Disclaimer: I own none of characters in the work below. Witchblade and The Darkness belong to Top Cow and Kenneth Irons (the one in the comic, not the wuss in the show), who is undoubtedly running everything. Bill Gates, eat your heart out!
Synopsis: The World of TNT and Top Tow come together as comic-Ian makes his first dramatic appearance in Sara Perini's life. Jackie Estacado, AKA The Darkness will be there. Kenneth Irons from the comic will also make an appearance, as he was too bad-ass to leave out. Everything after the first episode of TNT's second season will be used only sparingly as it pretty much sucked (never change writers mid-season). Long live the Witchblade, and all it's future movie and game counterparts!
Ian Nottingham stood in the shadows, a dark marionette overlooked in the chaos which currently reigned in this waterfront warehouse. He stood silent, his blue-gray eyes trained on the woman at the center of this confusion. Her long dark hair flowed around her body like a living thing, her sensuous features alight with righteous wrath. Her bottomless brown eyes were narrowed in concentration, just a hint of cruelty showing in their chocolate depths.
The sentient weapon she wielded so effortlessly encased her body in a nearly impregnable organic armor. The red stone on the back of her sheathed hand shone with unearthly light as tendrils shot forth to skewer one man unfortunate enough to get close. She drew her arm back and threw him across the room, not waiting to watch him slam into the wall as she turned to face another opponent.
Sara Pezzini is a goddess, Ian thought with considerable heat. His right flexed around the katana he held, the only outward sign of his feelings. He had wanted this woman from the first moment he saw her, and over the years that hadn't changed. He had personally overseen the auction that had brought the Witchblade into its first contact with this fated Wielder. He had watched her partner die, held his breath as the Witchblade both chose and healed her in mere seconds.
Detective Pezzini's grief over Michael Yee's death had transformed her, and the new Wielder had been birthed in blood. An avenging angel, unmatched in beauty, unrivaled in spirit. The old Rialto Theater had been bathed in the blood of all who stood against her, and the circle had been made complete.
How he had longed to join her, Ian remembered with a slight smile. He had wanted to jump down from that balcony and combine his skills with hers. To share in the unequaled carnage that was the Witchblade's wrath. But events had conspired to keep them apart. Indeed, even when he had gone to her, she had not understood.
To this day, she spurned him. She would accept his help when there were lives at stake, but she wanted nothing more from him. From the start, he had seen the reluctant attraction in her eyes. It had drawn him back to her time and again. The few kisses he had managed to steal from her had left them both breathless and wanting more. Yet at the end of each, her scathing words were only to quick to come, and he was left to wonder why he could not fight this--this bloody need.
Then, he had confessed his love for her. Her response had been to point out that he had just given her all the power she would ever need over him, then kiss him senseless.
Ian shook his head, scattering his waist-length sable hair, and readied for action. His sensed warned him of the arrival of an enemy he understood but could barely defend against. He had briefly held the dark power, as well as the Witchblade's delicious essence. He had found himself unable to hold the first, and incapable of controlling the second. The Witchblade had driven him to the brink of madness, until its mistress had thrust her reluctance aside and accepted her destiny once more.
The ring on the fourth finger of his right hand pulsed with a life of its own, further proof of the dark power that crept closer. Ian sighed as the ring began to change, bluish tendrils of organic matter slithering silently over the tattoo on his hand, covering the signs that marked him as one who had once worn the Witchblade. The organic strands crept quickly up his forearm, stopping just past his elbow. The creeping threads stole down his hand to cover the katana, turning it from deadly to supernatural in the blink of an eye. The ring's stone was deep blue in color, a companion--of sorts--to that on the Witchblade.
Ian ignored the pain that came with the ring's transformation, as well as the voice that whispered insidiously in his mind. He had struggled to control Excalibur since the moment he had donned it, fighting for control of his own body with the sentient weapon. He now had both the mental and physical discipline necessary to restrain its call for violence. He had suffered much, much worse, and the Darkness was upon them.
Too fast to track with the naked eye, he rushed to the warehouse door just as it opened. "Estacado," he greeted menacingly, holding the sword before him in an unmistakable warning.
Jackie Estacado just sighed at the sight before him. "Nottingham," he greeted in return, his voice holding a combination of disgust and resignation. "Is the Witchblade here, too?"
"Of course." Ian lowered his sword slowly, the threat he continued to sense not emanating from the man before him. He kept the katana unsheathed at his side, as he stepped aside. "Sara fights even now."
Jackie, gifted--or cursed, depending on how you looked at it--with the power of the Darkness, looked at the scene before him with a bored brown eyes. "Whatever," he said with a shrug. "Are we gonna kill some people, or what? The boys are getting a little anxious here."
The very shadows around them twisted and writhed, and Ian was torn between disgust at the man's casual attitude, as well as admiration for the same. Estacado was Italian Mafia, a hitman before acquiring the power of the Darkness on his twenty-fist birthday. Already vicious by the moral standards of most, he had taken to his awesome calling with astonishing ease.
Estacado no longer killed indiscriminately for others. No, he now killed to consolidate his own power base. He had single-handedly united every mafia family in New York under his rule, and had managed to put an end to hundreds of years of gang warfare.
That he was an uncouth, foul-mouthed child was another matter entirely.
Ian glanced over his shoulder, noting with hidden concern that Sara was starting to tire. "Shall we?" he asked, his upper-crust British accent at odds with the low growl that was his voice.
The shorter man grinned in feral anticipation. "Yeah. Kill the lights and bring 'em on."
One corner of his thin lips quirked up in return as he drew a gun and shot out the few lights illuminating the warehouse. He returned the gun to its holster even as he ran to the left. His extraordinary vision was already adjusting to the near total darkness, and he could see Estacado as his power manifested itself. He was cloaked in his own organic armor, muted shades of gray and green blending with the night he had called. A small army of demons appeared, gathering around their master and making lewd comments on Sara's more. . .attractive assets.
Ian shook his head as he threw himself into the fight, wondering at the mind that would choose these darklings--as Estacado called them--as the manifestation of his gift. As he whirled and sliced and ended lives, he could hear the sounds of the dark army literally chewing their way through the opposition. They made tongue-in-cheek comments the whole time, and Ian could tell that Estacado watched way too much television.
"What the hell are you doing here, Estacado?"
Ah, the lovely Sara had spotted the bearer of the Witchblade's ancient nemesis.
"Saving your ass, Pezzini, so shut the fuck up and fight."
Ian had to swallow a laugh at that. Estacado might be an uncouth youth, but he had a certain rough charm about him. The fact that Sara didn't welcome him either certainly helped. Sara could be a shrew when she was brought to anger, and right now she was certainly angry! When she saw him there, that anger would turn into something. . .explosive.
The fight ended much too soon, leaving the three facing one another uneasily. Estacado managed to look bored even with the Darkness armor covering his face up to just below his eyes. Sara was breathing hard, her slender, toned body swaying with obvious exhaustion. The Witchblade still surrounded her, unable to withdraw completely in the presence of the Darkness.
Ian willed the Excalibur back into its ring form and sheathed his sword. He stepped forward, drawn to Sara through the bond they shared. "Are you hurt?" he asked, bringing one hand up to steady her.
"Back off, Nottingham." She jerked away and stumbled backwards to avoid his touch. "What are you doing here, anyway? I thought you were still in Japan, or England, or wherever it was you disappeared to."
He let his hand drop back to his side, his chiseled features expressionless. "I could not ignore the Witchblade's call, Sara. Surely, you know that."
She merely glared at him in return, the desire in her brown eyes as evident as her anger at his absence. "And demon boy here?" she asked, jerking a thumb in Estacado's direction.
"Bite me, tentacle girl." Jackie's brown eyes narrowed on her in return. Pezzini might hot, but she was a complete bitch. "What can I say, Pezzini? I felt a disturbance in the force, and since you're in my territory, I thought I'd see what was up. You got a problem with that?"
"I've got a problem with anyone who kills people for a living, Estacado," she snapped in return. "I should arrest you for what you've done here."
Jackie snorted. He hated hypocrites. "Then, arrest yourself, babe. You were killing the same people I was."
She tossed her dark hair in a universal gesture of feminine ire. "I was attacked, Estacado. I was only defending myself."
"And we were defending you, Pezzini. So, stow it."
Ian sighed heavily, the sound breaking through darkness. "Leave it be, Estacado. Sara is not one to listen to reason."
"And you are?!" Sara asked, incredulous. "How's Kenneth Irons doing, Nottingham? Did your master let you out for this little jaunt, or are you just trying to rebel? Oh, I forgot, he's dead now, isn't he?"
He stiffened at the barb, sable lashes dropping to conceal silvery eyes.
"Obviously, you are well enough to make it home on your own, Sara. We will talk more when you have calmed. I bid you good night."
Ian turned on his heel and took a few steps before Estacado's voice stopped him. "Hey, Brit, you wanna go out for a beer or something?"
He turned and raised one black brow in an unconsciously arrogant gesture. "A beer. . ." he mused aloud, trying not to laugh. "I believe I would like that, Estacado."
Jackie was as surprised by the invitation as Nottingham was, but what the hell? It was better than going home and thinking about his non-existent sex life. "Cool. I've got this great little place down in Queens. It's private, and there are no chicks."
Ian did laugh at that. "Yes, I have reached my 'chick' limit for the evening, as well."
"Wait a minute. I still want to know what you're both doing here."
Sara stepped forward, completely forgetting Estacado's proximity. The
Witchblade came to life, several tendrils forming a vine that shot towards the Darkness. Ian was suddenly between them, and she gasped as the Witchblade sank into his chest. She pulled it out immediately, but the damage was already done.
"Ian, I'm sorry--"
"Damn it, woman, what did you do that for?"
Estacado put his hands on the taller man's shoulders just before the Witchblade retracted. Bright light emanated from the three as they touched, and Jackie cursed as it sent the Darkness back to night that had spawned it.
Before he say anything else, the power building between reached a flashpoint. All three were thrown back, his grip on Nottingham's shoulders keeping them together as they landed.
"What the fuck was that?!" Jackie shoved Nottingham off of him and jumped to his feet, ready to hurt Pezzini for pulling this. "Damn bloodthirsty broad. I'm gonna kick your. . .Uh, Nottingham, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore."
Ian pushed himself into a sitting position, one hand coming up to cover the wound in his torso. His icy eyes swept over their surroundings, taking in the details of their environs with a wary eye. "Indeed," he rasped coughingly, "we seem to be in a different part of the city."
"No shit." Jackie whirled around, snapping his mouth shut as he saw the other man's condition. One hand held a fistful of black shirt to the gaping wound in his chest, blood seeping through to run down his fingers even as he watched. He coughed again, and a pale froth of blood appeared between his lips. "Damn, you're hurt, man."
"I believe the lovely Detective Pezzini punctured a lung this time," Ian murmured faintly, amusement tingeing his voice. "At least, she missed my spleen."
Jackie watched the taller man sway slightly and scowled to cover his concern. "Will it heal on its own?"
"Not likely," Ian said almost absently, a slight gurgle accompanying his words. "The wound is too severe. I must find a place to rest, and a doctor. Time will tell whether I heal properly or not."
"Okay, then." Jackie hesitated before putting an arm around him. "Don't get any ideas, Brit. I'm just helping you stay upright."
An unwilling smile curved Ian's lips. "You are not my type either, Estacado."
Jackie grunted as he pulled Nottingham's arm over his shoulders. "Just don't bleed to death before we reach--Where the hell are we going, anyway?"
Ian leaned on him heavily, hating that he was forced to accept anyone's help. "The penthouse is too far from here to reach on foot, and taxi's avoid this area at night. Do you have any. . .associates in the area that could help?"
"Well, that depends on where we are." Jackie spied the street signs and groaned. "Figures. We would have to be in the ghetto."
Ian growled warningly. "Estacado. . ."
"What about the Yakuza?" he asked. "I thought you were in tight with them. Them considering you family, and all."
Ian saw an image of Setsuke, her head tilted back, her eyes closed to the inevitable, and shook his head. "I would rather not, if you don't mind."
Jackie just lifted one shoulder in a half-shrug. "Yeah, whatever. Long Nose Vinnie runs a strip joint a few miles from here. We'll head there, then."
"So much for the 'chick' free evening," Ian said with genuine regret.
"Tell me about it," Jackie commiserated. "At least, you can still have
sex. Me, I gotta abstain or I run the risk of dying."
Blue-gray eyes widened in surprise. "Why?"
Jackie shrugged. "The Darkness is passed on once each generation. If I
get a woman pregnant, and she has a kid, the power leaves me and goes to him. Poof, no more Jackie Estacado."
"That is. . .regrettable," Ian said at length.
"Yeah, it sucks." Jackie fell silent for a few minutes, trying to ignore
the wheeze that accompanied Nottingham's breathing. "I really do miss it, though."
"Yes, I can certainly understand that." Ian was only grateful that Excalibur hadn't demanded so great a sacrifice from him. As the fluid built up in his lungs and forced him to cough, he wondered if being bound to Sara Pezzini wasn't somehow as bad.
"Have I apologized for trying to draw the Darkness from you?" he asked abruptly.
Jackie glanced up at him briefly, his brown eyes dark as he remembered that day in the museum. "Hey, it wasn't your fault that Sontaine manipulated you like that. No apology needed."
"It was my fault that I was susceptible to his magic," he said simply.
"Yeah?" Jackie's voice was laced with skepticism. "I'd have thought that prick Irons had something to do with that."
Ian paused, surprised by the depth of understanding that came from this uncivilized young cub. "Still, I had been free of Kenneth's influence for some time when I met with Sontaine. I should have been able to fight his hypnotic mesmerization."
"I worked for Frankie 'kill the children, too' Franchetti. I can only imagine how much worse it was to be Ken Irons' right-hand man." At Ian's questioning look, he said, "Rumor has it that he was a sadistic son of a bitch."
"It was a question of honor, Estacado."
"Yours, not his, right?" The weak growl he got in response was all the answer he needed. "Yeah, that's what I thought. So, what finally broke the camel's back?"
"Sara," Ian murmured, smiling faintly at his own memories. His smile died a quick death as he thought again of Setsuke, yet another victim of his loyalty to Kenneth Irons.
Well, that explained a lot, Jackie thought. Aloud, he only said, "Figures."
"And you?" Ian asked weakly, well aware that the younger man was only talking to keep him conscious. "What made you break away from your 'family'?"
"You want a list?"
"That would help, yes."
Jackie laughed, but the sound was bitter. "I found out that I had a sister, and that Uncle Frankie had purposely left her behind in the orphanage. She didn't turn out so well."
"What makes you think there's more?" he demanded aggressively. Nottingham merely looked down at him, his expression eloquent, and he uttered an oath. "There was a girl. . ."
Jackie's amber eyes narrowed as he continued. "Her name was Jenny, and she left because she couldn't handle what I did for Uncle Frankie."
"A problem I have had, as well," Ian offered.
"Yeah, friggin' chicks." Estacado shook his head, the softening of his tone at odds with the sentiment behind his words.
"You turned state's evidence against Franchetti. That must have been difficult," Ian commented.
"You have no idea, Nottingham."
A long silence ensued before Ian asked, "And what happened to your Jenny?"
"The son of a bitch killed her." Rage and grief were evident in the cub's voice as he spoke. "He sent me a tape and there was my Jenny, tied to a chair, crying 'cause she was so scared. There I was, pissed and planning on how I'm gonna get her back, when puts a gun to her head and blows her brains out."
"I never even had a chance to save her," he spat. "My Uncle Frankie, the man who had raised me and treated me like a son, killed the only good thing I'd ever had in my life."
"I am sorry," Ian said uncomfortably.
"Don't be." Jackie's grin could only be described as evil. "Uncle Frankie
followed her quick enough."
Ian smiled in return. "Yes, I remember hearing something about that. A warehouse explosion, I believe."
"Yeah, it was fucking beautiful." Jackie spied a familiar building and sighed with relief. "We're here. I'll take you around back, and we'll get you patched up."
He dragged Nottingham into the alley beside the building, coming up short when a group of kids blocked the end alley. Ignoring a stream of rude comments, Jackie sighed dramatically and propped Nottingham against the wall. "You gonna be okay if there's trouble?"
The other man merely straightened and pulled the katana from its sheath in answer. "Yeah, that's what I thought."
The shadows seemed to come alive once more, even though the younger man had not called on his gift, and Ian stepped into the faint light with caution. In his weakened condition, it would be foolish to take any chances.
A blond kid detached himself from the group, hitching up his sagging jeans with one hand, holding a .9 millimeter with the other. "Give us all your money, and we won't kill you."
"Ignorant cub." Ian moved to Estacado's side, adrenaline blocking out the pain in his chest.
Jackie smiled hugely. The Brit definitely had a fancy way with words.
"Dumb-ass kid is what I'd call him," he offered with shrug.
Ian merely slanted him a glance. "Your eloquence astounds, Estacado."
"Would you rather I just cut to the chase and called him a dead man, Brit?"
"It would certainly be apropos."
The kid sauntered closer, trying to look tough as he heard the ex-change, only half of which he understood. "There are ten of us, two of you, and we got the guns. How're you gonna take us all?" he demanded.
"With style," Ian replied simply.
"Gimme a break, Nottingham." He turned to kid, who was already backing away. "Where you going, road kill?"
"You said his name was Nottingham?" the kid asked, his tough-guy
routine vanishing as he looked at Ian with horror. "Ian Nottingham?"
Jackie took a step forward, his amber eyes narrowed. "Yeah, so what?"
The kid shook his head as he continued to put distance between them. "I don't want no trouble with him, dog. We're outta here."
"Hey!" Jackie growled as the whole group of them fled into the night. "Get back here! We haven't even started to kick your asses yet!"
Ian struggled not to laugh at Estacado's obvious disappointment. "My reputation precedes me, apparently."
"Screw you, Nottingham." Jackie let out a frustrated shout before turning back to him. "People aren't even that scared of me, and I'm the friggin' Darkness!"
"Had they known who you are," he intoned with mock solemnity, "I am sure they would have wet themselves with terror."
Those light brown eyes narrowed on him angrily. "So, you feeling well enough to give me a good fight, then?"
Ian smiled with surprise. "I am most certainly willing to try," he said graciously.
Jackie hesitated as he realized that the wet gurgle accompanying those words had worsened. "Nah, I think I'll wait till you're a hundred percent. For now, let's just get you fixed, okay?"
"As you wish." Ian sheathed the katana once more, his head coming up as he sensed something. . .familiar. He whirled around, his long black hair swirling around him. His light eyes searched the shadows, but he was unable to locate who--or what--he was suddenly sure was watching them.
"What?" Jackie demanded, pulling the Darkness around him in response to Nottingham's actions.
"We are not alone." Ian didn't even bother to reach for the katana. As much as he loved his favorite sword, he had another weapon instantly at hand.
Jackie watched his ring as it transformed, covering his hand to the elbow, and the sword that sprang from it. "Not bad, Brit. What do you call that thing?"
"Excalibur," Ian responded absently, his mind processing information almost faster than he could interpret it. He realized that he couldn't hone in on his target because it wasn't stationary. Intriguing, he thought. It was a tactic he himself had used on many occasions.
"Like the sword, huh?"
"Mmmm. . ." Nottingham caught a glimpse of movement in his peripheral vision, up and to the right. Someone was using the rooftops to their advantage, and using them well. "A professional, then," he murmured to himself.
Jackie heard the anticipation behind those slightly slurred words and smiled. He and the Brit weren't that different. "So, you want me to send out a search party or what?"
Ian looked finally looked down at him, those bluish eyes focusing on his words. "A search party?" he echoed politely, raising one dark brow.
"Yeah, a search party, Mr. Can't-pull-the-stick-out-of-my-ass."
He looked at the little demon that was currently flipping him off from Estacado's shoulder and sighed heavily. Several more appeared around the younger man, all of them glaring at him with glowing yellowish eyes, saying things like, "I could remove it," or "I can remove something else."
Light eyes narrowed dangerously. "Estacado. . ."
Jackie just laughed and said, "Cool it, guys. He's on our side."
"Are you sure I can't eat him?"
"I could make a fine whip out his hair."
"I could make a baton out of his--"
"SHUT UP!" Jackie hissed. "Or I'll make darkling stew tonight."
"Shutting up, boss."
"Love ya, boss."
The kissing sound that accompanied the last remark caused Ian to burst out laughing. The laughter was quickly followed by coughing, the force of which brought him to his knees. He spat blood on the pavement, praying that the cub was up to the fight that was probably coming. He was fairly certain that he was not.
"Hey, Nottingham, you okay?" Jackie knelt on the ground beside him, grabbing his shoulders to keep him from falling on his face. "You look like shit, man."
"I believe that the damage is worse than I had thought," he managed tightly. "You may have to take this one."
"Yeah, sure, Nottingham," Jackie said quickly, shocked by the assassin's admission, but more than ready to feed the Darkness. "I've got your back."
"Thank you," Ian ground out, hating that he was indebted to the other man. A dark shape landed soundlessly on the ground before them, and he prayed that the cub was indeed able to handle what was to come.
Jackie was on his feet in an instant, positioning himself between Nottingham and the shadow before him. "Who the fuck are you?"
"I believe that is a question that I should be asking."
The newcomer's voice was deep but soft, his pronunciation excellent. Ian struggled to his feet, Excalibur still extended to full length. "The man asked you a question," he growled as he stepped forward, "albeit rudely. Please answer."
"I am the man who's identity you have claimed." The man took on step forward, and a beam of moonlight illuminated one side of his face. "I am Ian Nottingham."