Disclaimer: Witchblade does not belong to me. The characters are full of inspiration, intelligence, and intrigue that I cannot help but borrow them a short while. While I heartily enjoy the show and its premise, the events of this story are mine. The characters are definitely not.

Author's Note: For Mr. Hathaway and b8kworm. The snowstorm raging outside my window in the middle of March, during my Spring Break, is wreaking havoc on my mind. Hopefully, this has exorcised whatever lurked there.

Summary: Throughout his lifetime, he sought so many things - safety, peace, love, the next Knight and Wielder - now it was time to seek something only for himself.

Rating: PG

Archive(s): Mine. Anybody else, email me.

Pairing(s): Ian/Sara

Spoiler(s): Teensy little Destiny.

***** ***** *****

Title: Seeker

Author: Adrianna AEternalis
Email: [email protected]

As a boy, orphaned and alone, he had sought a sheltered harbor of warmth and comfort. What he found instead was the impersonal atmosphere of an orphanage.

Then, Kenneth Irons had entered his life, bringing order and a full stomach into his chaotic, starved life. He never knew how bleak living with Irons was, after all, it was better than what he previously had.

He never took anything Irons offered for granted, taking each opportunity to the full extent of experience. Trying to always gain his approval, Ian's world narrowed down to a single focus; he never knew that would be his downfall.

And so, through adolescence, he learned - about Irons's obsession, about himself, about the various skills and knowledge Irons was compelled to impart - but most of all, Ian learned about the Witchblade.

Beginning at puberty, it haunted him, flooding him with dreams of images long past and long in arriving. Driven by the compulsion to hide, Ian dove into the night, trying to outrun and outmaneuver sleep. Sometimes, he won; most times, he slept. The toll was high and the need to prevent Irons from discovering drained him; the Black Dragons Project was a welcome respite.

Half a world away, pumped full of stimulants and chemicals, Ian found his true strength. Rediscovered the wanderlust, suppressed it, ignored the call of the Witchblade to find and protect its Wielder.

Years later, a man entitled to his own rights, Ian finally succumbed to the Witchblade: using his every action in response to Irons's orders to mask the instinctive reactions engendered by the Witchblade. Sometimes, they ran parallel, giving the man a moment of peace and of reflection. Often, it was a constant battle of polar opposites; he was outside the struggle as much as he was within it. He watched more than a little biased as Irons fought the superior will of the Witchblade and he railed as both powers used his body ruthlessly - each for a personal gain.

Regardless of conflicted interests, Ian found a small modicum of pleasure as he searched for the Wielder. One of the few duties enforced by both Irons and the Witchblade, he worked diligently, using his skills to the utmost; he remembered proudly how he developed a few more.

There was something about Sara Pezzini that woke the fiercest of protective urges within him. It was one of the many "things" that told him she was the true Wielder. Never mind that the Witchblade had found its way to her wrist during the museum fire fight; never mind Irons's initial, intense interest turned hatred toward her; never mind the Periculum; never mind the gravitation toward the weird in her cases. He knew she was the one solely by his reaction to her presence.

Unbidden, he would drift across rooftops, for miles, simply to watch her. He would disobey Irons - both subtly and outrageously - in unbeknownst hope to be in his Lady's favor.

Somewhere along the line, Ian acknowledged Excalibur; the only thing from a best forgotten past that he had no heart to toss aside. For years, it hung on a chain about his neck, perhaps as a reminder of the past's cold. Now, Excalibur gleamed gloriously on his finger, marking him as distinct.

Not twenty-four hours after, Lazar had found him. In a smoky bar, hidden deep in New York City's maze of underground joints, they shared and commiserated, each pledging to the other. There may be only one Wielder for one bracelet and one mastermind as the villain, but there were always two Knights: one to wield the power of Excalibur, the other to be his brother-in-arms and teacher. It evened the odds nicely.

He could remember tasting the first draughts of freedom as Irons impaled himself on the Blade; odd how in death he finally laid claim to it. Never could Ian bring himself to blame Sara - never. Rather, the guilt of blood rested in his own hands. If only he had been more diligent to Irons rather than Sara. If only.

Ah, but the freedom. It had been a long time since he tasted it. As a child, he moved as the wind blew him; today, he returned to that rootless manner, supported by the monetary fortune that was Irons's legacy.

With Irons finally resting in long overdue peace, Ian threw all his energy into Sara and the Witchblade, and knew the bitterness of rejection time and time again. Yet, he could not forget his duties to her as much as he would like to nurse those wounds in misery, he always left her with an open invitation and did his best to leave her life.

Those nights, he dreamed of a magnificent reunion with his Lady, whereby she would accept his role in her life. That was all he really needed, but his treacherous mind showed him what his heart wanted: a complete union of mind, body, heart, and soul. Ian spent long, sleepless nights schooling himself to expect nothing.

Then, one night, his old mistress of Night and Sleep bewitched him; when he awoke, it was to Sara's pain and need. Giving her all she rejected from him, he cared for her, tending her wounds with a gentle sincerity he deftly hid. He convinced her somehow to accept the safety and warmth he could provide, at least for the time it took for her to heal fully; he sank to the floor in benediction as she accepted.

Still under the guise of no expectations, he cautiously felt his way through the changes in their relationship. He like her way of explanation: "Absence does make the heart grow fonder." In other words, she missed him.

Ian did his very best to keep her engaged in mind and in spirit, especially since he did not know for how long she would remain. Having uncovered a hidden delight for fireplaces, he had the most comfortable room's hearth lit nightly. There, they would convene daily, sometimes for the entire day, others solely for the night. He would read as she drowsed; they would play chess or debate. Through it all, Ian savored each newly created memory as the treasure it was.

He expected it, but the shock remained fresh. It was as simple as her leaving: no word of warning, she always had been free to leave yet she remained as long as she did by choice. Mind blank, heart carefully numb, Ian somehow spent that evening alone in encompassing silence since he had thrown the small mantle clock into the fire hours earlier. He contemplated alcohol and severely wished he had acquired an affinity for the unique taste. As it was, he was still staggeringly alert as he made it to bed.

From the darkest of despair caused by Sara, she carried the ability to lift him to the clouds. Two nights after her departure, he woke from restless slumber by her presence tucked carefully on his bed. She had managed to offset and bypass each of his many alarms to enter his bedroom as silently as a ghost.

He had reached out to touch her, to convince himself she was a mere illusion. Then, she was real, in his arms, holding him so tightly, told him of her internal conflict of warring emotions - so like his own before she had entered his life. In her first kiss, he tasted her exuberance at resolving everything. It took two days to come to it, but here she was, ready to see what her Knight was capable of doing.

Years later, the memories of how desperately he strove for her pleasure, to hear her sighs and gasps, settled him in the knowledge that he had satisfied her. He remembered the smiles that effortlessly ignited the fire of his passion. He recalled the happiness in her special glow as she awoke each morning, content to be in his arms.

Sadly, even the most deserved of happiness never last. Lazar's death could only mean that a new Knight was born and Sara's tenure as Wielder was coming to its close. Ian fought so bravely, but he could not cheat Fate of its prize: Sara's death ended the only period of bliss he had known. Grief tried to claim him; the Witchblade and Excalibur refused to dignify it.

Ian was bound forever by his duties, it seemed. He had to find the new Knight, to train him as best he could. He had to provide the young man with all the skills needed to protect the Wielder.

So, he began a boarding school type of institution. All he wanted were the independent loners who wanted something better with a ferocity they did not understand. That was the earmark of a Knight. They found their own paths to him; in return for a place called home, they gave him the means to find the Knight. Ian could not bring himself to leave New York City; to him, that meant leaving Sara.

Occasionally, he wondered why Irons had found him rather than Lazar. The only explanation plausible was to right a wrong. Irons had stripped the Knights of their status; their wealth used to subsidize Vorschlag Industries. As Irons's heir, Ian returned the ancient funds to the usual post-Wielder needs: finding and training the next Knight.

The other boys who came and learned to call Ian Father grew to maturity with a ceaseless loyalty. They departed into the world intent on repaying their father for his generosity - by saving other youths like they had been. One of these newly saved changed Ian's life.

He arrived on a typical day and looked typically bedraggled by a hard life on the streets. He was the usual mix of defiance and hard won independence, one who softened instantly at the sight of Excalibur, who persistently refused to withdraw from Ian's hand. Like Ian had known Sara from the voice in his heart and Lazar from the trust of his mind, this boy commanded respect from his soul.

When the boy left Ian's office, Ian had only Excalibur for company. Reaching with his other hand, he tried to tug the heavy silver ring from its spot of comfort, the home it had for so many years. The ring refused to budge, slivers of metal slipped out of hidden spots and dug into his fingers. With a sigh, Ian ceased tugging and began to wonder if any other man could be asked to undertake the burden of being the Wielder's Knight. To be asked to love and to protect her, and then to be required to outlive her for as long as it took to find the next Knight. To watch emotionlessly as his successor fell in love with his Wielder, knowing one's own death signaled hers. The Knights were doomed to solitary lives. It was too much to ask - out of any man.

He dreamed of his Wielder that night, hearing her bewitching laughter and drowning in her eyes. Dawn showed him that Excalibur had slid off his finger - another sign that the boy was the one for whom he sought. At once, he understood the dream as a fond farewell from Excalibur.

The glass display housing a lonely Witchblade now had its male counterpart with it. Ian vowed to wait until the boy chose; the Witchblade and Excalibur may apply a great deal of pressure but ultimately the future came down to willingness.

It was very early one morning when the alarm finally rang. Ensconced within the shadows of his prime, Ian used decades worth of skills to silently enter his study and carefully note the broken glass. Excalibur was on the boy's finger, however loose the fit, and the Witchblade held him captive. As silent as Nature's predators, Ian settled into his chair to wait the scene out; there was much to discuss.

More years passed; Ian watched with bittersweet knowledge as the Wielder was chosen. The Periculum came and passed; Fate had given the young couple what he and Sara had not: only love to fill their days and nights. They fought well together, Ian could congratulate himself on training his successor well.

Ian could taste the desire to reunite with his own Lady, but he could not bring himself to accept death. Every morning he woke to life, he knew it was another day the Wielder would live. Grief and solitude were banished to come again. Everyday he held on meant someone else would not curse his fate.

An old man now, Ian knew he had lived a good life: he had not shunned his duties and he had tasted the sweet fruit of love. He had survived the biting cold of his youth and the utter solitude of life after Sara.

On a external note, Sara's heir to the Witchblade had lived long; long enough for a full lifetime of love and children. Ian did not care, not anymore. He wanted to discover the kiss of death because it meant Sara was back with him. Having forsaken it so long, he knew his wait would be long yet.

Throughout his lifetime, he sought so many things - safety, peace, love, the next Knight and Wielder - now it was time to seek something only for himself. With single-minded intensity, Ian longed for death; it was time, he was ready.

Death came for him amidst a roaring and terrifying snowstorm, as he drowsed beside a pleasing fire. He gazed unseeingly into the shifting orange, red, and yellow and smiled back to the beloved face mirrored there. A quiet, satisfied sigh later, Ian Nottingham was dead. And so, having lived so selflessly in life, Ian died to the sound of his Sara's laughter, forgetting that his death meant the current Wielder's inevitable demise.

*****

Ian stepped through the veil that separated him from Sara, and exhaustion along with heartache fell away. Standing tall as he did in his younger days, he caught his Lady as she rushed into his arms. He swung her around, cherishing the only one he had ever loved, the one for whom he had searched since the start of time.

***** ***** *****
© RK 16.Mar.2004