So sorry to have taken this long; I hope my tardiness in replying hasn't come across as disinterest. It's been a combination of a hectic schedule and a lack of the right frame of mind.
I can see why this might have been a difficult chapter to write - there's a lot of potential mortification and hurt; even worse, no-one's done anything wrong other than jump to conclusions or fail to consider how outsiders might interpret ordinary actions. Yet the distress is real; pain without blame, and that's sometimes the hardest form of pain to deal with, both for the observer/arbitrator like Spirodopolous and for the people feeling it - there's no way to vent and no-one to vent on. Particularly for Istep, who is both horrified that someone would think him capable of harming his paitents, and disturbed that he caused emotional distress, no matter how unintentionally. Also, there's the fact that he's potentially offended at the possibility of ugly assumptions based on race, but can clearly see that zh'Thessel was genuinely distressed and truly believed she was being threatened. Baceause of this, he can hardly feel justified in anger. Compassion and guilt and shame would smother it, because even though he didn't do anything wrong - he still caused harm. For a being like him, it's clear that knowing he would never assault a patient, and even knowing Spirodopolous and the others now understand it, doesn't change the fact that zh'Thessel has
been harmed as the result of a misunderstanding. So even as he's genuinely horrified at the potential accusation, there is
a guilt in there. And yet how can you come to terms with guilt that the rest of you insists is unwarranted and when another part of you is insisting you're
the victim (or a victim) of the situation? That's a real knot of emotional reactions vying for recognition and the paralysis that follows is a difficult state of mind to capture. You do a good job - and perhaps your own state of discomfort writing this one helped you hit the mark?
Again, I certainly appreciate why this might have been a difficult chapter. zh'Thessel and, to a lesser but still significant extent, Istep have been wounded completely unintentionally and there's no clear means to address it, other than to take note of the misunderstanding and become more acute to heading off potential incidents like this before they manifest.
It's brave to write a "cultural misunderstanding/different customs clashing" scene that treats the potential consequences as genuinely damaging rather than a case of "hoo, wasn't that embarrassing!" Maybe this is another thing contributing to the difficulty of the chapter - it's the same basic issue that is so often turned to causing mundane or even comical difficulties for characters now causing real distress and harm.