Inbetween: Chapter Thirty Four

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Getting Yuri away from everyone else was more difficult than Willow anticipated. He almost seemed resistant to the idea of going off alone with them. Willow wondered why. Since boarding this ship, she was always looking for excuses to just have a moment or two without anyone else in a five-foot radius around her. Then again, she realized going off with Asa and herself would not be the same as being alone. Even a group of three felt crowded in the small, dark nooks and crannies in the ship’s hull, but they were closer to him than the strangers comprising this ship’s crew. Being with them should be more appealing than being surrounded by strangers.

Willow tried to understand what he might be thinking. She still felt a bit on edge around all these new people too. She imagined it was even worse for Yuri. He was in hiding and every new person he met held the potential to reveal his identity to the wrong person. Considering their run in with the strange woman in her world, being found by the wrong person might be deadly. It made sense for him to be suspicious of the crew. Their loyalty to Alenna did not translate to keeping his passage on this ship a secret once they reached their destination. She tried to be patient with him for that reason.

Her patience did not extend to accepting his decision to avoid and ignore her. After all the times she lost her nerve lately, she knew she needed to talk to him before she talked herself out of it. With Asa involved now, losing her nerve and putting off this discussion until later was no longer an option. He was even more determined than her and as far as she could tell, he was not worried about the possible outcomes of their impending conversation with Yuri.

Relief and gratitude replaced her frustration when Asa offered to get Yuri himself. Now the duty of finding a private place for the three of them to talk fell to her.

As impossible as it seemed to convince Yuri to take his eyes off the crew, finding a secluded place for three people to talk seemed more difficult. As their journey progressed, the supplies stored in the hull became more disorganized. Spaces that were once open enough for several people to stand comfortably were now littered with crates and barrels which had been removed from their original resting place for easier use.

Finally, she found a private little corner far away from the galley where she thought they would at least not be noticed or overheard too easily. With some expert negotiation, Asa managed to tear Yuri away from watching everyone else for signs of betrayal and brought him over to join them.

She needed to say her piece quickly before she lost her nerve. With a deep breath, she prepared to blurt it all out. “So I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the three of us having a relationship and I talked to Asa about it a bit and I think I know what I want now.”

That got his attention. Whatever was on his mind did not have priority over this conversation.

Willow could not hold back her smile. She had pushed him away for so long with her initial negative reaction and then her uncertainty. Finally telling him some good news lifted a burden off her heart. Bringing this up when he so obviously needed some sort of happy diversion in his life felt particularly nice.

She cleared her throat, swallowing hard. Knowing what she wanted to say did not make it any easier to get the words out. Asa knew. It was only fair to tell Yuri as well. She knew how important this was to him. She did not want to mislead him with nerve-induced vagaries.

“I’d like to give it a try,” she admitted after what felt like an eternity to her. “That’s to say I’d like to try dating you guys. I’m not ready to make a major lifelong commitment or anything like that.”

She realized she making this more complicated than it needed to be and they probably understood that they would not be committing themselves to each other forever with one simple agreement, but she was nervous and thought it was better to be safe than sorry when in uncharted territory. Yuri seemed so set on the three of them being in this relationship. She just wanted to be clear that she would not be rushing into anything too serious too fast.

Whether or not her answer matched what he originally wanted, her belated response seemed to please Yuri to no end. Willow’s stomach did a series of small flips when she saw his grin. She glanced at Asa and caught him smiling as well. Their happiness was infectious and she felt herself smile as well in spite of her unsteady nerves.

Even during this initial burst of excitement, she knew she would need to keep a level head about this. She knew Yuri would want to run this relationship headlong into something far too serious and if she did not stay alert she and Asa would be swept down that path with him. For her own sanity, she needed to take things slow for now. At least until she could imagine her own future she thought it would be best to keep things casual.

Casual dating options seemed to be short supply. Going out to dinner and a movie was out of the question. They already pretty much lived together, although hiding in a cave and traveling by air ship was not exactly the same as sharing a house. How could she expect casual dating when circumstances left them with no options for any sort of courtship at all?

She felt a pang of guilt over thinking like this. She made them wait this long while she got over her own hangups and came to terms with the fact that she was capable of having feelings for both of them at once. She just agreed to give this a try a moment ago and now she was thinking in a way that would surely sabotage it if she allowed this line of thought to continue. She needed to put a stop to it. If this relationship was going to work, she needed to start talking to Yuri and Asa about what was on her mind instead of bottling it up.

Since they were unlikely to get a more private moment anytime soon, Willow thought it might be for the best to ask her slightly uncomfortable questions now. She hated the idea of revealing her vulnerabilities when anyone could walk by, but at this point, she had little choice in the matter. Privacy was impossible on this ship.

“So, how do we make this work?” she asked with an uncomfortable chuckle.

“We need to be honest and work together,” Yuri explained.

He took her hand in one of his and held Asa’s hand with his other. Willow shifted her gaze over to Asa and blushed slightly as they reached out and joined hands as well.

Holding hands like this felt like part of some sort of ceremony. It also felt slightly ridiculous, like they were trying too hard. Surely they would be less awkward once things started to happen naturally.

She became increasingly aware of the blush tinting her cheeks as well as the bit of sweat on her palms that both guys surely noticed by now. A flurry of butterflies took flight in her stomach. She desperately tried to come up with something to say or do to give her nerves a break.

“Our circumstances might not be ideal,” Yuri admitted. “But that means we need each other more than ever. Together we are stronger than we are as individuals. It will be a trial to start off together when we are living with so much uncertainty, but I believe that we will come out of this even closer.”

It sounded good, but Willow was not sure she believed it. They might make it through all of these trials and come out the other side closer than ever, but it seemed equally possible that the stress and tension could destroy the tenuous bonds they had just started to form. From her perspective, it seemed risky. She knew they had no other choice. They needed each other to survive at this point whether they were romantically involved or not. They had no one other than themselves to trust right now so their bond needed to develop quickly and stay strong. Anything else could lead to their destruction.

Willow decided it would do more harm than good to point out just how vital their bond might be to their survival. If she knew it, then surely the others knew it too. With the amount of worrying Yuri had been doing, she did not want to compound the concerns by reiterating them. They needed to hope for the best. Willow needed to think positive so she did not drag the others down.

Willow knew she could be there for Yuri and Asa. She did not have much to offer them, but she was an extra pair of eyes and ears. She could tell them what she saw and heard and help them decide how to proceed when they needed to make decisions.

A small, proud voice in the back of her mind wanted to remind her that she did have something more to offer. She remembered what she had done to Yuri in their little experiment and the power she had unleashed when they had been attacked just before they came to this world. She hated to think about it, but she possessed the ability to do great harm to the beings from this world. Now that the so-called demons she grew up fighting had names and faces she felt like a monster when she considered her abilities. If at all possible she wanted to avoid using her power every again.

She just hoped that Yuri would never ask her to use her abilities. So far they had gotten by just fine without them, but she could not shake the worry that she would be asked to do something unpalatable if they were backed into a corner. She wanted to believe that she would refuse if it came to that, but she knew she would do whatever it took to protect people she loved.

It seemed like a foolish time to be worrying about matters of life and death. This was a time to be happy. Their relationship was just beginning. If she was worrying about this now, she was not coping with her stress as well as she thought. This was a time to see their future with hope and optimism, not for her to look inward in search of darkness.

Her odd train of thought had not caused the butterflies in her stomach to disappear entirely although they had subsided somewhat. She had to wonder if that was going to be the new normal for her. Now that she had opened herself up to admitting that she was in a position to get attached to the guys, she found herself feeling much more than she had previously, both good and bad. Some part of her had been locked away and trying to shield her from pain. Now that part of her was letting all of the emotion through and she was feeling it all too strongly.

She realized Yuri and Asa must be just as unsure as her. It was like being an awkward and shy teenager again. Feeling this lack of control over her emotions due to infatuation was both wonderful and annoying. She thought she had left this sort of confusion behind as she matured, but now they were back with a vengeance. For now, she just left it be. She knew she would calm down eventually and then she would be able to feel properly happy rather than far too many emotions at once.

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