TJ knew something was coming, but even she was surprised when it landed.
Rush and Young were having yet another argument. Rush insisted on pursuing his examination of the chair; Young refused to let anyone near it. Rush got colder, more sardonic and disdainful; Young yelled. Everyone else waited with horrified, baited breath for the final explosion.
What they got was Rush raising his hands in the air and saying with surprising calm, "Okay, Colonel, you don't want me to do my job? Fine, I quit."
Young's tirade continued for a second and then trailed off into silence. He looked at Rush as though he hadn't understood what the scientist had just said. Maybe he hadn't heard it, too busy yelling, but something had penetrated.
Rush dropped his head forward and gave one of his characteristic dry chuckles. He turned to Camille Wray. "Tell Dr. Jackson I'll be happy to devote myself full-time to that collaborative project he was interested in pursuing. I've been tinkering with it a wee bit already."
He walked towards the door, nodding at the Colonel as he passed him. "I'm sure you'll handle my job just fine, Colonel." The soft politeness of his voice did nothing to alleviate the dagger-thrust of his words.
Young opened his mouth to fire back, but got stopped abruptly when a Kino dropped from the ceiling and struck him on the top of his head.
"What the fuck?" he yelped, rubbing at the crown of his head and glaring up at the little dented ball that buzzed in a rapid circle around Rush's head and then darted up into the far corner. "ELI!"
Eli simply looked confused. Rush stared up at it for a moment, his expression turning into one of combined amusement, puzzlement, and a flash of interest.
"Hmmm," he mused.
"Rush …" Colonel Young began.
The scientist threw him a look of utter disgust, turning on his heel, and stalking with precise steps out of the mess hall leaving stunned silence—and utter pandemonium—behind him.
She didn't care who saw her follow him.
She caught up with him in his quarters. Not bothering to knock, she just opened the door and went in. He was sprawled on his bed, glasses perched on the tip of his nose, already scribbling away in his little notebook. He didn't seem in the least bit surprised to see her.
"Have a seat, Lieutenant," he said, gesturing to the chair beside the bed.
"Dr. Rush," she said, even as she sat, leaning forward to brush his arm with her fingers. "You can't do this. We need you. I know you're frustrated …"
He shocked her into silence by capturing her hand with his and threading his fingers through hers.
"Don't worry," he told her. "I have no more intention of ending up dead than you do."
He tilted his head to the side, indicating the floating console Eli had created for him when he'd been sick with wound sepsis.
Her eyes widened. "Then you're not…"
He shook his head and shrugged. "I can keep an eye on things from here if necessary."
A sudden, real smile from him startled her again; his entire face lit up when he smiled. She wished he wouldn't stop.
But he was speaking, with wry amusement. "You're the one who's been telling me that I need to take a break. I haven't had a holiday in three years."
Three years? The annoying thing was that she believed it. Typical of him. She glared at him, mostly out of habit. He shrugged.
She couldn't help herself and laughed.
"Okay, Doctor, one long overdue vacation it is. If I'd known this is what it took to get you take one, I might have encouraged the Colonel to yell at you a bit more."
He winced. "I'd rather skip that, if you don't mind. It's getting irritating."
"So take a real vacation." She pointed at his other hand, the one holding the notebook, the one not holding hers.
"What, this?" he asked. "No, this little project of Dr. Jackson's is hardly work. It's like … well, like doing a crossword puzzle. In fact, I've been playing with it for years, as a kind of mental relaxation." He shrugged.
Mental relaxation? Trying to create some kind of mathematical universal language was a simple game to him? The scope of his mind staggered her yet again; but fascinated her. He always fascinated her.
"Okay, if that's what you like to do on vacation, have at it. Just …" she paused, trying to find the words, failed, and ended up squeezing his fingers and gazing into those fathomless eyes of his.
"If you need me, you know where to find me," he told her softly, squeezing her fingers back before letting go.
She felt bereft when his hand left hers but she simply nodded her thanks and stood up.
"Do try to get some rest," she told him.
"Yes, ma'am," he replied dryly.
She shook her head and left.
Eli found Rush sitting on the observation deck. He'd moved a chair and small table up close to the edge and was sitting back, his feet propped up on the top of the railing. A glass of water and a half-empty bowl of gloop were sitting on the table. He had his iPod plugged in and was scribbling away in his notebook even though his eyes were staring out at the flashing lights beyond.
"Hey," Eli said, trying to get Rush's attention.
Eli was worried sick. Things were falling to pieces and he felt he had to do something. No one else seemed willing to talk to Rush, except TJ, and she'd simply shrugged and said the man deserved some time off and to leave him alone. Eli couldn't do that.
Rush, however, ignored him. Maybe he couldn't hear him over the music.
Eli tentatively touched him on the shoulder.
Rush jerked away, looked around and simply glared. Eli swallowed hard under the weight of that intense annoyance, but he persisted.
"Dr. Rush," he began.
"Go away, I'm busy," Rush replied, pointedly turning his eyes down towards his notebook.
"We need to talk about this," Eli insisted, leaning against the railing by Rush's feet, facing him.
Rush pushed his glasses up his nose and shut off his iPod, removing the headphones from his ears.
"Talk about what?" he asked.
"You can't quit," Eli told him. "I mean you're here, we're all here, and it's not like you can go anywhere else. Everyone's gone nuts. The Colonel's furious, Ms. Wray is practically hysterical, and most of the scientists are on strike. Volker, Brody and Park say they won't work without you and that the Colonel has no right to tell them what to do. Everyone's freaked out."
"And how exactly is that different than usual?" Rush asked with a lazy, heavily-accented tone in his voice. "Anyway, it's no' my problem. I'm on holiday."
"Holiday?" Eli squeaked.
"I haven't had one in three years. I believe I'm due the time off," Rush replied. He then attempted, pointedly, to ignore Eli again.
"But you can't! You've got to do something!" Eli exclaimed. He then pointed at Rush's notebook. "Besides, you're obviously still working!"
Rush shook his head. "Dr. Jackson asked me to collaborate on a new project based on one of my doctoral theses. He's taking an interesting approach. Ought to keep me busy for a while."
"Your doctoral thesis? Wait, one of your doctoral theses?' Eli echoed, his eyes widening. "How many did you write?"
Rush shifted his fingers, counting. "Physics, Philosophy, Mathematics, Linguistics. Four," he said calmly.
Eli looked boggled, his jaw dropping open before he sputtered, "Four."
"Aye," Rush replied, absently, his pencil darting over the notebook page.
"Philosophy?" Eli repeated.
"Do you have to repeat everything I say?" Rush asked him with obvious irritation.
"But … four doctorates!" Eli exclaimed.
Rush sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose above the glasses that had slipped down again.
"The SGC didn't hire me to run the Icarus Project because I'm stupid, Eli," he responded with obvious exasperation.
"No, no, no, I know you're not stupid but that's incredible," Eli said, waving his hands in the air and accidentally striking Rush on the leg.
Rush flinched and slid his feet further away along the railing.
"Rather irrelevant, I'd think," Rush said dismissively. "The Colonel obviously thinks he can do my job better than I can, regardless of qualifications, so …" he shook his head, pushed his glasses back up, and attempted again to return to his work.
"No, the Colonel's just trying to do his job," Eli argued. "He's in charge, after all."
Rush shook his head, causing long strands of hair to fall down around his eyes and over his glasses. He shoved them back automatically, barely noticing he did it.
"Icarus is a scientific project and it is my job to direct it. Ms. Wray and Colonel Young were supposed to supply administrative and security support to my scientific team, not the other way around."
"But …" Eli spluttered, "How can you say that? The Colonel…"
"Is not really a bad man, just in way over his head," Rush finished for him. He rubbed at the back of his neck and refocused his eyes down on his notes.
"But you can't just say things like that and…" Eli protested.
"Go and annoy someone else, Eli," Rush said. "I'm on holiday."
Eli stammered again.
Rush fixed him with a stare. "Go away." That tone was calm, quiet—and utterly deadly.
Eli scurried away like he'd just been struck.
He didn't notice Greer watching and listening in the far corner.
- - -
TJ didn't like the expression on Greer's face as he hurried into the infirmary. That frown looked like it had etched a couple of additional years into the sergeant's face.
He motioned her over into a private corner and she tossed glances around as she followed him, making certain they weren't being watched by one of the ever-present kinos.
"He's got four doctorates?" Greer asked her, the apparent non sequitur startling her. Yet, she knew immediately whom he was asking about.
She nodded. "Something like that."
Greer cursed richly under his breath.
"The Colonel really is out of his depth isn't he?" he asked in a low, raw whisper.
"We're all out of our depth," she whispered back.
"Except the Doc," Greer replied with certainty.
She shook her head. "No, he's struggling, too. He just figures it out faster than anyone else."
Greer looked even more upset after that and she felt sorry for him. He needed someone to believe in, someone to follow. It had been Young, probably would still be, but he was drawn to Rush. Not as deeply as she was but, yes, drawn by that fiery, unrelenting intelligence and bound by a loyalty to a man who'd nearly died to save his life.
They were all caught between the two men, herself included. Oh, especially herself.
"What are you going to do?" Greer had to ask. Damn him, she thought uncharitably. Why did it have to be her that had to do something?
"We wait," she hissed, again glancing around worriedly, hating herself for doing that. She hated this pretending, the constant paranoia, the sense of always being watched.
She wanted—damn her heart—what she wanted, she couldn't hope to have, and that left … an angry emptiness.
How much Greer read in her face, her voice, she didn't know. He was miserable and she wished she had the words to comfort him. But she had nothing to comfort even herself.
- - -
Brody was sullenly defiant. Volker and Park were clearly intoxicated. Eli hovered in the background, unable to remain still. He was constantly poking at things, shifting from one foot to the other. TJ wanted to scream at him to stand still, but just barely managed to restrain herself.
Young was yelling into the radio at Riley who was fading in and out, the radio crackling, squealing painfully. A screech made them all cringe, then there was the sound of an explosion, screaming, and the abrupt jolt of Destiny's engines as they fell out of FTL speed into normal space.
TJ glanced up at the clock. It wasn't running. This wasn't a scheduled stop.
Riley's voice finally hissed through the static in spurts. "We're stuck … wasn't weapon … tried … blew up … think … problem … shields …"
"Say again," Young commanded. "Riley!"
"Can't … door closed … down … losing …"
Scott came racing into the room, pale and scared, followed by Greer.
Young turned to him, frustration on his face. "Report!"
"Riley and three of the marines, sir, they were investigating what they thought were the internal defense systems, only it wasn't. Something blew. They got out in time, but the section closed and Riley thinks it might have been a shield generator. The area is losing heat fast and Destiny's stopped."
"Is anyone hurt?" TJ demanded.
He shook his head. "Nothing major. A few bruises. Riley saw it was going to explode and got them out in time. The lack of air—it blew through the hull—stopped any fire. It's open to space and if the shielding is down …"
"We're fucked," sang Volker, utterly off-tune. "Dead, dead, dead. D-E …"
"Shut up," Young snapped at him.
Volker ignored him, putting an arm around Park's shoulders. "Wanna fuck?" he asked drunkenly. "Cause we're gonna be dead. They broke the shields."
Park leaned into him for a moment, opened her mouth to say something, and passed out. Greer caught her and swung her up into his arms. He looked to TJ who nodded and jerked her head towards the corridor outside the control room.
"Take her to the infirmary, she can sleep it off there."
"We're in a crisis and you two are drunk!" Young barked at Volker, who ignored him, taking another swig from the cup in his hand.
Brody snarled right back. "You're the one who had your dumb marines poking around in systems they don't understand. None of them even read Ancient. They blew up a shield generator trying to activate a weapons system that doesn't even exist, which you might have known if you'd bothered to consult Dr. Rush. Oh, but I forgot, he quit because you wouldn't let him do his damn job."
"That's enough!" Young hissed, absolutely furious. He looked like he was about to shoot Brody.
TJ shifted, preparing to intervene if necessary, but Volker interrupted first.
"He'sh right, you know. Shhtupid shholdiershh. Just blow ushh all up. Boom!" The sandy-haired astrophysicist staggered, waving his hands wildly in the air, dropping the now empty cup, but somehow remaining on his feet. "Now we're all gonna die."
"Get him out of here," Young ordered Scott, glaring icily at Volker who was starting to sing again, badly.
Scott moved to obey, taking hold of Volker, who struggled to get away but failed. TJ motioned at Scott to take Volker out. He gave her a look full of worry, an unusual darkness in his eyes, but he managed to get Volker out of the room.
Young turned back to Brody, gesturing to include Eli who was basically huddling in a corner at this point.
"You two do something useful. Can it be repaired?"
Brody shook his head. "It blew up, so I doubt it. And the section is open to space, so we'll need spacesuits, even if we can get the door to open and Destiny has shut it down for protection."
Young pointed at Eli. "Get it open."
"If we open it, won't we risk venting all our air into space?" TJ asked.
Young looked startled that she was even there. She just stared at him, waiting for an answer.
He became suddenly uncomfortable, but glared at Eli, who nodded. "I don't think we can safely go in there, even if I could get the door to open."
"So what do you suggest?" Young asked.
Eli looked absolutely miserable. "Maybe if we could access the other shield generators, we could spread some coverage to that area until we find a safe way to get in and do repairs. That's assuming we figure out how to repair a shield generator or have the parts to do it, but it might buy us time …"
"Do it!" Young ordered, briskly.
Eli looked at Brody and Brody looked at Eli.
"What now?" Young demanded, frustrated.
"Well, we haven't been able to access the shields yet," Eli replied. He paused, looking guilty and pained. "Rush was working on it."
"Well, can't you figure it out?" Young appealed. "Come on, you're supposed to be a genius. Brody you're an engineer."
Brody shook his head. "I'm an engineer, not a miracle worker. These are Ancient systems, way beyond anything we understand. Besides, Rush was the one working on solving the access codes and his work … well, no one is going to be able to understand it except him."
"Why the hell not?" Young argued, pointing to Eli. "You've figured other things out."
"When I had time!" Eli protested. "And I barely read Ancient. I can figure out the math, the numbers, but this involves language, physics, and mechanics that I've never learned. We need Rush. He's the one with four doctorates."
Brody laughed and stepped up to the console, manipulating the buttons, and pointing to the text and symbols scrolling on the big holographic screen.
"He doesn't do all of his work in English anyway. Some of this is in Ancient and some of it's in Gaelic."
"In what?" Young exclaimed. Eli went over to look, his eyes widened.
"Gaelic," Brody repeated. "I can recognize a word here or there, my grandma was Irish, but it's only spoken in some parts of Ireland and Scotland."
"Rush is fluent in it," TJ interrupted, not quite realizing she'd spoken aloud. They all turned to stare at her and she silently swore at herself.
"I heard him while he was sick," she hurried to explain. "So I asked. He speaks Weegie and Gàidhlig." They continued to stare at her. "Uh, 'Weegie' as in Glaswegian; he's from Glasgow."
"Can't we find someone else to translate it?" Young asked with obvious irritation.
Brody laughed at him. "Not likely. Dr. Jackson at the SGC probably could but otherwise … it's not exactly a widely spoken language."
"Even if we could read it, I don't think we could do anything in time. It's too complex," Eli pointed out. "Even the math, which I do understand, sorta, is really out there."
"Fuck," Young swore, ungracefully giving in to the inevitable. "Get him up here."
He stared at TJ who was grateful for all the experience she'd had recently at keeping her face completely bland.
"He won't take orders from you," Greer said from the doorway, having returned quickly from the infirmary.
"I doubt he wants to die," Young said angrily.
"He's pretty pissed off," Eli said haltingly. "Maybe, uhh, maybe you should apologize, just a bit."
Young shot him an icy glare and Eli shrank back, but still managed to persist. "It's better than dying. We need him. No one's got his knowledge or experience. He's got FOUR doctorates!"
"I don't care if he's got a dozen fucking degrees," Young told him. "I'm still not apologizing to the asshole."
Greer said, "Why not just ask him if he's willing to keep us all alive."
"Including himself," TJ pointed out.
All four of them, Brody, Eli, TJ, and Greer stared at Young. He swiveled around between them, swore coarsely under his breath. He looked at Greer.
"You tell him Sergeant," he ordered. Eli started to protest while Brody snorted in disgust. Young ignored him, staring at Greer, who finally, slowly, nodded.
"Lieutenant, perhaps if you came with me," he suggested.
TJ nodded and followed him out.
- - -
They ran into Rush in the corridor outside his quarters.
"Looking for me?" he asked, rapidly assessing their appearance and expressions.
"We need you, Doc," Greer said simply.
Rush looked to TJ and she nodded.
He sighed, rubbing at the back of his neck.
"So soon," he said, not a question, rather a statement of undeniable fact. "What did the morons do this time?"
"They blew up a shield generator thinking it was part of some kind of internal defense system," Greer said.
Rush took a deep breath. TJ could practically see his mind racing behind his eyes as he looked inwards, thinking, assessing, judging.
"We're losing heat and power, right?" Another statement.
"Something like that, I think," she said, not really understanding it but figuring he certainly did.
"Who's working on it now?" he asked.
"Riley's down there, since he was the one messing with the thing. Brody and Eli are in the control room," Greer replied.
"Where's Volker?" Rush asked.
"Passed out in the infirmary just like Dr. Park." That reply came from Scott who joined them. "Drunk as a skunk."
Rush chuckled. "Who'd have thought he had it in him," he said with amusement.
"Doc, we're in deep shit," Greer interrupted.
"Aye," Rush agreed. "All right, let's take a look."
Colonel Young mercifully remained silent as Rush strode in followed by TJ, Scott, and Greer.
"What've you got, Brody?" Rush asked, utterly focused now, completely ignoring Young as he joined the engineer at the control console.
"Shields are down in a 500 square foot area and the explosion blew the hull open to space. We're at full stop and Destiny's sealed the area off, but we're leaking heat and power. At this rate, we'll go cold in …"
"About fifteen hours," Eli piped in. "Fifteen hours, 27 minutes …"
"Eli, make yourself useful; I'm sending you some data. See what you can do with it," Rush interrupted, typing rapidly on the console. "Brody, get down there and see if you can seal off all of the surrounding areas. Maybe that will decrease the heat loss."
Brody nodded and hurried off, deliberately ignoring Young.
"Go with him, Scott," Young ordered brusquely.
Scott obeyed without a word, hurrying to catch up with Brody.
Rush worked at the console silently, his mouth pursed in concentration, glasses perched on the tip of his nose, hair shrouding his eyes, while his fingers never paused on the buttons. Numbers, symbols, and words in three languages flickered across the screens.
TJ felt Greer's hand settle on her arm, quiet support, hidden concern, as her eyes moved from the absorbed Rush to the rigid Colonel.
After a long, tense silence, Young spoke up. "Well?" he challenged.
"Well what?" Rush responded abstractedly.
"Solved the problem yet?" Young asked bitterly.
Rush paused and looked up as though surprised to see him there. He shook his head and then returned to work in obvious dismissal.
"Don't even know if the problem can be solved yet," he said, the lights from the screen glinting on the lenses of his glasses. "First, I've got to get access to the shield controls. After that …"
"We ought to be able to spread power from the other generators to patch the hole," Eli finished for him.
"If there's enough power left at that time," Rush added. "We'll see. In the meantime, you can stand there all you like, but it's going to be hours. Surely you have something more useful to do."
The Colonel looked like he was about to blow, so TJ stepped in quickly, reaching out to him.
"We'd better go down and check on Riley and the others. I'd like to make sure no one's really hurt and maybe we can organize a faster way to seal off the affected areas … Sir," she said.
"That's a good idea, ma'am," Greer responded. "Sir?"
Colonel Young blinked at both of them, seemed to recover his balance, and nodded.
TJ and Greer shared a covert look of relief as he followed them out of the room.
It did indeed take hours. Once TJ had dealt with a few bruises and lacerations and a pair of extremely hungover scientists, she made sure that Becker delivered food and water both to the control room and the teams trying to seal off that portion of the ship.
She resisted the temptation to check in on Rush. If it could be done, he'd do it, with a minimum of fuss or wasted effort. If it couldn't be done, well, there wasn't anything she could do about that either.
She simply sat in the infirmary and hoped.
Greer brought her the good news and her knees nearly gave out on her.
"You should get some sleep," he told her.
She nodded. Her first instinct was to run to Rush and … What? Stupid. Stupid. But she'd just nearly died again and she was frankly getting sick and tired of pretending her emotions, her needs, didn't exist. Not now, she told herself. Not now.
It didn't help that the man in question walked in a second later, looking drawn, pale —exhausted—but faintly satisfied.
Rush nodded at them. "Thought you'd like to know we solved it. For the time being, at least. The shields should hold long enough for Destiny to recharge. We'll have to figure out how to replace or repair the shield generator, but that can wait a wee while."
She couldn't keep herself from reaching out to touch his arm. He didn't flinch away from her anymore, though he did with everyone else. That made her smile.
"Thank you," was all she said.
He looked slightly uncomfortable, as usual, but didn't demur. The shrug was actually an improvement on his usual reaction to being thanked.
"It had to be done," he said.
That was always the bottom line with him—you did what had to be done when it had to be done and you didn't fuss about how you did it, as long as it got accomplished. As irritated as she could get with him, there were times she really appreciated that. Like right now.
"Have you eaten?" she asked, focusing on the practicalities. That worked with him; she'd become accustomed to it.
"Becker brought us something a while ago," he replied. "Eli ate most of it; I still get nauseous at the smell of those purple potatoes."
"I'm not too fond of them either," Greer said, grinning. TJ smiled too. It was a relief to talk about simple things.
Rush just grimaced and ran a hand through his shaggy hair.
"You should get some sleep," she told him.
"Aye," he said, blinking, before offering a wry smile. "So much for my holiday."
"Sleep in," she said. "You've earned it."
"You're the doctor," he replied. He nodded at her, at Greer then left the room. Her eyes followed his every step.
When she turned back to Greer, he was looking at her thoughtfully. Her stomach sank.
Before she could say anything, he said, "I won't say anything." His eyes flickered towards the now empty doorway. "I can understand. He's … well …" Greer paused, searching for an appropriate word.
"Unique," she supplied.
"Yeah," Greer mused. "Definitely … unique."
It was hardly good enough. One word never would be. But it would have to do.