Title: Everyday Sacrifices

Author: Karen T

Rating: PG

Disclaimers: The characters are very, very much not mine.

Classification: Angst, Post-"Heroes Part 2," Sam/Jack friendship.

Season/Spoilers: Season 7, minor spoilers for "Heroes Part 2."

Archive: SJD, of course. Anyone else, please ask first.

Feedback: Always appreciated. Please send to poohmusings@yahoo.com

Notes: Thanks to Jojo and Julie. I would happily give them all my noodles.

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"They call Neil Armstrong a hero."

Sam looks up from the potato salad she's been pushing around her plate to see Daniel staring at ... not the moon. The moon is behind him.

"They also call Buzz Alt-- Aldrich a hero," Daniel continues, his words cold and deliberate. And very, very angry. "And that ... that guy Tom Hanks played in that movie. Whatshisname? Well, he's a hero too."

The colonel, who's been scraping the charred remains of their impromptu barbecue from his grill, pauses to catch Sam's eyes. Yes, she confirms, he's on the edge. We need to pull him back in. The colonel reaches out accordingly. "Hey, Daniel, buddy, what'd you say we go inside and--"

But Daniel sidesteps and tips back his head to swallow what remains of his beer. His fifth beer, Sam counts in her head. She knows seven years spent drinking with the colonel has increased his tolerance for alcohol, but five is pushing anyone's limits.

"They all get to be heroes for going to the moon. The moon," Daniel scoffs, Teal'c appearing at his side when he stumbles. "We've gone ... so much farther, but what good does it do us? What good did it do Janet? No one will ever call her a hero."

Sam opens her mouth to say something -- anything at this desperate point -- but all that comes out is a wisp of condensation that twirls up into the night sky before disappearing. The colonel tucks his hands into his pockets and scuffs at a spot on the deck with his right boot. Teal'c keeps a steadying hand on Daniel's back, but he too appears at a loss for words. Not surprising, Daniel is the one who breaks the silence.

"Janet deserves to be called a hero." His words are softer now, heavy with sorrow, devoid of anger. He drops his head and sniffles.

Sam tries to make eye contact with the colonel again, but they either lost the intuitive mode of communication they'd shared earlier or he is avoiding her gaze. But it doesn't matter; she knows what she wants to say. "To Janet Fraiser, my hero," she announces, holding up her half-full bottle of beer with aplomb despite how corny her words sound in her ears.

Three pairs of wide eyes swing in her direction and Teal'c is the first to react. After reaching for his can of soda, he lifts it high. "To Doctor Fraiser, a most formidable warrior." This is soon followed by the colonel's affable "To Doc Fraiser" and Daniel's very quiet "To Janet."

Once again there's silence. And, once again, it's Daniel who breaks it.

"God, I'm so drunk," he moans, pressing a hand to his left temple.

They all laugh, partly out of sympathy, partly out of relief, but mainly out of a need to remember how it feels. Sam helps Daniel indoors with promises of very strong coffee and lots of aspirin while the colonel and Teal'c remain outside to finish cleaning up. And it's after she's left Daniel on the couch nursing a gigantic mug of coffee that the colonel catches up with her on her way to taking out his kitchen trash.

"He didn't puke on my couch, did he?" he asks, pretending to be annoyed.

"No," she chuckles. "But he's gonna have a hell of a hangover tomorrow."

"I think the past few days have felt like a hell of a hangover for all of us."

She presses her lips into a tight smile. "No kidding, sir."

"Listen, Carter, I wanna thank you for saying what you did out there. I wanted to say something but ... you know me and ... words ..."

Her smile softens a bit, but then she grows serious. "I was glad I could help, sir, but I have to admit, what Daniel said? I've been thinking the same thing." At the colonel's look of surprise, she quickly amends, "I know none of us at the SGC are looking to be labeled 'hero' or want any sort of hero-worship. We see the bigger picture; we know that what we're doing is so much bigger than ... anything people in the general public could think up. But ... I still wonder sometimes why 'sacrifice' has to have higher stakes for us. And why are we asked to accept this? And why do we? I love what I do, sir, but I can't help but wonder."

His face lacks any perceptible emotion until he tilts his head to one side, his eyes locked on hers. "That's a good question, Carter."

"Sir, you really don't have to answer--"

He waves a hand, as if shooing away her words. "And I could say we do it because we're soldiers and we do what we're told, or because that's a consequence of getting to walk through the gate all the time, or because we just ... do. But I think the truth is ... we do it for Janet. And Major Boyd. And Lieutenant Elliot and Lieutenant Glenn and--"

"Rothman?"

"Jesus, that guy was such a pain," he says with a roll of his eyes.

Sam lets loose a loud laugh. "He always said you hated him.

"I didn't hate him. I just ... He was ... quirky. But he was a good guy, and yes, I do travel through the gate for him too."

"Yeah ..."

They fall into silence yet again -- it's something they've been doing a lot of lately as a team -- and she casts her eyes downward, her attention preoccupied by the names he rattled off.

"So," the colonel eventually says, "need some more names? 'Cause I have a few more I could list off. Like, you know, Oscar, Kinsey's dog, and ... Chaka -- anyone who's slapped Daniel around is a good guy in my book -- and ... Homer Simpson. We can't forget good ol' Homer."

She feels the corners of her eyes crease into happy wrinkles as she laughs. God, she's missed that feeling. "I ... I'm good, sir. Thank you."

"Any time. And, hey, dinner was a good idea, don'tcha think?"

"Very good, sir. The barbecue was genius. I think the last thing we needed to be was alone tonight."

"Yeah. I think we should do this again."

"Oh, definitely. Although maybe next time you should--"

"Hide the beer from Daniel," he finishes, winking.

"Yeah."

"So ..." He smiles and shifts his weight from his right foot to his left.

"So ..." she repeats, amazed by how ... normal he looks. Two days spent in the infirmary nursing a rather nasty second-degree burn, but now he looks fine. That never ceases amazing her.

There's silence once more, but this time it isn't uncomfortable or disquieting. If anything, it feels right. Maybe everything is beginning to feel right again.

She raises the plastic garbage bag a couple inches upward. "The trash is calling."

"And the grill has my number." He jerks his thumb in the direction of the deck.

Her grip on the bag is beginning to weaken, but Sam just continues to stand there, in the warmth of the colonel's home, watching him walk away.

She doesn't believe in hero-worship, but she believes in heroes. She's honored to work beside them every day.

-the end-