Mathématique: Chapter 2

How he was gonna unpack all these boxes, he had no idea.

Chapter warnings: Stressors of all kinds. Grief. Physical injuries. Mental health challenges.

Text iteration: An early July morning.

Additional notes: None.

Chapter 2

It was twenty hundred hours. The sun hovered stubbornly above the horizon, but the light, which’d been pitiless all through the day, was weakening to reddish gold.

Everett Young suppressed a sigh. “Seriously, Jackson. Get outta here.”

It wasn't that Young didn't like SG-1.

He liked them.

He did.

He liked them, he appreciated them, and he was relieved whenever they saved the world, or some alien race, or the galaxy, or the universe, which seemed to happen maybe about every three weeks or so. But they could be—

A lot.

With the bantering. And the do-gooding. And their high-energy approach to literally everything all of the time.

“I don’t know.” Jackson stared at the guy on Young’s couch and gave himself a hug.

Young turned and spent a moment watching Vala watching Jackson watching Rush. The angle of the sun leant a surreal bronze cast to everything. Vala’s hair was particularly spectacular.

“Just leave me Dr. Lam's number.” Young tried to pave over his desperation to get Jackson and Vala out of his apartment. The two of them were new acquaintances, so he figured he had a decent shot at keeping up his front. Mitchell would’ve been able hear the exhaustion in his voice, but Mitchell wasn’t here.

“Daniel,” Vala said, with a smile and an understated swish of her hair, “he’ll be fine. Colonel Young seems very reliable.” 

Jackson ignored her. “The thing is," the archaeologist said, drawing out his words, and eyeing Young’ appraisingly, “he's got a strong personality?”

Young glanced at Nick Rush, dead asleep on the couch. “I’d say the guy seems pretty low maintenance.”

“Mmm,” Jackson said, as if he were about to politely correct a glaring error. “No. No, ‘low-maintenance’ isn’t the term I’d pick.”

“Well I think he seems very nice,” Vala said, “and Colonel Young seems quite capable, and therefore,” she paused, with a lift of her eyebrows, “perhaps we should be going.” Her voice dropped to a stage whisper.

“He can be a handful.” Jackson wrapped himself a little tighter in his self-hug, looking like he was waging a pitched battle in his own brain.

Young looked skeptically at the math-genius-consultant-guy passed out on his couch. Nothing about him seemed particularly noteworthy, other than the fiery cast the setting sun was giving his hair.

Sun that bright probably wasn’t doing the man any favors.

He narrowed the slats in the venetian blinds, dimming the room.

“Jackson,” Young said, switching up his approach, “don't you guys have an oh four hundred departure tomorrow for some Ori Solstice Ritual?”

"You're not supposed to know about that.” Jackson frowned.

"Blame Mitchell," Young replied. “I'll make sure your consultant rehydrates and can walk a straight line before he goes home.”

Vala shot Young a grateful look.

It took another three minutes to get Jackson out the door.

When they’d gone, Young pressed his forehead against the closed door and listened to the sound of their voices through the wood until the soft chime of the elevator cut them off.

And then?


Thank god.

He was exhausted enough to sink to his knees, but if he gave in to that impulse he wasn’t gonna make it back to his feet.

That, and it’d hurt like hell.

Young limped a few paces to sit down on the box he’d been using as a chair. He stretched his bad leg in front of him and reached around to press a hand to his lower back, as if that’d do anything for tense muscles, locked tight over healing bone.

How he was gonna unpack all these boxes, he had no idea.

No one said he had to do it now.

He closed his eyes against the sight of a boxed-up life, all his things separated from the things that were Emily’s. Elsewhere now. He rubbed at the place where his wedding band had been.

He opened his eyes and looked at Rush.

Rush was wearing a wedding ring.

Seemed like a bad sign, somehow. For Young, marriage had been a stabilizer. Even when it was going badly—even when they’d had their worst fights, Emily would never have let him work to the point of collapse. She’d have noticed. She’d have given a damn. She’d have stopped him.

If she’d been there.

Maybe that was the problem. Maybe Rush was traveling. Maybe this was a temporary gig. It would explain more than just the ring and the collapsing. It was strange for scientists to operate on purely a consulting basis for the SGC. Usually, if the Air Force wanted someone from academia, they’d make that clear. They recruited hard, and, to his knowledge, no scientist had ever turned down a crack at the stargate. Once they’d been recruited, they’d be assigned to the labs or, if they were plucky and sturdy enough, they’d be tapped for a gate team.

Apparently, this guy worked from home.

That was unusual.

Then again, he didn’t look all that sturdy.

Scrappy. Maybe. On his best day.

The man had worked himself to the point of collapse inside his own apartment. Seemed a little extreme, even by SGC standards. And he had Daniel Jackson looking out for him.

It made Young more than a little curious.

“Hey,” he said quietly. “Rush.”

No response.

But then, the guy’d slept through three hours of unpacking and mostly full volume conversations.

“Rush,” he said, shaking the mathematician’s shoulder. “Nick.”

Rush’s eyelids fluttered, but didn’t come open.

Young felt a surge of unease.

It, uh, it wasn’t all that normal to just pass out cold in a stranger’s apartment.

“Rush.” He sharpened his tone. “Wake up.”

Rush cracked his eyelids, took a beat, and seemed to place himself. His hand came to his chest, his expression desolate. As if, maybe, he’d thought he was someplace else.

Young had no idea what to say.

“I do not sleep,” Rush said, his voice unsteady, “on couches.” He got a hand on the floor, then twisted himself into falling off the couch. He put his back to the foot of the sofa.

“Good to know,” Young said, “Next time I’ll let you have the bed.”

“Don’t sleep on those either,” Rush rasped. He shut his eyes, maybe feeling like hell, maybe just trying to forget wherever he thought he’d been when he’d woken up. 

“Where do you sleep?”

“I try not to.”

“And how’s that going for you?” Young asked.

“Today? Not well.”

“No kidding.”

“What did y’say your name was?” Rush squinted up at him.

“Everett Young.”

“Right. The colonel. A colonel. One of many colonels.” He seemed like he was trying to clear his head.

“Mix with a lot of colonels, do you?” Young asked. 

“They seemed to be overrepresented in your apartment this afternoon.”

“There were only two of us,” Young pointed out. “Jackson said you were a math guy; two seem like a lot to you?”

“There’s an infinite span between one and two. Tell me, is it easy to become a colonel? It seems it must be.”

“Yeah, you just fill out a form and pay the Air Force fifty bucks to sew the little birds onto your uniform.”

Rush looked at him, perplexed.

“That was a joke, Rush.”

The guy gave him a ghost of a smile. “Was it? I was trying to decide.”

Young snorted. “I promised Jackson you’d drink at least two more bottles of gatorade before you go.”

“I hate that man,” Rush sighed.

“Uh huh. Real convincing. You practice that in a mirror?”

Rush quirked an eyebrow and started re-cuffing the sleeves of his half-undone dress shirt with an economical dexterity that was hard to look away from.

“You can’t hate Jackson. No one hates Jackson.”

“I’m aware.” Rush pushed himself off the floor and dropped onto the couch, putting himself on eye level with Young. “It’s one of the great, unquestioned premises upon which your organization is founded. But he can’t be real. Think about it. A triple PhD intergalactic explorer who spends his weekend helping you move into your apartment? Doesn’t make any sense.”

“What?” Young asked, watching the man do up a few buttons of his dress shirt.

“Doesn’t he have better things to do?” Rush asked. “D’you even know the man?”

“He’s friends with Mitchell,” Young said.

“Who’s Mitchell?”

“You met him. A few yours ago? Are you feeling okay?”

“Are you?


“I know who ‘Mitchell’ is in the abstract. Who is Mitchell to you. Who is Mitchell to Jackson.”

Young stared at the guy, who seemed to have gone from passed-out-math-consultant to math-professor-from-hell in the span of two minutes flat. “Friends?” Young tried. “Everyone is friends.”

“Are y’always like this?”

“Like what?”

“You speak unnecessarily slowly. It takes you an atypically long time to explain simple concepts, and you’ve already committed one logical fallacy in the course of what I estimate to be approximately two minutes of conversation, but I won’t hold that against you because I’ve committed one as well.”

“At least I have more sense than to work to the point of collapse in my own apartment.”

“Fair,” Rush said, short and crisp, as though he were a referee awarding points. He picked up a bottle of Gatorade and twisted of it’s cap off.

“So why did you?” Young asked, trying not to speak unnecessarily slowly.

“Pass out in my apartment?”

Yes.” Young tried not to roll his eyes.

“What difference could it possibly make?”

“If you don’t already know,” Young said, “I don’t think anything I say is gonna make an impact.”

“I meant t’you,” Rush snapped. “What difference could it possibly make to you?”

Young sighed. “Y’know, Jackson said you were difficult.”

“Did he. Well,” Rush paused to finish off his third bottle of Gatorade. “I suppose it depends on your definition of ‘difficult’.”

Young wasn’t gonna win any kind of verbal sparring match with this guy, and, if he kept going, he’d feel like shit about himself, which was stupid, because however much of a math-jockey hotshot Rush was supposed to be, he obviously had no common sense.

“I hope you like eggs.” Young got painfully to his feet. “Because that’s all I can make.”

“What.” Rush snapped the word like a twig.

“I told Jackson I’d give you dinner.”

“I do not want dinner.”

“I’m sure you don’t,” Young replied, trying to decide if he was irritated or amused. “But no one breaks a promise to Daniel Jackson. It’s a rule. C’mon. Bring your Gatorade.”

Young watched Rush get to his feet. He had the feeling he’d be getting more of an argument if the guy was at the top of his game. Still, nothing was technically stopping the other man from walking out the door and going back to his own apartment—except the idea of disappointing Daniel Jackson.

Young limped in the direction of his new kitchen, which Vala had stocked for him using Jackson’s credit card. He wondered what the story was with those two. They bickered like they were together, but sometimes it was hard to tell with SG-1 if they were together together or just—together.

The point was, he’d have to reimburse Jackson for whatever he found. Presumably though, there’d be eggs.

He rounded the doorframe. “Shit.”

His kitchen was full of boxes labeled: KITCHEN.

“How completely did y’think through this plan of yours?” Rush asked, standing behind Young, one hand on the wall.

“You always this much of a smartass?” Young dug his fingers into the aching muscles of his lower back. Even the thought of searching out a skillet was too much. Forget actually doing it.

“Yes,” Rush said, with a flat, tactless honesty that would’ve landed a hell of a lot more aggressively if the guy’d been wearing shoes.

“Let’s order food,” Young said.

“No.” Rush slipped past him, checked the fridge, then said, “Hand me the ostentatiously masculine pocket knife I’m certain you’re carrying?”

Young pulled his knife out of his pocket and flipped it open.

Rush eyed the blade and gave Young a look that put across the idea of, Oh for god’s sake, pretty well.

Young shrugged and handed it over.

Rush knelt and sliced through the tape of the nearest box. His feet were bare, his collar was pulled wide, his shift sleeves were rolled to the elbows and he was handy with a knife.


“Ordering food.” Young crossed his arms, leaned against the door frame, and tried not to smile. “There are a lot of advantages.”

“Like what?” Rush pulled a cast iron skillet out of the box he was rummaging through and quirked an eyebrow at it. “You own this?”

“No,” Young replied. “I found these boxes on the side of the road.”

“Hmm.” Rush expertly flipped the skillet. “This is nice.”

“Hey. You make a habit of insulting people who buy you dinner?”

Rush frowned, staring into space. “Would that work as a description of all higher education?” Carefully, he placed the skillet on the counter. “Maybe. Well done. But I believe you were listing advantages?”

“Uh right. Ordering food. One, we don’t have to do anything, which is a plus since you’re a mess and my back is killing me. Two, whatever we order’ll be better than my attempt at scrambled eggs. Three, we don’t have to do anything. Throwing that one in again. Because it’s important.”

Rush shook his head and blinked, like he was disoriented from the amount of stupidity getting thrown his way. He pulled a knife wrapped in a hand towel out of the box. “Y’don’t pack knives with cast-iron skillets. Do y’not have a knife block?”

“I doubt it. And I didn’t pack this.”

“Who did?”

“My ex-wife.”

Rush paused his unpacking as the words registered. He didn’t look at Young. He sliced into an another box. “Nice of her.”


Rush dropped from a crouch into a cross-legged position in the middle of Young’s kitchen and opened a third box with less verve than he’d tackled the other two.

“You looking for something?” Young asked.

“What tipped you off?”

“I thought we were getting delivery.”

“Yes,” Rush said. “I’m sure you did think that. But if I’m to be eating something not purely utilitarian, I’ll be damned if it tastes like shite.”

Young sat on a sturdy-looking box as Rush pulled a bowl, two plates, and three forks from a box labeled: DISHES.

“So—you’re making dinner?” Young asked.

“Do keep up.”

“You know how to use a stove?”

“Do you?” Rush asked pointedly. “I must say, nothing you’ve said, done, or implied inspires any kind of confidence in your culinary abilities.”

Young closed a hand around the denim cuff of his jeans and pulled his bad leg in front of him. “For a math genius, you’re awfully—” he tried to think of tactful way of describing the erudite, razor-sharp way the guy had about him, “—verbose?”

“Is that a criticism?” Rush asked, haughty as hell in a half-done shirt.

Young fought down a smile. “No. It’s just—the SGC Math Guys are into World of Warcraft and bad puns.”

“Those’ll be physicists,” Rush said. “Personally, I despise puns. Irrational waste of time.”

“Uh huh.”

Rush pushed himself to his feet and assembled the items he’d collected from four opened boxes. 

“Are you seriously gonna make eggs?” Young asked. “Eggs you think will, somehow, be better than pizza? Pizza prepared by professionals.”

The mathematician gave him a withering look. “My only concern,” he said, opening Young’s refrigerator, “is that y’don’t have enough culinary expertise to appreciate what you’re about to witness.” He started piling vegetables on Young’s counter.

“Which is gonna be what.”

“The construction of a truly exceptional omelette in the French tradition.”

Young opened his mouth, took a beat, and shut his mouth.

Rush tore the seal on a plastic box of triple-washed spinach leaves and started—sorting through them? He picked out individual leaves and started stacking them like cards.

“Lam said you hadn’t eaten in a while,” Young said. “If you can make an omelette ‘in the French tradition,’ or whatever, then why—”

“I was busy.” Rush rolled his stack of leaves into a tight cylinder. “And uninterested.”

“In what, eating?”

The man quirked an eyebrow at him, then sliced his way down his spinach cylinder with even, perpendicular cuts. He separated his perfect spinach strips and moved on to slicing mushrooms.

“But now you’re interested. In eating.”

“Not especially,” Rush replied, his knife-work fast and even and quietly sure of itself. “But, as it is, t’some degree, required, I’m more interested in eating something that doesn’t taste atrocious than I am in eating something that does.”

“Fair enough,” Young said. “So, where are you from?”

“No,” Rush replied.



“What do you mean, ‘no’?”

“I don’t think we should get to know one another. Waste of time.”

“But you’re making me an omelette.”

“While true, your point is unrelated to mine.”

“Okay,” Young said, “so you’re from Scotland, probably. I’m from Wyoming.”

“I see,” Rush said.

“You see,” Young growled. “You don’t know anything about Wyoming.”

“I’m certain I’m adequately informed on the subject of ‘Wyoming’.”

“Name the capital then,” Young shot back. “Name even one major city.”

“As I said,” Rush replied, “adequately informed.”

“I can name a bunch of Scottish cities.”

“Can you really? Congratulations.”

“Edinburgh.” Young drew out the word, buying himself some time.

Rush cracked egg after egg into a bowl. One handed.

“Generally,” the mathematician said, after a prolonged pause, “the use of the word ‘several’ denotes a set with more than one member?” He leaned into the counter, braced an elbow, lifted the bowl, and started beating the eggs with a fork.

“You feeling okay?”  

“Yes.” The guy was a little too determined to be convincing.

“You pass out in the middle of this, and I call Dr. Lam.”

Rush shook his head. “Won’t happen.”

“So,” Young said. “Are you from Edinburgh?”


“Glasgow,” he said, dredging another Scottish city out of his brain.

“Well it’s not exactly rocket science, is it then?” Rush snapped. “It’s the most populous city, so statistically—”

“You’re just pissed because I guessed it and you can’t name a single city in Wyoming.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

“I’m not the one who made me guess where he’s from. That’s ridiculous.”

“If it were up to me, we wouldn’t be talking right now.”

“Says the guy making me a French omelette.”

Rush fought down a smile, turned on the faucet and added water to the eggs he’d just beaten.

“You sure you wanna put water in there?”

“Quite sure,” Rush replied, with enough attitude to choke a horse. He seemed like he knew what he was doing. But Young had the feeling this guy was always gonna seem like he knew what he was doing, whether he did or not.

Rush combined his diced-to-hell vegetables, put some butter in the cast-iron skillet, and studied the stove like it was an overloading reactor. With a look of deep disapproval, he turned a dial.

“Where’d you learn to cook?” Young asked.

“Same place I learned everything else,” Rush said, pouring half the egg mixture into the pan and shaking it.

“Don’t you need a spatula or a fork or something?” Young asked.

“Not if you’re really fuckin’ excellent.”

Rush grabbed a plate and flipped the omelette onto it, turning the heavy skillet with practiced dexterity. He added a fork and handed the plate to Young without ceremony.

“Thanks,” Young said.

Rush didn’t acknowledge him, just turned to the stove and dumped the rest of the egg into the pan.

Young took a bite of his eggs.


The eggs were silky and tender, with a buttery flavor. The spinach and mushroom were finely chopped. There was a hint of salt, a hint of pepper—

“Oh my god,” Young said. “This is pretty great.”

“I’m certain that’s an understatement.” Rush watched his own omelette.

“Yeah,” Young agreed weakly. “How did you make it so—” he trailed off, not sure what word he was looking for.

“So what?” Rush asked, unwilling to help him out.

“I don’t know, I’m not good with talking about food.”

“Yes well, it doesn’t matter. The answer to your question, no matter what adjective you choose, is ‘technical skill’.” He flipped his own omelette onto a plate, flicked off the stove, and dropped into a cross-legged position on the floor a few feet from Young.

“This is, maybe, the best thing I’ve ever eaten in my life?” Young took another bite.

Rush shrugged, tearing into his eggs like creating life-altering culinary experiences was all in a day’s work. Or. Maybe—

“When’s the last time you ate?” Young asked.

Rush looked up from his plate. “Why are you interested?”

“Why do you care why I’m interested?”

“Why do you—are you trying to make a rhetorical point?”

“Are you?”

“You are.”


“Well done. I respect that. Three days ago, plus or minus,” Rush said, slowing down.

“Three days?” Young echoed. “Why?”

“We already discussed this? I was busy.”

“If I could make this I’d be doing it every night for the rest of my life.” Young took another bite of the warm, buttery omelette. The finely diced vegetables added complexity without taking the focus away from the eggs themselves.

“Yes well.” Rush looked away.

The floor of the kitchen turned dim in the fading light. The walls above caught the reds and purples of a bruise-colored sunset.

They finished their eggs in silence.

“Cheyenne,” Rush said, his plate on the floor, his back to the cabinet under Young’s sink. “Cheyenne is a city in Wyoming.”

“Yup,” Young replied. “Too bad I’m not from there.”

“Fuck,” Rush said.

Young snorted. “You’re not gonna get it.”

“How many cities are there in Wyoming? There can’t be many.”

“It took you, what, fifteen minutes to come up with one?”

“I wasn’t exactly devoting my entire cognitive capacity to the task.”

“Keep telling yourself that, hotshot.”

“I have t’go.”

“I think you should stay until they fix your air conditioner,” Young said.

“I can manage it.”

“You’re gonna fix your own air conditioner?” Young asked skeptically. “You don’t seem like the handiest guy. No offense.”

“You’ve made a terrifying number of assumptions in the last thirty seconds alone.” Rush steepled his fingers and eyed Young like an under-performing jock in Calculus 101. “And they put you in charge of what? Guns? People with guns? Planes with guns? People in planes with guns? What is it you do exactly? Whatever it is, you seem underqualified.”

“You passed out from dehydration in an apartment with running water. I think it’s reasonable to assume that if you could have fixed your air conditioner you would have.”

“That was a problem with prioritizing, not a lack of mechanical skill. Plus, your premises are faulty.”

“Meaning what?”

“I have to say, I’m infinitely relieved that you’re my neighbor and not my colleague?” Rush said.

“Ditto,” Young said.

“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some things to take care of.” Rush got to his feet, looking steadier than Young had seen him all day.

“I’m gonna come by tomorrow.” Young limped after the other man. “Your air conditioner had better be working.”

“I hate it when people ‘come by’,” Rush said.

“I’m sure you do.”

“Don’t come by.”

“I’m doing it,” Young said.

Rush sighed and opened the door to Young’s apartment.

The fluorescent light in the hallway startled them both, but Rush took longer to recover, one hand at his forehead, as if he had a headache.

“You okay?”

“Yes yes,” Rush started down the hall.

“Feel free to make me dinner anytime,” Young called after him.

Rush gave him a dismissive wave before stopping to unlock an apartment that was only a few doors down. Young watched him make it inside.

Back in his kitchen, he dumped the dishes in the sink then opened the fridge and pulled a bottle of beer from the six-pack Vala’d bought. It took him minutes of painful digging through half-unpacked boxes to find a bottle opener.

He pried the cap off, and let it lose itself in a dark corner of his kitchen. He lowered himself gingerly onto an unopened box and sipped his beer, watching as twilight faded into night.

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