Pollovic strides down a back hallway of the Senate building, an hour before his scheduled public donation. In his hand is Seruffin's note, asking for a brief meeting in the Senate's "Sime safe room" before the main event.
Pollovic tugs at the hem of the jacket Rinaldi has dressed him in, feeling a bit self-conscious. Nobody seems to be staring, but this is definitely not an ordinary business suit. He had been a bit afraid of what Rinaldi might be expecting him to wear. After all, high fashion is about innovation, and in the quest for novelty it often crosses the boundary into vulgarity. Still, this outfit isn't too bad. It's a loose hip-length tunic, in a sensible dark brown, made of some very soft comfortable fabric. The sleeves are loose, so they'll be easy to roll up for the donation. The collar is high, with some silver embroidery running around it and down the front.
Pollovic pauses outside the door of the Sime safe room, and runs his fingers through what's left of his hair, incidentally disrupting the careful combing Rinaldi gave it a few minutes ago.
Seruffin is inside with Gerrhonot, trying to collect himself for what he anticipates will be a very difficult functional. He was not, after all, able to move his transfer with Gerrhonot up, and so he is stuck doing this stunt while in hard need.
Seruffin: Gerrhonot, I'm not looking forward to this.
Seruffin's ronaplin glands are swollen, which makes the always uncomfortable retainers even more torturous.
Gerrhonot: Just lean on me all you want, Hajene. I'll take care of you.
Gerrhonot is projecting a ~~ comforting ~~ blend of ~~ strength ~~ reliability ~~ steadiness ~~ devotion ~~ confidence ~~ and ~~ reassurance ~~ to his channel, as well as letting his ~~ rich store of selyn ~~ and ~~ eagerness to serve transfer ~~ show.
Seruffin: Not so much, Gerrhonot. It feels very good, but I can't afford to raise intil.
Gerrhonot replaces the ~~ eagerness ~~ with ~~ willingness ~~.
Seruffin is pretty sure that Pollovic won't recognize the symptoms of active need, but that's the only good aspect of the situation.
Seruffin: Much better, thank you. I've invited the Senator to join us here briefly; if he reacts badly to his first sight of bare tentacles, we may have to insist that he come here for the actual donation.
Seruffin suspects that this might complicate the political situation, but not as much as a donation gone wrong in public.
Gerrhonot moves closer to Seruffin on the sofa, puts his arm around his waist and takes his opposite hand. ~~ utterly reliable Genness and available selyn ~~
Pollovic knocks at the door.
Seruffin winces at the feel of knuckles bashing against wood, and answers quickly, before it can be repeated.
Seruffin: Come in!
Gerrhonot emphasizes the ~~ safety ~~ and ~~ protection ~~ in his projection.
Pollovic opens the door and enters. He pauses, a trifle embarrassed; he seems to have interrupted the channel and his Donor in a private moment.
Seruffin: Senator, it's good of you to come here.
Seruffin doesn't appear at all embarrassed, mostly because he can't conceive of Gerrhonot as anything but Gen at the moment.
Pollovic stares a moment longer before replying.
Gerrhonot is watching Seruffin for cues, while keeping an eye on Pollovic for possible deleterious effects on the ambient.
Pollovic: It's, uh, no problem, Hajene. Quispel has everything well under control out there, Rinaldi's got a bunch of elegant young fashion models ready to hold up the "Sime Territory" signs around the roped-off area, and the press are starting to arrive and jockey for places.
Seruffin tries not to wince too obviously at the confirmation of his worst fears that this will be a circus.
Seruffin: I thought it might be useful to spend a moment going over our part of this... affair, without other distractions.
Pollovic nods briskly.
Seruffin moves a little farther away from Gerrhonot, in order to zlin Pollovic's reactions more closely.
Gerrhonot adjusts the ambient for his channel's convenience.
Seruffin: I suspect that you haven't had much chance to interact with Simes who aren't wearing retainers, before this?
Pollovic: None, actually. ~~ feigned nonchalance overlying nervousness ~~
Seruffin spreads his hands in what he hopes will be interpreted as a nonthreatening gesture, which not incidentally displays his sheathed tentacles nicely.
Gerrhonot feels ~~ sympathy ~~ for Seruffin's discomfort in fully retracting his tentacles when his ronaplin glands are so distended.
Pollovic studies the channel's forearms. He manages to keep his pulse and respiration almost level.
Seruffin lets Pollovic stare his fill.
Pollovic: I guess this is no time to play "Iron Man". I might as well tell you that a few days ago I was having tentacle nightmares. But I've gotten them under control. I, uh...
Pollovic hesitates. Now it seems almost too silly to say.
Seruffin: You come from a society where the only Simes with bared tentacles are a mortal danger to you or someone else, and that isn't something you can overcome completely without a little practice.
Pollovic: It was the idea of the feel of laterals that was bothering me, so I tried, um, desensitizing myself.
Seruffin's lips twitch in amusement.
Gerrhonot is glad that Seruffin can feel amusement.
Seruffin: You did?
Seruffin wonders how on Earth this Gen managed that, with no Simes around.
Pollovic: ~~ embarrassment ~~ Every night since we decided to set this up, I've been trailing fresh-cooked noodles across my forearms.
Pollovic can almost feel himself blushing.
Pollovic: It seems to have worked.
Seruffin is glad for a moment that he's in need; Pollovic doesn't require the humiliation of being laughed at, just now.
Gerrhonot thinks this is bizarre, but makes sense in a way. Actually, it's rather clever.
Seruffin: I'm glad to hear that. Perhaps we should determine just how well it's worked, before we go out there?
Seruffin gestures towards the Rotunda, this time letting one handling tentacle emerge in emphasis.
Pollovic: Rinaldi showed me how these sleeves work. There are little tabs at the top, to button the lower part of the sleeve up to.
Pollovic fumbles with the buttons. ~~ frustration ~~
Seruffin focuses on Pollovic's clothes, and for a sickening moment has a flashback to the horrible time, a few years after Unity, when he was part of a team of Tecton officials who raided an illegal Choice Auction. He then gets hold of himself, and realizes that the tunic isn't quite a yawal, and it's an embroidered decoration around the neck and sleeves, not manacles.
Pollovic, who has finally gotten the sleeves fastened up, has entirely missed Seruffin's reaction.
Seruffin: That's... an interesting outfit.
Pollovic: Yes. Much more tasteful than I'd feared.
Seruffin leans a little on Gerrhonot, as he tries to keep his reaction to himself. Or at least to himself and his Donor.
Pollovic: But I do think I'll ask Rinaldi to have a couple of his assistants help me with these sleeves.
Gerrhonot thinks the Zeor blue satin lining of the sleeves is really pretty. He wonders why it's having a bad effect on Seruffin. ~~ rock steady ~~ utterly reliable ~~
Seruffin: That's an excellent idea. Why don't you come over here now, Senator, and I can go over what you can expect.
Gerrhonot gets up and stands behind his channel, constantly staying as close to him as possible.
Seruffin gestures to the place beside him on the couch, that Gerrhonot abandoned.
Pollovic seats himself beside Seruffin without hesitation. His mind is back on the practical details of the press conference.
Pollovic: So we'll start with my speech, and then... Um, where did you want to be standing during the speech, Hajene?
Gerrhonot puts his hands on Seruffin's shoulders. Not only does this intensify the effect of the support he's providing, but it helps him evaluate Seruffin's state. ~~ calm ~~ safe ~~ confident ~~
Seruffin's state, besides being need-wracked, is nerve-wracked as he contemplates all the things that could go wrong.
Seruffin: If you can have the "Sime Territory" barriers up by then, Gerrhonot and I should be inside them.
Seruffin doesn't want retainers making things worse.
Pollovic: We'll have those up before you or I even go out there. Rinaldi wants the photographers to have some time to get pictures of his outfits on the models before we're there to grab all the attention.
Seruffin: I see. And after your speech -- how long will that be, by the way?
Pollovic: Not too long. I don't want to bore them. About three and a half minutes. ~~ ironic ~~ Less if they start to fidget.
Seruffin rejects the half-formed idea of staying in the safe room until the speeches are over.
Seruffin: I see. Well, Gerrhonot can help me off with my retainers while you're speaking.
Pollovic: Then I'll walk over to you, we'll turn so the photographers have the best angle, and we do it. Quispel wants us to hold the pose for at least a couple of minutes, so everyone can get enough pictures.
Seruffin notes that Pollovic appears to be glossing over the whole donation thing.
Pollovic: When the flashbulbs stop going off we break, and then I call the Farmers' Relief guy up to shake hands over the money. Then we take questions, and wrap. Simple enough?
Seruffin thinks that it doesn't sound simple at all.
Pollovic knows it's not simple. There are a thousand ways this elegantly planned out event could go awry. Especially during the Q&A.
Seruffin: I believe that's about as straightforward as we're likely to get, at any rate. Gerrhonot will be standing behind me, more or less as he is now. I'll hold out my hands like this...
Seruffin: ...and you put your own hands in them. Go ahead, try it.
Gerrhonot enhances his ~~ protection ~~.
Pollovic, without hesitation, places his hands in Seruffin's. So far, so good. It's just like a double handshake, but without the shaking.
Seruffin is zlinning Pollovic's reaction closely.
Seruffin: All right. Then, I'll slide my hands down to your wrists, like this, and secure my grip with handling tentacles.
Seruffin's new grip is nothing at all like a double handshake.
Pollovic: How about if we do it the other way around?
Seruffin: The other way around?
Pollovic: It's important that this looks like something I'm doing, not something that's being done to me. If I move my hands up to your wrists, then you do the tentacles, it will look better.
Pollovic is so focused on the look of the thing, he almost hasn't noticed that there are handling tentacles wrapped around his wrists. ~~ calm ~~ preoccupied ~~
Seruffin: Senator Pollovic, during a general-class donation, the channel generally is the one who handles making the contact.
Seruffin is not wild about having an untrained Gen pawing his forearms.
Seruffin: No one will think any less of you, I assure you.
Pollovic: In that case... ~~ thinking ~~ wait for my nod, before you make the shift. That will give the same effect.
Seruffin: Very well.
Gerrhonot is ~~ relieved ~~. While he's not as protective of Seruffin's lateral extensor nodes as Seruffin is himself, he's not much less so.
Seruffin tightens his handling tentacles just a bit, to prevent any injudicious moves.
Pollovic focuses, for the first time, on the handling tentacles wrapped around his arms. They're not too bad, really. They feel just like fingers.
Seruffin: Now, when I've secured my grip, to prevent any accidents, I'll extend my laterals like this.
Pollovic braces himself for the touch of laterals. This was the part he'd been having nightmares about.
Seruffin lets his need-moistened laterals slide into contact.
Pollovic flares a brief moment of ~~ fear ~~ , then struggles back towards ~~ calm ~~ .
Seruffin's laterals don't feel anything like pasta.
Seruffin: I know, they feel a bit strange, don't they? It's just the selyn conductors -- they react with the nerves in your skin.
Pollovic: I guess the noodles only helped a little. It's... ~~ analytical ~~ kind of tingly.
Pollovic is okay as long as he can keep being analytical.
Pollovic: It's not so bad. ~~ courage ~~
Seruffin: I'm glad you can accept it so easily. Some Gens have trouble adjusting to it.
Pollovic finds that after a moment he can ignore the sensation.
Pollovic: It's... odd, but I think I'll be okay. I'm glad we tried this ahead of time, though. It was a bit startling at first.
Seruffin: Well, that's why I asked you to drop by.
Pollovic: ~~ relief ~~ Don't worry, I'll be fine.
Pollovic: That was the part I was worried about, but it's all right.
Gerrhonot is also ~~ relieved ~~ that this rehearsal went reasonably well, but he's still deeply ~~ concerned ~~ about the rest of it. Seruffin really shouldn't be doing functionals in the middle of a mob of random out-T Gens when he's only a few hours from transfer. Even Klyd Farris shouldn't do stuff like that.
Pollovic: The rest is a piece of cake. ~~ confident ~~
Seruffin: If you can stay this calm, the donation should go smoothly. We'll just make lip contact, and I'll lower your field. That will take about a minute -- long enough for the photographers to get their pictures.
Pollovic: Quispel wanted us to make it two minutes. It takes time to change a photographic plate, and most photographers will want covering shots. They can't augment the way your photographers can when they're in a hurry.
Seruffin: I'll wait until they stop taking pictures, unless in my judgment there's a reason not to do so.
Pollovic: Okay, good. Then I hold still till you let go of my arms?
Seruffin: Yes. It's important that you don't move until I've retracted my laterals, like this.
Seruffin performs the unnatural act of breaking lateral contact with a high-field Gen while he's still in need.
Pollovic ~~ tenses ~~ as the laterals slide across his skin, then ~~ relaxes ~~ as soon as they've withdrawn.
Pollovic: Odd. Very odd.
Seruffin lets his handling tentacles relax, as his vulnerable laterals are safely back in their sheaths.
Seruffin: At that point, I can let you go.
Seruffin does so.
Pollovic glances at Gerrhonot.
Pollovic: You're probably so used to that, you don't even know what I mean.
Gerrhonot: A lot of Gens think it feels weird the first time.
Pollovic: It does. It definitely does.
Gerrhonot has more sense than to try to describe the pleasure he feels at a lateral contact, especially when his channel needs his support, or they are anticipating transfer.
Pollovic: ~~ curious ~~ How does it feel to you, now that you're used to it?
Gerrhonot: I like it. It feels good.
Seruffin is glad to hand the conversation over to Gerrhonot, as he works at making sure his intil is as low as practical, under the circumstances.
Pollovic: ~~ wry ~~ Obviously an acquired taste.
Gerrhonot ~~ lovingly ~~ strokes Seruffin's neck and shoulder with a gentle hand. ~~ calm ~~ safe ~~
Seruffin leans into the pet.
Pollovic glances away, feeling suddenly ~~ awkward ~~ .
Gerrhonot smiles, and his smile grows wider and more dreamy as he thinks about transfer, while trying not to let it into his field to raise Seruffin's intil.
Gerrhonot: I like helping my channel.
Pollovic: I, uh.... ~~ embarrassed ~~ I guess it's good to enjoy your work.
Seruffin finishes his intil-suppressing exercises.
Seruffin: Indeed. I'd be lost without his help.
Pollovic had never before noticed just how... tactile... this Donor is with his channel. It's a faintly disquieting notion.
Seruffin lifts a hand to rest it on Gerrhonot's for a moment.
Pollovic catches himself staring, and pulls his gaze away. ~~ stronger embarrassment ~~
Gerrhonot moves to sit on the arm of the sofa, so Seruffin can lean against his shoulder.
Pollovic: Well, if there's nothing else we need to discuss...?
Pollovic feels suddenly that this tiny room is far too claustrophobic.
Seruffin: No, I think we've covered the essentials. Unless you have questions?
Pollovic: Not really.
Pollovic is in a ~~ hurry ~~ to get out of here now.
Pollovic: So I'll go see how Quispel's doing, and I'll see you in the lobby in about half an hour.
Seruffin: Very well.
Pollovic knows that Quispel would just find his boss to be underfoot right now, but he needs some excuse to get away.
Pollovic: Going to be a piece of cake. ~~ doubt ~~
Pollovic hurries from the room, closing the door gently but firmly behind him.
Seruffin sighs, leaning back against Gerrhonot.
Gerrhonot rests his cheek on Seruffin's head. ~~ devotion ~~ calm ~~ happiness ~~
Seruffin: Well, at least he handled the lateral contact all right. Whether he'll be able to stay as calm in front of half the Territory, and when he knows I'm taking his field down, is another matter.
Gerrhonot: Yes. I think he's embarrassed about me touching you.
Gerrhonot: You know how these big shot out-T people are. Formal. They don't touch each other except shaking hands.
Seruffin: I could zlin that he was uncomfortable, but I thought it was a response to the prospect of his own donation.
Gerrhonot: Maybe you're right.
Seruffin: If we had privacy, we might be able to do something, but as it is, it's more important that you do what's necessary to handle the fields. This isn't going to be easy, even if Senator Pollovic does manage to cooperate.
Gerrhonot: I'll do whatever I can to protect you and help you. If I don't think of the right things, you signal me what you want.
Seruffin: I will.
Gerrhonot: Everything will be okay. You're smart and have lots of experience and I'll help you. ~~ devotion ~~ love ~~ confidence ~~
Seruffin: I hope so. If I think it's going to be too much, when we get out there, I'll make a short speech thanking the Senator for his altruism, and announce that we're going back here for the actual donation.
Gerrhonot: Oh, good.
Seruffin: They can get their pictures of us shaking hands.
Gerrhonot reaches down to stroke a forearm, gently soothing the distended ronaplin glands. ~~ kindness ~~ sympathy ~~ steady dependable support ~~
Gerrhonot: And if you want to take transfer a little early, that's okay too.
Seruffin considers this offer, which in itself is a sign of how worried he is about this stunt.
Seruffin: No, I think not. I don't want to be in the middle of postsyndrome when it's time to go out there. Besides, Jaklin would never forgive me.
Gerrhonot: I have plenty of selyn for both of you. But I meant afterwards. If it was too hard on you and you want to be a little early.
Seruffin: We'll see. With any luck, this will go smoothly, and you won't have too much trouble getting me back to normal, afterwards.
Gerrhonot: It's never trouble. I like to help you. ~~ devotion ~~
Seruffin: Ah, Gerrhonot. Whatever did I do, to deserve you?
Gerrhonot: You're good to me. You're good to me all the time. ~~ happiness ~~
Gerrhonot is only subliminally aware that he's taken control of the ambient and drawn Seruffin into a state of ~~ calm ~~ and ~~ security ~~.
Pollovic, meanwhile, hurries down a maze of back corridors, his mind focused on a dozen practical details. He knows Quispel can do his job, but somehow it's easier to worry about details than to relax right now. He now knows, at least, that his tentacle nightmares aren't going to get in the way for this. The actual donation is not going to be a problem.
Pollovic allows himself to feel a little ~~ optimism ~~ . Details or not, this press conference is going to work out.