Neighbours by DD Agent
I do not own Stargate Universe, Once Upon a Time or any of their characters, or their settings - all belongs to the lovely folks at SyFy and ABC.
Hopefully chapter three of Spin Me a Tale will be coming soon, but for now hope you enjoy this!
The first time he ever hears Belle is when he hears her scream from next door.
He heard that a young couple had moved into the house next to his while he had been away on Icarus, but he hadn't believed it. Now, as he tries to solve the calculations that would allow them to travel to the ninth chevron address, all he can hear is screaming and the smashing of what sounds like a damn lamp.
After it has lasted for an hour and no one has called the police, Nick pushes himself up from his desk and heads out to tell them to keep it down. His work is important and he can't focus if the neighbours are trying to kill each other. As he slams his own front door, he watches from his porch as a burley gentleman storms out of the house. Pretty boy by nature, he looks like a high school quarterback that's finding it difficult to find a place in the real world. Nick watches as the man gets into his truck and speeds away from the house.
Turning back to the house, a young brunette looks out of the open door. A thin grey sweatshirt lies over ripped jeans, and Nick can't help but see her swollen and broken lip. She looks over to him for a moment and then immediately shoots her eyes away, ashamed. She turns back to him after a few seconds pass.
"I'm sorry about the noise."
Nick doesn't know what he can say, what he can do. The young woman just turns back inside the house and closes the door shut with a click.
The man - boyfriend, husband, brother, fiancé, wanker - returns early in the morning and Nick is jolted awake by the sound of screaming again. A car roars away an hour later. Twenty minutes after the neighbourhood has calmed down, Nick opens his front door to find the small thing standing there, black eye overshadowing her pretty face.
Second, third, fourth, fifth afternoons with Belle all bleed into one. Nick realises it's the same argument in a loop and tries to stay at home in the afternoon to be there when the brunette knocks on his door. She's always in something baggy and oversized, determined not to allow anyone a glimpse at her body, or at the bruises Nick is sure are there. The fiancé has started avoiding the face - Nick is now no longer putting antiseptic on split lips or bleeding eyelids.
"Why do you stay with him?" Nick asks one afternoon. The young woman had come to him with swollen wrists and tears making tracks in her concealer. Fire blazed in his eyes when he saw the finger marks present there.
She bows her head. "George says nowhere else would want me. That I'm trouble."
Nick places a cold flannel over her wrist. She hisses, and he hates that sound coming from her lips. "You're not trouble, my dear. You're no trouble at all."
For the first time in all the afternoons they had met, when the air still buzzes with the sound of his neighbours' arguments and the young woman looks like a bruised peach, Nick watches her smile.
"I'm Belle, by the way."
Nick grins back at her, finding the back of his neck grow warm. "Nick."
Nick realises he's in trouble the third month in to these afternoons with Belle. He realises it when she comes over when there hasn't been any shouting, when the idiot George is still at work. He realises that she likes spending time with him. And that each time he opens his front door and brings out a bottle of beer for her, he realises that he likes spending time with her too.
They're currently sitting out on his decking. He doesn't think he's been out there since he bought the place, not that he was in the small house much anyway. Until Belle started knocking on his door, he never spent much time away from his work. Today is a good day though - George has been out on business for a week - some training seminar where he's probably fucking some tart and not giving a second thought about his fiancé - so Belle is beaming like the sun.
And that is a sight to behold.
She's dressed up especially for their afternoon session: board shorts and a short sleeved peasant blouse that makes her look like any beautiful young woman who isn't living a nightmare at home. Nick can't help but watch her as she drinks her beer, lounging in his patio chair like she bought it. Yes. He likes that look in her.
"So before you came to DC, what did you do?"
He watches her smile, enjoys the way her shoulders relax. "I worked at my father's flower shop. I met George in high school and everyone was bowled over by him. I guess I liked him, but it was more to do with the fact that someone like him could be interested in someone like me."
"He made you feel special."
Belle pauses for a moment before shaking her head. "Never. He just made me feel like someone, and living in a small town in Maine...that felt good."
They talk a little about his work, what he can talk about without checking her clearance. She laughs as he makes jokes about the military types he works with; she holds his hand when he explains the ring on his finger she keeps staring at.
It's not until an hour before the sun sets that Nick realises he hasn't stopped holding her hand.
He's been away for four weeks at the Icarus base, four weeks where he's practically been climbing at the walls. Young has been pissing him off, Tellford has been even worse. He is so glad he's back in DC, so glad in fact that Nick feels he could run back to his house.
As it is, he stops the cab about half way down the road when he can hear the screaming.
Blood pumps in his ears as he runs to see what George has done now - did he leave a message on her phone, he's been so careful but he was so excited to see his girl - and when he hears Belle scream out in pain he can't help himself. The moment he reaches their house he pushes past the door and slams George against the wall. The football star doesn't know what is happening, and Nick takes the momentary confusion to hook his fist into his jaw. The meathead drops to the floor, Nick not quite understanding the power he's wielded.
He hears a soft sigh to his right, and Nick sees Belle curled up on the floor. He stays back but drops to his knees to meet her eyes. Her fiancé's blood is on his knuckles. Those bright blue eyes that he loves to see sparkle meet his and they're soft when she's looking at him, not terrified. "You're early."
He did leave a message god Nick how could you be so fucking stupid "I missed you."
Nick waits for Belle to crawl over into his arms, to ask to go over to his house and fall asleep on his sofa. But she doesn't. She slides her legs from underneath her body and stands up. Nick watches as she walks to the kitchen and opens the fridge, pulling out two beers. She hands him one, hand shaking. He grasps her fingers and she tightens around him.
"Welcome home Nick."
Five days since he punched out George, and Nick is on top of the world. Belle is sleeping on his sofa, not wanting to go back to her own house. George is somewhere, nursing his wounds, but Nick is sure he will be back in due time. He'll just have to hit him again if he lays a hand on Belle.
"Do you want to go get some dinner later?"
Nick turns to Belle as she stands in the doorway of his office. She had only grabbed a small bag of clothes before George had stirred, so all she has is a pair of gym shorts and a few tops of her own. She is currently wearing one of his white dress shirts, one of the ones he doesn't wear any more. It's never looked so good, and she has never looked more beautiful.
"We can order pizza if you like."
Belle plays with the cuffs of his shirt. "I was thinking we could go out. Like a date."
He genuinely smiles as he meets her eyes. The engagement ring that had rubbed her finger raw isn't there now and she is looking at him with such a glint in her eye. If she wants this - if she is ready for this - god he is so ready she is all he thinks about - then a date it would be. His first date since his wife and surprisingly the weight of gold on his finger is slight.
"Eight o'clock sound good for you?"
Belle nods before stepping over his files and pressing her lips gently to his cheek. She grins when she pulls away, but Nick can't let her go. He presses his hand to the back of her neck and gently moves her to his mouth again. He kisses her properly, lips slowly caressing hers. Nick wants to be gentle with her, but it is Belle's tongue that forces his mouth to open to her.
"Or we could stay in," Belle sighs, moaning softly as Nick's fingers dance over her neck.
"Staying in is a good idea." Nick presses his mouth back to Belle's and she moans his name and he feels hands going to his own shirt. Then his phone rings, and he realises he has to take it. Work is important, although Belle is more so. Someone has broken the code; someone in that damn game has broken the code and Nick realises that dinner will have to wait.
"You have to go, don't you?"
Nick nods. "Yeah, I do. But I'll be back as soon as I can. Stay here for as long as you want, my home is your home."
He holds her in his office, arms wrapping tight around her waist. Nick doesn't want to go, but he has to. Everything has been building to this. But soon he can crack the code and then find the ninth chevron and he can maybe use some of the collateral he has earned with the military to get Belle an administration position with the program. She could be safe, then, he could do his work and she could be safe and they could be happy.
Hours later he is stuck half way across the universe with no way to return home.
Six weeks into the mission on Destiny and his turn with the stones comes up. He is supposed to brief certain important people about how the mission is going, and then, if he wants, he is allowed free time. Everyone thinks he'll be stuck working with McKay or whatever prats they have working the science department at Stargate Command. But he knows where he wants to go.
Nick realises he hates the fatigues he's wearing as he heads to his old house. So not him. His house is still standing, though, probably shut up tight with plenty of dust. But it is not the house he's come to see. He ignores the soldier standing by his side, doesn't want any gossip going around. Nick walks up the garden path, notices the unkempt weeds and broken tiles. A window is broken in the front that hadn't been broken before.
He doesn't know why he's knocking on this door rather than his own, but something in him knows.
"Can I help?"
Then there's Belle, and his heart aches at the sight of her. She's back to baggy sweatshirts and ripped jeans and mismatched socks and too much concealer covering up a nasty black eye. There are scratches on her neck and through the house Nick can see a broken lamp. No sign of George, no car on the drive way. He is thankful for that.
"I work with Doctor Nicholas Rush." She doesn't have clearance, he can't tell her all he wants to. It's me, Belle. It's Nick.
Belle flinches at his name, and his heart cries out. But her voice betrays her. "Is he okay?" The worry in her voice makes him realise that all hope is not lost.
"Yeah, he's okay. Just...the work he was doing means he's had to go away for a while. He doesn't know when he'll be back."
She snorts, and he hates that sound as much as the sounds of pain he had heard from their afternoons together. "Tell him not to bother sending someone next time."
Belle slams the door in his face. I didn't abandon you I didn't leave you I'm here, I'm still here Belle.
I love you.
He stays for a few minutes on her doorstep before turning on his heel and leaving. Nick spends the rest of his time away from Destiny trying to work. He makes sure to put Belle down as his emergency contact before he leaves - he needs some connection with her.
He reckons it's been seven hours since Young left him on the planet. If he ever managed to find a way to get off it, he would punch him in the damn jaw. But until then he is left with a badly damaged space ship, a sore body and a broken heart.
"Want me to play nurse this time?"
Nick looks over and smiles at the brunette. She is an illusion, he knows that. The last act of a desperate man. But he can't deny he has been thinking about her in the middle of the night, can't help but wonder how she is coping with George. He decides to enjoy the illusion for as long as it lasts and he slants his mouth over hers. She groans under his touch, hands moving to his shirt. Her touch burns, and Nick wants to indulge this fantasy as far it will go. Last wish of a dying man and all that.
"Nick." He opens her eyes to find her smiling at him. She is perfect. Perfectly unmarred skin, perfect smile. "I've missed you."
The words cut to his bones, but he moves past them. "I've missed you too."
They return to kissing and Nick feels his hands slide over Belle's thighs. His brain tries to push past that this isn't real - but he needs the comfort. He needs Belle. Her blouse is dropped to the sand, and Nick moves his mouth to her neck. The thin vest can't cover the scars that light up her back. He presses open mouthed kisses to her shoulder, wanting to take her, hold her.
"Did George do that to you, love?" He would kill him he would leave him on a deserted planet with the Lucian alliance or a troll monster or something else horrid.
Belle shakes her head. "The..." She struggles for the words. "The clerics did."
Nick goes back to kissing Belle, softly indulging in her. He pulls back when he tastes blood, and opens his eyes to find water surrounding his body. Nick tries to scream, but it's no good. The aliens in front of him do not seem to understand his loss.
He is supposed to be investigating Colonel Tellford, but it has been eight weeks since he has heard anything about Belle, and that had been a hospitalisation. Broken ribs caused by a fall. Sometimes Nick loathes Destiny and her mission, regrets his decision to choose it over Earth. He can't protect the woman he loves from an entire universe away.
As it is, the Lucian Alliance can wait fifteen minutes for him to knock on her door. The jeans and checked shirt will be more casual than the fatigues he had worn the last time he had knocked at her door. Hesitating for a moment, Nick wonders whether this was a good idea. He still can't tell her all that he wants to, can't tell her how he feels without revealing himself as Nick Rush.
The door opens, and his eyes light up at the sight of her. She's wearing a blue blouse that brings out her eyes, and a tight pair of jeans with no rips. Belle looks like she's about to tackle the world. Her house is half empty, and he notices there is no oil stain on the drive like there had been before.
"Can I help you?"
She has got rid of George all on her own. Probably decided enough was enough after that bastard put her in hospital. She looks good; Nick reckons she has gone back to school. Belle doesn't need him to be her champion; she can summon the courage to do it herself. As happy as he is for her, he can't help wish he could have been the one to save her have her in his arms kiss her till she begged for more hold her until the sun burnt out.
"Sorry," he hears himself say. This is for the best. Can't carry on whatever they had at the end of the universe. "Wrong house."
Nick taps out a rhythm on the door frame before turning and making his way down the steps back to his car. He's doing the right thing, even if he feels like his heart is shrivelling in his chest. Just as he reaches for his keys, a hand grabs his arm and turns him back.
He watches her smile at him. "Have we met before?" Nick starts to shake his head but she reaches up and touches his face. "We have. I don't get visitors. Tell me the truth."
"I work with Doctor Rush. He wanted to make sure you were alright."
His heart breaks harder at her soft smile caused by the sound of his name, none of the anger there that has been there before. "Tell Nick I'm fine. Better than fine. He still owes me a date. Seven o'clock dinner reservation."
"I believe it was eight o'clock, actually."
The words come out of his mouth before he even realises it, before he can clamp down on the mere playful correction. The look in her eyes is confusion and a glimmer of hope. She knows he works for the government that his work as a physicist meant he was away for weeks at a time. Belle takes a step forward and rests both hands on his face.
"Who are you?"
Nick closes his eyes. "You once...George..." He needs to be clearer. "You once said George made you feel like somebody, like you were something." Belle nods, that confused yet hopeful smile growing on her face. "Belle...to me, you are..."
His words stop when he feels a gun slam into the base of his neck. Nick turns to see someone he assumes to be the Lucian Alliance smirk at him. He got the codes wrong, didn't he? Fuck it, get back to work Nick.
"Well who do we have here, hmm? You're not Colonel Tellford, that's for sure"
The gun is still pointed at his neck, but one of them is gripping Belle's hands tight, keeping her in place. She's squealing in their grasp, afraid. He can't - can't let her get hurt. "Let her go."
The gun digs in deeper. "Tell us who you are and maybe we'll consider it."
"My name is Doctor Nicholas Rush." It isn't only Belle's eyes that widen. "I will do whatever you want, fix or make go whatever you need. Just don't hurt her. If you hurt her, I won't do anything to help you."
One of the men at the side who appears to be the leader looks at him, and then at Belle. "Take the girl with us. She should help encourage the good doctor with his work."
He and Belle are led away by the Lucian Alliance. Even though he wears a different face, Nick makes sure to reach behind him and grab Belle's hand, even for the briefest of seconds. She never put George's ring back on. They share a glance, and Nick tries to put as much emotion as he can in there - I will not let them hurt you.
Nine people are dead. As Nick observes the Kino footage of the gate room, he can just make out the blue blouse Belle wears. Her hands are tied around her back, but apart from that she looks fine. She's alive, that's something. Although he would never admit it to Colonel Young, he's grateful that the Colonel didn't kill everyone in the gate room. He can't come that close to having Belle in his arms only to have it taken away from him.
"Who is she?"
"Hmm?" Nick asks, looking up into Young's face. The Colonel taps the screen where the brunette sits, face stoic in the face of her assailants. The strength he has always known she possesses was coming out now.
"Who's the girl, Rush? Who's the girl to you?"
Nick sighs. "She's my neighbour; I was going to check on her when I was accosted by the Lucian Alliance. Her fiancé was beating her before...before Destiny."
Young smirks, taking the moment to lean over the screen and smile at the man who has caused him such grief. Nick has to admit that it unnerves him a little - stop smirking you idiot people are in danger Belle is in danger dammit. "You're in love with her, aren't you?"
Oh he can't remember the exact moment or thing that made him realise that he loves her. Maybe it was the way she always waited patiently between knocks after an argument with George, not wanting to disturb him even though she knew as soon as the shouting started he was on his feet. Maybe it was the moment when she had talked about her love of history and the way she had closed her eyes when talking about her favourite period. Maybe it was refusing not to eat left over pizza unless it had been stuck in the microwave, maybe it was the way she curled against him when watching television. Maybe it was the way she smiled at him.
It's the way she makes him feel like a good man.
"Colonel, if you bring her safely back to my side, I promise never to stand against you again."
Young grins, an expression Nick does not enjoy. "That's a deal I will be willing to make, Rush."
As one of the soldier boys comes in to talk to Young, Nick turns back to the screen, turns back to his Belle. He will give anything to see her safe seeing as it is his fault she's on the ship in the first place. If Young can bring her back safe, maybe he can finally finish his thought.
To him, she is everything.
One. Two. Three. Four.
Why is this place so big? He can't run fast enough, he needs to run faster. Faster, Nick!
Five. Six. Seven. Eight.
He knocks Brody over, big deal. He needs to be faster, needs to be fucking Superman to get there quicker.
Gateroom now, still not fast enough. Needs to, he needs to see her.
There are ten seconds between his entrance into the gate room and a bundle of brown curls tackling him around the waist. Nick clings back to her, hands digging into her sides as he holds her close. For the first time in too long he's clutching at Belle. Eventually she pulls away and looks up at his face. She runs a hand over his stubble, runs a slow finger down his nose. He beams at her, and she traces the edges of that too. Her soft hands run along his chest, the pads catching the edges of his waistcoat occasionally. They go to his shoulders next, running down his arms. Her fingers catch his watch and eventually her thumb finds the inside of his wrist.
"It's really you, isn't it?"
Nick nods. "Yeah, Belle. It's me."
There are no more bruises on her face, no more broken bones in places there shouldn't be. Her blouse and jeans are dirty, and unfortunately the crisp pair now has a rip over the knee. That worries him more than it should. Her jeans should not have rips now, they should be whole and perfect and strong in the face of all adversity. After staring at that single rip for what feels like an hour, he returns to her face. Her smile is softer than he has ever imagined.
"Come on; let's find somewhere we can talk."
He offers her his hand and she takes it willingly. Nick leads her away from the gate room, away from Young's ridiculous smirk. They walk to the viewing area, Belle's eyes darting around to take in the details of where they are. When they get to their destination, Belle takes a seat and Nick locks the door from inside. Safely in her seat, Belle watches the stars.
"So...Nick Rush is actually a big man working on a big government conspiracy."
Nick laughs as he sits next to Belle. His hand moves down and lays itself over hers. She laces their fingers together. "We've known about aliens and space travel for quite some time. This was my baby...working out how to go across the galaxy. I've spent so many years working out how to get here, and I've spent every moment regretting it."
"Why?" Belle turns away from him to look into space. "This is incredible."
"I had a dinner date that I missed," he admits. "Being here...leaving you was the hardest thing. I was so worried for you. I heard a while back that George admitted you to the hospital."
Belle nods, resting her hand lightly over her breast where the broken ribs had been. "I got back into school; he broke two of my ribs." She smirks. "I smacked him in the back of the head with one of my text books. He needed five stitches and had to stay in overnight. When he came home his stuff was in a bonfire in the back yard and I had the locks changed." His Belle turns to look at him. "I decided to be someone all on my own."
Nick reaches with his spare hand and strokes her cheek. "I love you." He watches as she closes her eyes, softly sighing. "I love you, Belle. I will never hurt you, or allow you to come to harm."
Belle nods. "I know." She opens her eyes and he gets to see her blue eyes crinkle with a smile. "I love you too."
Their lips press together innocently, as if this was a kiss of many. Nick feels his lips part hers, slowly taking the time to commit the feel of her lips to memory. She sighs softly as he sucks her bottom lip. Belle nips his top lip as the kiss deepens, her hands moving to spread over his back. His hands cup her face gently, stroking her jaw. Her tongue presses forward into his mouth, running along his back teeth and further inside.
When they break apart, Belle kisses the corner of his mouth before moving to lean on his shoulder. Their hands lay entwined together over the legs resting side by side. Belle's fingers trace the inside of his arm; his fingers run over knuckles and the lines of her palm.
"So where do we go from here?"
Nick smiles at her. "Whole universe to explore, no way of going home."
He thinks for a moment before shrugging. "It used to be. But not any longer."
Belle laughs, gripping his hands tighter. "You mean to say that the massive fight we've just had ina space ship doesn't make you scared?"
His lips brush hers for a moment before he pulls back. Belle is here, physically here on Destiny with him. "I used to be scared of living. Then I met you, and I wasn't scared anymore."
She tucks herself closer to him, eyes closing as she rests against him. The reality will hit tomorrow morning - awful showers, threat of suffocation every day, strict rationing. But she's here with him, will hopefully stay in his quarters and break him away from work when he needs it. No matter what will happen in the future, he will have her by his side. They can be together with only the stars to keep them apart.
Bare ring fingers rub against each other as their lips meet again.