Note: I started trying to write Gold dealing with Rush's mind inside of his, but it didn't go anywhere. Then, a story somehow appeared where Gold was trying to find a way to get rid of what's left of Rush without killing him – and I found out why the Rush in these stories was a bit shorter on compassion than some of his other counterparts.
Rush looked at the chair, waiting, hoping his other self would find him here.
He'd killed Telford.
He hadn't meant to.
No, he hadn't intended to. It wasn't the same thing.
He couldn't go back.
He couldn't go forward.
He could only . . . stop.
He hoped his younger self would find him in time.
And he came.
He heard the voice, not quite right the way voices are when you hear them outside your own head. The sound transmitted through your bones always makes it sound deeper to you than to people standing outside your own head.
"It was an accident," he said.
"I believe you," the familiar/not-familiar voice said.
Only – and how he knew this, he couldn't tell – it wasn't his voice. It was exactly the same as the one he'd been hearing from his younger self.
But it wasn't.
The face looking back at him was his.
But not his.
No beard, hair combed and clean. There was even something different about his skin, a more solid, uniform quality.
But it was the eyes that gave him away, eyes that looked as though they had seen centuries.
Besides, he'd picked up a suit, somewhere – a clean, wrinkleless suit.
"Who are you?"
"Mr. Gold," the man said. He walked towards Rush, and that was different, too. There was a certainty in the way he moved, almost a commanding quality. Rush sometimes walked as though he would shove aside anyone who got in his way, here was a man who knew no one would try.
A man who'd never been on Destiny, a man who shouldn't exist.
"Am I mad?' Rush asked. "Am I imagining you?" He found himself strangely disinterested in the answer.
"No. To both questions." The man studied him intently. "I need to ask you one question. Just one. And I need you to answer it honestly and simply: what you told them, what happened to the crew, was that the truth – the whole truth?"
So, even his delusions were out for his blood. Rush closed his eyes. "I told you – them what happened," he said wearily. "I don't expect you to believe me."
"Oh, but I do," the man said. He grinned ruefully. "And that makes you completely useless to me."
Rush ran to the chair, knowing what he would find there –
Except he was wrong.
Oh, his older self was there.
But, so was another man.
He wasn't Rush.
Despite the resemblance, he'd have bet anything on that. This wasn't some other mad bit of flotsam thrown out by time – the complete crew of Rushes he'd warned Young about. The man didn't move like him, didn't talk like him, and – in something Rush was dead certain of without knowing how – didn't think like him.
"It was an accident," his older self said.
"I believe you," the other man said.
He introduced himself as Mr. Gold.
The explosions, Rush realized, had stopped. The terrible heat had gone away as well. The room was cool, even comfortable.
The man asked his question, and Rush found himself surprised at the answer his older self gave– and accepting.
No, not accepting.
The scene played out in his mind as if he'd been there.
There was a kind of arrogant pride in that moment – once again, he'd been right – and there was a kind of recognition of what was going on.
It wasn't self-sacrifice.
If he left the controls, they would all die – himself included. It would just happen that much sooner.
And, yet . . . .
Eli . . . Chloe . . . TJ who had lost her child (he thought of Gloria, her hair paler than TJ's, and the children they'd hoped to have one day) . . . .
He even thought of the colonel – who could now spend the rest of his life knowing Rush had been right.
He really was getting the last word.
He didn't have a choice. Leaving the controls wouldn't make a difference to him.
Just to them.
But, in that moment, there was a part of him – a part that was glad of the chance to keep them from dying.
Even if it had meant his own life.
Maybe, just maybe, he would have done this anyway.
Oh, no then. He knew that, facing the same choices just five minutes ago but seeing an option where he lived and they died – he was pretty certain which choice he would have made. It might even be the same choice he'd make now, given any alternatives.
But, the part of him that felt relieved that they might survive after all, that part might have done it again given a better chance tomorrow.
Not that he would have that chance.
But, when the gate shut –
He knew as surely as if he'd seen them torn apart, heard their death agonies, died with them –
They were gone.
They were all gone.
He stared at the gate, knowing none of them were alive on the other end –
"Interesting," Mr. Gold said to Rush's older self. "A bit of magic – your people would call it a psychic gift – you felt them. Strange, isn't it, how things like that crop up when you least need them? You're right. They're dead. But Telford didn't kill them. Nor did you." He hesitated. "If you stay here, in this world, you'll see that I'm right. Someday. Is that what you want to do?"
Younger Rush decided enough was enough. He stepped into the conversation. "But, he can't, can he?" He looked at his older self. "I believe you, that it was an accident. But they won't. And we're running out of time."
"You can do whatever you want," Mr. Gold said. "And time hardly matters. Or hadn't you noticed? How the explosions have stopped? We're standing just a little outside of time right now. We can discuss this for as long as you want."
The older Rush looked at him. "Who are you?" he asked again. "What are you? What do you want?"
"I thought I wanted you, Dr. Rush, but I seem to have been mistaken.
"You've made your confession. I suppose it's time for mine.
"I murdered you, more or less, a few months ago. Think of me as a . . . parasite. Rather like your Goa'uld. A few months ago, in yet another timeline, I took possession of your body.
"Except it wasn't you. That Rush . . . tried to . . . do crueler things than you would have. And I stopped him. The only way I could.
"Not that I felt too bad about it at the time . . . ."
"I don't understand."
The man looked weary, more weary than Rush felt in the century it seemed he had lived since disaster with the gate. "I searched and found you – and your twin over there. One of you is obviously the spare, and I'm sure the universe would survive if I took one of you home with me. I thought I could pour what's left of his mind into either one of you. You're nearly the same man, after all. If there would be difficulties, well, how great could they be?
"But, he's a crueler man than you. He would be like a shadow in your mind, trying to twist even the good things you want." Amusement, perhaps at a memory, passed through his eyes. "I've played that game myself. I won't do that to you.
"Go back to Destiny, if you want. They'll believe you."
Both Rushes looked at him as though he were crazy.
"I killed Telford. That's all they'll believe."
Gold gave him a condescending smile. "Your whole life, you get frustrated at the small minds that won't believe you when you tell them what is possible – and, now, you're doing the same thing. There are two answers and they're obvious." He tossed something to Rush, who reached out and caught it.
"With a recording of your fight. You can say you took a page out of Eli's book. Or you can tell them about me. I don't care.
"But, as I said, there was a second way to clear you of your murder charge. Make sure there was no murder.
Rush looked at the kino in his hands, trying to remember what Telford had said, what he'd said, what had happened before he shoved him away . . . . Did this stranger really think Young would care if it was manslaughter or first degree homicide? "I still killed him."
"No, you didn't. He's alive."
The younger Rush looked at him sharply. "I saw him. He was dead."
"Did you check his pulse? My talents aren't the same as a Goa'uld's, but starting up a heart that's only missed a few beats is relatively simple. Your Lieutenant Johansen might have done as much with a defibrillator."
"There were burns," the older Rush said. "Damage to the heart and brain . . . ."
"Well, perhaps what I did wasn't so simple. But, the silver cord, as they say, had not been cut. I have a gift for weaving and spinning, but it doesn't reach quite that far. All you need to know is that murder charges rarely hold up when the corpse is walking around complaining about what happened to him."
He shrugged. "Because the whim takes me. Because, since I came all the way here to look around, I might as well do something memorable. Because it seems to balance other things I've done – a little. Even if it doesn't set them right.
"Or maybe I've always wanted to play the role of the mad goblin in fairy tales, the trouble maker who has moments of good heartedness that makes him reward the foolish hero who somehow stumbles into his good graces.
"There is one other thing, however, I would ask for in return."
"I knew it," both Rushes murmured under their breath.
The man grinned. "I suppose you did. Give me the answer to another question. Tell me, when you used the chair for the first time, you risked a memory. What was it?"
There was no way Rush was answering that one, not in a million years.
Or so he thought. His older self's eyes narrowed, but he said, "My wife's death."
"Ah," Gold said. "I see."
"See what?" the younger Rush asked.
"Why my Rush is the crueler man. You hazarded that memory, but you won the toss, didn't you? You kept it.
"He became a different man. He could . . . hurt someone. In a way you wouldn't – in a way you didn't, given the chance.
"The same way, perhaps, that twelve hours are making you into different men.
"Never mind. You have lives of your own to be getting back to.
"As do I.
"Good day, gentlemen. Your gate lies that way." He pointed down the corridor, then got up and began walking in the opposite direction. "Till we meet again."