Great Expectations
Great Expectations
Summary: Poet and Ivory reminisce in the Library.
Date: PHD139
Related Logs: The Perfect Video


With the game room jumpin, stills cranking out booze, and motionweave panties being gifted all over the Kharon…Roubani of course is in the library. Settled in the back in an armchair, a stack of books on the low table between his seat and the opposite couch. He flips slowly through the large tome on his lap, which is full of glossy pages. Photography, maybe.

It's going to be a late night for Timon, who enters the library with his usual stack of books, pens, and legal pads. He's somehow managed to balance a mug of coffee on top of aforementioned stack, which — despite its precarious position — has somehow not spilled all over his sweats and notes.

It's some noise that distracts Roubani enough to make him look up. And reflex pulls his shoulders straighter, a hand raising with a little jerk. "Ivory — your foot, watch the table."

Timon avoids the obstacle with remarkable adroitness — and after he's set down his stuff on the crowded table by the younger man's armchair, mug and all, he gives Poet an injured look. Clumsy? ME? But aloud: "How's your evening?"

It's the mug that Roubani keeps a narrowed eye on. A quick physics calculation said that had Timon tripped, that coffee would be all over the snipe. Yes, Timon might've cracked his head and died, but COFFEE ON SNIPE. He clears his throat softly and settles back, resting his hands on his book. "I suppose it's alright. How is yours?"

Not just coffee: blood, snipe. BLOOD AND BONE AND SHREDDED FLESH. Maybe you should look at the man instead of his cargo — a man who sits down and clears his throat with about as much vehemence as said snipe. "Can't sleep," Ivory murmurs. "Figured I'd do some work in the meantime." One hand gestures idly at the stack of stuff in front of him.

Roubani's eyes shift to said work stack. "If I may point out the obvious," he murmurs. "Coffee is not exactly humanity's most effective sedative."

"I'm too awake to sleep and too tired to work." Timon plops himself down in an armchair opposite Roubani, doing his best to stifle a yawn. "Given that I've chosen the latter and not the former — well." He reaches for his mug, only to find that he doesn't quite feel like getting up. Wide fingers end up a few centimeters away from its handle, grasping only air. "It's not like caffeine does anything to me anyway."

Roubani watches Timon struggle for a few pointed seconds. "If you are researching telekinesis - " He lifts his booted foot, setting it against the edge of the coffee table and gennnnnntly pushing until mug handle reaches grasping digits. " - you are quite out of luck."

"Maybe I was researching mind control," observes Timon dryly, tipping his head in thanks. The burning-hot liquid is raised to his lips so he can sip — delicately as usual. "Commanding you to get my cup for me."

Roubani's lips twitch. "You could have commanded me to do your work for you and been done with it. Instead it was wasted on the trivial. Congratulations, you're thinking like a true research scientist."

"I taught writing on the side at CU," notes Timon. "To this day I can't believe how many awful grant proposals I had to edit. I guess I learned by osmosis." The fingers of his right hand curl around the handle of his mug; those of his left press down on the break in his nose. Beat. "So what's this about a pillow?"

Roubani turns a glossy page in his book, a large panoramic photo passing by. "Mm. A large cushion support, usually used while sleeping in a bed. Or have you spent so much time out of your bunk that you've forgotten what they are."

"I meant the one you accused me of conspiring to steal." Timon's eyes flick up at the sound of the turning of a page. Pictures. Boring. Back to his coffee they go. "Or having conspired to steal, I should say."

"I never said you conspired," Roubani tilts his head so he can better see a picture rotated to the right. "I believe I placed the blame solely on your other half."

"And yet you're holding me responsible." Timon's about to let it go, but something Roubani says catches his attention. His gaze swivels back up, a curious look on his face. "'Other half'?"

"You were handy. You still are." Roubani explains, as though that were perfectly logical. After Timon's eyes come up and that question's asked, his own dark eyes lift. His head doesn't, resulting in him looking at the older pilot from under his brows. "Isn't that the expression?"

"I suppose so," says Ivory, a little lamely. He leans forward to set his cup down on top of the coffee-stained legal pad in front of him; this time, he makes it, though not without an audible groan. "Just — I never thought I'd hear it in the same sentence with a word like 'your,' is all."

Roubani's attention drifts to somewhere near Timon's knee and then back down to the book. A page gently turns, to a vibrant spread of blue. "Is it really so strange?"

"It takes a little getting used to," the man allows. It's with a satisfying crack of his back that Timon leans into his chair. "Not that I'm complaining." His hands reach behind him to cradle his head, elbows pointed toward the ceiling.

"No, I shouldn't say you are." Roubani's tone isn't sarcastic, just quietly pensive. There are a few beats of silence. "I hope people aren't being cruel about it."

"Another thing for which to thank Thorn — and Rebound, for that matter." Ivory can't resist a small grin. "One gets punched in the face over a woman; the other gets kissed in the face over a semi-precious stone. Easy to stay off DRADIS when that's the company one keeps. Though I will say — it's nice that we don't have to. Not anymore, at least."

Roubani slowly looks up from the photo on his lap. "Don't…have to what?"

"Stay out of mind and out of sight." Timon is sufficiently tired that he can't stop himself from making a face. "Skulking about storage rooms and tool sheds while fleeing at the first sign of the CAG isn't my idea of fun."

"No." Roubani's voice gets a touch quieter. "I don't suppose it is." Silence, that for a second or two seems…dense. Then it lifts. "But you are right, I would suppose your company makes it easier. That's quite nice for Price, their news."

"On Atlantia, we'd have painted the town red at that kind of news. The battlestar, at least." Ivory shakes his head as he considers reaching for his coffee. Nope. Sitting still is more fun. "Last time it happened, we made some poor ensign jump out of a cake."

Roubani smiles faintly. "I suppose Price is owed a nice celebration of some sort. I'm not entirely sure what - I'm not incredibly adept at these things - but something."

"Neither, frankly, am I." Party-planners extraordinaire, these two. They should go into business. "When I said 'we', I meant more 'the rest of the Hawkeyes.' I … observed." Timon shrugs, dropping his hands to his lap at last. "What would you do on Sagittaron for something like this?"

"Ah. Well." Roubani clears his throat softly. "The engagement would normally be the morning of the wedding ceremony, the same day they would…meet. The celebration would be after." He scratches the side of his ear, awkwardly. "I imagine this would be closer to Tauron's way."

"I don't know about Tauron in general, but when my father tied the knot — " Ivory closes his eyes, tilting his head back to rest on the top of the cushion. "Mother showed me pictures. We'd need a thousand guests, five hundred waiters, two hundred uninvited passersby, a hundred chefs, fifty reporters, and an ice sculpture." A pause. "I think the ice sculpture would be the hardest part, to be honest."

"I would expect that's close to what Price is used to," Roubani murmurs, thoughtfully. His fingers run along the corner of one thick page, turning it up and letting it settle again. "I don't fit very well with you two."

Timon blinks. He didn't expect that. "What do you mean?" he wonders, eyebrows rising — while his eyes remain closed. It's an odd look, no doubt.

What did he mean? Perhaps Roubani himself didn't really know, a pause dragging itself into the conversation just there. "Oh, I just suppose you're very alike," he says, quietly. "A certain…class of men."

"Academics?" Timon takes one of those proverbial shots in the dark, rubbing at his temples with his hands. "Actually — that's probably not where you were going with that, was it?"

"Perhaps." Roubani scratches the tip of his thumb at the inner corner of his eye. "Price once mentioned all the different colonies he's been to. And I've been meaning to ask him about it, but I always find myself afraid he'll think me simple. Which I suppose in comparison, I am."

"He's the very definition of cosmopolitan, that's certain." Ivory's eyes open as he finally works up enough energy to lean forward, palms pressed down on his thighs. "Which, if I understand that term correctly, means he's open-minded enough that he won't judge you for whatever you think he's judging you for."

"Not…judging." Roubani clarifies softly. He seems reluctant to make eye contact, whether it's because he's simply shy or just because it's easier to think when not being watched. "May I ask you a question?"

"You may." Timon's fine with the lack of eye contact, instead settling for a view of the top of Roubani's head. He shifts his body weight to his left, freeing up his right hand to reach for his mug once more.

"Your family." Roubani says, after a moment. "Your parents. What did they say when you wanted to go to university?"

"Mother must have cried every night after I told her." Ivory's expression, already muted, turns contemplative — his forehead knits, his eyebrows droop, his head tilts down. "The month before I left, she'd tuck me into bed each evening and read me a story I'd lose interest in after the first two hours." A dim smile flickers on; flickers off. "My father? Shocked. Maybe because I turned down his offer of a cushy job with Tantalus. He used to brag to his friends, though, at dinner parties: 'Look at young Timon. I didn't even have to build Caprica University a new genomics laboratory to get him into that school.'"

The part about a crying mother pulls a faint smile on one side of Roubani's lip. It comes and then goes. "They expected you to succeed." It's half-statement and half-question.

"Expected?" Timon sits back, mug held loosely between his palms. Its heat is comforting in the perpetual coolness of the library. "No, I wouldn't say that. More — hoped, I think, is the better word." He rolls his head back, then forward, then back again: there's a crick in it that just won't go away. "I expected a lecture when I told them I'd be majoring in philosophy. Mother always wanted me to do something useful with myself. Like business. Or engineering." Ivory tips an invisible hat at Roubani. "Same with my father. But — no, no protests, no nothing. Just 'Good luck.'"

Roubani is still as Timon speaks except for a single nod, leaving a lingering silence afterwards. "My father," he says finally, "Broke my nose and one of my ribs. And he…screamed at me. Kicked me. Until I got to the door and ran." His slow, quiet voice is jarring at odds with the scene he describes from his memory. "And he shouted after me. 'You'll think you'll be one of them, but you won't…you'll always be dirt from the ground, an impostor'."

"Oh." Ivory swirls his coffee around in his mug, doing his best not to look at Poet as he tells his story. He's found something interesting on the deck, from the looks of it: a loose bolt, or maybe a stray scrap of paper. It'll be some time before he speaks, and when he does, his voice is oddly blank. "What," the pilot ventures, "did he think you were pretending to be?"

Roubani finally looks back at Ivory. The tension lines on his forehead and at the corners of his eyes show up acutely well in the library's light. They'll be permanent before he's thirty, at this rate. "You know…" he murmurs, in what would be an Ivory-esque way if it weren't quite so bittersweet. "He never really said. And I've never put words to it. I suppose if I had to it would be: 'A man from whom people expected something great'."

A brief 'mmm' is all Roubani gets from Timon as he takes a sip of his coffee — well, actually, a gulp — an 'mmm' and a frown. Maybe it's something Poet mentioned; maybe it's just the fact that his drink tastes like engine coolant; maybe it's both. Then: "I read a story once, back in the day, in a book of fables Mother gave me before going off to school." Tangent time: batten down the hatches. "Beautiful book; I wish I still had it. Leather binding, gold leaf, one of those velvety red ribbons to mark your place — " He’s talking by rote. It's almost as if he's said these precise words before. "Aesop. Do you know him?"

"In bits and pieces," Roubani says, with a slight tip of his head. For all he's said, there's no outward melancholia or bitterness in his voice.

"I beg your pardon, then, if you've heard this before, but to paraphrase — " Timon shuts his eyes once again, gesturing with his cup as he talks. Cold steel reflects the library's light as it moves in rhythm with his words. "There once was a wily fox who'd just finished raiding a farmer's henhouse. Chickens slaughtered, appetite sated, he decided to make his escape through said farmer's orchard. As luck would have it, the man's grapes had just ripened, and the fox figured that a couple of muscats would be just the thing to quench his thirst. Up into the air he jumped, only to miss the bunch. More jumps; more failure. Ten minutes later, the fox gave up and left with his nose in the air, telling himself: 'They're probably sour, anyway.'"

Roubani's eyes lower to the edge of the photography book that's gone neglected on his knee, then come back up. He doesn't speak.

"'It is easy to despise what one cannot get,'" finishes Timon, his delivery having remained deliberate and slow throughout the entirety of that story. "Or at least that's what I think Aesop was saying." There's a bit of scratchiness in his voice he tries and fails to treat with another gulp of coffee. "Make of that what you will."

Roubani doesn't nod or give any other acknowledgment of that. Besides the silence, which is a pensive one. "Do you really believe you're such an arrogant man?"

"Identities are constructed, Poet. To an extent, I am what others believe I am." Timon will see Roubani's pensive and double his own bet, though he does it with just the barest hint of a smile. "Komnenos, Legacy, Marek, Morales — they can't all be wrong."

Oh, so Ivory wants to go there. Roubani will then see the bet, and raise. "Have you never seen an optical illusion?" He asks quietly. "A black and white field, that looks one way upon first glance. But if you can follow the outlines in another way, it becomes something else."

"Ebony and ivory, if you will." Apparently, Timon's not so focused on the game that he doesn't seize the opportunity to make an awful pun. "I never said identity is monolithic, if that's what you mean. It's contradictory. Mutable. A thousand facets forever refracting — like one of those silver balls my roommate used to hang on the ceiling before throwing a dance party at oh-dark-hundred." He takes another sip of coffee as he speaks. It's no longer blisteringly hot — more satisfyingly warm than anything else. "Or that cat — locked in a box with a single atom and a radiological alarm, neither alive nor dead after an hour but both, a mixture of states — except in this case, we can never open things up and look inside."

"In other words," Roubani offers the kill stroke softly, "They can all be wrong."

"Not wrong, I'd say." COMBAT: Poet's sword hits RIGHT_LEG (but damage is reduced by Timon's armor). "More — equally right as those who believe otherwise, if there are those who believe otherwise."

Roubani half-smiles. A little bit. "Do you wish that they thought otherwise?" He asks quietly. And then amends, for detail's sake, "If that is…indeed…what they even believe."

"Sometimes." Timon swirls his coffee around some more, watching settled grinds shake loose from the bottom of his mug. "Less often now, but — " The soft sloshing of liquid against metal is audible even when he speaks. "Ariadne told me something the other night, when we had dinner. She told me I made her feel a little nervous — afraid that she might say something that would make me think she was 'fairly simple’ and 'really not interesting enough to spend time with.' So." Ivory drinks, draining his cup in a last powerful swig. "Sometimes."

"Intimidating is not the same as arrogant. One can be one without being the other," Roubani gently points out. Though it doesn't seem to be for the purpose of scoring a point. Indeed, as a brief pause follows. "She adores you."

There's another pause as Timon considers his response — a lengthy one, maybe half a minute long, which concludes with a heavy sigh. "I know," he murmurs. Whether that's an answer to the former or the latter, he doesn't say.

"This is all we have, you know," Roubani murmurs, after a time. What exactly he's referring to is hard to say; his eyes flicker once over the space of the library but they're not really focused on it.

Ivory sinks further into his chair, sliding forward in his seat and pushing his knees so that they almost touch the table. "It's enough," he replies softly, empty mug still held a centimeter or two away from his lips. "Her. You. And Thorn, and Rebound, and Kissy, and Rabbit, and everybody, and all this — " His head jerks up ever so slightly; then, it settles back down. "It's more than I expected. More than I could have expected, even before the bombs fell." The flats of his fingers tap idly against his cup. "Something good, I'd like to think. Something great."

Roubani's eyes are still off looking at nothing in particular. A shelf edge, maybe. He smiles a little at that space, a strangely private expression. "We can all look at the same thing and see something different," he dredges up old conversation, musingly. "Perhaps it's what we choose to see that makes us who we are." He shrugs one shoulder and looks back at Timon. "So. A celebration for Price, then?"

"I'll see if I can scrounge up some ice." Timon makes as if to stand, doing his best to push himself to his feet. He doesn't succeed; instead, slumping back into welcoming leather: "If I may ask — what do you choose to see?"

Roubani smiles a bit. "I'll tell you later." Yeah, that might be a little cheek. Sue him. He, unlike Timon, unfolds from his chair with artless grace, book tucked in the crook of his left arm. "Are you bored enough yet to go and at least try to rest?"

"I think I'll kick around here for a little while longer," says Ivory, gesturing helplessly at the dissertation-related stuff in front of him. "And you don't have to tell me if you don't want to. I wouldn't want to pry. Just — " Timon can't quite find the right words to express his thoughts. "People can often say things they don't mean," he finishes lamely. "Fathers especially." Another pause. "And for what it's worth, I think you'd be an awful actor anyway."

Roubani takes a while to attempt to process that. And gracious it's late, and he's tired, so halfway through the thought train kind of halts in place. "What?"

"The end of that made no sense," Timon admits, a little self-consciously. "Maybe it's time to try bluntness for a change." He doesn't look up. "If you're dirt, Nadiv Roubani, I can't imagine what awful things the rest of us would be."

Roubani may have a thought a dozen to spout back at Timon when the man waxes elegant, but the hitch of silence this time has nothing waiting in it. "You're a good man." Emphasis on third word. He doesn't wait to see if there's a response, stepping past his chair and heading for the hatch.

There'll be no response — just thankful silence, if silence can be thankful: thankful, with a hint of wistfulness, and all of it suffused by the lingering scent of coffee long since finished.

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