Title: Cornerstone
Word Count:
Summary: '
Jaffa built from stone. He'd spent so long amidst the modern steel and glass and concrete of the Tau'ri that he had nearly forgotten.' The Free Jaffa gather for a celebration of life.

Jaffa built from stone.

He'd spent so long amidst the modern steel and glass and concrete of the Tau'ri that he had nearly forgotten. Everywhere he looked, he saw it: hand-hewn stone, meant as a testimony to strength of arm and mind and heart and spirit; stone wrought into structures matured from the dwellings and temples of his youth, shaped and stretched into fantastic flights of fancy beyond his imagination. In the glow of the sunset, lit by pinks and oranges and reds, the buildings made a city that was a glory to behold and told a story that was deeper than those who built them could possibly imagine.

The streets that radiated out from the Chappa'ai were nearly empty; on this night, the citizens were assembled in the temples throughout the city. Those of status would be gathered in the largest, a mere few minutes walk from the dais on which he now stood. From this vantage point he could make out the top of the structure, brightly lit in comparison to the traditional torches set in sconces on the buildings lining the road he now faced.

He hesitated for a moment before taking the first fateful step off the platform; once he'd moved, however, his gait stayed even and measured, shoulders squared and chin lifted, every inch of his body a projection of the well-trained warrior. Some haze of purpose clouded his vision, and his eyes no longer registered the artistry of construction lining the streets; he neither saw nor greeted the few Jaffa he passed as he strode onwards.

Not until he turned off the main thoroughfare into the avenue leading to the temple did his sight clear; his pace slowed as he approached the archway leading into the courtyard. While he had walked, the sun had finished its journey, falling below the horizon and making the light from the complex ahead even more prominent. Torches lit the enclosing walls, and over the top he could see the full branches of trees hung with lanterns, augmenting the light streaming from the windows of the main building. When he'd last stood here over a decade ago, those trees had been mere saplings, planted to celebrate the completion of the temple.

He entered the court to find it filled with people, a throng spilling out of the doors of the building and down the steps, covering the stone pavers and pushing up against the trunks of the trees dotting the square. Those at the back of the crowd turned to look at him, casual glances flung over shoulders that quickly became stares as they drew away to make a path.

As he passed through the small sea of people, they fell silent, allowing him to hear the sounds drifting out the door and down the steps of the temple. Rhythmic chanting wove together with a far more fluid melody and harmony; listening to the words, he felt his heart swell as he hadn't allowed it to since he'd arrived, filling with pride for the woman lifted up in the song and the people who had grown along with him in the decades since they'd won their freedom.

Inside, he stood against the wall beside the door and studied the people who in turn watched the singers, transfixed. Celebrants, he'd call them, punctuated by a few true mourners like himself. His eyes swept forward; near the front of the crowd, he spied his wife and his son, standing with the highest officials of three different Jaffa governments, with representatives from Earth and the Tok'ra and a dozen other allies throughout the galaxy. Finally he let his gaze move to the very front of the room, allowed it to fall on the body laid in state, on all that remained of the great man whose life the Jaffa came together to proclaim.

When the song drew to a close and the performers filed off to the side, he started forward. They'd asked him to come, but he'd sent word he would neither speak nor attend; his movement up the center of the room caused a shuffling as the next speaker withdrew in his favor. He mounted the podium and turned, the traditional robes he'd worn so rarely of late swirling around him as he faced the assembly and flung out his arms.

"Brothers and sisters of the Free Jaffa, it has been too long since I stood among you. I am Rya'c, son of Drey'auc of Chulak. You honor my mother's sacrifice with your song."

They knew who he was; but the ritual greeting felt right. The measured cadence of speech that fell away a little in the presence of the men and women of Earth returned to him in a rush, and it was as though suddenly the very stones around him reached out to welcome him.

"I thank you for joining me this night, that we may weep as one and laugh as if we number like the stars above."

Rya'c had orchestrated and attended a memorial on Earth before sending his father's body back to the Jaffa; at the time, that had seemed the goodbye that was somehow more fitting. His father had fought so hard to make a better future for all Jaffa, and in the process, he'd created a world he couldn't truly live in. So he had stayed on Earth, had aged alongside the friends with whom he'd fought side-by-side, had inevitably outlived them all in spite of the century of life he had over each one.

"I am Rya'c, son of Teal'c of Chulak. Tonight I return home to celebrate the life of my father."

The decade Rya'c had spent at his father's side on Earth, supporting him during his declining years, fell away as though it had never been. Surveying the crowd in front of him, Rya'c realized that as much as he had come to love the Tau'ri, as much as his father had come to belong to the Tau'ri, that he, Rya'c, still belonged here.

"Tonight," he said, his words slow and soft, "Tonight, I return home to tell you the story of the man who was father to all who call themselves Free Jaffa. Listen to my words, for this story belongs to us all."

This, for Rya'c, was still home. And his father had created that home.

"This story belongs to us all," he repeated, his quiet, steady voice carrying to the far corners of the room. "It belongs to us all, and we have written it everywhere. We have written it in the very stones."

A/N: For Spacegypsy1; from the prompt 'tragedy'.