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    Parker Owens
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Predator Prey - 26. Daylight

No warnings needed for this chapter.

"What's going on with you, Wally?" Cookie threw out the question as breakfast was being served. The older man wore a smile, but it was a challenge, nonetheless.

"Who, me?" he volleyed back.

The Purser shook his head, but retained his amused expression. "Yes, you. See anyone else this morning with a shit-eating grin?"

"Just glad the storm is over, I guess."

Cookie made a face and sound somewhere between a snort and a raspberry. "Storm," he scoffed, "that wasn't much of a storm, Wally. More like a glorified squall. Now a few years ago it was a different story…"

He half-listened to the older man recount a tale about another cruise. Another year. But perhaps Cookie was right. The purser had more experience than he did, after all. Nevertheless, he was glad the sea had calmed down in the hours after he had left Graham in his room. After that last kiss. They'd lingered long over it, and he still didn't know how he managed to tear himself away from Graham.

But he'd had to do it, or his absence would have been noticed for certain. That would have told the Purser pretty much everything. Not that he was telling Cookie anything about Graham. That was something he was going to hang onto, treasure for himself, something to try to relive all on his own.

"So I hardly recognized you this morning." the Purser commented, snapping him out of his reverie. Cookie eyed him critically. "Don't remember seeing you in those slops before," he commented, handing over a platter of eggs to put out.

"What?" he asked, confused.

"Those clothes. They're not yours, are they?"

"No. I had to borrow them." The less he had to say, the better. He rearranged coffee mugs on the counter so there would be room for cereal.

Cookie smirked. "I guess you did. Kinda loose on you. What happened? Spill something last night?"

"Yeah, something like that."

"Well, this morning, maybe you wouldn't mind going over some of the supply logs with me, see how they match up with your accounting project. That is, after you get done with breakfast." Cookie often had something for him to work on for the morning hours. He sometimes got a nap in before lunch and his short afternoon watch. Usually, his longest sleep was right after supper.

The Captain made an appearance at that moment, with a greeting, and a few questions for the Purser.

"No problems last night, Wally?" the grey headed man asked pleasantly, after his queries were satisfied.

"No, sir," he replied. No problems that he was going to admit to, no way.

"Good. Glad that little unpleasantness last night didn't upset your constitution."

He nodded vaguely, and turned back to his work. No, he was fine. His brain was in automatic mode, performing his usual tasks in the mess, while his lips and mouth recalled soft skin, his fingers still felt supple sinews, his body still tingled with another man's warmth. Graham.

And Cookie had been right; he hadn't been able to contain a grin. He'd have to work on that.

He had until the tail end of breakfast to work on it. His relief hadn't arrived yet; she wasn't exactly reliable, and she was often late. He wondered if she had experienced a bad night. At any rate, nearly everyone was finished eating, and the galley and mess were pretty much empty. The Purser was in the mess stores, already ticking off items for lunch.

"Morning…Scott," Graham's voice sounded behind him.

He turned, and his grin returned, a mirror to Graham's shy smile. "Hey. Guess I made it in One Piece,” he joked lamely.

"Yeah." Graham's smile just wouldn't quit. "So what's for breakfast, Manga Boy?"

"Haven't got much left. You’re late. I could make you something, though."

I want to make you squirm…No. Stop that. He tried to tamp down his thoughts, but his grin refused to cooperate.

Graham put up a hand. "No, no, you don't have to do that, I wouldn't…"

"No problem. Won't take a second," he heard himself saying. He turned to the galley fridge and pulled out the last of the egg mixture in its container, waving off Graham's protests.

Since when had he gone out of his way for anyone?

He quickly wiped out a pan, added a bit of butter, and set the stove on high. "Scrambled eggs, coming up. There's some cereal left in the container over there," he said, pointing. Coffee. Graham would need coffee.

"Scott, I said…you don't…"

He paid no attention to the ineffectual objections behind his back, and grinned still more widely. Was there still coffee in the pot? He made a mug magically appear – he'd have to wash more.

"There, now," he said triumphantly a few minutes later, "eggs. Coffee." Finally, he noticed Graham glaring at him, though the cereal spoon in his mouth diminished the effect. "What?" he asked blankly.

Graham swallowed. "I said you didn’t have to do any of that. You didn't listen to me."

It took a moment for him to realize Graham wasn't kidding. "I thought…I mean…"

The look on his friend's face softened a little. "Look, it's really nice of you to make something special just for me. But I was telling you not to, and…I just hate not being listened to, okay?"

He chewed his lip, and looked away. Shit. He had meant well, really. But he ran right over what Graham had wanted; the man was right. "Sorry. I just…"

He felt a hand cover his on the counter, and looked up into Graham's eyes. Graham was smiling again. "It's all right. I get it. You're forgiven. Now. You have a clean fork someplace?"

He could breathe again. He nodded, and pulled one out of a drawer.

Just then, Cookie reentered the galley area. "Hey, I thought we were done," he cried.

"Just made Graham a little something. He had a long night," he concluded lamely.

Cookie made a face. "Matilda show up yet?" The man was asking about the relief watch; her name wasn't really Matilda, any more than his was Wally. Her real name was Katie, he thought.

"No, not yet."

"Geezus. Look, you mind finishing up on the dishes while I go see what's wrong with Madam Matilda?" the older man asked irritably.

"No problem." He couldn't help another grin.

He hated to turn away from Graham again, but there was plenty of cleaning to do still, plus the extra dishes he'd dirtied. He got ready to add a little more depth to his washing water. Clean water was a scarce commodity on the Feigenbaum. One had to mete it out carefully.

A moment or two later, he was startled to find Graham leaning against the deep sink next to him. "About last night…" Graham started.

He looked back up. "…I meant what I said in your room," he interrupted.

Graham blinked. "Um. I just wanted to say I'm sorry."

"What? You’re sorry?" He knew his tone was more annoyed than he meant. Did his voice sound as panicked and scared as he suddenly felt, too? And since when did he ever feel another guy was that important?

"Whoa, Scott, I didn't mean it like that." Graham looked a little scared, too. "I meant what I said, too. And I don’t regret kissing you, either." Graham paused. "What I was trying to say was that, um, I'm sorry I got you involved in my stupid…I put you in danger, and it was really, really foolish of me."

He sighed a little in relief. God, he was tired. "Don't worry about it. I was the one who put myself in trouble. I never thought about what could happen."

Graham smiled faintly. "I did worry about it. Pretty much all night. I figured you’d say something like that, but I...um, I hope you can spare some time this morning to stop in my cabin again?"

Hell yes. He wanted to say he'd be there in a couple of minutes. But the truth of necessity felt like a lead weight. "Shit, Graham, I'm sorry. I can't. My relief isn't here, and Cookie wants me to…"

"It's okay, I understand," Graham interrupted hurriedly. But the crushed look on the taller man's face, fleeting across his features before he got them under control, belied the words.

He reached over and put his hand on Graham's wrist. Blue eyes and brown locked for a moment. "I want to, Graham. Really. But I can't. Not this morning. Maybe later."

A moment passed, and then a wary smile stole onto Graham's features. The researcher stood away from the counter, disengaging from the hand holding his arm. "Okay, Scott. Later, then." Graham made his way out to the galley area, but turned back to the counter.

"Hey, Scott?" Graham called out.

"What?"

"I'm going to hold you to that."

He twisted at his place by the sink and flashed a grin. "No problem."

But he had his share of problems that morning, anyways. Cookie returned, grousing about soft, landlubber interns, while waddling his way back to the stores. But as he finished the breakfast cleanup and started in on the morning list of galley work, Katie-Matilda made her appearance. She was almost an hour late. She still looked kind of green, but she managed to take over.

Now that she was on her feet and present, Cookie took a kindlier, gentler tone and fussed a bit over her. "Sure you're gonna be okay, Matilda?" he heard the Purser inquire sincerely. "If you need to sit, go ahead," the man urged. The Purser was an old softie.

He seemed to remember Cookie talking about having had a couple of daughters of his own.

He didn't stay to watch, but he hesitated about where to go. If Graham was napping, he didn't want to wake him. Sleep was precious, he knew that. Besides, Cookie wanted to see his spreadsheet results from the past couple of nights, and he supposed there would be more ship's accounting to learn. He yawned hugely, and went to his cabin to do a quick wash and brush up. But he stayed in Graham's clothes.

"God, Cookie, I'm beginning to see the categories and account headings in my sleep," he complained. "Do we really have to go over this again?" He had spent much of the morning trying to suppress more yawns as he and Cookie slogged through the accounts repeatedly.

"Sorry, Wally, but I still have a few problems we wanna think about. Look down here…" Cookie was imperturbable.

Actually, it was a wonder he wasn't actually asleep on his feet already.

Later, Cookie snapped him out of near daze with the comment, "Come on, Wally, it's not that bad. You've stayed awake like this before, for heaven's sake. It was just a little weather excitement."

He shook his head to clear it. No, the excitement wasn't just in the weather.

What kept him mostly awake and smiling was the thought of seeing Graham someplace outside the galley. That and a couple of trips to the galley for coffee. Matilda-Katie could handle that for the morning, at least.

At noon, when he took over serving lunch and cleaning up, he looked for Graham. He wasn't there. Had the lanky researcher stayed away, or had the research team gotten held up, or was there a long nap involved?

But his disappointment was palpable.

This is stupid. I don't do this. Repeating this to himself did nothing to relieve the odd anxiety that made itself felt during the afternoon. He managed to shunt it off to the side of his brain as he did the meal prep for supper, and handled the midday galley chores for his short watch.

There was always coffee to make. Researchers seemed to live on the stuff, it appeared.

He was distracted by a pleasant surprise a half hour or so before his watch at the galley was supposed to end. Katie-Matilda, his usual relief, appeared, looking far more normal – less green and wobbly – than she had earlier that day.

"Hey, Wally, get out of there," she called out to him in the galley area.

"Hey, Matilda, you're early." He decided he could use her Cookie-name, too. "Feeling better?"

She made a face. "Yeah, thanks. Must've been something I ate."

"Sure thing," he grinned back at her.

She entered the galley area and surveyed the stove, with its array of pots and food bubbling away. Tacos. The meat was a little freezer burned, but the meal would be okay. "So everything under control?" she inquired.

"Yeah. Almost ready. Cookie decided to take a nap." Cookie seemed to have a way of living with perfect comfort on three or four hours of sleep at a time.

"Then you're relieved," the girl smiled back. "I owe you for this morning. Thanks."

He wasn't going to argue. He'd have time to take a quick shower before supper, for once. And it would be nice to eat the meal without serving it out first and starting the cleanup. Hell, that would almost be like eating at a restaurant or something.

Twenty minutes later, he was back at the mess area, fresher for a brief shower and a quick shave. He still wore Graham's sweats, though he'd changed into a cleaner tee. A line was forming at the serving counter. The smell of ship's cooking was unmistakable. Not bad, just unique to cramped marine kitchens.

And Graham was there, in line ahead of him. His profile wore a puzzled expression. He watched the taller man peer into the galley area, his eyes searching, searching, for something that wasn't there.

It was impossible to resist. It took no more than a moment to step out of the line; half a second for the tap on the shoulder; a turn of the head, and Graham's eyes lit up, though his mouth disciplined itself to a small smile.

"Looking for someone?"

"Yeah, but I found him." Graham's smile spread more fully across his face. "I thought you were still on watch, Scott."

"Matilda relieved me early," he grinned back. "Save me a place to sit?" He gestured at the food waiting on the counter.

"Get in line," the taller man told him, "there'll be a chair for you."

Graham had a place waiting for him at one of the minute tables when he got through serving himself. It seemed strange how small the table felt as people crowded in to find a place to eat. When he and Graham pored over One Piece in the wee hours of the morning, they seemed to have all the room in the world.

"I wasn't expecting to get to eat with you tonight," Graham smiled.

He couldn't help returning it. "Yeah, if I'd known, I would have reserved us a place in the First Class Lounge."

Graham smirked, and started in on his Feigenbaum taco.

"Hungry? You missed lunch." He couldn't help mentioning it.

Graham nodded, his eyes crinkled a bit in good humor. "Checking up on me, Scott?"

"I just missed you today, that's all." There, he had admitted it. He tried to cover his afternoon's worth of mental torsion with a shrug. It might have worked.

"I had problems with the data I gathered last night. I think I must have entered it badly, and I wound up getting involved in re-editing the whole set. I actually worked right through it," Graham explained. "But I missed seeing you, too."

They ate, addressing themselves to their meals, occasionally exchanging light comments with their table neighbors who sat elbow-to-elbow beside them. Perhaps they hurried.

"You wanna go up on deck? It's nice out," Graham asked, wiping his mouth with a paper napkin.

He nodded. "Sure. Can't be worse than last night, right?" He'd made light of it, but he shuddered a little. It had been less than twenty four hours since he'd almost drowned in the storm. Since his life had changed when the sea failed to carry him off.

They made their way up and out onto the aft deck. Two members of the scientific party sat near the tail, cleaning equipment. There was still light, but the sky was already going well dark astern of the Feigenbaum as it slowly chugged westward in the Gulf. The air felt cool, but it was a welcome change from having been below deck all day.

Graham leaned on the rail, looking out. He followed the example, and they were quiet for a few moments.

"I'm still scared, Scott," Graham spoke, looking to the south horizon.

"Scared?"

"By what could have happened last night. I keep seeing it replay in my mind, like bad headline news."

He nodded. He'd pushed the memory of it away; Graham's kiss had made that possible.

Graham went on. "Scott, you came so close to…" he fell short; took a breath and tried again, "I almost lost you before I ever…"

He understood. He reached out and covered Graham's hand on the rail with his own. He'd been so close to losing Graham, too. Losing a chance at becoming Scott and Graham.

"But it didn't happen," he spoke aloud, turning his eyes to Graham's. "You were there when I needed you. And we're here now."

Smiling weakly, Graham nodded. Suddenly, he moved. "Come on, quick."

"Where?"

He felt Graham take his hand, and pull him forward toward the bow. Quickly, they made their way onto the deck area forward of the pilot house and observation deck. Not many people came here – deck space was limited by the presence of a heavy winch and other equipment; not much research could be carried out from this spot.

The light was much stronger here, the sun a flaming orange blob on the western horizon. The pair stood just ahead of the observation deck wall, sheltered from view of the pilot house. Scott and Graham. The sunset colored them brightly, part of the painting.

"It's beautiful, you know, the sunset." Graham had to raise his voice a little against the breeze.

He looked up at Graham and smiled. You're beautiful, too. He couldn't resist the impulse to turn and pull Graham's mouth to his, to kiss him again in the fading light, with the setting sun as the only witness.

It was a very good day.

My appreciation and thanks to Craftingmom for her generous kindness in editing this chapter. tim, Carlos and Spike were awesome beta readers for this story.

Please consider leaving a review. Your responses and thoughts are most appreciated.

Copyright © 2017 Parker Owens; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Chapter Comments

The tentative feelings warring with worry that your feelings aren’t returned. Scott is in love!

 

:whistle: Scott and Graham sitting in a tree… (in the rigging?)

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On 03/09/2017 08:21 PM, droughtquake said:

The tentative feelings warring with worry that your feelings aren’t returned. Scott is in love!

 

:whistle: Scott and Graham sitting in a tree… (in the rigging?)

Yeah. Scott is definitely someplace he's never been before. It's exhilarating and scary, too. Thanks for reading further into the story. Too bad there isn't any real rigging for them to sit in; but they seemed to do fine at the bow of the ship...

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On 03/10/2017 02:30 AM, Wesley8890 said:

Another great chapter. Hopefully the new Scott is here to stat

Thank you. Hope the story continues to engage you. I think it would be hard for Scott to revert to being the predator, now.

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On 03/10/2017 02:37 AM, JayT said:

Good job again Parker...can't wait for more

Thank you so much for continuing to read the story. Glad you like it to this point.

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Oh, how love can take us over and drive us crazy. Especially love that has freshly sprouted. This was a very sweet chapter. All they needed was to reconnect to ensure each other this new thing, this Scott and Graham, is real. Thanks, Parker... I've been there, and I know the way time slows, and how only one thing matters... cheers... Gary....

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On 03/10/2017 04:32 AM, Headstall said:

Oh, how love can take us over and drive us crazy. Especially love that has freshly sprouted. This was a very sweet chapter. All they needed was to reconnect to ensure each other this new thing, this Scott and Graham, is real. Thanks, Parker... I've been there, and I know the way time slows, and how only one thing matters... cheers... Gary....

The love and attraction both men acknowledge is such a wonderful thing to observe. I enjoyed writing this chapter, letting them show us that what they sense is, as you say, real. Thanks for making it all the way to this stage of the story.

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Sco-ot-ty ... Sco-ot-ty .... Scotty's in love ... (sung to the tune of Tammy's In Love , from the old movie Tammy and the Bachelor, starring Debbie Reynolds, i think)
:) nice

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On 03/10/2017 12:04 PM, Mikiesboy said:

Sco-ot-ty ... Sco-ot-ty .... Scotty's in love ... (sung to the tune of Tammy's In Love , from the old movie Tammy and the Bachelor, starring Debbie Reynolds, i think)

:) nice

You have a lovely singing voice! And Scott is definitely in love. Six months earlier in his life, he would have scoffed at the very idea. Now he's there, and his focus is on Graham...and not himself. Glad you enjoyed this chapter. It's nice when the sun comes out. Thanks for reading and for your support. - P

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A nice turn for Scott and Graham, and I'm glad they have this moment... It's a beautiful thing to see.. Like everyone said, this was a wonderful and warm chapter.. But, it's not over, so I'm anxious to see where you take this next..

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On 03/10/2017 01:24 PM, Defiance19 said:

A nice turn for Scott and Graham, and I'm glad they have this moment... It's a beautiful thing to see.. Like everyone said, this was a wonderful and warm chapter.. But, it's not over, so I'm anxious to see where you take this next..

Scott and Graham make quite a pair. It's wonderful for both of them, and probably a bewilderingly happy thing for Scott, especially. It is good to see them together like this, and especially Scott, looking for his next meeting with the one he loves. But no, the voyage is not over. Many thanks for reading, and for your responses.

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Very sweet chapter, There is nothing quite so scary - nor so satisfying - as navigating through that first realization that you have found someone special, and seeing that the other side of the waters may be in view, and that the natives look friendly. As this is the first thing I have ever read by you, I really don't have a clue as to what your ideas may be on happiness. Especially, as in happy endings.
All i can do is trust you at this point and see where the ship you are sailing takes us. Shipwreck, or safe seas? I would prefer the second over the first, but also realize that sometimes, ships find their own ways, and that the ones that at first appear to founder, often find themselves beached on the shores of paradise.

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On 03/10/2017 02:20 PM, Geron Kees said:

Very sweet chapter, There is nothing quite so scary - nor so satisfying - as navigating through that first realization that you have found someone special, and seeing that the other side of the waters may be in view, and that the natives look friendly. As this is the first thing I have ever read by you, I really don't have a clue as to what your ideas may be on happiness. Especially, as in happy endings.

All i can do is trust you at this point and see where the ship you are sailing takes us. Shipwreck, or safe seas? I would prefer the second over the first, but also realize that sometimes, ships find their own ways, and that the ones that at first appear to founder, often find themselves beached on the shores of paradise.

I do like your analogies. This particular barque in which Scott and Graham sail appears to be a happy one, sailing on a lovely sea. It was fun writing about Scott, for whom this kind of realization and love is really his first time. And Graham is definitely friendly. I hope you continue to enjoy the story as it unfolds. Many thanks for reading!

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Oh boy, those feelings of anxiety, hoping to see the person you're crushing on, can drive you crazy. Especially thinking they might feel the same way as you do, despite the fact they told you otherwise.

 

I'm glad in the light of day, Graham feels the same about Scott/Wally/TP as he did last night.

 

Another stupid question (yes, I am full of them! :P): Since they were both sitting so close to the other people at the table, I'm wondering if there were others who picked up on their infectious smiles and grins aimed at each other. Maybe that's not really a question, but a comment. If Cookie had seen S&G looking at each other like that, he would have figured it out. :lol:

 

I was actually waiting for Cookie or someone to walk in to the galley when Graham was calling over his shoulder, "Scott." lol

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On 03/10/2017 03:23 PM, Lisa said:

Oh boy, those feelings of anxiety, hoping to see the person you're crushing on, can drive you crazy. Especially thinking they might feel the same way as you do, despite the fact they told you otherwise.

 

I'm glad in the light of day, Graham feels the same about Scott/Wally/TP as he did last night.

 

Another stupid question (yes, I am full of them! :P): Since they were both sitting so close to the other people at the table, I'm wondering if there were others who picked up on their infectious smiles and grins aimed at each other. Maybe that's not really a question, but a comment. If Cookie had seen S&G looking at each other like that, he would have figured it out. :lol:

 

I was actually waiting for Cookie or someone to walk in to the galley when Graham was calling over his shoulder, "Scott." lol

You are probably quite right that other people notice. But then, Graham and Scott seem quite focused on each other, and may not see that their shipmates know. We do not know Cookie's mind right now, the old man isn't saying what's on it. But we do know that Scott and Graham say they are in love, and their love looks set to deepen. Thank you so very much for your review, and for reading the story!

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It's very easy to get so lost in your thoughts that you forget that your expression is a mirror. Somehow, it's not surprising that Scott has that problem ... ;)

 

Wonderful chapter.

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On 03/11/2017 05:49 AM, northie said:

It's very easy to get so lost in your thoughts that you forget that your expression is a mirror. Somehow, it's not surprising that Scott has that problem ... ;)

 

Wonderful chapter.

And Scott's reflection is clearly a whole lot nicer to look at right now than it used to be! After all the hurt and uncertainty, it was good to write a truly happy chapter. Many thanks for your thoughts and for reading the story!

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Since when had he gone out of his way for anyone? -- indeed, at least not since climbing over the ship's railing to retrieve a sample case.

Since his life had changed when the sea failed to carry him off. -- More like when he decided not to let go of the ladder and life.

a chance at becoming Scott and Graham. "But it didn't happen," he spoke aloud, turning his eyes to Graham's. "You were there when I needed you. And we're here now." -- AWWW!

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7 hours ago, BlueWindBoy said:

Since when had he gone out of his way for anyone? -- indeed, at least not since climbing over the ship's railing to retrieve a sample case.

Since his life had changed when the sea failed to carry him off. -- More like when he decided not to let go of the ladder and life.

a chance at becoming Scott and Graham. "But it didn't happen," he spoke aloud, turning his eyes to Graham's. "You were there when I needed you. And we're here now." -- AWWW!

Yeah: awwwwww. Scott suddenly finds a wellspring of affection. Actually, it has been building subtly for a while. But Graham seems to have brought out  better things in Scott than he himself could have imagined. He’s definitely falling, perhaps to drown in a sea of Graham. Thanks again for reading!

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