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laughter trailed off-"well, I can imagine how she might have gotten that impression."

The restless energy of the tech amplified Galen's unease. He began to think that coming out for the picnic had been a mistake. Fa moved shyly toward him, and she put her hand into her pocket in a move Galen recognized as preparation for sleight of hand. He had to teach her to do that sooner; she was giving away her intentions.

"What's that behind your ear?" she asked him.

"What?" He turned his head from side to side, feigning irritation. He was glad for the distraction.

She reached to his ear and revealed a yellow blossom in her hand.

"How did that get there?" he said.

She handed it to him. "Odd place to keep a flower." Her hand darting quickly into her pocket, she moved hesitantly to Isabelle. She raised both her hands. "Nothing here." Galen translated for her. "But what's that behind your ear?"

She reached behind Isabelle's ear, produced a blue flower.

"Oh!" Isabelle clapped. "That's lovely. Thank you. How smart you are!" Isabelle accepted the blue flower and gave Fa a hug. Fa, startled, licked Isabelle's cheek.

Galen realized he had never hugged Fa, in all the years he had known her. He had never been good with people. He had always told himself it was a skill he lacked, but perhaps the truth was that he always held back, hiding not only from them, but from himself. He did not want them to see what he did not want to see. He did not know why he was like this, but it was ingrained in him. Long ago he had formed a hiding place deep inside and had secreted himself within it.

Even now that the spell of destruction had revealed who he was, and Kell had forced him to face it, still he hid. He hid in his room. He hid from the tech. It was an instinct, just like
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