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The Path of Fate

Chapter Text

“Status report!”

Colonel Young shouted over the sound of blaring alarms and exploding, sparking conduits. The stasis pods were opening, waking the crew, but the flashing alerts suggested much more was happening. Of course, the shaking floor beneath his feet was another clue.

Coming out of a three year sleep was not an instantaneous process. The body needed time to recover and adjust, but the crew of the Destiny were not being given any such luxury. Young braced an arm on one of the control panels to catch his breath. His eyes struggled to focus, blurring as he saw bodies stumbling about, or in some cases, crawling out of smoking pods, trying to make sense of the world around them.

Recognizing several faces, Young’s chest compressed in relief. They were alive. They made it.

His thoughts scattered an instant later with the scream of the alarm. Something was wrong. “Report!”

Tripping over his own feet, Matthew Scott fell to his knees. His head was spinning. What was going on? Why was everything so loud?

Feeling a hand on his arm, he turned to see Chloe Armstrong standing over him, urging him to his feet. Remembering the pods, the mission, and his duty, Scott pushed his legs to stand, looking for the others. TJ, Greer, James, Volker, and Rush were all trying to regain their equilibrium and make sense of the world around them.

Pushing forward on wobbling legs, Scott headed for the closest control panel to see what was making all the racket. Just as he reached out to grab the console, someone beat him to it.

The alarms abruptly ceased and the chamber feel into a deafening silence. Scott narrowed his eyes, trying to focus on the form standing before him. “Eli?”

Smiling, Eli Wallace gave the man a nod. “Yeah.”

“What’s going on?”

“The ship is telling us we need to refuel.”

Pushing his way forward, Young gave Eli a wide grin. “You made it.”

A nervous laugh bubbled from the math genius’s throat. “It’s a funny story actually.”

“Then I look forward to hearing it. After you tell me what is going on.”

Nodding, Eli gave his attention back to the panel to try and determine what was happening to the ship. He wasn’t surprised to find Dr. Nicholas Rush breathing down his neck as he ran his diagnostic.

Destiny is shutting down its power systems while setting a course for the nearest star.”

“Did we make it to the next galaxy?” Young hoped they woke up in the right time and place for once.

“We did,” Rush said before Eli could respond.

Eli cast Rush an annoyed look, but the man didn’t give any hint of noticing. “Three years of sleep didn’t change you at all.”

The sarcasm ran off Rush’s shoulders. By all accounts, they made the trip to the next galaxy within the foreseen amount of time. The mission was back on track.

“Anything else,” Young asked.

“I’ll need to get to the bridge to do a complete analysis,” Eli said.

Glancing around the room, Young was glad to see the crew was starting to shake off the initial shock of waking. “Brody, Volker, go with Eli,” he ordered.

The two scientists moved forward on shaky feet, but made no complaint as they followed Eli out of the chamber. Rush started to follow, but Young cut off his path. “We need to talk.”

Rush raised a brow. “Now?”

“In a moment.”

The pair exchanged a long look before Young turned around to address the rest of his people. Pride, astonishment, and humility overwhelmed him as he took in the sight of at all their familiar faces.

“By all accounts, we seem to have made it to the other side,” Young started. “Unfortunately, we need to get right back to business. TJ, I’ll need a report on what supplies we have in the infirmary. Camile, I need you to take stock of the civilians. Becker, check out our rations. Scott, Greer, you two are with me.”

Turning on his heel, Young expected his officers to follow, so he motioned for Rush to come with him. When they were out of hearing range of the others, he turned to his officers. “I need you two to take stock of the weapons and ammo. We need to get back to full strength as soon as possible.”

Scott nodded in full understanding. “Aye, sir.”

As Scott and Greer went to follow orders, Young and Rush faced off.

“What do you want with me,” the scientist asked impatiently.

“We have to talk about our situation.”

“What situation,” Rush demanded as he crossed his arms over his chest.

“Follow me.”

Young’s tone would broke no argument, so Rush remained silent as the Colonel led the way to his quarters. Once the door closed, the Colonel took a moment to appreciate how nothing changed before turning to face the man who was a thorn in his side from day one.

“I need to make sure we are on the same page.”

“With what,” Rush asked.

“The mission. Moving forward.” Young was getting a bit frustrated with Rush’s continued, so-called ignorance.

Rubbing his whiskered chin, Rush shrugged. “I thought we already had an understanding on that front.”

“Just making sure the lapse of three years didn’t change anything.”

Sighing, Rush felt his nerves starting to itch. He should be on the bridge with the rest of his team, not hashing out details with the Colonel.

“Last I checked, we don’t fully trust each other,” Rush reminded.

“True,” Young admitted. “But we did agree to do what is best of the mission and this crew.”

“Those two points don’t always see eye to eye.”

“We’re going to butt heads,” Young admitted. “But I want to make sure our truce is still in effect.”

There really wasn’t a point to pushing his luck at the moment, so Rush nodded. “We’re going to have to get along if we are going to see this through.”

“Agreed.” A necessary evil was a more accurate description of the situation, but Young realized they didn’t have much choice.

“Good. Now, I’m going to go see what is going on with the ship.”

Letting Rush stalk out the door, Young let out a long sigh. In his gut, he knew the two of them would have a confrontation at some point. He just hoped they could get Destiny back on her feet before the first blow out. In the meantime, he needed to make the rounds and see how everyone was adjusting. Then he needed to contact Earth.

****

TJ was sorting through bandages when she noticed Colonel Young enter the infirmary. Her heart did a little flip at the sight of him, but her poker face remained intact. He would want a report and she wished she had better news.

“TJ,” Young nodded in greeting. “Where do we stand?”

“Things are pretty much where I left them,” she started. “I’m still taking inventory. With the computer powered down, the process will be slow going until we recharge.”

“What do we have at our disposal?”

“Not much,” she sighed. “I have supplies and instruments, but those are limited until we have more power. As far as medicine, there is nothing beyond the bandages. We’re going to have to start re-growing medicinals as soon as possible, but it will take time.”

The report was what he expected. They all knew they would be scraping the bottom of the barrel for a while. “Do the best you can and keep me posted.”

TJ nodded. “You got it.”

Next stop was the Mess Hall. Becker told him they had enough rations for a month. Probably less considering a lot of the canned goods had faded labels and unclear expiration dates. Some of the supply was bound to have spoiled.

The water levels were the same as the food. Once Destiny recharged, they needed to find the closest viable planet and stock up on the necessities. Hopefully, this galaxy would not be as hostile as the last one. Personally, Young felt they were overdue for some smooth sailing.

One bit of good news was the weapons were right were they left them. The bad news was they would run out of ammunition eventually. Young guessed they would have to cross that bridge when they came to it. For now, there were other priorities.

Mind on the strategy of getting food and water, Young was walking toward the bridge lost in a daze of his own thoughts when he ran into Camile. As anxious as he was to learn the status of the ship, obviously he would have to wait. The woman looked like she had a bone to pick with him.

“Colonel,” Camile greeted, albeit formally.

Young kept his expression neutral, knowing Camile wasn’t here simply to catch up on old times. “How are people settling in?”

“Like riding a bike,” she said with a small smile before getting into her demands. “I would like to contact Earth and update them on our status. We also need to catch up on the last three years.”

“Once we’re refueled,” he said.

Knowing that was as good as she was going to get from him right now, Camile gave a nod and continued on her way.

Heading to the bridge, Young braced for more bad news. Destiny was a solid ship. The Ancients did an excellent job making her, but nothing lasted forever. Age would eventually catch up with her, so Young hoped they were prepared.

Four pairs of eyes turned to him the second he crossed the threshold. “What have we got?”

“Life support seems to be in good condition,” Rush started. “The scrubbers are all online and functioning, so we have air.”

Young nodded, but made no comment on the obvious. “Good.”

“But the FTL drive is going to need some repairs,” Eli supplied. “It’s been going non-stop for years.”

“How long do we have,” Young asked.

“We should make it to the next star, but even with energy reserves we should drop out of FTL and run diagnostics so we can head off any problems.”

Glancing at the others, Young saw Volker and Brody nod in agreement. “Ok,” he said. “Let’s recharge and find a viable planet, if possible, before we drop out of FTL. We can work on the engines and recoup some supplies at the same time.”

The team nodded, leaving Young to seek out other duties. As commander, he made it a priority to check in with the civilian population and make sure everyone was alright. He made it a special point to see Chloe.

Since coming aboard Destiny, Chloe Armstrong had to deal with more tragedy than most. Her father, Senator Alan Armstrong, sacrificed his life to buy the rest of them time to fix the ship before the life support failed. Being kidnapped by hostile aliens didn’t help. The changes those aliens forced on Chloe had her under quarantine for months.

Still, she made it through each obstacle with courage and grace. Young suspected her relationship with Scott had a lot to do with it. Finding Chloe on the observation deck, he offered a small smile of greeting.

“Are you glad to be back?”

A light laugh came bubbling out of her throat. “I’m relieved mostly. I’m happy we made it and are alive.”

“Yeah,” Young agreed as he looked out at the galaxy. “I guess we should give Eli most of the credit, but I don’t want it going to his head.”

Since Eli was her best friend next to Matt, Chloe understood the joke. Eli could be very humble, but she guessed he was that way because he didn’t truly believe in himself.

“He can’t relax yet,” Chloe pointed out. “There is still a lot of work to be done.”

“How would you feel about being a part of Rush’s team full time?”

Chloe’s eyes widened. “Seriously?”

“I could use another pair of eyes up there.”

Knowing the Colonel and Dr. Rush didn’t always get along was a bit of an understatement. Personally, Chloe did not think Rush was quite as bad as people made him out to be. After all, Rush did save her life and she would always be grateful. Later, when the aliens changed her, he made no secret of the fact he was using her for research just as much as he was trying to help figure out her aliment. She supposed since he did give her full disclosure, she didn’t have an issue with his methods. Chloe did respect Rush, but she also understood why people were weary of him.

“I’m not really qualified,” she started.

Shaking his head, Young didn’t want to hear her refusal. “Hardly any of us are really qualified to be here, yet look how far we’ve come. We’ve accomplished so much, and I think you’ll only be an asset to the team.”

Despite her smile, Chloe cast him an I-know-better look. “And you want me to keep an eye on Dr. Rush.”

Young didn’t deny it. “Like I said, it couldn’t hurt.”

“Ok, I’ll report to the bridge.”

“Great,” Young smiled his thanks.

Watching her go, Young turned to look out at the empty space beyond the ship. Bracing his hands on the railing, he could see the approaching star in the distance. Hopefully, their luck would hold and the drones from the last galaxy wouldn’t have a way to follow them. He also hoped this part of the universe wouldn’t hold too much hostility. Maybe this leg of the journey would be different. Maybe this time, they might make it home.

****

Pacing her quarters, Camile Wrey hoped the crew would get this ship recharged as soon as possible. She was foaming at the mouth to contact Earth. After three years, she hoped they were able to negotiate a treaty with the Langarans that would allow a stargate to dial the ninth chevron, giving them a supply line. This time around, Camile would like normal food and her own clothes if she was forced to be a part of this crew. Like most of the civilians, Camile wanted to go home. She wanted to be with Sharon and continue living her life. If there was a life for her to go home to, of course.

Before going into stasis, Camile told her girlfriend to move on with her life and find happiness. As much as Camile wanted to know if Sharon did just that or not, she also wanted to remain in the dark. Thinking of her lover with someone else was painful enough at the moment. With the certainty would come more anguish, however, with the uncertainty, the hope could end up being worse.

The civilians, and many of the military personnel, looked to her for guidance and advice. She had duties of her own to see to and an example to set. Indulging in some self-pity and nail biting now would help her stay more focused and clam around the others. Sometimes, one had to boldly fake confidence. Camile hoped she wouldn’t regret being awake aboard Destiny again.

Chapter Text

“Ok, Eli, we’re all ears.”

Looking from Young to Camile, then to Rush, Eli took a deep breath and tried to think of the best way to explain what happened to him. Now that Destiny made a star dive, they were back to full power. The ship was making her way to the next cluster of stargates, but with a few hours to kill, Young called them all into a meeting.

Camile was quickly brought up to speed with the issue surrounding the last stasis pod. Now Eli had to tell them a rather unremarkable tale.

“One of the hoses was clogged,” he said. “Once I read up on the stats in the database, it was an easy fix.”

“Really?” Young didn’t bother to hide his surprise. “How long did the repair take?”

“About three days.”

“Three days?”

All eyes turned to a frowning Rush.

“But you used up the full two weeks’ worth of energy.”

Eli scowled. “How do you know?”

“I ran a diagnostic.”

“Why?”

Rush shrugged. “I was curious.”

“Now I am too,” Young said, looking from Rush to Eli. “What did you do for the other eleven days?”

“Ten, actually,” Eli corrected. “I entered the chamber on the fourteenth day.”

Young wasn’t impressed. “Then what used up the rest of that energy?”

Hesitating, Eli wasn’t sure how much he should tell them at this point. His discovery was huge, at least to him, at the time and he was forced to make a decision on his own. As much as Eli wanted to keep everything to himself, he knew he didn’t want to be like Rush. Since Eli wasn’t good at stomaching hypocrisy, he knew he would tell the full story.

“Well, I was trying to find tools to fix the chamber, and my reading from the database gave me an idea to search one area of the ship that was still mostly closed off to us.”

“Where,” Rush asked.

“Lower levels beyond the shuttle deck.”

“Go on,” Young urged.

“Well, I wasn’t having much luck and, honestly, my mind was wondering. I mean, I was bored and there was no one to talk to but myself-”

“The concise version, Eli,” Camile pleaded.

“Ok, sure. So, I was pushing random ancient algorithms into the keypad and one of the doors opened! It’s a room full of what looked like more stasis pods, only lying horizontal instead of vertical.”

“Were they more pods,” Camile asked with a hint of impatience.

“Not really. They were more like…how to describe it?” Eli struggled to find the right words. “You know who you stick things in the freezer and it, ya know, freezes them? Well, these pods appeared to do the same thing only without freezing anything. Almost like dry-freezing, is the best way I can describe it. They preserved things virtually without using any energy!”

Rush was pretty sure he was getting a clear picture now. “So you thought you would try it out?”

Nodding nervously, Eli shrugged. “TJ had some cell samples left in the infirmary that were just going to degrade anyway. I took those samples and preserved them.”

Catching the look Young and Rush shared; Eli put up his hands and tried to make them understand. “I did all the calculations! I know there would be enough energy! I just wanted to see if it would work!”

The disappointing looks from Rush and Camile didn’t get to Eli as much as the one from Colonel Young did.

“I would have fully expected Rush to pull a stunt like that, but not you, Eli,” Young chided.

Eli’s mouth gasped open as he tried to further argue his point. Camile got a few comments in, but no one seemed to notice Rush’s offended expression at Young’s jab. Personally, he thought more of Eli too, but if the shoes were reversed, Rush couldn’t say he wouldn’t have done the same thing. Every scientist struggled with curiosity, and beneath it all, Eli was a scientist. Even if the kid didn’t want to admit it.

“How much energy is this…” Young shrugged.

“I call it ‘The Preserve’,” Eli supplied.

Young just blinked. “Ok. How much energy is this ‘preserve’ of yours using now?”

“Virtually none,” Eli said proudly.

“You’re sure?”

“I don’t know about when the system is fully activated, but for right now, just using the preservation technology, it’s barely using anything.”

“Whoa,” Young interrupted. “What do you mean ‘activated’?”

Again, Eli hesitated. Three pairs of expectant and demanding eyes were causing him to shuffle his feet and use his hands to gesture more than necessary.

“Based on the reading I found in the database, the room, and the pods, are for rebuilding and completing cell growth-”

“Like regeneration?” Rush’s tone was skeptical because he wasn’t sure he could believe what Eli was claiming.

“Yes,” Eli nodded.

Camile held up a hand. “Wait, you’re saying the Ancients had a way to regrow or regenerate anything from a cellular level?”

“Basically.”

“Like re-growing an extinct plant from only a few cells?”

“Yeah,” Eli nodded. “If it works, I was thinking it could be an answer to our food shortages. I mean, imagine being able to regrow a plant without having to wait for the seeds to germinate, or even having to plant them for that matter.”

“You don’t know for certain that’s what it does,” Rush argued.

“Which is why I left a note for TJ. Between the two of us, we may be able to figure it all out.”

“We don’t have time for that right now.” Rush looked to Young. “We have to run diagnostics on the FTL drive and do upkeep on the engines and look for more supplies.”

“I’m aware,” Young said before looking back at Eli. “Once we have a bit of a head start on our resources, then I’ll let you and TJ tinker with this thing. Until then, I need you working with Dr. Rush.”

“I wasn’t expecting to get to it right way,” Eli assured him.

“Glad to hear it. Now help us find a viable planet.”

Eli nodded. “On it.”

He and Rush walked out of the Colonial’s quarters to get to work, but Camile lingered.

“I already know what you are going to ask,” Young said.

“Then are you giving me permission?”

“I’m going with you. We need news from Earth and I have a lot of reports to give.”

Smiling, Camile walked him down to the communication room.

****

David Telford had the day marked on his calendar. The last time he spoke with his friend Everett Young was thirty-seven months ago. They had people by the communication stones around the clock for the last month hoping for word. People were starting to give up, but Telford refused. He owed Everett more than that.

Receiving word when they made contact, David hurried out of his office and down to the communication room. The two officers stationed there looked nothing like Young or Camile, but their consciousnesses were present, so David didn’t hesitate to pull his friend in for a back-slapping hug.

“Welcome back!”

“It’s good to be here.” Young noted the slightest differences in David’s appearance. He had a few more grey hairs at the temples and clearer lines at the corners of his eyes.

“What have we missed,” Camile asked eagerly. “The Lucian Alliance?”

Telford sighed. “They are still boils on our asses, but we have the situation in line for now.”

“What about a viable planet to dial the ninth chevron,” Young asked. “We’re pretty desperate for supplies up there.”

“I may have good news on that front.” Escorting the pair out of the communication room and to his office, David preferred to speak behind closed doors.

“As you know,” he started once they were all seated. “The people of Langara have thus far refused Homeworld Command the use of their planet. They requested the Stargate to be removed as part of our ongoing alliance.”

“So, what’s changed,” Young asked.

David let out another heavy sigh. “A shift in power within the Lucian Alliance.”

“What sort of shift,” Camile asked. Sitting straight in her seat, she watched Telford with intense scrutiny.

“To put it plainly, they’ve become more organized. The Lucian Alliance seems to have merged into one solid faction instead of a formation of several different groups.”

Young frowned. “I don’t see how that’s a good thing.”

“It hasn’t been,” Telford informed them. “We’ve lost a lot of ground.”

“And where does the good news come in,” Camile asked, losing her patience.

David smiled. “Currently, Langara is surrounded by Lucian Alliance forces. We’ve let slip that Destiny is…well, we sent out the rumor that the ship was destroyed three years ago.”

“You did what,” Young exclaimed.

David held up a hand to stall Young’s protests. “We did it in part to keep the Alliance from courting Langara. Their people feared even with the Stargate removed, the Alliance would still covet their planet. When word reached them of Destiny’s demise, it seemed to have worked. We knew you would be out of contact for three years, but the Alliance didn’t, so they backed off. Recently, about the last seven months or so, they’ve become much more organized. Their interest in Langara once more peaked, so the Langarians are eager for our help.”

“Can you help them,” Young asked.

“We have a plan,” Telford assured them. “If it’s successful, then the Langarians have agreed to let us put the Stargate in place once more. From there, we can negotiate to set up a supply line to Destiny.”

If your plan works,” Young stressed.

“If we can beat back the Alliance, yes.”

“Those are a lot of ‘ifs’, David.”

“Yeah, I know, but if it works, we can actually help you guys.” David’s smile faded a few degrees. “In the meantime, you will have to keep on doing what you are doing.”

The office fell silent for several moments.

“How are you holding up,” Telford finally asked.

“As best as we can,” Young answered.

Camile and Young spent the rest of the afternoon making reports to other officials at Homeworld Command. The political atmosphere changed slightly over the last three years, but procedure never faltered.

****

Eagerly following Eli down the corridors of the ship, TJ found it difficult to keep in her excitement. Her stomach was doing summersaults! If what Eli said was true, then half of their problems would be solved!

She could replicate medications and pharmaceuticals! They wouldn’t even need a supply line to Earth! Even better, there could be a way to regenerate damaged tissue and heal injuries and diseases!

“What were the cell samples you took, Eli?”

Pausing, Eli stuffed his hands in his pockets before his feet shuffled on the floor as he turned to face her. Eli hesitated a moment before answering. “The samples you took during Ginn’s autopsy.”

TJ’s jaw dropped. “I forgot I had them.”

She collected samples in case there was to be a formal investigation and inquiry against Simeon. It was her job to document the evidence. TJ remembered taking three samples. One she identified as cells from Ginn, the other as Simeon’s, and the third was marked “unknown” since she couldn’t match it to anyone on the ship.

Upon first entering the chamber, TJ noted to the room looked a lot like the infirmary with all the medical equipment and monitors. Along one wall were three tube-like chambers linked to the main computer system. TJ guessed those pods were for the regeneration process. In the back was where Eli said the samples were preserved.

“All we have to do is activate this system and we should be able to figure out how the process works,” Eli instructed.

“But we’ll start out small, right,” TJ asked.

“Yeah,” Eli assured her. “I just want to see if the preservation worked. We’ll use something else for the replicating process.”

Trusting Eli knew what he was doing, TJ stood back as he turned on the ancient monitors overseeing this new system. There was loud humming as the power caused the system to come online.

“So far, so good,” Eli said as he moved to bring up the system on the main console.

Both he and TJ jumped as one of the pods started glowing. The churning of electricity grew louder and louder as the clear glass shadowed over.

“What did you do,” TJ shouted over the noise.

“I don’t know,” Eli shouted back as he frantically tried stopping what he accidentally started. The system didn’t stop, but rather completed its task before suddenly shutting down with a thump.

Breathing heavily in the sudden silence, TJ and Eli exchanged nervous looks. “I’m sure it was nothing,” Eli said as he returned his attention to the main control panel.

Pressing another button, the shielding of the activated pod retracted enough to reveal something that made both TJ and Eli jump back in surprise. Inside the pod was the regenerated body of a woman. The pair stood frozen in place, string, hardly able to wrap their minds around what just happened.

“My God,” TJ gasped, staring. Inside the pod, only the face was visible, but recognition snapped in TJ’s mind. “I think I know who that is.”

“Who,” Eli asked, still in shock by how the system just automatically powered up before shutting down.

TJ swallowed hard as her mind made the connection. She only saw the woman’s face once, but she doubted she would ever forget the moment. She was in the middle of replacing Volker’s kidney and the computers went offline. The image of a woman appeared before her, telling TJ how to finish the operation. “I’m pretty sure this is Dr. Amanda Perry.”

Chapter Text

Having never actually seen the real Dr. Perry, Eli didn’t recognize her. Still, all things considered, he was surprised he could even think clearly at this point. The woman in the pod had dark hair and a pretty face. His first thought was she could do so much better than Rush.

“Her tissue sample must have been the third one I couldn’t identify,” TJ mused aloud.

“But how is that even possible,” Eli asked. “Dr. Perry was never actually on board this ship.”

At a loss, TJ shook her head. “It shouldn’t be possible,” she whispered. Eyes turning back to Eli, she wasn’t sure what to do. “Why did you activate it?!”

“I didn’t mean to! I was going to study the system! It was an accident!”

Try as she might, TJ did believe him. Eli’s gaze always told the truth. Cautiously approaching the pod, TJ peered through to stare at the sleeping woman. Reading the vitals on the screen, she frowned before moving closer.

“What are you doing,” Eli asked.

“Using the medical equipment to run some tests. If I can get confirmation that this is really Dr. Perry, then we may have something very unique here.”

“And dangerous.” When Eli discovered this room, he never considered the technology within could regenerate a human being. Now that he did consider the possibility, he knew this technology would be coveted by all the wrong people.

TJ nodded; a shiver racing down her spine. Remembering all of the various forces in the galaxies that wanted Destiny for what was already known about the ship, she couldn’t imagine how much worse things would get if word got out about this process.

Ignoring her sense of foreboding, TJ got to work. If this body was an exact DNA replica of Dr. Amanda Perry, then TJ would be in uncharted territory. Would the body be a clone if it was regenerated from original cellular material, or something else?

“This is so Fifth Element,” Eli blurted as he helped TJ run the tests. When she gave him a blank look, he rolled his eyes. “You know, the Bruce Willis movie where the fifth element gets regenerated in that tube thing? Pretty much the same thing here.” He grinned, looking back over at the pod. “Kinda cool.”

“That’s a good way to describe it actually,” TJ said finishing her tests. The results would take a while. “I should use the stone to communicate with Earth and see if I can get copies of Dr. Perry’s medical records.”

Worry filled Eli’s features. “What are you going to tell them?”

“Don’t worry,” she assured him. “I know I have to keep this under wraps.”

“Can we keep it just between us for now,” he asked sheepishly. “You know, the part about it working? I want to see what else is in the database before the Colonial flips out on me.”

TJ considered him for a long moment. “I won’t volunteer information, but I won’t lie either.”

Eli gave her a tight hug. “Thank you!”

“Work fast,” she said as she headed for the door. “I’ll be back soon.”

Young and Camile returned to the ship, so TJ used the stones saying she wanted to make her own report and catch up on some medical developments. No one questioned her. In the meantime, Eli sealed off the room and went to join the away team preparing to go through the Stargate.

Destiny dropped out of FTL at a planet that promised a good amount of food and water. Grabbing a few kinoes, Eli hoped they would be able to find enough supplies to tide them over for a while. Spotting Greer, Eli walked over. “How is Dr. Park?”

“Still blind,” Greer said with an edge to his voice despite trying to look nonchalant. “TJ said she would help, but now she’s back on Earth.”

“Maybe she’ll find something that will help.”

“Or maybe not.” Securing his rifle over his shoulder, Greer stared at Eli dead on.

“I did everything I could,” Eli managed.

“I don’t blame you.”

Eli blinked. “You don’t?”

“No.” Greer glanced at Rush who was manning the controls to the gate. “He’s another story.”

“Ok, people,” Young shouted to get everyone’s attention. “We have nine hours on the clock to bring back as much water, food, and other supplies we can find. All of you know how important this is, so let’s make the most of it.”

Nodding to Eli, Young stepped back so the Kino could go through the gate first. The atmosphere was good. The planet’s surface resembled one huge rainforest. As the teams went through the gate and split up, Eli hoped there wouldn’t be any more surprises. He had his fill for a while.

****

Nine hours later, Destiny was back in FTL, the water supply was full, and they had enough food to last until the next jump. They also gathered a lot of plants hoping to discover new medicinal uses. Unfortunately, TJ didn’t have time to go through everything that was brought back because she was working with Eli in the ‘Regeneration Room’, as they were calling it.

“I still can’t figure out the initiation sequence,” Eli grumbled. “It’s as if Destiny set it up for me and now that the button was pushed, the system reset itself. Duplicating the process is going to take time.”

TJ gave him a reassuring smile. “If anyone can do it, it’s you.”

“Thanks, but I’m feeling nothing but frustration right now.”

Almost as if to prove his point, his radio sounded. “Eli, this is Young. Come in.”

The voice coming through the radio caused them both to jump in fright. Letting out a sigh, Eli picked up the radio to respond. “This is Eli.”

“Rush and I are ready to hear more about your discovery.”

“R-really?” Eli cast a desperate took at TJ, who shook her head and shrugged.

“Yes, really,” Young said. “Tell us your location.”

“Maybe I should come to you,” Eli said nervously.

There was a poignant pause. “What’s going on, Eli,” Young asked.

“You can’t keep it a secret forever,” TJ said quietly.

“I know,” Eli sighed as he rubbed his forehead. “I just didn’t anticipate an extra complication.”

Making up his mind, Eli inhaled a deep breath and told Young where to find them. Pacing the floor, Eli mentally rehearsed what he was going to say. When Rush and Young did arrive, he couldn’t find any words. TJ ended up making most of the explanations about the room and the cell samples. She faltered when she got to the part about the system, which only alerted Rush and Young to the complication.

“What happened, Eli,” Young demanded.

Knowing he couldn’t put it off any longer, Eli showed them.

Content to stay in the background and listen, Rush knew what Eli stumbled upon was a game changer, but nothing could have prepared him for what happened next. Looking into the pod, his whole body stilled.

That face. He dreamed every single night of that face. The same smooth pale skin, full lips, and straight brown hair. It was her.

As full realization hit, Rush felt his heart slam against his ribs. Was this really happening? Could his eyes be deceiving him? Every fiber of his being wanted her to be real, but he couldn’t afford to get his hopes up. Not yet.

“How did this happen,” Young demanded.

Eli and TJ brought them up to speed as best they could. Rush was only half listening because he couldn’t tear his eyes away from the sleeping form of Amanda Perry. Did Destiny truly just regenerate her body – from her own DNA – from a few cells? If so, then regenerating Amanda was only the beginning.

“As of now, we don’t know how to replicate what happened,” Eli stated. “It’s as if Destiny cued up the program, then once I accidentally activated it, the system reset.”

“What about these tests you’ve run,” the Colonel asked TJ. He didn’t get a good feeling about this latest mystery. Since they all came on this ship, they dealt with one thing after another. Young needed to make sure nothing dangerous was happening. His first priority was to the safety of the ship and crew.

“Every diagnostic and DNA sample says the same thing,” TJ answered.

“Which is?”

TJ glanced at Rush before answering. “That is the body of Dr. Amanda Perry.”

Glancing first at the pod, then at Rush, Young knew they were going to have a problem if the way Rush’s eyes were staring into the pod were any indication. His attention went back to TJ. “How is this even conceivable? Dr. Perry died on Earth. Her body was never aboard.”

“I have a few theories,” TJ supplied.

“As do I,” Rush added. Turning away from the pod to focus on TJ and Young, he wanted to be a part of this conversation and the resulting decisions.

Young didn’t trust Rush as far as he could throw him. The only reason he even put up with the man was because Rush was an expert in Ancient and they needed his expertise. Otherwise, Young would greatly consider “accidentally” losing the man on another planet as he did once before. Looking to TJ, he nodded for her to continue.

“What is your best guess?”

TJ glanced at Eli, who still looked too nervous to make detailed explanations. “The best theory we have is when Dr. Perry switched bodies with Ginn using the communication stones and the murder was taking place, Ginn’s consciousness struggled in Dr. Perry’s body. Some biological material must have passed across the link.”

“How,” Young demanded. “Nothing like that has ever happened before.”

“I know,” TJ shrugged. “But the stones leave behind echoes in the mind. They are more powerful then we understand.”

“So, what you’re saying is after Ginn’s body was killed, residual cells passed through the communication stones and remained until you found and preserved them during your autopsy?”

“Essentially,” TJ confirmed.

“Sounds crazy,” Young sighed.

“Cells are pretty resilient,” Rush cut in. “It’s not impossible.”

Young’s eyes narrowed at the scientist. “What is your theory, Rush?”

“Pretty much the same as TJ’s except I believe the cell transfer was due more to the shock of the murder being committed on both consciousnesses on both ends of the stones. For the briefest of moments, Ginn and Mandy were one person, in one experience, which would account for the anomaly.”

Silence fell over the room as the others absorbed the words. Out here, so far away from home, what they often thought of as being impossible sometimes weaved its way into reality. Young was willing to accept the explanation. For now.

“Is there anything else we should know about this thing,” he asked.

“I’m still running tests,” Eli gestured to the monitors.

“Ok.” Young glanced at TJ. “And what about her,” he asked gesturing to the pod.

“As far as I can tell, her vitals are good and I don’t see any anomalies. Her body is just like ours.”

“But,” Young prompted.

“But,” TJ glanced nervously at Rush as he moved closer. Her news could upset him, so she struggled to find the right words.

“Is she paralyzed,” Rush asked with anxiety in his tone.

“No.” TJ shook her head as she looked to the others. “Dr. Perry wasn’t born paralyzed, it was done to her later in life. That damage wasn’t regenerated with her body.”

Closing his eyes, Rush gave a silent prayer of thanks to the universe. After all she endured; Amanda truly deserved a fresh start.

“I don’t detect any brain activity,” TJ finished.

Rush’s eyes snapped open. “What does that mean?”

“My best guess is that her body is…asleep? In a deep coma. Waiting.”

“For what?” Young did not like this development.

“For her consciousness to be put back into her body!” The epiphany hit Rush suddenly, but once the certainly came to him, he latched on with a vengeance. “We have her consciousness on board!”

“In quarantine,” Young snapped. “For a very good reason!”

“Now that we have her body, that reason no longer exists!” Rush argued, “we can download her into her own body!”

“How?” Facing down Rush, Young refused to lose control of the situation. Rush had a way of twisting things to gain his own ends, and until they had real answers, Young had no way of knowing the far reaching consequences of this newly discovered…complication.

“We don’t know how this system even works! We’re not sure what dangers it possesses, or at the very least what kind of energy it requires! Hell, we don’t even know how it will affect the other systems on the ship!”

“I’ll figure that all out,” Rush swore. “The process will probably involve using the stones and the chair, but I’ll find a way!”

“I won’t let you do anything rash,” Young stated, casting Rush a warning look. “We need to conduct more research before we do anything.”

“Who cares how it happened?! We have a chance to bring Mandy back!”

“We don’t know about the repercussions,” Young argued.

“I don’t see how there could be any!”

“Because you’re not thinking clearly, Rush!” Turning to Eli, Young was more than ready to make a decision. “Figure this out,” he ordered. “I want to know exactly what we are dealing with before we move forward.”

Eli gave a nod. “Got it.”

“Colonel-”

“Rush, no! I’ve made my decision.”

When the Colonel left, Rush looked to Eli. “He didn’t say I couldn’t help.”

Eli lifted his chin just a notch. “What makes you think I want it?”

“Because there may be a way to bring Ginn back as well. To make that happen, you’ll need all the help you can get.”

Eli stared at Rush for a long moment before caving in. “Fine.”

Smiling, Rush joined Eli at the main console. “Walk me though what happened.”

Quietly, TJ left the men to their work.

Chapter Text

Word spread around the ship like wild fire. A regeneration device that could speed along the growing of food was seen as a miracle. Perhaps the device was built by the Ancients as a way to sustain supplies during the mission. After all, the Ancients were advanced. They would see problems in a different light and have more technologically advanced ways to solve practical problems like keeping people alive long enough to complete Destiny’s task.

The mood wasn’t so optimistic when faced with the knowledge that an actual human body was regenerated instead. The Ancients were known for experimenting with consciousness, but no one knew about this other side of the coin. Did the Ancients actually find a way to have eternal life? Uploading consciousnesses and regenerating cellular issue was, theoretically, a way to accomplish immortality.

Debate broke out about whether such a process was necessary and right. Some were glad Colonel Young wasn’t letting Rush or Eli have free reign over the discovery, while others wanted to see if Amanda Perry could be brought back.

There would be so many medical advantages if they could decipher how the device worked. TJ wondered if she could help Lisa Park regain her eyesight. The possibility was viable, but until they knew more details, TJ didn’t want to raise anyone’s hopes up too high.

In the meantime, the crew stayed busy. They were replanting what survived the three year trip in the old solarium as well as experimenting with the new plants they found on other planets. Months would pass until they could harvest anything, so Destiny was still stopping at every stargate they could to find food and supplies. Thus far, their luck seemed to be holding.

Several planets had food, water, and minerals that were needed on the ship. The crew didn’t encounter any intelligent life, which was widely seen as a good occurrence. Considering the drones they left behind in the last galaxy, no one was eager to risk running into more hostile aliens. This newfound solace was more than welcome.

Nicholas Rush managed to walk around the ship fueled by willpower alone. As usual, he had an agenda. Sleep was not a part of it.

The FTL drives needed several repairs to increase efficiency. Making these repairs with limited resources was proving to be a challenge. Rush was trying to figure out solutions to not only the engines, but also Eli’s newly discovered regeneration system. Thus far, they weren’t having any luck on duplicating the process Eli accidentally initiated.

Young kept the room under guard around the clock. Only Eli and TJ were allowed unlimited access. Rush was given admittance only if Eli or TJ were with him, which annoyed him to no ends. Young’s paranoid rules and regulations were starting to chaff his ass.

Honestly, Rush didn’t care if the process could be replicated. At least, he didn’t care right now because Amanda’s body was already here and waiting. All they had to do was download her consciousness into this new body, which would not be easy, but Rush was fairly confident he already knew of a way.

Using the neural interface chair, he should be able to transfer Mandy’s consciousness from quarantine directly into her body. The moment he had the calculations worked out, Rush was going to find a way to make it happen. To hell with needing anyone’s permission.

Nicholas focused on his work and the mission for so long; he nearly convinced himself that he didn’t need anything else. Unlike the others, he never wanted to go back to Earth. There was nothing there waiting for him.

Rush soon realized his mistake when Amanda first came aboard Destiny and he realized just how much he missed her. Mandy was the only other person, aside from Gloria, who knew him inside and out. Circumstances aboard the ship and his on state of mind prevented him from taking their friendship to the next level, but after she left, Nicholas started to realize just how much Mandy meant to him.

He must have loved her for years without fully realizing the fact. When there was an opportunity to bring Mandy back, Rush took action without hesitation. He didn’t care about the distance or all the obstacles. If he could have Mandy with him, even for a short amount of time, he could keep going.

Just when he allowed hope to transform into belief in a possible happy future, Mandy was torn away from him. Unable to see past his rage, Rush did get his revenge, but in the end, still felt empty. Mandy was gone, leaving him to wake up every morning with the weight of the guilt on his heart. He felt her loss every second of everyday.

Focusing on Destiny and the mission were all he had left, so Rush let the mission consume him. When they stumbled upon Mandy and Ginn’s consciousnesses, and were able to download them into the ship's databanks, Rush foolishly thought he would finally be able to have a future with the woman he loved.

All they wanted was to be together. Amanda created a program to give them the ability to physically touch using one of the programs already in the computer. Mandy thought her parameters were simple and safe. In the end, they ended up trapping him.

What tore at Rush ever since was the knowledge Mandy was forced into quarantine thinking he did not love her. A program couldn’t gauge the level of his feelings! He loved Amanda, but no matter how many times he said the words, the look in her eyes during those final moments communicated how she didn’t believe him.

Rush would give anything to have those moments back. He wanted to tell Mandy there as nothing wrong with the love they felt for each other, but rather with the way the program perceived their love. Love was not the same for everyone, or from every perspective. Amanda’s feelings would not match his exactly, which was what the program was probably looking for when it malfunctioned.

Part of him would always love Gloria, but the love he possessed for Amanda was equally important to his heart and his existence. There was no choosing between the two. Knowing and losing love made Rush cherish his feelings for Mandy all the more.

He wanted her back, so he was going to find a way.

“You look like something the cat dragged in.”

Ignoring Eli, Rush walked over to the console and checked the latest FTL diagnostic. Volker and Brody were also on the bridge, but Rush ignored them with equal measure.

“We still aren’t up to full efficiency,” Brody commented.

“The wiring is wearing out in a lot of places,” Volker pointed out. “Connections aren’t being made as quickly as they could be. Plus, we should be thinking about replacing the wires.”

“With what,” Eli asked.

Dale and Adam both shrugged.

“We can always get in there and pull out the really degraded wiring and reroute circuits and connections,” Volker suggested. “It’ll be a pretty large project though.”

“We’ll be sitting here for weeks,” Rush snapped. “Not to mention how vulnerable the ship would be floating adrift without FTL.”

“But in the long run-”

“We need to think of another solution!” Rush didn’t have the time for rewiring the whole damn FTL drive!

“Like what, Rush,” Eli argued. “Hope the next stargate is on a planet with enough advanced technology to have replacement parts for this ship?!”

Gritting his teeth, Rush struggled to keep his temper in check, but his mood was beyond saving for today. “You’re the resident genius, Eli. Why don’t you think of something?!”

“Maybe I will!”

“Fine!” Disgusted and tired, Rush threw up his hands and stomped off the bridge. Heading for the mess hall, he hoped some food and a strong cup of tea would help him focus.

“What’s his problem,” Brody asked once Rush was out of earshot.

“What’s not wrong with him,” Eli countered sarcastically.

Dale and Adam shared a small laugh at the comment. Rush was used to being the smartest guy in the room and being in charge as a result. Lord knows, he bossed them all around enough. The dynamic was changing the more Eli proved to be right in his theories and calculations. The team was looking more to Eli for answers.

Sure, he could solve equations, but Eli wasn’t used to being in charge. As word spread about how he fixed that last stasis pod and then discovered a new secret of the Ancients, Eli was being hailed as a hero. A title he did not want.

None of them could get through this mission alone. As much as they had moments of distain for Dr. Rush, they all knew they needed him.

“What’s going on with that whole regeneration thing,” Volker asked to fill the silence.

Looking up from his work, Eli blinked. “What?”

“You know,” Volker urged. “The new room you found. Do you think the Ancients could really bring people back to life?”

“Whoa,” Eli put up both of his hands to stop the direction of the conversation. “That is so far from – ok, for the Ancients to be able to do that, they would have to separate a person’s consciousness from their body and safely store said consciousness before death, while they regenerated the person’s body after they passed, then they would have to put the consciousness back into the body the right way so the brain tissue won’t turn to putty. I doubt they perfected the process.”

Volker considered the words for a moment. “But it’s not impossible.”

“We already have Dr. Perry’s consciousness,” Brody said. “Maybe that’s why Destiny regrew her body.”

“It can’t be that hard,” Volker added. “We managed to download Dr. Perry and Ginn.”

“But we have no idea exactly how their consciousnesses survived after the murder,” Eli argued. “The fact we even stumbled upon them is as improbable as finding Dr. Caine and the second shuttle! Remember? There are so many unknown factors and experimenting with this sort of thing is dangerous! There are no many ways for it to go wrong and get out of hand!”

“Have you explained that to Rush,” Brody asked. “Because he seems bound and determined to make it work, if you ask me.”

“He could probably benefit from having some company and a social life,” Volker interjected. “If bringing back Dr. Perry makes him more approachable, then I’m all for it.”

“His recklessness with Dr. Perry is what forced me to put her and Ginn in quarantine in the first place,” Eli reminded them.

“You should remind Rush of that too,” Brody said. “Maybe he’ll listen.”

“Wait,” Volker cut in again. “Are you against the idea,” he asked Eli. “Because as pissed as you are at Rush, you would have a way to get Ginn back. Isn’t it worth it?”

“Ginn wouldn’t want others to be put in danger. She wouldn’t want me to compromise Destiny or the people on board. As much as I love and miss her, I don’t want her back at the expense of someone else. Rush can’t say the same.”

There was no argument there.

****

“Back again?”

Looking up from his notepad to see TJ, Rush nodded. “I suppose you got my message.”

Glancing around the regeneration room, she was surprised there was no sign of Eli. “How did you get by the guards?”

Rush gave an absent shrug. “They’re used to seeing me here by now.”

Or they were intimidated by him, TJ concluded. No wonder, given the way Rush looked these days. His hair was a ragged mess and his beard was thicker. What really completed the crazy-doctor-on-a-mission look were his bloodshot eyes.

“When was that last time you got a good night’s sleep,” she asked.

“I’m fine,” he insisted.

Watching him scribble down more notes on his pad, TJ wasn’t convinced. Rush wasn’t sleeping. The years in stasis aside, the man needed rest, or he was going to burn out.

“Making a mistake would only set back our work,” she said gently. “Sleep will help your body recharge and you’ll be more alert.”

“There’s already too much to be done.” Rush purposely avoided looking directly at TJ, preferring instead to give his full attention to his pen and paper.

“You may have to cut back somewhere.”

Anger had his eyes snapping to her face. “I can’t,” he stressed.

Sighing, Rush shook his head. How could he expect TJ to understand? “I can’t let it go,” he confessed. “If there is a chance at saving Amanda, I want to find it. I need to find it.”

Having always categorized TJ as one of Young’s people, Rush was surprised when she sympathized with him.

“I know what you mean. If there was a chance I could hold Carmen in my arms, I wouldn’t hesitate.”

Rush blinked. “Your daughter?”

TJ nodded. “Out here, sometimes, the impossible has a way of happening. Considering all she’s already been through, I wouldn’t count Dr. Perry out yet.”

The two shared a smile before TJ went to check on Amanda’s vitals. There was hope as long as one had faith.

Chapter Text

Studying TJ, Young wasn’t sure what to do about the news she just shared with him. “Have you told Rush,” he asked.

“Not yet,” TJ answered softly.

“Talk to Eli first,” Young commanded. “See if he can’t come up with a solution.”

Oddly enough, the order rubbed her the wrong way. Knowing how Rush felt about Dr. Perry, TJ somehow felt he should be kept in the loop.

“Are you sure? I mean, Rush and Eli working together is what helped us save their consciousnesses to begin with.”

“Rush is unpredictable, especially on this issue.” Reaching for his radio, Young called for Eli to meet him in his quarters.

“You know how he feels about her,” TJ continued. “Didn’t you see notice how much more personable he became when she was around?”

“That’s the problem,” Young insisted. “Rush’s feelings cloud his judgment.”

“And Eli’s feelings for Ginn won’t do the same to him?”

Grimacing, Young wasn’t sure how to respond to the argument. “I trust Eli more than Rush.”

“We could use Dr. Perry’s expertise on board,” she pointed out. “The fact she can keep Rush grounded is a bonus.”

Huffing through a smirk, Young glanced at the woman he couldn’t seem to shake from his heart. “Why do you suddenly want to help the guy?”

“I’m a hopeless romantic?”

The joke had their gazes locking, causing TJ and Everett to share a laugh and a long look until the door opened revealing Eli. Seeing the pair jerk in surprise as he crossed the threshold, Eli frowned.

“Am I interrupting something?”

“No,” Young said quickly as his expression once more grew serious. “TJ tells me that Dr. Perry’s body is…not holding up as well as we would like.”

Frown deepening, Eli looked to TJ. “What does that mean?”

“Her body is gradually shutting down and I don’t know why.”

Eli’s eyes widened. “What? Are you sure?”

Nodding, TJ did not want to be the bearer of bad news, but there wasn’t much of an alternative. “I don’t think the Ancients meant for her body to go on so long without her consciousness.”

“Are you saying she’s dying?”

TJ nodded. “If she does, we don’t have more cellular samples to bring her back again.”

“What about just using the cells from her regenerated body,” Eli asked.

“They’re already breaking down,” TJ said sadly. “I’m not sure that method will work.”

“Then we need to put her consciousness in her body as soon as possible!”

“Have you found a safe way to do that,” Young asked.

“Well,” Eli rubbed the back of his neck. “Rush has mainly been working on the download angle,” he confessed. “I’ve been trying to figure out how to run the system.”

“Do you think you can transfer Dr. Perry from quarantine directly into her body without endangering the ship?”

Eli thought for a moment. “Pretty sure, if we use the chair.”

Young thought for a moment before nodding. “Ok. Double check Rush’s work, then report back to me.”

“Sure thing.” Eli turned to leave, but paused when the Colonel called his name. “Yeah,” he asked over his shoulder.

“Don’t tell Rush about this.”

Glancing at TJ, seeing her neutral expression, Eli’s nodded at Young. “Be discrete. Got it.”

When Eli was gone, Young focused on TJ. His feelings for this woman were still mixed up in his mind. Everett wanted her, but knew being with TJ while he was in command was a violation of the rules. Having already broken the code once before, he dared not do so again. As much as he wanted a real relationship with TJ, he could not forget they were a billion light years from home and the needs of the whole crew came before his own cravings. Maybe once they returned to Earth, they could have a second chance.

“Can you keep Dr. Perry’s body stabilized,” he finally asked.

“I’ll do my best.” Just like she always did her best to remain professional at all times around him. What TJ felt for Everett was unresolved. They were both aware of their unfinished business, but they never sat down to talk about anything that happened between them since coming aboard Destiny. Now she was truly torn. Varro kept giving her attention and TJ couldn’t say she wasn’t tempted.

“Keep me posted.”

Hearing her commanding officer’s words, TJ realized she was being dismissed. Feeling as if another opportunity just passed them by, she left Young’s quarters to care for her patient.

****

Oddly enough, Eli found Rush in his quarters. Apparently, Rush was a human in need of sleep like the rest of them. Boy, the guy could get grumpy.

“I need to double check your work,” Eli aid without preamble.

Eyes narrowing, Rush didn’t bother to hid his glare. “Why?”

“Colonel Young asked me to.”

Barely getting in a few hours of sleep, Rush wasn’t in the mood to deal with Eli’s cryptic words or Colonel Young’s schemes. Rush continued to glare at Eli, hoping to wear him down into revealing some hint of his true motives. “Why,” he demanded again.

Eli’s frustration was starting to get the better of him. “Just let me see your numbers.”

Walking over to his desk, rubbing absently at his stiff neck, Rush picked up his notepad. Seeing the chessboard and pieces he carved, Rush’s thoughts automatically drifted to Mandy. Remembering how he could never seem to best her at the game, a small smile tugged at his lips.

Turning around to face the boy genius, Rush’s suspensions kicked into overdrive. “I thought we agreed I would work on the download process.”

“And I want to see what you have so far. It could be relevant to my work.”

“How?”

Not wanting to argue or debate, Eli snatched the notebook out of Rush’s hand. The scientist was too shocked to protest as Eli looked over the figures. After several minutes, he handed the notepad back.

“Thanks.”

Watching Eli like a hawk, Rush’s gaze followed him out the door. Rush knew something was going on. Young would go to Eli with a secret agenda, of that much Rush was certain. He needed to know what the hell was going on. Sleep could bloody well wait.

****

TJ dressed Amanda’s body in a spare black shirt and legging pants. The items were form fitting but they would have to do. As a woman, TJ didn’t want Amanda to be exposed when the others took her out of the pod.

Hearing the doors open, she turned to see Everett and Eli.

“How is she,” Young asked.

“Her vitals are stable,” TJ answered. “For now, at least. We should do this now.”

Young looked over to Eli. “Ready?”

Uncertain, Eli hesitated, looking to TJ for approval, then to Amanda’s still body. If they could bring Dr. Perry back, then they could bring back Ginn too. The thought of Ginn’s face again in the flesh fueled Eli’s determination. “Yeah,” he told Young. “Ready.”

Eli and TJ were working on lifting Amanda out of the regeneration chamber when the doors suddenly opened. All heads turned to see Rush. Realizing what they were doing, Rush’s expression filled with rage seconds before his temper exploded.

“What the hell are you doing?!”

Running forward, Rush intended to get to Amanda, but Colonel Young blocked his path. Arrogant bustard!

“We have to do this now, Rush!” Young wasn’t going to deal with this guy’s dramatics. “Stand aside and let us work!”

“To do what?!” Rush glared at Eli and TJ hoping to intimidate them into telling him what was happening. “What’s going on?!”

Young pushed at Rush’s chest, keeping him at bay. “Dr. Perry’s vitals are failing,” Young yelled at the angry scientist. “We need to try and put her consciousness in her body now before we lose her.”

Shock flooded Rush’s system. Recovering enough to glare at Young, he refused to be put off. “Why didn’t you tell me?!”

“Because I didn’t want you taking matters into your own hands! That’s why!”

Rush’s first punch made contact with Young’s cheekbone using such force, Young stumbled back several steps.

“You know what she means to me,” Rush shouted. “You should have told me!”

“You son of a bitch!” Charging forward intending to deliver some blows of his own, Young stopped short when TJ moved to stand between him and his objective.

“We don’t have time for this,” she shouted at both of them.

Without saying a single word, Rush walked over to Amanda. Lifting her body up in his arms, he carried her to the neural interface chair, leaving the rest of them to follow. Cradling Mandy, he laid her down gently in the chair, positioning her body correctly before looking to Eli.

“You know what you’re doing?”

Moving to stand behind a control panel, Eli nodded. “I know which consciousness is Dr. Perry. I can make adjustments as we go.”

Needing no further encouragement, Rush went to the neighboring console to bring up his own programming. Eli may be in charge, but Rush was going to shadow him every step of the way. Young and TJ stood to the side to observe as the chair was activated.

The interface chair’s headpiece connected to Amanda’s temples. A bright light rained down in a steady stream over her body. Cuffs appeared to secure Amanda’s wrists and ankles. As Eli started the download, TJ moved to stand next to Rush so she could monitor Amanda’s vitals.

So far, do good. Eli saw Dr. Perry’s consciousness flow out of quarantine toward the neural interface system. The download shouldn’t take too long.

A warning light caught his attention just as Amanda’s body started convulsing. Eli did quick calculations to adjust the speed of the download, but her body still strained. Feeling Rush’s glare at his back, Eli struggled to figure out the problem.

“Eli,” Rush started.

“I know! Give me a second!”

As he tried to compensate, Eli’s heart fell down to his knees when he realized what was happening. The download was moving too quickly and there was no way to slow down the process. Without a buffer, the download was damaging Dr. Perry’s brain tissue and causing her cardiac stress.

“Eli!”

“I can’t,” he shouted back at Rush. “The download is happening too fast for her body to adjust!”

“You bloody well better do something!”

As Eli scrambled to make adjustments, Rush moved to kneel before the chair, looking at Amanda and willing her to handle what was happening, willing her to stay with him. Every fiber of his being wanted to reach out and offer her comfort, but there was no telling if he would harm her or corrupt the download. Keeping his arms at his sides was pure agony, but he moved as closely as he dared.

“Mandy,” Rush said over all the noise and shouting. “Baby, it’s going to be alright. I’m here. It’s all going to be fine.”

Amanda’s eyes snapped open. She gasped in air, but wasn’t aware of her surroundings.

“Amanda?” Rush inched closer. “Mandy, it’s Nick. Can you hear me?”

Flashes of blue lightning sparked between the headpiece and Amanda’s temples. Her eyes squeezed shut, but her mouth opened wide to scream as the pain raced through her veins, causing her body the thrash against her restraints.

“Eli,” Rush screamed.

“I’m trying!”

Helpless, all Rush could do was watch as the woman he loved writhed in tortuous pain. Her screams seemed to go on and on, echoing off the walls. When she suddenly fell silent, he was startled.

The chair powered down, leaving Amanda unconscious. Catching her slumping body in his arms, Rush felt for her pulse even as he noted the burns on her temples.

TJ was by his side seconds later, lifting Amanda’s eyelids and shining a light to check for a reactive response. Finding a pulse, Rush visibly relaxed, but held Amanda closer to his body.

“She’s alive,” TJ announced. “I need to get her to the infirmary to do a thorough examination and run some tests.”

Cradling Mandy as if she was made of precious crystal, Rush got to his feet and carried the woman of his heart out of the room. TJ followed, but Young and Eli lingered behind to talk.

“What went wrong,” Young demanded.

“I’m not sure what caused the malfunction,” Eli confessed.

“Well, do me a favor and figure it out.”

“Ok, sure.”

Heading for the infirmary, Young was starting to regret this decision. By the time he found TJ, she already had Dr. Perry on a bed hooked up to monitors. Rush sat by her side, holding Amanda’s hand. Approaching, Young ignored the dirty look Rush sent his way and focused on the person he came to see.

“TJ,” he spoke gently.

“I’ll be right back,” she told Rush before moving to talk to Everett a few feet away.

“How’s she doing,” Young asked.

“Her brain activity is steady,” TJ supplied. “I’ve done several scans and everything appears normal.”

“No damage?”

“None that I can see,” TJ confessed.

“So the download worked?”

“By all appearances,” TJ nodded, but still looked uncertain. “There are some elevated levels of adrenaline and I don’t like how she’s now in a coma, but I’ll be monitoring her closely.”

Young supposed they were doing all they could for now. “Good. Keep me posted.”

TJ nodded. “Will do.”

Leaving to see to other duties, Young quickly glanced over his shoulder seeing TJ move back to talk to Rush and check on her patient as he walked out the door. Hours later, Rush was still sitting by Amanda’s side. TJ tried to get him to rest, but Rush would have none of her coaxing. She was reading the database on neurological injuries when Rush gave a shout.

“Amanda opened her eyes,” he called. "She's waking up!"

Running to the bed, TJ bent over Amanda, who was looking up at them with undisguised fright.

“Dr. Perry,” TJ said. “It’s alright. You’re safe now.”

“She’s right,” Rush said as he reached down to stroke Mandy’s cheek as a smile broke out across his face. “You’re back.”

Recoiling from his touch, Amanda tried to shrink away from the both of them. “Who a-are you?”

TJ and Rush shared a look.

“Mandy,” he said urgently. “It’s Nick.”

“Who’s Mandy?”

She didn’t remember him? Or herself? No, this couldn’t be happening! No, he didn’t just get Mandy back to lose her again.

Rush’s eyes found TJ, silently pleading. Seeing just as much confusion and helplessness reflected in her expression, Rush realized TJ wasn’t sure what to do next. In that moment, Rush felt his heart sink down to his knees.

Chapter Text

Sitting up, her eyes darted frantically around the dark, harshly edged room. The bed and interments and monitors reminded her of a hospital, but this place didn’t feel like a hospital. Those strange people were several paces away talking in hushed whispers. Undoubtedly, they were talking about her.

Looking down at the clothing on her body, she felt a mixture of relief and confusion. Waking up in a strange place, with strange people, she was glad for the coverage. At the same time, she had no idea where she was or what was happening.

Should she know this place? These people? They certainly seemed to think so.

Her head still pounded, but she tried to ignore the pain and focus on her dilemma. The woman and man kept calling her “Mandy”, but she didn’t remember that being her name. In fact, she couldn’t remember much at all. Smoothing her hands over the thin blanket before drawing her fingers together, she marveled at the smooth skin, yet unable to feel comforted.

What she did know was she didn’t belong here. These surroundings felt wrong. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but these walls, even the air in the room, felt strange. Feeling uncomfortable in her own skin and not knowing a thing about the people around her had fear rising up in her chest.

Closing her eyes, she tried to control her breathing. They asked her all sorts of questions when she woke up. No matter how much she insisted they were strangers, they kept repeating they knew her. When asked her name, her mind went blank.

Trying to remember her own name caused the pain in her head to amplify tenfold. Seeing her wince, the woman called TJ told her to rest before moving away to speak to the man. There was no way she could rest when panic threatened to consume her. Why couldn’t she remember?

Glancing over at the pair, she saw the man look at her. As their eyes locked, she felt he oddest sensation. The way he stared was so intense and urgent. Honestly, she wasn’t sure what to make of him, or the pull urging her to reach out to a total stranger.

Was she safe here? Every nerve-ending was telling her to run. The distance to the door seemed close enough but she wasn’t sure she would be able to get far if they chased her. Feeling weak wouldn’t help with her balance either.

The doors opened, causing her to jump. Two more men entered the infirmary. Once wore a dark uniform, while the other sported a red tee reading “you are here” beneath a casual grey sweatshirt. Her heart jumped with relief when she realized she could read. Thankfully, she didn’t forget everything.

The two men walked over to the others to talk, occasionally glancing in her direction. Stiffening, she didn’t like this situation. Without her memory, she knew she was vulnerable. They could do whatever they wanted to her and she may not be able to stop them. With that realization came a new sense of fear.

The four of them started to make their way toward her bed. Clasping her hands tightly, she tried to look brave and not reveal her inner thoughts. The man with the dark hair in the uniform gave her a soft smile and nod of greeting.

“I’m Colonel Everett Young of Stargate Command. You are on board the Destiny.”

Destiny?”

The Colonel nodded. “Our ship.”

Ship? “Are we on the ocean or something?”

The guy in the red shirt chuckled, making her feel like a simpleton. A sharp look from the man with the beard and long hair and the red shirt guy was suddenly quiet.

“We are in space,” the Colonel told her.

Eyes widening, she shook her head in denial. “Space? Outer space?”

That was impossible! Wasn’t it?

“It’s alright,” the bearded man assured her, reaching again for her hand. “You’re safe.”

The bearded man was being kind and none-threatening, but she wasn’t comfortable with how familiar he behaved with her. Before he could touch her, she pulled her hand away.

“What can you remember,” the Colonel asked.

Try as she might, her mind was as blank as ever. Her silence and embarrassment spoke for her. All their looks of sympathy and concern rubbed her the wrong way, but she wasn’t sure why.

“I can’t-”

Shaking her head, she was at a sudden loss to explain.

“Best we can guess,” Young continued. “Is that you have amnesia.”

“We’re hoping it’s temporary,” the blonde woman stated in a softer tone. “With time and rest, you should get your memories back.”

“How do I know you are even telling me the truth,” she asked. “I don’t know any of you!”

“I’m Lieutenant Tamara Johansen,” the blonde said calmly, trying to sound supportive. “I’m the medic on the ship.”

“And I’m Eli Wallace,” the kid in the red shirt piped up. “I sort of…do the math around here.”

The names did not sound familiar. The blank look of her face must have spoken volumes because the lot of them exchanged concerned looks. The man with the beard sat down on the bed next to her.

“Does anything seem familiar to you?”

There as a hopeful look in his eyes, but she couldn’t get over how this man acted so familiar with her. The way he invaded her personal space was offensive and she resented how he just expected her to know him. Moving away as far as she could, she scowled, shaking her head.

“I don’t know any of you.”

“Mandy,” Rush started.

“That’s not my name!” She didn’t mean to shout, but she couldn’t help it.

Getting the hint, Rush moved away. Seeing the hurt in his eyes made her stomach clench, but she refused to feel guilty. She didn’t know him. He could be trying to trick her.

“Here,” Eli gave her a pen and a notepad. “Write your signature.”

Without thinking, she did. Amazed and shocked, she stared down at the loops and swirls until Eli gently took the items from her hands. He showed the signature to the rest of them.

“Amanda Perry,” he announced softly, but with a finality that couldn’t be challenged.

“It doesn’t sound familiar to me,” was her weak reply.

“The fact that you can write your name means your long term memory is intact,” TJ said. “This is a good thing. You have a good chance of recovering your full recollections.”

“How long will that take?”

Amanda didn’t like the fact these people were right about her name. The syllables sounded wrong to her ears, but the strangers acted like her feelings didn’t matter because they already had all the answers. Feeling powerless and caged wasn’t helping calm her nerves, or ease her frustrations. Then again, none of them seemed to notice her discomfort. Well, no one except the bearded man who kept staring.

“I’m not sure,” TJ confessed. “Recovery times vary.”

“Is there any treatment,” Rush asked.

The medic shook her head. “I would advise getting into a routine,” TJ told Amanda. “Keep notes about flashes of memory you may get. Recording your dreams could help too.”

That’s it? That was their advice? Ridiculous! They did this to her!

“I don’t want to stay in here,” she nearly whined.

“I won’t keep you much longer,” TJ promised. “I want to run more tests before releasing you.”

“And if I don’t want you to?”

Everyone seemed surprised by Amanda’s outburst. TJ’s brows rose, but that was her only tell. When she spoke, her voice was as professional as always.

“The choice is yours, but I wouldn’t recommend leaving yet. The more I learn about what happened, the more I’ll be able to help you.”

“How did I get hurt anyway? Did I hit my head?”

“Something like that,” Eli muttered.

Frowning, Mandy didn’t understand. Noticing how the other’s quickly hushed Eli, she opened her mouth to ask more questions, but they beat her to the punch telling her to rest. As if she could! Nevertheless, as those people retreated, Mandy finally felt as if she had room to breathe, which went a long way in soothing her anxieties.

Obviously, they weren’t telling her everything. Needless to say, she would have to be very, very, careful. Blindly trusting strangers was not a good idea. Until she got her memories back, she had no choice but to play along, while making sure to keep a reasonable distance.

****

Walking into his quarters, Rush went to the desk, bracing his hand on the edges. Inhaling deep breaths, he tried to wrap his mind around all that happened. Mandy was back in her own body, but she didn’t remember him at all. There wasn’t an ounce of recognition in those blue eyes. The knowledge was tearing his heart to pieces.

Damn Young! To hell with Eli! They should have fucking told him!

Roaring, he swung his arms across the surface, throwing his chessboard across the room. Why was this always happening?! Why did he always lose her?! The chess pieces flew in all directions, clattering to the floor. Rush didn’t care if any were broken. They should be broken. Just like his heart. Again.

How many times was the universe going to tease him with Mandy’s return only to throw in a curve ball? Pushing away from the desk, Rush straightened only to start pacing the floors.

Ever since Amanda’s consciousness was transferred to quarantine; he went to bed every single night dreaming of how things could have gone differently. He envisioned Mandy coming back to him. Rush even helped work out the kinks in her program so they could once again be physical.

In these dreams, he confessed the full depth of his love and Amanda believed his sincerity. They would have a loving reunion. Rush coveted for all of his dreams to transform into some sort of reality, but fate seemed to be having a laugh at his expense.

Just when he thought such an outcome could be possible, the rug was yanked out from under him. The look of brokenhearted devastation written all over Mandy’s face before she was moved to quarantine haunted Rush. He had to make things right.

Kicking at the scattered chess pieces, he marched out of his quarters to head for the interface room. Eli wanted his research and Eli was the one who ran the download. Rush was going to go over the logs and figure out what the bloody hell went wrong before beating Eli to a bloody pulp.

Right now, his emotions were unpredictable, so Rush wasn’t certain how he was going to cope with this loss. Every fiber of his being wanted Amanda to get her memories back. In the meantime, he would bury his mind in his work and push his emotions to the back burner. The answers were waiting to be discovered, so Rush would focus on the science.

****

More people came to the infirmary claiming to know her, but Mandy didn’t recognize a single visitor. She hated how they stared and marveled at her as if she was a fungus growing in a petri dish. She was a person! Didn’t they understand that fact? Just because she didn’t have her memories didn’t mean she was less of a human being!

The one girl, Chloe, was very kind and seemed decent enough, but Mandy wasn’t impressed with the others. Camile also acted a little too familiar like Dr. Rush. Of course, Camile also spoke as if she was superior to the rest of them.

Frankly, Mandy was still trying to get used to her name, so coming to terms with people and this place was overwhelming to say the least. Simultaneously, she couldn’t shake the feeling she didn’t belong here! Other people telling her who she was, and what she should like, made her want to scream.

TJ was nice, Mandy had to admit, but Mandy still wanted her space. Eventually, she did see TJ being a friend and ally, but sitting patiently while the medic ran test after test set Mandy’s teeth on edge. When TJ still couldn’t figure out the source of her memory loss, Mandy nagged about leaving the infirmary. She didn’t want to be cooped up any longer and TJ couldn’t think of a reason to keep her confined to her bed.

The Colonel escorted her to her quarters, saying would give her a guided tour of the ship when he took care of his duties. Taking in the sight of the room, Amanda turned around in place, feeling…dark. The walls were all metal and the automatic door looked as if it belonged in a manufacturing plant or something. There was nothing warm or welcoming about the room. No decoration adorned the walls. No hint of color existed aside from the orange in the pattern of the bed spread. The shining metallic fabric appeared comfortable enough, but Mandy knew she would need time to get used to this place.

Listening as the Colonel explained the basic rules of the ship, Mandy wondered if she could believe these experiences were truly happening. No matter how many times she pinched her arm, her surroundings refused to change.

Alone, she moved to carefully sit on the edge of the bed. The mattress was soft, which was surprising considering the rough edges to the rest of the decor. Raking a hand through her straight brown hair, Amanda didn’t have a clue what do to next. Sighing, she knew feeling sorry for herself wasn’t going to do much good.

What would these people do with her?

Rubbing her hand over her face, Mandy knew she needed to be careful and cautious. If nothing else, she was at the mercy of strangers. So much could go wrong.

Afraid, alone, and confused, Amanda picked up the notepad she spotted on the night table. Taking a pen out of the drawer, she started writing her name over and over and over again.

Chapter Text

“I’m telling you I double checked all the numbers!”

Eli had just about enough of Rush giving him a hard time about what happened with Dr. Perry. The error in the download wasn’t his fault! The guy was just being a stubborn ass!

“There was an energy surge near the end of the download,” Rush argued. “You should have compensated for it!”

“By the time the surge was happening, it was already too late! What we needed was a buffer! I think that would be where the communication stones come in-”

“Well, it’s a little too late for that, isn’t it, Eli? The damage is done!”

“Hey,” he snapped, “we were pressed for time! Would you rather I sat back and did nothing while Dr. Perry’s body shut down?!”

“I expected you to keep me in the loop,” Rush shouted. “You, of all people, know what it was like to lose them!”

Folding his arms across his chest, Eli wasn’t swallowing any of Rush’s bullshit. “They never would have been lost if not for your recklessness in the first place!”

Seeing red, Rush would have let loose on Eli, worrying about the consequences later, but Dr. Park and Dr. Volker entered the room to stick their noses in the middle of the fight.

“I can hear your guys two corridors down,” Lisa told them.

“What’s gotten into you guys,” Dale asked.

Eli and Rush shared hostile looks. “Nothing,” they said at once.

“Is Dr. Perry back,” Volker ventured.

Disgruntled, Rush walked out of the room without another word.

“Something I said,” Volker commented as he looked over at Eli.

“He’s just being an ass,” Eli shrugged.

“What happened with Dr. Perry,” Lisa interrupted.

Sighing, Eli wasn’t sure how much he should divulge. Then again, situations on this ship had a way of spreading quickly. In the end, Eli figured telling them his own theory couldn’t hurt.

“Dr. Perry’s body was shutting down, so we used the interface chair to download her consciousness, but there was a complication. For lack of a better term, there was some burn out.”

“Burn out,” Lisa asked. “What does that mean?”

“Basically the information wasn’t properly stored inside her brain where it should be. The memories and knowledge are there, but Dr. Perry has to sort everything out on her own.”

“So, she has amnesia,” Volker asked.

“More like the information was put into the wrong filing folders,” Eli nodded. “She has no idea who she is, where she is, or who any of us are. She doesn’t even believe the stargates are real.” Eli laughed at the last notion.

“Wow.” Volker’s brows rose up his forehead as he glanced at Lisa.

“She will get better though, right,” Lisa asked with concern. For her part, Lisa liked working with Dr. Perry when she was on board, even if Dr. Perry was using the communication stones at the time.

“I hope so,” Eli answered. “Maybe then Rush would stop being a colossal jerk.”

“No wonder Rush is in a bad mood,” Volker agreed.

Eli smirked hearing the words. “He’s going to be unbearable for a while. We better get used to the idea.”

A sobering thought for all.

****

Waking with a start, Mandy tried to hold the images of her dream in her mind, but the pictures faded too quickly. Sitting up in bed, she rubbed her eyes. For a moment, she forgot where she was and what happened. A wave of depression hit when Amanda fully realized her situation.

Getting out of bed, still fully dressed, she walked to the window. There was nothing but blackness beyond. Sighing, she raked a hand through her hair. Sleeping in her clothes because she had nothing else, Mandy now craved a shower.

A quick search revealed there were no facilities in her quarters. What was she supposed to do? As much as Mandy wanted to hide in this chamber and never see another living soul, the call of nature refused to be denied. Needing to find a solution before she ruined her clothing prompted Mandy to finally emerge from her room.

Figuring out how to open the door took a moment. The symbols on everything resembled a different language. Why didn’t she recognize the symbols even though they felt familiar? Was she imagining these things because she desperately wanted to recollect something?

Stepping into the corridor, she winced at the sensation of the rough flooring beneath her feet. Looking down at her bare toes, Mandy sighed at her lack of shoes. Hopefully, she could find a pair eventually.

Luckily, Amanda didn’t have to wander far before bumping into Tamara. The other woman was kind and patient about showing Amanda the facilities and what passed for a shower. Insisting Amanda call her TJ, the medic had no problem helping Mandy get the hand of basic living on the ship.

The mist shower was refreshing even if it felt wrong. Amanda couldn’t put her finger on why a lot of things here felt odd to her senses, but she kept her feelings to herself. She didn’t like being here. She didn’t like not understanding what to do, or how to behave around strangers.

TJ took her to the mess hall for morning rations. The first second through the door and Mandy wanted nothing more than to bolt. Every eye in the room turned to stare at her as they stood in line for their food. Her skin-tight clothes and bare feet were not helping ease her sense of self-consciousness. TJ guided Mandy to a table where two other women were sitting. Amanda remembered Chloe coming to see her in the infirmary. The other face was unfamiliar, but the woman was introduced as Vanessa James.

Mandy managed a shy smile of greeting before sitting down to eat. TJ and Chloe were kind. In fact, they tried a little too hard to make conversation. The other woman, James, acted cool and aloof. Unsure why Lt. James seemed to dislike her, Mandy tried to ignore the uncomfortable tension while listening to all the tidbits TJ and Chloe offered about the ship and everyday life.

Honestly, a lot of the information was intimidating. How could she not expect this whole thing to be some sort of elaborate trick or set-up? Was she really expected to believe they were stuck in space, billions of light years from Earth, with little hope of getting home? Mandy did not remember her past, but she doubted she was a survivalist. Right now, she didn’t have much of a choice.

Just as they finished their meal, a bowl of green and white pudding tasting like liquefied chalk, Mandy saw the Colonel approaching their table. Eating the so-called food because Mandy had no idea when there would be more sustenance, she did her best to push down the fear tearing at her gut. The Colonel wanted to give her a tour of the ship so she could get her bearings. Mandy agreed only if TJ accompanied them.

Equally intimidated, frightened, and amazed, Amanda took in details as best she could. Getting a sense of direction would help her in case she needed to run, or try to escape. The arboretum was one of the most impressive rooms so far. Mandy liked seeing some green amidst all the black, cold metal.

They guided Mandy to the observation deck last; hoping the sight of the galaxy around them would equally impress her mind and calm her nerves. The sight of parts of Destiny and the stars beyond was humbling, euphoric, and disquieting all at once. For Amanda, processing the images over the waves of disbelief storming her system proved difficult. Her mind screamed in denial. None of this was real! Space and ships and stargates were all a part of science fiction!

Pinching her arm didn’t make the images go away, or cause the floor to fall out from under her feet. Pinching harder, she still didn’t wake up. Shaking her head, Mandy turned away from the windows.

“None of this is real,” she whispered more to herself than to the others. “It can’t be.”

TJ and Young exchanged an exasperated look. Catching the exchange, Mandy felt like a child having a tantrum, but she didn’t know how else to react when her mind was having trouble handling the reality of her surroundings. Add on how her doubts were eating away at her common sense, and no wonder she was a mess.

“Amanda,” TJ said gently. “This is all real. No one is trying to fool you. Ok? We are all in this together.”

When TJ reached out a hand, Mandy took a few steps back, shaking her head. She didn’t hear the approaching footsteps behind her, so hearing the sudden voice caused her to jump in fright.

“Is there a problem here?”

“No problem, Rush,” Young stated.

“Amanda’s just finding it hard to adjust,” TJ added. “That’s all.”

Rush looked to Amanda. Her expression displayed a mixture of anger and annoyed confusion. “Are you alright,” he asked as he reached out to place a comforting hand on her arm.

“I’m fine,” she snapped; avoiding his touch.

Why were these people treating her like a simpleton? She was sure if they were in her position, they would be reacting in much the same manner. Hanging her head, Mandy avoided looking at any of them.

“I need air,” she mumbled before walking away.

“Mandy,” Rush called after her.

Seeing Rush move to follow, TJ grasped his arm as she blocked his path. “We should give her some space.”

Unable to conceal his annoyance, Rush’s gaze focused steadily on TJ. “And let her wander around this ship without shoes to get lost?”

Shaking his head in disgust at their negligence, Rush yanked his arm free before chasing after Mandy. Young let out a heavy sigh in his wake.

“I didn’t notice the shoes,” he commented.

“I’ll ask around and see if we have any extra,” TJ assured him.

“Having a supply line to Langara would be great right about now,” he mused.

“Any word on that?”

“I’ll use the stones once we drop out of FTL.” Pausing, he glanced out the observatory windows, then back at TJ. “I have no idea what to tell them about Dr. Perry.”

“I wouldn’t say a word at this point,” she warned.

Young’s eyes widened. “Homeworld Command should know-”

“We don’t have answers,” TJ quickly reminded. “We don’t know how to properly work the technology in that room. Destiny is already coveted by the Lucian Alliance, not to mention too many alien species, and we don’t need to give any of them another reason to come after us!”

“You have a point,” Young admitted. “Still, they should know our exact situation here.”

TJ knew nothing she could say would change his mind, but her eyes pleaded with Everett nonetheless.

“I’ll think about it,” he said before walking away. Letting out a heavy sigh of her own, TJ went back to the infirmary. There was plenty of work to be done.

****

Paying attention paid off because Mandy knew where she was going to get back to her quarters without help. All she wanted right now was to be alone with her thoughts. The ship was so foreign and she already felt awkward around these people. They just expected her to remember the basics and she didn’t! How could they blame her for feeling paranoid and trapped?

“Mandy!”

Hearing her name for the fifth time, she realized Dr. Rush wasn’t going to leave her in peace. Without a better grasp of her surroundings and the ship, she couldn’t hope to outrun him. Frustrated, she stopped, waiting for him to catch up. Rubbing at the ache at her temples, Mandy wasn’t sure how to handle the coming conversation.

“Mandy?”

A gentle hand touched her shoulder, but Mandy winced away from the fingers, while lifting her gaze to Dr. Rush.

“It’s alright,” he assured her. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

“That’s what everyone here keeps saying.”

“Because it’s true,” he said softly.

Rush wanted to yank Amanda into his arms and stroke her hair and tell her she was safe. They were finally together, and everything would be alright again. However, Rush knew such actions would only frighten and confuse her because she didn’t remember their relationship. Maintaining his distance for her sake, he resisted the urge to bask in the feel of her body. Dammit if it wasn’t the hardest thing he had to do!

“We’re all on this ship together,” Rush continued.

“But all of you remember how you got here,” she argued. “My own name sounds strange to me! I’m wearing things I…” Looking down at her clothing, Mandy was momentarily speechless. “They aren’t things I would choose. This isn’t me.”

“The clothes are hand-me-downs,” Rush supplied. “We don’t have anything else to spare. Supplies here are…limited.”

“I know,” Mandy nodded. “It’s just a lot to take in and I can’t make sense out of everything!”

“Hey.” Reaching out to grasp her hand, curling his fingers over her fist, Rush gazed openly into those beautiful blue eyes. “We are all new to this, so please have patience with us.”

Jolts of warmth shot up her arm at the first brush of his skin against hers. A soft gasp escaped her lips, so she bit down in an effort to settle her sudden nerves. Mandy liked the feel of him, but at the same time, his closeness and casual familiarity with her person made her uncomfortable. In an effort to regain her equilibrium, Mandy pulled free of his grasp.

For a moment, Dr. Rush looked hurt by her gesture, but she wasn’t sure why she felt guilty. Confused, she looked down at the floor. “I just want to be alone.”

Swallowing hard, Rush realized he was pushing too fast. Nodding, he reluctantly stepped back. “Ok, but I am here if there is anything you need.”

Nodding, Amanda turned and hurried down the corridor to her quarters. Watching her until she was out of sight, Rush felt the knot in his gut growing heavier. He knew she didn’t remember him, but having Mandy treat him like a total stranger was the worst kind of torture.

Part of him wanted to walk up to her, take her body in his arms, and kiss her senseless until every detail of their relationship was unearthed from the depths of her memory. If a kiss really could force her past to the surface, he wouldn’t be hesitating. Of course, scaring Mandy was the last thing Rush wanted.

Kicking the floor as he turned to walk back to the bridge, Rush knew he would have to practice what he preached and be patient. Mandy would get her memories back. If she didn’t, he would think of a way for her to fall in love with him all over again. In the meantime, Rush would dream of having his soulmate back in his arms, and in his bed, just as he did every night since losing her.

Chapter Text

Over the next several days, Amanda’s temper shimmered to a boil. Whenever she set foot outside her quarters, nearly everyone she encountered openly stared at her. She swore several laughed at her appearance and bare feet. As if such a thing was her fault!

Mandy didn’t ask to be here! She didn’t want any of this! She couldn’t just remember her life at the drop of a hat!

Amanda wasn’t certain about the circumstances surrounding the reason for her amnesia, or how she came to be on this ship in the first place, but she noticed how some people gave her a wide birth as if they were afraid of her. Confused by their reactions to her very presence, Mandy tried to ask TJ for specifics, but all the medic wanted to do was run more tests!

They were keeping vital information about her a secret and Amanda didn’t know why! Chloe and Colonel Young were telling her to relax and settle into a routine and try to remember naturally. How could she do any of those things when people like Lt. James gave her looks file with a mixture of fear and disdain before avoiding crossing her path?

Some acted like they wouldn’t be caught dead in her presence while others gazed upon her with open curiosity. Others, she simply couldn’t avoid. Dr. Rush was the perfect example. He meant well, but he hovered too much. Amanda got into the habit of trying to dodge his daily visits to her quarters. The man would also try to corner her in the mess hall, sit with her, and ask all sorts of questions about how she was feeling.

Didn’t he get the hint? She felt the same way she did every day since she woke up! She did not remember him! A few times Dr. Rush would give her an expectant look and all she wanted to do was scream in his face, but those sad, puppy dog eyes would play on her sympathies, causing Mandy to bite her tongue.

She did keep her ears open and knew a lot of people didn’t like Rush. As annoyed and angry as she was with him, Mandy also felt sorry for the man. Maybe he just wanted to be her friend, but Amanda wasn’t sure encouraging him was a good idea.

If she wasn’t avoiding Rush, Amanda was trying to avoid Camile, which was endlessly frustrating. The woman fancied herself a shrink, saying Amanda’s memory loss could be psychological instead of physical. Camile wanted to try all sorts of methods, like hypnosis, to try and jog Mandy’s memories. However, Amanda made clear she was not an experiment. She felt poked and prodded enough by TJ. The last thing she wanted was to deal with Camile as well.

Mandy might have been talking to thin air for all the good it did her. Camile grew more insistent the more Mandy refused therapy. In the end, Camile ran to the Colonel about the issue. Would they force her into some kind of treatment? The uncertainty of her situation often caused hot angry tears to sting the corners of her eyes.

Lately, Amanda cried herself to sleep only to wake with the urge to scream to the rafters. Every day there was always someone staring, making her feel as if the walls were closing in and pressing all the air out of her lungs. Sometimes, Mandy did scream into her pillow. Other times, she punched the mattress. Every time, the relief was fleeting.

Nothing was working to alleviate the feelings choking her day in and day out. Amanda still woke up to find herself in the same room, struggling with her new reality. Lately, she didn’t bother to leave.

Several days ago, during one of her fits, Amanda found something under her pillow. A black iPod with headphones. How the hell did such a things get there?

At first, the device didn’t look familiar, but when she started listening to the playlists, an odd sense of familiarity settled over her being. This was her iPod! Mandy wasn’t sure how she knew, but she did. Listening to the songs would minimize her emotional chaos for periods at a time, but Mandy still paced the floors trying to make sense of her surroundings.

In the end, Mandy was left with the impression that before she came here, she lived a normal life. She could swear she woke up every morning and went to work, but anything deeper than those small imprints of instinct stubbornly refused to surface. Nevertheless, having something of her own to hold on to made all the difference. Mandy refused to think too long or hard about how the iPod blinked into existence. Honestly, she didn’t care because by now she was due for a little peace.

****

He was trying too hard, which was pushing Mandy away. Rush saw the look in her eyes every time he tried to approach her. Patience was not one if his virtues, but he was trying! Rush just could not stay away. He needed to be near Mandy. Laying eyes on her, knowing they couldn’t be together was agony. Hell, he couldn’t even try to explain the past and make amends because she didn’t remember any of it!

Recalling all the times he would lecture others about staying focused on the mission and the work needing to be done, Rush tried following his own advice. Removing the wiring to the engine conduits was turning into a bigger nightmare by the second. Eli wasn’t much help since he was trying to puzzle out the regeneration system. Every time Rush turned around he caught Eli with notes on the subject.

As much as he wanted to tell Eli to get his head back in the game, Rush knew he would be a hypocrite for doing so. Eli wanted Ginn back. Rush knew the feeling. He wanted Mandy with every fiber of his being and having her so close, yet still unattainable, was a unique sort of torture.

Focusing on work seemed like the best option, so Rush did his best to find solutions to the current problems. Still, his misery must be obvious because, as he was eating breakfast, Chloe and Scott chose to sit with him and offer dating advice. If Rush had to listen to one more person tell him to be patient and give Mandy time, he was going to draw blood!

Doing his best to ignore Scotts babble, Rush noticed Mandy didn’t come for her rations. Seeing how people reacted to her presence, knowing she took the looks to heart, Rush wasn’t completely surprised by her absence. As much as Rush wanted to dismiss his worry, his gut warned him to be one guard. Amanda probably just needed time alone.

Rush would try to respect her need for space. What other choice did he have? He would find a way to deal with the constant frustration itching under his skin.

“Do you know what I’m saying?” Scott gave Rush an expectant look.

“Yeah,” Rush said absently. Getting to his feet, he gave the couple a departing nod. “Back to work.”

“He didn’t hear a word I said, did he,” Scott asked Chloe.

Giving her lover a patient smile, Chloe glanced after Rush. “Love makes people do some odd things.”

Scott chuckled. “The idea of Rush in love,” he shuddered. “Weird.”

Laughing, Chloe shook her head. “It happens to the best of us. Being in love will be good for him.”

“I’m not so sure about that.” Scott remembered Rush’s reaction when they were hunting Simeon. If he didn’t get Dr. Perry back, Scott doubted they could predict the next trick up Rush’s sleeve. All they could do was cross their fingers and hope for the best.

****

Avoiding people on a ship this size was a pretty easy task. Mandy started exploring after the cabin fever set in with the intention of finding some evidence the people here were crazy. Finding proof she wasn’t in outer space would be the first step of escape. However, the more Amanda discovered about the ship, the more doubts gnawed at the back of her mind. Listening in on conversations from the shadows only served to add fuel to the fire of her confusion. There were plenty of nooks and crannies to hide surrounded by shadows, so Mandy had plenty of opportunities to eavesdrop during the last few days.

She hoped to find evidence that these people were part of some kind of sci-fi role playing game or an experiment with the goal of convincing her nothing here was real. If her theory was true, there was no telling because these people never broke character! Try as she might, there was no neon sign flashing the word “exit” for her to follow to get out of this mess. The view outside the windows didn’t change.

Mandy did learn that people talked about her though. Specifics were elusive, but they all debated if she had the right to be back. Since she heard a lot of these statements out of context, Mandy wasn’t sure of the meaning. Where was she brought back from anyway? And why were some people so put off by her amnesia?

Rounding a corner, she hissed as something stabbed the bottom of her foot. Leaning against the wall, she bent over to examine the sole of her foot. A metal splinter was sticking out of her heel. Well, she supposed she knew the ricks wandering around barefoot, but it wasn’t like she had any other option.

Gasping the piece of metal, she pulled out the shard. The ragged edges cut her skin as they were yanked free. Cursing from the pain, and her own bad mood, Amanda smacked the wall with her palm, feeling some of her temper burn out.

“Stumbling around in the dark?”

Hearing the voice, her head snapped to attention. The man lurking in front of her wore a military uniform with a gun strapped over his body. He had dark skin and a wide grin.

Refusing to be afraid, or intimidated, by a complete stranger, Mandy straightened, holding her head high. “This ship hates me.”

To her surprise, the man laughed heartily at her words. “Destiny can be a temperamental ol’ girl. You must be Dr. Perry.”

Mandy shrugged. “So they tell me. Though I don’t know what the doctor part stands for.”

“Some kind of science thing, probably.”

Lifting a brow at the comment, she watched the man's smile deepen. “Who are you?”

“Sergeant Ronald Greer,” he stated as he held out a hand.

Mandy shook, grateful he treated her like a normal person. “Nice to meet you.”

“The honor’s all mine. You helped save my life once and that of a friend.”

Blinking in surprise, Mandy almost smiled. “I did?”

“Yup. That’s why I’m one of the people here who’s glad you’ve gotten a second chance.”

“A second chance for what?”

“Best not say too much,” Greer shrugged. “TJ says you should remember your life on your own, without interference.”

“Yeah, well, that’s pretty tough to do when you don’t know what you should be remembering in the first place.”

Trying not to put any weight on her injured foot, Mandy suddenly mis-stepped, yelping when pain jolted through her veins.

“I can help you to channel your anger,” Greer offered.

“Oh, yeah?” Mandy gave a humorless laugh. “Can you get me a pair of shoes too?”

Greer’s answering laughter echoed off the walls. “I’ll look for a pair at the next planet we stop at.”

“I guess it's one way to keep people in line,” she muttered. “Take their shoes.”

“Come on,” Greer held out his hand again. “Let me help you back to your quarters.”

Accepting the offer, Amanda leaned on the man only as necessary. She was still a little cautious because of the whole stranger thing, and inadvertently realized she didn’t like the sensation of being touched. The only person who she tolerated touching her so far was Dr. Rush, which was a mystery since she really disliked his constant hovering.

“Can you really help me with the anger,” she asked when her door was in sight.

“Yeah,” Greer nodded. “A few techniques also double as self-defense moves. You’ll be balanced in no time. Here we go.”

Greer helped Mandy to a chair in the corner of her room. Breathing a sigh of relief, Mandy nodded her thanks before daring to glance at her foot, which was covered in dirt. She would have to wash out more than her wound, apparently.

“Want me to call TJ?”

“No, thanks.” Amanda wanted to be alone. “I’ve got this.”

Nodding, Greer said he would be in touch before leaving her in peace. Waiting several minutes before hobbling to the closest bathroom, she did a thorough scrubbing. Hissing as the water made contact with torn skin, Mandy was afraid to ask what would happen next.

Chapter Text

Tensions were rising between Homeworld Command and the Lucian Alliance. The enemy wanted Langara and they were through negotiating. As a result, open warfare seemed inevitable. Telford was sure they defeating the Alliance would be a walk in the park.

“We have superior weapons,” he told Young and Camile when they used the stones to make contact. “Though the Alliance is more organized than they used to be, we have more experience.”

Young seemed satisfied with the answer, but Camile wasn’t convinced.

“What if the Alliance does get control over Langara,” she asked. “Will they try to attack us again?”

Telford cast Camile a long look as if considering how much to reveal. “The Alliance isn’t even aware that Destiny, or her crew, is still intact.”

“But they’re still going after Langara?” Camile made a face. “That can’t be a coincidence.”

“They’ve conquered the territory all around the planet,” Telford clarified. “Langara is simply the next logical step.”

“Dialing the ninth chevron will be an added bonus,” Young added.

“I don’t want either of you to worry,” Telford said. “We have the situation under control.”

Telford refused to say more on the subject as he escorted the pair into the meeting. Destiny dropped out of FTL at a planet with good supply possibilities, so Young and Camile used the stones, while a team explored the surface. Hopefully, there would be some kind of meat when they returned. Young could really use a steak.

They had nine hours before Destiny would jump back into FTL, so he would be here for eight more hours dealing with politics and procedures. Those who knew about the ship were a precious few. Still, Young wasn’t convinced they would remain a secret for long.

With war on the horizon, he had to do all he could to keep his crew safe. Young wasn’t of the opinion that the ship’s mission came before all else, like Rush, but he knew they didn’t have a lot of alternatives. The last thing anyone wanted was for more people to die, yet Young knew in the back of his mind such things were inevitable.

They briefed command on their situation, but Young by-passed the parts regarding the regeneration system and Dr. Perry. TJ was right about how they should be careful about who to trust with the information, and right now Homeworld Command had their hands full with the Lucian Alliance and Langara. Waiting to see how current events unfolded before handing over specifics would be best for all concerned. Young would see where the chips fell before giving his full and complete report.

****

The bandages were dirty and peeling. Sighing, Amanda did not want to have to go back to TJ and get more because she didn’t want to have to answer questions about how she ruined them in only a few hours time. She promised to rest, but instead went exploring.

Finding the gate room, she noticed the round archway they called a stargate. Amanda assumed this gate was a fancy prop and didn’t give much thought to how the gate worked. When the room suddenly filled with people, she hurried to the shadows, keeping very still and quiet hoping not to be seen.

Amanda recognized Eli, TJ, and Lt. James. Eli was controlling a floating robotic sphere he called a kino. They were all talking about finding supplies on the planet. Mandy pieced together how the group was going to use the stargate to travel through a wormhole to the planet’s surface.

Even as she mentally huffed in disbelief, her curiosity was peaking. Remaining utterly still as Scott and Rush entered the room to join the team, Amanda held her breath as she continued watching. Her eyes couldn’t help but linger on Rush for several moments.

The conversations she overheard linked her with him, but Mandy didn’t get any specifics. The more she heard about Rush and the torn opinions about his character, the more she admitted she was intrigued.

“Dial the gate,” Scott ordered Eli.

“On it.”

From her vantage point, Amanda watched parts of the wheel light up before spinning around clockwise, then counter clockwise, then back again. When the gate stopped, an almost blue light filled the opening before whooshing out, like a blast of an ocean wave, before retracting back in on itself. The light continued glowing the same whitish blue, flowing over the opening of the gate.

Mouth hanging open, Mandy watched the team walk through the light, which appeared to be a liquid slimy substance, before disappearing all together. Dr. Rush was the last one to step through the gate, but at the last second he glanced over his shoulder. His eyes seemed to stare directly at her. Amanda barely had time to gasp in surprise before he was gone. Feeling her cheeks blushing, Mandy tried to shake off the strange pull Rush had over her.

When they were all through the gate, the light vanished, leaving the void. Stunned, Amanda remained in her hiding place for a solid ten minutes trying to control her shaking limbs. Daring to emerge from the shadows, tip-toeing to the gate, she stared at the device, wondering if she could trust what her eyes just witnessed. Walking around the gate, she hoped to find the team hiding and waiting to jump out at her screaming “gotcha!”, but she found no sign of any other living soul in the room.

Well, if this was a trick – if they were hiding on this ship – she would find them! Mandy was very familiar with the layout thanks to her daily exertions. She could find out what the real explanation could be!

Hours later, tired and empty-handed, Amanda was close to tears. Her feet were aching, but she didn’t want to give up just yet. Running into Chloe on the observation deck, Mandy found the courage to ask the other woman about the team. Chloe patiently explained about the stargate and the countdown clock.

“They’ll be back before you know it,” Chloe assured Amanda.

“I thought this was a hoax,” Mandy confessed, still a bit astonished.

“It’s not,” Chloe said gently, wearing a kind smile. “Are you worried about Rush? He knows how to handle himself.”

Blinking, Mandy stared at Chloe, wondering why the woman would assume she was thinking about Rush.

“I barely know him,” she snapped.

Chloe’s smiled faded as she remembered Dr. Perry’s condition. “Oh.”

“Why does everyone act like he and I know each other?”

“Because you do.” Chloe didn’t see the point in lying.

Shaking her head, Amanda tried to clarify. “But they expect me to think he’s special or something. Why?”

At this question, Chloe faltered. “You’ll have to talk to Rush about that.”

Would no one here give her any answers?! Gritting her teeth, Mandy raked a hand through her hair trying to dispel her frustration. “I don’t understand where I am, or what is going on around me. Everyone is saying they want me to remember, but what if I never do?”

“You will,” Chloe insisted, still wearing her kind smile.

Apparently, they weren’t giving her an alternative.

“Do you want to meet some other crew members,” Chloe asked. “We could go down to the still.”

Amanda blinked in confusion. “That still?”

“It’s Brody’s bar,” she explained. “Closest thing we have to one here anyway.”

Thinking a moment, Mandy shook her head. “Thanks, but people here…look at me funny.”

Blinking rapidly, Chloe’s expression suddenly appeared pained.

“You know why they are doing that, don’t you?”

“Dr. Perry-”

“Why can’t you just tell me?” Amanda was getting impatient and snappish because she was swiftly reaching the end of her rope. “How bad can the truth be?”

“Amanda,” Chloe tried again to be rational, but her eyes were full of regret. “Everything will make sense when you remember your past.”

Realizing she wasn’t getting anywhere, Mandy gave up trying. Crying wouldn’t solve anything, but she couldn’t prevent a few tears from spilling out of her eyes. Angry at her weakness as much as her predicament, Amanda turned away from Chloe to continue on her way. The lack of empathy and understanding from these people only made her lack of answers all the more devastating. For the next several hours, Mandy read up on what the database had on stargates, wormholes, and the chevrons until her head ached.

Could all of this be true? She saw the stargate work with her own eyes. Then again, these people could be drugging her food to cause hallucinations for all she knew. For Mandy, believing in spiked mush was easier than seeing the scientific phenomena in front of her nose. Why would any of these people want to fool her in the first place? Maybe she possessed information they wanted?

All the evidence pointed to the contrary. She didn’t’ have any reason to doubt the sincerity of these people. Eventually, Mandy knew she would have to take a leap of faith and stop fighting what was in front of her face.

If she could see the stargate again, if she could see Rush and the others come back through, then she would have a better time believing her eyes, and the truth of her situation. Conscious of the clock, Mandy did more background reading before making her way back to the gate room.

Finding her place among the shadows, Mandy watched, terrified, as the gate dialed and the wormhole burst through. Seeing the crew return, her heart pounded in her ears. The team brought back food, water, and other materials. Lt. Scott was barking orders to the others about where to take the supplies before following a group out the door. Remaining silent in her hiding place, Mandy’s eyes couldn’t help but focus on Rush.

He looked dirty and exhausted, and yet, she couldn’t seem to tear her gaze away from the sight. An unexplainable pull tugged at her chest, urging her to move toward him, but her feet remained stubbornly planted in place. The man intrigued her, but at the same time, she was repelled by the unspoken pressure he put on her shoulders.

Feeling Mandy’s presence, Rush lingered in the room until everyone else left. Spotting her in the corner, shrouded in darkness, he debated on whether or not he should speak to her. In the end, he knew putting pressure on Mandy to remember would only drive the wedge further between them. Instead of approaching Mandy, Rush continued to catalog the leftover supplies, speaking out loud to the supposedly empty room.

“The stargates are truly amazing. The Ancients harnessed energies we can only dream of.”

Moving slowly out of the shadows and into the light, Mandy kept a discreet distance between her body and Rush, but she was brave enough to look at his face.

“Part of me still thinks this is all a dream,” Amanda confessed before biting her lower lip. How much should she confide in Rush? “I think I would be better able to cope if this was actually a dream.”

Inhaling a deep breath, overcome by her beauty, Rush nearly missed her words. The impulse to reach out and caress her face, to run his fingers through her hair, to pull her close and ease away all her fears was almost too strong to resist. Managing his urges, Rush forced his feet to stay in place instead of running to her side. Amanda was trying to make sense of the world around her and the last thing she needed was to deal with his feelings on top of everything else.

“We all work together to keep things going,” he informed her. “So far, we’ve managed to survive.”

Mandy glanced over at the gate. “So I see.”

“Do you have any questions? About the ship or how things work?”

Mandy shook her head slightly. “I’ve actually done a lot of observation the last few days.”

Nodding, Rush wasn’t sure what else to say. “Well,” he cleared his throat. “If you do have any questions, I would be happy to answer them.”

Smiling her thanks, Amanda tried for a lighter mood. “You didn’t happen to bring back a change of clothes, did you? Woman’s clothes, that is?”

Smiling at the humor, he shook his head. “No, but we’re working on that.”

Nodding, Mandy gave a little wave before heading for the door. Watching her go, Rush wanted to call her back. He wanted to keep talking, but still didn’t have a clue what to say. When Mandy was out of sight, he heaved a heavy sigh and got back to work.

****

Back in her quarters, headphones on and music playing, Amanda tried reading more material about Stargate Command and the specs of this ship in general. Chloe helped her find the materials, but Amanda was having a tough time focusing.

Lecturing her logical mind that if she came across more evidence supporting the claims of being on a ship in outer space, then she would have to believe what these people claimed. Yet, the rebellious part of her mind screamed if she could find a loophole in the logic, she could go back to believing they were all lying. Mandy kept flipping and bargaining because she didn’t want to be lost in space with strangers, wondering if she would regain her memories, while trying not to give in to her fears.

Her other distraction was Dr. Rush. Mandy did want to ask him questions. Specifically, she wanted to know why everyone thought they were connected. So far, she put off confronting him because she didn’t think she was ready to hear the answer. The last thing she wanted was to be responsible for his feelings. There was enough on her plate to deal with at the moment.

So why couldn’t Amanda get Rush out of her head?

Sighing, Mandy put aside her reading to get to her feet. Looking down, she cringed. To say she needed a pedicure was in understatement. Walking around this ship barefoot was making the bottoms of her feet black and causing cuts and blisters.

The solution would be to stay in her quarters and off her feet, but the cabin fever would eventually drive her to explore. Itching to be clean, she headed for the showers. There were machines by the facilities that laundered clothing while one was under the…mist thing or whatever they called this spray. Putting up the privacy sign, Amanda stripped, threw her clothing in the laundry, and quickly washed.

Glad her feet were now clean and refreshed, she dressed and dried her hair. Walking back to her quarters, she tried ignoring how her feet were getting dirty again. Such things couldn’t be helped, she supposed. Apparently, no one here scrubbed the floors. During her walk, she decided if she saw once more thing to back up the claims of being in space, then she could have no choice but to believe the facts.

Pausing at her door, Mandy decided to go in search of answers. All the conversations she overheard, all the stars outside the windows, all of her experiences in these surroundings told her gut she was lost aboard the Destiny with the rest of the crew. She just wanted a little more proof.

Moving silently, Amanda made her way to the bridge. One person was there. Dr. Dale Volker kindly showed Mandy around the bridge. As they talked, she realized he was the friend Greer told her about earlier.

“How did I save your life?”

The sudden question made his next words falter, but Dale recovered enough to answer. “It’s hard to explain.”

“Do you know how many times I’ve heard those words?” Mandy wasn’t upset, just exhausted of always hitting a dead end.

Sympathizing, Dale sighed. “I can imagine.”

Struggling to find the right words, he did want to help. “Basically, you helped TJ perform a kidney transplant that saved my life.”

Eyes widening, Mandy shook her head in disbelief. “How did I do that?”

Volker’s expression turned sheepish. “That’s the part you need to remember.”

Having more than enough information to mull over, Amanda thanked Volker before returning to her quarters. If she still woke up here tomorrow, then she would accept and believe.

Chapter Text

Ignoring the knocking, Mandy hoped whoever was outside the door would go away. She wasn’t in the mood to deal with people. All she did since waking this morning was listen to melancholy music, trying to wrap her head around her new reality.

Hearing the door open, she quickly shoved her iPod under her pillow before looking over her shoulder. Dr. Rush walked boldly over the threshold carrying a tray of food. He spoke first before she could yell at him.

“I wanted to make sure you were alright.”

The gesture was kind, but Mandy still wanted no part of him. “I’m fine,” she mumbled.

Mandy hoped Rush would get the hint and leave her in peace, but at the same time, she wanted someone to talk to. Torn, she didn’t know how to even begin to communicate her feelings.

Setting the tray down on the nightstand, Rush moved one of the chairs next to her bed. Sitting, he focused on Amanda’s face. “Looks like someone became a believer.”

“It’s not like I had much of a choice,” she grumbled. “How do you stand all this?”

Sighing, Rush shrugged. “We manage. Getting used to life on the ship takes time.”

“How much?”

“Depends,” he answered. “Do you remember anything yet?”

Sitting up, Mandy wondered what Rush would think if she told him everything on her mind. He probably would run screaming from the room. The image did tug her lips into a faint smile.

“I remember living a normal life,” she started. “I remember music and movies and general things, but nothing specific about myself.”

“Give it time,” he urged.

Studying his expression for a moment, Mandy couldn’t help but ask the question burning a hole in her mind. “How do we know each other?”

The question hit him like a punch to the chest. Blinking, Rush grappled to find the right words.

“Please don’t tell me I’ll remember on my own,” she pleaded. “Everyone is telling me that and the more I try, the worse I feel. The page stays blank no matter what I try. I need a starting point.”

Rush wanted to help, but he didn’t know where to begin. “Our relationship is…complicated,” he finally managed.

Rush didn’t have any idea how to tell Mandy about her past, let alone her disability. Adding the circumstances of her death, then the stones, the recovery of her consciousness, her exile to quarantine, and finally her…new state, would be nearly impossible at the moment because Mandy wouldn’t understand or believe the story. Seeing the plea in her eyes, Rush also knew he couldn’t deny her request. He wanted Mandy back. Needing her like he needed air, Rush tried to be patient and think of what was best for Amanda’s recovery, but the challenge was starting to weigh him down. Telling her the basics couldn’t hurt, right?

“Back on Earth, we were friends.”

Not expecting such an answer, she couldn’t hide her surprise. “Friends?”

Expression softening as his memories rose to the surface, Rush continued. “Colleagues at first. You were a scientist, as was I. We would talk about our work and other topics we had in common."

Eventually, we got into the habit of talking for hours on end and playing games of chess.”

The images he described filled Mandy with warmth. “We knew each other pretty well, huh?”

“We were the best of friends.”

“So, what happened?”

Rush frowned. “What do you mean?”

“You said ‘were’.”

Raking a hand through his hair, Rush stifled a sigh. “I ended up here on Destiny and now you don’t remember me.”

Mandy saw the pain in his eyes. Clearly, her memory loss hurt him, causing Mandy to want to reach out and comfort him. “I’m sorry,” she said sincerely.

“It’s not your fault,” Rush gently insisted. To his mind, blame for the download malfunction rested on Eli’s shoulders, so he wasn’t going to ever let Mandy think otherwise.

Shifting on the bed, her eyes fell to her dirty feet. Tucking them beneath her, Mandy chanced another look at Rush. Was she wrong to think him handsome? He claimed they were friends. Did that mean friendship was all that existed between them, or was there more going on? What did he mean by the complicated part?

Just when Mandy was about to ask the question on her mind, Rush gestured to the food.

“You should eat and keep up your strength.”

“I haven’t been hungry,” she confessed.

“Why not?” Rush noticed she came to the mess hall to eat only once in the past two days, which worried him.

“I’m overwhelmed, I guess. Being here and having no memory of anything and having to start over with people staring…”

“Hey.” Reaching out to grasp her hand, Rush gave her fingers a reassuring squeeze. “Your memories will come back to you.”

Mandy’s eyes filled with hope. “You think so?”

“I do,” Rush nodded. He let his fingers linger on her skin, relieved when she didn’t pull away. His heart sped up when Mandy squeezed his fingers in return. Dare he hope?

“I don’t remember the past, but I…it’s hard to explain, but I get the impression I was lonely. The world went on around me, but I was always apart. Now I’m here and I feel the same way. I-”

Breaking off, Amanda shook her head, uncertain of how to phrase her feelings. Instead, unorganized words just poured from her lips.

“I feel like I was in a place where no one loved me or cared about what happened to me. I saw people all around me lavishing love and devotion to others but I was never a part of it all. Does that make any sense?”

Hearing her speak, seeing the misery in her gaze, Rush wanted to strangle Eli for putting her into quarantine. Pushing aside his anger, Rush tried to put Mandy’s mind at ease. Whether she knew it or not, she was also describing her life on Earth before her death. Managing a small smile, Rush gave her hand another squeeze, hoping when she did remember her past, she would realize the future was all that mattered. He was here for her now, just as he always was, and that fact would never change.

“You are not alone,” he assured her. “You have friends. All of us stick together.”

Nodding, she supposed he was right. The people on this ship would have to be cooperative if they wanted to survive. His comfort meant more to her than she knew how to express, but Mandy doubted she would ever really belong. Overwhelmed with this urge to throw her arms around his neck and hold Rush close, Mandy looked away from his face to better resist the impulse. As much as she craved physical comfort right now, she instinctively knew she wasn’t used to having someone touch her. The last thing she wanted was to ruin the comfortable mood between them by crossing a fine line.

Reluctantly, she pulled her hand back, inhaling a deep breath while forcing a smile. “I’m sorry I don’t have topics of conversation. I don’t remember much about specific sciences or even how to play chess.”

Rush thought Mandy’s sudden shyness adorable, but knew he couldn’t say so. Still, he couldn’t help but think they were making progress. “I’ll tell you what, you eat, and I’ll talk. When was the last time you had a meal?”

“Yesterday morning.”

Frowning, Rush moved the tray from the nightstand to her lap. “One thing I’ve learned being stuck on Destiny is that you need to take nourishment when you can. Eat.”

Picking up her fork, Amanda sensed the curtains of her depression lifting the longer she spent time in Rush’s company. Forcing down the strange tasting plants and white pudding, she listened intently as Rush told her about the Icarus project and his work on Destiny. Mandy couldn’t help but be intrigued, wondering if she did similar work before her amnesia.

Clearly, the man loved his work. The light in his eyes spoke volumes as he discussed new discoveries and exploring the universe. Mandy decided she like this happily curious side to Rush.

“What about your family,” she asked.

“I don’t have any,” Rush responded softly.

Blinking, Mandy shook her head realizing her mistake. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean-”

Rush held up a hand to stop her words. “It’s alright. I’ll tell you if you want.”

Mandy really did want to know all she could about this man, so she nodded. “I’d like that.”

Chuckling, Rush inched closer. “Well, as you can probably tell by the accent, I’m Scottish.”

Laughing, Amanda scooped up more pudding. Her eyes met his. “I did guess that.”

Her amusement encouraged Rush to elaborate. “I grew up in Glasgow. My father worked in the shipyards. We were very blue collar, but he encouraged me to find out what I liked to do and pursue my passions. I realized I was pretty good at math and solving puzzles. Really good, actually. Good enough to earn a scholarship to Oxford.”

“Wow.” Eyes widening, Mandy was impressed. “I bet that made your parents proud.”

“My dad was very proud of me,” Rush nodded.

“What about your mom?”

His lips twitched, making him look as if he was remembering something unpleasant. “She died when I was six.”

Biting her lower lip, Mandy stopped eating. “I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, well,” Rush shrugged off the old melancholy. He didn’t talk about his past. In fact, he didn’t mention his family to anyone in years. “It was a long time ago.”

“Do you miss her?”

“I did, but I moved on,” he answered honestly.

“But you never had a family of your own?” Amanda wasn’t ashamed about being openly curious.

“I got married right out of university,” he told her. “Our marriage lasted nearly twenty-two years, but we never had children.”

Swallowing hard, Mandy tried not to cough when Rush mentioned a wife. The food scratched on the way down her throat. Why did his having a wife make her feel so bereft all of a sudden? Not knowing what to say, or how to behave, Mandy kept her eyes on her food as she used her fork to pick at the mush.

“You should eat all of it,” Rush gently prodded.

Forcing a smile before lifting her eyes, she kept her tone light as she spoke. “Easier said than done.”

Rush chuckled at the joke. “It’s not the best tasting stuff, but it’s good for you.”

Resuming her picking, Mandy felt shy, but compelled to satisfy her curiosity about Rush’s past. “Why did you say you don’t have family if you’re married?”

Letting out a sigh, Rush knew he opened this can of worms, so he needed to be very clear. “Gloria died several years ago now.”

Eyes widening, Mandy stared at him for a long moment. Seeing his sorrow, she couldn’t help but feel sympathy for his loss. Clearly, he loved Gloria very much, but she also felt such relief knowing Rush was a free man. Amanda’s stomach muscles relaxed at the knowledge, allowing her to breathe without discomfort.

“I miss her everyday,” Rush continued. “But I’ve learned to look to the future. One special friend actually helped me to do that.”

Their eyes met and held. Feeling her skin tingle with yearning, Amanda knew she should look away, but her body refused to obey the command. The heat in his eyes openly displayed his desire, but she was uncertain if she could trust what she was seeing in those brown depths. Mandy barely knew herself, let alone the man sitting in front of her.

“Do you mean me,” she asked on a whisper.

Still holding her gaze intently, Rush nodded. “You’re an amazing person, Mandy.”

The praise made her blush before dropping her gaze back down at her food. Butterflies attacked her belly and her hands shook slightly as she tried eating another spoonful of pudding. With effort, Mandy was able to calm her reaction to his words and think rationally.

“I’m not sure I’m the same person,” she confessed when she trusted her voice. “I can’t even remember who I was.”

“I remember,” Rush stressed. “Deep down, I know you, Amanda. There may be a few more layers to you now, but your heart is the same.”

“You really think so?”

Practically seeing her expression swell with hope, Rush clenched his hands together to keep from reaching out to cup her cheek. Right now, Mandy was willing to put faith and trust in his words. One wrong move could ruin what they were building. As much as he wished otherwise, Mandy was still very fragile.

“Hey,” he said unable to resist at least reaching for her hand. “We’ve always been open and honest with each other. There is no shame or judgment between us.”

No shame? Oddly enough, Mandy was comforted by the idea. Giving his fingers a squeeze before pulling back; she finished the last of her food, then placing the tray back on the nightstand.

“Does that mean you don’t hold my dirty feet against me,” she joked.

Laughter burst from his throat. “Considering the circumstances, I think it can be overlooked.”

Relieved, Mandy laughed along with Rush. All the gloom from her earlier mood vanished as she let go of her worries and fears. They would creep back up she knew, but right now Mandy was content to appreciate Rush’s company.

“I really wish I had shoes,” she commented when her laughter calmed. “How could I even get here without shoes on my feet?”

Seeing Rush’s expression sobering, Mandy felt like she ruined the moment. “What,” she asked with concern.

“Nothing,” Rush said quickly. “It’ll come back to you. Your memories, I mean.”

“Ah, all part of the big mystery I have to remember?” A weary smile curved her lips, but she was too shy to meet his eyes.

“The circumstances will be easier to explain if you have your memories back,” Rush insisted.

“No pressure, then?”

Considering her skepticism, Rush knew he couldn’t tell her the truth and expect her to believe him. Amanda had a tough enough time accepting they were in outer space, so to think she would easily accept the rest was a long shot. Rising to his feet, Rush offered a small smile. “Maybe a little pressure, but I’m not going anywhere, so I will help with what I can. I do miss my friend.”

Blinking at the confession, Amanda inhaled a sharp breath. “No shame, you said?”

“None.”

Seizing the opening, Mandy climbed off the bed, moving forward to give Rush the hug she wanted to since his arrival. Wrapping her arms around his waist, she pressed close, surprised by how well they fit together. “Thank you,” she said softly. “For everything.”

Inhaling her scent, Rush closed his eyes, holding her tight. Throat closing, he fought his emotions. Desire screamed through his veins, urging Rush to take more than a simple hug from the woman he loved, but Mandy started pulling away. Reluctantly, he released her when she ended the embrace. Forcing a smile, Rush picked up the tray and headed for the door.

Giving her a wave, he hoped he would be able to walk off his frustration. Weak-kneed, Mandy sank back down on the bed, watching the door closed behind him. For hours, the scent and feel of Rush lingered over her senses and on her fingertips. She didn’t know what to do, or how to think, about all of the churning emotions warring within her being. All she could do was stare at the ceiling until she finally gave in to exhaustion.

Chapter Text

Her name was Amanda Perry. She was on board a spaceship built by the Ancients called Destiny. The memories of her past were lost somewhere inside her subconscious, but she did have faith everything in her world would once again make sense with time. The anger and frustration coursing through her veins at the idea of being so helpless was being channeled through her body using exercises Sargent Greer was teaching her.

Grateful someone on this ship treated her like an ordinary person without a handicap; Amanda liked how Greet didn’t harbor any expectations. Thus far, TJ, Greer, and Rush were the only people to take the time to have prolonged conversations with her. Chloe and Matt her nice, but Mandy mostly came across the pair in passing, which gave her the impression they were weary of her. Most of the crew seemed frightened of her for some reason. Some even looked at her with open hostility.

Naturally, Amanda didn’t understand any of these reactions and maybe she never would, since no one here was willing to fill her in on the details. Just the thought made her skin itched with frustration, making her strike out at Greer instead of practicing discipline. In the middle of their exercises, she made a motion too quickly, so her feet weren’t properly balanced causing her body weight to shift drastically to the side, giving gravity the upper hand. Luckily, Greer caught Mandy before her chin smacked the floor.

“Clear your mind,” he lectured as he straightened her back on her feet. “Anger makes your movements sloppy.”

Nodding, Mandy wondered again if learning self-defense and exercises to channel emotions was really worth the sweat and sore muscles. As tough as this discipline was, a part of her felt…grateful she could do these things in the first place. A strange drive kept her going when Mandy wanted to quit. Subconsciously, she knew she should take care of her whole being, which included her mind and her body.

Going through the motions several more times, Amanda finally nailed the lesson. Once she had the defense moves down, she managed gain the upper hand by hitting Greer with a stomp on his instep, elbowing him in the stomach, and whirling around to grab him in a choke hold, thinking she finally mastered the skill. Instead of allowing her the small victory, Greer ran her through the drill a dozen more times, telling her the maneuvers needed to become second nature.

Covered in sweat and aching from head to toe, Amanda went to the mist shower the second Greer was summoned back to duty. Washing her clothes, Mandy then let the steam cleanse her skin and ease her muscles. Afterwards, she was able to function. In fact, she was improving with each passing day. Still, having shoes would help, but she shouldn’t complain.

Clean and refreshed, Mandy headed back to her quarters. Quickly growing bored, she started pacing the length of the room. So many questions swarmed around in her mind. She still couldn’t remember details about her life before waking up here. Having no idea how she ended up on this ship in the first place, Mandy struggled to figure out what was going on. Why didn’t she have any memories? What happened to cause her amnesia?

Raking a hand through her hair, she let out a sigh. Her memories would come back when they came back. In the meantime, she would have to deal with her new life as best she could. Mentally and physically exhausted, Mandy collapsed onto the bed. A small nap would be welcome. Closing her eyes, hopefully she would wake up with some clarity.

The images assaulting her were jumbled, but frightening. Heart pounding, Mandy gasped awake. Sitting up, cold sweat tricked down the back of her neck. Combing her hair out of her face, she tried recalling details of the dream as she struggled to slow her breathing. Nothing made any sense. All she knew for certain was she felt terrified.

Reaching for her iPod and putting on her headphones, Mandy tried falling back asleep while the sounds of Kate Bush lulled her muscles into a relaxed state. Unfortunately, with her mind racing a mile a minute, she was unable to ignore her anxiety. Tossing and turning, she paused the music, pulled off the headphones, and rose to her feet.

There wasn’t much to do in her quarters, so she decided to walk around the ship until she felt sleepy again. Almost everyone on board, military or civilian, had a task. Everyone except her. Surly she did something here before she lost her memory? If someone showed her what she used to do, Mandy could maybe remember something?

Wandering the halls, she knew she could go to Greer with questions, or even Rush. Oddly enough, she felt more comfortable talking to Greer about some things, or even TJ. Rush was nice, but sometimes Mandy would catch him looking at her with such longing, which made her feel like he expected too much.

If she could force her memories to return, she would. In the meantime, no one wanted to give her any details. What was so complicated about her past that no one wanted to discuss the matter until she recalled the details on her own? True, Rush gave her some tidbits, but in the grand scheme of things, the information wasn’t very helpful.

From what she could reason out with her own logic, she had a doctorate degree in some sort of scientific field, but specifically which one she wasn’t sure. Somehow, studying science led her to become acquainted with Dr. Nicholas Rush and they were friends. How did she come to know the others though? How did she get on this ship? And why didn’t she have any shoes?

Ironically, the last question bothered her the most. Mandy just couldn’t figure out how she would come to be here, of all places, barefoot.

Turning a corner, seeing a couple walking from the opposite direction, Mandy’s thoughts scattered as she paused. The couple spotted her, staring for a moment before rushing away in the other direction. This occurrence happened a lot lately. So much so that Mandy couldn’t enter the mess hall or the observatory without feeling rejected and ostracized.

Were people treating her differently because of her amnesia, or was something else causing them to single her out as some sort of spectacle? Whatever reason, Mandy didn’t like the sensation of being pushed aside and left out of the crowd. Who would?

The more she considered the situation, the more she wondered why she almost felt…used to such treatment. She should ignore the rudeness, but there weren’t a great many people here.

As a result, Mandy concluded staying away and keeping her own company would be the best course of action. Having plenty of time to explore the ship, she knew of places to find refuge and solitude. Still not drowsy, Mandy turned a corner, making her way through the corridors; she soon came to what she called the “Hall of Notes”.

Paper stuck to the chalkboard walls, showcasing handwritten scribbles. Mostly, mathematical equations were written out, some taking up several boards along the wall. Mandy found the shapes intriguing even if she couldn’t make sense out of the symbols.

This hall seemed endless, but toward the very end several blank patches existed. Walking along, Mandy indulged in reading the notes, letting her mind go blank. Absently picking up a piece of chalk, she moved to one of the blank boards and started drawing the design taking form behind her eyes. Without thinking, Mandy stared at her handiwork, on the verge of realizing what her scribbles meant, but a voice in her ear scattered her thoughts.

“Hey!”

Startled, dropping the chalk, Mandy snapped back into the moment to see Eli glaring in her direction. Not knowing why he was so upset, she froze, unsure of how to respond to his outburst.

Moving quickly to examine the wall where Dr. Perry made changes, Eli visibly relaxed seeing there was no real damage done to the equations they used on a daily basis to keep the engines running. Turning to Mandy, he couldn’t keep the sternness out of his tone.

“We don’t write over other people’s work.”

“I wasn’t,” she said quietly. “This part was blank.”

“We use this for our work,” Eli snapped. “It’s not a toy!”

Why was he yelling at her like she was a simpleton? Eyes narrowing, Mandy wasn’t about to let him bully her. “I never thought it was,” she snapped back.

“Then why were you trying to write on the walls?”

“I didn’t think I wasn’t allowed!”

“Running a ship like Destiny – its hard work! You wouldn’t understand the problems we face and all the math that’s involved, ok? You can’t be here touching stuff!”

“Fine!”

Turning to walk away, Amanda paused before whirling back around to face Eli. Her heart was hammering in her chest, but her anger gave her courage to say what was on her mind.

“Did I do something to you, Eli? Something I don’t remember doing because you have been very rude to me for a while now. If I did something to you, I apologize.”

Blinking, Eli shifted his weight back and forth on his feet. Until now, he didn’t realize he was being mean or rude at all. All this time, he thought he blamed Rush for the events putting Ginn in quarantine, but Amanda wrote the program. She was the one to blame for taking Ginn away from him!

Despite his anger, Eli couldn’t explain the reasons for his behavior to Dr. Perry because didn’t remember what happened. She couldn’t understand.

“It’s nothing, ok,” he snapped.

“Clearly not,” she argued. “You resent me for something, don’t you?”

“You don’t remember,” he grumbled.

“Then tell me,” she insisted.

Scoffing, Eli shook his head. “You wouldn’t understand even if I tried.”

Folding her arms across her chest, Mandy stared him down. “I’m getting really tired of people telling me that. I have basic comprehension skills. What is so mysterious and confusing about my past that I won’t understand, Eli?”

Frustrated, he kept shaking his head. “I don’t have time to stand here and explain all the specifics to an amnesiac!”

Going still, Mandy wasn’t sure why his words stung so harshly, but they did. Once again feeling like an outsider no one wanted to deal with, someone they just brushed aside as not having any feelings, Mandy knew she couldn’t force Eli to tell her anything, or to even like her, but she still wanted some sort of explanation. Watching Eli dismiss her scraped her temper, making her realize pushing the issue now may not be the best idea.

Giving up on the conversation, for now, Mandy turned to leave.

Feeling like a jerk, Eli started after her. “Dr. Perry – Amanda – wait.”

Pausing, biting her lower lip, she debated on whether or not she could face him.

“I’m sorry,” Eli said, watching her turn around. “I shouldn’t have spoken to you like that just now. I-”

Sighing, he shrugged. “The details are confusing and hard to understand, but the basics are that you did something to a friend of mine that caused me to lose her. You didn’t mean to, and I know you couldn’t predict what happened, but I still lost someone I care about.”

Not knowing details made Eli’s words difficult to swallow, but at least she knew his perspective. Of course, his story made her sound like someone who caused serious harm, which made her feel guilty as her heart fell down to her knees. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I’m sorry I hurt you, Eli.”

What else was there to say?

Hearing the apology honestly didn’t help him feel better, but he nodded anyway. “Maybe when you get your memories back we can talk more and maybe fix things.”

Amanda readily agreed. “I would like that.”

“Ok, well,” he gestured over his shoulder. “I should get back to work.”

“Alright.” Wiping her hands down the side of her pants, Mandy nodded. “I won’t bother you again.”

Two steps later, Eli called her name. Waiting for her to turn around, he forced a small smile. “If you remember things – like math – you can come and use some blank space.”

The peace offering sounded lame to his ears, but Eli couldn’t really come up with anything better when put on the spot. Luckily, Dr. Perry seemed pleased.

“Ok,” Mandy smiled. “Thanks.”

Walking away, Mandy placed a hand over her churning stomach. Eli made her sound like a horrible person. Was she a horrible person? Was that why people on this ship avoided her like the plague? Is that why no one accepted her?

She needed her memory back! There had to be a method or therapy that could force the process, right? TJ was the medic, so maybe she could shed some light?

TJ kindly told Amanda over and over that there was no way for force away amnesia. Mandy didn’t want to leave the infirmary empty-handed so she asked about a job. TJ suggested asking the Colonel, but Mandy wasn’t comfortable around him. The more Amanda explored her options, the more she realized the only person here who really warmed up to her was Dr. Rush. He acted familiar with her to the point of obsession, but he also listened and offered more answers than anyone else here gave her so far. Mandy thought she understood his motives, but knowing they shared a past did help her reconcile her feelings upon reflection.

They shared a past. So why did she feel so uncertain about asking him questions? If she was as…cruel? as Eli implied, how could Rush befriend her? Or was he just as bad?

Confused and wishing she never pressed the matter with Eli, Mandy felt insecure about the future. Having more questions than answers, she now learned to be careful what she wished for next.

Chapter Text

Finding a quiet spot where she knew she wouldn’t be disturbed, Mandy sat down on the cold metal flooring to think. The other day when Rush brought her food and sat to talk with her, Mandy felt the tug of attraction struggling to the surface. Yet, now, when she thought about how familiar he acted around her, especially in public, she still felt uncomfortable.
Why?

Because despite all the nice ways Rush described their friendship, she still didn’t remember the details. Feeling helpless, and guilty after what Eli just told her, Mandy wasn’t sure what to do. She spent her days wandering around this ship hoping, somehow, someway, she could get a glimmer of a memory. Being at the mercy of others and not even knowing herself was making her fell powerless.

Hearing her stomach grumble, she sighed. The last time she ate was yesterday when Rush forced her to eat. Mandy didn’t like being around other people in the mess hall. She didn’t like feeling all those eyes staring at her. She didn’t think she was a freak, or a bad person, but judging by people’s reactions to her presence, Mandy was starting to believe she could be one.

Raking a hand through her hair, she wasn’t sure what to do. She was bored sitting here, but not yet tired enough to go back to her room. Getting to her feet, she wandered off to the observatory hoping the area would be abandoned considering the late hour.

Breathing a sigh of relief seeing she was indeed alone, Mandy approached the windows to look out at the space surrounding the ship. The blue haze around Destiny looked somewhat strange, yet beautiful. Beyond was deep black with pinpricks of light.

She was really in outer space! But to what end? Why was she here? Mandy really wished she knew the answer. She wished she knew a lot more about herself.

Moving to sit on one of the couches, Mandy continued to take in the view as she stretched her limbs, loosening her tense muscles. She didn’t know how much time passed, but she was soon yawning. Exhausted, she promised to only close her eyes for a minute to take a quick rest before making her way back to her quarters.

Before Mandy was aware of what was happening, she was sucked down into the darkness. The dreams came again. Full of pain, fear, and blood she couldn’t escape. The screaming, the terrifying sound of crushing metal and then a deafening silence attacked her brain in a painful assault. The images fluttered so quickly across her mind she couldn’t make sense of them.

When the images shifted, designs of some kind assaulted her senses. Mandy felt like she was being held down and force-fed information she didn’t understand. Information she could not hold on to once she gasped awake.

Gasping, unable to get enough air, Mandy stiffened when her eyes focused on her surroundings, realizing she wasn’t alone. A man was hovering above her. Cringing away from him, she scrambled to the other side of the couch, drawing her knees up under her chin.

“It’s ok,” the man assured her, holding up his hands to appear none threatening.

Recognizing Colonel Young, Mandy let out a breath of relief, but kept her guards in place. “What are you doing?”

“I’m trying to wake you,” he informed her. “You were thrashing and screaming from a nightmare.”

Nightmares, huh? Yes, she supposed those dreams classified as such. Gathering her composure, Amanda straightened. “Thank you, but I’m fine now.”

Nodding, Young rose to his feet. “Do you want to me escort you safely back to your quarters?”

Shaking her head, feeling like a scolded child, Mandy also stood. “I’ll be fine.”

“I’m heading back in that direction,” he said, clearly unconvinced she was alright.

Not having much of a choice, Mandy walked alongside him in silence. Feeling embarrassed, Amanda knew she never should have gotten too comfortable in the observatory. The Colonel was nice enough, but she wasn’t sure about his character. In fact, her uncertainty about a lot of things was scary.

“Have you remembered anything,” Young asked to break the uncomfortable silence.

“No,” she answered softly. Turning a corner, Mandy sighed with relief seeing she didn’t have much farther to walk.

“Dr. Perry,” he started. “I know things have been difficult for you, but if there’s anything you need, I want you to feel like you can come to me.”

Pausing, Mandy considered him for a moment. The Colonel seemed sincere, but she wasn’t sure about trusting anyone at this point.

“I’m in charge of all military personnel and Camile speaks for the civilians,” Young continued. “If you need something, don’t hesitate to ask either of us.”

“Thank you.”

Young was going to say more, but his radio interrupted his train of thought. Lt. Scott needed him down in the shuttle bay, so Young made his excuses to Mandy and headed off to the right.

Back in her quarters, Amanda tried to displace her worries with logic, but still felt uncomfortable with the fact Colonel Young caught her in the middle of her nightmare. She shouldn’t feel embarrassed, but she couldn’t seem to shake the sensation.

Sighing, she moved to sit on the bed. The last thing she wanted to do was sleep. Reaching for her iPod, she lay back against the pillows and stared at the ceiling while Tori Amos played in her ears. She could at least rest her body without falling asleep outright. Soon, Mandy was in a waking daze.

****

The man was grumpier than usual. Everyone noticed. A few days ago, Rush almost seemed chipper, but the more time he spent working, the more he snapped at people.

This galaxy was clustered with stargates, several of which led to viable planets, but Rush kept going on about how they needed material for the ship’s repairs as well as the usual supplies of food and water. Thus far, every planet they encountered was devoid of any intelligent civilization. Most of the crew was relieved considered what they ran from in the last galaxy, but Rush knew they would be between a rock and a hard place with no wiggle room if they didn’t find a viable solution. Soon.

His bad mood had nothing to do with Mandy. Not really. Rush hardly laid eyes on her over the last several days and when he did, she acted aloof. Rush didn’t understand what happened. That day in her quarters, they connected. For a split second, he almost thought he had his friend back, but now she barely acknowledged him.

Something must have happened. She spent a lot of time with Greer, learning defense if idle gossip was to be believed, but now he wondered if the Sargent was poisoning Mandy against him. Hell, he really didn’t give a bloody fuck what people on board thought of him, but he wanted Mandy to at least like him. Rush always acted in the best interests of the mission. The one person who understood him was pulling away and he didn’t know what to do.

Giving Mandy space, Rush assumed her mood was temporary, but now he wondered if he should talk to her. At the same time, he knew he risked pushing her farther away.

Normally, Rush would use work to fill the void, but he couldn’t concentrate. All he thought about was Mandy, wondering what went wrong with the download, worrying she wasn’t adjusting to life on the ship, and feeling his emotions becoming even more complicated than he ever imagined possible.

Part of his heart would always love Gloria, but Mandy was…brilliant – incredible, in fact. She was everything he ever wanted. Since her consciousness first came on board, he couldn’t get her out of his mind. He dreamt about her. Crazy as it sounded, Rush envisioned a life on this ship with Mandy by his side.

After her death, he couldn’t let go of the dream. He obsessed over the scenario, actually. Then they recovered her lost consciousness and there was renewed hope. A hope he wanted desperately to believe in with all his heart and soul. He was tired of losing the people he cared about to circumstance.

Now, Rush couldn’t figure out if Destiny was purposely toying with him. There was no denying the ship had a neurological connection to the people here. His heartache could have manifested in some way to make all these current events a reality. Far-fetched, but how many seemingly impossible events unfolded around here?

Mandy was back in the flesh. They had a second chance. A real chance at a future.

And what happened? She didn’t have a single memory of him! Mandy looked through him as if he was a stranger. Back on Earth, on his worst days, Rush would always call Mandy. Just seeing her face on his tablet was enough to calm his stress. He never saw the chair, or her disability, not really. All Rush could see was Mandy’s brilliant mind and her love of learning about the universe. Rush was addicted to talking to her until dawn.

A future with Mandy was always out of reach. Until now. The main obstacle was her amnesia, but surely she would recover. Compared to her pervious state, then her lack of physical presence, a little memory loss shouldn’t be a big deal. So why did Rush feel even more lost and desperate than ever?

“I think I found something,” Eli announced, shattering Rush’s private thoughts.

Focusing on the problem before him, Rush scratched his chin. The sensors detected a planet in the system boasting a generous supply of water. Just what they needed to replenish their stores. The problem was the planet was mostly mountainous.

“Odds are the water is going to be in underground caverns,” Rush commented.

“Well, the stargate is located on the highest peak,” Eli said. “Getting from the highest peak to the lowest caverns will take time.”

“Then we better get started,” Rush snapped.

“Wait.” Eli looked Rush with confusion. “You’re going?”

“Why shouldn’t I,” Rush challenged.

“I just thought you would be occupied with projects here.”

“Yeah, well, I need some air. Let’s go.”

Eli and Rush exchanged knowing looks before Eli followed Rush off the bridge. This mission was certainly going to be interesting.

****

“What do you think,” Young asked TJ after he conveyed all of his observations.

“Hard to say.” Trying to think, Tamara knew there was cause for concern. Amanda didn’t eat regularly and now she was having trouble sleeping. “There could be many explanations. She could be adjusting to her surroundings, or she could be hallucinating from lack of sleep, or sustenance, or both. Right now, there is no telling what is going on with her dreamscape.”

Sighing, Young shook his head. “I don’t really need any more problems right now.”

TJ frowned hearing the words. “You think she’s a problem?”

Seeing her look of disapproval, Young shook his head. “You know Dr. Perry is an unknown factor. I can’t have her wandering around the ship if she’s a danger to herself or others. I already have to make sure her existence stays a secret.”

“Well, I don’t think she’s a danger,” TJ insisted. “She’s just alone. She doesn’t remember herself or any of us. Sounds to me like she’s just trying to cope.”

Despite not being convinced of TJ opinion, Young nodded. There seemed to be more to Dr. Perry’s nightmares than the usual. “What do you suggest?”

At a loss, TJ shrugged. “I could try talking to her, or we could ask Camile for an intervention.”

“Do you think that will work?”

Tamara studied Everett for a long moment. “I think we both know who is most likely going to get through to her.”

No, he didn’t like her answer, but there was no denying the truth. “Rush is heading down to the planet with the rest of the team,” Young supplied. “If they’re successful, our water problems will be over. One less worry on the list.”

“Ok,” TJ nodded, knowing now wasn’t the time to push her opinion. “I can look out for Mandy until the team gets back.”

“Thanks”

“Sure,” TJ smiled.

“Is there any way you can give her something to sleep?”

Tamara didn’t like the suggestion, but she understood Everett’s reason for asking. They were in very delicate negotiations with the Langarians to get a supply line secured to Destiny, which meant the communication stones would be used on a regular basis. No one visiting the ship could hear even a whisper of Dr. Perry’s existence. Keeping the woman sedated and out of sight would help ease their worries on that score.

“I’ll see what I can do.”

“Thanks, TJ.”

Nodding, she watched him leave, feeling the familiar ache in her heart in the wake of his absence. TJ wondered if her yearning for Everett would ever go away. At the same time, she wished her guilt would stop gripping her heart long enough for some happiness to pass between them.

Torn, she focused on her work. There was a lot to do and not enough hours in the day. Now, she needed to see if there was a moral and medical loophole to take care of Dr. Perry.

Chapter Text

Telford got the report early that morning. The Lucian Alliance was going to attack Langara. The planet was coveted and whoever controlled the resources could also access Destiny and potentially control the secrets of the Ancients in one swoop.

After all this time, Telford hoped the Lucian Alliance would have given up on obtaining the ship. When the ship went off the radar three years ago, those rebels seemed to disappear as well. Now Destiny re-emerged, the Alliance was stronger than ever and showing its teeth. These circumstances could not be a coincidence.

He doubted he was brainwashed again, but that didn’t mean someone in the inner circle wasn’t. Communicating his concerns to his superiors, Telford was given command over the defenses of their forces in the quadrant. Telford was ordered to protect Langara from the Alliance at all costs.

Drawing up a plan, he was fairly confident he could defend the planet and, by doing so, finally convince the government to allow them to put the stargate back into their main research facility. If he could ensure a victory and a direct supply line to the Ancient ship, his career could skyrocket.

Using the communication stones, Telford was able to speak to Everett about recent events, albeit briefly. He needed his old friend to tell him any weaknesses the Lucian Alliance may have. After all, the crew still had some “reformed” rebels among their ranks. Though Telford was confident Everett didn’t hold anything back during his earlier reports, he wanted to see if any new information sprang to mind.

“Good luck, David,” Young said when the briefing concluded.

“Thanks, Everett.”

“I don’t think I have to tell you how much we all hope the battle goes your way.”

Smiling, Telford radiated confidence. “I’ll contact you once it’s all over.”

Nodding, Young touched his hand to the communication stone, his consciousness finding its way back to his own body in a crushing vortex in a sudden burst. Taking a deep breath, Young blinked rapidly trying to get his bearings. As always, several moments passed until he re-acclimated to being whole. No matter how many times he used the stones, coming back was always a bit of a shock.

“Sir?”

Looking up at Lt. James, Young rose to his feet. “Report.”

“Scott and the team are still down on the planet, sir.”

“How much time is left on the clock?”

“About an hour.”

“Thanks.”

Leaving the communication room, Young rubbed the back of his neck. He needed sleep, but his nerves were on edge. If the Lucian Alliance did take possession of Langara, they could all be in real danger. He did try to reason that the Alliance didn’t have McKay’s solution, but that circumstance may not stop them.

Heading down to see Camile, he gave her an update. They both knew how critical this coming battle would be and decided to keep the information to themselves for the time being. They didn’t want anyone to celebrate or preen just yet.

“There is something else I wanted to discuss,” Young said.

Camile blinked. “What?”

“Dr. Perry.”

Crossing her arms over her chest, Camile shifted uncomfortably on her feet. Spending several weeks in Dr. Perry’s body, Camile knew she should sympathize with all the woman endured, but thinking about that time made her uncomfortable. Now, by reasons and forces still unknown to them, Dr. Perry’s body was regenerated and her preserved consciousness downloaded into it. By all accounts, the woman returned from the dead and Camile wasn’t sure how she felt about it.

In fact, there were a lot of people on Destiny that wondered if what happened was a fluke or an uncharted part of Ancient technology. What everyone did know was that such things should be kept secret. They were in enough danger as it was without word spreading across the universe the ship had the means to bring people back to life.

“What about her,” Camile asked.

“I was wondering if you would talk to her. Help her to adjust.”

“Won’t that be hard without her memories?”

“I was hoping you could help her with that as well.”

Raising a brow, Camile shook her head. “How?”

“Come on, Camile,” Young said. “Isn’t this your area of expertise?”

“Amnesia patients who have come back from the dead? No.”

Scratching the back of his neck, Young let out a long breath. “Throw me a bone here, will you? She wanders the ship at all hours like a lost puppy.”

“Then confine her to her quarters. Or get Rush to talk to her.”

“Rush is on the planet. Besides, he’s too close to this.”

Sighing, Camile shook her head. “I honestly don’t think there is anything I can do for her. At least, not until her memory comes back.”

Getting the hint, Young nodded. He would find another solution. Picking his battles with Camile was always wise. If they did beat the Lucian Alliance into submission and the Langarians agreed to open a supply like to Destiny, Young knew he would need more bargaining power. Instead, he would talk to TJ.

****

Finishing another session with Greer, Mandy felt centered and in more control of her life. The nightmares were getting worse and she wasn’t sure what to do about them, but she knew there was a solution. She just had to discover it. The strange sequences that followed her nightmares would flash behind her eyes just after waking and several minutes passed before they would dissipate. At first, Mandy thought the sequences were mathematical equations of some kind, but a few images weren’t really numbers. Hieroglyphics?

Tired and slightly sore, she made her way back to her quarters. She did not want to sleep, but she did want to rest. Seeing TJ waiting outside her door, Mandy paused. The other woman was always kind to her, so she didn’t hold back a smile of greeting.

“Hey,” TJ said. “Can we talk?”

Nodding, Mandy led the way into her rooms. Mandy thought TJ may have stopped by for a friendly chat, but she quickly learned that was not the case.

“These are for you,” TJ said, giving Mandy a bag of herbal tea leaves.

Frowning, Mandy stared at the contents. “What’s this?”

“For lack of a better term, it’s tea,” TJ said. “At least the version we found on another planet. It helps you sleep.”

Understanding, Mandy’s smile faded. The Colonel must have told her about what happened in the observatory. “I’m fine,” she said as she held the bag back out to the medic.

TJ refused to take it. “This isn’t a negotiation, Mandy,” TJ said gently. “You’re not sleeping and you’re missing meals. You’re weight loss is becoming noticeable. You need to take care of your body.”

“I’m fine, Tamara,” she insisted. “Really.”

Wearing a patent smile, she nodded. “Just try the tea and see if it helps you.”

Having little choice, Mandy let her arm drop. “Ok.”

“Good.”

When TJ was gone, Mandy put the bag of leaves away on one of the shelves in the room. She did not need more sleep. Not when all she saw were horrifying things.

Moving to the window, Mandy looked out at the galaxy beyond, wondering what was going to happen to her. Without her memories she felt crippled. And what did all her dreams mean? Until she remembered a piece of her past, the last thing Mandy wanted was more medication.

****

Once the team returned, TJ waited outside the gate room for Rush. There was no one else to help with this particular situation.

“Rush,” she said as he walked by.

Pausing, the scientist frowned at the medic. “TJ?”

“We need to talk.”

Lifting a brown, he put his hands on his hips. “Is this about the water? It’s very fresh and blended by an underground waterfall.”

TJ couldn’t quite hold back a smile. “No, but now the water supply sounds extra special.”

Not in the mood, Rush shrugged. “Then forget I said anything.”

TJ’s expression turned serious. “It’s Mandy.”

Rush stiffened. “What about her?”

As briefly as she could, TJ explained what was going on with the other woman. She hoped Rush would look a little more concerned or at least take more of an interest, but when she finished and his expression remained blank, she wondered if she just wasted her breath.

“What makes you think she’ll listen to me,” Rush asked.

“Because you’re friends.”

A little laugh passed his lips. “She doesn’t remember TJ.”

He did think they could still be friends, but that was before Amanda started avoiding him.

Shaking her head, Tamara really wasn’t in the mood to deal with Rush’s stubborn streak. This time around, he did not know better than she did. “There is no one else here to convince her to listen-”

“What about Greer,” Rush snapped. “What about you? She spends a great deal of time around you two.”

“Despite her amnesia, you still know her better than any of us,” TJ argued. “Something has to change. Soon.”

Frowning, Rush wasn’t sure what TJ was getting at. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, she’s malnourished, or haven’t you noticed?”

“Most of us are right now.” Rush wanted her to get to the point.

“But she’s the only one missing meals. She wanders the ship like a ghost.” Watching Rush rake a hand through his hair, TJ debated saying his next words, but in the end, couldn’t hold them back.

“People already have enough reason to fear her.”

His eyes snapped to TJ’s. “What do you mean?”

“Haven’t you noticed?”

“Noticed what?”

Choosing her words carefully, TJ told him the truth. “People are afraid because they think she came back from the dead.”

“In a way she did,” Rush commented. “How is that a problem?”

TJ’s eyes widened in disbelief. “This is uncharted territory, Rush! Technology that is hard for us to even fathom. People are wondering why all the circumstances aligned for her, if the process can be replicated. People fear that if anyone outside of this ship discovers the truth and wants to get their hands on that Ancient technology, or her, or both, then we will have more enemies that ever. The Nakai and the Lucian Alliance will be just drops in the bucket.”

“None of that is Mandy’s fault,” Rush insisted.

“Mix the fear of the unknown in the air with her strange habits and people are nervous,” she sternly informed him. “Clearly, something is bothering her but whatever it is, she’s not talking to anyone, which is making the situation worse. You are the only one here with a long history with her. Just see if you can’t get to the bottom of this before our hands are forced.”

Watching TJ’s retreat, Rush let out a long sigh. He missed Mandy – so much – but how could he force her to remember? She was so distant with him lately, which was tearing him up enough as it is. The more time he spent around Mandy, the brighter his expectation will rise. He desperately wanted back the woman he loved.

However, if TJ was right, and something was wrong, how could he turn his back? How could he allow Amanda to fend for herself? Heading back to his quarters, Rush needed to clean up. If he did see Mandy sooner rather than later, he wanted to be clean and as presentable as possible.

****

The fight was quick; only lasting a couple of hours. The Lucian Alliance didn’t put up as much of a fight as Telford expected. Still, he didn’t hesitate to celebrate the victory.

The Langarian government was more than willing to speak to them now about the stargate. Telford knew the subject of Destiny, a supply line, and re-installing the stargate were delicate, but they needed to be broached as soon as possible.

He was hoping if the supply line was a success, they could build on the math and find a way to make the link a mutual pathway between the planet and the ship. People wouldn’t be returning directly to Earth, but they would be close enough.

When they finally had a way to get proper people aboard that ship, the real mission could begin. Young was capable, but there were others more qualified. And Rush needed to go away. McKay was easier to control and Telford would feel better having the loose cannon out of the equation. Eli, of course, could stay.

When the celebrating was over, Telford was going to open up a dialogue. Negotiations with Langara would go really well at this point. There was no way he was going to miss the opportunity.

Chapter Text

Head aching, Mandy put down her pen with a sigh. The symbols she wrote meant nothing. Equations were complicated and her brain couldn’t process the meaning, yet the sequences appeared all too familiar, which made her feel even more confused.

Closing the notebook, Mandy tucked the pen and her notes back into the nightstand drawer. The images from her dream were fading, becoming less real, and therefore not as threatening. Still, she wasn’t sure why every time she closed her eyes she experienced nightmares followed by…those equations. At first, she tried to ignore what was happening, but the occurrences weren’t sporadic.

Every time Mandy dared to sleep the same thing happened over and over again. She didn’t tell anyone specifics, but one day she asked Greer if there was a way she could take notes. Her excuse was to help familiarize herself with the ship and crew and he didn’t questions her intent. Instead, Greer gave her a stack of notebooks and a pen and that was that.

When fear gave way to anger, Mandy would do the exercises Greer taught her. Mediation also helped, but without her memories, Mandy didn’t have a clue how she was supposed to cope with her situation. Sometimes, she could have sworn she recognized areas of the ship, but then those sensations would fade an instant later, making her feel frustrated and lost. Just when she was sure she grasped a thread of a memory, the frayed edges slipped through her fingers.

Walking through the more seldom traveled parts of the ship, Mandy felt alone, but safe. Safe from prying eyes and long stares. Most of her spare time was spent wandering these corridors hoping to become invisible so she would be spared judgment. Occasionally, Mandy would overhear bits and pieces of what people were saying about her.

From what she could gather, no one here really knew her before the amnesia. Everyone kept saying Rush was the one who should “handle her”, whatever that meant. The conclusion that she was Rush’s responsibility irked her. Then to hear some were actually afraid of her? Why? What did she do? A detailed reason was never given, so she only felt like more of an outcast.

Staying away from people who didn’t particularly like her wasn’t a hardship. Mandy easily stayed out of sight and away from public areas, especially after her encounter with the Colonel. The nightmares were getting worse and she wasn’t sure what to do, but one thing was for certain: Amanda didn’t want anyone to find her in a vulnerable position.

Folding her arms around her body, Amanda got to her feet to walk to the window. Staring out at the space beyond always made her feel so small. How did she get here? Who was she? Why were these nightmares happening to her? When would the torment end? What were the equations running through her mind?

Why did no one aside from Rush know her?

If she was a member of this crew, wouldn’t she knew more people? There were too many pieces to this puzzle that didn’t fit right.

Rush.

Mandy did not know what to think. Hearing the chatter, she knew there were a lot of people on this ship who didn’t particularly like, or trust, him. Rush and Young were usually on opposing sides of an argument, but seemed to call a truce as of late.

Honestly, she didn’t understand why so many were weary of Rush. He was kind and patient with her lately. He said they were friends, but he didn’t press the connection by being too familiar, instead he understood her subtle hints.

Rush gave her the space she requested, so he couldn’t be all bad. Plus, she got the impression he trusted her with certain facts about his life he didn’t tell many people. For example, she didn’t think anyone else knew about his past. Every fiber of her being wanted to trust Rush, but she be wise to put faith in him?

Mandy wanted someone to talk to about all of her feelings, but Rush looked at her with such…expectation. Expectations she could not live up to right now. How could she be anything to him when she wasn’t sure of her own self? Until Mandy remembered her past, leaning on Rush seemed unfair.

From what she could tell, most of the people in this ship were afraid of her. If they were afraid of her, they might eventually try to hurt her. Until she got her memories back, Mandy doubted she would feel truly safe.

Even if her past suddenly became organized in her mind, there was still no guarantee she would feel better. Sighing, Mandy turned away from the window. Taking out on of the notepads to look over her scribbling, she knew there was a clue to her identity here somewhere. She just had to find it.

The loud knock on the door made her jump out of her skin. No sooner did she take a step toward the door and the gears opened, revealing none other than Dr. Rush standing on the other side of the threshold.

His first glimpse of Mandy and Rush knew TJ wasn’t over exaggerating. There were dark circles under her eyes and she looked too thin. Clenching his fists at his sides, he tried to ignore the flashes of anger surging in his veins. He could have prevented this if Mandy didn’t push him away! Giving her space prevented him from finding out why she was behaving so erratically. Every fiber of his being wanted to help her, but how could he if all she did was push him away? Well, he was here to try.

“May I come in?”

Clenching her hands in front of her body, Mandy nodded; her fingers lacing an unlacing as butterflies of awareness danced in her stomach.

Honestly, why was she so nervous around this man? Mandy wasn’t as uncomfortable with his familiar ways as she used to be. At least, she thought she wasn’t.

“Rush,” she said, her voice quivering slightly, making her cheeks heat with embarrassment. Looking down at the floor, she shuffled her feet, hoping he couldn’t tell how her feelings were changing toward him.

Mandy was always a shy creature. Rush knew he would have to tread carefully. Clearing his throat, he paused a few feet away, but kept his eyes focused on her face.

“I was wondering if you would like to join me for dinner.”

Feeling her heart racing in her chest with an equal amount of fear and excitement, Mandy twisted her fingers together to keep them from trembling, unable to meet his gaze.

“I don’t’ think that will be a good idea,” she mumbled.

“Why not?”

How to even begin explaining? Turning away to look out the window, she didn’t fully understand why Rush’s presence made her so shaky and uncertain.

“Mandy,” Rush pressed. “You have to eat.”

“But the people here don’t like me,” she said over her shoulder.

Frowning, Rush wasn’t sure what she meant. “Of course they do.”

A bitter laugh escaped her throat before she could help it. “You should hear them talking. They don’t like me. Do you see the way they look at me? It’s as if I’m some kind of freak. The worst part is not knowing why!”

His first instinct was to fold Mandy safely up in his arms and cradle her until all her fears were laid to rest. He wished he could, but until Mandy remembered him, the last thing Rush wanted was to give her reason to put up more barriers between them.

“You need to eat,” he gently repeated.

“I will,” she responded as she continued gazing out of the window.

Moving to stand next to her, Rush barely resisted the urge to grasp her hand. “I’ll go with you. I’ll sit next to you and never leave you alone.”

Still unable to look at him, Mandy shook her head, then glanced at the floor. “Thank you, but I think it’s best if I stay out of sight.”

Rush seized her shoulders, turning her around to face him, feeling a jolt where their skin made contact. Did she feel it too, or was he imagining her little wince?

Trying to ignore the throbbing attraction between them, Rush made sure his touch and tone were soft and calm so as not to frighten her. “You have to face them some time.”

“But the few times I’ve already-”

“I will be with you,” he insisted. “It will be alright. You need nourishment, so no arguments.”

The strangely delightful connection she felt for Rush surged as he took her hand. As much as Mandy wanted to argue, she couldn’t utter a single protest as he led her out of her quarters and toward the mess hall. Helpfully, nothing bad would happen to break this spell.

****

Several surprised faces turned to watch Rush and Dr. Perry enter the room. For his part, Greer wasn’t agitated like the rest. He was curious.

“What’s that look for,” he asked Lt. Scoot who stared at Amanda.

Shrugging, Scott scooped up more tasteless orange sludge. “I never expected her to look like that.”

“Who? Dr. Perry?”

Nodding, Scott swallowed another spoonful of dinner. He couldn’t wait until they found a planet with real food. “I always thought she was Rush’s age with grey hair and looked like a school marm or something.”

Chloe and Greer burst out laughing. Scott looked affronted. “What,” he asked.

“No, it’s true,” Chloe agreed. “I thought the same thing before I met her.”

Scott chanced a glance at his friends. “She’s not what anyone expected.”

“What,” Greer laughed. “You think she’s pretty?”

Giving his girlfriend a deer-in-the-headlights look, Scott shook his head. “N-no. Of course not.”

Laughing, Greer shook his head. “There is nothing wrong with saying she’s cute.”

Chloe shot him a death glare. “Yes, there is.”

Greer just laughed harder.

“You don’t think she’s a threat, do you,” Matt asked. “Coming back from the dead and all?”

“Nah.” Greer shook his head. “I’ve spent time with her and she’s just like the rest of us. Well, minus the memory thing.”

“But she is different,” Chloe insisted. “She was dead.”

“And her consciousness was in you for a while,” Greer pointed out. “Was she malicious in any way? We all got along with her when her consciousness was in Camile and Ginn.”

“Her consciousness,” Chloe stressed. “It’s different now.”

“Why,” Greer challenged. “Because they regenerated her body? She’s still the same person because it is her consciousness controlling her body like the rest of us. Would you feel better if she got someone else’s body instead? What about if Eli figures out how to bring back Ginn? Will she be different because you knew her before her death versus after?”

Chloe was not impressed. “This isn’t philosophy, Ronald.”

“You’re right,” he said cheerfully. “It’s science. More importantly, the science of the Ancients. Call it a miracle if you want, but the stars aligned to give Dr. Perry a second chance. I’d say, given her past, she probably deserves it.”

For her part, Chloe felt a little ashamed. She did like Amanda and didn’t want to think poorly of her. However, Matt voiced some of the concerns becoming obvious to the rest of the crew.

“She behaves oddly, Greer,” he pointed out. “The wandering the halls, the crazy dreams, the bare feet.”

Blinking, Greer couldn’t believe such intelligent people could be so stupid. “She only has bare feet because we don’t have any spare shoes for her. That’s not her fault. And how would you feel if you lost your memory and was forced to spend time around people who thought you were a freak of nature because they think you came back from the dead? You would want to hide too. And who wouldn’t have nightmares about all of it?”

Matt shifted in his seat, clearing his throat. He honestly didn’t expect Greer to defend Mandy. “The technology will make the ship a target,” he continued. “And getting used to Dr. Perry will take time for all of us.”

“Yeah, but she’s still her. The technology didn’t change that. I think we should all be trying to get to know her instead of judging the technology that we are all trying to understand every day we’ve been on this ship. That is the only way there will be any progress here.”

Leaving those final words in the air, Greer finished his food and went on his way. Chloe and Matt exchanged looks before watching Greer stop to greet Rush and Mandy. Suddenly, they had a lot to think about.

Chapter Text

From the moment they set foot in the mess hall, Mandy felt like she was on display. Several pairs of eyes turned to look at her and Rush as they reached for trays. Given a bowl of orange…pudding, Mandy followed Rush to an empty table. Behind them, she could hear people laughing and wondered if they were laughing at her.

Hands shaking, she wasn’t sure if she could eat. With her stomach in nervous knots, Mandy did not want to run the risk of doing something wrong and embarrassing herself in public. Just when she was about to give up, Rush reached out and covered one of her shaking hands with his. Looking across the table at him, she saw the soft smile and visibly relaxed.

“Eat,” he encouraged.

Grasping his hand, she picked up her spoon with the other and managed to swallow a few mouthfuls of sustenance. The food was tasteless, but she tried to keep in mind she was eating simply for the nutrients and not for pleasure. For some reason, Rush’s presence calmed her anxiety. Mandy felt more at ease with him now, but she wasn’t sure if depending on him would be such a good idea.

Without her memories, she couldn’t be fully sure, but Mandy felt like there was so much more between them that he wasn’t saying. Underneath, there were some expectations that he refused to voice, and she didn’t know how to describe. He was the only one who never looked at her funny, but she wasn’t sure if she should lean more on the bond they obviously shared, or if she should be cautious.

Before she could think too long on the subject, Greer came up to their table to greet them. Greer wasn’t afraid of her like so many others seemed to be, but Mandy doubted if he was a man afraid of anything. The exchange was pleasant, but she felt like there as some kind of uneasy tension between Rush and Greer.

“Mandy, if you need anything, you let me know,” Greer said before flashing Rush a warning look and heading on his way.

For his part, Rush simply shrugged off the subtle threat. Unlike the rest on board, Greer seemed to give Mandy the benefit of the doubt. On one hand, Rush was glad Mandy had someone else in her corner, but on the other, he didn’t like the idea do Mandy and Greer becoming close. He knew Greer and Dr. Park were still an item, otherwise Rush would be tempted to be jealous.

Glancing at Mandy now, seeing her staring down into her bowl, he couldn’t help but ask the questions on his mind. “So, you and Greer seem to be getting along. What were those sessions he was talking about?”

“Oh,” Mandy shook her head, her eye barely leaving her dinner. “He just helps me with exercises to control the anger.”

Leaning forward, Rush silently urged her to look at him. “Anger?”

“At the whole situation,” she sighed. “Not having my memories, or knowing who I am. It's difficult to deal with.”

“I’m here for you,” he said, squeezing her fingers. “You know that, right?”

Nodding, she ate another spoonful of the tasteless pudding. Mandy knew Rush was her friend, that they had a history, but she still hesitated where he was concerned. Rush couldn’t wave his hand and magically restore her memories, or make the people here accept her. This process was something she would have to work through on her own.

“I know,” she said softly.

“Then why didn’t you tell me,” he asked.

“About what?”

“About how you feel. About how people were treating you.”

Shrugging, Mandy forced down another spoonful. “You are very busy.”

“Hey,” he said, waiting until she looked up at him. “I’m never too busy for you. I want you to come to me any time. Know that.”

The gesture was a sweet one, but Mandy knew better. Keeping up maintenance on this ship was important. Overhearing plenty of conversations, she knew Rush was one of the main scientists that kept the ship in working order. He was very important and very dedicated. Troubling him seemed like overstepping.

Besides, Mandy couldn’t seem to figure out how she felt where he was concerned. Yes, she did think he was too pushy in the beginning, but the more she saw of Rush and the more she came to know him, the more she was drawn to the man. Rising attraction was a complication she wasn’t sure how to deal with at the moment.

Rush acted like a concerned friend. There wasn’t much to hint there was anything more between them on his side. Mandy may not remember herself, but she did know she did not want to be a burden. Perhaps the knowledge along with a strong sense of pride made her want to handle her memory loss and adjustment on her own.

Nevertheless, Mandy gave Rush a nod and a smile before forcing down another spoonful of her dinner. Two more bites and she was done.

“There,” she declared, putting down her spoon. “Can we go now?”

Blinking, Rush glanced into her bowl to make sure all the pudding was gone. “Very well,” he nodded. “Let me finish then?”

Sitting back, Mandy chanced a look around the mess hall. As expected, several pairs of eyes were watching her. Feeling goosebumps break out over her flesh, she scratched her bare arms, hoping Rush would hurry.

Picking up on Mandy’s anxiety, Rush quickly finished his meal and walked her out of the hall. There were so many questions he wanted to ask, but every time he opened his mouth to speak, he remembered he needed to watch his words. Mandy was still uncertain in her surroundings and, as much as he wanted to help, Rush wasn’t sure how much he could really do.

“Would you like to see the bridge,” he blurted.

Blinking over at him, Mandy titled her head slightly. “The bridge?”

“Yeah,” he shrugged casually, trying to mask his nervousness. “See how the ship runs and all that.”

Actually, she was curious, but hesitated. “Will there be other people there?”

“Maybe a few,” Rush said honestly. “Don’t worry. No one will say anything.”

No, but they would stare. She really hated when people stared at her. Still, Mandy wasn’t quite ready to leave Rush’s company, so she eventually agreed. The bridge was a fascinating place, but Mandy was drawn away from the view by the openly curious looks of two men Rush introduced as Dr. Volker and Mr. Brody.

Averting her gaze, Mandy looked down at the control panels and froze. The symbols here seemed familiar. In fact, she recognized a few from the images that haunted her after her nightmares.

“What is this,” she asked, looking over to Rush.

“The language of the Ancients,” he told her.

Noticing the slight edge of disappointment in Rush’s tone and the look on the two other scientists exchanged, Amanda felt her cheeks redden. She did reading on the history of the Ancients after waking up, but didn’t see the language up close. Looking at the symbols again, she experienced a very strong sense of déjà vu.

Getting the sense she knew more about this other language than just what she was exposed to after the nightmares, Mandy kept staring at the symbols, hoping one would spark a real memory. She must have looked strange because Rush gently pulled her away and gave her a general tour.

Volker and Brody were polite, but weary. They kept giving her looks as if they weren’t sure she was who she claimed. Very odd since Mandy assumed she was who others told her to be.

By the time they left the bridge, Mandy was more than ready to return to her quarters. Being around so many people was not good for her nerves. Also, walking with Rush so close to her wasn’t helping. Suddenly hot and too aware of his presence, her palms became clammy. There was a connection between them, but until she regained her memories, the existence of their connection made her uneasy.

The attraction she felt kept drawing Mandy to Rush like a moth to a flame, but her insecurities kept setting off warning bells in her head. Add into the mix her annoyance of Rush’s occasional hovering and all she felt was awkward.

Sensing Mandy was pulling back, Rush tried to think of a way to put her at ease and alleviate some of the tension between them. “How about a game of chess,” he suggested.

Mandy’s face was a mask of confusion. “Chess?”

Chucking, he shook his head. “Don’t tell me you don’t remember the game.”

Smiling, she shyly shrugged. “I don’t have a lot of the basics, I’m afraid.”

“Why don’t I teach you then? Or, re-teach you? Maybe I’ll actually win a game for once.”

He sounded so eager; Mandy couldn’t help but laugh and agree. Rush escorted her to her quarters promising to return shortly with the chessboard. Moving to the window, Mandy wasn’t sure why the smile wouldn’t leave her face. In this moment, she was enjoying the idea of Rush’s company.

When he returned, Mandy sat across from him at the little tale in the corner of the room, with the chessboard and pieces between them, listening to him explain the pieces and the rules. There was a lot to take in and despite feeling slightly overwhelmed, once they started playing, Mandy felt like she was operating on autopilot. Whether it was muscle memory, or it her brain recalled doing this activity so many times before, she wasn’t certain. All Mandy was aware of was how she seemed to know where to move the pieces and when, without completely comprehending why.

Watching every mannerism, every bite on her lower lip and scrunch of her brow, as she concentrated on the game pieces, Rush was absolutely convinced Amanda’s memories were intact. She played chess now the same way she always did. Whatever happened to cause her amnesia didn’t damage the entity of who she was as a person. Her consciousness was in her new body, but for lack of a better term, there were just a few unplugged connections between her consciousness and her brain. The memories were there, she couldn’t access all of them just yet.

Hopefully, but introducing Mandy to the activities they used to love, Rush could help the process along. As they finished the first game and set up the next, she played a bit more aggressively even as he started a conversation about the Ancients. Mandy was just as fascinated by the history and culture of that civilization as he, so Rush wasn’t surprised when Mandy hung on his every word.

After winning the third game, Mandy felt somewhat accomplished. Although, she wasn’t entirely certain that Rush didn’t simply let her win. Still, she really didn’t mind because the more she and Rush spoke about the Ancients, the more comfortable she became in his presence.

As the conversation continued, Mandy was content to sit back and listen while Rush described the civilization, the stargates, and ascension. There was a light in his eyes when he spoke, a bubbling excitement that drew Mandy in and she realized she would happily listen to him for hours.

Unfortunately, their time was cut short when Rush’s radio went off, summoning him to the bridge. Saying he would be right there, Rush rose to his feet casting Amanda an apologetic look.

“Thanks for the game,” he said as he took a few steps toward the door.

Mandy rose as well. “Thanks for teaching me.”

“I want a rematch,” he smiled.

“Alright.”

Rush turned to leave, but paused over the threshold. “Promise me something?”

“What?”

“That you’ll eat regular meals.”

Sighing, Mandy wanted to refuse. The idea of being around people made her skin itch, but she nodded. “I will try.”

“Ok.” Nodding, Rush gave a little wave before heading to the bridge.

Alone, Mandy’s eyes drifted back to the chessboard. He forgot to take it with him! Oh well, he knew where to find it. Besides, Mandy wouldn’t mind seeing him again.

Moving to sit at the table, she breathed a heavy sigh as she stared at the pieces. Picking up a rook and holding it in her palm, Mandy closed her eyes and tried to concentrate. How did the game come so easily to her? Rush said she played all the time, but was that the only reason? Dare she hope her memories were coming back?

Examining more chess pieces, Mandy remembered playing with Rush just now and tried focusing, hoping a memory would flood to the surface. No such luck, unfortunately. Heaving another sigh, she moved to look out the window and into the void beyond.

Would she ever get answers? Would she be living with amnesia forever? And why did she want to see Rush again so badly?

Chapter Text

TJ hated when her hands were idle. When she wasn’t busy, she had way too much time to think. Thanks to footage from kinoes they recovered, TJ learned she was going to develop ALS. There was no known cure. They came close to discovering one once, but her luck wasn’t holding out these days.

When Destiny tried dialing Earth from within a star, too many things went wrong. Most of the crew was thrown through a time loop when they went through the stargate, which put them on a planet a few millennia behind their current timeline. The crew formed a civilization and documented every step with the kinoes. When the current crew became aware of this phenomenon, they were able to see an alternate past that gave way to a current civilization living in one of the star systems they visited during their mission.

Long story short, TJ couldn’t stop thinking about her fate. She was a ticking time bomb. They were in stasis for three years, so did that mean she had merely two years left before the disease developed, or would she have more time since her body functions were slowed to a minimum? Would they be able to find a cure? Could the regeneration system Eli discovered help her if she did get sick?

If TJ could figure out how the machine worked, maybe she would be able to regenerate her muscles to function before the ALS took hold. There were still a lot of unknown variables, but TJ held out hope. The hope fueled her desire to do tests and diagnostics with Eli. Unfortunately, there attention as diverted away from the regeneration system for the time being.

Langara allowed the stargate to be put back on their planet, so they were now setting up a way to dial Destiny and connect the supply line. Needless to say, this mission took priority. Any and all prep work was being done.

Colonel Young, Eli, and Rush were all communicating non-stop with Telford, McKay, and Homeworld Command. TJ took inventory of their medical supplies and made a list of the most urgently required items. Greer and Scott were making a similar report about ammunition, while Rush and his team were putting together another on parts, upkeep, and repairs the ship needed handled ASAP. If this supply line worked, a lot of their troubles would be over.

Walking down the corridor to Everett’s quarters, TJ hoped to drop off her list and be on her way without any fuss. There was a wide chasm between the two of them that started getting wider after Carmen was taken from them. Having no idea how to bridge the gap, she warred with her own feelings.

Caring deeply for the man wasn’t the problem. He was divorced now. While she wasn’t proud of being with him when he was still married, TJ refused to continuously beat herself up over what she couldn’t change. She still loved her commanding officer, but Everett refused to allow anything to happen between them while he was in command of the ship. He refused to make the same mistake twice.

Part of her did understand, but the other part screamed at the injustice. They weren’t aboard just any ship and the circumstances were hardly routine! Why couldn’t they at least be happy while they had the chance, instead of adhering to protocol?

Maybe because Everett no longer loved her? TJ didn’t like to entertain the possibility, but what if he lost all love for her when she lost the baby? They never really sat down to talk about what happened. As a result, too many unanswered questions kept floating around in her head.

She loved Everett and wanted to be with him, but had no idea how to make it work, or even if he still loved her in return. All the while, Varro was making his intentions known, but how could she even think about starting any kind of relationship with the ALS on the horizon?

TJ was coping as best she could, but some days were easier than others. List in hand; she knocked on the Colonel’s door, her heart thumping when he called for her to enter. Pushing down her emotions, TJ put on a neutral expression as she walked into her former lover’s quarters.

The familiar heated look passed between them when their gazed first met, but TJ quickly got down to business, holding out her piece of paper. “As you requested,” she said.

Accepting the list, Young never knew what to say to Tamara unless they were discussing a mission or the crew. Dealing with anything personal never failed to render him tongue-tied. Meeting her, he was taken completely off guard. As a married man, he loved his wife and never thought he would become one of those types of men.

Not that it was an excuse, but his marriage did have problems before he even met TJ. The more time he spent with Tamara, the more he came to admire her The feelings between them developed quickly, too quickly for either of them to get a proper grip on the situation. When the dust settled, he chose his wife because of the moral vows he spoke by her side.

Young never could have foreseen being here on this ship with TJ. He did a horrible thing that was so unfair and the last thing he wanted was to cause her more pain. After they lost the baby, he wondered if things would ever be the same.

Then that kino footage surfaced. Did TJ ever think about the life they shared, or the children they had together? He thought about their family all the time and wondered if they could carve out something close to that reality in the here and now.

Young didn’t care about the ALS, but he could tell she did. He had faith they would find a cure for TJ’s illness. The idea of life without her was…unbearable.

“Thank you,” he finally managed.

Giving a slight nod, TJ waited for a more heartbeats, but when he didn’t utter another word, she turned around and left the room. The moment the door closed, Young slammed his fist on the table. Dammit!

Letting out the breath she didn’t realized she was holding, TJ decided to get something to eat. She was feeling a little lightheaded and was sure it had nothing to do with being close to Everett. So close, yet so far.

****

The only reason she even dared to show her face among the crew was because she gave her word to Rush. Inhaling a deep breath, Mandy gathered her courage and walked into the mess hall. All too aware of her bare feet and the stares following her progress, Mandy kept her head high and walked over to pick up her rations.

Today, there was a bowl of green leaves, that appeared to be some sort of lettuce, along with some yellow, tomato like fruits, and a side of white mush that resemble pudding. Thanking Becker, Mandy made her way to an empty table.

Try as she might, she still felt the eyes following her, prickling the back of her neck, causing her nerve endings to stand on end. Would shouting for them all to mind their own business make her look any less crazy? Being the freak with amnesia was bad enough, but added together with all the rumors about how she came back from the dead and Mandy was sure they would sedate her in solitary confinement or something. They’re afraid of her enough already, so it wouldn’t take much to convince them she was a danger.

Amanda wasn’t sure what to believe. Coming back from the dead was impossible, so weren’t they all the crazy ones? Last time she looked in the mirror, she didn’t resemble Frankenstein’s monster, so she wasn’t sure why people were saying such things. From the whispers she could decipher, hearing about some sort of special stones and regenerative chamber didn’t make an ounce of sense.

Assuming she was hearing the words out of context, she dismissed them. There was enough to fill her mind these days. Besides, she didn’t want to ask questions of these people.

“Is this seat taken?”

Glancing up to see TJ smiling at her, Mandy didn’t have the heart to refuse. The medic was nice enough, but Mandy had a sneaking suspicion TJ would lecture her about keeping regular meals and getting enough sleep. Between TJ and Rush, these little “reminders” were getting under her skin. Neither of them walked in her shoes. How could they understand?

Biting back her frustrations, Mandy tried for a little conversation. “Are you off duty?”

“Not yet,” TJ responded as she popped one of the yellow tomatoes in her mouth. “I have a few more hours, but I needed a break. It’s good to see you here. How are you feeling?”

Ah, the million dollar question. “Do you want the truth, or the politically correct answer?”

“Politically correct?”

“Fine,” Mandy responded.

Laughing, TJ looked kindly at the other woman. “Then I’ll take the truth.”

Sighing, Mandy looked down into her bowl, picking at her food. How could she confide in TJ when they were practically strangers? Yes, the woman meant well, but there was too much pressure around her to remember her past. How could TJ possibly relate?

“It’s ok,” Tamara urged. “I’m pretty much your doctor, so anything you tell me is confidential.”

Keeping all her thoughts and emotions to herself was safe. Being in a strange place, surrounded by strange faces, and told she was on an Ancient space ship a billion light years from home was enough to make her head spin. Shy and cautious about every little detail, Mandy wasn’t sure who to trust. TJ seemed kind and sincere, but what if she really wasn’t?

However, Mandy felt like if she didn’t speak to someone, she was going to burst. Inhaling a deep breath, she hoped TJ wasn’t deceiving her. “I feel like everyone is watching me, waiting to see if I remember anything about my past. It’s smothering! I feel guilty for not remembering and for feeling resentful because I know a few are holding back the truth from me.”

“Do you mean Dr. Rush?”

Biting her lower lip, Mandy nodded. ”Everyone says he knows me, even he had admitted it, but he refuses to tell me much, which only makes me more frustrated and angry. He may know me, but I don’t remember and everyone is keeping my in the dark. Even my so-called friend.”

Swallowing, TJ looked over Mandy’s shoulder. Feeling her nerves prickle, Mandy turned, following TJ’s line of sight. Right behind her stood Rush. His expression gave away nothing, but Mandy knew he heard every word. She felt utterly helpless watching him turn on his heel and walk away.

Cheeks burning, Mandy turned back to TJ. “I didn’t mean to hurt his feelings.”

“I know,” Tamara said gently. “Don’t worry. I’m sure he will understand.”

“I don’t get why he pays me so much attention,” she said more to her own ears that to her companion. “It’s very important to him that I get my memories back and everyone taking for granted that I should be his responsibility, but I don’t know why.”

Clearing her throat, TJ scooped up some pudding. “That’s something you should discuss with him.”

After what just happened, Amanda doubted Rush would want to talk to her. She did briefly consider asking Greer for details, but no one seemed to know any details or specifics about her and Rush aside from saying they were friends and colleagues.

No, she would have to talk to Rush. There wasn’t any easy way out. Sighing, Mandy quickly finished her food and said her goodbyes to TJ before making a swift escape.

Chapter Text

Body jolting awake, Amanda sat up in bed, breathing frantically as her eyes struggled to adjust to the darkness around her. Putting a hand to the back of her neck, she wiped away the cold sweat coating her skin. Her clothing was sticking to her body. Tossing aside the covers, she got to her feet.

Having nightmares night after night was taking a toll. Uncomfortable and thirsty, Mandy quietly tip-toed out of her quarters and down the corridor to the bathroom. Once she was done with the basics, her eyes dared to look at her reflection as she washed her hands. The dark circles under her eyes seemed to add ten years.

Releasing a sigh, she bent over the sink to splash cold water over her face. Drying away the moisture, Mandy glanced once more into the mirror. Well, at least she appeared slightly refreshed. Turning away from the looking glass, Mandy knew something needed to be done about her dreams. Or lack thereof.

Moving to cup some water in her hand, she brought the cool liquid to her mouth, slurping loudly as she drank her fill. Finished, Mandy lingered in the room trying to figure out what to do next.

One thing was certain: she did not want to go back to bed. Running the risk of having yet another nightmare wasn’t sitting well with her. Feeling restless, Amanda decided to walk off some of her anxiety. Luckily, there weren’t many people around at this hour. Avoiding others shouldn’t be too difficult.

The moment she emerged from the lavatory, she set eyes on someone down the other end of the hall. He paused to look at her just as she did him.

Rush.

Inhaling a sharp breath, Mandy still felt guilty about what she said earlier. Watching as he gave her a stiff nod before continuing on his way, she wanted to make amends. She owed him an apology at the very least, and doing so would give her an excuse not to return to her quarters. Gathering her courage, Mandy sprang into motion.

“Rush,” she called as she ran to catch up. Rounding a corner, in time to see him walk through an archway, Amanda celled him gain. Crossing the threshold at the archway, she came up short when she realized he stopped to wait for her to catch up.

“Amanda,” he said gently. Rush tried not to allow too much of his concern show, but seeing that she didn’t go back to bed, he wanted to know the reason. “What are you doing up at this hour? You should be resting.”

“I couldn’t sleep,” she confessed, clutching her hands in front of her. Feeling her heart leap and her stomach flip over as her nerves made themselves known, she struggled to find her voice. “I-um-wanted to apologize to you.”

Blinking rapidly, Rush shook his head. “That’s not necessary.”

“No, you’ve been nothing but nice to me. I don’t want you to think I’m ungrateful.”

Having her so close made Nick wish for things he knew were out of reach at the moment. Loving Mandy with all his heart, all he wanted to do was pull her into his arms and devour her mouth until she melted into his frame. Of course, such an action now would alienate her for sure.

Her words earlier did sting a bit, but he did empathize. Mandy wanted answers, but as much as he wanted to give them, without her memories, she would certainly laugh in his face. The other reason he didn’t confess more details about their connection was because he desperately wanted her to remember their love. Just telling her about their feelings and history together wasn’t the same as having her experience it.

Rush needed Mandy like he needed air in his lungs. He should be telling her to return to bed, but craving her company, he was unable to push her away. Instead, he gestured for her to follow him. After only a moment’s hesitation, Mandy fell into step by his side.

“I don’t want to pressure you,” he started. “All I want to do is help, but certain things won’t make sense out of context.”

She really wished for another answer, but in a way she had to admit he was right to a certain degree. “I know, but I haven’t had even one spark of memory all this time.”
“Is that why you are awake? Stress over trying to remember?”

“Nightmares,” she said quietly as she kept her eyes straight ahead. “I can’t make sense out of them.”

Rush didn’t like the sound of those words. Nightmares? He supposed such things were normal, but he didn’t want Mandy to be scared. Not for one second.

“Have you tried writing them down,” he suggested, desperately wishing there was more he could do to help. “Maybe it will help your mind focus and realize in the light of day, the nightmares aren’t so frightening after all.”

A little laugh escaped her throat, but there was no humor in the tone. “Trust me,” she said dryly. “I’m not going to forget the images anytime soon.”

Rush nearly asked for details, but he realized he would be pressing her for a confidence. Mandy saw him as hovering too close once before, and did not want to be accused of doing so again. Not when they were making progress. However, his concern grew.

Leading Amanda around a corner through another corridor until they entered the space where all the equations lined the walls like thick, layered wallpaper, he paused and offered her a small smile.

“When I have problems on my mind, I come here to work them out. As you can see,” he gestured to the wall. “The best part is that it’s secluded and quiet.”

Yes,” she nodded. “I cam across this place a while ago.”

All the notes and equations lining the walls still looked beautiful to her eyes, but remembering her encounter with Eli, Amanda’s smile wobbled. She didn’t run into him since, but she did think about coming back here.

Though she didn’t comprehend half of what was written on these walls, Mandy was fascinated all the same. “May I-” she gestured to the blank board.

“Sure,” Rush nodded. “Take all the time you need.”

Smiling her thanks, Amanda moved off to read a section. His eyes followed her, lingering for a moment before moving off to where he was working for the last several days. Focusing, however, was becoming difficult.

His love for Amanda swelled every time she was near. Resisting the urge to take her in his arms and kiss her senseless, Rush realized it was becoming more and more difficult to put his feelings on the back burner. Keeping control was vital because the last thing he wanted to do was give Mandy more cause to stay away. She felt overwhelmed enough by everything happening to her right now, and he was doing a damn good job of pushing her away.

The fact she was having nightmares wounded him. Mandy shouldn’t be experiencing such distress, but perhaps the nightmares were a way for her memories to surface. Or the occurrence could be the symptoms of another complication. Rush wanted Amanda back and the longer it took for her to remember, the more he itched to state his claim.

If they were to learn from the Ancients about this sort of revival process, then they needed to be patient and observe Mandy and follow her lead. She needed to regain her sense of self and the scientist in Rush was curious, but the lovesick man wanted the process to hurry the hell up.

Rubbing a hand over his face, Rush couldn’t resist glancing at Amanda. She stood several feet away, looking at part of the wall that was still mostly blank. Inching closer, his eyes went to the equation. Recognizing many of the Ancient symbols, his curiosity peaked. He didn’t remember these equations being written here before, so how did they get there?

There was an odd look on Mandy’s’ face, as if she too was trying to puzzle out the answer.

“It looks like an Ancient sort of algorithm,” Rush commented. “Incomplete, but complicated.”

“What do you think it’s for?”

“Any number of things,” Rush continued, scratching his chin in thought. “The Ancients built all sorts of devices. Their technology was very advanced. This could be the programming to one of those devices or the blueprints to build something else entirely. I wonder how it got here.”

Biting her tongue, Mandy wasn’t sure if she should tell him she wrote the symbols. How would he react? The nightmares were bad enough, but seeing all of these equations made everything so much stranger. There was enough strain between her and Rush, too many questions she couldn’t reconcile, and the last thing she wanted was one more thing to add to the pile.

As the silence lingered, Rush realized he recognized the handwriting on the wall. Or at least, he thought he did. Mandy’s’ accident happened when she was nine, so she did know how to write with her hands. When her consciousness was in Ginn’s body, she wrote several pages of mathematics to help control Destiny from the bridge. At the time, Mandy was the only one he could trust with the information.

After her death, Rush wandered the ship and found her discarded pages in a corner of the bridge. Forgotten by most, regarded as clutter. Snatching the paper, Rush folded the pages gently, tucking them away in his pocket, and then safely away in a drawer in his quarters.

Day after day, before going to bed, Rush could stare at the writing and think of her. He thought about all the special moments they shared on Earth, but especially the moments they spent together on this ship. Rush couldn’t purge Mandy from his mind and she became a permanent fixture of his dreamscape. Every night he dreamt of Amanda and the future that was stolen from them.

When her consciousness was found, he felt hope for the first time since he could remember, but all too soon, Mandy was snatched away again, leaving him nothing but scrapes of paper and wishful thoughts. Everyone left him eventually. Rush was foolish to think he would find lasting happiness, especially on this mission.

Yet, Mandy stood next to him, only inches away, close enough to touch. She was whole and alive and the most beautiful sight in the universe. If he moved just another step closer, he knew he would be able to inhale her scent.

Nevertheless, as happy as he felt to have Amanda alive and well, the universe seemed determined to vex him. The woman he loved was alive, but she had no recollection of their shared past. Rush lost her all over again.

Staring at the equation, the puzzle became even more intricate. What if there was a real reason behind all of these events? What if Mandy held the key to some sort of Ancient solution that could help their mission? After all, her consciousness was stored in the computer. Who knows what happened in quarantine?

Making a mental note to retrieve those pages and compare the handwriting at his earliest opportunity, Rush looked at Mandy’s face, wishing there was more he could do to help.

“Are you tired,” he asked gently.

Tearing her eyes away from the wall, Mandy wasn’t sure what she was feeling. Being so close to Rush was making her blood warm, but her mind was as confused as ever. The attraction she experienced was confusing enough, but she knew he was keeping things from her. They shared a history, but Rush refused to give her the details, saying she wouldn’t understand. Shouldn’t she be the judge of that?

At the same time, Mandy craved his company because Rush was the only person that didn’t look at her as if she was different. He actually spoke to her as if he valued her opinion. The last thing she wanted was to question whether or not Rush could be trusted; yet, here she was doing just that.

“I think I’ll just take a walk,” she answered quietly. “Maybe if my thoughts settle down, maybe I can get more sleep.”

“Why don’t we play another game of chess,” he offered.

“Oh, you forgot your chessboard when you left the other day,” she mentioned.

“Then let me walk you back and get it.”

“Alright.”

Turning, Mandy didn’t understand why she was so nervous. Rush was in her quarters before and he didn’t give her any indication that he felt the same attraction she did. There were times he would look at her though…but the spark in his eyes would vanish in an instant and Mandy guessed she was imagining things.

Deep down, her instincts warned her not to get too attached to Rush. Based on what she knew about Destiny and the mission, she guessed she couldn’t count on anyone sticking around. Yet, she noticed that as they started walking, their hands joined together.

Feelings warmth seep into her skin from the connection, Mandy enjoyed how natural holding Rush’s hand felt. If only this sort of peace could last.

Chapter Text

Work on getting the math down and the machinery set up so the Langarian Stargate would be a decent supply line to Destiny was put on the fast track. Telford put pressure on McKay, knowing if this experiment was successful, then he would be in line for a promotion.

McKay was a bit odd, but Telford liked to think the man could be easily controlled. He carried a lot of clout with Homeworld Command. Having McKay on board Destiny may give them some control over Dr. Rush. That man was a gasket ready to blow.

Communicating with Everett, David was nearly ready to give the green light. First, they would dial Destiny, make sure the connection was secure, and then send through the essential supplies the ship needed and see if the test exchange was successful. From there, the crew would be able to make individual requests.

That ship was one of their best assets. They needed to protect it, while doing the best they could to help Destiny protect herself out in the unknown. Any number of hostiles would stop at nothing to get Destiny; including the Lucian Alliance.

The Alliance may be crippled, but they were hardly defeated. Protecting Langara was paramount, but if the supply line failed, the planet and the people would become a low priority. David didn’t want to see the worst happen for many reasons. During his journey to Langara, he received several reliable reports about suspected sleeper agents among their ranks. These could even be a few among the Langarians. They needed to keep their eyes peeled and on full alert. Sending out orders for added security, Telford prepared for his meeting with McKay.

Apparently, the somewhat odd scientist was already clashing with the Langarian head ambassador when Telford arrived.

“There is no risk,” McKay insisted.

Ambassador Ovida wasn’t pleased by the scientist’s attitude. Gritting his teeth, the impeccably dressed older man with powder white hair and steely eyes, looked down his nose at Rodney McKay, unimpressed.

“We are talking about the lives of an entire planet! Are you really so jaded, so blinded by your science, that such a gravity means nothing to you?”

Rolling his eyes, McKay wasn’t insulted or intimidated. He just wanted to finish his work. “I’m that confident," he asserted on a sigh. “How many times do I have to explain it?”

Seeing the ambassador’s face go red, Telford hurried to step in. Moving between the two men, he greeted the ambassador first, offering reassurances and very subtle reminders of why the government agreed to their terms in the first place. Uncaring, Rodney went back to work, while David chatted up the other present politicians, including Woolsey. Once the paperwork was finalized, he wouldn’t need to deal with the ambassador to get his work done.

“Is Destiny aware we are running the test,” Woolsey asked.

“They are,” Telford affirmed. “We have Colonel Young here via the communication stones and Eli and Rush are standing by on the ship.”

Woolsey glanced at the stone-faced ambassador before giving Telford a nod.

Nearly an hour later, McKay finally had the program running through the network. The tension and anxiety ran in thick waves through the air as the stargate started dialing the ninth chevron. McKay better be right, or they were all going to get blown into dust in a few seconds, making quite a splash in the galaxy.

Watching the gate spinning, Telford wondered if he should find a way to get a post on the Ancient ship. Taking over command would be a feather in his cap. Not to mention, he would take the right people along so they could learn more about the ship, while running the mission with qualified personnel

If he could somehow fulfill the mission and get the ship back to Earth, he would be the hero. No, a legend! No one would remember Everett Young’s name. His friend would be a footnote in history books, while David would be remembered for making the mission a success. The thought made David grin from ear-to-ear just as the stargate made the final connection, successfully dialing Destiny.

A hushed silence filled the room, but after a full minute passed without any explosions, applause and waves of shaky laughter filled the air. Telford gave Woolsey an I-told-you-so look. Shifting on his feet, Woolsey glanced at McKay. The scientist was reading numbers on a screen, a look of concern marring his brow.

“Report,” Telford ordered.

Looking up from his screen, McKay tried not to appear nervous with the ambassador standing right there. “The connection is stable,” he began.

“So we can get through to Destiny,” Telford asked.

“Yes,” McKay started again.

“But,” Woolsey prompted.

“But, in order to compensate, thusly keeping the planet intact, this connection is only viable one way. We can send supplies through the stargate to the ship, but not the other way around. Those people can’t come back through the gate.”

Telford nodded. “We did anticipate this. Hopefully, with some fine tuning-”

“No,” McKay cut in. “You don’t understand. There have been a few changing variables since I was last here implicating the process.”

“What does that exactly mean,” Ambassador Ovida demanded.

“A few things,” McKay stated, doing his usual hand motions. “The top of the list would be sending through supplies and supplies only. Until I sort out these latest readings, I would avoid sending anything made up of living or organic materials.”

“Why,” Woolsey pushed.

“Well,” McKay scratched the back of his head. “I’m not yet convinced the sync of the connection can hand it. Let’s send through some of the test packages and see what happens.”

Woolsey glanced nervously at the ambassador, who reluctantly nodded. The group moved to stand with a cadet possessing the consciousness of Colonel Young to watch the demonstration. They sent through a few empty plastic containers and some metal to make sure the connection remained stable through the exchange.

When word came from Destiny the times came though the line intact and without incident, McKay went over more numbers before signaling all was well. The emergency supplies gathered could go through, one package at a time, smallest to largest. Medical supplies went before the ammunition and then the repair parts for the FTL drive.

The resulting readings were good and bad. Good because Destiny would be able to restock necessities such as medicine, tools, as well as communication and engine parts. Bad because organic materials like food and human tissue would most likely not endure the connection intact. For now, the material being sent would be synthetic or composed of man-made materials. Alas, if anyone or anything attempted to cross the gate on the Ancient ship's end, the polarity would be reversed, there by setting off a chain reaction that would likely destroy the ship and Langara.

Ambassador Ovida gave McKay a death stare. While McKay swallowed hard, the ambassador’s cold gaze shifted to rest on each man assembled.
“One hint of trouble,” he warned, “one rumor of danger, and I will shut down this supply line. For good, if need be.”

“Ambassador,” Woolsey cut in. “I assure you we have as much concern as you do. We will make sure all the necessary precautions are put into place.”

“Considering the heavy currents we’ve had to navigate in the past, Mr. Woolsey, you will excuse me if I don’t take you assurances to heart. Langara will gladly work with Stargate Command as long as we are protected from the Lucian Alliance and from your deceit on this matter. Understood?”

“Of course,” Woolsey stated without hesitation. “We are on the same page here and we would never set out to-”

“Enough,” Ambassador Ovida snapped before once more making threatening eye contact with each of the men around him. "Do you have any other supplies you wish to send today?”

“No,” Woolsey responded, sounding humbled.

“Good. Then you may sever the connection and we will see you next week.”

Telford opened his mouth to protest, but one warning glare form Woolsey and he swallowed his words. McKay shut down the gate, prepared to go over the data report to see if there as a way to further stabilize the connection to enable them to get people on the ship.

As they moved to leave the facility, Telford managed to corner Young. “What do you think,” he asked.

“I think we are lucky to get this supply line at all considering what we pulled in the past. Having a fresh uniform and change of clothes will go a long way in boosting morale.”

“As long as it’s not made of cotton,” Telford said dryly. He wasn’t in the mood to entertain the idea of the crew admiring Young for easing their plight, when he did most of the work down here.

“We need to get the proper crew on that ship,” David reiterated.

“We have great people,” Young reminded. “Capable people.”

“You know what I mean,” Telford asserted. “I know your people are capable, but there are unknown variables. Rush is a good example.”

“I can handle Rush,” Young insisted.

David scoffed. “He’s an egotistical trickster and hardly the brightest bulb on the ship. If McKay were to join you, then he and Eli Wallace could easily take over-”

“I wouldn’t underestimate Rush,” Young warned. “Even if this situation is remedied, and McKay does join the crew, no one is as well versed in Ancient as Rush. We still need him, but working with the guy will be that much harder if we have a new rivalry to contend with.”

“I thought you said you could handle the guy,” Telford pushed.

“Rush isn’t military-”

“He works for the military and our government! He is under our-”

“It’s not the same and you know it!”

“I want McKay on board.”

“Has he agreed to that?”

Telford met Young’s gaze unflinchingly. “He will.”

Young always knew David was ambitious, but perhaps Young underestimated just how much. “Why don’t we wait and see if this latest obstacle can be conquered before we start exchanging blows over it, huh?”

Smiling, Telford put on an agreeable face. “You’re right. Come on. Let me buy you a drink to celebrate! This is a huge step in the right direction!”

Naturally, Telford had no intention of backing down. Destiny was the jewel everyone wanted front and center in their crown. Young fell into the assignment purely by accident. He was by no means a first choice.

Having been on the ship before, David as familiar not only with the workings of the vessel, but also with most of the people on board. Time warps and anomalies enabled him to return to Earth, but his double was left on Destiny; murdered by Rush’s double. As a result, David had even more reason to despise the smug scientist. Getting a bit of revenge by making the guy irrelevant to the mission would be an added bonus.

Taking his friend out for a night on the town, David hoped to get more insights about the current situation on the ship from his friend. Young had one drink, but didn’t indulge too much. In fact, he appeared cautious around Telford. Was the reason because Young was being courteous of the body he was borrowing, or was he suspicious? Either way, David was confident in his own abilities.

“Tell the crew to make lists,” Telford said the next morning when Young was preparing to break the connection and return to his own body. “Maximum of ten items each to begin with. Once we are sure the supply line can handle capacity, we can start making regular deliveries and provide essentials on demand.”

Young couldn’t hold back a grin considering the possibilities. “It would be a godsend.”

Patting Young on the back, Telford shook his hand. “Hang in there, Everett. We’ll get you home yet.”

“Let’s hope so.”

Stepping back as the connection was severed, David’s smile dissipated. Looking at the cadet, he demanded a full report. “Well, what did you find out?”

Meanwhile, back on Destiny, Young felt relieved to be back in his own body. The communication stones took some getting used to and there was always a risk. Even more so after they realized what happened with Ginn and Dr. Perry.

First order of business was to get the word out about the supply line. Why was he not surprised to see Camile waiting for him the second he emerged from the communication room?

“Well,” she asked expectantly. “How did it go on your end?”

“Pretty good,” Young said as he walked down the corridor.

Camile easily fell into step beside him. “You know what I mean. Do we have a supply line?”

“I’m surprised you don’t already know. Weren’t you in the gate room?”

“Eli and Rush barred it off, citing a safety hazard as an excuse.”

Young gave a nod. “Good.”

Exasperated, Camile threw up her hands. “Everett!”

“Follow me, Camile,” Young offered. “I’ll let you see for yourself.”

Not needing to be told twice, she followed the Colonel hoping good news waited just a few feet away.

Chapter Text

“It worked,” Eli exclaimed as he threw the plastic box up in the air with a hoot of triumphant laughter. “It actually worked! No more scrambling around on planets! Oh, I’m going to have my mom send me my video games! And my favorite tee shirt! This one is getting old.”

Keeping his expression neutral, Rush wasn’t as quick to celebrate. In fact, he was a little annoyed he had to remind Eli to get back to his console as more crates came through the gate. After nearly five more passed through the connection without incident, Rush was ready to admit success. To a degree, of course.

“Finally,” Eli exclaimed as he opened a crate with medical supplies. “Do they have the superhero vitamins in here?”

“Eli,” Rush said impatiently.

Rolling his eyes, the younger man looked over at the greying scientist. “I can’t believe you’re not more excited about this! It worked, Rush! Would it kill you to crack a smile?”

“Don’t you see something is missing?”

Glancing around at the crates, he scanned the contents of medical supplies, ammunition, and engine parts. Raising his eyebrows, he gave Rush a confused look. “Toy dinosaurs?”

Heaving a disgusted sigh, Rush moved to the first crate. “No food.” Walking to the next, he looked inside and shook his head before looking back at Eli. “No food,” he asserted again.

Watching Rush go to the next crate, Eli put up a hand, getting the point. “Ok, ok, no food, but that doesn’t have to mean anything. They could be waiting to send rations and stuff with the next batch! This was just the test run.”

Putting his hands on his hips, Rush shook his head. “Something’s wrong.”

“Why does everything have to be negative-nilly with you?”

“They would have sent food as part of the trial if they could have,” Rush stated, ignoring Eli’s sarcasm.

“Are you saying they can’t send food through the gate?”

“It’s a possibility.” Rush didn’t beat around the bush.

Crossing his arms over his chest, Eli’s mind started imaging what would happen if Rush fell through the stargate and never came back. Maybe more people would laugh at his jokes.

“Well,” Eli said with a slightly annoyed tone. “We won’t know anything until Colonel Young comes back, so what do you want to do with all of this?”

“Let’s finish our inspection and sort it. The different teams can come by in the morning and get what they need.”

“Why not now?”

“We’re waiting for Colonel Young, remember?” Sick of Eli’s constant questioning, Rush was not in the mood to indulge the kid’s curiosity.

Throwing his hand in the air, Eli shook his head. “You’re leaving?”

“I have something to do,” he said over his shoulder.

By now, Eli should be used to Rush being…Rush. Snatching a package of earbuds, Eli slipped the box into his pocket before heading to the mess hall. A real shame they didn’t get any food. He could really use a can of Pringles. At least, his gaming system was as good as on its way.

****

Going to the equation corridor, Rush pulled the handwriting sample out of his pocket. Holding the page up to the equations written on the wall, he noted the similar swirls and strokes. Mandy definitely wrote this equation on the wall, but why? What did the symbols pertain to?

Pocketing the page carefully, Rush stepped back to study the symbols, thinking about the Ancient equivalents in context to the ship and mission. There could be thousands of plausible scenarios, but Rush knew these symbols were unique to Amanda. If he had to guess, he would put money on this equation having something to do with the regeneration system.

Figuring out how to work the technology took a back seat to the Langarian supply line, but what if Mandy had the key to unlocking this puzzle? There was no telling what they could do with such power at their fingertips.

Rush knew Eli wanted Ginn back, but there were other uses as well. Food regeneration was a given, but also restoring Dr. Park’s eyesight. Any future injuries sustained by the crew could potentially be taken care of, not to mention help with ridding the body of disease. Something he knew TJ could appreciate.

However, this one equation was incomplete. Odds are, they would need a lot more sequencing before they could even begin deciphering the codes, and even then, it could take time to properly program the equipment. If his theory was correct, of course.

Again, odds were, Mandy didn’t know what she was writing, let alone realize the potential significance. He would have to wait for her memories to return before trying to solve the mystery. Every instinct itched to ask her questions and absorb details, but Mandy was uncertain enough around him. She was cautious on a good day and didn’t like him hovering on a bad one. They were just starting to find some common ground and he didn’t want to spoil their progress by nagging her with questions about work.

Rush didn’t want to jeopardize his budding relationship with Amanda for answers she probably didn’t know anyway. He would keep an eye on things, see if Mandy added anything to the wall, and try to figure out the solution on his own. Mandy was too fragile to deal with more pressure.

Seeing to the supply line came first. Colonel Young should be back soon, but in the meantime, he hoped his theory about the food was incorrect. Scavenging planets for supplies distracted from the mission.

Of course, he was not without his own distractions these days. Unable to get the image of Mandy out of his mind, Rush wondered if he should go check on her. Running his fingers over the cold chalkboard wall as he wandered down the corridor, his heart ached to see the woman he loved. Feeling the cold of the metal beneath his fingertips helped Rush stay logical and grounded.

Making a romantic gesture would only spook her. As much as he imagined pulling Amanda into his arms and kissing her senseless, of her kissing him back, of the heat and desire finally awaking her memories of their past, Rush knew Mandy had to remember on her own.

Living for the little moments, her small smiles, her hand reaching for his, the air wafting her scent to his senses, was a unique kind of torture. The other night, after a single game of chess, Rush went back to his own quarters unable to purge Mandy from his mind.

Entering his quarters now, sleep was elusive. Behind his eyes, he envisioned the way she tucked her hair behind her ears, the swift dart of her tongue as she licked her lips, the way her voice sounded when she laughed. Craving her taste and her touch, other memories took over until Rush could no longer ignore the throbbing of his body.

In the computer simulation Mandy programmed, Rush was able to interact with her consciousness using the neural interface chair. They could touch and feel and be together as they never could before, so either of them wanted to waste a single moment.

Mandy was so shy and sweet and brilliant, but when they made love, she let go, freely giving her body and her mind over to his care. Remembering the feel of her breasts in his hands, the way her nipples perked with the sweep of his tongue over her flesh, Rush started unfastening his belt.

Falling back onto his bed, he stared at the ceiling as he took his erection in his hands. Squeezing his length, Rush’s focused on the memory of the way his love felt beneath him. Mandy’s skin was so soft and the way her features relaxed when her body arched against his was heaven. Rush couldn’t get enough. The desire in his veins fueled his craving to be one with this exquisite creature who tempted him for far too long.

Stroking faster, breathing frantic, Rush reached down with his other hand to cup his ball sac, gently kneading the sensitive flesh as the pleasure intensified. Eyelids closing, Mandy’s face smiled back at him as he remembered stroking her wet folds with his cock. Running his palm over his tip, gently circling, slightly squeezing, Rush remembered the feel of her wetness against his own flesh. A moan escaped his lips before he stifle the sound. Beyond the point of no return, Rush didn’t really care. If masturbating to his memories of making love to Mandy was what took the bloody edge off, then he would continue while enjoying every moment.

The speed of his strokes increased, pumping faster as he envisioned the instant he finally sank into her hot, tight warmth. Crisp and vivid, he could practically feel the caress of her hot breath against his cheek as he sank deep inside her over and over and over again. The sting of her fingertips digging into his back didn’t faze him because his whole focus was on the pleasure of being milked by her tight warmth.

Remembering how their bodies sounded slapping together, his sac smacking between her thighs with every hard thrust, mingled with the pitch of their moans as the waves rose higher and higher preparing to crest, Rush’s hands moved frantically , mimicking the sounds of his memoires. His sac grew tight, rising up in preparation of release. All of his concentration centered on the moment he and Mandy came together in a perfect unison of exploding color.

The orgasm hit him hard, causing a cry to vibrate out of his throat as his seed squirted up before landing on his exposed stomach. Blood pounding in his ears, heart slamming in his chest, Rush struggled to take in his next breath, then the next.

When his breathing returned to normal, he cleaned the mess, but still could not prevent his imagination from dreaming of what a future with Mandy might hold. For some reason, they were always on Earth, sharing a beautiful home with a huge backyard, a stone wall around the perimeter, and a blooming garden in the front. The house would have a classic Tudor or Victorian architecture, but inside the decor and furnishings were all modern, elegant, and comfortable.

Rush always imagined children with Amanda. He and Gloria both loved their careers too much to try and fit a family into their dynamic, but with Amanda, Rush wanted it all. Yes, he was a bit longer in the tooth, but he didn’t care. He could easily picture a little boy and girl, both with Mandy’s beautiful blue eyes, running around barefoot in the green grass during a perfect spring day. They would call to their father to come play and Rush wouldn’t think twice about abounding his work to frolic under the sun.

Throughout losing Mandy’s consciousness, these dreams kept Rush from losing his focus and faith in the mission. These imaginings, held him get up every day to face what came next. Now, they helped him cope with having his love so close, yet so far away.

All his life, those he cared for were torn away. His parents, then Gloria. Science never let him down. Unlike people, numbers always made sense. Numbers stayed the same, predictable, no matter how much time passed or what life threw in his direction. Getting lost in the work, or wrapped up in a mathematical puzzle, used to be enough, but Rush was tired of losing those he loved. Now, he needed the fantasy to find his motivation and the determination not to let Amanda slip through his fingers for a third time. Rush eventually enter his quarters to see her smiling at him in greeting and welcome him with open arms.

Getting to his feet, Rush righted his clothing before heading to the bridge. There was always work to be done and he indulged in self-pity long enough for today.

Luckily, the space was deserted. Sitting in the captain’s chair, letting his arms cover the rests, his eyes looked at the stars beyond. If this supply line was successful, then many aspects of running this ship would be easier. Hopefully, when Colonel Young returned tomorrow, they would learn the specifics.

Nothing ran smoothly the first time around, so logic would say the math would need some tweaking. Not surprising, considering Rodney McKay as in charge. With Eli working the math on their end, Rush hated to admit, the flukes would hopefully be worked out quickly enough.

Somehow, his shields must have lowered enough to allow him to sleep because the next thing he knew, he bridge doors slid open with a voom, waking him. Rubbing his hands over his face, Rush got to his feet. Sparing Brody and Chloe a stiff nod on his way out the door, Rush checked the time, making his way to the gate room. Eli was already present, inspecting a crate. Exchanging a long look with the other man, Eli shrugged and moved away to wait for Rush’s instructions. A second later, his radio sounded. Young was back and ready to give them news.

Chapter Text

Tampering down her excitement and hope, Camile hoped to appear naturally professional as she digested the news Young told them. Glancing at Eli, seeing his obvious disappointment, she could relate. Not being able to have food or personnel sent through the stargate was a rough blow, but they could manage as they did before, hopefully.

Rush, one the other hand, did not look surprised by the statements. He didn’t appear crestfallen either, which automatically made Camile suspicious. How much did the man really know? Was he keeping secrets again? Keeping an eye on Rush was always a good idea, so she vowed to do just that, but in the meantime, despite setbacks, the working supply line was still worthy of celebration.

“How soon can we start getting personal supplies,” Camile asked in a very businesslike manner.

“For now, we are starting out small,” Young explained. “Each crew member is to list ten items or supplies they require. Try to make the requests simple like a charge of clothes or shoes, etcetera. We’ll see how the stargate holds up the connection and build from there. I’ve already sent word for Greer and Scott to take the weapons and supplies to the armory. Eli, Rush, can you make repairs?”

“Already on it,” Rush confirmed.

“I’ll get these medical supplies down to TJ.”

“I’ll help,” Camile offered.

Even as most of the crew was busy with their duties, rumors about the supply line spread quickly. By the time Young and Camile gathered the whole crew in the gate room to make formal announcements, everyone knew about the problems and the lists. Some concerns were ridiculous, like anything organic causing the stargate to destabilize, but some rumors about potential disruptions in the supply line were accurate.

Once instructions were given, and rumors laid to rest, most of the crew were optimistic and departed with one goal in mind; drafting a list of ten items they couldn’t live without. The most popular demand would no doubt be changes of clothing, manmade material of course. Perhaps even some new shoes? Thinking of shoes, Rush went to find Mandy and tell her the good news. Undoubtedly, she would feel better with footwear and an extended wardrobe. He couldn’t say he would mind a few things of his own either.

Doing laundry was surprisingly fast and easy here, but having to do it every day was tedious. Knocking on Mandy’s door, he waited for a response. Hearing none, his heart involuntarily sank to his knees. The last time she didn’t answer the door, he walked into her quarters to find her dead.

Pressing the button, it took far too long for the doors to slide open. Taking one step inside, then two, his eyes darted around searching for any hint of danger. “Mandy,” he called again as he moved to search the area.

There was no sign of her, which meant she was most likely out exploring the ship. Worry still gnawed at him as he reached for his radio to ask Greer if he saw her. Rush crossed the threshold when Greer radioed back telling him he didn’t see Mandy all day.

Leaving the quarters intending to search the ship, Rush tried to remember all the places Mandy liked hiding to keep out of sight. There were dozens of possibilities and it would take time for him to search them all.

Passing the observation desk and seeing no sign of her, Rush continued on to the equation hallway, but there was no one there. Checking the bathrooms only to come up empty-handed, Rush pushed down his panic. Mandy was fine. She probably just got bored of staring the same walls in her quarters and went in search of some solitude in some less trafficked part of the ship.

Checking several other places, he could no longer prevent the worry from snatching his heart and squeezing painfully. Breaking out into a run, he raced down several more corridors, barely able to keep from shouting her name, while keeping his eyes peeled for any sign of her. Rounding a corner too quickly, he collided with a sold body.

Hearing the familiar feminine gasp, Rush let the air out of his lungs. Seeing Mandy stumble, his arm automatically reached out to steady her.

“Oh,” she breathed as she clasped at his supporting arm and regained her balance. Blinking rapidly as hot tingles sparked through her palm and up her arm, Mandy tried to fight her reaction to this man. The only way to keep her composure was to pull free of his hold, but the second she tried to let go, Rush yanked her body forward, wrapping his arms around her shoulders to hug her tight.

Resting her cheek on his shoulder, Mandy allowed her arms to twine around his waist. Closing her eyes, she indulged in the warmth of his embrace. Knowing Rush cared made a huge difference in her mood. As his masculine scent eased her muscles, she decided to relish his touch instead of fighting her emotions.

“I couldn’t find you,” he whispered as he cupped the back of her head.

“I just went to use one of the mist showers for my feet,” she said into his shirt.

Exhaling a breath, Rush was about to ask why she came so far, but realized he knew the answer. Mandy didn’t want to stumble upon any unfamiliar faces. She was safe and sound and whole. He should let her go, but insisted he tightened the embrace ever-so-slightly, pleased when she swayed with him as he rubbed her back.

“I have some good news about that actually.”

Drawing back, Mandy’s lips curled. “About my feet or the shower?”

Eyes glittering at her words, Rush clasped her hand, letting the pad of his thumbs stroke her skin for a few moments before speaking. “The supply line between the ship and Langara works. We’ll be able to get you some shoes.”

“Really,” she gasped. “Are you sure?”

“Yes,” he nodded. “Make a list of ten items and we will have them sent through the gate.”

“But how will people get our lists?”

“We’ll broadcast them to Homeworld Command. Before long, I expect many of us will finally start feeling close to normal again.”

Since she didn’t fully understand his meaning, Mandy just continued to smile. Rush looked very happy by the idea of this supply line and she enjoyed the sight of his smile. The way his eye crinkled and how his dimples appeared through his whiskers made her fingers itch to touch his skin. She resisted, of course, not knowing how her actions would be received.

Rush didn’t let go of her hand as he walked her back to her quarters. Should she take the gesture as a sign of affection, or simply an afterthought on his part? The other evening when they played chess, Mandy felt the impression of an odd familiarity in the way the game and conversation came so easily. By the time he left, she was almost certain there was something more intimate hanging in the air between them than simply friendship.

Before she could dwell on the possibilities, Rush took his leave. That night, Amanda went back to bed, consumed with thoughts of the man. Luckily, she didn’t dream, but managed to get some actual rest. Was the result due to her body simply being exhausted, or did the nightmares stay at bay due to Rush’s influence? As much as she may crave the latter, logic would argue the former. As much as she wanted to think of Rush as her friend, Mandy knew the situation was more complicated. Pitfalls of grey surrounded her on all sides, making her afraid to step the wrong way.

Leaning too heavily on Rush for support would be unwise, especially since she knew he was holding back. Until some memories returned, she should try to resist the pull to be close to this man. Her mind may not remember specifics, but her body recognized Rush, humming whenever he was near, constantly giving off impulses and desires. Mandy needed to stop second guessing every gesture and word they exchanged, searching for some kind of intimate meaning. What if her memories returned and Rush was not the man she taught him to be? What if she wasn’t the woman she assumed she was?

Too many unanswered questions should be a warning sign. Noticing they were walking the populated areas, Mandy gently eased her fingers out of his grip, keeping her eyes straight ahead, striving to act as if everything was normal.

Feeling her break contact, Rush’s head turned to take in her expression. Quickly realizing Mandy was hiding behind her shields, he resisted letting out a heavy sigh. Mandy had every right to be cautious and the last thing he wanted as to push too hard. Getting the hint, he simply escorted her to her quarters.

“When you’re done with your list you can give it to me or Greer and we’ll make sure it gets handled.”

“Thank you,” Mandy smiled. Clenching her fingers together in front of her, she hoped her nervous shaking wasn’t obvious.

He wanted to touch her, just one more time, but feared pushing her away of he did so. “Ok,” he said with a small smile.

Watching Rush walk away was too complicated, so she quickly entered her quarters. The moment the door closed, she sank back against the solid wall, her eyes losing as flashes of heat assaulted her cheeks. Why did that man affect her so?

After several moments of trying to clear her head proved fruitless, she pushed away from the wall to get her pen and a fresh sheet of paper from one of her notepads. Pacing the floor, the pen tapping in time against the notepad, Mandy considered what she really needed. Shoes, obviously. Nothing fancy. A pair of basic flats should do the trick. What else?

A change of clothes wouldn’t be remiss. This formfitting black leotard wasn’t her style. If not for the oversized black tee covering her down to her mid-thighs, Mandy wouldn’t feel comfortable being seen at all. What kind of clothing did she prefer?

Sighing, fingers raking through her hair, Mandy tried listing all of the clothing she saw others wearing. None of those garments were appealing, but beggars couldn’t be choosers. A mental image of a flowing floral skirt and a loose cream colored top popped in to her head. Yes, she might enjoy wearing something loose for a change.

Pausing long enough to jot down the three items, she resumed her pacing as she tried thinking of what else she needed. Basics. Simple. This task shouldn’t be so difficult, yet she was stumped.

Leaving her pen and notepad on the table, Mandy drifted over to the window. Left unguarded, her mind conjured Rush’s face, focusing on the shape of his full lips and wondering what it would feel like to have him kiss her mouth. Shaking her head, banishing the images even as heat pooled between her thighs, Mandy didn’t want to keep questioning everything about Rush!

Everyone said he knew her! He hovered too much, pushing a little too hard, even though she told him she had no idea who he was. He gave her space and was nothing but kind to her when coping was difficult, but her feelings toward him only further complicated the situation.

People here held answers to her questions, but they flat out refused to share those answers. Everyone wanted her to remember on her own, but that wasn’t happening! With each passing day the frustration and confusion and anger filled up more and more space in her mind.

What if she never regained her memories? Mandy wanted to think she could still have a quality life moving forward, but then she remembered the look and the whispers that seemed to dog her every step. As much as she wanted the truth, she feared it at the same time.

Blowing out a long breath, Mandy tried to center her chi and do some exercises to calm her temper and her nerves. Her mind and body were at war with each other due to the lack of balance in her life. Mandy needed to find a way to even out the scale because lingering in limbo was chipping away at her sanity.

Try as she might, ignoring the fact Rush’s presence made her feel better was impossible. The only solution was searching her subconscious for the missing information no one wanted to share. Pushing out all images until her mind was blank, Mandy tried to focus.

The sun was bright and warm against her skin. There were colors in the air. Colors she wanted to catch in her hands. No, not colors. Butterflies. Yes, that was it. She was a little girl again, running barefoot on the grass chasing butterflies.

Comforted, Mandy felt her system settle and most of her worries ease. Was this really a happy memory or just her mind trying to calm the chaos? Did it really matter?

Chapter Text

Young looked around at those gathered in his quarters. Once all the lists of the crew were looked over and approved, they could begin the process of getting some small conveniences to aid with everyday life on Destiny. Proud of how the entire crew pulled together to make things work, Young knew they were all ready for some conveniences to ease everyday life.

Greer and Scott presented the lists of the military personnel and gave a report that the armory was stocked and Destiny’s weapons stores were fully loaded. TJ, likewise, informed them the infirmary was in much better shape, but handed over a list consisting of material needed for future improvements. Young would run her report by Telford and McKay once they were sure the supply line was fully functional.

Camile handed over the civilians’ lists, while Eli and Rush updated them on the repairs to the engineering systems and other networks. They were currently in the process of replacing and repairing the wiring to the FTL drive, which was going to be a huge project. By all appearances, they were finally catching a wave of good luck. Young just hoped the luck would last for a while.

Sorting through the lists, Young paused seeing a certain name. Sighing, he pulled the list out of the bunch, handing it back to Rush. “We can’t include this one.”

Frowning, Rush snatched the paper, saw the name, and glared at the Colonel. “Why not,” he snapped.

Impatient, Young struggled to keep his tone even. “You know why, Rush. We can’t allow anyone to discover Dr. Perry is alive. Homeworld Command has a head count of everyone on board, so if we try to add another list, they will take inventory and ask questions.”

“So, Mandy is just supposed to go without while everyone else gets what they need?” The very idea despised him. “She’s a human being, too, Colonel.”

Rush could fume all he wanted, but they both knew he was right, so Young refused to back down. “We’ll figure something out once the kinks in the supply line are worked out.”

“No,” Rush argued. “We’re working this out now.” He’d be damned if Mandy was going to be made to suffer any more than she already was.

“Rush-”

“Give me my list back,” he demanded.

Young scowled. “Why?”

Matching the Colonel glare-for-glare, Rush searched through the pile, found his list, pulled out a pencil, and started making changes. “Rush, what the hell do you think you’re doing?!”

“Mandy need shoes at the very least,” he snarled. “I’ll take off a few of my items to make way for hers.”

Young’s hand went to his hips. “And you’re not worried Homeword Command will wonder why you are requesting women’s shoes?”

“No,” he stated without looking up from his task.

“This is ridiculous! I can’t let you-”

“I’ll do it, then,” Tamara said, stepping forward. “Rush is right.” Facing down her commanding officer, TJ refused to budge an inch. “Dr. Perry is still a human being. We all understand why she has to stay a secret, but she still needs the basics.”

Finding her list, she turned to Rush, holding out a hand for the pencil. “I’ll put the shoes on mine.”

“What else does she have,” Greer asked, stepping forward. “I’ll give her one of mine.”

Surprised, humbled, and grateful, Rush gave TJ and Greer looks of thanks and an understanding passed between them. Young came forward next, scanning the list for unisex items he could substitute on his own list. Eli came forward next. Scott eventually did as well, but Camile volunteered last. A fact Rush very begrudgingly noted down for the future. Camile had her uses, but deep down, she was inherently selfish.

“Thank you,” Rush told the group with sincerity when the lists were all amended.

“Mandy is a good person,” Greer said, wearing the barest hint of a grin.

Camile, Scott, and Eli looked less convinced, but TJ gave Rush a warm smile. Young gave the impression he didn’t have an opinion either way. A few minutes later, the group dispersed, all returning to their duties, while Young went to communicate the lists to Telford.

Almost an hour later, Eli and Rush were alone in one of the engine rooms, working on rewiring a conduit, when Eli dared to make a comment.

“Do you really think we can really keep Dr. Perry a secret?”

Rush blinked over at Eli, brushing his hair out of his eyes. “What?”

“I mean,” Eli shifted on his feet, the soles making screeching noises. “Everyone on board knows she exists. Pretty much everyone uses the communication stones. Aren’t you worried about a residual echo?”

“As long as we stick to the some story, they’ll never be able to prove anything,” Rush said defensively. “Now hand me that wrench. I need to readjust this fastening.”

Shaking his head, Eli did as he was told, but refused to let the subject go. “A lot of people don’t know what to make of her.”

“She’s Mandy,” Rush stated as if the simple fact should be enough.

“Yeah, but a lot of people are afraid of her.”

Every time he heard the claim, Rush thought people were being ridiculous. “She’s the same person she’s always been.”

“Ah, you mean the person who nearly killed you and forced us to quarantine Ginn?” Eli’s tone dripped with undisguised sarcasm. Normally, he would never talk like this around Rush, but the unfairness of the situation never failed to make him bitter.

Stopping his work to face Eli directly, looking him in the eye, Rush wasn’t about to take any of his crap. “She’s also the same person who did the necessary work to repair the robot and this ship! Don’t be so ungrateful.”

“Ungrateful?” Eli barked a humorless laugh. “People have every right to be a little apprehensive of her. They aren’t just going to take your word for it because most of the people here don’t like you, Rush! They don’t trust you! You know more than you tell us and you take this holier-than-thou attitude that gets people killed!”

“That was never my intention,” he shouted back. “The running of this ship is a little complicated-”

“And you’ve kept huge secrets before! Like when you figured out how to unlock the controls of the ship!”

“I had my reasons, Eli!”

“And there was Dr. Perry, backing you up every step of the way!”

“She was the only one I could trust,” Rush growled. “Do you really think after Colonel Young left me on that planet, I would trust him?! After what those aliens did – to me and to Chloe – that I would just volunteer vital information?”

“Fine.” Eli shrugged, but refused to back down. “You had your reasons. My point is that people remember how Dr. Perry backed you. They know the two of you have a history. Like it or not, they are going to lump her together with you!”

“What exactly are you saying,” Rush demanded.

“That there is a possibility of a leak,” Eli said. “That somehow word could get out about what happened and we could be hunted by even more factions of hostile aliens than we are prepared to take on.”

“Then we will just have to count on the sense of fear and superstitions of the crew to keep the secret about Mandy’s existence.”

How could Rush just be so blasé about this? Eli knew the guy was arrogant and narcissistic, but he thought Rush would take more precautions for a woman he claimed to have feelings for. Then again, Eli realized Rush never made any declarations where Dr. Perry was concerned. Yes, when she was on board in Camile’s body, Dr. Perry told Eli she had feelings for Rush. Considering the man nearly died downloading his consciousness to be with her, Eli naturally assumed Rush returned the sentiments.

If he was wrong, Eli really felt for Dr. Perry. She deserved better. Realizing there was no way to crack any sense through Rush’s thick skull, Eli let the matter drop and went back to work.

During the ensuing silence, Eli’s arguments rattled around in Rush’s head. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t help but imagine all the danger Mandy would face if she was discovered. Ironically, he feared their own military more than any outside threats. The aliens would want to experiment on Mandy, but so would Homeworld Command.

There had to be a solution, but before he could begin to fathom one, he needed to know all the variables. How many people on Earth knew of Amanda’s death? How many people were questioning Ginn in her body when the murder occurred? To find out the answers, he may have to use the stones.

Ever since the incident with Telford and the Lucian Alliance, Rush hesitated to use the stones. Still, the more he thought about it, the more he realized he may not have a choice. If he could find a way to reverse any record of Mandy’s “death” on Earth, then no one would ask questions. No one would suspect the details even if they looked into the matter.

Surely he had enough connections to render the whole incident classified. Rush was sure he could manufacture a convincing cover story. He could do whatever was necessary to keep Mandy safe.

Not that he would give away any inkling of his true feelings. The fewer people who knew of his plans, the better. Besides, it was not in his nature to show what he was feeling. Rush kept his thoughts and emotions very close to the chest. Very few saw through his façade to get to really know him, which was another reason Mandy held a special place in his heart.

This ship was full of strangers. Worse, strangers who did not understand the mission, or the Ancients, who could never fully appreciate the gravity of what Destiny represented.

They all wanted to get back home to their normal lives, but this mission was so much more than all of them. Rush wanted to make the discovery to end all discoveries. Going back to Earth held no appeal, especially considering all he lost.

Mandy was the only one his missed, and now that he had her back, Rush was looking to the future. He wanted Amanda by his side during this journey. If he ever reached Ascension, he wanted her to go with him.

Contrary to popular belief, he wasn’t all about the work and the plots. He was a man of flesh who yearned for companionship and affection. For love. Being alone never bothered him, but many would be shocked to know he didn’t prefer the solitude.

Mandy was alive. The one person in this universe who knew him inside and out, the good and the bad, and accepted and loved him anyway. Rush would prove his devotion to her. Hopefully, once her memories returned, they would have a chance at a long and happy future.

Steps would need to be taken, but he would do what needed to be done. Even if Mandy never did return to him, he would see her protected. Rush owed her that much.

****

Once the group was dismissed, Vanessa James, who was standing near the back of his gate room, rolled her eyes before turning on her heel and walking out the door. Honestly, did the Colonel think they were all idiots? Everyone knew that giving away details of Dr. Perry’s return would endanger them all.

James possessed an aversion to the other women ever since she tried using the communication stones to switch with her when Destiny needed a repair. Only a few seconds in that chair, hardly able to breathe, completely paralyzed, and she panicked. Breaking the connection, James wanted to forget the whole incident.

Camile ended up doing what she could not, which left James with mixed feelings. Whenever Dr. Perry’s consciousness was on board, Vanessa went out of her way to avoid her. She couldn’t face Amanda because that would mean facing her own cowardice. It was just easier to hate the other woman.

Yes, Vanessa knew Amanda was paralyzed before agreeing to the switch, but the reality was something she was not prepared for, and as a result, was uncomfortable around any mention of the other woman.

James knew Camile felt the same. There was something about being in Dr. Perry’s paralyzed body for so long that rubbed her the wrong way, too. James could tell by Camile’s awkward body language during the meeting. At least, she wasn’t the only one.

Now Amanda Perry was alive again, with no past memories and the attitude of an anti-social ghost. The fact the woman acted so strangely only gave Vanessa more justification to carry a grudge.

Several people on this ship, Greer most especially, thought if anyone deserved a second chance; it was a quadriplegic with a heart of gold. Maybe he was right. A lot of people sympathized due to Dr. Perry’s past disability. They were all just made of kinder stuff.

James planned to keep on as she did before; avoiding the woman at all costs. Amanda wouldn’t remember her now, but Vanessa didn’t care. She had enough to worry about, like surviving this mission.

Chapter Text

To describe the void, the blackness sucking away at her sanity, the utter nothingness, as frightening would be the tip of the iceberg of how indescribably terrified her sudden state made her feel.

None of her senses were working. No sight, not sound, no smell. There was nothing to touch. Awareness centered on her instincts and every nerve in her body screamed that something was very wrong.

Was this death? Was she truly gone? In the back of her mind, she knew this was her fault. Being selfish and reckless put her in this position, no matter how good her naïve intentions.

Worse, her consciousness squirmed with the knowledge she hurt someone else. Someone who was innocent. Someone who tried to warn her.

The air felt thick with vibrations of guilt, anger, and accusations. Maybe the sensations were real, or simply echoes from her subconscious. After all, her own mind seemed to be all she had left.

Terrified of being alone, petrified of the second presence, she wanted to curl up in to an invisible ball and disappear. A place where her flaws and guilt didn’t haunt her.

Even as the black void transformed into a new world, the despair chased her every move. She could never be free. There were amends to be made, but how? The road too far away to reach. Then the symbols formed. Vast, ongoing numbers and designs that held the key to…something.

For an instant, the course was clear, the world vivid in understanding, but the moment she reached to grip the certainty, it vanished, leaving her bereft and barely clinging to the small spark of hope that kept her going.

Pain, rejection, loss, guilt, helplessness dragged down her very being until she was yanked away from something familiar, tugged out of her protective bubble into physical, burning pain that wrenched scream after scream from her essence.

After what felt like an eternity, the sense of nothingness returned, but there was a difference because she was aware of the passage of time. The comfort gave way to fear all too soon.

Jolting awake, unable to catch her breath, Mandy swallowed her next scream. Recognizing her surroundings, she tried to convince herself she was just dreaming, but in the back of her mind, she knew nothing was that simple. Those…feelings, and the utter blackness, was real. She was caught in a web of oblivion, unable to escape.

Nausea rose too fast for her to compensate. Throwing aside the covers, Mandy ran for the bathroom. Barely making it in time, Amanda lost the contents of her stomach.. Afterwards, her body wouldn’t stop convulsing. Struggling to get the dry heaves under control, tears stung the corners of her eyes and a cold sweat broke out on her forehead. The cold floor pressed painfully into her knees, but she didn’t dare shift her weight for fear of a worse pain exploding within her body.

Unsure of how long it took her to get her breathing under control, Mandy winced as she struggled to maintain her balance and push to her feet. Colored dots danced across her vision, causing her to instinctively reach for the wall. Blinking rapidly, she managed to focus, but her knees felt weak.

Stumbling to the sink to splash cold water on her face, Mandy couldn’t shake the fear still causing her heart to pound heavily against her ribs. The dream felt so real. Was she really in that…place? Was that why she couldn’t remember anything?

Whenever this…nothingness was, did she deserve to be there? Her conscience seemed to think so. The memory of Eli telling her she hurt someone he cared about popped into the forefront of her mind, making her wonder if she was a horrible person. She didn’t go around wishing anyone any harm, but what if she was a horrible person before her memory loss?

Feeling a painful lump clog her throat, Mandy swallowed hard as her eyes dared to glimpse her reflection. The dark circles under her eyes made her cringe. Her cheeks were shallow and her skin pale. Looking away, she splashed more water on her face, but nothing could stop the tears.

Bracing both hands on the sink, she couldn’t stop the beads of tears flowing down her cheeks. Her knees couldn’t hold her weight and before she could blink, Mandy was on the floor, rocking back and forth, her arms wrapped around her middle, shaking with sobs, wishing with every fiber of her being she didn’t remember that awful place.

Cold, distraught, uncertain, all she wanted was to disappear, but what good would that do? She certainly did not want to be trapped, feeling so much…fear and so much…nothing. Wiping angrily at her cheeks, she attempted gathering her emotions, but the harder she reached for her logic, the faster the tears rolled.

An instant later, warmth wrapped around her shoulders. Soft, comforting vibrations sounded in her ear; deep accented croons telling her everything was going to be alright. Desperate for everything to go away, Mandy allowed her body to go lax, melting into the warm comfort fitting around her like a glove, rocking her until the tears were spent.

Nuzzling the softness holding her so close, Mandy hoped this ease wasn’t a trick. Amanda had enough horrors plaguing her every time she closed her eyes. Was it too much to crave this relief to last?

“Shh,” the soft warmth said. “You’re safe now. It’s alright. I’m here.”

Wrapping her arms around the solid comfort, awareness slowly seeped into her consciousness. Under her clammy skin was the solid form of a physical body. Clutching a pair of shoulders attached to a strong back, the details all came together as if completing a puzzle. A man was here, hugging her, rocking her, saying she would be fine. Not just any man though. Rush.

All her dignity shattered with the realization, but even as she scooped the fractured pieces, Mandy let out a small cry before burying her face in his chest. Breathing unsteady, she just needed a moment. Being held in his arms felt so comforting, and she didn’t want to let go. Mandy needed a balm to ease what refused to make sense.

Continuing to whisper reassuring words, Rush held Mandy firmly in his arms, rocking her as he combed his fingers lovingly through her hair. The sight of her crying on the floor terrified him. Without thinking, he was by her side, gathering her close, trying to see if she was hurt.

Realizing Mandy’s aliment wasn’t physical, he held her tighter, silently communicating she was safe and protected. He would never leave her. Never again.

Rush waited until Mandy’s sobs grew silent, but even then did not want to let her go. Just having her back in his arms was enough to make him realize how much he missed her. His brilliant Mandy.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered as she drew back. Embarrassed, her eyes went to the floor.

“Nothing to apologize for,” he insisted, giving her hand a little squeeze.

“I was just overwhelmed for a moment.”

“Understandable.”

Damp eyelashes blinked up at him. “You don’t have to say that.”

“I mean it.” Rush caught her gaze, refusing to let her shy away. “Not having a past, trying to make sense of the world around you, the anxiety and stress adds up. You’ll feel better now.”

Nodding, Mandy moved to get to her feet, but she suddenly forgot how to stand. Dumbfounded for a moment, a look of confusion marred her brow. If not for Rush taking her hands and helping her up, Mandy wasn’t sure how long she would have sat there.

Thankfully, her feet stayed under her and the nausea didn’t return.

“Alright?”

“Yeah.” Mandy felt her cheeks heat with embarrassment and her gaze went back down to the floor.

“Let me walk you back to your quarters.”

“I’m fine. Really.”

The last thing he wanted was to give Mandy more reasons to push him away, but he needed to make sure she truly was fine.

“Did something happen,” he asked, keeping his tone gentle.

“Just another nightmare,” she said.

“It looked like more than that.”

“I’m fine.” What else could she say? How could she make him understand?

Though her dignity was in shreds, Mandy forced a smile, more to prove to herself rather than Rush that she was fine before leaving the bathroom. Rush followed but she didn’t protest. Mandy knew she wouldn’t be sleeping again anytime soon.

“If you want to talk, I’m always here.” The moment the door closed behind them, Rush’s fingers craved another touch of her skin, but he fisted his hands to resist the urge. Pressing Mandy to confide in him would not end well; nor would forcing physical contract. She needed to learn to trust him, which meant he must be patient.

“I don’t even know how to describe it,” she said as her arms wrapped around her body.

As embarrassed as she felt about Rush catching her during a weak moment, she didn’t want to be alone right now. She couldn’t shake the impression she spent a lot of time alone and couldn’t stand the solitude another second. Mandy wanted to purge the impression left in the wake of the nightmare.

“What was the first word to pop into your head when thinking of the dream?”

“Nothing,” she answered as she moved to look out the window.

Frowning, Rush stared at her back. “Nothing? Surly, you felt something.”

“No, that’s not what I mean.” Sighing, she turned to face him. “I mean I was trapped in…blackness. Nothing. No sight, sound, or smell. I couldn’t hear my own screams. I couldn’t even feel my own breath.”

As the tears threatened again, Mandy blinked rapidly, looking back out the window because she didn’t want Rush to see her like this. However, Rush’s heart slammed painfully against his ribs as he absorbed her words. Hearing her description pained him. Simultaneously, he wanted to beat Eli for causing this whole situation. Mandy was remembering quarantine and Rush was devastated knowing he couldn’t help her when she needed him the most.

However, Rush refused to allow the experience to leave any permanent scars on her psyche. Amanda would never suffer again. Not if he could help it.

“Hey,” he said gently, reaching for her hand. Gripping her figures, Rush relished the heat of their connection. “You’re here now. You’re safe.”

“Maybe.” Looking down at their joined hands, feeling the tingle passing over her skin at the slightest contact, Mandy craved things she knew she shouldn’t.

Taking a step closer, Rush cupped her face, running the pads of his thumbs over her soft skin, capturing those beautiful blue eyes. “You are an amazing, brilliant woman, Amanda Perry. You’ve never ceased to astound me. You are strong. Whatever you’re feeling, you can get through it.”

He truly had so much faith in her? Hearing him speak, Mandy could almost believe the words. Yet, every time she recalled the dreams, an inner voice whispered she wasn’t as strong as Rush claimed.

“What if I’m not,” she asked, unable to tear her eyes away from his. “What if I’m really not a good person?”

“Then I would tell you, “ Rush stated matter-of-factly. “But you are loving and caring and beautiful.”

Beautiful? The compliment sent a jolt through her blood. He thought her beautiful?

Pushing the thought aside, she struggled to stay on topic because she wanted answers. “Why do I get the feeling I did something horrible to end up in that place?”

Brown eyes steeling, Rush refused to allow Mandy to feel the burden of what happened. She couldn’t have foreseen the outcome. “It wasn’t your fault,” he insisted.

“How do you know?”

“Because I know you,” he swore. “We will protect you.”

Shaking her head, she tried breaking free of his hold, but Rush’s grip only tightened. “I see how people here treat me-”

Her words cut off when Rush pulled her into his arms, gathering her close to his chest. “Then I’ll protect you, Mandy. No harm will come to you. I swear it.”

Closing her eyes, it hit her that relying too much on one person could be dangerous, but for now she wanted all the reassurances Rush offered. Mandy wanted to sink into his warmth and never be separated from him again. Feeling his fingers stroking her hair, a smile curved her lips as a sense of security filled her being.

Just a little longer. Hearing the beating of his heart, holding him around the waist, Mandy promised she would let go in just a few more seconds. Just a few more…

Chapter Text

Mandy woke to the feel of a warm hand cupping her breast. Her first instinct was to lean into the touch. Taken aback by her boldness, she looked down to realize it was Rush’s hand holding her flesh. Glancing over her shoulder, Mandy noticed he was still asleep. Easing out of his arms and getting quietly to her feet, Mandy assured her silly imagination that the way Rush touched her during the night just what happened when two warm bodies share a bed. Seeking warmth was a natural occurrence.

The same could be said of the way his thigh pushed between her legs, causing a dull, delicious ache to grip her core. Doing her best to ignore the warm humming sensation in intimate places, Mandy remembered how kind and understanding Rush was with her last night. He was being a friend. She shouldn’t read any more into his actions.

Rush wanted her to rest, but she refused, and he lay with her on the bed, holding her until she fell asleep. A few things surprised her upon waking. First, that Rush stayed after she fell asleep and, second, that she didn’t have one nightmare while in his arms.

Vacating her quarters for the bathroom, Mandy did her best to shake off her musings in favor of focusing on her morning routine. What she was feeling was not attraction. Was it? How could it be?

Once she finished washing her face and the other basics, Mandy stared long and hard at her reflection. Did she ever have attractive features? Would Rush think her beautiful? Did she want him to?

Yes, her heart and mind screamed in unison. At first, he acted too familiar and pushed too hard. Rush didn’t understand that he was a stranger to her. Keeping her distance from him and everyone else just seemed like the safest path.

Lately, when all the nightmares started, she couldn’t predict why or what would plague her next. Rush was surprisingly supportive. The latest nightmare was extra terrifying and she was grateful Rush was there to help her pick up the pieces.

Remembering her reaction to everything, Mandy still felt deeply embarrassed, but Rush promised not to judge. He said there was never to be any shame between them and no broken confidences.

Such reassurances convinced her to put one foot in front of the other and walk back to her quarters. Clasping her shaking hands and pressing them over her stomach, Mandy inhaled a calming breath before opening the door.

He stood looking out the window, his back to her, his full attention on the stars. Taking a cautious step forward, she waited with bated breath, her hands once again clasped in front of her, as Rush twisted to look over his shoulder. Seeing him smile a moment later filled her with relief. They both moved forward, automatically going into the hug. Resting her head on his shoulder, inhaling his masculine scent, her nervousness vanished in a flash.

“Did you sleep well,” Rush asked, resting his cheek on the side of her head.

Waking up to find her gone, Rush felt a momentary panic. Remembering falling asleep with her in his arms, Rush sank into her softness, wishing he could keep her close. There was nothing he wanted more than for Amanda to remember him; to look at him in her familiar way. Holding her last night, Rush closed his eyes and pretended they were back in the computer simulation and he and Mandy were finally together, finally one, and finally happy.

“Yes,” she whispered, drawing out of the hug. “Thank you. For everything.”

“Of course,” he smiled. “What are friends for?”

Shyly looking down at the floor, Mandy felt the quivering in her stomach and concentrated on the present instead of dwelling on thoughts of last night. Stepping back so they were no longer in physical contact, she knew they must face reality.

“I’m sure you have work to get back to now,” she said, disguising her disappointment even as she tried reconciling the fact she had to let him go.

“Will you be alright?”

“Yeah,” she said dismissively. “I’m fine now, thanks.”

“Anything you need, Mandy. You know that.”

Nodding, she forced a smile. “I do.”

Unable to resist, Rush moved forward to press a soft kiss to her cheek before taking his leave.

Shivers raced down her spine as Mandy put a hand to her cheek, smiling at the closed door. Rush was definitely growing on her sensibilities. Best not get her hopes up though.

With Rush gone, Mandy wondered how she would find a distraction. Thinking about Rush was a bad idea and remembering her nightmare only unsettled her nerves. After doing a few exercises, Mandy realized she needed more of an outlet.

Leaving her quarters, she soon found her way to a deserted part of the ship. Knowing the layout like the back of her hand, she started jogging in a loop around the empty corridor. By the time she finished, bathed in sweat, her bare feet ached. Breathing heavily, at least she felt better with the adrenaline and endorphins pumping through her system.

Finding her usual private section, Mandy took a mist shower while her clothing was laundered. Clean and dressed, she wondered how to fill the rest of her time. She needed an occupation, a task. If she didn’t find a way to pass the time, soon her boredom would drive her insane.

Wondering, letting her feet guide her, Mandy soon realized she was approaching the “wall of equations” as she called it. No one was here presently, so she walked to the section of empty space where she wrote her equation. Staring at the numbers and symbols, she tried making sense of what she wrote. There must be some kind of order in the chaos. Maybe there was a clue about who she really was hidden within the mystery.

Her eyes stared for what felt like hours, until her legs and back ached and her eyes started stinging. Letting out a long sigh, she decided no meanings were going to magically pop into her head. Going back to her quarters for a nap seemed like a good idea.

Consumed with her own thoughts, Mandy didn’t notice the other person in the corridor until they were nearly upon her. Gasping in surprise, seeing the other woman, Mandy’s automatic reaction was to offer a smile. The other woman – Amanda remembered her name was Vanessa – narrowed her eyes, giving Mandy a dirty look before looking straight ahead and flat out ignoring Mandy’s presence as she passed and continued on her way.

What did she ever do to Vanessa to deserve such treatment? Maybe she offended the woman in the past and couldn’t remember? Should she try talking to Vanessa and make peace?

Perhaps Mandy did nothing at all. There was a possibility everyone here was just afraid of her because they all assumed she was back from the dead somehow, but how was such a thing even possible?

Trying to brush off the discomfort Vanessa’s look caused, Mandy entered her quarters and stood in the middle of the room wondering how to fill her time. Boredom seemed to be a constant companion these days.

****

“Ok,” Young said at the morning briefing. “We seem to have several issues to address with regards to efficiency.”

Young looked to Camile. “All the requests were sent and materials are being gathered as we speak to come through the Langarian supply line, however, there are still some mathematical kinks to be worked out. So, once Destiny gets his first shipment of supplies, the powers that be want an analysis from both ends.”

Young turned his gaze to Eli. “We will run diagnostics on our end of the stargate of all data received before, during, and after the transportation.”

The Colonel then focused on Rush. “In the meantime, all repairs need to be taken care of ASAP. I need the ship functioning as best she can.”

Rush nodded, but didn’t unfold his arms from in front of his chest. “We are going as fast as we can, Colonel,” he stated dryly. “I don’t have a lot of personnel to spread around.”

“If we work the kinks out of the supply line, then maybe we can remedy the situation.”

Not liking the idea of intruders upon the ship, Rush refused to stay silent on the matter. “I would be very cautious about letting outsiders aboard. You never know who you can trust.”

Young came very close to rolling his eyes at the irony of those words coming from Rush’s mouth. “They would be Homeworld Command personnel, Rush.”

“So,” the scientist challenged.

When Young opened his mouth to argue, Camile cut him off. “Rush has a point,” she interjected. “What if we have more military on board than civilians? The situation could get heated. No one wants a repeat of-”

“I think we can all agree our present rules will stand,” Young cut in. “Any military personnel who come over to Destiny will be under my command.”

“Unless they send someone who outranks you,” Rush asserted.

Clenching his fists at his sides, Young wondered if he could get away with breaking Rush’s jaw. “That won’t happen.”

“Wait,” Camile piped up. “How do we know that? I’m sure Homeworld Command would love to get their claws fully into Destiny and use the ship for their own agenda, which would make all the civilians collateral damage.”

“I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen,” Young insisted.

“The decision may not be up to you,” Camile argued. “If the supply line does become stable enough to allow people access to Destiny on a one-way ticket, then we need to be very careful about who comes through that gate.”

Casting a glance in Rush’s direction, Young made clear he blamed the man for opening this can of worms. Dealing with Camile was, at times, just as bad as putting up with Rush’s nonsense. Returning his attention to Camile, he knew this matter needed to be defused.

“I will make you every promise I can that the order of operations on this ship will not change, that civilians will still have a say, but why don’t we cross that bridge if we ever get to it?”
“Colonel-” Camile started.

Looking to TJ, Young continued as if Camile never spoke. “Where are we on medical supplies?”

At first, Tamara looked nervous, glancing swiftly at Camile, but she answered her superior officer. “We are fully stocked for now. I can’t anticipate every need, but I feel confident we’re in good shape. Barring any kind of catastrophe, of course.”

“Good.”

“Colonel,” Camile started again. “I don’t take kindly to being rudely dismissed.”

Looking the woman directly in the eye, Young spoke sternly. “And I’ve given you my final word on the matter. Dismissed.”

The meeting was over.

Silently communicating to Young the subject was far from concluded, Camile marched out of the room. Rush quickly followed, but TJ lingered for a moment, wanting to say something to Everett, but in the end, the words wouldn’t leave her throat. Walking toward the door, she hoped he would say something to her instead, but her heart sank with the closing of the door. Heading back to the infirmary, she knew there was a lot of work to distract her from personal issues.

“Rush!”

Hearing his name, Rush glanced over his shoulder, pausing at the sight of Camile.

“What do you think about that debate in there,” she asked when she caught up to him.

“I don’t think it was a debate at all,” Rush shrugged. “Some tough questions were raised though.”

“Questions we may have to deal with sooner rather than later.”

“Then it would behoove us to have some leverage on our side, don’t you think?”

Crossing her arms over her chest, Camile raised a brow. “What sort of leverage are we talking about?”

Not wanting to give away all his secrets, the scientist simply gave a nonchalant shrug. “I’m sure we can think of something.”

Camile may be a civilian, but that didn’t mean he would automatically confide in her. No, he would keep his ideas and motives close to his chest.

Continuing on his way, Rush’s heart yearned for Mandy. If her memories were intact, he would go to her and bounce ideas back and forth to work out solutions. The realization that she was here with him, yet not at the same time, made his spirit ache in the strangest way.

There was hope. Rush needed to remember as long as Mandy was alive, there was hope. Mandy was here. All was not lost.

Chapter Text

“I don’t know,” Dale Volker told his friend and colleague. “I think he’s calmer.”

Brody let out a bark of laughter. “Yeah, right! He’s as hard-ass as ever!”

Bending to look inside an open conduit, Brody was half inside the wall trying to reroute one of the wires fueling a line to the FTL drive. Such delicate work required nimble hands, but his cramped a lot lately.

Leaning against the wall, busy detangling a section of wires and circuitry, Dale considered his friend’s words. Volker and Brody were assigned the task of updating and repairing the part of the engines and engineering systems that were breaking down across the board. Re-wiring came first, so naturally Rush gave orders and simply expected results. The undertaking was a massive one at best and would take weeks, if not months, to finish with only the two of them doing most of the work.

“At least he isn’t breathing down our necks,” Dale pointed out. “He’s too busy trying to help Dr. Perry.”

Brody clamped a black wire to a blue, only half paying attention. “How do you figure?”

“Whenever you need to find him, he’s always with her.”

“They do have a past,” Brody commented.

“Yeah, but have you seen her?” Dale shook his head. “She’s nothing like Rush at all.”

“Opposites attract,” Adam said as he eased out of the wall. “That one’s done.”

“Do you think Rush even has a heart? I mean, some of the things that come out of his mouth are off the charts. What does Dr. Perry see in him?”

“Obviously something,” Brody shrugged. “Or she did before she lost her memory. I wonder if I should make a move there.”

Dale snickered. “You’re not her type.”

“How do you know? She obviously likes science types and values intelligence. She’s pretty hot, too.”

“I don’t think she’s bringing plague and famine with her, so I don’t put stock in those circulating rumors. I’m happy for her, actually.”

Volker frowned in confusion. “Why?”

“She was paralyzed from the neck down for most of her life. Now she has a second chance. It’s a modern miracle.”

“Dr. Perry can start fresh, but do you think she’ll still choose Rush?”

“Why,” Brody asked as they continued down the corridor. “You finally thinking about moving past your crush on Park?”

Dale gave his friend a nasty look. “That’s not funny.”

“Neither is seeing your pine after her, man. She’s with Greer. Maybe you should find someone else.”

“Oh, yeah,” he asked sarcastically. “Like who?”

Thinking for a moment, Adam shrugged. “James is single,” he suggested. “Some nice assets there. Plus, she’d whip you into shape.”

Rolling his eyes, Dale stopped at the next conduit. Brody could joke around all he wanted, but he couldn’t just banish Lisa from his heart. Maybe one day he would get over her, or maybe she and Greer would break up. Besides, if a guy like Rush could get a woman like Dr. Perry to fall for him, then there was hope for them all.

“She’s hot though, too,” Brody continued as he helped Volker remove the paneling.

“Who,” Dale asked.

“Dr. Perry,” he answered. “Did not see that coming.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, only her consciousness was on board, so we never actually saw what she looked like. I have to say she’s a babe.”

“And that’s the last I expect you to say on the matter, Mr. Brody.”

Both men jumped at the sound of the sudden, stern accent sounding off the walls. Seeing Rush giving them one of his signature glares, Dale and Adam exchanged a quick look.

Brody cleared his throat. “We were just fixing the conduits as you asked-”

“And exchanging some friendly banter, is that it,” Rush asked in a clam, yet icy tone.

“We didn’t mean any harm,” Volker stated.

“No, of course not.” Rush studied the other man for several long seconds before looking back at Adam. “The two of you are vital to my team and to Destiny’s mission. We need to stick together and focus on the common goals ahead of us. Having said that, if I find out either of you upsets Dr. Perry in any way, I’ll beat you bloody. Understand?”

“Yeah,” Brody said, staring at Rush as if he didn’t recognize the man. “Sure.”

Was this the same guy who only cared about work? Volker gave Rush a hastily nod, realizing for the first time he wasn’t the only man smitten with a woman whom didn’t return his feelings. Seeing Rush in a slightly new light, Volker didn’t comment as the man inspected their work. They had to do several adjustments and re-wirings but finally Rush was satisfied and left them alone again.

“Wow,” Adam’s brows shot up his forehead. “He’s overprotective.”

“He’s in love,” Volker argued.

Barking out another laugh, Brody shook his head. “Rush? In love? Come on!”

Shrugging, Dale started down the corridor. “Think what you want.”

Standing there for a moment, Brody considered the phenomena of the high and mighty Dr. Nicolas Rush in love. The concept was too weird and strange for him to wrap is mind around, so he simply pushed the thoughts aside and followed his friend. He was pretty confident he could take Rush in a fight anyway.

****

Crumpling up another sheet of paper, squeezing his fingers tight until a ball shape formed and held, Eli threw the mass against the closest wall. He only met Rodney McKay once, when his consciousness as inside Brody, but Eli was pretty sure he could dance circles around the guy mathematically. Unfortunately, he was at the calculations all day and he still couldn’t find a solution.

The supply line was going to be limited for a while. Needing more space to work, Eli came to the equation hall to try and get a better mental picture of what he was dealing with, but his methods weren’t working. The test run was supposed to occur in the next few days and Eli wanted to be able to report some progress to Young.

Moving to the other spaces, his eyes fell on the equation Dr. Perry wrote. What was it, exactly? He wasn’t as proficient in Ancient as Rush, but maybe he could figure out where the puzzle pieces fit. Gazing over the numerals, Eli noticed there was a small bit added at the end. The handwriting was the same, so presumably Dr. Perry added some details. Did she even know what she was writing?

“Making any progress?”

Concentration interrupted, Eli glanced over his shoulder to see Rush walking up to him. Personally, Eli always got the impression Rush was an overbearing boss who wanted to find any excuse to make him do more work while docking his pay. Honestly, when they were all stuck on this ship for those first few weeks just trying to survive, he was afraid of the guy.

Lately, Eli felt like he was coming into his own. He was the one who solved the ninth chevron. He was smarter than Rush. Lately, that boost was fading with every equation he failed to solve. Of course, he would be damned if he would admit it to the guy.

“I’m fine,” Eli stated. He hoped Rush would keep on walking, but instead his skin itched when Rush stopped next to him to stare at the wall.

“Mandy wrote this,” Rush commented.

“I know.” Eli wasn’t a simpleton. He reasoned it out. “Any idea what it pertains to?”

“Any number of things.”

Glancing at Rush, Eli tried keeping the sarcasm to a minimum. “Aren’t you seeing to the engine repairs?”

“Dr. Volker and Dr. Brody have it all well in hand.”

Eli’s eyes widened. “You’re leaving them to do the work by themselves?”

“What?” Rush shrugged. “They’re more than capable. It’s this supply line I’m more worried about.”

Folding his arms over his chest, Eli knew Rush was up to something. His scheming was getting obvious. “I’m confident you would kill to get supplies from Earth on board.”

“Supplies, sure,” Rush responded without hesitation. “People, not so much.”

Letting out a sigh, Eli challenged Rush’s logic. “And what is wrong with having more people here to help us?”

“Regular people, maybe nothing.” Rush met Eli’s temper the way he did everything else: by showing off his superior logic and reasoning. “We need people on this ship we can trust and rely on, Eli.

Especially given the new secrets you yourself uncovered. Homeworld Command could send scientists and more military, but how long before they discover the ship’s true potential? They won’t understand what bonds us together or understand all the challenges we’ve faced. One slip and the Lucian Alliance is attacking - or the Nakai.”

“Colonel Young would never let that happen,” Eli insisted.

“But what if Homeworld Command sends someone who outranks him? What if they put someone else in charge? Then send more military? What do you think will happen? Where does that leave the civilian population?”

“Maybe you’re afraid of all the scenarios, Rush, but I’m not.” Eli refused to fall for Rush’s propaganda. They were in plenty of sticky situations before because Rush thought he was the boss and taking matters into his own hands. Personally, Eli wouldn’t mind if someone came on this ship and made Rush’s presence irrelevant.

On the other hand, Eli wasn’t so stubborn in his hatred that he didn’t see the real potential for disaster. If Homeworld Command could put whomever they wanted in charge, the situation could get very…complicated.

“What exactly are you saying?” Eli knew the implication, but he wanted to hear the words come out of Rush’s mouth.

“I’m simply showing you a bigger picture. I know you want to be Young’s go-to guy-”

“That has nothing to do with it,” Eli scoffed.

“- but there is more at stake here than just showing off what a genius you are.”

Shaking his head in disbelief, Eli struggled to grasp the fraying threads of his temper. “I’m not the one who strutted around this ship the first day claiming to be an expert! You’re the big man on campus that reads Ancient better than anyone else! The one who keeps secrets and starts rebellions!”

“Yeah, well, we might need my expertise if the worst happens and the so-called powers-that-be try taking Destiny away from us,” Rush snapped. “Think about that, Eli.”

Watching Rush stomp off, he should be relieved Rush was leaving him in peace to finish his work, except Eli still couldn’t concentrate! All those horrible scenarios played out in his head, making him doubt his course in this whole process.

What if Rush was right? What if higher authorities thought they could control Destiny? Would they try to get all of them home, or would they try exploiting what the Ancients built? Maybe he should talk to Colonel Young before crunching anymore numbers.

Moving back to Dr. Perry’s equations, Eli wondered if she knew some of the secrets of this ship. If she found a way to program the regeneration system, there was a possibility they could bring Ginn back! Even as his heart leapt at the idea, Eli knew he shouldn’t get his hopes up just yet. The priority here was getting the supply line fully functional and out of the experimental stages. Destiny would need this line if they hoped to continue their mission.

Once the line was taken care of, then Eli could put all of his focus on trying to find a way to save Ginn. He knew there could be future possibilities of a new love, but Eli’s thoughts always returned to Ginn. The kinos showed him a future with a different woman on the ship, and they were friends now, but Eli knew that timeline was not this reality. He figured since he wasn’t lost in a time loop, he owed it to Ginn to try and save her from her cruel fate.

The future was unknown, but Ginn deserved a chance to have one. He owed it to both of them to see if there was a possibility of a real chance for their relationship. Eli refused to give up, even if it meant dealing more closely with Rush and Dr. Perry.

Chapter Text

Greer showed her how to use the consoles to look up Destiny’s databanks and generate long term communications. Since Mandy didn’t have a clue about her family, she couldn’t produce enthusiasm for the communication aspect just yet. However, searching for information in the databanks was interesting. Learning basic information about some of the people on this ship could prove useful.

Nightmares still plagued her, as did the strange equations. Luckily, she didn’t have another horrific episode like she did that night with Rush. Now, when she dreamed of the dark void, she felt somewhat prepared for the dread and cold sweats. There were flashes of new images too, but Mandy was having trouble fitting all the pieces together.

During the last few days, she didn’t vary too far from her routine, except to get a meal once a day from the mess. However, she had yet to lay eyes on Rush these last three days. Logically, she knew he was busy because she heard the whispers about a supply line and all the work needed to make the project a reality. Mandy did not want to monopolize his time, but she missed his company.

A far cry from the annoyance she used to feel in his presence, Mandy discovered she felt safe and calm, actually enjoying their conversations. When did she suddenly feel like Rush was a necessary part of her life? Probably when she realized her attraction to him wasn’t a fleeting sensation.

Rush was friendly, and not afraid to be physical by hugging and touching her, but there was a clear boundary in place. Until she regained her memories, Mandy got the impression Rush would continue keeping her at arm’s length. Strangely enough, she craved those small touches, but was that due to her attraction, or was there a deeper underlining issue?

Mandy may not have her memories, but she was starting to get a sense of self. Obviously, she was shy and reserved. She didn’t easily trust and was weary of people, but all the underlining reasons were still a mystery.

Remembering Rush said they were friends; Mandy couldn’t help wondering how close their friendship really was. Rush didn’t see an issue with freely touching her when she first woke up in the infirmary. Though he was more hesitant now, Rush was still very comfortable with physical touch.

As much as she tried to think of other matters and push all thoughts of the man from her mind, Mandy kept coming back around to him. Today in her wanderings, she learned the supplies they ordered would be arriving through the gate if everything went off without a hitch. As a result, there was excitement in the air, or residual happiness of relief spreading infectiously throughout the ship.

Honestly, Mandy was excited as well. Getting some shoes would be nice. Then again, in bare feet, she could move around soundlessly, which did have many advantages. A change of clothes would be more welcome. She as rather bored of this outfit and she didn’t feel comfortable.

The Colonel came across the intercom, nearly startling Amanda out of her skin, announcing to the crew the time to come to the gate room and pick up supplies. Mandy decided to arrive later and blend into the back of the crowd. The fewer who knew of her existence, the better.

Lingering in the shadows, Mandy’s footfalls were extra cautious, her movements purposely fluid and circumspect to avoid attention. She recognized a few faces in the crowd, but most of those she knew were either up front by the stargate, or manning the controls. Ears perking, she watched earnestly as the orders were given and the gate started dialing.

Seeing the flash, the wormhole shooting out before retreating back into the gateway, still astounded her. The connection between this ship and another planet billions of light years away was really being established and held? The concept seemed impossible, yet it was happening right before her eyes!

An instant later, simple brown, labelled boxes came through the gate. A few soldiers, including Greer and Scott, stood on the platform, catching the deliveries and piling them to the side as more emerged. The method was rudimentary at best, but in the end, everyone seemed to have a package.

Colonel Young moved to address the crowd, telling everyone to examine the contents of their boxes and make sure all was in order. One at a time, names were called and people stepped forward to claim their new possessions. Many faces bore smiles of excitement and relief, while others remained serious. A few displayed open elation.

Slowly, but surely, the crowd thinned as everyone received packages and went on their way. Mandy did not want to be called forward in front of so many people, but when the pile dwindled to a dozen or so, she started to wonder. Finally, only the senior crew was left and they all claimed their parcels. Heart sinking to her knees, Mandy realized she was overlooked. There wasn’t a package with her name. Hurt grew a lump in her throat, but she swallowed hard. What good would crying do?

Watching Rush, Greer, and others open and sort through the contents of their boxes, Mandy thought it wise to make a discrete exit. Hopefully, she could leave quietly with no one noticing. Unfortunately, she started for the door just as Rush called her name. Pausing at the threshold, looking over her shoulder, she was poised to make a run for it. She probably would have if she didn’t see Rush flagging her over.

Fingers clasping, Mandy took one hesitant step forward, then another, until she as standing a few feet away from the rest of the group. Her eyes shifted away from Rush when the Colonel st\arted speaking.

“Dr. Perry,” he began. “We were not able to submit your list.”

Blinking rapidly, she wasn’t sure why she was surprised. They never fully accepted her. Shifting on her bare feet, she found her voice. “Why not?”

“Once you regain your memories, I’m sure the reason will become obvious. However, no one is supposed to know you’re among us, so we can’t let anyone outside this ship know of your existence.”

Frowning, Mandy glanced at Rush, then back at the Colonel. “I don’t understand.”

“Hopefully, you will in time. Since you are in need of supplies like everyone else, we sacrificed one item on each of our lists for one of yours. Now, we don’t have everything you requested, but we’re working on it.”

Why did the Colonel make the words sound like an obligation? Feeling lectured and confused, she wasn’t sure what to say or how to act.

“We made sure you weren’t forgotten.”

Hearing Rush’s softly spoken words, Mandy visibly relaxed as she turned to take in his expression. Seeing the shoes and the change of clothes he held out to her, she accepted the items with shaking hands, looking down in disbelief before turning to give a nod of thanks to everyone gathered.

“Thank you,” she said sincerely. “I’m grateful.”

“Sure,” Greer spoke wearing a grin. “You’re one of us, doc.”

When Greer gave her a pat on the shoulder before leaving the gate room, Mandy was comforted, but the sensation only lasted a few seconds. Greer may claim she was one of them, but obviously Scott, Camile, and Eli didn’t share the opinion. Colonel Young looked skeptical, so the only one really giving her the benefit of any doubt was TJ.

One by one, they all left the room, until only Rush and Mandy remained. Seeing her confusion and uncertainty, Rush wished he knew what to say to put her mind at ease. The Colonel was rather harsh with her just now, especially knowing she didn’t understand what was happening.

“If you need anything else, let me know and we can make arrangements.”

Forcing a smile, Mandy thanked him once again before heading on her way. As much as she wanted to linger and talk to him, her nerves kicked into overdrive, scaring her enough to ignite her flight instinct. Only when she was back in her quarters did she examine the contents of what was given to her.

Trying on the shoes, pleasantly surprised to see they fit; Mandy started pacing to break them in. The back of the shoes scraped against her Achilles tendon, staffing her skin. Walking the full length of her quarters several times, Mandy couldn’t shake how odd the shoes felt on her feet.

Strange, even if she didn’t remember her past, wouldn’t her muscle memory kick in where wearing shoes was concerned? After about two minutes of trying to break them in, Mandy slipped the flats off her feet, turning her attention to the change of clothes. The skirt was made of a layered, cotton-like material which fit comfortably. The oversized neutral colored shirt was made of the same fabric, matched the skirt, and fit well, but gave her plenty of room for movement.

Grateful for the change of undergarments, Mandy decided to break in her new clothes for the rest of the day. She dared only leave her room to wash her old outfit; a process that didn’t take more than a few minutes. The Ancients who built this ship were very efficient.

Safe in her rooms once again, Mandy wasn’t sure what to do with her time. Remembering how lonely and horrible she felt when she assumed no one remembered her list, Mandy wasn’t sure what caused them to treat her with such kindness. The Colonel said no one could know she was here, but she didn’t know why.

Why did everyone keep the details from her? What did she do that was so wrong? Why couldn’t she remember?!

Frustrated, Mandy let out a violent growl as her hands yanked at her hair. All she dreamt about was nightmares and her memory was a blank canvas! Being scared and nervous, and mostly friendless, was not helping ease her sense of isolation.

Desperate for answers, yet too angry at those around her to ask for help, Mandy wasn’t sure what came next. Lying down on the bed, she grabbed her iPod and headphones. Closing her eyes, she focused on the music, hoping some notes and melodies would ignite a spark of memory. Just a hint! All she needed was one clue and maybe the world would make sense!

****

The atmosphere around the ship vastly improved since the test run of the supply line went according to plan. Eli was still working out the math, but he purposely tried to go slow and take the time to weigh the consequences of having new personnel on board. The only people who had their guard up these days were Young and Rush, which didn’t bode well. At the same time, Rush’s focus was split between the mission, the repairs, the supply line, and the “ghost” still wandering the ship.

Once he paid attention, Eli noticed just how many people jumped on the bandwagon to make fun of Dr. Perry. Because of what happened to Ginn, Eli couldn’t warm up to her, but that didn’t mean he would mock her circumstances. Sadly enough, Lt. James was the ringleader telling jokes and calling names, urging the others who were weary of Dr. Perry to chime in. A lot of the military followed her lead, unless Greer was around, naturally.

On the civilian side, most were happy to laugh along, but they left Dr. Perry alone if they did happen to cross her path. Volker and Brody were her advocates, pointing out to all who would listen that Rush was a much better guy to be around since she came back.

Upon closer observation, Eli had to agree. Rush worked as hard as ever, but he didn’t snap as much, or belittle people when he gave orders. In fact, he left everyone alone more often to get his work done, which suited the science team just fine. Maybe having Rush in love would behoove them all.

****

Sitting in the mess hall wearing her new clothes, feeling fresh, Camile was happy to chat with Chloe and TJ. At the next table, bombastic laughter erupted, causing everyone to look over at the display of Lt. James and several others doubling over laughing at a joke.

Mocking Dr. Perry behind her back wasn’t new for those guys. Hearing them now, Camile felt guilty for not trying to help the woman adjust when she first came back. Having been inside Dr. Perry’s body for several weeks, she understood the fear and frustration James went through when she made the switch. Camile still had nightmares about being paralyzed. However, she felt her fears justified. James traded consciousnesses with Dr. Perry for what? A minute? Was a minute all it took for such resentment to fester?

Though Chloe tried to look as if she was above the nonsense, she did smile and snicker at a few of the puns. TJ, on the other hand, quietly got up and left the hall. Camile and Chloe exchanged looks, but in the end, went back to eating without saying a word. In the background, James and her posse continued laughing.

Chapter Text

Leaning away from the bowl, trying to take in deep breaths, Mandy wiped at her mouth, then at her forehead. How could her dreams be real? Yet, how could they not? Even now the vivid images replayed behind her eyes, showing her visions she knew in her very bones were real, but that her logical mind vigorously denied.

Gasping for air, Mandy tried swallowing the painful lump in her throat. Fighting back tears, even as images and sensations assaulted her senses, she knew crying would only make her feel more lost and disconnected. Inhaling deep, calming breaths, she swept the cold sweat off her forehead and leaned back against the cold tile wall.

Feeling the shivers play across her skin was oddly comforting. Folding her arms, her hands smoothed up and down her skin as if to make sure she could still feel the touch of her fingertips. Her mind was active, unable to banish the sequences of events in her dream, which she suspected wasn’t a dream at all.

The jolt of the car flipping through the air made her heart slam in her chest as her stomach fall to her knees. Did she cry out a scream of fear, or was she too shocked to make a sound? The stab of pain on impact vibrated through her whole body just before she tasted copper in her mouth. The suffocating stench of smoke assaulted her nose, while the hiss of crushing, twisting metal acutely echoed in her ears as blood continued filling her mouth. True fear gripped her being seconds before she lost consciousness.

The accident. Oh, God, that day! Tears streamed down Mandy’s cheeks as she fought back more waves of nausea. Clinging to the cold sensation pressing into her back and beneath her bare feet, she couldn’t prevent the memories from surfacing.

Waking up in that white room feeling numb, she tried to scream, but there were tubes down her throat - in her arms and chest and other areas. Odd that she could see but not feel them. What happened? Where was she?

An eternity passed before nurses came to check on her; their faces wearing expressions she would come to know well. The doctor was less concerting. His tone was very clinical and matter-of-fact while speaking about her injuries. In fact, heartless to a small nine-year-old girl who didn’t fully understand.

The realization that she would no longer be able to run outside and play in the sun, or ride her bike, or even feed herself was devastating. And there was no cure. She would be paralyzed from the neck down for the rest of her life. Doing everyday tasks as simple as breathing on her own was now impossible. Mandy would never window shop at the mall, or dance at her prom. She would never again feel the comfort of someone holding her hand. Her whole life was stolen from her in a single instant. An instant that was none of her doing and out of her control.

Crying and screaming about the unfairness of it all didn’t change the reality. Hell, she couldn’t properly scream anymore. Denying her circumstances, no matter how much she tried to wish it all away, was fruitless. There was no choice but to relearn how to function, how to exist, with her disability and find a place in a world that treated her as if she was invisible.

Nurses were on hand to deal with her…biological issues. They also bathed and clothed her. The sham and humiliating embarrassment of this process forced anger to take root in her chest, which solidified into resentment. Mandy felt like she lost her dignity along with her ability to move.

Worse was the way people treated her in the aftermath of her recovery. Beneath the injuries, Mandy was still the same person, but no one saw that fact. The doctors spoke about her, but never to her. She many as well be a vase on a table or a picture on the wall! They acted as if she no longer possessed a brain because she didn’t have the capabilities they did. The rest – even her own parents – looked at her with pity; if they bothered to turn their attention to her at all. Everyone tried telling her she would adjust and be alright, but Mandy knew they were lying. How could anything ever be alright ever again?

As time passed, Mandy learned to use her chair and even get used to her nurse, but she continued to feel like a prisoner in her own body. Meeting new people proved difficult because she didn’t want to endure the callous or indifferent looks of silently judgmental strangers. Mandy noticed a pattern after a while. At first, a new acquaintance would look at her with fear and disgust, or a mixture of the two. Once they became used to her, the pity for her limited existence took form in their eyes. Mandy would then see the relief. Relief because she was sitting in the chair and not them. It often took people a while to see her as an individual with feelings and a personality instead of a disabled quadriplegic.

Activates were limited, but her mind and imagination were as capable as ever. As part of her therapy, Amanda was pushed to explore her interests and talents in academia and, to her surprise, she excelled. Mandy always loved numbers, puzzles and equations. Studying hard, she carved a place for herself in the scientific field. Science, calculus, physics, even quantum mechanics were all challenges she easily surmounted. Mixing her knowledge in those areas with engineering opened several doors. At a young age, she worked on some big projects for Homeworld Command and even a few corporations.

Not feeling so helpless anymore, Mandy continued rising to the next challenge in her field. Figuring out how to make engines more energy efficient with faster performance led her to study hyper drives and along the way, discovered History and the work of the Ancients. Fascinated, Amanda spent hours poring over texts and data on the subject and learning the language. How could the workings of a superior, mysterious race with advanced technology be anything less than extraordinary?

Studying kept her mind occupied and productive so she didn’t focus on her limitations. This newfound love of the Ancients, as well as her scientific expertise, led her to become acquainted with Dr. Nicholas Rush. Upon their very first meeting, Mandy could tell he was different. Nicholas was the only person who spoke to her as if she was a normal, regular person. In his eyes, she was no different from anyone else. After their first meeting, where Nicholas spoke to her with such unconditional acceptance, she went home and cried happy tears of thankful disbelief and wonder.

At first, they were acquaintances who contacted one another if they had work related conundrums and need advice. The contact was sporadic, but Mandy would leave every encounter with a smile on her face. The way Dr. Rush treated her, the way he made her feel so normal and worthy of praise, was addicting. She started counting the hours between their talks, yearning for the next and the next, hardly able to hold in her anticipation of seeing him again, whether it be through communication on screen or in person.

As a teenager, of course she was thrilled such a renowned and accomplished man thought she had value and possessed a strong mind capable of keeping up with him. Even more flattering was being able to contribute to his work. How could she not like him?

Of course, Mandy knew nothing could come from her infatuation, but where was the harm in imagining? Holding her hopes close to her heart, she soon became addicted to every correspondence. Hope and faith is what kept her going day after day.

Still cold and damp, Mandy struggled to keep one more memory in the forefront of her mind, but it scattered before she could get a good grip. Inhaling an unsteady breath, she struggled with her tears. The dream felt too vivid to be just the random imaginings of her subconscious. Yet, if the dream was a memory, how did she get here on this ship? More importantly, how was she able to function? Was there a cure after all? Did the Ancients have a way to fix her spine? And was Rush so familiar with her because he remembered their friendship?

Closing her eyes, Amanda was fully aware of her growing attraction to Rush. Drawn to him more and more as she wondered what all her blossoming feelings could mean, she slowly came to realize these feelings may not be so new after all. Mandy carried the burden of unrequited love within her for quite a while now. There was more to the tale, but she the details remained blurred. All she knew was the pain and sorrow of those years in the chair and how her one escape was a man who held the key to all her secrets.

Even as she wiped hot tears from her cheeks, Amanda knew she should get up off the floor. She should face this dream, or memory, or whatever it was and ask Rush if there was any accuracy to her theory. Yet, her body wouldn’t obey her commands. Forgetting how to move, she wasn’t sure if the cause was simply shock or something more.

Mandy didn’t want to be caught in such a vulnerable place, but being so far away from the rest of the crew should mean she was safe. Closing her eyes, she tried focusing on the images and recalling details. Losing track of time, Mandy’s eyes snapped open hearing approaching footsteps. Fear lurched in her veins, but then settled recognizing Rush.

Her first instinct was to reach out to him and hold him close, but then she remembered he did not feel the same for her as she did for him. Remaining still as he moved to her side, Amanda wished to be left in peace and spared her embarrassment. She still couldn’t move and didn’t know why. Having Rush run to her side, she felt humiliation squeeze her chest.

“Mandy!”

The first glimpse of her pale, greyish skin, the sweat on her brow, made Rush’s hear pound painfully. Mandy looked ill. By her side a second later, he took her hand and squeezed her fingers as he asked what was wrong. Mandy’s only response was a shake of her head.

“Can you get up,” he urgently asked. “Come on, I’ll help you back to your quarters.”

“I’ve forgotten how,” she murmured more to herself than to him.

Forcing down his own panic, Rush’s gaze searched her for any sign of injury. Seeing none, he cupped her cheek, forcing her eyes to meet his. “Mandy, tell me what happened,” he gently encouraged.

Lower lip trembling, she tried to answer his question, but she couldn’t find the right words. Stomach twisting into knots of quivering, nervous panic, she fought to find her voice. “I…I had a b-bad dream,” she started.

“Ok, ok.” Rush offered her a light smile. A dream meant she was just scared and nothing physical was wrong. Still, he should make sure. “Squeeze my fingers,” he instructed. “Just a little bit.”

Concentrating, Mandy managed to do as he asked, seeing him visibly relax, and the relief flooding his eyes. Mandy was glad she could not only command her fingers to do as he asked, but also that she could put him at ease. A very strange sensation of wanting to comfort Rush flooded her bloodstream. As much as she wanted to say more and move to stand, Mandy just couldn’t shake the terrifying paralysis keeping her in place.

Seeing her struggle, pushing down his own fear, Rush grabbed his radio and called TJ. He gave her directions to this bathroom and waited. Brushing Amanda’s damp brown hair away from her face, Rush wanted to scoop her up in his arms and carry her back to her quarters to tend to her properly, but needed to be sure Mandy was unharmed before moving her.

“Tell me what’s wrong,” he softly implored. “How did this happen?”

Shaking her head, feeling the cold from the floor seeping into her skin and gripping her bones, Mandy’s couldn’t hold back the shivers. Unable to stop, she squeezed his hand tighter. Locking her gaze with his, she saw he wanted to do more to comfort her, but was afraid to touch her.

Why? Why was Rush afraid? Because she was different? Because there was something wrong with her after all?

“R-R-Rush?”

“It’s alright,” he crooned as he cupped her face, his thumbs caressing her skin.

He was going to say more, but TJ entered the room, going straight to Mandy’s side, asking what happened as she took the shivering woman’s vitals. The small comfort of Rush’s warm hands ripped away from her skin, causing Mandy to feel bereft.

“I found her like this,” Rush supplied. “She says she had a dream and now she can’t move.”

Nodding, TJ turned her attention to Mandy. The shivering was getting worse. “She’s in shock,” TJ declared. “We need to get her back to her quarters and get her warm.”

Without hesitation, Rush scooped Mandy up in his arms. As he carried her back to her room, TJ followed at his side. Rush felt Mandy burrow close, nuzzling into his chest and wished she was doing so under very different circumstances. Amanda didn’t resist when Rush put her to bed, but she refused to close her eyes. She didn’t want to sleep.

“Mandy,” TJ said softly. “We need you to take care of yourself. Rest and regular meals are a must.”

“But the nightmares-”

“I’ll stay,” Rush said quickly. “I’ll be here in case you wake up.”

Heart easing, she studied his face. Such a distinguished, handsome face. The last time Rush stayed with her, the dreams stayed far way. “Alright,” she whispered.

TJ looked to Rush, then back to Mandy, but she may as well have been invisible. Whether the pair acknowledged it or not, they were too wrapped up in their own world to realize she was giving Mandy a sedative.

Waiting until she saw Dr. Perry falling under the effects of the drug, TJ turned to Rush to give general instructions. “She should be out for a few hours. Keep her warm and make sure she eats when she wakes up. If she is still in distress, being her to the infirmary.”

“Is she…physically alright?”

TJ nodded, empathy filling her expression. “From what I can tell, her body is fine. She isn’t paralyzed, Rush,” she said with confidence. “She probably had a dream remembering that she was at one point, which could explain her shock and confusion.”

Rush blinked with hopeful eyes. “You mean a memory?’

“Maybe.”

Sighing, Rush stroked Mandy’s fingers. “Remembering she was a prisoner in her own body must have been terrifying; especially without context.”

“Hey, she’ll be fine,” TJ assured him.

Giving a nod, Rush thanked the medic before focusing all attention on Mandy. If she was remembering being her past, he wanted to be here for her every step of the way.

Chapter Text

Waking up warm and content, she nearly forgot about the horrible dream that terrified her to the point of humiliation in that bathroom. Rush wouldn’t judge her, she knew, but she wasn’t sure about TJ. She was worried, but for now, Mandy only wanted to burrow closer to Rush’s warmth and pretend they didn’t still have a chasm between them.

Feeling Rush’s arms around her, Mandy felt more and more with each passing second that her dream was not a dream, but a series of memories. There was so much more was still locked away from her, and these memories were not what she expected. In fact, Mandy only had more questions.

Listening to Rush’s heartbeat, she smiled. He was alive and warm and felt so wonderful curled around her body, but a moment later, her smile faded. Gently untangling from his hold, Mandy felt her cheeks flush. What was she feeling? Needing some space, she tip-toed out of the room.

The sound of the opening and closing door stirred Rush from his sleep. Rolling over, he clutched his pillow closer, forgetting he wasn’t in his own quarters because he was in the middle of the sweetest dream. Mandy was here and alive and in his arms. How much longer he slept, he wasn’t certain, but when he did wake up Mandy was gone when she should be by his side. Heart racing, he called her name as he got to his feet.

She wasn’t here, but Rush intended to go find her when his radio went off. At first, Rush ignored the summons, but then it was made apparent that Volker and Body couldn’t function on their own, so he had to go. Leaving Mandy a note, Rush grabbed his shoes and headed out the door. The work and repairs did take time, but turned out to be a good distraction for a while, but Mandy was never far from his thoughts. Was she well after the scare she experienced last night? Was she remembering more of her past?

As much as he hoped she was recovering, he still wanted to ensure Mandy wasn’t overwhelmed with too much, too fast. The moment he was free from duty, Rush made a silent promise to visit her and make sure all was well. For the moment, he needed to focus on the engines and not allow any problems to bypass him. Destiny needed to be in tip-top shape.

Rush barked at his team and got his hands dirty for several hours before the scheduled repairs were finished. More calculations needed to be done, but right now, he wanted to get clean. Rush changed his clothes, trying on a new pair of jeans and a white, button down shirt. Feeling slightly odd being in new clothes after wearing the same thing for so long, but at the same time, felt good to have something different.

There was still work to be done, so Rush resisted the urge to check on Mandy. He did not want her to feel like he was pushing too hard. He would check on her later, but he couldn’t look too obvious. For now, he needed to get some math out of the way.

****

Returning to her quarters to find Rush gone and only a note in his place, Mandy let out a heavy sigh. She still felt embarrassed over what happened last night and thought maybe it was for the best that Rush left when he did.

Mandy was grateful be stayed with her through the night. Rush simply holding her, surrounding her with warmth, was enough to keep the nightmares at bay. As much as Mandy wanted to cling to him, she knew she could not ask so much of the man. He did have other responsibilities. As the same time, it was becoming harder and harder for her to resist the inexplicable force pulling her toward Rush like a moth to a flame.

Rush did tell her details of his past, but there were still holes she wanted filled. Accessing the database, Mandy soaked up what she could on Rush, surprised by the amount of information she did find. The list of credentials was impressive, as were his accomplishments. His file did mention his deceased wife, which only gave Mandy more anxiety. Rush told her he was married during one of their first talks. If her dream/memory was accurate, then she knew when she met him, but still fell for the guy anyway. Did he still love his wife? Did it even matter when she was pretty sure her love for Rush was unrequited anyway?

Raking a hand through her hair, restlessness fueled her movements as she paced her quarters. Needing another puzzle to mull over, she grabbed her nearly full notebook, slipped her shoes on her feet, and headed for the equations hall. Luckily, no one was around to bother her or ask questions. Walking up to her part of the board, her gaze stared at the numbers and symbols for a long moment before opening her notebook to where the same equation was written. Finding a piece of chalk, she transferred the scribble from the paper to the board, hoping that the process would force something to click in her brain and make sense.

Losing track of time, Mandy became so lost in the work she didn’t notice the person entering the hall from the other end of the corridor. However, Rush noticed her immediately and hesitated to move any closer. The last thing he wanted to do was frighten her, but the same time, his feet moved of their own accord.

His heart leapt with joy and relief seeing Mandy well and no more worse for wear after last night. In fact, she almost looked like her old self as she puzzled over the mathematics. Moving quietly to her side, Rush attempted stealth, but Mandy sensed his presence and glanced in his direction. Seeing the smile come to her face, he relaxed.

“Hello,” she greeted.

“Hey.” Rush moved to her side, looking to the wall. “Any idea what it means yet?”

“No,” she sighed. “It’s all gibberish to me.”

“Well,” Rush pointed to a series of numbers and symbols. “This part here looks like a programming sequence, but the Ancient is tough to decipher.” He pointed to another section. “This looks like a DNA sequence.”

Blinking, she was impressed. “DNA? You can tell that just by looking?”

“Well, sort of,” he smiled. “Math is like a language unto itself and sometimes you can see patterns. Whose DNA, I’m not sure. It would take some research.”

“I wish I knew what it all meant,” she sighed.

“It will come to you in time,” he assured her.

“Maybe.” Putting down the chalk, then brushing her hands together to get rid of the excess, Mandy forced her gaze to meet his. Doing her best to ignore the butterflies rising in her stomach, she offered a grateful smile.

“Rush, I wanted to thank you for your help-”

“No need,” he interrupted with a wave of his hand. “It’s what friends do.”

Every word was genuine, which warmed her heart. “No judgment, right?”

“Right.” Smiling, Rush itched to reach for her hand, but pushing too far, too fast could be disastrous. “I know this is difficult for you, but I’m here if you need to talk.”

“Thank you,” Mandy said sincerely. “It means a lot to have a friend.”

“We do go way back,” he reminded.

“Then I won’t be out of line wishing you a Happy Birthday?”

Blinking rapidly, a smile broadened across his face. “You remembered?”

“Actually, I was catching up on my reading about the ship and I found the information in the database. If I looked earlier, I would have tried getting you a gift-”

“No,” he said thickly. Inhaling a deep breath, Rush finally met her eyes. “There’s no need to get me anything.”

“Why not,” she laughed. “Everyone should have something special on their birthday.”

“I already do.” Continuing to hold her gaze, Rush couldn’t stop the coming words if he tried. “The universe already gave me the most amazing, miraculous gift I could have ever dreamed of. I have my best friend back and that’s all that matters.”

Touched, her breath hitched in her throat. The moment was so intense that she dared hope. “Do you mean me?”

Seeing his nod, Mandy acted on impulse; moving to wrap her arms around his neck and hold him tight. Feeling his arms circle her, embracing her with the same intensity, she dared hope for more between them than just friendship.

Rubbing her thumbs against the back of his neck, Mandy realized how much she enjoyed the sensation of being in his arms. The tingles of heat and awareness spreading across her skin, seeping into her bones, probably felt so intense because she remembered being unable to feel a single sensation at all. Rush was holding her so close that she could feel the press of his flesh against hers, but didn’t care. She wanted to hold on while raking her fingers through his hair and calling him hers.

Just as quickly a sense of warning went off in her head. Instinct had her body jerk with shock as she drew out of his arms. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “That was intrusive-”

“No,” Rush shook his head, reaching out to cup her face. “Not at all.”

“I don’t want to cross any lines-”

“Mandy,” he said with a smile. “We are good friends. I liked the hug. No shame, remember?”

“Yes.” Wishing she didn’t feel so shy, Mandy couldn’t shake off the sensation. Her cheeks flushed, but when he took her hand in his strong, calloused fingers, Mandy didn’t resist. Being around Rush made her feel giddy and nervous all at once. Yes, they were friends, and she was grateful, but lately her body craved more. Mandy felt her body slowly awakening and recognizing Rush little by little as her other half. Whether or not he felt the same was the question.

Perhaps there was a time when she could read Rush like a book, but the skill was now lost to her. Mandy would have to rely on her own instincts, which admittedly, could very well lead her astray. Once minute she craved Rush’s mouth over hers and the next she felt certain she needed to keep her distance so she wouldn’t hurt him. The conflict was confusing to say the least.

To break the lingering silence, she dared ask a general question she hoped would ease the tension. “Am I allowed to ask how old you are?”

Chuckling, his gaze fell to their joined hands. Just having Mandy here with him in the flesh was gift enough, even if she didn’t fully remember him, so he could cherish the moment. Keeping the mood light, he gave the back of her hand a quick kiss.

“Well, that’s a tricky question to answer, isn’t it?”

Feeling thrills of sensation race through her bloodstream at his touch, Mandy did her best to focus. “Why is that?”

“Well, we were in stasis for nearly three years, so our bodies were pretty much frozen and preserved. I don’t think we aged. If we did, it wasn’t by much, and certainly not by the usual measurements.”

Mandy wasn’t fooled. “What a clever way of avoiding the question,” she joked.

“And how old are you, missy?”

“I don’t remember,” she laughed. “I have a good excuse.”

“Mine is good,” Rush said, feigning offense. “It’s an actual conundrum. How much did I age in stasis, if at all?”

“Ok,” Mandy’s eyes shined with amusement. “How old would you be if you never went into stasis?”

“You really want to know?"

She nodded.

Rush crooked a finger for her to lean closer, then whispered the number in her ear.

The tickle of his breath on her skin made her giggle. “A wretched age,” she teased. “I’m amazed you are still with us.”

“You’re a cruel one, aren’t you,” he teased back as he grabbed her around the waist and pulled her in for another hug. Laughing, the couple was in no hurry to let go. They loved being together and holding each other.

Grasping for breath, Mandy eased back, meeting his eyes. She was about to say something, but the words flew out of her head when the air thickened and awareness mixed with desire hummed through her veins. Inching closer, her heart pounded in her ears as she wished for Rush to kiss her. Just once. Just a little taste. Eyelashes fluttering closed, Mandy could feel his warm breath on her cheek. A little closer and -

“Rush! We need you on the bridge!”

Snapping out of the moment, cursing under his breath, Rush snatched his radio, more than ready to kill the messenger. “What is it, Mr. Volker,” he barked.

“We have the results of that diagnostic you wanted.”

“Can it wait,” he snapped.

“Ah, you’re probably going to want to see this.”

Stifling more curses, he looked to Mandy. The moment was ruined so there was no point in salvaging it now. “I shouldn’t be gone long, if you want to wait,” he offered.

“Um, I actually have other things I-”

“Fine,” Rush said as he let his arms fall to his sides. “I’ll see you later then?”

Giving him a smile and a nod, Amanda watched Rush head down the corridor wanting desperately to call him back, but knew it would be unfair to keep him from his work. There would be more opportunities for them. Hopefully. Casting aside her own disappointment, Mandy walked back to her quarters on weakened knees.

Chapter Text

“McKay!”

Boots stomping on the polished tile, fists clenched at his sides, Telford marched into the scientist’s office, slamming the door behind him. “Your report was due on my desk twelve hours ago!”

Rolling his eyes and biting back a retort, McKay went back to shuffling papers. There was an important equation he wrote down…now where did it go in this mess? “As you can see,” he started, “I’ve been busy.”

Unimpressed, Telford’s gaze narrowed. “We need to know when it’s safe to send people through the gate.”

“That probably won’t be for a long while,” McKay responded offhandedly.

Clenching his fits at his sides, Telford barely resisted screaming at the top of his lungs, ordering the man to get the job done right! It’s been almost a week! The test shipment went over without a hitch! So, why was it taking so long for the so-called geniuses on this project to analyze the data and find a solution?

“McKay,” Telford growled. “Need I remind you about our long term goals, here?”

“Look, I gave you a huge breakthrough when I figured out how to dial the ninth chevron without blowing up a whole planet! I think you can cut me a little slack!”

The only reason Telford didn’t let loose on the guy was because he needed him. McKay was unmatched in his field and those few who were equal to this task were already on board Destiny. Speaking of which… “Have you heard from Eli Wallace? Any theories on his end?”

McKay shrugged. “My last subspace communication was a few days ago,” he spoke on automatic since his mind focused on finding that piece of paper. Finally uncovering it, a huge grin spread across his face. “Eureka!”

“Is that the miracle solution that’s going to allow me to send proper personnel to Destiny,” Telford asked dryly.

“Well, no.” Rodney shook his head. “It’s for a different algorithm for-”

“I’m not interested,” Telford snapped. “I just want to know about phase two.”

“Well, the crew hasn’t sent any more requests as of an hour ago. Last I heard, they needed to find a planet with some food and herbs.”

Ready to blow a gasket, Telford gritted his teeth, fighting for calm. “Herbs? We just sent them medical supplies!”

“Well, they apparently know what they are looking for and what properties aid in what medication. Personally, I really don’t understand the study of herbology as a science or medical field. It’s interesting, don’t get me wrong, but-”

“McKay!”

Looking at Telford as if seeing him for the first time, Rodney blinked. “Yes?”

“When will you have answers for me?”

“Hard to say,” he confessed. “If the Langarans remain hospitable, then maybe a few weeks to a month.”

Telford’s eyes nearly popped out of his head. “What?”

“It’s a long process. First, we need to pinpoint why live biological material isn’t currently compatible with the frequency-”

“McKay,” Telford interrupted. “I need this to work.”

“We’ll figure it out. Just be patient.”

McKay was lecturing him on patience?! Easy for him to say! Lips thinning, Telford barely managed to keep his thoughts to himself. Marching out the door, slamming it behind him, he stomped back to his office. The moment he was behind closed doors, his fingers pressed his temples. Rubbing gently, he closed his eyes and tried resisting smacking the wall.

The big wigs kept blabbering about making Destiny a priority. There was stiff competition, but if he played his cars right, David knew he could get the assignment. Oh, he would love have one up on Young for once! Though they were friends, they were also each other’s competition, and David was of the opinion, like many at Homeworld Command, that Everett was simply at the wrong place at the right time. The man wouldn’t have been a first choice under normal circumstances.

Woolsey was on his ass, constantly telling him to be as diplomatic and hospitable to the Langarans as possible. Telford may not be a politician, but he knew how to so his job. The Langarans were safe and would continue to be so. The Lucian Alliance remained very, very quiet lately. Maybe they were defeated, or maybe they were keeping their eye on the situation as they regrouped.

Langara was now a major asset because having a link to one of the most valuable Ancient puzzles to be discovered to date changed the whole game. Telford wanted his name in the History books and that ship was the key to glory. He just had to figure out how to get back on board.

****

She should be used to the cold fear by now. Waking up from a vivid nightmare always felt the same, yet every cycle of waking slammed like a new shock through her being. Fighting to catch her breath, Mandy put a hand over her pounding heart, wishing her mind would stop torturing her this way!

Why couldn’t she get hit on the head and have all of her memories flood back at once instead of dreaming separate scenes that left her sweat soaking the sheets? Raking her hair away from her face, Mandy rose unsteadily to her feet. Moving through her normal routine of washing and dressing, she couldn’t get the dream out of her mind. The scene that stuck out most showed the day her parents dumped her in a “facility” a year after the accident, saying they could not keep up the expense of her care.

The truth was, her parents were ashamed of having a handicapped child. They were quite social and felt Mandy intruded on their time far too much, while hindering their ability to properly entertain. They didn’t put her behind stone walls for her own good, no; the harsh truth was they didn’t love her anymore because she was broken. A broken embarrassment of a child they were too ashamed to reveal to the world. Cast aside like an old shoe, it took Mandy a while to adjust to her new surroundings. Her parents promised to visit, but she never laid eyes on them again.

Part of her didn’t want to believe these vivid accounts could be real. Perhaps the images were metaphors for something else? Simultaneously, every instinct in Mandy insisted these dreams were her memories. If so, her past was a very scary, lonely place.

The only person she could ask for specifics was Rush, so hopefully, if she presented him with actual facts, he would provide more background information to help her fit the pieces together. Thus far, she couldn’t summon up the courage to ask Rush for details. Besides, if the dreams/memories were correct, then Rush didn’t enter her life until several years after her accident. He wouldn’t have been around when her parents left her in a facility with complete strangers.

The administrators allowed her to keep her nurse, but Amanda’s parents made clear stepping back and washing their hands of the situation was preferable to facing reality. Determined to have some say over her life, and gain a semblance of independence, Mandy discovered her strengths and worked hard. Eventually, she was able to afford her own bills and left the institution. She refused to remain behind closed doors because her presence made other people uncomfortable. There was a whole world out there and she wanted to see what she could, chair or no chair.

Little did she know then her fight would be an uphill battle. Remembering the chair, and her former way of life, both terrified and overjoyed her senses. The past was a canvas full of fear and doubt and…numbness. Yet, even as the memories tugged painfully at her heart, happiness seeped into her bones. Armed with the knowledge of her disability, Mandy now harbored newfound appreciation for the simple task of walking on her own two feet. Even now, she smiled as she watched her toes wiggle. Such a simple movement, yet so extraordinary! Putting one foot in front of the other filled her with waves of joy mere words could never fully describe.

Just being able to rake her fingertips along the wall and feel the sold metal and the brush of her skin against the roughness made her giddy! She could walk again! Feel again! Mandy didn’t yet know the details of how this miracle was even possible, but didn’t care because it was real! At long last, she was normal and she loved it!

Laughing aloud, her arms spread wide, Mandy twirled in a circle, feeling the air brushing against her cheeks, lifting the fabric of her skirt away from her legs even as it roused gooseflesh on her skin. Just feeling the sensation of those little bumps rising amazed her, causing more elated laughter to bubble from her throat. Oh, she never, ever wanted to take these feelings for granted!

Hearing voices, Mandy snapped out of her revelry as caution made her dart for the shadows. The voices were male, off in the distance, but she couldn’t decipher what they were saying. Not a lot of people were kind toward her, and as a result, her gut reaction screamed to hide from strangers.

Hearing the voices coming closer, Mandy searched for a better hiding place, but there wasn’t a doorway or corridor within immediate reach. She could turn and run back the way she came, but would they eventually find her? Tucking as deep into the shadows as possible, Mandy sank down on her hunches, hoping she could shrink and disappear.

“What I don’t get is why she’s not in a lab being dissected,” one male voice said. “I don’t get why the Colonel is letting her roam the ship.”

“It’s all Rush’s doing,” the other commented. “Rumor has it; he has a soft spot for her.”

“Rush is an ass,” the first bit out. “He thinks he can play God with this ship and people’s lives! He should be locked in a cell!”

“Yeah, well, like it or not, we need him to run the ship.”

“Not for long,” the first insisted. “Once the kinks are worked out of the supply line, Homeworld Command will send real soldiers and scientists to run this crew. Then we’ll see who will be revolting against whom. The civilians will be taught a lesson and hopefully won’t be a problem anymore.”

“Young is all about diplomacy though,” the second argued.

Mandy heard the first voice barking a laugh, then the sound of a hand slapping a back. “Oh, yeah,” the first continued. “That's why he abandoned Rush on that planet. It’s the devil’s own luck he found his way back to the ship. And, as an added bonus, we have those crazy blue aliens following us everywhere.”

“Chloe Armstrong wasn’t blameless in all of that though,” the second voice reminded.

“It’s still Rush’s fault! If that ghost chick turns out to be trouble, it will be his fault too!”

“She’s a freak of nature,” the second man agreed. “But at least Dr. Perry keeps to herself.”

“The only reason anyone is tolerating her is because they need to know about that regeneration thing. The only reason I’m keeping my mouth shit about it is because we could be in far more danger if the secret gets out. I’m looking to survive this bucket and get home.”

Covering her mouth with her hand, Mandy held her breath as the voices drew closer. She stayed perfectly still as they passed her hiding spot, too caught up in their conversation to notice her presence. When they were a good distance away, she emerged from the darkness. Only when their voices faded did she let out the breath she held.

Replaying their words in her head, clearly those two disapproved of Rush. They spoke of events she didn’t understand, but their disdain came across crystal clear. Obviously, many disagreed with Rush’s methods and harbored hostile opinions, however, their references toward her existence were worse. Why did they resent her so much? Her paralysis surly couldn’t be the sole reason. Perhaps because she was cured somehow? Did her friendship with Rush cause problems here? Why was she a secret to be kept?

As much as she wanted to seek out Rush and ask for answers, she knew the odds of him telling her were pretty slim. He already stated he wanted her to remember her past before he clarified the details, and didn’t seem to be budging on that position. Of course, she did have some fresh memories, so maybe she could have a long awaited conversation with Rush, but part of her was afraid. Dealing with her disability was so challenging and lonely that she doubted anyone could fully understand what she went through. Plus, she felt frightened and embarrassed of having such a past.

At the same time, Rush was the one friend she could lean on who didn’t see her limitations. She truly, achingly, wanted to believe Rush was different, but what if those aspects of the dream were the result of wishful thinking on her part? There was only one way to find out. Right now, her need for answers outweighed her fear of being wrong about Rush’s character. Making her way back to the main area of the ship, Mandy waited by the door the door to Rush’s quarters.

Should she wait inside? Find a radio to summon him? Wait here and hope he no one came by and bothered her?

Thankfully, Mandy didn’t have to linger too long because Rush came around the corner a few seconds later. Exhaling a sigh of relief, Mandy’s eyes swelled with moisture. Seeing his serious expression give way to a softer happiness, Mandy’s heart skipped with excitement.

“Mandy,” Rush breathed as his lips curved. Walking up to her side, he reached out to grasp her hand. “What are you doing here?”

His touch sent a delightful thrill racing over her skin, but she managed to pushed aside the sensation and focus on her reason for coming here. “I was hoping I could talk to you. Do you have time?”

Rush nodded, the urgency in her eyes making him curious and nervous all at once. Squeezing her hand, he led her through the door into his quarters. “Sure. Come on.”

Chapter Text

Mandy’s stomach gave a nervous lurch upon seeing Rush’s intimate space, but the sensation eased seeing the layout was basically the same as her own quarters. He even had the same comforter on the bed. Yet, there were subtle differences, like the chess set on the table and the book resting on the nightstand.

“What’s on your mind,” Rush asked as he moved to close the door behind them.

Twisting her fingers together in front of her, Mandy wasn’t sure why she felt so nervous being in this man’s space. The more she looked at him, them more attractive he became to her eyes, slamming home the fact she still had no idea what to say, or how to behave in his presence. Aware on some level her fears were silly, Amanda inhaled a deep breath before concentrating on her motives for being here.

“I wanted to talk to you about my dream,” she said, still twisting her fingers to keep them from trembling.

“The one that had you so frightened?” When she nodded, Rush gestured to one of the chairs by the table.

Smiling her thanks, Mandy took a seat, purposely ignoring her skyrocketing heart rate in favor of watching him move to take the seat across from her. Clearing her throat, tearing her eyes way from the sight of his strong hands resting on the arms of the chair, dismissing thoughts of how wonderfully those fingers could caress her skin, Mandy looked instead at her own trembling hands. Hiding from the truth wouldn’t do any good. If this dream illuminated her past, then she needed to know.

Inhaling a breath and gathering her courage, Mandy found her voice. “You’ve said we were friends for a long time. Before we came to be on this ship,” she started.

Rush nodded, keeping his hopes and expectations under control. “Yes,” he answered carefully. “Many years.”

“Well,” Mandy’s eyes fluttered up to glance at his face, then went right back down to her feet. She would be able to manage this conversation better if she wasn’t looking directly at him and getting lost in the labyrinth of her swiftly growing attraction. “In my dream,” she continued, “I remembered an accident.”

Rush tried masking his features to disguise his shock, but Amanda’s concentration wasn’t focused on him anyway, so if a few telltale signs filled his expression, she didn’t pick up on them. His heart truly wished Mandy remembered something else first – anything else – before her mind recalled the accident. As much as he preferred she remember one of their kisses, or playing in the sea as a little girl, he supposed this memory was fitting considering Amanda did spend over twenty years living with the consequences of that traumatic event.

“Is it true,” she dared ask after describing the dream; leaving out the parts about her parents and her personal impressions, of course. She wanted to appear calm and collected asking after simple facts, but a small lump formed in her throat nonetheless.

Scooting his chair around the table to sit by her side, Rush grasped her hand, covering her soft fingers with his calloused ones. Waiting until she looked at him, he gave a slight nod. “Yes,” he said softly. “It’s true.”

Inhaling a sharp breath, Mandy automatically tried pulling away, but Rush squeezed her fingers, refusing to allow her the escape. “Hey,” he said gently. “It’s alright, Amanda. I know it’s a shock to remember all this, but it’s over now. You’re here with me and it’s all over.”

Pushing down the urge to cry, she finally met his gaze. Seeing the truth on those chocolate eyes, Amanda wasn’t sure why she felt so upset. Rush was right. She was better now, but still felt vulnerable to those memories.

“But how,” she frowned. “How did I go from being disabled and working for Homeworld Command to being here?”

Rush blinked, going still. “You don’t remember?”

Seeing his disappointment, she shook her head, looking at their linked hands. “No,” she confessed.

“Hey, it’s alright.” Rush gave her a patient smile, squeezing her fingers again. “The important thing is that you’re starting to get your memories back. Everything will fall into place soon.”

Amanda swallowed hard. “You think so?”

“Yeah.” Rush’s smile deepened as he gave her encouragement. “I think you’re over the first hurtle.”

A humorless laugh bubbled out of her throat hearing his words. “You mean, I’m in for more devastating shocks?”

Oh, he certainly hoped not, but Rush knew Mandy wasn’t out of the woods yet. Of course, he didn’t want to tell her more details for fear she would worry endlessly over what she couldn’t change.

“No,” he amended, still wearing a slight smile. “You’re fine. In fact, you’re more than fine. You’ve always been so strong, Amanda. I know you can make it through this to the other side.”

Expression turning serious, Mandy gathered her courage and spoke honestly. “I’m glad I remember you.”

“Do you remember the first time we met?” Rush couldn’t resist asking the question, wanting to know every detail of her memories thus far.

“Not specifically,” she sighed, raking her other hand through her hair. “I just remember from the dream that you were the only one who didn’t see my handicap. You saw me, and it meant so much, I don’t think I could begin to describe the feeling.”

“I know,” he said intensely, once more capturing her gaze. “You are very precious to me, Mandy.”

Heart leaping with hope, she struggled to make sense of all her churning emotions. “Precious,” she asked cautiously.

Moving to kneel before her, Rush released her hand in favor of cupping her face, his eyes boring into her gaze. Tentatively placing one hand on his shoulder, and the other over the hand on her cheek, Mandy wasn’t sure of his intention until his face drew closer. The craving snapped to the surface, too much to deny, but uncertainly froze her in place. Should she remain still or move closer to show her interest in his touch?

In the end, Rush closed the small space between them, pressing his lips ever-so-softly over hers. Though Mandy had an inkling of what he was about, the sensation of the kiss still took her by surprise. His mouth kissed her again, waiting until Amanda relaxed enough to press her lips into his to feel more of what he offered before closing his lips over hers in another pass.

The brush of his whiskers felt rough rubbing against her skin, yet his soft lips more than made up for it. Feeling her blood warm and her limbs melt, Mandy started mimicking his movements, slanting her mouth to better taste him. The soft crush made her head spin, promising more delights, but a moment later, Rush drew back, waiting for her to open her eyes as his heart slammed a mile a minute. She kissed him back! Though tender, and somewhat hesitant, the desire sparked between them! He wasn’t mistaking it! Their connection was alive and well, and the knowledge awakened an urge to shout his laughter to the ceiling, but Rush managed to keep calm.

“So precious, Mandy,” he whispered through his turbulent emotions before leaning in to kiss her again.

The urgent press of lips felt so wonderful, but almost too good to be true. Drawing back when fear and self-doubt squeezed her chest, Mandy shook her head, feeling overwhelmed. “You pity me, that’s all,” she whispered as she drew back, unable to look at him.

Hands still cradling her face, Rush urged her eyes up to meet his. “Amanda,” he started gently, “when have I ever pitied you?”

Breath hitching, she couldn’t answer because her blood pounded too quickly, swimming with the effects of the kiss, making her throat close. Logic told her Rush did indeed feel the same attraction she experienced and her heart wanted to leap for joy, but part of her shouted caution. Mandy never remembered Rush pitying her, but did that necessarily mean more existed between them? More intimacies she didn’t yet have the key to recalling?

His closeness had the strangest effect on her senses, making her crave things she didn’t fully understand, or know how to communicate. Daring a glimpse at his face, Mandy recognized dark determination in the brown depths of his focus mere seconds before his lips slanted for her mouth once again.

This time, the kiss harbored more intensity and less sweetness. Rush set out to prove how much he did care, displaying his genuine, yet raw emotions so there would be no mistake. Pressing harder, he delighted in the moment Mandy surrendered, giving him more control.

Gasping when his tongue delved between her lips, stroking her teeth, urging her to open to him, Mandy stiffened again, but didn’t stand a chance against Rush’s onslaught. Head spinning, toes curling, Mandy felt helpless in the face of the desire fueling her cravings. Tentatively giving him entrance, the sensation of his tongue stroking hers felt intoxicating, overwhelming, until she couldn’t help but do his bidding, learning what made her body shiver as she responded.

Every sweep of his tongue caused warm tingles and intense reactions to flood her body, making her dizzy on sensation and needy for more. She no longer noticed the scratch of his whiskers as her nipples tightened and peaked when moist heat flooded between her thighs. Her secret place now throbbed in reaction to his kiss, wanting to be touched in a similar fashion.

The kiss went on and on, Rush dominating and Mandy eagerly learning how to respond to those demands. Breathing ragged, she automatically moved closer to his body, wrapping her arms around his neck as she melted into his hold. Feeling the gentle press of his lower belly between her legs, there was an indescribable urge to rub up against him. Even as Mandy started caving into the delicious command, she found the strength to hesitate, unsure of what exactly was happening between her and Rush and what it all meant.

Panting heavily when Rush broke the kiss so she could catch her breath, Amanda couldn’t relinquish her hold on his shoulders. How could she not want this connection to last forever? Wishing to be this close, closer still, yet, at the same time, the intensity of Mandy’s feelings overwhelmed her to the point of fear.

Should they be doing this? She hardly knew him! But that wasn’t entirely true, was it? Amanda’s heart and body wanted to cleave to Rush as if she just found the other half of her whole. With such an inexplicable pull drawing her toward him, feeling her attachment taking deeper root, how could she deny her desires?

Did Rush crave her too? Did he truly want her in his life? Somehow, without all her memories, Mandy felt like half a person and it wouldn’t be right, or fair, to push the issue for either of them.

Trying to catch his breath, Rush laced his fingers though her hair, staring at her beauty, trying to memorize every detail. The wonder, attraction, and confused desire all shining in her glazed eyes curved his lips ever-so-slightly. Oh, how he loved her taste - an eager passion mixed with a spoonful of innocence! Mandy was his and Rush would stake his claim so she wouldn’t ever forget.

Looking at her swollen lips, hearing her panting breath, Rush delighted in the sight of how deeply the kiss affected her. Trying to figure out his next move, Rush knew Amanda didn’t remember most of their past, but obviously her body recognized him. Her soft sighs blew across his cheek, making his hands tremble slightly. Brushing the pads of his thumbs over her skin in a soft caress, silently calming her, Rush gave assurances, putting Mandy at ease because he wanted another taste. Now.

Seizing her lips, Rush didn’t waste any time deepening the touch. Hearing Mandy moan, feeling her sink into his frame and return the kiss, his arm tightened around her waist. Caressing her ribcage, Rush slowly let his fingers roam upward to gently cup her breast in his palm. The moment he did so, Mandy gave a little cry as she arched into his touch.

Gently running his thumb over her pert nipple, he felt Mandy unknowingly push her lower body into his belly, the friction of which sent waves of pleasure she wasn’t prepared to endure, making her cry out again in as much surprise as surrender. The sounds were music to his ears.

Her softness felt as sweet as her taste, and Rush didn’t like it when she pulled away. Releasing her breast in favor of grasping her hips, he angled her body to gently rub his lower stomach into her clit. Crying out, unprepared for the exploding pleasure, and the urge to continue moving against him, air left Mandy’s lungs in a gasp as her eyes snapped open.

“Rush,” she panted, her confusion and embarrassment warring with her desires. The look in his eyes was almost wild as he captured her lips again, but before he could plunge his tongue deep, his radio sounded.

“Rush, come in.” Eli’s voice filled the room.

Breaking out of the kiss with a rough smack, Rush cursed under his breath. “Bloody hell.”

Casting Mandy a look of apology, Rush moved to reach for the radio. “What is it, Eli,” he growled through the line.

There was a slight hesitation before Eli responded. “We are in range of a planet and want to run a full diagnostic before dialing the gate.”

“Can’t you do that without me?”

“Uh…if you want, but-”

“I’ll be there in ten minutes,” he snapped.

Eli didn’t comment as Rush moved to fasten the radio to his belt. Moving to stand, he reached out to cup Mandy’s cheek, forcing her to look up at him. “Will you be alright?”

Body still humming with aftershocks from the kiss, Mandy managed to nod. “I’m fine.”

“Let me walk you back to your quarters,” he offered.

“I-I’ll be fine,” she said, not ready to stand, but not wanting to confess the fact.

“You’re sure?”

“Yes.” Forcing a smile, Mandy hoped to look convincing.

Caressing her cheek one more time, Rush returned her smile, watching her sink into his touch. “I want you to remember one thing while I’m gone.”

Mandy blinked. “What?”

Leaning forward, Rush’s gaze locked with hers, making sure there would be no confusion surrounding his words. “You’re mine.”

Giving her cheek a quick kiss and casting her a sultry look full of wicked promise, Rush’s fingers gently glided off her skin before he turned and walked out the door. Still aroused from their encounter, Mandy put her fingers to her lips, closing her eyes. Rush made her feel…but she couldn’t think about that now. A few moments later, she found the strength to rise to her feet, then waited until she was sure her knees could hold her weight before daring to take a step. With her first movement the heat between her thighs felt no less intense as moisture pooled, leaking from her body as she moved toward the door and headed back to her own quarters.

Chapter Text

Still harboring a dark mood due to the interruption, Rush walked onto the bridge to see Eli, Body, and Young gathered. Out the window, a planet hovered in the distance. Pushing Mandy from his thoughts as easier said than down, but the mission awaited, so Rush gathered his businesslike composure, looking first to Young, then Eli, and finally Mr. Brody.

“What have we got?”

“A viable planet with decent food and water possibilities,” Young supplied. “I’m going to send an away team to head down and gather what we can. Until the supply line can transport food, we’re on our own. Even so, we shouldn’t become too dependent on the line. I’ve been in contact with Telford and Mr. Woolsey and they want us to catalog any other needs we might anticipate.”

Young looked to Eli. “Any progress on the math with regards to the supply line?”

“Still working on it,” Eli said, resisting the urge to glance at Rush.

Rush, however, did chance a look at the other man, titling his head in thought. Could Eli be considering his advice?

“Ok,” Young nodded. “Well, I want us to get as much food and other supplies in our stores as possible, then we’ll deal with the rest. Rush, Eli, I want you on the away team with Scott, Greer, and TJ. We need to be prepared.”

Rush nodded, but Eli stayed stoic.

“We need to gather our teams,” Young continued. “What do the conditions on the planet look like?”

Eli shrugged. “Warm and balmy. The place looks pretty tropical, but no sign of life above the animals.”

Young let out a breath. “Then hopefully things will go smoothly.”

“Barring any unforeseen circumstances,” Rush mumbled.

Purposely ignoring him, Young turned to Brody. “Keep an eye on things here,” he ordered before looking back to Eli and Rush. “Gather what you need meet me in the gate room in an hour.”

In Young’s wake, Rush and Eli exchanged looks. Getting the impression Eli had questions, Rush was prepared to answer them, but the younger man shook his head and walked off the bridge. Turning to Brody, nonchalant over Eli’s brushoff, Rush went to check the readings on the planet.

“Is this right,” he asked Adam.

“What,” he blinked.

“All the fresh water looks like it’s underground.”

“In caves, specifically,” Brody answered.

“Looks like this mission just got more complicated.”

Brody shrugged. “At least it will be fresh.”

There was no telling what sort of adventure they would be faced with down on the surface, so he best make sure he had a way to get home. Before setting out on this mission, there were a few things Rush needed to take care of first. Telling Brody to keep an eye on things, Rush exited the bridge and went in search of the one person he gave a damn about on this ship.

He didn’t knock when he entered, startling Mandy. Watching her gasp as she whirled around, Rush put up his hands. “Sorry, I should have knocked.”

“It’s alright,” she breathed, trying to put on a brave smile.

Glad to see she made it back to her quarters in one piece, Rush pushed down his worry over Mandy, but such a task was easier said than done, especially since she wasn’t adjusting to this new life as quickly as he hoped. Approaching slowly, Rush took her hand before guiding her to sit on the bed. Sitting beside her, he inhaled a deep breath as he gathered his thoughts.

“Mandy,” he started. “I have to go down to the planet for a while. The ship needs supplies that the Langaran line can’t give us yet. Do you understand?”

“I think so,” she nodded. Liking the sensation of her hand resting in his, Mandy wasn’t in any hurry to let go. “You’re going through the stargate to the planet to get food and water.”

“Exactly,” Rush smiled.

“Do you have to go?”

Seeing the sadness in her eyes, Rush wished he could make her feel better about the separation. When all her memories returned, she wouldn’t feel so anxious over these sorts of things, but for now, he needed to put her at ease.

“Yeah,” he said gently. “Normally, a mission like this lasts about nine hours.”

Eyes widening, she wasn’t sure what she expected to hear, but the time frame seemed rather long. Then again, if they needed to get as much food and water as they could to last them a while, Mandy supposed nine hours rather insignificant.

“Before I go, I was hoping we could go to the mess hall, so you can eat and then I want you to promise to rest.”

The idea of resting without him held no appeal. When Rush was near, the nightmares became more manageable. “I can go to the mess when you get back,” she offered.

“We are taking Greer with us, so I want to make sure you’re taken care of before we leave.”

The way he said Greer’s name made her blink in confusion. Did Rush not like Greer? She never saw them argue, but there as an awful lot she didn’t know about many people here.

“Indulge me,” Rush implored. “I want to make sure you are taken care of while I’m gone.”

His words filled her with a warmth she didn’t fully understand, and a moment later, she nodded, allowing Rush to lead her from her quarters. Still holding her hand, Rush moved with a confident, no nonsense manner as he led her to the hall, then to a table after getting their rations.

“Here’s hoping this planet has some chicken,” he joked as he scooped up some of the white, lumpy pudding.

Smiling, Mandy nodded. “I will hope for the same.” Eating in silence, Rush couldn’t prevent his gaze from continuously glancing at Mandy, offering small smiles. She shyly smiled back, remembering their kisses, wishing they had more time together before he departed. The couple was so wrapped up in their own world they didn’t notice the curious looks the other crew members cast their way.

Meal finished, Rush walked Mandy back to her rooms, telling her again to clock in some hours of sleep while he was gone. Again, Rush watched her fidget, avoid his gaze, and put more space between them. Obviously, the idea of sleep made her uncomfortable. Given the state he found her in after the last horrible nightmare, Rush couldn’t say he blamed her, but her body would only bend so far.

“I’ll wait for you to get back,” she said softly.

“I wish you wouldn’t,” Rush gently urged, moving forward so he could take her hand. “I want you to take care of yourself.”

Looking at him now, Mandy struggled to keep the flood of emotions from overflowing. She wanted to hug him close and never let him go, but knew if she dared, Rush might pull away and keep his distance. Mandy knew she would have to learn to deal with her dreams as best she could when Rush couldn’t be around to help, but that didn’t mean she was ready to be alone.

Instead of throwing her body into his arms and clinging to him like she really wanted, Mandy remained still while forcing a smile. “I’ll do my best.”

She threw up walls again. Rush could see it plain as day, but as much as he wanted to tear down the barriers between them, he didn’t want to force Mandy on this issue. He wanted them to come together naturally and without any pressure.

“The time will fly by,” he said, squeezing her hand.

Nodding, Mandy forced her gaze back to his face. “Stay safe.”

“I will,” Rush promised.

Unable to help it, Mandy moved forward to give him a hug of parting. She meant the gesture to be a simple one of friendship, but Rush held her tight, and she responded by squeezing him closer still while trying to fight off the tears. Rush would be fine. He would come back. He knew what he was doing.

“I have to go soon,” he whispered.

Easing back, Mandy cupped his cheeks, running her thumbs over his whiskers. “Just be careful.”

On impulse, Rush quickly closed the space between them, pressing his lips to hers. He meant it as a swift farewell, but the warmth bloomed, sending sparks of awareness through his bloodstream. Urging her lips to open, Rush gently brushed his tongue over hers. Mandy gasped at the contact, still getting used to such sensations, but a moment later surrendered to his soft caress.

Holding her close, fingers lacing through her hair, Rush repeated the motion a few more times, intending to deepened the kiss and have more of her taste to take with him down to the planet, but Mandy pulled back, gasping for air. Seeing the glazing desire in her eyes, Rush knew Mandy wasn’t immune to him. She would remember more and more of their past and he would help her not be frightened of the knowledge.

“We’re going to make it through this together,” Rush told her, running her fingers down her soft cheek. “Rest. I’ll come see you when I get back.”

“Promise,” she breathed.

“Promise.”

One more swift kiss and Rush pulled out of her arms, only because if he didn’t separate from her now, he would never leave. Casting her one more look over his shoulder before walking out the door, Rush hoped for a quick, easy mission. Staring after him, the sound of the slamming metal echoing on her hears, Mandy wondered why his kisses confused her so much. Her body screamed for more, but her mind wasn’t exactly sure what those specifics entailed.

Springing into action a few moments later, Mandy kept to the shadows as she found her way to the gate room. Seeing people gathered, she kept to the back, lingering on the observation deck, as she watched Rush walk through the stargate. Letting out a breath she wasn’t aware of holding, Mandy blinked rapidly, battling the sudden urge to cry.

Rush would be fine. Repeating the mantra all the way back to her quarters, Mandy hardened her emotions, gathering her strength, refusing to think of any other outcome. Looking at the bed, the last thing she wanted to do was sleep. Instead, she performed her usual exercises and read more information on the Ancients in the database as a way to pass the time until Rush returned.

Nine hours later, Mandy crept back to the gate room, only to overhear news that the mission did not go as planned. Young, TJ, and Scott returned with news of a cave-in which occurred while trying to tap water from an underground vein. They needed to gather a rescue team and start preparing the infirmary. TJ and the others sprang into action, but Mandy, with her heart sinking to her knees and her skin going cold, stared transfixed at the gate as it powered down. Looking through the empty ring, she had no idea how long she stood there in her daze, willing the gate to bring Rush back to her.

When nothing happened, Mandy wiped away the tears leaking down her cheeks, telling her treacherous heart to stop grieving. Rush would come back. He promised. They were going back for him and she wanted to be here when he finally came home.

Closing her eyes, remembering their kisses and how he so gently, passionately touched her, Mandy’s breath hitched in her throat. Rush kept saying they were friends, but the way he kissed her felt like the opposite of simple friendship. Was she wrong to think he felt more for her? She certainly felt a much deeper connection at this juncture.

Ah, there it was. The emotion Mandy tried so hard to deny stared her in the face, daring her to make more denials. The memories she regained so far all pointed to one obvious conclusion. Amanda was deeply, irrevocably in love with Nicholas Rush.

The sound of rapid activity below roused her from her turbulent thoughts, causing her eyes to gaze down at the commotion. When the first batch of injured came through the gate, Mandy couldn’t tell if Rush was among them. Following stealthy to the infirmary, she tried getting TJ’s attention, but the medic had her hands full. When TJ did notice her presence, she pulled Mandy aside, seeing the obvious signed of sleep deprivation lining her face. Worrying about Rush wasn’t helping, so TJ decided to take action.

“You really should try to rest,” TJ lectured, placing a soft hand on Mandy’s shoulder.

“But Rush-”

“When he comes back, I’ll let you know.” TJ’s tone remained gentle, but no-nonsense. “You won’t do him any good if you’re exhausted.”

Mandy supposed the other woman had a point. As much as the nightmares terrified her, Amanda could hardly keep her eyes open. She didn’t resist when TJ gestured for her to follow to a corner of the infirmary where the medic quickly made Mandy a cup of tea, saying it would help calm her nerves. Accepting the tea TJ offered in defeat, Mandy finished half the brew before the effects started swimming through her veins. Suddenly wanting nothing but to fall into bed, Mandy thanked TJ, handing back the cup before turning to exit the infirmary. As she walked, her head suddenly felt light, her movements a bit clumsy, which didn’t make much sense. Bracing a hand against the wall to steady her balance, confusion made her frown. She felt fine a few moments ago, so why did black dots suddenly invade her vision, making her movements lethargic? Lost in her swirling thoughts, Mandy accidentally bumped into someone. Gasping, she stumbled to the side, barely managing to avoid hitting the wall.

Vanessa James looked down her nose as Mandy regained her composure. “Watch where you’re going! Should you even be here?”

The woman’s hostility was so unexpected that Mandy froze in shock, unable to respond.

James rolled her eyes. “Just get going,” she snapped before moving on.

Mandy inhaled deep breathes as she waited for the world to stop spinning. Moving down the corridor to her room, she somehow made her way back to her own space, falling flat onto the bed. Praying he returned well and whole, Rush consumed her last thought before succumbing to the black void dragging her under into unconsciousness.

Chapter Text

Nails scraped raw and bleeding, not to mention bruised to the bloody nines, Rush breathed a sigh of relief to be through the gate and back on Destiny once again. Being trapped underground in dark caverns was no picnic. Of course, Greer took the experience like a fish to water. Rush supposed since the man already survived one cave-in, he could be an expert.

They made it back aboard the ship six hours later than planned, but all-in-all the mission didn’t go as badly as it could have. No fatalities were a plus, and their water supply came close to bursting, which should last them a good while. On orders, Rush headed to the infirmary to get checked out despite his every nerve ending wanting to check on Amanda instead. When he left, she wasn’t keen on the idea of sleeping or taking care of her body and Rush wanted to make sure she was ok, especially since he didn’t see her lingering in the gate room.

“No broken bones,” TJ announced after checking his fingers and moving on to treat a ragged cut going down his forearm. “It could have been a lot worse.”

“Well, let’s hope the next planet we visit has water flowing in open spaces.”

Smiling in agreement, TJ secured the bandage.

“You haven’t seen Mandy around have you,” Rush asked on impulse.

“She was here earlier asking about the mission, but I gave her a sedative and sent her to bed. Why?”

Stiffening, Rush stared at the medic. “Mandy let you give her something to sleep?”

“Not exactly,” TJ admitted. “I just put it in her tea-”

“You did what?!”

“Rush, she isn’t taking care of herself,” TJ argued. “Mandy’s sleep deprived at best and her body is straining under the abuse-”

“You shouldn't have done that! You didn’t have the right!”

“She’ll have worse problems if she doesn’t sleep, Rush,” TJ stated unapologetically. “We both know it. She needs-”

“I know better than you what she needs,” Rush snapped before hopping off the table and marching out of the infirmary.

Shaking her head, Tamara didn’t try to stop him. Yes, she gave Amanda a sedative, but only because she worried about her patient’s deteriorating condition. Hopefully Rush would do more to help fix the situation rather than just patch up the holes. Of course, TJ had a feeling Amanda would only begin to really heal once she remembered the full details of her past. The sooner, the better.

Ignoring his aches and pains, Rush headed directly for Mandy’s quarters, not bothering to knock before opening the door. A faint light illuminated the space, enabling his eyes to see her sleeping form on the bed. Letting the door close behind him, Rush walked over to her side, sitting on the edge of the bed to better take in the sight of her sleeping face.

So beautiful. Unable to resist, he ran his fingertips down her soft cheek. Was she having sweet dreams? Did Mandy dream of him? Goodness knows he dreamed of her constantly since her exile and deeply wanted Mandy to remember the love they shared. There would be nothing more incredible than seeing her eyes reflect that emotion back at him as happiness radiated from her pores the way it did during their time in the simulation. Rush wanted Amanda to know how much he loved her and never, ever, doubt the depth of that love again.

“My darling, Mandy,” he whispered as he took her hand. Caressing her fingers, he leaned forward to press a kiss to her forehead. Straightening, he continued watching her, marveling at her every breath until her eyelashes fluttered open and recognition poured into those blue depths.

“Rush,” she breathed as a smile curved her lips. “Are you really here?”

Clearly, the sedative still clung to her senses, but she fought to keep her eyes open. Smiling, Rush gave her a nod. “Aye, it’s me.”

Gasping with relief, Mandy shot up and hugged him close, burying her face in his neck as she held on tight. “I was so afraid you wouldn’t come back,” she whispered against his skin. “I was so worried.”

“I’m here now,” he spoke gently into her ear while rocking her in his arms. “Everything will be alright.”

“I tried to stay awake for you,” she said, obviously struggling with her fatigue. “I went to see TJ, to see if…you were back yet…and…”

“I know, baby, I know.” Lacing his fingers through her hair, he pressed a gentle kiss to her neck. Mandy could barely keep her eyes open at this point. “You didn’t have nightmares, did you?”

“No,” she slurred.

“Ok.” Cradling her gently, Rush eased her down to lie against the pillows. “Sleep,” he urged.

Eyes snapping open, Mandy reached for him, her hands smoothing over his chest and shoulders. “Stay with me? Please? You’re the only one that keeps the nightmares away.”

Hesitating a moment, Rush nodded. Mandy needed rest, as did he, and after all he endured on the planet, Rush wanted to be surrounded by the softness of his woman. If holding her as she slept would give her comfort, than he would do as she asked.

Mandy fought to stay alert as she watched Rush slip off his shoes, belt, and hunter green over shirt, leaving all the items on the floor as he walked around the other side of the bed and climbed beneath the covers. His lips curved when Amanda immediately rolled toward his warmth.

Lying on his back, Rush let Mandy’s head snuggle into his chest, her leg slipping over his thigh before the sedative finally subdued her into slumber. Unaware of how Rush cradled her, running his hands up and down her back and arms as if to memorize every contour, Mandy quickly relaxed in his hold. Amanda was such a beautiful woman, inside and out, and Rush wanted to shelter her from all harm.

Inhaling her floral scent, his eyes drifted closed. He was back where he belonged, in the arms of the woman he loved. At long last, Rush felt complete.

****

There was something chasing her. Nameless, faceless, abstract. No words could describe this…essence. Only emotions could convey the force following her, yet even those feelings fell short. Mandy knew she had to keep moving toward the light at the end of the tunnel. She just had to make her way to the light and she would be safe. She would have all the answers.

Rush stood there waiting. She could see his strong outline now. His handsome face smiling at her, those brown eyes twinkling as if sharing some secret mirth. If she could just make it safely to his arms, Mandy knew they would find happiness together. They loved each other and everything could be alright. So why couldn’t she shake the feeling she forgot something important? Something vital to the puzzle?

Rush reached out his hand, but Mandy hesitated. A second later the light disappeared and she stood in the middle of a whirlpool of equations, numbers, and symbols, all screaming for attention. The more she tried making sense out of the swirling numbers, the more confusion attacked her mind, making her feel helpless in the onslaught. She just wanted to get back to Rush! She didn’t want this responsibility!

As the images slowly faded, leaving Amanda lingering between the world of reality and dreams, she got the impression she couldn’t push the knowledge away forever. Instead of buckling under a tornado of anxiety as she expected, her mind and body experienced little thrills of pleasure warming her blood, easing her muscles, making her feel like everything would be ok.

This exquisite pleasure bloomed between her thighs, making her moist. Part of Mandy knew she should stop, that such things were private and wicked, but the other part of her refuted the logic in favor of keeping these glorious sensations close. There was something solid, yet yielding, between her legs, pressing against her sensitive nub, and when she rubbed against this barrier, the delicious heat of it all made her melt.

Wanting more, she continued moving her hips gently, feeling the wonderful sensations building into something more. Something she couldn’t put into words. The last remnants of dreamscape’s fog slowly lifted, making Amanda all too aware of what was happening. Lying on her side, Rush’s body wrapped protectively around hers, Mandy became acutely aware of the thigh inserted between her legs, pressing so exquisitely where she most craved. Rush’s thigh is what she used to pleasure herself.

As full reality dawned, heat flooded her cheeks. Mandy knew all about biological reproduction, mating, and all other activities in between, so she knew what happened in her sleep, but for the life of her, she couldn't remember feeling such intense sensations. Heaven help her, she wanted more even though she knew she should stop.

Burying her face into the pillow, Amanda forced her body to remain still. Even so, her clitoris still throbbed quickly, her core clenching in time with those throbs, wanting something she did not know how to obtain.

“Don’t stop,” Rush whispered huskily in her ear before pressing a soft kiss to the back of her neck.

Startled and embarrassed, Mandy tried scrambling away from his hold, but Rush secured her in place, pressing his thigh more firmly against her softness. Though they were both fully clothed, the material barriers didn’t dull away all the pleasure.

Afraid to look at him, Mandy remained utterly frozen, trying to ignore the throbbing ache between her legs and the firm grip of Rush’s hands on her hips. Burying her face once again in the pillow, stifling a groan, she put her hands over his, intending to shove him away, but Rush’s grip only tightened.

Waking up to the sensation of Mandy gently moving beneath him, Rush realized what must have happened in the night and instantly wanted to feel more. He wanted to watch her reach that final peak and fall into her orgasm. Feeling her pulsing against his thigh, Rush realized Mandy did not remember the other times he brought her such release and wanted her to have this moment.

Looking at her now, he could see the uncertainty in her eyes, and knew she needed proper coaxing. “It’s alright,” he whispered, leaning close to press tender kisses to the back of her neck and shoulders. “Feeling this is perfectly natural.”

Mandy moved her head to breathe, but still refused to look at Rush. How did she get into this mess?

“No shame or judgment,” he whispered as his hands urged her hips to move. “Let me share this with you, Mandy. Let me feel you have your pleasure.”

In her mind, Amanda knew what Rush meant. He wanted her to masturbate against him until she orgasmed. Knowing the workings of the basics did not prepare her for the intensity of sensation exploding from her clitoris when she experimentally pressed and rubbed against his thigh. Nor could she have predicted how moist she would get between her legs, or how her core clenched wanting more, urging her to move faster.

One tentative slide turned into two, then three, then another and another, until Amanda was unable to help herself. Rush’s mouth kissed her neck and shoulders, making her limbs feel even weaker as her blood pumped frantically in her ears. Panting, she tried holding in her moans, but felt Rush move his thigh faster against her, increasing the friction, and she couldn’t help but cry out. One of his hands cupped her breast, teasing her nipple to peek, and Mandy arched back against his warm body as pleasure shot from her nipple to her clitoris. Sobbing her pleasure, feeling the glorious pressure mount, Mandy squeezed her eyes shut as her nails dug into his guiding hands.

“That’s it, baby,” Rush whispered huskily in her ear. “That’s it. Good. You feel it, don’t you?”

Gasping, Mandy nodded as she shamelessly continued sliding against him as the pleasure intensified. Quickly, she realized she drew close to what she wanted, but it felt out of her reach all at the same time. Unable to explain, she panted Rush’s name. “I can’t-”

“Move faster,” he urged as he pressed harder against her. Hearing Mandy cry out in delight, he gritted his teeth as his cock hardened, throbbing with lusty demands. “Find the right angle,” he urged. “Move around and find what you like.”

Following his advice, Mandy wiggled a little faster, angling her body so her clit pressed more directly into Rush’s thigh with every pass. Suddenly, there was an explosion of sensation tearing a cry from her throat, making her heart pound her blood exquisitely through her veins. Rush kept up the pace, kicking the intensity up a notch, causing Mandy to once more bury her face in the pillow to muffle her screams. Even so, she could feel Rush’s eyes on her, taking in the sight of her breaking apart in his arms, her body shuddering in delight as her orgasm burst through every nerve ending.

Turning his eyes away from Mandy’s face as her orgasm consumed her was impossible. Rush watched her mouth open, her eyes squeeze shut, and the veins in her neck strain as wave after wave of pleasure made her body shake in his arms. Yes, he wanted to give her this explosion to savor. His darling, beautiful, gorgeous Mandy.

As she came back down from the high, Rush continued cradling her, pressing kisses to her neck, ignoring the evident demands of his throbbing cock. “You are so beautiful,” he whispered in her ear. “So brilliant.”

The last word felt so familiar, she gasped as she turned to look over at his face. The moment she did though, the familiarity vanished, leaving her feeling confused and much too vulnerable.

“I shouldn’t have-”

Cutting off her words with a kiss, Rush refused to allow her to feel ashamed of what just happened. “You have nothing to be sorry for,” he said before pressing soft kisses to her cheeks. “No judgments. Ever.”

Being so close to him, Mandy could feel the bulge pressing into her back and could guess Rush felt just as affected by what they shared as she. As much as Mandy wanted to take this latest development in their relationship with a casual air, she couldn’t prevent the questions from bubbling around in her head. The loudest one asking: what came next?

Chapter Text

The moment her senses returned, Mandy felt acutely ashamed of losing control like that in front of Rush. Yes, he encouraged her, but now she wondered if the dynamic of their friendship would be affected. Unable to look at him, she closed her eyes trying to think of a graceful way to remedy the awkward situation.

Unconsciously she knew she should move away from his warmth, from the arms holding her so close, but Amanda couldn’t bear to make her body move. Mandy enjoyed the sweet, comforting sensation of being held far too much. More specifically, she became addicted to being held by this man’s embrace.

Watching Amanda carefully, Rush could see the conflict written on her face. Though she obviously enjoyed the pleasure she experienced, her shyness couldn’t allow her to face him in the aftermath. Cradling her shoulders tenderly, Rush wanted to put her at ease. Her soft body fit so perfectly against his frame, and in his hands, filling Rush with the knowledge Mandy was truly made to be his other half.

“How are you feeling,” he asked softly when she still refused to look in his direction.

“Fine,” she mumbled as she moved to sit up.

Rush refused to let her go, however, rolling her onto her back and pressing his body over her torso so she couldn’t escape. One arm curled under her shoulders while his other hand cupped her face, thumbs gently caressing her skin, waiting patiently for her eyes to lift.

“Don’t hide from me, Mandy,” he pleaded. “We never did so before.”

Daring to meet his eyes, Amanda let out a long breath. “You-you really liked seeing me-”

“Yes,” he said huskily before kissing her deeply.

Melting into his arms, Mandy’s muscles started easing as her anxiety faded. Opening her mouth to him, the realization slammed hard and fast, hitting home the fact she could so easily stay in his embrace forever. Their connection shined like a new penny to her view, yet felt familiar in her hands, making it impossible for Mandy to deny its existence. She needed Rush and the knowledge was as frightening as it was exciting.

Breaking the kiss, Rush rested his forehead against hers for a brief moment before opening his eyes. “We should get up,” he whispered.

If he didn’t make the move now, Rush may not be able to let her go. Now wasn’t the right moment to push the advantage. Amanda let down her guard long enough to enjoy their intimate encounter minutes ago, but if he pressed too hard in an effort to ease his own lusts, then Mandy could shut him out. As a grown man, Rush could control his baser appetites. As much as he wanted to sink his flesh into hers, feeling her tight warmth clutching him tight, the timing had to be perfect for the both of them.

“You have work.” Mandy knew his job on the ship was very important to him, even if she wasn’t entirely sure of the details.

Nodding, Rush pressed a tender kiss to her cheek to soften the blow as he rolled out of bed. Picking his belt up off the floor, he buckled the leather around his waist before slipping his shirt over his head. Watching him, Mandy couldn’t prevent the blush blooming across her cheeks. Deciding the backside view of Rush’s body as he bent over to put on his shoes could render her senseless, Amanda’s imagination ran wild wondering what he looked like naked, but she quickly pushed the thoughts away seeing him straighten. The last thing Mandy needed to dwell on after what just happened was how the sight of Rush’s naked backside thrilled her senses, especially not when there was so many other activities to occupy her mind. Regaining her memories should be her priority, not lusting after Rush and wishing to run her fingers through his hair as he kissed her goodbye. Surely, she possessed more dignity than to transform into a puddle of lust at his feet?

“What are you going to do with your day,” Rush asked over his shoulder as he slipped on his second boot.

“I’m not sure,” she confessed. “Maybe try to decipher a few equations.”

Turning, Rush chuckled before bending to give her another kiss. “Just remember to eat somewhere in there, alright?”

Laughing, Mandy’s eyes twinkled. She could get used to this easy flow of humor between them. “I could say the same of you; getting lost in your work the way you do.”

“Fair enough,” he acknowledged. “I’ll meet you in the mess hall at noon.”

Mandy sat up, swinging her legs over the edge of the bed. “Are you sure?”

“Yeah. There should be a variety of food this time around given what we found on the planet. Probably some decent meat. And most of the seeds we replanted are starting to bear fruit. Our food shortages appear to be over.”

Suddenly, the idea of having a meal with Rush didn’t sound so bad. In fact, Mandy agreed to meet him, unable to remember why she was so fearful of the mess hall in the first place. Accepting Rush’s hug when she got to her feet, Mandy couldn’t keep the smile off her face, waving happily to Rush as he left her quarters.

The second the doors closed behind him, her smile faded as questions started rattling around in her head. As natural as their parting was, Amanda wondered where she and Rush stood. She cared deeply for him, and obviously, he returned the sentiments, but did his affections belong to the person she was before her memory loss? Like it or not, Mandy knew last night’s experience changed her, but for the better? With her attachment to Rush growing more intense with each passing second, how could she not question her feelings, analyzing every exchanged word, trying unsuccessfully to define her turbulent emotions? Did she love Rush? Was she in love with him before the memory loss?

Somehow, the impression to the latter felt like a “yes”. If she loved Rush before, so many instances could be explained, but did Rush love her in return? If so, she could now understand why he behaved so familiar with her when she first woke in the infirmary. Did more than just friendship exist between them? His kisses and encouragement in bed suggested as much.

Gathering up some fresh clothes and toiletries, Mandy headed for the mist showers, hoping the walk would clear her head. Obviously, her feelings for Rush ran deep, otherwise, she never would have allowed him such liberties with her body. Aspects of her past may be cut off to her, but Amanda certainly knew how territorially she guarded her body after the accident. Not many people broke through her barriers, which made one thing abundantly clear: more than just mutual attraction blossomed recently. A layer of unfinished business floated in limbo between them which would have to be addressed eventually.

Could she trust her heart? There was huge risk in loving someone. Whether or not her heart could make the leap, Mandy knew she wasn’t ready to let go of the…relationship she formed with Rush in recent weeks. Exploring her feelings would be equally thrilling and terrifying, but Amanda hoped along the way to fully remember her sense of self.

Turning on the mist, undressing quickly, Mandy jerked in surprise feeling the damp stickiness leak from within her body down her thighs. Reaching to feel the evidence of her arousal, the result of her orgasm in Rush’s arms, Mandy stared at the clear moisture in a daze. The difference between knowledge and experience, she supposed. Recovering, she shrugged off the odd thought before grasping the soap.

Washing, Mandy started feeling more at peace over what happened. Rush told her not to feel ashamed, and she didn’t anymore, but did this personal breakthrough between them mean they were moving forward? A wicked part of her wanted to have more orgasms in Rush’s arms, but her rational side called for caution. Before anything else happened with Rush, she should consider the pros and cons, knowing what she wanted out of this relationship.

Leaving the mist shower feeling refreshed, and more confident, Amanda grabbed her laundered clothes, dressing before heading to the equations hall. Maybe something would click today. It was a long shot, but she could hope.

Rounding a corner, she heard laughter and immediately paused out of habit. Seeing a pair lingering in the distance, sharing an amusement, Mandy grew naturally curious, especially the moment she recognized Rush. The idle curiosity soured as she realized he spoke to another woman. A brunette she remembered meeting in the mess hall. Chloe. Yes, her name was Chloe.

Rush didn’t laugh easily, so how could this woman could make him do so? Hot waves of jealousy burned in Mandy’s chest as she continued watching the display. The whole ship knew Chloe and Matthew Scott were an item, but was she also on intimate terms with Rush? Did they have a past? The very idea had Mandy clenching her fists at her sides while battling internal anger.
“I’ll have to remember that one,” Rush commented before continuing on his way.

Chloe waved and went off in the other direction. On impulse, Mandy followed Chloe, making sure to stick to the shadows as her bare feet whispered along the metal flooring. The other woman stopped to talk to Vanessa James, making Amanda’s lips purse with disapproval. James went out of her way to be nasty to Amanda whenever their paths crossed, so needleless to say Vanessa wasn’t her favorite crewmember.

Chloe told Vanessa about some repairs, requesting military personnel keep out of a certain part of the ship. Vanessa nodded in understanding before seeing to her other duties. Mandy continued following Chloe, watching her perform several repairs before deciding she her pursuit a silly endeavor.

Earlier, Chloe and Rush were just talking; maybe even sharing a joke. The circumstances were probably nothing to worry about, so Mandy turned intending to finally walk to the equation hall, but paused again hearing Vanessa’s voice carry through the corridor. Mandy didn’t realize taking this path would cause her to encounter the other woman so soon.

“You should have seen her!” James’s amusement travelled clearly to Mandy’s ears. Racing for the shadows upon hearing multiple sets of footsteps, Mandy deduced James quickly found a group of friends to listen to her diatribes. “She just stood there like a bump on a log after bumping into me! I swear the woman is an idiot!”

Was James talking about last night? Mandy’s heart rolled guessing James referred to the moment she bumped into her after TJ gave her that tea, but to hear James tell the story, Mandy acted like a drunk, retarded simpleton, omitting the fact James wasn’t watching where she was going either! Quite convenient too, considering how James always played the role of the saint!

“Maybe she’ll be better when she gets her memories back,” one of the other soldiers commented.

Vanessa’s bitter laugher sounded closer. “She was a freak before she was even on this ship,” she insisted.

“Because you switched with her for a whole five seconds?”

“Hey,” James snapped. “It was long enough! Let’s go. We have work to do.”

Replaying the words over in her head, Mandy didn’t understand what they meant when they said she and Vanessa “switched”. Switched what? And how could this switching thing solidify James’s dislike of her so thoroughly?

Too many questions plagued her today and no real answers were forthcoming, so Mandy pushed the incident to the back of her mind, all the while keenly aware she needed her memories back as soon as possible. There had to be a way to do more than just sit and wait and hope! Marching up to the equations she wrote with determination, Amanda’s eyes stared at the symbols, willing her mind to remember their meaning.

Her dream communicated how much she loved science and excelled at the aerobotics programs, so the knowledge was locked inside her brain someplace! The problem came with attempting to access the information, but there had to be a way to bypass the blockage! There just had to be!

Picking up a piece of chalk, Mandy got lost in a haze of determination as she started blindly scribbling more numbers along the lines. Unaware of how long she stood in place copying down what popped into her head, Mandy suddenly blinked and saw the equation as a whole in her mind.

Gasping, she recognized the sequences, but didn’t all at the same time. Frantically trying to grasp the kernels of the knowledge, a little cry of dismay left her throat when the tendrils suddenly disappeared, leaving her staring at lists of numbers and symbols that once again didn’t make an iota of sense.

Blowing out a breath while raking a hand through her hair, Mandy knew she could do this. She could remember. After all, she coped with her disability, rising above, and carving out a decent living. Highly decorated and recognized in her field, she achieved a great deal, so one case of amnesia wasn’t going to keep her down for long!

Focusing once more on the symbols, her mind drifted to the images from her dreams, while also recalling her past reading and love for the Ancients and their culture, learning how they ascended to higher planes of thinking and existing. Fascinated by the concept of ascending from her worldly body into being something more, Mandy considered ascension the key to becoming normal.

Becoming an expert set a challenge, but the Ancients left behind plenty of mysteries for them to uncover. Mandy studied hard, often memorizing full texts of data. Surely, she retained some-

Gasping, eyes widening in recognition, Mandy knew what the latest symbol represented! The mathematical equivalent of infinity! In this context, it wasn’t meant to be an endless numeral, but rather a point of reference!

Wait. Did she write down a key to infinity or something else entirely? Some of the wind deflated from her sails at the onslaught of confusion. Just when she thought she had a bit of herself back, the memories slipped through her fingers! Fisting her hands, wanting to punch the wall, Mandy inhaled several deep breaths.

Maybe she should talk to Rush? He may have some insights. Sighing, she put down the chalk, brushing the excess dust off her hands.

Feeling accomplished, yet disappointed, Amanda intended to make her way back to her rooms to look over the equations in her notebook, hoping the scribbles would ignite another spark in her consciousness. The odds were slim that she would remember anything, but she had to try.

At the last second, she recalled her promise to meet Rush and broke into a run. Passing a few people in the corridor, she ignored their annoyed or curious looks as she dashed for the mess hall. Reaching the doors, she nearly collided with Rush.

“Whoa,” he said, reaching to grasp her shoulders and steady her on her feet. “You alright?”

Nodding, Mandy tried slowing her breathing after that sprint. “I lost track of time.”

Blinking, he nodded. “I was just coming to find you.”

“Sorry,” she spoke casting him a look of apology.

Wrapping his arm around her shoulders, Rush pulled Mandy into the side of his body. “It’s alright. Let’s eat. A feast is waiting.”

Smiling, Mandy didn’t want to get her hopes up, but damn if he wasn’t right about the food. An array of meats and fruit spread out on a table before them. There was even a tray of bread at the far end, the sweet aroma making her mouth water. Taking her portion and sitting beside Rush, Mandy didn’t have any trouble eating. In fact, she didn’t notice the pairs of eyes watching them from all directions around the room. She didn’t care. Being with Rush in this moment felt right and nothing else mattered.

Chapter Text

The morale on the ship greatly improved since the Langaran supply line was successfully implemented. Young noticed the crew appeared happier, going about their duties with an easier attitude. Hope floated through the air, which was most refreshing after so much despair.

Telford still pressured him about those equations, but every time he spoke to Eli, the kid stalled. Young couldn’t help but wonder what got into him, but even was he asked the question Everett feared he knew the answer.

Rush didn’t like the idea of “outsiders” on the ship and no doubt the scientist voiced his opinion to anyone who would listen. Young knew the guy was protective of Destiny, the mission, and over the technology that brought Dr. Perry back, but he wasn’t in charge of their ship. He didn’t call all the shots. Homeworld Command did have a say, and Young would do his best to protect Dr. Perry if push came to shove.

Having experts on board to properly run things would help them in the long run, so Young hoped to convince Eli of the same so they could get the ball rolling. Finding Mr. Wallace among all the notes and equations, Young saw him standing in front of a section of chalkboard sporting some very complex symbols. Eli didn’t look up at his approach, so young cleared his throat.

“Is this your work,” he asked.

“What?” Blinking, Eli shook his head to loosen the cobwebs. “No,” he said. “This is Dr. Perry’s.”

Young couldn’t disguise his shock. “She has her memory back?”

“No,” Eli sighed. “Apparently, these equations are popping into her head somehow. She doesn’t know what they mean, and I’m having trouble figuring it out myself.”

Young wasn’t on Eli’s level of genius, but he didn’t become a Colonel by being stupid either. Still, Dr. Perry’s notes might as well have been in Greek. Dealing with one brilliant mathematician with an ego was difficult enough, so Young hoped Dr. Perry didn’t transform into the female version of Rush once her memories returned. True, when her consciousness was on board, Young got the impression the woman was kind and moral, but she still stood solidly in Rush’s corner. Dr. Perry didn’t seem a difficult type, however being loyal to Rush’s camp could turn out problematic, so he should be prepared.

Returning his attention to the matter at hand, Young wanted Eli to shed some light on this latest project before Rush had a chance to muddy the waters. “How are the calculations going,” he asked.

“Have you had a chance to look at the data the Langarans sent?”

”Yeah,” Eli said, shifting his weight from one foot to the other.

“And,” Young prompted. “Any progress?”

“Well,” Eli laughed nervously. “Here’s the thing. McKay may be a good asset, but he doesn’t know everything. We disagree on the basic variables, so the math on his end is very different from mine.”

“Well, McKay did come up with the algorithm to make the supply line feasible in the first place, so can’t you go with his variables?”

“The problem with that is that the math doesn’t work out,” Eli argued.

Clenching his hands behind his back, Young studied Eli for a long moment. “Are you sure that’s the only reason?”

Eli barked a laugh. “What other reason would there be?”

Young shrugged. “You tell me.”

Shifting his feet again, Eli looked down at the floor trying to come up with the right words to convey his thoughts. He wasn’t siding with Rush- - not exactly anyway, but he did have questions and reasons to be weary.

“Are you sure you want strangers on board,” he began. “Especially given the situation with Dr. Perry? This new technology-”

“Might be understood by people who are qualified,” Young interrupted. “Having experts on board would help us solve these problems faster.”

“But the more people who know, the less secret the whole situation becomes! We have enough aliens out there that want Destiny! If word gets out-”

“We have to trust Homeworld Command to keep it classified,” Young stated. “We can protect Dr. Perry.”

Not satisfied in the least, Eli wasn’t buying the Colonel’s argument. “And if you’re replaced? What if they send Telford over again and put him in command? Or someone else who wants to abuse the tech-”

“Is this something you’re really worried about Eli, or is this Rush putting ideas in your head?” Young snapped, “Because the guy has his own agenda too!”

“Yeah, well, maybe I can see his point this time,” Eli countered.

Young’s brows shot up his forehead at the pronouncement. “Really? You do?”

Being pressured for an answer, Eli threw up his hands. “If I can figure out how the program the regeneration system, then maybe we can bring Ginn back, but what’s the point if she’s only going to be used as an experiment?”

“Eli,” Young argued, shaking his head. “We don’t’ know-”

“But should we even be taking the risk?! It’s not just us who will be affected-”

“Get me those numbers,” Young barked. “That’s an order.”

Watching Young turn on his heel and walk away, Eli’s mouth hung open. Did the guy seriously just pull rank? Last he checked, he wasn’t part of the military! Eli wasn’t under his jurisdiction!

Yeah, ok, so they all sort of agreed Young was in charge, and normally Eli didn’t go along with Rush’s ideas, and he personally didn’t have a problem with the military until just this second when Young pulled that shit. He wanted Ginn back more than anything! At the same time, if there was any risk of danger, why bring her back if she couldn’t live in safety?

How could Young just blindly trust Stargate Command would look out for their best interests all the way out here? The Langaran supply line was a one-way ticket, so who even same through wouldn’t be going back, and if they couldn’t trust the new people, Eli knew there was only going to be more trouble. The mutiny they had before would be a walk in the park compared to what could potentially happen if the newbies were looking out for different interests.

Heaving a sigh, he looked over the numbers again. Ironing out the details would take time, but he didn’t think the task impossible. However, Eli was seriously considering not finishing the work. Until he knew exactly who would be coming through the gate, Eli would keep any knowledge of this subject to himself.

After a time, he turned his attention to the programming of the regeneration chamber. Understanding how the technology worked would be a major step in figuring out how to make Ginn whole. Hopefully, once Dr. Perry remembered more, she would be able to add some insights.

****

“Rush!”

Hearing his name, the scientist lifted his head out of the conduit and glanced down the hall to see Young marching toward him with a determined look lining his features. What now? Cursing under his breath, Rush put aside his tools and straightened. Hands covered in grease and dirt, Rush didn’t care. All part of a day’s work.

“To what do I owe the pleasure,” Rush asked with a hint of sarcasm as he put his tools back in the box.

“Have you been filling Eli’s head with your nonsense?”

Blinking, Rush kept his outward expression neutral, but inwardly, he didn’t deny his amusement. He liked seeing Young jump through hoops, he must admit. Ready for the fight, he faced the Colonel, folding his arms over his chest. “Eli is young, but of age,” Rush started. “He can think for himself.”

Young wasn’t buying it. He and Rush had an agreement, but he wouldn’t put it past this guy to pull a fast one. “I don’t want you spreading your nonsense around the ship,” Young snapped.

Scoffing, Rush tossed his hair out of his eyes. “You mean don’t voice my opinion? The agreement is a valid one! How do we know we can trust-”

“The bottom line is that we need qualified personnel here to run-”

“We’re doing just fine on our own,” Rush snapped. “We’ve all had a crash course. Besides, how do you know Destiny would ever accept them? This ship-”

“It’s not a living being, Rush! It doesn’t have the capability to be so selective-”

“Oh, really? That’s why it defended itself against the Nakai? Or maybe you doubt the ship has a connection to us because the no-win-scenario Destiny put you through had no impact whatsoever!”

Gritting his teeth against Rush’s sarcasm, Young forced down his temper. Smacking the other man always gave him satisfaction, but he couldn’t lose his control now. “Not everything is about you, Rush,” Everett spoke with a calm he didn’t totally feel.

“Who said that was about me,” Rush challenged.

“You’re trying to protect Dr. Perry which is noble, but you have to understand-”

“No, Colonel, you need to understand! Even if Amanda wasn’t here, if she never came back, it doesn’t change the fact the technology that made it all possible is still on this ship! Like it or not, that regeneration room Eli stumbled upon just made our situation that much more perilous! Maybe the Nakai already know about the regenerator and that is why they want Destiny. Either way, we both know that worst case scenarios here. Bringing strangers on board, considering what is going on, is a recipe for disaster!”

Young couldn’t deny Rush had a point. Still, the man’s vision was clouded these days by too much personal bias. Rush wanted to protect Dr. Perry, which was all well and good, but a strong argument existed for needing more experts to help with this mission, that was for damn sure.

“We can compromise,” he reasoned. “Get people we trust to come aboard.”

Rush barely resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Barely. “And who exactly are we talking about here? Telford? Last I checked he was after your job.”

“I can get together a list of names,” Young continued, ignoring Rush’s jab. “Military and civilian.”

Pinching the bridge of his nose, Rush couldn’t believe one man could be so stubbornly thick-headed! “Destiny is coveted,” he insisted. “She’s a powerful talisman to anyone possessing her.”

“And you want to be the one possessing her,” Young taunted. “Don’t you, Rush?”

“My point,” Rush stressed, ignoring the little grain of truth in Young’s words. “Is that no one is going to look out for us if there’s a struggle. We need to watch out own backs. Homeworld Command will only cover us so far, and make no mistake; we are left to our own devices all the way out here.”

Young met Rush’s eyes unflinchingly. “Then I guess we’ll see where the chips fall, now won’t we?”

Shaking his head at Young’s departure, Rush couldn’t believe that fucker even graduated from the academy! Did he not care about anyone on this ship? He wouldn’t put a hundred lives at risk because he didn’t trust the abilities of the people already here? People who have come through time and time again? Maybe other crew members wouldn’t object to new blood, but Rush felt personally offended.

He and Young often clashed. They didn’t share the same sort of view about the mission, but Young was kicking the animosity up a notch at this juncture. Never the type to sit back and keep quiet, Rush refused to shut up on this particular subject. In fact, once his work here was finished, he would talk to Amanda. They may need to come up with a plan.

****

Was he making the right decision? Everett frowned in thought as he walked the corridors. As much as he loathed to admit, Rush did have a valid point. However, Rush viewed the mission as long term, while Everett chose to hope they wouldn’t be stuck in the middle of no where until they were old and gray. Plus, if they did have more experts on the ship, it increased their chances of finding a way to dial Earth. After all they endured, they deserved to go home. Who was he to deny them a chance?

Yet, Telford did have a spotted history. Getting the supply line running would be a huge feather in the guy’s cap. Dealing with a superior was one thing, but dealing with Telford was a whole other can of worms.

Uncertain and needing advice, Young unconsciously found his feet moving in the direction of the infirmary. Whenever he needed someone to talk to, he usually reached out to one person. Glancing through the doorway, Young saw TJ’s back as she went through the process of sterilizing medical instruments. Opening his mouth, Young was about to call her name, but at the last moment someone moved to her side.

Watching TJ smile at Varro, Young felt his heart tear down the middle. TJ smiled at the other man as if she genuinely enjoyed his company. After everything she endured, after all the loss and pain, she deserved to be happy. At the same time, Young knew he could make TJ happiest if given the chance. If circumstances were different, Young knew they would be together. Yet, presently, he felt like his hands were tied.

Getting together with TJ while married was bad enough, but they were both officers with duties to perform. Clouding those waters was a mistake Everett deeply regretted making, so why did he want to jump in all over again?

Watching the way the woman he loved smiled at Varro, Young decided to make a hasty exit. He should leave TJ alone to make her own choices. Silently leaving the infirmary, jealousy and resentment dogged Everett’s every step back to his quarters. His heart and mind screamed for him to declare his feelings, but he refused to burden her now. His duty as commanding officer must be first and foremost. Perhaps, one day, if they ever made it home, Everett would be able to finally tell TJ of his feelings. Of course, it may already too late…

Chapter Text

Waking with a gasp, hand automatically covering her slamming heart, Mandy’s gaze lifted to the ceiling. When the fright passed, she sat up, reaching for the pen and notebook on the nightstand. Purging the series of symbols from her mind helped ease her worries for a few minutes, and by the time she finished writing the dreams felt less poignant.

Twenty minutes later, having filled nearly ten sheets of paper, she put the notebook aside in favor of sinking back against the pillows. The urge to cry tugged at Mandy’s chest, but inwardly she felt too numb to summon the energy. Dreaming about her disability served as a bitter reminder that though she managed to live on her own terms, the desire to be normal never faded no matter how much time passed. The wish solidified into a resentful depression after her parents washed their hands of her and the feeling haunted Amanda’s days no matter how hard to tried overcoming her circumstances.

In the end, Mandy knew she accomplished a great deal, but the loneliness seeped into her bones until she could hardly breathe upon waking to a new day. If she never met Rush, Mandy wasn’t sure she would have survived such an existence. He was the only person who treated her as if there was nothing wrong with her appearance. He truly valued her opinions and insights, seeking out her conversation, wanting her participation, which was a drastic change from other colleagues who never masked their resentment of being forced to work with her on certain projects. Yes, she knew Rush was off limits, but just the fact he fueled her dreams enabled her to keep going day after day.

Against all odds, Mandy ended up on this ship, traveling the universe, with the man she remembered falling in love with, but the trouble centered around Amanda not remembering Rush saying he loved her in return. She recalled spending many afternoons talking, either in person or over subspace, covering w wide range of topics, but she didn’t remember the point where they moved past friendship.

They must have though because the way Rush kissed her wasn’t the act of a mere friend. Passion ignited between them, so much so that Mandy knew she wasn’t imagining their bond. Recalling the pleasure she experienced in his arms, Mandy’s cheeks heated as she dueled with regret. The sensation of having an orgasm was unlike anything she could ever hope to accurately put into words. The pleasure felt amazing, yes, but feeling those sensations while in Rush’s arms intensified the moment, their bond tying them together in a permeate way she couldn’t fully define. As a result a possessiveness coursed through her veins, making her claim Rush as hers, despite all the logical reasons to keep a solid perspective. Mandy craved having those sensations racing through her body again, but only by Rush’s hand. Unable to think of anything else, she grew restless, tossing and turning in an effort to get comfortable.

Blood warming, a slight throbbing began between her legs in reaction to her thoughts, causing Mandy to consider what would happen if she dared touch her sex the way Rush’s thigh did. Inhaling a sharp breath as her clit clenched, Mandy tried rolling over, closing her eyes, and going back to sleep. Unfortunately, the pulsing in her secret places refused to dissipate.

Instinctively clenched her thighs together, driving the sweet ache up a notch, Mandy thought about Rush and the way his body molded perfectly against her frame. Sighing remembering how his hands cupped her breast, spreading warmth throughout her body, Mandy couldn’t resist the urges as liquid pooled between her legs, leaking onto her panties.

A little cry passed her lips feeling her sex grow moist. As the speed of her clenching thighs became more rapid, Mandy knew she shouldn’t be doing this. Thinking about Rush when she had no idea where they stood…and wanting to have that exquisite pleasure again…no, she should stop now.

Blowing out a breath, flipping onto her back, Mandy’s gaze stared at the ceiling as her legs fell open. All her efforts to think of other subjects was in vain because the throbbing continued, driving her mad. In an effort to get some relief, she tentatively placed her hand between her legs, over her sex, fingers searching gently for the pulsing bud. Running her index finger gently over the bundle of nerves, her breath hitched as she struggled to swallow a moan.

Experimenting, her finger moved slowly up and down, then in little circles, as she remembered the sensations flooding her body while in Rush’s embrace. However, the sensations her fingers roused were very different from the sweet pleasure evoked by Rush’s body. The feeling was…nice, but not as pleasing or as intense.

Unsure of how to make her body feel the same level of pleasure, Mandy pressed her fingers harder against her clitoris, moving slightly faster. Yes, something happened! The touch caused her body to jerk involuntarily, but the pressure felt a bit uncomfortable.

Remembering Rush telling her to change angles to find what she enjoyed, Mandy tried doing the same with her fingers, even going as far as to press her palm into her sex to rub her clit, but still didn’t achieve proper fulfillment. What was she doing wrong? When the frustration overwhelmed the pleasure, Mandy blew out a heavy sigh as she tossed aside the covers and rose to her feet.

Pacing dulled the delicious ache enough to clear her head. Maybe that peak of delight couldn’t be achieved all on her own? Despite what she knew and read about people being able to reach orgasm independently of a partner, perhaps she wasn’t capable. Maybe she needed Rush?

Unwilling to dwell on those possibilities, Mandy needed fresh air. Slipping on her shoes, wincing at the pinch, she exited her quarters not entirely sure of a destination. All she knew for certain was a distraction would help banish her lustful impulses. Wandering the corridors, hardly knowing where she headed, Mandy paused at the sound of voices coming from a room at the other end of the hall. Approaching slowly, she hoped to slip by unnoticed. Peeking around the corner to see if the coast was clear, she spotted Eli sitting at a monitor watching some sort of video. Not wanting to intrude, Mandy started turning around intending to head back the way she came, but Eli chose that moment to glance over his shoulder. Spotting her, he straightened.

“Dr. Perry,” he said as he readjusted in his seat. “What are you doing here?”

Lingering on the threshold, she shrugged. “I needed to escape my quarters for a bit,” she said shyly. “I didn’t mean to intrude. I’ll just-”

“Wait!” Eli waved her over, intending to show her the video. While he did hold a grudge where Mandy was concerned, his lonely boredom wouldn’t mind talking to someone. Watching the kino footage of his descendants always chased away his melancholy, which was his motivation for watching now.

“Check this out,” he encouraged as he showed her some of his favorite snippets.

Trying to make sense of the footage, Mandy’s fascination mixed with confusion. “I don’t understand,” she admitted a few minutes later. “How can you have a whole population of descendants currently in a different galaxy in the present time if you are here as well?”

Letting out a breath, then a little laugh, Eli raked a hand through his hair. “That a bit tricky to explain.”

“Why?”

Eli blinked at Dr. Perry, wondering how much he should tell her, if anything at all. “How much science do you remember?”

Considering a moment, Mandy shrugged. “The basics right now, I guess.”

“So, no quantum physics,” he asked.

“General concepts,” she clarified.

Layman’s terms, then; Eli could handle that much. Explaining the concept of dialing Earth from within a star, and the ensuing complications of solar fluxes and time loops, he told her the story of how the crew ended up evacuating to a nearby planet through the stargate only to have one of those time fluxes throw them thousands of years in the past. The crew survived by building whole new lives for themselves, which resulted in a new civilization. Eli proudly showed off the footage of his family tree.

“I planned to have a family with Ginn,” he said without fully comprehending the words. “But that was impossible.”

“Ginn?” The name sounded familiar to her ears, but Mandy couldn’t say why.

Blinking rapidly as awareness dawned, Eli shook his head. “Nothing,” he said quickly. “Never mind.”

Why did he suddenly look skittish? Did his reasons have something to do with his anger toward her? Mandy wanted to press the issue, but Eli distracted her with another piece of footage. Recognizing faces, she couldn’t help getting engrossed, but her curiosity wasn’t satisfied by a long shot.

“Where is Rush,” she asked, ignoring her reddening cheeks.

“Ah, he’s not here,” Eli clarified.

Frowning, her mind automatically jumped to the worst case scenario. “Why not,” she asked, her voice quivering slightly.

Eli opened his mouth to answer, but someone else beat him to the punch.

“Because I never left the ship.”

Startled, Mandy nearly jumped out of her skin as she whirled around to see the man himself entering the room. Heart racing, Mandy’s throat went dry, but luckily Rush’s focus went straight to Eli. Since her voice wasn’t working, Amanda swallowed hard hoping to regain her composure before either man noticed her discomfort.

“Eli, do you have those figures I asked for?”

“Ah, I’ve been a little busy trying to work out the complications with the supply line’s connection-”

“And I distracted him,” Mandy blurted.

Rush’s eyes never wavered from Eli. “Nothing that needs to be remedied immediately,” he stressed, giving Eli a poignant look.

“Young may beg to differ,” Eli argued.

Sensing the tension in the air as the two glared at each other, Mandy stepped in, hoping to distract them before a full fight ensued. “Why didn’t you leave the ship during the solar flux,” she asked.

Gaze turning to Mandy, Rush’s features softened as he started to answer, but Eli put in his two cents before Rush could utter a single word.

“The mission and the ship mattered more to him,” he said with a dash of amusement.

“Good thing, too, or I wouldn’t have been able to come back through the time loop and save your arses,” Rush grumbled, folding his arms over his chest.

Laughing, Eli shook his head as his eyes returned to Mandy. “I had earlier kino footage from when we first came on board, which our descendants preserved and studied, and do you know what they thought of Rush?”

Smiling, Mandy shook her head. “What?”

“Eli,” Rush said in warning.

Ignoring the Scot’s grumpy attitude, Eli waved him off, smiling at Dr. Perry. “Pretty much, they thought him the devil,” he chuckled.

Hardly believing a word, Amanda laughed. “No, they didn’t!”

“Oh, yeah,” Eli snickered, remembering the reactions of a few descendants when they met the scientist in person.

Scoffing, Rush rolled his eyes. “When you’re done goofing off, Eli, you know where to find me.”

Watching Rush walk out, Mandy felt awful. Her first instinct was to follow; but Eli’s next words distracted her intent.

“He’s never liked watching the footage.” Eli shrugged as he glanced at the screen. “All of us are fascinated by everything our descendants achieved, but not him. The mission comes first and foremost and he’s really touchy about it.”

No, Eli was wrong. Amanda didn’t have a clue as to why the certainly clutched her chest, but she knew Rush did care. Having overheard details about the mission from conversations during her wanderings, she could see how the mission would mean a lot to him as well, yet Amanda knew there was more to the story.

Thanking Eli, she excused herself before running to catch up to Rush. Seeing him round a corner, she called his name. Rounding the same corner, happy to see he waited for her, the smile spread across her face.

“Mandy,” he asked, his eyes full of concern.

Touching his arm, she offered what comfort and understanding she could give. “I know why you don’t like watching the video.”

“Eli told you it was all about the mission, huh?” Why wasn’t he surprised? “Well, he should be a bit more grateful for that.”

Moving to continue on his way, Rush paused feeling the hand squeeze his arm. “That’s not the reason,” her soft voice sounded in his ear.

Turning around to gaze into those familiar blue eyes, seeing her certainty, Rush’s breath caught in those throat. Did she remember something else? Something about their shared past?

Inching closer, she let her hand roam up to his shoulder. “You can’t bare looking at the footage and seeing how everyone else had heirs to carry on their bloodline and you didn’t. As much as you care about this mission and your work, a secret part of you yearns for a family and a part of yourself to continue on after you Ascend.”

Unable to breathe, Rush could only stare in awe at her beauty. Only Mandy could know him so well. Even with only half her memories, Mandy still peered into his very soul. Taking her hand, Rush clasped her fingers, bringing her palm to his mouth to press a kiss to her soft skin.

“You’re partially right,” he sighed.

“Partly?” His touch sent thrills through her blood, making her head spin. When their eyes locked, Mandy’s heart pounded hard in her chest.

“I do secretly wish for those things,” he whispered, squeezing her fingers as he made the confession. “But even if I ended up on that planet, I wouldn’t have born any descendants.”

Heart leaping even as she frowned, Mandy shook her head in confusion. “How do you know?”

“Because the person I would have wanted them with wasn’t there,” he said thickly, his gaze boring into hers. “Mandy,” he rasped. “I thought you were lost to me.”

Breath hitching, she searched his expression for an explanation, but he gave away nothing. “What do you mean? Why wasn’t I here with you?”

Shaking his head, Rush wished with every fiber of his being he could give Mandy the answer, but he vowed not to push her too hard, too fast. Yet, the need to mark her rose in his blood, gnawing in his chest, urging him to take what he craved. Before he had time to think, Rush backed Mandy up against the wall, pressing his body into hers. Hearing her gasp, he refused to relinquish his hold on her soft flesh as he fused his mouth over her open lips.

Chapter Text

Though his whiskers rubbed roughly against her skin, Rush’s lips were so soft. Head spinning, Amanda automatically moved her arms around his neck, moaning when his tongue darted into her mouth, smoothing against hers and encouraging her to respond in kind. Confident in his movements, Rush pushed his body into her curves as the kiss went on, molding her to his hardness, causing Mandy’s knees to tremble.

A delicious ache turned her body to liquid as she continued kissing him; following his lead. Good thing his arms provided secure support, otherwise, Mandy was certain she would sink to the floor in a puddle at Rush’s feet.

The roughness of the kiss eased once Mandy yielded to his demands. Savoring her taste, all Rush could think about was processing her, wondering how far he could push the envelope in this moment. Feeling Mandy kissing him back made his heart soar because she wasn’t gone! Amanda was right in his arms – healthy, whole, and perfect!

Rush wanted every part of her, to mark her until there wasn’t any doubt she belonged by his side. Mandy would never question who she belonged with. Coming up for air, gasping for breath, Rush struggled to clear the haze of lust from his head. Mandy’s breathing came just as labored and male pride surged in his veins seeing how the kiss swelled her lips.

Cupping her cheek, he silently urged her to look up, needing to see her eyes. A smile curved his lips at the sight on those blue depths. Mandy was in awe of the kiss. The touch and the sensations were all new to her and no matter how many times they kissed; she reacted as if each was her first.

Licking her lips, Mandy strived to ignore the pounding of her heart and think straight. “W-Why did you do that?”

“Because,” he whispered huskily as his fingers played with a tendril of her hair. “You are mine.”

“What does that mean, Rush,” she bravely asked. “What are we to each other?”

Instead of answering, Rush intended to distract her with another kiss, but before their lips could meet; the sound of approaching footsteps drew them apart. Rush pushed away so fast, Mandy was baffled as she straightened. Why didn’t he answer the question?

All her nerve endings tingled from the feel of him against her. An inexplicable urge to wrap her body around his and take another kiss nearly had her moving forward, but an equal amount of fear of his rejection and of getting caught gave her pause. Glimpsing a few of the military personnel pass by at the other end of the corridor, she held her breath, but the pair didn’t spare Rush or Mandy a glance. Yet, Amanda wasn’t put at ease.

When the footsteps faded, she wanted to make her escape and think. “I’ll leave you to your work,” she said gently.

As she turned to go, Rush grasped her hand. Caressing her fingers, he silently, pleaded for her to understand. “I’ll come by later and we’ll talk.”

As much as she wanted answers, Mandy recognized this moment wasn’t the time to push for them. Yanking her hand free, secretly wishing she didn’t have to separate from his warmth, Mandy nodded. The entire walk back to her room; she couldn’t stop thinking about their kiss.

Did Rush care for her? Her feelings toward him ran almost too deep to fully grasp. Feelings which both thrilled and confused her. The vivid dreams of her past revealed her infatuation with Rush and the more she spoke to him and came to know him, the more her infatuation transformed into a crush of lust, then moving deeper into waves of purest love. The most frustrating part of all surrounded the fact Mandy couldn’t remember ever telling him about those feelings.

At some point, she obviously did, right? Rush didn’t flinch away from kissing her. At the same time, knowing he dodged her questions about her past gave Amanda genuine concerns. Did Rush love her back? Could he simply be putting her off because of her memory loss and not wanting to make the situation worse? Maybe he didn’t return her feelings?

The last scenario made her heart fall down to her knees. No, she knew Rush. He wasn’t the sort of man to take advantage of the situation and mislead her. No, she refused to believe the worst; yet a small voice of doubt took root in her mind, refusing to be silenced.

Something Rush said before the kiss made her wonder, but before she could contemplate further, the sound of laughter ahead floated through her ears, putting her on full alert. Mandy automatically moved to the shadows to avoid running into strangers. Even now, she still preferred staying out of sight.

“My God, she is so ridiculous,” a female voice sounded. “I mean, does she think because she was disabled that everyone will just overlook her eccentric behavior?”

Frowning hearing the voice she now recognized as belonging to Lt. James start making a high pitched mimicking tone, Mandy held her breath. Not again.

“Duh, I can’t move! Oh, help me! Help me! I don’t have shoes! Boo-hoo!”

Masculine laughter followed the gibe. A second later, Mandy realized they were making fun of her. The shock doubled when she realized they all knew about her paralysis! How?! She certainly didn’t tell them! Unless it was already a known fact across the ship? Still, Amanda felt violated. Hearing James continue mocking the way she walked and dressed, Mandy swallowed the lump in her throat. These people were cruel! She didn’t know them, but they certainly presumed to know her! How unfair!

James made her disdain quite clear, but Mandy considered the bullying a new level of low. Trying desperately to swallow the tears gathering behind her eyes, Mandy blinked rapidly. Ignoring the taunts and walking away with her head held high would be easier said than done. Besides, James and her cohorts blocked Mandy’s escape route. Normally, she would keep to the shadows, waiting for them to pass, hoping they didn’t spot her, but the urge to reveal herself and speak her mind almost made her take a step forward. At the last second, self-preservation kicked in, causing her to instinctively shudder and press back into the shadows. Closing her eyes tight, praying she could turn off the words floating from their mouths to her ears, a tear slid down her cheek hearing James’s jokes about her bodily functions while in her chair. The cruelty was just too much to bear.

As another tear escaped, Mandy heard another set of approaching footsteps. Another voice sounded, but this one didn’t hold a twinge of amusement.

“What seems to be the problem,” Greer asked, looking Lt. James directly in the eye.

“Nothing, Sir,” James replied.

Greer studied James and her posy for several long moments before nodding. “Off you go, then.”

The group dispersed, albeit begrudgingly. Once they were all out of earshot, Greer turned and called. “You can come out now.”

Inhaling a sharp breath, Mandy hesitated a moment before emerging from her hiding place. Though she wiped the tears from her cheeks, her red, puffy eyes were a dead giveaway.

“I’m sorry you had to hear that,” Greer said. “There are no excuses.”

Shrugging, Mandy felt too embarrassed by the situation to form words. Noting her discomfort, Greer decided not to press the issue.

“If they give you any trouble, come to me or the Colonel. We’ll handle it.”

Managing a nod and a small smile, Mandy thanked him before heading on her way. Back in own space, too numb to cry, but too upset to relax, Mandy paced the floor. Knowing James didn’t like her didn’t make the pill any easier to swallow.

There was so many unanswered questions, so many parts of her past that were still blank and didn’t make sense. Mandy started remembering the distant past of her accident and paralysis with more clarity every day, but the specifics explaining how she came to be on this ship, or the details of her relationship with Rush, remained elusive.

Rush.

Shaking the image from her mind, Amanda didn’t want more confusion at this point. Sitting on the edge of the bed, she reached for one of her notebooks and started flipping through the pages.

These equations were significant somehow. The certainty in her veins wanted her to take note and pay special attention, but how could she when she couldn’t find the sense in the chaos? Every time she attempted deciphering the meanings behind the symbols, her head ached and frustration gnawed every nerve. Obviously, when she thought she was on the right track to regaining her memories, she hit a wall. Putting aside the notebooks, Mandy rose to her feet, circling her arms over her chest as she moved to the window. The enormity of the universe hit her full force.

Mandy didn’t know why she was on a ship designed and crafted by the Ancients themselves, on a mission through the galaxies, to encounter new discoveries and new wonders. A part of her rippled with excitement at being here, but the other part cowered with insecurity.

How could she play a significant part in the mission is she felt small and unimportant? How did she overcome her disability? The crushing truth twisted her stomach, making the acid burn up her throat. People like Lt. James and her posy would never consider Amanda normal. In their eyes, she was still a disabled object of mockery, forever tainted by a fate she couldn’t control.

A cold force gathered in Mandy’s belly, rising up through her chest, but a solid determination took root, refusing to allow those bullying taunts keep her down. Yes, she was different, but Amanda knew she had plenty to offer. She simply needed to figure out how to play her role as part of this crew. As her eyes continued taking in the distant stars, Amanda silently vowed to make the most of her situation.

Finally turning away from the view with the intention of returning her attention to her equations, Mandy jumped hearing a knock on the door. Even as her heart leaped in surprise, she knew there wasn’t anything to be scared of because Rush said he would stop by.

Walking to the door, an odd sense of déjà vu took hold. Pausing, Mandy tried grasping at the sensation, hoping to reveal a deeper memory, but nothing happened. The door opened suddenly, causing another fright to her system. Gasping as she jumped back, Amanda instinctively drew away from the potential danger.

“Hey, it’s alright.”

Blinking, her eyes steadying enough to recognize Rush through the haze of adrenaline, Mandy let out a relieved breath. “Sorry,” she replied. “I’m not sure why I reacted that way.”

“No, I shouldn’t have barged in,” Rush said gently, taking a tentative step forward as the door closed behind him. Frightening her was never his intention. “I wanted to make sure you were alright.”

After all, the last time she didn’t answer his knock he found her dead on the floor. Well, she was in Ginn’s body at the time, but to his mind, Mandy was the person lying motionless, taken from him all the same. Pushing aside those memories, taking in Mandy’s expression, Rush noticed her disorientation.

Did she remember something? Hope, and an equal amount of fear, started beating within his heart. Rush came here intending to talk; to be upfront and honest with Mandy about their past and his feelings, but maybe the conversation should be postponed. Taking her hands, feeling her cool skin, he guided her to sit next to him on the edge of the bed. As much as Rush wanted to yank Mandy into his arms and hold her tight, kissing her senseless, he held his urges in check, unsure how receptive she would be to such advances.

“Is everything alright,” he managed to ask.

Nodding, at a loss to explain her sudden feeling of dread, Mandy felt something creep to the edge of her memory, but she couldn’t grasp the specifics to save her life, which only increased her frustrated anxieties. Letting out a sigh, she focused on Rush. Seeing the concern etched in his handsome features, the familiar attraction ignited in her veins, making her yearn to be close to him, but thankfully her pride prevented her from acting foolish. Swallowing the impulse to confide in him, she changed the subject to what she hoped was safer territory.

“Did you get your work done,” she asked.

“Some,” Rush said, scratching his whiskered cheek. Honestly, all he could think about while on duty was her face until he finally decided to just come and see her in person. They needed to clear the air and perhaps the sooner the better.

“Mandy,” he started. “I want you to know that you’re very important to me and I would never toy with your affections. I realize you don’t remember a lot of our shared past, and I don’t want to frighten you, but you’re not in this alone. Ok?”

The words were exactly what she needed to hear right now. A huge grin broke out across her face as relief flooded her system. Moving forward, Mandy hugged Rush tight, wrapping her arms around his neck, burying her nose in his hair before inhaling deeply of his masculine scent. Somehow, she always knew he wasn’t playing games at her expense, but hearing the words aloud made all the difference in the world.

“Thank you,” she whispered.

Cradling the back of her head, Rush rocked her gently. “Until you get you’re memories back, we should take things slow.”

Nodding, Mandy kept hugging him, knowing Rush’s arms would always keep her safe.

Chapter Text

Inhaling her sweet scent, Rush’s eyes drifted closed as he savored the feel of his woman in his arms. As his imagination ran wild with all the possibilities, Rush knew he dared not push Mandy too quickly. However, once her memories returned, all bets were off.

Feeling warm and protected, Mandy didn’t want to release her hold on Rush. Still, she became conscious of lingering too long against him already, so she forced her body to move away.

“Thank you,” she whispered as she struggled to meet his gaze. “I’m unsure of a lot of things these days, but I feel better knowing we are…whatever we are,” she finished lamely, her cheeks blushing.

Bringing her hand to his lips, Rush kissed her knuckles, then flipped her hand over to kiss her soft palm before once again locking eyes. “We are friends, Mandy, with great potential for more.”

Hearing such words made her giddy. Amanda wanted the “more” he promised because exploring what existed between them gave her goosebumps. Why couldn’t she just have her memories back so this situation would be easier on the both of them?

“I wish I could remember more about you,” she confessed.

Chuckling, Rush raked a hand through his hair. “I’m not so sure you should remember everything.”

“Why,” she giggled seeing his sheepish expression. “Are there some embarrassing moments stored in the back of my mind?”

“Probably,” Rush teased. Sobering, he let out a sigh. “You are the only person who truly knows me, Mandy,” he confessed. “Inside and out.”

“That’s a lot to live up to,” she said.

“Amanda,” Rush stated. “We are building on what we have now – not one what happened in the past.”

Breath hitching, Mandy acted on impulse, flinging her arms around his neck, pulling him close to her warmth. Stroking his hair, there was so much she wanted to say, but the words wouldn’t leave her throat. Choking back his emotions, Rush’s hold tightened. Oh, his sweet Mandy! He didn’t want to let her go!

Unaware of moving, the couple fell backwards on the bed. They didn’t need words, the silence comfortable between them as the pair took comfort in the warmth of each other’s touch. They were both here, alive and whole with a happy future dangled within their reach. What more could they ask for?

Losing track of time, Rush hoped they wouldn’t be disturbed. He turned off his radio, but that wasn’t always a guarantee of privacy. Eventually, they did talk about simple topics. Mandy asked about their chess matches and before long Rush challenged her to a game.

Taking her hand, Rush held her by his side for the short walk to his quarters. Sitting at the table, Rush set up the board. Ending up playing for hours, Mandy possessed a natural knack for strategy, easily winning every game until her fatigue caught up to her. Unable to ignore the yawning, Amanda moved to curl up on Rush’s bed.

Tucking her in, Rush kissed Mandy's cheek, waiting for her to fall to sleep before leaving to get back to work. With Mandy safe and reassured, Rush could focus on other tasks. In fact, as he headed down the corridor he realized a heavy lump of dread eased from his chest, alleviating many of his fears regarding Amanda. Smiling ever-so-slightly, Rush looked forward to getting more repairs checked off the list. Destiny still had a long way to go.

****

Going over more data, TJ felt fatigue weighing down her eyelids and limbs. Resisting the urge to indulge in a power nap, she blinked rapidly, rubbing at the ache in the back of her neck. Work kept her distracted from her fate. A fate looming ever closer.

There was no way to test, or tell, when her ALS would kick in, but knowing she was a ticking time bomb was all too sobering. If the worst happened, then she would need someone to take over her work in the infirmary. Someone who could run the facilities smoothly while seeing to the care of the crew.

James was very capable, but she lacked a bedside manner. TJ feared with Lt. James in charge more problems would be created instead of solved. Varro was another good candidate, but trust issues made her hesitate. As a former Lucian Alliance member, many of the crew would be skittish if Varro possessed more authority.

The more time Tamara considered her future, the more her mind wandered to Amanda Perry. The woman got a second chance – a clean slate – because of the regeneration technology Eli unearthed. Could there be a way to regenerate her genes if she started developing symptoms? The more TJ thought about her prospects, the more the machine felt like her only hope.

On the other hand, the damn device could end up being like cold fusion for all she knew: achieved once, then never replicated again. Eli wanted Ginn back, but his research currently hit a wall, as did hers. They couldn’t figure out how to program the damn thing and none of their theories worked! Something needed to give or TJ was going to lose her mind!

The supply line was a godsend so far, but there was no telling how long it would last, so having a back up system that could regenerate their food supply would be beneficial. Unfortunately, with the crew growing divided over the issue, there was no telling what existed over the horizon. There were whispers that if the line to Destiny enabled people to pass through the connection, then they would be overrun and essentially cast aside as Homeworld Command took over the ship.

On one hand, TJ could see the merits of additional personnel. After all, it would behoove everyone if they had a real doctor on board. At the same time, she noticed the dangers if someone else stole Everett’s post.

Everett. TJ needed to purge that man from her thoughts. What they shared was intense, wild, and wrong. TJ didn’t know what possessed her to take up with a married man. Her mother raised her better, but the connection they shared was instantaneous and irresistible - and the worst mistake of her life.

When their affair ended, as she knew it would, TJ wanted to get away. Everett chose his wife, and though it broke her heart, she knew he would make that choice the moment they shared their first kiss. Everett was a man of morals, who compromised everything to be with her until his conscious couldn’t take it anymore. Suspecting she was pregnant, TJ practically begged for a transfer. She would start over where no one knew her and raise her baby alone. The moment she received confirmation of her pregnancy, her transfer was delayed and she ended up here, only to lose Carmen-

Shaking her head to dispel her thoughts, TJ swallowed the threatening tears to focus on the data on the screen. She lost one child, was teased with the possibility of two more, and Everett still maintained a stern distance from her. Did he blame her for the end of his marriage? TJ didn’t want such a thing on her conscious, but knew she shared some responsibility. Did Everett blame himself for what happened with their daughter? They never talked about it and now there seemed to be a huge chasm between them that she wasn’t sure how to breach.

Then there was Varro. Handsome, intelligent, and sweet, but not quite…right. Maybe she could learn to love Varro? The attentions he paid her were certainly flattering, but would it be fair to lead him on if she wouldn’t be able to love him at all? And there was her condition to consider. How could she ask Varro to commit when she knew what her future held? Building up her defenses, TJ kept Varro at arm’s length. Besides, if she did get sick, she didn’t have any business falling in love, or building a relationship with either man.

“TJ?”

Hearing her name, Tamara nearly jumped out of her skin. Whirling around to see her commanding officer wanted a word, she pushed aside her personal turmoil in favor of her professional face.

“I didn’t mean to startle you,” Young said as he moved closer.

“I was deep in my work,” TJ said casually. “What can I do for you?”

“Take a break,” he urged. “You’ve been working yourself to the bone.”

“Needs to be done,” she sighed. “Besides, I’m not the only one.”

“Well, hopefully, if McKay and Eli can work out the details, then we should be able to bring some additional help on board.”

TJ couldn’t help but frown. “Are you sure that’s wise?”

Young barely resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “Don’t tell me you’re listening to Rush’s nonsense, too.”

“It’s not nonsense,” she pointed out. “Who’s to say Homeworld Command won’t use the supply line as a power play to seize control of the ship?”

“I’m in command,” Young argued. “They can already claim the ship is under their control.”

“Not completely,” TJ asserted. “Not while there is a strong civilian population demanding diplomacy instead of marshal law. What if-”

“It won’t happen, TJ,” Young insisted.

“What if Telford makes a move to take over?” Tamara refused to let the matter drop.

“He won’t-”

“Are you sure? He covets-”

“He owes me his life and his uniform,” Young snapped. “Telford won’t betray me like that.”

“Not outright,” she said softly.

“So,” he continued with a hit of bitterness. “You’re siding with Rush on this one?”

“It’s not about sides,” TJ stressed. “It’s about what’s best for everyone. Why aren’t you seeing the potential for disaster? Why is it so important to get new people here?”

Frustration made him raise his voice. “Because we can’t keep doing this forever, TJ! We can’t keep running this ship indefinitely hoping to fulfill some mission the Ancients cooked up, so maybe in the end, we get to go home! We need help!”

Words lodged in her throat as she gazed at the pain in his eyes. Everett didn’t need to say a word because she knew what he was thinking. If they had help when the Lucian Alliance attacked, maybe, just maybe, their daughter would be alive. Everett was one of the most stubborn men she knew and stared at her stone-faced, refusing to admit the truth even to himself.

For his part, Young stared at TJ wanting to reach out, but being unable to say a word. His turbulent emotions threatened to burst at the seams. Yet, no matter how much he wanted to, he couldn’t take the risk, but oh, how he missed her! TJ was, unfortunately, as off limits as ever. Even a billion light years from home, Young knew he couldn’t take liberties. Leading by example meant following the code of conduct –a code he broke once and vowed never to do again. Because if they started making exceptions, then before long the whole structure of civility they build on Destiny would come crumbling down around their ears.

His only solace came from hoping that maybe, if they survived this mission and made it back to Earth, then he and TJ could finally make a fresh start. As of right now, his hands were tied. Seeing her attachment to Varro grow felt like a kick in the stomach, but there wasn’t much Young could do about that situation either.

Ashamed of losing his temper, Young refocused and change the subject. “What are you working on?”

“A bit of everything,” she supplied, eager for the harsh mood to pass. “Some research and updating personnel files.”

Inching closer, Young saw Varro’s name and picture. Clenching his fists, Young didn’t want to comment, yet was unable to stay silent. “You’re vetting Varro?”

TJ blinked. Did she hear a hint of jealousy in his tone? Thinking she must have imagined it, her gaze returned to the screen. “I need a replacement.”

“Why?”

Clearly, the knowledge slipped his mind and TJ repressed a sigh before answering. “I have to think of the future and difficult scenarios.”

The memory of her ALS hit him hard. The last thing Young ever wanted was for the woman he loved with all his heart to suffer unimaginable pain. The kinos showed what could be in store if they didn’t find a way to halt the progress of the disease or find a cure. TJ was obviously preparing for the worst case scenario, which didn’t sit well with him.

“We will find a solution somehow, TJ,” he said fervently. “You don’t have to do this.”

“Yeah, I do.” The last thing she wanted to do was fight over this subject. Looking at Everett now, she could tell he struggled with denial, but she accepted her fate long ago. “I’m going to get sick,” she said gently. “Very sick. We need to have someone in charge of the infirmary who can take proper care of the crew and who also inspires trust.”

“Well, that’s not Varro,” he blurted.

Gasping, TJ couldn’t hide her surprise at his outburst. “Why not?”

“He was part of the Lucian Alliance!”

“Not by choice,” she argued. “He worked with us-”

“Only after he didn’t have a choice,” Young snapped. “After he was caught. And there are a lot of people who won’t easily forget his past.”

“Like you,” she challenged.

“Pick someone else,” he demanded.

“The is a very short list and-”

“I see Lt. James’s name. I’m sure she’ll work.”

Shaking her head, TJ refused to back down. “She has some…issues I’m concerned about.”

“What?”

Telling Young about James’s treatment of Mandy, TJ pointed out how unprofessional the behavior, but also how she thought Vanessa was projecting her fears and faults onto an innocent person, which wasn’t behavior a medic could display.

“James couldn’t handle the switch with Dr. Perry and panicked, which enabled the Nakai to attack us,” TJ continued. “With Mandy now on board, it is easier for Vanessa to lash out, making Mandy the focus of her rage.”

“I’ll talk with her,” Young pronounced.

“Ok,” TJ nodded. “Good.”

“But see if you can’t find a better candidate then Varro.”

“I’ll do my best.” TJ knew the matter would never be settled unless she acquiesced.

After Everett left, a smile spread across TJ’s face. The man she still loved was jealous! Maybe there was hope after all.

Chapter Text

Waking with a start, several seconds passed before Mandy recognized her surroundings. The black void no longer chased her. She was on Destiny and safe. Placing a hand over her pounding heart, Mandy slowly realized she was still in Rush’s quarters. Eyes searching the room, a little pang of disappointment gripped her seeing no sign of him.

Rising, she made the bed before walking to the window and taking in the view of the surrounding stars. They looked the same, so did that mean they were in the same solar system, or did the ship jump to another? Raking a hand through her hair, breathing out a sigh, Amanda decided to leave. Falling asleep wasn’t her original intention, but she couldn’t take the action back now. Rush was probably working, so she should just go back to her own quarters and clear her mind.

The moment she crossed her threshold, Mandy’s fingers reached for her notebooks. The numbers flowed naturally, making her almost feel at ease seeing them appear on the pages. The equations gave her an odd sense of comfort these days. Significance rested here, but Mandy couldn’t pin down the full meaning.

An idea sparked suddenly in her head, and before she could lose her nerve, Amanda put her notebook aside before heading to the infirmary. Thankfully, she found TJ alone. Inching closer, she noticed the medic wiping at her eyes. Was she crying? Unsure, Amanda paused before gathering her courage and clearing her throat. “TJ,” she asked carefully.

Looking up, Tamara forced a smile. “Dr. Perry, what can I do for you?”

“Please, call me ‘Mandy’.” Returning the other woman’s soft smile, Amanda’s shoulders relaxed. “I was wondering if there was a way to see if there is any significant change in my condition now that I’m remembering some of my past.”

TJ’s shock was obvious. “What are you remembering?”

“Well,” Mandy fidgeted, wondering how much detail to share. “Small things, mostly. I thought they were dreams at first, but they were so vivid. Rush confirmed some of the images were authentic memories.”

Thinking a moment, TJ nodded. “I can do a brain scan and compare it to what we took when you first woke up. It may show abnormalities that could account for the returning memories. If we’re lucky, then maybe we can find a way to cure your amnesia faster.”

“Do you have time?”

TJ smiled. “No time like the present.” Besides, she could use the distraction. Helping Dr. Perry meant helping herself as well, so Tamara wouldn’t turn Amanda away.

Lying prone and vulnerable on the table made Mandy’s stomach quiver with nerves, but she trusted TJ to wield the Ancient device to perform an equivalent of an MRI. They chatted a bit while waiting for results. TJ desperately wanted to ask Mandy about her paralysis and how she coped with her condition; but such a topic would be rude to broach until Dr. Perry regained her full memories. Faced with ALS, TJ could very well be dealing with a similar outcome, however; it seemed unfair to burden the other woman before her memories were fully intact.

When the results were in, TJ compared the new set of scans to the older ones. “There is more activity overall,” TJ announced.

“Is that good?”

“Your brain is making more connections,” TJ smiled. “The cerebral cortex looks much healthier.”

“Does that mean I’m getting better?” Clasping her hands together, Amanda dared to hope.

There were many theories at this point and TJ didn’t want to get Mandy too excited until she had more solid proof. “I can’t give you absolutes,” she said carefully. “My guess is that when Rush and Eli-” Cutting off, realizing Mandy didn’t remember about the stones or the download, TJ cleared her throat.

“What,” Mandy blinked. “What did they do?”

Knowing she had to fix her near slip-of-the-tongue, TJ had to think of her feet. “They…saved you. And I think some minor damage to your cerebral cortex resulted from what you went through. Like sunburn – no, that’s a bad analogy. Basically, your brain is healing and starting to make connections again. The process may be slow, but hopefully you will have your full long term memory restored soon.”

There was something TJ wasn't telling her. Something important. Mandy wanted to push for answers, but got the impression TJ wouldn’t confess a single detail – just like Rush and Eli wouldn’t. What in the world could they be hiding from her? Maybe she would remember on her own, but what if she didn’t?

“So, it is possible for me to remember everything?”

TJ nodded. “I think you’re healing, which is a good sign. Your dreams could be how your subconscious manifested the memories. It’s hard to say for certain because there is so much about the human brain we don’t know. Things the Ancients obviously mastered if there technology is anything to signify,” TJ finished as she gathered her tools.

Having a formal diagnosis of sorts, Amanda did feel more at ease, but uncertainly still gnawed at the back of her mind. Thanking TJ, she left the infirmary intending to go back to her rooms, but ended up getting lost in her thoughts and missing the turn. As a result, she had to double back and the timing couldn’t have been worse. Mandy was nearly to her quarters when she crossed Vanessa James’s path.

“Hey! Watch it!”

Moving out of the woman’s way, Mandy started to utter an apology, but remembering what James thought of her, Mandy’s temper flared. “Did I ever do anything to you,” she asked heatedly.

Blinking, James was taken aback by the straightforward tone. “What?”

“You have nothing nice to say to me, which I could understand if I remembered offending you, but I don’t so you’ll have to enlighten me.”

Eyes narrowing, James’s gaze looked Mandy up and down. “You walk around this ship like a ghost,” she spat, more than ready to give Amanda a piece of her mind. “We are a billion light years from home and are working to see this mission through, but what are you doing? Sulking. You just want everyone here to feel sorry for you, especially Rush, which I don’t get because he’s a secretive bastard.”

Insulting her was one thing, but the second Vanessa brought up Rush’s name a fierce defensive instinct took ahold of Mandy. “You don’t know him,” she defended.

James barked a laugh. “Oh, and you do? Great. Maybe you can get him to stop working his own agenda and causing hostilities on this ship!”

“He’s not-”

“Then you don’t know him as well as you think you do!”

Watching James stomp away in a huff, Mandy wasn’t sure what to make of the outburst. Vanessa obviously didn’t like her, but Mandy sensed the reason didn’t have as much to do with her association with Rush was Vanessa would have her believe. At a loss, Amanda shook her head and continued on her way.

No sooner did she arrive at her destination and settle in, a knock came at the door. Her body automatically stiffened as a jolt of fear spiked in her chest. Getting her feet, shaking off the sensation, Mandy walked to see who was here. The moment Rush’s face was revealed, she couldn’t hold back a smile.

“Hi,” she greeted. “Did you get all your work done?”

“Most of it,” he replied walking into the room. Once the door closed behind him, Rush couldn’t resist staring at the sight of Mandy standing before his very eyes, his heart filling with inexplicable joy. Reaching to take her hand, Rush loved that she didn’t flinch anymore at the gesture. In fact, Amanda welcomed his closeness. Hopefully, more of her memories would return and they could truly have the second chance he longed to experience.

“I came to tell you that we’re going on another mission.”

Not expecting to hear such news, Mandy couldn’t hide her disappointment. “So soon?”

“Yeah. There’s a planet within range and we’re going to stock up on water and food. Additional parts of the ship have been converted to hold more gallons of water, so we figured we should stock up while we have the chance. Plus, you never know what sorts of new cuisine awaits.”

Smiling, she nodded, but her anxiety didn’t fully fade. “Who else is going with you?”

“The usual,” he shrugged. “Young, Scott, Greer, me, Chloe, and I think TJ will be on this run.”

Even as she nodded in understanding, the urge to hold on to him felt overwhelming because Mandy didn’t want Rush to leave her again after the last scare. She wanted to hold on to him and make sure he was safe. “The last time you almost didn’t come back,” she softly reminded.

“But I did come back,” Rush smiled as he squeezed her hand. “I can’t be kept down for long.”

Laughing at the joke didn’t dispel the urge to hug him close and beg him to stay, but at least Mandy resisted saying such words aloud. Rush was going to do what needed to be done and it wasn’t her place to talk him out of it, even if she could. Rush probably didn’t listen to anyone anyway. “Just promise to me careful,” she implored.

Rush’s grin turned cheeky. “I always am.”

Catching the sarcasm, Mandy nearly voiced her doubts but thankfully Rush changed the subject.

“How are your nightmares?”

Stiffening, Mandy shrugged before moving to sit on the edge of the bed. “They’re the same, but I think I’m getting used to the images.”

“Any new memories?”

He sounded casual, but Mandy spotted the eagerness in his eyes. The last thing she wanted was to disappoint him, but she shook her head nonetheless. “Just the same black void and…”

As Mandy’s words trailed off, Rush didn’t want to make her uncomfortable when he already knew her meaning. “Try not to dwell on it,” he gently urged as he moved to stand by her side. “Moving forward will help.”

Getting to her feet, she wanted to shake off the uncomfortable sensation remembering the black void always caused. Rubbing her itching nerves, she felt defeated. “What’s the point, Rush? I know what I’m going to see! More years of…that chair and people feeling sorry for me! Looking through me! I just – I don’t knew if I can face that yet.”

Grasping her wrist, Rush didn’t hesitate to yank Mandy into his embrace. Holding her close, Rush waited for her to relax in his hold before stoking his hands over her back and shoulders. “You’re so brave, Amanda,” he whispered. “Your condition may not be pretty, but if it helps, you will remember more than just the bad parts of your life. Maybe you’ll even remember more of me,” he said lightly. “Of our past.”

Leaning back to look at his face, she fought the growing lump in her throat. “I want that,” she whispered back. “I’m just…scared of what I may see.”

Hugging her tight once more, Rush wished with all his heart and soul he could take way her pain and fear. Combing his fingers through her hair, Rush regretted his failure at not being able to properly bring Mandy back into her body. They did what needed to be done to save her life, but he should have done more to prevent her current condition. Even as guilt gnawed at him, Rush vowed to remove all of Mandy’s doubts where they were concerned. She would know how much she meant to him and hopefully, the need to member the past would be overshadowed by the joyful present.

Resting her cheek on his shoulder, Amanda basked in the warmth radiated from his body, the sensation of being rocked in his arms, never wanting to leave the solace he offered. A force she couldn’t identify, or define, pulled them together, making being separated difficult. Was this force love? Maybe something more complicated?

“I will be here for you,” Rush promised. “Don’t be afraid to face your past. I’ll catch you if you fall.”

The words were a balm to her insecurities. The more Amanda’s thoughts lingered on her past, the more she feared the full revelation. Her gut suggested something traumatic lay hidden that she couldn’t quite face. Closing her eyes, Mandy forced the knowledge to the back of her mind to instead relish this moment. Feeling Rush’s hand gently smoothing up and down her back, she let all thoughts drift aside and concentrated on the comfort of the bond surging between them.

Rush knew about her past, or at the very least he suspected what her memories would entail. Part of her wanted warnings, but the other part wondered if she would regain her memory faster if she had specifics. Torn, all she knew for certain right now was she wanted Rush’s arms to stay around her, giving the sense of protection. “I wish you didn’t have to leave,” she sighed.

“I have a few hours,” Rush chuckled. “Some of the machinery we’re talking with us needed some repairs.”

“How long?’

“Enough time to help you sleep, if you want,” he offered.

Easing back, Mandy knew the risk of sleeping without Rush by her side. “I’m…”

“Did you have a nightmare last night?”

Nodding, her gaze shifted to the floor. “I think it was after you left and I woke up alone. You seem to make them better, but I’ll be fine.”

Taking her hand, Rush led her to the bed, urging her to lie next to him. At first, she resisted, but in the end, his warmth seduced her into relaxing in his embrace. Resting her head on his chest, Mandy smiled as his fingers worked through her hair. She could lay like this forever and never tire of feeling his touch or inhaling his masculine scent.

“You don’t have to stay with me if they need you-”

“I’m not leaving you for the world.”

Unable to hold back a smile, delight raced through her veins hearing his words. Rush cared enough to want to stay, which meant his affections did come from a genuine place. Reassured, she no longer felt the need to her guard up. Allowing her mind and body to fade into the world of dreams, Mandy knew Rush would save her from her inner demons.

This time, no black void surrounded her, no images of strangers with degusted expressions chased her, and the chair didn’t exist. In this dream, she rested in bed with the man she loved. The vividness of Rush’s smile hinted this dream was another memory, but dare she believe such a thing? How could Rush be naked in her bed, kissing her with abandon? How could she feel every kiss, every touch, her toes curling as the pleasure slowly consumed her? How could any of this bliss be real if she was paralyzed?

In the moment, Amanda only experienced her utter happiness. So deliciously happy and in love, she never wanted to be parted from this man as long as she lived. The wish consumed her very being as Rush licked her inner thigh, causing Mandy to scream as her body convulsed. Caught in the haze of wickedly delicious sensation, she didn’t think twice about unanswered questions.
“Oh, I love you, Nick,” she cried as another wave of sensation washed over every inch of her skin.

Those clever lips moved between her legs, giving Mandy a shock before his tongue melted her resistance with easy, seductive strokes. Moving against his mouth, she couldn’t control her body’s response as pure ecstasy melted her bones. Oh, his tongue licked her everywhere, suckling gently, but when his moth fused over her clitoris, Mandy went wild. Bucking and calling his name, the heat rose as her juices gushed from her core. In response, Rush suckled harder, moving his tongue faster as she begged for more.

A cry passed her lips when his fingers teased into her slick opening, finding another spot that only intensified the ecstasy already drowning her…

Coming awake with a gasp, Amanda was immediately aware of the rapid pulsing between her legs. As slumber’s haze faded, she became aware of rubbing her sex into Rush’s thigh and instantly stilled before burying her face in the pillow.

What was she doing?

Trying to catch her breath, she felt the desire still licking through her veins, protesting the sudden halt of her activity. Being with Rush was just how she remembered it. No, the dream made the sensations feel...better.

Mandy craved an orgasm, but was afraid of disturbing Rush. What if he woke up? The sudden thought raised her eyes to his face and another gasp passed her lips seeing those dark eyes focused, watching her.

Frozen, she didn’t know what to say as embarrassment swept through her being. Unable to meet his eyes, she started pulling away, but Rush’s hands reached out, grasping her face tenderly, even as he eagerly rolled on top of her. Breathing heavily, she had no defense when his lips descended upon hers.

Mandy resisted at first, shy and shocked, but the feel of his tongue against her lips quickly melted her limbs and shattered her fear. Tasting his essence, she couldn’t help moaning, winding her arms around his neck and lacing her fingers through his hair to draw him closer.

Rush’s thigh moved between her legs, pressing just right, bringing back the pleasure she so desperately craved. “Oh, yes,” she whispered against his lips. “This is how it’s supposed to feel…”

Chapter Text

His sweet Mandy needed him. That was Rush’s first thought upon waking to feel her slowly moving against his body. Cock stiffening, Rush quickly realized Amanda was still sleeping, probably dreaming, and unaware of her movements.

Content to watch her, he vowed they would be together again soon. He would find a way for Amanda to remember him, then they would pick up where they left off. Gently pressing his thigh into her softness, he rubbed up and down, ever-so-gently to see if she would find release in her dreams. Instead, he woke her up.

Unprepared for Mandy’s shocked reaction, Rush didn’t resist when she scrambled back, unsure of what was happening. Watching her figure out the cravings of the flesh only served to make his erection thicken. Biting the inside of his cheek, he fought back the baser instincts telling him to take his woman and show her how explosive they were together. However, his willpower won out because of one simple fact: Mandy did not remember him. Plus, her inexperienced with such things meant he would have to be gentle. Once understanding dawned she would be embarrassed, but seeing her panic, Rush took action to ease her misgivings. Only when she started moving against him, did Rush soften his grip on her shoulders.

“…this is how it’s supposed to feel…”

The wonder in her voice gave him pause. Curious, he intended to ask her what she meant, but Amanda arched, gripping his shoulders tight, as the pleasure intensified.

“Rush,” she breathed before another moan escaped her lips.

Going still, Rush cupped her cheek, waiting for her eyes to open. Seeing her frustration and confusion, he stilled. “Tell me what you dreamt.”

Cheeks flushing, Mandy shook her head, moving her lower body against his thigh to ease her ache. Without him moving with her, the pleasure wasn’t as fulfilling, making her pout. “Please-”

“Say it,” he demanded again.

Remembering the images of Rush kissing her, Amanda couldn’t hold his gaze, her eyes dropping to the front of his shirt. “I can’t,” she whispered.

“You can,” he said through clenched teeth as he grabbed her hips, urging Mandy to roll a bit faster against him as he pressed closer.

Mandy cried out with relieved joy, but Rush only allowed her three passes before stopping, tearing a shocked gasp from her throat. Hearing her whimper only heightened his determination as he kissed her hard and deep. Winding his arms around her shoulders, Rush held his precious love against his body, trying to remember why he had to be so careful.

Pressing his cheek to hers, Rush felt her still as he whispered in her ear. “Did you dream of me, Mandy?”

“Yes,” she sobbed, straining against his hold.

“What did you see?”

Panting, Mandy nuzzled her cheek against his, feeling his whiskers scratch slightly as her arms held him tighter. “I saw you…”

Why was he holding her back from her desire? Frustrated, Mandy tried overpowering his hands by pushing her hips close to his thigh, but Rush held her at bay.

“Please,” he rasped as he nuzzled her cheek in return. “Mandy, tell me about your dreams.”

Desperate, she inhaled several quick breaths before finding her voice. “You were in my bed,” she started.

Rush rewarded her with a glide against his hard thigh. Moaning, she tried moving faster, but his grip kept her under his control. “What else?”

Surrendering, unable to stand the ache a moment longer, the words passed from her lips. “We were naked and you…were kissing me…oh!” She shivered when the throbbing spiked between her legs, shooting up through her belly, warming her entire body.

“Y-you kissed me between m-my-”

Arching as another cry left her lips, Mandy loved it when Rush relented, finally allowing her to move faster and seek her pleasure. Feeling his hand cup her breast, her fingers clenched as she panted into his ear.

“You feel so good,” she moaned. “So good…”

“Mandy,” he groaned. “Where did I kiss you?”

“Between my legs,” she sighed.

“Your cunt?”

“Yes,” she whimpered. Through she wasn’t sure how she knew the word, Amanda didn’t care. All she wanted was more of this exquisite sensation!

“And you liked it?”

“Yes!”

Rush rewarded her honesty with another hard glide over her clitoris. Mandy unabashedly rode him at this point, much to his delight.

“What did you like,” he panted.

“I-Oh!” The thrusts of pleasure between her legs made it difficult to form coherent thoughts. All she wanted to do was feel.

“Mandy,” Rush demanded.

Inhaling sharp breaths, she met his eyes. Gathering her thoughts, she licked her lips. “I loved how you kissed every part of me,” she moaned as she continued moving against him. “You’re tongue felt so…and then you…oh, God, Rush!”

Despite her growing frenzy, Rush’s gaze remained steadily on hers. “I sucked your clit, didn’t I, Mandy?”

“Yes,” she cried, moving faster, pressing harder.

The sensations intensified, cresting as they came to peak, and there was nothing she could do to stop it. Clinging desperately to Rush, she no longer cared about appearances or modesty! She just wanted her orgasm!

“You woke up wanting to come, didn’t you?”

“Yes!”

Drawing back, Rush’s dark eyes flashed a glimpse of his desperate desire as he bent to take her lips. Thrusting his tongue deep, he felt Mandy return the kiss as her orgasm burst. Swallowing her cries, he held tight, pushing her farther as wave after wave of pleasure shook her body.

Even when only little jerking aftershocks consumed her, Rush still held Amanda in his arms, raining tender kisses all over her face and telling her she was beautiful, so beautiful. Holding Rush, Mandy struggled to breathe normally. Her heart raced and her body spent. Feeling the pool of moisture between her legs, she fended off embarrassment. Rush encouraged her, right? He couldn’t hold her actions against her, surly?

Shifting his weight, Rush rolled onto his back, pulling Amanda along so she sprawled on top of him, her cheek resting on his chest. Closing her eyes, she smiled as his hands smoothed up and down her back. Readjusting her body, Mandy’s leg accidentally brushed over his upper thighs, feeling the bulge.

Biting her lower lip, Mandy dared a glance at his face. “Are you…”

“I’m fine,” he said before kissing the tip of her nose.

Torn, Amanda’s curiosity wanted to know how Rush would find his satisfaction, but relief raced through her blood at not having to worry about doing the wrong thing the moment.

“What did you mean earlier,” Rush asked as he cupped her cheek. “About how it was supposed to feel.”

Blushing, Amanda shifted away, but he held her fast, refusing to let her avoid the question. Unable to look at him, she truly wished she could disappear. Amanda didn’t mean to make the confession, but in that moment, she wasn’t fully aware of the words pouring from her mouth.

“Mandy,” he whispered, kissing her neck softly, nuzzling her skin. “You can tell me.”

“I-” Moaning, she shivered as his whiskers trickled her sensitive skin. “What are you doing to me,” she breathed in wonder.

Words of love teetered on the tip of his tongue, but at the last moment, Rush realized Mandy didn’t remember him in that light. Not yet. Pushing her to return his affections could end in disaster. After all, it wasn’t that long ago she felt uncomfortable in his presence. Rush would have to be very careful with his words and actions. Easing back to gaze into her yes, Rush’s breath hitched at the sight of her beauty. A fierce possessiveness threatened to take over his being with just one look into her face.

“I care a great deal for you, Amanda,” he said sincerely. “I’m sure you’ve figured that out already. I want to care for you and protect you.”

“And is that what we are doing,’’ she asked, too shy to meet his eyes.

“Mandy,” Rush shook his head at a loss to explain. “I have…very deep feelings for you. I’m attracted to you and I know you are to me. I desire you physically and won’t apologize for it, but I won’t break your heart. Whatever passes between us, stays between us. Always.”

Listening to his pledge, Mandy didn’t doubt him for a second, which surprised her because she couldn’t fully define the point where her feelings toward Rush shifted. Maybe when he found her after her first nightmare of the void? He cared for her so tenderly and didn’t judge, which proved he kept his word.

There was a deep seated code of honor embroidered in this man, though he often didn’t want other people to see this quality. Realizing he shared personal information with her, Mandy felt touched as hope rose in her heart. Could there be a chance Rush returned her deeper feelings?

“Are you going to tell me what you meant earlier,” he asked again, wearing a mischievous grin in an effort to lighten the mood. “Or am I going to have to guess?”

Blinking in surprise, Mandy wasn’t sure what to tell him. Such topics are private, yet she couldn’t ignore the intimacies they’ve already shared.

“I don’t remember,” she feigned.

Chuckling, Rush leaned closer to her ear. “Liar,” he teased.

As a shiver raced down her spine, Mandy blinked at him in shock. “You act as if you already know the answer!”

“I can guess,” he smirked.

Pompous! Yet, adorable. Returning his smile, Mandy rolled away to put some space between them to think clearly, but the instant she separated from him she missed his warmth.

“Can you,” she asked with amusement.

Nodding, a playful glint in his dark eyes, Rush leaned forward to whisper in her ear. “You were talking about touching yourself and it didn’t feel the same as when you used me to come.”

Cheeks on fire, Amanda automatically pulled away to hide, but Rush held her still, refusing to lose ground.

“It’s perfectly natural, Amanda.”

“I know,” she said thickly. “I do read biology journals and I know about the psychology of-”

Cutting off her words with a kiss, Rush didn’t want her quoting science to him right now. He didn’t want her explaining away her feelings as a biological urge. No, he wanted her to need him.

As she surrendered to the melding of their tongues, Rush came up for air. Hearing a little noise of protest escape her mouth, he smiled knowingly. Amanda was awakening as a woman in a way she never did before and he wanted to help guide her.

The question swirled in her eyes, so he showed mercy and answered without insisting she ask. “I do it,” he said.

Eyes widening, Mandy couldn’t prevent a mental image from taking root. Basic male anatomy came easily, but picturing the exact expression to cover his face, or the sound he would make during his climax, was left up to her severely ignorant imagination. Oddly enough, Mandy didn’t want to simply envision how Rush would pleasure his body. No, she wanted to see him perform the act.

Licking her dry lips, she wondered what this man would think of her if he knew her thoughts. Stroking his cheek, she wished she had the courage to ask for what she desired. Rush gave her pleasure a few times now and Amanda wanted to return the favor.

“Are you – I mean, do you-”

Mandy’s words cut off in a gasp when she felt Rush press his erection into her belly. Their clothing provided a barrier, but Mandy still reacted to the sensation of him against her with a warm gush leaking between her thighs.

“I still want you Amanda,” he said hoarsely against her neck. “But I’m a patient man. We can wait until you’re ready.”

“What if I-” Breaking off, she ran her fingers through her hair, wanting him on an intimate level, but, at the same time, afraid of getting too close.

“What, Amanda?”

The silence stretched on for several moments before she inhaled a breath, gathering her courage. “What if I wanted to watch you?”

Brows rising, Rush took the questions seriously. “Watch me masturbate?”

Mandy released a shaky sigh. “You know that’s what I meant.”

Chuckling, he nodded before lightly kissing her lips. “I have no objections.”

Surprised, she studied him for a long moment. “Really?”

“I want to see you , too, though.”

“I don’t know-”

“I’ll show you,” he grinned.

“You know of such things?”

“Every man should if he wants to properly pleasure a woman,” Rush stated with confidence. “I’ve always prided myself on knowing just how to make a woman fall apart.”

A warm wave of desire spread throughout her being. Oh, how she wanted Rush to be the one to pleasure her in ways she didn’t yet fully understand! Mandy nearly spoke aloud of her craving, but never got a chance. Rush’s radio went off, summoning him to the gate room.

Watching Rush get to his feet and right his clothing, Amanda couldn’t keep her eyes off of his lithe, gorgeous form.

“Rest,” he said as he bent to take another kiss. “I’ll be back soon.”

“You’ll visit me, then?”

Nodding, Rush flashed a wide grin before walking out of her quarters. Sinking back into the pillows, smiling uncontrollably as she remembered the intimacy between them. After several minutes, the realization hit full force. Rush knew what she dreamt before she even said it!

Did that mean they…

Groaning, Amanda rolled over to bury her face in her pillow. She needed her memories back! Now!

Chapter Text

Watching from the shadows of the observation deck, Mandy felt a sinking fear as her eyes followed Rush through the portal. He will be back soon, she reasoned. In the meantime, she needed to concentrate on regaining her full memory.

Leaving the gate room, Mandy’s feet took her back to the wall of equations. Science, math, and predictable patterns were such a big part of her life for so long, there had to be a way to make her brain see the connections right in front of her face! Staring in an effort to figure out the meaning behind the numerals for the millionth time, Mandy lost track of how long she lingered. The only thing Amanda gained from her vigil seemed to be more stress to her system. Plus, concentrating swiftly became difficult when her thoughts constantly wondered back to Rush.

One voice warned Rush’s attentions may lead to trouble. Mandy knew she cared a great deal for him – feelings which rose very quickly once she remembered her past, but did she understand what caring for Rush truly meant? Yes, she wanted to explore a deeper connection with the man, which did send a quiver of fright through her system. After all, what if things didn’t work out?

However, her other voice insisted she was ready to take the next step. Besides, every instinct told her being with Rush felt right. Besides, if she didn’t take the chance now, then when?

Most of her questions would have to wait until Rush’s return, so there was still plenty of time to ponder her next move. Searching for her usual solitude, Amanda yearend for a quiet moment to help ease the chaos in her head and decide on a course of action. Meditation might help center her chi and help buried memories flow to the surface. Falling so hard for Rush made her heart eager to remember every single detail of the time she spent with him. Unfortunately, her brain couldn’t keep up with her expectations. When the first round of meditation didn’t work, Mandy attempted another. After all, she had nine hours to kill, so she wandered deeper into the deserted area of the ship to once more clear her head. In the back of her mind, Mandy knew all the while she would be counting down to Rush’s return.

****

The planet could be classified as paradise. Almost. The warm climate, rich foliage, and fertile soil all pointed to a great place to put down roots. In fact, Rush heard a few speculate about doing just that, which wasn’t a new concept. However, each new planet always harbored a catch and this one proved to be no exception.

Waiting for the other shoe to drop, Rush explored some of the terrain with Eli and Lt. Scott. Ignoring their prattle, he hoped to find the lake they spotted when getting the lay of the land. The supplies for the ship should always be a priority-not fantastical colonization.

“I can definitely see a small city here,” Eli mused. “Maybe one like our descendants built.”

“Will you quit it about those bloody descendants,” Rush grumbled as he marched down the dirt path. Eli and Scott exchanged looks, thinking that same thing about Rush’s sensitivity over the subject. Scott assumed Rush’s touchiness resulted from knowing how their descendants viewed him in hindsight, while Eli always insisted Rush only had eyes for the mission.

Reaching a clearing, Eli laughed seeing the beaches framing the crystalline blue lake. “This is incredible!”

Watching Eli and Scott running toward the beach, Rush left them to their folly to gather water samples. Reading the results, he frowned.

“I’m parched,” Eli said as he walked up to the water’s edge. Dipping his hand to bring the water to his lips, Eli never expected Rush to grab his arm and pull him back. Stumbling, Eli gaped at the scientist. “What the hell, man!”

“Rush,” Scott snapped, coming to Eli’s rescue. “Leave him alone!”

“Don’t go near the water!” Rush struggled to keep Eli from drinking the droplets in his palm.

“Why not,” Eli shouted. Looking at Rush like he had two heads, Eli yanked his arm free.

“Because it’s poisonous!”

Scott and Eli instantly froze, their faces going blank.

“Seriously,” Scott asked.

Nodding, Rush showed them the results of his scan. “I just saved your life,” he informed Eli.

Rolling his eyes at Rush’s holier-than-thou tone, Eli shook his head. “And you expect me to thank you?”

Scoffing, Rush didn’t expect gratitude at this point. “Have you ever?”

Did Rush’s ego always ooze this much arrogance? The guy thought he was God’s gift! For once, Eli wished Rush was wrong! Testing the water himself, Eli bit back a curse.

“Eli?” Scott looked over the kid’s shoulder to see the results of the second scan.

Clearly pissed, Eli nodded the affirmative to Matthew. “Rush is right,” he begrudgingly admitted. “It’s poison.”

Giving the pair an I-told-you-so-look, Rush waited for an apology, but the other two remained tight-lipped. Fine. Moving forward, he decided to see if he could reach the other crewmembers. They needed to be warned.

Radioing the others they discovered the plants and animals were also toxic, putting a sever wrinkle in Eli’s colonization idea, which accounted for him looking like he suffered from constipation on the walk back to the stargate. Rush proposed they abandon the planet, but TJ discovered a few plants with potential medicinal possibilities if she could cultivate around the venomous thorns and poisonous pollen of the blooms. She requested a few more hours to gather what she needed, so Scott pulled rank.

“We should find out way back to them,” Scott said. Rush nodded, gathering his pack. Eli argued they should look for more water, but Scott vetoed the idea because they wouldn’t have time if they let TJ gather her samples. Doing his best to ignore Eli’s conversation as they met the others, Rush thought of other things – specifically the repairs required on Destiny, but mostly Amanda’s face lingered in his mind’s eye. Rush would make it back to the ship just to be able to see her again; to hold her in his arms.

Biting the inside of his cheek as he mentally replayed their last conversation, Rush strived to hold of his body’s natural reaction. Yet, the idea of watching Mandy pleasure herself was a major turn on, which resulted in his gritting his teeth to stave off a full-blown erection. He could only imagine the comments that would fly out of Eli’s mouth if such a thing became noticeable. Shifting focus, Rush hoped Amanda could hold her own while he handled the situation down here. Always protective, all he wanted was for people to stop hurting her feelings while treating her like an outsider. Goodness knows, she already had enough on her plate. The fact she was back in his life at all was a dream come true, and he vowed nothing would ever separate them again.

Finding TJ, Rush remained a few paces away while the others chatted up the medic. He didn’t have time for small talk, especially not when his eagerness to return to the ship overshadowed all else. Stepping carefully, Rush decided this planet a big ball of poisonous goo and didn’t think lingering for silly samples a good idea. On his way to rejoin the group, Rush suddenly froze in his racks upon seeing something in the foliage. Every instinct scream for him to turn tail and run, but he couldn’t look away. Finally gaining the willpower to look over his shoulder, Rush knew the others were too far away to be of much use, so he slowly pulled a knife from his belt. Approaching the hidden structure, he carefully cut away vines to reveal carvings in the rudimentary stone structure hidden beneath.

Shock numbed his limbs as memories assaulted him, causing a cold sweat to break out on the back of his neck as he swallowed his nausea, causing a surge in adrenaline to claw at his system, making him feel the desperate need to run. Even as his legs wanted to move, Rush stood firmly in place staring at the stone. These symbols were familiar because he remembered seeing them carved into the doorways of the Nakai ship while held prisoner.

Pure terror took root even as Rush stumbled back to take in the sight of the full structure. Several pillars of stone framed this smaller piece, hidden by the green wildlife, shaped in an ancient, temple-like arrangement. Clenching his fists at his sides, struggling to reject his initial fear, Rush hardly knew what to make of this discovery. Rejoining the group, he took charge, walking up to TJ. “Enough,” he stated. “We need to leave. Now.”

“I’m almost done,” she informed him.

“Now,” Rush commanded.

Confused, TJ frowned at Lt. Scott moved forward to get in Rush’s face.

“Last I checked, doctor, you weren’t in charge of this team.”

“Well, I am now.” Raising his chin, there wasn’t any way in hell he would let Scott walk all over him. “We need to get back to the stargate and off this planet!”

“Why,”’ Eli butted in, not able to resist the urge to add his two sense.

Rush didn’t have time to put the pieces together for them, but all eyes looked at him expectantly, so he had to give them an explanation. Pushing aside his panic, he showed Scott the stone pillars. “I recognize these carvings,” he said for Scott’s ears alone. “It’s the Nakai.”

Scott visibly paled. “Are you sure?”

A little laugh erupted from Rush’s throat at the absurdity of the question. “I’m sure.”

“Wait,” Eli cut in after Scott gave the evacuation order. “How could there be danger when this planet is clearly abandoned?”

“It’s severely poisonous to us,” Rush exclaimed. “Isn’t that reason enough?” Why did Eli have to argue every single little point? “One could take that as a divine sign from the universe!”

Scoffing, Eli gave the scientist a nasty look. “As if you believe in that!”

“Would I be here if I didn’t?”

Rolling his eyes, Eli couldn’t believe everyone else just fell in line with Rush’s orders! “Shouldn’t we at least see what he’s talking about? Maybe we could find information concerning the history of these aliens that would give us an advantage if we come up against them!”

“Rush wouldn’t lie about this,” Scott firmly told Eli, making it clear he wasn’t considering arguments, before he glanced at Rush. The men exchanged a look and a nod, which only infuriated Eli.

“Now would be a good time,” Eli snapped. “That aliens aren’t even here!”

“Do you really want to take that chance,” Rush shouted back. “Knowing how much they want Destiny and how little they value our lives?!”

“This planet could just be their Kobol,” Eli argued, hands on his hips as he cast Rush a narrow-eyed look.

Throwing up his hands, Rush was ready to leave Eli behind on the planet. Fools! All of them! If this planet did offer insights on the Nakai, Rush honestly didn’t care. In fact, if this planet held information about those aliens, all the more reason to flee. Getting as far away as fast as possible was the only way to ensure Destiny’s safety! And, dammit, Eli didn’t speak for the rest of the crew!

“Enough, Eli,” Scott ordered. “Let’s go. The matter is closed.”

Grumbling under his breath, Eli knew why Scott took Rush’s side on this one: Chloe. The Nakai were still considered a threat not only to the ship, but also Scott’s girlfriend, so naturally the Lieutenant erred on the side of caution versus taking the opportunity for fact-finding and exploration. If Scott didn’t back Rush, no one would have fallen in with his commands because Rush wasn’t exactly the most popular guy on the block. If they gave him and inch, he took a mile!

Rush didn’t care about any of them. All this tunnel vision focused on was the mission and the mysteries of the Ancients. Rush made it perfectly clear he didn’t care who was sacrificed in pursuit of the mission, and Eli lost friends due to his judgment calls. Eli blamed the arrogant scientist for tearing away Love and friendships from him – losses Rush never seemed affected by, which made Eli doubt the guy even had a heart.

Worst of all, and perhaps the most unfair, was how the universe gave Dr. Perry back to Rush - alive and well, ironically because of what Eli uncovered on the ship! The injustice of it all gripped Eli every time he laid eyes on the older man; the love of Rush’s life returned while Eli missed Ginn every second of every day. This mission involved all of them yet, democracy among them seemed dead!

Walking back to the stargate, Eli had a mind to break away from the others and get his own answers, but knew Rush wouldn’t hesitate to leave him behind if he dared. With poisonous water, Eli wouldn’t last long.

At least, TJ got some of her work accomplished. Hopefully, they could put the plants they discovered to good use. Walking up to the gate, more determined than ever to figure out the regeneration system, Eli allowed his anger to boil under the surface. He would find a way to bring Ginn back! Rush wasn’t going to be the one who got a happy ending out of all of this!

Dialing the gate, Eli glanced at Rush. The guy seemed as stone-faced as ever. Didn’t he have any feelings at all? The Nakai held Rush captive for months; tearing apart his brain and scanning his memories to discover al they could about Destiny.

Was the guy afraid?

Rush loved to lecture others, thinking he had all the answers, but one day, Eli wanted to see the man humbled by being wrong.

Once they returned to the ship, they briefed Young, who put the ship on high alert. Odds were the Nakai weren’t in the area, but they couldn’t be too careful.

As they all gathered their supplies, Eli noticed how Rush lingered by the gate. Opening his mouth to say something, Eli shook his head at the last second deciding to keep his thoughts to himself. Rush wasn’t his favorite person anyway, so why bother?

Leaving the gate room, Eli decided to make a pit stop at Brody’s still. Numbing the pain before going back to the drawing board seemed like a fine idea. There were so many projects needing his attention and he wanted just one moment of peace before confronting them all.

Seeing the familiar faces gathered, Eli soon laughed and made jokes with other members of the crew. Matthew and Chloe soon joined him and Eli matched them shot for shot. The next time be blinked, Eli stood in the hall the equations, squinting at the sticking pieces of paper, gaze narrowing in on the numbers on each. Time to get to work.

Chapter Text

Waking, automatically reaching for her notepad and pen, Amanda frantically jotted down the images dancing through her mind. The dreams this time weren’t so much nightmares as they were a series of confusing equations whirling around her in a tornado – too fast for her to make sense out of what was happening. Jotting down shapes as well as numbers, Mandy couldn’t believe she fell asleep instead of remaining alert until Rush returned.

Glancing at the clock, she put aside the notebook and rose to her feet, combing her fingers through her hair. If she wanted to make it to the gate room in time for Rush’s return than she needed to hurry. Forgoing her shoes, Mandy kept out of sight. Overhearing some conversations along the way, she froze.

Some soldiers talked about staying on alert due to a hostile threat. Her heart filled with panic and a need to find Rush. Forcing one foot in front of the other, Mandy kept moving forward, unable to get a grip on the feelings threatening to drown out her senses. What if she never saw Rush again?

Sure she was overreacting, Amanda knew Rush could take care of himself. Besides, would he welcome her worry? Perhaps she was letting all their intimate moments go to her head. Didn’t Rush say over and over that they were friends?

Every time she considered exploring more, her blood warmed with desire so profound, she hardly knew what to think. They talked about getting closer, and while Mandy’s heart leapt with anticipation, her worry overwhelmed all else. The little voice in the back of her mind screamed not to get too caught up in her feelings because the possibility of harming Rush due to her…infatuation dangled over her conscience, and if anything did happen, she would never be able to live with herself.

Yes, the need to see him safe and sound kept her feet propelling forward toward her destination, but Amanda also vowed not to get too caught up in the moment. Every fiber of her being stood on edge as she entered the gate room, so she kept to the shadows hoping to go unnoticed. Hiding on the observation deck, she listened to officers confirm the stargate ready to dial. Watching the lights flash, then the gate spin, Mandy swallowed the undeniable need to see Rush walk through the portal. Holding her breath, her gaze remained fixed on the gate as the away team returned – one by one –safe and sound. Heart hammering in her ears and afraid to blink, she finally watched the last person emerge through the wormhole. The second Mandy set eyes on Rush her lungs expelled air. Her first instinct was to call his name, but bit her bottom lip just in time. The team informed Colonel Young of the situation, while Mandy stayed hidden, hoping no one would suspect her presence.

Finally, everyone filed out of the room, save Rush, who checked some equipment. Moving soundlessly on her bare feet down the stairs, Mandy descended the flight with the intention of simply welcoming her friend home. Yet, the moment his eyes looked up from his task and locked with hers, Mandy’s breath hitched in her throat, causing the air to gush out of her lungs as she froze.

So much passed between them in that single moment – so much unsaid. Unable to stand the suspense a minute longer, she ran across the open space. Seconds later, Rush caught her in his arms, holding her tight as she wrapped her arms around his neck and her cheek pressed against his beard. A sob escaped her lips, despite her best efforts, and Rush crooned softly to comfort her.

“It’s alright, Mandy,” he said gently. “I’m back.”

“I was so worried,” she confessed, voice shaking.

Cradling her as if she was made of the most precious porcelain, Rush swallowed hard. She still didn’t have complete memories of him, but little pieces were surfacing. As a result, his expectations rose. Feeling Amanda’s heart beating against him, the softness of her body pressing close, the words just tumbled from his mouth before he could stop them.

“I kept thinking of you,” he said huskily. “Your smile. Your warmth. All I wanted was to get home to you.”

“Rush,” she breathed. Dare she hope his feelings mimicked her own? Swallowing the lump in her throat, Mandy struggled to regain control of her emotions.

“You missed me,” he asked with a touch of humor to lighten the air.

“Of course I did!”

Drawing back, she opened her mouth to say more, but hesitated at the last second. Looking at him now, into the beautiful dark eyes, all logic escaped her. Mandy didn’t have a clue what to say or how to act. The last thing she wanted was to be a nuisance, so she eased out of his embrace. To her surprise, and utter delight, Rush held her firmly in place, preventing her full retreat. His gaze burned into hers a moment before his mouth crashed on her lips.

No tenderness passed through the touch, just raw need as Rush thrust his tongue between her teeth, tasting deeply. Blood heating, nerves awakening, Mandy wanted to be consumed by this man. Following his lead, thrills tingled along her skin, flowing throughout her veins, settling heavily in the sweet spot between her thighs.

Rush deepened the kiss, making all the sensations intensify, causing her head to spin. Moaning with desire, she melted into his frame as her toes curled and her nipples pebbled, making her even more aware of the throbbing desire. Digging her fingers into his hair, Mandy held him closer, never wanting to let her go.

Breaking apart, they both struggled to regain their breath, but were smiling at each other.

“Where are your shoes,” Rush managed, having looked down to spot her bare feet.

“I’m still trying to get used to them,” she blushed.

Marveling at his handsome features, Mandy saw the gleam in his eyes right before he leaned forward. Suddenly shy, she looked at the ground before pressing a kiss to his throat. Kissing his skin again and again, inhaling his masculine scent, Mandy buried her face in the crook where his neck met his shoulder, still holding him as close as possible.

Unable to keep the smile off his face, Rush ran his fingers through her hair, resting his cheek on the side of her head, letting her warmth sink into his bones. Mandy came to him! She was worried and sought him out! She kissed him back! Rush wanted to laugh in triumph. Mandy was finally remembering! He knew it!

Reeling in his excitement, Rush knew Mandy was still so fragile and there were other dangers looming, but this moment felt perfect. “Mandy,” he whispered as he cupped her face.

As their eye met, she knew she was lost. Rush was in her blood and she didn’t want to be afraid of the feelings he roused any longer. “Rush," she breathed. “I-”

“There are some important matters I need to see to,” he said.

“Is everything alright?”

“For now.” There would be no point in frightening her at this stage. Forcing a smile, he stroked her skin. “Why don’t I finish things up here and I’ll come to your quarters?”

“Are you sure?” Amanda knew her memories were still scattered, but she slowly learned to predict Rush’s moods pretty well and he was holding something back. Pressing the matter may not get her any answers, so she decided to wait until his work concluded and he would be more relaxed.

“Alright,” she smiled.

This time, Mandy didn’t resist when his lips met hers. Instead, she enjoyed the feel of his tongue gliding as her blood warmed. Lacing her fingers in his hair, Mandy wished the rest of the universe would go away leaving just the two of them in their own little bubble.

A little cry of protest left her throat when Rush broke the kiss. Clinging to his shoulders, Mandy held tight as she fought to make her head stop spinning. When the world righted, she saw Rush’s satisfied smile. He liked making her so needy!

Even as the realization unnerved her, thrills sparked though her veins. Reluctantly, she balanced back on her own two feet and said her goodbyes before heading for the door. Rush impulsively pulled her back for a hug before saying again he would see her in a few hours.

On the walk back to her quarters, all her worries about her memories and Lt. James were put on the back burner as she basked in the sensation of being in love.

Her feelings made no logical sense, but then again, love wasn’t practical, was it? Amanda only knew bits and pieces about herself, but knew with absolute certainty her feelings were pure and real. Deep down, she knew Rush was her match.

Yet, despite the happiness bubbling up within her chest, a small warning told her to proceed with caution. Maybe there was something in their past that wasn’t quite right.

Still, whatever it was, Rush seemed to have forgotten, or at the very least, let the matter pass. Mandy entered her quarters truly wishing her feelings for Rush didn’t feel so complicated. Rush seemed to genuinely care about her and made promises she trusted. So why couldn’t she silence her doubts? Could her outlook be clouded? Was she blinded by the explosive chemistry when they were together? But her desire to have more…encounters with him?

Sitting on the edge of the bed, raking hand through her hair, Mandy concentrated on what she would say when Rush came to see her. Unable to relax, she got up and paced. Remembering the way Rush cared for her since she woke from her coma; how she pushed him away, but he persisted, all convinced her Rush must possess some deep-seeded emotions towards her. Right?

Where her nerves just getting the better of her? Was she scared about a possible…future or lack thereof? If so, why? Rush swore that they weren’t a casual couple.

Without all of the memories, Mandy supposed she couldn’t be fully confident about entering into a relationship with Rush. Perhaps she should listen to her heart instead of trying to reconcile the logic?

As the thought grew louder in her head, a knock came at the door, causing her to nearly jump out of her skin. Exhaling a breath, she ignored the pounding of her head to answer the summons.

The moment she saw Rush, she knew something was wrong. He looked pale and worried. “Rush,” she asked. “What is it?”

“May I come in?”

“Of course.” Standing aside to allow him access, Mandy pressed the button closing the door behind him. She wanted to press for answers, but knew he would tell her in his own time.

Moving to look out the window, Rush placed his hand on his hips trying to organize his chaotic thoughts. The last thing he wanted to do was frighten her, but Amanda deserved to know what they were up against. Turning to face her, his whole body trembled with the need to hold her close. Pulling her into a hug, Rush’s eyes closed.

“Mandy,” he said thickly. “I will always keep you safe.”

Smiling, she hugged him back. “I know,” she whispered. “I know.”

Drawing back, he looked into those blue eyes, seeing the woman of his heart, temporarily forgetting she didn’t fully possess all the knowledge she should. “We found something on the planet,” he stated.

“What?”

Taking her hand, he guided her to the bed. Sitting on the edge, Rush struggled to begin. “We found some…monuments on the surface. These structures had symbols carved into them. Symbols I recognize.”

“How did you know what they were?”

“Because the aliens that use that language abducted me before.”

Eyes going wide, Mandy barely held in a gasp. “When? How?”

Sighing, Rush raked a hand through his hair, trying to gather his thoughts. Talking about what happened was always difficult. Rush never told the full truth of his experiences, not even to Chloe. However, Mandy’s nature wouldn’t judge him. She was, and is, the best person he knew, so Rush wasn’t afraid to tell her everything.

Glazing over the incident with Young, he explained how the Nakai found him, imprisoned him, and forced their way into his mind. They didn’t just want to know the details about Destiny, they wanted to know his every secret. Rush resisted, fought back, and eventually found a way to use their methods against them.

All the while, Mandy listened patiently, not judging, just occasionally squeezing his hand in support when she saw him choking up. What he suffered, all he endured, only proved Rush an incredibly brave man and she couldn’t help falling even deeper in love with him.

When he reached out for her, Mandy eagerly held him close, stroking his back as they rocked in each other’s arms. Finally getting the burden off his chest was a huge relief, but being with Amanda acted as the salve that held him together. Rush knew without her, he’d be utterly lost.

Chapter Text

Holding Rush in the safety of her arms, Amanda wanted to offer comfort and love and support, yet knew all her devotion may not be enough to ease his pain. Rush held her so tight Mandy was certain he could hear the hammering of her heartbeat. Oddly enough, he seemed calm and collected as he rocked her in his arms.

The moment she eased back to look into his eyes, she realized how much she mistook Rush’s stability. Deep in those dark depths rested a raging storm of scars and resentment that caught her off guard. Barely able to inhale a breath before his mouth covered hers, Amanda didn’t resist when his tongue delved deep, allowing sensation to sweep her away.

The rough, demanding kiss left Mandy uncertain how to respond, but Rush took charge until her body flushed with warmth, melting into his form in surrender. Moaning when the sensations intensified, she gasped feeling his hand cup her breast, gently kneading her flesh. The touch was the exact opposite of the kiss, which seemed to grow more heated as it continued.

Falling back onto the bed, landing against the pillows, another gasp left her throat when Rush broke away to stare into her eyes. Territorial and predatory as he climbed over her body, Mandy stiffened, but then the tender and precise way he settled his weight on top of her eased her initial fear. Rush’s need was obvious, but beneath she sensed a promise to cherish and respect her wishes. As a result, Mandy had no idea she could feel so much emotion for another human being. Thrills raced through her blood when Rush kissed her again, the sensations sweeping away all conscious thought until she could only feel, instinctively holding him closer as moans left her mouth and her body arched.

As their tongues melded, Amanda instinctively rocked into his frame, needing to feel more of his flesh against her. Hands exploring, stroking down his back before moving to tangle in his hair, then grasping his shoulders, her head spun. Rush’s mouth felt so soft, a contrast to his scruffy, scratching whiskers.

Tingles intensified as the pleasure heightened, making her melt as cravings consumed her being. Clutching at him, growing desperate, Mandy gave a cry of protest when he yanked his mouth away and started sitting up. Hands automatically reaching for him, she saw the mischievous grin spread across his face.

Eye widening, as she watched Rush remove first his green tee, then the white thermal shirt beneath. Mouth going dry at the sight of his bare chest, her first instinct was to run her hands over his skin and the light brown curls spread sporadically over his pectorals. Even as her hand started reaching, she hesitated seeing him unbuckling his belt.

A small sound of question and protest escaped her throat, but Rush shook his head.

“It’s alright,” he assured her as he pulled the leather free. Looming over her, Rush looked deeply into those blue pools that held him in thrall.

“It’s ok,” he whispered before capturing her mouth once more.

Moving gently, Rush gave her a few moments to run her hands over his skin and get used to his form before pressing more firmly against her and deepening the kiss. Thrusting his tongue to taste her sweetness, a groan of delight and triumph rumbled in his throat feeling Mandy not only return the touch, but also smooth her hands down his bare back, then over his chest and stomach before finally clutching his shoulders.

Sinking into her softness, Rush’s hand stroked the side of her ribcage through her shirt before gently cupping her breast in his palm. Teasing his thumb over her nipple, feeling her flesh pucker, he groaned. Swallowing her gasp, he grinned against her lips.

“You like that?”

Beyond words, Mandy nodded as she met his gaze. He was teasing her and taking great pleasure in doing so, and she was powerless against the onslaught. “Rush,” she whimpered, uncertain.

“I want to give you pleasure, Amanda,” he said huskily into her ear. “Will you let me?”

The question held a familiarity she couldn’t place. Resisting the pleasure flooding her system was impossible and Rush knew it. Calling his name in plea, she arched only to feel him draw back. Eyes snapping open, she didn’t resist when he pushed her knees open. Panting as she watched him move between her legs, settling his weight in a new way above her, her hands squeezed his shoulders in question. Welcoming his next kiss, Amanda’s arms twined around his neck, fingers tangling in his hair, as his tongue once again thrust deep to make her dizzy. At the same moment, his lower body pressed into her, causing her to cry out as raw pleasure shot through her veins. Stomach-to-stomach, groin-to-groin, there was no mistaken the harness pressing up against her throbbing sex.

Feeling her arousal gush between her thighs, Amanda wasn’t sure what to do. She wanted more, but her uncertainty kept her limbs frozen in place. Sensing her confusion, Rush continued kissing her, this time with more tenderness and coaxing as his hands gently smoothed over her body, easing her fears.

That familiar pleasure rose, but this time felt slightly different. Mandy could feel the shape of his erection pressing firmly into her sex, if only just. Rush’s hands smoothed over her side then grasped her hips, angling her body. Little cries of amazement tumbled from her mouth into his as he gently rocked against her secret places as they continued tasting one another.

Holding on for dear life, Mandy felt her world spinning out of control. The pleasure clouded her logical mind and she didn’t care. With each roll of their hips, each rub of contact, each swoop of his tongue, all that mattered was the growing desperation and cresting climax.

“Amanda,” Rush growled as he kissed a path down her neck and up again. “Does that feel good?”

“Hmmm,” she moaned as she arched into his arms, reveling in the press of his tip rubbing her throbbing clitoris. “Ah, yes!”

“You like that, don’t you, baby,” he growled, tightening his grip on her hips, forcing her movements to slow ever-so-slightly.

“Rush!”

Why was he slowing? Amanda didn’t want to stop! Squeezing his shoulders, she looked into his face, hoping to understand what was happening. The passion in those dark eyes sent even more shivers through her blood, causing her juices to seep from her core as she felt the rapid throb of her clitoris screaming for her to move again.

“Shh,” he whispered as he rained kisses all over her cheeks and neck. “It’s alright, baby,”

The moment built too quickly and Rush didn’t want to give her a swift release like he did the last time. No, Rush would draw out every ounce of sensation he could from her willing body. Hearing Mandy whimper, he ran his hands up and down her thighs, kissing her softly, calming her until her need wasn’t so urgent.

“But, I-” Licking her lips, Amanda could only look at Rush with glazed eyes, unable to express her need with words. The pleasure became overwhelming and when he kissed her, Mandy’s toes curled and her body went weak. Only Rush could offer relief from this torment and he insisted on teasing her!

When he started rocking against her once more, she whispered his name in wonder. Seconds later, frustration gnawed at her nerves because of the easy pace, which wasn’t what she wanted at all! Trying to break away from the kiss to demand he go faster, she also tried moving her hips quickly as a signal, but Rush’s grip held her firmly in place.

“Rush,” she said breathlessly, unsure of how to fully communicate her desires.

Kissing his way from her cheek to her ear, he whispered hoarsely. “This would feel better without your panties.”

Gasping in shock, Amanda went still. Rush looked at her, giving her every opportunity to refuse the suggestion, but when he moved away, her hand darted out to grasp his wrist even as a moan of denial escaped her throat. Shaking her head, Mandy didn’t want the pressure to go away! Her body couldn’t be denied now! Her throbbing sex was so…and she was desperate not to lose the feeling.

As if reading her mind, Rush’s gaze flashed with understanding before he kissed the tip of her nose, then her mouth. “On the count of three,” he said. “It will be fine, Amanda. You’ll see.”

Her mouth opened even though she didn’t have a clue how to respond. Instead, she gasped when Rush’s erection once again pressed firmly into her sex, causing her core to clench in delight.

“One,” he counted.

Drawing back, Rush drew a cry of bliss from Mandy and gave one more slow roll of his hips, making sure the blunt of his penis rubbed from her core up to her clitoris, pressing firmly against the nub before drawing back again.

“Two,” he growled.

Making noises of delight, Mandy’s fingers dug into his wrists, trying to hold him in place. She wasn’t sure she could handle a separation of their bodies at the moment. Prepared for another slow, glorious glide, she was shocked and unprepared when Rush thrust quickly, giving the smallest burst of pleasure before reaching the end of the count, and jerked away with a muttered curse. Gasping in denial, she was only vaguely aware of his fingers gripping the waistband of her panties. When he yanked the fabric down her legs, she came to her senses, saying his name before the shyness overwhelmed all else.

The second her panties were gone, she snapped her legs together, afraid, shy, and uncomfortable with still feeling so aroused. Rush prided himself on patience and this moment was no exception. He seemed to know her motivations better than she did. Instead of forcing her to his will, Rush threw Amanda’s underwear to the floor and crawled back up to rest next to her on the bed. Gathering her in his arms, he started kissing her soundly, distracting her with gentle caresses until she relaxed beneath him. Only when she melted into his touch did he push her knees apart.

Settling between her thighs, Rush soaked in the sight of her beautiful face, loving her expression when sensations overruled her logic. Hands roaming over and under her bare thighs, he maintained eye contract, waiting for the right moment. His palms cupped her buttocks before moving to grasp her hips as he let his full weight press into her as he kissed her again.

A cry of pure delight burst from her mouth into his when Amanda first felt the friction of his rough jeans rubbing into her naked folds. The bliss felt more acute and intense, centering on her clit, making her desperate to move against the hardness giving her such sweet sensation!

Rush’s grip kept her movements in check and from becoming too frantic, too fast. Another time he would let her ride with abandon, but right now Rush wanted to savor each second and show Mandy how to move and enjoy having him in her bed.

“There,” he whispered in her ear. “Gently, baby,” he coaxed. “That’s it.”

Moaning, clinging tight, Amanda rolled her hips in time with his, unabashedly riding the waves of bliss. Every time he whispered in her ear more of her juices gushed as the warmth spread throughout her being.

“Wrap your legs around my waist,” he growled.

Letting his hands guide her legs up and around his waist, Amanda cried out as the pressure increased, taking her to new heights. Rubbing faster, she voiced her glee, hearing Rush do the same as they moved together in unison.

Gritting his teeth, Rush was determined to last. Mandy deserved this release, this discovery of what her body was capable of. Forcing his eyes open, he watched her expression as her orgasm built, as she went wild beneath him to reach her climax.

Heart swelling, he loved how she didn’t hold back, but allowed her feelings to have free reign. His beautiful, brilliant Mandy!

Feeling the throbbing become even more rapid, Rush finally released her hips in favor of cupping her cheek and one breast as he fell on top of her, kissing her hard. Amanda cried out as her orgasm took hold, tearing her mouth from his, closing her eyes, and letting her head arch back as her body bowed beneath him as her hips bucked, rubbing her sex frantically into his erection.

Guiding her through, Rush also eased her down and held her as she recovered. Satisfied and spent, Amanda held him close as she caught her breath. Hands stoking his hair, she loved the feel of his weight. Several minutes later, she realized he was still hard between her legs.

“Rush,” she whispered. “What about you?”

Lifting his cheek from her breast, Rush flashed a devilish grin.

Chapter Text

Flipping to his back, Rush positioned Mandy so she straddled his upper thighs as they both panted with anticipation. God, he wanted this moment! He waited so long to have her touch him!

“Will you help me, Mandy,” he asked as his fingers fumbled with the fastenings of his jeans. Watching her expression closely, Rush waited as Amanda licked her lips, her curiosity and arousal outweighing her fears. Seeing her nod her consent, Rush unbuttoned his jeans, pulled down the zipper, and pushed the waistband down his hips, freeing his erect penis.

Still watching her face, Rush’s blood warmed with masculine pride knowing she was surprised with the size and the thickness of his erection pressing against his stomach. Amanda knew what males looked like, but she didn’t predict how he would appear. Rigid and thick, proud and masculine, her fingers craved to touch his skin, but she didn’t want to make a mistake by being bold.

“Touch me, Mandy,” he said thickly.

“H-how?”

Taking her hands, Rush guided her fingers between her legs. “Coat them in your juices,” he urged as he helped her glide her fingertips over her slick folds to her dripping core.

Oh, what wouldn’t he give to be able to fully explore that part of her body! Gritting his teeth to keep a lid on his control, Rush’s cock jerked at the thought. Mandy’s memories weren’t complete and until there were, he didn’t want to press the advantage. Besides, when he and Amanda finally made love it would be with both of them fully aware and willing.

Watching Mandy coat her hands, he took her wrists when she finished, then ever-so-gently ran her palm over the tip of his penis, moaning in delight when her wetness smoothed over the sensitive skin.

“I need your touch,” he panted. “I need you!”

“Show me, Rush,” she whispered as she adjusted her perch on his thighs. Still aroused, still throbbing, she didn’t want to become distracted from this task. Rush always took special care with her and now she wanted to please him in turn.

Covering her hands with his own, Rush wrapped her fingers around his shaft before placing her other palm over his bare sac. Slowly, gently, he guided her movements, showing Amanda how to pump his penis and knead his balls. Feeling her fingers squeeze him, the moisture of her own release making the friction that much more exquisite, a groan escaped his lips and Rush’s head fall back as his hips rolled up and down in time with her hands.

His skin felt so soft, yet beneath, he was hard and solid. Velvet on steel - now Amanda understood the expression. Watching Rush feel his pleasure, Mandy’s body heated in response, her core clenching and moisture leaking down her inner thighs.

Rush was so handsome, but when he let go, he was beautiful. Learning how he liked to be touched, a smile covered her lips as she moved with him, watching as their joined palms and fingers played with his flesh. She loved the shape of him, so different from her own body, but fascinating all the same.

Was it wrong to want to kiss this part of his flesh? To want to taste him? Perhaps she would have the courage to ask had Rush to cried out gripping her fingers tighter around his genitals as he pumped faster.

“Amanda,” he growled as his body arched. “God, yes! So fucking good!”

Hearing the words, hearing him sob her name, she wanted to lean down and kiss him, but couldn’t manage in her present position. Rush refused to release her hands, moving them faster as he panted his pleasure. The sticky sound of their joined movements filled the air, making her moan as she bit her bottom lip, unable to tear her eyes away from his erection. Thrills of excitement surged through her blood, amazed and aroused by what was happening.

“I’ve dreamed of this,” Rush growled. “Of you touching me until I can’t stand it.”

Squeezing harder, Amanda’s heart slammed in her chest seeing Rush’s mouth fall open as a shout exploded from his lips. Faster and faster they moved, tugging him harder, tighter, until she couldn’t help but wonder if he was in pain. Judging from the lust in those darkly intense eyes, borrowing adoration as their gazes held, pain wasn't close to the sensation he was experiencing.

Maintaining eye contact was impossible when he felt his seed peaking, his balls tightening, making his head spin and his vision blur. Closing his eyes, throwing his head back, Rush pumped her hands a few more times before shouting with the force of his orgasm.

Watching his seed burst from his tip, shooting up, then falling to coat his stomach, Amanda gasped in surprise, not only because the sight was new, but also because she wasn’t prepared for how her loins throbbed in reaction. Her body knew how much better this pleasure could feel if happening inside of her sheath, instead of out in the open. Nevertheless, even as she felt pleasure in giving him release, Mandy loved seeing the frantic panting gripping his chest and the look of bliss covering his features in the aftermath. In this moment, Mandy knew she wanted to repeat playing with him in the future.

Recovering, Rush released Mandy’s hands before giving her a smile as he sat up to reach for his discarded thermal shirt. Wrapping an arm around her waist to make sure she didn’t move, Rush quickly cleaned the result of his climax before tossing the shirt back on the floor.

“Thank you,” he whispered before grabbing the back of her neck and pulling her forward for a kiss, yanking her with him as he fell back against the pillows. When the kiss ended, Mandy rested her cheek on his chest, loving the way Rush’s fingers weaved through her hair as they basked in the afterglow.

“I’m glad I could please you,” she whispered as her shyness took hold.

Kissing the top of her head, Rush’s hands smoothed up and down her back. “You’re the only woman I want to touch me like that.”

Smiling against his skin, she wrapped her arms around his waist. “Really?”

Grasping her chin, he angled her face so their gazes met. Holding eye contact, he nodded. “Only you, Amanda.”

Heart warming, she pressed her lips to his, once more taken off guard by how quickly the tender touch turned hot and needy. Eagerly, Amanda sank into his touch, but gasped when his soft penis brushed her naked thigh. Pulling out of the kiss, panting heavily, she placed a hand on his chest as she spoke. “I want to take things slow,” she managed. “I want…to…”

“It’s ok,” he assured her as he cupped her face in his hands. “I will never pressure you, or force you to give more than you are willing. I swear it, Mandy.”

To prove his words, Rush tucked his manhood into his jeans. Once fastened, he got up to retrieve her panties from the floor. Blushing perfectly, Amanda slipped on her underwear as Rush climbed back into bed.

He never judged her, or acted as if her shyness was an issue. Instead, Rush gathered her into his arms, kissing her forehead.

“Sleep,” he urged.

Letting out a contented sigh, Amanda happily rested her head against his chest as her arms circled his shoulders. “You’ll stay with me?”

“Of course.”

Closing her eyes, Mandy gave in to the fatigue gnawing at her. Sated and safe in Rush’s embrace, she wasn’t afraid to dream. What they just experienced together made her smile as she drifted away.

Listening to her breathing even out, Rush stroked her soft hair hoping her memories would return soon. He meant every word he spoke a few moments ago. Rush loved Amanda so much that he would never dream of hurting her. Yet, after revealing the full truth about what happened with the Nakai, she was the anchor keeping him sane.

Was he being selfish to want Amanda to remember their past and their love? Perhaps showing her pleasure just now was wrong, but he needed Mandy. He vowed not to cross the line and sleep with her before all her memories returned because Amanda would see it as a betrayal.

Yet…the connection between them, the desire, attraction, and attachment, was escalating. Recalling how tightly she gripped him, how good her moisture felt on his skin, how hard he came, how could Rush not wish for more? His love wasn’t going away. Rush spent years denying these feelings even existed within his heart. Well, no more.

Mandy would remember and they would be together. Why else would they both be on this mission? Why else would the Ancients return her to him? Fate.

****

The void returned to pull her under its black canvas and smother her in the full nothingness that held her prisoner for so long. Mandy ran, screaming for Rush, but her voice didn’t work and Rush wasn’t here. Heart lurching, Mandy realized she was alone.

Screaming, yet unable to hear the vibrations, Mandy ran faster to outrun the destiny she couldn’t escape. The void grabbed her ankle, wrapping around her body like liquid ooze until she drowned in darkness. A flash of a face came into view. The pretty redhead’s lips were moving, but Amanda couldn’t hear a word. Going numb, she was certain she would fall under soon enough, but as her vision started fading, the redhead vanished and Mandy recognized the handwriting left in her wake. Why did she suddenly see the equations she wrote on the wall? What significance did they have?

More numbers and symbols assaulted her in flashes, violent bursts hurting her eyes and twisting her nerve endings. Coming awake, her head throbbed. Rolling over, Amanda automatically reached for Rush, but only felt the cool pillow beside her. Groaning, a crinkling sounded. Curious, she forced her eyes open to see the piece of paper.

Reading the note, she felt better knowing Rush left due to an emergency with the ship, but her pain wasn’t fading. Wincing as she climbed out of bed, Mandy found her shoes. Walking to the table where she left her pen, she spent the next ten minutes writing down the equations burning a hole in her skull. Afterwards, Amanda headed to the secluded part of the ship to launder her clothes while taking a mist shower. Clean and refreshed, she couldn’t get the dream out of her mind. Running into Greer, she forced a smile and asked after the ship and Rush.

Chuckling, Greer shook his head. “You’ve got it bad, don’t you?”

“Got what?”

“The lovesickness,” he joked.

Blushing, Mandy’s gaze dropped to the floor as her fingers twisted together in front of her. “I still don’t remember everything. My past is getting clearer, but it’s slow going and I’m not sure what I can trust.”

Greer shrugged. “I don’t know much about you two besides both of you were colleagues on Earth, but I do know you get him. Rush is calm and more reasonable around you. He-”

Cutting off what he was about to say concerning Rush’s grief when Mandy died, Greer bit his tongue knowing she didn’t yet remember those events.

“He what,” Mandy frowned.

“He…cares for you,” Greer finished. “We all see it.”

Amanda’s blush deepened. “It’s that obvious?”

Chucking, Greer tried putting her at ease. “It’s a beautiful thing. Love. Don’t over think it or read too much into it. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.”

Mandy arched a brow. “That’s your advice?”

Nodding, Greer guided her to their little spot where there was enough open space to do their drills. “Are you up for a few more self-defense lessons?”

Mandy hoped to purge her frustrations through exercise before obsessing about her past, or her fear of never getting her memory back, overwhelmed her conscious thoughts. The equations meant something, but she would work through that mystery later. For now, she wanted to beat Greer in maneuvers just once.

Chapter Text

Rush and Chloe were both in agreement about the symbols being of Nakai origin, but taking even Chloe’s word didn’t seem to be enough to convince Young to get the ship out of this star system. Destiny needed supplies and they would be better served finding what they required in this system with viable planets than risking dealing without in another system. Besides, the Nakai obviously abandoned this clove of the universe.

No matter how many arguments were made, Rush’s arguments and pleas went ignored while Young consulted Eli. Finally, Rush couldn’t take being pushed aside a second longer and the fact Chloe, Brody, and Eli were witnesses didn’t deter him as his eye met the Colonel’s gaze and his temper spilled over.

“Constantly asking a child for advice, who doesn’t have any experience, is putting us all at risk!”

“Hey,” Eli said in offense.

For his part, Young looked daggers at Rush, while keeping outwardly calm as he spoke. In the battle of wills, Young refused to give Rush the upper hand.

“Eli had the same experience as the rest of us stuck on this ship for nearly four years. He’s a genius who I trust to get things right.”

“I’m talking about life experience, which we both know is very different!” Rush’s inner panic fueled his rage. They needed to get out of here and they needed to listen. “We need to escape while we can before the Nakai realize where we are!”

“And your judgment is clouded in this matter,” Young snapped back. “We need to collect what we can while we’re sure of availability! If we blindly go to the next system without preparation, we run the risk of exhausting our provisions!”

“And if we stay here, we run the risk of being destroyed! What then, Colonel?”

“I’ve made my decision,” Young stated.

“Then you’ve killed us all!”

“Cut the hysterics, Rush!”

Seeing his boss ready to blow a gasket, Brody cut in. “Why don’t we compromise,” he suggested. “We stay for a few hours, salvage what we can, then move on. We don’t linger.”

“There is no sign of any ship anywhere close to us,” Eli argued.

“That doesn’t mean they aren’t on their way,” Rush snapped back.

Rolling his eyes, Eli thought Rush’s tantrum looked more like an imitation of a crazy Einstein than a legitimate warning. The guy was off his rocker. “Maybe we should call Mandy down here so you can start thinking with your logical brain again,” he snapped.

Unable to believe his ears, Rush glared at the boy genius. “What the fook did you just say?”

“You heard me,” Eli stated as his temper rose to match Rush’s fury. Eli refused to stand here and be insulted! “You say I’m too young and have no life experience, but the only time you’re even human is when a woman is around-”

“Shut your mouth, Eli! Right now!”

“Why,” he challenged. “It’s true!”

Clenching his fists, Rush desperately wanted to punch the superiority off the fat fucker’s face, but Chloe jumped between them, forcing the two to listen.

“We don’t have time to fight amongst ourselves right now! Enough Eli! We have to compromise!”

“Why,” Eli challenged his friend. Resentful of Chloe taking Rush’s side, Eli just wanted to prove his point and not give way. “Rush isn’t in charge of this ship! No matter how many secrets he keeps, or things - and people - he sabotages!”

“And you think the military will protect you, Eli,” Rush shouted. “That they’ll protect your rights and not try to control you? You’re delusional!”

“They have training! We’ve survived this long-”

“Because we’ve worked together, you fool! I’ve worked on Icarus for years! I know the military has an agenda, just like any other government entity!”

“Really,” Eli spat sarcastically. “Because you’ve had an agenda this whole time! Bit hypocritical, don’t you think?”

“It’s the mission,” Rush shouted. “Which you know!”

“Yeah, but we’re not going to be better off in your hands either! At least the military has training and weapons!”

“All the better to control you with,” Rush snarled with sarcasm.

“Arguing won’t solve anything,” Chloe interrupted.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Young chimed in. “I say you let them hash it out.”

Looking from the Colonel to Eli, Chloe didn’t know what to do next. She and Eli were friends, but Rush was right about the Nakai. They needed to listen!

“You’re just a coward,” Eli pressed. “You’re afraid of the Nakai and you’re throwing a tantrum to try and get your way so you don’t soil yourself!”

The sound of knuckles cracking against skin echoed through the air. Eli cried out in pain as the force of the blow made him stumble. Ignoring the pain in his knuckles, and the blood seeping through the torn skin, Rush turned his back on the rest of them and stomped off the bridge.

“Jackass,” Eli mumbled as he straightened.

Chloe’s eyes narrowed on her friend. “I hope you’re talking about yourself.”

“Wha-”

“Eli,” Young cut in, not wanting another confrontation on his hands. “Are you sure we are alone in this sector?”

“Yeah,” he answered as he tentatively touched his bleeding lip. “We’re safe.”

“Then we will look for another viable planet and stock up.”

“Rush isn’t over-exaggerating about the Nakai,” Chloe warned. “Things are not always what they seem.”

Giving Eli a poignant look, she, too, walked off the bridge. Shaking his head, Eli glanced at Young.

“They are a threat,” Young acknowledged. “We need to work fast. I don’t want those two to be right.”

“I already mapped out a few planets.”

“Good,” Young nodded. “Let’s get to it.”

Eli nodded to Brody, who looked to Young before plotting a course to the next viable planet. Brody didn’t like Eli’s attitude, but kept his mouth shut. The last time they came up against those sick-looking blue aliens they didn’t fare very well. He would have protested and had Rush’s back, but with Young standing right here, he wasn’t up for a fight. Instead, he hoped they could wrap up this task as quickly as humanly possible and get the hell out of dodge.

****

No warning preempted the darkness. One second all felt normal and the next the lights snapped off. In the middle of her cool down, Amanda’s breath hitched with fright when the darkness surrounded her without explanation. For s split second, she felt trapped in the void. Panic seized her chest, but her fear pushed into adrenaline when alarms shattered the silence, blaring all over the ship.

“What is going on,” she asked, knowing Greer couldn’t be more than a few feet away.

“I don’t know.” Going into solider mode at the sound of the alarms, Greer quickly rose to his feet, ready to investigate and radio the Colonel. The second he gained his footing, the ship lurched, throwing both Greer and Amanda off balance and into the opposite wall.

Teeth chattering from the impact, Mandy struggled to regain her equilibrium. Someone grabbed her arm, urging her to her feet. Dizzy, she stumbled, but Greer’s fingers dug into her flesh, forcing her to her feet as she gasped in pain. The alarms continued resonating through the corridors making it difficult to hear Greer’s voice.

“We’re under attack! Move!”

Gasping, Mandy couldn’t ask questions as Greer yanked her along behind him, gun at the ready. “Stay behind me!”

An explosion sounded in the distance, causing a thunderous rumble to shake Destiny down to the core. Losing her footing, Amanda fell to her knees, but Greer quickly pulled her up, ordering her to keep going.

“What’s going on?” Fear quivered in her voice, but she couldn’t help it.

“I don’t know,” Greer stated steadily. “But we’ve got to find out.”

Heart pounding, Mandy didn’t like those ominous words, every instinct screaming to ride and hide, but Greer propelled them forward. Two opinions rested at her feet: either keep up or make her own way. Operating on automatic, Mandy followed the experienced solider with the gun.

****

They came out of no where! One minute, they determined who should go through the gate to the planet, and the next, the ship was under fire! Young shouted orders while Eli and Brody compensated for the surprise attack on the bridge, but events unfolded too quickly.

The shields collapsed and the ship wasn’t obeying the imputed commands. The Nakai’s ship came barreling toward them and Young feared the worst. Getting on the intercom, he conveyed warnings to his crew to prepare to be boarded. He barely finished half a sentence when another explosion rocked the ship, cutting off the transmission. By the time he regained his footing to repeat the command, the communication system relayed nothing but static.

****

Those stupid, fucking fools! Seeing the ship out of his window, Rush grabbed the weapons he hid around his room. First, he needed to find Mandy. No matter what, he had to protect her!

No sooner did he set foot outside his quarters; the harsh jolting of the ship sent him careening. Compensating, Rush managed to straighten enough to keep moving forward. Making his way to the end of the corridor, he jumped when Chloe suddenly appeared in his path.

Another explosion rocked Destiny.

“I know what to do,” Chloe shouted over the roar of the battle. “I need your help!”

“But, Mandy-”

“She’ll be fine, but only if you help me!”

Rush knew he and Chloe were the only ones on board who truly knew what these aliens were capable of, and if the Nakai took control of Destiny, the outcome wouldn’t be pleasant for any of the crew. Being imprisoned while the aliens raped their minds for information until they uncovered every secret they knew about this ship and the Ancients wasn’t a fate he would wish on his worst enemy’s dog. Not even Young’s. Besides, this ship belonged to them! This mission would remain in their care! Most importantly, Rush would not allow Mandy to fall prey to the Nakai right after he got her back!

Following Chloe to the engineering room, he knew the exact moment the shields failed; felt the dread speed through his blood causing goosebumps to spread like wildfire over his skin. Whatever Chloe planned, they better make it quick.

Heart in his throat, Rush listened as Chloe outlined her plan, wondering how the hell they were ever going to pull it off. Reconfiguring the shields took longer than anticipated. Doing the calculations as quickly as he could, Rush knew the clock ticked against them.

Power shut down all of the ship, and Rush knew what came next. “They’re going to board us,” he stated.

Chloe nodded. “Then we better be ready.”

“We should have left when I said so!”

Not bothering to argue, Chloe agreed they should have left when they had the chance, but the damage was done because Eli and Colonel Young didn’t fully understand what they were up against. Now, lives on the line. Pushing aside her resentment, Chloe focused on the matter at hand. Flinching hearing Young’s voice echo through the intercom, her first thought was of Matthew and her determination intensified. “We need to recalculate our ammunition to purge their shields,” she shouted over the chaos.

“And how do we-”

“I remember the algorithms,” Chloe insisted. “We have to get to the bridge.”

Staring at the tall brunette for a long moment, Rush wasn’t sure what to make of her. They did get part of the shields back online, but the fix was like putting a bandage over a bullet wound.

“Depending on how many Nakai have boarded, getting back up there will be an uphill battle!”

Chloe’s eyes narrowed with defiant determination. “We survived when the Lucian Alliance took us hostage,” she pointed out. “We can survive this.”

Luckily, Chloe’s steadfast stubborn certainty impressed Rush. This woman, like him, had every reason in the world to be cowering in a corner, but here she stood, ready to fight. Rush saw the strength beneath the fragile exterior and put his faith in her knowledge. Nodding, Rush gestured for her to lead the way.

Sure enough, no sooner did they sneak out of the engineering room, screams, both human and not, echoed as they made their way toward the bridge. Gunfire sounded in the distance as the smell of smoke, mixed with the faint aroma of blood, filled their nostrils. Lights flickered above, but they kept their eyes straight ahead. Rush wanted nothing more than to kill every last Nakai that dared set foot in his territory, but they couldn’t rage battle and escape the enemy, so he pushed his anger and need for revenge aside in order to focus on the task at hand.

Hearing heavy footsteps drawing closer, Rush grabbed Chloe and darted behind a bulkhead, narrowly avoiding a Nakai search party. A second later, Chloe disappeared.

Gaze darting around the area, Rush nearly called her name, but spotted her perched behind another bulkhead several feet away. The Nakai didn’t sense them, but the murderous look in her eyes suggested she wanted them to. Just when Rush thought Chloe would pull a stupid move and pounce, more screams and gunfire distracted the aliens into running down the opposite hall to investigate. Closing her eyes, Chloe battled her memories and fear as she moved back to Rush’s side. Neither of them could afford to falter now and they knew it.

Continuing on their way, the pair nearly reached their destination, but hit yet another snag. Around the corner from the bridge, a group aliens headed for the same door, blocking their path. Exchanging a look, both Rush and Chloe tightened their grip on their weapons.

Chapter Text

They were everywhere! How did they even manage to get on the ship and cause so much damage so fast? Greer didn’t have those answers, but knew while the shields were down; those aliens would invade en mass, leaving as much of the ship intact as possible, which gave them a slight advantage. Luckily, no one seemed to detect their progress. Yet.

“We have to take another route,” Greer whispered to Mandy. Keeping his gun, and his senses, on high alert, Greer couldn’t jump into the fray with a civilian.

“Where?”

“Do you know a way back around to the gate room?”

Thinking a moment, Mandy nodded. “Why the gate room?”

“Because I have more ammunition stashed there. Besides, if we need to abandon ship, that’s where our people will gather. We might get some help along the way.”

Mandy’s instincts screamed to refute his plan because she knew Rush would never leave Destiny no matter how many aliens swarmed them. Still, they couldn’t stay here where their discovery seemed imminent. Nodding, Amanda gestured for Greer to follow her lead. Doubling back the way they came, she did her best to ignore the fear squeezing her heart in favor of focusing on where she was going.

One good thing came out of being an outcast: she learned the lesser known areas of this ship like the back of her hand. Well, to be fair, there was still a lot of uncovered territory, but Mandy knew enough to take a route to the gate room most wouldn’t think to use, which spared them from running into the enemy.

As they moved, as quickly and quietly as possible, the sounds of gunfire and fighting faded into the background. Mandy hoped the Nakai weren’t getting the better of them, but there was no way to be sure. Was there any hope of escaping this?

As if reading her mind, Greer grabbed her arm, making her stop. “We need to find a way to get extra ammo, then get the shields back up so we can make an FTL jump. It’s our best bet.”

The logic sounded good to her. “Do you think others know?”

“Oh, yeah,” Greer said as he checked how many rounds he had left. “Rush, Eli, and Chloe can probably reason it out.”

Amanda blinked. “Probably?”

Greer just gave Mandy a cheeky grin. “Hell, I figured it out and I’m just a lowly Sargent.”

A smile started playing at the corners of her lips, but another hard jolt shook the ship, throwing Mandy against the wall with a gasp. More alarms sounded, warning of fires and malfunctions. Fear kept her momentarily paralyzed until Greer gave her a shake.

“Hey, we need to keep moving.”

Exhaling a breath, Mandy nodded and focused her attention on their route. Greer was one of the best soldiers on the ship, so she was in good hands. Even as Amanda fought to remain calm, she couldn’t stop thinking about Rush, hoping he was alive and safe. Surely, if he was hurt, she could know. She would feel it.

Momentarily putting aside her own fears, Amanda struggled to cope with the adrenaline racing through her system, telling her to run as far and as fast as she could. Only Greer’s firm grip kept her from barreling into a breakdown. At this point, she prayed she would survive this attack so she could see Rush again.

****

“We need to get in there,” Rush hissed to Chloe.

Nodding absently, adjusting her arms closer to her body, her eyes followed the almost neon blue Nakai as they lingered in front of the bridge. Crouched into a hiding space in the wall, they both knew it was only a matter of time before they were discovered. They needed a plan.

“They don't know the code.”

Rush resisted a snort of sarcasm. Of course those fishheads didn’t know the code! The rest of the crew was damn lucky he figured it out in the first place! Thinking about Gloria and the twist of fate wasn’t something he wanted to ponder considering his present predicament.

“Who is still on the bridge,” he whispered.

“Probably Eli and Brody,” Chloe reasoned. “Maybe Colonel Young.”

Rush deduced the same. If they were in there alone, they only had so much fire power. Odds were the Nakai would overwhelm the three within seconds, especially given the fact Eli and Brody weren’t fighters.

“We need more ammunition,” Rush grumbled in Chloe’s ear. They pressed as close as sardines in a can.

“A lot of good that will do us without a distraction.”

Resisting the urge to heave a heavy sigh, he tried thinking of a plan. One of them needed to get on the bridge so they could re-route the shields and fire up the FTL drive before more of those…things could board them. The Nakai thought their surprise attack left Destiny dead in the water, but Rush knew better. This ship lasted millennia. She wasn’t about to buckle to the whims of those greedy freaks. Rush was the most logical choice to make a break for the bridge, so he glanced at Chloe wondering if she was up for being the bait. Both of them still carried traumatized memories, but Chloe had it categorically worse.

“What do you think,” he asked.

Inhaling a deep breath, Chloe glanced at the Nakai trying to override the padlock on the bridge door. “There are five of them. Odds of them all giving chase…”

“I know,” Rush nodded. He would need a weapon and preferably an element of surprise.

“They may remember me,” Chloe whispered so low, Rush almost didn’t hear her.

Frowning, Rush wasn’t sure what Chloe was getting at until she used hands signals to indicate she would get the alien’s attention and run, while Rush made a break for the bridge. Great minds thought alike, he supposed, but he didn’t want Chloe exposing herself without some kind of weapon.

Looking around, she found a sharp piece of broken metal she could use as a makeshift knife. Giving her a doubtful look, he wasn’t convinced the piece would do much good. Chloe gestured they were out of options, emphatic that she should go on the count of three. Seizing her arm, Rush gave her a long look.

Chloe didn’t waver. The pure determination in her face was fueled by an emotion he knew well. Hatred. Chloe wanted the Nakai to pay as much as he did. They kidnapped them, held them prisoner, put both of them through endless nightmares and now they invaded their home as if they had the right.

No. They were both done. The time came to fight.

If anything happened to Chloe, Rush knew Lt. Scott would have his head, but Rush wasn’t about to let the Nakai get their hands on Destiny. Grasping a piece of discarded metal, he inhaled a deep breath before meeting Chloe’s gaze. They counted to three before charging out of their hiding place.

****

“Report,” Young shouted over the blaring alarms.

“They came out of no where,” Eli cried, his eyes locked on the screen showing the fast approaching ship.

“They were hiding on the other side of the star,” Brody supplied in a clam voice that belied his inner panic. “They’re coming fast!”

“Shields!”

Eli pressed the button a second too late, slightly delaying the rise of Destiny’s defenses. As a result, a large explosion rocked the ship. The direct hit took out a good chunk of the engine. The shields Eli did manage to activate flickered in an out, enabling the aliens to invade.

Eli knew they were caught with their pants down, but there had to be something they could do! Perhaps if Rush or Chloe were here, they would know how to counter the Nakai attack, but they weren’t, so Eli had to take his best guess. As the lights flickered and the ship shook with each damning blow, Eli wiped the sweat from his brow as he followed Young’s orders.

His efforts were fruitless. The ship was soon overrun, the Nakai boarding, and Young scrambling to secure the bridge door.

“Is there any way to communicate with the rest of the ship,” Young asked when he was certain the door to the bridge would hold.

“Communications are down,” Brody supplied. “Hit with the last blast.”

Young pulled his training around him like a cloak. “We need to know what is going one out there,” he firmly stated, his gaze never leaving Brody’s. “Do what you can to get communications back up.”

When Brody got to work, Young turned to Eli. The kid had a crash course, but was still very green and in this moment, Eli looked like a confused bunny in a hunter’s trap. Young wouldn’t go so far as to say Rush was right, but he realized he would have to ease up where Eli was concerned.

“Eli,” Young barked to get the kid’s attention. “Can you access the kinos? We need to figure out what is going on out there.”

“Right.” Moving to a console, Eli operated on automatic, trying again and again to get a remote view of the ship, bur receiving the same message. “They’ve been deactivated,” he numbly stated.

“Right. Ok.” Young looked to Brody. “Options?”

“An FTL jump to get us the hell out of here?”

“Which we can’t do unless the shields are operational and the engine bypassed,” Eli piped up.

“Can we do that from here,” Young asked.

“I can try.” Eli’s focus went back to the console as the first series of rams hit the locked door.

The Nakai were invading the ship, trying to take control. Young ordered the men to keep working as he searched for weapons. Normally nothing was stocked on the bridge, but they could get creative if need be. As he banging continued, Young prayed the aliens didn’t figure out the code to the doors, or tried blowing a hole through them.

They were running out of options. Hopefully, Eli could work his magic and get Destiny’s FTL functioning. Otherwise, they were sitting ducks.

****

“Fall back! Fall back!”

Firing one more round into an ugly blue creature, Lt. Scott waved for those behind him to make a break for the mess hall. As much as he wanted to kill as many of those aliens as he could in Chloe’s name, he had to think of the civilians first.

The Nakai came out of nowhere, bombarded the ship, got the shields down, and were now trying to overrun them. They were putting up a good fright, but were outnumbered. With communications down, they didn’t know what was going on around the rest of the ship. All Mathew could do was hope Chloe was ok. She was tough. He had to believe they would both make it through this alive.

Barricading the mess hall doors, Scott took inventory of how much ammunition they had left. There were some serious injuries they couldn’t hope to treat with the basics. They had to get to the infirmary, but how many Nakai stood between here and there?

Decisions had to be made quickly. The Nakai gave up pounding on the door, which didn’t sit well with him. Those aliens always made clear how much they wanted Destiny, but Scott wasn’t fooled into thinking any human was safe from them. Rush and Chloe were perfect examples.

“Do we have a kino,” he shouted to the others.

The consensus was a resounding no. Scott now had to make a judgment call. The injured needed TJ, so Scott had to find some way of clearing a path.

Rounding up his best guns, he formulated a plan. He and a few others would take point to clear away obstacles, while another unit followed as backup with the injured. The rest would stay behind, barricaded in the hall. The infirmary wasn’t that far, so Scott hoped they could make a run for it.

Gazing around the room at several familiar faces, Scott didn’t see any of the key players. From the sound of things, the Colonel was on the bridge. If so, maybe they could get a handle on the situation soon. His heart ached for news of Chloe, but he had to keep his head in the game.

Pushing his personal feelings aside, Scott stayed in solider mode. If he buckled now, more people would suffer. Once the injured were ready to be moved, Scott gave the order. Gun at the ready, he opened the door.

Chapter Text

They were gaining ground!. She wanted them to follow her, but no catch her! Sprinting full speed, feeling her lungs burn, Chloe ignored the guttural shrieks of the Nakai running behind her, trying not to panic as the sounds grew closer.

Running through the corridors, she thought she knew this ship pretty well, but couldn’t figure out where to go. Now that the Nakai were chasing her, Chloe needed a way to lose them.

Gritting her teeth, she continued sprinting. Rush better not let her down. Hearing gun fire in the distance, she didn’t dare look over her shoulder.

****

Supplies were running out fast. They were already out of beds, so people were put in rows on the floor. The Nakai outside were doing everything they could to get in, resorting to ramming the doors. Every time she heard the noise, TJ couldn’t help but flinch.

Scanning the injured, she knew circumstances could be a lot worse. Broken bones, lacerations, burns, and a few flesh wounds appeared to be the extent of the severe injuries, but TJ knew their luck may not hold forever. The attack came out of no where. One minute everyone was going about their business and the next alarms sounded seconds before all hell broke loose.

Luckily, TJ had Varro to help see to the scared and injured. They kept the doors open as long as possible until the Nakai couldn’t be held at bay. Now, TJ feared it was only a matter of time before they got through and then who knows what would happen.

The radios didn’t work. TJ already tried contacting Young, but received only static for her trouble. Remembering his last announcement made her heart clutch painfully. Everett. Too many questions rolled through her mind, but Varro distracted her with practical matters. Right now, people needed to help and she wouldn’t fail them. Varro operated well under pressure: cool, clam, and collected. No doubt, his years with the Lucian Alliance taught him many skills. Thankfully, sewing stitches and sutures was among those lessons.

After situating another patient, TJ straightened, catching Varro’s eye. Seeing his gesture, she walked to a quiet corner where they could talk without being overheard.

“We need help,” he said.

He stated the obvious, but she nodded.

“Do you have weapons?”

TJ shook her head. “Aside from scalpels and other medical equipment? No. We don’t keep firearms here for obvious reasons.”

“The Nakai want in here badly.”

“Yeah.” TJ didn’t think their motivation was getting to the sick and injured. They were only interested in the ship’s Ancient technology and the crew was expendable. The aliens will pounce anyone standing in their way if it meant getting their hands on Destiny’s medical databanks.

“I’m open to suggestions.”

“We need to get all the people who can fight together and get scalpels into their hands.”

The expression on Varro’s face was so serious, TJ couldn’t resist laughing. Maybe her adrenaline was wearing off, or doing funny things to her head, but the mental picture of them trying to fend off the Nakai with scalpels…

“What?” Varro looked offended. “Look, we need to do whatever it takes!”

Sobering, TJ nodded. He was right. She just wished they knew more about what was going on out there. The continuous banging gave hints, but TJ’s thoughts scattered hearing rapid gunfire. Running toward the doors, instinctively picking up a scalpel as she went, TJ stood at the ready. Feeling the air shift behind her, she glanced over to see Varro right by her side. Any other time she might have questioned his motives, but right now TJ was grateful for the backup.

More gunfire and squealing cries, guttural shrieks of the Nakai, sounded over normal shouts. Swallowing hard, TJ tried making sense of the chaos, but she had to stay focused and ready. As quickly as it came, the sounds of violence abruptly snapped into silence. Utter, complete stillness.

When a knock sounded at the door, TJ nearly jumped out of her skin. Logic returned in a flash. The Nakai wouldn’t knock. Varro tried holing her back, but she broke free and went to answer the summons. Hearing a familiar voice through the metal, she started tearing back the barricade.

“It’s Scott,” she shouted over her shoulder.

The moment Matthew laid eyes on Tamara, the two friends embraced.

“Are you ok,” Scott asked.

TJ nodded. “Got a bit scary for a second.”

“Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we’re not out of the woods yet. The Nakai are still coming and we’ve got injured.”

“We can make room,” she assured him.

People flooded into the infirmary as they closed the doors, while others from Scott’s unit posted a watch. “Any word on the others,” TJ asked as she got everyone situated.

Doing a quick head count, Scott noted a good third of the crew was in here. Factor in those bunkered down in the mess hall, then about half of their people were accounted for. Young was most likely still on the bridge, but he didn’t see Eli, Chloe, or Camile, which worried him. The last thing he wanted to do was get stuck in here to weather the storm if the others needed his help.

“I’m taking a team to the bridge,” he announced.

“Are you sure that’s wise?”

Cutting a seething look at Varro, Scott wasn’t about to justify is decision. “I’m second in command after the Colonel,” he stated. “Then TJ.”

Putting a light hand on Varro’s arm, Tamara gently asked him to see to the wounded. When he was out of earshot, she once more focused on Matt. “We have no idea what we are up against right now, so making a run at the bridge may not be the best course.”

“The Nakai are swarming the ship and we’re dead in the water,” Scott stated right back. “We need people in the bridge to take stock of the situation. We can’t take for granted the Colonel is alive.”

Unable to speak passed the lump in her throat, TJ knew Matt’s logic was sound, no matter how painful. They were in crisis, which meant looking after the crew first. Given the circumstances, Scott was her commanding officer.

“Any signs of Greer?”

TJ shook her head. “Not that I’ve seen.”

“Good.” Scott almost sounded relieved. “If he’s still out there he’s our wild card. When I leave, barricade the door. The area is clear for now, but that may change.”

Understanding, TJ gave her friend one more hug and words of good luck before watching him go. Barracking the door, TJ hoped they would be able to outlast the worst of this attack. After all, the Nakai wanted Destiny on one piece, right? At this point, TJ figured that was the only reason they were all still alive.

****

Dispatching two of the fishheads wasn’t difficult. Stepping over their corpses, he headed straight for one of the cargo bins. Silence now echoed through the gate room. Looking over his shoulder, Geer watched Amanda step over the Nakai corpses, noting her careful strides to avoid the pooling blood.

Briefly, he thought about dialing the gate, but that last planet wasn’t a good escape route. Besides, they were needed here. From what he saw of Mandy, she probably wouldn’t leave Rush behind anyway. The bonds of true love, he supposed.

“We need to keep moving,” Greer announced once he grabbed as much ammunition as he could safely carry.

“Where,” Mandy asked as she drew closer.

Greer thought a moment. As much as he wanted to join the main fight and kill more fishheads, Mandy wasn’t in a position to fight by his side and leaving her alone wasn’t an option. The best thing for her would be to take refuge with other survivors. Having a good idea where the crew would seek cover, Greer decided to take her where she would be relatively safe before finding Lt. Scott.

“Do you know a secluded route to the infirmary?”

Concentrating a moment, she nodded. “I think I know a way.”

“Good.” Taking one more look around the room, he moved to the console to try and send a message to the bridge, but the communication system seemed as dead as the radios. The aliens must have found a way to block the signal.

“Lead the way.”

Creeping out of the gate room, Amanda led Greer to a seldom used corridor linked to some crawlspaces. The metal felt cold beneath her palms as she moved on her hands and knees. Thankfully, she was able to keep her mind blank and ignore the rough tearing of her knees as the stench of cooper filled her nose.

The air blew cold, but Mandy barely felt it as she focused on continuing forward. Trying to make as little noise as possible, she paused behind Greer and did her best not to panic when the sound of faint gunfire sounded in the distance.

Coming to the end of the crawlspace, they were able to stand. “The corridor is below us,” she informed Greer. “The infirmary should be there.”

Why was her whole body starting to shake? They were almost safe, right? Now wasn’t the time to lose her composure.

Assessing the situation, Greer nearly lifted the hatch to ease Dr. Perry down into the empty corridor , but cursed when the tides took a sudden turn. At least a dozen Nakai rounded the corner, heading straight for them! Gabbing Amanda’s arm, Greer ran in the opposite direction, hoping to lose them.

“We need another route,” he shouted as they rounded another corner.

“I don’t know-”

“Think!”

Heading down another hall, Greer froze when more fishheads came from the opposite direction. The pair made that horrible screeching noise before charging. Doubling back didn’t do any good because the other group still pursued them. Cursing, Greer pushed Mandy behind him and opened fire.

****

Imputing the code, Rush heard the doors to the bridge open and sprang into action before more Nakai could make an appearance. The last thing he expected was to turn and be looking down the barrel of a gun.

“What the-”

Jesus Rush!”

Yanking the scientist inside, Young peaked into the hall before closing the doors. “How the hell did you get by the aliens?”

Glaring at Eli, Rush didn’t want to have to deal with a personal interrogation while there was a battle raging around them, so he stuck to the obvious. No doubt Eli would start whining over Chloe and they didn’t have the time right now.

“A distraction,” he said as he made his way to the command chair.

“What are you doing,” Eli demanded.

“Getting the shields back online,” Rush barked. “Is that ok with you?”

“But the connection-”

“I was already down in the engine room making the necessary repairs,” he snapped as his fingers danced across the keypads.

Young cast Eli a sharp look, shaking his head slightly. Maybe the Colonel was willing to think Rush’s arrival a godsend, but Eli suspected Rush was holding something back as usual.

“Shields coming back online,” Rush announced.

There was an almost auditable sigh of relief in the room, but they weren’t out of danger quite yet. Rush hoped the Nakai didn’t sabotage the FTL drive during the battle, or after they boarded the ship. With so many Nakai on board, they would have to keep jumping until every last one of the aliens was dead so the mother ship couldn’t track their movements. Once they eliminated the threat, there were going to be a shitload of repairs to overhaul on top of what already needed to be done.

The parts sent through the supply line couldn’t have come at a better time. Otherwise, Rush was sure the engines would be too strained for the maneuvers. Crossing his fingers, Rush brought the FTL drive online and prepped for the jump. In response, the Nakai ship opened fire. Thankfully, Destiny was already fleeing to the next system.

When they were sure the aliens weren’t in immediate pursuit, Young leveled a look at the scientist. “We need to get communications back.”

“None of this would have happened if you listened to me,” Rush bitterly snapped.

“I’m still in charge here, Rush,” Young said with a steel edge.

“Maybe not,” Rush challenged, unflinchingly. “When people hear how you took Eli’s word over mine-”

“Not many here trust your word,” Young shouted.

Glaring over his shoulder at Eli, then back to Young, Rush was more than ready to pound his fists into something. Why not Young’s jaw? “Get your boy wonder to fix your communications, then! I have to find Mandy.”

Blocking Rush’s path, Young refused to budge. “You’re not going anywhere.”

Chapter Text

They were getting closer. Chloe could feel their fingertips brush the tendrils of her hair flowing behind her. Pumping her legs faster, she didn’t feel like she picked up speed. Running out of ideas, Chloe charged around a corner, gasping at the sight of people with guns.

“Chloe! Duck!”

Without hesitation, Chloe fell to her belly seconds before her boyfriend and his unit opened fire. Squeezing her eyes shut and covering her ears, she instinctively rolled out of the way of the falling bodies. The pop of bullets and screeches of dying aliens seemed to reverberate for an eternity before a strong pair of arms gathered Chloe from the floor to help her to stand.

“Chloe?”

Smiling her relief at Matt as she threw her arms around his shoulders, she felt grateful beyond words to find him in one piece. “Matt!”

Holding her tight, liking nothing more than to indulge in a reunion, Scott knew work still lay ahead. “How many more did you see around the ship,” he asked.

Looking over her shoulder, swallowing at the sight of the dead aliens, Chloe shook her head. “Just them,” she said. “They were trying to get into the bridge and I distracted them so Rush could get in and get the shields back online.”

“And you didn’t see anyone else?”

She shook her head. “Rush was the only one I saw. We had to fix the engines and get the FTL back up and running.”

Gritting his teeth, Scott’s fingers itched to wrap around Rush’s neck for letting Chloe play the bait. As if reading his thoughts, Chloe caught his gaze. “It was my choice,” she insisted. “Rush is better qualified on the bridge.”

“Yeah, well that didn’t mean he had to go along with your plan,” Scott grumbled. Before Chloe could argue, he spoke again. “Let’s get to the bridge then and get the comms back online so we’re not running blind out there.”

“They probably hid trackers throughout the ship,” Chloe warned. “They don’t want to lose us again.”

“Any idea what we’re looking for?”

Shaking her head, Chloe wished to be of more help. “Capture one alive and we can use the stones,” she suggested. “Maybe we can get something from them that way.”

Scott didn’t like the idea knowing the damage the Nakai were capable of, but best to be prepared given the circumstances. Staying alert, they made their way back to the bridge, thankfully, not running into further complications. What they did happen to stumble upon however, was a heated argument between Rush, Young, and Eli. The second Chloe and the others interrupted, the group stopped shouting, but wore less than pleasant expressions. Young made appoint of casting Rush a dark scowl, promising the discussion far from over before turned his attention to the lieutenant.

“Report.”

Getting everyone up to speed didn’t take long. The main focus now was getting the radios working. With Chloe’s help, Eli was able to locate the blocked signal and compensate. The rest fell into place. Young and Scott immediately radioed other officers to get a breakdown of their losses and the Nakai’s positions throughout the ship, before forming a strategy. Leaving the bridge to meet up with units, the military now had the advantage. Cut off from their mother ship, the aliens didn’t have anywhere to go and they sure as hell weren’t welcome on Destiny.

A group of fishheads tried stealing the shuttle, but Scott cured them of the idea while Young led a team against a group breaking into the infirmary. Seeing TJ alive and safe eased his heart. Watching her working alongside Varro, however, set Young’s teeth on edge and prevented him from stepping forward for a big reunion moment and went instead to help James’s team liberate a group from the arboretum. Camile informed them the Nakai targeted certain areas of the ship, leaving the civilians to duck and cover while they attempted to access certain systems. The details were put on hold since the injured needed attending to, so Young ordered them to the infirmary while he took a head count of those left. Getting an idea of who was missing, Young took a team to sweep the rest of the ship.

The moment he and Scott met again on their way back to the bridge, Rush made a point of leaving the second they proclaimed the coast was clear. He had enough of being ordered about and needed to find Mandy.

“Where are you going,” Chloe demanded.

“To look for someone,” he said over his shoulder without pausing. A second later, Eli blocked his path.

“Going out there alone isn’t a good idea.”

Eyebrows shooting up his forehead, Rush’s tempter teetered on a razor’s edge. “Ah, now it’s not a good idea?! Why? Because the boy genius says so?”

“Rush, don’t -”

“Don’t you dare tell me what to do, Eli! We wouldn’t even be in this mess if weren’t for you!”

“Me?” Eli never liked Rush for precisely this reason! The guy’s narrow scope saw only the mission, flatly refusing to make allowances, but when things didn’t go his way, he blamed everyone else.

“You’re saying this was my fault? I wasn’t-”

“You didn’t listen,” Rush shouted. “I told you and Young what these aliens were capable of, but neither of you wanted to hear it! Now we’ve been attacked and have them running all over the ship! Who knows how many are dead or dying as a result! Not to mention what systems they’ve messed with! That decision isn’t on me,” he stated. “That’s on you.”

Giving the arrogant genius one last glare, Rush walked around him and through the door. Pushing the argument to the back of his mind, Rush’s determination to find Mandy solidified. First, he checked her quarters, hoping to find her under the bed or something, but then searched the general population in case she sought shelter with a group. Not getting a hint of her whereabouts, he didn’t give up because he knew she was here somewhere. Amanda was alive and safe because there simply wasn’t another option.

After Rush’s dramatic exit, Eli looked to Brody, then Chloe, not liking the way they quickly avoided direct eye contact. Brody usually sided with Rush, so his reaction didn’t come as a surprise but Eli expected more support from Chloe. Unprepared for the coldness in her eyes, he swallowed hard.

“I compromised,” he helplessly argued. “Just like you said.”

Wrapping her arms around her waist feeling a chill, Chloe shook her head. “You know what they did to me,” she said with an alarming amount of calm. “Maybe you really don’t care about what they did to Rush, but you know what happened to me. How I suffered. After they took control of Destiny, the Nakai would have done the same to you.”

Chloe glanced at Brody. “And you.”

“We had no idea they were hiding behind the star,” Eli argued.

“Considering what they’ve done in the past, we should have left the second Rush warned us,” she snapped, her voice shaking ever-so-slightly as she struggled to maintain her composure. “If it was a drone threat, or anything else, we would have left without a second thought and taken our chances, but you and Colonel Young cared more about sticking it to Rush!”

“They guy isn’t in command of this ship!” Eli didn’t intend to shout, but couldn’t hold in his anger.

“Right there,” Chloe pointed an accusing finger, looking at Eli dead center. “You never really considered the danger because you wanted to say Rush was blowing hot air while you proved him wrong.”

“Rush isn’t a saint, Chloe! He had control of Destiny and didn’t tell anyone! Remember that? People died because of that decision! How can you expect us to blindly trust him?”

“Because he isn’t the only one,” she argued. “And now people have died due to your decision!”

With that final shot hanging in the air, Chloe turned on her heel and stomped off the bridge. Going to the mess hall to help the others would be more productive than shouting until she lost her voice. Besides, she couldn’t even look at Eli right now.

Shifting on his feet, Eli avoided looking at Brody knowing what they guy was going to say. Brody probably blamed him, too.

“We should scan the ship for any abnormalities,” Brody said aloud as a way to break the awkward silence. “If they’ve planted tracking devices maybe the sensors will pick up on them.”

“Yeah,” Eli nodded. Absently moving to his consol, he started a scan. “I’ll find their life signatures and see if we can’t give Scott and Young a hand.”

The pair got to work securing Destiny from the invasion and totaling the damage. All the other issues would have to wait.

****

Firing two rounds before he was surrounded, Greer steeled his determination, going into battle mode. Those were death shots, but four fishheads circled about to pounce. Telling Dr. Perry to stay back, Greer mentally braced for a fight.

Heart pounding, Mandy fought the nausea as she watched the Nakai attack her friend. His hand-to-hand skills were nothing to scoff at and within moments one alien fell from a slashed throat while another had a chunk of flesh torn off his arm. So far, none of the Nakai paid attention to her, so Mandy’s eyes frantically searched for a weapon. Spotting a heavy piece of metal a few feet away, she didn’t hesitate to pick it up and wave it like a baseball bat, hitting the closest alien in the back of the skull. The resulting screech left her momentarily stunned as the alien swirled on her, giving Greer the opening he needed to stab the fishhead in the back a second before turning to shoot another.

Greer thought taking down the last one would be a cake walk, but wasn’t prepared for the ear-piercing scream as the Nakai grabbed for his gun. Shots rang out and bullets ricocheted off the ceiling as the pair fought. Thrown off balance when Greer collided into her side, Mandy hit the floor hard. As sparks and bullets flew, she curled into a fetal position to avoid getting hit. A sharp sting scraped the back of her neck just as she heard Greer scream.

Glancing up, Mandy saw the Nakai biting his arm, growling as it attempted to tear off the limb. Crawling to her makeshift weapon, Mandy rose to her knees, summoning all her strength before swinging at the alien’s head. Only after delivering three solid blows did the Nakai release its grip on Greer. Turning its full attention to Mandy, Greer’s blood dripping from between blue lips and dribbling down its chin as it bared sharp teeth, a growl was the only warning before it charged. Holding her weapon at the ready, Amanda had a single breath to react. Just before the Nakai pounced, another shot echoed through the corridor. The alien’s body jerked and spasmed before falling dead in a heap inches from Mandy’s knees. Staring, Mandy wrestled to draw air into her lungs.

Metal bat slipping from her fingers, Mandy heard Greer’s moan and blinked out of her daze. Rushing to his side, she immediately knew he was in bad shape. Blood gushed from his arm and side, but despite the pain, he grinned from ear-to-ear.

“Got ‘em.”

Forcing a smile, Mandy nodded. “You did.”

Hearing the radio come back to life, Greer winced as he reached for the device. Mandy took the radio off his belt and placed it in his hands. Two seconds later they realized the radio was damaged in the struggle, only able to receive instead of send a signal. Unable to call for help, they at least knew the worst seemed to be over before the radio sparked, then shorted out.

Checking his wound, Mandy wasn’t sure how to stop the bleeding. Applying pressure, seeing the blood oozing too quickly through her fingers, she swallowed hard before speaking. “You need a doctor.”

Greer kept on grinning. “Good thing the infirmary isn’t far.”

“No, but it’s the long way around,” Mandy grumbled.

Greer laughed until he coughed.

“I can bring back help,” she offered.

”And what if you run into more fishheads?” Shaking his head, Greer wasn’t about to take the chance. “We both go. I can manage.”

Looking doubtful, Mandy’s gaze fell to his arm, then his side, but the stubborn soldier refused to acknowledge the damage as he struggled to his feet. Mandy helped, but Greer couldn’t maintain his balance on his own, so he wrapped an arm around her shoulders. Mindful of his injuries, Mandy supported his weight as they took a few awkward steps. Slowly, finding a rhythm, they made their way to the infirmary. Focused on getting help for her friend, she barely noticed the burning sensation searing the back of her neck, or the stinging prickles shooting up and down her leg with each step. Whatever was wrong was minor compared to Greer, so it would have to wait.

Pushing ahead, they didn’t run into anymore trouble rounding the next series of corridors. Every few minutes Greer had to pause to catch his breath and they could hear shooting in the distance, but kept going. Just as they rounded the last corner, the two exchanged smiles when the cheering reached their ears.

“I guess…that means… we’re winning.” Greer panted through his smirk.

“Yeah.” Mandy smiled back, feeling untold relief wash through her system. “They weren’t a match for us, huh?”

“Morons,” Greer weakly scoffed.

Seeing his eyes drooping, Mandy smacked him awake, forcing him to keep moving. Bathed in sweat and blood, tired to her bones, her fear wore down the adrenaline, making her want to collapse in a heap of tears, but she couldn’t stop. Not yet. Not until Greer got help.

Mentally repeating the infirmary wasn’t far, she put one foot in front of the other. Oh, why did it feel like it was taking them years to get to the door? Within earshot, she shouted for help, but no one came. The sounds of bustling chaos had her biting her lip in worry, but for Greer’s sake she forged ahead.

Chapter Text

Pandemonium welcomed newcomers with open arms and a mocking helplessness. People cried out in pain, while others shouted orders over more screaming for assistance. The air felt drenched in copper musk and heavy despair. Pushing forward, Rush suppressed memories of Gloria’s death. The past didn’t matter as much as finding Amanda. He needed to find her in one piece. After checking every other place he could think of, he faced the possibility she could have gotten hurt. Biting the bullet, he made his way down to TJ’s territory, not as prepared as he thought for the sight of suffering.

Heart pounding in his ears, Rush looked at the faces of those lining the walls as he remembered the many nights he and Mandy stayed up talking without even realizing the sun rose. Hearing her laugh at one of his jokes, seeing the joy when the stones finally enabled her to fully live for the first time in over twenty years, and recalling how she could solve his equations at the drop of a hat, Rush didn’t want to face the possibility of losing her – again.

Amanda was precious. She burrowed into his heart, changed his life, and made him open his eyes to new possibilities. Losing her once tore at his soul. The pain of the memory still made his gut clench. There was no logic or reason as to why Simeon took Amanda from him, but he made sure the man paid the ultimate price. Nevertheless, Rush woke up every day afterwards feeling the emptiness of her absence. The fact Amanda’s killer was also dead didn’t change the fact she was gone. Mandy alone knew him better than anyone else and understood him better than even Gloria.

The Ancients did inadvertently save Amanda’s consciousness – the entity of her being. Finding her was a one in a billion chance, which convinced Rush more than ever Amanda was his future. She was is everything and he wanted nothing more than to be with her fully and completely. Rush dreamed of a way to make Mandy more than just consciousness in the computer. She always craved a full life and he wanted to find a way to make his wish come true.

Instead, a malfunction in the computer programming took her away from him – again! Rush cursed fate and the universe always tearing away he loved the most. Amanda was the one shining light left in his world and Rush was going to get her back, but one crisis after another attached the ship until they were forced to enter stasis.

Even when Amanda’s consciousness and body were fully revived, Rush wondered when the other shoe would drop, and now Amanda still didn’t fully remember him. Despite her presence by his side, the acute distance lingered. Now, just when they were finally growing closer and finding their way back to one another, the Nakai came out of no where!

If he lost Amanda, when the dust cleared, he would never forgive Eli! The kid was too young and naïve to know how far reaching some decisions could be, or how much damage could be inflicted. Rush’s bitter experience weighed on his shoulders, and most of the crew was mistaken if they thought his actions didn’t tear at his conscious. Yet, Rush hoped Eli visited the infirmary so he could see the consequences for himself.

Raking a hand through his hair, licking his bottom lip, Rush reconciled the fact he didn’t see Amanda among the injured. He should be relieved, but the restless waves continued bashing his system. If Amanda wasn’t here, then where was she?

His heart fell to his stomach when the realization dawned at the possibility of one of the Nakai could have taken her back to their ship before the jump. The idea of his beautiful, sweet Mandy enduring what he was forced to sent cold panic through his veins. All of his secret dreams for their future slipping away –

“Rush!”

Whirling around to see TJ coming toward him, Rush pushed away his panic. “Have you seen Amanda?”

“No,” TJ shook her head, giving the scientist a look of sympathy. “She and Greer are the only two unaccounted for.”

“Greer?” Rush wasn’t sure what to make of the news.

“Hey, Greer is a good soldier,” she stated. “I’m sure he’s fine. He’ll protect Mandy.”

Far from comforted, Rush wanted immediate results. He wanted his love’s face before him, to hold her in his arms and see her unscathed with his own eyes. “Do we have any idea where Greer was last seen?”

Sensing what he was about, TJ opened her mouth to dissuade him from conducting his own search because there were still stray Nakai throughout the ship, but before she could utter a word, she saw movement over Rush’s shoulder. TJ’s feet were already moving forward as Mandy’s voice carried through the air.

“Help!”

Terrified, Rush swirled to see Mandy alive, his heart experiencing a split second of relief before his eyes registered the blood. Fearing the worst, he ran forward, by her side a moment later, Rush supported her as TJ and Varro helped her get Greer to one of the empty tables.

“What happened,” TJ demanded.

Telling them about the last batch of aliens as concisely as possible, Mandy shook off the waves of dizziness attacking consciousness. Not knowing the reason for the symptoms, she blamed the current circumstances as she unconsciously leaned on Rush’s arm for support. The moment Greer rested on the table, she stepped back to allow TJ to do her work and save his life.

“Amanda,” Rush breathed.

His image suddenly filled her whole world and Mandy couldn’t hold back her smile. A noise of relief and joy escaped her throat as she grasped Rush close. One arm wrapped around his shoulders, her thumb ideally brushing his shirt, while her other hand smoothed up and down his back before running through his hair.

“I thought I lost you,” he whispered thickly in her ear.

“No,” she breathed back as she held him tighter.

Closing her eyes, Amanda relished the sensation of his fingertips brushing her skin, the slight scratch of his chin stubble on her collarbone, the smell of his masculinity filling her senses. Rush. Oh, how she loved him!

The sensation of her breasts pressing into his warmth, the feel of her nipples puckering to attention, was already making her body melt into his embrace as the white flashes shot across her vision. There was no sudden signal or flash of pain as everything fell into place. One moment she was lost and the next her world snapped into perfect clarity.

“Oh, baby,” Rush breathed as he tightened his arms around Mandy’s waist, letting his other hand stroke through her hair. “Baby, don’t scare me like that again, ok? God!”

The warmth spread through her entire being, seeping through her limbs, awakening all her nerve-endings, bringing relief and lucidity. Happiness surged, making Mandy’s smile spread wide across her face. Oh, to be back in this incredible man’s arms! Rush. The love of her life. The other half of her soul.

Mandy wanted to tell him, so she leaned back, her eyes locking with his. Oh, those eyes! She remembered now!

“Nick,” she said in amazement.

Seeing the recognition in those blue pools, Rush’s body jerked in shock. Mandy didn’t use his first name since she woke up in the regeneration chamber. Did that mean she –

Blinking rapidly, Mandy saw a shadow come over her vision as her knees buckled. Something was wrong, but she didn’t know what. Suddenly, a hot, sharp jolt of pain attacked her senses, making her cry aloud. The stabbing pulsing sliced down her spine to her toes, causing her limbs to jerk in protest. Biting her tongue to hold in another cry, Mandy's fingers dug into Rush's shirt as she fought for purchase. The world started spinning out of control, the pain taking over, despite her best efforts to focus on the man she loved.

Catching her firmly against him so she wouldn’t fall, Rush poised Amanda on her feet as he cupped the back of her neck to try and urge her to look at him, to tell him what was wrong. Mandy cried out again, forcing Rush to adjust his hold. Glancing at his hand, seeing the blood glittering his fingertips, fear spiked through his system.

As adrenaline sliced through his gut, Rush tilted her head to examine the wound and saw the small piece of metal digging into the back of her neck. Mandy gave another moan, starting to lose consciousness, but Rush kept her on her feet, backing her up to sit on the end of another empty table just as few feet away.

“No, no, baby,” he crooned in her ear. “It’s going to be ok. I’ve got you. Just stay with me.”

“I-” Mandy battled the darkness, but her muscles refused to cooperate. All she wanted was to look at Nicholas’s handsome face and soak in his image before everything disappeared.

Calling for help, Rush commanded Mandy to stay awake, his voice cracking as the anguish shined through his eyes. Mandy did her best to silently communicate her love, but they both knew she was losing the battle to keep from falling into the abyss. Blood seeped steadily from her wound and by the time Lt. James came to access the damage, Rush’s hand was coated in her life-force.

Using the last of her strength, Mandy ran her fingertips across the graying stubble on his cheek. Her eyes filled with wonder when they met his. “Nick,” she breathed against so quietly only he could hear. A moment later, the darkness won.

“No!” Rush cried her name as he held her closer, cupped her cheek, barely resisting the urge to shake her. “Mandy, please!”

“It’s better she’s unconscious,” James said gently. “Removing this shard is going to be complicated.”

“Why,” Rush frowned.

“It’s embedded in her vertebral artery. Taking it out now could make her hemorrhage.”

Fighting for control, blinking back tears stinging the corners of his eyes, Rush knew screaming and shouting wouldn’t change the diagnosis. Mandy needed him to remain strong and fight for her. He wouldn’t fail. Cradling his love, making sure to keep her limp body steady, Rush looked James directly in the eye.

“Can you do it?”

Swallowing hard, James wasn’t sure. If the patient was anyone else, if Rush wasn’t looking at her with such a venomous gaze, maybe she would have found the calm necessary to perform the procedure. Instead, she hesitated.

“Let me talk to TJ.”

Doing his best to swallow the lump forming in his throat, Rush bent to press gentle kisses to Mandy’s neck, rocking her slowly. “I love you, Amanda Perry,” he said thickly.

The tears welled in his eyes despite his efforts. “I love you and I know you love me,” he whispered into her ear before pressing kisses to her cheek.

“You are strong and beautiful and you’re going to make it through this. We’ve come too far together to lose it all now. Fate, or the forces of the universe, or whatever you want to call it, put us on the path to find each other. You are my heart and soul and I hate that I never got the chance to tell you before, but I’m saying it now. I’ll say it again, over and over until the day we ascend and beyond. Just stay strong for me. Ok, baby? Stay strong and come back.”

Kissing her nose, her cheek, Rush squeezed his eyes shut. A few stray tears leaked out, but he didn’t care. If Amanda could hear him, or sense his emotions in any way, he wouldn’t care if the whole crew saw him sobbing. Before Rush could wipe the moisture away, TJ came to examine Mandy’s neck.

“This is going to need delicate surgery,” she told Rush. “I have to stabilize Greer first.”

“What do I do,” Rush asked.

“Keep holding her as you are,” TJ said, placing a comforting hand on his arm. “Vanessa is going to keep an eye on the bleeding and I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

Biting back the retort to tell James to leave them in peace, Rush didn’t approve of this woman lingering so close. He heard the rumors James started about Amanda and didn’t want James anywhere near her, but Mandy needed help, so Rush pushed down his anger and pride and let the woman monitor Mandy’s condition.

Refusing to release his hold, Rush didn’t care when his legs ached. Mandy needed him, so he wouldn’t go anywhere. After what felt like an eternity, TJ returned.

Helping Rush lay Amanda gently down on the table, she performed surgery to remove the metal shard and repaired the artery so Mandy didn’t bleed to death. They would monitor her closely in case she needed a transfusion, but TJ felt confident Amanda would make a full recovery.

Thanking the medic, Rush say by Amanda’s side, careful to keep his emotions under tight control. There was no way in hell he would leave her side until she opened her eyes. Whispers were spreading calling Manda was a hero. She saved Greer’s life. Rush didn’t bloody care. He just wanted to see Mandy’s gorgeous blue eyes looking at him again with the full recognition she did before she lost consciousness.

Taking her delicate hand in his, Rush stroked her soft skin, marveling at her slender fingers and well-kept nails. Even asleep, her beauty never failed to strike him. He was fortunate to have this woman in his life. This beautiful woman who knew him inside and out and still saw a man who was worthy of her love.

Seeing the truth of his emotions did take some time, but Rush felt things unfolded as they should. They were finally here together and on the verge of having it all. He wasn’t going to lose her now. Not again. The time for separation was over and done. Amanda would wake up and they would start their lives together.

Chapter Text

Inhale…exhale…inhale…exhale. The pattern repeated on schedule. Sitting by Greer’s side, holding his hand, Lisa Park knew she should be relieved. Instead, she felt…well, she didn’t know how to describe her churning emotions.

Tracing her fingertips over the palm of his hand, she talked to Greer, encouraged him to heal and open his eyes, but started doubting she possessed the right words to persuade him. Being blind added to the unfairness of the situation. Park struggled to come to terms with her disability, often barely existing. The only bright part of her life was Greer and now…

Lisa’s only sin was preserving as much of the old arboretum as possible when the ship was at risk. Due to her sacrifice, they were able to rebuild their food supply. Of course, with the supply line active, many started forgetting the days when they had to fend for themselves, and her blindness seemed to be for naught. Yes, she lingered too long and the ship locked her inside the arboretum, but when Eli tried helping, Rush stopped him. Like he always did, Rush put the mission first and she lost one of her major senses as a direct result of that decision.

Park knew the guy had some rough edges, but could deal with the stress of having him for a boss because she had Greer in her life. Nevertheless, the resentment toward Rush festered and working past her feelings would take time. Was it wrong of her to be glad Rush suffered now like she was?

Across the room, Lisa could hear his soft words to Dr. Perry. Amanda came back from the dead, again, only to be thrown into a hospital bed for the second time. On one hand, Lisa did feel bad for the woman, but on the other was weighed down with too much jealousy to think straight, let alone feel sympathy.

During the Nakai attack, she hid in the new arboretum with Camile, while Greer fought on the front lines to fend off the invading threat. As a soldier, Park knew the risks Greer faced and thought she was prepared. Hell, she expected him to take a crazy stand, but what she didn’t appreciate was the fact Greer was fighting for his life because he protected Rush’s girlfriend. From the beginning, Greer never fed into the fear or rumors others concocted about Dr. Perry. He kept saying science wasn’t anything to be afraid of, but the science of the Ancients remained still shrouded in mystery. All the stars aligned for Dr. Perry, but no one knew exactly why, and not having those answers frightened a lot of people. Personally, Lisa was jealous as hell. What was so special about Dr. Perry that she got a second chance while Lisa still struggled with the day-to-day? Feeling unsettled about the regeneration system in general, Lisa could never quite back Greer’s opinion.

When her boyfriend started spending time with Dr. Perry, yes, she got jealous. Park always asked Greer questions about the time he spent with the other woman, insisting on details. The only reason she didn’t throw more of a fuss was because whispers circulated confirming Rush and Perry were an item and spending nights in each other’s quarters. The interest mostly stemmed from how Dr. Perry returned, but also the way her very presence changed Rush’s attitude.

Apparently, the man had a heart after all. A heart which was now breaking, judging by the desperation in his voice when he sat by that bedside. Rush never left Mandy’s side except for when TJ urged him to rest or eat and, even then, he never left the infirmary. Park hoped Rush would be alright enough to function if they needed his skills, but other than that remained numb. Having lost her eyesight trying to save this crew, and preserve as much of her hard work as possible, Park felt acutely aware of the fact she was never praised as a hero like Rush. No, she was pitied while she overheard conversations praising Rush’s efforts against the Nakai, saying they were saved because of him. And Dr. Amanda Perry magically transformed from a freak of nature to a brave heroine overnight. The story spread about how she single-handedly saved Greer by dragging him to the infirmary before succumbing to her own wounds.

Well, the tale had to be total crap.

Greer was a strong man and in these types of situations, he always kept going. Dr. Perry helped, but there was no way she could have dragged Ronald’s weight all on her own, especially while losing blood. Greer was with Dr. Perry when they were attacked and Park guessed the encounter was innocent, but she didn’t like it. If anything happened to Greer, Lisa would hold Dr. Perry responsible. She didn’t care how many people liked the woman now. Lisa swore to be weary.

Dale came by to sit with her for a while. He was such a good friend and, aside from Greer, didn’t treat her any differently since her disability. When Tamara told them there wasn’t any change, Park allowed Dale to persuade her to leave Greer long enough to eat, change, and get some much needed sleep. Greer as in good hands, so Lisa thanked TJ and left the infirmary without acknowledging Rush at all.

****

He never cared about the opinion of others. Half the time people were wrong. Rush learned a very long time ago not to pay much attention to the opinion of the masses because they generally were not fully informed – usually on purpose. So, when people started whispering about Amanda, he didn’t give a flying fuck what silly stories they spun. Only a few could fully understand the complicated science that brought her back.

Her body was hers. Her DNA and her consciousness, as well. The woman lying in that bed was Amanda Perry in every way, shape, and form. She was his life and his soul and he wasn’t going to leave her alone.

For a few hours after her surgery, Rush waited for news about the damage. His worst fear was Amanda being paralyzed again in some way and he would lose another piece of her, but thankfully TJ assured him Mandy would make a full recovery. All she needed was rest and time to heal. Well, Rush wanted to be the first person she laid eyes on when she woke.

Rush couldn’t get that last look out of his mind. Mandy actually said his first name –in the tone she used to! She had to have remembered him, right? Hope rose in his chest ever as Rush scraped at his logic. Possibilities played out in his imagination of Mandy waking up, remembering him, and being happy to start a new life on board Destiny. A future together was all they ever dreamed about and now such a future was within their grasp. All Amanda had to do was open her eyes.

Seeing Park leave with Volker, Rush sighed in relief. Lately, the tension in the air when Park sat with Greer was so thick Rush wasn’t convinced even a knife could cut through it. Personally, Rush didn’t give a fuck, but he didn’t want the negativity affecting Amanda. Perhaps Park did have valid reasons to hate him, but Rush didn’t harbor guilt over the situation. Park was warned on numerous occasions to leave that arboretum, but stayed too long. They were in a crisis and Rush needed to get the ship refueled. End of story.

Kissing Amanda’s palm, he pushed thoughts of the past aside and focused on the beauty of her face. Stroking her cheek, Rush remained seated on the edge of the bed, watching her sleep. He fell in love with her brilliance first, he realized. Amanda was always physically beautiful, but her handicap did hide such things, but none of that mattered when she understood him from the first second and never judged him. If he was wrong, she challenged him, but never dangled his shortcomings over his head.

Mandy’s uncanny ability to beat him at chess always brought out the competitive spirit and inspired new ideas with his work. Smiling at the memories, he recalled how she would tease him by letting him think he had an opening, then swoop in at the last second to take the checkmate.

“You were such a spitfire,” Rush chuckled as he cradled her hand. “You insisted you knew what you were talking about and you were right. You had something to prove, to yourself and the world.”

Sighing, Rush raked one hand through his hair before his eyes settled once more on her face. “You were so…fresh and devoted and sweet. You bounced theories back to me as quickly as I could come up with them and challenged me, never ceasing to amaze.”

Pausing for a moment, he swallowed hard. “After Gloria, you saw how messed up I became, but no matter what, you were there. You distracted me with long talks and even managed to make me laugh. You are everything, Mandy.”

Kissing her palm, placing his cheek into her hand, he closed his eyes to cherish the contact. Amanda would wake up. There wasn’t another option. He knew the universe could be cruel, but Rush figured he had his fair share up until now. Was it too much to ask for a little happiness in return? Mandy deserved a second chance and he wanted to live that life with her. They would be together – finally together. She only had to wake up.

Leaning forward, Rush pressed a kiss to her forehead, then a feather-light kiss to her lips. “I love you, Mandy,” he whispered in her ear, nuzzling her cheek before straightening.

Rush wanted his words to reach her consciousness and force her eyes to focus on him. He yearned to see those sparks of recognition he noticed just seconds before she collapsed in his arms. Was it asking too much to have her back, healthy and whole?

Wiping away his tears, Rush managed to compose his appearance moments before TJ came to check on her patient.

“Any change,” he asked, his voice cracking a bit on the last word.

Tamara shook her head regretfully. “She’s stable, which is a good thing. Being in a coma gives her body a chance to heal.”

Looking down at Mandy’s hand, Rush knew all of the rational science behind her condition, but he didn’t like any of it. “She woke up faster after we put her consciousness back in her body,” he said more to himself than to TJ. “It doesn’t seem right that this injury should take longer.”

“The circumstances were very different,” Tamara gently reminded. “We were under attack and she saved Greer’s life and brought him here. Such things, mental and physical, take their toll.”

Yes, he supposed she was right, but Rush couldn’t stand the waiting and wondering. All he wanted was for Amanda to open her eyes, to get better, so they could start their future. If the worst should happen, Rush knew he wouldn’t be able to handle the loss. He feared his mind would crash into a million pieces, not to mention what would happen to his heart. Did Amanda know she held his life in her hands? Did she have any idea the effect she had on him?

“Rush,” TJ continued, “you need rest, too.”

“I’m fine,” he insisted.

“Mandy wouldn’t want-”

“I’m not going anywhere,” he snapped.

Clearly, there was not arguing with him. Making sure Mandy was comfortable, she gave the couple their privacy. Greer and Amanda were the worst of the injuries sustained during the attack, which was a small miracle in her opinion.

Checking in the supplies, she didn’t see Varro approach.

“Need help?”

Startled, TJ nearly jumped out of her skin, then shook off Varro’s apology. “I’m good.”

Varro glanced across the room at Rush. “I never would have guessed the man had a heart.”

TJ shrugged. “Some people don’t always show it.”

“Is there really nothing…abnormal about her? Given the way she came back?”

“No.” Putting away several supplies, TJ organized her instruments. “She’s as normal as you or me. It’s her DNA.”

“So, she is a clone,” he pressed.

“Not exactly. A clone would have different experiences, but with Mandy’s original consciousness, she is her – if that makes any sense.”

“Sort of,” Varro sighed. “But I can see why people are scared. The technology that brought her back is very advanced and unknown territory. Any idea why she doesn’t remember her past?”

“The thing is that using the chair to download her consciousness without a buffer caused more damage. I’m not clear on the specifics because I’m not sure what to look for, but according to Rush, she started remembering bits and pieces of her past, so she was healing.”

“Do you think people will be less afraid of her now?”

“There was nothing to be frightened of before,” TJ argued. “She didn’t come back as anything but her old self.”

Varro gave her a long look. “You like her, don’t you?”

“Mandy helped me save Volker’s life,” TJ asserted. “She helped save this ship on a few occasions, which people suddenly don’t seem to remember. They judge her more for her attachment to Rush than anything else.”

The bitterness in her tone gave Varro pause, but he pressed forward. “But there’s more, isn’t there?”

“What do you mean?” TJ blinked.

“I’ve heard Dr. Perry was paralyzed from the neck down, so she understands what it feels like to be a prisoner in her own body, and you are relating to her because of your ALS.”

Stiffening, TJ knew her future diagnosis wasn’t a secret, but she didn’t want to talk about the subject. “The woman is a member of this crew and I admire her bravery,” she said a bit testily. “Can’t that be enough?”

Realizing he offended her, Varro backed off. Lately, he wanted to push for more between them, but TJ kept him at a distance. Clearly, he would have to do more to convince her they would make a good couple. Varro was growing tired of waiting, but nothing was worth much without the challenge.

Chapter Text

Rubbing his temples, Young wrapped up a report for Homeworld Command. The Nakai were finally purged from the ship and Chloe and Scott were working on finding any and all tracking devices the intruders may have planted. Chloe did consult Rush, but the man refused to leave Dr. Perry’s side. Young could force the issue, but the last thing he needed as a fight.

So far, the Nakai’s ship didn’t make a repeat appearance, but they made a few more FTL jumps to make sure. The aliens invaded Destiny with a primary directive of taking over the ship first and dealing with the inhabitants second. Had they conducted that attack differently, Young wasn’t sure they would have survived.

This latest incident only fueled Telford’s argument that more qualified personnel should be on board, but Young argued the battle was proof his crew were more than qualified to make judgment calls. The person he doubted most was himself at the moment. He should have listened to Rush. At the very least, he should have consulted Chloe. Young was so hell bent on proving he was the wisest in the room he ignored their history with the Nakai. Well, he pushed the details to the back burner at any rate.

As a result, one of his best soldiers lingered in serious condition and an innocent woman was in a coma; not to mention the dozens more who sustained injuries. He pushed Eli to take his side and now Eli harbored guilt about the aftermath as well, which wasn’t fair. Such were the entanglements of command. Young knew how to do his job and he did it well. Yes, he made mistakes, but recent events put several facts into perspective.

Tempted to take a drink, Young knew he could so easily fall into the dark space that consumed him after his daughter’s death. His hands were tied over so many things, especially where TJ was concerned. Young blamed himself for what happened and feared TJ did too. Drinking to escape those feelings was the coward’s way out, so Young resisted the pull. For now.

What would their daughter look life if she lived? Would she have TJ’s blonde hair and blue eyes? Young always envisioned Carmen as a miniature of her mother. Shaking the images from his head, he went in search of Eli. The kid wasn’t in his quarters or the equation hall. Oddly enough, he found Eli by the regeneration chamber working on some notes.

“Eli,” Young said softly.

Without looking up, Eli kept scribbling. “According to all the readouts, everything is still perfectly preserved. If we ever figure out how to work this thing, we can bring Ginn back.”

“Eli-”

“The Nakai didn’t even know this place was here,” the math genius continued. “They didn’t even come near it and there was no damage, so from what I can tell, the Nakai aren’t after Destiny for the regeneration technology. Odds are we're the only ones who know about any of this.”

“We should keep it that way,” Young stated.

"There is risk,” Eli commented, finally looking at the Colonel. “We know the communication stones sometimes create echoes like they did between Rush and Telford.”

“The risk there is minimal,” Young argued. “Telford was being brainwashed by the Lucian Alliance, which is the only reason the stones created the echoes.”

“But someone from Destiny using the stones could leave a mental echo behind with someone on Earth and that could create a whole new danger.”

Nodding, Young looked Eli directly in the eye. “There is that risk, but I give you my word that, officially, no one at Homeworld Command will know about Dr. Perry or Ginn, if she returns.”

Shoulders sagging in relief, Eli started gathering his papers. “The odds are slim,” he admitted. “I haven’t been able to properly calculate the scenarios, but hopefully you’re right about the brainwashing methods igniting the phenomenon.”

“Any data on how the program cued up in the first place?”

Heaving a heavy sigh, Eli shook his head. “I’ve gone over data reports, performed diagnostics, and even checked the senor logs, but I can’t find any hint as to why, or how, the system even got prepped.”

“And you’ve gone back three years?”

Eli blinked in surprise. “What?”

“You put the samples in storage three years ago before going into stasis, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Maybe the program cued back then instead of around the time we woke up.”

New hope surged in his veins. “I can check,” he said.

“Alright, but in the meantime I’ll need out to help with repairs. We have to make sure there is no way for the Nakai to track us.”

Though he nodded to Young, Eli had to wonder if a future altercation with the blue aliens wasn’t inevitable. The Nakai haven’t given up yet, and Eli wondered if they ever would. Before leaving the chamber, Eli glanced once more to where Ginn’s sample was stored. He would get her back. He was a genius, after all, so it was only a matter of figuring out the math.

****

Standing in the middle of a field, a tree line on the horizon, and fog swirling around her, Mandy exhaled a long breath as her eyes searched for anything familiar. Seeing a cloud of her own breath dance before her eyes, she didn’t know where she was or why.

Was she dreaming? What was going on? The last thing he remembered was being held in Nicholas’s arms…

Nick! Amanda’s heart lurched in her chest as all her memories of him came flooding back. Oh, she loved him so much, but-

“Hello, Amanda.”

Whirling around, Mandy saw an image of a pretty redhead standing before her. In mere seconds, all her joy transformed into guilt and sorrow as the painful knowledge of her failure squeezed her chest. “Ginn,” she breathed. “I’m so sorry.”

Shaking her head, Ginn didn’t want Mandy’s pity. “It wasn’t your fault.”

“But, I-”

“Simeon was after me,” Ginn insisted. “Not you.”

Nevertheless, the weight of that day threatened to choke her. Mandy knew she made several mistakes, and seeing Ginn now, her conscience whispered she didn’t deserve happiness given the damage those missteps caused.

“Ginn,” she said thickly. “I’m-”

“You need to wake up, Amanda.” Looking her friend in the eye, Ginn made sure Amanda took note.

“No.” Wiping away the tear sliding down her cheek, Mandy refused to listen. This place felt peaceful, so why couldn’t she stay?

“What about Rush,” Ginn asked, knowing how to play Amanda’s heartstrings.

Blinking in surprise, Mandy lowered her gaze. “He will be fine,” she whimpered. “He has survived loss before me-”

“And he has lost you too many times now,” Ginn argued. “He may not survive this round.”

“But he doesn’t-”

Ginn’s laughter gave Amanda another shock. “We both know that’s not true! He is your reason for living and you’re his. Why would you turn your back on something so wonderful? A bond people search a lifetime for?”

“Because I don’t deserve it, Ginn!” Amanda’s guilt soured into bitterness. “After everything that’s happened-”

“But you can fix it, Mandy,” Ginn insisted, still wearing her enigmatic smile. “Haven’t you figured out the puzzle yet? You remember now, don’t you?”

“I have my memories back, but I don’t-”

"Destiny chose you because only you would have the missing piece. You know how it all works. You can fix me, Mandy. You need to wake up and face the challenge.”

“But Rush, he-” Fighting back tears, unable to finish the sentence, Amanda pushed the worst of her memories to the back of her mind.

“Rush loves you,” Ginn gently reminded.

Wiping away more tears, Mandy laughed without humor. “I don’t know if I can face him, or Eli, or everyone else. I’m not sure I’m ready.”

“And how do you think Rush would feel if you gave up?”

Looking at Ginn, Amanda knew she really shouldn’t be focused on her own fears right now. “How would you feel?”

Ginn’s smile faded. “You know what will happen to me, Mandy. You know where I am.”

Wincing, she nodded. Amanda knew all too well. Once more, her conscience rolled, nearly drowning her in regret.

“You can’t choose to live for Rush or me,” Ginn continued. “You have to want it for yourself.”

Nodding in understanding, Amanda’s eyes darted around the misty field. There were many reasons to wake up; so many events to look forward to, but there would also be some tough decisions and a lot of hard work. Could she rise to the occasion? Mandy never ran away from a challenge before and she wouldn’t start now.

Hugging Ginn, Amanda made a promise. “You’ll be free soon.”

“I’ll see you on the other side.”

Amanda wanted to say more, but Ginn vanished. Seconds later, the field faded as the mist grew thicker and thicker. Closing her eyes, Amanda inhaled a deep breath and thought about getting back to the man she loved.

****

Taking that first breath wasn’t frightening. As Mandy opened her eyes, warmth and a sense of rightness surged through her being. As the world came into focus, there was only one image claiming her attention.

“Rush,” she whispered.

“Mandy,” he choked as he stroked her soft cheek. Watching her open her eyes thrilled his heart, but when she spoke, Rush forced away the disappointment. Secretly, he wanted Mandy to say his first name and remember him, but the sight of her smile went a long way in making him feel better at the moment. Nuzzling her cheek into his palm, Amanda gave a little noise of approval before reaching for him. The gesture was all the invitation he needed.

Taking her hand, he kissed her fingers before winding her arm around his neck as he leaned closer to lift her into his arms for a hug. Squeezing his eyes shut against the tears, he held her shoulders tight as he kissed her neck.

“You gave me quite a fright,” he whispered in her ear.

“I’m here now,” she whispered back, hugging him fiercely. Rush. Her beloved Nick!

Amanda never wanted to let him go, but she knew she must. There was work to be done. Still, her hand lingered on his frame even when he eased her back against the pillow. Loving the light caress of his fingers on her cheeks, Mandy allowed her hands to linger before running down his arms to grasp his hands. Even this small connection to him felt overwhelming, yet wonderfully beautiful.

Gazing into his eyes, knowing they were grinning at each other like idiots, Mandy felt so lucky to be in this moment. Rush looked so handsome, so beautiful, she wanted to cleave to him and never let go. Yes, the memory of Ginn tugged at the back of her mind, but she would enjoy this reunion before dealing with those demons.

“What happened,” she finally asked.

Squeezing her fingers in reassurance, Rush cupped her cheek with his other hand before speaking. “Do you remember the attack?”

Nodding, she swallowed as the memories surfaced. “I was with Greer,” she started. “We were trying to get to the infirmary when we were surrounded.”

Remembering the injuries Greer suffered, her eyes filled with concern as she squeezed Rush’s hand in urgency. “Is he alright?”

“He’s fine,” Rush explained. “Largely due to you.”

Mandy couldn’t hide her confusion. “I remember seeing you, but then it gets a little fuzzy. Why am I here?”

As quickly as possible, Rush explained her injury, soothing her with soft words and touches when her fear rose. Mandy moved her feet and wiggled her toes anyway, relieved beyond measure realizing her nightmares didn’t become a reality. Hugging him again, Amanda rested her chin in his shoulder, closing her eyes as he combed his fingers through her hair. She could feel him! Hold him! The urge to laugh with joy even as her heart ached in denial nearly threw her emotions off center. Some tough choices were ahead, but she didn’t want to dwell on them now. There was time.

“Do you remember waking up from your last coma,” he asked, unable to help his urgent curiosity.

Nodding, Amanda held him tighter. “I remember,” she whispered.

Letting out a relieved breath, Rush rocked her in his arms. Even if he was mistaken earlier and Mandy didn’t recognize him, at least they wouldn’t be starting from scratch. Everything they shared from when she awoke the first time to right before the attack remained intact. Cradling her, Rush wasn’t sure how much longer he could deny the urge to kiss her. In fact, he moved to take her soft lips, was interrupted when TJ came to check on her patient. Reluctantly, Rush eased Mandy back to rest against the pillow. Getting to his feet, giving TJ room to do her examination, Rush refused to let go of Amanda’s hand. Right now, he needed to remain connected to her, and they both needed the reassurance of physical touch.

The sensation of him simply holding her hand felt so precious it brought tears to her eyes. Being…back was an incredible gift. One Amanda wasn’t sure she deserved. She loved Nick with every fiber of her being, but wasn’t certain he could remain a part of her life.

Chapter Text

“Everything looks good,” TJ proclaimed. “You’re healing nicely.”

“Does this mean I can leave,” Mandy asked with hopeful eyes.

“I want to keep you here for another day or so,” TJ clarified. “Just to be on the safe side.”

Amanda’s face fell. “What about Greer?”

“He’s stable.” TJ gave more assurances before leaving Rush alone with Dr. Perry.

“Good news,” he said as he sat on the edge of the bed. Taking her hand again, he gave her palm a quick kiss. “You’ll be out of here before you know it.”

Cupping his cheek, Amanda smiled as she ran her thumb over his whiskers and up to smoother skin. “How long have you been here?”

“I’ve never left your side,” he said softly, swallowing. “I couldn’t.”

When their eyes met, both shimmered with tears. Truly touched, Amanda brought his hand to her lips and kissed his knuckles. “You should get some rest.”

“Mandy-”

“Sleep in your own bed,” she commanded. “You heard TJ. I’ll be fine.”

Unable to conceal his doubt, Rush leaned forward to hold her in his arms once more. Loving her so much, the words were on the tip of his tongue, but Rush knew he couldn’t let them slip just yet. He wanted to wait until Mandy remembered all of their past. Making such a confession now could spook her, which was the last thing either of them wanted.

“I just want to hold you,” he said thickly as his hold tightened.

Returning the embrace, swaying gently in his arms, letting her fingers tangle in his hair, Amanda felt a lump in her throat. Her memory of the past warred with her memories of recent events. Rush seemed devoted to her and no matter how she treated him during her amnesia, he refused to give up on her.

They built something lasting and real during that time, but now she knew everything from her past and couldn’t help wondering if they truly could be together. One fact which was painfully obvious was that Rush never said he loved her since she returned. Oh, he was justified in not doing so, especially given her memory loss. So why did her heart constrict at the knowledge nonetheless? “Promise me you’ll rest,” she softly repeated.

“All I want is to be here with you.”

Laughing, Amanda laid back, still smiling up at him. “I’m sure you’re going to be needed to fix something on this ship eventually, and you shouldn’t be sleep deprived while doing such important work.”

“I don’t care about the bloody ship,” he grumbled.

Smile never wavering, she cast him a poignant look. “Yes, you do. After everything that’s happened, I can’t be selfish and keep you all to myself. Go. I’ll be fine. Besides, the sedatives are kicking in.”

Nuzzling her cheek, Rush heaved a heavy sigh. “Then I will stay until you fall asleep.”

A soft moan escaped her when Rush’s lips pressed light kisses to her cheeks, then her chin, before finally settling over her lips. Eagerly accepting the kiss, Mandy relaxed as his tongue swept tenderly into her mouth, sending shivers of delight through her blood. Rush let the kiss linger once, twice, then a third time before summoning the willpower to pull away.

“Close your eyes , baby,” he whispered as the pad of his thumb traced her eyebrow. “Get well.”

Amanda wanted to say she felt fine, but the moment she closed her eyes, fatigue pulled her into the abyss. Rush kissed her forehead until he heard her breathing even out. The last thing he wanted was to leave her, but she was right about the ship and his work. He couldn’t neglect everything for too long. Who knows what mischief Eli and Young were getting into at this point?

Giving Amanda’s lips one last, feather-light kiss, he left the infirmary. Fully aware he nearly confessed his feelings back there, Rush raked a hand through his hair. He shouldn’t put too much pressure on Mandy. She only just woke and was recovering from a serious injury, so talk of feelings could wait. Heading to his quarters for a change of clothes and a power nap, Rush had trouble getting the Nakai out of his head. There was no telling what could be heading their way. Until they discovered what information the Nakai gathered and what sort of damage they did to Destiny overall, he would keep an extra close eye on the woman of his heart. At this point, he and Chloe were the only people qualified to find the answers to those questions, but once Mandy regained her full memories, she would be able to lend a helping hand. Rush indulged in a quick nap then got started on his work with a refreshed outlook. Hoping the news wasn’t too bad, he went in search of his team.

****

Several hours must have passed since she dozed off. Waking feeling impatient with the needles and tubes in her arms, Mandy sat up and tugged free the IVs, wincing as the sharp needless tore away from her skin. Hand going to the bandage on her neck as her eyes scanned the infirmary, Mandy didn’t want to think about what caused her injury.

Grateful to still be wearing her own clothes, she attempted to stand. Dizziness gripped her for a few moments, causing her to sag against the edge of the bed until the black dots faded from her vision. Trying again, she straightened and managed to keep her balance. Leaving her shoes by the bed, she hobbled around the room in search of Greer. He wasn’t difficult to find being the only other occupant. Standing by his bedside, Mandy watched him inhale several breaths on his own, deciding he would recover. What she knew of Greer’s pride, he wouldn’t like being defeated by those blue fishheads, so she knew he would make it through this ordeal.

“Move away from him.”

Startled, Mandy glanced over her shoulder to see an Asian woman wearing dark glasses and a displeased expression standing a few feet off. “I was just visiting-”

“I know you’re not TJ, so you shouldn’t be over here.”

“I’m sorry.” Stepping back, Mandy gave her full attention to the other woman. A connection fused in her mind, making Mandy smile. “You must be Lisa.”

“Yeah,” she snapped sarcastically as she sat by Greer’s side. “The glasses are a dead giveaway.”

Biting her bottom lip, Amanda didn’t know what she did to cause the hostility, but tried again. “I know you because Greer talks about you all the time. He cares about you very much.”

A humorless laugh erupted from Dr. Park’s throat. “Yeah? Well, he never stops defending you. The great and wonderful Dr. Perry, right? A lot of people here are afraid of you, you know.”

“I know,” Mandy softly replied. “But I’m still me. I’m who I’ve always been. I’m just lucky enough to be given a second chance at a full life.”

“Not everyone sees it that way,” Park stated, “which is why people get uncomfortable.”

Shifting on her feet, Amanda was afraid to ask, but knew she couldn’t rest easy until she did. Maybe there was a way to repair her obviously damaged status with Greer’s girlfriend. “May I ask what happened?”

Knowing she referred to her eyesight, Lisa sighed. “Does it matter? It is what it is and I worry every day Greer will wake up and realize he can’t take living with me anymore and find someone else.”

Understanding a bit more of Lisa’s jealousy, Mandy inched closer. “He doesn’t seem like that kind of man,” she supplied.

“And you know him that well?”

Inwardly cringing at the sarcasm, Mandy chose her next words carefully. “He’s the kind of person who made up his own mind about me and helped me learn how to channel my anger. That’s all.”

Titling her head, Lisa considered the words. “Everyone says you and Rush are together.”

“I love Nicholas very much,” Mandy said. “With all my heart and soul.”

A lingering pause hung in the air before Lisa finally nodded. “I’m happy for you, then.”

Remembering her dream of Ginn and what she had to do, Mandy had an epiphany. “Dr. Park,” she started as she stepped closer. “Lisa, would you mind telling me what happened to you?”

“Why?”

“Because I may have a theory on how to fix it.”

Despite her best efforts, hope rose in Lisa’s chest for a split second before the doubts had her shaking her head. “TJ says if my corneas haven’t healed by now, the odds are they won’t be able to and I won’t ever see again.”

“Humor me,” Amanda urged. “Please?”

Shrugging, Lisa figured she didn’t have anything to lose by telling her story. Greer wasn’t awake and they needed to pass the time. Listening intently, Mandy concealed her growing excitement. Ginn was still stuck in quarantine and Mandy knew she had to free her, but doing so required using the regeneration system and the stones. Mandy wasn’t sure of the specs and details, but if she could get the machine working, she could find a way to replicate Lisa’s corneas and use the technology to restore her eyesight. If successful, Mandy would have a better grasp of the Ancient’s design and be better prepared when bringing back Ginn’s body. She would have to talk to TJ, but the more Amanda thought about it, the more she felt confident in her course.

Twenty minutes later, Mandy and Lisa understood one another and were starting to become friendly, but the moment shattered when James came on duty and scolded Amanda for being out of bed. The only reason Mandy even bothered taking orders and making her way back across the room was because her weak muscles started protesting her excursion. The lightheadedness struck her as she climbed beneath the blanket, making her crave the darkness of slumber. The last thing she remembered was haring James’s voice carry through the air as she warned Lisa to be careful since no one knew exactly what happened with Dr. Perry. Fear, Amanda realized. Lt. James stank of fear. Considering all the recent events, Mandy wasn’t sure she could blame her.

****

The face looked familiar, yet not. Unsure of why he was here and what he wanted, Amanda opened her mouth to ask, but suddenly couldn’t breathe. The image blurred and she felt a pull she couldn’t resist. Her heart ached to stay, but being torn by a force stronger than her desperate will, she was ripped from the known into the unknown. Just as the light came, offering warmth and comfort the likes of which she had never known, an invisible barrier trapped her in place. Screaming in fear and outrage, Amanda tried breaking through, but the force held her prisoner. Suspended, weightless, she needed to cling to something, if only a memory.

Her anchor in life remained the same for her in death: Rush. The man she loved beyond all reason and doubt. The man she knew to be the other half of her soul. He wanted a future with her and she remembered him saying as much just before -

Static. Harsh static wrapped her up, dragging her behind something. Listless, aware of being merely an… essence, she waited and waited, fading more and more even as she struggled to Remember the shape of Rush’s smile. Oh, how she loved his lips, especially when they kissed her and called her beautiful. Amanda held those images close as she continued drifting without any direction or destination. Afraid, she had faith Rush would know what to do. He always saw what others couldn’t and he would discover what happened.

Being tugged along, Amanda knew she wasn’t alone. Someone else seemed tethered to her. Joined, yet not at the same time: here since before the man and the pain and the light, yet always separate. Occasionally, Mandy could feel the presence, but mostly her thoughts dwelled on finding Rush.

What felt like an instant later, he was there, running toward her, not bothering to conceal his joy. When they embraced, Mandy could feel him! The world snapped into focus with perfect clarity as if the abstract sensation of what came before never happened. Amanda was with Nick and she was happy.

Then came the merger: the feeling of draining into nothing as cold bits amalgamated with thoughts. Fusing with Destiny brought a freedom she couldn’t being to describe! No longer listless or waiting, she could see Nick whenever she wanted! Finally, they were together and the joy filled her being near to bursting!

Mandy should be grateful; satisfied. For a woman who struggled to talk and breathe, to have her consciousness fully preserved was a miracle! At the same time, despite her experiences, she never ceased being a woman in love, and as such, she couldn’t help craving more, daring the anger of the fates by wanting to make Nicholas her own. Discovering a way for everything to be perfect, Mandy created the program, but her utopian world came crashing down around her ears. As punishment for her audacity, the void stole her away, leaving the endless guilt to torment her while enduring the vast nothingness that stole her sensory input. The worst part was not knowing if she was actually screaming.

And Ginn remained a prisoner of that indescribable hell. Alone.

The numbers flashed in endless rows. The language of the ship, she realized. A language she was more than familiar with, especially given her connection to Destiny. Waking, she automatically reached for her notebook only to realize it wasn’t there because she wasn’t in her quarters. Flipping back the covers, she slipped on her shoes and tip-toed out of the infirmary. No one noticed her leave. Racing to the equations hall, she picked up the first piece of chalk she could find and began frantically writing numbers while they were fresh in her head. So close…so close to fitting together the puzzle.

Chapter Text

Running diagnostics, checking the nooks and crannies of the ship, running endless scans and sweeps, and searching the databases for any and all anomalies took an awful lot of time. Rush and Chloe were left to do most of the legwork since they were familiar enough with the Nakai’s methods to recognize a beacon or alien device. Even so, there would be no guarantees.

Checking one of the lower decks, Rush scanned for any tracking devices. Not picking up a signal, he wondered if he was doing enough to prevent another attack. The Nakai coveted Destiny and were still out there. Did they perform the FTL jumps in time, or were the aliens biding their time to organize another face-off?

The deciding factor in the end was Chloe. She knew enough to get around the Nakai systems and repair the damage. Yet, didn’t the Nakai know what she was capable of? After all, they did “fix” her. Perhaps Chloe was still a factor neither side was able to fully understand. If such was true, Rush was glad she was on their side.

“TJ to Rush,” his radio sounded. “Come in.”

Muttering curses, he yanked the radio off his belt. “This is Rush, go ahead.”

“Can you come to the infirmary?”

Hearing the last word, his heart gave a sharp thump. Fear slicing down his spine even as he rationalized the fear aside, Rush cleared his throat before speaking again. “Is it Mandy?”

TJ hesitated. “Just come.”

One second he was performing scans and the next he was shooting down the corridor. Pumping his arms, ignoring the peculiar looks sent his way, Rush needed to know what was going on. The instant he burst through the infirmary doors, his eyes went to her bed, but seeing it empty, his heart sank to his knees. Finding TJ, Rush demanded answers. “Where is she?”

Putting up her hands in a defensive gesture, TJ offered reassurances. “Rush, calm down.”

“Bloody hell, I will!”

“Rush-”

“Where is Amanda,” he barked.

“We don’t know,” TJ evenly admitted. “I came to do my usual rounds and she was gone.”

“Didn’t you check her quarters?”

“Lt. Scott checked, but there wasn’t any sign of her. Where do you think she would go if not there?”

As if on cue, Scott entered the room and looked expectantly at the scientist. Aw, hell if he was going to tell them anything! Without saying a word, Rush turned and walked out the door. Uncaring of the reactions of those he left behind, Rush wondered where Mandy would go. Checking her quarters again in case she was hiding, he heaved a sigh finding the space indeed empty. Next, he searched her secret hideaways but she didn’t look to have come around this part of the ship in a while. Forcing down his panic, Rush relied on logic and asked what she would be thinking waking up from a second coma. Mandy suffered routine nightmares that only stopped plaguing her when he was in her presence. Was there some significance to that phenomenon?

After the nightmares she wrote equations…Rush took a sharp turn heading for the corridor with the wall-to-wall notes. His heart raced a mile a minute until he rounded the corner. For a second he paused, and then broke into a solid run.

“Mandy!”

Startled, Amanda’s head snapped up to see Rush coming straight toward her. Having only seconds to brace her bare feet, she gasped when his arms wrapped around her and held her with such force she nearly coughed.

“Thank God,” he murmured as he yanked Mandy against his chest, cradling the back of her head as he whispered her name over and over again. “Why did you leave the infirmary?”

Resting her cheek on his shoulder, she couldn’t hold back a smile. Rush truly worried for her? He came to find her! Surly – no. She needed to stay focused. There was much to be done and she wouldn’t allow her emotions to overwhelm her. So why couldn’t she let him go?

Easing back just enough to cup her face, Rush’s thumbs caressed her soft cheeks as he gazed into those beautiful blue depths. “My Mandy,” he breathed with awe, suddenly touched beyond words by the miracle of her being here before him as flesh and blood. “You gave me such a scare.”

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I needed to come here. I think I understand now.”

“Understand what?”

Amanda looked to the wall. Following her gaze, Rush saw the added lines of the equation. Numbers and Ancient symbols lined nearly two panels now and hope rose in his chest as a result. “You understand all this?”

Nodding, Mandy grasped his hand, giving his fingers a gentle squeeze. “I’m sorting it out.”

Sighing, he gave her a lopsided grin. “Well, next time, tell someone before you leave the infirmary, alright? Ten years were knocked off my life.”

Going very still, Mandy studied his expression, searching for the sincerity in his eyes. He truly cared that much for her? “I’m sorry,” she whispered again.

Shaking his head, Rush cupped her cheek, pulling her close until their lips touched. The kiss felt instantly explosive. Melting into his frame with a moan, Mandy’s arms wrapped around his neck as she sank into his touch. Oh, how she loved this man!

A moan of need travelled from her mouth to his as Rush backed her up against the wall and deepened the kiss. Running her hands over his back before clinging desperately to his shoulders, Amanda felt desire burn through her blood. The subtle scratch of whiskers on her cheek, the tickle of his hair where her neck met her shoulders, and the press of his fingertips into the flesh on her hips all fueled the need to be one with his being. Rush pulled her closer, crushing her breasts into his frame, making her cry out as sensation flooded between her legs.

Did he know what he was doing to her? Coming up for air, panting as she looked into his dark gaze, Amanda realized Rush knew exactly what he was doing and thoroughly enjoyed every moment. Opening her mouth to speak, she didn’t get out a single breath before his lips once again captured hers. Just as Mandy got lost in the haze of sensation, his hand cupped the back of her neck, pressing the bandage where her injury throbbed, causing a jolt of pain to shoot through her neck and behind her eyes. Crying out, Mandy instinctively pulled away. Rush, realizing his mistake, whispered apologies, but refused to completely relinquish his hold. Dizzy, she moved to hug him, resting her cheek once more on his shoulder.

“Are you alright?”

Nodding, Amanda inhaled a deep breath. The last thing she wanted was for the moment to end, but needed to face reality. “I should get back before TJ gets angry.”

“She was only worried,” Rush clarified. “As was I.”

“I just wanted to take down some notes before they flew out of my head.”

Pulling out of the hug, Rush gave her a nod of understanding. Grasping her hand, the worry still fresh, he needed skin-to-skin contact. “Tell someone next time, alright?”

“Ok,” she agreed.

Walking back to the infirmary, her hand still cradled in Rush’s hold, Amanda swore she could feel her heart break. The last thing she wanted was to be separated from the man she adored above all else, but protecting him was far more important than indulging her selfish desires. Her actions nearly cost Rush his life, so never again would she risk putting him in such danger.

TJ examined her wound and vitals before announcing Mandy was free to return to her quarters. Assuring TJ she would be careful, Amanda understood she was prevented from engaging in strenuous activity. Asking after Greer, learning he remained in stable condition, Mandy swallowed her guilt. She should have done more to help him.

Gritting his teeth hearing Amanda asking after another man, Rush knew there wasn’t a logical reason for his jealousy, but his possessive instincts kicked into high gear. Rush only relaxed when Mandy confessed to wishing Greer a fully recovery for Lisa’s sake.

“Hey,” he said gently, squeezing her hand. “You did everything you could at the time. We were under attack and Greer is a trained soldier, you’re not. He knew the risks.”

All true, but Mandy couldn’t shake her emotions. Then again, she could also be feeling over sensitive due to the bigger decision continuously swinging over her head. When should she broach the subject? Walking into the corridor and heading back to her rooms, she was glad for Rush’s company. Being alone right now with her memories felt intimidating, to say the least.

Everything was where she left it, which seemed odd considering all that happened to the ship and crew. “How are you,” she asked softly as she sat on the edge of her bed.

Sitting next to her, Rush didn’t pretend not to know her meaning. “I’m fine,” he stated.

Staring at him for a long moment, Mandy cradled his face in her hands. “You aren’t letting your mind think about it.”

“Because I get angry,” he confessed. Grasping her hands and prying them away from his cheeks to lace his fingers through hers, Rush brought their joined hands to his lap. “Colonel Young let his personal dislike of me cloud his judgement,” Rush bitterly stated, “and now we’re all suffering for it!”

Biting his lower lip, Rush didn’t want to lose his temper, especially not in front of Mandy, so he forced a smile as his thumbs caressed her fingers. “You must be relieved to be back in your own space again.”

Glancing at their hands before lifting her eyes to his face, Mandy knew Rush purposely changed the subject, but didn’t push him for details. “I’m glad it’s all over.”

“I wish you were never put in that kind of danger.”

“You were in danger, too,” she pointed out.

“That’s the thing,” he sighed. “Being on Destiny is a dangerous life to lead. We’ve faced an awful lot since we first came on board.”

“But you’ve survived,” Mandy smiled.

“Yes,” he chuckled, “we have.” Looking into those pale blue eyes, there was no much he wanted to say, but the words lodged in his throat. For a moment back there, he truly thought Amanda’s memory returned. He hoped…but he would have to go on being patient. Fate brought Mandy back to him, so he needed to trust in the plan.

“I should go,” he said. “Let you rest.”

“Rush,” Amanda started, clinging to his hand. “I’m not really tired.”

Staying would be a mistake. The way Rush felt now, he knew he would want to indulge his cravings to taste her. Once they crossed the first line, he would want more. Rush couldn’t be fully confident he could be gentle or stop if she asked. Need clawed his veins, so distance was necessary.

“How about a game of chess?”

Rush opened his mouth to blurt out some lame excuse, but luckily his radio sounded. Chloe asked for him on the bridge. Responding he was on his way, Rush gave Amanda a look of regret.

“Some other time,” he said as he kissed her cheek.

“I’ll hold you to it,” Mandy smiled as she walked him to the door. They shared one more look of longing before he was gone.

The moment the doors closed, Mandy let out a long sigh, mentally scolding her conscience for not telling Rush all she needed to say. There was an opening, but she refused to take it. Did that make her a coward?

Kissing Nick earlier, feeling his mouth over hers, inhaling his masculine scent, all Amanda wanted was to indulge in the passions she kept in check for so long. She lived for years in that chair unable to properly convey her feelings to the only person she ever cared about. When she first heard about what happened on Icarus, about the planet being destroyed, Amanda was devastated. Mourning Rush’s loss, she spent every ounce of willpower she possessed to get up every morning.

Hearing he was alive was enough. Mandy could continue as long as she knew Rush was safe. Then, along came the opportunity to actually help him and his mission and reconnect. After experiencing life through the stones, Amanda wasn’t fully satisfied going back to her own life. Glimpsing paradise, she didn’t want to give up hope, but knew there wasn’t a choice.

There wasn’t much of a choice now either. Mandy lived the best dream possible but having her own body back and the opportunity to pick up where she left off in her relationship, but the complications were not so easily dismissed.

Because of her program, her selfish impulses, Rush was nearly killed and Ginn was still suffering in quarantine. Until she figured out how to rescue Ginn and ensure Rush’s safety, Amanda had no right to have her happy ending.

Chapter Text

Putting out yet another fire, Rush wasn’t in a good mood. Young and Eli were more willing to listen to him and Chloe, but too little, too late in his book. The hard truth was there was no guarantee the Nakai didn’t plant a tracking device on Destiny. They were going to have to do a thorough search, secure the stones, and cross their fingers that they weren’t pursued.

Hate for those aliens boiled in his gut as he marched down the halls. Eli and Young should have listened! Now there was no telling how much more difficult their mission was going to get due to this misstep. Raking a hand through his hair, Rush knew there was only one person he could talk to in order to calm down.

Knocking on the door, Rush’s hands fidgeted as he waited for a response. Receiving none, he knocked again. “Mandy? Are you there? It’s important.”

Hearing only silence, he pushed the button, waiting for the doors to unfurl. Walking into Mandy’s quarters, seeing the empty space, he cursed under his breath as he kicked the air. Turning on his heel, Rush hurried from the room. Needing air, he found the situation ironic considering he was on a space ship a billion light years from Earth. Walking blindly, he ended up in the observatory, his skin prickling with awareness. Only one other person was here and seeing the familiar face eased the tension from his shoulders.

“Mandy,” he breathed as he approached.

Looking away from the stars, seeing Rush sent thrills of arousal through her blood, chased with pangs of trepidation. Forcing a smile, she offered a greeting, knowing she would have to tell him soon of her decision. However, the second she saw his face, Mandy knew something was wrong.

“Rush? Is everything alright?”

Shaking his head, Rush grasped Mandy’s hand, squeezing her fingers as he explained the frustration of his uncertainty regarding the Nakai.

“I hate them,” Rush growled, unable to meet Mandy’s eyes, yet still clutching her hand. “I never thought I was capable of such deep-seeded-” breaking off, shaking his head, Rush started again. “They want Destiny and I’m not going to let that happen. I can’t.”

Inching closer, Mandy let her other hand rest on his shoulder. The familiar heat passed from him to her palm, making her attraction intensify her awareness of his masculine presence. Rush was hurting and she wanted to offer comfort.

“I can’t even begin to imagine what being their prisoner was like for you,” she said gently, offering her support by squeezing his shoulder. “I’m sorry, but I’m also grateful. By sheer force of will you came through that ordeal, stronger than ever. I know it might not mean a lot coming from me, but I’m proud of you.”

Those dark eyes snapped to her face, the heat and passion so intense her breath hitched. Swallowing, she forced out her next words. “I don’t know how I would have handled being on Destiny without you. You’ve been so kind to me. A true friend and maybe it’s selfish, but I want you to stay with me.”

Taking in her words, Rush let out a breath with a slight shake of his head. “I won’t let them win,” he vowed. “I’m going to do everything I can to make sure they don’t touch us.”

Giving him a look of total understanding, Mandy knew this issue was personal for him. For Rush, this was also about vengeance, not just about protecting Destiny. She couldn’t blame him. “Just promise me you’ll be careful.”

Looking into the eyes of the woman he loved, Rush was sick and tired of being denied happiness. Why couldn’t she remember him? Just one small piece would be enough. Why couldn’t Mandy remember how much they loved each other?

Her words were meant to comfort, but instead his frustration scratched though his veins. Rush would have his vengeance. He was also going to stop holding back. Before he could second guess his action, he yanked Mandy against his chest, pressing his mouth over hers.

Following her instincts, Mandy wound her arms around his neck for better purchase as she melted into the kiss. Shocks of delight made her knees go weak as she stroked her tongue along his. Growling low in his throat, Rush pressed her tighter against him as he deepened the kiss.

The feel of his hands on her back, the press of his stomach into hers, the feel of his tongue sending shivers of desire through her blood, all these sensations made Mandy’s head spin in the most delightful way. Rush guided the give and take of the touch, determined to keep Mandy with him while craving more.

Coming up for air, he felt her breath panting against his cheek, saw her swollen lips, and loved how he was the reason for her arousal. As much as he wanted more, he knew pushing her would be wrong. At the same time, the temptation was burning though his blood. He was so patient for so long. Just one more kiss.

As she looked into the face of the man she loved beyond words, Mandy breathed his name with wonder. “Nick.”

Cupping her cheek, Rush nearly took another kiss, but hearing her say his name the way she used to made him snap to attention. Just as he was about to ask if she remembered something, more hopefully than he dared to admit, his radio went off.

“Rush,” Young’s voice sounded. “Come in.”

Making a noise of frustration, Rush stepped back from Mandy’s warmth to grab his radio. “This is Rush,” he said irritably.

“Do you have a moment,” Young asked.

Glancing at Mandy, seeing her encouraging look, Rush suppressed his denial.

“Go,” she urged.

“Wait here,” he said. “I’ll handle this and be right back.”

Nodding, Amanda watched Rush walk out of earshot to talk to the Colonel before turning back around to stare out at the stars. Touching her swollen lips, she closed her eyes praying for strength. This kiss was amazing; so much so that sensations still hummed through her blood. However, as much as she craved more, Amanda knew she needed to find the strength to let him go.

“Sorry about that,” Rush said, returning to her side a few minutes later. “There is more work to be done.”

Swallowing the thump in her throat, Amanda forced a smile. “Do you have to leave?”

“Not right away.” Raking a hand through his hair, Rush wasn’t sure where to begin. “May I ask you a question?”

“Sure.”

“A moment ago, you…said my name. You said it that way you used to. Mandy,” he said thickly. “Do you remember more?”

Sorrow gripped her heart as her mind recoiled at the knowledge the moment had finally come. Now was the time to tell Rush the painful truth, knowing full well her heart would be shattered. However, Mandy loved Rush enough to let him go. With tears welling in her eyes, she nodded.

“Yes, I remember, Nick. I-”

Mandy didn’t get a chance to utter another word before Rush’s mouth devoured hers. Seconds later his laughter filled the air, his joy obvious between kisses, saying how much he missed her and knew she would come back to him. Indulging the kiss for one last taste, Mandy could feel her resolve slipping. Gathering every ounce of strength she possessed, her hands pushed him back as she tore her lips away.

“We can’t do this,” she said regretfully.

Blinking, Rush’s hands still gripped her elbows. He wanted to yank her back for another kiss, hold her close as he asked what was wrong and offer support and comfort, but Mandy was already tugging free. “Do what? Mandy, if you remember then we need-”

“We can’t be together, Nick,” she stated with as much determination as she could muster.

Going very still, his smile slowly fading, Rush searched her face. Realizing she was serious, he gritted his teeth. Denial and disbelief soured his gut, making him swallow hard as he fought to comprehend her words. A few seconds passed before he could speak. ‘It’s not because you don’t love me, so don’t bother lying. I see it written plainly as the nose on your face.”

“I do love you,” she choked. Holding back her tears was pointless. “But I have to let you go.”

“Why,” he demanded, his own tears swelling.

“The simulation,” she managed.

Full understanding snapped into place and Rush immediately tried changing her mind, but such an attempt proved fruitless. Once Amanda’s memories came back he knew they would have to discuss what happened with the simulation, but he never expected she would react so dramatically.

“Don’t you dare think for one second that I don’t love you because I do,” he swore. “With all my heart.”

As much as hearing the words thrilled her, hearing them also caused Amanda great pain. “But the computer-”

“Can’t judge the depth of human emotions,” Rush argued. Grasping her chin, forcing her eyes to meet his, Rush needed Mandy to take special note of his next words. “We have different perceptions and life experiences, Amanda. We love differently, but we love all the same. No two look alike and maybe that’s what the computer couldn’t comprehend. I told you then and I’m telling you now: I’m not the verdict of a bloody program. I love you. I want to be with you and have a future together.”

The argument made sense, but the glitch in the programming wasn’t the only reason for her decision. “Nick,” she whispered. “I put you in danger. I pushed for the program and I should have anticipated the consequences.”

“Mandy, listen to me,” he pleaded as his hand cupped her cheeks. “Had I known about the parameters before I got in that chair, I still would’ve taken the risk. You know why?”

Biting her lower lip as tears silently streamed down her cheeks, Amanda shook her head.

“Because I do love you,” he said staring directly into her eyes. “I wouldn’t have hesitated because in my mind, the love I feel for you is real. It was then, it is now. The fault was with the computer not being able to gauge our emotions! We’re not going to have to worry about those things now, so we shouldn’t be second-guessing ourselves! My feelings for you never changed.”

“Nick,” she whispered as another tear slid down her cheek. Closing her eyes against the pain tearing her hear to pieces, she wanted nothing more than to accept his explanation and forget the whole matter, but she had to be honest with him and herself. “What if it wasn’t the computer as much as it was me?”

Frowning in confusion, Rush’s hold on her tightened ever-so-slightly. “What do you mean?”

“What if it was me clinging too desperately? Since you were with me, and we were finally together, what if subconsciously I didn’t want to let you go? I assumed the problem was that you didn’t love me but what if it as really my insecurities and desperation that trapped you? The fault wasn’t with the way you loved me, but with the way I loved you?”

Ashamed, she let her gaze fell to the floor. As her despair squeezed her chest, she forced out her next words. “I was so used to being alone and apart – different and pitied. Unable to feel touch most of my life, but all that changed in the program and all my dreams came true and I didn’t want to let go of that bliss.”

“Oh, Mandy,” Rush breathed as his thumbs caressed her skin. “It wasn’t just your dream. It was mine as well.”

Another tear escaped, dropping to the floor as Rush lifted her chin so they were once more looking at one another. Gently brushing away her tears, he wanted to offer her assurances and make her understand the fault wasn’t solely hers and they could move forward from this point.

“We don’t have to worry about the bloody program,” he said. “We should focus on what we’ve shared since you came back whole. And my love for you now is even stronger than it was then.”

Inhaling a sharp breath, Amanda wasn’t prepared, but she had to ask. “Because of the regeneration?”

“Partly,” he admitted. Physical contact was a huge part of a relationship. “But mostly because I see you as an extraordinarily brave woman. You’re brilliant and kind and generous. Destiny brought you back for a reason. I truly believe we are meant to be together. You are my soulmate.”

The last word caused the air to rush out of her lungs. All she ever dreamed of was a miracle to bring them together and now the reality was finally coming to pass. So why couldn't she rejoice and accept him, fall into his arms, and have a happy ending?

“I don’t ever want to put you in harm’s way or be the reason for your suffering, Nicholas,” she whispered. “What I did was reckless, and I not only hurt you, and risked your life, but Greer suffered, too. And Eli.”

“None of that matters now,” he insisted. “We can fix it!”

No, this was her responsibility. Resolved, Mandy stepped out of his hold, knowing the time had come to release Rush from any obligation. “I think we need some time apart.”

His dark gaze turned to steel. “Like bloody hell we do! Mandy, I just got you back!”

“This is best for both of us,” she argued. “You’ll see.”

Disbelief, anger, and denial curled in his chest. Staring at Amanda, he realized she wasn’t going to change her mind right this second and wouldn’t be easily swayed from this chosen path. As much as he wanted to argue, to scream and yell at the injustice, he knew Mandy as well as she knew him and realized she would need convincing their love still linked them together so profusely that there was no denying it. Eventually he would win her over, but for now he needed to accept her decision. Moving forward to whisper in her ear, he made sure their bodies didn’t touch in any way. One stroke of her soft skin on his and Rush knew he would lose what little control he struggled to possess.

“Very well,” he conceded with barely contained anger, his words practically hissing over her skin. “We’ll do things your way, Amanda, but mark my words; we won’t be able to stay away from one another for long. What we have can’t be denied. We are fated to be together and when you finally figure that out, I’ll be waiting.”

Catching a glimpse of the rage in his gaze as he pulled back, Amanda swallowed hard as her cheeks flushed. Her eyes followed him as he marched across the room and out the door. Knees going weak, her body collapsed into the closest couch.

What did she just do?

Chapter Text

Everyone on the ship was picking up on the fact that something wasn’t right with Rush. He acted grumpier than usual, always barking orders and losing his temper. His team gave him a wide birth – even Chloe. Eli and Volker assumed the encounter with the Nakai bent the scientist out of shape, but Brody was the one to point out the real reason.

After they scoured this star system looking for viable planets, Eli messed up some sensor readings, and Rush flipped out before ordering Eli to fix the mess before stomping off the bridge.

“Maybe it’s PTSD,” Volker said as a way of easing the lingering tension.

“One misplaced finger on the button,” Eli grumbled. “I was distracted with the two other orders he yelled at me. I don’t usually do that.”

“He’s still pissed about the attack,” Volker said.

Eli was, too. The guilt still rested heavily on his shoulders, but he didn’t take it out on everyone else. “He needs to get over it. We haven’t seen any hint of the blue aliens since we escaped the attack.”

“Yeah,” Volker continued. “But we don’t know what’s ahead and he’s probably just masking his fear with anger.”

Eli scoffed. “You think?”

“Yeah, I mean, look what they did to Chloe.”

“Well, she’s handling things a lot better than Rush.” Of course, he couldn’t get Chloe to utter more than two words these days.

“Guys,” Brody cut in. “That’s not why he’s throwing a fit.”

Eli and Volker exchanged skeptical looks.

“Oh, really,” Eli said sarcastically. “Then why?”

“He and Dr. Perry broke up.” Adam shrugged at them wearing a “duh” expression. “Didn’t you hear?”

“What?” Volker felt bad for the guy. Rush wasn’t so bad to be around since Dr. Perry came back.

“Wait,” Eli frowned. “Who broke up with whom?”

“I think Dr. Perry ended it. Why? What does it matter?”

“Because Rush is too narcissistic to let his ego take the hit,” Eli said. “Not that I can blame Dr. Perry. I mean, it’s Rush we’re talking about.”

“But why did she do it,” Volker asked. “I thought they were perfect for one another.”

“The rumor mill is whispering stuff about Rush not really loving her or something,” Body informed them.

Volker let out a laugh. “That’s ridiculous! We all saw how he went after Simeon. He nearly died in the interface chair to be with her! I mean, that move took guts.”

Eli grunted. “To be fair, I don’t think Rush ever considered any repercussions would apply to him.”

“Dale has a point,” Brody added. “I’m not sure I would have done that for a girl.”

“Yeah,” Eli argued. “You would have.”

Silence filled the bridge as Volker and Brody exchanged looks, then smirks of understanding.

“Would you have gotten in the chair for Ginn,” Volker asked.

“Not without properly assessing the risk and weighing all my options.”

Brody scoffed. “Then you couldn’t have loved her as much.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean,” Eli snapped.

Unintimidated, Brody shrugged. “Rush didn’t care about the consequences to himself. He dove in that chair to be with Dr. Perry, no questions asked.”

“Which makes him as ass,” Eli argued.

“It makes him a man willing to put it all on the line for love. Takes guts, even you have to admit.”

Scoffing, Eli shook his head. “Yeah, he didn’t think, which is why we had to put Dr. Perry and Ginn in quarantine! Rush certainly didn’t care about what could happen to them! As usual, Rush only thought about himself.”

“My point," Brody argued back. “Is that he really loves this girl, so if she broke up with him because she thinks he doesn’t love her, then she’s nuts.”

“Maybe the regeneration did more than make her lose her memory,” Eli grumbled.

Seeing the conversation could get volatile at any moment, Dale broke in, trying to change the subject. “Can’t you get Ginn out of quarantine now,” he ventured. “Make her part of the ship again?”

“I’ve tried,” Eli admitted. “All my attempts have failed.”

“You can’t get Ginn back into the computer but you could download Dr. Perry back into her body,” Volker asked.

Sighing, Eli wasn’t sure how to explain. “The computer will put data in quarantine, but won’t let the same data back into the mainframe once it’s been there. I’m trying to work around the protocols, but the Ancients had specific ways of doing things. Since they’re way more advanced with consciousness and technology surrounding it like the stones, I’m flummoxed. As of now, the only way to get Ginn out of quarantine would be to download her consciousness like we did with Dr. Perry, but we don’t have a body and using the chair without the stones had bad side effects.”

“So you just need a body,” Volker asked.

“Yeah,” Eli said. “Preferably hers, but I haven’t figured out how to replicate the process with the regeneration system and the download process isn’t perfected. I don’t have time to focus more energy on that research because I’m stuck here constantly looking for any hint of another Nakai ship!”

The bridge went quiet for several moments as the others stared at Eli, absorbing his outburst. Finally Brody was brave enough to break the tension. “We’ve got things here, Eli. Why don’t you take a break?”

Rubbing the back of his neck, Eli wanted to insist he was fine, but maybe a break wasn’t such a bad idea. Walking off some tension might do him good. Nodding, he left the bridge. The second the door closed behind him, Dale and Adam let out relieved breaths.

“He’s moping,” Dale commented.

“Well, he probably feels guilty about those blue fishheads nearly killing us all,” Adam pointed out.

“Well, Young was breathing down his neck and puffing the kid up to be his go-to-guy,” Dale argued. “It all probably went to his head.”

“Yeah, well, if Young can’t make his own decisions, or work with Rush, and had to go to a kid for support, then maybe he’s not the right guy to be running things.”

“What about the whole simulation thing-”

“That was years ago,” Adam argued. “Things change! Besides, wasn’t that so-called test around the same time Rush gained control of the ship and no one knew about it? Maybe he was the one to really snap the ship out of is funk.”

Now that he thought about it, Volker couldn’t dispute his friend’s arguments. For all their sakes, he hoped Young and Rush worked out a truce before continuing to put Eli, and the rest of them, in the middle. Look at what was happening! Rush was a lot easier to deal with when Dr. Perry was around, and now people had to tip-toe around him. On one hand, Volker hoped those two would find a way to be together. On the other, he wondered if he might have a shot with Amanda if things with Rush went permanently south.

“So,” Volker cleared his throat. “I guess Dr. Perry is single now, huh?”

Barking a laugh, Brody shook his head. “Heaven help me if I ever fall that badly for a woman. Dale, Dr. Perry is ruining Rush. I mean, look at him! He’s a grumpy mess! I’d stay away from that if I were you.”

“Yeah,” Volker sighed as he focused on the controls. “You’re right.”

Of course he was right! Dr. Perry would probably go for him instead, anyway. Brody counted the similarities between them and had much more in common with Mandy than Dale did. Besides, Dale still carried a torch for Park. Right? Adam wasn’t so bad to look at – certainly better than Rush – plus, he had the whole scientist thing going. Chicks digged smart guys. Maybe he would look for her tonight at the mess hall. Yeah. Why not?

****

Crying herself to sleep wasn’t productive. Over the last several days, Amanda was careful to avoid Rush and work on her equations. She had a theory about Dr. Park, but she would need some additional information before she could continue her work.

Her eyes felt permanently red and achy these days, but there wasn’t much to be done about it now. Putting away her notes, Mandy gathered her courage before leaving her room in favor of the infirmary. Not seeing anyone on her walk, she stopped by Greer’s bed to say hello. He woke up yesterday, but his recovery was slow going. Out of respect for Lisa, she kept her visit brief.
Finding TJ, she asked for a private word.

“How are you feeling,” TJ asked with empathy.

“My neck is fine,” Mandy supplied. “Healing well, I’m sure the scar won’t be bad.”

“Good,” TJ offered a small smile. “And Rush? How are you doing on that front?”

Closing her eyes, Mandy swallowed fresh tears. The last thing she needed was to cry her eyes out in front of a friend.

“I miss him,” she confessed. “I’m questioning my decision.”

TJ fully understood where Mandy was coming form. “You still love him.”

Nodding, Amanda inhaled a deep breath. “I never stopped. I thought I was protecting him because I don’t want to cling too much and hurt him, but at the same time it feels like I have a hole in my heart and nothing will fill it.”

TJ felt exactly the same way about Everett, but she saw hope for Rush and Mandy where she didn’t for herself. “Life is a risk, Mandy,” she said gently. “Being on this ship makes things complicated, but you need to seize your happiness when and where you can.”

Picking up on TJ’s tone, Amanda couldn’t keep silent. “Are you talking about me or yourself?”

Was she that obvious? Lately, all she could think about was Everett and all her lost opportunities. “Sometimes the moment just passes you by,” she told her friend. “I just don’t want you to live in regret. Besides, Rush is a mess.”

Mandy blinked in surprise. “He is?”

TJ nodded. “He’s moody. Well, more than usual. No one wants to cross his path right now.”

“It will pass,” Mandy said even as more guilt settled on her shoulders. In the long run, she would be doing Rush a favor. What if she wanted him to be with her instead of working and the ship suffered? Or something went wrong?

“I can’t…cling to Rush and risk his life,” Amanda confessed. “I just can’t. I would rather have him mad at me and alive.”

Understanding dawned; making TJ put a comforting hand on Amanda’s arm. “Unless you ask him to download his consciousness into the computer again, I think you’re safe.”

“It’s more than that,” she sighed. “I’ve loved him for so long. I fell so hard, so fast, and it’s never gone away. No matter how I fight it, Rush is my whole heart. The simulation made me realize just how much I need him. So much so that I’ll never be free. Not really. And it terrifies me.”

“I can relate more than you know.” After all, TJ was living the same thing over Everett. After everything that happened, TJ knew she could move on, but she would never truly get over him because deep down, he was the love of her life.

“You do?”

Nodding, TJ gave a ghost of a smile. “I never meant to fall in love with my commanding officer, but I did. I fought it. We both fought it, but the emotions were too much to resist. We made mistakes and hurt people, suffered huge loss, and I became a woman I never thought I would be, but he’s still in my heart.”

“I didn’t know you were with someone,” Mandy said softly.

Blinking to attention, TJ shook her head, regaining some common sense. “I’m not. Not anymore.”

“Oh.” Understanding, Amanda wasn’t sure what to say. “You miss him.”

The comment wasn’t a question because Mandy could see the ache in Tamara’s eyes.

“I do,” the medic admitted. “But there is no going back.”

“You don’t know that. Maybe if you talked-”

“He doesn’t want me back.” Saying the words out loud clenched her heart, but TJ finally managed to acknowledge the truth of her situation. Looking at Mandy, seeing a reflection of her own heartache, TJ wanted more happiness for her friend.

“I think you should trust yourself to be able to see the boundaries. Trust Rush to see them, too. You’re not in a simulation anymore. Yes, the real world has its risks, but don’t throw away a chance to be happy, especially when you don’t know what the future might hold.”

Taking the advice to heart, Mandy knew she had a lot to ponder, but in the meantime, she needed to get down to business. TJ was adamant about not producing medical details without Dr. Park’s consent, but was intrigued by Mandy’s idea.

“And you really think these equations are the key to working the regeneration system?”

Mandy nodded. “A part of it, yes.”

“Then let’s get the workings of the system untangled before we talk to Lisa.”

“The discoveries may go hand-in-hand.”

“Ok, well let’s see how far we can get on our own,” TJ said. “I don’t want to get her hopes up if it turns out we really can’t get the machine to work again.”

Amanda understood and decided to keep TJ in the loop, but she was sure her idea would work once the math was unraveled. She was going to figure out the puzzle, help Dr. Park, then find a way to free Ginn. There was no way she was going to give up now.

Chapter Text

Dr. Nicolas Rush never gave a shit about what people thought of him. He didn’t care growing up in a working class community in Scotland, he didn’t care as the scholarship kid at Oxford, and he certainly didn’t care about the opinions of the academia and, eventually, government bureaucratic snobs who wanted to dictate his career.

No, as the smartest one in the room, Rush always kept his eye on the goal. Working his way up the ladder, he swallowed his fair share of bullshit over the years, but now he felt he earned the right to dish out said shit having reached the top of the food chain.

Working on Icarus, Rush’s determination to figure out the solution to the ninth chevron consumed his every waking moment. Once he boarded Destiny, his focus sharpened to see only the mission, which helped him repress the emotional turmoil nagging the back of his mind. Thanks to his foresight, dedication to his studies, and knowledge of the Ancients, this crew survived.

Sure, a lot of these people would say the result was due to teamwork and communication, but in the end, he was the one to figure out the code to control the ship. He uncovered the true nature of the mission. While the crew carried on and on about descendants, Rush found the materials necessary to keep the ship’s air flowing and life support running effectively. If he lost his focus during some of their encounters like Eli or even Colonel Young at some points, Rush was confident they wouldn’t be here now.

Emotionally, he sat above the common folk with the ability to shut off his feelings in favor of work. He wasn’t the sort to be romantic or sentimental, especially not in his adolescence. He enjoyed his conquests, but work and achieving his goals always came first. Gloria changed him. Oh, Rush was still ambitious, but Gloria somehow coaxed him off his perch and helped him see and enjoy the simplicities of life. Gloria understood him, loved him, and encouraged Rush to smell the roses every now and then. Sometimes literally. She did love her gardens.

One lesson Rush learned from his marriage was that when he loved, he did so the same way he did everything else – wholly and completely. After her death, Rush didn’t think he could open up and show his vulnerable side ever again. Honestly, he didn’t think he needed to because he took from the experience what he needed.

However, he never expected to meet someone who would go one step farther and force open his vulnerable side and leave him bare and defenseless to their connection. The occurrence happened slowly over many years, changing gradually, but the end result left him devastated on all new levels.

Every word Rush told Mandy about them being soulmates was utterly true. Whereas Gloria could coax Rush down to her level, something he needed every so often, Amanda climbed up to his perch, on occasion, even hovering over him. She met him on an even playing field intellectually and more often than not, kept him on his toes. Amanda’s patience and understanding enabled her to debate the Ancients for hours, make him laugh when he was in the sourest of moods, and all the while, fully understand his work. Mandy could speak the language of his thought process, which bonded them irrecoverably.

Fool that he was, Rush failed to realize how vital Mandy was to his existence until he was aboard Destiny. He fell in love with her mind ages ago, but never accepted the truth, and ended up taking her for granted. Rush was certain he would have come to his senses eventually, but events unfolded as they should. Mandy touched him in ways he never thought possible. Were they still on Earth, he never would have let her handicap stand in the way.

Instead, he suffered the agony of her loss over and over again while trying to survive a billion light years away in the middle of uncharted territory. The first time she left, after using the communication stones, Rush felt her absence keenly. During this time, he became aware of the hole in his heart and mind where she belonged and yearned for her conversation and company.

Then and there, Rush knew he would do whatever it took to bring Amanda back. Little visits would be enough. He swore he would be satisfied with small links to her until he could fulfill the mission. Afterwards, he would find a way for them to ascend together to a higher plane.

Mandy’s actual death changed those plans. In fact, Rush felt altered forever by her loss. For the first time, the mission didn’t matter. For her, Rush would have left behind all he valued and abandoned his life’s work if it meant getting revenge on the person who killed her.

Turns out, revenge felt no better than a hollow husk, hardly making the injustice of her murder feel any less devastating. He even confessed to Eli the fulfillment was an empty one. Yes, Simeon was dead, but he woke up every day knowing Amanda was gone forever and there was no way her beautiful, brilliant mind could ever be replaced.

Yet again, Destiny had other ideas. Perhaps, through the neurological link, the ship knew how vital Amanda Perry was to his existence, or perhaps the fates of the universe intervened, but Rush didn’t care in the end because Mandy was spared. By some miracle, her consciousness remained tethered to them and they had a second chance. At least, they started to before the simulation took her away again.

The fresh wound sliced acutely through his being. There was no getting used to such deep, terrifying loss, no matter how many times he was forced to suffer it. This time around was perhaps worse than all the others. The best miracle of all getting Mandy back, body and soul, knowing a real future was finally possible, was once again torn away. Fate seemed determined to torture the hell out of him, apparently.

Mandy walked this ship, her presence the best of comforts, but she didn’t know him. She lost all memory of what connected them and how much they meant to each other, but Rush refused to give up or give in because Amanda was as essential to him as air. Just when they were coming back around again, she regains her past and foolishly thinks they would be better off alone?

Rush knew better. Neither of them could really survive without the other, but Amanda needed to discover this realization on her own. He meant what he said when he told her they wouldn’t be apart for long. One of them would break and make the first move. Though walking these halls, having Mandy near but unable to hold or touch her, was hell enough, but he wouldn’t budge first. Mandy would come to him. She would realize what her heart and mind already knew to be true and then maybe they could finally have a happy future together.

In the meantime, Rush wasn’t in the mood to put up with nonsense. He acted grumpy and irritable and didn’t care who suffered his temper. There was too much going on and he didn’t have time to tolerate incompetence. The slow progress of the mission didn’t help matters.

Staying away from Mandy came easily enough, but watching from afar as she grew friendlier with TJ and others took a toll. Rush wanted Mandy bonding with him. Since her memories returned, Mandy seemed to have reached an understanding with Eli and they started working together in the equation hall and the regeneration chamber. Gradually, Young asked her to help with some of the day-to-day calculations. Eli acted as her guide, but avoiding her became more of a challenge.

When they did glance at each other, usually from across rooms or down corridors, their looks were heated and full of promise. Rush nearly said fuck all to his pride and went to her quarters one night, but put an end to the impulse when a call distracted him.

With the news that the Langaran supply line would be temporarily closed due to an emerging Lucian Alliance threat set the crew on edge. They refueled the ship, found more supplies, and didn’t run into any alien threats, but the lack of fresh clothing and some real shaving cream had most up in arms. Funny how people became so spoiled, so fast.

The FTL systems were acting up, so Young called a meeting on the bridge. Rush was a few minutes later due to some rewiring repairs and stopped short at the sight of Mandy standing next to Eli, but quickly recovered. The several seconds he could only stare at her, wondering how she could be so beautiful and so far away and how much he wanted to tell everyone else to fuck off as he yanked her into his arms for the through kiss, he noticed Mandy purposely avoided looking at him. Obviously, Rush wasn’t prepared and struggled to regain control of his baser urgings.

Listening with half and ear to Young prattling on, Rush glanced across the bridge at the woman who owned his very soul. Seeing the blush coating her cheeks, he felt a selfish surge of satisfaction. He could read Amanda like a book and seeing her glancing at everyone else, he could tell her blood burned with desire and longing. Her resolve was slipping. The torture would soon be over, or so he thought. There was a limit to his tolerance and when Young ordered him to accept Mandy’s help with repairs, guiding her back into the field, he flatly refused. Surprised, Young pressed the issue, but Rush simply did what came naturally and turned to march off the bridge.

Embarrassed and hurt by his rebuff, Amanda ran after him. Yes, they weren’t a couple, but did that really mean they couldn’t be cordial? Civil? Maybe even friends?

“Rush,” she called as she ran to catch up with him. “You didn’t have to leave like that!”

When Rush whirled around, Mandy stopped dead in her tracks as her heart fell to her knees. Frozen as she watched him approach, she could see the storm swirling in those dark depths, fuelled by a stubborn determination she knew all too well. Breath hitching, Mandy felt her whole body warm when Nick leaned close to speak in her ear.

“Yes, I did,” he growled huskily, fully aware of the goosebumps breaking out on Mandy’s skin. Good. He wanted her to take every syllable to heart.

Leaning back just enough to catch her gaze, Rush’s voice sounded as rough as scrapping gravel. “Because every time I look at you, all I can think about is fooking you.”

Hearing his thick accent, Mandy couldn’t help but shiver in delight. Finding her voice proved difficult, but she somehow managed to gather her wits. “The space is good for both of us,” she repeated. “The physical aspects are too intense and-”

Having none of it, he cut off her words with a low growl. “Don’t you dare, Amanda. You know me. The love I feel for you developed over a meeting of minds and mutual understanding, I fell fully and completely and I don’t hide it. I don’t play games. The physical part of our relationship is as intense and vital as the rest. I’m in this for the long haul, as I’ve said, and when you’re ready to acknowledge that, and want to stop looking for excuses to stay apart, then you know where to find me.”

Speechless, Mandy helplessly watched as Rush stomped away, feeling him steal her warmth in his wake. He eyes followed him until he rounded the corner before releasing the breath she held. Pinching the bridge of her nose, she gathered her composure before rejoined the others.

Mandy made her decision to protect him - the both of them – but was he right? Was she searching for excuses? After everything, how could she survive without Rush in her life? At the same time, how could she live with herself if something happened because she crossed a line? There was no easy answer. All she knew was that she wasn’t sure how much longer she could stay away from Nicholas.

****

“You should talk to him,” TJ advised as she and Amanda tried puzzling out theories over dinner in the mess hall. No one was around at this hour and they had the place to themselves.

“I did talk to him,” Mandy admitted softly.

“No, you fought with him,” TJ corrected. “The two of you need to sit down and really discuss what is going on. Share your fears and expectations. I never got the chance to do that with my baby’s father and I regret it.”

Nodding, Amanda valued Tamara’s opinion because they grew close during recent events, and after learning more details of her past, she knew TJ’s life experience was sound. There was a lot of issues they haven’t addressed since her memories returned and Mandy knew she should sit down with Rush and clear the air.

TJ examined her earlier and gave Mandy a clean bill of health, but she carried a nagging feeling that her new life was too good to be true. Perhaps she was meant to give up Rush? Her heart screamed in denial at the thought, but how could she finally have all she ever dreamed of without paying some sort of price? After talking to TJ, Amanda resolved to seek Nicholas and talk.

Leaving the mess, Amanda wondered the ship to clear her head. With so much going on, she really didn’t have time to turn her attention to the crew’s treatment of her. Many remained weary and continued giving her a wide birth, but along with her memories came a confidence in knowing who she was and so she didn’t worry much about what others were doing.

Mandy seized the opportunity this new confidence afforded when she saw Rush on the observation deck. When he spotted her, he turned to leave, but Amanda called his name before she could overthink the situation. Seeing Rush pause, her heart kicked into overdrive as she approached.

“Can we talk?”

Crossing his arms over his chest, Rush wasn’t yet ready to let go of his anger. “About what?”

“Us,” Mandy said.

Sighing, raking a hand through his hair, Rush couldn’t deny her, no matter how much he may want to hold a grudge. They did have a lot to discuss, so he nodded. Placing a light hand on her elbow, he guided her to one of the couches. Luckily, no one else lingered to overhear the conversation. The silence dragged on a few more moments before she asked the question plaguing her mind for a while now.

“Why did you never contact me and tell me you were alive?”

Lacing his fingers through hers, Rush held tight. Amanda deserved the truth, so she would receive it. Inhaling a bracing breath, Rush answered.

Chapter Text

“I didn’t want to go back,” Rush confessed, still holding her hand. Eyes going to the stars beyond, he took a moment to gather his thoughts. There was no reason to hide from Mandy considering all they’ve been through so far. She knew what drove him, what inspired him, and his logic. She would understand.

“I don’t think there was anything left for me on Earth,” he continued. “I was here, on Destiny, and I had a job to do. I was so focused on unlocking all the ship’s secrets that I lost sight of the single reason I should want to return home.”

Tearing his eyes from the view, Rush met Amanda’s gaze dead on. “You.”

Seeing her eyes swell with tears, he gave her hand a reaffirming squeeze, gently brushing the pad of his thumb over her skin. Inching closer, he inhaled her scent, glad she wasn’t pulling back.

“Our friendship kept me going after Gloria’s death. You know that. There were mornings I woke up knowing I had to talk to you and couldn’t wait to run ideas by you.”

A smile tugged at Rush’s lips at the memory. Looking at her face again, his expression sobered. “I was here for months knowing something was missing, but never being able to put my finger on it with all the scrambling for survival going on. Then the ship, in all her infinite glory, broke in such a way that made me think of you.”

Amanda couldn’t hold back a little laugh. “Are you saying Destiny did it on purpose?”

“Maybe,” he admitted. “Probably. All I knew for sure is that I knew I had to get you on board just to see you –to talk to you. I thought I was sure of my feelings for you then, but I had an encounter that reminded me of my past.”

Remembering him talking about reliving losing Gloria, the way he rejected her, Amanda tried to put some space between them, but Rush was having none of it. Holding firm to her hand, he cupped her cheek, forcing her gaze to his.

“The moment we were together, I couldn’t stop thinking about you. Even when I had the answers to the master code, I was slowly realizing what I felt for you wasn’t going away.”

Heart racing, Mandy couldn’t speak. As much as she wanted him to keep talking, to say what she longed to hear, but her fear of being disappointed ate away at her confidence.

“I was arrogant,” Rush continued. “I realize that now. You died because of me. Because I was selfish and I wanted you here. The one person in all the universe who knew me.”

Shaking her head, she pried Rush’s fingers away from her cheek to hold his palm to her chest as she shook her head. “None of what happened was your fault!”

Expression flooding with denial, Rush still recalled the grief of that moment, and the guilt. “I knew when you came here a second time making things work would be near impossible, but I didn’t care. I couldn’t stop wanting you. I told you I thought a lot about you and I was going to tell you I loved you, Amanda, but I never got the chance. Somehow, even if all we could ever have were the communications, I convinced myself it would work and be worth sacrifice. If only talking to you for a small amount of time, it would be enough and I knew you would think the same.”

A look passed between them in that moment and Amanda was certain they were both aware of the truth: the stones would never have been enough. Not for them and not for their love. “I was hopelessly in love with you,” she whispered. “I would have agreed to anything.”

Cringing slightly at the use of the word “was”, Rush forged ahead. He needed Amanda to understand everything. She had to know the whole story.

“For the first time,” he pressed on, “I thought I found love again, but in the blink of an eye, you were gone.” He swallowed hard. “I killed the man who took you from me and I have no regrets.”

Mandy never wanted such burdens for him. “Nick-”

“I forged ahead,” he interrupted. “Focused again on the mission, but Density…I don’t know how, but in my mind I call it a miracle we found your consciousness. When you and Ginn were successfully downloaded, I thought you were happy. I thought I finally got my wish. You were here with me, just as I dreamed.”

“Nick-”

Barely aware of her pained expression, he continued because he needed to say his piece. “I should have been content. I was for a time, but I wanted a deeper connection. When you told me about the simulation program, I didn’t hesitate.”

A single tear slid down her cheek. “That was all my fault,” she whispered passed the lump in her throat. “I nearly killed you because I wasn’t thinking clearly.”

Rush disagreed. “It wasn’t honest mistake, Mandy.”

“No, it-”

“Please, listen.” Untangling their fingers, he cupped her face, forcing those blue eyes to look at him. “I meant every word I said to you there. I know you didn’t believe me before you were expelled into quarantine and that tortured me, Mandy. A computer could never judge how much I love you. How much I need you.”

Licking her lips, fighting tears, Amanda had no idea what to say. “Rush, I-”

“I think the program failed because human emotions are just so layered and complicated and the computer couldn’t see how our perceptions transformed into feelings. Amanda, I don’t want you to ever think I don’t love you because you have my heart in your hands. You have for a very long time now.”

Hearing the words felt like a balm to her sore heart. Even so, something still weighed her down, threatening to crush the happiness that dared to rise. Moving to rest her forehead to his, Mandy’s eyes drifted closed as she cherished the sensation of his arms winding around her shoulders to cuddle her close.

“I wanted you so much,” she confessed, trying desperately to control her emotions. “All my life, all I wanted was the touch of another human being. I fell so in love you and I thought the simulation would make all of my dreams come true. I could be a whole person there. I was someone worthy of love and devotion. I could be normal. I wouldn’t be disabled or just a hollow image. I would be real and you would truly want me.”

Choking back his tears, Rush nuzzled her neck. “I want you, Mandy,” he breathed.

Leaning back, she opened her eyes. “I didn’t want to let you go. I never wanted it to end and maybe, subconsciously, I was what caused the problem that nearly killed you.”

“Mandy-”

“Because how could you want to leave if you loved me? What I did wasn’t fair and you have no idea how sorry I am.”

Wiping the tears from her cheeks, Rush pulled her closer. “It’s alright,” he whispered thickly. “None of that matters now.”

“I’m so ashamed,” she choked. “I wanted you my whole life, but you always belonged to someone else, or something else. For once, I wanted you to be mine.”

“Amanda-”

“I knew you were married when my crush started, so I tried to get over it, but after Gloria died, we grew closer and I couldn’t turn it off. All I wanted to do was help you.”

“And you did,” Rush swore, kissing her cheeks. “I never would have gotten through that without you.”

Swallowing, Mandy wanted to sink into his touch and forget, but they were being honest and she needed him to know her point of view as well. “Eventually, I saw you pour all you heart and soul into your work. Discovering the solution to the ninth chevron kept you going and I knew I wasn’t the reason you endured, but every time we had one of our chess matches or spoke for hours on end, I hoped.”

“You were – are – a big part of my life,” Rush continued. “You were the only person I could confide in. You were my only friend. The only one I ever trusted.”

Hearing the words, Amanda managed a small smile. “But you didn’t love me. Not that way I loved you, and I knew it.”

“That’s not true-”

“I suppressed my feelings as best I could,” she insisted. “I know what I was-”

“That never mattered to me! You know it didn’t-”

“But it mattered to me!” Inhaling a bracing breath, she forced out the rest of the secrets she held so dear. “What man wants a woman who can’t be physical? Who can’t give him a family?”

“Amanda, that’s ridiculous,” he said with soft insistence as he stroked her cheek.

“It’s how I felt.” Swallowing, she couldn’t stop shaking. “Those are things I wanted with you.”

Running his fingers through her hair, Rush pulled her against his chest, hoping to communicate with touch what words couldn’t convey. Wrapping her arm around his shoulders, Amanda let her fingers glide through his hair while resting her cheek on his shoulder and taking in the sensation of being held. The rest of her confession could be told if she wasn’t looking directly at him.

“When I heard about what happened on Icarus, the planet being destroyed, I was devastated. I thought I lost you.”

Even now, the idea of Nick dying made her throat close. Feeling Rush hold her tighter, she managed to continue.

“I was inconsolable until I heard you were alive on Destiny. Once the relief and joy passed, the realization I would never see you again sank in. We would never play chess or talk all night or run ideas about the Ancients over the screen. I lost you all over again, but I was happy you were alive doing what you always wanted. You dialed the ninth chevron and I was so proud of you.”

At the memory, Amanda smiled even as Rush started rocking her.

“Then you needed my help,” she laughed a little. “The communication stones gave me a once-in a-lifetime opportunity to see you again. I knew I had to tell you how I felt because I may never get another chance.”

Remembering how nervous she felt then, Amanda sighed. “It took me weeks to gather up the courage. You refused me, and it hurt, but seeing your pain over Gloria, all I really wanted was to comfort you like I used to and hold you. Finally, hold you.”

Continuing to rock Mandy gently, Rush closed his eyes remembering the same moment.

“Oh, Mandy,” he whispered before kissing her neck and settling back into her embrace. “Looking back, it was Destiny’s way of helping me unlock the code while putting my past into perspective. I wasn’t ready to move on back then. I didn’t want to hurt you, but the second you left I couldn’t fill the empty space in my heart with work or memories of my past. I couldn’t stop thinking about you.”

Easing back, she gave him a wide smile. “When I returned that second time, I started to hope. I was thrilled when you finally kissed me. Dazed and confused all at once,” she laughed. “Silly, I know.”

“No,” he breathed as he returned her smile. They were on the brink of admitting their feelings in that moment, but events got in their way. As they both remembered what came next, their expressions sobered.

“I didn’t want to go back after that kiss.” Amanda could admit the truth now, after all that happened. “If you had told me you loved me, I don’t know how I would have been able to let the connection sever me from you to return to my own life.”

Pulling her back into his arms, Rush held her so tight her breasts flattened against his chest. Weaving his fingers through her hair, Rush refused to allow her to feel guilty for what happened. “None of that matters now. You’re here and whole. We never have to be separated again.”

Though she didn’t want to lose his comfort, Amanda pulled back. Slipping out of his arms, she knew all their honesty meant nothing if she didn’t explain her decision. “I don’t rust myself, Nick. Please understand.”

Rush only shook his head in confusion. “What are you saying?”

“What if I do something to endanger you again? What if I hold on too tight and-”

“I’ve already told you that won’t happen,” Rush insisted. “We don’t need computer programs to be together, Amanda. We are here in the real world.”

“But I am talking about the real world, Rush!”

Having trouble processing her words, he blinked rapidly. “We’ve been given a second chance to have our dreams. We’ve both been through hell and now you want to throw it all away?”

“No!” Mandy’s eyes pleaded with him. “That’s not what I want, but I-”

“Every day on this ship is a risk,” he argued. “I don’t want to live with regret wondering what might have been. I thought you finally realized you didn’t either. That we were worth the risk.”

Fresh tears slid down her cheeks. “We are, but-”

“Do you believe me when I tell you I love you?”

“Rush, I-”

Shaking his head, he rose. Why wouldn’t she say his first name? Why wouldn’t she look at him?

“The love I have for you is entirely different from what felt for Gloria, but it is as equally important to me. I will always love Gloria, but she is my past! You, Amanda Lillian Perry, are as essential to me as breath!”

“I don’t want to hurt you!”

“One day at a time,” he stressed. “That’s how we live our lives and we savor every second we have of it.”

Every instinct screamed for her to get up, hug Rush close, and take the chance, but instead she remained fixed in her seat. “I wish I knew the answer, but-”

Her words trailed off when Rush’s hand cupped her cheek, forcing her to look at him. “I told you before we wouldn’t be able to stay away from one another. Our love is too strong, Mandy. Soon enough, you’ll see the truth for yourself.”

Throat closing, she wanted to grasp him and make him stay, but Rush was suddenly too far way, heading out the door. Alone, she looked to the stars. They cleared the air, but things between them still weren’t resolved. Not yet. Drawing her knees up under her chin, Mandy gave into her tears, having no idea what to do next.

Chapter Text

All the decisions about the past must have triggered a spark in her subconscious. Without Rush by her side, Amanda couldn’t sleep. The nightmares pursued her despite her memories returning. Her past was difficult to live with, which explained her restlessness.

One terrifying scene kept playing on repeat behind her eyes and she woke up every time shivering in fear. That face would haunt her the rest of her life. The face of the monster who set these events into motion.

A very tiny part of Amanda wondered if she should be grateful because her death led to her having this new life, but a split second later, she would think of Ginn and guilt squeezed her chest. Ginn wasn’t living the life she deserved. The dreams reminded Mandy of the promise she made to free her friend and to make things right and there was a lot of work to be done.

After another terrifying nightmare, Amanda focused her energy on equations and getting the sequences down on paper. Only when she was sure the images were spent on the page did she head to the equation hall to write the numbers on the walls. Somewhere in this puzzle of numbers rested the key to working the regeneration system – the answer to helping Ginn and Dr. Park.

On the third night after her talk with Rush, Mandy heard news of Greer being more lucid and making great progress. Grateful, Amanda avoided visiting during normal hours, not only because she didn’t want another confrontation with Lisa, but also because enough guilt weighed down her shoulders at the moment.

This whole time, Mandy yearned desperately for Rush. She craved the comfort of his arms, his voice softly whispering in her ear how everything would be alright, and the sensation of his mouth kissing away her tears until only desire filled her being. Pride kept her from running to him, however. Rush refused to believe they could stay apart, especially now when the truth was out in the open, but Mandy couldn’t get over the fact that because of her one, stupid mistake she nearly lost the man she loved.

Try as she might, Amanda would rather be alone then dare run the risk of harming Rush in any way. True, she was no longer in the computer, but the Nakai attack proved a strong reminder of how many other dangers loomed around the corner. Her greatest fear was clinging so tightly to Rush and their relationship that she lost perspective and made another vital mistake that put the ship, crew, and Rush at risk.

Even when logic convinced her letting Rush go would be the best course of action, her heart screamed in protest. There was no way she could simply switch off her desires or stop dreaming about having a life with him. One way or another, she must reconcile her feelings because sooner or later she and Rush may have to work together.

They did make a great team. Smiling at the memory of first coming on board to help Rush, Mandy wasn’t sure if she would ever be able to fully let him go. Was she worrying over nothing? Was Rush right when he said they could make this relationship work?

The ongoing debate remained in the back of her mind. Rush was the first thing she thought about when she woke up and the last before she closed her eyes. Amanda never wanted to escape their love, but would embracing her feelings and being happy really be so simple? Such questions haunted her days.

The next night, waking on a scream, covered in sweat, dizzy and sick, Amanda fell out of bed, running for the door. She didn’t care who saw her, but luckily the halls were vacant at this hour. Making it to the toilet, she lost the contents of her stomach. Squeezing her eyes shut, she sobbed as the memories attacked. The face of the man who murdered her taunted her with every breath she drew into her aching lungs.

She remembered the way he smiled when he entered her quarters, his stench when he got close enough to grab her throat, and the callous void of his eyes as she struggled to breathe. Crying harder, Mandy couldn’t stop the sickness. She wasn’t in control anymore and her fear threatened to pull her under.

Without warning, warm arms wrapped around her shoulders as a wet cloth pressed to her neck, cheeks, and mouth. Someone was here, helping clean her up. The touch felt so familiar and Mandy knew instantly who cradled her and, as a result, wasn’t afraid.

“Rush,” she breathed as she eased back into his hold.

“There now,” he crooned. “You’re safe. It’s alright. I’m here.”

Whimpering with relief, Amanda forgot all the reasons why she should stay away from his comfort. Rush was here when she needed him and that’s all she cared to know. He always found her. Twisting to wrap her arms around his neck, Mandy held tight, soaking the sensation of his frame and his scent as if to imprint the moment into her memory.

“Bad dreams,” he asked softly as he rubbed her back.

Feeling her nod, Rush urged her to rise and helped Amanda to the sink to wash and dry her face once again. At first, she accepted his help, but the more her senses returned to normal, the farther she drew away from him. Mandy didn’t know it, but since their last talk, he kept a watchful eye over her to make sure she was well after…everything. He remained steadfast in his belief Mandy would come around to realizing their love could never be denied, but she was as stubborn as ever and on a mission to prove she could be a functioning member of the crew.

Since the attack, many grew at ease with the idea of Amanda walking among them. She proved she was just like them by saving one of their own, which went a long way in courting goodwill. Sure, a handful persisted in being apprehensive, but Rush figured they would come around in time. Of course, everyone recognized the silent understanding that Mandy was under his protection. Rush may not be the strongest man on the ship, or a soldier, but he was one of the smartest and could easily make anyone’s life a living hell. Something he planned to do to James if she doesn’t shape up.

“Do you want to talk about it, at least,” Rush asked when Mandy set her appearance to rights. “I’m still your friend.”

Fighting the urge to cry, she glanced at the man she loved, unable to hide her emotional turmoil. As much as she needed him, Amanda wanted to be strong enough not to lean on him every time things got rough. Rush didn’t care about her struggle for emotional independence and instantly came forward, wrapping her in his embrace, promising whatever was wrong they would make it through together.

Oh, how she wanted to take comfort in his promises! As always, Mandy sank into his frame, wishing so much about their lives were different. As a result, the words just poured from her lips and she couldn’t stop them.

“I remember my death,” she whispered. “I keep seeing his face. I know his name was Simeon. Ginn told me as much.”

“Mandy,” Rush breathed as he held her tighter, wishing he could have protected her, saved her. Well, he was here now and he wasn’t about to let Simeon ruin Amanda. Not again.

“Simeon is dead,” Rush explained as he held her tighter, cradling the back of her head in his palm. “He will never harm you ever again. I promise.”

Blinking rapidly, Amanda fought to reign in her churning emotions. Crying in Rush’s arms would be so easy, so natural, but she needed some space before she could talk. Gently detangling from his hold, she moved several paces away in a vain effort to control the sudden anger.

“I should have done something!” Wrapping her arms around her middle, Amanda fought back tears. Losing the battle, she felt a few drops slip down her cheeks.

Remembering Simeon entering her quarters, the look in his eyes, Amanda realized too late she should have called for help the moment he crossed the threshold. The second the door closed, Simeon charged. Before she could register what was happening, hands clamped around her neck, squeezing hard and cutting off her air supply - her life - and there was nothing she could do to stop it!

“He grabbed me and I froze,” she confessed through tears.

Rush’s hand reached for her, but Mandy shied away. At the moment, she couldn’t bear to look at him and see pity or judgement. The confusion swirling with embarrassment and shame tore at her pride, making her feel unworthy of his concern. Yet, the story poured from her lips, her emotions obviously ruling her head.

“I was scared,” she continued, unable to keep the words inside. “I forgot I could move. I couldn’t command my limbs properly in order to defend myself, and then I was trapped and helpless and I don’t know why I reacted like that!”

As more tears fell, Mandy wiped angrily at her cheeks. “It’s my fault Ginn died,” she whispered. “I should have done something! Instead, I became paralyzed and he killed her – us.”

“Mandy,” Rush choked as he carefully inched closer to her trembling body. “Simeon was unhinged. Even if you did fight back, neither you, nor Ginn, would have beaten him. He knew exactly what he was doing.”

“I still should have done something!”

Resisting the primal urge to yank Mandy into his arms and rock her until her tears were spent, Rush noticed how she kept an even amount of space between them. He wouldn’t force her to accept him with her guard up. These memories were clearly taking a toll, and Mandy‘s struggle to cope with the trauma should be handled with care. More than anything, Rush wanted Mandy to lean on him and trust in their love and friendship to make it through this misery. Unfortunately, Rush couldn’t force her to accept their bond.

Embarrassed by her reaction and her tears, she leaned against the opposite wall wondering what Rush thought of her now. As often as the man vexed and delighted her, Amanda cherished his approval. Yes, she had his love but…she didn’t want him to think less of her for her cowardice.

Moving to her side, Rush couldn’t resist carefully taking her hand in his, covering his fingers over her soft skin and giving a supportive squeeze. Wordlessly, he guided her away from the wall, out of the lavatory, and back to her quarters. The best solution would be to tuck Amanda into bed and make sure she got a full night’s rest.

Moving to sit on the edge of the bed, Amanda didn’t protest or draw back when Nick moved to sit beside her. If anything, she craved the solace of his company.

“No one blames you for what happened,” Rush said softly. “The fault was, and always will be, Simeon’s.”

Her eyes glanced at his face. “And he’s dead.”

Rush blinked at her bluntness, but nodded. “Yes.”

Amanda’s head titled slightly to the side. “You risked a lot by doing that.”

Unable to conceal his surprise, he automatically took her hand. “How do you know about that?”

“When I got my memories back, I spoke to Eli. He told me the story. How you stopped at nothing and risked being left behind on that planet. All for me.”

Never flinching, Rush cradled her once more. “And I would do it all again for you, Amanda. I love you so much.”

Shaking her head, she looked at their joined hands. “I never should have put all of this on you,” she managed. “I feel silly for crying, happy Simeon is dead, but guilty you were the one to kill him. I never would have wanted that pain and burden on your shoulders. I never-”

“Don’t,” he said thickly. “Amanda-”

“There’s no shame between us,” she interrupted. “Isn’t that what you’re always saying?”

“Yes,” he nodded, eyeing her cautiously.

Cupping his face in her hands, Amanda needed to tell him what was in her heart before the moment passed. “I am sorry I left you with that pain and grief. I never would have wished for you to-”

Grabbing her arm, Rush pulled her forward so he could hug her tight as memories of the anger, grief, and agony of her loss tore through him. The moment he felt her soft breasts crushing against him, he squeezed his eyes shut. “I missed you so much.”

Sinking into his hold, her arms wrapped around his shoulders, knowing they both needed the comfort of contact. Inhaling his masculine scent, she didn’t see the harm in allowing her guard down after the onslaught of memories they shared.

Before now, the only other time they were able to feel s connected by holding one another was in the simulation, but this moment was real. Mandy was in his arms, he in hers, and they were both alive and well to savor the connection. Finally being together was all they ever dreamed of.

They didn’t need words to remember the events surrounding her death. Instead, they took comfort in the knowledge what was lost was now found and they should cherish this opportunity. Together, they healed, letting the old wounds of guilt drift away to make room for some new, hopefully happy memories.

“I’ll watch over you until you fall asleep,” he whispered before shifting to ease her against the pillows.

Amanda didn’t resist as he tucked her into bed. Once settled, her hand clasped his as she brought his palm to her lips. “I love you, Nicholas.”

The words stole his breath and a shiver of awareness slid down his spine. Leaning forward, he pressed a kiss to her forehead. “I love you, too, Mandy. With all my heart.”

“I know,” she whispered as she drifted to sleep.

Did she? Rush’s heart slammed with hope as he watched her breath even out into a slow rhythm. Only when he was certain Amanda was content did he leave her in peace. Amanda seemed closer to choosing him, so he would be patient.

Chapter Text

Reading and re-reading the latest report, Telford’s anger tipped toward the boiling point. Young still used the alien attack as an excuse not to update him about his progress with the calculations regarding the Langaran supply line. McKay hit a brick wall, which meant they needed Eli Wallace’s input.

Politics between Langara and Homeworld Command were heating up over the issue. If they were able to send people, even one-way, to Destiny, then the Lucian Alliance would stop at nothing to take over the planet. All factions wanted the ship and if there was a direct line, Telford knew defending the planet would be key. However, his superiors and the Langaran government wanted progress suspended on getting people through the gate in order to better assess the threat the Alliance held over their heads. If word got out that the supply line could send people, they would have a war on their hands, which both the Langarans and Homeworld Command wanted to avoid.

For his part, Telford was ready to use the communication stones to get aboard Destiny and see for himself what was really going on with the research. He knew Everett well. The guy dodged questions when hiding something substantial. Whatever the secret, Telford would find out the details come hell or high water.

One excuse would sway the temporary hold on McKay’s efforts. Just one valid playing card and Everett would be relieved of command, paving the way for Telford, but only if he was able to cross the line to get on the ship. Mind swirling with possibilities as he left his office for a meeting, David wasn’t in the mood to tolerate McKay’s idiosyncrasies. Hearing the man prattle on about the delicate nature of the negotiations between the Langarans and the Lucian Alliance set Telford’s teeth on edge. Frankly, he didn’t give a fuck.

“Enough,” he snapped at McKay. “We need a way on that ship! Regardless of the current political climate, which can shift on a dime! Our original mission remains.”

“But I’ve been ordered-”

“I don’t care,” Telford shouted. “You will stay here and keep working. I’ll tell command it’s for another project, but I want this done, Rodney. Understand?”

Normally, McKay wasn’t afraid of Telford’s gruff manners, but today there something different sinister shined in his eyes, so McKay knew better than to argue. “We’re working as fast as we can, but there are certain equations I’ll need from Eli-”

“Like what,” Telford barked.

“Details about Density’s FTL and energy levels to accurately predict the stability of the wormhole activated by the gate-”

“What if you received this information another way?”

McKay blinked. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“The stones,” Telford said as he looked the famed scientist in the eye. “What if you went aboard Destiny and obtained the data yourself?”

“W-well, I think that could work, but these numbers can always flux.”

“But it will be a jumping off point, correct,” Telford pressed. “And we need to make progress, so the moment the heat dies down and the Lucian Alliance fades off, we need to get our personnel on that ship!”

McKay shifted nervously in his seat. “Do you really think they will fade into the background? They’ve been formidable for decades and-”

“They were crippled in the last battle,” Telford arrogantly reminded. “They’re no longer as organized or properly equipped. At this point, the Alliance is a fly buzzing around our head until we can squash it under our shoe.”

Though Telford sounded confident, McKay harbored doubts. The Lucian Alliance was like stubborn weed – just when you thought it was dead, it sprouts back up through the pavement cracks. If the Alliance wanted Destiny, the safest course would be leaving the research incomplete. Then again, if Homeworld Command didn’t order him to finish the work, the enemy just might. After all, his association with this project wasn’t exactly a secret.

“I’ll need a guarantee of protection,” McKay started. “I don’t want to be left out in the cold.”

A smirk spread across Telford’s face. “You’re actually afraid of the Alliance, Rodney?”

“I’m afraid of any sort of fallout here,” he asserted.

Laughing, Telford patted McKay on the back. “Don’t worry, my friend. You’re valuable enough to us to have access to surveillance and troops.”

The scientist’s jaw dropped. Even as Telford laughed harder, saying he was just joking, McKay still couldn’t shake the feeling there was a semblance of truth in the words. This mission grew more and more dangerous. Was it too late to back out?

****

Eating with TJ in the mess hall, Amanda ran some ideas by her with regards to the regeneration research. TJ wholeheartedly hoped they could save Lisa’s eyesight. If they could do so and eventually regenerate Ginn, maybe there was hope for her disease. The threat of her impending ALS hung over her head like an anvil waiting to drop since they emerged from stasis.

Talking to Amanda helped, especially now since she had her full memories and could truly understand TJ’s fears. Together, Amanda promised they would find a way for TJ to live a full life.

“How are things going with Rush,” TJ asked, eager to talk about a less heavy subject.

Blushing, Mandy ducked her head. “I’m not sure.”

TJ smirked. “How can you not be sure?”

“Because I haven’t seen him.”

Not since that nightmare about Simeon. Rush gave her space, making clear she would have to seek him now. Amanda’s heart desperately wanted to be with the stubbornly arrogant Scott, but her logic needed more time to reconcile a few facts. Dreaming about Ginn and endless equations was a good distraction though.

“You should talk to him.”

“We have talked,” Mandy sighed. “It’s just going to take some time. Have you spoken with the Colonel?”

Clearing her throat, TJ glanced at her food. “There is nothing to say.”

“I think we both know that’s not true.”

Sighing, Tamara didn’t like getting a taste of her own medicine, even if she deserved it.

“You both love each other,” Amanda continued.

“But the uniform gets in the way,” TJ sighed.

“Did it before?”

“The situation here is very, very different. He is the only one who can set the example.”

“No one here would fault the two of you for wanting to be together,” Mandy insisted. “Besides, didn’t he get a divorce? You can be together now.”

“If we were civilians, perhaps, but I’m pretty much the doctor and he is our commander, so we can’t let the lines blur if we want to be responsible for the lives of others.”

Understanding, Amanda’s heart went out to her friend. Her situation with Rush seemed just as cloudy. True, she wanted to be with him and fell in love, but she also wanted to protect him. Yes, there weren’t any computer simulations to worry about now, but she would still have to share him and would struggle to let go and trust him to enter into dangerous situations. Could she know when to keep him close and when to give him space?

“Just because my love life is messed up doesn’t mean yours has to be,” Tamara continued. “You are good for Rush and he is good for you.”

Mandy wanted to believe her friend because she trusted her in so many other things, but the doubts still plagued the back of her mind. Shifting the conversation, Mandy felt comfortable enough to get TJ to explain a few issues regarding feminine hygiene and the like. They spoke of other topics as well, and Amanda opened up a little about her experiences with paralysis and her warring desires, but they also made a point to joke and laugh about movies they enjoyed on Earth.

By the time they went their separate ways, Mandy felt better about her current situation. TJ urged her to have faith, not only in Rush, but also in herself. Wandering the halls, she wasn’t fully aware of a direction, but ended up turning down the corridor with wall-to-wall equations. Ironically, she found Eli and Rush standing in front of her calculations discussing theories on the sequences.

Mandy did have theories of her own and old Eli and TJ for the sake of the regeneration project, but she wasn’t aware Rush knew the details. Approaching slowly, she smiled when the two men looked up and noticed her. Eli actually returned the gesture with a greeting.

“Hey,” he said.

“Hey,” Mandy said softly, standing with them. “What are you up to?”

“Just theorizing,” Eli answered.

“The math is incomplete,” Rush cut in, his tone slightly gruff. “Probably not in the right order either. Deciphering it will be a challenge.”

Recognizing the math professor line, Amanda nodded. “I’ve yet to find the key to the code, but I’m thinking it’s a lot like the way you broke the sequence to the main computer. A DNA sequence maybe.”

“Have you tried yours,” Eli asked. “Or Ginn's?”

“Mine doesn’t work and I don’t know Ginn’s.”

“We have a persevered sample-”

“No” Amanda said quickly. “I would prefer we leave that untouched. If we want Ginn back, we are going to need it.”

“I can do a quick scan,” he insisted. “Enough for TJ to get the basics without harming the sample.”

Amanda considered a moment, but remained firm. “It’s too soon to attempt that. I want to make sure we have all our ducks in a row before-”

“But we could need her DNA to break the code if-”

“Hey,” Rush snapped. “She said no.”

Eyes narrowing, Eli didn’t appreciate the interruption. “When it comes to resident genius, I think I hold the title,” he bit out.

“You’re no genius when you let personal feelings cloud the issues and your judgement. Take recent events-”

“Oh, like you haven’t done that exact same thing! You did it after she died,” Eli pointed an accusing finger at Amanda. “You did it when you refused to let anyone know you cracked the ship’s master code!”

“I had valid reason for keeping that to myself, as you well know!”

Eli turned to Dr. Perry for help. “He led a mutiny! Did you know that? Put us all in danger-”

“We are civilians with rights,” Rush shouted. “The military had no jurisdiction over any of us!”

“They were better equipped-”

“Enough!”

Both men turned startled expression to Mandy - quiet, subtle Dr. Perry – who just screamed her head off at them. After a few moments, she exhaled a breath and calmly continued.

“What is past is past. We can’t change it now, so Eli, I know you’re smart, but there are many equations and until I figure them out, I don’t want to jump the gun on Ginn’s DNA.”

Looking to Rush, her expression softened ever-so-slightly, but her tone remained rigid. “I think these equations are echoes from when my consciousness was in the computer. I’m not sure how they fit together yet, but I will be.”

“Fair enough,” he nodded. “I’m here if you need any help.”

“Thank you.”

“Yeah,” Eli mumbled. “Me, too.”

Smiling at Math Boy, Amanda was grateful they were all on the same page. “We should work together, but take it one day at a time.”

Eli looked like he was about to comment, but reconsidered at the last second. A long road lay ahead and he wanted Gin back now, but would have to be patient and tolerant if he hoped for results. As they started brainstorming, Eli saw Rush and Dr. Perry making groggily eyes at each other while trying to pretend they were aloof and professional. Frankly, he was jealous as hell that Rush got his woman back. Sure, they weren’t technically together, but judging by the tension in the air, he didn’t expect them to stay apart much longer.

Gathering his notes, Eli found an excuse to leave the couple to their work. Heading down the corridor, he glanced over his shoulder, unable to keep the smile off his face. Yeah, Dr. Perry and Rush wouldn’t be separated much longer.

When the sound Eli’s footsteps faded, Amanda couldn’t believe she felt so nervous. As desperately as she wanted to talk to Rush, she wasn’t sure how to begin. Inhaling a bracing breath, she finally managed to find her voice.

“Rush?”

“Yeah,” he asked as his fingers flipped pages of his notepad.

“Do you think we should talk?”

“We are talking.”

“I meant about…our situation.”

Eye snapping to her face, a hint of a smile curled his lips, but before he could get out a replay, his radio chirped. Volker and Brody needed his help.

“Go,” Mandy urged. “It’ll keep.”

Seeing Mandy return to writing on the wall, Rush didn’t want to leave her alone. Answering the summons, he supposed she was right about the matters between them keeping a little longer. Right now, they had to focus on the ship.

Chapter Text

The mission on the planet was supposed to be routine. The Langaran supply line was still down on their end due to the attack, so the crew started scouting planets for materials and supplies. While repairs were made to the gate, a team took the shuttle to the surface.

So wrapped up in her work, Amanda wasn’t even aware the team left until Volker entered the equation hall and told her. Apparently, the team landed on the planet two hours ago and she didn’t have a clue. Rush was among them, but Amanda shrugged off her fears. The stubborn Scott could take care of himself.

Volker started a conversation about work, asking about progress on her research for Dr. Park. Apparently, rumors ran rapid around there. “I’m not yet close enough to know what I need,” Mandy confessed. “I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up.”

“Well,” Dale managed a smile. “If you need anything, let me know. I’d be happy to help, for Lisa’s sake.”

“I will.” Mandy watched him leave, frowning in his wake, wondering if he had a deeper friendship with Dr. Park than she first assumed.

Continuing working until the numerals blurred, she took a long overdue break. Stretching her arms above her head, Mandy intended to return to her quarters for a nap, but began walking toward the regeneration chamber instead. Overwhelmed, she inhaled a deep breath before stepping over the threshold.

Staring at her surroundings for a long moment, her fingertips automatically smoothed over the closest console, wondering if she would ever get the epiphany needed to figure out this puzzle. The two cellular samples TJ found during Ginn’s autopsy were still safely preserved, but until they found a breakthrough in the research, no progress would be made. Moving toward the tube chambers, she stared at the space where she was reborn, yet felt…numb. The scientist within her took control, noting details about energy flows, analyzing the biological links to the system, and running through diagnostics of the structural make up of all the pods and connecting systems to get a better understanding of the whole process.

Oddly enough, the regeneration chamber seemed to run independently from the rest of the ship, needing almost no energy to maintain operations, but created a rather large surge when activated. At least, Mandy assumed as much reading the spike in the diagnostic results. Based on the data, the best time to activate the system would be just after Destiny refueled within a star. Activation while refueling could be dangerous, but worthy of further investigation.

Making notes, she realized she spent several hours here without realizing. Heaving a sigh, she tucked her notebook under her arm and headed back to her quarters. Kicking off her shoes, the memory of Rush giving them to her curved a smile across her face. Pacing the floors, Amanda didn’t feel tired, but knew her body needed rest. When Rush returned, they could talk, but until then, she should relax. Their separation was supposed to be a smart move, giving them both space to put their relationship into perspective. Yet, Mandy spent so much time analyzing her feelings, their past, the current situation, and suppressing her desires that she forgot all the reasons they were good together. Rush loved her through all the phases of her life so far, and the more she thought about it, the more Mandy felt she should trust in him.

Stomach twisting into nervous knots, she repeated there wasn’t a reason for her to be afraid. Rush swore he loved her and she believed him. Whenever she feared her hopes were the result of wishful thinking, she recalled the support Rush gave her when she first woke from her coma. The amnesia crippled her, but Rush gave his unconditional devotion, never giving up hope she would regain her memories and her footing. His actions backed up his words. Being able to read his expression at the drop of a hat and knowing his thought process, Amanda was the only one who could anticipate his behavior. She knew him almost better than he knew himself, so why couldn’t she take a chance on happiness?

More than anything, Mandy wanted her and Rush to be a team. She wanted to be by his side as his friend, colleague, and lover. Such a future was within their grasp – if he still wanted her, of course.

Yawning, she covered her mouth and sat on the edge of the bed. Fatigue attacked, forcing her to give in to the urges to rest. Settling against the pillows, she gave up on staying awake for Rush’s return. He would come to her. She knew it.

Three hours later, Mandy gasped awake, hand going to her throat as she swallowed hard. Tears dampened her cheeks and pillow. Sitting up, her eyes darted around the room, but noticing she was alone crushed her hopes. Rush didn’t come to her after all.

Rising, Amanda left her shoes under the bed as she headed to the gate room to see if the team returned. Spotting the shuttle on the dock, she felt the anger surge in her veins. Marching to Rush’s quarters, she didn’t bother knocking.

Asleep, Rush didn’t stir when Mandy entered. Pausing at the side of the bed to study his sleeping expression, she wasn’t sure how to proceed. Should she wake him? And say what? Watching him breathe, her anger gave way to her softer emotions, yet the love and devotion in her heart hurt as questions consumed her. Why didn’t he come to tell her he returned safely?

Sensing another presence, Rush’s eyes fluttered open and struggled to comprehend the sight looming above him. Mandy’s forlorn expression made his heart lurch in his chest as he sat up. Was she really here, or was he dreaming?

“Mandy,” he croaked as he raked a hand through his hair and blinked away the drowsiness.

“You didn’t come to me,” she said hoarsely.

Sighing, he cast her a helpless look. “Amanda-”

“I was worried,” she blurted.

Blinking, his breath caught in his throat. “You were?”

Nodding, she inched closer. “I thought something happened. I imagined-”

Breaking off, she shook her head as her throat closed. Tears would look so silly now, so she pushed down the impulse. Rush grasped her hand and she stiffened, but didn’t resist when he pulled her to sit by his side. Wrapping his arms around her, Rush rested his cheek on her shoulder, smiling when her hands smoothed up and down his back.

“I’m here now,” he whispered in her ear. “Everything will be alright.”

“Promise?”

Nodding, he kissed the side of her neck. “Promise.”

Seizing the opening, Amanda gathered her courage and leaned back to gaze her his handsome face. Inhaling a deep breath, she said what was in her heart.

“I love you, Rush,” she managed. “I love you so much it scares me.”

Breathing her name, he caressed her cheek.

“I don’t want to hurt you, or hold on so tight that I keep you form being who you are, or doing what you love. I still feel incredibly guilty about the simulation-”

“You shouldn’t,” he insisted.

Smiling softly, Amanda grasped his fingers, pulling them away from her cheek and to her mouth to give his knuckles a soft kiss.

“You’re a man whose mind is always working,” she continued, smiling as she caressed his fingers. Running fingertips over his skin, marveling at the roughly calluses on his palm. Working hands. Manly hands. Hands that could massage every inch of her body, bringing her untold pleasure if she only asked.

“I want to see you work here and fulfill this mission, but more than that I want to be by your side as you do that, Rush. I want to be yours. I want to love you.”

Gaze locking with hers, brimming with intensity, Rush hissed a breath. “Do you mean that, Amanda?”

“Yes,” she whispered.

His mouth crashed on hers, his tongue thrusting deep a second later. Shocked, several moments passed before Mandy relaxed enough to enjoy the touch. Head spinning, her arms embraced his shoulders, only vaguely aware of falling back against the pillows. Feeling his hands roaming over her body, Amanda reacted in the natural way with her blood warming, sending thrills of arousal through her being. The kiss went on and on with Rush coaxing the most delightful sensations from her, cupping her breast just right, and making her sigh into his mouth.

When they finally came up for air, both panting from the effort, yet still wrapped together, Mandy remembered she had more to tell him. Putting a finger to his lips when he moved in for another kiss, she gave him a warm smile.

“There are a few things I should clarify.”

Groaning, Rush bent to kiss and lick her neck. Feeling her body shiver from his touch, he smiled as his lips moved to her chin. Chuckling, he nuzzled her cheek. “Clarify away, lass.”

“I-” What did she want to say again? Arching into his body, Amanda forgot to keep a firm hold on her thoughts. “We…should…oh!”

His mouth gently sucked her earlobe, making her toes curl in delight. “Nick,” she breathed.

Hearing his name, loving the way she sighed the syllable, Rush kissed a path over her cheek before pulling back and flashing her a satisfied grin. “Yes?”

“I-” Licking her lips, struggling to find the words, she started again. “I think we should take things slow.”

“Slow?” He blinked with disbelief. “After everything we’ve been through?”

“Rush, please listen.”

Easing out of her embrace, he gave her one of his serious-scientist-on-the-verge looks before nodding for her to continue.

“I want us to build a real, solid foundation of our new circumstances. If I…cling too much, or-”

“Mandy,” he interrupted, cupping her face. “We aren’t perfect. We will makes mistakes and disagree, and probably fight, but it’s the tough times that test us and make us stronger. The sweet moments will be that much better for it.”

“I know,” she said softly. Running her fingers over his whiskers, she let out a sigh. “I just want to take things one day at a time. There have always been obstacles between us and maybe that was part of the allure.”

To her shock, Rush actually looked amused. “What,” she asked, baffled by his response.

“My dear, sweet, Mandy,” he chuckled. “We have already survived the worst parts a relationship could throw at us.”

“But I’m trying-”

“I know,” he assured her. Combing his fingers through her hair, his heart swelled with joy and loss. Mandy came to him as he predicted, realizing how much she loved him, which was the important thing. He didn’t care if she preferred the one-day-at-a-time approach as long as they were together.

“Then you don’t mind?”

Shaking his head, he pressed a tender kiss to her lips. “After losing you over and over again, I know this time will stick, so I’m not worried. Once you have more confidence about us making it through the long haul, then you’ll let me know.”

Jaw dropping, Amanda gasped at his audacity. “You are awfully full of yourself!”

HIs gaze turned serious. “You and I are meant to be together, Amanda. Always.”

His conviction nearly melted her resolve, but Mandy refused to become overwhelmed by the moment. “You really think that?”

“Now more than ever.”

Kissing him, she held tight as the touch grew passionate. This amazing man was willing to wait for her, love her, make her feel comfortable and her emotions swelled to the point she couldn’t stand it. How did she get so lucky to have him in her life? The miracle wasn’t lost on her.

When the heat of the kiss made her body throb with need, Mandy pulled back with a gasp. She wanted him. She wanted an orgasm and to give one in return, but tonight she feared things between them would go too far. Understanding her hesitation, Rush turned to rest on his side, gathering her into his arms to spoon against her back, whispering for her to lose her eyes and go to sleep. Following his command, Mandy doubted she would be able to get any rest, but with Rush’s hands stroking her arms, his soft murmurings a gentle lullaby, she soon drifted into the darkness.

Taking in the sight of her sleeping face, Rush knew there would be no going back for either of them. In this moment, he could feel all his dream of Mandy coming to full fruition. They could have it all: love, family, a life of adventure on this mission. Every happiness was within their grasp. For the first time in years, true bliss poured through his being.

Chapter Text

Falling into a routine, Amanda spent her days working on her equations, attempting to figure out the regeneration sequence, and forging solid friendships with Eli and TJ. Sometimes she worked with Rush, but mostly she toiled alone. Eli and Rush had a lot of other work taking precedent, so Eli couldn’t be spared for the regeneration project too often. In the evenings, Amanda filled her time playing chess, discussing the general commotions of the ship and crew, and watching the way Rush’s lips curled when he spoke or how his fingers brushed his whiskers when he fell into deep thought. There were times Rush would stay in her quarters, or she would linger in his, but both seemed to know their boundaries. Their relationship progressed slowly, consisting of mostly kissing and falling asleep in each other’s arms.

Mandy adored kissing him, allowing his taste and scent to envelope her senses, but every time Rush pushed for more, she shied away. Unsure why, Amanda felt his echoing frustration, but Nick never pressured her. Still, Mandy knew her fears were silly. They were in love and happy, so why was she so nervous?

After a long day in the equation hall, she returned to her quarters and prepared for bed. Not hearing from Rush was odd, but her fatigue urged her to get some sleep and worry about the details later. Nick was fine. Certain all was well; Amanda fell against the pillows hoping the nightmares would leave her in peace. Unaware of how long she slept, she woke feeling a presence and rolled over to see Rush standing by the side of the bed, concealed partially by shadow, his dark eyes gazing at her with such intensity Mandy’s heart gave a swift thump. He asked to stay and she nodded her permission, watching him walk around to the other side before removing his shoes, belt, vest, and overshirt then crawling beneath the covers. A tension lingered in the air Amanda couldn’t describe, so she resisted the urge to curl up behind him in her normal way.

He shouldn’t have come here, but Rush’s feet kept walking in the direction of her room despite his intentions. His need for Mandy couldn’t be denied, his rock hard manhood evidence of the fact. Fighting the pulsing cravings of his erection proved an ongoing battle. Squeezing his eyes shut, Rush swallowed, but his cock was throbbing.

“Mandy,” he choked, his voice cracking with need.

“What’s wrong,” she asked, concerned as she automatically reached for him.

Rolling on top of her, he pressed her body into the mattress, ignoring her shocked gasp as he desperately seized the tendrils of his control. As he forced her to keep still, Rush watched her eyes fill with shocked fear. Her reaction made him want to put her at ease, but the craving didn’t abate. She struggled, the question remaining in her eyes, but he couldn’t stop.

“I won’t hurt you,” he swore on a growl. “I promise. I just – God, Mandy I need you! Please!”

Shaking her head, she begged him to release her as she tried wrestling his body off her torso. “I’m not ready,” she pleaded as she tried breaking free. “I-”

“I won’t,” he groaned. “I promise. Just let me-”

Mandy’s eyes grew wide seeing Rush’s hand go for his pants. Freezing in alarm, she watched him open his fly, exposing his hard penis. At first, her heart pounded in trepidation, but curiosity soon took hold seeing the thick, long, and beautiful flesh. Mandy couldn’t tear her eyes away from his erection, licking her lips as her mouth went dry. A gasp tore from her when he pushed up her shirt before shifting his weight above her. Having no idea what he intended, she felt strangely afraid yet aroused as she pushed at his shoulders, but her efforts were in vain because Rush refused to budge.

“Let me,” he begged as he gripped his cock with one hand, his other pressing her shoulder to keep her in place. Stroking his length vigorously, Rush grinded his swollen tip into the soft flesh of her belly.

“Please –!”

So much emotion in the single word: need, hope, plea, disdain, shame. Shocked, yet amazed, Mandy watched him tug his cock, taking in the sounds of slapping flesh, the feel of his tip pumping against her skin, and the vibration of his hoarsely delighted groans. Unable to help her body’s reaction, Mandy’s blood warmed at the contact, her desires building as liquid pooled between her thighs.

The mixture of agonizing pleasure and desperation on his face made it impossible for her to look away. Seeing his eyes close in surrender despite his long locks curtaining his face, Mandy wanted to help him through this moment. No longer afraid, she knew Rush wouldn’t harm her. On impulse, Amanda took his face in her hands, brushing back his hair, and noticed how he refused to open his eyes. Leaning forward even as she pulled him down, Mandy knew she should follow her instincts.

“I’m right here,” she whispered a second before pressing her mouth over his.

Growling low in his throat, Rush became even more desperate. Wrapping his arms around her shoulders, deepening the kiss, he pumped faster into her stomach as his tongue delved deep to taste her essence. Thrusting his tongue in time with the roll of his hips, he felt Mandy wrap her arms and legs around him in surrender, fully giving herself over to the rough kiss, wanting him to have his release. When Rush’s orgasm flowed through his veins, his cry of ecstasy caught in her mouth. His hot seed burst from his body, coating her skin and dripping down her sides. Spent, he collapsed on top of her, unable to fend off the emotions threatening to drown him.

Feeling his body shake, Amanda held her lover tight, ignoring the hot stickiness on her belly.

“Shh,” she crooned gently as Rush’s silent tears slid down her neck. “I’m here,” she whispered as she combed her fingers lovingly through his hair. “It’s alright.”

“I love you so much,” he rasped.

“It’s alright,” she repeated as her arms tightened around him. “I’m here, Nicholas. I’m right here and I love you, too.”

To prove it, she held him tenderly, pressing her lips to his neck, cheek, and finally his mouth. Loving the sensation of him on top of her, they held tight and they drifted off to sleep.

Eventually, they must have rolled apart because Amanda’s nightmares returned. Waking with a strangled cry, which also roused Rush, she grabbed her notebook and started scribbling the numbers behind her eyes. All the while, Rush sat by her side. Nearly twenty minutes and ten pages later, she put down the pen. The aftershocks left her felling vulnerable and she acknowledged the memory of quarantine would probably always rouse such a response from her subconscious. Even more grateful to have Rush here, her courage to explore the newfound closeness between them took root. Glancing at his profile, discerning his expression in the shadows was a challenge, but she trusted in their relationship.

“Rush,” she whispered, unable to meet his eyes.

“Yes,” he asked softly.

“Ca-can I do something?”

“Do what?”

At a loss, she swallowed, forcing her eyes to his. “What happened earlier, I-”

“I’m sorry, Amanda,” he said hurriedly. “I never meant to lose control like that, or frighten you.”

“You didn’t.” Well, at first he did. Seeing the man who always expressed such patience and understanding, such controlled lusts, suddenly lose that control did spike temporary fear, but she should have known he wouldn’t force her. “I want-”

Breaking off, she couldn’t find the right words. Gathering her nerve, Mandy cupped his cheek. “No shame, right? No judgment?”

“None,” Rush responded with wholehearted sincerity.

Inhaling a bracing breath, Mandy’s fingers roamed to the edges of his thermal shirt. Pushing the fabric up, she urged him to lift his arms. Tugging the shirt over his head, her eyes stared at his bare chest for several moments, admiring his masculine shape before gently pushing his shoulders back on the bed. Straddling him, she placed her palms on his pictorials, rubbing the sparse hairs. Recalling the intimacies of the simulation, Mandy knew this experience to be vastly different on so many levels, but pushed forward.

Remaining still while her soft hands explored his skin was challenging, but Rush closed his eyes and allowed sensation to sweep him away. If Mandy wanted to touch and learn the contours of his flesh, he wouldn’t deny her. When her fingers paused, his eyes snapped open to see her lifting her shirt over her head. Rush’s breath hitched watching her unclasp her bra. Mouth going dry at the sight of her naked breasts, he stared at her puckering nipples. As much as Rush craved a taste, his fingers curled in the sheets. This was Amanda’s moment and Rush vowed to leave her alone and prove he possessed discipline despite his earlier actions.

Pressing her naked chest to his, nipple-to-nipple, Amanda’s face snuggled in the crook of his shoulder. “I wanted to feel you against me like this,” she confessed as the sensations of simple touch overwhelmed her senses. Most would take such simple pleasure for granted, but memories of being paralyzed forever lingered in the back of her mind, and the simple tingling of skin-to-skin contact awed, making her want to cherish every second. “Do you mind?”

“No,” he breathed.

Securing one arm around her shoulders and the other around her waist, Rush held her close. The woman of his heart was the most precious thing in the universe and he never wanted to let go.

“Can we stay like this until I fall back asleep?”

Hearing the hope in her words made his heart soar. Nodding, Rush smiled into her embrace. Tonight, he couldn’t have permanently damaged what they had, despite the fact he never intended to force her to succumb to his lusts, but thankfully, Mandy forgave his lapse, trusting in their connection and felt comfortable now to explore her desires.

“Mandy,” he sighed in happiness.

Remembering how he looked in the throes of passion, she knew it was only a matter of time before the walls she built crumbled to the ground. Perhaps she pushed the limits of their bond, but tonight gave her the confidence to share more with the man who held her heart. Closing her eyes, Amanda let the sound of Nick’s heartbeat sing her to sleep.

Waking a few hours later to the sound of rustling clothing, Mandy rubbed her eyes before seeing Rush putting on his belt. Admiring the view, her craving for this man wasn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, if their night together was any indication, they wouldn’t be spending many more nights alone in the future.

Due to the mistakes of the simulation, being cautious about the physicality of her relationship with Rush seemed reasonable. Now, however, Mandy wanted to take each day one at a time, but her fear of what might happen was slowly fading. Rush was a beautiful man. She didn’t want to allow her fear of being in the real world overshadow her desires.

Sitting up in bed, keeping the blanket tucked under her arm, she saw Rush turn to her and slowly smile. As a blush heated her cheeks, Mandy looked away for a moment, suddenly shy, but turned when Rush sat next to her. Still wearing his grin, he cupped her face and brought her lips in for a kiss.

The soft, gentle brush held such promise.

“Good morning,” Rush smiled against her mouth.

Laughing, she returned the greeting before pulling him into a hug. “What has you up so early?”

“Work,” he sighed.

Giving his shoulders a tight squeeze, Mandy forced her limbs to relinquish their hold. “Which project?”

“The supply line.” Rubbing his forehead, he felt the headache already peaking.

“Really?” Amanda blinked. “They’re sending supplies through?”

“We’re going to make contact first.”

Nodding, she smiled. “You better go then.”

Grin deepening, he leaned close. “I have a few minutes left,” he purred before stealing another kiss.

Before they could get too carried away, he kissed a path down her neck as he yanked away the blanket covering her chest. Mandy gasped in shock, but didn’t resist when he cupped her breasts. Instead she arched into his palm on a sigh, falling backward onto the bed.

Their eyes met and held, an understanding passing between them, just before Rush dipped his head to taste her flesh. Tongue caressing her nipple, he relished her moans. Instantly arching into his mouth, her fingers laced through his hair to hold him to her body as sharp thrills of pleasure shot from her chest to her loins.

As Rush’s mouth moved to her others breast, she sighed his name, gasping as little shocks teased her body.

"Mine,” he growled before sucking harder. Cupping her other breast, he slowly kneaded her flesh as her passions rose, wanting nothing more than to show her what his glorious body was capable of and how far he could draw out her pleasure. Unfortunately, being pressed for time made that goal difficult. Making love to her breasts would have to wait a bit. Releasing her with regret, he murmured apologies as he rose to his feet. Breathless, she moaned in protest, then watched helplessly as Nick pulled away.

“I’ll be back soon,” he said thickly as he covered her with the blanket.

Licking her lips, Amanda’s gaze followed him until the door closed, then stared at the ceiling as her heartbeat calmed. Sometime later, she found the strength to dress. Noticing the red marks his whiskers left on her skin, a smile curled the corners of her mouth and she knew Rush would be on her mind all day.

Chapter Text

If anyone needed proof David Telford was an ass, this occasion certainly offered up enough evidence. Listening to the communication, Rush stood with his arms crossed over his chest, one hip cocked, glancing from Eli to Young as the message played.

Young was diplomatic in his reply, where as Rush just wanted to tell Telford where to stick is arse. The power Homeworld Command gave the guy obviously went to his head. Telford gave orders to Destiny’s crew as if he was already in command and Young his lap dog. Gritting his teeth, Rush prayed Telford never found another way back on board. A lot of people would be very, very sorry if he showed his face here again.

In his mind, being billions of light years from home meant they were out of Stargate Command’s jurisdiction. So what if their military personnel were present with the civilians? Homeworld’s high ranking officials weren’t here fighting to survive and complete the mission, so in Rush’s mind, they didn’t have the right to call any shots. Yet, Telford spoke as if he owned them.

Yes, the supply line was important, but this ship and crew survived without it before and could do so again. They only received two deliveries anyway, and the issue of organic material wasn’t completely resolved.

“Why do I get the feeling you’re holding something back,” Telford demanded through the line.

“What do you mean,” Young asked nonchalantly.

“You have both Rush and Wallace on board and still haven’t resolved the mathematical problem? Come on, Everett!”

Shrugging, Young kept his tone neutral. “You have McKay. If I recall, he’s the genius who came up with the math to make the supply line work in the first place. The error seems to be on his side.”

“We should be working together,” Telford snapped. “Casting blame gets us no where.”

“And we have been,” Young asserted.

“We haven’t heard from you in over a month!”

Young’s nostril flared. “We were attacked,” he snapped back. “There have been more pressing concerns like ship repairs and taking care of our people. All of that took precedent over the supply line!”

“If you helped us figure out this solution, then you wouldn’t have to scour planets for resources!” Telford glared at the lot of them. “Half your problems would be solved!”

“But for how long,” Rush cut in.

“What?” Telford looked none too pleased by the interruption.

“Rumors of the Lucian Alliance re-emerging have reached even ours ears, so becoming dependent on the supply line has the potential to hurt us down the line. The Lucian Alliance wants Destiny and the supply line will be a natural target to get her.”

“We neutralized them, Rush,” Telford bit out.

Pompous-know-it-all, Rush thought. “How do we know for sure? We’re out here alone, and let’s face it; the supply line helps, but also leaves us vulnerable.”

Face reddening; Telford looked like he wouldn’t be able to contain his laughter, but a second later burst out laughing. “Ok! You just tipped your hand, Rush! Now I know why you won’t cooperate with McKay!”

Before Rush could yell at Telford about knowing nothing, Young cut in to calm the situation. “There’s merit to the argument,” he stated. “In light of the recent attack, I have to think about the possibility of a beach. Protecting the crew is paramount.”

“Protect them from their own,” Telford asked, aghast by the implication. “Protect them from doctors and professionals who could help your crew?”

“I thought of that, too,” Young admitted. “But the fact remains that the Lucian Alliance knew about Langara, and if the supply line can support human life on a one-way ticket, there is no telling how many spies could come through-”

“Do you even hear yourself, Everett?! This is ridiculous! The Lucian Alliance is limping! They’re no longer a legitimate threat!”

“We run the risk of exposing our bellies here – and not just to the Alliance! Surely, even you can see that!”

“The dialing sequence and research is highly classified,” Telford shouted. “I’m giving you an order, Young!”

“And I will have Eli continue his research-”

“Good!”

“But I can’t guarantee the results.”

The silence ballooned with tension as the two commanders glared at each other across the screen. Telford looked like he wanted to claw Young’s face off, but when he spoke, his tone convey surprising calm. “I expect details, daily reports from your team.”

Young nodded. “Things can get sketchy out here, but we will keep you in the loop.”

Rush looked ready to argue, but Young cast him a warning look. Though his temper flared, burning through his veins, Rush managed to keep the lid on while Young uttered words of parting and cut the communication. The second Telford’s image disappeared; the two remaining alphas turned their glares on each other.

“You’re dooming us all by caving into his demands,” Rush bit out between clenched teeth.

“I’m playing along,” Young snapped. “Telford has Homeworld Command’s ear! Besides, we could hit circumstances where we may need an expert in an emergency and you know it!”

“Continuing as we have-”

“Is a last resort! We can’t stall this issue forever and until the Lucian Alliance makes a move, we’re dealing in ‘what-if’ scenarios. The supply line can improve overall moral and living conditions and we need it, Rush. We’ll put Telford off for however long we can.”

The man sounded resolved to losing the battle, but Rush’s determination only solidified. “And if Telford gets his way, and we’re invaded-”

“Then we’ll deal with it when – and if – it happens,” Young insisted.

“But if McKay figures out the solution on his own,” Eli cut in, “and strangers are sent here, it’s only a matter of time before they learn about Dr. Perry and the regeneration system.”

Young nodded in understanding. “If McKay doesn’t find a way around us, then our end of the gate can develop…safety issues.”

Mutual understanding passed between the three before Eli heading back to work. Rush, however, followed Young down the corridor toward the bridge.

“I didn’t hear you completely dismiss Telford’s plans,” Rush said to the Colonel’s back.

“That’s because I didn’t,” Young said over his shoulder.

“It’s not a good idea to let them think you’ll support them.”

Stopping abruptly, Young whirled around to glare at the thorn in his side since day one. “You don’t think having a fully qualified doctor or Ancient expert here would help the mission? Because I think this process will be hurried along with a few advantages. We can integrate them gradually into the crew-”

“Not if their loyalty is to Telford and his cronies! As long as they’re able to communicate with Homeworld Command, we’ll have to assume-”

“That’s the problem, Rush! You’re assuming!”

“Any new personnel could put Destiny in danger,” he insisted. “That’s what you’re risking by not putting up more of a fight.”

Studying the scientist for a long moment, Everett wanted to think he learned a thing or two about how the man operated, but there were still a few curtains Young couldn’t pull back. Lately, he did notice the changes in Rush’s behavior and moods, agreeing with popular consensus that Dr. Perry was a good influence, but apparently Rush’s core believes remained intact. Awareness dawned, causing Young to give Rush a knowing look.

“This is about Dr. Perry, isn’t it? You care more about hiding her than you do the welfare of the whole crew!”

“With all due respect, the issues go hand-in-hand. You know how dangerous it would be for the whole crew if anyone learned of Amanda’s existence, let alone the details behind it! The Nakai and the Lucian Alliance will be after us, not to mention the technology-”

Young held up a hand. “I get your point.”

“Good.”

Gaze turning cold, Young took a step forward, his hands clasped behind his back. “Now hear mine,” he growled. “Imagine you and Dr. Perry having a family and that your child needs medical care-”

“Colonel-”

“Listen, damn you!”

Closing his mouth, Rush nodded for Young to continue.

“There will be moments when we’ll reach the limit of our capabilities. You’re asking the people here to go on faith that the ship will provide what we need, when we need it, but this supply line is a back-up. Tragedies have occurred that could have been avoided if we had more resources than just the communication stones.”

Leaving the words hanging in the air, Young turned and marched down the hall. Knowing the man spoke about how his daughter was a casualty of such a scenario, Rush didn’t give chase. Sighing, he rubbed the back of his neck wishing he didn’t empathize. He could still get Young to change his mind. Besides, he could always whisper warnings in Eli’s ear. The kid wanted Ginn back more than he wanted Young’s approval.

Walking back to the bridge, he sat in the captain’s chair, ignoring Eli’s pointed look and checked on several diagnostics he left running. No one knew better how to control this ship than he did. Maybe one day Eli would catch up, but not if he didn’t start applying his mind. With more life experience and focus, Eli could turn out well.

Making several notes, Rush pondered Young’s arguments. Part of him could see the merits, but knew Young’s judgment clouded by his personal feelings. He didn’t want anyone else to lose a child the way he did, but TJ and Varro were both trained, with Lt. James catching up, in medical procedures and so circumstances much improved in that area. Thinking of James, Rush’s mood soured. That woman could use a thorough tongue lashing, but lately she seemed to back off making Amanda her scapegoat since Greer recovered and vouched for Mandy’s bravery. Making fun of heroes among the military never went over very well, so some saw James in a different light.

Now that he thought about it, having Varro in charge of the infirmary could be problematic, given his former association with the Lucian Alliance. Personally, Rush didn’t give two fucks if the guy was forced to fight for the cause or not. The fact that Varro did fight, and never properly warned them about Simeon, cemented Rush’s opinion. Greer saw the unhinged side to Simeon’s nature, but the rest of them trusted Varro’s word, and the consequences were dire. Varro’s silence, mixed with his piss-poor efforts to help them when Simeon murdered Mandy, were facts Rush wouldn’t forget anytime soon.

Yes, fate stepped in, and with a little help from Lady Luck, Mandy was saved, but Rush stubbornly refused to forgive and forget. Thinking too much about that pain, the crushing weight of the rage and grief, always made him feel vulnerable. This time, no one would take Amanda away from him. In fact, he planned to watch Varro like a hawk and make sure he, and all the other Lucian Alliance recruits, stayed far, far away from his woman.

Having lost his focus to his thoughts, Rush heaved a heavy sigh, closing out the console, then getting to his feet.

“Where are you going,” Eli asked.

“Where I please, Mr. Wallace,” Rush barked over his shoulder.

Uncaring if Eli cursed his name, all Rush wanted at the moment was to see Mandy’s face. His hands itched to touch her. Right now, his emotions weren’t rational, but he didn’t give a damn. Finding Amanda consumed by her work, kneeling on the floor writing equations out on the wall, he smiled seeing her fitting numbers into every millimeter of free space.

“Get a breakthrough,” he asked with a grin as he crouched beside her.

Laughing, she greeted him before answering. “I think I’m seeing a pattern, but it could be wishful thinking.”

Inching closer, his focus shifted to the numerals, trying to find what she described. Yet, he didn’t see any definitive patterns until Amanda pointed out some of the Ancient symbols through the sequences that acted as markers.

“Any theories?”

“A few,” she nodded. “I think this may be the start of accessing different commands to the regeneration programming. Maybe the patterns to unlock the whole matrix?”

Rush’s brows shot up his forehead. “Talk about a huge undertaking.”

“True,” she laughed. Putting down her chalk and sitting back, she studied the numbers she just wrote. “I have plenty of time to work on it these days.”

“No intentions of joining my team, then?”

Pretending to think a moment, she tapped her chin. “Why don’t I act as consultant?”

Rush cupped her cheek, his gaze going tender. “What if I want you by my side?”

“Now who is the clingy one,” she teased.

Refusing to see the humor, he rose, then held out a hand to help her up. The moment Amanda stood, he put his arms around her waist and pulled her into a hug.

“Rush?”

“I just need to make sure you’re really here,” he said as his cheek rubbed into her shoulder. “That you’re mine.”

Combing her fingers through his hair, she knew the feeling all too well. “I’m right here, my love.”

Lifting his head, their eyes locked, holding as their lips slowly started moving forward. At the last second, just before the sparks could pass between them, Rush’s radio sliced through the moment.

“Rush,” Brody’s voice carried over the waves. “We need you in the engine room.”

Growling, he grabbed the radio off his belt, keeping his other arm around Amanda so she wouldn’t escape, and answered the summons. “I’m in the middle of something, Mr. Brody.”

Seeing him wink at her, Mandy’s brows rose. Tempted to laugh, but not wanting the sound to carry through the radio, she bit her bottom lip as Rush continued making silly faces at her, trying to make her break.

“I think you’re going to want to see this,” Brody continued.

Expressing snapping back to business, Rush frowned. “Why?”

“You really have to see it for yourself. In fact, I would bring Chloe and Dr. Perry of you can find them. We may need their take on this.”

“Verra well,” Rush sighed before looking to Amanda. “Are you up for a walk to the engine room?”

Nodding, she pushed aside her worry. “What do you think the problem is?”

“Knowing Mr. Brody, something melodramatic, I’m sure.”

Hopefully, this discovery wouldn’t be the beginning of another crisis. After all they’ve been through , the last thing they needed was another disaster on their hands. Couldn’t they have one peaceful moment? As they walked, she loved how Rush took her hand, curling their fingers together, and not caring who saw them. They weren’t hiding their relationship and she enjoyed the openness. They even exchanged giddy smirks, unable to keep from touching. Tingles of excitement raced down her spine every time Rush whispered the word “baby” in her ear. There were unresolved issues between them, but Mandy felt confident they could work everything out.

Soft sentiments and affections were put aside the second they entered the engine room, however. The look on Brody’s face conveyed the depth of the situation.

“I found this while replacing some wiring in the FTL drive.”

Recognizing the technology instantly, Rush stiffened. “What’s it doing?”

“Nothing at present,” the other scientist answered.

Rush’s frown depended. “Nothing?”

“It’s triggered, so if I remove it, we could have any number of situations. Explosion, location transmission, computer hack-”

“Thank you, Mr. Body. I think we get the picture.”

Sensing the change in Rush’s posture, Mandy knew only one thing could make him react so strongly. Before she could offer comforting words, Chloe walked through the door. Seeing the device, she mirrored Rush’s discontentment.

“What do you think,” Rush asked.

Closely examining the device, Chloe shook her head. “I think we shouldn’t touch it.”

“Yes, Mr. Brody came to the same conclusion, but we can’t leave it there indefinitely.”

Nodding, Chloe took another look. “I think it’s…gathering data.”

“On what,” Brody asked. “The ship?”

“No,” Chloe murmured. “I think…it’s been using the conduits down here to access parts of the computer searching for information.”

“The question is, what kind of information,” Rush commented.

Straightening, Chloe shrugged. “My guess? The device is acting like a stealthy Big Brother.”

“How do we stop it? We can’t have the Nakai stealing information from us!”

“Let me study it and let you know what I find.”

Chloe was the most qualified to handle the problem, see as she remembered all the information those aliens put in her head, but Rush hated sitting on the sidelines. If the Nakai rigged Destiny he wanted to know. Most importantly, he wanted to know how to stop them.

Chapter Text

“I thought the engine room and the FTL drive was already sweeped,” Camile said, her arms folded over her chest as she leveled Young an expectant look.

“We conducted as thorough a search as we could, Camile,” he responded patiently.

“There could be more of those devices in other parts of the ship!”

“There aren’t,” Rush cut in. “This is the only one.”

“So why haven’t we gotten rid of it?”

“It’s a delicate process,” Rush informed her. “The device is rigged to seize control of the ship if we attempt to remove it.”

“So what? We just let it sit there like a parasite, hoping it doesn’t do permanent damage?”

“We have to decipher the Nakai technology,” Chloe stated. “It’ll be slow going, but Rush and I are pretty sure the device is harmless unless we attempt to remove it.”

“How reassuring,” Camile said sarcastically.

“Hey,” Rush barked. “Chloe and I are the only ones here who have been subjected to the Nakai technology through no fault of our own, so we know the limits!”

He glanced at Young before continuing. “We’re the most qualified to puzzle this thing out.”

“And in the meantime we have the issues with the supply line, and so far, have yet to encounter another planet with a viable water source.”

“We aren’t down on that yet, are we,” Chloe asked.

“We can manage a little longer,” Young stated.

“Getting our supplies through the line would save a lot of time and trouble,” Camile asserted.

“And make us too dependent on the Langarans and Homeworld Command,” Rush grumbled.

“Last I checked, Rush, we all worked for Homeworld Command.”

“Speak for yourself,” he scoffed. “I was a paid consultant. They weren’t my superiors.”

“You get my point,” Camile snapped. “They should help us.”

“Then they’ll tell us what to do!”

“They do already, Rush!”

“Not on everything.”

“Ok,” Young moved between the pair. “Enough! Bickering amongst ourselves isn’t helping anything.”

Camile and Rush continued to glare at one another before moving back to their respective corners. The issue was a heated one and would need to be addressed, but right now, they had more pressing matters.

“Let’s focus on what we can get done,” Young stressed. “We will put off Telford for now,” he told Eli, who remained oddly silent through most of the discussion. “Give him some basic information and see if he won’t agree to send more supplies. In the meantime, we’ll keep looking for planets while we tackle the Nakai technology.”

“I may need some specific equipment,” Rush cut in. “So if Eli could hold off on the lists-”

“Let’s just see if Telford doesn’t blow my head off first,” Eli grumbled.

Looking at the math wiz, Rush lifted a brow, mumbled. “Fair enough.”

“Good,” Young stated. “Then we are all on the same page. Dismissed.”

Rush couldn’t wait to get the hell away from these people. Heading down to the engine room, he got back to work. The sooner he figured out this latest crisis, the sooner he could turn his mind to other issues.

****

Something was keeping Eli busy, so Amanda went over the system in the regeneration chamber on her own. Ironically, the more she stared, the more things started making sense. Everything was in Ancient, however, and she was still a bit rusty.

Making notes, she figured out how to bring the basics up on the consoles. From there she brought up a record of activity before hitting a brick wall. If she could access the last log, which was the computer’s record of her regeneration, then Mandy could decode the rest. They would finally be able to help Park and Ginn! Hours later, having made little progress, she realized she needed to rest before she fell asleep on her feet.

Back in her quarters, she collapsed face first on the bed, her eyes closing as her body sank into the soft surrounding. While fatigued, for some reason, sleep was elusive. Hugging the pillow, her thoughts shifted from equations and puzzles to Rush. Unable to help it, her lips curled.

Basking in the sensations of being in love, Mandy couldn’t believe all her dreams came true! She was given a second chance. More importantly, they were given a second chance to be happy.

The more she thought of Rush, the events of the other night refused to leave her alone. A blush coated her cheeks remembering how she lowered her guard to bask in simple touch. Rush lost control over his need for her, his passion becoming wild, yet he didn’t hurt her. By comparison, her exploration of his body must have looked awfully innocent. At the same time, Amanda spent most of her life unable to feel even the simplest of touches, so being exposed to him was new and wild from her perspective.

Smile fading, Mandy bit her bottom lip in worry. Rush loved her. He adored her mind and agreed to a slow build with regards to the physical aspects of their relationship, but Mandy feared taking the wrong path.

During the simulation, she was in control, so she could throw caution to the wind and be who she wanted, which was a woman who wasn’t afraid to experience all sorts of physical love. Mandy embodied the persona of a more confident version of herself, but here there was no such safety net. This experience was real and couldn’t be repeated. Yet, instead of taking her gained knowledge from the program and applying those aspects to her real life, she kept hesitating and second-guessing.

There was nothing to be afraid of. She knew Rush’s body ad he knew her. Even now, a simple memory made her blush. And melt.

A throbbing started between her thighs, making her want to clench them together and indulge the sensation. Aware of her arousal, Mandy closed her eyes, trying to decide what to do. The woman in the simulation wouldn’t be afraid to explore and soak up sensation, but being in real world, with consequences, made her hesitant.

Opening her eyes, Mandy knew she was alone. There wasn’t anyone to stop her. Besides, the ache was getting harder to ignore. Rush said he wanted to watch her pleasure herself. Shouldn’t she at least attempt the task on her own first? This was her body and she should learn what she liked.

Lying on her back, Amanda remembered Rush telling her there wasn’t anything to be ashamed of as her knees fell open. Reaching between, she let her fingers glide over the little nub screaming for attention. Her body jerked at the sudden contact. While not unpleasant, the sensation wasn’t the soft sort of pleasure Nick could rouse from her flesh. Trying again, she kept her touch light and rubbed slowly.

Yes, this way felt much better. Relaxing, feeling her blood warm, Amanda’s thoughts wandered to the first time she came in Rush’s arms. The throbbing between her thighs grew more intense, making her gasp. Following her instincts and impulses, she pressed her fingers more firmly into her clitoris, but the jerking reaction wasn’t the result she craved, so she eased back.

Pausing, frustration curled in her belly, but her determination told her she could do this. Seeing Rush behind her eyes, Amanda smiled. His smile was enough to make her weak in the knees. The way he walked, filled out a pair of jeans, even the sight of him shirtless, all the images helped her body relax an allow her arousal to take over.

Amanda remembered how Rush rubbed his hard cock between her legs, hitting her just right, and felt warm liquid gush between her thighs. Curious, she pushed her panties aside to feel the liquid dripping from her body. Moving her fingers up and down, soaking her folds with her cream, Mandy’s breathing hitched as the pleasure intensified. Core clenching, wanting attention, Mandy let her fingers wander back to her clit to apply a gentle pressure as she flicked her fingertip rapidly over the nub.

Gasping as a shock of pleasure curled her toes, Mandy’s legs drew up as her back arched. The harder she pressed into her clit, the better the pleasure, but she needed a buffer to cut the sharpness. Panting, Amanda held on to the image of Rush in her mind. She imagined his voice in her ear giving her instructions on how to move her fingers and body.

By now, her honey coated her inner thighs. Rubbing the side of her hand over her clit, Amanda rolled her hips in time with her strokes, moaning at the sensations spiked. She didn’t want to stop, but wanted to take her panties off. This pleasure would be better if she touched her bare skin.

Counting to three, she removed her hand from between her thighs and quickly yanked her panties down her legs. Bunching the fabric in her hand, she thought a moment. Placing the cloth over her genitals, Mandy used the underwear as a buffer, fisting her hand and using the heel of her fist to rub her clit.

A cry tore from her mouth as her hips bucked. Biting her lip as she surrendered to the sensations, her head fell back as her body instinctively moved to build the pleasure. Rush’s presence felt close, almost as if he were here helping her, and flashes of him kissing her, touching her, played behind her eyes.

Panting as her heart slammed in her chest, Amanda’s fantasy went a step farther by envisioning how Rush would taste if she sucked his cock. Another moan store from her throat as her clit quickened and clenched. Rubbing harder, faster, she knew she was close. Moving frantically at this point, she kept thinking of Rush as her orgasm burst.

Staying as quiet as possible, Mandy thought vocalizing her release didn’t seem right somehow without Nick. Breathing heavily as the sharpest sensations faded, her hands relaxed as her legs straightened. Staring at the ceiling, she felt tiny aftershocks tug at her core.

Experimentally, she let her fingers smooth over her inner folds, brushing her wetness up over her clit, surprised by just how much dampness her body created. A few minutes later, when the full pleasure faded and her heart rate calmed, Mandy felt…awkward.

Quickly putting her panties back on, she knew she shouldn’t be ashamed of what she just did, because such impulses were natural. Rush even said he would like to watch her find her pleasure, and now she had an idea of how to do so. So why did she suddenly want to work and forget what just occurred?

Oblivious of the time, a glance at the clock made her gasp. Late for her usual mist shower, she rose and slipped on her shoes, deciding not to dwell on her actions. After all she went through, after all she missed from her previous life, she should be rejoicing in this newfound sensory!

In the shower, as she washed, her curiosity once more got the better of her. Having never taken notice of what she looked like…down there, she dared a peek. For the most part, her shape appeared normal. Her mound consisted of a fine dusting of hair because TJ helped advise her on such things when she first woke up, but there were a few things they didn’t cover.

Over the years, Amanda read her fair share of books on science, biology, and romance, so she knew her swollen, slightly bruised clit as the result of arousal, but her inner folds felt different somehow. One appeared slightly longer than the other and they were darker in color than the light pink of the rest of her flesh. Was this normal? The sight didn’t look very attractive.

Heart slamming with trepidation at the idea of Rush seeing her this way, Mandy inhaled gasping breaths. If she was…misshapen, then she needed to know. Maybe there was a way to fix her before intimacies with Rush went too far?

After washing, Mandy’s panic calmed quite a bit, and while she wasn’t over worried anymore, she did think about asking TJ some general questions. Yes, the idea flushed her with embarrassment, but Mandy knew TJ was a medic, and a woman, she who could handle the situation with delicacy. Unlike Lt. James.

Pushing the unpleasant thought frim her mind, Mandy dried her hair and body before putting on her newly laundered clothing. Feeling as ready as she was going to be, she left the showers. Pushing aside her nerves, she hoped TJ wouldn’t want to do an exam. Odds are, the medic would be able to tell Mandy if she should be concerned through a simple conversation.

Still, her determination to have peace of mind outweighed her uncertainty, so Amanda pressed ahead. If all was well, she would hopefully gain some self-confidence where Rush and intimacy were concerned. They were going slow, but maybe they wouldn’t have to for much longer.

Chapter Text

Lost in her thoughts, Mandy turned a corner and nearly collided with someone. Startled, she jerked back, but recognized Rush a moment later.

“Hey,” he greeted.

“Hi,” she answered as she shook off her fright. “Where are you coming from?”

“The engine room,” he replied with a smile as he moved in for a kiss.

Gladly accepting him, Mandy’s arms wrapped around his shoulders as the first brush of lips caused a shiver of delight to race down her spine.

“You smell good,” Rush purred before nuzzling her neck.

Giggling at the tickles of his whiskers, she brushed her fingers through his hair. “And you smell like chalk and engine grease.”

Lifting his head, Rush’s eyes danced with mirth. “Where are you off to?”

“Oh, um, just wandering,” Amanda managed. The idea of telling Rush her true intention didn’t sit well. The subject just felt too private.

Wrapping an arm around her waist, Rush pulled her closer against him. “Want to come with me to my quarters? Help me with some ideas?”

Unable to think of a valid excuse, Mandy smiled. “You can’t brainstorm on your own,” she teased.

“Sure,” he said easily. “But I wouldn’t mind having Little Miss Brilliant along.”

Blushing profusely at the mention of her nickname, Amanda’s nerves kicked in and her eyes dropped to the floor. She was about to comment about not being so brilliant, but Rush cupped her chin, forcing her gaze to his. A second later, his lips covered her mouth.

Instantly, her body warmed and her knees went weak. Melting into his hold, unable to hold back little noises of pleasure, Amanda forgot her original intention. Accepting the sweep of his tongue, she responded in kind. Only when they came up for air did she recall how to breathe.

Rush didn’t kiss her again, but rather kept this arms securely around her waist as he escorted her to his quarters. Work was always a passion for Rush, so Amanda didn’t take offense when he started talking about the Nakai device and a way to bypass it’s circuitry. Before long, Mandy was caught up in the routine of equations and working alongside him debating strategies.

A few hours later, they outlined a few courses of action, but nothing concrete. Rubbing his face, then leaning back in his chair while stretching his arms, Rush groaned as he felt a few bones crack. Across the table, he caught Mandy‘s knowing look.

“I think we are down for the night,” she smirked as she closed her notebook.

“We still-”

“No,” she stated as she rose. Moving around the table, she gently took his pencil from his fingers and kissed his forehead.

Out of no where, Rush grasped her under her arms, making her laugh as he pulled her down onto his lap. A playful growl sounded in his throat a second before he kissed her so thoroughly her head started spinning.

Moaning into his lips, all she wanted was to be swept away by the man she loved. The kiss went on and on and she didn’t want it to ever end. Lord, he felt so good! Her whole body warmed in that familiar way; her clit clenching as her arousal intensified.

The idea of pushing Mandy back over the table and making love to her held glorious appeal, but Rush pushed down the impulse. He gave Mandy his word they would go slow and he wouldn’t go back on it. Gently ending the kiss, his eyes opened to gaze into those gorgeous blue orbs that never failed to hold him under her spell.

Breath hitching, Mandy wasn’t sure what was happening, but somehow, she realized Rush was handing her the reigns. He would do whatever she asked of him. The temptation to sink into another kiss and lose her mind to sensation was very close to the surface. If not for her earlier fears, Amanda would be melting in his arms, but instead, she paused, uncertain.

“I’m not sure what-”

Cutting her off with another kiss, Rush stood, lifting Mandy up in his arms as he went, carrying her to the bed. Laying her ever so gently on the covers, he broke the kiss so he could straddle her waist. Cupping her cheeks, overwhelmed by her beauty, he had no idea how in the world he deserved this miracle, but he refused to give Mandy up for anything. Amanda Perry was his love and his life and he wasn’t going to ever let her forget that fact.

All his emotions were clearly visible in his eyes as he caressed her cheeks, then her neck, over her collarbone, and pausing at the neckline of her shirt. His heart raced at the sight of the love and trust reflected back through her gaze. All he wanted was to give her pleasure and show her how vital she was to his existence.

Overwhelmed, aroused, and curious, Mandy let Rush take control. Arching as his hands smoothed over her chest, cupping her breasts, gently kneading until her nipples puckered visibly through the fabric, she couldn’t believe he knew just how to touch her to make all the sensations rise to a point where she couldn’t resist him.

“Will you let me,” he asked as he slipped her bra strap down her shoulder. “I need to touch you.”

Breathing heavily, Amanda nodded as she helped him lift her shirt over her head. Locking gazes, she sighed as his clever fingers caressed her cleavage. She loved the way he touched her, tracing his fingertips over her skin, making her never-endings tingle with delight. The simplest of touches could make her melt and he took full advantage.

Slipping off her bra, Rush gritted his teeth at the first sight of her naked breasts. Mandy was perfectly formed, her nipples a dusty pink and her flesh large enough to overflow in his palm. Mouth watering, he dipped his head. His tongue swirled around her nipples, licking and sucking until he heard her contended sigh. As his mouth continued to lave attention on her breasts, he wrapped an arm beneath her back and held her closer, while letting the other smooth over her stomach then down between her legs.

The first glide of his fingers sent thrill through her being. Crying out as she moved against him, Amanda couldn’t help but pant his name in ecstasy. She needed to feel him! The sensations were glorious! Oh, how could he make her feel…this?!

The spell broke the second Rush’s fingers stopped teasing and his hand cupped her sex. All of Mandy’s insecurities about her body flooded to the forefront, causing her to stiffen. As much as she wanted an orgasm, she was afraid of Rush seeing her. True, he never judged, but if she was deformed in some way, she preferred him not seeing.

Sensing the change in her mood, Rush lifted his head, the question clear in his eyes. Not wanting to disappoint, or share the reasons for her sudden fear, Amanda forced a smile and brushed his whiskered cheek.

“Amanda?”

“You’ve pleasured me,” she said as a genuine smile curved her lips. “Will you let me return the favor?”

Chuckling, he gently kissed her full lips. “Every time you come in my arms, it gives me great satisfaction.”

Holding him close, Mandy deepened the kiss, promising with all her might she wouldn’t put Rush off forever, but she wanted to at least give him a little of what he so generously gave her. Rolling over so she now straddled him, she broke the kiss to smooth her hands over his chest. Rush helped her tear off his shirt before easing back against the pillows.

Those clever lips kissed a path down his neck , then chest, her tongue swirling around his nipples, making him moan and his cock pulse in reaction. “Mandy,” he groaned as he felt her lips travel lower.

Breath starting to quiver, Rush’s fingers tangling in her soft tendrils as her sweet mouth reached his belt. At this point he was hard as rock and taunt with anticipation. There was nothing better than having his love in his arms and his bed. His beautiful Mandy!

A garbled noise erupted from his throat when her fingers made quick work of his belt and pushed his jeans down his legs.

“Amanda,” he growled, reaching for her, but catching only air as she moved out of reach.

Rush didn’t want her to stop. He stared at as she tugged off his shoes and pants, watching her breasts sway, wishing he could have another taste. There was nothing sweeter than her flesh. Nothing. He half sobbed, half growled her name again when her hands grabbed the waistband of his boxers. Glancing at his face, she gave him one of her smiles before slowly inching the material down to reveal his rigid manhood. Lifting his hips to help, Rush loved how Mandy slowly rolled the fabric, revealing his cock a little bit at a time. Fully exposed to her gaze, he folded a hand behind his head, unable to hold back a smirk as he watched her take in the sight of him. Proud of his form, Rush didn’t have anything to be ashamed of.

Tossing his boxers to the floor, Amanda straddled his legs and stared at his erection. Rush’s cock stood tall and straight, the shaft thick and the head slightly purple. Of course, this wasn’t the first time she saw him, but the sight still made her heart race and her core clench in desire.

When Rush guided her hands over his penis before, she didn’t have any memories of their time in the simulation, but now was a different story. When they were together in the computer, Rush patiently taught her how to pleasure him and she remembered those instructions well. Right now, she wanted to test her knowledge.

“Mandy,” Rush croaked a she reached for her.

Glancing at his face, she flashed him a look of unbridled lust before grasping his shaft in her hands. Still holding his gaze, she gave him a squeeze, loving how his breath hitched as sensation spiked through his blood.

“Baby,” he growled with need.

Growing bold, Mandy broke eye contact to focus on his erection. The same, beautifully shaped piece of flesh she remembered. This piece of him gave her so much pleasure when they were together before and her juices gushed between her thighs in remembrance. Wanting to please him, Amanda knew this experience would be real and therefore more meaningful, but refused to indulge her fears or any hindrance as she lowered her mouth to the tip of his cock.

Rush’s hips arched at the first feel of her hot mouth over his skin. “Mandy!”

Kissing his tip, swirling her tongue around his foreskin before sucking the way she knew he liked, she gently pumped his shaft. He tasted so good! Amanda gave his tip another suck, but gasped and pulled back when he bucked his hips.

“Shh,” she crooned as her hands caressed his length. “It’s alright, Nick.”

“Amanda,” he growled.

Glancing at him, seeing his eyes squeezed shut, his expression full of desperate pleasure, she felt reassured enough to continue with what she truly wished to do. On hand gripped the base of his length, while the other cupped his ball sac. Taking his tip into her mouth, Mandy circled her tongue once more, taking him deeper, as her hands caressed the rest of his flesh. She teased him by sucking and retreating, then repeating the motion as she pumped him.

Hearing Rush groan in denial when she abruptly eased back, her lips curled seeing his arousal pulse for her attention. “Hmmm,” she murmured, kissing her way from the base of his cock to the tip. “You taste so good.”

“Fuck!” Rush arched into her hands as he reached for her. “Please, Mandy! Oh, God!”

Taking pity on him, she returned her lips to his erection. Rush calmed as she continued sucking him deep and massaging his sac. He thrust gently into her mouth, not wanting to startle her, but needing to move. Oh, she felt wonderful! One hand fisted the sheets as another raked through her hair, trying to hold her close, yet allow her enough freedom to explore as she wished.

Feeling his balls tighten, he knew he was close. Amanda’s mouth was so warm and wet! She’s so beautiful and perfect and he wanted to be with her forever like this! Crying out when Mandy gave him one more suck, causing the pleasure to surge and his orgasm to burst without warning, he couldn’t believe Amanda was all his! Sobbing her name, Rush pumped his semen into her mouth, feeling her swallow every last drop.

Spent, he went limp on the bed. Releasing his penis, Mandy gently stroked him before moving to lie by his side. They were both flushed, breathing heavily, but very pleased and satisfied. Smiling, Rush pulled Mandy over him, letting her rest her head on his chest as he ran his fingers through her hair. “Thank you,” he whispered.

Very happy and in love, Mandy kissed his nipple before settling into his embrace and letting him hold her as she fell asleep.

Chapter Text

Waking the next morning bundled in Rush’s arms felt blissfully wonderful. Amanda felt safe and warm and happy around Nick, and there was easiness between them as they dressed and prepared for the day. Walking hand-in-hand to the mess hall, they ate breakfast together before parting ways. Rush had work to do on the alien device and Amanda was still whittling away at the regeneration system.

“I’ll call you if I run into any hitches,” Rush smirked as he leaned close for a parting kiss.

“You better,” Mandy laughed. “Engines are my specialty.”

Chuckling, Rush bent to nibble kisses along her neck. “As much as I want to take full advantage of you, we do need to learn how to operate the regeneration system as soon as possible.”

Mind going foggy, Amanda gave a little cry of protest when Nick pulled back and broke contact. They both knew if they didn’t let go now, they might never get any work done. Flashing him one more smile as she started down the hall, Amanda waved before rounding the corner.

The moment she was out of Rush’s company all of her self-doubts, insecurities, and fears flooded to the forefront. Last night, she wanted to let Rush touch her, but the fear of her possible deformity stopped her from fulfilling those cravings. Yes, she did enjoy exploring his body, but Amanda didn’t want to push him away forever. She wanted answers – for herself as much as for the sake of her relationship. Turning abruptly to head for the infirmary, Amanda’s anxiety eased somewhat finding TJ alone. When she asked if they could talk, TJ smiled in her kind and patient way then listened attentively as Mandy outlined her concerns. Before she could get into the details however, the door suddenly opened to reveal a rather ruffled Camile.

“TJ,” the woman gruffly greeted. “Dr. Perry.”

Nodding in response, Amanda couldn’t help but pick up on the cold formality Camile threw at her feet. They were civil strangers, yet they shared a deeper understanding of one anther than either cared to admit. Mandy didn’t want to make anyone feel awkward, nor did she want to be disliked, but people would think of her what they will, no matter her attempts to gain approval.

Camile asked TJ for some supplies, and when TJ left them alone, the two women stood in silence as tension weaved through the air. A need for an explanation burned through Amanda’s breast, causing her mouth to ask the question on her mind before she could think better of it.

“Camile, have I offended you in some way?”

The Asian woman blinked, looking as if she didn’t know what Mandy referred to. “Why would you think that?”

“Because you have been cold to me since I …returned. Both before and after my memory loss.”

Forcing a smile, Camile shook her head. “Dr. Perry – Amanda – forgive me but we were never really friends to begin with.”

Surprisingly, the blunt words stung, making Mandy’s heart pound with hurtful embarrassment. “We shared a-”

“I know,” Camile snapped, shifting on her feet and avoiding eye contact. She acted as if she couldn’t bare the sight of Amanda, rubbing her arms to ward off a sudden, nonexistent chill and tapping her foot impatiently.

All at once, Amanda realized what was happening. The reality of her past and her disability was tough to swallow. Vanessa James was in her body for a few second and panicked. Now the woman couldn’t stand to be in the same room Mandy. An instant later, even more pieces of the puzzle fused in her mind as to why James and Camile seemed so hostile. Mandy and Camile walked in each other’s shoes for weeks and though Camile did handle the situation with aplomb, apparently she harbored secret resentments of Amanda’s condition, which surfaced uncomfortable memories.

“It’s because of the paralysis, isn’t it,” Amanda softly asked.

Sighing, Camile looked in the direction where TJ disappeared; wondering what was taking so long. Realizing she would have to address the issue, she forced her eyes back to Mandy and spoke honestly. “Aside from the memories I have of my time with Sharon, I try not to think about the rest.”

Swallowing the lump in her throat, Mandy couldn’t deny the words hurt like hell. “And I’m a reminder.”

Camile shrugged. “I don’t know how you lived like that. I mean, I know why, but I didn’t know how you could stand it and not go insane, especially since you weren’t born that way.”

Finding her voice, Amanda forced her words to be neutrally matter-of-fact. “I didn’t have a choice.”

“Maybe I’m jealous, too,” Camile admitted.

“Why?”

“Because you did so much,” Camile stated. “You now have a second chance, but before all of this you built a career and solid reputation. I don’t think I could have if I was forced into those same circumstances.”

“You would be surprised what the human spirit is capable of,” Mandy pointed out. “We never really know what we’re able to accomplish until we are tested.”

As trues as those words were, Camile couldn’t magically change her perceptive or her feelings on the subject. Too much discomfort and jealousy existed at the moment for them to be more than civilized crew members. Maybe one day they could carve out a friendship, but not presently.

“I do wish you the best of luck,” Camile said with genuine sincerity.

“Thank you.” Amanda managed a small smile.

Giving another nod, Camile turned her attention to a returning TJ. The medic handed her what she came for, so Camile said words of thanks and continued on her way, leaving the infirmary so TJ and Amanda could finish their talk.

As scientifically and professionally as she could, Amanda asked her questions, but her hands kept shaking. Through it all, TJ was patient and kind. Once someone else explained her shape and color were normal and healthy, Amanda’s confidence returned, helping her feel less uncertain.

“I hope I didn’t inconvenience-”

“Not at all,” Tamara interrupted with a kind smile. “It’s perfectly natural. If you like, we can talk about…other options. If you and Rush are sexually active-”

Eyes widening, Mandy shook her head. “No! I mean, not - -it’s complicated.”

Understanding Mandy’s privacy, TJ gave her friend another smile. “I’m here if you need anything.”

“Thank you. Same here if you need someone to talk to.”

“That means a lot.” Amanda was the only person TJ could confide in about her anxiety surrounding her looming diagnosis. “Why don’t I meet you in the regeneration chamber in an hour? I have some work to wrap up here, but then we can try out some of those sequences.”

“That would be great.” Having an extra mind and pair of hands couldn’t hurt.

Leaving the infirmary, Amanda nearly collided with Lt. James, who gave her a wide birth as she walked around and through the door. Noting the other woman’s sneer, Mandy refused to let the moment upset her and headed to the regeneration chamber to get lost in a sea of numbers and symbols. Work would help distract from her bruised feelings where Camile and Vanessa were concerned as well as stave off her worry for Rush.

“Hey,” Vanessa greeted as she approached TJ.

Nodding, TJ waited for Vanessa to get to the point. “Hey.”

Needing a bandage for her wrist, which she injured during daily drills, James hoped to be in and out. As TJ helped bind her wrist, Vanessa made conversation.

“You really like Dr. Perry, don’t you?”

TJ shrugged. “She’s a nice person. It would be tough not to.”

“I think she’s a little odd. I mean, look at the way she came back.”

“As a medic,” TJ stated while wrapping the bandage. “I’ve used the stones. I’ve used science and advances in medicine to revive people from death. Amanda’s consciousness was preserved and so was her DNA. She is her. There is no reason to fear her.”

“You never switched with her, TJ,” Vanessa continued. “A pure nightmare. I was trapped and I couldn’t move – couldn’t breathe! It was pure hell.”

Ok, TJ had a clear mental picture of everything Amanda’s condition entailed, especially since she was facing a similar fate, so she could also understand Vanessa’s discontent.

“None of that was her fault,” TJ defended. “She was in a car accident when she was only nine years old. Imagine, a little girl whose whole childhood was stolen from her. Who had to grow up watching all the people around her live full lives, while she was left on the sidelines.”

Shifting nervously, Vanessa had to admit she didn’t think about the situation from that perspective. “She became a pretty well-known scientist,” she argued.

“Not before her parents abandoned her, saying they couldn’t afford her treatment and made her a ward of the state.”

Jaw dropping, Vanessa stared. “How do you know all this?”

“It’s all in her file,” TJ said gently. “I saw it back on Earth. I mean, it’s public record, but-” TJ broke off as she secured the bandage. “Just forget I said anything.”

Looking down at her wrist, Vanessa’s guilt gnawed at the back of her mind. She knew she was cruel to Dr. Perry. There wasn’t an excuse. Life on this ship was getting to her to the point where she felt like she was going to explode.

Being all alone wasn’t helping. Dealing with heartache caused her to take circumstances closer to heart than she should. First, she falls for Scott, who dumps her for Chloe without so much as a word. She had to find them together in a darkened corner. The second she thought she was over him, she saw the kino footage from their descendants in the last galaxy. Seeing how she ended up so happy with Varro, Vanessa started to see the guy in the same light.

Unfortunately for her, Varro still had eyes for TJ. Sure, they were happy together in that alternate reality, but only because she was obviously a second choice. TJ and Young were together, so Varro backed off. In the here and now, TJ and Young were barely friends, so Varro fawned over the blonde, never sparing Vanessa a single glance.

So yeah, when Dr. Perry shows up alive and well, with the love of her life chasing her around like a lost puppy, Vanessa became so jealous she couldn’t see straight. Making fun of Amanda’s shortcomings made her feel better about her own sorry life for a bit. Hearing some of the real tragedy in Dr. Perry’s past made Vanessa feel even worse all around.

At the same time, she really didn’t want to be friends with the woman. Remembering the way Rush was so devoted to Amanda after the attack, Vanessa craved a love like that for herself. Dealing with the reality of how she could very well end up all alone and never make her way home to Earth felt all too real. James did her best to ignore Varro and TJ’s flirtatious song and dance and focus on the work, but apparently, she was also a glutton for punishment because she refused to transfer.

The petty side of her was ugly and cruel and she didn’t want to indulge it, but Vanessa wasn’t sure she could reconcile her feelings just yet.

“Is there anything else you need me to do before my shift?”

TJ shook her head. “No, I don’t think so.”

“Then I’ll see you in an hour.”

Watching Vanessa’s retreat, TJ knew some people would never get along. Lt. James was determined to hate Amanda no matter what and TJ felt powerless to change things. In an effort to distract her mind, she updated some reports and read through information in the database. Engrossed in her task, TJ didn’t hear the door, so she nearly jumped out of her skin when Varro said her name.

“I didn’t mean to startle you,” he said holding up his hands in mock surrender.

Letting out a long breath, TJ shook her head. “I have a lot on my mind.”

“Anything I can help with?”

“No, but I appreciate the offer.” Instinctively putting distance between them, TJ steered the conversation toward work. “Lt. James will be here for the next shift. I have some research with Dr. Perry.”

“Tamara,” Varro said gently. “Are you trying to set me up with James?”

“Wait,” TJ’s eyes bulged. “What? Why would you think that?”

“Because you’re always putting us on shifts together and since there’s that kino foo-”

Cutting off when he saw the hurt in TJ’s eyes, Varro’s gaze went to the floor as he scratched the back of his head. “Wow. I’m sorry. I just assumed.”

“It’s fine,” TJ assured him with a dismissive gesture. “I never was a good matchmaker.”

“So…does this mean you are available?”

Stiffening, TJ wasn’t sure how to answer. “For what?”

“There is something between us, TJ,” Varro reasoned. “Something I think we should explore.”

True, here was an attraction, but her deeper feelings for Everett wouldn’t be dismissed so easily. “The situation is complicated,” she confessed.

“Oh, I know.” Varro kept her gaze as he took a step forward. “Part of you wants that future with Young you glimpsed.”

There was no point in denying the truth, so she didn’t. Instead, all she could do was continue to stare at Varro as he inched closer.

“Tamara, the man is a fool if he lets you slip though his fingers.”

“Varro-”

“We could have something real and lasting,” he pressed. “Just say you’ll at least think about the possibility.”

Suddenly very hot, TJ nodded and managed to break eye contact. As she fumbled to gather her notes, TJ felt all too aware of Varro’s knowing smile as she made a hasty exit. Neither one was aware of Lt. James lingering in the shadows.

Chapter Text

Going over the report, a permanent frown etched into Telford’s face. The communication stones were not being used a frequently by Destiny’s crew as he anticipated. Why?

Never mind how Telford could barely get a word out of Young edgewise. The man remained tight-lipped about the ship and the repairs. Naturally, Telford drew numerous conclusions. The damage done by the Nakai attack was more intrusive than Young wanted to explain, or they were being purposely elusive because they harbored secrets.

The Higher-ups were pressuring Telford to get qualified military personnel on Destiny as soon as the supply line could handle the transfer. Telford transferred that pressure to McKay’s shoulders, but the guy kept insisting he needed more time. All the while, the Lucian Alliance was becoming more…crafty in the way they chose targets.

Since Homeworld Command was well aware of the way the Alliance brainwashed spies, they changed tactics. Along with attacking key bases of operation and attempting to steal classified material, rumors spread about how the Alliance turned key members in powerful seats throughout Stargate Command.

Personally, David thought the last bit total rubbish. If the Lucian Alliance had valuable assets placed throughout Stargate Command, they wouldn’t be scrambling for supplies and resources. True, they were more organized and focused, but for every battle they won, Stargate Command beat them back by three more. If the rumors held a shred of truth, the Alliance wouldn’t be in such dire straits.

Getting a call, Telford left his office to head down to one of the interrogation room. Every person who currently used the stones to switch with a member of Destiny’s crew was being interrogated and hypnotized to see what they could remember about the workings of the ship, the attitudes of the people they interacted with, and any details about Young’s secret agenda. Hearing that Everett kept all their officers confined to one area of the ship didn’t sit well. Telford’s gut told him something unusual was happening up there and he wanted details.

Sure, his superiors could buy into the explanation of safety precautions due to alien attacks and repairs, but Telford used to roam that ship. He knew Young wasn’t always so…cautious. Something else was going on, which was all the more reason to get their people aboard.

When the latest interview yielded no new information, Telford headed to McKay’s office. Crouched in front of computer, the resident genius typed a mile a minute until suddenly noticing Telford’s looming presence and nearly jumped out of his skin.

“Colonel,” McKay said nervously as he straightened in his chair. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

Clasping his hands behind his back, David rose to his full height. “Status report.”

Sighing, McKay shook his head. “Nothing new since the last one.”

Eye narrowing, Telford made clear he didn’t like what he was hearing. “Nothing?”

Knowing the lecture was coming, McKay knew no amount of words would make the math work out differently. “I need more detailed schematics about Destiny’s FTL and the actual stargate before I can finish my calculations to the point of doing experiments.”

“Who is putting you off,” Telford demanded. “Rush? That crazy Scott-”

“No, actually.”

“Young? He has something up his sleeve, I’m sure of it!”

“It’s Eli.”

Surprised, Telford wasn’t sure who to respond. “I thought Eli Wallace was more than willing to cooperate with the project.”

McKay shrugged. “So did I, but he has apparently had a change of heart.”

“Was this before or after the attack on the ship?”

“After. Why?”

“Something happened up there,” Telford swore. “I’m going to find out what.”

“How?”

Leaving the office, the Colonel ignored the question. Heaving another sigh, McKay shook his head. His talents were truly wasted here. If Telford wouldn’t take him seriously, include him in the finer details, then maybe he should think about a transfer. Maybe if he jumped into normal academia he wouldn’t have to constantly look over his shoulder. Dealing with Telford was bad enough, but the Alliance? Forget it. McKay didn’t want to be a target.

Seeing another gap in his calculations, McKay threw up his hands in frustration. Normally, he never backed down from a challenge, but even he had limits. Turning to another computer screen, he started to fill out the necessary paperwork for a clean slate out of this department.

****

“Are you sure this won’t set it off?”

Chloe stared at the Nakai device’s inner chamber of blinking blue light and nodded. “As long as we don’t try to unclamp it form the wires, we should be fine.”

“There has to be a catch,” Rush grumbled. “Why else haven’t the Nakai activated this thing and come after us?”

Chloe shrugged as she removed the outer body to reveal the inner wiring. “Maybe they need time to recoup their losses.”

“I assume they have more resources close by considering the home planet we came across.”

“Which appeared abandoned,” Chloe added as she stepped aside to give Rush a look at the device. “Maybe the Nakai are like us and are far away from home and have to scramble for supplies as they can find them.”

“Well,” Rush reached for a few tools. “Let’s just pray they don’t come across that home planet and use what was toxic to us. If the water and the air are compatible with their body chemistry and biology, then the Nakai could come back stronger than ever.”

“We are supposed to get another shipment through the line in a few days,” Chloe commented as she looked over Rush’s shoulder as he worked. “I heard Young mention we were getting more weapons and ammunition for the ship.”

Rush grunted as he leaned back to study the wiring of the alien device. “This supply line is turning out to be a curse as much as a blessing.”

“What do you mean,” she frowned.

“Well,” he started as he marked a few wires, separating them from the others. “Homeworld Command will send us weapons and supplies to replace what we use, and parts to fix the ship, but in return they’ll want more of a say. When the military has access to more of this ship, they’ll think their orders will take precedent. How much room will be left for the rights of the civilians? Plus, if they send military personnel through the line instead of civilian contractors, where does that leave all of us?”

Rush posed some valid, interesting questions, but there was always another side to the coin. “And how many alternatives do we have,” Chloe asked, playing devil’s advocate. “I mean, we scour planets for what we need and salvage what we can from other ships, but being out here along isn’t doing us a lot of favors either. Having our own military backing us could help in the long run. We need allies, Rush. I mean, what are the odds we can actually complete this mission all on our own?”

Giving Chloe a weak smile, Rush raked a hand through his hair. “I know you’re able to do those calculations in your head, so I’ll assume that was a rhetorical question.”

Smiling back, Chloe’s eyes focused on the wiring, seeing how Rush separated what was part of the battery versus trigger.

“I think the supply line should be for emergencies only, and even then, used sparingly.”

“You have to admit,” she reasoned with humor. “It’s good to have a few changes of clothes and some luxuries of home.”

“Maybe more for you than me.”

Getting his meaning, Chloe supposed as a girl she needed more supplies to feel comfortable and keep up appearances, but she didn’t invent society’s standards or gender roles. Rolling her eyes before returning her attention to the device, sudden clarification snapped into place. Before she could second guess herself, she grabbed the plyers from Rush’s hands and snipped three wires at once.

“Hey! What-”

“All done,” Chloe announced. Rush held a breath waiting for an alarm to sound or the engines to flash warnings, but instead all seemed calm. He watched a grinning Chloe remove the device looking like the proud winner of the world’s hardest puzzle contest or something.

“How did you know-”

“It must have just been part of what was left behind because the answer just clicked in my head.”

Taking the alien tech from her hands, Rush decided to study the device in depth later. For now, he wanted to make sure there was no way this thing could send a signal to the Nakai.

“It’s dead,” Chloe assured him.

“Just making sure.”

Still grinning, obviously proud of herself, Chloe changed the subject. “Are you going to marry Dr. Perry?”

Head snapping up, jaw dropping, Rush blinked blankly. “What?”

“People are speculating,” she shrugged. “You guys have been together a long time.”

“Only a few months,” Rush clarified. “And for most of that time, Amanda didn’t remember me.”

“But she remembers now,” she pressed. “Everyone sees how you two look at each other.”

Folding his arms across his chest, Rush made clear he wasn’t amused, but Chloe didn’t seem to get the hint.

“Is it because you were married before? I think everyone on board would love a celebration if you were to take a second chance.”

“Chloe,” Rush growled dryly. “Would you want me pressing you to marry Lt. Scott?”

“I wouldn’t mind,” she replied honestly. “We did get married back in that other reality, remember?”

Grunting in response, Rush walked toward the door. To his chagrin, Chloe followed, refusing to drop the matter. Personally, Rush didn’t care about the crew’s descendants. He didn’t have a stake in that particular past. Besides, very little from that reality would come to fruition in this one. Didn’t people realize the timing would be off? So many of those same couples would never form or marry, so the resulting offspring would never exist. No one here, least of all Chloe, should base her future on what happened in that kino footage.

At the same time, loathe as he was to admit, Rush could see Scott and Ms. Armstrong making their relationship official. They both had youth and idealistic expectations on their side. As for him, well, Rush always knew what kind of future he wanted with Mandy. Every fiber of his being loved her and wouldn’t be complete without her light in his life. Did he ponder the idea of marriage? Yes. Constantly. Would he ever follow through with a proposal? That remained to be seen.

Rush would never ask Amanda to be his wife to replace Gloria. At the same time, he wouldn’t not ask Mandy in order to preserve the past he and Gloria shared. His memories of that time were good ones, full of love and respect, but hardly perfect.

Gloria would always claim a place in his heart, but they did have their bad moments. All relationships did, he supposed. Rush would become consumed with work and not really see Gloria for days at a time. Though she did have her own career and circle of friends, Gloria could never fully understand his obsessions.

Amanda could. Even better, she was more than capable of keeping up with him intellectually. In fact, Mandy surpassed him in many areas. She was absolutely brilliant and falling in love with her mind first most definitely strengthened the bond of love they now shared.

Bottom line: Rush would love to be Mandy’s husband, but he didn’t feel they were quite at that point in their relationship. Amanda was still getting used to her surroundings, her body, and her emotions. For now, they were taking things slow, but once he was certain Amanda was as fully invested and committed as he, then there would be no stopping him from asking for her hand.

For now, he didn’t want Amanda to feel like she was under any added pressure. They were in love and that was enough for the time being. The ultimate choice would be hers, and then Rush would see where they stood.

Naturally, he wasn’t going to explain any of these details to Chloe. Instead, he let her chat away before dodging her on the way to the equation hall. No that the Nakai situation was neutralized, Rush could turn his full attention other work.

Chapter Text

Utterly exhausted, Mandy entered her quarters, going directly to the bed. Work on the regeneration system lasted nearly ten hours straight, but in the end, they hit another wall.

Falling face-first onto the bed, Mandy hugged her pillow and closed her eyes. In all this time, her dreams seemed to hold keys to this puzzle. Maybe getting in a few hours would help her gain more perspective. Mandy was determined to save Ginn, so she needed all the help she could get.

When her dream did take her away, the images fluttering across her subconscious were not mathematical. No, in fact, the dream felt like more memories. Amanda lived another life not her own. A life of a lonely, unloved girl who buried herself in music and books and imagination until she died of old age – and woke up in a tube surrounded by strangers. The sheer agony of loneliness tearing at her soul caused Mandy to cry her eyes out.

Curled up in a dark room, not even able to hear the sound of her own tears, she felt another presence. Looking up, she saw Ginn smiling at her. Startled, Mandy moved to stand. As she did, the scene shifted and they were once more standing in the misty field.

“What was that,” she asked.

Ginn’s humor faded, her eyes becoming serious. “That was your life.”

“I don’t understand.”

“In quarantine, we were cut off from the rest of the ship. Removed from sensory input and emotion. We can’t hear, or touch, our surroundings. As a result, we learned to carve out memories of what we knew from past experiences and help our minds to handle the shock and trauma the barriers of quarantine inflicted upon us. As a coping mechanism, your imagination took over and created a new life and reality to fill the void. That is the best way I can describe what happened.”

“But why that life,” Mandy asked with tears still staining her cheeks.

“Because, subconsciously, that is what you thought you deserved.”

Fresh moisture leaked from her eyes. All her life, Mandy felt alone, shunned, and abandoned. She always blamed her disability, but what if her own insecurities also played a role?

“I couldn’t even envision a life with a happy ever after,” she said with a humorless laugh, looking down at her hands. “Not even a happy life with Rush?”

“In your heart, you know it wouldn’t have been real,” Ginn gently reminded.

“Funny,” Amanda shook her head. “My whole life I was overlooked and cast aside, then when I have a chance to subconsciously create a new life for myself, I end up unloved and alone.”

Ginn’s face conveyed nothing but sympathy. “That was only because you entered quarantine thinking Rush’s feelings for you weren’t real.”

“It’s more that that,” Mandy confessed.

Being disabled changed everything in her life, including the way she saw herself. Many only tolerated her when they saw she had something to offer. Whenever her so-called colleagues went out for drinks after a huge project, they never invited her. She always stood on the outside looking in, seeing what others had and wishing she could have the same.

Rush saw her and not the chair. Mandy saw him, too. Nicholas at his worst wasn’t pretty, but she looked beyond his temper and loved him anyway. Just when she thought he returned her feelings, the program happened and skewed her perceptions.

Recalling details of her other life, all she endured, a sudden realization dawned and her eyes darted back to Ginn. “That’s where the iPod came from, isn’t it? It was hers – mine – I mean-”

“Yes,” Ginn smiled. “It was.”

“But how could it have possibly-”

Destiny has her ways.”

Skeptical of Ginn’s cryptic reply, Mandy shifted on her feet. “But that’s-”

“Mandy, the Ancients made this ship. They knew more about consciousness and stargates than we can even begin to comprehend. They have the technology that brought you back for a second chance and you think it couldn’t give you such a gift to comfort you?”

Well, when Ginn put it that way, she did feel sort of silly for doubting. Looking at her friend, guilt gnawed at her heart.

“I’m trying,” she promised. “To bring you back. I’m working as hard and as fast as I can.”

Soft smile covering her face, Ginn stepped closer and traced a finger over Mandy’s forehead, then temple, tucking her brown hair behind her ear. “I know. The answers are here.”

Ginn tapped Amanda’s temple for emphasis. “Have faith.”

Watching Ginn fade, Mandy called her name, but her friend disappeared before her eyes. Filled with heartache, the field and mist faded as Mandy woke. Sensations attacked her at once, making her frown, but then pleasure warmed her form and she sighed with contentment as firm fingers rubbed her shoulder blades, massaging away the tension in her muscles. Twisting her head to the side, Mandy inhaled his familiar scent before seeing his face.

“Nick,” she breathed as this hands moved up and down her back.

Bending to kiss her cheek, Rush couldn’t keep the smirk off her face. “You look so warn out; I thought you could use this.”

“Hmmm,” she smiled. “Such a compliment.”

Kissing the back of her neck, Rush’s hand made one more pass down her spine before he stretched out beside her on the bed. “I take it your dreams and work on the regeneration system are more than you bargained for.”

Instead of telling him specifics, Mandy simply nodded. “Tamara and I keep hitting a dead end. The system wants an input code, but we haven’t had any luck with the sequences.”

“Have you tried your DNA markers?”

Sighing, she nodded again. “The sequence only got me so far. We tried your master code as well, but no luck.”

Blinking, Rush pushed aside memories of what he went through to discover the master code unlocking the ship’s controls. The DNA sequence turned out to be that of his late wife, Gloria. Back then, he missed Gloria with a consuming ache, but once he controlled the ship, he felt new possibilities spread before him. That clarity and sense of freedom only sharpened with Amanda’s return to his life.

Caressing her face, a sense of awe of her sheer beauty, mental and physical, overwhelmed him. Rush would cherish and protect Amanda, even more so given what they’ve survived together. Rush wanted to scoop her up and never, ever let go.

“You will find the answer,” he whispered as his knuckles caressed her check.

“I hope so,” Mandy sighed. Touch felt new and exciting and overpowering all at the same time, but Amanda wouldn’t trade the sensory input for all the universe. “How was your day?”

Grinning like a cat with a bowl of cream, Rush looked positively proud of himself. “Very productive. Chloe and I disabled the Nakai booby trap.”

Amanda’s brows lifted. “Really? That’s wonderful!”

“Well, the work was mostly Chloe.” A thoughtful expression bloomed. “She lived with those gradual transformations for months. It’s very likely she knows much more about their species than she realizes.”

Inching forward to hug him, Mandy rested her cheek on his chest to hear his heartbeat. “I’m glad you weren’t suffering like Chloe. I couldn’t bear it if anything happened to you.”

“Hey,” he said as he ran his fingers through her hair. “I’m here. We’re together and the Nakai are gone. There’s nothing to fear.”

Except she was afraid. The Nakai never left Destiny alone for very long. Those aliens always found a way to catch up to them and cause havoc. Even given all Chloe and Nick endured, would they be able to fend off attacks and produce remedies forever?

Closing her eyes, Mandy wished all her fears and worries would magically dissipate into the ether. Right now, in this moment, she felt grateful to be in Rush’s arms, savoring every second, and awed by the slightest sensation, like the rise and fall of his chest beneath her. Was it greedy to want to curl up in a bubble of love and happiness with the man she adored and not have the outside universe give them grief?

“I just don’t want anything to happen to you,” she breathed as she snuggled into his shirt.

Rolling over so he rested on top, Rush pinned Amanda wrists above her head, looking deep into her blue eyes. “I’ve lost you more times than I care to count,” he rasped. “I’ve felt the empty void of you in my heart and I never want to experience that feeling ever again. You are part of my soul, Amanda Perry, just as I am a part of yours. We keep coming around to each other. Fate. Serendipity. I don’t care what you call it. All I know is that we belong together. Always.”

Breath hitching, feeling love swell in her heart, Mandy gladly accepted his kiss. The brush of lips was soft at first; tender, but as the tingles danced through her bloodstream, the heat rose, casing a moan of delight to escape her as Rush’s tongue delved deep to taste her essence.

Wrapping her arms around his neck, Mandy melted into his hold as the kiss went on and on. Oh, how she wanted him! Wanted this! After all they’ve endured, they deserved happiness!

A cry of protest left her when Rush came up for air. Rising to his elbows, he repositioned his body between her legs. A knowing smile came to his face noticing her eyes light up with awareness. Boldly pressing into her sex, he took her mouth again, swallowing her every moan and encouragement.

His palm gently cupped her breast, caressing her nipple to peak. Loving Mandy’s innocent reaction and undisguised arousal, Rush’s mouth watered for a taste of her skin. He wanted to press the envelope a bit since they worked through a few barriers. The idea of stripping his love and kissing her sex until she climaxed caused him to harden. Amanda wouldn’t deny him. In fact, Rush had a feeling his Little Miss Brilliant would go wild in his arms.

Needing to make the fantasy a reality, he pushed a hand beneath her shirt, gently raking his nails over his bare skin. Loving the experience, she arched and writhed as Rush’s mouth moved lower. Her lower body ground into his, hinting to her lover she wanted more. Grasping her bra clasp, Rush could have her bare in seconds. “Mandy,” he moaned as the kiss grew desperate.

Out of no where, his radio sounded. “Come in, Dr. Perry.”

Gasping, Amanda jerked out of the kiss, her eyes going to the nightstand where the radio called her name.

“Ignore it,” Rush growled as he recaptured her lips.

More than willing to follow his command, Mandy returned the kiss fervently, but Eli’s voice cut through the connection, unwilling to leave them in peace.

“Dr. Perry, come in. It’s important.”

Tearing his mouth from hers, muttering curses under his breath about cockholding fuckers, Rush rolled away to grab the radio. “Eli,” he barked over the line.

“Rush?”

“Yes,” he said impatiently. “This is my radio.”

After a poignant pause, Eli continued. “Yeah, I assumed she would be with you.”

Casting Mandy a can-you-believe-this-guy look, Rush nearly told Eli to sod off, but the kid beat him to the punch.

“I discovered a breakthrough in the regeneration room,” he stated with undisguised excitement.

Those words were enough for Mandy to snatch the radio from Rush’s hand. “What sort of breakthrough, Eli?”

“One you’re going to want to see,” he replied with a hint of smugness. Not only did he make a startling connection, but he was right about where Dr. Perry spent her time: attached to Rush’s hip. Then again, no one aboard doubted the couple’s status.

“I’ll be right there.”

Excited, Mandy bounced off the bed in search of her shoes. Eyes following her every move, Rush wondered if he looked the same way when he became ecstatic over his work. Amanda was simply adorable with her knowing grin, obvious curiosity, and open anticipation. He wanted to yank her back onto this bed and fuck her senseless. Of course, his baser urges would have to wait.

Rising, he noticed Mandy’s surprise. “You’re coming?”

“I’m not missing this,” he asserted. “Not by a long shot.”

Laughing, Amanda kissed his cheek. “I love you.”

“That’s because you have a generous heart.”

“Stop,” she said playfully as she squeezed his shoulders. “Let’s go!”

Smiling as he followed her hasty exit, Rush hoped this discovery was one hell of a bombshell. Otherwise, he was taking Mandy straight back here to finish what they started. To his mind, they were patient long enough.

Chapter Text

“If figured out the order of your equations,” Eli announced the second Mandy and Rush came through the door. Walking Mandy through the main controls, he showed her the screen that popped up when he input the commands.

“My Ancient’s a bit rusty,” he said, shifting on his feet.

“What sequences did you use?”

“Here.” Eli handed her his paperwork. “I simply reversed these two. See? Then boom! The systems accepted the coding and now I think we’re finally getting somewhere.”

Looking over Eli’s notes, then reading the Ancient words on the console, Amanda’s nerve endings were all too aware of Eli pressing close, eager for words of approval, while Rush looked over her shoulder reading the same screen. Fingers shaking, Amanda shifted her focus from the paper to the screen and concentrated for a moment, then pressed one of the familiar symbols, gasping when the screen displayed an outline of a human’s anatomy.

“What are you doing,” Eli asked, his voice shaking ever so slightly.

“Seeing if I can access the system and put in my own commands,” she answered.

Feeling Rush step closer, Mandy focused on the task, pushing aside the heat rolling in her lower abdomen. Tapping the head of the diagram, the screen zoomed in, displaying the specific nervous system networks connecting directly to the brain. Thinking of Dr. Park, Amanda watched a series of Ancient symbols appear.

“What does it say,” Eli asked, wiping his sweaty palms on his jeans.

“It’s asking her to choose a function,” Rush supplied.

Inhaling a deep breath, Mandy selected the area of the cornea Dr. Park would need repaired. Since the whole system was in Ancient, their work proved slow going, but the more information they were able to access, the more it seemed they finally had control of the inner workings of the technology.

“This is amazing,” she breathed.

“And very dangerous,” Rush warned. “If too many people know about this, and Homeworld Command gets wind of it, they’ll be sending the troops through the gate faster than you can say ‘hostile takeover’.”

“What do you suggest, Rush,” Eli snapped. “The system works now! How are we supposed to keep that a secret?”

“And we can help people, Nick,” Mandy stated. “Dr. Park can have her eyesight back.”

“Plus, everyone on this ship already knows about Dr. Perry,” Eli continued arguing. “They know the room exists.”

“Knowing it exists and knowing how it works are two totally different things!” Rush’s attention shifted to Mandy, his eyes pleading. “The Nakai’s last attack will only be the beginning. If word gets out, if we stand in the way, we’ll be sacrificed as collateral damage.”

Glancing at Eli, a silent understanding passed between the three. “I think we can still help people,” she told her love. “If we confide in only TJ and Colonel Young, then we can come up with a cover story saying Dr. Park’s eyes healed on their own.”

“Then three more people will know a secret, which isn’t comforting,” Rush stated. “And what if another crew member needs healing via this method? How long before the whole ship knows as well?”

“That’s so like you,” Eli challenged. “Deny helping someone else because you want to play cloak and dagger!”

“If you think this is a game, then you really need to grow up, Eli! Fast! Sometimes we don’t always have the luxury-”

“Spare me, Rush! You’re so full of it! Just like when you had control of this ship and let people die!”

Rolling his eyes, Rush pointed a finger at Math Boy’s chest. “You can tell me that when you’ve been around the block a few times!”

“I’m getting sick and tired of you insulting me! You just feel threatened because I’m smarter than you will ever be!”

Seeing red, Rush nearly blew his top, but Mandy moved between them, shouting at the pair to calm down.

“Enough!” Giving both Eli and Nick equal glares, she waited until they backed down before continuing. “Arguing like this solves nothing!”

“He did this the last time, remember?” Eli cast Mandy an expectant look. “He had control of the ship for months before he told us! No, wait, before we found out after people died! A friend of mine!”

“I never intended for that to happen,” Rush asserted. “I couldn’t trust Young! Not with the mission or the ship after what he did to me!”

“When will you get it through your thick skull that we are all in this together?”

“Let me hear you preach teamwork and trust after an alien species tears you apart and uses you for experiments!”

Moving to block Eli from Nick’s view, Mandy cupped his face and forced his eye to hers. “We will figure this out, Nicholas,” she said gently. “I promise.”

Sighing, Rush rested is forehead against his beloved’s before drawing Mandy into his embrace. Of all the people in the universe, Amanda was the only soul to fully recognize his. Opening his eyes and spotting Eli over her shoulder, Rush nearly gave up the argument, but couldn’t resist using the one ace up his sleeve that never failed to trigger a reaction.

“If the wrong people find out about this, then we’re all in danger. Worse, Mandy will be coveted for possible experiments.”

Feeling Amanda stiffen in his arms, Rush smoothed his hands up and down her back until she relaxed.

“If we help Dr. Park and bring back Ginn, they could be targets as well,” he continued. “The more people who know about this technology, who use the communication stones to visit Earth, the greater the risk of exposure.”

Folding his arms across his chest, Eli looked down as he shuffled his feet. As much as he hated to admit it, Rush made some valid points. When he thought the guy purely an egotistical back, Eli’s life was less complicated. His heart yearned for Ginn and getting her back was possible, but at what cost? Damn Rush for making him second-guess everything!

“What do you propose,” he finally asked.

“Erase the data from the walls in the equation hall,” Rush started. “Destroy that paper.”

“But how will we-”

“You’ll remember, Eli,” Rush continued. “Amanda has been dreaming of those equations for months, so I doubt she’ll forget. The two of you will be the only ones to work the system, but you can’t tell anyone else.”

“Not even you?” Eli let the sarcasm drip thickly off his tongue.

The answering glare Rush threw his way actually made Eli gulp.

“If you two are the only people who know how to work the system, that gives you both power and offers a certain level of protection.”

The moment he uttered the last word, Rush gave Mandy’s hand a reassuring squeeze. Her eyes lifted to meet his and tender devotion swelled in his chest. One look and Amanda could unman him thoroughly.

“And what do we tell Dr. Park,” Eli pressed. “Or TJ and Young, for that matter?”

“You can’t tell Young anything,” Rush snapped.

“I don’t know how we can avoid it,” Eli shot back. The man was their leader for crying out loud! They couldn’t pull the wool over his eyes indefinitely!

“The answer is simple. Just don’t heal Dr. Park.”

The disgust crossing Eli’s face made clear they were in for another fight if she didn’t step in and do something, so Mandy faced Eli and talked him down.

“At this point we don’t know if we can even help her, Eli. It’s all speculation.”

Dr. Perry was right, of course. They were in the beginning stages of figuring out the system and its programming. Who knew if they would succeed? Nevertheless, Eli wanted to make his position perfectly clear.

“If we find a way to help Lisa, then I’m taking it.”

Raking a hand through his hair, Rush wanted to slap the idealism out of Eli until only common sense remained, but wondered if anything could shake the kid’s convictions. In his arrogance, Eli thought he had life all figured out, even after the Nakai attack. How quickly he forgot the lesson taught there, huh?

“If you tell Young,” Rush warned. “The situation will just get more complicated.”

“Here we go,” Eli scoffed.

“No, just hear me out, Eli.” Rush waited until the boy genius focused on him before continuing. “If people can come one way through the gate, there would be no stopping Homeworld Command from taking control of the ship and the mission.”

“You’ve made that argument before,” Eli responded in a bored tone.

“But have you considered what being a hostage on his ship would really mean?”

“That’s a little overdramatic, even for you.”

“It’s quite possible,” Rush insisted. “We would be prisoners here, outnumbered by military personnel with no leverage. They could strip us of our rights.”

“Which are the only things you care about, Rush! I’m not fooled! You want to be in charge! You’ve wanted to undermine Colonel Young from day one!”

“Because I believe, even in these great circumstances, that the civilians have rights! And if the military does overpower us-”

“That’s a worst case scenario!”

Rush looked Eli dead in the eye. “A scenario that is very close to playing out.”

The room filled with dead silence as the two men squared off, refusing to give an inch. Walking up to Rush, taking his arm and gently smoothing her hand over his bicep, Amanda offered what comfort she could. Fully understanding Rush’s concerns and motives because she shared many of them, she was willing to keep this new discovery a secret until they learned more about the system.

Eli wasn’t so easily convinced. He wanted Ginn back, so he would continue working on the project, but resented being sworn to secrecy about what was really going on. Worse, he despised the way Rush threw his mistakes in his face. Yes, the alien attack was partially his fault, but this time his stance wasn’t about getting one over on the guy. He stood up for the principle of helping others on this ship in the long term.

“I’ll go along with this plan for now,” he relented. “But if we can help Park, or get Ginn back, then we will have to rethink the matter.”

“Fair enough,” Rush reluctantly acquiesced. The frustration gnawing at his nerves couldn’t be fully soothed, even by Mandy’s presence. Why was he the only one predicting the potential disaster on the horizon? Strict rules needed to be sanctioned and followed now if they ever hoped to keep this extraordinary secret.

Eli destroyed his notes and Amanda washed her equations off the board in the hall. So far, she and Eli were the only people who could access the regeneration program. Rush only hoped danger wouldn’t shadow them due to that knowledge.

“Are you really that worried,” Mandy asked when they returned to her quarters. “About the echoes in the stones?”

Sighing, Rush pulled her into his arms for a comforting hug. Right now, he needed to feel her warmth and bask in her touch. Amanda was alive and he was so grateful, but also scared to death of losing her again.

“I discovered Colonel Telford’s association with the Lucian Alliance by switching with him once,” Rush supplied. “Later, we learned he was brainwashed, but the risk is still there, Amanda. Minimal, but enough to worry me.”

Leaning back, he cupped her cheek, caressing his thumbs over her soft skin. “I won’t lose you again.”

The determination and desperation in his tone made her want to ease all his hurts. No sooner did Mandy press her lips to his, eager to get lost in the sensation of kissing the man she adored, his radio sounded. This time, Young wanted him on the bridge.

Pulling back, Amanda smiled hearing Nick muttering curses under his breath as he grabbed the device. He would probably smash the thing against a wall if people continued this pattern of interrupting them. Love swelled in her heart watching his lips move while answering the summons. Rush possessed such beautiful lips.

Shaken out of her revelry when Rush started to leave, Amanda gave him one more sound kiss, reminding him that she would be here waiting when he returned. Growling possessively, Rush deepened the kiss before yanking away to see to his duties.

Once the door closed, Mandy changed and got ready for bed. Even with all the discoveries, excitement, and drama, her body refused to continue operating on adrenaline alone. Snugging under the covers and hugging her pillow, her thoughts drifted to Rush.

They came so close to making love. In that moment, she had to regrets, but now, Amanda didn’t want to be too hasty. A few details about their budding relationship should be addressed. At the same time, she knew her life wouldn’t work out according to the scenarios in her mind.

Having this second chance came against all odds, so she should savor every second and make sure she didn’t miss out on any opportunities. Yes, she was nervous because there would be no restarting the program for a do-over in real life. As much as she yearned for a perfect moment, anything she experienced in Rush’s arms would be wonderful regardless. So far, Amanda’s toes still curled just thinking about their kisses.

Sometime during the night, a warmth joined her in bed and hugged her tight. Recognizing Rush’s scent, Mandy snuggled into that embrace, resting her cheek against his chest, and wrapping a leg around his waist.

Smiling as he stroked her back, Rush closed his eyes. Having Mandy in his arms reiterated how perfectly she fit against his form. Their relationship would soon move to the next level, but Rush didn’t have an active plan to achieve that goal. For now, he relished simply having her here and drifted off into a contented slumber.

Chapter Text

Waking feeling warm and safe, Mandy snuggled closer into Rush’s chest. At this point, she preferred not surrendering to full reality. Instead, she imagined they were home on Earth, living in a nice house, both having the day off of work and choosing to linger in bed before rising to make breakfast.

Amanda’s mouth watered at the thought of pancakes and sausage. Hugging Rush tighter, she couldn’t help but wonder if she would ever have such a life with this man. Would they ever make it home?

Daring to open her eyes, her gaze went straight to his face. In slumber, Rush was as handsome as always. Gently brushing a lock of his hair way from his cheek, Mandy’s fingertips lovingly stroked his skin, playing over his forehead and temples, teasing the lines around his eyes and the shape of his distinguished nose before moving to trace his lips. Those full, gorgeous lips could kiss her so thoroughly she saw stars. Even now, the memories made her heart skip a beat or two.

Rush was so beautiful and she didn’t want to wake him. Besides, what was there for them to do anyway? For once, no sequences were streaming through her mind, forcing her attention elsewhere. Rush’s presence always calmed those dreams.

Briefly, Amanda considered telling him about her experiences in quarantine, but before she could utter a word, they were running from one crisis to the next. With the present calm settling over them, she didn’t want to ruin the solace by opening that can of worms. Perhaps she should keep the matter to herself, especially since she wasn’t in that awful place anymore. Her subconscious wasn’t living another life of loneliness and pain because she thought she deserved misery.

Growing uncomfortable, Mandy very gently and slowly detangled her limbs from Rush’s and sat up in bed. Raking a hand through her hair, her eyes gazed longingly at the man she loved. The fact Rush came back to her last night simply to hold her in his arms filled her soul with a sense of security and comfort. There was no question of their love or commitment to one another.

Carefully rising to her feet, Mandy turned to tuck the covers over Nicholas’s shoulders. Kissing his brow, she grabbed her iPod off the nightstand and left her quarters to use the facilities. Washed and refreshed, she headed to the equation hall. Most of her work was gone, but there were still a few sequences that weren’t a part of the regeneration’s start-up sequence. Theses equations must be relevant, however, so she put on her headphones and shuffled the songs while she worked out the math. As a Shakira tune thumped through her ears, Mandy focused on the board and got lost in the hypnotizing rhythm of her work.

****

“I’m not using the stones,” Eli stated emphatically when Colonel Young kept hinting he should visit home.

“Why not? You’ll be able to see your mother.”

Yeah, and as much as he missed her - like crazy missed her - there were too many risks at the moment. The second he activated a communication stone, Telford would be in his face demanding answers and making him work with McKay on the supply line project. In fact, Eli figured Telford would hold visits with his mother over his head like a weapon, or as some sort of blackmail, and who needed the aggravation? Long range communication would have to do for now.

Briefly, Eli did consider giving McKay an equation which would lead him around in circles for a little longer, but eventually the guy would figure out their scheme and realize they were purposely evading him.

“I have a lot of work here to do,” Eli argued. “The overhaul of the FTL drives is a huge undertaking.”

“And Rush’s team seems to have that situation well in hand.”

Only because Chloe had a knack for the calculations, but Eli held his tongue. Having something to do made Chloe happy, especially since she remembered all too well what being confined to her quarters for months on end felt like, and she never wanted to be in such a predicament again. Volker and Brody had the rest down pat, but as for Rush, well that was another story.

The guy would show up just to issue orders, then disappear again to spend time with Dr. Perry in the regeneration chamber. Every time he walked into a room and saw the couple, they were working together, finishing each other’s sentences and communicating through looks alone. Eli could so easily see the love passing between the pair and wanted the same with Ginn, but also thought it wise to keenly observe those two. Sure, he and Dr. Perry were the only two who memorized the regenerator sequences, but Eli couldn’t be sure Rush wasn’t pressuring Dr. Perry to whisper a few key details in his ear. All the more reason for Eli to stay here and keep an eye on matters.

Of course, he didn’t want to be observing so closely that he caught Rush and Dr. Perry making out. The second he bumped into those two in a lip lock, Eli swore to put his foot down about Rush’s visits. Then again, the devil scientist never listened to him.

“Eli,” Young snapped, rousing Eli from his musings. “Have you heard a word I’ve said?”

“Yeah,” he lied. Young gave him an unconvinced look, but Eli covered for his scattered focus by not backing down.

“Then will you go?”

Normally, arguing with the Colonel wasn’t his crutch. Eli let Rush do most of that, but lately he did consider all the pros and cons of having new personnel on board Destiny and he started making his own list of arguments. His gut screamed warnings about going to Earth and Eli trusted the instinct.

“I’ve been giving them regular updates, so there isn’t anything new to report on my end.”

Young studied the math genius for several seconds. “What’s really going on?”

Shrugging, Eli attempted to maintain a nonchalant air. “I just don’t have anything new to tell them. What would going to Earth just so Telford can intimidate me really accomplish?”

“He says McKay has some new ideas,” Young pressed. “Plus, I thought you would want to see your family.”

“I do!” Eli missed his mother, but dropping the ball could mean huge consequences and he didn’t need more on his conscience.

“Then what’s really going on,” Young demanded.

The Colonel wanted an explanation and since Eli was pretty sure the man could read him like an open book, he decided to tell the truth about what was bothering him, hoping Young would take the bait and drop the subject.

“Residual echoes.”

Blinking in confusion, Young searched his memory since the phrase sounded familiar. “What are you talking about?”

“The stones,” he insisted. “They can sometimes leave echoes, like the time Rush switched with Telford and we learned about his brainwashing and the Lucian Alliance. What if the wrong person finds out what I know?”

“Eli,” Young started, his tone holding a hint of impatience. “The only reason Rush even picked up on those echoes was because of the brainwashing. The stones sensed something was wrong and reacted accordingly.”

“How can you be so sure?”

In all honesty, he couldn’t. Young knew Eli’s concerns held some merit, but he wasn’t born yesterday. Young could tell Eli was holding back from the real issue and had a feeling Rush was dangling the Nakai attacks over the kid’s conscience. Figures. Rush was a manipulator on a good day.

“I doubt anyone will guess your secret, or even be able to read your mind about your work here,” Young firmly stated.

“But how can you be so sure? I mean, even without the echoes, what if someone slips up and mentions Dr. Perry to someone at home? Or tells someone about the regeneration room? Knowing about the Preserve could have-”

“Everyone on the ship has strict orders not to say a word about classified information,” Young interrupted. “We all know that consequences if we do. The resent attack is still fresh in all our minds.”

Yeah, Eli knew that more keenly than most. “All I’m saying is that mistakes happen and we can’t afford risks at this stage when we don’t even have a good cover story.”

“True.” Stepping closer, Young invaded Eli’s personal space. He didn’t relish pushing the issue, but he’d pull rank if necessary.

“However, I don’t think I need to remind you that if we suddenly stop using the stones, and act in any way other than what’s become routine, Homeworld Command will be suspicious. Telford wants a meeting, so I’ll go with you. We’ll discuss the Langaran supply line and only the supply line, which will give you time to see your mother. Afterwards, we’ll return to Destiny. End of story.”

Not seeing any wiggle room, Eli relented. Young’s adamant stance on the regeneration technology and Dr. Perry would keep the crew in line. As long as Young had his back, Eli could make the compromise and go to Earth. The debate over the supply line wouldn’t be solved in one meeting, so he hoped he wouldn’t have to worry about getting called back anytime soon. In the meantime, he must keep it cool and play along.

****

Returning to duty was like riding a bike. Greer finally finished his physical therapy and TJ cleared him for the usual daily grind. Hell, it felt good to be back. Not the type to lie in bed doing nothing, Greer was going insane in the confines of the infirmary.

Scott and the others welcomed him with open arms and Colonel Young got him up to speed on what needed to be done. After his first shift, he headed to the mess hall where he was greeted with applause and a standing ovation. Uncomfortable with all the cheering, Greer thanked everyone and went to grab his rations. As his eyes darted around the room, Greer didn’t see Amanda. She saved his life after all, so he owed her a few words of thanks. Odd that she didn’t visit him in the hospital, but then again Lisa was practically glued to his side, so that may explain things.
Choosing a seat, Greer opened his mouth to ask Camile where Dr. Perry was, but caught the tail end of her conversation with Lt. James and his back stiffened.

“Now he thinks she can just be a part of the team like nothing happened,” James complained.

“Dr. Perry has fixed the ship before,” Camile pointed out. “She’s familiar with our systems and knows her way around the FTL drive. Honestly, I’m surprised she hasn’t already taken a more active role in the engine repairs.”

“Probably because she’s a freak of nature.” James’s face scrunched at the thought of Dr. Perry becoming a full crew member.

Camile shook her head. “That’s a bit harsh.”

“Well, what would you call it?”

“She can’t help what happened to her.”

Vanessa’s shock was written all over her face. “You’re defending her now?’

“No, I’m just saying it’s-”

“You should watch what you say, Lieutenant,” Greer cut in as he turned around to look James in the eye. “Dr. Perry saved my life, so I owe her a debt. I’ve heard you badmouthing her for a while now, and I’m here to tell you that’s about enough. That woman has proven herself as far as I’m concerned.”

“Yeah,” James snapped. “Well, you’ve never switched bodies with her! So don’t get all high-and-mighty!”

As the scowl on Greer’s face deepened, a warning flashed in his eyes. “This has nothing to do with Dr. Perry,” he stated. “This is about how you’re too weak to take more than five seconds in a quadriplegic’s body. It’s your cowardice you need to deal with, not Dr. Perry’s.”

“Why are you even defending her,” James screeched. “Do you have a crush on her or something? Because I thought you were with Dr. Park-”

Greer laughed in her face. “So everything is automatically romantic, is that it? Is your scope really so narrow?”

Paling, James struggled for words.

“I respect you, Lieutenant, but the reason I defend Dr. Perry is because she had lived through hell and then got the raw end of the deal. If she has a second chance at a normal life, I can’t think of anyone who deserves it more. Then she risks that life and that second chance to save my skin? Hell yes, I’m going to defend her. Especially against a bully.”

Nearly every eye in the mess hall was looking at him, but Greer simply took his tray and rose to his feet. “I’m going to take this back to my quarters now.”

Looking around the room, then poignantly back at James, Greer walked out the door. The second he was gone, James was on her feet, heading in the opposite direction in an effort to outrun her embarrassment. Sighing, Camile decided to talk to Young.

Most of the people on this ship didn’t have an issue with Dr. Perry. A few were still hesitant around her, but most afforded the woman a level of open admiration after the Nakai attack. James was the only one with a real grudge. Camile fully understood the lieutenant’s motives, and even agreed with her on some level, but she and Vanessa were the only ones who knew the feeling of being a prisoner in a body.

Finding the Colonel, Camile explained the situation, frustrated to see Young’s nonchalant attitude.

“What do you expect me to do, Camile? James hasn’t broken any technical rules.”

“I was talking about Greer.”

Young stared blankly for a long moment before rolling his eyes. “You’ve got to be kidding me.” Camile was seriously trying to have Greer punished for speaking his mind and defending a member of this crew?

“I have my suspicions that more people are weary of Dr. Perry than they let on,” she clarified.

“So, by your estimation, since Dr. Perry is different, you think it alright for James to belittle and bully, but Greer’s position of speaking his mind for the other side is a punishable offence?”

Putting the circumstances under that microscope, Young made her sound awful. “You’re twisting my words.”

“Why are you defending James?”

Camile figured she might as well be honest. “Because I think Dr. Perry is…unnatural and so does she.”

Brow shooting up his forehead, but gave no further indication of his shock.

“She’ll be trouble for us all,” Camile warned. “Mark my words.”

Chapter Text

Waking up alone, realizing he was late, Rush was in a grumpy mood until he stumbled across Amanda in the equation hall. Just the sight of her humming alone to the tune on her iPod while writing numbers was enough to bring a huge grin to his face. Stepping closer, a small voice in his head knew he should ask about the iPod, but he really didn’t care where she found it. Why sweat the little things when the love of his life was back in his arms?

Seeing Mandy fully engrossed in her work, Rush approached carefully, circling around behind her back. His chest filled with giddiness at the prospect of surprising her. Such moods were rare for him and could only be brought out by the sight of his beloved. He guessed she didn’t have a clue, even now, about how vital she was to his existence. Rush already knew of the depth of her attachment, but he wondered if the time would come when Amanda would understand how much she truly meant to him.

Feeling the arm wrapping around her waist, Amanda gasped in shock, her body jerking as she glanced over her shoulder to see Rush. Letting out a breath of relief, she took off her headphones and smiled.

“I thought you would be working down in the engine room.”

“I wanted to see you first,” he said smoothly as he drew her back against his chest. Bending to press soft kisses to the side of her neck, Rush enjoyed the sensation of Mandy melting into him.

“I didn’t like walking up alone,” he whispered thickly in her ear.

Thrills washed over her body at the feel of his hands, and Mandy’s eyes drifted closed as her hands clutched at the steady arms holding her. The explanation was on the tip of her tongue, but with the first lick of Rush’s tongue on her earlobe, the words scattered. A soft moan escaped her lips as Rush made his way to her neck. As a result, she became putty in his hands.

“Rush,” she gasped when he turned her around in his arms. Their eyes locked and Amanda forgot how to breathe. Accepting the kiss, she wasn’t expecting his tongue to demand entrance quite so aggressively, but Amanda surrendered nonetheless. The result was another moan escaping from her into him.

Pressing his body close until he felt the crush of her breasts against him, Rush refused to relent. He wanted to possess Amanda with every fiber of his being.

“Yes,” he growled against her lips when her body arched into his frame. “Amanda!”

The kiss went on and on as hands grasped hair and bodies rubbed close. Nothing else in the universe mattered but this moment, this feeling, this love. When Rush reached beneath her shirt and bra to cup her naked breast and tease her nipple, Amanda cried out.

“Yes,” she whimpered before taking his mouth again. This time, she thrust her tongue deep, mimicking what he taught her.

Rush was about to kick the kiss up a notch, but a loud, echoing bang had them breaking apart and looking around for the commotion. Rush could hear a mumbling voice down the corridor. With a sigh, he regretfully pulled free of Mandy’s embrace to go have a look. Spotting Volker coming their way, he cursed under his breath.

Returning to Mandy’s side, they had enough time to right their rumpled clothing and compose their expressions before Volker rounded the corner carrying two heavy bulkheads.

“Mr. Volker,” Rush greeted rather grumpily. “Why are you lugging around pieces of the ship?”

“Because these need to be replaced,” he panted as he set down the items. “I figured I would find you here to show you.”

“Or, you could have simply used your radio, and I would have come to you.”

Cheeks flushing at the obvious mistake, Volker went ahead to explain the damage. Kneeling in front of the rather large bulkheads to examine the conduits within, Rush knew there was no easy fix. “How many of these are effected?”

“All of them.”

Rush’s eyes widened bit, but otherwise he maintained his composure. “Do we have the tools necessary to fix all of them?”

“No,” Volker solemnly stated.

Cursing under his breath, Rush stiffened when Mandy came to kneel beside him to inspect the damage with her own eyes. For as long as he was able, Rush selfishly wanted to keep Mandy away from the work they were doing to repair the ship. She, of all people, would realize how serious the situation truly was and the last thing he wanted was to frighten her.

“Rewiring the conduit using the substitute outlet would work better,” she stated. “Maybe even increase efficiency if all the conduits were repaired with the same method.”

Frowning, Volker didn’t fully understand. “What do you mean?”

As Mandy explained, Rush couldn’t tear his eyes away from her lips. Yes, he was probably wearing a bemused smile, but he didn’t care. This woman was so smart and beautiful and she was all his. Love and pride swelled in his chest, causing his heart to slam against his ribs. Rush would have loved nothing more than to grab her and kiss her senseless, but Volker’s presence as throwing a wrench into those plans.

Regretfully, Rush realized he would have to help Volker take the bulkheads back to where they belonged. Giving Mandy a soft-eyed look of apology, he squeezed her hand as he pulled her a few feet away for a private word.

“I’ll see you later,” he promised.

Feeling giddy at the prospect, Amanda moved closer to his warmth. She was tired of waiting, and could tell by the lustful looks Rush gave her, he felt the same way. “I’ll look forward to it,” she said for his ears alone.

Normally, Rush wouldn’t have given a damn and kissed Mandy right then and there for all to see, but knowing her shyness, he settled for a lingering kiss on her cheek and neck. Amanda shivered in response to his touch, making him smirk with knowing delight.

“I should only be a few hours.”

Lightheaded and weak-kneed from such a simple touch, Amanda had to brace a hand on the wall for purchase as she watched Rush walk out of sight. Anticipation surged in her veins, making concentrating on her work near impossible. Mandy tried nonetheless, but when the obvious became clear, she went back to her quarters to wait for Rush’s return.

Hours passed and her eyes grew heavy. To fill the time, she toyed with the chess set, but playing against herself quickly became tedious. As a result, she nearly fell asleep by the time Rush finally entered her quarters. Feeling the shifting mattress, she rolled on her side and offered her love a smile.

“How did everything go?”

Wordlessly stroking her cheek, the last thing Rush wanted to do right now was talk. He spent enough time working and wanted his reward. Staring at Amanda, Rush silently vowed to cherish every moment in her arms. They were finally together and wouldn’t squander another second.

The kiss was soft, but powerful enough to send little thrills of excitement through Mandy’s blood. Relaxing as she returned the kiss, her hands instinctively tugged at his shirt. Likewise, his fingers itched to stroke her naked skin.

Breaking the kiss just long enough to drag his vest and shirt over his head, Rush sucked in a sharp breath when Amanda started smoothing her hand over his chest. With a moan, he moved back over her body to capture her lips for another deep, intoxicating kiss. This time, his hands worked to remove her clothing.

As eager as he to be skin-to-skin, Amanda didn’t resist when he removed first her shirt then her bra. Sighs of pleasure caught in Nick’s mouth as his rough hands cupped her full breasts. Gasping at the delicious sensations as he kneaded her flesh, Mandy’s body bowed to his touch.

Feeling her nipples peak, Rush growled as his cock jerked. Wanting to taste her, he ended the kiss in favor of licking her nipples, one-by-one as she writhed beneath him. Hearing her cry him name, Rush’s determination solidified. This experience would be perfect for her.

Heat flushed her cheeks even as the sensations Rush roused made her body sing. Oh, she wanted this! Wanted more! Clutching at his hair and shoulders Mandy felt her juices gush from her core, signaling full arousal.

“Rush,” she panted, wanting more, yet not knowing how to get what she craved.

Sensing her urgency, he released her breast to cover her mouth with his, while molding the shape of her body. Softly easing a hand between their bodies, Rush yanked up her skirt to stroke her panties, teasing the flesh beneath to urge Mandy to come apart. As his fingers started pushing her panties aside, intending to feel her naked sex, Rush’s progress was suddenly halted when Mandy grabbed his wrist and pulled out of their kiss.

“No,” she gasped. “Wait!”

Gritting his teeth, Rush forced his body to calm. He couldn’t take much for of this teasing encounter! He wanted to be inside her now, but wouldn’t ever force the issue. Being hard and ready made things difficult, but after a few deep breaths he was able to focus. Those beautiful blues shimmered with moisture, making him frown in question.

“Mandy? What’s wrong?”

“I-” Feeling her cheeks flush, Mandy couldn’t look at him as she made her confession. “I’m different,” she managed. “Down there.”

Still not understanding, he shook his head. “What do you mean?”

“I look…different than I did in the simulation.”

“How different?”

Unsure why she felt ashamed after all of TJ’s reassurances, Amanda pulled Rush down to whisper her answer in his ear. To her surprise, he chuckled.

“I’m sure you’re beautiful, Amanda.”

“But-”

Cutting off her words with a kiss, Rush glided his fingers over her panties, stroking the folds beneath. Breaking the kiss, he flashed a kind smile.

“Your folds respond to stimulation.” To prove his point, his fingertips made another slow pass over her sex. “Feel how you clench in response?”

Gasping, Amanda nodded with glazed eyes.

“Your shape is beautiful, Mandy. You’re beautiful.”

“I-”

“Let me show you.”

Before she could guess his intention, Mandy watched Rush pull back enough to yank her skirt and panties down her legs. Fully naked beneath him, her first instinct was to shield her body with her arms, but Nick wasn’t having any of it. Pinning her wrists above her head, his mouth descended on her flesh. Kissing and licking, teasing and delightfully tormenting, Rush soon had Mandy crying out in need as her body arched in plea.

Paying special attention to both breasts, loving how she flesh overflowed in his palms, Rush made his love nearly delirious with pleasure before kissing his way down her stomach to her monds. Inhaling her sweet musk, his fingers delved between her groomed curls and opened her sex to his gaze. Watching her bloom, a huge smile spread his lips.

“Beautiful,” he breathed as his fingers gently played with her inner folds.

Gasping, Mandy’s hips instinctively rolled against his hand. Wanting more, but uncertain, she could only cry out again as his fingers did wickedly wonderful things to her body.

Loving how Mandy was finally letting go and allowing her body to fully feel, Rush dared to take his explorations a step further. Kissing her sensitive flesh, he felt Manda stiffen, but gasped her hips and coaxed her movements as he flicked his tongue over her pink clitoris.

“Rush,” she exclaimed as the pleasure slammed through her being. “What are – oh!”

His tongue swirled, sucking her clit and making her hips buck. Surrendering, Mandy’s body followed his lead as his mouth savored every inch of her sex, all the way down to her core and back up again. Mandy didn’t remember the sensations from the simulation being so intense! She wasn’t prepared and, when Rush gently eased a finger inside her tight opening to tease her g-spot while simultaneously licking her clit, Amanda couldn’t hold back as her body reacted.

Coming in a violent, colorful, extraordinary wave of pleasure, she sobbed his name as her orgasm consumed her consciousness. Even as the waves started reseeding, Rush continued licking and teasing her until the last aftershock faded.

“That was-“ Unable to find the right words, Amanda shook her head.

“I’m glad I could render you speechless,” he chuckled as he climbed up her body for another kiss.

Accepting the sweep of his tongue, Mandy loved how perfectly they fit together. Rush settled easily between her thighs and they both knew they were done waiting.

As her nipples brushed against his chest, Mandy held him close, drinking in every sensation and reveling in her joy. She loved this man with all her heart and there was no going back. Whispering his name, she arched once more as his hands smoothed their way down her rib cage.

Suddenly, the ship jerked out of FTL with a violent grinding, followed by so much force that the couple was thrown from the bed to the floor. Taking the brunt of the fall, Rush held Mandy close as his eyes searched for danger. Helping Amanda to her feet, he grabbed his shirt and radio.

“What was that,” she asked as she regained her balance.

“I dunna ken, but I better find out.”

Dressing quickly, Amanda wasn’t sure what was going on, but the chatter over the radio didn’t sound assuring. Nor did the fact Rush’s accent deepened with every exchange.

“Come on,” Rush said as he grabbed her hand. “Let’s get to the bridge.”

Chapter Text

White emergency lights flickered in the corridors. The second Rush and Mandy stepped into the hall, they could tell something was very, very wrong. Mandy started ahead, but Rush squeezed her fingers, gently tugging her back against his body. Letting his other hand fall to cup her buttocks, Rush smiled hearing her gasp. When her wide eyes fixed on him, her drew her closer until they were a breath apart.

“Make no mistake, Amanda, I am going to make love to you.” For emphasis, he pushed his thigh between her legs and rubbed against her sex.

How could he do such things at a time like this? Yet, being held and touched so intimately roused a moan from her lips. “Rush,” she whispered as she lifted her gaze to his. “I know.”

Cupping his cheeks, she leaned in for a kiss, knowing that the current situation, whatever it was, could keep them apart for goodness knows how long. Rubbing against his thigh, feeling his warmth seep into her pores, Mandy could feel her next orgasm starting to crest. Just a little more-

The sudden blare of alarms had the couple jerking apart. Gripping her hand, Rush ran toward the bridge. Holding tight and keeping pace to ward off her fear, Amanda took comfort in Nick’s confidence and strength. Alarms were never a good sign and she prayed the Nakai didn’t return to make another play for control of Destiny. Hopefully, the current situation didn’t involve hostile aliens.

Bursting onto the bridge, Rush noted Brody’s presence, but saw no one else. Releasing Mandy’s hand, he cast her a reassuring look before moving to the captain’s chair. “Report,” he ordered.

“I think there’s been a fire.” Brody uttered the words quickly, he hands fumbling over the controls.

Sitting next to him, Amanda automatically picked up the slack, searching for the source of the alarm. Finding the reading, she looked over her shoulder at Rush.

“There’s a fire in the arboretum and it’s spreading fast!”

“Close off the areas,” Rush ordered.

“There could be people down there,” Brody shouted.

Hesitating, Mandy looked from Brody to Rush.

Pressing a button on the chair, Rush made an announcement and started a countdown. They were wasting valuable time, but at least those capable of escaping would have a chance. Anyone with sense should have already evacuated the areas. As the clock counted down, he nodded to Mandy.

Imputing the command to close off the arboretum, Mandy also used the countdown to open the vents and release the oxygen and fire out into space. When the alarm abruptly stopped, she recompressed the area, but kept the lock and barricades in place. They would need to figure out how the fire started.

Just as the three started to breathe a little easier, Colonel Young marched onto the bridge.

“What the hell happened,” he roared.

“A fire,” Rush said as if the answer should have been obvious.

“Why,” Young snapped. “How?”

Rush glanced at Brody. “You were in duty. Any ideas?”

“Nothing appeared unusual,” he told the others.

All eyes turned to Young. The man didn’t look placated in the least, but he was decisive in his next orders. “We need to get to the bottom of this.” Turning to Rush, Young needed answers and knew this man was the most likely to get them. “Is that section of the ship blocked?”

Nodding, the scientist explained how they vented the fire.

“Good. We just need to do damage control and figure out how this happened.”

“The damage appears extensive,” Rush stated plainly. “We’ll be lucky if there is anything salvageable-”

“I want a team down there right way.” Young couldn’t be sure how extensive the damage, but the one thing was certain. The fire just wiped out their food supply. “We need the ship repaired as soon as possible.”

Rush shared a look with Brody before scoffing. “Clearing out that area isn’t going to be magically done overnight-”

“We have a supply line now,” Young snapped. He knew damn well where Rush was going with this sort of talk and he wasn’t having any of this nonsense.

“They can’t send us food though,” Body pointed out.

“But they can send a team to help-”

Rush barked a laugh, throwing up his hands in anger. “That’s what you’ve wanted all along, isn’t it? To get so-called qualified personnel on Destiny! Once they’re here, they can’t leave!”

“Damn it, Rush! Stop jumping to unfounded conclusions!”

“It’s not unfounded!” Rush refused to back down when so much as at stake. “How do we know you didn’t sabotage something to start that fire?”

Young looked Rush deed in the eye, stepping closer. “Because I don’t stoop to your level.”

Eyes narrowing, all too aware of Mandy quietly taking in the whole exchange and the fact Young was trying to make him lose his temper, Rush bit back another outburst. He could feel the urge to break the Colonel’s jaw tugging at him, but submerged the impulse and took a step back.

“I guess we’ll find out.”

“In the meantime, we need a food source,” Brody stated in an effort to ease the tension in the air.

“There’s a viable planet in this star system,” Mandy informed them. “It’s worth a look.”

Young was the first to break eye contact with Rush. Nodding to Amanda, he gave the order. “Plot a course. Rush, come with me.”

“Where?”

“To survey the damage. Tell Chloe and Volker to meet us down there. I want answers.”

Arguing was pointless, but Young was right about one thing. They needed to figure out what was going one because Destiny was falling apart around their bloody ears! Knowing the Colonel expected him to fall in line and follow, Rush instead turned to Mandy and grasped her hand, giving her fingers a gentle squeeze as he bent to press a quick kiss to her lips. “I’ll be back soon.”

Smiling, Amanda didn’t doubt him. “Ok.”

Rush flashed one more smile before turning to follow Young off the bridge. Along with Brody, Mandy stiffened feeling the man’s stare. Gathering her courage, she raised a brow and gave Adam a stern look.

“What,” she asked.

Shrugging, Brody looked to the console in an effort to get back to work, but wasn’t sure exactly what he should be doing. All he could think about was how different Rush behaved when Dr. Perry was present. Undoubtedly, Rush and Young would have had one of their famous shouting matches, but Rush backed off because Amanda was watching. At least, one of them was making progress. Personally, Body felt Young had a lot to learn.

“Nothing,” he finally answered.

“Clearly not.” Amanda was sick of walking on eggshells around the rest of the crew. “Is my presence an issue for you?”

“No!” Shaking his head, seeing the determination on her face, he realized he would have to come clean and explain. “I just think you make Rush more…agreeable.”

“And you don’t like that?”

“No! Actually, I think it’s a good thing! For both of you.”

Well, she and Rush were going to be together no matter what Body’s opinion was – or anyone else’s for that matter. Still, Amanda having one person in their corner made her glad. Letting the subject drop, she looked back to her console. There were system failures all over the ship as a result of the fire and they had to hustle to bring them back online. Cleaning up the mess and making repairs wasn’t going to be easy.

****

“Report,” Young barked as he walked down the corridor toward Scott and Greer. The men were standing guard at the sealed door.

“Not fatalities, Sir,” Scott stated. “’But a few dozen injuries. TJ is taking care of them now.”

“Is life support functional in that area, or do we need the suits?”

“Everything should be stable,” Greer put in. “We’re waiting on the rest of Rush’s team before we open the doors.”

As if on cue, Chloe came around the corner and Dr. Volker wasn’t far behind. They both carried some diagnostic equipment and tools. A kino floated beside Dale’s head as the pair approached the waiting men.

“We need to find the source of the fire,” Young ordered. “Once we identify the point of origin, we need to determine the cause and make sure all the necessary repairs and precautions are made as soon as possible. I don’t think I need to tell you we are running out of area’s to keep an arboretum.”

When he was sure everyone understood what was at stake, he nodded to Greer. Putting in the manual override, Greer stepped back as the door opened. The stench of ash and melted metal assaulted their senses as the corridor was revealed. Silently, the group walked toward the arboretum, noting sections of blackened and scorched walls. This fire burned hot and fast if the flames could do this much damage. Tensions mounted as the group continued forward.

Rush saw the signs and knew this level of destruction was due to one of a few possible scenarios. Deep down, he wanted to be wrong, but the closer his footsteps brought him to the arboretum, the more he realized they could very well be in a lot of trouble. Sure enough, the point of origin was inside the center of their food source. Chloe and Volker worked fast, but Rush was the one to find the charred circuits. Apparently, they weren’t making repairs fast enough.

“What do we do now,” Volker asked.

“Pull it all out,” Rush said gravely as he raked a hand through his hair “We’ll have to rewire the whole wall.”

“I can get a team in here to clean up,” Scott said. “I may be able to regrow a few of the-”

“Until all the repairs are made, we can’t use this room,” Rush snapped.

“We have to eat, Rush,” Scott snapped right back.

“Rush is right,” Young stated, looking to the lieutenant to back down. “We need an alternative. Scott, have a team meet with Becker and see what we have on hand, then talk to TJ. There may be a way to temporarily use the infirmary to grow a few things.”

“Sure would be nice to have a working regeneration system right about now,” Dale grumbled.

Lifting a brow at the idea, Young threw Rush a look. “What is the progress on that chamber?”

Shrugging, the Scotsman wanted to deflect from the subject. “As far as I know, Eli and Amanda are working on that project.”

Getting the impression Rush was hiding some vital piece of the puzzle, Young used his radio to tell Eli to meet him outside the regeneration room in ten minutes. “And bring Dr. Perry, too,” he finished, still looking suspiciously at Rush.

As far as he knew, Mandy was the only one who could see through his poker face to detect his bluff. When Young’s gaze shifted to the rest of the team, Rush was relieved he didn’t lose his touch. Stuck here, Rush couldn’t warn Eli or Mandy about Young’s intentions. All the reasons for keeping the secret intact were still valid, but given the situation, he could see Eli caving in and telling the Colonel the truth. Since he couldn’t escape, Rush prayed Amanda would be able to take control and keep a lid on Eli’s impulses.

“You ok,” Chloe asked, waving a hand in front of his face to get his attention.

“Yeah,” he said while forcing a nod. Eyes shifting to the burned wall, he realized Destiny would need more of an overload than first anticipated. Making a list, Rush hoped Telford wouldn’t give them shit about the amount of supplies they would be requesting. Hopefully, Young could be persuasive.

****

“Do you think he knows,” Eli asked as he paced in front of the door, biting his nails.

“Eli, calm down,” Mandy said as sternly as she dared. “There was a fire. I’m sure the Colonel wants to see if the regeneration technology can help with repairs.”

Pausing, he looked at the ship’s other resident genius. “Can it? Are we at the point where we can help?”

“Not at this stage,” she stated. “Eli, we may be able to access the system, but we don’t know how to work every-”

“But surely we can figure it out?” Eli’s gaze filled with undisguised hope.

“Right now, we have to consider all our options. We can’t let more people know about this technology for more reasons than just the obvious.”

“But if it’s a choice between keeping the secret and surviving? I’m going to do what I can to live and save my friends.”

“I know, but as a last resort. Agreed?”

Hesitating, Eli studied Dr. Perry for a long minute. She wasn’t like Rush, but she would take the man’s side. Remembering all the agreements against telling anyone about the tech, Eli felt torn. In the end, he nodded.

“Agreed.”

They shook hands on the bargain. No sooner did their hands fall back to their sides, Young rounded the corner. As the Colonel asked after the progress on the regeneration system, Amanda watched Eli carefully, silently willing him to stick to his guns. They had enough problems on their hands without piling on more.

Chapter Text

Five seconds into listening to Young explain the fire and Eli second-guessed his resolve. Yes, this technology was dangerous, but the regeneration capabilities could also be the key to their survival! The Langaran supply line couldn’t transport organic material, so they couldn’t use the gate to ease the burden of this situation. If they didn’t find food on this planet, they may have no choice but to use the Ancient’s system to feed themselves.

Feeling Dr. Perry’s eyes burning a hole in the back of his neck, Eli keep his mouth shut. When Young finished, he had to bite his tongue. As much as he wanted to tell the truth, there were too many reasons to keep quiet. However, he may not stay silent for long.

“Eli,” Young pressed. “Are you any closer to figuring this thing out?”

Inhaling a deep breath, he nearly told the truth, but at the last second, shook his head. “We’re still working on it.”

Not liking the answer, Young grew even more suspicious. “Lately, your work had been lacking, Eli. You’ve been unable to help Telford and McKay with the supply line calculations and now you have nothing on this project either?”

“McKay is a conceited jerk, ok? And I’m not exactly fluent in Ancient,” he argued. “Things are slow-going.”

Frowning, Young studied Eli for several moments. “You’ve been off since the Nakai attack.”

“So have a lot of people.” The implication scratched his pride.

“You more than most.”

Shrugging, he couldn’t help being on the defensive. “Maybe it’s PTSD.”

“Should I have TJ check you out, or get Camile to come by and talk to you?”

Inwardly shuddering at both possibilities, Eli shook his head. “I’m good.”

Young’s gaze shifted to Amanda. “You wouldn’t be holding anything back either, right, Dr. Perry?”

Her chin tilted up at the question. “I have no reason to.”

Calm and collected, she appeared sincere, but Young pushed the point, hoping to rattle her outward serenity. “Perhaps Rush is your reason,” he pressed.

Was he serious? Resisting the urge to sigh heavily, she maintained eye contact. “I don’t know the whole story about why you and Nick don’t get along-”

“That’s as understatement,” he snapped. “That man covered up the suicide of one of our crewmembers just to frame me! He follows his own agenda and to hell with anyone else!”

“And you abandoned him on a planet to die,” Mandy snapped right back. She wasn’t going to allow this man to intimidate her. “The Nakai even pursuing Destiny at this point is a direct result of that decision.”

Stiffening his spine, Young hated being reminded of the one time he pulled a play out of Rush’s book and stooped to his level. “You’re one of Rush’s people and I get that-”

“I’m not-”

“But I’m in charge of keeping this crew alive long enough to get home. Do you understand that?”

Amanda nodded. “I do.”

“Good. We’re going to need a food source while we repair the damage from the fire, so if the two of you can find a way to use this technology to help us, that would be great. Maybe your own hunger will motivate you to find a solution.”

Feeling like a scolded child, Amanda’s fists clenched at her sides as she watched Young leave the room.

“Well, that was fun,” Eli scoffed.

“We aren’t even close to being able to use this system to replicate food,” she pointed out.

“Yeah, but wouldn’t it be best to start small trials with food and working or way up to fixing people? All the data we gather will only help us figure out how to properly work the system, and we’ll be more prepared when helping Dr. Park or bringing back Ginn.”

Though he had a point, Mandy felt he was getting ahead of himself. “We need to figure out the basics, Eli,” she argued. “Plus, we shouldn’t hurry into anything-”

“We have no way of growing food,” Eli snapped. “That’s a real problem.”

“I know-”

“Do you? Because Young was right – you are sounding more and more like Rush with each passing second!”

Offended, Amanda crossed her arms over her chest. “I can think for myself, Eli. And what I’m thinking is that I don’t want the wrong people to steal this technology! I don’t want to be prevented from bringing Ginn back! I don’t want Ginn, or myself, to be seized as guinea pigs for experiments by our government or an alien race! If we can puzzle out this process, then yes, we re-evaluate our options. Right now, let’s wait and see if a team can find food on a planet.”

Amanda’s words made sense, and Eli wanted to listen, but lately he second-guessed his every decision. He sided with Young over the Nakai threat and look at that disaster. What if this time siding against Young caused another catastrophe? He just couldn’t be certain of anything anymore.

“Ok,” he stated. “We’ll see what happens on the planet, but if we figure this out, and we need the tech to make food, I’m doing it.”

“Alright.”

Arguing further would only agitate them both. Amanda wished Eli would pick a philosophy to stick to, so she wouldn’t have to keep guessing if he could be trusted or not. There was so much potential to be unlocked in Eli, but he refused to spread his wings. What happened during the alien attack wasn’t the whole story. According to Rush, Eli was closed off long before the Nakai incident. Mandy realized she would have to work carefully and not give too much away.

****

Making a list of supplies to send to Telford, Rush looked over the items Volker and Brody added, then rubbed a hand over his face. Chloe’s list was even more extensive. Making all the necessary repairs to the ship was going to take more manpower than first anticipated, but with limited resources he would have to estimate a few more months of labor if they were lucky enough to get everything through the supply line in one shot.

He wasn’t originally selected for the away team, but figured checking every viable planet for any possible resource to help speed things along wouldn’t be remiss. Though Rush was confident his team could manage, he didn’t like leaving any stone unturned by his own hand.

Young didn’t object to his request to follow Scott, Greer, and TJ along with a few others do