Screen Trips

Jill wiggled to a more comfortable position on the bed, punching up the pillow tucked under chest to keep her propped over the keyboard in front of her. This was a good group, and she didn’t want to misskey and make her warrior character do something stupid. Jim’s character, Ardreno, was taking a few hits before Grundo, the troll that was main tank managed to pull aggro from him. These new winter wolves were no easy kills, but this group was doing well so far, and the experience was moving nicely, even for their higher level characters. Shinelle might even reach 47 today, if they kept playing.

She jumped at Jim’s touch on her thigh. Ardreno’s target was dead and he was auto-fighting now, leaving Jim’s hands free to wander. “Jim! Stop that! You’re gonna get us killed!” She clicked to target on the last monster and reached a hand back to pull him off, but he grabbed it and held it to the side while he bent and gently bit where the bottom of her panties lay at her bare upper thigh. She giggled and twitched away. Guess that’s what she got for laying around in t-shirt and panties to play today.

The battle ended and she sat Shinelle down to recover endurance before the next pull. Jim licked at the back of her other thigh and she felt herself becoming more than a little distracted. “Jim, Ergin is pulling again, pay attention!”

“I am paying attention. I’m paying a lot of attention.” He grinned at her as he flopped back down to his own keyboard for another battle, his length warm at her side. “As a matter of fact, I’m standing at attention right now!” Ardreno dutifully began hammering at the next wolf in line, the norseman’s muscular arms swinging the glowing hammer rhythmically, hitting most swings for good damage. Occasionally he slammed the wolf with his shield, as well, stunning it for a short time. He jumped in front of Ergin for a second, taking the wolf’s attack away before pounding away again.

Shinelle swung her blazing sword beside him and the wolves slowly died once more. Jim’s hand found it’s way up her t-shirt this time, as he was able to leave Ardreno swinging at the last wolf once more. Jim straddled her thighs and ran both hands up her sides, fingers grazing the swells of her breasts where they were squished against the pillow. She clicked a last style as the beast died and typed a quick “AFK for a few, AF on Chendra” before turning over under him and pulling him down for a kiss. He kissed her quickly but deeply before pulling away to glance up at her screen. Her hands pulled at his shirt as he quickly bent sideways to follow her example with Ardreno, letting the group know they were not playing for a bit, and setting Ardreno to follow somebody in case the group of characters had to move.

He shed his shirt quickly as he turned back to her, bending to kiss her breasts, one hand warm cupping the soft flesh as his mouth sucked and played with her other nipple. “Oh, Ardreno, my big strong warrior, that feels good!” she teased him, playing out the game. Her hands ran through his thick brown hair.

“Shinelle, sweet warrioress, thou hast seduced me I fear!” He switched breasts. “I cannot keep hands and mouth from thee!” He murmured, then captured her nipple as she giggled at him. She arched her back, lifting her breasts to him for a moment before pulling his hair to drag him back up to kiss her. He obliged, fastening himself to her lips and playing with her tongue. He pulled away quickly though to scoot himself down and work her panties off. She helped kick them free and opened her knees wide. The pillow now under her shoulders let her watch comfortable as he knelt to taste her, already wet at his teasing. His tongue quickly parted her folds and she gasped at his touch. No subtlety this time, with the group waiting on them. His lick was straight to the point and she was ready for him, lifting her hips to meet him. He ran his tongue up and down her a few more times, sending deep thrills through her and spreading moisture around until she was wide open and slippery.

“Come on, Ardreno, show me how a warrior can fuck me!” She grinned and scooted down a bit as he shed the loose flannel trousers that were tented on his hips. His erection bare, she hardly got a sight of his smooth length before he obliged her, laying over her and sliding it home. She was a little surprised at how horny she was, but it felt sooo good to have him fill her, and she gave him a little moan and pulled him down on her, knees clasping his hips.

“Oooh, Shinelle, you’re so hot!” he groaned in her ear, softly biting it. “Must be the battle that does it to you!” He laughed a little at her as she thrust up to meet his already quick rhythm. She was too, hot and rising fast. Images flashed through her mind of their characters, not cartoons but more real versions, laying together as they were, hard bulging muscles under her hands, heavier weight laying on her, her own strength equal to it as he thrust into her. The fantasy made her grin into his neck and she bit him a little harder than was her wont while her hands ran down his back to his ass to pull him into her harder.

“Oh, my Ardreno, you’re so strong!” she whispered into his ear and he pulled his head back to kiss her again, tongue thrusting deep into her mouth as his cock filled her below. She felt her orgasm nearing already and ground herself against him as he drove home, the pressure on her clit sending her over the edge. She cried out and closed her eyes, feeling him come with her. The rush of feeling swept through her and she felt disoriented for a moment, coming harder than she expected to, dizzy, the room spinning around her, moving without her volition…

Then she was standing, gasping, her armor a weight clasping her body tight as it shivered a bit, walking on it’s own until she stopped and opened her eyes to see the wolf Ergin had just bolted with a spell bearing down on them. Grundo’s huge axe swept toward it and another huge white form hurtled toward Chendra, whom she’d been following. She stood there, frozen, while it attacked the woman who called out, “Peel! Peel damn it! Get it off me!”

Another warrior scrambled backwards and she realized she recongnised Ardreno trying to get away from the gigantic beasts attacking them. Grundo yelled, “Hit it, hit it! Get it off the healer!” and she finally realized she had a sword. She drew it and swung at the monster, giving it a weak blow in the side, not enough to draw it’s attention from the healer. She hit it again, harder, and it turned on her but not before the healer dropped. She had a glimpse of Ardreno’s terrified face before the beast ripped into her and she fell as well, still dazed. She dimly was aware of the rest of the group falling to the wolves as her perspective altered oddly, looking down at her character’s body lying on the snow where they’d been fighting.

A voice sounded in her head, “Shit. We’ll have to release, nobody else around up here. What happened? Saw you two break stick and figured you were back, or Elgin never would have pulled! Why didn’t you assist?” Jill realized with a start that it was Grundo, and this was group chat.

“Um, I don’t know, must have been a lag spike,” she mumbled, having to say something and having no idea what was going on.

“Well, that’s enough for me for a while anyway. Gotta get some food and stuff. See you guys again sometime.”

“Yeah, me too.” Most of the rest of the group agreed and the bodies disappeared from where the wolves still sniffed around, gravestones taking their places. Jill shuddered, it was sort of a macabre sight. Her warrior’s body still lay there, and she wasn’t sure what to do. The sense of the group was gone from her mind she realized, not knowing it was there until she felt it leave. Grundo must have disbanded it.

If she released, would she wake up? Or…or what, exactly? Where they trapped here? What the hell happened anyway? Well, she couldn’t stay floating here, and she knew only one way out. She thought RELEASE as hard as she could, and her consciousness spun away, dizziness sweeping through her until she was once more laying in her body. Jim seemed to have passed out on top of her, and she quickly pushed him off, rolling him to the side and spinning to find her keyboard. She typed a send command to Ardreno, You there, Jim? Think RELEASE! Think it hard, it will bring you back home.

She waited, and in a moment a gravestone appeared on her screen and Jim stirred next to her. She quit the game and flopped back on her pillow, pulling her t-shirt down from where he’d hiked it under her arms. She found herself shivering and pulled the blanket over her. Jim suddenly scrambled backward off the bed, staring at his computer like it might bite him.

“What the fuck happened? What was that!” he backed against the wall beside the door, eyes wide.

“I don’t know. Weird, huh?” She wasn’t thinking very well, her mind replaying the scene they had just lived, and died, through. She shivered harder and felt the stickiness between her thighs. “I think I want a shower.” She couldn’t think about this, it was too much. She wanted heat, and something good and familiar. Taking the blanket with her, she got up and headed for the bathroom.

“A shower? That’s all you can say after that! We just died! Oh my god, we just died! What the hell happened?” Jim was almost hysterical and grabbed her as she started past, looking at her with a sort of desperation.

“I don’t know what happened, Jim, but I’m cold, and I feel weird, and there’s nothing to do about it, and I want a shower!” She pulled away and moved onto the bathroom.

She turned the shower on hot and climbed under the spray, letting the hot water run over her as she leaned on the wall. A flash of teeth rending her flesh ran through her mind and she shuddered and curled up, huddling in the bathtub with the shower pounding heat into her. It occurred to her that she didn’t remember any pain, though. No blood, either. Just those teeth rending into her and a feeling of weakness. The warmth slowly calmed her. Sort of like virtual reality, it had been, but so real!

She’d been pretty lousy at it, though. The thought brought the ghost of a smile to her lips and she got up, slowly beginning to wash as her thoughts spun through it again and again.

She found Jim in the kitchen drinking coffee. Strong coffee she found when she poured herself a cup. He looked up at her with vaguely worried eyes in his thin face and she smiled at him. “It wasn’t all that bad, was it? I mean, we didn’t get hurt, and we’re back…”

“Not bad? Jill, we died! What if we hadn’t come back? What if we were stuck there? What…” he shook his head and stared into his coffee. “I don’t understand it. How could that happen? I mean, it’s just weird.”

“Yeah, it was.” She couldn’t think of anything else to say, her own thoughts where too scrambled, but she was suddenly ravenous. She set her cup down and began pulling out things to make some dinner. “I don’t know what it was, Jim, but we’re back, and I’m not going to panic now. Enough for tonight, I think.”

Jill’s sleep was filled with wolves and swords and spinning, and she woke unsure if her dreams were good or bad. Work was interminable, and when she finally got home she went through her usual routine of mail and food in the oven and such in sort of automatic until she was in her usual attire at home, the t-shirt and panties, and found herself staring at the computer. That was where she went next, every day. Should she?

Well, what had really changed? It was the sex that did it, wasn’t it? Seemed like it. And nothing really bad had happened, right? So why not? She shivered a little and stood there, undecided. What else would she do? Read? She didn’t have a book she really wanted to get into just now. TV? Nah. Insipid this time of day and she’d seen all their movies too many time. She wanted to game. Well, why not?

Jill hesitated another few seconds, then mentally shrugged and flopped herself on the bed, reaching to turn on the computer and wait for it to start up. Soon she was running Shinelle down to the south end of the land, to her favorite dungeon for gaining gold and experience. She managed to find a group and was deep in the tunnels fighting the spider beasts when Jim came in.

“What are you doing?” His voice had a note close to panic in it and she grimaced before turning to look at him over her shoulder.

“Hi, honey. I’m gaming of course. How was your day?” She turned back to the game, waiting for the expected venting to begin.

She wasn’t disappointed. “How can you do that? After yesterday, whatever it was yesterday…it’s dangerous! We don’t know…we don’t know anything! Jill!”

She sighed, forgetting the same thoughts that had flown through her own mind earlier. “Jim, it’s perfectly safe. It only happened when we were having sex. And nothing really happened anyway.”

“Nothing happened!” Oops, wrong thing to say… “We were sucked into the game! We were attacked! WE WERE KILLED!” He stepped in front of her, trying to get her attention. “Jill, what if we got stuck in there? What if we hadn’t come out? Jill, we don’t know what happened! It’s dangerous!”

“Jim, calm down. Nothing happened, it was just some sort of virtual reality. We were fine! It must be some kind of new biofeedback circuit we accidentally tripped or something. Look, I’ve been here for an hour now, and nothing has happened!

“Dinner is in the oven and should be about done. Why don’t you go get it out. I’ll be there in a minute.”

“Promise, honey? Please log off, you scare me.” Jim’s face was pale, and he was staying well away from the computer while trying to hold her eyes. He was really scared!

“Ok, Jim, ok. I’ll be right there. Just let me camp and log off.” He pecked her cheek and reluctantly moved away. She made her apologies to the group and sighed as she got Shinelle to a safe spot and logged out. Tomorrow. She was off work tomorrow. She could play then.

Shinelle sliced at the megaceratops doing that neat little flipping turn that Jill liked so much. She wondered if she could actually do that. Her finger went to the next key in the attack chain and another beasty kissed the dirt to be slowly absorbed away. She made Shinelle sit to regain energy before taking on the next one. Fighting solo took longer, but she found herself too distracted to be much good to a group right now. She kept looking at Shinelle’s moves and how she did them. She’d even gotten up and tried one or two in the living room, but she felt ridiculous and probably looked more so. At least the lamp had survived. She grinned again at the thought.

It was so…so…tame, though, doing it this way when she knew she could be there! Why hadn’t virtual reality come farther, she wanted to actually participate, or at least feel like she was!

The thought she had been trying to suppress came back, and with it a rush of warmth to her groin. Maybe she could. Since Jim was so afraid, maybe she didn’t need him. Maybe she would be enough herself. But to go in there alone…

So what. Nothing bad happened. She could quit and release any time. Yes, she was going to try it. A nervous shiver went through her at the decision. Not these megaceratops, though. The needed someplace safe and secure to do this alone. Someplace with nothing but grays, and no traffic. She ran Shinnelle back toward town to catch a horse to the portal. She’d to that back corner in the middle of the main land, where there wasn’t much worth hunting so nobody went. There were enough grays there for her purposes and nobody to wonder what she was doing if they caught her swinging at nothing on their screen, figuring out how things worked.

Her hand moved down to her already wet pussy while Shinelle was on the horse, and she turned sideways on her pillows and ran her fingers over her clit and down to gather some moisture and spread it back. She began moving her fingers in a circle and gasped as she realized how turned on she was by this. It wasn’t going to take her long and she slowed down. She didn’t want to come too quick and find herself falling off the damn horse.

Shinelle got to the port town and Jill paused long enough to run her through and get another horse from the stablemaster there. Still only one horse route available from a port town. Sheesh, she hoped they’d fix that soon. At least it was a route in the right direction this time.

Her fingers began moving with the rhythm of the sound effects, the horse galloping her closer to orgasm. She imagined the strong warm body between her legs, the power moving under her and her fingers were soaked with her juices. She almost missed the spot to jump and reached quick with her other hand to hit the A and set Shinelle to running west, back toward that little lake tucked away in the corner of the map.

Her fingers moved faster as she watched Shinelle run, imagining the sun on her back and the trees going by on either side. Strange looking creatures watched her run past and she ignored them, gray to her and worth nothing. The feeling was rising through her as she brought Shinelle to a stop at the edge of the lake, and she lifted her hips as she worked on herself, thinking hard about laying on that beach and taking a swim afterwards, feeling the warmth of the sun as the heat of her orgasm began to wash through her. She felt the weight of hot chain mail enclose her body as her fingers flew and she came, arching off the bed, eyes clenched shut, breath exploding out from being held.

She knew before she opened her eyes that it hadn’t worked. She was still on her bed, in her t-shirt, and Shinelle still stood on the lake shore where she had no real business being. Dammit.

It must take two, something about the sharing of energy or something. Well, fine, then Jim would just have to get over his fears. So, how was she going to accomplish that? Sex was the key of course. Always was with men. She could tell him how handsome his character was, how muscular and strong…no. Wrong approach. He’d just get all insecure about his own body and how she didn’t want him for himself.

But herself…she could work on seducing him, get him all hot, then feed him the thought of Shinelle, all lithe and muscular, slender in places where Jill was a little more, well, padded these days. Yeah, that was it! Convince him they would be safe and could make love on the lake shore, nothing around that could hurt them.

She logged his account on quick and took Ardreno to where Shinelle was, then she went and got in the shower, leaving the two sitting there on the lake shore together, AFK flags on.

Jim came home to the rich smell of steaks cooking. Jill stepped around the corner from the kitchen and smiled at him. “Hi, babe! Dinner will be ready in a minute!” She was wearing her red tank top with that wrap around skirt she only wore around the house. It was slit to the thigh, or at least it was since he had torn it a bit higher. He smiled and moved to the side where he could see into the kitchen and enjoy the view.

Steak and his favorite outfit. Nothing too unusual, nothing he could point to and say, “Special,” but he knew what she was up to. And he was pretty sure he knew what she wanted too. He went into the bedroom to change. Sure enough, both computers were on screen-saver, and he bet if he clicked them up they’d both be logged into the game. Well, she was doomed to disappointment. There was no way he was going back into that game, and there would be no sex until both computers were safely shut down. But no reason he couldn’t enjoy her efforts until then!

He shucked his clothes and pulled on his soft flannel lounging pants before wandering back to the kitchen. He caught her at the counter and slipped his arms around her, holding her against it to nuzzle the back of her neck. “You look good enough to eat, love.” He wrapped one arm tight around her midsection and let the other hand drift up to softly caress a breast. His lips ran down to her shoulder, nudging her hair out of the way. Two could play at this game!
“Mmm,hmmm. Later, the steaks will burn!” She pushed back from the counter, making him step back or lose his balance. “Now go sit down! Dinner’s ready.”

The steak was good, crusted with spices like he liked it, and for once not over cooked. She must have watched it like a hawk! He smiled to himself, she was really going all out for this. He could sort of understand why she wanted to try it. It was so different from anything in their normal lives. And so much more real than just clicking the mouse and typing. But the sight of that creature actually running at him, and the jaws closing on him. He concealed a shudder. Even without pain, it was just horrific. He squelched that niggling little thought in the back of his mind that whispered something about cowardice. It wasn’t cowardly to fear monsters with teeth that size! It was just foolish to go looking for them with no reason!

He looked across at Jill and she smiled at him. Damn that tank made her tits look good! “That was great, Jill, thanks.” He finished his glass of wine and pushed back. “Wanna watch some TV or something?” he asked, waiting to see how she would deflect him. He went and sat on the couch and picked up the remote. She was in his lap within a second. He grinned down at her and to himself. No way she was gonna let him get distracted.

“I had something else in mind, baby.” She reached up and kissed him under the jaw, tongue moving on his skin. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close, feeling himself starting to respond already. He ducked his head to run his lips over her shoulder, then met hers as she pulled back a bit. They’re kisses were always good, they were a good match. They took their time, exploring lips first, then deepening it. He loved kissing her, they could bring each other to full arousal just kissing. He picked her up a little and moved her sideways off his lap onto the couch, stretching along side her. He kissed her again, his hand wandering under her top to find her soft, soft breast and the firm nipple at it’s peak.

She sighed and her arms went around him, her hand moving down his back as she half turned to press against him. She pulled away from the kiss to whisper to him. “Let’s go to bed, baby!”

He ignored her and slid his hand down her hip and up her thigh, sliding the skirt up to her waist. He knew she was wearing nothing under it, and he let his hand drift over to cup her soft mound, pressing lightly and petting her. She moaned a little and tried again. “Take me to bed. We have more room there.”

“I like it fine right here.” He reached to kiss her again, harder this time, and he let his middle finger slip between her lips, finding her wetness and stroking it back along her to her clit. She moved under his hand and against his length as he stroked her. His cock was rock hard and tenting his pants, and he moved so it lay across her hip, rubbing it on her a little, as he could.

She moved her hand to stroke him through his pants and he groaned. He reached to kiss her once more as her hand pulled the elastic waist band over him and he gasped a little as his bare flesh was captured in her grip. She stroked him a couple times then the elastic slipped back up to get in her way. He slid his hand back and forth on her, the length of his finger running along her clit, and returning with more moisture from her depths each time.

She moaned, but pulled away from him. “Let’s get these clothes off, baby. I don’t want anything between us. Come on, let’s go to the bedroom.” She slipped away, standing and taking his hand to pull him up.

He sighed and sat up, adjusting himself so the elastic didn’t rub as he moved. “Ok, ok, we’ll go in the bedroom.” He got up and let her tow him along, then left her to sit at the computer and begin shutting it down.

“What are you doing, baby? We can do that later, come on, I want you!” she crawled on the bed behind him and pressed herself to his back.

“Jill, I’m not going to fuck us back into the game. It’s crazy. It’s dangerous. We don’t know why or how it happened, or if it could happen again, or if we’d get back again.” He typed /quit for his character and waited while the timer ran down.

She went still behind him, then nuzzled his ear. “Ok, baby, if that’s what you want. I was thinking though. I thought, you always wanted to fuck Shinelle. That toned, fine body! I’d love to be inside her when you fucked her. Our sex could be so good with bodies toned like that. We don’t have to fight, or stay long. I’ve got us in a safe place, nothing but grays around and no traffic. But it’s up to you, baby.”

She moved to sit beside him, her hand moving to stroke him again through his pants, his erection still at half mast. Her other hand hit the space bar and her screen came back up. He glanced over and saw Shinelle standing beside Ardreno. He recognized the place, now that he looked. She was right, it was safe for them, and totally empty. Her hand felt so good. It was hard to wait as they shut down. Shinelle did look good. He’d never had somebody in that kind of shape. He’d never been in that kind of shape. It was a favorite fanstasy of his. Why not, just once more? No fighting, just some quick sex.

He hit the up arrow just before the timer ran out and Ardreno stood beside Shinelle. He had a feeling he’d regret this, but for now…

“Ok, just once. Just once…” He pulled her back and shucked the damn pants as he moved over her, rock hard and ready.

Jill stood as Shinelle, looking out over the crystal waters of the remote lake. She stretched, feeling taught muscles pull under the weight of her chain mail. The water looked good and she glanced at Ardreno/Jim beside her before beginning the unfamiliar task of unbuckling and shedding the layers of armor and padding she wore. He grinned and started in as well.

A few of the small imp-like creatures that they had once killed so many of scurried around on the far bank, but they held no threat and Shinelle ignored them as she stripped the last of the clothing from her and dove into the water. It closed over her and slid along her skin, cool and rippling. She surfaced and struck out across the lake with smooth strong stokes, her muscled arms enjoying the work. After a bit she stopped and tread water and looked at herself as Ardreno approached. She had a well muscled frame, not skinny like the models. Muscles were defined over her whole form. She wasn’t bulked, although she was far from the modern ideal, but she was about as fit as a female form could be.

Ardreno was as well, healthy and heavy with toned muscle. Her eyes wandered over what she could see of him in the water, and she felt her belly tighten. They may have just finished, but it wasn’t in these bodies, and these bodies were more than ready. She kissed him as he swam up, and it was Jim’s kiss but different. She felt fire run up her belly and nearly wrapped herself around him right there. Instead she pulled away, not wanting to worry about drowning while they enjoyed this. “Ah, gods, Ardreno, come on!” She struck our for shore, seeing him close alongside as her head came up along her shoulder for each breath.

The view of him just made her more aroused and she climbed out of the water and grabbed her padded shirt to throw down on a near by patch of grass as he grabbed her and took her down on top of it. Their mouths met as their hands ran over each other, exploring each other with a sort of wild hunger. Her hand slid down the rippled muscles of his side to his narrow hips and then reached for his cock. It was as hard as the rest of him, and proportioned to him as well, large and strong. He groaned and bent to bite and suck at her breast as she twisted to run her thigh along his and lift herself closer to him. He rolled onto her, tearing his mouth away and wrapping his arms under her, gripping her shoulders, supported on his elbows at her sides.

Her legs came up around him and she guided him home, pulling her hand from between them as he thrust into her hard, filling her totally. She cried out and felt she might almost come from that one entrance. She wrapped her legs with his and moved with him as he drove into her. Neither of them had any patience for a slow build up, not this time. The need slammed them together and after a few strokes she lifted her legs farther, pulling them up to his sides, wanting him deeper yet. She wrapped her arms through her knees and then dug her fingers into his back, pulling him into her.

She could feel every inch of him as she moved in her and it was so good, too good, too much, building until he finally drove her hard over the edge and she screamed as he kept it up. His hard cock moved through her as she pulsed around him and she buried her mouth in his neck, smothering her cries in his skin as she bit him. He fucked her harder, growling in his throat as neared his own orgasm and finally slammed hard into her, the fire running through him and out into her as his breath groaned from him and he thrust into her again, and again, and once more. Finally it drained from him and they lay together, spent, gasping for breath, the sweat mixing with the lake water drenching them and rising in steam from their heat.

Eventually she shifted under him. “We better get dressed. Some noobie’s gonna get an eyeful.” She moved again and urged him off of her, then went and rinsed quick in the lake before starting to pull the layers of padding, leather, and chain back on.

“Yeah, guess we wandered back here, somebody else is likely to. We could climb the mountain, though, and try that again!” he leered at her, already half aroused again. He was really enjoying this, it took him considerably longer at home.

Jill had more on her mind, though she definitely wanted seconds in a bit. Or was it thirds? She shrugged to herself and smiled. Then she drew her sword and swung it experimentally.

Jim looked up from trying to thread an inconvenient buckle. “Jill, what are you doing?” He frowned at her.

“I want to try it out a little.” She stopped for a minute and concentrated on remembering how Shinelle had stood and moved. Feet here, arms here, and swing like that…Shinelle swung herself around in her favorite attack style. It was so easy! “I can do this! I can really do this!” She swung the sword again, letting it carry her around. She thought for a moment, running the next move through her mine, then tried again. The sword swung, she moved with it, and smoothly into the following style. It worked! “Jim, try it! It’s easy, these bodies are already trained to it, it’s like you just have to remember!”

“Jill, we said just for a few minutes, just for sex. This is dangerous! What if we got trapped in here? What if the server crashes? What if we go link dead? What happens to us if there’s no more connection to home?” Jim watched her, fascinated at the way she moved, and worried, too. This was so wrong. “Jill, please, let’s go back.”

“Oh, Jim, stop it. We’re safe, nothing can hurt us here. I’m sure if anything happened we’d just be thrown back to our bodies. This is just like VR, virtual reality. Nothing can actually hurt us, it didn’t even hurt when we died yesterday!” She looked around and spotted a small sprite running around the lake shore. She began stalking it. She found if she squinted at it, she could see sort of a gray aura around it. She had been wondering how she could con things here. Good enough.

Jim finished getting dressed, watching her unhappily, not sure what to do. Arguing with her, he knew from experience, would get him nowhere. His eyes tracked her around the lake, and he found himself anticipating her moves as she attacked and quickly killed the little sprite. He could almost feel himself doing it, and he shrugged, letting a long sigh loose. He was here, he wasn’t getting her back home anytime soon, he might as well play.

It was almost like leveling again, but in fast forward as they relearned the skills they had assigned to buttons back home. They made sure they could handle themselves without falling on their butts before leaving the remote corner of the realm they’d started in, but it wasn’t long before they were back duoing blues and yellows. It was still disconcerting to take damage, a strange feeling of pending doom with no pain or other effects attached to it. Until they tried an orange and Jill took more damage then they had yet encountered. Suddenly she felt profoundly weak and slow. Jim killed the fenris and she was soon better, but they stayed away from orange con monsters after that. They both knew they could easily take them, but it just felt a little too close for comfort, and they weren’t ready for that yet.

Jill wondered about chat, and the six different conversations she was frequently having when she played from home, and suddenly she could hear her guild in her mind, just as she’d always imagined the voices. “Jim, can you hear the guild? Just think about it for a sec, and it’s there.” She didn’t try to answer it yet, somehow she didn’t feel comfortable reacting to her guildies as if she was still just a player.

“Yeah, I hear them. This is just too easy, Jill. Like, all we have to do is think and everything works. It isn’t right. Nothing’s this easy. This game is never this easy.” He still had a bad feeling about this, for all that he had to admit it was fun.

Jill sighed. “Don’t worry, hun, I’m sure we’ll die soon enough and go home. We always do.” She grinned and ran after a yellow spider on down the trail they were on.

Of course, she was right. The fenris that killed them while they were fighting its smaller cousin at least did it quickly. Again, no pain, no blood, just ‘eating dirt’ as they called it. Jim was glad to find that the phrase wasn’t quite literal as he released himself back to reality, half relieved, and a sneaking half disappointed.

Ardreno shield bashed the succubus as Shinelle’s sword bit into its side, the rest of the group pounding and slashing away on the awful creature. It fell quickly, as did the gigantic spider that accompanied it. Shinelle felt a surge of energy through her and a multicolored light played around her, and she knew she had achieved 48th level, finally. Ardreno wasn’t far behind her, another few of these beasties should do it.

Ardreno blew her a kiss. “Mind taking us up, guys? I have to go, sorry.” Damn, that’s right, he had that appointment. A chorus of disappointed groans accompanied the agreement to run up.

“You going too, Shinelle?” Ergin asked, the kobold runie running alongside her.

“No, I can hunt for a bit yet.” Shinelle grinned, enjoying the group, and her ability to cope with it, after the last few days of relearning the game.

“Jill,” Jim sent her a private tell. “I don’t like you staying in here when I’m not here, too. Something could go wrong.”

She sighed mentally. He was still worried, every time. Nothing had happened. Nothing had hurt. They had a blast every time they came in, not to mention the fun they had getting here! “I’ll be fine, Jim. You worry too much. You’ll only be gone an hour, what could happen? Just go and get back soon.” She blew him a kiss as Ardreno reluctantly sat down to log out, then was off with the group again, slashing their way through the shredders down to the heavier stuff.

This group was really good, they handled it all easily. The healer, Hamdrahl, was sharp with his crowd control, the little kobold Fuziwop backing him up well with healings and keeping them all running with his energizing spells. By the time the creature had reached them, Ergin had worn them down and the rest of them killed them easily. It had been a very good afternoon, for loot and experience.

An announcement sounded in her head, as the enemy managed to capture a fort somewhere. “Damn, the elves will be coming soon, they have the entrance now.” She was disappointed, having hoped to get well on her way to 49 before stopping.

“Let’s go to their side and catch some coming in!” Ergin was always bloodthirsty for playing against enemy characters and other players.

“I’d just as soon keep building experience. They’ll find us soon enough, then we can go take a keep or two back!” Jill didn’t want to risk a death any sooner than she had to, and hunting the enemy was sure death, even if she did take a few with her. It would be fun, but she wasn’t ready to give up on this yet.

“Yar. Kill monsters. Elfies come soon.” The huge troll beside her agreed, and they went back to beastie bashing.

Jill felt a sudden surge of weakness. Dizziness washed over her, and she stopped moving, suddenly. What was going on? Her view started wavering, graying at the edges, and the voices of the group faded in and out. Lag, this must be lag…or she was going linkdead. She tried to reach for that feeling of twisting to release, and nothing was there. Suddenly fear washed through her. Nothing was there! What happened when the server closed out her account, and she couldn’t return to her real body! She searched desperately and found nothing. Tried concentrating on quitting, and nothing happened.

The others were moving in slow motion, then streaking forward. At least they weren’t gone yet. She focused on Ergin and stuck to him, managing to say, “Bad lag, sorry.”

“Might mean lot’s of elfies near. Look sharp guys.” Dorgild turned to watch the far arch as Ergin pulled another of the ugly female monsters they had been killing. Jill focused Shinelle on killing it, concentrating desperately to keep things in focus, keep moving, running her character on will alone. Things kept trying to dissolve at the edges as she fought on, focusing hard on one action after another, scared cold to her core.

“So, did you hit 50 yet?” Jim teased as he walked into the bedroom, home at last. He remembered she probably couldn’t hear him as he saw her where he’d left her, as if asleep. It had been so strange leaving her like that, but he knew she’d been having fun. She lay just as he’d left her. But something was different. What…

He dropped the bag of burgers he was carrying as he saw the screen saver on her monitor and how pale and waxy her skin looked. “Nooo, Jill!” Her flesh was so cold as he grabbed her and flipped her over, searching desperately for something to show she was alive. She was breathing! Barely, shallowly, but she was. Oh, God, what should he do? “Jill! Wake up! Jill!” He shook her and hugged her to him, paniced. She didn’t move, limp and cold in his arms. His eyes strayed to the stupid cats that danced all over her screen. The game. Maybe she was still in there.

He laid her tenderly down and turned to her computer, clearing the screen saver. Yes, there was the all too familiar link dead screen. He punched escape and impatiently began the log on procedure. Oh, God, let her still be there. Let it connect her again. Oh god oh god please…

His mind went blank at her password. He knew it as well as his own, what was it, dammit! He took a deep breath, trying for some semblance of clarity. That was it. Yeah. Jim’s fingers flew and stumbled on the keyboard, and he had to enter it three times to get it right. Dammit, this wasn’t helping Jill. He had to calm down. He forced his hands together as the program loaded. It seemed to take forever and he grabbed one of her cold limp hands to hold between his own as he prayed, something he never did. A pleading phrase ran over and over in his mind, though he had no real idea who he sent it to. Please, just let her be ok. Please…

Jill’s world had shrunk to the beastie in front of her. She felt exhausted, holding her mind tight to keep going. She didn’t even have room for fear anymore, just a numb absolute focus.

The group accepted that she was having major lag issues, and rallied to keep an eye on her, knowing if she left them in the middle of a fight it could put them all at risk. Normally she would have quit to avoid that, but it simply wasn’t an option, although she was sure some of them wondered. They were too good to say anything. She fought on.
Something flickered. Oh, god, now what? Her vision flickered, and tried to gray out. She held desperately to it, the succubus in front of her an ugly sneer in her vision. Flicker. Something sucking at the back of her mind as she screamed and swung at the face before her with all she had.

“Elves!” the cry went up, and she felt herself falter in despair. No…not now…

The succubus fell and she turned. The world flickered around her again, and it almost seemed she was seeing through two sets of eyes, the perspective just slightly altered, like a double image. The gray pulled at her and she saw the enemies running forward. She reached for something, anything to focus on as the edges of her vision dissolved. Flicker. Then her body froze, her mind encased in a shell, it seemed. She saw an enemy caster looking at her, and realized she had been spelled.

It was like walls around her mind, and she braced herself against it, finding in it the anchor she needed. Maybe having some outside piece of programming directed at her did it, she didn’t know, but the attack held her there when she didn’t think she’d have had the strength left to do it. Things flickered again, then a surge of energy washed through her.

She spell was gone, but so was the despairing grayness that had been pulling at her. She raised her sword to attack and was hit from all sides before she could swing a blow. Her body fell and she thought RELEASE with all her strength.

The screen finally loaded, having taken so long he thought it had frozen up. The thoughts that went through his mind during that long wait were gone, and he never wanted to remember then again. Finally the familiar halls of the deep dungeon appeared, and his former group going down before the onslaught of an elven incursion. Shinelle barely raised her sword before falling to 5 of them hacking at her and he almost cried out, reaching for the screen. Then she gasped beside him, and the game was forgotten as he turned and dragged her up into his arms.

Warm! She was warming to his touch. She coughed and moved weakly, gasping for breath. “Jim?” her eyes opened and closed, blinking, unable to focus yet.

“I’m here, Jill, I’m here. You’re all right. Oh, god, you’re all right. Oh, Jill,” he crushed her to him until she weakly struggled for room. Gently he held her across his lap. “Jill, are you ok? Oh god, please, tell me you’re ok.”

Slowly her breathing slowed and her eyes opened, looking dim. Her arms wrapped around herself and she shivered. “Cold. I’m so cold. Jim?”

He clawed at the bed, dragging covers up around her and cradling her. “You’re back, honey. I’m here. You’re ok.”

She focused on him finally for a moment, thoughts slowly catching up with her. Suddenly she clung to him, sobbing violently. “Jim! Oh, god, I was so scared…you were right, I should have listened to you…”

He rocked her as she cried, just glad to have her back. Visions of her cold, waxy body floated in his mind and he knew he would have nightmares of it. “No more, baby. No more. You are too important to me here to lose you to some game. No more.”

She stilled in his arms, finally, clinging to him. Shivers ran through her occasionally. “Yes. No more.”