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Bitter Pills (Part 2)

Posted on Wed Jul 6th, 2022 @ 11:55am by Addy Stone & Quinlan Barrett Poe

Mission: The Xiao Jin Chronicles
Location: Weysmith Farm, Sweethome
Timeline: Mission Day 35 at 1300

Previously....

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."


And now...

The fear that filled her was a living thing. It writhed and twisted, clamoring for control of her thinking even as she pushed it back firmly. It tried again, flashing an image of Quinn, sweating and grey lying on their guest room bed with a whole in his shoulder across her mind's eye. A reminder of how fragile life was even for folks as equipped as Quinlan Poe to respond to violence. She pushed it back again, letting the competing emotion that was slowly boiling up in her to take over instead. Anger drove through her like a spike. "Then I should go myself," she said quiet anger in her voice.

Peter looked anxiously between his sister and Poe. "No," he said firmly. "That..." His look was helpless, torn between wanting to help Addy and worry for himself and his other siblings if she did storm in there on her own. It wasn't Addy that Hank Weysmith would take his anger out on. He'd already made it clear he expected her to return, tail between her legs, so that he could resume whatever planning he had begun--more likely than not a marriage that worked somehow in his favor.

"I'm not staying behind," Poe said. He turned toward Addy, his gaze frank and assessing. The double standard, her wanting to protect him when she was adamant that she not be left behind when he tried to do the same thing, lay between them like a living thing. Not the time or the place for that kind of discussion though so he left it at that.

His attention turned to Peter, who still seemed more boy than man, in the way he was reacting. Hard to become a man when you dealt with someone as toxic as the elder Weysmith but again, that wasn't a discussion he could have with a stranger. And while he could understand a boy's fear, he had learned long ago that the only way through was to stand up and face it. For Poe the answer was simple enough. It just wasn't in him any longer to back down ... or stay behind. "Let's go."

She saw the error as soon as it was out of her mouth, but it was too late to take it back by then and so she held his gaze, chin up even though it trembled ever so slightly. Addy was aware of Peter in the way you're aware of a stranger trying to make sense of unspoken things being communicated. But she was more aware of Quinn. Aware of the way he assessed her and, she thought, of why. Her cheeks flushed and despite her best effort she was the first to look away, turning from both of them for a moment and brushing roughly at her cheeks, the enormous well of emotion finally getting the better of her for just a moment.

Addy drew in a shuddering breath, pressed it back out through her teeth and then, as Quinn's direction settled between the three of them, she turned back and began to walk.

Peter had watched the exchange with a degree of uncertainty that he couldn't quite make sense of. Something had passed between his sister and the man she'd gone in search of, but what he couldn't say and no amount of trying to figure it out would help in the moment. It was with relief that he relinquished the decision to Poe, turning to adjust the reins of the horse he'd rode out on and clicking his tongue so she'd follow.

"Ain't a horse born that has to be encouraged to head back toward the barn," he said aloud as they made the trek back toward the main house. He remembered a bit from early in the war. Weathered buildings, aging gracefully under a warm, ofttimes relentless sun, with less movement than he'd expect of a working farm. He expected the words to drop, unanswered into the silence that felt more like a chasm between the one who stayed and the one who left.

Despite the distance, what had felt like a long hot trek to her as a child felt extremely brief now. From this angle they approached the farmhouse from behind and had to circle to the front. Before they could do that, though, she slipped her hand into Quinn's. Whatever might happen she wanted it to happen with him there, next to her, the way they were meant to be. She squeezed his hand as they rounded the side of the house. As she felt him squeeze back she turned, eyes leaving him just in time to settle on her father, rifle held at the ready by his side, as the front of the house came into view. His face registered recognition first a d then, time seemed to slow.

Before the rifle had swung halfway up, Poe reacted. Stepping in front of Addy to shield her with his body, he drew his own weapon and, ready to fire, aimed for the center of the elder Weysmith's forehead. Arm steady, eyes flat and cold, he said quietly, "Reconsider or die right here. Your choice."

Hank Weysmith had brought his rifle to his shoulder just as Poe's words, carrying across the space despite the quiet of his tone, rang out. His finger hung poised, ready to pull back the hammer and cock the gun. For long moments there was tense silence between the two men as the elder Weysmith considered his choices and then, slowly, he lowered the barrel until it was pointing at the ground.

He peered at Poe, eyes narrowed, then looked beyond him to where his daughter stood, clearly frightened, but with an unfamiliar steel to her. "You're either incredibly stupid or you've a bigger pair than I remember," he called addressing Poe coldly before his eyes skipped back beyond the man to Addy. "Adorabella, stop this nonsense and come inside."

Stupid," Poe said as he came forward, crossing the distance between them in a few steps, "is aiming a gun in the general direction of your children." He pulled the weapon out of the man's grasp with a sharp tug and started emptying it as he spoke, pocketing the ammunition. "And let's be clear here, you don't get to order her around anymore."

 

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