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IM the Night

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It had been another long day of dramatic brooding and angsty monologues, and Anti-Bravoman was more than ready to wind down. Logging onto his customized iBomb (the most evil PC on the market, now with extra darkness), he opened up his instant messenger of choice and scanned his paltry contacts list.

To his great joy, "GOGO_BRAVO88" was online - just the guy he wanted to see. They'd met on a Bravoman fan site about a month ago, gotten into a great discussion about the latest wave of Bravoman action figures, and had been corresponding via IM ever since. GOGO_BRAVO88 was possibly the closest thing that Anti had to a real friend. Besides Nega-Pigeon, anyway. He double-clicked on his name and settled in to chat.

xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: hey
GOGO_BRAVO88: oh hey buddy!!!!! How you doing?
xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: i'm good i guess. the world is dark and cruel and unforgiving, but i remain vigilant and stalwart, a mysterious figure of justice in a lawless world
GOGO_BRAVO88: Oh are we doing the rp thing again?
xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: what
xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: no i was just
xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: nevermind
xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: how are you doing?
GOGO_BRAVO88: i'm OK i guess
GOGO_BRAVO88: actually i kind of wanted to talk to you about something!
GOGO_BRAVO88: I probably should have told you a long time ago hahahaha but i wasn't really sure how you'd react

Anti blinked. Okay, that wasn't usually a good sign. Usually when people said things like that, they had some kind of terrible life-shattering news to impart, like that they're madly in love with your evil twin brother or that your long-dead father has really been alive all this time or that they're pregnant and you're the father. He really hoped his pen pal wasn't pregnant.

xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: what is it?
GOGO_BRAVO88: well um
GOGO_BRAVO88: gee I'm not really sure how to say this!
GOGO_BRAVO88: but like
GOGO_BRAVO88: I maybe haven't been entirely honest with you?

There was a weird sinking feeling in Anti's chest. This was going nowhere good.

xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: how so
GOGO_BRAVO88: well
GOGO_BRAVO88: you know how we met on that bravoman forum 
GOGO_BRAVO88: and I told you that I was a really big fan of bravoman and that I've been following him since the 80s and everything?
xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: yeah
GOGO_BRAVO88: well i mean that's still kind of true but i 
GOGO_BRAVO88: kind of lied to you?
GOGO_BRAVO88: i'm not actually a fan.

Well that made no sense. GOGO_BRAVO88 was a huge Bravoman fan. He knew all of Bravoman's stats and could recite them by heart, and he owned the entire series of Beraboh Man on Blu-Ray, and he'd showed Anti a bunch of photos of his stacks upon stacks of Bravoman merch and there was absolutely no way he wasn't a hardcore Bravofan. It just wasn't possible.

xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: what do you mean like
xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: have you just been faking this stuff the whole time?
xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: or are you actually a brave man fan and you just didn't want to tell me? because i'm cool with that
GOGO_BRAVO88: i mean
GOGO_BRAVO88: no i am absolutely not a fan of that phony and i also wasn't faking? not really? i just haven't been totally honest with you
GOGO_BRAVO88: the truth is that I'm bravoman
GOGO_BRAVO88: like actually. in real life
GOGO_BRAVO88: for real
GOGO_BRAVO88: and i know you're not going to believe me so here

A window popped up, alerting him that user GOGO_BRAVO88 wanted to send file "crappyselfie.jpg." Anti clicked "OK," his heart pounding. He watched the loading bar fill slowly in fits and starts, ignoring the bloops from his messenger as GOGO_BRAVO88 rambled on. He couldn't look away from the chat, however, even as his eyes remained fixed on the loading bar.

GOGO_BRAVO88: i know this is a really crummy way to tell you but i was starting to feel kind of guilty leading you on like that
GOGO_BRAVO88: I just went on that forum to anonymously chat with some fans and then we started talking and I thought it would be fun to just kind of
GOGO_BRAVO88: pretend I wasn't me for a while
GOGO_BRAVO88: but that feels dishonest to me and I know that you're a huge fan and I didn't want to keep lying to you
GOGO_BRAVO88: hahaha you probably think i'm a huge creep now i'm sorry

The file finished downloading with a quiet "bing," and Anti opened it up in his image viewer, clinging on to the hope that when the file finished loading it'd just be a photo of some desperate fan in a cruddy Bravoman cosplay or something. Because this couldn't be happening. This couldn't be real. 

The picture loaded and filled his screen, and Anti-Bravoman's entire life crashed around him.

It wasn't the best picture - kind of grainy, with that weird ghostly glow you always get when you take a webcam selfie without enough ambient light. Even with the funky light, it was clear that this was no cosplayer. Bravoman's teeth were bared in a wide, sheepish grin, his right hand held up in a peace sign. Looking closely, Anti could see the reflection of their chat window in his visor, and he could just make out the broad curve of the couch behind him. That was definitely Bravoman's couch. He knew that couch.

Oh god.

He'd been talking to Bravoman this whole time.

He'd told him all about his action figure collection and he'd gushed about how Bravoman and Anti-Bravoman were destined to be nemeses and they'd RPed together and he'd told Bravoman about his fanfiction and he'd even showed him some of it OH GOD HIS LIFE WAS OVER.

The chat was still blooping. He stared at it in vacant horror.

GOGO_BRAVO88: you okay there buddy?
GOGO_BRAVO88: oh man you're probably really mad at me oh no
GOGO_BRAVO88: that or you're passed out
GOGO_BRAVO88: you're not passed out are you
GOGO_BRAVO88: hello?
GOGO_BRAVO88: darklord?
xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: not passed out
GOGO_BRAVO88: oh good! you had me worried there for a second
GOGO_BRAVO88: hahaha
GOGO_BRAVO88: so um
GOGO_BRAVO88: you're not angry are you

Anti considered. No, he wasn't really angry. Freaked out and thoroughly humiliated and on the verge of a panic attack, yes, but not angry.

xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: no
GOGO_BRAVO88: phew! that's good
GOGO_BRAVO88: i mean i'd hate to ruin our friendship over this
GOGO_BRAVO88: i think you're a cool kid! it's really nice to see someone so passionate about this stuff you know?
GOGO_BRAVO88: kind of an ego boost but it's also just neat that there are people like you who care this much
GOGO_BRAVO88: oh and that reminds me!
GOGO_BRAVO88: i hope you don't mind but I actually mentioned you to anti-bravoman last week


xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: WHAT
GOGO_BRAVO88: don't worry i didn't mention your username or anything!
GOGO_BRAVO88: I just told him that he had some really hardcore fans and he got really excited
GOGO_BRAVO88: you should be proud, I've never seen the guy so happy

Okay, yeah, he did remember that. He'd kind of let out a very dignified and brooding squeal and danced around a little. But...but if he was the fan that Bravoman had been talking about...

xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: so does anti-bravoman have a huge fanbase or something?
xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: because i haven't really met any other AB fans in this fandom
GOGO_BRAVO88: well you're the only anti-bravoman fan i know
GOGO_BRAVO88: but you're also the only fan i've really talked to! so I don't know
GOGO_BRAVO88: maybe you should start a fanclub or something! i bet he'd love that.
xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: maybe
xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: probably not though
GOGO_BRAVO88: well let me know if you do decide to start one, because i can help set it up if you want
GOGO_BRAVO88: might be able to recruit some people, who knows!
xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: really??? you'd do that?
xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: but he's your archnemesis!
GOGO_BRAVO88: y'know, he likes to say he is
GOGO_BRAVO88: but between you and me, i don't think he's really archnemesis material

Well that was just cold. What about all the dramatic battles they'd fought? ...Okay, yeah, they weren't really battles so much as Anti following him from the rooftops and monologuing to himself, but they had potential! They had solid grounds for a real potent rivalry! And what, all that just meant nothing to him? Had Bravoman even noticed him at all?

Anti pushed his chair back from the desk, his mouse hovering over the logout button, but just as he was about to click it the chat blooped. And then blooped again. And again.

Slowly, he scooted his chair back in and squinted at his screen.

GOGO_BRAVO88: this is probably going to sound silly, and you're probably not going to agree with me because I know how much you love the whole bravo rivalry thing
GOGO_BRAVO88: but if anything I think anti-bravoman is one of my best friends!
GOGO_BRAVO88: next to alpha, at least
GOGO_BRAVO88: out of all the people i hang out with on a regular basis he's one of the only ones who isn't constantly calling me doofus or ripping me off or trying to stab me
GOGO_BRAVO88: he's kind of a weird guy, sure, but i don't hate him or anything!
GOGO_BRAVO88: i mean yeah he definitely has the potential to be a threat
GOGO_BRAVO88: a BIG threat
GOGO_BRAVO88: and i should know
GOGO_BRAVO88: but honestly i don't think that's gonna happen in this timeline, and if it did
GOGO_BRAVO88: i think i'd be pretty sad
GOGO_BRAVO88: i like him better as a kind-of-friend than i would as an enemy

Anti stared at his screen, at a loss for words.

GOGO_BRAVO88: haha sorry i didn't mean to rant at you!
GOGO_BRAVO88: i didn't bore you to sleep, did i?
GOGO_BRAVO88: hello? you check out on me again?
xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: im still here
GOGO_BRAVO88: alright!
xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: but i think i need to go to bed
GOGO_BRAVO88: really?
xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: yeah i have um
xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: school 
xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: in the morning i mean not right now
xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: and my dad yells at me if i'm on the computer too late so
xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: i should probably get off
GOGO_BRAVO88: awwww okay
GOGO_BRAVO88: wouldn't want you to get in trouble with your dad
xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: yeah
GOGO_BRAVO88: goodnight kid!
GOGO_BRAVO88: and thanks for not freaking out too much, haha
xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: yeah
xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: um
xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: thanks for telling me, i guess.
xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: about who you are
GOGO_BRAVO88: no problem!
GOGO_BRAVO88: oh, and we can totally still RP and stuff in the future if you want
GOGO_BRAVO88: i mean i know i'm not very good at playing anti-bravoman, and you probably don't want to because you know it's me now, but it's really fun and i like doing it so
GOGO_BRAVO88: you know. if you want.
xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: okay
xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: yeah, maybe
GOGO_BRAVO88: great!
GOGO_BRAVO88: anyway, i'm gonna let you go
GOGO_BRAVO88: nice talking to you man!
xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: thanks
xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: you too
GOGO_BRAVO88: night!
xX-D4RkL0Rd99-Xx: goodnight

For a few long moments after logging out Anti just sat and stared at the screen, trying to process the entirety of the conversation, replaying lines and scraps of it in his head, waiting for it all to sink in. It didn't really, and now his head was whirling and he was all keyed up. There was no way he was getting any sleep right now.

He considered writing some fanfiction to calm down, but when he thought about his most recent WIP and the vicious battle-to-the-death he'd left off at the last time he worked on it, it made him cringe. Okay, maybe fanfiction wasn't the best idea right now. He needed to clear his head, and there was really only one way for a dark and brooding antihero to do that.

He stood up and pulled his scarf up a little higher around his face. Nega-Pigeon fluttered over to sit on his head as he walked over to his window and pried it open. With a deep breath, he stepped out into the night, leaving his room behind and bounding across the rooftops like a true creature of the dark. No destination in mind, just the usual midnight patrol. And this time it was actually midnight. Well, 10 PM. Close enough.

As he ran, with Nega-Pigeon keeping pace beside him, he thought about his fanfiction. Maybe he didn't need to end this one with another fight to the death. Maybe it would be one of those stories where the hero and the villain had to team up to fight some greater evil. Maybe after they joined forces, they'd realize that they worked better as a team than as enemies. He hadn't really explored that possibility in any of his other stories, and it might be kind of cool to try it out with this one.

Maybe, he thought as he came to rest at the top of a clock tower, the brightly-lit face of the clock behind him creating what was sure to be a really cool silhouette, maybe he'd show that one to Bravoman when he was done with it. Maybe even in person.

For now, however, the night was cool and his scarf was flapping in the breeze and Nega-Pigeon was carving out slow, ominous circles in the air just above his head. For now, he was the antihero, the dark avenger, and for now that was good enough.