Nick is standing at the window in the small sitting room of their apartment, looking over the snow-covered grounds.
Nick: The snow is very pretty, isn't it? At least when you don't have to go slogging through it for hours at a time...
Katsura: Yes, it is. We seldom get this much at home.
Nick: We're farther north.
Nick states something that no Sime could miss.
Nick: The gardens here aren't as interesting as Sat'htine's, though.
Katsura comes over and stands close to Nick, enjoying his nager, and examining the grounds.
Nick finds himself unexpectedly ~~ homesick ~~, which surprises him, as he never missed leaving the only permanent home he ever had.
Katsura puts a comforting arm around Nick and leans her head against his shoulder.
Nick puts an arm absently around his channel.
Katsura: I hope we can go home soon.
Nick: Home. I'm not sure I even know what that means. Not really.
Katsura strokes Nick's back.
Katsura: Sat'htine will always be home for me, even if I'm away for years.
Katsura wonders if she should take advantage of the opening.
Katsura: It could be home for you, too.
Nick doesn't quite follow: it has never occurred to him that any Sectuib besides possibly his father would ever even consider taking on the Notorious Rogue Donor of the Last Audnes Rebellion.
Nick doesn't consider that much of a recommendation, as Riyyh is constitutionally incapable of saying no, especially when he ought to.
Katsura: Sectuib has asked us to invite you to pledge. He's authorized me to take your pledge, if you like.
Nick's jaw drops in utter ~~ astonishment ~~. He looks kind of cute, in a pole-axed kind of way.
Nick: He did?
Katsura: Yes. We'd like you to join us.
Katsura strokes Nick's back again.
Katsura: Think about it some more -- you don't have to say yes or no right now.
Nick finds himself strangely ~~ tempted ~~, which he's not sure he ought to be.
Katsura zlins the mixed emotions, and waits for Nick to speak.
Nick: Sat'htine has more than enough Donors, without taking on my baggage.
Katsura: I didn't say we need you. I said we want you.
Nick: I can't think why. I'm not good at staying out of trouble, and I don't think I've ever turned in a report less than a week late.
Nick is more used to thinking of himself as a liability than an asset.
Katsura: You have your faults, as do we all. But you also have your virtues. At least you recognize what your faults are.
Nick: I have had them pointed out to me. In detail. By two investigating committees, and at least a dozen Controllers. It was quite illuminating.
Nick ~~ winces ~~ at the memory.
Katsura: Sectuib has read those reports, Nick. So have Lusinka and Shorsh. Nonetheless, we invite you to join us.
Nick: Lusinka and Shorsh are in on this, too?
Nick feels a little ~~ better ~~ about considering the offer, when it's not entirely engineered by zlin-prying channels being led around by their laterals.
Katsura: Of course. Shorsh and D'zoll brought Sectuib's invitation. But all the Firsts are willing to have you as a colleague.
Nick shakes his head in ~~ astonishment ~~.
Nick: Even Arinna?
Katsura: She had no objections to offer Sectuib.
Nick: Is that a way of saying that she didn't like the idea, but couldn't find a reason good enough to persuade Hiram?
Katsura: Sectuib would have asked all the Firsts for their opinions. If she had reservations he would have zlinned them and talked to her about them.
Nick: Hiram could probably keep me as long as he wanted, you know, even without this. There's not a lot of competition for my services among Tecton Controllers.
Nick wants to make sure that Sat'htine knows what it would be getting, and has considered, beyond acquiring a Farris-trained Donor with new techniques and a new bloodline.
Katsura: Yes. And if you require more time to decide, you're welcome to stay with us while you consider. And possibly after, too, if you decide not to join us.
Katsura strokes Nick's back again.
Katsura: We don't want to pressure you. We want you to feel sure you're doing the right thing for yourself.
Nick: It would be to my advantage, in many ways. I'm not convinced it would be to Sat'htine's.
Nick thus demonstrates that he's absorbed a lot more of the Householding philosophy than one might think.
Katsura: That's up to Sectuib to decide, and he's decided it is.
Nick: He wants a Donor who in his first few weeks sent one of his channels into sugar-shock, incited the children to riot, and reorganized the decor? He always struck me as a more... organized individual than that.
Katsura: Hardly a riot, and the decor is fine. If D'zoll is going to [English] make a pig of himself [Simelan] it's not your fault.
Katsura, like Hiram, thinks playing with the Householding's children shows an interest in its future, surely a desirable trait in a candidate.
Nick was less interested in Sat'htine's future at the time, than in finding company that didn't view him as the Rogue Audnes Donor.
Nick: I should have stopped him -- he's had similar trouble before, although not as bad. I probably should have been reading his file instead of making candy.
Katsura: Nick, D'zoll is an adult. It's not your fault if you don't always manage to deter him from doing something stupid.
Nick: I was supposed to be his Donor, and a Donor's job is to keep his channel functional. What if he'd had patients who were depending on him, instead of a committee meeting?
Nick takes that responsibility to much greater lengths than most Donors, because he spent so much time looking after the only channel(s) available to large numbers of patients. He overlooks the small detail that in such a situation, he wouldn't have been taking an evening off to make taffy in the first place.
Katsura: Nick, you can only do your best. You didn't know D'zoll very well, and Shorsh, who does, didn't try to stop him either.
Nick: No, he was too busy playing. We both were.
Nick has not lived in situations where "play" was an acceptable pastime.
Katsura: None of you were on duty, either.
Nick: Is a channel or Donor ever really off duty?
Katsura: We always have to be ready to deal with an emergency, like when Norrin attacked us. But under normal conditions, we do have a right to have some time to do what we please.
Nick: How come Sat'htine is so different in that respect?
Nick never had leisure with Snake and Arat, and the Tecton Controllers he worked for were very much not amused by his attempts at recreation.
Katsura: I don't think it is. What was it like at Naros?
Nick: Most of the time I was there, I was looking after Snake -- she went into a coma after being subjected to a Genslam at close range.
Katsura winces and nods.
Nick: From what I saw, most of my... relatives... didn't take anything very seriously. Except gossip. It was kind of hard to tell who was on duty and who wasn't. Or what the folks on duty were supposed to be doing.
Nick's observations were skewed by the fact that his was a new face, and a cute one. His physical presence was thus viewed as a legitimate excuse for all in zlinning range to drop what they were doing and indulge in a good gossip.
Katsura: Before Unity, and in the first decades after, things were far more tense. But now, we can live more normal lives. That's the case in other Houses as well, from what I've learned from talking to their members.
Nick: What is a "normal" life?
Katsura: The kind of life people who aren't channels or Companions can live, I suppose. A life that isn't 100% duty. A life that has time and energy for other things.
Nick: Sounds sort of like picking crops. After the sun went down, there was usually music and dancing around the fire.
Katsura: I'm sorry I've been so demanding of your efforts since we've been out-T. I wish I could have given you more time for yourself. I tried to.
Nick puts an arm around Kat's shoulders and squeezes.
Nick: Don't fret about it. It's a little cold for dancing outside, even with a campfire.
Katsura: I wish you had more opportunity to enjoy whatever New Washington has to offer.
Nick: I drop into the coffee shop down the street from the Sime Center pretty regularly. And I've been playing in the conservatory. Did I tell you that Eulalia wants to hire me to look after her roses?
Katsura: What's her pay scale like?
Nick: Oh, undergardeners make almost half as much from their employers as they would from a general-class donation. Plus food, a place to sleep, and a uniform or two a year. She was even willing to throw in a half day off every month.
Katsura: Generous. Maybe she's trying to draw you away from me, to salvage my reputation.
Nick: No, I think she's just devoted to her roses. She said her current gardener is getting too old to do the work, and his assistant is hopeless.
Katsura: So what did you tell her?
Katsura is content to let the issue of pledging Sat'htine drop. Nick will have time to think about it, and D'zoll and Shorsh will talk to him too.
Nick: I said I was honored by her interest, but that I wasn't free to accept her offer at this time. She gave me a very skeptical look, and went away. I suspect she intends to increase her offer, once I've had time to consider.
Nick finds the situation a bit ~~ amusing ~~.
Katsura: She still doesn't seem to know how to think about me. She alternates between trying to fit me into the mold of a poor relation with nothing better to do than be her secretary, and being horrified that somebody will find out I'm living here.
Nick: According to the rigid social rules she grew up with, you can't exist, by definition. It's not surprising she doesn't know quite what to make of you.
Katsura: Yet here we are, tentacles, Sime-kissing and all.
Nick: And her son has embraced all the newfangled nonsense you represent. I'm a little surprised that she can bring herself to be civil to you, actually.
Katsura: So am I. That night when she realized that I'm a Sime -- it was so strange: she wasn't afraid of me, she was... well, not humiliated, not disgusted... but I guess appalled at my presence in this house.
Nick: You represent a huge danger to her ambitions for her son.
Katsura: From her point of view, not from his.
Nick: I'm not sure I agree with her solution... but I think she may be correct to be worrying about her son. He's been acting a little odd, lately.
Katsura: Having her around is certainly adding to his stress level.
Nick: Do you think he's likely to break under the strain?
Katsura: He seems to be managing so far, but he should try to get more sleep, in my opinion.
Nick: Would he be open to getting some help with that?
Katsura: It's less insomnia than not giving himself enough sleeping time -- he works late and gets up early.
Nick: Doesn't he have staff to take care of the details, so he can concentrate on policy?
Katsura: I suppose he does, but perhaps he has too much work that he doesn't feel he can delegate.
Nick: I expect he's getting caught up in the details.
Katsura: Well, there's not much we can do about that.
Nick: It would no doubt reduce his stress if we could disappear, and it would certainly make his mother happy. However, I've no urgent desire to go tramping around the countryside again in this weather.
Katsura: Me neither, although if I have to, you're the Companion I'd choose.
Nick gives an ~~ ironic ~~ chuckle.
Nick: I doubt any other Companion would volunteer.
Katsura: It's almost time to start getting ready for our shift. Do you think we should ring for some tea?
Katsura doesn't really have the hang of this servant business yet.
Nick: We could stop by the kitchen on our way out. That way the tea will still be warm when we try to drink it.
Nick, being Gen, grasped the essential limitations of a serving staff quite quickly.
Katsura: Good. I hate asking those Gens to run up and down all those stairs. I'm glad the kitchen staff are pretty comfortable with me now, at least when you're with me.
Nick: Yes, they're coming around nicely.
Nick has refrained from making taffy, and has therefore managed to stay in the cook's good graces.
Nick checks his satchel, making sure Kat's retainers are in it, plus a number of other useful items. And a little Lilac Passion tea for a midnight refreshment. He hands Kat a thick, Gen-style sweater that is loose enough to wear over retainers, and collects his coat and her cape.
Nick: Shall we go?
Nick offers Kat an arm, in the Gen-style courtesy.
Katsura takes the arm, Gen-style, but then squeezes it briefly with her handling tentacles.
Katsura: Lead on, Sosu.
Katsura wonders whether she'll be able to say "Lead on, naztehr" some time.