Nicholas Rush was slowly recovering from the emergency surgery; pushing to become mobile and active sooner than he probably should. He got bored too quickly and a bored Rush was an impossible-to-deal-with Rush - even more so than usual.
Young was tiptoeing around the fact that everyone knew he'd deliberately left Rush to die on the planet with the crashed alien ship, plus the fact that leaving him had led to two alien attempts, two nearly successful attempts, to take over Destiny.
Camile Wray was doing her own dance around her failed coup attempt, even though almost all of the civilian population had supported her.
The scientists, in particular, remained furious over what Young had done to Rush and over the military's control of their lives. Volker, Park and Brody had somewhat surprisingly settled into being their de facto leaders while Rush recovered and all were consistent in their disdainful and distrustful attitude towards anyone in a uniform.
As word got around about the real reasons behind the civilian 'mutiny', there were mumblings and a severe morale drop among the military personnel. They believed in the chain of command, but few were happy that their commander had attempted to murder their lead scientist. No one liked Nicholas Rush, he wasn't the easiest of people to get along with, but they all knew full well that he was very likely their one and only chance to stay alive and maybe see Earth again.
TJ had done her best to treat Rush, even though he'd been openly suspicious of her. Chloe and the scientists had done their best to make sure someone non-military was with him as much as possible. But there were still late nights when it was just TJ, Lt. Vanessa James, who had unfortunately drawn the combination nurse-slash-guard duty, and a bed-ridden, and very pained and irritable Rush.
The two women were sitting together on one of those nights watching Rush toss and turn in his sleep. TJ was keeping her eyes on his IV, which he'd already pulled out of his arm multiple times in the turmoil of his constant nightmares. She didn't want to think about what he was dreaming of when he woke up screaming and flailing, yanking on the IV cord. Those screams were enough by themselves to haunt her own sleep.
Vanessa, on the other hand, seemed quiet and contemplative as she studied the uneasily-slumbering scientist.
"You know, TJ, that man really has some balls on him," she finally said, startling TJ.
TJ turned shocked blue eyes on her friend. "What?" she asked.
Vanessa grinned. "Well, maybe not literally, but figuratively…" Her eyes gleamed at TJ with amusement. "Have you seen…?" she asked.
TJ slapped her on the arm. "I am so not answering that," she said, trying hard not to smile in response to Vanessa's grin.
"Oh well," Vanessa replied with exaggerated resignation. "But really, TJ," she continued, her voice turning serious. "What he's been through." She shook her head. "I can hardly imagine. Beat up and left for dead without food and water on an alien planet. Still managing to get into that crashed ship to try to rescue himself only to be abducted by aliens. Really abducted by aliens – and then tortured with mind-probes and implants and God knows what else – and he fights them, manages to escape, saves Chloe Armstrong, and pilots one of their own ships back here. Then, if that weren't enough, he has to have his chest cut open with makeshift anesthetic that fails in the middle of the operation, and he's not only still alive – he's sane."
Vanessa paused and looked at the man in question, who was muttering in an unfamiliar language, nearly trembling in his sleep. "Well, maybe 'sane' isn't quite the right word. But rational, or maybe coherent, you know what I mean, TJ. Most people would be gibbering and drooling in the corner of a padded cell right now, but he – he is just annoyed at being stuck in bed and being unable to work on solving complex computer systems. OK, he's nuts, but he's still got serious balls."
TJ couldn't help laughing. What else was there to do? She couldn't sort out her emotions. She didn't know what to feel anymore. She was numb inside.
It seemed that getting her to laugh was enough for Vanessa. The dark-haired officer grinned at TJ and got up, stretching.
"While he's still out cold, I'm going to sneak off to the bathroom. Think you can handle things for a few minutes?" she asked.
"Sure," TJ nodded. "I think I can manage one undernourished scientist with a big hole in his chest for a bit."
Vanessa chuckled. "You could probably pick him up and carry him around the room without any trouble," she responded as she moved towards the door. She paused and gazed back at Rush. "Amazing. What a fucking amazing man. You'd think a feather could knock him over and yet I think he's the strongest person I've ever met. And that includes my drill sergeant in basic training." She shook her head and strode out of the room.
TJ sat in silence for a moment, just watching the man in question. The nightmare seemed to have settled off a bit. He was quieter now, no mumbling, no writhing, just a quiet slumber. She breathed a sigh of relief. She didn't think she could bear to listen to him come awake screaming, shaking in violent terror again.
Her absolute loyalty had always been with Everett Young, even in the aftermath of their failed relationship. She hadn't assigned blame in that; she'd known he was married. She'd known that he was the kind of man who would feel deeply loyal to his wife and the vows he'd made. She'd known the risks and that was why she'd been willing to walk away, take her scholarship, and move on. Fate had taken that away, though, and now she was left in a crazy sort of limbo.
Young wouldn't talk to her. She'd tried both before and after the alien attack and Rush's shocking return; and yet again after Camile's failed coup attempt. After the almost disastrous surgery. After she learned the truth of what had occurred between him and Rush on the planet. He had pushed her away. That scared her more than anything. She still cared about him, still wanted to give him her support and loyalty, despite everything. If only he'd let her…
Instead, she was confined to caring for the man Young had tried to murder; the man who had plotted against him; the man who would never accept Young as a leader. A man she thought of as the enemy, and yet – a man who had suffered so much that it tore her heart apart to think about it.
It was Young she – loved – but it was Rush's cries that stung her, fed her nightmares, troubled her waking hours.
And Vanessa was right. What kind of extraordinary strength, determination, courage – OK, 'balls' – did it take to survive that much trauma and still be able to think clearly? She may not like the way he thought or the conclusions and plans that he made, but there was no question that his mind, albeit troubled and traumatized, remained brilliant and rational.
She couldn't imagine. That kind of steely, ruthless focus, that kind of inner strength, it was stunning to behold. It was frightening. It was both utterly inhuman and so fundamentally human at the same time. What had forged Nicholas Rush into the man he was? She'd always thought Young was the strongest man she'd ever known, except maybe for her own father, but Rush – Rush made Young look weak.
And for the first time, she caught an inkling of why Young had done what he'd done on that planet.
Rush would never bow to anyone else's authority. He'd never falter on his chosen path. He'd fight tooth and nail and mind and heart and soul for what he believed was right. He'd face extraordinary odds and accept unbelievable cost to himself if necessary. He'd never stop short of his own death and even then, she wondered, if he might not just beat that too. Combine that with the most brilliant, genius mind she'd ever come across, a breadth of experience, skill, knowledge and training that dwarfed anyone else, and he was simply terrifying.
Terrifying, dangerous… and exactly the kind of man they desperately needed. It made her sick to think it, but Camile had been right.
Young shouldn't have left Rush on that planet.