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Bitter Pills: The Aftermath (Part 2)

Posted on Tue Jul 26th, 2022 @ 12:15pm by Addy Stone & Quinlan Barrett Poe

Mission: The Xiao Jin Chronicles
Location: Poe and Addy's quarters
Timeline: Mission Day 36 at 0100

Stand. Walk. Climb down. The mechanics were easy. It was a path she had walked plenty of times now. And with her hand tucked safely in Quinn's she navigated it with an almost blind automation, unthinking about where she was going. The only thing that mattered was her hand in his; going wherever he was going.

It wasn't until they reached the bottom of the ladder and she began stripping out of her coveralls that the numbness began to wear off. Boots, put away; coveralls, hung up. And then she perched on the edge of their bed and put her head in her hands.

Poe stowed his weapons and stripped down into a pair of well-worn pajama bottoms, giving her time though for what he wasn't exactly sure, just that he knew somewhere deep inside that she'd been hiding behind walls, maybe this whole time, and it took a minute to let the walls down. And so, he went through the motions, the things he did every night, giving her the time that she needed and then, when he judged the time was right, he made his way over to the bed and sat down beside her. Wordlessly, he pulled her into his embrace and let her shelter there in the safety of his arms.

Safety. That was the feeling. Safety. With Quinn's arms wound around her, her head tucked in the crook of his shoulder she felt safe for the first time that day. And that, more than anything, is what knocked the remainder of her barriers down. The tears were quiet at first, rolling down her cheeks as she tried to control her breathing. But the tidal wave of emotion she'd been keeping at bay was bigger than any careful breathing and soon quiet tears turned to sobs, the sound rending the quiet around them.

Addy couldn't say how long they sat like that. Maybe minutes. Maybe hours. She lost all sense of time while the maelstrom ripped through her, but slowly the safety of his arms won out. Tears dried. Breathing turned even again. Tension flowed out of her and she clung to him. When it seemed like the worst was well and truly past she mumbled out, "I'm sorry."

"For what," he murmured. He continued on as he had been, holding her close, his chin just above the halo of her hair, while she cried away the last of her childhood. "Not like you forced your way into my arms and me all unwilling. It's what I'm here for, well, part of it anyways."

"For being an idiot," she said, nuzzling closer, "when we landed. When I offered to go alone. That was... I wasn't thinking. Or at least..." The emotion, a reprisal of the fear she had felt at the mere suggestion of losing him, threatened to choke her and she went quiet again. "I was so scared, Quinn. I can't lose you. Not again. I couldn't bear it."

"Yeah, you do that," Poe said, sighing softly. "Get these ideas in your head that are hard to shake loose sometimes." He shrugged slightly. "I'm not going anywhere and while more than a few have tried to make it otherwise, I'm still here. And all that means, sometimes, I have to protect you whether you want me to or not. Just the price of loving you, I guess."

She nodded into his chest as he spoke, confirmation that she understood--that she was aware of her own faults in this. But at the utterance of his last sentence she pulled back, studying his face, his eyes, as if she could read whether he knew what he had just said.

"What," he asked quietly.

Even with cheeks blotchy from crying she managed to blush. "I just..." Her eyes fell for a moment, worried she was going to sound stupid. It seemed she was exceedingly good at that sometimes and she didn't want to rush him; didn't want him to feel she was forcing her way to something he wasn't ready to share. With a sigh she met his eyes again. "You talk about loving me, sometimes," she said quietly, "and I don't even know if you realize it."

His eyebrows drew down into a frown as he looked at her because sometimes, well, there just weren't words. "Of course, I love you," he said. "Words, well, they never were my strength. But I been showing you how I feel since day one, haven't I? Loving you, being with you, it's all that matters, Addy."

Her expression turned soft at his statement. "Yes, Quinn, you have. That's true." She gathered one of his hands in hers, threading their fingers together. "I'm trying to learn to show you I love you with fewer words, because words aren't your way. Words matter to me, though. Not by themselves. But... I don't know a woman alive that don't want to be told directly that she's loved by the person she's given herself to body and soul. I thought... Maybe... It just wasn't something you were ready to say to me. I mean, after Amari, you asked me..." She realized, belatedly, that she was doing the very thing she had been trying not to do.

"Words may not be my strength," Poe said, "but they sure are yours. So, feel free to say anything that comes to mind. And for the record," he pulled her far enough away so that he could look directly into her eyes, "I love you, Addy Weysmith. Have done since I first laid eyes on you, with hay in your hair and wearing eau de bovine and all. Always will too."

His words, so very like him in their earnest straightforwardness, were like rain on barren ground; life giving and healing and restoring of what had been taken away for so very long. She didn't want to look away from the intensity of his gaze, from the stormy grey of his eyes that bore testament to his words. To words that were only for her. "I love you too," she whispered, as if speaking louder might ruin the moment.

And something settled between them that hadn't been there before. A deepening of their connection and it came to him, of a sudden, that the words had been necessary. Who knew? He pulled her back into the shelter of his arms, held her close, while they both adjusted or maybe while he adjusted. It came to him in that moment that maybe the dreams he had long since put on the shelf could be possible again. A horse ranch where he could do training and maybe rescue and rehabilitate horses that had been abused. But that was for later, for after this whole mess was dealt with. "There's more though," he said after a moment. "In you to say, I mean."

She hesitated. There was more to say. There was always more to say. But it still took her a moment longer to speak as she sat there breathing him in and feeling safe and resting in the words that he'd said. The declaration of it. "You must think me an idiot," she finally said, "for putting up with that for so long. For staying all these years." Softly she pressed her lips against his shoulder, an absent-minded movement as if the affection was just a part of the telling. "He's been ugly before. Lots more in later years. But he wasn't always this ugly. Maybe even loved us all once. I think that's the hardest part of it. Realizing that even if he did... even if they both did... that they don't now. That they really haven't for a while."

Poe listened but to an extent, the notion of a loving parent meant little to him. He reckoned it was possible for Hank Weysmith to have gone from one extreme to the other but the question in his mind was why. What had happened to make so angry. So bitter toward his own children. To begin to see them as pawns. He spoke gently, warm, husky whispers across the top of her hair, as he held her. "When we're young, we don't understand that we have choices. We exist in the moment, try to make the best of it, survive. It's not till we get older, that we start making choices for ourselves. And you did, didn't you? Decided to come find out the truth for yourself rather than believe your father's lies a day longer?"

She made a small sound of affirmation, letting the sound of his voice soothe her as he spoke. "I had to know," she said softly, "from your own lips if I could. It just never felt right to me. The notion that there hadn't been something there. If there hadn't been then why did I feel it so strong?"

Silence again, but she only left it sit a moment. "I read your letter," she told him. "The first one at least. I wanted it to be read where it was meant to be read even if it was 10 years late in the reading. If I hadn't already been madly in love with you before I woulda certainly been after reading it. I didn't know you loved horses." She pulled back a bit so she could peer up at him.

"My grandparents. Stayed with them for a while when I was a kid. They owned a horse ranch and my grandfather taught me about training while my grandmother taught me about herbal remedies that worked on horses." He smiled, his eyes going distant as he thought about those days. Few as they were given the rest of how his life went. "They both said I had a gift for the work and for a while, that was my dream. To run a horse ranch of my own. Do training and maybe rehabilitate the ones that have problems."

She watched his face, the smile that settled on his lips, the look in his eyes, the way they lit even if he didn't realize it. She watched and, in that moment, would have given anything to give him that dream there and then. Leaning in quickly, she pressed her lips to his, kissing him hard and insistent for just a moment before pulling back again.

And then one last detail fell into place in her head and her eyes grew wide. "Quinn... I own land. That was the other thing we found out. Me and Peter, we own land. There was a deed and a will and a death certificate and there's land somewhere with my name on it and..." she stammered through the explanation trying to will him to see. "I mean... it's Peter's land too, but... we could..."

"Let's take a look," Poe said, immediately shifting into practical mode. "Depending on how big the parcel is and where, could be enough to get Peter his new start ... and ..." His brain caught up and the notion settled in a lot quicker than was comfortable for him. Dreams weren't something he held onto for the most part. Just one more thing the 'verse had to take from him but this one? "... a horse ranch," he asked quietly. "You'd want that?"

She saw it on his face the moment he understood. And her smile almost hurt for how big it was. "I'd want that," she confirmed. "And the porch swing. And the house. And you and me and..." she trailed off for only a moment as the image of it swelled in her head, fleshing out in full color what that would be like. "I love you Quinn. I love you and there's nothing I'd want more than to do that with you. If you still want to."

"I want to," Poe said, his voice turning shy, almost hesitant. "Very much."


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