to have them dig it out.

"Do you understand these rights as I have read them to you?" She asked as she got back to Gallo, smiling tightly at him.

"Sure Pezzini. But your crazy if you think I don't got ways out of this one." He shot back, trying to look smug while surrounded by the smell of garbage and wet street filth. She smirked back.

"Yeah, but I got a bullet in my shoulder's gonna make it real hard for you Tommy." She reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone, not really wanting to go back to search the other two for her own.

"Mind if I borrow this?"

* * *

Kenneth Irons stood before the window of his office, observing the New York City skyline. The door hissed twice behind him, noting the entrance of Ian Nottingham, there to tell him something he already knew: Sara had used the Witchblade. His blood was still humming with the power she had exhibited. It had been magnificent. The Witchblade had controlled her, and Sara then had controlled the Witchblade in turn.

He wasn't sure which development he was more pleased with.

The fact that the Witchblade had been able to influence Sara meant that she could be influenced, a trait he found very advantageous to his purposes. It was disappointing that she had regained control, but again a desirable trait. If she could not control the Witchblade, then as a Wielder Sara would be useless to him.

Kenneth focused on the reflection of Ian visible in the glass before him and away from the site of New York at night. He was silent and still as always, but his right hand was held to his shoulder. Kenneth turned, examining the younger man more closely. Blood slipped through Ian's gloved fingers and trailed down his shirt. The flow had already slowed, but it was obvious what had happened. He could barely believe what he was seeing.

"You were shot Ian?" he questioned. Ian's dark head lowered.

"I was careless," he answered, as if this were some sort of explanation. Ian was never careless. He had not been trained for carelessness. He had been trained as the perfect scalpel, Kenneth's weapon. Ian then looked up hesitantly, his eyes wide with a excited glow behind their dark depths.

"She was magnificent," he whispered.

"Yes, I can imagine it was quite a sight to behold. That much raw power. . . " Kenneth found himself smiling, the memory of those moments echoing through him again. Yes, he could understand how young Nottingham had been captivated by such a sight. He would be lenient, this time. He tried to look stern, but was sure the excitement of the night shown in his own eyes.

"Go see the doctor for your wound Ian. You will be expected to put in extra hours to insure you are never this careless again." Kenneth waved him away, turning back to the skyline and his own thoughts. Ian's head bowed low once in the reflection before he disappeared, only the hiss of the doors to mark his exit.

* * *

"Pez? Hey Pez, you there?" Danny repeated again, one hand hesitantly touching her arm. Sara blinked and looked up into the eyes of her concerned partner. He came into focus slowly as too many thoughts and memories faded and the reality of the hospital returned. Danny Woo's dark eyes stared back at her. Danny.

Danny was alive.

Sara nodded quickly, and then on impulse reached out and pulled him into a hug. The tears filled her eyes almost immediately. She had seen him yesterday, and the day before, but with all these memories crowding her head, it suddenly felt like forever. It took her partner a moment to respond and hug her back, but when he did, it was worth having all the memories of when he couldn't. Danny was alive.

She pulled away after a moment, and Danny patted her on the back as she swatted at tears.

"They told me he confessed to you about. . ." he started, and she nodded quickly. Danny took it as the reason she was upset and left it at that. She smiled at him as soon as she got the tears under control, and he smiled back.

"So you here to give me a ride home partner?" she asked, reaching for her jacket and pretending not to see the pointed look he gave to the bloody bandage wrapped around her left shoulder. She pulled on the leather carefully and then gave him an expectant look. He caved under it fairly easily for Danny. He must be glad to have her alive.

"Yeah, I guess so. Are you sure it's a good idea to-"

"Yes," she cut him off. "I need to be home Danny, in my own bed."

He must have been glad to have her alive. He only nodded, and pulled out his keys.

The trip home was uneventful except for a hug of his own Danny started right outside her door. He gave her a look after he pulled away, and she smiled at him before he disappeared down the stairs and out into the street again. Just like that, no words needed between the two of them. They'd been partners that long, and friends even longer. Life wouldn't be the same for either of them without the other.

It hadn't been for her, without Danny.

Sara turned after that thought and unlocked the door with a rattle of keys that was too loud for the silent stairways. She'd been trying not to focus on what had happened yet, too afraid she'd get lost in some vision or memory from . . .Hell, she didn't even know what to call it. It wasn't the past because it had never happened. It was the now. The could-have-been. The almost-was. Sara rubbed at the front of her forehead and threw her jacket across the back of a chair, falling a few inches backward against the door and closing it behind her. The pain killers they'd given her must of kicked in, because her shoulder didn't so much as twinge. Sara leaned against the for a minute, watching the shadows of her apartment.

It only took her a moment in the silence to decide what she was going to do. She'd never had much use for Scarlet O'Hara or the old southern belle routine, but she was going to take a page out of that woman's book.

She was going to think about it tomorrow.

Sara pulled and tugged at clothing as she made her way towards her bed, trying not to move her left shoulder. She managed to shed enough along her path to make herself fairly comfortable by the time she reached her bed. She chucked the pills onto her side table and climbed into the mountain of down comforter and wrinkled sheets. She was careful to stay on her right side, curling her body around a pillow, her habit since Conchobar had died.

But he wasn't dead.

Sara pushed the thought away quickly, hugging her pillow tighter and willing sleep to claim her. It was unnaturally compliant tonight, and the heavy oblivion took her quickly.

The moments of nothing were short lived, and Sara opened her eyes to the sight of a barren landscape before dawn. Large trees scattered the horizon, their leaves gone and their outlines a play of shadows and the red light of the pre-dawn. She turned in a circle once, taking in her surrounding. The last step brought her up short.

A woman stood before her, one Sara had never seen before. Dark hair curled down her back, meeting with a black dress that curved to her body dangerously. Sara didn't recognize her face, which was perhaps what startled her the most. Everyone she had encountered within the Witchblade had been. . .herself.

"Who are you?" Sara asked. Her voice seemed strange on the windless planes, too loud for the moment, too real. The woman smile, a slow process that barely razed the corners of her mouth.

"I am the Other." her voice was fine, cultured and accented by another continent. That amused smile faded easily as she wandered over to the nearest tree, leaning against its length. Sara frowned at her, following.

"The other what?" she barked, catching the woman's dark eyes again. They were familiar in a strange way, and she wanted to place them, wanted answers before all the questions piled up and crushed her.

"The other wielder," the woman answered, the smile flitting across her lips again, like a butterfly not sure it wanted to land "The second branch of our prestigious family tree."

Sara took a step back, shock rippling through her, and the woman took that moment to push off from the tree and advance on her. Her steps were measured and slow, as if she were trying not to spook a wild animal.

"Throughout time there have always been two true wielders Sara, and a host of pretenders and shadows in between." she spoke calmly, softly, and when she reached out for the edge of Sara's shirt to draw it back she didn't struggle. The woman bared the twin circles resting on Sara's chest, the mark Irons had once told her represented the light and dark sides of the Witchblade. She then pulled back the side of her own dress, showing Sara where she bore the same mark.

"We are there to balance one another even as the Witchblade balances the world."

Her expression was strangely blank as she watched the look of shock on Sara's face and stepped back again, her hands falling to her sides. Sara blinked, her hand flying up to touch the mark on her chest, still not really believing this was happening.

"Why two?" her voice was hoarse, but still too forceful for the quiet of this world.

"One for justice. One for . . .a different brand of justice." she hesitated over the words, as if considering the most delicate way to put it. Sara's eyes hardened at the implications and all traces of shock disappeared.

"So you're what, a dark wielder?" Silence stretched for a moment as the woman moved back to the tree and lazily ran one hand across it's rough surface, as if simply testing the texture for the pleasure of it. Finally, she met Sara's gaze once more and nodded slowly, her head tilted to one side.

"If that is the way you would like to think of it, then yes Sara. I am the dark to your light."

Sara shook her head at that half answer. Then again, when was the last time she'd actually had a full answer about this thing? She turned her back on the woman abruptly as frustration welled within her. The damn thing just loved to play with her. Every time she found an answer it raised a new question. Every time she thought she had things figured out, it turned her world upside down again. And now, another Wielder. Why? Why now? Sara turned sharply and met the other woman's calm gaze, her own eyes blazing.

"I don't understand why you're here. The Witchblade never showed me any other line of wielder before. They've always. . ." she faltered, grasping for her real question, the real reason this was bothering her. "They've always been me."

"You had never joined your blood with that of my line before now Sara." The woman whispered, her eyes intent on Sara's face. Sara glared at her.

"What do you mean join my blood? I haven't joined with anyone since-"

The woman cut her off with a loud laugh that carried on the sudden breeze sweeping the plains of the landscape around them. Her hair whipped in the wind and she wound down to a smile, looking too amused as the winds grew stronger.

"You were ever the impatient one weren't you? Give it time Sara, and the answer will come to you."

And then when she least wanted it to, oblivion took her once more.

* * *

NEXT CHAPTER: Sara meets Irons again and turns to her dreams for answers to a question that has been plaguing her: Who is Ian Nottingham? Meanwhile, the Black Dragons watch from the shadows, and Jake gets a new partner.

NOTE ON TNT WITCHBLADE TIMELINE:

"But Lady Cailin," you say "there isn't any room for a second line of wielders in the TNT time line."

Indeed dear reader. But you will also note that nothing about the TNT time line relates to the show in any way. Please refer to the bellow evidence:

1. In the episode Conundrum Elizabeth Brontes granddaughter, Karen Bronte, clearly states that being a spy is what got her grandmother killed. In the TNT time line it states that Elizabeth was killed in a land slide while traveling the world with Kenneth Irons several years after the end of WWII.

Possible explanations:
a) Elizabeth was spying on Kenneth for some reason (keeping in mind that this is supposedly before he amassed most of his wealth according to the TNT time line.)
b) the TNT time line was written separately from the show and therefore, should not be applied to it.

2. Kenneth says he doesn't think he has another thirty years to wait for another wielder to come along. Elizabeth, supposedly the last true wielder, died around 1950. Assuming we're sticking to the date of 2000 shown in the book next to 11/11 for Sara, this is a good deal more than thirty years.

Possible explanations:
a) He is referring to any wielder, not just a true one. It is possible, although highly doubtful, that the pretender Dominique Boushere held the Witchblade from 1959- 1970. Thus making his thirty year statement valid.

Counter argument: If he was looking for just any old wielder, he wouldn't have been concerned with waiting. He would have picked out a pretender to wear the blade for him. He was referring to waiting for a true wielder who could become the blood supply he needed to extend his life.

b) the TNT time line was written separately from the show and therefore, should not be applied to it.

3. In the TNT time line it is said that Kenneth cut off Elizabeth's hand in order to remove the Witchblade. However, in multiple shows we have seen the preserved body of Elizabeth Brontes, with her right hand perfectly intact. As well of the rest of her. Last time I checked, being crushed by a landslide was not one of the pretty ways to die.

My point? The TNT time line is completely useless, don't pay attention to it. I certainly don't anymore.