viri asked for this. she really did.
The Console Crossroads were different from the ones in the arcade. Everything was sleeker, faster, brighter — there were lights everywhere, blinking neon lines in running along shiny chrome. Ralph could see himself in the polished floors. The gates were divided by system: Wii, PS3, Xbox 360, and some longer names stamped on older trains that rarely run these days, or so Ralph was told. Clyde never stopped talking about it.
Another branch of Bad Guys Anonymous was established in the Crossroads. They met every Thursday evening, when the kids were too exhausted from soccer practice to pick up the controllers, and Ralph didn’t miss a day. There were some familiar faces: he was happy to see Eggman and Bowser survived the Great Console Conversion, even if others, like Clyde, didn’t fare as well. But there were even more new ones: Ganondorf, Sephiroth, Yin Yarn, and…
“I am the Demon Lord Ghirahim!”
He marched in like he owned the place, arms spread, head held high, red and gold flying behind him like a banner. Snickers followed him. Ralph had seen too many of these theatrical types to be impressed.
“… Yes, Ghirahim. I’m sure everyone heard that introduction.” Eggman cleared his throat. “Take a seat.”
Ghirahim spun once, surveying his options, his dark eyes too big for his face. He flung himself into the chair next to Ralph and turned those enormous eyes to him, along with a dainty gloved hand.
“Hello, there. I do prefer my full title, but I can make do with simply Ghirahim.”
Ralph hid a grimace. He reached out — saw Ghirahim’s eyes grow wider and dip a fraction lower — and shook his hand, fitting it between his thumb and forefinger. “I’m Ralph.”
He smiled. “Charmed.”
Ghirahim sought him out the next meeting, then the one after that, and he kept coming until Ralph decided he had no choice but to get used to his presence. Ghirahim talked too much and much too often, and was a bit too fond of flailing his arms and yelling when he felt passionately about something, which was always. He was touchy. When they left Bad Guys Anonymous together, and even when they walked there, Ghirahim grabbed his arm and pulled, because he was impatient, and Ralph was too slow, and Ralph really wanted to punch him sometimes but never actually did.
They were leaving now. Ghirahim’s hand was around Ralph’s thumb. “And then, he stabs me in the chest and doesn’t even apologize after shooting was over. He has the nerve to act like it didn’t even happen! Oh, Ghirahim, it was just part of the script, why are you so mad? Why wouldn’t I be?”
Ralph opened his mouth to answer, but Ghirahim’s voice was overflowing. He realized this was one of those times where it didn’t really matter what he said; Ghirahim only wanted to hear his own voice and wanted Ralph to listen. The grip on his thumb tightened, and he grimaced. Ghirahim glared at him fiercely.
“Come with me.”
He pulled. Two white hands dragged Ralph through the Crossroads. Past crowds, signs, lights, until they were shielded by the dark, dusty shadows of the gate that should have lead to the Nintendo 64, but now housed an old, blocky rail cart and tracks leading nowhere.
Finally, Ghirahim released him, moving to the cart and bracing his hands on it. He jumped in, glared at it when it dared to creak from his weight, and motioned for Ralph to come closer.
“Give me your hands.”
He’d never asked before. Ralph was startled enough to listen. Ghirahim examined them briefly, then turned his back to him and sank down against the bottom of the cart.
“Now put them on my head, and start rubbing.”
Ralph blinked twice. Both of his hands on Ghirahim’s head looked dangerous, like he could crush him he pushed too hard, but he did as he asked. He didn’t really know why, only that Ghirahim’s hair felt like silk, too delicate between his fingers.
He wasn’t sure how long it had been until he asked, “And why am I doing this again?”
“Your hands make for excellent massaging.” Ghirahim purred. Ralph rolled his eyes.
“Sometimes this is needlessly complicated.” Ghirahim said after another stretch of silence. “It’s his fault, of course. I can’t talk about this with anyone else, because he wants to keep us secret. It’s so different, he says, and no one else would understand — but oh, the fact that he could even think of keeping me in the dark enrages me…”
His thin fingers tapped an angry rhythm on his lap. Fragmented slashes of light cut harsh shadows on Ghirahim’s shoulder blades, and Ralph pressed his hands down on them, made them jump and strain in the light seconds before they were consumed by his palms.
“There’s no one else.” Ghirahim whispered, fingers pulling the silk on his thighs taut. “I don’t have anyone else to tell.”
His hands pressed, prodded, coaxing. He sighed.
“It’s just you. Maybe that’s enough.”