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has not sheltered me. He has taught me all I need to know."

"Have you known any couple," Blaylock said, "that has been together for twelve years?"

His parents had been together for twelve years. But Galen would not say their names. "Among the Soom I know, some have been mated for that time."

Blaylock's eyes narrowed. "I know little of the Soom, but do those couples behave like this?"

"The Soom enjoy arguing. When they're not, they lick each other on the cheek as a sign of affection."

"Human couples argue as well."

Galen looked down at the scarf in his lap.

"This couple has not been married for twelve years. They are not married at all. Look at the woman. Look! How old is she?"

Her face had only the slightest hint of wrinkles. The skin on the back of her hands was tight. Galen realized his error. It was foolish. "Perhaps twenty-five," he said.

"Twenty-five and married for twelve years. Do you see the bracelet?"


"Yes. And from the attention she gives it, it is new. You see her hand, the way it touches her ear, her hair?"


"Human females flirt by showing the inside of their wrists. It is an unconscious instinct. She is with a man she wants to control, not one whom she already controls. Her foot is also working to that end. Now look at his eyes. Where are they pointed?"

"He is looking at her mouth."

"A sign of sexual attraction. And you see him smooth his collar? A preening gesture. Not something a man does with a partner of twelve years."

Galen took a deep breath, feeling he had done a disservice to Elric in performing so poorly.

"If you are to be effective out in the universe, you cannot close yourself off from it. You must know what is going on around you. You must know how people work. You must study them.
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