Welcome Home
Participants Jackson, Rene and Sunset
Scene Title Welcome Home
Synopsis A familiar face returns to his old stomping grounds after years of being otherwise AWOL. Surprise!
Date March 6, 2010

The Grind Stone

Salem Center's sole coffee shop, the Grind Stone does quite well for itself.
People flock to it at all hours of the day, seeking both caffeine and company.
The floor is covered with tiles of an alternating white and deep green; wooden
chairs with green seats huddle around polished oak tables, and a few booths of
similar design line the walls. Large windows, kept spotlessly clean, allow
patrons to look out upon Salem Center - and attract many passersby with enticing
glimpses of the food and beverages within. A handful of potted plants add yet
more green to the atmosphere, contrasting with white-painted walls - though the
walls themselves are a little dingy, marked by the years. The air is redolent
with the scent of coffee, and conversations fill the room at all times.
Waiters bustle about the room, attending their customers, for this is not a
simple coffee shop - it is the core of Salem Center's social life, and pulls in
more than enough business to afford its customers a few luxuries.

Well, her day so far had not been the /best/, but Sunset was determined for it to not be ruined so soon. So, with that she had called one of the few people who had the ability to always cheer her up, asking Jackson to meet her at the Grind Stone. Sitting in one of the armchairs by the window, as she usually does while visiting here, she is dressed in dark jeans, heeled boots, and a long sleeved green top with a simple black jacket over it. The redhead seems to be lost in thought, staring out the café window while she waits, her brow furrowed. Two coffee cups sit on the table next to her, one already partially gone, the other not hers, and untouched.

Jackson arrives in a hurry, taking time to lock up his bike outside before hurrying inside. The day has been unseasonably warm and so the Southerner is not nearly so bundled up as he /has/ been all winter — still, he's in a sweater and light jacket, with a bright purple cap. He grins bright as he spies Sunset, scurrying over to her table. "Sunset! Hi! You okay?" His brow furrows to match hers. He leans in closer to poke at her furrow. Poke. Poooooke.

Looking up at him, Sunset smiles as Jackson pokes at her forehead, doing nothing to stop him. The smile makes her previous expression evaporate, though there’s still a bit of tightness around her eyes that hints that something isn’t quite right. “Be careful, Starshine. If you’re not careful, I’ll go crosseyed!” Standing to give Jackson a hug, the redhead presents him with the second cup of coffee as she sits again. “Your favorite, as always.”

The last poke turns into more of a rub, Jax seemingly attempting to smoothe out the wrinkle manually, his smile widening when it goes away. He returns the hug, tight and squeezy, before happily dropping down into his chair. He peels off his jacket to drape it over the back of the seat. "Mmmmmthanks. There’s worse things'n being crosseyed anyhow. Like being /frowny/. S'you aright? You didn't /answer/."

“Am I still frowny?” Sunset asks, mock alarmed. “And no. I suppose I didn’t, but you don’t have to worry, Jackson. I’m fine! Simply… thoughtful about a few things, is all.” Picking up her own cup of coffee – Something with lots of mocha, and a hint of mint. – she takes a long sip before asking, “How have things been with you?”

"Schooly. Schoollike? School/tastic/," Jax decides on, dragging his cup closer to swipe a finger through the soy whip on top and suck it off his fingertip. "You're toooootally giving me a break from the history report I don't really wanna be workin' on anyway." He tucks a leg up beneath him, glittery-purple-nailpolished fingers curling around his cup. "Thoughtful 'bout what?"

Sunset gives a small laugh at his description. “Well, I’m glad to be helpful in some way. Though, I hope you do finish it later, hm?” Her smile fades a bit at Jackson’s last question as she glances down into her cup, a bare hint of that wrinkle between her eyebrows returning. “…Oz asked Sabrielle to marry him.” She answers. “And, she’s expecting a baby, sometime in November, if her math is right.”

Winter's chill is broken by the meager sunlight filtering out of the sky, and the snow on the ground has been melting weakly ever since the rays began to hit them. The sidewalk outside the cafe is wet, sloshy, and clicks damp underfoot; the few passerby that are visible outside the big windows seem preoccupied with a prior destination. Only one files in the door, finding her friends and sitting down in one of the booths. The atmosphere is generally demure, though somehow distilled enough that there seems to be a feeling that something is bound to happen.

It does, eventually, just after the colorful teenage boy drapes his coat along his seat, and the redhead that he is with assures him that his worry is not necessary. The green in the Grind Stone is most places- the tiles, the seats, the things along the walls- the plants put around the cafe. Well, actually, they were brown and dry just minutes ago when anyone happened to look over. They were brown. They were nearly dead. But, whatever water and whatever food was in those poor little pots has suddenly brought them all back, like little green gargoyles perched on edges. The plants sprout, fertile and promising of a season that has yet a month to come to the northeast.

Some, inexplicitly, have little flowers that had never otherwise appeared.

Outside the coffee shop, it is the same cold background- save for the figure waiting outside one of the tall glass panes. His presence, while somber, is one that neither of them will have expected. A gentleman's fine clothing, a long winter coat, shining buttons peeking here and there, gloves over slender hands which have curled on top of one another, clutching around the knob of a polished wooden cane that he only leans his new height on for a moment. The young man's long blonde hair is the same, as are his piercing blue eyes, staring very intently into the window of the Grind Stone. For a split second, he is like a ghost- the next, perhaps a painting. But in the end Rene is very much real, very tangible.

"Wooooah! That's awesome! I mean, that's awesome, right?" Jax's nose wrinkles uncertainly. "Ain't that exciting? You don't look excited." Confused, he leans in closer to peer at Sunset intently, then leans back again to take a drink from his cup that leaves a dollop of whipped cream adorning the end of his nose. Something else makes his nose wrinkle further — greenery noticed at the edge of his vision, and his eyes flicker around the room idly, not really sure what it was that distracted them. It takes a moment for it to sink in, and with a quiet, "Huh," he stares for a moment at the potted plants. His head tilts curiously. "Weeeeeeeeird." Rene hasn't yet been noticed, but his chin lifts in indication of one of the newly-greened plants. "Coulda /swored/ that was deader when we got here."

“It is exciting.” She agrees, her smile now somehow carrying just a hint of sadness. “And I should be very happy. And yet, I…” Trailing off, she shakes her head with a sigh. “Look at me. Here I am, wanting to meet you to make the day a little better, and I nearly lead it to less than merry conversations.” Glancing around at the plants herself, Sunset nods. “They /were./” She murmurs, gaze flitting past the window before looking back to it, at the man outside. It takes a moment to sink in – He’s grown, after all, and it has been a long time. – before it registers, and she’s setting her cup down to grab at Jackson’s sleeve, getting his attention. “Starshine. /Look./”

For all his silence outside, Rene begins to feel like some sort of wild animal that a zoologist has been waiting months to spot for just ten seconds of the day. He is behind glass, he supposes, lips pursing slightly as his eyes follow Sunset's grabbing of sleeve. They dart back up under half-lids, glittering blue back at her. His knuckles bend and flex around the top of the cane, rubbing palm against the deep blue stone in the top.

Rene tilts his head a few degrees to the left, right side eyebrow lifting enough to express question. Hello, zoo patron.

"What? D'you think they ain't right for each other or summat? Cuz otherwise seems like a happything to me." Jax turns at the tugging of his sleeve, brow furrowing. "What? What'm I lookin' at?" He peers outside, baffled even after he sees Rene. It takes a longer time for him than it did for Sunset, and then his blue eyes open wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiide and he gets up, chair legs clatter-scraping along the floor with the abruptness with which he stands. Stands, and hurtles towards the door, exuberance carrying him outside. "RENEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE Rene is that /you/ ohmy/gosh/ you're bigger'n me now how did /that/ happen where you /been/?" Somewhere in the middle of this he is opening his arms for a characteristically fierce-tight Jax-hug.

Sunset does not follow as fast, though she is just as elated as Jackson is. Coffee and previous conversation completely forgotten, the redhead nearly runs into someone as she rushes out the door, not even pausing or thinking to stop and apologize. A new very genuine smile nearly splitting her face, she can’t help but laugh at Jackson’s reaction, delighted and amused. Skirting around the both of them, she doesn’t say anything because she doesn’t know what to say. She just waits for her chance at a hug.

Rene's eyebrows quirk upwards when the chair nearly flies out from under the boy, irises stirring to follow him all the way out the door, ears trying to listen over that watery rushing of his heartbeat in his head. It's been too long- he is out of practice when it comes to hearing what Jackson says. It doesn't really matter after a bit, though. He lifts his arms in response when the boy leaps at him for an embrace. Rene's left hand keeps hold of the wooden cane, the other wrapping over the teenager's back. Rene is much more wiry than he used to be, and his straight posture can almost be felt. So, the hug is a little stiff at first.

"I've been away." Lips pull back in a slow smile, offered slowly to both of them, expression serene, even if he feels surreal. Rene is ever so obvious, and cryptic to boot. His voice is only slightly different as opposed to his physical state. It is more masculine and rather …smoldering, yes, but once he speaks it is easy to tell that it is him and not some weird Frenchie clone.

"Away in some freak alternate dimension full'a /aliens/ with /magnifyin' rays/?" Jax asks — perhaps he is even serious about this! He certainly gives Rene a very curious and searching look once he has released him from the tackle-pounce-hug.

Her smile grows a small bit at Jackson’s question, if only because there is not much room for it to grow in the first place. Taking a small step towards Rene, Sunset hesitates a moment, unsure of whether or not to simply hug him like Jackson did, or wait for some sort of permission. Rene isn’t the only one that’s changed, apparently. “Are there any available hugs left, or did Jackson take them all?” She asks, softly.

The air around Rene bristles with something- static- and a shadow passes behind his eyes before hopping away into the chill breeze. He keeps his smile through it all. "Not- not quite, no."

"I've been saving them up for a long time. I've got plenty." His arms lift again for Sunset's turn, confirming the hesitance he can see as not required. Reassurance in word, and in a moment, hopefully physically.

"Then I guess you jus' been drinkin' your milk like th'ads say," Jax decides with an emphatic nod. His hand lifts to scuff fingers through his hair — bright purple hair today, to match his glittery nailpolish and the shimmer of eyeshadow dusted over his eyes. "An' I got /loads/ more hugs where /that/ camed from. I jus' thought it'd be selfish t'hog 'em all what with Sunset waitin' so patient. How you /been/?"

Stepping into his arms, Sunset’s grip on Rene is tight as she wraps her arms around him. “I missed you, Rene.” The words fall from her lips before she can really think about what to say, and she doesn’t try and take them back. After all, they are true.

"I suspect that I will need some more." Rene affirms across Sunset's shoulder to Jackson, his blond locks mingling through some of her bright red. "I missed you too. Both of you." The staff- that is what it is, held by the hardy rowan- bumps against Sunset's shoulder with Rene's hands around her. When he comes away again, he does use it once again to put some of his weight onto it. It looks like more of a habit than a real need for support. "I have been a thousand things- but right now- I would say that I have been recuperating. I have been well enough. Though I wish well enough to have won a phoenix token." Rene ends, very pointedly to the woman near him.

"'cup'ratin' from what?" Jax asks curiously. He doesn't say anything about missing Rene — but it's clear enough in his expression as he looks at him. "All I been doin's school. An' Sunset's gonna adopt me!" That is his news, beginning and end. He leans against the side of the building, and then straightens again hurriedly. "You should come /inside/! An' get coffee. I'll even buy it! My chai's totally gonna get cold though an' that'd be terrible so we should move."

There’s a chuckle from her at Rene’s last remark, a bit self-depreciating, as she meets his pointed look with amused eyes. “Fear not. I imagine I have used my last one, so we’re on even ground now. Not that I have any want or wish to test that idea soon.” Sparing the cane a curious glance, Sunset doesn’t ask about it just yet. “And yes, do come inside. Sidewalks are not exactly an ideal place for reunions.”

"Ah, yes, that would be very terrible. Neither are coffee shops, when it comes down to it." Rene does make a note to ask into Jackson's statement on adoption, however. If he forgets now perhaps he will ask again later. "Recuperating. Just that." He has a reason, but it is clear that right now he does not want to talk about it, and so he nearly spurns it in a more …crude way. The young man moves towards the cafe door, pushing it open, stepping just inside, and keeping it wide enough for the two of them to follow.

Well, most of his manners seem to have survived. He'll get them all back soon.

"Coffee shops are great places for reunions! I mean, well, tea shops are /better/, but this'n has tasty chai anyway." Jax's head bobs in thanks to Rene for the held-open door, and he scurries inside, heading back to his drink. "Are you back like for-good now? Here I mean. I mean 're you gonna disappear an' come back seven feet tall in two years? Cuz that'd —" Jax's eyes light. "Actually that'd be /neat/. 'cept the disappearin' part. I'd hafta miss you all over again."

She follows them both inside. “Oh, Jackson, don’t say such things. My mind is still trying to wrap around the fact that he’s grown to be my height now. The idea of him being taller than Oz is just… somewhat frightening.” She’s teasing with that, eyes twinkling just a bit as she sits down to pick her cup of coffee up again. And then she’s glancing down to the cup to make sure that it /is/ actually her cup of coffee, and is relatively untouched. Yup, that’s hers, alright.

"I think that I am done growing." Rene laughs. His laugh is not the giggle that he used to have- not even close. The lower timbre in his speaking voice comes out crystal clear when he laughs. "If I am lucky I will get another half an inch." As he removes his coat to put it on the seat and sit, the vest gathered around the torso underneath is tailored along his new lines. His girlish figure isn't quite there anymore, but there is a new, mannish broadness to his shoulders, and a more clear cut triangle from chest to waist. God forbid, maybe he even has to shave his face once a week. "I'm back. I am going to reopen the shop, and live there."

Jax is — actually quiet for once! It's a rare moment, so the others should enjoy it. He is quite occupied in scrutinizing Rene, his gaze sweeping the young man, appraising and with a curious eye to how he's changed since they last met. He sips at his drink, blue eyes studying Rene over the rim of his cup.

Sunset is also studying Rene, though quite possibly for different reasons. Sometimes, it is hard to remember that two years have gone by since she – left, considering that a little more than a year of that was spent with no memory, and it is odd for her to look at Rene now and remember how he was then. He grew up, and Sunset really isn’t sure how to feel about it, no matter how elated she is that he’s back. “That’s good. I’ve missed the shop, and it’s absolutely horrid trying to find any sort of fresh plant life anywhere else. No one else has your special touch with them, Rene.”

It is probably very weird. Probably almost supernatural- a little. Though they may or may not pick up on that. Rene glances over towards the wall, where the little bushels of potted plants seem to have drawn the wary attention of the management. He smiles to himself. When he looks straight at them, his spirit is the same- but his aura seems wounded. It will heal, in time. "I am lucky." Rene says simply. Truthfully. Honestly. Though after another moment he meets Jackson's gaze with a small tilt of his head, and a matched look at the teenager. If he has something on his mind, this may be the time to say it.

"I still got baby Charmi," Jax informs Rene brightly, which is admittedly /probably/ not what was on his mind; but it is what he says. "Ain't hardly much'a a /baby/ now though. S'growed so big. Nice t'have green 'round the dorm, that's for sure." As a farm boy, he'll take all the growing things around him that he can get. Still, he keeps studying Rene, quiet and thoughtful. Eventually he does tear his gaze away, letting it drift over to the potted plants as he sips at his chai.

“Are you?” Sunset curiously questions. Taking a drink from her cup, she glances away as soon as the question leaves her, but it doesn’t stop her from asking even more questions. “Where did you go, while you were away?” She wants to ask why he left in the first place, but she feels like she’s being rude enough.

Rene lifts his eyebrows again at the mention of the old and very weird vine. "You do? I- could I have a root?" He asks this sheepishly. "The first one, unfortunately…" What's a good term? Err. "Passed away. I was not able to take him with me after a certain point. But, I had to give up what I had with me at a later time, regardless of state." The plant would have died anyway from the sound of it.

"Only a few of my plants still live. Winters can be harsh. The moss in the tunnels has mostly died off. And the creature-" Rene clams up, jaw gritting. His eyes look up to Sunset, vaguely pleading. "I am."

"I went a thousand places. Globetrotting, at best."

"Globetrottin' sounds /exciting/. I ain't hardly never been /nowhere/. I'd like t'see the world someday, though. An' /course/ you can have a vine, I mean you growed him in th'first place. S'only fittin'!" Jax is bubbly-cheerful even through Rene's pleading looks and gritted jaw — or maybe /because/ of them. The artist's keen eyes rarely miss much, but he seems more inclined to be effervescent than to pry.

Looking down into her cup now, Sunset does her best to keep the guilty look off of her face, though it flashes through her eyes just for a second. Peeking up at Rene for a moment, she sends him an apologetic look before speaking again. This time, her tone is a bit more cheerful, going along with Jax. “I’m sure you’ll have plenty of stories, then, once you’re adjusted to being back.”

Jackson has infinite wisdom in what he does, even if he doesn't fully realize it. Rene is inwardly grateful for that bubbliness, and it looks like it has signaled to Sunset- along with his own stiffness- that now is not the time. He lets it go with a fresh smile. "Of course I will. Plenty of stories, once I get myself together and settled in. I have got quite a task list."

Jackson says, "Well, if'n y'need help with anything, be sure an' let me know, aright?" Jax offers warmly. "I mean m'at school lots but weekends I can get into town, an' some evenin's too, an' I know stuff like unpackin' an' settling in can be a right pain but I'd be glad t'help." He grins, and takes a gulp of his chai. "I mean even if y'don't /need/ help an' jus' want some comp'ny. Or cookies. I still bake pretty awesome desserts.""

Smiling now – It seems like she’s become very good at faking those. – around the edge of her cup as she raises it to her lips once more, Sunset settles back into her chair, watching the other two over the rim of the coffee cup for a quiet moment. No. Today had not gone how she had planned at all.

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