CheekyChi's Chiana & Farscape Fiction

John & Bob

Part Four - Chapter 16
Dinner on the Quay

Payne handed his keys to the valet as he got out of his black Lexus. "We might enjoy a long walk back to the car," he discretely told the valet, who nodded back. Payne headed for the passenger side of the car to open the door for Bob, only to find that Bob hadn't waited for him to walk around and open the door, but instead was already standing there waiting expectantly. Payne laughed at what he took as impish humor, his assumption helped a great deal by the often impish expressions sneaking around her face.

Taking Payne's offered arm, Bob walked alongside as they made their way across the broad plaza, with its boutiques and kiosks. Bob especially enjoyed the harbor lights dancing on the water and the inviting feel that came from the many benches under trees and lights.

"Cadmus is over there," Payne pointed out to her. "But while we're over here and have an extra few minutes, is there any thing you'd like to look at on the way?"

Bob gently felt his muscular arm. "Not here," she teased. But with a purse of her lips, her attention seemed to drift back to looking around, or somewhere else entirely. She looked over the scene, a lovely, somewhat quaint commerce location with municipal pretenses. The people seemed easy, and the view of the harbor and early night sky was fresh and comfortably open, which was something about this planet that often impressed her. It was a place she could love to be, but she was all too aware that she was the only true foreigner, the only one who couldn't be welcomed here without a risky disguise. There was excitement to the risky ruse, but sometimes other feelings came through too hard.

Payne, meanwhile, had stopped with her at the railing overlooking the harbor and was standing behind her, his hands on her arms while he ladled ridiculous flattery upon her. He meant the compliments, but she knew his admiration was superficial and that he wasn't someone she wanted to hear it from. Something in her was responding very well anyway. She soon bristled, though, wanting him to get to some action or get lost. The peacefulness of the place helped her to keep a hold of her cloak of calm. His cell phone suddenly beeped.

"What the-....can't believe this," Payne grumbled as he stepped aside and answered the phone. Bob could hear a woman's voice on the other end, and she saw Payne cringe. Another girl of his, Bob reckoned. As soon as he hung up on the other girl, Payne smiled sheepishly and walked back to her side. "Well it's almost time, shall we?"

"Sure," Bob agreed. Grateful for the distraction, Bob threw herself into observing the place as they rode the elevator up to the restaurant. As the elevator rose, so did she, rising onto her tiptoes and gaping down at the view through the glass side of the elevator. Payne watched her uninhibited interest with fascination.

The lights of the elevator brought it to Payne's attention that she didn't have the tacky makeup she'd been wearing when he'd first seen her over at the IASA. She looked quite pale, but it was a becoming look with her goth cuteness and huge black eyes. It was an even coloring with a few imperfections, and made him think she wasn't wearing much, if any, makeup this time.

Payne also noticed that Bob was still silent, as she had been during their drive. Not that he blamed her one bit, after that scene in the apartment with that loser Crichton. Payne smiled to himself. Of course her silence gave him some time to gloat over his small victory. The door opening interrupted his thoughts and he frowned. Bob waited until Payne looked at her. He smiled again, seeing her grin, and led her into into the lobby. There would be plenty of time for gloating later.

The elevator doors opened onto an elegant lobby, much like that of the penthouse foyer, but fancier, Bob noticed, as they exited the elevator. Directly in front of them was an ornate desk, behind which sat a fussy-looking, balding man dressed in some fancy but certainly not adventurous kind of Earth apparel. To their left was a doorway, through which Bob could see the smoky darkness of a bar. 'It has to be a bar,' she thought, because she could smell the alcohol and the mix of strange odors that almost always signaled a variety of special drinks. Turning to her right Bob could see a large, dimly-lit room, full of elegantly-laid tables. Elegantly dressed people sat at many of the tables. Beyond that were large windows through which Bob could see the lights of Sydney, and the harbor.

Almost absently, Bob had the place scoped for possible escape routes, and for what looked like the restroom, which she figured should have private cubicles, true to human custom as far as she'd seen, in the unlikely event of makeup trouble. She still felt a little unfamiliar, but wasn't much impressed. For Payne's benefit, she tried to look impressed, but not too unfamiliar.

"Hi Henry," Payne greeted the fussy-looking man sitting behind the desk. The man frowned and stood up. Bob could see that he was wearing what John called his "fruit suit," a tuxedo.

The man scowled at Payne and said, "Shhh, not so loud. And don't call me that here. Call me Henri."

"Henry. Henri. Whatever? Is our table ready?" asked Payne, irritation creeping into his voice.

"It's not ready yet," Henri replied.

"And why not?" demanded Payne.

Henri sighed and looked around again before whispering his reply. "Look, I'm doing you a favor here. You know we've been sold out for months."

Payne held his hands up in supplication. "Okay, okay, don't get your knickers in a knot. I appreciate your getting me this reservation. How much longer is it going to be?"

Henri looked at his watch. "Well the guests at your table have just been served dessert. I'd say half an hour, maybe less. You can wait in the lounge," Henri said pointing at the doorway to their left.

"Since we have to wait, I hope the drinks are free," Payne remarked.

Henri gave a long-suffering sigh. "Yes, they're free. Just have Mike the bartender put them on my tab."

"That's my man," said Payne with a grin as he took Bob by the arm and led her toward the lounge. "Just don't drink the expensive stuff," Henri called out after them.

The bar Payne led Bob to didn't look much different than any other bar Bob had been in across the galaxy. Cleaner than most, maybe, different music, that stuff Crichton called 'classical', but not much different. She nearly giggled to herself, thinking that if she didn't know any better, she could swear that the bar was filled with Sebaceans, instead of humans.

Payne led her to the bar where there were two empty stools. Bob slid up on one, giving a glance over her shoulder and catching a male at one of the small tables lining the wall smiling from ear to ear, enjoying the shortness of her dress skirt. Of course, she also caught Payne taking a quick glance, but the poor guy didn't get much of a look because a server immediately came up to them and interrupted.

"What can I get you?" the bartender asked. Despite his fine clothes, he looked to Bob like one of the males that she'd seen playing soccer on TV.

"I'll have a bourbon on the rocks," replied Payne. He looked at Bob. "What'll you have Bob?"

Bob thought for a moment then remembered a drink that Crichton had once mentioned. "I'll have a tequila shooter," she replied.

"In that case, I'll need to see some ID," the bartender objected.

Bob looked at him, shocked. "I need identification to drink?" she asked with obvious surprise. "Nnnnever needed it before, why now?"

"Because ma'am," the bartender said politely, "you need to be eighteen years old to drink here."

"I am over eighteen," Bob protested. Seeing that the bartender didn't believe her, Bob gave him her best seductive smile and leaned over, showing off her new and improved assets. She grabbed his shirt, pulling him close. Bob nipped his lips with her teeth and smiled ferally at the poor, hapless bartender. She pressed a soft kiss on his lips. "If you get me that drink, I'll make it worth your while," she whispered.

The bartender gulped visibly and pulled away before saying, "I'm sorry, I can't do that, miss. No ID, no drink. That's the rules, miss."

Angry, Bob let him go and sat back down, glaring at him. After watching the scene with obvious interest, Payne interrupted before Bob could create more of a scene. "Just bring her something," Payne suggested.

The bartender nodded. "I think I have something the lady will like," he said, moving to the other end of the bar.

Frustrated, Bob grabbed a bowl of snacks sitting on the bar and began to shove them gracelessly into her mouth. Payne grabbed the bowl and moved it away from her. "Hey," Bob protested, "those were mine."

"Sweet thing, you don't want to fill up on this junk before our lovely dinner do you?" Payne replied.

"I'm hungry," Bob replied with a pout, still a little miffed over the drink thing, "and I don't see why we have to wait here."

"We have to wait because our table isn't ready yet."

"Why not?" asked Bob petulantly.

"Because there are people still sitting at it," Payne explained.

"Then make 'em move," Bob simply proposed, holding a hand up.

"Sorry sweet thang, but can't do that, as much as we'd like to. It wouldn't be polite," Payne said. "And one has to be polite to eat here," he added, almost to himself. "Unless you're a rich gangsta I guess."

Bob snorted derisively and was about to say something about what they could do with their ideas of politeness when the bartender returned with a sparkling, bubbling, ruby-colored drink. He set it down in front of Bob. She stared at it curiously, cocking her head to and fro as she looked at it. "What's that?" she asked, cutting a skeptical look up to the bartender.

"It's called a Shirley Temple," replied the bartender.

"That's a stupid name," said Bob, still slightly piqued that they wouldn't serve her alcohol. She leaned forward and cautiously sniffed at it. No alcohol, she could tell immediately, but it didn't smell bad. Instead it smelled kind of sweet.

"Why don't you try it?" suggested Payne, who was frankly baffled by her behavior. Where in the hell had this girl come from not to have heard about a Shirley Temple?

Giving Payne a skeptical look, Bob took a cautious sip. It was sweet but also a little tart, and very good. Bob grabbed the glass and downed the entire drink in one gulp. Slapping the empty glass down on the counter she said, "Another!"

"Right away miss," the bartender said with a smile and poorly hidden relief. Another disaster diverted.

Payne watched Bob's antics and wondered where Crichton had found this girl. She was so strange. First of all, there was her age. Bob said that she was over eighteen, but looking at her, he had to admit that was pushing it. Then there was the way she looked, like a Goth. No way could he ever imagine John Crichton with a little Goth girl. Some tall, possibly willowy, blond, big-breasted bimbo yes, but this slight-chested, underweight, vampire wannabe midget, no way. Yet....

Obviously, Crichton saw something in her that no one else did, even his family seemed mystified by the attraction. Payne remembered talking to Olivia at some IASA function, and she'd said that neither she nor John's other sister, whose name Payne could never remember, could figure out the attraction either. And Crichton stashing the girl at his cabin, away from everything, even his family; what in the hell was up with that?

Then there was the detail of her behavior. Bob acted so peculiar much of the time, like everything she saw was new and different. She was such a strange mixture of things, at once shy and evasive, then overtly sexual. Sophisticated, intelligent, yet ignorant of some of the simplest of things- as the Shirley Temple reminded him. Payne shook his head as he watched her down her third Shirley Temple in a row. Such a mystery, but one he was determined to get to the bottom of. Payne smirked at no one in particular. And if it gave Crichton some long-due grief in the meantime, who was he to complain.

What the girl saw in Crichton was obvious, it was the same as every other woman. Charm, people claimed, good looks, the smarmy grin, plus Bob had said he was a killer in bed. Payne grimaced. That was something he definitely didn't want or need to know. What they didn't see was that Crichton was just a loser, who'd love 'em and leave 'em, all the while spouting about how much old fashioned values meant to him.

Payne grinned. Not that he didn't understand the attraction in John's ways, he just didn't have the same opportunities as Crichton. That, Payne decided, was what rankled him most. Crichton was given such extraordinary opportunities, yet he was so ordinary. The bozo only got his position at IASA by being the son of a more deserving former astronaut. His and Knox's theories were pure crap, but the damn lucky bastard had been fortunate yet again to divert attention from his failures, thanks to the chance discovery of that wormhole.

'Jerk, why couldn't it have been me,' thought Payne, 'or at least anyone else but that loser.' Anyone else he could have tolerated, but no, Crichton had to find it, and now was considered a hero. Money, power, women, a killer book deal, Oprah calling him by his first name, the jerk had it all, everything that should have gone to him.

And what had the jerk done since his big discovery? Absolutely nothing. Just got drunk, screwed everything in sight, and coasted on his fame. The only reason IASA kept him on this long was because they thought he was good for their image. Well that kind of thinking was draining resources. But not for much longer, Payne thought with a grim smile. John Crichton was goin' down, and if he had to use the little girl sitting next to him to do it, then so be it.

Smiling, Payne looked to Bob, and what had been on his mind completely vanished. The young lady had discovered the maraschino cherry in her Shirley Temple glass, and as he watched, her tongue destroyed the poor cherry in unlikely ways. With a wicked smile cast aside at Payne, she quickly sucked the stem into her mouth through the hole of the remaining shell of cherry, then unfurled her tongue to offer the stem for him to take. Bewildered beyond expression, Payne plucked the stem off of her tongue and sat in a blank expectation of some kind of response.

Bob smiled back, but, before she could speak, there was a commotion outside of the lounge door.

Henry Dirtwater's eyes widened in horror when the elevator door opened and three dirty, disheveled men stepped out into the foyer. The one in the lead looked vaguely familiar, as did the older man behind him, but the third man he didn't recognize. All three were dirty and sweaty as if they'd worked out before coming, even though they weren't wearing workout clothes. Henri then noticed that in addition to being dirty and sweaty, the third man's pants were soaking wet and muddy and his shoes gave off a squishing sound as he walked.

Henri sniffed in distaste and gave them his best icy look, hoping the men would take the hint and leave. A restaurant of Cadmus' caliber certainly didn't need their business. The men, however, didn't take the hint and walked up to his desk.

"Do you have a Payne in the-" the younger man began while removing his black vinyl coat, but was interrupted when the older man, who looked related to the younger, coughed discreetly. The younger man suddenly smiled and picked up his sentence. "- a Payne Adams among your guests?"

The younger man suddenly spied the reservations book and reached for it, but Henri grabbed the book and closed it before he could reach it. "Sir," Henri said, summoning his best haughty tone, "I'm afraid that information is confidential."

The younger man gave a derisive snort. "What? You a doctor or a lawyer or something? This is a restaurant."

"Yes sir, it is, thank you for reminding me," sniffed Henri, the disdain evident in his voice, "but the comfort of our guests is paramount to us, sir, as is their privacy."

"Then I'd like a table," replied the younger man, holding his coat out for the maitre d' to take.

"Do you have a reservation sir?" Henri enjoyed asking, not troubling to take the coat.

"No," replied John with his best lop-sided grin, the one that had been plastered over every popular magazine and television program for months, "I don't, but I'm John Crichton and I was wondering if you could squeeze us in tonight. It's very important." John turned and gave Doug and his dad a little smirk. He'd used the famous astronaut ploy to score choice tables before and it had always worked. No reason not to use it now.

"Who, sir?" Henri enjoyed asking.

John stared at the maitre d' blankly. The man didn't recognize him. "I'm....I' know, John Crichton, the astronaut." Behind John, Doug snickered. John pointed to Jack. "This is my father, Jack Crichton, the famous astronaut. He went to the moon."

Recognition lit Henri's face. "Oh yes, I recognize you now." He reached right past John and held out his hand to Jack. "It's an honor to meet you sir."

Jack shook his hand and said, "Thank you, the pleasure is mine."

John's smirk returned as he addressed the maitre d'. "Now that you know who we are, could you seat us please?"

"I'm afraid not Mr. Crichton. We are fully booked, as we have been for some time. I'm afraid there's no way we can accommodate you."

Doug snickered again as the smirk vanished from John's face. Shooting Doug a look that could kill lesser beings, John pulled out his wallet, took out a $100 bill, and placed it on the maitre d's desk, sliding it forward. "A little something for your trouble," he said in a quiet near whisper. Henri stared at the money for a moment before reaching out and snatching it. "Perhaps, that can ease the accommodation," John supposed.

Henri placed the money quickly in his pocket. "It helps sir," he said, "but I'm afraid that I would have to rearrange things and it might cause some major ruffled feathers if I were to accommodate you, say ahead of someone else." Henri smiled knowingly at John.

John glared back at him, reached into his wallet again and pulled out another $100 dollars, placing it on the desk as before. "I'm sure this can help smooth any ruffled feathers," John said.

Henri smiled and consulted the reservations book. "You're in luck Mr. Crichton; we've just had a last minute cancellation."

John grinned. Finally things were going their way. "If our table is available, we'd like to be seated now," said John.

Henri, however, made no move to seat them. "I'm sorry Mr. Crichton, I'm afraid I can't do that."

John stared at him stunned for a moment, then got angry. "Whatta you mean, you can't seat us? I just gave you two hundred for a table and now you can't seat us. What in the hell is going on here?"

Henri flinched a bit but held his ground. "Mr. Crichton, please keep your voice down," Henri replied. "I'm sorry but I can't let you into the dining room because you're not dressed properly." He eyed John's jeans and flannel shirt over t-shirt ensemble, Jack's polo shirt and slacks and Doug's ripped, muddy jeans and Grateful Dead t-shirt meaningfully. "The restaurant requires a jacket and tie for men and I'm afraid none of you are dressed properly."

John stared at the man in disbelief. "We walked here from Jamaica, where our tire went flat, nearly got ran over by a tour group bus from Japan, then we're able to arrange 200 bucks for you but that still isn't enough to get a discreet seat in this fake French fleecing room because we don't have a f*cking jacket and tie?!"

Jack stepped forward, interposing himself between John and the odious maitre d' before John could lunge at the man. That was just what they didn't need now, to create a major and possibly very embarrassing incident. "Some restaurants keep a small supply of jackets and ties on hand for emergencies, perhaps...?" Jack prompted.

"I'm sorry sir, we don't," Henri replied, putting Jack as much between himself and John as possible, "but there is an alternative."

"And that is?"

"There's a shop sir, down on the plaza that sells mens' wear." Henri looked at his watch. "They're open for about another twenty minutes sir. If you hurry, I can hold your table until nine o'clock."

"That will be fine," said Jack as he herded John toward the elevator.

"Yeah, you do that Henri," John yelled as he entered the elevator. Doug exchanged a long look with Jack as they both followed John into the elevator.

Chapter 17
Clown Suits

"Are we taking the scenic route or what?" John asked impatiently, since the elevator seemed to be stopping on every floor on their way down to the ground level.

"We're not the only person using the elevator, son," Jack admonished. The elevator doors opened and a few people got on. Jack watched John's distracted and uptight attitude with concern. He knew John had an obsessive streak, it was one characteristic that had helped him to become a success in his career as an astronaut, but seeing a form of it was still disturbing.

As they reached the ground level, John abruptly pushed his way past a rather large woman on his way out of the elevator. Without waiting for either Doug or Jack, he immediately sprinted off to his left. Jack murmured an apology to the woman as he and Doug stepped out of the elevator.

"Whoa papa bear, you're....going the wrong way," Doug said to John's retreating back. "How long do you think it will take him to realize he's going the wrong way?" Doug asked shaking his head.

Shaking his own head at his son's strange behavior, Jack replied, "Not long, there it is, I see it." Doug looked in the direction Jack was pointing and saw the haberdasher directly across the wide plaza. Both men set off at a leisurely pace across the square.

Just as they reached the shop, John came pounding up, clearly out of breath and annoyed. "Here it is," he panted. "Why didn't you tell me it was over here," he demanded. Doug just shook his head and rolled his eyes as he went into the shop.

A salesman came up to greet them, a pasty man in his later thirties with slick hair and incongruous neon pink and yellow rubber coil key-chains on one wrist. "Hello sirs, how may I help you?" he asked in a voice closer to Milan than Melbourne.

"I need a jacket and a tie," replied John. He gestured at Doug and Jack and quickly added, "Actually all three of us do."

"Did you have a particular fabric and style in mind sir?" the salesman asked with the clipped patience of suffering through pointless formalities.

"Actually, we need something right now," said John.

The clerk grinned knowingly. "Ah, you're eating at Cadmus tonight?" he supposed.

"Yes, we are, in about ten minutes, in fact," John admitted and plowed ahead, "and we need something quick."

The clerk smiled again. "If you....all come this way sir," he gestured toward a corner where Doug already stood, looking at some very expensive silk jackets. "We have some lovely jackets and matching ties, entirely appropriate for....your purposes." The clerk took down a jacket, a nice black, silk, obviously hand-tailored jacket and held it out to show John. "If you'll notice sir, this is a very excellent silk, sir. Very suitable for this climate, though if you prefer, we also carry a full line of wool jackets. All of our merchandise is of the finest quality and everything is made in Italy."

"Right down to the nose," observed John, apparently intrigued by the man's prominent proboscis. "Knew I'd seen that nose somewhere. On a bottle of Caesar dressing I think."

The salesclerk glared at John and quipped, "Yes, the dressing that hails as it pours."

Just like Doug, Jack looked at John for a few mystified seconds and then pointedly turned his attention to the price tag on one of the jackets. Unfortunately Jack didn't manage to keep his dignity either, because one look at the price made his eyes bug out.

"How much?" was all John said.

The salesclerk answered but directed his attention at Jack, "$900 for this one, sir."

For a moment Jack thought his son was just going to say, "Charge It," but instead John, true to form blurted out, "$900, for that!?"

The salesclerk sniffed audibly as he replied, "It is the finest, hand-tailored silk sir, made in Italy."

John quipped, "What do they book their own plane flights from Italy? Don't tell me, first class. Never mind. Do you have anything cheaper?" asked John.

"Of course we do sir, but they aren't as good a quality as these," replied the clerk.

"Just show 'em to me," John said impatiently, looking at his watch.

"Of course sir," sniffed the clerk, "this way sir." He led John, Jack and Doug to a rack of jackets in the back of the store. "This is our sale rack sir," the clerk said before moving off to stand behind the counter.

John began pawing through the rack of jackets looking for one his size. Finally finding one, he pulled it out and tried it on. "How does this look?" he asked Doug and Jack.

Jack tried not to wince as he looked at John. "The fit is just fine son, but the color....I just don't know how to describe it."

John inspected the jacket. "What's wrong with the color?" he asked.

"You look like a giant avocado....or a real estate agent," piped in Doug. "That color is awful."

John shrugged. "I don't care; I just need it for a few hours."

"A few hours as an avocado?" Doug asked while he went back to looking at a rack of expensive jackets. "If she sees you she won't be leaving with you, dude. Unless she's got a thing on high cholesterol vegetables."

He looked at Doug and the rack of expensive jackets and asked, "What in the hell are you doing? Those are too expensive, just get over here and pick one of these."

Doug objected, "I'm not picking out one of those god-awful things on that rack. Unlike you, dude, I do have some taste. These aren't too expensive," he said pointing to the rack behind him.

Grabbing a price tag, John shook his head and argued, "No way bro, $500 is still too expensive." John went to the sale rack and pawed through it for a moment. Picking out a jacket he threw it at Doug. "Here, this one looks like you, try it on."

Doug held up the jacket in two fingers looking at it in horror. It was blue and green plaid jacket made of a nice wool but the plaid pattern was very bold, what some would call loud. "There is no way dude," Doug said shaking his head at the offensive garment.

"You're only going to be wearing it for a little while, besides I'm paying for it," wheedled John, who looked at his watch again. "We're running out of time wonder-boy, just try it on."

Doug glared daggers at John and tried on the jacket. It fit fine through the shoulders but the arms were too short, stopping at about six inches above Doug's wrists. He stood, hands on hips, glaring at John. "No way dude, I'm not wearing this ridiculous thing. It's too short. I look stupid."

"And that differs, how, from your usual look?" John said with a grin.

"Not funny Crichton," Doug disagreed. "I'm not wearing this to the restaurant, I look ridiculous."

"Well, you don't have much of a choice dude, there isn't anything else on the rack that's close to your size." John looked at him closely. "It's a little small, but trust me, nobody will notice."

Jack couldn't believe his son could say that with a straight face but John was already distracted with getting back to the restaurant.

"Look, Mr. Blackwell," said Doug, "I realize you were in space for years, and that you never had a sense of style to begin with, but I am not wearing this ridiculous jacket back to the restaurant. I look like a clown."

"Yes, you are," said John, distracted once more. "Hey," he yelled at the clerk, "We need three ties."

"We have a fine selection of ties sir...." began the clerk but John cut him off impatiently. He grabbed three ties off the counter. "We'll take these," he said plunking them and his credit card down on the counter. The clerk quickly rang up the purchases. Grabbing the ties, John threw one at random at Doug and at Jack.

Doug looked at the tie in his hand and shook his head in disbelief as he followed John and Jack out of the shop. "This is so....oh I sure hope nobody I know sees me in this," he muttered.

Jack cut a glance at Doug. "I wish he'd brought back a cloaking device," Jack quipped.

"Puh, no big," Doug said. "Everybody loves a clown."

Chapter 18
The Three Stooges

Henri looked on in horror at the three strangely dressed men who stepped out of an episode he had hoped was a bad dream and reappeared in front of his desk. The sight he witnessed this time was more horrible than before, in an insidious way.

All three men wore the attire required by the restaurant dress code, but the combination and fit was hideous. The man in the lead, the one who claimed to be John Crichton, wore an avocado green silk blazer over a red flannel shirt, which in turn was worn over a slightly tattered black t-shirt. Over that he wore a tie in an odd shade of yellow. The combination was strikingly hideous, but John Crichton didn't seem to know it, or didn't care. Instead of running from the place to preserve what self-respect he might have had left, the eyesore stepped up the desk.

"Hello Henri, we're back," John smiled, or grinned, baitingly. "We'd like our table now," he said, holding his coat out again.

Henri stared openly at the three men. He knew he was being rude, but he didn't care, since he didn't feel particularly alone in practicing rudeness. Henri had hoped that by sending them away to get the required attire that they wouldn't return, but here they were, all hideously dressed like a rash returning redder than before. If it had been his say, he'd have preferred their slovenly appearance before this transformation into fashion statements he didn't know that shop could make.

Henri looked at Jack, who wore a brown sport coat and tie over a nice polo shirt. 'Well,' thought Henri, 'the older gentleman doesn't look too bad.' Perhaps his age gave allowances for being so conspicuously out of style. But Jack was the only one who looked halfway decent.

Henri almost winced in pain as he looked at the third member of the party, another young man. Not only was his jacket an incredibly loud green and blue plaid, but the sleeves were too short for him, stopping several inches above his knobby wrists. Too add insult to injury, the tie he wore, over what looked like to Henri was a Grateful Dead t-shirt, was an eye-scarring bright purple. The man saw Henri staring at him and he flushed, obviously embarrassed to be seen wearing his ensemble under any circumstances. For a moment Henri almost felt sorry for him, almost.

Hurried thoughts of what pretexts to use in order to dispose of the party came to a screeching halt when it occurred to Henri that the worst thing he could think of doing was to let them have their way. Plastering his most insincere smile on his face, Henri took John's coat, hung it on the rack near the counter and replied, "Yes, Mr. Crichton, your table is ready. Follow me please gentlemen."

John grinned triumphantly as he followed Henri into the dining room, soon spotting Bob in a dark, secluded corner by the window, that loser Payne seated close to her. Too close. John's brow and upper lip ticked in irritation when he saw Payne lean down and whisper something in Bob's ear that made her laugh. He was so engrossed in watching Bob and Payne that he failed to see the support pillar in front him until he ran into it. John careened back from the pillar, nearly knocking Jack off his feet.

"Whoa there son," said Jack as he steadied John. "I'm never too proud to support you, son, but there are some ways you have to stay on your feet. You all right there?" he asked.

"Yeah, dad I'm fine," John replied rubbing his forehead, which had hit the pillar. "Just hurt my pride a little." He looked around sheepishly. "Do you think anyone noticed?"

"Only everyone dude," chimed in Doug. John looked over toward Bob and Payne's table to see if they'd noticed. Payne raised his wine glass in a toast while Bob giggled unabashedly beside him. Embarrassed, John turned toward Henri who waited impatiently for them a few feet away.

The table Henri had led them to was next to the door to the kitchen. It was tiny, only made for two people, but a waiter brought an extra chair up as Henri seated them. Jack was seated in the most visible seat facing the rest of the restaurant. As they sat down, John also discovered that the very same pillar that he had walked into obscured the view of Bob and Payne's table. He couldn't see them from where he sat.

Just then a waiter came out of the kitchen, carrying a heavily laden tray of food. He flung back the door as he exited, causing it to hit the back of Doug's chair, startling him. "Hey!" he yelled at the waiter, who ignored the gameboy misfit at the cheap table and continued on his way. Another waiter came out, doing the exact same thing. Doug didn't yell this time, he just glared. "This is getting old fast," he muttered.

"Maybe we should move the table out a little bit," suggested Jack helpfully.

Doug nodded. "That would be great," he replied as yet another waiter came out of the kitchen, flinging the door into his chair. "Maybe it's their way of getting out their hostility."

"Son," said Jack, "could you move a little that way." John wasn't paying attention however, as he was still focused firmly on trying to get a good view of Bob and Payne. "John? Son?"

"Yo dude!" yelled Doug.

"Huh? What?" asked John, momentarily distracted from his new life's devotion of spying on Bob and Payne.

"We need to move the table a little bit over that way," Jack said, pointing past John.


"Would you pull your head out of your ass for a second dude and pay attention to something besides Bob and Payne in the ass," Doug sarcastically snapped. "We need to move the table because these jerks keep hitting the back of my chair with the door."

"Oh, okay, why didn't you say so in the first place dude," demanded John. "No need to get nasty about it, okay?" Doug rolled his eyes up toward the ceiling and muttered something about giving some strength as Jack and John moved the table over several inches. "This good enough for you, dude?" asked John.

"It's fine," replied Doug, with a sigh, as the kitchen door hit his chair again. Jack looked at him but Doug just shook his head. John was already distracted again trying to sneak a peek at Bob and Payne.

A morose looking waiter with a seemingly penciled in mustache came up to their table and handed them menus. "Hello, my name is Francois and I'll be your waiter for the evening." Francois quickly rattled off the daily specials. "May I get you gentlemen something to drink to get you started?" he dutifully asked.

"Yeah, three beers," replied John absently, "anything you have on tap will be fine."

"Very good sir," replied Francois with an insincere smile as he left their table.

Doug looked at the menu. "God, look at these prices," he exclaimed. "I think I could afford the soup if I can negotiate the terms with the credit people. I bet that beer's gonna cost more than I've spent on booze for the entire year."

A moment later, Francois returned with their three beers. "Are you gentlemen ready to order now?"

"Yeah, we'll have one of each of your specials," John summarily answered, handing his menu back to Francois.

Doug and Jack handed their menus to Francois too. Doug waited until he was gone before whispering furiously at John, "What's with the ordering for us dude? I'm a big boy and I can order for myself."

"Are you paying for it?" demanded John. Doug sat back in his chair, momentarily taken aback by John's rudeness. "Well, are you?" John irritably repeated.

Doug just shook his head and got up. "I'm going to the bathroom, maybe you'll want to show me how to go poo-poo too," he flung back over his shoulder as he left the room.

"That was rude son," Jack admonished as soon as Doug got out of sight.

"What? So?" John shrugged, not the least bit chagrined. "Who do you thinks paying for all this? It's not Dr. Knox."

"I know that son, but Doug is, or was, your best friend, and just because you've got money and he's not rolling in it doesn't mean you have the right to be an ass and hold it over our heads. We're here to help you, but if you don't want our help, I'm sure Doug and I can go find something else to do besides dress like clowns and waste our time being seen like that at one of the swankiest dives in town, just so you can soothe your insecurities about your dysfunctional relationship."

John stared back at Jack for a long moment before sighing and nodding slightly. "You're right dad, I'm sorry I'm being an ass."

"I'm not the one you need to apologize to, son," Jack crisply pointed out.

John nodded again, and when Doug returned to the table a moment later, John glanced up over to Doug from his concerted gaze at Payne's table. "Hey dude," John apologized, "I'm sorry for snapping at ya, it' know."

Doug looked at him for a second and nodded. "Apology accepted dude and yeah I know."

"So tell me Roberta," Payne cheerfully requested to know, "while I can see what Mr. Crichton sees in you, what's a girl like you doing with a jerk like him?"

Bob laughed. "I told you before, he's good in bed," she reminded him with something like surprise.

"I know that's what you told me before, but there's gotta be more to it than that," Payne supposed.

"Well, he's an astronaut, and he's rich, and he's famous," Bob explained. "And he's good-looking too," added Bob.

"Yeah so?" Payne said testily. He could see getting anything useful out of this girl was going to be like prying open a clam. A very fetching clam, Payne reminded himself to help cool his temper. "I'll grant you that I'm not as rich, yet, but I am an astronaut, and," he slightly scoffed in a phony attempt at appearing modest, "so I've been told, good-looking."

"Yes, you are," purred Bob as she reached up and ran her index finger along his jaw. He was a good looking male at that, and if there was a male that attached his self-worth to the status of his occupation and his financial-worth it was this man. Appearing to be impressed by his occupation was one way she was confident would delight him to no end. So she calculatingly added, "And you're an astronaut too. I like astronauts."

Payne leaned in and gave the finger a kiss. "What's Crichton doing with a girl like you?" he asked her finger.

Bob stared at him, momentarily stymied by Payne's rude question. "Whatta you mean, a girl like me?"

"Well, for one thing, you're," Payne struggled to find some way of tactfully explaining it, "you're just wrong." He cringed at what blurted out.

"What's wrong with me?" Bob said, sitting up straight.

For a few seconds Payne sat with a pat grin while his eyes admired her petite form so lovingly draped by the startlingly low cut pretty beaded dress. Such an odd complexion, he thought but only absently, because the rest of the scene left rational thought kind of scarce. "You're younger than the women he usually dates," Payne explained, once he found some words, "and you're not exactly his type."

"Whatta you mean, 'not his type'?" Bob bristled angrily.

"Whoa, Roberta, don't get angry," Payne said, holding his hands up in an attempt to placate her. "I didn't mean anything by it." He only just managed to keep from smiling in interest at her fiery streak. "I assure you that I didn't mean to offend you, Roberta. What I meant to say, is that you're not stereotypical. That is, he usually goes for a stereotypical woman. You're not tall, and you're not blond...."

"And I don't have big loomas," Bob finished for him.

"What?" he asked, lost by her strange term.

"Big tits," Bob quickly translated. "Rack."

Resting his head with a hand on the side of his face, Payne leaned over and looked down appreciatively at her self-proclaimed deficiency with a lazy grin on his face. Sure there wasn't much, and it looked somehow a bit fake, almost like a painted artificial bust, he thought. Since it also looked amazingly pert and firm, he wasn't about to complain. "But what you do have is very nice," Payne said smoothly. "You are a singularly beautiful woman, Roberta."

"It's this dress you got me," she said with a slight shrug.

"Oh, no," Payne insisted. "In fact, you look even more beautiful without that makeup," Payne complimented, earning a mysteriously glinting grin from Bob. Charmed, she leaned forward and gave him a peck on the cheek. He smiled back and asked with as much tenderness as he could, "So you're not mad at me?"

Bob sat back in her chair and shook her head pertly. "No, I'm not mad."

"So Bob, back to my question. What do you think Crichton sees in yourself?"

Bob looked at Payne for a long moment, her smirk growing broader. Leaning forward, she brushed her lips against his as she said, "Crichton says that I give the best head he's ever had."

Payne spewed the drink of wine he'd just taken all over the table. Bob sat back in her chair, still smirking, as a waiter ran up, a rag in his hand to mop up the spill, but Payne just waved him away. "No way," he managed to say between chokes.

Bob gave Payne a superior little smirk and nodded. She leaned in close to him and whispered something in his ear, even as she placed her hand on his upper thigh and squeezed. Payne turned pale and swallowed hard several times as Bob continued to whisper in his ear. A moment later, Bob let go of his thigh with a final squeeze and sat back in her chair, smirk still fixed in place.

Payne stared at her for a long while, a new-found and all too brief admiration for John Crichton in his thoughts. That quickly fled, however, and Bob thought she could see his own enormous ego reassert itself. She could almost hear his thoughts, relishing what a coup it would be to snurch her away from Crichton.

"Enough about me and Crichton," Bob purred as she leaned forward once more, her chin on her hand. "I want to hear all about you." And she knew she was asking just the right person.

They were interrupted then by Henri. "Pardon me," he said, "but would" He straightened up but took a sidelong glance at two waiters next to him. One of the waiters had a camera and nudged Henri with it. "Oh all right," Henri mumbled to the waiter, while Bob and Payne began to catch on to what was happening. "Would you be so indulgent as to permit a picture? I perfectly understand, if you do not wish to-"

"Of course," Payne said, putting his napkin down and standing. Bob stood with him, and as she did, Payne caught the man at the table behind, heedless of the presence of what looked to be his date, dropping his napkin so that he could bend over and watch Bob's rear as she stood in her short dress skirt. Payne shot the guy a dry, unimpressed look.

Payne and Bob stood facing the waiter with the camera. She backed nearly into the lady seated behind, who took a surprised but impressed look at what was backing up to her. Payne smiled smugly, placing his hand on Bob's rear. He didn't expect her hand to clasp onto his rear, but that's what happened next. Bob smiled equally smugly and held the pose while Payne found himself staring in stupid surprise just as the camera snapped. Henri and the waiters profusely thanked Bob and Payne, then retreated to deliver their food.

Payne started into eating, but Bob looked at her plate and blinked. Frell, she was hungry allot lately, and was now, but looking at the plate made her glad there was little to it. It looked like something Zhaan whipped up once. Some bits of something that died was fried in a Burgundy, partly-alcohol sauce and tied into a hay stack with some strands of oddly shaved orange vegetable. Bob looked up to Payne, who was happily chewing on something from a more appetizing and substantial plate. He paused to look back at her. She flashed a smile onto her face and involuntarily quirked her head.

"Well there isn't much to say you may not have heard," Payne claimed. "My father being who he was, it was natural for me to become an astronaut," he began.

While Payne launched into stories liberally seasoned with name-droppings, Bob simply tried to figure out how to tackle eating. She watched Payne eating his food and spied the manners of a few other ladies. She figured she was doing fine until it came to sucking up the liquid sloshing around her plate with a straw. Payne froze the moment he saw it, but an instant later, everyone in the dining room was distracted by the sounds of someone falling off their chair.

Bob whipped her head to look over her shoulder, finding that John had fallen from trying to see around the pillar in his way and leaning too far in his chair. Apparently it bothered somebody else dining behind John, as John, Doug and the other patron stood up and exchanged words. Waiters never before seen appeared from the woodwork. Bob swallowed, sensing trouble.

Doug must have defended some remark and been rewarded with an insult from the patron, because he advanced up to the patron and made some remark. The put-down was returned with some slur about Doug wearing selections from Elton John's '70s wardrobe, and Doug made some remark about the man's expensive suit and pimp fashion. Their pretentious posturing brought a giddy smile leaping to Bob's face. She eagerly waited to see if there'd be some action, or maybe even better, more absurd posturing.

Doug went for his plate. Jack dove forward and grabbed the other end of the plate, preventing Doug from using its contents to alter the patron's suit. The patron made some remark that was enough for John. He went for the patron's arms, to take him down in an arm lock. Doug let go of the plate to stop John from escalating things. The plate snapped back in Jack's grasp, spewing its contents into Jack's face. Doug's grab on John's arms made John's arms swing around, slamming their hands onto the table and sending the back end of a fork flying off of Doug's face. John's arms came free and struck back into the patron, slamming the patron backward against the table, and John falling backward onto his chair.

Bob didn't even have to glance at what happened next. She knew from the sounds that John had fallen over out of his chair, and that he'd taken his expensive plate, utensils, and two people seated at a table behind down with him.

Payne laughed out loud. "Which one's Moe, Larry and Curly?" Payne laughed.

Bob laughed out loud too, partly delighted to laugh at Crichton and the others for being so ridiculous, and partly embarrassed and angry that John, Jack and Doug were being laughed at. The conflicting emotions were too much, and she bolted up onto her feet and dumped her crumpled napkin onto the table.

"Let's blow this stuffy place and go somewhere," Bob told Payne as much as suggested.

"Certainly," Payne eagerly agreed to placate her, stuffing his face with the remaining few bites of his meal with one hand and gesturing for a waiter with his other hand. A waiter approached as Payne stood. "The lady and I are leaving," Payne announced. "Bill me," Payne told him, hurrying to catch up with Bob, who was already leaving the dinning room.

"Dude, I told you not to lean so far sideways," Doug said to John, while offering John a hand back up from the floor.

"Will you quit being so uptight," admonished the literally beet sauce-red Jack. "You'll get us thrown out."

"I just slipped," John started to defend himself. But he stood to find Henri standing over the shattered fine china plates and holding John's jacket for him.

"Boy, did you," Jack mumbled.

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