As the cobwebs cleared out of his head, he became aware of two things. He was slowly waking up, and the vortex sound wasn't slipping back into dreamland. He grabbed for his bedside clock--5:15 AM. Definitely not the time they'd determined to start the slide.
He jumped out of bed, still feeling like he was stuck in slow motion. He stumbled into the hall and noticed Wade's door was closed. For an instant, he thought that Wade was upset and decided to slide without him. He cracked open her door and saw her lying there, headphones covering her ears, oblivious to the sounds of the vortex. Schrodinger, Quinn's cat, was curled up at the edge of the bed. He'd been doing nothing but hiding under the beds since they'd arrived, but he'd taken a liking to Wade. She was the only one he'd allow to catch him and carry him downstairs to be fed.
As Quinn stood in the doorway, he glanced across the room toward a window that overlooked the back yard. He saw something that woke him up more effectively than if someone had poured a bucket of ice water on his head. He turned around swiftly and threw open the door to Maggie's room. It was empty.
"Noooo!" he gasped, hurdling toward the stairs. "Maggie, wait!!"
Quinn ran down the stairs two at a time. As he leaped over the last two steps, he tripped over a small rug that ran past the foot of the stairs, from the front door down the hallway into the living room.
"Ouch! Ahhhggrrr! Dammit!" Quinn said, clutching his knee, and cursing his old football injury. He'd had thousands of rough landings during sliding, and this would have to be the time it chooses to give out.
Quinn grabbed the banister and hauled himself to his feet. "Maggie! Wait!" he cried out as he ignored the pain and forced himself to sprint for the back door.
He reached the back door, tripping over Schrodinger's dish as he flung open the door. He'd been hoping he was mistaken about the flickering light he'd seen through Wade's window, but he wasn't. Maggie was standing in front of a swirling, bluish vortex. "Maggie! Maggie!" he screamed, trying to he heard over the roaring sounds of the vortex.
Maggie turned to look at him, a smug smirk on her face. "Sorry Quinn," she said to herself. "Like I said, I'm going to be the one who decided to leave--not you!" She knew Quinn couldn't hear her, but she didn't care. She turned and hurled herself into the vortex, disappearing instantly.
"NO! NO!" Quinn yelled again, running toward the vortex, but it was too late. It shrank and disappeared. She was gone. Quinn collapsed on the ground, breathing heavily. What was he going to do now?
"Quinn? Quinn! Are you all right?" Wade ran out into the yard, not caring that the grass was wet and freezing and she was in her bare feet. She knelt at his side, pushing his hair, which was damp with sweat, off of his forehead. "What are you doing out here screaming?"
"She's gone," Quinn gulped. "She left..vortex... slid ..I should've stopped.."
" Shhh. OK. Quinn, calm down. It's OK.." Wade said soothingly as she stroked his arm. "Calm down and tell me what you're talking about ."
What the devil's going on out here?" Rembrandt said, padding across the yard in his slippers.
"I don't know. When I woke up for the slide, I heard Quinn yelling and found him out here, all out of breath, " Wade explained.
Rembrandt helped Quinn to his feet, and looked at him worriedly. "Let's get him inside. Where's Maggie?" Rembrandt asked, looking toward the house.
"That's what I'm trying to tell you," Quinn yelled as he caught his breath. "She's gone. She slid already, and I couldn't stop her! I couldn't catch her..." Quinn limped off toward the house, leaving a puzzled Wade and Rembrandt to follow.
"What's he care if she slid? So she didn't wait on us--big deal." Rembrandt asked as he and Wade headed inside.
Wade felt heart sink. "He wanted to go with her, I guess." She shook her head. She'd been such a fool to think she still had a shot with Quinn. She was glad he'd missed Maggie's slide, but it still hurt her. Now she knew the truth, but it didn't make the hurt any less.
Rembrandt and Wade entered the house, and found Quinn pacing around the kitchen with a timer in hand, looking very agitated.
"Q-Ball--what is the matter? So Maggie slid early? Doesn't look like anyone saw it, if that's what you're worried about," Rembrandt said.
"No--it's not that," Quinn said, still pacing. "The vortex--Maggie slid through a blue vortex."
"So?" Wade asked.
"Our timer is the one that produces a blue vortex! I swapped the coordinates out of the timers and cleared out all the old ones. That way, if Maggie, for some reason, didn't end up home, we could at least track her and make sure she was OK!" He didn't add that he'd wanted to know what earth Maggie landed on, in case he felt that he'd made a mistake and wanted to find her again.
"And..?" Rembrandt asked, not at all liking the way things were starting to sound.
Quinn sighed. "Rickman's timer creates a red wormhole. That's how I knew Maggie had picked up the wrong timer. Now we're stuck with Rickman's timer and she has ours. I tried to stop her.." He looked helplessly at his friends.
"And you cleared out all the old coordinates?" Wade asked, her voice rising as she began to realize the gravity of the situation.
Quinn nodded sadly. "I'm sorry. I had no idea she'd take off early. I didn't see the need to tell her I'd switched the timers." He hadn't wanted her to be waiting around with false hope, in case he didn't decide to come back.
Rembrandt sighed. "I knew it was too good to be true! I can't believe this!" He headed downstairs to the rec room, slamming the door behind him and cursing everything under the sun.
Wade tried to concentrate on her breathing..in out, in out. It wasn't going to happen. They weren't going to go home. She looked up at Quinn, and saw the regret etched all over his face. She swallowed a huge lump in her throat. It wasn't his fault--not entirely anyway. She walked over to him. She put her arms around his waist and hugged him. He pulled her closer to him.
"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry." he said into her hair, over and over.
She pulled away from him, wiped a couple of tears from her eyes and sniffled. "Yeah, well, it's not your fault."
"It's not Maggie's either. I wrote her this... " Quinn started to explain, but Wade stopped him.
"Don't. It doesn't change the facts. We aren't going home. We can't stay here. We're back to random sliding. Explaining it isn't going to do anyone any good. We've just gotta go on."
She turned from him and headed toward the stairs. "I'm gonna get dressed, and we'll decide if we want to leave now or what," she said as she started up the stairs. She turned around suddenly.
"Yeah?" he asked, sounded more dejected than she could ever remember him sounding.
"If Maggie's on Earth Prime...how's she going to be able to breathe? I thought you said she couldn't...."
"No. She can't," Quinn answered hoarsely and walked out the back door, slamming it shut behind him.