Word Count: ~ 22.100
Summary: When a member of the crew goes missing, most of the stranded point their fingers at the obvious suspect who keeps claiming to be innocent. The crew is forced to work together and surprising alliances are forged to get Eli back.
Characters: Eli Wallace, Nicholas Rush, Everett Young, Camile Wray, Ronald Greer, Matthew Scott, Tamara Johansen, Chloe Armstrong, Sgt. Spencer, Adam Brody, Vanessa James, Dale Volker, Jeremy Franklin, Lisa Park, Airman Becker, Marian Wallace, OCs
Spoiler: Air, Darkness, Earth, Time, Life, Human
Setting: Season 1 – after Life
Warnings: Violence, language
Beta: elaiel, who took on the task of beta reading the English version of this.Artemis_Neith who looked at the very first German version of this years ago – thanks for that and for the criticism that made the story better than it was before.
Disclaimer: I'm not making money with this fanfic. The tv-show Stargate Universe and the characters appearing within it belong to their producers and creators. Any similarities to living or dead persons are purely coincidental and not intended.
The corridor of the hospital was unloving and conveying hopelessness, just like the rain drumming against the windows. It smelled of disinfectants and only a few pictures on the walls tried in vain to brighten up the atmosphere.
Eli Wallace was leaning against the wall next to the door to his mother's room, staring at the floor, while the gray-haired doctor in front him explained, "It's understandable that you're worried about the bills, but your mother had pneumonia. Her already unstable health made matters worse. We're going to let her go home tomorrow. Just one more day. Trust me, I've been doing this for a long time. I wouldn't keep her here if it wasn't necessary."
Sighing, Eli rubbed his forehead and then crossed his arms, his fingers clenching in the denim of his jacket. "I'm sorry, I … of course. Sorry."
The doctor smiled. "Don't worry." His smile faded. "Your mother's going to need a certain amount of care for the next few weeks. She'll still be weak."
Eli nodded. "Just tell me what to do."
The doctor raised his eyebrows in doubt. "I'm sure a nurse-"
"We can't pay for one. I can come home during recess. And after school, I can take care of her. My grades are just fine, I can do that." Eli stared at the doctor firmly and bit his lower lip to not show his uncertainty.
Apparently, he failed. Worry entered the man's eyes. The doctor crossed his arms over the file of Eli's mother and frowned. "How old are you, kid?"
Eli ducked his head. "15."
Rush laughed and leaned against the wall next to him. Eli stared at him in confusion. He didn't belong into this scene. Rush raised his eyebrows provocatively. "Just a child."
Suddenly, Eli was standing in one of Destiny's corridors and in front of him was no longer the doctor but Sgt. Spencer. "Loser," the marine hissed.
Eli looked at Rush, searching for help. "Doctor?"
Rush turned away. "I don't have time for this."
"Dr. Rush!" Eli called.
Rush turned back to him. "You're incredibly talented. Unfortunately, you're not trying to reach your full potential, Mr. Wallace. I don't think that MIT's the right place you. Not as long as you're still doubting if you should be here at all."
Somebody put a hand on his shoulder and Eli turned his head. He looked at his father who was standing next to Spencer with a cigarette between his lips. "I can't do this, Eli." His brown eyes were determined, his face drawn and pale. The laugh lines around his eyes were the only proof that he'd once enjoyed life with his family.
Spencer vanished into thin air, then Rush, and Eli was suddenly standing in the tiny garden of his parental home. "Sorry," Eli whispered. "Don't go. Please."
"I can't do this."
"I didn't mean to." Eli grabbed his father's arm, panic overwhelming him.
His mother called from behind him, "Eli, come inside!"
He held onto his father. "Dad? I didn't mean to."
His mother put her arms around him and brushed a gentle hand through his hair. Eli stared from the kitchen window into the garden. She sighed deeply. "You didn't do that because of me, did you?"
Eli shook his head. "MIT was not for me."
Chloe was sitting on the counter in front of the window and smiled. "You're cute. And a good friend."
He startled awake, one hand already reaching for the radio on autopilot. "What?" he asked breathlessly, imagining a hole in Destiny's hull, them flying directly into an asteroid or aliens taking over the ship.
Rush sounded irritated, not panicked. "I need you at the controls. We have to run some numbers."
Eli let loose a relieved breath and shook off the nightmare. He glanced at his cell phone's display.
"Doc, are you aware of the time?"
Since Young had established a 24 hour rhythm on Destiny, Eli tried to spend his days in a more useful fashion than he'd done on Earth. He didn't stay up until the early hours of the morning if he didn't have to and he actually started to feel better and happier as if he was really awake for the first time in years.
Rush didn't seem to care about having woken him up. "I need you here, Eli. Now."
He groaned and pulled the blanket over his head. The display of his cell phone lit the twilight in his accommodation and slapped 3:39 am against his head. He'd gone to bed early, but it had been an exhausting day which he had spent with Matt's training, the reconnaissance of the ship for Rush, learning the Ancient language and the sighting of the Kino feed for Young. He closed his eyes. He needed sleep.
"Damn it!" he cursed and pushed the send button on the radio with more force than necessary. "On my way, Doc." He could imagine Rush pulling a face at the use of the new – hated – nickname. Perhaps, he wouldn't mind as much if Eli hadn't told him that he'd borrowed it from Back to the Future.
Eli got up and stretched before he put on his old gray jacket and the sneakers. He smoothed over the red t-shirt and grabbed an energy bar he'd stashed away after lunch a couple of days ago from his jacket pocket.
He took a bite and hurried towards the control room with the radio and a Kino. It was quiet on Destiny this time of the morning. Most of the involuntary crew of the ship were sleeping. The control room, however, was lit brightly.
"Finally," Rush greeted him and Eli rolled his eyes. Rush was at one of the control units and stared at the screen in concentration. He read Ancient reports and orders as fast as if it were English. Eli still stumbled over far too many words and letters. He'd never been talented in the area of foreign languages. But math ... his talent for numbers was what had brought him here. To Dr. Rush … who was looking older than the forty plus years he was and who was brushing a frustrated hand through his shoulder-length hair.
"Are you actually going to sleep from time to time?" Eli asked.
"I slept," Rush answered, his Scottish accent stronger due to suppressed frustration and exhaustion. It wouldn't do to ask him what was wrong. Frustration and exhaustion were emotions that Rush showed on a good day.
"When?" Eli asked and took his place at one of the other two control units. He called up Rush's work and tried to understand what he had done within the last hours.
"I had four hours just a short while ago."
"Four hours. That's, like, a nap. Not sleep."
"Could we focus on the important things?"
Eli sighed and nodded. "Sure. What do you need?"
"Look at those calculations and tell me what you see." Rush didn't raise his eyes from his screen while he was speaking.
Eli raised his eyebrows. "Is that all?"
Rush rubbed his forehead – Eli couldn't say whether the gesture signaled impatience or a headache but he didn't care at the moment. "It's 3:30 am. I'm really … really tired …"
He stopped when Rush decided to meet his eyes. "I asked you to come down here three times yesterday, Eli. You were busy. And since I need your help with those calculations …" Rush raised his eyebrows and let the sentence unfinished.
Eli shook his head. "So you wake me at 3:30 am?"
"It seems to be the only time Colonel Young doesn't need your assistance."
"Because he's sleeping. Like all of us."
Rush propped his forearms on the unit and looked at Eli attentively. "Since when are you dreaming of being one of Colonel Young's soldiers?"
"What?" Eli laughed in disbelief.
"I really want to know. You met each of us within … only a few days. You're not stupid so the problem's not the inability to think for yourself. Why are you following Colonel Young's orders?"
"He's our leader."
"He made himself our leader."
"He doesn't treat me like a child."
"And I do?"
"A little respect would be nice once in a while." Eli avoided Rush's eyes and stared at the floor.
"Hm," Rush muttered. There was silence for a moment, then he sighed. "Let's focus on the calculations."
Insecure, Eli looked at him but Rush was already concentrating on the Ancient texts on the screen. He played with the thought of simply leaving, but he could at least understand some of Rush's arguments.
Ever since he was spying on Rush's every move in Destiny's data base for Young, he didn't spent as much time in the control room as before. At the beginning it had suited him fine. Though he was impatient and callous, Rush was a good teacher and he seemed to value Eli's input – at least sometimes. However, the longer they were on Destiny, the more obsessed Rush became with the ship. The more he challenged Eli and even though that had been a good thing in the beginning, meanwhile, Eli was feeling like he couldn't do anything right whenever Rush asked something of him. It didn't really help that he didn't seem to be the only one. Young's request had come at a time when Eli's relationship to Rush had arrived at a low and he had to admit that he'd wanted to find something. Something that would prove that Rush had refused them the return to Earth deliberately a couple of weeks ago. But the plan Earth had forged and that should have given them the unique chance of a way home had actually been unsafe. Rush hadn't lied.
Eli had believed that his service for the Colonel would be finished with that realization but he'd been mistaken. Young wanted him to keep an eye on Rush and it was becoming a hardship. Rush might have made mistakes – the biggest one had them stranded here – and he'd acted wrong when he'd claimed to have found a planet making a return home possible a couple of days ago. But Eli wasn't sure whether Young went the right way, either, and he felt sick at the thought of spying on somebody. Even Rush. Because sometimes, the scientist was really cheerful. Sometimes he patiently answered Eli's questions.
Rush looked at him and Eli noticed that he'd been standing motionlessly in the middle of the room for approximately a minute.
"You can leave," Rush said, sounding kind of resigned. "It's just that I would be faster with your help." And then, when Eli was determined to turn his back on Rush, he went and said things like that.
Eli suppressed a smile and sat down at his unit. "What have you got?"
Eli stopped working hours later when hunger was forcing him to take a break. When he entered the mess, most of the crew had already eaten and returned to their duties.
He noticed Chloe and Matt sitting at one of the back tables and pondered briefly whether he should sit with them. He decided not to when he saw Matt taking her hand and Chloe putting her head on his shoulder. They laughed. Eli didn't want to disturb them ... and he didn't want to watch them flirting either. He sat down alone at a table in the corner and started to eat his cold protein soup. He watched the Kino moving through the ship in search mode via the display of his remote control. The pictures the small camera sent back from some yet unexplored part of the ship distracted him from the bland taste of the military food. For the first time today, he felt himself relax.
A shadow fell across him and when Eli looked up, Everett Young sat down opposite him. "You didn't join us for breakfast or the briefing," he scolded gently.
Eli nodded. "Rush needed me."
"What for?" Young didn't even try to conceal his curiosity while he was stirring his ration.
Eli put down his remote control. "Navigation. We're trying to estimate when Destiny will fall out of FTL the next time and where that will be. We wanna find a pattern so we're better prepared for future stops. And Rush wanted to try and crack the master code with math."
"How did that work out?" Young asked curiously. The search for the master code to Destiny's systems was a project he – and everyone else on board – supported. If they found it, the refugees could access the ship's control and wouldn't be forced to fly where the autopilot led them. That would make a return to Earth possible. Then, the nightmare would have an end. Ever since they'd fled from Icarus base, every day was throwing new problems their way – whether they lacked food or water or energy ... since the attack on Icarus, they didn't seem to be able to catch a break.
Eli shrugged. "Nothing yet. To be honest, I don't know if we're gonna be able to find it at all."
"What's Rush thinking about that?"
Eli thinned his lips reluctantly and looked down at his food. "You could always ask him."
"I'm asking you."
"Why would he tell me?"
"He tells you more than anyone else."
Eli's spoon clattered into the bowl and he looked up. "I'm not comfortable spying on him."
"Eli," Young said sternly and Eli avoided his eyes, meeting Sgt. Spencer's, instead. Spencer glared at him and Eli ducked his head to look into his bowl. Young explained, "I need your help. I can't be sure that he's honest with me concerning Destiny."
Eli bit his lip. "Ask somebody else to do it."
"You're the only one he lets that close to him. He trusts you."
"Right, and I want it to stay that way. I-"
"Eli," Young interrupted him sharply, "I'm just trying to get us home." His voice became more gentle. "I need you. I want to make sure that Rush is doing what he can to get us home."
"Why wouldn't he?" Eli asked. Frankly, he thought the same sometimes, but he failed to come up with a reason for that feeling. Maybe Young knew more.
Young sighed. "Please, Eli. Crack that code. Keep an eye on him."
Eli closed his eyes and nodded. "Fine."
"Great." Young smiled. He got up, smoothed down his dark uniform jacket and patted Eli's shoulder before he left. Eli stirred his meal – no longer hungry – and let the spoon clatter into the bowl again. He propped his head up on his hands. A glance in Chloe's direction showed her leaving arm in arm with Matt. Eli shook his head and got up. He handed in his bowl to Airman Becker and left the mess.
On his way back to the control room, he concentrated on the Kino control in his hand. So much that he didn't hear Sgt. Spencer coming up behind him until he shoved him against the wall. Startled, Eli looked up at him.
Spencer was some inches taller and he was much more muscular than Eli. His bright eyes were staring at him coldly. "Oops!" Spencer said indifferently. "Sorry."
"Yeah, you are every single time," Eli answered and wanted to walk away.
Spencer grabbed him by the arm. "What did you and Young talk about?"
Getting scared, Eli tried to get rid of Spencer's hand, but he didn't let him go. "Can't say."
"You can't or you don't want to?"
Eli took a step backwards and Spencer let him go. "Both," Eli answered and turned away. Spencer pushed him and Eli stumbled. He whirled around furiously. "Hey!"
"If you tell anyone, you little rat, you're gonna be sorry," Spencer hissed.
"Spencer!" somebody interrupted them. Eli turned his head to see Ronald Greer join them. He was smaller than Spencer, but he appeared considerably more self-confident.
Spencer glanced at Eli threateningly, then he straightened his shoulders and turned to Greer. "Sir?"
"What's going on?"
Spencer inclined his bald head towards Eli. "Nothing, sir. I was just asking Wallace something."
Greer looked at Eli searchingly. Eli decided that he'd had enough confrontations for one day, so he shrugged and avoided Greer's piercing eyes. "Gotta go," he muttered and left.
The problems with Spencer were no news. From the beginning, he seemed to have something against Eli and the other civilians. But Eli had the feeling that he'd become Spencer's favorite victim within the last few days. Since Eli refused to talk to Rush or Young about it – he'd never been convinced of the strategy to let others handle his problems –, that wasn't likely to change in the near future either. But bullies were nothing new to Eli. In school, he'd been one of those who'd been harassed by the more popular children. Spencer would go looking for a new victim soon.
Eli didn't return to the control room but chose to head for his quarters.
Once he'd arrived, he fell on his bed and stared at the ceiling. "Another perfect day on Destiny," he said softly.
He closed his eyes and was just nodding off when the radio crackled and Rush's voice came through it, "Eli?"
He sighed in irritation, "I'll be right there."