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Dawning

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“I think something’s wrong with me,” Kent said, looking down into the dark liquid in his glass as though answers could be found in the brew.

Joe's attention, which had been focused on the occupants of the pub moments before, his mind wondering as to what demons--real or otherwise--might reside in their fellow occupants, turned back to Kent.

“This case. What I felt. The things I did.” The physical wounds have almost healed -- the bruises on Kent’s face have faded, the cut at his temple is only a slim line of pink, but the emotional wounds are still raw, even weeks later. Joe knew his are barely scabbed over as well, although, he guessed, he was better at hiding them.

“Kent.” Joe’s voice was calm, and, he hoped, reassuring. “So much of it was the mold. It affected all of us, no one was immune. And when intense emotions are involved. And stress. Not to mention the sabotage.”

“But sir.”

Joe placed his hand atop Kent’s, stopping him mid-sentence. “Kent, Emerson, if I’ve misread this, if this isn’t what I believe it to be, then you can let me know. But if this is what I think is going on here between us, well, you should start to call me Joe. Or Chandler, if you’d like. I’m not terribly fond of other nicknames, but that’s something we could discuss.”

Kent’s smile was unselfconscious and hopeful in a way Joe hadn’t seen in some time.

The crowded pub, where familiar faces could walk in at any time, where less-than-friendly eyes could spy on them, was not the place for a first act of affection -- public or otherwise -- other than what they were currently risking. Still, Joe let his thumb rub across the top of Kent’s fingers. He added, “Perhaps at my home. I don’t have roommates and it’s more private. We would be alone.”

A look of pure longing flashed across Kent’s face and Joe almost went against his judgement and leaned in and kissed him. But the look was gone almost as soon as it appeared and was replaced by a look of doubt and fear.

“What if it's true?” Kent paused. “Joe... what if there’s something evil in me?”

“Apparently I’m an avenging angel.” Joe smiled and looked down at their hands. “If it’s true, then I’ll help you. We’ll defeat it.”

Kent smiled as Joe looked back up at him, his smile returned to the corners of his mouth, his eyes. He laced their fingers together. “And we’ll win.”