Danny and Sunshine Meet Again

Main Street
This brick-paved, north-south street is in significantly better repair than the roads leading into town. It's nearly impossible to tell what color the original bricks were, or in what pattern they were laid, but someone has made sure that no hole gaped too large without being plugged with something. The roadbed is a patchwork of multicolored bricks, chunks of cinderblock, and large, flat stones. The mere thought of riding a vehicle over the resulting uneven swells is almost physically painful.
Most of the buildings along the street have not fared even this well. In fact, it is clear that much of the brick in the road was scavenged from the more ramshackle structures. Yet there are signs of life: a cafe with a newly painted sign, a clean welcome mat on the library's decrepit porch, a windowbox full of vivid flowers clinging to a crumbling windowsill. The brick-paved road extends less than a quarter mile before disappearing again into grass and chunks of decaying asphalt.

The possible threat of rain has Danny wrapped up in his cloak, although not tightly, and the hood is down. He's walking along the street casually in the general direction of the diner, singing tunelessly to himself. "How can I marry a pretty little girl, when I got no pants to put on? Off to the tailor she did go as fast as she could run..."

Sunshine steps out of Mrs. Whittaker's yard, chuckling back over her shoulder. "Of course, I will let you know as soon as I hear anything." She closes the gate behind her, well aware of the eyes watching from one of the front windows.

Danny offers the woman stepping into the street a simple nod and a smile, and he's about the continue on his way, when the words to the song taper off and he half-turns back, giving her a more thorough inspection.

Danny is a young man, standing a little under six feet tall and moving with an odd grace that's difficult to categorize. It's not quite the artful manner of a dancer nor the economic movements of a trained warrior, still there's certainly something different in how he carries himself. His clean and smooth features suggest a northern European heritage, while a losing battle with a five-o'clock shadow lends an air of disrepute to his otherwise friendly smile. His eyes are expressive and match colors with his rich, short-cropped hair, a deep dark brown that's only just this side of black. His arms and face have been tanned by long days in the sun, but an exposed portion of his collar line indicates he'd be far more pale if he spent some time indoors.
He's dressed for travel, in loose breeches of black, light-weight leather, a long, linen tunic in dark blue, and a brown suede vest. The tunic is belted at his waist with a finely woven leather belt, from which hangs all manner of small pouches, and a waterskin securely anchored to his left leg. The vest also has a few things pinned and sewn onto it, and slung across his back is a good-sized satchel draped with an oilskin to protect it from the rain. A body-length hooded cloak is rolled and tied to the satchel, the black wool gleaming with a protectant that's probably also meant to ward off water. His boots are black leather and in need of repair, with numerous scuffs and exposed seams, but he doesn't appear uncomfortable in them. Around his neck is a stamped coin on a silver snake-chain, bearing the mark of the 3 Celtic Horses.

Sunshine smiles pleasantly enough at Danny, heading towards the Farm. Coincidentally, this is also towards the Diner.

Danny frowns, trying to put a name to the face before him, and as the woman continues walking, he picks up his own pace to match hers. He's trying very hard to not look like he's staring.

Sunshine steps abruptly into another yard, closing the gate and heading up the stairs to the porch. Whatever she says to the faceless "Who is it?" from inside remains unheard.

Danny stops at the yard, apparently torn. He reaches up and runs a thumb over his necklace, looking back down the street at the diner, then returning his gaze to the house. He watches Sunshine for a few moments but finally continues his walk, singing again in that lackluster voice of his. "Soldier, soldier, will you marry me? How can I marry an ugly little girl, when I got a wife and boy at home..." He can't resist one or two glances over his shoulder, however.

Sunshine remains on the porch, conversing quietly with the faceless entity, until the unfamiliar man resumes his walk. When that business is concluded, Sunshine returns to the street, closing the gate carefully behind her.

Still singing quietly to himself, Danny walks on down the road. Sunshine's entrance onto the street seems to herald an end to any looking back, and he walks on past the diner, his pace casual.

The Ursa Diner is housed in a wide, porchlike addition to a squat two-story clapboard house. The dingy white paint is peeling badly, but the diner's handsome old maple door has recently been completely stripped and oiled to a gentle, welcoming gleam. The small window in the door and the large ones across the front of the diner, though sagging with age, sparkle invitingly. A wooden sign, carved into a bear shape and handpainted with the diner's name, is nailed above the door. The crumbling concrete steps bear the imprint "John's Hardware and Sundries."
Next to the building is an open space full of piles of dirt and stacks of smooth grey stones. Someone has begun to set the stones in the prepared dirt in a simple but pleasing mosaic pattern.

Sunshine is careful to moderate her own pace so that she can keep an eye on the stranger. She slows as she reaches the Diner, stopping near the crumbling steps. She watches the young man for clues as to his intent.

Danny's steps carry him around the corner of the diner and out of sight, still reciting the walking song.

Sunshine disappears into the Diner.

You pull open the beautiful maple door. The small bell tied to the handle cracks against the wood, drowning out its own cheery jangle as you step inside.

Ursa Diner
You step onto a cracked but clean tile floor that was probably once red, but is now a faded salmon pink. A large, rectangular communal table seating about 10 takes up the middle of the floor, with mismatched smaller tables arranged near the large front windows. The long counter in front of the kitchen door sports plates of fragrant bread, cookies, and muffins and bowls of fresh wild fruits. A small, rattling fridge in the corner holds a selection of juices and cold spring water in reused bottles and jars. Atop the refrigerator is a can for cash donations; next to it is a box for barter payments. Scrawled on the box in black marker are the words "Pay what you can, when you can."

Today's menu is jotted in white chalk on a large, flat piece of dark grey slate pegged to the wall behind the counter.

Danny steps into the diner.

Sunshine sits at the table, where she can watch the door to the street, as well as the door behind the counter. She has apparently already ordered her supper, as there's a large bowl of salad in front of her, along with the slice of bread in her hand.

As soon as Sunshine's gone inside, Danny swiftly walks back around to the front of the diner and enters. He pointedly tracks the woman to her seat, and after a second of scrutiny he snaps his fingers. His expression brightens as he points at her, announcing, "I remember! Sunshine. That's your name, right?" The look in his eyes indicates a response of no is probably not going to be believed--he's convinced now.

Sunshine looks up, startled, and definitely wary. "I am hardly the only one by that name," she points out, her tone as careful as her eyes.

Undeterred, Danny can hardly contain his excitement. "You probably don't remember me at all, I was a lot--younger." He stumbles over the adjective, thinking a few less flattering ones more appropriate. "Danny Wentworth, from Sunset Crater? Big, dead volcano." He gestures with his arms, as if the description could leave room for doubt.

Wariness slowly tinges with amusement. "Sunset Crater?" Sunshine is thoughtful for a moment. "Arizona? Or New Mexico?" It's clearly a guess.

"Arizona," Danny confirms almost proudly. "Northern. At the edge of the Burning Desert."

Sunshine nods slowly. "I passed... near there about a year and a half ago, and again a year or two before that," she admits. "What brings you all this way?" The question is wary again.

Danny's smile is reluctantly replaced by resignation. "Well, I didn't know you too well, but maybe I just remeber a lot of things." Her own question he answers simply. "Wandering, mostly. I left about three years ago."

Sunshine nods slowly, then takes a bite of the bread nearly forgotten in her hand. "I see," she says gently. "I'm afraid that, even if you had known me well, I might not recall you clearly, child. Don't worry about it."

Danny shakes off the disappointment of not being remembered with a grin. "Well, if you've been traveling around a lot, I can't expect you to remember everyone. Gods, *I* probably don't remember half the people I've met." He shifts a little where he stands. "So what are you doing all the way out here? Do you come from this area?"

Sunshine smiles gently. "This town is my home," she explains. "Tell me of your travels. Did you come up the Trail?"

Danny nods. "After a little while in southern Appalchia. I went down through Tennessee, to see what happened to all the lakes down there that ran the power plants." He shakes his head. "A bunch of them dried up, but some are huge marshes now."

Sunshine nods, smiling faintly. "Yes. Not all of them healthy marshes, from all accounts. Then you did not pass near Atlanta?"

That's met with a pretty firm shake of Danny's head. "No, kept away from most of the big cities and stuck to the outlier towns." He grimaces. "I didn't really want to get into any trouble, and I haven't been in a city before."

Sunshine smiles gently. "Each city is different, I'm afraid. Do you have any news from the south?"

Danny looks a little abashed. "Well I don't really carry much news. Not very good at that sort of thing. Couriering, I mean."

Sunshine chuckles, gently, though the wariness has not entirely left her eyes. "What are you good at, child?"

"Making things. Ceramics, wood carving, those sorts of things." Danny laughs a little. "Most people don't trade in news that's worth bartering over."

Sunshine finishes her bread. "Well, if nothing else, I'm sure that's a good thing to be good at when it comes time to barter for your meals."

Danny grins again. "Exactly," he agrees. A glance outside, and he begins to head for the door. "I should probably get going, before it starts raining. Got some more looking around to do."

Sunshine arches an eyebrow, but simply says, "Lady light your way."

Danny waves, saying only, "Wind at your back!" as he disappears out the door.