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The Evidence

Posted on Thu Apr 6th, 2023 @ 2:35am by Quinlan Barrett Poe & Addy Stone

Mission: Ghost Walk
Location: The Xiao Jin, New Dawn Settlement, Kerry
Timeline: Mission Day 55 at 1530

Immediately after Home Is a Sheltering Embrace

The sounds that went along with making tea were normally comforting. The hiss of the kettle and the pouring of water. The rasp of opening the box of tea and the filling of the basket with the dried leaves. The clink of mugs. All of it was familiar and safe and routine.

In that moment, though, every inch of Adorabella Weysmith was taut with excited energy--something she knew she needed to tamp down before she unleashed it on the energy's source -- Quinlan Poe, the man she loved heart, body, and soul.

She bounced onto her toes as she waited for the water to boil, practically skipped the couple steps from the cabinet to the tea kettle, and finally, had to school herself in order to carry the tray that held the two mugs and the teapot out to her room.

It would be a surprise if Quinn was out of the shower yet. She'd given him her towel and soap and a comfortable pair of pants and a shirt of his she'd squirreled away before he left. They felt like silly mementos, but they smelled like him and at the time she'd worried he'd be gone long enough for her to forget that scent. Now, though, they came in handy in a practical sense.

With practiced motion she set the tray on the ground and turned to climb down into her room, pausing when most of her body was down the ladder to pick the tray back up, balancing it precariously with one hand. She stepped gingerly down the last few rungs and then scanned the room.

Her new room wasn't like the one she had shared with Quinn--the one occupied now by Teague. And there weren't a lot of places to set a thing down. Finally she settled on the floor next to the foot of the bed. She perched on the small sleeping space, the green blanket he had bought her spread out over top of her quilt bunching slightly where she sat.

Maybe she should go check on him. He'd been exhausted. Once she'd noticed it she quickly realized just how much it had taken him to get to her. How much of a sacrifice it really was. Her face heated, though, at the thought of stepping into the bathroom--interrupting him in the shower. She wasn't shy about the physical draw they had to each other. But the last time... circumstances had been so different.

Showers, Crew Deck

He stripped out of his, let's face it - filthy clothes, and stepped into the first hot shower he'd had since leaving the ship. To his mind, splashing his face in a cold stream didn't count though it had woken him up on occasion. Kept him going. But that was then. Hot soapy water sluiced away the grime, made him feel more like 'after-war Poe'. He turned his face up into the spray and let it all go.

It had been so easy to slip back into being the sniper and scout he had been during the war. The one who went without food, heat, and more often than not, a good night's sleep, in pursuit of his quarry. Maybe too easy but that was something to think about later. Tea and explanations and then, mercifully, a whole lot of sleep.

Once he was clean, top to bottom, he stepped out of the shower and toweled off. Thoughtful of Addy to produce a clean set of clothes and a towel for him. He got dressed, yawning as he did so, bundled up his clothes and towel and carried them back to her room.

Addy's Quarters, Crew Deck

He climbed down the ladder, his gaze tracking immediately to where the hot tea waited. "That," he said, his voice nearly a growl, "looks wonderful. Can't remember when I last had something hot to drink." He dumped his clothes and plopped down beside them on the floor, back against the bed, and sighed. "Okay." He leaned over and fished out a thick, wrapped package and passed it over to her. "This is what I found."

She took the package gingerly, as if taking a bomb, or something that might bite, out of his hands. "Don't be shy," she said, gesturing to the tea as she did. She set the packet down next to her for a second, shifting so her legs were on either side of him. She wanted... no needed... to be touching him. As if the physical reminder of the actual reality was what kept him there.

Carefully she pulled free the documents that had been in the package, starting at the top page, one hand on his shoulder, tracing absently, while the other moved. She picked one off the pile, skimmed--stopping to read where detailed understanding was necessary, placed it face down next to the pile, and started the routine with the next.

The picture that these documents painted was slow to come clear and then, it all clicked into place at once making her pull her free hand from his shoulder, placing it to her mouth a moment in shock.

Poe, who had poured himself a cup of tea, was sipping it slowly, letting the warmth seep into his bones while he waited. He knew what was there because he'd read it all through twice already. Cup poised before his mouth, he nodded, his expression turned serious, nearly grim. "During the war," he said, "I tracked a lot of monsters who called themselves patriots of one stripe or another but this ...? It's a whole other class."

Absently Addy's hand found its way back to Poe's shoulder. She set the paper she'd been holding down neatly on the pile with the other, not moving to look at the next. "All those people," she breathed. The scale of it was hard for her to wrap her head around. "And my father... My..." She closed her mouth over the words. He'd no right to be called father any more than he'd right for her to be this shaken by what she'd read--old fears rearing up like nightmares come to life.

She closed her eyes, focusing on the feel of Poe seated on the ground between her legs. The realness of him. The realness of being here in this moment. It was him that was here. Quinn. Whom she loved. Not her father. Not gorram Matthias Stone with his rough hands and his leering smile. Letting out a slow breath she opened her eyes and picked up the next page.

Almost immediately she wished she hadn't. Fear was replaced quickly by rage and somehow this single piece of the puzzle was more painful than the sheer scale of lives impacted by the actions of the Stones and, by proxy, her father. "Oh... Quinn..." she said, voice catching despite the hardness of it. "I..."

What was she even to say. It was there plain as day. How the Browncoats had known to come for Quinn when they had was unclear, but if they hadn't... Oh, for sure if they hadn't... The missive was in her father's hand. To both of the Stone men, telling them about Quinn--about patching him up, about the way he didn't look right at his daughter... their future property... She shuddered at it and resisted the urge to crumple it, instead placing it down on the pile again and then ducking her head forward to lean her forehead against the back of his head. "I'm so sorry."

"It is how it is," Poe said with a slight shrug. "I survived and more importantly, we have the evidence now to bring this particular monster to justice." He paused for second to take another, longer sip of tea. "Among others, your father is clearly implicated in this mess. It's not going to be easy for you, your mother or your siblings, I'm afraid."

She frowned as she straightened, processing his last comment. "Are we implicated?" She asked, suddenly imagining what being Matthias Stone's wife could mean with evidence like this.

"They might have questions to ask," Poe said. "Did you know? That sort of thing. I don't see it being a big thing mostly because you can account for your time being on the ship and all." He finished the tea and set the cup aside, leaning back against her, eyes closed. "I was thinking more about people you know back on Sweethome. Once word gets out what they did, anyone related to them will become pariahs of a sort." He yawned slightly. "But then, I could be wrong."

Henry. Her mind went immediately to the Campbells. A few others came to mind too. Plenty of folk had done business with her father. Business with her. She was sure they'd've done business with the Stones too. Hard to avoid in a community built mostly on agriculture. If there was anything fair left in the 'Verse she hoped those folks came through unscathed. Hoped they'd still look her in the eye if ever she saw them again.

She peered down at Quinn, savoring the weight of him against her. Softly she ducked her head again, kissing the top of his head, hair still damp from showering. "Don't you go falling asleep there," she said softly. "I won't be able to get you up into the bed." Her hands drew soothing patterns on his shoulders, though, trailing down to his chest and then back up. "Switch with me. I should get back to minding the ramp. I'll let Teague know you're here if you're still asleep when he gets back."

Poe nodded, shrugged out of his clothes and climbed into the bed; he sighed audibly as his head touched the pillow, his eyes drifted shut and then opened again. "Games are over," he said softly, pinning her with his gaze, "no going back to him. No negotiations. We protect this information, get it to someone who can do good with it, and then arrange for your annulment. Because from now on, it's going to be you and me." He yawned again, fighting against the lethargy that tugged at him. "Assuming you're good with that."

Once he was in the bed she perched on the edge next time him, unwilling to give up the closeness to him just yet. Nothing about what they'd been through felt like games to her, but that was sure as day what they'd been to Matthias. She nodded though. Didn't matter how it felt or didn't. She loved him and she wanted what he'd said. She wanted him and only him. "I'm good with that," she said, and there was weight behind the words. More promise than agreement.

She leaned towards him again, kissing him softly before he could fall asleep. "I love you Quinlan Poe," she whispered as she broke the kiss.

"Love you too," Poe murmured softly against her lips but if she answered, he didn't hear. Sleep, so long denied, claimed him at last.


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