When We Were
Young and Gay

by
Jason Gaston and Mike Truman

Edited by Jayelle Carey
Original Concept by Liam Smith

Sliders is the property of Universal/Saint Clare and the Sci-Fi Channel. No copyright infringement is intended, I've received no monetary compensation for this story which may be, since you asked, freely distributed under the condition that it not be altered or sold.


Previously on Infinite Slides

It's been a rough year for the Sliders. Quinn Mallory has been killed and one-time arch nemesis, Logan Saint Claire has entered into an uneasy alliance with Rembrandt, Maggie, Wade, and a double of Arturo and has joined them on their journey.

On the last world, Maggie became infected with parasites and became deathly ill. She made the slide, but her condition worsened to the point that the sliders made the difficult decision to leave her behind and come back for her later. Wade volunteered to stay with Maggie as Rembrandt, Logan, and Arturo slid away.

Wade called a doctor, only to discover that she had called Doctor Xang, an old enemy from a past world... now someone they had to rely on to help save Maggie's life.

(This story picks up right after When in Rome...)


Once again, if you read this story and have no idea what's going on and why Logan is sliding with Wade, Maggie, Rembrandt, and the professor, get yourself over to Infinite Slides () and catch up on this great continuation of the Sliders saga that I and several other talented writers take part in.


"Make a wish."

A single, blue-striped candle protruded from the middle of the store-bought chocolate cupcake, its flame barely sustaining itself off the cheap wax. Maggie looked at it and groaned.

"You don't have to eat it," said Wade, half apologetically. There was no doubt Maggie would be passing on the cupcake. She'd barely kept down anything in the six days since the others left. The flushing of parasites from one's body was nasty business, and the antidote had proven even nastier. Yup, flushing had pretty much consumed Maggie's time — her system, the toilet, etc.

This time it was neither the microbes nor the medicine that were causing her stomach to turn. It was the candle in front of her and what it represented. Today was Maggie's birthday.

"Do you want me to sing?" asked Wade, really hoping for a polite refusal.

"No," Maggie quietly answered as Wade let out a quick sigh of relief. Maggie remained transfixed on the small source of light. A good thirty seconds went by before she even blinked. With a resigned frown, she turned to Wade. "I'm twenty-nine today."

Wade nodded silently as Maggie continued. "One more year and I'll be the big three-oh. It won't be long before everything starts to go."

"Are you kidding? You look great," reassured Wade. "Well... normally anyway."

Maggie had rarely looked worse. The repeated heavings had made her eyes puffy, not to mention a few burst blood vessels. Her hair hung stringy around her face, still dyed a light blue from the vat of grapes she'd fallen into back at the Elston Diggs Vineyard. And while some might argue otherwise, she didn't feel all that fetching in the six-dollar bathrobe provided to her compliments of the Dominion Hotel. Especially since she hadn't felt up to shaving.

"It all goes downhill from here, and it's not like we have the luxuries of pore cleansers, wrinkle creams, and all the other crap Oil of Olay makes. We can barely find make-up. What am I saying?" she said, grabbing a fistful of blue-tipped hair. "We're lucky to shower."

"What's this 'we'?" asked Wade, but Maggie either didn't hear her or ignored her. Instead she folded her arms and slouched back into the sofa.

"Maybe we can get stuck on another runaway greenhouse world to increase the leathery quality of my skin. Yeah, that'll take another few good years off," she sulked. "No, it won't be long now. At least I'll have you, Wade. We'll be the sliding spinsters. Maybe we can pick up a few cats before the next window."

"Now I'm not hungry," said Wade, a frown crossing her face at the thought of her feline-infested future. She also slumped into the couch, her arms folded. After a moment of horrible contemplation, she turned and glared at Maggie. "Blow out your stupid candle."

******
What if there were alternate realities of Earth? Same planet, different dimension.
A world where the internet is a way of life?
Or where the Russians rule America?
Or where your worst enemy is your own self?
Worlds where your dreams can come true, or your nightmares can haunt you...
These places do exist. My friends and I have found the gateway to reach them!
Now the only problem is... finding a way back home....

Sliders - Infinite Slides
Based on the TV series 'Sliders'
Created by Tracy Tormé and Robert K. Weiss
*******

"The patient is cured!" the good doctor proclaimed with a sweeping motion.

"Then why do I feel like shit?" asked the patient from her fetal position on the sofa.

"Some discomfort is to be expected," sputtered Manfred Xang, offended that his judgment was being questioned. "Your stomach has been in turmoil for days. I'm only a doctor, not a sorcerer."

Wade let out a little giggle at that remark. No, this Dr. Manfred Xang was not a sorcerer, but neither was the first version she'd encountered. She thought back to the look on the professor's face when he discovered Xang was some sort of shaman. "To call this man a quack is to insult every legitimate quack in the profession," he'd said, or something to that effect.

Wade caught herself. That man was not the man she was sliding with today. Funny though how the current Arturo made the same mistake Rembrandt made oh so many years ago; he simply called the doctor with the biggest ad in the Yellow Pages. Then he took off with Rembrandt and Logan to burn off the sliding window while Wade was left to tend to Maggie. 'Now that's the professor I know and love. Leave me with the dirty work,' she smirked as she reflected.

"There is nothing more I can do. The road to recovery now lies with you. You could start by taking a bath," the doctor suggested with a slight sneer. Maggie rolled her eyes and curled up tighter. After a quick whiff of her bathrobe, she started stretching back out.

"Let this be a lesson to you. Undercooking pork is no laughing matter," Xang said, repeating the excuse Wade had offered up.

"Thank you, doctor," Wade said, leading Xang to the door. "I trust you'll send us a bill?"

"You can be sure of it," he answered. He stooped over to pick up his medicine bag, affording him a good look at Wade's bare legs.

"Hey! Keep your eyes to yourself," Wade snapped.

Xang looked at her with great indignation. "Why I never... How dare you insinuate such a thing!" he declared, the disgust practically dripping out of each syllable.

"I'm sorry... I--"

"Good day, Madame!" And with the slam of the door, he was gone.

"I guess they take the line between doctor and patient very seriously here," Wade said, her eyes still wide.

"Or maybe someone is just a little too full of herself," came the reply from the couch.

"What would you know? He was willing to trade Quinn's brain for me before," Wade said, prompting a bewildered stare from her friend. "It's complicated."

Maggie cricked her neck and rose from the couch, stretching out slowly. Truth be told, she was feeling a little bit better. Modern medicine had shortened the seven days of pain she'd have endured had she been stuck in Las Angelus, although only by about twenty-four hours. She groaned, cabin fever starting to burn her up. "I'm going to take the doctor's advice and clean up. Afterwards, do you feel up to going out somewhere?"

"I am. You sure you are?"

"Yeah," Maggie said as she headed for the bathroom. "I'm sick of these rooms. I have to get out."

"I suppose we could head down to the Lamplighter," Wade suggested.

"Ugh, anywhere but there," came the response over the sound of running water. "Really, what is with you guys and that place? The Lamplighter is so gay!"

-----

Maggie took a deep breath, happy just to experience some different scents. Over the last few days, she'd become too accustomed to the Clorox used by the cleaning woman at the Dominion. It was nice to be outside in the warm evening air, and her stomach was complying for the time being.

The two were walking downtown and the streets were starting to fill up with people as offices let out for the night. Most were people just like them, looking for a little relaxation after a stressful day.

"So, Wade, aside from the Lamplighter, where else is cool in San Francisco?"

Wade was a little startled by the question and stammered an answer. "That depends on what's on this earth. Places that were hot back home may be loserlands here."

"Okay, but assuming this world is normal, where would you hang out?" Maggie asked.

"I don't know. Maybe..." Wade paused a moment to think it over.

Maggie stopped walking. "You do live in this city, right?"

"Yeah. It's just I'd just turned twenty-two when this crazy ride started. I hadn't had much of a chance to scope out the bar scene," Wade defensively replied. "Besides, it wasn't exactly my scene anyway."

"Yeah, you were a computer geek back then, right?"

"Yeah," Wade dryly replied.

Maggie scanned up and down the street. Some two blocks away there seemed to be a higher level of activity. "Why don't we try that place down there? It seems like it's hopping."

"That's our Maggie. Always has to be where the action is," Wade said.

It was more of a pub than a bar. No dance floors, no wall of televisions featuring ESPN, just a big bar and a lot of cramped tables and booths. The patrons were mostly university types; the average age in the place was no greater than twenty-six, a detail that didn't escape Maggie. She and Wade managed to snag a small table near the back corner of the establishment.

"Not even a glance," Maggie said. "I don't get it. Two attractive girls out in a bar and not one man has even stopped by to say hello."

"Maybe picking someone up in a bar is considered low class on this earth," Wade replied, taking a sip from her glass.

"Or we're just past our prime. It's hard competing with all these college girls. Look at them all, so young, so much ahead of them," Maggie lamented as she twirled the straw in her ginger ale.

Wade sighed and rolled her eyes. "Oh geez, you're not still on this birthday kick."

"I can't expect to just walk into a place and have all eyes on me anymore," Maggie said. "There comes a time when a woman has to think about her future."

Wade stared at Maggie as if she'd just announced she was the Queen of Siam. "You? Impulse Girl whose motto is 'shoot first, forget to ask questions?'"

"I'm being serious, Wade."

Wade took a deep drink out of her beer and waited for the punchline.

"When I started out on this mission, it was for one thing only... to take out Colonel Rickman." Wade coughed. "Okay, and maybe cause I was a little infatuated with Quinn. In any event, I didn't expect this to become my new career. There are certain things that sliding just can't give me. Men, for instance."

"That little bout with the microbes didn't happen to shut off any areas of your brain again, did it?"

Maggie rolled her eyes. "Did I say I was willing to take on every man in the bar? All I meant to imply is that it would be nice to hold someone again--"

Wade gulped down on a swig of beer...

"--and grind my body against him," Maggie concluded.

...and spit it back into her glass.

Maggie smiled. "Gotcha."

"Oh, I'd say you're feeling better," Wade said, wiping off the stray spittle from her jacket.

"Much." Maggie took a sip from her drink, pausing a moment before asking Wade, "You're not comfortable talking about sex, are you?"

"I don't have any problem talking about sex. I just don't need to hear all the details," Wade brushed back, taking a much deeper pull from her beer. They'd only been sitting down ten minutes and Wade was nearly ready for a second one. Maggie noted this and pressed a little further.

"Then you wouldn't mind my asking, when is the last time you... well, you know. No details, of course," Maggie asked. As if on cue, Wade finished the rest of her drink.

"Well... I... well..."

As Wade stammered, Maggie took another look around the bar. Not one man looking her way. 'Gotta pass the time somehow,' she thought. 'Might as well have some fun with Wade. Besides, the little ball of stress needs to relax a little more. A few drinks won't hurt her.' Maggie raised her hand as the waiter walked by and signaled that her friend needed a refill.

-----

Fortunately, Wade was a cheap drunk.

"Of course I like sex. Who doesn't like sex? It's just I like sliding too. And sex and sliding don't mix, nosiree," Wade babbled.

Maggie nodded, feeling a little bad about what she was doing. Despite their time together, only now was Wade coming around to her. They hadn't bonded much and there was so much Maggie didn't know about her. Plus, it would be nice that someone else would be embracing the porcelain god the next morning.

"It was because of Quinn, huh?" Maggie prompted.

"Quinn, Schwinn," Wade waved off. "I was over Quinn by the eleventh slide or so. I mean, don't get me wrong here. I wanna make this clear. I love Quinn, but I don't love love him, you know? Well, sure, I thought about it from time to time... I have to go pee."

Wade hopped down from her stool and headed for the restrooms.

"I like your hair."

The voice came from behind her and Maggie turned around. Seated at the next table was a woman - better described as a girl - in her early twenties. She was a pretty little thing with dark brown hair stopping just short of her shoulders, her T-shirt announcing her as a student at Berkeley, or at least an admirer of their program.

"Those are cool highlights. Love the tips. Periwinkle?" she asked, remarking on Maggie's souvenirs from her experience at the vineyard.

"It's a natural formula," Maggie said.

"Very punk. You into the Vines?"

"Not anymore. I've had enough of that scene to last a lifetime, thank you," Maggie misinterpreted.

"Yeah, me too. I'm looking for a sound that's a little more... mature," she said. She peered past Maggie's shoulder and noted her glass, which was just about empty. "Need another drink?"

"Nah, it's just ginger ale. My friend and I were probably going to head out soon anyway."

"That's too bad. We just started talking," the girl said, lightly placing her hand on Maggie's knee.

"Oh..." Maggie said, her eyes locked on this strange woman's hand. Then it occurred to her just what was going on here. "Oh!"

The girl smiled hopefully. Maggie gave an uneasy chuckle and lifted the woman's hand off her knee, placing it back on the knee it belonged to. "I'm sorry, I think I gave you the wrong impression."

"I'm sorry too," the girl said. "I should have assumed the two of you were together..."

"The two of us... me and Wade?" Maggie laughed loud at that thought. "No, no, no, we," she said, pointing back and forth between herself and Wade's stool, "we are not together."

"Oh..." Now it was college girl's turn to be surprised. "Oh! You're..." She paused, looking for the right word. Finding none, she just got up from her seat. "Hey, that's cool. Um, sorry about this misunderstanding."

"It's all right. Really. I'm kinda flattered in a way," Maggie said.

The girl just nodded. She grabbed her drink and went quickly off.

Maggie smiled. 'Still got it,' she thought. 'Wrong gender, sure, but still a good sign. That girl must have really liked what she saw to just take a chance like that.'

She paused on that thought. Maggie took a closer look at the patrons in the bar. The place was as segregated as a junior high dance. Except here the guys and girls weren't looking longingly across the floor, they were perfectly content where they were seated.

Wait a minute. The loud table near the front wasn't just a night out with the girls; they were really WITH each other.

"Maggie, check this out," Wade said, resuming her seat across from her. In her hand were a few scraps of paper. "The women here are so friendly. They just kept handing me their numbers saying they'd show us the town. It must be a big tourism world."

"I'm sure it is, Wade. Tell me, anything seem odd to you about this place?"

"Not really. The governor is named after a color, and I think I heard something about a civil war in Mexico..."

"The bar, Wade. Anything, say, queer about this place?"

Wade scanned the place. "Um, there's a sign for Bud Extra, the pool tables only have nine balls, there are two guys making out in front of the cigarette machine... oh." Wade looked at the scraps of paper in her hand. "Oh!" she exclaimed as the numbers flew from her hand.

-----

"I've had enough fun for the night," Maggie said once they were in the cab. They could have walked back to the hotel, but abandoned that idea when Wade walked into a signpost.

"I guess it is kind of funny. I mean, we were there for hours and no one even noticed we were straight," Wade said, rubbing her forehead.

"Yes, is great city, no?" came a response from the cab driver, one Pavel Kurlienko. "Very tolerant. Is why I come here."

"Huh, you ride in a guy's cab for years and you never really know a person," Wade remarked. "I had no idea."

"Is true! Company even covers domestic partner under insurance policy. Is wonderful! Now she stay home and look after grandchildren," Pavel said.

"Wait a minute. Did you say 'she'?" Maggie asked.

Pavel smiled and pointed enthusiastically at a photo on his dashboard. "My babushka," he said, lightly caressing the image of a large, stern Russian woman.

"Well, it sort of looks like a woman," Maggie whispered to Wade.

"Yeah, but if he's married to a woman and that's not the norm, then that means this entire country is homosexual!" Wade blurted.

"Is your friend okay?" Pavel asked Maggie, raising his arm to illustrate a drinking motion.

"She'll be fine. She gets some crazy ideas when she's drunk."

Pavel laughed. "Ha ha, yes. Is country homosexual? Is good one."

"Yeah," Maggie laughed along. "She's a funny girl."

"Ha ha. Like this country is exception."

Maggie stopped laughing. "It's not?"

-----

"How come you didn't notice this before?" Maggie shouted once the two returned to the Dominion. Wade had her head down on the table, a glass of water in front of her. "We've been here six days! Are you blind?"

"Well, we are in San Francisco!" Wade shot back. "And aside from a few grocery runs, I've been waiting hand and foot on you."

Maggie scoffed. "Haven't you been watching TV since we got here?"

"Yeah, but I've been watching the Lifetime network. I didn't think anything of it."

Maggie paced around the table. "How is this even possible? It would seem to work against, I don't know, repopulating."

"We've seen weirder things. Besides, what's it to you? So the place is gay. Big deal."

"Big deal? Big deal?! Wade, we're going to be on this earth who knows how long and that's assuming we leave at all, God forbid something happen to the others and they're unable to come back and get us..."

"They'll be back for us," Wade said determinedly.

"But when? It's already been longer than the typical slide."

"These things are unpredictable. I've seen slides last anywhere from six seconds to six weeks--"

"I should have just made the slide. I'm sure the world they slid to has doctors…"

~~~~~

"I'm afraid we're going to have to cut it off," the doctor said, reaching for his saw.

"Are you daft?" the Wizard Arturo exclaimed. "This man has a hangnail!"

~~~~~

"...Instead, we're here in Fairyland."

"Very PC of you, Maggie. You have no idea how proud I am to be associated with you right now," Wade said.

"Oh, come on. I'm just joking. I don't have a problem with homosexuals," Maggie assuaged.

"You just have a problem with them being in the majority."

Maggie sat down across from her. "Oh, that's right. I forgot I was talking with Wade Wells, defender of the downtrodden and oppressed."

"Look, I'm in no mood to argue with you right now. We'll talk tomorrow," Wade said, getting to her feet. She grabbed her glass of water and headed to the bedroom.

Maggie remained seated. Once the door to the bedroom was closed, Maggie called back, "Good night."

-----

Wade woke late, her head surprisingly in good shape. She found Maggie in front of the television, a notebook in hand. It didn't appear that Maggie had even gone to bed as she was still wearing last night's clothes. "Trouble sleeping?"

"Research," Maggie answered, her attention still riveted to the set.

Wade walked behind the couch and got a look at what Maggie was watching. Here eyes immediately went back to the floor. "Please tell me that's not public television."

"Spice Channel," Maggie said, flipping the station. "I just had to be sure that this world is what we thought it was."

"Couldn't you just watch 'Friends' or something?" Wade retorted.

"If I judged the country only by what I saw on network TV, I'd conclude that three quarters of the population is white, single, young, and unusually attractive," Maggie said. "And I found Ross's obsession with Joey just too damn creepy for my tastes."

Wade made the mistake of looking at the television again. "Oh, GOD! That's got to hurt! How can he act like he enjoys that!?"

"Different strokes for different folks," Maggie said.

"Please tell me that wasn't a pun."

Maggie stopped on a local morning news program, where a reporter was speaking live in downtown San Francisco. "I'm coming to you this morning from the corner of Polk and Market Street, where we have a good view of the Macho Pride Parade, a now annual tradition in San Francisco."

Marching through the streets were men and women, hand-in-hand, wearing blue jeans and flannel shirts or conservative cut suits and dresses. A marching band led the way, playing a peppy version of "When a Man Loves a Woman." The next wave of paraders featured placards espousing their heterosexuality on plain blue and white type. They strode with purpose, chanting, "We're great. We're straight. We're not ashamed to mate!"

"Too surreal," Wade said, her jaw open.

"The joy of genetics. You know how it was theorized that some ten percent of people had a predisposition to homosexuality back on our earth? Well, here I'm guessing it's practically reversed," Maggie said, flipping through her notes.

"Is there anything else genetic that's... different?" Wade prompted.

"If you mean what I think you mean, the answer's no. You still need a man and a woman to have a child and all the parts involved are where they belong. This confirms it," Maggie said, flipping back to the Spice Channel.

"You've made your point," Wade said, waving Maggie to go back to the previous station.

"It kind of flies in the face of what we think is evolution. I'd always thought the reason sex felt good was to encourage breeding. Maybe that's a fallacy," Maggie said.

"Another pun?" Wade interjected.

"Huh? Oh. Ha! No," Maggie smiled. "Like on my world (and I'm guessing your world), they've made a lot of advances with in vitro fertilization and the like. You won't believe what they can do here!"

"I watched Rembrandt give birth. There's really not much you can say now that would trump that," Wade said.

Maggie showed Wade a page of her notes. Wade's eyes went wide. "Good God, I stand corrected."

Maggie yawned. "I need some sleep. Need to get some beauty rest before going out tonight."

"Excuse me? I thought we just established this world wasn't made for us."

"Not entirely. We have no idea how long we're going to be here. I'm not wasting any more of the time I have left," Maggie said, placing her notebook down and walking to the bathroom. "Call me a hopeless romantic, but I just have to believe there's one good straight man left for me."

-----

A half-hour later, Wade made her way downstairs to the lobby of the hotel. As she was walking out, she was flagged down by the doorman, Gomez Calhoun.

"Miss Wells?" he asked, entreating her to stop. "You are Wade Wells?"

"Yes," she said eagerly, approaching the desk. Could it be news that the others were back?

"There was a message left for you. It's from an Amanda," he cheerfully said, sliding the note over to her.

"I don't know any Amanda," Wade said, looking at the slip of paper. All it had was a name and number. Wade handed it back to Calhoun, disappointed. "Must be a mistake."

"Are you sure? We don't have any other Wades staying here," Gomez said. "Or Wells' for that matter."

"I don't know what to tell you," she said. She started to turn away when she heard a shriek from inside the manager's office:

"Gomez, have you cleaned up room 214 yet?" the raspy, female voice yelled.

"Not yet, mother," Gomez cheerfully replied.

"Better get on it. Heaven knows what was left behind," a second, even raspier, female voice responded. "I want those sheets steam-cleaned!"

"I'll get right on it, mother," he said, immediately grabbing a large keyring.

"Problem?" Wade asked.

"Oh, nothing. Mothers are just concerned." Gomez looked both ways to make sure no one was listening, then leaned over the front desk. "It seems I might have rented a room to a pair of... heterosexuals last night."

"Better yet, just burn the sheets!" Mother#2 cried.

"Are you mad? Sheets cost money!" Mother#1 retorted.

"If you'll excuse me," Gomez politely said, shutting the door to the manager's office behind him.

-----

'Hair Dye? Check. Lipstick? Check. Eye liner? Wow, haven't used eyeliner in a while.' These were the thoughts that went through Maggie's head as she looked in the mirror. "You don't look a day older than twenty-seven," she said aloud.

Wade returned before dinner, but she wasn't interested in another trip downtown. "I think I'll just stay home and catch up on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Looks like Willow and Xander are finally getting together."

"I don't understand why you bother trying to follow storylines. They're different on every world," Maggie scoffed.

"That's half the fun. If you don't like how one storyline's progressing, just wait a dimension."

"All the best to Willow and Xander. Right now Maggie needs some attention," she said as she straightened out her dress.

"And right now differs from every other moment how?" Wade said under her breath.

"What was that?" Maggie asked, looking back up.

"I was just saying how much I've been waiting for this moment," Wade said, pointing at the TV. "Another trip to the bars?"

"No, I have an even better idea. Call it playing a hunch. You sure you don't want to come with?" Maggie asked, taking one last look at her compact mirror.

"I'll be just cozy here watching Buffy and... Angela," Wade said.

-----

The art show wasn't exactly elbow to elbow, but there was a substantial crowd for a Tuesday night. This was not unusual for a university town like San Francisco, especially one as renowned for its artistic leanings. Maggie stared straight ahead at the piece in front of her, craning her neck far to the left.

"Beautiful, isn't it?" a male voice said from behind.

"It's a blue tile," Maggie responded.

"Yes, but notice how perfectly blue it is," the art critic replied.

"Oh... yes. It's truly amazing..." she said. As the man moved on to the next exhibit, she muttered, "...for a three-year-old."

So far the evening had been a bust. Her appreciation of art was suspect at best, nonexistent at worse. As for the men, Maggie didn't much care if they were hetero or homo; the sensitive ponytail guy wasn't her style.

"Hey, look, a blue tile!" A man laughed as he and his buddy approached. "I can't believe they hang this crap on the wall and call it art. It's a goddamn disgrace."

The guy was good-sized, a hair over six feet tall, and sturdy, like he was no stranger to exercise. His friend was no less built. It was obvious even though they were each dressed in slacks and button-down shirts.

"I kinda like it. I've even got some of these in my bathroom. Some two hundred or so," Maggie cracked. The two men smiled at that.

"It's just upsetting, you know? You look at the classic works - the Renaissance painters, for example - you can see the craftsmanship. Those paintings took a long time and a lot of hard work. The subject matter's mostly the same, I admit, but you can see the skill involved," the first man said. "But this, this tells me nothing. First off, I can do this, and that instantly devalues it. Second, what does it say to me? Is it sardonic? Is their some sort of irony I'm missing? It's a blue tile!"

"No mildew. Maybe it's a pitch for Formula 409," his friend said.

"Don't get me started on commercial crossovers!" he bellowed, which judging from his friend's smirk, was the expected reaction. The three shared a laugh even though Maggie wasn't sure what she was laughing at.

"You'll have to forgive my friend," the less bellicose art critic said to her. "Shore leaves come far and few between and he needs to get it all out of his system."

"Oh, you're in the Navy," Maggie smiled.

The louder man's smile turned quickly to a scowl, and he drew himself up so that his full form was intimidating as possible. "You have a problem with the Navy?"

"No," Maggie backpedaled. "None at all. I love seamen."

"Cause the tone of your voice suggested otherwise. It really rips me that just because I'm a Naval Officer AND I enjoy art, I have to be some sort of a queer," he said, Maggie's remark flying completely over her head.

"Hey, Lance, calm down. I'm sure she didn't mean..."

"Oh no, that's exactly what she meant." Lance leaned in close to Maggie's face. "I'll have you know there's not a single man in this gallery who wouldn't take me home."

Maggie sized this Lance fellow up, delving into her psychological training. He was the typical macho type that commanding officers loved to get their mitts into and mold into perfect, obedient, and opinionless soldiers. Prone to upholding the status quo, they usually followed a group mentality.

He was tall and muscular with short, black hair and a thick neck. He was strong, no doubt about it, but as long as his friend was here to hold him back, he would be no threat to anyone.

Lance backed away and waved his hand in her direction, a literal brush off. "Let's go, Hal."

Hal held up his hand in an attempt to both calm Lance down and to be patient. "Just a minute."

Realizing Hal wasn't going to immediately follow him, he turned and stormed off. "Whatever, man."

"I really didn't mean it like that," Maggie protested to Hal.

"It's all right. He's temperamental that way. Some guys just can't stand having their manhood questioned." He leaned in closer and said softly to her, "Between you and me, I think he secretly has a thing for women." He let his wrist go limp and made a face.

She laughed a little at that and he smiled. Hal was an attractive man, that was for sure. He was much shorter than his friend... in fact, he was only a little taller than Maggie was. He was more lean than muscular and his blond hair fell down in front of his face, almost obscuring his deep hypnotic blue eyes.

"Now that Lance has taken off," Hal suggested, "what say you and me go somewhere a little more lively?" he asked. "I get the feel you're more darts than art."

"Lead on," she said.

They started to walk out of the gallery when Maggie's attention was captured by something. "Oh," she said, looking at the next piece on the wall. "I kind of like this one."

Hal smirked. "That's a fire extinguisher."

"Sarcasm," Maggie replied.

Hal still didn't know if she was kidding or not.

-----

Barry Bonds fouled off his third pitch to keep the count at three and two. Roger Clemens, dressed in the same Red Sox uniform he'd worn since 1984, wiped the sweat from his brow and received the new ball from his catcher. Hal shook his head as he watched the huge screen television. "Man, I am so glad the Athletics picked this guy up. You an A's fan?"

"I don't really follow baseball too much," Maggie said, lining up her next shot. The dart caught the inside of the twenty, just a hair from the thin piece of metal separating the board from the one spot. "Twenty is closed up."

Hal retrieved the three darts from the board and stepped back to the line as Maggie lifted her drink. "Twenty's already closed, huh? But your eighteen is still open." He sent all three shots in the vicinity of the eighteen, hitting it twice. He marked up 36 points in his column of the chalkboard.

"That's cruel," Maggie said.

"That's the way the game is played," he smiled. He pulled the darts from the board and handed them to her, then headed back in front of the screen. "Damn, he struck out."

Maggie stepped to the line and focused on the board. "I see your bull's eye is still open."

"Well, yeah, but..." Hal shrugged, not even looking back in Maggie's direction.

Her first dart hit the target dead center. The second checked in a centimeter to the right while the third landed in the middle stripe of the eighteen slice. "Eighteen's closed," she announced as she also chalked in 50 points to her column.

Hal's jaw dropped open as he approached the board. "You were standing behind the line, right?"

"Want to see me do it again?" she asked.

"Not if I want to win this game," he said, needing some force to yank the darts out of the board. "Where did you learn to shoot like that?"

"It was a popular diversion back on the base. A lot of young Marines had to be put in their place."

Hal's mouth opened into a wide grin. "Ha. So Lance was right. There was a touch of contempt in your voice for the U.S. Navy." She returned the smile. "Active?"

"No, I'm on a new team now," she replied.

"And can they all shoot like you?"

"Not quite..."

~~~~~

"Youch!" came a cry from the other end of the field.

Logan winced as she waved her bow. "Oops! Sorry about that, Sir Anson. The wind must have taken that arrow wide like that. Good thing you were wearing that armor, huh?"

~~~~~

A few games and beers later, the two sat at the bar as Boston's closer exited the bullpen. "No worries. This guy has blown six saves already this season, and it's only May. That eight run deficit is nothing," Hal said with the confidence of a long-suffering baseball fan.

"Maybe you should have been a broadcaster instead of a seaman."

"Horatio Wallace IV not join the Navy? Blasphemy!" he said half-jokingly.

Maggie laughed. "Oh no, not you too!"

"Oh yes. The Wallace family has been defending the United States for near two centuries now. The tradition continues!" Hal said, lifting a glass. She raised hers as well.

"How about you, soldier?" Hal asked. "You said earlier you're in a new unit?"

"Not an enlisted one," she replied. "I resigned my commission. My commanding officer was a psychopath."

"Aren't they all? All they want are automatons. If they could, they'd suck the brains right out of you."

"You have no idea," she said, her thoughts immediately going back to Hal's friend Lance, the robot in training.

Maggie pulled her hair back from her face and tucked it behind her ear. "It was only a matter of time anyway. After my husband's accident, the life started to lose its allure." At first she wasn't even sure she'd said what she thought she'd just said. Her eyes looked questioningly at Hal. "I-- I mean..."

His hand went to hers and he squeezed it. "I think you meant what you said. It's all right."

She relaxed for a moment, grateful he was so tolerant. "You have to keep these things quiet when you're in the armed services," he continued. "They're not so accepting of people like us."

'Like us?' she thought.

-----

The early morning rays of the sun invaded the room at the Dominion. Wade was in awe. "You mean to tell me that on gay world, you STILL got a man? Maggie, I don't know whether to be proud, disgusted, or just jealous." Secretly, she was leaning towards option number 3.

"He's wonderful," Maggie said in a breathy voice. "He's smart, sexy, and short." Maggie always preferred her men short for some reason. "We sat up all night and talked... about sports, about the military, about movies and TV... He showed me this one show called Straight as Folk. It was cute, but not very accurate. I mean, these people actually believe that all straight people think about is dancing and sex, sex, sex."

Wade raised an eyebrow as she brought her cup of coffee up to her lips.

"Uh-oh, it's the sarcasm brow," Maggie noted.

Wade swallowed her drink. "That wasn't the sarcasm brow," she said innocently.

"Oh yes it was. That's the eyebrow that goes up every time you've got a smartass remark on the tip of your tongue and are too polite to say it. I see it at least six times a day, so don't tell me that wasn't the sarcasm brow... I know the sarcasm brow."

Wade shook her head. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Well, for your information, we didn't do anything," Maggie said, letting the subject drop. "We just talked."

"I don't suppose you found out the reason why this world is so off kilter, did you? You know... while you were 'talking?'" Wade said. "And yes, that is the eyebrow again."

"It's a combination of genetics, overpopulation, propaganda, dogma, and several virulent STD's that made AIDS look like a common cold. Long story."

"I have time," Wade replied.

Maggie looked at her watch and rose to her feet. "I don't," she smiled as she walked to the motel room door, "I'm going to have breakfast with Hal."

"Wow," Wade said. "You really are smitten with this one. You're seeing him the next morning and everything. If you don't watch yourself, you might actually start learning their last names."

Maggie opened the door and stopped in her tracks. "Speaking of smitten," she said picking up a bundle of roses off the hallway floor. "It's from your mystery date."

"Oh, this is getting ridiculous! It's the third one since we got here!" Wade said, storming over and talking the roses. She ripped the card out of the envelope. "To my dear Wade, please meet me for dinner at Chez Diggs. Signed question mark, question mark, and question mark. XXXOOO."

"That means kisses and hugs," Maggie explained.

"I know what it means," Wade snapped back. "Aren't there stalking laws on this world?"

"You know, she's just interested in you... you could just let her down easy," Maggie said.

"What if she doesn't let down easily? What if she's a psycho? You remember what happened to Willow when that sleepy nonentity got interested in her! Oz hadn't even left the city limits, and all of a sudden, it was empowerment and rainbow stickers."

"Well, at the very least you could get a dinner out of her," Maggie suggested.

Wade looked at her. "Is that the sarcasm brow?"

"I never use the sarcasm brow," Maggie said, stepping outside. "I prefer my sarcasm blatant and hurtful." She gave Wade a smile. "Have a nice dinner, but be careful..."

"I could say the same thing to you, Maggie," Wade cautioned. "To say things here are different would be a gross understatement. Just, you know, watch your back. We don't know what the rednecks do to straight people here."

"Don't worry about me," Maggie replied. "If there's anything I never stop doing, it's watching my back."

She shut the door and left Wade alone in the room, concerned over the fact that Maggie would be too busy watching someone else's back to mind her own.

-----

Wade walked up to the front desk where Calhoun was busy talking on the phone. Wade started to speak, but Calhoun held up a finger to politely silence her.

"No, I'm telling you, he means nothing to me!" Calhoun silently protested to whoever was on the line. "You know you're my big cuddly huggy bear! I'd never do anything to hurt you... Baby, I know what you saw, but it wasn't what you thought it was. All right, it was sort of what you thought it was, but he... Hello? Hello?"

He hung up the phone and sighed. "Oh well," he said nonchalantly. "A playa's gotta play. What can I help you with, Miss Wells?"

Wade took moment to collect herself. This world was full of surprises... both pleasant and unpleasant. "Yeah, I've been getting cards, notes, and presents from someone called Amanda."

"Oh yeah. How are things between the two of you?"

"There is no two of us," Wade replied a little too quickly. "I, uh... I'm in a relationship already. Look, could you just politely tell her not to send anything else to me?"

"Oh, well, you could just tell her yourself," Calhoun said as the phone rang. "She's standing right over there." As he picked up the receiver, he pointed to the phone booths where a thin, brown-haired woman stood.

Wade stammered, "But I..."

It was too late. Calhoun was already engrossed in his conversation. "Raul! Como estas mi amor? No, no! I no bango the janitor!"

Amanda stood just behind a potted plant... as though she was too afraid to even be seen by Wade. Wade took a breath. "Tolerance, Wells... Tolerance."

Walking over to Amanda, Wade put on her best smile. "Hi, you must be Amanda. I'm--"

"Wade," Amanda said with a short shy laugh. "Wade Wells. I'm Amanda Huginkiss."

"Amanda Huginkiss?" Wade repeated, her smile momentarily disappearing. "That's an unusual--"

"Yes, I know. Grade school was hell. But, then again, so was middle school, high school, and college... and everything else." Amanda sighed. "With a name like that, everyone always assumes you're... you know."

"No," Wade said, shaking her head.

Amanda leaned in towards Wade and whispered, "Queer." She lingered there a moment, her face only inches from Wade's. Wade, on the other hand, backed up and put some distance between them.

Amanda would have normally been a somewhat attractive woman, but her hair was flat and haphazardly hanging all over her head. Stray hairs fell in front of her freckled face. She was taller than Wade, but thinner if that was possible. Her eyes appeared to be stuck deep in the back of her skull and both were dark and baggy as if this woman never slept. In fact, come to think of it, she did appear sleepy... all the time.

"Amanda," Wade began, "about the notes and roses, I..."

"It was too much, wasn't it?" Amanda said quickly. "I read about secret admirers in a book and I thought it would be fun. You're not freaked out, are you? I just wanted to get to know you and I know that I sometimes overdo things."

Wade was freaked out. "No, not at all. I guess it was kind of romantic, but I..."

"So, would you like to go to dinner tonight at Chez Diggs?" Amanda suddenly asked.

"I don't think so," Wade replied with a smile.

"Oh, nothing like that. It's not a date or anything," Amanda said, hiding a deep frown the best she could. "It's an apology."

"That's not necessary," Wade said again.

Amanda's large eyes got larger. "At least let me make you a reservation for yourself," she pleaded. "I don't even have to be there and dinner will be on me."

"Amanda..."

"No, I insist," Amanda stated again, shoving two certificates into her hand. "Here, these are good for 75 dollars each. You can take that cute punk girl with the purple hair you've been hanging around with."

"Punk chick? Oh yes... Maggie. Yes... we're a couple. Very happy." Wade stammered through her makeshift lie. "All right, thank you. Thank you for dinner."

"You're welcome," Amanda said with a smile. "Tell your wife hello for me."

As Amanda walked away, Wade couldn't shake the creeps crawling up her spine. She couldn't quite place where they came from, but it was either Amanda's obsession with her or the fact that she had just been called Maggie's wife.

Wife... like that would ever happen to any of them.

~~~~~

"I've come to request the Wizard Arturo's blessing in asking the Lady Logan for her hand," Sir Wesley announced.

For a moment, Bard Brown furrowed his brow, glancing over at the bathroom door and wondering how long the professor was going to be considering they were all having difficulties with this world's wardrobe. Eventually, he merely shrugged. "Hey, man, just go for it."

As Sir Wesley bowed and exited, a disgruntled Arturo emerged from the bathroom, a piece of parchment stuck to one of his ridiculous looking shoes. "That was an incredibly foolish thing to do," he bellowed. "Have you considered where it will leave us if Miss St. Clair actually accepts the good knight's proposal?"

"Would it really be so bad if she does? I wouldn't mind sliding without her... and the second timer-- Oh crap!" Rembrandt instantly bolted for the door. "Yo, Wes, wait up!"

~~~~~

Maggie and Hal walked by the bay as the Golden Gate loomed over them. They talked and laughed with each other as they walked along in the chilly morning air.

"You know," Hal began, "someone like you could always re-enlist. We could use more good solders since the Chilean war."

"No, no, and no again," Maggie replied. "My military career is over. Over and done. That chapter of my life been written, proofread, and rejected by the publishers."

"Why's that?" Hal prodded.

Maggie was silent for a moment. "Oh, something happened. Long story, I won't bother you with the details."

Hal smirked. "I love details."

"Let's just say," Maggie began, "there was a... breakdown of priorities. You remember how I said my commanding officer was a psycho?"

Hal nodded.

"Well, I was telling the truth," she explained. "He went nuts for some reason and..."

There was a silence.

"...a lot of people died. My... husband was one of them."

"Damn, I'm sorry," Hal said.

"It was a while back," Maggie said with a shrug. "A lot of people think I'm cold, but I've seen a lot of death in the wars. I learned to deal."

"Wars?"

"War," Maggie quickly said, correcting her error. "The war."

"Chile?"

"A little, but I'm fine," Maggie replied.

Hal laughed. Maggie, unaware she'd cracked a joke, laughed along with him.

"I don't care what anyone says, that joke never gets old." Hal chuckled.

"Yeah," Maggie said, still unsure of what was so funny. "It's a classic."

And with that, Hal took Maggie's hand in his.

Maggie was a little shocked. Hal had always been reserved in public, so the display of affection caught her off guard. "Hal," she said uncomfortably, "aren't you afraid that..."

"Maggie, this is San Francisco," he said softly. "Straight people are accepted here and no one will think anything of it. Trust me. This isn't one of those backwoods towns where breeders are beaten and left for dead like that poor Matthew Shepard kid."

The reference escaped Maggie, but she went along with it.

"Do you want me to stop?" Hal asked.

"No," Maggie replied quickly. "No, I like this."

"Good," Hal said. "Because if you said you wanted me to stop, I would have jumped right off of Golden Gate."

"I bet you use that line with all the girls," Maggie chuckled.

"Well..." Hal replied.

Maggie laughed, but deep down, she wondered if there was something more behind his statement than she suspected.

-----

Across the park, Lance sat in a rental car watching Maggie and Hal with a pair of binoculars. He angrily threw them to the side and started the car.

"Breeders," he grumbled to himself as he peeled out of the parking lot.

-----

Wade was watching television when Maggie entered with a perpetual grin. "Someone's happy," she observed.

"Is it that obvious?"

"As obvious as the fact that your sweater is one button off all the way up," Wade said. "I was an RA at junior college for a semester and I can recognize those kinds of things when the students are doing the nasty in dorm rooms."

Maggie rebuttoned her sweater the right way. "Wade, he's wonderful," she began. "Not only is he smart, funny, cute, and open... but he's also straight!"

"That's always tops in my dating requirements," she dryly replied.

Maggie plopped down on the bed next to hers. "So, I take it you haven't expanded your horizons with the mysterious Amanda?"

"Hardly," Wade said. "She's got issues."

"I told you that you should have just used her to get dinner," Maggie smiled as she lay back on the bed.

Wade cocked her head. "Well, master, your apprentice has learned well." She tossed the certificates that Amanda had given her onto Maggie's stomach. "Chez Diggs - very popular, obscenely expensive, and grossly exclusive. You and your beau have fun."

Maggie looked at the certificates. "Wade, you should use these!"

"No, you use them," Wade said, waving her off. "Be my guest."

Maggie smiled. "Thanks, Wade, that's suspiciously nice of you."

"Well," Wade replied, "if you happen to run into the mysterious Amanda and she says something about us being married, just play along, okay?"

"Sure, I... What?"

"You heard me."

"For a free meal, I guess that's not too much to ask," Maggie shrugged. "But if you're looking for a kiss goodnight, you're out of luck."

Wade switched the channel. "I'll try to find a container for my disappointment, snookiepuss."

-----

Chez Diggs was indeed extravagant and expensive. Even though Maggie and Hal had really decked themselves out, they still seemed somewhat underdressed. Upon entering the restaurant, they were greeted by the waiter and escorted to a table that was already prepared for them.

"Swanky," Hal noted. "How did you manage this?"

"Let's just say my girlfriend has connections," Maggie said with a wink.

They were given menus and Hal whistled. "My dads always told me never to eat at a place that required a credit check and down payment, but in this case I think that the duck is just begging to be eaten."

"That looks good," Maggie replied, "but I think I'm going to have..."

It was then that a cold chill went up Maggie's spine. She turned around and noticed that a thin, brown-haired, freckled woman was standing behind her. It was obvious that this thin, brown-haired, freckled woman was displeased... almost to the point that she looked like Maggie and Hal didn't deserve the right to exist.

"Can I help you?" Maggie said patiently.

"This is Wade's table," was all that the woman said.

Maggie nodded slowly. "You must be Amanda," she deduced.

"Where's Wade?" Amanda snapped.

Maggie automatically didn't like this woman. "Not here."

"I gave this table to Wade."

"And Wade gave them to us," Maggie said a little more forcefully. "So thank you for the meal and shove off."

Amanda took a breath. "Are you two here together?" she said, a little more cordially.

"Yes... OW!" Hal yelped.

"No," Maggie corrected him. "We're business partners."

"I see," Amanda nodded. "Well, I will leave you two to your meal, then. Enjoy it."

She quickly walked away. Hal rubbed his shin and gave Maggie a look. "Business partners? I was unaware that Business Partner was synonymous with person you kick hard."

"Sorry," Maggie said, "long story."

"You appear to be full of long stories. Long and mysterious ones."

"Not really," Maggie said with a shrug. "The life I lead is pretty ordinary."

~~~~~

Rembrandt shrieked as another wave of fire lit up the cave over his head. "I THOUGHT YOU SAID THAT DRAGONS WEREN'T REAL!"

Arturo poked his head out from behind a rock. "WELL EXCUSE ME FOR BEING WRONG!"

~~~~~

Maggie pointed at an item on the menu. "Ooo," she said, "the flambé looks good."

-----

Wade had fallen asleep sometime during a Star Trek episode when Kirk was going gaga over a green-skinned Orion slave man. She awoke with a start when a knock resounded on her door. She sleepily dragged herself to the door. "Maggie, did you forget your key again?"

A microsecond after opening the door, Wade wished she hadn't. Amanda pushed her way inside; her thin freckled face was drenched with tears. "Oh, Wade, I have horrible news. It's about Maggie."

Wade's face went pale. "Is she all right? What happened to her?"

"Wade, she's..." Amanda trailed off. "I can't say it. I just can't!"

Wade took her by the shoulders. "Amanda, tell me what's wrong!"

Amanda smiled. "Your hands feel good on my skin."

"Amanda!"

"I saw Maggie and she was... She was with a man," Amanda sobbed. "I'm sorry, but I think that they were more than just friends." She brought her voice down to a whisper. "I think they're breeders."

"Oh," Wade said, trying to keep the corners of her mouth from twitching. "Well, that's a lot to deal with right now. Uh, I think I should really be left alone right now if you don't mind."

"I don't think you should be left alone, Wade," Amanda said softly, taking her hand. "You might do something rash and hurt yourself. You want to talk about it?"

Wade was silent for a moment.

"Come on, talk," Amanda encouraged her. "It will make you feel better." She sat down on the bed and patted the area next to her. "Sit."

Wade, against her better judgment, sat down next to her.

"Have you suspected that she likes men?" Amanda asked her.

"Oh," Wade replied. "For some time now."

"So why do you stay with her?"

"Well, it's difficult to explain," Wade said, hoping that Amanda would just leave it at that.

No such luck. "Try," she said, squeezing Wade's hand.

"Amanda," Wade said, trying to make something up, "have you ever fallen in love with someone who... I don't know... considers you more of a friend than a romantic interest?"

"I guess I have."

"And then, even though you know it's unrequited, you just keep fixated on this person, hoping that they'll return it anyway," Wade explained. "That's how it was between us. I loved and loved and loved, even though I wasn't getting the same kind of love back. I mean, sure... there was love between us, don't get me wrong, but it was more of a family-type of love than anything else." A tear began to fall down her cheek. "And now it's over and I can't say how I really felt... I just stood by like a schoolgirl waiting for a change and it never came and now... it's gone forever. I'd do anything for just one more moment with him."

"Him?"

"What?" Wade said, wiping a tear from her eye. "I mean 'her.' Sorry, I'm upset."

"Poor sweet Wade," Amanda said, touching the side of her face. "You shouldn't have to be put through what you're going through."

Wade politely moved her hand away and stood up. "No person on Earth should be going through what I'm going through."

Amanda stood by her and took her hand again. "It doesn't have to be that way."

And with that, she kissed Wade on the neck.

Wade yelped and squirmed away.

"I'm sorry, was it too soon?" Amanda asked.

"I don't even know you!" Wade exclaimed. "We don't even know each other!"

"What better way do you know to get to know someone?" Amanda said, walking up to her again.

Wade flipped over the bed and landed on the other side. It was nice to have some kind of barrier between her and Amanda. "I'm straight!" Wade cried.

"Oh, please," Amanda said, rolling her eyes. "My gaydar is working just fine, thank you."

"Amanda," Wade said, searching for an excuse, "I'm... seeing someone else."

That stopped her. Amanda sat down on the bed. "I see. What's she like?"

"Mean," Wade said.

"Mean?"

"Jealous, I mean," Wade corrected herself. "She's insanely jealous. I'm leaving Maggie for her as a matter of fact, and I just don't want to hurt you... or get you hurt by her if you know what I mean. She's a total he-bitch."

"I can handle myself," Amanda said. "I will fight for you, Wade!"

"Oh, Jesus," Wade huffed. "I gotta go."

Wade went out the door. Amanda followed. "Wade, wait up!"

-----

Rembrandt, Arturo, and Logan fell onto the ground. Rembrandt's sword scraped against the pavement as a car swerved to avoid hitting them. Logan, in an elaborate pink dress, rolled out of the way and onto the shoulder as another honking car drove by. Arturo, thankfully no longer dressed in his wizardly robes, helped pull the struggling Rembrandt to safety.

"Our luck we slide right into rush-hour traffic!" Rembrandt complained, trying to get to his feet. He ditched the sword as yet another car sped toward them, this one running over the sword and blowing out a tire. It veered off the road. Remmy cringed. "Oops."

Before they could offer assistance, the driver stuck his hand out the window, flipping them off. Logan returned the gesture before discovering the broken nail that ruined her manicure. She took a moment to pout before deciding that pretending to be a lady was starting to go to her head. She'd spent way too much time in dresses during the past several slides.

Fearing being the target of a case of road rage, Arturo figured it best to not attempt lending aid with replacing the damaged tire. A hasty retreat seemed appropriate. He helped Rembrandt dust himself off as they quickly got out of the middle of the road.

Eventually, Logan checked the timer's coordinates. "This is the world where we left Maggie and Wade," she announced.

"How long are we here?" Arturo asked.

"Not long," Logan replied while trying to gather up enough of her skirt to walk without tripping. "Five hours and change."

"Then let us begin our search," the professor suggested. "I believe the Dominion is a couple of blocks that way."

Logan scowled. "Maggie and Wade later. Right now, pants." She turned in the direction she thought most likely to yield a clothing store. Rembrandt made a grab for her wrist and dragged her along toward the hotel. She grumbled something under her breath about only wanting five minutes to shoplift a pair of jeans.

Ignoring her plight, Arturo continued, "If fate is kind, Wade and the good captain have stayed out of trouble."

"You deal with fate, I'll deal with reality," Logan sighed. "At this very moment, they're probably being whipped, maimed, or tortured. And a rescue would go much more smoothly with practical attire."

Rembrandt shook his head. "There's no telling what those poor girls have been through while we've been gone."

-----

Maggie and Hal lay in bed together in a Motel 12, covered by blankets as some Elton John song played in the background. For some reason, Elton John's songs still professed his love for women... but then again, it WAS a parallel world.

Maggie's finger tousled the fine hairs on Hal's chest. "How can the world be the way it is when this just feels so right?"

"Different strokes for different folks, I guess," Hal shrugged.

Maggie nodded - the irony of his statement when compared to what she had said earlier to Wade hadn't escaped her.

"Maggie, I was wondering," Hal said. "I ship out tomorrow. Patrol on the Chilean coast. I'll be back in December, though. Maybe we can get together and spend Christmas together."

She frowned. "I don't know, Hal... I'll probably be traveling by then."

Hal rolled her over and lay on top of her, tickling her. "Come on, Mags, miss your plane. I'm worth it," he pleaded with a large grin.

"Tempting," Maggie laughed, "but if you don't stop tickling me, I'm going to have to break your thumbs."

Hal stopped. "You're joking."

"Find out," she playfully warned.

"Tempting," Hal said. He kissed her passionately. "What's so important that you can't come see me? What kind of business is it that you have?"

"Complicated," Maggie said, touching the outline of his chin.

"If the Navy has taught me anything, it's that any situation can be summed up in one sentence," Hal said, kissing her fingers. "World War II, for example... Hitler was a very bad man with some very bad friends. The Gulf War... Saddam was a very bad man who invaded a little defenseless country. The Chilean War... they had weapons of mass destruction," he paused for a moment, "even though we've never found any, but we do have an election year coming up... far be it for me to question our pretender in... I mean, commander in chief."

"Look out, sailor, that kind of free thinking could wind you up in the brig," Maggie cautioned him.

"I'm not afraid," Hal defiantly stated. "With you, I'm not scared of anything."

Maggie pushed him off of her and he landed with a thud on the floor. She climbed over him like a wild animal. "Oh, I think you've got plenty of things to worry about with me around, seaman."

"Please don't call me that, it's embarrassing."

"Now, how could it be embarrassing with those cute little white suits they make you wear?" Maggie teased.

"No wonder you don't care for the Navy. You hate our fashion sense!"

"Oh no, I've been exposed!"

"Now, as for why you won't meet me over Christmas?" he asked.

Maggie inwardly cursed. She'd hoped to change the subject. "I can't tell you. At least, if I did, you wouldn't believe me."

"Try me," he said, running his hands up and down her naked legs.

"You promise you won't freak?"

"No," he bluntly said, "but I am open minded. Face it, you can't get much more open minded than I am."

"All right," Maggie said, ready to begin what was undoubtedly going to be a doozy of an explanation. "What if you could travel to--"

A knock at the door interrupted them. "Oh, thank God," Maggie quietly said to herself.

"Ignore it," Hal said softly. "This time is for us."

They kissed again. There was another loud knocking at the door.

Maggie sighed. "I don't think they're going away," she said.

"I guess not," Hal admitted. "Let me up?"

Maggie obliged and allowed him to stand. As he walked over to put on some clothes, she shamelessly admired him. He really was almost worth sticking around for.

Hal put on his pants and walked shirtless to the door. Opening it a bit, he peered outside.

"Hal," Lance said menacingly, "I know that bitch is in there with you."

-----

Wade wasn't really walking, but she wasn't really sprinting either. She was just trying to stay ahead of Amanda.

"Wade, wait! You don't need Maggie or that other woman! All you need is me! Wade, I love you!" Amanda called out to her.

"You don't love me!" Wade cried back. "You're insane! You need therapy!"

Amanda caught up with her. "Therapy is so bogus! I had years of therapy and it never did me any good!"

"Obviously," Wade retorted. She picked up the pace, hoping to leave her stalker behind.

"Come on, Wade!" Amanda begged. "We can be a couple like Buffy and Angela... like Superman and Lou Lane... like Batman and Robin!"

"Jekyll and Hyde," Wade huffed.

"Jekyll and Hyde were the same person, silly!"

"Amanda, I don't love you, I don't want you, and I don't need you," Wade finally shouted. She was way past nice at this point. "I have no interest in a relationship, and I want you to stop following me!"

"You don't KNOW what you want!" Amanda protested.

It was then that Amanda was pushed down. She landed on her butt and looked up to see Logan St. Clair standing over her. Logan's brow creased and her lips drew back as she said some of the most terrifying words Wade had ever heard.

"Ho-bag, you best step off. Wade is MY bitch!"

Logan then did the most horrifying thing that Wade could have imagined. She grabbed Wade and kissed her full on the lips. She let go and Wade stumbled, a little bewildered.

"You mush be the he-bitch," Amanda said sadly.

Logan looked at Wade. "He-bitch?"

Wade shrugged.

"I'm not going to give up!" Amanda said. "I'm not going to-- ah!"

Logan lunged at her. Amanda got to her feet and ran away into the distance. Logan grinned as she smoothed out her dress. "I guess I was wrong. I *can* kick ass while wearing a corset."

"Never thought I'd be glad to see you," Wade said, wiping her mouth on her sleeve.

Rembrandt and Arturo sprinted up to them. "What the devil was that all about?" Arturo asked. He was answered only by a hug from Wade.

"I missed you guys!"

"We missed you too, girl," Rembrandt answered.

"What's with the pink?" Wade whispered, eyeing Logan's abundance of frills and lace.

Rembrandt rolled his eyes. "Girl, we just spent the better part of two weeks on medieval world."

"I almost married a knight," Logan beamed.

"Sure you did," Wade said condescendingly. "Actually, you guys won't believe this world. It's crazy insane!"

"We found out about that," Rembrandt said. "Or rather the professor did."

"How so?"

"Don't ask," the professor snapped.

"But--"

"DON'T!"

"Look, I hate to interrupt your happy time," Logan interrupted, "but we've got less than three hours to find Maggie and a Gap."

"Maybe she's back at the Dominion," Wade suggested.

"No," Logan answered, "we've already been there." She looked at Arturo and grinned. "Isn't that right, Huggy Bear?"

The professor scowled. "What part of 'I don't want to talk about it' do you not understand, woman?"

-----

Lance was inside the room before Hal had time to react. He was quite a bit larger, so Hal really didn't have that much of a chance to stop him. Hal was instantly on the ground as Lance entered and shut the door behind him.

"I knew it," Lance said angrily. "I knew you two were-- guh, I can't even say it."

"Banging?" Maggie suggested.

"YOU STAY OUT OF THIS, BITCH!" Lance screamed.

"Lance," Hal said, "think about what you're doing."

"I have thought about it," Lance said with a cold expression. "I've thought about it, and I'm going to have something to say about it."

And, with that, Lance pulled a small gun out of his coat pocket.

Maggie sized up the situation and figured that she was at an extreme disadvantage. In addition to being across the room where Lance would have easily seen her coming and have time to react, she was in a complete state of undress save for the sheet she had wrapped around herself.

Not good. Not good at all.

"Lance," Hal said, "don't do it!"

"Don't tell me what to do," Lance snapped. He readied the gun and...

...then a flame popped out of the gun barrel. Lance lit a cigarette with it and puffed away.

"You said you were going to quit smoking," Hal sighed.

Maggie sighed as well. Whoever thought up the idea of a cigarette lighter shaped like a gun should be shot.

Lance sat down on the bed. "Well, well, well... who are we to lecture about what we SHOULDN'T be doing?" He almost seemed like he was going to cry.

"I thought we'd agreed that it was over between us," Hal said, putting an arm on his shoulder.

Maggie felt like she'd been kicked in the stomach. "Over between you? You mean you two are..."

"Lovers," Hal said, nodding. "Yeah, we were lovers."

"And exactly when were you going to tell me that?" she demanded.

Hal looked confused. "I told you I'd just broken up."

"But not with him!"

Lance looked at Hal. "You left me for this? Now I know how Oz must have felt when he came back to Sunnydale and found out that Willow and Xander were together. Oz and Xander were such a cute couple."

"I don't believe this," Maggie said, sitting on the bed with the two men. "You were lovers with another man." And to top it off, the guy was a Buffy fan!

"It's the social norm, Maggie," Hal replied. "Don't tell me you've never done another woman."

There was a pause. "Don't change the subject," Maggie said cryptically.

"Lance," Hal said, turning his attention back to his friend. "You know how important you were to me, but it was never right, was it?"

"No," Lance begrudgingly answered.

"And we agreed to just be friends, right?"

"Right," Lance said. "Jeez, man... I'm sorry. I just saw you with her and I... I just guess I went nuts. I mean, I always suspected that you were a breeder."

"How's that?"

"You were singularly the worst lover I ever had," Lance laughed.

Hal laughed as well. "Was I that bad?"

Maggie didn't care about modesty anymore. She threw on her clothes and headed for the door. Hal caught up to her.

"Hey," he said, "where are you going?"

"I'm leaving," Maggie answered. "This shouldn't bother me, but it does. I'm sorry. Hal, it's been fun and... well, good-bye."

Hal took Maggie by the hand. "Maggie," he said softly. "You were my first."

Maggie smiled. "Well, I guess there's a bit of comfort in the fact that I turned one of you guys." She gave him a last look and then left him and Lance alone.

Hal turned to Lance. "You're not going to say anything, are you?"

"Don't ask, don't tell, brother," Lance said with his hands in the air. "But, damn, Hal... what's one of them got that I don't?"

"I could name a few things," Hal admitted. "But you are cool with this?"

"No, but I'll deal with it," Lance sighed. "Besides, when you're back on the ship, we've got a whole six months to set you back right."

Hal rolled his eyes and gave Lance a kiss on the cheek. "Once you go straight, the rest just don't rate."

"Hal," Lance said, "that is so gay."

-----

"Sixteen minutes," Logan announced. "Where is she?"

They stood outside the entrance to the Dominion, waiting for Maggie to show up. "Where do you think she is? She's getting some," Wade answered.

Arturo and Rembrandt looked at each other.

"I never suspected that Maggie would swing that way," Logan said. "Actually, I kind of did... but never this blatantly."

"It's not like that," Wade explained. "She's with a man."

"I see a world of homosexuals and Maggie sees a challenge," Arturo grumbled.

"Maybe we should check inside, just in case," Rembrandt suggested.

They walked inside, past the counter where Calhoun was going over receipts. "Huggy Bear! Why aren't you speaking to me!?" he cried out at Arturo.

"He's got jungle fever," Logan yelled at him.

Arturo and Rembrandt just walked that much more quickly up the stairs.

In the room, there was still no sign of Maggie. Logan looked at the timer. "We're down to eight minutes. What do we do if she doesn't show up?"

"We have no choice but to leave her and come back," Arturo said. "Perhaps Rembrandt can stay here this time and..."

The door opened and Maggie walked in with her head low.

"'Sup, baby?" Rembrandt said.

"Guys!"

Maggie hadn't even known that they were back. She looked up and her face brightened. She ran over to Rembrandt and hugged him and then did the same to the professor. In the heat of the moment, she almost hugged Logan, but instead settled for a quick handshake.

"Not a moment too soon," Arturo sighed. "We were getting worried. New rule, children, no more separating no matter what the consequences."

"Agreed," Maggie laughed as she hugged the professor again. "Agreed."

"We've got eight minutes," Wade said. "Is there anyone you want to, you know, say good-bye to?"

Maggie shook her head. "Nah," she said with a slight grin. "I've already said my good-byes."

"I'm sorry," Wade said.

"Thanks," Maggie replied. "There were just some things I couldn't deal with. It's a..."

"Yeah, don't tell me," Wade said, "long story."

"Oh, before we forget... Speaking of long stories," Rembrandt said, "happy birthday. From me and the professor."

Remmy handed Maggie a small bag tied with a ribbon. "Thank you, Rembrandt," she said, smiling. Then she glanced at Logan who was fidgeting uncomfortably.

When Maggie turned her attention back to the gift, Logan elbowed Arturo in the ribs. "Thanks for letting me know it's her birthday, Max," she muttered sarcastically. "If that gift was part of my dowry, it might have been nice if you'd included my name on the card!"

"We were never offered a dowry for you," he told her.

Logan suddenly fumed, spinning on her heel and stomping off into the bathroom. "Sir Wesley's a cheap bastard!" she yelled, slamming the door behind her.

Wade looked a bit concerned. "Is she okay?"

Rembrandt silenced her with a wave of his hand. "Just a little heartbroken, she'll be fine."

When Maggie started to open her mouth, Arturo began, "Another in a long line of long stories. But for now, I suggest we retrieve Miss St. Clair as it's time for us to be departing."

Deciding to get the full story later, Maggie walked over and lightly knocked on the bathroom door before pushing it open. Logan had her hands filled with tissues and her face was a bit splotchy. "Are you crying?"

"No!" she spat back, angry at being disturbed. Then she noticed all the Kleenex she'd been using to wipe her eyes and quickly shoved it into her bra before glaring at Maggie, daring her to press the subject.

"Umm, okay..." she replied. "The others are all ready to go."

She backed out of the room and Logan dumped the soggy tissues into the wastebasket before following her to the main room.

Right then, there was a knock at the door. Maggie peered through the peephole. "Wade," she said, "it's for you."

"Don't tell me," Wade moaned.

Maggie opened the door and there stood Amanda with a dozen roses, a box of candy, a card, and a diamond ring. "Wade, please talk to me!"

Wade huffed and looked at Logan. Logan mouthed the words "twenty seconds" to her.

"Amanda," Wade began, "try to understand... love is a connection between two people and not an infatuation directed at one person to another. I don't love you and you don't love me... you're just infatuated."

The timer beeped. Logan pointed it towards the bathroom area and opened the vortex. Toiletries, washcloths, and toilet paper flew everywhere as the vortex created a wind disturbance inside the room.

Amanda was speechless. Her straight, bland hair was being ravaged by the wind.

"And another thing," Wade said while the others leapt into the wormhole. "Get therapy! Bad!"

She leapt into the wormhole and, within a few seconds, it snapped shut, leaving Amanda alone in the room. She dropped the roses, the chocolates, the card, and the ring in awe at what she had just seen.

She had no idea how long she'd been standing there when Gomez Calhoun showed up to investigate a noise disturbance. "What in the hell happened in here!?"

Amanda looked at him, her lower lip quivering. "I... I think I need help," was all she could say for the next three weeks.

THE END


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