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"How long will I be waiting
To be with you again?
I’m gonna tell you that I love you
In the best way that I can
I can’t take a day without you here
You’re the light that makes my darkness disappear…"
"When You Look Me In The Eyes" by the Jonas Brothers
For two days Jessie had tried to lose herself in her work, but she just couldn’t get into the zone. Even playing with the new artifacts that hadn’t been catalogued yet didn’t do it for her. After sighing for the umpteenth time, she gave up. Going to the elevator, she took it to level 27, and as luck would have it, General Hammond was in his office. He looked up at her tentative knock on the door.
"Dr. Watson, come in," he said with a smile, gesturing to the chair opposite his desk. "Please, sit down."
"Thank you, Sir."
"What can I do for you?"
"I was wondering if I could take a short leave of absence, Sir."
"Is everything okay?"
Jessie looked down at her hands. "I…with everything that’s happened in the last few weeks, it’s been a bit overwhelming. I’m having a little trouble focusing on my work, and I think if I take some time off, just to sort of decompress, it’ll help me get back to where I need to be."
General Hammond nodded. "You’ve been through a lot, Dr. Watson, and have held up remarkably well. If you feel some time off would be of benefit to you, I see no reason for you not to go." Shuffling through the papers on his desk, he scanned the schedule. "SG-7 is off the roster for the next ten days. I’m sure Daniel and Casey will be able to handle whatever the other SG teams bring back for translation or analysis."
"I appreciate it, Sir. I imagine it would be five, no more than seven days."
General Hammond made the notation on the schedule, and Jessie got up to leave.
She turned, surprised. General Hammond always called her by her surname. "Yes Sir?"
"You take care of yourself, you hear?"
The demeanor of a concerned father and that little bit of Texas twang made her smile. "I will, Sir, and thank you."
General Hammond let out a sigh as he watched her leave. He knew exactly what was going on, but he also knew it was something they were going to have to work out on their own. Saying a silent prayer for both the Colonel and the young woman, he turned his attention back to his work.
Feeling a little better, Jessie went back up to level 18 and jotted down a quick note to Daniel, and a more detailed one to Casey. They were out for the day and wouldn’t be back until tomorrow. Shutting down her computer, she stacked her folders neatly and left them on the back table in case anybody needed them. Taking the elevator up to level 11, she began thinking about where she wanted to go as she switched over to the primary elevator that would take her topside. By the time she made it home, she knew exactly what she was going to do.
The following afternoon, Casey stormed into Jack’s office, slamming the door behind her.
"What in the hell is wrong with Cam?"
"He just up and takes off, not a word to Jessie, the SOB doesn’t even stick around long enough for her to regain consciousness…"
"Does he have his head so far up his ass he’s deprived himself of oxygen? She wakes up, finds him gone, thinks he doesn’t give a shit, and now she’s up and…"
His raised voice finally penetrated her consciousness, halting her in mid-rant.
"Jessie shot herself, and Mitchell saw her do it."
That hit Casey like a ton of bricks, and she sat down with a thud in the chair across from Jack.
"We were in direct communication with Camulus, when Cam and I were on Jacob’s ship—Camulus had Jessie in the room with him. He was powering up the weapon. Apparently Jessie thought if she took herself out of the equation, the weapon wouldn’t work. She told Cam she loved him right before she put the gun to her head and pulled the trigger."
"Oh my God."
"Thankfully those nanites were some hardy little bastards and protected her from any real damage." Jack rubbed his hand over his face. "Cam understands why she did it—she was trying to protect us…he just needs some time to come to terms with everything."
Casey tugged at her lower lip with her teeth. "I just wish he had left her a note, or something. Jessie thinks he’s given up on them…"
"Well, you can tell her that’s not true."
"I wish I could, but she’s taken off. She left a note sometime yesterday saying she was going away for a while, and had cleared it with General Hammond. I’ve already tried going by her house. She’s not there, and she asked Bertie to keep an eye on things for a week or so."
"You tried callin’ her cell?"
"It’s turned off."
Jack sighed. "Things will work out one way or another."
"Well, it’s the ‘or another’ part I’m worried about." With what Jack had told her, it totally deflated the tirade she had been on, and she slouched down in the chair.
"Just give them some time, Casey."
Casey rubbed her hand across her forehead. "That’s easy for you to say, Jack. From where I’m sitting, all I’m seeing is black. And black has never been a good thing."
He tried to ignore the sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. "They’ll get their heads back on straight, you’ll see."
With a sigh, Casey stood to go. "I hope you’re right."
"Let me know if you hear from Jessie, okay?"
She stared at him for a moment, a sadness reflected in her eyes. "Sure thing."
Watching her leave, Jack felt a shiver run down his spine. He debated with
himself for a few minutes before picking up the phone.
Jessie sat near the water’s edge, listening to the wind rustling the leaves overhead. The solitude was soothing, and it was exactly what her soul needed. The woods caressed her senses—the dampness in the air, the earthy aroma of the dark soil, the smell of the water and the tapestry of the fallen leaves. She had repeated this ritual over the last couple of days, spending hours just being in tune with the forest, relaxing beside the hidden pond she had found on one of her treks. A couple of phone calls had landed her with a little cabin in the middle of nowhere, and that was where she wanted to be at the moment—in the middle of nowhere, no phones, no TV, no Stargates or weirded-out boyfriends.
Trailing her fingers through the leaves and moss, she felt the smoothness of a rock beneath her fingertips. Retrieving it from where it was hidden, she saw it was about the size of a silver dollar, and relatively flat. Remembering her grandfather’s lessons on how to skip a rock across the water’s surface, she took the stone and tossed it, watching as it bounced three times before disappearing from view.
"If you put a little more spin on it, it would skip further."
Jessie didn’t look up, instead watching the ripples spreading out to the water’s edge.
"Yeah, well, I was never really good at rock skipping." The wind picked up a bit, nudging the leaves at her feet. "How’d you find me?"
Jack walked up to the edge of the pond, the fisherman in him assessing the possibility of it containing an elusive fish or two. "GPS chip in your cell phone."
She nodded slightly, not really surprised. "You coulda called."
"Would you have answered?"
A noise that might have passed for half a chuckle came from her. "Probably not."
Jack came over and sat down beside her. He noticed the bruise on her temple had faded to a yellowish green. "You doing okay?"
Shrugging her shoulders, she replied, "Depends on what your definition of okay is."
Jack sat quietly, watching the receding ripples reflecting the light from above.
"I wouldn’t change what I did, Jack."
"I know, Jessie."
She picked up a small rock, turning it over a couple of times before tossing it into the pond. "I’ve thought about it a lot since I came up here. I couldn’t be responsible for y’all dying; I wouldn’t have been able to live with that. Put in that situation again, I would do the exact same thing, even though it means I lose the one person I love the most."
"You haven’t lost him, Jessie."
Jessie gave him a sidelong glance, one eyebrow raised, reminding Jack of Teal’c. "Doesn’t look that way from where I sit."
"Jess, Cam watched you put that gun to your head and pull the trigger. The shock of that alone was bad enough. But it also exposed a weakness he didn’t know he had."
Puzzled, Jessie asked, "What do you mean?"
Jack looked down at his hands, wondering if he could make her understand. "In the military, we’re trained for all kinds of combat situations. It’s a given that sooner or later you’ll lose men. You’re also trained you can’t let that hinder you; you finish the mission. Cam’s been in battle, and he’s gone through that before. You finish the mission and deal with it later, eventually, hopefully, you move beyond it." Jack picked up a rock of his own and tossed it into the water. "Seeing what happened with you, it made him realize it’s a thousand times worse when it involves the person you love. Even with all of his experience, that was a huge shock for him." Jack turned to her. "Look, I know it’s hard to understand his reaction. But I know firsthand what it’s like."
Jessie drew her knees up, resting her cheek against them as she looked at Jack. "You and Sam?"
Jack nodded. "We were on a mission that went FUBAR. Sam was stuck behind a force field, I was on the other side. We had planted explosives; the timers had already been set, and there was no way to disable them. I tried to deactivate the force field, but I couldn’t get it down. I refused to leave. It was real simple for me—if Sam was going to die, I was going to die with her."
Jack gave a wry smile. "SG-1 luck. Force field deactivated—we got the hell out of there before the whole place came down. Nothing was mentioned about those few minutes between Sam and I. But she and I knew what had happened, and the significance of it."
"So what did y’all do?"
"Nothing. Given the circumstances and the regulations at the time, we continued on as we always had. It wasn’t until the events on Nanda and the no-frat order being rescinded, that she and I could be together." Jack found another rock and tossed it into the pond. "What went down a few days ago knocked Cam for a loop, big time. He reacted in a typical male fashion—he took himself out of the situation until he could come to terms with it, kind of like going into his cave."
Jessie raised her head on that. "You’ve read Men Are From Mars?" she asked incredulously.
Jack sat up straight, pinning her with a stark stare. "I’ll deny it to my dying breath, so don’t even think of repeating it."
She grinned, holding up her hands. "Your secret’s safe with me."
After a moment’s silence, Jack continued. "The last few days have been rough, for all of us. I just didn’t want you thinking that things are worse than they really are."
Jessie looked down at the ground. "Well, I still have my doubts about that, but I appreciate you coming out all this way to try and reassure me."
Jack reached out and tilted Jessie’s chin up until she was looking directly at him. "There’s one thing you don’t ever have to doubt, and that’s the fact that Mitchell loves you. And he will be back. I know him, because I’m exactly like him. We’re soldiers, leaders, completely independent for so long we forgot what it’s like to share our lives with someone. But when that one true love comes along, it gives our life meaning, and balance. It completes us. It’s our greatest strength, and our greatest weakness. It just takes time for us to wrap our minds around it."
Jessie felt the tears well up in her eyes, but she blinked them back to keep them from falling. "I hope you’re right," she whispered.
Jack moved his hand up and caressed her cheek. "I know I’m right. I wouldn’t steer any of my kids wrong." With that, he stood up. "You gonna be okay out here?"
Jessie nodded. "Yeah. I just need some time alone to get myself in balance again."
Jack looked at her knowingly. "As a good friend of ours would say, indeed." He took a few steps in the opposite direction before stopping. "Watson?"
Jack reached into his pocket, and then tossed something to her. Catching it, she found herself holding a package of M&M’s.
"They seemed to help last time. I figured it was worth another shot."
Jessie chuckled, this time letting the tear roll down her cheek unchecked. "Thanks, Jack."
Jessie made her way back to the cabin, taking time to have some lunch before heading back out to the pond. Along the way she gathered up several flat rocks, with the intention of practicing her rock-skipping skills, or lack thereof. Settling down in her usual spot, she put the pile of rocks next to her, sorting through them and grouping them according to size. She knew she was going to have to head on back tomorrow, but for now she was going to enjoy the solitude for as long as possible.
Getting comfortable, she tossed out a couple rocks, managing to get three skips out of each. The third rock she tried to put more spin on it as Jack had suggested, but only managed two bounces before it disappeared. Staring at the spot in consternation, she was startled to see another rock come skipping past, bouncing five times before disappearing.
"Gotta put more motion in the wrist."
Jessie’s breath caught in her throat. Wondering if her imagination was playing tricks on her, she slowly turned towards the sound. Standing a few feet from her was Cam, his dog tags glinting against the fabric of his T-shirt. At that moment, Jessie didn’t know whether to be happy, angry or surprised, but when she saw his expression falter, trying to hold back his own unshed tears, she did the only thing she could do. Rising from the ground, she closed the distance between them, stepping into his embrace and holding him close. She hadn’t realized until that moment how much she had missed his touch, and the comfort of his presence.
"I’m so sorry," he whispered into her hair, his arms wrapped tightly around her.
They stood like that for quite a while, not saying a word, not needing to. When they finally did draw apart, each could see the other’s raw emotions reflected in their eyes.
Cam reached up and brushed her hair back, hesitantly touching the bruise at her temple. "I…I thought I had lost you." Swallowing hard against the lump in his throat, he whispered, "I just wanted to die. I didn’t want to go on, do what I needed to do, what I had to do. All my training, everything I would normally fall back on, didn’t make a damned bit of difference. In that one moment, everything I thought I knew about myself without a doubt, it all changed." Cam cradled her face in his hands. "When we found out you were alive, and were going to be all right…" A strangled sound came from his throat, and he leaned his forehead against hers as a tear coursed down his cheek.
He shook his head. "When I found out you were going to be all right, I can’t even describe the relief, the elation I felt. But with it came the realization…I no longer knew myself. The one constant I could always count on was gone."
"That’s why you left?"
"Yeah. I had to take some time and try to figure things out. I…I went back home for a few days, spent some time talking with my Dad."
She reached up, brushing her fingers against his cheek. "Did it help?"
Cam nodded. "Dad’s always been able to help me focus when I get so damned confused I can’t see straight."
Jessie smiled. "I can understand that. My Mom’s been my rock when things have gotten rough." Looking up at him, she mentally braced herself as she asked, "So, where does all of this leave us?"
"I love you, Jessie. That’s never gonna change. I’ve just got to learn how to handle this crack in my armor that I didn’t know I had."
"Do you…do you regret having me work at the SGC?"
"No. And I would never ask you to give up your work, what you love to do."
Jessie tugged at her lower lip with her teeth. "Do you think it would be better if I switched to another team?"
"No," he said emphatically. "I need you on SG-7. Besides Daniel, you’re the best linguist and archaeologist the SGC has. And, for perfectly selfish reasons, I want you with me. I can keep an eye on you, at least try to keep you safe, and vice versa."
Jessie snorted. "Like you need me to keep you safe."
Cam grinned. "Lady, I’ve still got your target sheet from the day Calloway tried to fail you on marksmanship. I’d much rather have you watching my six than half the other personnel I’ve trained with."
"You kept that?"
"Yeah. Not only was it some pretty impressive shooting, but it was also the day I took notice of a very remarkable woman."
Jessie looked at him closely, searching for the answer before finally asking him, "Are we okay?"
"You betcha," he whispered before adding, "if you can put up with me."
Jessie shook her head, giving him a wry smile. "There’s no one else I’d rather put up with."
Looking into her eyes, he said, "I love you, Jessie."
"I love you, too, Cam."
Wrapping his arms around her, he held her close, and she sighed softly. ‘Just like coming home.’
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