DISCLAIMER: CSI and all characters are the property of CBS and Bruckheimer. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Ok, I know the premise is a little far-fetched, to begin the fic, but hey, I'm trying to move fan universes here. It's really hard work. I could do a mythology reference just to make myself feel better, but really, it would be pretentious.
And I personally think people who write crossover fics should be regulated to the 9th circle of hell, so, well, of course I decided to write a crossover fic. So if anyone wants to know what this circle of hell is like, I'm down here, stoking the fires.
SPOILERS: Through the current seasons on CSI and SVU.
FANDOMS/PAIRING: L&O: SVU/CSI Olivia/Sara.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Between Love and Hate
5. Between Sunset and Sunrise
Olivia glared at the back of a brunette head peaking over a backpack yet again as she followed Sara up a twisting desert trail. Still moving, she wiped at the sweat dripping down her forehead and settled her sunglasses back as she did so. Sara had turned and extended a hand, telling Olivia for the eighth time to 'Be careful, the rocks are loose.' If the rocks hadn't in fact been loose and difficult for footing, Olivia might have imagined that Sara kept helping her as part of a romantic gesture, to hold hands, but the practicality in their interactions belied Olivia's fantastical attempts to make their hike anything remotely romantic.
Olivia refused to release Sara's hand after they had gotten through the uncertain terrain, pulling the tall woman to a stop on the trail so she could catch her breath. Uncapping a bottle of water Sara had thoughtfully supplied, Olivia gave Sara a comical look as she glanced up the path they had yet to climb. "So, Sidle, your idea of fun before dinner is a ten mile climb up a rock face?" Sara's mouth stretched into a wide grin, her eyes sparkling, and Olivia found herself looking more favorably on the physical exertion if it put Sara in such high spirits.
From the moment Sara had pulled up at her apartment, she had been possessed by a barely contained excitement that had had her bouncing in her seat the entire 45-minute drive into the desert. Olivia's first hint that her afternoon was going to require some less-than-pleasurable exertion had been when, after driving almost ten minutes on a bone-jarring rut in the dirt that in no way resembled any road Olivia had ever seen, Sara had pulled up to a trailhead that wound its way around a tall mesa in the distance. Sara had ignored her when she asked, incredulously, "We're going there?" her grin infectious as she grabbed a backpack and headed up the trail. Or at least it had been infectious for the first thirty minutes of scrabbling and climbing. Now it was just getting tedious.
Sara accepted the bottle from Olivia, taking a healthy swig, before indicating the trail. "It's not ten miles; it's one mile, if that. And the assent is barely an eighth of a mile." When Olivia's gave her a blank look, she explained, "The grade is maybe 20%, not straight up, not a climb." When Olivia rolled her eyes comically at Sara's technical explanation, Sara couldn't contain her laugh. "We're almost there." She handed back the bottle of water and held out her hand, "Come on," she said, grabbing Olivia's hand when Olivia didn't immediately begin to move. This time she didn't let go of Olivia's hand as she lead her the last 200 yards to the summit.
Deep cracks cut through the flat, dry surface of the mesa, but Olivia barely noticed as she stumbled over the rough patches toward the western edge of the mesa, the sky lit by brilliant swathes of orange, purple, and red, the colors deepening with every second as the sun slowly dipped lower in the sky. Olivia stood, entranced by the scene, as the red rocks of the desert shone blood red in the fading light and shadows crept across the valley spread out beneath her feet. She felt a presence at her back as Sara pressed a glass into her hand, and she glanced over to see a knowing smile plastered on Sara's face. "Amazing, isn't it?" As much as the closeness of Sara's body and lips to Olivia was tempting, she turned back to the view.
"You have no idea," Olivia whispered, her voice barely carrying above the wind that whistled through ancient passages cut into stone, a low, lonely, yet oddly soothing, reverberation that set up a sympathic vibration at the base of her skull. "Wow," she breathed, "just wow." She had noticed, of course, how different the stark landscape of the desert was from her familiar cityscape when she had moved, but the most she had explored in the month she had been in Vegas was the Strip and the usual amusements; she had never realized that a few miles away from the bustle and lights of the city was such a quiet, alien beauty of rocks and sky. She watched in awe as the clouds swirled like orange and yellow fingerpaints against the muted expanse of blues and purples, until the sun sank down behind the mountains on the horizon and the shadows swallowed their mesa.
Turning, Olivia found yet another awe-inspiring sight: Sara had spread out a blanket, tethered on each corner by candles, secured against the wind by the high sides of mason jars, and was digging into her backpack and puling out a simple picnic of fruit, cheese, and bread. "Wow," Olivia muttered again, thinking that she needed to find a new word, as she sank down beside Sara and leaned against the boulder sheltering their picnic, the warmth radiating from the rock into her back muscles.
Sara ducked her head, embarrassed. "This is, um, just the appetizer. There's more for dinner."
Olivia took a sip out of the glass she had almost forgotten she was holding, the bubbles teasing her tongue as she realized it was champagne. "This is amazing," she said, her eyes still drawn to the streaks of dull red in the west.
Sara's voice was as quiet as her tone was unassuming, "I'm glad you like it. I, ah, wasn't sure " She fiddled with the glass in her hand for a few moments, her eyes trained on the fading light in the distance. Even in the twilight, Olivia could see the tension in Sara's jaw, the tightness in her shoulders. Reaching out, Olivia ran a hand along Sara's shoulder, enjoying the heat under her fingertips but she didn't feel the tension loosen under her hand, so she strategically shifted the conversation.
"It's beautiful; how did you find it?"
Sara glanced at her, an appraising expression in her eyes, but she answered the question rather than bringing up the obvious elephant in the room. "We had a DB in that canyon and I climbed up here to see what avenues of approach the perp might have used to dump the body."
"You took the time to climb up here and scout the area in the middle of an investigation?" Olivia marveled at Sara's dedication, since the climb up there had taken well over half an hour.
"Yeah, well, the perimeter wasn't yielding in any results." There was an odd trace of bitterness in Sara's voice that Olivia couldn't understand, but Sara continued before Olivia could question. "Now I come up sometimes on my days off." She chuckled, "usually I haul about 30 pounds of camera equipment up that slope; you got off easy." Olivia mock-glared at Sara's teasing grin. "I camp out here all night and take pictures of the sunset and then catch the sunrise." Sara leaned forward with her elbows on her knees "It gives me time to think and clear my head. I haven't been out here for a few months, though."
"Why not?" Olivia asked quietly, mindful of the introspective tone in Sara's voice.
Exhaling audibly, she shrugged a shoulder. "I've been busy." Sara paused as she struggled with her words. "It's not been the best year." Silence descended on the mesa as Sara made no further attempt to explain, staring out into the darkness instead.
The candles flickered, the light caressing Sara's face and shadowing her already dark eyes, and Olivia reached out, tracing a cheekbone with her thumb and drawing Sara's face closer to hers. "Talk to me," her tone somewhere between entreaty and command as she dipped her chin and attempted to delve into the depths of Sara's eyes. Sara reached up and trapped Olivia's hand under hers, turning her face into the caress and searching Olivia's face for something. In the glimmers of light, Olivia could see the glint of unshed tears in Sara's eyes.
Sara's dropped her eyes, causing her hair to fall and obscure her face like a black wing, and Olivia felt her stomach drop, as coldness seeped into her body. "I I, I'm sorry," Sara breathed quietly.
"Sorry for what?"
"I haven't changed my mind. I didn't mean for you to get the wrong impression about tonight."
"I brought you here to explain not, um start something. I still can't."
Not even the sadness in Sara's voice could blunt Olivia's anger as she felt her hopes for the evening crumble, the champagne suddenly tasting flat on her tongue. "We're on a date so you can explain to me why we can't date?"
"I'm sorry," Sara repeated as Olivia's hand slid out from under hers and dropped to her side, the sudden lack of connection chilling them both.
"So explain." Her monotone voice sent a shiver down Sara's spine; she hadn't wanted their teasing and flirting to go far enough to cause the other woman pain, but she hadn't been able to stop either. Sara had been drawn in by the caring and the toughness, the passion and the intellect of the detective, and of course, the warmth and softness of Olivia's eyes, and she hadn't fought hard against the allure. And now, her lack of resolve was complicating what might have been a good friendship.
Pushing herself up, Sara walked over to the edge of the mesa, facing out into the void, her mind lurching disjointedly over all the possible ways to begin this conversation; in the end, she just started talking. "When it comes to relationships, I I choose men who are emotionally unavailable. It, it's " she stumbled over her words, "easier... that way. There's no risk because there's no possibility of " Sara broke off, sighing, and then tried to sum up, "I sabotage relationships before they start..."
"Is that what this is?"
"No," Sara replied sharply, and then her tone softened, "no, this is, I mean, I fall for people who will never fall for me, short-circuit the very chance of a relationship so that I never have to make the difficult decisions about actually getting involved."
"So you can't date me because, what? Because I want to date you? Because I'm emotionally available?" Olivia had risen to her feet, the insanity of Sara's logic driving her to pace behind her.
"Because I can't be involved!" The raw agony in Sara's voice stopped Olivia's movements and drew her attention back to the still figure. "With anyone!" Sara dropped her head, rubbing her face, muffling her next words so that Olivia had to strain to hear them. "I don't want to hurt you."
Olivia's response was a snort of incredulous laughter. "That's what this is about? You are worried that I'm going to get hurt?" The absolute absurdity of the situation almost rendered her speechless. She didn't know whether to laugh, yell, or shake some sense into the woman standing, ramrod straight and still as a statue, in front of her. "Sara, everyone risks getting hurt when they get involved, it's just one of those facts of life. You can't "
"I didn't mean emotionally." The sharp words cut through Olivia's and it took her a moment to catch up, to realize the import of her words: Not emotionally physically. Silence descended on the mesa as Olivia stared at the back of Sara's head as if she could burrow into Sara's mind and figure out what she was thinking through an act of her will alone.
"So you avoid involvements because you believe you might hurt the other person? Why would you think that?" Sara's answer was a noncommittal shrug of her shoulders. "Sara " Olivia whispered, close enough to lay a hand on the tall woman's shoulder, "what are you afraid of?"
The silence stretched and the darkness deepened around the two women, standing just outside the circle of lights, and when Sara spoke, it was like Olivia had missed a beat in the conversation. If it hadn't been for the subtle increasing tension under her hand, Olivia might have thought that the entire previous conversation hadn't happened at all. "My parents were so in love when I was young. They spent every moment together, laughing, dancing, touching; they were hippies, so they didn't sugarcoat things like sex and physical intimacy, and growing up wemy brother and Iknew about passion and love and expressions of that love. And," here her voice caught, "when that love died the passion remained."
The shoulder under her hand shrugged as Sara talked, caught up in her story, "I don't know what happened; I was too young to know, or understand. I guess it doesn't matter. They fell out of love, but stayed married. And all that passion found a new outlet. He would come in late or drunk or And she would yell hit he'd hit back." Sara's hand flew open in a universal signal of surrender, in a 'what can you do' acceptance of a situation that no one should have to accept.
Olivia took a breath, ready to talk, to reassure, but Sara's words still flowed, taking on a new, ominous note. "One night, after everything died down, it was quiet. That, that was usually the signal to get dressed, be ready for a trip to the hospital, but, nobody called Finally, I, I couldn't stand it, I went downstairs." She paused, her head falling forward and obscuring her face. Her voice, when she finally spoke, was flat, emotionless. "He was dead; she killed him." Olivia's hand had found its way down Sara's back to rub small circles there, feeling tremors shake the slight frame. "You want to know the funny thing?" Sara asked with a mirthless laugh. "I couldn't even tell the difference between a fight and someone getting stabbed to death. I sat up there in my room and listened, like I did night after night, and I couldn't tell the difference between the screams " Bitterness and self-recrimination colored Sara's voice, as if, had she known what was going on, she might have done something.
Olivia swallowed past the lump in her throat and asked, "How old were you?"
"So you avoid involvements because "
"Yeah," Sara cut Olivia off, as if she were talked out, as if the matter were closed.
Olivia took a deep breath to settle herself after all the emotional twists and turns of the revelations of the last few minutes. "Sara," she began quietly, "you aren't your parents."
Sara sniffed at that. "Yeah, well, nature or nurture, either way, I'm screwed," Sara replied, breaking away from Olivia and stalking away from the edge of the cliff.
"No, you're not."
"How the fuck do you know? You don't know anything about me."
Olivia cocked an eyebrow and shrugged a shoulder, explaining simply, "Well, if you are screwed, then I am too." Even in the faint light, Olivia could see Sara's eyes narrowing and a scowl of disbelief pulling at the corners of her mouth. Olivia's confession came easier as she said a well-rehearsed line. "The only thing I know about my father is that he raped my mother. And my mother never really got over it. When my mother drank, we fought." That single word summed up an entire horrible fact of her existence, but Sara nodded in understanding and Olivia wondered how much she really did understand. Olivia stared into Sara's eyes, trying to convey the truth of her next words, "But Sara, that's not me I didn't become them. I used to think it was because I was lucky, that I would slip one day and step over that line "
"You don't anymore?"
"No. I realized the past, it doesn't control me, it forms some parts of me, but I make the decisions about what to do with it." Sara gazed at her with a mixture of suspicion and disbelief, and Olivia remembered those exact feelings when she had listened to Huang trying to convince her of the same thing; she had wanted to believe him but the feelings of self-doubt had been difficult to overcome. She had done it, at long last, and she hoped Sara might do the same. Stepping close enough to slide her fingers along that stubborn jaw, she asked, "Are you going to punish yourself for the sins of your parents forever?"
The question struck Sara like a physical blow, and she flinched away from the woman in front of her, unable to hold her gaze. "I " she began, but got no further as her voice broke and tears threatened to spill over.
Olivia gathered Sara in her arms, the tall woman suddenly uncoordinated and clumsy, and pulled her into a fierce hug, one hand tangled in the wind-blown curls, the other wrapped tightly around her waist. There were no tears, but Sara clung to Olivia tightly. When shaking no longer racked the slight body in her arms, Olivia loosened her hold and eased back from the taller woman, trying to give them both some space from the suddenly too-close embrace. Because if Olivia held that body in her arms for much longer
Then she felt Sara's lips graze her neck and Olivia froze, unable to believe how a barely-there touch on her pulse point could ignite such a wildfire of desire rushing through her. "Sara?" she exhaled as Sara kissed her way along Olivia's jaw line in her vague attempt to keep from melting under the gentle assault of Sara's lips.
Finally, Olivia pulled back away from embrace, breaking contact between those insistent lips and her skin and managing to create an inch or two of unwelcome separation between their bodies as she tried to keep her head clear. Seeing Sara's dark eyes glazed with desire was almost her undoing but she managed to gasp out, "Sara, what ?"
A knowing smile graced Sara's mouth as it descended toward Olivia's. "Attraction was never the issue," she explained as she caught Olivia's lower lip in her teeth and sucked gently.
"Is the issue solved?" It took two breaths for Olivia to get the question out as Sara's tongue tickled her lip, teasing a groan out of Olivia as she tried to complete her thought. "Sara "
"Olivia " Sara's voice was a low, raw growl with just a touch of amusement coloring her words, "shut up." A second later, Sara's mouth rendered speech impossible as her tongue slipped between Olivia's lips, continuing the light caress of the sensitive flesh inside and out. The sensations Sara was teasing out of her with such light touches raised goose bumps along Olivia's arms; unlike choking, gagging kisses which were Olivia's experience with most of her lovers, Sara's open-mouthed kiss was a subtle exploration of lips, teeth, and gums, mapping sensitive spots all along Olivia's lips.
When Sara broke the kiss, Olivia found her hands tangled in the curls at the nape of Sara's neck, not remembering how they got there. Deep emotions swirled as Sara stared into Olivia's brown eyes and said, "The issues aren't solved, not yet " Sara's hands had slid up under Olivia's jacket and found the skin at the base of Olivia's spine, the small circles of her fingers causing a delightful shiver to run through the muscles of her back. It took all of her concentration to realize Sara was still talking, "I can't guarantee I'll figure it out, but I think I'd like to try "
"Yeah?" was Olivia's breathy reply.
"Yeah if you still want to."
Olivia let the soft play of her tongue across Sara's lower lip answer, unable to contain a smirk as Sara's eyes drifted shut and her lips parted in invitation. A small ningling worry prompted Olivia to confirm the sudden turn of events, "Why?"
Sara's eyes fluttered open, a self-conscious half smile gracing her lips. "I'm tired of trying to resist " she conceded.
"So are you saying I'm irresistible?" Olivia teased, letting her triumph color her words.
"Let's just say your arrogance is growing on me."
"Told you it was attractive."
"Hmm." Sara smothered Olivia's grin with a heated kiss, fire replacing subtlety as her grasp pulled Olivia in closer and melted their bodies together. When they came up for air, Sara's voice was rough with desire, "We should, um, eat. Dinner, you know, what we came up here for."
"Is that what we came up here for?" Olivia asked lazily, quirking her eyebrow up in amusement.
"Supposedly Come on, let's eat." They settled back down and Sara brought out stuffed grape leaves and hummus, refilling their champagne glasses. "Once the moon rises, it'll give us enough light to hike back down."
Glancing out into the comforting dark that surrounded their campsite, Olivia had a flash of inspiration. "Can we stay? I, I think I'd like to see the sunrise." Olivia was glad of Sara's quick assent so she didn't have to explain her uncharacteristic sentimentality of wanting to remember the beginning of the next new day.
"Sure. I brought an extra blanket and a thermos of coffee, so we shouldn't get too cold."
After the heavy conversation prior to dinner, they kept topics light, discussing movies, music, and travel until Sara fell asleep, curled up against Olivia's side as they huddled under the blanket to share body heat. Olivia played with the curls of hair that fell across Sara's forehead and watched as the candles slowly burned down, her mind pleasantly empty and at peace. When the horizon began to lighten in the east, she nudged Sara awake, sighing happily as Sara snaked an arm around her waist and nuzzled her neck, whispering, "good morning."
Olivia pressed a kiss to the top of Sara's head. "Beautiful morning."
"Yeah," Sara agreed. "You want some coffee?"
Olivia tightened her hold to keep Sara in the circle of her arms as the first rays of sunlight peaked over the mountains. "In a minute."
To Be Continued
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