Inbetween: Chapter Forty Three

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“Do you think we’re where we’re supposed to be?” Asa asked as he stretched out next to Yuri on the bed. He knew this would either be a difficult conversation or there would be no conversation at all.

Yuri rolled over to face him. His expression was tragic. No matter how Asa tried to broach the subject, it seemed to cause Yuri sorrow. The discussion needed to be broached delicately, and he accepted now that he would have to be the one to nudge him toward speaking frankly. Willow might try, but she still did not know him well enough to understand when to push and when to back off to most effectively get an answer from Yuri. Now Asa was starting to doubt whether he could broach the topic with Yuri himself. There seemed to be no good way to go about it.

Asa scooted closer, putting an arm around him and tucking Yuri’s head under his chin. It was not much of anything at all, but the gesture seemed to do something to alleviate some of the stress and distress he was experiencing. There was only so much he could hope for and he knew better than to expect anything, but nonetheless, Yuri did not push him away.

“That’s not the only thing that’s on my mind,” he admitted.

Yuri remained silent. Asa did not know whether he should take his lack of response as a good sign or not. This seemed to be the best time to broach the subject so he forced himself to continue before he lost his nerve.

“We have a lot of changes to adjust to,” he pressed on. “You’ve finally found the person you’ve been looking for all these years. Do you think we’re making progress in terms of coming together?”

He did his best to keep his tone of voice neutral. Bringing this up seemed to expose a lot of jealousy and even some guilt that had been buried so far down that he never gave the feelings so much as a thought. Now at an incredibly inopportune moment, these feelings seemed to rise to the surface and declare themselves to him. He did not know how he could guard Yuri against these feelings if he himself was caught off guard by them. For all he knew, he had been broadcasting these emotions to the world entirely unaware of what he thought was tucked away within himself. He did not believe this to be so, but he could not discount the possibility. The misgivings he thought he read in the others might only be a manifestation of his own feelings.

Upon further consideration, none of those feelings seemed apparent in Yuri. He knew what he wanted as always. He always said they would need a third person as was the norm. He always insisted the old belief that three people made for the most harmonious balance of personalities, provided, of course, that the right three people were involved. It made sense for Yuri to feel that way considering he would always have his life scrutinized by the world. He needed the perfect life and the perfect family. Asa did not suffer that sort of scrutiny in his life.

Some of it was because he was nobody, but part of it was due to Yuri doing what he could to shield him from the attention and scrutiny of the public. So far, it worked out well for him, but Asa knew that time was coming to a close. Yuri was no longer the heir and it was no longer just the two of them. When the time came for Yuri to announce his return to the world, it would be Willow and Asa standing there with him. Asa knew his shield of anonymity would be shattered as soon as they were on the world stage.

He needed some more time to consider it, but he had to wonder if his reluctance to be in the public eye was part of why he had always taken such a passive role in looking for another partner for himself and Yuri. As long as it was just the two of them, Yuri would be less likely to publicly acknowledge him. It was not that he did not want to be with Yuri, but he wanted to avoid all the attention. If he loved Yuri any less, if he did not need Yuri in his life to be at peace and to feel like he could breathe, he would be gone by now.

That was not the case though. His life was nothing without Yuri in it. The weeks of Yuri being completely missing from his life proved that being without him was like being stabbed in the chest with every heartbeat. He never wanted to be parted from him again. That meant he needed a bit more patience and tolerance for aspects of life that were not particularly desirable from his perspective.

He realized he had been mulling over his own question for a while and had not yet received anything in the way of an answer from Yuri. He drew back a bit and gave Yuri a quick nudge in the ribs to rouse him from his half-asleep thoughts.

One of his eyes cracked open and Asa knew that he had been pretending to avoid this discussion. Asa rolled his eyes and held his ground. He wanted an answer. He needed to have this talk so he could finally settle his mind and be at ease.

Yuri was intentionally putting off giving him an answer now. Asa watched him and continued to wait. He was used to waiting for Yuri, after all. When he was ready for talking, then Asa would get his answer.

“We’re going to be fine,” Yuri insisted finally.

Such a short response was wholly unsatisfying after such a long wait. Asa waited a bit longer, hoping that there would be more to follow, but, of course, Yuri was being as reticent as he had been even moments before. Asa knew he needed a new plan to draw more conversation out of him.

His initial attempt to start a conversation on this topic only made things more difficult now, but he had no choice but to press on and try to do better. He knew of better ways to get through to Yuri. After knowing Yuri since they were small children, he knew what he could do to stack the odds in his favor, but today he had managed to foil his own plans by being too careful. He could still try to be patient, but the results were not likely to be as good as he might have hoped before.

“Are we making progress? Willow is so distant with me, at least. Are you seeing any sign of her feelings towards you growing warmer?”

“I don’t know,” Yuri admitted with a testy shrug of his shoulder.

Asa could not see the wisdom of pressing on. He tried his best to be patient as always, but the sense of urgency he felt contradicted his usual instincts to wait things out. He only recently started to see some sort of progress coming to fruition from the years and years he spent waiting. He felt as though he spent most of his adult life with his relationship on hold, waiting for Yuri to find the right person to make everything perfect, even though he could not imagine wishing for more.

He tried so hard to not let Yuri’s desire for more bother him. He wanted to be supportive. He understood why Yuri thought this was best, even if he did not share his compulsion for adding another person to their family. As long as he could understand the desire he thought he was being reasonable by going along with it. Now he was starting to wonder if that feeling was misguided.

It was not that he did not find himself caring for Willow, but rather that he was worried that she was not entirely on board with the idea of being in a relationship with both of them. She seemed rather squeamish about the idea whenever it came up. It was not that she was any more standoffish than usual, but it was hard to see her as entirely open to the idea of their relationship if she did not express any sort of eagerness with both of them. She was a bit more friendly when she was alone with Asa, and he had to assume she was friendly as well when she was alone with Yuri. He understood her hesitation to a degree. He was not particularly eager to flaunt his relationship with Yuri in front of her. It seemed almost rude from his point of view.

He sighed. He knew that he needed to press on. This was eating away at him and if he was going to be living with his mind in constant turmoil, he wanted to at least be sure that Yuri was aware of what the problem was. If he did not persist, Yuri would most certainly forget all about it, or if he did not forget, he would at least keep it bottled up inside.

That was much the same as what he thought Willow might be doing. She had agreed to this relationship after much deliberation, but she seemed to be holding back so much now. He realized that he might be the only one not bottling up their feelings.

It was a strange realization to make. Asa knew that he was usually the quiet and reserved one. Yuri usually expressed himself openly and loudly most of the time. Having him withdrawn and hiding his own feelings was strange. Yuri shared everything with him for as long as he could remember. Asa liked to think that he shared everything with Yuri as well, even if he was not necessarily as forthcoming with his verbal expression of his thoughts and feelings. He rarely felt the needed to have outbursts of emotions. He waited and tried to organize his thoughts before he put them into words and it seemed to work best that way for him. It was still incredibly strange for him to realize everyone else was holding back, not to wait to find the proper way to express themselves, but out of fear. Asa tried to be patient and understanding, but the lack of information flowing to him from the others involved meant that he was suffering from a severe lack of understanding.

“Yuri,” he said finally. “Do you think this might just be a bad time to try to change even more things in our lives?”

“No,” Yuri said decisively. “I couldn’t stand to wait and hope that things will be better later. We can’t know what the future holds and we can’t hope that things will be easier later.”

“I see,” Asa said softly.

He felt now that the interrogation was over. He had done enough to cause pain for now. He felt the aching in his own heart. He imagined he had wounded Yuri quite deeply and he needed to do what he could to make amends. He laid back down and placed his head on Yuri’s shoulder. Everything went quiet for a few moments. The air cleared and the tension from their previous conversation lifted.

“Do you love Willow like you love me?” he said with a teasing nudge of his chin in his shoulder.

Yuri scoffed. “You know very well that I don’t love anyone like I love you.”

He could not help smirking at that. It was too easy to set up and he knew he needed to offer something in return.

“We’ll just have to settle for loving each other in different ways. You’re always going to be the first one to claim a place in my heart. No one will ever take that place away from you.”

“Good.” Even without seeing his face, Asa could hear his smug smirk.

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