Toria walks down to the barn carrying two plates of veggies. Sanda had to wash the good dishes as a punishment, so she can't be carrying plates too. She thinks: "They needed washing anyhow, what with all the dust."
Toria wishes there would be more visible progress in Gegg's treatment: so far, it's all moaning and bad dreams, plus going to the barn with a stiff upper lip and coming back exhausted.
Toria is at least having a pretty good pregnancy so far, which is encouraging. D'zoll said his examination was "inconclusive", so now it's his boss's turn.
Toria sighs and walks through the barn door. Shorsh and the boss are in the mobile, but the door's open.
Shorsh: We're in here, Miz Gegg.
Shorsh comes out of the module.
Toria: So I see, but are you going to insist on eating in there?
Hiram: I'd rather not have to eat in retainers, Miz Gegg.
Toria: Pish. Come on out and don't worry about those awful things. At least it's roomier out here. ~~ coaxing ~~
Hiram sticks his head -- but only his head -- out of the mobile.
Hiram: Only if we may move the sign.
Shorsh would rather eat in the clean module than out there next to the pig sty, but he's been keeping the stiff Farris upper lip act going for so long he's willing to do either.
Toria would like to wipe her face, but the two plates make that difficult.
Hiram extends a lateral just inside the line of the doorway, trying to get a better zlin of the pregnancy.
Toria: What a stickler. Fine. Shorsh, you take the plates and I'll tack up the sign. No one's likely to see it at this hour.
Shorsh takes the plates.
Shorsh: Thank you, Miz Gegg, it smells wonderful.
Hiram: It does indeed. Enough to tempt even a Sime to eat.
Shorsh: May I introduce Hajene Hiram Farris, Sectuib in Sat'htine?
Toria finds a hammer in the clutter of tools on the shelves and pries the Sime Territory sign loose from the mobile door.
Toria: Excuse me, Hajene. I'll be right back.
Toria takes the sign outside and competently nails it to the outside of the barn door, though not so hard it can't be easily removed. She returns to the barn and pulls the door shut.
Hiram: Thank you, Miz Gegg.
Shorsh sets the plates down and fetches utensils, serviettes, and other emblems of civilization.
Hiram comes out of the mobile.
Hiram: Toria. And I'm pleased to meet you at last.
Shorsh follows with a tray holding the whole works, which he sets down on a hay bale.
Toria smiles rather ~~ shyly ~~, though she's not really conscious of it.
Toria: I really must get Gegg to knock together a proper table out here. That's the least he can do for you, Hajene.
Shorsh's mouth is watering, but he allows only enough ~~ appetite ~~ into his field to keep Hiram from getting too sidetracked.
Hiram: Hay works. And I'm sure Mr. Gegg has many other things to do.
Toria: [~~ firmly ~~] Nevertheless.
Shorsh: D'zoll and I usually eat in the module. We have a fold down table to use.
Hiram: Would you care to join us while we eat, Toria?
Shorsh: I've made a fresh pot of tea, if you'd care for some.
Toria: Thank you, I would.
Toria wrestles a bale to a convenient location near Shorsh and Hiram and not too close to the pen and sits down on it.
Shorsh goes into the module and returns with a cup of tea and a donor biscuit, which he offers to Toria.
Toria accepts them, dunks the biscuit in the tea, and takes a bite of it.
Hiram turns his attention to the food. It's always easier to do a medical exam if the patient has been relaxed by a little social interaction first.
Shorsh turns his attention to his own food. ~~ yum ~~
Toria: ~~ appetite ~~ Not bad at all, Sosu.
Hiram: This is excellent, Toria. ~~ pleasure ~~
Shorsh: It is delicious.
Toria: [~~ slightly flirtatious ~~] I'll bet you say that to all the girls, you two!
Shorsh smiles appreciatively.
Hiram: Only the ones who are good cooks.
Hiram winks broadly.
Toria blushes and covers it by eating more dunked biscuit and sipping her tea.
Hiram: But I really shouldn't be flirting with my patients, even when they're young and lovely.
Toria blushes again.
Toria: [only slightly waspish] No, you shouldn't.
Hiram: If I've offended, please accept my apologies.
Shorsh is ~~ highly amused ~~ at Hiram's use of Farris charm.
Toria: Not really. I suppose spending practically all my time here on the farm ---
Toria breaks off.
Toria: But do enjoy your dinners.
Toria finishes the biscuit.
Hiram: I am enjoying this. It's excellent. But I'm almost full.
Toria: ~~ embarrassment ~~ I didn't know how much I should give you.
Shorsh has already emptied his plate, despite trying not to gobble.
Hiram: Simes have small appetites. But I can usually trust my Companion to finish whatever I can't.
Shorsh: Or we can save it for tomorrow.
Hiram smiles ~~ indulgently ~~ at Shorsh.
Hiram: Eat, Sosu. I don't want to zlin your stomach rumbling in the middle of the night.
Toria takes Hiram's plate and spoons out the content onto Shorsh's. It's all mixed up anyhow.
Shorsh is a little embarrassed at being Gen-indulged by Hiram and mothered by Toria, but goes ahead and eats the leftovers.
Shorsh: Thank you. That should do me until lunch time.
Shorsh fetches two more cups and the pot from the module.
Shorsh: More tea, Toria?
Toria: Thank you, yes. It is rather soothing, isn't it.
Hiram: I've always found it to be.
Shorsh refills her cup, and fills cups for himself and Hiram. He settles back onto his hay bale, after handing Hiram his trin.
Shorsh: Trin is very popular in-T. Almost everyone drinks it.
Hiram is trying to judge whether the moment is right to turn the discussion to more serious things. He doesn't want to rush the amenities, but he is very ~~ curious ~~ about Toria's twins.
Toria: I don't mean to rush you, but I do have to get back to Sanda and Gegg. Can you go ahead and do whatever it is you are going to do, or do you need Sosu Shorsh's help for it?
Hiram: Yes, certainly. The exam is quite simple; all I have to do is zlin you. May I make lateral contact?
Toria: Of course.
Toria gets up, finds a clear spot on a shelf for the teacup, and goes over to Hiram ~~ expectantly ~~.
Hiram gently but firmly grasps Toria's forearms, and waits until Shorsh has positioned himself before extending his laterals.
Hiram zlins what D'zoll meant about the odd effect in Toria's field. He's not sure what to make of it, but sees no point in mentioning it to the patient unless she raises the topic.
Toria: Umm, can I talk, or ...?
Hiram: Certainly. Go right ahead. Just don't move suddenly.
Toria: No fear of that! Anyhow, you wouldn't let me, would you.
Toria: I'm just wondering if you have any better clue than Hajene D'zoll did about what makes me different from other Gens. Or if he did understand it, he certainly couldn't explain it! I mean, you are his superior -- officer, aren't you?
Hiram: I am, indeed. And I can zlin the effect Hajene D'zoll was talking about, but I'm not sure exactly what it means.
Toria suppresses her natural urge to toss her head.
Hiram: I've never zlinned anything exactly like it before, though it does remind me a bit of one Donor I zlinned down in Gulf, a few years ago.
Gegg heads towards the barn, looking for Toria, who seems to have disappeared.
Toria: So you think I might be a Donor, big D, or a potential one?
Gegg ~~ braces ~~ himself, telling himself that he is not going for a therapy session, so there's nothing to worry about. Right? He pauses as he sees the sign on the barn door.
Hiram: Potentially, maybe. It's difficult to say while you're pregnant. But I'm sure you realize that it's very unusual to begin working as a Donor at your age. Most Donors start within a year or two of establishment.
Toria: Oh? I had no idea.
Hiram zlins Gegg's reaction to the sign.
Hiram: Your husband is here.
Toria's eyebrows elevate. ~~ surprise ~~
Toria: Well, then, how about the babies?
Gegg is ~~ angry ~~ that Hiram (he assumes) has defied his refusal to let the sign be moved, and ~~ worried ~~ that the neighbors might have seen.
Shorsh intensifies his ~~ support ~~ in case Gegg reacts... excessively... to the sight of his wife in a Sime's "clutches".
Hiram: Shall I wait until he comes in, and tell you both at once?
Gegg takes a moment to pry the sign off with his pocketknife, then opens the door.
Hiram retracts his laterals, having zlinned everything he requires for now.
Gegg: What's this doing out here on the door?
Gegg is almost forgetting to be cautious, in his distress.
Hiram takes one look at the sign in Gegg's hand, then flees into the mobile.
Toria: I certainly wasn't going to make poor Hajene here eat in that tiny little box, or with those awful arm-boxes either.
Toria belatedly notices Hiram's disappearance.
Gegg: You want the neighbors to be knocking on our door, complaining that we're being a bad influence on the neighborhood?
Shorsh follows Hiram into the module. He thinks he's just reacting to the absence of the sign on the door, but it is possible that Gegg slammed him a bit.
Hiram is putting on his retainers.
Toria: Gegg. It's dinnertime. Who's going to come up to the barn door now?
Virla: Toria? Gegg? Are you there?
Hiram: A hand with these, Sosu?
Shorsh: Of course.
Toria: [sergeant mode] Well, Gegg? Answer the door!
Gegg looks at Toria in ~~ helpless appeal ~~, then sets the sign down on the nearest hay bale and obeys.
Hiram belatedly realizes that the sign isn't even on the door of the mobile. He reaches out with the hand Shorsh isn't working on and slams the door.
Gegg opens the door to the barn.
Virla: Oh dear. Am I interrupting something? Sanda told me the two of you were down here, but she didn't say why.
Shorsh thinks Hiram is over reacting, but he is Sectuib. ~~ support, reassurance ~~
Gegg: Er, were were just...
Gegg's voice trails off as he tries to think of a proper, polite, socially acceptable answer.
Toria: Come in, Virla, by all means.
Gegg: Um, yes, do.
Gegg steps aside to let Virla in.
Virla: Oh, I can come back, I just wanted to talk to Hajene D'zoll, whenever he has some time.
Hiram: Thank you, Sosu.
Hiram relaxes into Shorsh's field as he fastens the second retainer. Then he opens the door.
Virla nevertheless does walk into the barn, wrinkling her nose slightly at the too-long-contained aroma of pig.
Shorsh: Good evening, Miz Virla. D'zoll is at Hannard's Ford right now. May I introduce Hajene Hiram Farris, Sectuib in Sat'htine?
Hiram searches his memory.
Shorsh: Hajene, Miz Virla kindly invited us to her home for some excellent tea cakes last week. She and several others are forming a branch of the Church of Unity here.
Hiram: You're Magit's mother, aren't you? I'm pleased to meet you.
Hiram tries to remember what else Seruffin told him during that long and wine-filled evening a few days ago.
Hiram: And your father owns the local inn?
Virla: Yes to both, Sectuib. Do I call you "Sectuib" even though I'm not one of your Householding? I never understood that part.
Virla has been reading her Church of Unity literature assiduously.
Toria is not so informed, and ~~ wonders ~~ what Virla's talking about.
Gegg hasn't got the nomenclature straight, either.
Hiram: Call me Hiram, please. A barn is no place for formality.
Hiram: As for the rest, normally someone who isn't of Sat'htine would just call me "Hajene" unless they're dealing with me specifically in my capacity as head of Householding.
Shorsh is quite pleased that Gegg doesn't seem to be reacting negatively to Hiram.
Virla: Thank you, Hiram. When you have a few moments, there are a few more questions I'd like to ask.
Hiram glances to Toria. Is she eager to hear the results of her exam, or is she willing to be social?
Shorsh hopes that Hiram realizes that in out-T society, where nobody can zlin, the results of the exam would be regarded as quite private.
Toria: I'm sure the answers would be most interesting.
Hiram: Then ask what you wish, please.
Gegg: What brings you here at this time of night, Virla?
Virla gives Gegg the hairy eyeball, though not on Toria's scale.
Virla: I hardly think it's nighttime just yet.
Gegg isn't much fazed by Virla's amateur efforts.
Virla: But I'm not one to stay where I"m not wanted, Gegg.
Virla turns and heads back to the barn door.
Toria: [~~ reluctantly ~~, but determined to be polite] No, no, Virla, do stay.
Virla: [forcefully, to Gegg] I certainly wouldn't have come here in the nighttime, Gegg.
Hiram zlins Toria's ~~ reluctance ~~ but decides to leave her to handle the situation.
Shorsh tries to figure out where the offense was. Perhaps coming here at night implies sexual misconduct?
Gegg's career in the "never surrender" Gen military notwithstanding, he knows when to surrender.
Gegg: Please, Virla, you are welcome any time.
Virla is ~~ mollified ~~.
Gegg is fortunately not trying to convince a Sime, because his nager lacks true conviction.
Virla: Thank you, Gegg. But it is getting late. Perhaps I could speak to Hiram at a more appropriate moment. How long do you expect to stay, Hiram?
Hiram: A couple of days at least, I should think. Less than a week, certainly.
Virla: Perhaps tomorrow, then? If you're not otherwise occupied, of course.
Hiram glances at Shorsh, who zlins to be thinking odd thoughts.
Shorsh suppresses a frisson of envy, imagining D'zoll lolling about the Hannard's Ford Sime Center, sleeping in a warm clean room, eating Gitl's cooking.
Gegg doesn't know whether to be ~~ relieved ~~ that there will be a further delay before D'zoll returns, and his therapy begins again, or ~~ alarmed ~~ that this more formidable Sime will be in his barn, instead.
Hiram: [in Simelan, sotto voce] A problem, Sosu?
Gegg settles for being both.
Shorsh signals the negative.
Hiram: Tomorrow would be fine. Provided the Geggs don't have other plans for me.
Toria: ~~ surprise ~~ Not as far as I know, H-Hiram.
Toria glances at her husband, sees the turmoil of emotions on his face, and looks away again quickly.
Hiram: Tomorrow morning, then, Virla? I'll try to answer all your questions then.
Virla: It's a date, then. Good night, Hiram, Shorsh, Toria, Gegg.
Virla walks back to the door and lets herself out.
Toria: Well, thank heavens that's over.
Gegg moves closer to Toria, not sure whether he wants to protect her from harm, or be protected.
Hiram hesitates, unsure of out-T customs regarding privacy.
Hiram: Did you wish for your medical report now, Miz Gegg?
Toria: Yes, I was just about to ask you about my babies.
Hiram: As I'm sure Hajene D'zoll told you, you have one girl and one boy, both healthy so far. The girl is definitely a channel.
Shorsh, as far as he understands the local system of land tenure, thinks this is good for Gegg, since he'll have a son he can pass the farm to.
Gegg's stomach clenches at this confirmation of his fears.
Hiram leans into Shorsh's protective field.
Shorsh changes his mind as he detects Hiram's implicit request for protection.
Gegg: And the other?
Hiram: The boy -- it's harder to be sure. Either a lower order channel, or a higher order Donor. Based entirely, of course, on selyn consumption. That's all we can go by, at this stage.
Gegg's nager ~~ aches ~~ with ~~ distress ~~.
Gegg: So, we're probably going to lose them both, one way or the other?
Shorsh hopes Hiram can understand why this prognosis, a source of great pride and joy in-T, is such a disaster for Gegg.
Hiram: They'll have guaranteed fine careers with the Tecton, and never any financial worries. As for losing them, you can visit or write. Or...
Gegg is ~~ stunned ~~ at having the worst-case scenario confirmed. He had hoped that at least one of the twins would be able to stay in Gumgeeville.
Hiram hesitates, wondering whether he should discuss options while the Geggs are still assimilating their news.
Toria: Oh, Gegg.
Toria turns and wraps Gegg in her arms.
Gegg hugs Toria with ~~ fierce protectiveness ~~, not that he can offer any real protection.
Toria carefully disengages herself from Gegg while keeping her ~~ attention ~~ focussed on him.
Toria: Well, now we know. Thank you so much, Hiram.
Gegg: Yes. ~~ dully ~~
Hiram: We should discuss options, as soon as you're ready to think about them.
Gegg: What's to discuss? We're not going to shoot them, after all. When they get to the dangerous age, they can stay at the Ford, like Mik did.
Toria: Ye-es. In any case, I think we should leave you to yourselves now. [very firmly but not sternly] Come along, Gegg. Hiram and Shorsh need their rest.
Hiram: Wait. There's one decision you'll have to make very quickly.
Toria turns her head quickly.
Toria: Oh? What's that?
Hiram: Do you wish to travel to Sat'htine when I leave, in a few days, or follow in a week or two? And does Mr. Gegg want to travel with you, or follow a bit later?
Toria: ~~ startled ~~ What? Is Gegg, I mean, is it time already, for his treatment?
Hiram: His case is far less urgent than yours.
Toria: But, but I thought ...
Toria: [taking control of herself] I see. You can't have D'zoll do what's necessary here, then?
Hiram: A high-risk pregnancy requires the full medical resources of either a well-equipped Sime Center, or, ideally, Sat'htine.
Toria: [not hopefully] And in this case, "well-equipped" means "in Simeland"?
Hiram: Hajene D'zoll is very competent within his specialty, but he is neither an obstetrician nor a trainer of Donors. And I'm afraid the Hannard's Ford Sime Center isn't equipped to handle anything like this.
Toria: What about New Washington? No offense, Hajene, but ...
Hiram: Even New Washington would forward a case like yours to Sat'htine or some other specialist in-Territory. If you showed up at the last minute, in labor, they'd do the best they could, but the prognosis wouldn't be... encouraging.
Gegg feels the ~~ fear ~~ of possibly losing Toria, as well as Mik.
Toria: I... see. But at Sat-Satheen, you'll be able to handle it?
Hiram: Our healers are the best.
Gegg: Is it really necessary for her to go to your place right away? She didn't have any trouble with Mik, particularly, and he was a first child.
Hiram: With Mik, you were very, very lucky. And Mik wasn't twins.
Hiram: Has D'zoll explained to you exactly what the issue is, when a woman is pregnant with a channel?
Toria: Yes, he has.
Gegg: Toria, if it's that important, you must go. We'll manage, somehow.
Toria: Then it's just a matter of scheduling. We'll let you know about that in the morning, or at latest by tomorrow evening. ~~ decisive ~~
Hiram: It would be easiest if you were to come along when Sosu Lusinka and I return to Sat'htine.
Gegg: In a week or so?
Gegg is ~~ not ready ~~ to face Sime Territory, quite yet.
Hiram: Ideally less; I prefer not to be away from my House too long.
Gegg suspects that facing whole towns full of Simes will be much more difficult than facing a channel in his barn.
Toria: I understand.
Toria thinks it would be best if Gegg and Sanda just came with her in a week, but knows that even Gegg is likely to jib at such haste.
Hiram: We can discuss practical details in the morning. For tonight, I suspect you've got quite enough to think about.
Gegg: We'll talk it over, and let you know.
Hiram: Sleep well, then, and we'll talk tomorrow.
Hiram suspects that, in fact, neither of the Geggs will sleep much tonight.
Shorsh waits until the Geggs have left, then shakes his head ~~ sadly ~~.
Shorsh: Poor Mr. Gegg. One shenned thing after another.
Hiram: Sometimes heroism isn't about facing knives and guns. Sometimes just getting through life qualifies a man as a hero. Or a woman. Heroism comes in a lot of textures.
Shorsh: It's very important out here for a man to have a son to inherit his farm, even a rather poor farm like this one. Now he's lost that hope too. A second time.
Hiram: There's still Sanda.
Shorsh: Out here, men and women are much like Simes and Gens are in-T. They're not equals.
Hiram: I know. But I think Toria Gegg is more than her husband's equal.
Shorsh: To have a daughter inherit means that it's really her husband, an outsider, that inherits.
Shorsh shakes his head.
Shorsh: It's complicated. I don't entirely understand it myself.
Hiram: At least they have a daughter.
Shorsh: Yes. One daughter is safely Gen.
Shorsh: Let me put the sign back up so you can take off the retainers.
Hiram: Please do. And Sosu...
Shorsh: ~~ inquiry ~~
Hiram: Tomorrow I'm going to give them the talk on what it means to be a guest at Sat'htine. But there's one part that would come best from you.
Hiram: I don't think either of them understand what a Sectuib is. And if I were to tell them that myself, it would sound like bragging.
Shorsh ushers Hiram back into the module and puts the sign in place.
Shorsh: I'll do what I can. You realize that we'll have to make allowances for their misunderstandings of our culture just as they've done for us.
Hiram: Of course. We have hosted out-Territory guests before, Naztehr.
Shorsh nods and assists Hiram with the retainers. As far as he can recall, none of those out-T guests were Simephobes from isolated rural areas.
Hiram: How Gegg handles tomorrow's discussion will tell me something about whether he's ready to go in-T yet. But I'm also going to want a lateral-contact exam.
Shorsh: That will be stressful. But since he's still pretty low field, it shouldn't be too difficult for me to protect you.
Hiram: How difficult it is for him to hold still for it is part of what I'll be learning. But I want a close zlin of his field too.
Shorsh: It will have to be handled carefully to avoid doing harm to his progress.
Hiram: I'll be careful, Sosu. And if he's clearly not ready, I won't push.
Shorsh: Of course, Sectuib.
Hiram: I do think, though, that he would find it easier not to travel alone.
Shorsh: Oh, definitely not alone, but perhaps with D'zoll and me.
Hiram: Yes, that would be the other option.
Shorsh sighs again.
Shorsh: He's very dependent on his wife. It might be easier for him to travel with her, or it might be harder for him to have her see him react to Simes, and for him to feel he has to protect her from what he fears and she doesn't. Also, to look like a coward in front of his young daughter...
Shorsh shakes his head.
Shorsh: It's a very difficult case, Sectuib.
Hiram: Nothing is simple or easy for these folks, is it, Shorsh? Even without us, nothing is easy here. ~~ melancholy ~~ Get some sleep, Sosu. Tomorrow's going to be a long day.
Shorsh: Okay, Sectuib.
Petunia watches sadly as the two humans close the door of their tiny box, taking the light with them. There'll be no table scraps again tonight. She nuzzles her piglets and falls asleep, dreaming of bacon scraps.