Sliders is the property of St. Clare Entertainment, Universal, and a bunch of other corporate big wigs.  It was created by Tracy Torme and Robert K. Weiss, though I guess Marc Scott Zircee et. al. should get credit for Colin Mallory and Capt. Maggie Beckett.  No copyright infringement is intended.

There are a few things mentioned in passing that are copyrighted by the BBC.  Again, no copyright infringement intended.

For purposes of this story, they found Wade sometime between "The Dying Fields" and "Lipschitz Live", consequently, this is a different set of Sliders than those the TV show has been following from that episode on.  In other words, I started this story during the long break in the US between those episodes and didn't want to toss the whole thing out (you'll see).

No, I don't know how they found Wade and rescued her.  Use your imagination.  This is the story I want to tell (mostly 'cause Colin's been bugging me about it ever since I read Nick Leonoff's Separation Anxiety-- this doesn't follow on that story at all, it was just inspired by it-- well, loosely inspired).

If you're a Quinn/Wade fan, you might not like parts of this story.  Sorry, that's just not the way I see it anymore.  If you absolutely insist that Quinn and Wade MUST be together, I wouldn't recommend reading this story-- it'll just upset you.  Any comments on this will be met by "Read part 0-- I told you so."

And to reassure those of you that are scared, it isn't a Quinn-flavor-of-the-Slide-story.  Or even a Quinn story.  If you don't know why I felt the need to include that bit, then, well, you must be new around here.

Criticism and comments are welcome at tptigger@mail.com.  Keep in mind that simply "it sucks" will result in me rolling my eyes and hitting recycle.  "It sucks because...." will get thought over and possibly sent to my beta readers before I decide whether to take it to heart or not.

Thanks to Wendy Kelley for alpha reading this story before it was spell checked, yet alone finished (aren't you glad they *invented* spell check, though, Wendy:).   And Shaun Owen Hately for beta reading.  Any mistakes left are my own darn fault!
 
OK, I think I've rambled enough now.
 

Colin's Coffee Break


by Beth Epstein

They had lucked out, they were covered in mud and still managed to get their favorite suite at the Chandler Hotel.   It must have been fairly common on this world, because the Chandler's manager had draped the furniture in drop cloths and shown her new guests how to work the self-cleaning shower without so much as batting an eyelash.

"Your turn, Bro," Quinn, clad in a bathrobe and not much else, emerged from the bathroom toweling off his hair.  "Where are Wade and Remmy?"

Maggie, all ready clean, cocked her head in the direction of the bedroom.

"Any strange noises?" Quinn quipped, easing onto the couch next to Maggie.

Colin glared at his brother.  That was  pretty crude thing to say!  He thought Wade and Quinn were friends.  He didn't want to say anything though; maybe on the world his brother grew up on it wasn't all that rude.

In fact, from the way Maggie was giggling, maybe it wasn't rude at all.  Colin wrinkled his nose.  Granted, he hadn't known her that long, but Maggie didn't exactly seem like the giggling type.

 He grabbed the clean clothes the Chandler had thoughtfully provided (he wondered, absently, if he should check for acid rain gear in the closets) and headed into the bathroom.

The warm water felt good, sluicing the mud and sweat down his leg and then down the special "dirt sucker" drain.   His skin could breathe again.

Colin scrubbed vigorously, stepped out of the shower, and toweled off.  He pulled on the clothes-- Quinn and Remmy might go gallivanting around in their bathrobes around single women, but that didn't mean he had to!

He often wondered why they didn't carry things like a change of clothes and other necessities, like a first aid kit with them-- after all, what if someone got hurt on an uninhabited world with no medical supplies?  Oh, well, he was sure there was a good reason not to.

He set the bathroom on "auto-sterilize" and then emerged to discover Maggie and his brother kissing rather intently on the couch.

Colin was flooded with the need to be somewhere else, anywhere else.  In fact, if this were a crossover story, he'd probably be soaking wet by now.  Fortunately for the 98% of you who are confused, this isn't a crossover.  The problem was where to go.  They'd slid into a nice park, and Colin was relatively sure that he could retrace his steps there, but it was hard to tell how the police on this world might react to him spending a large amount of time there.  Generally, Quinn assured him, parks were fine, but they had been harassed in a couple on one world, so Colin didn't want to take any chances.

He'd noticed a lot of coffee shops and cafes along the way to the hotel from the park where the worm hole had unceremoniously deposited him and his friends.  In most worlds, he had learned, these were places where one could sit and read, drink, work, or otherwise loiter for large amounts of time with little or no complaints.  Especially if one purchased at least a little of the fare served by the establishment.

And there was the book Quinn had picked up for him used two worlds ago, insisting that Colin *had* to read it.  Why did he need to read a guidebook for the galaxy, anyway?  It seemed to him that a guidebook for the multiverse might be more useful.  And why on Earth did Quinn choose one for hitchhikers?

Colin spied the money Rembrandt had obtained from an ATM on the way to the hotel-- much to Wade's dismay.  Why was she so worried that Rembrandt might be entering a lottery?  As far as he could tell, this was not such a bad thing, even if it was a form of gambling.  Anyway, the money was there and surely no one would mind if grabbed some for a cup of coffee.  Especially if it got him out of the room for awhile.  He hastily pocketed a ten (just in case this was "inflation world" -- one of Quinn's numerous cautions was to be careful of this-- whatever "inflation" was), grabbed a room key and the book, pulled on one of the leather jackets that was hanging in the closet (he was relieved to see that there wasn't actually any acid rain gear), and left the room.

Colin rounded the corner to the block where they had seen all the coffee shops.  Wade and Quinn had made more than a few wise cracks about StarBuffs, so that was probably a bad idea, but other than that, he really had no idea which one to visit.

"Colin!" A familiar voice sounded from down the street to his left.

Colin turned just in time to face a hug from Susannah.

One of Susannah's doubles, Colin hastily corrected himself.  His Susannah would certainly not leave the house in a skirt that stopped four inches above her knees-- at least, not unless she could avoid her mother.

"When I didn't see you after your brother's crazy ranting about parallel worlds, I was afraid you tried to slide with him and were killed!"

Colin sighed.  He wanted to just hold her, but it wouldn't be fair to either of them.  Besides, after his last encounter with a Susannah double, discretion was definitely the better part of valor.

He gently pulled away, trying to disentangle himself from her embrace.  "Susannah, I'm not who you think I am.  And..."

"Then how do you know my name?" she interrupted.

Definitely *not* his Susannah.

"You forgot to take your name tag off, " he replied, indicating a name tag on her collar labeled Bradley & Noble.  What luck!  He hadn't meant to slip up like that.
 

"OK, lucky for you.  Why do you look just like my friend Colin Mallory then?"

"How am I supposed to know?  I have no idea who your friend is.  I'm just passing through."  Colin looked at the pavement more than he did Susannah.

"You lie like him, too.  Where did you say you were from?"

"I didn't."  Colin was proud of himself for catching that trap.  "But I'm from Canada, since you appear to be asking."

"Where in Canada?"

"Um," here Colin was stumped.  He wasn't entirely sure of the names of any cities in Canada.  He recalled something from a newspaper in a show he knew was shot in Canada.  "Seacouver?"

"That would be Washington State, if it existed.  In this world, at least."

In this world?  Susannah had mentioned something about this world's Quinn spouting off about parallel worlds.  Could the local Quinn and Colin be sliders?  Still, better to-- what was that phrase Remmy used-- play his cards close to his chest; at least until he knew for sure.

"Oh, really?"

"There aren't any sword wielding wackos who think there can be only one on your world, are there?"

So maybe she was testing the waters too.

"No, in yours?" he joked.

"Only on TV; same in your world?"

It might be worth a risk.  A small one.  "There's no TV on my world."

"No idiot-forming box, huh?  In a world of my own," Susannah sang, turning around for emphasis.

Colin's nose wrinkled of its own accord.  Could she still think he was his double and playing some bizarre game with her?  From what Remmy told him, other worlds seemed to have very different ideas of courtship than his own.

Susannah must have picked up on his disappointment.  "That clinches it!  You must be a slider."

"Oh really?"

"My Colin would've gone through at least five bars of that Alice in Wonderland song before letting it drop.  Well, that and the look on your face."

Colin wasn't sure what to say to that.

"This probably means that stupid idiot is traipsing from world to world with his brother.  The silly boy will probably get himself killed."

She was trying to hide it by keeping her voice light, but tears were welling in Susannah's eyes.

"If your Quinn is anything like mine, that's not likely," Colin tried to gently tease her out of it.

Besides, it was true; Quinn treated him like he was seven sometimes.

Susannah smiled a little.

"That's better.  Can I buy you a cup of coffee?"  Right now, Colin wanted company.  Even company that seemed very familiar, but he didn't really know at all.

"Sure.  Java Applet or TARDIS Teas?"

"Um, you choose."

"Don't tell me you don't have those where you come from!" Susannah took his arm and lead him in the direction of TARDIS Teas.

"We didn't have much of anything where I come from.  My friend Rembrandt calls it 'Amish World' if that helps any."

"The whole horse and buggy bit?  Anti-technology?"

"Not so much anti-technology, just no technology.  I was experimenting with electricity, but no one seemed to understand the good it could do."

"Not exactly tolerant, huh?"

"Your double's mother called me a devil and a necromancer on a regular basis."

"Necromancer?"

"Sorcerer, in league with the devil," Colin explained, opening the door to the cafe.

"You?"  Susannah giggled.  "Mom keeps going on and on about why can't I date a nice boy like you instead of the quote/unquote 'trash' I usually go out with."

Something about that made Colin want to squirm, but he had slightly more tangible concerns.  He glanced at the menu and was relieved to discover that the ten he'd pocketed would be more than enough for all five of the Sliders and Susannah to boot.

Silly Quinn.

"One Logopolis Lemon and one Dalek's Delight please," Susannah ordered.

Colin was relieved at not having to try and decide.

"So how did my... what was the word you used... double treat you?" she asked as the man working the counter went to fix their drinks.

"She was one of the few people who actually understood me."

The clerk came back with their drinks and made change from Colin's ten.

"What was your relationship like-- if I'm not prying," Susannah asked as they sat down at a table in the corner.

She started to take a sip of her Dalek's Delight.

"I asked her to marry me," Colin replied, hoping that would just about sum it up.  Well, almost.  "Of course, her mother didn't approve, so that was the end of that."

Susannah was almost choking on her tea.  "You really are from a parallel world aren't you?"

Colin gave her an odd look.  Then cautiously sipped his drink.  He leaned back.  "Wow.  That's perfect."

"So what's wrong?"

"What makes you think something's wrong?"

"Don't try to play games with me, Colin Mallory.  You only like those things when you're upset."

"That's my double.  So what exactly is your relationship with him, anyway?"

"Trying to change the subject, are we?  Fear not, the hard questions shall return.

"We're friends-- very good friends, but just friends.  My mother, your brother, and most of our friends think we should be dating, but neither of us particularly wants to ruin our friendship.

"So what on Earth is bothering you?"

"Nothing," Colin stared into his tea.

"Look me in the eye and say that."

"Nothing's wrong," he replied, staring straight at Susannah's forehead.

"You're as bad a liar as your double.  Try again."

"It's sort of hard to explain."  Colin's cheeks grew hot.  This was not the sort of thing that one discussed with a lady on his world.

"Is it a girl?" Susannah pushed.  "I can't think of anything else that would make you blush like that."

"Um, not the way you think?  It's really nothing to do with me I just..." Colin started.  What was he doing blabber mouthing all this to a woman who was practically a total stranger?  Even if she looked just like the love of his life.

"Don't tell me your brother sleeps with everything with a pulse, too."

Colin's cheeks were burning now.  He was sure he was the color of a tomato by now.  "Not exactly. "

"Just a certain four or five?" Susannah pushed.

"Only one!"  He was nearly shouting.  How dare she insult Quinn like that!  OK, so maybe  this wasn't quite as unheard of on this world, or for that matter, his brother's foster world, but still.  Quinn may have been  a lot of things, but what she was suggesting wasn't one of them.

"And this bothers you because?"

"On my world, participating in those sorts of... activities could lead to serious consequences.   I was always taught that if you loved someone enough to be doing that, you waited until you weren't endangering her... "

"Wait a minute, what about the man?" Susannah asked indignantly.

"It was a really sexist society," Colin confessed.   "Anyway, that's what my friends are back in our hotel room doing.  I know, technically, Wade and Maggie aren't going to get in trouble or anything, but it still... still..."  Colin shuddered.

"Is that really the problem or is it just 'cause you're not getting any?" Susannah teased.

Colin glared at her.  It took every ounce of self control he had not to shout again, or storm off.

He gathered his thoughts.  "I try to fit in with them, really I do, but sometimes, when you get right down to it, I'm just a hick from some backwater.  I don't even understand my own brother, and... they underestimate me.  Sometimes a lot.  I don't know if I'd go as far as admitting to what you suggest, but I do feel isolated from them.  Especially since we rescued Wade.  She knows my own brother better than I do!

"Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like if we'd grown up together.  Wish we had; he's all I've got, and sometimes... I feel like we're strangers."

It was clear that Susannah's eyes were wide in surprise, though it was clearly all she could do to keep from grinning.

"What?"

"Do you know how often my Colin and I have had this conversation? Well, similar ones.  Your double worships the ground his brother walks on.  And Quinn, well, Quinn takes everything on himself, responsibility for everyone.  He's tried to replace your-- their-- father, and it's just, well, he's so busy trying to help Colin he doesn't take the time to understand him.  He can't seem to see his brother as an equal, but as someone to be protected.  If all of that is any help."

"Yeah, that's it.  Sometimes he's great, even proud of me.  And sometimes he treats me like a little kid.  It drives me crazy.  I feel... small and alone and..."

"Isolated?"

"Yeah, isolated."

"Have you talked to Quinn about this?"

"Well, no, I have no wish to cause problems..."

"You Colin Mallory's are all alike!  How can he know it's a problem if you don't say anything?"

"I don't wish to offend...."

"Then what are you going to do about it?"

"Well, um, uh..."

"Oh, honestly!  Colin, if you keep these things bottled up for too long, then you're likely to explo...."  Susannah stopped in mid-sentence, her gaze directed at the entrance of the tea shop.

Colin followed her gaze to discover his double and some version of Quinn, probably the ones native to that world, had just walked in.  Colin's double caught sight of Susannah and his face lit up.  She ran to him and was caught in a tight hug.

"Mmm, it's good to be home."  He gave her a  light peck on the cheek.  "We really need to talk, can we go...." The second Colin that Susannah had met that day trailed off as he caught sight of his double.  "Um, Quinn, are you sure those coordinates matched?"

"It's all right, I'm just passing through," Colin grinned.

Susannah had finally regained her senses.  She whapped her Colin on the arm.

"Hey!"

"Don't go scaring me like that!  I can't imagine what I'd do without you."

Her Colin smiled, and kissed her again, this time on the lips.  Susannah's mouth dropped open in shock.

"I ah, well-- like I said, we need to talk," the native Colin stammered.

"I'd better be going now," the visiting Colin started beating a hasty retreat.

"Colin!"  Susannah called.

Visiting Colin didn't respond.

"Hey, Amish boy!"

Colin turned.

"Amish boy?" the local Colin found this bit of information highly amusing.

"Talk to your Quinn," Susannah said sternly.  "Things will only get worse with him if you don't."

Her Colin pulled her over to a quiet table; it was getting late, the place wasn't very crowded.

The other Colin turned and walked out of TARDIS Teas.  Quinn followed.

"Hey, wait a minute."

Colin turned again, regarding his brother's double with a wrinkled nose.

"I probably shouldn't butt in like this but my Colin and I have been at odds for a long time.  Or more accurately, I drove him crazy without even realizing it.  I never meant to, and if I'd known sooner, I'd have backed off.  My point is, it almost drove us apart and all because I didn't know there was a problem.  *Talk* to him."

Colin sighed.  "I'll think about it."

Quinn sized up his brother's double.  "He's your brother, you can trust him.  No matter what."

"Thanks."  Colin had no idea why he needed to hear that so much.

His nerves frayed as he walked into the Chandler.  He'd met doubles of himself that were very different.  Just because this man was a double of his brother didn't mean he understood him.  Still, no matter what, some things were the same.  It couldn't hurt to try, could it?

Colin nearly chickened out and turned around as he turned the key to the suite.  It was quiet, so it was pretty certain that he wasn't interrupting anything.

He walked in the door and nearly jumped when he found Quinn sitting on the couch, absently channel surfing with the volume way down.  Quinn looked up at him.

Colin moved to speak, unsure what to say, but his brother interrupted him.

"Look, Colin, I'm sorry about earlier.  We shouldn't have... gone at it like that with you in the room," Quinn said.  "It was rude, especially...."

The look on Colin's face caused Quinn to trail off.

"Shouldn't you be with Maggie right now?" Colin nearly snapped.

"Whoa, calm down, bro, what's gotten into you?"

"What's gotten into me?  What's gotten into you?  You shouldn't go abandoning Maggie after you two have just... just...." Colin's rant lost steam before it even began.

Quinn came over, resting a hand on Colin's shoulder.

"You're not even engaged yet," Colin muttered, hoping he was speaking under his breath.

 "You're acting like I'm not in this for the long haul," Quinn frowned, his forehead crinkled.  "Believe me, I've thought about marrying Maggie, but we're sliding from world to world risking our lives at every corner.  Marriage doesn't exactly go with the lifestyle."

Colin's frustration snapped.  "You think I don't know that?  You think I don't know that I'm being completely unreasonable here?  I'm buying into the values of the world that persecuted me, Quinn!  I know I shouldn't feel this way, but I do, and I don't know what to do about it."

Quinn's mouth dropped open in amazement.  He wasn't entirely sure what to do.  He pulled his brother into a hug for a few moments-- until he found his voice.

"Colin, you come from a very different world than the rest of us.  You were raised there, it's only natural that you accept their beliefs."

"Their beliefs tell them that I'm in league with the devil!"  Colin flopped onto the couch, defeated.

"Would your parents think you were in league with the devil?  The ones who raised you, I mean."

"No."

"What would they think of all this?"

"That it was a bad idea, that...." Colin's voice trailed off.

"Whose beliefs are you buying into Colin?"

Colin smiled.  "Thanks."

"That's not all that's bothering you, is it?"

"I sort of feel like a fifth wheel."

"Because of Wade?  Now you don't have Remmy..."

"No Quinn," the younger Mallory brother interrupted, "before that even.  Sometimes I feel like a simpleton, an outsider.  A 'farm boy' next to you city folk.  Isolated... and there are times you treat me like a little kid."

"I know, I'm sorry, I don't mean to.  But you're all I've got, Colin, I don't want to lose you."

"I don't want to lose you either, Quinn."

"You gonna be OK with this?"

"Only if you promise to try to stop treating me like a little kid."

"All right I promise.  Are you *sure* you're OK?"

Colin debated glaring at his brother, but decided that asking if he was OK twice didn't exactly qualify as treating him like a little kid.  "I think so.  I wasn't exactly so by-the-book on my own world."

"Oh, really?" Quinn made an interesting shape with his eyebrows-- he sensed there was a story behind what Colin was saying and desperately wanted to hear it.  "Is the pot calling the kettle black?"

"No!  It wasn't like that.  Susannah and I were walking by the lake and we sort of snuck away from our chaperones-- it was her Grandmother and she was deep in discussion with the sheriff-- and well, we slipped off and stole a few kisses...."

Quinn was trying *very* hard not to laugh.

"OK, so maybe it wasn't such a big deal for you, but...."

"Was that your first kiss, bro?"

"Well, yeah."

"How old were you?"

"Twenty.  You?"

"Sixteen."

"Was it Wade?"

Quinn laughed.  "Not hardly.  Daelin Richards, an old friend of mine...."

Colin couldn't help thinking that the name sounded familiar, that maybe he'd known Daelin on his world.  Still it was more important to listen to Quinn and try to figure it out later.

After all, he had to listen to stories like this if he was going to catch up on the amount of dirt that Wade knew about Quinn.

THE END

Comments? Questions? Daelin's last name still wrong? Email me at tptigger@mail.com.

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