New Game, Start

Player Two Coda


I didn’t know how I’d let Walter talk me into being part of his holiday livestream.

I mean—yes I did. He was Walter Chase and I loved him and would, short of jumping off the Manhattan Bridge, basically do anything he asked of me.

But still.

I’d been an accidental guest on his livestream during the holidays last year when we’d gotten together at GamerOn and that was more than enough attention for me. And yet, here I was once again. We’d been seeing each other for a year now—or as much as two people on opposite ends of the country could see each other. But you know… dating.

Real dating.

Serious dating.

Walter was the first person I thought of when I woke, the last one I spoke to before I fell asleep, the one I relied on, and the man I confided my worst self-doubts and fears to. Sometimes it was terrifying to trust another human so much, but really, it was mostly amazing.

It was a gift to be a part of Walter’s life.

And that even included livestreams to his audience of millions—some of whom were definitely salty that Walter was no longer that smokin’ hot, nerdy single guy in the YouTube universe. Not that he wasn’t still smokin’ hot. Or nerdy.

I mean, he was wearing the ugliest The Dude Abides Christmas sweater for the video.

Such a geek….

(As if I had a leg to stand on.)

“Hey everyone!” Walter said to the camera, flashing his trademark gorgeous smile that had caused the start of my fanboy crushing on him two years ago. “Welcome back to another haphazardly filmed episode of Waldere’s Kitchen. I, of course, am Waldere.” He turned and put an arm around my shoulders. “My beautiful Player Two is Edgar, who many of you know as Waldere’s boyfriend. Say hello to the kids at home, Ed.”

I forced a smile and waved a kind of princess wave. “Hi.”

“Ed doesn’t really like being in front of the camera,” Walter continued. “But he’s visiting LA for the holidays and is being very indulgent.” He let go of my shoulders and motioned to me with both hands. “You can tell he’s from the East Coast. It’s fifty degrees outside, I’m in a sweater, and he’s in a T-shirt with bare feet complaining it’s too warm.”

“It’s twelve degrees in New York,” I protested in a hushed voice.

Walter leaned in and kissed my cheek. “Do you know what we’re making today?” he asked me.

The island countertop in front of us was cluttered with bottles of liquor.

“I haven’t the faintest,” I said, deadpan.

“Christmas gaming drinks!” Walter slapped his hands down on the counter and said to the camera, “It’s actually just the red and green potions from the Legend of Zelda.” He looked at me again. “Ever had the Bombchu cocktail?”

I shook my head. “No….”

“Vodka and Red Bull.”

“That sounds like it’ll stop your heart.”

“I do not recommend it.”

I chuckled and watched Walter carry on talking to his viewers without any sort of trepidation. He was amazing at public speaking. Thousands, if not millions of people tuned into his videos, and he was so damn chill about it. But Walter had been at this for years. He made his livelihood—a good one at that—from being a charming and engaging gamer on YouTube. And all of these funny videos outside of his Let’s Play, game tutorials, or reviews, they were just extra fun for him and his core audience. I supposed his comfort with being on camera or at events was like me and my words. He was just the sort of person who thrived in social settings, while I withered like an un-watered fern forgotten in the corner.

“It’s pretty straightforward,” Walter was saying.

“No pun intended,” I mumbled, mostly to myself.

Walter snorted, paused short of pouring soda into a glass, and looked at me. “It’s pretty gayforward,” he corrected. “For the green potion you’ll need Sprite, vodka, and some green apple liqueur.”

That was my cue. “Ah—um—” God, I’m so bad at this. “The red potion is red because—you use cherry liqueur.” I smacked my forehead, grabbed a liter of soda, and held it up. “Also 7-Up. Not Sprite.” I looked at Walter. “Wait, they taste sort of the same. Why use different ones?”

He shrugged. “For fun.”

“Oh.” I watched Walter start mixing the ratios together and stumbled to keep pace with the opposite concoction.

“Voila,” Walter exclaimed, holding up a bright green, fizzy drink. “A perfect go-to for when your mana is low.” He took a sip and nodded in approval. “How’s yours, Ed?”

“What’re red potions used for in Zelda?” I whispered.

He hid his smile behind his glass. “Health.”

“I think alcohol will have an opposite effect on hit points.”

Walter started laughing in earnest.

I took a sip, choked, managed to swallow, and started coughing. “It burns!”

Walter took the glass from my hand, patted between my shoulders as I struggled for air, and tried a taste. “Whoa! Jesus Christ. I think I just grew three new chest hairs.”

“Isn’t it one cup of vodka?” I wheezed.

Walter’s eyes grew. “One cl, honey.”

“How much is that?”

“It’s like… two teaspoons.”

“Oh my God.” I looked at the camera like a red-faced deer in the headlights.

Walter set the glass down and took me into his arms. He pet my head while saying to the audience, “I’m going to make Ed a new red potion—one that won’t make him regret life choices tomorrow—and then we’re going to spend the evening watching Hans Gruber fall from the thirtieth floor of the Nakatomi Tower. Happy holidays, everyone!”

I peered at the camera and embarrassingly echoed, “Happy holidays.”