CheekyChi's Chiana & Farscape Fiction

John & Bob

Part Four - Chapter 57
Coffeehouse Blues, Pt.3

John's coffee cup was soon taken from his hand to be refilled. Something tugged at his consciousness, wanting him to look at the waitress. Dutifully, he resisted the urge. Especially since he had the feeling Bob might be watching. He idly tapped the tabletop, which was covered with some abstract pattern of crayon colors sure to result in nausea if gazed at too closely. Also on the table was his own hairy wrist with a clunky sports watch he didn't want to read.

Satisfied the delay was enough to prove he wasn't too eager to ogle, John looked aside at the waitress. When he looked at the apron he realized the waitress must have experienced the world's fastest weight loss or someone else was wearing her apron. Though the apron obscured some, what he saw had him wondering if even Bob was as slim as that. "Hel-lo," he greeted the new girl. Gradually a chilling dawn of recognition set in and he looked up with dread. John saw the grinning visage of Bob in her stylish helmet of black bob hair looking back down.

"You better have a good tip," Bob suggested, a mixture of warning and mischief in her slightly unsettling grinning face and eyes.

"Never bigger than when I give it to you," John assured her. She made a gleeful little cackle at the naughty joke and shifted from one leg to the other and back in a playful near dance. John was not so happy. A sting of shame and embarrassment was burning as he realized he'd been thrown for a moment. "What the hell are you doing here?"

"Grinding coffee," Bob snapped, instantly shifted from amused to irritated. She placed a rag, the cup and coffee pot down on the table, whipped off the apron and sent it flying over her shoulder to land on the end of the counter all without moving her eyes from John.

Just for a moment John held up his cup and managed to look ahead instead of at her. Seconds later his eyes misbehaved, which resulted in his being mentally sideswiped. His eyes saw the outrageously low waistband of cute fuzzy terry pink "boy" shorts and transfered it to his mind like a punch in the face. Dazed, all he could do at first was to raise his brow and think, 'Now those....are shorts.'

John's eyes had started a tour of her and she felt her anxieties vanish for the moment, except those coming from wanting his intimate interest. Being so daring was a thrill that she was relishing and the excitement took on a special tinge of white heat under John's admiring gaze. His attention also elicited a strange blend of provocation to be bolder and a sense of fondness and emotional shyness. Both made her heart throb. More. One moment her head quirked and she looked down, feeling shy and flushed. The next her lips were struggling not to smile at him and her free hand was struggling with an itch to rip the frelling shorts off just to watch his reaction, whatever it was. More difficult to contain was an impulse to frell him right there in the booth.

At times in the past if he'd looked at her right and she felt like it, she might have tried frelling him right there at the booth whether he wanted to or not. But then at times in the past he wouldn't have felt free enough to look at her, raising opaque mental screens to keep her behind if he did look. Felt strange to her that now the barriers were removed it was herself as much as him keeping herself from the predacious impulses she was having. Besides there remained plenty of conflicting feelings about his behavior to her and this blond and her own toward him. She didn't intend to be reckless. Their relationship had regularly overruled both of their impulses from the very first time John had not taken her. Attempting rational discourse was winning this moment, but its victory was anything but simple and easy.

Meanwhile John's eyes got themselves in a wreck near the fingers of her opposite hand, where her fingers were tapping on a distinctly sharp tan painted hip. They warned that some placating was in order. His eyes fell to a soft landing in the top of her narrow triangle of down soft white hair, tufts of it looking rather cute leaping over the top front of the waistband. Disentangling from that, his eyes climbed up to the bottom of a petite short polo t-shirt, which hung slack across an inhumanly smooth navel on strikingly firm and flat abs. His upward progress scaled cute little breasts stretching the shirt directly over them. Obvious little nipples seemed to become more obvious while he gazed. Or it was his imagination? Finally he made it back up to her cupid's bow lips with their coat of bubblegum lipstick, which twitched as he stared. "Um," he came out with, "You look great, Pip."

"Thanks," Bob shrugged casually as she bent part way over in her odd ways to fill his coffee cup and sweetly non-apologize, "I know how you hate decaf, but that's what you're getting."

"See if I complain," John didn't. Her attitude was strangely comforting and moreover, her eyes seemed to offer a secret spark. Close to disaster as they were and here he was thinking how darned endearing she could be. For all her being over the lines, he was the one in the doghouse. But he felt confident he was being offered a bone. As she filled his cup, he gestured to her arm and tried slathering on a little proverbial butter. "Your tan. Really amazing. Never thought I'd see you sporting pink and it looks sweet, really does. Lipstick. Especially. And really cool shorts. Yup. I really should get Annie something to show a small measure of my gratitude. Like a house."

She noticed he was acting flippant in a way he sometimes seemed to be when he was trying not to be affected. Annoying as he was, she also found him overwhelmingly cute. Amused as she was, she felt strangely irked to have him lavishing his praise at Annie. She suggested with ironic smarm, "Oo, you could set up together and do Sydney."

"Yeah but um," John said as he brushed off the snipe and removed his black leather jacket, "we're otherwise occupied. Here," he sincerely offered his coat in the suggestion that she could cover up some, now that her point had been made.

No one on this planet had yet abused her severely, which was something she found downright liberating after all she'd been through in other places. The climate was comfortable. The gesture struck her as condescending, whether to his culture's view or his own and she bristled. Instead of cover up with that coat, she had a spiteful urge to rip off the shorts and shirt and turn for him. While he admired her body makeup she would tell him of how she had spent arns and arns stewing over it and working at it and that she deserved some of the credit.

And she might have, frell the consequences, except for another Crichton named Jack. Old Jack wouldn't appreciate the compounded trouble and she restrained herself for his sake. But she wouldn't take John's frelling jacket. Bob lightly but firmly shoved the offering hand back and the subtlest of pouty scowls reinforced the dark storm in her eyes. "You're colder than me," she informed him. "I got these and I'mm quite comfortable. Mm. Thank you."

"Got what?" John asked, his mind kind of distracted, or maybe slightly dizzied by a recent drastic change in his blood flow.

John's brow rose while she hooked her thumb under the side of the shorts and yanked the side way out and down toward him, the material making ominous noises as gaps opened and seams started stretching apart. A label sewn into the side seam was revealed, but not to him since he was preoccupied watching the front seam snapping apart like a sliding zipper. "These," she made clear, ripping the label off and tossing it onto the table in front of John for good measure. "Yeah. And you can tell them they look better shortened," she added. She yanked her thumb away with an obvious attitude of rebellious carelessness, leaving the shorts to draw back to a looser and lower fit. While his eyes swerved across the expanses of tan painted hips, Bob proudly informed him, "Mixed and applied this makeup myself too."

"Looks like you didn't miss much," John said in a comically light voice while he reached for the sugar without looking away from her. Somehow, possibly helped by greasy fingerprints on the glass, the sugar dispenser slipped out of his hand, onto his lap and then onto the bench beside him.

Bob picked up the rag in one hand and reached down toward his lap with her other hand. Visibly she was looking around ahead and up aimlessly as if fumbling around for the sugar dispenser, but her hands weren't fumbling. They expertly dug into his pockets, determining in one pocket that he was aroused and then fondling him just right from inside the other pocket. Next he knew, his pants and zipper were open and she was placing the glass dispenser along his hard shaft, telling him while her other hand snapped the rag, "Hold that a microt."

John wasn't too phased that he couldn't quip, "I'd say it was my pleasure, but that's....just too simple."

Meanwhile Bob wiped the booth seat beside him and moved up to boldly stroke him under the towel. With her patented blend of wise-arse smug wit and cuteness, she lifted her brow slightly and lightly informed him, "If you wanted just had to ask."

John remarked to no one in particular, "I should be enjoying this a lot more than I am."

The towel snapped on him, she refastened his pants and then replaced the sugar container onto the counter all without looking down at his lap or seeming to have done much of anything but clean the sugar spill and indulge a little verbal fencing. John cleared his throat and swallowed a lump as her thumb returned under the side of the waistband and twitched as though she were considering torturing him further.

A noise startled both of them, both having nearly forgotten their surroundings. The noise came from the booth across the aisle behind Bob and both turned to look. A bedraggled seeming man with bleary eyes and a bad shave had spilled his coffee and seemed to be reacting to that misfortune with a smile. He raised a finger and wistfully requested, "Waitress?"

Bob looked to John. John scowled at his cup and gestured "no." That just cued her to pick up the coffee pot and serve the guy. While John was reeling from that, his gaze strayed aside to watch Bob.

Used to be that his tastes ran towards something curvy and rather more substantial. Moreso than Aeryn, for that matter. Under an alien influence once, he had derisively called Aeryn a "flat-assed Peacekeeper bitch." Truth was, he had come to worship that body, posterior included, as he worshiped all of Aeryn. Aeryn transformed his tastes and he found attraction or charm where he might once have found fault. Except that he still found Aeryn's temper a problem, since she might have used his head as a floor mop if she'd caught him staring at Bob the way he wanted to. He didn't fault her temper though, since he wasn't so sure he wouldn't have helped her get the bucket.

Seeing Bob's strikingly trim body sporting its look of plastic like tan painted perfection with most of its very lean buns a-flexing in full view over the funky excuse for shorts, his eyeballs delivered another knock-out punch to his mind. "Whoa." He couldn't help but realize that his tastes had again been transformed. It didn't completely escape him that part of the reason might lay in an irrational need to desire something that was at once further down a path Aeryn had started him yet also sharply different from Aeryn in appearance.

While John was reeling from that, he was also more than a little irked at Bob for making a scene of herself. Being so showy in a public place was something he definitely didn't expect her to do here. Except that, as he thought to himself, he should have expected the unexpected from good ol' Pip. At least it seemed a harmless quirk. She was hurting no one, besides little John and he wasn't unaware how fortunate that was. He was candid enough with himself to admit it was a kick and detached enough these days from his former native society to find it all amusing. Furthering the entertainment value, to him at least, was a fancy embroidered script he could just make out across the back of the shorts declaring, "sweet heartbreaker." That, he thought to himself, was the most honest slogan he'd seen anyone wearing in ages.

What irked John was that she was shamelessly indulging another man. He seemed unable to do anything about it, just sit there clenching his jaw and glaring, feeling as if his blood had been replaced with hot conflicting currents of resentments, disapprovals and desires. The darker parts of John's mood quickly lifted when he heard the bedraggled bloke she was waiting on have the nerve to ask for regular coffee. Smiling over his lousy cup of decaf, John waited to hear her endearing impudence enlighten the guy that with her, he was gonna get what she felt like giving and like it, or tough noogies.

"Sure," Bob agreeably said and started walking off down the aisle.

John half choked on his sip of decaf and felt plenty shown up. Darned if she didn't know it too, looking back at John over her shoulder with the glare of a burning poker. As though she knew exactly what he would be thinking. John snatched up the dessert advertisement card from between the Vegemites and glared at it. Not that anything could stop him from catching her uniquely sexy walk down the aisle in his peripheral vision. As if his eyes needed more temptation to stray back to her, it seemed like the back of the shorts slipped the rest of the way off of those very lean buns, but on that point he figured his imagination was getting as carried away as his hormones.

Once Bob turned from sight, John stirred some sugar into his coffee and he could all but see the sight of her replaying on the swirling surface of his coffee. It sweetened his attitude much better than sugar was sweetening the coffee. Prompted by the scene playing out, some random misbehavior of his mind threw a long buried and forgotten snippet of a dream at him, shipwrecking him just as the cruise was calming.

Some years ago his sleepy mind had imagined what mischief he could do if he only had Aeryn here on Earth. One dastardly idea involved convincing Aeryn that it was customary on certain occasions to wear certain things. Somehow he had imagined a place, more impressive and even less appropriate than this, where Aeryn would be sporting hopelessly inadequate shorts that would reveal her awesomeness to this clueless world. Besides imagining the sight in vivid detail he had imagined her casually whacking anyone cat calling or insulting her with a well executed Peacekeeper Pantak Jab. Something he would not likely have done in reality, but which was only one possibility of many that his idle lovesick mind occasionally conjured.

Reality was surprising him now. Here he was, in a less extravagant but genuinely spontaneous situation, with the gist of a scenario out of an unconscious fantasy playing out in reality thanks to the singularly unfathomable ways of Chi. If anything reality had outstripped his imagination. He could hear that Bob was getting some noisy feedback. Not so much negative as excited and encouraging feedback, to his surprise. As he might have guessed, she was handling it with her own range of feedback, no Pantak Jabs needed. Yet he couldn't look. All John could do was cover his eyes with a hand and try to block out the conflicts of reality and dreams mocking his memories.

Gradually the pain died down and he could guardedly open his mind to reality once more. Regardless of his own messy feelings, one thought which soon came to mind was that this situation wasn't exactly helping the causes of encouraging Bob to behave or fit in on this world. Still, John held out hope this would be harmless enough and Bob would continue being an unsuspected alien freely mingling amongst his fellow natives. Besides, something about her was feeding his hope that she was more than ready to come back to him for the night. After her caring touch and hungry lips, he wasn't going to be left with any regrets about the ordeal. John was nothing if not a fool for hope.

"Quite the little thing you got there mate," the bedraggled, bleary-eyed and scruffy man across the aisle dared to speak to John and say.

"Oh she was just a friend, friend of a friend, co-worker actually," John claimed. Reminded of Bridget, John stood up, glancing toward the bathroom and around the place to see if there was any trace of Bridget, or if anyone else suspicious might have come in. Not that he saw much hope of salvaging the situation with Bridget, but there was that hope again. Certain there were no suspicious new faces hanging around and seeing no sign of Bridget, John sat back down. Picking up the conversation, John continued, "Yeah she's a cutie and nice girl, if you can pry her attention from the social networking."

"Nooo mate," the man said, "the mod little helper with the big black eyes and skinny 'f--- me', ready for rootin' arse tryin' to make time with you."

"Yeah uh," John struggled to think of something to say and ditch the urge to be either jealous or protectively defensive. A mix of ego-swelling, excitement, jealousy and general angst stewed inside, things he just couldn't deal with right now. "She's uh, had an unusual upbringing," John explained, "abuse and all that, manifests itself in uh, you know all kinds of uh ...behavior."

"Right right," the man said, spreading it on with a placating voice, "I didn't cause no trouble now did I." In a softer, more earnest voice he started a pitch, "Hey uh, listen mate I hate to ask but maybe if it's not as much for you-"

"Yeah sure," John said, cutting the pitch short. Just as he was pulling out his wallet, Bob came around the corner with her coffee pot in hand. With his peripheral vision, John could tell that her outrageous shorts had been left to continue an inexorable migration downward. But she slid a smug smirk his way and for sake of pride, John had to look straight ahead and do his best impression of being unperturbed.

When she turned to face the table across the aisle and refilled the man's coffee cup, John battled the urge to see the back. But his determination not to look directly at her won out. Instead, John created the very picture of stoicism as he sat out some pitiful patter between the guy across the aisle and Bob in full confidence that guy wasn't going to get anywhere and she'd be back to him, he just had to wait.

Sure enough, Bob's indulging of the waitress act done, she returned to wait with obvious impatience at the side of John's table, her lips slightly off to one side and those fingers again tapping on that hip. A dark current was brewing in John at the moment as he thought about stuffing some money for the guy under the side of her shorts, lowering them in the process and sending her over with more of that 'ready for rootin' arse' showing than whatever she was daring. Avoiding a direct look at her, John opened his wallet, weeded out some bills with one hand and gestured her to listen close with his other hand.

Bob leaned down a little and asked in a near whisper, "What?"

"Pass that along to him," John gestured her to give it to the guy in the booth behind her. Tucking the bills under the nearer side of her shorts, he made sure to slide it down in the process, far enough to be sure the back would be almost bare all across.

Bob glanced over her shoulder then back to John and asked in conspiring whisper, "That welnitz has information?"

To John's annoyance, Bob didn't register the slightest hint that those shorts were too low for her comfort, or even a clue that she'd noticed. "Let's say, 'helpful perspective'," John obliquely replied in a smooth voice that revealed none of his anger.

"Sort of ah," Bob smartly teased back, "a clearer view of things?"

Having been figured as if she'd read his mind, an irrational anger sparked inside. He yanked the shorts lower until the whole rear was certain to be in view. His face ticked as he glared straight ahead.

"Well it's your currency," Bob blew it off and turned.

John watched to gloat at the view. The sight was stunning. But the initial anger was swept away and John quickly reckoned himself an idiot as some more rational thoughts flooded in. He watched as Bob gave the guy the money without a hint of self-consciousness and realized she probably didn't think to bother about the shorts. She didn't care who saw her arse. What she cared about was John seeing what an arse he was being.

"Yiyi," John urgently moved to pull those shorts up, but his survival instincts reminded him she was armed with a hot coffeepot and might use it if he tried. John just stared from under his raised brow with a dumb gawk and snapped his attention back to his cup when she turned again.

Having fallen off the sane end of the rope of redemption, John figured he might as well make another effort to patch things when she returned to the side of his table. Making a point to look up to her face only, he hastily asked, "Had anything to eat?" But she turned toward the counter. Stung from the initial spurn, another thought also rushed out, "I mean since dinner with Payne." He cringed at his own line.

"Do you care?" Bob verbally bit back and swayed back into a stand facing him with a hand on her hip, "Or is everything another way to black stabbeth me with your steely wives?"

"Uh that's 'stabbeth with thy steely knives' and 'black sabbath' has nothing to do with anything, except my mood," John corrected her. 'Steely wives' was a remark he refused to dignify any of the possible meanings to, choosing to assume it was a coincidental bungling of phrases. Besides, he didn't want to antagonize too much either. He daintily reached for the side of her shorts and got his hand slapped for the trouble. The sound seemed to reverberate across the place. "Ya gotta be desperate enough to try this joint," John said and smoothly gestured his stinging hand to the bench across from him.

"Yeah? Well I'm not," Bob rejected the offer. "I'll wait for something better. There's a party tomorrow night we're going to, maybe I'll have something then."

"We are? What party?" John asked.

"Ask Jack," she told him, "his idea. To accept. That nice General man asked us. Jack said we can try promoting your image there or something. Oh unless you have a date?" Bob rubbed in. "With ah, Spephamie or Stuffy or whoever? Well. Then just take whichever of us would best help your image."

"Okay. Bridget," John said, hoping to cut to the point before anything else happened.

"At least you admit it," Bob observed with an ironic grin.

John tightened his lips. 'A little more patience with her, a little more patience,' John counseled himself as he doctored his coffee. "That was Bridget. At the table. Here. You know, the ex-associate of DK who turned up out of the blue and tried recruiting him to one Styx Enterprise right out of the IASA parking lot? I ran into her at IASA tonight."

"Oh you just, just ran into her," Bob snidely said. Trying to keep her temper from exploding, she thought to herself that at least she could put a better picture to who he was with while she was out in his car watching as somebody else was seemingly rifling though his offices. Accomplices, perhaps. She'd played distraction herself a few times, she knew that game. What really upset her was what John was doing. First for possibly fooling around when he was the one impressing all the expectations of fidelity on her and secondly for disillusioning her faith in him by falling for such an obvious tactic and getting ripped off while he was right there in the building. "And what were you doing there tonight?"

"Not sleeping too well," John told her, "partly because of somebody I'm supposed to be with."

Bob rocked her head nodding and certainly seemed to accept the explanation. But she didn't look any less upset.

To convince her he was getting somewhere on the information front, John recounted some of what he'd gathered while needlessly stirring his coffee, trying to appear nonchalant. "She's from Tasmania, destined by birthright to make novelty mailboxes. A Mrs. Macbeth was math teacher to the as-yet undiscovered genius. Something about her beating kids, must have been one of those witches with a ruler. Anyway, the sunny side is, over tea and crumpets she helped guide Bridget from pop trash pseudo-science and a fantasy crush on King Tut to the real thing. Science, that is. Since then Junior Barbie's whipped favors out from her up proverbial sleeve to advance her way to and through IASA to the lofty position she holds today, which is literally whipping out cards from up her sleeve for Shady Enterprises." John took a sip of coffee then pointed out, "So you see, I am good for panning a flake or two of informational gold from the rivers of life's bullschlavik."

Bob was going to compliment him, even if he probably had some of that wrong, but his smart-arse attitude about it made her feel more like punching him in the kisser. She loved the lug, all too much, so with pinched lips she looked aimlessly upwards and didn't say a frelling thing.

"Of course you'd have it solved by now but we'll have to settle for that," John told her.

Barely holding back from replying to that, she told him instead, "Not going to be easy on this planet, doing anything about anything."

"Sorry it's so hick," John retorted, "but what can we do."

"Not much since you trapped us here, but you can get back to Bre'ger," Bob told him. "What else?"

"I was interrupted." Clearing his throat, he came to the final point. "About Bridget. Brid-get. I uh, think the chicklet's flown the coop." He gestured back towards the restrooms with his thumb.

"Nnnn," Bob half said and shook her head no.

"Would that be magical intuition or do you know?" John asked.

"Ah that's infallible intuition to you. Okay Mister Worry Mart," Bob started to offer.

"Worry Wart," John shortly corrected her. "Wart."



"That's disgusting."

"Can be," John told her. "I remember when I had a big puss caked infected one on my-"

"Yeah," Bob interrupted him. "Okay Mister Disgusting," she offered, putting the coffee pot down on the table, "I could go check." John scowled at her. She brazenly smiled at the long warning look he gave her. "What?" she asked as she turned and started walking away behind him, "I'm not gonna do anything to the kid."

"Hey. Don't-" John started to argue, but she went ahead. He watched in amazement as she first stopped beside Jack and asked Jack if he wanted any coffee. Jack asked for regular coffee and somehow missed the chance to look down at her. John wasn't, despite the fact the sight was slowly driving him insane.

More surprisingly to John, Bob pleasantly told Jack, "M'kay I'll getcha some." Jack patted her back and still failed to look as she sashayed away. John's haze of worry was relieved a few moments later when she returned with her shorts almost as high as they had been when she left and a pot of decaf coffee in hand. "Talking to a girlfriend on her coms," Bob reported to John.

"And probably texting another one," John supposed. "Not coms, cell phone," John corrected the almost unbearably smug looking Bob. "So besides people giving my dad heartburn, everything's fine," John told her. Then having figuratively cleared his table, he decided to put it back on the gallivanting girl. Looking at her a little sternly he said, "As far as I know about."

Fury flashed through her flammable senses but simultaneously chilled her composure. "That's right," Bob recalled, "you wanted regular, not decaf." With that she dumped his cup of decaf and the pot of decaf into his lap.

The yell made Jack turn around and look. Bob was coolly filling John's cup with a pot of regular coffee while John, who seemed to be steaming, yelled, swore and panicked. Jack turned his attention back to the overly-studied menu in his hands and hid a cringe. That headache was back.

Bob walked back to put the coffee pots away and Jack glanced at her, seeing her roughly yanking the excuse for shorts up. Instead of being relieved, he was troubled to realize that was a bad sign in this case. She soon approached the stool beside him, darkly muttering something about how she hoped someone's beans were boiling. Jack suspected he knew whose beans she hoped were in hot water. All the long-suffering Jack could do was mildly say, "I could use some coffee."

"Mm," Bob said and slid out from under her dark cloud to retrieve the coffee pot and a cup.

When she returned she started filling the cup and Jack requested, "Do you have regular?"

Bob's glare was stunning and she almost dumped the pot in his lap, but Jack was smiling and winked. Pinching her lips and looking around, Bob took a moment to steady then finished filling his cup and informed him, "You don't want cocaine this late."

"That's caffeine you mean, I'm sure, and thank you Miss," Jack said. Scratching his brow, Jack teased her with a bad imitation of John. "Whoa. You're hotter than a chow chow at the wrong Thai restaurant."

Hopping back up onto the stool at the counter beside Jack, Bob smiled sidelong at him, grateful to have humor instead of a lecture. "That's him," she agreed and ironically warned, "Careful, old man. Imitation might get you anywhere."

"Old age and treachery and all that, yes," Jack joked a little dryly, "I'm here to catch you on the rebound." He looked over his shoulder with concern and then asked her more seriously, "Are you all right?"

Instantly appearing pleasant, Bob placed a rag she'd been carrying onto the table, folded her hands together over it and asked Jack, "So ah. You were saying?"

"Ginger Beer," Jack told Bob, "you'll actually like it."

Bob was game enough. "Mm-kay." Besides she was thinking of something else. "Ah. Why did the server just run?"

Jack replied, "I don't know. Maybe she's gone to Bundaberg to pick some up." Bob nodded, puckering her bubblegum lipstick covered lips in thought. Or maybe it was annoyance, since Jack glanced over his shoulder and noticed the little blond John had been with was returning to the table with John. "And?" Jack asked.

"Bre'ger," Bob intuitively answered Jack's incomplete query.

"Aah," Jack recalled, assuming she meant Bridget, "so that's the woman that approached Doug about joining the Bat-club or something? Girl," he corrected himself to a little smirk from Bob.

"How was Ethiopia?" John asked the petite and evidently still nervous Bridget as she sat down on the bench across the table. She just froze, all big pale blue eyes. "Well never mind then," John said and smiled. A few awkward moments of silence passed as he worked on his current cup of coffee. The social torture was interrupted by bunch of people flooding in along with the returning waitress. John wondered out loud to himself, "What's this?"

"Looks like....a dozen people," Bridget answered, "plus a Rocker, an Emo and a Goth or two."

The crowed poured around Jack and Bob as the waitress put a range of bottles onto the counter. "No Bundaberg but all kinds of beer!" she proudly announced.

Jack was silently laughing, shaking his head and covering his eyes. Bob leaned close to Jack and asked, "Beer? That's all like the weak fellip nectar Crichton, John drinks?" Jack nodded. "No thanks!" Bob said. The Goth guy at her shoulder tapped a bottle of his on her arm. Bob took it and read the label. "Vod-ka." Jack was tapping her other arm to try preventing her from drinking, but she had to take some swallows. "Now we're talking!" she announced and the group all laughed.

"So you're the moonwalkin' blodger right mate?" one of the guys asked Jack.

"Sure is," Bob answered for Jack. "Have a beer," she told Jack and handed him a bottle. Grabbing the bottle of ketchup and rag on the counter in front of her, Bob turned and dismounted the stool telling Jack, "You have the food. I'll be back. Maybe."

Jack was so accustomed to the fuss that he answered the guy almost without a thought, "The moon walk, yes. That was after I invented the steam train." Meanwhile, Jack watched with concern as Bob left for the restrooms and stopped to chat for a moment with a Goth looking young lady, evidently about their hairdos. Typically enigmatic, Bob's posture seemed to be both tense and tired, or perhaps annoyed and discouraged. When she walked away, he couldn't tell if her body language said she was stalking off to cry or do things that were none of his business. It certainly stressed the latter.

Bridget was reaching for the cell again when she gave up, leaned forwards with her arms on the table, cradled her head in her hands and moaned.

"Uh can I get you something?" John asked, trying in good humor to peek at her obscured face. "Decaf Pertwee's Guatemalan Buccaneer's Cinnamon Bun Hazelnut Rum Grog? Now on sale. Saline I.V.? Legit DVD of Dr. Syn? Common as cuts to sales tax. Hashish?"

"Can't believe it's him," Bridget mumbled into her hands, "Just can't...."

"Yup," John confirmed, "it's me, this is the ugly truth. I'd like to say I'm nuts about you, but the truth is, I'm just plain nuts."

A minute later, her hands snapped away from her face and she sat up straighter. "Sorry," she said, "I know I seem like, ohmygawd, I'm just a total mess. Not usually. I mean, it's just being in Sydney and everything." Clearing her throat, she casually checked her cell for messages, texted and texted some more before she caught herself again and returned her attention to a wilted John. "Ohmygawd sorry, I just um, important. Um." Covering her face suddenly, she asked, "Can you take me somewhere? I mean back, or whatever?" She uncovered her face, her eyes lit up and she asked, "Can I drive!? Your shiny new Mustang?"

"Uh well I-" John started saying, but Bridget hurried from the booth giggling. Getting up, he shrugged, lamely raised a wave and called to the mobbed Jack. "Bye dad!" Jack wasn't too amused but then neither was John.

The bedraggled man at the booth across the aisle remarked to John, "For a guy that picks 'em skinny you sure have your hands full mate."

John muttered as he moved on, "Should give him a bonus for that line."

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