Spring melted into summer. Summer became fall. Winter blew through. Spring returned, bringing new flowers.

Getting over Bowser happened one day at a time. Junior and Cherry grew accustomed to running the castle without him overseeing everything. They finished the mountains of paperwork necessary to join both kingdoms into one. Two of the four major roads between the two lands had been completed. Once in awhile, they'd get angry letters from people disputing over property, but those were quickly and fairly dealt with.

Junior burst into the kitchen. "Hey, Cherry, what looks sexy in red?"

She raised an eyebrow.

"Me!" he laughed when she frowned. "Aw, I'm just kidding...you're the one who's sexy in red."

Cherry threw a breakfast roll at his head. "I want a divorce! My husband doesn't like me anymore!" she giggled. "Anyway, it's about time you got down here. Daddy's birthday party is this afternoon. I was thinking we could leave early..."

The humor faded from Junior's face a little. "Can we stop on the way?"

"That's why I suggested we leave early. And we better get out of here before somebody drags us into a meeting." She tugged on his white bandanna, bringing him down for a kiss. Against his lips, she said, "You know how much I hate those."

"Right," he grinned at how her blue eyes sparkled. "Let me get the presents. You get the flowers."

Ten minutes later found them riding the Koopa Clown Car. The sky was filled with clouds, but not enough to block the sun. They kissed, laughed and joked. A year of marriage had deepened their relationship. Junior realized he could lean on Cherry if he needed strength, and she learned that it was okay to be vulnerable once in awhile.

A soft breeze blew as Junior set the Clown Car down at the foot of the hill. He and Cherry made their way up the hill.

Peach's statue glimmered under the noonday sun. She wasn't alone on the hill anymore. Beside Peach stood a golden sculpture of Bowser. He was grinning at Peach and clasping her hand-the same hand he used to kiss each time he visited. It was probably the only piece of art that did not depict him being violent. He looked happy, peaceful and loving, a side of him Junior and Cherry felt the world needed to see.

"Hey, dad. You're a little dusty today." Junior pulled a rag from his shell and wiped the dust off Bowser's statue. He handed the rag to Cherry so she could wipe Peach off. Then he knelt to place the roses over Bowser's name. "It's Mario's birthday...we're gonna go harass him. I've got the perfect prank to piss him off, too...you'd love it, dad. You'll be laughing your way across the sky when you see what I'm going to do."

Cherry bopped him with her roses before she placed them on her mother's name plate. She rarely spoke to Peach's grave, choosing instead to think her words privately. Junior and I are getting along well. Bowser did a good job matching us up. I don't know if you're with him now or not...but if you are, I hope he's making you happy. Junior misses him a lot. I think he's getting better, though. He doesn't cry at the grave as much as he used to. She smiled, blushing, I think it's a good thing you and Bowser waited until you met in Heaven to go crazy. If he's as passionate as Junior... she let the thought trail off and glanced at her husband.

Junior's prattling gradually quieted down. He traced Bowser's name with his thumb claw. King Bowser Koopa Sr.. Now the title of king appeared next to Junior's name on paperwork. He still hadn't gotten used to writing "king" in front of his name. He also didn't like it when people called him Bowser. His name had always been Junior. So what if his legal name was the same as his father's? He grew up being called Junior. That's what he always wanted to be called. His dad was Bowser. Period.

"Ready to go?"

He turned to Cherry and smiled. "Yeah." and to the grave, he said, "bye, dad. Bye, Peach. See you two tomorrow."


An exhausted Mario closed the doors after his long birthday party. Goodness gracious, it was almost as big a party as Cherry's wedding! He had more gifts than he could open in one day...so everybody was coming back tomorrow to continue where they left off today.

The aged plumber wiped a hand down his face. He just wanted to sit on his throne and enjoy the silence for a few minutes. That was not to be. When he entered his throne room and turned on the lights, his eyes widened. Someone had propped a familiar wooden object up against his throne. Dangling from it was a banner that read 'Do old men still get wood?'

He gawked at the offensive sight until he heard a snicker. Then he noticed an orange tail poking around a pillar. "JUNIOR!"

Junior leapt out from behind the pillar and dashed out the door, laughing. "Happy birthday, you old fart!"

"Mamma mia! Stronzo! Testa di cazzo! You're a-worse than-a your-a father was!" Mario ran to the door, angrily shaking his fist in the air. His voice rose in pitch as he swore in Italian.

Junior dove into the Koopa Clown Car and took off, leaving Mario in his dust. A safe distance from the plumber's reach, he shouted, "Thanks!"

Mario grabbed the garden hose. He turned it on full blast and sprayed water at Junior's 'Car. "Scram-a! Get-a outta here!"

"Haha!" he dodged the spray and sped away. "I'll call you when my toilet clogs again!"

Oh, Cherry was going to kill him when Mario told her what he did...but the look on his face was so worth it. His dad used to send Mario an obnoxious gift every year for his birthday. Junior thought it was a tradition worth continuing. He snickered as he flew through the bright moonlight. The breeze stirred his orange hair.

He was so pissed...he's probably on the phone with Cherry right now. He glanced up at the clear, starry sky. Hm, getting flowers before I go home is a good idea. Yeah. Flowers AND chocolate.

Junior grinned and quickly changed directions, heading for the nearest town. He buzzed the hill where Peach and Bowser were buried. As he passed the statues, the Koopa Clown Car's propeller blew the roses off their graves. They landed together like lovers between the two gleaming name plates.