Newton's third law states that all forces occur in pairs, and these two forces are equal in magnitude and opposite in direction. Speaking of, Ardette and Callahan make each other's acquaintance.
Initial Setting: Hallways of RED base and, later, the doctor's office.
Ardette sighs in time with the clicking of her heels as she walks, breathing in, two, three, out, two, three, in, two, three... She’d hum, if she felt so inclined; the day’s found her in a decent mood, and she can’t deny how susceptible she’s become to the little sleep she gets, these days. Ardette’s finally slept off the 29 hours awake that ended with coffee with Zach Tailor. And her new shift begins likewise, with a mug of coffee in hand, her “morning” starting at a healthy four in the afternoon. And she does start humming, softly to herself, as she rounds the corner.
Callahan's day is just about to, god bloody bless, finally end.
He's running on his last reserves of sugary tea and someone's biscuits they had the poor luck to leave in the medbay and soon he'll be walking just because his contempt for the rest of the world wills it so. For now, all that's left is go back to the room and have the boy awkwardly shift around him in a socially-inept mix of forced politeness and quiet 'I don't know you' weirdness of sharing space with a complete stranger who looks like a prison shank made human.
The Irishman leans against the corner of the hallway, setting aside a few blessed seconds to stare at the opposite wall with arms crossed in some sort of zen apathy.
She’s a few bars into Bach’s Concerto in E when she doesn’t so much see a specifically Langley Callahan standing there as much as some automatic, faster, higher command registers a break in that line of wall and her humming stops. And it’s without being startled, a reflex that’s just as useful on the field as it is in her own hallway. There’s something stubborn in his position there that makes a simple hello seem trite.
“Well, that’s a nice bit of wall,” she drawls. “Is it yours?”
"Yes," Callahan answers without a pause. "We're very close."
Ardette jerks her chin up in half a nod, peering at the new medic. Needly and blunt - yes, he must be right at home, here. “And...” She glances up and down the otherwise empty hallway. “Is this how you usually take your breaks, Dr. Callahan?” Because the only other thing she’s seen rest propped up against a wall like that is a bloody ladder.
"Restin' one's eyes in non-clutter'd surrounding's helps ta avoid migraines," comes the blank reply. "Sae jus' keep walkin' so's we kin keep it like that."
That's the official reason for official-looking shrews carrying official looking paperwork, at least. Really, it's just a question of looking at this blank wall or any blank wall back at his room. Might as well give O'hannigan a couple more moments of respite.
Yes, Dr. Callahan must feel right at home, here. Ardette silently files away the implication that she, of all things, be considered ‘clutter,’ and thus her baseline opinion of the newest batch of recruits remains unchanged: rude, unpromising, and ungrateful to have a bloody job.
“Don’t stay there too long,” she says, turning her back to him and continuing down the hall. “You might congeal.”
"Thas true. Since my heart bleeds fer ye."
It's not that Callahan isn't doing his job. He is. He's in the office. On watch. There is just no-one to watch.
So if throwing little pieces of paperballs at the paper bin kicked over next to the cabinets is considered neglect of duty... well... falling into a boredom-induced coma would probably count as severe neglect of duty so, really, he's dodging a fucking bullet here.
Lifting a thin, bandaged arm, he throws another little rolled-up piece of paper, ripped off the edge of a copy Johnny Doe's journal.
When one’s choices of medic include Ballard, Eberhardt, Callahan, the easy-to-startle Aberdeen, and Tailor, only a gambling woman would enter the medbay without knocking. And Ardette is not a gambling woman. So, she shifts the small armful of thawed and dry icepacks in her grip and smartly raps at the door.
"Th' fuck're you knockin' fer. It's open, it's s'posedta be open always. Either ye need it t'be in here or ye don'." Should be enough of a warning to let dumb folks with dumb problems know to piss off; he's... not busy, in any sense of the word, but doesn't really want to be, either. Being a doctor is weird like that.
Another paperball flies through the air.
Ardette glares at the ceiling and exhales roughly. Her hand’s already on the doorknob, and now that she’s heard that squawking Irish outburst, it’s taking a considerable mental push to just commit already and turn it. Medbay errands like this were so much easier when she still lacked the basic courtesy of doing them in plain sight. She opens the door with a sigh, and that’s when a little paperball bounces off the rim of the paper bin and rolls towards her foot. “You, Dr. Callahan, are the reason why people knock.”
Callahan only twists his twiggy neck enough to catch a whiff of platinum-blonde hair and that particular your-existence-as-a-whole-offends-me-personally scowl before he snaps around and rolls another little ball between long, bony fingers.
"Obviously it ain't workin'." Since she's still here, and neither of them are going to say they're fucking stoked about that. Callahan's kind of... meh. She's a paper-pusher, a no-nonsense broad just doing her job. But she likes to be prickly, fine, and well, shit, he's a fucking cacti. It's all downhill from there.
“Oh, don’t be so petulant,” she scolds, completely hypocritically. She adjusts her armful of icepacks and kicks that little paperball towards the trash bin. “Your line of work is the only one where having no business is a good thing.”
"By that logic, ye'd be business."
Callahan turns around in the chair and eyes the icepacks questioningly.
Ardette gives him a sweet little sneer. “You’re right. I am. Always.” She takes one of the icepacks, holds it up for him to see and gives it a little shake, like presenting a dog with a tennis ball. “I’m just returning these.” Permission to enter, now, you cantankerous twig?
"Throw them in th' sink, there's a good girl," Callahan replies, making no move whatsoever to get up. "I'll deal wi' 'em." Eventually.
‘There’s a good girl’? Ardette squints at nothing in particular and has one of those brief, silent conversations with the universe that goes something like, did he just say that? Yes, he just said that. She shakes her head and crosses to the sink, heels clicking on the linoleum. “Quiet day, then?”
"Y'cou'd say that." You could also say it's been fucking mind-numbingly blow-your-brains-out-just-for-something-to-bloody-happen dull, but, hey, that's just effing semantics.
There's a pause, then Callahan turns around, a face on him like's he's also just now acknowledged the presence of the visitor for real.
"I don' think I seen yer med'cal files aroun' th' rest o' th' lot," he wonders out loud dully.
Ardette glances at him, looking disinterested. “Is that so?” Oh, she hasn’t had to have that conversation in years. Bloody new recruits. Perhaps to supplement her lack of anything more substantial to say, she dumps the icepacks in the sink with a particularly loud clatter.
The loud noise makes Callahan arch a thin eyebrow. So that's how it is. Cute. Well, he'll make it fast.
"Roight. By now I kin sorts of get that this place has a raging paranoia stiffy regardin' patients' journals. Fine. That's jus' th' way things are. Nothin' new. If ye cou'd be sae wellbehav'd t'jus' humour me an' tell me who have been deem'd worthy fer access t'yer files, that'd be grand," he says blandly.
Well, well! It seems Callahan has quickly learned to accept the common attitude around personnel files. It’s unexpected and it makes Ardette smile. She runs the tap to rinse the icepacks off for good measure, and by the time she turns the faucet off and faces him, that smile is gone. “I can’t speak for anyone else. But for spies...” She crosses her arms and leans back against the counter. “It’s a security issue. There’s no paranoia involved here, Callahan. I assure you, it’s completely rational.”
Callahan waves a hand dismissively. "I don' care 'bout th' reasons, they ain't my business. I ask'd ye somethin' else."
Ardette tilts her head and studies him. Well, if he’s anything, it’s to the point. Her eyes flit down to his skinny, bandaged wrists, not a sliver of skin exposed, and then back up to his gaunt face. She crosses her legs at the ankles and gets comfortable. “Dr. Ballard.” There. She’ll trade blunt honesty for blunt honesty. In this case, she figures, lying by omission is a moot issue.
"No-one else?" He's not got much experience with military. In that, technically, he hasn't any at all. But just one consulting doctor, and someone as busy and virtually non-existent (as far as he can tell) as Ballard, even for a cocksmart class like spies. It's just... eh.
Ardette rolls a shoulder, looking bored. “Does it matter how many there are, if you’re not one of them?”
"It don' matter that I ain't invited to yer secret li'l treehouse club, woman, I jus' need t'know what doctors to go to since they will know how to treat ye best in case o' emergencies. Y'know. Premeditatin' trouble." He throws another ball, a bit haphazardly. It bounces against the wall and hits the bin dead-on.
Ardette watches the arc of that paperball until it sinks into the trash bin. She’s almost disappointed by such a rational response. It gives her no reason to dodge his question, and so few REDs she’s ever worked with have managed to balance ‘rational’ and ‘rude’ in such an artful way. Her eyes fall to his bony hands again and the corner of her lips twitch. The thought of being treated by this person instead is enough to force one last drop of honesty out of her. “Dr. Eberhardt.”
Callahan purses his lips. "I see. That... might give ye reason t'expand th' secret club personnel a bit." Not with him, he fucking knows and hopes that's not bloody going to happen, and he can't say he could even pretend to be the least bit effing crestfallen about that.
Ardette arches a brow at that, and jerks her chin at him. “And what makes you say that?” Because if Callahan knows the good Doktor well enough to make an assessment like that, she wants to hear about it. And if Callahan has a doctor’s opinion on the man’s capacity to do his job... you bet your best intel she wants to hear about that, too.
"I think his recent health problems're superficially known by most o' base, so's I ain't spoilin' anythin'. But tall, blonde and scowlin' there isn't in a state t'be a continuously reliant doctor for a long period o' time jus' yet. An' Ballard, as I suspect, is a busy fockin' man, so havin' second, physically dependable, opinions is jus' a sensible idea."
It's like the more she poses haughtily at him, the more he just wants to throw bland, neutral logic back at her sour horse's face.
Ardette’s jaw goes rigid. Ah. That. He’s right; it is a sensible idea. But being sensible when it comes to Eberhardt means being pessimistic. And while a pessimist she is, she’s far too stubborn to let herself be pessimistic about tall, blond and scowlin’s condition. She laughs shortly and flicks a hair from her eyes. “Eberhardt isn’t going anywhere, and I know where to find Ballard. So, your concern is, euh...” Oh, what’s a diplomatic word... “Thorough. And misplaced.”
"You bet your prissy high heels it's thorough an' misplaced. But that's the thing wi' health issues, Lady Muck, ye only know it's misplaced after the fact. It's better bein' judged as a snoopy prick, 'cos at least it be meanin' I'm botherin' t'be doin' me job. An', believe it or not, it ain't just a question o' you bein' able t'find th' German fer your availability--it's also a question o' you bein' able t'leave him alone when he needs no stressin' o'er uppity patients," he explains his points in the same dull monotone as before. And with much less hair-flicks jasus christ this woman and her feminist theatrics, can't just talk like a normal person.
Ardette’s expression goes from neutral to politely fascinated as he prattles forth his barely intelligible rant, like she’d never quite seen anything like him before. It won’t be until later, when she has time to examine her thoughts, that she’ll realize why his reaction is so interesting. New recruits tend to become immediately aware of a deep, pre-written order to the team dynamics, a routine that’s almost sacred, and it takes them a while to write themselves into the story. Callahan has unapologetically stabbed through the page with his spiky, knobbly finger to make room for himself, and what’s stranger still is the idea that he actually fits. She smiles at him and pushes herself to standing. “Your concern for the Doktor, however, is not misplaced,” she says, tacking that onto her previous thought as though he hadn’t just interrupted it.
"Blimey, it's a bless'd thing I have such well-regard'd medi'cal opinions as yours t'tell me that," Callahan answers shortly and flippantly. Then seems to lean back with an air of waiting for her to say something more, equally snippy and topic-derailing.
Ardette folds her arms behind her back and fixes Callahan with a bland little smile. They just look at each other for a long moment, sizing the other up, or simply waiting, or simply satisfying themselves with the knowledge that, well, I’m not going to budge. After a time, she shakes her head reassuringly. “I’m a very easy patient.”
There's a million snippy, sexist, misogynist comments that neatly lines up in Callahan's mind, waiting their turn. He's got a feeling he's being baited, though.
"That your professional opinion? Not that I'll e'er find out fer myself, I'm bettin," he says, not unkindly -- disinterestedly polite, rather -- and rips off another little piece of paper and rolls it tight. "The German isn't, however. Keeps thinking that he's got something to prove."
He sends her a measured look.
Then shifts the gaze back to the paperball. "Which I cannae be bother'd wi'. I'm simply tryin' t'do me job. As I suspect you are, too. So, e'en if yer goin' t'blow hot air on me non-requested advice -- which, let's be honest, you probably are goin' to, an' there ain't much I'll be wantin' t'do abou' that, I'm not that good a doctor -- at least consider th' logic behind before y'do or I'll be liable t'conclude that you are indeed ev'ry bit as paranoid as most here seem t'be."
He throws the little ball and it whirls through the air.
Ardette just watches Callahan with politely raised eyebrows, lets him empty his lungs and squeeze out every last drop of that thought until he’s finished. Oh, this one is interesting. It amazes her, how little she has to say to get a whole lot of response in return, and she wonders how much she could get out of him by prompting him and then just... letting him talk. Let’s find out.
“I’m curious, Dr. Callahan,” she says, tilting her head. “Who are you more concerned about, here? Me? Or Dr. Eberhardt?”
Because it doesn’t take a heart surgeon to recognize Eberhardt’s particular brand of tact. He’s an awful patient. She knows that, Callahan knows that, and the fact that Eberhardt’s so bloody obvious about it is almost endearing. Almost.
It's not a laugh, it's an almost bored exhale of air, but it carries a sort of undefined noise with it.
"No real concern here, girlie, 'm afraid. We're fresh outta that. I'm jus' doin' me job."
The ball hits the side of the bin and rolls over the floor. Callahan reacts by reclining in the chair and watching the few odd spots and lines on the ceiling. He's leaning back and resting both arms on the armrests, and both long legs lie across the floor like fallen telephone poles. An open, indifferently-honest sort of body posture. Or maybe just lazy.
"Bu' if ye were in these shoes o' mine, who wou'd yer aforementioned well-regard'd medi'cal opinions tell me t'worry th' most fer if I was so perplexedly inclin'd?"
Callahan’s persistence would probably lead most to believe that he does actually give a damn about his patients, but Ardette is well-versed in doing one’s job stubbornly and without empathy. So, she simply shrugs. She’ll play along. “Mais... the Doktor, of course.” And cue Callahan circling back to his original argument like a goddamned boomerang, that the Doktor doesn’t need the stress, and she needs a third opinion, yadda yadda...
Callahan swivels on the chair leisurely. "Of fuckin' course," he says matter-of-factly. "Grumpy's the one who had a goddamn heart attack. Unless yous about t'have one jus' from talkin' t'me. Wouldn't be th' first time, but let's try our best t'keep things fresh. Are we about done here, Miss Priss?"
‘Miss Priss,’ now there’s a new one. Ardette nods and scans the room, thinking. With Tailor, Ardette’s secrecy is personally offensive, whereas with Callahan, her secrecy is simply inconveniencing his sense of principle. It surprises her that this is a person she may actually be able to work with.
“Yes, I think we are, Dr. Callahan,” she says, walking to the door.
...but that doesn’t mean she can’t inconvenience him for a little while longer. She stops at the door, one hand on the doorknob.
“Indulge my curiosity again, though...”
"Sure. Wha' th' fock else am I here fer?"
Not much, really, especially since he's run out of paperballs. That means he might actually have to try his hand at doing inventory or something equally mindlessly constructive. Callahan makes an internal noise of bored anguish.
Ardette turns at the waist to squint at him. “Who would you suggest?” She dips her chin. “Exactly?”
Ardette chuffs out a single, surprised laugh. Smirking down at her shoes, she wags a finger at him, as though to say, oh, you... you’re allright. With that, she steps out and closes the door behind her. Time to revise her initial assessment of Dr. Langley Callahan: rude, seedy, but of startlingly good judgment.
Callahan rolls a little around the office on the wheelie chair, bored. Well. That little hello-nagnag-goodbye routine passed a couple minutes, didn't it? And that's probably all he thinks he can say about Miss blondewhatshername. She passes the time.
As long as she can keep her neat self from not strictly needing a third medical opinion, or medical assistance at all (she looks and carries herself with an air of the insufferably professional, so there is hope she won't fall on her own gun or something equally sad), chances are they won't have to interact much. And, going by that logic and several pinches of dumb fucking luck, they might just be able to tolerate the thought of each other existing.
Callahan continues to roll around listlessly.
He really wishes he had a crossword about now.