Mathématique: Chapter 9

Jackson sighed theatrically. “No one appreciates me.”




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


Text iteration: Dawn.


Additional notes: None.




Chapter 9



Rush was really fuckin’ exhausted and feeling really fuckin’ good about it.


His chin in his hand, Vala’s pink-trimmed laptop open beside him, he watched dust glimmer over air currents not even courteous enough to be laminar on the scale of decimeters. This was good. This was pure dead brilliant. He was thinking about quantum chromodynamics and infinite scalability of perturbable units. It was coming less like blood and more like water.


This was a very user-friendly state of mind, and he liked it.


“Rush, are you, like, doing something?”


He was irritating Colonel Young. He wondered if that counted as “doing something.” (In his book it did. Then again, his book was not exactly a universally applicable book.) Speaking of books, speaking of crystals, speaking of systems that stored and transmitted caches of information over millions and millions of years—there had to be a way for the gate network to detect and depress perturbations within the lattice of linked gates; otherwise, the entire network would devolve into a smear of unpredictability over time. 


How had the Ancients done it? Had they woven their way ‘round chaotic constraints? Maybe it was his own viewpoint that was warped, or, if not warped, then at least temporally biased. Was he doing the functional equivalent of studying atmospheric phenomena from the presence of dust mote? Short lived, ephemeral, changes in temperature and pressure somewhat predicable on its compressed timescale, but—


“Rush.”


He looked up. “What.”


“Hi.”


“Hi?”


“Yeah. Hi. What are you doing?”


“Thinking?”


“That a question?”


“No?”


He felt better than he had in days. In days. Thirty-six hours was usually the sweet spot, where exhaustion would make a real dent in the deflect-and-descend of his recalcitrant thoughts to the point he could actually relax and fuckin’ think. If mental utility were a function, what would its domain be? Its range? He liked Young. Quite a bit, actually.


“Hotshot, get up, walk into my bedroom and take a nap. Please. This is torture to watch.”


“Tell me to take a nap one more time and I’ll never make you another meal so long as ah fuckin’ live.”


“Nice accent.”


“Nice fuckin’—” Unbelievably, his brain failed to supply him with anything even remotely witty. (It was, at the moment, not above appreciating the aesthetics of a well-built USAF colonel in a T-shirt of good fit.)


Young raised his eyebrows.


“Shut up.” Rush shook his head to clear it.


“That means I win, you know.” Young leaned into the wall and crossed his arms, amused and frustrated. At present, amusement seemed to be carrying the day.


“Y’win what, exactly?”


“If you say ‘shut up,’ I win. Young: one; Rush: zero.”


“More like Young: one; Rush: twenty-five.”


Young lifted a half-shrug from Rush’s own repertoire of body language. “We’re starting now.”


Rush narrowed his eyes.


Someone pounded on the door.


“Go.” Young indicated his bedroom with the direction of his glance. “I’ll tell them you’re asleep. You’ll be asleep if you lie down for three seconds.”


“No dinner for you,” Rush decided.


“Rush,” Young growled.


“Y’had your chance,” he said with honeyed precision.


Young rolled his eyes.


Rush stood and headed for the door.


Young pushed away from the wall, closed a hand around Rush’s elbow and dragged him back. Instinctively, Rush wrenched away, half tripping over his chair in the process. Young hauled him out of his fall, but the man was none too steady and they nearly overbalanced in the opposite direction before Rush got his feet under him and stabilized them both.


“Shit,” Young said through gritted teeth. “You are jumpy.


“Yes,” Rush hissed, “it’s almost as though I live in constant fear of being abducted by a hostile galactic power?”


Young leaned in. “If that were true, you’d have enough common sense not to waltz over there and open the door.”


“Waltz?”


“It’s us,” Colonel Mitchell called through the closed door. “Not the bad guys. The good guys. Very good. Only guys. Today.”


“I’m sure that’s what they all say.” Rush glanced at the door.


“Shut up, Rush.”


“This won’t go well for you, I’m afraid. Rush: one; Young: one.”


“Damn it,” Young growled, and headed for the door.


Rush took a breath, stared at the wall, and re-evaluted his functionality. Thank fuckin’ god he wouldn’t have to explain to someone (probably Jackson) that he’d re-shattered Colonel Young’s back.


As Young approached the door he lost more and more of his limp. Rush frowned. What was that exactly—anticipatory machismo?


None of his business.


That’s what it was.


Young opened the door a few inches then flung it wide, staggering as Mitchell shoved a six-pack of beer at him. Rush stepped forward instinctively (an impractical impulse given he was five meters away). He swept a hand through his hair, leaned back against the table, and pretended that hadn’t just happened. No one had noticed. Except Jackson, who gave him a small smile from beyond Mitchell’s shoulder.


Fuckin’ Jackson.


“Aw crap.” Mitchell steadied Young in almost the same motion he’d unbalanced him. “I always forget about this injury bullshit. You okay?”


“Yeah,” Young replied though gritted teeth, far from “okay.”


“Rush.” Mitchell headed for the kitchen carrying an unseemly quantity of shite American beer. “Hey. You look—good. Better. Hi.”


“Better than what?” Rush narrowed his eyes.


“Better than unconscious,” Jackson said, following Mitchell. The physical resemblance between the two of them was uncanny. 


“Are the pair of you related?” Rush asked, pouring disdain into his tone. (No harm in starting off on the offensive.)


“Separated at birth.” Mitchell clapped Jackson on the shoulder, then headed through the kitchen door, presumably to refrigerate the beer.


With an apologetic expression, Jackson handed Rush a rectangular item hermetically sealed in layers of red plastic and tape.


“Is that my laptop?”


“They uh—gift wrapped it for you?”


“Unacceptable. What was done to it?”


“Not sure, but at least you got it back. It doesn’t always happen.” Jackson’s perpetual optimism was terribly grating. “And,” the man continued, “I brought you coffee.” He displayed what looked like a half pound of whole beans. (Jackson’s propensity to come bearing coffee was, admittedly, less grating.)


Rush sighed, hooked a hand over his shoulder, pressed his fingers into the muscles at the back of his neck and said, “Thank you. But I need a fuckin’ coffee grinder.”


“I also,” Jackson said, looking pleased with himself, “brought you a grinder. Not a ‘fucking’ grinder though. Just a regular one. Teal’c has it.”


Rush sighed theatrically. “One can’t have everything, I suppose.” His eyes tracked Young as he limped into the kitchen, abandoning Teal’c at the doorway with a shoulder-clap, which seemed to be the colonel-equivalent of “aloha.” Jackson noticed the trajectory of his gaze and half turned to follow it like the insufferable interpersonal savant he was. Rush took advantage of his momentary distraction to snatch the coffee out of his hand and inspect it.


“What do you think?” Jackson asked.


“I think it might be passable.” 


“Oh it’s more than ‘passable’.”


Jackson waved Teal’c towards them. “Teal’c, Nick. Nick, Teal’c.”


Teal’c nodded at him. 


“Hello,” Rush said.


“I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Dr. Rush,” Teal’c said.


“Likewise,” Rush replied.


“Let’s make this stuff. What do you say?” Jackson asked. “I haven’t had coffee since nine o’clock this morning. Did you really end up drinking instant? Mitchell said Young said you had to drink instant. I told him I didn’t believe you’d do any such thing because I never would and you’re about a thousand times more picky about your coffee than I am. Unless I’m stuck in the field, no way am I resorting to instant. It was developed in 1901 and it’s shown no improvement since that time. Zero. Especially relative to convenience foodstuffs when considered in the broader cultural context.”


Teal’c and Rush exchanged a look.


“What?” Jackson demanded.


Teal’c wordlessly inclined his head.


Rush shrugged.


Jackson sighed theatrically. “No one appreciates me.”


“I’d appreciate you making me coffee,” Rush offered. 


“As would I,” Teal’c added.


“Give me that,” Jackson said testily, snatching the coffee beans from Rush and making his way toward the kitchen. “Heathens. The pair of you.”


Rush sighed, studying the thick red plastic that completely sheathed his laptop. “The fuck is this?” he muttered.


“Plastic,” Teal’c replied helpfully.


Rush shot him a professorial knock-it-off look.


Teal’c raised an eyebrow, bent fractionally at the waist, and offered Rush an astonishingly normal-looking pocket-knife.


“Congratulations. You’re the first person I’ve met since my arrival in Colorado Springs who doesn’t have an absolutely ridiculous knife.”


“That,” Teal’c indicated the blade with his eyes, “is not my only knife.”


“Naturally.” Rush sliced open the plastic encasing his computer. 


“You are a mathematician?” Teal’c asked.


“More or less,” Rush said. “You’re a leader of the Jaffa Nation?”


“More or less,” Teal’c said, looking toward the window where the sun fell mercilessly through the slats in the blinds.


“Historically, I worked at the intersection of higher math and computation,” Rush admitted. He pulled his laptop out of its synthetic crimson corolla. “Lately, I’ve turned to applied cryptography.” He ran his fingers over the edges of his computer then turned it over and opened the battery casing.


“Jaffa High Council Member,” Teal’c said, “and bloodkin to all Jaffa.”


“An’ yet,” Rush said, too late out the gate to prevent the loss of the ‘d’ and the compensatory crack of a broken ‘t’ behind his teeth. “Here you are, about to watch a baseball game. Seems like you might have better things to do with your time?”


“I like baseball,” Teal’c replied.


The kitchen door slammed open. Rush jumped (and nearly dropped his laptop battery). Teal’c gave him a quizzical eyebrow (which Rush ignored).


“I’m just saying,” Mitchell winced as he examined the wall behind the door, “ugh, sorry, think I chipped your paint there. My point is: it’s weird to drink coffee and beer at the same time. It doesn’t make any sense.” He rubbed a finger over the small divet where the metal handle of the doorframe had dented the drywall, then sacrificed one of the three six-packs he was carrying to prop open the kitchen door.


“It makes perfect sense,” Jackson shot back, still out of sight within the kitchen, “if you have a caffeine dependency, which I do.”


“Yeah. I know. I don’t love it,” Mitchell replied. “Coffee addiction is a liability in the field, Jackson.”


“O’Neill attempted to break Daniel Jackson of his coffee habit many times,” Teal’c said, eyeing Mitchell. “He was never successful.”


“That’s because he gave up.” Mitchell peered into the kitchen. “Pour half a’that down the sink, Jackson!”


“Nooooooooo,” Jackson replied. “No, I will not be doing that.”


“Baby steps, Jackson. Baby steps.”


“Coffee’s included in the field rations.”


“And when you get captured by the Ori?”


“Caffeine withdrawal will be the least of my problems,” Jackson replied in an admonishing singsong. 


Mitchell sighed. “This isn’t over, Jackson, not by a long shot. Teal’c, have you seen the chips?”


“I have not.”


“Damn. Did we forget them?”


“I believe you may have forgotten them,” Teal’c replied.


“I have chips.” Young appeared in the kitchen doorway. “Vala was pretty thorough in the kitchen stocking.”


“That’s Vala for you,” Mitchell said.


“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jackson snapped from the kitchen.


“Uh, nothing?” Mitchell gave Rush and Teal’c a look that seemed to say what-the-hell-is-his-problem, “I’m just—” Whatever he would have come up with was cut off by the mechanical whir of the coffee grinder.


Rush managed to turn his flinch into a shoulder roll that he was fair certain deceived neither Teal’c (who seemed to have decided that he was extremely interesting), nor Young (who was still standing in the kitchen doorway). The pair of them gave him nearly identical looks of Restrained Masculine Concern.


Fuck them anyway (fuck all of them). No one could function optimally like this, ever-observed for the smallest deviation from the required drapery of amused self sufficiency: the tipped up chin, shoulders back and down, perfect diction without a falter in the rhythm of the thrust and fuckin’ parry of their witty repartee, breaking down at nothing, not even death or torture.


External.


Or internal.


Allo.


Or Auto.


He shook his hair back.


“Computer okay?” Young eyed the remains of the red plastic with a dubious eye.


“I haven’t turned it on yet,” Rush said, civil and crisp, his elocution nothing short of exemplary.


Teal’c headed toward the kitchen, in search of “chips.” Mitchell flipped the TV on with the mechanical hitch of engaging circuits.


Rush flinched. (Things weren’t trending in a favorable direction.)


Young joined him at the table. “Rush—”


“What.” The word was a snapped-off hiss.


“Tell me if you want them gone,” Young said. “Okay? It’s fine. It’s fine.”


“All right,” Rush murmured.


“I’m serious,” Young dropped hie voice, his gaze turning unforgivably earnest.


Rush looked away. “I said, ‘all right’.”


“Yeah, I know what you said; I just don’t believe you.”


“And that,” Rush snapped, “would be no one’s problem but your own.”


“You just seem kind of twitchy.”


“Would you mind terribly just shutting up?”


“Young two, Rush one.”


“Yes well.” (Fuck.)


“Hey Nick,” Jackson called from the kitchen, “wanna give me a hand in here for a minute?”


Rush stepped forward, but Young’s hand closed over his shoulder. If Young did not stop touching him


“I got it,” Young said gruffly. “You just—enjoy your reunion with your laptop.”


Rush sank into a chair, unable and unwilling to argue. He had no desire to crack through the patina of hypomanic good will that Jackson carried like a shield wherever he went. If Young was willing to take the brunt of it, if he could forestall whatever it was that Jackson was here to do, whatever he was here to say—so much the better.


Rush preferred David.


Rush preferred David with his infrequent smiles, his direct word choice, his lack of sympathy. He preferred his merciless drive, his struggle to transcend without lingering. He preferred the way, in San Francisco, he’d always faced into the wind that blew in from the bay, eyes locked on the horizon.

He hoped the man wasn’t dead. Hoped he wasn’t being tortured to the point of death or insanity.


Rush’s lifted the screen of his laptop and powered it up. Transferring his ZKP and the data he’d complied and analyzed would take some time.


He heard Jackson and Young speaking quietly in the kitchen, their words an atonal blur.


He configured an over-the-air file transfer between Vala’s laptop and his own because he didn’t feel up to the energetic investment that locating the appropriate cable would require. He tried to direct his thoughts into a productive avenue, such as modeling the quantum response to a weak attack on the interface between gate and crystalline array.


Teal’c edged out of the kitchen, chips in hand, and joined Mitchell on the couch.


“Rush,” Mitchell said. “C’mon.”


“No thank you,” he replied.


“Aw, come on,” Mitchell repeated.


Rush turned in his chair to look at Mitchell. “I’d rather die,” he clarified politely.


“Uh, okay then.”


Jackson emerged from the kitchen, coffee in hand. “Don’t be a jerk to Mitchell.” He set a cup of coffee in front of Rush. “He can’t take it like I can.” The man dropped into an adjacent chair, earning himself a glower from Young.


“Can you take it?” Rush asked. “I’ve never been sure.”


“They tried to hound me out of academia and I refused to go.” Jackson sipped his coffee. “My own thesis advisor tried to have me committed.”


Rush sighed.


“I can take it,” Jackson said darkly.


“Yes yes,” Rush replied. “Don’t you have some kind of sporting event to analyze fifteen feet that way?” He pointed in the direction of the couch without looking.


“Yep,” Young growled, “c’mon Jackson. Let the man work.”


“What are you working on?” Jackson asked, oblivious or indifferent to the vector of Young’s borderline inappropriate hostility.


“Cypher five,” Rush replied.


“You didn’t sleep, did you?” Jackson propped his chin one hand.


“Did you?” Rush shot back.


“No,” Jackson replied, like he didn’t see the relationship between the paired questions.


“I don’t see what you’re complaining about then.” Rush took a sip of the coffee. (And fuck him but it was truly exceptional; a dark roast with notes of earth and smoke and bakers chocolate.)


“My house is made of glass,” Jackson said, “this is true.”


Young joined them at the table, dropping into the seat across from Jackson. His beer clicked quietly against the tabletop.


Jackson eyed Young, eyebrows up. The man was probably accustomed to more subtle attempts at interference. (And Young was about as subtle as a ballistic projectile.)


Young frowned at Jackson.


Jackson smiled at Young, small and warm.


Young looked confused.


Rush sympathized. Jackson was too bloody complicated for anyone to suss out.


But Young was no open book either. He seemed to be taking an interest in his neighbor more out of boredom than anything, but that didn’t explain why the man would go out of his way to block Jackson’s latest attempt to convince or coerce Rush into going to Atlantis as one prong of a multipronged attack that would eviscerate the Icarus Project.


If that was what Jackson was here for.


If.


Rush ran his thumbnail around the rim of his coffee cup and glanced up, meeting Jackson’s eyes.  They were intent. Questioning. The man held his gaze for longer than was socially appropriate before he spoke. “I found something of yours.” The words were casual. Jackson dropped his eyes and took a sip of his coffee.


“Oh yes?” Rush asked.


Beside him, Young shifted. Rush felt the full force of the man’s lateral scrutiny.


Jackson reached into an inner pocket of his jacket and pulled out a pair of glasses. He set them on the table with a quiet click and then slid them toward Rush.


Beside him, Young shifted, some of the tension going out of his frame.


“Do you remember,” Jackson asked, from the apex of casual indifference, “where you left them?”


Rush stared at the square black frames. He’d left them with David. In David’s office, on the corner of a too wide, too organized desk, following a meeting that’d occurred post-cracking of the third cypher. David’s office wasn’t a place Jackson was in the habit of frequenting.


“Of course,” he said smoothly. “When did you find them?”


“About eight hours ago,” Jackson said. “I was looking for something else.”


Rush hung onto his neutral facial expression with difficulty. He felt a muscle in his cheek twitch subtly. Once. Twice. “I see,” he said. “Did you find what you were looking for?”


“No,” Jackson said.


Rush delicately unfolded his glasses. “Your loss is my gain, it seems.”


“I wouldn’t look at it that way,” Jackson said.


Again, their gazes met. 


Young cleared his throat. “If you two are sleeping together, just put it out there. I really don’t care.”


Jackson choked on his coffee.


Rush shook his hair out of his eyes, with as much hauteur as he could manage in the face of Jackson’s frantic coughing. He slipped his glasses on and looked at Young over the tops of the frames before pushing them into position.


Young gave him a hint of a smile.


Rush smirked back at him.


“We’re just friends,” Jackson said, when his coughing subsided.


“We’re not friends,” Rush said coolly.


“No, we’re definitely friends. But friends,” Jackson said.


“Whatever,” Young said with a half shrug.


“So—I’m gonna go watch sports?” Jackson said. “And, for your information, that is a sentence I never thought I’d willingly construct.” He pushed back from the table, gathered his coffee with a dignified disdain that Rush couldn’t help but admire, and wandered into the living room.


Rush and Young looked at one another.


“Where’d you leave your glasses?” Young asked, too quietly to be heard by anyone else.


“Jackson’s fuckin’ nightstand,” Rush replied, his tone as smooth as he could make it.


Young gave him a long, inscrutable look. “You guys were laying on the subtext pretty damn thick. What’d he really tell you?”


Rush paused, considering. It had been more informational topography than anything else. Jackson knew Rush’d met with Telford (something he no doubt disapproved of) but, more startlingly, the man had revealed he’d been in Telford’s office immediately after his disappearance. Seemed a dangerous fact to drop.


Jackson wanted Rush to know how deep their feud ran.


Young was still looking at him. 


“He understands my preferences, regarding Icarus.” Rush kept his voice low enough that Young had to lean in. “And he indicated just how far he’s willing to go in opposing those preferences.”


“Did he threaten you?” Young asked.


“No,” Rush said, feeling the knit of his brow as he realized what Jackson had just done. “The opposite. He’s threatening himself.”


“How?” Young asked.


Rush remained quiet.


“Where’d you really leave your glasses?” Young asked. “Where was Jackson eight hours ago?”


“Congratulations. You’ve identified the relevant question,” Rush replied neutrally.


Young looked at him, eyebrows up.


“Everett,” Mitchell called from the couch. “You coming, or what?”


“Yeah,” Young said. “I’m coming.”







Two hours later, Rush was—


(Still tired.) A bit stuck on coding for crystal. 


He flinched at a unanimous eruption of disapproval from the other room at whatever was had just happened onscreen.


“What the heck. He’s gonna tank his average,” Mitchell said.


“Too right,” Young agreed.


If he’d ever worked in an environment less conducive to concentration, he couldn’t remember it. 


For hours now, he’d been working Carter’s coupling code: the iris/gate interface from which he’d crib part of what would become the foundation of the invitation-to-interrogate within his ZKP. He scanned through her code (not elegant, not short, but raw and comprehensive and powerful). It built a framework and patched the problems that fell out of her detailed architecture.


She was thorough. She built solidly and adjusted fluidly, inventively. When her solutions created problems, she built subsequent rounds of solving into the source code. She wasn’t a programmer by training. Her code was a means to an end, not beautiful for its own sake.


Already, he liked her.


He’d heard she rode a motorcycle.


He wondered if that was true.


Jackson’s phone rang. “Hello?”


Rush peeled his hands away from his temples. It was just so fuckin’ bright. Did it never rain in Colorado?


“Oh hey.”


It was possible that he was taking his current experiments in sleep deprivation a bit far. 


“Yeah, not bad, I—” Jackson broke off.


Especially considering the Kitchen Incident the previous day. Night. (Hours ago.)


“Whyyy?” Jackson drew the word out in obvious suspicion. His eyes narrowed. He stood, heading for Rush. “The man has a name, y’know.”


Rush raised his eyebrows.


Jackson rolled his eyes. “Well I don’t know if he wants to talk to you.”


Must be Vala.


“Vala,” Jackson mouthed.


Rush held out his hand, and Jackson passed him the phone. “Hello?”


“Hello gorgeous,” she said, her voice somehow more immediate than he’d been expecting. “Have a minute?”


“I suppose.”


Jackson was standing over him, staring at him.


“Would you mind going somewhere Daniel can’t hear you?” she asked, as though she could see the bloody room from wherever she was.


“All right.” He ignored Jackson’s blazingly curious look and headed down the short hallway, away from the explosion of masculinity in the living room and toward the second bedroom in Young’s corner apartment. The room had begun to take shape as a study of sorts. He shut the door behind him and leaned back against it.


“Go ahead,” he said.


“I don’t want anyone to know about this,” she whispered.


He slid down down to the floor, already too tired for whatever was happening. “Phoning me via Jackson isn’t what I’d call an auspicious beginning.”


“I’m in a bookstore,” she said.


“Ah yes.” He shut his eyes. “Extremely embarrassing.”


“I want to buy a book on mathematics, but there are several choices,” she continued, gamely ignoring his sarcasm. “I’m a bit out of my depth here, gorgeous.”


He gave the opposite wall a perplexed look. “It’s not clear t’me why this needs to be a secret?”


“I’d imagine there’s some kind of mathematics proficiency required to be a fully fledged member of a gate team, don’t you think?”


“That would make sense; I therefore doubt it’s true.” He laid down on the floor, crossed his feet at the ankles, and stared at the ceiling.


“I can’t afford to find out,” Vala said. “I’m remedying my own deficiencies as best I can, but I don’t want to call attention to what I suspect is would be a significant setback in my ability to join a gate team. I—”


“Yes yes,” he said, letting some of his sympathy leak into his tone. “All right.”


“Advise away, gorgeous.”


“How much formal mathematical instruction have y’had?”


“None.”


“None?”


“None.”


He winced at the ceiling. “Addition?” he hazarded, “subtraction—”


“Picked those up,” she said. “Multiplication and division. I’m financially savvy, you know?”


“I can imagine,” he replied.


“Thank you, gorgeous. I’ve also had some borrowed experience with spatial configurations and ways of describing uniform motion.”


Borrowed experience?” 


“Don’t think you have the security clearance for that.”


He sighed. “In the absence of any knowledge about possible mathematics proficiency required for gate travel—what are you looking to accomplish?”


“All of it,” she replied.


“All of what?”


“All of math.”


He smiled faintly. “Best to learn our conventions then. Start with algebra.”


“I don’t get to go to bookstores very often,” she whispered. “I still have to be accompanied off the base. 


“Algebra,” he said, “then geometry.”


“Then what?”


“Trigonometry. Don’t y’think Colonel Carter will notice if y’show up with something like thirty pounds worth of textbooks?”


“For your information, I have a stylishly large shoulder bag.”


“Fantastic,” he said.


“You sound tired, gorgeous,” Vala said.


“Incorrect.” He could feel his muscles relaxing into the sun-warmed wood of the floor. “For what it’s worth, I doubt think they’d give you a hard time about the textbooks. Or your supposed mathematical deficiencies. They’re so fuckin’ wholesome, y’know?”


“SG-1? I know,” she sighed. “That’s the problem.”


“Aye,” he said, “I suppose it is.”


“Can I have your phone number?” Vala asked.


“Why?”


“I like having contacts.”


He rattled off his number. 


“Right then, gorgeous,” she said. “I’ve got to buy these and conceal them before Colonel Carter finds me. Do me a favor and imply to Daniel that I was flirting with you mercilessly this entire time.”


He quirked an eyebrow at the ceiling. “Weren’t you?”


“That’s the spirit,” she said.


He ended the call and shut his eyes.


(He was going to get up; he had math of his own to do.)


He rolled over, propped himself on his elbows, and—


Not twelve inches away was a small square of paper that’d been slipped under the door.


With a thrill of dread, he pulled it toward him in one long sweep. 


Next time you’re at the SGC, pull your own medical file. Read the entire thing.


It was Jackson’s handwriting.


He closed his hand around the note, crumpled it into a fist, and buried his head in his arms.

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