Lady Blue

by Kathryn A


He hadn't even noticed she was blue. Of course, well-travelled galactic that he was, Ford wouldn't have cared even if he had noticed. What with the fashion in extra body parts brought into staggering popularity by Zaphod Beeblebrox (though fashion moguls argued that it had really been initiated by Eccentrica Gallumbits, the triple-breasted whore of Eroticon Six) he wouldn't have much cared if she'd had four hands and three legs.

It was her eyes he noticed first. Her eyes and her smile. The smile so serene, as if the owner of it was floating on angelbalm, the eyes so aware, as if they knew what you had been doing even before you came into their view.

Then Zaphod made his move. It was, after all, a bar, where such moves were expected to be made. Smiling with both heads, grooving over with all the coolness of a freshly iced tropical drink, he said, "Hi, I'm Zaphod Beeblebrox." The result, of course, would be inevitable.

A peculiar sensation came over Ford then. A pounding in his temples, an odd sort of sinking in his gut, an involuntary clenching of his fists, a catch of his breath -- and then he realized what it was.

He'd never been jealous of Zaphod before.

Oh, slightly envious, perhaps -- who wouldn't be? But Zaph was carelessly generous with his friends -- it was all part of his goal in life, to have fun. Bounty gained was bounty shared, whether it be a lift in the Heart Of Gold, or being shot at by the Galactic Patrol. No friend of Zaphod's would be envious long. But to be jealous? The thought was ludicrous -- it made just as much sense as being jealous of the sun for its warmth or the ocean for its wetness: Zaphod Beeblebrox was an elemental force of Cool, the Platonic ideal, the thing by which coolness was defined.

Not that Ford didn't have his own level of cool; while being Zaphod's semi-cousin had alleviated somewhat the taunting of the kids who called him "Ix", he'd quickly learned the Second Rule of Cool, which was that while imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, true coolness is original. Not that becoming a roving reporter for the Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy was exactly original, but it did contribute. Zarniwoop didn't let just anyone join the staff -- one had to be able to write. Which, what with Babel fish and speaking sentient computers, was a rare technical skill in this benighted universe.

The First Rule of Cool was, of course, that one should never look ruffled, even when threatened with Kill-o-Zap guns or when your best friend is making off with your girl... Or your almost-acquaintance with a girl.

It was therefore with complete and utter astonishment that Ford observed what happened next.

The blue lady took in Zaphod with one glance, frowned slightly and said "I'm afraid I'm not your type."

While Ford's jaw was still dropping, she stood up, brushed past Zaphod and came straight up to Ford, took his arm and dragged him to one of the round tables scattered around the floor. "Well, you are going to buy me a drink, aren't you?" she said with a smile.

The First Rule of Cool also applies when you've just been picked up by the girl of your dreams, so Ford picked his jaw off the floor and proceeded to buy the drinks. Ford had long ago mastered the art of attracting the attention of wait-beings (another, lesser, skill that he'd picked up from an ex-Pralite monk) and soon he was sipping a Jinyan Tunniks while the blue-skinned beauty opposite him tasted her own white and blue concoction called "Maiden's Kiss".

"Pa'u Zotoh Zhaan", she said, placing one elegant hand on her chest. "Call me Zhaan." She raised one hairless eyebrow in inquiry.

"Ford Prefect," he answered.

"That isn't your given name," she stated.

"It's unpronounceable," he admitted, his face suddenly warm. He wondered if it was the drink or the woman which was making him uncharacteristically honest. He'd ordered a Jinyan Tunniks because of the cosmic coincidence that declared that every race invented a drink of that name -- but the contents were as varied as the species who made them.

"Sometimes we need to remake ourselves," she said. "Even to the deepness of a name."

Ford shrugged. "I didn't think of it as remaking at the time," he said. "Just something to fit in with."


"Disguise," he replied.

Her skin had a delicate tracery of white spots blending and contrasting with the blue, as if it were a camouflage pattern meant for the depths of mottled blue seas.

"You're very beautiful," he said, going with his impulse.

She smiled. "Now I know you're not a Sabacean," she said. "They're far too xenophobic to say such a thing to an alien."

"You're hardly alien," Ford said. "Now, try sharing a drink with a hyperintelligent shade of the colour blue, and you'll have problems."

She laughed, and then stared at him. "You really meant that, didn't you?"

"You wouldn't happen to be an ex-Pralite monk, would you?" he asked.

"No, I'm a Delvian priest," she said. "Why?"

"Mental disciplines," he said.

"They're not the only disciplines I've studied," she said with a twinkle in her eye and a sly smile.

"Why?" Why me?

"Because sometimes we need to break out of the prison of others' expectations," she said, placing her cool hand over his. "Both for our own good and for theirs."

He glanced over at the bar, where Zaphod was nursing two drinks.

"You certainly broke my expectations," he said. "But what about you?"

She smiled, slowly. "Tonight... is for fun." She glanced behind him and back again at his face. "There are expectations I need to break too."

He lifted his glass in a toast. "To the breaking of expectations," he said.

"To fun," she said, raising her own glass.

"Definitely, to fun," he agreed. Fun without Zaphod, what an amazing concept.


This was written for the multiverse2004 ficathon challenge, the story being for redstarrobot, and the pairing being Ford/Zhaan. The Ford here -- at least, his background -- comes mostly from the bookverse, as (a) there's more of it and (b) it was easier to re-read the books than to re-watch the series.
The Zhaan here is first-season Zhaan, if anything.

Thanks to Betty Ragan for beta-reading.