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Legal Disclaimer: I do not own Mario or any associated characters, I do not claim ownership of Mario or any associated characters, nor am I making profit from this original work of fan-fiction that was created and published for entertainment purposes only. Mario is owned by Nintendo Co., Ltd. All rights of Mario belong to Nintendo Co., Ltd.

A Brooklyn Dream

Written by Felicia Rondo

Summary: Mario & Pauline go out on a date after the events of Donkey Kong (1981, Arcade) and it goes… about as well as it could, given the circumstances.

Contains: Pizza, Mario’s Italian accent, Angst, Frank Discussion of PTSD, and a Bittersweet Ending.

You don’t always know when your last date with someone is going to be the last. Sometimes it just sneaks up on you, when for all you know you have so much more time ahead of you with them, only to find out afterward that was all you were going to get. All the things you wanted to tell them but never got the chance to could remain unsaid forever, and all the things you wanted to do with them would never become anything more than dreams. Is there anything more sad than that?

“Pauline!” Mario called, waving to get her attention from the crowd, “Over here!

“Mario?” Pauline called back, trying to pick him out from the crowd, “Oh, there you are,” she said, as her gaze fell upon her boyfriend. He was a shorter guy, which made it difficult to find him sometimes, especially at a busy hour like then - though his vibrant voice helped.

It was the moment Mario had waited for all week, that got him through the unrelenting grind of work, and it… it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t… It was fine.

“It’s-a so good-a to see you again!” exclaimed Mario, taking her hand and kissing the back of it softly. She seemed pretty happy to see him too, but there was a definite sense that something was different. Probably because she got kidnapped by a gigantic ape and was held captive hundreds of feet in the air with only thin steel beams to stand on, that past Thursday.

“Good to see you too, Mario,” Pauline replied, “how’ve you been?” He had to get right back to work the very next day like nothing had happened, his bosses had decided to be angry with him over not stopping the gigantic ape sooner before he caused further damage to the construction site, and the perils of wondering if his girlfriend was even going to be alive by the time he reached her hadn’t done all that much for his blood pressure either.

“I’ve been okay!” Mario answered, “how about-a you?”

“Well…” Pauline started, awkwardly, signaling that the question may not have a very fun answer, “… I’m okay. Doing okay!” she fibbed, putting on a braver face. Mario couldn’t tell if it would’ve been insensitive to press further, or if it would’ve been even more insensitive not to, but he erred on the side of caution and took her at her word. Sometimes there’s really no right answer for a moment, and all you can really do is move on to the next and hope for the best.

“That’s-a good,” Mario replied, wearing a smile that was a bit tight on his face, “Let’s-a get going - Pete’s-a Pizzeria awaits!” he declared, offering his arm to his date - who took it very quickly. Maybe the day wasn’t doomed from the start, Mario thought hopefully to himself.

It was a quiet walk to Pete’s Pizzeria. Not much conversation happened, just the occasional comment on the weather and little else. Throughout it, there was a distinct sense that someone probably should say something, but neither of them ever did. But then again, it was only a short walk. Pauline hoped maybe the pizza would liven things up.

Amidst the crowd of strangers, it felt a little harder to keep track of each other than it had before. Neither of them looked any different than they had before, on the surface, it was just… it was just hard. But they managed, and before too long they arrived at the humble establishment.

“Here we are!” her boyfriend said, standing outside the pizzeria. He looked up over at Pauline, who wore an uncertain sort of smile. With a nod, they both walked into the joint, letting the unmistakably-romantic scent of pizza welcome their senses. They both let out a sigh of relief, Pauline’s happening just before Mario’s, and she squeezed his arm softly. It was probably the closest to ‘okay’ they had felt that whole day.

They got in line, fourth from the front, and stood there waiting for an uncomfortable stretch of time. Was it busier than usual or was it something else that made the line feel unbearably-long? For some reason, it was hard to tell which it was.

“What’s-a some toppings you’re in-a the mood for?” asked Mario of his girlfriend, idly.

“I um…” Pauline started, before trailing off. Moments passed, but somehow Mario could tell she wasn’t going to be able to think of anything. Not now. Not like this.

“Pepperoni?” he offered, breaking the silence that roared like a subway.

“Oh, well of course pepperoni,” she answered promptly, in incredulity, “are you kidding? Pepperoni’s a given, it would feel naked without it!” Mario couldn’t help but giggle. That was more like the Pauline he knew, he thought.

“Then how about-a some sausage? Anchovies? Peppers?” Mario added, encouragingly.

“Yeah, that’s sounding good…” Pauline responded, that distant look in her eyes fading, “and mushrooms - we can’t forget the mushrooms,” she continued, but it was time for Mario to have that uncertain look.

“I dunno if I want-a there to be mushrooms,” he admitted, “how about-a meatballs?”

“Hmm,” Pauline hummed skeptically, “I don’t know if I want meatballs,” she countered.

A playfully-contentious staring contest broke out. Mario folded his arms and looked up expectantly at Pauline, who simply folded her arms as well and looked back down at him, confident smiles adorning both their faces. They waited for the other to budge, but neither would give an inch, and before they knew it there was no one else in front of them and they were the ones holding up the line.

“They’re only mushrooms, Mario,” she grinned, “they’re not going to bite you.”

“I know, Pauline,” Mario replied, “it’s-a me having to bite them that’s-a the problem. You know, eating?” he remarked cheekily, holding a hand up to open and close it mockingly with each syllable of the word ‘eating,’ “The thing you do with-a your food?” he teased, “and-a besides, it’s-a not like-a the meatballs are gonna bite you either.”

“Excuse me,” the older gentleman at the counter called at the two, “but are you two gonna order or are you gonna stop holding up the line and scram?”

“We’ll have a large pizza with pepperoni, sausage, anchovies, peppers, mushrooms on the left side, and meatballs on the right,” Pauline quickly ordered, prompting the man at the counter to nod and write it down, and then confidently turned to her boyfriend, “there, I split it. Problem solved.”

“Meatballs on-a the right side?” Mario questioned, in a faux-offended tone, as though he had been betrayed.

“We can turn it around so the meatballs are on the left side if that’ll really make your day, Mario,” Pauline giggled, rolling her eyes.

“My own girlfriend, feeding me upside-down pizza,” Mario joked, “what is-a the world coming to?”

“Hey, be happy I’m letting any meatballs touch this pizza to begin with - I have half a mind to ask them to cook two pizzas, slice them in half, and put them together after the fact,” she retorted.

“Which would be a terrible waste of-a pizza,” he remarked, giggling more as they sat across from each other at a table next to a window. A window to a world that was still spinning, that never stopped, that couldn’t wait. It was good to have a break from it all, brief as it may have been. They didn’t get enough of those.

They had, however, gotten enough conversation just then - or so it would seem, judging by the silence that grew on that table like a weed. It’s exhausting how much it takes to keep conversations alive, and terrifying how quickly they can die out.

Mario looked across the table at Pauline, who just sat still and looked through the window for nothing. After that brief sample of how it all used to be, the tension became more than Mario could bear. He didn’t know if it was the right thing to do, but he was never going to know before he did it, and he couldn’t stop himself any longer - he had to say something.

“So how are you?” Mario asked, an innocent enough question.

“Hm?” Pauline hummed, before realizing what she was asked, “Oh, um… I’m okay. I think I mentioned that already.”

“Mm…” Mario frowned, as she went back to staring off into nowhere immediately after, feeling the tension build as it became clear it wasn’t going to be that easy to get her to open up, “… Are you okay?” he asked, pressing further and hoping he wasn’t using too much force.

When she looked back at him, fully intending to just nod and brush off the question, she saw those big blue eyes of his and how genuinely sad they had become. Pauline could lie to get out of a conversation with her next-door neighbor, she could lie all day to her boss at the record store she worked at, but she just couldn’t lie to those blue eyes of Mario’s. Not when they got like they did then. All their teasing aside, it truly broke Pauline’s heart when she saw him upset like this.

“Well… no…” she admitted.

“Can we talk?” asked Mario, eliciting a sigh from Pauline.

“Well… where do I even begin? What do I say? I just…” Pauline’s voice cracked, and she bowed her head down to hide her eyes, “… it’s just been so hard to keep going like always. I don’t know how anyone expects me to, I was 100 meters in the sky and thought I was going to die,” she said, feeling a lump develop in her throat, with each word having to be wrenched out from the most frightened corner of her weeping heart.

“I know, and it’s-a not fair to expect you to just keep-a going like nothing happened,” Mario said, taking her trembling hands in his and holding them tenderly, briefly shocking her into meeting his gaze again for just a moment, “you don’t have-a to pretend around me, Pauline, and I don’t want-a to rush you through anything, okie-dokie?”

Pauline looked him in the eye, her lip quivering, then dropped her gaze down on her lap.

“… Mario,” she started, “when you saved me, I swear I’ve never loved anyone more in my life,” she attested, squeezing his hands in hers, “I just… I can’t explain it, but… ever since…” she sighed again, then released his hands and stated, “I’ll get over it… don’t worry about it…”

She had tried to hold her tongue, but what she said in spite of herself told Mario everything he needed to know. Maybe she realized it and didn’t say it to save Mario’s feelings, or maybe she truly didn’t know it, but every time her eyes laid on the sight of her boyfriend… she could hardly see him. Instead, the vision of red beams and the feeling of violent wind threatening to sweep her right off those beams and send her plummeting down below came rushing back to her, with the roar of her primate captor echoing in her head.

After everything that had happened, he too was yet another thing hurting her.

“Hey, hey mustache! With the red cap on!” was yelled from across the room, causing Pauline to jump slightly and Mario to turn to look back at that older gentleman behind the counter, who had a beautifully-cooked pizza on the counter in front of him that looked as though it was glowing. “Yeah, you!” Pete hollered, “Your pizza’s ready already!”

“Okie-dokie!” Mario replied, hopping out of his seat and heading over to go grab it from the counter, “Thank you so much-a!” he said to the unmoved pizza man, before quickly returning to Pauline’s side and placing the pie on the table.

It all happened so quickly, Mario nearly missed the look on Pauline’s face when she saw it, when she smelled it, when it was right there in front of her. Funnily enough, it was exactly the look he’d hoped he’d get from her seeing him again earlier that day.

Just what I needed,” Pauline sighed dreamily, before helping herself to a slice. Mario grabbed a slice of his own from his side of the pie - the right side, as ‘catastrophic’ as it was - but found himself distracted by the woman in front of him. It wasn’t that she bothered him—it was the opposite, in fact. Everything she did was so beautiful, so perfect in his eyes, like it had never been done before and he was witnessing history in the making with her every move.

And he just couldn’t knock out of his head the feeling that he wasn’t going to get another chance to see it again. That there wasn’t going to be another chance to be with anyone like Pauline ever again.

A sense of urgency overcame Mario. He memorized every smile, every bite, every blink of her eye, and mentally kicked himself for every one he had already missed that day. Nothing was taken for granted, not a moment allowed to slip by, and yet it still ended so quickly.

In the blink of an eye, they were down to two slices - one with meatballs on it, and one with mushrooms.

“Wow… guess we were hungry,” Pauline remarked, looking at the last two slices and hesitating to take one. Once they were eaten, they’d be that much closer to the end of their date, and neither of them seemed in a hurry to get there.

“Hmm,” Mario hummed, staring at those last two slices, “… Could I have-a that last one with-a the mushrooms on it, Pauline?” he asked, impulsively, causing her eyes to meet his again. “You can have-a the last one with-a the meatballs, if you don’t mind!” he added, in a hurry not to seem like he was going to take it all.

“It doesn’t look as unappetizing as I thought it would, I guess…” Pauline commented, “… okay,” she agreed.

With that, they both reached across to each other’s sides of the pizza and took one slice each, their arms almost touching in the process but being just far enough away to avoid each other. They both held each slice up to their faces, looking at each other with a bit of that playful tension they had going on earlier, before taking a nice big bite.

“Mmm…” Mario sighed, “not bad… not-a so bad after all,” he smiled, as he took another bite, savoring every moment he had with this mushroom pizza. He didn’t hate mushrooms to begin with, it just wasn’t something he was going to go out of his way for. In that moment, though, it was the best slice of pizza he’d ever had… and he would’ve taken a thousand worse slices over it if it meant he could keep holding on to the woman of his dreams. But he had a feeling it was going to be time to let go sooner than he ever expected.

“It’s okay, I guess. For a pizza with meatballs on it,” Pauline joked, causing a giggle to escape from Mario’s smiling lips. It was almost like meeting her for the first time all over again, being surprised and delighted with everything she did.

As they finished, Mario knew what he had to do. However things turned out, Pauline’s well-being had to come first. No matter what.

“Thank you so much-a for doing this,” Mario smiled warmly at Pauline, who looked like she was doing a little better… but still a little shaken, “and-a thank you for talking to me.”

“Of course,” Pauline sighed, smiling bittersweetly herself, “don’t take this the wrong way, but… I think I’m gonna try and focus on myself for the next couple weeks or so. Just to get my head right…” she frowned, giving an apologetic look to her boyfriend, “I’m sorry… I probably ruined this date.“

Mario placed his hand on her cheek.

“You ruined nothing, Pauline,” Mario assured her, brushing her cheek tenderly with his thumb, “… besides maybe Pete’s-a day, with all-a that time we held up-a the line to fuss over the toppings,” he added, with a sly grin.

Excuse me?” Pauline laughed, “Pete likes me, for your information, and I distinctly recall you were the one who had a problem when I brought up mushrooms,” she pointed out, rightly, “if you didn’t make such a big deal out of it, maybe poor Pete woulda been in a better mood!”

“You got-a me there,” he giggled, “now let’s-a get outta here, okay?”

Pauline nodded, and they stood up from their seats, walking out of the pizzeria and back into the open air of Brooklyn.

Back again in that world. A world that doesn’t care how badly it hurts, that never has enough from you, that’ll keep taking until you have nothing more to give inside. Not as simple as a pizzeria run by a grumpy old man or as understanding as a loved one, with no easy answers for anything worth asking.

“Want me to walk-a you home, Pauline?” offered Mario, hopefully.

She had been so happy, happier than she’d been since the incident, it felt wrong to refuse… but there was no helping it - she wasn’t okay, and not even the best pizza pie in the world could fix that.

“… No, but thank you, Mario,” Pauline answered, “I’ll call you sometime soon, okay?”

“Okie-dokie,” Mario replied, doing his best to keep the smile he had so genuinely on his face. It wasn’t about him, he reminded himself, as much as he could. All he had to do was keep a brave face on until the goodbyes were over with. He only had to hold on just a bit longer.

Pauline looked to Mario as she began to take a step away, looking as though she tried to get the words ‘goodbye’ out, but… they never got out. She waved goodbye with a strained but genuine smile and drifted into the crowd, leaving Mario to stand there waving back at her until she eventually disappeared from sight… just like that smile Mario had, as soon as he was sure she couldn’t see.

There wasn’t much more he could say, to himself or anyone else for that matter. He did his best, but you can’t save everyone.

Not even the people you save.

Mario went back to plumbing with his brother Luigi, after that, and it went okay enough. They were paying their bills, though their phone wasn’t exactly ringing off the hook - but every time it did ring, Mario hoped it would be Pauline on the other end. He would dream about Luigi answering the phone, looking over to him and telling Mario the words, “it’s for you.”

It never happened, though.

But despite what Mario told himself afterward, in some self-loathing way to reassure himself on those dark nights where a bed was the loneliest place he’d ever been, there never was another in Pauline’s life as special to her as Mario was. He hoped she’d find someone else, someone who could help her forget, but she couldn’t even if she wanted to. No one could fully replace him in her heart, just like no one could replace Pauline in Mario’s.

They didn’t come with a sign to warn each other what it was going to be like, trying to be apart after knowing what it used to be like to be together, but that was life. It wasn’t cruel, just random, and would it really have been worth it to miss out on all the good times they had just to spare themselves the pain of having it all come to an end?

Maybe it would’ve been easier if he felt like it was his fault, or really anyone’s, but that wasn’t how it happened this time. Maybe they’d get another chance, he wondered sometimes, but that was just another dream.

Like so many other dreams he kept having, even after he started living in the Mushroom Kingdom, it stayed where it began. Never changing, just like the love he felt for her, and that she would keep feeling for him. Same as it was, same as it would be.

A Brooklyn dream.

The End

Author’s Notes: This is my first attempt at writing Super Mario Fan-Fiction since 2019! I used to do this a lot more. I hope y’all like it!

I like to think Pauline does eventually call Mario, but it’s long after he & Luigi ended up in the Mushroom Kingdom, and she honestly can’t hold it against him that he doesn’t pick up - assuming he just moved on like she had. Eventually, Super Mario Odyssey happens, and they reunite! All’s well that ends well, right?

Originally-published on October 8, 2022

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