It has been a long day.
Luigi has been up for just over twenty-four hours answering ghost related calls. A few were false alarms, a couple were misunderstandings with relatively peaceful resolutions, but the vast majority had been malevolent activity that only the Poltergust could solve. The plumber hasn’t dealt with this many consecutive incidents in a long time.
He is exhausted.
Luigi stumbles toward his bed, kicking off his shoes as he heedlessly drops the Poltergust by his nightstand. The professor would probably be appalled by the delicate equipment’s treatment, but Luigi is far too drained to care. Not bothering to change, he flops onto the mattress and stares blearily at the ceiling.
“I can’t feel my legs, Pepper," Luigi mumbles.
The Polterpup, who is currently curled up at the foot of the bed, yaps once in acknowledgement.
“Thank you for your concern."
The room descends into a peaceful silence, disturbed only by the ticking of a clock that echoes quietly down the hall, and a gentle breeze whispering through the trees outside the plumber's window. Luigi’s breathing slowly begins to even out.
A harsh buzzing in his pocket startles Luigi awake. He groans, reluctantly retrieving his phone and unlocking it. A text message from a number Luigi doesn’t recognize appears in his notifications. With growing dread, he opens it.
For a moment, all Luigi can do is stare at the single photo included in the message, instantly recognizing both of its subjects. To offer insight into the plumber’s current mental state, his first thought upon seeing the image isn’t:‘Oh no! King Boo has kidnapped my brother (again)!', it’s: ‘When did King Boo get a cell phone?'.
Luigi slowly rolls over and buries his face in his pillow. The Polterpup is jolted from their light dozing by a muffled scream piercing the otherwise soothing white noise of the bedroom. Pepper tilts his head inquisitively, padding over to the plumber’s side and gently nudging the latter with his snout. Luigi blindly reaches out and pats the concerned canine’s head.
“I’m okay, Pepper," he lies. “Just...really frustrated."
An understatement, to be sure.
The plumber stashes the phone back into his pocket and, with great difficulty, pushes himself up into a sit. With even more difficulty, he stands, recovers his shoes, and clumsily slides them back on. Luigi takes one last longing look at his bed and trudges out the door.
Right past the Poltergust.
To an outside observer, it would appear that a zombie is limping its way toward a haunted mansion in the middle of nowhere. In a way, they would be correct—Luigi feels positively dead on his feet. Had he been more cognizant, the plumber would probably be embarrassed by the number of times he trips on his way up the stairs, or how he leans against the front doors for a curiously long time before attempting to open them. Indeed, Luigi makes no effort to be cautious or polite in his entrance; he merely pushes his way through and stumbles into the foyer.
“’m here," he announces wearily.
Luigi's voice is swallowed by the vacuous silence of the mansion. There’s no response.
Impatient, and borderline apathetic, the plumber drags himself over to the stairway leading up to the second story and plops down on the bottom step. Luigi may have answered King Boo’s taunt, but that doesn’t mean he has to play his game. If the spectral monarch wants a showdown, he’ll have to come to Luigi.
Time passes, and the plumber slowly finds himself leaning back until he is lying on the stairs. It’s far from comfortable, but at this point, anything vaguely horizontal feels inviting. When his eyelids start to droop, Luigi begins humming an enervated, off-key tune to help stay awake.
“You know, just because I allow you to live doesn’t mean you can waltz in here whenever you please."
Luigi blinks, craning his neck back to see an unimpressed King Boo glaring down on him. Luigi weakly returns the glare.
“You’re a jerk," he slurs.
“And you’re rude," the monarch retorts. “Not to mention entirely too comfortable in my presence. Now, am I going to have to put the fear of Jaydes in you or are you going to get up and show some respect?"
Luigi begrudgingly rises to his feet and turns to properly face the source of his torment. King Boo gives the man a once-over, quirking a brow at Luigi’s disheveled appearance.
“You look horrible. Well, even more so than usual."
“I would ask why, but I don’t really think I care."
“Uh-huh. Where’s my brother, King Boo?"
The spectral monarch blinks innocently back at the plumber.
“Your brother? Why, I haven’t seen him in ages! How should I know of his whereabouts?"
"You sent me a selfie of you and Mario with the caption: 'Ha ha you weren't invited'."
"So, you can read. Remarkable! Though your reading comprehension is clearly lacking seeing as you are here.”
"Why am I here?"
"That's what I would like to know."
Luigi was way too tired for this. Any other time, he would be willing to tolerate the spirit’s waggery, but the accumulated exhaustion from the last twenty-four hours has sapped his patience. The plumber knows attacking—and subsequently capturing—the ghostly monarch will come back to bite him, but in that moment, he decides it is future Luigi’s problem. Not even bothering to be subtle about it, he reaches back to grab the Poltergust’s nozzle—
And his hand meets air.
Luigi’s heart falters in his chest, and he is suddenly wide awake. In his haste to leave, he had completely forgotten to grab the one thing that could defeat King Boo—the only thing that stood between him and a place on the monarch’s wall. How could he have been so careless? How could he have been so stupid?!
The plumber looks up at King Boo, wide-eyed, and finds the spirit staring back with open shock. King Boo’s stupor doesn’t last, however. His expression quickly morphs into something triumphant—something sadistic.
“Oh my, what is this?” the king purrs, moving closer. “Did you leave something important at home, dear Luigi? Your keys? Wallet, perhaps?”
Luigi unwittingly takes a few steps back, feeling vulnerable in a way he hasn’t since his first encounter with a ghost all those years ago. King Boo’s grin widens exponentially.
“It’s not like you to be so forgetful. So…careless, ” he continues. “I shudder to think what would happen if someone took advantage of you being so unprepared …”
The plumber keeps backpedaling as the spirit slowly, patiently, pursues him. Luigi clenches his fists, and lightning weakly sparks to life along his gloves.
“I-I can still defend myself,” the plumber retorts, hating the way his voice wavers.
King Boo cackles at his false bravado.
“Oh, I’m sure you can. But for how long? It would seem you have been…how does the saying go? 'Burning the candle at both ends'? I doubt you’d last five minutes, and that’s being generous.”
Luigi opens his mouth to refute the monarch’s words, but is startled into silence when his back hits something solid—the front doors. He doesn’t have to try the handles to know they’re locked.
“What kind of frame would you prefer, Luigi? Gold? Silver? Or are you more of a bronze man?”
If the plumber was meant to answer, he isn’t given the chance. King Boo abruptly lunges forward, and Luigi—to his utter dismay—doesn't even attempt to lash out in self-defense. He instead squeezes his eyes shut and braces himself against the heavy oak doors, waiting for the first blow.
A beat passes, and nothing happens.
Luigi dares to open his eyes. He finds the spirit is hovering a mere arm's length away.
The plumber is ashamed to admit he flinches.
“I must say, Luigi, I have missed this—the sight of you cowering in fear. It always left me feeling so rejuvenated.”
Luigi narrows his eyes, scraping together what little nerve he has left.
“Well, what are you waiting for?" he goads, rather foolishly. “Get on with it."
King Boo laughs, amused by his daring.
“Oh, believe me, it’s very tempting," the monarch chuckles darkly. “But that wouldn’t be very sporting, now would it? Look at you—you're barely standing! And I had absolutely no hand in it! I’d lose all bragging rights for defeating you when you’re already so...what, are you sick or something? Have you contracted that disease you mortals seem to get every season? What’s it called? Polio?"
“I haven’t slept in over a day."
“Stars that’s pathetic. ‘Luigi, beaten because he missed naptime’. What an underwhelming plaque that would make."
Luigi stares at King Boo in disbelief. He supposes he should be grateful that the spirit apparently has some code of honor. No...that’s not right. He should be grateful that King Boo has an ego the size of the moon.
“So...now what?" he dares to ask.
“Hmm...I’m not sure. As delightful as this unexpected turn of events was, it has completely thrown off my plans." King Boo huffs, sounding rather put out. “I suppose we’ll just have to get to the point and skip the theatrics. How boring ."
Luigi tenses, eyeing the spirit warily. To his growing surprise, the ghostly monarch simply turns and glides toward an adjacent hallway. When Luigi makes no move to follow, they peer back at him with an arced brow.
“That’s your cue to follow."
The plumber blinks owlishly. King Boo rolls his eyes.
“Either you play along or I’ll rescind my previous declaration and trap you in a painting anyway."
Luigi pushes himself from the doors with a sigh, but otherwise complies. He stumbles after the spirit on unsteady legs—whether they tremble from fatigue or residual fear, he cannot say. King Boo hums his satisfaction and leads them down a series of long corridors.
They soon arrive at a large, pristine bathroom—the floors polished so thoroughly that Luigi can see his own haggard reflection. It's a jarring contrast to the state of the rest of the mansion. The plumber peers around, bemused.
"Uh...nice bathroom, I guess, but why are—"
Luigi cuts himself off as his eyes land on a painting hanging above the toilet. In said painting is one very annoyed looking Mario—arms crossed peevishly and brows deeply furrowed. Luigi slowly turns to the ghostly monarch.
"...why?" he whispers.
King Boo shrugs.
"It seemed appropriate. Not to mention hilarious."
Luigi drags a hand down his face.
"You went through all this trouble for a dumb joke?"
"Of course not! What do you take me for, a child? No, this is only part of why you're here."
"...what's the other reason?"
King Boo gestures to Luigi's left. The plumber turns and finds the spirit is pointing at a sink. He watches as water beads at the faucet’s aerator before slowly dripping into the basin.
Luigi stares, unblinking.
“You’re…you’re not serious.”
King Boo's ever-present grin widens.
“But…you made this mansion, and everything in it. You could repair that leak with a single thought.”
“Yes, yes, all true, but then I found myself thinking: ‘Hmm...I don’t believe I’ve ever seen the Mario Bros. actually do any plumbing.’ And, being the charitable king that I am, I thought I’d give you a job—a chance to work your craft and make yourself useful for once."
“... Let me get this straight. You abducted my brother, sent me a taunting message in the middle of the night, all to lure me here so I’d fix your sink? "
“You could have just asked me!"
“Ah, but where’s the fun in that?"
Luigi buries his face in his hands.
“I changed my mind; I’d like to be turned into a painting, please.”
“Oh, don’t be such a spoil sport.”
Luigi gives the spirit an exasperated look.
“You’re not going to let us go until I do this, are you?"
The plumber wants to cry, or scream, or...something, but that would only amuse King Boo further. He hangs his head, shoulders slumped in defeat.
“Fine." He sighs. “But I’m going to need my tools—"
Luigi looks over to see a tool box perched innocently on the countertop (it definitely wasn’t there earlier). To his dismay, he notes that they are indeed his tools.
“Did...did you go into my house?"
King Boo scoffs at the accusation.
“No, Luigi, that would be weird. I had one of my loyal subjects do it."
Luigi takes a deep, composing breath. Without a word, he trudges over to the sink and begins inspecting the faucet. King Boo cackles victoriously.
“Oh, what a momentous night this is! The great Luigi, in the bathroom I don’t need, fixing the sink I never use. I’m positively star-struck!" The monarch swoons. “It isn’t right that I be the sole witness of this occasion. I must have an audience!"
The plumber turns at the sound of King Boo clapping, but not quick enough to catch how they managed such a thing. A handful of Boos glide into the room from all directions and form a line by their king.
“Look, friends! The green nuisance himself, performing manual labor."
The spirits ‘ooh’ with exaggeration, one even going so far as to whip out a camera and snap a picture. Luigi wearily rolls his eyes and resumes scrutinizing the leaking spout.
“Hmm...something’s missing," the monarch muses aloud. “But of course! Our dear friend Mario should be allowed to watch his brother repair the plumbing of royalty. It wouldn’t do for him to miss a milestone in your career."
“I’ve worked on the plumbing in Peach’s castle dozens of times."
“That bubble-headed blunder doesn’t count as royalty."
Luigi bites his tongue, choosing to continue his assessment instead of inciting a doomed argument.
King Boo drifts over to Mario’s painting and lightly taps the canvas. A ripple spans out from the contact point.
“Wakey-wakey, sewer man!" they sing-song.
Mario’s static image abruptly comes to life. He startles from his frozen posture of displeasure, glancing around with a dazed expression. When his eyes land on the spectral monarch, they narrow into icy daggers.
“You." he hisses.
“Me." the spirit purrs back.
“What are you up to this time?" Mario asks rhetorically. “Whatever it is, Luigi will stop—"
The red-clad plumber trails off, finally taking in his surroundings.
“...are we in a bathroom?"
“Observant, aren’t we? I thought it’d make you feel more comfortable; given your profession, and all."
“I thought so. Luigi didn’t appreciate my sense of humor either."
Mario’s eyes widen at the implication.
“That’s right, Mario! Your brother is here too! Would you like to see him?"
Without waiting for an answer, King Boo calls forth his magic and levitates Mario’s portrait off its hooks. He draws the frame to his side and turns it toward the adjacent wall, allowing the Mushroom Kingdom’s hero their first glimpse of their brother.
The green-clad plumber is currently clearing out the junk from under the sink’s cabinet. At the sound of his brother’s voice, he turns and offers a half-hearted wave.
Mario gapes at his brother’s ragged appearance. He turns a fiery glare towards King Boo, hands pressed against the invisible barrier of his prison.
“What did you do?" he demands angrily.
“Scared him, humiliated him..." the monarch trails off. “Oh, you’re talking about his appearance! Well, I knew your education was poor, but there’s this thing called genetics—"
A fire ball ricochets harmlessly off the painting’s inner barrier.
“Chill out, Mario. I’m not responsible for Luigi’s pitiful state. No, that’s your workaholic of a brother’s doing."
“You expect me to believe that?"
“I don’t expect you to do anything. As disappointing as you two can be, I don’t expect much of anything at all." He suddenly raises his voice pointedly. “Except maybe for some people to show up properly armed for a fight!"
Luigi doesn’t rise to the spirit’s baiting. He is now under the sink, his legs the only part of him that is visible.
“Can you believe he forgot to bring the Poltergust?" King Boo continues, unperturbed. “Unprofessional, that one."
“He what?! "
“I know! His incompetence ruined everything. Instead of battling to a buildup of a hilariously stupid gag, I get this...wet blanket."
They both simultaneously look over at Luigi. He hasn’t moved from his spot or acknowledged their conversation in any way.
“But...if he didn’t bring the Poltergust, why isn’t he...?"
“In a painting? He asked me the same thing." King Boo scoffs. “Honestly, do neither of you appreciate showmanship? What does a spirit have to do to get an adversary with a little class? "
Mario leans forward so his head is resting against the portrait’s invisible wall.
“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I wish I was Bowser’s prisoner instead."
“Are you telling me you find that hard-shelled has-been's presence less tortuous and vile than mine?"
“...Mario, that is the kindest thing you have ever said to me."
While this exchange unravels, one of the quietly observing Boos (the one that had taken the photograph, specifically) glides over to Luigi.
“Hey Luigi, can you sign this picture?" They procure a marker and the recently developed photo from seemingly thin air. “I’m thinking about putting it on eBoo to help pay off my student loans."
The plumber says nothing.
Still nothing. The Boo pokes one of Luigi’s legs and garners no reaction. They slowly turn back to the still squabbling pair.
“Your majesty? I think Luigi’s dead."
The bickering stops. King Boo and Mario look over at Luigi with wildly varied expressions—annoyed and horrified, respectively.
“He better not be," the monarch growls, ignoring Mario’s worried exclamations as he drifts over. “I called dibs on his cause of death, and this is not what I had in mind."
King Boo looms over Luigi, scowling down at the plumber’s still form. With a wave of an arm, an unseen force latches onto the plumber’s legs and yanks him none-too-gently out from under the sink. The short drop from the cabinet is enough of a shock to jar Luigi out of his slumber. He snaps up, peering about with bleary eyes.
“Hm? What’re we doin’? What’s up?"
The spectral monarch sighs, exasperated.
“And I thought you couldn’t get any more pathetic tonight." He takes the photograph and marker from the other Boo and hands it to Luigi. “Here, sign the lad’s picture. And pull yourself together for Stars sake."
The plumber, still largely out of it, blindly does as he’s told.
“Well, this went from entertaining to embarrassing rather quickly, now didn’t it?" King Boo takes back the signed picture and returns it to the photographer. Once he has his loyal subjects’ attention, he dismisses them with a wave. “Leave us; I shan't subject you to this pitiful sight any longer."
They depart obediently, and in a few short seconds, King Boo and the Mario Bros. are all that remain in the superfluously lavish lavatory. The spirit turns to Luigi with a frown.
“Did you at least fix the problem before you made an absolute fool of yourself?"
“And? What was it?"
“The handle wasn’t completely shut off."
“It took you this long to figure that out?"
“No, I knew right away." Luigi stretches with a yawn. “I decided to play dumb and take a breather, just in case you had something else planned for me after this."
King Boo distantly hears Mario snickering from the safety of their prison. He glares down at the green-clad plumber, noting with some annoyance that no trace of fear from their earlier encounter remained; only a tired apathy. The ghostly monarch opens their mouth, perhaps to offer some scathing retort, but holds off at the last second. Instead, he grins, looking almost impressed.
“Conniving little thing, aren’t you?" He chuckles. “Ordinarily I wouldn’t tolerate such insolence, but seeing as you’ve proven quite amusing tonight, I’ll let it slide."
“Thanks," Luigi mumbles. He reaches into his pocket and removes a small gem. “Oh, um, also, I found a ruby in the trap."
King Boo sneers at the proffered jewel.
“Keep it." Without warning, another handful of the same precious stones appears in Luigi’s hand. “In fact, take these as well. Rubies are out of season and I’m trying to get rid of them."
Mario stares at the king like he’s crazy. Luigi’s too exhausted to question the spirit’s absurdities and merely accepts the gems with an absent nod.
“Excellent. Now, take your brother and get out of my mansion. Your presence is beginning to sicken me."
Luigi makes no attempt to stand. Mario gives his brother a concerned look.
King Boo growls in annoyance, infinitely less sympathetic.
“Oh, for the love of—!" The spirit grabs Luigi by the back of his shirt and hauls him to his feet, simultaneously shoving Mario’s portrait into his arms. “There, now leave!"
King Boo pushes the plumber in the direction of the door. Luigi sways his way over to the exit, but ends up crashing into the wall just shy of the threshold. Mario yelps when his brother nearly drops him.
Any other time, such a sight would leave the spectral monarch rolling with laughter. Instead, it only serves to annoy him further.
“I don’t have time for this."
The spirit rushes over and scruffs Luigi yet again, holding the man out like a particularly putrid bag of refuse. With a wave of an arm, a portal opens up in the bathroom floor. Mario cries out in alarm when King Boo dangles them over it, but Luigi remains largely unresponsive.
“When your pathetic brother regains some semblance of cognitive function," King Boo begins, addressing the red-clad plumber, “tell him that next time I kidnap you, he is not allowed to try and play ‘hero’ unless he is in tip-top condition. I am willing to wait a few hours or even a few days if it means not having to deal with this ever again."
Mario narrows his eyes, baring his teeth angrily.
“There won’t be a next time."
“You keep telling yourself that. See you around, plunger boy!"
With little fan-fare, King Boo releases his hold and watches gleefully as the portal swallows the two brothers up.
To Mario, it feels like an eternity when they finally stop falling through the swirling, abstract magenta and indigo shapes; but really, it’s only a few seconds. The portal opens in the ceiling of Luigi’s bedroom, mercifully dumping the two brothers onto the green-clad plumber’s mattress. The force of the landing sends the sleeping Polterpup a few inches into the air, startling them into wakefulness and, subsequently, a barking fit.
“It’s okay, Pepper," Mario calls, trying to sooth the canine. “It’s just us."
Pepper quiets at the familiar voice. They turn, finally taking notice of the apparent intruders. Luigi is sprawled out on the mattress—sleeping peacefully despite all the commotion—with Mario’s painting lying face up at his side. Seeing that the green-clad plumber was out of it, Pepper instead chooses to inspect the portrait. The Polterpup places their paws on the bottom part of the frame and peer down at the trapped hero.
The spirit yaps once in greeting, tail wagging excitedly behind them.
“Good to see you too." He smiles. “Hey, do you think you can take me to the professor so I can get out of this thing?"
Pepper answers by stepping fully onto the canvas and curling up into a ball; they’re asleep within moments.
Mario sighs. It had been a long shot anyway. He could try and wake Luigi, but as exhausted as his brother seemed, he didn’t want to disturb him. Honestly, Mario isn’t even sure he could wake him at this point.
He’ll just have to endure his prison a little longer.