Trading Places
Trading Places
Summary: The CAG comes up with a novel way to establish a rapport with Timon.
Date: PHD 121
Related Logs: References Respect and Good Enough.


The ready room's empty this evening, the last few stragglers having filtered out for late night CAP not too long ago. Coffee cups litter the fold-out desks where pilots sat not too long ago— and someone's gone to the painstaking effort of folding a paper plane in the rough shape of a viper, and managed to loft it through a gap in the overhead lights. Kai's standing at the back of the room, in his blues uniform, whiteboard marker clamped between his teeth while he shuffles through his duty roster.

"Captain," says Timon, who's paused outside the door to the ready room to catch his breath before entering. But the observant might notice that his off-duty sweats are stained here and there by, well, sweat, and there's the barest hint of a catch in his voice. He's been running, it seems. The shadows in the room grow somewhat longer as the taller man moves toward the seat closest to the hatch, setting down his hand on its battered leather upholstery. Nothing else is spoken.

Kai doesn't turn around when his rank's spoken, familiar though that voice may be. The marker's withdrawn from his teeth however, and he addresses Timon with just enough volume to be heard; his voice is almost infuriatingly calm. "Have you forgotten how to salute and wait for acknowledgement when entering a duty area, Stathis?"

So it's going to be one of these nights. Timon straightens his back and sets his legs before his right hand goes up to meet eyebrow; his left is held behind him, where whitening knuckles can remain safely out of sight.

And Kai, bastard that he's been so aptly named, resumes his work. A few names are read off the roster, then transcribed under the week's CAP rotation. His writing's neat, tidy and almost cautious in its execution.

The lieutenant's wise enough not to give voice to the thoughts tumbling through his head, though he does relax his posture slightly — just enough to send blood flowing back into his clenched fist, which now blooms into a palm. Apart from that movement, Ivory resembles nothing less than a caryatid of old, albeit one sculpted to be both balding and sallow.

The older Captain's showing signs of imminent recession of his hairline, himself. It's possibly less apparent by sheer virtue of it being curly and somewhat thick, but after thirty-five odd years it's only a matter of inevitability. His pen's capped after about thirty seconds more, and he turns, returning the salute finally with typical brusqueness. "At ease, Lieutenant." Blue eyes meet dark, then pull away as he steps toward his desk. "Have a seat. I won't keep you long."

Down into the chair Timon goes, stepping out of his salute with as much precision as he can muster — and, well, there's a reason nobody ever tapped him for PR duty, or bayonet-swinging displays, or anything else along those lines. All that's audible from his side of the room is the soft sound of air escaping from foam.

The whiteboard doesn't tell the story yet, though it undoubtedly will, once Marek's finished with it. He tosses the duty roster atop the rest of his paperwork, which appears to be sorted into moderately neat piles. Three of them, to be precise. The marker follows, and rolls ominously to the edge of the desk.. where it stops. He's either good, or lucky. "I've been giving some thought to our talk the other night." He comes around to where Timon's sitting, and rests his butt against the back of a chair one row forward. There's maybe three, four feet separating them. "And I can't afford to take you off the flight line until you find a way to pull your head out of your ass."

"If it's obeisance you want from me, sir, that won't be a problem." Timon did go through OCS, despite all outward appearances, and he's had his fair share of instructors — or commanders, for that matter — cut from the Marek mold. A finger moves to toy with the bump marking the spot where the cartilage in his nose once shattered.

"Cut the bullshit, Stathis, I'm not playing that game with you tonight." The CAG's tone is mild, his expression diffident, but the dark circles under his eyes and the slight sag of his shoulders tell a different story: little deceits, necessary lies. "Your service jacket says you're qualified as an ECO, correct?"

Timon allows himself a little half-smile when he sits forward, slipping in and out of the light — and this time he leans a bit closer to the CAG, brown eyes open but devoid of defiance. "Correct," comes the man's reedy tenor as he sets his elbows on his legs, a move that puts his eyes somewhere at about the CAG's neck. No word-vomit from him, at least not now.

Kai doesn't move as Timon leans in closer. Not a muscle. There's no ante-ing up of aggression, no challenge in the eye contact he fleetingly makes, no tension in his frame. "Good. I'd like you to start brushing up on your technical manual. Have Thorn sit down with you and do a walkthrough or two to familiarise yourself. Whatever you need to be ready to backseat for me starting two days from now." Wait. What?

Well. Lips pursed, brow furrowed, Ivory reclines in his seat of choice, the back of which crumples obligingly under his not insignificant weight. A few stray crumbles tumble out from under his armrest — some rank mix of cookies, chips, chili powder, and dried coffee, from the looks of it — to settle at his feet. It takes a good ten seconds before Timon responds — with "Let the record show, sir, that I have serious reservations about this arrangement, temporary though it might be." He chuckles at little at this reflexive return to bureaucratese; then, with assurance that's surprising coming from him: "I'll be ready." Indeed, he seems to find the situation more humorous than strange, if the sudden glint in his eye is any indication of his mood.

"Your reservations are noted, Lieutenant." It's delivered with about as much delicacy as a brick through a window. But they don't pay the Captain for his tact and discretion. "You'll report to the hangar bay in two days' time, at oh eight hundred hours. You'll fly when I fly, you'll sleep when I sleep, and you'll be on double PT with me for two weeks following the inauguration of your new duty assignment. At the end of the two weeks, Captain Legacy and myself will evaluate your performance." His eyes remain upon the younger man, unwavering, his hands having retreated to the pockets of his trousers by now. "Any questions?"

"I have to wonder, Captain, by what criteria will said performance be evaluated," is Ivory's considered response. "Given that I've never received formal ECO certification, and given that the duties of an ECO do not much overlap with those of a pilot, I'm curious why you and Captain Legacy would consider my performance behind an EW console a suitable heuristic for my piloting — unless, of course, it's not my piloting that's at issue here."

"What do you believe is at issue here, Lieutenant?" is Kai's only counter to that. He doesn't smile, though he almost looks like he wants to. Just for a moment there.

"Come now, Captain." Timon's tone is almost gentle; his hands, folded almost demurely on his lap. "That's a trick I thought only we philosophers would stoop to." The words are accompanied by a low chuckle as he shifts in his seat, sending forth another shower of crumbs. "No further questions."

There's an equally low sound from the Captain; huskier, perhaps, by dint of the cigarettes he's smoked and the liquor he's imbibed over a lifetime. "No, I'm serious. Humour me." Maybe he employs this tactic with every upstart pilot who walks through those doors in need of an attitude adjustment. Or maybe Timon's just special.

Timon's surely not your average upstart pilot — understated, under-liquored, and under-sexed — but he still bites down hard on the bait the CAG so kindly dangles before him. "You know, Captain, my mother sent me to summer camp when I was in grade school," Ivory murmurs, speaking in an undertone. "The first day, the counselors asked us to close our eyes, stand up straight, and lean backwards into their loving hands — or at least that was the idea. I still have the scars." There's that chuckle again. "I won't drop you, sir. I know what it's like to fall."

The raptor driver's permitted to speak, uninterrupted, since he was actually given permission to do so. Kai, apparently, is a man of his word. His lips twitch slightly as the moral of the story is explained, blue eyes shifting to regard the deck between their collective feet. A pregnant pause before he seeks out Timon's face again. "So do I, Lieutenant." The digital clock on the back wall clacks softly as it advances the minute display ahead by one. "You didn't answer my question. Give it some thought. Is there anything else?"

"I had a point in there somewhere, sir." Timon gets to his feet, pressing his palms against his cushion as he does; the man can't resist a grimace as he surveys the anonymous stickiness that his action has placed onto his hand. "To wit: I think you want to discover whether we can drive down the same street, in opposite directions, without chancing catastrophe. But — " And he smiles ruefully. "As I told you the other day, I think too much."

"No," counters the CAG, remaining precisely where he is as Timon starts to rise. "You second guess too much. And you make too many assumptions." His eyes travel up, to hold the other man's gaze. "You're dismissed. Enjoy your evening, Lieutenant."

"Such is the curse of an idle mind, sir." There's a quick salute, there's that strange half-smile half-frown, and then Timon's out the door, brushing a few stray crumbs from his trousers as he walks.

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