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Where You Least Expect It

Posted on Sun Jun 5th, 2022 @ 9:34pm by Clayton Adams & Addy Stone & Henry Campbell

Mission: The Xiao Jin Chronicles
Location: Eavesdown Market
Timeline: Mission Day 21 at 1030

The market Clayton suggested was a riot of noise and movement. Barkers called out their wares from various and sundry stalls. Everywhere there seemed to be flashes of color. Addy found herself thankful for the man's height. With his long blonde hair and his 6 foot 5 frame, Clayton was easy to spot as they were jostled along. It reminded her of the cattle cramming themselves into the barn as they were corralled to be let into the milk house for milking.

"Where did you say we should stop first?" Addy huffed out, shouldering her way past a portly gentleman with a crate of something that rattled with each step pressed to his hip. She chanced a look up at Clayton, nearly clotheslining herself on a pole tucked across another woman's shoulder. She managed to duck just in time, but couldn't help the grumble that sped to her lips. She was tired, and had been awake for more than 24 hours. And she felt like her response times were hurting for it. She made a mental note to add coffee to Clayton's list if it wasn't already there. Good coffee.

"There's a little market down this way," he said though his attention was on the crowd at large. Kids streaking through the crowd and even the toughest of them automatically giving way. A hunched woman with sad eyes and a small purse haggling with a man over a bolt of cloth and the pair of them gesturing dramatically. A young couple, arm in arm, strolling as though they were on a fanciful core world instead of a shabby dock marketplace. He saw her tug on the boy's arm, drawing him toward a stall with all sorts of fanciful fripperies, and the tolerant smile he gave her in return. Young love. Lot of good songs written about that. "One of the few that actually has walls and a roof. Looks shabby and disreputable but the prices are fair and the owner gives me a good deal." He grinned cheerfully. "Played at his daughter's wedding, his son's birthday party, and I'm scheduled to play at his 75th birthday party." He frowned in concentration. "That would be in about ... two years? Yes, two years from now. But he'll remind me. You'll see. He always does."

"Play?" Addy asked, curious. She hadn't really had much opportunity to get to know Clayton. Beyond a hurried introduction the evening prior she had spent much if the time in the cargo hold waiting for Quinn to return. 'Sides it had seemed as if the Shepherd and he had catching up to do and she hadn't much felt like sitting with the Shepherd just then. Her suggestion about what she or the crew may think hadn't sat well with the redheaded mechanic and she preferred to steer clear of it for now.

Clayton nodded as he steered them toward a side street, out of the crowd, where there was more room to move. "While I'm a bit of a jack-of-all-trades," he said, "if I had one serious skill it would be music. I play guitar, violin and flute." He looked down at her, blonde hair falling across his eyes, "I can sing too. Last ship I traveled on, the Captain asked me to do my practicing in the dining area so that he and crew could listen without having to press their ears to my door."

The anecdote drew a warm amused grin from Addy. "Can't say I'd mind that myself," she said with a chuckle. "Some music would be an awful nice diversion out in the black."

The pair wove through people for another minute until Clayton drew them to a stop in front of a building. He hadn't been kidding about the exterior. It was mostly concrete, no real adornment and some of that crumbling round the door jamb. There was a roof, true enough, but it had clearly seen more than it's share of weather over the years. Addy glanced over at Clayton. "Guessing this is the place?" She said.

"Ah now, Miss Addy," Clayton said as he nudged her forward, "don't go getting faint of heart now. Good things come in the most surprising packages after all."

He opened the door and gestured theatrically for her to go in first. Course, having the advantage of height, he also did a quick check of the interior. One other customer, a young-ish man, neatly dressed in a charcoal gray suit, was looking over one of the displays but otherwise quiet. The store was as it had always been. Poorly organized, shelves all but bursting with a wide variety of goods. "This," he whispered, his voice dropping to a conspiratorial tone, "is something of a square egg store."

Addy's eyebrows rose slightly at that, mouth forming into an Oh of understanding before she ducked into the shop, eyes scanning the space. She was only three steps inside the door before she stopped dead, eyes fixed on the shop's only other occupant. From behind the man was familiar, almost painfully so. The cut of his suit fit right, but his hair was longer. A few more hesitant steps in she glanced back at Clayton and then made her way to stand next to him, shooting a glance out of her periphery to be sure. No doubting it was him.

"Henry Campbell?" She asked quietly, shock and surprise in her voice. "How in all the 'Verse are you here on Persephone?"

He turned and his answering surprise brought a wide smile, summoned by his pleasure at seeing her again, "Addy Weysmith! I knew you left Sweethome but no one knew where you'd gone." He moved forward, embracing her in a warm hug before stepping back. "It sure is a pleasure to see you again."

Being wrapped up in one of Henry Campbell's hugs was both familiar and entirely foreign all at once. For the blink of an eye after the war those arms had reached for her first and frequently. But it had been nearly 6 years since that time. Still, her body remembered the comfort of it and she squeezed him back.

"Likewise," she said, unable to suppress her grin. It was only then that it occurred to her, of everyone she knew Henry would most appreciate that she had found Quinlan Poe, would most understand the joy of it. He'd also be the one with the most wounds besides. So, though she wanted to tell him in a jumble of excited words instead she offered a less complicated explanation. "Got myself a gig as a mechanic on a Firefly. We move cargo and the like. What about you? How are you here of all places?"

"I'm doing the cargo runs now," Henry said. "Course, the Captain decided at the last minute to go with a different, better paying job. Bottom line, they pulled out and I've been looking for another ship. While doing that, I ran into this place and managed to find a few things we've been short of at a good price." He waved the problem off with one hand. "More importantly, how are you doing?"

She was stuck on his explanation. Enough so that his question hardly hit her awareness. Quinn hadn't been looking for jobs, she didn't think. But he'd suggested they go to Sweethome. And if they were going to Sweethome they might just as well get paid for it. "What sort of cargo?" She asked.

It was then that his question finally registered and she frowned. "There's a lot to tell on how I am," she commented. "Tell you what. You tell me about your cargo and then we'll see if we can find a spot for tea and a story. If you've the time of course."

"I'll tell you all the fascinating details of my cargo over tea," Henry said as he winged an arm for Addy to take. "I know a lovely little spot not too far from here."

Clayton, who had been sitting on a stool near the counter, looked up, cup of tea in hand, as he saw Addy take his arm. The two friends shared a conspiratorial grin as the owner mouthed 'young love' to Clayton who answered with a shrug.

Tugging gently, Addy directed Henry over to where Clayton sat with the quick explanation that she needed to let her crewmate know where she was going. She approached the two men offering a deferential nod to the older man who she assumed was the shop owner. "Clayton Adams, this is Henry Campbell, an old friend. Henry, this is Clayton, newly minted deck hand on the Xiao Jin and musician extraordinaire."

Clayton chuckled as he rose awkwardly to his feet. "Pleasure is all mine," he said as he reached out to shake the older man's hand. "And there here is Red Dog so named for that scruff he calls hair."

"Pleasure," Red Dog said as he shook out his long red-gold hair which fell well past his shoulder blades. "My father's always on me to cut it and every time he mentions it, I add another week." He grinned cheerfully. "Saving me a fortune on barbering."

"Nice to meet you both. I know your father from previous trips," Henry said as he nodded toward Red Dog. "Please give him my regards when next you see him and let him know that my father asked after him."

"I'll certainly do that," Red Dog said. "He's been a bit ... under the weather ... shall we say?" He ran a hand through his hair but shook his head slightly when Clayton gave him a quizzical look.

Once the two men had dispensed with the pleasantries Addy's demeanor shifted minutely. "Henry and I are going to catch up for a few minutes. Do you have what you need to make selections here?"

"Why certainly, Miss Addy," Clayton said. "You go on and have fun. I can see to the shopping."

"Thank you," she said turning a broad smile on him. "I appreciate it. See you back at the shop then."

"Lead the way," she said as her gaze returned to Henry.

With her hand tucked in the crook of his arm, Henry led them out of the ramshackle building and down the street to a quietly respectable teashop he remembered seeing on the way in. "I think you'll like this place," he said. "Almost as nice as Caroline's..."


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