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You Don't Have to Say It

Garo removed the façade, entered the shelter, and replaced the plank, hurrying at this point because of what he heard behind him. As soon as he had finished the task, he sprang to Rami's mat and sat down. "I didn't even know you could cry."

"What you don't know fills books."

"I deserved that. I did know you could bite."

A fresh sob escaped Rami.

Garo popped a knife out of his right wrist sheath, pulled a whetstone from a pouch at his waist, and began sharpening his weapon. "Do you want me to kill him?"

Rami's sob stopped on its way out of her throat as her breath caught.

"I mean it. If he hurt you, if he—"

"If you knew as much as you pretend, you'd know it wasn't like that."

"I'm not pretending anything!"

"You didn't know about Olen. It was just a lucky guess!"

"I didn't know his name was Olen, no. But it was pretty obvious that this was about a guy—the one you've been seeing for months. Don't look at me like that; I wasn't following you. You've just been gone a lot more than usual, and you come back happiest when you haven't earned any money. Between what we make and what you steal, we're fine, and Hom is old enough to take care of himself and Naeri, so it's fine that you're gone, and I don't blame you for wanting a guy—though what I've said about not wanting you pregnant still applies. But now you're crying, and you don't cry when things go wrong; I've seen you in bad situations, and you're not like this. So nothing's wrong with the kids. Otherwise you'd be out stealing them back. It must be the guy, then—I will kill him if you like."

"Will you stop talking about killing people?"

Garo smiled weakly. "Yeah, okay, I should have known that wouldn't go over well. What happened?"

"It's my fault."

Garo stuck a finger in his mouth, clamped his teeth down on it, winced, and shot a quizzical look at Rami. "What?"

"You heard me."

"It's not like you."

"None of this is like me! I even—I said—I loved—"

"Wow." Garo put an arm around Rami. "Now I really want to know what happened."

"I was . . . taking off my shirt, and he asked if you'd seen me shirtless." Garo huffed, ruffling Rami's hair. She continued. "I shouldn't have, but I—"

"I know."

"No you don't!"

"Of course I do. You think I haven't tried to have girlfriends?"

"What?"

"You're not the only one who wants . . . you know."

"I was a prostitute, Garo. You can say 'sex.'"

"But it's not sex—it's very carefully not sex. It's just . . ."

"All right, yes. And you've tried to find this?"

"Yes."

"And?"

"It turns out like your experience. At some point, everyone realizes that I live with you and I won't move out or let them move in, and they all think I'm in love with you and that's the end of it. Nothing lasts long at all. I'm surprised yours did."

"Olen is good. He gave me food he stole, even when that meant he had to go hungry, and he told me to give it to the kids. He asked about them and made sure I was home before dark. He wanted to move in, but he was patient. He just got suspicious, I guess." A fresh sob came. "And now I've lost him."

"If he's so good, it shouldn't be hard to get him back. Just apologize. If he knows you, he'll know to treasure something as rare as an apology from you."

"He said he was going to Astacar. He had always wanted me to come with him, but he really just wanted to go. He said there's no such thing as Shadows there."

Garo pulled Rami tighter against him. "I'm sorry."

"'Sorry' doesn't change anything." It was a quote from Rami's mother.

"All right, then, here's something else: I love you."

"What?" Rami straightened out of Garo's grasp.

"Not like that. Just—I care about you that much. I figured you should know."

Rami nestled back into Garo's side. "Thanks. I . . ."

"It's okay. I know. You don't have to say it."



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