Force over Distance: Dreams of the Multiverse

“Why do you sleep?” Young whispered into his hair.

Chapter warnings: Stressors of all kinds. Loss of autonomy. Physical injuries. Boundary violations.

Text iteration: Midnight.

Additional notes: I…made it?

Dreams of the Multiverse

The grass was warm under his back.

“Warm” meant more to him now.

Layered beneath the subjective sensation he’d fought like hell to preserve was the deeper knowledge of heat transfer, of atomic motion, of the dance between matter and energy. But even now, with all he could see and sense—he wouldn’t say he understood the truth of subjective experience.

Corporeal or transcendent, the feel of grass on a warm day was as deep a mystery as any Young had come across.

The Alteran sky was a pale blue. He tried to feel the slowing of time that came with a dying brane. But all he caught was a hint of the Cantascendis, resonating from the direction of the distant city.

Wandering the dark

The traveler understands

Spring petals on the wind

Have always been blind.

Young concentrated on the weight of Rush's head against his arm.

The man liked it here, on this planet halfway across the universe from Earth, where no intelligent life was permitted to settle, where ghosts lived in a lonely city that couldn’t feel their presence. Young had seen countless variations of this world, subtly different, almost the same. He’d lain on countless hills in the days, the minutes, the hours, before those hills had been pressed into a Quantum Graveyard.

Young looked over at Rush. The scientist had one arm curled beneath him, his fingers hooking over his shoulder, one hand on Young's chest.

“You asleep, kiddo?” Young asked, barely audible.

No answer.

According to Fabrice, sleeping wasn’t supposed to be necessary.

Young found sleeping didn’t come naturally to him. It was easier to lift out of descent whenever he felt the fatigue that came with friction, with entropy, with the utilization of resources.

He didn't sleep.

He didn't dream.

He didn't need to.

But Rush—

Rush was a different story. The scientist fell asleep almost every time they came to this abandoned, pristine hillside that had more than a passing resemblance to the cut of the land around the Firth of Clyde.

Maybe it was a consequence of what he was.

Maybe it was something the AI’d preserved in him—a human frailty, an ability to let go of himself.

Maybe it was because he’d always been so tired.

Whatever the answer, he was sure it’d be as complicated as the man himself.

Out of an infinite doomed array, Fabrice had said, drinking Jack O’Neill’s wine deep in the Quantum Graveyard, where firelight put warmth in Sam Carter’s hair, it was the ship I chose. The ship who gave itself up to preserve the life it stole. The ship who trusted you enough to preserve and deepen every advantage it’d ever given you. The ship wise enough not to erase itself. Wise enough to hang onto the love it felt for Nick. For you. For Daniel. For your crew. For Sortes and for me. For reality itself.

The ash in Rush’s hair gleamed under Altera’s silver-white star.

But you’ll have to be careful, now, Fabrice had warned. He’s more vulnerable to you than ever. You’ll need to learn his mind.

Young gathered Rush in, closing the distance between them to nothing, opening the link that still connected their minds.

When he slept, Rush dreamed of the multiverse, always and without fail, his uncontrolled awareness splitting endlessly with the quantum foam, flipping through permutations of his own fate, of Young's, of Chloe’s. Of Jackson’s and Eli's and Greer's and TJ’s.

This couldn’t be normal—not even for someone who was half a starship.

“Such a trouble maker,” Young murmured into his hair.

The blur of the scientist's thoughts slowed and sharpened, his hand closing on Young's shirt as he opened his eyes.

“Sorry.” Young guided his head back down. “Go back to sleep, genius.”

“Stop waking me up,” Rush murmured.

“I said I was sorry.”

He felt Rush flash a smile against his shoulder.

“Why do you sleep?” Young whispered into his hair.

“To make sure they're all right,” Rush replied, the words nearly soundless.

“And are they?” Young asked, thinking of endless permutations of his crew, his friends, his family.

"Sometimes," Rush murmured.

Young pulled Rush closer. He listened to the Cantascendis, to the surge and fade of the distant sea.

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