T4  8950

"Worst double," Wade smirked at Quinn.

"That's easy. Logan St. Clair." Quinn took a drink of his beer and turned to Remmy. "Most exciting world."

"The world where I was world famous," he twirled his mustache like a dime-novel villain. Facing the Professor, he asked, "Most interesting person."

"Molly Silver, the poor girl couldn't get us into more trouble if she knew we were sliders. Every single time." The three others held up their drinks of choice in a silent salute before Arturo could even finish.

"Man, you remember the world where Molly picked up the timer thinking it was her cell phone?" Wade started laughing at the memory.

"The look on her face when the vortex opened was pretty priceless," Quinn agreed, chuckling.

"What I want to know," Wade swiveled to Remmy, "is how you got her to help us get out of prison."

The Cryin' Man actually looked bashful. "Uhm. A gentleman doesn't go into that."

"Mr. Brown, she's half your age," Arturo's eyebrow went up.

"Way to go Remmy," Quinn smacked him on the back. "We've gotta go, guys."

"Wait a second." Wade chugged the rest of her drink. "Remmy, you didn't, did you?"

Remmy smiled as he walked towards the door.

"I'm going to miss cheap beer world," Quinn sighed as he activated the vortex. Blue flashes played across a large sign stating Bucket o' Beer, 50. Wade Welles, petite and pixie-ish, jumped through first, followed quickly by Professor Maximilian Arturo and Rembrandt Brown. Quinn Mallory took one last, longing look around before he too jumped. A small pop sounded and all returned to normal.

On another world, a pinpoint pricked the fabric of the universe; it quickly expanded into a large, man-sized circle. The energy was so fierce that color was distorted and small objects, even those several feet away, flew around in an angry little whirlwind. A young woman, looking quite annoyed, stood up and started gathering loose sheets of paper and napkins, shoving them into her bag. She was so intent on making sure nothing flew away that she didn't notice the vortex or the four people who tumbled out of it. Three men and one woman looked on as everything hit the ground. They didn't recognize the young woman, but they did chuckle overhearing her, "Damn. Damn. Damn. If I lost that new story..."

"Is this yours?" Quinn held out a piece of paper that had something to do with gnomes in hiding.

"Thanks," she snatched it out of his hand. He couldn't be sure, but she looked awfully familiar.

The Professor coughed. "Can I help you?" She finally stopped picking things up and looked the four of them over. She grinned at the Professor; lifted an eyebrow at Quinn as if he was lacking something; offered Wade a bag of chocolate covered pretzels; and smiled at Rembrandt.

"Excuse me, Miss, but could you direct us to a hotel?" The Professor was at his most charming.

First she laughed. In fact, she laughed so hard she hit the ground and tears leaked out of her eyes. Finally, she got herself under control. "You want a hotel two weeks before the Miss Cali Contest?"

"The what?" Quinn asked as he glanced at the timer. "Two weeks," he hissed at his friends.

"Yeah, two weeks before the big event. There's no way you are going to find a hotel. Let me think about this for a minute." Her eyes seemed to pierce through each slider in turn. Quinn shifted a little under her gaze as the thoughtful look she'd had for Rembrandt and Arturo turned into something a little more sinister. When she checked Wade out, her face finally broke into a slow smile. "Yeah, I think I can hook you up. Joe and Katie might be able to get you some rooms."

"Joe and Katie?" Professor Arturo continued to exude charm. "If you could help us to find any lodging we would be most appreciative."

"They run the Dream and Dine. It's been written up in Foods and Friends. You don't get much better than that."

"Well, then, lead on, young lady." Arturo offered his arm to the woman.

The other three looked around. "Look at all the food shops," Quinn nudged Remmy.

"Look at the people, man," Rembrandt whispered back. A quick scan of the area showed typical people doing typical things, with just one slight difference. Of the fifteen or so people in view, every one was overweight. That included their host.

"What is this? High cholesterol world?" Quinn hissed to Rembrandt as they walked along.

They both chuckled as a passing man handed Wade an éclair. She was still holding onto the bag of pretzels. "What the hell?" she muttered under her breath.

"That looks good enough to eat, girl." Remmy lightened her load and bit into the tasty treat.

"Oh my. Oh, look at that fine man," a woman behind them said. Rembrandt turned to thank her, only to do a double take when he realized she was checking out Arturo.

"Yuck," Quinn snarked.

"Hey kid," the woman called to him.

"Yeah," Quinn shot back.

"Why don't you go treat yourself to a meal?" She handed him a twenty as she waltzed past him and into a shop.

What if you found a portal to a parallel universe?
What if you could slide into a thousand different worlds?
Where it's the same year...and you're the same person...but everything else is different?
And what if you can't find your way home?

Sliders: T4
"Beauty World"

Written by ML Thouvenel

Act One

Several minutes later they came to a large Victorian style house. A small sign on the lawn identified it as The Simple Dream And Dine. It had a porch that wrapped around one side of it. A driveway went from the street, past the house, and around to the back. The group walked up a brick walkway and took in the grounds. Roses trailed up the supports for the roof, on the porch. Several large chairs with cushions were scattered along the roofed porch. There were also two chair swings resting in their frames.

"Molly brought them here. She had that look on her face." Katie Simple set the tables as her husband put together the buffet. There were advantages to being married to a chef.

"That one that bodes no good for all who cross her path?" Joe Simple smiled, dimples creasing his chubby cheeks. He was quite the catch. On his way to the kitchen he patted his wife's ample bottom.

"That poor girl. She was malnourished. I sent up a snack tray to their room," Katie smiled with understandable pride at the end result of her work. The dining room looked lovely. Four tables for four were set with bone china and Bridal Veil Crystal. Candles twinkled merrily from the middle of each table. "Now, that's a nice way to eat," she pronounced with satisfaction.

"You are a true artist, my love." Joe took a moment to kiss his wife. "Our guests should begin coming down soon."

The couple prepared for their guests. They had started the Dream and Dine out of desperation five years earlier and it had blossomed into one of the best of its kind. Katie was inclined to give Joe's amazing food the credit while Joe bowed before Katie's creative, loving touches that created a cozy, beautiful feel. The guests drifted downs in twos for the most part; the newest ones came as a group and claimed the window table. They sat and observed the routine for a few moments before Katie rolled up to their table, "If you'd like to go up to Joe, he'll set you up with the appetizers. You really should try them. It's seafood night." All of them stood, plates in hand.

As the meal progressed even Wade seemed to be enjoying her food. Periodically she would be sent some small item from another table. This seemed to amuse the three men she was with to no end. "This isn't funny," Katie heard her growl to her friends as she passed the table.

The desserts were the real specialty of the house and the reason that people came back time and again. Katie deposited four dishes on each table; the idea was to share. In front of Wade, she placed a skinned half of peach drizzled in caramel and chocolate with whipped cream in the center. In front of Quinn she set a healthy slice of hot apple pie with a generous scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream already melting. Rembrandt received a piece of seven layer Chocolate Heaven with drizzled strawberry sauce. Arturo was blessed with a thick slice of chocolate, lemon swirled cheesecake topped with fresh sliced strawberries and whipped cream. Katie fairly beamed in delight waiting for the four to try their desserts.

Wade sighed in ecstasy, "Oh my Lord," she breathed. The others were just as complimentary as they shared their portions. As was the custom, the patrons enjoyed a rich cup or three of coffee with their hosts after the food had been given its proper enjoyment. Katie and Joe always took this time to get to know their guests and their personalities. It was important to the Simples to do the best they could by their guests and that showed in the every little way. It didn't hurt that the guests usually left generous tips at the end of their stays. Katie carried her cup and saucer from group to group as did Joe.

"That was amazing," Wade offered to Katie.

"Why thank you dear. I'm Katie, if you don't remember. You looked a bit overwhelmed when you came in." Katie's usual sunny smile was in place.

"I was. I am. I'm Wade," Wade Welles held out her free hand and Katie took it in a firm grip. "Can I ask you something?"

"Of course," Katie sipped her coffee letting the slightly burnt, bitter taste mingle with the rich cream across her tongue.

"Why do people keep offering me food?" Wade's utter and total confusion was written in her face and her voice.

"Well, you are awfully small," Katie tried to put things as diplomatically as possible. "It's unusual for someone to be as underweight as you are and to be healthy. No one is trying to be mean. People are worried for you and it's how they know to show it politely. If you noticed, everything that was sent to you was of the best quality."

"Oh." The word drew out as Wade took a good look around her for the first time. While no one seemed massive, everyone was pleasantly plump. The men and the women all looked like the upper class of the middle ages. These were people who obviously enjoyed good food. Then Wade thought about the meal, nothing had been unhealthy. The portions hadn't been huge nor had they been too small. Everyone seemed healthy. No one wheezed. No one was imbibing in an after dinner smoke. "Wow. I enjoy food. I guess, I've just always enjoyed being small too," Wade said half to herself.

"There's nothing wrong with being small, but it is unusual. I imagine you have a hard time finding clothes," Katie led Wade to the porch. The two sat on comfortable chairs.

"Yeah," Wade agreed absently as she tried to take all this in.

"I hope no one has offended you. It's just that with the Miss Cali competition this week," Katie's voice drifted for a moment as she tried to find the right words, "well, people are more weight conscious. It's not like a scrawny girl would ever be in the competition." As soon as the words left her mouth, Katie started apologizing, "I didn't mean that in a bad way."

"I understand," Wade smiled. Imagine a world where size one was dangerously small. "Why wouldn't someone my size be allowed in the contest?"

"As much as they like to call it a scholarship program," Katie had set her cup and saucer on the arm of the chair so she could make quote marks with her hands to emphasize scholarship program. "Well, as much as they like to claim it's not about looks, it is. It's unfortunate really. I have a niece whose build is a lot like yours. That girl could eat Joe and I out of house and home, but it doesn't make a difference. I know she sometimes feels discriminated against. It's tough being small, but small people are starting to get more respect. Anyway," Katie continued, "the contest is more about looks and that means that while someone your size could enter the contest, it's pretty unlikely you'd get very far."

"Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions," Wade stood.

"Anything you need, sweety, just ask." Katie smiled one last time and drifted into the establishment leaving Wade alone with her thoughts.

Breakfast proved to be another culinary delight. Big, baked pancakes were served. Joe showed the foursome how they were properly eaten by first squeezing a lemon slice or two over the whole thing and then shaking powdered sugar over it. Each bite was heaven. A few hardy souls had theirs filled with baked apples stewed in their own juices, cinnamon, and sugar. There was also crisp bacon, thick sausage patties, and more of the thick, rich coffee. Everyone also had chilled water with a slice of lemon to cleanse the palate between taste treats.

Once everyone was finished and the cleaning staff had arrived, Molly Silver arrived and approached Katie, "Hey, hon."

Katie wiped her hands on her apron. "What can I do for you?"

"What do you think of Wade? The lone female in that group I brought you?" Molly studied Katie's reaction.

Katie's thoughts were running on several levels, but predominant was the realization that the snag in Molly's plan had an answer. "She's perfect."

"What do you think my chances are of getting her to agree?"

"You are going to have to take the three men into account. The four of them seem extremely close. Almost like a family," Katie noted.

"Katie, don't tell me you didn't see the kismet in this."

"I can get her down here if you want to talk to her," Katie offered, shaking her head.

Upstairs Wade answered the suite door. "Morning, Katie."

"Morning, Wade," Katie smiled. "A friend of mine, Molly, wants to know if she can talk to you about something."

"Molly? Molly Silver?" Wade's jaw lowered a little.

"Yes," Katie smiled, "the woman who brought you here."

Damn. Damn. Damn; Wade thought while outwardly she smiled, thanked Katie, and made her way downstairs.

"Hi, Wade." Molly held out a hand, "I'm not sure if you remember me..."

"I remember you, Molly," Wade shook her hand.

Molly raised an eyebrow at Wade's tone, but decided to soldier on. "I have a proposition for you and your friends."


"I'd like you to enter the Miss Cali contest."

"You aren't serious." Wade made it a statement.

"Actually I am. I'm something of a reformer," a little smile played at Molly's lips as she said that.

"Naturally," Wade muttered. "Why should I do this?"

"You'd become a role model for thin women everywhere. You could really make a difference, Wade. Think of it," Molly was getting into her pitch and stood up, "all those women who force themselves to eat, buy fat suits, or waste away because they can't fit in. You," she pointed to Wade, "could inspire them to take a stand."

"I'd never make it into the top ten."

"Actually, with my help you could get into the top three which is the key. The speech."

"I have my three friends," Wade tried to think of a way to say no without being rude.

"You mean your fine looking father, your chef, and your soon to be properly flamboyant coach?" Molly grinned. Something in Molly's grin made Wade want to hear more.

In the main room, Remmy and Quinn were surfing the small television while Arturo read the newspaper. None took any particular notice when Wade entered the room.

"Guys," Wade put on her sweetest face, "I wanted to talk to you about something. I'd like to enter the Miss Cali contest." As one, the three men faced Wade.

"Can I be a judge?" Quinn leered.

Wade closed her eyes.

"Miss Welles, why would you like to enter this contest?" Arturo didn't even look away from the newspaper.

"Have any of you noticed anything different about this world?" Wade took a seat.

"They have excellent food," Arturo offered.

"They have great bed and breakfasts," Remmy threw out.

"There aren't any hot chicks," Quinn mused.

Wade rolled her eyes at all three. "Have any of you looked into how this world diverges from our own?"

"Uhm, no," Quinn's reply was sheepish.

"Do you think maybe we should?" Wade's tone was a little snarky.

"I guess it's library time," Remmy turned off the television.

Lilah Epstein looked up from her desk momentarily. Great, what is she doing here? This is all Gomez needs. Ignoring her thoughts, she put on her sunniest smile. "Why, Molly, it's been a while."

Tart, Molly thought while giving Lilah a saccharine smile. "It sure has. Is Gomez around?" She pitched her question loudly enough for Gomez to hear her in the next room.

Bitch. Lilah's smile tightened as she realized she couldn't put Molly off this time.

"I'm in here," Gomez Calhoun's voice came out through the speakerphone on his assistant's desk.

"Thanks, hon," Molly grinned as she waltzed past Lilah.

"Hey, Gomez," Molly leaned across his desk to give him a quick peck on the cheek.

"You always bring trouble, so what is it now?" Gomez wasn't blunt with many people. Molly was among the select few.

"I need to get a contestant in," Molly put her feet up on the guest side of Gomez's desk.

"Nice sandals," Gomez noted absently. "Why would I want to put this girl in the contest?"

"She'll boost the ratings."


"People will see her in the prelims and call their friends. People will see her in the top ten and call their friends. By the time she makes it into the top three, people will be secretly pulling for her."

"You seem pretty sure about her."

"I may not officially be a part of the circuit, but we both know how many people still listen to me."

"Myself, among them," Gomez groused. "I'll let her in, but don't expect anything beyond that."

"Thanks, Gomez." Molly smiled.

"Here's the packet of materials," Gomez held onto it for a second, "I hope you know what you're doing."

"Don't I always?" This time Molly's smile was bittersweet.

Meanwhile, back at the Dream and Dine's library, Quinn flipped through Cosmo. "What's your body size?" he read aloud. "First things first, remember daily exercise is the perfect balance for whatever your diet is. This month's exercise of choice is bowling. Bowling can provide arm-strengthening exercises, build your abs through laughing at your mistakes, and balance your mind because of the time you will be able to spend with friends. Bowling is a sport that anyone can master no matter how large or small." He stopped and looked up. "What the hell?"

"This one is so much better." Wade held up a copy of Tempo marked "Food Fascination." "This planet's fascination with food can easily be traced back to the time of myth and legend, the great famine. Recent archeological discoveries, covered in this edition of Tempo, give proof to that a world-wide famine did indeed take place 1800 years ago. Archeologists have even pinpointed the events that caused the three-year famine. Will understanding these events change the way we look at food? Will they affect the way we view beauty? These are among the questions we seek to answer."

"Oh brother." Remmy rolled his eyes, then lifted his magazine and cleared his throat: "The Body Trap. Today's constant barrage of large, fleshy folks is destroying the self-confidence of all those who don't have enough bulk."

Quinn held up the cover for HealthWatch. "Remember Gomez Calhoun?"

"The momma's boy from the Dominion?" Remmy asked.

"He's huge on this world."

Rembrandt took a good look at the three-hundred-pound man gracing the cover. "Oh, he's huge all right."

Quinn opened to the page his thumb had been holding. "Gomez Calhoun recently agreed to talk about his health problems in hopes other people will get checked out sooner. As many of you may remember, last year Gomez suffered a near fatal heart attack while touring with Miss Cali. After his quadruple bypass surgery, he's taking it easy and taking a little exercise every day. He's looking good after losing fifty pounds in the last year, but he's not through with us yet."

For once, Molly arrived at an opportune time. "Excuse me," she rapped on the doorframe. "I have a packet for Wade." She lifted up a thick manila envelope.

"That's for me," Wade stood up and took the packet. "Thanks."

"Sure." Molly looked at the four of them. "Are you going to need any help filling it out?"

"Not yet," Wade winked at Molly while the guys were oblivious.

"Well, if you run into a snag, I'll be in with Katie and Joe." She gave them a half wave, winked back at Wade through the oblivious men, and departed.

"This should be good," Quinn rolled his eyes.

"Shut up," Wade pulled out the papers.

"What is this for, Wade?" Quinn asked.

"It's for the Miss Cali Pageant. I'm participating, remember?" Wade steeled herself for their reactions.

"I mean, why do you want to join the Fat Pageant?" Quinn was openly mocking.

"Gee, Mr. Totally Ego-Centric," Wade stood up. "As you may have noticed, this world bases beauty on size. Much like our own. Only on this world," her head was starting to move in rhythm to her words, "small people get the shaft. Women who are my size are constantly barraged with food and sympathy. It's time these people realized that healthy is healthy, no matter the size."

"Pretty interesting reaction considering this is the first world your size has been a detriment," Quinn drawled.

"Excuse me?" Wade was getting a little too close for Quinn's comfort. "People who are as small as I am get the shaft on our earth too. I realize you're too self-absorbed to notice it, but believe me sizism is there. It's not attractive in any group of people. There's no reason for it to continue here. These people have an amazing attitude towards size. I realize that you are blind when it comes to things that involve me, but this is important to me. Young women on this world need a reason not to gorge themselves just to fit in."

All three of the men were silently thoughtful. Rembrandt, unable to help himself, picked up a pamphlet. "This is as much of a scholarship program as Miss USA is on our world."

Looking a little disgusted, Quinn queried, "You mean, they think these chicks are hot?" He held up a glossy photo of the reigning Miss Cali -- all two hundred pounds of her.

"She's quite pretty," Arturo grinned.

"All right gentlemen, it's time to get busy." Wade had spread out the paperwork. "First of all, I need a staff." All three looked a little nervous as she continued, "It looks like I need a personal chef and a personal trainer. I only have one family ticket."

"Well, my dear, Wade, is there anything your father needs to sign?" Arturo was still smiling.

"Oh, no. I'm her brother. I'm family," Quinn stood up.

"But Quinn, you would make such a good personal trainer," Arturo's grin got bigger, "after all, you don't really look much like siblings."

"And you look like her dad?"

"Hey, why can't I be family?" Rembrandt asked. The other didn't even dignify his suggestion with a response.

"Can I at least be the chef?" Quinn sighed.

"No way," Remmy also chuckled at Quinn's discomfort. "I'm the cooking man."

"Personal trainer? Like, a fitness trainer," he pleaded toward Wade.

Laughing she managed to get out, "More like a coach. Don't worry, Molly already offered to help you."

"Wait," all three men said as one. "This is Molly's idea?" Quinn demanded.

"Yes, it's my idea," Molly peeked around the door. "It's a good one too."

"Oh, come on. If this is your idea, how can you think I'd be a good coach?"

"Quinn, you have that special spark that sets a coach apart from the rest of the world," Molly continued as Wade fought to stifle her giggles. "It takes someone special to wade through the complicated network of coaches."

In one of the strange changes of mood they'd been seeing for a couple of worlds, Quinn twirled, "Well then, kidth, letth have fun with thith." All of them broke into uncontrollable laughter.

Act Two

Maximilian Arturo was loving this world. Good food, fine wines, fine people. Between the obvious appreciation from the local women and escaping his friends for a short while, the Professor was having an extraordinary time. This was the life for a man of Arturo's tastes and it seemed that everyone knew it and enjoyed it. "Excuse me," a lovely young woman rested her hand briefly on his arm.

"Yes, my dear," his bass voice rumbled out.

"Could I buy you a drink?" She smiled fetchingly at him.

"I'd be delighted," Arturo escorted her to a table in the old world style bar.

Quinn Mallory looked into the mirror and grinned. Maybe it was long past time for him to go a little crazy. His longer dark brown locks had been dyed to a blue-black color; the spiked tips of his newer, shorter hair were silver. Experimentally he stuck out his tongue and examined the silver stud with a rounded silver ball on each end. He'd been gone all day shopping for Wade's outfits. The bags from his shopping trip with Molly lay scattered around her living room. He closed the bathroom door so he could look at the full-length mirror hanging on the back. He wore tight, black leather pants and a short sleeved, tight, purple t-shirt. Sauntering out of the bathroom he twirled for Molly. "Well, dear, what do you think?"

Molly shook her head. "I think your friends are going to kill me for letting you do this. But you look perfect."

"Thanks, gorgeous." Quinn's grin was infectious and despite herself, Molly joined him.

"What time are we meeting Wade at the auditorium?"

"We have it booked for four-thirty. It'll be ours for two solid hours."

"We can go over what's expected when we get there, but we still don't have any idea what her talent is going to be."

"Run the standards down for me again, please," he paced back and forth in his new Mr. Marten boots.

"Dance, cooking, dramatic readings, self-defense, stand up comedy, music, or fashion." Molly grabbed the Caesar salad she'd made up while Quinn was dressing and took a baguette out of the oven. "We should really have eaten before we meet them. You're going to need your strength when they see how far into your part you've gotten."

"Just remember, you showed me the bios of the other coaches," Quinn laughed as he made his way to the table.

"Right, but you're going to have to live with the hair and the tongue stud." She sat down.

"You have no idea what the last three years have been like, Molly."

"And I know you can't go into details," she responded.

"This is something I can do and even if I screw up it won't really matter. This is something I can have fun with. Something I can succeed at."

Arturo was now surrounded by three lovely women who seemed to find him as amusing as he found himself. They took turns buying him drinks and talking to him about everything. This was the life, "...then I told Hawking to have fun with the title and go with A Brief History Of Time." Others were starting to drift over to him and join in the conversation. So a number of people laughed on cue.

Rembrandt Brown felt the sweat form little rivers down his back. The only thing that saved the food from the sweat forming on his forehead was the doo rag he wore over his tight, dark curls. Every once in awhile he would wipe his face against his shoulder. "I think the onions are done," he looked over at his new mentor.

Joe looked up from the fish he had filleted. "Excellent. Pull them off and start sautéeing the mushrooms. They should go well with the fish and the sauce."

"Yes, sir," Remmy wouldn't admit it to anyone, but he was enjoying this. This was almost as fun as writing a hit single. Almost, but not quite. He concentrated on sprinkling the dill he'd chopped earlier into the saucepan while keeping the mushrooms from getting too soft. Cooking two dishes at once was starting to make him nervous.

"Don't forget to stir the cream while it thickens," Joe hollered over as he slid the salmon filets into one of the ovens.

"Yes, sir," Remmy grinned.

Joe stopped for a moment to wipe his face with the dishtowel that was hooked into his apron. "Sure gets hot in here," he poured them both a glass of ice water.

"Yeah, but I have a feeling I'd rather be doing this than meeting Quinn," Remmy took a quick swig of his water as he pulled the mushrooms off the stove.

"OH. MY. GOD." Wade's voice rang across the entire auditorium. "What did you do?" She stopped two feet from Quinn and just absorbed the changes.

"What? You don't like it?" Quinn spun on one foot for her.

"I don't know what I think." She looked him over again. "Why?"

"Wade," he flung one arm over her shoulders and moved her towards the bleachers lined up at the back of the stage, "in order for you to go as far as possible, you need to be believable. Your staff needs to be believable. Science genius Quinn Mallory isn't going to get you into the top ten." He rested a hand on each shoulder as he turned her to face him. "You really care about this, right?"

"Yes," she said resolutely.

"Then I want you to succeed. In order to do that, I had to change. I had to become someone who could help you succeed."

"So this," she took in his dramatic changes with a gesture, "is about me?

"It's been over six months, Wade," he looked more closely at her.

Wade closed her eyes, trying to will him away from this topic, from this conversation. "We have stuff to do," she tried to turn away and felt him grab her arm, "Please, Quinn, don't do this to me."

"We've kept it locked up for long enough."

She fought against the tears, "You broke my heart."

"You think I don't know that?" His voice grew harsh with emotion. "I've watched you draw away from me over the last six months."

Now she did turn around, "Exactly what did you expect?" she spat.

"I know we can't start over. I know I can't change the past," he looked at her, "but I've never told you how sorry I am that I hurt you. Think of this as my apology."

"You are so weird. Can't you just apologize like a normal person?"

"I guess not," he smiled shyly. "Am I forgiven?"

"Let me think about it for a year," she glanced at him, but before she could move away, he had enveloped her in a hug. They hadn't hugged in a very long time. "I've missed you Quinn."

"I've missed you too," he whispered into her hair. "Now, let's get to work."

Remmy put a dill sprig on yet another plate as Joe ladled sauce over the fish. "I never realized how much work this could be. I admire you."

"Thanks, man," Joe grinned. "You've done an amazing job of picking this up; have you ever cooked before?"

"I did a little cooking in high school while I was waiting for my big break in music." He paused. "It was nothing like this."

"Sous chef?" Joe finished the last of the dinner plates.

"You got it man. I never thought I'd be doing this."

"How did you end up as a contestant's chef then?" Joe tried not to pry.

"We stick together. This is something that is important to Wade, so I'm going to do what I can."

"Good for you," Joe approved as he wiped his hands off on his apron.

He had each arm flung around a different woman. They supported him as the threesome wandered down the darkening streets. All three were singing "There are men who'er barely twenty, and men who'er over ninety that have never yet kissed a girl..." at the top of their voices. Strangely most people they passed just smiled and hummed along.

"I can't do this," Wade snarled.

"Yes you can, Wade." They were now in a small practice room. Chubby Checker blared out of the CD player. "Try again Wade. You have to do well in the Twist Off.

"Who has a Twist Off in a beauty pageant?"

"These people do," Quinn leaned against the counter that ran across one wall. "If you really want to make a statement about sizism, you need to make it to the top three. Talent and the Twist Off are what divide the top ten from the top three."

"How do you know all of this?" Wade looked up from her position on the floor.

"What do you think I did today with Molly when we left the house?"

"Went shopping and got a make-over," Wade smiled tiredly.

"Yes, we did those things, but we also talked. She's probably the most interesting person I've ever talked to. I understand a lot more about her doubles now."

"How so?"

"She doesn't really live in the same world as everyone else. I don't think any of her doubles do either." Quinn paused to take a drink from the bottle of water he held. "She sees things as a matter of potentialities. It's similar to the way I was looking at things when I was discovering the techniques of sliding, but with her it's based on intuition rather that research and learning."

"Huh," Wade sipped at her own bottle of water.

"I also found out about the history of this pageant, the bios of the other coaches, and what it would take for you to get to the top three."

"All right, point taken," she grumbled, "but I don't want to practice twisting any more."

"Then let's talk about what your talent is going to be."

Wade took a deep breath, "I sing pretty well and I play the piano."

"What?" Quinn's lower jaw hung a good couple of inches from his upper jaw.

"You want a demonstration?" Finally she had surprised him.


Wade moved over to the electric piano that stood across from where Quinn leaned. She sat and ran through the scales.

Finally dinner was over. The dishwasher hummed quietly in the background as Joe, Katie, and Rembrandt ate their dinner. The eating was a quiet affair. Each enjoyed the meal -- salmon with a light coating of dill sauce, garlic mashed potatoes, sauteed onions and mushrooms, a light Chardonnay. The combination of flavors played along deliciously in their mouths. "That was wonderful, boys," Katie complimented the two men.

"Thank you," Remmy lifted his glass in a toast, "I had a great teacher."

"You are a quick learner," Joe smiled as he rose to take three desserts off the back counter. A piece of New York style cheesecake drizzled in chocolate sauce with several slices of strawberry resting along its top was placed in front of Katie. A piece of chocolate devil's food cake, with chocolate chips, and chocolate sour cream frosting was placed in front of Rembrandt. Finally, for himself, Joe had a slice of Snickers Pie topped with Cool Whip.

"Now this is awesome," Remmy sighed after biting into his cake.

"I wholeheartedly agree," Katie practically purred.

"I don't suppose you saved any for us?" Wade popped her head into the kitchen with Quinn in tow.

"Boy, what did you do to yourself?" Rembrandt forgot his cake as he took in Quinn's new look. "Even I wouldn't have the guts to wear leather pants."

"Thanks, I think," Quinn grabbed the seat next to Remmy. "Got anything for a starving man?"

"Let me check," Joe chuckled.

"Seriously, Q-ball, what possessed you?"

"Molly." Quinn's succinct answer had Remmy at a momentary loss.

"You listened to insane girl?"

"Yeah, but she didn't intend for me to be quite so drastic."

"Huh," Remmy took another bite of his cake.

Meanwhile, Katie had been quietly laughing to herself, "Let me guess, Molly told you about the other coaches?"

"Yeah," Quinn gave her a crooked smile.

"Did she tell you that until her retirement last year she was the premier pageant coach?" Katie poured coffee for everyone.

"No," he said quietly, "but that would explain a few things."

Joe pulled a home made vegetarian pizza out of the oven, "We had a feeling you'd come back hungry," he said as he sliced the pizza into sections. "I know from experience how hard it can be to set up for a pageant." He handed plates to Wade and Quinn.

"You were a personal chef?" Quinn asked around his pizza.

"Yeah," Joe went suddenly quiet.

"For his sister," Katie finished, going over to her husband. "She died last year in a car accident."

"I'm so sorry," Wade offered.

"It's all right," Joe waved off Remmy and Quinn's similar offers of support. "She had a good life."

Act Three

Maximilian Arturo awoke in a strange bed. That in itself wouldn't have been a new thing. It was the feeling of a body on each side of him that was the stunner. He'd never awaken to a body on each side of him before. Then he heard a giggle. "Morning, stud," the girl on his right murmured in a sultry voice.

"Erg, good morning," he offered lamely.

"You were amazing last night," the blond on his other side agreed.

"Absolutely divine," she shuddered in remembered delight.

Ye gods, Arturo thought, what have I done?

Quinn was up early. He sipped on juice and perused the magazines he'd been mocking only a day prior. "There has to be something," he muttered.

"What kind of something are you looking for, Q-ball?" Remmy asked as he jounced into the dining room with his own cup of coffee.

"Caught a break from the kitchen?" Quinn grinned.

"Yeah, breakfast is as ready as we can get it until the guests come down. So, what are you looking for?" Remmy sipped his coffee.

Before Quinn could answer, Wade waltzed in, dressed for a hard day of working out. "Morning, boys."

"Wade, why don't you share your talent with Remmy?" Quinn had a malicious sparkle in his eyes.

"Talent? What are you going to do, girl? Read a poem?" Remmy's smile was as friendly as always, but he did wonder what Quinn was setting up.

"I'm going to sing," Wade's voice was quiet.

"You can sing?" Remmy's voice shifted an octave.

"And play piano," Quinn shot in.

"If you can sing and play the piano, why haven't you said anything before this?" Remmy was just a little hurt.

"There wasn't any reason to," Wade was beginning to feel defensive.

"Oh, no," Remmy's voice was beginning to take on a sarcastic tinge, "why share your talent with the other singer? Wade, we've always been the normal ones -- no offense Quinn -- so, why hide your abilities?"

Wade took a deep breath, "You are the singer, Quinn is the genius, the Professor is the professor, and I'm not much of anything. I can't compare to any of you. I live in a world where magic is possible, words have power, and..." her voice faded as a single tear escaped her watering eyes.

Quinn and Remmy exchanged glances, "Wade," Quinn spoke up, "you give a lot to the group."

"That's right," Remmy joined in, "You keep us sane."

Before either man could continue to reassure Wade that she was an integral part of the quartet, a disheveled Arturo wandered through the front door. His eyes were a little glazed and he looked to be suffering from a slight hangover. "Ehn, hullo all," he said as he stumbled into a seat.

Distracted, Wade had to ask, "Tough night?"

"Don't ask," Arturo pleaded with one hand on his forehead.

"Oh, we've got to ask," Remmy chuckled. "If you tell us, we'll get you coffee."

Arturo rubbed his hands over his face.

"How about tea?" Quinn offered.

Arturo looked over at Quinn. "Ye gods," he moaned, this time aloud. "What did you do?"

Grinning, Quinn answered, "If you spill, so will I."

"Maybe later," Arturo cast a significant glance at Wade.

All three of them caught it. Hurt, Wade rose, "I see I'm needed anywhere else."

"Wait," Quinn grabbed her arm, "sit. Tell us all, Professor."

"I'd rather not," he stood and left the room.

"Was he blushing?" Quinn asked the other two.

"Yeah," Wade smiled weakly.

"I wonder what happened?" Remmy chuckled.

The night before the pageant, Molly took Quinn and Wade to her favorite hangout. The Blink Bar overlooked the ocean in San Francisco's bay. The lights on the bridge twinkled. The three had ordered beers and burgers. While they waited for the food to arrive, they sipped at their beers. Molly glanced around before working up the courage to start the conversation.

"I asked you guys out tonight as a thank you," Molly said a bit uncomfortably. "I know I pressured you into doing this, but I'm totally impressed by what you've been able to do in less than two weeks." She raised her beer in silent salute.

"Thanks Molly," Quinn replied. "I have to say, these past thirteen days have been a whirlwind."

"Agreed." Wade took a sip. "Why is this so important to you, though?"

"Honestly?" Molly asked. Off of Wade's nod, she said, "I hate Miss Cali and everything it stands for. I always have. For years I tried to change it from the inside -- that's really the only way I think it will change. I took great pride in approaching the least likely contestants and helping them kick butt."

"You approached them?" Quinn grinned, "How come? Katie said you were the premier coach; shouldn't they have approached you?"

"There's a reputation that comes with being picky. A bigger one comes with choosing targets that win when no one thinks they will." Molly seemed relieved that dinner had arrived.

As they ate, the conversation continued. "Then why'd you retire?" Wade nibbled a fry.

"In one fell swoop they managed to get rid of all the rule changes I'd almost gotten Gomez to agree to. I got a little depressed and quit. It was too devastating." Molly twirled a fry in ketchup. "I don't want to get into it. New topic?"

Three beers later, dinner had been cleared away and the conversation had ranged far and wide when Wade looked at Quinn, "I just don't get it."

"Get what?" he swallowed.

"What exactly are men looking for?" Wade demanded.

"Good question," Molly turned to Quinn too.

"Someone they can get," Quinn smiled shakily.

"Bullshit," Wade countered.

"It's all about looks," Molly offered her thesis on what men want.

"Not always. Sure looks are the initial attractant, but it's more than that," Quinn bought some time by ordering another round. "We want someone who is cute, but not too popular. Someone who is confident in who she is. Someone we connect with."

"And you found that with..."

Before Wade could finish, Quinn interrupted. "We find it wherever we find it. I don't know why some girls seem to get ignored so often." He tried to tread carefully for Wade's sake. "At the heart, I think it's a confidence issue."

"Excuse me for a minute," Wade stood and weaved her way to the bathroom.

Molly looked at Quinn over the rim of her pint. "That was almost sensitive. I'm impressed."

"Thanks," Quinn said, taking a look after his retreating friend. "You really think she can crack the top three?"

Molly shrugged and gave Quinn a smile. "I hope so. After all, my protegé's reputation is riding on it. Either way, we'll find out tomorrow."

"He was an absolute hottie," she gabbled on while primping in front of the mirror, "and when he picked me and Gina we were just in heaven. He went all night long with both of us." At this she shivered in remembered delight.

Wade simply rolled her eyes as she applied her lipstick. "That's great. Mahra, right?" She smiled at the blonde.

"Yeah, so, like, how come you're doing this? You aren't, uhm, exactly the usual type." Mahra tried to sound as diplomatic as possible while asking the question every girl in the line of mirrors was dying to ask.

"I like challenges," this time Wade's smile had a decidedly dangerous edge. "Where did you meet this hunk?"

"At a bar. I mean, I don't usually pick men up in bars, but how could I resist this total Adonis?" She continued to adjust her hair.

"So, you and your sister, just ... spent the night with him?"

"Yeah, aren't we lucky?" Mahra's last word turned into a gasp as Arturo edged his way through the women.

"Ah, dear, how are you?" he asked.

"I'm great," Mahra replied. "I can't believe you remembered I was in the pageant and came just to see me."

At Mahra's words, illumination lit Wade's face, "Something you want to share with me, Dad?" she asked.

"He's your father?" Mahra's look of shock said it all.

"Oh, yes. Allow me to introduce you," Wade smiled evilly, "Mahra, this is my father, Max; Dad this is a new friend of mine, Mahra."

"Er. Uh," Arturo fidgeted a bit, "Very nice to, uh, meet you, Miss."

Mahra looked from 'father' to 'daughter' and decided discretion would be useless, "Oh, Maxie," she cooed, "we've already met."

Unfortunately, Quinn chose that moment to walk up, "Gee, Professor, you sure are getting around."

"Mr. Mallory, shouldn't you be getting something ready?" Arturo sputtered.

"I did come to fetch Wade," Quinn grinned. He checked out his spikes in the mirror. "Shall we go?"

"Sure thing," Wade stood up, "Dad maybe you can sit next to Mahra's sister." Arturo went red and Mahra started to giggle. "Come on Mahra, we don't want to be late."

"Sisters?" Quinn asked Wade.

"Later," she promised, taking her place in the processional line. Wade took a deep breath as she neared the stage. The spotlights at least made it impossible to see everyone. What am I doing? she thought.

Act Four

"...we are bold and beautiful. We are all Cali." the final refrain from the opening sequence filtered through forty personal chefs as they completed their first snacks. Several were eying Rembrandt. He had thrown a cup of plain yogurt, several frozen berries, a large spoonful of frozen orange juice concentrate, and protein powder into a blender.

"What do you call that?" one chef called over to Rembrandt.

"Frozen tears," Rembrandt grinned. "They only have five minutes to change and snack, so why not make it quick?" One or two of the other chefs started throwing their food into blenders. Rembrandt grinned and shook his head.

Quinn spritzed hairspray onto Wade and carefully rearranged her bikini bottoms. "That's better," he proclaimed as he adjusted her top. "Much better."

"I'm so glad you are getting a kick out of manhandling me," Wade growled.

"Here's your wrap," he handed her a sheer silver scarf. "Don't forget all of your practice." To emphasize his point he swiveled his hips.

"Okay, Elvis," Wade rolled her eyes and tied the scarf over her bikini bottoms. She squeezed Quinn's hand as the girls were motioned into line.

"You are doing better than I thought," Mahra whispered to Wade. "After this they announce the top ten. I'm so nervous."

"I'm sure you'll do fine," Wade reassured her.

One by one the participants strutted onto the stage. The swimsuits were as diverse as the women sporting them. Wade was the only person in a bikini, but she was not the most unique. One woman had a mini-skirted swimsuit; another appeared to be wearing Saran Wrap. The lights blinded the contestants, but they gave the audience quite a show. After sashaying across the stage, each woman took her place on a set of risers.

Gomez Calhoun jogged onto the stage in a snappy powder blue tuxedo. "Wow, we have some beauties here tonight," he mugged for the crowd who cheered with enthusiasm. "I have in my hands," he held up a bright, white envelope, "the list of the ten semi-finalists. Are you ready, ladies?" He turned to take them in and without waiting for an answer he opened the envelope, "In no particular order: Mahra Longfellow," Wade gave Mahra a quick hug just before she ran down the stairs, "Elaine Brown, Jessica Morris, Brittany Duprey, Harley Thompson." Wade tried not to get nervous. "Shelley Deaves, Davida Daniels, Anna Hermanez, Buffy Harris, and finally, Wade Welles."

At first everything stopped for Wade. She forgot to breathe. Her heart was silent. Then she heard the congratulations from the other contestants. The cheers deafened her. The sound of her heart pit-pattering away drowned it all out momentarily. In a daze she made her way down the risers to take her place on the end.

"Here they are," Gomez gestured to the ladies with a flourish, "next up is talent and then," he paused dramatically, "the twist off."

The ten finalists filed out quickly to change their outfits. Wade walked to the side of the stage still in a daze. Quinn grabbed her and pulled her into a bear hug, "I knew you could do it. Congratulations, sweety." He quickly realized she wasn't aware of anything, so he shook her, "Wade?"

"Huh? What?" She shook her head, startled.

"You did it. You actually did it."

"Yeah," she smiled, "I did."

"I can't believe she did it," Arturo murmured to Molly. He looked around carefully, taking in the diamonds and glitzy gowns.

"I knew she would," Molly smiled at Arturo.

He stealthily slid the timer out of his coat pocket and checked the flashing numbers. "Less than an hour, this should be interesting." He shifted in his seat while watching N'Sugar perform a brief number while the ladies were changing. "At least the seats are the right size."

Wade twirled in the mirror, her gauzy skirt flared before settling around her ankles. "I still can't believe you picked this out," she told Quinn.

"If there was ever a dress that screamed Wade, it was this one," he grinned as he arranged two flowers in her hair. "You look gorgeous, Wade."


"Are you sure about that song?"

"Quinn, we've already had this argument, many times. I'm positive about this song. No one else will be singing it."

"Sure, since it's not even from this world."

"I was just lucky I stuck that CD in my jacket."

"But Wade, that song?"

"Get over it, Quinn. It's the perfect song. Oh, and it's my turn." She looked at Quinn, "wish me luck."

"Luck," he smiled.

"Next up, Wade Welles, with an original song." Gomez Calhoun waved Wade on stage and retreated to a small snack room set up just for him. "This should be interesting," he chuckled to his assistant.

"Oh, yes sir," Lilah agreed because that's what she was paid to do.

Gomez picked up a drink at random and started sipping on it. "What is this?" he demanded.

"Actually it's something we got from Wade Welles' chef," she checked her notes, "it's called Frozen Tears."

"It's fantastic. See what we can do about securing the food rights to this. It's a gold mine."

"Yes sir," she dashed away.

Wade took a deep breath and nodded to the MC in the back. The strains of "I'm A Slider" filled the auditorium.

"Isn't that the Monkees?" Rembrandt asked Quinn who had been loading up a post-talent snack tray.

"It's the Sliders, actually." Quinn cringed.

"She smuggled that CD out?" Rembrandt's jaw dropped a full inch.


"I thought the sixth dimension was a fairy tale,
The sort of thing you'd see on Fox TV;
But life was out to get me,
At least, that's the way it seemed,
This invention hollowed all my dreams --"

The first verse went well for Wade, as the audience was enraptured. At home, most viewers were glad they hit record.

"Well it's time to face,
that I am a Slider...
That's who I am,
No doubt in my mind...
It's time to face,
I am a Slider
I've got my timer
Although it's fried."

In a grimy, low rent office Artie Field croaked into a phone, "Are you getting this? Are you? This girl is gold. Gold, I tell you. Get her signed."

"I took home for more or less a given,
Until that fateful day in my Caddy;
What's the use in trying?
All you get is pain.
I've been, struggling home for three years
With no gain..."

"I can't believe she is singing this," Rembrandt put his head in his hands.

"Think of it as a tribute," Quinn offered while awkwardly patting Rembrandt's shoulder.

"Well it's time to face,
that I am a Slider...
It's who I am,
No doubt in my mind...
It's time to face,
I am a Slider
I couldn't find Earth
Prime if I tried."

First there was silence. Just as Wade began to think she'd totally screwed it up, the applause started. Although she couldn't see him, Maximilian Arturo was the first to rise to his feet. "That's my daughter," he bragged to amused fellow applauders.

"Nice job," Quinn gave Wade a brief hug before offering her food.

"Not that I'm complaining, but this hugging thing isn't going to always be this..." she paused.

"I'm happy for you, Wade, that's why I keep hugging you. I'm not going to hug you all the time." He yawned. "Now eat."

"Yes, sir."

Arturo slipped backstage to join Rembrandt, "How do you think this will turn out, Mr. Brown?"

"Well, Professor, I think Wade will have a chance to give her speech."

Before the two men could say any more, Calhoun's mousy assistant walked up, "Hello, gentlemen. I'm Lilah, Gomez Calhoun's assistant and I was wondering if I could have a moment of your time, Chef Brown."

"You can just ask me now," Rembrandt smiled.

"All right," she took a breath, "Mr. Calhoun would like to purchase the rights to your Frozen Tears drink."

Arturo raised an eyebrow.

Rembrandt smiled. "Well, now, Lilah," he started, "this is fairly lucrative isn't it."

"Yes, but Mr. Calhoun could really sell this. He'd be willing to pay you the usual royalties, of course." Lilah raced on, hoping she could secure this. After all, it might mean the bonus that would finally free her of this awful assistantship. Then she could sell her show about a group of interdimensional travelers.

"You need to talk to Joe Simple," Rembrandt's eyes twinkled.

"Joe Simple as in the Simple Dream and Dine?" Lilah's thoughts scattered.

"That's the one," Rembrandt confirmed.

"Let's give a hand to our talented ladies," Gomez Calhoun urged the audience as the ten semi-finalists walked on stage. "As you know, the Twist Off separates the final three from these ten lovely ladies." The audience started to cheer, knowing what was coming next. "Ladies and gentlemen, Chubby Checker!"

The auditorium erupted into a cacophony of screams, cheers, and claps as the Father of Twisting strutted onto the stage. "Thanks, Gomez. This year I'd like to introduce my band. The Fat Boys."

The spotlight fell on three chubby young men, decked out in phat gold chains and the latest Street Wear. The contestants moved to their raised, circular platforms. The first chord was struck and the twist was on.

"Hee hee hee hee hee hee hee, Twist!"

The girls started to gyrate. Wade used the balls of her feet and her toes as the base for her side-to-side twisting movement.

"Come on baby, let's do The Twist
Come on baby, let's do The Twist"

Wade twisted down as low as she could go. Thanks to Quinn's coaching and help her chest hit her knees and her butt hovered above the floor.

"Take me by my little hand and go like this"

Wade was at the top of her twist and rocked her left foot back on its heel while she combined the arm movements of the Swim with the hip gyrations of the Twist.

"Ooooh yeah, yeah, do the twist!"

Wade threw in a little of the Go-Go arm swings for good measure as she started her downward twist. Knees to chest and butt near the floor, Wade's entire world was the song.

"You should see this Cali miss"

The only other contestant as limber as Wade, although with a bit more flesh, was Buffy Harris who was coincidentally the only married contestant. She shook her thangs for all they were worth.

"You should see herrrr, this Cali miss"

Wade went down again, not sparing a glance for anyone. Quinn kept a running mantra through the song, "up, down, left side, right side, up, down, left side."

"She really knows how to rock, she knows how to twist."

Arturo and Rembrandt watched the chefs' big screen. Unaware they'd grasped each other's hands, hoping Wade would be successful.

"I can't believe I'm watching this," muttered Rembrandt in disbelief.

"I can't believe I'm enjoying this," Arturo responded, shaking his hips ever so slightly.

"Come on baby, let's do the twist
Come on baaaaaby, let's do the twist
Take me by my little hand and go like this"

Wade had reached the top again. This time she added some Elvis-like hip movements to her twist.
Almost at the bottom of her final twist, Wade could feel the sweat dripping off her body.

"Oooooooh yeah!"

Once again the audience was on its feet. Gomez Calhoun jogged onto the stage, "That was amazing." The audience cheered its agreement. "Chubby Checker!" He held out an arm towards the four men and the audience crescendo peaked.

"Thank you, Gomez," Chubby said. "I have to say, these girls can dance."

A few whistles could be heard now as the signs above the stage flashed "Please Be Seated."

"Yes they can," Gomez agreed. "The question is: who danced the best?"

Chubby Checker walked the line of girls who had moved from their dancing platforms back to their designated circles on stage. The Fat Boys followed Chubby, each with a long stemmed red rose. Chubby pointed to Buffy Harris and a Fat Boy handed her the rose and escorted her to Gomez. Then he pointed to Mahra Longfellow so a second Fat Boy could follow the first. Finally, Chubby pointed to Wade Welles who was escorted by the final Fat Boy.

Rembrandt Brown and Maximilian Arturo hugged and danced around the kitchen to the mutual shouts of "she did it."

Wade had toweled off behind a screen and was in the process of changing into her final outfit when Arturo and Rembrandt slipped into her area. Quinn was wondering however he could stop his tongue ring from tapping against his teeth when he saw the other two men. Thankfully, they still hadn't noticed that alteration. In fact, Quinn was pretty sure not even Wade had noticed.

"Wade, you'll be the first speaker. Professor, you'll escort her out. How much time until we slide?" Quinn asked.

"Barely enough," Arturo stated. "We will have to leave just after they announce the winners." He handed Quinn the timer.

"Ready, Professor?" Wade asked as she handed Quinn a small bag with a change of clothes for her.

"Ready," said Arturo as he took Wade's arm.

"The first interviewee tonight is Wade Welles," Gomez Calhoun gestured towards the side of the stage where Wade Welles was entering escorted by her father. "Wade is being escorted by her father, Maximilian."

The audience clapped politely as Arturo took a step behind Wade and to the left.

"Wade, you'll pick a topic out of this bag," Gomez hefted a mid-sized, silk, silver, drawstring bag. "The topics are questions from our judges." Wade breathed a prayer and pulled out a folded piece of parchment. Gomez smiled all around as he opened up the paper. Looking at it he fought down the urge to chuckle. "Wade, what inspired you to shoot for Miss Cali?"

The grin tipped off a few of the home viewers; the answer did the rest. "Gomez, ladies and gentlemen, judges, lend me your ears and minds. Sizism is a nasty prejudice that crosses the globe. Small people everywhere are treated as second-class citizens. While it's not okay to tell racist jokes, or sexist jokes, it's all right to tell jokes about skinny people. Transport yourself to another reality for a moment. Imagine a world where there had been no great famine. Imagine a world where the beauty ideal was thinness. Imagine a world where it was okay to tell jokes about fat people. Neither in that world nor this one is sizism okay. People are born with different talents, personalities, and, yes, builds. Instead of offering a thin person food, offer them your understanding. I came after Miss Cali knowing the crown was beyond my reach; however, the growing number of thin people in this world need to know they can make a difference."

A sort of stunned applause spattered through the auditorium. "Uh. Thank you, Wade. Up next, is Mahra Longfellow who is being escorted by her mother Bernadette." Mahra and her mother took Wade and Arturo's place as 'father and daughter' moved to a circle near where Quinn and Remmy waited. "Mahra, your question is: what kind of a legacy do you want to leave for future Miss Calis?"

"Well, Gomez, I think it's really important to spread the word about nutrition to the poorer areas of the state. I'd like to use the crown and its prestige to help start free dinner programs in the inner cities."

A more normal applause followed Mahra's brief statement. "Thank you Mahra. Up next is Buffy Harris, escorted by her husband Alex." Mahra and her mother took their places beside Wade and Arturo while Buffy and her husband, Alex stood next to Gomez. "Buffy, your question is: what is the most important quality for Miss Cali to have?"

Buffy gave Wade a thoughtful look. "Truth," she said. "Miss Cali should be a woman unafraid of sharing the truth with others. Unafraid of sharing the truth with herself. Actually, there are two qualities. Truth and courage." Buffy smiled.

"Thank you ladies," Gomez said. "Those were some amazing answers. It looks like our judges have reached a decision." He was handed an envelope. "The third place runner up is, Mahra Longfellow." Everyone cheered; Mahra was handed a dozen roses as she and her mother were escorted offstage.

Wade took a moment to look around, stunned she'd made it to the final two. She noticed Quinn motioning to her and raising the timer. She held up one hand to let him know she'd seen him.

"The first runner up is," Gomez paused for effect, "Wade Welles." Truly happy for Buffy, Wade was the first to hug her. "Congratulations to our new Miss Cali, Buffy Harris."

Wade and Arturo slipped off stage in the mayhem of contestants and family members rushing the stage to congratulate Buffy. Quinn, Rembrandt, Wade and Arturo slipped into the empty dressing hall. "Congratulations, girl," Rembrandt offered as Quinn activated the vortex. Arturo jumped first into the endlessly receding gateway. Rembrandt followed.

"This was amazing," Wade whispered.

"I agree," Quinn took her hand and they both jumped.

Just as the vortex was shrinking Mahra Longfellow slipped into the room, "Wade? Wade? Oh my," she breathed seeing the closing circle of light and color.

As soon as they hit the ground on the next world, Quinn was quick to make sure Wade didn't scrape herself. "I paid a fortune for that outfit!"

"Damn, I'm going to miss that world," the Professor sighed, tossing Rembrandt off of him.

"I'll say. Sisters?" Wade once again asked Arturo.

The Professor turned crimson. Coughing, he changed the subject. "Mr. Mallory, how much time?"

"A few days. Plenty of time to explore this world..." Quinn's voice trailed off as he got a gander at a nearby billboard: a shot of a thin woman modeling 'Hanez' undergarments.

"Now that's more like it!" declared Rembrandt. Wade elbowed him in the chest.

Quinn gave him a quick smirk. "Not the woman, Remmy. Check out the slogan."

Beneath the sultry figure, the following appeared in large block letters: Our products may not make you as attractive as this woman, especially considering this model has been airbrushed within an inch of the photograph's life.

Wade looked up and smiled. "My kinda world, guys. My kinda world."


Written byML Thouvenel
Edited byMike Truman
Coded byBlinker

"Beauty World" is inspired by an undeveloped 2nd season story of the same title. For more information on the story, visit the Lost and Found department at the Dimension of Continuity.

"I'm A Slider" is Blinker's version of the Monkees' "I'm a Believer."

Special thanks to TemporalFlux for answering inane continuity questions throughout the months it took to write this, and Mike Truman for editing this within an inch of my sanity. ;-)

Earth 8950