Whoever thought Kruks were good transportation must've been crazy, their brains baked by the desert sun. Sure, Kruks could go forever without water, but their constant bouncing rattled a rider's teeth.
At least, it rattled Will's.
He needed a break. He called out to his friends to stop, then dismounted, under the pretense of adjusting his saddle. He seemed to be the only one bothered by the movement; even Kara, daintily perched sidesaddle atop her Kruk, looked perfectly comfortable.
Will tugged on a saddle strap and let his gaze drift over the stretches of sand around them. It was still a long way to Euro. Hours, maybe days. Days and days of bouncing. He groaned and muttered a mild curse, hoping Kara wouldn't hear him.
She didn't; but Neil did.
"Whoa," he said, eyebrows disappearing into his hood, "what's the matter with you?"
"Will's been grumpy ever since we left Watermia," Kara answered for Will, smoothing her hair. "I think he misses Lance and Lilly."
"Hmm. That, or ..." Neil grinned mischievously. "Maybe ... Will's jealous. Lance's got himself a girlfriend now, after all."
"No, I'm not," Will replied, too quickly. He fastened another strap and prepared to mount again, hoping he could pass off his blush as the beginning of a sunburn.
Neil laughed, Kara huffed, and, ahead of them, Erik whined to get moving again. As they turned their Kruks forward, Will settled into the saddle and let his thoughts wander.
He was jealous of Lance, but not for the reason Neil thought. He was jealous because Lance had found his father. True, the old man didn't know who Lance, or any of them, were, and had described his doomed expedition as "fun", but he was there. A real, live person. Not just a voice in a flute.
Lance had a living father who didn't remember him; Will had a father who remembered him, but didn't physically exist. What did either of them have, then, but one half, each? Halves that didn't even go together. Two halves of nothing.
But Lance's nothing could become something, someday. It might not be likely, but his father could regain his memory. It was possible.
Will's father would never get his body back. He'd never be alive again, at least not in the way most people understood it. It was this impossibility that stuck in Will's throat, that made talking and swallowing and breathing much harder than they should be.
It warped his voice as he shouted for his friends to wait up, and it soured his words when he swore to Neil that he wasn't jealous.
"That's silly," he continued, reassuring himself, "jealous of what? We're the ones still on an adventure. If anything, Lance should be jealous of us!"
He nudged his Kruk's flanks with his heels and bounded to the front of the group, squinting in the sunlight and laughing to dislodge the bitterness in his throat. "C'mon! Last one to Euro's a spoiled snail pie!"