Absent-mindedness added a block or ten of wrong turns, but in her emotional haze Chiana's heart guided her feet. The occasional human passerby might as well have been invisible and the busy traffic only registered subliminally when she crossed streets. Walking down a well lit major street hemmed by office multi-story office buildings with street level stores, Chiana was annoyed with apprehension to see that her auto-pilot hadn't erred and she was closing in on Cuppa's. Somehow it didn't seem much less annoying when she noticed that a car pulling up to the curb nearby was driven by Jack. Chiana resigned herself to stop and look up aimlessly at the moon, wondering why she sometimes felt like a pawn in a game.
Jack was driving but it wasn't his car. It was Doug's old Honda. The sounds that accompanied the vehicle's seemingly premature stop would have seemed comical to her if she weren't so irked that it was present at all. Jack got out of car, shut the door and glaring at the car, walked around onto the sidewalk still holding the car door latch in his hand. He gestured to the car and told her, "I'm never setting foot into that thing again."
Chiana squared her jaw at him and snidely told him, "Then drive with your hands." Turning around, she started walking away.
Jack brushed off the remark and started walking along side of her, "'Sure dude you can use my car' he said. Use? I'm not sure which was using which. I was jerking, skidding, stalling all over the road. It kept stalling or I kept stalling it, jumping like a jackrabbit, vroop pbtpbt, vroop pbtpbt," he explained and jerked around with his hands in their driving position. His illustrated story accompanied her to a nearby intersection, across the major street, down the shop lined downtown street a ways to a promenade in front of a mall complex. Bob observed the promenade fanned out to some kind of movie complex, a disco or something with a bustling crowd, a restaurant with outdoor seating and some kinds of shops. Preoccupying her mind was the persistent Jack, whom she realized wasn't going away. So she stopped to patiently wait for him to finish his babble. "You'd think I had never driven before. I felt like a teenager again." Looking at the door handle he was waving at her he said, "As you can see I can't keep a handle on it."
Chiana grinned wanly then sneered in the direction of the car, where it was parked across the street a ways. Then looking back at Jack she recycled his phrase, "So now that you've succeeded in getting me calmed down, what did you want to talk to me about?"
"Oh," Jack said. He reached back and pulled something out of the pocket of his slacks then presented it to her, explaining, "When you had finished using my bed for a trampoline, you left these in the ruins of my bed." Dangling from his hand was her little pink terry "boy" shorts.
Chiana blinked blankly at the shorts for a moment then remarked as she took them from his hand, "Maybe there is such a thing as too comfortable?"
"Could be," Jack agreed she might consider.
"So," Chiana brightly said and started walking back to the car with the shorts over her shoulder, "what kind of lame excuses were you going to try giving me for that klempt greebol?"
"All I knew," Jack told her, "was that someone with a key came in while I was foolishly trying to sleep. I didn't realize that it was Doug instead."
"And you didn't look when you got up?" Chiana asked, very skeptically.
"I did look later, yes," Jack explained, "but not as well as I obviously should have. I guess that I can't see in the dark as well as you can." Not that he couldn't see her well enough presently on the well lit sidewalk to observe that the practical wisdom of leaving something to the imagination didn't apply to her. This young lady was more pleasing to the imagination naked in reality than what the imagination could wish, if in a very petite, somewhat plastic doll like way. Anyone having that for a partner stirred some envy, though at worst any envy Jack felt toward his son was still easily overcome by his love for his son and a thought about other points about Bob that he didn't envy his son having to live with. To be involved with an alien was enough to try getting his head around. Jack was also very aware that for all her great qualities she had her dangerous sides and the occasional mild hint was as close as he ever wanted to come to seeing them.
Anger glared in Chiana's big and reflective black eyes. "You followed to give me this, or you wanna know where your Johnny boy went!?"
Jack didn't sense any danger in her eyes however, at least not toward himself. Only the humid sting of a restless, troubled heart. She seemed to have accepted his explanations or at least forgave him what she didn't believe. "I didn't follow you to interrogate you," Jack told her, "or accuse you or anything. I knew you'd be upset and I could only hope you were coming this way." Chiana seemed to be listening but her expression wasn't readable in thoughts, only feelings, so he continued, "Since we're here I'd suggest we put our heads together over that meal at Cuppa's."
Possibly believing him, Chiana ducked her head slightly. While they waited at a stoplight she turned to him. Her hand fussed with straightening the beige collar of his shirt under his checkered sweater. All nice looking, modestly elegant, crisp and clean. He was less casual than John in many ways, some of it a generational thing she gathered, but also characteristic. Jack was at the same time more comfortable with himself and she liked that about him. Still, he surprised her. She would have expected him to be uptight and lecturing her about keeping a proper appearance. He was a searching human and must have been able to have his own ideas about things to have designed to be an astronaut, such an unusual goal for a human. But that was as a younger man. As an older man he was much more open minded than she would have thought.
"Assuming you put those over-sized shorts on before we go in," Jack said lightly teasing her, "otherwise we're going at this date backwards."
Chiana's little grin shifted a little to one side. "You know a-a sane human would've ran away from this fahrbots ah what do they say here, 'prudist' before they got in trouble," she told him, her eyes searching his, "Unless they wanted something." Jack's eyes were kind but stoic enough to say he wasn't going to fool around. Not that she had really expected he would, she was just incurably curious.
Jack corrected her, "That would be a 'nudist' to the 'prudish'."
"Pruu- frell your language and your whole nudish culture," Chiana grumbled.
"Prudish culture," Jack corrected her with a little amusement in his voice. He didn't feel a need to point out he was making allowances for her being a literal alien, knowing it would only make her feel more hopelessly out of place. "I'm not too worried at the moment, it's a good area in a good city to try and get away with plenty," Jack said. "Besides with the way those shorts are, you might stretch the phrase 'wardrobe malfunction' to fit."
Chiana nodded along and grinned but a tear sparkled in her eyes as she looked at him admiringly. The human shouldn't have followed her, didn't care as much about the risk, didn't want anything from her and wasn't even lambasting her. She felt bad enough for testing his loyalty that she didn't need to hear any recrimination. Jack seemed to know. In fact Jack was so wise in dealing with her sometimes, the present included, that she felt irrationally frustrated. But she couldn't get too mad at him. Whenever she started to, she just became more aware that she loved this old human. Not all the same love as she had for John but on the other hand she was wishing John was more like Jack in some ways. She almost whined, then let out a breath of exasperation. Shaking her head to herself, she turned and walked out into the street.
Unpredictability seemed to be a routine characteristic of hers, Jack observed. Having carefully waited for the right signal, Chiana then ignored the lines, weaving around cars and one obviously shocked but just as obviously delighted bicyclist and then parting through the landscaped median to cross the luckily empty opposite side of the street and finally reach the car. Having gone all the way to the car to put her shorts back on, Chiana stayed outside in the street as she did.
The good news, or so Jack told himself, was that the shorts were not in as much danger of dropping right off since they seemed to have shrunk when they had dried out. The bad news was that they seemed to have shrunk. She had left no margin to begin with but although snug as they'd go, they rode noticeably lower now. Seeing the front now made Jack's brow raise, seeing the back straight on made his eyes widen. Jack had a suspicion she'd just laugh if she saw his reactions.
Chiana quickly turned in the reflection in the car window and straightened her shirt out but if she saw them, she didn't seem to think a thing of those shorts. Finally Chiana met Jack on the sidewalk. Jack seemed to have a headache since he was rubbing his forehead. "You okay?" she asked, her whole upper body shifting to one side under a curious head tilt.
"I think my head's going to explode, that's all," Jack said.
Chiana's face lit up and she cooed. "I don't look that good."
"Not that one dear," Jack explained. Her disappointment was so tactlessly honest that he had to laugh and he reassured her, "If someone says you don't look great they're lying. It's just a headache from all this going on and I'm very tired. I doubt I've been up at this hour since....not in this century. You know I used to be a character but now I am a careful man."
"That's okay," she told him, placing a hand on his shoulder briefly as they started to walk together towards Cuppa's. "Not that it's okay you feel like vegg, I mean you can rest down and explode, I mean crash and burn later."
"That's 'rest up' and just 'crash'," Jack corrected her phrases, "no burn."
"Your life," Chiana slightly shrugged, "I don't need to know."
Jack gaped in confusion at first but decided to give up on all that and think ahead. Cuppa's sign extended out over the sidewalk, looking inviting enough although a few of its lights had burnt out, warning that it wasn't fine dining. Shadows from ceiling fan blades caused a subtle flicker of the light from a higher row of dirtier windows above the large flat street side widows. A sign stood in the sidewalk advertised a trendy drink and a meal he'd never heard of before. Some guy spilled out of the place in search of a bar. No question it wasn't a place he would have taken a young lady for a date, but Jack also realized there were few enough choices open at this hour that John was likely to know about. "I hope he's there alone," Jack said.
"There? Where?" Chiana asked. "At this place, having a meal and a cup of coffee? Are you going to tell me you don't believe he's out frelling with his guppies?"
"Groupies," Jack corrected her.
"Whatever," Chiana bristled.
"Unless you have a reason to be suspicious-"
"You're not the one- look, I'll decide if I'm suspicious right?"
"Fine. Hope I can get an appetite before the food comes."
"I'd think you'd be pretty hungry by now."
"You're not the one- look, there you go again. I'll decide if I'm hungry right? Save your intuition for your inscrutable narl."
"Narl, baby. And he is," Chiana insisted. "Now you, you just concern yourself with what he's getting himself into."
"I see," Jack said. He could also see that she was worried about John and seeing her concern in spite of everything made him grin to himself.