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Disclaimer: I do not own HHGTTG
So, we take a break from the somewhat lateral storyline of the last few chapters to have a completely random little scenario that was basically spawned from chapter 7 of IP. Don't worry, we will see Arthur's reaction his recent kidnapping but not quite yet. This idea popped into my head and I decided not to ignore it. So this scene has nothing to do with the previous two chapters and happens at an earlier time than chpt 9.
Ford trotted through the white corridors, his lunatic grin firmly fixed on his face. His arms were full of clinking bottles, he'd splashed out on a luxury new towel and, perhaps best of all, Arthur was back from his visit to Earth.
Now, the intelligent and highly attractive people reading this may stop at this point and think 'Hang on, wasn't the Earth, sort of, blown up?' They are absolutely correct. The Earth was indeed destroyed to make way for a hyperspace bypass. However, as all well-informed readers of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy are aware, the possessive and indulgent attitude of a Betelgeusian towards their 'sriataer' or 'most-important-love' means there aren't many things a Betelgeusian won't do for his or her significant other(s). This includes forcing their rich and influential re-elected Galactic President cousin (at gun point) to allow them access to a prototype Improbability Time Machine so their aforementioned sriataer can go back to his recently-destroyed planet to visit his parents.
The whole affair was really, terribly complicated and stretched the laws of physics, narrative causality and credulity to breaking point. Not that Ford Prefect cared. He was a Betelgeusian with a lover and what Arthur wanted, Ford would tear apart the Galaxy to get for him. Unless he was in a particularly teasing or difficult mood, which was more often than not.
Nevertheless, Arthur had just returned from his half-day visit (all that had been allowed by the Dedicated Space/Time Continuum Observers) and Ford was eager to find his human lover, not just to break in the large collection of different alcohols he'd bought in Arthur's absence. He breezed into their shared sleeping quarters and trilled, "Honey, I'm home!"
Without waiting for a reply he dumped his stuff on the bed, smiling as he caught sight of several cartons of UHT milk, a rather disreputable teapot and a large box of M&S Finest teabags. A small Polaroid camera was resting on the bedside cabinet with a neat pile of pictures next to it. Ford perused them briefly, not surprised when the familiar tourist sights of London met his eyes. Evidently Arthur had decided to get some souvenirs to remember his home by.
After rifling through the pile of pictures and reading the instructions on the box of tea, Ford glanced up at the empty room, wondering where his Earthman had got to. "Arthur?" he called.
"In here!" came the muffled reply from the bathroom.
Ford wandered over to the door that led to the surprisingly large en suite facility. "Can I come in?" he asked, showing unusual politeness.
"No, I'm trying to freshen up."
"And I don't want to be molested at the moment, thank you very much. Unlike you I do not have a permanently keen libido!" Arthur said, a little testily.
The Betelgeusian's grin widened and he leaned his head against the door, listening to the splashy noises of Arthur taking a bath. "Just because you're naked and wet doesn't mean I'm necessarily going to assault you," he said, trying and failing to sound hurt.
"I have plenty of evidence to the contrary," the human shot back.
"Well maybe I could come in and take a look at this evidence," Ford suggested, reaching for pressure pad that would open the door.
"Don't you dare!" Arthur shrieked. "Anyway, I've locked the door."
Ford laughed and rapped his knuckles against the white surface. "Since when has that stopped me?"
There was a moment of silence. Then the clear sound of a very heavy and water-logged sponge hitting the door, having been flung at immense velocity from the bath. "Alright, alright!" Ford chuckled. He grabbed a chair and parked himself on it, facing the door. "How did your visit go?"
There was another silence. "It went…fine," Arthur said eventually.
Ford frowned. "Just fine?"
"Are you going to give me any details or do I have to steal your diary to find out?"
The human snorted. "I don't have a diary. And even if I did, I wouldn't let you anywhere near it. I know what you're like."
"You're changing the subject. Why was your long-awaited visit to your much-missed and constantly bemoaned planet just 'fine'?" Ford pressed.
There was a distinct sigh and the sound of someone heaving themselves out of a deep and obviously still hot bath. "I can't get five bloody minutes can I?" Arthur complained, a faintly amused note present in his voice. Ford pressed close to the door again, his sensitive hearing picking up the sounds of Arthur drying off and getting dressed. There was a hesitation in the human's movements, a carefulness that wasn't usually present. Ford wondered what was causing it and why Arthur was being so cagey.
"Well, I went to a few of my favourite monuments and things, took a few pictures," Arthur continued, unaware of Ford's fully concentrated attention on his every move. "Losing Nelson's Column was difficult enough the first time around, this time I wanted to get a proper memory of it. Then I went to see Mum and Dad at their semi-detached."
Ford had never met Arthur's parents and didn't really know much about them apart from the fact they lived in one of the more attractive suburbs of London. "How were they?" he prompted after a few seconds of quiet.
"Oh great, yes," the human answered. "I think Mum was a little shocked to see me- she'd just had a phone call from me saying I was going to be away in France for the week on holiday."
"Indeed, ah. I had to tell her that I'd delayed my journey to pop in and say a proper goodbye. I think she bought it."
"She'd better have done," Ford smirked. "Or you would have had the police after you as soon as you left."
"Well, yes," Arthur's voice was nearer now and he'd stopped moving around. Ford assumed he was sitting on the other side of the door in a similar position to his own, in the vague hope it would prevent any unwanted molestation.
"There's still something you're not telling me. What happened at your parents'?" Ford urged, feeling confused by the reluctance of his partner to talk to him. Arthur's voice, now that he was nearer, sounded strangely tired, as if he'd been up for days. There was a roughness that hung about the edge of his words, a roughness that Ford wouldn't have heard had he not been listening for it.
Arthur cleared his throat. "We just talked for a bit. I told her about you, well, a bit about you. You know, basic physical description, good sense of humour, adventurous, journalist, all that. I left out the inter-galactic hitchhiker bit."
"What did she say?"
"Her exact words were 'She sounds like a nice girl, when do I get to meet her?'"
Ford sat stunned for a moment then burst out laughing, feeling a little of his worried tension ease off.
"Yes, yes, it's very funny," Arthur snapped.
Ford continued to snigger. "What did you do?"
"Had to tell her, didn't I? I thought it was best that she knew which way her son swung," the Englishman's voice had taken on a slightly self-mocking tone. Ford's laughter died away and he wondered if he was getting to the root of the caginess.
"I mean, what mother wouldn't want to know she had a screaming poofter for a son?" Arthur continued, bitterly.
Ford's hand went automatically to the pressure pad, his instinctive reflex to get to his lover momentarily overriding the rational side of his brain. He forced his limbs to stillness- if Arthur was feeling vulnerable then displays of Betelgeusian protective fury would not help. He tried to keep his tone level. "How did she react?" he said, hating himself for the forced neutrality of his tone. This wasn't the result he'd expected. He'd wanted Arthur to be happy, and instead there was this sudden self-disgust that he'd never seen before.
"I'll never know," the human's voice became toneless, distant, as if he was thinking about something else entirely. "I was just explaining to her when Dad came home."
The finality of those words hit Ford like a kick in the gut. A sick icy tendril of fear snaked its malicious way through him. He knew the attitudes of people on Earth. He knew what the older generation thought of the 'unnatural perverts' who practised homosexuality. He also knew how violently some of them reacted.
"What did he do?"
"Arthur, open this door," Ford stated firmly, trying to quell the anger that was starting to boil inside him. If some prejudiced old bastard had done anything to his partner, there would be hell to pay, whether he was Arthur's father or not.
Directly confronted, his lover stammered uncertainly. "I…I don't…"
"Open the door Arthur, or I'll break it down."
There was a shuffling noise and the faint beeping sound of Arthur decoding the lock. The door sighed open. Ford blinked as a cloud of steamy moisture escaped from the room and billowed out into the rest of the quarters. His sharp gaze fixed on the tall form of his lover and he gasped in shock. A large ugly blue-black bruise marred his upper left cheek and eye socket and the flesh had started to swell a little. There was no sign of any other injury, thank Zarquon, but the thought that a father could strike his child with such force…
Ford stepped forwards and tenderly took his lover's face in his hands, tilting his head to he could get a proper look at the injury. "Arthur," he breathed, feeling his anger dissolve into pure sympathy. "What's he done to you?"
Arthur sniffed helplessly at the gentleness of his touch and the agony in Ford's voice. "He threatened to disown me," he said, quietly, tremulously. "He called me a sneaking, conniving, lying little bastard and threw me out of the house."
Ford didn't say anything, just kept his soft touch on Arthur's face and his firm gaze on Arthur's eyes. The human moved to curl his long fingers tightly around the hand that cradled his cheek. "I didn't want to leave, to have my last memory of them full of anger…But would it really have been better if I'd lied?"
Watery grey eyes stared pleadingly into vivid blue ones, asking an unspoken question. Ford sighed. "They had a right to know," he said, gently, displaying morals that up till now he'd been unaware of. "Even if they didn't approve, they had a right to know."
Arthur nodded and Ford impulsively hugged him. "I'm sorry it didn't turn out the way you wanted," he said. "Now lets get the medkit so we can sort that bruise. And then I'm going to molest you. And then I'm going to kill your father."