Mr. Familiar

by

EO Tenkey

Quest 26: Mr. Familiar Skips Ahead

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With Ray's reluctant "help"—by which I mean he soaked up some aggro and damage while Lucy got things done—Lucy successfully smashed up the plorg chieftain in the deepest part of the cave, thus completing the fourth story quest. The two logged off at that point, Lucy in high spirits, and Ray still in a funk.

And as ever, my consciousness faded out as Lucy vanished into sparkles. As things faded, though, I felt a rare rush of satisfaction that things were finally going Lucy's way.


The dismal forest outside of the plorg's cave faded into being around me.

"Mr. Familiar!" Lucy exclaimed, swooping me up into her arms and giving me a big hug. "Boy, I've missed you! Feels like it's been forever! Ahhhh, you really give the best hugs."

Yes, yes, Lucy. Good to see you, too. I patted her on the arm, and absently swiped open my interface as she put me down. Guess she hadn't had a chance to play for a few da—JULY 25th?! Flick me, she hadn't logged into BAO for over two months?!

I spun around to face Lucy in a panic, just as the invisible wall hit me in the back and sent me faceplanting on the ground. Oof, that was oddly nostalgic, but I had no time for it! I frantically rocked myself onto my feet, waddled forward just fast enough to get a couple inches between me and the invisible barrier, and threw myself into a forward flip. Tumble through the air, a couple powerful flaps, and I was airborne and headed straight for Lucy.

I hit her in the shoulder with more panic than grace, my momentum almost sending me flying face-first right off again, but she slapped a hand on my belly and steadied me. "Whoa there, buddy! Sorry, did you not get enough hugs?"

What? Hugs? No! That's not—diddle it! Cheep cheep!

"Oh, you just don't want to fly? Fair enough."

Gah! That had nothing to do with anything! Cheep cheep!

"No? Well, that's fine, I'm happy to carry you. Now what on earth was I doing…" She popped open her interface and started going through her quest log with nary a glance at her messages. That was odd, but I dismissed it.

I stared at her as intently as I could, which given that I was sitting on her shoulder you would think would be pretty distracting. What happened, Lucy? Why didn't you play for so long? Come on, mind meld, kick in!

Lucy blithely ignored me, though she did absently reach up with her free hand to riffle my belly fuzz as she continued reading through her quest log.

That felt weirdly good, but I would not be soothed!

Frankly, I was terrified right down to my talons. It felt like no time at all had passed, but two months of Lucy's life just went by in an instant. I'd thought things were going well, looking up even, but evidently not. Despite getting Ray on board, despite finding another friend to play with when he wasn't around, Lucy just left me.

I shivered, my fluff floofing up, and unconsciously pressed myself harder against her fingers. What was I supposed to do about that? I mean, I knew that this was a game, that the entirety of my existence was just a minor past-time, a small slice of her life, but this was the first time I'd really felt the truth of that, right down to my bones.

Flick flick flick flick flick flick FLICK!

It wasn't uncomfortable when Lucy logged off. It had been years ago, but I vaguely remembered going under general anesthesia for a medical procedure and that was the closest analog I could think of. Just—disconnecting. But it was terrifying that I had no control.

I was blessed, I told myself. Slaves, indentured servants, serfs, thousands and thousands of people throughout history had little control over their own lives. Heck, some of that went on even today. My situation was rough, but it could be far, far worse. Every day you live could be your last, right?

It didn't help. It was frustrating, it was absurd, it was encumbered by all these weird bits of game logic, but this little slice of life was mine, diddle it! I didn't want to lose it, I didn't want Lucy to get distracted by something and forget about me; I wanted to see every bit of the world that I'd found myself in and then some; I wanted to figure out what the hinterlands was going on with Witchy; get Lucy out of her unhealthy relationship with Ray; find something that actually tasted good and peck it until I maxed out my hidden size stat; maybe discover a loophole that let me be reborn as an android, and live happily ever after!

All those other protagonists got hit by a truck and ended up with a harem of cat-eared maids and earth-shattering magic powers! Why did that half rate, duck-humping, carrot-licking, ignorant excuse for a god have to land me here?!

"Whoa there, you doing alright, Fluff-kins?" Lucy swiped me off her shoulder and held me up in front of her with her hands under my arms and my talons dangling.

No, I am not alright! I'm busy freaking out here, okay?! Cheep cheep!

"Well, come here, then!" Lucy pulled me into a hug, my face pressed against her neck as she nuzzled the top of my head.

Unexpectedly, it helped. I closed my eyes, pressed up against her clavicle, and she felt so real. Warm, smooth, chest rising and falling slightly as she breathed, and the faint ba-thump of her heart measuring out the moments. I hadn't thought of her in years, but I vividly remembered a moment I'd shared with my last girlfriend, the two of us just sitting with our sides pressed up against one another as we held hands and watched some awful movie. I'd needed to slump down in my seat somewhat to hold her hand at all, and halfway through the movie I'd laid my head down on her shoulder and listened to her heartbeat instead of the inane dialog and it was just a really nice moment. She'd ended up a being a bit of a bonker and dumped me a few weeks later, but even so.

I couldn't properly hug Lucy back, but I gave it my best shot.

She'd stopped walking when she pulled me off her shoulder, and Lucy spent a solid minute or so just standing there hugging me.

Finally, she pulled away and I opened my eyes to discover her looking at me with a soft smile. "You really do give the best hugs," she said quietly, before tucking me into the crook of her arm and resuming her journey down the forest path.

She continued to talk as she walked, however. "Sorry, it's been so long since I played last. I'll bet you were lonely, huh?"

No, I wasn't conscious, but well…if that was as close as we were going to get, I'd jump on it. Cheep.

Maybe if she thought I was pining away for her when she was logged out, she wouldn't go such long stints without playing. A bird could hope.

She squeezed me a little tighter again. "Yeah, I'm really sorry about that. I just—well, a lot of stuff happened. I was at my parent's for a little while, and their internet connection is right out of the dark ages. Then I found a new place, but it was just too much for a bit, and I was worried—well, in any case, I'm here now, and we're going to have all sorts of fun!" She frowned and eased up on the squeezing a bit. "Though I suppose that Doc is probably way too high level at this point to want to do any more quests with me. That kind of sucks."

Yeah, that did suck—wait a minute. At her parent's house? She'd definitely been living with Ray, so…I guess they broke up?

Did I have that right? I totally had that right. Maybe those two months weren't a complete loss for me, after all. It was frustrating not being able to ask Lucy about what happened, but given the timing I had to wonder if her newly-discovered backbone had something to do with the relationship ending. He never had struck me as the sort of person who wanted a partner who was capable of thinking for themselves. Seemed kind of abrupt to have a relationship implode after a single fight, but I supposed it was just the one fight that I saw. Could have been a whole history that I'd never been privy to.

I really hoped she'd broken up with him instead of the other way around. Dude totally deserved it. Though that seemed unlikely, given what little I'd seen of their dynamic.

In any case, if Lucy was now unencumbered, I likely had a window of opportunity, and I was going to take it. We'd have so much fun in game that she wouldn't even mind not having a lame boyfriend!

We'd have to find more people to play with; that was a high priority, but sadly I couldn't be very pro-active about it aside from keeping a weather eye out for potentially interesting-looking players. I'd try to encourage her to contact Blocadoc, too, if the chance arose. I was willing to bet even if she was a much higher level now, she'd consider rolling an alt just to interact with Lucy and me. It was probably about time I took a more active role in combat, instead of just doing my own thing until Lucy was in a pinch, too. I—hadn't been a particularly good partner for her up until now, had I? I mean, I had a lot on my plate, a whole existential crisis to deal with, yadda yadda, but although I'd stepped up here and there I'd never tried to actively work with her. That needed to change. Now that Ray was out of the picture, she definitely needed an immediate and ongoing incentive to keep playing.

Maybe I should be a little more physically demonstrative? Try to get her to give me a welcome squeeze and suchlike. Actually, why hadn't I thought of that before? It seemed so clear in retrospect that physical contact within a game like this could be a powerful tool for creating bonds.

…Not that I'd come to that epiphany thanks to my own personal experience just now or anything. Nope, totally just thought of it on my own!

Too bad I had never been much of a hugger in my previous life. Hugs could be pretty nice.

"Well, I guess I should check my messages, huh?" said Lucy, interrupting my thought process. She swiped open her interface, which thanks to my position I could easily read for once. "Oh, what's this?"

From: Blocadoc Sent: May 27
From: Blocadoc Sent: May 20
From: [GM] SirWillington Sent: May 19

Nice, those message from Blocadoc were a good sign! Hopefully Lucy would follow up.

But to my dismay, she didn't tap the messages from Blocadoc. She went straight for the [GM] message. Pretty sure that meant "game moderator".

Oh, I had a really bad feeling about this.

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A note from EO Tenkey

Holy time skip, Batman! I thought Ray was going to be a thorn in Mr. Familiar's side a little longer, but apparently things came to a head offline. Sometimes my characters surprise me.

Plus honestly birdy-boy needed a wake-up call. Sometimes it isn't about playing the game; it's about being a good friend through the medium of the game.


About the author

EO Tenkey

Bio: Read all the things. Write all the things. Sleep? What's that? Does it taste good with chips?

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