Mathématique: Chapter 8

If seven chevrons take you within the galaxy and eight chevrons take you without, then nine chevrons—”

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

Text iteration: Dawn

Additional notes: None.

Chapter 8

The early afternoon sun crept across the wood paneled floor. By Young’s count, they’d made good progress: most of the boxes had been unpacked and broken down, the newspaper bagged, the furniture pulled into position, the lights assembled, and extension cords wrangled.

Rush had undertaken the unpacking with unsettling energy. The guy was intense; it was how he was. Young wanted a look at the inside of Rush’s apartment. He had the feeling it’d be obsessively organized and monastically utilitarian. One could probably bounce a quarter off the guy’s bedsheets.

At this stage in the unpacking, Young was slowly dealing with items that Rush couldn’t or wouldn’t categorize, organize, alphabetize, analyze, sterilize, or any other kind of ize. 

Personal items.


Trinkets Emily’d left him: little glass things, little porcelain things, playbills, small stones, vials of beach sand, fistfuls of relationship shards she rightly hoped would cut him up. He decided to re-box them. Stick them in the bottom of a closet.

“I thought we were meant t’be unpacking?” Rush sat on the floor, surrounded by a tangle of cables. He eyed the box Young was was filling with disapproval.

Young sighed. “This stuff is going in a closet.”

Rush tipped his head back and shut his eyes, like reality was pushing him beyond his comfort zone.

Young didn't know what the hell the other man thought he was doing, forcing himself awake, unpacking the apartment of a guy he barely knew. Didn’t sit right somehow. Especially after whatever the hell the guy’d gone through the previous night.

“You gonna survive this, hotshot?”

“Maybe.” Rush poured the word like antifreeze then refocused on the Gordian knot of cable in front of him.

“I don’t wanna have to explain to Jackson that I let you collapse from exhaustion. Again.”

“There are worse things than exhaustion,” Rush muttered, threading cords past and through themselves.

Young rolled his eyes and returned to boxing trinkets.

His cellphone rang, shrill in the quiet apartment.

Rush flinched, his hands halfway to his temples before he caught himself.

Young wasted a military-grade glare on the side of the man’s head, then glanced at his caller ID and picked up the phone. “Cam. What’s going on?”

Rush looked up.

“Nothing good.” Mitchell’s voice was tight. “Your cell is SGC-issued, right? This is a secure line?”

“Yup.” Young felt a surge of adrenaline but kept his voice and posture relaxed. He straightened, one hand on his bad hip.

“You probably know 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 had his own 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 he could hear it now. He limped to the window and leaned against the adjacent wall, looking into the parking lot.

“Yup,” Young confirmed.

“Transport codes aren’t they only thing they got. The LA is using Asgard beaming tech. For sure.”

“Right,” Young said.

“‘Right?’ The hell do you mean ‘right’?” The ice in Mitchell’s tone turned to edge. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah.” Young tried to telegraph annoyance.

“Shit. If everything's actually fine, say ‘everything's fine.’ If it's not fine, then say, uh, ‘yeah’.”

“Everything's fine.”

“You serious, man? Why are you bein’ all weird?” Mitchell demanded.

“Think about it,” Young replied, exasperated.

“The neighbor,” Mitchell decided, after a pause.

“You got it,” Young kept his eyes on the parking lot.

“Aww. That’s nice. Jackson said he had a little breakdown in your kitchen last night.”

“Eh,” Young said, “it wasn’t that bad.” His eyes flicked to Rush. The guy was knee deep in cables.

“Others might say I have a talent for relevant detail. You’d 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 happening.”

“Telford and SG-3 beamed onto an LA tel’tak, cloaked in low Earth orbit. Telford copied everything in their databanks and transmitted it groundside.”

“Uh huh.”

“He got clearance from Landry to keep going, see if SG3 could get more intel,” Mitchell continued. “There was an LA operative on the tel'tak and, via him, Telford sent a message to the LA, posing as the tel’tak crew.”

“What was the message?”

“They had Rush, and they were bringing him in.”

“Which House was on the other end of the line?” Young did his best not to stare at the math professor in his living room.

“Sixth,” Mitchell said. “It's Sixth that wants him.”

“Masim?” Young asked, his face frozen in a neutral mask.

“Based on the location of the rendezvous point, we think it might be Masim’s daughter. It’s in her territory.”

“Masim’s daughter?”

“Everett, 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 go in like that. They had no idea how many people they might be facing. Plus—”

“David’s not gonna pull anything over on Sixth,” Young said softly.

“Yeah. They’d nail him on sight. You too.”

Young nodded. He couldn’t speak.

“David confirmed the order. He confirmed he was turning back. Some of the techheads analyzed the signal strength and confirmed a trajectory change as they were transmitting the message. But—they missed their next check in.”


“And the one after,” Mitchell said.

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’s throat grated over the word.

Rush looked up, his brow quirked with a wordless question.

Young made for his bedroom. He slipped inside, shut the door, and pressed his forehead against the wood.

“They found debris,” Mitchell said. “Some of it was organic.”

Young said nothing.

After a pause, Mitchell continued. “Nothing left larger than a baseball. They destroyed the ship and then—fired at the pieces. Trying’ to conceal something, probably.”

"Any idea what?”

“The lab guys are workin’ the data, analyzing the organic material the Odyssey was able to, uh, gather. It’s looking like it’s not gonna be enough to account for six people.”

“So they may have been taken.” Young’s palms were damp. He could taste bile in the back of his throat. He tried not to think of David. To think of anyone, anything but David, back in Kiva’s hands.


“They could still be alive. Maybe all of them.”

“Everett, They could, but—”

“Yeah,” Young said. “Yeah, I know.”

“No one knows better than you and me that David's a resourceful son of a bitch,” Mitchell said bracingly. “Reynolds—shit. Reynolds has kids.”

“Yeah,” Young said, his forehead still pressed against the wall. “Two.”

“Hate it when they have kids. God. That should be a program requirement: no kids.”

They let the silence lengthen.

“How long before Landry switches the codes?” Young asked.

“Transponder codes are already switched. Landry's giving David a forty-eight hour window before GDO deactivation.”

Young lifted his forehead away from the door. Straightened up. “Lotta intel at risk if the LA has all five of them.”

“Damn it,” Mitchell hissed. “We need David for this shit. 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,”

“I know,” Mitchell whispered.

Young pressed a hand into his aching lower back, his eyes shut against the memory of an ash-filled sky. “So what's the plan?” Young asked. “For my neighbor, I mean.”

Mitchell sighed. “No plan. Any plan’s leakable.”

“Cam, he can't be pinned in a room indefinitely.”

“That's been the strategy for the last six weeks. It’s worked okay so far.”

“No,” Young said. “It hasn’t. The guy’s on edge, trapped in what amounts to near-solitary confinement, and outperforming an entire division of the SGC’s math guys at the expense of his mental health. It’s not sustainable.”

“You sound like Jackson,” Mitchell replied. “He wants the guy on the next bus to Atlantis. Problem is, Rush can't crack this nine-chevron address while he's there because Lantean gates don't have the cyphers.”

“Atlantis? Jackson wants to send him to Atlantis? The man can barely survive his own apartment.”

Mitchell snorted. “Yeah, it’s been mentioned. Sheppard and McKay are willing to take him though; the idea’s been floated. Plus, there are other reasons to think he’d be an asset on Atlantis.”

“What's that supposed to mean?”

“Can't talk about it, but—you've probably already guessed theres something else the LA wants with your neighbor other than his 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, what does it matter if I know as well?”

“Landry says no. Plus, Rush himself doesn't know.”

“No one's told Rush why they want him?”

“Uh. No—not really. Nope.”

“Bad idea,” Young growled. “Maybe he’d take his situation a little more seriously if—”

“Yeah.” Mitchell drew the word out. “There are a lot of internal politics surrounding your neighbor. I've told you as much as I can and then some.”

Young sighed and brought a hand to his forehead.

“Everett,” Mitchell said, a note of warning in his voice. “No. C’mon. I know that sigh, man. This isn’t your detail. You got looped in by chance.”

“Chance or not, I live three doors down from a math professor on the wrong side of galactic politics,” Young shot back, lowering his voice. “I’m supposed to sit by and watch this bullshit?”

“Bullshit?” 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?”

“You want to help this guy, and it really seems like you do, you’re gonna need to be subtle about it.”


“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.”

“What’s your point?”

“Think about this from Landry's perspective. You don’t wanna look too interested in Nick Rush right now. This is why Jackson’s trying not to flip his shit. 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. You see what I'm saying?”

Young sighed.

Mitchell said nothing.

"Yeah," Young growled, “I get you.”

“For what it's worth," Mitchell said, “I agree. This no-plan plan for your neighbor isn’t working. It’s just hard to know what they’d replace it with that wouldn’t be worse.”

Young nodded. The door was cool under his fingertips. He pushed away from the wall and limped to his bed, easing himself down onto the rumpled sheets.

"Things are gonna calm down," Mitchell said, solid and reassuring and right in his ear. “They have to.”

“Maybe,” Young replied. “But—Cam I’m telling you. There’s something going on between my neighbor and Jackson.”

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.

“You’re really rolling out the red carpet for this neighbor of yours.”

“He made me crepes.”

“He made you crepes?”

“Cam—they were, uh, really damn good. I need to get him some coffee.”

Mitchell snorted. “I'll do you one better. I'll bring you expensive coffee and Rush’s laptop. Bill Lee mentioned that IT cleared it an hour ago.”

“Any word on his apartment?”

“Probably tomorrow.”

“All right,” Young said. “Try and get here before two, will you?”

“Can I bring Jackson?” Mitchell asked.

“Uh, I guess. If he consults on the coffee.”

“Can I bring Teal’c?”

“You want me to host an SG-1 party?”

“No. The ladies are shopping, Jackson’s 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.”

“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 kinda thing. Very depressing.”

“Sounds right,” Young said, staring at his ceiling.

“You think your neighbor can make guac?”

“No. He’s had a rough day already, and I don’t have a sense of how close he is with David—or was, with David, shit. Cam—I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but Nick Rush, PhD, is not the type to sit around and watch a game with the guys. You wanna just drop off some coffee on your way to a sports bar maybe?”

“Yeaaaahhhh,” Mitchell said, “I was workin’ up to this, but: Jackson’s gonna be showing up at your front door this afternoon with or without me and Teal’c. I’m tryin’ to pump the brakes on whatever trouble he’s bringing.

“Do you know what Jackson wants?”

“Yup, and it’s a bad idea.”

“What kind of bad idea?” Young growled.

“Revealing eyes-only 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 much less likely if we’re all watching a baseball game,” Mitchell said evenly.

“When did you get so savvy?”

“Around the same time I stopped sticking my fingers into alien goo.”

Young sighed. “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 gonna need it.”

“Got it. Beer for you, expensive coffee for your fancy neighbor.”


“You think Jackson knows the rules of baseball?” Mitchell mused.

“I gotta go.”

“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 doesn't have a lick of common sense about the game.”

“Cam, I’m going.”

“Damn it, he can probably recite the entire MLB rulebook in eighty-seven languages.”

“I’m hanging up now.”

“Fine fine. See you at two.”


Young ended the call and ran a hand through his close-cropped hair, just starting to curl at its ends. He tried to make a plan—any plan where there was some chance his exhausted, irascible houseguest would make it through the afternoon without being pushed past his ability to cope.

Forget the red carpet, the guy needed someone in his corner. Period. Someone who wasn’t elbows deep in galactic politics and off world every week.

“All right,” he breathed, staring at his ceiling. Then, bracing himself for the ache, he got to his feet and returned to the living room.

Rush was still sitting on the floor, but the nest of wires that’d surrounded him only minutes ago was nowhere to be seen. Cable ran the perimeter of the room. All his electronics looked ready to go.

“Hey,” Young said.

The word hung heavy in the air, and Rush raised his eyebrows. “Hey,” he replied, inflecting the word into something with two syllables that managed to convey the idea that he was doing Young a favor by using it.

Mindful of his back, Young eased himself onto the couch.

“So?” Rush demanded. “What’s going on then?”

“David’s missing,” Young said, “along with all of SG-3.” He stopped there, watching Rush.

Rush studied him, understanding from the lengthening silence that something was wrong. “Y’were on the phone for fifteen fuckin’ minutes; surely you have more detail.”

“Yeah, I do.” Young rubbed his jaw. “They were aboard a—” he bit back the word “tel’tak” just in time. “They were aboard a ship. That that ship was destroyed.”

“Ah.” Rush swept his hair away from his face and looked into the middle distance.

“There’s a chance he’s—that they’re all still alive,” Young offers.

Rush’s eyes met his. “In which case they’d most likely be prisoners of the Lucian Alliance, correct?”

“Yeah. Yes.”

“My impression was death would be preferable,” Rush said, dark and direct.

“No,” Young said.

“No?” Rush quirked an eyebrow.

“C’mon, Rush,” Young growled, trying to break the eerie vibe in the room. “No. Alive—there’s a chance to change things. Dead—well, that's it.”

“The final collapse of the wave function?”

“Yup.” Young said; a bracing word, a downward gaze. “Sure. Whatever you wanna call it. In the meantime, cheer up, hotshot. I found a way to get you some classed-up coffee. And your laptop.”

Rush quirked a conspiratorial eyebrow, like he was game for any and all manner of rule-breaking when coffee and computer power were on the line.

Young tried not to grin at the guy. “Don’t get too excited. Three fifths of SG-1 are gonna bring your stuff.”

“They cleared my laptop?” Rush asked.

“Yeah. They think they'll be done with your apartment tomorrow.”

Rush nodded. Wordlessly, he turned on Young’s TV. Satisfied it was in working order, he turned it off again. “Do y’think they're torturing him?”


Rush gave him a dangerously innocent look. “Do we have any other mutual acquaintances missing, presumed dead?”

“I don't know if they're torturing him,” Young said. “Maybe.”

“What do they do?” Rush asked.

Young looked away. “I don't know,” he lied.

“Yes y’do.You must.”

Young shrugged, 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. “Must be nice.”

Young locked eyes with him. “Rush,” he said, “please—just, leave it alone.”

The man looked in him over, taking in Young’s defeated posture, the way his hand pressed into his injured hip. The mathematician’s shoulders loosened. He dialed himself back.

“I don't wanna talk about it,” Young admitted, “and I don't want you to hear about it. You’re a math professor. There’s no reason for you to have this shit in your head.”

Rush’s expression turned complicated, edged with wist and rue. “Nihil novi sub sole.”

“Latin?” Young guessed.

“Ancient, actually.” Rush said set the TV remote on Young’s coffee table, where it lost itself in a sea of homeless items.

“What does it mean?”

“Open a book, colonel.” Rush pulled On War off the coffee table. “It won't kill ya.”

“You're handier than you look.” Young glanced at the TV. “Which is, in case you were wondering, not at all handy.”

“D’you make a point of insulting people who do you favors?”

“Just trying to hold my ground,” Young said.

“And I do appreciate that.” Rush looked up from the book in his hands, more than a trace of amusement in his expression.

Young’s answering amusement sparked into something with a little more momentum. This sensitie math professor came with a whetstone-honed edge that was tough to ignore. “You started it.”

“Did I?” Rush’s expression was full of faux confusion.

“I read.” Young reached over to pull the von Clauswitz out of the man’s grasp.

“Books with what kind of word-to-picture ratio?”

“Shut up, Rush.”

"A four year collection of Car and Driver doesn’t count as a book, even if it is chronologically organized.”

“How did you—”

“I’ve been unpacking for you.”

There’s nothing wrong with liking cars.” Young brandished On War at Rush. “And you know I read. You’ve been organizing my books.”

“Yes,” Rush said, swiping the military history out of his hand. “Speaking of, I’ve some questions.” He crossed to the bookshelf and slotted the book in with the rest of the military histories.

“Questions?” Young repeated

“Y’don't seem like the kind of person who’d own three different editions of Sense and Sensibility, for example.”

Young limped over to the bookshelf. “Shit.” He stared at the three copies in question.

“Revenge, y’think?” Rush came to stand next to him.

“No,” Young said, “an accident. It’s Emily's favorite.”

“Maybe you should read it.” Rush quirked an eyebrow. “Y’could use some sensibility.”

Young snorted and ran his eyes over the shelves. “A Girl’s Guide to Everything is probably revenge,” he said, trying to ignore the hollow feeling that the words left behind as he spoke them. “Her kind of humor.”

“Mmm,” Rush said, a neutral gloss over what looked like real sympathy. And, hell, maybe it was real sympathy. The guy was wearing a ring, but he seemed more alone than anyone Young had ever met. Maybe he was divorced. Maybe it had gone badly. Maybe—

“We’ll need t’do something about this.” Rush was staring at his books.

“Something about—” Young trailed off, hoping the guy would explain what the hell he was talking about.

“This.” Rush pointed at Young’s bookshelf. “Before Jackson arrives; of he’ll silently judge you.”

"Yeah, that's so much worse than being judged aloud. Repeatedly. With sarcasm.”

“At least y’know I’m not hiding anything.”

“You callin’ yourself straightforward, hotshot?”

Rush shot him a pointed look, then dragged an empty box next to Young's bookshelf and started pulling books off shelves that failed his pretentiousness litmus test.

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. “You’re a little too sharp for comfort.” Young growled.

“Right, but think about how I felt upon realizing you’ve a fondness for Franz fuckin’ Kafka of all people?” Rush paused in his sweep of the final shelf, hesitating over The Demon Haunted World. “This,” he said, pulling it out, “I suspect to be Emily’s. Nevertheless, I’m claiming it on your behalf. Read it.”

Young snorted. “How do you know I haven’t?”

“Y’fash yer books.” Satisfied with Young’s shelves, Rush got to his feet. “That one’s bloody pristine.”


“Get an education.” Rush filed his accent down.

“What’s Jackson gonna say when I ask him what ‘fash’ means.”

“You’ve an appetite for nearly-unparsable etymological discourse?” Rush hooked a hand over his shoulder and rubbed at the base of his neck. “Enjoy your hours-long linguistic purgatory.”

“Eh, I’ll pass. I assume you meant I beat the hell out of my books?”

“It's a terrible habit,” Rush replied. “But it's more like—” he circled his free hand. “Y'worry your books. You trouble your books. Y’torment them.”

“That's basically what I said.”

“‘Basically’. Right. Sure.” Rush’s eyes were closed, his head angled forward slightly, his right hand digging into his neck.

“Take a nap, hotshot.”

“When are they bringing the coffee?”

“Fourteen hundred. That's when the game starts.”

“What game?”

“Royals vs. White Sox.”

“That means fuck all to me,” Rush said.


Rush sighed, his eyes still closed. “They're staying?”

“No,” Young said, "I can tell them to go to a damn sports bar or something, if you'd prefer. It’s just—Jackson wants to talk to you and Mitchell thought the whole thing would hit as more low key if it happened over beer and a baseball game.”

Rush opened his eyes. “Low key?” he repeated, transitioning from half-asleep to poisonously collected in the span of a few heartbeats. “What an interesting choice of words. What does he want?”

“Uh.” Young was thrown by Rush's abrupt change in demeanor. “Not sure.”

“You're ‘not sure’,” Rush repeated. “Convenient.”

“I genuinely don’t know. What do you think he wants?”

Rush paced to the opposite side of the room before turning and backing against the far wall in a movement that was supposed to be casual, but, instead, looked besieged. He didn’t reply to Young’s question. His eyes flicked toward the door to the hall. 

The guy wanted out. Out of Young’s apartment, out of his situation, maybe out of the SGC. He wasn’t gonna get out though. Testing himself against the hard truth of his situation would only drive home how limited his options were.

Young forced himself to look down at the box close to his feet, now full of books destined for Emily. With a little too much pain to sell a casual effort, he leaned down, rearranged a few of them, then gave up and straightened, one hand on his back. 

“We got any more newspaper?” he asked.

“I think,” Rush replied, the words fighting through all kinds of effort, “there may be some in the other room.” He indicated the dining area with a tip of his head.

“You wanna grab it?” Young asked.

Rush pushed away from the wall and walked into the dining room.

Young dug his fingers into his lower back.

He should’ve said no to Cam’s baseball plan, and he would have, except—

Except for Jackson.

Jackson was the problem. Jackson had been locked in a conflict with Telford. With Telford missing or dead, Jackson would be unopposed. 

Rush walked back into the room with handfuls of newspaper, still wound  too tight for Young to do anything except take the stuff from him and start wedging it into loose spaces between between books.

“I can tell them to get lost, y’know,” Young offered. “When it comes right down to it, I don't give a damn about the Kansas City Royals.”

“Does anyone?” Rush dropped fluidly into a crouch and made some math professor adjustments Young’s book arrangement.

“Mitchell's from Kansas; they’re his home team.”


“Seriously, hotshot,” Young said, “I can tell them to drop off your fancy coffee and laptop and go.”

Rush sighed. “I don’t see much point in deferring the problem.”

“What is the problem? Do you know?”

Rush shook his head. “No. 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.

“I’m guessing he’s concerned by the logical progression,” Rush said. “If seven chevrons take you within the galaxy and eight chevrons take you without, then nine chevrons—”

“Nine chevrons what?”

“Transport one off this plane, off this brane, both, neither—who can say?”


Rush gave him a withering look. “Open a fuckin' book, yeah?”

“C’mon. This is serious. Focus up. Why would this scare Jackson?”

“Well,” Rush said, looking fixedly at Emily’s boxed books, “I’d imagine it's because he’s been off this plane. I don’t know that it was a uniformly positive experience for him?”

Young picked up a book, turned it over, and put it back in the exact same position.

“And David—David wants, or, perhaps wanted is the better term, t’be the one to go,” Rush said.

“So you're worried about what?” Young asked.

“That Daniel will stop me. That he'll kill the Icarus Project.”

“Would that be so bad?”

“Yes,” Rush whispered. “Yes.”

“You could go to Atlantis,” Young said. “That's what Jackson wants. Tons of math stuff to figure out there, probably.”

Rush gave him a wry half-smile. “I'm not going anywhere,” he said. “I think we both know as much.”

“Sheppard wants you, I hear. And McKay.”

“Now you’re just trying t’console me without any reference to reality,” Rush snapped. “Y'think I

ve any chance of being cleared for an offworld post? I've been officially employed for six weeks, I don't even work on the base, and already they've made me take the bloody V22 twice. So McKay and whatever fuckin’ colonel is out there may have the good taste to want me—”

“Sheppard,” Young said, cutting in with all the steel in his spine, “is the thinking man’s colonel. You’d like him.”

“It doesn't matter,” Rush hissed.

Young sighed. “For what it’s worth, I don't think Landry is gonna cut Icarus or pull you from it. In fact, my guess is the top brass will be all the more interested if they think it might lead to another plane of existence; especially considering the conflict with the Ori isn’t going all that well from what I hear.”

“No?” Rush quirked an eyebrow. “Y’can’t American them into submission?”

“Forget I told you that. You don't have the clearance to know.”

“I don't have the clearance to know fuckin’ anything,” Rush sighed. “And stop ruining my toplological solution to a borderline insolvable problem, will you?”


Rush indicated the box with both index fingers. “Stop. Repacking. This. It’s irritating.”

Young rolled his eyes.

Rush got to his feet, prowled over to the coffee table and collected a roll of packing tape. “Hold it down.” He pointed at the box.

“Take a nap,” Young growled, aligning the flaps of the box.

“Fuck off.” Rush taped up the box with precise, synchronized sweeps of his thumbs. “Y’want lunch?”

“Yeah,” Young sighed, “sure.”

Rush stood and offered Young his hand. Young took it, and the other man drew him to his feet, then turned and headed for the kitchen with more energy than he had any business displaying.

It was gonna be a long afternoon.

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