The Spy That Went Out Into the Cold
Posted on Sun Jun 5th, 2022 @ 8:04pm by Quinlan Barrett Poe & Addy Stone & Ashe Sparrowhawk
Edited on on Sun Jun 5th, 2022 @ 8:08pm
The Xiao Jin Chronicles
Location: Xiao Jin
Timeline: Mission Day 20 at 1300
He walked back, lost in thought, with Addy beside him; he was maybe half the way there before he finally spoke. "I'm not certain here," he said softly. "Am I wrong in thinking she might have been the one responsible for happened to me on Sweethome?"
Addy's stomach dropped. "No," she said, keeping her tone as even as she could. "I had the same thought. Seems too much of a coincidence. Her training and the medal after." She'd tried to reconcile Ashe from her conversation with the woman two days ago where she touted the evils of war and swore she should have never taken part. Was that a lie? An act? Was she, perhaps, genuinely contrite? Did it even matter if she was?
"Quinn, when I talked to her about the war... she seemed... regretful. As if she wished she hadn't been in it. She basically said as much. I don't," she paused, a pregnant silence as she tried to organize her thought. "I don't know if it matters, but you ought to know it all the same."
Poe nodded his agreement though his steps didn't slow, if anything he moved faster. "Could even be that her working for ex-Browncoats is her way of making amends but you know what, Addy, it doesn't matter." He turned toward her, his gaze shadowed, nearly haunted. "Well, if I were a Shepherd, it would, I guess. But I'm not." He shrugged, one hand rubbing the scar on his chest, as he struggled to find the words. "I put the war behind as best I could; I've tried to live fair though the Alliance isn't having any of that. But there is no way I can sleep down the hall from the person who betrayed me. I'm just not that big a person."
Addy nodded. She understood. It was impossible not to. And the way his gaze shifted, both far away and present at once, as though he were seeing things not there. Her heart broke a little and every ounce of her wanted to clear that look from his face. "You shouldn't have to be," she said, certainty in her tone and then she slid her hand in his, the best she could think of.
He squeezed her hand, gently, and took comfort from her presence as they made the walk back to the ship. When he hit the ramp, he pulled her hand up, kissed her knuckles, and then released her. "Come on," he said.
[Cockpit, Xiao Jin]
He came up into the cockpit with Addy close behind and it never occurred to him to stop her from being there. Ashe was, where Ashe always was, in the cockpit, alone, reading. His expression turned wintry as his mind filled for the moment with Fenton falling into the dirt. The feel of his own chest turning to molten fire an instant or two later. The thought that he would die with so much left undone. Ashe wasn't who she said she was; there was a possibility, a maybe, that she wasn't the traitor. Only a maybe. He believed she was but either way, he couldn't chance the safety of his crew to her. Not any longer. "Ashe," he said, "want a word with you."
Ashe set the book down when Poe entered. It didn't take a psychologist to tell that he was upset, serious, about something. Her eyes darted to Addy. She was here too. Bringing her into serious conversations now? Ashe questioned the wisdom of such a decision. Addy was a nice kid, but sleeping with her didn't automatically make her be qualified to co-run the ship with him. Did Addy even want to be here, or know what was going on? Ashe sure didn't. "Of course," she responded, her tone unfazed.
Poe, looking past the ideal of a crew and a ship of his own, saw her now with fresh eyes. The way her gaze flicked toward Addy and just as quickly, almost dismissively, returned to him. His hold on his temper tightened. Addy was capable and competent in her own right, though unsure of herself, and he doubted there was a disloyal or secretive bone in her body. But he was seeing Ashe now. Seeing her the way he should have before because that had always been the way of her. More left unsaid than she ever spoke aloud. "Had an interesting meeting with a pilot a short while ago. He clued me in to some of your history."
Addy frowned, staying back of Poe, thumbs tucked in the pockets of her coveralls. This was his fight. His demon to slay. But it didn't mean she wouldn't stand witness to it. More importantly she wasn't sure what the aftermath would bring and with that she was determined not to budge.
History? Ashe looked at Poe, her composure as calm and collected as always. But inside, she worried. Her history about the war getting out, okay. Fine. This wouldn't be the first time that had happened. Poe might kick her out, might even try to hurt her, but Ashe could handle that. She could talk people down. But did Poe know about her family? Did he want to hurt her family? Ashe glanced back at Addy. No. Addy was a good woman. Maybe with time and without Poe, they might have been friends. Ashe didn't think that Addy would hurt a kid, and Poe, well, she wouldn't be surprised by Poe leaving her daughter an orphan if it fit in his view of the world. But he seemed to care about Addy's opinion, and Ashe didn't think that Addy would like it if he did that. In that respect, perhaps it was good that Addy was here. "How much did he tell you?" Ashe asked, not outright denying that she had a history. Eavesdown was not the worst place to look for a new job, after all.
"Enough," Poe said. He saw the way her eyes moved from him to Addy and back and felt the weight of his experience weigh down upon him while Fenton's ghost prowled through the back of his mind. Innocent people didn't play it coy or cagy and if he hadn't already been sure, he was now. Ashe was the turncoat. "I won't come looking for you or yours though you cost me plenty but I ain't going to keep your secret neither. You're on your own." His gaze flicked up and down the secretive, lying length of her. "But then you always were. Get ... off ... my ... ship."
Addy watched the whole exchange quietly, arms crossed over her chest. It was quick and words were few, but she saw the certainty in Quinn when it happened. She thought of the graves on the back 40. Digging those pits deep enough to lay a body to rest was a job in itself. Her back still remembered the burn of it. The smell was there too, and their voices--if they were there enough to speak--when they realized they wouldn't be going home. Some of them pleaded. Others sobbed. Some were so silent you thought maybe they'd already passed on.
"Why?" she asked, her own voice startling her as she inserted herself into the conversation before Ashe could move. "Why'd you do it?"
Cost me plenty? Why, Ashe thought he had been a perfectly good pilot. Professional, at least. She didn't even think that Poe might be referring to years ago; after all, the blame for all that had happened was spread out. In her mind she was guilty for hurting the Independent's war efforts, not for hurting Poe personally. Normally she wouldn't answer questions, not to people like Poe, but she had told Addy a bit about her past and the girl deserved to know more. Poe had already said that he wouldn't come after her family, and that was all Ashe could ask for. "People make mistakes." She answered Addy, specifically addressing the woman and not Poe. "I was young and stupid and angry because my wife had just been killed. I picked the wrong side, and as much as I try, nothing I do can make up for that." Ashe stood up, gathering her book and her notepad that she had sitting on the console. Already packing her things. "And I don't expect it to."
"Did it help?" Addy pressed on, watching the woman collect her things. She didn't look at Poe. Couldn't. He'd come to his own conclusion, but some part of her wanted to hear Ashe say it. She sighed, unwinding her arms and scrubbing a hand through red locks. "Don't answer that. Tell me this instead. When you gave him away," here her head tilted slightly in Poe's direction, "on Sweethome did you know? How many would die? How many more would be in danger of it?"
And just like that, the empathy that Ashe had towards Addy was gone. Empathy; not sympathy. Yes, she was still a good kid, but Poe had her tightly in his grasp. Beyond the point of no return. Was he trying to turn her into a distrustful, close-hearted, egotistical stoic like himself? "Loaded questions," Ashe responded, bringing back a small memory from law school. "A rhetorical fallacy. If you want to blame me, you don't have to do it in the form of questions. I already know what I did, and I already told you that I regret it. Even back then, I regretted it. But the Alliance kills deserters." Ashe took a step towards the door. "And, no. I did not know that they had plans to attack Sweethome." But this was war. What else did you expect? The fronts would see conflict at one point or the other. Ashe never should have taken part in it. She should have stayed at home with her daughter. And everybody else fighting on the front lines should have done the same. Everybody who took part in the war, Poe included, had at least some blame for all the casualties that happened. Ashe maybe more than others, but at least she admitted she was wrong. She doubted Poe would.
It was a small shift in tone more than anything else that gave away the change and despite herself it made Addy sad. Maybe she shouldn't have been. Maybe she should have just let Ashe go at the moment Quinn told her to go. Maybe. Maybe. Didn't matter now. For a moment she moved to speak, to say something else, but all of the words that built up crumbled into sawdust in her throat. Finally she looked over at Poe and offered him a small shrug.
"Time for you to go," Poe said. "And I meant what I said. I won't go after you or yours so long as you stay far away from me and mine."
Ashe was already making her way to the door as Poe said that. "I will grab my stuff and leave," she gave a simple response.
Poe followed her off the Bridge, walking out to the Cargo Bay where he made sure the ramp was down and waited there. A few minutes alone to absorb all of this was welcome so that, by the time Ashe showed up, he was calm and entirely under control.
It was a hard debate for Addy. She wanted to follow Quinn. Make sure he was ok. But she also wasn't fully sure she was ok herself. Of all the chances... Finding Quinn unlikely. Finding him wanting her around even less so. But finding him, hiring on with him, and uncovering the mole that had led to their meeting in the first place... Had Addy been religious she might have called it providence. Bridge emptied of people she moved over to the Captain's console and sat, flopping back in the chair. There was thinking to do and this was as good a place as any to do it.
He watched Ashe exit the ship and head off onto the docks. He had made a mistake with her, hiring someone without checking her references, trusting her word. He remembered back to their first conversation, back when she had told how she flew for the Browncoats during the war. Played on her connection with him to get her foot in the door. He watched her go, a thoughtful expression on his face, and didn't leave his spot until she'd faded into the crowd and disappeared.