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Graham wouldn't even give the bugs any mind if he and Sasha were to picnic on the grass in the park, and he might well help plan for that next time they decide to celebrate another sunny day of freedom and reclaimed life and name, but for now, the little diner -- a bit greasy where sometimes the staff forgets or misses cleaning up, but they're nice people, and the food is good -- will more than do well enough as celebration.

He still has to squint against the sun, though, and it doesn't slip his notice that Sasha lean into the shade that the wall provides. The light cutting through the window glides off her chin, and it's such a nice picture, to see Sasha looking even somewhat relaxed (to see her totally relaxed, as she is now) that Graham wishes he'd brought a camera to capture the moment -- Sasha, alive and herself, half in the shade but not hiding from the sun, hair now at chin-length and her glasses, out of the frame of this hypothetical Polaroid photograph, are in her bag.

Yeah, he should totally buy a Polaroid camera, actually. He's never even been that big into photography (nor painting, but that's... well, he won't dwell on that right now), but he doesn't want to miss out on future moments that he wants to keep. To keep real.

Anyway, that's something for tomorrow to do, because being out and about after being trapped in that hellhole is... quite a spin on his head. It takes some getting used to, like the seeming abundance of sunshine, but Graham's... coping surprisingly well. He thinks so, anyway. It... helps, in some awful way, that he's got no-one who's noticed (or not noticed) his ten years and some months disappearance. But Sasha... she's got her friends at the Institute -- and he's loathe to think of the Institute as fostering anything good in there -- and the horror of being temporarily replaced, and her friends don't even know that it happened. It's a sore subject that Graham's hesitant to broach again, what with Jon being a skeptic and Sasha wanting to deal with it on her own terms, eventually.

When Claire, the manager of The Sunshine Diner, sets their lunch down before them, she regards Graham for a moment, and it makes him squirm. Will she notice the absolutely unnatural way he hasn't aged at all? The lack of his glasses?

She does, but she smiles about it. "Been a while, Graham, 'bout, what, a decade nearly?" That grabs the attention of the other three patrons, elderly gents muttering over coffee and newspapers.

"Been a-- a long while, yeah, Claire," he says.

"And you still look good."

"Ah--"

"Bleedin' 'eck-- is this-- hi," she says to Sasha, extending a hand to shake, "I'm Claire, I run this place, I've known Graham since, what, 90s?"

"Late 90s, yeah."

"Yeah. How do you two know each other?"

"Oh, we're-- we're friends. Neighbours." The last word tastes sour and twisted in his mouth. Unright.

Claire nods and speaks to Sasha directly while Graham gently swirls his too-hot cup of tea. Sasha says something about Graham living across the hall and sometimes dogsitting for her while she's at work at the Institute, and she laughs a little at the look on Claire's face when she mentions it. An almost universal opinion, it seems, not just for the Institute's more well-known reputation as a graveyard of scary stories, but for its -- for lack of a better phrase -- utterly disgusting vibes. Even the elderly gents seem to pull more dour faces at the mere mention of it.

"I've been thinking of going clothes shopping after," Sasha says, after Claire bustled into the back again and she'd had a few bites to eat and mull over. "I might even give some of... some of those other clothes to a charity shop, or something. If I don't burn them instead."

"Yeah," Graham says, tugging on the snug fit of one of Tim's old t-shirts; he's grateful for a change of clothes, don't get him wrong, but the t-shirt and jeans don't fit him as well as they do Tim (who, as he understands, is sort-of Sasha's almost-boyfriend). "Yeah, sounds like a good idea actually." Aside from the money the Not-Thing left behind in Sasha's pocket as an additional thank you for destroying the table, Graham's double-checked his own bank account and couldn't be any more relieved that it's still active, somehow. He doesn't want to question it, not even ascribe it to the Not-Thing's promise that his and Sasha would return to their lives seamlessly. More importantly, he can buy his own clothes with his own money and find a new flat to rent. Maybe even cement the truth as being Sasha's neighbour.

If she even wants him near. She might, for now.

For the very moment, the food is good, Sasha relishes the coffee, and they make plans on a picnic for the next sunny day.

(He tries to ignore the way one of the older gents seems to have a longer neck, or how he moves... oddly. Maybe he's just an odd fellow, utterly harmless.)

 


 

When they do go shopping, later in the afternoon. Graham's a little miffed that people seem to be staring at him, likely at the ill fit of his borrowed clothes, although he can't imagine that this is the first time any one of them has seen someone like him. Sasha's too busy looking for something new and fresh (and clean) to buy to notice.

Maybe people think they're together. Lord above, as if. She's more of a daughter to him than anything else. A friend, daughter figure, confidant. He probably looks old enough to be her dad, anyway; the greys in his hair and the lines on his face and bags under his eyes did him no favours for his then-35-year-old body, though he's certainly closer to 50 now.

He's rocked out of his sour train of thought by Sasha poking him in the shoulder with a clothing hanger. "Earth to Graham, lover of accountants--"

"Oy!" he half-yelps, earning a swivelled head in his direction from one of the staff. "You're awful, you know that?" he asks, grabbing the sweatshirt that Sasha prodded him with. Nice material, soft. Might need a t-shirt to go under it.

"Only because you keep going on about Tim."

"Well..."

Graham doesn't get the chance for another rebuttal before Sasha scoots off to try on new clothes.

In the end Graham only settles on a few things -- new underwear and socks, the single sweatshirt, a plain long-sleeved t-shirt, and a pair of trousers. He offers, then insists that he pays for Sasha's lot as well. "You already paid for lunch," he reasons, to which Sasha scoffs but lets him pay anyway. She scoffs again when he offers, jokingly, to carry it all. Not that there's a whole lot between them, because yes Sasha did buy more for her own sake but even then it's not a lot, yet it is heavy altogether, surprisingly. Running around in the gallery has done no favours for his upper body strength.

It's a relief to get back to Sasha's flat, just as the sun starts to dip and bleed the sky orange-pink-blue-purple. His arms ache from carrying the majority of it despite Sasha's protests and ribbing (both verbal and physical, resulting in Graham calling her a twerp, then a twerpasaurus rex when she gets him again), and he shakes his arms to regain feeling.

Afterwards, it's a load of putting stuff away, with Graham's lot going in a storage cupboard -- which, honestly, Sasha, he doesn't mind -- and then flopping on the couch to watch whatever's on the TV, with Mr. Peanut jumping onto Sasha's lap. It's when it starts to get properly dark that Graham closes the curtains, and double-checks that the windows are closed. Sasha notices, he knows (he Knows?). He knows she'll probably leave the light on when she goes to bed.