A/N: This is my first step into the HG2TG fandom, and I didn't mean to take it. This simply popped into my head after midnight last night (why do I always get weird inspiration the night before a math test?) and I'm sure you know how it is – especially that late at night – when you can't get an idea out of your head until you write it down. This is not the kind of fic I normally write, either, and to me, it's complete nonsense. But then, even a Vulcan-like brain has the right to some insanity once in a while…? At least it's controlled insanity; I am endeavoring to remain completely in character and imitate DNA's writing style (though I don't quite have the absurd quality that characterizes his writing).
Constructive criticism always welcome! I do not own the characters – I just play in their universe. Also, I am aware that I have made a slight deviation from canon in that Ford only knew Arthur for the last five or six years of his time on Earth – sorry if that bothers anyone.
Besides that, I have never been to London and in my head I am using the Paris Metro as a model for the Underground. My apologies for any errors in description or geography.
There was no place on Earth that Arthur Dent hated more than the platform of the London Underground at Elephant & Castle station. Except, perhaps, for the restrooms at said station. There were numerous reasons for his hatred of this particular platform, which Arthur could have counted off on his fingers at the slightest prompting; mainly, that it was damp, dirty, and smelled like a mixture of cigarette smoke and stale beer; and that it had a sort of dangerous air about it, which made Arthur feel as if he was about to recieve a knife in the back. Thus, he stood on the platform, constantly shooting wary glances over his shoulder, much to the annoyance of the two businessmen and the three Australian tourists standing around him.
The other man standing around him was pointedly ignoring everyone else, while everyone else was pointedly ignoring him right back. His name was Ford Prefect, and despite his ordinary (or, at least, human) appearance, he was actually from a small planet in the vicinity of Betelgeuse (though unless he was drunk out of his skull, he usually claimed he was from Guildford). And there was no place on Earth that Ford Prefect liked better than the platform of the London Underground at Elephant & Castle station. Except, of course, for pretty much all of the four dozen pubs and bars he'd been to over the course of his two-month stint on this backward planet called Earth.
Ford liked this particular platform for many reasons, mainly because it was dark, dirty, and was one of the best places to be to observe humans. However, he especially liked it because it had a sort of dangerous air to it, which to Ford Prefect was not only exciting, but it was so familiar that it felt almost comforting.
At the moment, however, Ford wasn't paying attention to the people or the atmosphere, because he had recently realized that despite the fact that he had spent some interesting times at Tube stations, he had never actually gotten close to a train. In fact, he had never paid them much mind – after all, most planets had their large, whooshing modes of transport. Until today, that is; the man he'd been sitting next to in the What-In-The-Name-Of-Zarquon-Was-It-Called bar had been explaining to him some very interesting theories about time travel, which said that if you are in one of those train things that moves fast enough, it will actually travel backward through time – or was it forward? Of course, they had both been quite drunk at the time, so Ford was understandably skeptical, but he decided that it wouldn't hurt to check it out.
Assuming that these fast-moving trains traveled backwards in time, maybe, he thought, he could go back far enough to be back on the teaser's ship and be done with this primitive planet. After all, if his thumb wasn't picking up anything, he was going to have to find a different way of escape. Thus, here he was, trying to figure out what exactly made these train things tick.
Arthur realized that he was, in fact, becoming paranoid, and likely causing the people around him to hate him as well. Like most humans, he had a general dislike of being hated, so he decided that he'd better do something about it. Thinking that focusing on observing one thing would distract him, he doggedly placed his full attention on the small, ginger-haired tramp who was currently looking a little too interested in the train tracks. He watched as the ragged man crossed the yellow safety line and bent down to examine God-knows-what on the wall of the track. Arthur sighed slightly and wondered why it was that if humans were more evolved than other species, they seemed to lack the survival instinct – and for what it was worth, the common sense – that lower creatures possessed. For a second, he wondered if he would be interviewed by the news if the man was killed, but then he decided that nothing so interesting ever happened to him.
Whether it was because he was not completely sober or simply because he was preoccupied (the former being more likely, speaking solely from the mathematics of it), Ford had been so busy investigating some black box with tiny flashing lights that when the metal tracks beneath him started vibrating, they didn't really catch his attention. Nor did the growing rumbling sounds coming from down the tunnel. However, the blinding lights moving directly toward him did.
Ford stood up quickly, startled, just as the train burst through the tunnel into the station. He could feel the air rushing in front of his face, seemingly yanking the air out of his lungs, and he felt himself stumble with the shock of it. With a sharp cry, he felt himself falling and falling – how he hated that feeling – as time seemed to stretch and wave until it had no meaning. Ford expected to feel the crushing weight and hardness of the train and braced himself for the nothingness that would surely follow.
Instead, he felt a hand grab his arm and jerk him sharply backward, nearly pulling his arm out of its socket. Another hand joined the first in gripping his other arm, and for a moment his brain was too busy breathing a sigh of relief to remind his body to unbrace itself for impending death.
Ford squeezed his eyes shut, fighting off waves of nausea as the screeching of the train wheels and the rushing of air filled his consciousness. The strong hands were still holding his arms tightly, as if the creature to whom they belonged was afraid he would break free and determinedly get himself killed. After the wind had stopped and the train had apparently come to a halt, Ford took a deep, shuddery breath and cautiously opened his eyes. The man holding him back relaxed a bit and eventually let go. Ford swiveled his head around to look up at him.
"What the bloody hell were you doing?" Arthur demanded, almost angrily, but stopped short when he saw the terrified look in the small, odd young man's colorless eyes – the poor sod had been genuinely frightened half to death. Arthur was concerned. "Are you all right?"
Ford was surprised to see the other man's troubled look; few species would bother to rescue a person in the way this human just had, and even fewer humans would actually care about the well-being of the rescuee after that. Fascinating. After a moment, he managed a weak, slightly hysterical smile and stammered, "I-I'm all right. Thank you. You saved my life."
"Don't mention it," said the man, sounding rather pleased that he had mentioned it.
"Say, who are you, anyway?" Ford asked, not unkindly, recovering himself a bit.
"My name is Dent," the man replied. "Arthur Dent. What's your name?"
"Ford Prefect," said Ford.
Arthur looked at him in disbelief, eyebrows raised, but of course, was too polite and generally too English to make any comment at all. "You getting on?" he asked when Ford hesitated at the door of the train. Ford shrugged, carefully stowing his apprehension, and followed the other man to a couple of ratty seats positioned between two large and rather depressed-looking humans. Arthur sat down cautiously – trains, like stations, always made him nervous – but Ford seemed reasonably relaxed.
"Where do you live?" he asked lazily.
"I couldn't stand London – I just moved to the West Country," Arthur said.
"Funny, I live there, too," said Ford, who didn't. He was a hitchhiker, after all, and hadn't felt it necessary to actually find a place to live. The bars served pretty nicely at night, and the occasional one that didn't often had directions to the nearest motel.
With that, he flashed a wild, somewhat disconcerting grin at Arthur and promptly fell asleep. Arthur glanced at him. It was that oddly wide smile that troubled him the most, and he wondered why, after performing what was probably the only heroic thing he'd ever done in his life, he had a creeping sort of apprehension. As usual, he decided to ignore the whole thing and turn his brain off before it imploded.
Thursdays, he thought, shaking his head.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has this to say about the Elephant & Castle Tube station:
Underground stations are fascinating places, and the station at Elephant & Castle is one of the better ones. It is a good place to go if you want to observe humans in their natural habitat, and is suitably grubby and dangerous if you miss the atmosphere of Jaglan Beta or Betelgeuse Five. It is also one of the easier ones to get into – there are fewer guards around to keep you from sneaking onto the platform without a ticket. It must be noted, however, that there is a bizarre Earth saying that must be heeded in any Tube station: "curiosity killed the cat." Stay away from the tracks – unlike the mass transit hovercraft on Santraginus V, these things are not programmed to be aware of your presence. They will not stop for you! And any rumors you may hear about trains creating temporal distortions or traveling faster than the speed of light are untrue; these machines will not allow you to time travel.