Zara's known him for years, knew him before the war, though he wasn't Liberation then. He sheds names the way sea creatures do their shells, each as impenetrable as the last. This name is new, and his eyes are harder now, but otherwise he's just the same.

She knows him, she trusts him - because Florian trusts him, and because she has to - but he is, for all but practical purposes, a stranger to her, and always has been. She prefers it that way. That way she doesn't have to care what he does with himself, or who else he knows.

Florian goes off the way Florian will, away from her, out of her sight and out of her hands, where she can't know where he is for days, weeks on end. She seethes, and the people who know her stay out of her path, watching her warily and yet with kindness, and that drives her mad.

Liberation doesn't know her, not really, and she doesn't know him. She doesn't have to feel badly over him, doesn't have to worry, doesn't have to stare him down and demand to know what he's looking at. What he doesn't know, he won't pity her for.

She can trust him, and they fight more than they kiss, in the dusty bare room, in the wretched bed, in near-silence. He's bronze and iron, earth and stone, and she batters herself against him, fighting the inevitable, until she's worn out. And then he pushes her hands away - his hands are very broad and strong and gentle - and kisses her, and presses her back against the flat pillow and she melts, she fades, she doesn't have to think for a while.

Afterwards they both have scratches. He kisses hers, apologetically. She tells him not to be a fool.

She never asks his name; that would be too close.