Why Do You Care?

Summary: Ian explains to Sara why he feels the way he does about her. Takes place (obviously) before enigmatic/cuddly Ian got replaced by creepy/psychotic Ian.

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: I don't own Sara, Ian, or the Witchblade (it would be nice, though...) Just borrowing, I promise.

Feedback: Oh, yes, please! Feed me, feed me!!! (It's my first Witchblade fic and one of the few purely romantic pieces I've written, so, good or bad, kindly let me know what you think.)

Why Do You Care?

If she had been awake, Sara might have known that Danny had been standing over her for hours, whispering reassuring words in her ear as she tossed on the bed. As it was, she was too feverish to know and too sick to care. The nightmarish visions that the Witchblade insisted on giving her weren't helping matters, either. Death, pain, blood, loss, all the usual stuff, only a thousand times worse tonight.

She had come home from work early, feeling like she was coming down with a mild case of the flu. She had climbed into bed with a hot cup of tea and a double-shot of Nyquil and had fallen almost instantly into a restless sleep. Danny had shown up a few minutes later. He knew, in the way that dead people often know things, that she would be fine, but he was worried about her all the same. The dreams and visions of the Witchblade were harder on her than she cared to admit and he had spent more than one night watching over her as she suffered through them.

He looked up suddenly. "I'm going to go now, Sara, but don't worry. Someone else will be here for you soon. You take care, Partner." With these parting words, Danny vanished.

Ian entered the bedroom shortly after this. "Sara?" he whispered, bending over her. He moved a free chair next to the bed and sat down, pulling off one of his gloves and gently touching her forehead. She clutched her sheets in her hands at the touch of his cool hand and cried out in her sleep. "You need to wake up now, Sara..." he muttered, slipping his glove back on and giving her a gentle shake. "Detective Pezzini?" he said more loudly as she began to claw her way from the dream.

She looked up at him in confusion, the horror of her dream still fresh on her face. "What are you doing here?" she asked, frowning. "What do you want?"

"You're ill. I came to see if you needed help."

She nodded weakly, accepting the explanation at face-value. Even if he had tried, he could not easily have deceived her while she wore the Witchblade. "I... I could use a drink of water."

He nodded and left the room. He returned a few moments later with two pills in one hand and a glass of water in the other. He slipped the straw into her mouth so she could take a sip. She coughed and sputtered as she tried to swallow, so he put the glass down and pulled her into his arms, helping her into a sitting position. He held her up with one hand, incredibly strong but equally gentle, while he held the glass for her with the other. After she had taken a few sips, he proffered the pills.

"What are those?"

"Aspirin. You're running a fever, and I thought they might help."

She nodded and allowed him to slide the pills into her mouth. He seemed to sense that she was too weak to even do that much. He allowed her several more drinks of water before gently laying her on the bed again.

"Thank you, Nottingham..." Sara whispered as he gently rearranged the blankets over her.

He nodded and looked at the floor. "If you do not mind, I think I will stay until your fever is gone."

She frowned in surprised confusion. "Did Irons send you?"

He continued to stare at the floor. "He does not know that I am here, no."

"Look at me when you're talking to me..." Sara muttered, faintly irritated by the habit.

He nodded and glanced up at her.

She watched his eyes, frowning. He was blinking a lot more frequently than was typical. "Why did you come?" she asked.

"I was concerned."

He was not lying; she could tell. She started to speak again but was interrupted by a coughing-fit. Ian pulled her into a sitting position again, holding her against his body until the spasms eased. He helped her to a few more sips of water, then helped her to lie down again.

"I can't remember the last time I was this sick..." Sara muttered in disgust.

"It will not last..." Ian assured her. "The Witchblade is fighting the infection already. This is the main reason why you are feeling so poorly. By morning you will be better."

"Guess I've got a fun night to look forward to, then?" Sara asked with a weak laugh.

Ian nodded. "It will not be easy for you. With your permission, I will stay. Help, if I can."

"You've already helped..." Sara said with a weak cough. "What I want to know is why?"

"I was concerned."

"For the Witchblade?"

Ian looked at the floor again. "For its wielder."

"Look at me when you're talking to me..." Sara repeated. "You were concerned about me?"

He looked into her eyes and nodded.

"And Irons doesn't know that you're here?"

He shook his head. "He has ordered me to limit my contacts with you."

"Why?"

Ian shrugged. "Perhaps he is afraid. He should be."

Sara frowned, trying to figure out what he meant be the comment. Her fevered brain refused to make sense of the comment, or perhaps there was simply no sense to the comment at all.

She looked up at him. "Why are you concerned about me?"

Ian hesitated. He looked almost afraid.

Sara reached out and covered his gloved hand with one of hers. It took a great effort. "Tell me. It's okay."

"I care for you."

Sara swallowed hard, wondering if he meant what her fevered mind insisted he meant. She closed her eyes and had a brief flash: Ian taking her gently into his hands and kissing her before fleeing the apartment. She opened her eyes again.

"Why do you care? Because of the Witchblade?" She asked the question already half-knowing the answer. She was still pleased by his response.

Ian shook his head. "No. Not because of that. I... I admit that it is likely that you never would have come to my attention if not for your ability to wield it, but, if you could not, and you had still come to my attention, I would feel as I do now."

There could be no mistaking his expression now. He was afraid. But of what? Irons? Her reaction to his feelings? The feelings themselves?

"Why, Ian?" Sara asked gently. "Why do you care?"

He looked at the ground again.

"Look at me..." Sara insisted. "You have pretty eyes. You should let people see them sometimes."

Ian stared at her incredulously. "You think I have pretty eyes?" As far as he could remember, no one had ever complimented him on any aspect of his appearance before.

Sara nodded. "Answer me, Ian. Why do you care about me if not because of the Witchblade?"

Ian considered for a moment before answering. Drawing a deep breath, he spoke in a quiet, halting voice. "When I look at my master, I see a cold, cruel man who cares for nobody but himself..." He paused before continuing, obviously fighting the urge to stare back at the ground. "When I look at you, Detective Pezzini, I see the opposite. I see... a caring, gentle person who cares infinitely about what happens to those around her. I... You are unique in my experience, Detective. I respect and admire you greatly."

"Whoa..." Sara muttered, closing her eyes again. More visions, far less pleasant than the last, came, so she quickly opened them again, understanding why Ian was afraid.

"If I may..." Ian had picked up the hand that she had placed over his and raised it slightly towards his mouth.

"You want to kiss my hand?" Sara asked, raising an eyebrow.

He nodded, not looking at her. "If I may."

"Take those damned gloves off and we'll talk."

He frowned faintly, confused by the request.

"They're just another way that you put layers between yourself and the rest of the world. I hate that. Besides, it's not like I'm in any condition to try to cop a fingerprint..."

Ian looked startled, but pulled his gloves off, laying them on the bedside table. He glanced expectantly at Sara.

"Well, get it over with..." she grumbled.

He nodded and picked up her hand again. Raising it to his bent face, he pressed his lips gently against it for a span of not more than two seconds before gently returning it to its place on the bed. "Thank you, Detective." He rose and bowed politely.

Sara looked as surprised as she felt. She had never had her hand kissed before, at least not in this lifetime, and she found that she rather liked it. It made her feel not only loved but also respected. "Thank you, Ian."

He nodded and returned to the chair. "You should rest now." He hesitated. "With your permission, I would like to stay."

"You wouldn't be planning on taking advantage of me when I'm sick, Nottingham?"

Looking shocked at the suggestion, he shook his head. "I would never dream of such a thing, Detective. I swear it."

"It's pretty warm in here. Take your coat off and get yourself something to drink if you want."

He nodded and took his coat and hat off, but made no move to go to the kitchen.

Sara shrugged and tried to ignore the growing headache that was rapidly becoming worse than all of her other symptoms. The light hurt, but she couldĀ  not close her eyes without worrying about the visions. Ian seemed to sense this. He left the bedroom and quickly returned with a damp washcloth, which he folded and placed over Sara's eyes and forehead. He turned off the lights before returning to his chair.

"Better?" he asked in a low, gentle voice.

She nodded. "Yeah, thanks. You get sick much, Ian?"

He shook his head. "Never, no."

"Well, you're good at taking care of people who are. Is that part of your training?"

"No."

"Oh." Sara shrugged. "Well, thanks again."

Ian bowed his head and did not reply. Sara glanced at him from under the edge of the washcloth, wondering how she had missed the obvious in him for so long.

She smiled faintly as she spoke. "You know, the more I get to know you, Nottingham, the less you turn out to be what I would expect in one of Irons's lackeys."

He looked up, faintly surprised. "From you, I consider that high praise, Detective."

"It is..." Sara said softly.

Either the aspirin had finally kicked in or the Witchblade was winning its fight with the virus. Either way, her headache was receding and she was grateful. She relaxed in the bed for several minutes, feeling oddly comfortable and secure considering that her 'stalker', a man who was a trained killing-machine and a known assassin was sitting watch over her. She was surprised to feel his hand on her forehead, cool and gentle. She was even more surprised to enjoy the touch.

"Your fever is going down..." Ian observed quietly, removing his hand.

She nodded. "Headache, too. Guess the Witchblade is winning."

He nodded. "You must be very strong. It did not take as long as I had thought it would." He rose and picked up his coat.

"Hey, where are you going?" Sara asked.

"You are better. You need sleep now."

Sara was oddly reluctant for him to leave. "You... you don't have to go. If you'd rather stay."

He smiled faintly and draped the coat over the chair again. "I should stay. Your dreams might be troubled."

She nodded. "You can sleep on the couch."

"Thank you. I'll sit watch over you for a while longer."

"What would Irons do if he knew you were here?"

Ian paused, frowning. "I suspect that my master would kill me if he even suspected that I have feelings for you beyond the professional."

"Then maybe you shouldn't stay..."

He sighed. "You are probably right. I should go." He paused. "I wish I could stay."

"Me, too." To her surprise, Sara found herself meaning it. She rose cautiously. "I'll walk you to the door. Or the window. Or to wherever it is that you usually come into my apartment through."

He bowed his head, embarrassed. Sara smiled reassuringly and walked with him to the door.

"When you wake up, you will still be weak from your body's struggle with the illness. You might consider taking the day off."

"Not if I can help it."

He nodded, accepting this. After a brief pause, in which he stared thoughtfully at his shoes, he looked up and asked, "May I ask one more favor, Detective?"

She shrugged. "Sure, why not. What?"

"One more kiss?" he whispered. The fear was back.

"Are you sure?" Sara asked quietly.

He nodded. "By your leave..."

"Go for it."

Sara was surprised when, instead of picking up her hand, he gently drew her into his arms. His actions were slow, his grasp gentle, giving her more than enough opportunity to pull away if she had wanted to. He hesitated, looking as nervous as a boy about to have his first kiss. Sara smiled gently and tilted her head upwards. His hands tightened slightly around her, more from nervousness, she could tell, than from anything else. When he kissed her, it was as surprising as the rest of his actions this evening: sweeter and gentler and infinitely more loving than she would have thought possible from him.

He pulled away quickly. "Thank you, Detective. Good evening and sweet dreams..." He nodded and quickly fled the apartment.

Sara stared after him for a moment before fatigue forced her to return to bed. By morning, she was quite sure that the whole thing had been just another in that night's series of bizarre, fever-induced dreams.

Sara was walking from her car to the Precinct-House when Ian appeared, just another pedestrian in a crowded area. He altered his course subtly to fall in beside her.

"Good morning, Detective. I heard that you had taken ill last night?"

"I'm better now."

Ian nodded. "Had any interesting dreams lately?" It was not the first time that he had bothered her with that question.

"Actually, yeah. I had a real doozy last night." She stopped suddenly and stared at him, frowning in confusion. "Where you in my apartment last night, Nottingham?"

He frowned. "What would I be doing in your apartment on any night, Detective?"

"That's a good question."

"Well, I hope that you are feeling better..." He took her hand in his and she noticed for the first time that he was not wearing gloves. He raised her hand to his face and gently kissed it, looking at her as he did so. He dropped her hand and inclined his head politely. "Good day to you, Detective." With that, he turned and vanished into the crowd.

Sara stared after him mutely, for several confused minutes, wondering if the fever of the night before had not fried her brain after all.

"Morning, Pez."

"Jake..." she muttered distractedly.

"Feeling better?"

"Uh-huh..."

"You okay, Pez?" he asked. "You look like you just saw a ghost?"

She shook her head absently. "No, not for two or three days..."

"Um, if you say so, Pez..." he muttered, taking her arm and leading her inside.

"Two or three days?" Danny asked, folding his arms over his chest. "Guess you missed that I dropped in last night... Feeling better?"

She grinned at him and nodded faintly. "Much..." she whispered.