So, back in scene eight, Ben made a blink-and-you'll-miss-it reference to his friend Mark. And then something wonderful happened - I got feedback that stunned me, because I'd never considered that an original character I'd created to basically be an ass to Sam in "Sunshine State" would strike a chord with anyone. But Mark apparently did, and elucreh squeefully asked for his POV on Dean landing on his doorstep. For proof, I offer this quote from Lu: "(Um. Cough. I may have, kind of, a Mark. Thing. You know. I think partially because I treat people my friends are in love with who I can't trust in the exact same way.)" Crazy, no? Anyway, I decided to take a crack at it, and this is the result. Happy birthday, Skip! And my love, as always, to janissa11 for getting into the spirit (and how!) and doing her usual stellar beta-work on this.
If he looks at the rough draft of his report on the Russell 1000 Index one more time, his head is going to explode. Damn, does he need a break. He knows what he'd like to do, but chances are that Lu's not going to be happy if he calls her at work to suggest a little afternoon delight. School should be out in a couple of hours, though, and maybe he can get over there, lock the door behind the last little rugrat, and spread her out on her desk, let her run chalk-stained fingers over his back.
Or he could order some lunch, eat it in the little courtyard behind the building, and go through his notes again. He can never remember the name of that place that does the really good mango chicken, so he's rummaging through the pile of take-out menus stuffed in his middle right desk drawer when his phone rings.
The display just reads OUTSIDE CALL. Could be Lu, looking for a little lunch-hour distraction herself. "Mark Mileski."
"Hey, it's Ben."
"Ben, man! What's up? I've been meaning to catch up with you." He's been too busy these last few months to call, and assumed Ben was too, between school and the clinic and the ER.
"Mark, I need a favor."
Ben sounds a little off, uneasy somehow. "Sure. Hey, you finally coming out here for a vacation? Lu's been waiting for a chance to fatten you up."
"I wish," Ben says, a strained laugh punctuating his words.
"What's wrong?" Mark asks, serious now. "Is it Jaya? Angie? Your parents?"
"No, nothing's . . . it's not like that." It's not like Ben to be fumbling for words, not with him at any rate. "I just . . . I was hoping you could put Dean up for the night."
Why Ben's acting like this is going to be a huge burden, Mark can't figure out, and the awkward silences are making him tense and clumsy. "Yeah, of course, man. Tonight?"
"And Dean's your new guy?"
"Not so new. It's been too long since we talked."
"Okay. Spill. What's wrong with this one?" If Dean is the reason Ben sounds so miserable, he and Mark are going to have some serious words. Ben's got great taste in friends, and absolutely no sense at all when it comes to boyfriends. Mark's damned if he's going to watch the fallout from something like the Jonas-fizzling-out again, let alone the Sam-explosion. No way. Ben deserves a hell of a lot better.
"Nothing!" At least the surprise and indignation in Ben's voice sound real. And then Ben seems to catch on. "No, it's not like last time. I promise. Dean's good for me, you'll like him."
Ben takes a deep breath, and Mark frowns. "But you might think you have a reason to not like him."
Man, this is like pulling teeth. "Because?"
"He's Sam's brother."
"No. You are shitting me and taping me for some stupid reality show, because the Ben I know would never . . ."
"We didn't know," Ben says, sounding more relaxed by the second, now that the big secret's out. "Found out by accident. And you really will like him."
"Don't bet the farm, buddy," Mark says, clenching his teeth when Ben only laughs.
"I'll bet you one meeellllleeeeeon dollars."
"No, you shut up and tell Lu I said hi."
"When's this guy coming?"
"Dean is apparently breaking all land-speed records, so he could get there in a couple hours. Oh, and he's in a rush, so he might not stay the night. I just wanted to make sure he had a place to catch a couple hours' sleep."
"Is this one going to eat me out of house and home?"
"Just don't feed him after midnight, and you'll be fine," Ben says breezily.
"Nice dodge, you ass."
Ben gets serious again. "I owe you, Mark. Thanks."
"I miss you, man. And you're welcome."
Well, one good thing to say about Dean is that he gets Mark out of the office. "Working from home the rest of the day," he tells Joanne on his way out, waving the folder with the stupid report in it. He's on the couch in his sweatpants twenty minutes later, laptop propped against his knees, finally able to work in peace and not worry about falling asleep at his desk.
The phone rings, and he pushes aside the blanket Lu crocheted over the winter to find the handset buried in the couch. "Hello?"
"Hey, honey. Listen, Veronica's got an extra ticket for the photography exhibit tonight, so we're going to get dinner, go to the show, you know."
"Damn, really?" He could really use Lu's critical eye here, someone to agree that Dean isn't good enough for Ben.
"Yeah, why, what's up?"
"Just wanted to see you."
"Uh-huh. I think what you meant to say is, 'I love you and miss you, but I know you haven't gotten to see your friend in weeks, so I will eat leftover pizza while you catch up with her.'"
"There's leftover pizza?"
"I hid it from you behind the Tupperware full of stew," Lu says with no compunction at all. "It was too good to waste on you."
"I think what you meant to say is, 'I saved some pizza just for you, because I know how much you enjoy it and I love you too.'"
"Right. That was it."
"Have fun tonight, baby."
"You too," Lu says and blows a kiss into the phone.
He hangs up and goes to find the pizza.
An hour of solid work later, Mark hears a roar in the driveway. He steps out onto the porch to see a guy in a leather jacket emerge from one of the sweetest cars he's ever seen. She's a beauty, looks as well-loved as Betsy, sitting next to her, and for a second he's tempted to skip the tests he's got lined up for Dean.
Well, maybe he'll just take it slow. He gets out to the car and reaches out to shake his hand. "Mark Mileski."
Dean pulls a duffel off the front seat and turns to return the greeting. "Dean Winchester." His grip is firm.
Damn, up close this guy looks so much like Ben that it's a little scary. "You look . . ."
Dean cuts him a sharp glance. "We've been told."
"You don't see it?"
"Had better things to worry about," Dean shrugs, and Ben was totally right, he does already like Dean. The way Dean trails his hand along the black gloss of the car as he goes just strengthens Mark's gut feeling that Ben might finally have found himself a good one.
"Sleep or eat?" he asks Dean, and Dean relaxes a little, the lines on his face easing a bit.
"Got it. This way." Mark leads the way to the guest bedroom, waits for Dean to drop his duffel, and then heads for the bathroom. "This is the bathroom. Towel's here, if you want to shower or anything. The kitchen's back there, and there's pizza in the fridge, or help yourself to whatever else we've got."
"Thanks," Dean says, looking like his eyes are rolling back in his skull from exhaustion. "I'll get up in a couple hours."
"I'll be around," Mark says, shutting the bedroom door behind him.
He polishes up the draft, emails it to Nicole and Andre, and decides to reward himself with a beer. The weather's nice enough to sit outside, so he wipes down the plastic chairs on the front porch and settles in to watch the sunset.
Dean shows up when he's nearly finished the bottle, hair damp and smelling like soap, wearing torn jeans and another dark t-shirt. Dean's carrying a bowl of corn flakes, and Mark can't help but grin, recognizing Ben's breakfast of choice. Yeah, Dean's okay.
Dean eats like he hasn't had a meal in weeks, milk dripping down his chin as he crunches cereal. He talks with his mouth full, too. "She's real pretty," he says, pointing with his chin at Betsy.
"That she is. Yours, too."
Dean just nods and continues to scarf down cereal like it's going out of style. "I gotta hit the road. Thanks for everything, man."
"Yeah," he says, standing up and taking Dean's empty bowl. "Bring Ben with you next time, stay a while."
He hears Dean's car thunder off and goes back outside with the phone. Sipping another beer, he dials the number. "He just left."
"Did he look okay?" Ben asks.
"He slept a little, ate some corn flakes. Looked a hell of a lot better after that."
Ben's silent on the other end. "Hey, Ben? You there?"
"You liked him."
"I'm thinkin' I like him more than I like you right now."
"Wish I could come out there too," Ben says quietly.
"Me too, man. Soon, though, right?"
As always, I'd love to hear what you think.