Strangers in Strange Lands: Episode 8

Fennik has just had a delicious lunch in the elegant Senate Dining Room with his brother-in-law Senator Tsibola. The lunch included an aperitif, a selection of truly excellent wines, and a lovely dry sherry with fruit and cheese to follow.

Fennik made the mistake of revealing his plans to attend a conference in-T with his graduate student, at a location quite near Fridda's First Year camp.

Tsibola found the news somewhat disturbing, as was only to be expected.

Fennik was appalled that the Senator immediately volunteered to get the Nivet Embassy to give him a waiver from having to donate, and insisted on doing so right after lunch.

Tsibola is not only distressed at the thought of his brother-in-law having to donate, he is also genuinely worried about the effect seeing his daughter as a Sime might have on him.

Fennik hopes that Ruthven won't make a scene, and wishes that they hadn't had quite as much to drink. Alcohol seems to bring out the aggressiveness in the man.

Tsibola's brother-in-law's concerns are misplaced: he can be every bit as mulish stone cold sober. He's determined, however, that if Fennik feels he has to make this trip, he will be accorded the courtesy due his family.

Dsif is holding down the reception desk at the Nivet Embassy while the regular receptionist goes to the washroom. He's a young in-T Gen working at the embassy as a summer student to improve his English. He usually just runs errands and does filing and such, and is a bit nervous about standing in for the receptionist for even a few minutes.

Tsibola doesn't expect the benighted Tecton to understand the importance of the Tsibola clan, however, and so his appearance is quite ~~ stern and foreboding ~~.

Dsif sees a couple of well-dressed older men entering the lobby and hopes they know where they're going. One of them looks kind of scary.

Tsibola stalks into the embassy as if he owns it, and descends upon the reception desk. He's glad to see that at least the Tecton has the decency to have a Gen to greet visitors.

Dsif calms his nager by reflex and tries to present a suitably professional appearance.

Dsif: May help I youse gentlemen?

Tsibola finds the sound of Gen who can't speak the Gen language pitiful, but he's not here to rescue underlings.

Tsibola: I'm Senator Tsibola, and this is my brother-in-law, Professor Fennik. We wish to speak to someone who can arrange a travel Escort.

Tsibola speaks clearly, with as little of his normal regional accent as he can mange.

Fennik wonders what a kid this age is doing in a job like this.

Dsif: Yes, sirs. Is travel visa office down hall to left.

Dsif gestures helpfully and smiles hopefully. He caught the word travel, at least.

Tsibola's brows converge formidably on his nose, which doesn't really need the reinforcement.

Tsibola: The visa clerk can't arrange an Escort. We must speak with someone who can grant a waiver from donating.

Dsif: For donating you must go to Sime Center, not far. You also can donate at border, most easier.

Dsif really hopes the receptionist will come back really soon.

Tsibola grits his teeth, trying to deduce which words this idiot has understood.

Tsibola: We want to travel in Simeland with no donation. Who can help with this?

Fennik wonders why the Simes can't get someone who speaks English to staff the desk.

Dsif: Yes, donate to go in Sime land. More safe, more happy, everybody.

Tsibola: No donate. Travel anyway. Who can arrange it? Or must I speak with the Ambassador?

Dsif is beginning to get scared, especially now that the Ambassador has been mentioned.

Dsif: I am here few minutes. Real person sits this desk back soon. Okay?

Fennik: I can come back by myself some time, Ruthven. This kid is useless.

Dsif understood that last and is embarrassed.

Dsif: I very sorry. I come here this summer learn more English but not so good yet.

Tsibola tends to see his brother-in-law as absentminded and inefficient, at least in matters not connected with Ancient literature. He doesn't want him to forget, or fail to be insistent enough and be forced to donate, after all.

Tsibola: Then go find somebody who speaks English.

Fennik is very familiar with youthful incompetence and actually feels a bit of sympathy for the kid. Unlike most of his students, he at least admits it when he's incompetent.

Dsif: I not can leave here. Must be one person at desk. Real person back soon.

Tsibola wonders what use Dsif thinks he can be, when he can't speak the language.

Dsif looks to Fennik, who seems less aggressive.

Gerrhonot walks into the lobby carrying a paper bag of apple tarts. He's found a nearby place that makes these pastries which Seruffin is usually willing to eat. He's surprised to see Senator Tsibola present. He's also surprised to see poor Dsif on the verge of tears.

Gerrhonot: Hi, Senator Tsibola!

Fennik is startled that this young man in a Tecton uniform recognizes the Senator.

Tsibola turns to Gerrhonot with well-concealed ~~ relief ~~.

Dsif: [in Simelan] Sosu Gerrhonot! Please help me! I got stuck minding the desk while Srini's in the can and this guy is getting mad!

Tsibola: Sosu Gerrhonot. Perhaps you can help us, since this boy seems unable to do so?

Gerrhonot: Sure, Senator.

Fennik is equally surprised that Ruthven knows the Donor by name.

Tsibola: My brother-in-law, Professor Fennik, has taken it into his head to attend a professional conference in Simeland.

Gerrhonot nods.

Tsibola: We are here to arrange for a donation waiver.

Gerrhonot: Um, I'm not sure who you see for that, but I can ask Hajene Seruffin. His office is back this way.

Tsibola: Well, that's a start. Thank you.

Gerrhonot smiles at Dsif, who smiles back in relief, and turns to go down the hallway.

Fennik follows.

Gerrhonot: Um, Professor Fennik, are you Fridda's father?

Tsibola follows at a dignified pace.

Fennik: Yes, I am. I gather you are the Donor who spoke to the Senator not long after... what happened to her.

Gerrhonot: Yes, Hajene Seruffin and I helped her after she changed over.

Fennik would like to ask Gerrhonot about Fridda, but doesn't really know what to say.

Tsibola worries once again about whether it's a good thing for Fennik to see Fridda, as it will make it harder for him to let her go.

Tsibola: That's where I got my information, Jon.

Gerrhonot stops at a closed door and signals nagerically.

Fennik wonders why they are just standing there facing a closed door.

Seruffin looks up from the report he is reading, ~~ glad ~~ for the interruption, particularly if it includes the return of his Donor. His office has excellent insulation, and he can't zlin the two nondonors through the door, with Gerrhonot's nager in front of them.

Gerrhonot opens the door and pushes in ahead of the two older men.

Gerrhonot: Um, Hajene, Senator Tsibola and Fridda's dad are here.

Seruffin is ~~ surprised ~~ that either of them would visit the Tecton Embassy, but he's been in politically sensitive positions long enough to respond correctly. He therefore stands courteously, with tentacles sheathed.

Gerrhonot opens the door further and gestures the two men in, then goes to stand near Seruffin where he can ~~ protect ~~ him from their nagers.

Seruffin: Welcome, Senator. I'm pleased to meet you, Professor Fennik.

Seruffin zlins the two out-T Gens in a discreet fashion.

Fennik tries not to stare at the Sime's arms, although he's never seen tentacles before. All the Simes he's met at the university were wearing retainers.

Seruffin's handling tentacles may be sheathed, but they are clearly visible as lumps along his arms.

Fennik feels a bit ~~ queasy ~~ to think that Fridda now has deformed arms like this Sime. The Sime seems like a dignified professional man of about his own age, though.

Tsibola has seen tentacles before, at least at a distance, and he has the courage -- and the arrogance -- to face them without flinching. He has never even considered donating, of course, which may account for the difference.

Seruffin zlins the reactions of his visitors and gives a courteous nod, rather than offering to brush fingertips or shake hands.

Fennik decides he should act comfortable and assured with the channel, and offers to shake hands.

Fennik: I'm pleased to meet you, Hajene. Thank you for helping my daughter.

Seruffin smoothly changes directions and shakes Fennik's hand, being careful not to grip tightly enough to threaten.

Fennik notes the warmth of Seruffin's skin, and takes the opportunity for a closer look at the tentacle sheaths and orifices.

Seruffin's tentacle sheaths have nothing particularly unusual about them, apart from a few age spots and wrinkles. He patiently lets Fennik look at them, anyway.

Tsibola has long since adapted to the sight of tentacles, at least at a distance, and treats them much as he would treat any unsightly deformity.

Seruffin: She's a very sensible young woman, and I think she'll do well, despite her injuries.

Fennik feels an urge to talk to these people about Fridda, about how it has changed her to be a Sime, but doesn't know how to do it without losing his dignity.

Fennik: I... it's hard for me to understand how... crippling such injuries would be.

Seruffin: Before Unity, such injuries would have been fatal, outside of a Householding. Today, they won't affect her lifespan.

Fennik: ~~ startled ~~ Fatal?

Seruffin: Yes. She couldn't have taken selyn from a Gen who fought her.

Fennik: Oh. Of course. ~~ revulsion ~~

Fennik had never really visualized Fridda trying to kill. He shudders.

Fennik: Thank God those days are over.

Seruffin: Yes, indeed. Fridda's injuries will close some options to her, but I expect she'll make a very good life for herself, despite that.

Fennik is still thinking through the shock he's just had. He wonders if Fridda can console herself for her deformed tentacles by the thought that she could never kill, even if somehow driven to try.

Fennik: We had great hopes for her. She's very talented in several areas...

Seruffin smiles.

Seruffin: I've met the young woman. I'd be very surprised if she doesn't find a way to exceed your hopes yet.

Tsibola clears his throat.

Tsibola: My brother-in-law has a fool idea of running off to some literary conference in Arreven, and seeing Fridda while he's there.

Fennik ~~ isn't too pleased ~~ at Tsibola's phrasing.

Seruffin's eyes widen a bit with ~~ surprise ~~, and he looks at Fennik for confirmation.

Fennik: One of my students wants to present a poster. She's a bit... enthusiastic... so I thought I should attend as well, show her the academic ropes, so to speak. And of course, the opportunity to see Fridda -- her camp is quite close to Arreven.

Seruffin: Yes, it is.

Seruffin is zlinning Fennik carefully as he explains.

Fennik: Ruthven and I were discussing it at lunch today, and he proposed we come here afterwards and look into getting a donation waiver.

Tsibola: I'm not convinced any of it's a good idea, myself, but family's family, after all.

Fennik: It should be all right, Ruthven. After all, Fridda isn't even capable...

Seruffin: Donation waivers aren't easy to get, you understand. And they severely limit what you are allowed to do, in Sime Territory.

Fennik finds himself in an awkward position. He realizes that he would be willing to donate in order to visit Fridda, and it would be a lot easier than jumping through bureaucratic hoops to get a waiver. However, he can't give in in front of Tsibola.

Fennik: Surely there wouldn't be a problem in attending an academic conference, and visiting my daughter?

Seruffin finds Fennik's ambiguous emotions intellectually ~~ interesting ~~, even though they make his tentacles itch.

Seruffin: The conference proper, possibly, although you wouldn't be able to leave the conference complex for tours, social gatherings, or other events.

Seruffin is well aware that most of the interesting parts of conferences don't take place in the lecture hall.

Tsibola consults his watch.

Tsibola: Jon, I've got a committee meeting in fifteen minutes, so I've got to get back. I'll leave you to hash out the details.

Tsibola gives Seruffin a practiced "and they'd better be hashed out to my brother-in-law's satisfaction, or you'll feel the Wrath Of The Senator" look.

Seruffin nods a grave response, then turns his attention to Fennik.

Fennik: Yes, Ruthven. Thanks for your efforts.

Tsibola glances one more time at Fennik, asking wordlessly whether he's willing to stay locked up in a small office with a Sime.

Gerrhonot: Good-bye Senator. Nice to see you again.

Fennik finds himself unafraid and quite willing to speak further with the channel. He nods to the Senator and turns his attention to Seruffin.

Tsibola is not quite satisfied, but can't think of a good reason to stay, when there are several critical negotiations in progress back in committee. He therefore decides that this situation is more under control than the other, and leaves.

Seruffin exhales in carefully disguised ~~ relief ~~ at Tsibola's departure. He's well aware of the potential powder keg he represents, to use a Gen metaphor.

Fennik relaxes a fair bit too, somewhat to his own surprise. Strange that he'd feel more comfortable with this unretainered Sime in the absence of his very assertive brother-in-law.

Seruffin offers Fennik a chair with a graceful, but tentacle-free gesture.

Seruffin: Please, have a seat, and we can discuss the details. Would you care for some tea?

Fennik: Yes, please.

Seruffin: Gerrhonot, would you mind?

Gerrhonot pours tea for three from the pot on the warmer, places one in front of Seruffin and offers another to Fennik.

Seruffin is not, like Arat, incapable of making his own tea, but is unsure how Fennik will react if he starts moving around the room.

Seruffin: Thank you.

Fennik: Thank you... Sosu, is it?

Gerrhonot: Yes, Sosu Gerrhonot.

Fennik has learned a fair bit from his recent reading, and gets a slightly creepy feeling imagining these two men in the intimacy of transfer.

Seruffin takes a sip of his tea, then leans back in his chair, to appear less threatening.

Gerrhonot also sits, in a support position for his channel, sipping tea, projecting ~~ protection ~~ and alert for signals or any evidence that the Gen's emotions are too strong.

Seruffin: As I was saying, you could at least attend the official conference sessions, with a donation waiver. However, I doubt you would be permitted to visit the First Year Camp.

Fennik: Would Fridda be permitted to visit me at the conference?

Fennik holds the tea cup, but is a little reluctant to try the unfamiliar beverage.

Seruffin: I would have to recommend against it. There would be too much chance of serious injury to her.

Fennik: Injury? ~~ surprise ~~ confusion ~~

Seruffin: Yes.

Fennik: But I'm her father. I'd never hurt her.

Seruffin: Not intentionally, no. But as long as you are high-field, you have the power to hurt her badly. And you don't know how not to use it.

Fennik: Since this happened, I've been reading about... Simes and Sime culture, but it's hard to really... understand what it's like. I try to imagine what it's like for Fridda... but I can't really feel it.

Fennik looks at Seruffin, ~~ embarrassed ~~ that a literature professor can't express himself more clearly.

Seruffin: It's a very big adjustment to make, even if you grow up expecting to be Sime.

Fennik loses it.

Fennik: I love her. I miss her so much. That she's going through all this and I have no way to help her... or even to understand what she's experiencing, what her problems are... ~~ embarrassment ~~ frustration ~~ sadness ~~

Gerrhonot adjusts the ambient to protect Seruffin from the increased emotional intensity.

Seruffin: You do have a way to help her, you know.

Seruffin leans on Gerrhonot's support.

Fennik looks up. ~~ pain ~~ inquiry ~~ hope ~~

Seruffin: A visit from you would let her know that she's still your daughter. That means a great deal to a youngster in her position. It would give her something to hold onto, as she adjusts to the changes in her life. But as you are, your nager is... like a blind man slashing out randomly with a whip.

Fennik winces.

Fennik: I suppose I should apologize to you for that.

Fennik is genuinely ~~ contrite ~~ and ~~ embarrassed ~~.

Seruffin waves away the apology, the gesture feeling awkward to him without tentacles.

Seruffin: It would be a bit uncomfortable for me, if Gerrhonot wasn't here, but I've had decades to learn how to separate my emotions from other people's. Fridda hasn't. You know how strongly you feel about her, and how much losing her has hurt.

Fennik realizes Seruffin must too, now, and feels even more ~~ embarrassed ~~ and ~~ exposed ~~.

Seruffin: Can you imagine what it would be like for her, to feel not only her own feelings upon your reunion, but all of your own, as well?

Fennik: I'd hope she would feel my love for her... but I suppose there might also be... dismay.

Seruffin: Yes. Even your love could overwhelm her, with its intensity.

Fennik: But if I were to donate... it would be attenuated? To the point where I couldn't hurt her that way?

Seruffin: Yes, it would.

Fennik: I see.

Seruffin: In Sime Territory, Gens learn to... attenuate the volume of their emotions consciously. It takes time, however, and Sime teachers. As long as you're low field, though, you won't be a danger to Fridda. Or anyone else. And you won't be in danger from any Sime, either.

Fennik: And I'd come across as less of a boor.

Seruffin's lips twitch.

Seruffin: Well, yes. That too.

Fennik offers a smile of his own.

Fennik: I'm not afraid of donating. It's mostly the stigma it has for people of my class. Ruthven feels it's an outrage that I should have to do it to go in-T.

Seruffin: You'd rather it not be publicly known? At least to your colleagues here? And, of course, your brother-in-law?

Seruffin wonders if Fennik has realized that everyone from Sime Territory who attends the conference, at least, will know he's donated.

Fennik: Yes, he's very concerned about the effect on his political posture. He's quite worried that Fridda's... survival... will come out, but hopes that if it does the fact that she arranged things for herself will mitigate it. But if it had happened in town, I would have taken her to the Sime Center and to hell with the politics.

Fennik is amazed to hear what's coming out of his mouth.

Seruffin decides that he could get to like this Gen.

Seruffin: Such caring for a child is all too rare. Fridda is a very lucky young woman, to have you as a father.

Fennik loses it again. He hasn't had a chance to really talk to anyone since it happened.

Fennik: I let her down. She came to me but I told her she was too old to be turning Sime. She got the handyman to take her to the train, and he tied her up and injured her permanently. If he hadn't I would have had to shoot her, or she would have... killed.

Fennik bows his head with his hand shielding his eyes. ~~ guilt ~~ misery ~~ despair ~~

Seruffin thinks Fridda would more likely have died of changeover complications before breakout, as most out-Territory Simes do, but doesn't think that would be any comfort.

Fennik: There's no way I can make up for how I let her down, when she needed me most.

Fennik doesn't notice his use of the English word need.

Seruffin thinks this is just as well, given the context.

Fennik: I'd worried about her for years, but I was sure she was safe. I could have had a Sime check her to see if she really was Gen, but I didn't.

Seruffin: Professor Fennik, all parents make mistakes at times. I've spoken with Fridda, and she doesn't blame you. She is very old for changeover. I've seen less than a dozen who were that old.

Seruffin doesn't think Fennik requires the statistics on how few of them survived.

Fennik: It would have been a fatal mistake, if she hadn't dealt with it herself.

Seruffin can't deny that.

Seruffin: What's important now is that she know that she continues to have your love and support.

Fennik: We've corresponded, but her letters have been rather terse and vague. I don't know whether she's hiding something to keep me from worrying, or whether what she's doing is just too strange.

Seruffin: Perhaps some of both. Or it may simply be that her medications make it hard to concentrate.

Fennik: Is there some way I can donate without it... becoming known?

Seruffin believes in being accommodating to donors.

Seruffin: If you wish not to be seen entering one of the Sime Centers here in New Washington, you have several options. You could wait and donate at the border, for instance.

Fennik: My student would realize what had happened. We're traveling together.

Seruffin: I see. Well then, perhaps it would be possible to arrange for you to donate here at the embassy, before you go.

Fennik still feels squeamish about donating, but thinks with a channel like Seruffin it might be possible to do it and still retain some dignity. He's reluctant to ask Seruffin whether he'll be available, since it would look weak.

Seruffin zlins the squeamishness, and the way Fennik's attention is almost focusing on his tentacles. He leans a little harder on Gerrhonot's support.

Fennik: I really should donate, for Fridda. I've been thinking that there are plenty of other donors, but that's hardly fair. If I don't donate, it just goes to waste, doesn't it.

Seruffin: Yes, it does.

Fennik begins to feel more ~~ determined ~~ and curiously ~~ free ~~.

Fennik: If I can manage it without getting Ruthven's knickers in a knot over it...

Seruffin chuckles.

Seruffin: I saw his full performance once, during the Halfbein negotiations. It was a... formidable sight.

Fennik smiles.

Fennik: I suppose you can tell how much of it is virtuoso theatrics and how much is real, can't you? It took me some time to learn to do that.

Seruffin: Your brother-in-law is more straightforward than most of his colleagues, at least. But I can see why you'd prefer not to have him angry at you.

Fennik: He can be formidable, even if you can't zlin. And he has... I wonder if it's like sec? It just seems more natural to go along with him than oppose him.

Fennik hopes for insight into his reading.

Seruffin: He certainly has charisma. And an unusual amount of emotional self-control, even when he's using his temper deliberately. For a Sime, that intensifies the effect.

Seruffin has been accused of having a great deal of sec himself, so he should know.

Fennik shakes his head.

Fennik: I've never had a taste for politics. I've been quite content as an academic.

Fennik has enough hassles with politics within his academic department.

Seruffin: Political influence is highly overrated, believe me. When do you have to leave for this conference?

Fennik: Not for another month, but... Hajene, would you consider taking my donation now? And again before I leave?

Seruffin thinks he should have zlinned this coming.

Fennik is trembling a little with ~~ anticipation ~~, but feels no fear, other than fear of embarrassment. He feels more comfortable with the idea of donating to an experienced professional of his own age than to some unknown, uncouth, young whippersnapper.

Seruffin glances at Gerrhonot, to ask if his Donor has any objections.

Gerrhonot is, as always, ~~ willing ~~ to do whatever his channel prefers.

Seruffin: Certainly, if you wish it.

Seruffin stands and moves slowly around the desk, not incidentally staying close to Gerrhonot.

Fennik realizes he has no idea of how to go about this. He figures taking off his tweed jacket will be necessary, and does so.

Gerrhonot stays close to Seruffin. Wild Gens are unpredictable, especially as first-time donors.

Seruffin: I'm afraid I don't have the standard paperwork here, so we'll have to improvise. You don't have any heart trouble, do you?

Fennik: No, I'm quite healthy.

Seruffin: Well, then, this should cause you no trouble.

Fennik finds the question a bit ~~ alarming ~~. Just how dangerous is this, anyway?

Seruffin guesses at the cause of the alarm.

Fennik removes his solid gold cufflinks and pushes up his sleeves. He feels cold, well, hot and cold, but maintains a calm appearance, then realizes that appearance means nothing, and feels ~~ at a loss ~~.

Seruffin: Some people are afraid, at first, and for someone with heart trouble, that could be dangerous if precautions aren't taken.

Fennik: I see.

Fennik is reluctant to come right out and ask for instructions about what he should do to give a donation.

Gerrhonot: Don't worry, Professor. Hajene Seruffin is a very good channel.

Gerrhonot smiles encouragingly at the donor.

Fennik doesn't really know what to think of Gerrhonot. He's hardly said a word so far.

Seruffin: Donating's not difficult at all. All you have to do is hold still, and relax as much as you can.

Seruffin beckons for Fennik to stand.

Fennik stands, and wonders how he got himself into this. He finds the idea of physical intimacy with the Sime a bit ~~ repugnant~~ , but it can't be worse than some of the things his doctor does to him in checkups. He decides he can put up with the indignity for a few minutes, and he's actually somewhat ~~ curious~~ to see real tentacles for the first time.

Seruffin offers his hands, tentacles still retracted.

Seruffin: When you're ready, just put your hands in mine.

Fennik does so, somewhat awkwardly and reluctantly. His eyes are on Seruffin's forearms.

Seruffin waits patiently for Fennik to complete his inspection. He's finding Fennik's curiosity a hopeful addition to the repugnance he's been showing.

Fennik wonders what's taking so long and looks up.

Seruffin: All right, I'm going to extend my handling tentacles now. They're not slimy, don't worry.

Seruffin suits actions to words.

Fennik looks down again to watch. He's trying to get used to the idea that Fridda's arms look something like this now, and she has similar tentacles. It still seems strange and creepy.

Seruffin's grip is loose enough not to be too threatening.

Fennik isn't afraid, but he finds most physical contact unpleasant, and contact with tentacles very strange. At least the tentacles are warm -- if they were cold he'd find them even more repellent.

Seruffin doesn't like the disgust that's being projected at him, but it's merely unpleasant, not dangerous, so he continues.

Gerrhonot is glad that the Gen doesn't appear to be afraid, but can't quite interpret what emotions he is feeling. He can see that Fennik isn't enjoying the contact, but he isn't resisting it, either.

Seruffin: You're doing very well. Now I'm going to secure my grip just a little bit...

Seruffin shifts his hands and tentacles to the optimum hold, and firms his hold sufficiently to protect his laterals.

Fennik is one of those people who just doesn't like anyone to touch him. He doesn't move, but his muscles begin to tense as he reacts to the prolonged contact.

Seruffin: I'm going to make a lateral contact now. They're moist with selyn conductors, which tingle a bit, but it's important to hold still, or you could injure me.

Fennik: I understand.

Fennik has read about that. He grits his teeth and remains still and increasingly rigid, fighting his ~~ aversion ~~.

Seruffin leans on Gerrhonot's support, and extends his laterals.

Seruffin: Relax, Professor. If you're not tense, I'll be able to work much faster.

Fennik nods and forcibly relaxes his muscles somewhat.

Seruffin figures that's probably about as good as he's going to get.

Seruffin: Good. Now, it will take me about a minute to take your donation. You won't feel the selyn flow at all. Just keep holding still until I finish.

Fennik nods and grits his teeth again.

Seruffin leans forward to make lip contact, despite the gritted teeth.

Fennik is ~~ revolted ~~ but stays steady. At least the channel's lips are hard -- it's nothing like a kiss.

Seruffin zlins carefully, in case there are any health problems Fennik didn't see fit to mention. He discovers that Fennik's health is about what one would expect from an elderly Gen academic who eats rich food and doesn't exercise much.

Gerrhonot maintains a ~~ steady supportive ~~ field, ~~ ready ~~ for anything that might happen.

Seruffin sets about gleaning selyn from the GN-3 level, keeping part of his attention on Fennik's emotional state, so he can break off if necessary.

Fennik controls his ~~ revulsion ~~, or thinks he does, and waits for the whole distasteful thing to be over with.

Seruffin considers his goal today to be more increasing Fennik's comfort level with donating, than getting a specified amount of selyn.

Fennik is about as likely to get comfortable with donating as he is with prostate exams.

Seruffin has gleaned about 85% of the selyn in the GN-3 level when he judges Fennik has had enough, and breaks lip contact.

Fennik resists the urge to wipe his mouth on his shoulder.

Seruffin: Hold still a moment while I retract my laterals.

Seruffin does so, glad for the slight attenuation of Fennik's revulsion, and releases Fennik when his laterals are safe. He takes a half step back away from Fennik, and not coincidentally towards Gerrhonot's clean nager.

Fennik takes a handkerchief from his jacket pocket and wipes his mouth and arms, then rolls down his sleeves, inserts the cufflinks and puts his jacket back on.

Gerrhonot puts his hand on Seruffin's shoulder and provides ~~ comfort ~~ kindness ~~ and ~~ admiration~~. He can tell that wasn't pleasant for either participant.

Seruffin reminds himself that Fennik did donate, and that matters more than the unpleasant emotions he inflicted on both of them while doing it.

Seruffin: I'm afraid I don't have any donation payment voucher forms here. I could arrange to have your voucher mailed to you, if you'll leave me your address.

Fennik: Oh, I couldn't take money for it.

Seruffin has seen this response before, usually in altruistically inclined little old ladies.

Fennik thinks it was bad enough doing such an intimate thing. Getting paid for it would make him feel even dirtier about it.

Fennik: Can you just... give it to charity or some such?

Seruffin zlins the muddle of self-hatred, and remembers how eager Fennik is to make sure that none of his circle learns he has donated.

Seruffin: If you wish, I can arrange a directed selyn credit for Fridda. Essentially, it would allow her to deduct the cost of the selyn you gave from her selyn taxes.

Fennik: Oh, that would be good. She'd appreciate that, wouldn't she? She'd know that I was willing to donate, for her. She'd know that I still care for her.

Seruffin: Yes, she will. I'll arrange it, then.

Fennik: Thank you. And thank you for your time and... talents.

Seruffin: You're welcome. If you will let me know in advance when you can come here next month, I will make sure that there is someone here to take your field down before you travel, even if I'm not in.

Fennik hopes he won't have to go through this again with a total stranger, but at least he knows now that he can tolerate it.

Seruffin's sec talents of seduction are easily proved by this, as Fennik met Seruffin less than an hour before.

Fennik feels that Seruffin is less of a stranger because he worked with Fridda extensively after her changeover. He would like to tell him that he feels better after talking to him about Fridda and Simeness, but doesn't feel it would be appropriate.

Fennik: I'll do that.

Fennik nods to Seruffin and leaves, not sure what to think about his new experience, but looking forward to seeing Fridda.

Seruffin turns to Gerrhonot and huddles against his comforting nager.

Gerrhonot examines his channel carefully. He doesn't look happy, but he doesn't look like he took any damage from the work.

Seruffin: That was bad. He wasn't frightened, or not much, but his revulsion...

Seruffin shudders.

Gerrhonot gently takes Seruffin's forearms. ~~ comfort ~~ pleasure ~~ kindness ~~

Gerrhonot: He's still really upset about Fridda, isn't he? But he doesn't want to show it.

Seruffin: Yes, he is. I must remind him to focus on positive emotions, when he visits her. And, Gerrhonot... as always, thank you for your support. It's what keeps reminding me that I'm not a monster.

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