Disclaimer: Law and Order: Special Victims Unit and it's characters do not belong to me. This is purely for fun and my own entertainment. Hopefully, to entertain others as well.
Author's Note: Extension for "Coerced".
Summary: "I'm wondering why you're here. I can't possibly be someone on your 'must see' list."
He wasn't really familiar with this bar. The faces were foreign. The smells were different. The entire atmosphere was entirely too peppy to be a cop bar. Yesterday, he would've never been caught dead in a place like this. That was yesterday.
Today, he was canvassing all the highbrowed establishments he could think of. The places where haute and taut lawyer types came to unwind. After sneering his way through about four different bars and discreetly asking the appropriate questions, he finally found the right one. She was sitting alone in the back probably swallowing something strong. After a day like today, he couldn't blame her. There was a part of him that secretly wished for a comfortable case. Something simple that would make her transition from homicide to sex crimes a little easier. The rest of him knew what a naive wish that was. Now he was just counting the days until she decided to give up.
"This seat taken?" he asked, his voice surprisingly hoarse and uncertain.
Casey Novak glanced up at Elliot Stabler, the shock finally settling in on her face once she recognized who it was. She placed her half empty glass down and eventually found her voice, "No. Go ahead."
Elliot sat down, momentarily forgetting why he traversed over half of New York looking for the redhead in the first place. Oh right. He sort of wanted to apologize or something. With elbows propped on the table, he folded his hands and rested his chin on them. She was staring at him, obviously curious as to why he was sitting there in front of her. The waiter ended the awkward silence.
"Can I get you anything?"
"Uh, sure. Just water, please," Elliot asked politely, now deciding he would be much more comfortable sitting back in his seat. When he caught Casey's questioning stare, he explained, "I'm still on the clock."
"No, I understand why no alcohol," Casey said, sounding quite amused. "I'm wondering why you're here. I can't possibly be someone on your 'must see' list."
"No, you're not. You would be right about that."
Casey forced a chuckle, then pushed, "So why are you here?"
"I'm here because of what happened in court this morning with Kevin Walker. . .," Elliot began.
"Dr. Huang explained everything to me," Casey cut him off. She sensed he was uncomfortable and knew he was swallowing a lot of pride in coming here. Besides, she was too tired to fight him on it now. "No harm, no foul."
Well, this was certainly easier than he had thought it would be. Even though Huang had taken the initiative to explain things to Casey, Elliot still felt obligated to explain his own actions to her. Call it the honorable thing to do, but he felt he at least owed her that much. He smiled, "You know, your bark is worse than your bite."
"I guess I'll take that as a compliment."
Elliot popped a peanut into his mouth, then added coyly, "Yeah, you should."
The tension had finally lifted and Casey felt safe in taking another drink. She watched the detective sip his water gingerly, visibly in no hurry. Now his presence was just plain confusing. He had made his peace with her. Why was he still here? In a joking manner, she said, "Don't you have a wife to go home to or something?"
His eyebrows rose slightly, then he shrugged, "Yeah, I do."
"Okay," Casey mumbled softly, still bewildered.
"Look, Counselor. . .," Elliot leaned forward, his voice suddenly low and forbidding. "I know sex crimes is different. I wish I could tell you that things get easier, but they don't. I just want you to know, I'm here to lend an ear if you need one."
Casey cocked an eyebrow at the vacuous offer, then laughed ruefully into her cup, "I don't know, Detective. Both you and Benson look like you want to snap my neck every time we speak."
"It's not you," Elliot insisted. "In fact, I'm sorry we came off so hostile, but you're replacing someone we cared for deeply. Plus, you were trespassing on our turf."
"Yeah, I guess I never apologized for that," Casey sighed. "Call it the overzealousness of an eager ADA trying to force her way into a team where she doesn't belong. I understand, now, where my skills work best."
Her last sentence sounded deflated and for some unknown reason, it hit him hard in the gut.
"Still. I'm here. We all are. We're all on the same side," Elliot said, his words a little rushed and maybe too well rehearsed. He was kinda hoping she wouldn't pick up on how fake his gesture sounded, but the small smile on her face told him she had.
"Thanks, Detective. I appreciate it." Her reply was just as hollow.
Now he was going through the motions. Offering more fake pleasantries. "Call me Elliot off duty."
She returned the favor. "Casey."
He finished his water and stood to leave. They didn't shake hands or even say goodbye. He just stood and walked away. And he couldn't help but smile in accomplishment, despite the empty conversation they had just shared.
They were starting over, so to speak and at least now they were starting off on the right foot.