"Where am I?"
"Is everyone alright? The last thing I remember...?"
"Yeah, that must have been pretty scary. Everyone else is fine."
"I think you already know the answer to that one, sugar."
"Aye. I do."
"It's not so bad. Not exactly what I was expecting, but not so bad."
"Aye, I guessed, love."
"It's weird, I know. And there are a lot of rules."
"Is it worth it?"
"I don't know, honestly. I like helping new comers like you, but I miss my family."
"You left someone behind?"
"My little girl. Well, teenager."
"That must be hard."
"Yes. It can be."
There was silence for a moment.
"Can I go back and see them?"
"No. You can't interfere. The number one rule. The prime directive."
"You sound a little bitter there." A pause. "Can I just go say goodbye? He'll think he's imagining it anyway."
"Well... I don't see how that will hurt."
" How'd it go back on Earth?"
"It was, um, it was awful. Your family was amazing, though."
"Aye, they are. Good turnout?"
"Oh, packed the church."
"Oh, that's good to hear!"
"It's not gonna be the same round here without you."
"Oh, you're tellin' me!"
"You know, the universe is a big place. Who knows, maybe we'll bump into each other again."
"Aye, who knows?"
"You were the closest thing to a best friend I ever had. I'm really, really sorry. I should have just ..."
"Hey. This isn't your fault."
"You're just telling me what I want to hear."
"Well, that's what best friends do sometimes. And in this case it also happens to be true. Take care of yourself, Rodney."
"What for, lass? You didn't kill me."
"Because I can tell you're upset."
"I needed to say goodbye. I loved him, you know. We hadn't even had a chance to.... I was going to tell him when we went fishing. But I died instead."
"You did a brave and wonderful thing. The right thing."
"That's my problem. I don't know if I will be able to stick to the rules. I've dedicated my life to helping people."
"I know. Believe me, I know."
"How could you?"
"I'm a doctor myself. Died doing my duty."
"Oh." There is a pause as he thinks. "It seems silly to say I'm sorry for you loss. You were the one lost, but I don't think there's a saying for times like this."
"Thanks. That's why I run the welcome wagon. I might not be able to help the living any more, but I can help the newly dead. That's enough, for now. But one day maybe I'll go back."
"How do you cope when you see someone suffering and you know you can help them?"
"With great difficulty. I don't look. Not anymore."
"If I retake human form..."
"Then you won't remember any of this."
"How long has it been. My sense of time is messed up. Rodney had been to Earth for my funeral, but it had only been minutes for us."
"It's like that till you get used to being pure energy."
"A few weeks. Well, two months if you want to be specific."
"It doesn't seem like that long."
"No, it wouldn't. You're still adjusting."
"How could I go home? They've told me mum. They've had a funeral."
"Trust me, if you retake human form, it will be easy enough for them to cover up."
"How would you know?"
"I never told you, did I?"
"Told me what?"
"Who I am."
"Who are you then, lass?"
"Janet Frasier, MD, and Air Force Major, at your service."
"Ah. That explains a lot actually. I'm a big admirer of your work."
"Thank you. Anyway, the air force has gotten good at doing cover ups for Daniel, the amount of times he's died. And..." She pauses.
"Well, you were blown up. They could easily say it was some kind of mistake."
"So, I could go back."
"Give this a try first. Let me show you the world."
"Shining, shimmering, splendid?"
She showed him the universe, introduced him to the other ascendants, took him everywhere. They went to the moons of Kajor, the star fields of Omicron six. They travelled through the realities. But his heart was always back on Atlantis.
"It's not you lass, it's me. I just don't think I'm cut out for sitting on clouds for the rest of eternity."
"Well, don't mope. Do something about it."
"I think I want to retake human form."
"Even with the whole universe to explore?"
"I never was much for exploration. I hated even stepping through the gate. And everywhere we go, I see people I could help."
"I know, it's hard."
"What about you?"
"I want nothing more than to do what's right. My friends have a new doctor to patch them up. My daughter is being raised happily by her surrogate family. And I can help people like you here."
"But... I still miss them. Why don't we go do the ghost thing for a while? I'd like to introduce you."
"I'd be honoured."
"That's Cassie. And that's her dog. Jack, Colonel O'Neill, insisted she have one."
"She has your eyes."
"No, she doesn't!" Janet was laughing. "She was adopted. We found her on a planet when she was twelve. Her whole people had been killed by a plague. I worry about her. She'd lost so much..."
"Cassie! Come on, we'll be late!"
"Coming Daniel!" The girl, well, young woman, took her dog over to Daniel and they got into the car.
"She's well looked after." Carson offered.
"Yes, but Sam, she was like a second mother to Cassie. And now she's off in Atlantis."
"She is? When did that happen? And how the bloody hell do you know?"
"I visited when I left you on Rommanus."
"And that time on Leer. And Cattron."
"Well, why don't we go together now?"
"Who the FUCK is that?"
"I don't know!"
"Why is he... he's not me! I'm me!"
"alternate reality? Clone? Evil robot double?"
"Just another day in the Pegasus Galaxy."
"You do know we can control time right?"
"Hmm. We don't need a telephone box for that?"
"Never mind. How far back?"
"From what they're saying a few days."
They could only watch the past, not physically interfere. Neither of them were advanced enough for that.
"Bugger it all to hell!"
"Sorry, but a clone of me. With all my memories, identical in every way?!"
"I know this must be hard for you..."
"Aye, it's hard alright. I can never go back now."
"Maybe there's a way."
"So, do we have a plan?"
"Yeah, maybe. They told me that since he's you, and you're him, you can share that body."
"Well, merge, if you will."
"What about him? He's me, but I'm not him." Carson frowned. "This plays havoc with the pronouns. What I mean to say is, shouldn't we ask him?"
"I think that's a good idea."
"What the-?" Carson asked in shock as he looked up from the book he was reading in his room. Two glowing, floating octopuses were in his living room.
"Hallo!" one said in a distinctly Scottish accent.
"Sorry, I know this is a bit of a shock." The other said. Definitely female.
"What the bloody hell is going on?" he asked. "The wee dram of whisky I had with Rodney earlier..."
"No, this isn't the result of alcohol poisoning, although if you got it from Radek's still..."
He reached for his radio.
"Don't do that." Carson the ascended glanced at Janet, but she had backed off, not interfering. "I'm you, you daft bugger."
"The other you, the one who died."
"I turned into a glowing jellyfish?"
"I... you... we ascended. But now I want to retake human form, but you beat me to it."
"Oh." Carson frowned. "I could leave. I'm the imposter anyway. Rodney's the only one who doesn't seem to care, and he was just so desperate to see me... you... us again, he'd probably have reacted the same way if I'd come back as a wraith."
"Well, Janet here has another idea..."
"Will I know?"
"You're not supposed to... but if we hide from the others... maybe you could know that you'd been ascended and are back now. You're memory will be... twinned I guess, but leaving out your time here."
"What about you? Will I remember you?"
"I'm not supposed.... oh screw the rules. They won't boot me out for this. I'll leave you an impression of me. Take care of Cassie for me."
"Dr Beckett, can you hear me?"
"What's wrong? Why won't he wake up?"
"Carson, can you hear me?"
He sat up. He was lying in an infirmary bed.
"Oh. That's strange."
"You passed out." Jennifer said calmly, pushing him back so he was lying down, and shining her penlight in his eyes. Rodney was standing by the bed.
"Are you alright?"
"I'm fine. It's just a wee bit odd, that's all."
"What's odd?" Rodney asked, confused.
"It's a long story, and I'm not even sure where to begin. But maybe you should get Colonel's Carter and Sheppard down here? I don't want to explain more than once."
"Carson...? What are you talking about?"
"Alright, Dr Beckett. What's all this about?"
"Colonel Carter, it's complicated. I don't really understand it all myself."
"Carson, just get to the point already!"
"Alright, Rodney, don't get your knickers in a twist." He took a deep breath. "I'm the real Carson Beckett. The one that died. I'm the clone too, but, well, I died and I ascended. And I met a lovely ascended being. An old friend of yours actually, Colonel. And I'm not sure what happened exactly, I only remember scattered images, but I wanted to come home, and there was this guy in my place, this clone. Poor love. He's had a rough time of it. Anyway, I knew I couldn't come home while he was here, and so the others decided that instead of retaking human form, I could be merged with my other self. We're one now. And it's a good thing too. You do know he was dying?"
"A friend of mine? Who?"
"Major Dr Janet Frasier. I don't remember much about actually being ascended, but I remember she helped me and something.... Cassie! You have to take care of Cassie!"
"Sam?" John asked. He'd been oddly silent thus far. "Does that mean anything to you?"
"Janet was a dear friend of mine, and Cassandra is her daughter."
"Adopted." Carson put in.
"How do you know that?"
"I just do. There aren't any clear memories, just confused impressions. But I'm back!"
"So, you're both Carson's now?" Rodney asked, carefully.
"Aye. I remember being held by Michael, but I also remember being here with you lot, and I remember being blown up." Carson grinned. "And I know you told me mum that I was dead, but can't we say there was a mistake? I mean I was pretty badly blown up!"
Meanwhile, somewhere on a cloud, a woman considered her lot in life. Well, afterlife. Another woman appeared beside her. She did not speak, merely smiled, and then held out a lit candle to the doctor. Janet grinned and then blew it out. She was gone.
"Oma. You knew she would leave us?"
"I did. I have been waiting for this since we recruited her."
"Why? We do not understand. She would have ceased existence without our intervention. She can continue, and she helped those brought newly to our ranks."
Oma smiled, understanding too well, and wishing she'd had the courage to go home where she was needed, instead of living this half life where she could not affect anything.
"What use is a potter without any clay?" She asked, revelling in the confusion of her fellow higher beings. They truly did not understand the Earthlings.
In a field, on a planet, in a galaxy far, far away from Carson Beckett and his friends, a woman woke up naked. She looked up at the blue sky, at the crops she was lying in, at the cars running down the distant road and she smiled.