The Future is Deadwood
Location: Xiao Jin, Dining Room
Timeline: Mission Day 42 at 2230
It took something like an act of minor deity to make sure the dining room was clear of lurkers and to at least hazard the guess that all other crew were asleep, or at least in their rooms for the night. Addy had appeared at the first of the passenger dorms, rousing Peter and Gary and then Juliet, who brought Lori Jo along, although the youngest Weysmith was bleary-eyed and clearly not fully awake.
She'd assembled them in the dining room and busied herself making cups of tea after explaining that Poe wanted to chat with them about where they wanted to go next. She was thankful for the excuse of tea, too. Keeping the truth of what was ahead from them--the truth that she and Quinn weren't done, simply acting a part for a time--had been difficult and it had only been two days.
When Poe entered, he went straight for the teapot. He'd spent the majority of the time over the past few days renewing contacts and making the necessary arrangements for what was to happen next. And he was as ready as he could be to face the Weysmith siblings. He brought his teacup back to the table and sat down. "I won't keep you long," he said quietly, "but there's something I wanted to talk to you all about."
Addy had set them all at the table with Peter deliberately next to Quinn on one side and Juliet to the other. She took the seat next to Peter. Once Quinn entered and sat Peter had taken her hand and given it a quick squeeze before releasing it. Reassurance, Addy assumed, but for what exactly she couldn't be sure. She wondered if he was prepared for some sort of bad news here under the belief that Quinn and Addy were no longer together.
Peter, from where he sat, was torn. On one hand he was eternally grateful to Poe for rescuing the lot of them from their circumstances. But on the other, he'd rejected Addy. And while Peter had it in him to understand that, he also had it in him to be a mite protective of his sister. He'd seen what she'd been through. Seen her face on leaving that man's bedroom and bore the grief of the days since. It was hard not to want to shake the man next to him and ask how he could not see how desperately she still loved him. But he didn't. And he wouldn't. Because it weren't his place. And 'cause Addy'd told him there was no helping it now.
"What's on your mind Mr. Poe?" Peter asked.
Words. They'd always been his problem. His curse. Folks never understood him and he just wasn't that good at helping them figure it out because the words failed him. Worse now, sitting here with a table full of people who had more reason to be angry with him than even the crew. In some respects, he thought, it would be easier to go. Less recriminations facing him every time he left his gorram cabin.
"You need a place," he said after a minute. "You know the work, having been raised on a farm and all, and I have a ... well ... offer to make." He ran a hand through his tangled hair and soldiered on. Just to get it all out and over with. "I'm from Deadwood originally. My parents and my grandparents both had land there, adjacent to each other, and well, I own both parcels. I mean to settle one day on my grandparents spread but the other one, well, no one's there. Its farmland and at one time, there was a good living to be made raising crops for the brewery. I'm thinking, if you've a mind to try, you could make a life for yourselves there."
Peter glanced to his side, meeting Addy's gaze for a moment and catching her nod of agreement. She'd known, somehow, that this was coming and an inkling of a half of a notion made itself known to him before disappearing with a flash. "That's terribly generous of you Mr. Poe," he said slowly, careful with his words. "But you know we've not enough to purchase that land from you."
"We do," Addy said quietly, "have enough I mean. You and I do at least." She didn't meet Peter's sharp look back at her as she disagreed, unsure of how to do so without giving more away than she should.
It was Juliet who spoke up next, though, addressing Addy's claim with a bit of consternation. "How do you and Peter have enough to buy a whole parcel of good land on Deadwood?" she asked. Her tone lacked acquisition, but there was clear confusion there. She may have been young, but she was no stranger to the enormity of the offer that was laid before them.
"The will?" Peter asked her, glancing at his sister with a bit of trepidation.
Addy nodded. "Peter and I were willed a parcel already. But it's quite a bit further out than Deadwood and we've no idea of the state of it. But I believe we could sell it for a pretty penny either way."
Juliet took that in with a surprising amount of calm, taking a moment to organize her thoughts before asking. "Why just you and Peter?"
It was Peter, this time, who answered. "Seems we have a relative who left it to us. Left it before you were born. Not someone we knew of."
Addy's quick nod confirmed it. "I can get the papers if you'd like to see them."
Juliet shook her head quick, dismissing the need even as she turned back to Poe. "So, you'd like us to settle on your extra parcel, Mr. Poe," she said. It was a statement rather than a question, though there was a need for confirmation in her tone. "Why?"
"I paid to have it taken care of but when something sits empty for too long, it becomes 'interesting' to the wrong kind of folk. I'd rather that didn't happen, so you'd be doing me a favor. Maybe you could even ride over to my grandparents' place now and again, make sure that everything is alright there as well." He spread his hands, as though balancing something in each, struggling against his habitual need to remain silent. "Now, you could go to the land you inherited instead. That would be your decision though it's in much worse shape," Poe said. "Not been lived in a long time. However, the land itself is worth some coin and if you chose to sell it, I was thinking how it would make a good nest egg, maybe give you the coin you needed to get my father's place working again. As for owning it, you can pay me back from the money you make on your crops. I'm in no hurry and we can draw up papers so it's all legal."
Juliet and Peter both looked to Addy as if her reaction somehow weighed more heavily than theirs. She swallowed hard and nodded. "It's a good deal," she said, though her voice shook slightly as she did. "Better than you'll get from anyone else."
"We." Gary's voice was level, but so surprising that the youngest Weysmith boy found everyone's eyes on him at once. "You said you. You mean we," he said, looking at Addy expectantly. "It's... a deal for all of us... right?"
Stomach dropping, Addy found that she couldn't meet her youngest brother's eyes.
"Addy?" Gary asked and then looked to Peter and Juliet in turn. The other two seemed to have understood already and Juliet shook her head slightly as if to suggest he drop it.
"No," he told Juliet. "No. Addy, you're coming with us? Right?"
She felt heavy as if she might never rise from this chair no matter how hard she tried. But she managed to look up, meeting Gary's eyes solemnly. Of all of them Gary had been the quietest, the most withdrawn, since leaving Sweethome. He'd borne everything with a detached unemotional distance as if it were all happening to someone else. Now, though, it seemed as though a dam had broken.
"Addy..." he said, voice making him sound younger than he was. "Right?"
"Gary," she said, her voice all apology and soothing. "I can't."
"No," he said firmly and then, with an edge of panic to his voice he repeated himself. "No."
Addy shoved back from the table and stood, coming around to where her brother sat and put her hand on his shoulder only to have him shrug it off, standing quickly, the look on his face suddenly transformed to something painful and angry. "No," he said again, whirling on her. "No..." And he looked from Addy to Peter to Juliet and then back again as if the three of them might somehow tell him that he was wrong. When none of them did he turned and hurried out of the room.
"I'll talk to him," Juliet said, standing as well and moving to go after him. She stopped just short of the door and turned. "I trust you both to decide, but as far as my vote counts... I think we should accept Mr. Poe's offer." And then she was gone.
Poe waiting, sipping his tea, and letting it all play out around him. Wasn't for him to make the decision for them ... or her. This must be their choice just as the work and the struggle and the sacrifices would be theirs.
"Addy?" The voice was Lori Jo's this time. The little girl had been quiet, perhaps not comprehending everything that was happening, but knowing enough about important conversations to sense this was one of them. There was a quaver in her voice that was impossible to ignore. "Will we see you again?"
That simple question nearly broke Addy and she hurried around the table to Lori Jo, squatting down next to her chair so they were eye to eye. She placed a hand on the girl's shoulder, and another on her cheek. "Oh, baby girl, of course you will," she said softly. "I'm not gone. I just can't come live with you."
"But..." Lori Jo's lip stuck out in a pout, though it was clear she was attempting not to cry, "... why not. You're married so you can't stay with him," she said shooting a quick glance in Poe's direction as if he were the only possible reason for her to stay away.
While Lori Jo glanced at Quinn, Addy was looking to Peter, eyes appealing to him for help.
"Addy doesn't want Matthias Stone to bother us," he said, coming to stand behind his sister. "She made a choice so we could be free of the mess, but she's not free to come with us." He turned to look at Addy then. They hadn't talked about this, but he'd a solid feeling this was her reasoning. "Ain't that right Addy?"
Addy's shoulders bowed slightly, suddenly feeling as if years of exhaustion were set upon them. "That's right," she said quietly, reaching up to snag Peter's hand with the one she'd placed on Lori Jo's cheek. She looked up at him. "And I'm signing my part of the land deeded us over to you. I don't want there to be anything Matthias can try to lay claim to. If I can't come with you least I can do is make sure all the strings are cut."
Squeezing his hand one last time, Addy released him and then scooted closer to her youngest sisters, wrapping her in a hug. "I'm going to come see you as often as I can," she said into the little girl's hair. "I promise."
Peter watched the two, his oldest sister with her arms around his youngest, and let the thought that Addy was removing herself from this venture settle in him a moment. The thought percolated slowly, but steadily through until, with an indrawn breath he stepped around the girls and took the chair closest to Poe.
"Well, Mr. Poe," he said, voice level despite the emotion in the room, "you're making me... us... a mighty generous offer. But it's also a lot to take in. I'd like to sleep on it if you don't mind, but I'll make sure you have your answer before we can reach Persephone."
"I'd expect nothing less," Poe said. "A man should think on things before making a decision this big. And now, unless there are questions, I'll take my leave."