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Jessica opened her eyes. She felt a bit disoriented, not sure where she was at. Rubbing her eyes, she looked closer at her surroundings. She was in some kind of room, but the lighting was dim. She didn’t think it was a ship, as everything was very quiet. Looking down at herself, she was dressed in some sort of a simple, white gown.
Jessie turned and found herself face to face with a very beautiful, almost exotic-appearing woman. She had long, dark hair, a tawny complexion, and a soft, melodic voice. She, too, was wearing a garment similar to Jessica’s. Jessie started to get an odd sensation.
"Hello," she said hesitantly. "Have we met?"
The woman smiled. "No. My name is Natya."
Jessie bit her lip. "Am…am I dead?"
Natya looked at her closely. "No, not yet."
"Where am I?"
"Let’s just say that you are in between planes at the moment."
Jessica sighed, the tiredness seeping through her body. Noticing a bench nearby, she walked over to it and sat down.
"You are tired."
Jessie nodded, rubbing her eyes once again. "You could say that. How did I get here?"
Natya came to sit beside her. "You’ve been moving away from your physical body. That action has allowed me to communicate with you."
For some reason that answer didn’t alarm her like it should have. "I don’t suppose you’re related to Oma, are you?" Jessica asked, remembering the things Daniel had told her about the Ascended beings.
"No. She’s on a different plane than I am."
Natya smiled. "There are different levels of existence, and when one dies they move on to another level of existence. The level they go to is determined by the lessons they learned in the existence they are leaving. Oma is a few steps up from me."
"You’re not going to tell me I’ve got to regress or something, are you?"
"No Jessica. You are a good soul. When your time comes, you will continue on your journey ahead. The key phrase there is ‘when your time comes’. It is not your time yet. You cannot give up."
Jessie’s eyes filled with tears. "It hurts so much," she whispered. "I’m so tired of fighting the pain."
Natya reached out and took Jessie’s hand in hers. "I know. But you can overcome this. You are so close to turning the corner, to start healing. You have to fight for it, though. You have to want to live."
Jessie didn’t say anything, the tears silently coursing down her cheeks.
"Besides, there’s still a lot you have to accomplish. It affects not only you, but others as well. If you give up now, everything that’s been done to ensure that these things come to pass, everything I’ve gone through will be for naught."
"What are you talking about, everything that’s been done? I thought y’all couldn’t interfere, or at least chose not to."
"Normally, that’s correct. However, we ran into a situation a while back. I had little choice." Natya gestured with her hand.
Jessica looked up to find a man standing in front of her. "Hello. Do I know you?"
He grinned. "No, you don’t, but I know you."
Natya stood, eyeing the man warily. "This, Jessica, is Bryce Ferguson. He was the catalyst behind our unusual intervention."
Other than a raised eyebrow, Jessie remained silent, waiting for an explanation.
"A few months before you joined the Stargate program, Bryce Ferguson died. However, instead of following normal procedure, he refused to move on to the next plane of existence until his demands had been met."
"Demands?" Jessie was totally in the dark.
"Let me explain it, Nat." Bryce pulled up a chair and sat down in front of Jessica. "The short version is this. Cam and I were close friends. We trained together at Fort Benning. As you know, he can be hot headed. It was worse when we were younger. We went on a mission, he got a little reckless, and I rescued him. The only problem was I got a piece of shrapnel stuck in my head in the process. The docs couldn’t get it out, it turned into an aneurysm, and I kicked the bucket."
"How does that figure in with all this?" Jessie asked.
"Cam felt responsible for my injury. He felt if he had just followed protocol that day, I wouldn’t have gotten hurt. He couldn’t accept sometimes crap just happens. I didn’t blame him at all, but it didn’t matter. When I died, his guilt just grew. He kept thinking it was his fault I was dead. With his job, and all that negative energy, he would’ve started taking too many risks if I hadn’t focused his attention elsewhere."
Natya stepped forward. "Bryce felt if he could choose a mate for Cameron, it would cause him to deviate from the self-destructive path he was on."
Bryce continued. "He needed a reason not to take stupid risks. If he had someone he loved, he would at least be more cautious, not as reckless. And let’s face it; he wasn’t going to find someone on his own. He was so filled with guilt he didn’t feel he was worthy of having a family, all that ‘Fergie didn’t get to have one, so I don’t deserve it’ bullshit. He would have dated, but he would have made sure it wasn’t anyone he could fall in love with."
Jessie looked at Natya. "Okay, I can understand what y’all are saying, but it still doesn’t explain why you intervened."
Natya crossed her arms and gave Bryce ‘the look’. "As I said before, Bryce refused to move on until he had chosen someone for Cameron. More explicitly, he made my existence a living hell."
"Awww, c’mon Nat, I wasn’t that bad," Bryce said, grinning.
"The man never shut up. It was a constant running commentary--politics, environmental issues, religion, world affairs, planetary relations, the pros and cons of city garbage collectors switching to 96-gallon containers! When he started with a blow-by-blow replay of the daily soap operas for both North AND South America, I couldn’t take it anymore. I threw myself on the mercy of my superiors, and was granted permission to intervene."
Jessie’s eyes had gotten wider and wider as Natya had explained her predicament with Bryce. Turning to him she said, "You must really care for Cam to have dug your heels in like that."
"He’s like my brother. I had to make sure things were going to turn out good for him."
"Why’d you pick me?"
Bryce’s expression softened. "Because you’re his soul mate, Jessie. Believe me, it wasn’t an easy job. Cam’s quite a handful. He needs a very special lady to help keep him grounded."
"It wasn’t a simple process," Natya said. "It took time for Bryce to find you, and to make sure your and Cameron’s paths would cross. Then, of course, Cameron was a bit more stubborn than I had anticipated. As much as I hate to admit it, Bryce was right when he said Cameron purposely avoided dating anyone he could fall in love with. He was interested in you, but kept allowing things to drag his attention away. It was a defense mechanism."
"So, what made him change his mind?"
She shifted from one foot to the other. "I realized that it was going to take something extra to get Cameron past his self-imposed limitations. I knew that if he, well…"
"If he what?"
Natya sighed. "I knew if he took you, he wouldn’t be able to walk away. You would become as important as the air he breathes. Once soul mates join, they are together for life."
It took a moment for that to sink in. "Brojorn? You were responsible for what happened on Nanda?!"
"Yes. Brojorn owed us a favor. It was actually repaid twofold. Not only did it bring you and Cameron together, but it also provided the Tau’ri with the naquadah supply that was so desperately needed."
"Wouldn’t that be considered interfering on two levels? First with Cam and I, as well as supplementing our defenses?"
"You said Brojorn owed you a favor. You helped him before?"
Natya nodded. "The Nandanians are already on a higher level, which explains their unique abilities. We interact with them on occasion. His niece came down with an illness, but because of her young age it became life threatening. Though she suffered scarring, her life was spared."
It didn’t take her long to connect the dots. "Aylen? She’s Brojorn’s niece?"
Bryce grinned. "Kind of gives you a new perspective of ‘what goes around comes around’, doesn’t it, Jessie? Actions, reactions—it’s all Karma."
Natya sat down beside Jessie once again. "Now do you see why it’s so important for you to fight to get well? If Cameron loses you, he will continue down the path he was on before Bryce stepped in, even more so. That is not his destiny—you are. By not giving up, you and he will build a life together, a life that will eventually include children. If not…" her voice trailed off.
"He can help you, Jessie." Bryce moved to sit on her other side. "I know the pain is hard to face, but it’ll lessen as you start to heal. Doc Fraiser is getting the upper hand on the infection; it won’t be long now. Between the meds, and Cam helping you focus, you can get through this." He took her hand in his. "Please, Jessie. You can do this."
She looked at Bryce, then at Natya. "I’m not going to remember any of this, am I?"
They both grinned at the same time, looking at each other. "Most of it you won’t," Natya replied.
Natya and Bryce stood, and then helped Jessie to her feet. Natya reached out and hugged her. "You’re going to do just fine, Jessie."
Jessie turned, eyeing the man who was responsible for the path she was now on, the man who risked angering an Ascended being because of the love he had for his friend.
"I get a hug, too, now don’t I?" he asked, holding his arms out.
With a smile, she stepped into his embrace, hugging him in return. He whispered in her ear, "I need you to do me a favor…"
With that, they both were gone, as if they had never been there in the first place. Eyes closed, Jessie took a deep breath. "I can do this," she told herself. When she opened them, she found herself squinting against the bright lights of the infirmary.
Cam had been dozing in the chair next to Jessie’s bed, but the change in the tone of the heart monitor pulled him back to wakefulness. Eyes trained on the machine, he watched the blip move in time with the sound, becoming stronger and more rhythmic. Glancing at Jessie, his heart started racing as her eyes began to open. He was out of the chair in an instant, leaning over the bed, looking for any sign of recognition. "Jessie? Jessie, it’s Cam. Can you hear me?"
He watched as she frowned, blinking several times before she finally focused on his face. Those beautiful green eyes didn’t show any recognition at first, and he found himself praying, ‘Please God, please let her be all right. I can’t lose her; not now.’ Cam reached out and brushed a strand of hair from her forehead. "Jessie, baby, are you okay?" He almost couldn’t bring himself to ask the next question. "Do…do you…remember me?"
Jessie swallowed against the dryness in her throat. She brought her hand up, her fingertips lightly touching his cheek. "Cam," she said, her voice nothing more than a hoarse whisper.
A mixture of relief and elation hit him like a tidal wave. He smiled for the first time in weeks, even as the tears filled his eyes. Cam took her hand and kissed it, still not quite believing she was actually awake.
‘Why is he crying?’ she wondered, still not completely cognizant of her surroundings. She brushed a tear away with her thumb as it slid down his cheek. "Water?"
Cam looked at the table by the bed, then around the room. "Janet!"
A few seconds later, she came around the corner. "What’s the matter Cam?"
"Can Jessie have some water?"
Janet hurried over to the bedside. "Jessie? How are you feeling?"
"Get her some water, Cam," she said as she started to examine her.
Cam went to get a glass, and on his way back he ran into Daniel. "Jessie’s awake."
It only took a couple of minutes for the word to spread, and Jessie soon found herself surrounded by her friends. Cam had helped her take a couple of sips of water, and was back by her side, her hand in his. Daniel and Casey were behind him, Sam and Jack at the foot on the bed, Teal’c next to Janet, who was busy making notes in the chart.
"Is she okay Doc?" Jack asked.
"Yep. Her vitals are strong, and she’s oriented to person and place."
"How long…have I been here?"
"It’s been two weeks since your surgery," Janet said.
Jessie closed her eyes as she tried to put together a timeline.
"When we found you on that planet, you were in pretty bad shape. It took Daniel a little while to figure out the note in your boot, but we made it to the sixth temple before Kaitsenko could find it. The final temple was on Tanoa."
Her eyes opened at the sound of his name. "Did he…show up?"
The group glanced at each other, before Jack replied, "We made sure he did."
Jessica looked at each of her friends, but it was Teal’c who answered her unspoken question. "Kaitsenko no longer draws breath. Colonel Mitchell made certain of that."
She turned to Cam, holding his gaze with her own, saying all the things she didn’t have the strength to say at the moment. Shifting in the bed, she couldn’t help but grimace when the pain shot through her body.
"You okay?" Janet asked.
"I’ll get you something for that." Going over to the supply cabinet, she came back with a syringe containing the pain medication.
Janet was about to inject the drug into the IV line, when Jessie turned to Cam. "I have to tell you something, before I forget."
Cam moved a little closer. "What is it Jessie?"
She licked her lips. "A message. Fergie told me to tell you ‘hi’, and he wanted to know how you liked the present he got you for your birthday. Hand picked it himself. Something about it being good for the next fifty or…sixty…years…" Her voice trailed off as the pain meds took effect, and she went back to sleep.
"Colonel Mitchell, are you feeling ill?" Teal’c asked, the concern evident in his voice.
Cam turned towards them, a shocked expression on his face.
"Hey, you all right?" Jack moved over to Cam, afraid that he was about to pass out.
Casey could sense something, but wasn’t quite sure what it was. "Who’s Fergie?" she asked.
"Fergie. Bryce Ferguson. He was my best friend. We trained together." He looked up at Casey. "He died about six months before I was assigned here."
The gang looked at each other, and then at Jessie. It was only then did they realize how gravely ill she had been.
"What was the other thing she said, about a birthday present?"
Cam shook his head in disbelief. "She said he wanted to know how I liked the present he got me for my birthday."
Sam looked puzzled. "But, your birthday is in May. You were here in May. If he passed away before you got here…"
Cam turned and looked at Jessie. "Oh my God…"
"The day I first met Jessie, it was my birthday."
Just then a breeze blew through the room, noticeably ruffling Cam’s hair. The fact there was nothing in the room to cause that breeze didn’t escape them.
Casey smiled, feeling the man’s spirit move past her. The love that Fergie had for his friend was evident in his gift, the young woman lying on the infirmary bed. For the first time since all this had started, Casey was able to sense that everything was going to be okay.
Natya watched the scene as it unfolded in the room, pleased that Jessica had found her path back to Cam. In fact, Natya was so happy, she didn’t chastise Fergie for making his presence known to Cam and his friends just now. Probably wouldn’t have made any difference to Fergie, anyway. He never listened before. She felt the slight shift as he started passing from one level to the next.
She sighed. "Yes Fergie?"
"Would you keep an eye out on As The World Turns this week? I really want to know what happens between Dusty and Emily, and it might take me a while to get settled in my new place."
"Enough with the soap operas! Go!"
A chuckle echoed around her. "Love ya, Nat."
As the sound faded away, Natya heard the distinctive feminine laugh that followed.
Natya crossed her arms. "Just wait till he gets to your level, Oma. We’ll see who’s laughing then…"
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