CheekyChi's Chiana & Farscape Fiction

John & Bob

Chapter Eleven
Party Pooper III

Annie looked around and spotted Stephanie coming toward them. Moving swiftly, she shoved John behind a large flowering bush that occupied one end of the terrace. John found himself backing into someone already lurking in the shadows. Another bump and a few noises proved that there were two people already there. Startled, John turned, seeing that it was Ketifa, the lady he'd met in Cairo, with another young lady, a brunette Romanian lady he seemed to remember seeing inside.

John's eyebrows raised, noticing the two young ladies seemed to have been standing facing each other and had their arms around each other. He politely started to back out and face the Stephanie, but Annie's hand was on his back and shoved him a little. The three of them made room for each other. Annie put her finger to her lips, indicating they should be silent, just as Stephanie entered the terrace.

"Uh, hello, I thought I saw John out here," Stephanie looked around, clearly surprised.

"John Crichton? The astronaut?" Annie asked.

"Yes, my date," Stephanie couldn't help but boast. "It was a little close in there so I figured he came...."

"Oh he was out here a minute ago, he went back inside, you must have just missed him," Annie congenially replied. "He's a very good looker."

Stephanie pouted for a moment, then looked closer at Annie, finally recognizing her. She shook a finger at her. "You, you're on that show aren't you. You're the actress that plays Arana don't tell me...." she said, even though she was clearly waiting for Annie to tell her.

"Space Chase," Annie obliged.

"Yeah, that's right. Hi, I'm Stephanie," she said holding out her hand.

Annie grasped it. "I'm The Actress That Plays Arana."

"Annie Rice isn't it? You must get confused with the American novelist all the time. You know, I really like her books, don't you? Her vampires are so sexy. I really loved Tom Cruise in Interview With the Vampire, didn't you?"

Annie seemed to listen patiently while Stephanie continued to prattle on. John stayed as still as possible behind the bush but got impatient after a few minutes while Stephanie talked. 'What did I see in her in the first place,' he asked himself in his frustration. 'Oh yeah, blond, big boobs, easy, in the right place at the right time. That was it.' Stephanie talked and talked, but it seemed to John that she never said anything, and she certainly never listened. He grew more impatient as she prattled on, but Annie never wavered from patient and attentative. 'Annie is a saint' he thought.

A spider suddenly dropped down in front of John's face, startling him so that he almost leapt out from behind the bush. He suppressed a shudder as he watched it. He wasn't terrified of them, but he didn't particularly like them. Well, that and the fact that he wanted to scream "Frau Blucher" and cover his eyes every time he saw one, thanks to Scorpy's spider-headed femme fatale girlfriend Natira.

The young brunette lady Ketifa was with almost shrieked, but both Ketifa and John's hands kept her silent. Through it all, Stephanie carried on.

"I really think that Brandon Willis is a hunk, don't you," Stephanie stated more than asked. "I mean, you work with him, what's he like? Is he a good kisser, but you probably wouldn't know that because you're not the one who gets to kiss him? Have you ever kissed him? On screen I mean, of course. What's her face, the other actress gets to do that."

Ketifa reached out and plucked the hanging spider by the web it was dangling on. Moving it toward John, then the brunette lady, Ketifa delighted at their squeamishness toward the spider.

A thought struck John and an evil grin appeared on his face. Stephanie was terrified of spiders. He gestured to Ketifa, then to the spider, then out to Stephanie. A devious smile crept over Ketifa's face. Grinning insanely, John watched Ketifa place the spider on her palm, then blow it toward Stephanie. It landed on Stephanie's upper arm and stuck. It was all John could do not to laugh out loud when the screams erupted.

Stephanie shrieked and shrieked as she tried frantically to brush it off. Ketifa used the commotion to step out of hiding and walk up behind Stephanie, the brunette following Ketifa. The spider finally fell off and skittered into the darkness as Stephanie continued to shriek. "I hate those things," Stephanie was finally able to say after a moment, barely able to hold back the tears.

"It looked like one of those deadly Wallunga spiders to me, they're very poisonous. I think I saw some more out here," said Annie, cringing.

"Excuse, has you any seen Mr. John Crichton please?" Ketifa asked. She then looked around. "Spider?"

"Yes it was a, a wallaby," Stephanie kept looking around and brushing her arm.

"They like terraces and patios, especially the dark corners," Annie explained. "Maybe you should go back inside," she suggested helpfully.

"I go back inside," Ketifa decided, taking the brunette by the hand and walking into the apartment.

"Me too," replied Stephanie looking furtively at the dark shadows before turning to go back inside. "Are you sure you haven't seen John?" Stephanie hesitated at the door.

"No, he must be inside talking to someone," Annie supposed.

"Okay, thanks," Stephanie walked back into the apartment, looking around the doorway for spiders.

John waited until Stephanie was out of sight before emerging from behind the bush, chuckling.

"That wasn't very nice you know," Annie accused while trying valiantly not to laugh.

"Oh, and you're any better?" John asked with a wry brow. "'Deadly Wallunga spiders'? No such thing."

"Yeah, well, she obviously doesn't know that," Annie scratched the back of her head with one side of her mouth in a smirk. "Still it wasn't very nice throwing the spider at her."

"I didn't throw it," John nodded to Ketifa as she came back out with her brunette friend in tow. "She did. And she only blew it. There's a big difference. Hey I can go get her if you're so attached to her," John jokingly offered.

"No, that's fine," Annie laughed. "She's very....mmmmm, talkative, isn't she?"

"Oh yeah."

"Why did you see in her?" Ketifa asked.

Annie looked uneasily at John, unsure if she should say anything. John kept silent for a long enough time that Annie didn't think he was going to answer the question. John sighed sadly. "She's old times, good times. Triple-A: Amnesia, Anesthesia and Alcohol. Helped me to forget for a while."

"I'm sorry, I'm sure we didn't mean to pry," Annie said softly, with a pointed glance to Ketifa.

"No, it's okay. No one knows really, except for Bob and my dad. And you, and her, and her, and half the Sydney crowd behind that bush. Short version is, I was in a relationship, real thing, big time, we had a kid, it ended badly, end of story."

Annie hid her surprise as he turned away to gaze at the bright lights of the city. She didn't know that John had a kid. She knew what it was like when relationships ended badly but to have a kid too, that must really hurt.

John felt a hand on his arm. He turned to see Annie looking at him with sympathy. She really was like Bob in so many ways. "I'm sorry," she said simply. Nothing more. No false statements of sympathy or understanding, just a simple I'm sorry.

"So tell me some more about Bob," Annie prompted.

"Bob?" Ketifa asked, taking John's other side at the railing.

John scratched the back of his head and blew out a long breath. He looked at his empty beer bottle. He sighed. "I should go back inside."

"To Stephanie?" Annie pointed out.

"Yeah. I know I've got you three on pins and needles about my private life, but....Gonna break the news that we're breaking up on the way home and it ain't gonna be pretty."

"Breaking up is never easy, someone always gets hurt," Annie half muttered, then paused, looking aside to John. "You know your face lights up when her name comes up."

"Who? Stephanie?" John said skeptically.

Annie punched him lightly on the arm. "No, you idiot, Bob. I notice those things. I'm an actress," she shrugged and smiled, instead of winking.

John looked back up at her and gave her his best lop-sided grin. "Thanks. I didn't know I glowed. Just call me little glowworm." He stuck out his hand. "Thanks."

She grinned back at him. "You're welcome, John Crichton. The problems in your private life are the best time I've had at one of these parties in a long time." She paused, frowning. "Sorry, that didn't come out right."

John laughed. "That's okay, I know what you meant. These parties are, well...." He looked over her shoulder and saw Stephanie approaching followed by a brunette woman he didn't recognize. "Uh oh, Stephanie approaching at 12:00."

"John," Stephanie said as she paused in the doorway, her eyes scanning the terrace for possible kamikaze spiders. "I've been looking everywhere for you."

"Steph, just stepped out for a breath of fresh air and lost track of the time. You've met Annie Rice haven't you? And Ketifa, and....?" John said indicating the ladies around him.

"Anna," the Romanian brunette replied. "Slenkarikova."

Stephanie nodded, still hesitating at the door. "Would you move your bloody fat arse," the brunette behind Stephanie commanded. When Stephanie didn't move, the brunette pushed her out of the way. "Hey baby," the lady said as went up to Annie and gave her a kiss.

"Hey yourself," replied Annie returning the kiss. "Lilah, there's someone I'd like you to meet. This is John Crichton, the astronaut. John, this is my partner, Lilah Jansen."

John snapped out of the raised-eyebrow look he shared with Ketifa and Anna and smiled broadly as they shook hands. "Nice to meet you Lilah."

"Likewise," Lilah replied in a very pleasant Aussie accent.

"I'd better go," John said to Annie. "Thanks for everything." He walked to the door and looked back, seeing as Stephanie hadn't moved. "Hey, Annie, would you like a drink? Anna? Ketifa? Lilah? Beer, anything?"

"She hates beer," Lilah gestured to Annie. "But we'll take a Vodka."

Ketifa and Anna nodded no, so John reached back, grabbed Stephanie by the arm, and practically dragged her from the terrace. "Come on Steph."

Lilah and Annie watched them leave before Lilah turned to Annie. "So that was John Crichton. Mmm, mmm, mmm, he's a regular hunk of beef there girl." Ketifa and Anna giggled and each took a side, the foursome facing each other. "You've been very naughty, keeping him all to yourself," Lilah said with a pout.

Annie smirked at her. "Aaahw, I'm not a bad girl. I'm real good," she rolled her eyes up innocently and smiled, making a curtsey.

"He's positively yummy. D'ya think he'd mind being the filling in our little sandwich?" Lilah said licking her lips.

"Maybe if we could him, get him to Cairo," Ketifa proposed.

"Why, what's in Cairo we don't have here?" Lilah asked.

"Me alone with not you three," Ketifa brushed Annie and Anna's shoulders.

Annie sighed. "No, he's very much taken."

Lilah snorted derisively. "By brainless Stephanie? No way. From what I've heard he chases practically anything in a skirt."

"Not anymore," Annie shrugged, "man's in love."

"Not with Stephanie," Lilah exclaimed, horrified at the prospect.

"No, not with Stephanie," Annie assured her. "I'm afraid he's one lonely guy to pour his heart out all over me like that. And it's for his girl over in the States. Bob, whoever she is."

"Is one lucky woman," Anna completed the thought.

Chapter 12
Gone Fishin' IV

Bob awoke as the car bumped and bounced along the rutted road. "Fudge, Bob, John needs to have this road graded. This is going to throw off my suspension and I just had this car aligned." He shook his head in disgust.

Bob turned to look out the window, hiding a grin at Jack's disgust. She didn't tell him that she and John liked to 'hotrod' along the road and the bumps added to the thrill.

Bob thought back to that time when John had sped along the road and turned abruptly onto their road so that they almost crashed and then sped over the ruts so fast that they seemed like they were flying. It had excited her so much that she dragged him out of the car as soon as he stopped, pushed him onto the hood, and frelled him right there with the engine still warm beneath them. John complained that the warm metal had burned his eema but she quickly made him forget about that body part and concentrate on others.

Jack pulled up in front of the cabin and parked. "Think I've got a tired shock in the back, or maybe it's a coil, I don't think I've had them replaced," Jack carried on to himself while Bob hurried to the trunk with a giggle. Jack unlocked the trunk and smiled to himself at Bob as she snatched out some of the items and ran inside with them. "Darned if I ever got that boy to get on with getting anything done like that," he told the trunk.

Jack set up his gear on the front porch and cleaned it while Bob, having declined Jack's offer of help, cleaned up the dirty dishes from breakfast. Hearing the noises from her cleaning the dishes and the kitchen now and then, Jack found himself thinking about what a commitment this whole situation must be for the odd foreign city girl. He was prepared to lay into John to no end about this queer punk goth he'd dragged here. But darn if this girl, who was the oddest character he'd ever met, didn't have a very distinct aura that ingratiated her to him. He was already wondering if it wasn't his darn fine son who was coming up short in the deal.

When Jack came in from cleaning and putting away his fishing gear he found Bob at the computer. So he turned on the television, sat down and decided to watch the football game. He glanced over at Bob once when she was muttering to herself. The only word he could comprehend was "rattlesnake." Jack smiled to himself. So the city girl was doing her research. She obviously wasn't stupid. He noticed once when he went to the kitchen to get a beer that the computer screen had images of snakes on it. 'Yep, learning about one of the perils of outdoor life,' he thought, wondering if she seriously intended regularly living at the cabin.

A short while later Bob excused herself and went to bed while Jack stayed up and watched the rest of the game. He kept nodding off. Finally, Jack turned off the television. "Jack you're getting stubborn," he told himself with a tired chuckle. Jack pulled out the hide-a-bed and crawled in, glad to be resting his old bones after the end of a long day.

He sighed as he waited for sleep to claim him. He wished John were here. He missed his son and he already felt sure Bob missed him too. He and John were going to definitely have a talk about Bob when John got back here and he was going to demand some answers from his son. Jack finally settled back and drifted off to sleep. As he slept his dreams were filled with leaping silver trout that refused to be caught and mysterious black-eyed girls.

Chapter 13

The alarm went off, raising a groan from Jack. It was well before sunrise, but he sat up with the trace of a grin and turned the alarm off. Bob probably thought she'd rise at an even earlier time to be up before him and surprise him, but he had beaten her to it. If, of course, she could get up early again at all. Anyway he didn't want the poor city girl to lose her beauty sleep and besides, at breakfast time he could go into town and have breakfast at the cafe.

Jack stood and stretched. The idea sounded great. He'd order some sausage, a biscuit, a waffle and an egg, sunny side up. Just then it entered his still-sleepy mind that those foods were exactly what he was smelling now. Jack rushed into the kitchen, where he found Bob already up, dressed and seemingly about done with breakfast.

"What kep ya?" Bob asked with the trace of a smirk. "Can-tah kep it hhot mush lohnget." She turned her attention back to the pan she held on the stove for a moment then looked back to Jack for a moment. "Cute."

Jack flushed to look down and realize he was standing there the half-way he'd dressed for bed, in his nightshirt, Long John top and underwear and socks. "I'll just be a minute, I'll be back in a...." he hurried back into the living room to get more presentable as she made a husky little laugh.

Bob greeted the more presentable Jack with a lopsided smile. "There is a guhy I reca-nize," she teased. Really he was good looking for an older man. She might've known as much being John's father, she thought, but still she wondered why Jack didn't have a girlfriend. He seemed very nice, and he was good looking, so surely Earth girls weren't so backwards they weren't trying for a super guy like him. Yeah she knew what John briefly said about his mother, and why he thought his dad hadn't remarried, but it still seemed like a shame to her.

She piled up Jack's plate while Jack made toast. When the toast was done, he turned but passed the plate she held out and looked in the refrigerator. "We have any orange marmalade?"

"M-marm....?" Bob asked.

"Marmalade, in a white jar, black label, orange colored gel with orange peel bits," Jack then looked back at her. "Surely you know what orange marmalade is?"

"Wuh yeah," Bob nodded. "Ba-jurs." She nodded sharply and held out his plate. Jack took his plate and apparently decided not to ask further about what happened to the marmalade. Bob buttered his bread and served it to him at the table.

"Mm," Jack tapped the table with his knife and gestured her to sit. Once he swallowed he asked, "Where's yours?"

"I at, ready," Bob nodded. "Arn-er ago."

"Well it's delicious, I bet my son'll weigh 400 pounds in a year or two of this."

Bob giggled and went back to cleaning the kitchen. When Jack finished, he turned towards Bob. "Did you want to drag along with this old fisherman this time or wait here? I'll probably be going out to town around lunch time, I could stop by and pick you up?"

"Nahw, see you lunch," she told him.

"Great breakfast, and those waffles you make will really stick to your ribs," he stretched as Bob wondered why anyone would want waffles to stick to barbecue ribs. "Well, get some rest, I'll catch you at lunch then, be careful out here and try my cell phone if you need anything."

Bob tagged along with him out the door, kissing her hand and waving it back at him when he waved from the car. She smiled at having showed him up. She wondered for a microt if she should go to bed, since she hadn't slept in it for more solar days than she could remember at the moment. Well, she'd been in it but hadn't been sleeping, she smirked. Still, there was plenty to do, and she didn't feel like sleeping anyway. Besides, John might call any time.

Jack chuckled as he pulled away from the cabin. "City girl's probably diving back into bed right about now," he chuckled at the Town Car's radio while searching for a good station.

Jack loaded the cooler filled with his catch of two silver trout onto the back seat then settled down on the plush cloth seat of his Town Car and closed the door. He had to look twice at the passenger seat. A wicker lunch basket sat on the seat. Jack looked around, but there was no sign of anyone. Had it been there and he hadn't noticed? "Must be getting old," he mumbled to himself. He opened the basket. The neatly, if oddly, packed lunch looked so good he decided to get out and have a picnic lunch.

The day was warm and clear, the serene setting reminding him of all the times he'd spent here with his family. It seemed no matter how long had passed, he was still lonely without his wife. The memories were his dearest, but he felt like he was living in the past and not the present. Still, he couldn't bring himself to go with other women. He even felt himself envy John with his future ahead of himself, playing the field and having such a, well, interesting fiancée. All right, peculiar, but certainly compelling. He still had considerable doubts, but he had no doubt that she did care about John.

Well, he reckoned, there was no use in worrying about his dear, idiot son and his odd fiancée, they'd figure things out or they wouldn't. Jack re-decided he really needed to get into a new career and look forward again. But it could wait a week or so while he fished and could think it over carefully. Then he remembered that's what he'd said before taking this trip, and the trip before. 'Oh well', he thought, 'being surer is some progress, and I'm supposed to be enjoying my free time anyway'.

After finishing the delicious picnic lunch and starting back to the cabin, Jack decided to stop in town on his way, to buy some more bait, for his own use and to replenish John's supply. Jack pulled his car into a spot in front of Mallory's Hardware Store.

"Hi Jack," Hank called out as Jack stepped inside.

"Hi Hank," Jack replied courteously. 'Damn,' he thought. He'd been hoping to get his bait quick and slip away unnoticed. No such luck this time. Plastering his best public face on, he stepped up to the counter.

"What can I do you for, Jack?" Hank asked.

"Nothin' much Hank, just need some more bait. I forgot mine and I've used up all of John's."

Hank pointed down an aisle to Jack's left. "Down that aisle, toward the middle. That is if you want the stuff in the jar. Got worms in a bin out back. Did you catch anything?"

"No, the stuff in the jar will be just fine," Jack replied as he walked down the aisle. "Caught two big, fat trout," he replied.

"Where'd ya go?"

"A spot John told me about, just outside the park, just off Fisher Road."

Hank nodded. "Yeah, that area's always good for fishing."

Jack wandered down the aisle and found what he wanted almost immediately. Grabbing two jars of bait he looked around the rest of the aisle. Hank was right about one thing. He did have an impressive array of fishing equipment.

"Say Jack, how is that son of yours?" called Hank.

"Wouldn't know Hank. Haven't seen him since I got here. He had to leave for Sydney before I got here. He's supposed to be back here in a few days. Why?"

Hank Mallory looked embarrassed, like he thought he might have said too much, but he decided to forge ahead anyway. He reached under the counter, pulled something out and shoved it toward Jack. "Cause you might want to see this," he said. "This just came out today," he said in explanation. "I always get one for my wife. Thought you might like to see this, John bein' your son and all."

'And so you can tell everyone the latest gossip,' Jack thought to himself despite his pleasant expression.

Jack looked at the object. It was a newspaper, one of those scandal sheets actually, the National Tattler specifically. Right there, on the front page, in living color, was a picture of John and it looked like Doug. John obviously looked angry and was swinging his fists at the other man. The headline read, "Astronaut in Fracas with Best Friend over Sydney Beauty."

Jack read that and moaned softly. 'Oh no,' he thought.

Chapter 14
Gone Fishin' V

Jack got out of the car and came over to the passenger door. Bob was busy playing with the seat belt. Jack leaned close to the window. "Now that I've dragged you to the middle of nowhere at an hour only a fishing nut can appreciate, I have to ask, are you sure you want to be here? I appreciate your getting up and making the wonderful breakfast, and the lunch basket, and three days in a row now. I'm happy to have you along, don't misunderstand. But, did you get any sleep last night?"

"Yeh sure. No any. M-more read-y this wahy," she smirked up at him and opened the door. Due to the slight slant the car was on, the door flew open. Not expecting that it'd open so easy, Bob lost her grip on the door and it almost knocked over Jack. "Uah!" she blurted and grabbed his elbow so he wouldn't fall.

"Thanks," he said, running a hand over the top of her head. She tried not to wince from the wig pulling her hair at the clips and just barely managed to get it back into place in time for him to look down at her. He looked sharply.

"Msowy," she held her hands out and swayed in her crouch, keeping her head down. The last thing she needed to frell up on was with John's sire. She knew that keeping from bad terms with Jack, if it was possible, was the best way to staying fast on John's good side regardless of how mad he got for anything else. And besides, she'd already decided his sire was the nicest person she'd ever known in her life. She was beginning to have an irrational dread of doing something very very wrong and pissing Jack off. More and more she was thinking it'd be something she didn't know she did wrong. Then she'd finish herself off by telling him where to stuff it.

For an instant she didn't know whether to run away before something bad happened or impulsively pour affection at him. So she did neither, which she was relieved to realize was the right thing to do a moment later, when Jack continued to the trunk to get his gear acting pleasant and cheerful. "You must be used to those plastic or tin cans some people call cars, Le Cars? These doors have some weight to them, you've got to be careful they don't pull you out, Miss," he winked.

An edgy smile slapped on her face and she looked away feeling very silly. 'Frell, I'm getting paranoid,' she thought, growling to herself and hurrying around to the other side to get their lunch basket.

"Well let's see what kind of luck we have today," Jack cheerfully told her, heading down an animal trail away from the rough patch of the road he'd parked. She forced a smile when he looked back but swallowed hard. She trudged after him through weeds, brush, thicket, down a crumbling path, and over miry dirt, yearning in her heart as she often did that she could fly up from trudging on the surface and glide above it all. But down at head level, she thought, her eyes sliding glassily around the beautiful glen they trudged through.

Finally they reached a calm river. Semi-rocky and shallow, the river would be easy to cross, and although it was way below its banks and some of the riverbed was visible, it had lots of clear water. "Oh boy, now here's a fine spot for a good trout. Oh this is great," Jack said. "This is great. You could cast about any direction but backward, and even that might work. Care to try?"


"No," he laughed, "casting. Hasn't that boy asked you to fish yet?"

"Yeh, m-did, fich," she nods. "Ah mmluk wownd," she told him and wandered slightly upstream, still within sight. She looked around. She didn't want to fish here, she wanted to have slow hot sex standing up right out here. It was practically in the air to have sex right now. Frelling shame Jack wasn't interested. Frelling shame he'd probably be upset if she helped herself. Frelling shame John wasn't here. 'Frelling shame I thought of John,' she swallowed a sudden lump and blinked suddenly moist eyes. "Frell," she kicked a rock and pouted. She tried looking around at the plants to distract herself.

Natural Earth used to bore her, in fact it terrified her when she was stuck out in the place they called Maine. It took some getting used to, but gradually things started looking interesting or beautiful and she started recognizing more things and noticing new things.

The diversity was the most astounding aspect. Everywhere she looked, listened or felt, there was some form or sign of life or natural process. Usually in myriad of form. Large black Nebari eyes cut across the river to see tiny insects, from mites to ants, climbing over the rough bark of a profusely growing tree. "It ahhhh," she wandered closer behind Jack, looking around, "so much!"

Jack looked back towards Bob, puzzled for a few moments. He decided she meant being in nature. "Yeah," he smiled, glancing over the scene, "yeah it....really puts you in touch with creation. Are you from the city? Were you born and raised there, I mean?"

It was a silly question; he was certain she couldn't be anything else but the peculiar product of some cosmopolitan scene, and he felt silly asking. Still, he had to ask in hopes of getting some indication from where in the world his son's live-in originated. John had made it seem like he'd be embarrassed if his dad made an issue of Bob being a foreigner, so Jack decided it was pretty much now or never.

The panic over the tabloid story he'd seen at Hank's just yesterday seemed a world away already, and somehow he couldn't help but have some hope it wasn't as bad as it seemed. He didn't believe it would mean he wouldn't see or hear of Bob again. After he'd first seen John with Bob, he hadn't seriously expected them to be together for more than a few months, at best. Yet they were still together, at least loosely, and he also sensed some indefinable bond there, so he did want to know in case this odd affair was going to lead to something that'd entwine their lives for a while.

Unfortunately, the girl wasn't talking. In fact, she seemed to withdraw, both literally and figuratively, stepping back a few, planting her hands in pockets in the seat of the overalls and dropping her head and gaze to look around at nothing in particular, with her mouth slack and her eyes searching, hungry and edgy. At length she quickly whetted her lips and closed her mouth. Jack returned his attention to fishing, his refocused attention broken when she unexpectedly spoke.

"Up....a ways," she quirked her neck up to a side and then slowly back, smiling with her eyes not meeting him.

"Oregon? ...Seattle," he decided, if there was a likely city up north. But she seemed evasive.

"Up..." she led.

"Toronto....Nova - Ah, Quebec," he decided, and settled on that when she smiled nervously and wandered away to one side. That had to be it. That city must be getting more like Paris all the time, he joked to himself with a small chuckle. And of French descent, probably; he once met a young lady in Trouville, during an IASA sponsored trip, who seemed slightly similar to the petite, roundish-faced young lady. The mod bob was certainly Parisian. But then, come to think of it, the young lady in Trouville was of Germanic or some extraction to that affect, if he's remembering their conversation rightly. That explains some, but not those odd eyes. But then, what did.

The odd young lady was a puzzling one, but certainly urban, and cosmopolitan. Perhaps she'd been some off-beat model? Her petite, thin stature, the hint of darkness around her eyes and the heavily, artificially made-up skin over a very pallid color all suggested a former model, drug abuser and anorexic to boot, he considered. That set well with the sense he'd first had of her, that she was bravely undertaking a radical change, and that he shouldn't be quick at harsh judgments, however obvious the cases for the presumptions.

He decided to leave the oddball reformer from Quebec to her distracted meanderings of the vicinity and perhaps get better acquainted, however risky that be to his confidence in his son's choice of mates that may be, at a later time. For now there was a chance to reel in sunshine, birds, crickets, frogs, fish and the glow of life.

Bob settled down into a crouch a distance behind Jack, examining a millipede. She kept looking up to Jack though. It wasn't a serious disappointment to her that he didn't seem to want sex since he had something that made a very warm feeling of its own. She especially sensed it where it involved him and his son. He didn't need a reason to care about things. John had that in him and she loved it.

She'd always had a sense that by the time she met him, John was more callous and wary than he must have been before he left Earth. Being around Jack confirmed it in her mind. If anything, Jack was naturally kinder, or maybe it was just being John's sire.

She couldn't tell much about paternal love. Seeing it as something that was the rule, not the exception, was something new to her. Here it seemed to be expected. Her sires had never been a source of anything like that. Bob plucked up an ant on an impulse. It was larger than those around the cabin. She wondered if John would still be the wonderful sire she knew he could be, whoever he had children with that he could raise. She absently put the ant in her mouth and chewed.

Jack jumped back off the rock he was standing on, ready to make the fastest getaway he ever had when something on four legs plowed into the creek. He was astonished when Bob's head popped up out of the tall grasses, gargling some water in her mouth. He rushed over in time for her to stand up, wiping her mouth off with her sleeve. A big black ant crawled on her sleeve. Bob whisked it off. "Ant suck!" she insulted it where it landed.

Bob hopped on one foot a few moments and her tongue worked in her mouth. Then she plunged down to drink from the river again. Jack figured out she'd tried eating an ant and tried not to laugh. "Don't drink that, here, let's get you a drink from the cooler," he tried taking her arm. She snapped it away from him and drank anyway.

Finally she stood, shifted nervously, smiled nervously, went to say something and decided to turn and go back to looking around. Jack scratched his head and returned to fishing.

Jack decided to move in order to take advantage of the afternoon sunshine. He stepped into the blade grass at the river edge and cast slightly downstream. But Jack didn't hold his content casting pose for long. Jack looked around, alarmed to notice a swarm of mosquitoes were around. "These darn mosquitoes!" Jack slapped at one by his cheek.

"Wha?" Bob asked, not one mosquito bothering her. Instantly, she held her forefinger and thumb near to her face, having caught a mosquito by the wings. Bob squinted. "Are-n't these s- ss'pposed tah tack you, drink mm-blood an beh a ra- real pain in eema?"

"What-yeah, don't they have mosquitoes in Quebec?" Jack asked between swats. "Let's get the heck out of here before they eat your father in law?" he suggested, starting from the river edge with an odd look at the daughter in law. "Good grief, for all I know she is a vampire," she just heard him whisper to himself as he started picking up his gear. "John, no he'd never even notice until they had him for dinner."

Bob smiled to herself as they walked back to the car. He thought she was a vampire. She knew what those were and she wasn't one of those creatures, in spite of what John's sire thought. Those friends of John's in Maine, Nick and Nat, now they were real vampires. Bob tried to imagine how John's sire would react to knowing that he was walking with an alien instead of a vampire. She giggled wondering which he would be the most surprised about, vampires or his son frelling an alien.

She saw Jack glance back at her, then look up at the sun. "Nope, no vampires here, the sun was out," Jack reminded himself, feeling very foolish. "You're getting old for that." He heard Bob giggle again behind him as she caught up to him.

"Com'n," she said, looping her free arm around his as they strolled back to his car.

Chapter 15

The door latch snapped back when he shut the door. Doug shrugged to himself. He'd still take his Honda over anything John had. It might not be perfect but they always worked. Doug turned around, then realized he'd forgotten his briefcase. Turning around again, he pressed the latch and got nothing. He tried it again. After staring at it a minute he realized the lock really was broke.

"Oh crap!" he rolled his eyes up and fished out his keys. Or tried. He then realized he'd left his keys in the car. He looked inside. They sat right there on the front seat, mocking him. Doug hurried to the passenger door. Maybe he hadn't locked it. But he found out that he had remembered to lock that door. He groaned and leaned back against the car, sliding onto the ground.

Just then he remembered the hatchback lock never worked right. It never locked right anymore. He hurried and tried the hatchback only to find out that it had decided to work again just in time to make his day. He slammed his hand on the hatchback glass. The seal popped open. He watched the morning condensation immediately run right into the interior.

Doug looked up, but he didn't know why. He was just a man stuck on a rock in the middle of a profoundly vast empty space with the other billions of idiots living stupid lives full of stupid things just like this. He was born way too early to try going anywhere else, assuming the hateful part of the population doesn't undo all the progress the other part of the population barely managed first and people never leave this rock.

Doug sat down on the planter curb behind his car, wondering what to do to open his car in time and whether people going out there to start new lives was really a hot idea.

"Your car won't start?" a lady's voice interrupted himself. "Your car?"

"No, I was just, well yes. I'll get it. Oh," he stood up, recognizing the lady was a co-worker from some years back. "Bridget?"

"Doug. Still the same, I see?"

"Oh. Oh yeah. You look great," he nodded, and he meant it. "How the hell did you get that tan working here?"

"I'm just seeing supply management for a surplus sale. For the company I work for. Hey. Um I saw it at the grocery store. About your fight with John. I'm not saying anything, but the guys kind of suggested that I suggest to you, if I saw you around here, that you might want to work there instead. John too, if it's not a problem. Or not if that's....the problem. You can call them," she held out a card.

"Who? I mean, why?" he took the card. A boring white card with the name of Richard Stepson identified as coordinator for the business. "Styx Enterprises? What, no Max Magneto?"

"I know, but it's a real place. I work there. It's a commission competition for private enterprise, who knows. If it doesn't win we're still getting allot of research done. It's happening, and this place just isn't right now. Keep it," she held out her hand when he went to hand it back. "Just think about it. So, Doug, do you need a jump or anything? I can call a tow truck?"

"No thanks," Doug put the card in his pocket. "So you're not consulting for polymer applications still are you? Do you live around here anymore?"

"No, I'm finally doing dynamics. No, it's up the coast a ways, I live....up there. I've got to get in there in a few minutes, it's nice meeting you again, Doug."

"Oh. Well it's nice seeing you again too, just, look me up if you want I'll be around a few months I think. Maybe. Good luck on whatever."

"Thanks," she walked away, her high heels clicking as she walked. Why that tall blond wore tall high heels he had no idea unless it was to make shorter people feel small. That hadn't changed but she looked even shapelier than he remembered and she sure knew how to dress otherwise. "John would be all over that in a second flat," he muttered to himself. But then, these days John was a mass of contradictions sometimes.

Doug gave the card a concerned look and slid it in his black and purple nylon wallet with the other one. As if the proposal hadn't sounded odd the first time, there was a second one to add unlikely coincidence. He had the feeling someone was trying to draft him. He had no cause to be suspicious, but he sure felt odd that any other party would be trying to draft somebody who hadn't shown interest in leaving the IASA.

Looking at his watch, he realized he'd be late and had better just break down and call a tow truck to break in the car. Doug slammed the door with the side of his fist. A clank followed. Doug hurried to the driver's door. It opened. Taking out his briefcase and his keys this time, he then shut the door. It closed fine. Smiling, Doug spun his briefcase, caught it and headed in to today's business with the IASA.

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