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Home is a Sheltering Embrace

Posted on Tue Apr 4th, 2023 @ 6:14pm by Quinlan Barrett Poe & Addy Stone

Mission: Ghost Walk
Location: New Dawn Settlement, Kerry
Timeline: Mission Day 55 at 1500

Of course, the gorram ship owner would touch down at a larger settlement. Made sense and all. The ship was smaller and faster than the Xiao Jin, which was what had caught Poe's attention when he was looking for a ride off Persephone, and the captain preferred to deal exclusively with passengers. That was good too because those sorts of ships were always looking to hire on; catering to the whims of passengers was seldom a fun experience. He got the job, which was good; he expected to work for his passage. Flashing a lot of coin around was just asking to be noticed and Poe didn't want to be noticed.

So of course, the gorram ship owner had to be the type to save every coin he could which meant Poe was averaging twenty-hour workdays the whole way but that was better than the hammock in the cargo bay which he shared with a fellow who clearly never heard of bathing. But did the gorram ship owner have to land twenty miles away from New Dawn?

From the moment he left her, the old ways had settled around him. Like putting on a well-worn pair of boots that fit the curve of your foot just right. Hyper-vigilant. Dozing more than sleeping. Aware of every sound around him. Folk took in the look of him, the hard-eyed gaze, and left him alone which suited him just fine. He couldn't let his guard down. Not yet. Not when there was so much at stake.

And now, finally on this nothing much of a planet, Poe walked. One foot in front of the other along the merchant route that led to the New Dawn settlement. He didn't think about the bruises, the near misses, the exhaustion that tugged at his muscles. He thought about her. About getting back to her. About setting her free of the gorram monster she got herself married to back on Sweethome. He thought about erasing every filthy touch from her body, replacing each one with one of his own. He thought about making sure that no one ever got between him and her again. He was single-minded that way.

Get back to her. One step after the other. Just keep going because she would be waiting at the end. She promised to trust him this time, to wait, and he had taken her at her word. Just keep walking. If he had to gorram crawl the last mile, he meant to be on the ship today. He looked up at the sky and amended that slightly. Maybe today. Definitely by tonight.

The Xiao Jin, at the edge of the New Dawn Settlement

There was nothing to do.

Teague had taken most of the crew off with him to deliver cargo leaving Cassian and herself to keep the engines warm on the off chance something went sideways. And here, on Kerry at the eastern edge of the New Dawn Settlement, the likelihood of needing to make a hasty exit was low.

She scuffed at a mark at the top of the ramp with the toe of her boot, worrying it and finally deciding it was a fixture of the ship and not a bit of dirt in need of scrubbing or some other thing that she could do. Skies, even scrubbing dirt was starting to sound appealing. At other ports of call she'd have gone through and checked that all of the ship's various joints and hydraulics were well oiled. The Xiao Jin drank lubricant like it was going out of style. She'd given that task to Boney, though, on their way to Kerry and sure enough there wasn't a gorram thing to top up when everyone else had gone about their work.

Truth was, if she didn't keep her hands busy then her brain took over. And when her brain took over no matter how hard she tried her thoughts always came back to him. Wondering after Quinn was an addiction liable to drive her to madness. That was in no small part due to the worry that ate away at her. She trusted him. She'd promised she would. But that didn't stop her fretting over what he might be enduring because of her.

But she did trust him. And because of that she kept her head down. Swept the cargo room. Tinkered with the engine. Tidied her cabin. Made and drank coffee. She let people call her Mrs. Stone--seemed like the least she could do was try to make it believable. Pretend it was what she wanted. That she and Quinn were no more.

She sighed and walked back into the cargo hold tugging the weight of her worry and longing with her.

Another hill. Low one this time. He thought about her. About the ship. About sitting down and not moving for a year or two. Of sleeping at least that long. About her. He made his way to the top and suddenly, rising out of his dreams, was the familiar outline of the Xiao Jin.

"Shuō cáocāo, cáocāo jiù dào," Poe murmured, his pace quickening. He hoped she was still on the ship, that Stone hadn't found a way to force her to stay behind. He growled, low in the throat, at even the thought of that. If that were the case, well then, he'd just have to continue on. Find the strength and go get her.

Addy had gotten as far as the stairs before she gave in to the reality that there wasn't anything that needed doing, but that she couldn't in good conscience just leave the ramp unmanned. 'Sides who knew when there would be fresh air to enjoy again once everyone returned and they got back into the Black. She turned, steps slow, and trudged back the way she'd come.

When she reached the top of the ramp she froze.

The figure that approached the Xiao Jin now was familiar. Intimately, dearly, preciously familiar. Her heart was suddenly pounding in her chest, racing between the painful bright intensity of hope and deep-rooted fear that something was wrong. Hope, though, was by far the stronger of the two. With a strangled cry she was in motion, boots ringing on the ramp as she ran.

He knew who it was even before she broke into a run and he would have run as well, if he had the strength left. But he didn't and so he did the next best thing. He stopped, braced, and opened his arms to her.

And just like that she was in his arms, her own twining around his back, holding him tightly to her as if he might slip away and turn out not to be real. "Quinn." She half sobbed his name, tears pricking at the corners of her eyes as she buried her face in his shoulder. "You're here."

He held her close, breathing in the scent of her, clean and fresh, where he was anything but. "Course, I'm here," Poe said, murmuring into her hair. "Told you I'd be back."

She didn't want to let him go. Didn't want there to be a moment where she wasn't touching him, but even a few weeks of instinctively keeping up appearances had ingrained a healthy fear of being watched in her. And so, reluctantly, she made space, though only barely. "Is it... Are we..."

Words didn't seem to want to come right, but she needed to know. Needed to hear him tell her it was over. That he was back to stay.

"I found what I was looking for," Poe said, with a slight shake of his head, "and then some." He smiled against her hair. "If you could see your way clear to make me a cup of tea, I'll ... uh ... grab a shower and fill you in."

She nodded into his shoulder, once, then damning all the possible consequences, tipped her head up and caught his lips with hers, kissing him hard and quick.

He pulled her in close and kissed her back in an act that was both a claiming and hint at the passion he had kept banked for too long. If they had been standing in front of Matthias Stone himself, he would have done the same thing. He had what he needed now. A trip to see the Judge and they'd be free. Or so he hoped.

When she pulled back she grinned at him almost shyly. "Tea, and a shower," she said. "We can talk in my room." She looked him over again, noticing now that she was past the shock of seeing him at all, how very tired he looked. "Do you want to sleep first?"

He started to nod and then shook his head. "I do but I think it best that I tell you what I found first. Not sure how long I'll be out once my head hits a pillow." He looped one arm around her waist and with her, started heading onto the ship. "You're not going to believe what I found."

Shuō cáocāo, cáocāo jiù dào: An idiom that translates to "Speak of the devil and he shall appear".


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