Mathématique: Chapter 6

Just hostile incursions and math.

Chapter warnings: Stressors of all kinds. Grief. Physical injuries. Contemplation of/commentary on panic attacks and mental illness with varying levels of sensitivity.

Text iteration: Morning coffee.

Additional notes: None.

Chapter 6

Young, halfway through brushing his teeth, tried to work out whether there was a polite way to ask someone if they had a mental illness. Maybe something along the lines of: Sorry to pry, hotshot, but you got any psychological problems I should be aware of?

That one probably wouldn’t go over all that well. Not on the delivery side and not on the graceful response side. He tried again.

Long story, but a few years back SGC personnel used to worry about 18-inch brainstem parasites that would—

That was a non-starter.

I need some information about your baseline mental state, because there’s enough alien drama in Colorado Springs—

Forget the alien argument. The guy’d had a rough night as it was.

Hotshot, you got any medication in your apartment you’re gonna need over the weekend?

Maybe that’d work. Hard to say. Sensitivity wasn’t his strong suit. That was more Jackson’s domain.

Young spit mint-flavored toothpaste into the sink, wincing at the pull and twinge of muscles in his lower back. He tried to focus on what the hell he was gonna do about Rush, and not on the dull ache and slow burn that made up the left side of his body. He tried not to dwell on the idea of a hot shower, a cold beer, and the maximum daily allowance of ibuprofen.

Tempting. Tempting, but not happening.

He had a bad feeling about his neighbor. The guy was trouble any way you sliced it—on a tactical level, a mental level, a personal level, a logistical level—there was something about him that set Young’s nerves on edge. He’d seen plenty of people panic in the field and, sure, there’d been some common ground between what’d happened to Rush in his kitchen and the-world-is-not-the-world panic he’d seen from greener members of gate teams, but it hadn’t been the same

The guy held up fine during an abduction attempt but fell apart afterward because his ears were ringing?

Didn’t sit right.

And then there was Jackson. Jackson was interested in Rush, but when Young had tried to figure out why the archeologist turned slippery as hell. All Young’d been able to pick up were the basics: that Rush was throwing himself at some math problem built into the stargate; when he cracked the thing, a nine-chevron address would unlock; and that address probably went somewhere important.

It was enough to put the guy at the top of the LA wishlist all right.

But there was more to it. There’d been something eerie about the way Jackson had hedged when Young asked him whether he thought Rush was okay to keep working. He’d given a non-answer, delivered like he was addressing thin air, rather than Young.

This was what he got for mixing with SG-1.

He opened his medicine cabinet, snapped the cap off a bottle of painkillers, and swallowed a tablet. He limped back into the living room and paused, shoulder braced against a wall. 

Every window was open. His air conditioner struggled. A warm breeze whispered through slats in the blinds. Rush sat on a box, his shoulders rigid, Vala’s computer balanced on his lap. He wasn’t typing.

A gust of wind lifted the blinds clear of the windowsill and stirred shreds of newspaper and broken styrofoam, still strewn over the floor. Rush didn’t seem to notice. The guy’s gaze was fixed on nothing anyone could see. He looked like he was listening to something.

Watching the man, Young put a finger on a small puzzle piece of his own unease: Rush looked like he was listening in the same way Jackson looked in those moments when he was addressing thin air.

What that meant, Young couldn’t say, but if he had to hang his “bad feeling” on something, the connection between Rush and Jackson was as a good a peg as any.

He tried his own hand at listening to the sounds of a Colorado Springs night. He heard his air conditioner. A car engine here and there. The wind in the blinds. The chirp of crickets. The low ring of an hours-back gunshot underneath it all. Easy to tune out.

“Hey,” Young said. “Hotshot.”

No response.

He focused on the faint ringing in his own ears, trying to imagine what it would be like if it were all-consuming.

“Hey,” Young repeated, louder.

Rush looked up at him with a professorial quirk of a brow.

“Whatcha doin’?” Young asked, friendly as he got at back-pain o’clock.

“Thinking,” Rush replied. “A concept that is, evidently, so alien that y’fail to recognize it when you see it.”

“Didn’t look like ‘thinking,’ hotshot,” Young said, declining Rush’s tacit invitation to an insult-free-for-all. Not now, with the open windows, the ache in his back, and the tissue paper civility that stretched, barely, to cover all that’d happened.

Rush looked down at his computer. “How long do you think it’ll take them to clear my apartment?” His fingers hovered over his keyboard.

Young pushed away from the wall and limped to the couch. “At least a day. And seeing as it’s the weekend—“

“That’s relevant?”

“For a non-emergent situation, yeah, the weekend’ll slow things down.” Young sank into the couch with as much care as he could manage.

“I can’t stay here for days.”

“Think of it as hours.” Slowly, trying not to strain his overworked back, he pulled his feet off the floor and stretched out on the couch. “C’mon. It’s not so bad; I’m about a thousand times less conversational work than Jackson.”

“What are you doing?” Rush asked.

“What does it look like I’m doing?

“Please go somewhere else.”

“This is my apartment.”

“I need to work.”

“So work. I’m not stopping you.”

Rush sighed. “If you’re planning to sleep here do y’mind if I—“

“I’m not sleeping here. I’m keeping you company.”



Rush ran his fingers over the edge of Vala’s laptop, as if he were on the verge of slamming it shut.

“Let me put it to you this way.” Young crossed his arms over his chest. “I think you put the eccentric in Genius Eccentric at baseline and right now you’re a little stressed after a night that even I’d rate as a seven outta ten when it comes to Things That Are Exciting In A Bad Way. You’re handling it pretty well, and everyone thinks that you’re fine to be here, doing whatever math it is that you do, in my apartment. But I’m not—one hundred percent sure about that. I mean, you passed out in my kitchen.”

“You understand ratios,” Rush said coolly, “what a pleasant surprise.”

“So we can try this out,” Young said, ignoring the dig, “and you can stay here and do your math, or you can hang out with Dr. Lam until you’re evaluated and cleared by medical. Because normally that’d be what would happen. The SGC has a whole counseling program for civilians who get xenobiologically roughed up. You’d be going down that road if you were a little lower on the LA’s Top Ten list.”

Rush tensed. He shifted his weight, and his fingertips went to the top corners of the laptop screen and began a press downward. The man stopped himself with what looked like a heroic effort of will.

Young should’ve kept his damn mouth shut and let the insult war ride.

“Relax about it,” he said, backtracking. “It’s not that bad. I could be Jackson. Jackson’s your worst case scenario. For sure. Getting in your head, buying you a dog, probably. Decorating your apartment. Who the hell knows. The guy is unstoppable.”

“True.” Rush didn’t relax a fraction.

“So,” he said, giving the word all the drag he could scrape together, “you’re decoding chevrons, Jackson said?”

“Correct.” The guy started to lose the look of a man about to bolt for the door.

“What I don’t get,” Young said, trying to build a levy out of casualness, ”is why there’s a buried cypher at all. No other addresses need to be ‘unlocked’.”

Rush shot him an irked glance, said nothing, looked down at his computer, and started typing. 

Young breathed out in one long, relieved exhale, and wondered if he’d averted some kind of crisis, delayed it, or whether he’d been reading the guy all wrong in the first place.

Math professor, Young told himself sternly. Not SGC science staff. Not on a gate team. Visiting math professor a stone’s throw away from house arrest.

“Jackson said you taught math to college kids at UC Berkeley until a few months back.”

Rush shot him an unimpressed look.

“The stargate specifies points in space, right?” Young tried a different angle, trying to get the guy going on a safe topic. “Kinda like GPS, but with gates rather than of satellites?”

“Your language is so vague, that I’ve no idea whether you have any kind of conceptual understanding as for how the gate network functions or not.” Rush didn’t look up from his computer.

Young was gonna chalk this in the wins column.

“It’s like the thing—with the lines.” Young gestured loosely with one hand, “defined by synced DHDs that intersect at a destination point in space. You specify a point of origin and then some fancy math and physics warps space to connect the points.” 

“The ‘thing with the lines’. Yes. Well done. Fantastic work. You say you’re a colonel? It’s a good thing you specified; otherwise I might’ve mistaken you for an astrophysicist.” Rush seemed amused.

“Well, I keep a low profile,” Young said. “I’m not really into ruining people’s self-esteem as,” he gestured in Rush’s direction, “y’know. A personal hobby.”

Rush smiled faintly at his keyboard.

“This address you’re unlocking,” Young said, shifting to take pressure off his bad hip, “does it specify a point in space?”

Rush looked up at him, his gaze so intense that Young had a tough time maintaining eye contact. “And what else would it represent?”

“Uh—“ Young said, thrown by just how much fiery edge the guy could muster. “No idea.”

Rush eased up and dropped his eyes. “No one does.”

“What do you think?”

“I don’t care,” Rush said, too casual. “I try not t’think about it.”

Bullshit, Young decided. He gave Rush a skeptical look. “Right.”

“Why should I care?” Rush murmured. “Wherever it is, I’m not going.”

Probably not, no, Young internally agreed. “So you think it’s a place.”

“If it’s not a place, no one’s going.”

“Fair enough, I guess. Unless it was a time.”

Rush rolled his eyes. “You’re planning t’incorporeally travel to a pure temporal dimension? Best of luck.”

Young watched Rush scan the screen in front of him. “Um, your point, I guess, is that even if it were a different time, there’d still need to be a place component.” He’d known that.

“Spacetime,” Rush said. “Not just space. Not just time. Both. At least for people such as ourselves.”

“Okay, well, if it is a spacetime coordinate and someone does go,” Young began, “don’t you care what they discover?”

“Of course,” Rush said.

“You must care,” Young said. “You must care a lot. Otherwise, why would you leave all those college kids without their calculus?”

“Calculus,” Rush muttered under his breath, like it was something he’d scraped off his shoe. He glanced up at Young. “Why do people climb Mount Everest?”

“Because they have no respect for nature?”

That got a ghost of a smile. “You know why.”

“So you’re killing yourself unlock this cypher set because you’re some hot shit mathematical mountaineer and it’s there?”


“Bad plan.”

“Keep talking to me. I’m genuinely enjoying this.”

“People lose limbs when they climb Mount Everest.”

“Logical fallacy.”

Young snorted. “How so?”

“You constructed a false analogy,” Rush said. “Would y’mind terribly just shutting up?”

“A false analogy? You kidding me, hotshot? You were the one who originally compared some math problem to Mount Everest.”

“I was speaking metaphorically, not making an argument about the advisability of certain courses of action, which is what you extended my metaphor to become. Inappropriately, I might add.”

“You know what? I give up. Whatever your point is, I’ll let you have it, but just paraphrase it for me so I know what it was.”

“Stay out of my affairs.”

“You’re the one who keeps passing out and needing to stay in my apartment.”

“I thought you were going to cede my point.”

“Well I was, but then it was stupid.”

Rush said nothing, but there was no mistaking it this time; the guy was biting down on a smile.

Young suppressed a yawn. Lying down on had been a bad idea. “So what are you doing right now?”

“Writing a program.”

“For what?”

“A zero knowledge protocol.”

“I have no idea what that is.”

“That it means naught to you leaves me unsurprised.”

“Was that a pun?”

“At best, it was a weak mathematical witticism. I find puns to be a sine of intellectual immaturity.

Young narrowed his eyes. “Right.”

The blinds tapped irregularly against the windowsill as another warm breeze gusted through the room. He listened to the burst and fade of Rush’s fingers against the keys of Vala’s computer.

“Just outta curiosity, do you have something against sleeping?” He asked sluggishly.

“Very much so.”


“Why not?”

Young sighed. “What’s a zero knowledge protocol?”

“I’m sure you would find it uninteresting.”

“Try me.”

Young shifted his left hip on purpose, and the sudden shock of pain jolted him awake. He grimaced, eyes shut, jaw clenched, until the worst of it passed. 

When he opened his eyes again, Rush was watching him. “A zero knowledge protocol,” the man said, like he was slow-pouring math syrup, “is a method by which one system can test the ability of a second system to break a code without knowing the mechanism by which the second system has broken the code.”

“Hmm,” Young said. “Sounds interesting.”

Rush’s quirked eyebrow implied he was skeptical of Young’s professed interest and maybe wise to the underlying distraction game. “Consider the following scenario: you and I stand at the entrance to a cave that takes the shape of a loop. There’s a rock wall in front of us, and passage to our left and to our right. If we were to take the right-hand passage, which we’ll call Route A, we’d walk the perimeter of a circle until we emerged again at our starting point.”

“’Route A’? You serious? This seems way too complicated for after midnight on a Friday.”

“This isn’t remotely complicated.”

“All right. Fine. I get you,” Young admitted. “Like walking around the rim of a bicycle tire, if the inside of the tire was a cave.”

“Yes yes. The right hand passage is Route A, and the left hand passage is Route B. If you start down Route A and you don’t turn around, you return to the entrance via Route B, and vice versa. If, however, you were to enter the loop via Route A and turn around, retracing your steps, you would then return to the entrance via Route A.”

“I get it.” Young looked at Rush through half-lidded eyes.

“Good, because that was four times as much exposition as I typically give. Consider yourself lucky.”

Young raised his eyebrows lazily. “Oh I do.”

“Now,” Rush said, leaning forward, “we introduce a locked door halfway through the passage. So if you enter by Route A, you can’t leave by Route B unless you know how to unlock the door. If you can’t unlock the door, you must turn around and return by Route A.”

“Why is there a locked door?”

“Because it’s a fucking cryptography problem, Young. For fuck’s sake.”

“Okay okay,” Young raised his hands.

“Let’s assume,” Rush said, recovering his equilibrium, “that I claim to have an elegantly constructed algorithm that’ll open the locked door.”

“Oh it’s elegantly constructed, is it? Nice work.” Young stifled another yawn.

“Let us also assume you are possessed of some critical faculties. You’ll pay me for use of my algorithm, but you’re disinclined to do so unless you know that it works. I, however, won’t be telling you how it works. So you need a method of verification to ensure I’m not cheating you.”

“I would not trust you at all, by the way,” Young said.


“So I just tell you to make the loop, right?” Young asked. “If you can open the door, you go in Route A and come out Route B, and then I pay you.”

“No,” Rush said.

“Well why the hell not?” Young asked.

“You can’t see what route I pick when I enter.”

“Why not?”

“Because you’ve got your back to the entrance.”

“No I don’t.”

“Yes, you do.”


“Suffice it to say that in an actual system where you’re the authenticating party, you have no control over the manner in which I reach the ‘door’. In a real system, from your point of view—I’m simply there.”

Young shut his eyes. “So how do we get this thing done?”

“You call out the name of whichever route you would prefer me to appear by. And we iterate that. Roughly fifty percent of the time I’ll be required to open the door to appear by the route you specify. If I consistently appear, you know I can open the door.”

“Then I fork over some cash for your fancy key,” Young murmured.


“Huh,” Young said, listening to the quiet tap of the venetian blinds against the windowsill. “So—“ he began, trying to think of something to keep himself awake.

“The advantage, of course, to applying a zero knowledge protocol to a cypher running on a crystal quantum computer,” Rush said, saving Young the trouble of doing further conversational work, “is that one gets around the problem of observing the system state, and thereby destroying the key it contains. Rather than obtaining an actual key, such a protocol would invite a dance between the gate and the querying program. It’d be a computational demonstration of the true reality: the key itself is fundamentally is unobtainable.”

Any second now Young was gonna shift his weight and really wake himself up again. He was just so damn tired. “It won’t work,” he murmured.

“Really,” Rush said. “Do you have a degree in quantum mechanics you’ve failed to disclose?”

“No,” Young said, “I know what you’re doing. You’re trying to get me to fall asleep by talking about cyphers and it’s not gonna work.”

“Personally, I find nothing more conducive to unrelenting insomnia than a discussion of cyphers. An’ why would I want you t’fall asleep? You’re so fuckin’ helpful.”

“What time is it?” Young asked.

“Half past one in the morning.”

He needed to stay awake. Awake.

“So how do you make your zero knowledge thing?” The words tangled in his mouth.

“Writing the source code will take a few days,” Rush said. “Part of the invitation to interrogate can come from the failsafe Colonel Carter constructed to couple the closure of the iris to the detected stability of a nascent event horizon. The rest of it will be fashioned from the ground up.”

The air felt raw and warm over his skin. Somewhere along the way, he’d closed his eyes.

“If this doesn’t work,” Rush continued, “I may have to reconsider my assumptions about the crystalline matrix in the DHD.”

His bones had been cast in lead.

“But I’m hoping” Rush continued into the quiet of the room, “the quantum key will be be conferred. Put another way, with a demonstration that there can be no ‘taking,’ perhaps it will be ‘given’.”

Rush sounded fine. Nothing was gonna happen if he took a twenty-minute power nap.

“I think it wants me to have it,” Rush whispered.

He let sleep drag him down.

Young woke to the sound of a blender.

Sunlight streamed into the room through the half-open slats in the venetian blinds, lighting up the dust in the air. By the look of the light, he had the feeling it was gonna be another scorcher of a day. His air conditioner was quiet. At some point during the night, Rush had shut the windows.

That was a good sign, probably.

He smelled coffee. That was a better sign.

He eased into a sitting position, trying to avoid the jolt of angry nerves from his back or his leg, but getting both anyway. He was already paying for last night’s excitement. Reaching around, he laid his his palm on his lower back, finding a hard block of confused, contracted muscle.

Now was not the time to think of metal, screwed into bone.

He stood, easing his weight onto his injured side. It was worse in the morning.

It always was.

He limped toward the kitchen, pausing to eye Vala’s computer, sitting on the dining table. The laptop was open. The screen was live and running a program, apparently all by itself. 

Creepy, Young decided.

He leaned against the frame of the open kitchen door, eyebrows up. The space had been reorganized and unpacked. It was well on its way to being christened with a startlingly elaborate meal. There was a saucepan of something that smelled like summer berries and sugar and lemon. There was a blender full of cream-colored batter. Rush stood barefoot in Young’s kitchen, rumpled dress shirt cuffed to the elbows, morning sun in his hair. Wearing—

“Are those my sunglasses?” Young asked, eyeing Air Force issued aviators.

Rush picked up a can of instant coffee and brandished it at Young. “Unacceptable.”

“I notice you made some.”

“I wasn’t happy about it.” Rush returned the coffee can to the counter with a little more gusto than was necessary.

“I’ll bet you weren’t.”

Rush scowled. The expression wouldn’t been a lot more powerful if his glare wasn’t getting cut to nothing by what were probably Young’s sunglasses.

“I see you reorganized my kitchen,” Young said.

“I don’t think the prefix ‘re’ applies, but you’re welcome.” Rush opened a cabinet, pulled out a mug, pried the lid off the cheap coffee, scooped it into filter paper, and expertly poured a narrow stream of hot water over the little mound of grounds.

“You sleep at all?”

“Don’t ask me that.”

“Why? Because the answer gives away how weird you are?”

“Excuse me, I’m making you coffee.” Rush made another pointedly elegant pour.

“Oh yeah? Thought you might be doing some kind of performance art before you dump it down the drain.”

“Don’t tempt me.” Rush handed him the mug of instant coffee.

“Thanks,” Young said.

“You’re fuckin’ welcome.”

Young sipped his coffee.

An awkward silence descended.

Maybe it was a reasonably good-looking guy standing barefoot in his kitchen. Maybe it was the coming-together breakfast that was elaborate enough to require a blender repurposed as a food processor. But Young was getting a strong morning-after vibe, even though there’d been no drinking. no sex. Just hostile incursions and math. Math he hadn’t even participated in.

Young cleared his throat. “What are you making?”

“Crepes,” Rush replied.


“Fort Douglas,” Rush frowning at whatever was happening in the saucepan.

Young sipped his too-hot coffee. “Fort Douglas is a fort, not a town. And it’s in Utah, not Wyoming.”

“Utah?” Rush flicked a drop of water into a heating cast-iron skillet.

“Yeah. Whole different state.”

“I fuckin’ know,” Rush said, with a little too much disdain to be believable.

“Where’d you pull Fort Douglas from?”

“I’m well-read to the point that defies believability.”

“And yet—“ Young said, “not very good at geography. You’re living in Colorado, y’know. A state that shares a border with Wyoming. And Utah. You really should be able to name more than one city in The Equality State.”

“I’m not.”

“You’re not what?”

“Living in Colorado.”

“Hate to break it to you, hotshot, but you are.”

“I’m staying here. Temporarily. I do not live here.”

“Well, where do you live?”


That was more than a little sad. Young watched Rush pour thin batter from the blender into the skillet.

“You gotta affiliate,” Young said, easing himself up onto the free counter space next to the sink. “Colorado’s nice. Beats nowhere.”

“Oh certainly. If you enjoy suburban sprawl and you prefer to be miles away from any evidence of human cultural achievement.”

“I’m gonna let that slide, seeing as you’re making crepes.”

“You have genuine affection for Colorado Springs?” Expertly, Rush flipped the crepe.

“I mean, never thought about it that way, but—sure. Not the strip malls and sprawl, but the scenery’s not bad. Pikes Peak. Red Rock Canyon.” He shrugged. “What’s in the pan?”

“A compote. Berries don’t last forever.” Rush flipped the crepe onto a plate, spread a few spoonfuls of the saucepan stuff over it, and folded it half, then in half again. He handed Young the finished product, a neat triangle of golden-brown. “Let it cool.”

“What you got against furniture, hotshot?”

“Nothing.” Rush handed him a fork.

“You don’t like tables, you don’t like beds, you don’t like couches. What’s the story with that?”

“You’re the one sitting on the counter.”

“I’m not gonna sit at the table with only your creepy zero-knowledge-thing for company,” Young said.

“Yes, I can imagine how difficult that’d be with your need for constant conversation. But that’s not my ZKP.”

Young shrugged and bit into the crepe.

The crepe was buttery, mildly sweet, with a hint of sun-browned walnut. The berry compote was tart and sweet and warmed with a spice Young couldn’t name. The crisp elasticity of the crepe and the thick syrup of the compote complemented one another perfectly.

“Holy shit,” Young said, studying the work of art on his plate. “Where’d you learn to cook like this?”

“Via a constant application of both theory and empiricism.”

Most of his brain had been co-opted by the experience his taste buds were having, so it took a moment for Young to decode what the man had said. “You read cookbooks and practiced?”

“That is the typical way in which skillsets are acquired,” Rush said, appreciatively disdainful.

“I’m surprised you pulled yourself away from the math long enough to get this good.” Young took another bite of crepe: sweet and tart, crisp and gooey. “Doesn’t seem like your style.”

“You’ve known me for what,” Rush shot back, “two days?”

“True,” Young admitted, “but I’ve worked with a lot of guys like you—”

He stopped himself.

“Oh yes?” Rush asked, deceptively polite.

“Smart, passionate about what you do, full of this—” he waved a hand as he took a sip of coffee, it’s bitterness a perfect contrast to the summer-flavored crepe, “—science machismo regarding who can go longest without sleep. That kinda thing.” 

Rush went to work on another crepe. “Science machismo.”

“Not that it’s a bad thing,” Young said. “When the Goa’uld launch asteroids at the Earth and Carter sends them to hyperspace just as they reach the atmosphere—I’m fully on board with science machismo.”

Rush looked up, a brow quirked. “Hyperspace?”

Young nodded.

“That’s fair fuckin’ brilliant. I wonder if I’d’ve thought of that. Probably not. I don’t tend to think about hyperspace.”

“Forget that asteroid thing. You probably don’t have the security clearance for it.”

Rush shot him a dark look and forked off a corner of his own crepe.

Young shrugged. “Don’t take it too hard. I’m betting it’s only because—” he stopped himself.

“It’ll mitigate the information hazard of my inevitable kidnapping?” Rush scowled at the batter of the next crepe solidifying in the pan. “I’d worked out as much on my own.”

Young got his act together. “They’re not gonna kidnap you.” 

Hopefully, he added.

“Brilliant.” Rush grabbed his plate, flipped a crepe out of the pan, and shoved it back at him. “All I have to do is stay within a seven meter radius of a transport scrambling device for the rest of my life.”

“It only took SG-1 eight years to bring down a galaxy-spanning, millennias-old empire. Jackson’s on your case. It’ll be fine in no time.”

“Yes yes.” Rush flipped the crepe. “Very reassuring. Well done.”  

“How’s your, uh, ‘continuous tone’ doing?”

Rush didn’t look at him. “It’s faded. For the most part.” 

“Can I ask you a question?”

“I’d be interested to learn what the fuck you think you’ve been doing for the past fifteen minutes, if not asking questions.”

Young raised his eyebrows, but plowed ahead. “Why do you think it bothered you so much?”

“The continuous tone?”


“No idea,” Rush said, filling and folding a crepe with a little too much focus.


“I detest music,” Rush said. “A continuous tone is close enough.”

“You detest music?”


“All music?”



“There’s no ‘why’ to it. It’s a fact.”

“No one detests all music.”

“I do.”

“No you don’t. You can’t.”

“I don’t wish to discuss it.”


“What did I just say?” Rush snarled at him.

“All right.” Young held up both hands. “All right.” 

Rush backed himself against the opposite counter, his fingers curled around a metal drawer handle, his gaze fixed on a point on the floor, his breathing too fast for a guy making crepes on a Saturday morning.

What the hell had Young been thinking? He hadn’t been thinking.

“I get it,” he said, not getting it, even a little bit. “It’s gotta be one hell of a distraction, when you’re trying to focus on doing math.”

“Yes,” Rush agreed breathlessly, turning back to the crepes. “Yes, exactly.” He didn’t say anything more.

Young didn’t push him.

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