Payback

By

Tracey Claybon

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All the usual disclaimers apply. I don't own Sara, Irons, or Ian. Top Cow, Image and TNT do.

For Renee, who asked the question: "Okay, what happened next?" :-) ; to Taueret, and so many others. . . Thanks for the compliments on my writing.

This follows up _Random Acts of Kindness_. Purely TV continuity.

The books I list in the story are all real and I highly recommend them. No copyright infringement is meant there, either. . .

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* incidates a thought

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Months - and a LOT of events - had passed since Ian had done his little "random act of kindness" for Sara. It was December 21, a week before Christmas, on the day older religions called Yule.

After the "time rewind", Sara didn't remember EVERYTHING that happened, but she remembered bits and pieces of the events before the rewind.

One of the biggest chunks of memory remaining involved Irons' henchman (and resident stalker) Ian Nottingham doing a really nice thing for Sara after a really bad day (though Sara couldn't recall the details of what made it such a bad day.) Sara recalled a wonderful meal, a wonderfully hot bath, and a couple of really sinful desserts; if it hadn't been such a creepy thing that Nottingham had gotten THAT much access to her apartment (and she had major holes in her memory about why she was so creeped out about that too), she would have been touched to the core - how many guys, anywhere on Planet Earth, would have been _that_ considerate of a lady in their life?

Sara had also noticed the same kind of deja-vu look in Nottingham's eyes, as if chunks of HIS memory were chopped up and rearranged and things and events that hadn't happened in his and in Sara's lives were common memory to him as well.

It was all very confusing to her, but she felt that she owed Nottingham a kindness or two.

She had noticed once when Nottingham tailed her into a shopping mall that he actually stopped to look at a toy store, smiling like a little kid, at the old-fashioned Christmas toy display. This year, cowboys-and-indians play sets, toy trains, simple dolls, Tinkertoys, Legos, and old fashioned board games were the "it" toy to have this year, along with the usual game systems and games. Nottingham actually failed to notice her watching him, then moving up close - because he was staring longingly at a beautiful replica of the Orient Express train on a really elaborate track. She actually managed to walk away again and look like she was studying the lingerie at Victoria's Secret just in time for Nottingham to shake himself and return to stalker of the year mode...

So, one day when she KNEW Nottingham was attending business with Irons (and with the gleeful help of the Witchblade), Sara went back to the toy store. She picked up and purchased the Orient Express train set and track, and also picked up a couple of really complicated Lego sets at the toy store.

After she left the toy store, a beautifully hand tooled charcoal gray cowboy hat with an elaborate Celtic knotwork pattern around the crown and edges caught her eye. She bought it for Ian, along with a matching belt in the same pattern. A beautiful hand knit angora and lamb's wool fisherman's sweater in a speckled, natural dark charcoal gray caught her eye next, and Sara figured that it was close enough to black where Nottingham might actually wear it - so she bought it, too. . . last, Sara stopped in a bookstore and picked up a variety of books she thought he might enjoy , with his interest in things arcane and Arthurian - all the Tolkien books, all of the Harry Potter books, the entire set of 35 books by Mercedes Lackey, the Deed of Paksenarrion series by Elizabeth Moon and the entire Robert Jordan Wheel of Time series. She figured that the Deed of Paksenarrion series alone would keep him at home and away from her window for at least a month. It'd kept her wrapped up in the story during every waking spare moment for a month and a half - half the officers at the precinct were teasing her that maybe she needed to become a librarian if she loved to read that much.

She had all of the presents wrapped beautifully, and managed to sneak them into his apartment about half an hour before he came back from his business with Irons. After her Secret Santa excursion, she went back to her apartment, and waited, cellphone nearby, eating popcorn and sipping some of the cocoa she'd found that Nottingham had brought in with the other surprises that long-ago night.

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Ian wearily made his way back to his garret of an apartment after a way-too-long meeting with Irons, which had lasted most of the day. He was looking forward to a long shower, and perhaps a chance to read a couple of chapters of the book - A Christmas Carol - his landlady had given him for Christmas this year. Mrs. Williams always made a point of doing something nice for him each holiday; she'd taken to him like a mother hen does for chicks, and her kindnesses were one of the few bright spots in his life. He always tried to give her a nice present each year in return - he knew that if it weren't for her, he wouldn't have celebrated the holiday otherwise.

He shrugged off his black, snow-dusted slightly dampened anorak and dropped it on a chair near the door. It was cold and wet outside, and he was grateful that Irons had allowed him to go home for once instead of having him shadow Sara Pezinni for once. After walking into his bedroom, he reached out to turn the light on.

And stared at his bed in shock.

A pile of brightly wrapped presents took pride of place in the middle of his bed. There was a beautiful gold card sitting in the middle of the pile. Ian walked over and picked it up, reading it.

"Ian,

I have very hazy memories of a really awful day you helped to make better. I hope this makes your day - and your holiday season - as wonderful as you once made my day.

Sara

He reached for and opened the bulky, oddly rectangular package closest to him - and found the Orient Express train he'd been admiring.

Ian proceeded to open his other presents first carefully, then after about 5 minutes pieces of paper and bits of brightly colored ribbon showered the otherwise plain and neat room. Rusty, but delighted laughter rang through the room.

Sara was halfway through watching the network broadcast of _Scrooged_, laughing at the antics of Carol Kane's slightly demented fairy ghost when her cell phone rang. She knew who it had to be. . .

"Hey Sara." he said.

"Hey Ian." she replied. It was their "normal" exchange.

A pause, then, "Thank you for the best Christmas presents I've ever had," he said in a suspiciously husky, happy voice.

"You're welcome." she replied, smiling. "Enjoy them, I'm glad I made you happy - you deserve to be, especially during this time of year."

"I think I'll read the Harry Potter first - I want to know what all the fuss is about... Happy Holidays, Sara." He hung up.

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During the next couple of days, Sara picked up the makings of a holiday dinner with all the trimmings, telling herself that if she ended up having to eat this alone, she'd find a bum on the street and give the extras to them on Christmas Day.

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It was 7:30 pm on Christmas Eve. Sara had just gotten off work for the day. She was scheduled to be off Christmas Day and she was walking home from work. She spotted Ian Nottingham, wearing his big black leather trenchcoat tightly closed against the wet mix of rain and snow pacing her on her walk home. After he knew that she saw him, he smiled, then pointed toward her apartment and faded back into the crowd.

Sara smiled a little to herself, then stepped up the pace to get up to her loft.

She walked in the door, quickly shedding winter coat, scarf and hat, then walked into the kitchen to start a fire under a teapot she'd left on her stove full of water that morning.

Just as she finished this, Ian tapped on her window.

She walked over to let him in, smiling a little, and he quickly took off his own slightly damp trenchcoat and hat. She showed him where to put his coat and hat then beckoned him toward a chair.

He paused and said, " Hello, Sara, I brought a present for you, too."

"You didn't have to do that for me, Ian - you already gave me a present some time ago . . ." Sara got out before Ian stopped her with a gesture.

"I . . . sort of remember that, too, Sara - but, like I said to you over the phone a few days ago, the presents you gave were the best I've ever received. It would be discourteous of me to accept your presents without trying to give back presents in return - even if I gave you presents months ago, or yesterday. Anyway, here is a present for you."

Sara looked down at Ian's hands, which had been empty when she'd looked at them just a moment before, which now held two small rectangular boxes, a red one stacked on a green one in a pyramid and wrapped in gold ribbons. She took them and carefully unwrapped the boxes.

In the green box, there was a delicate gold chain; on the end of the chain was a miniature replica of the Witchblade - a exquisite sword pendant in gold and silver, with a winking oval ruby in the hilt of the sword and a diamond in the pommel nut end of the little blade. Sara was stunned at its beauty, and stared in admiration of the work done on it . . .

Ian said after a moment of glee at her impressed expression, "I requested that this be made, on my own. Irons had nothing to do with this."

Sara tore her eyes away and beamed a brilliant smile at Ian. He grinned back, then said, "But you haven't opened the other box, yet. . . "

So, Sara opened the other, smaller box. Also on a gold chain, there was a very complicated Celtic knotwork pendant with a sapphire at the center - even more than the pattern on the hat and belt she'd given Ian. Sitting inside the boundaries of the chain was a ring with a very similar pattern that also had a sapphire at the center.

She was equally stunned at the beauty of it.

Ian had moved - quietly, like a cat - so he was right behind her, so when he spoke next to her ear, from behind her, she startled just a bit - but was not afraid or agitated in his presence, for once.

"The knots on the ring - there are two types - are called the Guardian knot and the Warrior Knot. I thought they would suit you and they do. Merry Christmas, Sara."

He moved from behind her and toward the window he'd entered by, but before he could reach the window, Sara spoke.

"Please don't go. Share this evening - and a cup of tea, or cider, and dinner with me. You're not going to Irons' home for Christmas, are you?"

His back turned, Ian answered, "Irons doesn't believe in the "superstitious nonsense" of holidays. . ."

Sara said, in a different voice than she'd yet used with him, "But I _do_. Stay. . . please. There's enough in my refrigerator for two here, and I've no one else to spend the holidays with."
Ian turned and looked at Sara - really looked at her. For once, there was no sarcasm, or fear, or anger in her face, just open friendliness and trust, for this moment.

Ian blinked - then he smiled.

Sara blinked herself, thinking, *Wow. The stalker's devastating when he smiles. . . * then shook herself and dismissed the mistrust that brought that thought on. She steered Ian into the kitchen, where the teapot was now whistling merrily.

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Sara warmed up the Christmas dinner she'd bought, and they both enjoyed the results. Afterward, she suggested he stay and talk, and maybe watch a movie or two - she knew that he probably was going to just go home to a lonely apartment, any way.

As the night went on, the two of them slowly began to talk about their presents, then of more mundane things, just like old friends would, and then finally they settled down together and watched old Christmas movies. It was the most relaxed either of them had been in a long time.


Sara smiled as It's a Wonderful Life played, knowing she'd done a really good thing for the holidays.

For one night, at least, peace was declared between herself and Ian. Maybe one day, it'd be a permanent peace.

FIN

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