Leo has a reputation of being shallow. Eeli has dead lizard eyes. Together their weaknesses grow into opportunities.
Eeli is used to being socially awkward even in the best circumstances. It isn’t enough he lost his business after trusting his crooked accountant. Now his fiancée has broken up with him, and a recruiter calls him a Komodo dragon behind his back.
Leo needs somebody to warm his microwave meals and guard him in his tub of horrors after chemo sessions leave his fingers numb and feet shaky. Eeli wants something to distract him from his present misfortune, and his confusingly perky neighbor seems to fit that role just fine. With Eeli’s help, Leo starts to live the life he is losing in the grips of the big C, and little by little they both get more than they asked for.
There is only one hitch against their robot-loving nerd bromance turning into a real thing: Eeli is not gay. Or, if he’s going to be, he has to first deal with his ex-future-father-in-law’s retirement party, friends turning into bigots, and the disease having a good chance of killing his Leo.
On the small opening, some hopeful or naïve city planner had constructed various outdoor sport equipment. They were full of graffiti and inscriptions, and the back'n abs had burn marks all over it. Trash littered the ground, and Eeli spotted easily a couple of used syringes, jammed on the lid of an empty pizza box. Apparently, they should watch out for more than mere dog droppings.
"Oh well." Leo had sat down again and was looking around. "You should never visit your childhood favorite places. This used to be nice."
"You lived around here as a kid?"
"Yeah, I moved to study and work. I returned to the Mansions a couple of years ago when ... Oh crap! And I mean literally."
Eeli noticed it too. It must have been a very big dog.
"I used to run around here... never mind. Off you go." Leo made a whooshing motion with his hand.
Eeli should have been relieved, but he wasn't, not really. All that worry and pecking had been for nothing. Leo wasn't even trying. "You really aren't coming?"
"Are you daft?" Leo's self-sufficient and rather complacent manner had made a return even if his thighs were trembling with fatigue. "I would fall on my face after five meters. I said I want to run. I never said I could."
"Yes, I obviously am," Eeli spat. "Daft, I mean. Yes, bravo. Nice play of words. Was there any other idea for this exercise than to piss me off? Why would you think I would run by myself? I said I hate running."
"Yes, you did," Leo said, his expression thoughtful. "Why is that exactly?"
"Why would you care? You've obviously made up your mind. One of the reasons why I decided to move on my own was to stop doing things other people think I should be doing."
"Let me guess," Leo mumbled. "Girlfriend didn't like your toys... You really have more issues than a comic book, haven't you?"
Eeli was so mad that some other guy would have smacked Leo in his stupid, insolent face. Fortunately, Eeli wasn't one of those guys. Neither of them was going to run, that much was clear. The place had been a disappointment for Leo, and he would soon want to go back. Eeli just had to wait, and he would be home, tinkering with his laptop.
"Listen ... I apologize."
Well, that was new. Usually people said Eeli had angered himself out of nothing. That of course made him angrier and more confused, but who cared. Leo, obviously.
"You know those bucket lists?" Leo asked carefully. "What people should do before they die?"
Before they ... die. That was one word to crush any comments Eeli had in his head. He felt suddenly exhausted and out of breath, as if he were already running.
"Please," Leo said quickly and raised his hands. "Please, Eeli, don't look at me like that. I'm not pulling the C card on you. I mean to say ..." Leo pushed air through his teeth with a long hiss before he continued: "I don't want to travel to exotic places or eat at a five-star restaurant or swim with dolphins. Do the animals even like that kind of thing? Poor Dolphy ... I want to be able to do things I loved when I was healthy. Normal, simple things."
"You loved to run. But you can't now, so you want to run by proxy. Clever," Eeli admitted. "And totally insane."