Title: Talk on Corners
Fandom: Law & Order
Pairing: Michael Cutter/Jack McCoy
Table: Amnesty in January, 5_prompts
Prompt: 2, from Table 24 -- People talk
Disclaimer: This is entirely a product of my own imagination, and I make no profit from it. I do not own Michael Cutter or Jack McCoy, just borrowing them for a while. Please do not sue.
***Mike headed down the hallway to Jack's office, a frown on his face. He was used to Jack calling him into the office for "private consultations," but this hadn't sounded like the usual impromptu meetings they were having ith more and more frequency.
No, Jack had sounded very sober and serious, and Mike couldn't help but wonder if there was something in their personal relationship that was making the other man feel stressed at work. If that was so, then Jack might want to end things between them.
That couldn't be it, he thought, his hand going involuntarily to the gold chain that he always wore beneath his shirt. That collar meant something to both of them; it meant that their relationship was ongoing, and that neither of them wanted it to end.
Jack wouldn't have collared him if he was feeling that their relationship had to be put aside. He would know just how much that collar meant to Mike, and how it symbolized the feelings between them. He couldn't be thinking of throwing what they had built up away.
Jack would never do that. Their relationship meant as much to him as it did to Mike, even if he didn't always show it. Jack had other ways of letting Mike know just what an important part of his life that relationship was, without saying the words aloud.
Clearing his throat, Mike knocked on the door to Jack's office before he opened it. His gaze immediately fastened on the man sitting behind the desk, surprised to see Jack looking so serious, almost stern. That look made his heart begin to hammer in his chest.
What if he'd been wrong, and Jack had decided to end their relationship? All he could do was wait and see what the other man would say, but judging from Jack's expression, Mike didn't think that those words would be anything he wanted to hear.
Closing the door, he made his way to the comfortable leather chair in front of Jack's desk, sitting down slowly and leaning back. His gaze met the other man's, but he didn't want to break the silence; whatever Jack had called him in here for, he wanted his boss to speak first.
"It's not what you think," Jack said softly, shaking his head. "I know that look, Mike."
"How do you know what I think?" Mike countered, a little annoyed that Jack seemed to think he was so predictable, so easily read. "I might be thinking something completely different than you are. Don't jump to conclusions with me, Jack."
"You're right, I don't know what you think." Jack leaned back, training his intense gaze on Mike. "But I think I know you well enough by now to have some idea of what you're feeling. And I can tell you that you don't have to worry about me ending it."
Mike nodded, releasing a pent-up breath. "Okay, yeah, so that's what I was thinking when you called me in here," he admitted, leaning forward, his elbows on his knees. "So, what is it? Whatever you've got to say, it's obviously something pretty serious."
"We've got to either stop spending so many nights together at my house, or come up with a damn good reason for you to be there as much as you are," Jack told him, his voice flat. "People talk, Mike. And the rumors are starting to fly."
Mike couldn't his surprise from showing; his eyes widened, and he gasped aloud before he could hold the sound back. "What? I thought people would just assume we're working on cases. That's why I always carry my briefcase when I come to your house."
"That might have worked for a while, but anybody who knows you also knows that you're a damn good ADA," Jack pointed out. "They know that you don't need to discuss cases with me so often. You never did before, so why are you consulting me so much all of a sudden?"
Mike sat back, nodding reluctantly. Jack was right; he had been spending a lot of nights at his lover's house, far too many for it not to have been noticed by anyone who might have seen him going up the front steps, or recognized his car parked there.
He should have known that there would be talk on corners about the fact that he was at Jack's house so much at night lately. And when he left, it was usually during the small hours of the morning. Even though he wasn't there every night, it was often enough.
How long had he thought that they were going to get away with not being noticed? He'd simply stuck his head in the sand, like an ostrich, and refused to see that they would have to be more cautious about their relationship, if they didn't want it to be discovered.
"So what are we going to do?" he asked, feeling at a loss for any solution. The only thing that he could think of was either not seeing each other at Jack's house, which wasn't really an option -- or ending it, which appealed to him even less.
"The only thing we can do," Jack said with a sigh. "See less of each other at my home. And I can't come to yours, either. People would notice. A hotel is out of the question. So .... the only thing to do is to say that we're conferring on cases more, if you want to do that."
Mike knew what Jack was getting at. If people thought that he was discussing his cases more with Jack, they would see him as being indecisive and unable to do his job without the help of his boss. It could hurt his reputation, and that was one thing he didn't want.
He had worked long and hard to get where he was. He had built up the reputation of being a good lawyer, and being someone that people wanted to work with. He didn't want to lose that, not after he'd spent so much of his life working towards furthering his career.
But his life with Jack meant more to him than his career. He might lose a little prestige by saying that he was consulting his boss more about his work, but he would have time with Jack. And that meant more to him than anything else, even the career he'd worked so hard to establish.
It was up to him. His decision. His choice. Jack was making that clear.
"There isn't any other choice, is there?" he finally said, shaking his head. "I'll keep coming to your place, and people can say that I'm losing my touch and that I need to consult with my boss about my work all they want. I don't really care what they think."
"I don't want you to feel that I've compromised your reputation for doing good work, Mike," Jack said with a frown. "If that's going to bother you or cause problems between us, then I need to know now, so we can try to come up with some other solution to this."
Mike stared at him in surprise, his eyes widening. "You mean that if I don't decide to do this, you're willing to try to find another way for us to keep seeing each other/" he said, his voice hoarse. "I thought you'd leave it all up to me. It's more my problem than yours.'
Jack shook his head, a slight smile flitting across his features. "Of course I'd try to come up with another way. Giving you up isn't an option. Not at this point. And we can't get everything done here in my office." He laughed as he leaned back in his chair. "Even though it might be fun to try."
"I don't want to give up what we have, either," Mike murmured, touched by the fact that he obviously meant so much to Jack. "I'm willing to sacrifice my reputation to keep us safe. And it's not like people are going to talk for too long. They'll get used to me, errr, 'consulting' you."
"It shouldn't have an effect on your career in the long term," Jack said, looking thoughtful. "After all, you do good work, Mike. For all they know, I might just want to have more input into what the DA's office is doing. We don't have to give out any overt explanations."
"As long as our secret is safe, then I'm fine with it," Mike told him, involuntarily reaching up to his throat to touch the collar where it rested under his shirt again. "So I take it that I'll see you at your place tonight, then? As usual?"
Jack's nod and smile brought a lift to his spirits -- and to his heart. There might be talk on corners about him, but in the end, as long as he was with Jack, they were only words. Sticks and stones. In the world that he inhabited with his lover, those words could never reach him.