Eating Tables
Eating Tables
Summary: Poet and Ivory reflect on what happened in Paros, scaring Jason away in the process.
Date: PHD085
Related Logs: Couple references to Facades and Scorpia logs.

Kharon - Library

Nice and quiet is the library. Wouldn't have it any other way. Roubani is settled on a couch near the very back of the place, a closed book lying on the end table next to him. He's sifting through a small stack of DVDs in plastic jewel cases, with half his attention.

"Poet." Timon emerges from the stacks dressed in his newly-laundered duty blues, which still crackle with static as he walks. His voice is pitched low to avoid disturbing anybody lingering hidden in the room. "Figured I'd find you here."

Roubani undoubtedly knows that voice, but he looks up anyway. It's only polite. "Lieu-…Ivory." He shifts his long legs, crossing them the other way. "How are you, sir?"

"Bored," the pilot drawls, emphasizing and lengthening the 'o' far longer than is necessary. "Yesterday, they had me reorganizing these shelves. Surprising, the number of people aboard this vessel who can't alphabetize." He steps closer, cane glinting in the dull light, looking to sit down.

Roubani twitches a half-smile at the pilot. "I suppose there are simply more important things to do." There's plenty of seating - chairs, another couch. Timon's got his pick. The pilot-engineer flips through another DVD, glancing at the summary on the back before setting it aside.

The other couch will be where Timon settles down, propping his cane on his right thigh as he lowers his weight onto worn and yielding leather. "Most likely," he agrees, glancing over at the DVDs stacked near the Ensign. "Anything good?"

"I don't know." Roubani's brows draw as he flips over another case. "I told someone I would have a look round for good action movies. But to tell you the truth I'm not certain of good from bad with this lot."

"Action movies," Timon repeats. An amused expression dances across his face as he tries to make out the title of the film Roubani's holding. "I take it said someone wasn't on Scorpia a few days ago."

"They were, yes. Actually." Roubani gives the jewel case a vague smile. It's some classically cliche action flick with lots of jumping over cars and big boom booms. "Art imitates life or something, I suppose."

"If that's the case, I fail to see the need for more action." Timon's had his fill of boombooms, given where they've landed him: out of a flight suit and into the stuffy-looking thing he wears without much aplomb. The fingers on his left hand clench reflexively.

"Ours is not to question why," Roubani replies drolly, setting that case down in a smaller pile. Must be the greenlit ones; there's only two there so far. On to the next, reading. "How is your leg, sir?"

"Better." Timon looks down at aforementioned appendage, the bandages and boot on which have only recently been replaced. "I'm pretty sure I'm a day or two away from walking on my own power, but I might just keep the cane to elicit pity from strangers." Eyes drift to the man's arm. "You?"

Roubani is wearing a simple wrist brace now, once that allows about half normal flexbility. His fingers are still protected by a sort of half-glove. "Getting there." This next movie's discarded into the junky pile. He glances up, at Timon's cane rather than the man's face. "I used to wonder if one could really fit a sword or something in those."

"I couldn't tell you. But if I had to guess — probably?" Timon doesn't seem too interested in the prospect — spy novels apparently weren't his thing; instead, he reaches for the pile of movies Poet's discarded, picking up two or three with his good hand. Meanwhile: "I wouldn't be surprised if one could. Then again, I lost my ability to be surprised when I saw a Raptor take off for the first time. Several tons of misshapen metal plates held together by several more tons of bolts — and it went forward." He allows himself a low whistle.

That actually manages to get a soft breath of a laugh out of the young man. For a second, lines appear at the corners of his eyes, foreshadowing some permanent ones that are coming in far quicker than they should be. Roubani rests the jewel case down on his knee, keeping his fingers along the edge. "Has that wonder stayed with you?" He asks, after a moment or two.

"Maybe?" Timon murmurs. His eyes have a faraway look, though for all intents and purposes he seems focused on the title of the top movie on his stack. Who knew that Ghost Hunter IV could be so engrossing. Then: "Probably not."

"Probably best not," Roubani muses, looking back down at the case. The back picture shows a well-known bridge on Caprica, exploding. He just looks at it for a while. "I suppose one would rather be surprised when one's raptor didn't work than when it did."

"Especially if you're driving said Raptor." Ghost Hunter IV is flipped over, revealing the back of a half-naked woman about to be engulfed in mist — that is, what must be a ghost. Timon purses his lips, then tosses it aside. Next up: The Silver Sword, the initial letter of which has been replaced, unsurprisingly, by the blade and hilt of some mystical saber. "I got your note," he says, after some amount of consideration.

Roubani's lips quirk, and he keeps reading the adjective-spattered summary on the back. "Did you."

"Yeah." Timon's playing this one close to the chest; his countenance isn't so much impassive as it is blank.

Roubani finally looks up again, pressing lips together to stop the smile. Which just ends up making it look crooked. It fades after a few moments though, and there's a little while of pause. "He feels terrible about quarreling with you, by the way."

Timon leans back on the couch, spreading his knees ever so slightly. "I know." He sighs, unsure what to say next. He'll settle, as he usually does, for a parable. "You're a religious man," the pilot begins. "Know the story about Aphrodite's son? How he found a new home after the razing of Troy?"

"Tell me," Roubani offers. He shifts on the couch, uncrossing his legs and pulling one foot up under him instead. He's careful not to drag the boot sole against the fabric.

"You know the story." Timon's reproach is more teasing than anything else. "But if you're really willing to indulge me, well — " If he thought it'd be proper, the pilot would have cleared his throat. Instead, he merely taps his fingers against the length of his cane, accenting his words as he speaks. "They were sitting under the branches of a tall tree — Aeneas, Ascanius, and the rest of his band. Serving food on loaves of bread. Then — " The man quotes from memory. "When the poor fare drove them to set their teeth into the thin discs, the rest being eaten, and to break the fateful circles of bread boldly with hands and jaws, not sparing the quartered cakes, Iulus, jokingly, said no more than: Ha! Are we eating the tables too?"

Roubani smiles vaguely at the recitation. He doesn't interrupt, know it as he already might, and merely tilts his head when Timon finishes.

There's silence for a while. Maybe Timon wants to let the words sink in; maybe he's just trying to figure out how to continue. Then: "I'm not sure where I was going with that," the pilot confesses. "Though I've always liked the story."

Roubani's dark eyes blink slowly, and he offers Timon a weak smile. "I suppose it had something to do with Komnenos. If only that you now have me picturing him saying Iulus' line in my head."

"He had it easy." It's almost as if Roubani didn't even speak, so completely is Timon running with the tangent. The tapping grows slower, but it's still there. "Ascanius, Iulus — whatever. Better than his father. Aeneas won Lavinia, killed Turnus, deflected the wrath of a goddess. His son, he just stepped right in and built an empire out of the pieces. No harder than coloring-by-numbers."

Roubani draws his hands back in his lap, folding his fingers. He rolls his shoulder against the couch, settling as comfortably as his lanky frame can. Patience with Timon, he seems to have galaxies' worth.

Silence meets silence, now; even the tapping has stopped. Timon sinks deeper into his seat, sliding his feet forward as he slouches inward. "He feels terrible, huh?" is what comes out after a few seconds of quiet.

"Mm." Roubani makes the short sound in his throat. Could be confirmation, could just be acknowledgment. "Though he said you weren't the type to hold a grudge. Or at least he seemed to hope so."

"I wish I could say I don't think about things after they happen." Timon tilts his palms up — a little what-can-you-do gesture. "That argument. Getting to the LZ. Morning in Paros. No grudges," he adds, perhaps a bit too hurriedly. "Just — thinking."

"I think I understand," Roubani says, talking quietly as always. "There is a difference between replaying things in one's mind and condemning the other person. The latter's about them, the former…I suppose is more about you."

"That sounds about right." Timon scratches the back of his neck with his wrist brace, grunting slightly as metal digs into pale skin. "The philosopher's curse — to lose oneself in introspection even as the world ends."

"Mea culpa, mea culpa?" Roubani half-asks, softly. "Mea maxima culpa?"

"Something like that." The pilot sniffs, the library's stale air causing him to squint his eyes and wrinkles his nose. "Things don't come easily to me," he murmurs — whether that's the same thought or a different one is unclear. "Never have. Maybe that's why."

Roubani tilts his dark head a little. "What sort of things?"

"You know." Ivory's elbow settles on the handle of his cane, which tilts upward in the air before settling back down. He doesn't elaborate. "'When they will follow your example in the future,'" he says instead.

"What do you mean?" Roubani's tone makes it hard to tell if he really doesn't understand or whether he's simply playing Socrates.

"Your words," says Timon. He's fine with playing fox to Roubani's Socratic hound. Tired eyes crinkle as he smiles. "You tell me."

Roubani half-smiles. "Are we playing chess again, Lieutenant?"

"This is more fun." Timon's smile turns roguish altogether too briefly as he withdraws a slip of paper from his pocket — Roubani's note, which he smooths out and sets down on the long-forgotten stack of movies on his lap. The whole assembly is passed without comment to the ensign.

Roubani chuckles quietly. It eases up a little of the everpresent tension in his face for a brief moment or two. "I was intolerable on the way to the evacuation," he says, softly and plainly. "And I'm sorry."

Timon's firmly ensconced in his couch's embrace by now; his bad hand, propped up on the seat's arm, traces lazy patterns in the air. "Saved my life," he says, his tone sounding remarkably detached from the content of his words. "I'm not sixteen, despite what Captain Legacy thinks. It's okay."

"You're twice that, I know." Roubani's heard Timon reference their age difference enough times. "And I don't mean to patronise. I just don't like going to bed angry at myself anymore than I do going to bed angry at someone else."

Timon's index finger slows, then stops mid-air. "Of course not," is his reply — slow, deliberate. Then: "You know," he begins, and his face takes on a crooked grin. Those two words signify the start of another long digression. Watch out, Ensign.

Roubani's lips twitch and he raises an eyebrow, expectantly.

That's permission enough. "I'm almost glad the Cylons got me that day," Ivory admits. Unconsciously, his left hand drifts toward his stomach, covering up a wound whose existence is now marked only by a few stitches and lingering pain. "Don't have to make tough calls when you're babbling incoherently on a stretcher." Furrowed brows grow by leaps as bounds as he tries to figure out how to phrase what's coming next. "Don't have to live with them, either."

Roubani's eyes flicker down towards Timon's right shoulder. He's quiet for a time. "You know, if you hadn't made that decision to send us back to the Raptor in Paros, we might still be down there."

"Beware of counterfactuals, Poet." Timon chuckles. "Just because everything went according to plan doesn't mean the plan was a good one. Post hoc ergo propter hoc."

Roubani tsks. "Don't you accuse me of fallacious thought, or we shall have to duel. I was proper and said 'might', you know. But it is the truth…that drone…" He shakes his head, rubbing his left eyebrow with his ring finger. "It was your plan and it was put to good use."

Timon looks down toward his brace — no, it's not a gauntlet. Pity. And so: "Point," he says, tipping his head. "In all honesty, I just wanted to use the expression. I'm a habitual show-off." Self-deprecating levity, last recourse of the defeated — but even as he speaks, his grin fades. "Sometimes I wonder, Poet. That Nikolo man we met in Paros, whom I told you to shoot in the back if he put so much as one foot out of line. Would you have?"

Roubani answers plainly and without hesitation, looking right at Timon's face. "Yes. I would have."

"Even though he's likely to get his wings back? Even though, in retrospect, he could easily have been exculpated?" Timon's questions come with a slight quickening of his speech; brown eyes, uncommunicative, meet the younger's man's gaze without blinking.

"You're mixing your timeframes," Roubani answers, mildly. "We didn't know that at the time. We didn't even know if Nikolos was his real name or something he'd pulled off the dogtags of a dead soldier. Had I stepped out of line so severely as to jeopardize the safety of that team I would fully have expected the order to come to have me shot in the back. Why would I treat someone else any differently?"

"That's precisely it, Poet." Timon's trap, of sorts, is sprung. "I am conflating past with present. But grant me this: that, had you known then what you know now, you wouldn't have pulled the trigger." Not that such a thing would be possible — philosophers are, after all, accustomed to speaking normatively. The index finger's moving once more — andante to allegro.

"I can't grant you that either," Roubani keeps his voice quiet. "As I would have to posit that one's pending flight status means nothing in the situation."

Jason slips into the library and promptly loses himself back amongst the stacks. Such as one can lose oneself in a library of this size. He seems to have picked the shelf he's browsing at random. It's devoted to travel books. His eyes sweep them speculatively.

"Now you're being difficult." The knuckles of Timon's right hand turn white as he clutches at his cane's rubberized grip. The pilot's in his dress blues, sitting in one of the couches at the far end of the library. He, too, is speaking quietly, though his eyes are intent on the man before him. "I could argue the point, but I don't think I need to. I mean to ask simply this: would you, given conclusive proof of the man's innocence, remain comfortable with your decision?"

Roubani is looking right back at Timon, unbothered by the man's tension. "My decision," he repeats, studying the raptor pilot's face. "Are you asking me because you are the one uncomfortable with having given such an order?"

Jason picks a book off the shelf as randomly as he chose the shelf itself. It's a travelogue devoted to Leonis. He flips through it then, satisfied with his choice, takes it. Timon and Roubani are spotted but, noting the quiet of their conversation, he does not approach them. He finds a quiet corner to do some more page-flipping.

"Perceptive." Timon relaxes slightly as he smiles once more, features softening, his cane falling back to the ground. Chances are he's too engrossed in conversation to spot his fellow squadmate. "And yes, I am uncomfortable with that order — but what sits even worse with me is how well you've justified your willingness to follow through." He straightens his shoulders, tilting his head backwards to stretch his neck. "Have you heard of the Problem of Dirty Hands, Poet?" No, that's not a double-entendre.

"Do not judge me, Lieutenant," Roubani says, evenly though not coldly. "I guarantee you don't know me well enough to." He crosses his legs again, settling his hands atop the jewel case on his knee. "Of course I've heard of it. The problem of having to choose between unsatisfactory alternatives." Poor Jason. Roubani's attention is on the raptor pilot and this moral quandary they seem intent on exploring.

Jason is just fine not getting in the middle of whatever this is about. He doesn't even try to eavesdrop. He loses himself in picturesque tourist propaganda about Leonis in the out-of-the-way corner he's chosen to squat and bookworm in.

"That was a compliment." Indeed, Timon seems a bit surprised that the prickly ensign would interpret his words in any other way, eyebrows rising. "For the way you presented the dilemma — that 'leaders may sometimes find themselves in situations where they cannot avoid acting immorally, even when that means deliberately killing the innocent.'" The pilot's quite good at quoting from memory. "And when," he adds, "the killing of innocents may be rationalized, or even justified. As you, just now, proceeded to do."

"But define 'innocent'," Roubani challenges in return. Whether Timon meant the earlier statement as compliment or not goes on hold for now. "You gave an order contingent upon his behaviour, not his identity. If said circumstance had come to pass where he was indeed acting out of line, to the point where he had become enough of a threat to warrant violence…would it have made a difference if he were a pilot or if you hadn't known him from Deucalion?"

"Semantics," Ivory replies, his voice mild. "But your point is taken. For you are, in fact, an officer in the Colonial Fleet, and incumbent upon you are the obligations of the oath you swore — to follow orders, to eliminate threats to your unit, to protect your people, and on and on. I'm not contesting the rightness of your choice, Poet. All I'm saying is that the presence of these ancillary obligations — the dominance of those ancillary obligations, necessary as adherence to them might be — is no excuse for abandoning our fundamental duty as men: to respect the humanity that all individuals are due." Timon's thin lips tighten as he speaks.

"You are the one that introduced the term 'innocent'," Roubani points out, with a mild sniff. "I have the right to ask you to define it. Regardless, though, I think you're not seeing the gray in the situation…for which I don't blame you. You are under a heavy burden. Would I have killed him without a second thought? No, likely not off the bat. I would have shot him, yes. I would have done my best to neutralise without killing, unless killing were the only option to prevent the death of you or another. You cannot live your life without making choices."

Well, as long as we're pointing fingers: "You're the one toying with the boundaries of this hypothetical," Timon retorts. There's that fleeting roguish grin, again, and the proverbial twinkle in his eyes. He's actually enjoying this. "I'm speaking strictly of the worst case — death. But even if we accept your modification of the premises, is not the disabling of a man in a painful manner — and I can tell you, getting shot is painful — " His left hand clutches tighter at his waist. "Is that not in itself a signal violation of a man's autonomy — or, to use that loaded term, his humanity? Certainly, not on the same scale as the loss of life, but." The pilot sighs deeply. "You know what all of this is, Poet? It's all grey. Paradoxes woven into paradoxes. 'A conceptual confusion with unfortunate moral residues,' as my advisor put it."

"If you want to load terms, we'll be here all night. Not that I would object," Roubani does smirk slightly. "Debate like this is a privilege to be had when not in the moment. But I know what my choice would have been down there. I can sleep at night."

"Atten-hut." Timon's voice isn't quite the clarion call of a drill sergeant, especially not in the confines of a library — shhh, people are reading — but he gets the point across. "There's an officer on deck." And the pilot smiles, moving to pat the other man on the back before withdrawing a half-second — he'll remember not to do it at all, Poet, just give him time. There's a thoughtful pause. "Thorn, too. Military to the bone."

And there it is, that weird little flinch as Roubani's touched. The tension coils into his shoulders and takes a long time to let go, like water from a tiny little hole in a balloon. It seems independent from his words though, as his voice doesn't change. "It isn't that one is military-minded or not. The idea of what one can and cannot sacrifice for an end…it's something that one has learned all one's life." And that thought seems inspire a sudden but quickly-passing melancholia, which makes him pause. And then it's shaken off. "Might I ask you a personal question?"

Timon merely nods. This is new.

"Did you have a family back there?" Roubani settles his hands flat on the jewel case. "I mean, not parents and siblings family, but a wife. Children."

"On Scorpia?" Ivory shakes his head, reaching to scratch his nose with his brace. "Never married," he says by way of explanation. "Just — never got around to it."

"Tauron, I meant." That seems to be where Roubani remembers Timon saying he was from. Then he waves a hand. "I apologise, that was intrusive of me."

"No no. Quite all right." Timon certainly still looks relaxed, cocooned as he is in his seat — which must mean that everything is, in fact, okay. "Why do you ask?"

Roubani opens his mouth, then pauses and answers truthfully, "I don't know. Or. Well." He lifts his left hand, scratching his eyebrow with his ring finger. "This is the first conversation I've had in a while - besides about transistors and circuits and transmissions bursts - that hasn't been about all those little bits of normalcy that it feels everyone's supposed to have. I suppose I just selfishly wanted to know if it was a fluke."

"At the risk of making an unsubstantiated claim about human nature, we're all selfish. In our own way." Timon straightens up in his seat, his dress blues — once so neatly pressed — now irredeemably wrinkled from so long spent in one position. "Your life, Poet. Live it how you see fit."

Roubani gives Timon a slightly dry look and a smirk. "At the risk of inventing new verbs, are you platituding me?"

"Punishment," says the lieutenant, deadpan. "For your condescension on Paros — while rescuing me from my own idiocy."

Roubani sucks his teeth, a sound with no true malice. "That's dirty pool. After I'd come out and apologised like a man."

Timon's bushy eyebrows go up. "You left a note on my pillow. If that's what you call manhood, Poet, I'd love to find out what you think of Paris." Who spent most of his waking life being rescued from various scrapes by his mother.

"Thirty-two is no excuse for senility," Roubani shoots back, half-smiling. "Or have you just forgotten where I called my behaviour intolerable and said I was sorry?"

"Only when I came and sniffed you out." Jab, feint, jab — and the lieutenant in blue's still standing. "Though you didn't make it very hard for me."

"Irrelevant," Roubani announces, almost triumphantly. He even stands up, picking up his pile of jewel cases and setting them against his hip. "I invoke double jeopardy, I shall not be convicted twice for the same crime." he even grins faintly.

"I'm a philosopher, not a lawyer, else you'd be in the brig for your cheek." But there's no malice in the threat; indeed, Ivory lets out a throaty chuckle before he closes his fist around his cane, levering himself to his feet with no small amount of effort. "Calisthenics time," he explains, a sour look on his wide face. "I've got to keep myself in shape. Doctor's orders." The man rubs at his nose, sniffling slightly — something in the library air must finally have gotten to him — but even as he does, he bites back a sneeze. That'd just be rude. "Cristobal S. Longlastname. You'd like him."

Roubani looks dubious at that, but collects his DVDs into the crook of his arm. "Ivory," he says, a bit softer before the man can go. "Try and talk to Thorn if you can."

"Yeah. It'd be fun to let him stew for a few days, but — " Timon chuckles again. Another joke, evidently. But just as he pushes himself away from the couch, realization dawns on his face like a flash of light in the gloom, and there's those dreaded two words again, Poet: "You know — "

Roubani was about to get away clean, too. He rests his braced hand against the jewel cases against his chest. "Mmhm?"

The lieutenant tries to slip his left hand into the pocket of his uniform, only to find that the brace doesn't fit. An excuse for delay, that. "I know why I like that story," he says, halting. "And at the risk of losing face — it's envy. Of all you children of Ascanius — you, and Thorn, and Spider, and the Captain, and — " Ivory scratches at his eye, sniffing once more. His face contorts as if to sneeze, or maybe he's just doing a good job hiding what he's feeling for once in his life. "Me?" Up goes his hand to scratch at his nose once more. "No matter how old I get, no matter how many chevrons they make me wear, it's all an act. A fresh-faced sophomore in a pressed tweed suit, diagramming syllogisms on a blackboard, playing soldier."

"There is nothing to envy," Roubani replies, after a moment. "We are all fragile." His fingernail picks at the edge of the case. "We're just also so…ridiculously, stupidly…beautifully…stubborn." His eyes flick back to the Lieutenant and he offers a wry smile. "And you're right up there with us."

"Huh." Timon speaks the word so softly that it sounds almost like a particularly harsh breath, nothing more. Then, with as genuine a smile as this thinker can muster — "Go find your action movie, Ensign. Pick a good one, maybe I'll even watch it in my spare time." With that, Ivory moves toward the hatch, only the sound of his cane hitting deck announcing his departure.

Roubani seems to have the ones he wanted. Only two passed his muster, the rest left to be cleaned up by the grumbling staff with little else to do. A brow twitches with what one might guess is amusement at the thought of the Lieutenant getting into car chases and things going boom. "I'll let you know," he promises Ivory's back. Then he too is off for the checkout and hatch. "Gods bless."

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