Bibi brings a fresh pot of trin into the common room where Marvin and Cristal are relaxing after a long day. It's early evening and has been dark for some time.
Bibi: Fresh trin, gentlemen.
Marvin looks up and grins.
Marvin: Thanks, lady.
Bibi pours herself a cup. She hasn't been able to do much to lift "Norbom's" depression except when she's with him, by direct nageric intervention.
Marvin pours a new cup for himself and tops off Cristal, who ~~ wants some more too ~~.
Cristal: Do sit, Bibi. Take a break from worrying about Norbom.
Bibi sits and sips.
Marvin hopes this cup will help him actually relax. He had a rough turnover the day before, and his need looks to be particularly difficult this month.
Bibi: I hope you'll be able to get through to him, Marvin.
Bibi offers some ~~ support ~~ and ~~comfort ~~ to Marvin.
Marvin echoes them back; he knows Norbom is dragging Bibi down despite both of them being only a few days post.
Cristal's body feels a bit strange, reacting for the moment equally to his channel and to Marvin. Marvin's own Donor is upstairs catching up on her sleep.
Marvin: I'll do my best. Of course, I won't really know till I zlin him more thoroughly.
Bibi nods and sighs.
Marvin has been reading up on some of the simpler mind-healing techniques, the ones that involve talk-and-zlin therapy.
Bibi lifts her arms and extends her laterals part way.
Bibi: Oh, dear, here comes that young doctor who brought the poor young man in.
Cristal thinks, "Oh dear is right."
Marvin: Shall I fade out fast, Bibi?
Bibi: No, stay. He's been a regular donor for years.
Marvin: Sure. ~~ moral support ~~
Bibi smiles in ~~ thanks ~~.
Dr. Barden trudges up the front walk of the Sime Center, with the slumped shoulders and weary gait of a much older man. He can't believe how badly he failed young Jabez; he only hopes it's possible to rectify some of his error now.
Cristal goes to the door to open it just before Dr. Barden knocks.
Barden: Hi. Uh, mind if I come in? I'd like to see young Jabez, if I may.
Cristal: Come in, Doctor. Hajene Bibi will have to make that decision, so...
Cristal ushers Barden to the common room.
Marvin has his tentacles retracted, looking as harmless as he can manage.
Bibi: Good evening, Dr. Barden. This is Hajene Marvin who will be escorting Jabez in-T tomorrow.
Marvin doesn't offer to shake hands, given that he's in need and retainerless.
Marvin: Pleased to meet you, Doctor Barden.
Barden isn't worried about tentacles. He's worried about the young Sime he so badly failed.
Bibi: May I offer you a cup of tea?
Barden: Pleased to meet you, Hajene Marvin. Uh, yes, please, Hajene Bibi. Tea would be good.
Marvin: Trin, y'know. Rose-hip tea with benefits.
Bibi gets a cup from the kitchen, pours and offers it.
Barden: I developed a taste for trin, the year I spent near the border. Thank you.
Barden stares glumly into his cup, instead of drinking from it.
Marvin: [cheerfully] In that case, go ahead, drink it! It can't do you any good just sitting there, y'know.
Barden takes a token sip from his cup, then goes back to staring at it.
Barden: How's Jabez doing?
Bibi: Very poorly. Extremely, suicidally depressed.
Barden's shoulders slump further.
Barden: I failed him. If there's any way I can make it right now, I'd like to try.
Bibi is taken aback.
Bibi: I'm sorry, doctor, but I don't see what you could do.
Cristal: Let's put it this way: he's so depressed, he claims that "Jabez" is already dead. He won't even answer to that name.
Barden: I was so sure I had convinced him, and that once I got him here, he'd be all right.
Cristal shakes his head slowly.
Marvin: No such luck, Doc.
Bibi wonders if there's any use in pointing out that the boy took the Black Pill before he entered the Sime Center, and only survived because it had been replaced with a placebo.
Barden: Dr. Tavis thinks I need to tell him about the placebo, convince him there was no failure of moral courage on his part.
Marvin: Doctor. Obviously he knows it was a fake pill. After all, he isn't dead. ....Yet.
Barden: Then what can I do for him? How can I help?
Cristal: That's a very good question. We wish we knew how we could help, other than for Hajene Bibi to keep his emotional state forcibly under control.
Barden: Would it...?
Barden pauses to swallow hard.
Barden: Would it help if I let him yell and scream at me, give him someone to blame?
Bibi shakes her head.
Barden is a bit scared of the prospect of an augmenting Sime who's that angry with him.
Marvin: We couldn't possibly expose him to Gen fear. That would be the worst possible thing.
Barden: Then what can I do for him?
Bibi: I don't think there's anything you can do for him. He feels that the worst has happened to him, that he's lost his soul.
Bibi: He blames himself, but that's partly a symptom of the depression. He feels betrayed, in that you gave him a placebo and when he realized that, it was too late -- he was already doomed.
Bibi: Young Simes are very flexible -- he may be able to overcome his beliefs.
Barden: ~~ bitter ~~ Such a cruel and hateful view of God.
Bibi is unwilling to debate theology.
Bibi: I appreciate that you meant well. We've had many young people in here who went against their parents' beliefs to seek out a channel. Most of them have done well in Nivet.
Barden: Hajene, was I wrong to bring him here? Should I have given him his suicide?
Bibi: I can't make moral judgments like that for you.
Barden forcibly reminds himself that grown men don't cry.
Marvin: "Therein the patient must minister to himself", the Ancients said.
Bibi spreads her hands.
Bibi: Where there's life there's hope. Jabez has no hope right now, but that may change.
Cristal ~~ steels ~~ himself to do something his colleagues can't.
Bibi wonders what Cristal will come up with.
Cristal ~~ signals ~~ "Okay to drop attention?"
Bibi agrees with a gesture.
Cristal walks over to Barden, sits next to him on the sofa, and puts a comradely arm around him.
Cristal: [sympathetically] You can't always succeed. We all know that too well.
Barden: But... failure is too damn costly! ~~ anger ~~ frustration ~~
Bibi offers Marvin a little ~~ protection ~~ from Barden's strong unpleasant emotions, since he's in worse shape than she is. She wonders how Barden got this far in a medical career without accepting that he'll make mistakes, and people may suffer greatly for them.
Barden remembers, belatedly, that he's not supposed to emote like this around Simes.
Barden: Um, I... guess I should be going, then, Hajene.
Seruffin approaches the Hannard's Ford Sime Center, ~~ light hearted ~~ at the prospect of seeing Bibi again, and when they're both pre-turnover.
Gerrhonot walks at his side, looking forward to the pleasant company and good food at the Sime Center, and glad that he'll soon be able to get those retainers off poor Seruffin's freezing tentacles.
Seruffin is purposefully setting aside the unresolved issue of a renegade channel and Donor on the run in Gen Territory, since there's not much he can do about them right now.
Bibi: Ah, I zlin Hajene Seruffin and Sosu Gerrhonot on the porch, Cristal.
Cristal: [to Barden] Excuse me.
Cristal gives Barden a further comforting squeeze and goes to the front door to let the channel-Donor pair in.
Seruffin: Cristal, it's good to see you again.
Cristal: Welcome back, Seruffin, Gerrhonot. Umm, there's a rather emotional situation in there. But I guess you know that already.
Seruffin zlins past Cristal.
Seruffin: What's the matter? Is it anything I can help with?
Gerrhonot gets the retainers off his poor channel ASAP.
Marvin follows Cristal to the waiting room.
Marvin: Hi, Seruffin. We have a suicidal Sime upstairs and a deeply regretful Gen doctor downstairs. Not good however you look at it.
Barden enjoyed Cristal's tactile comfort more than a grown man ought.
Seruffin sighs with ~~ relief ~~ at his tentacles' freedom.
Gerrhonot offers his arms for Seruffin to soothe his tentacles on.
Seruffin takes Gerrhonot up on his offer.
Seruffin: It does sound complicated. Gerrhonot, I know you're overdue for a rest break, but...
Seruffin shrugs ~~ helplessly ~~.
Gerrhonot: No problem, Hajene. I'm not tired.
Seruffin leads the way back to the common room.
Cristal sits down beside Barden again and resumes comforting him.
Bibi: Dr. Barden, this is Hajene Seruffin and his Donor, Sosu Gerrhonot.
Seruffin is a little travel-worn, but still looks very ~~ dignified ~~
Seruffin: I'm pleased to meet you, Doctor Barden.
Barden: Pleased to meet you, Hajene. Sosu.
Gerrhonot nods politely.
Bibi: If you'll excuse me, I'll bring Hajene Seruffin up to date on the situation.
Bibi turns to Seruffin.
Bibi: [Simelan] As much as I'd like to fall into your arms....
Seruffin moves over towards Bibi, not accidentally keeping his First Order nager between her and Marvin, and the untrained Gen.
Seruffin: How can I help?
Bibi: [Simelan] Dr. Barden was Dr. Tavis's locum while he was out of town. He brought us a boy in changeover. The boy and his mother both definitely wanted the Black Pill, but the doctor argued with him for hours until the boy was terrified that he'd break out and kill him, and finally consented to come here. He even swallowed a Black Pill which turned out to be a placebo. Amazingly, he survived changeover, but is now suicidally depressed. Dr. Barden wants to make it up somehow. I can't imagine what he could do to help.
Seruffin: [Simelan] Nor can I. I expect it's a guilty conscience, and the youthful assumption that making amends is always possible.
Bibi: [Simelan] I'd certainly agree with you there.
Marvin: [Simelan] None of us knows what to do either, other than brute-force emotional control.
Seruffin turns to Dr. Barden.
Seruffin: Bibi tells me that your former patient is unhappy with your course of treatment.
Gerrhonot lifts the teapot to see how full it is, gets two more mugs from the kitchen and fills them. He puts one in Seruffin's hand.
Barden: Unfortunately so. I failed to convince him to try to live.
Seruffin lets one tentacle stroke Gerrhonot's hand in thanks as he takes the mug.
Gerrhonot: ~~ happy ~~
Seruffin: One can't always convince a patient to accept one's own values.
Gerrhonot moves closer to the fireplace, maintaining support for his channel.
Barden gives a weary nod.
Seruffin: The boy may yet reject his upbringing and choose to survive, you know. Or he may decide not to live despite all Bibi can do. It just goes to show that a patient always has veto power over anything his physician might choose to do, in the long term.
Barden: You're trying to tell me it's not my fault? That there's nothing I should have done differently?
Marvin shrugs theatrically.
Marvin: We weren't there. You were.
Cristal is half-consciously trying to massage the tension out of Barden's shoulders.
Seruffin: You seem to be unhappy about your performance, from what I zlin. What do you think you should have done differently?
Barden: I don't know. Should I have done more to try to convince him? Or less?
Barden notices what Cristal is doing and tries to squirm awkwardly away. ~~ embarrassment ~~
Seruffin: Does it matter how much you tried, when you didn't succeed? And if succeeding really would have required for your patient to reject his deepest beliefs, should you have succeeded?
Barden: You're saying I should have let him die, then. Just given him the Pill.
Seruffin: I am saying that if your patient is determined to die, there's a decent chance he'll succeed, no matter what you say, or do.
Cristal lets go of Barden, but not abruptly, and refocuses his ~~ attention ~~ on Bibi (who doesn't really need it).
Seruffin: The same is often true about patients who are determined to live, which can be humbling for any healer who thinks in terms of probabilities.
Barden: Maybe I'm in the wrong business. Maybe I should have been a carpenter. ~~ sliding towards depression ~~
Seruffin: I expect any number of carpenters run into clients who have their own ideas about how things should be built, some of which turn out better than others, but none of which are to the carpenter's taste.
Marvin wishes he could get a grip on Barden's emotions, but of course it doesn't work on a Gen.
Seruffin: It's not a dilemma limited to healers.
Bibi signals to Cristal to support Marvin, who needs it more.
Cristal ~~ does ~~.
Marvin signals ~~ thanks ~~ to Cristal and Bibi both.
Seruffin: My guess is that it's inherent in the human condition. Not that that's any comfort when you run afoul of it.
Barden shrugs and sighs.
Barden: Well, I've taken up enough of your time. I'd better be going.
Barden sets down his barely touched tea and stands.
Bibi: Dr. Barden, you're still welcome to bring any child in changeover here.
Barden: Thanks, but I doubt I'll be here more than another day or two.
Bibi: Or to any Sime Center, then.
Bibi hopes the young doctor won't overreact by no longer attempting to persuade children to choose life as a Sime over death.
Seruffin: Your stay here is over?
Barden: I was only here to cover for Dr. Tavis while he was away. There was talk of maybe eventually taking over his practice, but that's hardly likely now.
Marvin nods sympathetically.
Marvin: Just don't go too far in the opposite direction. Many children will want to be saved once you show them the way.
Barden: Thanks. I'll... I'll keep trying, then.
Cristal: Do. And try to forgive yourself. Life is better than death.
Barden: I just wish... never mind. He's in your hands now. And his own.
Barden would have added, "And God's," but he doubts he'd be talking about the same God as Jabez's.
Marvin: I'll take care of him on his way in-Territory.
Bibi thinks the phrase "take care of him" is somewhat ill-chosen.
Barden: Thanks for the tea, Hajene. Sosu.
Bibi: You're welcome, doctor.
Barden wonders distantly what the plurals of those honorifics are. He quickly buttons his coat and leaves. He needs to think about what he's heard today. He wants to believe he should stay in medicine, and try again, but he's just not sure. He does know, at least, though, that he'll never give a placebo Black Pill again.
Bibi gets up and hugs Seruffin.
Gerrhonot politely reveals a little ~~ hunger ~~.
Seruffin's arms go around Bibi.
Seruffin: I've missed you.
Bibi: And I've missed you. It's been too long.
Seruffin is a gentleman.
Seruffin: Gerrhonot, why don't you get yourself a more substantial meal in the kitchen?
Bibi can't suppress the ~~ sexual attraction ~~ and ~~ anticipation ~~ she's feeling at Seruffin's timely arrival.
Seruffin then indulges in a long and lingering kiss.
Bibi ~~ greatly enjoys ~~ the kiss.
Gerrhonot smiles and heads for the kitchen.
Marvin listens in nagerically with ~~ enjoyment ~~ too, despite being technically in need.
Seruffin comes up for air.
Marvin: I'll go up and look in on Norbom, eh? ~~ irony ~~
Seruffin: Your pardon, gentlemen, but I've been wishing I could do that for a very long time.
Cristal: Of course.
Marvin: No pardon needed, Seruffin!
Bibi blushes, of course.
Cristal softly and silently vanishes away in the direction of the kitchen.
Marvin: See you later, Seruffin, Bibi.
Marvin heads off too to see if some of his newly learned technique will help on Norbom. And if not, he can always revert to his earliest calling -- wandering preacher.
Bibi nods and leads Seruffin to the most comfortable sofa.
Seruffin ~~ happily ~~ takes Bibi up on the implied invitation to snuggle.
Cristal goes off to find Gerrhonot and invite him to share a little something. If they get tired of that, they can always circle the house and return to the donation room.
Bibi: So, has the World Controller called you back for consultation again?
Bibi hopes it isn't so urgent that Seruffin will leave on tomorrow's express train.
Seruffin: Yes. There's been more trouble stemming from the Snake River Dam debacle.
Bibi: Oh, dear. By the way, I met Sosu Nick last week.
Seruffin doesn't completely manage to moderate his ~~ astonishment ~~.
Seruffin: Nick Reckage? Here?
Bibi: Well, in Gumgeeville. But he came here to arrange for his channel to take donations there, and pay the donors. He said they're in some kind of trouble with his political enemies.
Seruffin: That Gen...
Seruffin shakes his head ~~ ruefully ~~.
Bibi: But what a nager! ~~ amusement ~~
Seruffin: I have to admire his sheer nerve, just waltzing into a local Sime Center when he's probably the most wanted man on both sides of the border, just now.
Bibi gets a ~~ sinking feeling ~~.
Bibi: What's he done?
Bibi is ~~ embarrassed ~~ that she let Nick's nager convince her to be so cooperative.
Seruffin: He may have violated his parole: the lawyers are still arguing over whether he did, and if so, who has jurisdiction over the case.
Bibi: He was worried about his channel -- she's having a lot of trouble with entran. Farrises can die of entran, can't they?
Seruffin: Yes, they can. But if anyone has the experience to handle that particular situation, it's Nick. Of most concern is that his channel appears to have broken him out of a District Controller's arrest, following which they both fled to Gen Territory.
Bibi shakes her head.
Seruffin: Sat'htine is claiming that the arrest warrant was illegal, of course, but the escape doesn't make their case any stronger.
Bibi: I've been bamboozled. Is the channel a desperate character too, then? I didn't think there were that many rogue Farrises.
Seruffin: She's the heir apparent in Sat'htine, and before this, she has done nothing at all remarkable except make an advance or two in pediatrics.
Bibi: So what's your role in this? I suppose you'll want to go to Gumgeeville and sort it out.
Seruffin: Well, yes. World Controller Jaklin is inclined to view the original arrest as spurious, but some of the larger out-Territory papers have carried the story.
Bibi: Oh, dear.
Bibi doesn't keep up with current events much, although she reads the local paper.
Seruffin: I was being called back from New Washington in hopes that I could be of some help in locating the fugitives before they caused some unfortunate incident.
Bibi: So since your intrepid little QN-2 has found them for you, will you have more time to spend with her? ~~ teasing ~~
Seruffin: The next train for Gumgeeville doesn't leave until morning. Marvin, Gerrhonot, and Cristal can handle most emergencies, at least for a while. Surely we can take an hour for ourselves, without violating our Tecton oaths?
Bibi: We can take the whole night, unless we get another changeover.
Bibi's ~~ delight ~~ dims a little at the thought of the last changeover she served.
Seruffin: Let's hope the prayers of the local parents are effective, then.
Seruffin stands, holding a hand out for Bibi.
Bibi takes the hand and entwines tentacles as she gets up.
Seruffin reaches into the depths of his cape, and withdraws a small box.
Seruffin: I have something for you.
Bibi: ~~ curiosity ~~
Seruffin: I found it in a little store not far from the building where the Gen Senate meets.
Bibi's sensitivity isn't good enough to zlin much through the box.
Seruffin passes the box to Bibi.
Seruffin: Open it.
Bibi does so. It's a box of pretty little marzipan fruits, skillfully painted in natural colors.
Bibi is ~~ charmed ~~.
Bibi: Thank you. They're almost too pretty to eat.
Seruffin: Aren't they clever?
Bibi: Yes. So realistic. I love marzipan. ~~ happiness ~~
Seruffin is ~~ pleased ~~ with the success of his gift.
Seruffin: Still, it would be a shame to let them go stale.
Bibi: Of course, and you should eat something or Gerrhonot will worry about you.
Bibi offers Seruffin the box.
Seruffin ~~ considers ~~ the possibilities.
Seruffin: I've always been partial to citrus.
Seruffin reaches for a little orange, complete in every detail.
Bibi: And here's a strawberry that it's safe for us to eat.
Bibi picks out a berry sculpted with seeds and calyx and nibbles a little off the back. ~~ delicious ~~ delighted ~~
Seruffin finds himself enthralled by the sight of Bibi nibbling.
Bibi: Here, taste.
Bibi bring the fruit to Seruffin's lips, not avoiding caressing them with a tentacle tip at the same time.
Seruffin: You know, I never had strawberries, not even as a child. Even all these years later, I think of them as poison.
Seruffin looks at the confection, then takes a small bite.
Seruffin: If real strawberries taste this good, no wonder Gerrhonot loves them.
Bibi: I remember them well. They are very good, especially with sweetened cream.
Bibi feels an overwhelming urge to kiss Seruffin's marzipan-strawberry-flavored lips. She stands on tiptoe.
Seruffin bends to facilitate.