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Shooting Stars, Satellites, and Other Flaming Wreckage That Falls Out of the Sky

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Thursday 09:42am
From: Peter Hornberger <hornberger@tgs.sheinhardt-universal.com>
To: Liz Lemon <liz@tgs.sheinhardt-universal.com>
Subject: (no subject)

Just curious, do you think we're ever going to be able to speak to each other face to face like normal people ever again? Ever?

-----

Thursday 09:46am
From: Liz Lemon <liz@tgs.sheinhardt-universal.com>
To: Peter Hornberger <hornberger@tgs.sheinhardt-universal.com>
Subject: Re: (no subject)

I don't know. Probably. But not today.

-----

Thursday 09:53am
From: Peter Hornberger <hornberger@tgs.sheinhardt-universal.com>
To: Liz Lemon <liz@tgs.sheinhardt-universal.com>
Subject: Re: Re: (no subject)

If it helps any, I'm sorry I left.

-----

Thursday 09:54am
From: Liz Lemon <liz@tgs.sheinhardt-universal.com>
To: Peter Hornberger <hornberger@tgs.sheinhardt-universal.com>
Subject: Re: Re: Re: (no subject)

Come on, Pete, what did I just say? NOT TODAY.

-----

Thursday 09:55am
From: Peter Hornberger <hornberger@tgs.sheinhardt-universal.com>
To: Liz Lemon <liz@tgs.sheinhardt-universal.com>
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: (no subject)

What? That was an e-mail. That wasn't face to face. I thought we were e-mailing? I thought we were sitting 10 feet from each other and communicating by the only means available to broken, emotionally stunted, stupid idiot screwups like you. And me, too, to a lesser extent. But mostly you.

-----

Thursday 09:57am
From: Liz Lemon <liz@tgs.sheinhardt-universal.com>
To: Peter Hornberger <hornberger@tgs.sheinhardt-universal.com>
Subject: SHUT UP

Yeah, we're e-mailing, but we're not TALKING about THAT right now. Not today. Please, please, PLEASE, Pete. Don't make me beg.

-----

Thursday 10:01am
From: Peter Hornberger <hornberger@tgs.sheinhardt-universal.com>
To: Liz Lemon <liz@tgs.sheinhardt-universal.com>
Subject: You shut up

I don't know, I wouldn't mind some begging.

-----

Thursday 10:02am
From: Liz Lemon <liz@tgs.sheinhardt-universal.com>
To: Peter Hornberger <hornberger@tgs.sheinhardt-universal.com>
Subject: ugh

You're gross.

I'm leaving my office now. Don't come out of yours or I'll punch you in the junk. And it will be unpleasant.

-----

Thursday 10:03am
From: Peter Hornberger <hornberger@tgs.sheinhardt-universal.com>
To: Liz Lemon <liz@tgs.sheinhardt-universal.com>
Subject: (no subject)

So, we're cool?

-----

Thursday 10:03am
From: Liz Lemon <liz@tgs.sheinhardt-universal.com>
To: Peter Hornberger <hornberger@tgs.sheinhardt-universal.com>
Subject: Re: (no subject)

We're cool. But I'm serious. I'm going down to the stage now. Do not try to talk to me.

-----

While she ate lunch at her desk, Liz made a pros and cons list.

At the top, under pros, she wrote, "He's Pete."

Then, under cons, she wrote, "HE'S PETE."

She double underlined his name on the second one before tossing her pen aside like it was one of those dumb shock buzzer trick pens that Lutz gave her for Secret Santa last year. She stuffed the legal pad in the bottom drawer of her desk and slammed the drawer shut.

Writing it down made it real, and making it real made it weirder. She still hadn't beaten the Weirdness Boss on this level that had to be killed before she could begin the journey to defeat the next one.

She didn't want to think about this. About what it all meant. About what they were supposed to do now. Did Pete have to move in with her? Sure, he was already living with her, but… was he actually going to move in? Did she have to start acting like a stepmother to his kids? Sure, she wanted a kid, but not five of them, and definitely not five of them who were already screwed up and going to hate her.

It probably would've been better to think about these things last night. But she hadn't wanted to think about them then, either.

She hadn't been thinking about anything then. Not really. That was kind of the point.

Half asleep when it happened, curled up on the couch with Pete's leg for a pillow. He was gently shoving her shoulder, and she heard his voice from somewhere far away.

"Get up, I want to sleep and this is my bed."

"It's my house," she mumbled.

"And I appreciate your hospitality, but my leg is numb below my thigh and it'd be great if you could move, Elizabeth."

That woke her up a little, enough to snort a laugh into the denim under her face. "Are you calling my head fat?"

"Not at all. It's just the immense weight of your brilliant, genius brain—"

"Ugh, kiss ass," Liz muttered and groggily propped herself up. "Gimme a break. I spent half my day rewriting the opus that is 'Frank Rossitano Presents Fart Planet' and the other half convincing Jenna that using her prison fan mail to do a fake advice column in People Magazine is a really dumb idea. What did you do?"

Pete half-smiled. "Everything else."

Liz rubbed her eyes under her glasses. "Yeah, okay, you beat me."

Pete jumped up from the couch in an awkward victory whoop and stepped wrong on his still-numb leg. In a move that Liz would not be able to re-create when she remembered it later (which for some reason she kept trying to, even though she was absolutely not going to think about it) he stumbled and pivoted and pitched forward onto the couch. When (not) remembering it, Liz thought she put up her hands to stop him from falling on her. She must have, because they somehow ended up on his chest, her fingers splayed. His knee was on the cushion beside her, leg pressed up against hers.

And it seemed as though they stayed like that forever.

Until, for some stupid reason, or maybe for no reason at all, Liz got the feeling that everything was just too close and intense and… whatever, and instead of moving so that Pete could fall onto the couch beside her, or pushing him back so he could stand up again, or saying, "Hey, get your big lug ass off of me," she leaned in.

She remembered that Pete's expression changed, he looked surprised, and, very quietly, he said "Uh-oh."

Then she kissed him. He kissed her back. They were kissing.

And it… it was nice.

-----

When they moved into her bedroom, he started to fumble beneath her shirt and Liz had never really noticed how big his hands were until they were inching up her waist.

She squirmed underneath him, socked him in the shoulder. "Hey."

"What? You want to stop?"

"No… no… just…." She yanked the bottom of her shirt back down and slapped his hand away. "Can we… not take any clothes off?"

Pete sat back and stared down at her in disbelief. "You just want to dry hump?"

Liz's nose wrinkled and she reached up to pull her glasses back into place. Hump was such a stupid word. It either had the potential to be really funny or really disgusting. No inbetween. And this case was the latter. "Ugh. No. I just… I want to do this, okay? And if there are clothes coming off, it's going to feel really weird and that's going to make me not want to do this. And I don't want to feel like I don't want to do this."

"I think to do this there needs to be some clothing removed. Has it really been so long since you had sex you've forgotten how it works?"

"I mean the minimal necessary requirements of clothing removal."

Pete crossed his arms and examined her closely, deep in thought. She was about to throw a knee into his side to snap him out of it when he gravely said, "Alright. One condition."

"What?"

"May I touch your boobs?"

She sighed. "Over the bra?"

"We have a deal."

He held out his hand and she shook it.

"Be careful though. The wire keeps poking out of this one; it's driving me frigging crazy."

Pete smiled, faux-wistful. "Why on earth would I want to compromise for you?"

"Yeah, keep talking, Hornberger. You'll be back to over the shirt like that."

Pete rolled his eyes, and Liz closed hers, and when it happened her sweatpants were still on one leg, black and blue striped knee socks firmly pulled up and in place. He had tugged his pants down the minimum required amount, and both were fully clothed from the waist up.

Liz kept her glasses on, and her eyes closed. She made herself stop focusing on how it was Pete's hands, fingers splayed across her ribs, and Pete's mouth, kissing her shoulder through a layer of fabric.

When she did, she found herself enjoying it. But then she remembered. Pete's hands. Pete's mouth. Pete's… Pete.

And after a while, she found that made her enjoy it more.

That was the weirdest thing of all.

-----

Pete had already left the apartment by the time Liz woke up the next morning. That never happened, but then again, neither did them having sex. She guessed that explained it.

She skipped her morning donut, the smell of chocolate and coffee making the sick gnawing in her stomach even worse. That never happened either. It was a morning of nevers. She couldn't wait to find out what the next one would be—would it be Never Being Able to Look Pete In The Eye Again? Only time would tell!

Blerg.

Head down, eyes on her shoes, she went into the writers room with a vague grunt that might have passed for a greeting in an earlier phase of the evolution of the human species.

A shadow changed the light over the carpet she was so carefully watching, and she looked up just in time to avoid crashing into him. She stopped short.

"Hi. Pete. Hi."

"Liz."

"Hi."

He nodded at her stiffly and she looked at the ground again and tried to step around him, but he stepped to the side as well and then they were engaged in that stupid sidewalk dance in the middle of the writers room until Pete's hands (and Liz still could not stop noticing how large they were, and she'd never noticed that before last night, and it was still weird that she was noticing it) landed on her shoulders and moved her toward the wall as he passed by her.

Liz stumbled, then recovered, and kept on the straight-line trajectory to her office.

"Whoa," Frank said. "Are Mom and Dad fighting?"

Liz stuck her tongue out him, and from the corner of her eye she saw Pete flip him off. Quickly, she shut the door and slumped behind her desk. With a sigh, she opened her computer up and stared at nothing in particular on the screen until the e-mail thingy pinged at her.

Just curious, do you think we're ever going to be able to speak to each other face to face like normal people ever again? Ever?

She hoped so. She really, really hoped so.

-----

Liz couldn’t explain it. All day she tried. She hid in her office as much as possible, avoiding everyone, especially Jack, because Jack would know somehow, and she didn't need that, and Jenna, because Jenna would probably get it out of her and then tell everybody. And Pete. She was avoiding Pete to the point of abruptly turning around and power walking to the other side of the building as soon as she spotted him anywhere. For some reason it seemed like he was everywhere.

It shouldn't be this hard to be around him.

Because Pete was easy. Pete was Pete. Pete knew exactly what kind of day-to-day crazy parade she had to march through at work. Pete was responsible for being her normal, her anchor, more often than not the least crazy thing in that crazy parade. He didn't care that she always (always) wore socks. She never felt embarrassed when he pointed out the food in her hair. She didn't have to work to impress Pete, didn't have to pretend to be something she wasn't in order to keep him in her life. It was enough that she had the ability to look at a half-formed sketch pitch and know instantly how to make it better, and to get all the right answers on the Jeopardy Star Wars category. It was enough that she could make him laugh.

But now what?

Maybe it could be explained away, rationalized, filed under Stupid Mistake That Will Never Happen Again and forgotten. Maybe Pete's pathetic-divorced-guy-living-on-her-couch schtick endeared him to her in a different way. Maybe the fact that he was available now had her subconsciously looking at him as an option she'd never considered. Maybe the planets and the stars and the moon and the tides and a square on the calendar all aligned in the right place and the right time, and she just wanted to get some and Pete was just there. Maybe she'd been plain old lonely last night.

Maybe it wasn't that simple. Maybe it just was.

Maybe it was like comedy, in a way. That some things were just funny, and if you tried to explain them, to break them down into their little parts and analyze them and work backwards to find where they came from, they stopped being funny. They lost all their magic. It was better not to touch them. To just let them be, and enjoy them as they were.

Maybe it was like that. It just was, and this was how life was going to be from now on, and she just had to enjoy it.

Maybe.

-----

Late that night, when everyone else had gone home but Liz was still working, there was a knock on her door. Pete poked his head in without waiting for a response and Liz jumped in surprise.

"Hi. Pete. H—"

He held his hands up to stop her. "Let's just bypass that whole conversation again."

"Okay," she mouthed.

"Listen, I'm sure you want to go home at some point, so… I just thought I'd tell you that I'm fine to get a hotel. I packed a bag when I left this morning, so you can go as soon as—"

"No," Liz interrupted. "Don't. Don't do that. I… I want you to stay."

"Really?" Pete was honestly shocked, and narrowed his eyes in suspicion. "You're not gonna start charging me rent, are you?"

"No. 'Cause for some unknown reason, I kinda like having you around."

"Just kinda?"

"Don't push it."

Pete chuckled and looked out the window, and Liz smiled down at her hands.

"I'm sorry I left this morning," he said. "I was hoping to avoid that whole awkward morning after what-have-we-done thing."

"Yeah, instead we got to do that here, in front of everybody."

"I'm sorry."

"No, that's probably my fault too," Liz sighed. "I'm sorry I started it."

"Don't be," Pete said.

"Really?"

"Yeah." He paused, and glanced at her from the corner of his eye, and saw that she was finally looking at him. "Are we actually having an adult conversation about this?"

Liz smiled at him. "I think we are."

Pete raised his hand up, palm out, and Liz held hers up too. They air high-fived across her office and for the first time in twenty-two hours, things were normal.

-----

"Maybe no funny business for a while," Liz said quietly, and Pete had to lean down to hear her. Somehow it was easier to talk about this while wedged by the doors on the 1 train. The wall of passengers around them meant there was a valid excuse to gloss over the details.

"I'm still trying to process this, and… going too fast with that might…" she trailed off and shrugged. "I don't want another day at work like today."

"Liz, I've known you long enough to know what a total raisin cake you are. If you didn't need time to get your shit together, I'd be worried about you."

Liz rolled her eyes. Pete continued, "Frankly, I think I need processing time too. Because today was weird."

"Ugh, wasn't it?" she said. "Okay. Good. That's settled."

"One condition."

"What?"

"If last night ever happens again, shirts come off."

She heaved a sigh of great inconvenience. "Fine."

A seat opened up nearby as the train pulled in to 72nd St. Liz dropped into it, and Pete grabbed the pole beside her.

They were silent now, too far apart to keep up the conversation without involving everyone else in their section of the subway car. So Liz nudged Pete's foot with the toe of her sneaker, and Pete half-smiled down at her, and she really couldn't explain it, but it felt like everything would turn out okay.