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: CMT is an amusing channel for me to watch since you never know what you could learn. In my case, I learned about the practice of 'dropping a handkerchief'. My fondest thoughts to Mr. Hathaway, b8kworm, and SunMee. Many thanks to Kitsa and Cathy for the betas, and Kitsa again for the discussions.

Summary: In this lifetime, I am but a knight sworn to protect a lord's daughter for an afternoon. In another, I was a prince, the heir to a legendary duty. One entrusted to my family since the beginning of time.

Rating: PG

Archive(s): Mine; anybody else, email me.

Pairing(s): Ian/Sara

Spoiler(s): None that I know of.

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Title: Handkerchief And Smiles
Author: Adrianna AEternalis

Chapter 1

Ian had an infinite number of recollections about her, the Wielder of the Witchblade. Battle losses and victories, births and deaths, repasts and long walks, laughter and pain, were but a small number of categories into which he divided them.

It was in the darkest, coldest, and loneliest part of night that he searched an eternity's worth of memories for one which would bring him a tiny modicum of light, warmth, and belonging. Tonight, he chose what amounted to a far distant fantasy.

Uncomfortable, he found himself in a niche along the wall, planted himself, and watched the party-goers from a safe distance. He cursed his friend once more for agreeing to attend - and promising to bring eligible companions - which meant mainly himself.

It was not that he was shy; it was that he was acutely aware of his own shortcomings in comparison to others. No one would think twice to look at him so why should he bother enjoying himself with ladies so far above his own station in life?

He cursed his friend again, this time from bored misery.

Then a square of white cloth floated into his field of vision; seconds later, a feminine figure straight from his dreams caught his eye: Regina.

He stepped away from his safe niche and retrieved the fallen handkerchief before he could think to stop himself. Already, her frown had turned into a smile as he returned her lost possession.

Her smile stopped his heart.

"Thank you, Clavus," she said.

Her voice managed to stop every thought running through his mind.

She arched an eyebrow at his silence and he grinned. The relief that she had not changed during his absence was palpable.

"Always a pleasure to help a lady," he replied in a tone reminiscent of her raised eyebrow.

"Is that all I am to you?"

He laughed; her ability to put anyone at ease was legendary. As was another one of her skills.

"I would never mistaken you as merely a lady. A great lady, perhaps. A queen, now that's more plausible."

She narrowed her eyes. "Now you jest at my expense."

"Not at all. Many a man has erred that way before; he has also lost in a show of arms against you."

"Afraid I'll win against you as well?"

"Why, of course. The student always manages to outshine the teacher."

Regina grinned; he could see she wanted to hug him. Instead, she settled for a civil, "Welcome home, Clavus. You have been missed."

He, too, regretted that the year had come where every simple action between a man and a woman was open to censor. Like her, he had to resort to formalities.

He reached for her hand, to kiss her there, but stopped when he saw the silver adornment. The red jewel sparkled in the torchlight; it reflected their faces.

"A lovely bracelet, Regina. A birthday gift from some besotted suitor, perhaps?"

She laughed. "A gift from the family, I'm afraid. You think highly of me, Clavus, but no man would think me beautiful. I'm too plain."

He frowned, forgetting her hand was still within his. Not beautiful? With her long, wavy brown hair, crystal-clear emerald eyes, and porcelain skin, she surpassed all. He vowed to thrash every man who did not see her beauty, that unique fire which lit her from within her soul.

"Clavus?" she queried, voice pitched for his ears alone. She tugged on her hand. "Release me. People are watching us."

Clavus found he could not. He stepped forward and straightened to his full height; he was an impressive sight.

"Regina, might I request this dance?"

xxx

Regina blinked at the sudden change in him. She knew little about the way men thought, but she knew something she said had angered him. A nod and, soon, she was in his familiar arms with the music flowing over and around them. Safe, she let her thoughts wander as she wondered.

She had known him her entire life, having grown to maturity with him. Where he came from only her parents knew and they guarded his past with their lives.

As children, they learned together - inseparable as they were - so her education rivaled that of any man. Then, it came time for him to learn to be a man and she a lady. Yet, he always made time for her, secretly teaching her to defend herself with a blade if it became necessary. She knew he worried over her, remembering all those times he swore to protect her.

The years had passed and it was no longer a secret that she was skilled with the blade. In fact, it had become a matter of family pride. And while this happened, Clavus had gone abroad to serve with a neighboring lord as was the custom. He came back a Knight and sworn companion-brother of the ruthless Lord Ferreus.

Regina looked over Clavus's shoulder at the Lord, surrounded as he was by a throng of fawning girls. He was rich; he was handsome; he frightened her.

Instinct told her to keep away from him, but it was near impossible to do. Her father wanted a match between herself and the Lord so he was invited whenever the opportunity presented itself.

She would never tell Clavus the fear she felt since she was given the heirloom she wore on her wrist. Before she had acquired it, Lord Ferreus never gave her a second glance; now, he stared at her, his gaze frightening in its lustful state.

Regina hated him for making her feel afraid.

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Clavus felt the shiver vibrate through Regina two seconds before he felt the hair on his neck rise. Only one man could elicit that particular response: Ferreus.

He knew Regina's father wanted Ferreus as his daughter's husband. Everybody knew it was a good match - on social, political, and aesthetic terms. However, everybody ignored the fact that neither actually liked the other and that she had fought Ferreus over inappropriate behavior towards herself numerous times.

Ferreus resented Clavus solely for the fact he was granted a dance at every social function. For that, Clavus was perversely grateful.

Yet, when it came to the battlefield, they fought side-by-side and trusted each other with their lives. It was a dangerous duality that had to end.

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© RK 22.Jul.2004