Mathématique: Chapter 8
"If seven chevrons take you within the galaxy and eight chevrons take you without, then nine chevrons—“
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.
It was just past noon, and the sun had begun its conquering creep across the wood paneling of the floor. They’d made significant progress, and the organization of each room had started to take shape. Most of the boxes had been unpacked and broken down, the newspaper bagged, the furniture pulled into position, the lights assembled, and extension cords strategically positioned. Rush had approached the unpacking with a frenetic energy that had been a little unsettling to watch, until Young had gotten accustomed to it. The guy was just—intense. It was how he was.
It made Young more than a little curious to take a look at the inside of Rush's apartment. He had the feeling it would be obsessively organized and extremely utilitarian.
At this stage in the unpacking, Young was slowly and deliberately dealing with items that Rush couldn’t or wouldn’t categorize, organize, alphabetize, analyze, sterilize, or any other kind of ize.
Ephemera that Emily had left him—little glass things or little porcelain things that she had bought in various places they had been and which she had, for some reason, allocated to him. Things Young really didn't want to look at or think about. He decided that his strategy for those things was going to be to box all of them up and put the boxes in the bottom of a closet.
"I feel like you're confused about the end goal of this process," Rush said dryly, from where he was sitting on the floor, surrounded by a tangle of cables, looking disapprovingly at the box that Young was filling.
Young sighed. "This stuff is going in a closet.”
"Right then," Rush said shortly, tipping his head back and shutting his eyes briefly.
Young didn't know what the hell the other man thought he was doing, forcing himself to stay awake like this. To unpack an apartment. It was strange. Inappropriate. Pathological in some way that was hard to define. It wasn’t really pleasant to watch the guy sit there, sorting through a nest of wires, a shadow of his earlier efficiency, making some kind of disorganized attempt at detangling in preparation for setting up Young's TV.
"Rush," he said quietly, "are you okay?”
"Very few combinations of words in the English language irritate me more than the one you just selected.” Rush focused more intently on the Gordian knot of cables in front of him.
"You look exhausted.”
"There are worse things than exhaustion," Rush muttered.
"Yeah," Young said. "I guess.”
"Your opinion was not solicited.” Rush threading cords past and through themselves.
Young sighed, rolled his eyes, and returned to his reboxing of trinkets until his cellphone rang, shrill in the quiet of the apartment.
Rush flinched, his hands coming away from the tangle of wires and halfway to his temples before he tamped down on his response.
Young wasted a glare on the side of the other man’s head, glanced at the caller ID, and accepted the call.
"Cam," he said. "What's going on?”
Rush looked over in apparent interest, eyebrows raised.
"Nothing good," Mitchell said, his voice tight. "Your cell is SGC-issued, right? We're scrambled?”
"Yeah," Young said, feeling a surge of adrenaline but keeping his voice and posture relaxed as he slowly straightened, one hand on his bad hip. "You have to ask, after all this time?”
Mitchell had his own unique brand of hardassery; different from Telford’s, different from Young’s, different from J-Shep’s, but there all the same—detail-oriented and icy. Young didn’t like that it was surfacing now. He limped over to the window and leaned against the adjacent wall, looking absently out into the parking lot.
"You probably already know that Telford took command of SG-3 and they were able to get the transport codes from the three LA members who were apprehended in Rush's apartment?" Mitchell ignored Young’s question.
"Right," Young said, squinting into the sunlight. "That I knew.”
"So, first of all, the LA does have the Asgard beaming technology. It's confirmed now.”
"Uh huh," Young said.
"You seem way too laid back about this," Mitchell commented, the ice in his tone turning to edge. "Is everything okay?”
"Yeah," Young said.
"Really? If everything's actually fine, say 'everything's fine.' If it's not actually fine, then say ‘yeah'."
"Everything's fine," Young said.
"Really? So why are you being—weird?" Mitchell demanded.
"Think about it," Young replied, exasperated.
"The neighbor,” Mitchell said, after a pause. "You don't want to freak him out?”
“You got it," Young said, keeping his eyes on the parking lot.
"Yeah, I heard from Jackson that he flipped out on you last night and totally shut down in your kitchen for like half an hour.”
"More or less," Young said. "Y’know, for the leader of the flagship SG team, you're pretty distractible.”
His eyes flicked over to Rush, who had gone back to picking through the cables.
"Others might say I have a talent for focusing on relevant detail. You would be so grateful if you were being abducted right now. So grateful.”
“True enough," Young admitted, "but let's get to the part where you tell me what's going on.”
"So, Telford and SG-3 managed to beam onto the LA’s tel'tak. It was cloaked in a low orbit. Telford copied everything in their databanks and transmitted it back groundside." Mitchell's voice still had that hard, unsettling edge.
"Right," Young replied.
"They got clearance from Landry to keep going, see if they could get any more intel," Mitchell continued. "There was one member of the LA party still on the tel'tak and, via him, they sent a message to the LA, posing as the tel’tak crew, indicated that they’d successfully nabbed Rush.”
"Do you know which House?" Young asked, his eyes flicking to Rush and away again.
"Sixth," Mitchell said grimly. "It's Sixth that wants him.”
"Masim?" Young asked, his tone casual, his face frozen into a neutral mask.
"We think so. Based on the location of the rendezvous point, we think it might actually be his daughter. It's in her territory.”
"Yeah. Look, the point is, we don't know. Once they’d gotten the intel about the House affiliation, Landry gave the order to pull them back. It was too risky to actually go in like that, pretending they had someone they didn't—they had no idea how many people they might be facing. Plus, as you know—David was undercover with Sixth House, so there was significant risk that he might be recognized.”
"Why do I get the feeling that things didn't go according to plan?" Young asked.
"David confirmed the order and communicated that he was turning back. Some of the techheads analyzed the signal strength and can also confirm that he did make an abrupt change in trajectory as they were transmitting the message, because the signal distorts. But—they missed their next check in.”
"And the one after that," Mitchell said. "And the one after. We haven't heard from them in seven hours.”
Young said nothing.
"They weren't that far out," Mitchell continued, "so we sent the Odyssey.”
There was a long silence on the line.
"Yup," Young said, his vocal chords grating hot and deep over the word. In his peripheral vision, he could see Rush look in his direction with an abrupt snap of the head. Young turned away, walking toward his bedroom. He slipped inside and shut the door, pressing his forehead against the wood.
"They found—a lot of debris," Mitchell said finally. "Some of which was—organic.”
Young said nothing.
Mitchell said nothing.
"The thing is," Mitchell continued, "is that—there was nothing left that was larger than a baseball. They'd clearly destroyed the ship and then—fired at the pieces. The theory is that they wanted to conceal something. Some aspect of the ship, of the personnel—something.”
"Any idea what?”
"Maybe," Mitchell said. "The lab guys are working on the data, analyzing the material that the Odyssey was able to—gather. I guess there's maybe not as much organic material as you might expect for six people.”
"So they may have been taken," Young said, feeling sick.
"They could still be alive. Maybe all of them.”
"They could, but—“
"Yeah," Young said. “But."
"David's a resourceful son of a bitch," Mitchell said. "So, I guess—" He trailed off. "But um, Reynolds—has the two kids.”
"Yeah," Young said, his forehead still pressed against the wall. "I know.”
"I hate it when they have kids. God. That should be a program requirement. No kids.”
Young said nothing.
"I hate that. I mean, I hate it anyway, but I especially hate that," Mitchell said.
The line was silent.
"How long before Landry switches the codes?" Young asked.
"All the transponder codes have been switched. Landry's giving David a forty-eight hour window before we deactivate their GDOs.”
"You never know," Young said, "but if they survived then the LA probably has all five of them.”
"That's a lot of intel," Mitchell said, “potentially."
"Damn it," Mitchell hissed. "Damn it. We need David for this shit. No one knows more about the LA than he does. He spent a year and a half under cover—he knows them better than anyone. He hates them more than anyone.”
"He has good reason," Young said, his hand pressing into the ache in his lower back, his eyes shut against the memory of an ash-filled sky.
"I know," Mitchell whispered.
They were quiet for a few seconds.
"So what's the plan?" Young asked. "For Rush, I mean.”
Mitchell sighed. "There isn't really a plan. Any plan is just—subvertable, you know?”
"He can't be pinned in a room indefinitely.”
"Well—" Mitchell said, "that's been the strategy for the last six weeks, mostly, and it's worked okay.”
Young hesitated, then said, "Actually Cam, I’m not sure it's worked ‘okay’ at all. The guy is having a tough time for some reason, and he just—works continuously. I’m not sure how sustainable this is.”
"Yeah," Mitchell replied. "It's driving Jackson crazy. He really, really wants to send the guy to Atlantis. The problem is, Rush can't crack this ninth chevron address while he's there because their Lantean gates don't have the cyphers.”
"Atlantis? Jackson wants to send him to Atlantis? What kind of sense does that make? Sorry, but I just don't think he's going to do very well offworld. I mean, he can barely survive his own apartment.”
"Yeah, that's a concern. Sheppard and McKay are willing to take him though; the idea’s been floated. Plus, there's some reason to think he'd be an asset to the Atlantis Expedition.”
“What's that supposed to mean?”
"Look, I can't talk about it, but—you've probably already guessed that there's something else the LA wants with your neighbor other than just the intense math skills.”
"Jackson implied as much last night. Can't you just tell me? I mean, if the LA knows—whatever it is, if SG-1 knows, then what does it matter if I know as well?”
"Because. Landry says no. Plus, Rush himself doesn't know.”
"No one's told Rush why they want him?”
"No—not really. No.”
"Well, that seems like a bad idea," Young growled, "because I don't think he's taking this whole abduction scenario very seriously and maybe if he knew—“
"Yeah," Mitchell said, drawing out the word uncomfortably. "There are a lot of internal politics that surround this entire situation. I've told you as much as I can, and then some.”
Young sighed. "I know." He brought a hand to his forehead. "What am I supposed to do about this, Cam?”
"I don't think you have to do anything," Mitchell said, a note of resignation in his voice.
"I live three doors down from the SGC's hottest intellectual commodity," Young shot back, lowering his voice, more out of instinct than any real necessity. "I'm just supposed to sit by and watch this bullshit?”
"What part of it is bullshit, exactly?" Mitchell replied, impersonating an informational linebacker.
“Something's not right here, Cam," Young said. "Why else would Jackson be so—pissed about this whole thing?”
"Everett," Mitchell said, converting his name into a cautious pull. "If you want to help this guy—you're going to need to be subtle about it.”
"What do you mean, ‘subtle’?”
"Yeah, look, it's hard to come right out and say this, but there's a short list of people that could be working for the LA. Not gonna lie to you, man, you're on that list. So am I. So is David and Daniel and Sam and Teal'c and Vala. So is all of SG-2, all of SG-3, and all of SG-7.”
"Not really a shocker," Young growled.
"I know, but think about it from Landry's perspective. This is why Jackson is trying not to flip his shit about Rush—the more bent out of shape he gets about the guy, the more Landry resists what he proposes. Whereas David, on the other hand, plays it very cool—played it—shit. Do you see what I'm saying?”
Mitchell said nothing.
"Yeah," Young said finally. "I get you.”
"But, for what it's worth," Mitchell said, "I agree with your assessment. It's screwed up. Everything—everything is just really screwed up right now.”
Young nodded, but said nothing. The smooth white paint that covered the door was cool under his fingertips. He pushed away from the wall and limped over to his bed, easing himself down onto the rumpled sheets.
"Things are going to calm down," Mitchell said, solid and reassuring and right in his ear. "They have to.”
"Maybe," Young replied. "But this guy. My neighbor. And Jackson. There’s something going on there. And not in a fun way.”
Mitchell sighed. “Yeah. You’re not wrong. And speaking of—can I invite myself over?”
"Sure," Young said, "I guess. Can you bring me some expensive coffee?”
"Since when do you drink ‘expensive coffee’?”
"I don't." He looked up at the barely perceptible patterning in the paint of his ceiling.
"Got ya. I'll do you one better. I'll bring you expensive coffee and Rush's laptop. I heard from Dr. Lee that they cleared it about an hour ago.”
"Any word on his apartment?”
"All right," Young said.
"Can I bring Jackson?" Mitchell asked.
"Um, I guess, if he consults on the coffee.”
"Can I bring Teal’c?"
"What is this, some kind of SG-1 party?”
"No. The ladies are shopping, Jackson is climbing the walls, and Teal'c wants to meet Rush.”
"Teal'c wants to meet Rush.”
"The Royals are playing. Is your TV hooked up?”
"Cam, seriously, what the hell.”
"Look, we're having an SG-1 guys afternoon and you got invited.”
"You never invite me to your SG-1 parties.”
"That’s because no one gets invited. They're less fun than you think. It's always like: 'remember that time you thought you killed someone,' or, 'remember that time we all were tortured for three days'. That kind of thing. Very depressing.”
"Ugh," Young said, one hand coming to press against his forehead. “Sounds right.”
"Yeah, not a good time.”
"You just like me because of my neighbor,” Young said, trying not to sound as exhausted as he felt.
"You got me," Mitchell said.
"Look, in all seriousness, I don't know if this is a good idea," Young said. "Rush really doesn't strike me as the type who is going to enjoy sitting around and watching a baseball game with the guys. I really don't know how close he is with David—or was, with David, but he's already pretty stressed at baseline, and he may not take this very well.”
"Yeah," Mitchell said, “but, uh, here’s the thing. Jackson is probably going to be showing up at your front door this afternoon with or without me and Teal'c. I thought that maybe—well, a baseball game might give the whole thing a more low key feel.”
"Great. Well, we can see how it goes, I guess," Young replied, his heart sinking. "Do you know what Jackson wants?”
“I’ve got some idea," Mitchell said, "I'm worried that he's gearing himself up to do something—that would be a bad idea.”
"Like what kind of bad idea?" Young said.
"Like revealing highly classified information to a civilian consultant without Landry's permission.”
"You think Jackson's going to tell Rush whatever it is that Landry doesn't want him to know?”
"I think that possibility becomes less likely if we are watching a baseball game," Mitchell said evenly.
"When did you get so savvy?”
"Around the same time I stopped sticking my fingers into interesting looking alien goo.”
Young snorted. "All right. When does the game start?”
"Two o'clock," Mitchell said.
"Okay, plan on it unless you hear from me. And bring some beer, will you? Between Rush and Jackson, I think we're going to need it.”
"I wonder if Jackson even knows the rules of baseball," Mitchell mused.
"I'll talk to you later.”
"I bet he doesn't. But I bet he'll try to teach them to Teal'c anyway.”
"Cam. I'll talk to you later.”
"Or, maybe he knows the rules, technically, but—“
"Okay," Young said. “Bye."
"Like, I'll bet he knows them, but he doesn't have any common sense about the game.”
"Cam, I've got to go.”
“Damn it, he probably can recite the entire rulebook flawlessly in eighty-seven languages.”
"Cam. Seriously. Don't make he hang up on you. Because I will do it.”
"Fine fine. See you at two.”
Young ended the call and stared at the ceiling. He ran one hand through his close cropped hair that was just starting to curl at the ends and shut his eyes, trying to make some kind of plan—any kind of plan where there was some chance that his exhausted, irascible houseguest would make it through the afternoon without being pushed past his ability to cope.
After a few minutes, he forced himself to his feet, opened his bedroom door, and limped back out to the living area.
Rush looked up at him as he came in. He was still sitting on the floor, but the nest of wires that had surrounded him was now unmade, the cable running neatly along the wall at the perimeter of the room, all requisite electronics hooked up and, presumably, working.
"Hey," Young said.
The word hung heavy in the air, and Rush raised his eyebrows. "Hey," he replied, with a slightly disdainful inflection that made the word into something with two syllables and managed to convey the idea that he was doing Young a favor by deigning to use such a colloquialism.
Young walked forward a few steps to sit on the couch that Rush had recently repositioned.
"So?" Rush demanded. "What's going on then?”
Young was silent for a moment, looking at his hands.
"David is missing," Young said, "along with all of SG-3." He stopped there, watching Rush.
Rush stared back at him. For a few seconds, they remained like that, frozen, until Rush shook his hair back, fixed Young with a glare, and said, "you were on the phone for fifteen fucking minutes. Surely you have more details.”
"Yeah, I do." Young paused, rubbing his fingers along his jaw. "They were aboard a—" he stopped himself from saying 'tel'tak' at the last minute. "They were aboard a ship, and it looks like—from the evidence the SGC managed to collect—that that ship was destroyed.”
"Ah," Rush replied. "I see." He wasn't looking at Young anymore. His head was turned away, his eyes focusing in the middle distance.
"There's still some chance that he could be—that they all could be alive.”
"In which case," Rush replied, his head turning, his eyes snapping back towards Young, "they would most likely be prisoners of the Lucian Alliance, correct?”
"Yeah," Young replied. “Yes.”
"I get the impression," Rush said, pulling the words out, dark and direct, "that death would be preferable.”
"No," Young said, shaking his head. "I don't think death is preferable.”
"Don't you," Rush murmured, looking away.
“Come on, Rush," Young said, desperate for anything to break the eerie atmosphere between them. "No. Alive—there's always a chance to change things. Dead—well, that's it.”
"The final collapse of the wave function.”
"Yeah," Young said; a bracing word, a downward gaze. "Exactly. So stop being so god damned morbid, will you?”
"I'm fucking setting up your apartment for you," Rush said, managing a casual delivery. "I believe that entitles me to be as morbid as I'd like.”
"Nope," Young said, "but you will get some classy coffee out of it.”
"Oh really?" Rush said, raising his eyebrows.
"Yeah. The guys from SG-1 are going to stop by with your laptop and some fancy coffee.”
"They cleared my laptop?" Rush asked.
"Yeah. They think they'll be done with your apartment tomorrow.”
Rush nodded, his gaze shifting into the middle distance. "Do you think they're torturing him?"
"Yes. Fucking obviously David. Or are their other mutual acquaintances we have that are missing, presumed dead?”
"I don't know if they're torturing him," Young said. “Maybe."
"What do they do?" Rush asked.
Young shut his eyes.
"I don't know," he lied.
"Yes you do.You must.”
"Rush—there's no way to know what they're doing, if he's dead—if he's alive—" Young waved a hand, unable to look at him. "There's no way to know. It's better not to dwell on it.”
"Works that way for you, does it?" Rush asked, awild edge to his words. "Must be nice.”
Young locked eyes with him, taking in the rapid, desperate rhythm of Rush's breathing, the tension in his shoulders, the way his weight had shifted subtly forward, as though remaining still was nearly impossible.
"Rush," Young said, the word slow, forceful, and hopefully grounding.
Rush shifted back slightly and made a clear effort to unwind.
"Please—just, leave it alone," Young said.
"Why?" Rush whispered, his eyes narrowing, taking in Young's stance, lingering at the place where his left hand rested absently at his injured hip. After a short interval the set of the mathematician's shoulders loosened. The man didn't miss much.
"I don't want to talk about it," Young said, staring at the floor. "And I don't want you to hear about it. You're—what, a math professor? There is absolutely no reason for you to have this kind of shit in your head.”
Rush said nothing, and Young looked up to find the other man giving him a twisted smile. "Oh you know what they say." Rush looked at Young from beneath the fringe of the bangs that fell into his eyes. “Nihil novi sub sole.”
"Latin?" Young guessed.
"Ancient, actually, but I won't split hairs with you there," Rush said, turning and flicking on Young's TV in an abrupt de-escalation of tension.
"So what does it mean?" Young asked, still unable to entirely relax in the face of Rush's mercurial shifts.
"Open a book, colonel," Rush replied, absently flipping through a few channels before shutting the set off. "It won't kill you.”
"You're handier than you look," Young said dryly, indicating the TV with his eyes. "Which is, in case you were wondering, not at all handy.”
"Do you make it a point of insulting people who are doing you favors?" Rush asked, bracing one arm against the floor.
"I'm just trying to hold my ground here," Young said.
"And I do appreciate that," Rush said, smiling faintly.
"Plus, you started it. I read books you know.”
"Books with what kind of word-to-picture ratio?”
"Shut up, Rush.”
"A four year collection of Car and Driver does not count as a book, even if it is chronologically organized.”
Young stared at him. “How did you—”
"I've been unpacking for you," Rush said, in a tone that implied he thought Young was an idiot.
"Right," Young said, trying to rally. ”First of all, there is nothing wrong with liking cars. Second of all, you also alphabetized my actual books, or organized them according to the Dewey Decimal System or something. So you should know that I do read.”
"Your collection of 'actual' books," Rush said, "is desultory and, if I were to estimate, I would say only about sixty percent yours.”
"Why?" Young asked, the word prolonged by trepidation. He wondered what Emily had given him.
"You don't seem like the kind of person who would have three different editions of Sense and Sensibility, for example.”
Young raised his eyebrows and then stood and limped over to the bookshelf.
"Well, shit," he said, staring at the three copies in question.
"Revenge, do you think?" Rush asked, coming to stand next to him.
"No," Young said, "probably an accident. It's Emily's favorite.”
"Ah," Rush said delicately. "A mispacking then.”
"Yeah," Young said, cocking his head, running his eyes over the shelves. "A Girl's Guide to Everything though—that one is probably revenge.”
"She always did have a wicked sense of humor," Young said absently, trying to ignore the hollow feeling that the words left behind as he spoke them.
"Mmm," Rush said, neutral and noncommittal, as if emotional evisceration was something he could recognize, even at its most subtle.
And maybe it was.
Because, despite the wedding ring that he wore, the man was utterly alone. And, though he seemed to prefer that, seemed to seek it out, he didn’t seem to handle it all that well.
Young glanced over at him. The man had one arm wrapped around his rib cage, one hand in a fist beneath his chin. He was staring at Young's bookshelf. "Well, we're going to have to do something about this situation before Jackson gets here. Otherwise he's going to silently judge you," Rush said, either unaware of Young's scrutiny or unperturbed by it.
"Yes, that's so much worse than being judged aloud. Repeatedly. And with sarcasm.”
"At least you know I'm not hiding anything.”
"Oh yeah. Straightforward. That is the first word that comes to mind when I think of you.”
Rush shot him a pointed look, then dragged an empty box next to Young's bookshelf and started rapidly pulling things off the shelves that failed his pretentiousness litmus test, or whatever criteria he was using.
After only a few seconds it became clear that Rush was creepily accurate when it came to books that Young had actually purchased versus those that Emily had partitioned to him.
"This is weirding me out a little bit, not gonna lie," Young said, watching Rush hesitate for a moment over The History of the Peloponnesian War, before shoving it back onto the shelf.
"Well, think about how I felt upon realizing you have a fondness for Franz fucking Kafka of all people," Rush shot back.
"I mean, you're just—pretty accurate.”
"'Pretty' accurate?" Rush dropped into a crouch to survey the final shelves, one shoulder pressed against the edge of the bookshelf.
"All right. Fine. Very damn accurate.”
Rush paused in his sweep of the final shelf, hesitating over The Demon Haunted World. "This," he said, pulling it out, "I suspect is not yours, but I'm going to leave it for you anyway. You should read it. And—Jackson will like it, I think.”
"Thanks," Young said dryly. "But how do you know I haven't already?”
"Because," Rush said, straightening up slowly, without a trace of his typical nervous energy. "Y' fash your books, and this one is fuckin' pristine.”
Young raised his eyebrows. “Fash?"
"Get an education," Rush said, his accent receding immediately.
"I'm gonna write this shit down and just ask Jackson, seeing as he's not an asshole.”
"F. A. S. H.," Rush said, hooking his right hand behind his neck to massage the tense musculature there as he spelled the word. "Enjoy the thirty minute etymological discourse that's in your future.”
"Whatever," Young growled. "I assume you meant that I beat the hell out of my books.”
"It's a terrible habit," Rush replied. "But it's more like—" he raised his free hand and made a vague circle. "You worry or trouble your books. You torment them.”
"That's basically what I said.”
"That's not at all what you said. It's perhaps what you connoted." Rush's eyes were closed, his head angled forward slightly, his right hand digging into his neck.
"Rush," Young growled, "take a god damned nap.”
"When are they bringing the coffee?”
"Fourteen hundred hours," Young said. "That's when the game starts.”
"Royals vs. the White Sox.”
"That means fuck all to me," Rush said.
"Baseball," Young said dryly.
Rush sighed, his eyes still closed. "They're staying?”
"Look," Young said, "I can tell them to go to a damn sports bar or something, if you'd prefer. It's just that Jackson evidently wants to talk to you, and Mitchell thought that maybe the whole thing would be a bit more low key if it happened over beer and a baseball game.”
Rush shot him a keen look. "Low key?" he repeated with a dangerous liquidity. "What an interesting choice of word. What does he want?”
"Umm," Young said, thrown by Rush's abrupt change in demeanor. "I'm not sure.”
"You're not sure," Rush repeated. "Well. That's convenient.”
“I genuinely don’t know. What do you think he wants?" Young asked carefully, watching as Rush paced away a few steps, stopping himself at the opposite side of the room before turning and backing against the wall in a movement that had possibly been intended to be casual, but came off as besieged.
Young looked at him, but didn't move. Didn't let his eyes flick toward the door that was a straight shot from Rush's current position.
Rush didn't reply to Young's question, but his eyes flicked toward the door.
The guy wanted out. Out of the apartment, out of his situation, possibly even out of the SGC. He wasn’t going to get out though. And testing himself against the reality of the situation was only going to drive home how limited his options really were.
Difficult though it was, Young forced himself to look down at the box close to his feet, now mostly full of books destined for Emily. He leaned down to rearrange a few of them, then looked up at Rush.
"Do we have any more newspaper," he asked, "or did you bag all of it?”
"I think," Rush replied, as if it were a great effort, "that there may be some in the other room." He indicated the adjacent dining area with a tip of his head.
"You want to grab it?" Young asked nonchalantly.
Rush didn't reply, but he pushed away from the wall and walked into the dining room.
Young released a shaky sigh of relief, pressing his left hand to his aching lower back. He wasn't positive, but he was fairly certain that Rush had been on the verge of making a break for the door, a situation which probably would have been salvageable, given that the transport scramblers for the building were back online, and presuming that the LA wasn't just waiting for him to exit the building. Probably they weren’t. Probably David’s initiative had set them on their asses, at least for a few days.
He should have said no to Cam’s baseball plan.
Young grimaced, absently staring at the linear shadows made by the slats of the blinds as the sun continued its advance across the hardwood floor.
Jackson was the problem. Jackson had been locked in a conflict with Telford. But with Telford missing or dead, Jackson was now unopposed. Seven hours, Cam had said. Seven hours and Jackson was making some kind of move. That had to be what had Rush looking like he wanted to bolt.
The man walked back into the room with handfuls of newspaper. He looked less edgy, but still wound too tightly for Young to do anything except take some of it from him and start shoving it into loose spaces between the books in the box.
"So," he said carefully. "I can just tell them to get lost, you know," Young said. "I really don't give a fuck about the Kansas City Royals.”
"Does anyone?" Rush asked, his fingers curling around the edge of the box that they were packing with more meticulousness than the task really merited.
"Mitchell's from Kansas—they’re his home team.”
"Seriously, hotshot," Young said quietly, "I can tell them to drop off your fancy coffee and laptop and go.”
"It doesn't eliminate the problem," Rush said. "It only defers it.”
"What is the problem, exactly?”
“I don’t know,” Rush said quietly. “But I have a thought.”
“You wanna share with the class?”
Rush paused his packing. “Jackson’s afraid of something. Something that has to do with the nine-chevron address. That’s why he doesn’t want me working on it.”
"He's—afraid of it?" Young repeated, unable to hide his surprise.
“I'm guessing he’s afraid of the progression," Rush said. "If seven chevrons take you within the galaxy and eight chevrons take you without, then nine chevrons—“
"Nine chevrons what?" Young asked.
"Off this plane, off this brane, both, neither—who can say?”
"Like I said, Young, open a fucking book.”
"Come on, don't be a jerk. This is serious. Why would this scare Jackson?”
"Well," Rush said, looking down fixedly at the box, "I would imagine it's because he's been off this plane. I don’t think it was a uniformly positive experience for him.”
Young needlessly rearranged the position of a book and its affiliated newspaper.
"And David—David wants, or, perhaps wanted is the better term, to be the one—to go," Rush said.
"So you're worried about what, exactly?”
"That Daniel will stop me. That he'll kill the Icarus Project.”
"Would that really be so bad?" Young asked.
"Yes," Rush whispered. “Yes."
"You could go to Atlantis," Young said. "That's what Jackson wants. That would be okay. There would be like—tons of stuff to figure out there.”
Rush gave him a twisted half-smile. "I'm never going anywhere," he said. "I think we both know that.”
"Sheppard wants you, apparently. And McKay.”
"Now you're just trying to make me feet better without any kind of reference to reality," Rush snapped. "You think I have any chance of being cleared for an assignment off world? I've been officially employed for six weeks, I don't even work on the base, and already they've made me pass two psych evaluations because they're so suspicious about the state of my mental health. So McKay and whatever god damn colonel is out there may have the good fucking taste to want me, but there is no way in hell that am I going to be going." He shot Young a pointed look.
"Sheppard," Young replied, equally pointedly, “is the thinking man’s colonel. You'd like him.”
"It doesn't matter," Rush hissed.
"All right. Well, look, I really don't think that Landry is going to cut the Icarus project or pull you from it. In fact, my guess is that the top brass is going to be all the more interested in it if they think it might lead to another plane of existence—especially considering that the conflict with the Ori is not going well from what I hear.”
"No?" Rush asked, his eyebrows raised.
"I don’t think so," Young said. "But forget I told you that. You probably don't have the clearance to know.”
"I don't have the clearance to know fucking anything," Rush sighed. "And stop repacking this god forsaken box, will you? It's very irritating.”
Young rolled his eyes.
Rush got to his feet and paced over to the coffee table to collect a roll of packing tape. He turned back. "Hold it down," he said, gesturing toward the box, his accent creeping in on the final word.
"You are," Young said, aligning the flaps of the box, "so fucking tired, Rush.”
"Your point being?" Rush asked, clearly making an effort to sharpen his diction.
"It's really bothering me.”
"Get used to it." Rush taped along the edges of the box, neatly folding the tape around the corners in precise, synchronized sweeps of his thumbs. "You want lunch?”
"Yeah," Young said, “sure."
"Right," Rush said, breaking the word off as he stood. He reached down to offer Young his hand and slowly pulled him to his feet before turning and heading toward the kitchen with more energy than he had any business displaying.
It was going to be a long afternoon.