Estragen stacks the dishes carefully on the sideboard. She will have to get them washed before she goes to the mercantile to buy those new ribbons for the dress she's making for the spring dance. Ma has threatened her sufficiently to make sure she doesn't forget.
Estragen feels a little silly about her jitters. After all she has been doing this for a year already. It just never occurred to her that there would be anyone doing it to her but Hajene Bibi.
Estragen looks up to see the other Hajene and his Donor coming into the kitchen.
Gerrhonot is smiling his usual friendly and encouraging smile.
Seruffin gives his best imitation of a "kindly grandfather" smile.
Seruffin: Hello, Estragen. Are you ready?
Estragen: ~~nervous~~ ~~ embarrassed~~ ~~a bit peeved at herself~~
Seruffin considers backing off, and letting Bibi take the donation, but a twinge of entran makes that an unappealing option.
Estragen takes a deep breath and nods. The sooner she gets it done the sooner she can get those ribbons.
Seruffin tells himself that it really is better, in the long run, if Estragen is able to work with other channels.
Seruffin: Come, then.
Seruffin gestures towards the hall leading towards the reception area and donation room.
Estragen follows the older Sime and his Donor trying not to think about what comes next. She fails: after all, it is impossible not to think about something when heading towards it.
Seruffin has already taken a moment to read over Bibi's notes in Estragen's file. He's also thought over what Bibi told him about the case, an easy task since it's almost impossible not to think of someone while considering what they've told you. He finds Bibi strangely easy to think about.
Estragen talks to herself under her breath, "You done this last month and the month before that and the month before that... Only takes a minute to make the money. Only takes a minute to make the money. Only takes a minute to make the money...."
Seruffin opens the door to the donation room and invites Estragen in with a grand wave, as if welcoming a diplomatic spouse it was critical to impress.
Estragen goggles at the grand gesture.
Gerrhonot offers his friendliest and most encouraging smile.
Seruffin: Have a a seat, Estragen. I want to thank you for trusting me enough to let me take your donation. I haven't had a chance to work for several days, and that hurts me.
Estragen sits and takes a good look at the new -- old, well, er older Sime.
Seruffin does his best to look kindly and harmless, approachable, concerned, and all those other things the Tecton handbook recommends.
Estragen isn't exactly used to adults being much more than dismissive of her. Bibi is an exception but...
Seruffin: And Gerrhonot can tell you, I'm hard to live with when that happens.
Seruffin looks towards Gerrhonot, inviting him to comment.
Estragen has had too many adults in her life who are hard to live with to find that statement a laughing matter.
Gerrhonot: He's just joking, Estragen, but it is good for him to work. He's a very good channel. He's good to me and I like being his Donor.
Gerrhonot smiles affectionately at Seruffin.
Estragen starts backing up without even realizing it. Even though Gerra-- Gero, whoever says that the Sime is joking this does not make her any less apprehensive.
Seruffin zlins that his attempt at humor has fallen flat. He switches to Plan B.
Seruffin: You've worked with Bibi a lot, Estragen. Donating is donating; it won't be much different.
Seruffin is careful not to give the impression of pursuing. He zlins to see if this approach has more promise.
Estragen isn't aware of the fact that part of the reason that she doesn't consider Bibi a threat is because she's bigger than the Sime. This Sime is taller than she is even if he is skinny. An odd instinct that she isn't aware of is taking over.
Seruffin thinks he zlins a bit of unconscious intimidation, and moves with Genlike but casual slowness to sit on the desk chair.
Estragen's flight is halted by the image of bright red ribbons and new red shoes to match. Besides the Sime is sitting down now.
Seruffin gives a mental sigh of relief as Estragen seems to calm down a bit.
Estragen takes a deep breath and stands her ground (stand being the operative word).
Seruffin: Bibi wouldn't let me near a friend of hers if she wasn't satisfied that I'd do a good job for you, you know.
Estragen considers this. She does trust Bibi and Bibi likes this Sime.
Seruffin zlins that he's on the right track.
Estragen: Okay. [Sits in the "Donor" chair on the opposite side of the desk which, incidentally is the chair closest to the door.]
Seruffin: She tells me that you've been finding donating a bit easier than it was, at first?
Estragen: Well, yeah.
Seruffin is a diplomat, after all, and it wouldn't be at all diplomatic to say "Bibi tells me that you're still freaking out when she tries to take your donation, though it isn't quite as bad as the first time."
Seruffin: I expect you're not as nervous about her personally, any more, now that you know her better. Right?
Estragen isn't sure why but she doesn't quite trust this Sime.
Seruffin: But you only met me an hour ago, so you're sensibly withholding judgment. Am I right?
Seruffin doesn't look at all offended at this implied slur on his competence.
Estragen, being a teenager, has flashes of sensibleness. She nods while keeping a very close eye on the Sime in question.
Seruffin: I thought so. But it's not just me that's bothering you, I understand. You don't really feel comfortable donating to anyone, not even Bibi.
Seruffin says this as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
Estragen: Hajene Bibi is just fine! ~~protective of her favorite Sime~~
Seruffin: She's a delightful young woman, and a talented one, as well.
Estragen: How old are you anyway?
Seruffin: I went through changeover shortly after Unity. Gerrhonot is much closer to your age.
Estragen bites her lower lip and looks at Seruffin, really looks at him.
Seruffin looks like a confident, competent, kindly middle-aged man. If you don't consider the tentacles.
Estragen decides he doesn't look very different from her school principal. However given her proclivity to talk in class that isn't very comforting.
Seruffin: What bothers you about donating, Estragen?
Estragen has a flash of ~~embarrassment~~ as she has to face what she's been trying to avoid thinking about.
Estragen: Well... Like I said I don't like those squiggly things the, the laterals.
Estragen feels a bit ~~ relieved ~~ by her confession. She also feels ~~embarrassed~~ at the same time.
Seruffin gives a serious but not critical nod.
Seruffin: What do you find unpleasant about them? The ronaplin?
Estragen: The ro- what?
Seruffin: Ronaplin. That's the Simelan term for the selyn conductor that moistens laterals. It's why they're not dry, like handling tentacles.
Estragen: Oh, yeah. I really hate slime.
Estragen hands fly to her mouth as this time she realizes that she has said the wrong thing. ~~ OH GOD ~~
Seruffin tries to convey, through his posture and expression, that there is nothing irretrievably disastrous in Estragen's admission. He's recalling his diplomatic work with some nostalgia at the moment: at least he's dealing with adults, during high-level negotiations. He surreptitiously signals Gerrhonot for more support.
Gerrhonot increases his support, although he's not sure why Seruffin needs it.
Estragen: I'm sorry, I didn't mean to say that. I mean I didn't mean...
Estragen just gives up.
Seruffin: You were being honest, as I asked, so how can I take offense?
Seruffin gives Estragen a ~~ reassuring ~~ smile.
Estragen spends most of her time with at least one foot in her mouth. Unfortunately she can still manage to talk around it.
Gerrhonot: It's okay. We aren't offended. Lots of people think tentacles are slimy.
Seruffin extends one lateral just a bit outside its sheath, and inspects it.
Estragen stares at the little icky thing.
Seruffin: You know, Gerrhonot, strictly speaking, if I understand the meaning of the English word "slimy", they're right.
Seruffin retracts the lateral.
Seruffin: Unfortunately, I can't take your donation without touching you with them.
Seruffin sounds a bit ~~ apologetic ~~
Estragen: I know. I just don't really like it.
Estragen cringes a little.
Seruffin: Does it bother you most when Bibi first makes a lateral contact?
Seruffin knows some Gens find a sliding lateral contact more upsetting than a firm one.
Estragen: Well the crawling part is kinda bad.
Seruffin: I see. Well, I'll try to minimize that as much as I can. All right?
Estragen never uses worms when she goes fishing and always manages to get someone else to take the fish off the hook. She's probably the only person she knows who washes her catch in soapy water before she cleans them.
Estragen: All right.
Estragen ~~ resolutely ~~ gets up from her chair and goes to sit on the donation lounge.
Seruffin smiles in a reassuring fashion as he sits next to her. His smile is aided by his ~~ anticipation ~~ of relief from entran, at last. He holds out his hands to Estragen in the standard Tecton fashion.
Estragen tries valiantly to not think of worms. A silly song keep playing through her mind... "Oh nobody loves me, everybody hates me. I'm goin' to the garden and eat worms..."
Seruffin wishes he'd had a chance to observe Bibi working, so as to imitate her style as much as possible. He waits patiently, hands offered and tentacles retracted.
Gerrhonot provides ~~ steady reliable ~~ support, in case this turns out to be even stranger than it has sounded so far.
Estragen tries to think of anything but that stupid song, but of course.. "Big fat slimy ones, little skinny chewy ones... I'm going to the garden and eat worms. Oh, nobody loves me..." On and on, round and round in her head.
Seruffin feels Estragen's attention settling into a weird rhythm, accompanied by a lot of nageric ~~ ick ~~.
Estragen grits her teeth and puts her hands in Seruffin's just as she would in Bibi's.
Seruffin's hands are a bit drier and larger than Bibi's, due to his age and gender, but are still Sime-warm.
Gerrhonot notes the gritted teeth and steps up his ~~ support ~~.
Estragen's hands are a bit on the clammy side.
Seruffin notes the gritted teeth and clammy hands, and decides remedial measures are appropriate.
Seruffin: Estragen, is there a young man that you like?
Seruffin figures if nothing else, this should pry his client out of her gritted-teeth anticipation.
Estragen shakes her head in confusion and blinks.
Seruffin relaxes just a bit as the unpleasant emanations from Estragen ease.
Seruffin: Is there any young man that you like?
Estragen had been told over and over by Bibi that Simes can't read your mind. So how did this one know about... ~~alarm~~ She snatches her hands back. Maybe that's how the Sime read her mind.
Seruffin: I'm not trying to pry, but a pretty young woman like you must attract a lot of beaus.
Estragen is not about to tell anyone about that. Well, she might tell Mami but sure as water she wasn't gonna tell any adult! ~~major distrust~~
Seruffin: I want you to imagine for a moment that you're going to a fancy dress dance with the pick of the lot. Your favorite band will be playing, live, and you can buy the prettiest dress ever from the best shop in Hannard's Ford.
Seruffin was an adolescent himself, once, although it seems a long, long time ago. He finds the prospect of a fancy-dress ball a burden, not a pleasure, these days. He hasn't had a chance to attend one with Bibi, however.
Estragen: Look Mister, Hajeni or whatever, I ain't gonna let you read my mind no more. Bibi says you people can't do that.
Seruffin: I can't read your mind, Estragen. But you aren't a child any more, and any woman your age is old enough to know what she finds attractive in a man.
Estragen: I just turned fourteen. My ma don't let me court yet. And I sure as sunrise wouldn't talk about that with a total stranger.
Seruffin: Oh, I'm not going to ask you to tell me about it. I just want you to imagine what kind of dress you'd like to wear, if you were going to a fancy dance with the beau of your choice. That's a much nicer thing to think about than slime and all, isn't it?
Estragen: Yeah, but... It just don't seem proper somehow.
Seruffin: I see. Well, in that case, maybe you can think about something else pleasant? If you're not thinking about how much you don't like what I'm doing, it might not bother you as much.
Gerrhonot: How about ice cream, Estragen? What's your favorite flavor?
Estragen is horrified by the thought of never eating ice cream again without thinking of... ~~eeeeeewwwwwwwwwww!!!!~~
Seruffin: Well, then, we'll do it your way.
Seruffin holds out his hands again, firmly.
Estragen: Are you going to read my mind?
Estragen can't help but feel slightly violated.
Seruffin: I can't read anyone's mind, Estragen. If I could, being a diplomat would be much easier!
Estragen: Okay, I gotta do this. Bibi says you're good, but I don't know. She never lied to me before now. Just do what you gotta and I'll do what I gotta.
Seruffin: Fair enough.
Seruffin reaches out to take Estragen's clammy hands again.
Estragen puts her hands back into Seruffin's. Funny but before today the worst thing she had to worry about was squigglies.
Estragen: And no peekin' into my head.
Seruffin's handling tentacles grip Estragen's arms firmly, with as little preliminary "squiggling" as practical.
Estragen braces herself for the lateral contact.
Gerrhonot anticipates trouble and reinforces his support.
Seruffin knows Estragen's mind is not located in her arms, although he suspects at least half of it resides in her gonads, these days. He therefore feels justified in zlinning her arms closely enough to determine exactly where the transport nerves are, before extending his laterals.
Estragen is not capable of reading minds so doesn't hear the insult. She just needs to get enough money to buy ribbons and shoes.
Seruffin: Do you think it will snow today?
Estragen did feel a chill in the air nonetheless.
Seruffin: Too bad.
Estragen didn't even feel the squigglies. She was too busy trying to keep her mind shut.
Seruffin leans forward to make the lip contact.
Estragen leans forward as she has done for many months and meets the channel halfway.
Seruffin zlins again, noting that Estragen appears normal and healthy enough.
Estragen does have the normal dose of teenage stubbornness too.
Seruffin begins a steady draw, gleaning selyn from the GN-3 level.
Estragen feels nothing, as usual. She just tries to think of innocuous things that won't matter if they get read.
Seruffin finishes draining the GN-3 level, a little more thoroughly than a Second like Bibi could manage, but declines under the circumstances to try tackling the GN-2 barrier.
Seruffin breaks lip contact.
Seruffin: Very good. Hold still a moment more.
Estragen holds still.
Seruffin retracts his laterals as neatly as he can.
Estragen doesn't experience the skin crawling that usually accompanies this.
Seruffin then releases Estragen.
Estragen is distracted.
Seruffin: Well done, Estragen.
Gerrhonot is ~~ relieved ~~ that nothing alarming happened.
Seruffin is feeling ~~ relieved ~~ himself: entran isn't fun.
Estragen: Yeah, thanks.
Seruffin is happy enough to put some distance between himself and Estragen by standing to move to the desk.
Seruffin: Let me write out your voucher.
Seruffin does so, with a figure that's just a bit more than Estragen has been getting. He tears off the voucher and offers it to Estragen.
Seruffin: There you are.
Estragen takes the voucher and notices the increase. Maybe it was worth having her mind read.
Estragen: Thank you Hajene.
Estragen has a lot more on her mind than she did when she started this. At least the squigglies wouldn't bother her anymore.
Seruffin: You're welcome, Estragen.
Estragen gets up and makes her way to the door. She has ribbons to buy.
Gerrhonot waits for Estragen to leave and close the door behind her.
Seruffin: That didn't go as well as I'd hoped.
Gerrhonot: Um. I don't mind helping you with entran outfunctions. I like to help you. Just ask me whenever you want to do one.
Seruffin: I was hoping I could help her. Or at least, not make things worse.
Gerrhonot: Um. Out-T here, she's not really a grown-up even if she's been established for a while. And people out here get upset if you talk about sex. I mean, I know you weren't, but maybe it sounded to her like you were.
Seruffin: I suppose so. Although it did distract her. If she could slip into a daydream and hold it, she wouldn't find donating half as unpleasant.
Gerrhonot: I think maybe she has something she's embarrassed about, and she thinks you figured it out.
Seruffin: I expect I did. I should have realized that she wouldn't be "allowed" to be interested in boys, yet. Not that such prohibitions ever stopped an adolescent from such interests, of course.
Gerrhonot: In-T it's easier, because you can tell when somebody's grown up.
Seruffin: Out-Territory, it seems, they grow up just that same, it's just that they're forced to pretend that they haven't.
Gerrhonot: Yeah, they just say you have to be sixteen, no matter how long it's been since you established.
Seruffin: I hadn't realized that prohibition extended to thoughts, as well as actions.
Gerrhonot: I guess they're supposed to be embarrassed to have those thoughts, or to let anybody know they do.
Seruffin shakes his head.
Seruffin: I wonder if I'll ever truly understand how out-Territory people think.
Gerrhonot: Well, nobody can zlin, so they can fake emotions to each other.
Seruffin: I expect not. I'm still having a great deal of difficulty understanding how in-Territory people think.
Gerrhonot: Maybe Bibi can explain stuff for you.
Seruffin: Perhaps she can. She at least deserves a warning, if I've made things worse for her.
Gerrhonot: I think it will be okay. Estragen likes Bibi. You heard how she stuck up for her.
Seruffin: Yes. She's a remarkable young woman, the way she's gained the trust of the Gens around here.
Seruffin has unaccountably found his train of thought derailed at the mention of Bibi. He doesn't recognize this application of the tactic he used earlier on Estragen.