...Never Let You Go (Again)...
It's ironic, that he can't get his wife back after months of trying, but leaving Rush behind (forever) doesn't keep him away.
"Destiny, this is Dr. Rush." The hoarse voice flooding the speakers as the alien ship hovers above them. "Permission to come aboard?"
Eli grins with something like relief, and Young's pretty sure he's on the edge of fucking up the kid for good but he doesn't really care, because there is something warm pooling in the pit of his stomach, and he's not sure what it is. Not relief, definitely, but maybe something like justice, like serenity. "I don't think you can make the tough decisions," Rush had said, and maybe he should've said Young didn't want to make them.
Rush lands the alien ship on the planet near the Stargate according to Young's wishes. Neutral territory they both think, and Young goes through the gate alone, despite Scott being more than a little pissed. Young ignores him. Scott doesn't know what's at stake. But Eli knows, and he's on edge, desperate for someone to tell him what to do. He's learning the hard way that trust has to be earned, and at this point Young's pretty sure he's used up Eli's reserves. But.
But. None of that is really the point anymore.
He walks through the Stargate, fingers unavoidably near his holster, the crunch of leaves loud under his feet as he scans the thick trees for some sign of life. "Rush!" he yells, looking, looking, because this can only go a couple of ways, and none of them are good.
Better to face him than leave him to die, some part of him thinks, and he can't exactly argue the point with himself.
"Colonel Young," Rush says, stepping out of the trees, his voice that drawling, sardonic tone that's always proved to piss Young off like nothing else. Rush leans against the nearest trunk, arms crossed, striking a pose that's defiant in its casualness. You left me behind to die, his body says. Are you going to finish it now?
Young crosses his own arms in front of him, removing the threat of his gun from the situation, at least temporarily. "Dr. Rush," he says, keeping his voice level as he takes in the mess that is the one man he's ever purposefully left behind. "You managed to catch up to us." Despite himself there's the softest hint of accusation in the words—why couldn't you stay dead?—as well as a brush of reluctant humor.
"I did," is all Rush says, and the lack of fury on the other man's part, the lack of incoherent rage that Young is flat-out positive Rush should be feeling, is far more irritating than anything else.
"And you're requesting to come aboard?" he says, feeling his temper flare at Rush's level tone, as if he hadn't been left for dead. It takes him a minute for Young to realize he's getting angry on Rush's behalf, which despite the particulars of the situation isn't exactly workable when it comes to real life.
"You made your point on the last planet, Colonel Young," Rush says, and now he just sounds…tired. "You'll keep a shorter leash on me than last time, and I'll keep Destiny flying. Maybe even find a way to get everyone home."
"Eli—" Young starts, but Rush cuts in.
"Eli is brilliant, yes," he says, "But you know as well as I that he's hardly ready for the pressures that come with the job, and no one else on that ship is as familiar with the Ancient technology and language as I am."
Young swallows down the guilt at Rush's accurate account of Eli. Everyone has to grow up sometime, he reminds himself, deliberately pushing away the thought of Eli's wide eyes.
"And what guarantee do I have that you'll stay in line this time, Doctor?" he asks instead, trying to focus on the fact that yes, Rush is practically begging, and no, it's not nearly as pleasant as he'd imagined it to be.
Rush stares at him for a long second, as if the mere question is ridiculous. Finally, he pushes himself away from the tree and stands, gesturing down at his body—clothing torn, a long cut visible on his arm, cheeks sunken—and then a wider arm to encompass the both of them standing on the surface of the planet. Something about the gesture, about eyes that are almost haunted, twists inside of Young, but he tries to force it away.
"As I said," Rush says, his voice low, hoarse, "You made your point. I'm expendable. I expect, if you don't think my…contributions worthy, you'll make your point again. More firmly." Rush tries on a smile, but it's shaky instead of sardonic, and Young fights not to turn away. "One might even say permanently," Rush says, with that wrong-not-smile, and Young clenches his jaw, beyond angry, but not even sure at what. His arms drop from his chest, his fingers twitching, and Rush flinches, taking a step backwards, and Young freezes.
Rush is terrified, he realizes. The thought is sickening. And yet. And yet. He'd left him to die.
"Let's go," Young says, voice overly firm to hide turmoil he doesn't know how to deal with. He gestures impatiently to Rush, and the scientist moves hesitantly forward. "We'll get you back on Destiny, and someone else can deal with your new ship," he says.
"They won't—I'll need to pilot it if we're taking it through the Stargate," he says. "If you want to take it with us," he adds, again deferring, and Young's hand flexes at his side, this time careful to hide it from Rush.
One month, he thinks. Four weeks alone. Left on a desert planet with a broken ship. But he survived.
Young holds out an arm towards Rush, nods towards the Stargate mere yards behind him. "We've got fifteen hours," he says. "I'm sure you've got time to have something to eat first."
Rush nods, finally stepping within reach of Young, who immediately claps an arm around his shoulders and pulls him in.
I'm sorry, he thinks. I took the cowards way out.
But Rush looks at him, silent, and Young says nothing.
Rush doesn't tell anyone.
"You made it through the landslide, then?" Eli asks as soon as they come through the gate, something hard in his smile, and Rush doesn't even blink as Young stiffens against him.
"I did," he says. "I was lucky," he says, and Young's back is taut as he leads Rush through the gathered people to where Johansen is waiting for them in one of the private rooms.
After a long pause as she waits for Young to leave and Young doesn't move, she starts the examination. She's mostly silent, sensing the obvious tension between the two men as she has Rush take off his shirt so she can get a better look at the scrapes he has, as well as the one long gash on his arm. She starts asking him routine questions as Young tries to ignore how thin he is.
Rush is vague with his answers, eyes skimming carefully over the other man as he scans the room distractedly.
"When's the last time you ate something?" Johansen asks, putting a calm hand on Rush's knee, and he flinches, eyes flicking back up to her face, before frowning.
Thinking, Young realizes, almost ill.
"I'm not sure," Rush says, trying for a shrug, trying for offhand. He makes a little motion with his hand, brushing it off as unimportant. "Earlier," he says.
"Earlier when?" Johansen asks, a bit of an edge to her voice, and Rush blinks and then stares at her mutely.
Young leaves, knocking into the wall in his haste.
Eli doesn't confront him.
Young had been sure he would, but instead Eli avoids him. Avoids being in the same room as him.
It's Johansen who finds him, arms crossed, irritated. "He's not eating," she says. "He won't stop working. He's malnourished, and he's not resting like I told him to. You have to talk to him."
She'd thought she'd have to convince him, but he doesn't wait around for more explanations.
Rush is neck-deep in something undoubtedly critical and important, but he still tenses as soon as Young walks in. "Colonel," he says before even turning around.
"Dr. Rush," Young says. "Break time."
"Rush," he says, and Rush looks up at him, long hair wild around wilder eyes.
"All right," he says, and stands up, looking a little lost. Young bites down whatever retort he was considering, and instead steps forward and grabs Rush's arm.
"You're skin and bones, Doctor," he says. "You need to eat."
Rush follows him mutely, and eats whatever's passing for food these days silently, looking up from his plate only to glance at his watch.
Young considers and discards conversational topics automatically. Nothing seems to fit.
"Is that all, Colonel?" Rush asks when they've finished. "I'm at a critical part of my research, and if you don't mind…?"
Young nods, realizing as Rush gets up that he'd been waiting. Waiting to be dismissed. Or released.
Despite his misgivings, Young collects him for dinner, and then breakfast the next morning, and then lunch again, and then dinner. Someone needs to take care of him, he thinks, trying to justify it to himself, but considering he'd left Rush for dead he can't deny that anyone else would probably be a better choice.
The next breakfast, Rush is nowhere to be found, and after a (not at all frantic) Young radios Scott and finds out Rush is, in fact, eating even as they speak, he goes to the mess.
Eli is sitting with Rush, and as soon as Young walks in Eli gives him a very clear fuck off stare. Young decidedly ignores it, walking over and sitting next to Rush.
And Rush, who'd been sitting there, tense and silent, relaxes just slightly as Young's knee brushes his.
They eat together every meal. There's no pretending it's accidental, as Young has found out to his chagrin that he's more than willing to hunt down the scientist if he's not where Young expects him to be. Eli eats with them, across from Rush, as if worried that Young is going to leave him for dead in the middle of the fucking mess.
Analytically, Young knows he has no reason to be offended by Eli's protectiveness. And yet. And yet.
Scott starts eating with them as well, although Young's fairly certain that his reasons are more focused on Eli than any larger concerns that are layered into their meals with the veiled looks and awkward lulls in conversation. But Scott is by and large an upbeat person, and the way he easily teases Eli has changed the mood of the meals.
Scott and Eli bicker back and forth, and Young joins in now and again, sometimes even managing a response from Rush.
And Rush's knee brushes against Young's as he excuses himself from the table, and Young can feel a phantom touch there for the rest of the day.
When Rush stands up to him, matching him yell for yell, Young listens with something almost like relief, because Rush hasn't stood up to him since he'd walked back onto Destiny almost two months ago.
Two months of silence and half-touches and deference, and Young is relieved as Rush waves his arms overdramatically and tugs at his hair in exasperation.
So he stands there, and takes it, giving enough to keep Rush going, despite the fact that he already knows that he's giving in. If it's important enough to get Rush out of his fugue, Young is certain it's worth it. But seeing Rush like this—furious and passionate and arrogant and defiant—it's enough, it's perfect, it's loosening the band that's been restricting his chest for three months of regret.
"All right," he says at last, waiting for Rush to hear him through his ongoing diatribe. "All right," he says, something like a smile on his face, "You made your point."
Rush peters off as he finally hears him, head tilting a bit to the side as he takes in how gracefully Young changes his mind.
"Just like that?" he asks, something like hesitance creeping back into his voice, and Young shrugs easily.
"You're right," he says, the words not nearly as bitter tasting as he thought they'd be. In fact, given the slow smile on Rush's face and what it's doing to his insides, Young might even go so far as to call them pleasant.
Rush looks better, healthier, and Eli's backed off some. They have water and they keep finding food planet to planet, and they have the stars, all around them.
They stop using the stones.
Someday, maybe, if something happens, they'll use them.
But they've all said their goodbyes, and living in other people's bodies, pretending they have a life on Earth, that Destiny is a dream, a nightmare, that they will wake up and be safe, be home, it's destroying them all.
Young suggests it, Rush backs him up, and Eli and Scott fall in line behind them. After that the agreements are easier, less forced. Lies and more lies and telling your lover you miss them with a voice that isn't yours and sometime you have to start moving forward and stop moving back.
They decide to check in once a month, with an armed guard in the room ready to break the contact after the allotted ten minutes.
Rush had never gone home.
No, Young corrects, He never went back to Earth. He came home. He found his way home.
Rush risks his life for Scott.
Ridiculous and terrifying and unbelievable and perfect and never allowed to happen again, and Young doesn't leave the infirmary, doesn't shut up as Johansen stitches twelve stitches into Rush's back, unable to hide her grin from either of them.
"I'm fine," Rush growls, and Young tries not to throw things and yell obscenities, he tries very, very hard. It doesn't help that Eli is so giddy with relief that Scott is going to be okay that he's hugging everyone in sight, even Young, who evidently has been completely forgiven.
"I'm fine!" Rush yells when Young insists he rest, not work.
"For my peace of mind, if nothing else," Young says with a groan, and Rush just softens and when Young checks Rush's current lab an hour later, he finds that Rush had kept his promise to stay in his room for at least a little while.
I did this, he thinks for half-a-second, ridiculously proud, and then he goes to Rush's room, worried and half-convinced that Eli's just lying to him.
Rush answers the door with some of the worst bed head Young's ever seen, and it shouldn't be endearing, but it is.
"What do you want?" Rush sighs, and Young just tilts his head, looking at him intently.
"I needed to see that you were all right," Young admits, just breath and words, and Rush smiles a little.
"I'm fine," he promises. "Now as I recall a colonel ordered me to rest, and I'd hate to disappoint."
"Goodnight," Young smiles, and Rush rolls his eyes, amused, and then retreats back into his room.
"I'm sorry," Young says, voice low.
They'd finished dinner, and by unspoken consent they'd left Scott and Eli to their own devices and wandered off together. They're sitting in one of the many lounges, watching the distorted images of space through the view screen, shoulders touching, knee to knee.
Rush turns and looks at him, face shadowed against the backdrop of shimmering colors. "I never blamed you," he says, a little crease between his eyes.
Young looks back at him, into his eyes, and he turns his hand so it brushes against Rush's. "I did," he says, almost freely, almost without reservations, but his voice breaks just the slightest as he says the second word. He clears his throat, pulling his hand back, turning back to the view screen, swallowing back everything he wants to say.
But a hand covers his.
"You can't get rid of me that easily," Rush says, amused, and Young turns to him, frowning at the inappropriateness of the statement given their history, but when he opens his mouth to explain that he was being serious and trying to apologize and—
Rush kisses him.
Leans forward, nudging him slightly, nose to nose, and then kisses him, hands cupping his face, body arching closer to his, fingers tangling in short hair.
"I'm sorry," he says into Young's mouth, nipping his bottom lip, knee rubbing against knee. "I forgive you," he says, as Young pulls him close, large hands spreading across Rush's waist. "I'm not going anywhere," he promises, and Young pulls him snug against his body, not letting him go, never letting him go.
"I'm never going to let you," he says.
"You won't have to," Rush promises into his skin.