PHD 271: Apologies and Ascots
Apologies and Ascots
Summary: In which fences are mended.
Date: PHD 271
Related Logs: Working Lunch

The 'day' has passed and now settles into night for those who called their last meal 'lunch'. A CAP's just gone out, berthings quieted down as those leftover begin their nightly showers or snoring. Or Ivorying. But we won't think about that.

Roubani is sitting at a small vacated table, writing idly on one of his zillion pads of paper, with the occasional pause to check something on his calculator. And smoking, which he hasn't done in berthings in weeks.

No. Nobody's thinking about that at all — especially not Timon, who steps through the hatch with a stack of student papers in his hands. His nap has done him very little good, all things considered: the bags underneath his eyes are still as visible as always, and the faint scowl on his face hasn't disappeared. No, it doesn't seem Ivory's delightful interactions with his students have done very much for his mood. Stump, stump, stump go heavy and recently-healed feet, his thudding footsteps taking him closer to his bunk — and to Roubani, whom he summarily ignores.

Roubani keeps writing for a while, lost in the twists and turns of whatever he's doing on that page. When all things are precariously balanced as they should be, that's when he looks up. The temperature in the room did just drop by twenty degrees, after all. "You look terrible." It doesn't sound like a jab, just…Timon does look terrible. He exhales softly through his nose, turning the pencil in his hand to put the eraser against the paper. "Do you want off the project, Ivory?"

Ivory, who's now sorting the papers on his bunk by their authors' capacity to give him a conniption, doesn't answer — not at first. Apparently, he's trying to weigh which of two responses has the worse handwriting, which does take some time. Only when he's finished deciding between the pair of disasters does he turn, settling down on top of his pillow with a tired groan. The seams of his blues squeal under the strain as he replies: "Ivory's two syllables, you know."

"Yes, it is." Roubani replies, shrugging one shoulder. "So you pointed out before." He looks down at the ashtray where his cigarette is smouldering, picking it up with his fingertips.

"Just so we're clear." Timon sighs as he flops into his bunk, not caring that doing so disorganizes what few papers he's organized. Sheets of lined paper crumple under the weight of his body, crinkling even further while he shifts in place. Meh. Those ones probably weren't going to receive good marks anyway.

Roubani picks up his pencil. No reply, the lead starting to scratch on the paper again. He stops once to rub his eye with the pad of his thumb and then resumes. The air around him isn't exactly calm, but other than that there's nothing there to be read.

And Timon's got no cow entrails to read. Stalemate. Though the papers cut uncomfortably into his back, he doesn't move to rearrange them, instead slotting his fingers between each other underneath the oily strands of his hair. He hasn't showered since last night: cut him a break.

The advantage of smoking - one's sense of smell takes a nosedive. No metapun intended. Roubani just keeps writing for a time, until he finishes the next pass of figures on the plate. Then the pencil's silently laid down, cigarette retrieved for another drag.

The advantage of smelling bad — the reek of hot smoke doesn't seem nearly so intolerable. Timon rolls over in his bunk until his back's facing Roubani, ostensibly so one flailing hand can gather up the papers that by now are annoying him sufficiently to be dealt with. A couple of essays flutter to the floor, but most of them are caught in his haphazard grasp and stuffed into the shelf.

Possibly the longest silence that's passed between them since they met. Roubani's voice doesn't attempt to pierce it again, eyes turned towards the wall. He exhales a thin veil of smoke through his nose, which rolls across his notebook and the technical manual he'd taken from the Ready room earlier.

For once, Timon's not going to be the one who breaks it first, though he can't stop himself from glancing at the technical manual Roubani's snatched from under the CAG's nose — not that anybody outside his students and the NerdSquad (TM) is likely to read it, but still. Then, he's bending to pick up the papers that have fallen on the floor. His worn jacket groans under the strain as he gets one that's fallen particularly far behind his mattress.

The manual's turned to a section on auxiliary thruster wiring in a Raptor. Obscure stuff indeed. Roubani's attention gradually drifts from the wall back to the open book and stays there a while. Not reading, though; his eyes aren't moving. The silence stretches on until his head makes the barest absent nodding motion. "You are right," he says, finally, putting his fingers under the corner of his notebook and closing it. "This is stupid."

"Reminded me of high school, myself." Timon's enough of a good sport to dredge up some semblance of humor, though his usual wan smile doesn't quite make it to his lips. The result makes him look like he's constipated — which, given that his meals for the past couple of days have consisted of fully four varieties of protein bars, might not be too surprising.

Roubani shuts the big manual as well, and then folds his arms over his chest. "So what is it you want from me? Obviously, I am not getting it, but I am not going to sit around playing the silent treatment game like my mother."

"Let's start with not encouraging rampant idiocy and go from there, shall we?" Ivory runs his fingers through his hair, grimacing as a few stray strands come out to drape over his fingers. Yeah, today's not been good for the Do Not Go Bald Before Forty Project.

"What do you care, Stathis?" Roubani's voice is suddenly quite a bit more tired than it just was. "So I mangled your callsign. I was not aware that made me /quite/ such an idiot in your world."

"That wasn't what I was talking about, and you know it." Timon lies back down, bed thankfully clear of papers. The essays he's retrieved are set atop his belly, which rises and falls as he breathes. "I was more referring to that moronic know-it-all casting aspersions on three days of work and one more day of trials, but — " The man's smile is incredulous. "Propagating error. My foot. She truly had no idea what was going on."

"No, she didn't." Roubani's arms stay folded, legs crossed. "I notice you didn't take it upon yourself to explain it to her. Neither did I. I suspect it's for the exact same reason - she didn't ask. Cardinal sin of science. If she wants to live her life full of that kind of hubris, that is on her."

Timon's about to reply, but whatever he was planning on saying goes out the airlock when the light above his cot fizzles, pops, and goes out. He grunts as his free hand reaches above him to fix the problem with altogether predictable results. "Shit," Ivory snarls, burnt fingers flying to his bed's cold metal frame in an attempt to cool them down. Only when the pain subsides does he speak again: "You think it's petty," the pilot murmurs, his voice suddenly contemplative. "Yeah. Character flaw: that I'm not big enough to move on when somebody like that thinks she's gotten the better of me." There's a short laugh. "Gods. What an arrogant prick I must have come off as."

Roubani glances at the light as it pops. But no move from the ex-snipe to fix it. Yet, anyway. "I don't…think it's petty. Per se." He rubs his fingertips over his brows, physically ironing out the little premature wrinkles on his forehead. "I think that flaw has a converse. That it boils you when someone refuses to learn. And that's what makes you a far better teacher than I am." He hehs quietly, only a twinge of exhausted humour in the sound. "I think your temper is what got the best of you."

Timon winces as he removes his tender fingers from his bedframe, examining them in the semi-darkness of his bunk. And then, after swaddling his hand in his covers: "Mother used to send me to summer camp when I was little, you know," he begins, tired eyes drifting closed as his other hand scratches at an itch behind his neck. "Getting in touch with nature and all that. Her idea, not mine, and she wouldn't stop even after I came back with welts all over from mosquitoes and poison ivy."

Roubani is used to these sudden turns in conversations. "Wouldn't she," he replies simply, in lieu of telling Timon to go on. His hand drops from his forehead, arms folding back into place.

"One year they were so tired of taking me on outdoor hikes they gave me the option to do something in camp instead." Timon is used to ignoring whatever people say in the middle of his anecdotes. Inevitability, Mister Roubani: that's the sound of it. "As it turned out, we had a counsellor that year from Tauron's archery team — the Colonywide archery team," Ivory adds. One can only guess at the price tag such a session might command. "So I figure why not? Give it a shot." He chuckles at his own pun. "Almost killed the poor girl the first time I laid hands on a bow. Anyway, I used to stay behind after lessons and watch her drill arrow after arrow into targets at seventy meters away. One day, I finally work up the guts to ask her what her secret was." A private smile lilts across the pilot's face. "Turns out she imagined that the little red bull's-eye was the face of her ex-boyfriend. Hit him every godsdamned time, I say."

Silence greets the end of the story. Either because Roubani knows better than to assume Timon's done, or his natural reserve is just that much thicker today. The only thing that moves is his shoulders a little bit as he breathes.

Fear not: Ivory's just gotten to the moral. "An illustration of the power of one's temper when it's properly focused? Nah." Timon shakes his head as one of his rare grins crosses his face. "Reverie should thank whatever Lords she prays to that I never learned a thing from Miss Newman."

Roubani's dark eyes shift to the left, and then back. Silence, for a while. "Are you alright to go on, Stathis? There are a lot of sacrifices going on for all this…one I will not make is your health."

"I'm not homicidal, if that's what you're thinking." Face it: even if he'd wanted to hurt a fly, he probably wouldn't be able to. "And before you reprise your Scorpia monologue — I took a nap, and I'll be taking more. These bags here? Blame them on two hours of incessant questioning about the nitty-gritty details of sub-atmo maneuvering, details which I went over just five days ago." But judging from the faint note of satisfaction in Timon's voice, he wouldn't have it any other way.

"Anyway, more to the point: I've been doing some counting," the man adds after a moment's thought. Papers rustle as he shifts in his bed, burnt hand still enfolded in his blanket. "I've wrecked more Raptors over the past eight months than over the past eight years," he murmurs. "Maybe SAR was vanilla duty like the VAQ guys said; maybe I'm losing a step. I don't know. First time around? That was my fault. Second time around — " Ivory coughs, clearing and swallowing a wad of mucus from his throat. "Well. Best laid plans, Poet, as they say. Things'll go wrong. This time around, I want to know what to do."

"You will." Roubani replies, eyes on the other man. "Anton knows what he's doing. I like to think I do, wrong as I am sometimes. But this isn't us telling you what to do. This is us all working together. Should we reach a point where we agree it can't be done, it'll be gone, but you've got to allow for trials too. And don't you /ever/ treat me again like you did today. I may sound crazy sometimes, but I am not a damn airhead."

"You were more than a little condescending yourself, if I recall. If you're going to get on your moral high horse, at least have the dignity to remember the other half of the conversation." Timon's diction makes the point a little more strongly than he perhaps intends, though his voice is level as ever. Eyes closed, lips barely moving — yeah. The confrontation in the mess has sapped him of his temper for at least another eight months (or however long it's been since the last implosion. "'Just because you didn't think of it yourself, Stathis?'" A humorless laugh. "Oh, of course I didn't think of it myself — it never crossed my mind during ninety-six hours of work, not once, to take basic error into account."

Alas, sarcasm doesn't become him and he knows it. When he next speaks, his tone has gentled considerably. "You and Thorn — you both know what you're doing. You say it works, you show me how, and, hand to Styx, I'll get in that cockpit for you. Both of you. But somebody's got to tell you the bad news — because if somebody doesn't, the toasters may very well win, and it’s not like we have enough cubits to press 'Continue' after our gruesome death animation finishes spooling."

Roubani raises an eyebrow slightly. After all that he just has one thing to say, blandly: "You do realise I was talking to Marek, with that. About the girl's callsign, no less."

"Were you." He was, wasn't he? Immaterial. "And all those times where you immediately concluded I'd been using old data without even looking at my numbers? Also to Spider?" Timon sighs. "Whatever. It's petty, I was stupid, I apologize. This really isn't worth our time." Somehow, that comes out … sincerely. Miracle of miracles.

"Now you're fishing," Roubani says, brow still raised a tad. "I know you didn't have the most recent numbers because I was listening to you. We did re-work pilot procedure. And if you think for one moment that we do not understand that the death of crews will be on our heads if we don't get it perfectly…you're mad." His voice is quiet as ever, but there's a whole lot in his tone. Talk about Atlas' weight. Silence, then more gently, "But. I would do the same if I were you. So let me cast off the hypocrisy."

"And I was listening to you — about the rework, not the callsign." Whoops. Timon's smile is a little sour. That one he genuinely feels bad about. "Maybe my dataset's old, which I really don't think it is. But even if I had been going off the second-most recent numbers we have, it wouldn't have made this big of a difference — not eight seconds. Anyway. We'll hash it out when we hit those sims, and if you're right, I'll wear an ascot for however long you'd like." A long sigh; then, tentatively, he extends his right hand — the burned one, but whatever. It's to shake, see — and yes, he hasn't forgotten about the whole 'no touching' thing. Ivory's no good at apologies. One and done, that.

Roubani has gotten better about the handshake thing. Look, it only takes him like three seconds to remember how to be normal, and meet the hand halfway for a single shake. The ascot thing finally gets him to smile a little. "However long I'd like, hm? Very well." Oh boy. "Good. I would have been quite upset if you never spoke to me again."

"Only the Gods know to what extent my ego would have grown had that happened." Timon's hand is withdrawn as he reaches for the curtain. "I've turned off my alarm clock, so that means you're it." His index finger points at Poet's chest. "We get the sims at 0800 hours, and if I hear one word from you about letting me have a good night's sleep — or if you bother me at any time before 0750 — I really will never speak to you again." Roubani's expression is matched by Ivory's familiar wan grin. "Rest well."

Roubani makes a shoo-off motion in Timon's direction. "Wouldn't dream of it. I shall be busy; I've got ascots to dig up." Glee. He twitches a final little smile and settles back in his chair, opening that notebook back up. "Good night."

"How darling of you." Ivory's tone suggests that he means — well, the exact opposite of that. But the only clarification that follows comes in the form of loud, fitful snores.

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