Title: The Chain Reaction
Fandom: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Pairing: Ford/Arthur, minor Zaphod/Trillian
Disclaimer: Not mine. Owe all to DNA for creating this fantastic universe and characters.
I've just finished book three on a marathon when I wrote this. Think of this as an AU if you will. And the characters are sort of OOC. Sorry about that.
It started with a glass of Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster.
The precise coordinate in space was at the planet of Zeta-M-22 somewhere in the middle of the Milky Way where tourism sprouted like mushrooms. They were far, far away from Headquarter of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy where, inevitably, Ford wanted to be for his paycheque – the best way to guarantee getting paid without the fuzzy bureaucracy of the inter-planetary money transfer. Being broke had rendered him unattractive to the ladies which he didn't want to be, and his semi-cousin Zaphod hadn't been helping much. The man promised to take him there, of course, but only after he had his full of the Zeta-M-22 year-long party to celebrate the Year of Party with Trillian.
So here he was, broke, grumpy, and apparently repulsive to the female kind in the biggest party of all the star systems around. How utterly appropriate.
Sitting next to him at the bar was Arthur Dent, the human from the late planet Earth whom he managed to save just before the Vogon destroyed it. Arthur, like at every party, was looking everywhere in bewilderment and failed to chat up the nice fish-like lady next to him. Ford never actually understood how the man managed his life thus far with his limited skill on party-going. They ordered the local Gin-n-Tonic and sat there being bored as the rest of the floor danced and flirted their way into next year.
Suddenly, Arthur asked, "Hey, what did you drink last time?"
Ford frowned. He didn't remember drinking at the last party they were in simply because they were supposed to save the universe with the old man Slartibartfast. Ford would have loved to grab a drink or two at the time, though.
"I mean, the one you had at Milliways," shouted Arthur loudly over the music, obviously spot him confused, "Got you pretty hammered."
Oh, "That's a Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster," shouted Ford, making sure Arthur heard him.
The Earthman thanked him with a grin and turned to the eight-arm bartender. "A Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster, please," he ordered.
Arthur had been rather conservative about his drink since they left Earth. Tea was always his first choice, and then it was Gin-n-Tonic for alcoholic drink. Somehow, Ford found his friend's eagerness to try something galactic unsettling.
But before Ford could say anything, a glass of the said drink was placed in front of Arthur who took it like a man and with one large gulp fainted.
"Yo, how's the Earthman doing," asked Zaphod the next morning. His left head seemed to be experiencing a hangover as his right head chatted cheerfully. Unfortunate, cheerful was yet to be Ford's mood so he stared at his semi-cousin over his plate of breakfast.
"Still unconscious," he replied. How he and Trillain managed to drag one unconscious Arthur and a smashed Zaphod back to the ship safely was beyond understanding, but they managed at least. And the first and only place the exhausted Ford had gone to was his cabin. He threw Arthur onto one side of the bed and him in the other and slept the rest of the night away.
Honestly, he had thought the Earthman might stop breathing at one point seeing how the drink smashed him senseless, literally. It was actually a very terrifying idea to wake up with a corpse, but Ford decided it was better to be sure there was not going to be a corpse in the first place and decided to not leave Arthur alone to his fate. Arthur was fine that morning before he left, even managed to steal Ford's blanket and curled into a tight ball in it. That was when Ford knew he didn't need to keep a close look any more.
"Boys, we'll be allowed into the port soon," came Trillian's voice over the ship's intercom, "Should we find a doctor for Arthur?"
"He'll be fine," replied Zaphod, "You managed last time, didn't you, baby?"
"Yeah, I was knocked out clean for three days and had a persistent pain in my left side for the rest of the week. Thanks."
"No problem!" said Zaphod. Her sarcasm completely lost on him.
Truth was even though they wanted to find a doctor for Arthur, they would probably find none. Doctors were as good as soothsayers once all species of the galaxy were united. And if you are the one and only of the species, unless you are yourself a doctor, you would definitely find none who knows a tad bit about your internal organs.
So he wasn't really looking for anything that would detoxicate Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster, he just happened to stumbled upon it by chance. With his new paycheque, Ford headed for his first destination which was the liquor store and bought two bottles of Ol' Janx Spirit: one for Zaphod as a bribe, and one for himself. He was strolling along the street a few blocks away from the Guide headquarter when he found an old drugstore. His curiosity got the better of him and he went in.
It was full of stuffs from across the galaxy that mesmerized even a veteran hitchhiker like Ford. He was astounded. He read every label on the shelves and tried to figure ones he couldn't quite read. He couldn't believe a place this amazing existed just walking distance away from the head office of the wholly remarkable book in the history of the Milky Way.
"Can I help you, sir?" popped the shop owner from between the shelves and Ford almost yelped. He was a small rather round creature with a few strands of hair on his face. He appeared to be floating, if Ford was correct.
"Oh, hi, actually I…errrrr… Do you happen to have anything that can detoxicate Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster?"
Of course, he didn't expect it to exist. He was in no way trying to find the potion. He was just suffering from embarrassment when a salesperson popped up while one was simply browsing with no goal in mind.
The owner quirked something that looked like a brow at him and said slowly, "In fact, we do, sir."
Now it was Ford's brows to rise.
"But…unfortunately, it is illegal, sir," the owner continued, "because it has a dreadful side effect to it that no one dare touch it, sir."
"No, sir, nothing of the type."
"Oh no, sir. Everything would be alright and functioning as far as I've heard."
"So… can it cause mutation?"
"No, sir, that would be absurd."
"Then I'll take one."
The owner cocked a brow again.
Ford raised his eyebrows as well. He wasn't actually planning one buying one, but after the warning? It just had to happen. He placed the small bottle into his satchel, paid the owner and went back to the ship as soon as his feet could get him without looking suspicious.
He was just going to turn the corner to the living quarter when Zaphod came out of the bridge and greeted him. "Ford! There you are, cousin. Mothers want to talk to you."
Ford turned and stared at Zaphod. "They call?" he asked.
"Yeah," Zaphod replied.
"How do they know I am here?"
"Well, I made a call to my moms and, you know, they asked, naturally."
Ford couldn't believe it. The last thing in the universe he wanted to do right then was to talk to his mothers, because he knew they would be nagging about him getting a real job ('like Zaphod's, you know, he was the President of the Galaxy'), getting a relationship ('You need a bunch of girls to make the mating process possible and have kids, you know. You have to start finding the first now'), and have a real life ('You can't hitchhike forever. You'll need to settle down someday. Ford, are you listening?'). Hell, he loved talking to his mothers.
Wow, he was really getting the hang of sarcasm these days.
Zaphod was waiting impatiently and he expressed it with a "Well?"
Ford sighed, "I'll talk to them," and handed his cousin a bottle of Janx Spirit. "Next time tell them I'm in other part of the galaxy."
"Will do," Zaphod replied happily, but Ford knew that the only thing the man would remember was getting drunk.
Gladly, he was alone in the bridge when he entered. His mothers (three of which he shared with Zaphod) were on the screen huddling together to get a better look at him. He wondered if they still remembered him since he had taken a more humanoid form than he was born with. He would be glad if they didn't.
Oh, no, they did.
"Hello, mothers," he greeted.
"When will you be coming home, dear? We heard from Zaphod that you got stranded on a back-water planet without a spaceship! It must be bloody awful."
"Quite," Ford replied, "I'll be home in good time, mothers."
"What's the good time, then?" asked his other mother impatiently, "You know, we've been dying to hear from you for ages and you didn't bother to call."
"Well, like you said, back-water. You can't really predict what the next planet would be like when you hitchhike-"
"When will you stop this hitchhiking thing and get a job?"
Here we go. Brilliant.
"Not yet, mother. I'm still under contract."
"Let it be over soon, then. You can't live a wild life forever. Have you think of settling down some time? Mommies know a couple nice girls who would love to know you," they nodded in unison and Ford felt a bit defensive. First, because he liked his lifestyle just fine, thank you. Second, because he had experience hooking up with a lot of girls in multiple species. He didn't need his mothers to hitch him up with someone.
As he was trying to phrase the fact that he loved his wild life with girls oh-so-very-much in such a way that would stop them nagging for a century or two, the bridge door slid open and staggered in came Arthur Dent whom he thought was supposed to be unconscious until the day after tomorrow. Ford leaped out of his chair and caught the human as he threatened to tip over and lay face down where he landed.
"Zarquon, why are you here?" he asked.
"I…came looking for you," the Earthman replied with a groan. "My head hurts," he whimpered, rubbing his eyes and looking down.
"Yeah, I know," replied Ford. Arthur didn't seem to pay much attention to him with the throbbing in his head, so Ford cupped the man's face a lift it to his gaze. "Guess what, I got something for the pain, but I have to finish this call first and I'll be right with you, 'kay?"
Arthus blinked at him and nodded, "Call?"
"Yoohoo!" came the voices from the speakers.
Arthur turned and leaped to Ford with a high-pitch shriek as he saw the eyes and faces staring at him from the monitor. His arms were clutching around Ford tightly as he whispered, "Wha…What's that?"
"Mothers," Ford replied coolly, "My mothers."
"Hiiiiii!" they greeted cheerfully.
"Oh, eh, hi, Mrs. Prefect," the Earthman said with a smile. "Sorry for interrupting. I'll be off now."
"Take care, dear," they cooed.
Arthur was asleep when Ford found him, still in Ford's bed (Belgium, why didn't he get back to his room?) and snuggled tightly under Ford's blanket (Great, he was still not sharing). Ford had heard that curling was a reaction to distress and danger so to protect oneself from further harm. If that was so, it was not working since Arthur was still sweating in pain. Maybe it was a good idea to get the potion after all.
He placed a big glass of something akin to apple juice down on the bedside table and sat on the bed next to the curled big lump that was Arthur Dent. From his satchel out popped the potion and he dropped a few drops into the drink.
"Hey, Arthur," he called, poking the man under the blanket. "I got a drink for you."
The Earthman grunted, rubbed his eyes and peeked at Ford. "Drink?"
"One that helps with hangover."
"Thank god," muttered Arthur as he got up and sat beside Ford. He looked terrible with his hair going in every direction and his eyes barely opened. Ford handed him the drink and he started sipping, and frowned.
"Yeah, the drug needs to be mixed with other drinks," informed Ford as he pointed to the little bottle on the bedside table. "Now, drink it all up."
Arthur nodded and took another sip, not paying attention to Ford's intense stare. The alien was watching with great interest for whatever side effect might play out. After over five minutes and over half a glass, Arthur didn't turn purple or develop rashes or display anything physically different. He was in a very pleasant state of mind, in fact.
"This feels so much better," the Earthman sighed as he began crawling back onto Ford's bed and sprawled. The half-drunk apple juice glass placed on the other bedside table. He seemed to find it very comfortable in that position and decided to close his eyes.
"Hey, hey, whole glass," reminded Ford as he crawled over Arthur to get the glass, "You have to drink it all, remember?"
Arthur sighed, annoyed, but took the glass, got up to his elbow and drank another quarter. "Will be back in a minute," he said before handing the glass back to Ford and lied down again.
At this point, Ford didn't know anymore what to expect. He knew for sure that his friend wouldn't die or turned into a Vogon. But so far, there was nothing wrong with Arthur, nothing physical at least. He ran out of dire consequences he could think of in this condition in mere minutes.
So he adapted to asking, "Hey, how are you feeling?"
"Mmmm? Good. Very good. Thanks for asking," replied Arthur as he beamed, "You're nice when you want to be, do you know that?"
"You are," said Arthur firmly. His eyes were still fixed on Ford from the position he was on his bed beaming in good mood. "Well, you're weird eighty percent of the time, and a nuisance almost a hundred percent of the time. It sucks to be in the same party with you, you know. Coz you got all the girls, and what did I get? A drunk you to play nursemaid with and your vomit on my carpet."
"Yeah," Ford replied absentmindedly, recalling the memory of the time he spent on Earth before its demolition. The parties were good – lotsa girls, music, and drinks (though none was as strong as the Gargle Blaster). He did remember spending lots of nights at Arthur's place because he was too drunk to find his way back without alerting the whole town.
Now the role was reversed, he chuckled at the irony of it.
Arthur's eyes narrowed, "What are you laughing at?"
"Huh? No, nothing. I'm just thinking that you're the one with a bad hangover now."
Arthur snorted, "Remind me to not drink Gargle Blaster ever again."
Ford reached out for the glass and handed it to Arthur who, this time, swallowed the rest down. All done, Ford sighed. No side effect was visible until this point. It seemed that everything was going well.
The human seemed quite settled now, pretty drowsy but probably because the detoxication was not completed yet. The Earthman rolled to his side facing Ford who was by then half lying on the bed lazily.
"I've always wanted to be like you, you know," said Arthur, "I resented you because you were always dashing. You made people laugh. You got the girls." He sighed again, "You're relaxed and fun. You're the type of man my mother hates because she can't get any, so she taught me to hate your type, too. But truth is I envied you, Ford. Now, I envy you even more knowing you have the entire galaxy and tons of adventures at your disposal."
"Well, you're here now, too, eh?" said Ford, "You got the adventures, too."
"I'm still a boring guy who panicked at everything. How is that good?"
"You'll have to stop panic, then."
"Easy said, Ford. You're not me. My world used to be a square box, yours is shapeless. Sorry for panicking."
"Hey, hey, don't be upset. Changes take time, you know."
"Yeah," Arthur sighed as sigh of comfort, looking up at Ford. "That's why I said I envy you, you know. You're a dream. You're not supposed to be real, but here you are. I can sort of understand the girls, you know. Coz if I were one, I'd totally have you do me."
So that was the dire consequence, the hideous side effect, and Ford discovered it a bit too late. It was the very thing that could tear down houses, burn cities, destroy civilizations and made stars explode: the complete and honest truth.
Ford didn't know how to deal with it really. He just told Arthur to go to sleep and left, because he couldn't think of anything else. He realized then what all the beaming was about. He should have seen it coming, shouldn't he? He was an expert on human, right? He only realized what the lustrous eyes meant and why Arthur was moving closer to him. Zarquon, Arthur fancied him.
It was not like Ford had anything against the man. Arthur's a good person. Annoying, yes. Finicky, yes. Panicky, well, sure. But he was very tolerant, polite, stable, and, well, kind. He was everything Ford wasn't and Ford had to admit he was fond of the Earthling. Why else would he bother running to Arthur's house that fateful morning and brought him away from the ill-fated planet when he might as well just save his own ass.
The problem was not Arthur fancying him, the problem was why him all of a sudden, out of the blue. Arthur liked girls, he knew for certain. There was no reason for him to suddenly go for the other team, unless, hell yeah, his dream team didn't exist anymore.
Arthur was alone now. Trillian, while being human and definitely a woman, was most definitely with Zaphod and she expressed no interest in Arthur in anyway besides being friends. Belgium, the woman was a bit cold even for that. The only familiar thing around him now was Ford. He couldn't help getting attached, Ford supposed.
But Ford hated supposition, badly.
They had to talk, but the most annoying thing was Arthur would refuse everything (him and his English sentiments!) He would definitely run away if Ford pushed. So Ford couldn't just pop in from behind and say 'Hey, I've been thinking about what you said. Did you really mean it that you want us to shag or you're just lonely?'
That would turn out very badly. And Ford wouldn't like the consequence. He was sure of it.
That was why a couple of normal days later he found himself with a bottle of Janx Spirit, toying the potion in his hand and trying to summon the courage to just drug the chap and get it out of him.
By that time, Arthur had returned to normal which was much faster than the previous record by Trillian that it confused the hell out of the girl and her ex-president boyfriend. Arthur didn't remember much either. He seemed to remember the apple juice, but aside from that he remembered neither the antidote nor their conversation in Ford's cabin.
If Ford was never desperate before, now was about time.
What he miscalculated was how intelligent the ape-descendent could be. Arthur, although played dumb for most of their journey thus far, had quite a remarkable instinct when it came to something going wrong. Ford wondered sometimes if it was the reason Arthur seemed to jump at every turn Ford took.
But not this one. The Earth man sat down on the opposite chair looking sternly at him which told Ford that he was absolutely serious.
"What's going on?" he asked.
Ford replied with a mumble that was equivalent to a human's humph.
Arthur gave him an annoyed sigh, "You've been avoiding me since we came back from that party and you have me drink the apple juice. I can't figure out what has gotten into you. Are you angry I used your bed?"
Ford couldn't help frowning, "What?"
"Well, because other than that, I really can't think of how I've offended you."
They lapsed into silence for a good while, before Ford decided to ask, "You don't remember?"
Arthur blinked, "Excuse me?"
"What you said, you don't remember?"
"What I said?"
Ford sighed heavily and turned to the Nutrimatic Drinks Dispenser. "Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster"
Arthur stared wide-eyed at him, "What?"
"Share and enjoy" the little annoying machine said cheerfully as a cup materialized. It wasn't much, but Ford was sure it was enough.
"Drink it," he placed it in front of Arthur.
"I said drink it," repeated Ford; "I need you to drink it."
His hand was clenching and unclenching the potion bottle now. He stared at Arthur as the man looked between him and the cup of Gargle Blaster as if he didn't know the difference between the two.
Then suddenly Arthur's jaw set tight. He stood up. "No."
"Drink," Ford insisted.
"No. The last time I drank that damn thing it knocked me clean and led us to this, so, no, I'm not drinking it again. And that's final."
Ford's jaw set tight. He tried to stay calm. "Don't worry. I have an antidote," he whispered.
"Why would you want me to drink something and give me an antidote?" Arthur asked. They stood silent for a few seconds – Ford was sure it was just seconds – when suddenly Arthur's eyes went wide in realization. He wasn't looking between Ford and the Gargle Blaster, but Ford and the small bottle in his hand.
"Why do you want me to take that?" Arthur asked suspiciously.
Ford sighed, "Look, it's nothing serious. I just need to verify something, okay? So drink the Gargle Blaster, and I'll give you the antidote, and everyone will be happy before you come to your senses again, 'kay?"
But Arthur wasn't taking it. "What did I say?" he asked. "Back then, that apple juice. The antidote was in it, wasn't it? Then I said something to you… under its influence."
Ford swallowed, first time in his life probably. He tried to come up with something intelligible to say, but failed. Arthur hit the mark perfectly.
"What did I say, Ford?" the Earthman asked slowly and venomously. It was a threat, and like it or not, it was getting to Ford's nerve which was shaky from both stress and Janx Spirit. He took another sip from the bottle to calm himself down, but Arthur was not having it. The human yanked the bottle from him and staggered back.
"Jesus. Do we always have to have important conversation while we're drunk and forget everything afterward?"
He staggered forward, "Give me that."
"I said no. I want you sober and talking to me. We're not talking drunk anymore."
"What's so wrong at being drunk?" Ford asked rhetorically as he stepped back. He knew pushing Arthur wouldn't do, but he didn't know what would either. He's running out of his cards. "Some things are better off forgotten, aren't they? No consequence. Zarking perfect."
"But you suffer this one," replied Arthur, concerned.
Ford's eyes twitched. He narrowed them and swore that Arthur was getting a bad kind of goosebumps all over. "Are you trying to be nice to me?"
Arthur blinked, his hands still clenched in the bottle. "No," he answered.
But Ford was not having it, "Oh, yes, you are."
"I'm definitely not trying, Ford."
"So you're genuinely nice and concerned about me. Why, I wonder. Is it because I'm your only friend in the entire universe? Do you see Earth when you look at me? Do you pretend I'm from Guildford and not Betelgeuse 5 when I'm not being too much of a headache to you so you can fancy shagging me?"
Suddenly, there was silence.
Ford, because he suddenly realized what had just slip out of his mouth. Arthur, because he didn't know how to reply to what was just said. Nothing at all that he could think of was a proper response, so he took a step backward and placed the Janx Spirit on the table. But before he could take a step forward to confront Ford, the alien was gone.
For the first time in his adult life, Ford Prefect panicked.
Arthur felt like his knees gave up under him. He sat down on the chair and stared blankly at the direction where Ford ran off.
He was still rather shocked. The revelation was so sudden he didn't know how to react. First shock was because Ford knew. He couldn't think of how he would have known since Arthur himself wasn't even quite aware of it. Nothing about him could have given away that he was in fact quite attracted to Ford. He realized that one evening at a Halloween party with his friend Petunia. Ford crashed the party that night like he crashed every party, with a weird sense of humour and a dishy grin. The girls were with him and he danced to the music like it was for him. And Arthur was frustrated to learn that he was yet again left alone in a corner with nobody in particular but Petunia who was sitting next to him and watching Ford with a smile.
He told her he didn't understand what was so fabulous about that guy.
"Well, you have to look at him like a girl would, Arthur," Petunia replied. Arthur hummed disapprovingly, and she frowned a little. "Seriously, Arthur, if you want to hook up with girls, you need to understand what a girl is looking for. And you happen to have a perfect sample in your best friend, too. Just look."
Arthur did. He saw nothing but annoying out-of-work actor from Guildford who was so drunk he would probably slump on Arthur's couch and vomit on his carpet again tonight.
Petunia eyed him disapprovingly and patiently. "Get over your bias, Arthur," she said. "You know what I see? I see a nice, loose and funny young man who loves to make people laugh. He flirts with everyone, but he's harmless. With him, there is no string attached. You just felt like spending a night with him would be good idea. And it does help that he's good looking and an actor." Out-of-work actor, Arthur corrected, but Petunia was not having any of it. "If I'm a more serious type, I know he might not for me, though," she added and Arthur cocked a brow, "You might be, but he's still someone I'd love to know. He is that guy who might just be the one to come and sweep me off my feet, and we can run together to the sunset for a lifetime of adventure. He has that streak in him, you know. I can feel it. The girls, too. He'll never bore you."
"What about me?" Arthur asked.
Petunia shook her head. "You don't want to know," she muttered and went back to her drinking and observing Ford which meant she had something really, really bad to say.
Arthur sulked for the rest of that evening.
Truth was once he followed Petunia's line of thought, he understood perfectly why Ford was a lady-magnet. He was a nice person to be around if not a little crazy. He talked a lot, but sometimes he would listen with great interest that made Arthur fidgeted under the stare. He was very loose to Arthur's knowledge and often criticized the close-mindedness of humanity in general. Looking at Ford, he saw a man who knew no bounds. Looking at Ford, he saw wild adventures. Looking at Ford, he saw a man he wanted to be but never could be. He didn't know when it changed to Ford being the man he wanted to be with.
He was barely conscious of that thought, though. It came only as little warm tingles in his chest when he woke up in the morning and found Ford snoring with a leg hanging off his couch. He had found himself wondering what it would be like to spend more time with his best friend and have him awake and sober around his house. Of course, spending time together trying to save their own lives on a crazy journey across the universe was never in his plan, and he forgot those warm tingles completely after a while.
Then how on Ear- …how in the Universe did Ford know!
His eyes suddenly caught a glimpse of something rolling on the floor – a small bottle containing some bluish liquid. Arthur's thought snapped to it, then to Ford, and everything suddenly made sense.
Ford was already in his cabin when he realized that he lost the potion.
He searched his satchel. He searched his jacket. He searched his jeans. It wasn't anywhere on his person. He strode back and forth around the room trying to remember when he last had it. He stopped to mentally bang his head against an imaginary wall. Of course, he dropped it when he ran away.
Which meant he had to go back to get it and risked facing Arthur and the obvious terror in his eyes yet again. Zarquon, Arthur was horrified by that revelation – as he should be, in fact. That is the power of truth; it tears people down to pieces.
It wasn't supposed to turn out that way. It was supposed to be a friendly 'Hey, I've been thinking about what you said. Did you really mean it that you want us to shag or you're just lonely?' and the answer was to simply be one or the other. And maybe there would be something coming out of it. But he just blew that chance right into space-time continuum. Nice job with a Janx Spirit. Arthur was right about having the conversation sober.
Ford had been doing all kinds of awkward things before, but none left a wrenched pain on his inside like this one did. It was even more painful when he saw the look on Arthur's face and realized right then how much he cared.
He liked Arthur – that he knew very well – but it never stopped him from dragging the man into various strange places lurked with constant and unexpected danger. Life is dangerous; Arthur was just overprotected by his little planet. There were so many things he wanted to share with Arthur. He wanted the man to see things his way, too, like he had seen things through Arthur. It was horribly boring and narrow-minded that he swore to himself some years ago that he had to remedy it.
Now, he might not have the chance to show Arthur those things he loved about the universe and the kind adventures he had. It horrified him more than he would ever previously believe when he realized that he might lose Arthur to the next peaceful, earth-like planet.
"Apologize to him, Ford," he told himself, "That's what human do when they hurt someone, right? Apologize."
But what would he say? 'Oh, sorry. I didn't mean to verbally assault you or anything. I meant to ask in a friendly way whether you really mean it that you want us to shag or you're just lonely?' Yep, sounds like the nonchalant, uncaring Ford Prefect alright.
No, that was not right. He cared, he always had.
Again, Ford banged his head against the imaginary wall in front of him. He started to panic once more – the second time in just half an hour! That had to be a record. No hitchhiker would have survive this long if he was still capable of panicking this often.
Then panic turned to exasperation, turned to anxiety, turned to what-the-hell-I-need-this-over-with-or-I-just-might-as-well-die kind of feeling. He felt the need for something alcoholic, but decided that it would pissed Arthur off if he slurred through their conversation. He didn't want any angrier Arthur than he had already been. He-
"Oh, Belgium!" he grunted and walked out the door, ignoring the cheerful greeting of every doorway he passed through. So much for thinking – that was not his strong suit anyway – he might as well suck it.
He was actually surprised to find the kitchen empty. Arthur had left sometimes ago, but the bottle of Janx Spirit was still on the table. Ford put it in his satchel and looked around for the potion. Nothing. No sign of it anywhere nearby. He searched everywhere it might have rolled under, but it was nowhere to be found. Not along the hallway, he had checked that on the way here. Then the only place it could have been was…
His feet came to a stop when he found it in the sitting room where he didn't even venture in that day, right in Arthur Dent's hand.
He started to panic again.
"You're looking for this?" the Earthman asked. He looked very contemplative, but not entirely upset. Ford wondered if it was good or bad. He nodded.
"It makes people…speak their minds, doesn't it?" Arthur spoke, but with great effort. "That's horrible."
"It is," Ford muttered.
"Did you know this when you gave it to me?" the man asked.
Ford shook his head. He saw Arthur relaxed a little against the couch.
"Well, then," the Earthman said, summoning up his courage, "You wanted to ask me something, right?"
Before Ford could decide between nodding and shaking his head, Arthur opened the bottle and downed the liquid. He cursed loudly at the foul taste it left in his mouth and literally made Ford's jaw dropped.
"What?" the Earthman asked with a tight frown, still trying not to throw up. "So, what do you want to ask?"
Finally, Ford summoned his strength enough to speak. "We don't have to talk about this if you don't want to, you know."
"You bet I do," said Arthur. "I'm sick of second guessing you. I can't make sense of anything you've done, but this" he paused, fighting down whatever threatened to come out, "this is what I know: you're not wrong."
Ford raised an eyebrow.
"Your… reaction… has been appropriate," Arthur continued. His face was twitching, but Ford couldn't quite tell if it was because of the drink or something else. "I would have freaked out, too, if my male best friend suddenly told me that… that he liked me. No one ever told me they like me since my last girlfriend, but, yeah, I can imagine the… the shock. Not that I'm homophobic, but it's just… that's how it works."
He paused again, grimacing. Ford felt like he needed to say something, but Arthur started again, "I never meant to tell you or act on it, you know." He swallowed, not actually meeting Ford's eyes. "It was just a thought a long, long time ago. It came back now and then, but it's harmless, really. It hadn't pop up for quite a while, too. I thought it had left me for good." Arthur chuckled sadly. "Apparently, it didn't, but I still have no intention of acting on it. Seriously, Ford, can we…" he swallowed, "can we put this behind us? I don't want you to be uncomfortable around me anymore. I like travelling with you, and… and I don't want you to abandon me on some planet to live a horribly boring life because you can't stand having me tagging along."
There was a long silence. Ford suddenly realized it was supposed to be his cue now.
"Do you mean it?" he asked.
Arthur answered eagerly, "Yeah, I mean it. I'll forget everything. I won't think about it."
"I mean, do you mean it when you say you want to go hitchhike with me."
Arthur blinked. He nodded, confused.
Ford swallowed, "Even if… I found somewhere that looks like Earth with tea, and you can live there for the rest of your life?"
"I gather it might get destroyed anyway."
"But do you?"
Arthur swallowed. He shifted on the couch uncomfortably. "Yeah," he replied.
"To the extent that you're willing to forget anything you ever think about me?"
"Yes, yes," the Earthman answered impatiently; "God, I drank that thing. Everything out of me now is perfectly honest. I mean everything I said, alright?"
"And you said, you like me, not because I'm supposed to be from Guildford."
"No, Guildford is just a name. I never went to Guildford. It's like Betelgeuse to me."
Ford smiled, then he started slowly, "You do realized that without the Gargle Blaster the effect of drinking that, " he pointed to the bottle on the table, "is as good as drinking water?"
"I said, you're just drink a liquid that had no effect on your honesty whatsoever," said Ford with a small smile, "but you were being perfectly honest with me."
Arthur gaped again, realizing that he was doing a double-take, then shut his mouth altogether. He made a face that warned Ford that his friend was about to panic. So the alien jumped over the couch, landed right in front of Arthur, and put a towel over his friend's head.
"Shhh, don't panic," he whispered, "Not now. Calm down. Don't panic." Ford could hear Arthur taking a few hitched breaths before it returned to normal. His muscles were still tense, but it was a good progress, very good progress.
He whispered, "The next system I'm going is Gliese 581. I've heard they have great beers and maybe a cup of tea…if you'd like to join."
The towel bobbed up. "What?"
Ford sighed, "Oh, I don't know. What do you do to someone who just confessed to have feelings for you and is sulking in front of you because that person thinks you are not returning the feelings when you actually do?"
Ford ducked under the towel and did just that.
When Trillian checked on Zaphod, he was doing a very odd thing. He seemed to be craning his neck away from many monitors monitoring parts of the ship. His eyes rolled to his right once in a while, but then rolled quickly back to stare blankly at the image of Marvin in one monitor without particular interest.
So Trillian asked, "What are you doing?"
"Shhh," he replied, "I'm trying to catch a S.E.P."
"A Somebody-Else-Problem?" Trillian frowned, "On our ship?"
"Somewhere to my right."
Trillian looked at it. "I see nothing," she replied.
"Because you're trying to find it. You have to catch it by surprise."
"Well, you have to distract me then."
Zaphod did. He got up and kissed her.
That was a sure way to surprise Trillian because Zaphod, as far as she knew, wasn't a kisser. He disliked the aftertaste in somebody else's mouth. So, of course, when he decided to kiss her, Trillian eyes went wide. In that split of second, she saw on the monitor right in front of her the S.E.P. Zaphod had been talking about.
"What is it?" he asked.
"Well," was her reply, still a bit shocked by the kiss, "I think I saw Arthur and Ford."
"Well," Trillain started again, "if they are making out, maybe?"
Zaphod's frown was replaced with a big grin. "I'm calling mothers," he said excitedly, and went off.
Read&Review please, love. xxoo