"It's a waste," Tic said glumly.
Garal shrugged. "I'm sure she'll find a way to have an interesting life on Hwae. Probably by pulling a ridiculous plan together out of thin air at the last minute. And she'll find a way to stop Compassionate Reform."
"I'm sorry, Garal. Just... would you have stayed? If that was your best chance of stopping it?" His arms tightened around em a little.
"No!" Tic's arms relaxed, but he kept holding em. "I got out and I passed the word on and now I'm free and I'm leaving." E felt emself tensing too. "Why, do you think I should have stayed?"
"No," Tic said, "absolutely not. And not just for selfish reasons. I don't think you should live a life that would make you unhappy. That's why I have my doubts about Ingray staying on Hwae."
Garal shrugged again. "You still think she should have stolen everything she could from her mother and gotten the hell away from her for good."
"Maybe not stolen, under the circumstances. Convinced her to sign over everything she could. Don't you?"
"Once the celebrations are over and it's back to business, Netano will fall back into playing Ingray and Danach off against each other. Ingray will get caught up in caring about her mother and brother's opinion again. Eventually she'll be just as badly off as she was before."
"That is to say, with an influential job, plenty of friends, and no idea what it's like to be hungry, and just as much freedom to leave then if she chooses."
Tic sighed. "I take your point. I still think it's a waste."
"It's hard not to get caught up in caring, isn't it?" Garal said dryly.
A few days later:
"You could install a locked cabinet in the kitchen," Tic suggested diplomatically.
Garal gave him a look.
"I know why you want to keep your own food supplies," Tic continued. "That's fair. And I wouldn't have to have the key."
Garal looked away. After a moment, e said "It's not that I don't trust you."
"You shouldn't have to trust me for that," Tic said. To whatever he saw in Garal's expression, he added "I don't mean that like it sounded."
"How did you mean it?"
Tic looked away. He seemed to be staring at the wall. "Some things are too important for trust. Some things are more basic than that. One person shouldn't have the power to decide if you get to eat or not. If they have, something is wrong whether they use it or not. And once you go hungry, you can never unlearn that, that food can't be taken for granted. It's not about trust, it's about survival and necessary risks. Just because I don't think you'll kill me in my sleep doesn't mean I'd be happy for you to keep a knife under your pillow every night if we sleep in the same bed."
Garal frowned. "You never slept with someone you thought would kill you."
"That you know of." He sighed. "No, I haven't. I didn't think this was the time to haul out the things I'm afraid of."
"As if I didn't know." E walked around to stand in front of the bunk and its no longer hidden stash of nutrient blocks. "Get to the point, Tic. You don't like that I keep these here, but you're trying some speech about trust and kitchen cabinets instead of telling me what you mean."
Tic covered his face with one hand. "I was trying to be reasonable. I thought I was, anyway. I don't like that you keep nutrient blocks in your bunk, my bunk, all over the ship, but I don't have a logical reason why you shouldn't, if they're sealed and you keep track of them properly." He paused, looking thoughtful. Garal waited and watched him think. There was a wrinkle in his forehead that e liked. Tic looked up at em again. "I've got it. It's not logical. There were rules, when I was a child, about where to store food. It was to do with microbe cultures and feeder fish. It makes no sense at all with sealed nutrient blocks and a ship. I'm sorry."
Garal patted his arm. "It is your ship," e pointed out. "And I think most captains would have a poor opinion of a guest who keeps food everywhere."
Tic sighed again. "That's the other problem," he said. "You're not my guest. You're not a co-owner. We're lovers, and I'm not sure what that even means to us. On Hwae, nothing in particular. Among the Geck... let's not go into that, it doesn't apply. And on Tyr if we wanted to formalize that, we'd write up a joint business contract and work out how to share our assets. And -- I'm sorry -- I don't want to. I've been trying to think how to tell you."
Garal laughed. "We've only known each other for a few months." More seriously, e added, "I know there's no way you'd want me to have joint ownership of the ship. It's all right, Tic. Really."
"It's not that I don't trust you," Tic said.
"It's because I'm Geck," Garal said, getting in before Tic could say it himself.
"It's because you're Geck," Tic said. "Just because I believe they'll leave me alone and don't care about the ships any more doesn't mean I want to test that."
Garal leaned in and kissed his cheek. "I figured. It's all right, we'll work it out. I won't give up my nutrient blocks, you won't give up your ship, and we'll stick together and see what the future holds."
Tic kissed em back. "Can you at least put them in bags, not one by one? It feels less... untidy."
"I can do that," Garal said. "It'll make it easier to grab them in an emergency, anyway."
"Then that's settled," Tic said, with relief.
"One more thing, maybe," Garal said cautiously, "while we're hauling out the things we're afraid of or obscurely uncomfortable with."
"What is it?"
"Can you please close your mouth when you're chewing your worms?"