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Two for... Coffee

Posted on Sun Jun 12th, 2022 @ 8:32pm by Addy Stone & Henry Campbell
Edited on on Mon Jun 13th, 2022 @ 9:07am

Mission: The Xiao Jin Chronicles
Location: Tea Shop near Eavesdown Market
Timeline: Mission Day 21 at 1100

The tea shop that Henry mentioned was a cozy spot boasting tea service and a lunch menu with some light fare. It was light and airy with white cane chairs and plastic table tops with small silver specks of aluminum in the lacquered white of their tops. It wasn't, visibly, like Caroline's in Farmstead and yet the feel of the place was similar. A community spot where people enjoyed a moment's respite. Addy liked it immediately.

Henry led them both in and found them an open booth near the side of the place where they could both see the door fairly well and could talk without too much interruption. A perky young woman appeared next to the table mere moments after they sat sporting a smile and a clean apron that boded well for them.

"What can I getcha?" she asked with more cheer than Addy could fathom a person holding all at once.

"Pot of coffee," Henry said, "and maybe a plate of those scones I saw earlier?" He remembered, from the days when they kept company, her preference for good coffee over tea especially when combined with something freshly baked. As the waitress scurried off to get their order in, Henry turned his gaze on Addy's. "There are always fresh baked goods here," he said. "And I seem to remember you having a fondness for that sort of thing."

Coffee. And scones. It would have felt like a romantic gesture were it not for the company she was with. "And I seem to remember you had a fondness for indulging me," she said, soft nostalgia in her tone. He always had known how to make her feel special.

It seemed as though the waitress had barely disappeared before she returned with a French press, a small pot of cream and a bowl with sugar cubes. She left the coffee and was back just moments later with a single plate, two large scones, warm and buttery, dominating the surface.

Addy could feel her mouth watering, but she had manners enough to look across the table at Henry. She reached across, snagging his hand and squeezing it lightly before releasing him. "Thank you," she said, and meant it.

He smiled, pleased that he'd remembered, pleased that she liked his choices. He pressed the plunger down, slowly, and when it was finished, poured a cup for her and then for himself. He added some cream to his own and took an appreciative sip. "Oh," he said, "that's nearly a religious experience what with coffee being such a luxury item these days."

Cream went in first and then two sugar cubes before Addy stirred her own cup and cradled it in her hands. She watched Henry sip his first, noting the expression on his face and grinning. She'd always appreciated his expressions. Something about the way he conveyed himself that always felt open and honest. The now tan liquid came to her lips and she sipped slowly, letting the silky warmth of the coffee fill her mouth. She held it there a moment, just enjoying the taste of it and then swallowed it back, setting her cup before her again. Now it would be the game of how fast to drink. Too slow and it would get cold. Too fast and you wouldn't have time to appreciate. "If that's religion then sign me up," she said with laughter in her tone. "I'll be the most devoted of acolytes."

"You'll like the meetings," he said. "More like the church socials we used to have back home. Lots of chatter over all manner of sweet things and of course, pots and pots of coffee." He smiled because it was easy to smile around Addy and because, problems aside, it was a good day. "Been thinking about trying to start growing coffee. If only to feed my own addiction."

That caught her attention. If Henry could pull it off he'd make a killing. Coffee was rare enough, but people with the resources to grow it seemed to be even rarer. "You'd need some climate control for that," she commented. "Coffee's tropical largely. You got a plot where you could get a greenhouse up for that purpose?"

He nodded, a shy jerk of his head, and then launched into an explanation. He had spent a lot of time and thought, research and long conversations with folks who would know, all with the intent of making this work and the plan showed it. Or at least he hoped it did. "... and with Micah doing the day to day, I can still help Dad with the business while I get things going. What do you think?"

The cane of the chair pressed into her back as she leaned backward to listen. Henry had always had his father's talent for business and planning. But this was wholly his and she could tell by the care he had put into planning and the way his eyes seemed to light at the thought. "I think you've given this a lot of thought and already know that what you've got could work," she said, something like pride welling up in her as she said it. Her eyes shone as well, warmth in their familiarity. "Have you sourced your trees yet or is that the next step? Seems you're all but ready to run at it, so shouldn't be a thing holding you back."

"I have a line on a few," Henry said. He paused long enough to take a sip of coffee and then he continued. His face was animated, wholly alive, as went into an explanation of the various types of coffee beans, where he would start, and how he planned to branch out into roasting as soon as he could. "Small batches at first," he said. "But that will change over time." He waved away the conversation and smiled. "But enough about me, tell me what's been going on in your life."

Henry's enthusiasm was infectious and, truthfully, Addy could have gotten lost in the midst of all he was describing. So familiar was the way they interacted that for a moment she found herself missing home with a pang of longing that tolled deep in her belly. When he shifted them to her, though, her cheeks flushed despite themselves. She bought herself a moment, lifting her coffee to her lips and sipping slowly. There was, really, only one thing that mattered to share, but she wasn't entirely sure how he'd react to the news.

"I found him," she said softly as she set her cup back down on the table. "Quinn. I found him."

"Oh," Henry breathed. "Oh, Addy, I'm so happy for you. Word was always that he'd ... you know ... well, I'm glad they were wrong but, how did you find him? It's a big 'verse and all." He settled back in his seat, coffee in hand, ready to hear the whole long tale.

Addy's smile had turned almost shy, as if the telling was a fragile precious thing that she was about to reveal to him. "I called in some favors," she said honestly. More men and women had gone through their guest bedroom than she cared to remember and some of them had been easy to keep in contact with or to reach when information was needed. "One of the men who we'd treated had heard something about a Poe taking jobs out of Eavesdown on Persephone. So I got the funds together and left. I figured I could ask around here and if I couldn't find him I could find work."

She shrugged a little self consciously. It had been such an impossibly unlikely plan. A shot in the dark as likely to meet success as it was likely to have her father's blessing. "Honestly," she said quietly, voice still soft although the joy of the memory bled through, "I was lucky. It was like... like the stars lined up. I got here, asked around and... and there was the Xiao Jin and Quinlan Poe set right at the bottom of her ramp like he was waiting just for me."

Something in her stomach twisted with the excitement and anxiety of the meeting even though it was several week a memory now. "I hired on as mechanic and..." Her coffee had been abandoned in the telling, but she stopped and sipped it now, quickly. "There had been letters, Henry. He sent letters. I don't rightly know what happened to those letters, but they were sent. And one with funds to come to him. He wanted me to come after the war. To be with him." This was delivered almost breathlessly, with wonder at the truth of it."

"I am very sorry to hear that, Addy," Henry said as he reached out a hand to cover hers, a gesture of comfort, as he shook his head. "I can't see old man Hanson, who handled what mail they received, hiding your letters. He's no friend of your father's but he's always liked you well enough."

The feel of Henry's hand enveloping hers was a comfort so immensely familiar in the midst of telling him this that her eyes pricked at the corners with relief. She nodded her understanding at his statement. Addy had puzzled this too. Who had the letters, assuming they even still existed, and where they had been held up. The answer, no matter how much she wanted to avoid it, was her father. "I suspect my daddy has the letters," she admitted. "Or had them at least. Quinn wants to go to Sweethome. Do some finding out, I guess. If nothing else I can pick up a few more of my things."

Red hair bounced as she shook her head slightly. She studied Henry's face, letting out a long breath as she did. "I didn't know if he'd want me after all these years," she added, "but he does. And I can hardly make sense of it."

"It's a wonder to me how that happens sometimes," Henry said. "Two souls meet and there's this instant connection. Its powerful." He paused, took a sip of coffee, to cover the inner debate but this was Addy. He'd never held back from her. "You know that Hanson's girl, Alice, she felt that way about your brother, Peter. She never did get over what your father did to her."

Addy frowned. "What do you mean?" she asked, and because it was Henry she didn't try to act neutrally calm about the statement. He'd withdrawn his hand at some point and so now she reversed the gesture, setting her hand over his where it held the handle of his mug. "Henry, what did he do?" She asked earnestly, gut twisting with worry.

"He took her aside, told her how worthless she was," Henry said. He twisted the cup on its saucer as he spoke, eyes resting on the ripples in the half-emptied cup. "Scared her off good and so, when your brother asked her out, she turned him down. And that's not the only time that's happened. He has this way about him, of homing in on your insecurities, making you feel like you aren't good enough to be in the same room with his kids. Sad thing is, Alice never got over it, you know. I think she's still carrying a torch for your brother."

Addy felt frozen. She knew that her father had been... protective... but to tell Alice Hanson she was worthless? To scare her off before Peter even had a chance... She processed all of that in a moment before her hand tightened around his. "And you?" she asked quietly. "You came courting for months. We..." She stopped. He knew well what they had said and done. "Henry..."

"He came," Henry said quietly, meeting her gaze now, "but telling me I wasn't good enough wouldn't work and he knew that. He threatened my Dad's business instead. A well-placed rumor here, a full-on lie there. And we weren't doing so well back in those days." He sat up straighter, nodding his head firmly. "Taught me some things about diversification and that's helped put us in a better position. My parents aren't going to starve through their old age. Not if I can help it."

The mortification was written in every line of her. That wasn't merely a threat meant to degrade, it was a threat against his livelihood. Against his family. "When?" she asked softly.

"While we were seeing each other," Henry said quietly. "Your Dad told me plain that if we broke up, my parents wouldn't have to pay the price. If I told you any of it, it would go even worse for my family." Henry shook his head. "We'd already come to understand, you and I, that we weren't ... well, suited ... and once I understood all of that, accepted it in my heart, I didn't fight you about going our separate ways. Best for you. Best for my family though my Dad? He said that if we loved each other, he'd back me all the way." Henry smiled fondly at the memory. "And my Mom said that she could double the size of the vegetable garden. We wouldn't starve."

The emotions that ran through her as he spoke were complicated. Her heart raced, anger flaring at the thought of her father threatening Henry. He had been the brightest thing in her life at a very dark time. She could imagine the tone of voice he'd used. Quiet. Calm. Cold. But with that there was Henry's comment about his father. His family, too, had been a bright spot and... had she and Quinlan Poe never met... she might have gone so far as to marry him. His parents' word warmed her in a way she couldn't quite describe.

"I didn't know," she said quietly, withdrawing her hand to cradle her mug. "Henry. I am so sorry."

Henry smiled warmly. "Didn't think for a minute that you did, Addy. That was your father's doing. Brutal but effective. In some respects, I think he was wasted as a farmer." He chuckled, a rueful sort of sound, as he added, "Possibly running some sort of criminal organization?"

Somehow Henry's warmth softened some of the spiky anger in her. It was still there, but banked as it was she could meet his eyes with a smile. "Hank Weysmith, Criminal Mastermind," she said with an undercurrent of dark amusement. It lasted only a moment though before she sobered.

Her eyes moved to the two scones, still untouched, and she gently nudged the plate between them. "Tell me about your cargo," she said, changing the subject as a tiny inkling of an idea started to form in her head. She broke off a bite of the buttery treat and popped it into her mouth, an appreciative groan leaving her once she had swallowed the morsel.

"Stuff for the store primarily," Henry said. "No produce or livestock, thank goodness. It's been hard enough trying to find a freighter willing to make the trip to Sweethome let alone having to worry about that."

Addy nodded, thoughtful. "What was the other captain charging you?"

Henry named the rate. "A bit over what I would usually pay but it was the only freighter I could find, and unfortunately, they knew it."

"What if I were to tell you that I knew a transport heading to Sweethome who would accept your usual rate?" She said with a slowly spreading smile.

"That's right," Henry said. "You're on a freighter these days, aren't you?" He smiled, the corners of his brown eyes creasing, as he nodded. "That's a great idea." He did a quick calculation and said, "I could have the entire shipment on the dock in say ... two hours? Would that be enough time for you to get your crew together?"

"A transport," she corrected, though her voice was kind. "The Xiao Jin is a Firefly, but we are headed to Sweethome and I think we could manage your cargo. Two hours would work, but we aren't slated to leave until tomorrow, so unless you need them moved that quickly you don't have to rush. Will that work for you?"

She was full on grinning now as she considered the prospect of a week and a half catching up with Henry on the way to Sweethome.

"Less expensive for me than paying another day's storage," Henry said. Her grin was infectious and he found himself smiling in return. "It most certainly will."

"Ok," Addy said, and then, as if it needed saying again, "Ok."

She snagged another chunk of scone, munching it happily. "I can't wait to introduce you to Quinn," she said. And she meant it.


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