Previous Next

Bitter Pills (Part 1)

Posted on Tue Jul 5th, 2022 @ 2:56pm by Addy Stone & Quinlan Barrett Poe

Mission: The Xiao Jin Chronicles
Location: Weysmith Farm, Sweethome
Timeline: Mission Day 35 at 1230

She'd directed Quinn to set them down on the back 40. It was a fair spot--no crops to disrupt and no cattle to frighten at this time of the year. Her Daddy would see them coming, though. And Peter. And maybe even Juliet. She was sure they'd gotten the girl set up to take on some of the workload by now. She stood at the rear of the shuttle by the exit ramp, eyes on Quinn, an absolute maelstrom of fear and sadness and hope and every other gorram emotion that her heart could drum up, writhing in her belly. "Ready?" she asked him.

Dressed in everyday clothes and armed as always, Poe pulled her into an embrace. "The nerves comin' off you are like a living thing," he murmured against her hair. "Just remember, whatever happens, I got your back."

Her arms found their way around him and she melted into him for a moment, breathing in safety like this hug was somehow the only bulwark against the oncoming storm. For a moment the only sound was the wild pounding of her heart and the sharp deep intake of breath through her nose before she slowly released it. Reluctant, but determined, she pulled back and nodded. "I love you," she said quietly. It needed saying even if he weren't saying it back as of yet. Taking one of his hands in hers she raised the free one and hit the release to lower the ramp.

She'd never given much thought to the workings of the shuttle before then. The small exit ramp moved with the exact sort of pace she normally would expect of a ramp like this and yet to her it felt excruciatingly slow. In this moment it seemed as though the slow sliver of bright sunlight it granted took an age to broaden from a sliver to a space wide enough to fit a person. Addy brought up her free hand like a shield over her eyes while they adjusted and then, when the ramp had lowered fully, she led them out.

The first thing that hit her was the familiarity of the farm. There was no mistaking it. She knew this land like she knew every line of her hands. Her heart ached at the feeling before she pushed it aside and turned toward the farmhouse. It was a bit of a walk, but that was ok. She wanted the time to acclimate. But as she turned in that direction a horse and rider became rapidly visible and her gut churned as she pulled them to a halt, letting the rider come to them.

Though he had never lived on a farm unless you counted his convalescence during the war, he had spent a few years on a working horse ranch and there were similarities. Had been a time, back before the Alliance had taken it all away, when he wanted nothing more than to train horses, help those that were troubled.

You got a gift for understanding their hurts.

His grandfather's words, delivered in that rough, no-nonsense voice, echoed through his memory. Even now, the loss of his grandparents brought with it a pain sharper than anything the war could have done. There had only been one thing worse and his gaze, steely-eyed and unforgiving, turned toward the lone rider racing toward them. He squeezed her hand gently and waited with her.

Dirt flew at the horse's approach, far faster than she could make sense of. It wasn't long, though, before her face cleared and, with more relief than she could contain she called out, "Peter!"

The tall lean form of her younger brother was off the horse in a scramble of arms and legs before the creature could come to a full stop. Her feet seemed to move of their own accord as the two rushed together and wrapped each other in a tight hug. Laughter fell from her lips at the joy of seeing him whole and well. It hadn't been until that moment that she realized she had feared he might not be.

It was Peter who pulled back first, though, his hands stayed on her shoulders as he looked her over as if inspecting her to confirm that she was truly there and in one piece. "Addy," he breathed. "You're back."

Her face fell even as he said it, sobering as if she'd been doused with cold water. "For a few days maybe," she corrected. "Just came to true up with Daddy and collect some of my things."

Peter's expression shifted in a mirror of her own, some of the joy dying in his eyes. "I see," he said, and though it seemed the sort of thing to say bitterly there was only resignation in his voice. "There's things should be said before you see him then."

Addy nodded, not sure what her brother could need to say to her before she did what she had come to do. "Of course," she agreed, but then, rather than continue, she whirled, holding her hand out to Quinn who had held back while the two reunited. "Peter," she said, "You remember Quinlan Poe."

Peter's whole face seemed to shift, eyes widening in surprise and mouth opening as if he had something to say, though no words came out. He had only been twelve when he had last seen the man who held his sister's heart. He looked both the same and not, the difference between the memory of a boy and the eyes of a man grown. "You found him," something of wonder in his voice as he looked back and forth between Addy and Poe.

"She found me," Poe said quietly. "Weren't hard. I was right where I said I'd be." He watched the play of emotions across the younger man's face and the realization came to him, sudden-like, that he knew something of the situation. He willed himself to patience and waited because Addy needed this, needed to confront this, needed to resolve this. Wasn't his to fix though his fist longed to connect with the father's jaw in the worst way.

Peter had any number of skills, but watching and listening had always been one of his best. As Poe watched him he watched right back, curious even as the man's face shifted only minutely. The voice was familiar both in its timbre and its softness and a memory swam to the forefront of his mind that he hadn't drawn on in years--hearing the murmur of this man's deeper voice against his sister's as the two spoke quietly together. More often Addy speaking than Poe. How many times had she chased him off for eavesdropping?

It was a quick exchange and yet Addy felt like her head was on a swivel swapping between the two men. She couldn't have said what it was in Poe's demeanor that gave her pause. Something, though, and she turned back to look at Peter whose face had gone slightly red. "Peter," she said softly, "what is it that needs saying?"

The younger Weysmith's face had, indeed, gone red as he considered what he now knew. It wasn't his fault that Addy hadn't known, but the knowledge of it still drew up a fire in his belly when he thought about his father's response to the letters he had found. Embarrassment, not at his own actions, but at the actions of his parents, flared bright before his eyes shifted to his boots.

"I'll say it plain 'cause I don't know how else to say it," he began. "Couple weeks ago I found a bundle of letters from him," here he lifted his chin in Poe's direction, "in Daddy's lock box. Daddy said you were useless to the family so long as you were in love with him so he kept them from you. And that even if you did find him he wouldn't want you besides. That you'd be back." He swallowed hard against the growing anger in his throat as his eyes drifted from Addy to Poe and back--evidence of the very outcome his father swore was impossible. "That you'd be back and the better for it because you'd know that he was dead or that he didn't love you back anyway."

Addy's gut twisted as Peter spoke. It was what she had thought. What she had been steeling herself for. But to have it delivered to her from her brother's lips this way. So soon on arrival. For a moment she thought she might be sick just at the confirmation of it all.

"Addy," Peter continued, "I didn't know about them. I swear it. I woulda never kept such a thing from you." There was desperation in his tone now. As if he was afraid Addy might tie him to their father as the next eldest Weysmith man. "I've got the letters now. I've been holding 'em to give to you if... when... you came home."

She leaned into Quinn, fingers tightening where they threaded between his while tears pricked at the corner of her eyes. She was angry, certainly, and angry enough that her body thought tears were the right response. But she was sad too. "Why are you telling me this now?" she finally asked, voice rough with the emotion of it. "Why does this need saying before I see Daddy?"

Now Peter's eyes glanced over to Poe and held. Though he was answering her question this information was meant as much for him as it was for his sister. "'Cause I don't know for sure that Daddy won't shoot him on sight."

 

Previous Next

labels_subscribe