Title: F is for Tal Shakka Mel (I Die Free)

Author: Jedi Buttercup

Disclaimer: The words are mine; the world is not.

Summary: It was a wondrous day to be alive. 800 words.

Spoilers: Stargate SG-1 8.18, "Threads"

Notes: For June's SG-1 gen alphabet soup, continuing my habit of introspective shortfic: Bra'tac, on achieving his life's goal, before everything got worse again.

Bra'tac was still smiling when he stood before the Tau'ri Stargate several hours after Daniel Jackson's miraculous return, despite the fact he would be stepping through it alone. Teal'c would follow before long, he knew; his student would not have become bloodkin to all Jaffa if he had not repeatedly placed the freedom of his people over the individual bonds of his heart, but Bra'tac understood his need to rest and reconnect in the aftermath of all that had occurred.

It had been saddening to him as well, to hear Doctor Jackson's report and know that the Kheb of his father's tales was no more: that no further Jaffa who journeyed there would be shown the path through darkness into the next life at the end of their own. That he, himself, would be denied that journey when the time came. Despite all that he had learned about its origins in the years since they had sought the Harcesis child, and despite the way the likes of Imhotep had used its promise to lead many Jaffa astray, it had been symbol and motivation to him for over one hundred and thirty years. It had been the reason his father had believed the Goa'uld were not truly all-powerful, if they feared such a place; and those tales had sown the seeds of his own doubt, and so led to his mentorship of Teal'c.

But it was also very fitting that the circle be closed in such a way: that the mistress of Kheb should be the one to end the greatest threat the Jaffa had ever faced, and help clear the path for the Free Jaffa Nation to survive its difficult birth. Most of them would never know, and fewer still would believe if Bra'tac told them of it, but he knew it to be true. From his father, to Bra'tac, to Teal'c; to SG-1 and the emergence of the Tau'ri as a power to rival the Goa'uld; to the deaths of false god after false god, and the Jaffa at last taking ownership of the sacred ground of Dakara from their would-be masters.

It was a wondrous day to be alive. Perhaps Teal'c was right; now that tretonin had freed the Jaffa from the limitations of their bodies' ability to carry a prim'ta, they were only as old as they believed themselves to be. Perhaps one hundred and forty was not so ancient, after all; perhaps Bra'tac would live long enough to see further marvels equal to the moment he had stood on Dakara and declared that no Jaffa should ever bow before anyone, ever again. Anything seemed possible, now.

The seventh symbol lit, and a ripple of light burst into being in the center of the Chappa'ai, beckoning him home. He was Bra'tac of Chulak no longer: he was Bra'tac of Dakara now, and so too would Teal'c have a place there when he finally left the Tau'ri. So would all Jaffa who chose to inhabit the new city being built there, whether they had participated in the struggle against Anubis or chose not to throw in their lot until the war was already won. All would be welcome. And all would, at last, be free.

He did not blame those, like Aron, who had thought their attempt to take Dakara in the first place madness; still less those who had not dared believe until their masters were proven mortal before their very eyes. The rate of change over the last eight years had been staggering, and had Teal'c not been involved from the beginning, Bra'tac would have been much more skeptical of the Tau'ri himself. It was not an easy thing to overthrow the beliefs, fears, and habits of a lifetime, especially for those who had been entrusted with some small power under the reign of the Goa'uld, and step into uncertainty.

But they had done it. And the settlement would only continue to grow: to swell its ranks further with those fleeing the service of those few Goa'uld remaining, and knit previously warring factions together under a single, unified government. They would rule themselves, for themselves. And though he had not lived to see it, Bra'tac knew that from somewhere in the next phase of existence his father was smiling along with him.

"Shal kek nem ron," he murmured: to himself, to his father, to all his folk yet to take that first step. More than a statement: a promise. Then he turned to clasp forearms with Teal'c in farewell.

"Shal kek nem ron," his chosen son echoed. "I will see you soon, brother."

"I have no doubt of it," Bra'tac replied, with all the warmth in his heart.

Then he turned and walked up the ramp to help build their future.

I, too, shall die free.