The Freedom to Choose

The sun had gone down in a blaze of glory, but Jack O'Neill was already wishing for the morning. Even with the fire blazing in the pit he and his team had stumbled upon, the cold still seemed to find its way into his very being. He hunched his shoulders and pulled up the lapels of his coat, then reached over to grab the coffee pot, only to snatch his hand back with a snarl when he realized the pot was too hot to handle.

"The pot may be hot," Daniel Jackson said with a grin as he sipped from his own cup. Jack glared at the man for a second, then went back to the task of pouring himself a cup of coffee. Even though he had agreed to have Daniel on his team, he was still a rookie, and a pain in the neck as far as Jack was concerned. Still, they'd only been on a few missions and already the man was finally starting to feel comfortable as a civilian in a military operation. Now, if only he would start acting a little more like a soldier in a military operation…

Jack sat down next to Carter, who seemed to be deep in thought. She was staring into the fire, her fingers wrapped around a cup. He bumped into her as he tried to get comfortable, prompting a small glare. Jack grinned at her discomfort, then took a sip of his coffee, hoping that the hot liquid would work fast in warming him up. It was going to be a long night.

"Do you think we will ever get used to this," Carter asked. She was now looking up at the sky, which currently displayed two very distinct moons, and a spattering of stars that didn't resemble anything Jack had been taught in his Astronomy classes. "It's beautiful," she went on, "But it's just…" She left the thought hanging, apparently unable to explain herself the way she wanted to.

Jack nodded, knowing exactly what she was talking about. This was only his fourth mission through the Stargate, and he still had trouble understanding the whole concept. He had spent his entire life believing in the here and now, only to find himself traveling to other planets and hobnobbing with the natives of said planets. He looked across the fire at Teal'c, who just happened to be one of the aliens Jack hadn't believed in until he had taken that first trip through the Stargate. Teal'c didn't seem to be overly concerned one way or the other by the conversation, or by Jack's stare. He was sitting on a log and eating something out of a cup, quietly listening to everything that was being said, which was par for the course. Teal'c was the type to speak up only when necessary, or when he just had to add in his two cents. Jack knew that this was probably a byproduct of being a First Prime, not to mention his inability to feel like a part of the team, but Jack sometimes wondered how Teal'c could hold off from spouting off what he believed in.

"You know, when I was kid, I wanted to be an astronaut so badly," Carter was saying. Jack brought his attention back to her, remembering her conversation with Kawalsky when they were discussing Major Matt Mason. He grinned at the memory as Carter continued on with her own thoughts. "I used to sit on the porch and stare up at the stars for hours, imagining that I was in a rocket ship and flying through space." She grinned sheepishly before adding, "That desire is what pushed me into Astrophysics."

"Astrophysics," Jack said with a grimace. Carter smirked, and Jack decided to give up a little when he told her, "I wanted to be a race car driver." They were all staring at him now. Jack just shrugged his shoulders. "You know how it is. The need for speed and all that." Carter was nodding her head in understanding, while Daniel and Teal'c went back to their meal.

"I can see you as a race car driver," Carter said knowingly. Jack didn't respond, deciding at that moment to keep it to himself that he had been kidding. Carter on the other hand, had moved on to other territory. "What about you, Daniel? What did you want to be?"

"Both my parents were Archaeologists," Daniel said, after swallowing the mouthful of food that he had been eating. "I spent the first seven years of my life in and out of pyramids and remote villages, exploring past cultures and learning to understand them, even at that age. I knew almost from the beginning that I would be following in their footsteps."

"That must have been an interesting lifestyle," Carter said, her smile aimed directly at Daniel.

"Yeah," Daniel said sadly. Jack wondered about the sadness. Despite spending a lot of time working with Daniel to teach him the basics of staying alive on military maneuvers, he really didn't know the man that well.

"The children in Chulak do not have a choice," Teal'c spoke up, interrupting Jack's musing. "They are born to be Jaffa."

That announcement was met with silence. Carter looked a little uncomfortable, which mirrored Jack's feelings on the subject. He couldn't think of a thing to say to that.

"I imagine that most of them wanted to be a First Prime," Daniel said.

"Indeed," Teal'c intoned somberly. "As did I."

"Well, there you go," Jack said, glad to find something to turn this conversation around to a more positive tone. "You reached your goal."

"As did you," Teal'c responded. "Do you not find your "need for speed" when you are flying your jets?" Jack nodded reluctantly. He had to admit this was so. "And you, Daniel Jackson. You are now exploring other planets in your universe. This must be a great accomplishment among your people."

"Oh yeah," Daniel said sarcastically, and with a little bitterness. Jack stared into his cup, looking for the usually nonexistent coffee ground that he could pretend he was digging out. His team was learning to deal with each other on a personal basis, which seemed to cause a lot of uneasiness every once in a while. Reminding Daniel that his peers thought of him as a crackpot didn't seem to be the right thing to do at the moment.

"And here I am, traveling in space through a Stargate instead of on a rocket ship," Carter said. She seemed to be enthralled with this discovery, although Jack knew that she had already come to terms with her status as a space traveler some time during the first two missions. "I've finally touched those stars I was reaching for when I was a kid."

"A regular Matt Mason," Jack just had to say. She looked at him with surprise, before smiling broadly at him.

"My backpack is cooler than his," she responded with a laugh. Apparently she was remembering the same conversation she had with Kawalsky and Ferretti. Jack took a sip of his coffee as his team resorted to silence. They sat in the firelight, enjoying each other's company until Teal'c spoke up.

"I also used to wish for freedom."

This was said with no emotion whatsoever; he was just stating a fact, but Jack heard a wealth of words in the statement.

"And you have it," he said with conviction. "All the Jaffa will be free." Teal'c bowed his head in agreement, while Jack silently wished he could be sure of his convictions. A lot of things stood in the way.

The fire cracked and popped, while sending a fragrant smoke throughout their little camp. Jack continued to sip his coffee as he thought about his team. They were four different people from various backgrounds, and still they always found something to agree on. This time, the unspoken agreement was on the freedom to choose. He hoped that Teal'c would soon find that freedom for his people. Life was too short to never have the choice.