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She’d nearly traded her life away, and as he looks at her across the small hospital room, he fights the urge to destroy something.

Olivia is sitting on the edge of the bed, and there is a young male doctor shining a light in her eyes, so she thankfully can’t see Elliot glaring at her.

Even though she is wearing scrub pants and one of his NYPD t-shirts from his go-bag now, he cannot forget the blood that had been on her shirt on scene, her blood, and he can’t calm the hell down. He doesn’t want to hear anything rational, doesn’t want to hear any positive nonsense about how she’s going to be fine.

The sonofabitch had hit her in the face with the butt of his gun, and Elliot had justifiably killed the motherfucker in retaliation. Good shoot, no regrets, no recriminations because he’d had no other choice. The piece of shit had a name - Crowley, something average and forgettable - but anything else about the dirtbag still hadn’t fully registered in Elliot’s racing, raging brain.

Olivia had willingly gone in without backup, taken off her vest, held her hands up, and traded herself for a young DV and rape victim who had been cornered by her abusive ex. She’d walked into the shithole apartment, talked the bastard into letting the ex go, and instead the scumsucker had held Olivia at gunpoint for a full goddamned hour.

It had been long enough for Elliot to answer Fin’s call, to make it on scene, and to bark at every superior on the way into being allowed on the frontline. Tear gas had brought the prick out of his place, practically dragging Olivia by the hair, and thank God she’d kept her eyes closed long enough to avoid the worst of the gas.

She’d finally been able to open her red, stinging eyes on the front steps of the apartment building. She’d met Elliot’s gaze, and then it had been over in seconds. Olivia had wrenched the fucker’s arm, and Elliot had shot the maggot without a second thought and here they were.

Mercy Hospital ER.

Same hospital his wife had died in less than two years ago, and that isn’t helping a damned bit.

Fuck.

Elliot, go home.” Olivia’s voice is quiet, and she might even sound commanding to some rookie but she’s not pulling that shit with him. He hears the wavering in her words. The nurse had helped her shower enough to get the tear gas off before the stitches, and her hair is damp and curling as it dries around her shoulders. She’s makeup free and swathed in his shirt so she’s safe - for the moment, at her rate - but he can see her hands still fucking trembling.

He knows she isn’t okay, no matter what this young twit, polished little Grey’s Anatomy- looking resident tells her.

Like hell,” he growls from where he stands in the doorway to the small room. Stands might be wrong. He’s looming, he knows he is, and she’s told him to leave three times, to go fill out the paperwork, but they can keep his blasted official gun that they took from him. They can have his shield too if it means he’s got to leave her right now. He won’t let her order him to do shit.

“He bothering you?” The doc asks as he lightly presses on Olivia’s cheek, assessing the cut and bruising.

“For twenty-five years,” Olivia mutters irritably.

“The fuck were you doing,” Elliot responds angrily under his breath. His temples are crashing like a goddamn demolition derby. He wants to be in her face, wants her to understand she cannot do this shit, but that doctor is in the damned way.

“My job,” she hisses, and she sounds half-mad and half in pain as she endures the examination.

“Your job was to wait for backup!” Christ, he’s losing his shit. He can’t shake seeing her with a gun to her head. It can’t happen anymore, not ever again. He can’t forget the excruciating minutes being taunted by the loser over comms, worrying that he’d hear her scream, hear her yell, hear a gunshot go off in that shitty apartment.

“My job,” Olivia grits. “Was to get the vic out. I did that. As Captain, I’m very clear on what my job is, Detective.”

The doctor has the gall to smirk, and Elliot could punch the asshole out, too.

He has to get his shit together. He just wants to touch her, his hands are aching for it, his chest feels like it is being disintegrated with acid, and Elliot knows she’s okay, for the most part. A concussion maybe. The cut to her face, a few stitches they’d just put in by her hairline, the blooming deep bruise across her left temple and cheek, it’s all bad. It’s all some fucked up, shouldn’t-have-happened fuckery, but she will be able to go home soon. A few stitches stopped the bleeding, some pain meds will help, but Christ, someone better get him a Xanax because he’s coiled as tight as a strike-ready boa.

“You have someone to stay with you tonight?” The doctor is talking to her like Elliot isn’t even standing right here.

Yes,” Elliot answers for both of them.

“I’ll be fine,” Olivia says at the same time.

“If the lachrymator agent bothers your eyes, you can rinse them with water, but if you have any skin rash develop, burning in your chest or vomiting, you need to come back right away.” The doc finally acknowledges Elliot’s presence. “She needs to be woken up every two to three hours. Pain meds every four to six hours until she feels comfortable, and don’t take them on an empty stomach, especially after the exposure to the chemical agent. If there is any blurring in her left eye, bring her back in right away. Keep the ice on the bruising for the next twelve hours at least.”

“Got it.” But he’s not even looking at the young doctor, because Olivia is now looking at him.

Elliot isn’t wrong about not leaving her side. She’s still shaking, her expression tells him she’s somewhere far away, and all of the bravado is bullshit. She isn’t unaffected. She isn’t nonchalant. His shirt is too big for her, her hair is unruly and her eyes, they are dark and sad, starkly devoid of tears, even after that gas.

The bruise is already deep purple, swelling her cheek, discoloring half of her face.

She’s staring at Elliot, almost belligerently, even as the doc nods at both of them and makes his way out of the small room.

“I don’t need your help,” Olivia whispers, lips barely moving. “Just go home.”

He could lose his goddamned mind. The rage in him, the missed opportunity to hurt the piece of shit who dared to touch her before he shot the fucker, it courses through him, hot and violent.

“I’m not going anywhere,” he bites off.

And maybe that was the right response because she bows her head, nods once, and her shoulders fall, no longer defensive. “Then take me home,” Olivia whispers, without looking at him.

Elliot grips the doorframe until his knuckles are white. “You should have waited, Liv. You can’t keep doing this. Can’t keep going in alone. You’re Captain on scene, I got it you can technically make any choice you want but how many times do you think you’re gonna survive this shit?”

She finally looks up at him again, and he’s looking into something empty. “You got him.”

He wants to move towards her, but the haunted echo in her voice holds him still. “This time. But what about next time?”

The corner of her mouth lifts, a small, sad, mirthless smile. “What about last time? Or the time before that?”

The question hangs heavy in the air, a weighted chemical bomb shrouded in a balloon, on the verge of exploding all over them.

He’d missed all of the pain, the hurt, the traumas. He knows about them; she’d shut him down about them when he’d finally found out and confronted her. But he knows enough, and the bile rises in his throat.

It had been weeks of late-night drinking for him after he’d discovered what she’d once been through. Weeks of her avoiding him. A month later, she’d given him a redacted file, and told him that’s all he’d ever get - and if he looked up any more she was done with him for good.

Olivia had never actually said it, but they both know. They work together too well. Today hadn’t even been two minutes of eye contact and they’d brought the bastard down. The things that had happened in the past, maybe they wouldn’t have happened, not if Elliot hadn’t left her.

He hadn’t watched her back for a decade, and there had been a bigger price to pay than just simply being separated from each other.

She will never say it out loud, but the cloying awareness, the unspoken, the sheer truth of it, it is a suffocating mist in the air. It isn’t blame on her part or guilt on his, it’s a fact that he’d have never left her alone with that monster on the loose years ago. She knows it, he knows it, and even if she’s moved on from what his absence had cost her, Elliot never will.

Olivia tries to lower herself off the table now, and he moves fast, settling his hands on her hips to steady her as her feet meet the ground.

“Just stop,” she finally grates, batting his hands away. “Wheatley did worse. This is nothing.”

Elliot drops his hands to his side. Wheatley did worse. There is a garish scale in their lives to the assaults, the broken bones, the broken spirits, the bruises, the damage. “I know,” he manages, his voice a rasp.

Her eyes lock on his, suddenly present and filled with instant grief. “Jesus, Elliot. I didn’t mean -“

This isn’t about what he’s lost, tonight is about her.

“Please let me help you.” He interrupts, feeling the way his gut is churning. He’s begging, he sounds pathetic. He just needs to be able to help her. It’s all he wants. He wants to protect her, to keep her safe, to have a chance to make something better for once.

For her, especially for her.

Something in Olivia relents. “Okay,” she tells him gently.

A short, temporary reprieve.

Elliot nods his encouraging approval, and she lets him touch her when he puts his jacket over her shoulders. She looks fragile - translucent and battered - and he has to find a way to get her to let him take care of her.

He’s going to hunt down the nurse, get the discharge paperwork, and get Olivia home.

Even if she wants nothing to do with him.

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