Cristal is still in recovery from the Awful Thing that was done to him, but he does feel quite a bit better today than he has so far, except immediately after Hajene Bibi has worked on him. Which is something.
Cristal figures that when Virginia returns from her break, he'll ask her if he can move to a chair for a while. He's meanwhile happy to feel better enough that he can manage to put his worries about Bibi aside for a while rather than being consumed by them.
Hrayna hurries upstairs. She knows she'll have only a few minutes to talk to Sosu Cristal before Virginia comes back.
Cristal decides to try a Genlan meditation that Marvin taught him:
Cristal: May I have the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the strength to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Cristal thinks that's just too long for a good meditation, but who knows, maybe it'll help.
Hrayna pauses outside the door.
Hrayna: Sosu Cristal, may I come in?
Cristal: Sure, Hrayna. I could use a little Simelan conversation about now.
Hrayna: So could I. I've been practicing my Genlan with your friend Virginia, but it's a struggle. We keep not understanding each other.
Hrayna belatedly remembers her manners.
Hrayna: How are you feeling, Sosu?
Cristal imitates a Simelan textbook for English-speakers, or at least what he thinks such a textbook sounds like.
Cristal: "I am fine. How are you?"
Hrayna: It's my Genlan that's weak, Sosu, not my Simelan. I hope.
Cristal: Believe me, after a year here my Simelan is weakening. Anyhow, I don't think Virginia and anyone from in-T speak the same language in any language.
Hrayna: I've spent the last few minutes proving that, I'm afraid.
Cristal: Oh? Tell me.
Hrayna: I was trying -- I could see she had a lot of strange ideas about life In-T, about Simes, and everything -- I was trying to give her a chance to ask questions, Gen to Gen and woman to woman. But all she seemed to want to talk about was surface stuff, food and administration. And then I tried again, and she excused herself to go for a walk. Outside.
Cristal: I haven't the vaguest idea what went wrong, not being able to hear her version of it.
Hrayna: Sosu, I think she avoids talking about the things she fears. And I think... she cares about you, and is worried about you and Hajene Bibi.
Cristal: Well, that's plain enough, although her caring is more professional than personal, I'm sure.
Hrayna: I think it's at least partly personal. She sees your concern about your upcoming transfer, and thinks you're afraid for your own sake, not for your channel's.
Cristal elevates his eyebrows, or at least makes them go toward the head of the bed.
Hrayna: Yes. And so she's worrying about you. But every time I try to talk about it, she changes the topic.
Cristal: Ah. It wouldn't astonish me if she was still worried that Hajene Bibi will become a berserker if I can't fully satisfy her in transfer.
Hrayna: How do people live here, Sosu? So many kills. Almost as if Unity never happened.
Cristal shakes his head.
Cristal: It hasn't happened yet, and it won't happen in most of this Territory until something changes. Except that there are no Freeband Raiders, because the Sime government grew up and started controlling its people better.
Cristal smiles again, wryly this time.
Hrayna: Your friend, she's taking all this fear and danger, and imagining it onto you, personally.
Cristal: Yes, I suppose so. In any case, you don't change cultural patterns, or personal ones, by hitting them with a hammer. I found that out a while back.
Hrayna: You're saying I was using a hammer, Sosu?
Cristal: I wasn't there, was I? But I certainly was trying to use a hammer on Virginia, demonstrating donation for her with Hajene Bibi.
Hrayna: Didn't it help?
Cristal: On the contrary. She lost her [English] lunch, then and there.
Hrayna looks startled.
Hrayna: But she's such a strong person. She copes with [English] surgery, for shen's sake! How could she be so upset by...?
Cristal: Association of ideas. For her, the only transfer she knows is the Kill. At least as far as her undermind is concerned.
Hrayna: So how can we change that? I've tried, and failed. What can either of us say, what can we do, to change her understanding?
Cristal: Maybe we can't. I've talked about it to Professor Nattin a bit, and although he's not an expert in changing cultures --
Cristal pauses a moment to adjust his pillows.
Cristal: he tells me that you can change the tools that are available to people, but not the rules they have for using them. At least not easily. They have a saying out here about having the wisdom to know the difference between what you can change and what you can't -- I was just using it as a meditation before you came in.
Hrayna: But she's suffering so uselessly. Sosu, she's one of the openminded ones; she was willing to come in here. If we can't reach her, how can we reach anyone here?
Cristal: She was willing to come in here because she sees it as her duty, and she values duty as highly as any Tecton worker does, and for some of the same reasons. That doesn't change how she feels about us, the way we live. If we were, oh, I don't know, living in a filthy shack, she'd probably feel the same way -- but she'd still nurse such a person.
Hrayna: Then how --
Hrayna pauses as she hears footsteps in the hallway.
Hrayna: I think that's Virginia coming back now.
Cristal: It is.
Cristal should know -- he's had plenty of opportunity to note Virginia's walking rhythm.
Virginia opens the door to Cristal's room.
Virginia: It's a lovely day out there, even if it is a bit cold.
Cristal: Good. I wish I could see it.
Hrayna: Unless I misunderstand the word, it is cold more than a "bit".
Cristal chuckles: the misunderstandings have begun already!
Virginia: I can move a chair over to the window, if you'd like to sit a while.
Cristal: Exactly what I had in mind, Virginia. Thanks.
Hrayna: Perhaps I should leave. I am no good at saying important things in English.
Virginia: If you don't mind staying a few moments longer, Hrayna, it will be easier for him to walk with support on both sides.
Virginia is busy moving Cristal's bedside chair over to the window.
Hrayna: Ah. Yes. That is something I can do.
Virginia returns to the bed.
Virginia: Here, Cristal, let me help you swing your feet around. You don't want to put weight on those injured muscles until they've had a chance to heal.
Cristal cooperates with Virginia, then both of them, in order to get himself ensconced in the chair.
Cristal: It's... very beautiful. I don't think I realized quite so much how beautiful it is, before.
Virginia: You'll be outside soon enough, if you don't overexert yourself.
Virginia goes to fetch the laprug from the bed.
Virginia: Here, there's a draft.
Cristal takes the laprug and tucks it around himself.
Cristal: Thanks. I'm glad you're both here, because by what Hrayna's been telling me, you two have been talking past one another and maybe not even realizing it. Maybe I can help?
Virginia looks at Hrayna with some ~~ confusion ~~.
Hrayna: I do not know how to help, Virginia. I have tried and failed.
Hrayna, in her distraction, softens the "V" of "Virginia" halfway back to an "F".
Virginia thinks she understands.
Virginia: Hrayna, there's nothing you can do to make Cristal heal any faster. Believe me, what you're doing by volunteering to sit with him and giving me a break is appreciated.
Hrayna looks startled.
Hrayna: It is not that. It is... I cannot find a way to say so you will understand. You fear for that which is not dangerous.
Virginia is still under the impression that they are discussing Cristal's recovery.
Virginia: Trust me, I've seen a lot of surgical cases with setbacks due to straining the cut muscle too soon. I know that Hajene Bibi has been speeding the healing, but he isn't healed yet by any means.
Cristal: Not what she means, Virginia. She's worried that you're worried that Hajene Bibi will be dangerous if she doesn't get the best possible transfer from me.
Cristal says all that in one breath and has to catch up afterwards.
Hrayna is really worried now, for Cristal's physical wellbeing.
Virginia: You said yourself that it's risky.
Virginia isn't yet convinced that Bibi isn't dangerous at all times, of course. Or at least potentially so.
Cristal: I meant -- risky for Bibi -- as in it could impair her health -- not risky for anyone else.
Hrayna: Sosu, are you all right? Should I fetch Hajene?
Cristal: No, I just need to talk less, I guess. Try to work things out while I look out the window?
Virginia gives Cristal a critical look, and decides that he doesn't need immediate medical intervention.
Cristal smiles inside his head.
Virginia then turns to Hrayna.
Virginia: Perhaps you could explain what you meant?
Hrayna: I will try. You see Sosu Cristal, a Donor, and think he is somehow a victim, vulnerable to his channel. Do you not?
Virginia looks at Cristal, and shrugs.
Virginia: It's not a life I would ever choose, but then, there are plenty of people who think I'm crazy for being a nurse.
Hrayna: And there are parallels... the chance to help people, the commitment to serve. But leaving aside that, and leaving aside the fact you cannot believe, that any channel would die rather than harm a Gen.
Virginia: Cristal has told me that, and I haven't heard that Hajene Bibi's harmed anyone since she's been here.
Hrayna: Your mind believes it, but your belly is not sure?
Cristal: Heart, Hrayna, heart.
Virginia gives a wry smile.
Hrayna: Ah. Thank you, Sosu. But please save your breath for breathing.
Virginia: I think Hrayna may have said it more accurately, Cristal, if the truth be known.
Cristal smiles, outwardly this time.
Hrayna: Leaving aside all of that, and the thing that is done to channels, to make them truly incapable of killing. You do not understand what a Gen is, what power a Gen has. Even an ordinary Gen like you or me.
Cristal expects to hear the Simes-are-mere-tools-in-the-hands-of-powerful-Gens speech.
Virginia: A Gen makes selyn, which Simes have to consume to live. They do cover the basics in nursing school, you know.
Virginia is ~ mildly offended ~ at being assumed to be ignorant, but chooses to give Hrayna the benefit of the doubt.
Hrayna: It is not only that. Any Gen, with a bit of knowledge, can murder a Sime with a touch. And any Donor, with a small effort of skill, can knock even the Sectuib in Zeor dizzy, if not unconscious. Or force his will.
Virginia: Doesn't sound like the sort of thing a Sime would care to advertise.
Hrayna: Any Householder knows it. From childhood. Even if we do not know the methods, we know it is possible.
Virginia tries to figure out if there's a point to all this.
Bibi decides to check on Cristal, maybe cheer him up a little.
Hrayna: Sosu Cristal is in danger from no Sime, Virginia. And no Gen is in danger from a channel, ever.
Virginia: I'm sure you're right, other things being equal. All people have limits, though, and nobody can perform up to their usual standards when sick or injured.
Hrayna: Sosu Cristal will not injure Hajene Bibi.
Virginia: I trust he won't. Quite apart from any damage to her, it would compromise his recovery, and I have a personal interest in that, now.
Cristal: Speaking of which, I think it's time for me to lie down again.
Virginia: You're probably right -- you're a bit pale.
Hrayna glances to Virginia for instructions on how to help.
Virginia removes the laprug and sets it aside, then beckons to Hrayna.
Virginia: You take the other side, so he doesn't wobble. Nice and slow, Cristal.
Hrayna moves as indicated. Between the two women, they get Cristal gently to his feet.
Bibi comes up the stairs and zlins thats Cristal is very uncomfortable.
Cristal walks, supported, to the bed and puts himself into it, then waits for Virginia to adjust his bedclothes.
Virginia does so, doing a quick check to make sure that the bandages haven't shifted and Cristal isn't shocky.
Bibi taps lightly on the door to notify the Gens, especially Virginia, that she's there.
Cristal notices Bibi's familiar effect on his field.
Cristal: That's Hajene Bibi. Let her in, Hrayna?
Hrayna hurries to the door and opens it.
Bibi enters and nods thanks to Hrayna.
Bibi: How are you doing, Cristal?
Cristal: Better, I think. I sat in a chair for a while just now. But it tired me out.
Bibi: Yes, I can zlin it.
Virginia finishes settling Cristal's bedclothes, then backs away to give Bibi -- and herself -- some space.
Bibi sits carefully on the bed and takes Cristal's hand, caressing his arm with her tentacles in a comforting manner.
Hrayna looks on with ~~ approval ~~. Surely such an interaction between channel and Donor will help prove Hrayna's point to Virginia.
Cristal: I'm not sleepy, though. Could you help me sleep so I can get some more intense rest?
Bibi: Sure. Virginia, I'll need to take Cristal in a transfer contact for this. You can look away or leave if you prefer.
Virginia has become somewhat inured to watching her patient being handled by a Sime, since Cristal doesn't seem to mind it and has taken no harm from it.
Bibi gently takes Cristal's arms, ~~ enjoying ~~ his pleasure in the contact, then touches his lips with her own and encourages sleep.
Virginia turns away, fighting down ~~ nausea ~~ at the sight.
Cristal slips downward into sleep, surprised as always at how easy it really is.
Bibi tries not to let the effect of Virginia's nausea show on her face.
Hrayna sighs. It seems none of her words helped Virginia at all.
Bibi brushes a lock of hair off Cristal's forehead with a tentacle and looks down at him fondly.
Bibi: How's he doing, Virginia?
Virginia: He's recovering well. Another day, and he'll be convinced he's ready to run races. Or at least go downstairs.
Bibi: I think he'd like to be with us down there, and it will be good to have him there if I get in trouble -- at least he'll feel better at being more available to help me. Do you think he'll be up to it?
Virginia: Stairs? Best give it a few more days.
Bibi: I suppose I could carry him.
Virginia: Better let him build up a bit more strength, first. He only lasted a few minutes in the chair before he had to return to bed.
Bibi nods, but reserves judgment.
Bibi: I'll work on him more after he's slept.
Virginia: Shall I call you when he wakes up?
Virginia settles down in the chair and ~~ patiently ~~ prepares to wait.
Bibi gets up and quietly leaves the two women.
Hrayna starts to follow the channel out, then turns back towards Virginia.
Hrayna: I am sorry my words were of no use to you, Virginia.
Virginia: I'm sorry that I couldn't understand what use you intended them to have, Hrayna. Perhaps we'll have better luck another time.
Hrayna leaves the room, closing the door softly behind her.
Virginia checks Cristal one more time to make sure he's sleeping comfortably, then picks up her book and begins to read.