A Family Affair

Disclaimer: I don't own the Witchblade characters. Not even close. I'm just playing around.

Chapter 1.

Sara Pezzini sat at her desk slogging through one of her least favorite aspects of her job as a New York City homicide detective: paperwork. It seemed endless. It was endless.

Across from her, her partner Danny Woo was doing the same thing, but instead of the sighs and muttered complaints coming from Sara's desk, he was smiling slightly as he hummed an upbeat tune.

Because Sara hadn't yet had her fourth cup of coffee that morning, the humming was starting to get on her nerves. But he appeared oblivious to the dark looks she kept throwing his way. Finally, she gave up and threw down her pen.

"Okay, Woo. Fess up."

Her partner glanced up at her innocently. "What?"

"You know what. The humming and silly smile. What, did you get some last night?"

"Sara, now here I thought you liked my smile!" Danny said, feigning hurt feelings.

"Yeah, yeah. So, why so cheerful? I know it can't be the joy of paperwork."

"Well, I do take pride and extreme pleasure in every aspect of my job as you know, but, okay, you caught me," Danny admitted.

Sara rolled her eyes. "So? Do I have to drag it out of you? Don't keep me hanging here, guy!"

"Lee and I got the house! There was a message on the machine from the realtor when I got home last night! We're moving on up, baby!" Danny crowed.

"Wow! That's great, Danny! A real house with a yard and everything, hunh?"

"Yep. We're finally gonna be homeowners in the great borough of Queens!"

"Well, then the creepy humming and smiling before noon is forgiven. High five!"

The partners slapped hands.

"And what are we congratulating ourselves about on this fine morning?" Jake McCartey asked, sauntering into the office.

"Hey, Rookie! Glad you could make it in today!" Sara shot back at him.

"For your information, Detective Pezzini, I've been here since 8:30. Captain Dante partnered me with Orlinsky on a case that came in this morning."

Sara raised her eyebrows. "You're working a case with Orlinsky? What about the four cases we're still supposed to be working?"

Jake shrugged, taking the guest chair by Sara's desk. "I just do as I'm told, what with being a rookie and all. Jealous?" He grinned at her, wiggling his eyebrows.

"Yeah, right. In your dreams, Rookie."

"So, what were you guys high-fiving about?" Jake asked again.

Danny cleared his throat. "Oh, um, just the fact that Lee and I got the house in Queens!"

"No shit, man! That's awesome!" Jake raised his hand for a high five, and Danny went to hit it but pulled his hand back at the last moment, leaving the rookie hanging.

"Aw, man, that's cold."

"No, cold is what this sorry excuse for coffee is," Sara said, frowning at her cup. She stood and grabbed her jacket. "Who wants the real deal? I'm gonna go grab some."

"Thanks, partner. You know how I likes it," Danny said.

"And I'll have a cappuccino, please," Jake said.

"Who asked you, Rookie?" Sara said, then grinned to show she was kidding. She headed out the office and through the precinct.

Outside, it was unusually mild for mid-November. The forecasters were calling for a major snowstorm later in the week, but Sara had her doubts about that seeing as it felt like it was nearly 60 degrees out.

She headed down the street only to stop in her tracks as she felt the Witchblade grow warm on her right wrist. She glanced down at the bracelet, and saw that the red stone was swirling gently as it only did when a certain tall, dark, psychotic person was nearby. Sighing heavily, Sara glanced toward the alley that ran alongside the 11th Precinct, expecting to see her very own personal stalker's black-clad form lurking there. She blinked as instead she saw a very nervous-looking teenaged boy standing in the shadows.

"Joey? Joey, is that you?"

The boy smiled, and started to walk toward her.

But before he could move, a big shadowy form seemingly materialized out of nowhere and grabbed the gangly youth, throwing him up against the wall of the alley and pinning him there with one muscular forearm.

"Hey, hey, Nottingham, you psycho, what are you doing!?!" Sara yelled, rushing into the alley. "Let go of him!" She pulled at the sleeve of the black wool overcoat that the lethal assassin never seemed to venture outside without. She might as well have pulled at the brick wall itself for the all the difference it made.

"He is armed, Lady Sara." Ian Nottingham said softly. He handed the boy's backpack to her, never taking his eyes from the terrified teen's face. "The weapon is in there."

"He's my nephew is what he is, you freak!" Sara snarled, snatching the book bag from Ian's gloved hand furiously. "Now, let him go!"

Laser-like hazel eyes focused on her for a moment. "Your nephew? You do not have any siblings, Sara, so how could you have a nephew?"

Sara drew her gun, chambering a round and flicking off the safety. "Let. Him. Go. I won't ask you again," she growled.

Slowly, the black-clad man removed his forearm from the petrified boy's sternum. He moved a few feet away, deeper into the shadows, of course, and took up his habitual parade rest stance: booted feet spread wide, hands clasped behind his back, head bowed.

Sara glared at him for a moment, then turned to the shaken teenager, grasping his shoulders gently and looking up into his pale face.

"Are you okay, Joey? Did he hurt you?" she asked softly, fighting the urge to just turn around and put a cap into Nottingham's freakish ass.

"No, I'm okay, Aunt Sara." He ducked his head, and lowered his voice to a whisper. "Who is that guy anyways?"

"Oh, just your friendly neighborhood psycho," Sara said, raising her voice on the last word for Nottingham's benefit, although unbeknownst to her he could clearly hear every word they said.

Since her back was to him and his head was bowed, Sara didn't see the bleak look that crossed Ian's face or the pain that touched his eyes at her words before he schooled his bearded features to their customary blankness once again.

"What are you doing here, Joey? You should be in school. Are your grandparents and parents okay?" she asked the teenager.

"I saw him put a weapon in that bag," Ian said quietly.

"Shut up, Nottingham!" Sara snapped, without sparing him a glance. "I don't care what you think you saw."

"I didn't know what else to do. I couldn't bring myself to go to Grandpa Joe," Joey Siri blurted out. "Please don't be mad at me, Aunt Sara!" Tears welled up in the boy's eyes, and Sara felt him begin to tremble.

"Whoa, whoa, slow down, Joey. What couldn't you bring yourself to tell Grandpa Joe?" she asked.

The boy started to reach for the heavy knapsack that Sara had almost forgotten she held in her hand, then hesitated when he felt rather than saw the tall, black-clad man in the shadows tense and realized that the man's chilling gaze was fixed balefully on him once again. Joey's eyes widened as he noticed that, although he hadn't seen him move a muscle, one of the man's gloved hands now held a very large gun at his side.

"It . . . it's in there," the boy whispered, nodding toward the bag.

Frowning in puzzlement, Sara unzipped the largest section of the knapsack and her heart sank as she caught sight of an unmistakable metallic shape. Furtively, she glanced toward the mouth of the alley, relieved to see that there weren't any witnesses to this little drama, and then pulled the boy deeper into the alleyway, almost bumping into a motionless Ian Nottingham in the process.

"Joseph Paul Siri, Jr., what in God's name are you doing with a gun!?!" she hissed.

Chapter 2.

Haltingly, with many heartfelt apologies and admissions that he hadn't been thinking right and that as the grandson and nephew of a cop he ought to have known better, the boy that Sara Pezzini thought of as her nephew -- despite the fact they were not blood relatives -- told her how he had come to be in possession of a firearm.

Apparently, Joey was in love. The object of his affection was a girl by the name of Amanda. Unfortunately, although Amanda returned Joey's affection, she had an even greater love for heroin. She was well and truly hooked and nothing Joey said could convince her that she needed to get help before her addiction killed her. Last night, he had followed her as she went to score, and had confronted her and the drug dealer. A scuffle had ensued, and the man had pulled a gun. Using the judo moves that he had learned from his Aunt Sara, Joey had disarmed the dealer, who fled, but not before saying that he was going to get another piece and come after Joey and Amanda.

'And the Powers That Be don't think stiffer gun control laws are necessary,' Sara thought disgustedly as the now sobbing boy finished his tale. Sighing, she drew him into a comforting embrace, stroking his shaking shoulders and hair and assuring him that she wasn't mad at him, just very relieved that he and his girlfriend hadn't been killed or injured and disappointed that he hadn't thought to come to her before taking matters into his own hands.

"Lady Sara."

Sara jumped, having somehow completely forgotten that perhaps the world's deadliest assassin was standing just a few feet from her and her former captain's eldest grandchild.

"What, Nottingham? Can't you see I'm kinda busy here?" she snapped at him, and then immediately regretted it as she saw that his bearded face wore the expression she had come to think of as "the kicked-puppy" - as incongruous as that was considering the man was a walking lethal weapon who could have snapped Joey's neck in the blink of an eye.

She sighed, closing her eyes briefly and wondering for perhaps the millionth time why the dark-haired assassin irritated her so. Sure, he was stalking her and had gone all psycho commando on a 16-year-old boy who just happened to be her surrogate father's grandson, but in his eyes, he'd been justified. He'd seen the boy put a loaded weapon in his bag and then lay in wait for her in a dark alley. If she was brutally honest with herself, Sara knew she would have done the same thing if she were Nottingham's self- appointed stalker. 'No,' she reminded herself, 'not self-appointed.' She knew he was under orders to follow her from the man he called his master, billionaire Kenneth Irons, whose unholy obsession with the ancient weapon she wore on her wrist had precipitated his bodyguard's involvement in this family drama.

"I'm sorry, Nottingham. Obviously, I'm a bit upset that my nephew is in trouble," she managed to say gruffly.

"I'm in trouble?" Joey squeaked, alarmed. "I know I shouldn't have kept the gun, but I didn't use it. Are you going to arrest me?"

"Lady Sara," Ian said again, "if you examine the weapon, perhaps you might receive some insight into where this dealer is, and then you could apprehend him. You might even be able to discern where he got the gun in the first place, which is where he will undoubtedly return to purchase another, if he has not already done so."

'Great,' Sara thought, 'that's just what I need. To touch the weapon and have the Witchblade throw me into a vision in front of my nephew.'

"I've got a better idea," she said. "I'll bring it to Vicky and have her run it for prints. This scumbag dealer is bound to have a rap sheet of priors a mile long, and Danny and me can go grab him up."

"How will you explain to Detective Woo, or, for that matter, Captain Dante, that you have suddenly become interested in a case that is normally handled by the narcotics squad?" Ian asked quietly.

Sara glared at the tall, dark-haired assassin. "Do you have a better idea?"

Ian leaned closer to her and said very softly "All you have to do is ask, and it can easily become a homicide case."

She felt a chill run up her spine as she saw by the cold gleam in his eyes that he was completely serious. And then the chill ran down her spine as she actually found herself mulling over his offer for the space of two heartbeats. She felt the Witchblade's avaricious glee at the murderous impulse that she quickly suppressed.

"Um, no thank you, Nottingham. Tempting as that charmingly psychotic offer is, I think I'll pass seeing as I'm an officer of the law and all," she said.

He shrugged. "The offer stands, my Lady. I would do anything to please you."

"Uh, yeah. Right. Joey, why don't I take you to lunch and we'll figure out how you're going to explain to your parents why you played hooky today," she said, deeply unsettled by the sincerity in the black-clad man's guileless hazel eyes.

"Aunt Sara, it's only 10:00 a.m."

"Yeah, so? I like to take an early lunch from time to time." As she and the boy walked toward the warm sunlight, she glanced back uneasily. Of course, Ian Nottingham had vanished.

"Whoa! Where'd that guy go? He just disappeared! Is he, like, a ninja or something?" Joey asked, following her gaze.

"Or something." 'Like a freakin' psychopath,' she thought, and then immediately felt guilty for some reason.

"He's really scary, but you didn't seem frightened of him until he whispered in your ear," the boy said astutely. "What did he say?"

"Trust me, Joey, you don't want to know."

More to come. I love and appreciate feedback.