"When so many are lonely as seem to be lonely,
it would be inexcusably selfish to be lonely alone."
— Don Quixote in Camino Real by Tennessee Williams
It's lonely at the top.
That's what he'd always been told, anyway, but Daniel Jackson had never really paid much attention to the adage. For one thing, he'd never seen himself at the "top" of anything, except possibly overseeing a dig in Egypt or playing mentor to a gaggle of the best and brightest students and junior professors in the field of archaeology. Even more importantly—or perhaps sadly, depending on one's point of view—it wasn't as though he was unused to being alone. In fact, he'd been by himself from the moment a falling coverstone took his parents to the afterlife.
Oh, but changes had come, and Daniel was no longer all by himself. Catherine had swooped in, whisked him away to a secret base beneath a mountain, and set him to work deciphering an ancient inscription. He'd had to work on that solo, too, as his initial correction of the rest of the linguistic team's erroneous translation had alienated him yet again. Then he'd been the lone civilian on an exploratory team of some of the best—though perhaps not the brightest—of the United States Air Force's Special Operations Command. The Quiet Professionals, or so they were billed, but they'd been anything but quiet or professional in their disparagement of his inability to get them all home.
Of course, he hadn't stayed lonely long. The beautiful Sha're had been given to him as a gift, and though Jack left Abydos without him, Daniel had gained a family. As the Good Son of the village elder, he was about as close to the top as he could get, and he most certainly was not alone.
That's when Apophis struck, stealing Daniel's family and his place on Abydos, but he hadn't left him alone. No, because Jack had come back, and with him someone new. Even though the older man had played it cool at first, Daniel and his new-found intellectual twin, Sam, had discovered in one another a kindred spirit. Jack didn't leave him by himself in the hallway that first night, either, and he had taken Daniel home with him every evening they were on-world until Daniel could get a place of his own.
For three years, despite many bitter disappointments and failures, he'd never been left truly alone. He'd certainly felt that way at times, but he could always carry the memory of his friends with him, even if they weren't there while he lay dying in the corridor of a ship or huddling in terror at the strange hallucinations his mind created courtesy of a Goa'uld-killing machine planted in his brain. But then, oh then, his own body had failed him, and his friends—his team—had left him behind to save their ally, Thor.
The next two years were a constant battle to not be left even further behind until finally, finally it got to be too much, and it was easier to walk away than stay and face an un-winnable conflict. Although being among the Ascended was about as "top" as you could get, it hadn't taken any time at all to realize that in leaving his friends behind, Daniel had left them alone. When the choice came, he returned to their lives.
More battles came and went, friends left, returned, then left again. One day, the meddlesome fools at the International Oversight Advisory were finally able to put enough pressure on the Stargate Program to force a change in leadership. President Hank Landry didn't give in without a fight, though. With the blessing of Air Force Chief of Staff General Jack O'Neill, he appointed the only person their allies in four galaxies—including the chancellor of the Jaffa Council, Teal'c—would approve to sit in the office just above the SGC's control room.
That Friday, five days before his fiftieth birthday, Daniel Jackson was sworn in as the new civilian commander of the SGC.
Even after two years as "The Man", it was still wrong to hear anyone but Walter Harriman say it. In fact, he'd briefly considered looking up the retired sergeant to record his voice saying all the old familiar lines, just for nostalgia's sake. Duty called, though, and it wouldn't do well to have the leader of Stargate Command get caught wool-gathering. Pushing himself out of the worn leather chair—gifted to him by the elderly George Hammond, to Jack's eternal envy and chagrin—Daniel made his way down the steps to the control room.
He liked to keep himself "fightin' fit", as Brigadier General Cameron Mitchell liked to say. Of course, Cam kept himself in great shape too, if only so he could grab an occasional joy-ride from one of the aerospace fighters in the fleet he commanded out in the Alteran Galaxy. Brigadier General Samantha Carter thought they were both silly, but Daniel noticed she kept her figure trim, too. She claimed it had everything to do with needing to fit into all the nooks and crannies of Pegasus Central Command—colloquially known as Atlantis—but Daniel knew she still had a need for speed of her own.
The wormhole whooshed open, and even twenty years had yet to dampen the thrill of the unknown. Not that the incoming travelers were unknown, of course, but it was still exciting nonetheless. The iris disengaged, and the wormhole disgorged Major Jennifer Hailey's SG-14. The diminutive officer was, hands down, the toughest team leader in the field, but her no-nonsense attitude won the diplomatic team much acclaim for their successes. From the triumphant look on her face, this time was no exception.
A full debriefing could wait, though. Dismissing the rest of the team to Doctor Cassandra Frasier's infirmary, then the locker rooms, Daniel made his way down to the stairs to the 'Gate room. He was surprised to see that the rest of Hailey's team had managed to completely vanish in the thirty seconds it had taken him to make the trip. Their tiny but ferocious leader laughed about them being unable to wait to remove the smell of the incense the locals had enjoyed burning, then produced the signed and sealed mining treaty with a few words of praise for the civilian diplomat she'd taken along on the trip.
Making his way back to his office, Daniel reflected that the top really wasn't so bad after all, once you got used to it. Lonely wasn't much of an issue, either, as—
There was a sudden flurry of movement out of the corner his left eye, but before he could properly react, he'd been thrown to the floor, arms pinned above his head and the assailant's knees planted on either side of his chest to ensure the rest of him didn't move, either.
Daniel grinned up at his wife, wondering how in the world she'd managed to get into his office in the short amount of time he'd spent talking to Hailey. "Of course," he answered. "Good job on the treaty, by the way. Who knew there was a diplomat hiding beneath that coquettish exterior?"
"Diplomat?" she scoffed. "It isn't much different than running a scam. You tell them what you want in such a way that they hear only what they want."
He laughed, shaking his head. Only Vala.
"So... what had you thinking so hard you didn't see me coming?"
"All my life, I'd been told it was lonely at the top."
Vala wiggled her hips suggestively. "Darling," she smiled, "at the moment, you're on the bottom."