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Catching Up

Posted on Mon Oct 24th, 2022 @ 12:40pm by Teague Harrington & Juniper Farnsby

Mission: The Xiao Jin Chronicles
Location: Xiao Jin, Dining Room
Timeline: Mission Day 47 at 1630

She'd been there barely 2 days, but Juniper had already made herself at home, taking on the kitchen like it had been given over to her ownership and not that she was merely managing it for the rest of the crew. She'd taken a moment, a small one granted, to wonder over the workings of the 'Verse that would bring her and Teague to the same place worlds away, and then she'd gotten to work wrapping up the inventory, cleaning, and rearranging of the kitchen and its supplies.

Poe had kept a clean enough kitchen, but if it was going to be hers she wanted it spotless and so while they were still on the ground she'd unpacked every cabinet, cleaning things until a body might've thought the kitchen had been dropped into the ship new. Then she'd set about returning things to their places while a stew sat to simmer on the stove top filling the space with the warm savory smells of soy protein, spice, gravy, and root vegetable. A loaf of bread had made its way into the oven as well adding that scent to the tantalizing aromas. She had just set about washing some of the dishes she had created while preparing the food when a noise in the dining room made her pause briefly, straining on instinct to pick up any detail about what had caused the sound.

With his quarters squared away, Teague had brought the ship's logs out to the dining room and spread them out on one end of the table. Sodding Poe, he thought as he took in the nearly undecipherable handwriting and lack of detail, he really bodged these books. He sighed quietly and thanked the cruel and capricious hand that liked shoving this stuff at him and bent his head to the task of translation.

Flour dusted and lightly damp bowl still in hand, Juniper stepped out of the kitchen space, peeking first into the space to identify the source of the noise and then, when she realized it was Teague, leaning nonchalantly in the doorway. The tall frame of her friend was familiar and foreign in turns, and she took a second to study him, truing up the reality of the man with her several years old memory. With a start she reached damp fingers back and fingered the green ribbon that she'd used to tie back her hair while she worked before a broad smile lit her face.

"Teague Harrington," she said, interrupting whatever he was working on. "I don't know the numbers, but the odds of getting myself a gig on a ship you were just about to buy have to be astronomical."

'A bit gobsmacked myself," Teague said as he shoved the ledger away slightly and looked up at her. "How you been, Junie?"

The petite redhead pushed off the doorframe with her shoulder, a half quirk of a smile playing across her lips as she made her way over to the table, setting the ignored bowl to the side. With a quick quirk of her foot she pulled a chair out next to him and sat. "Ain't nobody called me Junie in years," she commented with a chuckle before considering his question. "I've been surviving. Could even be said to be thriving from time to time I suppose," she told him. "And yourself?"

"The last couple of jobs left me quids in," Teague said, "which gave me the coin I needed for this. "But you know me, always have a plan."

She raised an eyebrow at his claim, both vague and assuming a familiarity of days bygone. 'Course she'd not been too forthcoming with him either. But she weren't a young girl trapped in a house caring for a passel of children that didn't near belong to her either anymore, so she decided to offer up a bit more. "More like have three or four plans," she commented. "And then there's me just following the current and seeing where it leads. I've been tending bar for the last few years. Cooking for a small crew feels almost like a vacation."

"Cooking and cleaning for anyone seems a bit like a prison sentence to me," Teague said. "Got too big to go unnoticed on Dyton and the streets are a dead-end if ever there was one. Started working ships, figuring out how things are done. Good and bad. It seemed like a good possibility, a way forward, but it's hard to find a crew that's ... compatible ... and a captain that doesn't faff faff around or worse, is an outright wally, innit?"

Juniper merely shrugged at that. One person's prison was another's freedom. She knew that well enough. "Can't say I'd know," she commented a bit absently. She'd only really known Persephone since leaving Dyton. "Got off Dyton, and made myself space here." She left out the obvious... that something had made her decide to leave again. "But I imagine it's a bit like any workplace. Wrong boss or bad employee and everybody suffers."

River stones, he thought. Wear down the rough edges, sometimes, the parts that make a person unique. She's changed from what I remember but then, I probably have as well. "Lucky for you then that you've got a good one," he said as he leaned forward. "One that would be ever so grateful for a cuppa, if you've got any made?"

Juniper chuckled, the sound bright and warm as it rolled from her lips. "Sit tight," she said, extracting herself from the chair and making a beeline back into the kitchen. It was a few moments before she returned, a mug in each hand and two small pots tucked against her chest with her arms. She leaned awkwardly down, setting the mugs on the table before retrieving the pots from where they were pressed to her and setting them down as well. "It's been a bit so I wasn't sure how you took it," she said, indicating the two pots. "Sugar and powdered milk," she said shifting one of the mugs closer to Teague before reaching for the sugar and spooning some into her own cup.

"Sugar was always a luxury," Teague said quietly as he leaned forward far enough to pick up his mug and then settled back into his seat. "Never got the habit." He waited for the tea to cool, hands wrapped around the warm sides, and shook his head ever so slightly. "Most nights, it was luxury enough just to have something warm to eat ... or drink." He grinned suddenly. "Remember how that matron at the home used to give us hot water with lemon? I was rather addicted to it. Cleaned floors for a greengrocer just so's I could get a few when they were in season."

One hand wrapped around her own mug, Juniper watched Teague as he spoke. She wasn't open about the watching. She didn't stare. But she did watch, taking in his tone and manner the way she'd learn to do as a bartender. Or maybe before that even, when she was learning to watch the master of the house for signs that she should make herself scarce. Her heart tugged slightly at his comment about sugar and for a moment she wondered when she had developed the taste for it. His grin, though, absolutely transformed his face making him look younger, almost boyish as he recounted the memory.

"Oh lord," she said, eyes rolling even as they sparkled with amusement. "Her answer to scurvy, that was. Give us a bit of lemon water and maybe she could skimp a bit on the actual fruit in our diet." Juniper's expression softened slightly as the memory really took hold. "I remember stealing away with our mugs and sitting in the upstairs window well talking about how we were going to drink real tea someday."

"I remember that window, well enough," Teague said, "the wood rot and shaky windows. Thought for sure the whole thing was just going to fall out one day. And you, with that moth-eaten blanket wrapped around you, talking about all these posh teas I never heard of." He'd memorized the names and found ways to sneak a single teabag into the packages he left. Not every one because it took a long while to figure out where they were and how he could get his hands on them. In the end, before he had to leave, he had given her all but two and even now it felt like a debt still owed.

"Oolong. Darjeeling. Rooibos." The names came back to her so quickly and with them the taste of each. She'd learned, after the first tea bag she'd found with his little packages, to squirrel them away for a special occasion when she could savor them. That... that had been when she'd developed the taste for sugar she realized. "Did you know that my favorite turned out to be Ceylon? With a bit of cream and something sweet in it." She imaged the flavor as she said it. Slight citrus notes with the dark bite of a black tea. "I always wondered how you'd managed to get your hands on them." She looked him over again, this time more openly. As she did she absently reached both hands up, taking the two ends of the bit of green ribbon and tugging to tighten the knot slightly.

"Things must have improved after I left," Teague said with a slight shake of his head. "Don't remember there ever being anything that had ever even been close to a cow when I was there. As for the teabags, that was easy enough. I found a store that sold them and figured out what the owner, an elderly gentleman, needed in the way of help. I offered, he agreed, and that was that."

Juniper shook her head, amused and yet not surprised by how Teague had come into the small fortune of tea he had delivered to her over a few years. If she'd been forced to distill Teague Harrington down to his most basic self when they were younger she would have called him resourceful. He'd a canny way of knowing how to do a thing in a way that worked without alienating anyone even if the doing weren't always strictly within the bounds of law abiding. And whenever he could he did aim to stay within the lines of the law. No use making things harder on himself or anyone else. "Not a thing got better after you left," Juniper said, thoughtful. "Wasn't until the Pearsons that I ever had such a thing as cream and sugar in my tea. But Mr. Pearson liked a proper tea setting from time to time and so I had to learn it. Sometimes I'd get a nip of the cream with my cup if he was particularly magnanimous that day or if they were showin' off the kindness they were giving an orphan 'cause they had guests visiting." She made a face.

"Ah now see," Teague said, grinning cheerfully, "that's where we differ. Far as I'm concerned, it's a deal. Maybe not a great deal but still, you get a bit of something in return for the pretense. If it were me," and here he saluted her with his teacup before taking a sip, "I'd have pushed it and taken a biscuit as well."

"You would have at that," she replied quickly with a laugh. She wondered when the last time had been that she'd been so quick to laugh. It felt good and easy and she settled into it like settling into a warm blanket. Not thinking she waggled her eyebrows at him teasingly. "And maybe a bit of jam with it."

"Now, you're getting the idea," Teague answered. "Just a matter of what they want and how much you think you can get for it." He stopped, the teacup paused before his lips as he added, "so long as it's something you're willing to part with in the first place." He settled back in his seat and took an appreciative sip and let the notion of it all, owning more than he could carry on his back, having responsibility for more than himself, settle around him. Not quite comfortable yet but maybe, just maybe, he could get to like all of this. "So," he said, "what do you have planned for dinner tonight?"

"Stew," she answered, a touch of shyness creeping into her expression, though even that couldn't dim the relaxed happiness she was feeling. Besides, she made good stews. "That and a good crusty bread for mopping up the gravy. Should be filling. Don't really have a handle on what this crew likes just yet, but I get them impression that meals haven't exactly been..." she paused, trying to put her finger on the word she wanted, "... somethin' they looked forward to."

With a quick motion she tipped the remaining contents of her mug back into her mouth, tilting her head back and sticking her tongue up into the mug to get the couple drips of sweetness that had settled at the bottom. She set the mug back on the table and, eyes glinting asked, "Any requests?"

"Not a one," Teague answered as he finished his tea and set the mug back on the table. "Never got to a point where I could be picky about food. As far as it goes for me, if it's made the same day that I'm eating it, I'm a happy man."

Putting on an exaggerated sort of surprise that was given away by the amusement in her eyes, Juniper gasped. "Why Teague Harrington that almost sounds like a challenge. I may have to make it my mission to discover your favorite food."

"If you figure it out," Teague answered, "you be sure to let me know!"

 

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