Chapter 25

Daniel held his hand out before him and studied it closely. He still half expected his fingers to sprout claws, but they looked pretty normal. Even his skin was almost back to its usual healthy pink, and the hair on his head was growing back in the places where it had fallen out.

He pushed up his sleeve and ran his finger over the marks on his arm. They had faded from red to a dull pink, but he figured no matter how pale they got, they were there to stay. Still, if that was the only physical reminder of his ordeal, he could live with it. At least his eyes weren't red anymore.

Daniel jumped slightly when he suddenly felt hands on his shoulders, and turned his head to see Janet standing behind him. He'd been so lost in thought that he hadn't even heard her enter his office. "Hey," he said. "You startled me."

"Sorry," she said, placing a kiss on the top of his head. "I thought you'd heard me. What were you thinking about?"

Daniel felt a wave of guilt wash over him and held up the device he had in his left hand.

Janet sighed and turned to lean against his desk so she was facing him. "You're looking at that thing again?" she said. "Haven't you already translated everything that needs to be translated?"

Daniel looked down at the device and started absently pressing the button on the right to skim through the pages of information it contained. They whirred past on the little screen so fast that it just looked like static. "I feel like I'm missing something," he said. "I know what they were doing - looking for a cure for their 'blight.' I've read the full description of what it is and how it started because of the genetic research they were doing going wrong... there were even pages of information on the drugs they used on me, and how they were trying to force my body to transform the same way theirs had. The only thing I don't understand is how they were able to reverse it when in every single recorded case they just allowed the subject to die. Animals, humans, even members of their own species. Not once did they reverse it. Not once did..."

Janet leaned forward and pressed her lips to his before he could continue his rambling. She let the kiss linger until he started to relax, and then slowly pulled back to look him in the eye. "Are you finished?" she asked.

Daniel cleared his throat and licked his lips. "Yeah, I think so," he said.

"Good." Janet took one of his hands in hers and settled back against the desk. "I'm really trying not to question this, Daniel," she said softly. "You're home, you're alive, and you're getting better every day. Isn't that enough?"

Daniel shook his head. "Not for me," he said. "I'm just... I'm afraid this is like before, when we thought I was okay, but then... I wasn't."

"I know I'm just a doctor and not a geneticist," Janet said, "but if it's possible to give someone a drug that makes their body simulate a disease, and if it's possible to implant a device in that person's brain that would neutralize that drug and prevent the disease from taking hold, then surely it's possible to give someone another drug that would work alongside that device to counter the effects of the first drug even once the symptoms have presented."

Daniel looked at her through narrowed eyes. "I... think I lost you at 'I'm just a doctor,'" he said.

Janet gave him a wry smile and thwacked him lightly on the shoulder. "What I'm saying is... don't keep thinking about this. They probably kept this option in reserve just in case they gave it to the wrong person or... something."

"There, you see?" Daniel said, picking up on the uncertainty in her tone. "You can't explain it away, either."

"Well, how do you explain the fact that Syun helped you?" she asked. "Is it written in there that anyone took pity on one of their 'subjects' and helped it escape before you?"

"As far as I can tell, Syun had just started working at this lab, so he probably hadn't realized the inhumane way their research was done," Daniel said, squirming uncomfortably in his seat as memories of that place flashed through his mind.

"So isn't it possible that Syun found a way of reversing the disease in their subjects?" she said. "Maybe he's even trying to convince them to start letting them go. The others seemed pretty upset that he was helping you."

Daniel pondered this for a few moments. He supposed it was possible, but something still didn't feel right. He just couldn't put his finger on what.

"I keep forgetting to ask you, anyway," Janet's voice broke through his thoughts a minute later. "How did you know the alien's name?"

"Um... it's what he said to me when he first gave me the drug that cleared my mind," Daniel said, for once thinking back to that day without feeling a sense of panic growing in the pit of his stomach. "'Syun da'... he pointed at himself when he said it, so..." He shrugged.

"And 'minal kara'?"

Daniel smiled sadly. "That's what they called me," he said. "I translated it into something along the lines of, 'blue eyes.' They'd probably never seen blue eyes before."

Janet smiled and squeezed his hand. "It's good to see that blue again," she said.

"No kidding," Daniel said. "I was afraid they'd be red forever." He let go of her hand then and held his arm out to her. "Come here."

Janet gladly abandoned the desk and sat down in his lap, wrapping her arms around his neck and kissing him softly.

"Good grief," said a voice from the doorway. "Don't you guys ever chak?"

Daniel and Janet laughed as they ended the kiss and looked over at Jack. Ever since Daniel had told him the word meant nothing more than "stop," Jack had been using it at every opportunity as some kind of private joke that was more annoying than funny. Still, the disgusted look on his face at walking in on their little snuggle was priceless.

Janet stood up and smoothed out her lab coat as she tried to regain her professional air. "Is there something we can do for you, Sir?" she asked.

"I just came to see if Daniel was okay," he said. "But I see you've got him, uh... covered."

"Jack..."

"Okay, okay, I'll leave you two to it," he said as he backed out of the room. "Next time I'll be sure to knock," he added with an exaggerated wink.

Daniel and Janet laughed again once he'd left the room, but Janet soon sobered and laid her hand on Daniel's head. "You are okay, right?" she asked.

"I'm fine," he said, wrapping his arm around her waist and pulling her closer. He nestled his face against her stomach and closed his eyes as she stroked his hair. He knew she was right - he was home, and everything was okay. He shouldn't question it. That device would always be in his brain, and he would always be haunted by the memories of that place and what he'd been through, but over the last couple of weeks he'd been slowly rebuilding his life. He couldn't allow that to slip through his fingers by spending his time worrying about the events that had brought him here.

He stiffened as the off-world activation alarm began to sound, but he didn't let go of his wife. Sure enough, after a few deep breaths his initial feeling of panic faded into a slight nervous feeling that he could easily ignore. He looked up at Janet and smiled.

Janet smiled back. "What do you say we go home early tonight?" she said. "If we leave now, we can get there by the time Cassie gets home from school."

Daniel practically jumped out of his chair. "I think that's a great idea," he said. "Just give me a second to finish up in here."

"Okay." Janet reached up to kiss him one more time before turning to go. "I'll meet you on the surface in ten minutes," she called back from the door.

Once she was gone, Daniel started sorting through the stuff on his desk so he left it in some kind of order. The last item he picked up was the device Syun had sent him. As much as he agreed with Janet that he had to stop questioning the fact that he'd been cured, looking at it brought back that niggling feeling of doubt in the back of his mind.

With a heavy sigh, he slipped it into his pocket. Surely there was no harm in bringing it out every once in a while and glancing through it again, just to see if there was anything he'd missed?

A quick glance at his watch took all thoughts of the device out of his mind, however, as he saw that his ten minutes were almost up. He hurried out of the office, locked the door, and headed for the elevator. He was looking forward to spending a carefree evening with his family, and forgetting for a short time, at least, that life was anything short of perfect.

THE END

Author's end notes: Before anybody asks - yes, I plan to write sequels, but no, I won't be writing them just yet. I have things to do, other stories to write, you know how it goes. Barring death or natural disaster, though, I will hopefully get to them sometime within the next few months. I hope you enjoyed!