Inbetween: Chapter Thirty Seven


After wondering when they would land for a day or two, the crew finally announced they were preparing to dock in their home port. Willow was no longer alone on the top deck looking out over the landscape. While she did mourn the loss of her safe place to be alone and think, she was too excited about the prospect of getting off the ship today to be too upset.

Asa and Yuri were by her side now, looking out over their new surroundings. They left behind plains peppered with windmills. The ship was sailing through the mountain range now. The mountainsides seemed to be more populated than the plains. Villages and towns peppered the middle and higher elevations. Even the steepest surfaces had terraced gardens planted on them. Willow could not help marveling at the beauty of the planning that had to go into such communities.

Although they were told that they would be going to port soon, Willow noticed they were gaining elevation. It seemed counterintuitive. So much of their journey had been taken at fairly low elevations. At times they barely flew above trees and hills, but now the ship flew steadily upward. The notion of the crew being dishonest made Willow a bit nervous.

She tried to be sensible. They were in a mountain range now, after all. Higher elevations allowed for easier maneuverability in this situation. She just wondered where they would be going from here. They had already traveled so far. To her, it seemed like they would just keep traveling in this ship forever.

Alenna had gone back to leaving her alone after their tense discussion the other day. In a way it was a comfort to no longer have that sort of attention bestowed upon her, but at the same time, it made her uneasy to know that she had potentially burned an important bridge while on this ship.

So far, it did not seem to be a problem. Yuri was the one in need of allies and Alenna did not seem to take Willow’s behavior out on Yuri. She knew she kept assuming the worst of Alenna and over and over again Alenna proved to be better than what Willow expected of her. At some point, she realized she would need to acknowledge the evidence and conclude Alenna probably was not so bad after all. With what they had just been through, she did not think she could manage to make that change in opinion just yet. She had not yet managed to work through all her pent up frustration. After that was gone, she thought she might be able to forgive all the small aggressions and move on to a new perspective.

Her nerves had been through in the wringer lately. She saw getting off this ship as an opportunity for some alone time. She wanted to sit somewhere quiet and think while knowing that she would not be disturbed at any moment. She wanted to spend time with Yuri and Asa without being watched by random crew members all the time. She wanted her own room to sleep in.

The list went on and on, and of course, she tried her best to ignore all of the little whispers in her mind telling her that she might not get any of those things once she left the ship. Accommodations never seemed to come up in conversation. She hoped someone had thought far enough ahead to make sure some sort of arrangements had been made, she counted on Yuri for that, but she did not know for sure.

“Do you know where we’re landing?” she asked softly.

“I’m not sure,” Yuri admitted.

“I’m looking for a dock of some sort,” Asa chimed in.

“Do you think we need a dock?” Willow asked. “They didn’t need a dock to land in the desert.”

“Well,” Asa said as he leaned out further to scan the land below as well as the mountainside as it glided by. “The desert was pretty flat. I don’t think there’s any place around here where they could throw down an anchor and land as smoothly.”

She sighed. “I guess you’re right.” She joined Asa in leaning out over the rail to get a better look at the landscape around them. Just a few seconds looking out over the edge and a gust of wind caused her stomach to drop. She straightened back up and stepped back from the edge. As eager as she was to see where they would end up, she could not bring herself to endure that terrifying sensation more than once. The last thing she wanted to do was fall off the ship just before they could disembark.

It did not seem to bother Asa. He continued to keep a lookout for the inevitable dock where they would land. Yuri pulled back from the railing as well. He huddled beneath as many layers of clothing as he could wear and continue to be mobile. Somehow he still looked cold. Out of all of them, he still seemed to be the one to fare the worst int he cold.

Willow had assumed that Asa would be the one to feel the effects the most. Even if Yuri was most accustomed to the warm climate of Detreya, he had a couple weeks to adjust to the cold while he was in her world. Asa had been in Detreya the entire time. Somehow, he just seemed to tolerate the cold. The wind made the environment up on deck difficult even for Willow to tolerate. She wondered if Asa would tell her the secret to his cold tolerance. If they were going to be staying somewhere in these mountains, she thought it might be worth her while to learn how to deal with the cold a bit better. Without access to things like central heating and hot showers, she was really started to hate the cold like she never had before. Her tolerance of the weather stemmed from her ability to escape it. Cold weather simply was not enjoyable in her opinion unless she could get warm again as soon as she decided she had been cold for long enough.

She tried to conserve body heat by hunching over and wrapping her arms around herself. She turned her back to the wind to try to at least keep the icy air off her face.

“Is everything okay?” Yuri whispered so no one else could hear.

Willow shrugged. “Why wouldn’t it be okay?”

“You’ve been tense lately. I was just wondering if anything happened that you might want to talk about. Maybe I can help.”

“I don’t know. I think it will be a lot better once we’re off the ship. I’m sick of only being able to go so far and always seeing the same faces day in and days out.”

“Sick of us already, hm?” Yuri teased.

She rolled her eyes. Of course, he was not taking this seriously, or rather, he just wanted to see her mood improve. The gesture was appreciated, but she would much rather have a solution to the problem at the heart of the matter. Until they got off this ship that was not possible so she was willing to be a bit more forgiving.

“You know you’re not the problem. I just want to have my own room again. And my own bed. Aren’t you sick of always being around people?”

He sighed. “It’s been a long time since I had my own bed.”

Willow realized that she was probably complaining to the wrong person in this case. He had been in unknown territory for a long time now. Before they came to this world he spent a few weeks sleeping on her couch. He had not had his own bed in ages and it was unlikely that he would be seeing his home again anytime soon. In that regard, she realized they had a lot in common. Until they found a way for her to return to her world, she was a stranger with no ties or connections to this world other than Yuri and Asa. Without them, she was completely adrift.

The words Alenna said to her the other day were still lingering in her head. She hated that a conversation designed to get a rise out of her had managed to do just that. It stuck with her and she could not see a way to shake the worries now that they were in her head.

She knew she could not just ask Yuri if he kept her around because of her powers. He would deny it no matter how he actually felt. She knew that much, but she also knew hearing him deny it would not be enough to alleviate her concerns. The feelings of inadequacy had latched on to the first excuse they could find for her to be getting the kind of attention and affection she was now receiving. Even though she was sure it was not true, her thoughts circling back to the idea over and over again.

She also knew that she needed to ask about it. It would keep gnawing at her either way, but if she asked at least she could replay Yuri’s answer in her head alongside Alenna’s question.

They were both quiet for a moment before Willow found the nerve to ask her question. “Yuri, you want me to be here, don’t you?”

“Of course!” he replied without hesitation.

She wanted to take that at face value, but it was too much for her to hope that she could. She had too many doubts to just believe the best. His response was not the answer to the question that she meant to ask, but the question that he thought she had asked. The logic or lack of logic in her stream of consciousness was making her dizzy.

She shook her head and tried again. “Do you want me here because of what I can do?” she lowered her voice for the end of the question for fear that someone might overhear and start to ask nosy questions.

“What?” Yuri sounded genuinely shocked by the question. Willow immediately felt guilty for even asking, but he curiosity was not satiated. She still needed to know, even if she felt bad about his reaction to the question.

She waited and stared. She did not dare say any more for fear of doing even more damage.

“Willow, I want you here because I’d miss you if I didn’t see you every day, but if we were in danger I’d wish you were somewhere safe instead.”

The answer was better than anything she could have hoped for. It immediately warmed her heart and brought a smile to her face. She did not know if it did much to permanently alleviate her fears, but she was feeling more than a bit better now.

“Thanks,” she mumbled. She gave him an apologetic smile. “I knew I shouldn’t have worried.”

“Willow,” he said with the utmost solemnity. “I would never use you like that.”

“I know. I’m sorry.”

Their conversation drew Asa’s attention. He left the railing and came to join them.

“Everything okay?” he asked.

“Yeah. We’re okay,” Willow said a little too hastily. “What do you think is going to happen when we land?”

Yuri shrugged. Asa appeared to be contemplating the question.

“I think Alenna is going to keep us close,” he said finally.

Yuri nodded. “Now that she’s got us here she’s not going to let us go that easily.”

“You mean you,” Asa replied. “Willow and I are not politically valuable. You’re the one she could easily reveal to the world for some sort of benefit for her own political influence.”

“He’s right. What are we going to do if she tries to keep you as some sort of leverage against Nyura or something?” Willow asked.

Yuri’s brow furrowed in thought. He looked around, ensuring they were in fact alone. “If it comes to that, we’ll need to make a plan for both of you to get out of here.”

“I’m not leaving you,” Asa broke in.

Willow shook her head. “I’m not leaving you either. Where else would I go?”

“You’ll go with Asa and you’ll find a way to set me free too.”

“Do you think it is likely that you’ll be a prisoner?” she asked, unsure if she actually wanted to know the answer.

She shivered and rubbed her hands over her arms, trying to generate some warmth. This conversation made her feel even colder than before. Somehow she never considered this possible eventuality and confronting it now made her feel sick. The idea of Yuri being trapped anywhere seemed wrong. He had his options limited for so long, the entire time she knew him he was less than free, but having even less freedom than that disgusted her. She wanted to see him return to his rightful place in this world. She wanted to see what he would be like if he reached his full potential.

Asa was just as opposed to the concept of seeing Yuri compromised as her. She was surprised but glad to find that Asa was on her side so often. It was an odd way for their relationship to start off, but common ground always seemed to help more than anything else. She just wished it did not come about through being at odds with Yuri.

“We’ll find out what will happen soon enough,” Yuri stated with calm surety.

“I don’t want to think about you being locked up and used as some sort of pawn in someone else’s game of chess.” The chills running up and down her spine refused to subside.

“That’s why you shouldn’t stay with me,” he explained. “I’ll need both of you out there working to make sure I have honorable allies.”

She held her tongue. The logic held up. She wanted to help Yuri in any way possible. Here he presented her with an opportunity to be of use, but she did not want to have that opportunity become a reality. It was not how she hoped to be of use to him. She wanted to be of use and be near him. Being sent away, even to help him, was not what she wanted at all.

Asa sighed and seemed to slump a bit. “You can count on us, Yuri. Let’s just hope that it doesn’t come to that.”

“I have a feeling we’ll find out soon enough,” Yuri said with a sigh.

Willow glanced up with a start. The ship had slowed down significantly. Then there was a jolt as they came to a complete stop. They certainly would be finding out what would await them when they left this ship and that time was now.

Her heart rate started to pick up. It was not quite panic, but she was certainly on the verge of reaching the point of panicking. She did not think it would come to that. She was not alone and that made all the difference in the world, it was why she did not want to leave Yuri alone. If he started to feel like he was panicking, he might need them too.

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