To be or not to be...

Summary - Nottingham considers how to handle is growing problems with having two masters. If you know what Hamlet's 'To be or not to be' monologue is all about you know what this fic is about.

Disclaimer - As cool as it would be to say that I owned either Witchblade or Hamlet, I do not.

AN: I wrote this over a year ago and it is sort of a song fic thing only not with a song. Anyways, sorry if it's not all that great but hey, these things get lodged in my head occasionally and the only way to get them out is to write them down. And yes, I know I have this thing about killing off Ian...

* * * * *

~To be, or not to be: that is the question:~

Ian stood staring at the floor of Irons' office that day, contemplating his situation. Things were beginning to get out of control.

~Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer~

~The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,~

Irons, always a demanding master, and the Lady Sara, the Wielder of the Witchblade, were both beginning to make demands on him, conflicting demands. All his training, all his conditioning was yelling at him to serve Irons and Irons alone. The Wielder was supposed to be a secondary master. But Lady Sara was not second. And though she was not first either, neither was Irons any more. For months he had fought to maintain a balance between his service to his two masters but it was becoming more and more apparent that he would have to choose one and betray the other for their demands of him were conflicting more than ever with each other. Irons wanted to control Sara, and through Sara, the Witchblade. Sara wanted to be in control. Irons wanted Sara to come to him to learn about the Witchblade; Sara had gone to Gabriel Bowman. Irons had wanted Mr. Bowman to stop helping Sara so he had sent Nottingham to threaten him. Sara wanted Mr. Bowman's help so Nottingham had not followed through on his threats.

~Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,~

~And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;~

Recently his honor was beginning to demand that he do something but it would not allow him to betray either Sara or Irons. The ancient Samurai, when dishonored or dishonoring their Lord had committed seppuku, ritually sacrificing their lives.

~No more; and by a sleep to say we end~

~The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks~

~That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation~

No longer would he be plagued by these feelings. Feelings for Sara, about Irons, about himself. He would wipe clear his dishonor and be free finally. Free of all the pain that the world threw at him every day, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

~Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;~

~To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;~

He would be betraying both though by doing this. He knew it. Iron, though he could replace Nottingham, would know that his servant had left because of another, had had divided loyalties. And the Lady Sara...who would protect her? Who would watch her traitorous partner, Jake McCarty, and the rest of the White Bulls? Who would protect her from Irons and his manipulations?

~For in that sleep of death what dreams may come~

~When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,~

He allowed himself a moment to consider his death. Not as some action done for Irons or Sara, but as it would affect him. What was death like? Irons claimed that death was just an end, something to be delayed as long as possible. But Nottingham had always wondered about death. He had watched the life slip out of people's eyes as he killed them and wondered more than once what it was that he had truly just done. For the Wielder of the Witchblade who had died a thousand times before, death was an old friend, but he could not ask Sara. Death liked to keep it's secrets from those not under it's control and the Wielder would never betray that ancient trust. Perhaps all people were in a constant cycle of birth and re-birth? Or perhaps there was a heaven and hell? Nottingham's thoughts shied away from that for he knew himself unworthy of and unwelcome in heaven.

~Must give us pause: there's the respect~

~That makes calamity of so long life;~

~For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,~

He had considered death, his own death, before this, but had never really considered taking his own life. Life was to be horded and protected, wasn't it? Not thrown away. But what was it about life that was so precious?

~The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,~

Irons' may have raised Nottingham but he was not a true family. He was Nottingham's master, always, and Nottingham was always the loyal servant, nothing more. Irons would never be able to think of any as his equal, there were only those he controlled and those he fought and Nottingham was one of the former. He had no freedom and had never hoped for any, at least, not until he had met Lady Sara.

~The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,~

But Sara was the Wielder, as near a goddess as a mere mortal could come and Nottingham knew better than to hope that his love for her would ever be returned, much as he knew that any love for Irons that he had ever had could never be returned. But were his love for Irons had been the love of a child for anything even remotely like a parent, his love for Sara was something else, something so strong and undeniable that he had been force to admit it to her. And though she had rejected him, it had not been any surprise and he had still been willing to try to protect her from her enemies in the police, especially her partner McCarty. It still rankled him that he had not been able to convince Sara though that McCarty had betrayed her

~The insolence of office and the spurns~

~That patient merit of the unworthy takes,~

Sara had protected McCarty, bringing the Witchblade up between Nottingham and McCarty. He had tried to protect her but she had protected her own betrayer from him. He had grown frustrated and let something slip in his surprise at her turning the Witchblade against him. He knew Sara had heard but he had turned his back on her angry demands for answers once again. Once again. One masters orders clashing with the others. How could he make this work?

~When he himself might his quietus make~

~With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,~

Was there anything except an honorable death left to him?

~To grunt and sweat under a weary life,~

~But that the dread of something after death,~

Was there any other way to keep from betraying them both?

~The undiscover'd country from whose bourn~

~No traveller returns, puzzles the will~

~And makes us rather bear those ills we have~

~Than fly to others that we know not of?~

And would his death really solve anything or only put Sara in greater danger than ever. He knew about the others that Irons had. They were not him but Sara would still not be able to fight them. In truth he knew that his death would only free him from this life, not solve any problems for his two masters. But he also knew that he could no longer continue like this, could not continue to betray Sara to Irons and Irons to Sara, his honor would not allow it, just as his honor would not allow him to choose to serve solely one or the other. Perhaps...perhaps it was time to remove his piece from this board and allow the two duelers to face each other finally without Nottingham standing between them, protecting them from each other. And perhaps death would bring the peace and oblivion he longed for.

~Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;~

~And thus the native hue of resolution~

~Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,~

~And enterprises of great pith and moment~

~With this regard their currents turn awry,~

But he could not kill himself. He could not commit the suicide that would bring him peace from his problems. He could not turn his own blade against himself. But perhaps there was another way.

~The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons~

~Be all my sins remember'd.~

There had to be. Because Sara, his Ophelia, his nymph, worthy of all he had to give, deserved a better protector than he. And so he would serve her in death and atone for his sins in life.

* * * * *

This is the whole soliloquy if you want to read it:

To be, or not to be: that is the question:

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;

No more; and by a sleep to say we end

The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause: there's the respect

That makes calamity of so long life;

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,

The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,

The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,

The insolence of office and the spurns

That patient merit of the unworthy takes,

When he himself might his quietus make

With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,

To grunt and sweat under a weary life,

But that the dread of something after death,

The undiscover'd country from whose bourn

No traveller returns, puzzles the will

And makes us rather bear those ills we have

Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;

And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,

And enterprises of great pith and moment

With this regard their currents turn awry,

And lose the name of action.-Soft you now!

The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons

Be all my sins remember'd.