Katsura is in her bed-sitting room at home at Sat'htine, gazing into the fire as Nick gives her a not-really-needed but very enjoyable nageric massage.
Nick believes in maintaining his skills, and Arat required greater-than-usual finesse in massages, even for a Farris.
Katsura makes a soft contented sound as she relinquishes even more deeply to her Companion.
Nick's efforts today were sparked by some odd tension he noticed in his channel, which she has not yet explained. He notes with ~~ satisfaction ~~ that she has now reached the boneless-kitty stage.
Katsura smiles and lifts a languid hand to caress Nick's cheek with an unprotected lateral.
Nick: There. You were all tied in knots. Well, relatively speaking.
Katsura: I wish I could do more for you.
Nick: You and our naztehrhai have given me a home, for the first time in my life.
Katsura: I'm so glad you pledged.
Nick reaches for the pitcher of spiced vin extremely ordinaire that is warming by the fire, and pours out two glasses. He offers one to Kat.
Katsura takes it and enjoys the warmth and aroma.
Nick: Do you feel like sharing whatever it was that's been upsetting you? Or is it none of my business?
Katsura: Our transfer...
Katsura takes a sip of wine and a deep breath.
Nick: I'm looking forward to it. ~~ controlled anticipation ~~
Katsura: So am I.
Katsura trails a lateral over Nick's muscular Gen forearm.
Katsura: Nick, how do you feel about being upgraded to match the top Farris channels?
Nick: I would like to be able to give you a really satisfying transfer. One where you don't have to control so hard.
Katsura: Rimona thinks it's possible, but it may take some... extreme measures, since you're so many years past establishment.
Nick: Oh? What measures?
Nick is ~~ not unduly disturbed ~~ by the prospect.
Katsura has lost her boneless kitty state.
Nick notices and projects ~~ relaxation ~~.
Katsura: Two things. One, our transfer. She'd like me to strip you very deeply, almost to a dangerous level, and fast, almost to the point of pain.
Katsura tightens up, despite the projection. She feels a bit sick at proposing this to a Gen, especially one she cares about so much.
Nick considers the prospect ~~ calmly ~~.
Katsura: I've got the control to do it, but it's safer if we have Hiram or Rimona and their Companion there monitoring, to be sure they can overcontrol me if... necessary.
Nick: I doubt it would ever be necessary, but if it makes you feel secure, I can stand a monitor.
Katsura: Do you... want me to do it, then? You don't have to -- you're already a good match for most of our Farris channels.
Nick assesses Kat's composure -- or lack thereof -- with Companionlike perspicuity.
Nick: You don't want to do it, do you?
Katsura: It's close to some very brutal techniques that you... may have already experienced. Purposeful burning to upgrade. I wouldn't want to have you feel... that I'd do anything like that to a Gen.
Nick: Snake did singe me on our first few transfers, although only the first really counts as a burn.
Katsura wonders whether Snake didn't have sufficient control, or whether with her taste for Gen pain, she let herself burn Nick both for pleasure and to selfishly upgrade him so he could give her better transfers.
Nick: Well, it wasn't as if Snake wanted to, either. She'd arranged for a better match, but we got trapped in a snowstorm.
Katsura: Didn't she think of doing a shunt, and restricting her draw speed, like we did in the woods?
Nick: She did, but I didn't come close to matching her, back then. We both survived it, but neither one of us was in very good shape, afterwards.
Katsura: Judging from scars, she must have come close to killing you. You would have been unconscious, probably for at least a day.
Katsura strokes Nick's hand, ~~ distressed ~~ at even imagining it.
Nick: Not that long, although I wasn't worth much for more than a week.
Katsura: Nick, if you consent, I swear unto Sat'htine I won't burn you. The monitors will stop me if I can't.
Nick: Kat, I know you well enough to know that they won't have to. I trust you.
Nick reaches out to run a careful finger down Kat's arm.
Katsura: So... you'd consent to a transfer like that?
Katsura is trembling.
Nick: Yes, of course. It's nothing I haven't done before, and Rimona is right: it's the most efficient way to increase my speed and capacity to match you. But I won't force it on you, either, if you don't want to do it.
Nick reaches out to ~~ calm ~~ Kat's trembling.
Katsura: Rimona and Hiram think I should be doing more of the tough jobs a Sectuib has to be able to do.
Nick: Ah. They're pressuring you, then?
Katsura: Well, technically I suppose they're encouraging me.
Katsura tries to smile and caresses Nick's forearm again.
Katsura: Farrises are never out of training.
Nick: You're really upset about this, aren't you?
Katsura: I don't want you to think that because you've pledged we don't have to treat you as you ought to be treated. I've tried to make up for the way you've been abused, and I don't want you to think I'm going to stop doing that just because you're ours.
Katsura takes a deep breath.
Katsura: I don't want you to ever feel that you've been betrayed.
Nick: Kat, slow down. Why do you assume I would view this as abuse?
Katsura: It's close to what Snake did to you. And it's for the benefit of us uppermost Farrises. There are a number of Farrises here that are good matches for you already, so it's not as if you can't find a fulfilling transfer partner without this. And after you're upgraded, only the topmost Farris channels will ever be good matches for you. It limits your options even further.
Nick: Let's see. I'd go from having one channel, to two, to...
Nick makes a show of counting on his fingers...
Nick: I make it four good matches in-House, and access to many more through the Tecton. Obviously, my options would be severely limited. By some strange definition of the word "limited" that I'm unacquainted with...
Nick: Seriously, Kat, what Snake did to make me her Donor was demanding, but overall, she was taking more abuse than she ever asked me to bear. She did betray me, but that came much later.
Katsura: I guess I'm a lot more sensitive about these issues than you are. But I can zlin how sincere you are. You're an adult -- you can make your own decisions.
Katsura takes Nick's hand.
Katsura: I guess I need your support to handle thinking about what I'll be doing to you.
Nick: You have it, always.
Katsura: Thank you, naztehr. I'll surely need it if Hiram and Rimona keep up this plan of toughening up the wimpy Heir to Sat'htine!
Nick: You're already shown that you can do what you have to, when there's no other choice.
Katsura: I suppose I just have to learn not to get distressed about it.
Nick: Perhaps. Or perhaps you will learn to work through the distress and do what you have to do, anyway.
Katsura: Rimona's plan for upgrading you has a second phase. She wants me to use my secondary to strip your selyn deeply and at high speed every few days for a month, or maybe longer. So you'd miss out on at least one transfer.
Nick raises an eyebrow.
Nick: She really is impatient to get her tentacles on me, isn't she?
Katsura: I'm afraid so.
Nick: What does Hiram think about that part of it?
Katsura: He defers to Rimona as having greater expertise. We've used this method in the past, but not recently or often. Of course, you don't have to consent to that part, either. We could reconsider it if deep intense transfers aren't enough to get your production up -- if you level off.
Katsura looks down.
Nick: You don't want to do that, either.
Katsura: I'd be working with my secondary, so it would be easier on me. But again, I don't want you to feel pushed or exploited. And it's not as if the House doesn't have enough Companions to serve the topmost Farrises. So you don't have to feel that it's your duty as ambrov Sat'htine to go along with any of this.
Nick considers what D'zoll said, about Nick being a prospective choice for the next First Companion, which would certainly require expanding his capacity.
Nick: Kat, let's see how we both weather this transfer, and what effect it has on my speed and capacity, before we decide on a long-term plan. There's no point in running you into a nervous wreck to get me there a few months sooner.
Katsura: I suppose I'm being too protective of you. It's not fair to you.
Nick: On the other hand, Sectuib has a point. You've been sheltered from a lot of the less pleasant chores that are traditionally dumped on the top channel.
Katsura: Yes. The life of a pediatrician is a good deal less stressful than that of a Sectuib. He did the right thing putting me in charge of the disaster games, even though it turned out to be a much bigger project than he realized. I learned a lot there, about myself as well as the work.
Nick: You did well, and you'll be able to do this, too. As long as you don't pull back.
Katsura: I can do it, now that I know you feel all right about it.
Katsura squeezes Nick's hand.
Katsura: It should be intense for you, intense pleasure. I think you'll be able to relinquish fully and just enjoy it, since you trust me so much.
Nick: I'm looking forward to it.
Nick is, too.
Katsura: Good. So am I.
Katsura is relieved and optimistic, now that they've talked it over. She's beginning to accept that Nick is a lot tougher and less in need of protection than she tends to assume.
Nick: A true Farris channel: always ready to jump into a challenge.
Nick's nager ~~ teases ~~.
Katsura: And a good Companion for a Farris -- ready to put up with her, no matter where she goes.
Katsura offers deeper engagement.
Nick: Through snowdrifts and Wild Gens, always.
Katsura: Even the upper levels of New Washington society.
Nick ~~ accepts ~~ the engagement.
Katsura sighs with ~~ pleasure ~~.
Nick: I will defend you from all arthritic dragons.
Nick: With the possible exception of Rimona. Not that I wouldn't try, but my abilities aren't unlimited.
Katsura: She's most dangerous when she puts on that poor old lady act.
Nick: That shows you don't appreciate that the average old lady is more dangerous than a berserker.
Hiram signals at the door.
Katsura: It's Sectuib.
Katsura signals ~~ come in ~~.
Hiram enters and smiles as he zlins the ambient.
Nick reaches for the spiced vin extremely ordinaire.
Nick: Sectuib, would you care for some wine?
Hiram considers briefly. He finally decides that loyalty to one's House's products is more important than tastebud elitism.
Hiram: Yes, please.
Nick: Don't worry. We've spiced it pretty well.
Hiram wonders if his face revealed more than he intended it to. He's sure that his nager did not.
Nick couldn't have zlinned through his showfield anyway, if he could zlin, which he can't.
Katsura: Nick's a bit of a wine snob, I think. ~~ teasing, affection ~~
Nick: My one social grace.
Hiram accepts the glass of wine and sips.
Hiram: Hmm. These spices are quite pleasant. You should pass your recipe to the kitchen staff.
Hiram glances from Nick to Kat and back to Nick again. zlinning closely.
Hiram: Have you had a chance to reach any decisions?
Katsura gestures to Nick to answer.
Nick: We've agreed to push this transfer, and then reevaluate.
Nick's ~~ concern ~~ is far more for how Katsura will weather the transfer than for himself.
Hiram zlins Nick's concern. It matches with his own.
Nick: It's a worthwhile goal, but there is more than one way to reach it.
Hiram: You are prepared to take on this responsibility, Hajene?
Hiram's tone is entirely formal as he speaks.
Hiram: For the upgrading transfer?
Katsura: Yes. My main concern was that Nick might have reservations, but he's looking forward to it. He trusts my competence.
Nick: For some reason, she seems surprised by that.
Hiram suspects, from what he knows of Nick both personally and on paper, that Nick would willingly face anything short of a fatal transfer burn. Especially for a chance to upgrade himself to match Kat.
Katsura smiles at her Companion ~~ affectionately ~~.
Hiram: A Sectuib -- or a Sectuib's Heir -- must learn to act with complete self-confidence.
Hiram's nager twitches with what just might be a hint of wry laughter.
Hiram: Especially when you're quaking in your boots with self-doubt.
Nick: Remind me not to play poker with you -- at least, without cheating.
Katsura: An impenetrable showfield is a very handy thing to have, isn't it?
Hiram gives them both his best poker face, and poker nager.
Nick: Yes. It's unfortunate for both of you that your Companions can't zlin, and have to rely on other cues.
Hiram: Never forget, Hajene, that a Companion can read your face as well as your showfield. Your face, your posture, your movements -- have I missed anything, Sosu?
Nick: Your words: the things you do or don't say.
Katsura: Nick is welcome to read me. It's always for my benefit.
Hiram: Hmm. You've never played poker against him, then, have you? ~~ broadly teasing ~~
Nick: No, she hasn't -- they were my cards, you see.
Katsura: I know when I'm outclassed, too.
Nick reaches into his battered satchel, which is on the floor by his feet, and draws out a battered deck. He cuts and shuffles with almost Simelike dexterity, his nager shining with ~~ innocence ~~.
Katsura chuckles at the projection.
Katsura: Watch out, Sectuib!
Hiram: Oh, I'm quite safe; I'm on duty in the Emergency ward in a few minutes.
Nick: Besides, he's got a perfectly serviceable shirt of his own.
Hiram: It's a uniform shirt; it belongs to Sat'htine. Just remember, Nick, as a member of this House, you can't play against your naztehrhai for money any more. You'll have to find more interesting stakes to gamble for.
Nick: There's always taffy. Although I doubt anyone who participated in the Winter Games would be willing to play for beans, any more.
Hiram: Food. Don't Gens ever think about anything but food?
Nick: Of course. We also think of transfer, from time to time.
Nick runs a finger down one of Kat's handling tentacles.
Katsura curls the tentacle around the finger.
Hiram: You just keep doing that, and you'll be fine. I have absolute confidence in you both.
Katsura: Thank you, Sectuib.
Hiram pulls his showfield in close around himself, granting the two youngsters the illusion of privacy while concealing the few doubts he has.
Katsura makes no effort to penetrate Hiram's showfield, although she could, with some effort.
Hiram sets down his wineglass and rises to leave.
Hiram: I must be on my way. Enjoy the rest of your free time, and I'll see you later.
Hiram nods to them both, and hurries from the room. Knowing Kat's fine discernment, he doesn't let himself think about all the things that could go wrong with this upgrading transfer until he's halfway across the south courtyard.
Katsura: Would you like a backrub, Nick?
Nick: Why not?
Nick pours himself another sip or two of wine, and stretches out ~~ luxuriously ~~ on the hearth rug.
Katsura straddles him and runs her hands and tentacles under his shirt, enjoying the zlin of his rising field as well as the feel of his muscular Gen body.