Bruce Banner has just returned from his lab, where his latest experiment came out really well. He should go straight to bed, because it's six in the morning, but he can't seem to become the right kind of tired, probably also because it's six in the morning. So instead he's watching the sun rise out the window of his cozy (tiny) grad-dorm single room.
Quest available: Get Laid With A Little Help From My Friends
Help ??? Aarons get laid.
Success: +2000 xp, improved relations with ???, ????
He gets to wingman for people? What a nice quest! So much better than the previous thing which in fairness was his own bad idea. "Yes?" He says, aiming it at both Lev and the quest prompt.
"Yeah, I was thinking about the methods we're using for measuring cognitive decline in aging mice--"
Lev has opinions about cognitive decline! Lev also looks less pervasively miserable than he does at essentially all other times.
Lev looking less pervasively miserable is great! Cognitive decline is kind of an inherently miserable subject but Bruce enjoys hearing Lev's opinions on it more than enough to cancel that out.
"Those are some good ideas! You know a lot of cognitive science for a biochem guy, I'm impressed." Bruce has suggestions for incorporating said ideas into their next round of experiments!
Oh look there's the pervasive misery again!
"Yeah, I do."
"Sorry, I didn't mean to sound like I was--being obnoxious about it or anything. I just meant you're good at lots of things."
"It's fine. And I'm not really but thank you."
"Pretty sure you are. We should write this stuff down before I forget it all, though. Come into my room? I have paper." He steps backwards out of his doorway.
His room has a bed and a desk and a chair and a dresser and a bookshelf that looks about to collapse under its burden, and about two square feet of open floorspace left over.
It's a good thing the conversation has gone away from the perilous topic of whether Lev is good at anything.
He comes in and sits on the chair and has opinions about mice.
Bruce leans awkwardly against the desk and has opinions back!
At one point he wants to show Lev a graph and ends up standing sort of behind him and leaning over his shoulder. He notices that Lev has fluffy hair.
Oh no Bruce is really really close.
Bruce finishes pointing at the thing and moves away a bit, though given the amount of space they have it's not much. "Oh, while I'm thinking about it--I'm going to be on campus over Thanksgiving, but it would be good to have at least one other person around for the stuff that needs doing every twelve hours. What's your schedule look like over the break?"
"I'm planning to lock myself in my room, put on a skirt, read psychology books, and wank myself into a daze," he doesn't say.
"I'll be around," he says.
"Cool. Can I dragoon you into doing some of the mouse maintenance? Tell you what, I'll cook you Thanksgiving dinner for it."
On one hand, both mouse maintenance and Thanksgiving dinner would cut into his crossdressed masturbating time.
On the other hand, Bruce is smiling at him.
"Sure," he says, with the smallest smile, barely lifting the corners of his mouth.
Lev's smiles are so excellent! He should make Lev smile more. Lev is smart and thoughtful and creative and Bruce really respects him as a colleague.
What he says is, "Great! I love having excuses to cook for people." Also his previous plan had been to Skype his cousin before she went to Thanksgiving at her girlfriend's house and then spend the break in his room rereading Arthur C. Clarke between trips to the lab, so.
"I like having excuses to eat!"
Little tiny smile.
"Man, it would suck if we could photosynthesize, then we'd probably be morally obligated to do that all the time instead of eating."
Now that he is done making that remark he is pretty sure it made no sense, but if he doesn't point that out maybe he can get away with it.
Wow, there's a real smile. It lights up his whole face.
(This is maybe the first real smile Bruce has seen Lev make.)
"We could still eat for fun."
Suddenly all of Lev's earlier tiny smiles seem totally insufficient without having become any less objectively good in themselves. There's no way he's going to say "but agriculture contributes to global warming" while Lev is smiling like that. Also if the universe is a simulation they probably won't get wiped out by global warming after all.
"We could! And it would be convenient on long car trips."
"But photosynthesis would also be convenient because you wouldn't have to stop what you're doing to eat."
"Yeah, that too. I wonder if people would get cravings for photosynthesis the way they do for potatoes or whatever."
Bruce's shoulder is right there and he could put his head on it.
Instead he says, "But it might actually be awful because you'd have to take your shirt off somewhere sunny, and then people could see."
Why is he now imagining Lev shirtless. Probably this is the sex aliens' fault somehow. And/or Bruce is just very distractable.
"I bet if everyone could photosynthesize public shirtlessness would just be totally acceptable all the time. But I guess you'd still get people, like, ogling you or whatever and it would make sense to want to avoid that." Imagining is not the same as ogling but it's probably still rude and Bruce should really stop.
"I mean, people don't want to look at me shirtless."
Why did he say that. Stupid stupid stupid.