Rantfic. Kudos if you know what I'm ranting about here. Hint: it's about a common plot device that people use in Luigi-centric fanfiction. Another hint: that plot device is not used in here.

And no, Blazichu, you can't guess since you already know.

Hints at Mario x Peach and Luigi x Daisy.

Warning: This fic has a lot of Luigi thinking and rambling inside his head, so there are a lot of huge paragraphs. The pacing is actually rather slow because of that, so if you don't like slow, easy, thoughtful pacing, I would suggest using the back button and looking at my other oneshots, which use fast-pacing more often.

Also, I seriously freaking apologize if I get any characters from games I'm not familiar with (Fox, Falco, Pit, and Snake, to be specific) out of character. I get references from their in game quotes and some research I've done on them. (Snake's easiest on that one, mostly because of the fact his codecs reveal a good lot about his personality.)

Luigi knows that taking care of the other Smashers is a pretty big task to take on.

First of all, supplying food to the Smashers is a grueling task at best. A good number of them are very specific about what they want to eat, so Luigi often has to look up a list of fruits and vegetables that come from their respective worlds – and unfortunately, that's the easy part, considering a lot of the fruits and vegetables look alike (which Luigi had always wondered about – if they come from separate worlds, then why do they look the same?), and so Luigi would have to spend countless minutes trying to find the right ingredient and not give the wrong Smasher the wrong eating. Unfortunately for Luigi, he can't ask anyone else to make the food (aside from Kirby, but unfortunately Kirby usually eats everything he makes) because no one can cook quite as well as he can, so he's usually left alone to search drawers and make himself sweat running through the kitchen. If it wasn't for the fact that Luigi likes cooking, he wouldn't have taken up the job in the first place.

Secondly, Smashers tend to get into fights, in or out of brawls, and that means they need someone to treat their injuries. Although Dr. Mario by himself does a fine job at that, he needs helping hands (mostly because of the frequency with which he gets patients), and that's where Luigi comes in. Fortunately enough, it's not like Luigi is inexperienced with handling injuries, since back at home he's usually a fill-in for Dr. Toadley to treat Mario's own when he returns from rescuing the princess (which he does about every Thursday). Luigi knows exactly what medicine does what in Dr. Mario's drawers, and if there is one he's uncertain about he can easily ask the doctor himself, who is perfectly willing to answer all of Luigi's questions should they come up (the doctor likes the younger Mario brother, after all). The only part of this work that is at all stressful for the mustachioed man clad in green is the fact that the sight of blood makes him queasy – and unfortunately, the doctor's office gets a lot of that. Whenever he works under the doctor's wing, it makes him wonder how he was able to handle the sight of Mario's arm bleeding so well back at home. Probably 'cos it's my bro, and I know he needs me, Luigi usually assumes – in this office, some of the Smashers are rather ungrateful for what he's done for them there, and it frustrates him at times. And Luigi would be lying if he ever said that Mario isn't his favorite patient.

Lastly, Luigi's boss isn't exactly very kindly toward him. In fact, Master Hand is rather demanding – of him, and of all the other Smashers. Thankfully, the younger Mario brother usually oozes with patience (or so he's been told) and can handle whatever Master Hand dishes out – so usually Master Hand himself isn't the problem (although he will admit that it hurts when the Master scolds him for a job not well done; Luigi prides himself in taking care of the Smashers as Master Hand's personal assistant [a job beforehand taken by Crazy Hand, but resigned due to the Hand's nature, since he very well lives up to his namesake]). Unfortunately, not all of the other Smashers are as patient as Luigi is. And guess who gets the job of calming them down when they decide to riot? Luigi is great at many things, but one thing he simply isn't good at is controlling a crowd – so when he yells at a group of angry Smashers, "Hey, wait, let's think about this for a second," he usually ends up getting throttled while the Smashers storm Master Hand's room. Oh well. Master Hand was always better at putting them back in their place, anyway.

Today is one of those days Luigi reflects on how demanding the life of a campaign assistant can be.

"A little more to the left," Master Hand orders Luigi, leafing his fingers through a book he's reading. Luigi has always wondered how he even reads books – he doesn't even have eyes.

At least, I think he doesn't.

"Here?" Luigi wobbles a little on his feet as he hooks the picture frame he's carrying on Master Hand's office wall. The photo itself is of the Smashers posing together in one huge group, each with their own unique expressions. The younger Mario brother recalls that day rather fondly – he remembers seeing all the Smashers trying out unique and silly poses, most of which didn't fail in making him laugh. Some of the Smashers even took some of Luigi's ideas while Master Hand left to get some more film – his favorite of the ideas was Mario and Samus standing on each other's shoulders, Mario tossing up his hat in the air for Samus to catch. He wonders how such an esteemed bounty hunter not only failed at catching a simple hat but fell off of Mario's shoulders in doing so.

Not that Samus is just a super-skilled bounty hunter, mind. Luigi was surprised to learn that Samus is quite the jokester. He really likes that about Samus.

"I guess that's good enough," Master Hand says easily, and Luigi relaxes his shoulders, letting the photo hang there. Master Hand sets the book down and turns to "face" the younger Mario brother. Master Hand pauses a few seconds, furling and unfurling his fingers, before continuing, "Gee, Luigi. Today's just begun and you're already sweating like a pig. Not to mention you've been pretty spacey – but I suppose that's nothing new, since you tend to day dream all the time."

"Sorry," Luigi responds automatically. The younger Mario brother is very used to apologizing quite often – he unfortunately has a string of bad luck following him wherever he goes, and as a result tends to trip over someone and run into another (usually Ganondorf, which is read: not pleasant), drop something valuable (he can't remember how many times Master Hand got into a screaming fit at him because of that), or mix something up (although Luigi will admit that one day he gave everyone Superspicy Curry by accident for dinner was pretty funny, even though all of the Smashers chased him with murder in their eyes).

If Master Hand had a face, Luigi swears he'd be raising his eyebrow. "No, Luigi, I'm not angry," the great hand amends, like as if he unjustly swore the younger Mario brother off. "I'm just concerned. You're pretty bad, but you're not usually this bad."

"Oh, thanks," the man clad in green grumbles, crossing his arms over his chest. But really, Luigi knows that Master Hand doesn't mean the "pretty bad" thing. Master Hand hardly ever compliments anyone. And he wonders why the Smashers riot, Luigi thinks – and the younger Mario brother is absolutely certain that Master Hand would have no problem with uprisings if he just decided to be nice to his subjects every once in a while. Luigi suspects that Master Hand is rather mean to his subjects because the idea of being nice embarrasses him – a theory that is supported by some conversations he's had with him.

"Why don't you take a break?" Master Hand offers, floating toward him and patting him lightly on the shoulder with one of his fingers. Luigi always finds Master Hand's gestures rather odd – because Master Hand doesn't have a hand (the irony in that makes Luigi giggle) he has to act like one of his fingers is one. Even though Luigi's worked for the hand for at least a year, he still hasn't gotten used to the oddity of it. "If I recall the scoreboards correctly, your brother just got out of a brawl – and I know you haven't had the chance to relax and chat with him for a while, so I thought, maybe..." Master Hand trails off sheepishly. Yep, it's true.

Luigi doesn't focus on the hilarity of the hand acting kind for once, however. Oh man, he's right! I haven't talked to Mario in a while, he thinks, bobbing on the balls of his feet a little. I wonder how he's been doing. Hey, but I can just see for myself, can't I? Grinning from ear to ear, the younger Mario brother chirps, "That'd be great!"

"Good." Master Hands turns away from Luigi, moving to pick up the book he set down earlier. "He'll be right outside of Delfino Plaza, I think."

"Thanks!" Luigi waves. "See you later!" The younger Mario brother opens the door to the office, making his way down the hall, not noticing the hand's chuckling behind him.

One aspect of the Smash Mansion that always confuddles Luigi is how Master Hand managed to loop portals through it. As Luigi walks down the hall, he spots the portal for Final Destination approaching at his left – a glimpse through this portal and he sees the tell-tale purple and blue splotches that make the backdrop for the stage. The portal's sketchy light blue rim blocks off any other details of the stage, but from what Luigi can see, no Smashers are currently pounding each other in there. Final Destination, Luigi knows, is not some small stage, even though it only has one platform – so it puzzles the tall man how the hand managed to fit it all into one space that is linked to the hall. It's not like the hall's walls are thick enough to support such a large stage – the walls themselves are actually rather thin, which often causes problems at night time, when Smashers are trying to sleep (especially since some of the Smashers are nocturnal). It's probably done so it's easy to repair and it doesn't hurt when Smashers accidentally punch holes into it, Luigi supposes – it's also probably why the walls are beige, since beige is one of the easiest colors to come across in paint form. Luigi has never painted the walls himself, but he's sure that it would be a pain to have a hole in the wall, repair it, and then find that he doesn't have enough of the color paint he wants to use on the wall. Luigi realizes as well as painting and repairing these walls, Master Hand had to have designed the stages – and maintains them himself, as well. This makes the younger Mario brother feel some higher amount of appreciation for the hand – he obviously works so hard to build a place for the Smashers to fight in, and without even asking for any credit for it, either. He must have spent years thinking of how to fit them into areas of space and link them to the main hall with those portals... something Luigi thinks only Professor Elvin Gadd[1] would be able to figure out without any help.

I owe him some thanks, I guess, Luigi muses. And perhaps the hand would be happy to receive some gratefulness, considering he almost never gets any. The thought of someone not getting the praise that they deserve makes the younger Mario brother feel slightly distraught, and, with that passing through his head, Luigi moves on to locate Delfino Plaza.

"Hiya, Luigi!" a young voice from the man clad in green's right startles him out of his thoughts, and he nearly slips in an attempt to whirl around and fully face the other. Blinking rapidly, Luigi manages to identify the other as Pit – immediately, all his other thoughts disappear and the man in overalls smiles. Pit's nice. Not only that, but Luigi remembers that he was the one to show Pit around the Smash Mansion, so he already knows Pit rather well.

"Buon pomeriggio[2], Pit," is Luigi's response, nearing the winged boy. One thing that Luigi always notices is how radically different Pit is from most of the other Smashers – he's the only one with the resemblance of an angel, and the only one (aside from Link and Zelda, who, Luigi admits, are closer in likeness to Pit than any of the other Smashers) carrying a bow and arrow. Most of the newcomers Luigi has seen are newer characters used to using guns to fight rather than swords (with the exception of Sonic, but he isn't really a newcomer, considering Luigi has met him before anyway). Pit is definitely unique in that aspect. "How are you?"

"I'm fine, thanks," the angel beams. "Was just doing a round up to make sure the other Smashers aren't getting into trouble, you know? It's actually been pretty calm lately. I mean, outside of the battlefield," Pit stumbles. Luigi had already noticed Pit is a bit on the shy side, and is somewhat clumsy wordly wise. It doesn't bother him, though – the plumber really only finds that endearing.

"Yeah, it tends to settle down after the first few months, after everyone's gotten to know each other," Luigi explains. That's how it has been since the very first time Master Hand invited them to the Smash Mansion. Luigi remembers when he was just getting to know Fox – often he would get into arguments with him, because Fox never wanted to comply to anything and was worried about his companions back in his own dimension. Dredging up those memories makes Luigi realize how much things have changed since then – Fox is now a really close friend of his. Not to mention that Luigi no longer has to imitate his brother due to budget cuts... Although Luigi never really minded, since it only gave him an opportunity to show off how well he can change his voice. Luigi has always been proud of his hidden talents, especially that one – and he never honestly thought it would be put to good use until his brother made him dress up as Princess Peach to fool Bowletta and grab the Bean Star[3]. Eesh, that was a while ago...

"How about you?" Pit interrupts his thoughts, giving Luigi a bit of a start. "How are you?"

"Kind of tired," Luigi admits, rubbing the back of his neck out of habit. "Master Hand made me make breakfast for the Smashers, then afterward fix up his office. He's letting me take a break now, though. I'm going to meet my brother." He pauses to observe his surroundings – he manages to spot the portal for Delfino Plaza not far from where he and Pit are standing, given a good fifteen feet or so. "Speaking of which, have you seen him? Master Hand says he just got off of a brawl at Delfino." Even if Pit hadn't seen him, Luigi knows that the boy would offer to help him – which is nice, since it's easier to look with four eyes rather than two.

"Sorry, Luigi." Pit lowers his head slightly, gazing thoughtfully at the ground, before straightening his stance. "I can help you look for him, though. Four eyes are better than two." Well, then.

"Just what I was thinking." Luigi offers a smile at the angel to show his gratefulness – the man always makes sure to make it obvious that he's thankful, not just because he has issues with how ungrateful others can be toward him, but because it bothers him not being wholly honest and showing what he feels to others. Guilt is not an emotion that Luigi is too familiar with, and he certainly doesn't want to become acquainted with it by holding back words he meant to say earlier. "Delfino's over there," Luigi points to the portal, "and I just left Master Hand... um..." How long ago did he leave him again? Luigi had gotten so caught up in his thoughts, he simply lost track of time. "I guess... around fifteen minutes ago? So I don't think Mario would've gotten far. And if he's not there, he's probably at the doctor's office."

"Sounds about right," Pit agrees, ruffling his wings as he starts walking. Luigi's gaze focuses on the boy's feet as he moves – the younger Mario brother has always noticed that the way someone walks is a good indicator of their mood and the person they are. Pit's steps are airy and carefree – he often flutters a little before he places the next foot on the ground. Luigi's noticed that his footsteps are rather different from his brother's – Mario's stance is much stronger when he moves, and his strides a bit more showy; while Pit keeps his knees only slightly bent, Mario bends his knee as much as possible before he places it on the ground. Luigi has teased Mario about that once, but the younger Mario brother knows that the difference only proves that his brother has confidence oozing about him and is ready to spring into action if the need be, while Pit is more light-hearted, taking everything as it comes. Luigi's own footsteps as he's noticed are slightly shuffled, and though he bends his knees more than Pit does, his stance is weaker than his elder brother's. What's funny about that is the younger Mario brother himself has a difficult time interpreting his own stance while with others it's simple – when Luigi asked Link about it, however, the Hyrulian told him that the way Luigi walks means that he's somewhat carefree but held back a little by his own insecurities. Luigi never really noticed that about himself – but there are a lot of things about himself that he wonders about almost daily. He doesn't even know exactly where his Final Smash, the Negative Zone, came from – some Smashers have speculated of course, but he's not inclined to believe any of that claptrap, because a good majority of it is about supposed "darkness" that developed in him over time from being in Mario's shadow. Last Luigi remembers, Mario's shadow is a metaphor, not literal. And though Luigi is certainly slightly envious of his brother, by no means would he indulge himself in dark activities simply so he could be better than him. That's simply ridiculous!

Luigi spots Mario chatting with the princess and with Falco once he breaks out of watching Pit – the three of them seem heavily engaged in conversation, and Luigi can only wonder what they're talking about. He knows that Mario talks to the other Smashers quite a lot, but it seems like as if they're talking about someone breaking into Master Hand's office, or something else exciting – Mario's gesticulations are wild, and his eyebrows are raised as he speaks. Pit and the younger Mario brother exchange glances – Luigi assumes that Pit observed the same thing of their conversation – and the two of them approach the group, Pit's right brow raised.

"Whatcha talking about?" Pit asks, trying to be smooth. It fails. Even Luigi knows that.

And he can't help but feel sorry for the poor angel when three heads whirl to face them, each face showing a certain degree of irritation.

"Do ya mind?" Falco hisses in annoyance – Luigi wonders how it's possible that Pit maintains his stature. "We're tryin' ta have a convo 'ere, and it don't involve you!" Falco can be a bit loud when voicing his displeasure, unlike his friend, Fox. Though Luigi had grown quite accustomed to it (he's known Falco for several years, after all), Pit has not. Luigi doesn't blame him when he lowers his head like a kicked puppy.

"He was only curious," Luigi says in Pit's defense – he doesn't notice the angel swerve his head and look at him, blinking. "What are you talking about, anyway? By the looks of things, you're all pretty involved in the convo." Although Luigi prefers not to imitate others, he does so simply for the sake of emphasizing his knowledge of something is up. Luigi is never intentionally mean toward anyone in any way, and values being polite very highly – something he wishes some Smashers would recognize, because some of his actions are misinterpreted to be stand-offish.

"I would tell you, Bro," Mario finally speaks, turning to Luigi, his gaze apologetic, "but I'm afraid you'd get involved, and I know this week especially has been stressful for you..."

Oof. What a way to make Luigi feel awful. Now he's really regretting never paying his brother any visits. He used to do that all the time, at least until Master Hand yelled at him for slacking off, and then he stopped taking any breaks that Master Hand didn't explicitly say were actual official breaks. He, as of late, has had no time to go to any of Mario's brawls. It makes his heart break, thinking about it – he knows that Mario prides himself in every victory he earns, and not being able to share that with his one and only brother...

"I'm fine." Luigi gives Mario a smile. "It's my job, after all, isn't it?" Stop worrying about me. I'm happy, I promise. I'm just sorry for not spending enough time with you to confirm that.

Mario frowns and shifts uncomfortably, and Luigi instinctively frowns in response, tilting his head to the side. He catches his brother directly in the eyes and offers him another smile – I'm fine – Mario then straightens his posture, and speaks again, this time more confidently, "Well, if you really want to know... King Dedede and Ganondorf have recently gotten into a spat. They're starting to fight with fists, and they end up pounding any Smasher who goes near them. I would stop them myself, but I don't know either of them personally, so I have no idea how to get them to settle down."

"It's kind of scary," the princess adds, speaking for the first time. Luigi likes it when she speaks. She has a very melodic voice – not quite as amazing as Princess Daisy's, however, but perhaps the younger Mario brother is a bit biased in that comparison, considering Luigi is absolutely certain nothing can be as amazing as Daisy. "I nearly got whacked in the head by Triple D's mallet. How by Grambi[4] he manages to make that thing super-powered is anyone's guess." Luigi can't help but tilt his head at that statement – the younger Mario brother, in fact, had wondered that exact same thing, before simply setting it aside as a given for the world Dedede comes from. Besides, there are much more pressing things about Kirby and Meta Knight that are unexplainable that simply a powerful mallet can simply be addressed as "normal."

"Maybe he steals machine stuff from Snake," Falco suggests, and Pit nods in agreement (but Luigi is suspicious that he's simply doing that so Falco doesn't yell at him again). "That guy has a lotta weird gizmos an' shit an' I have no clue where he gets it." Luigi finds this statement funny, mainly because up until the second holding of Super Smash Brothers, Luigi had no idea how Fox and Falco got their weaponry, either. Luigi simply assumes that Snake got his gear from an associate of his (he remembers that Snake mentioned a best friend of his by the name of Otacon[5]; even funnier, Snake also said Luigi himself is very similar to Otacon), just like Fox and Falco get theirs from Slippy.

Mario gazes at Luigi imploringly. He's reading Luigi's mind, the younger Mario brother knows. They have always had that connection... and Mario knows that Luigi really wants to solve the problem. "Please, Luigi, you shouldn't–"

"It's my job."

"Okay..." Mario replies slowly. "Just so you're notified, it's my job as your older brother to make sure you don't do anything stupid."

Luigi can't help but grin. Silly brothers and their silly codes. Not to mention the fact that he's the one who usually makes sure Mario doesn't do anything stupid... "Don't worry, Big Bro!" he replies cheerfully, letting himself keep the grin that already made its way on his face. "I know Dedede, and although Ganondorf is kinda mean, he's not an idiot. I can get them to separate, no prob!" And he can, too. Although Luigi isn't good with crowds, he has, lately, refined his skill at settling disputes. And, fortunately enough for the younger Mario brother, his clumsiness comes with a flipside – he's slippery, so if either of them aim a blow at him, he can easily slip away with no scars from the attempted impact.

Mario shakes his head slowly, but Falco grins, giving the red-clad plumber a light pat on the shoulder. "Hey, if he wants ta do it, let 'im," the bird says, a grin growing on his beak. Do birds even have teeth? Luigi can't help but wonder. But then again, Falco is no ordinary bird... "'sides, it ain't like Luigi's a wimp 'r anythin'. He can take 'em." Falco grin grows wider, and Luigi can't help but give him a grateful glance. Falco can be rather crude, but darn it if he isn't a good friend at times. The bird gives him a thumbs up in response to Luigi's thankful bobbing of his head in his direction.

The older Mario brother glances back and forth between his younger brother and the space bird, and finally sighs of consent. "Fine," he agrees. "Follow me, Bro." Luigi watches Mario's feet as his brother walks forward, and observes that his stance has slightly changed – his pace is slower and a little less confident than it usually is, and he hesitates slightly before each and every step. With an odd mixture of affection and annoyance towards his brother, Luigi realizes that Mario is still worried about him.

Oh well, what am I gonna do, Luigi thinks, smiling a little to himself as he trudges after the other. He's an overprotective older brother. My overprotective older brother. Can't really change that worry gene in him. Luigi had long since accepted that Mario, although usually not a worrier, can get almost frantic when he or Princess Peach is in danger. He never worries when Peach is kidnapped by Bowser, simply because he knows that Bowser would never harm her; but Luigi knows that Mario was really worried for her when Count Bleck took her in his clutches [6]. In fact, Luigi has long suspected that Mario has feelings for the girl – but he personally never brings it up with his older brother, simply because he knows Mario would share the information when he wants to talk to him about it. Mario never gets frantic about anyone else disappearing and Bowser isn't the cause – except Luigi, of course.

That's not to say Luigi isn't a worrier as well, though. In fact, the younger Mario brother knows he's even more of a worrier than Mario. Even when Mario simply goes to rescue the princess, Luigi gets frightfully worried. Even though he knows that Bowser simply wouldn't kill him (he knows Bowser well enough to know that, although he definitely would want to knock Mario out, he certainly wouldn't want to murder him – he's too soft-bellied for that, as much as Bowser doesn't want to admit it), he still can't help it – it terrifies him to see Mario return home with fresh injuries, even if they are minor. It's not that he doesn't have confidence that Mario would make it through virtually anything – because he does – but seeing Mario in any kind of suffering makes him suffer, too.

That's also not to say that Mario is the only person who Luigi worries about. In fact, the younger Mario brother thinks his elder is lucky, considering the fact he only has two people he really needs to worry desperately about. Luigi worries about a lot of people – his brother besides, he also worries about Princess Peach (though not as much as Mario does), Princess Daisy (especially her, especially her – he worries about her day and night, especially since he's seldom seen her since the campaign began), Professor Elvin Gadd (he's grown very fond of the professor, and it pains him to know that he mostly lives by himself – so much so that at one point, he took it upon himself to visit him every day), Yoshi (Mario probably thinks about him every once and a while, but Luigi needs to make sure he's all right – if it weren't for his tribe, after all, he wouldn't be here), and, especially, a good amount of the Smashers who don't even belong to his universe – and that is simply touching the tip of the iceberg! Luigi remembers the time he had to separate from Fox, right when the two of them were becoming great friends – it terrified him to know that Fox would be returning to space combat, which Luigi is absolutely certain is extremely dangerous. This particular campaign only gives him more people to worry about. Oh, the story of his life...

Heh. Princess Daisy would tease him endlessly if she caught him thinking like that. She's a strong person, doesn't seem to worry about anything. That's what Luigi likes about her. He's not certain that he's strong enough to protect a damsel-in-distress, can't hold his head high enough all the time, unlike his brother. In fact, that strength is a quality he admires in the both of them, a quality that puts them at the top of his worry list at times. He knows that confidence can get them into deeper trouble than anyone else who's more conscious, but their strength can pull them through that trouble more easily than the others. At times he hates that strength, and at times he lusts for it. Mario and Daisy tell him that he already has that strength locked deep within him, but Luigi just isn't sure he has the key to the door, and he's terrified at the fact he probably misplaced it.

Though if there's anyone who has made him grow closer to that goal of finding a way to unlock that strength at will, it's definitely Snake. Who knew a mercenary could be so philosophical? Once, when Luigi found himself doubting he had the ability to do anything, and that unlike his brother he simply didn't live for fighting, Snake told him, "There are different types of soldiers, Luigi. And commanders, the ones who don't fight themselves but tell the soldiers what to do, are just as important as the front line. Without commanders, the soldiers wouldn't know what to do. You don't have to like fighting – your talents can lie elsewhere." Unlike others, Snake didn't tell him that he could fight, or anything like that – he told him that he could still be useful without fighting. It made the younger Mario brother feel... realized, in a way. And ever since, Luigi's kept those words somewhere in his head to dig up whenever he's feeling like he simply doesn't have the physical or mental capacity to help others. He doesn't need to fight in the same way others do to be useful. It's an outside-of-the-box approach – which is funny, because Snake uses boxes all the time. To hide from others, more specifically. But Snake has taken to letting him squish inside the box beside him [7].

Luigi's thoughts instantly dissolve as he hears the tell-tale bangs and booms of fighting in the hallway. He flinches as Ganondorf's glowing purple fist whizzes by his head, his ear drum ringing slightly from the sound of sliced air. Craning his head backwards so he can see the supervillain, he notices that Ganondorf isn't paying any attention to him – the fact that he nearly punched him in the face was probably an accident.

"I'm a far better king than you ever will be," Ganondorf growls, and the proximity of his voice provokes Luigi into backing away from him a little. "Your subjects don't respect you at all, save for a few. Not only that, but Kirby's constantly trying to dethrone you."

"And Link isn't doing the same to you?" a distant voice from behind Luigi replies, disorientating the man a bit – but it doesn't take Luigi long for him to recognize that it's King Dedede. "And I'm certain that none of your subjects respect you, either. They're all just wimps, so they stay submissive, like a dog with its tail in between its legs – I lead stronger people than that." Luigi whirls around, trying to assess where he is, exactly.

I should really quit spacing out... Luigi thinks as he just barely avoids getting elbowed in the face by Ganondorf. It's going to be the death of me some day. Well, actually, it sort of did, if being brainwashed counts as spacing out [8]. ... This isn't the time to be focusing on that!

"My subjects aren't weak in any sense of the word! Yours are, you overweight penguin!"

"No, yours, you stupid boar!"

"Pigeon!"

"Hog!"

Children! Luigi thinks condescendingly, shaking his head slowly – stopping as he catches the sight of red. Oh, there's Mario. Standing not too far from where Dedede is, who is currently facing Ganondorf, who currently has his back turned to Luigi – Mario peering worriedly at him – Ganondorf and Dedede fighting about who's a better king—

Ohhh.

That makes so much more sense. Now he knows exactly where he is.

"Hold up!" Luigi shouts, scrambling from behind Ganondorf and placing himself squarely between the two kings (and making a big show of entering, like as if he hadn't been there for the past several minutes wondering what the heck is going on), holding his palms out to the two kings. Not noticing the both of them blinking at him bemusedly, he continues, "Come on, are you really arguing who's the better of the kings here? I would expect that from Bowser, but from you two? No way." He knows he's just flattering them (he thinks both of them are awful kings, even though he has no grudges against King Dedede since after Subspace, he's been nice to him), but he also knows that he needs to get on their good sides in order to separate them.

"Bowser is pretty awful," Ganondorf agrees slowly – Luigi is glad that his full attention is on him rather than Dedede; it means his plan is working to a degree. "But still... I dislike it when others challenge me like that. I already get enough of it from Link, that little bastard..." The evil king crosses his arms over his chest – a shudder runs through Luigi's spine. The younger Mario brother knows that he can be awfully intimidating if he wants to be with his face alone, not including his tall and intimidating stature. Luigi never really did like Ganondorf, and that has not changed.

"And I already get enough of it from Kirby," Dedede adds, almost as if agreeing with Ganondorf. Luigi notices that the king's tone is slightly friendlier than Ganondorf's, more relaxed – no doubt because he feels like he owes the plumber after rescuing him a month or two back in Subspace. Luigi's rather grateful that one of the two in this argument considers him at least an ally – it makes dealing with it all the more easier.

"Well then, why give each other a hard time and make more foes?" Luigi offers, looking back and forth between the two kings – managing along the way to give Mario a reassuring wink. He doesn't register his brother's expression, however, before continuing, "I would say, if anything, you should be working together." Luigi lets this sink into their heads, watching their expressions carefully to see any objection to the idea. However, Dedede and Ganondorf are behaving more than he initially thought they would – Ganondorf seems to seriously consider the idea, and Dedede's stance becomes a lot less threatening. Seeing as he will get no opposition, he goes off on a tangent, since he's on a roll, "Look, I need to make sure that you don't threaten the safety of the other Smashers with your fighting. It doesn't really matter to me if you continue this argument over, say, note or something." Actually, it does, since Luigi has to read those notes, but he won't tell them that. "Let's just put it this way. Be glad that I'm here to separate you two, and not Master Hand. The Hand wouldn't be quite as merciful as I am. I give you two options before I go tell him about this: either join together, or ignore each other – either way, agree to co-exist. Is that a deal?"

Dedede and Ganondorf link gazes, and for a second Luigi is afraid that the both of them will totally ignore what he just said and start fighting again. However, thankfully enough, Dedede nods agreeably, and Ganondorf humphs, which Luigi takes as a, "Eh, whatever you say," which is good enough for the plumber. Raising a flipper, Dedede waves to Ganondorf, who gives him a nod of acknowledgment – and the penguin king disappears down the hallway. In his peripheral vision, Luigi sees Mario giving him a thumbs up, which the green-clad man acknowledges with a smile.

Just as Luigi thinks he's out of the woods, Ganondorf approaches him, and the younger Mario brother recoils at his foul breath reaching his nose. He distantly hears Mario's startled gasp as the dark king growls through gritted teeth, "Don't think just because I consented to this that I suddenly like you. You better watch your back, plumber. You've ruined my plans before, and I'm not going to suddenly forget that just because you might have given me a new ally." With a quick snort, the Hylian villain pushes Luigi, causing the younger Mario to stagger and stare at him in bewilderment as he turns around, his cape flowing behind him. Ganondorf walks into the distance without another word.

Lord Grambi...

The last thing Luigi wants in this campaign is to make enemies. Although certainly he's never gotten along with Ganondorf, he never honestly thought that the dark king would threaten him like that...

"Why I oughta...!" Mario's furious voice brings Luigi out of his daze, and the green-clad plumber can practically see the steam coming out of his brother's ears. "I swear, if I get my hands on that stupid pig I'll rip his head off! He'll regret the day he decided to mess with my li'l bro!"

Luigi smiles. Good ole' Mario.

"Don't worry about it, Bro," Luigi chirps, approaching Mario and giving him a light clap on his shoulder. Luigi feels Mario's muscles relax underneath his hand, and continues cheerfully, "We avoided a crisis. Nobody got hurt. That's what counts, right? I won't let Ganondork's words bother me." When Luigi is greeted with a little chuckle from his brother, he knows that he's breaking through to him and calming him down. The last thing he wants is for Mario to start a fight that can easily be avoided – making a big deal about an implied threat only leads to problems, Luigi has found, and if at all possible Luigi wants to avoid said problems.

"Guess you're right, Bro," the older Mario brother consents. Straightening his stance, the red-clad plumber glances around – and his eyes widen. Before Luigi can ask what the matter is, Mario exclaims, "Weege, look! Looks like you did all us Smashers a big favor..."

Luigi looks around. And gasps.

He can see many grateful faces surrounding him and Mario, many different Smashers who had had their time disrupted because of the two hooligans, now coming to thank him for taking care of them. Luigi can't help but be a little concerned, though – did they really disturb this many people?

"Thanks, Luigi!" he can pick out Fox's voice among the group, near the very group. This seems to break the temporary silent spell, because now Luigi can hear many different voices around him thanking him – to his surprise, he thinks he may have picked out Olimar's voice. Olimar! He didn't even know Olimar could talk before now. Although he's slightly bewildered by the fact characters like the Ice Climbers managed to get disturbed by those two kings, he simply shrugs it off and beams at those thanking him around him.

"It's no problem," Luigi claims, and the Smashers grin at him (each with different degrees of grinning – Luigi has to admit that Wario's looks more menacing than grateful) before returning to what they had been doing before they thanked him. It bemuses Luigi even more noticing that Olimar goes through a portal to some stage that the Mario brother doesn't care to identify – how on earth did they disturb him there?

Wait.

Something bothers him.

Where's Snake?

Luigi didn't spot or hear Snake anywhere amongst the Smashers who thanked him. Heck, he even heard Diddy, and he doesn't even know Diddy that well! Now that the thought niggles him, it won't leave, and the younger Mario brother searches for the mercenary – any sign of him at all. He knows that although Snake isn't the most sociable, certainly he would thank Luigi at least if he did him a favor. Luigi wants to leave it at, Well maybe he wasn't bothered at all himself, but he can't simply because Olimar was bothered and he was in a stage outside of the hall. Luigi does remember clearly that Snake is one of the closer of his newer friends, and although it would be nice if he received a "thank you" from Snake, the real reason why he wants to see him is because... well, like Mario, he hasn't seen him for a while.

"Something bothering you, Weeg'?" Mario asks, gazing at him with some concern.

... I spaced out again!

Luigi turns to face his brother, but his eyes don't exactly move to him – he's still searching for Snake. "Well, I just want to know where Snake is," Luigi replies honestly. He knows that if he tried to hide exactly what he is doing, Mario would be able to figure out what he lied about, anyway – might as well tell him the truth from the beginning. "I didn't see him at all today. I kind of want to talk to him for a bit... if you don't mind."

"Not at all." Mario strokes his mustache with his fingers, a habit that comes from their family heritage – Luigi has more than once caught himself doing the same exact gesture. It doesn't bother him too much, though – at first it highly embarrassed him when he caught himself, but at some point he just accepted it as part of himself (he's still working on accepting the clumsy part of himself, however). "Maybe he's simply in his suite. He may've not come out because he's avoiding the crowds or something. He seems to be the type to me. Though I don't really know him as well as you do..."

However, Luigi beams at his brother – trust him to think of something he never considered before! "I bet that's where he is," the younger Mario brother agrees. "Thanks!" Gently, Luigi pulls his elder brother into a brief embrace, which Mario instantly returns with his thoughtful look completely giving way to a satisfied smile. As Luigi pulls away from the red-clad man, he waves to him: "See you later!" and he starts heading to Snake's suite, but not before catching Mario's wave back in his peripheral vision.

As Luigi passes by the portals on the way to the suite doors, he can't help but wonder how Master Hand decided to choose this set up – or thought any of this up at all. Not for the first time today, Luigi feels a blow of admiration for the hand's ingenuity – that very ingenuity making him miss Professor Elvin Gadd very badly. Luigi hasn't seen the professor for not just months, but at least a year, since the whole time-skipping incident [9], and has wished, more than once, that he could simply get some time to go to the professor's little hut. Luigi wonders often why the professor hasn't replaced that hut – last the younger Mario brothers remembers, he gave all of the money he received from those ghosts he sucked up a few years ago to him as a generous donation, and now the professor has ample money to buy a whole mansion for his inventions [10]. Luigi recalls that the professor doesn't have just one or two inventions, but a lot of them, so much that Luigi highly doubts he can keep it all in the upper floor of his hut. And the younger Mario brother is rather certain that he'll eventually run out of room for more inventions that he plans on making.

Luigi snaps out of his dazed thinking – again – by slamming headfirst into a door.

As Luigi rubs his head, mumbling complaints about how he needs to stop doing that, the door opens slowly, revealing a curious Snake's face, eyes peering down at him. "That's certainly a unique way to knock," the mercenary comments, kneeling and offering Luigi a hand to pull him back up to his feet, which the younger Mario brother gratefully accepts. "Let me guess – thinking and walking at the same time. You sure seem to think a lot."

Luigi smiles sheepishly, and makes a sweeping motion with his arm toward Snake's doorway. The soldier nods wordlessly in response, widening the doorway – the younger Mario brother cautiously steps into the suite. He doesn't know what Snake has done to the place since the last time the two of them had talked – last time, Luigi accidentally stepped on one of Snake's grenades, and it was a very good thing that Dr. Mario happened to be walking by at the time. Now, Luigi is more careful about exploring the area. Luigi isn't mad at Snake for what happened, of course – it was an accident, a fact that was made clear to Luigi by the way that Snake earnestly apologized to him afterward when Luigi was better.

"What brings you here?" Snake questions as he closes the door behind him and flicks on one of the light switches, brightening the room so now Luigi can actually see where he's walking instead of assuming that a certain patch of ground is safe. Snake's room is rather messy, but the plumber, although being a neat freak [11], doesn't nitpick about it – he remembers how well that ended up when he nitpicked about his brother's room. Their mother got so mad...

"Well," Luigi says, easing into a sitting position on Snake's bed, "I didn't see you with the other Smashers. I take it you haven't heard of the dispute Ganondorf and Triple D got in? Or were you just hiding from the crowds?"

"The latter, really," Snake admits, taking a seat next to Luigi much more easily. Which isn't surprising, really – if anyone knows where everything is in this room, it's Snake. "I heard that you took care of them, though. Ganondorf and the penguin, I mean. Thanks for that, by the way. They were disturbing the peace and quiet." Snake doesn't look at Luigi, instead fiddling with his com as he speaks. Not that Luigi minds; he's used to the lack of eye contact from Snake by now.

"No problem. It's my job," Luigi responds automatically. He's used to saying that, actually. Although he does go on about how ungrateful people can be, he has been thanked multiple times, some even tacking his name on the end just to show him they haven't forgotten who he is and they aren't simply just thanking him like as if he's some random do-gooder walking across the street. He has been thanked so much, in fact, that his response is rather automated.

Snake blinks, pausing briefly in fiddling with his com, before returning to fiddling it again, speaking gruffly, "Do you like your job with Master Hand? I mean, it seems rather stressful. Your schedule is pretty tied up all the time, isn't it?" Just like Snake to ask something like that. Although Mario lightly touched upon the subject earlier, he didn't actually ask if it was stressful – just assumed it was. Of all Luigi's friends, Snake is definitely the type to pry a little more. He sometimes plays games of twenty questions, which at times can grate at the plumber's nerves. It's nice, though, that he shows some genuine interest in what Luigi is thinking about. Most think of his random musings to himself as ridiculous or random, and at times Luigi agrees with them – if he looked back on his thoughts about the architecture of the Smash Mansion earlier, he would question why he became a plumber in the first place. However, if Luigi relays these same thoughts to Snake, the mercenary would add something to it, and the conversation would turn into something of actual interest.

"Yeah, it is stressful, and yeah, my schedule usually is tied up," Luigi explains, "but I still like it. After all, I get to help some Smashers... and get to know others, like you." Luigi offers him a smile.

A brief smile crosses over Snake's face, and he replies, "Well, I guess that would make it worth it, huh.

"Taking care of Smashers is a pretty large task to take on, Luigi. But if it makes you happy, well... who am I to tell you to quit?"

xXx

1: Professor Elvin Gadd (Oya Mā in Japanese pronunciation, which means "Oh my!" – his English name is a pun on "Egad!") is a Super Mario World character originally introduced in Luigi's Mansion – he was the supporting character who assisted Luigi in rescuing his brother from the mansion. He has since appeared in two other games – Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga's Starbeans Café (which he owns), and Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time as another supporting character. He has a father-son relationship with Luigi. MarioWiki has an entry on him if you would like to read more about him.

2: Buon pomeriggio means Good afternoon in Italian (apologies if this is incorrect because I myself am not Italian and simply looked it up).

3: Reference to Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga – Bowletta (the main antagonist Cackletta mixed with the antagonist Bowser) captured Princess Peach and something called the Bean Star which grants its user ultimate power (which is what Cackletta is seeking). Luigi dressed up in Princess Peach's dress and imitated her voice (perfectly as we assume because it certainly fooled Cackletta and her assistant, Fawful – and the text coming from Luigi sounded exactly the same as Peach's bleep) so that Cackletta would dump the real Princess Peach and Luigi would be able to steal the Bean Star. MarioWiki has an entry on this game if you would like more information. Actually, better yet, play the game. I highly recommend it and its follow-ups.

4: Grambi is Super Mario World's "God." He shows up in Super Paper Mario and controls the Overthere, which is Super Mario World's version of heaven. MarioWiki has an entry on him if you would like to read more about him.

5: Otacon (Dr. Hal Emmerich is his real name, but everyone calls him Otacon) is Snake's best friend, and is a master engineer and eccentric designer of Metal Gear REX. On some of Snake's Super Smash Bros. Brawl codecs, Snake can speak directly with Otacon about certain characters he fights against. I'm not a Metal Gear Solid expert, so it's best to check the Metal Gear Wiki's page on Otacon for more information about him.

6: Super Paper Mario reference. Won't say much about this one other than if you're really curious, you should either play the game or look up its entry on MarioWiki, considering the very reason why Count Bleck wanted Peach is spoilers to the… well, whole plot of the game. Just a tip for you, though: if you plan on playing the game, don't play it with the mindset of comparing it to the other Paper Mario games, or else you won't enjoy it. At all.

7: Reference to Within the Cardboard Box, a fanfiction that Solitary Shadow has written. It's a brilliant fanfic, so if you haven't read it already, I seriously recommend checking it out!

8: Another Super Paper Mario reference. This one's huge spoilers, so I won't elaborate any further than that.

9: Reference to the whole entire plot of Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time. Play the game or look up its entry on MarioWiki if you want more info. I actually really highly recommend playing this game, even if it has gotten the lowest ratings of the Mario & Luigi series – even with the lowest rankings, it's still a damn good game.

10: In the game Luigi's Mansion, along with rescuing Mario, you also have the ability to get lots and lots of money – in fact, your ranking at the end of the game is determined by how much money you have collected from various ghosts you've sucked up. Need more info? Check out the Luigi's Mansion entry on MarioWiki. Or… better yet, play the game. It's an awesome game, and it stars Luigi – hell yeah!

11: Proven in Luigi's Mansion upon examining various objects in the mansion with the GameBoy Horror.

If you don't know what MarioWiki or Metal Gear Wiki are, Google is your friend.