Seruffin has once more been forced by circumstances and his Controller to don retainers for the long trip back to Sime Territory. His mangled laterals aren't happy about that, but the rest of him is glad that he will be able to spend a day with Bibi on the way.
Seruffin dismisses Gerrhonot to get some refreshments and rest as soon as his retainers are off, and goes to seek Bibi. He's whistling a ~~ cheerful ~~ song, somewhat out of tune.
Seruffin doesn't zlin Bibi around, but a quick question to Gitl sends him down the basement stairs.
Bibi is about to check the changeover room to make sure it's ready for the next "victim", although she actually went down to get a new box of donor forms and some jars of pickled vegetables.
Bibi: Seruffin! ~~ surprise ~~ delight~~
Seruffin: Bibi, my dear!
Seruffin has the presence of mind to remove the jar of pickles from Bibi's tentacles and put it back on the shelf before enfolding her in a ~~ delighted ~~ hug.
Bibi hugs back. ~~ happiness ~~ erotic attraction ~~
Seruffin is glad that for once, he's here at the right time that he can ~~ respond ~~ appropriately.
Bibi: Here, let's sit down on the "victim's" bed.
Bibi leads Seruffin into the changeover room, where it's quiet and private and well insulated.
Seruffin doesn't require much guidance, actually.
Seruffin: I had to make an unexpected trip back to civilization, and the Tecton does have strict regulations about limiting time in retainers...
Bibi: Of course.
Bibi gently strokes Seruffin's forearms, kicks off her shoes and hops on the bed.
Seruffin is a First Order Tecton channel, with years of iron-clad discipline behind him, and so he has the presence of mind to remove his own shoes before joining her.
Bibi snuggles up to him, kisses his cheek, and sighs ~~ happily ~~.
Seruffin is feeling very ~~ contented ~~ an hour later, as, pickles safely delivered to Gitl, they settle down for a cup of trin.
Seruffin: Ah, Bibi, it's been much too long.
Bibi gives another ~~ happy ~~ sigh.
Bibi: Oh, yes.
Seruffin finds that his left arm doesn't have quite enough space to remain at his side, so he lays it across Bibi's shoulders.
Bibi moves closer, so the arm can go further around.
Seruffin: How has life at Hannard's Ford been treating you?
Bibi: Mostly the usual routine except for last week.
Seruffin: Last week? What happened? A rash of changeovers?
Bibi: Dr. Tavis had to go out of town for a few days, and asked me if his nurses could refer patients to me if they couldn't manage the problem themselves.
Seruffin is ~~ astonished ~~.
Seruffin: He did? Now, that's an unexpected development.
Bibi: Indeed! It seems that since he published that paper about how I helped him with Cristal's ruptured spleen he's developed a bit of a... reputation. So young doctors he might be able to hire to cover for him in his absence are reluctant to be associated with his name.
Bibi spreads her hands.
Bibi: I told him not to make me second author.
Seruffin: I suppose there wasn't any way to describe the case without mentioning you.
Bibi: Good thing my Controller doesn't read Genlan surgical journals.
Seruffin: Yes, it is. The details were quite upsetting. I had no idea it was quite that bad.
Seruffin gives Bibi's shoulders a ~~ sympathetic ~~ squeeze.
Bibi: He was very fast, although from the supplies closet where I was huddling with Nattin it seemed to take a lot longer. And it did save Cristal's life. I wouldn't have been able to control the bleeding myself for long enough.
Seruffin: I am very glad that I have never had to face such a situation. I don't know if I'd have been able to show your strength.
Bibi: Oh, it was easy. I was so terrified that Cristal would die leaving me without a Donor again that I'd do anything to save him.
Bibi's nager doesn't entirely match the flippant tone of her words.
Seruffin offers ~~ comfort ~~.
Bibi: Of course it helps that I'm nowhere near as sensitive as you are. I wonder how you can stand it with all those hostile Gens around you all the time.
Seruffin: I have Gerrhonot to shield me. And no, I'm not sure I could hand him over to a potentially hostile stranger, even to save his life. Which makes me something of a hypocrite, you know. Or at least a very poor excuse for a human being.
Bibi squeezes Seruffin's hand.
Bibi: I'm sure you could do whatever was necessary.
Seruffin: You have more confidence in me than I do. I don't have your flexibility, Bibi.
Bibi: But you're so much stronger. You might have been able to manage Cristal yourself.
Seruffin: I might have. I know I couldn't have handed him over to a... surgeon... to be butchered, even if I'd known I couldn't save him. Which makes me less of a man than Sen... er, Ambassador Tsibola.
Bibi: It was his wife who handed him over to your dread tentacles, wasn't it? You're certainly more of a man than she is! ~~ affection, teasing ~~
Seruffin chuckles, and gives Bibi a kiss.
Bibi returns it ~~ gladly ~~.
Seruffin: I was zlinning the Senator himself, trying to assess the situation. He couldn't talk, but he was aware of my presence. And he didn't reject it out of hand.
Bibi: He was probably spending all his attention on trying to breathe.
Seruffin: Some of it, yes, but he knew who I was.
Bibi turns ~~ pensive ~~.
Bibi: Do you really think you'd let Gerrhonot die rather than give him even a slim chance at life with surgery? He depends on your judgment so totally... I think you'd be able to reconsider your prejudice under those dire circumstances, don't you?
Seruffin: I would like to think I'm the kind of person who could, but when it comes down to that sort of thing, I'm rather set in my ways.
Bibi: Of course, it was certainly questionable for me to hand Cristal over, when he'd expressly said one time that he'd rather die than have surgery.
Seruffin: Has he come to terms with it?
Bibi: Oh, yes. Once he woke up he was glad to be alive, and told me he was glad I'd done it. But if I'd let him die, he wouldn't have had an opinion to express.
Bibi: I did ask him to consent, and he did, but he didn't remember it later. He wasn't fully conscious at the time. I more than asked, I begged.
Bibi looks down, ~~ ashamed ~~.
Seruffin: You did what you had to do. And really -- you punished yourself more than him by doing it. At least, I assume that Cristal was unconscious while he was being sliced up?
Bibi: Of course. I could zlin the tissues being cut, but no reaction from him to it.
Bibi feels a ~~ cold grue ~~ at the memory.
Seruffin increases his ~~ comfort ~~.
Seruffin: If I understand the technique properly -- and I've done nothing more than skim Dr. Tavis's article -- the success of surgery doesn't depend on the cooperation of the patient. There have been times I'd have been glad of the chance to work without worrying that my patient would fight me.
Bibi: Yes. For serious surgery, the patient is unconscious, and his personality is irrelevant, as well as his nager, if they could zlin it.
Seruffin shakes his head.
Bibi: I understand from Cristal and Virginia that surgeons have reputations as difficult individuals to get along with. It takes a particular kind of personality to be able to do it.
Seruffin: I'm sure it does, even among non-zlinning Gens.
Bibi: So I agreed to cover for Tavis, figuring it was my duty to the advancement of Unity, and besides, I would try to help anybody who came here anyway, whether the nurses had sent them here or not.
Seruffin: From your comment earlier, I take it that you've had some customers?
Bibi: Yes, a few. Fortunately nothing serious. Maybe I'll get a few more donors out of this.
Seruffin: You do have a talent for attracting the local Gens. For that matter, I can attest that you have quite an attraction for the Simes in the area, as well.
Seruffin illustrates that attraction by nibbling a bit on Bibi's lower lip.
Bibi sighs with ~~ pleasure ~~.
Seruffin: Ah, that's delightful. Things have been going far too smoothly in New Washington. I haven't had nearly enough crises that require resolution by the World Controller and her staff.
Bibi: No Tsibola the Terrible to keep your blood pressure up?
Seruffin: At least he was competent -- frighteningly so, considering his reactionary stance on some issues. Some of his would-be successors just can't seem to get their minds around the possibility that some of their preconceptions about Simes are simply wrong.
Seruffin: For instance, there's one junior staffer I've had to deal with several times now who is very concerned about Nivet Gens not being allowed to hold paying jobs. No matter how often I explain to him that Gerrhonot earns a generous salary, he is convinced that he's living on charity.
Bibi: He doesn't see how hard Gerrhonot has to work for it at times.
Seruffin: He doesn't seem to think that Gerrhonot doesn't work, or at least I don't think he does. For some reason, the fellow hasn't been eager to hold long conversations with me.
Bibi shakes her head.
Bibi: I'm glad I'm not a diplomat.
Seruffin: I can only conclude that there's some critical reason why the fellow wants in-Territory Gens to be horribly oppressed. And the idea that he might be wrong is so threatening to him to that he literally can't hear any evidence to the contrary.
Bibi: They do call it Sime Territory, which gives the impression that everything is run by and for Simes, not that it isn't, mainly.
Seruffin: Well, yes, insofar as that's necessary to keep everyone safe. But what they don't seem to grasp is how very central it is to Sime welfare that our Gens not be abused.
Bibi: I suppose it depends on how you'd define abuse. Certainly there's as much prejudice about what kinds of work are appropriate for Gens as there are about what's appropriate for women here.
Seruffin: Or for men, for that matter. And yet, would you claim that Gen society horribly oppresses women and men? Or just that they've got an imperfect system that works pretty well for most people?
Bibi: Well, you're right there, of course, but I think things haven't settled down yet in Nivet. I think the relations between the larities will continue to change for some time to come.
Seruffin: Of course it will. They are a jury-rigged improvisation thrown together in haste. It would be more astonishing if they didn't change, once cooler heads have had a chance to examine them at leisure.
Bibi: And more people grow up for whom the junct days are just horror stories from books, instead of word of mouth from people who grew up in them.
Seruffin: Yes. The world will be a better place when junct society becomes a titillating horror story for a dull afternoon, and not a grim reality that we must fight daily. I admit, I will never be able to find the old days amusing. And it's not that I lack a proper appreciation for amusement.
Bibi squeezes his hand and offers ~~ comfort ~~.
Seruffin returns the ~~ comfort ~~, and pulls her closer. He reflects that while his experience may render him a living fossil, he is not so fossilized that he can't appreciate the finer things of life.