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night is young

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“Max, I found your twin!” Penny says, barreling through the dim room, dragging behind her a guy who looks nothing like Max at all.

“I don’t think so, Pen," he tells her as the guy peers at him, equally dubious, through his glasses. He doesn’t look a thing like Max, but he does look weirdly familiar. In fact, he looks a lot like—“Pen, did you kidnap the band again?” It’s not a bad habit, not really, it keeps Max amused, but it rarely works out the way Penny wants it to. “Wasn’t Jane supposed to be keeping an eye on you?”

Penny flaps her hand in a way that’s probably supposed to be an answer, and then, when Max clearly still doesn’t get it, trills, “Oh, she and Brad are screwing in the bathroom, but I think we’ve got a solid seven minutes before we get kicked out, the line’s not that long tonight,” and fuck whatever she’s trying to achieve here with the rhythm guitarist, that’s the important point right now.

“Damnit, I liked this place,” Max tells her, edging back towards the bar. If they’re getting thrown out again, he’s getting another drink first.

“I know, right?” Penny agrees absently, using nameless-band-guy’s shoulder as leverage to rock up on her toes and scan the room to get a sense of the mood in the bathroom line.

Nameless-band-guy is smiling a little dazedly, and it’s a nice smile, and he’s not making any move to run away screaming. Max decides if he’s going to be around for a while, Max should probably introduce himself.

“Max, by the way,” he tells the guy.

“What?” The guy looks back at him all expectant, not like he didn’t hear, but like he’s waiting for the rest of the sentence. Trust Penny to kidnap the weird one. She couldn’t have gone for the singer just once? Max could have sworn that he and the singer had some serious eye contact going on.

“My name,” he tells the band guy, “is Max.”

“Oh, I know,” the guy says, and Penny is staring at them gleefully, Max is pretty sure that whatever joke he is not in on here cannot be that good.

“That’s the part where you’re supposed to say your name,” Max tells him, and the guy’s mouth tilts up at the corners.

“Max,” he says, and then stops, like that’s the end of the sentence. The guy is clearly fucking with him, and Penny is giggling and Max is bored.

“What?” he asks, and the guy opens his mouth probably to say something else cryptic and distantly amused, but that’s when Penny breaks.

“I told you he was your twin!” She says, and then, “Max, meet Max,” and she is definitely buying Max’s next beer, that is not actually funny at all.

He tells her so, and she nods like she was expecting it, because Penny’s his girl, and they’ve known each other a disgustingly long time. She shoulders her way through to the bar and leans forward to get the bartender’s attention, and Max is left alone with other-Max.

“I’m disappointed in you, man,” Max tells other-Max sadly. “I expect it from Penny, but guys in bands are supposed to be cooler than that, right?”

Other-Max just shrugs and says, “Not in my band,” but then it looks like he sees something over Max’s shoulder, and he ducks and steps to the left, where the crowd is thicker, and suddenly it all makes much more sense.

“Aha!” Max shouts, after a second’s hesitation where he runs through whether it fits Dave’s very strict criteria for ‘Aha!-worthy-moments’ before deciding he doesn’t give a fuck. “I should have known you had ulterior motives. Who are you hiding from?”

“Just an old friend,” other-Max says, edging further and further back as quietly and unobtrusively as he can manage as Penny turns back to them, drinks in hand.

“Don’t think I didn’t hear you ‘aha!’ there. Give me one good reason I shouldn’t tell.”

“I’m using it to charm state secrets out of your new boyfriend?” Max offers, looking back at other-Max, whose subtlety in sneaking off is not serving him well, here, since in this kind of crowd, subtlety mostly means not moving too much, and therefore not getting too far.

“Wait, are we dating?” Penny asks other-Max who looks hunted.

“What? No—” other-Max reaches out, puts a hand on Penny’s arm, gently guiding her three feet to the left. “Stand there a second, please?”

“He’s hiding from someone he says used to be a friend,” Max explains to Penny, and it’s as other-Max is exasperatedly and convolutedly trying to explain, “He’s still a friend, he’s just not a friend, you know?” that Alex makes her way over, hand in hand with a guy with phenomenal arms.

Max asks, “What is this, show and tell?” just as other-Max makes eye-contact with the guy with the arms and says, “Hi, Ryan,” and Alex hops up and down a little and says, “Guys, this is Ryan! Ryan the ribs guy!”

Penny, who has been telling Max that Ryan-the-ribs-guy can’t actually exist, he has to be someone Alex has made up now that Dave is getting serious with the smoothie-stall girl, ignores other-Max even as she clings to his arm, squealing and rushing forward, dragging other-Max with her, to shake Ryan-the-ribs-guy’s hand.

“A pleasure to meet you,” she tells him, cutting her gaze over to Max and making significant eye contact. The other thought that Penny has entertained, should Ryan-the-ribs-guy not turn out to be a figment of Alex’s imagination, is that he might have done enough research to perfectly impersonate Alex’s dream guy in order to con her out of—well, out of something. Penny is still working on that part. She’d been pretty certain, though, that no one besides Alex could have that strong of feelings about ribs.

Max nods at Penny, but he’s actually a bit more interested in the weird eye-contact between other-Max and Ryan-the-ribs-guy over Alex’s head, which is going on kind of long.

“Hey, it’s good to see you, man,” Ryan-the-ribs-guy tells other Max. “Even if I did see you trying to hide from me for a minute, there. Did you think I was not going to notice?”

“I thought you weren’t going to be here,” other-Max says, smiling crookedly, and Ryan-the-ribs-guy laughs, and Max is sure this would be a really touching moment, if he knew what was going on.

As it is, it’s mostly just kind of boring, all weird-intense eye-contact, and Alex looks about ready to wander off when Brad and Jane shove their way through the crowd toward the door, escorted by a not-totally-happy-looking bar tender. Jane turns her head and catches Max’s eye, hair a mess, jacket trailing behind her and grinning, and mouths, “Are you coming?”

“Right,” Max tells the handshake-engaged group in front of him. “Time to move out, troops. You guys want to take this touching reunion on the road?”