"There you are," Doug told Bob as the quirky young lady literally fell into his Honda through the passenger window. "Hey why can't you use the door like- uh well I guess she's not normal people."
"Nope," Bob answered in good humor and handed Doug the plastic door handle that had broken off in her hand as she straightened into her seat. "'She' is nnot. And that has something to do with it too."
"Oops," said Doug. "Forgot to warn you it's like, busted."
"Is busted," Bob corrected him. But she smiled, reached an arm over to hug him and gave him a kiss and nuzzle on the cheek. Doug shrugged and looked embarrassed. "Thanks for picking me up and dropping me off all over the place at all arns," she told him. "If you'll take me to the bus station I can catch a bus to go where I'm heading next. Then you can go back to my pad and ah, smash-up."
"Crash out," he said and shrugged again, "Okay if you don't need the ride. Aren't you tired?"
"Too excited," Bob told him, "besides I've got something to do yet. Just drive," she said and she crawled into the back seat as Doug started driving from the curb side parking.
Doug's brow rose when he looked back in the rear view mirror and saw that she was changing out of the innocent jeans and jacket she'd worn at the General's lecture Saturday. "So the store had the clothes altered the way you wanted?"
"Mm yeah," Bob answered. As she pulled on the shorts she squealed, giggled and said, "Ye-ah! Aw this is so drad," she further gushed as she crawled back up to the passenger seat. "These can really be called shorts now. Seriously. Shirt you picked up fits fine too."
Doug had kept stealing glances and could see that she had changed the color of the makeup to a richer tan that he immediately thought looked amazing on her. "The makeup's great too," he told her.
"Oh," she said and seemed to be relieved. "Sure? Had to go with a darker tan after all the makeup changing last night and today."
"Hey," he told her with a shrug, "you look hot." Bob looked at him with big eyes, almost as if unsure whether he was just saying it or meant it, but she soon grinned, which he took to mean she accepted his word for it. He grinned as she snuggled into his arm. "So uh, why this change?" he asked, "The shorts and stuff."
Smiling and cutting her eyes up and aside to him in a nervous but ingratiating way that Doug was beginning to notice was characteristic for her, she sort-of explained, "Ah, think I might've overdone it at his office."
"The cute uh, school girl thing?" Doug asked gesturing to his head about where her hair had been tweaked into tufts like puppy ears. Bob sneered and nodded. Doug nodded along. "Might've."
"Not gonna say it?" Bob bristled.
"That yeah I might've. Like I might've overdone it with Payne?" Bob snidely sawed. "Like I overdo everything? Like I'm being such a typical female? Like I'm a big pain in the eema? Not gonna dub it on?"
"Rub it in?" Doug offered his guess at what she meant.
"Yeah, scrub it in."
"Dude," Doug told her, "I'm not John."
"I know," Bob softly said and nuzzled his shoulder. "Kinda wish you were at the moment. Sort of."
Doug slid a glance down to her and commented, "You're more honest than he seems to think."
"Maybe more than he wants to."
"Or me, actually," Doug pouted. She made a little "aw" sound and pecked a kiss on his shoulder. "So. Why? Worked, didn't it?"
Bob shrugged slightly. "Better if he doesn't think Crichton's too klempt. He's gotta believe it. That we've got a, a relationship. Best way, maybe, if he can't blame Crichton," she explained. "I don't know why. Might be important, just a, hm...."
"Hunch," Bob nodded.
"Ssoo, General Morrison's gonna get a different kinda view of you this time huh?" Doug supposed.
"Mm," Bob confirmed.
"So where are you going to now?" Doug dared to ask. "Not that it's my beef or anything I just mean like, so I know in case."
"A little trip out to a place called Riverside Oak," Bob told him, "to watch some old men play golf."
"Huh?" Doug asked.
"Trust me," Bob told him.
"Uuuh," Doug debated with himself. Bob gave him a gentle jab. "Okay okay," he said and laughed. "Sure hope you know what you're doin'."
"Me too," she softly said into his arm.
Distracting calls of lyrical and curt birds alike raised Jack's attention into the trees. With warm winds stirring the surrounding eucalyptus and oak on a lush carpet of grass, and bathed in the rich sun of a fine Sydney afternoon, Jack was transported from the golf course to an endless pastoral moment. General Morrison spoke again and shook Jack back to the present.
"You're looking up there as if a bird had your ball," General Morrison teased. "We've come to a full and complete stop. You may safely disembark."
"Sorry, Jim," Jack apologized as he stepped off of the cart and joined Morrison in collecting their clubs and effects, "I really don't know why we need a cart. It's such a great day on the course."
"It certainly is, I'm winning by a landslide," the General joked.
To look at Jack melding into the golf club scene in his tropical shirt and slacks, Jim thought that Jack would most likely be taken as a tourist from the states, wondering around after his paper umbrella shaded booze in a coconut between rounds on the links. One wouldn't think of him as Jim did, as a trailblazing and daring astronaut who invested as much of his life as he could into leading mankind into outer space.
Jack's seeming peace with his earthly surroundings almost comforted Jim's lingering frustration. Jack and himself had been part of the efforts that delivered the first tangible steps on a path offering new opportunities for mankind. But it seemed to them that mankind collectively shrugged, too preoccupied with selfish ends and bickering at one another. Now they had grown old and unlikely to manage anything further, their celebrity offering little but an ironic twist.
Jim sighed at his thoughts and at the fact his reason for golfing was to get his mind off the usual thoughts of his current day life with an old friend. Unfortunately being with Jack was making it harder to keep from thinking how life had gone. Typically enough, darned if Jack wasn't accomplishing just what he set out to do, which in this case was to have a pleasant game of golf. But so far Jim felt like he was carrying around his own black cloud. Then when he absently looked over the beautiful idyllic course, something caught his eyes. He straightened and stared then a grin warmed his face. "Now would you look at that. No offense to your son, but this day is about to get even better."
Jack looked over in the direction Jim was looking and saw a very petite young lady in a visor cap, short sleeve shirt, teensy shorts and sneakers making a quirky but sexy walk along the meandering path leading from the adjoining green up the gentle undulating hill to where the General and himself were. The outfit and her lovely tan color were new, but he was surprised to recognize her as Bob. "I'll be," Jack said. "Bob?"
"I'd bet my last Cognac," Jim replied.
"Well it has to be her," Jack nearly laughed, "but what brings her here? I don't remember telling her where I was going."
"She probably got it from Sergeant Milton at the gate," Jim supposed. "I tell everyone so Security is less likely to follow me around. Besides, this is about the only place I can get far enough from those security swaggies to have half a chance at meeting anyone. Personally I think the bunch of them are a snag short of a barbie."
"Huh?" Jack asked.
"They're nuttier than Kim Jung Il running a Planter's factory," Jim asserted. "Besides how can that be suspicious? A General is sure to schmooze with famous types on the golf course right?"
"I'd....think it wouldn't be too surprising, surely," Jack agreed.
"No wonder your son's so confused," Jim told Jack with a light tap of the back of his hand on Jack's nearer shoulder. "You could've chucked me the drum. This girl has some range, cutie mall rat to scandalizing the links? What other colors does this chameleon have?"
"Well I didn't say she was all black and white," Jack said in a mutter, "or grey."
"Still I must say," Jim said to Jack while making a goofy wave to Bob, "I'm a bit surprised with your son. This surprise package with the lost faerie eyes rocking up here is enough to make a guy forget anything, I can understand. Given his previous tendencies though, I'd have expected something more Amazonian for your son, to be frank with you. Then there's the question of why Roberta bothers with him. Or us for that matter."
"I must say," Jack said in turn, "that you couldn't be as surprised as I am." Jack joined Jim in turning his attention to the approaching Bob. Both her walk and the smirk on her bubblegum lipstick coated lips made it plain she knew she was being admired.
It appeared as if Bob had shopped at a Ralph Lauren Polo store. A white visor cap over her black bob wig was cute. The two buttons of her possibly child-size short white polo shirt were left open and the collar was left uneven. Her little pink terry "boy" shorts were both sexy and cute, looking cozy and cuddly while being slung lower than the most daring of low rise pants he ever saw. It was a safe assumption there was nothing under the shirt or shorts. White and pink tennis shoes without socks finished the ensemble perfectly.
Given Bob's previous guise as a precocious young lady in the General's company, Jack was baffled as to why she'd decide to show up as such a blatantly hot nymph. 'Why am I surprised that I'm surprised?' Jack also thought, since so far the girl had supplied a string of surprises and been a mass of contradictions. Whatever her reason, or lack of, it was immediately too late to recover her prior image and Jack decided he'd best go along for now and hope she knew what she was doing. Despite being an alien, she seemed to have a good instinct for human nature and had gauged the General right when she'd pressed his buttons before. Jack hoped she would be as right or as lucky this time.
"Ms. Chevalier," the General greeted Bob as she walked up. Bob nearly missed the cue to shake his hand and pursed her bubblegum lipstick coated lips when he took his cap off of his bald head. Jim shook his cap and explained, "I'm only wearing this cap to prevent sunburn."
"Looks great," Bob nodded sharply. "So what are you boys doing?" she asked with a playful sway in her stance.
"Just some pleasant golfing and more pleasant small talk," Jim replied while putting his cap back on and striking what he must have thought was a more handsome pose.
"We're heading to that tee," Jack elaborated and pointed to their nearby destination, "where the General can continue his triumphs." Jim laughed and Bob smiled at him on her way past, thinking he was nice and had a friendly laugh. "She likes you," Jack said quietly aside to Jim as they started to follow her toward the tee.
Jim told Jack, "I believe I like some of the modern styles for girls these days after all."
Jack stifled a chuckle and told his old friend, "That one is a style all her own."
Jim just smiled and sighed loudly. Jack didn't have to wonder where the focus of Jim's gaze was. Cute little terry decorative pockets on the back of the shorts were essentially just the top hems which featured pairs of broken hearts. The words "sweet heartbreaker" were scrawled across the rear. Although pulled up snugly, the shorts fit so low in the back that it left a good two thirds of her startlingly trim rear in full view. Jack had to admit to himself it didn't hurt that the body being so generously displayed was as cutely racy in motion as it looked standing still.
Regardless of her merits and relieved as he was to see such remarkable evidence that the alien waif could so mingle among his fellow humble Earthlings, Jack was still concerned whether Jim would become offended. So Jack voiced the thought to Jim in a low voice, "A bit um, daringly low isn't it?"
Jim's overgrown bristly brows knitted together and he took a moment from Bob watching to look at Jack in concern. Placing a kindly hand on Jack's nearer shoulder he asked, "Jack, you're not getting old?"
Jack smiled at Jim. Recalling the wolf his friend Jim had been in their Air Force days before Jim met his formidable wife and comparing it to the present was difficult. 'Of course that was before the game of golf was invented', Jack kidded himself. Still he said, "We're not getting any younger, Jim."
"Speak for yourself Jack," Jim said in a loud whisper aside to Jack, "I have reason to believe this world has been going backward the past few minutes."
Jack shook his head slightly but resigned and supposed, "I guess it's okay."
"Okay?" Jim scoffed, this time without tearing his eyes from Bob and barely able to keep his voice down. "You're a hard-case! A free show there and look what's on the bill."
"Yes, my son's fiancee," Jack dutifully observed.
"A damn lucky blodger he is," Jim observed. "That's prime cut. Extra lean, extra trim. Edibly lovely all-over tan. Better than Barbie."
"Maybe skinnier, if that's possible," Jack muttered almost to himself.
"'Tight' they call it nowadays old fellow," Jim told Jack in a strained whisper, "only that's the 'tightest' bit I've ever seen. Believe me there is a good kind of tight arse, and that's prime example there."
"As long as that doesn't get us thrown out on ours, Jim," Jack told him.
"Now no worries mate," Jim reassured Jack, tapping the back of his hand on Jack's shoulder, "she wouldn't be wearing them if they were too risky, would she."
"She would," Jack corrected Jim.
"Don't say that," Jim teasingly scolded as they were approaching the tee, "you'll jinx us and nothing will happen. Let's face it then, if all we can do is birdwatching, we just have to keep our eyes peeled and hope for the best, right?" Jim chuckled, seemingly ruddy faced from being tickled pink. Seeing as Jim was anything but upset, Jack took a deep breath and pressed on.
When they arrived at the tee area, Jim and Jack turned to each other and looked at one another. At first they were thinking of offering the other the first swing. Knowing full well that the other one was thinking similarly teenage-fantasy worthy things about the spicy candy they were following, both men broke into some poorly and belatedly covered chuckles. Bob stepped closer and looked between them, seemingly wanting to be in on whatever was funny.
As soon as he recovered enough, Jim told Jack with thundering generosity, "It's your shot." Then his normally formidable overgrown eyebrows raised and parted and he broke into laughter, giving Jack a whack on the back for good measure.
"So it is," Jack said once he'd recovered and he began to look for a good tee spot. "See," Jack explained for Bob's benefit, unsure how much she understood about golf, "We need to use one of these clubs to make a challenging shot and get a ball in the hole way off over there." Jack winked to Jim as if the imply he was joking with her.
While leaning forward and looking down toward the hole in a posture that struck them as cute, Bob remarked, "I know there's women that do this, but only a man would think of it."
Jim laughed and Jack asked, "It's just a challenge to get a ball into a hole- ....never mind," he decided not to debate that with her and then muttered to himself, "Question is now, where shall I tee off from."
Bob looked around, moved two paces over, gestured and pointed down where she was. "Right here," she announced then stepped aside.
"Ey?" both men seemed to say at once, but then they shared a look at each other and smiled in unspoken agreement that they would indulge her.
"A nice spot," Jack complimented his self-appointed scout as he came over and leisurely set up his ball. "It's a beautiful day on the course isn't it dear?" he said to Bob.
"Very bright," Bob said with a smile and slightly dazzled blink of her big black eyes that made Jack suspect it must be especially bright to her. She seemed so nocturnal to him.
"Would you like to borrow my sunglasses, Roberta?" Jack asked Bob. "I know you don't get any too much sunlight," he said, which he realized as he said it sounded kind of strange considering the very nice all-over tan she suddenly sported. "They're on the bench in the cart."
Bob shook her head no and said, "Trying to get used to it."
"Okay just let me know if you want the sunglasses," Jack told her. He took another deep breath, then hollered before taking his swing. "Fore!"
"For what?" Bob turned at the waist to watch the ball and asked as Jack swung.
"Good question, it won't be going that far," the General teased Jack, misunderstanding Bob's misunderstanding.
"Make that a yard from a hole in one," Jack proudly corrected when the ball settled not too far from the hole. "I have a birdie, I'm sure of it."
"Ahw. Poor bird," Bob said, looking down the green in some confusion at not seeing any dead bird.
"Damn," the General complained and started for the golf cart. "You must be a good luck charm, Roberta," he flattered Bob. "Maybe you'll do the same for me."
"Just Bob," she told Jim with a specially nice smile. "What'd you say 'for' for?" Bob repeated her question as Jack walked by on the way to the cart.
"Fore? Tells the people down there to look out for an oncoming ball," Jack explained.
"Oh," Bob said and hurried to get on the back seat of the cart, sitting on the top of the back of the back bench. "Why?" she asked with the half-snide curiosity more typical of a teen ager, "Golf balls that dangerous?"
"Coo I've seen a fellow had his arm shattered to a hundred bits," Jim related, "it's no joke. You've got to think safety. Imagine what that've done had it hit his head huh?"
"Whoa. Cute, huh?" Bob said, of the golf cart, grabbing onto a roof post next to her. "Where are we going?"
"Hole eleven," the General answered.
"Oh," Bob said, disappointed.
A small beep alerted them to the presence of another cart. Bob looked back over her shoulder to see a cart full of men zooming, as much as a cart appeared to be able to zoom, up from behind. Laughter and a wolf whistle could just be heard while the front passenger seemed to be taking pictures with a massive smile plastered on his face. "Eh?" Jim said as he steered aside and slowed to let the rapidly approaching cart pass. The group of men blew on by, continuing to make varied lewd noises, gestures and yells as they went on ahead. Jim quipped, "Look it's a cart chock full of clowns, must be a circus comin' to town. You get any of that?"
Bob offered, "Golf? Something about rocks or balls and something of steel and a perfect hole or a hole in one or something. Sounds like golf." She nodded her head in agreement with herself and shrugged along with Jim.
"Amazing what passes for manners these days isn't it," Jim remarked and shook his head.
Jack cast an eye with a slightly raised brow back to Bob, having his suspicions as to what could have provoked all that. Amused with finding himself in this situation as much as the situation itself and thinking it best to avoid complicating things, Jack looked back out at the course from his passenger seat, scratched the side of his mouth and replied, "Yes Jim, it certainly is."
Bob's mirthfully bright black eyes bounced between Jim and Jack, quietly amused with the men. Still, she had other things on her mind. Licking her lips, she braced herself with the roof supports of the cart then popped her head between the General and Jack in the front seat and spoke up. "Ah, I s-saw Payne today," she perkily said.
"Well we didn't," Jim bellowed. "Another reason this has been a great day off, huh Jack?"
"-You know Jack, your son can annoy the buttons off my uniform sometimes, he's got that wise-ass attitude," Jim continued, to a laugh from Bob. "God love him. But I'd rather go golfing with your son than that Payne Adams any day."
"Where'd you meet him, Bob?" Jack asked with a hint of disapproval in his voice.
"Oh that big fancy business place across from the mall at Newport," Bob specified. "Just saw him going by, was out with Annie. Saw him getting out of his car, but he'd went in by the time we drove over to see him. You know he's got a black Por-sssh?"
"Porsche," Jack corrected. "Not surprised. Say, how did you find us out here at Riverside?"
"The soldier guy at the gate," Bob readily answered, "he said you guys were out golfing. He remembered me, said he'd never forget a face like mine and he loved my outfit and I could wait there in that little tiny booth with him or he'd let me in, nice huh?" she rattled on at a dizzying clip, but the guys both raised their brows once they caught up. Meanwhile she continued, "But I said where and he said you were a member at a bunch of places but you usually just go to Riverside because you don't like people finding you. So I went to find you, took local transports and finally got here. Took forever. My arse fell asleep! At least walking this course finally woke it up."
"Uh huh," said Jack.
Jim laughed and explained, "I like this course because you have to keep sharp, it's more relaxed than others I could name, good dining if I like, I can have any damn company I please and it's so quiet and far out in the countryside the security swaggies don't bother shadowing me here. Golf's only as good as the people you're with. That means I seldom have a tolerable game. Present company, I can finally say, excepted."
"Thank you Jim," Jack said then turned back to Bob and asked, "Are you sure you want to tag along with us old boys, Bob? You know John's been after me to tell him where you've been, so he can get after you," Jack winked to Bob as Jim laughed again.
Bob laughed too. "Bet when I see him later he'll claim he's tired," she smirked. "No, rather be here. Can see which one of you boys can drive with a club better." Although Jack was clearly embarrassed by the joke, Jim wasn't. Jack laughed slightly and Jim laughed heartily.
"She'd fit in very well down here in Sydney, Jack," Jim said. "I'm not the only guy appreciates a saucy girl. You'll have to get your son to consider moving her down here, if he can keep the men off."
"Oh, I think John will be eager to bail out of the busy city soon as he's done with whatever public relations has lined up," Jack said. "So he can take the little lady back to his love nest."
"Too bad for us, but I can't blame him," Jim laughed.
Jack caught Bob's reaction. She smiled, ducked her head and diverted her eyes in her own brand of embarrassment. 'A shame', Jack thought, 'that she seems so unaccustomed to friendliness and compliments. Here I've always wanted to get people into space, but if she's any indication I wonder if I'd like much of it.'