Chapter 1: Deal

It had been such a long day. The sun had started to set and with Peach saved once more, everything was back to the way it was supposed to be. The proposal may have been for naught, but Mario took comfort in the thought of another job well done. Afterwards, he bid Cappy farewell along with Pauline and the rest before leaving. He did not even stay for the celebration hosted by the others in honor of the princess' return. All he wanted to do now was continue down the brick road surrounded by greenery that would eventually lead him home and out of this tight, restrictive wedding suit. It had been a chore finishing the fight wearing it in place of his iconic overalls, and now trekking towards his destination felt like lugging weights all the way to his house in wake of exhaustion. Still, he powered on, recalling the big ravioli reward he had waiting for him in the fridge. He could only hope Yoshi had not already discovered it.

A sudden movement caught his attention in the brush nearby. His body jolted to engage. What he first assumed to be a stray goomba grew to a massive outline booming just beyond the bushes. It would be troublesome. With the day's events, he would barely have any energy to fight a foe now. No longer having Cappy's abilities which he had lately grown so use to as of late furthered his fears.

A brief moment later, and out stumbled a disheveled Bowser. His massive form lugged about, kicking at any rocks and debris while mumbling incoherently to himself. His body still bore the wounds from the previous battle. When he finally noticed Mario, he froze in place. That expected look of anger filled his pupils like it always did in the presence of his arch rival. Yet despite the furrowed eyebrows and massive grimace, he made no attempts to attack. If anything, he looked more annoyed at the fact this pint sized plumber would dare interrupt his moment of solace.

"Whaddaya want?!" he snarled. "Aren't you supposed to be with Princess Perfect back there?"

Mario clenched his fists in front of his face expecting an oncoming strike. Nothing came however, except for an eye roll from Bowser.

"Oh, come off it, I'm not in the mood to fight'cha. We already settled our differences up there, didn't we?!"

Mario cocked an eyebrow, but never lowered his defenses. Eventually, the Koopa King snorted two puffs of smoke out his nostrils. "Miserable meatball." He muttered plodding away.

The act caught the plumber off guard. It was completely unlike Bowser to not take advantage of such a perfect opportunity. He looked down his current path, then back at the lizard now angrily lumbering away. Against his better judgement, he went after the Koopa.

Bowser soon noticed his pestilence had not yet parted. He clawed at the air behind him and roared. "I don't have any shrooms on me fatso! Beat it!"

Mario took a step back, defensively raising his arms. For a moment, neither of them said a word.

"Well?!" exclaimed Bowser. His agitation growing by the minute.

At last, Mario rekindled with his voice. "Your-a castle is to the west."

The dragon sneered. "I know where my home is, you dimwit, I'm going to my Koopa Copter! Let me at least have a scenic view of the Mushroom Kingdom before I go back to sulking."

Mario gradually lowered his hands. He was surprised to see Bowser had stayed around for so long. Usually, he would have retreated into the darkness long before any festivities began. Stranger still, he had never before seen his foe with such a defeated look in his eyes. Yes, the hateful stare was ever present, but not the way he was accustomed to seeing it. Something was far different this time around.

Bowser growled. "Are you just gonna stand there or are you that desperate for a round two?"

Mario sighed. The weeks' events following up until now flooded his mind. "Hey. It's-a ok. We were-a both rejected, but I think we can at least-a respect her decision."

The Koopa King glared, shifting back to his transport. "I don't believe this."

"Believe-a what?" Mario inquired.

"I can't believe you! Don't you have a shred of pride?!"

He stared at the beast confused.

"Seriously, is that it?! Are you just gonna give up?! What happened to the thorn in my sides that never quit?!"

"What are you talking about?" Mario was completely at a loss.

Bowser turned back to face him. "I'm talking about that prissy little princess who just stood us both up! You've saved her time and time again, she rejects you, and you're just gonna walk away like nothing happened?!"

His words took Mario aback. "I'm-a not-a walking away, I'm-a giving her some-a space! Don't-a you see we overwhelmed her?"

Bowser scoffed. "And what?!" The large Koopa tramped towards him intimidatingly. "Look at you! The greatest hero of the Mushroom Kingdom walking back home from another successful beatdown without anything to show for it?! Worse still with that same, happy-go-lucky grin of yours hiding exactly how you feel! How pathetic is that?!"

Mario's head shrunk into his shoulders, though he still forced himself to maintain his ground. "P-Pathetic?! I defeated you again, Bowser! I think that's-a reward enough for me!"

"You fettuccine-livered fool!" bellowed Bowser. His enormous build overshadowing the moonlight behind him. "When are you gonna stop lying to yourself for everyone else's benefit?! Can't you see this means it's over between the two of you?!"

The last words disturbed a flock of birds resting in a nearby tree. Even the crickets had stopped chirping all together, leaving nothing but an an eerie silence. Air had become thick. The atmosphere heavy. Mario finally took a strained breath. His gaze fixated with those of the Koopa. "Why does it-a matter to you?"

Bowser's nostrils flared as he stared down at the plumber. "Because it infuriates me." he replied quietly. He shuffled over to a tree stump. "I'm mad that good for nothing princess stood us both up, but I'm even more mad that you're pretending to take it so well. If I weren't so numb to being rejected, I'd be raising the Underwhere right about now." He looked back at his nemesis. "So why aren't you?"

Mario blinked in surprise. Never before had he seen such a side of the great king before. "You're...a caring for how I feel?"

"I'm caring because if you and the princess don't feel anything towards each other, I'll be unemployed!" sneered Bowser. "If you don't love her, kidnapping her won't have the same effect! Sure, you'll come to her rescue, but where's the fun in that if she's not fawning for you to save her?"

"How-a do you know I'd still-a come to her rescue?" asked Mario in a poor attempt to sound unmoved.

"Oh don't give me that!" Bowser pressured. "Everyone knows you would because your sorry little heart is still attached! And let's face it, your goody goody two shoes attitude wouldn't allow you to do otherwise, so why even deny it?"

Try as he might to contradict it, Bowser had read every inch of him like a book. It was a no brainer however, as the two had known each other for so long. Only now had it become apparent how much the Koopa knew about him.

"Don't look so surprised, Mario." he continued. "We all know the spiel; I kidnap Peach, we fight, you bring her back, and we do it all over again. Now you're trying to rob me of being a good villain by pretending her rejection meant nothing to you?"

Mario shook his head. This hulk of a turtle truly was pulling at every heartstring he could find. "No. It-a did hurt, but I can't afford to be selfish. And I come-a to her rescue because it's-a the right thing to do! I would never leave her to danger, or anyone else for that-a matter!"

"See!? That's exactly what I'm talking about!" Bowser stood back up. "That's your problem Mario! You're just too dang nice! Ever since our first encounter, you never once thought about finishing me off for good, always choosing to spare me over ending decades of conflict! I've threatened you with nearly everything I could think of, but no! It's always a mild lava baths for Bowser instead of going full ham breaking the magic bonds tying me to the living world! Heck, even my henchmen are a testament to your mercy!"

"What? And you're goombas don't count?" Mario pressured.

"Oh, they're goombas, you idiot! They sprout back up after a period of time! Why do you think i never run out?!" Bowser screamed.

"And Koopas?"

"Invincible unless you yank 'em out of their shell!"

"Boos?"

Bowser facepalmed. "Now you're just being ridiculous. And don't even get me started on what you've done with the stolen money in my coin blocks!"

Mario frowned. "That-a money wasn't even-a yours to begin wi-!"

"AND all you do is spend that money on parties and sports events for everyone else! Heck, you even go out of your way to invite me! Me! Do you seriously invite your enemies on purpose in the hopes of gaining their favor?! Why not use that money to buy a getaway home like your brother instead of plumbing pipes all your life?!"

"You realize I'm-a also a doctor, right? And, I'm-a giving it back to the mushroom Kingdom!" persisted Mario.

"Gimme a break." muttered Bowser. "Next you're gonna tell me you invest in some nonexistent charity that builds entertainment systems for lonely children with busy parents?"

Mario stared blankly, making Bowser groan in annoyance. He once more started towards his Koopa Copter. All the while, the plumber twiddled his gloved fingers. "I don't-a need that much-a to get by. I may not-a have a big house, but I'm-a perfectly comfortable where I am. Yes, I have-a the money, but what do I need-a so much-a luxury for?"

"My point exactly. You have a sense of nobility and acceptance I simply can't understand." Bowser huffed as he grabbed the edges of his vehicle, hauling himself inside. His gaze sad. "Look Mario, I like you just as much as i hate you. You're a worthy arch nemesis, and, compared to those other maggots that dare call themselves fighters in smash tournaments, you're the greatest challenge I've ever faced. Yet here you are, womanless, still in the same professions, living in a tiny single story with your lousy chicken of a brother's occasional visits. Even someone as hated as you deserves better."

Mario pouted. Once more, it felt like the Koopa had read him like a book. Everything he said had some grain of truth to him he never truly acknowledged, always choosing the safety and wellbeing of others over everything else. Try as he might to search for a rebuttal, he simply could not, leaving the air silent once more. The wind whooshed past as the Koopa Copter revved to life. With nothing else to say, Mario began ambling sadly away.

All the while, Bowser had been struggling to fit in his transport. There was something inside that would not allow him to fit in all the way.

"For crying out loud!" he bellowed. One arm squeezed between him and the tight edges of his Copter. It took some rummaging, but at last he pulled out a question block. He took one look at it and sighed. In a fit of frustration, he tossed it at Mario's head. "Here! A parting gift, loser!"

It struck directly, knocking the short italian on his belly. The impact had just enough force to release its contents. Bowser was already rising into the air when he noticed the peculiar pink and gold object flutter out in a majestic glow. Admittedly, he had forgotten about the powerup block in its entirety, though now knowing what was inside, he reconsidered tossing away something potentially valuable. He left his vehicle running in the case of a hasty retreat, stomping over the empty block and towards the item.

"Hmph... So that's what was in there."

Mario groaned, stumbling to a stand. He was about to retaliate when he saw the powerup in Bowser's claws. His curiosity melted away his agitation "Is that a-?"

"A Super Crown." interrupted Bowser. "Disappointing. Last thing I want is for something that turns me into a gi-" He stopped. The air around him seemed to change on a dime as if just having reached an epiphany. Despite not saying a word, the expression on his face made it seem he was deep in thought. It looked like his mind suddenly raced with endless possibilities as he clutched the crown harder and harder in his hands. A large grin slowly creeped its way onto his snout, baring his massive teeth in their full, gleaming glory. It was that same psychotic, challenge-ready face he always displayed when warming up for a duel.

Mario waddled over. His hand outreached. "Okay me-Bowser, gimme the thing."

Silence. He stared at the beast before attempting a snag, only to have Bowser lift it just out of reach.

"Hey, you tossed that at-a me! I think I should-a be the one to keep it!" he protested.

"Hold on tiny man, my brain just hatched a plan!" retorted Bowser. "This thing turns people into some hideous rendition of Princess Peach, right?"

"Eh?" Mario sounded a bit confused. "Y-yes...well, mainly Toadette. She's the only one who's ever tried it on."

"Exactly! And you're just gonna give it to her!" Bowser elaborated. "I say you and I give this thing a whirl! You get what I'm saying?"

The Koopa King's excitement was making him increasingly uncomfortable. With no answer though, he continued.

"Alright, answer me this. Do you still love the Princess?"

Mario gloomily looked down at the dirt. "Are we not-a done with this-?"

"Answer the question-!"

"Yes!" came quicker than he cared to admit.

Bowser's grin grew. "Good! Because a small part of me still needs her too. I betcha she's not completely over you just yet either. I can only imagine the face she'll make if she sees you with someone else!"

"Where are you going with this?"

"I've got an idea, but it's a little radical. See, if someone uses this, mainly me since it was my item block, we could convince Peach that you've moved on and found someone else! It's quite simple really. We use lady me to make her jealous, it works like I know it will, and she'll be jumping back into your arms the moment we throw her over the edge-!"

"What?!" exclaimed Mario. "What in the world makes you think that-a plan would-a work? Do you even-a know how women-a work?"

Bowser snorted. "Listen Mario, I don't think I like this plan anymore than you do. But I think this is about our only option if you want the princess back! Besides, I wanna see the look on her face when she sees her precious plumber with another girl!"

"I would-a never do anything to hurt-a Peach!" Mario continued arguing. "How do you even-a know if the Super-a Crown will work on you?!"

He stared eagerly at the gleaming crown. Its glow casting shadows amongst the various trees and surrounding shrubbery. Every passing second made the Koopa more and more curious. Surely this plan was out of desperation to save his arch nemesis' relationship which, as much as he despised the idea, he knew that it was needed for their lifestyles to function. Peach needed a proper bodyguard, he needed a princess, and Mario needed a love interest. It was not perfect per say, but it was the most viable option he could think of. The last thing he wanted was for things to change between them. This was all he knew.

With the plumber rambling continuously in the background, Bowser slowly lifted the crown in his massive claws. To Mario's horror, the lizard began to glow as soon as the object touched his head. A massive poof burst out of Bowser, shoving Mario to the ground yet again. The monster's bellowing, echoing laugh resonated throughout the entire transformation. For a moment, the memories of facing him years ago in a dark world resurfaced. Eventually the smoke cleared. Mario eagerly stammered to his feet, hesitant to see the result of the Koopa King's reckless decision only to find his towering rival had disappeared. In his place a young maiden with an uncanny resemblance to someone he already knew. She was much shorter than Bowser, yes, but still a giant in contrast to himself.

"So? Did it work?"

Mario's jaw hit the floor. To both their surprises, even his voice had changed. While it was not at all ladylike, carrying an expected gruffness complimented by a rude undertone, it was definitely a drastic change, now caressing Mario's ears with an octave thousands of times softer.

"Ahh! Is that my voice?!" he screeched. "Is that my voice?! And-!?" He stroked his face in shock, feeling the smooth skin that now covered his hands. The initial fear slowly became maniacal bliss. Bowser looked himself over continuously, giggling with the excitement of a little school girl. Though his massive physique shrunken almost to the size of the beloved Princess Peach, he took joy in how much of a change such a puny power-up had brought to his body. This new feminine form came completely robed in a silky black and gray dress that partially exposed a fully formed bosom yet softly hugged its hourglass shape perfectly. Surprisingly, a small number of his trademark features remained. His thin fingers tugged at the edges of his newly formed lips, revealing a set of sharp teeth. Then he felt the horns protruding from the sides of his head. His excitement slowly faded when he noticed the tail dangling at his backside. "Well, i was going for something a little more prissy. Guess beggars can't be choosers." He twirled around. "Well? Whaddaya think, bucko?"

Mario could not utter a single word. He was surprised the powerup had done anything to Bowser at all. Worse still, it had changed the fearsome beast into some twisted version of the face he loved. Thick eyebrows, sporty muscles, spiked cuffs, and horns?! And those eyes. Those hungry, blazing red eyes. This was far from what he had wanted. Far from anything he was familiar with!

Poof!

"Hey! Eyes up here, stupid!"

His trance shattered. The female Bowser had vanished into a puff of smoke, bringing back the familiar repellent face.

He scowled. "Don't get any funny ideas you idiot, it's still me!"

Mario frowned. "I wasn't! I was-a just surprised the crown worked!"

Bowser arched a brow. "That convincing, eh?" He stamped over to his foe, picking him up by the collar of his neck. "Alright short stock, here's the plan. You know the ins and outs of the Mushroom Kingdom better than I do. Meet me outside the east gate in a week's time, noon. From thereā€¦" Bowser placed the Super Crown back on his head. Another poof later and the twisted version of Peach had returned. "...You guide me inside, and we have a little ...get together in heaven. Just the two of us. All we need then is do the stupidest couple's things we can imagine in front of Princess Peach and the rest is history!"

Such an idea was difficult to swallow. "A-Are-a you suggesting we go on-a date?"

"A fake date of course!" Bowser laughed, tossing him at the dirt. "Easy peasy! Pretty soon, Peach will have to beg for you to return! C'mon. What's so difficult about pretending to date another girl so you can get your ex back?"

Dirt decorated Mario's once white wedding attire, reflecting how dirty he felt about the idea. "W-What if she doesn't-a believe it?"

"She will believe it!" he roared. A fireball exploding violently in his mouth. "We're going to do the most stomach churning, cavity-inducing things that lovers do so you can wrap her around your finger!" He lumbered to Mario's feet. His massive, feminine figure looming menacingly overhead. "I'm doing this for you! For the three of us! Believe me when I say the last thing I want is for anything to change! Now, are you gonna man up? Or are you willing to lose Peach to someone like, say, Wario?"

Mario's eyes peeled back in absolute horror. Without a second thought, he stretched his arm.

Bowser leered a wide, toothy smile. He did the same, grasping the gloved hand in his own.

"I...I accept-a the terms...Bowser." he shuttered.

The Koopa thought for a moment before replying. "I'm a 'she' now Mario. Call me...Bowsette."