So, it occurred to me that the area between seasons 3 and 4 was left to too much guessing. With Quinn and Maggie travelling on their own, quite a bit could have happened – particularly without the other to watch their backs.
In the first episode of season 4, Maggie even gives us a hint as to how long "season 3.5" would have been; ten worlds, three and a half months. So that is how long, and how far, they will be going in this little story of mine.
Enjoy! And don't forget to review – it feeds the author!
- Alliey (Chicadoodle)
Episode 1, Chapter 1 – The Stars Themselves
Quinn Mallory stared at the city splayed out before him, eyes wide with shock. This wasn't his world – it didn't even pose a passing resemblance. Some worlds were so similar, and others barely even posed a passing resemblance – but this one …
Nothing was familiar here. Even from a distance he could generally recognize San Francisco – the buildings, the landmarks. Here, however … nothing caught his eye, everything was foreign.
And the flying cars weren't helping matters much.
"Well, shall we?" Maggie Beckett turned her head to meet his eyes, and Quinn offered a tight smile to his only remaining Sliding companion. As strange as it was, not hearing Rembrandt or Wade's lively chatter in the background, he was glad it was Maggie with him.
As they neared the city proper, Quinn was relieved to see it was alive with the sounds of activity – stores, businesses, people going about their daily lives. No fighting, no warfare, nobody speaking in a strange language. Americans.
Breathing a sigh of relief, the young man wove his way in and out of the crowd, not having to look behind him to know that Maggie was successfully keeping pace with him. She had gotten better, over the past couple of months, at the routine of Sliding.
First, shelter. Then, possibly food.
The Chandler was nowhere to be found, but a plethoria of temporary lodgings were open before them, and Quinn made a bee-line for what appeared to be one of the cheaper places – though when compared to the Chandler, it was still quite glamorous. But then, so was everything here. Glamorous, automated, and clean.
"Can I help you?" He wasn't sure why he was taken aback by the polite words, but for some reason he was surprised. Why? They had certainly met polite people before – but not for some time. They had been focused on Rickman for so long …
"Yes, I'd like a room – a suite, if you have one available." Quinn offered what he hoped was a polite smile, though he was sure it came out looking more like a grimace.
Quinn breathed a sigh of relief at the question; all they needed was to slide into the middle of a convention of some sort. "Quinn Mallory."
Fingers tapping on a keyboard just out of sight, the man gave a small smile. "Ah, yes. Mr. Mallory. I believe we can offer you a suite. Room 1204, just down the hall." Quinn watched with some confusion as a key was passed across the counter. "Is there anything else I can help you with?"
"Oh! No. Thank you." Quinn scooped the keys up hastily, turning to Maggie who stood a handful of feer behind him. She had watched the entire exchange, and now regarded him with one dark eyebrow raised.
As they made their way up to their room, Maggie regarded him in confusion. "That was … strange."
"Maybe they have some sort of debit system here." Quinn shrugged his shoulders, running a hand through his hair. "Every world's different, I guess."
Quinn Mallory laid back on the lush coverings of his current bed, staring at the ceiling gloomily. They were truly magnificent quarters – hard to believe it was a hotel room, really.
He had grown used to hotels over the years – more so than he had ever thought he would. All those dreams of travelling he had once held – they were destroyed by the harsh reality of just what that entailed.
Maggie had left some time ago to resupply; to take advantage of this world. It was a peaceful world, blessed with high technology. Would it be enough to fight off the Kromaggs? He wasn't sure. Nothing was sure – he had learned that lesson early on. His only consolation was that Rembrandt and Wade had made it home … even if he hadn't.
The timer was damaged – that much he could see at first glance. He should have been frantically trying to fix it, but somehow he just couldn't bring himself to do so. Couldn't seem to do anything except lie here, wallowing in his own self pity. Even being aware of what he was doing didn't seem to help, however – only made the sick feeling in his gut all the worse.
It was different for Maggie, he supposed; she had no home to go back to, didn't seem to mind the constant travelling. At times she seemed to revel in it, in the new and strange places they would visit. She saw her fair share of combat – perhaps that was what drew her to sliding.
He had seen it in her eyes enough times by now; the thrill of travelling. He had seen it in Wade's from time to time, back when they first started out. Back before the realization that they might never made it home had truly sunk in.
Sighing heavily, Quinn pushed himself up so that the bulk of his weight was supported by his arms, splayed out behind himself. It was an odd feeling, being alone; it had happened little enough since they had started. That had been the hardest part, especially for Wade – the lack of personal space, of time to ones' self. Maggie didn't seem to mind so much – perhaps from her time in the marines. Or maybe that was just the way she was. He couldn't be sure.
He didn't really know his travelling companion – not really. He trusted her, after all this time – trusted her like he trusted Rembrandt, though perhaps not as much as he trusted Wade. There was just something about choosing to be best friends with somebody that made him trust her more than those he had been thrown together with. Like Rembrandt and Maggie.
Easing himself off the bed with a small groan, Quinn had to admit that it might be prudent to take a nice, good soak in the bath. The suite they had taken came fully stocked, and thanks to their tendency to glean a small amount from the bank accounts of their doubles on as many worlds as possible, they had been able to afford the best of the best, even without the contribution of Wade and Remy.
His entire body ached, and Quinn was forced to support himself on the door frame as he pushed himself into the bathroom – a room a good size larger than his bedroom back on his own home Earth.
As Maggie eased herself back into their hotel room, she was relieved to hear the sounds of a bath running in the bathroom. Quinn had been complaining about his back for the last several worlds, and they needed this rest. In fact, a bath didn't sound like such a bad idea to her, either …
It was a relief to get this rest – to land on a world where they didn't have anything to worry about, to simply relax and take a breather. And with Rickman finally gone from their lives …
She had long ago come to terms with the fact that her world was gone – as much as any person could truly come to terms with something like that. It was a daunting prospect, this having no world to go back to. But perhaps she would find a place for herself on Quinn's home world – when they finally got the Timer fixed.
Coming here, not his home world – it had taken a lot out of Quinn, she knew. Maggie sighed as she eased the shopping bags down on the central dining table, though she couldn't really hold on to a bad mood in a place like this. Everything was so clean, so pristine, so beautiful; they had spared no expense on the furnishing in this room, though the price they had paid had been exorbitant enough.
Part of her wanted to stay – wanted to convince Quinn to stay. But he never would, not when they were this close to making it back to his home world. Not when he still didn't know the fate of their friends. He worried, even if he didn't want to admit it; worried they might not have made it home. Worried something might have gone wrong, like it had with them.
She wasn't so concerned. Their Timer had taken damage, whereas the one Rembrandt and Wade had used had not.
But Quinn wouldn't stay, and she wouldn't stay without him; wouldn't leave him to Slide without her. To slide alone …
She was worried about him, no way around it. Maggie sighed as she brushed a few wayward strands of hair out of her eyes. More and more she had seen the tension in Quinn; the anger directed at himself buried just below the surface. He blamed himself for so much – much of it out of his control. But it all boiled down to his invention – to sliding. And all the good he had done with that same invention didn't seem to matter.
She couldn't help but be grateful for that same invention – it had saved her people, after all, even if only a small portion. It had saved her.
Beginning to slowly unpack the groceries she had picked out, Maggie smiled at the mundane … normal-ness of the action. That was the gist of sliding – the incredible mixed with the mundane. Here she was, in a world technologically advanced beyond anything she had seen before, flying cars whizzing overhead … and she was putting the groceries away in a refrigerator that could have been from her own world, or Quinn's.
It was what made sliding bearable, perhaps, that the familiar was so accessible, in nearly every world they slid to. Even in places filled with war and death, they came across familiar sights more often than not. Even the clothing was soothing – the familiar fabrics, colors, even logos were often the same.
Finished with her task, Maggie listened to the sound of water splashing in the room beyond for a moment, before turning her attention to the large bed in the middle of the room. There was only one – the man at the desk had made an assumption, and it wasn't that surprising. A man and woman of similar age checking into a hotel together … it was only logical to assume they were together in that fashion, as well.
And it wasn't like they hadn't been forced to sleep in close quarters before, and in far worse conditions than these. Still, there was something different about sharing a bed like this.
Something different about being alone with him like this.
Glancing up in surprise at the sound of the bathroom door opening, Maggie stopped halfway to the bed, watching as Quinn stepped out in only a pair of jeans slung low across his hips, belt dangling from his fingers tips as he rubbed a towel through his brown hair with the other hand. His eyes were averted from his bunk mate, head bowed slightly, and Maggie took the opportunity to study her friend.
Some of the lines had eased from his body, from his face – some of the tension eased by the hot waters of the bath. And more than ever, she was struck by his rugged good looks. Normally they were hidden by the clothes he wore; the sort of clothing her husband had worn. They were both so similar; so strong, yet quiet by nature.
And such geeks. Nerds. It didn't matter what she chose to call it, the end result was the same. With more time spent deep in their books than interacting with the world at large, they had spent little time getting to know the world of fashion – even more so than most men. But those same clothes tended to put people at ease – as did his boyish face. There was an honesty to Quinn that was rare, no matter what world they slid onto.
But he was handsome; seeing him like this only reinforced that fact in her mind.
Averting her eyes before Quinn could notice her staring, Maggie turned around to grab at the brush she had found in the bathroom earlier, beginning to pull it through her hair. It was more of a nervous habit than anything else; she had already cleaned herself up before heading out into the city, after all.
"Hey, did you pick up something to eat?" Quinn glanced at the fridge as he spoke, already moving toward the appliance before Maggie had a chance to answer. "Yeah." She answered anyway, glancing briefly in his direction before returning to her task.
Quinn simply nodded, opening the refrigerator and beginning to poke and prod through the contents. One dark brown eye was raised at the sight of a jar of peanut butter inside, making a grab for it and a spare plastic spoon before turning toward the table.
The Timer sat there, looking so innocent. An irrational surge of anger went through him at the sight, as though everything – all his pain, all the hardships he had faced – could be placed upon that one piece of technology – one that he had created.
But no, even that wasn't entirely accurate, for it had been his double who had completed the equation for him; his double who had tried to warn him of the dangers of activating the timer before the time had run out. A warning he had chosen to ignore … though the alternative would have been rather … unpleasant.
Shaking that thought off, Quinn pushed the Timer away before digging into the jar of peanut butter, aware of Maggie's eyes on him the entire time. "How long do we have on this world?"
"Two weeks." Quinn spoke around a mouthful of peanut butter, letting the taste sink into his taste buds before removing the spoon from his mouth, holding it over the jar of peanut butter as he surveyed his only remaining traveling companion. "Our money probably won't last that long; we'll have to find some way to get some cash."
This wasn't the first time they had run into this problem, though it was for Maggie. Back when it had been the four of them – him, Wade, Remy and the Professor – the problem had come up more often than he liked to admit. They'd been forced to take jobs, shell out the money for the hotel room with their combined checks. It hadn't been so hard with the four of them contributing, but with him and Maggie, it would be slightly more difficult. But not impossible.
"I guess we could check out doubles' bank accounts, take what we can." Maggie surmised, head tilted to the side as she ran the brush through it.
"Not too much, though." Quinn cautioned. "We don't want to cause any trouble for our doubles." He worried, sometimes, when they would access the bank accounts of their doubles – worried what it would mean for those others. They must have noticed that their accounts were suddenly short fifty, a hundred dollars, sometimes even more.
Seeing that Maggie was still preoccupied with her hair, Quinn eased himself away from the table, jar of peanut butter still firmly in his grasp.
He had some thinking to do.
He needn't have worried – not about jobs, at any rate. This world seemed like a paradise, with a good economy and jobs to spare. Not to mention everything was so clean.
The jobs weren't the best in the world, but they afforded a certain amount of anonymity. People didn't question the workers who cleaned up the city; perhaps they had inquired as to why he would want a job such as that, but his quick reply of wanting something 'easy' had been enough to squelch their curiosity.
So he would clean the city; sweep streets and clean out gutters. It would be a simple enough job, with no need for higher brain functions or to understand their technology … and that was fine by him.
Pushing open the door to their hotel room, Quinn was careful to be quiet. Maggie had already been asleep when he had headed out, and he had no wish for a grump room mate. Maggie at her best could be a bit much to handle at times as it was.
Setting the key card to our room down on the dining table, Quinn eased his shoes off with a sigh. Paradise, indeed. They even went so far as to be healthy; he had seen only a handful of cars on the road, with the majority of the people choosing to walk, or to bike their way to their destination.
He had never particularly been against excersize; he had played football in high school, after all. But he had to admit, he far preferred a car. But still, at least he was in better shape than when they had first started this, four years ago – back then, his body had hit nearly every day, particularly after a Slide.
Easing himself down into a chair at the table, Quinn gave a small groan as his body protested sharply at the movement – at the pressure on certain parts of his body. He'd been gone – what? Three hours? Maybe four? At least Maggie wouldn't have to traipse all over the city looking for the employment office, as he had. That was little consolation to his aching body, however.
"You alright?" Maggie's sleep-tinged voice pulled Quinn out of his thoughts, and he turned his head to glance in her direction. She was sitting up from the bed, hair tousled, watching him with concerned, if somewhat sleepy eyes.
"Got a job." Quinn flashed the new workers id card in her vague direction, smiling through the jolt of pain the small action sent up his arm. He really needed to get that looked at …
"Oh, good." Maggie rose from the bed, running her fingers through her hair, once again tousled and in need of a good brushing. "Was it very hard to find one?"
Quinn shook his head. "No. They've got a couple more openings for this particular job – cleaning the streets and buildings." Maggie wrinkled her nose at the thought, but had to admit that it fit their needs well enough – temporary, with little questions asked or much needed in the way of skill.
"I know it's not what you're used to … but we can't afford to get noticed, Maggie." Quinn knew he was lecturing, but luckily the fiery ex-marine said nothing, simply nodded in agreement as she moved to the refrigerator.
Pulling out a small bottle of juice, she eyed the label for a moment before shrugging her shoulders, carrying it over to the table and sitting beside her companion. "You feelin' alright? Still sore from the fight with Rickman?"
Quinn gave a short laugh that contained no humor, shaking his head. "Sore is an understatement … and not all of it has to do with Rickman." Quinn gave her a look, one dark brown eyebrow raised, before shaking his head and rising from the table to make his way toward the single bed – in essence, switching places with her. "It's been a hard couple of months, Beckett."
Maggie watched him go, frowning.
To say the work was simple would have been an understatement. Simple and repetitive, it left plenty of time to think – and that was the last thing that Quinn needed.
He had Maggie had been assigned to separate portions of the city, though he was sure their jobs were nearly identical; operating magchines that did most of the actual work for them.
They worked at night, when the rest of the city slept. It was quiet, almost eerily so, and for once she wished something would happen – anything to distract him from his thoughts.
Things were quiet here – quiet in a way the four of them had been hoping for. This was the sort of world Wade would have been happy to land in. But they were home – the best world of all.
Was this his penance – to travel from world to world, never making it back? His punishment for making them suffer so much, and for so long. He had killed the Professor, as surely as if he had been holding the weapon himself. He could try to pretend otherwise, but the truth of the matter was, that without him the Professor would have been safe at home, most likely getting medical attention for his condition. Instead, he had died on a foreign world, far away from his family and loved ones.
Leaning back in his seat, Quinn watched the machinery work lazily, fingers hovering over the buttons that would change it's operations. His movements were almost mechanical after nearly a week of doing the same work, night after night, hour after hour.
They had decided to keep the room, sharing the overly large bed in a purely platonic way. Not that he was complaining … and where did that thought come from? Of course he didn't mind.
But then again, there had been that kiss …
A slight smile graced his lips at the thought of that kiss, back on the last world … back when he had thought he would be going home.
Quinn sighed, pushing the next button with a bit more force than was necessary. Luckily, the machine seemed built for rougher treatment than he had previously been giving it, and so he was able to sit back once again, sighing as he attempted to will his body to cooperate.
"Do you think they made it back safely?" Maggie spoke with her head against the pillow, watching as Quinn got ready for bed. He was fresh from the shower – the only time he ever seemed relaxed since they had Slid onto this world.
Running his fingers through his still wet hair, Quinn turned to face his bunk mate, frowning. "What?"
"Wade and Remy. Do you think they made it back alright?" Maggie repeated the question, tilting her head slightly against the pillows.
"I hope so." Quinn shrugged his shoulders, unsure how else to answer her question. Though their timer had been damaged, the one Wade and Rembrandt had used had not been; it had been in as good condition as he had ever seen it, and so he could only hope that the coordinates had taken – that they had returned to Earth Prime successfully.
Maggie nodded, head rubbing against the pillow, before turning on to her back, staring up at the ceiling as she listened to Quinn ease himself into the bed next to her. It was still odd, sleeping in a bed with him like this; how mundane and normal their lives had become. They worked the same hours, got ready for bed at the same time, ate together. After so long travelling she was used to the constant company of others … but she wasn't used to the regularity of this slide.
Work, dinner, sleeping together … it was almost like she was home. With Steven.
Quinn sighed, shifting in the bed next to her, and Maggie glanced over. He was staring up at the ceiling with a look that had become quite familiar this past week. He was lost, unsure of himself … had barely touched the Timer since tossing it almost carelessly on the table when they had first checked into this hotel room.
He worked, he ate and he slept. He did everything a man was supposed to do to keep himself alive, to keep himself healthy – yet he did it in almost mechanical way, as though not really aware of what he was doing.
She had seen it in Steven after his accident, up until he had made the decision that he wanted to end hislife – as cold as it had seemed to her, to him it had made the most logical sense. To ease his suffering, he had seen only one way out .. would Quinn choose that way out? It frightened her, more so now that she had gone through it once already with somebody she loved.
"What is it, Beckett?" Quinn turned his head to regard his bed mate. Over the past week the pain in his back had eased, though his arm still ached whenever he moved it the wrong way. It would heal on it's own, he was sure – they couldn't afford to bring attention to themselves, and a hospital visit would do just that.
Maggie rolled over onto her side, considering the man sleeping next to her. "I'm worried about you." She said it frankly, in a matter of fact way – she had never been one to beat around the bush, after all.
Quinn gave a short laugh at that, turning his eyes from where they had rested on her face to stare once again at the ceiling. "I'm fine."
"Really." The way she said it made it clear Maggie didn't believe him, and Quinn sighed. Maybe she had a reason to be worried – he knew he hadn't exactly been acting like himself lately. And he couldn't even blame it on this world – the place was a damned paradise, from everything he'd seen.
"Yes, really Beckett." He was being harsh, he knew, but he didn't want to have this conversation – especially not if it was leading where he thought it was.
"I'm tired, Maggie. We'll talk in the morning." Quinn turned over onto his side, back to his bed mate, and Maggie sighed heavily. Yes, this definitely reminded her of her final days with her husband.
Quinn was the first one up the next morning, and as he settled himself at the table with a sigh, his eyes were drawn to the Timer. At some point it had been moved to the book shelf pushed against one wall, and he stared at it now as though it was the reason for all his problems.
He had just wanted to get them home … and he had. Remy and Wade were safely home, back on Earth Prime … and he was here, stuck, sliding as he had been for the past four years. Only this time, he was with a woman he didn't really know, whose only reason for continuing to Slide was gone. So why was she with him?
She cared – he knew that. A part of him cared for her, as well. But he just wasn't sure if he could continue to do this – to slide randomly in the hopes that they could make it back to his Earth. And besides, what would he do when they finally got there? How would we save Maggie? Her lungs couldn't handle the oxygen on his home world – which meant that even if they made it back, disaster awaited them.
Disaster everywhere he turned.
A large part of him wanted to escape, to hide. To let the Timer count down, to stay here with Maggie – or even without her. But without Maggie, there was nobody for him anymore; nobody he knew, nobody who knew him.
There were no ATMs here, no way to withdraw cash. No matter where they went, their name seemed to be enough to get them what they wanted. So they bought in bulk – food they brought back to the hotel, and the money they made supposedly went into whatever account their doubles held. Hopefully they covered the majority of their expenses – enough that their doubles wouldn't notice the discrepancy.
Rising from the table, Quinn moved to hold the Timer in his hand. He should fix it; he knew he should. He should also be sleeping; they worked at night, when the rest of the city slept, after all. These morning hours were needed for sleep … but sleep was something that seemed elusive as of late.
At least fixing this damn thing would occupy his mind.