“Why are you telling me this?” Gunther whimpered. “Why now all of a sudden?”
“Because it is like a rat, nibbling and gnawing away at a tiny part of you. You can ignore it, but it is still there, taking little bites out of you every now and then. The rat needs to be brought into the light, so it can be seen and… exterminated.”
Something in the way that Valois said that last word made Gunther shudder. And then he finally put two and two together, and in a dismayed whisper, he said, “Oh god. Mort knew, didn’t he? He told you!”
“A little boy hears screaming and plates smashing late at night, and the next morning he sees his daddy with a cut on his face while they eat breakfast from paper plates,” Valois murmured, and Gunther uttered a low, anguished moan as he buried his face deep into the pillow and sobbed.
“I thought he didn’t know!” he choked, his voice muffled. “I hid it from him!”
“Mon cœur, children see more than the adults around them give them credit for. Theirs are the silent eyes that observe and absorb.” Valois stopped massaging and now settled himself down on Gunther’s back, both hands sliding under his arms, palms cupping his shoulders as he held him tightly. Covering him. Comforting him.
“You did what you could to shield him from it,” he murmured. “It was not your fault that he knew.”
“I should have done more,” Gunther wept. “Oh god, he’s been carrying that around with him for years.”
Valois’s embrace tightened. “It was not. your. fault.”
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