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Game Night - Part 1
On our weekly game night I found my modest apartment overtaken by half-a-dozen gamers. Between parents, neighbors, room-mates or significant others, circumstances conspired to make my home our groups’ sole gaming location. Maybe it was the late hours and occasional bouts of not-so-quiet activity. But living alone and maintaining a cordial, if distant, relationship with my neighbors, I was free to have company at my leisure. |
We got together every Saturday for table-top role playing, Magic (the trading card game), or the occasional LAN-party. Depending on who was there, sometimes any combination of the above. On this occasion, the group consisted of Duane, Eric, Greg, Marston and Quinn. We were seated at my dinner table, preparing up for the latest session of an ongoing role playing campaign when there was a knock on the door. Puzzled, I glanced up from my reading. Most of the expected regulars were already here.
"Oh, yeah,” Marston hopped up, gesturing for me to remain seated. "I ran into Noel on campus today; He told me that his other plans got cancelled, so, uh, he’s here.” He dashed around the corner to the front door. Noel attended the same Economics class as Marston. Once their mutual interest in gaming came up, Marston invited him to several game nights six months back. He’d made a good impression on all of the guys and rapidly became a regular.
"That helps a lot.” This came from Eric, the person running tonight’s game. "I have some plans that tie-in to his character’s backstory.”
Marston quickly returned, accompanied by the man in question. The new arrival had a handsome face, his dark brown hair combed back under his beret, his gray eyes shining. Like me, Noel was around average height, probably no more than five-nine in his leather sandals. But he was a stocky fellow, his weight settling in pear shape accentuating his slightly waddle. He wore an unbuttoned plaid shirt over a tank-top, a tight fit over his pert moobs and gut; His broad hips, rump and thighs filled out the relaxed fit cargo shorts considerably.
A chorus of greetings was exchanged as Noel sidled behind me chair, the soft swell of his lower belly brushing against my neck and upper back. "Hey, Harrison,” he said, pausing to give my shoulders a light squeeze before taking a seat beside me. Stifling the blush I could feel rising, I raised a hand in greeting, offering a slight smile.
He smiled warmly in return, and I noted how pleasingly his thin mustache and stubble framed his full lips. Bumping his knee against mine, he asked, "How are you doin’?” I replied that I was doing quite well, which caused him to chuckle. "Good to hear.” When I put the same question to him, he responded with his usual, "Wonderful.”
Eric started distributing character sheets around the table. We each went over our information, re-familiarizing ourselves with our characters. I’d built a rogue, an assassin who excelled at stealth and dealing extra damage from backstabs. He had a few other tricks, brewing poisons dabbling with spells.
We were part of an adventurer’s guild in a major city, something of a contrivance, but had it saved time on introductions and explained our characters’ allegiance. The basic premise of the campaign was that our party was being sent to a colony on the outlying regions of the country to set up a new branch of the guild. It was a long journey, the road littered with monsters, brigands, and monstrous brigands. And, of course, being mostly unexplored regions, there were dungeons full of traps, treasure, and more monsters just waiting for us to stumble across them, too. And that didn’t even include random side-quests. It’d been fairly adventure/combat heavy so far, but I expected the social aspect to pick up once we got to the colony, with still more adventuring once we set up there.
I was enjoying this campaign a bit more than some of the last few, and I found myself looking forward to it each week. Eric was becoming very good at surprising me. For some reason it brought him pleasure.
Anyway, the campaign had left off with our party tracking a horde of bandits who’d been preying on some homesteaders. We had some fun interactions, amongst the players and the non-player characters (or NPCs, to those unfamiliar with roleplaying terminology), and some not-so-serious combat in the form of an inn-fight (Our bard, Quinn’s character, is something of a heavy-handed flirt) as we prepared for our hunt.
We’d been at it for a couple of hours when I heard a pronounced grumble beside me. I glanced over at Noel, my gaze instinctively starting at his stomach, where he’d lifted his shirt to soothingly pat his lightly furred gut, before rising to meet his sheepish gaze. He blushed, "I skipped lunch today.” I nodded sympathetically, turning my attention to the group at large.
"Guys? How are we feeling about a food right now?”
I’d learned that gamers (or maybe it’s just guys in general), round or thin, can consume a lot of food over the course of an evening, if it’s readily available. So, I’d arranged for a decent assortment of drinks and some snacks, but I left the actual food arrangements open. Depending on the mood, sometimes we got something delivered, sometimes a party was sent out to collect food from a designated fast-food restaurant or grocery store.
After a consensus that food would be good, we began the slow process of figuring out what sort of food people wanted and what means of obtaining it they were willing for. Too many people were tired of pizza at the moment (I was pleased to hear Noel say that he didn’t understand how that was possible, something I agreed with wholeheartedly). And since no one felt like preparing food at the apartment, they settled on a nearby fast food restaurant.
Prepared for this eventuality I had cash on hand, but most of the other guys, aside from Noel, only had plastic of some variety.
"I guess I’ll drive,” Quinn said, taking out his keys. "Guys with cards, I guess you can ride with me. Harry, Noel? What do you guys want?”
Ask any of these guys what you need to build a master archer and they could give you several optimized character builds, without even cracking open a book. But ask them to remember a meal order? That didn’t end so well. So, as was becoming our habit, Noel and I wrote our orders on a sheet of scratch paper. Noel’s list was, as usual, much longer than mine.
"Okay,” Quinn said, pocketing the cash and list. "We’ll be back soon.”
As they filed out of the apartment, I calculated that Noel and I would be alone, if experience was any guide, for at least forty-five minutes, likely longer (These ventures tend to become complicated. That’s just how it is).
"So,” Noel said, smirking coyly, "how would you like to kill some time?”
Despite the numerous ideas I had for these occasions, I once again found myself recommending a round of Left 4 Dead, a first-person shooter set in a zombie-filled cityscape. Hardly the romantic interlude I’d imagined previously, but Noel didn’t seem to mind. Once the game was set up, he settled into the loveseat beside me, close enough that our knees and thighs pressed together as we tackled the hordes of infected.
It turned out to be a fairly short food run. We’d barely started up a second campaign when the other guys returned, food in tow. Most of them settled at the table, but Marston made a detour to deliver our orders.
"Thanks,” I said, pocketing the change and placing the paper bag beside me. Noel accepted both of his bags with more enthusiasm, digging into them immediately. Even as I turned my attention to my own meal, I couldn’t help but notice Noel working his way through a prodigious amount of food: Four bacon double-cheese-burgers, two orders of french-fries, chili, soft-drink and milkshake, all of them large-sized (Which I’ve begun to admit has become excessively accurate recently).
He looked up at me looking at him, catching my eye with a grin. "Zombie-killin’ makes for hungry work.”
I laughed quietly. "’tis true.”
Despite the disparity between the amounts of food we’d ordered (I’m something of a light eater), Noel and I finished around the same time. I rose to my feet, and offered my hand to Noel who, after licking the residue of his meal from his fingers and wiping them on his trousers, took it. I braced myself as Noel stood up, leaving an broad indentation in my loveseat. We stood close for what should have been a second, close enough that I could smell the soapy scent of his body-wash overlaid with the salt-and-grease scent of fast food and feel his full stomach press against me.
"Thanks,” He murmured, after we’d shared this position for what was probably a little too long for an entirely platonic relationship. He patted my arm as he moved past me to the table. I turned to follow him, enjoying his lingering aroma and the view of his ample rump as he walked ahead. Yeah, I was in trouble. Even if he was just playing with me, I was hooked.
After everyone had finished eating, we returned to the matter of roleplaying once more. We tracked the bandits to their camp and put an end to their criminal paths. Eric then left us with the question of what to do with the women and children, who we discovered concealed in the bandit camp, whose husbands and fathers we’d executed. As we argued about how to resolve that issue, the night grew late, even for us, and came to a close.
The guys packed up their books and dice and other assorted belongings, thanking Eric for the game and me for hosting as they left. The process was slowed considerably by the distraction of conversation. But people worked their way to the door, and I saw each of them out, exchanging hand-shakes and man-hugs.
As Eric headed out, his laptop bag in hand, Marston trailed behind him, burdened with rolling travel bag that contained the small library of D&D books Eric brought to each game (Eric gave Marston’s characters extra experience in exchange). I was so caught up in my duties as a host that I had almost missed that Noel remained in the apartment, his few books and dice bag in one hand. He leaned past me, all but on me, as he plucked his beret from the coat rack.
"See ya next week?” He asked, smoothing down his hair before putting his cap on.
"That’s the plan,” I nodded.
"Cool,” Noel said, smiling. "I’m looking forward to it.”
I was so startled when he interrupted his side-step out the door to give me a hug that I didn’t realize it was happening until it was over.
He smiled as he registered my confusion. "Sorry, my family’s kind of ‘huggy’. I hope it doesn’t bother you.”
"No, no,” I said. "It’s-” Nice. "-cool. I’m okay with hugs, even the ambush kind.”
"Good to know,” He chuckled. He glanced out toward the lot, then back at me. "Hey, do you have my number?” I acknowledged that I did not. I took out my cell phone, programmed it in as he told me, and gave him mine, as well. "If you feel like it, give me a call. Doesn’t have to be for a game, it can be just ‘cause.”
"Thanks,” I said, trying not to blush. "I’ll do that.” I asked him what would be a good time, and he let me know what his schedule was like, for classes and work. I made the same offer to him, telling him he could call to me to hang out, or just to talk, if he felt like it.
"Cool,” He said, a smile tugging the edge of his lips. With that, he waved, "Good night.”
"Good night,” I said, waiting by the door as he walked down the stairs, across the lot and drove away.
Over the next several months, Noel also began to work his way into my life outside of Saturday gaming. Our calls were tentative initially, just once or twice a week, and usually just to chat about what was going on that day. There was some trial and error as we got to know each other’s schedules. I’d have to let his call run to voicemail because I was at work (Non-emergency personal calls are frowned upon) or he’d bounce my call because he was in the middle of class.
But eventually we found a good pace, with several calls a week when we got the chance. Short calls during the afternoon, Noel’s between classes, mine during my breaks at work; Longer calls in the evening, when I’d nestle into my comfy chair and we’d have rambling talks. And, of course, we saw each other on Saturday nights where I began to notice that, given the opportunity, Noel made a point to sit next to me, to increase our interactions from the verbal to the physical, in little ways.
I was beginning to find myself won over by the sincerity of his interest, although I remained unsure if it were strictly platonic or... otherwise. While I accepted his advances with more than my usual neutrality, I overstepped no bounds Noel hadn’t already crossed. While intrigued and definitely interested, I decided to match him, not up the ante.
After what felt like an unusually long work-week, brightened by my brief midweek interactions with Noel, I rolled out of bed Saturday morning with an oddly auspiciousness feeling. But I spent my Saturday morning as usual: a quick shower, some light gaming (catching up on my Nth play-through of Chrono Cross) with breakfast (syrup-slathered waffles, eggs and bacon), before straightening up the apartment in preparation for the game.
Around 11:30am, I gave Noel a call. It rang for a while, and I began to formulate my voicemail message when he picked up.
"Hello?” He yawned. I’d learned that, like most of the guys, he was a later riser on most weekends.
"Hey, it’s Harrison,” I said, "I was wondering what you were up to this afternoon.”
There was a sort of pause, and I had a visual of his mind booting up like a computer.
"Oh. Oh. Hey, Harry,” He said, sounding a bit more awake, but not by much. "Not really doing much. What’s up?”
"Not too much, either,” I admitted. "That’s sort of what I was calling about.” Now came the hard part. "I was wondering if you’d care to join me for lunch this afternoon, before the game. It seems like you tend to skip lunch on Saturday, so I wanted make sure you were taken care of today.” I added teasingly, "Although I suppose it’d be breakfast for you.”
"You got me,” Noel laughed, and I could hear springs creaking as he shifted in bed. "I slept in today.” He groaned and, in my mind, I could see him stretching, upright in bed, his phone propped between his outstretched arm and his ear, his upper body heaving gelatinously. "But, sure, I’d be up for that. Where d’you wanna go?”
"There’s a nice Chinese buffet not far from my apartment,” I said, giving him directions. "We could meet here and walk there.” We finished making our arrangements and, since he mentioned a dire need for a shower, I returned to Chrono Cross.
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Permission granted by Nobody
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