SUMMARY: I'm starting this story deep in Sara's past and moving on to the beginning of the second season. Read as if the first season happened, but, since I've never seen the original movie or any 1st season epis, I can't really include any information from that season.

SAVE THE LAST DANCE

Chapter 1

Seventeen-year-old Sara Pezzini trudged towards her school, hands jammed in her pockets. Her chestnut hair was thrown into her face by a light breeze, but she paid it no mind. Her green eyes flashed as they studied the ground before her. She looked up briefly as a movement behind her caught her attention, but her eyes returned to the cement sidewalk a moment later. She turned the last corner and walked slowly across the street to the building that served as her school. The thundering sound of students' hallway conversations assaulted her ears as she opened the front door. She quickly made for her locker, twisting the combination lock and yanking it open. Grabbing her books, she slammed it shut and went to her first class of the day.

Later that same day, as she left school, Sara couldn't help but think of how it might have been had her father not been killed. She had no one—well, almost no one. Captain Joe Siri, her father's friend, looked out for her, but had he known the life she lived, he would have been horrified. Sara lived on the streets, roaming to wherever she could find a place to spend the night. Most days, she ate nothing. She had no friends, no one to trust here. Only Joe. And he couldn't know about any of this. Sara was too ashamed of her life to tell Joe. She was too stubborn to try and get some help. And so she lived here, with only a backpack of clothes and a picture of her mother and father. She still attended school each day, doing what she could. She spent all of her extra time split between working out, practicing the things her father had taught her, and the public library, where she did all of her homework. She had to go to school. If she didn't, then she could never become a homicide detective like Daddy. He had been everything to her, and now he was gone. Murdered. And she was left with nothing. She was not able to pay the bills, and the house was foreclosed upon, leaving her homeless. The folks who'd come to foreclose hadn't known that anyone lived there. Oddly, though, Sara had never cried. Since the day James Pezzini had died, she hadn't shed a tear. She cut off all of her emotions, locking them away behind a protective wall she built around her heart. She would never let anyone get close to her again. Never.

********

The next day, Sara slipped through the front doors of the school and ran into someone. Hard. Strong hands steadied her quickly, and hazel eyes locked with her own.

"Are you all right?" the young man asked, concern crossing his handsome face.

"Uh, yeah. Yeah. Sorry."

"No, no, it was my fault. I wasn't watching where I was going. I'm so sorry. My name is Ian Nottingham. What's yours?"

"S-Sara Pezzini," she stuttered.

"Sara." He smiled, an expression that lit up his features. "That's beautiful. Suits you."

She blushed. "Uh, thanks, I guess." His fingertips caressed her cheek for a moment, tracing her jawline. He realized himself and pulled away, but not before he left her breathless. He had actually touched her without looking revolted or disgusted. How was that possible? She was ugly. She knew it, and she knew that everyone else knew it. But his words were filled with something akin to reverence as his eyes took her in, then searched her own. He found nothing in those beautiful green eyes. What was supposed to be the window to her soul was empty, cold, barren. Nothing remained there, exept the anger that sprang forth so easily these days. Neither tear nor laughter had touched these eyes for an eternity. His own eyes filled with pain as he looked upon this woman who was but a girl left bereft and unemotional by some enormous tragedy. He could not think what could do this to a person, what could leave them so empty and so cold that one could tangibly feel it when they stood close. Mistaking the pain in his eyes for disgust, she pulled away from what invisible bonds held her there, running to her locker to retrieve her books. But for the rest of the day, she could not get out of her head the vision of the face of the first person to actually look at her since her father's death.

********

"Sara." The voice combined with the gentle touch on her shoulder made her jump and spin around quickly, her body instinctively taking on a fighting stance. He held up his hands in a surrendering gesture, and she forced herself to relax a little.

"W-what?"

"Will you eat lunch with me today? I'd like you to sit with me, if you'd like."

Her cheeks colored as she looked down at the floor, embarassed. "I don't have a lunch."

He looked stricken. Then, he said softly, "Then I'll buy you something."

Before she could object, he took her by the elbow and steered her gently towards the cafeteria, where he bought two lunches and sat them down at a table at the far end of the room. Staring at the plate heaped with food, Sara picked up her fork with a trembling hand and took a tiny bite, then another. She had only eaten small amount when she felt her stomach began to protest at the sudden introduction of so much food to her system. She set down her fork and clasped her hands in her lap, staring down at them silently.

He stopped eating. "Aren't you hungry?"

She shook her head, ashamed to have wasted the food. For the first time, he seemed to realize how thin and malnourished she was. She was strong, yes, and her muscles were well-developed, but she was definitely underweight.

"Don't you ever eat?"

Again, she shook her head. Suddenly, something within her broke, and she spilled her story to him. Something about his eyes, the kindness she found there, made her tell him everything that had been tearing at her for so many years. He looked utterly shocked, but then he took her quickly took her into his arms, embracing her, warming her.

From that day on, for months, they spent every lunch together, growing closer and becoming friends.

A year after their initial meeting, that friendship seemed to develop into something more. They were eating lunch side-by-side one day when Ian glanced over at her. Her appetite had returned, though she still didn't eat very much. He gazed at her until the feel of his stare drew her attention. She paused with her fork halfway between her plate and her mouth.

"What?"

"You're beautiful, you know that?"

She ducked her head to hide the blush that crept up her cheeks. He brought his hand to her face, feeling the smooth, satiny skin that he loved. Her hand came up to cover his, and, as their hands touched, their eyes met. They stayed that way for a long time, his hand on her, her hand on his, eyes locked.

"I…I love you, Sara." His thumb began to unconsciously stroke her lips, and her eyes closed at the sensation.

"I love you, too, Ian." Her eyes opened as his hand stilled, their eyes locking once more as they moved closer and closer to one another. Their lips touched lightly, and then her arms went around his neck as he pulled her onto his lap, exploring the depths of her mouth.

They broke apart a moment later, breathless.

"Um, Ian?"

"Yeah?"

"You know how I said I didn't want anything for my eighteenth birthday?"

"Yeah."

"Well, I changed my mind. I want you."

********

With Ian's help and some money she'd earned in a job she'd managed to get, Sara had been able to get a tiny apartment a short while back, and they went there after school on her birthday. They had now been "together" for six months, and had come to the mutual agreement that it was time to take the next step in their relationship. They entered the bedroom together, then turned to gaze at each other. Their lips met gently, lovingly. The embrace grew more passionate, and they fell back onto the bed. Slowly, reverantly, he undressed her, silently asking permission before removing each piece of clothing. She helped him out of his shirt and pants, her hands roaming every inch of bared skin. Her fingertips grazed the sensitive flesh at the small of his back, and he shivered. His lips met hers again, then traveled slowly down her jaw and neck to her shoulder. He nudged her bra strap aside as he nuzzled her soft, pale skin, letting the strap slip down her arm. The rest soon followed as he lovingly explored her, inch by inch. She gasped as he took her breast with his mouth, her chest heaving as he traveled down her belly to the last obstacle between them. He looked up at her, his love filling his eyes as they asked her for her consent. She nodded, and he removed the offending garment. He tasted her sweet flesh again and again until she thought she might burst, then hovered over her, his face even with hers. With one swift, gentle movement, he entered her, eliciting twin gasps from them both. He began to move within her, drawing a moan from her. Soon, they were moving together, achieving a rhythm that became chaotic as they spiraled higher and higher in the sensations of first love. They called out each other's names as they felt waves of release begin to roll over them. Still joined and still quivering, they spooned together, falling into the first deep, dreamless, restful sleep either had had in far too long.

********

They awoke several hours later, he nuzzling her neck lovingly as she shifted. They both gasped as he slipped from her, and she moaned softly at the loss. He completed her in every way, his love buoying her, carrying her. They parted ways a short time later, a kiss their only goodbye. He headed for home, leaving her in the tiny apartment. She never saw him again.

********

She graduated nearly three months later, but he wasn't there. Broken-hearted, she returned home. The next morning found her being sick to her stomach, paying tribute to the porcelain god. She sagged against the wall tiredly, wiping her mouth. She dragged herself up and walked the thirteen blocks to the nearest hospital. They examined her and drew blood to run some tests. They came back a little later with the results--she was eleven weeks pregnant. In shock, she returned home.

Then, she did something she hadn't done for a very long time…

     …She cried.

********

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