Gravity's End

Chapter 1

Stargate Universe

Takes Place in the days and months after Gloria Rush's death

Characters do not belong to me. Comments and Reviews greatly appreciated.

Dr. Nicholas Rush was numb. It had be horrible few days; more horrible than they otherwise might have been—which was pretty damned horrible. SGC had made the arrangements, shipping her casket to London in the cargo bay of a USAF jet as he sat in the passenger bay behind the pilot and co-pilot. He was numb.

In a limbo state between being utterly dissociated from even himself—and the emotional wreck trying to stem the sobs that threatened every few moments to emerge involuntarily from deep within his chest—he sat silent, eyes closed. Not sleeping; not awake—numb.

He'd gotten the call while flying to home to San Francisco from D.C., two and a half hours into the flight. He'd been listening to Bach Partita for Violin #3, the music an aural cocoon of pure mathematics-the exquisite violin engulfing him in her presence. He'd almost not heard the air phone ring, but it's tone had jarred him from the silk and catgut of the Partita, an incongruous sound.

He'd not wanted to leave-not the city, anyway. The recliner at Gloria's bedside had become his satellite office: small, but efficient. He'd made trips home to work furiously at his white board-and then to his university office to meet with his grad students, all capable physicists and mathematicians, but not a linguist amongst them. So, capable was not necessarily the same as adequate.

But Dr. Daniel Jackson had informed him that his presence was demanded in Washington: an urgent meeting. Twenty-four hours at the most, he'd promised. And Gloria's doctors had assured him she'd have at least another week or so. Or so-the operative variable.

He'd learned long ago never to trust approximations. But he'd gone anyway, wanting to believe she'd have—they'd have-more time. And Gloria, supportive as ever, insisted; insisted he go, while trying desperately to hide her disappointment in him that he was even considering it; in the fact that he really wanted, no preferred, to be at that meeting. She knew it and so did he. It was a lie necessary to keep him sane, not now, but soon. So very soon.

Gloria knew, at least that what he'd told himself, airborne and flying across the country, that the work would keep him alive. After. After the unthinkable. As she would be buried in the ground back home amidst the rose gardens of an ancient English cemetery, he could likewise be buried—in the work. It would be all there was-all that was left.

She feared for him. "I'm afraid, Nicholas. I'm afraid that you'll disintegrate into nothingness." Her voice warm and soft in his ear. He'd held her hand in both of his. "I'm stronger than that, my darling," he'd whispered, trying to smile, a meager attempt. But they both knew that was a lie.

The approximations had been oh, so wrong. And Gloria died; and he'd not been there for her after all. "I'm sorry Dr. Rush, she'd taken a turn for the worse...Her advance directive...there was a DNR...I'm sorry." The words evaporated in his ears like droplets of dew on a hot summer's morning. "What shall we...?" Rush clicked "end," swallowing hard.

He dialed Jackson's mobile by touch, the numbers swimming in and out of his field of vision. "Gloria's gone," he'd choked out barely audible, barely holding it together, words stuck in his throat. Rush had always soft-spoken, but now the unthinkable words were unwilling to be heard above a hoarse whisper. "I need a few days. I have to get her back to England somehow...I'm not sure..." He sounded lost, to Daniel's ears, anyway, his voice far away, unsteady-at best.

"Do you have anyone you can call?" He'd thought of Gloria's friend, who would likely be hovering now at the hospital, taking charge, taking command. "No."

"What hospital?"

"UC Berkeley Medical Center. I'm going there straightaway as soon as I land. I... I need to make arr..."

"Nicholas, listen to me. SGC will get you both over to England. No problem. Take all the time you need. Be with her." Too late for that, Rush heard in his ear, a distant cackle; it made him gasp. "Nicholas, are you there?"

"Yes, Yes, I'm here. Thank you, Daniel." And so they flew her home in a sleek military jet. Small recompense it was, though for her family, who'd barely spoken to him during the funeral at a small country church, and after, back at her parents nearby home near the burial ground. Dozens of cousins, aunts and uncles gathered around Gloria's parents, ignoring Nicholas. He was happy for that, at least. Better to be ignored than blamed, examined, interrogated about her last moments, when he'd had no personal knowledge of them. Nick had no family to surround him, swaddle him in too much love, make sure he'd eaten, slept. That had been Gloria's job-one of them, anyway. Only Gloria. The beautiful, lyrical, splendid Gloria, whose family never quite accepted this upstart working class Scot. And never missed an opportunity to shove it in his face—he didn't really belong.

Even the minister felt it. Not even now, at Gloria's funeral. Especially not now—now that they knew he'd not even been there at the end, denying her not only her family, but the man she'd followed across the Atlantic and across an entire continent. He'd heard the whispered accusations, the stares.

And now it was over, and Nicholas was back in DC; he'd seen no point in going home to their San Francisco townhouse, abandoned by her-like he had been, dead. Like her. Like him, metaphorically at least, he'd thought grimly.

Jackson greeted him at Reagan International when his plane landed. No military jet to transport him home. No need. Virgin Air Business Class-the food and wine; the comfortable accommodations a waste as Nicholas simply sat, staring into the nothingness of his life-nearly catatonic. He'd lost count of the "are you okay sirs" from concerned flight attendants who'd noticed something wrong with him. Someone-he wasn't sure who-had placed a blanket over him in the darkened cabin as he shivered in the cooled air of the jet. He floated wraithlike through immigration and customs, a ghost. "Dr. Rush!" Jackson noticed him at customs tucking away his maroon U.K.

"Dr. Jackson, you didn't have to..."

"Least I could do..." The unspoken complicity in Rush's guilt plain on his face. Asking him if he was "okay" would be hollow. Of course he wasn't "okay." How could he be? He'd been there. He knew.

"So. Do you want to take a few days? Sort out your wife's affairs? Get over the jet lag?" Nick wasn't responding to any of it, staring out the windshield into nothingness as Daniel drove him back to the Shoream, Rush's D.C. hotel of choice. Rush shook his head ever so slightly, not responding, combing his hair out of his face; Daniel noticed the slight tremble in his hand, the shakiness he'd not noticed before in the silence.

"Are you alright?" They'd arrived at the Shoream.

"I'll be in tomorrow morning." His voice was raspy. "Thanks for the lift." Rush disappeared through the revolving door—a wraith, drifting silently through the posh lobby.

Back in his room, finally, Nicholas removed his jacket and tie, waistcoat and shoes, hurling each piece across the room, fury deflected from himself to the nearest objects in the room. But then he remembered.

Retrieving his corduroy blazer from the bed, where it had landed, he searched the pockets, inside and out, finally locating what he'd sought—a photograph. The photograph. Picking it up gingerly, he stared down at it as he crossed back to the far side of the room, slower and slower as if time-space were destined to collapse around him. The weight of his grief descended upon his narrow frame with g-forces that caused him to stagger and then simply crumple where he stood, finding the wall for support and then sliding down it into a heap as if to dissolve into nothingness, photo still clasped in his left hand.

Finally, he wept. For her and for himself—for the emptiness—the void that sucked the air from the room; that threatened to suffocate him. He had not wept in all the week since her death, refusing to allow them to escape, to let anyone know, to feel. For the feelings: grief, guilt, immense loneliness were too intense, their power overwhelming him, dragging him into a vortex of unending sorrow.

He couldn't afford this; he needed to work. He had to work; the work was all there was—now. But he could no more stop it, bottle his emotions and shelve them in a corner of his neatly compartmentalized brain than he could a wild animal intent on devouring his prey whole. Nicholas Rush wept until there were no more tears to weep; until the photograph taken not so long ago nearly disintegrated in his hands into molecules of cellulose and silver nitrate.