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The minute Scarlett wakes up, she knows something is wrong.

It’s Goldilocks syndrome – the bed is too big, the pillow under her head is too stiff, the blanket is too fluffy, nothing about the predicament she’s in is just right. It’s not a perfect world by any means, but she’s pretty sure that when they decided to go to Vegas, she at least made sure she was staying in a room that had a functioning A/C unit. It currently feels like they’re vacationing in Hell.

It also feels like someone’s removed her brain and filled the empty place in her skull with concrete, but that doesn’t come as a surprise. She vaguely remembers drinking everything that was pushed in front of her last night, which probably wasn’t the wisest decision on her part. It’s Vegas, though: logic is treated like children and encouraged to be left at home.

A groan ripples through her as she sits up, pushing her way through the duvet her limbs are uncomfortably tangled around. The room spins beneath her center of gravity and her head is throbbing so hard she can feel it in the back of her teeth.

The joys of waking up in Vegas.

Her body is doing that thing it does whenever something is off; it’s like the hairs on the back of her neck are standing up and she can’t smack them back down despite nothing seeming out of place. It’s the same nondescript hotel room that she’s been staying in since they got here with its ugly curtains that sweep the carpets and do nothing to filter the sunlight out of the room. There aren’t any glaring red flags waving frantically in her face but she cannot shake the feeling that something’s wrong.

Whatever, she thinks dully. It’s probably a planet in retrograde that she’s all too in tune with after the amount of straight moonshine she remembers Sebastian pouring down the back of her throat. A glass of water and brushing the alcohol off her teeth will make things feel better.

She can barely pull herself out of bed, the sheet still tangled around her waist and attempting to hold her prisoner. The energy to free herself is running dangerously low – she finds that it’s not tucked into the bed as tightly as she thought, so she lets it drag behind her like a wedding dress train on her way to the bathroom. She stumbles and sways the entire way there, one hand clinging to the closest piece of furniture in her reach and the other cradling her still-pounding forehead.

The only setting for the bathroom lights is the angels are coming and it makes rummaging for her toothbrush infinitely more complicated. Her eyes are squinted to keep as much of the brightness filtered out and her hand is blindly swatting around on the counter for the toothbrush holder. Except she can’t find it, eliciting an irritated whine in her throat. “Come…on,” she says in a cracked voice to no one but herself, as if it will make the toothbrush that is very clearly not there suddenly appear in her hand.

She finally gives up, both hands gripping on the edge of the sink as her frustration rolls over in the form of a wave of nausea. She’s hungover and sweating like a whore in church and it’s as though her mind is a tree and something’s tapping away at it like a woodpecker, saying look look look look but there’s nothing to fucking look at. Not to mention her throbbing headache is still just as horrible as it was when she woke up and has managed to somehow get worse, more rapid hits straight to the bone of her skull and even louder than previously.

It takes another full moment before she slowly realizes that it’s not her head. It’s the front door.

The sheet is knotted around her ankles and she nearly falls on the floor as a result, but she makes it to the door of the suite and slams the handle down a little too forcefully. She also forgets whether it’s a push or a pull.

Standing on the other side of the door is Lizzie. Scarlett hopes she looks nothing like Lizzie does, because with her blonde hair sticking up in a dozen different directions and eye glitter and mascara paying rent underneath her eyes and the extra large Stanford t-shirt inside out as it falls off her shoulders, Lizzie looks as though she’s just been hit by a bus. Deep down, she knows that’s just wishful thinking. Lizzie is staring at her, the expression slapped on her face screaming strung-out.

“Whatever it is, the answer’s no,” Scarlett whines as she props her entire body weight against the door. “I don’t care if the breakfast is complimentary. I’ll starve before I try walking down stairs.”

“ScarlettwhythefuckdidIwakeupinyourroom?” Lizzie asks in a panic, only stopping to breathe once she’s gotten the entire sentence out.

“Huh?”

Lizzie repeats her sentence much slower this time. “Why. Did I. Wake up. In your room.”

Both of Scarlett’s eyebrows wrinkle, meeting in the middle of her forehead. “This is my room.”

Lizzie shakes her head. “No, this is my room.”

Scarlett’s too tired and too hungover to do backbends over something that sounds a lot like a riddle. “Liz,” she groans, covering her eyes with one hand and steadying herself against the door with the other. “You’re…you’re hungover.”

“Says the woman who did like, three body shots off of me last night.”

Scarlett’s eyes narrow. “If this was your room, then you’d have the key to get in.”

“I didn’t take my purse out last night because Jeremy had the key to our room! You think I could have kept up with my purse when I can barely keep track of my own head?” She makes a point. “For fuck’s sake, Scar, I woke up with only one shoe.”

Scarlett frowns, reaching forward to place her hand over Lizzie’s mouth in the name of shutting her up, because fuck , she’s being loud, and the steady pounding in Scarlett’s head might have stopped but the headache hasn’t gone away in the slightest. She doesn’t get to her main destination because Lizzie snatches her hand in transit, gripping onto it tightly and twisting it back. “Dude,” she says in a voice an octave above normal. “What the hell is this?”

Lizzie bends her hand back and that feeling of everything being wrong returns, braiding her stomach into a knot. Sitting on her ring finger is what appears to be a high school ring much too large for her, onyx stone in the middle and the gold varnish worn on the sides. Lizzie then bends down every finger on her hand except for the pointer and thumb so it makes the shape of an ‘L’ and signals that it’s that finger.

“Where the fuck did I get this?” Scarlett asks, trying not to panic even though the alarm bells are ringing and that stupid woodpecker in her brain seems to have officially poked a hole in the surface to let everything flood in.

Lizzie slides it off her finger. She squints as she holds the ring up, trying to get a good look at something that’ll give her a positive ID. When she looks back at Scarlett, her face is beginning to turn a splotchy shade of red. “Modesto High.”

“I didn’t go to Modesto High,” Scarlett squeaks out.

“Yeah, but Jeremy did.” Lizzie comes to a complete standstill, a moment passing over her and leaving her looking as though she’s about to pass out right where she stands. It’s in these moments of panic where Scarlett really wishes Lizzie would verbalize her train of thought so she’s not left feeling like she’s in a car dangling off the edge of a cliff. “Scar, did you marry my brother last night?”

As if on fucking cue, somewhere in the back of her mind Scarlett hears an organ begin to smash down on its keys to the tune of Haddaway’s What is Love . That little itch that’s been telling her something was wrong from the moment she woke up turns her stomach inside out and she barely makes it into the bathroom in time.

 

♕ ♔ ♕

 

If Jeremy Renner has one superpower, it is that no matter how much he drinks (no matter what he drinks), he always remembers exactly what went down when he wakes up the next morning.

This time is no different. 

He wakes up in a hotel room at the Mandalay Bay in Vegas. He thinks it’s his own room, the one he paid for when they got here yesterday afternoon, but he wouldn’t be able to tell you for sure. Anthony is sprawled out on the couch under the window, eyes closed and toothbrush still in his mouth. Sebastian is on the floor with every pillow from the second bed piled around him. He has no idea where Chris or the girls are.

The girls… It takes a moment but he starts to remember. 

He rummages around on the floor for his pants, pulls them up towards him and starts looking through the pockets. Sure enough, his class ring from high school is missing, just like he thought it would be, and there is a receipt that he uncrumples and smoothes out, trying to focus on it even though the light is blinding him and sending sparks of pain shooting through his head.

The Wedding Chapel at Mandalay Bay Las Vegas, it reads, telling him that he spent four hundred and ninety-five dollars on the Charming Wedding Package. He glosses over the price, figures he will deal with that later. There is another piece of paper in the pocket of his jeans, and he pulls it out, unfolding it. This one he doesn’t have to squint to read: in big fancy script right at the top are the words “Marriage Certificate,” his name next to Scarlett’s underneath.

Fuck.

“Mackie,” he says, softly at first but getting louder when Anthony doesn’t budge. “Mackie. Mackie! Mackie!”

Anthony rolls over, groaning and pulling the toothbrush out of his mouth, throwing it down onto the coffee table. “What,” he says, throwing an arm over his eyes. “The fuck do you want?”

“Did Scarlett and I get married last night?”

At that, Anthony sits up and looks him. “What? No. Are you crazy?”

Jeremy brandishes the marriage certificate at him, Anthony’s name scrawled below Jeremy’s. Sebastian’s signature is beside it, clear as day. “Then what the hell is this?”

Anthony takes it, throwing a pillow at Sebastian who jerks awake instantly. He has always been the lightest sleeper amongst the six of them, most likely to wake up when there is a thunderstorm or Anthony is playing his music too loudly or someone sneaks into his apartment in the middle of the night to steal cheesecake from his fridge. (Jeremy has never done that. Or he’ll never admit to it at least.) “What?” Sebastian snaps. He sees the marriage certificate in Anthony’s hand, and he just shrugs. “Oh. Yeah. That.”

“Oh, yeah, that?” Jeremy jumps up, trying to ignore the fact that the room is spinning and his head is pounding and he has about a gallon of tequila sloshing around in his stomach. He grabs sweatpants out of his suitcase, throwing them on and slamming the door behind him, leaving Tweedledumb and Tweedledumbass behind to think about what they let him do.

As he walks down the hallway towards what he thinks is Lizzie’s room, everything comes back to him, hitting him in waves as he seemingly relives it all with every step. 

They get to Las Vegas around five thirty the night before, dropping all their stuff off in their rooms before immediately going down to the hotel bar. It’s from there that things start to get a little bit hazy. 

They start with beer before switching to tequila shots and Jagerbombs. This directly violates Jeremy’s tried and tested rule of “Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear. Beer before liquor, you’ll get sicker.” (Or, as Scarlett always says, “Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear. Beer before liquor, you’ll be fine, don’t be a little bitch.”) 

After an hour in the bar and another couple of hours at the restaurant and then another hour back at the bar, they head over to Light, the club inside Mandalay Bay. It is where they always come when they are in Las Vegas, nothing new to any of them, and they fork over the money to get inside. Like always, it is sensory overload. There are lights bouncing around everywhere and a giant video wall and girls dancing up on poles and music blaring so loud that Jeremy can feel it in his bones. 

They sit down at (or stumble into, in Jeremy’s case) a booth, and Scarlett plops down on his lap, light as a feather and warm as the sun. Her arms are slung around his neck, and she tilts her head back so that her hair brushes his arms where he has wound them around her waist. 

“Hi, handsome,” she says, her eyes glittering under the club lights. “What can I get you? Drink? Joint? Lap dance?”

“Well, that depends.” He tightens his arms around her. “If I choose lap dance, are you going to be the one giving it to me?”

She laughs, pushing away from him and standing up. “Only in your wildest dreams, Renner.”

She grabs Lizzie and disappears into the pit of the club, returning fifteen minutes later with a drink in each hand. The last thing he probably needs right now is another Crown and Coke, but he takes it when she hands it to him, pulling her back down into his lap. A couple of drinks later and they are making out, just like they always do when they drink together. 

Jeremy has known Scarlett since their freshman year of college. She was the only one in their two hundred person biology class who had any idea what the hell was going on, a fact that became clear to Jeremy when he was assigned to be her lab partner. They got the shitty lab section, Friday evenings at five o’clock, and after the first lab was over, she turned to him and told him that it would be a shame to just go back to the dorms on the first Friday night of college. They ended up getting drinks with their fake IDs and making out in the bathroom of Antonio’s.

It has never been more than that, just a little public display of affection between friends. Jeremy knows that for most people it would be weird, but they aren’t most people; they are Jeremy and Scarlett, and this is just par for the course.

Lizzie, Jeremy’s half-sister, hates it when they do this. She is sitting across from them in the booth, trying to distract herself by playing quarters with the boys, but finally she slams her fist down on the table. “Jer!” He ignores her, shifting to pull Scarlett even closer to him as he fists a hand in her hair, pulling gently. She makes a noise into his mouth, and they have done this so many times that Jeremy knows exactly what she likes.

He also knows that the Mandalay Bay Hotel has oxygen pumped in to keep people awake longer so that they will spend more money, and that’s what kissing Scarlett feels like, heady and alive and like he has too much oxygen in his brain. She bites his bottom lip, grinding her hips against his and pissing Lizzie off even more. “Jeremy!” she practically yells at him.

He pulls back from Scarlett, looking across the table at Lizzie. “What?” he snaps.

“Can you two please get a room?” She grabs a quarter from Chris, bouncing it on the table and into a glass. 

Jeremy smirks at her. “Don’t worry, Liz. We will.” He slides his hand up under Scarlett’s skirt, higher than he normally would, just to piss off Lizzie.

“Jeremy!” she screeches, and he laughs.

“C’mon, Renner,” Scarlett says, her words syrupy and sweet in his ear. “I’m a lady. You know I’m waiting till I get married.”

“Perfect,” he says, his own words jumbling together in his brain. “Let’s go get married then.”

Things get a little hazy after that, but he knows that they stumble out of the club; he is supporting her or she is supporting him or they are holding each other up, he isn’t sure. Anthony and Sebastian tag along, and they end up in the little wedding chapel just off the lobby of the hotel, where Jeremy forks over almost five hundred dollars for a few fake flowers, an officiant, and a real legal marriage certificate. Scarlett comes down the aisle to What Is Love by Haddaway, winking at him and holding back a giggle. They hold hands. They promise to be there for each other as long as they both shall live. He gives her his high school class ring. They kiss, Jeremy dipping Scarlett backwards just to be a show off. They show their IDs, sign the marriage certificate next to Anthony and Sebastian, and just like that they are husband and wife.

“So,” Jeremy says, catching Scarlett around the waist as they practically trip over each other on their way back to the elevators. Anthony and Sebastian have disappeared, probably on their way to put in time at the blackjack tables. “Does this mean we can go up to your room now?”

Scarlett tips her head back, laughing. “Who would I be to deny my husband sex on our wedding night?”

He picks her up once they get in the elevator, pushing her against the wall of mirrors and trailing his lips down her neck. She knots her fingers in his hair, laughing as he practically falls out of the elevator once it gets to the fortieth floor, and he carries her through the door of her hotel room, falling onto her bed with her. Nothing happens because they both pass out almost instantly, and at some point Jeremy must get up and drag himself back to his own room because that’s where he wakes up.

He rubs a hand over the back of his neck as he shuffles down the hallway and knocks on Scarlett’s door. She opens it, wide-eyed, her makeup smudged and his class ring in her hand. “Scar?” he asks, his voice rough from alcohol and lack of sleep and the weight of what happened last night. “What the fuck have we done?”

Chapter Text

Lizzie drags Scarlett back to what is technically Scarlett’s room by the wrist, bedsheet still trailing down the hall behind Scarlett as her best friend marches her like a drill sergeant to her death. (“You are not allowed to drop the sheet until you remember if you have clothes on,” Lizzie barks. “And I am not taking another step into this room until my brother wakes up and has the chance to put clothes on, because he’s slept naked for the last fifteen years.”)

Scarlett collapses gracelessly in the bathroom where she remains, her head resting against the ledge of the bathtub mostly because she’s feeling nauseous still and any more time on her feet her knees will buckle and she’ll round out this spectacular morning with a concussion.

She married Jeremy last night. She thinks. She doesn’t know. The ring on her left hand could mean a lot of things.

While she’s busy hypnotizing herself with the glinting gold on her finger and falling further down the black hole it’s creating, Lizzie is on Scarlett’s bed with the hotel-issue notepad and pen, trying to map out some sort of timeline for the evening. The slapdash logic is that together, whatever fuzzy bits of the puzzle they each have might start to form some sort of picture that helps them reconstruct their conveniently missing chunk of memories from the last ten or so hours. Unfortunately for Lizzie, Scarlett remembers next to nothing, and everything she does remember is not of use.

“We might have gone to a strip club?” Scarlett mumbles out incoherently as she cradles her forehead. “I think I remember somebody saying something about a lap dance.”

“Yeah, it was you offering to give my brother one,” Lizzie scoffs. “Which is a mentally scarring image, by the way.”

Scarlett lazily lifts her middle finger in salute.

Lizzie keeps pressing further, worrying the cap of the pen between her teeth. “When did you guys get back from the chapel?”

“I don’t know.”

“Did you have sex?” Both of Scarlett’s hands fling up in a haphazard ‘fuck if I know’ shrug. “Whose room did you go back to?”

“I think mine?” Lizzie suddenly stiffens, the discomfort prickling off of her at the thought of the sheets underneath her legs being some degree of contaminated. “But if you slept in here and you had to go hunt me down…”

Scarlett pinches the bridge of her nose in the hopes she can stifle the flow of her killer migraine. “I guess I went stumbling back to Jeremy’s room at some point.” She must not have wanted to be without her… Jeremy (husband is a scary word to immediately jump to this early in the morning). Especially when drunk, Scarlett sleeps like an octopus; always reaching out for the closest thing in the bed and curling her whole body around it, particularly bothered by emptiness when that’s what she’s met with.

“The only comforting consolation in all of this is that if you two did have sex in here, I didn’t hear it.”

“Then we probably didn’t have sex.”

Lizzie’s face flattens, her expression screaming that now is not the time. “Okay,” she muses, tapping the pen against her chin. “Here’s what I tentatively have: you guys get married. You come up to your room. Do god only knows what. You both decide to leave to your room and go back to his for whatever reason at some unknown time, and different times at that. I come stumbling in here after, maybe.”

Scarlett doesn’t know what to tell her, so she just settles for a half-hearted shrug. “Sure.”

“I don’t know why I’d come in here, though,” Lizzie is still mulling over, caught on the snag. “Why the fuck would I come in here?”

They’ve been dancing circles around this for hours, it feels like, and Scarlett’s as good as a skeleton in a bedsheet. She’s hungover, harboring a real craving for some French toast, and her marital status is currently hanging in the balance, all of which are fighting to be her dominant emotion and promptly sucking what little life remains out of her in the process. “Maybe I didn’t actually get married,” Scarlett throws out, her hope a cheap sell. “Maybe this is just all the tequila talking.”

“Where else would you have gotten his class ring?”

“Maybe…” Scarlett is growing more and more agitated with Lizzie’s game of 20,000 Questions. “I don’t fuckin’ know. Maybe I saw that it was something shiny, wanted it in a drunken fuckin’ stupor, and asked if I could wear it.”

Lizzie shakes her head, frizzled blonde locks falling out of her makeshift ponytail that she had to put her hair in, lest the heat she was generating in her panic reached a certain degree at which she’d pass out. “Jer wouldn’t just give you that if you asked for it.”

“Yeah, well, I happen to be really persuasive.”

“Ignoring your innuendo to raise the fact that that was the first ever thing he bought with his own money. He wouldn’t have just given it to you. It means too much to him. Besides, the last person he let wear it was… shit .”

“Shit?”

“Sonni. He bought her some cheap ass chain to put the ring on and wear as a necklace while they dated.”

“Shit indeed.” Scarlett’s head lolls back, hitting the bathtub ledge with quite a force.

“Please don’t kill yourself in there – I am in no position to rescue you.”

Scarlett’s eyes cut through the doorway and tear right through Lizzie. “Rescue me? Lizzie, I don’t even think the fucking Jaws of Life can get me out of this. I think I married your brother last night.”

“It could be worse.” Those words raise Scarlett like the dead, her peeling her bare back off of the bathtub to sit upright and glare at Lizzie. Lizzie of all people knows it can’t, not for her, anyways. “You could have married Sebastian.”

Scarlett slumps back against the tub with a resounding ‘thud’ and closes her eyes, hoping that when she opens them again, she’ll wake up in her own bed and that all of this will have been some cleverly crafted nightmare courtesy of the alcohol. This is why she should never be let off her leash, allowed to do fun things that for most people would never come with real consequence. She’s got a knack for letting trouble crash on her couch and do its damage inside her home whenever it pleases, and she never learns when it leaves her a hell of a mess to sweep up.

She never learns, and it’s how she finds herself in situations like this.

Lizzie mutters something about needing fuel before she tries to pull this train from the station any further, contorting her body in uncomfortable angles to reach the hotel phone without leaving the bed. “I want a mimosa,” Scarlett whines her order out.

“Yeah fucking right,” Lizzie snorts, hanging in a precarious balance as the tips of her fingers just barely reach to press the number pad. “You, my friend, are getting a piece of toast and a bath’s worth of black coffee.”

“But we’re in Vegas. That’s boring.”

In the bathroom mirror, Scarlett sees Lizzie’s reflection scowl. She figures she’s abstaining from making approximately thirty comments about how nothing Scarlett has done in Vegas thus far – gotten so hammered she probably wouldn’t have been able to remember her own birthday and then getting hitched – would match any dictionary’s definition of boring.

“Go answer the door, Boring.” Lizzie sits back upright, phone nestled between her shoulder and cheek. “Maybe I’ll consider ordering you a fruit plate.”

“Are there strawberries?” Scarlett asks hopefully.

“Scarlett, we’re at the Mandalay Bay. They’ve got dragon fruit.”

Lizzie doesn’t have to say much more to persuade her. Scarlett grips tightly to the tub’s ledge as she pulls herself up, not letting go until she’s positive her legs will be able to keep her upright. The bedsheet is still tangled around her ankles, bunched up underneath her armpits – she checked and she does have on underwear, but the sheet is something like a safety blanket that she’s in no position to start shedding – as she shuffles out of the bathroom and through the bedroom, towards the door.

She’s not sure what she was expecting on the other side, but she’s startled to find a hazy Jeremy standing there.

“Scar?” he asks, the sound of his voice like honey in her bloodstream before being chased by a very, very cold douse of ice water. “What the fuck have we done?”

She glances back over her shoulder; Lizzie’s got a hand knotted in the roots of her hair as she makes the person on the other end recount the entire room service menu to her verbally. Scarlett slips out of the tiny opening, yanking her sheet dress along with her fully into the hall before letting the door click shut behind her.

In one fluid motion, she slides Jeremy’s class ring off and lets it fall into the palm of her right hand, extending it out to him. “You tell me.”

Jeremy grabs it hesitantly, as if he’s scared it’s going to bite him. “Found my class ring,” he mutters, mostly to himself.

“What did we do last night?”

“We got married,” Jeremy explains sleepily.

“So you didn’t just give me your ring because I thought it was pretty.”

Jeremy’s eyes meet hers; she knows he’s not doing it intentionally, but she suddenly feels like she’s three inches tall and is nothing more than a little girl about to be reprimanded. Lizzie was right. That was a stupid theory. “No,” he finally says. “Not quite.”

Scarlett’s back presses into the edge of the doorframe. “Do you think it’s legit?” She is immediately met with Jeremy’s bewilderment. “What? It’s Vegas – this is like, the land of people getting spontaneously married. I’m sure there’s some unofficial flukes here and there.”

Jeremy rakes his fingers through his hair, still mussed from a dead slumber. “If it was a fluke, it was a pricey one,” he grumbles. “The certificate says it’s legal.”

Scarlett tries to swallow down the sudden wave of nausea that has risen in her stomach, biting down so hard on her lip that she can taste the metallic edge of blood. “Anybody can type legal on a piece of paper.”

“Laverne and Shirley signed off as witnesses,” Jeremy counters.

Both of Scarlett’s eyebrows furrow. “That’s who we picked to attend our wedding? Smackie?”

“Like Liz would have come.” He makes a point – Scarlett’s pretty sure he is already aware of it, but the consistently blurred line between their friendship genuinely bothers Lizzie. Lizzie’s protective over Jeremy because she has it in her head that Jeremy’s not going to keep his own guard up when it comes at a cost of not getting a piece of ass (or falling in love). She’s expressed time after time to Scarlett that she doesn’t think their friendly making out and groping is really all that friendly and that she worries he’s got some other ulterior motive aside from being drunk. It’s why she tries to keep their extracurriculars to a minimum, and if she can help it, away from Lizzie’s wary eye.  

“Fuck,” Scarlett swears under her breath, her body shifting so she’s blocking him out. This is not what she wants to be dealing with during her vacation. It was supposed to be all gambling and night clubs and, okay , maybe making out with Jeremy in a dark corner while tipsy. Not marriage, though. Never marriage. Not even on the very last line of the last page of possible outcomes. “We got married.”

“We got married,” Jeremy repeats quietly.

She lets her eyes wander back over to Jeremy – her husband – and she can only find a sliver of relief in the fact that he is just as turned inside out as she is. “What are we gonna do?”

He doesn’t have the chance to respond before the door behind Scarlett comes swinging open, the loss of a steady surface beneath her back startling her. “Scarlett, please don’t tell me you’re trying to marry the guy I called to bring me a raz—" Lizzie says, stumbling back in the surprise of seeing Jeremy. “Oh.”

For someone who is still half-asleep and trying to make sense of everything, Scarlett finds Jeremy’s tone awfully frigid. “Nice way to greet your brother, L.”

“Get in here, Mr. Johansson,” Lizzie bites back equally as sharp, her fingers closing around Jeremy’s wrist and yanking him over the threshold.

Scarlett only ever met Lizzie because of Jeremy, and that was because she liked Jeremy way too much to let him ever be one of those college acquaintances that fell to the wayside. She embedded herself into his life as best she could because he was like sunlight the same way she felt like she’d spent most of her life like a flower trapped in a permanent midnight. Lizzie was only a few years younger than Jeremy, hot on his heels to San Francisco after she graduated to be with her older half-brother at college. It surprised Scarlett just how close they were; sure, she and her siblings got along fairly well, but it was nothing like Jeremy and Lizzie. For fuck’s sake, Jeremy and Lizzie acted more like twins than Scarlett and her own twin brother did.

Like any and all twins, there were tells, and Scarlett was well-versed in the little ways that Jeremy and Lizzie differed (furthermore, which different gloves she had to put on while handling them). Where Jeremy was content to let everything pass him by and roll over his shoulders, Lizzie could get hung up and bent out of frame on the tiniest of splinters. Lizzie was intense because she had her opinions and her roadmap and no desires to stray from either, Jeremy’s intensity rested solely in his eyes and the subtlest of movements. Lizzie would be the first of the two to have a stroke or a full-blown panic attack, Jeremy would be the one to find something positive out of California sinking into the ocean and swallowing them whole. Lizzie has to take charge, Jeremy would rather someone else do it for him.

That’s exactly what happens, of course: Lizzie takes control of the situation while Jeremy sprawls out on Scarlett’s bed like a starfish and fixates on the ceiling. Scarlett does as she always does when the tidal wave of the Renner-Olsen siblings comes rushing in, she tries to keep up before she ultimately gets lost in the shuffle.

She sits down on the edge of her bed, feeling out of place even in her own room. Slowly she swings her legs up onto the mattress, sliding up so her back is resting against a pillow shoved up on the headboard. It doesn’t take long before there’s a sudden warmth slipping underneath a loose spot in the bedsheet, large hand carefully wrapping around Scarlett’s thigh and giving it a squeeze.

When she glances down, Jeremy’s eyes are still up at the ceiling. They flicker over to her for a split-second, quick enough to make her think she’s imagined it.

His hands being unable to stay off of her is what got them in this mess, but her body being unable to deny the chemistry and caving every time was the nail in the coffin. If they’re going to have to sleep in it, she might as well do it comfortably.  

Jeremy’s hand goes nowhere, and Scarlett hopes for all their sake that Lizzie stays preoccupied with her fretting. The last thing she needs is another sideways glance when they get caught. Besides, his hand on her thigh is grounding the erratic emotions starting to build and destroy her from the inside out (and it’s got her stomach somewhere her knees where the nausea can’t reach it).

“Where’s Mackie?” Lizzie is buzzing with anxiety as she paces a rut into the carpet, which Scarlett finds a bit odd since nothing aside from her losing her Stella McCartney shoe the night before has really warranted her going off the deep end. “Sebastian?”

“They’re in my room,” Jeremy replies, his voice even and steady.

“What about Chris? Where the hell is he?”

“Don’t know.”

“Great,” Lizzie swears under her breath like it’s an expletive. “We have a union of marriage and a missing friend to deal with and it’s—” she glances over at the alarm clock – “only ten-thirty.”

Room service arrives right as Lizzie is halfway out the door to rally the rest of the troops (and potentially get an APB out for Chris). “Thank you—wait, I didn’t order champagne.”

“It’s complimentary,” someone, likely the delivery boy, insists.

“Complimentary?”

“Yes, this was the room that had the wedding last night? We were unable to deliver it last night; it’s on the house for the happy couple. Congratulations.”

Silence follows, before incoherent grumblings and the final shut of the door pierce through it. “I’m taking the champagne with me!” Lizzie yells out. “You two are on probation!”

“You’re no fun!” Jeremy calls back in reply.

There’s the sound of shuffling around, and then the door opens and shuts once again, leaving Scarlett and Jeremy alone.

“What are you thinking?” Jeremy says after a moment, his fingers recurling around her skin. She notices that they’ve slid up a fraction of an inch higher, but she won’t dare breathe out that observation.

“That I wish I could turn my brain off,” she answers honestly, because they don’t lie to each other. That’s the only reason the years of making out without any real strings attached has worked out and kept from fucking up their friendship beyond repair: they don’t front with each other. They keep their books open on the table for the other person to read, and if it’s something that they don’t feel like sharing, they let the other know and those wishes are respected.

His eyes tear away from the ceiling and roll back so he’s staring up at her. “I’m sorry.”

She smiles a little sadly, because she knows he means it and she wishes that they weren’t in this situation because even though Jeremy’s probably the only person she could see herself getting into this kind of predicament with, he’s also the only person she’s scared of digging her claws too deeply into and hurting. “Me too.”

Lizzie sends Smackie on to the room while she continues in her search for Chris. They come in like a two-man band of wildebeests, swiping Lizzie’s brunch and collapsing on the bed with Jeremy and Scarlett since they’re both so hungover they wouldn’t know a boundary if it bit either of them in the ass.

“You two want me to serenade ‘ya with a song?” Mackie says around a mouthful of bacon. “It’s tradition for the bride and groom to get a first dance.”

Jeremy doesn’t remove the hand from Scarlett’s thigh or the other from underneath his head – he instead nudges Anthony entirely off the bed with his foot. Sebastian begins cackling like a hyena while Mackie begins singing Marvin Gaye.

Scarlett rips the pillow from behind her back and covers her face with it in the hopes she will suffocate before Mackie begins the Sexual Healing number that she feels coming in her bones.

It takes twenty minutes for Lizzie to finally return with Chris in her clutches, her immediately launching into the crisis meeting she must have planned in the elevator after she reprimands Smackie for demolishing half of her brunch.

“Not! Yours!” she grits through her teeth as she cuffs both of them on the neck with a throw pillow.

Sebastian shrugs. “Shoulda left the champagne.”

“For who? Horny and hornier? Mack Attack and the Tasmanian Devil?”

“I am Romanian , thank you.”

“Where the fuck were you?” Scarlett asks Chris, who is currently using the leg Jeremy doesn’t have his hand on as a pillow.

“Lobby,” he slurs out. “Next to a plant.”

Her snickering snags in her throat as she cards her fingers through his hair. She and Chris have been friends since they were teenagers – they met when they were seventeen and on spring break in Miami. She wound up going to Stanford while he was at the University of San Francisco and sometimes crossed paths at football games or parties, their friendship rock solid by the time she was a senior in college and he was freshly graduated, looking for a roommate in the city. She figured it was worth the $7.25 and hour train ride she had to take three days a week down to Stanford to live in San Fran with one of her best friends. They still live together all these years later, because she is the only person aside from him that his dog will listen to and he is the only person who will deal with her leaving loose strands of hair on the walls in the shower.

“Nice one, Evans,” she laughs.

“’Least I didn’t marry the plant.”

“’Least I slept on a mattress last night.”

“Did you? I woulda thought you slept on something a little harder—” She takes advantage of the hair she has curled around her fingers and pulls on it hard, effectively getting the words to die in his throat. “Jesus, Scar.”

“Keep it up and you’ll be meeting him soon.”

Lizzie is drinking the champagne straight from the bottle, which is how Scarlett knows she’s having a hell of a morning. “Okay people, since we have gone and shot our trip straight to hell in under twenty-four hours, I am taking suggestions on how we fix this.”

Mackie raises his hand halfway. “I say we do nothing and move along our regular schedule. So ScarJo is now Scarlett Renner. Big deal.”

Even from across the room where Lizzie is sitting on the dresser, Scarlett can see her neck start to get red and splotchy from irritation. “Yeah, but that was on night one . If that’s any indication on how the rest of this trip is about to go, I’m ready to pack my bags and go the hell home before I accidentally marry Elvis.”

“Ah, c’mon, Liz,” Chris drawls. “It’s Vegas. What happens here stays here. Why can’t we have our cake and eat it too?”

“You,” Lizzie says, pointing an accusatory finger at Chris. “Don’t get an opinion, seeing as how you almost got carted to jail this morning for loitering.”

Scarlett wouldn’t dare admit it out loud, but Chris makes a point. The six of them – Jeremy, Scarlett, Lizzie, Chris, and Smackie (they counted as one person in Scarlett’s mind, since the two of them only had a half brain each) all planned this trip months in advance, back in February when they all decided that they needed to escape the rut of work weeks and contemplating death by cable car. Lizzie kept a countdown on her desk calendar at work and would occasionally text their group chain how many days they had left until Vegas with what they were all hyping up as their reprieve in responsibility. Their vacationing together wasn’t how the six of them stayed friends by any means, but if they were going to travel anywhere, then they were going to do it together. That was typically how they operated – taking on life linked arm in arm. It was how they’d done it all so far, between the college years and the first real jobs and calling each other family whether it was blood or choice that made it so.

“What do you want us to do, Liz? Be Sober Sally the whole time we’re here?” Sebastian mocks.

“Well, I would prefer not to end the week in handcuffs, but that’s just me.” She takes a long drag from the bottle, her eyes finding Scarlett. “What do you want to do?” she asks, and Scarlett freezes.

She hasn’t thought ahead that far. Obviously her predicament isn’t unique, but undoing what they’ve done is going to be time-consuming, draining, and the furthest thing from fun. She might be shutting down on herself, entering the closest thing she has to safety mode so she can black out all of her feelings and operate on autopilot, but the last thing she wants to do is make a pass on a cabana in favor of sitting next to Jeremy in a stuffy office trying to get their marriage annulled by the state of Nevada.

“I say that I want to enjoy my next few days in Vegas,” she says stiffly, the tone in her voice indicating that it’s not up for discussion. Lizzie’s eyes nearly bug out of her head, and Jeremy’s hand on her thigh feels like it’s burning through the layers of skin without any trouble – maybe she should’ve consulted him on this, seeing as how he is kind of her husband – but she shoots a look back that says as far as she’s concerned, this conversation is over. She wants to get blackout drunk for the rest of the trip and take a nice long stroll down Avoidance Avenue until they’ve got to board a plane back to San Fran.

She doesn’t want to think about it, because thinking about it turns her stomach into knots. She wants to turn her brain off .

Lizzie gapes at her like a fish for a moment before she submerges herself back in the champagne, slumping against the mirror defeatedly.

Scarlett knows that this is not the end of it, that she’s just delaying the inevitable, but it won’t be anything tequila can’t numb. After all, she’s walked this road before.

She might as well offer the master class.

 

♕♔♕

 

Scarlett has been married before. Twice actually. 

She was twenty-two the first time, and they had just graduated college. Literally. The wedding was the day after commencement, and it was a giant affair, the kind of day that most girls imagine when they think about their wedding, all giant white dresses and lots of flowers and love and perfection and happiness. Nobody ever thinks about it ending. 

But Scarlett’s did. Jeremy still doesn’t really know why, even all these years later. All he knows is that she showed up at his apartment in the middle of the night, dry-eyed and fierce with a suitcase in her hand. She didn’t even have to ask; before she could say anything, he was opening the door to let her in. She stayed with him for a month before she moved back in with Chris, and in all those days that she was sitting in his kitchen or watching television on his couch or propped up next to him on a bar stool, she never told him what had happened, never cried in front of him (although he could hear her in the spare bedroom at night), never gave him more than a shrug and a “fuck Ryan” when he asked her what the hell was going on. 

She didn’t date for a while after that. Slept around, sure, but didn’t they all? And then Romain came into their lives, suddenly but not seamlessly. Jeremy called him Lettuce Head, but only when Scarlett couldn’t hear him. He thought it was a rebound, a fling, something fun for her to do for the summer. It was a shock of a lifetime when she told him she was engaged. 

The second marriage was even shorter than the first, and instead of deep anger and muffled tears and a lot of drinking, Scarlett just seemed bored. If anyone needed someone able to keep up with her, it was Scarlett, and if anyone was not up to the task, it was Romain. 

And now here they are, a couple of years later, and Jeremy is officially on the board as Husband Number Three. 

It’s not like he hasn’t ever thought about it, the possibility of the two of them being together. He used to think about it a lot actually, especially right after that first night in the bar. But she fit so easily into his life, and she became his best friend almost instantly. By the time he worked up the nerve to talk to her about it, he realized it was too late, and instead of jumping in headfirst he (for once in his life) kept his mouth shut. 

There had only ever been one other close call, and that was a few years after Scarlett’s divorce to Ryan was finalized. Scarlett fell asleep on Jeremy’s couch after a night of family dinner and poker, and he was cleaning up crushed beer cans and dirty plates and the deck of cards that Anthony had launched across the room after he caught Jeremy and Scarlett cheating, passing aces to each other under the table just like they always did. He looked over at her, saw her curled up on the couch and snoring lightly, and he paused his cleanup, walking over to her and grabbing a blanket off the back of the couch. 

He draped it over her, tucking her in gently, and he knelt down, brushing her hair out of her face before he could think about what he was doing. And even though he tried to be as careful as possible, she woke up. She blinked at him sleepily a couple of times, the light from the lamp behind her bathing the side of her face in warmth and casting the rest into shadow. “Jer?” she mumbled sleepily, reaching out and grabbing his hand. 

For a moment, he couldn’t speak, his other hand still resting on her forehead, and even with all of the kissing and touching and physical attraction, this moment felt more intimate than anything they had ever done. “Yeah,” he said, hoping to death that his voice wasn’t betraying the desire hiding behind his words. 

She didn’t say anything at first, just kept looking at him through sleepy eyelids and long lashes. Then, finally, she squeezed his hand. “Bed,” she said, her voice rough, and the moment was broken. He picked her up off the couch, blanket and all, and carried her into his room, depositing her in his bed. He fell asleep next to her, listening to the soft little sounds she always made when she was sleeping. 

She met Romain two days later. 

And Jeremy never brought up that moment. If there were any feelings there, he pushed them to the back of his brain, focusing on work and life and his friends, the thoughts only creeping back in every time he gets drunk and pulls Scarlett onto his lap. 

Now he is going to be forced to deal with them because she’s not just Scarlett his Best Friend anymore. She’s Scarlett his Wife. 

Wife. It’s a crazy thought, but one that he is forcing himself to dwell on as she stands in front of him, handing his class ring back to him and asking him what the hell they are going to do. The last time he gave his class ring to a girl was to Sonni, and it was possibly one of the worst decisions of his life. Definitely top three. He shakes the thought away as Lizzie grabs his arm and yanks him into the hotel room. 

She is furious, just like he knew she would be. As much as Lizzie loves Jeremy and Scarlett, she doesn’t love the idea of the two of them together. She has been there front and center for all of their failed relationships, has seen them both heartbroken, and knows that they both tend to use other people to get over their pasts. Jeremy has assured Lizzie many times that he would never do that to Scarlett, prompting Lizzie to scream “friends don’t make out with friends!” into his face like a lunatic. 

Instead of arguing with her, he flops down onto the bed next to Scarlett, who is still just wearing a bedsheet, reaching underneath and curling his hand around her leg. Lizzie has set up camp in full blown panic town, asking where the guys are and shooting Jeremy a dirty look every seven seconds. Finally she leaves the room, a force of nature, and Jeremy wouldn’t want to be Sebastian or Anthony or Chris when she gets ahold of them.

After a few moments of silence that would be awkward between anyone else, Jeremy asks Scarlett what she is thinking. “I wish I could turn my brain off,” she says. 

He looks back at her, sliding his hand further up her leg. Her skin is smooth under his fingers, and he tries to remember that even though they did something stupid, this is still the Scarlett he has always known, the Scarlett he loves, the Scarlett he could spend the rest of his life with even if it is just as friends. “I’m sorry,” he blurts out.

She works out a smile. “Me too.”

He wants to ask her what she wants to do, what she is feeling, whether she finds the whole thing scary or funny or maybe, in the end, not that big a deal. The longer he thinks about it, the more he finds himself falling into the third camp. It’s Las Vegas. People get married on a whim all the time. They’ll go back home, get an attorney, and annul the damn thing, going back to being just friends who make out sometimes. It’ll be a funny story to tell at parties. 

Before he can say any of that, Anthony and Sebastian fly into the room. “Don’t push me!” Sebastian snaps.

“That was Lizzie, not me!”

“I’m not talking to you until I eat something. Until then, shut up.”

It takes about twenty minutes for Lizzie to return with Chris, practically throwing him into the room. He falls onto the bed next to Jeremy and Scarlett, and Jeremy closes his eyes, willing the pounding in his head to go away. They still have a couple of nights left here; he sure as hell isn’t going to waste it, even if the first night was the definition of a shit show.

Thankfully, Scarlett seems to agree with him because when Lizzie asks her what she wants to do, she only hesitates for a moment before she says that she wants to stay and enjoy their vacation. Good, he thinks as he strokes his thumb across her thigh, the rest of their friends totally oblivious (par for the course). Being married for a couple more days isn’t going to hurt anything.

 

♕♔♕

 

“Cheers,” Sebastian says, holding his glass up in the air. Jeremy’s is dangling dangerously from his fingertips, threatening to fall and spill Jameson everywhere. 

“What are we cheers-ing to?”

“To your marriage, of course.” Sebastian rolls his eyes at Anthony like that should have been obvious. 

Jeremy lets out a scoff, but he raises his glass anyways, clinking it against Chris’s. “Sure, brother. To my marriage.”

The girls are back in Scarlett’s hotel room getting ready to go out for the night, which is a long process that involves a lot of eyeliner and outfit changes and curling irons. Eventually Lizzie gets tired of Jeremy sprawled across the bed throwing gummy bears at them, and she kicks him out, telling him to go down to the hotel bar with the guys and get a drink so that she doesn’t end up killing him before they even get to the club. He figures he is getting off easy, still waiting for the lecture that is sure to come. So he goes back to his room, showers and puts on nice clothes before dragging his friends down to the lobby.

“Which plant was it, Evans?” he asks, looking around. 

“Shut up,” Chris grunts, taking a big drink and flipping Jeremy off at the same time. “I may not be able to hold my liquor but at least I didn’t marry my best friend.”

“True,” Anthony chimes in. “But Renner didn’t get his wallet stolen by a stripper.”

“She was a cocktail waitress,” Chris snaps, narrowing his eyes. “And I thought we agreed that what happened the last time we were in Vegas is off limits.”

“Deal,” Jeremy says quickly. “Then once we get home, y’all cannot bring up the whole marriage thing anymore.”

“Like hell.” Sebastian drains his drink, setting it down on the table in front of them and trying to catch the attention of one of the waitresses. “This is big. This is much bigger than Chris being naive and thinking that that stripper - what was her name? Apple? - had a heart of gold when all she wanted was his Black Card.”

“Hey!”

“This is bigger than the time Anthony was escorted out of the Venetian for practically setting a blackjack table on fire.”

“It was one cigarette-”

“And this is certainly bigger than the time that Lizzie fell into the fountain at the Bellagio because someone pushed her.”

“You pushed her!”

“That doesn’t sound like something I would do.”

“I think if Lizzie was here,” Jeremy cuts in, “she would certainly say that you are breaking the what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas rule. Blatantly.”

“My point is,” Sebastian says loudly. He rattles the ice in his empty glass, trying to get them all to pay attention to him and only earning a dirty look from one of the waitresses flying by. He shrugs it off. “My point is that this is big. Major. Life-changing. And we should get to bring it up every single day for the rest of our lives if we so choose.”

Jeremy has known Sebastian and Anthony for about seven years ever since he followed Scarlett up to San Francisco. He got a job at Gensler, the biggest architecture firm in the city, and he met Anthony there on his first day. Anthony had graduated from Berkeley the year before, making him the youngest person at the firm, at least until Jeremy had turned up. After Jeremy finished his first week, Anthony invited him out for a drink, bringing his roommate Sebastian along, and the six of them have been a six of them ever since.

Most of the time Jeremy loves it. Sometimes, like now, he wonders why he hangs out with these people.

Sebastian is saved from the possibility of Jeremy strangling him when the girls come into the bar, looking around before spotting them and coming their way. Jeremy straightens up in his chair, clearing his throat as Scarlett approaches, and he wonders (just like he has all day) whether things are going to be weird between them. But she plops herself down in his lap, just like she always does, loops her arm around his neck, just like she always does, takes a pull from his drink, just like she always does. And she winks at him, sending warmth spreading through his chest and pulling at his heart. 

He reaches around her, lacing his fingers through hers, and he finds himself absentmindedly rubbing the spot where her wedding ring would go. He remembers that after her divorce from Ryan, she wore her wedding ring for a long time. Lizzie said she was doing it to punish herself, for what Jeremy wasn’t sure. When she did finally take it off, it was a big deal.

So he shifts underneath her, reaching into his pocket and pulling his class ring out, handing it to her wordlessly. She looks down at him. “What’s this for?”

Jeremy shrugs. “You’re my wife, aren’t you? At least for a couple more days.”

She slips it on, and her smile could light up a room.

Chapter Text

Scarlett spends the next three days of her life thinking way too much for someone who’s supposed to be living life the Vegas way.

Specifically, she spends the next three days thinking about two people that she swore to her reflection in the mirror that she would never exhaust brain cells on again, and Jeremy.

What’s most unfortunate is that she doesn’t know how to help it, doesn’t know how to forcefully cut off the thoughts and keep them from leaking into her brain. Most of it is because of the weight on her left hand, she knows , because it’s a silent trigger she’s had for years that creeps up slowly and takes its toll on her like slow-acting poison.

Jeremy is her third marriage. It’s not something she wants to dare advertise (she’s not even sure she wants to keep advertising her marriage to Jeremy the way she has been – she feels like she is living on the brink of posting a picture to her Instagram with him with some dumb caption like ‘with my husband!’ or just the diamond ring emoji) because it is her scarlet letter. She’s not proud that she’s already mowed through two husbands and is now on her third. Desperate housewives have two divorces under their belt. People who are on shitty reality shows that get two seasons at best and are portrayed as the witch of the bunch who cries at least once an episode have two divorces filed away in legal. People who are thirsty for a dollar in their bank account, people who have thrown a high heel at a mirror and shattered it, people who are generally intolerable and disagreeable and downright horrid: those are the people who are on marriage number three. Not her.

Except, yes her.

The entire group dedicates one day strictly to being poolside, renting out a cabana at Moorea and taking advantage of the last bit of heat for the year. Scarlett and Lizzie call dibs on the two allotted chaises in the sun, slathering each other up with tanning oil and keeping the flow of piña coladas steady throughout the day. The boys fuck around as per usual – mother henning them is nowhere on the priority list as Scarlett puts her sunglasses on and buries her head in the pillow of her chaise to get what she hopes is an even tan.

Somewhere in the afternoon when she’s woken up from her nap by Lizzie – “If you get sunstroke and die and leave me alone with the cohort of idiots, I will never forgive you.” – and very absently watching Mackie, Chris, and Sebastian fail to impress a group of girls in the pool, she spots Jeremy from across the way holding two glasses in his hand.

If her life was the ridiculous movie plot she feels like she’s been trapped in, she would have lowered her sunglasses to get an overtly thorough scope of him. Jeremy wasn’t bad looking by any means; he wasn’t her usual type in terms of physical appearance, but the tan and the muscles coupled with that ridiculous grin on his face stirred something inside her stomach, and then there was the fact that him shirtless made her brain shut off for four seconds.

“Thirsty?” he asked once she was within earshot of him, extending one of the glasses out towards her as he stops in front of her chaise.

“What am I, dead?” Lizzie harrumphs bitterly.

Jeremy shoots her a dirty look as he passes the margarita off to Scarlett. “You’ve got functioning legs. And a big mouth.”

“So does she.”

“Yeah, but he wifed her up,” Chris interjects from where he’s swam over to the ledge of the pool, leering at Scarlett like the goddamn Cheshire cat – she’s thankful that even in September it is approximately a billion degrees outside in Nevada, otherwise her blush would have absolutely sold her right down the river. “He’s got to get in her good graces if he wants to get laid.”

Lizzie begins making retching sounds, to which Scarlett and Jeremy both reach out and attempt to stop her in their own way: Scarlett backhands her in the forearm, and Jeremy kicks her chaise.

“Thanks for the drink,” Scarlett says, pushing the little umbrella in the drink to the side as she takes a sip.

Jeremy’s eyes are bluer than the chemical-filled pool water ahead of her as he smiles down at her. “Sure thing, wife.

He then bends down and Scarlett feels her throat go bone dry. “You know,” he says in her ear. “This is a topless pool.”

When he pulls back, he’s smirking like the goddamn devil, and it’s all Scarlett can do to lift an eyebrow quizzically. “Yeah?”

Jeremy nods. “Just saying, if you’re trying to think of a way to thank me for the drink…”

Lizzie, who has ears like a fucking hawk, sits up a little straighter in her chaise and is holding her copy of Vogue like a baseball bat. “Would it kill you not to be horny all the time?” she hisses at her brother, to which Jeremy just laughs as he heads back into their cabana.

Lizzie then glances over at Scarlett, lowering her aviators to reveal a glare of steel. “I swear on my life, Johansson, if I see you whip your tits out for my brother—”

“Baby, you’re the one who sounds like you need to get laid,” Scarlett laughs, sinking back into her chaise and taking another long drink of her margarita (mostly to quench the sudden thirst in the back of her throat). “Maybe it’ll loosen you up a little.”

Lizzie is so scandalized she can’t speak, and Chris, who is of course tuned in, begins cackling like a hyena. This, Scarlett figures, is what it is like to be friends with a horde of middle schoolers.

Despite their blatant immaturity, Scarlett isn’t immune to the fluster that overtakes her entire body at Jeremy’s suggestion, finally having to resort to getting in the pool to physically cool off.

And if she purposefully loosens her bikini ties a little to engineer an accident? Well, what Lizzie doesn’t know won’t give her an aneurysm and sign her premature death certificate.

It’s the exact kind of thing she would have done in Marriage Number One. Ryan was the only man to ever turn Scarlett into a righteous fit of jealousy. They’d met in college, only dating for a year and a half before he got on one knee and she happily accepted. Someone once upon a time had said when it was right, she’d know, and it was hard to feel anything other than right with Ryan. He was the perfect complement and it was the first time she was so in love with someone that she didn’t know how to see straight. If he’d asked, she would have walked right off a cliff without any hesitation.

But he knew exactly how to string her up and play a full-blown symphony, good and horrid alike. She was naturally flirty and so was he, but it bothered her beyond all belief when he got too close to women, because he did – get too close, that was. He was charming, probably too much so, and he would have been the exact type to go with her on a vacation to Las Vegas, suggest they spend a day at the pool, and then while she was sunbathing, get in the pool and turn every girl onto him. His piss-poor excuse was that he liked to see her all riled up, that it was hot and it made for some of the best sex between them. She wouldn’t have denied it, either, because she was absolutely the type to stake her territory and prove she was worth every chase and fight put up, but it made her so mad that he had to go about it that way that she felt like she’d explode out of her skin.

Ryan would have been in the pool, girls in bikinis (or without, which would have made it infinitely worse) draped on him like curtains, and Scarlett’s retaliation would have been to whip her top off and fight fire with fire right there in public.

(For Scarlett, it wasn’t nearly the life-leveling surprise to discover Ryan cheating on her than it was for other married somethings. In fact, she’d quietly been expecting it ever since it didn’t nip itself in the bud after he put a ring on it and she changed her last name to match his. She didn’t think twice when she filed for divorce, either, even if that leveled her life entirely. Twenty-two and best friends with a divorce lawyer wasn’t exactly the plot twist she’d been gunning for.)

The only real plans they have the following night is to casino hop, so they spend the majority of the daylight hours on their own devices. The boys all decide that they absolutely will die if they do not get to test the surfing wave pool thing at Planet Hollywood and they go together, only let off their leashes if they swear up and down they will each take vigorous amounts of fail-photos for the photo album on Liz’s phone. Lizzie and Scarlett take to the spa, because according to Lizzie, if she doesn’t have someone do a rejuvenating mask on her that counts, her face will shrivel and fall off. 

“I see you’re not wearing the ring,” Lizzie comments despite having her eyes covered by cucumbers. 

“Didn’t wanna lose it,” is Scarlett’s grand defense. 

It’s true, she doesn’t want to lose it: she knows that Jeremy would drown himself in the wave pool if she did. Not only that, but she’s slightly protective over it, though she wouldn’t dare admit it to Lizzie. According to the state of Nevada, that ring is hers. She’s not running any kind of risk.

Underneath the cucumbers, Scarlett knows Lizzie is rolling her eyes. Even though Lizzie relinquished control to the universe or Jesus or the devil himself, there’s a part of her dwelling under the surface that is itching to break free and take control of the situation. “Don’t know why you guys don’t just go get it annulled while we’re here,” she mumbles.

“Because we don’t wanna spend our vacation in a stuffy office,” Scarlett snaps back almost too quickly.

Lizzie quietens up like a clam the second the words roll off Scarlett’s lips. Part of her feels bad — she knows she’s made this real fucking complicated for Lizzie, having to split her worry between her best friend and her brother, but what she and Jeremy did is on them to fix. They’ll get it done, she reassures herself as she sinks further back into the plush spa chair, when it isn’t interfering with the spa treatment.

She leaves feeling like a new woman, her and Lizzie shuffling back into the elevator with dewy faces, significantly lighter bags under their eyes, and in Lizzie’s case, barefoot. 

They head back up to Scarlett’s room to spend the rest of the afternoon throwing grapes into each other’s mouths while they watch old episodes of Jersey Shore, awaiting some kind of text from the boys that gives them an idea as to when they should start getting ready. The first thing that Scarlett does once she gets back to her room, before flopping onto the bed next to Lizzie or perusing the room service menu, is slipping Jeremy’s high school ring back on her finger.

It’s an odd sensation, but it feels like she has completed herself with the missing part once the ring is on again.

The boys eventually return from their wave pool adventure and give the girls a time to meet them in the lobby, prompting the Jersey Shore marathon to be put on hold over their getting ready. Lizzie spends a solid twenty minutes mourning the loss of that goddamn Stella McCartney shoe and only stops her whining when Scarlett offers to let her borrow a pair of her Manolos (under oath that she will keep both shoes on her feet no matter what the night holds). Scarlett gives herself a quick look in the mirror before they leave, and the thought crosses her mind that maybe it’s a little too much for the casino. 

Then again, a little cleavage never hurt anyone.

Jeremy is the first one to lay eyes on them when they walk through the lobby, and he barely seems to register Lizzie. His eyes are fully on Scarlett, the gleam in his eye and quiet smirk on his face enough to put a flush in her cheeks that even the dim-lighting of the lobby doesn’t disguise.

The moment doesn’t last long, thanks to Anthony’s loud mouth announcing their arrival once he spins around to figure out why Jeremy is off on another planet.

“‘Bout time you two showed up,” he drawls, slinging an arm over Lizzie’s shoulder and tugging her into his side. “Chris will not stop recounting his slumber party down here to us, even though none of us care .” He heavily emphasizes the last part, so Chris will get the hint.

Chris’s eyes narrow. “You would’ve cared if it had been your hard earned dollars bailing my ass out.”

“Who says we woulda come to get you? Time in the slammer might have done you good, Evans.”

“Shut up before I tell all the waitresses tonight that you’re married.”

Jeremy’s arm slips around Scarlett’s waist, inching her body closer to his until their hip bones bump together. “You look pretty,” he tells her quietly, brushing a twig of hair that she’s left out with her bangs back behind her ear.

“Thanks, handsome.”

Lizzie then begins to make that horrible retching noise again, Scarlett shoots her a death glare that says ‘if you keep it up I will revoke the Manolos’, and Sebastian announces that there is no time like the present to get on the road.

They head to the Bellagio, one of their former hotel stays and the boys’ favorite casino out of all the ones they’ve frequented over the Vegas trips. Lizzie and Scarlett have a general rule, and it is that they are never to abandon each other when they go to casinos. It doesn’t matter if the other person is trying to bat their eyelashes off at someone whose dick they’d really like to sit on; they do not leave the other alone at the blackjack table, they will yell encouragement (or quits) at the slots, and if they both lose all their money, then they do that together. It’s a safety measure that they have in place because they know the boys will leave them in a half-heartbeat.

Sebastian and Mackie peel off for the poker tables and are never seen again after that, while Lizzie and Scarlett make their rounds. They find themselves at the blackjack table, a game that Scarlett utterly sucks at. Lizzie is decent enough and most of the time Scarlett is content to watch, but at the Bellagio, if you sit, you play, so she’s roped into it and making peace that she will have to part with her money.

She’s swimming up shit creek without a paddle at this point, Lizzie much too focused on trying to somehow sabotage the guy sitting across the table to try and help out her friend that’s absolutely flailing. She’s busted three times already, which normally means that she would get up and walk away (but the spirit of blackjack means that there’s a first time for all sorts of failure), and she just wants for this fucking game to be over already. 

The dealer has a nine, which officially blows Scarlett’s brain beyond a point of comprehension. She’s floundering with her hand, entrapped in a mental dilemma when she hears a quiet voice on the back of her neck. “Split the tens.”

She whips around like she’s been electrocuted, the sight of Jeremy behind her a surprise. Technically, this could get them thrown from the table and the Bellagio, but Jeremy’s discreet enough that he makes it look like he’s just any other observer, swishing the ice around in his glass. Then, there’s the fact that he’s told her to split her tens, a virtually impossible move that will result in disaster at a likelihood of 99.9%.

Her eyebrows furrow, but Jeremy gives the slight nod of his head. Trust me.

So she does, even though it is a Hail Mary on all accounts. She splits her tens. 

Somehow, by the grace of a god she’s pretty much lost all hope in ever answering her calls, she comes out victorious, and it takes everything in her not to flip the table in an attempt to lunge into Jeremy’s arms and kiss him square on the mouth.

Despite the excitement of actually winning at blackjack for once in her measly life, she’s reminded of Marriage Number Two, where Romain loved to try and tell her what to do with her life. He was born in France, still spoke the language fluently and had enough of an accent to charm her panties off, and with it, he would give little suggestions that were more like instructions and offers that were more like ultimatums every direction she turned. She wasn’t the type to roll over and take being bossed around lying down, but where Ryan had been blind in love, Romain was hurdle after hurdle that she would keep jumping until it resolved itself or she wound up dead. She couldn’t let this relationship fail, too. They seemed compatible enough; Romain made her laugh, Romain understood her on a level where he could give her what seemed like sound advice on her life and she’d take it and come out victorious. 

Marriages were about compromise. He’d compromised on having a smaller wedding (after one failed wedding, she didn’t want to redo the whole fucking shebang thing again) and she compromised on, well, everything he suggested. After all, he made her happy, why couldn’t she do the same? Until making him happy was dependent on whether or not she did what he said with a smile on her face. Usually, she gave some resistance, and then she dragged her heels, and then she started kicking up gravel. They couldn’t agree on anything, and Romain was a control freak. He wanted a wife who would follow him blindly, believe all the bullshit he spouted would work in her favor after all because he knew what was best , essentially be a yes woman, and that was the farthest thing from Scarlett. 

They fought for a solid three months over the mere idea of divorce until enough reached enough and Scarlett had her lawyer confront him before she passed out dead due to another fucking argument. 

She celebrates her blackjack win with a mojito and from there she just spirals. Ryan. Romain. Jeremy. Ryan. Romain. Jeremy. Everything Jeremy does triggers some reminder of what the other two had or hadn’t done. Jeremy held her upright as they walked out of the lobby to their Uber? Ryan had been particularly good at taking care of her when she got hammered. Jeremy tucked her in before she passed out? Romain would sing her to sleep on nights when she was sick or couldn’t sleep. Jeremy woke her up the next morning by sending her videos of the events of the wave pool (and Venmoing her a hundred bucks to go buy something nice when they all went to Fashion Show later in the day)? Well, Ryan and Romain had also woken her up in creative ways. They too had money they’d give her just because.  

It is a never ending rabbit hole she can't find the end to, a line she never wanted to tack Jeremy onto out of utter fear she’d forever ruin her image of him (and her image to him).

It’s how, on their final night in Vegas, she finds herself slumped in the booth at one of the nightclubs, chewing on her straw with her chin resting atop a propped up fist while she watches people dance. Were there other people here who had been divorced a bajillion times, grinding up on some stranger that would be the next husband in the parade? Or was that just her, the unicorn in a goddamn horse show? Ryan. Romain. Jeremy. Ryan. Romain. Jeremy. The list wouldn’t stop replaying in her head, beginning to swim the more cocktails she got in her system.

“Why are you sitting all alone?” Her eyes shift up to none other than Jeremy, standing in front of the booth looking like some kind of Apollonian fever dream as concocted by the booze with his slightly unbuttoned shirt near the top that shows the beginning of his chest and a smile that reaches his eyes. 

“‘Cause,” she mutters into her glass. “I’m drunk. Dancing seems safer than sitting.”

“It’s our last night in Vegas,” he counters,  setting his own drink down on the table. “Sitting isn’t a great way to spend it.”

“I don’t need another bruise on my ass.”

“Hey, bruises on your ass in Vegas are like fuckin’ trophies. Collect ‘em.”

Scarlett blinks heavily at him a few times. “Was that your attempt at being philo...phil...philosophical? Because if so, it sucked, and fuck you.”

“Only if you wanna,” he teases, winking at her. Scarlett frowns, balling up the square napkin that had served as coaster and throwing it half-heartedly at his chest. “C’mon, baby. I won’t let you fall.”

It sounds like every placating sentence Romain had ever uttered to her, every I’ll never do it again apology she’d heard come out of Ryan’s mouth; it was all of their attempts to charm her and get her to drop her panties and keep her around, and she was stupid enough to have bought it every single time and never learned her lesson.

And with Jeremy’s outstretched hand and his eyes sparkling every time a light brushed past, she can't help but buckle to the very thing her ears sought out and the needy little monster in the pit of her heart would cling to regardless of how it made her bleed. She is still just as dumb as she was in every other marriage, and even if this was just a Vegas fluke, it’s not any different. She isn’t any different. She’s learned absolutely nothing. 

♕♔♕

Scarlett looks like she is pouting. 

They are at XS, celebrating their last night in Vegas, and Jeremy is across the club when he spots her, slumped in a booth and nursing a drink. Even through the swirling red and purple lights, he can see the look on her face, like someone had just taken away her firstborn child. The club is full of people dancing to Diplo, and he pushes his way between them as he cuts across the dance floor to get to her, elbowing people out of his way as he goes. It does not look like she is having fun, and in his last few moments as her husband, it is his duty to change that.

He can tell immediately that she is drunk. That much is clear to Jeremy when she takes his hand, scrambling out of the booth. She only gets one foot in front of the other before she is stumbling hard against him, and he steadies her easily, keeping her upright. “Easy, princess,” he says, rethinking his plan of getting her out on the dance floor with Lizzie. 

“I’m fine,” she snaps at him, but she doesn’t let go. At some point, her hand finds his where he is holding firmly onto her waist, and she wraps her fingers around his wrist in a death grip. Yeah, there is no way in hell she is going to be able to dance. 

He stops, pushing her up against the wall to keep her from falling over. He is looking around for Chris or Sebastian or Anthony, somebody who can come stand with her while he goes to find Lizzie, when she grabs the front of his t-shirt. He thinks that she is just steadying herself, but when he looks down at her, she is right there, pulling him in towards her.

“Scar-”

She cuts him off, kissing him insistently. She tastes like citrus and sugar and the slightest hint of smoke, like the last vestige of summer. Her mouth is warm against his and she is trapped between him and the wall and her hands are roaming around the waistband of his jeans and even though they do this all the time, something feels different. When she finally lets him go, he pulls in a breath, hoping it doesn’t sound shaky. “What was that for?”

“I don’t know.” She bites her bottom lip, flattening her hands on his chest. “Just wanted to.” Her words are coming out slurred, and her pupils are huge, the lights from the club reflecting back at him. “Can’t I kiss my husband if I want?”

“You can do whatever you want, baby,” he says, trying to ignore the stirring in his stomach. “But right now you’ve gotta stay here, okay?”

She shrugs. “You’re the boss.”

He keeps a hand on her waist as he looks over his shoulder, finally spotting Chris a couple of booths down, towering above the girl he is talking to. Jeremy knows Chris is gonna kill him later for tearing him away from this girl, but he doesn’t give it a second thought. “Hey, brother,” he says, coming up behind him. “I need your help.”

Sure enough, when Chris turns around, he is giving Jeremy his Death Glare. “What?”

“Just go stand with Scar for a second. I need to go find Liz.”

Chris looks over at Scarlett, who is staring up at the ceiling and swaying back and forth a little. “She’s wrecked.”

“You can say that again. Just go make sure she doesn’t fall over. I’ll be right back.”

Lizzie is also drunk, which means it doesn’t take long for Jeremy to find her. She is sitting at a round booth on the second floor with Anthony and Sebastian. (Well… Anthony and Sebastian are sitting. Lizzie is up on the stripper pole in the middle of the circle.) 

“Liz!” Jeremy yells when he makes it up to the booth. She doesn’t pay him any attention, swinging around the pole and yelling at Anthony to pay attention to her. He doesn’t, instead hunched over his phone, probably swiping right on every single girl who comes up on Tinder. (At one point, he flicks his eyes up for a few seconds and says, “More in the hips, Liz. Gotta get lower.” Jeremy is choosing to ignore that.) “Lizzie. Lizzie. Lizzie!”

“Oh my God.” She finally stops, sitting down on the edge of the platform so that she’s face to face with him. “What could you possibly need from me right now?”

The music isn’t as loud up here, so thankfully he doesn’t have to yell in her ear for her to hear him. “I’m taking Scar up to her room. She’s six ways to Sunday right now.”

Lizzie reaches out, grabbing him. Her words are almost as slurred as Scarlett’s were, although she manages to make her meaning crystal clear. “Do not sleep with her.”

Jeremy rolls his eyes, tugging her hand off the front of his shirt, which is really taking a lot of abuse tonight. “Relax, Liz. I’m not going to.”

The words are true, even if he’s been thinking about it more and more the entire time they’ve been in Vegas. Thus far in their almost ten years of friendship, everything has been pretty innocent. Sure, they make out sometimes, and there is a whole lot of flirting, but so what? He flirts with damn near every girl he meets, and if it’s especially easy to do it with Scarlett, then what is the lasting harm in that?

Well, he thinks as he makes his way carefully back down the stairs to where he left Scarlett with Chris, the lasting harm is this - suddenly along the way all that flirting led to a marriage. They have crossed over the line from innocent to real, and even if he does want to sleep with Scarlett (look at her - who wouldn’t?), there’s no way he can let himself cross that line too.

Scarlett, in her current state of mind, is making that even more difficult for him.

She is hovering somewhere between Six Drink Scarlett and Seven Drink Scarlett. She is predictable in her drinking, the same pattern emerging each time. One Drink Scarlett is no different than Regular Scarlett, but that is just because Regular Scarlett is already a firecracker. Two Drink Scarlett really wants a cigarette. Three Drink Scarlett spends most of her time trying to convince everyone else to catch up as quickly as they can. Four Drink Scarlett ends up on Jeremy’s lap, her arms around his neck and her tongue in his mouth. Five Drink Scarlett drags everyone out to the dance floor. Six Drink Scarlett gets a little mopey, sometimes tired, sometimes pouty, sometimes downright sad. Seven Drink Scarlett, something that Jeremy has only seen a couple of times, desperately tries to get him into bed.

He manages to wrestle her out of the club and into an Uber and back to their hotel, even though she alternates between being cranky at him for making her leave and trying to take his pants off. By the time they make it to the elevator, which is thankfully blessedly empty, he has given in as much as he figures he can allow, letting her push him up against the wall and kiss him. Finally he gets her back to her room, waiting as she fishes the key card out of her bra and opens the door.

She angles him towards the bed, but he knows better. “Uh-uh, princess,” he says, sitting her down and pinning her there with a look. “Not gonna happen.”

“Come on.” She sticks her lower lip out at him, part of his brain whiting out and his stomach jumping up into his throat. “You’re my husband.”

“And?”

“Don’t you remember what you said at the pool the other day?”

Jeremy racks his brain; he says a lot of things. “Refresh my memory.”

He is reminded very quickly as Scarlett starts peeling her dress down. “About how to thank you for my drink,” she says sweetly, like she’s not stripping right in front of him.

“Jesus Christ, Scar.” He whips around so that his back is towards her, but not before he gets an eyeful. She is really not going to make this easy. “I think it’s time for you to go to bed.”

Thankfully, her suitcase is on the floor right in front of him, clothes and shoes and makeup spilling out like a tidal wave. He rummages around until he pulls out a t-shirt that he recognizes as his own; he has no idea when she swiped it, but she is constantly doing that, telling him that his shirts are the best to sleep in. Without turning around, he hands it to her. “Go change.”

“Don’t tell me what to do.” She pouts, but she grabs it from him. There are a couple of beats of silence before she says, “You gotta unzip me.”

He hesitates before he turns around. “You covered up?”

“Yes, Jeremy. God.”

She is, but barely, and he tries his best not to look down her dress when he turns around. (He fails.) She catches him looking, bites her lip and winks at him as she turns her back towards him, pulling her hair to one side so that he can see the zipper. He works it down about halfway, his knuckles brushing up against the warm skin on her back, before he turns back around, his breath catching in his throat.

“Okay,” she says after a few more moments. “The coast is clear.”

He forces her to go take her makeup off and drink some water before he puts her to bed. He is just contemplating whether he should go back down and meet the boys or try to get some sleep before they have to get on a plane tomorrow and head home, but Scarlett makes that decision for him. “Jer,” she mumbles, and he turns to look at her, his hand already on the doorknob. “Stay.”

She was half asleep the second her head hit the pillow, so he figures there isn’t any harm in that. “Okay,” he says. “Uh… let me go change quick.”

He grabs her key card on the way out the door so that he can let himself back in, and he takes a little longer shucking off his jeans and finding sweatpants than he normally would. He needs a second to himself or he’s going to end up doing something that he can’t take back in the morning when she’s stone cold sober and might regret all of this. He waits long enough that he figures she’ll be asleep, but when he lets himself back into her room, opening the door just wide enough to slip through, she’s looking right at him.

“C’mere,” she says sleepily. “If you’re not gonna fuck me, the least you can do is cuddle me.”

“Scar!”

But he does, slips into bed next to her and puts his arms around her carefully. He doesn’t fall asleep for a long time, thinks that he might not be able to because he is so aware of every move he makes, trying not to wake her up. Scarlett is curled up around him like she owns him, which he figures she does. He has always been hers.

Eventually, he must fall asleep because he is rudely awakened the next morning by his goddamn sister. She is a hurricane and a half, something she knows and won’t let him forget.

He is practically yanked out of bed, waking up and managing to catch himself before he hits the floor. “Jer!” Lizzie hisses. She is standing over him, hands on her hips and hair loose around her shoulders. She looks better than she should for someone who drank damn near an entire bottle of tequila the night before. “What the fuck?”

He glances over his shoulder at Scarlett, who is still sleeping soundly. “What the fuck what? How did you even get in here?”

She rolls her eyes, dragging him out of bed and into the hallway, where she immediately starts yelling at him. “I told you not to sleep with her!”

“I didn’t sleep with her!”

“What were you doing just now then?”

“Well… sleeping.” Lizzie makes a face at him like he is being stupid. “Okay, you got me there, but nothing happened.”

“Swear?”

“Swear.”

“Okay, but for real though?”

“Liz! Does swear even mean anything to you?”

She follows him down the hall to his room, running her mouth the entire way. “I’m gonna tell you the same thing I told her,” Lizzie lectures him. “Bad idea. Bad, bad idea.”

“I know, Liz. God.”

“Far be it from me to tell you what to do with your life-”

“Far be it from you? Are you serious?”

“But trust me on this one. Very bad.”

He groans, falling back onto his bed and willing her to stop talking. She doesn’t take the hint. Finally Sebastian, who is buried under a mountain of pillows (some of which he must have stolen from Jeremy’s bed) tells her to shut up. She sits down on the edge of Jeremy’s bed, glaring over at Sebastian even though he can’t see her. “Fine.” She crosses her arms. “But this isn’t over.”

“What time is it?” Jeremy has no idea where his phone is, and even if he did the chances are pretty high that it’s dead. 

Lizzie glances at her watch. “Ten-thirty,” she says. “We gotta leave for the airport in an hour and a half. Think you can get it together by then?”

“I didn’t drink last night, Liz.”

“Yeah, but they did.” Lizzie gestures to Sebastian and Anthony, who is passed out on the couch. Jeremy doesn’t think he slept in his own room the entire time they were here. “You’re in charge of them. I’ll get Evans and Scar.”

“Roger that.”

By noon, miraculously, they are all down in the lobby. Lizzie and Anthony are looking a little green around the gills; Jeremy is (for probably the first time ever in the history of their friendship) the only one who is not hungover, so he is in charge of taking over the check-out process.

He is already up at the desk when Scarlett, Sebastian, and Chris come stumbling into the lobby, looking a whole lot worse for wear. Jeremy doesn’t even want to think about how much of the club’s alcohol they drank between the three of them last night. Lizzie turns around when she sees them come into the lobby, Chris and Sebastian practically dragging Scarlett over to a sofa and sitting her down. 

Jeremy doesn’t turn around at first; all last night and this morning he has been wondering whether Scarlett will remember any of the things she was saying and doing last night, and if she does, whether she will feel some type of way about it. So he keeps his back to her and tries to focus on the bill that the desk clerk is showing to him. Finally, he scribbles his name at the bottom, leaving Lizzie and Anthony to sign the bills for their rooms.

Time to face the music.

He pushes past Sebastian and Chris, who are sprawled across from each other on the couch facing Scarlett, and he drops down next to her. “Hey,” he says, stretching his arm across the back of the couch like they are in middle school and on their first date. His fear that she might feel weird around him instantly dissipates the moment she shifts towards him, resting her head on his shoulder and swinging her legs across his lap. 

“I feel like ass,” she mumbles into his neck, sending a vibration down his spine. 

“Well.” He shifts, letting his arm fall over her shoulder to pull her closer. “I’m pretty sure you drank all of the alcohol in Las Vegas last night.”

She snorts, wincing as she does. She must have one hell of a headache, but as long as she isn’t throwing up, they can get through a couple of hours on a plane. “Thank you,” she says softly. He can’t see the look on her face because it is still buried in the soft fabric of his sweatshirt. “For taking care of me last night.”

“Anytime, Scar.” And he truly means it.

He has to practically drag her out of the hotel and into the Uber and through the airport and onto the plane, where she immediately falls asleep on his shoulder, waking up only long enough to down a couple of crackers and a glass of ginger ale before she passes out again. Just like last night, he sits as still as he can, watching Breaking Bad on his iPad and trying not to move. As they get closer to San Francisco, he pushes the shade up, watching the ocean appear below them as they circle around to SFO. 

It felt like they were in Vegas for five months, not five days. They go at least twice a year; it is a ritual for all of them, just as much a part of their group as Thanksgiving dinner and giant birthday parties and kissing each other on New Year’s Eve. When Jeremy thinks back to his best memories with his best friends, at least half of them grew out of their misadventures in Vegas.

But holy shit, is it good to be home. He remembers packing the morning they were supposed to leave (he majorly procrastinated), remembers thinking that it was just going to be a normal trip. Maybe he would make out with Scarlett a little. Maybe he would find some girl at the pool to fool around with, meet out at the club, bring back to his room. All he knew for sure was that there was going to be a lot of drinking and gambling and at least one guys’ night. Getting married had not even been a thought in his mind.

His mom is going to kill him. He figures he’ll deal with that later. 

Lizzie practically body slams him through the apartment door when it takes him longer than half a second to unlock it and get it open. “I call the bathroom,” she says before he can even set his bags down, sprinting towards it and locking herself in. He hears the shower running, knows that she is going to stay in there for an hour and use up all the hot water. 

He drops down on the kitchen floor, throwing an arm over his eyes. He could sleep for a week, and he is starting to really dread the thought of going back to work tomorrow. They should have come back yesterday, but none of them wanted to cut their trip short, even by a couple of hours. The next couple of months are going to be hell for him and Anthony; they’ve got two big projects to get out by the holidays, which will be the next time they can officially relax. It is going to be a lot of late nights and early mornings and weekends, and it takes all he’s got in him to open up his laptop, not wanting to start off the day tomorrow with six hundred unread emails.

By the time he gets done an hour later, Lizzie is still in the bathroom and he seriously has to take a piss. So he grabs clean clothes from his bedroom and ambles across the hall, pushing his way into Scarlett and Chris’s apartment, which has never been locked, at least not in the five years they have lived across the hall. Both of their bedroom doors are open, lights off, and he figures they probably both passed out immediately upon getting home.

He takes the fastest shower in the world; he is starving and he’s going to need at least twelve hours of sleep tonight. It is already six o’clock by the time he gets done. He contemplates waking up Scarlett and dragging her to go get food with him, but he doesn’t want her to bite his head off. So he settles for cold pizza that is probably far too old for him to be eating before he goes into his room and lays down, staring at the ceiling.

He has a lot of shit to get done this week, and it’s not all work. At the top of his to-do list is finding an attorney who can help them out of this mess that they have gotten themselves into. This is the last thing he thinks before he falls asleep, and his dreams are full of Scarlett and Vegas and wedding bells.