Inbetween: Chapter Twenty Four


They had a plan, but Yuri was not allowed to do anything to help carry it out. Asa would not hear any of it. If he thought he had a leg to stand on, Yuri might have argued to get a more active role. As things were right now, he had to agree that it was too much of a risk to go out where he could be seen.

It took some effort to convince Asa even that he was safe in this place. No one here would sell him out. He came back to this place as often as he did because they saw him as a person and not as his status. No matter who he became they saw him and treated him the same here. Additionally, they were tucked in such an out of the way little place that it was unlikely that this pub would make it on the search list.

Out of all the people in this city, Yuri felt as though the proprietors of this pub were among a short list of persons in the city he knew he could trust without a doubt. He had a feeling his assurances did little to alleviate Asa’s concerns. Nonetheless, Asa did trust his judgment enough not to put up too much of a fight.

While Asa was out procuring the materials they could not do without while on their own in the desert, Yuri and Willow took the opportunity to rest. He did not have any appropriate coins on him at the moment, but he was sure that Asa would be able to cover the cost of renting a room for the day. Even if the room was not as affordable as this one was, they were in such desperate need of sleep he would take a room even at the highest rates in the whole of the city.

That said, now that he had some time to reflect on his own, he realized he did not have anything to his name. He could not pay for this room. He could not pay for drinks or food. He thought he would be the one on top of things once he and Willow were here. He had looked forward to being able to play host to Willow and do what he could to repay some of the kindness she had shown him.

Unfortunately, he found himself now in a situation with just as few resources at his disposal now as he had yesterday. He had nothing more to offer Willow here than he did in her world.

At least he had the means to use one of his connections to get them a room. It might not be much, but after the news of just how much of a problem even being in the city proved to be, he knew he would not be able to offer her much.

They had a room and each of them had their own bed. Willow was already asleep. She had not even bothered to crawl under the covers before passing out.

Yuri knew sleep would overtake him soon, but it did not come in a rush as it had Willow. He stretched out on the bed and tried to relax. It should be easy. This was the first time in weeks he could sleep in a bed rather than Willow’s couch. It was not his own bed, though. Thinking about that ruined the experience for him. He could not guess when he would next see his home or sleep in his own bed. After today he might not have any bed again for quite a while. That was not a pleasant thought.

Too much was still up in the air for him to feel like he deserved to sleep. He knew he should. There was not much to be gained by staying awake and he would be able to think more clearly if he slept.

Of all the outcomes he considered he might experience upon returning home, he never expected to be going into exile to save his life. Part of him hated the idea of doing so. Leaving was essentially abandoning his people — people that were rightfully his to rule. He knew it was necessary. His life was in danger and as long as he thought he was the best person to be leading the people of Detreya he needed to do whatever was necessary to ensure that he would be able to rule them.

He might not be able to help his people today, but he would work from the shadows to change the game so he could come back. He just hoped that Nyura would keep her senses and not do anything foolish. Asa’s description of the current situation in the palace did not give him much hope, but he knew Nyura about as well as anyone. While she was unstable, she also often had enough clarity to at least not undo all the good done during her father’s reign. He just had to hope that she entered into her new role with some degree of understanding of what was happening and she was not being influenced in a way that would lead her to destroy the present or future of the city.

He worried if she was too sensible and too stable he might never get the support he needed to return. If Nyura did a decent job ruling Detreya, but just happened to remain under the influence of Erramun, he might never have any hope. It seemed his best bet required Nyura to toe a very fine line. She needed to leave the people disquieted while not doing anything too destructive or destabilizing. It was unlikely that any of this would be that easy.

All of these thoughts filled Yuri with dread. As much as he knew he needed to sleep, he found himself wishing that Asa would come back already. At least if Asa was around he would be able to distract himself.

Working through his worries now might be for the best. It might be cutting into time for sleep that he desperately needed, but worrying about all of these things out in the desert with hardly any hope of an upcoming diversion would be so much worse.

He went from waiting to fall asleep to waiting for Asa to return. Even sleep did not seem like an adequate escape from his problems now. He needed to be actively pursuing a solution or he would not have any peace of mind.

The minutes slowly slipped by and Asa did not return. Yuri knew he needed to be patient. There were dozens of minuscule tasks that requiring his attention and Asa had no help.

As time passed, Yuri’s will to wait began to falter. With no new thoughts to engage him, he felt the need to sleep begin to overtake him again. He felt the thoughts he had been mulling over drift away. He could not catch them. It was as though a heavy blanket covered his mind. He did not have the strength left to fight his way through. He gave in and he slept.

There was so much Willow did not understand. She felt a bit afraid to ask for an explanation.

She was stuck in a strange land with very little understanding of what was happening around her. She knew enough to be aware she was in danger, but it was only through her proximity to Yuri that she was even at risk.

The problems that now weighed on Yuri acted as a barrier to Willow discussing what was happening with him. He was mired in some amalgamation of worry, anger, and self-pity. It was an unfamiliar emotion for Willow and she did not know how to deal with him when he was like this.

With Yuri barely acknowledging her, she felt like an abandoned puppy that was trying to follow the person who dumped her back home. She was not wanted, but she did not know what else she could do other than follow along after him. It was not as though she had anywhere else to go.

Without Yuri, she had no one in this place. It was eerie. She knew this was not even as bad as what he experienced when he came to her world. At least she already knew him. He had no one but strangers to rely on to treat him with kindness.

She was lucky enough to have someone else introduced to her circle already as well. She might have only known him for a few hours, but with Yuri in such a mood, she felt as though she would be spending a lot of time getting to know Asa once he came back. No matter how she looked at it, though, she felt alone and adrift in this place.

The idea of abandoning the city to hide out in the desert caused her nerves to ball up in the pit of her stomach. Deserts always seemed dangerous to her. She had never so much as visited one before — there were none within easy traveling distance of her home and it never occurred to her to go out of her way to visit. Now it seemed as though she might be living in one for a while.

She had been camping before, but never anywhere particularly dangerous and never without plenty of supplies, planning, and preparation. Having no role to play in preparing for their trip and having very little to contribute in terms of knowledge of what they needed to make themselves safe in the desert made her feel incredibly uncomfortable.

While Asa prepared for their journey, both she and Yuri slept. She was not sure how long exactly as her own sense of time had flown out the window even before she left her world and began her adventure in this one. Now that she was awake again, she could not even recall whether it had been day or night when she had gone to sleep.

A quick check out the window told her that it was now daytime, although it might be approaching nightfall if the shadows were any indication. She woke up in a strange state of mind. Although she slept, it was not enough to make up for the sleep she had recently lost. Waking up in a strange place only compounded the difficulty she had in feeling grounded right now.

At first, she sat awake in the room with only the sounds of Yuri sleeping to keep her company. She knew that this contributed to her sense of isolation and anxiety about their upcoming travels. She knew it might be a bit much to expect reassurance from Yuri at this point, but if he was awake she thought she would at least have something to divert her mind from the worries that plagued her.

Eventually, Yuri woke up, but she found it difficult to start a conversation with him. There was a cloud hanging over him. She did not blame him for being in such a mood. His life might be in even more disarray than her own right now. She had no reason to expect anything when she came to this world while he had every reason to believe he would be able to return to his old life. Currently, his losses were much greater than hers.

After a few moments of silence, she did move close to him and sat down. It was not much, but closer proximity to him did provide her a bit of comfort. She hoped her presence was a source of comfort for him as well.

She knew better than to expect any conversation to come from this move. His apparent disinclination was nearly matched by her own.

When he elected to speak, his voice caught her off guard. “I’m sorry you came into this mess. I would never have allowed you to come if I knew you would be in so much danger.”

Her first instinct was to argue with him. He was never in a position to stop her from doing anything she put her mind to and she was capable of living with the consequences of her own decisions. Fortunately, she managed to hold her tongue. Neither of them were in a state right now to endure a quarrel. Instead, she reassuringly patted his hand and remained silent.

Without a verbal response to encourage him to speak further, Yuri fell into another silence. Willow was unsure whether she should pursue restarting their conversation. It was not as though she lacked questions, but she sensed that he was not up to the challenge of answering them at this time and she did not feel right in pressing him to leave his comfort zone.

With their status up in the air, Willow knew she could not go out and explore. While she might not be in danger by doing so since no one knew her in this place, she did not think it was wise to leave Yuri at this time. She did not know the city and she wanted to be sure that Yuri stayed safe. If she left she would spend all of her time wondering if Yuri stayed hidden away like he was supposed to. As long as she was here, she knew he was safe.

Not knowing what else to do, Willow crossed the room again and perched herself on the edge of her bed and swung her legs over the edge like a small child. Since she had nothing to do or anyone to talk to, her mind was free to take an inventory of what she had to offer to the group now that they were going out into the desert.

Her clothes were not well suited to the warm climate here in the city, and during the day in the desert it would certainly be too hot and sunny for her winter wear, but at night she might not regret having something warm to wear. Surely Asa would think to bring them more appropriate attire. She hoped she would be able to carry her own share of the supplies. The thought of hiding in the desert had her imagining each of them carrying gallons of water to fend off dehydration in the dry heat.

Even as she thought about it, she knew it was rather silly. There had to be a better way to travel in the desert than that. At the very least there had to be some sources of water out there or no animals or people would be able to cross it.

Just as she decided to try striking up a conversation with Yuri about the desert to see if she could learn anything that might reassure her, there was a light rap on the door. Before either Willow or Yuri had a chance to react, the door opened and Asa entered.

“Oh good,” he said with a sigh. “You’re both awake. We can leave the city as soon as you’re ready. Then we’ll head out to the desert in the morning.”

Willow had a million questions, both old and new, but being able to act rather than wait made them seem a bit less pressing. She pushed her questions aside and jumped to her feet to learn what she needed to do.

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