Craig marched down the street next to Scott, eyeing him warily. He wasn't entirely sure why he was being favored with this escort, but was vaguely aware that Betty must have arranged it; Scott would have left him lying in the gutter all night. He gingerly probed along his jawline with his fingers, wondering what kind of colors it would turn before morning. Whatever else he might think of Scott Sherwood, he had to admit he knew how to fight.
That was the only reason he was tolerating Scott's presence right now. Craig definitely didn't want to become the object of his violent anger again. He had another reason, however, one that was much more subtle. He still had one last ace in the hole, one trump card which, if he played it right, could effectively shatter Scott's happy little world.
He would have to be careful; Scott was much more shrewd and determined than he had bargained for. Clearly, his feelings for Betty ran much deeper than he'd originally suspected as well. This would not be easy, but Craig was a determined, and thoroughly spoiled, man. He was used to getting what he wanted, even if he had to get his hands dirty to do so. And if he couldn't get what he wanted, then Scott wasn't going to have it, either.
Scott, for his part, was enjoying the evening, despite the current deficiency in company. It hardly mattered to him; Craig seemed to have given up talking. Probably afraid of making me angry again, Scott reflected wryly. The thought almost made him want to laugh. Now that he knew how harmless, and pitiful, Craig was, his meaningless chatter had ceased to be so irritating.
He hadn't seemed so harmless with Betty a half hour ago, though. The muscles along Scott's jawline tightened at the memory. He'd be relieved to see Craig get on his homebound train tomorrow; heck, he'd drive him to the station if necessary.
Scott's main concern right now was keeping Craig away from Betty. He was reasonably sure she hadn't been physically hurt, but she'd looked at him so strangely before going into the Barbican, almost as if she was looking through him, her eyes large and unfocused, that he couldn't help but be a little concerned about her.
A random thought, unbidden, intruded on his thoughts. That look had come just after she'd said something about him being her knight in shining armor. Could she have been visualizing Victor in that role? Wishing he was there instead of Scott? Scott felt a sharp pang of jealousy which he quickly determined to squelch. After all, it was his name she'd called out just before he appeared on the scene, not Victor's.
Nonetheless, a nagging doubt remained. In the ensuing tumble of events, Scott had forgotten about the letter Betty had received from Victor today. A letter she hadn't told him about for reasons he couldn't fathom. Perhaps it had just slipped her mind because it didn't contain anything of great importance. Or maybe the letter had been entirely personal, dealing with something between herself and Victor that she couldn't share with anyone else. Something like a love letter, full of endearments and tender phrases, suitable only for the eyes of Victor's beloved.
Scott's thoughts were swirling in agitation now. If it had been that sort of letter, of course she wouldn't have told him, especially if she returned the sentiments, he realized with alarm. Scott did his best to push those doubts from his mind; they were unworthy of Betty Roberts.
"Hey, Sherwood, wake up!" Craig's grating voice intruded rudely into Scott's thoughts.
He gave his head a shake to clear it. He actually almost forgot that Craig was there. "What do you want, Atwater?" he asked wearily.
"I said, I see a bar called O'Malley's up ahead there," he repeated with impatience. "Do you mind if we stop in for a drink? I could use something to dull the pain in my jaw," Craig added huffily.
"Giving you some trouble, is it?" Scott grinned with satisfaction. "Well, I always say there's nothing like a good right hook to end a fight. You should probably keep that in mind for the future. You also need to learn how not to show you opponent where your punch is coming from. I find that if..."
"Yes, well, this is all extremely edifying, but I'd much rather be fortified with a whisky, if it's all the same to you," Craig growled insistently. In order to make his last move, he needed the proper setting and O'Malley's seemed to offer the most likely place to do that.
"Sure, sure, I was just trying to offer you a little friendly advice that might help you protect that glass jaw of yours," Scott replied innocently, hands raised to indicate that he hadn't meant any harm. "C'mon, I'll buy you a drink."
"Thanks, Sherwood, that's mighty decent of you." Craig feigned heartiness, almost feeling pity for Scott.The poor guy had no idea what was coming. Once he'd gotten a couple of drinks into him, it shouldn't be difficult to convince him that Betty didn't want him. Particularly when Scott heard the explosive little tidbit Craig had fabricated especially for him.
The two men readily found stools at the bar which was relatively uncrowded. Scott and Mike the bartender greeted each other by name and exchanged some small talk. After Mike had taken their order, Craig took a moment to slowly peruse O'Malley's interior. It was small, a little shabby and dark, but not without a certain homelike charm, as if this were a place where friends met regularly for a quiet drink. Not up to his usual standards, but perfectly acceptable for his purpose.
Now all he had to do was wait for the right moment to pounce. Scott had obviously been there before, so he should feel at home almost immediately. Craig would let him relax, get comfortable, hopefully let his defenses slacken. That would be the right moment, Craig reflected with relish, to shatter all of Scott's hopes concerning his future with Betty Roberts.
Half an hour, and two glasses of straight whisky later, Scott was definitely feeling much more relaxed.
Despite their differences, he'd agreed wholeheartedly when Craig had said he needed a drink; after the night he'd had, Scott felt much the same way. A short trip to O'Malley's was just what he needed to unwind so he could get some sleep tonight. He wanted to be clear-headed tomorrow morning when he talked to Betty.
They had been nearly silent since entering the bar, exchanging only brief, intermittent comments, neither of them seeing the need to be particularly civil. It was then that Craig saw his opportunity - and ruthlessly took it.
"So, Scotty-boy," Atwater drawled a little too casually, "You gonna stay around here after the wedding? If you do, I've gotta hand it to you - you're definitely a bigger man than I am," Craig swayed slightly in his seat, feeling the effects of his third whisky.
"What are you talking about, Atwater? Who's getting married?" Scott asked, confused by the sudden question and a little too relaxed as he nursed his third whisky.
"Why, Betty's wedding, of course! Scott, you can't be drunk enough to have forgotten that she's getting married?" inquired Craig incredulously.
"Atwater, you're all wet," Scott scowled at him and dismissed Craig's statement with a flap of his hand. "I haven't even asked Betty to marry me yet. We can't get married until I've asked her," he added firmly, impressed with his own logic.
"Scotty-boy, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but she's not waiting for you. She's marrying Victor Comstock," Craig announced with mock concern, laying a hand on Scott's arm.
Impatiently, Scott shook off Craig's hand. "That's ridiculous. She wouldn't be engaged to Victor and still go out with me. Besides, why should I believe you? She'd never tell you something like that," he declared emphatically.
"Oh-ho, but she didn't tell me, Scotty-boy. I overheard her telling that receptionist...what's her name? Gertie Reecccce," he drew out the name, hissing like a snake. "It was all settled in that letter she got from Victor today. You mean she didn't tell you?"
"No, she didn't tell me," Scott said slowly, lowering his head and staring into his glass in disbelief. He struggled to understand what Craig was telling him.
If Atwater had said that Betty had confided her engagement to him, Scott would have dismissed it as an outright lie; knowing Betty's aversion to Craig, she would never had told him something so personal. This, however, was different. Gertie and Betty were friends, and no doubt shared each other's secrets from time to time. And Scott didn't doubt that Craig had no scruples against eavesdropping, which only lent more credence to his story.
Jarringly, Scott realized that her engagement might have been the reason behind that strange, faraway look she'd given him before going inside. Maybe she really had been wishing it was Victor who had rescued her instead of him. Or maybe she was considering how to tell him about her approaching wedding, afraid how he might react to the news. Scott passed a hand over his eyes, feeling a headache coming on. It just wasn't possible, was it? And yet, if it wasn't, why hadn't she told him about the letter?
With a sigh that was only slightly shaky, Scott mustered a grin that was a shadow of his normal one. After all, he still had his dignity. He looked Craig straight in the eye before continuing. "So Betty's going to marry Victor, huh? Well, I wish them all the luck in the world. I have to say I'm a little surprised, though, I didn't think he'd ever get around to asking her," Scott heroically tried to keep the bitter disappointment out of his voice.
"That's the spirit, Scotty-boy, don't let it get you down! Look at me! I've been rejected too, and I'm doing just fine," Craig slurred, sloshing whisky over the rim of his glass. "But what are you gonna do now? Gonna stay around for the ceremony? Not me, boy, I know when I'm not wanted." Craig punctuated his statement with a fist slammed on top of the bar.
"Yeah, well, you're right about that," Scott returned with a wryly arched brow. "As it so happens, I wasn't going to stay around much longer myself. There's too much going on in the world and Pittsburgh is too far out of all the action. Besides, I've been in this little town way too long; it's time I was moving on. Maybe somewhere tropical, with white, sandy beaches and crystal blue water," Scott's eyes took on a faraway look, his voice deep and dreamlike and he just managed to suppress a soul-deep sigh. The tropical setting sounded like paradise, but he knew that without Betty, he might as well be vacationing in deepest Siberia.
"Oh, so you were leaving soon anyway," Craig said speculatively. "Well, I guess it's just as well, seeing as how Betty's made her choice - and it definitely isn't you," he spoke carefully, enunciating each word to sharpen their impact.
"Yeah, well, who wants to be tied down in one place anyway? With a wife, kids, a home," Scott counted them off on his fingers, all the things he'd been longing for in the past months, doing his best to deny that they held any appeal for him. "Brother, that's not for me!"
"I'll second that, Sherwood! In fact, I'll drink to it, too. Bartender! Another round here!" Craig was jubilant, his plan was working beautifully. Scott might talk a good game, but Craig could see his utter dejection and the sudden dullness in his brown eyes. He had completely demolished Scott and now was the time to celebrate.
Two hours later, Scott stood a little unsteadily outside his apartment door, fumbling with his door key. The damn thing didn't seem to fit the lock anymore. Well, maybe just one more try - the third time's the charm, he chuckled to himself. Scott deliberately grabbed the knob and jammed the key into the lock, feeling gratified when it slid in easily and turned. Piece of cake! If only everything in life worked as well.
Scott shambled across his living room, keeping an almost-straight course towards the bed. He allowed himself to collapse backwards onto it with a gusty exhalation. It felt good to lie down, too good. He should never have let Craig talk him into drinking so much; he wasn't used to it anymore and he'd definitely be sorry for it in the morning. Hell, he was sorry for it now.
There was no way he was getting up early tomorrow morning, not that there was a need to anymore. He was never going back to WENN, the memories were too painful and he'd clearly over-stayed his welcome. Scott smiled derisively. Hilary would be delighted that she wouldn't have to act with him anymore. Jeff would be thrilled because he could have all of his parts back. And Betty...here Scott's mental list ground to a halt, his heart constricting in his chest before he resolutely forged ahead. Betty would be thankful that she wouldn't have to help him with any more schemes, grateful that she wouldn't have to worry about him getting them all in trouble with the law. Most of all, she'd be glad to be rid of him in her personal life, not that she'd have any time for him after she was married, he amended bitterly.
In a sudden outburst of anger, Scott grabbed the alarm clock on his bedside table and hurled it against the opposite wall, shattering it into hundreds of tiny pieces. Scott sighed desolately; the act of destruction hadn't helped him feel better at all. With some satisfaction, he reflected that it was lucky he hadn't destroyed anything he'd need tomorrow. He could sleep as late as he wanted in the morning. No need to rush off to WENN to get on the air on time, no wrangling with sponsors anymore, no trading barbs with Hilary Booth...and no Betty Roberts.
With an expression of grim determination, Scott settled back down on the bed. If he was going to make it through the night, he'd have to banish thoughts of Betty from his mind. He struggled to focus on travel plans. He was free as a bird and could go anywhere in the world he wanted. That thought no longer held the charm it once had for him. Well, it would have to do, Scott realized forlornly, it was all he had left.
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