TITLE: Night Out, Part 1 of 2

CHARACTERS: Mike/Scarlett (really Mark/Scarlett)


NOTES: This is so much longer than I intended. Stick with it, because I think it pays off. Plus, I wrote Ned! I love Ned!

SUMMARY: When Mark finds out that Scarlett is out at a bar, he has to make sure she doesn't go home with anyone else.

"I love you!" Ned called, taking a moment's pause from World of Warcraft.

Mike stopped with his hand on the door handle. He couldn't help the smirk that crept across his face.

"Love you too!" he shouted back.

He was on his way to his house. Well, Scarlett's house. Whatever. He was going over there to practice with Alex. They had a game coming up. Man, that felt weird to even think about. He had to practice for a high school basketball game with his son. His grin widened as he got in his, well technically Ned's, car and sped off down the road.

Hopefully Scarlett needed some help in the garden. Sure, she'd finished the overall product, but there had to be some routine maintenance to do. Pruning, something like that. He saw the way her eyes moved toward his torso when he peeled off his shirt to work.

Alex was already practicing his three-pointers when Mike pulled into the driveway, and took his friend's arrival as an opportunity to slip into the house for a glass of water. Mike surreptitiously peeked into every room along the way for a glimpse of Scarlett, but had no such luck. It was then that he realized he hadn't seen her van parked in the driveway.

"Water?" Alex offered, holding out a glass.

"No thanks. Hey, where's your mom?" Mike asked in reply.

Alex frowned, and a long silence stretched between them.

"What?" Mike asked, finally.

"Dude, your obsession with my mom is getting seriously creepy," Alex said with a distinct tone of disgust.

Mike tried for surprise, but may have overshot it.

"What? What obsession? There is no obsession," he exclaimed defensively.

"Yeah, okay," Alex said with a roll of his eyes.

"No, I was just wondering why she wasn't home," Mike insisted.

"Oh, of course," Alex replied, putting his now empty glass in the sink.

"So… where is she?" Mike prodded, following as Alex exited the kitchen.

Alex let out a little snort, but answered anyways.

"She went out with her friend."

Mike scurried after his son, scowling.

"Who, Naomi?" he asked.

"It's pronounced 'Nay-oh-mee.'" Alex corrected offhandedly.

"I don't care," Mike said sharply. "Where did they go?"

Alex paused just before he reached the door and gave Mike a deeply suspicious glare.

"What?" Mike asked innocently, with a laugh that suggested he had no idea why his friend was being so distrustful.

Alex rolled his eyes again, but decided to indulge his friend.

"I don't know, dinner and then some bar," he said as they walked back out onto the driveway.

"Which bar?" Mike asked with a forced air of apathy.

"Dude. I don't. Know," Alex snapped, his patience worn thin.

"Great," Mike grumbled. Then, noticing that Alex was staring again, he amended his statement with an overly jubilant statement. "I mean, that's great, really, for your mom to be out there, having fun."

"Yeah, I guess," Alex shrugged, grabbing the basketball and bouncing it a few times experimentally.

Mike frowned. Did his son really care so little that his mother was moving on to someone new?

"Do you really think so? I mean, doesn't it bother you to see your mother going out to a bar to score a date when she's not even divorced from your dad yet?" he demanded.

Alex abruptly stopped bouncing the ball and clutched it between his hands.

"Mark, you can be kind of a dick, you know that?" he gritted out.

"Sorry," Mike muttered.

Even though he hated to see his son in pain, it was nice to know that he wasn't nearly as indifferent about Scarlett's seeing other men as he tried to make it seem.

"Listen man, if you're not going to focus on playing then maybe you should just go," Alex snarled.

"No man, really, I'm sorry. Let's play," Mike replied apologetically.

Alex begrudgingly agreed, and Mike didn't mention Scarlett's night out to him again. They played well after the sunset, but the floodlights over the garage (the ones Mike installed three years earlier) provided more than enough light for a little one-on-one.

Mike was playing hard, anything to distract himself from the image of his wife going home with some stranger from a bar. Try as he might, the troubling idea kept floating back to the forefront of his mind, and Alex would occasionally get in a shot that he never would have otherwise. It wasn't until after eight that Alex begged off another round.

"Man, did you take something before you got here?" he panted.

"Take something?" Mike repeated.

"I don't know. You just seem like you can go non-stop. We've been playing for hours and you don't even look tired. I'm about to keel over onto the petunias."

Mike smirked.

"Don't worry, buddy. I'd roll you over before you did any permanent damage to your mom's landscaping."

"Thanks," Alex said sarcastically. "You're a true friend."

Mike stopped dribbling.

"So are you saying you're getting vewwy vewwy tiwed and it's past your bedtime?" he teased.

Alex flipped him off, and Mike had to tamp down the urge to scold his son.

"Yes, you freak of nature, I can't play any longer tonight. Why don't you go run your nightly marathon or drag an eighteen wheeler down the street by your teeth or whatever it is you do before bed."

Mike laughed out loud, and waved to Alex as he disappeared into his house. It was then that he realized that without a game to distract him, he would go crazy thinking about Scarlett. He raced home with a single purpose in mind.

"Ned, I need your help!" he shouted a foot into the door.

"Little busy!" Ned called out.

Mike jogged the distance to the computer room to find Ned still playing WoW.

"You're not busy. You're fighting a midget on your computer," he argued.

"I'm in the middle of a very perilous mission against an army of orcs," Ned protested, gesturing angrily at the monitor.

Mike barely heard the retort.

"Whatever, this is life or death, Ned. This is my family that needs saving, not some orcs!"

Ned scoffed at his friend's ignorance.

"I'm not saving the orcs, I'm slaughtering them. Saving them would be insane," he insisted.

"Yes. Insane. Are you going to help me or not?" Mike urged.

Ned made a big show of sighing before he exited his game.

"What do you need?" he asked in exasperation.

"I need to figure out which bar Scarlett went to with Naomi tonight," Mike explained simply.

Ned frowned.

"Like, with psychic energy, or witchcraft, or—"

"What? No!" Mike interrupted. "Like, with her cell phone signal or something. You can do that, right?"

Ned stared at him as he he'd just transformed into an orc.

"Sure, Mike. It's no problem at all because we're actually on the show CSI," he snapped.

"Come on, isn't there something you can do?" Mike nagged.

Ned smiled.

"Oh yeah, I can totally do that. I was just messing with you," he replied genially.

Mike resisted the urge to hit his friend, and tried to make himself productive.

"So what do we do?" he asked.

"Well first you need to send her a text message," Ned explained.

"What? Why?" Mike demanded.

Ned tilted his head to the side and shot Mike an impatient look.

"Do you really want me to explain the science, or can you just go with me here," he asked.

Conceding the point, Mike pulled out his iPhone and started to fiddle with the keys. Ned groaned in frustration before snatching the phone from his hands.

"Hey!" Mike protested.

"Seriously, I can't stand to see you struggle with this simple piece of technology," Ned muttered.

"The keypad is weird!" Mike objected.

"You're weird," Ned quipped.

"Oh, real mature."

"Don't talk to your father that way," Ned scolded before handing Mike the phone. "There. Sent."

"Wait, hey! What did you send?" Mike asked.

"I just said, 'Don't get freaky with anyone tonight,'" Ned replied with a shrug.

Mike's eyes widened, and he nearly threw his phone at Ned's head.

"WHAT? What the hell is wrong with you?" he bellowed.

"Kidding!" Ned chortled. "I wrote, 'Just wanted to let you know I kicked your son's ass at one-on-one.'"

"Oh. That works, I guess," Mike said, still recovering from his anxiety.

"Okay, now I just have to hack into the CDR to see which cell phone tower she's closest to and we'll work from there."

"CDR?" Mike prompted.

"Call data record," Ned answered absently, his fingers flying across the keyboard. "Okay, she's within 13 miles of the tower in sector J."

"Which means…"

"Which means all we need to do is run a quick search of bars in that radius and…"

Ned's voice trailed off, replaced by the clicking of keys.

"She's either at 'Infusions' or 'McFeeney's.'" he said triumphantly a moment later.

"Gotta be McFeeney's," Mike said, heading out of the room.

"Why?" Ned called out.

"Infusions is too pretentious. Not Scarlett's scene at all," Mike explained.

"What if Naomi chose the place?" Ned asked.

Mike froze mid-step.

"Definitely Infusions," he decided.

Confirming that his keys were in his pocket, he started down the stairs.

"Wait, where are you going?" Ned called again, following him downstairs.

"Were you not here for our conversation?" Mike asked impatiently.

"Dude, look at yourself," Ned said. "What bar is going to let you in?"

It was then that Mike realized he was still wearing gym shorts and a dirty T-shirt. Also, he smelled.

"Shit. You're right. This is why you're a genius," he informed his friend.

As he made his way upstairs for the quickest shower and change of his life, Ned called after him.

"Yes, I just single-handedly tracked down your wife by her cell phone signal but noticing that you're still dressed like Richard Simmons is why I'm a genius!"

But Mike was already halfway to the shower. Shaking his head, Ned decided to leave Mike with one last piece of advice. He shouted up the stairs.

"When you're choosing your outfit, remember one word, my friend: 'Peacocking!'"