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Home Is Where the Heart Is

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When Luigi was born, Mario was there.

And even when he wasn’t, they knew how to find each other, somehow. They’d always had a special bond like that.

Luigi had never realized just how special. He’d heard it from others too many times to count, he might have even said the words himself, made the sounds with his mouth—but what did that actually mean?

The heavens had composed a particularly pleasant rain after a particularly quiet day; Luigi listened to its notes resonating gently off the wood of their cottage. The sound gradually bathed Luigi in a deeper and deeper sense of relaxation, washed over his consciousness, plucking away his thoughts one by one like flower petals disappearing into soft hands. It wasn’t until a clap of thunder wracked his body and soul that he realized he’d fallen asleep at the table where he was reading his book. Luigi could only assume not much time had passed based on the absence of a crick in his neck and shoulder from the odd position, so he placed the book ribbon back between pages 12 and 13 as he inevitably always does and filed the book back into the shelf. The motion gently rattled Mario and Luigi’s toothbrushes sitting in the jar on the nearby cabinetry. As Luigi took off his shoes and cap and sat on the bed below his brother’s, he went through the motions of the familiar routine he followed whenever Mario didn’t return the night after one adventure or another, reminding himself that his older brother can do anything, best any foe, bounce back from anything and come home ultimately unscathed. He never received any letters or such whenever Mario was out, he always had to hear through the grapevine what his older brother was up to while exploring faraway lands, fighting monsters, saying hello and goodbye to new friends. Over time he had grown accustomed to it, keeping one eye on the house’s maintenance and the other on the Mushroom Kingdom as its benched safeguard. Most of all, it was Luigi’s duty to not worry about the other twin.

As they aged, their unknowable pull to each other never weakened, only became more elaborate; or at least, that’s how it felt to Luigi. As talkative as his family was, his brother was never one for many words. The most he’d ever heard Mario speak was when he finally—finally, after years of waiting, worrying, and longing—got the chance to join him on his adventures. Mario talked to get directions. Mario talked to explain their sorry situation to new allies. And when Mario’s bright blue eyes turned to Luigi’s as he talked to his younger brother, gave him encouraging advice, worked out puzzles together, Luigi listened with his entire being. Mario’s voice, usually only heard in truncated interjections and whoops of exhilaration, possessed Luigi’s attention completely. Its singsong dance fluttered between crystal clear, sunshine-bright notes and a lurking melty baritone. Anyone who’d heard it even once would be able to recognize it instantly. As he and Mario were walking to their next destination, Luigi’s mustache twitched with an obfuscated smile at the thought that those close to Mario had the privilege of taking its uniqueness for granted.

Whenever they faced enemies big or small, Luigi watched himself and his brother become a well-oiled machine, equally protecting each other and the world around them whenever they jumped, twirled, hammered; held hands, feet, shoulders; hurled objects, flame, thunder; took care of each others’ wounds when the pain and exhaustion threatened to overtake them. It was when Luigi rushed to feed him plump red mushrooms, rich and nourishing, sometimes even having to pry open a limp jaw to encourage him to swallow a resuscitating green mushroom, that he was more grateful than ever to be able to accompany him. He dared not think about what might have happened had he stayed at home as usual, if not for the sake of saving this or that kingdom, then for the sake of coming to his brother’s rescue as he has done for many, many others. Luigi would do anything to never see Mario’s face twisted in excruciating pain again, but he would sooner give his own life than allow Mario to lose his own. That shared trait of again and again putting their lives on the line for the sake of their brother’s, and perhaps a bit of luck, somehow allowed them to make it through anything.

Luigi shook his head with a “brrrrr” as he sat in bed in an effort to dispel the thought that had haunted him many a time, that maybe tonight was the night he really, really should have been there, that Mario might not come home. He’d let his mind wander too much and he was paying the price for it. But for the sake of believing in his twin if nothing else, he refused to let it go on any longer, stubbornly flopping his body flat against the mattress. He stared at the top bunk he was facing, imagining Mario had been sleeping there peacefully this whole time, partly musing that this could finally be his chance to sleep up there, though it would mostly be a useless action now that it was empty. He had once wrote in his diary—then erased, unable to bear the thought of the words existing tangibly in the world—that his wish to the stars was to be able to sleep on that very bed. As close as the bottom of it always was to his nose whenever he slept, the surface always felt miles away. And now, who knows how far away its usual inhabitant is? A groan tinted sigh escapes Luigi’s throat. Despite his anxieties, Luigi thankfully never had any trouble sleeping, usually averaging about two seconds after his head hit the pillow. Luigi closed his eyes. He concentrated on that ever-unbroken bond between himself and his twin.

Not that Luigi had ever thought about it too much before, but he knew that their bond couldn’t ever truly be described by words, which dulled what would otherwise be a nagging sense that he was missing something due to his brother’s laconic nature. Mario’s simpleness was one of his many traits Luigi had come to be deeply familiar with over the course of a lifetime. Sometimes Luigi wished he could climb into Mario’s mind and peek around in there as his brother did while in the deepest recesses of Luigi’s subconscious. Usually though, Luigi understood that he wouldn’t find much there anyway. What you see is what you get with Mario. Besides, for how often Mario held him while he cried his eyes out, kissed him when he really needed it, helped him twist the both of them into this and that odd pose just to get to the next high ground together, Luigi didn’t feel like they needed too many words anyway.

After all, it was Mario’s silent, simple love that continually ignited Luigi’s will to persevere in the face of anything. And it was Luigi’s undying, unconditional, overflowing, overwhelming, excruciating, effervescent love that always thundered back towards Mario.

Sometimes Luigi would catch those who witnessed their displays of affection giving them disparaging, even disgusted looks. He had never understood why. Luigi was well used to deprecating affects from others, usually as a result of a stumble, or seemingly and inexplicably his very existence, but he had never before considered what it could be about the intensity or the nature of his bond with his brother that was implicitly off-putting to others. He would never allow himself to assume that anyone was jealous, but…

“Are you infatuated with Mario, the superstar?” Psycho Magikoopa had asked him on his very first grand adventure with his brother, as if Luigi was some sort of groupie. Luigi was too locked up with fear at the time to question it, teeth gritted and bones stuck trembling at the mere thought of braving the ruins alone to cure his brother’s Bean Fever. It was only by embodying the courage Luigi admired so deeply in Mario, and thinking about how urgently he needed to save him, that made his assignment possible to complete. But the affectionately wry tone of the comment passively lingered in his mind, swimming in the fishbowl of many other comments like it.

When Mario recovered thanks to Luigi’s successful completion of his errand and they continued on their way, only for one of the girls on Gwahar Lagoon to excitedly chitter “You must be the president of the Mario fanclub!” it reinforced his sense that hardly anybody could ever truly understand the nature of the bond they shared. It seemed that the one and only time it was recognized was all the way back when Mario made his trek across Yoshi’s Island—it was entirely thanks to the Yoshies picking up on the babies’ unique connection that they were able to be reunited.

Their bond was one that began even before they entered the world. Their special bond… their bond shared by nobody else. Their bond unique to them, and only them.

When Luigi was born, Mario was there. He’s always been there.

By coming into existence together, they came to exist for each other.

The sound of birds chirping was the first thing to meet Luigi’s consciousness as it returned to the world, followed by the awareness that it had stopped raining, then the feeling of something damp, heavy, and soft wrapped around his body. He looked down to see a red sleeve hanging off his torso, and a worn-looking shoe carelessly muddying up both the bottom of the bed and the cuffs of Luigi’s overalls.

Luigi didn’t move an inch. Apparently he had never needed to sleep in the top bunk after all.

When Luigi was born, Mario was there. And now—and always, in Luigi’s heart—Mario is here.