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Hidgehiker

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The road seemed long in the night. Longer than Hunk had experienced it during the day. He squeezed his eyes a bit to see better but it didn't change anything. Also, it was night. Hunk should be used to drive through the night since his job was literally connected with it and he actually quite liked it. But each time when he'd come back home he'd been so tired he could fall asleep right on the driver seat after parking.

He sighed.

"Aw, man… So tired," he mumbled to himself and sighed again, deeper than before. "Why do I do this job again?"

The radio was faintly hearable so he turned it louder to have something keeping him awake. He tended to sing, a good way to keep himself concentrated. It would be better to have an assistant driver, someone he could talk to while returning home. His job needs him often to be awake to times where others normally would go to bed so of course many people don't want to accompany someone like that.

It had been a long night indeed. The party was a full success and Hunk was satisfied as everything had been how he'd imagined. He loves his work but late at night alone in the car on the way home was always difficult to manage. Hunk tends to imagine his bed and a rich breakfast in the late morning. He really likes that but driving was the nail in his toe.

It was the end of autumn, the numbers of parties reduce themselves bit by bit. The night was as dark as always, darker than during the summer months maybe. This street had no lanterns which made it even more difficult for Hunk to stay focused. Sometimes, a bus-stop appeared in the middle of nowhere and some dark roads lead to farms or distant houses. The tram tracks were bounded to the city only and Hunk came from an old barn on the country side. He was now half of the way but didn't want to do anything besides sleeping.

Hunk was searching a new radio channel to distract his mind when he passed another dark road and another bus-stop. He blinked confused and stopped the car. Wasn't there someone, standing underneath the roof?

He drove back some meters and stopped right in front of the bus stop.

Indeed, there stood someone. She looked like a girl, with wild curly-ish hair, brown as nuts. She wore a green-white jacket and a bag was swung over her shoulder. She was rather small, her arms were crossed, the look suspicious directed onto Hunk's car.

Hunk winded down the window and popped his head out. "Hey! Are you okay? Shall I take you somewhere?"

"No thanks, I'm fine!" She shook her head and smiled as to apologise to someone in the supermarket offering cheese the person didn't want to try. Or a stranger in a car in the middle of the night somewhere between fields full of wild boars and deers. Hunk supressed a chuckle.

"You sure? Will someone come to pick you up?" Hunk frowned. He knew this street not well, but well enough. "You know that the buses won't run anymore, right?"

The girl made big eyes. She really mustn't have known this. "Yeah, I do know, thank you." She turned her head and watched down the dark street.

Hunk observed her. He couldn't let her stand all by herself in the middle of the night in a dark road no one would pass through until the milkman comes by in probably just four more hours. "Come on now, I give you a ride." He waved.

She looked back at him, her eyes still full of suspicion and wonder but also curiousity. "You sure? It's some miles to the city."

"I know," Hunk sighed. "But I'm sure. I need company to keep me awake."

"Doesn't sound promsing to me." She frowned. Then she jerked her shoulders. "Alright. Can't be worse right?"

"You could be kidnapped by a free murderer or attacked by a boar, I guess." Hunk just talked randomly but then he saw her face. "Just joking. Come on in."

She walked around the car, opened the door and let herself flopp on the passenger seat. She threw Hunk a glance. "Dare you do anything strange. I have a phone. It has a low battery but I will call anyone. I know where I am."

"Relax. You're a stranger for me as well. And no, I won't do anything. See, I came from work and all I want is to get home." Hunk jerked a shoulder. He started the engine again and was relieved that he saw her shoulders relaxing. "If I would be some kind of mad man you shouldn't tell that your battery is low though."

"I know. I won't tell you next time." She laughed.

"By the way, I'm Hunk," he introduced himself smiling.

"Pidge," she said.

Hunk nodded.

They drove one mile without saying a word. She stared outside the window in the darkness of fields and meadow while Hunk focused on the road.

"What were you doing there? In the middle of the night?" Hunk couldn't refrain from asking. He must know and he needed someone he could talk to. He'd gotten tired again.

"I visited someone and I thought there would be a bus even this late."

"I see." Hunk thought about it. "Still weird. So your visited person didn't tell you that there won't be any buses anymore and sent you out? A girl in the middle of the night in such an area is not a good idea. I mean… For no one apparently."

"I'm not a girl."

"Excuse me?" Hunk turned his head in surprise. "But… you look like one."

"Does it matter? I prefer a neutral pronoun." She looked at him with raised brows.

Hunk observed her – them – and thought about it. He had heard about those things but he had definitly more to read about it. Yet he didn't see why there should be any problem with it. He watched the street again and jerked a shoulder.

"Okay, sure," he said. He literally felt how Pidge's brows rose as they threw him a glance from the side.

"You sure about that?"

"Yup. Don't see why not. See, I think I'm a man. You think you're not. What's the matter?"

They stared at him for a while.

"Could you stop looking so intensely? I need to concentrate on driving."

"Yeah, yeah, sure." Pidge looked somewhere else. "Thanks."

"No problem." Hunk was okay with that but he was still curious. From the side he tried to observe her – them!, he was still confused about the pronouns – a bit while trying not to create a car crash. Pidge was small, had a flat chest and short hair. Actually, they didn't necessarily needed to be a girl.

"I know that you're staring, stay focused on the street," Pidge said and Hunk flinched.

"Sorry."

"That's fine. Many people are confused."

"Doesn't make it better, I think." Hunk sighed. "But you can actually be what you want. I mean… You don't hundred percenty look like a girl and not as a boy either. Like..."

Pidge looked at him waitingly to see what else Hunk was about to stutter. He felt bad and blushed but he wanted to explain his thoughts.

"Like… You could be a boy but a girl as well, one could belive both of it when you'd say you're one of those. Not that you have to be. Aw, man… It sounded much more reasonable in my head just a sec ago." He sighed loudly.

Pidge laughed. "It's fine. I hear that often. But… I'm just… myself."

"You're right." Hunk nodded affirmative.

"I'm right?"

"Yeah, I mean… You're looking like… a Pidge."

"Like a Pidge? What the heck does it mean?" They laughed again. A beautiful sound Hunk thought.

Hunk sighed. "I have no idea. Just… you look like someone..." He jerked a shoulder, letting his sentence running into nowhere.

Pidge threw him a doubtful glance. "You're weird."

"I know, I get that often."

They both chuckled about it.

"So, you visited a friend?" Hunk picked up the topic again.

"His name's Matt." Pidge stretchd their legs, crossing them.

"A...boy?" Hunk frowned and looked at her shortly, before returning his eyes to the street.

"Yep."

"So… your... lover?" he dare to ask.

Pidge turned their head. "He's my brother." They laughed again so that a shiver ran down Hunk's spine. He really loved that laugh, he couldn't explain why.

"He thought busses would still run. Apparently he was wrong. He lives in the fields with his wife on a farm." Pidge shifted their head back onto the neck-rest. "I visited him and time went by so fast I couldn't get the bus anymore."

"You didn't walk back," Hunk stated, raising a brow askingly.

"He brought me to the station and it's a long way. They went to bed already so I couldn't do much. And I had the feeling that it was right to wait. Lucky me." Pidge smiled. "Thank you for picking me up."

"No problem."

"And what about you?" Pidge wanted to know now. "Where did you come from? Now, at two in the morning?"

Hunk jerked a shoulder. "A party," he said casually.

"What!?" Pidge nearly shouted sharp and high. "You mean… a normal party where people drink?"

"At what kinda party don't people drink?" Hunk frowned while throwing a glance in the side mirrors to check the street.

"Don't know," Pidge murmured. "A baby party?"

"I've definitly seen more than you." He chuckled.

"Sooo…," Pidge played with their grips of the bag. "That means… you're drunk?"

"What?" Hunk turned his head to look at them in surprise. "God, no! I'm not. I'm not allowed to."

"How does that make sense?" Pidge frowned.

"Oh sorry, I didn't mention it. I'm an event manager. I organise parties as this one. I can't drink at work, y'know? It's my job." He jerked a shoulder.

Pidge sighed and sank down into their seat, visibly relieved. They didn't say anything for one minute which Hunk had expected.

No one was really interested in his doings. He organises parties. Most of the other people assume that it's just like a normal party only with a bigger amount of food, drinks, chairs and people in general. But it was a lot of work and he needed connections and knowledge where to find what. Not all parties should be the exact same, people wanted to have a good memory of it, and Hunk loved to be inspired by different surroundings, good music and especially different types of food. He loved food and tried everything out before he let the caterer arrange it. Of course it depends on the costumer but if he was free of charge he would go through the ranges of all continets, happy to taste everything he'd choosen before anyone else. At the party itself he was eager to see the reactions of the guests, stunned over the delicious food. There was not one time where someone was not satisfied.

"Is there a lot to do around this time?"

Hunk blinked his eyes and turned his head shortly. The question must have come from Pidge.

"What?" he asked confused.

Pidge looked up to him. "Is there a lot to do?" they asked again. "Since the summer is over, I mean. It's nearly autumn but the nights are cold already."

"Oh…," Hunk stumbled, still surprised about the curiosity. "Uhm, yeah… Actually, there is always a lot to do. In summer-time are mainly weddings and christenings, in the winter-time year-end-parties, Sylvester, and New Year. But the summer is relatively more busy."

"What about birthdays?" Pidge had crossed their hands again over their bag.

"There are always birthdays. Same for funerals. I organise pretty much everything you want to celebrate in some kind."

"People always die, right?" Pidge chuckled.

"You say it," Hunk admit with a dark smile. "But childbirths are there as well. I like weddings the most though." A dreamy look turned into his eyes as he remembered a series of brides and grooms and everything in between, many people, the tower of presents, the smell of small emblazed bonfires in the evening and a big cake.

"You're a true romantician, heh?" Pidge asked.

"There's nothing wrong about that." Hunk jerked a shoulder.

Pidge stayed quiet for a while, before they said: "Might be true. I loved the wedding of my brother. It was perfectly done!"

"Tell me about it." Hunk heard the enthusiasm out of their tone and got excited as well. "Maybe I will get some ideas. I love weddings."

"I know you do. But wouldn't it be stealing others working techniques?"

Hunk grunted. "I don't see anything wrong about that. It's just…. Inspiration for me."

Pidge observed him but then they a consent look appeared on their face. "Okay, why not."

Pidge explained a lot of details about the wedding and Hunk was happy to get to know about it. He understood why even Pidge liked it since their brother and his wide didn't have a normal wedding. They celebrated in a forest at the beginning of summer. Everything was freshly green and young and the air must've been clear and good smelling. The food was mainly originating from the region and the people could sit on benches and chairs a local carpenter had made.

Hunk listened to all of the wedding details, from the beginning to the end and wished that he could've written down something. He hoped to memorise it until the next day. While Pidge was talking, Hunk threw them some glances. Their eyes shown full of excitement and shimmered even during the darkest parts of the road. Pidge was really into explaining everything they'd liked about the wedding and Hunk understood the fascination. He got curious until he wanted to meet their brother as well. Matt, he remembered, and his wife must be nice people.

When Pidge ended, they turned their head and smiled up to Hunk. "Are you okay?" they asked. "You're a bit red. You don't have a fever, right?"

"Me? Oh no, I'm fine." Hunk put a hand on his cheek and felt the warmth running through his own skin. "Oh look, we reached the city."

"You mean the outer realm of the city."

They both looked towards the sign stating the name of the city. It was still dark outside but the houses grew in number.

"Where do you live?" Hunk asked. He didn't want to part yet. Pidge seemed like a nice person and he wanted to drive some more just to hear them talking.

"In the northern ward. You?" Pidge raised a brow.

"Northwest." Hunk grinned. "So we still have some more time."

"Sure," Pidged smiled. "What else is there to talk in the middle of the night? Are you still tired?"

"No, I'm okay. But I will be dead once I reach my bed, y'know. Man, I miss my bed so much." Hunk sighed deeply.

"I know what you mean. I also would like to go to sleep. We nearly made it."

"What do you actually work?" Hunk asked. He noticed that he hadn't asked yet.

Pidge threw him a glance. "Me? Oh yeah, we only talked about your job. I'm a vet assistant."

"Sounds interesting. What are you doing there?" Hunk looked at her shortly before driving around some corners. They finally reached city lights.

"Getting pets out of their cages, preparing needles and bandages, calm down weird cats and dogs and put patches on wounds done by wild birds." Pidge laughed. "It's a fun job apparently."

"What was the smallest animal you ever saw treated?"

Pidge frowned. "The smallest? Hm… maybe baby mice? They were so cute, you should've seen them!"

"And the biggest?"

"Easy one, a horse!"

"But aren't there special vets for horses?" Hunk threw them another glance.
"There are, but not in this town. Horses are rare in the city and it takes a long drive to get to a special vet. So they first come to us." Pidge looked up to him again. "It was really huge. For you maybe normal size but for me it was so huge."

"Was it okay after your treatment?"

Pidge nodded. "Yeah, it had some problem with his sinew but it healed. Oh, you can take the right lane here and go right again on the next corner. We're nearly there."

"Are you sure? I would like to talk some more," Hunk said bravely.

Pidge smiled. "Maybe you will pick me up one more time when you come back from work."

"I wouldn't count on that." Hunk concentrated on the streets but he felt Pidge looking at him. When he could drive straight again, he threw them a glance and saw that Pidge was smiling fondly.

"Maybe we have to make it happen then," they said quietly. "The big building over there, the green one. Number 5."

Hunk parked the car on the sideway and looked down on Pidge, who checked if they had everything there was.

"Thank you for keeping me awake," Hunk said. "It's really hard to make it myself, singing weird songs I don't understand I hear in the radio and so on."

"Oh dear, I would like to see that." Pidge grinned.

"Well," Hunk laughed. "Now I will have to do that again since you're home already."

Pidge smiled. "I hope it's not far anymore."

"No, just five more minutes. I'll manage."

Pidge hesitated before saying: "I had fun."

"Better than waiting outside in the dark surrounded by boars, right?"

"Right there." Pidge grinned. "Thank you for taking me here. How much shall I give you for petrol expenses?" They already looked for their purse but Hunk shook his head.

"I don't want your money."

Pidge lifted their head. "Something else?"

Hunk waited but he felt brave enough to try. Nothing could go wrong and if the answer was no, he knew he tried and could go home in peace, more or less at least.

"How about your number?"

Pidge looked stunned but then they smiled. "Yeah, sure!"

Hunk's mouth fell open but he composes himself quickly. He watched how Pidge took a piece of paper and a green glitter pen with a tiny plastic lion on top out of their bag and scribbled down some numbers.

"Can you read it?" they asked and Hunk needed to focus to not take the paper with shaking hands. He read the numbers and nodded.

"Yep, can do so."

"Alright." Pidge openend the door and stepped outside. "Thank you, Hunk!"

"Thank you as well. Have a good night!"

"Sleep tight." Pidge grinned. They closed the door and Hunk felt suddenly cold. He watched how Pidge walked to the house, openend the door and waved a last time, before diasppearing. Then he started the engine again.

Hunk passed the alley of still green trees, lighted by the street-lamps, and hummed for himself all the way home. He was sure that he would take more time now to get to sleep as he would have imagined half an hour ago. But he was happy and the rest of his way passed by while he still heard Pidge's tuneful laughing in his ears.