A/N: A requested fic, from a friend of mine, who gave me the tiniest idea and told me to go with it. So I did.

DISCLAIMER: SVU and characters are owned by Dick Wolf. This story, all of it, is owned by TStabler©

Elliot Stabler sat in the emergency room at Mercy General Hospital. He held his wife's bloodied jacket, crumpled, in one hand, and the blood-spattered badge of his partner in the other. He was staring at both clutched fists, trying hard not hate himself for what had happened, trying not to hate himself for letting both people down, trying not to hate himself for not caring that one was dead, while the other was fighting for life. He was trying to replay the last few minutes at the scene in his head. He teared up as he had to hand his partner's gun to Ed Tucker, but he refused to give the man his clothes, not giving a shit that the bloodied suit was evidence. It was Olivia's blood, and he'd wear it proudly. He barely heard the chair next to him creak as someone sat in it. He was cold, numb, unblinking as the voice in his ear said, "None of this was your fault." He let a tear fall as he nodded, a somber admission that yes, it was his fault, he should have protected them. Both of them. Either that, or he should be the one on the slab, or the operating table, because he was the one the bastard who shot them was really pissed at.

"No, it wasn't," the voice beside him said again, this time resting a hand on his shoulder.

Elliot pulled away, roughly, and turned to face the man. "Don," he said softly, hoarsely, "How did Liv even know where I was? Where we were?"

Don Cragen, his captain, sighed. "She was waiting for you, since you said you'd only be an hour. When you didn't come back, and didn't answer your cell, she had TARU activate the GPS on the damn thing. She got your location just as we heard the radio-call that shots had been fired at the courthouse. Elliot, she panicked and she took off. She didn't…" he paused, choking on a sob. "She didn't want backup. She told Munch and Fin to stay behind, that if anyone would be getting killed over this, it would be her. She went into the situation planning to give her life for you."

"God," Elliot cried, bringing the bloody badge to his lips. He pressed his soft kiss to the cold, dead, metal as another tear fell. "She wasn't even…she dove in front of…Cap, she took a bullet for me. Again. Three of them," he cried.

"I know, Elliot," Cragen said, "I know she did."

"He's dead," Elliot said, his voice suddenly angry. "Liv made sure of that. She shot him right between the eyes as she shielded me, not caring that she was bleeding, not caring that she was…we fell to the ground and I held her, as she bled as gasped for air, and she asked me if I was okay! She asked me that! I nodded and she said, 'Good,' then her eyes closed and…"

"Elliot," Cragen stopped him, "Please, stop. You have other things to worry about. What are you going to tell your kids? What are you going to do?" He sighed and shifted in his seat. "I know you're hurt, and mad, we all are. But you need to think about your family."

Elliot snapped. His eyes turned a vicious, gleaming, bright blue, and he growled, "Olivia is my family!"

"I get that," Cragen snapped back. "She's mine, too! But I am talking about your wife, Elliot. Your children are going to be here any minute. What exactly are you going to say to them?"

"The truth," Elliot choked, his eyes softening with worry and pain. "Olivia came in too late to save her, the bastard was gonna shoot me, Liv saved my life. Kathy was dead when Liv got there, they need to know that this was not her fault!"

"They will," Cragen declared, "Okay, they will. They also need to know that it wasn't yours, either, Elliot. It was a divorce finalization and preliminary custody hearing, so you didn't think you'd need your gun. You weren't on a damn case. You were unarmed, unprepared, and you certainly didn't know that this man was…"

Elliot choked out another sob, shaking his head. "They don't need to know who it was. I'll just tell them it was one of Kathy's boyfriends," he said. "It's not exactly a lie, right?" he scoffed, sniffling. There was a moment of silence, a long pause as the two policemen heard nothing but the sound of a sliding door and the random beeping and clicking of machines and footsteps. "She ran into a hostage situation, alone, to save me and my wife. Ex-wife. Knowing she could...die."

"Yes," Cragen said, nodding as tears filled his eyes. "She did. That's how much she loves you."

"Daddy?"

Elliot's head snapped up and he met the red, puffy, eyes of Maureen, his oldest daughter, his oldest child. He didn't care what anyone said, she was his daughter. He got out of his seat, letting Kathy's jacket fall to the floor, still clutching Olivia's badge in his hands, and pulled her into his arms. "Mo," he whispered. "Oh, Mo, baby."

"How's Liv, Dad?" Kathleen asked through her harsh sobs.

Dickie and Lizzie, his twin twelve year olds, looked up at him expectantly, Lizzie in hysterical tears and Dickie proving he was a man by not crying.

"I don't know," Elliot told them. "She was…they took her into the…I just don't know."

"No one told you anything?" Dickie asked, angry. "How could they not tell you anything? You're her partner!"

Elliot sighed and looked his only son in his eyes. "Dickie, I'm not her husband, I'm not a relative. I'm just her emergency contact and medical proxy."

"You're more than that!" Dickie yelled. "You know you're more than that! We all know, Dad! We are her family! Why didn't they tell you anything, yet?" he cried.

Elliot teared up, seeing his son, who had just lost his mother, get emotional and wracked with worry over Olivia. His Olivia. "Dickie, she's probably still in surgery. She was shot three times, kiddo. They'll only come talk to me if she…" he couldn't finish the thought, he broke down. He broke. In front of his kids and his captain, he broke.

"Dad," Maureen said, pulling him into his arms, but he pulled out of her grasp. "Please, don't do this. Don't turn away, Daddy. We love her, too."

"I'm so sorry," Elliot sobbed. "I shouldn't have let that asshole…your mother was…and I couldn't…and then Liv…oh, God, Liv!" He was hyperventilating as the words came between harsh sobs. Seeing his father like this hit Dickie, and made him understand that sometimes it was okay to cry. He let his own tears fall.

"Dad," Dickie said with a sniffle, "We don't blame you or Liv for what happened. Uncle Munch told us what was going on when he came to get us from school. We know that Mom was shot and Liv shot her killer, and we're all hurting. We do miss Mom, it's just…" he broke off, choking on his words as the tears overwhelmed him.

"We don't want to lose Liv, too," Lizzie finished, her head in her hands.

Elliot reached his arms out and pulled all of his children into his embrace, and they cried, together, grieving for the loss of Kathy, and praying they didn't lose Olivia.


An hour later, the waiting room was filled with people, all anxious for news on Olivia Benson. Casey was sobbing into Trevor Langan's arms, he himself was red-eyed. Munch was leaning against a wall, trying to convince himself that none of this was real. Fin and Melinda were holing each other, trying to console one another as they both sobbed harshly, but quietly. The four Stabler kids were weeping in steady streams as they sat, in the stiff chairs, next to Don Cragen, who was flipping and folding a photograph around in his hand. A baby picture. Olivia's. He wondered, and cursed the thought, if he would never get to tell her the truth. He didn't want to end up angry, like that man who killed Kathy. Dean Porter, who had sped to the city from Greenwich, Connecticut, giving up a high-profile collar to be here, was slumped in a corner, pretending he didn't know how to cry, but wiping his eyes due to his "allergies." He flicked a black box open and closed in his hand, mumbling something about being too late.

Elliot was the only one standing, still covered in Olivia's blood, still holding onto her badge, still crying. He was standing when the doctor came through the doors, his knees buckled when the doctor walked right over to him, and he nearly collapsed when the doctor spoke.

"Detective Stabler," the man in blood covered scrubs said, unaware that he had an attentive audience of people who stopped breathing. "She's going to be just fine," he finally said, and he felt his heart break when Elliot threw his arms around him and squeezed.

"Thank you," Elliot whispered. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!" he cried pulling away from the surgeon. He shot a look at his friends and family, and they were all still bawling, but had relieved smiles on their faces.

"You, uh, you can go in and see her, but please, be warned, she looks like hell and she's not awake yet," the doctor said, still floored by Elliot's reaction. Elliot nodded and followed the doctor through the doors, into an elevator, and up to the fourth floor, into Olivia's recovery room.

Elliot gasped, seeing Olivia hooked up to a machine and with tubes up her nose. It was hard, but he'd deal. She was alive, and she was going to be fine. "Doc," Elliot choked out, sitting in the chair beside the bed, "Can you tell me what…I mean, how bad was it?"

"Bad," the doctor said. "But it certainly could have been worse. One bullet narrowly missed her heart, slicing right through her chest at a pin-point spot, missing all vital organs by mere millimeters. One ripped through her shoulder. Another bullet, the one that gave us the trouble, was lodged in her stomach, a quarter of an inch in front of her spine," he explained.

Elliot cringed. "God, if it would have went through…"

"Yeah," the surgeon said, nodding. "But it didn't. It's touch and go right now, as it is with any major surgery. If she wakes up without complications, in a few weeks she'll be good as new." He smiled at Elliot and said, "I'll leave you two alone." He turned and left the room.

Elliot reached out and took Olivia's cold, limp hand in his. "Liv," he said, softly, "Please, wake up. I need you, Liv. Now more than ever. You…" he paused as he looked at her. His brow furrowed. "Baby, what the hell is wrong with you? Huh? Running into a hostage situation? Hurling yourself in front of me like that?" He paused to take a breath and shake his head. "When you got hit, and sent us both crashing to the floor, my first instinct was to yell at you, you know that? But then, when you weren't moving, and I saw how much blood…" he paused again, fighting back tears. "I can not, and will not, live another day without telling you, and the rest of the world, how much I love you, Olivia Benson. Wake up so we can start making up for lost time, here." He squeezed Olivia's hand and then lifted his other to brush back her hair. "Even like this, in the worst possible condition I have ever seen you, you look beautiful." He pressed a soft kiss to her head, caressed her cheek, then whispered to her, "Baby, please, come on, wake up. I can't do this by myself. I can't raise four kids alone, and I can't tell them that they lost their mother, and their future step-mother in the same night. At least, when you wake up, and I take you home, you'll be well on your way to being their stepmother," he chuckled.

"You know I can't tell them that Daddy's never gonna smile again because the only person who really knows how to make him smile left him all alone, and I can't deal with this…" he broke off, realizing that he was babbling, making no sense. "Liv, baby, I need you to get me through this thing with Maureen, and I need you to be here when Kathy's parents come yelling at me for letting this happen, and I need to take care of you, I need you to take care of me, we need to take care of each other. If you don't wake up, Liv, I'm gonna have to go find you, and then my kids are really going to have a hard time. Losing two mothers and a father all at once."

He felt his hand being squeezed, lightly, and he looked down at Olivia. Her head was moving gently, her eyes were twitching but not opening.

"Liv, baby, come on," Elliot said, anxious, excited.

Olivia's eyes finally blinked, drifting open. She flinched at the harsh light, and Elliot immediately reached for the switch, flicking it off. Opening her eyes again, now that it was dim, she focused on Elliot, and smiled. "Hi," she whispered, her voice sounding throaty and painful.

"Hi," Elliot sniffled, new tears falling from his eyes.

Olivia shook her head, as it rested heavily against the pillow, slowly. "Don't do that," she croaked.

Elliot, using the hand that wasn't gripping hers, reached for the glass of water left by her bed. "Here, baby, sip," he commanded, sticking the straw in her mouth.

Olivia swallowed and nodded slightly in thanks, then said, "I'm sorry, El. I was too late. I should have gotten there…"

"Olivia, you listen to me, and you listen good," Elliot said, crying, whispering harshly as he looked into her eyes. "She was dead before you got there, you didn't know, baby. You will not blame yourself, because I don't blame you, my kids don't blame you. I have been sitting in this hospital for the last two hours crying like a baby, over you, not her. No one is blaming you."

Olivia nodded, trying not to cry herself, because it hurt to breathe, let alone cry. She grew puzzled, looked up at Elliot, and asked, "Did you just call me 'baby? Like twelve times? Where people can hear you?"

Elliot chuckled. "Yeah, I did," Elliot said. "We'll talk about that, later, baby. How do you feel?"

"Like I've been shot," Olivia said, softly, lolling her head to the side to face him, still unable to lift it up. "El, please, talk to me. How are you coping? I mean Kathy…the man who killed her, the man who shot me. Who that was, that had to be heavy news, and I wasn't there for you to…"

"Liv," Elliot cut her off, holding a finger to her lips. "Be quiet, baby. You shouldn't be talking. Besides, have you forgotten that the only reason you weren't there for me to talk to was because you threw yourself in front of me when he tried to kill me? I think I can forgive you! And…I'm dealing with it. The only two people who know, and who would tell her, are dead. It just put things into perspective for me. My whole adult life has been a lie. I married Kathy out of obligation, out of responsibility, and today, the day that marriage ends, I find out Maureen isn't even mine. It pisses me off that if I had known, I wouldn't have married her, and this whole time, Liv, I could have been happy with you. Guilt free."

"Kids," Olivia's voice scratched, her eyes narrowing.

"Oh, baby, don't get me wrong, I love my kids, with all my heart," Elliot said. "I just can't believe I wasted seventeen years, believing I was doing the right thing by being with someone I only just sort of loved, was never really in love with, because she lied to me."

Cragen, from the doorway, sniffling, said, "Sometimes, Elliot, we lie because even we aren't too sure of the truth. Sometimes we lie because we think it's too late to tell truth, and because we know the truth will destroy the lives of people you love, very much." He took a step into the room, and sighed. He looked at Elliot, then into Olivia's questioning eyes as he said, "At the risk of losing both of you, I'm going to tell you the truth."

A/N: What? Was that a heavy chapter or what? There are a lot of unanswered questions, I know that. That's the point of a first chapter, right? ;) Reviews? Please?