after justice and blue aliens
Long past time to clear the air, but who knows the difference between 'clear' and 'clouded' anymore.
Their hands are on him. Holding him down, grasping with a strength surprising (he took out that first one easy enough, just brought it down and strangled it and killed it and then it was dead, dead and gone). He thrashes, fights, in desperation, can’t let them do that to him again, can’t let them lock him in a tank, can’t breathe through a mask, fade in and out of consciousness, out of control, helpless.
They’re communicating, creaks and whirrs, and he fights, kicking out at one of them, a foot connecting with its chest. He can’t win, there are too many, but he can’t stop fighting either, every muscle in his body straining for it, must escape, must get out --
One of them creaks at the others, loudly, loudly enough that it hurts Rush’s ears (no, that’s not right, they can’t be that loud, they’re soft-voiced, always) and they drop him.
He thuds into the floor and scrambles back, against a wall. Nowhere to run, but he searches for a way out, anyway. Surrounding him. Breaths escaping in whimpers of fear, memories of agony, cold, alien minds reaching into his, breaking it wide open and tearing out every single important memory.
One of the aliens steps forward, and Rush twitches, like he’s about to charge, to attack – and the alien throws up his arms.
The gesture is familiar. It triggers something deep in Rush’s consciousness. The aliens don’t have human body language. Thrown up hands. What does that mean?
“C-colonel Young?” and it’s not until he says it that he realizes it. He does know that. He knows that from one place in particular.
His mind reels in confusion. Are they using the stones? There can’t be this many stones. There can’t be. There aren’t. Are there? Did he miss some? Did other people hide stones away, jealously, out of fear? It doesn’t make sense, but why are the aliens on Destiny, why isn’t there anyone but him fighting them off, god, god, he’s so afraid.
“Colonel Young,” he repeats, and the alien steps forward, slowly, reaching out a hand. Rush stares at it, incredulous, not understanding, but reaches out and takes it. The feel of the hand makes him shudder, but he follows (docile, obedient, makes it all the easier for them must fight have to fight) and slides up on an infirmary bed.
They’re all around, and he cringes, closing his eyes. Waits for the feel of a device on his temple. Maybe they’ve managed to fool him this time.
If they try to put that on him, he’ll panic. He’ll panic and he’ll fight and he’ll try to rip it off.
There’s a brush at the back of his neck, and he jerks around, ready to hit, punch, smash, but the alien holds his shoulders. Whirrs at him reassuringly. Whirrs can’t be reassuring, but these are. A touch at the crook of his arm. A hiss.
He tries to panic, but he can’t. Hands lower him to the bed. He closes his eyes.
Young finds Rush alone, in a quiet corridor, crouched against the wall. Leaned sideways against one of the hallway ribs.
He pauses, before he approaches. Considers that Rush may want to be left alone, but something compels him onwards, footsteps slow and even on the metal.
If Rush wanted to leave, he could just get up and go. But he stays. Huddled. Still.
“Rush?” queries Young.
“Ah, yes,” says Rush. His voice sounds normal. He doesn’t look normal. “Colonel Young.”
Young debates, for a moment, and then he crouches down, in front of Rush. “How’re you feeling?”
Rush shoots him a look. “Just fine, Colonel,” he drawls. “Now, I’m not planning a takeover of the ship, I’m not dawdling on my work, I’ll get to whatever you’ll have me do. Now, go.”
Young considers it, again. But – no, this time he doesn’t want Rush to give him the brush-off.
He’s silent. Difficult to select the right words for this. “You were seeing the aliens,” he decides on.
“What,” says Rush, “did you think I’d see you?”
Young’s glance falls to the ground. Gritted jaw.
“Sorry to disappoint.”
His head lifts. “It wasn’t a disappointment.”
“Then I’m glad my terror was enjoyable for you.”
“Rush.” Tight, frustrated voice. He never knows what to do with this man. Every conversation goes wrong. And even if it goes right, he always has this feeling that Rush takes something out of it that he doesn’t.
Rush doesn’t respond. Looks almost ashamed, for a moment, before the expression slides off his face, replaced by the usual slightly superior blankness.
“You recognized me.” It was the gesture, it must have been. It wasn’t calculated. Pure reflex, on Young’s part. He’d just hated – he’d hated seeing Rush like that. “I’d never seen you like that before.”
“Yes, well,” and Rush has nothing to follow that up with. He runs his fingers over the growing beard on his chin.
Young watches. Wonders, for a moment, about the texture, about the feel of Rush’s hands.
“I suppose you never told anyone,” says Rush. “About what happened on the alien ship.”
It breaks Young out of his brief reverie. His eyes flick to Rush’s. Wonders, for a moment, if Rush caught him watching. “No,” he says. “I didn’t.”
The pause is heavy. Rush’s teeth worrying at his lip, still anxious. It’s his turn to speak, and Young waits for it. Long enough that he wonders if maybe he should try and break the silence.
“You saved my life,” says Rush, finally.
“It was Chloe’s only chance.”
“If you hadn’t done anything, all of your problems would be solved,” he tells Young. “And I’d still be there.”
Young shakes his head. “No,” he says, a little ruefully, “dead you cause problems, captured you cause problems---”
“And here, alive, I cause problems,” finishes Rush.
“Here,” corrects Young, “you solve problems.”
Rush holds his gaze, and nods, finally. “So it was pragmatism,” he suggests.
“I wasn’t gonna just leave you there.”
“So it’s all right to leave me alone on a planet, but not all right to leave me in alien captivity. All right, I’ll be sure to remember that for next time.”
“Rush.” It’s the third time he’s said Rush’s name, in this conversation, and it feels more difficult every time. “What happened on the planet, that’s not gonna happen again.”
“I don’t know that I believe you.”
It’s unexpectedly honest, and unexpectedly painful. Young doesn’t know what happened. Or – he knows, but he doesn’t understand. All the most violent pieces of him, forcing out, smashing into Rush. He was provoked. But that’s no excuse.
An idea occurs to Young.
“I think you do believe me,” he says.
“Terrified out of your mind, you trusted me,” says Young. “Even when you thought I was a damn alien.”
Rush shivers. But he doesn’t deny it.
“It’s not gonna happen again, Rush. I promise.”
And Rush nods. Eyes closed, expression tensed up, like he’s holding back, holding too much emotion back.
“Rush,” and then he’s moving, reaching out. On instinct; he sure as hell doesn’t know what he’s doing. But Rush moves too, sliding into Young’s embrace, into his arms, burying his face in the curve of Young’s shoulder. Rush is shivering, Young can feel it now, little spasms, tremors.
His hand skims up Rush’s back. Slow, easy, and now isn’t the time for words. It’s not the time to say anything.
Eventually, Rush pulls back. Eyes red, downcast. Climbs to his feet, and Young follows.
Rush meets Young’s eyes, once. Not a word, and Young can’t read the look in his eyes. Wide open and vulnerable and so much emotion there that Young can’t make out any of it.
He turns away, and he goes. Down the corridor, away, leaving Young there.
Then, after a moment, Young leaves, too.