Thanks to: DarkHeart for asking her question and starting the story ether flowing; and thanks to Suzanne for beta-reading for me later.
Archiving: Please ask my permission before archiving this elsewhere.
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. They are the property of Top Cow, TNT, and whomever else lays legal claim to them. I just brought them out to play, because we love them so. J
Summary: My friend DarkHeart posted a question on a message board, asking, "What do you guys think Ian’s Christmas is like?" This was my answer…
Ian Nottingham sat in the darkness on the fire escape outside Sara Pezzini’s apartment. Snow fell in big flakes all around him.
He could see her through the window, moving around in the kitchen, fixing tea. He could also see a Christmas tree on her kitchen table. It was tiny, but covered in colored lights and shimmering decorations. Ian thought its cheeriness looked a little out of place in Sara’s apartment, but he liked it anyway.
Ian shifted uncomfortably. He was cold, and the snow was really coming down now. He shivered as the snow melted on his face and into his clothes.
The apartment went dark. Ian sighed, disappointed that Sara must have gone to sleep, but relieved to be able to leave his post. He stood up and stretched.
The window flew open, and Sara stuck her head out.
"So," she said gruffly, "Are you coming in or not?"
Ian hoped Sara couldn’t see his look of complete bafflement. It wouldn’t help his image at all.
"…because you know, only a complete idiot would sit on a fire escape for hours in the middle of a snowstorm," Sara continued. Ian didn’t need a second invitation or more abuse, much as Sara seemed to be enjoying providing the latter. She backed away, and he went through the window into her apartment.
"You’re too kind," he said wryly as he went past her. The only light in the apartment came from the Christmas tree and some candles in the living room. It looked so comfortable…
Sara handed him a towel. "Here, give me your coat and hat. I’ll throw them in the dryer. Unless they’re wool…?"
"No." Ian handed her the garments and shook his head as she walked off to throw them into the dryer. She usually offered to shoot him at just about this time on any other visit. Why was she being so nice? He toweled the rest of the snow off, and wondered what he was in for.
Sara came back to the kitchen. "Tea?" she offered, taking out a tray and cups.
"Please," he replied.
"Honey?" she asked, then grinned in spite of herself at the look on his face. "I meant this…" Sara held up a plastic bear filled with honey.
"Oh. Of course." Ian was suddenly very intrigued with the pattern in the rug.
Sara brought the tray to the living room and set it on the coffee table. She plunked down on the couch and looked up at Ian.
"Geez. Sit down already. You’re making me nervous."
Ian sat down, and they busied themselves with their tea. They sat in comfortable silence then, Ian warming his hands around his mug while Sara curled up in her corner of the couch, resting her head against the cushions. For a long time the only sound was the dryer thumping in the hallway.
Finally, though, Ian had to ask.
Sara seemed surprised at the question. "Why what?"
"Everything. Normally you’d be swearing at me just about now."
"Ian, it’s Christmas Eve."
"And that…makes a difference?"
"Well, yeah. Of course it does." The dryer stopped, and Sara got up from the couch to retrieve Ian’s coat. Ian set his cup down on the tray and got up to leave.
"Why is it different?" he asked.
She handed him his coat and struggled for an answer.
"Because Christmas is special. It makes you feel special…It’s about…It’s about hope." She took an ornament off her tree and handed it to him. "Here."
It was one of the shiny gold metal ornaments, shaped to look like a stable with a star at its peak. He turned it over in his hands. It was engraved, "To Sara, From Dad. 1985"
"It’s beautiful," Ian said sincerely. He tried to hand it back to Sara. She shook her head.
"But it’s—" he protested.
Sara opened the door to let him out. Her eyes were bright with tears she refused to shed. "Merry Christmas, Ian Nottingham."
He tucked the ornament securely into his coat, close to his heart. "Merry Christmas, Sara," he whispered. He slipped through the door and was gone.