Inbetween: Chapter Seventy Eight


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With the threat of war constantly looming large in his mind, Yuri thought that he would have less time to miss Willow, but missing her seemed to find its way into every quiet moment of his day. These moments were brief and infrequent. War had not yet broken out, but the city was preparing for the worst.

Detreya had not been at war for a long time so there was plenty of planning and preparation to do. His instruction over the years had included plenty of information about how to raise an army for the defense of the city. He knew Asa had protocol he was trained to follow as well, but neither of them nor any of their contemporaries had any real, first-hand experience in such matters. He was supposed to be looking through the service records of some of the surviving veterans of the last war Detreya found itself involved in. He wanted to select a few that seemed like they might be able to advise the new generation with practical experience instead of mere protocol and theoretical strategies.

That was what he was supposed to be doing. It was a task he added on top of his already busy schedule in an attempt to fill some of the gaps where he had time to reflect and let his mind wander to melancholy thoughts. Apparently, he was too aware of his own strategies as he was not able to focus on any of the records on his desk for more than a few seconds before his vision blurred and his mind began to wander.

It was not just the tedious nature of the work before him, he felt as though he was working on the wrong thing. There was no logic behind this feeling, but he could not shake it.

Sitting alone and procrastinating would not exactly leave him in a healthy state of mind. It would likely result in him toiling away for half the night out of guilt over the time he wasted now. There were better ways to accomplish nothing that actually took his mind off the troubles that were hindering his ability to accomplish the tasks before him.

He put away his paperwork in a desk drawer and set off to find Asa. Depending on Asa’s mood they would either find a way to accomplish more together than they could hope to apart or he would be pleasantly diverted from all worries for the rest of the day.

He knew Asa’s old habits and hoped that they had not changed as much as his own had. At this time of day, Yuri knew that Asa tended to be at his desk going over paperwork. He hoped the routine remained unchanged. If it did, Yuri would consider it a sign that there was some hope that he could find a way to be normal once again as well. He did not want to consider what it would mean if he discovered Asa’s routine had been altered significantly.

That small worry proved to be unfounded. When he stopped in at Asa’s office, he found him just where he had hoped it would be.

As soon as he stopped in the doorway, Asa looked up. The stern frown on his face disappeared as soon as he saw it was Yuri poised to enter his office. Yuri entered without invitation as Asa smiled in greeting to him.

“You’re busy,” Yuri observed as he approached. “Don’t let me disturb you.”

Instead of taking a seat on the opposite side of the desk, he came around to Asa’s side and perched himself on a corner that seemed to be unoccupied by documents of any real significance.

To his credit, Asa returned his attention to his work momentarily. Then he shook his head an laughed. “It’s impossible to concentrate while you’re so closely watching my every move.”

“I wish I could say I’m sorry,” he said with a laugh.

“What task are you putting off by coming to visit me in the middle of the day?”

“Raising an army,” he admitted willingly. It was a task he desperately hoped to not have to face alone. He dared not ask for help, but alluding to it would hopefully have the same result without having to ask for anything at all.

“That’s not something we can afford to put off any longer.”

Yuri nodded. He knew the situation was only growing more dire by the day. There was no sign of war at the moment, but the rumors were only gaining momentum and they needed to be prepared when the truth behind the rumors was revealed. That day was rapidly approaching, even if none of them were able to determine the exact date of the start of the war.

“It’s nothing like what we were taught in our lessons.”

“Nothing is ever like what we were taught in our lessons,” Asa pointed out.

“You’re right. Life is far more complicated. We were certainly never taught to deal with being caught in the middle of a war between all three of the great powers in the world.”

“Yes, but things should be to our advantage. Alenna and Saras have allied with us against Erramun.”

Yuri sighed. “Somehow that doesn’t put my mind at ease.”

Asa fell silent and began to tidy the papers on his desk into neat piles. He seemed absorbed in this task and disinclined to continue their conversation.

Unsure of what to do with himself now that he was no longer the focus on Asa’s attention, Yuri stood up and began to inspect other items int he room as a pretense to appear as busy as Asa. He tried his best to seem unconcerned, but he could not stop himself from glancing back at the desk to see if Asa was concentrating on his paperwork or if he had moved his attention over to something new. Once his mind was away from his work, Yuri would feel emboldened to distract him again.

Once he glanced over and caught Asa watching him. That was more than enough to make him realize just how foolishly he was acting. He smiled sheepishly and cleared his throat.

“Should we do something to get our minds off of it all?” he asked it with a bit of trepidation.

He desperately wanted to get out from behind his desk and far away from the mind-numbing meetings and paperwork that filled their days. He just could not bring himself to escape it all on his own. The guilt would be too great if he acted alone. Bringing Asa along lent an air of authority to his decision that he felt was sorely lacking otherwise. He knew he had a bit of a reputation for running off to the city instead of sticking around for days on end focusing on the dull, day to day running of the palace and city as a whole.

Asa was more easily tied down by responsibility. If he should any indication of considering walking away from his work for the day, Yuri could feel vindicated. A year ago he would not have hesitated for a second to disappear when his mind felt overwhelmed by the tasks that were placed on him. However, a year ago he was just the son and heir of the duke. Now he was the duke and there was no one to pick up his slack when it came to matters vital for the city. Without a higher authority to defer to, he found it harder to give himself permission to step away—even at times when he needed nothing more than to take a break. He trusted Asa to not push him too hard or to expect him to be some sort of perfect machine of a leader. Asa knew him and what he needed to be at his best.

After a long moment of waiting, Yuri got the attention he had been craving. Asa looked up and gave him a reassuring smile.

“Let me guess. You want to go out into the city.”

“You know me too well.”

“I’ll go with you,” Asa said in a way that made it apparent from the first word that a but was coming. “But we can only go out for a few hours and we won’t be getting drunk. We have more work to do when we get back.”

He sighed. “How responsible.”

“One of us needs to be and I’m much more suited to it than you.”

Yuri grinned. He knew it was true. He was responsible in some ways, but he was often easily convinced to take breaks and become distracted. He lacked focus and dedication to the task at hand and Asa had it in droves.

“Sometimes I wonder why Durya didn’t pick you to raise as his heir instead of me. You’d work ceaselessly to make this city a better place. You already do that.”

“I know why. You just can’t see your own value. Durya knew what he was doing when he picked you as his heir.”

Asa leaned in for a quick kiss before taking Yuri’s hand in his and led him out the door.

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