A/N I've had this pairing in mind for a while, so of course I had to try writing them eventually, but I don't really think I did them justice... oh, well. If you enjoy, please review- hell, review even if you don't like it, it'd be much appreciated :3
Rated T for sexual references (nothing explicit) and alcohol use
Disclaimer I don't own Cabin Pressure/The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy or any associated characters, events, etc.
At first, he's just a passenger. A passenger that Martin probably never would have met in the first place, if not for the frustrating combination of Arthur catching the flu, Carolyn attending to a family of three dissatisfied with the in-flight food options, and Douglas remaining stubbornly in the cockpit. He shouldn't have to be here. He's the captain, after all, and nothing requires him to be catering to the so far unspecified needs of the short, redheaded man with the inexplicable towel draped over his shoulder who's been poking at the much-dreaded button that necessitates the attention of a crew member.
"How can I help you?" he asks, leaving off the mostly-disposable sir that's sometimes tacked onto the end of such an inquiry. It doesn't seem necessary this time around.
"There's a man behind me with cigarettes and a lighter," are the first words out of his mouth.
Somehow, this announcement, as almost rudely blunt as it may be, is… warming. Perhaps it's the fact that he isn't questioning the captain's role as a member of the aircraft crew, as so many others do, or that his very line of complaint has less to do with his personal comfort and more to do with the laws that Martin so stiffly abides by. It's actually something that he's glad to hear, and he doesn't have to feign his gratefulness. "Thank you, we'll see to it right away, sir." There it is, the sir, and it flows out of his mouth almost automatically, like there isn't any other way for the statement to be addressed. "Your informing us of this is… much appreciated."
He gets a small nod in return, and the man settles back farther into his seat, fingers twitching at a newspaper sprawled across his seatback tray. Noticing the gesture that hints at his dismissal, Martin flashes a brief, slightly nervous smile and starts back up the aisle, the redhead's face burned into his mind as he enters the cockpit again.
"How go the lives of the passengers? Nothing on fire, I should hope?" Douglas drawls, glancing over the back of his seat.
"Not yet," Martin replies, "but apparently there's a smoker onboard." He presses down the intercom button, leaning forward and speaking clearly to the waiting microphone. "Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain with a reminder that all forms of cigarettes, cigars, and other smoking devices are banned at all times from the aircraft. Your cooperation with these rules would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your patience."
"An intercom announcement, really? What, are you trying to impress somebody? It would work out just as well to talk to the passenger individually, you realize," Douglas points out, sounding a bit incredulous.
Martin isn't listening. For some reason that he can't quite put a finger on, he's shuffling through the list of passengers, his finger trailing to the name of the man in the seat that he had visited. 7C, there he was… Dent… Arthur Dent.
Arthur Dent, he thinks, a normal name, a normal man.
Thank you for your help, Arthur Dent.
Arthur never expected to bump into the short man calling himself the captain again. He'd forgotten his face as soon as it disappeared behind his newspaper, in fact. What with everything he'd been through across time and space, a single airline commander really didn't seem to hold all that much significance in the scheme of things. Just another person who was dead in the version of reality that he'd been born in, before being roughly thrust into this one in the middle of everything. The blurry boundaries of dimensions, it seemed, had decided to merge together right on top of Arthur Dent, Zaphod Beeblebrox, Trisha McMillan, and the android Marvin, a move that wasn't entirely inconvenient of them. He liked being on Earth, having his own house back, even, as comfortable as he could be even when exactly one of his closest friends was human.
Still, he can't deny that he's oddly happy to see Martin.
It happens at a sunny café somewhere in Paris, and he supposes it isn't really that much of a coincidence, considering that it was the destination of the aeroplane that they first met on. But it's surprising—maybe a bit too surprising, considering that incites a small jolt in his stomach—when he locates the gingery-brown head of the captain, situated slightly below the rest of the sparse crowd occupying the little restaurant. He makes his way over automatically, tucking the towel that he could never really stop carrying under his arm and stopping just a little ways away from the small table that the captain is sitting himself down at.
He glances up, and gives a little start of surprise when he meets Arthur's eyes, which almost immediately changes to a soft sort of delight. "Mr. Dent, fancy seeing you here."
"Yeah, I was just thinking the same—wait," Arthur hesitates. "You know my name…?"
"Well, yes, a captain is always good to be well-informed of the passengers on his flight," he says hurriedly, flushing a tiny bit. Arthur nods, a bit confused, but not enough so to back off.
"Then I suppose I'm entitled to yours…?"
"Oh, yes, of course, Captain Martin Crieff." He springs to his feet, holding out a hand that Arthur takes, suppressing the urge to raise his eyebrows at the apparent overenthusiasm of the little captain.
"Nice to meet you again, then, Captain Crieff."
"Martin is fine."
"Alright, then, as is Arthur."
Captain Crieff nods and sits down again, still looking a bit inexplicably flustered. "Would you like to… have a seat? Just if you want, that is, it's perfectly fine if you're here with someone, it's just that…"
"I'd love to." Arthur settles into the other white plastic chair by the table, wondering why he's doing so. Martin is a bit odd, but at the same time, he has a sort of… unintentional charm, something endearing about his nervous looks and slight stutter.
They start to talk, and it's easy, a banter that works itself into a nice, flowing rhythm. Somehow, Arthur manages to end up in a content sort of state, the most comfortable that he's been ever since arriving on this version of this planet. Martin Crieff is normal in a way that Ford, Zaphod, and Trillian could only dream of, almost reminding Arthur of himself before his life had been, well, destroyed, setting off a chain of events that he'd be all too happy to forget. And perhaps he can, if only he can manage to gather a few friends like Martin. Including Martin, he's thinking, and it's with that prospect in his mind that he ends up involuntarily asking him on the first date.
It must be an hour later when Martin finally glances down at the rather nice-looking wristwatch he dons, and his eyes immediately widen as he stumbles to his feet. "Oh, I'm sorry, I'm late—I was supposed to check into a hotel with my copilot twenty minutes ago, but it was nice to talk, very nice—"
"Yes, well, I was thinking… is there any chance you'd like to get together again sometime?" Arthur asks, sipping at the glass of iced water brought to him by a waiter a few minutes ago, to replace the first one, which he had drained.
Martin's flush this time is actually rather remarkable, and he seems to struggle quite a bit with getting the next words out of his mouth. "W-well, if you—that is, if it's completely alright—yes, if you're willing, then I'd—it would be most… most pleasing—nice, that is, it'd be nice… I'd enjoy that, yes," he finishes in a very small voice, redder than the extremely sunburned man sitting a few tables away.
"Well, I…" Arthur bites at the tip of his tongue; it's obvious that there's been a bit of a miscommunication here. And yet… seeing the bright eagerness in Martin's eyes… he's not willing to dispel it. Perhaps he's working himself into a deeper hole than he wants to, but… why not? "Alright, sure, I'll… call you?"
"Yes! Yes, right—right here." Whipping a pen out of a pocket on his flight uniform, Martin hastily jots down a line of shaky numbers on the corner of a napkin, and offers it to Arthur, who accepts immediately.
"I suppose I'll see you around, then… Captain."
"I look forward to it," Martin agrees, voice animated, then flashes a wave and hurries off. Arthur watches him go, and it takes several moments to realize that there's an almost stupid grin plastered across his face.
"There you are," Douglas calls from the check-in desk. Martin half-runs over to him, shooting him a slightly irritated glance. "Whatever took so long?"
"I… met someone, while I was getting coffee, and he… held me up," Martin offers by way of explanation, trying to shove down his enthusiasm. The last thing he needs is something else for Douglas to tease him about.
Naturally, the first officer doesn't miss a thing. "He, really, Martin?"
"He, yes. What's so unusual about that?"
"Oh, nothing, nothing. I just wouldn't have expected you to be… the type," he offers delicately, raising one heavy silver eyebrow.
Martin grits his teeth, hands twisting at his sides. "Well, maybe I am the type. Hopefully that isn't a problem for you. Anyways, I'm seeing him again as soon as he calls me." The words feel odd in his mouth—not uncertain, just… new, almost exotic. He'd imagined this speech so many times, announcing that he had—well, a date, more or less—but to actually be saying it is… exciting, really. He can't resist lifting his chin a bit, a hint of pride working its way into his posture.
"Not a problem at all. Does this lucky chap have a name, by any chance?"
"Yes, actually. Arthur."
"Oh, dear God," are the only words to come out of Douglas's mouth.
"No!—God no," Martin stammers hastily, shaking his head back and forth as quickly as he can manage. "No, no, it's Dent, Arthur Dent, he was on the flight here, we just… ran into each other again, and… went from there."
"Ah. Could this possibly be the one who inspired you to make an unnecessary announcement to the whole of the cabin about a single passenger's smoking habits?"
"I fail to see how that would be significant," he hisses stiffly, but it's clear by the glint in Douglas's eyes that he's perfectly aware that, as usual, he's entirely correct.
"Well, I can only wish the best of luck to this Arthur Dent. He has quite a rollercoaster ahead of him, if he's seeking a relationship with the almighty Captain Crieff. I imagine that few would be up to such a task. In all honesty, it's a surprise that you'd even settle for a mortal being."
"Shut up," Martin mutters, scowling. His attitude, however, is, for once, far from pessimistic. In fact, he's feeling practically buoyant, and he's not going to let the presence of Douglas's wearisome sarcasm change that. "We'll see how far it gets. Maybe it'll turn into something, maybe it won't, but… yes."
"Yes," Douglas repeats, as if savoring the word.
"Oh, pay me no attention. I'm committing this moment to memory as best I can. Martin with a date. It's rather like discovering a penguin in Africa."
"There was a penguin in Africa once. That man who smelled like pineapples smuggled a baby one in his duffel, remember?"
"Hence the accuracy of the metaphor. It's so unexpected that when it does appear, you want to make sure you'll never forget it. Though I must say, I would have expected the penguin scenario to be rather more likely than this one."
Martin decides to shut up from then on.
In the end, they end up arranging to get together at a small bar in Fitton. It's nothing big—in fact, it's beyond casual, because Arthur really couldn't imagine anything else. The prospect of going on what can't honestly be viewed as anything but a date with, well, a man is a bit foreign to him even after days of contemplating it, and while he may like Martin, he's not sure yet what extent to which those feelings reach. The last thing he wants to do is work himself into what could end up as a serious relationship with someone who he isn't even interested in.
He enjoys it this time, though. Martin seems to realize that this is a tester more than anything else, and his dress and attitude are both altered accordingly. It's admittedly a bit odd to see the man that he's henceforth known as an airline pilot in a jumper and jeans, but at the same time, he likes the opportunity to get a bit more comfortable with him. They chat over twin drinks, this time delving deeper into both of their pasts—Martin's first. His childhood of dreaming, his determined seven attempts to earn a flying license, his absolute joy when he finally got the job that he has now.
Still, the pilot is clearly nervous that he's being too self-centered, and he makes sure to throw in plenty of questions about Arthur himself, until, after the third beer or so, he finds himself telling Martin all the impossible truths about of himself that part of him still can't even believe.
"…We ended up here somehow, that's the one bit that's really not clear at all," he explains, glancing around at the pub. "But where I come… well, yes, it's a bit different. A lot different. Blown up and all that."
Martin watches with an amazed sort of skepticism—the best part about his attitude is that he clearly wants to believe Arthur's story, but is afraid to let himself. Like a twelve-year-old child desperately trying to squash the tiny part of them that still has faith in existence of the Easter Bunny. "You're really from an… alternate dimension?"
"Reality, dimension… something, yeah."
"And your best friends are a two-headed extraterrestrial, another alien from Betelgeuse, a woman from the same… reality as you, and a depressed robot?"
Martin's mouth opens slightly. His pupils are dilated, and he shakes his head slowly, apparently incapable of repressing his amazement. "I think you might be completely insane," he declares, "but I'm probably even more so, because that fact somehow manages to not be repellent in the least."
Arthur can't help but smile, however tentatively.
"This is where you live?"
The words are a good deal clumsier than Martin first intended them to be. He was planning to be casual, polite—nice place, I like the atmosphere, even I envy that paint job. But he's really astounded more than anything when he first sets eyes on Arthur's house, simply because it's so… perfect. Not big, not garish, not too sleek or too modern. It's practically a cottage, in fact, a ways off the road, inconspicuous and innocent. Almost like something from a fairytale, an isolated escape from stress, from Carolyn's demandingness and Douglas's taunts and Arthur Shappey's exhausting cheeriness. That's who Carolyn's son has become, in Martin's mind—Arthur Shappey, no longer just Arthur. Because that, the plain first name, is reserved for Arthur Dent now, Arthur Dent, who, he's decided, is perfect. Any ambiguity whatsoever that he might have harbored during their first date has disappeared entirely at this point. Being around Arthur makes Martin happy. Happy in a childish, unreasonable, immaterial way that really couldn't get any better. Even if he is just a touch mad, he's a sanctuary, something for Martin to think of and turn to whenever he feels down.
And his house matches his personality perfectly.
"I know it's not much," Arthur mumbles, ducking his head a bit as he sidles into what Martin discovers moments later to be the kitchen. "It's just… home, I suppose. Hardly fancy." He glances over his shoulder, a small smile crossing his face, which Martin returns immediately.
"No, that's not what I meant at all!" he insists through nervous laughter. "I, well… I love it… I really do." He hopes that Arthur can see the truth in his words despite how clumsily he managed to phrase them. "It's… homey, very homey indeed. It would make a nice place to live. Not that—" Oh, God.
"It's fine," Arthur says simply, cutting off Martin's anxiety just as it begins to form. Somehow, his words manage to be gentle, not impatient in the least—or maybe that's his eyes. They're very blue, Martin notices for what has to be the hundredth time, a soft but bright cerulean that contrasts rather prettily with his dark red hair. "D'you want coffee?"
"That'd be wonderful," he agrees, locating a chair and sitting down lightly in it, a bit unwilling to make himself completely comfortable. Everything simply looks so flawless, and he can't help but childishly think that if he presses too hard on anything, physically or emotionally, it will all melt away.
Watching Arthur prepare the coffee is almost therapeutic. He looks so… normal, shuffling about back and forth in the kitchen, and something about it causes Martin's chest to clench in an unbearably sweet way. He relaxes by degrees, memorizing the shape of the room, of Arthur's form—as always, carrying that ridiculous towel—moving around in it. He lets everything go for a moment, releasing stress, just allowing himself to sit back and be happy.
"Marvin…?" Arthur asks tentatively.
The robot doesn't respond at first, but rather remains sullenly staring at the air in front of him, perfectly still and looking rather bored—well, more miserable than bored, but there's nothing unusual about that. After several long moments stretch by, he remarkably gives a low beep of acknowledgement, which apparently isn't important enough to form into words.
"Well… this is probably a stupid question, but I was wondering… do robots, you know… ever… get into relationships?"
The following pause might be indignant, disgusted, even amused—Arthur's never quite managed to master the art of reading the nonverbal expression of someone who doesn't have so much as a face. As things turn out, though, it would seem that Marvin's hesitation was indicating nothing more than his usual gloom. "No reason to. We're only machines, right? Why would machines need attention? Machines don't deserve love. Not that we'd ever ask for it. We're not programmed to want things that are inaccessible. Well, most of us…"
Arthur gives a small, nervous nod before lapsing back into silence, punctuated only by a low sigh. "I suppose it's just that… well… I suppose you wouldn't be any good at… giving advice…"
"Advice?" Marvin repeats.
"Well, yes, it's just… there's this one man, and… I like him, I suppose, of course I like him, but… do you really think I could… manage a normal life? After, you know, everything…" He trails off. It's ridiculous that he should even be saying any of this. He's speaking to an android, for goodness' sake, and only because there's no one else to listen to him.
"Why shouldn't you enjoy yourself? Be glad that you even have access to such a positive thing. It would appear that we're stuck on this dismal planet in this utterly dull reality till the end of foreseeable existence, so what could possibly stop you?" His voice grows progressively deeper and more monotonous, until, by the end of the final sentence, it seems to have lost all of the human-like inflection that usually saturates it.
"I suppose… it's just…" Arthur's not exactly sure what it is, really. He swallows and glances upwards, fidgeting a bit and half-regretting ever bringing the topic up in the first place. "I'm… not really sure about anything, I suppose. I mean… Ford, and Zaphod and Trisha. What would they think if I just… went on with my life without them? I mean, they hardly can, I'm not entirely sure they want to. Hell, two of them aren't from this planet…"
"Oh, I'm sure they'll find other things to occupy themselves with… never make the mistake of thinking that you're more essential to a group's function than you really are, I've certainly learned my lesson in that area, yes, I have…"
Arthur lets the robot go on in what seems to be a downwards spiral of dismal monologue. For some reason, he isn't discouraged at all by the thought. Maybe he really can cut himself off. Move on.
Moving on would be nice.
The fifth date, Martin's always been told, is the one that decides everything. The first is an experiment, the second a venture, the third a measure of comfortableness, and the fourth an indicator—the prime spot to cut it off, if such a thing is necessitated. But the fifth is a test, a test of what works and what doesn't, whether the compatibility of the two participants could possibly be enough to open doors to the future. He'd personally be delighted to see those possibilities—he can't claim to be in love with Arthur, nothing like that, but the truth is that he's really never been more happy with anyone else, more willing to keep going farther, seeing just where the path might end up leading them.
So far, the fifth date is fantastic.
It was Arthur's idea to do this one outside, in private. And so here they are, sprawled on their backs on an old sheet in a field a ways from any city—they drove out earlier, a rather enjoyable hour's worth of time full of laughter. Things are silent now, though, perfectly silent. Arthur's stupid towel is tucked under his head, and Martin has his hands folded under his own, both staring at the spangled skies that have so much meaning for each of them.
"It's… big," he sighs after a while, aware of how childish and idiotic the words sound, and not really caring. "That's what always made me want to fly, you know… just… the thought that there could be so much out there… I couldn't imagine being confined to the ground, it would be… limited. I guess I wanted to be an adventurer, like any other boy…"
"There's definitely a lot out there," Arthur agrees, sounding a bit distant. Martin glances over, sees that his eyes are unfocused, almost misty as he stares into the blazing stars. "More than you could imagine… more than I can imagine, and I've been to a good deal of it… worlds that I still can't comprehend the existence of…"
"And you still expect me to believe all those stories."
"Well… not necessarily believe, I guess, but…" He shakes his head slowly, stretching his arms out and sighing. "Sometimes I wish I could forget it, myself, but at the same time… it's all so fantastic… I'm lucky, I guess, in a way. Very lucky."
"Admirably so." A faint electric prickling has started up in Martin's stomach, skittering about in a pattern that's rather difficult to ignore. "I mean, I could never imagine that… never imagine flying in a… well, a spaceship…" The laughter in his tone doesn't quite make it all the way out, and he ends up letting the words wander off into silence, perhaps leaping up into the infinite space that they're both so enraptured by. Arthur looks over at him just then, something inside him clenches, a voice in his mind screams that this is it and then he's reaching out, Arthur's doing the same, they're moving closer and somehow their lips are touching and then Martin's hand is moving down Arthur's back, Arthur is taking him by the shoulders and pulling him in yet closer, their feet brush together in the dewy grass and everything collides and the stars are all but forgotten.
Telling Trillian was always going to be difficult. What exactly she and Arthur have, or what they ever might have had, is a difficult thing to target, and even though she's certainly drifted through boyfriends all too casually after landing on this version of Earth, that doesn't mean that she doesn't hold some sort of value in their personal relationship—relationship. The word makes Arthur internally cringe, but he has to hide it, because she's facing him right now, sitting across his own kitchen table with her chin positioned on laced-together fingers, watching with wide, curious blue eyes.
"Well, you didn't call me up for no reason at all." Her voice is mild as always, curious but not pushy. She can tell that there's something he's anxious about—she can always tell, really. She's been able to since he start.
"No, it's… well, there's somebody I need to tell you about," he finally confesses with a sigh, staring at the mug of tea positioned in front of him to avoid her gaze. "I'm not… exactly sure how to phrase this, but… well… I have a boyfriend," he gets out, pushing the words out in a quick rush rather than shaking and stuttering his way through them as Martin would have done. He can't help but glance up involuntarily, searching her face for any sort of reaction.
She sits back, dark eyebrows rising slightly. "Alright, that's all?"
"What… what do you mean, that's all?"
"Arthur," she laughs slightly, "do you expect me to judge you or something? You know I'm fine with all this. I dated a girl once—not really my thing, I suppose, but… why should I care? To tell you the truth, you've always been a bit gay…"
Disregarding the last comment, Arthur frowns a bit and takes a pensive sip of tea before going on. "So…" he mumbles when the silence has stretched as long as it possibly can without growing awkward, "you, er, don't mind, then. Not just that—well… you… okay. Okay, great."
"That's really all?" Trillian repeats. "You sure there's nothing else?"
"Positive, yeah. …Thanks, I suppose." The truth is that he's now feeling more than a little humiliated for ever imagining that she'd be insulted by his finding someone else to be with.
"Of course. But, Arthur…" He looks up again, nerves firing up once more, as she pushes a particularly disobedient strand of black hair out of her face. "Just to make sure… so I'm, well, prepared—do you think he's serious? This boyfriend of yours. Are you two going to, you know…?"
For a moment, Arthur isn't sure what to say. Then Martin's image flashes before his eyes, that goofy grin, the captain's hat that he's so proud of, the short figure and close-cropped ginger hair, the eager voice explaining the dynamics of aeroplane flight and admiring the stars, the feel of him in Arthur's own arms…
"We might," he says simply, and leaves it at that.
After the fifth, the sixth, seventh, and eighth dates pass in a blur. It's been two months now since that first meeting—well, the first real one, at the café in Paris, and Martin can't recall a happier span of days in his life. Even Douglas and Arthur Shappey have become loads more bearable, now that he knows he really has a life beyond MJN and the van service. He has Arthur, Arthur to look forward to, Arthur to think about when he's particularly stressed, Arthur to return to after a particularly hard work week. And he's known for a while that the next step in their relationship is approaching, though he still can't pretend to be a hundred percent prepared for it when the time does arrive.
It's the ninth date, at a pub like the first, but a different one. The atmosphere here is a bit rowdier, as are Martin and Arthur—nothing obscene, but after a couple of hours and more than a couple of drinks, they've abandoned most pretense, and it would be a remarkable feat for any other occupants of the club to see them as platonic friends. They're sidling up next to each other, laughing a bit too loudly, brushing shoulders, hands nuzzling gently under the edge of the bar. A couple of odd looks are thrown their way, but for the most part, they're accepted, encouraged, even, such as by the silver-haired, puppy-eyed man—Greg or Jeff or something—who casually volunteers to buy them one of their drink rounds.
By midnight, they're kissing, for several minutes on end sometimes, breaking apart for a while with their faces a bit more flushed, exchanging casual words with those seated next to them before always returning to each other, in the end. Martin honestly can't remember a night in his life during which he's been more overjoyed, really unable to contain his absolute brimming bubbliness. And Arthur seems as happy as he's ever been, as well—or at least as Martin's ever seen him. He's grinning much wider than usual, and as the night progresses, he becomes all that Martin is really seeing, until the rest of the bar might as well have been cut out of the picture entirely for all the impact it has on his perception. Arthur is all that there is, really, a fact that Martin is beyond content with.
It's probably about two in the morning, at this point, and most of those from the beginning have left, leaving only the most seasoned of clubbers, several of which have been rendered mostly inarticulate by copious measures of beer, anyways. Martin can't quite be sure if he's drunk, or rather how drunk he is, but is a hundred percent positive that he doesn't care either way. Things are perfect the way they are, and the thought of a bad headache the next morning is far from enough to provoke him to change a single aspect of what he's doing.
"Get a room," a passerby snorts in their direction during one incident of them being particularly wrapped up in one another, and Martin can't deem the prospect altogether unappealing. He breaks away for a moment, his eyes meeting Arthur's, questioning.
"Your house or mine?" is all Arthur asks.
Martin certainly has a decent enough grasp on his thoughts to answer that one properly. "Yours. Definitely yours," he replies easily, and that's all that they need to go on.
Arthur's up a good while before Martin, and spends the extra time showering, then sitting in the bathroom with a dark green robe and a glass of cold water, sipping it slowly in an attempt to soothe the ferocious headache that seems to be tearing his brain apart at its convenience. It's far from the worse hangover he's ever had—in fact, it can hardly be called that. More of an inconvenient aftereffect than anything else. By any means, he can certainly recall the incidents of the previous night in all matter of detail.
He can indeed.
Another gulp of water flows down his throat, and he sighs lowly, lying back against the wall and smiling slightly to himself. Trillian's words come back to him, her question. Are you two going to, you know… he does know. Were they going to end up in a more solid relationship than the light bond of dating, in time? The answer seems closer to yes than before, and Arthur's only thought on the matter is absolutely. If he ever doubted whether or not this was the right direction to be taking things, that negativity had been very much erased the previous night.
Martin finally gets up perhaps an hour later, plodding into the kitchen that Arthur's moved to and scratching at the back of his neck a bit self-consciously. "Morning," he mumbles.
"How are you feeling?" Arthur asks, taking a shallow sip of coffee and setting down the newspaper that he'd been browsing with a notable lack of interest.
"A… bit achy, to be honest—the head, that is," Martin stammers hastily, hesitating in front of the refrigerator. Arthur notes silently that his shirt is on backwards. "Not that… well, I mean…" He reddens and ducks away, seeking to distract himself by opening a cupboard at random and looking rather pleased when it happens to contain an array of coffee mugs. "Can I…?" he asks, indicating them.
"Go ahead," Arthur agrees mildly, admittedly a bit entertained by the flustered side of Martin. "Water's good, too. For the headache, you know."
"Right. Of course."
"Uh—that's the hot water tap," he adds quickly when Martin's fingers twist the wrong handle, and the small man quickly corrects himself, biting at the edge of his lip in obvious embarrassment.
"'Course. Coffee's in the pot on the stove… it's probably cooled off a bit, but it should still be alright. Hopefully. I'm… not the best at making it, but… well, I suppose you'll have to get used to that." Idiot. Those words were undoubtedly far too assumptive—who was to say that Martin would ever be in a situation requiring his adjustment to Arthur's feeble attempts at coffee?
His reply, however, is in the affirmative. "S'pose so." And, somehow, it feels like a much bigger yes than it really is.
It's been going for about six months when Martin finally decides to make the move. He's made himself wait this long, think things over a thousand times, almost come to the conclusion that there could in fact be another person out there he was destined to spend his life when he'd be confronted with Arthur out of nowhere, and all doubt would be vaporized. It just never ended, the happiness—it was like an infinite tap to all the positive emotion contained in the three hundred and eighty billion galaxies that they were in the middle of. Here he is now, Captain Martin Crieff, utterly insignificant, someone who nobody could care about less, really. The most average of average men. And then there's Arthur Dent, the same, really—perhaps some hero in an alternate reality, but right here, at this moment, he's a normal person, a completely normal person who Martin can no longer deny he's fallen absolutely in love with.
Even after reaching this rather triumphant conclusion, it takes time for him to sum up the courage to actually ask the question. After all, the last thing he wants is to seem pushy, and going in for it too soon could indicate exactly that. They've gotten to the point, though, where holding it off any longer is more of a delay than anything else. If Arthur isn't willing to say yes now, then he never will be.
Still, Martin is absurdly nervous about the whole thing. It feels different from proposing to a woman, somehow. Nothing like he ever imagined such a moment to be—here he is, sitting in the living room of a cottage-like house on the English countryside, covering with his hands a small box which in turn holds a ring he can't really afford, but that's far too cheap, anyways. Across from him is a man a couple of years his senior and in all ways more experienced in the ways of, well, the galaxy, someone he first met on a flight to Paris and who's become so much more than a passenger since then. It's not the grand, fairytale scene that he always had crookedly positioned in his mindset, but this is… better, somehow, much better. If he's destined to be the sort of person who settles into a domestic lifestyle like so many millions of overlooked couples in the world, then so be it. As long as he'll be happy, that's what matters.
And at this point, he's positive that happiness is one thing he most certainly will achieve.
If the internal preparation has been difficult, though, coming out and asking the actual question is practically a godly task. He starts it out in a casual tone—perhaps too much of one, he realizes immediately, and his sweating fingers slip a bit against each other. For once, his nerves don't seem over the top—he deserves to be given some leeway, here. This is only the most momentous incident of his life, after all.
"Arthur, I—I was wondering something."
"Hm?" Arthur has no idea what's going on, which hardly helps. He's sitting in a wide-backed chair across the room, looking rather comfortable in that same dark green robe that he seems to love so much, legs folded under him and newspaper perched on the small table next to him.
"Well, I…" His hands are still shaking, and, just like that, the little box slips from them, falling to the carpet and sitting there innocently, as if it isn't an incredibly symbolic thing, as if it didn't just present itself in the most absolutely humiliating way possible. Martin feels just about ready to melt into the ground and vanish forever, but, naturally, reality isn't allowing him that sort of thing. Instead, feeling as if his face has caught on fire, he slowly raises his eyes to meet Arthur's. The other man has stopped moving completely, his gaze flickering back and forth from the ring box to Martin's face several times.
"That is… I… well… damn." Martin decides to just remain silent; it seems like the only thing he can do at this point is inflict more damage. He's done it, ruined it, and he can't re-do it now. He reaches out, ready to take back the box and therefore the question, act like it never happened, but Arthur's voice stops him mid-reach.
"Wh-what?" He looks up nervously, unsure what to make of the word he just heard.
"Yes, you idiot, of course I will," Arthur grins, then reaches over to scoop up the box that Martin had just been moving towards. "Hands off, this is mine now."
The wedding is small, private, quiet. Martin's family is there, along with his three friends from MJN, while Arthur's side consists of Zaphod, Trillian, Ford, and Marvin, all of which—excepting the android, perhaps—were almost overly excited upon hearing the news. And they're a bit rambunctious now, especially Ford and Zaphod, while Martin's lot seem a good deal quieter, excepting the youngest of them all—also named Arthur—who actually has a party hat tucked into the front pocket of his shirt.
The ceremony itself is brief, moving by much more quickly than Arthur anticipated, and feels remarkably unofficial somehow, less of a deep binding and more of a tedious legal procedure. The reception makes up for it, though—there's no lack of enthusiasm, and Arthur has an unshakable warm feeling beginning to creep up through his stomach and chest, like he just swallowed a full mug of hot chocolate in a single gulp. The more he thinks about it, the more glad he is with the choice that he's made. It's perfect, really. Perhaps his initial ambiguity was nothing but inability to accept the fact that this is it, that he's genuinely settled down and that he's never again going to visit an exotic planet, communicate with aliens, cruise on a starship, be subjected to bizarre practices of ancient religions that never will be so much as heard of on Earth… it's admittedly challenging to come to terms with such a withdrawal.
But, he tells himself, it's more of an opening than a closing. That life is over, a dream—and not always a good one, either. This, here, is what matters now. It's the only kind of future he ever wanted for himself, really—just a quiet one, that he can live out contently, even, normal, never given a problem more challenging than a bad economy or an unemployment rise.
Never again will the problems of the universe depend on him.
And he wouldn't have it any other way.
"This is it, then," Arthur announces with a grin, shouldering the door open.
His expression matching his new husband's, Martin steps inside the threshold that's already one of the most familiar places in the world to him, looking around at the house, slowly processing the fact that he now lives here, officially, legally, and, chances are, permanently. There's a van—his own van, which Douglas has conveniently volunteered to drive this time around—waiting in the road, but he disregards it and its contents for the time being, not caring that much about the transfer of his possessions. Much more important is this—this second when he can walk into the place that he's so long considered his escape, knowing that it's now his home. Goodbye to the horrid upstairs of the disgusting complex that he's inhabited for so long, hello to the little white house that's always seemed so storybook.
"It feels… perfect," he confesses.
"Welcome home." Arthur squeezes his hand, and he clutches back, taking a few steps forward into the kitchen and locating the chair that he occupied the very first time he came here. His free hand wanders over the white wood, and he wonders if, at that point, he had realized just how far their little relationship would be going. Most likely not.
A loud honk comes from outside the house, and he starts.
"I suppose we should start bringing things in," Arthur points out, sounding a bit reluctant but nonetheless adamant.
"Douglas can wait," Martin replies a bit petulantly, not quite ready for this moment to be over. He takes a deep breath, his eyes running over the table, the stove, the refrigerator, the toaster, the cupboards, the sink. My home. This is where I live now.
Where I live with him.
"Ready yet?" Arthur asks several seconds later.
Martin turns towards him, nodding and holding his hand even tighter, smiling the truest grin that he ever has in his life. "Absolutely."