Seruffin looks around the kitchen/dining/living room of the Mullins house with something which might have been nostalgia, if the place weren't quite so dingy. He's at least very glad to have a temporary refuge where he can remove his retainers and rest. He finds his tolerance for long hours in the torture devices isn't improving with age.
Gerrhonot returns from applying the Sime Territory sign to the outside door and offers to help Seruffin remove the retainers.
Seruffin: It is good of you to offer us hospitality, Bart. I hope your parents and brother won't be inconvenienced?
Seruffin holds out one arm, so that Gerrhonot can reach the latches.
Bart: Ma's off visiting her sister all day, Dad's working on a road crew to pay the taxes, and Vrian's gone fishing with some of his friends. So it's okay.
Bart watches ~~ attentively ~~ as Seruffin's reddened arms and compressed tentacles emerge from the retainers.
Seruffin carefully extends his handling tentacles, wincing at the stiffness.
Bart thinks it's awful that a channel has to suffer like that, just to be out-T. ~~ compassion ~~
Gerrhonot sets the retainers on the table and offers his arms.
Seruffin: Thank you, Gerrhonot.
Seruffin rests his arms lightly on Gerrhonot's, and leans for a moment on his Donor's nager.
Gerrhonot: Um, Bart, it helps Hajene if he can stretch his tentacles on my arms like this.
Gerrhonot projects some ~~ encouragement ~~ to Seruffin.
Bart: Uh, please go ahead, Hajene. I don't mind. ~~ fascinated ~~ desire to help ~~
Seruffin spares a bit of attention to zlin Bart's reaction.
Bart realizes what's happening. ~~ embarrassment ~~
Bart: I'm sorry, I'm uh interfering with my uh nager, right?
Seruffin notes that Bart's nascent Donor talent seems to be less tentative each time he zlins it.
Bart tries to not do it.
Seruffin: Yes, a bit, although since Gerrhonot is above mid field, and you have donated recently, the effect is minimal.
Bart: I'm sorry.
Gerrhonot increases his ~~ protection ~~, in case Bart is actually annoying Seruffin.
Bart gets up to see how the kettle is doing, and to distract himself. He fetches the tea pot and adds some mint leaves, trying not to let his attention focus on Seruffin. It's surprisingly hard. ~~ embarrassment ~~ attraction ~~ struggle ~~
Seruffin: Bart, your nager is getting more responsive. Even if you don't want to become a professional Donor like Gerrhonot, you might want to work with Bibi a bit, and learn how to control it.
Bart: Yes. She wants me to come there whenever my dad can spare me on the farm. I really want to.
Seruffin: It would be a good way for you to to see whether you like working with channels.
Bart keeps his back turned, futilely hoping that it will keep his field from doing anything impolite.
Bart: I... I felt the same way with her as I felt about you.. and now I feel it even stronger with you. I.. I can't describe it in words...
Bart turns around but averts his face.
Bart: Ma isn't too happy about it but Dad says I should go ahead and try Donor training if I want. He says I can always quit if I don't like it, and it will be an adventure. I'll be sixteen in the fall. I thought maybe after we get the last potatoes and stuff in I'd go do it. ~~ attraction to Seruffin ~~ yearning ~~ confusion ~~ frustration ~~
Seruffin can zlin Bart's frustration.
Seruffin: Bart, your nager follows where your attention is focused, not where you're looking. Come here a moment. Let me show you something.
Seruffin signals Gerrhonot to lighten his support, and holds out his hands to Bart, handling tentacles spread in invitation.
Gerrhonot carefully manages the fields as Seruffin indicates.
Bart approaches,~~ eagerly ~~ offering his own hands.
Seruffin takes Bart's hands, letting his handling tentacles wrap loosely around them, less because it's necessary for what he wants to do, than because they're still stiff and it feels good to hold a Gen.
Bart's nager flows out and tries to engage Seruffin's without Bart having a clue what's happening or what to do about it.
Seruffin: All right, Bart. Let your attention focus on me.
Seruffin lets his own nager carefully engage with Bart's, on a fairly superficial level.
Bart looks at Seruffin's face and thinks about how he feels about him. ~~ attraction ~~ yearning ~~
Seruffin is trusting in Bart's relatively low field, and Gerrhonot's protective instincts, to protect him if Bart goes overboard.
Bart feels something loosen up inside. ~~ desire to help ~~ fumbling support ~~ compassion ~~ desire to give ~~~
Bart: Is this okay? I'm not hurting you, am I? ~~ caution ~~ concern ~~
Seruffin: No, you're not hurting me. I've let your nager engage mine, by turning my attention on you, the way yours is on me. How does it feel, to you?
Bart: I.. I think I can feel something. Warm. Good.
Seruffin takes a moment to reinforce his own control, reminding himself that Bart doesn't even know what control is.
Bart: I.. Hajene... I feel like this is something I should be doing... I guess that sounds stupid, but... I just... I just want to ... ~~ overwhelming attraction ~~ affection ~~ desire to interact more deeply ~~
Seruffin: Good. You're responding very well, and you're not trying to hide your feelings. That's something that many out-Territory Donor candidates have a lot of trouble doing. Now I'm going to move my nager out of phase with yours. That will break the linkage.
Bart: ~~ please don't ~~~ Uh, okay.
Seruffin does so, deftly so that Bart's nager won't follow him.
Bart: ~~ mild shock ~~ cold ~~ emptiness ~~ Huh. I sure felt that!
Seruffin: You have very good sensitivity, particularly given that you haven't spent much time around Simes. Now, I'm going to let the link form again. Ready?
Bart: Yes. ~~ eager ~~
Seruffin lets his nager link with Bart's again.
Bart: I did feel you do it! ~~ happiness ~~ gratitude ~~
Seruffin is aware that he's being a bit hypocritical working with Bart this way, after he scolded Marvin for taking chances, but he feels Bart is worth some effort to recruit.
Gerrhonot is ~~ delighted ~~ that this is going so well, but doesn't relax his ~~ careful vigilance ~~ for Seruffin's safety.
Bart is luxuriating in the unique pleasure of engaging fields with a First Order channel. He hasn't a clue how to describe it, except that it feels just incredibly good and right.
Seruffin: All right, Bart. See if you can keep the good feeling, but cut down on the urgency. I'm here; you don't have to give me anything to keep me.
Seruffin hopes this is an explanation that will make sense to Bart.
Bart tries to figure out how to do that. He concentrates on the ~~ pleasure ~~ and tries to think only in the present moment, how ~~ good ~~ it feels right now without thought for how to make it continue.
Seruffin doubts Bart has any idea that he's been trying to seduce Seruffin into a transfer.
Bart closes his eyes and sighs ~~ really good ~~~
Seruffin: That's almost it. Keep it relaxed. There's no hurry to do anything.
Bart imagines that he's a trained Donor, and can have this any time. ~~ calm ~~ pleasure ~~ happiness ~~
Seruffin: That's right. Now you're giving me a nice, level support, the kind that Gerrhonot uses to keep me comfortable when I'm not working.
Bart: I had no idea it was like this.
Gerrhonot smiles at Bart.
Seruffin may be exaggerating a bit, but Bart's enthusiastic efforts are a decent try, for a kid who doesn't even really know what a nager is, much less how to manipulate one.
Seruffin: Do you want to try something else?
Bart: Yes. Tell me what to do.
Bart's nager overshoots a bit with ~~ eagerness ~~ and ~~ anticipation ~~
Seruffin braces himself against it, trying not to be overwhelmed.
Seruffin: Whoa, there. Calm down. See if you can get back to that nice, relaxed linkage.
Bart: Uh, sorry.
Bart tries to do it. ~~ embarrassed ~~
Seruffin: That's all right. You're new at this.
Bart: ~~ not as calm ~~~
Seruffin: Just take a few deep breaths and relax a bit.
Seruffin smiles in encouragement.
Bart does so. He thinks about how wonderful and unexpected it is to have Seruffin here teaching him like this. ~~ gratitude ~~ happiness ~~ nageric attraction ~~ calm ~~
Bart smiles back. ~~ calm ~~ happy ~~
Bart: I think I've almost got it? ~~ calm ~~ happy ~~ supportive ~~
Seruffin: Yes, you do. Now, do you see those red marks the retainers left on my handling tentacles?
Bart: Yes. ~~ compassion ~~ desire to help ~~ Uh, did I lose it? ~~ calm ~~ desire to help ~~ uncertain ~~ I'm sorry...
Seruffin spares a moment to check that Gerrhonot is paying close attention, ready to intervene if Bart's inexperienced fumblings appear likely to do any damage.
Gerrhonot's attention is closely focused on his channel, ready to take up the slack.
Bart takes a deep breath, looks into Seruffin's eyes and tries again. ~~ calm ~~ focused ~~ supportive ~~
Seruffin: I'm fine, Bart. Those welts are uncomfortable, but hardly life-threatening. However, you can make them feel better.
Bart tries to keep his nager steady in the requested pattern despite feeling an ~~ eagerness to help ~~
Seruffin doesn't usually train Donors, much less out-Territory Donors who never saw a Sime before six weeks ago.
Seruffin: Good, you didn't lose control as much, that time.
Bart: I want to help you, if I can. I'm afraid I might hurt you though. ~~calm ~~supportive ~~ concerned ~~
Seruffin: As long as you can stay calm, you won't hurt me.
Bart: I'll try my best, Hajene ~~ calm ~~ determined ~~ supportive ~~
Seruffin: I want you to try focusing your attention on one of the welts. You can touch it with a finger if you want; sometimes that helps the focus.
Bart selects a welt in easy finger reach and touches it lightly. He concentrates on the texture of the skin, how it differs from the skin of Seruffin's hand, and how the reddened area differs from unmarked tentacle skin.
Bart: Uh, like that?
Bart's nager starts to drift toward ~~ compassion ~~ for poor Seruffin's hard life as a channel traveling out-T. He catches himself doing it, and tries to pull back towards ~~ calm ~~ with eventual success.
Seruffin: Good. Do you see what's happening to the welt?
Bart: It doesn't look as red. Did I do that?
Seruffin: Yes, you did. The effect is strongest when you can stay very focused on a small area.
Bart feels an ~~ overwhelming gratitude ~~ to Seruffin, and then tries to repress it. His field fluctuates and returns, a bit raggedly to ~~ calm ~~.
Gerrhonot detects something happening and reinforces his ~~ support ~~ and projection of ~~ safety ~~ steadiness ~~ reliability ~~
Bart: It's hard to keep the other thing steady at the same time. Uh, can I do some more?
Seruffin zlins Bart's nager, and notes the raggedly control with ~~ concern ~~.
Bart tries to smooth it out and keep it steady. ~~ calm ~~ supportive ~~
Seruffin is a diplomat, and a channel, but that doesn't mean he completely lacks a sense of self-preservation.
Seruffin: You're getting tired. I think Gerrhonot had better work on the rest of them.
Seruffin's tone is kindly, but firm.
Bart: Uh, okay.
Bart tries to disengage his attention from Seruffin, but his Donor's talent isn't cooperating.
Seruffin: This time, I want you to break the link. All you have to do is turn your attention firmly elsewhere. Like to that teakettle that's boiling over.
Bart: Won't that hurt you?
Seruffin: No, because I'll be doing the same thing. Ready?
Bart: I guess so.
Bart watches Seruffin for some kind of cue.
Seruffin: On the count of three. One, two, three.
Seruffin waits for Bart's attention to start to shift, then breaks the link firmly.
Bart turns and looks at the kettle. At the same time he unconsciously tightens his grip on Seruffin's hands, which he had been holding only very lightly. He realizes what he's doing, looks at the joined hands and loosens his grip.
Bart: I'm sorry. I didn't mean to grab you like that. ~~ chagrin ~~
Seruffin: It's all right.
Seruffin turns to his Donor.
Gerrhonot looks ~~ attentive ~~ as he continues the ~~ steady ~~ reliable ~~ support he's been providing throughout.
Seruffin: Gerrhonot, would you like to show Bart how a trained Donor handles retainer-kinked tentacles?
Gerrhonot: Um, sure, Hajene.
Gerrhonot sits next to Seruffin and places his hands over the tentacle sheaths of one arm. ~~ kindness ~~ comfort ~~ wellness ~~ He smiles at Seruffin. ~~ happiness ~~
Seruffin leans unobtrusively on Gerrhonot's nager, although he is careful to hide his ~~ relief ~~ from Bart.
Gerrhonot doesn't have to consciously focus on Seruffin's flesh, he can just do it by feeling it.
Gerrhonot: How's that?
Seruffin was pretty sure that he could successfully handle Bart, or he wouldn't have tried, but he feels much safer under Gerrhonot's expert care.
Seruffin: Much better, thank you, Gerrhonot.
Gerrhonot strokes the tentacle sheaths affectionately, and works on the other arm.
Seruffin holds the arm Gerrhonot has finished with out so that Bart can see it.
Seruffin: You see? Nothing heals a Sime faster than a Gen who wants to help.
Bart's emotions begin to churn, and he tries to control them. He ~~ longs ~~ to be able to do what Gerrhonot did with all his heart. He's tremendously ~~ grateful ~~ to Seruffin for awakening his talent and giving him this lesson in how to use it.
Bart looks away and tries to avert his attention from Seruffin and Gerrhonot.
Bart: I'll make the tea.
Seruffin: It works the other way, too. Gens heal faster when a Sime focuses on the injury.
Bart gets up and pours boiling water into the pot, trying to come back to the ~~ calm ~~ state.
Bart: It's like Gerrhonot said, about his Church -- Simes and Gens are meant to help each other, aren't they?
Bart finds himself crying.
Bart: Hajene, I .. have to do this stuff... I... just.. have.. have to...
Seruffin resists the urge to hug Bart; that wouldn't be wise, nagerically speaking.
Bart turns away and puts his face in his hands.
Bart: I would never have known, if you hadn't come here.
Seruffin removes his arm from Gerrhonot's care and nods towards Bart.
Bart: I'm sorry, I don't have my emotions under control...
Gerrhonot puts his arm around Bart.
Gerrhonot: Hajene would like to do this, but he can't right now.
Seruffin: You'll learn control. You have plenty of time.
Bart turns into Gerrhonot's arms and hugs him.
Gerrhonot hugs back.
Gerrhonot: It's wonderful, Bart. I'm so happy for you.
Bart: Thank you. I'm all right now..
Bart isn't as obsessed with displays of manliness as his brother, but he was raised out-T.
Gerrhonot: Don't worry, Bart. In-T, it's okay for men to cry. It's not like here.
Seruffin is feeling a little guilty, knowing that by giving Bart even a short lesson in Donoring, he's made it even more unlikely that the boy will be able to choose anything else as a career.
Seruffin: Bart, you would make a fine Donor, if that's what you decide to do with your life. But you should know, it's not an easy profession. The hours are long, and the Tecton doesn't give you a choice about where you work, or with whom.
Bart: Dad says every job has got parts you don't like. I think about the only thing he liked about the pulp mill job was he got paid and some of the guys were good to work with. But some of them were real jerks, too, especially the foreman.
Seruffin: There are some Tecton Controllers who are just as unpleasant as that foreman, and they would have a great deal more authority over your life.
Bart: There aren't any jobs around here. I can't afford to apprentice to a trade. I don't want to work in some lousy factory in the city.
Seruffin: Is it factories you object to? Or cities?
Bart: Both I guess. I don't know much about either. I've never been anywhere. Maybe I'd like a city. I'd sure like to see one.
Bart takes a deep breath and tries for ~~ calm ~~.
Seruffin: Donors travel a great deal, moving from channel to channel. It's hard to keep up with your family, when you live like that.
Bart: If I had a factory job, I'd never get home either. Hajene, I want to try it. Like my dad says, I can always quit. But if I don't do it, try to do it, I'll always know I've turned down something... something...
Seruffin wonders just how honest he can afford to be. He thinks it over, and decides that not being honest is potentially even more dangerous.
Seruffin: Bart, if you decide to train as a Donor, and you have the talent for it that I believe you do, you may not have the option of quitting.
Bart looks up. ~~ puzzled ~~
Seruffin: Donor training doesn't just involve learning to control your nager. There are physical changes that take place, as well. Increased selyn production is part of it, and development of that part of you that keeps wanting to reach out to me. Once you've become used to using that talent, you may find it almost impossible to give it up, even if you hate everything else about the job.
Bart: Does that happen to very many Donors, that they hate it but can't stop?
Seruffin: Not many. But those who do suffer for the rest of their lives, no matter what they eventually decide to do.
Bart, for all his level-headedness, is still an adolescent. On the one hand, he can't possibly be that kind of loser. On the other, he's already 'ruined' or committed by his experience.
Bart: Hajene, I... can't stop now. If I don't do it, I'll never forgive myself. I can't just go in every month and donate, and not let my field interact and pretend I don't have any talent. Even with Hajene Marvin, I just felt so strongly...
Seruffin stiffens, looking at Bart ~~ alertly ~~
Seruffin: Hajene Marvin? What were you doing with Hajene Marvin?
Bart: Uh. Yesterday, when he came to town... there were all these stupid rumors, but I figured it was a channel and Donor, not some crazy Raider and the guy who captured him or anything. So I thought since most people here are afraid of Simes, and I'm not, I better go see what was happening and if I could do anything to help him. I mean, not nagerically, but in general.
Seruffin nods grimly, and makes a "go on" gesture with two handling tentacles.
Bart: Well, I thought they might hurt him, in jail. They don't know anything about Simes except to shoot them - they might do something that would hurt him without realizing it!
Bart isn't, of course, thinking that the Sime had a Donor with him, whose job it is to protect him. His Donor talent has a mind of its own, sometimes.
Bart: Well, I went in, and there was nobody in front, so I went back there, and he had his retainers off but his Donor was gone.
Seruffin has been involved in enough interrogations--er, "investigations"--to know the value of getting the whole story, before he asks for further clarification.
Bart: And he had that poor girl there. She looked dead, but she was still breathing a little. He did something to her so she would sleep and be able to hold off longer. And, uh, he had Sanda there too. He bent the bars so she could climb in the window. She could have come around the front like me, but I guess she didn't think to check that she could get away with it first.
Seruffin: No, she didn't.
Seruffin's tone is becoming grim.
Bart: I really felt sorry for him. He looked really stressed out.
Seruffin: I'm sure he was.
Bart: He was afraid the girl was going to die, and he didn't have any selyn to save her. So I told him that Sanda was only twelve. Like, she tries to act older, but I didn't know if she was fooling him or not, because he doesn't know her. He said he really needed to get some selyn, and she was willing. She sure looked willing. She really wanted to do it.
Seruffin makes a mental note: Marvin was specifically told of Sanda's unsuitable age, and had Bart present to get him a more suitable donor.
Bart: I told him that Hajene Bibi said she could upgrade me, so even if I was low field, he could take my GN-2 and GN-1, but he said he didn't have enough experience upgrading donors. Sanda started arguing with me that she could do it. So I figured, this guy is a channel, he must know what he's doing, or he wouldn't try it, right?
Seruffin: Hajene Marvin's experience taking donations of any sort is...very limited.
Seruffin is too canny a diplomat to admit to "nonexistent".
Bart: So I figured all I could do was offer to help, if there was some way I could. When I came in, he said I must be Bart Mullins, because he heard about me from from Hajene Bibi and he could zlin my Donor talent.
Seruffin can't think of a situation more prone to sudden disaster: an untrained channel, an untrained Donor, and a completely inexperienced out-Territory donor.
Bart: He told me I shouldn't try to help him nagerically because without training I might do more harm than good, so I should just concentrate on Sanda.
Seruffin: To keep her calm?
Bart: I don't know. I guess so. I didn't think Gens could affect other Gens that way. She was mostly excited and eager. I don't think she was really afraid at all. He reminded me a couple of times not to direct my attention to him, but it was hard not to.
Seruffin: If she was nervous underneath her excitement, the presence of another Gen could well have had a calming effect.
Bart: Well, she knew I'd donated, and was really proud that she could too. Especially because that poor girl was lying there looking like she was dying, and Sanda was saving her life.
Seruffin: Did she stay calm during the donation?
Bart: Yeah. Well, not calm, but not scared. Just excited. Sort of bouncy. You know how kids like that are.
Seruffin: Yes, I do.
Seruffin refrains from wincing, with an effort.
Bart: She wanted to stay and watch the changeover, but Hajene Marvin wanted us out of there, so I helped get her moving.
Seruffin is glad that Marvin had at least that much sense.
Bart: I offered to get him anything he wanted, from outside the jail, and he told me to try to find his Donor. So I got Sanda to come out with me, and tried to get her not to tell anybody, because it would cause trouble, but she wouldn't listen to me.
Seruffin: That would be too much to hope for, at her age.
Bart: Yeah. Girls like that... I mean, she ought to realize that it would get back to her parents. I guess she's in real trouble with them now.
Bart: After that I looked around town but couldn't find his Donor anywhere, and it was time to milk the goats so I came back home.
Seruffin shakes his head.
Seruffin: It's the stuff of an Interterritorial Incident.
Bart is ~~ appalled ~~. He hadn't seen much beyond Sanda getting in deep shit with her parents, and maybe some other people in town getting upset about having another Sime around.
Gerrhonot is glad that everything turned out okay for Sanda, well, except for her parents being upset, but knows that Seruffin is not at all happy that Bart, too, was involved.
Gerrhonot knows that Bart's untrained, but strengthening and responsive, nager could have caused havoc. Marvin didn't even have his own Donor with him to protect him!
Seruffin: Even if Mr. Gegg chooses not to press charges against Hajene Marvin for taking an unauthorized donation from an under-aged Gen, there are certain political factions that would be happy to use the incident for their own purposes. We are very fortunate that Sanda was not actually injured, and that Fridda survived changeover.
Bart is clueless about politics, except for the most local type, like electing the sheriff. General opinion in Gumgeeville is that the politicians in New Washington are a bunch of self-serving crooks.
Bart: Is Fridda all right? She looked so sick, and her sleeves were all bloody.
Seruffin: She had a hard time, but she will survive it. The injuries to her arms didn't damage her laterals.
Bart's helpless reaction is to want to help and heal the Sime.
Seruffin: Wounds heal fast, in young Simes.
Bart: Hajene, if there's something I can do to help you about all this, just tell me.
Seruffin: The most useful thing you can do, Bart, is to help calm the wild rumors that will undoubtedly be circulating shortly.
Bart: They're already pretty wild.
Seruffin: I'm sure they are. The truth is fantastic enough; rumors could do a great deal of harm.
Bart: Uh, out-T, people think... uh, a lot of people think... uh, well, they think if it's a man and uh, a girl... uh... well, Sanda thinks she's grown up, but it's obvious she isn't.
Bart: I mean, I was there and I know it wasn't like that, but I don't know if people will believe me.
Seruffin: There's a rumor that Marvin was trying to sexually seduce Sanda?
Bart: Uh.. More than trying. Uh. Succeeding. It doesn't help that her dad has been talking about channels, uh... you... uh, seducing Gens into your tentacles ever since you took my dad's donation.
Bart blushes again.
Seruffin thinks that the seduction rumor might have an unfortunate kernel of truth, at least in Sanda's case, but he's discussing spin control.
Seruffin: In Sanda's case, it might be helpful to point out that there were two other people present, and both were fully clothed.
Bart: Okay. Uh, out-T here, even though I'm Gen, I'm not really a grown up yet, so people don't really listen to me. I guess it's because anybody under sixteen, they might have to shoot them sometime, so, uh, it's easier to pretend they aren't... uh... a real person?
Bart is ~~ ashamed ~~ of his birth culture.
Seruffin: Yes, I know. Sime Territory was much the same, when I was a child. Still, a lot of the adults will hear about this from their children. Your friends are likely to at least listen to your first-hand account. That should ensure that the truth is at least one of the dozen or so rumors which will be circulating.
Bart: I'll try, Hajene. I don't usually get into all this gossip stuff, but I'll do what I can.
Seruffin: Thank you, Bart.
Bart: Hajene, thank you for teaching me. Could you tell Hajene Bibi about what happened with us?
Seruffin: I will.
Bart does his best to restrain his nager from seeking out Seruffin's and averts his eyes.
Seruffin: Your attention, Bart. Not just your eyes.
Seruffin's tone has some of the affection with which he customarily addresses Gerrhonot.
Bart takes a deep breath and looks at the teapot.
Bart: Oh, I never served you the tea!
Bart distracts himself by getting out some cups, and smiles.
Bart: I guess that worked, eh?
Seruffin smiles back.
Bart: ~~ calm ~~ happiness ~~ gratitude ~~
Seruffin: It did.
Bart pours tea for three, continuing to smile.