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Mountain & The Sea

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His hand flies up to his head, pressing gently against his temple, the fifth time in the last twenties minutes. It’s an unconscious move on his part, despite the pain, and she moves, shifting until her hand is resting over his in the lightest of touches.

“You need a break,” she whispers softly, bringing up her other hand to cup his cheek, her fingers brushing along the scruff she finds there.  He’s been working himself to death and she is worried. She has heard the story from Colonel Young, of how he worked and pushed until he collapsed, and she fears he is heading in that direction once more.  He sighs and she closes her eyes, standing there at his side.

“Belle-“

“No, you need a break,” her voice is firm this time, a layer of steel beneath her words. Rush hesitates before he leans back in the chair, moving his hands so that the heel of his palm presses against his now shut eyes. She doesn’t understand, the language, the mathematics, the science of it. All she knows is magic and pain and solitude. She knows him, because since she came to be here on this ship he is all she has known.

He is not a friendly man, or even happy, but he is lonely and Belle has had many lifetimes of having no one. Here, aboard Destiny, she has a cranky doctor who pushes too hard and snaps so easily, but not with her. He is so very careful with her even when he would tear the others in two. “Just… a small break, nothing more.”

Rush doesn’t argue, but she knows that she is victorious when he pulls her until she is standing behind him. His head rests on her chest, his eyes opening for a moment to meet hers. She smiles down at him, letting her fingers trail across his cheek.  “Ten minutes,” he warns and Belle just smiles, brushing his hair away from his face.

“Twenty minutes.” He wants to protest, she knows he does, but instead he just closes his eyes and breathes out. She will get her twenty minutes.

She always does.

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She is never quiet, always a thousand different kinds of loud noise, and so he hears her way before he sees her. Belle has been his constant companion since they found her. She is loud and clumsy and so very talkative, but there is steel to her that glints beneath the surface and it makes him smile when she's not looking.

Today, however, she has more than surprised him. Her once brown curls, long and beautiful and so very inviting are now more blonde than anything. They fall shorter as well, just below her shoulders, and he can't help but stare. His Belle looks nervous, though, as he studies her.

"You've changed your color, Miss French."

Belle nods, twisting her fingers together in that god awful habit she has, but she doesn't move any closer. "There- the last place we stopped. The last Stargate? Eli found this... I don't know what it is, but it colors. Hair, clothes, skin. Whatever you wish."

Rush isn't familiar with it, but he doesn't tell her that. Instead he moves away from the console, moves until he is not even an arm's length away from the beauty. She is constantly touching him, his shoulder, his cheek, his back. Rarely does he touch her, but today he reaches out and snags a lock of hair, twirling it around his fingers in a very rare indulgence.

"It suits you, I believe."

Her smile is bright enough to rival a million suns, and all he wants is to see it again.

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“I’ll kill him.”

His wildcat is all claws and teeth as she touches his face, gentle in the wake of his busted lip and bruised right cheek. He does his best not to flinch, his tongue snaking out to run across his bottom lip, brushing against the pad of her thumb in the ghost of a caress. It doesn’t sooth her, though, and Rush is left with a very angry Belle on his hands. “It’s no matter-“

“He hit you. That horrid man-“  her accent becomes so heavy, so very Australian despite her having never been there, and his lips twist enough for her to stop in the middle of her rant. She realizes why he is smirking and a lovely flush runs from the top of shirt all the way to her cheeks. “It’s not funny, Nick.”

“Of course not,” he replies, reaching out to fist his hands into her shirt, tugging until she is closer than she was a moment before. She rests between his legs as though she belongs there with one hand on his face and the other braced against his shoulder. He has perfected the act of pissing people off on this ship, most noticeably Greer. Bruises and bumps mean nothing to him, but to her they are everything.

She is still furious, he knows, and Rush sighs. “Belle.”

“I won’t promise anything,” she whispers, still angry, but subdued. They can stay here all day and argue, but he knows he won’t win. He has seen her face up to Colonel Young and be strong against the others. Any fight she goes into is one she is prepared to win and today is not the day.

Instead of answering, he directs her until they are touching and his warmth is hers. “You are a lot of work, Doctor Rush.”

Her tone is teasing and he chuckles, looking up at her. “So I’ve heard.”

------

Later he finds out that Greer has a split lip and a black eye from Eli during a late dinner. He hides his smile in his bowl and starts thinking of ways to properly say thank you.

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He is standing on the observation deck when she finds him, staring out at the shuttle that is soon to be leaving, and the star that spells their doom. She is quiet as she walks toward him, their shoulders brushing as she settles at his left side. The view is lovely, breathtaking actually, but she feels like her heart is breaking instead.

“The lottery is soon-“

“I know,” she whispers, not wanting to talk about it, but knowing that they must. He doesn’t look away from the shining star and she can’t stop looking at what little of the shuttle she can actually see.
“You should be downstairs-“

“I’m not going,” he looks away then, looking down at her with curious eyes. He is such a smart man, but sometimes he can be so daft that it hurts. Belle smiles for him as she raises a hand to grip lightly at his arm, holding him right above the elbow. “I had Colonel Young take my name out.”

Rush doesn’t have to ask why. He has spent every waking moment on this ship with her at his side. Even when he let his anger, his withdrawal, get the best of him she was there. They have had so little time together, more than they thought to get and less than they want. He raises his arm and shifts, leaving enough space so that she is able to slide between him and the railing. They stand there, her between his arms and their hands tangled along the rail.

Others file in, but they remain undisturbed. They listen to the shuttle taking off, watch as it detaches from Destiny, and listen to the last few farewells. Rush pulls away, just enough to see what the Kino has caught of the outside of the Destiny, and then he quietly thanks Eli for the gift.

Colonel Young and Greer agree for a walk, and when everyone turns to them Rush has her held tight by the hand, their sides barely brushing. “I should be in my quarters for the duration I have a hundred pages of a truly mediocre book to finish,” Rush offers with a glance over at Belle, his intent obviously clear. The rest of the few minutes spent there are quiet and quick. Rush shakes hands with Young, and she does not.

There is apologies made, accepted and forgiven and when Chloe asks how it will happen Belle feels that her hand will be broken, but she holds on tight as he explains. With a soft goodbye they are gone.

----

 

His fingers draw designs on her back, ghosting over the skin as they lay in his bed. She is perhaps the most amazing book he has ever encountered, if he does say so himself. Belle isn’t asleep, but she is quiet as she rests on her stomach with a pillow clutched in her arms. This is not how it should have been, a last desperate attempt at a goodbye, but that is how it is. She shifts under his hand and he stops, his fingers hovering over a set of scars that carve pathways in her skin. Her eyes are shut, as they have been for the past ten minutes, but still she seems to what he is thinking. “We can’t ask for more,” she whispers.

“Oh, but how I wish we could,” he offers, feeling his chest tighten at the thought of having another day with her (another hour, another minute, another second). His fingers go back to her skin, tracing out equations and signs and her name over and over again. Rush watches until she falls asleep, her face relaxed and free of worry lines as she dreams about who knows what. He leans over, pressing his lips to her shoulder as he settles down at her side, closing his eyes.

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Belle rubs the back of her neck, closing her eyes as another wave of aches and pains travels from her head to her toes. Rush is at her side, watching from the corner of his eye as she stands there, half watching the video. The ship is getting worse, more and more people are falling sick, though no one has yet to die. The last few minutes have passed in a blur for her, and she doesn’t realize how out of focus she is until his warm hand is wraps around her upper arm.

 

“You should go,” his voice is quiet, low so no one will over hear. The video holds everyone’s attention, everyone but theirs. She rubs her neck again, gripping it slightly, trying to ease the pain. “Belle,” his voice is sharp as his hand slides over hers for a brief moment, his thumb grazing the back of her neck.

 

“You have to keep me informed,” she offers, turning head to their eyes catch. His gaze is intense, as though he is studying a component of the ship instead of her. Rush nods, a quick tilt of his head, and then he releases her and steps away. Belle takes a moment to breathe before she leaves the room. It takes her longer than usual, just by a fraction, to reach TJ. There is an overflow into an adjacent room already and she takes one of the sleeping bags fairly close to the door.

 

She feels worse than she did that time when she was seven, when everything hurt and she was burning up with a fever in her father’s kingdom. The whole ordeal is a blur, but she remembers the beginning rather well. It’s just the middle and the end that are missing. More people file into the area, and slowly TJ begins to pull blankets over faces. It’s painful to watch, but she does it anyways. These were people that deserve to have someone know they lived, and she doesn’t look away.

 

TJ comes to her, she doesn’t know when or how long she has been there, but TJ is suddenly kneeling at her side and checking her pulse. She tries to smile but it falls short toward the end. “I’m sorry,” she whispers, her voice sounding rough even to her own ears, but the sentiment is still there. TJ smiles briefly before she gets up and disappears into the other room without a word.

 

Her next visitor comes shortly after and his hand is cool again her forehead. “We may have found a cure, we’re just… waiting,” he gives her the facts quietly, moving her bangs away from her skin. She doesn’t have the strength to open her eyes, to do much of anything, but she tilts her head into his hand before he draws away. His footsteps are faint, but she counts each one until she can no longer be sure if it’s him or someone else.

 

Twelve steps from here to the door, and she doubts she could make even one.

 

---

 

This is utterly ludicrous, how they have gotten to this point. He is standing in front of the gate, waiting because there is nothing more he can do. If they don’t succeed, then more people will die. Belle will die, and that is not acceptable. He will not fail more people, and he will not fail her. He grips the radio tight, sitting down on the stairs. His gaze never wavers, and he knows he will staring at the gate until there is no more time.

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He doesn’t let her go on the planet this time. So she is stuck waiting back in the star gate room with the others, nervous and antsy because the time is going by fast and she hates this part. Belle has always hated waiting and this is no different. The closer the clock on the wall gets to zero the faster her heart pumps, the more agitated her movements get until Eli isn’t the only person in the room watching her.

 

She hears the countdown of twenty seconds and it hurts to breathe. Her feet stop moving and she just stares at the star gate, willing him to come back through. She is counting the last few seconds down in her head when Colonel Young appears and she gives a sigh of relief. Belle expects Rush will come through right after him, but he doesn’t. He doesn’t and suddenly her heart is in her throat and someone is saying Colonel and Camile is asking where Rush is and she can’t even breathe.

 

Young walks right by her and he doesn’t even glance her way as he says, “He didn’t make it.” The star gate closes.

 

Her world narrows and she tries to think of the last time she kissed Rush, the last time their bodies touched, but she can’t remember. Between the trial and the chair and everything else she can’t remember anything except his promise that he’d be back in an hour. Now the hour’s up and he’s not there and Scott barely catches her before she hits the ground.

 

---

Consciousness slowly starts to tug at the edge of her mind and she stretches, wondering why she’s in their bed fully dressed. Belle rolls over with a smile on the edge of her lips, reaching for Rush when her hand falls on cold sheets that act like a shock to her system.

 

He didn’t make it .

 

Colonel Young’s voice pulls at her memory and she doesn’t have the heart to open her eyes. She knows she is well and alone, no one would dare step foot into this room before and now… Her hand twists into the cool fabric, bunching the material into her fist as she lays there on her back.

 

I’ll be back in less than an hour, give or take a few minutes. I want you to wait here for me, alright?

 

Something cool and wet runs down her cheek and disappears into her hair as she lets out a choked sob, “Liar.”

 

 

 

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She goes to sleep and wakes up in the same position, her fingers twisted in the sheets where his body should be. It hurts to hold on so tightly, but she doesn’t know any other way to get through it. Belle doesn’t know any other way to survive except to cling to memories of things that feel real to her, and Rush feels real. The bed smells like him and there are clothes still here, things of his littered around the room to mix with things of hers. A halfway finished book that –

 

Belle rolls onto her side, her chest heaving as she does her best to just breathe past the weight she feels. She needs to just get up and move, so she rolls out of the bed and goes, out the door and down the hall. No one is awake, no one is there to stare, and she walks until her feet reach their destination. One look and she laughs a startled, broken sort of sound that cracks at the end.

 

Of course she would come here, she thinks.

 

She loved him here, staring at the stars. She still loves him, even if she’s the only one left to look. The heaviness she feels shifts, easing enough so that every breath doesn’t hurt as much as the last.

 

He didn’t make it.

 

Belle’s world revolves around that phrase, those four little words that remind her just how alone she is now. She has known loss before, stared it straight in the eye and kept living. She wants to do the brave thing and survive, but it seems so hard when the one person she was there for is suddenly… gone. It’s insane and painful and –

 

“You think he did it?” The voice is so very quiet and familiar, caught between wanting to believe and not, and it aches to know what he can be so trusting and yet so angry when it comes to Colonel Young.

 

“People… get a certain look in their eyes when they’ve left someone for dead,” Belle stands there, staring out at the galaxy before her, feeling cold and alone on a ship full of people in a space with no world.

 

“How do you know that?” Eli is just inside the door of the observation deck. She can hear him, knows he won’t get closer than he already is. No one wants to be close to her, and it makes it easier. Her fingers tighten against the rail and the hurt is what steadies her against the torrent of memories and emotions.

 

The Destiny is nowhere near as cold as a stone dungeon or as desolate as an asylum. Colonel Young is not as powerful as Regina in her power suits and dark gowns. She is not being held captive, but this place seems like a prison all the same. Her lips twist, caught between a smile and something resembling pain as she whispers her reply, “… it’s not something you can easily forget, Eli.”

 

She has to go. Belle can’t be here any longer and she turns, brushing past Eli without a touch. Oh, how she wants to. Just to have someone actually touch her so she knows she can do this, but it passes as she slips away.

 

Belle remembers what it’s like to let someone reach out and grab you when you’re falling, but it’s the moments after they let go, when the ground is rushing up to swallow you whole that she recalls the most. 

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“You are not going to believe this,” there was a pause and then, “you should bring bright eyes with you.”

 

Belle stops, her hands fluttering over the back of Eli’s chair. Greer’s nickname startles her, because no one has called her that in days. No one has done much of anything concerning her in days. Young looks over, catching her eye as he asks where they are. Greer barely gets the words out of his mouth before she is running down the hallways, dodging people and taking corners without hesitation. She reaches the last turn, hearing Chloe and Scott, but then she sees him attempting to stand on shaky legs.

 

She almost trips over her own feet, but she catches herself, maneuvering around the lovely couple and passing Greer before she throws herself into his arms. He catches her, his back slamming hard against the wall, but they’re holding each other up in the corner as his left arm slides around her waist and his right hand busies itself by tangling in her hair. She holds onto him tightly, her arms tight around his abdomen as she hides her face against his neck, taking deep breaths to keep in the tears.

 

“You’re late,” she mumbles against his exposed skin and he chuckles, the sound muffled by her hair as he presses a thousand different kisses against her crown. They stand there, tangled in each other until someone clears their throat. Belle doesn’t move, but Rush lifts his head, eyeing the Colonel cautiously as he pulls the woman in his arms just a little closer than she was before. No words are exchanged, but when Young nods his head Greer backs off and leaves and then he does the same.

 

They stay there a moment more, too engrossed in each other to move until Rush’s stomach grumbles between them. Her laughter is warm against his neck and he relaxes, pushing away from the wall slowly. She moves back and Rush gets his first good look at Belle, noticing the things about her that slipped by during their reunion. There are dark circles under her eyes, barely noticeable, but there nonetheless. She’s a little thinner too, or at least he suspects so, it is hard to tell when she’s dressed, but there had been more bone to their hug than usual.

 

Her smiles never waivers as she stands there, looking him over herself. They don’t say anything about the differences, not yet. Instead she takes his hand and he goes, following her to their room where he changes and she watches, but never does she go near the bed. His feet hurt, broken bits of glass, but he isn’t interested in seeing TJ and Belle kneels in front of him and words diligently.

 

Rush wonders if Belle even has any words for him, but after she finishes getting every piece of glass out she tears into one of her old shirts and finally starts to speak, “He left you there to die.” Her words are quiet as she gently bandages his feet, taking care in the act and putting all of her attention to the task. He is sitting on the edge of the bed, staring at the ceiling and doing his best not to make a sound.

 

“Nicholas, he left you there-“ her voice breaks in anger and her fingers fumble against his foot. Rush reaches down, pulling her up and into his chest as he lies back on the bed, his legs dangling off the edge. Belle is against his chest and he holds her there for a moment, his hands running up and down her back until the muscles in her ease.

 

“It won’t happen again, dear. It will be… taken care of.”

 

She stills in his arms, but doesn’t argue. He knows she wants to, more than anything, but she keeps her silence until they get up and head into the mess hall. There is a busy table waiting for them and both are waved over, something which never happens. People like Belle, but never has anyone willingly wished to eat with him. He sits and she does the same at his side, giving a smile to Chloe.

 

“Welcome back,” she whispers softly and the other girl smiles, leaning into Scott’s side. He tells them what happened, doing his best to skip over much of what took place on the planet. He alters the word fight to rock slide and continues. Belle gets up and leaves his side, presumably to deal with her bowl. It’s only after he has finished talking that he realizes she hasn’t come back… and Eli has realized it as well.

 

Rush is up in a second, moving down the hallway. He hears her before he sees her, but her voice is muffled and distorted through the metal. “You son of a-“

 

He rounds the corner, slamming his hand against the button to open the Colonel’s chamber. There is a loud sound, flesh hitting flesh and the door opens just in time for both Eli and Rush to see Belle’s fist connect with Young’s face for what is presumably a second time. He stumbles back into his couch, bringing his fingers up to gingerly touch his bleeding lip. She is standing over him, her right hand still clenched into a fist and her chest heaving.

 

After a moment Belle crouches, meeting the Colonel eye to eye, her voice so low that Rush almost misses her words. “If you so much as look at him wrong you’ll be the one under the rock slide.” She stands then, turning away and leaving him there. She meets his eyes and he watches her a moment before turning to Eli. “Get her hand checked out, Eli, if you would please.”

 

The boy nods, waiting until Belle passes between them before he follows her off down the hallway. Rush stands in the door, staring at Young with a gentle twist of his lips that would pass for a smirk. “She has one hell of a right hook, don’t you think?” He waits until their eyes meet before he presses the button and the door shuts between them.

 

Belle finds him almost an hour later, her arms wrapping around his neck as he sits in his chair, studying the console in front of him. He glances down, brow furrowing when he sees the bandages wrapped lightly around her knuckles. “Bruised, not broken,” she offers, pressing her lips to his cheek with a smile. He huffs out a laugh at that, motioning for Brody to leave them in peace without even looking up. There is shuffling and noise from the left side of the room, but only until the other man gets his things and clears out.

 

Then they are alone. Belle shifts, moving until she is caught between his legs with her back to the console. He reaches around her to shut it off with one hand, the other holding gently onto her hip. “Nicely played,” he whispers, squeezing her hip. “You have no idea of what you’re capable of, my dear protector.” His eyes are focused somewhere around the vicinity of her stomach and she reaches down, tangling her aching fingers into his hair, curling them around his scalp. Her tug is gentle; the force used barely any at all to get him to look into her eyes.

 

“Show me,” she whispers.

 

And he does. He shows her against the console, her back arched and his body pressed between her legs as they touch and push and take. Her arms wrap around his neck and he places his hands under her legs, lifting her and carrying her to their quarters without hesitation. It is there that he comes unraveled with her, worshiping every inch of her body while she tears him down with her touches alone.

His Belle has no idea how magnificent she looked facing down the Colonel. He has always thought she was dangerous in army fatigues with a gun in her hand, but seeing the raw display of power has quite literally brought him to his knees.

 

They start on the bed but somehow end up in the floor, sheets tangled around their bodies and her head buried against his neck as she sobs, holding onto him as tight as she can. His fingers brush through her hair and along her arm as he presses kiss after kiss against any part of her he can reach, whispering her name over and over again.

 

He didn’t make it.

 

But he did, and that’s the whole point. 

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Belle stays leaned against the wall directly behind Rush, the one thing he has brought with him besides his notepad and a flashlight. She doesn’t agree entirely with the plan, he doubts she would agree with anything that hurts people intentionally, but she hasn’t argued out right. The fact that she came with him is more than enough. She is his quiet companion as the data transfers, his shadow of sorts.

He feels her unease, her doubt and worry and disapproval like a cloak weighing him down, but he never feels something as oppressive when Chloe runs in and tells him the clamps won’t engage for the shuttle. It was not his intention to hurt the Colonel and Lieutenant Scott, especially when he knows what the latter means to the brunette beside him, but he has come too far to stop.

“Damn it!” his voice is raised and loud, not quite as harsh as it is toward everyone else. Rush is aware of Belle shifting behind him and he hates it. He hates how this is going to change the way she looks at him, but he can’t walk away. She knows why he cannot walk away from this and he wonders if at the end of the day he will be without his shadow.

Things would be easier if Colonel Young didn’t fight him at every twist and turn and he despises the man more than he ever has before. It was easier to ignore the man on Icarus but here the ship is too small and he has too much control and Rush wants it ripped from his fingers for everything he has or has not done. He wants control back of his life. He needs control after being left for dead, after knowing Belle suffered for an idiot’s mistake.

He’s trying to think of a thousand different ways this could go, gripping his notepad as Camile rushes in. Everything is slowly spiraling out of his hands as Chloe explains the situation and he confesses he wasn’t aware of all the repercussions. He didn’t realize it would go this way with the damn shuttle. He is being assaulted from two different sides as Chloe and Camile both work their words against him, pushing and commanding to get their way.

Rush doesn’t plan to give in, he isn’t going to until he feels her hand against his back, a gentle pressure that scalds his skin beneath the layers of his clothing.

“Please,” she whispers the single word, quiet and low and not even a plea. It’s not a command either, she’s just asking him to do something, giving him her input and he makes a soft sound of frustration. It’s easy not to give in to everything else, but it’s fucking impossible not to give in to her.

He shuts it down with regret, but the gentle weight of Belle’s hand never leaves his back. His shadow is going nowhere, and he is horribly pleased.

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She stands in the corner, a quiet protector as he talks with Eli. Belle isn’t hidden, but she is well out of the way as she leans against the wall with her eyes on him. Parting with her is not an option. If Eli seems to notice he doesn’t say anything, much too focused upon Rush and everything he is saying and not saying. He isn’t aggravated or angry with Eli, the boy just doesn’t understand and so he tries to make him.

His eyes are on Eli, but his focus is on Belle and as soon as he finishes the sentence he walks away. She meets him halfway, her hand lightly touching his chest and Rush breathes out, some of the tension leaving his muscles. Belle isn’t agreeing with the plan, but for him she has shown a willingness to bend and so she does. He knows Eli is staring, watching them and their interactions, but he still leans forward into his protector just a little. Belle responds in kind until their shoulders are touching and her hand is pure force.

Rush pulls away after a moment and she lets him, returning to her silent vigil as he goes to the console. It’s time to turn on the shields, to protect her and everyone else but Eli is arguing with him, about the implant and the shields and everything else and he argues back. Rush snaps and pulls just a little, more than willing to push Eli. It doesn’t come to it and he feels Belle shift. He can feel every move she makes and something in the way she settles bothers him.

She isn’t at ease, and neither is he.

“That’s it. That’s all the power we’re going to get.”

Rush pauses, hesitates and waits, and Belle is restless at his back. She barely makes a sound when she moves but he knows his shadow and he exhales. “The shields are holding.”

Everything is going too fast and too slow and when Camile arrives he repeats himself. When she mentions Young throwing him out of an airlock Rush hears the quiet sound of anger Belle makes and he settles her with his words. She is very much a caged tiger at this point in the game, because even if she doesn’t believe in this plan, she believes in him and her feelings for Young are nowhere near gentle.

“It doesn’t matter whose idea it was. It’s over.”

Rush feels the bottom fall out of his stomach, looking over to see Colonel Young standing there as though he owns the damn place. Camile and Eli move away from him but Belle steps forward, placing herself at his side, but still half of her body is in front of him. There is no way anyone would get past her without force and he raises a hand, touching her side, feeling nothing but muscle rippling under his fingers.

He doesn’t raise his voice, he doesn’t fight with more than his words but when Young raises his gun and threatens to shoot Belle shields him entirely. She has no weapons, nothing but her hands, and yet the Colonel pauses for a moment. Rush presses his hand firmly against Belle’s back, saying her name in a low voice that does almost nothing. She is coiled, ready to spring after so many late night conversations of how this plan would play out.

She is ready to kill to protect and Rush does not want that on her hands, not for him. He does things for self-preservation by nature, but never would he do a damn thing to hurt her. He grips the back of her shirt, pulling her and she doesn’t move, not until Tamara and Scott come in and Young lowers his gun. Belle only moves a fraction, still planted close at his side because she won’t leave.

Rush breathes out until Eli starts spilling his secret and then he makes a face. Belle makes a soft sound of protest, tensing again as she turns to stare at the boy. “Eli-“ she snaps his name out, barely an octave and a tone away from a snarl. Eli keeps looking at him and he looks away, but his shadow doesn’t move, doesn’t breathe.

“TJ, take care of it.”

Belle is moving herself in front of him again and Rush just stares in disbelief. Tamara doesn’t seem to believe the Colonel much better, staring at him in confusion.

“What?”

This is not what the plan was supposed to be and Rush argues for himself, argues because Belle only knows half of what something like this details and he can feel her trembling. He isn’t sure whether it’s from fear or anger but he forces himself to be still when Young gets in his space. Everything is flying out of his hands and when Chloe volunteers he looks down. He’s positive Belle is going to kill them all, but he still has his fingers twisted in her shirt and she doesn’t move.

---

Belle paces like a caged animal, trapped in the room she shares with Rush. She wants to be there, she needs to be there, but Young has forced her in here and Greer isn’t exactly too happy with her. There’s no way to manipulate Eli either at this point and so she paces and holds tight to her mother’s necklace, running her fingers over it again and again until they ache.

This was such a bad idea, so fucking bad, and she is going to kill him when she sees him again. She won’t let herself think if because she’s already went through that once and she won’t do it again. Belle crosses the floor again and she exhales, trying to breathe the way Rum taught her what feels like years ago.

Rum. Rush. Rum. Rush.

She can’t lose them both and – “God damn it!” she slams her fist against the door, her hand exploding into pain and shattering all other thoughts.

She can’t lose him and she grips the necklace until it breaks.

----

Rush feels groggy when he starts to wake up, his chest aching. He groans softly, and there are gentle fingers brushing his hair away from his face and a familiar hand cupping his left cheek.

“Hey, you’re safe. You’re alright,” Belle’s voice is quiet in his ear and he slowly opens his eyes, looking up to see her face. Beneath her tightly pulled composure there is fear and worry and he fights with his hand until it bumps gently against her side. She smiles then, slow and sure.

He wets his lips, uncertain of what he wants to say, if anything. “Belle…”

“Next time I won’t spit him out,” she offers and he chuckles until it hurts, accepting the soft brush of her lips against his forehead.

Next time.

Rush sighs and closes his eyes, letting his fingers grip weakly onto Belle’s shirt. The thought of it never being over makes him feel weary but Belle is humming her familiar tune in the quietest of tones and he exhales, letting everything drain away.

Everything but her.

Chapter Text

“What the hell is going on?” Young walks into the room with Eli just behind him, watching the way Belle shifts at Rush’s leg, turning her eyes from the scientist’s face to his. She isn’t alone in the room; Brody is there in the back, glancing from Rush to Belle and then finally at him. He watches Rush’s face, but inevitably his eyes are drawn back to the beauty crouched on the floor with her chin resting against his knee, fingers curled into the fabric of his jeans. She is coiled like a soldier, every muscle ready for movement, and he breaks his gaze long enough to find the radio at his side, calling for TJ to report to the room.

Nothing is said in the silence that follows. He spends his time looking between the other four occupants, observing the way Belle doesn’t even move a muscle with his presence in the room. Young knows better than to think she is afraid of him, she’s more afraid for Rush than anything. He isn’t the only one look at her though, both Brody and Eli keep stealing glances from time to time, but she doesn’t seem to care, if she even notices.

It’s not long before TJ arrives and he nods toward Rush, the chair, and watches as TJ’s approach slows. When she gets close enough to actually touch the man he is afforded his first real movement from Belle since his arrival. She shifts her feet, pressing closer to the chair, and by extension closer to Rush. She isn’t hostile toward TJ, far from it, but there is an edge to her movements.

“I won’t hurt him,” TJ whispers the words quietly, barely loud enough for him to hear, and Belle rests her chin back on Rush’s leg, some of her tension leaving as TJ sets down her back and starts setting up what she needs. He feels impatient, waiting for something, but it isn’t long before he gets a quiet answer. “His pulse is strong, B.P.’s elevated but not dramatically.”

Everyone is looking at everyone else and he walks around, pacing behind Brody. “He didn’t wanna involve anyone else.”

Young stopped, turning to look at Brody, his voice sharp. “I am in command of this ship and that means you don’t do anything without involving me. Do you understand?”

No one answers him, but somehow he wasn’t really expecting a response from anyone but Rush.

“What is all this?” Eli’s curiosity gets the best of him as he moves a little closer. Brody finally drops his arms, looking a little more at ease with a question he can answer.

“We’ve modified the interface. We’re hoping it will allow us to use the Chair without causing damage to the subject…” he trails off, looking down at Belle who is looking up at Rush.

Young keeps his eyes on the ground. “And?”

Brody pauses, glancing at Young before he turns back to Rush, “Rush is the first subject.”

He is still pacing, still has his eyes on the ground, still annoyed. “Let’s wake him up.”

Belle makes no sound, but her fingers tighten in Rush’s jeans, her body trembling. Everyone is looking at her, but she is looking at no one but him.

“I can’t.” Young jerks his eyes to up Brody, away from the danger on the floor. “Severing the connection externally could be very dangerous. He has to do it himself.”

He looks to TJ and she shifts in a minor shrug that tells him more than a hundred words.

“Look, with or without me, they still would have done it.”

He is still pacing, still watching.

“Even after what happened to Franklin?” TJ sounds so incredulous at the idea, but it is Rush they are talking about, and the man’s beauty isn’t so very separate from him. Some days he has to wonder if they are really to separate people.

“This is the only way to unlock control of this ship. The code has to be in the data bank somewhere.” Brody doesn’t sound apologetic, or scared, or anything besides sure.

He finally stops pacing, settling himself in front of the chair because it provides him with a view of everything, and everyone. “Let’s forget about Rush for a second. If he wants to kill himself, so be it.“ Belle has buried her face against the scientist’s leg, her free hand moves to rest against that of Rush, slowing twining their fingers together. As he said before, sometimes he has to wonder. He turns his eyes to Brody, watching the other man, looking for any tells of a lie. “How do you know this modification you’ve made is not gonna backfire and put the whole ship in jeopardy?”

Brody pauses, taking a quiet breath. “I don’t.”

“How does this new interface work?” Eli is still the curious kid and Young lets him ask the questions, listening to the explanation from Brody with only half his focus. His eyes keep drifting back to the girl crouched on the floor despite his resolve to look anywhere else. He can’t help but wonder how in the hell Rush managed to capture something like her, because that is exactly what the scientist has done. Belle is so intricately wrapped around the other man, each breath she takes mirroring one of his own. It’s utterly ridiculous, how he has fucked up his own life so damn bad, getting neither of the women he wants while Rush gets this damn beauty that would kill for him in a heartbeat.

Young focuses back in on the conversation at hand when he hears Eli’s skeptical surprise, “A dream?!”

Brody looks down at Eli before he turns back to looking at Young. “A semi-lucid one, sort of a stimulated recall of the memories in question.”

“How does he wake up?”

Young watches, the way Eli looks at Brody and Brody looks at Rush. “There’s a built-in trigger. It should appear to him as a distinctive door. All he has to do is open it and walk through.”

He looks over to TJ, listening to her, but inevitably his eyes drift back to Rush and Belle. “He seems stable for now.”

Belle still has her face buried against Rush’s leg, hidden away from them all, but her fingers flex against his.

“Okay,” he turns his head to look at Brody, exhaling. “Let’s say this is working. Do you have any feedback”? Do you know what Rush is actually doing in there?”

“No.” Brody doesn’t look away from him this time, arms crossed back over his chest.

Young doesn’t look away either. “If anything goes wrong, I’m pulling the plug.” He turns on his heel to leave, knowing TJ will stay behind to monitor Rush. Young knows he shouldn’t look, but even that doesn’t stop him from glancing over his shoulder for one final view of the beauty on the floor. The last thing he sees is the kiss she presses to Rush’s knee.

---

 

The next time he comes in Belle is standing behind the chair, her face buried in Rush’s hair, her fingers twisted into the fabric of his white shirt sleeves.

“Progess?”

TJ barely pauses in the removal of her gloves, but she looks at him. “His nose was bleeding. It’s stopped now.”

Young paces around in front of the chair, looking between TJ and Rush, and when he looks at Rush he can’t help but to see Belle behind him, as silent as before. “What does that mean?”

“I don’t know exactly, but it can’t be good for him, the way this thing messes with his brain. His heart rate and B.P. have been fluctuating.”

He raises his head, staring at TJ pointedly. “I thought you said he was stable.”

TJ looks at him, annoyed and sharp. “I said ‘for the moment’. That was over an hour ago.”

She turns away from him after a glance at Rush, and he makes his way toward Brody. “No way to tell if he’s having any success?”

Young comes to a stop beside Brody who looks at his computer, “No. All I’m able to monitor is the rate the data’s flowing into his mind, and that’s been fluctuating as well.”

He walks away from Brody, staring resolutely at the floor. “What are the odds that yanking him out of there will kill him?”

TJ turns, looking at him with harsh eyes. Young glances at Belle, seeing that she is coiled once more, that one hand has disappeared behind the chair, touching or reaching for something he can’t see. He looks at Brody who stares back.

“I wouldn’t even hazard a guess,” his voice is firm, but it does not relax any of the occupants in the room. Young turns back to TJ for just a moment, but his eyes as always fall to Belle and Rush. They can pull him out, end this now, but there is one wild card he can’t call. He stares thoughtfully at Belle, and even though she hasn’t even looked at him since he’s been in here, he knows how dangerous she is. The only person capable of pulling her away from Rush is the man himself, and he is currently incapacitated.

Young’s second option would be Greer, the man is closer to Belle than most others, but he’s not around either. So the problem doesn’t honestly fall with getting Rush out of the chair, but getting past his damn shadow to do it. Young isn’t ready to believe the odds of getting her away from him would be anything but negative.

He leaves again, there are other things he needs to be doing, and this time he does not look back.

 

----

 

Belle is shaking as he comes down the hallway, his eyes landing on her first. She is still standing, her face hidden away in Rush’s absurdly long hair, but she is shaking like she has almost lost him and when his eyes flicker to TJ she looks ups, quickly pulling a stethoscope away from the man’s chest, gently pulling it out of her own ears.

“Sir, he just suffered some sort of cardiac event. He seems somewhat stabilized, but I don’t know how much more of this he can take.”

He walks around the back of the chair, grabbing onto two consoles and leaning, placing himself dangerously close to Belle. She doesn’t seem to notice, with her hands rubbing up and down on Rush’s arms, her face still out of view, even more so now. She is completely and utterly wrapped around the man, wrapping up in him.

Young keeps his eyes down, but he can still see her shaking. “Leaving him in there’s gonna kill him?”

“I think so, sir,” TJ’s voice is quiet and he can’t bear to look up at her yet. “It’s just a matter of time.”

Young looks over at Brody instead, “And you said pulling him out could kill him to?”

Brody glances his way, moving back to his computer as he talks. “I know I advised against it, but maybe it’s better to opt for risk over certainty.”

Young does back to look at the floor, his eyes catching a bit of Belle each times he even looks in the direction of the chair. “Unfortunately things are not going well on the planet. Looks like we’re not gonna have enough time to dig ‘em out.” He pauses for a moment, because he can feel TJ look at him, but then he soldiers on. “However, if Rush can find the master code, we may be able to stall Destiny’s jump into FTL.” He slowly raises his eyes to stare at the back of the chair, but he’s staring at Belle’s back because she is still there and he realizes that she is no longer shaking.

Brody shifts in the corner of his eye, straightening to cross his arms. “We risk sacrificing Rush?” he isn’t at all thrilled with Young’s idea; he can hear it in the man’s voice. Young stands up straight, turning to face Brody.

“According to you, he’s choosing to stay connected to that Chair.”

“He may not be aware of the danger that he’s in,” TJ is looking at him and he looks down before looking over at her, by-passing Belle completely.

“If we jump to FTL, Eli, Scott, Greer and Chloe are gonna be left behind, so right now it looks like their best chance is Rush.”

“Then you will leave him in the damn Chair,” Belle’s voice is quiet and just as sharp as any blade. Young turns to look at her, seeing that she still hasn’t pulled away from Rush in the slightest. He studies her, the way she is vibrating from her anger and he looks down.

Belle doesn’t say another word.

----

The sound is the first indicator that something has changed. He was watches as everything retracts away from Rush, everything except for Belle. She moves around the chair until Rush catches sight of her in the corner of his eye, something in their dynamic shifting when he looks away from her and she holds onto his shoulder.

“Doctor Rush?”

Young gets up and moves across the room in a team effort to both hold Rush up and then push him back down into the chair. He pulls away as Belle wraps her arm around the scientist’s chest, making a sharp sound of warning in the back of her throat. He turns his eyes back to Rush, staring the man down.

“Rush, now listen to me. We’ve got five minutes to stop this ship from jumping into FTL.”

Rush looks at him, bewildered and confused, looking to his right where Belle stands before back at him. “What?”

“People’s lives are depending on it,” he tries to get his point across, but Rush lowers his head, shaking it, his voice distant.

“I can’t… I can’t get it… I can’t do that,” his voice is fading in strength and Young flicks his eyes to the man’s chest, watching Belle’s arm tighten gently, slowly pulling until Rush collapses back into the chair. Her arm comes away from his chest, her fingers moving to his neck as TJ rests a hand on his right shoulder and Brody stands at his left.

He keeps staring at him, willing the man’s answer to change, because he knows Rush could do it if he was damn well pleased to. The scientist lowers his head into his right hand and Belle is at his side, her forehead gently resting against the back of his head, fingers curling into his neck as though they haven’t got a serious problem on their hands.

“I can’t do anything about that,” his voice is pitched differently, as though he is talking about or too someone else and Belle makes a quiet sound against his hair. Young doesn’t wait around to see anymore; instead he hurries out of the room, leaving everyone behind.

 

He doesn’t know why he is surprised to see Rush sitting up at a console, but it is the first time all day he hasn’t seen Belle at the man’s side. She isn’t even lurking in a corner of the room, another habit he’s become used to since the scientist captured his beauty. She is completely missing, and it throws the room off. Rush seems off throughout the entire conversation, even though he banters lightly with Volker toward the end.

Young heads toward the opposite exit, pausing at the door and looking at Rush. “Rush, all this- this was worth risking your life for?”

Rush stays quiet for a moment, his eyes never straying from the deck plating. “We’ll see.”

Young turns and leaves the room, and that is when he sees the beauty sitting in the floor against the wall, her eyes watching Rush. Belle seems tired, he can see it in her face, but when he opens his mouth to speak she cuts him off without a glance. “Remember what I said, Colonel,” her voice is low, quiet, but it still brings back the memory of pain blossoming in his face from her punch months ago.

He keeps on walking.

Chapter Text

The Still was empty but they sat at opposites ends of the room. Rush had his beaker cradled between his hands as he stared at the wall, his glasses discarded. Greer mimicked his condition while facing the opposite direction so that he watched the doorway with tired eyes. It was incredibly late, the lights of Destiny already dimmed to a dull hum that cast just the right amount of glow to fit the mood.

 

Both downed the last of their drink at the same time, beakers hitting the tables almost in tandem. Greer bowed forward as Rush leaned back, squeezing his eyes shut while his palms pressed against the table. They both let out a deep breath, one more ragged than the other. Rush felt the heat settle low in his gut as he raised his left hand to brush the hair out of his face. His gold band glinted briefly in the light as he broke their silence, “My wife and you’re what, Sergeant? Father, I presume?”

 

Greer took his hat off and set it down on the table, remembering the abandoned cap that his mother would sometimes pick up and stare at whenever his father wasn’t around. His throat felt unreasonably raw as he cleared it, “Yeah, if you want to call him that.”

 

Rush made a non-judgmental sound in the back of his throat, staring at the empty beaker with slightly narrowed eyes. He couldn’t remember why he’d killed the last of his drink but now he was regretting it because he had to get up for more. Greer took pity on him after a few minutes, taking both of their beakers to the Still for a refill. He could feel the scientist’s eyes boring into his back as he filled one and then the other.

 

“Nightmares or memories, Sergeant, which is it?”

 

“Aren’t they the damn same?” Greer’s response was sharp as he dropped Rush’s beaker to the table with care. He almost made it all the way back to his own table before there was a response. The bastard of a man raised his drink with a wiry slant of his eyebrows and a painful twist of his lips.

 

“I’ll drink to that one.”

 

The silence between them was easy as it settled back into place, each man lost in his own demons. Greer was midway through his fifth or sixth beaker (maybe it was seven, he couldn’t remember when Rush had gotten up to get a few) when he heard the sound of bare feet against metal. He was still positioned to see the doorway and the tense set of his muscles relaxed as Belle rounded the corner in Rush’s green shirt and not much else, rubbing the sleep from her eyes with a tired smile in his direction.

 

Rush looked over his shoulder and softened immediately upon seeing her small frame, pushing his beaker away as she walked to his side. He made room for her on the bench and she all but fell onto the seat while curling into his side like a cat. The scientist draped one arm around her shoulders and pressed a somewhat discreet kiss onto the top of her head. “Everything alright?” his accent was incredibly heavy when he was smashed, Greer noticed, but Belle seemed to understand him just fine.

 

“It’s cold without you,” her words were muffled by his shoulder and Rush nodded, squeezing her around the shoulders gently before starting to urge up her. Belle moved with a barely suppressed yawn as he stood and threw back the rest of his alcohol before setting the beaker down for a final time.

 

“Let’s get you back to bed then, hm? Colder out here than in there, I would imagine.” Rush pulled Belle into his side and looked over her head at Greer, tilting his head in an approximation of a nod. Greer raised his half-empty beaker and bid them both a goodnight and listening as they did the same.

 

He studied his drink for a good five minutes before pushing it away with a light grin. Nobody on this damn ship would believe he’d witnessed a drunken Rush, but maybe it was for the best. Greer slid away from the table with ease, his feet only a little unsure beneath him as he started to his quarters.

 

The only evidence left behind was two beakers sitting at opposite ends of the room yet turned to face each other.

Chapter Text

They stole glances, and touches, but never words.

 

Greer was adept at watching people, maybe not reading them, but he was a decent observer for all intents and purposes. It happened to be pure coincidence that he spent the most time watching them. Belle was his friend, more like the sister he’d never had or really wanted, but she was priceless. Rush on the other hand was nothing more than a damn nuisance on the best of days and a ‘security risk’ and that warranted a closer keeping.

 

He felt like a caretaker to be quiet honest. If he wasn’t watching Belle he was glaring at Rush and on the off chance neither of them were around Greer spent an excessive amount of thought on what they were up to. He was more or less waiting for the other shoe to drop even though the first one was still held aloft by tentative strings. Rush liked Belle, obviously. Greer looked at him enough to notice the subtle changes the pain in the ass scientist made for her.

 

Like he wasn’t so much of a pain in the ass, even though he had made Belle cry twice and there was the one time she had stomped his foot so thoroughly they had went for weeks without speaking. Rush tended to be more open around her in terms of personal space and his patience level evened up at a good six when he was trying to explain something to Belle that she didn’t really understand.

 

“You mean that one?” Belle’s voice drifted over to Greer and he moved back from the door for a moment, realizing that he was basically a peeping Tom at this point but what the hell. In for a penny in for a pound, or something like that, he wasn’t really sure.

 

“Yes, that one, very good.”

 

Greer leaned back around until he could see into the Control Interface Room. Rush was sitting at his console with notepad and pencil in hand, sketching out something as Belle watched from his side. It was late enough for the lights to be appropriately dimmed but it didn’t seem to hinder much of whatever they were doing. Slowly Rush drew back from his hunched state and pushed his work over toward Belle with a raised eyebrow. “And now?”

 

She stared at the page, brow furrowed in unconscious thought until she brought one slender finger down to the paper and pointed at something. “That- seems off.”

 

The smile Rush offered her was rare and brief but it was there as he nodded, raising a hand to brush the hair from his face. “Yes, yes, very good. You’re learning.”

 

Belle smiled back and Greer realized what it was they were doing. Rush was back at trying to teach Belle math, something he pursued off and on depending on how frustrated the brunette got. She pushed the notebook away and instead of picking it up this time Rush just stared at it. Her hand touched his arm gently and Greer watched as Belle closed her eyes in a pained sort of way.

 

“Nicholas-“

 

“No, no. I know, you’re right-“

 

Belle’s fingers closed around his shoulder and Rush fell silent. His glasses were askew when he finally looked up at her. “Belle-“ he paused and cleared his throat, licked his lips and Greer felt that suddenly the moment was too private for him to stay. Belle slowly opened her eyes with a sad smile as she reached up and fixed Rush’s glasses to sit straight on his face. The pencil in the scientist’s hand clattered to the floor when he reached up and grabbed Belle’s wrists with an iron grip that was gentle.

 

The unhurried orbit they held around each other slowed and Greer couldn’t make himself look away as Belle leaned forward until her temple rested against his. Rush held her there with no real power, almost cheek to cheek until the sad look on Belle’s face was mirrored in his eyes. She tilted her face and he could only assume she had left a kiss before she pulled away and Rush dropped her wrists as though he had been burned.

 

“I’m so very sorry, Nicholas-“

 

“Don’t bloody apologize for it, that’s ridiculous and irrational at best.”

 

Belle nodded and whispered a quiet goodnight before exiting across the hall, the sound of her bare feet against the metal a quiet music of sorts. Rush bent down and picked up his pencil only to twist it in a slow spiral as he stared at the notebook in detachment.

 

There were some things in life you weren’t meant to witness.

 

Greer left without a word.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

She liked to stare at him when she thought no one else was looking. Her eyes gravitated to him in a room full of people and despite the situation she always looked for him first. A person would have to be blind not to see it, her feelings written in the tired set of her shoulders and glances that were becoming less and less discreet.

 

Belle made her decision.

 

It was perhaps rude and a little fool-hardy, but she approached the Lieutenant with her head held high and tried to ignore the slight tremble of her hands as she invaded the quiet space of the observation deck. “Lieutenant James?”

 

The other woman looked up from her hands, brow furrowed gently in confusion. She immediately placed her hands on the couch and started to push up, instincts kicking in. “Is something wrong?”

 

“No- no! Nothing’s wrong!” Belle waved her hands in an attempt to get James to sit back down before she hid them behind her back and bit her lip. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to imply-“

 

“It’s alright,” James stilled and settled back on the couch. After a moment of silence she cleared her throat softly and looked up at Belle. “Did you need something, then?”

 

She scuffed her booted foot gently across the metal floor before taking a deep breath. Do the brave thing and bravery will follow. “May I take a seat?”

 

The lieutenant scooted over and Belle took a seat beside her, trying to find a place to start. She laced her fingers in her lap and leaned back to stare out at the vast, open space before them. “Lieutenant Scott seems like a very nice man.”

 

James leaned forward with a tired look, her hands pressed against her knees. “Yeah, he is.”

 

When it was clear that she wasn’t going to say anymore Belle tried a different tactic, leaning forward somewhat to mimic the other woman’s position, “Love isn’t a once in a lifetime opportunity, Lieutenant. If you lose out there is nothing that says you get another chance… but there’s nothing that says you won’t either.”

 

“What are you-“

 

“You look at Lieutenant Scott, when you think no one can see. You look… you look sad when you think no one is watching,” Belle trailed off at the end and James closed her eyes. She wouldn’t apologize for her words, she wouldn’t take them back because that was impossible, but it didn’t mean Belle didn’t feel bad. She knew what it was like to look at someone and wish that things were different.

 

James let out a sigh but she smiled too, small and barely there as her hair tumbled over her shoulders. “You noticed that, huh?” One hand ran through her hair, pushing the curls out of her face as she glanced over at Belle. “We had… a thing, before. On Icarus and then we came here and now he has Chloe and she’s-“ she cleared her throat and received a sympathetic smile from her companion, “-she’s great. Chloe is a good kid-“

 

“But she’s not you, and you love him.”

 

Slowly James nodded, her answer coming out as a breathless whisper, “Yeah.”

 

Belle nodded and her smile cracked as she thought of Amanda Perry with her touches and her smiles and her words – “You should talk to him and sort it out, even if he doesn’t feel the same way. Talking never hurts, it’s keeping silent that makes things worse than they really are. If you keep it in, if you hold it and smother it then the fall will be so much harder to handle.”

 

James looked down at her hands and Belle reached over to give them a gentle squeeze. “You can’t help who you love, Lieutenant.”

 

She made to pull her hand back but James reached out and grabbed it in a gentle hold, clearing her throat softly. “Vanessa, if you don’t mind.”

 

Belle felt her throat constrict just a little as she nodded, knowing she had made a new friend. It was hard being on Destiny, away from the sun and land, miles and years and worlds away from everyone she loved, but friends made things easier. Friends, she was learning, were easy enough to find on this ship if you took the time. The cracked pieces felt a little easier to handle as stood, smiling back at the lieutenant. “Goodnight, Vanessa.”

 

James smiled, just a little, but it was enough. “Goodnight, Belle, and hey- thanks for… all of this.”

 

“Anytime,” Belle said quietly, moving away from the couch and toward the door. She was almost there when she noticed a shadow just at the edge of the opening, fear twisting in her chest until she realized just who it was. Belle brightened and slipped out of the observation deck, looking to her right. Rush stood there with his hands shoved deep in his pockets, staring at her uncomfortably.

 

The bright blue of her eyes started to fade and he stepped forward, coughing softly and sounding hesitant as he spoke, “Care to take a walk?” His expression was faintly hopeful in between everything else and Belle nodded slowly, her smile just a little timid.

 

“Yes, I’d like that very much.”

 

Rush nodded and tilted his head toward the right, setting off down the hallway at a controlled pace with Belle at his side.  Out of sight he took her hand, fingers twitching and uncertain as they wrapped around hers. Surprised and altogether pleased, Belle smiled for him before ducking her head as a gentle flush lit up his cheeks.

 

He didn’t let go and neither did she.

 

Chapter Text

“That’s not- Nicholas you’re going to-“ Belle bit her tongue as he cursed, trying to stifle her laughter as he brought his finger to his mouth and sucked on it slowly for a moment, easing the prickling pain. She looked away and shook her head, trying hard not to let him see her smile. “I told you that would happen.”

 

“This is bloody ridiculous,” Rush grumbled around his injured finger while glancing down at his right hand. Every finger including his thumb was wrapped in haphazard bandages while only three on his left had suffered so far. The brunette at his side had not a single injury which was frustrating. It wasn’t that he wanted Belle to be hurt but he would rather not suffer so horribly only to have her laugh each time. He shoved the needle and thread away from his lap and to the floor, the shirt he was trying to mend falling after them in a heap.

 

This time Belle sighed, shaking her head in disbelief. “If you would only listen-“

 

“Forget the fucking hole, it’s no matter,” he stared at the shirt in disdain, his upper lip twitching in the corner as he nudged it with his boot. “Not like anyone can see the ridiculous thing anyway.”

 

“You are,” Belle reached over and grabbed his hand to gently cradle it in hers, examining the small puncture in his index finger, “horribly impatient for a man that used to teach.”

 

“Men were never meant to sew, Miss French-“

 

“Tell that to Colonel Young,” she mumbled the words under her breath, knowing he would still hear her. Rush sat up a little straighter and his eyes narrowed in the slightest as he stared at her.

 

“The Colonel does not know how to sew-“

 

Belle raised an eyebrow and tilted her head just a bit so that she could look up at him, “You’d be surprised.”

 

Rush stared at her for a moment before he pulled his hand away and stubbornly reached down for his discarded items. He plopped the shirt back in his lap and slowly rethread the needle, glancing over at Belle when he was finished. “Well what are you waiting for?”

 

She hid her smile and picked up her own shirt, leaning back on the couch as she started the process once more.

 

“Now this is what you do…”

 

Chapter Text

Riley was so many things, a good man, a kind heart, a soldier and full of faith, but he was also her friend.

 

Belle sits elbow to knee with Rush in the Distillery, each cradling their own beaker between unsteady hands. He has been most distant in the week after the sergeant’s death, pulling away and splintering into pieces that will never fit perfectly back into place. He once mentioned that her belief in magic was somewhat grounding to a scientist like himself and so she gives to him in this way, a silent net that catches him when he thinks he might fall. They’ve been here since just after midnight and the clock is ever climbing toward what on earth would be a beautiful winter sunrise.

 

Here it is just a brightening of sterile lights and the sound of feet on the metal decking, but it’s still too early for that and so they sit in the near darkness. Rush hasn’t properly touched his drink in almost an hour and Belle is content with nursing hers as well, fingers pressed tight to hold the glass in place. She’s tempted to call it a night, to haul Rush up and make him to go bed, but it’s just past three in the morning and she can hear movement out in the hallway.

 

Rush hunkers down over his drink as Belle shifts in her seat, just enough to eye the doorway and see Young stumble in with his uniform a mess and his eyes entirely blown. He looks wrecked in the worst of ways, but he isn’t so far gone that he can’t work the machine to refill the canteen he’s holding in one hand.

 

It’s the first time she’s seen him in days, and he won’t meet their eyes or acknowledge their presence. Belle’s seen that look before, knows what truly happened to Riley, because she can see it so clearly in every line of Young’s body. She knows because she has watched a monster give that same kind of mercy to a man when she was Belle Lefay and not Belle French.

 

He has buried himself in work and alcohol.

 

Rumpelstiltskin hid in magic and twittering laughter, clenched fingers and somber eyes until he could bury himself in her under the light of the moon.

 

Belle has watched a man take his final breath, seen the already dim light in Jefferson’s eyes go out as her lover granted him his last desperate reprieve. She never dreams about it and she never did. What she watched wasn’t cruel, it was fifty different kinds of mercy and thanks and obligations rolled into a single moment that lasted for a minute worth of tense heart beats.

 

Young stumbles back out of the room without ever raising his head or his voice. Rush eases beside her, downing the rest of his drink so fast it leaves him gasping quietly against the raw burn as it tears down his throat. He’s waiting for the moment when the Colonel confronts him and a part of her is silently waiting for it too.

 

She has witnessed the slow destruction of self before, the gradual descent as mercy turns to guilt and builds into hate.

 

It is the only thing all three worlds have in common, next to love.

Chapter Text

“I think we’re trapped.”

 

Belle turned at the sound of Riley’s voice and raised her eyebrow as she lowered the notebook in her hand. Their entire morning had been spent going through newly acquired rooms and compartments on the ship, taking stock of what happened to be in each and the possible use. She’d lost track of the time a bit ago but it wouldn’t be farfetched to say they were nearing lunch as her stomach rumbled unnecessarily. She flipped the notebook shut and slid it into her jeans pocket, going over to help with the door. “We can’t be trapped, the light is green. The door should open-“

 

Riley pushed the button and the familiar hiss of air that came from the mechanism lasted only a second before it turned to the sound of metal grating against metal, and nothing happened. He pushed it again for a similar effect, Belle’s brow furrowing in confusion. “It’s not opening,” she stepped forward and ran her fingers along the seam of the door, feeling nothing but cool, solid metal beneath her fingertips. “That’s odd.”

 

The door hadn’t budged at all and she bit her lip, looking over at Riley. “Maybe it’s just stuck. I’ll radio Eli-“

 

“You know, I don’t remember us closing the door,” Riley cut her off as she reached for the radio, her fingers grazing the tip of it before she hesitated. Now that he had mentioned it, Belle didn’t remember closing the door either.

 

“Maybe it closed on its own. It wouldn’t be the first spooky thing to happen on Destiny.”

 

She grabbed the radio off the nearby crate and cleared her throat, taking a deep breath to steady her suddenly increased nerves, “Eli, this is Belle. Do you have a moment?”

 

The answer was almost immediate, Brody’s voice crackling across the radio in place of Eli, “He’s off duty at the moment, anyway I can help?”

 

“The door seems to be stuck in this room. Do you think you could open it for us?” Belle had watched Rush open a hundred doors from his control panel and this should not be any different. She waited, counting silently in her head while Riley stared intently at the door, waiting for it to open. After almost two minutes a bit of her nervousness had crept back, “Mr. Brody, is everything alright-“

 

“I can’t get the door to open. Hold on, I’m going to radio Rush, I might be doing something wrong-“ Brody cut off, silence filling the area and startling Belle.

 

A burst of radio static came through a handful of seconds later, “Belle, what color is the light?” Rush’s voice sliced through the quiet, sharp despite the interference and she smiled, looking over at the door. Riley stepped back out of her way, revealing the light to be just as green as before and she sighed, bringing a hand to her forehead.

 

“It’s green, like it was a moment ago. You can hear the mechanism try to open the door but nothing happens, not even a crack.”

 

Belle could just imagine Rush on the other end, snapping at Brody and double checking the man’s entire strategy in opening the door, glasses balanced precariously on the bridge of his nose. Riley paced the length of the room at a slow gait, arms crossed loosely over his chest in a look that radiated calm. Her own arms hung uselessly at her sides, the radio still clutched in one hand as she leaned back against a crate.

 

She counted the different items in the room while waiting, fingers squeezing around the device in her hand over and over again until there was a gentle ache in her joints.

 

“Belle?” Rush sounded exasperated, her name tinged with the slightest bit of frustration.

 

She took a deep breath before answering; infusing calm she didn’t necessarily feel into her voice, “We’re still here.”

 

“And you will be for a while yet, I’m afraid. We can’t get the damn door to open from here so I’m sending Mr. Brody down to see if he can fix the issue in person. Hopefully, it shouldn’t take too long.”

 

Belle swallowed on her exhale, closing her eyes, “Okay, alright. That sounds fine.”

 

--- 

 

Riley looked over at Belle for the fifth time in almost as many minutes, his eyes narrowed just the slightest in concern. They’d been in the room for a little over three hours and Brody was working diligently on the other side of the door, applying his knowledge of coding and hands on experience with machinery to try and fix whatever the problem was. It was taking longer than planned, though, and with every minute that passed Belle was a little more quiet and withdrawn, her eyes darting listlessly around the room until the radio crackled periodically.

 

Rush checked in at half-hour intervals, talking to Belle for only a moment each time, giving them brief updates. The room was starting to feel incredibly small, Riley belatedly thought as he shifted around, stretching out his legs for a moment. His foot brushed against Belle’s and he caught her eye, opening his mouth to mumble an apology. Her breathing hitched and her blue eyes snapped shut. Belle curled in on herself just as she started to draw in ragged breaths, each one a hard grasp for air that rattled through her lungs. Her arms tightened unforgivably around her knees with a particularly strangled gasp, squeezing hard enough to bruise as she hid her face from sight, something akin to a soft sob making itself known between her desperate attempts to breathe. Riley was afraid of startling her and so he leaned forward with care, reaching out with one hand to rest his palm against her upper arm, worried and entirely unsure how to handle such a situation. “Hey, everything okay?”

 

Belle reeled away from him, her shoulders hunching as she jerked back, hitting against a nearby crate. It toppled to the ground with a crash, a litany of parts spilling out of the top as it burst open. Riley flinched, his hand unconsciously clenching around Belle’s bicep as she trembled beneath his palm. “It’s alright. Just a crate,” he offered her a tentative smile as he reached for the radio by her side, speaking soft and low as he brought it up, keeping his eyes on her hidden face. “Doctor Rush, I think we have a problem.”

 

“Well, what is it?” his heavy accent cut across the sound of Belle’s labored breathing and Riley shifted, trying and failing to catch a glimpse of her face as he squeezed her arm in reassurance.

 

“It’s Belle, I think… I think she’s having a panic attack-“

 

“Oh fuck- hold the radio where she can hear.”

 

Riley hesitated but leaned closer to Belle, holding the radio as close to her shoulder. He moved into a crouch and tried hard not to invade too much of her space, giving her some room as he confirmed that he had the radio where the lead scientist wanted it to be. The burst of static was expected this time, but he was surprised at the quiet, almost soothing tone to Rush’s usually clipped voice, “Belle, do you remember what we practiced?”

 

She tiled her head to better hear Rush, her breathing still on the rocks as Riley got his first look at her pale face in minutes. Belle looked scared, but eyes expressing so much but the general set of face relaying nothing but discomfort.

 

“Place your hands along your abdomen, focus on your breathing,” Rush instructed her in even tones, his accent coating the words like honey and she slowly uncurled, her hands fisting and relaxing against her legs. Her eyes were dark blue at a second glance, like a storm torn ocean, Riley thought. Belle trembled, struggling to breathe as she laid her hands flat against her stomach, feeling each panicked and broken breath she took. Riley watched as her attention started to narrow to that single movement, the unsteady rise and fall while Rush mumbled a quiet stream of incoherent words that slowly relaxed the tension in Belle’s shoulders.

 

Riley kept track of the time, counting each minute that passed, until finally around the half hour mark Belle managed to grasp control of her breathing, inhaling and exhaling in a measured way that was entirely her doing. With each exact breath her eyes lightened, little by little, until she looked more or less her old self despite the ghost of something deeper in the set of her shoulders.

 

He was so focused on Belle that he jumped at Rush’s suddenly loud voice, the quick manner in which he spoke coming back as though he knew the answer to the question he asked, “Sergeant Riley, has her breathing improved?”

 

Riley cleared his throat, offering Belle a small smile that she returned with a tiny dip of her head. “Everything’s back to normal. If… if it happens again, what can I-“

 

“If it happens again, Sergeant, you radio me immediately. Are we understood?”

 

He glared half-heartedly at the radio as Belle managed a quiet laugh that was soft and watery. She rested her forehead against her knees and he ran his hand along her arm. “Understood, Doctor Rush.”

 

---

 

“Fuck-“ Rush looked up as the lights flickered and then cut out. The power in the Control Interface Room disappeared without warning, his console dying before his eyes as his radio simultaneously crackled to life, Young coming across loud and clear, “What the hell was that, Rush?”

 

Eli was typing away furiously at his laptop, Parks and Volker trying to rouse one of the consoles back into working order on the other side of the room in response to their sudden situation. He ran his right hand through his hair, pushing it away from his face as he shifted in his seat, leaning forward to rest his elbow against the now dead console as he responded, “If I knew, Colonel, it would not have happened, I assure you.” Rush waited a beat and then cleared his throat, trying to sound less annoyed than he really was as he radioed Riley and Belle, “Sergeant Riley, is everything alright in there?”

 

“The lights went out, but we still have life support from what I can tell,” he paused for a minute and Rush felt his chest tighten inexplicably as he waited for the Sergeant to finish his report, “Belle isn’t-“ Riley cut off again and this time he heard it in the background, a half-labored breath that was on the verge of being a quiet sob. Rush grabbed his notebook and pencil from the console and slipped them into his vest pocket as he got up.

 

“I’ll be down there in a moment.”

 

Park and Volker had their heads together as they talked, trying to find a way to fix the sudden drop in power. It obviously wasn’t ship wide or else they would’ve dropped out of FTL. Rush looked over his shoulder and caught Eli’s eye over his laptop as his fingers came to a stop on the keyboard, “Eli, find a way to open that door now, would you? It takes priority over everything else, understood?“

 

He started off down the hallway and heard Eli scramble to get up before he fell in behind him, his laptop cradled in his arms to help light the way for them both. The power outage was worrying to be sure, but the rest of the science team, minus Brody who was trying to force the door open, were on it and Rush had a decent amount of faith in them. Eli cleared his throat and watched Rush’s back, trying to keep in step with the other man who had set up a brisk pace, “Shouldn’t the power outage take priority? I mean, yeah, they’ve been in there for a bit and they’ve got to be getting hungry and tired, seriously, but it’s just a room, Rush-“

 

“Yes, a small room,” he snapped and made a left turn, heading to get the flashlight that he assumed Brody would require to continue work on opening the door manually. Eli stopped just at the start of the new hallway, confusion written on his face.

 

“What does the size of the room have to do with anything? Life support is still functional in that part of the ship, even if the lights aren’t. It’s no big deal-“

 

“I said find a way to open the door, Eli-“

 

“Yeah but-“ Eli jogged to catch up with Rush, almost fumbling his computer in his haste. He brought it closer to his chest, shutting it and plunging them into near darkness, “Don’t you think the power outage is more important? I mean seriously Rush, what if we drop out of FTL and-“

 

“Belle doesn’t like enclosed spaces.”

 

Eli’s brow wrinkled gently as he slowed his pace, a look of surprise and disbelief spread out across his face. “Really, are you serious? That doesn’t seem like something she’d be afraid of-“

 

Rush turned on his heel, placing himself well within Eli’s personal space, his brown eyes sharp in the emergency lighting of the hallway, his voice clipped and low, “Yes, well, you wouldn’t like them either if you’d been the one locked in a basement for years, now would you?”

 

Eli’s stunned silence was enough and Rush turned away with a quiet snarl, continuing his brisk pace. “Get the damn door open, Eli.”

 

“Yeah- I mean, sure. On it. Right now.”

 

--- 

 

Rush held the flashlight in one hand for Brody and the radio in his other, holding so many different conversations that his head would spin if he weren’t used to it already. He had managed to talk Belle back from another panic attack on his arrival down here, but the longer she was in that room the more likely it was to happen again. Brody was working as fast as he could, elbow deep into the wall after having removed a few different panels, doing his best to both understand and work the different circuitry for the door.

 

Eli radioed in occasionally only to say that he had no progress, not that Park and Volker were reporting anything better. Young spent half his time on the radio riding Rush’s back, snapping out orders that the scientist wasn’t the least bit inclined to follow. His knees ached as he shifted in his crouch and leaned forward, angling the flashlight a little better. He rested his elbows on his knees as he tried to watch what the other man was doing, taking note here and there and hoping he remembered to write it down later.

 

“Nicholas?” Belle’s voice was hesitant and breathless and his focus tripped from wires and circuits into something a little less unfamiliar, but warming all the same. “Are you still there?”

 

“Right outside the door,” he turned to look at it, knowing it was no use. The door wasn’t going to open by magic and that alone sparked an idea. Rush smirked, settling his voice into something that was laced with disdain in a way that Belle was familiar with, “Have you tried opening the door with your magic?”

 

Brody scoffed to his left but the other man was smiling even as she replied, sounding annoyed with a half-hearted anger, but underneath it all Rush could hear her smile, “Yes, Nicholas, I waved my hand and said the magic words. Somehow that didn’t work.”

 

“Pity, would’ve been easier than this mess,” he leaned and twisted the light as Brody motioned him closer, but still he heard it, the hitch in Belle’s breathing, the first sign that she was letting her mind wander to closed doors and enclosed spaces, “Belle, tell me again about Maine.”

 

Her response was delayed, unsteady and dazed. Rush realized he’d caught her just at the edge. “I’ve told you before.”

 

“Remind me, then.”

 

“Dreadful storms, so very dreary a lot of the time, but when the sky is clear you can see so far,” she sounded better, closer and more focused, and he relaxed. The conversation between them was a steady stream then, lulling at points when Young or the science team needed his attention, but always picking back up. He quizzed her over Ancient words and translations until Brody interrupted with a sigh of relief.

 

“Got it, one of these pieces was burned out. I rerouted it to another one and the door should open,” he pulled his arms out of the hole in the wall, his hands black as night.

 

“Sergeant Riley, please try to open the door again.”

 

Rush waited, half expecting to be told it hadn’t worked, but he heard the familiar hiss of the mechanism and watched as the door opened to reveal Riley standing there in relieved surprise. There was a shadow to his right, almost hidden amongst the backdrop of crates in the dark and Rush left the flashlight behind as he walked into the room. Belle looked up, her blue eyes glinting in the emergency light of the hall as he reached out a hand. She took it and let him pull her up. The relief on her face, in her eyes, was near tangible as she smiled, “Hello.”

 

His upper lip twitched as he squeezed her hand.

 

----

 

“Rush, do you copy?”

 

“Of course, Eli, what is it now?” he kept his voice low, conscious of the fact that he wasn’t alone. His fingers stalled over the keyboard of his hijacked laptop and Rush glanced at the set of equations he’d written down a moment ago, studying them while waiting for a response from Eli.

 

It didn’t take too long. “I think we found the problem with the power. Our reserves are still full, as I mentioned earlier, but for some reason Destiny can’t access them automatically. It needs a manual code to override whatever the bigger issue is. I can write one but it’ll take a few hours-“

 

“Don’t bother, I’m already on it, and don’t contact me again. I’ll contact you.”

 

Rush clicked the radio off and left it abandoned on the floor.  He looked around the abandoned room, glancing out the open door before he turned back to the laptop, setting about finishing the code he had already started. Belle was tucked close against him, her head on his shoulder as she slept, her half-eaten power bar held loosely in one hand. The other rested against his stomach, a warm weight that reminded him she was there. 

Chapter Text

Rush always thought he was good at multi-tasking.

 

He can code while berating Eli. Lie and scheme while arguing with Colonel Young. He can work the systems of Destiny with his eyes closed, if he wanted. There are a thousand and one things he’s learned to do while simultaneously balancing something else.

 

Belle is the exception to the rule.

 

When she is pressed up against him just so with her hands touching his back or his face, fingers playing with his hair, it’s harder to think. With her lips brushing against his, feather light and warm, he finds himself a bit lost.

 

Her smile, the trust that reflects back at him in her blue eyes, shatters coherent thought and makes it impossible.

 

There are plenty of reasons, both good and bad, that tell him why he shouldn’t let Belle get so close. Why he should take care to keep his distance and not let her draw him back in for another laugh, another kiss, another touch. There are good reasons why he should walk away, from this and her, from the tiny bit of hope he feels whenever she says his name.

 

Good reasons though they may be, Rush is unable to think of a single one. 

Chapter Text

He can’t see her but he can feel her.

 

She brushes the back of her hand against his, a slow and gentle touch that almost overwhelms his senses. Everything is too sensitive in this darkness he’s found, the most delicate of things too profound to take. His thoughts  are frantic, on the knife’s edge of controlled panic when the soft scent of lemon curls around him, mixing with something he can’t recognize and then one thing he knows above all else.

 

Her touch is light. She barely grazes her finger tips along the shadow of his jaw but it sends him reeling anyways. He jerks without meaning to, closing his eyes and making a quiet, aggrieved sound in the back of his throat. This time she doesn’t reach for him but he can still feel her, the way she disturbs the air, how she smells, her entire presence boiled down to the basics.

 

“Nicholas, I’m so sorry-“

 

“No need. Try again,” he forces himself still and even though he is expecting her touch it makes him quake, his senses delicate and aching as they all strain for dominance.

 

She gives him a kiss, one for each eyelid and he catches her arms with his cold hands.

 

Rush blinks his sightless eyes, staring in the place where he hopes Belle to be. Her warm touch surrounds his forearms and he relaxes, not so afraid as he was before. 

Chapter Text

Franklin had never been able to manage anything in the hydroponics lab. None of the seeds would do much, never even blossoming at all for the most part. Then Belle came along.

 

The change wasn’t immediate, not something anyone noticed, but as Belle slipped away more and more things started to shift, just a little. Rush had no real reason to be curious of her whereabouts. She finished the work assigned to her and more often than not met with Lieutenant Johanson. Belle was learning a few medical skills in case they were ever needed.

 

Tamara didn’t have a true assistant on the ship, but Belle was more than willing to learn, eager to grasp new concepts and put them to use. At first her eager nature had only served to annoy him. He was already quick to anger with Colonel Young breathing down the back of his neck and Eli’s rapid understanding of Destiny’s systems did little to ease that. Rush took this out on the people around him, those he felt were perhaps a little too weak to stand up to him.

 

Volker suffered horribly, of course, and then there was Belle. He took many things out on her, his withdrawal from caffeine and nicotine, the barely suppressed anger he held toward the military staff on the ship, his inability to accept that Eli was the genius he could never quite be.

 

That was why Belle slipped away, he assumed, to escape his temper and scathing remarks, but she was never gone for too long. She always came back and although he had no reason to be curious, Rush found himself horribly interested in where she disappeared to.

 

It was rather easy to send a kino after her one evening. He was not the best at maneuvering the camera but he did well enough, staying hidden and out of sight as Belle walked down a familiar hallway. Rush realized he knew where she was going before she actually got there and he watched, being proved correct as Belle slipped into the hydroponics lab. It was empty at this time of day, most people off eating dinner or enjoying the ‘rec room’ and she seemed relieved, the tight set of her shoulders relaxing as she sat down on one of the stools.

 

She looked at the plants with a quiet smile, brushing her fingers along the top layer of dirt.

 

Rush was about to turn the kino off, satisfied to at least know where she went, but then a soft, melodic sound met his ears.

 

Belle was singing.

 

It was so low that he had to strain to hear any of the words, but her tone was clear and her voice rough, yet beautiful. She was singing to the plants and while Rush had seen her happy, he’d seen her laugh and smile, it was in that moment he realized that never once had he seen Belle content, like she was right now. There was a gentle sway to her body as she nearly whispered the song, fingers curled around the seat as she looked around at the different areas Franklin had created for the plants.

 

Rush found, after more successful attempts at guiding a kino after her, that Belle visited the lab almost once a day. It was never at the same time but she went all the same, singing the same, quiet song about being safe and sound to the plants, to herself.

 

He was not at all surprised when one evening, after Brody had mentioned something about the lab, he found himself surrounded by them.

 

Tiny sprouts of life bursting forth from the dirt.

Chapter Text

Eli is, obviously, the first one to make the small detail into a conversation topic over dinner. Rush barely hears part of what’s being said but he catches enough. The words ‘gap’, ‘old’, and ‘odd’ stick out to him, enough that he doesn’t take his normal seat beside Greer. He grabs his bowl and eats, shoveling the food in his mouth, anger making his movements harsh. Becker barely bats an eye when the empty bowl and spoon are shoved against his chest and offers the scientist a cup of water that he takes with him.

 

She finds him, after enough time, one foot rested on a chair and the other leg crossed beneath him, laptop balancing there as he works. He tries not to look up at her but it’s almost impossible when she holds something out for him, the pencil he’d forgotten somewhere on the ship. Rush tilts his head back, then, to look up at Belle. If she’s bothered by his behavior it doesn’t show and he plucks the pencil from her hand, fingertips brushing as she hands it over.

 

He wonders if she knows, that people are talking about them now, and he wonders if she cares. Belle doesn’t seem the type to, given what he knows about her, but there are things he still has yet to learn about her and her about him. Rush knows he doesn’t care, he’s been married before and dealt with age differences, between himself and Gloria (who was older by a few years) and then once when he briefly considered Mandy (who is younger, not Belle’s kind of young but close enough).

 

Rush almost opens his mouth to ask, but she is always one step ahead of him (or five, sometimes). Belle hoists herself onto the table in front of him, letting her legs swing back and forth slowly as she gets settled. The shorts she’s wearing, a pair of cut off military pants, show a decent amount of her smooth skin but that is not what he’s looking at, not exactly. Rush can’t seem to bring his eyes away from the tiny scars, loads too many, that crisscross from just above her knees to disappear under the hem of the shorts. Belle is young (having turned twenty five just two months prior) but she is not young, in the sense that matters. She hasn’t been for quite some time.

 

“It’s just a number, you know,” she’s smiling as she says it, but it’s a small smile that wraps around her careful words. Age does not bother her (for Rum was older than her, by decades and centuries, even).

 

He hums low in this throat and glances down at his computer, wishing not for the first time that he had his glasses to make the proper impression.

 

“I like numbers,” he speaks quietly, not wanting to disrupt the tone she has set, but Rush knows he has said the right thing when she giggles. Even that is soft, an intake of breath that causes his heart to flutter in a way he’d thought it could no longer do.

 

Belle kicks his chair and he narrows his eyes, “Go on now, away with you.”

 

She smiles and kicks his chair again, just for good measure.

Chapter Text

“What in god’s name are you doing?”

 

Belle fumbled, the knife almost slipping from her hand. When she looked up Rush was standing over her, brow furrowed slightly as he stared at her occupied hands. She chanced a half-smile and held up the half-peeled fruit of her labor. “Skinning it?”

 

“Mangling is more like, here,” Rush plucked the knife from Belle’s hand before sitting down on the log she was using as a back rest. He held his other hand out for the round fruit and turned it in his grasp, observing the orange skin and the muted yellow flesh underneath.  She watched as he slowly started to try and salvage what was left, his hands more adept with a knife than she would’ve thought. Belle brought her knees up to her chest as she observed his work, enjoying his quiet companionship as she often did during the late hours on Destiny.

 

“You’re good with a knife,” she uttered the words softly, scared of breaking the silence but curious about this, about him. One side of his mouth twitched, twisting slowly into something like a smile. Belle was patient as he took his time; eyes narrowed just the slightest in concentration without his glasses.

 

After a moment he turned the fruit a little, his voice just as quiet as hers, “Carving is – somewhat of a hobby of mine,” he flicked his gaze in her direction for a moment, gauging her reaction before he looked away. She smiled just a little, taking pleasure in watching him handle the blade, in watching the surety of his movements.

 

Belle leaned forward and wrapped her arms around her knees, resting her head there to better see him. “Maybe you’ll teach me sometime?”

 

Rush had managed to successfully peel one side of the fruit before he turned it in his hand again, careful not to drop it. He cleared his throat softly, the gentle turn of his lips a little more clear, “What is this meant to be, exactly?”

 

Belle’s nose wrinkled as she smiled fondly, “Greer said it tasted more or less like an apple.”

 

He hummed low in his throat and cut off a small piece. Rush held it out, balanced between the blade and his thumb. Belle took it carefully between her teeth, slowly chewing the juicy fruit. Her eyes closed with a soft moan of delight and she swallowed, her tongue darting out to brush against her lips. He was watching her when she opened her eyes, his brown and so very intense, almost enough to steal her breath away.

 

Instead her nose wrinkled up and her eyes creased gently at the edges as she blushed. He dropped his eyes, coughing discreetly as he peeled another section of the fruit. 

Chapter Text

“Hey,” he lifts his head to see her standing there, bleary eyed and dressed down for bed. Her hair is a bloody mess, tangled and curled and frizzed and pulled up into a haphazard bun at the back of her head, but she still looks good. She always looks good, whether covered in dirt or fresh from a shower, fully clothed or naked beneath the sheets, Belle always looks beautiful and tonight is no exception.

 

She’s walking around barefoot though and that makes his brow knot and furrow in concern. If he hasn’t told her once he’s told her a thousand times to wear something on her feet to prevent catching a cold. Her toes, however, wiggle in defiance and her soft laughter draws his attention back to her face. There is a smile waiting there just for him.

 

Rush dips his head and clears his throat, staring a particularly troublesome problem he’s been working on for weeks and days, “Something you need?”

 

Belle hums thoughtfully and when he glances over she has a finger pressed to her lips as she watches him, her eyes wide and blue and sparkling. She is teasing him, the pensive mask she wears so close to cracking and her lips twitch, the corners turning up to present him with a soft smile, “A warmer bed would be nice, now that you mention it.”

 

“Anything else?” he plays along as he sets down the worn piece of chalk and rubs his hands against his jeans to rid his palms of the white dust. He’s crouching in front of his wall of equations, has been for hours, and his knees burn when he stands and straightens and stretches. She reaches for him and he goes willingly, only acting a little annoyed as she tugs on the sleeve of his shirt until they are walking side by side and in step together, arms and shoulders brushing occasionally to add to the warmth between them. 

Chapter Text

“You’re good at this,” her voice was quiet, muffled as she shifted on the cold metal floor to press her face against his jeans. Rush hummed in soft agreement and ran the cold, wet cloth in his hand along Belle’s neck.


She trembled.


Her head was cradled in his lap with her arms wrapped gently around his thigh, tensing every so often. Another quiet groan, hidden by his leg, preceded the clenching of her muscles as another wave of nausea was successfully fought off. The side effects of the fruit she’d eaten would wear off, he’d been assured, but it made it no less easy to watch her suffer in the meantime.


His fingers caught in her hair, gently tugging at blonde curls, remembering another floor and another place, another woman he’d loved. “Gloria fell sick like this, often,” he explained quietly, knowing that Belle fared better when her mind was distracted. The cloth slipped gently against her skin as he ran it back over her neck. Rush let it dip just below the collar of her shirt and her soft exhalation was all he needed to repeat the motion, letting the cloth linger for a moment at the base of her neck.


The cool water seemed to be helping somewhat but Belle’s breath still caught in her throat, hitching as she trembled and twisted from another roll of her stomach. She settled soon enough, quicker than before, exhaling with a barely audible whimper. “Your wife,” the words were breathless and quiet, but filled with a gentle joy as well. Each piece of information he let slip, about his life before Destiny, before her, she took and held close. What he told her in rare moments of honest communication, nights lying in bed or little things that slipped through the cracks in moments of distraction, she cherished and held so very dear to her heart. He appreciated her all the more for that.


Fingers clutched at his jeans, weak and shaking, and Belle curled up as much as she could in the cramped space of the bathroom as she fought against her own body as much as she could. The change in her breathing was his only warning, his only sign that she was about to be sick again.


“Think of something neutral,” he mumbled softly, pressing the cloth against the side of her neck, feeling his own stomach churn in sympathy as she made a quiet, aggrieved sound in the back of her throat. Whatever meals she had managed were long gone, only dry heaves tearing at her whenever she couldn’t fight them down.


“Sunsets,” her voice broke on the whisper, the tension draining from her muscles until she was quite limp against him and panting, however quietly.


He clucked his tongue, soft and disapproving as he pulled his fingers from her hair carefully, wringing out the cloth into a bowl he’d borrowed from Becker. Rush used the last of his water ration from his canteen to soak it once more, coaxing Belle to move until he was able to run it along her face, starting with her flushed cheeks and then moving slowly to her damp forehead, “Sunsets are not neutral.”


Belle looked up at him in confusion, blue eyes showing far more exhaustion that she let on with. “What, then?”


Rush took his time answering, rubbing at her side in slow circles with his palm, fighting the gentle twitch of his upper lip, trying not the smile. “The number two.”


Her forehead wrinkled, her nose twitching as she fought against her own smile. “Two is far from being neutral, Nicholas.”


He had to agree, of course, but not right away. Belle stared at his face until her own expression broke, fracturing into the most beautiful smile he’d ever seen. His own cheek twitched, just barely, and he cleared his throat, moving his hand from her side to her back, rubbing up and down in a soothing manner. “Do you have any objection to ice, then?”


Belle’s laughter was almost inaudible as she rolled back into him, causing  the cloth from her forehead to tumble onto his leg, abandoned.  Tremors ran the length of her spine beneath his hand but Belle held onto him. Her voice trembled, caught between mirth and discomfort, and he smiled a pained sort of smile, feeling the words against his leg, “Ice then.”

Chapter Text

The first time Belle wished they had time for some kind of ceremony was the day she learned of Riley’s death. He had always been kind to her, soft spoken and sweet, yet never failing to come through as a strong shoulder to lean or cry on if she had need of a friend. But Destiny was forever going at a rapid pace that left no time for grieving, not really. Even a moment of silence in place of what would have been a large and daunting funeral on Earth was hard to coordinate when a single second of neglect could mean their lives.


She had thought that perhaps she would find some comfort in Nicholas’ arms that night, because even though he came to bed later and later he was still there, still steady despite how sharp and sometimes uncoordinated he seemed during the day.


Then he didn’t.


Belle cried quietly, doing her best to muffle the tears against her threadbare pillow even as her shoulders ached from being so hunched. Both her eyes and her heart ached as her sobs ebbed into broken sniffles and she dreamed of green grass and headstones, dateless and nameless except for three.


One for Sgt. Riley. One for herself. And one for him.

Chapter Text

“It’s beautiful, don’t you think?”

The water was clear but green, to Belle’s utter surprise and delight. The atmosphere of the planet was just this side of okay for human life, but something about the world itself was… enthralling. While in many ways the plant life reminded her of things she had seen on Earth, brimming and vibrant and alive,  this was by far the most radical of all the places the stargates had led them.

Dangling his feet beside Belle’s in the pond, Rush couldn’t agree more as he watched the flickering play of red light against the ripples they created, raising his head to catch a glimpse of the blood moon before it disappeared behind grey, shapeless clouds in a dark violet sky.

“Breathtaking.”