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07.31.2012 , 08:58 PM |
Huh. This continuation (with bonus family!) tumbled out on the heels of Ruth's previous
, and I swear after this I'm done for the week. I really need to get a hobby.
Quinn read the whole datacube’s worth of old letters. Ruth’s parents had corresponded regularly throughout their time together; Dolarra was often traveling for her work (Intelligence, obviously, though he could tell maddeningly little beyond that from what she said) and Colran, from the sound of it, was a habitual letter-writer to many of his friends.
For eight years they avoided hard facts, details of work, traceable names, and yet still managed to write volumes. About life, about the Empire, about each other; about Ruth, when she came along; about the planets Dolarra saw, though she seemed to put intentional delays and vagueness in describing them so he couldn’t trace her exact routes; about the Force, where Colran’s descriptions sounded much like Ruth’s always had, only better articulated.
Quinn envied both the love and the purpose that threaded through every letter. He envied the father who had gotten to be there for his young child. With every glowing passage, Quinn envied the years he had almost had.
It took him a couple of weeks to work through the full index of correspondence. When he was finished, he tried to think of who to contact to return it. Calling Ruth directly was asking for a fight. Secretaries seemed wrong for a trust like this. So he called Jaesa Brindel, née Wilsaam.
When she came up on holo, she smiled the smile he had heard others describe as winsome. “General Quinn. This is a pleasant surprise.”
“It’s been a while.” Several years, in fact; Jaesa had supervised his visits to Rylon for years, but eventually he was allowed to see his son alone, and from then on his sole contact with Ruth’s camp was done through her secretaries. “I need to get something valuable to Ruth. Do you think you could arrange for a pickup from Kaas City?”
“I’m in town myself today. I can take care of it.”
She met him in the office he kept at the city’s military headquarters. She looked much as she always had: mousy, nonthreatening, though even with the slight rounding out of the years she moved with a certain balance that suggested it would be difficult to take her by surprise.
“Thank you for coming,” he said. “How are you? How are Kaeve, the twins?”
“All of the above are doing well,” she said. “How are things with you?”
“Good, thank you.” He didn’t ask about her weak bordering on pacifist political aspirations, and she didn’t ask about his unending push for total victory in a war he would never compromise on. They were polite like that.
He had never been friends with the gentle former Jedi; all they had in common was Ruth, and Jaesa’s primary goal there was to encourage the softest, most dangerously vulnerable parts of her. But when Ruth had collared and imprisoned Quinn after his betrayal, Jaesa was the one who, unbidden, had thought to feed him and, in those first few brutal days, tend to the worst of Pierce’s physical retribution. Jaesa was, to reduce it to two words, inexplicably gracious, and since the falling-out with Ruth that had helped matters a great deal.
“I’m glad,” she was saying. “I heard you and Ruth were back in contact, but she’s pretty tight-lipped about you.”
“Yes. Sometimes glowingly so – “ she smiled – “and sometimes…not…but she doesn’t say much either way.”
“I see. I just need an item returned to her. It would help if you could let her know I didn’t intend to take it, it accidentally ended up in my things.” He produced the datacube, an ornate golden thing scarcely two fingers’ widths to a side.
Jaesa’s eyes widened. “Is that what I think it is?” She snatched it out of his hands, tapped it active, looked over the text index that it projected. “Where did you find this?”
“It fell out of the coat closet while I was on my way out one day. I happened to catch it.”
“This is great! I put it together for Ruth some time ago. You know how much she loves anything to do with her mother, but she never had time to finish plowing through her father’s files after he died. I pulled this all together, but then the cube vanished before I could give it to her. I was convinced the whole thing was lost.” Her eyes sparkled when she smiled. “Did you read any of it?”
“It’s wonderful, isn’t it?”
“It explains a great deal about her,” he said cautiously.
“She was lucky, having parents like that.”
“They were lucky, too.”
“I know. Some of it sounded just like…” She caught herself. “Well. Other things.”
Don’t touch the thought of her and me. That’s mine.
“There aren’t many other things like the relationship laid out in those letters.”
“I guess you’re right.” She paused. “Are you all right?”
In front of you?
“Quite. It’s kind of you to ask.”
“I’ll get this to her. And I’ll let her know you didn’t mean to walk off with it. Anything else you want me to pass along?”
He considered, decided to risk the small personal touch. “Yes. Tell her I said happy birthday.”
June, 27 ATC
Ruth read every letter the datacube stored. She read them again. It took her weeks; she was working, managing her intelligence network, coordinating a handful of strategic projects, doing some field work herself. And reading her parents’ words as fast as she could in every spare moment.
It was the most of her mother she had ever seen. It was a perspective on her father she had never known. It was…a lot, and Ruth was grateful Jaesa had found the old letters and put them together. She didn’t know how to feel about the fact that Quinn had gotten his hands on it for a while.
But the correspondence was that of a well-meaning Sith and a dedicated, Force-blind Imperial, and a great deal of it was familiar. A great deal of it was what she had thought she had for a while, before it all went to hell. She missed it. And she was starting to imagine that Quinn was capable of knowing it for what it had been, too.
So, eventually, she called him. It took him a minute to pick up, but he got there.
“Thank you,” she said.
“You’re welcome,” he said carefully. “I hope you like it.”
“You kept it for a while. Did you read any of it?”
“Yes.” He sounded like he was braced for impact.
“I’m really glad this wasn’t lost to the unfathomable shadows of the coat closet.”
He relaxed, very slightly, and smiled. “I aim to serve.”
She realized she was rapidly turning the datacube over in her hands. With an effort she stilled herself. “Would you be willing to talk sometime?”
“You free next Tuesday?”
The man actually flinched. Very slightly, but it was there, as his face drained of everything but something like pain. “Not then.”
“Why no- Oh.” The incident. The sixteenth anniversary thereof. “If you’d rather spend the day apart...”
“I think that would be safest.”
“In the interest of managing our tempers, I think you’re right. Saturday after?”
“That could be arranged.”
“Good. I think there’s something worth fixing. I’d like to talk about how.” She tapped the datacube. “We had something. I think I haven’t given you enough credit for just how much.”
“We had something. And we’ll talk.” He took a deep breath. “But first we have an anniversary to survive. I have to go, Ruth. I’ll call you when I know what the logistics look like for Saturday.”
The holo cut out.
Ruth had butterflies in her stomach. Optimism was probably premature, but for some reason, for the first time in quite a while, the butterflies were pleasant.
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