Bibi shifts a little closer to Cristal on the sofa in the common room. In the presence of four Farrises, she again feels like a party balloon in a herd of blimps, as she did at the conference in Capital.
Cristal intensifies his ~~ support ~~.
Bibi gestures her thanks. She hopes things will work out well with the Geggs in Nivet, but she's a bit worried, having set the entire process in motion herself. It's now far out of her control.
Lusinka leans forward to pour another round of tea.
Lusinka: You said the train will be arriving soon, Hajene Bibi?
Bibi: It should be at the station about now, if it's on time.
Lusinka concedes the vagaries of the train schedule with a gesture.
Cristal thinks, "How naive I've been; I thought it was only Genlanders that told each other things they know perfectly, just to fill up the time." He's getting rather disillusioned about Firsts compared to his previous view of them as godlike and above it all.
Hiram: Then let's sort this out quickly.
Hiram isn't really in a hurry; he's feeling quite ~~ mellow ~~ after the work Lusinka did on his back this morning.
D'zoll: So tell me, Hajene Bibi: how are you feeling about the whole enterprise, now that it's come so far along?
D'zoll could zlin the answer through Bibi's showfield, of course, but he'd rather hear what she has to say.
Bibi: It seems to be going remarkably well. I'm amazed that you managed to take down Gegg's field such a short time after you started working with him.
Bibi is really glad she wasn't present for the event. ~~ shiver ~~
D'zoll endeavors to make his showfield combine ~~ competence ~~ and ~~ humility ~~.
Bibi wonders if "amazed" is the right word -- it implies that she didn't expect him to be very competent. She should have said "impressed". These big nagers make her nervous, although D'zoll is much easier to deal with than Hiram.
D'zoll: I think it was mostly Gegg's doing, not mine.
Bibi: A remarkable man.
Bibi retreats to an oft-expressed sentiment.
Lusinka sees Bibi's awkwardness and subtly reinforces Cristal's ~~ support ~~, while trying to look as unintimidating as her nose allows.
Bibi feels even more like a pony in a herd of draft horses.
Lusinka: How do you want to handle them when they arrive, Hiram?
Hiram: This is Hajene Bibi's Sime Center; I think the practical details should be left in her very competent hands.
Hiram projects ~~ approval ~~ and ~~ appreciation ~~ at Bibi.
Bibi edges a little closer to Cristal.
Cristal is out of his league trying to protect Bibi from bignoses, but he ~~ tries ~~.
Hiram is quite aware that Bibi is Seruffin's protege, and doesn't want to ride roughshod over her, easy though it would be to do so.
Bibi: Well, we should show them to their rooms, I think, and let them rest up a bit if they like.
Shorsh: Perhaps I can do that, Bibi. Gegg is comfortable with me.
Shorsh can imagine how Gegg would feel crowded into the hallway or stairs with his family and a Sime.
Bibi: Would you? That would be good. Thanks. Gegg and Toria will be in the room next to Nattin's and Sanda will be in with Ghan.
Bibi thinks it's getting crowded, especially for a Simephobe.
D'zoll: Quite so. In fact -- if you don't have a problem with it, Hajene Bibi -- the rest of us ought to [English] make ourselves scarce for a while.
Bibi: It's still fairly pleasant on the veranda, although the Gens may want to put on something warmer.
Lusinka is long used to overprotective channels, and merely nods agreement to this suggestion.
Lusinka: We'll do that, then, and work with them after they've settled.
Hiram: I zlin a commotion by the front gate. I think they're here.
Hiram gathers his troops with a nod and leads the way towards the back veranda.
Bibi moves towards the front of the Sime Center, in case it isn't the Geggs. She isn't sure from what distance Hiram can identify the people he zlins.
Cristal follows Bibi, hoping to get her to the back veranda before Gegg can detect her with his twisted Donor sense.
D'zoll, not being Genpecked for the moment, simply zlins his way to the back door and exits. He finds a convenient chair and waits.
Hiram takes a blanket he found by the back door and wraps it ~~ protectively ~~ around Lusinka.
Gegg leads the way up the sidewalk towards the Hannard's Ford Sime Center. He remembers the last time he was here: Mik's changeover. He would really rather be hiding behind his family, but that would Not Be Manly.
Gegg: Here we are. That Hiram fellow said they'd be expecting us.
Bibi recognizes the Geggs on the porch and retreats with Cristal to her office, signaling Shorsh to proceed.
Shorsh opens the front door.
Gegg ~~ tenses ~~ as the door opens, then ~~ relaxes ~~ a bit when he sees it's Shorsh.
Gegg: Sosu Shorsh. We made it.
Shorsh: Welcome. I knew you would.
Toria smiles at Shorsh's familiar face.
Sanda is bouncing. She's very excited about the impending adventure.
Sanda: Hi, Sosu Shorsh!
Shorsh: Welcome Sanda. Please come in, all of you. I'll show you to your rooms.
Gegg: Thank you.
Toria: Don't forget to pay the driver, Gegg.
Gegg switches the battered suitcase to his left hand, freeing his right to pull out the proper coinage, and pays the waiting driver. His arms give a twinge from the still-purple bruises Hiram left on them.
Gegg then leads his family inside the Sime Center, looking warily around to spot any waiting Simes.
Shorsh: Right this way.
Shorsh leads the way up the stairs.
Bibi and Cristal return to the reception area in case any donors show up before closing time. It's also as far as one can get from that overwhelming ambient now on the back veranda.
Gegg offers Toria his arm to help her up the stairs.
Toria smiles internally and accepts. Of course, it's Gegg who would really need the help, since he's holding the bags.
Sanda bounces along behind.
Shorsh: Here's your room. You're next door to Professor Nattin.
Shorsh gestures at the adjacent door and opens the door of the Geggs' room
Shorsh: Sanda, you'll be across the hall here, sharing a room with Ghan. Yours is the bed with the green coverlet.
Hiram closes his eyes and rocks the porch swing gently. His mind drifts ahead to the various tasks and problems that will be waiting for him when he gets home. And to his family, of course.
Gegg: Thank you, Shorsh. We'll just settle in for a bit, I guess. Toria is tired from the train ride.
Shorsh: I'll leave you to get settled, then. Please come down whenever you like. Supper should be ready soon. We'll let you know.
Shorsh goes down the stairs and back towards the veranda.
Sanda looks to her mother. She wants to go down and see what's happening.
Toria is neatly trapped between her desire to keep her daughter under control and her unwillingness to undercut Gegg -- who is of course the one who needs the rest, not her.
Gegg: Sanda, you help your mother unpack and get settled in. I'll be back to help shortly.
Gegg needs to use the privy.
Shorsh signals "everything okay" as he sits next to D'zoll.
Hiram smiles at the mental image of his youngest daughter, who should be home from her most recent work assignment by now.
Shorsh settles in ~~ comfortably ~~, ~~ glad ~~ that he may never see (or smell) a pig again as long as he lives. It almost makes up for the challenging task of getting the Geggs in-T.
D'zoll relaxes with Shorsh's relaxation.
Gegg cuts through the common room, glad for the continued absence of Simes, and heads through the kitchen for the back door.
D'zoll: Sectuib! Trouble.
Hiram snaps back to the here-and-now.
Shorsh ~~ alertly ~~ shields D'zoll from Gegg's possible panic.
Gegg opens the door to go onto the veranda, and actually gets two steps through before his nager catches up with his feet. He flares ~~ alarm ~~ at the sudden, unexpected impact of Sime nager.
Lusinka ~~ supports ~~ Hiram as she sees his reaction; she doesn't know Gegg by sight, of course.
Gegg recognizes Hiram and D'zoll, and tries hard to act normally, Gen fashion, by ignoring his emotions.
Gegg: Oh. I didn't mean to interrupt.
Hiram: It's all right, Mr. Gegg. You're not interrupting. ~~ soothing ~~
Shorsh: We were just taking it easy out here, waiting for supper.
D'zoll: No problem. Really. It's over there.
D'zoll points thataway.
Gegg is ~~ uncomfortable ~~ at this demonstration of mind-reading.
Gegg: Um, I know. I was here before.
Gegg is also finding the presence of two "danger" sources harder to handle than just one.
D'zoll: Of course. Sorry, Gegg. Sectuib, I think we should walk to opposite ends of the porch here to create a neutral field for Mr. Gegg to go down the stairs.
Hiram: An excellent suggestion.
Shorsh gets up and stays close to D'zoll.
Hiram stands up v-e-r-y slowly, keeping Lusinka between himself and Gegg.
D'zoll walks left, carefully zlinning Hiram walking right.
Lusinka moves with Hiram with the effortless ease of a Companion with decades of experience.
Gegg watches these gyrations with some ~~ confusion ~~, although he's better able to cope with the lessened nageric stimulus.
Hiram seats himself on the porch rail at the far end, and adopts a casual posture.
D'zoll stops well short of the opposite rail, since his nager is not as sec as the sec Tuib's.
Gegg moves ~~ warily ~~ down the stairs, not completely comfortable with turning his back on two Simes, then hastens towards the outhouse.
Shorsh thinks it's going to be a long trip home.
Lusinka: [quietly, in Simelan] Well, you're right about his courage, you two.
Gegg uses the facilities, then heads back slowly, unable to think of a plausible reason outside of cowardice for walking around the entire building to use the front door.
Hiram is ~~ alert ~~ and poised for any shift in the ambient, but keeps his outward manner casual.
Gegg climbs the stairs, then pauses, as Gen Territory etiquette demands an exchange of pleasantries.
Gegg: Nice afternoon, isn't it?
Hiram: Looks like turning into a fine evening, too.
Gegg is starting to adjust to the impact of two Sime nagers on his own, now that they are attenuated.
Gegg: We'll be going on tomorrow's express, I assume?
Hiram: That's the plan.
Gegg: How long will the trip take?
Gegg knows vaguely that it takes about a day to get to the border, but his childhood geography classes didn't cover Simeland.
Hiram: We'll take everyone's fields down after supper. That should hold you through the four days of the trip. Except for Toria, of course.
Gegg's stomach rolls, giving him the subjective sensation of the ground dropping out from under him.
Gegg turns towards D'zoll.
Gegg: You said not until next month!
D'zoll: I know I did. But I didn't realize at that point that you'd be going to Simeland so soon. It's important that your field be as low as possible until we can get you safely to Sat'htine. I do apologize for this necessity.
Gegg wishes the Simes wouldn't keep changing the rules on him, at the last moment.
Hiram: I'm sorry, Mr. Gegg. I had thought you would realize that you should be as low-field as possible to travel.
Gegg: We won't actually reach Simeland until the day after tomorrow, right?
Gegg is grasping at straws, hoping to delay things until he's had a chance to nerve himself up for it.
Hiram: Right. About noon, if we leave on the morning train.
Shorsh: Wouldn't you rather have it over with sooner?
Shorsh glances at D'zoll and Hiram.
Gegg had thought he'd have another few weeks to do that.
Shorsh: Now, perhaps?
Gegg starts shaking, much to his embarrassment.
Toria comes down the stairs, dragging Sanda after her, to see what's keeping Gegg.
Sanda is ~~ excited ~~ to be in the Sime Center, staying in a room with a real in-T person. She looks around.
Gegg is too off-balance to keep a prudent silence.
Gegg: I'm out here, Toria.
Toria: Oh, good. I was beginning to think you'd gotten stuck.
Sanda snickers. Her mother isn't usually that coarse.
Gegg feels a little safer with Toria around.
Shorsh: We're out on the veranda. Come join us.
Toria: Thanks, Sosu. Come along, Sanda. ~~ mild annoyance ~~
Sanda needs no persuasion. She bounces after her mother, and looks around the assembly.
Shorsh: Miz Gegg, this is Sosu Lusinka. Lusinka, this is Toria Gegg and her daughter Sanda.
Sanda: Hi, Sosu Lusinka!
Lusinka: Pleased to meet you both.
Toria: Hello, Sosu.
Hiram: It's good to see you again, Toria. Sanda.
Gegg ~~ relaxes ~~ a little as his family joins him.
Hiram: We were just discussing whether to take your family's donations now or after supper.
Toria: I'm fine with right now, if you like.
Sanda: I just donated three weeks ago. Do I get to do it again?
Hiram: We won't be taking yours, Toria. Your babies need all your selyn right now.
Toria snaps her fingers.
Toria: Oh yes, that's right; I forgot.
Sanda looks from channel to channel, two tall dark handsome Simes. Well, sort of handsome. And Hiram is more gray than dark. But still.
Gegg realizes, once again, that even his daughter finds donating routine, rather than traumatic.
Hiram decides to spread the entran relief around.
Hiram: Hajene D'zoll will take care of you, Sanda. And Mr. Gegg, my services are at your disposal.
Sanda finds donating exciting, since it's a pretty daring thing to do, in Gumgeeville.
Gegg could do with a lot less excitement, frankly.
Sanda goes to D'zoll and offers her arms with a wide grin.
Shorsh stays very close to D'zoll, ~~ shielding ~~ him from anything Gegg might suddenly do nagerically.
Hiram signals Lusinka to protect D'zoll as well.
Gegg watches with ~~ disbelief ~~ at his daughter's blind trust.
D'zoll: Gegg, she's no Donor -- she won't feel a thing, really.
Lusinka moves a step closer to Gegg, which allows her to blunt a little of his reaction while not leaving Hiram unprotected.
Sanda thinks it's kind of cool that she gets to sort of kiss D'zoll. At least, everybody she knows in Gumgeeville refers to donation as Sime kissing. Well, except Bart.
Sanda: It's okay, Dad. Hajene D'zoll won't hurt me.
D'zoll takes Sanda's routine donation without fuss, except for Sanda's mild reaction to him -- as a male rather than a Sime.
Gegg's fists are clenched as he fights the competing urges to "rescue" Sanda, to run away, and not to embarrass himself even worse by kicking up a fuss.
Sanda: See, Dad? I'm okay. Thank you, Hajene D'zoll.
D'zoll: You're welcome, Sanda. And well done.
Sanda wonders how much of the donation money her mother will let her keep. She figures there will be lots of cool things to buy in Simeland.
Hiram is glad to zlin no trace of her mother's quirk, or her father's talent, in Sanda.
Gegg feels a bit better with Sanda no longer in D'zoll's grasp, until he moves past it to the logical conclusion that it's his turn.
Hiram: Whenever you're ready, Mr. Gegg.
Shorsh thinks Gegg might be more comfortable without his daughter witnessing his struggle.
Shorsh: Sanda, would you go help Ghan in the kitchen? She's putting supper together.
Hiram catches Shorsh's line of thought.
Sanda looks at her father. She'd kind of like to watch.
Gegg: Go on, Sanda.
Sanda is ~~ disappointed ~~ but turns and leaves.
Hiram: Would you rather we use the insulated donations room, Mr. Gegg? There'd be fewer distractions there.
Gegg weighs the chance to put off the donation another half minute or two, with the prospect of being shut up in a claustrophobic little room with a Sime, one even smaller than the mobile unit. With the door closed. He figures that Toria already knows he's a coward around Simes.
Gegg: Bibi's using it. No reason to interrupt her.
Hiram: Very well, then. Sit wherever you'd like.
Toria: Hajene Farris?
Toria: Would it be helpful if I held Gegg's hand? Well, not his hand, but...
Hiram: We couldn't have you touching him during the donation. As for staying nearby without touching him...
Hiram zlins Gegg, wondering whether Toria's offer would be helpful or not.
Gegg isn't sure, himself, whether the advantage of Toria being close would outweigh the embarrassment of having her see how frightened he is, of something she does effortlessly.
Hiram: Why don't you sit there, Miz Gegg, where your husband can see you? And Mr. Gegg, you can sit here.
Toria does what she's told.
Gegg moves slowly towards the indicated porch swing, which at the moment is only six feet away from Hiram.
Hiram zlins his colleagues moving smoothly into position.
Lusinka is at Hiram's side, of course.
Hiram waits ~~ patiently ~~ for Gegg to take his seat.
Gegg sits awkwardly on the edge of the porch swing, tensing himself against the increased nearness of Hiram.
D'zoll moves to the neutral point and forces himself ~~ hypoconscious ~~.
Shorsh is surprised at D'zoll's action, but supports him in it.
D'zoll is happy to let his Sectuib do this all by himself.
Gegg is finding it difficult to believe that he's going to have to go through this again, before the last set of bruises have had a chance to heal.
Hiram glances ~~ curiously ~~ at D'zoll, who he'd thought would want to monitor, but says nothing.
Gegg is also finding it difficult to breathe, as usual in such situations.
Hiram: Excellent, Mr. Gegg. Now I'm going to take my place alongside you.
Gegg braces himself, unconsciously moving the swing a few inches farther away from Hiram.
Hiram very slowly suits actions to words, not yet engaging Gegg's field. He plants his feet carefully, to brace the swing so it won't move again.
Hiram: When you're ready, place your hands in mine.
Hiram is using his most soothing professional voice.
Gegg looks at Toria, wide-eyed, then knowing that he's never going to be ready, puts his hands on Hiram's.
Gegg is inwardly ~~ shrinking away ~~ from the channel, although he's trying hard to put up a brave front.
Toria does her best to communicate ~~ compassion ~~ through her eyes alone.
Hiram: Very good, Mr. Gegg. Very good. Now I'm going to extend my handling tentacles, very slowly.
Hiram does so, avoiding as much as possible the bruises that are already on Gegg's arms.
Gegg's customary flinch has an added element of ~~ mild pain ~~ from those bruises Hiram couldn't avoid.
Hiram: If you'll allow it afterwards, I can heal those bruises for you.
Toria nods at Gegg.
Shorsh watches, marveling at how Gegg is willing to let himself be pushed to his limits, again and again, in hope of a cure. ~~ compassion ~~ ~~ admiration ~~
Gegg: That... that would be fine.
Hiram: Excellent, excellent. You're doing very well. Now I'm going to extend my laterals, and begin to engage your field.
Lusinka hopes Hiram is judging this Gen's stamina correctly; the bruises are relatively trivial damage, after all.
D'zoll feels a proprietary admiration of Gegg's fortitude.
Lusinka modifies her ~~ support ~~ expertly, to allow Hiram the most flexibility while taking the least damage.
Hiram signals his thanks to Lusinka. He pauses with his laterals half-extended, waiting to zlin whether Gegg will cope with this.
Gegg makes a ~~ strangled ~~ gargle as the Sime-feeling gets stronger. He tries hard to bear it, under Toria's eyes.
Hiram extends his laterals the rest of the way, and seats them properly. Then he lets his field engage more deeply with Gegg's.
Gegg's throat closes, and his chest locks up.
Hiram: Breathe, Mr. Gegg. Breathe. In and out, in and out.
Hiram's voice is rhythmic, hypnotic.
Gegg manages to get one gasp of air, then another.
Hiram: In and out, in and out, letting all your muscles relax.
Hiram is meanwhile zlinning deeply, trying to get a better reading on Gegg's old burn scar.
Gegg goes rigid at the feel of the deep-zlin.
Hiram: Relaxed and warm, relaxed and warm.
Hiram has zlinned what he required, and backs off a little.
Gegg's muscles unlock enough for him to start shaking.
Lusinka isn't sure why Hiram is dragging this out, but has worked with him long enough to know he must have a reason.
Hiram: Warm and relaxed, warm and floating and relaxed.
Hiram decided this is as good as it's going to get.
Hiram: Now when you're ready, make lip contact.
Gegg's shaking lessens, but only because his tension increases at this new demand.
Hiram waits patiently, projecting ~~ comfort ~~ and ~~ compassion ~~.
Gegg thinks he should have expected something of the sort: somehow, just when he thinks he might be able to bear what's being demanded of him, something new is added.
Gegg is, however, well acquainted with channel patience, and suspects that Hiram is quite capable of waiting however long it takes Gegg to obey. He leans forward.
Hiram waits for Gegg to close the last tiny gap.
Gegg does so, holding himself stiff. He doesn't share his daughter's illusions that there is anything sexual in that contact.
Hiram drains the GN-3 level as quickly and completely as he dares, projects a brief burst of healing energy, then disengages.
Gegg gasps in a few large breaths as the nageric interaction disappears; the Sime-closeness is almost a relief, after that.
D'zoll returns to ~~ duoconsciousness ~~.
Gegg is no longer responding to D'zoll's presence, a bit farther away, which is also a relief.
Hiram: Congratulations. You did it.
Gegg didn't quite "break", as he puts it, this time.
Toria is beaming her ~~ love ~~ for her husband.
Gegg is ~~ glad ~~, as it would have been humiliating to do that in front of Toria.
Hiram slowly stands and moves away from Gegg, letting the swing settle back into place.
Gegg takes a less-encumbered breath.
Gegg: Did you say that supper was almost ready?
Toria: It certainly should be! Sanda!