AN: and this is the end :O)

thanks for giving this a chance and I hope this is as good an ending as you where all expecting.

Let me know what you think.

***

Cam only heard about that night years later when several bottles of Sam Adam's Summer Ale and a new fight had eased some of Daniel's memories from their tethers. What pieces Daniel didn't remember, Cam could only imagine from the black tar dreams that smothered him some nights when, only later, he knew all he could have lost and that the cost would have been unbearable in the worst way.

They had all been gathering for the IOA meeting when Daniel had opened the door to her apartment with the key he couldn't remember how he'd gotten, if she'd given it to him, if he'd stolen hers and made a copy, or if by some undefined magnetic force the brass trinket had stuck itself to him and he had known instinctively what it opened.

He opened the door for reasons unknown, reasons that would probably remain unknown for the rest of his life, at least to Daniel himself. Cam thought Daniel opened the door that night because somewhere behind him another door had closed, irreversibly.

Shutting the door behind him quietly, Daniel knew Vala didn't have a roommate and didn't like cats because they made her sneeze. The rooms were bizarrely cool for August and he figured the problem was that the building's heating/cooling system had crapped out. A pile of mail was balanced against all laws of physics on the arm of her couch, catalogues and a few haphazard magazines and credit card offers she hadn't yet ripped up and thrown in the trash. There was a thin brushing of dust on the little table by her couch so that when Daniel reached across it, he left tracks on the surface. Two of the plants on her kitchen windowsill had dropped dead about two months ago, the one with the big green leaves and a small viney thing that looked like dead spiders.

There were dishes in the sink, two plates, two forks, a mug, and a potato peeler. There were crusts of mould along the plates and dark blobs of something coagulated and still sticky-looking on the silverware. When he opened her refrigerator, a lone egg, three sticks of margarine, four cans of Diet Coke and a packet of batteries greeted him sullenly. She had tucked up the yellowy sheets on her bed but left two of her shirts strewn there. He hadn't seen her wear them lately.

Daniel left with the idea that perhaps she'd be where she shouldn't be and when no one answered the door there, he undid the lock with the key Cam had given him; saying to come over any time, that he meant it. But that was back when they had still been friends.

There was a note to get computer disks and Earl Grey tea on a yellow post-it written in Vala's curling handwriting hanging sideways on the wall by the door. A pile of scribbled papers with Cam's notes and a stack of CDs toppled on the little table by his blue couch, the one that overlooked the massive oil painting of the ships. He had flipped through the CDs, screening names like Rascal Flatts, Vivaldi, and Big & Rich, and then oddly enough the Beatles 1 CD. There were also two Yo-Yo Ma CDs.

A handful of dry cleaning bags were twisted over the door on their flimsy wire hangers. Her mauve silk shirt with the belled sleeves hung down on his closet over his white with white pinstripes. Cam's USAF sweatshirt lay on his dresser. There was a pair of pantyhose in the trashcan and her opal necklace was on the top of his bureau where Mitchell usually dropped his wallet and keys. There was apple shampoo in the bathtub, a half-full bottle of Clinique foundation on the toilet tank, and a purple Gilette razor on the sink that he was sure wasn't Cam's. A hairy-leafed violet in a huge saucer with the word Maude on it sat contentedly on the kitchen windowsill, blooming outrageously perfect pink flowers the colour he often imagined her laughter.

There were no dirty dishes in the sink, but several empty boxes of Thai food in the trash. And there was a note posted on the refrigerator on half a folded piece of yellow legal paper in Cam's writing: To Catch A Thief (Cary Grant!), Sat 1135, Channel 35 and then in capitals below it, underlined twice, Casablanca, Sun 1, Ch 47.

It was all so domestic and comfortable, as if they were living in it. And as he saw the load of clothes, whites, darks, and light colours heaped up on top of the dryer waiting to be folded and the note left on the refrigerator, he knew they were.

Living was what you did between translations and artifacts. Living was what happened when you stopped waiting.

He passed by the note for computer disks and Earl Grey on his way out and he almost took it with him, not as a reminder of what he was about to do, or because he was ever motivated to save his work to CD or drink tea, but because she had written it and she had never written him anything like that because he had never written her anything about Cary Grant.

Daniel had walked into Landry's office almost forty minutes later. Cam wouldn't remember it, but his eyes had seemed darker that night, the hollows beneath them deeper.

"It's over," he said and before they could all clamour. "I ended it."

Sam looked at Vala from across the table and felt her heart fall a little, knowing Daniel had done something drastic when she knew all too well what Daniel usually did. Honour wasn't the word for Daniel that night; it didn't suit him. He had fought for a cause, one that he didn't believe in, but one that needed his fight.

That was when Cam knew about the dragon's rubies.

They'd left the SGC that night separately, all of them except him and Daniel who had always been paired together by some invisible cosmic force, fanning out in spokes across the galaxy. Cam never heard the story about what really happened that night, and as far as he knew, only Landry and eventually Jack, knew; Landry the next day and Jack the next week. He could have asked Landry, but in the end, he didn't want to know, for more reasons than one. Even so, he heard whispers that disturbed him and it wasn't until years later that he got the first part of the story.

Even drunk, Daniel wouldn't tell him the rest.

Daniel couldn't tell him, because Daniel had gone to the devil and then he had walked back into that room with all of them and told them it was over, and in all the ways that mattered on the outside, it was.

Cam heard the bitterness in his tone that night and knew Daniel wasn't proud of what he'd done and if Daniel wouldn't tell him what had happened even when he was drunk, then Cam really didn't want to know. Daniel had said he'd done it because of Casablanca, but the way Cam saw it, it was about that Sunday afternoon at one o'clock when he and Vala had snuggled down deep into the couch and watched Bogey and Bergman together. It was about the note he'd left on the refrigerator two days ago that said simply, An Affair to Remember, Tonight, 12.

Daniel said suddenly as he had gotten into the cab to go home and the Sam Adams was doing its last bit of conversing, that he realized he had never been the one to carry off Guinevere's fluttering ribbons tied to the end of his jousting stick. And then he realized he wasn't even Arthur. Kay, Cam thought when Daniel's mind was too clouded by alcohol to remember anything else, or Gawain or perhaps there was even a Gatsby then, one of the nameless faceless Knights of the Round Table whose lives and loves had been lost in the legend of Lancelot's flaring, dark-hearted sun.

"Why do you love her?"

They were sitting on the steps just outside Daniel's apartment after leaving the base when Cam still had no idea at the time what had just happened except that they had been saved. They were eight of them, old cement stairs that bore the brunt of impatient feet and sullen weather. Cam remembered back when Daniel had sat on them with the team, almost a year ago. Vala had listened to almost every word he said but he had largely ignored her that night and Cam wondered when it had finally hit her that she couldn't love him forever. Then he thought about Daniel and thought this was no less a momentous occasion, one that hurt not a sliver less.

"She makes sense to me, I understand everything when I'm with her."

"What do you mean?"

"It's like when you sat in eight grade geometry and didn't understand logarithms and knew you never would and then suddenly at 34, I do. I understand why birds fly north, how Coriolis force occurs, and the way to make a perfect pancake. I understand iambic pentameter and I understand peace and vindication and hope. It clicks. It makes sense. I understand what I never thought I would."

Daniel was still angry.

"And what's going to happen when it doesn't make sense any more?" There was bitterness in his voice and Cam guessed if he'd lost what he'd always thought was his and realized it had never been, that he would have been the same way. It wouldn't ever be the same, their friendship, if it survived at all. It would simply be different, but Cam wasn't as idealistic as he used to be, and knew that few things in life were simple short of loving her.

And then Daniel relented, because relenting was the last and only thing in the world he could do, short of surrender.

"I loved her too," Daniel said at last, looking back over the street.

They had all lost so much in getting where they were, and Cam wondered sometimes, whether they didn't lose so much more than they gained. Because in Daniel, Cam saw the tale his Grandma had always told him as a child, the tale of the dragon's rubies. It was said when the slayer slit the dragon's breast, that blood did not spill forth, but rather a cascade of rubies in all cuts and carats and gushes of red. It was said that dragons did not possess blood because they could not die, and to rob them of their fortune was to take their lifeblood from them, to take their soul.

Cam imagined Daniel that way, bleeding without bleeding, bleeding rubies.

"But you did the one thing I couldn't do – you made her happy."

Vala rose off the couch as soon as he opened the door and closed it behind him so slowly that the lock snicked into place heavily.

"He's ok," Cam told her.

There were six steps of space between them but he understood how logarithms worked, how they mapped out the world and made it navigational, how they explained space really wasn't empty. There was always a way to cross it, though like early navigators exploring a world they believed was flat, it wasn't always the way you thought and the stars directed you, and mostly, it came at a cost.

She nodded her head. "And you?"

She was wearing one of his grey t-shirts so old that the lettering had come off of it and he couldn't remember the past that had chased him here to this dark place where he had found her. She had on a pair of jeans and bare feet and her skin glowed, the way the sun looked when he, even at age six, had burst to the surface after the undertow.

It was Jack who had the map of the world on his face who would explain it best in the years to come, who would wax unrepentantly poetic in the middle of a toast. Cam couldn't even remember when he had stopped believing in truth and justice and promises, but according to Jack, only one person made him remember the good in changing the world and one man's actions, even if they left a Cameron Mitchell shaped hole in the wall.

Only Vala had given him back his faith.

She crossed the space floating on logarithms and put her arms around him, sinking her head against his chest so that he knew she understood, too. He didn't doubt that she loved him. It wasn't a flashy, ostentatious love, this indefinable, undeniable thing between them; it was a quiet, restful love of solace and filled rooms and breath. It was imperfect and would never be easy, undertows never were. They knew it, hated it, and accepted it. He tilted her head and she looked up at him with her lupine and larkspur eyes. He touched his hands to each side of her face, ran his thumbs along her cheeks, and kissed her.

And as she kissed him back, he knew the price of the dragon's rubies and the sin of Lancelot, and he loved her deeply enough to change his dreams and change the world.