Chiana dozed fitfully in the sun until she heard noises coming from off to her right side. She looked to her right to see a teenaged human boy staring down at her from the balcony of a nearby building; one that Crichton called a skyscraper. Chiana snorted in disdain. Skyscrapers? These buildings were tiny compared to some of the ones she'd seen on a dozen different worlds. Buildings that stretched into the sky so far that their tops were lost in the clouds. 'Humans,' she thought, shaking her head, 'always thought they had the biggest and best of everything. They had no idea. Well at least one did.'
Chiana heard more sounds to her right and looked to see nearly half a dozen teenage boys now gathered on the nearby balcony. 'Young males,' Chiana grinned then sighed in annoyance, 'Just like those human bananas, they tend to come in bunches.' She didn't want to leave the nice, warm sunshine, but John would have a fit if he knew she was out here naked where anyone could see her.
Chiana stood and stretched slowly, giving her audience a full view. "Woooo!" she heard them whoop. "Motherf*ck'n hard*ss," one of them loudly said. Another spoke over that, "F*ckin sh*t scrambled eggs." Another replied to the other, "And she don't get you a f*ckin throb in the knob? You f*ckin queer." The boys laughed and made some more hoots and hollers.
She sauntered slowly over to the terrace railing and posed there, occasionally switching positions, teasing and taunting the boys. Listening to the hoots and hollers coming from them, she hid a grin and pretended to ignore them. "Hey baby, what's yer name baby?" "Work it girl, show it all baby," was what she heard as she slowly turned and swayed seductively toward the terrace doors, still pretending to ignore the boys. At the door Chiana paused and turned and blew a kiss at the boys before darting inside.
Chiana chuckled as she walked into the kitchen. 'Males,' she thought, 'no matter what age or species....soo alike.' Chiana snagged another piece of fruit out of the refrigerator and leaned against the counter to eat it when she heard the front door open. Before she could react, Doug entered the kitchen.
Doug was disheveled, his eyes watery and bloodshot, his clothes ruffled and dirty, his hair sticking up in places. He was also drunk, very drunk, Bob noted, as he swayed on his feet, a full bottle of liquor in each hand and what looked like more tucked under his arm. He stumbled slowly toward her finally noticing she was there when he was almost on top of her.
"Hey Bobbie," he slurred as he stumbled past her to put the bottles on the counter, not seeming to notice that she was standing there stark naked. Not that Bob minded.
"So where's that prick you shack up with Bobbie, he desert you too?" he said as he struggled to open one of the bottles. Bob stepped forward and took the bottle from him and opened it with a deft motion born of long experience with these things. She handed it back to him, thinking as she did so that maybe him drinking more liquor wasn't such a good idea. But he snatched the bottle from her and took a long swig from it before setting it on the counter.
He wiped his mouth, more or less, and looked at Bob. "Sorry, where's my manners Bob, you wanna drink. Course ya do," he said, not waiting for her answer. Doug started looking through the cupboards for glasses finally grabbing two from the cupboard by the sink. He reeled unsteadily back over to where Bob stood and put the glasses on the counter, picked up the open bottle of booze and splashed some messily into the glasses.
"Here ya go Bobbie," he said, shoving the drink at her. Bob picked it up and took a sip. Her stomach rebelled suddenly and she choked a little but Doug didn't seem to notice. He klinked his glass against hers and lifted his glass in a mock salute, "Here's to all the pricks we've loved before, including Prick of the Year, John Crichton."
Bob held a skeptical look at Doug, wondering what brought on that comment. She had overheard their fight the night before, and wondered if this was directly related or not. Bob shifted uneasily. Doug was very drunk, and drunks were notoriously unpredictable. She didn't think Doug would really hurt her, but Bob tensed up anyway, prepared for anything.
"You know what those bastards did Bob, no you don't know what they did, they shut us down." Doug stepped away from the counter, weaving unsteadily, and waved his glass in the air, sloshing liquor all over. "Oh they didn't shut it down permanently, no, no, no, funding problems, they said. Just temporarilyary until more funding. Comes through. Bull! They shut it down cause they think our beloved shit, that's John to you and me, sold us out, sold everyone out, including me, for money. Frickin' Prick."
Bob watched silently as Doug wove his way back to the counter and refilled his glass before continuing his diatribe. "This whole thing Bobbie, this whole thing, the medical tests was just a ruse so they could get him back to investigate. And since they suspects him, the rest of us are under suspections too. So the project'ssss on ice, ssshut down and I'm out of a job."
Doug leaned unsteadily against the counter. "All my dreams, everything I ever wanted to do, gone, gone in 60 seconds, or less, all because of good oooold pal John Crichton." He laughed drunkenly, bitter and near hysteria as he poured himself another drink. He felt a hand on his arm and turned to see Bob looking at him sympathetically.
"Hey, it'll be fine," she said, smiling tentatively at him.
Doug stared at her for a moment before grinning back. "Sorry Bobbie," he said, "didn't mean to dump on you."
"S'okay," she replied.
Doug stepped back and looked at her realizing for the first time since he'd come in that Bob was naked, totally naked. The grin turned into a leer as he looked her slowly up one side and down the other before his gaze settled on the fluffy white down between her legs.
"So Bobbie, you're a natural blonde. Must be why that prick likes you so much. He likesss blondsss you know." Doug peered closely at her. "You wearin' a wig or somethin'." He shrugged turning away for another drink. "Doesn't matter," he mumbled to himself at his drink. "Who cares, man, who f*ckin' cares."
Bob turned away from Doug, uncomfortable under his scrutiny and not knowing why. Doug blundered around her, reached out and stroked her cheek while gazing down into her bottomless black eyes. "I think I can see what he sees in you Bob," he whispered. Doug moved even closer until Bob could feel the counter pressing against her back. "Would being with you...." he swiftly bent down and kissed her. His lips were soft and warm and he tasted like the booze he'd been drinking, but Bob didn't protest as he kissed her. She still didn't protest when he reached down and lifted her up and perched her on the edge of the counter.
Bob whimpered a little when his mouth left hers as he trailed a line of kisses to her ear. He drew back, turning pleading eyes on her. "Please Bob, please." With a groan he kissed her again pressing frantically against her, trying to pry her legs apart. Bob moaned into his mouth as she opened her legs wide and wrapped them around Doug's waist, drawing him closer in to her.
Doug brought one hand up, awkwardly stoking the smooth, soft gray skin of her collarbone. 'He really doesn't know what he's doing,' Bob thought, as she reached for his hand and brought it expertly to her breast. His fingers fumbled with a hard black nipple for a moment, then he suddenly froze. Bob whimpered and tried to force her breast farther into his hand.
Doug's voice trembled as he withdrew his hand and pulled away from her. "I'm sorry Bob, this issshn't right," he whispered. "I'm sorry; I can't." He turned away from her and took a deep breath. "I just wanted a piece of him Bob...." His face crumpled and Bob was pinned against the counter again, only this time her arms were full of crying human male.
Bob did the only thing she could do under the circumstances; she wrapped her arms around him and held him as he silently sobbed against her. Bob crooned softly as he cried, surprising herself since she didn't see herself particularly as the mothering type. But she understood all too well what Doug was going through, they both had something in common. For cycles she had loved John, more than she had ever loved anyone, except Nerri, but John had loved Aeryn, only Aeryn. Bob sighed, knowing the futility and hopelessness of loving John Crichton too much.
Doug pulled away from her after a few minutes, looking slightly sheepish again. "Sorry Bob, didn't mean to...."
Bob chuckled, putting him at ease and patted his cheek. "S'okay," she said. "C'mon, ya need food and sleep."
Doug grimaced. "Nnno, but sweep souns good." He swayed unsteadily, so Bob wound an arm around him and guided him toward his bedroom, Doug leaning heavily on the slighter Bob. He stopped just as they were about to enter his room. "Please don't tell John about this please Bob," he pleaded.
She looked up at him and patted his cheek. "Won't tell," she assured him. Doug sighed in relief as Bob helped him into the room. Bob steered him over to the bed and began to help him get undressed, since Doug had problems unbuttoning his shirt. He allowed her to unbutton it, but took it off and flung it to the floor. Bob chuckled as he batted at her hands when she unzipped his pants, but stepped away to let him get them off himself. After a few minutes of fumbling he finally did, then fell heavily back onto the bed.
Bob grinned as she noted that Doug was more of a brief man rather than the boxers John wore. Maybe she could get John to wear the briefs, they definitely showed more. Bob got Doug settled into bed and pulled the covers up to his chin, feeling strangely maternal as she did so. "Poor human," she barely whispered to herself. She leaned down, kissed him on the forehead, and turned to go when he grabbed her hand.
"Thanks Bob for everything," he mumbled sleepily. "You're so nice, much nicer than any other girlfriends."
Bob froze. "Other girlfriends?" she finally managed to stammer out.
"Yeah," Doug murmured sleepily, "like Stephanie and Caroline, buncha others, tol' chu' he's a fprick didn' I. You're the nisssesst." Doug let go of her hand and snuggled down into bed and fell asleep, leaving Bob staring at him in dismay.
Chiana walked away from Doug, thinking of how his revelation wasn't news or even surprising, just wondering distantly why her legs were shaking badly. Of course he had other girlfriends. Why would hearing it from Doug be news? Unsteadily making her way to the room she shared with John, Chiana sat heavily on the bed. After a while, she distantly realized that she didn't know how long she had been sitting there. Her mind seemed to be refusing to work. Finally shock gave way to emotion, spilling twin rivulets onto her cheeks.
Bolting up onto her feet, Chiana shrieked and swung her arm in a wild arc, knocking everything off the nightstand. Chiana turned and frantically ripped the blankets and sheets off the bed, throwing them into a heap on the floor before collapsing and sobbing into the pile of bedding.
After a few minutes, emotion gave way to some thought. Chiana raised her head and wiped her eyes, refusing to give in to any more tears. 'Stupid, stupid,' she scolded herself. She struggled to think or feel out a reason why this upset her. Of course she was his f*ck buddy, as Humans put it. Anything more than that brought Aeryn to mind, and she hadn't expected him to move past that. She had always wanted John, wanted him so bad she'd followed him time after time, even to this drenhole of a world. Now she had him, or his body at least. But, she laughed bitterly, apparently so did every other woman on this backwater planet.
Sitting up in the pile of blankets, she whipped her head and sniffed in her juicy nose. Perhaps it was his not being open to her about this, instead putting on a front of expecting her to be honest and acting as if he was. It made her wonder if they were even friends anymore. At least she'd had that before.
Chiana sighed. She shouldn't be surprised, she lectured herself. She'd suspected this for a while. He hid her out at the cabin out of sight from anybody. When he came home, if he came home, she noticed that he sometimes smelled of other women or their perfume. When she joked about it, to hide the hurt, he always had a plausible explanation and she had pretended to believe him because it really hadn't mattered so much; he always came back to her.
Chiana laughed bitterly, the sound bordering on hysteria. He'd used her, used her, but then if she was honest with herself, she had let him. What a fool she'd been to think he could ever love her, Chiana the tralk. He only loved Aeryn, always had, always would. He'd just taken what was freely offered.
Chiana laughed again and struggled to stand, the laughter bitter and hollow and her legs too weak. She had always hoped that John would find a love like he'd had with Aeryn, if not Aeryn herself. She had ached for him when he had loved Aeryn so hopelessly, yet Aeryn treated him so badly. She still wanted to punch Aeryn for the way she had treated John, both before and after returning to Moya. John had been so lost without her.
After struggling more, Chiana finally stood up in the heap of bedding. Coming to Earth was such a bad idea it made her laugh at herself to think that she had done it. Frelling tinked is what it was, but she couldn't stay away from John Crichton, no matter how hard she tried. She knew that somehow her life and her destiny, if she had one, were wrapped up with him, so she was frelled no matter what. What pissed her off the most about the whole thing was that now she was trapped, trapped on this drenhole with no way off. How could she be so stupid to trap herself on this backwater world because of anyone? Never mind a man who didn't love her as much, never would, and leave herself no way of getting off.
Chiana looked at herself in the bedroom mirror, gazing depthlessly into her eyes, trying to recall what she had been thinking. But she soon shook her head and chuckled. She hadn't been thinking, at least not with her head.
Suddenly she couldn't look at herself any longer. Peeking in on Doug, she checked to see if her outburst had disturbed him. It hadn't. He lay in the same position she'd left him, snoring fitfully.
Walking into the kitchen, Chiana went directly to the cupboard where she'd hidden the booze. She was going to go against her advice to Doug and get frelled drunk. That was the best solution for now. The temporary oblivion that the alcohol promised was sorely needed, and she didn't care what John or anyone else thought. Frell him and frell this whole frelling world.
Chiana took out both bottles and opened up one of them. She held it up in a mock salute. "Here's to Crichton's tralk, frelled stupid enough to get herself stuck on this drenhole planet with that frellnik," she saluted herself aloud. Scorning to use a glass, Chiana bent her head back and began to chug down the bottle of liquor until it was half-way empty. Suddenly her knees buckled, knocking the bottle over in her effort to grab the counter. She sank down onto the floor retching uncontrollably. Behind her, the bottle smashed on the floor, sending broken glass and alcohol everywhere. Chiana crouched on her knees, vomiting repeatedly until her stomach was totally empty.
Finally the vomiting fit was done with her and she sat back, carefully avoiding the broken glass littering the floor, shaken by her sudden illness. 'Frell,' she thought. 'What's this doing to me?' She was almost never sick, and she'd never had that reaction to alcohol before, at least not before getting dren-faced drunk first. 'This frelling planet of that fekface Crichton,' she muttered.
Chiana pulled herself shakily to her feet, gripping the countertop and trying to steady herself. Another wave of nausea gripped her, and she leaned against the counter, fighting the dizziness that threatened to send her back to her knees. After a few minutes, the nausea and dizziness finally passed, leaving Chiana feeling drained and exhausted.
Frell she was tired, and she'd only been up for a few hours, but she suddenly needed to rest. Chiana quickly rinsed out her mouth in the sink and, avoiding the shards of glass scattered everywhere, she started to make her way down the hall to the room she shared with John.
Chiana stopped abruptly in the hallway outside their room, struck by an acrid irony. How many of his groupies and his little conquests had been in that room, in that bed, with him? She knew the difference between her relationship with John and all the frells she'd had for neccessity, sport or pleasure, it was something she felt to her soul. To hear that he was still engrossed with casual frells brought home things in her past that now gave her guilt, and made her deeply uncertain about him and his view of her.
Suddenly she couldn't face going in that room and sleeping in that bed. But where could she go? Tears refused to come and wash away the bitter coldness. She was just so tired all of a sudden. Chiana briefly thought about going into Jack's room, but she suddenly didn't want to be alone.
Dragging in her steps, Chiana turned around and a few short steps later was standing by Doug's bedside. Doug still slept peacefully, dead to the world, as hopeless and helpless as her beloved, poor trelk John often seemed to her. Chiana looked at him for a second before going to the other side of the bed and crawling in.
Doug only stirred slightly as she snuggled up next to him. Chiana felt his warmth begin to permeate the coldness that had settled over her and began to doze off.
The phone rang, starting her a little, but she didn't answer it. 'Probably John,' she thought. 'Frell him, not answering. He can kiss my eema,' was her last thought as she shut out the noise of the phone and drifted off to sleep beside Doug.
"Damn, where is she and why isn't she picking up the damn phone?" John asked the cell phone as he pressed redial again. "I told her not to leave the apartment."
Driving behind the wheel of John's rented yellow Mustang, Jack chuckled. "Since when does Bob ever listen to you?"
"That was helpful dad, thanks," John sarcastically assured him. "And you don't have to drive this at the speed limit when everyone else is rushing by. Unless you want someone to shorten the rear even more."
"Can't help it if it's true, son," Jack remarked. "Just stating the facts as I see 'em. Besides, John, do you honestly think she's gonna stay put right where you leave her? That may have worked up at that isolated mountain cabin, but once she's seen the city it's hard to keep them down on the farm, boy." John glared as Jack chuckled at his own joke. Sensing John's need for urgency, however, he sped up.
It was dark now. They'd been at the base all day and into the evening. Jack had to admit to himself, if not to John, that he was also worried about Bob. There had been delays all day for the both of them. Delays to see the right people, delays in meetings, another interrogation for John, or as the suits at IASA called it in their pathetically phony acts at being casual, a "question and answer session." Now here it was, night, and neither had heard from Bob all day, despite repeated phone calls.
Jack looked over at John. He was exhausted, and the strain of the interrogations and now the worry and fear about Bob was showing. Jack looked down at the speedometer on the car and saw that it was way over the speed limit. He eased up on the accelerator. Wouldn't due to get a ticket this close to the apartment.
A few minutes later he pulled into the parking garage and parked the car. John was out of the car and sprinting for the elevator almost before Jack put the car in park. John waited impatiently for the elevator to arrive and fidgeted constantly as they rode it up to their floor.
John was out of the elevator in a flash but he fumbled with the keys as he tried to unlock the apartment door. He finally got it open and went inside. The apartment was dark and appeared to be deserted.
"Bob!" John yelled. "Bob are you here?"
Jack flipped on the lights as John went down the hall to his room. John stood in the doorway frowning as Jack joined him.
"What in the hell happened in here?" Jack asked as he and John stared at the wreckage of the bedroom. The bedclothes were in a heap on the floor and at least one of the bedside lamps was lying smashed on the floor.
"Somehow I don't think she was just changing the sheets," Jack said as he surveyed the damage. "What do you suppose happened here?"
"I don't know but we need to find Bob. Dad, I'm gonna look in here, could you start searching the rest of the apartment in case she's here and just ignoring me," John suggested, neither of them willing to think of worse just yet.
"Sure son," Jack agreed. A minute later he called out, "John, you'd better come see this."
John raced down the hall. "I'm in here son," Jack told him from the kitchen. The odor hit John before he even entered the room. "Geez dad, what an incredible smell you've discovered," he quipped.
"Funny son, just get in here," Jack told him.
John stepped into the room. "What in the hell happened in here? Looks like the aftermath of a rave. Not that I've ever been to one," John claimed.
"Uh huh," Jack skeptically glanced at John. "Be careful where you step son, there's broken glass everywhere. Is that what I think it is?" he said pointing to a pile of chunky blue goo on the floor.
"Ooooh yeah," John said with a grimace at the smell. "It ain't The Fresh Clear Scent of Mountain Air fabric softener. Looks like Bob got sick again. God, it smells like a distillery in here."
"Yeah, it does. Looks like she had some help in getting sick," Jack observed, pointing to a full bottle of liquor on the counter.
"Yeah maybe," John replied as he gingerly stepped over the vomit and broken glass on the floor. He grabbed the bottle and looked at it. "Where did she get this? We only had beer in the house." John looked closer at the bottle. "Hey, wait a minute, this is the rotgut that DK likes."
"Maybe Doug came back, they had some of this, she got sick, so he took her somewhere?" Jack suggested.
"There's a helpful thought," John mumbled. "I'm going to check his room, see if he's here and if he's seen her. Back in a sec."
Jack wrinkled his nose at the stench. "I'll start cleaning up in here son."
"Good idea, the managers ever see something like that, they'll rip the taxpayers off even worse," John mumbled as he walked out.
Jack had just taken the broom, dustpan and mop out of the broom closet when he heard John call. "Dad, could you come here?"
Jack hurried to Doug's room. John stood there, looking down at Doug, who was asleep or passed out, the covers pulled up to his chin. There was a distinct odor of stale booze and, oddly enough, coffee, about him.
"He's wasted," John observed, shaking his head in disgust. "We're gonna have to sober him up if we're gonna get anything outta him." John reached down and shook Doug vigorously by the shoulders. "Wake up dude, where's Bob?"
Doug barely stirred, so John shook him again, harder this time. "Wake up DK!"
A mumbled "What?" drifted out of Doug.
"Get up!" John loudly ordered.
"Go away," Doug quietly muttered as he pulled the covers over his head.
John sighed in exasperation. "Why are things never easy?" he muttered. He grabbed Doug and shook him vigorously until he stirred. "I said get up. Now where the hell is Bob?"
Doug sat up abruptly. His eyes were bloodshot and watery, and his hair was doing a good imitation of Don King. "Okay, okay, mmm up. Could ya keep it down," he said quietly wincing even at that amount of noise. John grinned at Jack. "Whatta you want?" Doug asked, his bloodshot eyes focusing blearily on John. Realizing it was John, Doug glared at him. "Oh, its you, traitor." He fell back onto the bed. "I'm too busy sleepin' go away."
"You're drunk," John told him. "I'm looking for Bob."
"Haven't seen her, go away," Doug muttered as he started to turn over but found something blocking his way. "What the hell," he mumbled as he poked at the lump he suddenly noticed beside him. The lump moved suddenly.
"Holy sh*t!" Doug exclaimed as he tried to scramble out of the bed but got all tangled in the bedclothes. The mouths of all three men dropped open as Bob sat up in bed next to Doug.
"Not dren," Bob objected. "Just me." Bob smacked Doug in the arm. "Nuhhh, quit poking me," she snapped at a horrified Doug.
"You're, you're naked," Doug stammered out.
Bob smirked and looked left and right. "Yeah," Bob then replied with a cheeky grin.
"What in the damnedest denches of Dante are you doing in bed with my girlfriend," John hotly yelled at Doug.
"Sh*t, holy sh*t," Doug exclaimed as he desperately tried to claw his way free of the bedclothes. "I swear dude, I swear dude, I swear I didn't know she was in there," he said as he finally fought his way free and stood on rubbery legs. John grabbed a blanket and draped it around Bob.
"Let me go, you slijnot," Bob snapped as she angrily tried to push him away.
But John grabbed her and dragged her bodily out of the bed while struggling to keep the blanket securely wrapped around her. He finally just picked her up and threw her over his shoulder. "We'll be back in a minute," John said as he carried the struggling Bob out of the room.
Doug turned to Jack. "I swear, Jack, that nothing happened. I didn't even know she was there. I swear. You know me, I'd never."
Jack patted Doug reassuringly on the shoulder. "I believe you, son. Maybe you should go get cleaned up, take some aspirin before they come back. I'm sure John's gonna want an explanation. It would probably look better if you weren't doing your Don King impression while you were at it."
Doug sheepishly tried to smooth his hair down. He winced as he moved his head. "Yeah, aspirin sounds good," he muttered as he made his way to his bathroom.
Jack left the room. He could hear raised voices coming from John and Bob's room as soon as he entered the hallway. He decided to let the two of them deal with it between themselves and went into the living room to wait. Several minutes later, just as he found a good program on the television, he heard their door open.
"You can't tell me what to do Crichton," Bob yelled as she emerged from their room, dressed in her overall get-up. She came into the living room, followed closely by John.
"What is your problem?" John asked.
Bob whirled on him so fast that he almost tripped over her. "You wanna know what my problem is Crichton?" she whipped her head in a sideways jerk, raised her elbow high and poked him in the chest. "It's you, always you Crichton." She turned around, leaving a puzzled, frustrated John staring at her, and plopped herself down on the couch next to Jack.
"How are you feeling, Bob?" Jack directly asked.
Bob smiled wanly at him but didn't answer.
Doug kind of slunk into the room a moment later, looking very sheepish. His eyes were still bloodshot and watery, but his hair was combed and he was dressed. He sat down on the couch on the other side of Jack. John sat down on the third couch.
Jack tried to watch his program but had to keep glancing at his conspicuously silent companions. "Well kids," Jack said, at length, "kind of you to let me watch my TV in peace and quiet. I'll watch it in comfort too, if one of you guys will be good enough to take the lady here out for some fresh air and maybe even some shopping if she feels up to it."
John objected and Doug groaned.
"You guys could use a break from things. Best way's to get out for a while, so I'll see you later."
"Neeeeot!" Bob screeched, then settled back down clutching the couch throw pillow. "Crichton. John. Me. No." Bob went back to blankly gazing ahead.
"Enjoy some time out, Doug," Jack concluded. "Fresh air will do you good."
Doug and Bob got up and dutifully walked out of the living room, leaving the Crichtons watching TV in silence.
"Got the donuts," Doug announced. "At least something will be good about the morning, whenever it finally comes. Sure you don't want any?" Doug asked, parking the four boxes of a dozen donuts per onto the back seat area of his Honda.
Bob turned a pat look at him. "What? Are you sure it's safe to eat? I mean it won't get lunged back up when you do that funny stop and go thing at stoplights?"
"Oh ha ha," Doug got in and stuffed a raspberry donut from the nearest box into his mouth. "Ffo fou fon' fike fy far anf fou fon' fike fy fofuts. Fafy fing fou fo fike? Foile Cafafian fick."
"Yeah I like males that do big, not talk big," she pushed the dangling end of his donut into his mouth with a quick, deft finger, "and don't decide I'm worse than I am. I'm Pip. Not a foile Cafafian fick."
"Well sorry," Doug finally spoke clearly after swallowing, "have one?"
Bob held a petulant look at him for a moment before taking a donut. "Fine. Mm but I don't wanna eat it in here. Let's go over there," Bob gestured to the second story patio of a closed restaurant.
"Can't," Doug shrugged. "They're closed."
"It's wide open," Bob disagreed. "What, they have a force shield around it?"
"No," Doug snorted. "Even if we got up there, people will see us up there and call the cops, and next thing we know we're being escorted in cuffs back to America."
"And why," Bob asked with an incredulous sneer on her face, "would people care if we sit up there?"
"I dunno, man, I mean Miss, people are nuts," he shrugged. "Oh crap, so's this donut. I told them, no nuts!"
"A no nut donut?" Bob led. "People are nuts," she agreed, with an amused smirk. "So let's go over there."
"I'm not gonna get in any worse trouble over that," Doug shrugged off the suggestion.
"Okay, then let's go over there and not go up onto the patio," Bob insisted.
"Uh," Doug looked over there and then back at her with a small smile. "I'm sorry, Miss, I mean, he's my friend."
Bob studied her donut a few moments before looking back at him. "Uh, about earlier...."
"Hey," Doug waved his donut defensively, "it's not like that. John knows he didn't see anything, he's just posturing, it's a guy thing."
Bob took a tiny nibble off the donut and was suddenly overcome by hunger. She stuffed a big bite into her mouth. "What color am I?" Bob asked between chews. "My hair, my body?"
Doug was confused for a moment before carefully responding. "It's not that I have any problems with it, okay?"
"You don't remember?" Bob asked.
"I'm not saying I do, I don't, I mean," Doug unclarified. "I'm not saying either, what I'm saying is just that."
Bob nodded slightly through his babble. She'd had a hunch he was too drunk and that he wouldn't remember straight. It made her smile at the irony that the only part of their encounter he could and did forget about was the only part of it that she didn't have any regrets about.
After a few minutes of companionable munching, a car pulled up and blasted its horn. Doug's donut flipped up onto his dash and he hurriedly started the car and pulled away. "Forgot I stopped in their loading zone," he muttered.
"Weren't we loading our faces?" Bob suggested.
"Ha! Darn you're right!" Doug laughed. "And they just wanted me to move so they could load up theirs." Doug turned around and stopped along the curb opposite the donut shop. The car stopped prematurely, so he had to take that as good enough to the spot he was aiming for, but looked at her as if he'd aimed for precisely the spot he was now in and that she might have been the one wanting the nicely lit space twenty feet ahead. "You want up there?"
"We just-" Bob gestured to the shop.
"Thought you said you wanted to eat it over here?" Doug replaced the burden of reason onto her.
Bob gaped at him a moment. "Weird," she decided, and went back to devouring her third donut. "So you ah, wanted to be in space?" she turned around to rest her back against the glove box and her legs on the seat, her head turned toward Doug.
"Me?" he asked, as if he'd never had such a thought.
"No, your donut," she gestured to it.
"Whoa kay, I mean, no, not myself, I mean, if it worked it might somehow help mankind get further, right?" Doug explained.
"Mmmmight take a bit more than that, but yeah," she nodded, "maybe."
"If they could stop laughing long enough," Doug rolled his eyes.
"What, that slingshot thing?" Bob flew her donut between the two of them. "Fwoooooo....Well I thought it was a little primitive, but then I saw this planet and decided it's pretty clever of you guys," she complimented with a smile.
"Primitive? Hey," Doug snorted, helping himself to another donut. "If it isn't Miss Space Physicist, oh yeah that's where I heard your name before, your papers in the journal."
"John didn't tell you he picked me up in his space travels?" Bob casually asked, taking another bite of her donut.
"Oh, chuh, yeah," Doug nodded, taking another bite but continuing to talk anyway, "I remember now, I must've forgot that one."
Doug squinted his eyes at the improbable girl his best friend had found. Nothing seemed to make sense. As far as he was concerned, after the way John had been, this girl was too nice for him. Odd, in fact downright nuts, he thought, watching her stuffing away a donut while sitting with her behind on the footwell, her back arched against the glovebox and her feet flopping around on the car seat. Still, she was gnarly.
But as Doug kept absently munching donuts and watching Bob, something he always thought kind of freaky, Bob's unreal big black eyes, kept looking at him as she ate. Strange, insane thoughts kept springing into the back of is mind, thoughts that she was unearthly.
Various flashes from his memory ran past his thoughts. Until one image sprang into his mind and stuck with mind-searing clarity. She was gray, had white hair and black nipples. It was crazy to think there wasn't some reasonable explanation. But while he was staring at her, with her staring back with a secret in her eyes, he suddenly felt the conviction of truth. He was face to face with an alien.
Staring wildly at her, Doug shoved himself against the car door, absently trying to open it. Once he got it open, he ran.
Her eyes sunk down to stare at the seat, somber in her sorrow for having broken the illusions of another human. Perhaps they could find rewards, like she did, but they'd never be as secure or sated in their self estimations as they were before. It wasn't the same, but she felt that her closest personal experience was learning the depths of her own people's failings, that forced her to look away from the society most of her people arrogantly accepted to be superior and safe.
After sparing a few more microts for thought, she ran out of the car after Doug. Following her own instincts of where she would run if she had no survival skills, she found him a few blocks away, in the back court of a delivery alley. He was on his knees facing a brick back wall of a building. Her approach didn't frighten him. He seemed to expect that she'd be there.
Turning his head and looking up at her, he squinted against the light of a naked bulb in a doorway behind her. "Did you make him bring you to Earth?" he asked, nearly gasping.
Bob knelt over him at his side while he began gasping. "I followed him like a Grebol, without any plan," she smirked at herself. "It's the Crichton charm with females," she jokingly shrugged, not sure if he would hear her over the vomiting he started doing. She rolled her eyes and squeezed his other arm supportively. "Well he said it'd get messy if humans found out," she reminded herself.
After having a fit, he let his head drop back and fell onto his back. "Ow," he said.
"So look, maybe we can get this part of it over quick," Bob fell onto her back next to him and looked up at the stars. "You already know for a fact I'm so much like you humans you mistook me for one. Got any questions?"
"Why do you people do those crop circle things?"
John gazed out at the porch with a heavy heart, knowing that somewhere, perhaps at this very moment, the safe world of his old best buddy was being irrevocably changed. He had only to think back to the days when he knew Doug before the wormhole, and he remembered, distantly perhaps, what it was like for himself.
In some senses, he looked back on being on Earth before the wormhole as much like being home as a child. Perhaps Doug wouldn't ever experience the traumas he met out there, or so John hoped, but it was shocking enough to realize that in fact there were other intelligent beings out there. Even the wonder of it was scary. It was more frightening to realize there were many beings in many levels of development that could easily threaten human existence.
Jack seemed to be taking it well. Doug wasn't the stoic, ready sort that Jack was, however. John could only imagine Doug having two long-term reactions. Either he'd wig out, or take it with amazing obliviousness, not a whole lot more effectual than Doug discovering another level in a space combat video game. Which one, he was uncertain.
One thing John knew: so far, even at worst, this situation was profoundly preferable to the way things had been before. Doug had been senselessly murdered by a creature spying on John, at the order of the senseless meglomaniac with aphrodesiac breast sweat. But John had changed all that. That effect of the change, saving his friend's life, made all the regrets that much easier to take.
John considered, as he had several times since returning, why he hadn't had much reaction at the time. When he'd thought of Doug's girlfriend, who had also been pointlessly killed, he wondered instead at the likelihood of Doug having had a girlfriend like that to begin with. It was then he'd put his finger on a larger sense, that the whole reality had somehow felt untrue.
Although he was still keenly aware of how he'd changed, this time, life felt far more real, he decided, for lack of a better context. It seemed fitting, to his view, that he was now with Chiana. Like Chiana's nature, he thought, he was at once fantastic while being at the same time more in touch with himself and the experiences of the here and now.
After his thoughts had wandered for some time, he was startled back to the here and now that he was contemplating by a knock on the door. It was Doug's knock. It suddenly occurred to John that Doug's knock had been different in that other reality. This was the knock he recalled from their time together before the wormhole. Shaking his head, John tried to stop pondering those things and started walking for the door.
"That's Douglas Knox, son," Jack called out to John, taking the opportunity to enjoy a really bad pun on a homophone.
"Uh har har de har dad, I'm getting it," John called back. As expected, Doug was there at the door. Bob's head popped over Doug's shoulder for an instant. There were a few minutes of awkward silence as a bleary-eyed Doug stared at John. Of all the things he thought he might tell Doug, not one began to cover it. So John remained silent and hoped Doug would understand. Finally Doug sighed and entered the penthouse.
John looked at Bob as she followed Doug in. She avoided John's eyes, which told John everything he needed to know. John followed them into the living room and stood near Bob as Doug sat down on the couch and stared through the television.
"Best if you decide to help or clear out, sooner the better," John reluctantly suggested to Doug.
"Okay dude," Doug looked toward John but kept his eyes on Bob. "You helped me cheat on my SAT's and I wouldn't have gotten into MIT, then here, without you. I owe you, man. I'll trust you for now."
John nodded. "Sure, sure buddy," he replied.
"So where do we start?" Doug asked.
"Start what?" John distractedly asked.
Bob reached up and smacked John upside the head. "Start finding out what's going on here you frellnick," Bob shook her head. Sometimes humans, especially this one, were so dense.
"Oww, what'd you do that for? I was getting to it," complained John.
Bob rolled her eyes. "Before or after we all die of boredom, Crichton?"
Jack stepped in before anything could escalate. "Now's not the time for this. Kick his ass later, Bob. What my long-winded son is trying to say is, we found out something today." Bob and Doug looked expectantly at Jack as he continued. "I had a little talk with General Morrison today. I didn't learn much, but he did let it slip that they found an account that supposedly belongs to John."
"Account, as in bank account?" asked Doug. Jack nodded. "How much was in it? He still owes me for the down on the GTO, man."
Jack frowned. "How the hell should I know? The important thing is that an account exists, presumably with a vast sum in it, and that's why they think John sold out."
"Do you think your ah, General's slip, was accidental?" Bob asked with a suspicious cast.
Jack shrugged. "I can't be sure, but we go back a long ways. He's known John since he was a baby, and he owes me a favor or two. He couldn't risk his career by telling me too much detail outright, so yeah, maybe it was accidentally on purpose."
"Whatever the reason or the method," interjected John, "we need to find this account and then go from there. So where do you think it is?"
"Hidden," replied Bob sarcastically.
"No shit, Sherlock, but where?" asked John.
"Well...." Bob's right shoulder shrugged up and her head tilted in one of her patented quirks. "IASA found it, right?"
"Uh, yeah," John agreed. "Oh so it's either hiding in plain view or...."
"Or someone tipped them to it," Bob completed her point, got up, went over to Doug's laptop on a living room table and sat down while the men continued to talk.
"She's right," Doug interjected. "These guys may be rocket scientists but running a successful conspiracy is so not their thing. It would have to be someplace obvious for them to find it so easily."
John thought for a moment. He held up his fingers. "Okay, we've got hidden, obvious, and easy. So where would that be." John and Jack looked at Doug.
"What? Hey don't look at me dudes," Doug waved a hand at them. "I'm a science geek, not a finance geek. Hell, I can't even balance my checkbook." Doug looked over and saw Bob working on his laptop. "Hey, that's my computer," Doug protested as he walked over to see what Bob was doing. Jack glared at him. "But she can use it," Doug added, stuffing his hands in his pocket with a shrug. "So what are we gonna do, stand around here staring at each other while our careers go kamikaze?" Doug petulantly asked.
"We are," John, finally getting into the spirit, getting a pad of paper and a pen from a desk, "going to make up a list of suspects, people who want to screw us, who want to see us going down in flames."
"That could take a while," Doug muttered.
"Got a hot date or somethin' bro?" John asked.
"No," Doug sighed.
"Well, then, brew up some coffee," John suggested. "I'll order us a pizza, 'cause we're gonna be here a while."