When Mario remembers it, afterwards, when he's back in New York, back to fixing pipes, it's all like some kind of fever dream no one would ever believe. How he spent so long - years, it felt like - jumping on turtles, going down pipes, touching mushrooms that made him grow tall, flowers that made him shoot fireballs. Collecting golden coins. Underwater castles, ghost houses, swimming, jumping, flying. Over and over and over, the same places again and again. Dying, over and over - falling into bottomless pits, running into monsters, hit by fireballs and spells and koopas, crushed under falling blocks. He dreams those deaths now, dying in fire and water and spikes and falling.
He was on a mission, he remembers that.
"I rescued a princess, once, you know," he slurs at the bar, late. He's afraid to go to sleep, these days, and so he drinks until he can't see straight and he stops feeling like he's falling. Those bottomless pits, those were the worst.
"I think you've had enough," the bartender says, like he does most nights.
"One more," Mario says. He never has enough.
There's a hand, warm on his back. "Hey," Luigi says. "C'mon home."
"Luigi, you remember?" he says. "The falling? You remember that?"
"Sure, Mario," Luigi says, and he pulls Mario to his feet.
The bartender looks at them, a little disgusted. "What were you guys doing, that whole time you were gone? It really fucked him up."
Luigi pauses, then smiles. He's shaved his mustache, since they've been back, and his teeth are very white. "Rescuing a princess," Luigi says, and puts Mario's arm over his shoulders. They limp out, Mario leaning heavily on his brother.
"Luigi, you remember?" Mario says, his mouth somehow in Luigi's hair, his head on Luigi's shoulder. He's too drunk to know how it got there, and he can't seem to pull it back up to sit on top of his neck.
"Yeah," Luigi says, quiet. He's always been the quieter brother. Younger, taller. He never seemed to mind being Mario's sidekick, even when they were kids.
"What do you remember?" Mario asks, and Luigi's neck is warm against his forehead.
Luigi doesn't say anything for a long time, nearly two blocks of pulling Mario along, limping awkwardly together.
"The colors," Luigi says finally. "Everything was so bright and flat."
"Yeah," Mario says. "You were green."
Luigi shifts his arm, gets a better grip on Mario's waist. "Yeah," he says, their footsteps clomping on the pavement together.
Mario feels like he's going to be sick, starts to retch. "Hey," Luigi says, and pulls Mario's arm off from around his neck. He just gets him away in time for Mario to throw up all over the pavement. Luigi holds Mario's forehead as his body heaves, cool hands holding him still. They've done this before.
When Mario finishes, they stay like that a few minutes.
"I don't even like green," Luigi says finally, and hauls Mario to his feet.
"I miss Peach, Luigi," Mario says into his brother's shoulder as they walk. "You know, Peach. The princess."
"I remember her name," Luigi says curtly.
Mario gets his foot caught on Luigi's, stumbles, starts to fall. Luigi catches him, pulls him back upright. Luigi always catches him.
"Everything out here is too real," Mario mumbles. "Too three-dimensional. You know?"
"Yeah," Luigi says. "I know."
They're at their building. Luigi unlocks the outside door, starts to haul Mario up the steps.
"I wish you hadn't shaved your mustache," Mario says halfway between the first and second floors.
Halfway between the second and third, Luigi says, "Shut up, Mario."
When Luigi dumps Mario in his bed, Mario tries to remember how the coins had felt on his skin. Cool and smooth and golden, like Luigi's hands.
He dreams of falling.