The Hardest Word
The Hardest Word
Summary: Teatime in the ready room.
Date: PHD135
Related Logs: A Cubit Short

Kai is seated at his desk, with the usual complement of reports, reports and more reports arranged in front of him. His left hand's wrapped in bandages, and there's gauze taped to the side of his head. He's dressed in loose-fitting BDUs, a non-regulation grey t-shirt with a cheeky saying across the back, and his fatigue jacket is slung across his chair. He appears to be having some minor frustration writing with his right hand.

For his part, Timon Stathis is unscathed. He too is in his off-duty uniform, though his differs not at all from standard-issue clothing — and it's freshly laundered to boot. The hatch squeaks open as he enters, his usual array of legal pads and pens abandoned. Instead, all he's got is a thermos crafted out of blue plastic and stainless steel, its lid capped by two small paper cups. He even salutes — all of which can mean one of two things, really. Either something's up, or he's just been mind-controlled by Roubani.

Scribble, scribble, pause, frown. Karim's pen is tossed down in apparent frustration, and he reaches for his coffee cup— only to discover it's been drained empty. Some time ago, too, judging from the congealing ring that's left behind. Then the hatch thunks open, and his eyes cut toward the man who enters. Stathis. The salute's returned crisply, though there's no smile forthcoming. Did Timon expect otherwise? "Afternoon, Lieutenant."

"Do you have a moment?" Timon's voice doesn't waver, but his gaze does drift toward the pen now lying askew on the CAG's desk — and, by extension, the bandaged hand. "It's not coffee, this — " His thermos is lifted up rather jerkily. "But I hear tea has caffeine too."

Kai hesitates a moment, eyes flicking from Timon to his thermos, and back again. It's not suspicion, so much as uncertainty that tempers his expression beyond even its usual inscrutable mask. That, and he looks tired. Strung out. "Sure." He nods toward one of the chairs that've been pulled up to the desk. "Have a seat." His good hand is used to clear away a few reports, stacking them together before collecting his pen and clicking it off. "What's on your mind?"

"I was going to prepare a speech," Timon admits, moving over to the chair. His left hand is already grabbing the cups, which he struggles to separate until he sets the thermos down and gives himself a hand. One clack rings out — then two — as waxed, sturdy paper finds a clear resting spot on the table. "Then I talked to Poet and thought better of it, so here it is: thanks." That last is spoken tentatively, almost abashedly: clearly, he's not used to being direct.

Kai pauses when Timon mentions a speech, and there's a little tic of one brow as he regards the man evenly. Tea, for the time being, is forgotten. Several seconds' silence ensues after that last word is uttered; for a moment it seems the Captain might not have heard it. Finally, "You're welcome." He could have shrugged it off. But his tone's neither dismissive, nor arrogant. "You did good work up there. Both of you." That, too, is spoken with sincerity.

"Thanks." This one is a lot less forced than its predecessor — which is a good thing, too, because Timon has now started to pour. Steam surges upward as boiling water spills out from the top of his thermos, bringing with it the fragrant scent of flowers: chrysanthemum, with a hint of orange. Needless to say, this isn't standard issue fare. "So what's up?" he wonders when he's done, sitting and grabbing a cup for himself — and then winces. "I mean — how's your hand?"

What's.. up? The CAG looks mildly perplexed. People don't ask him 'what's up'. His lips twitch slightly at the thanks, and he reaches for the other cup once Timon's done pouring. His fingers are indelicate, calloused from some kind of past labour that wasn't stick jockeying, and caked with grease under the nails, presently. "Better." He sips, swallows. "It's doing better. Thanks." His cup's lifted a fraction to indicate. "You'll be back to your regular duties, of course, until medical clears me for flying again."

"You might try seeing if medical will let you get out from under that stack of paperwork too," Timon observes, not unsympathetically. The man blows lightly across the top of his cup to disperse the heat; then, he too sips and swallows, and sips and swallows again. Ivory's posture, unlike the CAG's, is proper — even prim. Muscle memory from a few years' worth of etiquette lessons, no doubt. There's silence for a while; then: "Crazy out there," is what the man comes up with. "Basestars didn't used to look like that."

They're a study in contrasts, CAG and Lieutenant. It's a wonder they can occupy the same space without mutually self-destructing. "No can do," Kai explains with a husky sounding chuckle. "I'm on light duty, which translates roughly to flying desks for the next week." He lifts his eyes briefly, lowers them again to sip. "I'm sorry you had to see what you did." He shuffles through a stack of papers with the tips of fingers on his bandaged hand. One is separated, bearing the schematic of an 'original', first war basestar. "Yeah. Looks like we've got more work to do. I don't think the vipers had a chance of standing up to that motherfrakker." He doesn't even blink at the dirty language.

Neither does Timon, whose sensibilities have long since been overridden by nearly a decade in the military — at least those sensibilities that have to do with pilots' salty vocabularies. "Light duty for me was the library checkout counter," he offers, blowing once more to cool off his drink. "Being an ECO is more exciting, and that's saying something." His other hand reaches for the schematic, flipping it around for examination. There's a brief 'hmm' before the paper is pushed back, slotted into the pile from whence it came. Another beat as he sips. "I didn't think my Raptor had a chance either," Ivory murmurs. "But they did. And we did." 'Stand up to that motherfrakker' is elided.

Topher ducks down then steps through the hatch. He stands to the rear of the room tossing a salute when Kai finally looks his direction. "Sir, reporting for evaluation, Sir." The words rolling out quietly as he speaks in his normal deep hushed toned. He makes sure to hold his salute until told otherwise or it is returned. His frame is perfectly rigid and eyes focused squarely on the CAG while he remains standing at full attention.

"It was severely crippled," Kai points out, meeting Timon's eyes for a moment as if to drive home that point. "So don't get cocky, Stathis." There's no rancor to those words. Maybe Timon's spent enough time around the oft-abrasive man, to understand that he tends to mean what he says, and say what he means. He's about to offer more, when someone else enters the room and gains his attention for a moment. "Lieutenant." He sets down his paper cup in order to return the salute in typical crisp military fashion. "Sit. I'll be with you in a minute."

Topher shuffles into one of the rear chairs in the ready room. He makes sure to appear to not be listening in and keep his attention elsewhere. Which for now is mingling between the plaque and white board. Though his eyes do linger around the room to take in any other hanging information material.

Timon looks up at the entering jock with something akin to surprise; then, it's back to his tea, which he drinks rather more quickly than before. "Believe me, sir, when I tell you I like to keep my expectations realistic." It's not the florid, long-winded rebuttal that might have met the CAG's mild reproach a few weeks ago; evidently, Ivory's learned something during all that time spent as Kai's shadow. "Anyway." His cup's almost empty, now — and now, he's done, gulping down the rest of his tea before he crumples its container in his hand. "Just one more thing, then I'll be out of your hair?"

Kai doesn't appear to be in any rush with his own tea. He's hardly dainty about it, but he also isn't of the 'open maw, dump in sustenance' type of stick jockey, either. "I do." Believe him. It's spoken unwaveringly. Then, "Shoot."

What comes next might be a little surprising: "I wanted to apologize," says Ivory, looking down at the crushed paper cup in his hand. His voice is subdued, pitched more lowly than is his wont. "For the incident." From two months ago: about damned time. "And I wanted you to know, if you didn't already, that it wasn't motivated by disrespect — just by a surfeit of pride." The Raptor driver chuckles ruefully, still not looking up at the CAG; his fingers flick off a bit of crumbled wax from his palm. "If that makes any sense." Saying sorry really isn't his thing.

Kai is quiet, again, for some time after Ivory's spoken. Apologising may not be the raptor driver's thing, but eloquent conversation isn't Spider's. He clears his throat eventually, finishes off his tea, and sets the cup down atop a clear spot of desk. No crushing or crumpling, it's merely placed there and nudged slightly to the side with his fingertips. "If you'll forgive the scripture, there's a passage that I read once, that always spoke to me: An old hubris tends to bring forth in evil men, sooner or later, at the fated hour of birth, a young hubris and that irresistible, unconquerable, unholy spirit, Thrasos, and for the household black Ates, which resemble their parents. But Dike shines in smoke-begrimed dwellings and esteems the virtuous man."

Timon 'mmms' quietly, sitting back in his chair, feet wide. It'll take him a while to digest the passage and a little while longer to unravel its meaning — and then, quietly, in a low singsong voice: "'From all these we took forth treasures, goodly and numerous, and we would bring them back, and give them to Agamemnon, Atreus' son; while he, waiting back beside the swift ships, would take them, and distribute them little by little, and keep many.'" Ivory's lidded eyes are half-closed as he continues, one hand conducting in the air. "'All the other prizes of honor he gave the great men and the princes are held fast by them, but from me alone of all the Achaians he has taken and keeps the bride of my heart.'" There's another yawning silence — and then the pilot is clearing his throat, pushing up from the table and sliding in the chair. "Not scripture," he mutters. "Just an old story. But it's always spoken to me."

Kai isn't an intellectual. Just a jaded soldier. Nevertheless, Timon's story draws out a rare smile from the Captain. He follows the younger pilot with his eyes, and rises in accompaniment. "Thank you." It's soft, and for what, he doesn't say. His lashes lower again, and he rummages for something in his stack of paperwork, with his good hand. The mess must be a semi-organised one, as he pulls it out without too much difficulty. Looks like a personnel folder. Topher's, undoubtedly. "Have a good afternoon, Lieutenant."

Topher nods from his seat if the Lieutenant passes him on his way out. Topher however remains seated until told otherwise still keeping his focus away from the conversation of the other two officers.

"Yeah." Timon is out of words; indeed, his expression is as muted as his voice had been. "Keep the tea," is all he says. Without further ado, he's making for the hatch, booted feet striking deck with slow, deliberate steps. Topher's nod is returned — briefly — before the hatch closes behind him.

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