"It should be easy," John ranted to himself as he managed the tenuous path along the rocks of the gorgeous stream. "It should be easy. It's never easy."
Some 40 feet farther downstream, John sat where the water-hewn rock stream bed widened to twelve feet before narrowing again to enter the rock "bowl" that had inspired the area's name of "the paint bowl."
"Didn't know things were supposed to be easy."
John glanced over his shoulder to Bob's approach. "No, I guess you didn't," John said and winked. "I'm just a spoiled Human. You know, Bob, life is a pain in the ass anymore, but it's a breeze compared to Moya."
"True," Bob agreed. "Those nosy humans won't leave you alone easily. A human characteristic I suppose?"
"Oh yeah. Well, they think I'm a celebrity."
"Not that anyone else ever went through a wormhole and came back on this primitive rock."
"Look, the point is, lil' Bob, people think of a celebrity as, well, like they should be interested to. Like they must be important somehow. Because other people imply they should be. Doesn't matter if they are really important to them. Like Vanna."
"The woman who gave fortunes from that wheel?"
"Uh, well, sort of. All she did was change clothes from one show to the next, smile, clap, turn a box- nothing. Some desperate tabloids come along-"
"Yeah, how did Tavleks get in this?"
"No, tabloids, ta-"
"The little things swimming in puddles that turn into miniature but way less offensive Rygel like things?"
"Not tadpoles. Ta-bloids. Magazines that make up dren about people."
"Oh! Like the one that said you have a secret, clandestine lover who's really an alien that must have come from outer space with you?"
John glared through slightly opened eyes, suppressing the amusement from his face. "Yeah like that one. Reminds me, we should be continuing your readin', writin', 'rithmatic lessons, Bob."
"Not before you finish."
"Oh, well some tabloid comes along, makes a fuss over her, the others do the same, after all she's a harmless curiosity, next thing you know, she's signing books, making celebrity appearances on Oprah, the works."
"Sorta like what you did. Books....Opera."
"'Op-rah'. Anyway everyone makes a fuss, like she can change their life if they concentrate hard enough."
"I'll bet a lot of women think that of you. Aaaand they'd be right."
"Yeah," John glanced over his shoulder which Bob's chin was resting on. "Wipe the smirk Bob."
"Hey how about we go down and explore a little."
"After I'm done fishing."
"Which will be nightfall. That's dren Crichton, every time I see you you're wasting time trying to get provision this inefficient, ineffective, primitive way."
"Hey. It's a hobby. First the reading lessons."
"I'm reading almost as good as you. You said so. I get plenty of practice. I can hardly do anything else. I'm living out of the dumb things. We're finally getting some time out together. Give it a rest, Crichton."
"Well, if you can give your incessant exercising a rest, it's a deal."
"You got the gymnastics set."
"Yeah, after you asked for it with the darn puppy eyes. Wish you hadn't seen that competition on the TV. Anyway you got to eat more. You're bones and muscle, little one, lean cut on the muscle at that."
"Yes. Well. I haven't heard you complaining. As I said, Crichton. Keeps my mind off things."
He stared thoughtfully for a moment. "That bad?"
"No. Not....really. I like it right here."
"Nice to see you smile," John traced the smile with his finger.
He lightly smiled as Bob cuddled alongside and nuzzled into his sleeve a moment. "'s just nice to see you at all."
He fussed with preparing his fishing pole: "Yeah. I guess I haven't been around for you much."
"Hey," Bob interrupted a long moment filled with only the sounds of the wind through the trees and birds chattering. "Let's go explore."
John and Bob carefully followed the stream side, or that is, John did, while Bob easily scampered along the slightest of holds. "You know?" Bob continued talking to John, after a lull during which whatever had been spoken before had slipped John's distracted mind. "Love all these colors! And textures. I mean, around here there's....so much!"
"Yeah," John replied, "this area's famous for the colors of the rocks and water." John stepped into a slightly wider path to find Bob right in front of himself.
"Never thought I'd find being stuck in some wilderness on a primitive rock like this so nice," Bob huskily cooed. "What made you think this National Park would be so perfect for us to live in?"
"No neighbors for a hundred miles, a little one room cabin in the forest, you? Perfect, darlin'."
She looked at him with deep eyes: "It didn't seem like you thought so then."
He looked away. "Yeah. It's taken me a while. I had to think things over is all."
"Is it me?"
"Some of it. Yeah. I...." John bit on the tip of his thumb in thought, his blue eyes gazing somewhere into a sky obscured by the forest. "Things used to be my way. Didn't seem like it, but it was. Man's world fantasy, way it oughtta be, I got the girl, hell, I got the whole package, all my way. Ain't going to be that way anymore. Now....figuring any way is a...." John rubbed his temple and forehead for a moment. "I'm about as lost here as I was out there."
She looked to the side, unreadably.
"Hey. Bob." He guided Bob's face to face him with a finger under Bob's chin. "If I didn't think it over and like it, I wouldn't have gone fishing with you, Bob. You gotta be particular who you fish with. Nothing worse than fishing with someone you don't want to hang with."
"Do you think you've thought it over enough to tell me why you call me 'Bob'?"
"Well, if you promise not to rant about all this confusing 'Human dren'."
"Well, just long e-" Bob abruptly halted.
John looked straight to her. "....What?"
Bob looked alarmed. "I don't know. But let's get away from here. Come on."
"Why? Do you mind telling me, seeing as there is nothing around here but one lost Human and one lost alien?" he irritably contradicted.
"John. I've taken care of you sometimes, haven't I? Can you start trusting my 'hunches' too?"
"Fine," he scurried after her best he could.
A minute later he heard his name called behind them. By Doug.
"Oh no. DK. Hey Bob, listen, I'll go talk to him. You keep out of sight."
"You said I fit in alright. You can't keep me hidden from everyone forever. Besides. He's your friend. I'd like to meet him."
"Looking and acting and conversing perfectly human are different things, Bob. Just - go on."
"Sooner or later-"
"Bob I don't have time for this again, just-... just go and wait. At the car. And don't go driving."
"After your driving, I don't see how I could be worse," Bob mumbled, heading off as John apprehensively turned to face his old friend.
The tall trees shading the dirt turn-off of the two lane highway waved prettily in the breeze. Bob looked up and watched the sun glittering through the trees, lost for timeless moments.
Arguing voices drifted on the breeze. John and Doug arguing? Bob cautiously listened, hiding behind a tree.
"Hey, I told them where I landed, you told them, hey, we told them everything they wanted to know, right?" John argued. "They're still not believing it. Is that what you're not saying?"
"Yeah," Doug replied after a moment. "Yeah, that's basically it. Dude, they're going to want to talk to you again. They're not satisfied talking through me anymore."
"I need an answering machine with a real boring message right?"
"Man, listen! I'm serious! This, this suspicion, these things get out of control, man. You have to talk to them this time before it gets out of hand, if it isn't already."
"Calm down, DK, so I'll talk. I told 'em, they want to talk...fine," John threw his arms out and began to walk away. "I'll give them a call when I get home."
"John, dude! Will you listen! You need to like come with me now and talk to them."
"DK, I don't feel like takin' bites out of the Big Apple right now."
"They want you in Sydney."
"Aw. No. Nonononono, no way. I told you, I told Dad, I told everyone, not some outlying agency. I'm not into pain. Do I look Namtar to you? Skip that. Did being in space shrink my brain matter or something?"
Doug threw his hands up again at John's frustration being directed at him. "Hey. Not my big idea. I'll be with you man. We'll stick to our guns, go in and out man."
John walked away to where he could overlook the stream. Doug followed in a moment. Doug was thirty feet back when John unfolded his arms, turned from the stream and walked back towards him. "In-N-Out Burger. I gotta stop by the cabin first." He barged by Doug, who spun around and threw his hands out.
John was just getting in the driver's door of his red '65 GTO when Doug emerged from the trail, getting his coat on. "Uh oh. It's never easy. Never easy."
"Hey, wait up." Doug hurried up to the side door and saw the mod bob of black hair and the shoulder of a black shirt under the beige strap of fishing overhauls. "Hey, you brought Bob," Doug nodded to Bob.
"Yeah," John finished getting in the driver's seat and looked at Doug through the car. Doug bent down and smiled at Bob to see bangs and a small smile with a slight pursing of shiny tan lipstick glossed lips. John spoke up. "Hey, where you going DK? We'll meet you at the airport. You've got that arranged no doubt."
"Yeah. Not for three though. I'll work on it."
"Oh, well, Bob can't really come with us, can you?"
"Sure," Bob contradicted. There was something exotic about the accent, even in the one word. Doug bent down more and got a glance up from Bob's eyes. The biggest black eyes he'd ever seen! They had an energy that gave him a weird chill.
John smiled, glaring at Bob at the same time, and forced a chuckle. "Knock it off, Bob. Come on, let's get a move on."
"Right," Doug opened the passenger door. Bob scooted over, straddling the center console and glove compartment.
"Nonono," John objected, "we'll meet you, I'll meet you at the airport okay?"
"Well fine, but I gotta get to town. The MG's kaput dude."
John hit his head on the steering wheel. Bob got chummy, holding John's arm. Doug sat and closed the door. "Hey, lets go man."
"Sure," John's voice nearly squeaked. Bob broke into a huge smile. Doug gave him a weird glance. Bob made a failing effort to suppress the smile. "Shhheet," John seethed to find his pocket empty of keys. He looked away out the window trying to fight a smile in spite of himself as Bob squirmed up and produced the keys from near about her seat, he doesn't wonder where.
"Sorreh," Bob offered with a breathy shyness, "shat ohn ah kiys mohving ovah." Bob stopped him from taking the keys back to find the right key and carefully put it into the ignition, letting go and sitting back into between the seats as if it were an accomplishment.
John fired it up with a nervous hand on the keys. To get it in gear, he reached down with his forearm ending up in Bob's lap. Bob tucked her lower lip in her mouth. John's eyes stuck on Bob's hand resting on Doug's thigh. "Will you," John put his hands on Bob's sides, threatening a tickling and shoving her back at the same time, "get in the back Bob!" John's finger was right on her nose when Bob's face popped back up between them. "Stay back and get the seat belt on Bob."
Flashing an apologetic smile at Doug, John wondered at Doug's giddily amused smile and got it into reverse.
"Well here you go. Fare'll be $152.95," John stopped the car in town.
"Dude, still the same lame jokes man," Doug said. Bob laughed, edgy and ready.
"Yeah, that reminds me," John scratched his chin with his thumb. "You've got a piece of junk MG here, and a piece of junk Honda over in Sydney. Why not get a real car? You're making enough money now to buy something halfway decent. Dude."
"Hey the Honda never breaks man," Doug said, getting out of the car.
"And I've had to tow him five times," John added to Bob. "See you later, DK," John spoke up and made a wave.
"Seh yuh laht ters, Dee Kah," Bob waved just like John.
"Bye, nice meetin' you Bobbie," Doug made a wave as he backed away from the car. Bob imitated the wave.
"Where the hell is she from?" Doug asked himself out loud as John sped away. "Outer space?" 'Can't place that accent. That girl is definitely on some kind of serious uppers. No wonder John's so edgy these days, living with that electric babe.' How John got a weird but sexy chic like that to go fishing with him and shack up with him at some cabin out nowhere he couldn't imagine. 'But then John has a way with the ladies, blast him,' Doug sighed.
John broke the silence. "Dammit Chi, why couldn't you just. Sheeit. Do you know what I go through to keep things quiet?"
"Then keep it clamped, beige boy. I didn't do anything. I did everything just like you taught me. Used your words. Stuck to the story. Yeah."
"Too much, I said 'keep quiet'!"
"I couldn't say nothing!" she whipped her head and nearly hissed a frustrated sigh. "So what's a bit of harmless chat? It's not like I get to speak to anyone but your uptight kisser. Hardly said anything anyway. What's he gonna do? Dissect me himself? He's on your side, right?" The silence set in again. His jaw was tight. She couldn't stand it after a few moments. "You know he likes guys."
"What? Jeez Chi, you got a problem with that? He's a good friend. Nice guy. He's all right, don't start on him."
She quirked her head, avoiding his glance. "'m sorry. I wasn't saying anything! I'm sure he is. He's nice, I can tell okay? Just...saying. Relax. Besides. We got other things to think about without you getting uptight at me."
"You just stay put and keep out of sight. I'll just go talk to them and get back as soon as I can. You've got enough supplies for a while?"
"Yeah. Quit worryin'."
"Could be a week."
"I'll be fine by myself okay? Maybe something to read."
He turned at the last road to the little town and reversed to stop at the mini-mart dash bookstore. After pulling back into the lane, he looked at her, seeing her gazing out the window, watching a few people walking from a shop. A little girl waved and Chi waved back with a sad smile. "We could stop in and get some of those chilies you like, hon."
"Don't...worry about me. Just them, what you're going to tell them."
Chiana watched him hurry up the red-painted primitive wooden steps, cross the small porch and open the ragged screen door to enter the mini-mart dash bookstore, blowing her hair from her forehead with a sharp breath. She sat back in the seat, resting a foot on the dashboard with another bored sigh as she turned her head to gaze out the window. She watched the dog in the car across from her, his lolling tongue slobbering over the steering wheel.
"You too huh?" She smirked.
John wasn't always completely predictable. Without warning, he diverted from the winding two-lane highway onto a minuscule turnout, stopping so quick she bolted up in her seat and grabbed the dashboard, frantically staring at the precipitous drop. For a microt she thought the weird vehicle's wheels wouldn't stop it in time. She forced down a gulp.
"Just get it out, dammit."
In a fraction of a second, she reversed the direction she was facing, to face him. "Get what out of what?! Why did you pull off? Why here!?"
"Pip, you, me, one hour, nothing!" he made a level cut in the air with his hand for emphasis.
She closed her mouth and sat back into her seat. Her vulnerable eyes looking back to him a moment later said everything. His face flinched as he stared ahead, as though a distasteful probe were hovering ahead just off the cliff to absorb his gaze, and his hands flexed into a grip on the black leather mesh covered steering wheel. Her eyes held onto the wheel, absorbing his touch of it.
"Doesn't matter. I gotta do it."
"Yeah." Resting her chin on the top of the seat, she turned facing the door, fixing her eyes to absorbing the bright crystalline white and blue of the sky. Only a few places she's ever seen were as beautiful. Sometimes it seemed his beautiful blue eyes had offered the promise of it, and now she lived under it. Sometimes it was somehow consoling to see the crystalline white and blue of the sky and be under it when she was alone, all else seemingly isolated from her.
When she pulled back straighter in her seat, she noticed they were again driving. The turn onto the dirt trail that led into the woods to their cabin jarred her into the seat and door.
"Didn't you say you were going to fix that?"
"Yeah. I'll get it when I get back."
"Yeah, yeah, I'll get it this time. Give it a rest."
"And how do I give it a rest when it hasn't been started?"
Furrowing his face in bewilderment, he caught her interpretation the same microt she gets his saying, glancing to her. He made an amused exhale, shaking his head slightly, as she smirked.
"So I'm 'naggen'."
"Okay. Give et ah res."
"I'll be back. And fix that rut." He looked to her.
She glanced back with a smirk. He smiled at her. She braced her arm better into the door. This road wasn't getting any better a ride for her.
"And fix the rest of the road while you're at it."
"I'll have to get you some cushion, lil' thang."
"Maybe if I drove it -"
"Not a chance," he frowned and shook his head in a 'no'.
"You're no fun. You know that?"
"Yup. You told me."
She sneered back at his sneer. Not that she was in a fun mood. Neither was he; the drive was usually something he enjoyed, especially, what did he call it, 'hot-rod-ing' through here, but he pushed towards the cabin mostly roughly, without joy. She usually enjoyed the rough ride too, but this time every jostle just annoyed.
It was none too soon when the car pulled into the dirt in front of the old rundown red cedar house and she could get out of the car. He tapped his finger on the steering wheel, lost in thought. The driver's door opened.
"Guys get the doors, Bob."
"Call me confused."
"Thanks Bob, you're too Devine."
Removing the black wig, she looked at her limp silvery hair a microt before looking to John's reflection in the bathroom mirror, over her shoulder into the kitchen, where John reached into the refrigeration unit and chose a bottle of fellip-like drink he calls "beer."
As he worked off the bottle cap, her fingers wandered to the side fastener of the black skirt she wore over leg-length tan nylons, releasing the clasp. The skirt began to slip, revealing more of the gray skin underneath as she pretended to be preoccupied straightening the wig onto its holder.
"Planning on a diet? Not much in this fridge."
"There's some stuff in the oiled wooden storage units on the walls. I'll make it last."
"Ooookay, just thought you've been tuning into too many fashion shows. Want a beer?"
"What? No." But as the skirt finally fell aside, her eyes cut to the mirror to find he was gone. Standing halfway out of the door, her ears told her he was busy replacing some items in his suitcases. It seems he'd barely opened them. Already his attention was lost.
"Hey Pip. Where's my dang tie? For the suit?"
"Yeah. Remember, long tapering lengths of fabric, like the one you said looked like Rygel painted it with two of his three tummies upset? Supposed to go around my neck like a collar and hang down?"
"Frell," she whispered, remembering what the fabric strips around her upper thighs holding up the nylons were supposed to be for. Conveniently adjustable for her very thin thighs with those handy clamps he had on them. What good are they for him? Just to hang like a pitiful scraggly signpost declaring bad taste dangling right in the middle of his chest! These Humans have a weird thing on it too, all the tech or officer guys seem to wear it, like it was male prerogative to flail their right to offend aesthetics from their necks. Ah well, John's looks could survive anything, she smirked, taking them off, picking up her nerve and sauntering into the bedroom.
Of course John became too intently focused on his suitcase to observe the display between the hose and black navel-level T-Shirt, until she had set them down nearby and left the bedroom. Facing into the suitcase after his glance, one hand on top of the lid of the suitcase, John stifled his face-wrenching reaction. "Man," he whispered out loud as he picked up the ties and stared at them, taking in a sharp sniff, "sorry little ties, guess my collar's a pretty big come-down after that," he broke into snickering into the suitcase.
John stood at the door a few moments, suspending closing the door midway to watch the little mechanic working under his hood. At least she had her wig on, and the overhauls and gloves she always wore puttering on stuff. Fact is, he has to admit in thought as he approached with his suitcase, she looked darn cute. "Hey Bob. What're ya doin' to my wheels, man?"
She peeped her head around the hood to him as he opened the passenger door. "Sabotage. What does it look like?"
He returned a wry glance and loaded his suitcase behind the seat. "Don't answer the phone, don't answer the door-"
"-Don't do anything, yeah I know," she shouted back into the engine compartment, unleashing a series of words that just wouldn't translate worth a darn.
Closing the door, he walked around to the front. Her hand fumbled the radiator cap, knocking it into the engine compartment in the haste of a sudden embrace. "Come back, come back," she breathed into his jacket, clutching the back of his jacket.
"Hey," John held her for a moment, released and clasped her by the shoulders, "Don't I always? Hm?"
She worked her eyes up to him. "Yeah," she sniffed.
"Hey," he took the loosely tossed on wig off of her head, running one hand over her ruined, stringy, overgrown hair. His hand settled along her chin and wiped the tear from her grease-smeared cheek. "Damn, people don't get better at this goodbye crap," he pulled away and walked to the driver's door as she forced herself back to adding some oil. He slammed it shut again. She bolted back upright. "Forgot the briefcase!" he threw his hands out and walked back inside.
She settled her heart rate and finished the chores. He came back out with his briefcase and got in. She retrieved the radiator cap and put it on. All done, she closed the hood and closed her eyes. It started fine of course. He backed away. He waved from inside as he reached the driveway. Her back faced the car until it couldn't be heard anymore. She dropped the half empty container of oil in her hand and walked into the house, locking the door to her cell behind her.