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: This is for so_wicked I promised you this ages ago, and guess what? The muse finally just stood the hell up and delivered. *rolls eyes at muse* And as always, thank you to serenitymeimei for the beta, any mistakes are mine because the muse woke me up at 1:30 AM to write this. Also, apparently Olivia and Sofia get written in first person in ALL my fics. Weird.
WARNING: Implied character death: Sara didn’t make it through “Dead Doll”.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Shadows and Ghosts
By racethewind10


The first time I laid eyes on Detective Olivia Benson, my heart nearly stopped. Not, as you might think, because she was beautiful, though she was. No it was nothing that simple, though I wish to God it had been. Nor was it from surprise or awkwardness. I was scanning the one-six squad room and she simply happened to glance my way. To this day, despite all that's happened between us since that moment, I can still feel the phantom pain of that tiny sliver of forever imprinted on my soul like the nerve memory of a severed limb. It was one of those moments when your heart and your mind refuse to agree, and eventually, when your mind wins, it always hurts.

So no, when I saw Olivia, my heart didn't stop in some clichéd harbinger of a timeless love to come: it stopped, because for one tiny eternity, I thought I saw a ghost.

For one agonizing moment, I saw Sara's eyes staring at me across the crowded squad room. And then, just as quickly as it had come, that moment was gone – torn away from me in the wash of heat I witnessed rise behind darkened irises. That heat; that expression, those features were not - nor would they ever be – Sara's.

I didn't even know who she was at the time – we hadn't been introduced.

Like worrying at a wound though, my eyes kept coming back to search her face, as if, maybe, just maybe, the next time I looked I would see the woman I had loved…and lost.

She wasn't aware of me, that much I could see right away. Her entire focus was on the case files in front of her and the layout board she and the other detectives were studying. She never saw me watching, and I couldn't bring myself to look away. The physical differences of course, were immediately apparent. Time would reveal the distinction between their souls.

They both were dark, intense and passionate, but Sara's beauty was always fragile; ethereal and cold – like the clearest of night skies in the deep of winter – she was always close, but never quite touchable.

Being near Olivia reminds me of watching the summer wildfires cut their way through the hills at night – the heat and danger carried on the darkened wind enough to send a shiver down your spine even miles away.

Even in that first moment there was a tiny shard of myself that cried out in desire of that warmth: that needed to thaw the ice that choked my spirit.

The first time I saw Detective Sofia Curtis, my heart stopped. I was scanning the one-six squad room and she happened to glance my way. To this day, despite all that's happened between us since that moment, I can still feel the phantom pain of that tiny sliver of forever twinge across my nerve endings like the memory of a lost limb. It was one of those moments when your heart and your mind refuse to agree, and eventually, when your mind wins, it always hurts.

My gaze swept my surroundings and stopped not out of lust or joy or appreciation, but because for one terrible, agonizingly hopeful second, my eyes saw blonde hair and ice blue eyes and my heart saw Alex.

I didn't even know who I was looking at, at the time – we hadn't been introduced.

She never saw me looking, and I could not bring myself to turn away. The physical differences of course, were readily apparent, but it would be a while before time would show me evidence of the difference in their spirits.

Both were pale, blonde, aloof and driven, but Alex's passion had always rested just below the surface – her soul shining out clearly from behind those sky colored irises and her energy a living aura of purpose surrounding her and touching everything and everyone she came into contact with.

Curtis's soul was shuttered: the only aura she carried was one of pain. Her isolation was the self imposed punishment of someone who is haunted and hunted by their regrets and doesn't have a reason to fight back.

She tried to be inconspicuous – to stay in the background –but just like the woman my heart wanted her to be, she would inevitably stand out from those around her and draw others to her. And I was no exception.

The first time we officially met, it was for an undercover assignment to pose as a lesbian couple. How's that for irony? The case was hers – someone was raping, torturing and murdering couples, and had started getting rather indiscriminate about whether or not they were really lesbians. The last pair had just been two, drunk college girls leaning on each other for the walk home. His type was a blonde and brunette – both feminine.

I had seen the guys Benson worked with, so I wasn't really all that surprised when Cragen walked up to me. None of them would ever have made it in drag.

That prime example of my recently morbid humor nearly got me in trouble. I got momentarily distracted by the thought of Stabler in a dress and missed the Captain walking up to me.

I could feel her eyes on me the entire way into Cragen's office. Hell I could feel them through the door while he explained the operation. She affected me that much, despite my attempts to ignore it. That itchy feeling on the back of my neck wasn't the only thing that made me hesitate to accept however.

Until now, I'd just been doing my time – keeping my head down and not making any waves. I didn't know anyone here that well, and I didn't care to. I wasn't here because I loved New York: I was here to escape Vegas, simple as that. This case would change that. It was high profile and the brass was watching. The murders had been all over the papers – this could make my career.

I didn't give a shit about my career.

The thought of being partnered with the volatile woman gave me pause. We'd be in close quarters, spending lots of time together, pretending to be lovers. Yeah, I'll admit it might have once been my dream assignment. Now I just felt a sense of weary dread at the prospect of having to pretend I was in love with someone. I honestly didn't think I could do it anymore. I couldn't remember what it felt like to have that light and energy swirling inside you. Almost as if, in running away from Vegas and the ghosts the city held, I had succeeded too well and somehow managed to sever from my mind the memories that held things like love and joy.

In the end though, I was a cop, and there were young women being brutalized.

No choice really.

I knew from the moment we got the go ahead to go undercover that we would work together. We both fit the profile too well.

I honestly don't know how that makes me feel. She is such an enigma, the Vegas detective. The wound of spirit she suffers from still bleeds and her battered soul calls to me – begging for respite and surcease. In my more honest moments, I realize my soul calling to her as well – pleading to be acknowledged, crying out for an end to the internment I have imposed on it. The knowledge scares me, and I've avoided her presence.

I can't help but watch her however, as she follows my Captain across the squad room. The almost feline grace and power she projects are somehow undimmed by her pain and withdrawal, and I can't help the primitive reaction of my body. Despite my misgivings, there is a sharp sliver of me that hungers for this assignment and the chance to finally be close to her.

We are in the hallway outside my apartment, alone.

"This case is hard," Olivia says casually – too casually. Her eyes hold mine and her gaze is penetrating. She's fishing; trying to find out how I'll react – trying to figure me out. Once I might have gotten pissed at her – for her presumption, maybe, or for what I might have seen as her questioning of my ability. I'm so tired now though, I can't summon the energy. I don't care, and in my seemingly permanently numb state I realize she's just doing her job. She's got no reason to trust me and this is her op. At least she's being subtle and doing this away from the squad room and the prying eyes of others.

"They're all tough," I respond, meeting her eyes without difficulty.

"Maybe this one hits a little too close to home," she says, pushing just a little farther.

What the hell.

"What do you want me to say, Benson: that I'm a dyke, and I don't like seeing other lesbians cut up? Well, I don't, and it shouldn't be much of a surprise at this point."

"Well it is."

I look up, confused.

"Yeah, it's a surprise. I didn't really know you were gay. No one did. No one knows anything about you except that you left Vegas in a hurry and you don't talk much."

Before I can reply, she pushes forward – to the place I hoped never to go again.

"What are you running from Curtis?" her voice is soft, but there is an edge there that warns me not to mess this up. I have one shot: hit - and we should at least be able to get through this undercover op: miss - and God only knows for sure, but I can pretty much guess my time here won't be pleasant.

I struggle with myself for a tiny moment and then the exhaustion sweeps the last of my resistance away.

"What's left of my heart," I whisper. "Because most of it died in the desert mud, trapped under a dented red mustang."

And with that I walk inside, leaving a stunned Olivia standing in the dim hallway.

"What's left of my heart," she whispers.

When she speaks, I don't picture her tragedy, I picture mine. Like I'm there all over again I see the sleek black SUV, its shiny paint reflecting the red and blue lights of the escort cars. I see the door open and the woman I love step out, safe and whole – only to rip my heart and life apart by saying she has to leave and can't come back.

Eliot and the Witness Protection guys are standing there and I'm too shocked, too scared to move, and then she is getting back inside her dark chariot and it is stealing her away from me, and I am bleeding from a wound I don't think will ever heal.

She doesn't come after me, and I can't tell if I'm thankful or hurt. Of course, if I was hurting, I probably couldn't tell at this point. I feel like my soul has been re-forged in pain, and I no longer have the ability to distinguish the causes.

I do know I'm pissed: not at her, but at myself. I'm becoming attracted to Olivia. Not my heart – but my body has certainly taken notice, and I can't help but feel the tiniest flickering of energy when I'm around her. She is drawing me to her – like a magnet, I am slowly feeling the pull – and I don't know whether to fight it or give in.

In the darkness of my spartan apartment, I grab the Bourbon off the counter and pull a glass down from the cupboard by memory. The sweet fire of the liquor doesn't actually help clarify anything; it just gives me a physical sensation to concentrate on.

I haven't surrendered to the bottle yet, but it's going to be long night, and I don't want the image of the concern in those warm dark eyes as she stood in my hallway to haunt me tonight.

We have an undercover sting tomorrow night, and I need my beauty sleep.

I don't know if I should laugh or hit myself, but pretending to be Olivia Benson's girlfriend is easier than I thought it would be. Our backup is near, but we can't see them, and as the press of drinking, dancing women closes around us, our bodies touch and I can't help my reaction. My body sings with want and I feel the first stirrings of an ache between my legs.

Her response surprises me.

In the middle of the crowded dance floor, with the pounding bass thrumming through my blood and the smell of her perfume in my nose, Olivia takes me into her arms. Her body presses against mine and she slips a toned thigh between mine – not to tease, just to eliminate the distance between us.

I tense, torn in frantic battle between wanting to run, and the sudden, traitorous desire to sink into her.

Olivia makes the decision for me. With a gentle touch, she pulls me close, wrapping her arms around me and stroking my back and hair.

That tender compassion, wholly unexpected, breaks something in me.

She is soft and warm and her touch is achingly gentle. I wrap my arms around her and let my head rest on her proud shoulder, letting go of the effort and surrendering to my grief.

I loose any sense of the crowd, the smoke, the music: all I know is her – her strength, her softness, her sheltering arms surrounding me – and the tears finally slip the shackles I have placed on them, slipping down my cheeks like a benediction to grace her shoulder.

I do not sob, I'm too weak. I just trust to her to hold me as my loss finally makes itself manifest and escapes the prison I tried to banish it to.

I don't know how long has passed but the tears have stopped and I feel weightless and empty. Not numb like I have been, but hollowed out and remade. Reluctantly, I pull back as the spell of her touch is broken and our surroundings begin to intrude once more. I look at her, and even in the dark, electric, pulsing light of the dance floor I can see the glimmer of tears in her eyes, and despite her support, I know that she isn't crying for me.

There is a distance to her gaze that can only be gained in painful memory.

Without thought of consequence or future, I reach up and wipe away the single glistening drop that falls from her lashes. Her eyelids flutter close at the whisper of my thumb on her skin and I find myself cupping her face with both hands – holding it like the most delicate of all treasures.

She leans into my touch and that is all I know as I lean forward and press my lips to hers.

Hot, moist satin, is the only coherent thing my mind supplies as she opens her mouth before mine and I tease my tongue inside her. Her arms slide up my back and pull our bodies closer and though I can't hear it, I know she just moaned into my mouth. I slide one hand into the silken strands of her hair and hold on: using it as an anchor as we explore each other's mouths and the tide of lust begins to swell through me. It's a sensation I have nearly forgotten and it sweeps along my nerves like it's the first time, leaving me breathless and dizzy and giddy.

We pull apart and I watch as the flickering stage light dances in her fathomless eyes.

To this day I don't know who moved first. I'm sure the only reason we still have our jobs is that we were supposed to be acting like lovers.

Her place must have been close, because I barely remember the walk. I do know she said something to our backup team and received conformation – we weren't that far gone. Stabler would tell me later that our little performance must have been good, because they caught the guy trailing us as we strode away from the club. I never saw a thing.

The lights of the city outside are the only illumination in her apartment and I barely have time to close the door before she pins me to the wall, her hands hungry and possessive. That image in my head of the summer wildfires flares again as she rips at my shirt and I willingly give myself over to that heat. I want to be burned: I want to feel that kind of passion again: hell, I just want to feel period. And oh God, does she make me feel.

In the neon tinged shadows, her eyes are darker than the sky outside, but the fire I know she's feeling is so clearly reflected in them I feel the heat of her gaze on my skin like a physical caress. A heat that is only eclipsed by a touch I – never an eloquent person - can only describe as blazing.

That shirt will never be wearable again, but as arousal shuts down my ability to think, I am so not complaining.

The wall is smooth against my shoulder blades and her thigh is grinding against just the right spot between my legs. I want, I need this to last longer though, and I push back, fumbling with her shirt and yanking off her belt.

The stumble to the bedroom is anything but graceful – or quick – as each mishap is taken advantage of and there is a trail of clothes to mark our progress.

Her bed is smaller than I expected, but we manage to land on it. She rolls over on top of me and pins my arms by my head, causing my to arch my back and toll my hips into her thigh, desperate for contact. I come to realize however, that she's not moving and I try to get myself together and wade through the fog of lust around my brain to understand.

"Sofia? " My name falling softly from her lips surprises me. In all our time together she has only called me 'Curtis' or 'Detective'. I simply look at her, waiting.

"What was her name?" comes the question. Her voice is fragile, but it hits me like a blow. My eyes close as the memories crowd into my mind – each one screaming for supremacy. To my surprise however, the torrent does not overtake me. Instead, it wanes, slowly resolving into a few of my favorite images of her: smiling in triumph in the lab, giving me that famous smirk, gasping in pleasure and joy stretched out beneath me, and peaceful in rest, secure in my arms.

"Sara." The name evaporates into the stillness, and with it, I feel something deep within me ease. It gives me the strength to open my eyes and return Olivia's question with my gaze.

"Alex," my new lover says, and her eyes fall closed as she speaks the name. "Her name was Alex." The inflection of that statement makes me think the explanation is complicated, but then Olivia is looking at me again and I leave it for later.

"She's not here Sofia," comes the low promise, and I nod, attempting to give the same assurance. The time for fantasies and illusions is past. There will be no ghosts between us this night.

Then her lips are on my mine and her tongue slides against mine and the past is slowly – never erased – but eclipsed by the combination of our lust and an increasing surety of the future.

She releases my wrists and her hands sweep my body. Stroking and exploring, she cups my breasts and follows the path of her fingers with her mouth. She teases me until I beg and then takes a pebbled nipple into her mouth. Licking, sucking, nipping: she keeps me off balance, serving to drive me wild with need.

I attempt my own exploration, needing to touch her - to feel the connection completed between us - but at that moment her fingertips find the evidence of my desire and her sure touch draws a keening from my throat. She enters me slowly; maddeningly so, but there is something achingly sweet about her gentleness. Above me, the pale light turns her skin luminous. Then her fingers move within me, finding the places that make me feel like my body is flying apart, and my eyes close and I know only the sensation of her touch.

I'm not ashamed of how ready I am for her, but I try to draw the moment out nonetheless – trying to stretch it, and wring it of every last possible instant and brand them all onto my conscious the way her hands are branding my soul.

Olivia kisses me, deep and powerful, and as I begin to lose control, her thumb circles and presses the aching bundle of nerves at my core and I'm gone. The darkness behind my eyes is multi-hued as the waves of my release rush and pulse through my body, only to return, crashing back onto their point of origin, and as her fingers still move, I come again.

I lose any sense of time or place, but when she kisses me softly, I can taste myself on her lips, and it drives me crazy with a need to know her: to understand her, pry from her body all its secrets and leave her as shaken and spent as she has left me.

Still breathing heavily, and eyes still closed, I begin to map the curves and planes and hollows that make her magnificent form. She is lean, but soft in all the right places and as I lie beside her and cup the weight of her breast in my palm, I thrill at the rightness of the fit.

She is gloriously responsive – each touch, each kiss, each tiny nip of my teeth and caress of my tongue causing her to shift or sigh or gasp. I love it, and as I learn to play the instrument of her body, mine begins to hum like a piano wire struck in sympathy.

I tease her as long as I can, but when she cries my name in frustration and pleading I don't hold back. I take her mouth and her body at the same time, her wet, silken heat giving me permission to give up the battle for my control and be fierce. She clings to me and thrusts against my hand and when she comes, arching off the bed, I think she is stunning.

I return the favor, tasting her and then kissing her, and from the way she responds, I know it affects her like it did me.

Her breath begins to slow, and I can feel exhaustion weighting my limbs as I lay beside her and draw her into my arms.

Olivia rests her cheek on my shoulder and her breath warms my neck as our arms and legs entwine. No words are spoken: the only sounds are our breathing and the distant, unending noises of the City.

For the first time, I notice the room and the shadows in it, but as she draws the blankets around us, I don't dread what the darkness holds. The memories will always be there, but they no longer carry their terrible weight of grief.

I have no idea what tomorrow will bring. A lot of paperwork if nothing else, but as I feel Olivia's breathing even out and she nuzzles my shoulder, placing light kisses there, I find myself looking forward to the dawn for the first time since it rose over the desert and I saw Grissom's terrible expression.

Sofia was amazing. Who would have guessed at the depth of passion that lay beneath that scarred armor she tried to hide behind. I haven't been loved like that since Alex.

Alex. I expect the memories to come, and they don't disappoint me, but something has changed.

The onslaught of images is familiar, but this time, it doesn't threaten to destroy me. Instead, it fades gently - like the last whisper of a warm summer wind - until I am left with a few, treasured moments held and sustained in my mind. I see Alex, smiling with vindication after closing a case; with the dark, intense look I always called her "hunting" face – right before she nailed some perp; and, most precious of all, smiling up at me, safe and peaceful in my arms.

My heart will always a hold a place for the woman I know is still out there somewhere, but as I listen to Sofia's pulse measure the forward march of time under my ear, I know that there is something for me here too. Exactly what, only tomorrow, and the next day, and hopefully the day after that will tell. I only know that now, in this moment, with this woman, I have found someone worth having a future for.

The End

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