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A Storm of Shadows
Uncle Shay spent the night in the guest room, and in deference to him Cam spent the night on the sofa, neither one of them being in any condition to drive. The next morning dawned bright and sunny, and after Jessie made a pot of coffee, she came into the living room and opened the drapes.
"Hey sleepyhead, you gonna snooze all day, or are you going to get up?" She truly tried to keep a straight face, but it was very, very difficult. Cam had taken his shirt off, but still had his jeans and boots on. His hair was tousled from sleep, and his feet were hanging off the end of the sofa. A groan came from his general direction, and he managed to crack an eyelid open to peer at her, albeit unfocused.
"Oh God, did ya have to open the blinds?" he croaked.
A giggle escaped Jessie. "One night with Uncle Shay, and he has you praying to God. The man can do his job."
Cam managed to prop himself up on an elbow, looking groggily at his fiancée. "I had no idea you could be so sadistic. I’m dying here, and you’re making fun of me."
"Hey, you’re the one who was slugging back Jameson with an Irishman. Besides, you know what they say…’For the wages of sin is death’…"
He gave her a pained look. "Jessie, I swear to God…"
"There you go again. I’ll have to tell Uncle Shay he hasn’t lost his touch…another converted sinner."
He tried to grab her, but he was much too slow, the effort bringing another groan from him. Jessie, showing no sympathy, burst out laughing.
"Jessica Angeline, what are you giggling at?" Uncle Shay came down the hallway, dressed, bright eyed and bushy tailed, looking no worse for the wear. The sight of the young man sitting shirtless on the sofa, holding his head in his hands gave him his answer. "Young lady, that’s no way to treat your fiancé. Go get the poor boy a cup of coffee and a couple of aspirin."
"Yes, uncle," she said meekly, but as soon as she disappeared into the kitchen her giggles could be heard clearly.
Smiling at his niece’s antics, and knowing the young man was suffering, he said in a quieter tone, "You all right, Cameron?"
"I’m okay, sir," he said in a muffled voice, holding his head to make certain it didn’t fall off and roll across the floor.
"You’ll feel better once you get that coffee in you." Seanan was more than looking forward to relaying this adventure to his sister and brother-in-law. A few moments later Jessie reappeared, coffee and aspirin in hand. Seeing the two of them together, Seanan had no doubt this was going to be a blessed union. Just the way they looked at each other, no words were needed. He knew this was an enduring love, and he offered up a prayer of thanks for the good fortune he was witnessing.
"Jessie, my girl, I’m going to have to head on out or I’ll miss my flight." Grinning as Cameron managed to stand up, he reached out and shook the young Colonel’s hand. "Cameron, it was a true pleasure meeting you, son. And in case you were wonderin’," he said as he gave a wink, "you passed the test with flying colors."
"Thank you, sir," he said, trying to ignore the throbbing in his head. "It was a pleasure meeting you, too."
Reaching out, Seanan wrapped his arms around Jessie, giving her a warm hug. "I’m so happy for you, little one," he said, placing a kiss on her forehead. "When you decide on a date, I’d be honored if you’d let me perform the wedding ceremony."
Jessie hugged her uncle tightly, blinking back happy tears. "I couldn’t imagine having anyone else do it."
"Stay safe, Jessie." Turning to Cam, he added, "Keep her out of trouble, son."
"I’ll do my best, sir."
With that, Seanan took his leave, satisfied with the knowledge that his niece had finally found true love.
Cam had the day to recuperate as the residua from the hangover slowly worked its way out of his system. Sitting out on the patio they enjoyed a lazy Sunday morning. The weather forecast said storms were supposed to move in with rain for much of the coming week, so they took advantage that afternoon of the sunny spring weather, mowing the grass and yanking up a few errant weeds that had snuck into the flowerbeds, firing up the grill later in the day and grilling some steaks for supper. Afterwards they settled down on the sofa, going over the schedule for the work week, taking note of the missions currently in progress.
Jessie took a sip of coffee from her mug. "SG-1 and SG-8 are offworld, helping the surviving Jaffa rebels settle in at the alpha site on P3X-984, after that mess with Kytano on Cal Mah. Teal’c, Bra’tac, Daniel and Casey are coordinating things at the alpha site, while Jack, Sam and SG-8 are doing a sweep of the encampment, recovering anything that wasn’t destroyed in the attack."
Cam nodded. "They should be getting back tomorrow evening, Tuesday at the latest. SG-12 is on Nanda, lending a hand with some of the new equipment being installed there."
"Other than that, the rotation looks pretty quiet. Lord Yu is busy rubbing the other system lords’ noses in his victory; the Jaffa are regrouping." After a moment’s thought she added, "You know, we haven’t heard anything from the Tok’ra in a while."
"Can we get a Hallelujah?" Cam replied. "Their last few visits have caused nothing but trouble."
"Well, it wasn’t really deliberate," Jessie said, sighing at the look Cam gave her. "Yes, they like to use us to do their dirty work, but the things they’ve asked for help with have been important. It’s not like they’re trying to sabotage us on purpose."
"When we’ve gotten involved with their perceived problems, it’s usually ended with something going FUBAR. So, them not being around has been a good thing."
She set her cup down on the table, careful not to spill the contents. "You do have to admit that some of their inside information has been helpful. Remember when it kept SG-11 from walking into that trap?"
"Okay," he reluctantly agreed, "it was one of the few times they’ve been useful." Slipping his arm behind her, he maneuvered her until she was straddling his lap. "But right now, the Tok’ra is the last thing I want to talk about."
"Really?" Feigning innocence, she wiggled a little, as if she were getting more comfortable. "What would you like to talk about, then?"
A groan was her initial answer. "You keep doing that, and I’m going to be doing something other than talking, woman." Sliding her back slightly onto his thighs, he looked up at her. "So, when do you want to get married?"
A shy grin was his answer. "Uncle Shay didn’t scare you off?"
"Darlin’, the pope himself could come down and interrogate me, and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference; I promise, I’m not going anywhere. Though you may have to stock up on the aspirin if Seanan expects me to keep up with him and the whiskey." He grinned when she started giggling.
"Usually Uncle Shay only has a small glass of whiskey. It’s only on ‘special occasions’ does he indulge in more."
"Well, let’s hope those ‘special occasions’ come around once in a blue moon. My head felt like it was going to fall off this morning, especially when some cruel person let the sunshine in."
"Yeah, but you wouldn’t have told the story about your Aunt Emma to Seanan otherwise, now would you?" she asked with a twinkle in her eyes.
"The point was to get you to open up. He wanted to see you with your guard down…and I think he accomplished that."
"He did say I passed the test, so I must not have embarrassed myself too badly. And now that we’ve ascertained that I’m here to stay, when do you want to get married, Jessie?"
She loved the way the corners of his eyes crinkled when he smiled; loved what she saw reflected in those baby blues, emotions completely unguarded. "How about December?"
Jessie shrugged. "I figured the church would already be decorated for Christmas, so that’s one less thing to worry about."
"Always practical," he declared, for which he received a whack on the arm. "I wouldn’t want it too close to Christmas; our anniversary would be lost amid the holiday rush."
"True. We could make it the first week in December. Either that, or the middle of October, when fall is settling in and all the leaves are turning colors."
"Your parents have anything going on around those times?"
"Not that I know of. Yours?"
"It wouldn’t matter if they did; they’d cancel whatever it was in a heartbeat. I think they were beginning to worry that I’d never settle down and give them some grandkids."
Jessie’s stomach fluttered slightly at that thought…kids. Their kids. That little quiver settled down into a warmth that had nothing to do with the way his hands were caressing her thighs. It was the realization that she had found what she never thought she would—a man who would be her husband, the father of her children. And it felt perfectly right. Trying to suppress a grin, she asked, "You ready to go to bed?"
"I thought you’d never ask," he replied, which elicited another round of laughter from Jessie. "But I’ve got to set the alarm for 5. I’ll miss the flight to Washington if I get up any later than that."
"Crap, I forgot about that. No way to get out of it?"
"Nope. Jack was supposed to be the one to go and give testimony about the expenditures of the Stargate program, but with him being offworld, I picked the short straw. I’ll be tied up all day tomorrow, probably well into the evening, and part of Tuesday. Though I’m hoping to get back in early enough to grab some dinner with you."
Jessie leaned in and kissed him softly. "Well, with your charm I’m sure you’ll have them eating out of the palm of your hand. I’ll hold you to dinner Tuesday."
They stood, holding each other close as they exchanged kisses, taking time to savor the simple pleasure. Intertwining his fingers with hers, Cam led her down the hallway into the bedroom. They didn’t even notice the low rumble of thunder in the distance.
Janet opened up the boxes of takeout her friend had brought over, setting the spring rolls next to the chicken fried rice. "The iced tea is in a pitcher in the refrigerator," she called out, the aroma from the sesame chicken wafting around her.
The glasses clinked as the other woman gingerly carried them and the pitcher to the table. "I chose the ala carte servings because I love the chicken fried rice. They give you the regular kind with the dinner plates and it just goes to waste." Her eyes twinkled as she sat down, immediately reaching for the carton. "This is one of my few vices…offer me chocolate or chicken fried rice, and I’ll take the rice any day."
"You are one sick puppy," Janet said, laughing at her friend. "Rice is good, but chocolate wins with me hands down." After helping herself to a spring roll and the chicken, she added some of the prized rice to her plate. "So, how are things going at Forest Ridge?" She watched as the woman across from her took a bite of the rice, closing her eyes as if she were having a religious experience before giving an appreciative moan.
Crystal opened her eyes to find Janet grinning at her. "Sorry…this is good stuff." Took a sip of tea before replying. "Things have been busy, as usual. Had a little visit earlier in the week from one of the bean counters, who thought he was going to cut corners and what not." She took another bite of rice before sampling the main entrée. "Thing is, it pays being the head psychiatrist of a top level security clearance facility. I know where all the dirt is, and where the skeletons are buried, well above that little bean pusher. A couple of phone calls later, and they slapped him down so hard his head is probably still spinning!"
Janet grinned at the mental picture Crystal created. Crystal, as in Dr. Crystal Bailey, head of Forest Ridge, a residential psychiatric facility that was part of the Air Force Academy Hospital. She was a striking woman with jet-black hair and eyes the color of golden topaz. She also was the type of person who was very easy to talk to—a huge plus in her line of work. Dr. Bailey had an excellent reputation and a great success rate among her patients, spanning the rank and file to high-level brass and diplomats. Secrets were safe with her, and most of those in the upper echelon would do most anything to keep her happy and in charge…a lesson the geek with a pencil quickly learned the hard way.
"Besides that, things have been humming along. Discharged a few patients, added a couple. Keeps me on my toes." Eying the spring roll, she asked, "How about you?"
The diminutive doctor licked a dab of soy sauce from her thumb. "Same old, same old, which is a good thing. Haven’t had to deal with any alien viruses, marauding plants or the like for a while now. We have our share of bean counters on a fairly consistent basis, but unfortunately getting rid of them isn’t as easy as a phone call. We get to go to Washington and talk until we’re blue in the face, explaining, justifying and trying to keep the idiots from taking over the whole ball of wax. In fact, I think Colonel Mitchell is scheduled to do just that tomorrow."
"I can always try to put in a good word with those I know."
Janet grinned. "You’d have to know where an entire battalion of skeletons was buried in order to get them off our backs. But, anything you can offer I’m sure would be greatly appreciated. Heck, Jack might even give you the keys to his cabin if you could pull that off." After a few bites of food, Janet continued. "So, how is Calandra doing?" Seeing Crystal roll her eyes spoke volumes.
"She’s a work in progress. Though, I have to admit, she is making progress, albeit slowly." Out of habit she reached into her pocket and glanced at her Blackberry, reassuring herself all was well. "Dr. Caballero did a good job of stabilizing the psychotic break with medications, and then it became my responsibility to sort through all the chronic underlying issues. With so many symptoms bleeding over into a multitude of diagnoses, it took a while to pick apart and see exactly what conditions existed. While she has exhibited mild bipolar and schizophrenic tendencies, which personally I think were drug-induced, a large contributing factor is a narcissistic personality disorder."
"Really? I didn’t have a lot of contact with her at work; when she did hit my radar it was after the psychosis had become apparent."
Crystal shook her head, ticking off her verbal list on her fingers as she went along. "This woman has a textbook case of it—thinking she’s better than others, exaggerating her attractiveness, achievements and talents; expecting constant praise and admiration, thinking the majority of her peers are inferior to her; thinking others were jealous of her, being jealous of others, and not giving a damn about other people’s feelings. Heck, she had herself so far up on a pedestal I’m surprised she didn’t get a nosebleed."
Janet almost spit out the tea she had just taken a sip from, frantically grabbing her napkin to keep from doing just that.
Crystal laughed. "Sorry…I’m just telling it like it is. We’ve established that she had trauma at an early age, being raped by her father, her mother knowing and allowing it, then blaming the child for being a ‘seductress’. There was a lot of verbal abuse, too, which contributed to her low self-esteem and feelings of helplessness, of lost value. As a result, she’s never been able to form healthy relationships; she tried to reestablish that self-esteem through grandiose fantasies, inflating her sense of self-importance and the need for admiration. It just snowballed with time, with her thinking she was superior to everyone, looking down on anything and everything that didn’t meet her expectations, which in reality was anything she felt might draw attention away from her. The slightest hint of criticism directed at her had her flying off the handle or lashing out in an attack. Trying to get her to recognize her pattern of behavior and see the reasons behind it has been a fairly large hurdle."
Janet frowned. "How do you even go about trying to get a patient to recognize their own actions, when they’re so busy projecting onto everyone else?"
"Well, actually, with Calandra a perfect opportunity came from her work." Seeing Janet’s expression she added, "Not at the SGC, but as a prostitute, and putting herself up on a pedestal. Apparently as part of the business, each prostitute had their own website that gave personal details, their specialties, pictures and so forth. Callie put quite a bit of work into hers, giving each section separate pages, different links, etc. She even put in an elaborate stat counter. You could see the total number of views on each page, but when you logged into the main program you’d get access to the individual IP addresses, which pages they had viewed, how long they had stayed on each page, how many times they had returned, how many times they viewed a particular page…you get the idea. Well, she had been going on and on in our therapy sessions about how she was the best call girl among all the others, that the other girls tried to copy how she had done her pages, and that she had a following of thousands, based on the counter on her site. I tell you, Janet, there were times it took everything I had not to burst out laughing at her, she reminded me so much of a wet parrot, the way she kept squawking and squawking about her stats and how ‘sought after’ she was. She’d repeat herself so much, I knew each day exactly what she was going to say before she said it. It was as if she believed if she said it often enough, it would become reality."
Janet was trying to wrap her mind around that kind of delusional behavior. "She thought the counter numbers represented separate individuals?"
"That was what she was projecting. I think she’s intelligent enough to realize they were page views, but it didn’t fit in with her goal to prove herself superior, you know what I mean? What I did was, I made a note of the number on the counter and then I had her show me different parts of her site. When we were done, I made a note of how much the counter increased. Then I had her log into the main stat program. I showed her how much the counter had advanced just by our page views alone, that it did not reflect the number of individuals coming into the site, but how many page views there were. I then had her go through the stats, pointing out that each IP address had several page views each. One IP address had returned again and again, going through all the pages. Their total count alone was in the hundreds. When I pointed out that one individual was responsible for hundreds of hits on the counter, she became very quiet. I told her that projecting a following of "thousands" was a symptom of her trying to be superior to everyone, and how belittling and criticizing the other women’s pages was also a symptom of her trying to make herself appear superior, to regain that lost self-esteem. I emphasized that it was not a reflection of her quality of work—from what I could gather, she was very talented at what she did—but it was a reflection of her narcissistic disorder, wanting to tear everyone else down so she could build herself up and be on that pedestal."
"Do you think it sunk in?" Janet asked.
"Some, yes. You have to take small parts and shine the spotlight on the facts when making a point. She tried to say that there was nothing wrong with being confident and pointing out how good she is, and I agreed. But I also told her there was a huge difference between being confident, versus belittling others. Someone who has a healthy confidence and self-esteem does not value themselves more than others. I gave her an exercise where she had to point out her positive attributes, but then she had to go to each of the other women’s pages and point out positives about them, too."
Janet snickered, figuring that went over like a lead balloon. "Did it work?"
"Once she got past the point of swallowing her tongue and choking. It took quite a few sessions, but she finally got to the point where she could describe herself positively without making any negative remarks about others to reinforce her viewpoint. We’re making strides on the distorted sense of superiority—next will be getting her to own up to her own actions, instead of trying to place blame somewhere else."
Pouring more tea into her glass, Janet asked, "Do you think she’ll ever reach a point where she won’t be a threat, where she could be released?"
Crystal was quiet for a moment, mentally assessing the situation. "Eventually, yes, I think she could. She’s responded well to her medications, which helps balance out the brain chemistry. A mood stabilizer helps tremendously, but I try to keep the medications to a minimum. During the initial psychotic break the heavy duty drugs are necessary, but I hate keeping patients so drugged up that they’re basically walking zombies. I scale back the meds to appropriate levels while putting an emphasis on intensive psychotherapy. Peeling back the layers of abuse, giving her the tools and guidance to deal with the aftermath without having to turn to self-destructive behavior or substance abuse is more important. Since she’s receiving daily psychotherapy, I think we can make much more progress than would be achieved with weekly outpatient therapy sessions."
Janet shook her head. "I’ve got to hand it to you—you definitely found your forte when you went into psychiatry. You have a patience and resilience that most people don’t possess."
Crystal grinned. "Well, you remember how it was in school—I was the one everyone told all their secrets to, even when I didn’t want to know! I’ve never figured out why people feel such a compulsion to open up and tell me things they’d never tell anyone else."
"You definitely have a gift, my friend, and you use it well." Janet scooped more of the fragrant rice onto her plate. "Speaking of gifts, which restaurant did you get this rice from? I think you might have introduced me to a new vice." The two friends continued to talk, too deep into the conversation to notice the thunder rolling in the distance.
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