Undying thanks to all my reviewers: you are all extremely hoopy froods and it has been a pleasure to carry on for you ;) (Full double Rimmer-salute for you, Captain Oz - love barely covers it!) I fear however, that this is the last chapter. I don't want to stretch an idea too far, and I'd rather do a sequel if a blindingly magnificent idea comes to me in the shower, than hang around keeping you waiting. If anyone has any bright ideas regarding so-say inanimate objects, I'd be delighted to hear them. (I have two pages-full of little snibbits (great and useful word there, Vogon Jelts) in search of a story, so I will get round to something soon.)
(By the way, 80 hour weeks come about when you are self-employed, but also hold down two very-part-time jobs in the day and evening. These jobs suddenly both become temporarily full-time jobs at the same time, leaving you working 9am till 11.30pm week-days with hardly any break, then having to do your self-employed stuff at the weekend. Let that be a warning to us all. (I am currently taking lessons in saying 'no', but it's not working!))
So glad you've all enjoyed it - never forget to be nice to your clothes, they are but tailored towels...
Chapter 5 - In memory of...
'I must have been dozing for a few hours. I am hanging in my owner's room once more. I cannot work out where he is, but I am sure he'll be along soon. The robot must have hung me here. I suppose he was not keen to go looking for my owner. He sounds as if he has enough on his plate.
'The door has opened with an ecstatic 'thank-you'. I can hear the purposeful stride of my owner. He is going to put me back on! Oh joy, oh bliss, oh…blgium (please excuse my language). He has been stopped, I can hear the rustle of blazer on skin,'
"Have it back then. I don't want it. I can quite do without the jumper hanging from my sleeve." 'Well done Jumper and Blazer!' " I'm going to put on my pyjamas, if you wouldn't mind turning around."
"Honestly, Arthur. I've seen more of you than that. And, why are you wearing a laundry bag?"
"Well, you might not remember, but you ran off and left me in filthy clothes in the laundry room, with those infuriating machines and none of the clothes you had promised to lend me when mine needed washing. So I had to make do. Not only that, but given your reasons for rushing off, I had to follow you, and by the time I got back to the laundry, after getting you, reeling drunk, into bed, first having hauled you out of your jumper so that I could part company with you, and getting rid of Zaphod at last, my washing had disappeared. The machines told me that Marvin - who I am sure would be a joy to his friends, if any could be found - had finished my washing for me, and taken it away. I have since spent the entire afternoon trying to track down that infuriating metal sulk-bag, who refused to answer, even though I know perfectly well that he can hear any of us at any time. Having located him, and listened to a half-hour lecture on the misery of his diodes and the monotony of his life, and having totally failed to convince him that my life might not be quite so rosy right now either, he eventually told me that he had put my clothes back in my room. Which is why, five hours later, I am still wearing a laundry bag and your blazer, and why I would like you to turn round."
'Apparently our friend (whose solidity of constitution is proved by the fact that he now sounds impossibly sober) has turned round, for I can hear the sighs of the pyjamas as they are slipped back on and now…yes, at last, I am grasped by my collar, by my owner! His other hand runs along my collar, pulling it flat, before I am swept in that oh-so-familiar motion, swiftly flapping out behind Him, swirling in the air as He struggles his arms down my sleeves, shrugging me on before grasping my two centre piped edges, overlapping me and tying what is left of my sprung cord about His waist, holding me firmly in place. We are turning, starting off at that brisk trot again, out into the corridor. It seems my owner is not keen to be in a confined space with our friend.
'The doors are sighing and singing with the pleasure of being able to open for people, and I can hear the hurried trip-trap of our friend's feet as he tries to keep up with my tall owner, who, after all, has a much longer stride than him.
'We have passed through the final door and are back on the bridge. At last our friend has caught up with us and speaks, careless of the other gentleman in the room.
"Why did you have to get rid of Zaphod?"
"Ford, he tried to kiss me."
"Hey, what?" 'The other gentleman has spoken up and that wholly innocent tone is back again. If I hadn't heard what happened earlier myself, I would have been tempted to believe him.' "Me?"
"Don't start that. You know perfectly well what you were trying to do, and I don't appreciate it. Ford, you stopped him, don't you remember?"
"Don't remember a thing. It's a blank from the second…no the third drin…did I drink three? Three mixed by Zaphod?" 'My owner is nodding vigorously. I can feel that coy grin from the two-headed gentleman again.' "Zaphod, did you let me?"
"Hey! I wasn't about to stop you having a good time. Come on! It was a blast!"
"I thought you said there were girls."
"Perhaps. It doesn't matter. You said you only wanted to dance with them anyway, so it hardly makes any difference."
"When did I say that?"
"You mean it's not true?" 'Oh dear. My owner's gaze is shuttling back and forth between the pair of them, trying to keep up with the sense of the thing, but that last query has veritably pricked up his ears. I do hope he will not be upset by this conversation.'
"It's…well, I mean, obviously, if there was anything else in the offing…" 'I can hear the shuffling of the other gentleman's extensive eyebrows as they try to rise into a position of greater integrity with the rest of his hair. Our friend is starting to sound a little shifty. I can tell that he knows his semi-cousin knows…something, and he's trying to recover the information without anyone noticing.'
"You were quite happy to go out, so long as Monkey-man was having a nap so he'd be all fresh for you to do whatever you wanted with him when you got back."
'Someone is laughing…it is our friend. It is not a comfortable laugh. It is the nervous and dismissive laugh of someone who has been caught with their trousers down in the middle of a field and wants to pass it off as an emergency toilet stop…while the sheep look on passively. It is not convincing anybody. My owner is finding the laugh rather informative. In fact, He is starting to come down from the rather chilly heights of His disapproval.'
"Ford…did you mean that?" 'Ah, we are heading into territory that seems to scare both my owner and our friend.'
"What? Er…Look, Arthur, whatever Zaphod might have said…"
"No, I heard you. And you stopped him. You wouldn't let him…well…You said…you said I was…yours." 'Good grief, that took Him long enough to get out. I think He's finding this a little awkward with the other gentleman in the room.' "Can we talk about this somewhere else?" 'I was right!'
"Zarquon's teeth, Arthur! I was drunk. You can't trust what I say when I'm drunk. Zaphod, would you trust anything I might say when I'm drunk?"
"Every word, baby!" 'The other gentleman's smile is radiating again, only it seems more like our friend's this time. He must be very sure of himself to say that in our friend's present mood…What am I saying?'
"Lot of help you are." 'My owner is shuffling most uncomfortably.'
"You mean you didn't mean any of it? Can we please go somewhere else to discuss this?" 'He's whining again. The two-headed gentleman has come over and put his arm around my owner, I think the other is round our friend. I can hear three heartbeats, all faster than they should be – my owner is upset and annoyed with the other gentleman and hopelessly smitten with the man not two paces from him; our friend is clearly besotted with my owner and feeling concerned about what he might have given away; and if I'm not much mistaken, just being near these two makes the other gentleman's heart race in a way I feel sure is not in keeping with his thoroughly cool exterior. Given the dislike I know my owner feels for this gentleman, the emotions I am getting from Him do not entirely match up. In addition to this, the emotions of which I catch snatches from the other gentleman do not align well with the avuncular style he has adopted for his next little speech.'
"Hey, Ford, the monkey's right. You don't want me around while you sort out your relationship problems. For one thing, it's not a particularly hoopy thing to listen to when you're not involved, and for another, if I'm not invited to the final outcome, I don't want to know what's going on. Basically, if it's not about me, or seriously likely to become about me, take it somewhere else. You did say you wanted to hop back in the sack with the ape-man as soon as you could, so why not go and find somewhere quiet and get on with it?" 'I think he's actually angling for an invite. He's going to be disappointed. Our friend is speechless. I think he had persuaded himself that his semi-cousin might restrain himself. This jolt back to reality has rather thrown him and he has his hand on my owner's arm. I can compare the two grips on my pile: That of our friend is nervous and fidgety, picking at my bobbles and plucking my runkles with an air of anxiety; that of the other gentleman is firm and powerful. It is extremely self-conscious, but assured; as if there is nothing more noteworthy in the universe than that this hand is…wherever it might be. It is clear that the owner of this hand is a man of the utmost importance…however cheekily he might be grinning at the two other men. But our friend is still trying to think of something to do with his mouth and he has left commands to the rest of his body in abeyance. We are all three of us standing in silence, while the two-headed gentleman smiles serenely and looks between the two of them, my owner studies the floor, and our friend irons creases into my sleeve with the heat of his hand.'
"Go on. Zark off. Go and play someplace else. I'll send Marvin to check on you later if you don't go now." 'His tone is still friendly. He seems to have got over the fact that neither of these others want to sleep with him right now, perhaps because I can feel the presence of another human in the room, a female, I think he expects to get some action from her, shortly. He must be feeling good, because if I am not much mistaken, he has just tapped my owner on the nose in a familiar way, before pushing the three of us away. My owner must have spotted the female, for he has grabbed hold of our friend's sleeve and once again, we are running from the bridge.
'The jumper is swinging from our friend's blazer sleeve, he has not yet found a way to disentangle the two yet. I shall have to ask them to separate, they might get cut otherwise. The jumper is banging against my skirts as we pelt down the corridors and I try to hang on to it, it is in pain - swinging from such a small connection is stretching its fibres terribly. I don't know why our friend couldn't tie it around his waist to save them the discomfort, but then I suppose he doesn't realise – we must give him the benefit of the doubt.
'We have swung to the left and stop while we wait for a door to open. It is its pleasure to open for us…oh yes, and its satisfaction to close again in the knowledge of a job well done. If only my owner could accept pleasure so easily himself. A distinct chill is in the air in this room, so I assume we are back in my owner's room. The jumper is squealing: our friend is pulling its sleeve away from the blazer with force, and under this tension it cannot relinquish its grip, but just knots more tightly into the other's threads. I would try to help, but our friend is giving up anyway.'
"I can't get these clothes apart, Arthur."
"Oh, very well. Give them here. I'll try to get them apart for you. I suppose I should be grateful that I was taught such things when I was little. Funny, the bits of education you suddenly need when you're stuck on a spaceship. If anyone had asked me, I would have said it would be the physics and maths, all that sort of thing. But no: the most useful thing I can do for anyone out here is unpick threads."
"Not very warm, is it?" 'Our friend seems to have ignored all that my owner has just said. It does become a bit of a habit to blank him out after a while.'
"I thought it was rather too warm actually. Here." 'No! He is removing me! Surely, surely he is not going to lend me to our friend? How could he? The pyjamas are waking, they are surprised to feel me going. They are asking why…I cannot answer them…is this the beginning of the end? I'm sorry. It is not the done thing, to cry, but I fear for my future if He starts to loan me out. I can't help it, shudders of misery are wracking my warp threads, the cream checks under my right sleeve are being stained with running maroon, I feel sore and unhappy and I cannot think straight…' "Put this on. It's clean now."
"You're lending me your dressing gown?" 'Our friend seems to realise the enormity of this, if not the whole significance. Something in what our friend said in his cups has touched my owner. He believes, even without confirmation, and this has given him a certain confidence and calm, the lack of which had driven him deeper into his relationship with me. I can do nothing until something happens to bring him back to me. At least we three are still together. The universe has not yet collapsed for me: there is still hope.
'I am transferred from my owner's hands to our friend's. These hands have lost their nervousness, they are oddly comforting, it is as if he seeks to touch my owner through his fondling of me. However, he is keen that my owner should not spot this, so he is pulling me on. He uses a different action to my owner in drawing me about his shoulders. I slide awkwardly over the sleeves of his shirt. I have not met this shirt properly before – it is usually concealed beneath the jumper and leaves with it when it goes. We sit in silence, neither willing to make contact first. I decide to brave the waters and introduce myself. I apologise for being there as an outsider, but ask that it should accept me as a friend. It seems to be a little sore at me, because it knows about me, and it is another frequent member of the exiled clothing brigade. What can I say? I have no excuses for this, so I wait, and in a short while, it grudgingly settles its threads against mine and lets me sink exploratory fuzz through the gaps in its weave to get closer to the skin below. When it comes down to it, shirts can usually be relied upon to cooperate. They have no choice really; they are in contact with so many others.
'We are sitting waiting. Our friend is watching my owner, it is very strange being upon his person instead of my owner's. It is not at all like when I have covered him in their intimate moments. Being properly worn is so much more intense. It reminds me of the first time I was worn by my owner – the same rush of sensation. Maybe it is a little less this time because I have known this man for so long, but it is still the influx of another mind, another metabolism. A strange and alien metabolism, but a mind so wrapped up in its thoughts of my owner, that the complete otherness of it is heavily disguised at present. I can sense his emotions, they feel different to the corresponding emotions I have felt in my owner. His body temperature is slightly higher and his shape feels odd, filling my folds. I relax myself around his form, trying to make the most of this. His hair on my collar surprises me; it is so normal to me to feel only the slightest feathery touches of the hair on the nape of my owner's neck, that the constant tickle of light curls is unusual and delicious.
'Our friend is shorter than my owner, and I am baggier on him. As he gets up and starts to pace, I swirl about his lower calves and almost trip him. He is hitching me up above my cord so that I am puffed out over it. My owner is laughing, a sound I rarely hear these days.'
"Ford, you look very peculiar. I'm not sure it suits you."
"Well if you get a move on with that blazer, you can have it back."
"Charming! May I point out that I am doing this as a favour for you?"
"You wanted to do it. I'd have just cut it personally. Why did you want to?"
"Because…well you did say some nice things about me, and you did protect me, even if you were drunk. I just thought, maybe, you were actually telling the truth, and, maybe, you don't want to admit it now. Or…or I might be wrong. There!"
"Which bit did you want to be true?" 'Hello! Is he actually going to admit something? He seems to be ignoring the blazer, which my owner is pushing insistently at my sleeve.'
"Mmm?" 'My owner was not listening.'"
"Which bit did you…" 'My owner is on me, the blazer flung to one side. He is radiating an energy akin to desperation. He has certainly surprised our friend: although I am being swamped by the familiar rush of my owner's feelings, I am aware of a deeper hum within me, a bass rumble of roaring desire that I never felt when I was not being worn by this man. This roar is so powerful and low that it resonates with the core of my fibres and I am throbbing along with it. In fact, my owner has launched himself with such abandon at our friend that we have fallen backwards. My owner's legs are awkwardly tangled in my dangling left hem, so that on that side I have been pulled down past my cord, back to my normal position, but am lopsided with regard to my right hand side. My owner has managed to wriggle his hands through the gap between my side panels and my sleeves, he is hugging us so tightly that he is actually restricting our friend's breathing. To be honest, however, our friend really doesn't seem to mind. It feels as if his smile has been inverted, not to a frown, but to an internal expression of joy that fills him fit to burst. Between the bass throb of passion inside me, the wholly alien experience of being worn by this man, and the urgency of my owner, I cannot help feeling that I will be lucky to last this one out.
'My owner's hands are being withdrawn and I can feel him shifting his weight. Now His hands have come down on my front panels and he is pushing, oh, how he is pushing. I cannot tell what he intends at this distance, but the pressure is making our friend's mental processes rather disconnected.'
"Ford. Did you mean what you said?" 'His voice is shaking and I am not at all sure that he should be trying to speak right now.'
"About what, Arthur?" 'Despite his slight incapacitation, our friend has retained his ability to sound quite cool and innocent. It is enough to drive my owner mad, and it is to my infinite sorrow that I cannot feel his mood to my satisfaction, nor help in any real way, though I do manage to relax my fabric under his hands, becoming softer and more pliable to give him more comfortable purchase.'
"About…well, that you…that you wanted me to be available…that you wouldn't…with the girls…Although I'm a little hurt that it was enough of a lure to get you to…Oh, it doesn't matter."
"Good." 'That's it? Oh, yes, that is it. My owner's hands have slid inside my breast fabric. He is lying on top of our friend with his arms around him and if I have been squashed between them before, it is nothing to now. The blazer and jumper are forgotten and there is a cocoon of silence around us, or at least, I think there is. I can absorb no more than the complex stream of feeling flowing in a torus between my owner and our friend. It is as if my consciousness is borne upon it. It must be the peculiarity of our friend's brainwaves that consumes me so utterly. The only other awareness I have is that there is a kiss. There is none of the reserve that I have felt in my owner on previous occasions. I cannot tell whether this is because it is not there, or simply because I am not privy to his innermost thoughts at this remove. Nevertheless, the atmosphere is subtly changed. We are together, hands are moving within me. Somehow, my owner's right foot is in my left skirt pocket, his pyjamaed knee brushing my armscye. I shall be ripped if he moves too much, but this time he does not seem to be in too much of a hurry.
"Have a nice day!"
"Hve a nice day? God I hate doors." 'We have company. The two people within me are aware of it, but for some reason are ignoring it completely. If my owner has any qualms about being found in this position, He has successfully ignored them.'
"I was sent to find out if you wanted anything. Fat lot of good it will do me. Do you suppose that anything anyone on this ship could possibly ask me to do would be enough to provide me with a moment's stimulation? No, I don't imagine you even considered it. And me, with this terrible pain in all the diodes down my left side." 'Our friend has had enough.'
"Zaphod sent you, didn't he?"
"He just couldn't resist it, not even after I'd promised him we could…" 'He has stopped. He is looking at my owner carefully. I can feel the smile coming…here it is. From here, from where I am being worn it is terribly, terribly painful, but I do not want it to stop. This smile is a concealing smile, an apology smile, a making-up smile. And I would say that it has fooled my owner. Whatever it was that our friend nearly let slip, it will never matter now. It is nothing.'
"Well? Is there anything you want, or have I been dragged here for nothing, aching diodes and all?"
"No, we don't want anything thank-you Marvin. Could you go away now please?"
"I didn't think you'd want anything. I told him, but after all, I'm only a menial robot. Why should he listen to me?"
"Go find a way to satisfy yourself."
"The dressing gown won't be happy about being on you, you know." 'A pause. He is only half right. While my owner is here, I am enjoying the novelty, but if he goes I will be heartbroken. Our friend is trying to work out what the robot means. My owner has raised his head from our friend's chest.'
"It's alright Marvin, I'm not leaving it here. Now be a good chap and go away, would you? I'm having a strange enough day as it is." 'Oh my owner! The highest blessings of most holy Zarquon be upon you for ever! He understands. I am not forsaken. The robot is grumbling to himself as he leaves. I don't suppose he will find satisfaction, but he can hardly say that no-one told him to. The door is sighing and he is gone.
'My owner has raised his head once more and shuffled his way upwards. My pocket is indeed developing a slight tear in its top corner.'
"Arthur," 'Slight breathiness from our friend.' "You really are squashing me."
"Sorry." 'His foot moves in an effort to adjust himself and…yes, my pocket is torn from my front down one side. The flash of pain that accompanies this is brief, I am concerned for my appearance, but somehow I know that this time I will be mended, and it doesn't hurt me as it might have done a short time ago. My owner and our friend have rolled onto me, I am stretched tightly under them, my owner now inside me.
'Lying on their sides, our friend reaches inside me and his hand pulls down, I am stroking the pyjama bottoms and their confusion is evident: why am I not with them for this. They are not sure of themselves without me, even though I am so close. My other sleeve is trapped under my owner, I can feel the hum of thwarted circulation in our friend's arm; he will have to move it soon. As his hand moves inside my owner's underpants, an explosion of feeling swamps me once again. My owner is moving deliriously, purposelessly. Their two heads are locked together, moving along my collar in unison.
'My owner is trying to kick off the pyjama bottoms, but they are taking matters into their own hands – they refuse to be shaken. By a series of complicated gymnastic manoeuvres, He has managed to get one leg out of them, but the other leg is clinging to His leg-hairs and he has given up trying. The pyjamas are cheering, pulling the underpants along with them, winding themselves tightly around His ankle and curling up their excess under His leg.
'Meanwhile, our friend, by a series of movements I take to denote unbuttoning (though his muscle movements are somewhat different to those of my owner), has pulled the pyjama top apart, so that my lapel rests lightly on His bare chest, mingling with the sparse hairs there. He is already sweating a little and His arms are rubbing me as He works a reciprocal motion to open the front of our friend's shirt. The shirt is beside itself, it cannot believe its luck. It is exchanging joyful cries with the pyjamas and they are all terribly well disposed towards me. That throbbing hum is becoming deafening now, and my fibres twist themselves loose and taut with it as my owner runs his hands up and down our friend's chest. The lightest brush over his nipples and I am away, arching from his back as electric ecstasy fires through us. The shirt and I are glued together so that it comes with me as I go, and is pulled back with me as a shrug of our friend's shoulders pulls me back up and in. Somewhere in the midst of this, our friend's trousers have been lost. I think I heard their wail as they went. It is sad to see them go, but they are tough and unyielding and cannot really help but get in the way, no matter how hard they try. Those of us left at the scene are no longer in a fit state to worry about them anyway. I am aware of nothing but the tangle of legs within me, the motion that threatens to rip me in two as they struggle, sometimes with, sometimes against each other, their heads and upper bodies still so tightly locked that their lower bodies seem to be dancing on their own.
'Our friend has discovered the lack of feeling in his hand and has wrenched it quickly out from under my owner, scraging his elbow up the inside of my sleeve which remains trapped. He is flinging it about inside my confines, yowling in discomfort and battering both me and my owner.'
"Ford, stop hitting me…"
"Sorry, Arthur, ow…" 'Now he is calming down again, finding the ability to move his fingers again very useful. I can feel his hand stroking down my owner's side, running in a straight line down the verticals of my pattern. Individual fibres are reaching out from me to caress his fingers – I know he will probably find them scratchy, but I can't help that. He has brought his other arm round over my owner's back and I am wrapped tightly around them. My owner's knees are digging into my back panels, his fingers grasping, clutching for me behind our friend's back. At last He has found purchase on my weave and I can feel him twisting me into a knot of bunched fabric, stretching my pattern out of shape and…oh my! Now that he is gripping me like this, I have access to his emotions again and, oh Zarquon, it is heaven. I can feel nothing but the deepest adoration, a regular movement of hips and legs is backing up the throb of our friend's mental processes. I may be utterly ruined after tonight, but what a way to go!
'Now their movements are getting faster, my lapel is being pulled between them by our friend; he is holding me over my owner's face, my owner breathes through me in long shuddering gasps of ecstasy and I hold my fibres in tightly, so as not to let any of them fall into His open mouth. There is no sense whatsoever in my owner's thoughts now, and only the tenderest, most unfamiliar thoughts in the mind of our friend. The pyjama top is worming its way up, trying to reach our owner's lips, but in vain, it is too tightly pinned under the arms.
'I can hear the tiny electronic sounds of the security camera being jealously zoomed in. I don't suppose these two are aware of it, and in fact, I don't care about it, though I normally would.
'The world is spinning for me, the hot wet breath firing through my weave is making me dizzy and I can no longer control myself. I grip my fibres fiercely on both sides and drag myself in, pulling my threads in to their closest alignment, making myself as small as I can to wrap more closely round these two. I am pulling myself under them, squeezing them together and it is too much for them. A final kick into my back left skirt panel and a spasm of joy that blows my mind, and all is stillness.
'I lie around them, unable to do more. They are still, but for the heaving of their chests and the little electric jerks that shake them from time to time.
'In the silence, I hear a sentence, years in the making, and so low as to be almost inaudible.'
"Love you Arthur."
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy comments that, although careless talk costs lives (as amply demonstrated elsewhere); carefully considered talk (see also: 'Better late than never'), has been proven to be a powerful restorative (see also: tea, hearty stews and brisk walks).Some Ape-descended life-forms can be brought to a state of such bliss by the right phrase at the right time, that any attempt to describe their reaction is not only pointless, but extremely dangerous to the future of all descriptive prose in the galaxy.
The dressing gown belonging to Arthur Dent was eventually handed back to its owner and repaired. It is still with him, though slightly less closely involved than at the time described.
The pyjamas were retired several years ago, and made their way, through a wormhole that unexpectedly opened just next to them, to a large moon populated almost entirely by broken alarm clocks in varying states of decay.
The underpants are unmentionable.