That evening, Jack knocked on the door of Daniel's house. It was answered a moment later.
"Hey, Jack," Daniel said, clearly not surprised. Of course, since the man had the ability to sense the presence of people, it would be pretty difficult to surprise him like that.
Daniel let him inside and shut the door.
"Looks like we might be getting some snow," Jack remarked.
"Yeah, that's what the weatherman says." Daniel headed for the kitchen. "Want a beer?"
"No. Not this time."
That stopped Daniel in his tracks. Jack refusing beer meant that this was going to be a very serious discussion. But then, Daniel had already known that.
He changed directions and headed over to the couch and sat down. "It took you long enough," he said.
"Jack, I've been waiting for this heart-to-heart ever since the day after the rescue mission."
"Oh. Yeah, I guess I kept putting it off, kind of lost my nerve." Jack settled in the chair. "I want you to tell me the truth, Daniel. When you went after Baal, what did you plan on doing to him?"
Daniel took a moment to reply. "I really don't know. All I knew was that I wanted him to pay for what he did to you. I was . . . really angry."
Jack sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. "I'd always hoped that you'd never remember what Baal did. I didn't want you to have that memory."
"Why? Daniel, I didn't want you to remember watching me being tortured, that's why. It's bad enough that I remember."
"Did you also not want me to remember how I failed you?"
Jack looked at Daniel, who was staring at the floor. "You did not fail me, Daniel."
"You thought so at the time."
Jack leaned forward. "Hey. You listen to me, Daniel. Yes, at the time, while I was in that cell, I didn't understand why you wouldn't do anything, even though you explained the rules of the Ascended to me. But you did help me. You think I don't know that it was you who gave Teal'c the idea about leaking the location of Baal's outpost to another Goa'uld? Come on, Daniel. I may not be the smartest guy in the world, but I can figure things out. And after the stuff on Abydos, when we were all worried about what had happened to you, it really drove home to me what you had been trying to say about breaking the rules. You did what you could, Daniel, like you always do. Don't go developing a guilt complex over this."
Daniel's eyes drifted off to a spot across the room. "That was the start of it, you know."
"The start of what?"
"My doubts about whether or not the ascended life was all it was cracked up to be. I just couldn't understand why I wasn't allowed to help you, why the Ascended had those rules."
"And is that why you gave up on trying to make me go glowy and helped get me out of there instead?"
"So, I was the one who pointed out the serpent in your Garden of Eden, huh?"
Daniel looked at him. "I guess you could say that."
"I'm not happy that I dimmed your joy of being ascended, Daniel, but I'm glad that I made you start to question whether or not things were as great as you thought they were. It's best when illusions like that are broken slowly rather than shattered all at once. It's a lot easier to take."
Daniel smiled a little. "That's pretty profound, Jack."
"Well, I have my moments." Jack's face became utterly serious.
"There's something else, isn't there," Daniel guessed.
"Yeah. Hammond talked to me earlier today. The guys in charge want you to have your own team."
Daniel didn't respond for a brief moment. "Well, we already knew that might happen one of these days."
"Yes." Jack stared down at his hands, which were clasped loosely between his knees. "I think you should accept."
The utter silence from the couch made Jack look over at his friend. There was shock on Daniel's face. Worse than that, there was hurt.
"You . . . want me to leave SG-1?" the archeologist asked, his voice touched with the same pain that was on his face.
"No! No, I don't want you to leave SG-1, Daniel," Jack immediately replied. "How could you think that?"
"Then I don't understand."
"Daniel, sometimes, a commander has to do something that's in the best interests of the military regardless of how much he may not want to. That rescue mission proved that you would make one hell of a good commander and that a team commanded by you would be quite an asset to the program."
"Jack, I had a thousand Jaffa helping me, not to mention you and three SG teams. Somehow, I don't think that me and three other guys would have quite the same effectiveness."
"True, but it was you and you alone who took Baal down in the end. That's the second Goa'uld you've personally captured in the space of, what, two months? Two and a half? At this rate, you'll have gone through the entire population of System Lords within a year."
"And what about the fact that I rushed off alone to capture Baal? That sure didn't make you happy."
"No, but, as far as they're concerned, you proved that you didn't need anyone guarding your six, at least not that time."
Daniel shook his head. "I just don't understand why they think that having me in command of a team would be so much better than if I stayed with SG-1. I'm already using my abilities on SG-1."
"Let me put it this way, Daniel. If I'd been in command of the rescue mission, when I told you that you shouldn't go after Baal, what would you have done?"
"Argued with you," Daniel answered bluntly, which made Jack smile just a little bit.
"Well, that's a given. I've come to expect that. But what if I'd put my foot down and still said no?"
Daniel paused a moment before replying. "I guess I would have done what you wanted. Despite all of your complaints about me not following orders, I've never openly defied you when you gave me a direct order."
"And that's why they think it would be better for you to have a team of your own. They don't want someone holding you back, Daniel. They want you to have full rein. They know that I'd sometimes keep you from doing things that you could probably handle because I considered it too risky. Of course, they don't want you taking on any suicide missions, but they want you to be the judge of what is and isn't too much for you to handle, not me."
Daniel got up and walked over to look out the window. Though he could see nothing except his own reflection in the glass, he did not turn away.
Jack also got to his feet. "Daniel, I could have lied to Hammond and said that you weren't ready to lead your own team, but, as much as I may have wanted to for my own sake, I couldn't do that. You deserve more than that, and the program deserves what you can give to it as a team commander."
"And doesn't what I want matter?" Daniel whispered.
Jack stepped up to him. "Yes, it does. Of course it does. But I want you to think about it, Daniel, really think about it. This is not something that you have to decide right away. You take as much time as you need. Hammond will keep the bigwigs from getting too impatient." He met Daniel's eyes. "But I want you to know that, no matter what you decide, I couldn't be prouder of you than I am right now."
With that having been said, Jack headed for the door.
The colonel turned back to look at his friend.
Across the distance Daniel met his eyes. "I know that I haven't told you this before, and I know that you've probably had reason to doubt it at times, but, throughout all these years, there is no other team in the SGC that I would have wanted to be on except SG-1."
Feeling the warmth and gratitude that those words brought to him, Jack gave Daniel a little smile, then turned and walked out the door.
The next morning, when Sam returned to her lab after a visit to the infirmary for a routine check-up on her broken arm, she was surprised to find Daniel waiting for her.
"Hi," she said, smiling.
"Hi," Daniel responded in a muted voice.
Sam came up to him and sat down on her stool. "Oh boy. I get the feeling that something big is up."
Daniel also sat down. "I've been offered my own command."
Sam stilled in surprise. "You have?"
"That's uhhh . . . that's. . . . Wow." Sam shook her head. "I don't know why I'm surprised, not after the great job you did on the rescue mission."
"Yeah, well, that's really only part of the reason, Sam. The main reason is my abilities. The guys in charge think that a team commanded by me would be able to get into places no other team could, accomplish missions that would be too dangerous or difficult for an 'ordinary' team."
"Well, they do have a point, Daniel. You've already proven that your abilities can make the impossible possible."
Daniel sighed and laid his forehead on his hands, elbows resting on the table.
"I'm getting the feeling that this isn't good news to you," Sam stated.
"I was up all night thinking about it. Jack thinks that I should accept."
Again, Sam was surprised. "He does?"
"He doesn't want me to leave SG-1, but he thinks that a team under my command would be an asset to the SGC."
The major thought about that and nodded. "He's right. It would."
Daniel lifted his head and looked at her. "I don't know what to do, Sam. I don't want to leave SG-1. I want to stay with you, Jack and Teal'c. But if I really could be of better use as the leader of my own team. . . . More than anything else, I want to see an end to the Goa'uld. That's what we've all been fighting for all these years."
"Daniel, I don't want you to leave SG-1 either, but I can't let what I want deny the SGC of something that could really help accomplish our ultimate goal, no more than Colonel O'Neill could." Sam slid her hand across the table and laid it over Daniel's. "But if leaving SG-1 is going to make you miserable, don't do it. You can't be an effective team leader if your heart isn't in it."
Daniel turned his hand upward and wrapped his fingers around Sam's, giving them a squeeze. "Thanks, Sam."
Still not knowing what he should do, Daniel went to talk to his third teammate. Teal'c was not at all surprised by Daniel's announcement.
"It pleases me that the leaders of the Stargate Program recognize your ability to be in command of your own team and the great things that you could do in such a position," he said.
"So, you think that I should accept, too?"
"Though I would miss your presence on SG-1, I believe that the SGC would benefit greatly from having a team commanded by you." Teal'c gaze grew more penetrating. "Do you not wish a team of your own?"
"To be honest, no. I like being where I am, on SG-1. I like working with the three of you. If I left to command my own team, I'd miss you guys a lot."
"Would we still not see each other here at the base?"
"Yes, but it wouldn't be nearly as often," Daniel replied. "We'd likely be on missions at different times, and there wouldn't be as many reasons for us to get together while on duty. And we wouldn't be working together on missions."
"Is this the only reason for your reluctance to accept command of your own team?"
"No. I'm just not sure if I want my own team. Before the rescue mission, when I was first put in command, I was scared, Teal'c. I was afraid that I didn't have what it takes, that I'd mess up."
"But the success of that mission and the words of praise from the team leaders must have shown you that you can lead successfully."
Daniel shrugged. "I still have my doubts. After all, I had an entire army backing me up that time. But it's more than that. I'm not an ambitious man, Teal'c. I never had this burning desire to get to the top of the ladder, to be a big, important person. If I did, I'd never have done something that I knew might shoot my career down in flames. Commanding my own team is not a goal I ever had. It isn't a goal that I ever even considered up until a short while ago. I never even seriously thought about having my own archeological team. Now that I've been given this offer, I think about it, and it still isn't something that I would choose to have."
"You do not wish to lead."
"Not on a permanent basis, no. If another mission ever came up like this last one, when having me in command would be the best thing, then I'd do it. But to be a team leader on a daily basis? No, it isn't really something that I want."
"Then it seems to me that your decision is already made."
Daniel sighed. "I wish that was true. The thing is that I have to think about what would be best for the SGC, not what would be best for me. They think that a team commanded by me would be a powerful weapon against the Goa'uld. I can't say that I have as much confidence that it would make all that much of a difference, but even if it could make some difference, if it could bring us just a little closer to destroying the Goa'uld, how can I let what I want get in the way? I have always put my own desires second to what was for the . . . the greater good. I can't stop now."
"Yet, if your heart was not in it, you could never truly be as effective a leader as you have the ability to be."
Daniel smiled slightly. "Sam said the same thing."
"You have always given your best to SG-1 and the SGC. Was it merely a matter of honor or because your heart was committed to what you were doing?"
"Before she died, my heart was committed to finding Sha're, and the Stargate Program was the best way to accomplish that. But, even when she was still alive, I found in the program and in SG-1 something that I enjoyed, something that gave me a sense of purpose. I would still have left if I'd gotten Sha're back, but I would have missed it. In the years that passed after her death, I lost a lot of the joy that I found in the program, but it was still something I wanted to do. Since coming back from ascension, I've regained my . . . enthusiasm for the job. There isn't another job in the universe that I'd rather have."
"And would that joy and feeling of commitment still be there if you were to leave SG-1 and command your own team?"
"The commitment would be. I will always be committed to what we're doing. But, like I said before, I wouldn't be as happy."
Teal'c looked closely at the archeologist. "Sometimes, Daniel Jackson, a person doing what makes them happy is the best choice for all."