The Next Month At The Ford: Episode 17

Vrian has now watched his neighbor, his big brother's friend, his father, and his brother disappear into the little room off the reception area, only to return after an interval. He supposes he should find it reassuring that none of them seem much the worse for wear (with the exception of the very upset Mik). However he's been feeling more and more ~~ tense ~~ as his vivid imagination fills in the details of what's going on behind that closed door.

Vrian's imagination, needless to say, is a bit more dramatic than the reality.

Jed found his second experience at donating much less stressful than the first, and told his sons that he rates Bibi as competent and trustworthy.

Bart came out of the room looking very thoughtful.

Vrian has his own opinion about how trustworthy Bibi is, but can't assert it without letting on that he made an unauthorized visit to the Sime Center two weeks ago.

Bart is now even more convinced that Seruffin was right, that he has a talent for Donor's work, and it has even more of an attraction for him. He thinks that Cristal is a lot different from Gerrhonot, and wonders which Donor is more typical.

Vrian has been trying to convince himself that it doesn't matter if Bibi is willing to go a bit farther than she should to get selyn, since he's already, independently, decided to do so anyway. He's less successful at this rationalization than he would like.

Bibi is resting in the donation room, trying to recover from the series of functionals interspersed with exposure to the zlin of Gegg's fear and hostility every time she goes back out into the waiting area.

Vrian: ~~ muddle of determination and adolescent angst ~~

Vrian has never read any Shakespeare, but if he had, he'd recognize Hamlet as a kindred soul.

Bibi is also not looking forward to taking Vrian's donation, after her previous interaction with him, which left him feeling a bit betrayed.

Vrian might be more successful at working through his misgivings, if he weren't trying so very hard to pretend that they don't exist. He has no intention of having his father veto his donation attempt because he's too scared.

Estragen enters balancing a tray with muffins, glasses, a pitcher filled with water and a pot of trin tea. She refills the plate with muffins and replaces the empty teapot and pitcher with the nicely full ones.

Bibi has noticed that Vrian's nager is awfully muddled and not at all pleasant to zlin. She's getting tired, and is really glad that she's still pre-turnover.

Vrian has made large inroads on the edible offerings, although he can't quite recall at the moment just what he's eaten, or how it tasted.

Bart is really pleased by the number on his voucher, Bibi's explanation of the three general class levels and her offer to upgrade him next time.

Jed is also very pleased by the number on his own voucher, and Bibi's similar offer. Seruffin didn't tell him he could do even better with time.

Vrian isn't even thinking about the cash he'll earn, if all goes well. He's too busy wondering just what kind of disaster might strike.

Bibi decides that she's as recovered as she's going to get, for now, gets up and enters the waiting area, leaving Cristal in the donation room.

Vrian is of an age where he views being proved a coward as a far worse disaster than, say, being actually injured during the donation. He stands up before Bibi can call him, with what he intends as a smile on his face, even though it looks more like a grimace.

Vrian: I guess it's my turn, huh?

Bibi smiles at Vrian, hiding her misgivings better than most Simes can.

Vrian walks cautiously towards Bibi, hoping his rubbery knees won't betray him.

Jed and Vrian had a private talk the previous evening, and Jed figures it will be okay to let Vrian go through with it.

Vrian is at the moment more scared of being shown up in front of his family, than he is scared of Bibi or donating.

Jed told Vrian that he won't think any less of him if he backs down at any point, for all the good such assurances will do. Being Vrian's dad is not an easy job.

Vrian does indeed have more ~~ courage ~~ than sense, a dangerous combination when mixed with warped adolescent priorities.

Bibi smiles encouragingly, and keeps her tentacles in.

Vrian alters his trajectory just a few degrees, enough to bring him to the door without quite putting him within arm's reach of Bibi. He's remembering Bibi's penchant for hand-holding during his last visit, and isn't sure he's ready to allow that, in front of witnesses. He knows he's going to have to face that hurdle soon, but he isn't quite sure how he's going to react.

Bibi enters the donation room ahead of Vrian and gestures for him to follow her.

Vrian does so, hoping that his act is good enough to fool his father and brother.

Bibi closes the door, cutting off outside opinion.

Bibi: Hi, Vrian. How are you doing?

Vrian jumps at the soft click, then grins sheepishly.

Vrian: I'm fine.

Vrian's statement is more hopeful than realistic. He's a little less worried with his audience safely out of view, however.

Bibi: Good. Just have a seat there and we'll fill out some forms.

Bibi may be hoping to bore Vrian into calmness. She sits behind the desk and opens the folder she'd prepared. She'd like to get any misunderstandings out of the way first.

Vrian is thrown a little off balance by this request, as paperwork has not been any part of the donations he has witnessed.

Vrian: Forms ?

Bibi: Yes, the Tecton likes us to keep careful records.

Bibi: Vrian, when you were here before... I didn't realize that you thought I couldn't draw selyn from you.

Vrian: Seruffin said I couldn't donate for a month. What else was I supposed to think?

Bibi: I can see how you would have interpreted it that way. It must have seemed like I tricked you somehow. I'm really sorry.

Vrian is ~~ angry ~~, partly at Seruffin for not warning him, and partly at Bibi for deceiving him.

Bibi is not quite as ~~ contrite ~~ as she looks and sounds.

Vrian: What were you doing taking selyn without warning me, anyway? I didn't think channels were supposed to do that, even if it is possible.

Bibi: It was a token amount, just to show you that it wasn't perceptible. I should have realized that you would regard it as you did. You see, I was considering you to be an adult here in Sime Territory, and you gave consent for therapy. I should have explained it more clearly at the time.

Bibi knows that that would have just scared Vrian off.

Vrian's anger is somewhat ~~ mollified ~~ by Bibi's apology, but he isn't completely ready to give up his gripe.

Vrian: Yes, you should have. But I suppose it was just a mistake. ~~ grudging acceptance ~~

Bibi: I don't want to make any more mistakes like that. Will you help me?

Vrian thinks about it moment, then nods.

Bibi: Thank you, Vrian.

Vrian feels very adult for a moment, which helps.

Bibi: Now, it's unusual for an out-T Gen to know when he established, but in your case we have a date. You're twelve now, when will you turn thirteen?

Vrian: Later this summer.

Vrian mentions the date.

Bibi: Good. I already have the information about your other family members here... have you ever had any important illnesses or injuries?

Vrian: I fell off the roof and broke my leg, when I was eight. And I had, hmm, let's see. Mumps and measles, for sure. I don't know about any others.

Bibi: Okay, good. You seemed to be in good health the last time you were here. Are you feeling well today?

Vrian: Yeah, I'm fine.

Vrian's stomach is a little queasy, but he's pretty sure that has nothing to do with any illness. He isn't ready to blame the refreshments table, either. He's a pretty honest kid, at least with himself.

Bibi: Let's move to the transfer lounge, shall we?

Bibi gets up.

Vrian does, too, and makes his way over to the odd piece of furniture.

Bibi sits in the channel's position and gives Vrian another of her charming, dimpled, encouraging smiles.

Bibi: It will be just like the last time, except you'll make a lot more money, and you'll be helping a Sime like your friend Magit.

Vrian: Yeah, okay.

Bibi offers her hands.

Cristal steps from his usual place near Bibi to the appropriate position for managing a donation.

Vrian looks at Bibi's hands for a moment, then reaches for them ~~ tentatively ~~

Cristal raises the ~~ support ~~ level.

Bibi leans on Cristal's support. He has his faults, but in technical matters he's completely reliable.

Vrian has been nerving himself up to this for two weeks, now, with the result that he's having a hard time actually doing it. He lets his hands rest tensely in Bibi's.

Bibi: Good. You're doing well. ~~ lying ~~

Cristal makes those well-schooled motions and soothing murmurs that all well-trained Donors do in well-controlled Wild Gen donation situations.

Bibi: Now I'll just slide my hands into position, and hold your arms with my tentacles, okay?

Vrian: Sure.

Vrian braces himself.

Bibi does so, smiling soothingly.

Vrian flinches.

Bibi: Good. Did you like those sugar cookies? One of the church ladies made them for us. They're her specialty.

Vrian nods in reply, fearing that if he speaks, his voice will come out in the coloratura range.

Cristal damps the nageric disturbance with his brightly shining TN-2 field.

Vrian is, of course, oblivious to Cristal's field management.

Bibi: It's just like the last time, Vrian. I'll touch you with my laterals, and we'll make the lip contact. You tap my arm if you want me to stop, and I'll stop as soon as I can, in a second or two, okay?

Vrian doesn't find the prospect of a repeat performance of his last encounter with Bibi precisely reassuring, but at least it's a known quantity. He clears his throat, which seems unaccountably tight.

Vrian: All...

Vrian is ~~ embarrassed ~~ by the squeak, and clears his throat again.

Vrian: All right..

Bibi: Good. I'll count off the seconds for you with finger taps too. Just sixty seconds, maybe a little less. Ready?

Vrian bobs his head in a jerky nod, not wanting to humiliate himself any more than he already has.

Bibi smiles, tightens her grip, and positions her laterals. She isn't real happy about Vrian's tenseness, but she can work with it. She offers her lips.

Vrian gulps at the feel of the laterals, then leans forward to make lip contact before he can chicken out.

Cristal holds the fields steady for a minute while he pats Vrian gently on the shoulder.

Bibi zlins Vrian carefully, and notes no medical problems. She begins to draw selyn from the surface level at a rate slow enough to be imperceptible despite the resistance caused by the donor's tension. She taps out the seconds...

Vrian's arms are rigid under Bibi's tentacles, pulling against their hold. He has, alas, once more lost count of the taps. He's sure there must have been at least seventy already and wonders if something is going wrong.

Bibi continues to draw. 25... 26 ... 27 ...

Vrian's nerves are starting to crumble under the strain.

Bibi: ...31....32...33

Vrian is quaking like an aspen, his hands spread open as he tries to keep himself from chickening out and tapping Bibi's arm.

Bibi can zlin Vrian's increasing tension, but thinks he'll be more upset if she stops early. So she continues the draw. 38... 39... 40

Vrian's arms jerk harder, and he twists away, although his hands remain spread.

Cristal turns up the support to ~~ absolute maximum ~~, and prepares himself for shen if not shenshay.

Vrian is definitely giving some very strong, very mixed signals. He is also definitely freaking out.

Bibi really doesn't like what she's zlinning. She stops the flow and breaks the contact as fast as she can, then releases Vrian and falls back against Cristal.

Vrian gives a yelp as his mouth is freed, then huddles on his side of the lounge, breathing hard. His arms are clutched protectively against his chest.

Bibi's eyes are closed and she's panting. She starts to shiver and also clutches her arms across her chest.

Bibi: Sosu...

Cristal: Yes, Hajene?

Cristal wraps his arms around Bibi.

Bibi: [in Simelan] Help me.

Bibi shivers against Cristal, trying to stabilize her field.

Cristal focuses his ~~ full attention ~~ on Bibi, so the whole room disappears to him. Feeling his way along, he tries to unkink the tangles in her secondary system. He breathes slowly and steadily, attempting to entrain Bibi's bodily rhythms to his own for the time being.

Bibi opens her eyes and tries to pull it together. She doesn't want to freak Vrian out any worse than he is.

Vrian starts to calm down now that Bibi is no longer in transfer contact.

Cristal wishes he could do something to calm Vrian down further, which would make Bibi's systems less messy, but he doesn't dare let go either physically or nagerically. He begins to hum tunelessly in an attempt to cut the tension on a purely emotional level.

Vrian has a lot of calming to do before he can be considered anything but seriously freaked out, alas.

Bibi wishes she could ask Cristal (in Simelan) to talk to Vrian, but she's afraid he'll say something that will send the boy off screaming.

Bibi: How are you, Vrian? Are you okay now?

Vrian has, alas, proved Bibi absolutely correct: he definitely finds a transfer contact more traumatic when he knows selyn is being taken, whether or not he can feel it happening.

Vrian hadn't gotten around to running a self-assessment yet, but does so.

Vrian: Yeah. I'm okay.

Vrian's voice quavers.

Bibi: Good. Just wait a minute, and I'll write a voucher for you.

Cristal: [in Simelan] Hajene, you're in no condition to move yet.

Bibi: [in Simelan] You're right. I'd like to make a lateral contact with you but I'm afraid it will freak the boy out worse.

Cristal ~~ imagines ~~ the feel of Bibi's laterals on his arms as intensely as he can.

Bibi starts shivering harder.

Cristal: Oops. [in English] Damn. ~~ eases off ~~

Vrian looks at Bibi with a mixture of ~~ alarm and concern ~~

Vrian: Are you cold, Hajene?

Bibi: No, I'm.... It's difficult for me when I have to break off a donation like that. Don't worry. Cristal is helping me.

Vrian: You didn't do it, after all?

Vrian is ~~ appalled ~~

Bibi: I did it. I got most of your surface level.

Cristal: Vrian, Bibi needs to [pauses] touch me with her tentacles in order to start to feel better. But it's important that you don't overreact when you see them. Do you think you can be grown up enough to manage that?

Cristal thinks Vrian may react well to a ~~ direct challenge ~~

Vrian is glad to be handed a manageable Sime-related challenge for once.

Vrian: Yeah, sure. Go ahead.

Vrian speaks confidently, as he has seen channels make lateral contact with other Gens several times, now.

Cristal takes Bibi's hands and pulls them gently away from her vriamic node, and then extends both their forearms.

Bibi lets Cristal take over, gratefully.

Vrian watches with some ~~ curiosity ~~.

Cristal slides up his hands to Bibi's elbows, then moves back down and exerts pressure on the forearm nodes to extrude the handling tentacles, and then the laterals.

Cristal: ~~ firm resistance ~~

Vrian never saw Gerrhonot do anything like this with Seruffin, although of course there was no way to tell what was going on when his bedroom door was shut.

Bibi gets a grip (on Cristal). She leans back against him and relaxes, letting him take over control of her field.

Vrian wonders what exactly Cristal is doing.

Cristal starts to sort out the irregular selyn flows in Bibi's system, starting with the more exposed secondary. He nagerically massages them and unkinks all the braided flows into nice laminar ones again.

Bibi breathes easier and murmurs her thanks.

Cristal presses on, trying to rectify the scrambled primary field as well.

Vrian thinks that Cristal is nothing at all like Gerrhonot, who probably had little choice of alternative careers besides laborer. He wonders why Cristal chose to become a Donor, and why his brother seems to be interested as well.

Bibi: Thank you, Sosu. I think I can manage now.

Vrian can vaguely see how a Gen could become used to donating, given enough time, even though he can't feel it, but even he can see that being a Donor is different.

Cristal slowly dismantles the tentacle contacts and lets Bibi relax in his arms. ~~ warmth ~~ ~~ pride at a job well done ~~

Bibi: Please, can you reach the voucher pad and pen for me?

Cristal does so, though it's a bit of a stretch. ~~ field fades to standard light support ~~

Bibi writes out a voucher and hands it to Vrian.

Vrian looks at it.

Cristal: More than your dreams of avarice, kid.

Vrian looks at Cristal, ~~ stung ~~

Bibi winces.

Vrian: Are you calling me greedy? Just because I want a roof that doesn't leak over my head, and something besides cabbage for supper?

Cristal: No, no. I was joking.

Vrian: When was the last time you went hungry, Mister High-and-Mighty Donor?

Bibi is tempted to drop hypoconscious.

Cristal: Nobody in the Tecton goes hungry, that's true. And no, I wasn't calling you greedy. After all, I make my money the same way you do, eh?

Bibi thinks that if she were working at an in-T Sime Center, she would flag Vrian's chart, so somebody higher rated would get stuck with him next time.

Vrian: of these days, the farm will make a profit.

Vrian much prefers to think of himself as a farmer than a donor. He certainly has the stubbornness, and the insane optimism, demanded by that profession.

Bibi wonders if she should refuse to take Vrian's donation if he shows up in this condition next time. After all, she has other donors to serve today, and she no longer feels entirely up to it, but she'll do it anyway. She knows this will be hard on Vrian, but he's been pretty hard on her.

Cristal: [with what passes for tact, with him] I'm sure it will.

Vrian looks at Cristal ~~ skeptically ~~, searching for any hint of sarcasm.

Cristal: [seriously] The rains come and go, but a healthy Gen makes selyn day in and day out.

Bibi makes a tentacle gesture she hopes Cristal will interpret as "drop it, you're making things worse".

Vrian: So we should farm ourselves?

Cristal: [quietly] No, that's not what I mean.

Vrian: That's sure what it sounded like.

Cristal: It's always good to have alternatives, that's all.

Vrian: Well...It'll let us keep the farm, I guess. Even if the stationmaster decides to call in our note.

Cristal: Exactly. In any case, it's been a rough day, and none of us is exactly at our best.

Vrian is feeling a bit better about the donation thing, now that the being-slimed-by-tentacles part is over, and the payoff is near.

Bibi: Thank you for donating, Vrian. If you can relax more, I'll be able to draw more next time.

Cristal nods encouragingly, but is inwardly ~~ skeptical ~~, mirroring Vrian's emotions without realizing it.

Vrian isn't ready to think about next time, quite yet.

Vrian: Yeah, sure.

Bibi gets up with a bit less than the usual Sime grace and opens the door.

Vrian follows her back out to the reception area.

Bart looks up, hoping things went well for Vrian, and is ~~ alarmed ~~ at the way Bibi looks. He gets up and reaches a hand toward her without thinking. ~~ concern ~~~

Cristal quickly moves to prevent Bart's obvious sympathy from affecting Bibi's field.

Cristal: Bart, I know you're concerned about Bibi, but you aren't trained, and your attention could damage her.

Bart: Oh... I'm sorry.

Bibi: It's all right, Bart. I appreciate your kindness.

Cristal: Right now it's your brother who needs you.

Cristal uses the English word "needs" carefully.

Bart looks at his brother, wondering what happened in there.

Vrian can't help but notice that Bart's immediate concern was for Bibi, whom he never met before today. He wonders what's been happening, that this Donor business could so warp his brother's priorities.

Bart figures that Vrian looks pretty normal, while Bibi looks wiped.

Vrian would be gratified to know how well his acting talent is deceiving his admittedly nagerically distracted brother.

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