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not real, made up, purely intended for entertainment

Roll for Initiative

by Buddleia

"So, how do y'all know each other?" Lance propped his elbows on the rickety table and smiled round at the four of them.

"Well, I kind of inherited C and Justin from another game," said Chris, "they came with the furniture and the old lady named Brenda who lives upstairs."

"Dude, that's not cool. We're not objects, you know."

"JC had his own custom dice and Justin had built up an impressive knowledge of game lore to support his constant rule lawyering - ouch! Stop it, brat! - and they were kind of bummed out when I told them that whatsisface had moved out and I'd moved in. They banged on the door on a Friday night and stared at me with puppy eyes until I admitted that I'd run games in Philly and then agreed to set one up here."

"That is such a lie," said Justin, tipping the last crumbs from the Doritos bag into his mouth.

"Oh, speaketh the parfait knight."

"That guy, Mark something, he was Dungeon Master for our game and he told us, he said that you were a DM, you would want to carry on when he left for New Jersey. I was there when he called you, you dick."

"Sure, whatever, anyway, the doe-eyed pair brought Jason along from somewhere disreputable and Joey and I have been running games since we met—"

"At the Disneyworld place," said Justin, helpfully.

"Well done, J, at the Disneyworld place. Anyway, Jason flipped his lid a few weeks ago and has decided to no longer grace us with his presence and J asked if he could bring you along. And here you are." Chris executed a bow across the table. Lance nodded graciously in return.


JC and Joey had left and only the kids were still there. "Come on, Lance, honey, I'm taking you as well." Lynne was waiting in the doorway.

"Thank you, Ma'am, just coming! Ok, so before we go, I have a couple of questions,"

"Ask away, dude, just don't pull that magical fog shit on me if you don't like the answer," there was a meaningful cough, "magical fog stuff, I mean, sorry, Mom."

"A Werewolf? I never heard of that before."

"Well, he kind of died in the game."

"And you brought him back as a Werewolf? And let him keep playing the character? That doesn't seem fair."

"It's totally not fair! I told Chris, like, six times. There's a rule specifically about post-mortem playing!" Chris looked mulish as he swept crumbs off the table and directly onto the floor.

"So, how come?"

"Well," Justin looked sideways at Chris, "Joey and Chris go way back, you know?"


"—and the wolf mauls you horribly," Chris glanced up at Joey, who looked completely crushed. He swallowed and went on, "—taking your Hit Points down below zero and leaving you for dead on the hillside." Joey sighed and put his hand over the dice in front of him, sliding them back and forth.

"Okay, Chris, I get it, I'm done for." He looked so sad. Chris gulped. Kelly had dumped him again that week, Joey had confided in Chris earlier, and he was probably losing his job at the theatre.

"And, and, and then! Your body twitches as the lycanthropy spreads through your veins, transforming you in the brink of death! Your eyes open and gleam with yellow light. You have become a Werewolf! - that changes your race, not your class - you rejoin the group and cross over the hill!"


"What the fuck? Chris? There's no such thing!" Justin was scowling and Jason looked ready to throw something, but Joey was beaming like an idiot. Chris set his shoulders and glared around the table.

"Joey's a Werewolf. Now, fucking roll, JC." JC smirked and shook his lucky pink dice.


There was a bunch of food cans in Chris' kitchenette. They had been left by Whatsisface and, for some reason, had no labels. Once he'd thought about throwing them out. More than once, however, he had found a decent meal amongst them when he was too tired or too broke to do anything else, so they stayed, cluttering up his storage space and confusing the hell out of him. "Chris." Justin's voice broke in on his thoughts. Chris replaced one can with another. It was important to mix it up, to live a little. Only dead fish go with the flow. "Chris! Listen to me, I mean it, man. You're pissing everyone off with this Joey thing."

"I don't know what you mean." Chris looked at the expiration date on the only labelled can and then took off the label. Justin sighed. Chris should never have given him a key.

"Mom said to give you these," He dumped a bag of groceries on the table, "she said it's in return for looking after me on Friday evenings."


JC was late one night and they had already started without him when they heard his car pull up outside. He came down the stairs and angled his head to get under the low ceiling where it dipped, bringing a very obvious split lip into view. He made a shuffling reference to asshole record company execs and then talked them all into a really awkward situation with some orcs and a village idiot. His eyes were bright and his face was flushed and Chris would have said something if he weren't a useless coward.


Jason stopped coming by and didn't return JC's calls. Chris sort of left it too late to call him and decided it was too awkward to try. Justin brought in a friend of his from Drama Club called Lance. He turned out to be shy and kind of tough in that way the dorky kids get when they've had their lunch money taken away from them too often. Chris persecuted him on principle until he snapped and told Chris off in terms which would have shocked his mother. Chris was delighted. Lance had a rather obvious crush on Justin, but had no hesitation about threatening him with blackmail over some tiara thing when he got too divalike.

Chris occasionally broke his own rules and let Lance have a beer if he arrived early. Which was how he found out what the deal was with the tiara. He was holding it back for a special occasion.


The light bulb flickered and Lance jumped. "Come on, JC, make a decision."

JC smiled. "Ok, it's cool, I've got it. I'm casting a spell. Spell is Charm Person on the Captain of the Guard and, er, I'm going to say to him, er, 'Hi, man, we're totally cool, we're just going to go and hang out with those cats over there, yeah?"

"Right," said Chris, "the Captain fails his saving throw and looks at you in a friendly way—"

"I'm casting a spell, Call Lightning, which fries the Captain, melts the gate and kills all of the guards instantly," said Lance, throwing them both a withering look.


"So, you work as a, a singing waiter," For a guy who hung out with a thief, an elven bard, a werewolf and a knight, Lance seemed surprisingly weirded out by the idea of a singing waiter, thought Chris, uncharitably, "Joey sells theater tickets. What does JC do? He got kind of cagey when I asked."

"Er, well, he told me he was a P.A. to some record company guy, but I'm pretty sure he never works, exactly. He comes by the restaurant to bug me all the time."

Lance looked at him. "Justin thinks he's hooking."

Chris choked, "Did Justin tell you that?"

"No, Lord! No. But, I'm not stupid." They both looked silently at JC, who was trying to put something in his back jeans pocket. The jeans were really very tight and he'd already spun round three times.

Chris pressed his lips together and looked doubtful.


"Do you think I can bite him and turn him into a werewolf?"

"Jo-ey! I don't think that'll be helpful. It's not like he'll magically be on our side afterwards"

"Dungeon Master decides that, Sir Limpsalot, it's not up to you."

JC had piled all the empty beer cans into a wall between him and the rest of the table and was humming something. Chris, feeling spiteful, took one of the base cans away. JC looked at him, disappointment in his eyes and flat beer on his shirt. Lance sighed audibly and looked up from his Wonder Woman comic. "Chris, how much sugar have you had?"

Chris hung his head.


Joey was late again and Justin was at some kind of audition with his mom. Lance had sworn Chris to secrecy - ha! - about Justin's kiddy pageant thing but Chris bet Justin still kept his tiara somewhere in a cupboard. Lynne was a strange woman. She was kind of hot, too. She had made a point of spending a lot of time with them the first few weeks Justin had joined the game, explaining that she didn't think Chris was a pervert, but she had to be sure about him if Justin was going to be there every week. Chris had been too freaked to even be insulted.

Chris had had a shitty week and was starting to wonder if playing Dungeons and Dragons with a bunch of kids on a Friday night was as lame as his colleagues thought it was. The new guy, Howie, had spent the whole day trailing after Chris, asking him stupid questions and making him feel inadequate. Howie was hot but he was really short. And had stupid hair. Chris didn't regret turning him down for a drink tonight at all.


JC and Lance were talking quietly in the main room, Lance on the one comfortable chair and JC leant back across Chris' bed. Chris kept one ear targeted on their conversation as he stumbled around the kitchenette in the corner, trying to find a glass. Lance's rumbling voice, for the first time in the few months Chris had known him, sounded weary and bitter. He sounded ten years older than he actually was. Chris found a plastic mug with 'WORLD'S BEST BROTHER' on it and filled it with juice. He went over to the other two just as JC was saying, "—might not be the best person to ask, man." and handed it to Lance. Lance accepted the mug with a raised eyebrow.


"Do people really believe that?"

"Of course. The last place we lived, the pastor used to tell my mom to make sure I didn't read horror books or play role-playing games, because they were a secret way to encourage Satanism and homosexuality."

"Seriously? Guess you're hiding a few things from your mom, then."

Lance bit his lip and glared at Chris. "Actually, she thought it was funny. She knows I come here with Justin and she's fine with it. Ok?"


Howie hadn't stopped hitting on Chris, although he seemed to be putting some serious time in with some tall guy called Kevin. Chris casually mentioned while on break that he was a Dungeon Master. Howie looked shocked but fascinated. Chris, as he often had to, clarified that no, he wasn't into S&M, he ran a weekly role playing game with four other guys, two of whom were still in high school.

Howie dropped the subject and, subsequently, the flirting. Which was fine, actually.


Joey had eaten all the Funyons and drunk the best part of a six-pack and was lying across Chris' bed. He'd been helping his family redecorate and had been exhausted even when he arrived. JC was perched on the kitchen chair Chris had stolen from his upstairs neighbour and was picking at a thread on his sleeve. Lance had gone home with Justin, probably having hidden all of Chris' remaining stash under his jacket. Lynne was probably a safer bet for residual weed smoke in the curtains than Mrs Bass. Chris wondered miserably if he would be able to throw the other two out in time to get a few hours sleep.


JC took his time seeing Joey out to the cab and Chris would have cheerfully collapsed on the bed and stayed there if JC hadn't left his purse ("satchel," insisted JC, "it's a fucking satchel, stop with that shit.") on the floor and so would definitely be coming back, if only for the keys to his car. When JC came back waving a bottle of apricot brandy, Chris wondered if he was hallucinating. He rinsed out the plastic cups and found some ice in the refrigerator. The ice tasted like a dirty dishcloth, but it was cold.

"Ok, cat, we're going to set up a new module or we're switching to another game next week, this is getting painful."

"Hey! Who's DM, here?"

"Some guy with a hopeless crush on some other guy with a hopeless crush on some girl. Dude, that never ends well. Even with werewolves." JC said this with such sincerity that Chris had to crack a smile.

"I don't, really," he said, "it's just easier, this way. Joey's kind of - safe?" JC nodded so hard it looked like his head was loose.

"I get that, Chris, I do. It's just, you're worrying me."

"Afraid for my frail emotional state?" Chris fluttered his eyelashes and clutched his chest.

"No, it's just that I can't keep Justin from instigating a military coup much longer, man. Get it together. I'm the only one who can hold back the Timberlake tide. His parents get me on their side before making him take out the trash"

"You guys see much of each other outside of Fridays?" said Chris, curiously. It occurred to him that he didn't know much about JC except his taste in chips and his ability to invest the character of a Bard with somewhat worrying intensity. He'd spent far too much time speculating on how he might have got his car and all the designer jeans he wore and was kind of ashamed of listening to Lance.

"Oh, man, we go way back. Waaaay back. Like you and Joe?"

"Are we having a bonding moment, C? Should I get out the nail polish and the toe separators?" JC snickered and Chris wondered for a moment if he actually owned toe separators, "No, I've known Joey for years, actually. He used to work at Der Waffle Haus with me until we both started at the hell hole. Then he got the theater job and of course he's still hoping that a crappy ticket sales job might get him on stage."

"Yeah? You've always been close?"

"Very close. But not like that, you pervert. We just used to do each others' makeup and have pillow fights. Now, give me some more of that sickly stuff you call alcohol, bitch. You want to do this? Ok, I've got some ideas for the next adventure."


"Oh, this is good. I really like the stuff about the falling star. Should she be a baby star? Or should she be a babe?"

"Oh, a babe, definitely. But can we not do the thing where we roll to see how big her breasts are? Only Joey really goes for that."

"Sure, sure," Chris was feeling generous. He waved his cup of amber glop around, "but you have to tell him."

"I can do that." JC was lying next to him on the bed, stupid tight jeans and all. Chris looked at him for a moment, opened his mouth and then shut it. "What, Chris? You look like a goldfish."

"Justin thinks you're hooking." Chris shut his mouth again, possibly for ever. He could take a vow of silence.

"Justin thinks I'm—" JC went pale.

"He didn't say that!" Chris just managed to close his mouth again before he mentioned Lance's name. Seriously, vow of silence.

"I'm a fucking P.A! I work my ass off every morning so that dick Clark can make his stupid presentations for talentless mommy's boys with no fashion sense all afternoon! I haven't had a whole weekend off in seven months!"

"I could kill him for you?"

JC looked thoughtful, "No, I've got a better idea."


"In front of you is a door. Next to it, in a small alcove, is a statuette of a dragon. It has jewelled eyes and you feel sure that it is somehow magical."

"Then, I pick up the statuette and put it in my backpack and then open the door."

"Aaaand the statuette is cursed with a spell! It has a magical effect on any passing knight foolish enough to touch it!"


Justin was still cursing a blue streak when JC reached over and put a hand on his shoulder, "Enough, baby girl, it's tacky to swear when you're under sixteen."

"Not to mention unladylike," added Joey, ducking the rule book Justin flung at him, "Whoa, hey, now we have to roll for your breast size!"

Lance, who was sitting on the bed, leant back against the wall and laughed and laughed and laughed.



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