Title: Primal Scream
Pairing: Michael Cutter/Ryan O'Halloran
Fandom: Law & Order/Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
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.
***Ryan sat up in bed next to Michael, his eyes flying open, a scream lodged in his throat. His hand was on his chest, expecting to feel a ragged hole there, encrusted with his own blood. He was sure that he was dead, killed by a psychopath with no conscience.
No, he wasn't dead. He couldn't be, not if he was here next to Mike. He still had his life, and his lover was sleeping safely beside him. He took a deep breath, running a hand over his face, pushing strands of damp hair back with a shaking hand.
He was alive. He had survived Stuckey's attack; he had met Mike Cutter, and they were here together now. His life was on the right track; he was moving in with Mike, he was in love, he no longer worked for the same forensics lab where he'd almost lost his life.
And Stuckey was behind bars. He didn't have to worry about looking over his shoulder; that psycho would never get out of the place he was in. He'd spend the rest of his life there, locked away from society, in the place he belonged.
Ryan was safe. So was Mike. So why were his nightmares getting worse?
He took a deep, gasping breath, then another. Closing his eyes, Ryan struggled to keep his composure, to hold back the primal scream that he could feel building inside him. He couldn't scream. He couldn't cry out, he couldn't do anything to wake his boyfriend.
It wasn't just the nightmares that were getting worse -- it was the tricks his subconscious mind had been playing on him. Those nightmares were no longer accurate memories of that night from hell; they were being embellished with much worse scenarios other than what had actually happened.
Tonight's dream had been the worst. He didn't want to remember it, but every nightmare image seemed to cling to his mind, wrapping around his brain and forcing themselves into his mind's eye until he could almost believe they actually had happened to him.
Ryan took another breath, unable to hold back a sob as he did so. It took him a moment to realize that he was crying; tears were streaming down his face, his chest heaving with sobs that needed to be let out, quick indrawn breaths tearing at his throat.
"Ryan? What's the matter, sweetheart?"
Mike was awake, sitting up in bed beside him, those strong arms wrapping around his waist and pulling him close against the other man's warm body. Ryan curled up in Mike's arms, abandoning himself to his tears, not entirely sure just where they were coming from.
Why was he crying? Was it a long-delayed reaction to almost being murdered, or was it that his mind was reaching back for other memories that he'd tried to bury, memories that were only now starting to come to the surface and insisting that he couldn't ignore them any more?
His boyfriend was holding him close, one arm around his waist, the other hand running gently through his hair. Ryan gulped back his tears, taking deep breaths and trying to calm himself down. He would never be able to explain this to Mike if he couldn't speak properly.
Could he explain it to Mike at all? He wasn't quite sure himself of what was wrong; it wasn't just the bad dream, but a memory that had surfaced in the back of his mind -- putting a face and a name to a voice that had haunted him for several years.
He didn't want to talk about that memory; he'd never told anyone what had happened, not even after he began working as a forensics tech for SVU. He had almost been able to convince himself that it had been a dream, a nightmare, something that had happened to someone else.
But it hadn't happened to someone else. It had happened to him. And now it was coming back to haunt him, no matter how much he tried to push it away. Ryan swallowed hard, squeezing his eyes tightly shut as though he could block out the memory by doing so.
"Ryan, what is it? Tell me, sweetheart. Maybe I can help."
That primal scream was rising in him again, but the sound of Mike's voice helped to push it back. He had to talk to his lover; he had to tell Michael what had happened all those years ago. He had to finally talk about it, get it out in the open and out of his head.
How did he tell his boyfriend something like this? He'd never talked to anyone about it before; he couldn't just blurt it out, let the words come spilling forward. It would shock the hell out of Mike, and Ryan wouldn't blame him if he walked away.
He had to say something. Clearing his throat, he sat up, gulping and pushing back the lump in his throat. He had to speak calmly and clearly, and try to keep his composure. People talked about this kind of thing to strangers every day, he reminded himself. He could do this.
How did he start? Cautiously, Ryan lifted his face to Mike's, relieved by the look of love and affection he saw on his boyfriend's face. Mike wasn't going to turn him away because of what he had to say. This man would stand by him, no matter what he heard tonight.
"The nightmares are getting worse, aren't they?" Mike asked softly before Ryan had a chance to get any words out. Those strong arms were around him, holding him close, comforting him. "Maybe you need to talk to a therapist about what happened, Ryan."
"It .... it's not just that," Ryan began, feeling that the only way to get the words out was just to say them and let Mike react naturally. He shouldn't try to prepare his boyfriend for this. "They're not just nightmares from what Stuckey did to me. They're ..... memories. From way before that."
Mike's brow furrowed in a frown. "You mean repressed memories that are just coming back now?"
Ryan nodded, taking a deep breath and closing his eyes. "Mike, I-I should have told you this a long time ago, when we first got together. I ...." His voice trailed off; he didn't want to say the words, but he knew that he had to get them out, for his own peace of mind. "I was raped a few years ago."
"Wh-what?" Michael sounded startled; not just startled, but shocked to his soul. "Ryan, you were raped and you didn't report it? It's way too late to get any evidence and bring your rapist to justice now." The other man's arm around his waist tightened, drawing him closer.
"I was ashamed," Ryan whispered, bowing his head and closing his eyes. "Embarrassed. Back then, I was convinced that kind of thing didn't happen to guys. I felt like I should have fought back harder. I didn't want anybody to know what had happened."
Mike nodded, brushing his lips gently across Ryan's hair. "I understand, sweetheart," he whispered, his voice soft and gentle, breaking a little on the last words. "I just wish we could catch the bastard. I wish we could find him and make him pay for what he did to you."
"We might already have found him," Ryan murmured, unable to keep his voice from trembling. "Mike .... I remember a lot more about my rapist now than I used to. It's like Stuckey attacking me broke down a wall that I'd put up around that memory."
"So you think you know who your rapist was?" Mike asked, his eyes widening.
"I'm positive I know who it was," Ryan said, his voice sounding hollow to his own ears. "The nightmares bring it all back so clearly. I couldn't see his face -- he had me on my stomach with my face pressed into a pillow -- but I could hear his voice. I'll never forget it."
It wasn't only that, he added to himself. It was the fact that Stuckey had tried to rape him before .... before he'd sunk that deadly knife into his chest. Stuckey had tried to bend him over the table and yank his pants down; he could remember the feeling of helplessness, the wave of panic that had risen in him.
He remembered that feeling all too well. It had come rushing back to him in those few seconds when he'd been bent over that table, when he'd felt Stuckey pulling at his clothes, before he'd mustered the strength to turn around and fight.
He knew exactly who had raped him on that night he'd tried so hard to push into the back of his mind. He had never forgotten that voice, and he was surprised that he hadn't put two and two together and come up with four a lot sooner than he had.
Or maybe he had, and he just hadn't wanted to admit it to himself. He hadn't wanted to open up a situation that could create problems for him, or that could embroil him in a court case that he might lose. He'd been afraid to come forward, afraid to say anything.
Oh yes, he knew who had raped him. He was positive. There was no doubt.
How was he going to tell Mike? He'd never breathed a word of this to anyone; it was harder to get the words out than he'd thought it would be. He was struggling with them, trying to fight back that primal scream that wanted to rise from the depths of his soul.
No. He wasn't going to scream. He was going to tell Mike what had happened, who had raped him, all of the details that he could remember, if that was what he had to do. He was finally going to get it out into the open, let the truth be known.
He couldn't keep holding this in. He'd done it for too long already -- but he hadn't been able to come forward about it before with any conclusive proof. He hadn't even been sure until tonight that he was right; but now, he knew the truth, and he couldn't turn away from it.
Nothing had ever been this hard for him to say before. But he knew that he had to get the words out -- and who better to tell than the man who loved him? Ryan looked up at Mike, their gazes meeting and holding for what seemed like an eternity.
When Ryan finally spoke, his voice was so low that he wasn't sure Mike had heard his words.
"Stuckey was the one who raped me," he whispered, closing his eyes and gulping back another sob. That primal scream was even closer to the surface now, and Ryan knew that if he didn't let it out soon, the need to release that sound would destroy him.