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Oct 29, 2020 3:10 AM
behold a man, take two
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A slave can't, of course, flirt with a free man. It's a nonsensical notion. This is not the nature of the relations between slaves and free men.

This slave, however, is extraordinarily pretty, and, having delivered the latest tariff reports to a certain senator, is ... lingering, in his office. Moving in certain ways. One might even say, making eyes.

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A certain senator fails to see what might be flirtatious about this behavior. He has just been delivered his papers — he is thinking about tariffs, and not about boys. There is absolutely no impropriety here, of any kind.

He has about five more seconds before he fails to keep a straight face.

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The slave, bending over to adjust the cuff of his pants, blows the senator a kiss.

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That does it.

He puts his hand over his mouth as if it does anything to disguise the very undignified snort of laughter.

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The slave has to laugh too,

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wiping the makeup from his face with his sleeve.

"I think that's a new record."

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"Set with my full cooperation, and you know it," he says, as soon as he can manage it.

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"A new record for you, Valentine, don't be absurd. Or have you forgotten the time at the Games?"

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"I maintain that I can't be expected to recognize you from the waist down."

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"Evidently not!"

He perches on Valentine's desk, in what is absolutely not a continuation of the slave's flirting.

"Really, though, have you seen the latest dye tariffs? They're simply absurd."

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He flips through a few more pages.

"They do seem to be. How is a man supposed to dress himself?"

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"I'm sure you'll make do."

He's appreciating Valentine's outfit. This is a perfectly reasonable and safe thing to do, because, as demonstrated, Valentine is utterly uninterested in fucking him, even when handed the legal and social license to do so on a silver platter.

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“I’m sure I will. I intend to be enough of a nuisance that I can still afford to wear purple.”

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"It's crimson I'd worry about, myself -- we import that so heavily from Tzor, and did you see the second appendix..."

He leans a little closer, bending over Valentine's shoulder to indicate the passage he has in mind.

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Valentine looks directly at him.

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Deina laughs, and blows him another kiss, before hopping off his desk.

"Anyway. I'll see you at the party tonight, I hope?"

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“I wouldn’t dream of missing it.”

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"And thus, I am doomed never to be the best-dressed man in the room."

He bows his way out.

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The party that evening is at the expansive house of another senator. There's cocktails, and snacky little foods, and a small group of slaves with kitharas and pipes playing inoffensive instrumental music beneath the steady murmur of polite conversation.

Among the crowd milling about, there's a couple of dozen politicians (all men) and about an equal number of merchants, traders, diplomats, and the idle rich (mostly men, with a few women). There's enough slaves (almost all female, here) to even out the sexes, serving and cleaning and generally making themselves decorative attendants, especially around the low-grav swimming pool just beyond the portico.

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It is at once a representation of the things he loves most dearly about his country and a tragic waste of its potential. Pool girls, really.

Oh, well. Not the battle to fight, tonight.

He’s quietly dressed, for the most part, and would almost blend in with the crowd if it weren’t for the earrings, single garnets on fine chains that sparkle brilliantly in the low light.

He’s been working his way through the room, making polite conversation and occasionally excusing himself to find a drink that he has yet to actually acquire, with one eye out for his radically inclined colleague and the other for the host.

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As it turns out, a third party corners him first.

"Valentine! I knew there was a reason I came to this party."

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This is the worst possible outcome.

"...I'm confident you'll find it somewhere," he says, refusing to visibly look for exits.

(As socially unpleasant as this is going to be, it has worse implications. The last time he met Skoría, he wasn't quite wealthy enough to make it onto Tīmótheos' invite list. This is not a man who should be gaining social power.)

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"Come now, my friend, there's no need to play humble. I don't live on a station because of my great patience with social niceties."

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Deep breaths. Diplomacy.

"No, of course not. I'm surprised to see you on Astinas so soon."

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"I hadn't intended to pay the planet a visit for some time, no. But I've heard troubling rumors of new tariffs, and while I don't usually concern myself with that sort of thing, a little bird told me that these might apply to certain cybernetic goods which are my concern. I don't suppose you've had any early word of them...?"

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"If I had, you know that I couldn't give you that information."

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