"I'llbehomeforChristmas,bro." It was just words on an ancient Christmas card. Luigi stared at the words, written in Christmas red. He put it up on the mantle, as he did each and every year.
"Luigi?" Daisy came into the room. "You ready for the Christmas party? You promised you'd go this year."
"I did… didn't I?" He looked up again at the card.
"I'm wearing a new Christmas outfit!" She smiled. He glanced at her. She was wearing elf clothes. A green tunic with yellow buttons, puffy shorts that had elastic right above her knees, which were covered with green and yellow striped stockings. She wore her usual brown boots, but they had golden jingle bells hanging off them. She replaced her crown with a yellow hat with a green cuff. "I got one for you this year, Weegie."
"Great…" Luigi sighed.
"Don't be a Grinch, Luigi. I could've gotten that costume instead!" She had her hands on her hips. "Now hurry up and change!" She left the room, but not without glancing back at him. "Mario's not coming this year… he hasn't for several years before…" she whispered so that Luigi didn't hear as he gazed at his brother's card from the first year he never returned.
Mario sat on a block outside. "Merry Christmas to me…" he sighed. "I haven't had one in years." He sighed again. "I'm starting to think there's no such thing as a 'Merry Christmas'."
"Hey! Penguin Suit!" a voice called.
"Huh?" He looked up. "Must be just my imagination." He waddled off the brick and slid down a slope. Suddenly, the slope vanished and he fell into a vortex of snow. "Wahhh!"
"Hahaha!" the voice laughed. "That was so great!" Mario rubbed his bruised nose with his flipper arm and looked up. A small golden mushroom was clapping his hands and laughing. "I think your nose grew three sizes this day! Hahahaha!" He rolled around in the sky.
"Um, excuse me. Who are you?"
"Hahaha! I'm the Spirit of Christmas Past! I come when there's someone lacking Christmas cheer!"
"Oh, please. I'm not Scrooge. I've never said 'Bah, Humbug' and I'm the most selfless guy I know."
"Silly! Christmas spirit isn't just about generosity or what you say. Those things are super important, but you are always good at that stuff. But it seems you lack Christmastime feelings at… well… Christmastime."
"That's because I'm out here saving the world."
"Trust me, the world doesn't need saving right now. And you know that."
"Look, I haven't been home for Christmas for three years. So yeah… What's the point?"
"What do you mean?"
"Christmas doesn't do anyone any good. All it is is Christmas songs and cold snow that no one in their right mind would want… which means Christmas makes everyone go loopy."
"You don't believe that."
"Yeah. Or at least you didn't always. Don't you recognize where you are, Mario?"
Mario looked around. "Wait… Is this…?" The small house at the end of the road was all the answer he needed. He ran over. "We really are in my past, aren't we?"
"Yep!" the flying mushroom came beside him as they looked in the window. A magnificent tree, decked out in lights and presents. A woman came in, licking a candy cane. A man followed, took the peppermint, and held up a mistletoe twig. "You know this couple, right?"
"Sadly, I barely do. I wish I knew them more. We were so young when they passed."
"There you guys are." The mushroom pointed out.
A toddler Mario and baby Luigi waddled over to their parents. "I don't believe Luigi even remembers them…" Mario lamented as he watched his baby brother tumble to the ground behind his toddler self. The baby immediately began to shriek. Mario cringed and covered his ears. "How did they stand us?"
"You don't remember?" the mushroom tilted his head. "Look!"
The mother immediately lifted the crying child and he began to laugh instead, the tears disappearing from his eyes. The father smiled and chuckled as well. The little toddler Mario smiled and laughed at the joy of his parents. "My mother's touch…" Mario turned away. "Luigi doesn't even remember her face."
"But you remember more, don't you?"
"Her last words to you… You remember them."
Mario looked back at her, but the scene had vanished. The great tree was gone, and it was just an empty room. "Take care of your brother while we're gone, Mario, son." He spoke as if in a trance. Those words were forever in his mind. Of course, he wouldn't fail those words. He took care of his brother even before they landed safely at their parents' door.
"Time for your next memory…"
Now he was at his house, a familiar sight. He saw his teenaged self run in. "Luigi!" He was carrying a package. "Luigi?"
A young Luigi appeared behind him in the doorway. "Mario! Oh! There you are!"
"Welcome home for Christmas!"
Mario smiled at the scene, "My first homecoming from my first year at Delfino Med School." He laughed as he watched his brother slip on the snow-covered tile, just as his teenaged self did.
"Watch your step, bro." Young Mario held out his hand.
"You gotta learn to wipe your feet, Mario."
"Haha! Yes, Mr. Housekeeper!" The brothers took a seat at the table and pushed their presents to each other. "Can you guess what I got you?"
"Hm…" Luigi shook his box. He put his ear to it and shook it again. He stared at it for a moment. "I know!"
"It's a Tanuki Suit! …or a Frog Suit… Some kind of suit…"
"Haha! You're very close!"
"Well, then… guess yours!"
"Hm…" Mario pressed on his package, poking and shaking it. He smelled it at one point. "I have no idea…"
"He was always best at guessing the contents of a present…" Mario told the sparkling mushroom. "Or a question-mark block for that matter…"
"Looks like fun!"
Luigi opened his present. It was a Penguin Suit. "Wow, this is cool, bro! Where'd you find this?"
"It was in a question-mark block in one of my journeys. It kept me so warm, I had to find one for you."
Present Mario bit his lip. "What's up?" the mushroom kid asked.
"Nothing…" Mario mumbled.
"Come on, Mario…"
Mario anxiously ripped open his gift. "Wow!" he looked at his gift. It was a snowglobe, made by his brother. It had Mario floating on a Lakitu cloud with Princess Peach. "Aw, your making me blush, bro…" he blushed at the site of him and the princess.
"Hehe! I thought you'd like it!"
The golden mushroom looked at Mario. "He gave you a handmade present each year, didn't he? You could never guess it… and it made him so happy…" He tilted his head. "Why do you look so troubled?"
"It's true… even the years I didn't come home, there was a present waiting for me under the tree… For those past few years…" He lowered his head. "But I didn't get him anything… not even my presence at the party… especially when I promised him…" he faded off.
"Shall we remember another Christmas?"
Mario found himself in the castle. "What the…?" He saw himself, a recent year ago, dressed in a Santa outfit. His brother was dancing with Daisy on the ballroom floor, and next to Peach and himself sat Bowser in a holiday hat. "I remember this!"
"You should!" the Spirit laughed. "It was only a few years ago!"
"When Bowser joined our side. It was his holiday party!" A few koopas with jingle-bell hats ran across the room. "It's the first time we were at peace… for real."
"The first annual Christmas party, right"
"Uh…" Mario turned guilty. "Yeah…"
"The only one you attended—"
"Was that a hint of guilt in your voice?" the Spirit's face turned serious. "At least you made it to this one, right?" He pointed. "You at least had Christmas spirit here!" Past Mario was spinning the princess around and around. She was dressed in a pink and red Santa-like dress and hat. She laughed as Mario pulled her around the dance floor. "You seem to be enjoying yourself."
"Yeah… but so what?"
"What made you not come to that next party, Mario?"
"Nothing of your concern. Take me home!"
"Well, I for one would like to find out!"
A flash, and Mario was outside a tall castle.
"Is that… Bowser's Castle?" the floating mushroom asked.
"Powser's to be exact. This is the winter he stormed the castle. I defeated him, but since I knew where his castle was, I thought I might as well stay and try to get rid of him quickly. He was the most evil enemy I've ever had to face. He wasn't going to be easy to shoo away for a while like Bowser was."
"So you left before Christmas to find him?"
Past Mario was running across the snow, whistling to the air. "What on earth are you doing?"
"Calling that parakoopa up there." Penguin Suit Mario pointed as the parakoopa flew down and snatched a letter from Past Mario's hand.
"A Christmas card for Luigi."
"Do you remember what you wrote on it?"
"No… I don't."
"Then let's find out!"
Just like that, they were at the castle again. Luigi was reaching up to grab the letter from the mailcarrier. He ripped it open and read it. The Spirit and Mario read over his shoulder. I'llbehomeforChristmas,bro. Luigi grinned widely and ran into the castle, where they were setting up for the Christmas ball.
"You never got home though…" the Spirit noted.
Mario bit his lip as the scene before him skipped ahead and he saw his brother standing out in the cold, in front of his own house, waiting for his brother. He had only his green-striped scarf and green L-labeled Santa hat with the jingle bells on the end, along with his green coat and brown boots keeping him warm. He coughed and sneezed, but stayed outside.
"He's gonna catch pneumonia!" Mario ran up to him. "Luigi get inside!"
"He can't hear you, Mario. This already happened, silly."
"Well what happened to him? How long did he wait for me?"
Daisy ran over, in a yellow fur dress. "Luigi! Are you crazy? How long have you been out here?"
"Ah-CHOO!" the man sniffed. "I-I don't know… s-s-since n-n-n-n-noon?"
"Noon?" Daisy looked up at the clock tower in the city. She could barely read it, but knew it said 4:36. "You are coming inside, right now!" She pushed him in the house. "If Mario comes, he can knock on the door!"
"Wait…" Mario started. "I remember what happened when I came back mid-January…" He looked up at the Spirit. "Daisy treated me very harshly, and there was still remnants of medicine lying around. Luigi did get sick!" He hurried to the window, but the scene disappeared before him. "Wait! Spirit! I'm not done yet!"
"You didn't wish to return home, so I'll show you no more… except the fact that it happened again… and again… and again."
"The same thing?"
"But you continued to return later and later… so the emotion may have died down from Daisy, and much was as it normally is." The Spirit sighed. "But at least you made no more promises to your brother that you would make it home."
"Spirit… What are you implying?"
"You know in your heart what I am saying to you…"
Mario knew. He just didn't want to admit it to himself. He had let his brother down. Especially that first year… and time after time again. "Spirit…" but the mushroom was gone. Mario was back on his brick. He looked around. Could it have all been a dream?