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Strange Hours

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Peter opened his eyes and saw a grumpy-looking man standing over him, clearly complaining about something that Peter couldn’t hear. Not put off, Peter smiled at him politely and raised his index finger. One moment.

                Peter reached inside his suit jacket and pulled out the small case containing his hearing aids, putting them both in before sitting up in his hammock and gesturing for the other man to continue. He gave a ferocious yawn as he watched the other man, waiting for a reaction.

                “What are you doing in my hammock?” the man demanded crossly. Evidently he’d already worked out some of his anger yelling before Peter could hear him. Now he just looked annoyed and slightly curious, not to mention rather tall. Peter was sitting down in the hammock, forcing him to look up at the man despite being fairly tall himself. He gave himself a moment to admire the man’s smooth, dark skin and delicate curls before answering.

                Peter jerked his chin towards where his head had been when he was sleeping and mimed putting his hands under his head to rest. Then he looked at the other man questioningly.

                The man rolled his eyes. “Yes, I know you were sleeping,” he said irritably. “The question is why you thought you could sleep in my hammock. And wearing a suit for some reason!”

                Peter looked at him, patted the hammock, and shrugged nonchalantly. Well, you weren’t using it.

                Unsurprisingly, this made the man more annoyed. He stuttered for a bit and finally stammered out, “That’s not the point! It’s my hammock, not a hotel!”

                Peter smiled apologetically and spread his hands. Sorry.

                The man grumbled, still looking a bit miffed. “Yeah, whatever, so what are you gonna do now?”

                Peter stood up, making the stranger step backwards, and pondered the question. It was still dark out, a warm summer’s night, and his plane ride back wasn’t until the next evening. His schedule was clear until his next assignment. He didn’t have many plans.

                He shrugged and wavered his hand back and forth. The man stared at him in disbelief and baffled attraction. They were standing pretty close still, Peter reflected.

                “Okay, so you know what?” the man said, changing tactics. “Here’s the deal—you tell me your name and I’ll tell you mine. Then we decide where you’re going to sleep tonight.”

                Nodding, Peter pulled a folded-up piece of paper from his suit jacket and handed it to the other man.

                “Peter Orso,” he read, squinting in the dim light. He offered a nervous half-smile, revealing a slight gap between his front teeth, and extended a hand. “Hello, Peter, my name is Miggs Ortega. Do you wanna sleep in my house on the couch instead of in my hammock?”

                Peter blinked, then let a grateful smile spread across his face. He shook Miggs’ hand firmly, studying his new acquaintance with interest. The other man was tall as Peter had suspected, but thin and lanky, with dark freckles in a chaotic spray across his skin and surprisingly soft brown eyes. Peter got the feeling he could pick Miggs up if he wanted to, and he had to admit the idea was not without its charms.

                “Yeah, don’t mention it,” Miggs said, turning towards the front door of his house. “This way, Peter.” He stifled a yawn as he gestured towards the door and Peter wondered what time it was. He’d taken off his watch to sleep and it would be difficult to read in the darkness anyway.

                Once they were inside, Peter took a look around. Miggs’ home was pretty clearly a bachelor pad, pragmatically decorated and not particularly clean, but what caught Peter’s interest were the spare parts lying around the place, like someone had taken apart a robot and forgotten to put it back together again. In the back of the room was a dilapidated old couch that nonetheless looked fairly clean. Peter noted the fabric and figured it would softer than the hammock at least.

                He turned to Miggs, quirked one eyebrow, and tapped the place where his watch normally was. He seemed to understand instantly.

                “Oh, it’s a bit past midnight,” Miggs answered. “I just got home.”

                When Peter continued to look at him questioningly, Miggs turned self-conscious and said, “I work strange hours.” He pointed at the couch. “Anyway, there it is. Do you need anything or can I go to sleep now?”

                Peter smiled sheepishly and shook his head, moving towards the couch. He waved a hand at Miggs to show his thanks and quickly made himself comfortable. Miggs left the room, shaking his head, eyes averted, in what Peter thought was awkward, tired disbelief. Then Peter curled up on his side and fell asleep.