Disclaimer: Here's a shocker: I don't own Mario, and I'm not making money off this.
Author's Notes: This is basically my dissertation on a fair chunk of the Mario ships; feel free to disagree with my viewpoints – I welcome reviews of all types (even flames). Also, as in a lot of my stories, I give Mario a way thicker accent than Luigi's (i.e. words get changed, whereas I just picture Luigi sounding Italian); in-story, I say it's because Mario was closer to their Italian father than Luigi, but it's also because I simply can't help but picture their dialogue this way.
"I- uh… I-a-slept with Pauline."
Luigi opened an eye and looked across the moonlit room at his brother. He knew Mario hadn't been asleep – he was being too quiet – but he hadn't expected him to strike up a conversation. Especially one that started that way. But Luigi was tired, and closed his eye with a dismissive snort. "Hate to break it to ya, bro – but I figured that out for myself a looooong time ago." How many times hadn't Mario come home for the night? How many times did Luigi get home after a late shift at the construction site to find his brother's cap not-so-discretely draped on the handle of their apartment door? The fact that his brother had gone all the way with Pauline wasn't a shock – the only surprise was that Mario thought that he actually needed to spell it out for Luigi.
"No… I mean-a… recently."
This got Luigi's attention, and opening both eyes, he frowned at Mario. "'Recently'? You mean-"
"Whenever I-a-go back to Brooklyn to check in on the-a Mini Mario toy business."
"'Whenever'… You mean you've been sleeping with her multiple times?" Luigi sat bolt upright in bed, staring at his twin in disbelief. "But what about Peach?!"
Mario remained lying down, his unblinking eyes fixed upon the ceiling. "What about-a-Peach?"
"Well, I mean, you're- you're cheating on her!"
"We're not dating," scowled Mario.
"But- but you love her!"
"Si," replied Mario, almost wistfully.
"Then what are you doing?! If you love someone, you don't go sleeping around with someone else! Someone you don't love – that's not right!"
"But I do love-a Pauline."
Luigi shook his head in confusion. "What? But you hardly see her!"
"I used to see her every day. We-a only stopped seeing each other because I was-a-needed in the-a Mushroom Kingdom," explained Mario.
"But I thought you broke up?" Now Luigi was really confused. "So you've been cheating on Pauline with Peach?"
Mario shook his head. "No, no – of-a-course not. Pauline and I were not dating long distance all this time… We just-a never broke up."
"So it was an open relationship?"
"No. It wasn't a relationship at all-a."
"You just put it on hold until you go back to Brooklyn? Then why don't you go back more often? There were plenty of times when Bowser wasn't doing anything…"
"It's not-a-like that either – it's not so-a well planned," Mario moved his hands up and rubbed his face wearily. "When I saw-a Pauline that-a first time, I was not expecting anything to happen. But then-a Donkey Kong kidnapped her. Just-a like his grandfather all those years ago. Then I saved-a her, and she invited me over to her place. Just to-a take a breather, you know? But it was-a so much like it was before – after I saved her from the old-a Donkey Kong. It made us remember how we felt for-a each other – how we still-a felt."
Luigi sighed. "Well, at least it wasn't some perverse way for her to thank you for saving her…"
"Like Peach's-a kisses, you mean?" said Mario, his voice constricted.
"What? No! I didn't-"
"She doesn't kiss-a me except when I save her, and it's-a always on the nose or cheek," said Mario matter-of-factly. "And she kisses you when you help-a save her too."
"But she likes you," said Luigi earnestly. "I'm sure she does – she loves you. And you said it yourself: you love her too."
"Yes, and I love-a Pauline. In a different way."
"In a physical way, you mean?" Luigi narrowed his eyes.
"I have feelings for-a Pauline," said Mario defensively. "I would-a-do anything to save her, and I would do anything to save-a Peach. And you too, Luigi." Mario finally sat up and faced his brother directly, his face solemn. "I would-a rather die than let anything happen to-a any of you – I would give-a my life to save you, Peach, Pauline, the Mushroom Kingdom – anyone. Rosalina, the Star Spirits – I would not-a rest until everyone was safe."
"But that's not the same-" started Luigi, but Mario was in an uncharacteristically talky mood and cut him off.
"I know – that's what I'm-a saying. There's-a many kinds of love. There's-a brotherly love, and friendship love, and patriotic love, and-a romantic love-"
"And that's what I'm saying," it was Luigi's turn to jump in. "You can't love Peach and Pauline romantically. You can't have feelings for Pauline if you love Peach."
"Why not-a? You love-a Daisy, but you still had a crush on that-a Princess Eclair."
"That was nothing, I-"
"And-a Prince Peasley!"
Luigi felt his cheeks flush at that last one. "Now, wait a minute here, why am I the one being grilled? I'm not the one sleeping around on my princess!"
"And you had a crush on Peach-a, too," continued Mario.
"That was a long time ago – before I met Daisy… And before I realized…" Luigi looked away for a moment. "She only had eyes for you, anyway."
Mario shook his head. "You love-a Daisy, but you still felt something for all-a those other girls… and-a boys."
"But it wasn't love," protested Luigi. "And I didn't do anything to… to consummate my- my fleeting attraction to those other people! I'd never sleep with anyone but Daisy!"
"And I'd-a never sleep with Peach."
The room was silent for a minute. "What… What do you mean?"
"I don't love her like-a that," shrugged Mario.
"You mean, you don't want to marry her? You don't want to live together and have kids and grow old together?" Luigi stared dumbfoundedly at Mario, whose own eyes were fixed on a point halfway between their beds as they sat facing each other, their legs dangling above the moonshadow-strewn carpet.
A lot of things had happened over the years, and Luigi had his share of ups and downs – he had been tempted once or twice, and sometimes he still wondered if he and Daisy would never work out. After all, they hadn't even kissed yet. They held hands, and they hung out, and they danced together – but they danced around each other too. Luigi was always nervous – afraid he'd push her away if he moved in for the kiss he longed for before she was ready to give it. And the way she flirted, it was like she was teasing him sometimes – trying to goad him into trying to take the next step, only for her to spin away at the last second. Sometimes he wondered if she was just messing with him. Sometimes he wondered if she was scared too.
But one thing that always gave him comfort was the fact that Mario and Peach hadn't stepped up their own game – that their love was still as prim and proper as ever. It made him feel like less of a loser for his inability to move at more than a glacier's pace with Daisy. And it was also a bit of a comfort to know that despite everything that was always changing in the crazy Mushroom World, there was always one thing that was consistent – one thing that would never fail. The love between Mario and Peach.
Sure, he knew they weren't really boyfriend-girlfriend at present, and when anyone asked about it, he'd say as much, but he still expected them to end up together someday. He never expected Mario to give up. He never expected it to fall apart. And yet here he was, watching things unravel, and he couldn't help but try to stop it – to try and pull it back together, clutching at the straws. "But… Rosalina… she said Peach was your Special One."
"'Special One'…" repeated Mario. "Special What? Did she-a say that Peach had to be the one I'd marry and-a have a family with? Did she-a say that's-a-what a Special One was?"
"N- no, but I just assumed…"
"Everyone assumes that's-a-what Peach and I are, but we're not. I love her, Luigi, but not that-a way. I do want to be with-a Peach forever, but not-a-like that. I don't want to sleep with her – I couldn't dream of it! I'll admit, I had a bit of a crush on her when-a we first met…"
"'A bit of a crush?'" snorted Luigi.
"But even-a then," continued Mario, ignoring his brother. "I wasn't thinking that far ahead. I never thought of-a Peach like that. I never pictured her-a like that…" He wrinkled his nose as if even thinking about thinking about her carnally was off-putting. "I just-a loved her. And I still -a love her. But not in the same way I-a love Pauline. And … And I don't see why that's-a so wrong…"
Luigi sighed. "I think I see where you're coming from… But, Mario, do you want to marry Pauline? Because if you do, then you can't be at Peach's side – not even platonically. You'll be busy with your own family…"
Mario shrugged. "I don't-a know… I-a haven't thought that far ahead." He shook his head and smiled at Luigi, his usual perkiness shining through. "But not-a planning ahead works out fine on my adventures, so maybe it'll work out fine for my-a love life too!"
Luigi chuckled. "Sometimes I envy your ability to take things as they come – I drive myself crazy worrying about my future – and Daisy – sometimes…" But then his face turned serious again. "I'm sorry I gave you a hard time. I was just a little shocked, but I suppose you can't help what you feel, you know?"
Mario sighed, relieved that his brother understood him. "Si… It-a-makes things hard sometimes…" The situation with Peach and Pauline had been gnawing at him for some time, and he wasn't used to carrying a burden like that around with him – he was used to being carefree, living a simple life. He wish he didn't feel this way, that he loved Peach and only Peach, but things don't always work out as planned. He was just glad he didn't have to hide it from his twin brother anymore.
"Yeah," Luigi nodded. "And I suppose it goes both ways – I'm sure Bowser didn't plan on falling for Peach, and think how simpler our lives would be if he hadn't!"
Mario scowled. "I think it's-a going a bit far to say-a Bowser's in love with-a Peach."
Luigi shrugged. "Well, a crush then."
"A a-one-sided one," insisted Mario.
Luigi resisted the urge to retort with 'What do you care?' – there was still something serious he needed to address instead. "You know, you're so sure that she doesn't return Bowser's affection, but are you sure she doesn't love you?"
"Of course she wouldn't like-a Bowser back – he's-a evil."
"And you're pretty likable," said Luigi, not letting Mario try and avoid the subject. "How many of your past partners have developed crushes on you? And then there's Toadette…"
Mario shook his head. "Those are-a just silly crushes, they mean nothing. Like-a-you and Eclair and-a Rosalina and-a Peasley and-"
"That's not the point," persisted Luigi. "Stop dodging the question – are you sure Peach doesn't love you the way that you don't love her."
"'Love me the way I don't…'-a what?" Mario made a face at Luigi's tongue-twister of a question.
"Does she know that you don't love her romantically?" said Luigi, barely keeping his exasperation in check. "Everyone else assumes you're an item, so are you sure she's not one of them?"
"But we-a-never go on dates or-a kiss or anything – except when I save her. I already said that a while ago."
"Just because there's no kissing doesn't mean there's nothing there," said Luigi, looking away from his brother as he spoke, trying to force his insecurities about Daisy to subside.
"There's nothing-a there."
Luigi looked his brother in the eye once more. "But are you sure? Mario… There's nothing wrong with not being in love with Peach, but I think… You need to tell her about Pauline."
"Why? It's-a none of her business."
"Yes, it is. She thinks you love her – she thinks she's the only one."
"Fine. So I will-a tell her I don't love her-a-romantically," said Mario, although he didn't look too happy about even going that far.
Luigi watched his brother intently from across the room. "You're worried she does love you, aren't you?" After all, why else would he be afraid to tell her? He was afraid he'd break her heart…
Mario nodded. "I love-a Peach," he said quietly. "I don't-a want to hurt her."
"Maybe that's what a Special One is?" ventured Luigi. "It's just someone you love with all your heart, even if you don't love them in the way that, y'know, stories and movies and stuff say you should love someone… But Mario, you'll only hurt her more by keeping this a secret."
"I know…" Mario closed his eyes wearily. "I'm glad fighting-a Bowser is a lot easier than this."
"It's simpler, that's for sure," smiled Luigi. "Now come on – you look pretty wiped. You can sleep on it, and we can talk about it more in the morning."
"Okey dokey," said Mario, pulling his legs back up under the covers and lying back down.
Luigi followed suit, turning to face the wall and closing his eyes, but just as he had gotten comfortable, Mario's voice broke the peaceful silence again. "So… have you-a told her?"
"Hmmm?" moaned Luigi groggily, not bothering to open his eyes and roll around to face his brother this time.
"Daisy? Have-a-you told her you love her?"
"…no." said Luigi, his voice small.
"You should." With that, Mario rolled over to face his own wall, and in no time, his snores filled the room. Luigi lay awake for a bit longer, remembering back to when he met Rosalina. He had asked her who his Special One was. She told him he didn't need to ask.
"I will… someday," whispered Luigi, as he drifted off to sleep.