Disclaimer: I do not own HHGTTG.
WARNING: Very very dark angstyness up ahead. Completely OOC, completely AU, could never happen in the HHGTTG Universe. Rated for language and mention of addictions, alcoholism, rape and death. You have been warned.
If you don't like any of those themes or suggestions of that sort in the HHGTTG I suggest you leave now. This means that you don't get hurt and I don't get hurt when you leave a review saying 'OMFG THAT WOULD NEVER HAPPEN YOU SICK BITCH GO AND DIE I HATE YOU!' etc
DARK THEMES UP AHEAD. IF YOU HAVEN'T REALISED BY NOW YOU ARE EITHER THICK AS TWO SHORT PLANKS OR DON'T READ AUTHOR NOTES.
This is an exploration of a particular idea- what if Ford's drinking became a problem? What if his few entries became too tiresome for the Guide offices to care? What if, in the approaching darkness, he saw no way to escape?
When he awoke, his room was dark. With his partner for the night gone, the bed felt huge, the sheets icy-damp with sweat and other fluids. They clung to him as he lay there, sticking to his unclean body like flies to a wound. He shifted a little, barely wincing as familiar pains needled him. He woke like this almost every morning now. Alone. Cold. Empty. His skin burning with the bruises of a night spent with someone whose face he didn't know, whose name he'd never asked. The impression of a stranger's teeth at the crook of his neck. Used. Lifeless. Worthless. Alone.
He heard the door sigh open. Someone walked up to the bed. Looked at him. He didn't open his eyes. He knew what he would see- pained grey pools, desolate and angry, aching with misery. No recrimination, no blame, just helpless frustration and resigned acceptance. The sheets were pulled away from him and he felt gentle hands moving a soft wet cloth over the shame-encrusted filth of his skin, cleaning away the surface stains, cleaning away the evidence of his sinful crimes. Hands that never judged, never hurt. Hands that, if only for a while, could keep him safe from himself.
The person moved away, briefly, and he strained his ears to hear where they had gone, still refusing to open his eyes. He felt no relief when they came back. He never did. They always came back. What would it matter if they didn't?
A voice was crooning whispered words to him as his wounds were cared for. He almost felt like crying. Almost. He didn't deserve the release of tears. He simply lay, a scarred statue under the tender care of the unseen angel. The soothing balm of the compassionate touches seared into his foul being like holy light through a wailing demonic chorus. Eventually, it was over. Warm clothes were drawn about his vulnerable naked self and the damp sheets were replaced with new, dry ones.
The warmth penetrated his muscles, but nothing came close to his craven heart. He simply lay in the dark as his saviour quietly left. And, with last night's evils lingering in the air around him, Ford Prefect rose and left his room in search of alcohol to blaze the memories from his mind.
Arthur sighed as Ford stumbled into the kitchen area, completely ignoring the human, and grabbed a bottle of cheap whisky from one of the cupboards. His friend was in a permanent zombie-like state these days, trudging from one barren day to the next, endlessly out of his mind on booze and casual sex. Since losing his job at the Guide office, the Betelgeusian had slipped further and further into a depression, fuelled by failure and firewater, free woman and fixes.
Arthur had tried everything to get his friend to open up to him, even paying a counsellor to talk to him. Nothing had worked and now Ford merely faltered through the twilight zone at the edge of existence, hovering between the living and the dead. Every evening that he could walk he would wander off, whichever planet they happened to be on. Every night he would come back with a stranger's arm about his waist, all the fight and fire dimming in his eyes. Every morning Arthur would go into his room to try and erase the damage, treat the wounds, change the fouled sheets. Every day the whole bloody thing would start again.
He didn't know how much longer he could take it. How much longer could he stand by and watch this: his friend, the man who had saved him, the man he'd cursed for saving him, the man he'd loved in silence for far too long… The human slumped and put his face in his hands, crying meaningless tears for a soul teetering on the threshold of destruction.
Hours passed. Time didn't really have meaning anymore. Hours became days became weeks and he was still worthless. He slumped on the bed, the nefarious centre of his contamination. His eyes were fixed on the clear amber liquid in the bottle. Strange that once its siren song had been a simple pleasure to be indulged. He took a gulp, gasping as the cheap booze scorched his throat. He was now slave to its false embrace, a comfort that bled him as it held him, draining his life away. But not fast enough. Never fast enough. It was an agonising descent. Was this madness?
He heard the door sigh open. This time he looked up, barely recognising the shape of his angel. He raised the bottle to toast it and took another raw gulp. The indistinct shape came forwards and placed something on the cabinet beside the bed.
"I brought you something to eat," came a voice. He glanced to the side and saw the plate. He grunted and his grip on the bottleneck tightened.
He shook his head violently at the sound of what was once his name. That person was dead. He lived (barely living) in Purgatory now.
"Please," the voice sounded desperate, distressingly dejected. "Please, try to eat it. You haven't had anything for days."
He didn't need to eat anymore. Only people worthy of life could eat. He stared up at the angel towering over him. Didn't it understand? Why couldn't it see that he didn't exist anymore?
The being sighed and placed a gentle hand on his cheek. He recoiled from the touch. Don't, you'll be contaminated.
"Just try." With that, it left. He watched it go, at once wanting it to stay and share his damnation and at the same time needing it to leave and never return to him. He looked again at the plate of food. The ache in the pit of his stomach worsened as the aromas wafted through the air towards him. He clenched his eyes shut, trying to fight the urging of his recreant flesh. The pain in the angel's voice came back to him and he sat up sluggishly, reaching out to the plate. For his saviour, he would try.
It was late. Arthur checked the ship's instruments- after midnight. He resumed pacing around the console room. He knew it would make no difference- his continual worrying would do no good. Ford would be back- blind drunk and hanging off something's arm. But he couldn't help it. He'd known Ford for years and there was always a fear in him that one night, the Betelgeusian wouldn't come back…And no matter how broken he was, Arthur didn't think he could face the Universe knowing that his best friend was dead.
Best friend… Those two little words that hurt more than all the broken hearts in the world. Best friends looked out for each other, protected each other. Best friends were competent enough to keep each other safe from harm- whatever form harm took. Just as Ford was coping with his failure at work, Arthur struggled with his failure as a friend.
The Earthman stopped pacing and stood with his head against the wall, trying to soothe his whirlwind emotions. Nothing could have halted Ford's rapid downward spiral. He had to believe that. He had to believe it to keep himself from going mad.
He heard the boarding ramp swing open and, in the deserted corridors, the sound of footsteps. Composing himself, fixing a stony mask over his troubles, Arthur left the bridge.
He hurried to Ford's room, stopping dead in the doorway. The Betelgeusian was leaning heavily on the wall, seemingly unable to stand without its support. There was no other being in sight. Ford's head was bowed and his body hunched over. His shoulders were quivering and he seemed to be fighting against some unseen agony. Arthur rushed to his side and grabbed his arm to bolster him up, reaching out to touch Ford's face. He gasped in shock- the pale skin felt red-hot under his fingers and was covered in sweat. The Betelgeusian was moaning quietly, his hands clutched to his stomach, his entire body spasming with pain. Arthur put his arms around him and hefted him up a little further so he could easily assist him to the bathroom.
As he predicted, Ford barely made it to the toilet facility before he was vomiting violently, groaning under the assault on his gut. Arthur knelt next to him, gently rubbing his back and holding him upright. The meal Ford had consumed earlier had evidently been too much for his system, along with the lying amber-poison he had been continually throwing into his body.
When he was finished, Arthur tenderly helped Ford to his feet and cleaned him up a little with a cloth. The Betelgeusian finally looked at him, his eyes blood-shot and oozing odd tears. He seemed to be having difficulty focusing, unsurprisingly, but he managed to look straight into Arthur's face. His brow was furrowed in confusion and there was a strange fear in his expression that overrode the blank emotionless façade that he had presented ever since losing his job.
His lips pursed as Arthur half-dragged half-carried him to his bed and laid him onto it. He kept his gaze fixed on the human's face and opened his mouth to speak. Arthur leaned in to listen- he hadn't heard Ford's voice for some time now. "A-Arthur…" he croaked, uncertainly.
"Yes, it's me," Arthur replied, feeling his eyes stinging a little. He took Ford's hand and clasped it tightly. "I'm here."
Ford coughed convulsively and closed his eyes, his right hand still clutched to his stomach. Arthur grabbed a glass of water from the bedside cabinet with his free hand and placed it to Ford's lips, tipping it so a little of the liquid wetted them. Ford took the smallest of sips and tried to turn away, coughing weakly again. "Arthur," he whispered, so quietly that Arthur had to lean in even closer to make out the word. "I'm s-sorry." With that, he fainted dead away.
As he sat there, trying to figure out what his friend meant, Arthur heard a heavy tred outside the room. He leapt up and span around as a hulking shape blotted out the light from the doorway. He gulped nervously- so Ford had brought someone home with him again. This had been the reason for his fear.
The large alien stepped fully into the room and appraised him with neon blue eyes. The thing was tall and wide, a biped humanoid with large obvious muscles and burgundy skin. Its neck, chest and dog-like face were covered with a dense covering of fur and it towered over Arthur at a height of maybe seven feet. Its lower body was wrapped in a loincloth-esque sheet of rough material and its bare hands and feet were callused, gnarled and clawed. A long wolf tail was pointed straight out behind it, showing its annoyance. It pointed at the still form of Ford, baring sharp canines as it spoke. "I came for him. He owes me."
Arthur backed up as the creature came towards him, purposefully placing himself between it and Ford. "He's…He can't, he's sick," the Earthman said, quaveringly.
The thing snorted. "I don't care if he's zarking dying, I want what he promised me."
It didn't take a great leap of the imagination to work out what the creature was talking about. Arthur glanced to the bed and an icy knot of dread pulled at his insides. He knew that he couldn't stop the alien by force. He couldn't persuade it to leave. He couldn't halt its desires. He looked up into the creature's face, searching for a spark of sympathy in the drunkenly angry features.
Under his scrutiny, the thing stepped forwards, this time its posture aggressive. "You can't stop me taking what I want from him."
"Wait, please!" Arthur backed away again, his legs hitting against the bed. "You can't, he's no good to you in that condition!"
The alien paused and stared at him. Its eyes narrowed and an ugly smirk crossed its face. It looked him up and down slowly. The human fidgeted uncomfortably under its inspection. Without warning, it lunged forwards, grabbing the lapels of his gown and yanking him forwards. Arthur yelped in surprise, his hands flailing helplessly as he was dragged into the large bulky body. He gagged as the muzzle was thrust into his face, choking on the overpowering reek of spirits.
"Listen, you pathetic excuse for a monkey," the creature snarled, its eyes sparking with rage and lust. "I'm going to fuck something on this bloody ship, and if its not him its you."
It released him and he staggered backwards, his breath coming in sharp, frightened gasps. He looked at Ford, seeing the vulnerability, the frailty of his friend. He knew what would happen if he stepped aside now. It would mean Ford's death. He squared his shoulders, his mind reeling at the mere thought of what he was about to do. "Take me," he said, simply, bowing his head submissively. "Don't hurt him. Please."
The creature grunted and Arthur stayed completely still as it began a circuit around him, its eyes still roving over his form as if he was an animal up for auction. The human tried not to shudder as one of the clawed paws traced the skin of his neck, just hard enough to leave a red mark, and slipped under the collar of his dressing gown, easing the plaid garment off his shoulders.
The creature gave an approving growl at his lack of resistance. It nodded sharply. "You'll do nicely. Where?"
Arthur, keeping his head down submissively, led the creature to the empty sleeping quarters next door to Ford's room and waited. The wolf-like beast lost no time in grabbing his shoulders roughly and pushing him onto the bed. It clambered on top of him, a delighted snarl starting up in its throat as it casually controlled him. Under its oppressive weight, Arthur fought to stifle his automatic panic response, willing his limbs to still against the adrenaline rush. As one of the massive paws began to touch his flesh again, Arthur started. "Wait," he said, his voice weak as breathing suddenly became a challenge. "I don't- I don't want him to hear."
The vulgar smirk on the creature's face widened. "Thus just gets better and better," it crooned as it ripped a thick length from the bedsheets and rolled it into a gag. It forced the twisted material into Arthur's mouth and tied it brutally tight. "No more waiting," it growled, it impatience beginning to show as it pressed down on top of him, "not another sound."
The human nodded and closed his eyes, biting down hard on the cloth as the Universe faded around him and the most intense humiliating pain filled his world.
When he awoke, his room was dark. He shifted under the warm sheets and sighed. Something strange…no pain. No foetid fluids clinging to his body. No cold. No pain. No new bruises. No marks of a stranger's teeth in his skin. He felt warm and safe. Though his head was pounding from the alcohol he'd drunk the night before, he felt…alive, for the first time in a long time.
He sat up, slowly. No familiar twinges in his limbs- he could move without a constant ache in every part of him. He felt…clean. Free of dirt. He looked around- had his guardian already visited him? He concentrated hard, trying to remember the events of the previous night. He remembered drinking- he could feel the nauseating grip of the whisky wrapping itself around him. He remembered a face, harsh, predatory. He remembered staggering back through the streets, aware of someone following with dark intentions to invade and take. He remembered pain, sickness. He remembered comforting hands, gentle hands, caring for him, soothing him. His angel?
Looking around as his eyes adjusted to the dim light, he saw a figure sat hunched over with its back to him, near the door. The figure's shoulders seemed to be shivering and he could hear muffled snuffling breaths, as if the person was trying to stifle some emotion or other. He called out to the person, knowing suddenly who his angel was. "Arthur?"
The figure straightened up suddenly- there was a hissing gasp of…pain? Surprise? The slim shape stood and walked awkwardly towards him, its steps hesitant and slow. He felt the bed yield under the weight of another person as his angel sat down gingerly. Strangely red-rimmed grey eyes stared deeply into his own. "Ford?"
His name. It was his and his alone. How strange.
"How do you feel?" Arthur raised his hand to touch his cheek, feather-light touches.
"Alive." He twisted away, not wanting to meet that calm gaze. His hand snaked out, reaching automatically for the abandoned bottle by the bedside. An iron grip clamped down on his wrist and he glanced up in shock. An uncompromising stare met his eyes.
"No more. This has to stop."
He was taken aback. He'd never been refused like that. There had been disappointment, yes, and that peculiar desperate gleam in troubled storm-grey eyes. But never refusal. He could hear the seductive lying whispers of the alcohol fizzling through the air around him, but he remained completely still, his hand held in the firm grip. He felt, suddenly, like he'd been falling and he'd just been caught.
"What?" his voice was still harsh, his throat a desert plain cracking under the heat of his voracious thirst.
Arthur released and stood, reaching down very deliberately to pick up the bottle. He turned it over in his hands a few times then hurled it violently against the wall, where it shattered into hundred of pieces, staining the floor with a bubbling venom. "No more," his voice was deadly calm, belying the sudden outburst of his pent-up emotions.
Ford gaped. His mind was reeling, the events of the past few minutes cycling around and around, confusing his already swirling thoughts. "I don't understand," he said eventually. "What happened to-" his brow furrowed as he sought the correct species name.
"The alien?" Arthur's head was up and he was staring at the broken bottle with a strange detachment in his eyes. "It…left. With some persuasion." The last phrase was spoken quietly, as if the human hadn't wanted it to be heard.
"It just left? It didn't…"
"No," the human said, curtly. He remained still, seemingly unwilling to look at Ford. His posture and stance were enclosed, defensive, and oddly nervous.
The Betelgeusian sat in silence. It was too much, everything was happening too fast for him to cope- he didn't want to start falling, so soon after he'd come to a stop…
"Its time to start again," Arthur suddenly stated, coming over to the bed again and holding out a hand to help him up. "A new beginning. For us both."
"I don't know if I can-"
"Neither do I. But we'll find out."
I warned you. And I don't like the ending. Comments and criticisms (apart from those modelled in the A/N) would be greatly appreciated. There will probably be a follow-up chapter, but probably not too soon. I go back to exams