Note: I am reposting the story - the formatting went a little crazy the last time I posted it... sorry.
Three previous reviews will be posted by me so that the authors can see them... :-) Thanks, all of you.

Knight Off Duty


Tracey Claybon

Disclaimers: Don't own Ian, Irons, Sara, Lazar or anything else Witchblade canon. Top Cow, TNT, and Marc Silvestri, et al, do.

The unnamed musicians, bar, and waitress are my idea, though, and are inspired by Bonnie Raitt's duo with Jackson Browne, "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine"... lovely song. (That *is* the song sung in the story.)

Takes place right after Thanatopsis.


Ian Nottingham was out and about on one of the rare nights his master Kenneth Irons allowed him to have to himself.

It had been a particularly frustrating week - Irons was irritable because he was having so much trouble dealing with his multiple failures to date -manipulating Sara Pezzini, preventing the Periculum, and acquiring the Witchblade for himself. Irons had taken his irritations out on Ian, asking him to maintain nearly 24/7 surveillance on Sara and also to shadow his every move - possible if he were two people, but until they cloned him, not currently doable. On top of all that, Ian was also in turmoil over what to do to aid Sara Pezzini subtly without betraying his oaths to Irons.

However, even Irons could see the need for allowing his best minion a little time away from work - or else the growing rebellion even he sensed in Ian would express itself in possibly deadly consequences, post office style; even Irons was a bit afraid of what might happen were Ian not allowed down time in short order... so, under the guise of "having you practice your infiltration skills," and "learn how to interact with the common people so as to better help me understand how to gain more control over them," Kenneth Irons ordered Ian to take a REAL night off from time to time.

This was one of those nights.

He'd been wondering why he was trying so hard to protect someone that didn't even seem to like him. Although he understood exactly why Sara was so defensive, especially where he was concerned, it didn't make listening to her fear and anger with him any easier to bear.

It really irked Ian that Sara trusted her apparently traitorous partner more than she trusted him - with a lot less cause - and proof - to believe Jake than *Ian*. If actions spoke louder than words, then Ian was shouting at the top of his lungs for Sara to hear - and she was wearing earplugs.

On this particular night, he wandered through the clubs and shops of Greenwich Village. The unusual gentle melodious sounds of reggae mixed with blues and jazz wafted to the assassin knight's world-weary ears. He was drawn to the sound like a kitten to the end of a dancing string.

The lovely sounds were coming from a hole-in-the-wall club with peeling paint that he almost missed because the club blended so well with its surroundings. As he entered the dark, but inviting little club, the music seemed to wrap him in a warm embrace, and he found a remote booth in the back of the club. A waitress wandered over and asked him what he wanted to drink; he ordered a black-and-tan and soft pretzels with sharp mustard and settled back to enjoy the music.

The red-haired young singer had completed the last song just as he'd been settling down; she called a male colleague up to the stage, and they began an acoustic bluesy song they called "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine." Ian found that his troubles receded to the farthest reaches of his mind, and he reminisced one of the older dreams that he'd had concerning Sara from ... before.

He remembered (though he'd never known it in this lifetime) sparring and laughing with the bladewielder of that time (who also had Sara's face); he remembered raising her high in his strong arms, whirling her around and around in joy over a sparring victory; he remembered joy turning to surprise at their mutual proximity, then a kiss which turned to gentle passion, then not-so-gentle passion, as kisses that drugged the senses like strong wine passed between himself and that long-ago bladewielder.

He was startled out of his reverie by the waitress, who brought him a second black and tan he hadn't requested. When he started to protest, the waitress said the black and tan was compliments of the gentleman in the booth across the aisle from his, and she pointed to the booth. An weathered looking, older gentleman with yellow hair that looked vaguely familiar to Ian raised a bottle of Molson in salute.

Ian raised the bottle of black and tan back, surprised.

The waitress said, "He said to tell you, 'Don't give up hope, she will realize that you are everything you've claimed to be eventually. And, also, enjoy the band, they're REALLY good.' He's right, I think they're one of the best in the 'Village."

Ian smiled a gentle smile at the waitress (which threatened to knock her off her feet - this brooding gentleman was DEVESTATING when he smiled) - and turned back to listen to the music, curiously at peace after the reassurance.

Later, after the bar closed, Ian wandered back to his bed, calm and refreshed after a restful night of truly lovely music, to dream of Lady Sara, the lives they'd lived together, and about the day when she would be partner and companion instead of adversary.