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We've Got Ourselves a Job

Posted on Mon Jun 13th, 2022 @ 7:29pm by Addy Stone & Quinlan Barrett Poe

Mission: The Xiao Jin Chronicles
Location: Xiao Jin
Timeline: Mission Day 21 at 1230

The walk from the cafe to the Xiao Jin wasn't exceedingly long, but it gave Addy time to think. She started out feeling like she might float. For a moment in her life she and Henry had bolstered each other through their pain. Him from the uncertainty about and eventually confirmation that Corrine's life bad been lost in the battle at Serenity Valley. Her as she struggled to come to grips with the thought that perhaps, just perhaps, Quinlan Poe was dead too. It had been a romance of convenience and mutual grief more than anything else, and when she had realized that she simply couldn't let go of the possibility that Poe was out there they had parted as friends.

They hadn't spoken frequently over the years after that, but they were friendly and kind when they did see each other, feeling more like old friends than former lovers.

As she walked, though, the tiredness of being up all night began to wear on her and with it came doubt. She had, without consulting Poe, agreed to carry cargo to Sweethome. For a price, certainly, but still... And more she was inviting the only man who had ever held a place in her heart besides Poe to spend a week and a half on a small ship with them. It didn't matter that comparing her feelings for Henry to her feelings for Poe was like comparing a candle with a star.

By the time she reached the dock and the berthing where the Xiao Jin stood her stomach had tied itself in knots and her heart raced with worry. What had felt right and obvious in the moment suddenly felt significantly more complicated.

[Eavesdown Docks - Other Direction]

He walked in that long ground-eating stride he adopted when he didn't want to be bothered particularly. Sweethome wasn't a hot destination among the tradespeople but years working for hire had left him with a list of possibilities. Working the contacts took time and maybe a bit more patience than he generally had when he was tired and out of sorts.

Perhaps if she hadn't worked herself into a ball of worry...

And perhaps if she hadn't been lost in thought, eyes fixed on the ground in front of her instead of up looking at her destination...

And perhaps if it had been any moment but that one...

Perhaps... she would have seen Poe coming. But she was tired and worried and not paying near enough attention and so she practically, and literally, ran right into him, limbs screaming to a halt just a moment to late as awareness of her surroundings kicked in.

"Oh my goodness, Quinn," she said, backing up a step, eyes wide, before she stopped and... unable to help herself... burst into a fit of giggles.

He had reached out automatically when she came barreling into him, his hands dropping away as she stepped back, his left eyebrow climbing his forehead as he heard Addy make a sound that he could have sworn he'd never heard her make before -- giggles. The kind of giggle that belonged with happy people and the thought gave him pause. After the whole Amari incident, her not knowing about the one other woman in his life, he had expected ... well, he didn't know what but not a happy little giggle. The thought, once complete in his sleep-fogged brain, brought an answering smile to his lips.

"Lost in thought were you," Poe asked as he fell in beside her, heading toward the ramp and the ship.

"Something like that," she said as the giggle subsided. She shifted closer, sliding her hand into his as they approached and then, after a moment's thought, tugging to pull him to a stop. "I've found us a cargo, bound for Sweethome, that needs a ship" she said. "That's what I was thinking on. Did you have any luck?"

"Not so far," Poe said, "but then I hadn't made it all the way through my list as yet. Give me the details."

She relayed the information quickly and succinctly watching his face to see if she could get a sense of his reaction. Price. Cargo. Volume. The most important details, though, she held for last. Addy paused then, hand still in Poe's though she glanced toward the ramp briefly as if she could see who was around at that moment. "There's more you should know," she finally said. "Can we walk for a moment?"

"Sure," he said. "We have cargo, we have crew. Suddenly I have the time."

She nodded and turned them back towards the dock, pace slow, but steady as if they were out for a Sunday stroll instead of talking business and unearthing past happenings.

"The man whose cargo we're moving, Henry Campbell, is a friend of mine," she began slowly. She let their hands swing slightly between them and took some comfort in the normalcy of that. "Clayton and I ran into him while we were shopping. Couldn't even believe my eyes." A glance shot his way, curiosity riddling her gaze. She was quiet for a moment and so was he in that way he had of waiting her out.

"I waited for a word from you all four years of the war," she said, reaching back to what felt like another lifetime ago. "I know now that you'd sent word, but then... then my Daddy and my Mama and those friends who knew of you swore to me five ways to Sunday that you were either dead or didn't want me. Daddy and I fought over it more times than I can count and if he even thought he was catching me thinking of you..." She trailed off. "Anyway, couple months after the war ended Henry started coming round courting. He didn't want to at first, but my Daddy had made a comment and he felt duty bound to do something about it. He was looking for word on his girlfriend, Corrine, at the time. She'd gone to the front. And I was praying for word of you. And we bonded over that. And for a few months we took comfort with each other. It ended when he learned Corrine had been killed at Serenity Valley and I realized I couldn't let you go, no matter how many people said I had to or how hard I tried."

Poe stopped and turned toward her, his gray eyes narrowing slightly, "he decided to court you because your Daddy made him? Not because he was particularly attracted to you. Just what kind of a man is your father anyway?"

Of everything she had said that was not the detail she had expected a reaction to. For a moment she wondered if he had misunderstood. "Not one to be crossed," she said quietly, embarrassed. "Apparently he threatened Henry's family when the courting turned serious. I didn't know. Didn't know until Henry told me about it today." She felt sick all over again, bile gathering at the back of her throat. "But... that's not the point... When you needed it you went to Amari. When I did... 6 years ago... it was Henry. You've every right to know that and I would've told you about it this morning, thought about it even, if it hadn't felt like too much after everything."

"So, he started seeing you because of something your father said and then stopped seeing you because of something your father said," Poe said. "But the point you want me to understand is that you got twisted about a note from Amari and you're bringing your former lover," and here his expression turned quizzical, "on board the ship for the trip back to Sweethome. Do I have it now?"

"He stopped seeing me because I couldn't give you up," she said quietly. The memory of that conversation sprang fresh into her mind. Henry rated the term lover, but only because of one occasion--an occasion that in the aftermath, led to confessions and then to ultimatums and then... She sighed. It didn't matter. He wasn't wrong. "Yes," she said simply then. She wanted to come up with words, dozens upon dozens of them, to convince, to console, to... it still didn't matter. "I promised you honesty," she said softly.

"Alright," Poe said. "So, when is the cargo arriving? Want to make sure that everyone is here to lend a hand."

Again, his response surprised her. Again, she wondered if she had somehow miscommunicated something. But no, he'd said it plain and there wasn't more than that. So she nodded. Before she'd left Henry they'd agreed on a later time. She'd wanted to make sure everyone was back. "'Round 5 this evening."

"That's good," Poe said as his gaze traveled the short distance to the ship and back to meet her gaze again. "Probably enough time to give the cargo bay a thorough cleaning. Oh, and let Clayton know to hold back dinner until after the cargo's stored."

"Ok," she said, shifting toward business and away from the conversation that she had dreaded. She was relieved not to find him angry and yet hesitant at the same time. An odd combination and one she was happy to push to the back of her head for the moment. "I'll get on it. Gonna need to go talk to Morgan though." She tilted her head. "If it's all the same to you I'd like to give that a try. We can't fly a cargo until we have a pilot."

"Sure," Poe said, "but something to keep in the back of your head. I need someone that's willing to work with me and not be suspicious of everything I say or do. And while we're on that score, the cockpit will not be an extension of his quarters. Clayton and I can both handle some of the piloting so we can work out some sort of rotation."

A quick nod of confirmation. "Same rates and conditions as were extended to Ashe?"

"Yes," Poe said, his expression going wintry for a moment, "minus the whole, you know, lying to my face thing."

Their hands had remained tucked together throughout the conversation and she tightened her grip slightly now. "Minus that. Definitely."


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