Fandom(s): Doctor Who
Characters: David Tennant, OCs
Word Count: 2312
Summary: Being friends doesn't always mean being nice to each other.
As Will and Ben cheered and reached over to high-five each other and shouts of victory rang out from Will’s speakers, David flopped back in his computer chair, staring at the screen in front of him as he clutched at his mess of brown hair. “Wha..? What just happened?”
Will leaned way back in his chair but was only able to prod David on the shoulder with his fingertips. “We won, mate! We finished the quest! Finally!” As he flashed a triumphant grin at his two mates, Ben shouted congratulations at their game mates over his microphone.
David stabbed a hand at his screen. “That was winning?”
“Aye! Perfect, that was!” Ben interjected before returning to the online conversation.
“But I’m dead!” he whinged. Indeed, the player character on David’s screen was lying in a contorted heap on the ground, the graphics faded to gray and the camera slowly revolving around the corpse, revealing a platoon of monsters guarding it. Slow, sad music wept from his speakers.
“And a good death that was, mate!” Will winked at him.
“But how did I win if I’m dead?”
“Well, to be completely honest, you didn’t win.” Tossing his headset onto the desk, Ben flicked a thumb between himself and Will. “We won.” His lips curved into a sardonic smile as he jabbed his index finger at David. “You’re dead.”
David’s eyes narrowed. “What?” he growled.
“Told you, mate,” Will began. “That’s the hardest quest in the game. We’ve run it twenty times now, never won before. You saw. The boss, that big gargoyle thing. We just can’t kill him. He’s just brutal.”
“Right,” David drawled as he nodded. “That’s why you asked me to join.”
“Yeah, well, that wasn’t likely to help, was it?” Ben cut in. “I mean, we’ve been at this for weeks now. One more wasn’t going to suddenly kill him. And besides, it was you.”
Crossing his arms, David glared at Ben and growled under his breath. “What does that mean?”
“Sorry,” and Ben bit his lip, trying to resist the strong temptation to mock his friend mercilessly, “but really, David, you’re the single worst player I’ve seen in this MMO, and I’ve been playing it three years now.
“Oh, it’s painful watching you! You poke at the keyboard like it’s a dead cat. You barely know how to auto-attack, and half the time you’re off looking at trees or something.” He rubbed at his nose, clearly trying to swallow a derisive smirk.
“Hey, now,” David bristled. “That’s hardly fair. I’ve played this game a total of four times.”
“That’s three more than the number of mobs you’ve successfully killed.”
“I’ve killed plenty of ‘mobs’,” he insisted, popping the gaming jargon from pursed lips. “Spent the last time in that fortress, for two hours and twenty-three minutes, doing that...” He groped for the unfamiliar term. “Farming, right, farming for that metal plate you needed. Didn’t die once there, and killed a lot of monsters.”
Ben barked a laugh. “They keeled over in sympathy. ‘Lookit that bloke flailing about over there. Let’s die so he feels better about himself.’”
Screwing his face into a pout, David pointedly ignored Ben and turned to Will. “If I’m so terrible, why’d you ask me along then?”
“Well.” Will grinned sheepishly, feeling a bit guilty about taking advantage of his friend. It was all in good fun, and David was always a good sport, but this plan had been a bit mean. “There’s a second way to complete the quest.”
“And what’s that?” David drawled, trying to coerce the story out of Will.
“To open the door behind the gargoyle. You do that by holding down a pressure plate for five minutes.”
David’s shoulders slumped. “Let me guess. It’s right where you all told me to stand, isn’t it? ‘Defend this spot, no matter what!’ you said.”
“Point for the genius!” Ben tapped his nose as he pointed at David.
“It’s not the easy route,” Will hastened to assure his friend. “Too easy to get killed or knocked off the button and the timer starts all over again. The rest of us healed you and kept the mobs off you as best we could.”
“And the moment the door opened, you were all gone and the only meat left was little old me.” David rolled his eyes. “You could have just told me I was being a sacrificial lamb.”
“This was way more fun,” Ben sneered, scooting his chair back to hop up. “Beer for the conquerors!” he chanted and marched out to the kitchen, David scowling at his back.
“Hey, mate, could you serve up that platter of nachos whilst you’re there?” Will called after him.
“Nachos for victory!” came the reply.
Rising from his seat, Will stepped over to David and grasped his shoulder. “David, I’m so sorry. I had no idea what Ben was planning when he asked you to join us for this. I hope you don’t mind.”
David’s irritation immediately vanished and he grinned up at his friend. “Mind? Pfft. I’m used to this sort of thing, kept in the dark whilst being used for some nefarious purpose. Story of my life, in a way.”
Taken aback by David’s sudden attitude change, Will hastened to let him know that it hadn’t been just a cruel prank. “You really did win the quest for us. We’ve been wanting to try this method for a while now, but no one else would stand on the plate. No one wanted to miss out on the quest reward.”
“Will.” Gazing up as his friend, David shook his head as he traced his lip with his tongue. “I may not have known the exact mechanics of what you were doing, but your intentions were pretty obvious the moment you told me to stand there and don’t move no matter what, in the middle of that melee.” He patted Will’s hand on his shoulder. “It’s fine. I don’t mind. Glad to be of some use.”
Will shook his head in disbelief. “Mate, you’re a sport.”
“Do it for my friends.” David scooted his chair back to the computer and recalled his character to the safe point. “Isn’t Shell going to be upset that her character didn’t get the reward either?” he asked, pointing at the figure on his screen.
“Nah, she doesn’t play anymore, which is why Ben has her account now. Doesn’t matter what you do on it at all.” Will patted David’s shoulder, then decided to explore what had been nagging him all through the quest. “I have to ask, you are just sandbagging, aren’t you? Because MMOs really aren’t as difficult as they seem to be for you. At least not PvE. You really do only need to target and attack.”
In reply, David leaned forward to the keyboard and, running his character to the nearest enemy, executed an extended series of rapid commands that dispatched it faster than Will had ever seen, the complex dance of attacks, defenses, and evasions he performed preventing it from landing a single blow on his character before it died.
“Blimey, mate!” Will gaped. “Like a boss! You’re not even a gamer!”
David shrugged. “It’s not that hard. Basic algorithms. Actions, reactions, attacks, blocks, counters. A bit like martial combat but in an extremely limited fashion. It’s knowing your skills and timing, and your enemy’s, really. Pretty easy against one primitive AI. Bit harder against a number of them, more to keep track of. And against a real player, it’d be even more difficult, of course. Unpredictable, hard to guard against.”
“Lord,” Will breathed, stroking his chin. “I would love to be in your brain, just to see how you do that.”
A dark shadow passed through David’s eyes. “No, you really wouldn’t.”
“Fair point,” Will mumbled. He shook his head. “It can’t be fun, playing like you can barely handle pressing one key at a time. Why are you doing it?”
David shrugged. “I’ve got to fit in, don’t I?”
“No, no,” Will responded, shaking a finger at him. “I get that. Why are you pretending to be this bad?”
“It’s easier than attempting to maintain just the right level of ineptitude for someone who doesn’t play.” David settled back in his chair.
“I suppose.” Spinning away, Will crossed the room and dropped back into his seat. He grabbed an empty pop can from his desk and toyed with it before chucking it in the small recycle bin at his feet. “Well, you’ve made Ben happy, at least. He’s finally found something he’s far better than you at, and he’s going to keep rubbing your nose in it.”
“I wish him the best of luck with that.”
A sly lilt in his friend’s voice made Will look up. Idly tapping a few keys to make his character dash around randomly, David traced his upper lip with his tongue with a sardonic smirk. Will’s jaw dropped, astonished. “You’re baiting him!”
“Baiting? Nah. It’s sympathy, really.” He dropped his jaw to mimic Ben’s Geordie baritone. “Lookit Ben flailing over there. Let’s pretend to be inept so he feels better about himself.”
Flopping back in his chair, Will chortled until he had to mop at his eyes with his hand. “Oh, mate, you’re playing a long game.”
“Aye.” Leaning his chair far back, David lay almost horizontal as he peered at his friend. “I figure, he can’t resist. There’ll be the taunts and the traps like this, and he’ll keep asking me to play, just for the ego boost. Oh, and he’ll offer to teach me, to show how magnanimous he is. And finally, he’ll lure me into a duel, to humiliate me yet again. I can’t really expect to defeat him at his own game, but I don’t think it will go at all the way he thinks it will.”
“Masterful, mate.” Will breathed. “I hope I’m there to see that.”
“Well, you’d have to be. I only ever get to play on your server box.” He popped up to pat the computer.
Just then, Ben strode in, toting a tray piled with bowls of tortilla chips, salsa, cheese, and other fixings. David jumped up to help him distribute them among the computer tables. “Few more in the kitchen, and the beer, of course.” As he retreated, David grabbed a chip, dunked it in the guacamole, and sat back down at his desk.
Will had already started in on his snack. “Well, I can’t wait, though I reckon you’re going to take this nice and slow.”
“Oh, yes.” David’s tone was self-satisfied.
“You’re playing it perfectly, too,” Will commented, shaking his head in disbelief. “Just the right amount of indignation and hurt pride. You had me going there.”
Pleased by the compliment, David glanced at his friend with a shy grin. “Well, that is what I do.”
Will wagged a finger back. “Remind me not to get on your bad side.”
“You? Not possible.”
“A fine IPA you have here, Will,” Ben announced as he appeared, thrusting the three bottles in his right hand at David as he balanced the laden tray with his left. “Almost finished mine whilst ladling out the sour cream.”
“Glad you like the choice,” replied Will as he took the tray and set down the last of the bowls. “There’s plenty more.”
“Not for long.” He snagged his nearly-empty bottle from David and sat down in his chair to eat. “Ready to run another quest?”
“Oh, no, not I.” David pulled the bowl of guacamole over and selected a chip. “A couple more and I’m off. Got to get back to work.”
“Oh, don’t go.” Ben thumbed toward his monitor. “We need you.”
David snorted at the thought. “No, you don’t. You can find someone to take my spot, easy. Anyone would be better.”
“Oh, don’t take what I said to heart,” Ben assured him. “I was just joshing you. You’re coming along fine. More practice is all you need.”
Swallowing his snack, David snagged another chip and waved it at Ben, shaking his head. “I’m happy to help, but nah, I don’t think so.”
“If you like, I can teach you a few things. I’ll have you gaming like a pro in a day.” Ben’s offer was charity itself, but with his knowledge of David’s insight into his plan, Will could hear the condescension in Ben’s inflections.
“A fine offer, which I should take. But next time.” Grabbing his beer, David pushed himself up out of his chair and wandered toward the door.
“You’re on.” Ben settled back in his seat with a self-satisfied air. “Next weekend, maybe?”
“If I’m not busy.” He saluted both of his friends with his chip. “Thanks for the game and the nachos. It’s been… interesting.” And with that, David headed out.
Ben waited until he heard the slam of the front door before speaking again. “That was brilliant! Finally won the quest, and he didn’t have a clue! For such a clever bloke, he’s a bit thick.”
“Don’t underestimate him, mate.” Unwilling to give away David’s game through an inadvertent smirk, Will kept his back to his friend, his eyes glued on the screen as he pretended to study his inventory display. “He might surprise you yet.”
“That’s just David. He’s always had his head in the clouds. Doesn’t mean he’s not a fine mate. It’s just so easy to pull the wool over his eyes that I can’t resist.” Downing the rest of his beer, Ben dropped the bottle on the desk next to his computer and pulled in his chair. “Come on. Let’s get the squad back together and we can head out into the Abyss.”
Will hid his smile from his friend. “Okay. Let’s go.” Hooking on his headset mic, he and Ben rejoined their friends for more online adventures.