Troubled emotions are always fun to write...Enjoy.

Jo read the text again as she pulled into the driveway.

'We need to talk.'

The screen glowed just enough for her to discern the message without turning on the car's lights. She was impressed Mike didn't resort to shorthand when texting…she would've assumed he had a limited plan…but then again, his income was substantial enough to-God, why was she even analyzing his texting technique/phone-plan status? …she was guilty and nervous as hell. She shouldn't have even agreed to meet at his place…it gave him too much power, no matter how many times she'd been there.

And she'd been there a lot.

She turned off the car. Sat for a while. Readied herself for the inevitably terrible confrontation and explanation. No number of years in school could prep her for hurting Mike like she was about to hurt him. She was the one training to help people deal with pain in their lives, for God's sake.

But wait. It was his fault, remember? They'd established at the very beginning how their relationship was supposed to go. No emotions. Maybe a sarcastic comment here and there, but no bonding… least until they became friends. Then there was the good, long "session" right after…

Shake it off. Look at the ring. The beautiful rock-on-silver. Reassurance achieved. Confidence back. She was in control. She reminded herself that he brought it all upon himself, making her open up, exposing his own thoughts….

He opened the door she'd unlocked especially for him, walked through the house until he found her in the living room. She stood as he approached.

"That was qui-"

He cut her off with a look and she halted. Something was up.

"Mike? What's wrong."

"Nothing, let's just get at it." He ripped off his tie and started fumbling with the buttons at his collar. But then he changed his mind and went to her instead, crushing her mouth in a painful lip-lock. Her mind went into panic mode. This was not what she'd called for, and right now this was not consensual. At all. Mike was a big guy…..she couldn't possibly push him off…

He sensed her anxiety. Stopped. She pushed him away as forcefully as she could.

"Hey, you wanna do this or what!?"

"No, not if you're going to be an ass."

He shook his head, frustrated, disgusted.

"I don't know what you're talking about…..fine, y'know what? I'm outta here." He reached for his tie. Wait, his tie….oh no…she should've realized…

"Mike….hold on." She reached out to him even as her mind screamed not to get involved. He took a deep breath and leveled his dull gaze with her insistent one.

"Do you…want to talk…?" He shook his head in resignation and turned away. Shoot, that wasn't the right thing to say. He'd probably heard that already from everyone else that day.

"Sorry, let me rephrase. Sit your butt down."

He faced her again, but was still so angry. God, what happened at the bank?

"Hey, if you thought you could come into my house and just expect to have your way with me, you thought wrong. Now look, here's a comfy couch you hardass….sit." Like a dog he obeyed, slumping into the cushions, eventually leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, staring at nothing. She sighed and went to the kitchen, filled two glasses with water. She assumed he'd already had his fair share of alcohol…or drugs…or both. Made her way back to the living room with the two glasses. This was not what she'd had in mind when she texted him to come over. She set the glasses on the coffee table and curled up opposite him on the armchair.

"Jo, I'm not gonna waste any more of your time. I've got Joel and Sheila on speed-dial if you want me to call them up." How she wanted him to call those numbers and get out of her house, but…

"….No. Tell me what happened at the bank." She hoped this was the right choice. He picked up a glass and stared into the water, struggling with what he wanted to say.

"Naw it's not just that…it's…The Kid and Brooke and….God, life is just kicking me in the balls."

Shoot. Of course he had to choose now to feel sorry for himself. What Mike didn't know was that she had texted him to come over so they could have their last fling before she told him about her all-too-new engagement. Of course now she couldn't tell him.

"Well…it's gonna take a bigger kick to get those balls to me, I know." Hopefully a response…

He downed the glass of water. Sat up straight.

"Yeah well...I guess you weren't really expecting this, huh?" Gave her a sorry smile, like a sad puppy. She was going to do it. She had to. Or else "friends" would just be a title, and she couldn't deal with that.

"It's…fine. Really, it is. Talk to me."

He did. Shared his story of the day, of the prim woman who had to tell him, yet again, that the kickstart to his dream was "not quite ready yet." Shared his story of his career, how he got into dancing as a kid and how that eventually turned into stripping once Dallas got mixed in. Shared his story of The Kid, how he felt like he'd messed up a life, been too quick to judge the potential in The Kid's character. And Jo sat and listened, eventually moseying over to the couch and sitting next to him…comforting when necessary…inserting biting remarks here and there…it was two hours of what would normally be twenty seconds of a rom-com.

And then he asked her a few questions. She steeled herself for it, but after two hours of breaking down her defenses, he had her where he wanted her. She answered questions, tersely at first…and then with ease. Another hour.

He stood, knew it was time to go. They didn't know what to do then. A handshake? A pat on the back? A hug?

He half-saluted with a grin. She threw his tie at him. He walked out the door. She watched him leave.

They were sober the entire time. And she had broken so many rules.

Now it was complicated.

She knocked on the door, hoped he wouldn't answer.

"It's unlocked!"

Found him in the kitchen pouring juice. She hated juice. Just another thing to hate about the situation.

He didn't look up as he sipped it. Yes. He sipped it. How ironic.

"So…how long you two been engaged? It should be common knowledge, but you know, no one ever tells me 'bout their relationships."

"Maybe around three to four months…."

He looked perplexed for an instant before concluding, "And we've been seeing each other for about a year…including the past three to four months."

"I'm surprised you kept track." His look hardened, not the response she was looking for.

"I'm surprised you didn't tell me a couple months ago."

Exasperation now, combined with wanting to get the whole thing over with. "Mike, you were upset about not getting a loan and-"

"Hey, I didn't ask for pity or excuses. I want to get some truth out of this."

Annoyance. "Well if you keep interrupting me we're not going anywhere."

And so they stood. Glare versus fiery glare. He broke first, closing his eyes and tilting his head up to the ceiling, sighing.

"Geez, Jo, why didn't you just tell me. That was months ago. We've seen each other dozens of times since then."

"Well, I reasoned that…that…uh…" Why didn't she? Where was the speech she'd so prudently prepared? Oh yeah, that went out the window once Mike took control of the conversation first.

"Come on, girl, you can do it." Amusingly, it was she who played the part of the pet in need of coaxing as opposed to him playing the loyal dog. Interesting switch-eroo.

"No, please, insult me more. That'll definitely make me want to talk to you." The reprimand affected him slightly, just enough to make him feel an ounce of shame.

But then he banished that new feeling with conviction as he stated, "But Jo, shouldn't I be the one reluctant to talk to you, considering you lied to me, and broke my only rule? Which is, by the way, in case you forgot, I don't bang anyone who's in a real relationship."

Yeah….about that….she should leave. Just turn around and go. Should've just deleted him off her contacts the moment he found her in the restaurant…Well, she was never going to see him ever again anyways, might as well get her act together and spit everything out…

I wanted to have more of a chapter dedicated to the next part of their conversation as well as fill in another hole or two in their sorry for cutting this off so short. Reviews are appreciated (mainly about sentence fragmenting...I'm trying out this style of picking up the pace of stories with intentionally short