TITLE: Night Out, Part 2 of 2

CHARACTERS: Mike/Scarlett (really Mark/Scarlett)

RATING: R

NOTES: So here's part two. Less humor, more angst. Part 1 is here.

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.

The bouncer at Infusions took one languid look at him before deciding that checking ID wasn't worth his time. Mike flew past him and immediately began scanning the crowd for a full head of curly hair. It didn't take long.

There she was. Sitting at the bar.

Oh god, some guy was looming over her, his hand on her elbow. She laughed at what Mike had to assume was an incredibly lame joke, and then do you know what this dickhead did? He leaned in to whisper something in her ear, and as he did his free hand came down to rest on her knee.

Unacceptable. Un-fucking-acceptable. That was his wife, and some jerk's hand was on her knee. Of course, he couldn't very well march over to them and say that, because they would both look at him like he was insane. He needed a plan.

Mike watched Dickhead's hand inch up from Scarlett's knee, coming dangerously close to her thigh.

Screw the plan.

"Mrs. O'Donnell!" he shouted, fighting his way through the crowd until he stood beside her.

"Mark?" she said, squinting at him.

"Mark?" called a second voice.

"Naomi," he replied curtly.

"It's—"

He didn't even let her finish this time.

"I don't care. I'm here for Mrs. O'Donnell."

"What's wrong?" Scarlett asked.

Mike almost threw a triumphant fist in the air when he saw Dickhead excuse himself and slink away.

"Mark!" Scarlett said, louder this time.

"Ah, it's uh… it's Maggie," Mike stuttered, blurting out the only thing he could think of that would necessitate him seeking her out in a bar at night.

"What? What happened to Maggie?" Scarlett demanded.

Realizing that he'd caused her to panic, Mike tried to alter his approach.

"No, nothing. I mean, she's not in any immediate danger, but uh, look could we find somewhere to talk for a second?" he asked.

"Yeah, of course," Scarlett said immediately.

"Honey, I don't think you should leave tall, dark, and handsome over there unattended," Naomi interjected, pointing to Dickhead, who was already schmoozing some redhead on the dance floor.

Mike couldn't help himself.

"Well, Naomi, if you had produced children in any one of your failed marriages you might realize that your own flesh and blood takes precedence over a quick fu—"

"Mark!" Scarlett gasped.

"Sorry," Mike said, not bothering to sound the least bit sorry.

Sliding unevenly from her bar stool, Scarlett grasped his arm and tugged.

"Come on," she said.

They found a deserted booth and slid in; Scarlett doing so with a graceless thump that tipped Mike off that she'd already had more than enough to drink.

"Okay. What's wrong with Maggie?" she asked again.

"It's the guy she's dating. That tool," Mark spat.

Scarlett frowned.

"Stan?" she provided.

"Yeah."

Scarlett tilted her head to the side and squinted at him again.

"Well, what about him?" she asked.

Mike sputtered for a moment, unable to think quickly on his feet.

"I just don't think he's good for her," he managed to say, finally.

Scarlett tilted her head a few degrees more.

"…And?" she prompted.

Mike gaped at her, astounded that she wasn't falling over herself to thank him for this news bulletin.

"And… that's it! What more do you need? He's a complete douchebag!"

Scarlett gave him a commiserating smile and shook her head.

"Mark, honey, I'm not crazy about him either, but that's not something I can fix at ten o'clock at night in the middle of a bar."

"No... No, it's not," he concurred.

"I got your text, by the way."

"Oh?" he said, distracted.

"Yeah. Congrats on kicking my son's ass at basketball."

She moved to get up from the booth, but just as she was straightening up, she wobbled dangerously.

He was there in an instant.

"I've got you," he assured her, one arm wrapped around her middle.

"Sorry, I've had a bit too much to drink, I guess. God, this is embarrassing," she admitted, pushing away from him once she'd regained her balance.

"If you've had too much, then why don't I drive you home," he offered.

Scarlett turned suddenly to face him, and she wobbled again.

"What? No. I mean, that's kind of the point of tonight," she explained.

"What is?"

"Get drunk and, you know…" she fell silent.

"What? Screw some guy?" he asked incredulously.

Her jaw dropped and then she began babbling.

"Mark! That is completely—and so not your business—I don't have to—Look, Naomi said—"

"Forget what Naomi said! Mrs. O'Donnell, you can't just throw yourself at some guy in a bar!" he said, his voice gaining volume.

"That's not what I'm doing!" she hissed, motioning for him to keep his voice down.

"Isn't it?" he insisted.

She shook her head vehemently before continuing.

"You don't understand what I'm going through right now, Mark. You're just a kid. You shouldn't even be here, and you certainly shouldn't be lecturing me on my decisions," she warned.

"Scarlett—" he began.

"And you shouldn't call me that either. It's Mrs. O'Donnell. I mean Ms. It's Ms. O'Donnell," she asserted.

And with that, she was off, back to the bar.

"Well that went well," Mike said aloud to no one in particular.

He didn't leave; He couldn't. Feeling uncomfortably like a voyeur, Mark continued to watch her from across the bar. Two drinks later she was on the dance floor with some new guy. This guy had a mustache. A mustache.

The DJ put on a slow song and suddenly 'Stache's hands were drifting way too low. Oh my god, way too low! What did this guy think he was doing, feeling up his wife in the middle of the dance floor? He couldn't see Scarlett's face. Was she smiling? Was she enjoying this? She couldn't be. No, she must be just praying for some guy to come and rescue her. Mike felt his feet taking him across the dance floor, and before he could stop himself, he was tapping 'Stache on the shoulder.

"Excuse me," he said.

'Stache pulled back from Scarlett and stared at him in confusion.

"Yes?" he asked.

"Mark," Scarlett said incredulously.

Throwing caution to the wind, Mike decided to make sure this guy got the hell away from his wife.

"Mrs. O'Donnell, I know you said it was just a one-time thing, but the rash won't go away, and I feel like there's something you're not telling me," he said.

Both Scarlett and 'Stache gawked at him for a second.

"You two look like you need a minute," 'Stache managed to stammer.

"No, wait, I can explain this," Scarlett said, trying to give the guy a reassuring smile.

"No, I'm gonna go," he said, detaching himself from her.

Scarlett watched him leave before swinging back around to glare at Mike.

"I can't believe you!"

"That guy was molesting you in public!" he accused.

"What are you still doing here?" she demanded.

"Mrs. O'Donnell, you're still married. This isn't right," he reasoned.

"Do you think this is easy for me? Do you think I want to be at a club at thirty-seven years old, trolling for men?" she asked.

Mike watched as tears flooded Scarlett's eyes, although none fell.

"No," he said.

"No! I don't. I feel bad enough about it without one of my son's friends tracking me down and throwing it all back in my face," she shouted.

"I'm not trying to make you feel worse," he muttered miserably.

"Really? Then you need to work on your approach," she snapped.

"Apparently. Look, I'm trying to tell you that you're too good for this," he tried.

"Yeah, right," Scarlett grumbled, rolling her eyes.

"No, you are," Mike insisted. "You're way too good to be acting like… Well, like her."

He pointed at Naomi, who was literally hanging off some guy by the bar, laughing unnaturally loudly.

"Doesn't that look sad?" Mike commented.

"God, it really does," Scarlett answered softly. "Is that how I looked?"

"No!" he said immediately. "No, you looked much less pathetic and much more sexy."

"Sexy?" she repeated, looking warily up at him.

"I mean… Crap. I just mean that you're too good to be acting like some desperate woman."

She winced.

"I am desperate."

"You're not," he said firmly.

"I must be. Why else would I be letting you hold me like this?" she challenged.

"What?" Mike asked, before he noticed that she was correct.

Without realizing it, Mike had wrapped one arm around Scarlett's lower back and his opposite hand was cradling hers. They were swaying to the god-awful music pumping through the speakers. His surprise only intensified when she gently lowered her cheek so that it was resting on his shoulder.

"Or maybe I'm just too drunk to realize how wrong this is," she mumbled.

"Huh?" he said dumbly, too focused on her closeness.

It felt so right, holding her like this. They'd danced together like this before, just before she left for her date with that douche who'd brought carnations. Seriously, carnations? He hadn't been that close to her since that night, and he'd be damned if he wasn't going to enjoy it now.

"I can't believe you made that guy think I have an STD," she slurred after about a minute of silent swaying.

"Shhh. Just dance with me," he whispered into her hair.

One song faded into another, and when Scarlett spoke again her mouth was close to his ear.

"At least there's still Steve," she sighed.

Mike frowned.

"Who?"

She nodded over toward the bar, and he saw the guy that she'd been talking to when he first walked in. Not Dickhead. No way was his wife going home with that guy.

They continued to dance. Mike tried to focus on the way Scarlett's warm breath caressed the juncture between his neck and shoulder instead of the thought of her going home with the man at the bar. Some other man kissing her. Some other man undressing her. Some other man touching her in their bed.

Finally, he couldn't take it anymore.

"Scarlett?" he murmured.

"Hm?" she said, pulling back just enough to drowsily meet his eyes.

God, it was killing him to see her like this, so sad and beautiful. He couldn't let anybody else have her.

"Don't go home with anybody else tonight," he whispered.

She got that little crinkle in her forehead then, the one that appeared when she drew her eyebrows together in confusion.

"Anybody else?" she echoed.

"What?"

"Does that mean I can go home with you?" she asked.

He froze. There was nothing innocent about that question. All he could manage to do was stutter.

"Um…"

"Oh my god, you look sooooo much like Mike," she murmured.

She took his face in her hands and they stopped swaying. He fully expected her to pull and push at his features like she did the first time she said that, in their driveway.

Instead she kept her hands firmly curled around the sides of his face and said, "I wonder if you taste like him too."

He was so surprised by her statement and he barely has a chance to react before her lips reached his.

"Mmph!"

She was kissing him.

Good god, was she ever! Mike could ignore the fact that she tasted too much like amaretto sours and focus instead of the sensations her tongue was creating on the inside edges of his lips. He thrust his tongue into her mouth, meeting her stroke for stroke. Her hands were almost painfully clutching his hair in an effort to get him even closer. His arms almost doubled over when he crossed them around her lower back, pulling her so close that he could practically feel every stitch on her dress through his shirt.

They separated for a second to breathe, and their eyes met. He saw uncertainty flicker in her eyes, and his arms tightened behind her back.

"Scar, don't stop," he pleaded.

He leaned forward gain to recapture her lips, but the moment had passed. Her small hands slid down his chest, holding him just inches from his goal.

"No, this is wrong," she said, sounding dazed but certain.

He searched her face for any sign of weakness, but saw none. He sighed, and unhooked his arms. She took a very clumsy step backwards, and that finalized his decision.

"Come on," he said gruffly. "We're leaving."

Her eyes widened.

"We?"

He blushed. He actually blushed.

"I mean, I'm bringing you home."

"You are?" She arched her eyebrow.

"Yes, Mrs. O'Donnell. You're too drunk for me to leave you here with a clean conscience. Come on, I'll drop you off at your house and then I'll go back to Ned's," he said matter-of-factly.

"Naomi's going to be pissed," she mused.

"Well, we'll just have to live with her disappointment," he replied.

He took her by the hand and started walking toward the door, relieved that she followed behind him without any further objections. As they passed the bar, Naomi's face popped out of the crowd.

"Hey, what's going on here?" she called.

"I'm taking her home," Mike shouted back, not bothering to stop.

"You're WHAT?"

Suddenly Scarlett yelped, and Mike turned back to see that Naomi had latched onto Scarlett's free arm and held fast. Frustrated, Mike approached Naomi.

"I'm the designated driver," he announced.

Naomi's eyes narrowed.

"What about me, then?" she asked.

"You have a cell phone, don't you?" Mike asked.

"Yeah."

"Call a cab. We'll pick the minivan up tomorrow," he said.

Mike barely heard her squawk of rage as he pulled Scarlett towards the exit. She was silent until they reached his car.

"You shouldn't be so mean to Naomi. She's my friend, you know," she said as she pulled open his passenger door.

"She's not a good friend then, is she?" he replied, circling around to the driver's side.

"Why would you say that?" she asked.

Mike looked her straight in the eye.

"She's sad and lonely, and seeks comfort in the arms of strange men at bars. She's trying to make you like her so she her life doesn't seem quite as bad."

Scarlett opened her mouth, but no words came out. After a moment, frowned and got into the car. It wasn't until she had buckled herself in that she replied.

"That's not true. She's helping me get over him."

"Apparently, she's not," Mike said pointedly, locking eyes with her.

Scarlett's face flushed, but she leaned forward to examine his features once again.

"It really is bizarre how much you look like him. Are you sure you're Ned's kid?" she asked, tracing her finger down the bridge of his nose.

"Pretty sure," Mike replied.

She was so close that he couldn't help himself. He leaned forward without warning and stole another kiss. It's not like it was wrong. Sure she was drunk, but he is her husband, even if she doesn't know it. It was just a quick, single kiss, but it felt amazing. When he pulled back, Scarlett kept her eyes closed.

"God, can you just be him for tonight?" she murmured.

"Who?" he asked.

"Mike. My husband. Ex-husband," she supplied.

She opened her eyes and looked at him pleadingly.

"You want me to be your husband?" he asked. He refused to add the 'ex.'

"Just for tonight. You look so much like him and I miss him so much," she continued.

He frowned.

"If you miss him that much, why are you getting a divorce?"

She laughed.

"I don't miss him now," she corrected.

"But you just said—"

"No, I mean I miss him like he was back when he looked like you," she explained.

"What?" he asked, pulling away from her.

What was she saying? She only liked him when he was young and handsome? Was this a purely physical thing? Was she no longer attracted to him because he'd lost the six-pack? Was he really that hideous now?

"I mean, back when he really loved me, you know?" she continued.

She might have slapped him in the face just then, and it would have hurt him less. She thought he didn't love her anymore?

"He still loves you. I mean, Ned told me that he does," he protested.

She smiled in a sad sort of way.

"I know he loves me. I mean, like any husband loves his wife. But he's not in love with me anymore."

"He is," Mike objected.

"He's not," she challenged. "He can't be. He hates his life, and that includes me. He doesn't want to live a life that includes me anymore." She swallowed hard, and he could tell that tears were threatening.

"I'm his biggest mistake," she concluded.

Without a moment's hesitation he put his hand on the back of her neck and pulled her lips back to his. He kissed her fiercely, because her words hurt so much that he couldn't bear to think about them anymore. It was not a gentle kiss. It was like he was trying to erase her words with his lips. She didn't seem to mind. On the contrary, she kissed him back with equal fervor, and when she pulled back, it was only to say,

"Be him—just for tonight."

Without waiting for his response, she crawled over the center console and he fumbled for the lever next to his seat until they both reclined. She was on top of him, straddling his thighs, kissing his neck.

It was only then that he considered her request.

Be him—just for tonight.

Why shouldn't he just go for it? After all, it's not like it would be immoral. He is him.

He tangled his fingers in her hair and gently tugged her back up to his lips. He moaned into her mouth when she began grinding against him. When they separated to breathe she murmured, "God, I miss you so much."

The words were like a bucket of ice water poured over him. He realized that he couldn't let her do this, because she didn't know he was him. She'd wake up tomorrow morning thinking that she'd become this sad, pathetic person who fucked some kid just because he looked like her husband. She'd never get over that.

He gently pushed her away and whispered, "I can't do this to you."

She immediately took his soft confession as rejection. He could see the hurt in her glassy eyes before he even finished the sentence.

"Oh my god," she moaned, pulling herself off of him and sliding back to her seat.

"Let me drive you home," he pleaded.

"I can't believe I just did that!" she whimpered, her eyes widening in horror.

"It's okay, Mrs. O'Donnell. You're drunk, and trust me, I wanted it. Let's just go home."

She looked agonized, replaying the last few minutes in her head.

"No, I have to get out of here. I'll just call a cab. Oh my god," she blurted out, frantically pawing at the door handle.

Mike hit the automatic locks before her uncoordinated hands could reach their objective.

She turned back to face him, and it broke his heart to see that she'd begun to cry.

"Scarlett," he started, reaching for her hand. She let him take it, although she couldn't bring herself to look at him anymore.

"You have no idea how much I want this," he continued. "I want this so badly because I'm terrified that this is my only chance to have you like this, ever again."

She let out a sob, and he wasn't even sure that she was listening to him, so he squeezed her hand and waited for her to meet his eyes again. When she did, he saw that her eyes were bleary and red, but god if she isn't as gorgeous as she was when she was seventeen.

"Doing this right now… Scarlett, it wouldn't be fair to either of us. I want this to happen when we both know exactly what it means. Otherwise, it won't be making love. And that is what I want to do with you."

She didn't understand the true meaning of his words, but that was okay. She might not even remember this in the morning. All that mattered was that he meant every word of it, in any way she might take it.

"Let me take you home. Please," he concluded.

She leaned her head back against her headrest and closed her eyes. Two tears rolled down her cheeks, but she nodded, and he didn't give her a chance to reconsider. Releasing her hand, he started the car and put it in gear.

She didn't look at him, not even once, on the ride home. He knew this because his eyes were on her more often than they were on the road.

They pulled into the driveway and he put the car in park, and he felt the need to say something else before she left.

"We don't ever have to talk about this again if you don't want to," he started. "But please know that you are beautiful, and any man would be lucky to have you. And Uncle Mike knows that."

She openly scoffed, her reddish eyes rolling skyward.

"Mark, you're too young to realize how naïve that is," she said. He was surprised that she spoke at all, but he was even more surprised by how bitter she sounded.

"Mike wishes he never married me. Our whole marriage was rooted in his sense of responsibility, not true love."

"That is not true."

His words came out so forceful and angry that she froze with her hand on the door handle.

"Uncle Mike loves you, and he always has. His biggest regret in life is not that he chose you over basketball," he continued.

Scarlett looked at him, and for the first time he saw hope instead of resignation there.

"His biggest regret is leading you to believe that you were anything less than the single greatest thing that ever happened to him."

He felt something creeping down his right cheek, and was shocked to realize it was a tear. He swallowed painfully, feeling a knot in his throat.

"Please tell me that you believe me," he said, his voice breaking.

She considered his request for a moment before making her reply.

"I'll believe it when he tells me himself," she said.

As she opened the door and stepped out of the car, Mike spoke one more time.

"He will," he called out with absolute certainty.