Ben came in with the news tonight as I was sitting on the kitchen table, trying to avoid the puppy-vs-dog play battle that was going on underneath said table. He got one look at me and laughed.
It’s his fault I have two dogs and a dragon egg in my fireplace. He separated the two combatants, dumping Gibbs in Mark’s lap as he was watching some movie on the TV. Winston immediately sighed and went off to find a place to nap.
“You know, it’s not good for him to play so much that you’ve retreated to the top of the kitchen table.”
“I’m up here because they’ve spilled my beer four times and I’m trying to balance my books for the shop.”
Ben leaned in and stole a kiss before I remembered that I was mad at him for the puppy.
“Gibbs ate your tie, by the way. The red one that we used on Friday night.” I said as I watched him take off his coat.
Ben groaned and I got a little satisfaction from the noise. After all, it was his favorite tie.
“How much did he eat?”
“Enough to have me feeding him pumpkin.”
Ben dropped his head to the door frame he was standing in and tapped it lightly over and over again. I couldn’t help it, I laughed. That made him scowl at me.
“You find this funny do you?”
“I find this about as funny as you do. Especially since he ate my only good pair of white heels yesterday night, while we were all asleep.” I put the laptop I was working on down and tugged Ben over to me by his blue tie. “Looks like I’ll have to go buy another pair. Wanna go shopping with me when all this mess dies down?”
Ben leaned and kissed me, before murmuring in my ear, “only if you wear the skirt.”
“I think I can do that.”
“Oh please, why don’t the two of you just get a room already?” Miles said as he walked in to the room. Mark followed.
“They do, we’re invading it.” Mark said.
Miles rolled his eyes. “You’re not helping.”
Mark just shrugged.
“What are you doing here, Miles?”
“The word around town is that Ben here saw the finale to the ritual as he was checking on George.”
“Who’s George?” I asked.
“The dragon behind camp ground. The locals named him George last year.” Ben said as he tugged me off the kitchen table and plopped us both into one of the chairs.
“Oh. I thought it was a she?”
“She is a she. Her name is George.” Mark said, sitting at the table.
“Anyway, yes I did see the end. They were leaving as the worst of the storm hit. The Priestess looked a little worse for wear and the Sheriff had all available ambulances there for the survivors.”
“Max?” “Mark asked quietly.
Ben shook his head. “I didn’t see him walk out, but the Sheriff said he’d be calling the survivor’s families as soon as they’d been checked out.”
“Do we know who did this yet?” Miles asked.
Apparently his little network was failing him.
“Not that the Sheriff is saying.” Ben said.
Before I could ask a question, Marks phone rang from where it was on the side table. I watched Mark lunge for it and held my breath as he answered. He walked to the windows at the front of the living room. We could barely hear anything from the kitchen. I reached for Ben’s hand and gripped it tight as we waited. When Miles reached for my other hand, I gladly obliged and gripped his hand tightly.
Mark finally hung the phone up and turned back to us. His eyes were filled with tears and grief and my heart shattered for him. I was so hoping that he would survive this and come home. I pushed myself out of Ben’s lap and walked over to Mark, wrapping him tightly in a hug.
“He’s gone.” Mark whispered.
I couldn’t say anything, I just held on as he started crying. I started to cry too and when I looked over, I saw that Ben and Miles were both crying as well. We’d lost a friend, but that was nothing compared to what Mark had lost and there’s nothing that we could have said or done to make it better.
“You’ll stay here.” I murmured to Mark. “Stay here until you’re ready to go back home.”
Mark nodded and kissed my temple.
It’s funny, friends can mean more than family when they care for you like family.