Author: I debated chopping this up into two chapters, but then decided not to because, well, what would have been Chapter 9-1 really had nothing interesting in it. So, instead, you get one very long chapter. Enjoy?
Note on Luigi's last name: Mario purportedly was named Mario because of an argument the Nintendo president had with the Nintendo of America's warehouse landlord, who was named Mario Segale. Thus, Luigi Segale.
"She claims that you materialized in her bathtub via the drain," the police officer said slowly, probably chalking up what the woman had said to some new kind of hallucinogenic drug.
"If that's what she says, then it must be true," Luigi replied with a shrug.
Luigi had, admittedly, been just as bewildered to find himself woken with a face-full of pepper spray, but he objectively understood—a woman living alone in Brooklyn was apt to have such a reaction when an unknown man simply appeared in her bathtub.
Still, the pepper spray had hurt.
"And you have no idea how you got there."
Luigi shook his head. "No clue."
He was sitting in a police car, waiting for what would come. He had never been arrested before, and he had never watched cop dramas, so he had no idea what to expect, but felt he was being treated suspiciously well, given that she hadn't even handcuffed him—although she had taken away all his tools. Doing so made sense, considering he was a plumber and some of the tools of his trade could feasibly make decent weapons.
So, he was waiting in the back seat of a police car, feeling very out of his depth and, frankly, terrified. The officer had indicated that the year was 2014—the last thing he clearly recalled was going out to a job in 1983.
Surely a person can't lose a third of their lives…right? He wondered as he absently rubbed the cloth over his heart. He couldn't deny that time had passed, either—the montage he was treated to as they drove through the typical stop-and-go of the City demonstrated that clearly. The music was different, the way people dressed had changed, and a great many of the stores he had remembered frequenting were now just…gone.
Thankfully, it seemed that overalls hadn't gone completely out of style for a man of his profession, so he didn't stick out as much as he could have.
"Hey, Mr. Segale?"
Luigi looked back from the window to the officer.
"Something interestin' turned up," she said, keeping her eyes on the road. "We've found a missing persons report that fits you almost perfectly. It's from three decades ago, though, and, you sure as hell don't look like you're in your fifties."
Luigi shifted uncomfortably. "I'm sorry?"
"My dad would kill to look like you. He's been bitchin' about going grey early, and blaming it on me and my sister."
"Can…can I see the report?"
"When we get to the station."
Luigi nodded and turned back to looking out the window, although his focus was more on the reflection in the glass than the scenery.
I should be in my fifties? He thought, bewildered. The officer was right when she said he didn't look it, and he certainly didn't feel over fifty years old. The face that stared back at him wasn't in its fifties, that was for certain.
The arrived at the station and Luigi was let out, and guided into the building.
"There were contacts on the missing persons' report," the officer told him. "We tried them, and were surprised when we actually did speak to your mother. I don't think she believed Rose, but said that she was going to come down anyway."
Luigi nodded meekly as he was lead to a seat and left there. Luigi looked down at his boots and absently stroked his mustache.
If I'm in my fifties, that means mama is in…is in her seventies…
His stomach dropped to his shoes and he grimaced, running a rather grimy glove through his hair once he had taken off his personalized hat.
She's gonna be so angry with me.
The wait was unbearable, especially since his mind decided to assault him with just how badly his mama would react.
Well, she can't use a wooden spoon on me in public, but that won't keep her from slapping me the minute I'm outside of the station…
His cheek was already tingling in anticipation of the pain.
And I can't even find a bright side, since if they could only contact mama that means that papa is probably…dead?
The thought was horrifying and left Luigi squirming in guilt.
Luigi startled, having been lost in morose musings about just what his mother could do to him and legally get away with it, and looked up quickly.
She had aged considerably, yes, but he would recognize his mama no matter what happened to her.
"Mama…" he said, uncertain how to continue. Tears were leaking out of her eyes, but anger was plain on her features.
Yup, I'm in for hell.
"Where have you been, young man?" she asked with quiet intensity.
Luigi opened and closed his mouth before fixing his gaze on where the steel was beginning to show through the leather of his boots. "I'm…can we talk about this someplace else? Please?"
His mother stared at him for a long time before she sighed. "Very well. I guess personal conversations don't belong in police stations. At least I didn't have to pay any money for bail."
Luigi laughed weakly as he stood, and extended his arm to his mother. She linked her arm in his and they left the station together.
Luigi counted himself lucky that she waited until they were a good distance away from the station before she hit him hard enough to make him see stars.
"Mama, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Luigi said quickly, rubbing his stinging cheek and trying to stave off another vigorous slap. "I really didn't mean to...you see…" Luigi's shoulders slumped. "The last thing I remember before being woken up by a panicked young woman is getting out of my van to do a job in a residence. In 1983."
Mama Segale frowned, the lines of life that were etched on her face deepening with the motion. "What?"
"Home first?" Luigi pleaded.
"I live with one of your cousins. Since your father passed away last fall…"
Luigi flinched and bit back tears. He had guessed that his father was gone, but had hoped that such wasn't the case, that he had just been out of the house when the police called…
"I'm sorry," Luigi murmured after his mama had swiped them both through into the subway. "I'm sorry. I'm so, so, sorry. Mama—"
His mother placed one finger on his lips and shook her head. "We have a lot of catching up to do."
I have a lot of catching up to do, Luigi amended. I have nothing to say of interest to her because…I can't remember anything.
The ride back to her home was silent, but that was partly because Luigi's head was reeling from everything he was experiencing. Sure, he had seen all the differences through the windows of the cop car, but sitting in the subway with people who were used to the new millennium was…overwhelming.
"Are you okay?" his mother asked, and Luigi gave her an attempt at a smile, which he obviously failed at from the concerned look she gave him.
"It's nothing," he murmured in reply.
"Of course," his mother said dryly, which made him smile weakly.
I've always been transparent.
The walk was necessarily slow after they got off the subway, given that summer was just hitting full-swing and the heat was oppressive.
"You've managed to keep the family home," Luigi murmured. 'Home' being the apartment that his parents had bought long and long ago when rent wasn't exorbitant.
"One of the few constants in life," his mother replied as she opened the front door.
A dog ran to greet them, dancing happily around Mama before giving Luigi an inquisitive look.
Luigi extended his hand, which the dog sniffed and wagged its tail before turning away.
"Well, Ben likes you, so you can't be all bad."
Luigi looked up to see a young woman standing down the hallway. He didn't recognize her, but if thirty years had really passed, he might not have even met her. She looked to Mama and said: "So, is he the real deal?"
"He's my son, yes," Mama replied, and Luigi felt his throat close up.
Luigi hung his hat on a hook near the door and took off his shoes and gloves, deciding that he'd rather not track anything into the house.
"How do you know?"
"Mother's intuition," Mama replied. She looked at Luigi sternly, who flinched.
"Now, explain yourself."
Luigi walked into the den and sat on the loveseat before saying, "I can't."
"What do you mean, 'you can't'?"
"I…I don't remember the last thirty years," Luigi replied. "It's like, between one breath and the next, decades passed."
"You really have no idea?" his cousin asked.
Luigi shook his head slowly.
"And you really think this is your son?"
"Karla. Would you recognize your daughter, no matter what?"
"Then trust me. He is Luigi."
"I can tell you stories from when I was a kid," Luigi said, "but I can't remember anything since 1983."
"Prove it," his mama said, looking at him intently.
Luigi rubbed the back of his neck. "Well, there was that one time when I was dared to drink a can of diet cola with a mouthful of Mentos…that didn't end well. Especially since I tried to keep everything in so it ended up squirting out my nose. I was, what, ten?"
Mama's lips twitched as Karla snickered.
"Yes," Mama affirmed.
"And then there was the time where we went to the wrong Haunted House and I was traumatized for life and couldn't sleep without my lights on for a month. And the time we went to Coney Island and stayed on the Tea Cups a little too long…"
Luigi recounted a great many embarrassing childhood stories that had his mother laughing and his cousin in tears.
"You remember all that, but you can't remember anything since 1983?" Karla asked, and Luigi nodded as he absently rubbed the cloth over his heart.
"Nothing. Trying to get out a stubborn clog out of a bathtub drain and then being hit with pepper spray with no down-time in-between."
Mama hummed and leaned back in the recliner that she had claimed during Luigi's retelling of some of the most memorable events of his childhood. "Strange. I guess it's possible, though. Oh!"
Luigi shrunk under the intensity of his mother's stare. "Do you know where Mario is?"
The mention of 'Mario' brought up images of birthday parties and school events, but again hit the wall of 1983.
"N-no. I don't know where he is," Luigi said once he could speak again.
There was a pained silence before Mama sighed. "I suppose I should be grateful that even one of my baby boys made his way home."
"I'm sorry…" Luigi trailed off.
"I think we should throw a small 'Yay! You're alive!' party for Luigi," Karla said in an attempt to break the gloom that was descending.
"Why not?" Mama said, offering them a smile. "There's precious little to celebrate these days."
"And you'll probably get a chance to meet my daughter," Karla said cheerfully. "Now, what should we do for our little shindig?"
"Um, where should I set myself up? Just until I get my feet under me again. I still know how to be a plumber afterall, and I'd hate to freeload…" Luigi trailed off.
"Well, I'm sure Sasha would be willing to share a room with her mother, at least for a little."
"Oh, no, no! That'd be too much trouble," Luigi protested. "I can take the couch or something."
"No, really. I don't want anyone to be inconvenienced on my behalf," he insisted. "Couches are comfortable, anyway."
Karla and Mama shared a look before Karla said: "Fine. Aunt Maria, think you could make dinner while I get Luigi up to speed on what has happened? Maybe something will jog his memory."
Mama hummed and meandered into the kitchen while Karla picked up a remote and sat next to him. There were more buttons on the remote than Luigi thought could possibly be useful, and the TV, when it turned on, had a surprisingly sharp picture and hundreds of channels.
Karla laughed as his obvious bewilderment. "Okay, given that that is how you reacted to a TV…"
The next two hours had Luigi's head spinning as he was shown his mom's desktop computer, his cousin's laptop, cell phones, iPods, DVD players…
"Ow, my head," Luigi muttered after Karla had finished demonstrating how to play Candy Crush on her phone.
Karla laughed and patted him gently on the shoulder. "Well, if one thing has convinced me that you're not lying when you say you can't remember the past 30 years, it's how you react to tech."
"I'll get a hang of it," Luigi promised as he examined the iPhone. "It'll just take time."
A whiff of what his mother had been making hit him and he almost toppled the table over as he stood. "You didn't….!"
Mama gave him a grin. "Lasagna for Luigi."
Luigi nearly ran over and pulled his mother into a tight hug before kissing her cheek. "Mama, you're the best!"
Mama laughed and Luigi quickly found the plates and set the table.
Even as he sat down to his favorite meal, he couldn't help but feel that something was missing, and that it had everything to do with the dull emptiness that seemed to have sunk into his chest.
⅃ - L - L - L
The day dawned bright and cheerful, and Luigi woke with the sun, as he habitually did.
Someone had to make coffee, afterall.
He wandered through the kitchen, figuring out the overly complicated coffee pot and blearily putting together a breakfast of toast and peanut butter for himself. He knew he had slept because his body was sore from having to contort itself on the couch, but he felt far from refreshed. A feeling of lack had stayed with him all night, and he had dreamed of monochrome corridors and flickering black flames.
He had passed out not long after dinner, and thus missed meeting his…second cousin? His cousin's daughter. It was a Saturday, however, which meant she was home and that he'd meet her eventually.
He wanted to go out and see for himself how the City had changed, and maybe scout out places that wanted to hire a plumber...if he was still able to work as one. He debated making breakfast, but decided that any cooking endeavor that was more complicated than putting bread in a toaster was best to be supervised, at least the first time. He didn't doubt his cooking skill, he doubted his proficiency with modern culinary technology, even if it did look like what he remembered.
The next one awake was his mother, who was probably drawn out by the smell of coffee.
"Half-and-half and sugar, mama?" he asked and she yawned.
Luigi smiled faintly as he gathered together his mother's coffee. It appeared that time hadn't changed the fact that she wasn't a morning person.
"I'm planning on re-learning the city today," he told her when he handed her coffee.
Mama took a sip, then sighed softly. "You still make a good cup of coffee, Luigi."
Luigi smiled and sat down on the couch next to his mother.
"Going out seems a little bit risky, at least by yourself. Why don't you take Sasha with you? I can give her an errand list and you can do it together. If there are detours along the way, that's perfectly fine."
Luigi hummed and they fell into companionable silence, the omnipresent sound of traffic a low thrum.
"I really am happy to have you back."
Luigi looked at his mother and hugged her, holding her tightly.
"Your papa and I were devastated. To lose not one, but both children…it was hard. It seemed as if you two had simply just vanished off the face of the Earth. There was no sign that you had been planning on going anywhere, and your work van was still outside the apartment complex you had been called to. You were just suddenly…gone. And now you're here again, looking not a day older than when I saw you last."
Luigi kissed the top of her head and closed his eyes. "I'm sorry, Mama. I don't know…I don't know anything. I wish I could give you something…abducted by aliens or something…but, there's just nothing."
"Nothing about Mario?"
Luigi sighed softly and said, "Nothing. It's all one huge blank."
"I didn't believe the police, you know," his mother said. "I was going to ignore them. But, something…something said I should go. Should see whether or not they were pulling my leg. Maybe, hope against hope, you had returned to me." She hiccuped slightly and took a sip of her coffee. "And now you're here."
"Yeah," Luigi murmured. "Now I'm here."
Luigi wasn't sure how long they stayed that way, and he kept on trying to throw his mind into the recent past, into something before pepper spray but after stubborn bathtub clog. Every time he though he had grasped onto something, however, it was quickly wrenched out of his grasp.
There was nothing but a cavernous emptiness and a maelstrom of green-edged shadows.
Eventually his cousin and her daughter woke and meandered into the kitchen as well. Sasha gave him a groggy wave hello before making herself a bowl of Fruitloops and sitting at the kitchen table, staring at it blankly.
"I've decided that I'm going to send Luigi and Sasha on some errands today," Mama proclaimed, and Karla frowned at her.
"Positive. They can chaperone each other."
Luigi smiled wryly.
"I'll make the list, which should give Sasha enough time to wake up and Luigi time to take a shower." She turned to Luigi. "I have a few pieces of your father's clothing that you might be able to fit into."
Luigi would have been the first to admit that he smelled pretty rank, so happily took a towel and himself into the bathroom he was directed towards. He stepped inside the bathroom, stripped, and when he caught a look of himself his first thought was:
Oh the left side of his chest, over his heart, was a massive, ragged scar. There were five deeper puncture-like scars around it, which made him feel like someone—or something—had clawed at his chest and attempted to take something out, but the entire area was a mess of jagged tissue.
Maybe they succeeded, he thought as he ran his fingers over the irregular skin pattern. He had a pulse, though, which made him think that if they had tried for his heart, his ribs had stopped them. Still, its presence was unnerving.
The shower felt very nice, as if he was washing away more than just a day's accumulated grime. He ran his hand through his hair and leaned his forehead against the cool tile.
Could that…could this wound somehow be the reason I don't remember anything? But, then, why the entirety of the last 30 years and not more or less? It makes no sense…
He gasped at a sudden pressure that bore down on his chest, and barely managed to remain standing. Just as quickly as the sensation came, it vanished, he feeling perfectly fine. Not better than when he had woken up, he just no longer felt that he was going to die.
Luigi took in a deep, shuddering breath, attempting to steady himself. He finished his shower to find an outfit hanging on the outer doorknob to the bathroom. He pulled everything in and held it out before him.
A short-sleeve green shirt, black, belted pants, and his hat.
Luigi waited, breath held at the snippet of memory, but as quickly as it surfaced it was dragged back under, his memory once again growing opaque.
Luigi shook his head slowly, then put on the outfit his mother had picked out for him, placing his hat on last. He gave his reflection a feeble smile before leaving the bathroom.
"Was wondering if you'd ever get done," Sasha muttered into the screen of her laptop. "Aunt Maria gave me a list of things to do and get for her. Ready when you are…Luigi, right?"
Luigi nodded. "That's-a me."
His mind stumbled over the stupid, short phrase, but Sasha didn't seem to notice, gathering her belongings into a small backpack.
"C'mon, daylight's burning."
Luigi followed her out of the house, waiting for her to lock the door behind her.
The neighborhood had understandably changed in thirty years, but it was still jarring to see landmarks that he had grown up with just…gone.
"So, mom says you have amnesia."
Luigi looked to Sasha and nodded. "As far as anyone can tell."
"Huh. Thought that was just a plot device used in video games and stuff."
"Do you play video games?" Luigi asked, intrigued. From what he saw attached to the large television, it appeared that video games had become much more advanced than what he very dimly remembered.
"Yup, all kinds," Sasha said with a grin as they made their way to the 2 train. "FPS, RTS, RPG…you name it."
Luigi blinked. "Pardon?"
Sasha smiled smugly. "First person shooter, real time strategy, role playing game."
"Oh. Uh, so, what're your favorites?"
Sasha was happy to fill the silence talking about the games she liked best, starting from the "original" PlayStation and moving on in time.
"But, my favorite game of all time is Kingdom Hearts 2. People say the original Kingdom Hearts is better, but I don't care."
"What's it about?"
"Well," she said, and took a moment to think. "It's about a boy named Sora who has to travel to other worlds to save them from the 'evil' Organization XIII. Except most of the people in the Organization aren't really evil, they're just trying to get their Hearts back. You see, they're Nobodies, shells that are left behind when a particularly strong person loses their Heart. So—"
Luigi's mind stopped processing after that, repeating: "They're just trying to get their Hearts back…they're Nobodies, shells that are left behind when a particularly strong person loses their Heart…" over and over again until it was the only thing he heard.
"—gi? Luigi? Hey, man, can you hear me?"
Luigi blinked, flushed, and rubbed the back of his neck in self-consciousness. "Sorry. I just didn't think video games could get so complex."
"Yeah, thing's've come a long way since the '80s, although I don't think people notice that because we're, y'know, living it." Sasha paused and looked at the list. "Well, why don't we work down? Go to the highest Uptown we need to, then work our way back to Brooklyn."
"Sounds as good a plan as any," Luigi said as they found seats next to each other.
"I'm gonna zone out, okay?" Sasha said as she showed him the earbuds to her iPod. "Just watch out for our stop, okay? Oh, and ignore the subway performers, will you? You don't have any money to give them anyway, right?"
Luigi shook his head. As far as he knew, he was penniless.
"Right, then. Remember our stop!"
Luigi nodded and looked around the subway, not bothering to pretend to do it covertly. If the passengers wanted to slot him as a tourist, so be it. It was interesting anyway, people-watching.
The biggest difference he could see was the omnipresence of technology. A majority of the people either had their heads bent over their cell phone or were plugged into an mp3 player, some people were reading on old-fashioned books or AM New York. Every once in a while there'd be an obvious tourist, pouring over an open subway map with their travel companion, which Luigi knew would be a target.
It was all fairly quiet.
…trying to get their Hearts back…
Luigi scowled at the scuffed and coffee-sticky floor.
Knock it off, brain, he told himself.
…trying to get their Hearts back…
Goddamnit, he muttered and rubbed his chest where the scarring was. What, then? Am I missing my heart? How can I be alive and not have it? That's not possible.
The subway announced their stop and Luigi nudged Sasha into movement, they squeezing out of the doors just before the masses pushed their way inward.
"That was some skill," Sasha said with a smile. "The way you worked around the crowd."
"I've always had pretty good agility," Luigi replied. "So, what's first on the list?"
The 'errands' were really just an excuse to get Sasha and he out of the house. They didn't really need anything near Central Park, but it was a nice day, so they took a stroll through the greenery.
Luigi felt he wasn't used to seeing so many humans, although he had a sneaking suspicion that he had been in crowded areas within the last 30 years anyway.
Who knows why and where, though, he sighed as Sasha bought them overpriced ice cream from a street vendor on one of the Park's walkways.
She handed the popsicle to Luigi, who took it gratefully.
"So…really? Absolutely nothing?"
Luigi shook his head. "Absolutely nothing."
"Damn. 30 years gone. Why do you look young, though?"
"I age well?" Luigi offered with a half-hearted smile, which made Sasha snort.
"Right. Come on, we have other places to go…"
The bustle and crowding of the city was slightly overwhelming, but simultaneously comforting. He didn't have to worry as much. There were other people who were paid to take care of any problem that cropped up, it didn't rest on him and Mario.
Luigi frowned at the thought. Mario and I are plumbers. Why would we need to do anything but that…?
As they walked by a tchotchka shop, Luigi was brought up short by a green crystal heart dangling in the window. Light filtered through its mass-produced facets and he felt as if it was his body, not the light, that was splintering across the pavement.
The breath was knocked out of him as he felt as if an elephant was sitting on his chest, and his left arm was going numb. He felt he was fighting for every breath and the world began to spin.
…shells that are left behind when a particularly strong person loses their Heart…
He knew Sasha was calling his name, that she was trying to get his attention, but it was hard to concentrate when he could barely breathe.
…loses their Heart…
Luigi clutched at his chest with his right hand as Sasha guided him to the ground, she talking frantically on her cell.
People murmured around him, sirens wailed in the distance, Sasha talked to him, but it mattered very little in the face of the litany that was running through Luigi's head.
I have a heart but not a Heart. I have a heart but not a Heart.
"How did this happen?" he wondered aloud, speaking in barely a whisper, softly enough that it was lost in the arrival of emergency personnel.
Luigi was caught in the maelstrom of activity but barely registered any of it. Tests were done, his blood was drawn, and he laid in the ambulance wondering: How does one lose a Heart, and how do you get it back?
Luigi didn't even register how he was wheeled back and forth, didn't know or care if he was put under for one procedure or another; all that mattered was the terrible knowledge that he had lost—or had taken from him—something that was essential to his being.
By the time he wrenched himself back to the present, he found himself lying in a hospital bed, his mother in a chair next to him, and a doctor standing at the foot of his bed, clipboard in hand.
"You had a heart attack," the doctor told him once it was obvious that Luigi was lucid. "But it wasn't due to a blood clot."
"What, then?" his mother asked.
"His heart is heavily scarred," the doctor replied. "Or the scarring could be of your pericardium—the tissue that surrounds your heart. In either case, it is constricting your heart's ability to pump blood effectively, and sometimes it is unable to pump any blood at all."
"Is there anything you can do about it?" Mama asked.
The doctor looked at the charts on his clipboard, probably trying to figure out how to phrase 'no'.
"Nothing short of a heart transplant could help, and the waiting list for that is long and the supply is low."
"So I'm gonna die," Luigi murmured, distinctly unhappy. To die after just getting home…that's not fair.
"I can prescribe blood thinners that could make the blood easier to move along, but with the extent of structural damage that you have, I'm not sure how much of an effect that will have."
"Can I go home?" Luigi asked.
"You might die on the way there."
"If you leave, it will be against medical advice."
Luigi glared at the hospital cot, but said nothing more.
His Mama and the doctor spoke for a while longer, but Luigi didn't pay attention to it.
He just felt particularly bad that he was dying and didn't entirely know why. His mother had already lost him once, to lose him again after such a short time…
I'm not dead yet, he scolded himself as he absently rubbed the ghastly scar over his heart. Maybe whatever did this is what cost me my memories and injured my physical heart to the point where it almost doesn't work.
Luigi stilled his hand over the scar and closed his eyes. C'mon, Luigi. Don't give up without a fight.
"I believe in you."
Luigi's eyes snapped open and he felt his heart thud painfully in his chest.
Two hearts—one a swirling, angry black and grey, the other a brilliant, glowing verdant. One heart—glittering, neon green containing a restless midnight-green.
He took deep, labored gasps of air as an image swam before his eyes. A tall, black door, edged in white; black and white hearts intertwined in the border; a white circle in the middle, with jagged, white lines shooting out from it.
"Listen carefully," a memory told him. "I have given you a key to the Castle, but you will still need to know how to get here. Castle Bleck, coordinates 79, 5, 368, 12.314."
Luigi swallowed hard as his irregular heartbeat and breathing made the machines attached to him screech in alarm.
Might as well try. What do I have to lose?
Luigi sat up as far as he could, reached out, and pressed his hand against air, surprised at how firm it felt beneath his palm.
"Castle Bleck," he murmured in a language that he would have sworn he hadn't known previously. "79 in x, 5 in y, 368 in z, 12.314 in t."
To his surprise, and to those who had entered the room, the door Luigi had seen in his vision literally drew itself onto reality. Luigi knocked feebly on it, and immediately it opened to reveal the strangest duo Luigi swore he had kinda-sorta-maybe seen before.
One was a woman in a white sundress, her shimmering rainbow hair held back by two butterfly-shaped clips, and her sky-blue eyes had gone wide. The other seemed to be barely an apparition, a white top-hat perched on a cylindrical pale-blue monocle-ed head. A white suit-vest, gloves, and a cape that seemed to contain blue skies and sunshine were all that made it up.
"Mr. L!" the woman cried.
Luigi had the feeling that they knew him.
The woman stepped through the door and gathered him in her arms, she stronger than her build would have suggested. "Blumiere, I need O'Chunks yesterday. I need him to take Mr. L back to Mario—Mario carries the Human Heart on him at all times."
"No. He needs to go to his home. Being in the Mushroom Kingdom, close to the Heart, might stabilize him long enough for us to find Mario—you never know where he is, especially these days."
"O'Chunks reportin' fer—oh."
"Carry him," the woman commanded, and O'Chunks reached through the door with his massive hands and pulled a limp Luigi through, all the medical accoutrements that accompanied the human attempt at keeping him around if just for seconds longer all falling away.
Luigi hung limply in O'Chunk's arms, shivering uncontrollably. "Hurry!" the behemoth rumbled to the woman.
Luigi saw the woman conjure a different door, and after a moment's disorientation, Luigi found himself looking at a house that was immensely comforting and more familiar than New York had been.
The woman opened the door to the house—of course it's unlocked, Mario never remembers to lock the door behind him—and the first thing Luigi saw was a fist-sized, glittering green gem on the floor, just in front of the stairs.
With a soft cry he reached out for it, but his arms would barely listen, his fingers twitching only slightly.
The woman saw where he was looking, but turned to O'Chunks first and said, "Put him on a bed. Any bed, it doesn't matter. Just as long as he's lying down."
Luigi whimpered when the crystal passed out of sight, but he was grateful when he was set down in a bed that smelled like Mario. He fought for each heartbeat, each breath, and startled when he felt something warm and hard placed on his chest.
Energy swirled around him, and the Human Heart sunk slowly beneath his flesh and he cried out in pain and relief.
The Pure Heart and the Chaos Heart had been parts of him, they had each contained a piece of his being because of the emotions and memories that he had poured into them. The turmoil had consumed not his body, but his soul, using it as the glue to bind the Hearts together. His body had not died, but had been sent back to its original world to reform. However, the Hearts were also part of his body, and ripping the Chaos Heart out from where the Pure Heart had been had severely damaged the actual organ—he had been living off of energy that his body retained from the creation of the Human Heart. But, with the Human Heart in his possession again, he was once again whole—body, mind, and spirit.
The reintroduction of the Human Heart also meant that all his memories returned, and he flinched slightly at his most recent ones. Well, Mario's gonna be pissed at me. I only hope I can talk him down…if he forgives me.
"What was 'at?"
"Mr. L? Erm, Luigi?"
Luigi took a deep breath and rubbed his hand over his Heart, feeling the warm, smooth curves of it beneath his skin.
"I'm okay now," he said as he opened his eyes and gave Lady Timpani and O'Chunks a faint smile. "Sorry about that."
"Whut happen' t' ya?"
"It's complicated," Luigi hedged. "Thanks again, though. For helping me. I…wasn't sure that gambit would even work."
"What was that place?" Timpani asked as she tucked the blankets around Luigi's shivering form.
"A Hospital in New York City," Luigi replied. "That's where I—and Mario—used to live before the Mushroom Kingdom."
Timpani blinked. "You aren't natural denizens of this place? You have always been dimensional travelers?"
Timpani sighed and tucked a stray purple hair behind her ear. "You two…"
"I owe you big-time, though," Luigi said. "After everything I did, you still helped me…"
"Well, Mario asked for us to help if you ever came through Castle Bleck," Timpani replied.
"He did?" Luigi asked, eyebrows rising sharply. "I would've thought…"
Timpani pressed a finger to his lips. "Rest. I'm going to enjoy hearing the story Blumiere will tell about the reaction of those from your original dimension to our presence and your ability to conjure that particular door…"
Timpani and O'Chunks left after Luigi thanked them again, and Luigi sighed softly.
He really wanted to rest. He knew he should be tired.
But he wasn't. Not since he was whole again.
"I bet that Mario hasn't even looked at a mop since I've been gone," Luigi muttered and slipped out of the covers, making the bed before walking down the stairs to the den area.
He rubbed his eyes at the mess on the floor, and a look into the kitchen showed dishes spilling over the sides of the sink.
Luigi groaned and rubbed his eyes.
"God, Mario, really?"
Luigi looked down at himself and the hospital gown he was still wearing, then sighed and found his room. He changed into pajamas, started his favorite opera on the turntable, rolled up his sleeves, and set to work making the house live-in-able again.
He was singing along to one of his favorite songs as he scrubbed a pan down when the exclamation of "Luigi!?" cut across the music.
Luigi froze in mid-motion, then forced himself to rinse the pan, put it on the drying rack, and turn to face Mario.
His older brother was as pale as a Boo, his jaw was slack, and his bright blue eyes were wide. One of his gloves was lying on the floor and he had obviously been in the process of taking off the other when he had seen Luigi.
"Luigi, is it—"
"Did you know that over thirty years have passed from the day we left Brooklyn?"
Mario blinked. "What?"
"Yeah. It's 2014 in New York now."
"You were back home?"
"No, now I'm back home. That place was…not. Or, at least, not anymore."
As silence stretched between them, Luigi tried to break it by saying, "Well, I mean, it's obvious that you can't live on your own, so I had to come back, if just to make sure you didn't drown in trash. I bet you don't even—"
Luigi was cut off when Mario tackled him, pulling him into a tight hug.
"And to think that you—Mr. L—gave me a speech on being a hero, the you go and be one."
"It wasn't intentional," Luigi muttered as he hugged his brother back. "I had no idea that you could literally be torn apart by your emotions. Always thought that was a cliché."
Luigi didn't know how long they stayed like that, and didn't really care. His brother had forgiven him, the worlds had been saved, and he was back where he belonged.
"How'd you do it, by the way?" Luigi asked once they had pulled away. "What the hell made you throw the Pure Hearts at me?"
Mario sighed and leaned so his forehead was against Luigi's shoulder.
"I didn't even know if it would work. You just seemed so…"
"Insane?" Luigi drawled.
"You seemed to be in such pain."
Luigi frowned, but decided not to comment.
"I accidentally touched the orange Pure Heart when I was trying to avoid getting fried—and found that it contained all the positive emotions and memories of O'Chunks. That made me think. So, I figured the red Heart would be mine, and I knew that that would get through Luigi…but you're both Mr. L and Luigi. What I remembered wouldn't get through to Mr. L—but Count Bleck would. I found that the indigo Heart had the Count's memories in it. While you were busy with everyone else, I explained to the Count that, maybe, we could be able to get through to you, past the Chaos Heart's power, make you stop, and that somehow we'd be able to reverse the destruction."
"Well, it worked."
"At the cost of your life!"
Luigi absently rubbed Mario's shoulder in an attempt at reassurance. "Well, I didn't actually die."
"It certainly seemed you had. After you knocked us out, what happened?"
"Well, the Chaos Heart had literally become a part of me, and it had pushed out my Pure Heart. I figured that meant the both the Chaos Heart and the Pure Heart were my Heart, and since humans can feel both hatred and love at the same time, I figured that my Heart could contain both."
"So you combined them."
"Well, that was the intent. And it worked, didn't it?"
Luigi pushed his brother away, then caught and held Mario's eyes. "Look, bro. What happened, happened. It's over now, we're all alive, the world didn't end, and I'm back home where I belong. Let's leave it there, okay?"
Mario hummed, and after a beat of comfortable silence he said: "You know, Daisy is going to have a few choice words to say to you."
Luigi groaned. "Now I'm actually gonna die."
Mario pulled back and gave him a cordial slap on his upper arm. "I'm sure you can find a way to make it up to her."
"I hope you're right, bro. I hope you're right."