Seruffin steps off of the train onto the platform at Hannard's Ford, feeling ~~ eager anticipation ~~ at the thought of spending a few stolen days with Bibi.
Gerrhonot follows, ~~ happy ~~ for his channel.
Seruffin is a little less ~~ wary ~~ than usual, when traveling out-Territory, and so he doesn't think twice about suggesting that Gerrhonot temporarily refuel his Gen metabolism by purchasing an apple from an elderly vendor on the platform.
Gerrhonot is a little ~~ embarrassed ~~ that his hunger is zlinnable enough that Seruffin doesn't want him to wait until they get to the Sime Center, but, as usual, complies without question. Maybe Seruffin wants a bite.
Yanna perks up as the customer approaches.
Gerrhonot: Hi. One apple, please.
Yanna: An apple, young sir? I've got red and green...
Gerrhonot points to the one he wants, and takes some change from his pocket.
Yanna gives the selected apple a quick polish.
Gerrhonot counts out the money and hands it over.
Yanna makes the change disappear, then leans forward ~~ conspiratorially ~~
Yanna: Are you with the Sime over there?
Yanna nods towards Seruffin.
Gerrhonot: Um. Yes.
Gerrhonot takes the apple, a bit uncertainly. He hopes he's not going to get another religious lecture.
Yanna: You might want to tell him that there are those who are not pleased with what he's been doing here.
Gerrhonot: Um. We're just visiting...
Yanna feels rather ~~ protective ~~ about Bibi, since she's a good friend of Miz Brown.
Yanna: Yes, and that's the problem in a nutshell.
Yanna is rather pleased to have communicated so well.
Gerrhonot is ~~ confused ~~ and glances back to make sure Seruffin is all right.
Yanna: You'd just better make sure your friend there behaves himself, or they'll be getting out the shotguns.
Gerrhonot: Shotguns! ~~ very alarmed ~~ But Hajene Seruffin is a channel, and he's wearing retainers. You can't shoot him!
Gerrhonot wants to run to his channel and protect him, but thinks he better understand the nature of the threat first, if possible. He looks around, but doesn't see any armed locals.
Yanna: Oh, now, I didn't say they'd shoot him. At least, not anyplace fatal. Well, not right away. They'll give him the chance to do the honorable thing first, I'm sure.
Gerrhonot: I don't understand. He's a channel. He's a good man. Of course he's honorable.
Yanna: Well, then, there's nothing to worry about but whether I can finish my patch for the quilt, is there, now?
Yanna is ~~ relieved ~~ at this outcome.
Yanna: Bibi does like yellow roses, right?
Gerrhonot: I don't know. I guess so.
Gerrhonot thinks this is very strange. Maybe there's something wrong with this woman mentally.
Yanna: Good. We'll all be glad of a celebration.
Gerrhonot: Thanks for the apple. It looks good. Goodbye!
Seruffin is waiting ~~ tolerantly ~~ for Gerrhonot to make his purchase.
Gerrhonot hurries back to him, trying to conceal his ~~ worry ~~ under a ~~ calm and supportive ~~ facade.
Seruffin: Gerrhonot, what's wrong?
Seruffin has learned to pay more attention to expressions than most Firsts.
Gerrhonot: Um. I think that woman is a little crazy. She was saying some strange and disconnected things.
Gerrhonot gets out his pocketknife, cuts a wedge of apple, carefully trims off the bit of core and offers it to Seruffin.
Seruffin takes the piece of apple and nibbles on one end, hoping to calm his Donor.
Gerrhonot bites into the apple and ~~ savors ~~ the taste to encourage his channel to eat his piece.
Gerrhonot: Let's get going. Bibi's expecting us.
Seruffin: What sort of strange things was she saying, to upset you so?
Gerrhonot: Stuff about shotguns and roses and quilts.
Seruffin is a bit ~~ alarmed ~~, and moves off at a reasonably brisk pace, although not so fast as to alarm anyone.
Gerrhonot: About if you don't behave yourself they'll threaten you with shotguns. But I told her you were an honorable man and she said that was okay then.
Seruffin: I'm surprised. That's the sort of thing I've heard occasionally from anti-Sime fanatics, but that woman was a donor. I wonder if there's been some disaster that's making people distrust the Tecton.
Gerrhonot shrugs. He hasn't heard anything.
Tula is taking advantage of the nice sunny day to rake more leaves around her rosebushes to protect them from winter cold.
Gerrhonot: I hope Bibi is okay.
Seruffin: So do I.
Tula spots the notorious Sime womanizer and his Donor coming up her street.
Tula: The women of this town are watching you, Hajene Seruffin!
Seruffin decides that whatever's happened, a little diplomacy can't hurt. He bows formally to Tula.
Seruffin: Then what can I do but be flattered?
Tula snorts. The nerve of some men!
Seruffin sees that his attempt at courtesy has failed.
Tula: Don't think you can play donwon with our Bibi and get away with it.
Seruffin: I wouldn't dream of it.
Tula turns away and rakes so vigorously she's tearing up her lawn.
Seruffin has no idea what sort of game 'donwon' is, so he's reasonably certain he won't upset the local mores by playing it, although he has occasionally played the Gen card game named after a common fire implement.
Gerrhonot wonders what that was about. It sounded like this woman likes Bibi at least.
Seruffin shakes his head, and when they reach the corner, he turns to Gerrhonot.
Seruffin: I've heard about out-Territory taboos against gambling games, but I've never heard of a game called "donwon", have you?
Gerrhonot never plays cards. People don't invite him to friendly games, so he knows that when he's invited, they want to take advantage of him.
Seruffin: Well, then, we're probably not in danger of breaking that particular custom. Still, that sort of hostility is worrisome.
Seruffin keeps walking briskly, frowning slightly in thought.
Gerrhonot: It sounds like she still likes Bibi.
Seruffin: I'd assume so. She's a donor, too. Like the apple lady.
Sammus is sitting on his porch, standing guard with his shotgun over his wife's prized bird feeder.
Sammus is tired of refilling the damned thing every other day, because the squirrels have emptied it out onto the ground again. He's ~~ determined ~~ to get himself a few tree rats before the afternoon is over.
Sammus is occupying himself, as he waits for his prey to appear, by grumbling under his breath about unreasonable women, who want birdfeeders placed for optimal aesthetic effect, even when that means they're too close to squirrel-laden trees. He's therefore not in a pro-marriage mindset when he notices the prospective victim-to-be going down the street.
Sammus abandons his hunting blind -- okay, the porch swing -- and hurries down the walk, carrying his shotgun.
Gerrhonot flings himself between the armed Gen and his channel.
Sammus: Hey, there! I got a warning for you!
Gerrhonot: Please don't shoot us!
Gerrhonot identifies with his channel.
Sammus: What? You're no squirrel, right? And you ain't been stealing my birdseed, right?
Gerrhonot: Um. No. ~~ confused ~~
Gerrhonot nonetheless keeps himself between his channel and the shotgun.
Sammus: Then you've got nothing to worry about.
Gerrhonot: Um. Hajene Seruffin isn't a squirrel either. Neither of us stole your birdseed.
Gerrhonot thinks this is even stranger than the conversation with the apple seller.
Sammus: Oh, I've got nothing against your Hajene Seruffin. But if you want a word to the wise, you'll tell him to leave town as soon as he can, before those ladies get him in shackles. They'll drag him off to the altar in double time, as a sacrifice to the God of Conventionality.
Gerrhonot is really ~~ alarmed ~~ and ~~ horrified ~~ now. This sounds like some kind of weird and violent religious ritual, like they do to changeover victims in anti-out-T bigoted literature.
Gerrhonot: Um. Okay.
Gerrhonot hurries back to Seruffin.
Gerrhonot: Hajene, keep your arms under your cloak and let's both put our hoods up so maybe people won't recognize us.
Gerrhonot realizes this is a forlorn hope, but it's the best idea he can come up with at the moment.
Seruffin: Gerrhonot, was that man threatening you?
Seruffin complies with the hood and cloak request, however.
Gerrhonot: No, but he wanted me to warn you that some ladies are out to get you. They want to do some religious thing to you.
Seruffin: A religious thing?
Gerrhonot: Something about chaining you and dragging you to be sacrificed. Maybe he wasn't being literal. He says he has nothing against you, and he didn't seem upset. More amused.
Seruffin: Chains? Sacrificed?
Seruffin is getting ~~ worried ~~ about this.
Gerrhonot: It can't be for real. I must have got it mixed up.
Gerrhonot hopes so.
Seruffin: I haven't heard of any unrest regarding the Sime Center from Bibi.
Gerrhonot puts up the hood of his cloak, despite the nice warm day.
Gerrhonot: Let's hurry. I don't think we should be out on the street any longer than we have to.
Gerrhonot picks up his pace. There's no question that Seruffin can keep up with him.
Seruffin: Don't run. That will attract attention.
Gerrhonot nods, and keeps to a fast walk. ~~ calm on top, worried underneath ~~
Seruffin is ~~ relieved ~~ when they reach the relative safety of the Sime Center.
Gerrhonot is too, and his nager is full of it.
Seruffin is, however, ~~ uncomfortably aware ~~ that a town full of Gens can make short work of one small enclave of Simes, if they choose. He saw the aftermath of several such mobs, in the early days after Unity.
Gerrhonot hastens to help Seruffin out of his retainers.
Seruffin's ~~ relief ~~ isn't just because of his newly freed tentacles.
Bibi comes down the stairs and hurries to meet them.
Bibi: Welcome! ~~ happiness ~~ a tasteful zlin of sexual desire ~~
Seruffin hugs Bibi ~~ warmly ~~, with some care for his abused tentacles, then reluctantly lets go.
Gerrhonot looks on with ~~ approval ~~, ~~ delighted ~~ at his channel's good fortune.
Seruffin: Bibi, has something happened to turn the town against Simes?
Bibi is ~~ startled ~~.
Bibi: No, things have been quiet, nothing unusual.
Seruffin: Something is going on. We had a most peculiar series of confrontations with the locals on our way from the train station.
Bibi: Confrontations? Oh, no!
Bibi ~~ blushes ~~ intensely.
Bibi: Oh, Seruffin, how embarrassing.
Seruffin is a bit ~~ chagrined ~~, but his ~~ alarm ~~ is starting to fade.
Bibi: Uh. Some of the donors, the women... uh... Well, after we went to New Washington that time... Uh. Well, they think... and they asked Cristal and that really...
Bibi isn't usually this incoherent.
Bibi: Oh, dear. ~~ blush ~~
Bibi pats Seruffin's hand.
Bibi: Let's go have some trin, okay?
Seruffin: Bibi, my dear, I'm starting to think that the situation is a great deal more complicated, if less alarming, than I'd thought. Trin sounds good, and perhaps some lunch for Gerrhonot?
Bibi: Of course.
Bibi leads the way to the common room and heads into the kitchen to bring out the trin and a plate of food.
Gerrhonot: I guess it's okay, then, right?
Seruffin: Bibi isn't alarmed, and that's a good sign.
Gerrhonot nods. ~~ relieved ~~
Seruffin settles on the couch in the common room.
Gerrhonot sits next to him ~~ eagerly anticipating ~~ the food. ~~ appetite ~~
Bibi comes out with the tea and food, sets them on the table and sits on Seruffin's other side. She pours for three, and takes up her mug.
Seruffin pushes the plate closer to Gerrhonot, but in an unaccustomed act of rebellion fails to accept a cookie, even under the urging of Gerrhonot's nager.
Bibi: Nice warm day, isn't it? ~~ still embarrassed ~~
Seruffin: Rather too warm for comfort, at least if one considers the ambient.
Bibi ~~ blushes ~~ again.
Bibi: Look, I'm really sorry they did this to you. I thought I'd convinced Patience not to, but I guess the word didn't get around.
Seruffin: Bibi, I've been interacting with out-Territory Gens since shortly after Unity, but this is the first time I've actually been confronted with the business end of a shotgun.
Bibi: A shotgun! Not really! ~~ shock ~~
Bibi restrains herself from clutching Seruffin.
Seruffin: Well, he did admit to Gerrhonot that I hadn't stolen his birdseed, but it was an anxious moment for both of us.
Bibi: Birdseed? ~~ confused ~~
Seruffin: He also declared that I wasn't a squirrel, which I admit I found something of a relief.
Gerrhonot: I think maybe he had the gun to shoot squirrels. At his bird feeder.
Bibi is still ~~ confused ~~, but ~~ relieved ~~ that the shotgun was a misunderstanding.
Bibi: Um. Well, what happened was...
Bibi: Uh. Some of the women got the idea that... well, from their point of view, in out-T culture... Uh. That you'd been... uh... trifling with my affections. ~~ blush ~~
Bibi: Well, they assumed that you were courting me... with the intention of marriage. It's the way it's done out here.
Bibi waves hands and tentacles.
Bibi: They could have assumed we were just friends and colleagues, but when we went to New Washington that time... it looked to them like... uh... you'd lured me away to wine, dine and seduce me. ~~ blush ~~
Seruffin: And so I had!
Bibi: Indeed! ~~ happy ~~
Seruffin captures one of the waving tentacles and kisses it.
Bibi kisses his cheek.
Seruffin turns his head to kiss something a bit more interesting.
Bibi ~~ enjoys ~~ this very much, and cooperates with great ~~ pleasure ~~.
Gerrhonot eats another muffin, ~~ very happy ~~ for his channel.
Seruffin eventually decides that he'd better get the rest of the story straight.
Seruffin: So is this why the women of Hannard's Ford have decided to arrest me and turn me into some sort of religious sacrifice? At least the gentleman with the shotgun hinted at such goings-on.
Bibi: Religious sacrifice? ~~ puzzled ~~
Gerrhonot: Oh, I get it now. He said they were going to drag you to the altar. People get married at the altar in the church, I guess.
Bibi: Oh, dear.
Seruffin shakes his head.
Bibi: By their rules, it's most dishonorable for a man to seduce a woman and not marry her. Of course, they were only suspicious that it had gotten to actual seduction, until they talked to Cristal.
Seruffin: Cristal was indiscreet enough to tell them?
Bibi: Well, he was altogether too forthcoming, and I gather he explained the sexual customs of Nivet to them in far more detail than necessary.
Bibi covers her eyes.
Seruffin: Oh, dear.
Bibi: At least he didn't explain about channels and the CDs, or they'd be convinced they were harboring a complete slut. One serious lover can be tactfully ignored, but promiscuity... oh, dear.
Bibi strokes Seruffin's hand.
Bibi: Cristal left them convinced that they ought to coerce you into [English] making an honest woman of me. In their eyes, I'm your victim. They went off planning the wedding.
Seruffin: So you are under siege here?
Seruffin is ~~ concerned ~~ about Bibi's well-being.
Bibi: I'm not under siege. I've got their full sympathy!
Seruffin: Leaving me as the dastardly seducer?
Bibi: I guess so, unless you do the right thing, as they see it. I wish Cristal hadn't talked to them. They might have been convinced to see us as just friends and ignore the hypothetical seduction. But he went on about how good it was for both of us, and how happy you were making me. Which is true, of course, but in this culture best not stated outright.
Bibi waves her hands.
Bibi: I did talk to Patience, and I think she understands, but unfortunately everything had been set in motion....
Seruffin: I've met a few of the ladies in your auxiliary. They're a formidable group.
Seruffin: Bibi, you've made a good life for yourself here. I don't want to spoil it for you.
Bibi: I certainly don't expect you to marry me in the church to please the donors!
Seruffin: It does seem a bit excessive, as a diplomatic gesture.
Bibi: The damage, if you can call it that, is already done.
Bibi: Indeed, they worst thing you could do would be to go off and never visit me again!
Seruffin: Now, that's a relief!
Bibi laughs and hugs him.
Seruffin: Bibi, you know these people, much better than I ever could. What would convince them to leave us to our own devices?
Bibi: On the one hand, we can just act normally, and let them get used to it, as a weird Sime custom or as the sort of arrangement that adults make around here with as little fanfare as possible. On the other, we could invent a fiction of a long engagement... well, I'd rather not, really.
Seruffin: That could be rather awkward, I'd think, and risks having them doubt a channel's word.
Bibi: Yes. I wish this hadn't blown up, or that Cristal had had the cultural perspective to downplay it, or even lie effectively. If he hadn't made it clear that we were actually screwing, they could have believed it was just courtship, very sedate and romantic.
Seruffin: You can't expect the man to be something he's not. He's never claimed to have any talent for diplomacy.
Bibi: Oh, definitely. And I can't expect all these women, who really have adopted me as one of their own, not to be concerned about my happiness, and assume that I want what they'd want.
Seruffin: Of course not.
Bibi: And it is pretty romantic, you know. Poor little spinster Bibi, so dedicated to her work, swept off her feet by the tall, dark, handsome, distinguished diplomat...
Seruffin: It does sound like one of those stories they write up in cheap novels.
Bibi: The farm girl and the prince. Of course, they don't know that you're secretly the harness maker's son.
Seruffin: And they seem to have overlooked the fact that you are a very competent Controller of a Sime Center.
Bibi: Well, I run my little shop here, like Violet and her ice cream parlor. Running a shop is acceptable for a widow or spinster.
Seruffin: Few "little shops" are so critical, or as large as this one. And the only other "shopkeeper" in town whose skills approach yours is the town doctor.
Bibi: Well, there's donating, and bringing in cookies, and then there's that rare event, that life-and-death event, a changeover.
Seruffin: And it's just coincidence that your donors have a little less rheumatism, or heal faster when they're injured?
Bibi: Sime magic.
Seruffin: You certainly have a magic to you.
Bibi puts her arm around Seruffin's waist hoping he'll put his around her shoulders. She ~~ invites ~~ deeper engagement of their fields.
Seruffin obliges, being an obliging sort of man.
Bibi sighs with ~~ pleasure ~~.
Gerrhonot smiles and goes off to take the luggage upstairs.
Seruffin sets out to take full advantage of Gerrhonot's absence.