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stabler + novak, in vino veritas

Fic: "Champagne" (2/13 of "In Vino Veritas")

Posted on 2007.01.10 at 23:22
Affectus (State of Mind): amusedamused
Camena (Music): "Bounce" - Sarah Connor
Tags: ,
Title:  Champagne
Series:  In Vino Veritas
Author:  Green Owl
Rating:  R - Novak wears red velvet and shows leg; Stabler has impure thoughts and swears a lot.
Summary:   SVU represents at the Mayor’s Inaugural Ball. Guest-starring Lee Tergesen as Latimer.
Word Count:  3,397


January 13

“You know this is a complete set-up,” Elliot Stabler grumbled. “Why the hell do I have to go to the friggin’ Mayor’s Inaugural Ball in this goddamn monkey suit?”

“Because you’re the man, Stabler,” Munch replied, head bent over his paperwork. “You, Benson and Novak made the most arrests-turned-convictions of any team in Lower Manhattan in the last year, so you get the booby prize.”

Fin picked up the gorgeously decorated invitation off of Elliot’s desk. “And I quote: ‘In Honor of His Meritorious Service, Mayor Bloomberg Cordially Invites Detective Specialist Elliot Stabler to Attend the Inaugural Ball as His Honored Guest.’ ‘Cordially invites’, my ass; more like ‘royally commands’.”

Munch snorted in agreement. “Pretty impressive how Benson got out of it.”

“I still maintain that elective surgery does not constitute a valid excuse,” Elliot retorted, making sure his cufflinks and shirt studs were fastened.

“Stabler, would you like some?” Cragen asked, offering a bottle of Belvedere from his secret stash.

“You upgrade, Captain?” Fin asked, “This ain’t cheap.”

Cragen smirked. “We used up the last of the rotgut when Benson returned to active duty, remember?”

“Yeah, that was the night of the multiple Screwdrivers, right?” Elliot said, digging through Benson’s desk drawers for her lint brush. He finally located it and started combing his sleeves. Where the hell had all this goddamn dog hair come from?

“I do have a vague recollection involving OJ that packed a powerful punch.” Munch mumbled as he completed the report and leaned back in his chair. “At the time I thought it was the government, trying to…control our…minds…”

Fin let out a slow, low whistle under his breath. “Ho…ly shit.”

In the middle of brushing off his collar, Elliot looked up over his shoulder in the direction of the collective gaze of Fin, Munch and Cragen, and his jaw dropped.

Legs. Miles and miles of smooth, pale legs encased in silky nylons displayed by a thigh-high slit in a glittering burgundy velvet evening gown. Softly curved hips, a narrow waist and a pair of delicious breasts were wrapped in more of that velvet, a perfect match for her lush mouth painted a succulent shade of crimson.

Casey Novak looked, in a word, fuckable.

Oh, Jesus H. Christ, this is not good. This is not good at all.

Stabler was thankful his back was turned so he had a moment to adjust himself.

“Gentlemen, good evening,” she said, nodding to them as she glided over to Munch and placed an envelope on his desk. “A little belated Hanukah present from your friendly neighborhood ADA.”

Munch recovered his composure with little effort. “Thanks, Novak. Just what I always wanted – warrants to search the houses of two suspected child molesters. ‘Only one way to cook a pair of coneys.’”

She smiled and suddenly she was gorgeous. “Bust ‘em, bring ‘em in and let ‘em hang themselves with their own rope. I like ‘em ‘raw and wriggling.’”

“You’ve been watching too much Lord of the Rings, Counselor Gollum,” Elliot said as he returned to his combing and forced himself to look away from her feet, incredibly alluring in strappy “fuck-me” red heels that made him think of toe-sucking and other slightly kinky sex acts involving whipped cream.

Novak gave him a wry glance, then returned her attention to Munch. “You a fan, John?”

“All day marathons every vernal equinox.” Munch replied, smoothing the creases on the warrants.

“Which version?”

Fin answered for Munch, “You kiddin’? Extended editions, of course. Munch here thinks the studio system has been – how did you put it? – 'mutilating the artistic visions of writers and directors for decades'.”

Novak laughed as she put on her coat, giving Elliot a glimpse of her back, nearly bare but for some criss-crossing straps that set off her pale skin.

He almost dropped the lint brush.

Fin chuckled. “Stabler knows more quotes than Munch, Novak. Ought to ask him about his views on how the Marines would have kicked Sauron’s ass before the Mordor troops ever reached Osgiliath.”

“Hey, Tutuola?” Elliot called out, finishing his pant legs. “Shut up.”

Munch – that pervy old fucker – had the nerve to give Novak a once-over. “Counselor, may I say that you are an absolute vision of female pulchritude?”

“Thanks! Believe me, I’d rather be in sweats.” Novak replied, before letting out a sigh that turned that luscious mouth of hers into a soft pout. “Duty calls.”

Elliot returned the brush to Benson’s desk and slammed the drawer shut perhaps a little harder than he should have. He sucked in a breath and ignored the pain of his bruised knuckles, refusing to acknowledge the violence done to the drawer as a misguided attempt to stamp out a sudden, irrational surge of jealousy.

Oh, hold on a goddamn minute and just back the fuck up. Jealous of Munch? Because Novak’s flirting with him and calling him “John”? Must be out of my goddamn mind.

“You been lassoed into going to the Inaugural Ball, too?” Fin asked, tossing a file into his outbox.

“You got it. All because you guys busted too many perps this year.”

Cragen was nonplussed. “Wouldn’t have meant a goddamn thing if you hadn’t had the skills to put ‘em behind bars, Casey.”

Elliot gritted his teeth as she gave Cragen one of her newly-discovered-to-be-stunning smiles. “Thanks, Captain.”

“Vodka?” Cragen offered, proffering the bottle. “You may need it where you’re going.”

Novak shook her head, making her earrings dancing against her neck. “Dutch courage against the political piranhas? Not tonight, and never on an empty stomach.”

“Novak?” Elliot called, his voice harsh to his ears.

“Yes?” she replied, turning her head to look at him.

“Wanna ride to the fifth circle of hell?”

“Sure.”

Then she smiled at him.

He felt like he’d been sucker-punched. For someone whacked-out reason, she’d been affecting him below the belt since she walked in the door; this smile hit him a little higher.

It was going to be a long night.


“So what are these things like?” Elliot asked her as he stretched out in the back seat of the cab and tried to keep his eyes off her legs.

“The usual – insane amount of people crammed into a tiny space built to hold far less,” she said, shrugging her shoulders. “You’re lucky if you get a handful of pretzels, much less a chance at the hors d’oeuvres.”

“Maybe we’ll have our own server. We are one of the main attractions.”

“All that means is we’ll be paraded like show dogs and expected to perform for the crowd.”

“Show dogs, eh?” Elliot asked. “They gonna try to grab my package like on Westminster?”

There it was again, that little trill of laughter that made his chest feel tight.

“Only if you ask nicely.” Then she turned her head to look out the window.

They rode for awhile longer before the silence started to get to him.

“I heard that Branch has been thinking about moving people around,” Elliot said, attempting to start a conversation.

Her reply was a non-committal sound that could have meant anything.

“You been hearing anything interesting?” he tried again.

“Supposedly there’s a new position in Homicide opening up since Marcus is transferring to Vice when Vincennes goes back to Narcotics.”

Elliot chewed on that for awhile. “That’s the one you wanted when you were transferring from White Collar, right?”

“Yeah. How did you know?”

“Alex mentioned you were a contender before she went into WitSec. Said you were hot for that position and all bets were that you’d get it.”

“How’d she know that?” Novak replied, an edge to her voice. “That’s not something I was campaigning for.”

“Again with the prepositions,” he teased, pushing his hands against the partition to keep from sliding into her as the cab took a particularly fast left turn.

“And when did you become the grammar police, pray tell?”

Ooh, now she was pissed at him. Perfect. The more she disliked him, the less time she and her perfume would spend near him tonight, and maybe, just maybe, he could keep himself from getting a raging hard-on in front of a thousand people.

“Just kiddin’, Casey, jeez.”

“You’re doing this to get a rise out of me,” she said finally. “Yes, I wanted Homicide – who wouldn’t? Usually clean, easy cases that don’t require hours of therapy or boxes of Kleenex. All the glory, no living victims.”

“So why’d you go with SVU?”

“No one else would take it,” she replied quietly.


Just as Novak predicted, they spent the first two hours being paraded in front of the mayor, his staff and city councilmen. Elliot stopped trying to remember who everyone was and let Novak take the lead as she greeted each person warmly and shook hands.

Thank God her dress was more demure when she was standing because he thought he might have to go postal if he caught more guys slobbering all over her.

Oh, who the fuck was he trying to fool? He’d been drooling over Casey Novak ever since she’d walked into the station, looking like every sexual fantasy he’d ever dreamed of wrapped in red velvet. Not an easy thing for him to admit, considering his circumstances and his commitments.

He’d been married for twenty years. Maybe not all of those years had been happy, but he was committed to his children’s lives and that meant being faithful to and considerate of their mother.

Kathy had been through a lot with him and she’d never complained, not once. Not when he’d enlisted in the Marines and had a tour of duty in Iraq. Not when he’d decided to go to night school to get his criminology degree so he could follow in his father’s footsteps and become a police officer. Not even when he made detective, started working very long hours and couldn’t be home for many of the major milestones in his babies’ lives. She was a good woman and his children were lucky to have her as their mother.

If he was honest with himself, he acknowledged that he and Kathy probably would have broken up at the end of school if Maureen hadn’t been on the way; they were so different from each other. But he would never regret marrying Kathy because after Maureen they’d had Kathleen and then the babies, Lizzie and Dickie.

As long as he had his kids to protect and nurture, he could refuse to give in to any kind of temptation. Even the all-consuming urge to haul Casey Novak into the nearest coatroom and find out if her skin tasted as good as it smelled.

Funny thing was, in addition to his unsettling and unexpected attraction to her, he also found himself admiring her way with people. She maneuvered through this snake pit as if she had been born to deal politely with these assholes. Everything about the way she carried herself, from her posture to her body language and even her hand gestures screamed “lady”.

The first time Elliot met Novak, he’d been struck by her poise. She played second base for her team, and hit third in the line-up. He was surprised, since men usually occupied the top four positions in the batting order. From the moment she stepped up to the plate, he thought there might be trouble.

She took a few practice swings that seemed a bit girly to him but when the perfect pitch came at her, she slammed a line drive straight up the middle, hitting the ball so hard the centerfielder didn’t have time to think about diving for it. By the time the ball came whizzing Elliot’s way as he covered second base, Casey Novak was three-quarters on her way to third. She slid for the bag, well ahead of the throw, and then stood up and cleaned herself off like she’d just finished having a picnic.

Elliot was impressed. First, because she didn’t make a big deal out of her triple – it was business as usual. Second, because even though she looked like some sort of Park Avenue princess, she played hard and had no qualms about getting dirty. She slid, dove, rolled and dropped down to field anything and everything that came her way.

When the game was over, White Collar had beaten Sex Crimes 7-6 and Novak had driven in the winning run. The was no joy in Mudville for Stabler's team that day.

“Latimer!” District Attorney Branch called out to a sea of penguin suits, interrupting Elliot’s reverie.

Elliot directed his attention from Novak to see a man about his own height turn his head towards them. The man was dressed in what looked like a very expensive tuxedo and was holding a glass of champagne; fair hair, light eyes, Scandinavian features. Typically handsome and slick American whitebread.

“Get over here, young man,” Branch commanded, “Come and meet the team.”

“Good to see you, sir,” the man said, nodding to Branch, then offered Elliot the hand that wasn’t holding his champagne. “Hey, name’s Lee Latimer. I’m the new guy.”

Elliott took it. “Elliot Stabler, Detective, Special Victims Unit. You’re not a Fed, are you?”

“Me? Nah. I’m with the District Attorney’s office. New ADA.”

“Really?”

“Afraid so,” Latimer replied, then looked at Novak, “Is this your wife?”

Branch looked nothing so much like a proud father as he made the introduction. “Latimer, this is SVU’s incredibly talented Assistant District Attorney, Casey Novak.”

“You left out ‘lovely’, sir,” Latimer said, as he extended his hand to her. “And she certainly is. Pleasure to meet you, Counselor.”

Casey took his hand and inclined her head towards him. “Likewise.”

The man was well-dressed, well-groomed, possibly owned the perfectly-fitted tux he was wearing. He was obviously educated, somewhat smooth, and more than interested in the most spectacular-looking woman in the room. Elliot wanted to punch him in his perfectly shaved jaw.

“Excuse me, Counselors, Detective, I have to go kiss some ass now,” Branch boomed, before heading off in the direction of a coterie of politicians.

“Where’s your hometown, Latimer?” Elliot asked, then took a big swallow of champagne.

“Chicago, originally. North Shore.”

“The Magnificent Mile truly is magnificent,” Novak commented.

“So you’ve been there?” Latimer grinned and Elliot thought he might go blind from the gleam of the man’s teeth.

“On a conference or two. Vacation combined with CLEs.”

“You did your Ethics out there last year?”

“Yes,” she answered. “You were in the front row, right?”

“I thought you looked familiar. Care to dance?”

“Sure.” She turned to Elliot and held out her glass. “Would you mind?”

Society dictated Elliot accept her glass and remember that he was taken; deeper, more primal instincts demanded he kick the ever-loving shit out of Lee Latimer for daring to sniff in Casey Novak’s direction.

Society won this time.

“No problem,” Elliot said, and took her glass. Some of her voluptuous red lipstick was smudged on the rim. Elliot felt primal instinct struggling to get in a last blow. “Hey, Latimer?”

“Yeah?”

“Just remember, I got a shotgun, a shovel and a badge. Bring her back in one piece.”

Latimer chuckled as he led her to the dance floor, while Novak just gave him a puzzled look.


Watching Novak and Latimer move together in time to the big band music, Elliot discovered something surprising about himself:  he had a possessive streak.  Never one to be jealous where Kathy was concerned, he considered it very disturbing how readily his hand curled into a fist when Novak dipped her head and smiled up at Latimer through her lashes.

“They seem to be getting along pretty well,” Branch said, appearing next to Elliot with a stealth that was surprising in such a big man.

“Yeah,” Elliot agreed. He was on his fourth glass of champagne. Combined with the lack of real food, he was on his way to achieving a pretty good buzz.

Branch smiled, deep lines creasing the sides of his cheeks. “Novak cleans up nice, doesn’t she?”

“Yes, she looks very good.”

“How’s she doing over there, in SVU?”

“Diligent,” Elliot replied, choosing his words with care as he watched Latimer pouring on the charm. “Tenacious. Sharp. Completely ferocious when it comes to the perps.”

“Yeah, I knew she’d work out just fine,” Branch said.

“You ever have a doubt?” Now Novak was asking Latimer a question.

“Nope. And since the team has been working together so well, I’ve brought in Latimer here to help out.”

Elliot noticed Novak’s face register surprise. “In what way?”

“Latimer is going to be assisting with SVU. Imported him from Chicago.”

Anyone who didn’t know Novak very well would have missed the beat she took to process whatever Latimer had told her, but Elliot saw it, as well as the slight stiffening of her backbone and her smile.

“Excuse me,” he said to Branch before heading out on the dance floor.

Elliot tapped on Latimer’s shoulder. “May I cut in?”

“Uh, sure,” Latimer replied. He grinned at Novak before releasing her. “I’ll see you on Monday, Casey.”

She smiled, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “See you then.”

Latimer walked away, snagging a glass of champagne as Elliot took Novak in his arms. The music became a slow, jazzy version of “Moonlight Serenade” and they took a moment to get in sync with each other.

“You look like you’ve been pole-axed, Casey,” Elliot whispered, watching her six.

She released a deep, shuddering breath. “Elliot, am I good at my job?”

“You’re better than good,” he replied. “And you know that.”

Her voice was low and indignant. “Then why is Branch bringing in Latimer to work SVU?”

“I don’t know. Maybe it’s good news.”

“Like what?”

He shook his head; her perfume was getting to him. “Maybe…maybe Branch is bringing him in for you to train and then he’s gonna move you to Homicide.”

“Maybe.” He felt her relax just a little. “And maybe I’m gonna be out of a job in a few weeks.”

“Branch tries that and the entire Unit would bitchslap him and his little deep dish pizza from here to the Bronx.”

She raised her head to look at him and he could see something soft and warm glowing in her eyes.

“Thanks, Detective.”

“Thank yourself, Counselor,” he said. “You and me wouldn’t be here at this high-class shindig, sippin’ champagne and fighting politicians for snack food if not for your killer instincts.”

“And your hardass tactics.”

They both laughed, and she ducked her head.

More silence between them as the music changed to “Stardust” and they continued to dance.

Novak raised her head again. “Elliot, I know we’ve butted heads in the past-”

“Hey,” he cut in, “you were just doin’ your job.”

“So were you,” she countered.

“Glad we understand each other.”

They laughed again, but this time it was a little awkward.

The champagne must have opened up some sort of window into his inner alcoholic poet because all he could think about was how her eyes were the color of dark rum, her lips like merlot, and her skin like heavy cream. A few more glasses of the bubbly and he thought he might find himself thinking lyrical thoughts about her collarbone.

Blushing almost as red as her dress, Novak returned her gaze to his bowtie.

The song ended and she pulled away. “I think I’m ready to go home. I’ve had enough socializing for the night.”

“Wanna share a cab?” he asked, escorting her to the coat check.

She reached into her bodice and pulled out the claim ticket and a five-dollar bill. “You live in Queens, right?”

“Yeah.”

“I live in the East Village. That's a little out of your way.” She handed over the claim ticket and tip to the clerk.

He helped her into her coat. “It’s not a problem. I gotta go to the station to pick up my ride.”

Novak turned, looked at him, and smiled. “I think we’d better call it a night.”

“Okay. At least let me get a cab for you.”

“All right,” she capitulated.


He held the door open for her as she stepped in.

“Hey, Novak,” he said to her.

“Yes, Stabler?”

“Thanks for the dance.”

She smiled and looked down at her lap, then up at him again, “You’re welcome.”

“Good night, Casey.”

“Good night, Elliot.”  


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