The red-and-blue Senate trolley rolled up to the Capitol basement, a lone senator in the front seat checking a piece of paper before slipping it back into his jacket pocket.
"Welcome back, Senator McCain," someone called out on Tuesday.
"Thank you, good to see ya," came the well-practiced reply as he stepped to the ground.
Then, a more familiar greeting from another senator who had been riding in back.
"John, wait up," called Democratic Senator John Kerry, clapping a big hand on John McCain's shoulder. The pair conferred quietly as they rode up an escalator toward lunch with their colleagues.
Two failed presidential nominees, minus Secret Service detail or much suspense about their futures, back to the Senate, same as it ever was.
Both men plan to stick around for a while.
McCain decided on Tuesday night to set up a political action committee, a step toward running for a fifth Senate term in 2010, an aide told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the decision had not been made public.
And next year, Kerry will chair the coveted Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Explicitly or not, Kerry's backslap marked McCain's induction into an unofficial bipartisan caucus of would-be commanders in chief who fell short of the big prize and landed, humbled somewhat, back where they started.
As Kerry, loser to George W Bush in 2004, and other one-time presidential hopefuls know, a seat in the Senate is a comfortable consolation.