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Bitter Pills: The Aftermath (Part 1)

Posted on Fri Jul 22nd, 2022 @ 2:27pm by Addy Stone & Quinlan Barrett Poe

Mission: The Xiao Jin Chronicles
Location: Xiao Jin
Timeline: Mission Day 36 at 0020

He flew the shuttle back to the ship in silence. Both of the Weysmith siblings seemed drawn into themselves which made sense considering how the evening had gone. Poe felt, as he contacted Morgan, and went about landing the shuttle that there was more to this than he knew. Probably a lot more. So, he made the needful arrangements as quietly as he could. He had Shepherd go about making up one of the passenger dorms for Peter while he directed them both toward the dining area. And though they found a seat at the table, still, all that way, not a word had been said. Either one. Which was, when he thought about, odd. Addy was ever the talkative one and while the silence didn't bother him any, the look in her eyes certainly did.

From the kitchen, Poe contacted Morgan and told him to get them back into the black while he set up a tea tray, using the best of the tea he had been given by Li Huan, and took his time about it. Giving them time. Space. Finally, it was ready, and he brought the tray to the table where he poured a cup for each of them and then sat down nearest to Addy and across from Peter. That was about as far as he knew to go, truth be told. The next move needed to be theirs; just took patience and the patience of a sniper was limitless.

He sat quietly, blowing gently across the surface of his tea and waited. Waiting was something he could do. For as long as it was necessary. He reckoned that the shock would wear off before long and then the words would flow. If need be, he could excuse himself, so they had time alone together but for now, he sat and drank tea. Good tea at that.

Autopilot. That was what she was doing. Running on autopilot. Hands that wanted to tremble with the overwhelming reality that had worked itself into her bones on the trip back came to the mug and wrapped it. Some part of her mind registered the heat of the ceramic in her hands, but she didn't remove them. The only thing that mattered in that moment was that she was here. Here with Quinn. Here with Peter.

Peter. Her eyes darted up to him before glancing to Quinn. She wished, selfishly, that they were alone in their room where she could sit with him and just be. But Peter was here. And she was glad for it even as the sight of him in the dining room turned her world on its head.

In the end it was Peter who spoke first.

"What was in those papers Addy?" He asked, voice soothing as if he were approaching a wounded animal who was backed into a corner. He knew how to do that. To soothe a frightened creature. This... Well he was doing his best.

She looked up at his question. For a moment she thought she might be sick, but she swallowed hard and took a tiny sip of tea.

"It was a contract with Marcus and Matthias Stone," she said, voice hollow. "Terms for merging the two farms. The two families. Me... Matthias gets me and the merger in exchange for a debt owed. It was..." She recalled the sum, so much larger than made sense. "It was a lot of money owed. So he agreed I would marry Matthias."

Poe frowned as he listened. "How did he plan to deliver on that," he said aloud. "Not the merger part, I mean the whole you marrying this Matthias part? You're a person, with rights and opinions all your own."

"My signature... he forged my signature on the document. Two years ago," she said. She wanted to look at him. To get lost in the safety of Quinlan Poe and forget all of this happened, but even as she said the words she couldn't meet his eyes. Mortification reared its head. "I... I have it with me. It's a right good forgery." Her hands tightened around the mug, the heat of it starting to make her uncomfortable. The discomfort was a welcome distraction, though, so she held tight, pressing her fingers into the ceramic.

Peter's face bore a look somewhere between a man who'd been slapped and a man who thinks he might soon wake up from a nightmare. He, though, was the first to shake it off and he looked at Poe. "He's forged both of our signatures on life insurance policies as well. So I can't say I'm surprised," he confirmed bleakly. "We've got those papers too."

Reaching across the table he set his hand out, palm up for Addy to take, leaving it there for a moment and then withdrawing it when she didn't. "Explains why Matthias was trying to start up courting with you the last few years," he said softly. "You always said it was strange. That you'd never so much as indicated an interest."

Poe's expression turned thoughtful as the first inklings of an idea formed in his mind; he pushed it aside to concentrate on the moment, on these two. Finding the words, well, that was something he'd never been good at. Surviving the bad, making a life for yourself clear of it all, that was what had gotten him through to the other side of the worst. But that wasn't what was needed here. "No offense but your father is an idiot. A mean, manipulative, and as it turns out, criminal, idiot but an idiot all the same." He paused for a moment. "What happens when you don't go through with the marriage?"

"A third of the land and half the herd go to Matthias," she said hollowly.

"He'll offer him Juliet first," Peter said with quiet horror. "She's not 18 for another month. If he could get the thing done by then..." His eyes went to Poe. "We can't leave her here."

"Taking her before she's of age is kidnapping," Poe said, "if your Daddy was going to push it and I reckon he would. Maybe though we can bluff a bit. The signatures are fake and if that can be proven, then the document is worthless. Might be something to that?"

"Mayhap we could," Addy said, a tiny flare of hope sparking. "We'd need someone with a legal mind to tell us what evidence is needed. And someone who can verify the forgery." As quick as the hope flared it snuffed. She didn't know anyone who would do it. Not anyone nearby anyway. Not when her father had so handily threatened the livelihoods of others over less. For the first time since they sat down she looked over at Quinn and all of the fear and frustration and horror at the revelations of the day were on her face. But the embers if that tiny of flame of hope remained and that... that was what was in her gaze. "Where are we going to find that?" She asked.

"I"ll have to think on it a bit," Poe said as he ran one hand through his hair. "Maybe I know someone who knows someone, that sort of thing. In any case, ain't nothing can be done tonight." His gaze strayed in Addy's direction, the way she was hanging onto the last shreds, and then turned to Peter. "The shepherd fixed up a room for you. If you go find her, she'll get you settled in. For tonight anyways, your sister is safe and away from the farm. So, get some sleep while you can."

Peter nodded his understanding, eyes shifting to Addy for a moment before he pushed back from the table and stood. It struck him, as he watched her interact with Poe, that this was something she could have had years ago. Coming around the table he paused next to his sister, hand resting on her shoulder and then squeezing. For a moment he considered saying something, but as her hand snuck up to cover his and squeezed. Instead he looked to Poe. "Thank you," he said simply, before adding, "Both of you." And then he quietly slipped out of the room.

He cleaned up the tea things, because living with strangers meant you cared about things like that if you wanted peace, and then returned to where Addy still sat at the table. "Come on," he said. He took her hand and led her to the sanctuary that was their bedroom.

 

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