Title: A Little More Personal
By: angstytimelord
Pairing: Michael Cutter/Ryan O'Halloran
Fandom: Law & Order/Law & Order: SVU
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: This is entirely a product of my own imagination, and I make no profit from it. I do not own the lovely Michael Cutter or Ryan O'Halloran, just borrowing them for a while. Please do not sue.

***

Mike couldn't keep back a smile as he bounded up the steps of the brownstone apartment building where Ryan lived, checking his watch to make sure that he wasn't late. He'd told the young man that he'd be here at six, and he'd worried about making it on time.

Ryan had been released from the hospital yesterday, with admonitions by the doctors to take it easy and not to do anything that would tax his strength. In another three days, he'd be testifying against Stuckey, and the whole ugly incident of his attempted murder would be over.

Mike was positive that they would get a conviction; after all, Stuckey had confessed to everything he'd done, and had seemed especially annoyed at himself for failing to make sure that Ryan was dead. He'd even said that he wished he had second chance to "do the job right."

Mike hated him for that; he wanted to see the ugly, arrogant little bastard behind bars for the rest of his life, where he belonged. If he had his way about it, he would make sure that Stuckey never saw the light of day again, unless it was from a prison exercise yard.

But at least that was all behind them now -- or would be once Ryan testified, Mike corrected himself. He checked the names on the mailboxes, raising a hand to knock on the door he was standing in front of and hoping that he didn't look too windblown.

The door opened before he'd even had a chance to knock, and Ryan was standing there, smiling at him and looking even more gorgeous than he had the few times that Mike had been to see him in the hospital. He could almost feel his heart turning over in his chest at the sight.

He'd thought that Ryan was beautiful when he'd first seen the other man lying in a hospital bed, looking pale and wan, recovering from an attempt on his life. But now that he was on his feet and feeling better, he was beyond beautiful. To Mike, he was irresistible.

He was wearing a Harvard sweatshirt and faded jeans, his hair tousled; he'd obviously been in the shower recently. His dark hair was damp, and Mike had to force himself not to brush back a few errant stands of hair while he leaned forward to kiss those tempting lips.

No, he told himself, no kissing, no touching. Not now, not yet. All he wanted to do was to take Ryan in his arms and press his lips against the other man's with a long, satisfying pressure -- and then make their way to the bedroom.

It was no use thinking like that, he told himself sternly. He and Ryan couldn't start any kind of a personal relationship until the trial was over, and Stuckey had been convicted. He didn't want anyone to accuse him of prejudicial actions, or anything that could sabotage the case.

He owed it to Ryan to send that bastard to prison for the rest of his life. In truth, he thought that Benson deserved to be there as well, or at least to have her shield stripped from her and never be able to endanger an innocent person's life again.

But unfortunately, the bitch was going to get away with her callous indifference towards Ryan. Mike only hoped that he would never have to deal with her again; he had no respect whatsoever for her, and found her attitude and actions utterly repulsive.

That wasn't something he needed to think about now, though. Mike pushed those thoughts away as he stepped into Ryan's apartment, letting the young man take his coat as he looked around the place. He liked what he saw; the apartment seemed to reflect Ryan's tastes.

He already knew that the other man liked books and music, that he wasn't too into sports, and that he was something of an intellectual. Mike had to admit that Ryan was a lot like him -- other than the fact that he himself was an inveterate baseball fan.

"I was worried you might be late," Ryan murmured, blushing slightly as Mike looked around. "I guess I should admit that I cleaned the place up three times while I was waiting for you. I'm kind of a neat freak, and I wanted it to look spotless."

"It's a nice place," Mike said softly, his words sincere. It was a small apartment, but everything in it was something that obviously meant a great deal to Ryan; the young man had chosen his furnishings with an eye for quality and good taste.

As much as he wanted to take Ryan into his arms and kiss him now that they were behind closed doors, Mike didn't dare to make that kind of a move. There was no one watching, of course, but he had promised himself that they would wait until after the trial.

Besides, if either of them was asked whether or not their personal relationship had started before Stuckey had been brought to trial, he wanted to be able to answer with a clear conscience. And he didn't want anything to come out that might give that criminal a loophole.

"Even nicer now that there's somebody in it I care about," Ryan said, his voice soft and husky. Mike's eyes widened at his words, but he didn't take the hint. He moved back a step, raising his hands in front of him and shaking his head.

"Ryan, as much as I want to --" he began, before the young man put a finger to his lips. He didn't say anything further, simply looking into Ryan's eyes and waiting to see what he would have to say. Mike wasn't sure that it would be what he wanted to hear.

"Hey, I know that we've got to lie low before the trial is over," Ryan told him, his gaze locking on Mike's. "Tonight is just you coming to see me to brief me on testifying, since I've never had to do it before. I just really wanted to see you before this starts."

Mike nodded, sighing in relief. He'd been worried that Ryan might want to jump into this too quickly and start something before it was safe for them to be together. But fortunately, he seemed to have a good head on his shoulders -- and to understand the risks.

"So, what were your plans for tonight?" he asked as Ryan took his hand and led him into the kitchen. It was just as neat as the living room, with two places set at the table and two glasses of what appeared to be white wine next to them.

"I thought we'd have Chinese takeout -- if that's okay with you," Ryan said, sounding apologetic. "I'm not really much of a cook, so I eat out most of the time. And I know we can't exactly go out publicly yet, at least not unless we make it look like a professional thing."

Mike couldn't help laughing wryly at those words. "I seriously doubt either one of us could keep things on that level, so we'd better not risk going out in public until after all this is over," he said, trying to keep his tone light. "I'll settle for being here."

"Right," Ryan said, his voice brisk. He was obviously trying to keep things from getting too personal -- or too close. As much as a part of Mike regretted that, he knew tht for the moment, it was necessary. "For now, we can just say that you came over to talk about the trial."

"Ryan -- that's all we can talk about, really," Mike said gently, shaking his head. "I'm not going to get too personal right now. It's not that I don't want to, but -- it's best if we don't get too close, so we can answer any questions with clear consciences."

Ryan looked surprised at first, before nodding slowly and taking a deep breath. "You're right," he said, his smile looking more strained and forced than it had a moment ago. "But damn, I want to get closer to you. I'll be glad when this is over and we can get a little more personal."

"So will I," Mike told him, his own voice soft and gentle. "Believe me, Ryan, I want to be with you, and I'll be glad when the time comes that we can. But it's not now -- as much as we both want it to be." He felt terrible to let Ryan down like this.

"But we can still have dinner and discuss the case and me testifying, right?" Ryan looked concerned, as though he was having second thoughts about their evening. "If you don't think you should be here, then I guess you should go. Even though I don't want you to."

Mike shook his head, feeling relieved. "No, I don't have to go," he said, glad that Ryan hadn't asked him to leave, or been angry at what he'd said. "We can definitely have dinner and discuss what it'll be like on the stand. That's business, after all."

Ryan nodded, the smile back on his face. "Good. Then I'll call and order dinner, and we can talk. Not like we can't slip some personal things in there too, right?" he said, quirking an eyebrow. "After all, it's good for you to get to know your witness."

"I don't usually get to know my witnesses this well -- but there's a first time for everything," Mike told him with a laugh, sitting down at the kitchen table. "Now, what are we going to order?" he asked, holding out his hand for one of the takeout menus.

He and Ryan might have to wait for a bit before they could embark on a relationship, he thought as he watched the other man pick up his cell phone and dial the restaurant number. But something told him that what they could share would be well worth the wait.

***