A/n: Fun fact: I tinkered with this story on and off for two years. D: Ah well, please enjoy the fluff! Reviews appreciated. ^^
Edit: In one of those crazy twists of life, Blood Red Vampress has just recently, it seems, posted a story on this exact topic! I PROMISE I wasn't ripping off of her story, and I'm so sorry if anyone is angry or thinks I was stealing...I promise, it's just a coincedence! *dazed*
"Hmm?" He looked up, and a ghost of a smile crossed his face. "Yeah, I'm fine."
Val frowned. "Seriously Markus, what's wrong?"
"Oh—" he returned to thumbing through files with trembling hands. "I guess I was little preoccupied…"
"I…have a dentist appointment tomorrow. Hey I think I'm gonna grab a cup of coffee." He bounced up from kneeling by the filing cabinets, and headed for the door.
"But Markus…" Val asked, bewildered.
"What?" He paused in the doorway and looked at her over his shoulder.
"Is it something serious? Root canal?"
"No, no, just a 6-month checkup. No big deal." He gave a tiny smile, face slowly turning white.
"Hey, I have an idea," Val suggested casually. "Why don't I come with? We can grab lunch and then I'll just do some paperwork in the waiting room. Then maybe afterward we could watch a movie."
"Really?" Markus' feeble smile emerged from the chrysalis. "That would be awesome! It's tomorrow, 3:00. It's my day off, so…"
"Yeah, that's my day off too! It'll be perfect. Um, one more thing, Markus, before you get that coffee—" She bit the inside of her lower lip and glanced again at his sweat-drenched coat. "Uh, well, never mind I guess," she concluded, forcing a smile. "3:00 it is."
"Markus, are you feeling all right?" Val glanced over to the front passenger seat. "Are you motion sick? Let me roll down your window for you." She reached out to the controls by her left elbow.
Markus shook his head, teeth set on edge. "Val…I need you to stop the car." He was curling up into himself.
"Stop the…Markus, I'm going 75 m.p.h. in the middle lane of the highway! Can't you--"
"Please Val," he rasped, "I feel really—" he retched and grabbed the paper bag that held their leftovers from Panera. Miserably he brought back his recently-eaten lunch. It was an intensely awkward minute, and when he quietly spat out the remaining bile and laid the bag on the floor, he looked away.
Val had to keep her eyes on the road, but she reached out and brushed his shoulder with her fingers. "Markus, I'm sorry. It was dumb of me to suggest we have lunch…I just figured you wouldn't be able to eat for a while after the fluoride, and that you'd want your blood sugar high…"
"Don't apologize, Val." Markus made a face out the window as the bile lingered stubbornly on his tongue. "It was kind of you, and it did make me feel better…I just couldn't keep it down for some reason."
"Yeah…some reason…" Val repeated in a murmur, switching lanes with a quiet sigh.
"Sorry, what'd you say?" Markus rummaged through the glove compartment, fished out a napkin, and began scrubbing his tongue.
"I said you could use that water to rinse your mouth out," Val instructed, pointing to a bottle of water in the cupholder, "And then I'll get you a mint LifeSaver from my purse."
"Sounds good to me." Markus grabbed the plastic bottle and was soon swishing and spitting out the window as discreetly as he could. "This is the turn you wanna take," Markus said a few minutes later. He shoved the candy into his cheek with his tongue and added more clearly, "Right there, see?"
Val nodded as she flipped on the turning signal. "Uh-huh. Is this dentist good?"
"I g-guess. The thing is, I don't know how to explain to him that…" Markus sputtered to a halt.
"…that?" Val ventured. She smoothly turned onto the exit and they glided up the ramp.
"N-nothing. Take a right next turn."
Val's sighed. "10-4."
Markus started to curl into a little ball again. He glanced sideways out his window, eyeing the street signs with a hunted look. "Hey, Val?"
"Look, there's something I wanted to tell you…"
"Well, go right ahead. I'm not going anywhere."
"Well, I'm a pretty confident doctor, right? I mean, I don't ever panic when we're doing surgeries, I can keep calm even when the vitals are dropping, right?" He moved a shaky hand through his slicked back hair.
"Yeah Markus, you're one of the best surgeons around," Val agreed. "I've never seen you lose your cool in the O.R. You can handle anything."
"I think so too. But—nobody is confident about everything, right? No one's that good."
"Well…sure, Markus, everyone has something they're afraid of, some weak spot. We're only human, ya know."
"Yeah, exactly. A-and, uh, I wanted to sort of…let you know that…"
"Markus, I am so sorry, but I have to ask if we turn here." Val felt like slamming her fist into the horn when she saw Markus' face fall.
"Morgan Ct, right up there by the train tracks," he mumbled, sliding down an inch in his seat. "You'll…be taking a right into the parking lot." His voice was starting to give out and he wiped his palms on his pants.
"Drink a little more water," Val suggested, catching him licking his lips. "And…Markus..."
"Uh…well, if you're still thirsty after that…they probably have a water fountain."
"Oh. Yeah." Markus sank two inches lower.
The dawdling Markus did in the parking lot, combined with the searching for a dumpster to dispose of Markus's ill-fated lunch, turned being early into being on time by the skin of their teeth. By the time they got to the waiting room, Dr. Winschief was waiting for in the doorway to the dental room.
Markus shrugged out of his coat and lay it on a chair in the waiting room. "Right, Val, see ya." His voice was flat, face chalky. He paused at the door and glanced back. "…hey, Val—"
"Uh…well, see ya."
"Oh…" they looked at each other sadly before Markus disappeared into the room. Val sat down and cradled his worn brown coat in her arms.
"Nice to see you, Mr. Vaughn. Go ahead and lie down." Dr. Winschief gestured to the dental chair and set about putting on his mask and gloves. "Any interesting cases lately?"
"Uh…n-no, not really." Markus eased himself down and clenched his jaw. He stared stupidly as the smiling dental assistant pinned a large blue napkin around his neck to keep his shirt clean.
Dr. Winschief nodded. "Yes, work is like that sometimes. So routine…ah well." He reached toward his tray of tools and selected a pick, and a coin-size mirror attached to a thin stick of metal. "Just open up and we'll get started….Mr. Vaughn, is something wrong? No? All right them, open up…thank you…" Smiling encouragingly, the dentist began to move his hand toward Markus's mouth.
He jerked back as the teeth clicked together. "Uh—Markus? Are you sure you're all right?" He glanced down at his patient's white knuckles gripping the arms of the chair.
"Maybe not." Markus squeezed his eyes shut, reaching for his chest and pressing his hand on his sweat-soaked shirt. "Dr. Winschief…my friend Valerie is in the waiting room. Can she…come in?"
The dentist shot a questioning look to his assistant, then nodded. "I think that would be fine. Becky, would you—"
Val was already in the doorway, still clutching his jacket. "Markus?"
"Val…I'm kind of scared," Markus blurted. "Would you--would you stay with me?"
"Nothing I'd like more." Val drew up a white metal stool with her foot, and sat down by his legs. She spread his jacket over his legs for extra comfort, put her hand on his knee and rubbed her thumb over it gently. "Think about movies you've been wanting to watch; as soon as you're done here, we'll go pick up some dvds."
Well, not quite, Val, he thought. As soon as this was over, he was going to crush her with a hug.