Red Ink
Red Ink
Summary: Timon asks Roubani for advice. Pens are thrown.
Date: PHD123
Related Logs: Refers to Trading Places, Curiosity, and Et in Arcadia Ego.


It's extremely late, that sort of time of day back on the Colonies when pre-dawn lurked around the corner, when those that had been up all night were finally thinking about going to bed (or writing that paper due at 9am), and those that woke up at normal times still had a few hours of tossing and turning to look forward to. Here on the Kharon, it means third shift is working and that the ship itself is going through a quiet lull. Even in the lounge, which is just about deserted right now. Except for Roubani, quester for quiet as he is, who is settled on the couch with a cup of tea and a pile of papers open in front of him on the coffee table, idly working his way down each with a red pen.

Timon enters in a whisper of fabric and a groan of the hatch, recently oiled, his sweats hanging somewhat loosely over his body. Somebody needs to make a trip to the quartermaster soon. In his hands are the usual assortment of legal pads and pens, stacked atop a pair of books recently withdrawn from the library.

Roubani runs his fingers below a particular area of paper, brows drawing. He reaches for a different stack, shuffling through papers until he finds the reference he wanted, checking and re-checking some calculation before going back to the original sheet and shaking his head. It's circled and some comment made in death-squad red.

For his part, Ivory is stepping past a few discarded coffee cups — the paper kind, reeking of alcohol, the smell of which sends a little shudder through his spine. There was a party in here at some point, or so it appears. And now, given that he’s spotted Poet, there’s likely to be a party of an entirely different — and geekier — sort. “Evening,” the man offers, his voice quiet.

Roubani has turned the usual blinders to the mess and the liquor stench in here, in that particular solipsistic bubble one has to develop around here. If you don't look at the mess, it won't eat you. His eyes raise at the sound of someone's voice. "Evening," he repeats, in a quiet voice well-suited to the library. It's silent as one in here.

And if anybody else on the ship is possessed with an unnatural reverence for books and the places that rent them, it's Ivory, who even avoids a few stray candy wrappers on his approach to Roubani's couch in an effort to keep the room in its pristine state of silence. Only the soft thud of books against table interrupts the man's work — that, and the sound of a chair lifted and then set down again from deck, and a question that's voiced almost timidly: "How was the maiden voyage?"

Roubani had lowered the pen back to page, and his eyes were on their way to follow. So the next look he gives Ivory ends up being from under his brows, and not quite comprehending. "Pardon?"

"The sims." Apparently that's all the explaining Timon thinks he needs to do, settling down in the chair he's placed not quite opposite the other man. One hand reaches for one of his several legal pads, snagging a pen to go along with it.

"Ah." Roubani's foot presses on the floor, shifting his posture. His legs cross. "Fine. It wasn't a…voyage. I suppose. Per se." he clears his throat, sounding mildly embarassed. "We didn't actually turn them on."

There's a quiet "Mmm" as Timon sits back, propping one leg on top of his other as is his wont. His work is set on top of the impromptu table that is his left pant leg, and without another word he's going about this editing business with remarkable alacrity for this time of day. Or night, as the case may be.

The red takes a while to fade from Roubani's face, and he says not another word about it. He turns a page - not drawing today but tackling some kind of actual work - pen scratching a line of slashes down the sheet. Wrong wrong wrong.

Timon, for his part, is courteous enough to allow Poet some time to un-flush. He's busying himself with work already completed — paragraphs, ten of them, the gaps between them already covered with blue and red notes. It's green he's using this time, underlining and circling and crossing out with quick, furious strokes; teeth tug lightly on his bottom lip as he writes, turning it white under the pressure.

Roubani comes to the end of the page he was working on and sits up, scooting to the edge of the couch so he can reach the incredibly neat stacks of folders and papers on the coffee table. The folder in hand is returned to a specific section and another pulled out, tabs consulted, and then opened. His thumb gently rubs the side of his nose and he turns his attention away from it long enough to pick up the cigarette pack lying nearby.

It's a move Ivory interprets, rightly or wrongly, as the intent to take a break. Brown eyes dart up from his work to rest somewhere between Poet's shoulder-blades; then, even as he returns to his work: "How are you doing?" The question is floated with equal timidity as the one that came before.

Roubani gets the cigarette lit. Timon's voice sparks into the silence and he makes a noncommittal motion with his head. "Busy days," he says softly. Though the word comes out sounding like he might think it's a good thing. His fingers hook into a full ashtray and he gives it a disgusted look, picking up the whole thing and standing up. "How are you doing?"

"Everything's good," Ivory begins, before interrupting himself with a few soft laughs that set his shoulders heaving up and down. "Could be worse, was what I meant to say." He pauses to make another fix, highlighting an entire sentence and linking it with an arrow to a paragraph three lines up. "Busy days."

Roubani dumps the ashtray out into the garbage, and ends up cleaning up a few stray papers around while he's at it. Can't be helped. He comes back to the couch and sits, touching the round glass gingerly as he puts it back down. "So long as one can say that it could be worse." He exhales quietly, searching through his papers again but only halfheartedly. The cigarette takes precedence. Timon might too, but that's debatable. There's a mild glance at the legal pad and highlighting. "Coming along?"

Timon knows where his place is in the hierarchy of Poet-y things: the Lords, cigarettes, tea, silence, cleanliness, duties, and then — maybe then — Ivory. It's why he doesn't move away when the first hints of smoke start drifting his way, tickling his nostrils with their trademark acrid scent. He doesn't even bother fanning the smoke away. "Literature review's about done," the man notes. "Well, as soon as I finish those two books over there. I think I'm going to close it off by pleading extenuating circumstances, with a footnote leaving my mailing address in case anybody has any questions." The pilot chuckles, rubbing the back of his head with his pen-hand. "I expect no takers."

Tea > Cigarettes. Tea might even > the Gods deep down in that dry, dusty little heart of his, but you'll never hear Roubani say that aloud. He turns his head to exhale, steering the larger cloud towards the wall rather than at Timon. "Why are you doing it?" He asks quietly. It's not that his voice seems to find the venture strange, he's just curious.

"Why do people climb mountains?" Ivory has no answer to that, just a shrug, sniffing a bit to get the last remnants of Roubani's previous puff out of his senses. It doesn't quite work, judging from the way that sniff becomes a cough — ever so delicate.

"I have no idea," Roubani replies, in precisely that kind of tone that's being consciously dense. "Why do they?"

"I'm so tempted to answer 'three bushels of grain' and leave you to puzzle out the rest," Ivory murmurs, the end of his pen catching against his lips as he speaks. His head lists to port as he contemplates his latest revision — and then it shifts to starboard as he adds another arrow to the one he's already made. "But — koans aside — I think it's some intoxicating combination of hubris and the desire for mastery, if that makes any sense. For order."

"It makes sense," Roubani says. He takes another drag off the cigarette, a much slower and sweeter one this time before putting the barely-smoked stick out, and exhaling the stream at the ceiling. "In other words, 'to prove you can'."

"Or, dare I say it — 'because it's there.'" Timon accidentally breathes through his teeth, a little hiss of air escaping from his mouth as he does. The clicking part of his pen mists slightly as condensation settles over it.

"Mine takes more of human nature into account," Roubani replies, drily. "We don't do anything without reward."

"No," Ivory rejoins, lips twitching in a faint smile. "I don't suppose we do." A beat. "Which means, in about a decade or so, I expect you to append your name to the fake diploma Kissybear's offering me when I'm finally finished. He's the president, but we can at least make you a provost or something."

Roubani snorts quietly, recrossing his legs and pulling a folder onto his knee. "As long as I get to wear tweed."

"For you, Poet, I'll even sew those leather elbowpads onto your suit." Timon's smile gets perilously close to a — what are they called, again? — a cheeky grin. As usual, though, gravitas wins.

"I told Marek once I would put those on my flightsuit just to annoy him," Roubani muses, with a vindictiveness that sounds like it tastes delicious.

"I know how I'm reporting for duty tomorrow morning." Ivory chuckles — a sound that turns into a long sigh after about a second or so before morphing into, well, nothing at all after that.

Roubani manages a faint smile, and his eyes shift away in some private bit of contemplation. As it fades, the pen makes a slow rotation over his knuckles. "It won't last forever, you know. All that."

"All what?" Timon stirs at last, setting his leg down before swiveling to catch the side of Roubani's face.

"This issue with Marek," Roubani replies, bluntly. A page turns in his folder.

"He's a grown man," is Ivory's response to that. If he minds the sudden change of topic, he doesn't show it, instead tapping his pen against the side of his head. Green ink bubbles inside translucent plastic. "And so am I, though sometimes I forget." There's a self-conscious smile. "We'll work it out."

"Good," Roubani says quietly, and without looking up right away. There's some corrections absently made on the paper, nothing that seems to take up much of his actual focus. "I would hate to see you get bitter over something like this, of all things."

"Did I come across as bitter yesterday?" Genuine surprise from the Ivory corner. Brown eyebrows shoot up. "I was going for more — wry." Shoulders rise in something that doesn't quite approximate a sigh; then, pen drops to paper once more. Edits will wait for nobody. "I see why he has a problem with me," is what he comes up with. "Frankly, I'm shocked not more people do. Or maybe they're just better at hiding it."

Roubani's eyes come up at the question of Ivory's bitterness. The answer's clear in them: 'yes'. Wryfail. But they don't linger, like Ivory's returning to his own work on his knee even as he continues to speak. "Why does he have a problem with you."

"He thinks I don't respect him. Or trust him." More scribbling. "He's wrong on the former. Dead wrong."

Roubani looks up again. It's a very small movement of his eyes. "And the latter?"

"I'm not sure." Timon doesn't look up, though his expression has turned pensive. Well then. That cat's out of the bag.

"Trust has to be earned," Roubani says, making a mark on his papers. "It's not to be taken for granted."

"I tried to tell him that the other day. I think." Ivory's tone is uncertain now that he's learned about his recent wry-fail. Click-click-click goes his pen, his thumbnail whitening as he does. "After he asked whether he could trust me to do anything he asked."

"So he isn't upset that you don't trust him, per se," Roubani murmurs, "It's that he can't trust you."

"To do anything he wants," Timon confirms. "Not yet."

"You're missing the distinction I made," Roubani says, quietly.

"You're going to have to break it down for me, then." There's no heat in Ivory's voice, though the humor from just a few moments ago is gone. He rubs at his eyes with the back of his palm, grimacing slightly when he's done.

"You told me that he thinks you don't trust him," Roubani says, shifting a bit on his couch seat and crossing his legs the other way. "But really the issue is that he can't trust you. So. Yes, I suppose I can see exactly why he has a problem with you."

Very carefully, Timon sets his pen down on his pad, trapping it under his palm. Then: "Do you really want to start arguing semantics?" The man sighs, shoulders slumping. "Fine. They're one and the same, Poet. He thinks he can't trust me to do anything he asks because he thinks I don't trust him to be right a hundred percent of the time. He can't trust me; I can't trust him — same coin, two sides."

"They aren't one and the same, Ivory," Roubani replies, tone never changing. "Because one puts all the fault on him and the other accepts some on you too. It may be semantics, but you are the one so eager to debate that words shape world."

"Believe it or not, I'm not eager to cast blame on anybody." Timon's countenance is rigid. "I don't like judging others on the basis of what little. I. Know." Is that self-deprecating humor or a subtle hint that he doesn't like where this is going? Ivory doesn't explain. "Though sometimes I do it anyway." His posture softens, relaxes.

Roubani's expression is hard to read, whether or not he even believes what he's going on about…or if he's just saying it to explore chinks in Ivory's armour. He offers the man a faint smile in the end. "What kind of humans would we be if we didn't?"

"I deserved that." The pilot shakes his head slowly, as if clearly it of must, or cobwebs, or something. Then, with his characteristic "You know," Timon shifts in his seat. "Did I ever tell you about the best man with whom I've ever served?"

"You didn't, no," Roubani takes the opportunity to make some quick marks on the paper and then look back up, rolling the pen up under his knuckles.

"Martin Tarkus. Might have mentioned him a few times — he taught me at OCS before being sent off to Atlantia as Chief. Next to him, Spider looks like a fellow who fancies — I don't know. Prancing ponies and pink tutus." A quiet snort. "He gave me the shortest talking-to of my life. Just finished tearing off my poor ECO's head for not following my orders — said something along the lines of 'You're too irresponsible to wear that uniform'; might have been something worse." Timon tilts his head back, looking vaguely amused at the thought of him ripping into somebody for insubordination. "Anyway, Tarkus sends her off to do some paperwork, then looks me in the eye, says 'You came from rocks, too, you know.' Then he just — walks away."

Roubani listens dutifully. Junior officers are no doubt subjected to senior officers' stories of frightening COs at least twice per day. His brows have risen attentively enough, and he nods at the end. But he keeps watching Timon in case there's more the man wants to say about the incident.

Nothing more from Timon — at least about the story. Instead: "Deucalion's rocks," he recites quietly. "'That swell'd, and swelling, by degrees grew warm, and took the rudiments of human form. Imperfect shapes: in marble such are seen, when the rude chisel does the man begin.'"

Something flickers in Roubani's eyes and they turn away. Whatever it was was brief and makes no appearance in his tone, drowned under some faint humour. "I do see why you and Ariadne get on."

"We do, don't we." Timon sounds mildly surprised. "Wouldn't ever have guessed. I just quote the old verses; she believes them."

Roubani shrugs one shoulder, then rolls it slightly as he notices it's stiff. "Have you had your dinner?" Unlike the bro-teasing Timon's likely going to have to endure here and there, Roubani just sounds matter of fact about it.

"Tomorrow night, after I get back from my adventure with the CAG." Timon tugs at his hair before looking back down at his pad. All of a sudden, it's gotten a lot more interesting. "I almost told her not to bother."

"Did you?" Roubani clears his throat softly, turning the pencil between his fingers. "Why?"

"I don't know." Ivory has found something wrong with one of his topic sentences, apparently, though he doesn't move to correct it. Maybe staring at it for long enough will make it better. "Actually, that's a total lie. I don't know why I said that." If his eyes were capable of more than mild interest, there'd be a hole through that paper by now. "Just me being an idiot again, is all."

Roubani shrugs one shoulder, a way of saying it's okay without actually denying the notion. "She's a lovely girl." As if, he reasons, that makes men stupid. "You did talk about the whole…rank issue. Right?" It's not accusatory, just mild concern.

"I brought it up about five minutes after I recovered from the shock of her invitation." Loveliness doesn't make Timon that stupid. "She was … persuasive."

Roubani nods, satisfied with that. The outcome, he doesn't even ask after. "Are you happy?" He asks, curiously.

"Did I say recovered from the shock?" Timon asks, still not looking up. "I meant from the initial shock." The tip of his green pen, clicked closed, traces counterclockwise circles on his notes. "Which is to say — yes. And terrified, too. Petrified." Insert more synonyms here.

Roubani isn't Willem, or Hale, or anyone else to whom giving advice about one's first date with a hot woman would come more naturally. He turns the pencil between his fingers, then over his last knuckle. "Is there anything I can do?"

"I suspect you've already done more than I could have asked," says Ivory, pen now turning clockwise. If he could whistle more than a few notes, he would. "But then again, I do think too much."

"Yes, you do." Roubani looks away long enough to flip a page, noting the writing at the top. Wrong page, flip again. A slight smirk at the ink. "But if you didn't I doubt she would like you quite so much, so this is a vicious cycle."

"That wasn't quite the vehement denial I was expecting." Timon's forehead furrows as his bushy eyebrows rise. Tap-tap-tap goes his pen; then, without further ado, it clicks on again. "How do you know she likes me 'quite so much'?" he wonders, voice light.

Roubani looks up from the page, silent but giving Timon an 'are you bloody serious?' type of look.

"Never mind." Ivory beats a hasty retreat. Because really: his lit review won't correct itself. "Thanks," he offers, after a moment. "For whatever you did."

Roubani's pen taps the page. "Just be happy," he replies, quietly, as he scribbles some note in the margin. After a few more seconds, rather out of nowhere: "When is the last time you did something like this?"

"I should state, for the record, that I didn't actually do much of anything." More furrows; whether Timon's reached a particularly thorny paragraph or is simply trying to figure out what to say in response to this rather unexpected question is as yet unclear. "But if the question is, 'When is the last time somebody attractive, intelligent, and female propositioned me?', I can safely say — never."

Roubani clears his throat softly. "I meant…go…on a date. With someone." The word 'date' comes out like he's trying not to verbally fingerquote it. "Propositioned or not."

"Tenth grade? Eleventh? I forget. And yeah, those were 'dates' in name only." Timon doesn't show such restraint; the index and middle fingers of his left hand come up to make that pair of bunny-ears, curling down. "They'd pretend to be interested in philosophy; I'd pretend to be interested in them; Mother'd pretend to be interested in anything but us."

Roubani's chuckling at the fingerquoting is helpless, bursting from his nose in a little puff that he quickly stamps on. "I'm so sorry, I didn't mean…" Whatever he didn't mean. "You just haven't felt like it?"

"Just never got around to it. Or, since we are playing semantics — I never bothered to make the time." Poet's reaction draws an amused smile, visible even though Ivory's face is pointed down and away. "Didn't take too long before the idea of spending the rest of my life with my wings and a library for company was less absurd than the alternative."

"Alternative?" Roubani asks, as though reluctant to make assumptions on what exactly Ivory meant by that.

Timon waves those fingerquotes in the air. "You know. Not." It's an invitation for Poet to use his imagination if he so chooses.

How far, exactly, Roubani's imagination is capable of stretching at that nudge is unclear. He makes a noncomittal, albeit thoughtful, nod. "I suppose sometimes things simply happen when they're meant to happen."

"So this was meant to be." The thought actually elicits laughter — and not his usual chuckle, which causes the nib of Ivory's pen to tremble as it scribbles. "I'm sorry," says Timon when he's through. "Just reminded me of one of my paranoid delusions."

Roubani doesn't seem to take offence. The corner of his lip moves and he raises an eyebrow. "Only one? I've got to try harder. Which one?"

"That the priestess touched some sea foam on Scorpia, became possessed by the spirit of the goddess of beauty and lust, and will come to her senses halfway through the third course." Oh, of course. That one.

Roubani looks at Timon for a moment. Which turns into a while. Then with a decent lob, he throws his red pen right at the man's chest.

"I probably deserved that, too," says Timon ruefully, brushing the pen aside as he continues to toy with wording.

"You most certainly did," Roubani grunts, picking up a new writing utensil from his stash on the coffee table and then settling back again. After a short pause where he notes a mistake on his papers and circles it. "If it makes you feel better, you can throw one back."

Fortunately for Poet, Timon doesn't take him up on the offer, instead polishing up as much as he can before picking up the man's discarded pen and slipping it into his pocket. Mine. "Rebound's offered to let me use his music player," he offers. Non sequitur for the win.

Oh no bitch didn't. Roubani watches his pen get sucked into the maw and taps his index finger against his paper. Hmpf. Then hey, gear shift. "…for what. And if you say 'to play music' I will throw this one too."

"You're not Eros," observes Timon, his tone dry as sandpaper. "Your quiver — or should I say, your pocket protector — will run out." Hah. Take that. "Just thought the dinner could use some mood music."

Thud. Another pen goes flying into Timon's shoulder. Roubani picks up a third. "I've got some back at berthings, too," he warns quite seriously. Then: "Well that will be nice. Ah. Where exactly are you taking her?"

"Storage room eleven-three-eight-beta, deck three." And now Ivory has another pen to go with his first. Into his trousers goes this one as well. Oh, the cheek. "Another one of Rebound's suggestions." There's a moment of silence. "In retrospect, I probably shouldn't be trusting him with a matter of this importance, but — well, he knows I could always just walk in on him and Fallout again." Deterrence, see. Mutually assured destruction.

"You can keep that between yourselves, surely." Roubani marks on his paper. This pen's blue, where the last was black and the original was red. Oh well. "I believe that sort of amusement is an acquired taste."

"And unfortunately, I've done so enough times to come close to acquiring it." Timon makes a face. "Don't suppose you have any other suggestions?"

Roubani's face tenses into a slightly horrified sympathy at the first. And it's not a joke. As to the second, he coughs quietly. "You mean, like music and place sort of suggestions? Not really. I'm sure Price has the corner on the market."

If Timon were cruel, he'd go on and describe what it was like to witness Persy sucking off Wil's face. But even he doesn't want to relive that memory — so Poet is safe. Besides: he needs a favor. "Or — about what she likes." Ivory looks more than a little embarrassed to be asking something so juvenile. "Other than chocolate," he mumbles. "I know that one."

Roubani had opened his mouth to say just that. Damn. His lips drift closed again, and the silence lingers. "Mmmm." Scanning. Still scanning. "Oh." An index finger raises to punctuate the sound, waggling once in the air. "I do know." Pause. Yeah, Timon just might have to beg.

"A pen for your thoughts?" Timon retrieves the black one from his pocket and dangles it before the Poet, writing all the while. MOAR ARROWS.

Roubani turns his hand palm up and extends it. The look on his face is cheekily expectant.

Nuh-uh. "As Kissy would say: thinkmeat first, pen later."

"I have more pens," Roubani replies, with a sniffs. "Do you have more sources?"

Apparently not. Timon stops editing, looking up with one eye closed to calculate bearing and carom: and then the little voice in his head calls Weapons Free. Pen spins end over end, aimed for Poet's head.

Roubani ducks out of the way and, a touch clumsily, catches the spinning treasure in his left hand. It's cradled and inspected to be sure the mean man didn't hurt it, then he smirks a bit and looks back up, wiggling the utensil. "She likes these. Calligraphy, you see, she adores doing it. She's been looking for more blank journals to practice in, too. And…" He holds out his hand again.

"Nice catch." Round two, fight: this time, the red one. Timon kept it for a reason.

Another catch, plucked from the air. Roubani tucks the red one next to its freed hostage cousin and settles back, crossing his legs. "She likes horticulture."

"That was less useful, unless you can find me a plant — which I'd probably donate to the mess hall in the hopes of staving off another day of Dried Pea Special." No, Ivory's not giving up his green one, though Poet's suggestions are dutifully written down. "I don't suppose you're going to tell me how you know all this?"

"You didn't put 'useful' in the criteria," Roubani points out, pulling his folder back onto his knee. The last question pulls a slight chuckle out of him. "Conversations. You've had a few with her too, I should hope."

"A few. But all I managed to get was chocolate." Nevertheless, Timon does look a little bit more content as he settles down in his chair, propping up his leg — the left one, this time. He clicks his tongue against the lid of his mouth a few times as he thinks; then — apparently satisfied — he folds over one page and starts the whole process anew. Scritch-scritch goes pen against paper for a good forty, fifty seconds, until: "Why do you care about how happy I am?" Ivory asks.

Roubani takes the opportunity to get a bit of work done himself, flipping through some of his papers and putting his recovered red pen back at it. When Timon talks, he keeps writing. He'll play. "What makes you think I care?"

"'Just be happy'," Ivory quotes, sentences flowing from mind to hand to paper as he talks.

Roubani underlines a long sentence that wraps around to the next line. "Perhaps there just aren't enough happy people."

"Are you one of them?" is Timon's considered response, concluding his thought with a rather definitive period.

Roubani draws an arrow to the diagram explaining the pile of technobabble. "Why do you care?"

There's a long pause, a soft exhalation of breath, and another, more contemplative pause. Then, Ivory stands, his legal pad clutched under his arm as he moves to the hatch. "Sleep well, Poet," he calls when he's there — and up into the air goes his green pen, sped on its way by an amused smile.

Roubani looked up a half second too late. The pen thwacks him in the collarbone and tumbles onto his leg, leaving him penshellshocked for a second until he realises what it was. He chuckles under his breath, picking it up and raising it in a sort of salute. "You as well." Then it's back to the papers. Hmm, maybe if he makes the variables green….

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