Challenge #02234-F044: Incidental Hazards
Young children like to lounge on people, caregivers and companions alike. Do other species deal with this? -- Anon Guest
There is an instinct almost universal to the young of any given species. Stay close to your caregiver. Once able to move about free of the nest/clutch/creche/pouch, the caregiver is still a bastion of protection, font of education, and primary source of emotional resilience. In species with communal childrearing, any older member of the species will do.
Which was why Rael had a very small and upset Human attached to his leg. He was not qualified to deal with this, he knew it. His education on multi-species infant care consisted entirely on a plethora of pamphlets containing the barest of basics on how to handle any infant he had a chance of encountering and most of the contents boiled down to 'contact the legal guardian at the earliest convenience.
"I'm... not your people," he attempted, which made no impact on the crying Human wrapped around his leg. Rael considered his options. This was a non-urgent situation, for all that the small Human's howling made it seem more so. Calling in Security was right out, as was allowing the Human to stay there and cry. Especially since the creature in question was attempting and failing to climb him, thereby risking a wardrobe malfunction.
Small, upset humans often wanted to be held, that was true, but gaining permission was important, too. "Do you want to be held?" he asked. The reply, whilst incoherent, was interpretable as positive, so he scooped up the child and held them against his chest in the prescribed manner. The howling slowed. Diminished. Settled down into sighs and hiccoughs. Good. "Now. What is the problem?"
The child was still unintelligible, speaking in what Aunty Fan-Fan referred to as 'scribble' - an imitation of the words surrounding them, but not actually those words. The tone, here, was more important than the sounds. As was the body language, something Rael was still studying. He was lost in seconds, but pretending to understand seemed important, so he did that. All the time, looking about for someone far more qualified than he to take over and deal with it all.
"Oh, you found her!"
Rael relaxed. The catch-cry of the Anxious Caregiver. Their face had a familial resemblance to the child, too. Even better. He didn't have to ask a dozen questions or ask for certifications or identity verifications. That, and the child in his arms was already leaning over in anticipation of the handover.
"No harm done," said Rael, getting his facts established as early as possible. "She found me, and... I helped her look for you."
The child was busy going on a rant that could be easily interpreted as an indignant, "How dare you turn your back for five seconds while I wander off and get lost!"
Thanks and business references were exchanged, and Rael would have happily turned away from the park and gone on with his day, were it not for a swarm of infant Thressyk who apparently believed that he made an excellent jungle-gym for reasons that were a universal mystery.
Any more of this and he would be accused of being good with children.
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