DISCLAIMER: If I owned it, I would have peddled it to cable. Fox just keeps knocking 'em down.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: To coin my brother, who thinks political correctness is cool… 'Happy Days to All!'
CHALLENGE RESPONSE: Submitted for the Passion & Perfection Xmas Challenge 2005
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author

A Gift
By Sam


This is the last place I expected to be tonight. Not that I'm getting all traditional, or anything, but even I try to kick back and enjoy a little of the holiday spirit.

I had a plan. It involved mountains, snow, skiing, and cuddling by a warm fire. Well, maybe not cuddling, exactly, but you get the idea. I made the arrangements weeks ago. It was going to be my one and only vacation this year. All it took was two phone calls to set everything in motion.

And only one phone call to bring it all to a screeching halt.

So, instead of enjoying a picturesque log cabin in the Sierras with a beautiful woman between my legs, I'm looking at dingy concrete walls and iron bars. And don't even ask me about the smell in this place.

Merry Friggin' Christmas.

The door in front of me finally opens, and now I'm strolling along past a row of jail cells. Every one of them is full, which just goes to show that death may take a holiday, but crime doesn't. And everyone wonders why I work so much.

The sergeant on duty didn't say much when he called. Something about a woman stealing a car, a ho-hum chase through downtown, and an arrest that went pretty much by the book. In fact, nothing about any of this seemed even remotely interesting to me, and I was in the process of telling him that, when he added a few little tidbits to the story: The suspect was blonde, had no I.D., and the only thing she would say to them since they brought her in was my name.

So, you know what I'm thinking.

Honestly, the chances are so remote I shouldn't even be entertaining the idea. I haven't seen her in ten months. Actually, ten months and eight days… but, hey, who's counting?

Even as I approach the last cell, I'm running anxious fingers through my hair, like I'm primping in front of the girl's room mirror in high school.

Jesus, I'm fucking pathetic, sometimes.

As luck would have it, my mystery woman is sitting against the wall closest to me. With each step, I'm treated to a slow, revealing look at her. The first thing I see is a pair of feet encased in brown, leather sandals. Even from this distance I can tell she's had a pedicure recently, my first clue that this isn't some run-of-the-mill car thief. The view widens, and now I can see her legs… bare, smooth, and tanned. Well-defined muscles flex as she crosses one over the other, her dangling foot swinging, casually, as though she didn't have a care in the world.

I know those legs. I've had them wrapped around me, squeezing me, pressing hard against the sides of my head…

A slight ripple of arousal shoots through me. Why the hell do they keep it so hot in here?

A few more steps and now I can see her, all of her. That blonde hair that still shines like platinum, even under these dull, depressing lights; a body so firm and toned, yet soft and yielding in all the right places; a face so very beautiful that seeing it again makes me ache with something even I can't seem to identify.

And those eyes…

They capture me, hold me in place. I can feel myself being drawn in all over again.


The smile she gives me makes me shiver. God, how could I have let all this time go by?

I'm suddenly reminded that we're not alone when the officer beside me reaches over and slides the door open.

"Just holler when you're done, Lieutenant."

I think I mutter a thanks, but to tell you the truth, the blood suddenly roaring in my ears is so loud I can't hear a thing. He finally walks off, and now I'm standing here, trying to put on my game face.

I don't want her to know what an effect she has on me. No matter how much I've missed her, or how badly I might want her, she's too dangerous for me. That much, at least, we both know.

"Hello, Billie."

The sound of that smoky timbre wrapping around my name makes my heart beat faster. Already, there's a warm tightness in my belly, although, admittedly, it quickly travels a little lower.

"Stealing cars now? That's a new one for you," I finally manage to say, grateful that it sounds as sarcastic as I meant it to.

At this point, she hasn't even bothered to get up yet. The look she's giving me is cool and controlled… and just a little too pleased with herself. Like there was never any doubt that I'd show up.

Apparently, I'm now a love-sick, predictable, dope. Oh, joy.

"Well?" I press on, my irritation now blossoming, fully. "Care to tell me what the hell you're doing here?"

Sara's blue eyes are the epitome of enigmatic. I could read so many things from the way she stares at me, but all of my interpretations would fall miserably short.

"I lost your card."

"You lost my card?" A lame response, I admit.

She finally decides to get up, although she's careful to keep some distance. The confines of the cell don't leave much room for her to pace, so she ends up leaning on her hands against the far wall, bending one knee to press a sandaled foot on the cool stone. She looks so utterly out of place here, yet so at home at the same time.

"The card you gave me, the one that had your number on it," she reminds me. "I lost it."

Miraculously, the light goes on. But, even as I comprehend the meaning of her words, I'm still blown away by the reality of what she's done.

"So, you went and got yourself arrested? Just so you could get in touch with me?"

She sticks her chin out, as if somehow daring me to contradict her.

"Well, it wasn't like I could look you up in the phonebook."

I certainly can't argue with that. However, everything else is open season.

"Are you out of your mind?" I practically shout at her then quickly remember where I am – where we are – and I lower my voice to a teeth-clenching growl. "You are on probation, Sara. They'll throw you in prison for this!"

"I needed to see you."

Her voice sounds so soft and vulnerable. Too bad that shit doesn't work on me.

I march up to her, pissed as hell that she would do something so stupid. And I know damn right well that she's getting off on this whole thing, making me jump through hoops for her. I can see the beginnings of a smirk she's hardly even bothering to hide. The sight of it is setting my blood to boil and she knows it.

Another step closer and I get right in her face. Her eyes are locked on mine. I'm so angry that it takes me a few beats to find my voice again. But, of course, I do, because too many things could happen in the silence between us.

"Well, here I am. Now, what the hell was so fucking important that you had to get your ass in a sling just to see me?"

I'm trying not to notice the way her tongue peeks out, applying just a hint of moisture to those sensuous lips, or the way they curl with pleasure when my breath quickens in response. I want to ignore the coolness of her hand as it reaches up and brushes against my flushed cheek, knowing that the heat spreading through me has nothing to do with the temperature in this filthy, acrid space.

But, mostly, I need to take a step back, because I can almost sense what's about to happen, and for some reason, I'm a little bit frightened by it.

Her expression changes right before my very eyes – every trace of arrogance, mischief, and amusement – gone in a single heartbeat… and in its place is something I've wished for so many times, but never dreamed I would ever actually see.


"I wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas."

Sara says it in such a casual way, as if we just bumped into each other on a street corner… two old friends, ex-lovers, making small conversation before we pass out of each other's lives once more.

But, the way she's staring at me, laying her emotions bare, trusting me yet again, even though we both know that I don't deserve that trust… It makes me wish that, for just once in my life, I had chosen to ignore my own goddamn common sense and tried to make things right between us.

There are so many things I want to say right now, but it's as if I've suddenly forgotten how to speak. Fortunately, I haven't forgotten how to kiss.

And I do.

The touch of her lips against mine brings a surge of emotions to the surface, emotions that I've spent the last ten months trying so desperately to bury. I kiss her with all of my pent up passion for her, all of my guilt over how I hurt her, all of my anger and regret for the chance we never really had…

And I kiss her so she'll know that in this one, single moment, everything I am, body and soul, belongs to her.

The seconds tick by, and, instinctively, we begin to seek out more of each other. Sara's hands slip beneath the hem of my shirt to stroke the bare skin along my sides, and I feel like I'm burning up beneath those gentle, probing fingers. I have to fight to stifle a moan of pleasure, and it takes all of my willpower to pull away from her.

"We can't do this." My voice is already thick with arousal, but the words quickly put a damper on the mood. When I finally force myself to meet her gaze, I expect to see that awful, wounded expression that I was left with the last time we parted ways. Instead, she's smiling at me. But, it's a sad smile, and it tells me that perhaps Sara has a few regrets of her own.

I'm oddly comforted by that thought.

"I knew it wasn't all an act."

The note of satisfaction ringing in her tone catches me off guard. Apparently, until this very moment, she was still harboring some doubt.

Again, I'm struck by the circumstances under which Sara has suddenly chosen to re-enter my life. This is the last place I would have wanted to meet up with her, though I can't say it exactly comes as a surprise. She lives by a different set of rules than I do… a fact that makes our connection all the more surreal.

And tragic.

Those first few weeks after her arrest had been difficult ones for me. I spent a lot of time waffling between wanting to change her and wanting to forget about her. In the light of day, I could see it all for what it was: a clear, unabashed exercise in futility. But, at night, when the loneliness of my life crept between the sheets, leaving me cold and needy, I could almost convince myself it was worth the risk.

So, like the song goes… It's three a.m., I must be lonely.

"Whether it was, or it wasn't, doesn't change anything."

"Yes, it does, Billie. God, it changes everything. Don't you see that?"

Her words have so much more conviction than my own. Maybe that's because only one of us is being completely honest here.

"What I see is you and me on opposite sides of a set of bars."

Incredibly, Sara rolls her eyes at me.

"Oh, that."

Like a lit match on a pool of gasoline, my anger is flaring up all over again. This is so typical of people like her. The law is little more than an obstacle to them, or, in this case, a convenient tool.

"Yes, 'Oh, that'," I snap at her. "Do you honestly think you can just violate the terms of your probation – a probation that I had to put my ass on the line to get for you, by the way – just because you feel like it? Is all of this just some kind of a game to you?"

"No, of course not."

"You think you can do whatever the hell you want and fuck the rest of the world?"

"Billie, I just—"

She looks shocked when I suddenly grab her by the upper arms, feeling like I want to throttle her, to shake some sense into her. My voice lowers to a harsh whisper, the words tumbling from my lips before I even have a chance to think.

"Why did you have to go and do this, Sara? Do you have any idea how hard it was for me to walk away from you the first time?" I can hear the desperation in my own voice, and it's obvious by the expression on her face that Sara hears it, too. "How can you even think about the possibility of you and me when all you do is shit all over the very ideals that I would die to protect?"

I'll admit that last sentence was a surprise even to me. It's true, of course. About the truest statement I've ever made in my life.

A ripple of anger flashes across Sara's beautiful features. Just like before, I'm almost mesmerized by the transformation. And, just like before, very much aware of how quickly she can turn on me.

She puts her palm against my chest and shoves me back, roughly. My body tenses up, ready for anything. But, instead of lashing out, she just folds her arms across her chest and turns away from me.

"But, you still managed to walk away, didn't you?" she says quietly.

The vulnerability is back in her voice now, only this time it cuts me like a knife.

Sara's arraignment. I sat in the back of the courtroom, despite Parrish' insistence that I should stay away. I felt like I owed her that much. She pleaded guilty and traded testimony for probation. When the hearing was over, she was a free woman. Things would be tough going for a while, but I was happy for her. She had a second chance. A part of me was hoping that we did, as well. Not as lovers, certainly. That just wasn't in the cards for us. But, I really wanted to be there for her, to help her see it all through. I wanted to be her friend.

She wanted me to go fuck myself.

"You didn't want me there."

Those mysterious blue eyes shift in my direction.

"Yes, I did."

Now, it's my turn to look shocked. "You told me to-"

"I know what I told you!"

She whirls on me. I almost take an involuntary step back, but quickly catch myself. I'll stand my ground, let her have her say. Another thing I still owe her.

"I was mad, for fuck's sake!" she yells, jamming a finger in my face. "You lied to me, Billie. Worse, you used me. And don't give me that shit about how you were just doing your job!" Her arm drops to her side and she moves into my personal space. The tone of her voice dips low, and her eyes are like twin lasers, furious and utterly focused on me. "You climbed into my bed and made love to me. You spent the night curled up in my arms. You told me things…"

Neither of us can look away from each other, the memory of that night hanging between us like an oppressive cloud.

I told her things. Yes, I did. Even though I knew what I was doing was wrong. Not ethically or morally… I don't lose much sleep crossing those lines. No, what I did to Sara was so much worse than that.

I let her in.

"I'm not sorry I stayed." Another truth. Perhaps, the most important one.

She's still glaring at me, looking like she can't decide which eye she'd like to gouge out first. But, after a moment, her expression begins to soften. The hurt is there again, looking back at me. I hate the fact that I'm the one who put it there. Worse, is that I know I won't be the one to make it go away.

"I'm not sorry I hit you," she finally says.

Instinctively, I reach a hand up and brush away a piece of hair hanging across her eyes, infinitely grateful when she doesn't try to pull away from me.

"Why now, Sara?" I ask gently. "Why even bother with me after all this time?"

With a heavy sigh of impatience, Sara takes my hand away from her face and pulls me over to the cot against the wall. We both sit down, she looking more visibly relaxed than at any time since my arrival.

Once again, we face each other, and she's looking at me with that hint of amusement again. The one that tells me she knows something that I don't.

"Billie, do you really think that I just woke up this morning and decided to go out and jack a car so I could see you?"

"No, of course not," is all I can think of to say when, the truth is, I really haven't thought that far ahead.

"I lost your card eight months ago."

I blink at her. My card isn't the only thing she's lost.

"I don't understand."

I get another eye roll and another sigh. Fortunately for Sara, my curiosity is tempering my irritation right now.

"I asked everyone I could think of," she tells me, ticking each one off with the fingers of her free hand. "People at the D.A.'s office, my lawyer, my P.O… Apparently, my wanting to get in touch with you after sticking a gun in your face was considered bad form, or something. No one would even deliver a message for me."

I can't see my face, but I'm sure I look nonplussed.

"You mean… you've been trying to reach me for eight months?"

Sara nods. "I even tried calling around to different stations asking for you." She leans back against the wall with a slight smirk on her lips. "Did you know that there's a cop named William Chambers in Van Nuys?"

For a split-second, I smile at her, forgetting about the awful circumstances looming over us.

"No, I didn't."

"I finally ran out of ideas," she admits, then quickly amends that by adding, "... well, good ones, anyway."

"At least we agree on one thing."

She looks at me, curiously. "What?"

"That this was a bad idea."

I can feel her squeeze my hand even tighter as she leans in and whispers in my ear.

"It worked, didn't it?"

The warmth of her breath on my skin, the smell of her hair, the nearness of her – all of it surrounds me, overwhelms me for just a moment. I have missed Sara – really missed her – which is both sad and crazy at the same time. We barely know each other, and yet, there's an intimacy, a connection… It's like nothing I've ever experienced before. And despite my anger and frustration over her cavalier attitude, a part of me is glad she did this. Of course, the rest of me is feeling terribly guilty for even thinking such a thing, and for having given up on her so easily, when it's obvious that she never gave up on me.

On us.

"Yeah, I guess it did."

I lean back against the wall so we're sitting shoulder to shoulder. Now that one storm has been weathered, there's still the small matter of Sara's current digs in this shithole downtown lockup. My mind is already racing through a number of possible scenarios when I feel Sara give my hand a reassuring squeeze.

"Who knows? Maybe we can have a few conjugal visits."

"Mmm… that could be interesting."

My eyes flick toward the security camera in the corridor.

"What are you planning?"

I look at Sara, a little stunned that she read me so well. She couldn't before, after all.

"Did they book you?"

She raises an eyebrow, curiosity instantly piqued.

"No. I guess they figured it could wait until you got here."

I find myself wondering what Sara will look like lying in front of a roaring fire. She's probably wondering why I'm suddenly grinning like an idiot.

"Be right back."

"Alright. I played along. We're in the car. Now, tell me."

I'm very much enjoying keeping Sara in suspense. Considering the way this evening started, I figure she has it coming.

"Just some procedural bullshit. Boring stuff."

She slides closer to me, but I'm pretending to be paying attention to getting the car started.


"It really cooled off tonight. Are you a little chilly? I can put the heat on, if you want."

Yes, I'm definitely having fun… especially now that there's a hand between my legs.

"Tell. Me."

"You know, that's really distracting. How am I supposed to shift?"

Even though her face is covered in shadow, I can see the spark in Sara's eyes. Anger, it isn't. Jesus, I've waited ten months for this and I probably won't even last ten seconds.

"I told them you were my lover and we had a big blowout, and you went out and stole a car just to fuck with me."

Sara pulls her hand away and stares at me in disbelief. I really, really have to stop being so talkative.

"And they actually believed that?"

"They saw us on the security monitor. Trust me, they wanted to believe it."

The two of us suddenly burst into laughter. This is part of it, too. Another way she makes me feel. Like I can actually laugh at my crazy life, sometimes.

We carry on for another minute, or so, reveling in the release of tension it brings. When Sara finally manages to catch her breath, she settles back into the passenger seat, gazing at me, looking relaxed and happy… and so amazingly beautiful.

I think maybe I can be the one to make that hurt go away, after all.

What a precious gift. Just in time for Christmas.

The End

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