Deryn looked up from her grip on the basket rim.
"Well what?" she asked.
"Aren't you curious as to why you're up here?"
Deryn looked down again. The green patchwork of Scotland passed below like a quilt. Fabs the size of ants pulled plows across fields, and the sweet scent of a clear day filled the air. She couldn't even see the people, and felt all alone up here in her balloon. Deryn found she liked that very much.
"I assumed I was dreaming, to be perfectly honest." She said matter-of-factly.
Da threw back his head and laughed. His silver hair rippled in the wind. A flock of geese joined them in the sky.
"Yes, I suppose you are," Da said, ruffling her cropped hair, "But that doesn't mean this isn't real."
Deryn rolled her eyes. The geese turned into swans, and the little ant bovines began to hop about the fields like wee frogs.
The sky was such a light, healthy blue. Deryn knew she should be happy here with her Da, more than happy she should be hugging him, crying into his neck and whispering how much she loved and missed him. Yet all she could think about was that magnificent blue.
"You want to fly," Da said simply, "Don't you?"
She scuffed her boot against the straw. It was hard to lie in dreams.
"I understand," he chuckled, "But I'm not the only reason why you're still here."
A cloud spiraled in the distance.
"I am flying," said Deryn, "I'm flying with you."
Da's face became serious.
"Aye, but you hate balloons," he said, "You don't belong in balloons. Balloons are dead. When you fly you need to be alive."
The geese were gone now, and Deryn was all alone again. No, all alone except for her Da, who wasn't really there for her. She was in a wrong balloon in a darkening sky, but found she didn't care.
"Why don't I care Da?" she said suddenly, "This is everything I hate, but I'm still here. I want to be with you, but I know that I'm dreaming and when I wake up you'll be gone, so why am I still in this lifeless barking deathtrap?"
"Because I'm your Da," Da said simply, "Even though I'll be gone soon, I'm still your Da now."
There was a silence. The storm was getting closer, Deryn could hear its rumble. Would the dream end when they hit the storm? Or would Da just push her out of the basket again?
"I'm happy you're here Deryn," Da said, "I want you here with me."
In a wrong balloon in a stormy sky. Deryn thought.
"Da you always say to be yourself," Deryn said, "My hair's all short and I'm in trousers, as not myself as I can be, do you still want me here?"
Da looked at her, as if he didn't understand. As if he didn't see that his little girl was a man now. Would Da leave her now? Angry because she lied? The fields were gone. All that lay below was an expanse of misty white. Deryn wished she had never asked, never told him what she had done so she could fly.
Finally Da spoke.
"You're not actually dreaming about me, are you?" he asked.
"I'm in a wrong place," Deryn said, "I'm in a dead place and I'm stuck on the ground."
"Why are you there?" Da asked, "Why would you stay somewhere you hate?"
More silence, the storm was almost with them now. Da would be gone soon, sucked into that storm with this dead balloon.
"Same reason I'm here now," Deryn said, "I should be scared, trapped, and alone, but because you're here that doesn't matter. I'm just happy to be with you."
The storm was upon them. The basket began to thrash underneath its quivering balloon. Da held onto the ropes, and Deryn knew he would not leave, would not come with her.
"Da," she cried, "I can't stay here!"
And yet here she still was, holding on for dear life in a dream she could just wake up from.
"Jump out of the basket!" she could hear Da yell.
NO! She tried to scream but the words would not come out, Not again!
With one final lurch of the basket, Deryn was flung into the storm. She was falling, then an overwhelming sense of joy filled her, despite the storm. Silver wings sprouted from her back, and barking spiders she was alive!
The sky cleared behind her as she soared again in the perfect blue. The balloon bobbed safely in the distance, a figure waving at her. This was her time to leave, her time to stay in these wonderful sweet winds and fly forever on silver wings. And yet…
Her happiness was there, she loved the man in that wrong balloon. Deryn flew towards it, her silver wings beating happiness into her heart as she neared it.
Closer, closer, she could see the reddish brown back of his head!
"Dylan Wake up!"
Deryn was staring into his face now, but the balloon was gone. The sky was gone. This room was…dark.
Alek was shaking her, and all of a sudden she knew what he wanted. The barking letter.
"You bumrag," she muttered, "I was having a dead good dream."
She should go back to sleep, she should run away, she should get out of this wrong place with this wrong prince.
Deryn Sharp Finds herself preparing to do a bit of skulking in a certain hotel tonight.