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a little awesome life planning

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Tom wakes up on couch that feels like the pillows might have magazines and books stuffed under the cushions and, before he even opens his eyes, tries to blindly dial in an acupuncture appointment at the nicer spa in Eagleton. Which is when he realizes he’s on Leslie’s couch and stops dialing, mostly because it seems somehow wrong to call Eagleton in Leslie’s house. 

He’s not entirely sure of the events leading up to waking up on Leslie’s couch, but he keeps his eyes closed and tries to shift into a more flattering sleeping pose when he hears footsteps and starts to remember a little bit of the beginning and some in the middle. Not much in the middle, really.

-


"This is actually just depressing," Tom says. He's been staring at Ben where Ben is staring at Leslie for at least ten billion minutes. 

"Did your Farmville die?" Ben asks, not really looking away from Leslie. 

Sometimes Tom wonders what Ben and Leslie do when they're alone. Not in a, like, creepy sex way -- though, okay, he's totally thought about that, not the creepy sex, just about how Leslie doesn't really need sleep and Ben is really boring but probably into weird nerd sex things and how it would be weird in general -- but in a way where he mostly hopes they don't just stare at each other because Ben is so boring.

"No," Tom says, trying to convey how ridiculous he finds the fact Ben thinks Farmville is something that could die and that Tom would not be awesome at it, if he were using it anymore, with just one simple word. He's been practicing the whole one-word-meaning-lots-of-things tone and its been working out pretty well with the ladies. Kind of. It's a work in progress.

"I play Pimpville, anyway," Tom adds. “Jean-Ralphio was an investor in its creation."

"Of course he was," Ben says, nodding vaguely. Damn, he almost has the words-meaning-other-words down better than Tom, but in a more confusing way. 

"I was talking about you," Tom says. "Depressing." 

"Hey," Leslie says. She's good at the tone thing too, Tom has to practice more. 

“I’m just saying,” Tom says, shrugging. “You’ve been staring at Leslie for twenty minutes, dude, with the same dopey nerd smile like you aren’t bored or anything.”

“Awww,” Leslie says, looking up briefly at Ben and smiling. “That’s so sweet.”

“Ugh,” Tom says. He definitely does not understand their relationship. 

“I’m not bored,” Ben says, shifting to lean back against Leslie’s deck and face Tom. “Or depressed.” 

Tom raises an eyebrow. “Really? You don’t have a job, you live with Dumbo and Secretly Scary Spice and you’re voluntarily hanging out in a government office and most of those shows you like are in-between seasons, right? De-pressing-ing.”

“Okay,” Ben says, doing his little nod thing. 

Tom spins around in his chair and opens up Farmville and Pimpville. Whatever, Ben can just be boring and non-depressed and Tom doesn’t have to care about it or worry for his well-being and lack of bro cred or anything.

Except a little later Leslie gets really excited about something to do with taxes or whatever and cheerfully tells Ben they’ll have to postpone their dinner date until the next night. Ben looks at first like he’s sad and then like he’s completely fine with having nothing to do on a Friday night except watch Lord of the Flies or whatever. 

And, okay, Tom is kind of worried for his well-being or whatever. 

“You should come bar hiz-opping with me,” Tom offers after an appropriate(ly long and creepy) amount of time has passed between Ben and Leslie staring warmly at each other. 

Ben looks at him oddly, head tipped to the side. “I think I’ll pass,” he says after a moment. “But thanks for the offer.”

The thing is, beyond worrying for how depressing and boring Ben is as a person — come on, he treated himself to a Batman costume — Tom is pretty much solo tonight because Jean-Ralphio is in Atlanta doing something he told Tom about in a freestyle rap that Tom can’t remember, but was probably awesome. Not that Tom doesn’t have options, he has so many options, but he figures a change in priorities for a night (finding a lady vs. helping Ben become awesome) can’t hurt. 

“Aw,” he says, “come on, it’ll be fun times.” 

“That’s okay,” Ben says. 

“It’ll be way better than anything you’re planning on doing,” Tom adds.

“Really, I’m fine.” 

Which is so sad Tom has to stand up and button his new Tom Ford cardigan and insist Ben come out and do something un-nerdy and exciting. 

“Don’t you have any other plans?” Ben asks. 

No, Tom doesn’t, but no one in the room needs to know that. “Tons of plans,” he says. “But I’m willing to ‘resech them just to show you how awesome your life could be if it were more like mine.”

“It might be fun for you,” Leslie says to Ben, which might be because she wants everyone to leave so she can focus on taxes or raccoons or waffles or whatever, but is probably just because she’s a smart lady. 

“Really?” Ben asks, making a weird disbelieving face that seems to Tom to be his default expression 70% of the time. 

“Sure, maybe someone will learn something,” Leslie says, making a weird face back that Tom doesn’t understand entirely. Maybe Leslie wants Ben to be less Ben-like, too, and Tom is actually doing a great thing for one of the greatest people he knows. Ben is totally going to learn how to be awesome tonight.

Which ends up being how Tom ends up at the Snake Hole with Ben, who is a really bad wing man. 

The night started out pretty well, enough that Tom ordered celebratory drinks for himself, Ben, and some girls sitting alone at the bar in celebration of future awesomeness. Ben had taken well to Tom’s toast, too: “To our future broship!” but ruined it a little by talking about Lord of the Rings and a fellowship or something, which was less cool and made one of the girls leave.

And Tom might have ordered more drinks while Ben talked animatedly about something with two women until Tom got bored and dragged Ben into a dance pit, which was just disturbing and awkward. Then there were more drinks, and Tom may or may not have ended up yelling at Ben about his boring, weird life that he could not possibly be content in at all, which led to going outside because the music was loud and Ben was pulling at him. Or something. 

Mostly Ben stands outside with him while he says stuff and then stops saying stuff.

“Seriously, though, Tom. Why are you trying so hard to change my life if I’m fine with it?” Ben asks. He doesn’t sound mad, though Tom figures he has every right to be, even if everything is fuzzy and Tom apparently can’t make him awesome and it’s annoying that he doesn’t want to be awesome. 

Tom doesn’t think he can get away with another explanation about how depressing it is that Ben is fine with his boring life, and beyond that he can’t think of anything to say. 

Ben makes a weird face, his mouth going thin-lipped for a second before he gestures to the bench to the side of them and goes and sits on it. Tom follows after a moment just out of curiosity and sits down carefully — he can’t really remember what side Jean-Ralphio threw up on that one night a few months ago, but he’s pretty sure it’s the side Ben is sitting on. 

“Did you ever think maybe you’re unhappy with your life and wish it could be more — maybe more like mine? And that you might be trying to fix me to make yourself feel better?” Ben asks.

“Whoa, I am completely happy all the time. My life is great, why would I want to make it boring and full of nerd things?” Tom says, mostly.

Ben shrugs, not even commenting on the use of ‘nerd’, which should probably be a warning sign, but Tom is kind of distracted. It’s kind of like he’s dying and his life is flashing before his eyes really fast for no reason. All for trying to make his kind-of-friend (past tense) be more awesome and less boring with a night out of broship. 

“I’m just suggesting —“ Ben starts.

“Stop suggesting,” Tom says. “I’m dying here.”

“You — what?”

Tom shakes his head. Four strikes: Ben is a really bad wingman who makes Tom feel bad about things he shouldn’t feel bad about. “I’m going home,” he says. He checks his watch and frowns. “At eleven at night. Now I’m unhappy with how my life is going. It’s Friday.”

Which is how Tom ends up at his empty place, thinking about life way too deeply to not be accompanied by soft lighting and a mournful background rap. 

Which is how really late at night he ends up at Leslie’s doorstep, hoping she might shed some insight on stupid things that Ben says that turn out to mean something, maybe.


-


Tom wakes up for the second time to the smell of waffles, his back still hurting, and someone poking his face with the back of a spoon.

“How much did you let him dri— Tom!”

Leslie’s face is really close and Ben is standing behind her with a plate of waffles. 

“Waffles,” Tom says, sitting up. He vaguely feels like he promised Leslie they’d have some sort of life-altering super deep conversation at some point last night. The middle part of his night is still kind of blurry, the other parts are coming through with more clarity, though: knocking on Leslie’s door and almost walking away, Leslie answering wide-awake with a half-asleep looking Ben behind her possibly trying to look like he could protect her, and then some half-drunk crying on the couch about life while Leslie patted his head and affectionately called him her favorite manchild. He also definitely remembers Leslie making him promise to stay for breakfast and talk about his life. 

Leslie slaps his hand away. “Are you unhappy, Tom?”

“Yes,” Tom says. “Because you aren’t letting me have waffles and your couch feels like it has books shoved under the cushions?”

“Oh, yeah,” Leslie says, “that’s research. I didn’t want it to look messy.”

“Leslie,” Ben says. “Focus.”

“Right,” Leslie says. “No waffles until we talk about how you are unhappy with your life and secretly think Ben is awesome.”

“I don’t think —“

Leslie shushes him. 

“Do you have any important plans?” Ben asks. 

“No,” Tom says, reluctantly because it’s early, he has a headache, is thinking about waffles and trying to piece together the last day of his life, and can’t think of an excuse. And it might not hurt to talk to Leslie (and Ben, if he has to stay) about stuff he can’t really talk to anyone about. (Unless he wants Jean-Ralphio to rap about it again, which he doesn’t. Not until he has a totally baller, awesome life story to relate.)

“Good,” Ben says.

“Great!” Leslie says.

Tom has a moment of regret before Leslie hands him a plate of waffles, but the waffles are good, if not the best homemade waffles Tom has had in a really, really long time, and that might be a good start to a new sort of awesomeness, if Leslie and Ben can somehow help him figure that out.