Mathématique: Chapter 10

“This phone has seen some times. It knows the world now.”

Revised Author’s Notes: This is a piece of fan fiction. It’s a trope-twisting, epic-length, crossover AU that spans all three series of Stargate. There’s a lot of science. A lot of plot. A lot of emotions. Timelines have been slightly altered so that season 4 of Stargate Atlantis (without Carter in command) occurs contemporaneously to season 10 of SG-1, which occurs in the year prior to season 1 of SGU.

Disclaimer: I’m not making money from this; please don’t repost to other sites. 

Warnings: Stressors of all kinds.

Chapter 10

Young could see it.

It rested behind his eyes even now, in the bright, slanted light of the summer afternoon, beneath Mitchell’s too determined, too accented commentary, beneath the tap of Jackson’s fingernails against the glass of his beer bottle, beneath Teal’c’s impassive expression. It hung out there somewhere in the vacuum of space, against a field of unfamiliar stars—that smear of metallic and organic debris, beading together in a fine, frozen mist. He shut his eyes, but that only brought it out, glittering and stark against the dark behind his eyelids.

He took a swig of beer. It tasted bitter. Clean.

There was a cut to a commercial break and Mitchell leaned forward to open another bottle. “Who’s driving?” he asked.


“Not you,” Jackson said.

“I will drive,” Teal’c announced, from where he had set himself up in Young’s armchair.

“Nice.” Mitchell popped the top off a bottle and sent it flying to rest somewhere beneath Young’s coffee table. “Absent comrades,” he said, into a moment of unnatural quiet.

Young touched his bottle to Mitchell’s with a quiet clink of glass-on-glass.

“Absent comrades,” Teal’c repeated, taking a sip of his beer.

Jackson looked away, his face twisting, pained. He stood abruptly and disappeared down the narrow hallway in the direction of Young’s bathroom.

Mitchell shut his eyes, but only for a moment. “Baseball,” he said, twisting on the couch to watch Jackson’s retreat, the shift of his weight sending a spike of agony through Young’s back and hip. “Ain’t nothin’ better.” 

“I prefer hockey,” Young replied through gritted teeth, trying not to give away the fact that he felt as though every sensory fiber in his back was dying a brutal, agonizing death. If only his nerves would just up and die, that would suit him just fine.

He was going to have to take some ibuprofen soon.

After about five minutes, Jackson emerged from the bathroom, and Mitchell stopped shifting on the couch. No one was really into the game, not even Cam, who was spearheading their attempts to go through the motions of talking loudly, plus or minus hand clapping with the proper emotional pitch, following the minor successes and failures of the Kansas City Royals. Young and Teal’c kept pace with him out of bromanic courtesy, uttering the appropriate responses with various levels of enthusiasm.

“Aw crap.”


“Most regrettable.”

Jackson was pacing the room behind them, uninterested in the game, clearly preoccupied.  Young glanced at him occasionally, trying to take stock of the situation as best he understood it.

One—Jackson and Telford were currently or had been in open conflict about something regarding the Icarus project. Two—According to Rush, Jackson was wary if not outright frightened at the prospect of dialing the nine-chevron address. Three—Jackson knew why Rush was at the top of the LA abduction list, as did the rest of SG-1. Four—Rush did not know why he was at the top of the list. Five—Mitchell thought that Jackson was going to make an attempt to pass Rush classified information against Landry’s orders. Six—it was a good bet that the thing Jackson wanted to tell Rush was the thing that made Rush the top of the LA list. 

Young spared another surreptitious glance at Jackson, who had stopped his pacing to look out through the mostly closed blinds. From the direction of his gaze, Young could tell that he was looking not at the parking lot, but at the mountains—toward the base.

Rush had been talking to Vala for a long time.

Too long, maybe?

As though Mitchell had just had the same thought, he noticed the other man’s eyes flick toward the shadowed hallway.

Was Vala helping Jackson? Teamed up with him? A team within a team? A tighter alliance than the bureaucratic bonds of the SGC allowed or knew?  Was she telling Rush—whatever it was that Jackson wanted him to know? If she was, there wasn’t much Young could do about it. 

“What do you think they’re talking about?” Jackson finally asked, coming to stand next to the couch, one arm wrapped around his chest, beer in hand.


Maybe Vala was not in league with Jackson.

“You,” Mitchell said.

“You,” Teal’c said.

“Math?” Young said.

“Why would they be talking about me?” Jackson snapped. “Don’t be ridiculous.” He took a sip of his beer. “Math—maybe. Nick manages to twist everything around to it if you’re able to breach his fortress of one-liners.”

“I noticed,” Young said.

“It’s been a long time,” Jackson said. “I mean, they’ve been on the phone a long time. Right? I can’t imagine they have that much in common. Do they? Would they? Maybe? Actually, they might.”

“Definitely keep debating it aloud with yourself,” Mitchell said. “It’ll be a good conversation starter when Rush walks back into the room.”

Jackson turned around. 

Teal’c looked amused. “I believe that Dr. Rush and Vala Mal Doran would make a formidable team.”

“Oh god,” Jackson said. “You’re right but—in all the worst ways.”

“Indeed,” Teal’c replied.

“You don’t think they’re—planning anything, do you?”

“Daniel,” Mitchell said. “Chill. What the heck are they even going to ‘plan’?”

“He probably fell asleep,” Young said. “He’s been barely hanging on for hours now.”

“Well,” Jackson said, “I need my phone.  I’m going to go check.”

“You don’t need your phone,” Mitchell said. “In fact, you hate your phone.”

“I do not ‘hate’ my phone,” Jackson replied primly.

“You have, on many occasions, described your dislike for your phone,” Teal’c said, backing Mitchell.

Jackson glared at the pair of them.

“I believe your exact words were ‘I hate this thing, multifunctional devices are never a good idea’,” Teal’c said.

“When did I say that?”

“In the car,” Mitchell replied.

“What car?  When?” 

“In my car. Today. On the way over here. Two and a half hours ago.”

“I don’t think that’s true,” Jackson said.

“It’s totally true,” Mitchell said.

“That never happened.”

“It did,” Teal’c confirmed.

Jackson sighed.

“I’ll go get your phone,” Young said, getting painfully to his feet before anyone could tell him not to. “I need some ibuprofen anyway.”

“I’ll get it for you,” Jackson said.

“Nah,” Young said.  “Take a seat, Jackson.  Drink your damn beer.”

Mitchell grabbed Jackson’s wrist, dragging him down onto the couch.

“Maybe several beers,” Young mouthed inaudibly, turning his back on the three of them. 

He made his way down the short hallway and ducked into the shadowed darkness of his unlit bathroom to down two ibuprofen.  He traced his thumb over the unfamiliar line of the faucet as he finished his glass of water, then walked across the hall to the closed door of the second bedroom, listening at the door to see if he could discern the sound of talking. The room was silent. As quietly as possible, he eased the door open.

If he hadn’t been mentally preparing himself, the whole faceplant-to-the-floor thing Rush had going would have been alarming. As it was, the boneless sprawl was just—mildly unsettling. He stepped through and eased the door shut just as quietly as he’d opened it.

Sure enough, Rush was holding Jackson’s phone.

Halfway through dropping into a crouch, Young realized that his current course of action was a terrible, terrible idea. He managed to abort by virtue of grabbing the doorframe and pulling himself back upright, biting his lip against the pain in his hip and back that seemed to writhe like a live thing. Like a parasitic alien snake.

He slid down the wall, his back to the warming paint in a much safer route to the floor, his injured leg extended out in front of him. He rested, his head tipped back against the clean, white expanse of the unadorned wall as he breathed through the pain—trying not to fight it as it washed over him and receded slowly, like the tide.

When the worst of it had drained away, he tipped his head forward to level a silent glare at Rush.

Equilibrium regained, Young leaned forward and carefully made an attempt to rescue Jackson’s phone, edging it out gingerly from beneath Rush’s fingers, dragging it against the hardwood floor. The mathematician seemed like he was pretty solidly out, and Young figured it wouldn’t be too much trouble to just—

Rush snapped into sudden action—his fingers closing around Jackson’s phone, wrenching it out of Young’s tenuous grip. He flipped over, pulled away, and, in a motion that looked more instinctive than anything, sent Jackson’s phone straight into the opposite wall.

Young jerked back, his hands instinctively going to his hip, and then to mid-thigh for the sidearm he wasn’t wearing.

“What the fuck,” Rush shouted, pulling himself into a crouch.

“God damn it, Rush,” Young shouted simultaneously, his heart hammering in his throat. “Take it easy.”

“What the fuck were you doing?”

“Um,” Young said, his back to the wall, both hands raised. “Getting Jackson’s phone?”

They stared at each other for the span of about thirty seconds, breathing heavily.

Finally, Rush calmed to the point that Young’s words registered. He looked over at the device in question, which was now lying face down about ten feet away from them.

“Good work there, hotshot,” Young growled. “I think you killed it.”

“Ah fuck,” Rush breathed, uncoiling from his defensive crouch. He slid over to retrieve the phone from what was likely its final resting place. The screen was a webbed lattice of cracks, pale against the black, reflective surface. The mathematician examined it intensively before setting it back on the floor, face down. He pulled in a shuddery breath, and then a second one. He straightened his glasses, neatly folded the crumpled square of notebook paper he was holding, shoved it into his pocket, and then pushed his hair back in one shaky sweep. “And what,” Rush asked with an unreal amount of poised disdain, “do you think you’re doing. Exactly.”

The guy was unbelievable.

“Oh no,” Young said. “You don’t get to turn this one around and make me seem like the guy who’s half out of his head. Because that is you. For sure.”

Rush shot him a disgusted look.

Young did his best not to feel like an idiot.

Someone knocked on the door.

“Um, hey. Everyone alive in there?” Mitchell asked hesitantly.

“Yeah. Mostly,” Young called back.

Mitchell cracked the door open, then slowly swung it wide to reveal both himself and Jackson standing in the doorway. Teal’c had apparently decided to sit this one out.


“Heeyyyy,” Jackson said slowly.

“I regret to inform you,” Rush said, “that your phone did not survive Colonel Young’s retrieval attempt.” He held it up for Jackson’s inspection.

Jackson pushed his eyebrows together, managing to look somehow puzzled and disapproving and skeptical all at the same time. “I can see that.”

“Yes well. My apologies.” Rush forced himself to his feet in a motion that seemed to require more energy than he had to spare. “I’ll write you a check.”

“Did Colonel Young survive Colonel Young’s retrieval attempt?” Mitchell asked, looking down at him.

“Yeah,” Young said. “I’m fine.”

“Yup,” Mitchell said quietly, extending a hand down to Young. “Eeeeevvvveryone’s fine. Everyone’s great.”

Young took the proffered hand and Mitchell pulled him to his feet, solid and careful.

Rush handed Jackson his phone. 

“Mmm,” Jackson said, turning the shattered screen over in his hands.  “The vintage look.”

“Oh sure,” Mitchell said, giving Young a significant look and a long-suffering eye-roll. “Now he likes it.”

“It has character.”

“Does it turn on?” Rush asked dryly. “Or are you preoccupied with form to the exclusion of function?”

Jackson smiled—a small and startled quirk of the lips. “If I were stuck on a desert island,” he said, “and I could bring only one person, you’d be in the running, Nick.”

“I’m going to tell Carter you said that,” Mitchell said.

“No you’re not,” Jackson replied absently, without looking up. He turned his phone in a slow-motion continuous revolution through his fingers. “Because if you do, I’ll tell her that you were the one who spilled coffee in her phase shifting array.”

“You wouldn’t.”

“That was you?” Young asked. 

“You heard about that?” Mitchell asked.  “But no, it was not me.”

“Everyone heard about it.”

“The coffee was mostly shifted anyway. It set her back by, like, three hours. Max. I don’t even drink coffee,” Mitchell said defensively.

“You’ll never get Sam to like you better than she likes me,” Jackson said, pressing the power button on the device.

“Sounds like a challenge,” Mitchell replied, crossing his arms and leaning back against the wall.

Rush stepped forward and snapped the phone out of Jackson’s hands. “Why did I give this back to you?”

“No idea,” Jackson replied.

Rush held down two buttons simultaneously and the phone powered up. 

“Oh hey.  Great,” Jackson said, looking pleased.

Rush sighed. “Would you like a new phone?”

“Never,” Jackson said, stroking the edges of the shattered screen as though he was soothing it. “This phone has seen some times. It knows the world now.”

Young exchanged a significant look with Rush.

“I worry about you, Jackson,” Mitchell said. “I really do.”

“It’s Daniel,” Jackson said, aggrieved. Carefully, he pocketed his injured phone, then turned to Rush. “So what did Vala want?” he asked.

“My phone number,” Rush said.

“Seriously?” Jackson said.


“Did you give it to her?”

“Are you going to stay in this room?” Rush asked, avoiding Jackson’s question.


“Well, let me know where you’re going to be, so that I can go somewhere else.”

“You just injured my phone,” Jackson replied. “Can you at least be civil?”

“I’ll give you one thousand dollars and or my phone if you will just—leave me alone.”

Jackson sighed. 

“And on that note,” Mitchell said, “look at the time. I think we’re supposed to meet the ladies for dinner pretty soon. Vala wanted to try Japanese.”

“There’s no good Japanese food in Colorado Springs,” Jackson said. 

“Someplace opened up around the corner from O’Malley’s,” Mitchell said.

“It won’t last,” Jackson said. “Nothing interesting ever lasts here.”

“Well, it definitely won’t last if we don’t give them our money,” Mitchell said.

“Very true,” Jackson replied. He looked over at Rush.

Rush was staring at the wall.

“Are you going to take my advice?” Jackson asked.

“Yes,” Rush said.

“Good,” Jackson said.  “We’ll talk more later.”

“What advice?” Mitchell asked, his tone hardening.

“Just health related stuff,” Jackson replied with a fluid shrug. “Very boring. Very ordinary.”

“Jackson,” Mitchell snapped.

“What, insomnia is somehow subversive now? Maybe I should have okayed that with General Landry.”

“I have an idea,” Mitchell said. “You stop talking, and we go get Japanese food.”

Jackson shot Mitchell an irritated glance before looking back at Rush. “Like I said—we’ll talk more later.”

“I’m sure we will,” Rush said shortly, crossing his arms over his chest.

Young and Mitchell exchanged significant glances before Mitchell turned to follow Jackson out of the room. Young turned to look at Rush. The other man had hooked one hand over his shoulder, his fingers digging into the back of his neck.

“You okay?” Young asked.

Rush shut his eyes.

“What did Jackson tell you?” Young murmured.

“Nothing.”  The word was nearly inaudible. “Nothing.”

“Trying to find out things that you’re not supposed to know—“ Young began quietly, “well, it’s a bad idea, hotshot.”

“You really believe that?” Rush asked, looking up at him with his dark, intolerable eyes.

Young looked away. 

“I didn’t think so,” Rush whispered.

Young said nothing, just turned away from him, into the dimness of the hall.  He emerged back into his living room to find three fifths of SG-1 gathering up the various things that they’d brought with them. Jackson was at the table, looking uncertainly at Vala’s computer.

“You can take it,” Rush said from behind him. “I’m finished.”

“All right,” Jackson replied. “You really should get some sleep, you know.”

“Yes yes,” Rush replied.

“You can stay at my place,” Jackson said quietly. 

Young frowned.

Rush shook his head.

“Yo, Jackson,” Mitchell called from where he was standing with Teal’c next to the doorway.  “A glacier just passed by.”

“Hilarious and subtle,” Jackson drawled, tucking Vala’s laptop under one arm and raising an eyebrow at Rush. “You see what my life is like?”

“Les hommes parfaits comme les nombres parfaits sont très rares,” Rush said.

“Comme je l'ai dit—desert island.  Number one pick,” Jackson replied.

“You have impeccable taste,” Rush said.

“Both a blessing and a curse,” Jackson replied with a twisted smile.

“You speak French?” Young asked, looking at Rush.

“I was quoting,” Rush replied.

“That wasn’t an answer,” Young said.

“Noticed that, did you?” Rush glanced at him obliquely. 

“Nick,” Jackson said, looking back over his shoulder, “are you sure that—“

“Bye guys,” Mitchell said, stepping forward to drag Jackson into the hallway.

Young gave them a half-hearted wave before shutting the door.  He leaned forward against the solid wood before turning around to take in Rush, who had one shoulder braced against the wall, his eyes half shut—whether out of exhaustion or in response to the glare of the afternoon sun, Young couldn’t say.  Young watched him for a few seconds, trying to decide whether Jackson had succeeded in sharing the unknown, unidentified piece of information with him—whatever it was that Landry wanted concealed, and Jackson wanted out in the open.

“What?” Rush asked.  Even now, even visibly exhausted, he managed to curl a ghost of menace around the word.

“You all right there, hotshot?”

“Yes,” Rush said, shutting his eyes entirely.  “Don’t call me ‘hotshot’.”

“What was that thing with the phone?” Young asked.

“What thing with the phone?” Rush asked, his words slurring slightly.

“You’re—a little hair triggered,” Young said cautiously. “You know that?”

“You were the one creeping about,” Rush replied. “What the fuck do you expect?”

“Um, from a math professor? Not what I got.”

“I think—“ Rush said with a vaguely circular hand gesture, “that perhaps you should recalibrate in some way.”

“Maybe you should recalibrate.”

“You’re the one whose expectations do not match up with reality,” Rush said. “I’m perfectly fuckin’ aligned.”

Young made an incredulous face that Rush did not see, due to the fact that his eyes were closed. “Rush,” Young growled. “You’re killing me here. Take a nap for god’s sake.”

“I am uninterested in your suggestions,” Rush replied.

“Rush, so help me god, if you pass out I am calling it in as a medical emergency.”

“You wouldn’t,” Rush said, cracking his eyelids open.

“I absolutely would.”

“Oh I suppose you would at that.” Rush sighed. “This is better, you know.”

“Exhaustion? Better than what?”

“You’ll get the idea,” Rush murmured, “if you know me long enough.”

Young stepped forward and closed a hand around Rush’s elbow, tightening his grip against Rush’s inevitable, compensatory recoil before steering the other man toward the couch.

“I don’t sleep on couches,” Rush murmured.

“I think you make an exception for this one,” Young said. 

“I don’t think I do.”

“Yup,” Young said, “I’m pretty sure about this.”

“I despise couches,” Rush informed him.

“That’s very interesting,” Young said, managing to partially unbalance Rush as he pressed him sideways and down onto the sofa. “Tell me more.”

“Shut up.”

“Young three; Rush one,” Young growled.

“Fuck. Enjoy it while it lasts.”

“Yeah yeah,” Young said, fighting the twist of a smile.

Unfold. Shake out. Hang up. Young was half an hour into to creating an organizational system for his closet when his phone rang. The caller ID did nothing for him—his phone was reading it as unknown, which almost certainly meant that it was someone calling from the base.

“Young,” he said, cradling his phone awkwardly between shoulder and ear.

“Colonel.” The gravelly pseudo-joviality was unmistakable. “It’s Landry.”

Young grimaced and dropped the shirt he was holding, his left hand coming up to grab the phone.

“General,” he said.  “What can I do for you?”

“How’s the hip?”

It was the back, actually, that was more of the problem, but hey. Close enough.

“Fine,” Young said. “Better all the time.”

“Glad to hear it,” Landry said. 

There was a strange silence that seemed to stretch interminably while Young stared, unthinking, at his wall, trying to figure out what, if anything, he was supposed to say.

“I know you’re technically still on medical leave, but I’m calling to ask if you’d mind coming in for a meeting on Monday afternoon,” Landry asked.

“No problem,” Young said. “Can I ask what this is about?”

“I’d rather not say,” Landry said. “I know we’re scrambled, but—it’s of an unusually sensitive nature.”

“Understood,” Young said. “What time?”

“Thirteen hundred hours,” Landry said. “Also, I just saw Bill Lee—it looks like you’ll probably get your apartment back to yourself in the next few hours. They’ve almost cleared your neighbor’s place.

“Great,” Young said, shooting a skeptical look at his closed bedroom door. “Sir, while I have you on the line—Dr. Rush told me he believes he may need to go offworld to make any significant progress on the next cypher.”

“I’m assuming your response to that was laughter,” Landry said.

Sometimes it was difficult to tell whether Landry was being sarcastic or not.

“Uh,” Young said, “He says he needs a DHD to solve the next cypher.”

“Have him write up a detailed protocol for what he wants done,” Landry said. “I’ll send Carter to do whatever—wait. No. I can’t send Carter. I’ll send—well.  Someone.”

“I think he’s going to tell you that he needs to go,” Young said.

“And I’m sure he thinks that.” Landry sighed.

Young stayed quiet.

Landry sighed. “Have him write it up. Have him include a rationale for his personal involvement, and submit the report to Carter. If she agrees that no one else can do it, I’ll let him go to the alpha site for three hours. Not one second more.”

“So,” Young said, “he may end up breaking the DHD of whatever planet he gates to.”

“You’re pulling my leg.”

“No sir.”

Landry sighed again. “Well, I’ll say this much for him—at least he told us ahead of time. But no.  There is no way we are risking even the possibility of putting him on a ship.”

“That’s what I figured you’d say,” Young replied. “He just—seems pretty certain that it’s going to be necessary. That’s the only reason I brought it up.”

The line was silent.

“But,” Young said, “you’re probably right.  I’m sure there are other people who can—do what he can do.”

Again, the line was silent.

He wondered if he had pushed a little too far.

“If,” Landry said, pausing significantly, “if I can figure out a way to do this in a manner that is somewhat secure—do you think he can handle going into the field? Two out of three times he sets foot on the base he ends up being forced into a psych evaluation. I want your honest assessment on this one, colonel.”

“He’s maybe a bit less reliable than your average unreliable SGC-issue genius,” Young murmured. “I think it would depend on who you sent with him. Some choices would be—better than others.”

“Let me think about it,” Landry said. “In the meantime, have him get that report to Carter. He’s going nowhere unless she agrees it’s necessary.”

“I’ll let him know,” Young said quietly.

“See you Monday, colonel.”

“Yes sir,” Young replied.

He ended the call and sighed, one hand coming to rest on his lower back as he stared into space, trying to think of nothing. Trying not to think of David, an organic smear across space—or screaming his throat raw as they tortured him. Maybe to death. Trying not to think of Jackson, and the subtle fear in the perpetual hunch of his shoulders. Trying not to think of the hardness that crept more and more into Cam’s voice. Of the occasional, pained freeze of Vala’s hands. Of Rush, hearing that continuous tone.

It would be all right.


There was no point in trying to figure out everything at once. 

He pulled the next shirt out of his box, unfurled it, and hung it in his closet.

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