Ford Prefect was Arthur Dent's single, one-time, absolutely-never-to-be-repeated walk on the wild side. Stroll, really. More of a "three-step jog between the car and the post box" than a "two-day hike in the Cotswolds" walk, and it was still much more than Arthur would ever have expected from himself. Or from Ford, the man Arthur met as he attempted to give a very nice, very reasonably priced bouquet to a Citroen driven by a rather startled-looking old lady.
Once Arthur had saved Ford's life, as he lay panting on top of him on the pavement outside Marks and Spencer's, Ford said: "Nice to meet you."
"Are you mad?" Arthur replied, rolling to one side. They'd attracted the attention of a few high street shoppers, but once it became apparent that neither Ford nor Arthur were injured, the shoppers moved on to more interesting things, like the half-price leg waxing kits at Boots. "I don't know why I'm even asking. No one sane would stand in the middle of the road waiting to be flattened by a Citroen, of all things. A Porsche, perhaps, or a Jaguar, I can see a certain level of prestige in being hit by one of those, but a Citroen..."
"You saved my life," the man said, and Arthur noticed his American accent. Well, Arthur thought, that explained it then. "Can I buy you a local intoxicating beverage at a nearby serving establishment?"
Definitely American, Arthur thought. Probably from California. "There's a pub a quarter of a mile that way."
Ford jumped up and offered his hand to Arthur. "Then let's go there."
Over a pint and a ploughman's lunch---because Arthur's mother had been a great believer in Branston pickle as comfort food---Ford told Arthur he was from Guildford.
"Really?" Arthur asked.
"Yes," Ford replied, rather snappishly. "Guildford. I've lived there my entire life."
"Ah." Arthur took a bite of pickle. "What do you do for a living?"
Ford seemed to hesitate a moment, then he said: "I'm an actor."
"Oh, yes? Been in anything I might have seen?"
"I was in an episode of Dr. Who. I played an egomaniacal robot. You couldn't see my face."
"But I'm not working at the moment." Ford leaned forward. "Now, Arthur, I want you to tell me everything about you."
Arthur blinked. "Well, I, um, I enjoy football and 'Coronation Street', and..." He reached desperately. "I've got a really nice digital watch." He offered it for Ford's examination.
Ford peered at it intently. "That is absolutely fascinating." He sounded sincere. Arthur, unused to any kind of attention at all let alone such focused attention, blushed, but heard himself saying:
"Actually, I'm rather a complex person, when you get right down to it."
Ford grinned, showing teeth that, if not American, proved at least that there were good dentists in Guildford. "Tell me all about it, man."
Many pints, packets of crisps, and rounds of drunken darts later, Arthur and Ford stumbled out of the pub. Arthur was astonished to see it was dark, and he threw an arm around Ford's shoulders as an expression of this astonishment. "Look at all those stars." Arthur sighed. "Makes you wonder, doesn't it?"
"Wonder what?" Ford asked.
"You know." Arthur shrugged. His train of thought sounded its warning bells and began to pull away from the platform without him. "About life. The universe. Are we alone?"
"You're not." Ford sounded certain. Arthur looked over at him and saw Ford looking back.
Arthur had never been to boarding school. He'd been state-educated, and he'd never had cause to complain about it. He'd survived school dinners and geography class trips to Spain and daily bouts of character-building at the hands of Jeremy "Killer" Burgess and his gang of sixth-form thugs. Now, though, Arthur felt rather disappointed he'd missed out on the sexual camaraderie of the boys' dormitory after dark. If he'd had it, Arthur thought fuzzily, he might have known what to do when Ford pressed his lips against Arthur's.
What Arthur did was pull Ford closer, not too drunk to know what he was doing but just drunk enough not to be particularly bothered about it. When Ford bent his head to kiss Arthur's neck, Arthur slid his hand up Ford's back---surprisingly muscular for an actor from Guildford---and said: "Perhaps we'd better not do this here."
"What do you want to do?" Ford asked, sounding as curious as he had when he'd asked Arthur all those questions in the pub.
"I don't know," Arthur replied, then leaned forward to impart a secret he suddenly felt he had to share. "I'm not really gay, you see."
"Oh." Ford sounded surprised, and Arthur wondered whether he should be offended at that. Certainly, Arthur wasn't the most masculine man around. He didn't spit or slap women's bottoms or adjust his private parts in public, but that didn't mean he wasn't a real man. He was beginning to feel rather indignant about it, when Ford said: "But you seem happy to me."
Arthur never knew what they did or didn't do, which seemed rather unfair. If you were going to take a three-step jog on the wild side, he thought, you should at least remember enough of it to be able to boast at parties afterwards. All that Arthur remembered was waking up in his bed the next morning with a pounding headache and a smiling, cheerful, fully clothed man sitting beside him.
"Ugh," Arthur said, which translated roughly as "I'm not entirely sure I remember your name, but if you could get me a cup of tea and end this awkward moment, I'd be much obliged." Fortunately, they seemed to teach "drunken heretofore-heterosexual" in Guildford, since Ford produced a cup of tea and said: "Here, Arthur."
"Hm," Arthur said, which translated as "oh, thank you very much, perhaps you should be going now."
"I'm just off to Australia for a few weeks," Ford said. "I hear they've got some really wild things out there."
Arthur sipped the tea, regained the power of speech, and said: "Australia?"
"Yeah. I'll see you when I get back, OK?" Arthur balanced the teacup on his knee, and Ford reached out to squeeze his free hand. "You're really hoopy, you know that?"
Hoopy? Arthur thought. "Australia?" He said, but Ford had already gone.
Arthur didn't expect to see Ford again, so when he showed up three months later at Arthur's workplace, wearing a Foster's baseball cap and a T-shirt saying: "Aussies Do It Down Under", Arthur was surprised, embarrassed, and then surprised again. They settled into a strange, if ultimately enjoyable friendship, and Arthur eventually forgot to be humiliated about whatever may or may not have happened that first night.
Years later, as Arthur lay on the cold metal floor of a Vogon ship and tried to come to terms with the fact that everything he had ever known, cared about or not cared about had suddenly and abruptly ceased to exist, Arthur remembered his brief moment of insanity with Ford.
"I should have sold my story to the Sun," Arthur said, trying not to laugh. If he started, he wasn't certain he'd ever be able to stop. "'I slept with an alien.' Gives a whole new meaning to 'anal probing', doesn't it?"
"What?" Ford said, from where he was fiddling with something Arthur had never seen before, in a place he'd never imagined existed.
"Nothing," Arthur said.
Which was also, coincidentally, exactly how much of this Arthur had anticipated when he'd woken up that morning.
"Ford," Arthur said, standing up and drawing his dressing gown around him, "Did we have sex that first night?" It was completely immaterial, of course, but of all the questions filling Arthur's brain and threatening to pour out of his ears, it seemed like the one answer Arthur could face knowing at the moment.
"I don't know, man," Ford said, sounding distracted as he examined whatever that was, which was doing something very bizarre.
Of course. Not only had Arthur possibly slept with an alien, but the alien didn't even remember whether he had or not. There was something ironic in there somewhere. Arthur had no inclination to excavate it.
"It depends," Ford went on, "On what you mean by 'sex'."
A second later, Ford was trying to stick a fish into Arthur's ear, and for once, sex was the least of Arthur's worries.