Flesh and Blood
Summary: After Sara successfully passes the Periculum, Irons calls on a woman whom he believes can wrest the Witchblade from Sara's control and successfully wield it herself. He soon finds, though, that she has different plans for the Blade, and different loyalties than he had supposed.
Rating: R -- This is probably the darkest thing I've ever written. Forewarned… Forearmed. (Rating for subject matter including rape, implied incest, drug abuse, domestic violence, and suicide.)
Disclaimer: I don't own them (except poor Cailean), I'm only borrowing them. I'll put them back in roughly the same shape I found them in.
Timeline: Season 1, between Periculum and Thanatopsis.
Feedback: Yes, please. Feedback is always welcomed. Just, please, not too many flames. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Chapter 1 -- Cailean
It was a warm, sunny day, the kind that most people would have found quite lovely. Also, it was the kind of day that made it hard for a woman to keep herself concealed on a bustling ship. Fortunately, for one with training, there were plenty of places to hide until the amount of traffic in the area decreased enough for her to disembark. She allowed herself to almost smile at her mental use of the word: it implied that she had paid for her passage on the cargo-vessel.
Of course, booking passage on a ship or an airplane would have been too high-profile. Overt simply was not her style. She preferred working in the shadows, where she could strike and vanish from notice again in an instant, or simply vanish without ever having been noticed, if that was what was called for. She preferred dwelling in the shadows as well. Darkness was, for her, a very comfortable thing indeed.
She crouched on deck, under a tarp, waiting for the crew to either leave or offload their cargo. It was oppressively warm there, but she did not remove her coat. She very seldom bothered with such details as her own comfort. She could have been wearing the heavy clothes in 110 degree weather or nothing at all in 20 degree weather. Niether would have seriously impaired her ability to function. She might have been proud of the fact if she had ever let her mind admit such an emotion.
Although she was not tired, she closed her eyes. The air around her was alive with sound. In the distance she could hear cars honking their horns; closer, people yelling orders or carrying on tritely meaningless conversations, birds crying, boat whistles, all the sounds that made a dock a dock. They were meaningless to her, but she listened anyway, biding her time, gathering what information she could.
A man was considering divorce... Useless. From his tone of voice, he would never go through with it anyway. The boat had been carrying cars... Known. She was currently leaning against one. The temperature was expected to drop twenty degrees overnight... Irrelevant. She could expect a place to stay by nightfall.
The conversations became fewer as the sailors drifted away from the boat. A man was complaining about how little he was paid, about how hard it was to make his child-support payments. Finally, the last of the conversants moved off, leaving her alone on the boat.
She pulled back the tarp, peering around cautiously before emerging into the dimming light. Given the weather, her clothes would have seemed out of place to any observer: a black turtleneck sweater, heavy black slacks, a long trench coat, also black, black gloves, a black knit cap, black work-boots. If the clothes had been more weather-appropriate, she might actually have blended into a crowd quite well. Black was, after all, not an unpopular color.
With another cautious glance around the deck, she left the protection of the covered car and crossed the abandoned ship, keeping low to the ground to avoid being seen from the dock. She considered going down the gangplank, but immediately dismissed the idea as too overt. Instead, she found an abandoned section of dock between two old warehouses, neither of which looked as though they had been used in the past twenty years, and climbed onto the ship's guardrail. With a last cautious glance around, she jumped, landing lightly on her feet.
A gunshot sounded nearby, but she ignored it. New York, it seemed, had not changed in ten years. She started through the maze of warehouses. She stopped suddenly, watching a scruffy-looking man leaning over another man, riffling through his pockets. The second man was bleeding as an obvious result of the gunshot she had heard. She watched for a moment, curious, until the first man became aware of her presence. He raised his gun, and she sighed. With a lightening-quick movement, she pulled a small metal disk from a pouch around her waist and hurled it at the man, smiling faintly as it sunk into his wrist. He would never use that hand again. He stared at her for a moment, too stunned to realize how much pain he was in. Then he fled, the disk still lodged in his wrist.
She shook her head in disgust at the loss of a perfectly good weapon and kept walking.
"Help me..." the man on the ground groaned.
She ignored him and kept walking.
"For the love of God! I have a family."
She paused and dropped to her knees next to him. "Do you have a cell-phone?"
He nodded weakly and indicated his front pocket. She pulled out the phone and dialed 911.
"9-1-1, what is your emergency?"
"A man has been shot." She glanced at him thoughtfully. "He would seem to be dying."
"Where are you?"
"The docks." She looked around and relayed a more detailed description of the area. "You should hurry..." she added flatly. "He's going into shock." She hung up the phone and dropped it next to the man, rising.
"Please..." he whimpered.
She frowned imperceptibly, but knelt next to him again. The phone rang, but she ignored it. "Drug addiction is a sign of weakness..." she informed him quietly. "And the men who deal in them are not to be trusted." She pulled a knife from her boot and cut off his tie, wadding it up and pressing it into the hole in his chest.
He looked surprised, but did not deny that he had been buying drugs. "Thank you for helping me..." he managed, reaching up and loosely wrapping a hand around her wrist.
She shrugged his hand off. "I'm quite certain that I shall live to regret it..." She lapsed into silence until the sound of approaching sirens became louder. She glanced down at the man, aware that he would die if she left now. Her internal debate was short: she would stay. By the time she had made that determination, the man was already unconscious.
The first police officer on the scene took one look at her and pulled his gun. "Step away from him."
"He will die if I do what you ask. You can arrest me after the ambulance has come." She gazed steadily at the Officer.
He swallowed hard and backed down, oddly intimidated by the small woman. "What happened here?" he asked instead, keeping his gun trained on her.
She stared at the gun in quiet contempt and returned her attention to the man. The ambulance arrived shortly after the Officer, and she stepped back to allow them to work. She made no resistance as the Officer handcuffed her and roughly shoved her into the back of his car, but she refused to answer a word to any of his questions.
"Score one for the good guys..." Jake said with a grin as the cell door slid shut on their suspect, a man who was suspected of shooting his ex-girlfriend.
Sara nodded noncommittally. "Now all we need is a murder-weapon."
Jake smiled and shook his head. "Cynic."
"Well, I prefer 'realist', but okay..." Sara grinned at him. "So, you want to go grab a beer?"
"Wow, and act like real cops for a change?" Jake grinned and nodded.
Sara shook her head, smiling. "Let's get out of here, okay?"
Jake nodded and they started out of the holding area. "It's good to see that you're in a better mood lately."
"Yeah..." Sara muttered, nodding.
She paused as they walked past a cell. A young woman in black slacks and a black turtleneck sat on the cot, cross-legged with her elbows resting on her knees. Her black hair was clean but stringy, and her hazel eyes were striking. She stared absently into space, her head tilted slightly to the left. To Sara, she looked almost comatose, or perhaps in some kind of trance.
"Pez?" Jake asked quietly, tugging at her sleeve.
Sara looked up, startled. "Sorry." She glanced at the Officer on duty. "Is she okay?"
He shrugged. "She's been like that since we brought her in. Hasn't said a word since they found her."
Sara frowned. "Maybe she should be in a mental hospital instead of a holding-cell."
"Not my call, Detective." He shrugged again.
Sara nodded. He was right. "What's she being held for?"
"Suspicion of attempted murder. A man was shot."
Sara frowned. "Weapons?"
"A couple of knives, a gun, and several... of these things." He dropped a small metal disk onto the counter. "Careful, it's pretty damned sharp..." he warned as Sara reached to pick it up.
"What the hell is that thing?" Jake asked, leaning over Sara's shoulder for a better look.
"It's a shirken..." Sara told him, gingerly picking it up. "A kind of weapon that you throw."
Jake nodded. "I've heard of them. Ninjas, right?"
"Yeah." Sara nodded. "Has her gun been fired recently?" she asked the duty Officer.
He shook his head. "No."
"And she hasn't said a word?"
He gave another shake of the head. Sara hesitated for a moment, staring at the woman. A series of images flooded into her brain, fighting for supremecy. The woman was the defining feature of all of them, but beyond that, they held little in common. In some of the images, she wore a business suit, in others she wore armor or peasant-garb. Sara closed her eyes, trying to force the images to clarify themselves.
One image sprung into the forefront. Sara recognized it from her dreams. She saw the woman standing at a window, tears streaming down her face. In the background, two men spoke in hushed voices. The woman reached up and rested one hand against the window. Her face spoke clearly; wherever she was, she wanted out. Badly. Suddenly she pulled her hand back and drove it through the pane of glass. As the glass shattered, Sara saw a hundred reflections of the woman's face and one of her own.
Shaking her head, Sara shrugged the vision off. It was nothing like the normally quick and confused images that the Witchblade normally delivered. "Let me in."
"Um, Pez?" Jake asked uncertainly.
"I want to talk to her." Sara looked at the Officer on duty. "Open up."
"Yes, Detective." He opened the cell door.
Sara stepped inside and crouched in front of the woman. "Hi. I'm Sara. What's your name?"
She slowly looked up at Sara and held her gaze for a moment before glancing at the floor. "Cailean." She had a faintly Irish accent, but her voice was quiet and subdued.
Sara smiled and patted her knee. To her surprise, the girl flinched. "Hey, it's okay, Cailean. I didn't mean to scare you."
She continued staring at the ground. "Forgive me. I don't like being touched."
Sara nearly fell over as she experienced a blinding flash of visions: pain, blood, the crack of a whip, the sound of it biting into bare skin, muffled sobbing, a young boy gently murmuring words of comfort, an indescrible sense of rage and, from someone else, shame.
"Then we won't do that again." Sara smiled reassuringly and quickly withdrew her hand. "Why haven't you talked to anyone before?"
"No one's yet said anything worthy of my response."
"Did you try to kill that man?"
She shook her head almost imperceptibly. "I called an ambulance. I saved his life."
"But did you shoot him?"
"Your experts will tell you that my gun has not been fired recently."
"That's not an answer."
"There was no powder-residue on my hands."
"Maybe you were wearing gloves."
"There was no residue on those, either."
"Why don't you tell me what happened?" Sara suggested gently.
"I got off the ship, was walking through the ship-yards, and nearly tripped over a man. What was his name?"
Sara shook her head. "I don't know."
Cailean nodded. "He was badly injured, so I applied what first aid I could and called for an ambulance."
She glanced up at Sara for a moment before returning her gaze to the ground. "And then I was arrested."
"Why didn't you speak in your defense?"
"It did not seem the right time."
"What were you waiting for?"
"Perhaps for you, my Lady..." Cailean muttered, brushing her hand against the Witchblade with a look of awe on her face. She stared at the ground and drew back into herself.
"Cailean?" Sara asked quietly, frowning.
The Witchblade tried to show her another vision, but, with effort, she pushed it aside, focusing instead on the girl. She called her name again. Cailean did not respond. Frowning, Sara gently touched her knee again, without eliciting a response. Shaking her head, she rose and walked to the cell door.
"What was that all about?" Jake whispered as Sara left the cell.
Sara shook her head, not entirely sure herself. "Woman belongs in a mental hospital, not a jail-cell, Jake."
"Actually, it looks like she doesn't belong in either..." the duty Officer said. "Looks like she's been bailed out."
"By who?" Sara asked, frowning.
"By me, Detective Pezzini..." Ian Nottingham muttered, walking past her and approaching the cell. "Get up, Cailean. Mister Irons recieved the message you left on his voice-mail and has sent me to retrieve you."
She looked up, startled. "Brother?"
He nodded, staring at the ground in the position that Sara recognized as the one he usually employed only in the presence of Ken Irons. "What has happened?"
She stood before him in the exact same posture. "They accused me of trying to kill a man, Ian."
Ian glanced up for a split-second. "And?"
"And the evidence will vindicate me. Naturally."
Sara thought she saw Ian scowl. "Naturally."
The duty Officer opened the cell door and Ian swept out of the holding area without a backwards glance at Cailean. She turned towards Sara and bowed to the waist.
"Your things, ma'am." The duty Officer handed her a small box.
She nodded and pulled an empty shoulder-holster from the box, strapping it on. She pulled several knives out of the box and tucked two into her boots and a third up her sleeve. She tied the full belt-pouch around her waist, retrieving the shirken on the table, and then pulled on a black trench coat, not at all unlike Ian's. She reached into the box once more and produced a knit-cap which she pulled onto her head and a pair of leather gloves that she quickly slid on. Sara and Jake both thought that the resemblance to Ian Nottingham was uncanny. With another bow to Sara, she turned and walked in the direction that he had gone.
Sara started after her, but Jake caught her arm. "Pez..."
"Let me handle this, Rookie." Sara twisted out of his grasp and started after them.
Jake stared after her, frowning. "It just had to be Nottingham..." he muttered, shaking his head and wondering why the woman had bowed to Sara. "What is it with her and those people?"
Sara followed at a safe distance, aware that Cailean was not going in the direction of the exit. She stopped when Cailean stepped through a door. Ian was waiting for her in the empty hallway. Sara leaned against the wall so that she could not be seen and watched them.
A man appeared behind her. "Eavesdropping, Sara?"
Sara shook her head faintly. "Not now, Danny. I want to know what's up with them."
"Are you sure about that?"
She nodded and leaned closer to the door, allowing the Witchblade to help her hear what was being said.
"Did you do it?" Ian asked urgently.
"You should know by now that I do nothing but by our Master's express orders. Our Master has not ordered me to kill anyone in quite some time."
Ian sighed and nodded. "It's been too long, Cailean."
She smiled slightly and nodded. "The years have been lonely, my brother."
Ian nodded imperceptibly. "Our Master will be expecting us."
"Yet you wish to linger here?" she asked gently.
"Ask what you would know, Ian. I will answer."
"What are you doing in this country?"
"Our Master has called me back."
"But the Lady Sara has already passed the Periculum!" Ian protested.
Cailean nodded. "Which would seem to make my presence here superfluous."
Ian frowned. "Unless our Master has other plans for you."
Cailean shivered visibly. Ian pulled off one of his gloves and gently caressed her cheek, which seemed to calm her. She leaned into his hand for a moment, half-closing her eyes and allowing an unguarded smile to cross her face. Abruptly, she straightened and composed herself, shaking her head.
She glanced up at him as he pulled the glove back on. "He's Kenneth Irons. He can get that anywhere and from anyone. He does not need me." She stared at her feet again. "It's more likely that he plans on holding me in reserve."
"Holding you in reserve?" Ian frowned. "Against what?"
"I have not yet spoken to him."
"You're being evasive."
"I've learned well from our Master."
Ian nodded acceptance of the comment. "Are you ready to go to him?"
She hesitated for a split-second before nodding. "I am my Master's to command."
Ian sighed. "Come."
Sara drew away as the two approached, ducking into an empty office.
"Learn anything interesting?" Danny asked quietly.
Sara shook her head. "They don't even talk straight to each other."
Danny smiled. "You were always impatient."
Especially that day at the Rialto when I got you killed because I couldn't even wait for backup. "Yeah, like you weren't?" she joked, trying to ignore the memory of holding him in her arms as he died.
"It's amazing how being dead helps you put things in perspective."
Sara smiled sadly at him. "God, I wish I could take that day back, Danny..."
He nodded, but his smile was only nostalgic, not sad. "Every day above ground is a gift, Sara, but there are worse things than being what I am."
Sara nodded slowly, wishing that he had not just quoted something she had told him so shortly before his death. "What's she doing here, Danny?" she asked with a sigh.
"That was Ian Nottingham's question..." Danny pointed out gently.
"It's a valid one!"
"Leave this one alone, Sara..." Danny suggested gently. "I know how you feel about Nottingham and Irons, I know you don't trust them, but leave this one alone. You don't want to be involved in this."
"What do you know?"
He shook his head. "Very little. I just have a bad feeling about this. Just... leave it alone."
"I wish I could, Danny..." Sara muttered, shaking her head.
"Hey, Pez?" Jake's voice called.
Sara looked in the direction of the voice. Sighing, she left the office to find Jake. "Hey."
"Hey. There you are."
"Yeah." She nodded, shrugging.
"What's up?" Jake asked, frowning slightly. "Why'd you run off like that?"
"They're up to something, Jake. That woman... There's something off about her."
"Must run in the family." Jake shrugged. "But we had no reason to hold her."
"She had permits. That's how they got her name when they booked her."
Sara sighed. "Nice and legal. Bet I know who got her the permits, too."
Jake nodded. "Profession is listed as personal security for Mr. Kenneth Irons. Sibling assassins. Cute."
Sara rolled her eyes. "Guess being strange isn't the only thing that runs in the family..."
"You still want those drinks?" Jake asked.
Sara sighed and nodded. "More than ever." She looked back at Danny. "I'll meet you at the car, Jake. I just need to... um... use the restroom."
"Sure thing, Pez." Jake nodded and left.
"Clever..." Danny muttered, shaking his head.
"What was I supposed to say? 'Go away, Jake, I need to talk to my dead partner'?"
He shrugged, smiling. "Well, it would have gotten rid of him."
Sara grinned, chuckling softly.
Danny smiled too, but quickly became serious. "Sara, you should leave this alone."
She shook her head. "I can't, Danny. I... I can't really explain it, but... it's like the Blade's pulled to her. Or like I am." She gave an agitated shrug. "I want to know why."
Danny nodded slowly. "Be careful, Sara."
"Always. And you..." She pointed at him, looking serious. "You let me know if you find anything out."
Danny nodded again and watched her leave, sighing. "Did I mention I have a bad feeling about this?" he muttered softly as she walked off.