Title: Professional Veneer
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.


"You can go in to see him now, Mr. Cutter."

Mike looked up from the magazine he'd been flipping through, surprised that the nurse had called him so soon. He wasn't sure that he wanted to deal with this case, but he had to talk with the young forensics tech who had so nearly lost his life.

Ryan O'Halloran had nearly died on the operating table; when Benson had first found him, she'd thought he was already dead. Fortunately, he'd managed to hold on, barely clinging to life through the long moments that it had taken two detectives to subdue his attacker.

But all of that was over now, and Ryan's assailant was in custody. They needed him to testify, but for the moment, all Mike needed to do was talk with him, to hear his story and get all the facts before he started to put the case together.

Rising to his feet, he nodded at the nurse, following her down the hall to Ryan's room. This shouldn't take too long; he didn't want to tire the other man, and he was never at his best around people in the hospital, anyway. Places like this made him nervous.

Taking a deep breath, he entered the room, his eyes going immediately to the pale face on the pillow. His eyes widened, and he felt his pulse start to pound erratically.

Why had nobody told him that Ryan O'Halloran was an absolutely gorgeous man?

He hadn't felt like this since he was a schoolboy with his first crush on a senior guy who'd never look at him twice. First hot, then cold, a nervous fluttering in the region of his stomach that he was sure was a multitude of butterflies being released.

"Hi, Ryan." They were the only words that Mike could force out of his suddenly constricted throat, but they were the first words that needed to be said, weren't they? "I'm Mike Cutter. I'm here to take your statement about what happened."

"Hey," Ryan said, his voice soft, a fleeting smile barely curving his lips. "Cragen told me you'd be coming. I didn't think it'd be this soon, but I'm up for this if you are." He started to sit up, wincing slightly and closing his eyes for just a moment.

"No, don't try to sit up," Mike told him, feeling a little uncomfortable and wondering if he should put out a hand to make the young man lie down again. He found himself wanting to touch Ryan, but that somehow seemed too much of a liberty to take.

"It's okay," Ryan assured him, slowly elevating himself slightly by placing two pillows behind his back. "There. It just takes me a couple of minutes to get myself situated." He winced again, then gave Mike a wan smile. "Guess it'll be a while before I'm back at work."

"Do you want to go back?" Mike asked, surprised. After what had happened to Ryan, he would have thought that the forensics lab was the last place he'd want to see.

"Yeah, I do." The look in Ryan's eyes became steely, almost resentful. "I'm not going to let that twisted bastard take away the one thing in my life I've ever felt like I was good at. I'm going to get the hell out of here and get back to work as soon as I can."

"You almost died," Mike said softly, amazed at the young man's resilience -- and at his determination not to let what had happened to him turn him against his work, or make him afraid to resume it. "You need to take some time away from work to fully recover."

Ryan grinned at him, then shrugged; the movement made him wince again.

"Shouldn't have done that," he said, moving a hand to his shoulder. "I keep forgetting that I can't make a lot of sudden moves. It's so damn hard to get used to being in a bed all the time, when I'm used to being up and about and staying active."

I'd like to get you in bed, Mike thought, a gasp almost coming to his lips when he realized that he had nearly said the words out loud. His eyes met Ryan's, noting the almost imperceptible widening of the young man's eyes as they stared into his.

Somehow, Ryan knew what he was thinking. And if he wasn't mistaken, there were waves of interest moving between them. He couldn't ask point-blank if Ryan was gay, but somehow, Mike was sure that he didn't need the verbal confirmation.

"So, you've got some questions to ask me, huh?" Ryan said, raising an eyebrow. "I'd prefer to start with the more personal stuff, but go ahead. Fire away."

"Personal stuff?" Mike inquired, trying to keep the talk on a professional level. After all, he was here in a job capacity; at the moment, he was the EADA, not a man who was visiting a friend in the hospital. Or, to put it more honestly, a man who was picking up someone in the hospital.

That made him sound like a pervert, Mike thought, wincing slightly at the thought. What kind of person wanted to make a date with someone who was recovering from nearly losing their life? He was worse than some of the perps he helped to put away.

"I don't mind, y'know," Ryan said softly, looking amused.

"Don't mind what?" Mike was prevaricating, trying and failing to keep the conversation on a professional level. Somehow, that hadn't worked from the moment he'd taken one look at Ryan and seen, not a victim that he was questioning, but a man he wanted to spend time with.

"I don't mind if you're attracted to me," Ryan told him, the amused tone in his voice stronger with each word. "I think it's pretty obvious that we like each other. This is supposed to be professional, but would it be so bad if you came back after work in a more relaxed mode?"

"It wouldn't be bad at all," Mike said softly, his heart rate speeding up again. "Let me get this straight -- you're telling me that you know I'm attracted to you, that you feel the same way, and you want me to come back to .... errrr .... talk later?"

Ryan nodded, flashing a smile at him. "Bingo. No use beating around the bush, is there? We both know what we want. No sense in holding back."

Mike could do nothing but nod in agreement, his gaze still fixed on the other man's face. He'd never met anyone as honest and upfront as Ryan -- but he had to admit that it was refreshing to meet someone who had everything out in the open right from the start.

The start? Was he actually planning on starting a relationship with this man? Mike found himself smiling at the thought; there was something very appealing about the idea of coming home to Ryan every night, spending time with him, sharing their lives.

He was jumping ahead too far, Mike told himself sternly. For all he knew, Ryan wasn't ready for anything more than casual dating, and here he was planning their lives together! They'd have to take things slowly -- but he could be a patient man.

Clearing his throat, Mike picked up his briefcase, removing a few papers.

"Okay then, ready to give me your statement?" he asked, settling back in his chair with a smile. "Don't worry, I'll be back later. We can talk about .... other things then," he promised, gratified by the light in Ryan's eyes and the smile on his lips.

What was he getting into? He'd never thought about dating someone who actually worked in any capacity for the police force before. But Ryan was irresistible; he hadn't expected that this young man would have his heart in those capable hands the moment he'd walked through the door.

How long was he going to be able to keep up this professional veneer? Not long, Mike told himself wryly. Judging by the look on Ryan's face, they were both going to be a lot more comfortable when he came back later tonight -- and they were able to talk about much more important matters.