DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and its characters are the property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
DEDICATION: To DiNovia, because she said she was tired of reading her own C/O stories.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: The title? Indiana Jones made me love that word and it seemed to fit.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
"That is not fair!"
"Is too Liv, so you're dead."
"'Fraid I agree with my man Elliot."
Across the room, the grin on ADA Casey Novak's face was wide and true. She'd lingered in the hallway to watch from afar the exchange between the three detectives standing at the wiped-clean perp board. She couldn't help but smile and stare; joviality from this bunch was like snow in July. And a part of her was worried that her presence would put a damper on the mood. If anyone deserved some fun, it was the members of this squad; so she was content to just watch.
"But I don't know that word, so how could I have guessed it?" It was obvious that Olivia was arguing just for the sake of arguing.
Casey's knowing green eyes glinted with amusement. She's too competitive for her own good, she thought as she shook her head slightly, still grinning. She'll never admit she's beaten.
"Doesn't matter. There's nothing in the rules about having to pick a word your opponent knows."
"HANGMAN DOESN'T HAVE RULES, ELLIOT! And I say it's not fair to pick a hard word on purpose."
"Life's not fair, Liv. Neither is Hangman."
"Fine then Liv, my next word will be something like 'house' or 'boat,' that way it will be a word you know."
Olivia's face clouded over and her eyes narrowed dangerously. "Very funny, Stabler. Don't patronize me, please."
"Oh, big word. Have you been using the Word-A-Day calendar you got at the squad Christmas party?"
The playful, lively banter continued as Casey slowly entered the squad room and approached the sole person showing any signs of working. Just after John Munch set down the handset of his desk phone, she quietly said, "Afternoon, Detective. What's going on here?"
"This," the older man said, as he waved his hands in the general direction of his still-bickering co-workers, "is what we call a rousing game of 'Slow Day Hangman.' "
"Ah. That explains the lack of search warrant demands from my favorite detectives." Another grin.
"So it does. Blame it on the rain." Munch grinned back. "And I'm sure you've heard the saying 'When the cat's away, the mice will play.' Well, with the good Captain being the cat, those three slackers would be the mice."
Right, Cragen is still at his family reunion. Poor guy. Casey let out a small laugh for Munch's quip and turned back to the trio. She smiled as she met Olivia's gaze, her presence finally made known.
Oh shit. How long has Casey been here? Olivia quickly turned back from following Elliot's glance so that Casey wouldn't see the crease in her forehead and misinterpret her irritation. El knew she was here and still he let me argue like a child! I'm gonna give him what for later. She gave her partner a solid, unamused glare.
"It's your turn to pick a word, Liv." Elliot tossed the dry-erase marker at Olivia and gave her a self-satisfied grin that was from more than just the triumph with the game. Ever since he found out about Olivia's little fascination with their resident ADA, he had been unable to stop teasing her. She still wasn't quite sure how he was able to take the subtle glances, quick grins, and less than necessary trips to Casey's office, add them together and get attraction, but he did. He earned his badge with that bit of detecting. Olivia had just barely figured it out herself when he confronted her about it.
She denied it at first, only because she was worried about his reaction. A silly reason actually, because, regardless of his religious affiliations, Elliot had always been supportive and understanding, and nothing could faze him when it came to their partnership and friendship. But still she had worried. It took a lot of Elliot's subtle hints before she finally admitted her feelings for Casey and misgivings about them being reciprocated. She had felt better about things since that conversation, but still didn't know what to do.
Startled as she was by Casey's presence, it took her a moment to register Elliot's words. Stalling to compose herself, she said "Fine, let me think for a minute," while she drew the gallows on the board with a bright purple marker. She had to stop herself from turning and studying whatever expression was on Casey's face. Why is she here? Why does she always show up at the worst possible times? How am I ever going to work up the courage to ask her out if I can't ever form words because one glance at her makes my mouth go dry? A word, Olivia, think of a word. Don't think of Casey, think of a word.
A word. A smile. And a decision. She drew ten horizontal lines under the gallows, one for each letter of her perfect word.
"How about an 'R'?" The sixth blank was filled in by Elliot's lucky first guess.
"Can I have an 'S' please?" Fin mocked, and was rewarded with the first blank.
"How about a 'T' this time?"
"What is this, Wheel of Fortune? Be original." Irritated that they were guessing the letters so easily, she filled in the fourth blank with two quick flicks of the marker.
Fin's next guess got a glare from Olivia and an 'L' written off in space. She drew the little stick man's head into the picture and looked to her partner. "Don't bother guessing an 'N', there isn't one."
Elliot grinned. "Can I buy a vowel, then?" When Olivia's nostrils flared, he quickly changed his response to, "How about an 'E'?"
Olivia sighed as she filled in the fifth and last letters of her word. Almost enough for a guess.
Two more guesses got a body and an arm drawn on the poor, unfortunate stick man, with an 'I' and 'H' written next to the 'L'.
Olivia was feeling much better about her word just as Fin guessed a 'U'.
Damn. She filled in the second and eighth blanks.
"Subterfuge." Casey took them all by surprise when she stepped forward and guessed Olivia's word. The two women's eyes met, and they both smiled as the guys started to joke about how Olivia came up with such a big word, but at least they knew that word, whose turn is it now?
Elliot had noticed the small exchange between his partner and the ADA. "Well, I believe Olivia has a few phone calls to make, so while she does that, why don't we have Casey fill in for her and pick a word?"
Olivia looked at Elliot, confusion painted across her face like a watercolor, but she adapted quickly. With a quick grin, she said, "Sure El, but I already had another word in mind." She turned to Casey, "If you like it you can use it." With that, she took the three steps to Casey's side, leaned in, and softly whispered in Casey's ear, "Dinner."
Casey's brow furrowed, and she started to say that 'dinner' wasn't a very good word, but Olivia smiled in her ear and continued, "After we're done here, would you like to have dinner with me?" Every syllable of Olivia's question was punctuated by a small breath of warm air that sent shivers down Casey's long spine. Her brain was clouded by Olivia's proximity and she almost gasped at the warmth of Olivia's hand when she neatly placed it on Casey's forearm. That touch snapped her alert in time for her to hear what was said next. Her whole body tingled when Olivia softly whispered, "Please let me take you to this great restaurant that I know."
After a deep breath and a small smile, Casey turned her gaze toward Olivia's. With the forced composure she'd used so many times in court, she smoothly answered, "Sounds good."
Olivia exhaled and, as quickly as she had approached Casey, strode to her desk and pulled out the phone book. The yellow pages. She had reservations to make.
Casey blinked. Her skin still bristled where Olivia's hand had been, goosebumps formed from the sudden loss of that heat. She watched Olivia for a moment, marveling at how she composed herself, her lithe, sure movements, her smile, and her sparkling eyes. My God, what her touch does to me! But why...? How...? Did she see me staring? I can't believe this! Casey beamed at the turn her boring day had just taken, very glad that she had been daring enough to butt into their game. She looked at the other two detectives, who had only partially paid attention to her and Olivia's exchange. Elliot noticed her again and motioned her over with a nod of his head. Shit, I don't have a word. Think! Come on, Novak, words are your job. Think of a good one! She walked over to them slowly, to stall for time.
They hadn't erased the board after Olivia's last word, so Casey wiped it extra clean and drew her own gallows. The irony of several police detectives, and now an ADA, playing Hangman was not lost on her, and she grinned as she came up with a great word.
Another set of ten horizontal lines were drawn underneath the gallows, and she turned to start the game, looking to Fin first. "This word's all mine."
"Ten letters again? Damn. Elliot, these women done turned all smart on us." He winked and guessed an 'N'. Casey drew a perfect circle on the gallows and turned to Elliot.
"Vowels first. Gimme an 'A'." And she did, she gave him two, in the second and eighth spots. "Did you want some pink pom-poms with that?" she snarked.
Elliot rolled his eyes.
"Do you have an 'S'?"
"Sorry, Fin. Go fish." They all chuckled as she added a line as the body of the stick man and wrote an 'S' next to the 'N' from his other guess.
Elliot filled in the sixth blank with another vowel guess, 'U' this time. Fin caught the vowel bug and guessed an 'O'. He got an arm put on the stick man for his efforts.
Continuing the vowel trend, an 'E' filled in the tenth spot, and an 'I' was put in the fourth.
"And not sometimes 'Y'. Because there isn't one. Let's try some consonants now."
"How about a 'T', then?" Elliot's guess was a good one, and Casey nodded her head as she filled in the fifth and ninth blanks.
They both sat and stared at it for a while, stumped. Munch walked over and squinted at the board, then looked at Elliot and Fin. Then he looked at Casey, cocked his head, smirked a bit, and walked over to get some coffee.
This time, Fin rolled his eyes. Then he randomly tossed up a letter and his hands. "M?" Another arm on the stickman for his troubles.
"I have no idea. How about an 'H'?" A leg this time.
"One more wrong guess and you boys are fertilizer." With that comment Olivia rejoined the group. She was sporting a lop-sided grin, proud that Casey was able to find a word that put those two in their place.
"For the love of God, pick an 'L' already!" Munch couldn't stand it any longer.
Casey turned to the board and filled in Munch's request on the seventh line. Elliot smiled. But Fin is the one that said the word. "Capitulate. Damn girl. Where did you pull that from?"
"Oh, I don't know. Probably the same place Olivia got 'subterfuge' from." She and Olivia exchanged soft glances and smiles again, and this time all three of the male detectives noticed.
They spent the remaining two hours the same way; playing a banal game, but having fun at it. They rotated who picked the words with no score keeping, though neither of those things stopped the competition. Munch joined in after Casey, and the poor stick figure met its maker on his first turn, thanks to 'crepuscular.'
Casey was glad she decided to stay and play. How could she not be? She'd gotten so much done that morning; spent all her time on paperwork, paperwork, paperwork. She was tired of it, and since she hadn't been the moodkill she was afraid she'd be, she took full advantage of the fun. And of course there was the anticipation of dinner with Olivia. Sitting there at Olivia's desk, only a few feet from her, Casey couldn't help but stare, again, memorizing each curve of her trim form, every detail of that ethereal face. Whole words went by without Casey guessing a single letter. If the others noticed the staring and spotty participation, they said nothing.
The end of their shift looming, Olivia chose the final word. Casey paid closer attention to Olivia than her choice of words, so when Elliot correctly guessed the word 'inamorata,' she turned quite red. Wearing three different yet equally silly faces, the boys quickly begged off, excusing themselves with tasks, readying for the end of the day.
Olivia began to shuffle papers and manila folders about her desk, tidying up around a quiet Casey. "Cragen'll be back bright and early, so we need to have this place back in order. It shouldn't take long. Then you and I can head to the restaurant." She paused for a bit and studied Casey's face. The silence between the two women called for something, and Olivia answered it with a sudden worry of hers. "Listen, Casey, about that last word of mine. It wasn't..."
"Liv, don't worry. I know what you were trying to do. And it worked."
Olivia nodded and walked toward the Captain's office with the stack of papers in her hand. When she was out of sight, Casey started to lightly rub and tug at the collar of Olivia's jacket, which was slung over the back of the chair she occupied.
Olivia shut the office door behind her, placed the files on the desk, and leaned against the filing cabinet nearby, out of everyone's view behind closed blinds. She let out a breath she didn't know she was holding and put her head against a small section of the wall, her eyes closed. I can't believe it worked. I can't believe she agreed! Her eyes shot open. I can't believe I'm wearing this to dinner with Casey! She looked down at her simple outfit, dark blue low-rise jeans and a solid black knit top. I definitely did not think this through. Why doesn't Cragen have a mirror in here?!
Sighing, she reached for the door, took a deep, head-clearing breath, and opened it. The first thing she saw was Casey fiddling with her jacket and she smiled, worries forgotten. The movement of her approach eventually caught Casey's attention, and she looked up, startled at being caught. Olivia smiled and winked. She leaned on the desk with both hands, closing the distance between them, and said, "I'll only be five or ten minutes longer."
Eight minutes, forty-two seconds lateryes, Casey countedOlivia approached holding the coat Casey had shrugged off a few hours earlier, before she entered the squad. She rose and turned slightly when she realized Olivia meant to help her into it. After Olivia donned her own jacketstill warm with Casey's body heatthey headed into the night. Olivia held every door for Casey, and hailed the cab when they got to the street.
Casey quietly laughed when the cab moved up to the curb and stopped.
"What?" Olivia half grinned as she pulled open the door.
"I just thought of a ten letter word that perfectly describes my day."
"Oh?" Olivia's face scrunched up as she counted. "Surprising? Unexpected?"
Casey smiled and lightly shook her head. "Phenomenal," she whispered as she moved past Olivia and innocently slid into the cab.
"Absolutely." She slid in beside Casey and shut the door.
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