"So, what makes you weird?" Brendan asks. Their heads are tipped together again like propped drumsticks, P.J.'s arm still around his shoulders. Suddenly hearing what just came out of his mouth, Brendan slings his hand across to cover P.J.'s opened mouth. "Wait. Rephrasing. What happened with Bobby that makes you weird?"
Rolling her eyes, she butts her head against his. She smells like burnt hors d'oeuvres (seriously, those mushroom caps were revolting), but her lips are sticky-soft and distracting against his fingers. He turns toward her more, a little, rolling with the curve.
"Brando," she mumbles. She doesn't move otherwise, but her eyebrows climb. He's known her long enough to be able to translate her expression as, I am not too mature to lick you.
He yanks away his hand. "Sorry."
She snorts and thumps her fist against his shoulder. "You're nuts."
"Guess that makes us two peas in a pod -- or, what, two peanuts in a shell?"
At that P.J. flat-out laughs, her breath tickling his cheek. "Oh, my god, shut up."
"No way, you didn't answer the question." Brendan taps her knee with his fingertips, one tap after each word. "Bobby. You. Weirdness. What?"
Her arm slides off his shoulder to come down between them, and her shoulders hunch practically to her ears before dropping again. Her voice pitches kind of high, too, when she says, "I freaked him out."
"You --" Brendan starts.
And she finishes in a rush, "Apparently, I don't know, I'm like a guy and would only be hot if I pretended to be more girly because I'm totally a freak for just wanting to have sex with him."
Brendan blinks and pulls away from her side enough that he can turn and really look at her. He holds up his hands. "So I'm clear on this, Bobby came here for a booty call, then turned down sex with you and said you weren't hot?"
"Pretty much, yeah." She doesn't look sad, just confused and more than a little annoyed.
"Wow." Brendan leans back again, and this time puts his arm around her shoulders. "That sucks -- our new friend Bobby is kind of a moron."
P.J. lets out one quick breath and loudly draws in another. "You think so, huh?"
Someone knocks on the apartment door, and she glances at Brendan. His knee-jerk interpretation is that she wants to stay where she is, but for once he really isn't sure he's reading her right.
She shakes her head -- more at herself than at him, it seems like -- and slides out from under his arm to get off the couch. "Um. Who is it?"
"Mike," comes his voice.
"What's up?" she says, yanking open the door.
Mike pushes past her into the apartment. "I dropped off Kenny and couldn't find my wallet. Have you guys seen it?"
"No, man, but we'll look around." Brendan gets up, but P.J. is already bending to pick up the wallet from under the chair where Mike had been sitting.
"Right here, genius." She hands it to Mike, who thanks her with no sarcasm whatsoever.
Then Mike cocks his head and shakes the wallet at both of them. "Is something going on? And did I see Bobby outside again?"
Smacking her own forehead with one hand, P.J. uses the other to guide Mike. She practically pushes him through the doorway. "No, and, yes. He forgot something, too."
"What did he forget?" Mike persists.
"His brain, except I think he lost it before he even got here tonight," Brendan says, joining P.J. at the door. He sees Mike's face get impossibly more confused -- or not impossibly; it is Mike -- and shakes his head. "Nevermind, dumb joke. Catch you later."
Brendan reaches around P.J. to close the door before Mike can say anything else.
Groaning, P.J. drops her head back against his arm. "Okay, I absolutely cannot handle them knowing about this whole, stupid Bobby-and-me thing, especially when it didn't even become an actual thing yet. Can we, please, not tell anyone else?"
"No, totally," he assures, shifting his hand from the door to her back and rubbing lightly.
She tips her head sideways to look into his eyes. "Promise?"
With how earnest she sounds and how warm she is tucked up against him, he needs a second for the bonus track under his train of thought to catch up. Clearing his dry throat, he says, "Of course, I promise."
"Good. Thanks, Brando," she says, and turns to hug him briefly before sliding out of the embrace and moving toward her room.
"You're still going to tell Stephanie, though, right?" he asks, tone as light as he can make it.
She throws a look over her shoulder at him. "Psh, yeah."
It's easy to grin at that, at her. "And you know you're crazy-hot."
"Yep." P.J. grins in return, then narrows her eyes. "Hold on. That better have meant my hotness is at a crazy level, not that I'm hot despite being crazy."
Brendan shrugs, biting down his smile. She feints an attack on him, and he dances back in surrender. "Hotness at a crazy level. Please, don't kill me."
"Thank you." She laughs like she's giving him a prize and adds, "I guess I'll let you stick around, at least until morning."
He sketches a grateful bow. "'Night, Peej."
"'Night, Brando," she says, waving without looking back again.
It was a stupid reason to go with Wendy to the wedding. Nicole and Jason wouldn't have cared, if Wendy and Brendan came alone separately, or probably even if Wendy had come with someone else and let him stay home. (He would've still wanted this tux for the admiration at home, though.) Brendan has known that all along, somewhere in his brain. And later he knows that no reason could've been good enough.
Looking beautiful in some long, slinky purple dress when they meet, Wendy slides her fingers through his and purrs a compliment into his ear. The words feel genuine, even if they don't cause that bass-through-the-blood hum that P.J.'s compliments might have. The more he thinks about it, the more sure he is that he actually meant what he said to P.J. and Stephanie. He is glad he and Wendy are broken up.
Which doesn't mean he wants to watch Chuck Sandler be a pig, to her or anybody else. Which somehow leads into a fight with Wendy, and tiny flower petals in his hair from her hitting him with the bouquet, and her letting out that single, dischordant "Ha!" of a laugh right in his face.
Brendan's not such a sap as to be thinking P.J.'s laugh is musical or anything, but, y'know, it's definitely nicer to his ears.
He accidentally says the last part out loud.
Wendy stuffs the bouquet down his well-tailored pants and shrieks, "I always thought -- no, I always knew that there was something between you and her!"
Brendan rocks back a step. He starts to raise his hands placatingly and then drops them to his crotch because, shit, there's a stem poking way too close for comfort. "We're friends, Wendy."
"Don't insult my intelligence, Brendan," she seethes, glaring. "And don't call me again."
"You're the one who kept calling me!" he shouts at her retreating back. He snorts in disgust and makes his own way home, after a trip to the john to shake out the worst of the floral offense -- and after apologizing profusely to the bride and groom whose wedding bliss he and Wendy were supposedly protecting by going in the first place.
He did know better, seriously. Sometimes he just has to learn anyway.
The dishes are done, Brendan thinks he finally has all the plant bits out of his everything, and he's plugging in earbuds to play himself to sleep with his bootleg extended mix of last year's Fates Warning live album. Instead of the music, though, there's an echo in his head from the kitchen earlier.
"Well, P.J., I mean, d'you ever just think that maybe he's just not ready for you? . . . Y'know, I mean, maybe you're just too much for him, maybe he's -- he's, he's got to grow into you a little bit."
The song in his ears has been on unintentional repeat for fifteen minutes, but the next time Ray Alder sings the lyric about "searching for another chance," Brendan can't ignore the obvious. He catapults out of bed. Earbud wire looped behind his neck, he jogs across the hall to knock on P.J.'s door.
She opens it and flips her lightswitch, the glow sudden but not unwelcome to him. Just being here with her feels like a needle-drop on classic vinyl, even while she peers blearily at him. "Brando? What's up?"
The comment niggles for some reason and throws him into an instinctual reply of "You turn guys into morons, P.J."
That's just another sign of how gone for her Brendan is, because he didn't intend to say anything like that, but now that he's on that roll -- "I just mean, we're idiots around you."
"Not helping!" Definitely awake now, she frowns at him. "What happened to, 'You're the best, P.J.'?"
"You are the best. You are so the best." Cupping her face in both hands, he brushes his thumbs across her cheekbones. Her eyelids flutter, just slightly, and hope kickstarts like a drumbeat in his chest.
P.J. shakes her head, the softness of her skin and the movement of her lips distracting him all over again. She says, "I don't understand."
He grins helplessly and drops his hands. "I didn't either. I lost my mind back in college over you, and I didn't even let myself realize. We made out that time, and I --"
"You 'What's up'ped me," she grumbles. And, oh, that's why he didn't like hearing that from her.
"Yeah," he admits, groaning aloud at himself. "I did. I kind of freaked out. I wanted to pursue things, y'know, but I didn't know how."
"Oh." Her expression is mostly unreadable again, but the shade of warm curiousity (or interest?) in her eyes invites him to keep going.
"I didn't want to ruin the friendship. And I still don't," he says quickly. "I just . . . "
Resting her hands on his shoulders, P.J. squeezes gently. "You can tell me anything. You are my best friend."
The right words aren't coming, so, he just goes for it, leans in to kiss her.
She returns it with no hesitation whatsoever. Her palms shift to wrap behind his head, and her mouth is soft and minty-tasting and opening against his. No rom-com crescendo, it's a rush of white noise blanking out everything else.
Brendan draws back to take a deep breath and ask, "Is that all?"
Slowly, thoughtfully, she says, "You're one of the most important people in my life. I love you so much."
"I love you so much, too." He has to force himself to let out the breath. "I don't know if you're going to say, 'and' or 'but' to follow that."
Her phone rings.
They both look behind her, where it rings again from the top of her nightstand.
"Um." She makes a face and, holding up a finger, goes to answer it with her back to him. From what he can hear on this end, Stephanie can't find her house keys. Into the phone P.J. is saying, "I'll just . . . "
Brendan thumps his head against the doorframe as quietly as he can, but she still turns to face him again. This look he knows. It says, You're not getting out of this that easily. He just still doesn't know the next line.
"Steph, I'm sorry, I'm kind of in the middle of something. Can I call you back? I promise, I'll bring the keys as soon as -- oh. You can? Are you sure she'll have --? Great." She twists sideways long enough to mutter quickly before hanging up the phone, "Yes, I'll explain tomorrow over coffee."
He crosses his arms over his chest. "What are you going to tell her?"
"Brendan." P.J. curls her hands over his wrists until he unlocks, and then she takes his hands. "You know, for us, that it is all or it is nothing."
"And you'd rather have nothing?" he says, not even trying to hide the incredulity and hurt now that she has him split open.
She tightens her grip. "No! No, I -- God, I want it all, but I'm so --"
"Scared," he finishes for her.
"It's such a risk. Are you sure? It's really what you want?" Her hands loosen. Like he's going to want to let go.
He pulls her in closer. "I haven't had the guts to step it up. I decided that had to change tonight."
"Because of Wendy?" P.J.'s mouth twists as she sticks out her tongue a little.
Snorting, he drops his head onto her shoulder. "Nope, sorry. You can't blame her this time. It's all you."
P.J. giggles (really, so much more pleasant to hear) and presses her cheek against the side of his head. "Me and my moronic waves?"
"I told you, you're a force," Brendan reiterates, lifting his head to meet her eyes again.
The look there now is one he's seen just once before, a long time ago: Kiss me, you moron.
He remembers -- and responds to -- it with pleasure.