A/N: Flipside to another fic of mine. SVU's not mine.
The worst arguments are always the one that never seem to hit until it's already over.

He left because he was afraid of what he would do if he stayed, and he wasn't about to tell her to leave, because somehow, that seems wrong to him. It's hot outside, somewhat, because it's May, and summer's just starting to hit. He ignores it. It isn't what he needs to be worried about. What he needs to worry about is figuring out exactly what the hell is going on, because he's not exactly sure. And it bothers him more than he'd like it to.

Twenty years, and only now does she ask me that, he thinks. What the hell is that?

The stupid thing about it, Elliot thinks, is that she knows damn well he'd never do anything like that. He used to not think it mattered if he wasn't home all the time, because he knows he has a job, and he knows he can't just skive off because he feels like it. But now, with this latest accusation, he's starting to wonder if it really does matter. He used to not think that it did because when he was at work, he always wanted to be at home.

If your heart is in the right place, he wonders, does it matter what you're doing?

Then again, if your heart is in the right place and you're not where you're supposed to be, what does that mean, and why does it mean that in the first place? He wants to go back to the precinct, but has the feeling that it would be a stupid move. He also wants to turn off his cell phone, because he doesn't want to talk to her, and he also has the feeling that she's going to call sooner or later, because the whole damn argument was her fault in the first place.

Just because she calls at random hours doesn't mean I'm sleeping with her, he'd yelled.

He regrets yelling at her, in all honesty. Luckily it was one of those days where the twins didn't want to deal with the world, and had their music on, and Maureen was at one of her classes, and Kathleen was at work. It had only been the two of them to hear each other, only the two of them to deal with this latest argument. Only the two of them to come to the realization that maybe things aren't as good as they should be between them, because he's at work too much, and she never sees him, and damn it, that's not how a marriage is supposed to be.

The parent and the paycheck, he thinks, and hates himself for it.

A conversation from a while back comes back to him then, as clearly as if he and Kathy were having it now, though in truth, he's getting farther and farther away from the house with each step he takes. He doesn't know where he's going, but knows that he needs to go somewhere to calm down. A place where he can regain his bearings and figure out what he's going to do. The cell phone remains on, despite his desire to turn it off. Not only is it the number that she can reach him at, it's the number that work can reach him at, and if he's unreachable, it only means a lecture that he's not in the mood for.

I'm not sleeping with my partner, he thinks, stubbornly. She ought to know that already.

He wonders vaguely if Kathy really does know this, and doesn't like the fact that he has a reason to believe that she doubts he's being honest with her when he tells her this. Jealousy has never been something he's had to deal with, not since he first became partners with Olivia, and that was only because up until then, all his partners had been guys. He'd expected the initial jealousy, but this? No…this, he definitely hadn't expected. And the accusation hurt more than he was willing to admit it did.

It always seems to hurt even when you've done nothing wrong.

The arguments have been getting worse lately. He's never home. She spends too much time with her friends. He doesn't talk to her, but then, she doesn't talk to him, either. Not anymore. It's not like the beginning. Not like that senior year of high school where they were convinced that nothing could go wrong, and then she got pregnant, and he'd thought that he couldn't possibly love her any more than he already did. Not like when they stood in front of each other at their wedding and promised that there wouldn't be any secrets, because then, neither of them could have ever imagined not telling the other one everything.

The dark side of the city isn't exactly a secret, though, and Elliot knows it.

If she watched the news, she would know. If she listened to what he said and read between the lines, she'd know, too, but he doesn't talk, and she doesn't watch, and all it really comes down to is that he doesn't want her to know, because it scares him. And he doesn't want to admit that. Doesn't want her to know that he talks to his partner because the thought of talking to her scares him, because he's wondered time and again if she'd leave if she knew what really went on inside the precinct. If she'd take the kids and just walk, because telling her everything would let her know that he's been somehow tainted, and well, that's just not what she needs to be around.

He's thought about telling her to leave, to save herself, but he doesn't have the nerve.

And he wonders for a moment if this argument will be the last straw. If she will take him for his word of if she will listen to the rumors that he knows are going around, because they're not the only cop family in the neighborhood, never mind on the block. He wonders if he'll get the nerve to actually go home and stay or if he'll go inside long enough to grab his keys and head to the precinct, just to get away. But it isn't really getting away from anything. It is the illusion of getting away, and an illusion of an escape, because the truth is, going to the precinct will do nothing for him.

It will only fuel the accusations, running back to her, says the voice in his mind.

I'm not running to anyone, damn it, Elliot thinks, and if I am, then I'm running from myself, because I don't want to do this anymore. One round of arguments with Kathy is enough for the day, and it's not even eight o'clock yet. One of those nights where he left work early because he had nothing to do, and because he had really wanted to be back at home. The one place in the world where he didn't have to worry about putting on a façade for someone, but apparently, all of that has changed. And apparently, he's sleeping with his partner, and that's why he never wants to be home, and damned if he thinks she's going to let it keep on going this way.

The problem is that he isn't, and he actually liked being home before now.

The sound of chains clinking tells him that he's reached the park. A place where the two of them used to go when they were still kids themselves (seniors in high school, mind, but he wasn't about to get technical), because it was the one place in the world where they could actually get away. But there was no getting away now. The accusation was still there, and so was the hurt that came along with it.

He sits in the swing and pushes off, knowing there'd be no one to catch him if he fell.