Gerrhonot is very glad he and his channel have arrived at Hannard's Ford at last. He's a bit ~~ concerned ~~ about Seruffin. He may be having a bit of entran and the long train trip in retainers seems to have been even harder than usual for him.
Seruffin finds himself surprisingly ~~ happy ~~ at the thought of seeing Bibi again, which has made the long train ride more bearable than it would otherwise have been.
Gerrhonot has stayed close to Seruffin for the short wagon ride to the Sime Center, and is eager to help him take off his retainers as soon as possible.
Bibi comes out of the Sime Center to meet her guests radiating ~~ warmth ~~ welcome ~~ happiness ~~
Seruffin gets down from the wagon with a heartfelt sigh of relief.
Seruffin: Bibi, it's good to see you again!
Bibi: And I'm delighted to see you again too.
Seruffin's nager shows genuine ~~ warmth ~~, with a slightly more personal touch than he intended.
Bibi smiles with ~~ delight ~~ and reaches for Seruffin's hands in greeting.
Seruffin's control isn't perfect, even if he is a First. Especially where his emotions are involved. His hands grip Bibi's warmly, and not just because of the oft-noted high Sime body temperature.
Gerrhonot smiles ~~ happily ~~ at Bibi. He's glad she can make Seruffin happy.
Bibi: Goodness, I should let you get your retainers off first!
Seruffin: It has been a long trip, although now I can look forward to a full five retainer-free days. I hope you don't mind the imposition.
Bibi's heart is beating faster in Seruffin's wonderful field, as she zlins that he really is happy to see her. Well, she's pretty sure it's not just his showfield.
Bibi: Not at all. I'm delighted you can spend time with us again. Please, come in. I'll make some fresh trin for you, and there's lots of good food for Gerrhonot, too.
Bibi sent to some friends in-T for some top quality trin, just to please Seruffin's discerning tastes.
Seruffin: Thank you. I'm looking forward to getting these retainers off.
Gerrhonot: Here, Hajene, I'll help you.
Seruffin: Thank you, Gerrhonot.
Seruffin holds out his right arm so that Gerrhonot can work the catches.
Gerrhonot helps remove the retainers and offers his arms for Seruffin to stretch his abused tentacles around.
Seruffin wraps his tentacles briefly around Gerrhonot's arms, then straightens.
Seruffin: Perhaps this isn't the best place for this. I wouldn't want to upset the passers by.
Seruffin reluctantly retracts his handling tentacles.
Bibi leads the way into the common room via the back door of the Sime Center.
Bibi: Just have a seat, I'll get the trin.
Seruffin smiles wryly.
Seruffin: Actually, I think I'd prefer to stand a while. The tracks were a bit rough, in places, and the baggage car lacked a proper seat.
Bibi: Marvin's told me tales about those baggage cars!
Seruffin: Well, there's no permanent harm done.
Bibi ducks into the kitchen and asks Estragen to get some food together, and to fill the teapot with fresh boiling water. She measures the trin into the pot herself.
Seruffin: We met your Marvin on our way in.
Bibi: What did you think?
Seruffin: He's a charming rogue. I quite liked him.
Bibi can't help but move closer to Seruffin ~~ warmth ~~ happiness ~~
Bibi: He sometimes has me in stitches with his jokes. I like him a lot.
Seruffin: He was a bit defensive, at first. I expect he sometimes runs into distrust from other channels, as a disjunct?
Bibi: ~~ more subdued ~~ Yes, he does. When I told him about your visit, he was quite bitter about how higher rated channels tend to avoid him. I told him you weren't like that.
Seruffin: There are too many channels who forget that the Tecton would never have survived without disjunct channels--and junct ones, for that matter. Many of them were fine people, too.
Bibi: I don't mind the... disjunct character in Marvin's nager. I could well have been the same way. I took a chance on getting to the Nivet embassy. Had I gotten lost, or misjudged the timing...
Bibi: Marvin is a good man. He could have been a very talented healer, if he'd been given the training.
Seruffin: He seems to have come to terms with his life.
Bibi: Yes, but he... well, I understand that most disjuncts have a deep sadness, that they never lose...
Seruffin: Of course they do, if they have any humanity in them.
Seruffin: At least, these days. Just after Unity, it was different.
Bibi: Marvin has that sadness, but he seldom lets people see or zlin it.
Seruffin was of course unable to not zlin it, despite Marvin's best efforts.
Bibi: I wish I could do more for him. Do you think....
Seruffin: You can't undo the past, Bibi, but your acceptance of what he is--all that he is--means a great deal to him.
Bibi: I wonder, if he could find a Donor, or even a channel, who could give him what he needs in transfer... even if only very seldom...
Seruffin: No, Bibi. He would be the first to tell you that would only make his problems worse.
Estragen puts small plates in the center of a tray and surrounds them with warm muffins. She places a dish of butter and a small pot of honey on top of the plates. She picks up the tray with care and heads for the gathering in the other room.
Seruffin: Such a transfer would undermine his disjunction, if he could accept it at all.
Bibi: ~~ sadness ~~ Thank you. I thought you'd know best, with all your experience.
Seruffin: It was tried, in the days after Unity, and the results were usually poor. Especially with a channel whose disjunction was genuine, as Marvin's is.
Seruffin gestures in emphasis, then winces at a cramp.
Estragen places the tray on a table used for just such occasions and heads back to the kitchen to bring in the tray with the tea service.
Gerrhonot is delighted to see the tray of delicious food appear so rapidly. ~~ salivation ~~
Bibi: Those shenned retainers! Can I help you?
Bibi reaches for Seruffin's hand. ~~ concern ~~
Estragen returns with tea tray and sets it on another table next to the first.
Seruffin: It's just a touch of entran. They were keeping us too busy to work much, in New Washington.
Bibi: Would you like to do a few donations this afternoon? Estragen is due to donate.
Estragen swallows hard. She had nearly managed to forget about that. She likes Bibi a lot but well some things are just...
Seruffin: If you don't mind...
Seruffin zlins Estragen's reaction, and continues smoothly
Seruffin: ...and of course, if Estragen herself doesn't mind.
Bibi: Thanks for bringing us the trin and all these goodies, Estragen. Do you think you might like to donate to Hajene Seruffin for a change this time?
Estragen: Uh, uh...
Estragen hesitates. Hajene Bibi is one thing but... She looks at Bibi for some help, but then it was Bibi's suggestion in the first place wasn't it?
Bibi: It's your choice, but Hajene Seruffin is a very high-rated channel.
Bibi smiles encouragingly at Estragen.
Seruffin catches himself zlinning Estragen with well-concealed eagerness, and decides that he's in worse shape than he thought.
Gerrhonot hopes that Estragen will consent. Seruffin really needs work.
Estragen looks from Hajene Bibi to Hajene Seruffin. "High-rated" means nothing to her. This Sime's a stranger. Well, she's met him before but...
Gerrhonot smiles encouragingly at Estragen too.
Seruffin puts on his kindliest expression, the one he uses to win over the kids of Gen Senators during the interminable diplomatic functions where all the Gens stuff their faces.
Estragen smiles back at the other Gen. He's kind of cute.
Seruffin: If you aren't comfortable donating to anyone but Bibi, you don't have to.
Estragen: Okay. [to Gerrhonot] Will you be there when he does it?
Gerrhonot: Sure, Estragen. He's my channel.
Estragen giggles girlishly. Well, she is a girl after all and silly at times in the way of most teenagers.
Seruffin remains quiet, correctly zlinning that Gerrhonot is in a better position to make Estragen feel comfortable than he is, at the moment.
Gerrhonot smiles in an even friendlier and more encouraging manner. While his personal preferences are very much for female channels, he's friendly to almost everybody, and his channel needs work.
Seruffin sometimes finds Gerrhonot's tendency to sing his praises embarrassing, but at other times it can be quite useful.
Estragen: Does that mean he has to do what you say?
Estragen has seen Cristal make Bibi do things some times.
Seruffin: Of course.
Gerrhonot is really glad he didn't have to answer that.
Estragen looks at the channel. He looks harmless enough but she knows that you can't go by that with a Sime.
Estragen: If I ask you to stop you'll stop?
Estragen knows that Hajene Bibi would stop if she asked.
Seruffin: Of course. As soon as I can.
Bibi: Hajene Seruffin is as trustworthy as I am, Estragen. I wouldn't let him work in my Sime Center otherwise.
Seruffin decides it's not the time or the place to point out that all Tecton channels are trustworthy, at least for things like general-class donations. He knows quite a few that he wouldn't trust to fetch him a cup of trin, but that's different.
Seruffin is aware, however, that most Gens of Hannard's Ford have never had a chance to donate to any channel but Bibi.
Estragen: Okay, but I think you should know I get a little nervous about the squig-- er laterals. ~~ewwwww~~
Bibi: Estragen started out as a very nervous donor, but she's been doing better every time since.
Bibi figures Seruffin can interpret that euphemistic description.
Seruffin: That's a very common reaction, Estragen. Even some Gens who grow up in Sime Territory feel that way, when they first start donating.
Seruffin generally prefers Gens who are more comfortable with the process, but he's in no condition to be picky.
Estragen: Well, just so you know. You want to do it now or maybe later?
Seruffin zlins Estragen to determine her preference.
Bibi: I think Sosu Gerrhonot would like to have a bite to eat first, and Hajene Seruffin and I would like some trin. Thanks for preparing all this good food so fast for us.
Estragen remembers the ribbons she's been eying at the mercantile. If she gets done now she can get to the store before it closes.
Estragen: I'm ready to go when you get done eating.
Seruffin: Of course. And thank you.
Estragen smiles at Seruffin and Bibi and smiles extra big at Gerrhonot and takes her leave until later.
Bibi pours three cups of trin and offers one to Seruffin.
Bibi: Shall we sit, then?
Seruffin takes the cup of tea, letting one handling tentacle brush Bibi's.
Bibi gestures toward the sofa. A ~~ thrill ~~ runs through her at Seruffin's touch.
Seruffin decides that the couch is padded enough not to aggravate the bruises left by the baggage car's packing crates.
Seruffin: So, Bibi, what is the news from Hannard's Ford?
Bibi: It's been quite an interesting month, over all, especially with regard to the Gumgeeville people.
Seruffin: I hope there's been no trouble?
Seruffin tried hard to avoid complications, but wasn't sure that he'd managed it.
Bibi: Well, yes and no, but mostly no.
Seruffin is ~~ provisionally relieved ~~
Bibi: Virla came to visit Magit, and it went very well for both of them.
Bibi: Then Vrian Mullins showed up, in quite a state of adolescent angst about whether feeling nervous about donating proved he was a coward.
Seruffin: Oh, dear. I'd hoped that the work I did with him had taken the edge off of that.
Bibi: Well, I felt the same way after I fed him, and talked to him, and walked him all the way through a dress rehearsal of a donation. I even took three dynopters so he'd have the complete experience.
Seruffin: How did he take it?
Bibi: Very well, I thought, although he seemed upset that I drew without warning him. He really wasn't afraid of me. It was like he was afraid of the idea of donating more than the reality, and mostly afraid of what people might think of him.
Seruffin has to ~~ admire ~~ any Second who would sit through the sort of nageric chaos he knows Vrian Mullins can generate, for as long as such an exercise must have taken.
Bibi: Yes, I guess I deserve a bit of admiration for that session!
Bibi: Next, Mr. Gegg showed up, wanting more information about his son's potential to change over.
Seruffin sobers up at the thought.
Bibi: Now that was a strange mixture of suspicion, Simephobia, hope, and fear! He seems to think that you have some occult power to seduce Gens into donation.
Seruffin is ~~ quite concerned ~~
Seruffin: That could be very dangerous, if the idea spreads. Why should he think such a thing, though?
Bibi: I told him that you're a very accomplished diplomat, with a diplomat's skills at persuasion, and that I find you very impressive myself. Apparently, he's got this idea that every Gen who came near you ended up donating, and everyone who consulted you about their children ended up with a child in your "clutches".
Bibi: Generalizing from a sample of one, Bart, since you had Magit in your clutches long before you met Virla.
Seruffin: Did he accept your explanation?
Bibi: It's hard to say. Apparently Jed has been trying to reason with him, according to Jed at least. He did show up with Mik, Virla, Jed, Bart and Vrian at the end of the month, though.
Seruffin: To try donating himself?
Seruffin's concern this time is for Bibi, who really shouldn't be subjected to a suspicious, paranoid Gen.
Bibi: Oh, no! To bring Mik in for me to check out, or talk to. But it was a pretty exciting morning, nonetheless. First Virla donated, but that was surprisingly easy. She was quite relaxed, and although I agree that that sparkly nageric effect is really weird, she gave me no trouble.
Seruffin: No loss of consciousness?
Bibi: No. She offered to lie down to donate, which may have helped. She seemed to really trust me, and she had that sacrificial attitude some out-T donors have - "this is for my daughter, do to me as you will". She seemed to think it helped her joint problems too.
Seruffin: It's the small things that often win a donor.
Bibi: Yes. She's become quite the advocate for the Sime Center. She hopes to recruit more donors for me in Gumgeeville.
Bibi: Then I spoke to Mik. ~~ concern ~~
Seruffin: Any sign of establishment or changeover yet?
Bibi: He seems to be developing an overwhelming conviction that he's going to change over, but nothing to zlin yet, and no feeling of when it will happen.
Seruffin: How are his parents taking it?
Bibi: I made the same offer to him that I had to his father, to arrange for him to board on a local farm. Mr. Gegg said that his wife wouldn't go for it, and that they needed Mik's work on their own farm.
Seruffin: They wouldn't accept that solution?
Bibi: I told Mik I'd loan him money to cover a replacement for his work and that it was up to him to save his own life. I hope I've gotten him thinking constructively instead of just fatalistically bemoaning his fate. I hope his parents will consent. ~~ sadness ~~ frustration ~~~
Seruffin: If Mik is a channel, he may well decide to take stronger action once he knows changeover is imminent. As you did.
Bibi: I think Jed will work on the Gegg family as well. Mik wants to come here, but he claims that his father will haul him back home.
Seruffin: It's the mother who's the key in that household, I believe.
Bibi: Yes. Jed had quite a bit to say about that. He thinks Gegg should hand his wife the rifle and tell her that shooting Mik is her responsibility.
Seruffin: If she's the sort of person I think she is, she would do it, too. If she felt it was the right thing to do, of course.
Bibi: I hope that now I've talked to them, they'll consider it, and take action soon. I just hope we don't have the kind of tragedy that's so common out-T, especially if it's Bart who tries to help Mik get here.
Seruffin winces at the thought.
Seruffin: Bart's Donor instinct is continuing to manifest itself?
Bibi: I agree with you that he has the talent to be a very good Donor. He had no difficulty controlling his urge to push selyn at me once he understood what I meant. His nager has a very beautiful character when he thinks about becoming a Donor. His father is in favor of it, and he's pretty nearly convinced, himself.
Seruffin: Let's hope he doesn't take it into his head to try being one, before he's ready.
Bibi: ~~ fervent hope ~~ Oh, yes. He may be coming here for a few days on and off as he can be spared from the farm work. I gave him some things to read, including that "What Every New Sime Should Know" book we have for new changeovers.
Seruffin: You said that Vrian came with the rest? Did he decide to donate, after all?
Bibi: Oh, yes. Oh, my.
Seruffin: Was it bad? ~~ concerned ~~
Bibi: If anything, he was even more anxious and desperate to look like a "real man" than the time before.
Seruffin: ~~ sympathy ~~
Bibi: I often tell nervous donors to tap my arm to indicate that they want me to stop. It gives them a feeling of control and helps ease their fear. Well Vrian wouldn't tap me, but he got so tense and freaked out that I broke off early anyway.
Seruffin: ~~ concern ~~
Bibi: It was a bit hard on me but Cristal helped me recover quite well.
Seruffin: I'm surprised he didn't ask you to stop, if it was that bad.
Bibi: It's this out-T male thing. They have to prove that they can do things like this... it's hard to explain.
Seruffin wonders idly if the same factor was at work during the first Faith Day.
Bibi: If they don't admit their fear, it's as if they are fearless in others' eyes. Of course, that's not much help to us people with laterals.
Seruffin: No, it isn't.
Bibi: So they all think all the other guys are fearless, while they're all just hiding their fear from each other.
Bibi: I'd like to refuse Vrian's donation if he shows up in that state again, but it would be hard for both him and his family.
Seruffin: Was Vrian satisfied with his performance? Or did he leave thinking that he'd appeared as a coward?
Seruffin knows that a Gen's perception of a donation, after the fact, is often more critical to a Sime Center's relationship with the Gen community than the actual event.
Bibi: I think he was fairly satisfied. He talked to Estragen, of all people, and she apparently reassured him quite a bit. I hope he doesn't get all upset when he finds out I offered to upgrade his father and brother! Taking Jed's donation was a snap. I really enjoyed talking to him, too
Seruffin: I didn't think Vrian would be quite that much of a handful for you.
Seruffin is ~~ apologetic ~~
Bibi: Well, young teens are very unpredictable.
Seruffin: Yes. I hope that he'll settle down a bit, for you.
Bibi: I hope so too. More tea?
Bibi wonders if Seruffin has noticed the improved quality of the trin offering.
Seruffin: Thank you. It does seem odd that Vrian's more nervous about the general concept of donating than of the channels he meets. Usually it's the opposite, in my experience.
Seruffin sips at his tea with ~~ pleasure ~~
Bibi: I hate to say it, but I think he thinks too much for his own good, poor lad.
Bibi: The first time he came here, he was very disappointed that you were already gone. Perhaps if he had had another chance to talk to you... Oh, well.
Seruffin: It's better that he learn to trust you, Bibi. As a practical matter, he's going to have to learn to work with you, if he's going to donate.
Bibi: You're welcome to read all their files. Oh, and our copy of Magit's as well. Her turnover was frightening.
Seruffin: ~~ concern ~~ What happened?
Bibi: I'm not sure of the details, but she seemed to hallucinate, then she passed out, and then she started voiding. I managed to stop the voiding with lateral contact and when she woke up she seemed practically normal again. I was in need, but unfortunately my sensitivity isn't very high even so.
Seruffin shakes his head.
Seruffin: She and her mother are quite a pair. Enough to keep a Farris channel interested.
Bibi: I hope if Virla recruits her friends and relations to come here to donate and bring their children in changeover, we don't find that a whole population of these people exists in Gumgeeville and environs!
Seruffin winces at the thought.
Bibi: Maybe I could get a Farris channel assigned here as my assistant? ~~ facetious ~~
Seruffin: Well, if there are that many "interesting" cases, the Tecton might have to send one. Still, one can hope that won't be necessary.
Bibi: Let's hope the two of them are unique then and that Magit is in good hands, since Virla seems to be no trouble for me now.
Seruffin: Yes. Is there anything I should know about young Estragen, that might make the change of channels easier for her?
Bibi: She seems to have an aversion to the feel of laterals. It's not so much a fear of donating now or a fear of the danger of lateral contact, than the actual texture of laterals against her skin.
Seruffin: So it's the ronaplin?
Bibi: Partly. I think she may have some kind of mild phobia about worms or leeches or something that is evoked by laterals.
Seruffin raises an eyebrow.
Bibi: She calls laterals "squigglies".
Seruffin: How is she with handling tentacles?
Bibi: They don't seem to bother her anywhere near as much, especially now that she's been donating for a year. She trusts me, and is rather embarrassed at her nervousness.
Seruffin: It zlinned like her trust of you doesn't necessarily extend to other channels, yet. Have you any recommendations on how to win her confidence?
Bibi: You're the only other channel she's met, apart from Marvin. She's still rather childish, as are many young Gens out-T, and she may find a distinguished gentleman like you a bit intimidating. Perhaps a sort of jolly grandfather act might help?
Bibi blushes. She really shouldn't be so outspoken, but there's something about being in Seruffin's field that lowers her inhibitions.
Bibi: Uh... I apologize.. that didn't come out quite as I intended. ~~ embarrassment ~~
Seruffin considers himself far too old to adjust to being a "distinguished gentleman", no matter how often he's been told that he resembles one, lately.
Seruffin: I think I can manage to be informal.
Seruffin: You know, your situation here is similar in some ways to the pre-Unity Householdings.
Bibi: How so?
Seruffin: Their tradition was for the Sectuib to take the first few donations of any Gens they could afford to purchase. It wasn't only to make sure that their most capable channel was handling it, either. Even if there were problems, it built a solid foundation of trust between the captive Gen and the Sectuib who would technically own him. A trust which would have been impossible, if the same Gen had been shuttled between several channels.
Bibi: That's an interesting thought. I certainly feel that I have a personal relationship with most of my donors, especially the women.
Seruffin: It was particularly important for the Householdings, because these Gens were donating under duress, not voluntarily, and many didn't believe that it was possible for a Sime to take selyn without killing. It makes me very glad I'm living in more civilized times.
Bibi thinks that Seruffin can clearly remember the uncivilized times before Unity. ~~ sympathy ~~ comfort ~~
Bibi: I'm willing to give you as much work as I have available while you're here. You can serve Driver in transfer the day after tomorrow, and there should be a trickle of donors. I'm sorry I don't have more work for you.
Seruffin: You are very generous. I hope it won't cause you any discomfort?
Bibi: I should be all right. I'm used to the level of work here and seldom have any problems with entran. If I do, it will give Cristal a chance to practice his skills at helping me.
Seruffin: If he's not up to the task, Gerrhonot is quite good at entran outfunctions.
Seruffin looks at Bibi closely.
Seruffin: Sosu Cristal hasn't been causing you any more trouble, has he?
Bibi: No, he's been doing better. I think your talking to him helped quite a bit.
Seruffin: I'm glad.
Bibi: So am I. Thank you. ~~ gratitude ~~ affection ~~~
Seruffin: Has his attitude towards your out-Territory clients improved?
Bibi: Yes, I think so. He's trying to be helpful, but unfortunately, he does still say the wrong thing quite often, but at least he's doing so with better intentions.
Seruffin: I hope that hasn't caused any serious trouble.
Bibi: Not really. I can manage.
Seruffin: Aren't you due for a rotation soon?
Bibi: I'm overdue and then some, but I think now I'll take the next offer. I just hope I can get a good locum to take over here while I'm gone.
Seruffin: Your efforts here have been attracting attention. I don't think your superior would care to risk sending in someone incompetent.
Seruffin: Little as that is likely to reassure some of your donors, if young Estragen is typical.
Bibi: Uh, have you been... attracting attention here on my behalf?
Bibi starts to ~~ worry ~~ that if she goes in-T for a rotation, and her donors are unwilling to work with another channel, she'll be reprimanded for not training them to Tecton expectations.
Seruffin: Bibi, I know that Controller Ravvan can be difficult to work under, but I don't think he's going to be stupid enough to choose you to harass. Not with your record.
Bibi laughs ruefully.
Seruffin: And if he does...well, you aren't defenseless, and you don't have to let him trample all over you, or what you've accomplished here.
Bibi: Actually, I've never met the man. He hasn't given me any trouble. All our interactions have been formal, routine and in writing.
Seruffin: Well, then, there's nothing to worry about, is there?
Seruffin did his attention-attracting several ranks up the Tecton ladder higher than a mere Assistant District Controller of an obscure border District.
Bibi: He has his constraints too - he'd have a limited choice of channels to send out here to replace me. I'll just have to hope for the best.
Bibi wonders how much of Seruffin's efforts on her behalf are due to his professional respect for her accomplishments, and how much for his personal interest in her. She wonders if he knows, himself.
Seruffin: Any channel who would be sent out to take sole charge of an out-Territory Sime Center, even temporarily, will at least be of proven competence. Your donors will be safe enough, even if some of them won't be happy about it. Speaking of which...
Seruffin zlins towards the kitchen.
Bibi is finding that she's less overwhelmed by Seruffin's sec presence than previously, but she still finds him very attractive.
Seruffin: We've probably kept young Estragen waiting long enough.
Bibi: Yes, I suppose so.
Seruffin is glad that Bibi is more comfortable with him this time; it feels less like taking advantage of someone who's too starved for nageric interaction to care who it's with.
Seruffin: Gerrhonot, are you ready?
Gerrhonot: Sure, Hajene.
Gerrhonot is very happy that his channel is enjoying his talk with Bibi.
Bibi: Seruffin... I'm glad you've come here again.... ~~ affection ~~~
Seruffin: It's good to be back.
Bibi smiles too, and ~~ daringly ~~ brushes Seruffin's cheek with a handling tentacle.
Seruffin lets his nager reach out to enfold Bibi's briefly, then turns towards the kitchen, and Estragen.