Arthur Dent sat on a grassy rise overlooking the remnants of the Gulgafrincham 'B' Ark. He was staring morosely at the scene below him and getting thoroughly sloshed. The ship's captain was still firmly ensconced in his bath, a dilapidated rubber duck floating lopsided in the murky water. Corporate yes-men and department-store floorwalkers roamed near the wreckage, their tracksuits stuffed with leaves and their hair freshly styled.
Arthur felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up to see Ford Prefect smiling down at him in a mildly predatory fashion. "What's the matter, Arthur?" he asked.
"Nothing," Arthur answered. It wasn't exactly the truth, but then Arthur was a human, afflicted with the particularly human need to suffer in martyred silence until cajoled and wheedled by concerned friends into sharing his troubles.
"Oh, all right then." Ford swung his satchel onto his shoulder headed back towards their cave. Ford was not human.
"I didn't mean nothing exactly," Arthur said, his voice rising as the distance between them increased. He clambered to his feet and hurried to catch up, clutching tightly at his bottle of elderflower wine as though it were a security blanket. "I meant nothing particularly important."
"Well then, if it's nothing particularly important...." Ford kept walking.
"Actually," Arthur said, a bit annoyed that Ford wasn't following the unspoken Rules of Social Interaction, "it's Trillian. She's probably dead, you see."
Ford stopped and faced him. "Yeah, so?"
Ford was not feeling particularly tactful today.
"She was...." Arthur struggled for an appropriate way to say what had been on his mind for several days. "She was my last chance for a date, as it were. Since the cavemen...er, cave/women/ have all died out." A flush of pink coloured the tips of his ears and his cheeks. He took another swig from the bottle, determined to get through this conversation or pass out trying.
"What about them?" Ford nodded his head toward the crashed ship. "Some of them are very attractive." Ford had actually been thinking a lot about the telemarketers and infomercial stars lately. He'd been wondering if he could get any them to play a game of Janx Spirit with him. It wouldn't be too difficult for him to fix it so he lost.
"Them!" Arthur sounded scandalized. "Ford, they're my /ancestors/. Any one of them could be my million-great-grandmother!" He shuddered involuntarily, his formerly pink complexion turning an intriguing shade of green.
"Have it your way," Ford replied, turning on his heel and striding into the clearing in front of their cave.
"So what do I do, Fo-aaaaggghh?" he asked, tripping on a root and falling face down on the path, the nearly empty bottle shattering against a protruding rock.
Ford sat crosslegged in the clearing and began rummaging in his satchel, dumping out the fruits and vegetables he'd collected on his hike before finally pulling a scrawny and very dead rabbit from its depths.
"Well you don't have many options, do you?" He set about building a fire.
"As I see it," came Arthur's voice from further in the forest, "I've only got two options: left hand or right." He stumbled noisily into sight, glaring at the cuts on his right hand as if he could intimidate them into healing immediately.
Ford looked at him. "There is a...third option," he said with quiet intensity.
"What's that?" Arthur snapped, tipsy and irritably frustrated.
Ford grinned his unnerving, unblinking grin. "Rub up against a tree," he suggested, and bit into an apple. "Unless, of course, you think it might be related to you."
"Ford, I'm serious," Arthur whined. "I had a hard enough time getting a date when the Earth wasn't a cinder." He stopped and thought for a moment. "My Earth. I had a hard enough time getting a date when my /Earth /wasn't a cinder. Oh hell, you know what I mean." His knees buckled and he sat down, hard, on the packed dirt beside Ford.
"Several million women on the planet and you couldn't get a date? Fancy that." The sarcasm rushed past Arthur, leaving him merely dizzy and confused. Ford continued, this time battering his cavemate with logic, "If you lasted most of your life like that, what's the problem now? Your chances of getting a date then were nil; your chances of getting a date now are practically nil. Zero sum...and zero loss."
"But at least there I had a hope, however remote, of getting a date. What are the chances of that here?" To emphasize his point, Arthur leaned forward, his face inches from Ford's and repeated, "What are the chances of that here?"
Ford wrinkled his nose. "Diminishing with every bottle of elderflower wine you chuck down, mate."
"Never mind. You've just got to get over it, Arthur. Shag an aging hand model or wank off. Do something. Get friendly with that birch over there. Just stop whinging on about it, all right?" Ford stood abruptly and stalked off towards the entrance to their cave, mumbling to himself about hopelessly thick earthmen.
Arthur stared after him blankly. "Is there more wine?" he finally asked.
A few minutes later, Ford reappeared from the cave, a bone knife in his hand. Ignoring Arthur, he sat down before a large, flattish rock and began to skin the rabbit.
"There's a couple more bottles of wine in the cave. Have at it," Ford answered without looking up.
Arthur looked blearily toward the cave and started to stand. His legs, after a quick consultation with his liver, refused to support him and he sat back down heavily. After some intense contemplation of the palms of his four right hands, he rolled onto his hands and knees and began to crawl towards the cave. "I think I'll just have a little lie-down," he said to the Fords as he passed them.
Ford finished with the rabbit, forced it onto the spit with the air of someone who hasn't had take-away in far too long, and began slowly turning the spit over the fire. With the other hand, he pulled The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy from his pocket and began to read.
~ ~ ~
Arthur awoke with one of the worst headaches he'd had since the morning they tore his house down. The cave was dark. Very dark. He reached out toward the low ceiling and realized that he couldn't see his hand, either. He whimpered quietly.
"What is it, Arthur?" Ford asked from beside him.
"I'm blind, Ford." Arthur worked hard to keep the edge of hysteria in his voice from becoming full-blown panic. "Completely blind. Can't see my hand before my face." A horrible thought struck him. "Unless, somehow, my arm was amputated. Ford, you'd tell me if my arm was amputated, wouldn't you?" The world was still a little wobbly.
"Relax, Arthur, there's nothing wrong with your eyes or your arm. It's just nighttime, that's all. Go back to sleep."
The panic was winning out over Arthur's fragile grasp of reality and he was beginning to hyperventilate. Just when he thought that he'd go completely over the edge, he felt a hand on his thigh where his tatty bathrobe ended. It was warm and human and suddenly he felt much better.
"There, there, Arthur. You're fine. It's nighttime and it's dark, but you're not blind. And you haven't suddenly gone missing any limbs." Ford's voice was soothing and calm and his hand was moving slowly up Arthur's thigh. "At least, none that I know of." The hand moved further.
"Ford," Arthur said quietly, "I hate to interrupt you, but what the hell do you think you're doing?" He tried to keep his tone even, despite the panic that was rising at about the same speed as Ford's touch.
"You were complaining about lack of potential...er, partners...earlier, right?" Ford answered. "Well, I had an idea or two regarding that. After all, there's no possible way that I could be your million-great grandmother, now is there?"
"True," Arthur admitted, "but hardly the point, I think. The point...." he trailed off as Ford's hand reached the waistband of his pyjama trousers.
"The point?" Ford prodded.
"Ah, the point is that you are--or rather, I've always assumed that you were--male, you see."
"Fairly correct assessment, yes, based on your limited understanding of gender." The snaps on Arthur's trousers popped loudly in the ensuing silence and Ford's hand moved unstoppably on.
"But I'm not into that. Really." Arthur focused on sounding as earnest as possible. "Tried it at university and was most unimpressed."
But his body betrayed him by becoming hard at Ford's touch. At the feel of the warm hand, wrapping around his burgeoning erection, Arthur gave in and closed his eyes, not that having them open had enabled him to see anything anyway.
"All right, Ford," he said, resignation evident in his voice. "I'm coming with you. I'm bloody well coming with you."
A/N: This is all Michelle's fault. She had a sig and she wasn't afraid to use it and...well, it's a long story. But I just want you to remember that it's her fault. Entirely. Except for the bits that are Debra Tabor's fault, whether or not she'll admit to them. And special thanks to Gloria Lancaster and Amanda, who equipped me with British terms and slang when my supply faltered, and to Miriam Heddy, who beta'd.
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