Disclaimer: You know the drill; I don't own Bowsy or any of the Mario characters. However, I just acquired cosplay costumes of Bowser and Peach. C:

A/N: You're not dreaming! I'm still alive, and this is an update! I'm through making promises. Honestly, I was at work and bored, and I decided to check this story. I saw that I had a ton of reviews I hadn't seen before, and they made me realize just how much I missed this story. Then, I checked my messages and Porky2 was reminding me to update. I lied to him about when I was going to have it out, and I'm so sorry about that! He continued to message me about it, as early as yesterday, and I'm so grateful for it. I've had four pages typed up for the longest time, so I opened the file and started typing. I just want to thank everyone for their support again. If I start to slack off, please send me messages telling me to update. I need the reminders!

Also, did anyone go to AWA? My husband and I went as Peach and Bowser, with a whole Mario entourage! Be sure to tell me if any of you go to conventions in the Southeast!

He heard her sharp inhalation, almost like a reverse gasp, yet his attention was focused on a random point on the wall across the room. He couldn't meet her gaze any more than she could meet his. The mood was ruined in that instant, he realized, the comfortable physical contact of their hands gone. In fact, she appeared even more distant, her knees drawn even closer to her chest, her body unconsciously trying to shield her from the news.

"Oh," Peach said into the silence, her melodic voice light. "I kind of figured that, but I never knew for certain. I mean, I never met her, but.." She broke off, as if trying to find a phrase she liked. Finally, she settled for something vague. "The kids.."

Bowser suppressed a shudder, trying not to think of what his wife was probably imagining him do. "Yeah," he muttered, nodding, his gaze still averted although he could watch her in his peripheral. "It was over before I started kidnapping you again." It had actually been over for less than a week, but he didn't mention that.

Blonde and pink shifted from the corner of his eye, and he could tell she was trying to get the nerve to voice her curiosity. He tried not to sigh, although it wasn't a conversation he wanted to get into.

"What was her name?" Peach finally asked, lacing her fingers together around her knees.

"Clawdia," he answered automatically, no extra hints of emotion tinging the word like it did when he said Peach.

She didn't notice. "How did you meet?"

"We were pen pals," he answered, his voice completely serious. After a pregnant pause, he finally dragged his gaze to Peach, to find her openly gaping at him. Instantly, his expression lit up, a broad grin cracking the stoic mask. "Got'cha!"

Peach scrunched up her face, shoving his arm. He didn't even budge. "Be serious!"

"What? Don't I look like the type that can write a love letter or two?" He was still grinning teasingly.

"No," she answered without hesitation. The only letters she had ever read from him were either directed at the Mario brothers, daring them to come rescue their princess, or written for her, declaring a future kidnapping on the horizon and his intentions of marriage. There had never been a hint of romanticism; his declarations were egocentric and full of his own boastings.

His crimson gaze turned wary, his grin faltering around the edges. The queen realized her expression wasn't what he had hoped for- her lips were pulled down slightly in the beginnings of a frown- so she quickly amended that with what she hoped was a light-hearted smile. His didn't change.

"You got me," he returned to his story, running his claws absently over the silk sheets. Crimson optics drifted to the ripples of fabric he created, looking for any excuse not to watch her. Her gaze followed suit, pretending to be drawn to the motion. "I don't think I've ever written a romantic letter in my life. Although, some of the ones I sent you.." She could hear the grin in his voice, which somehow, made a giggle ripple up her throat. Luckily, she managed to contain it. The mattress shifted slightly with the motion of what she assumed was his shrug. "Anyway, we met at my 'coming of age' party, I guess you would call it. It was my own coronation."

Peach blinked, her curious gaze forgetting that it was trying to avoid him. Instead, it betrayed her by flying to his eyes, which were still staring sightlessly at the motion of his hand. "You were king before you were married?" she inquired. In the Mushroom Kingdom, Peach had to be married to move up from the role of princess. Of course, that was because she was a female, but she hadn't quite put two and two together.

"How many princes do you know ruling kingdoms? Wait, don't answer that." Bowser shook his head, not wanting to think of any princes coming to win over her hand before his kidnappings started. "In Darkland, there needs to be a king. I didn't ever have to hitched for it, though. As soon as I was a teenager, I was old enough. 'course, I had already been making all the decisions as a koopaling." He grinned a toothy grin, and Peach imagined he wanted to laugh maniacally at his memories. She knew he had always been the ruler; there was no other way a kingdom would take up arms to fight off two toddlers and a couple of yoshis just because a kid wanted to kidnap a blonde baby.

There was a stretch of silence, and Peach realized she was going to have to keep prompting him to tell her. A part of her wondered if asking was taking it too far- or if she really wanted to know. But, her curiosity got the best of her.

Didn't curiosity kill the goomba? Bowser had once told her that, she recalled.

"So, you met at the ceremony?"

Bowser nodded. "Yeah. She was a bit older than me, but she stood out, compared to other koopas. For one, she didn't worship me like most of the kingdom." He laughed lowly, fidgeting with the sheets now. Peach quirked an eyebrow; she thought he would have wanted an adoring wife that worshipped the ground he walked on. But, she remained silent, letting him continue. "We were both rude and tried to ignore each other, even though Kamek had purposely seated us together to eat afterward." The magikoopa had thought he was doing His Evilness a favor by playing match-maker. It would help him get over the little blonde girl he couldn't seem to forget. "We ended up fighting, and she just wouldn't shut up."

There was another moment of silence, as Bowser skimmed over the details he didn't want to tell his wife. The memory was still vivid, ranked up there with his various favorites of Peach. Clawdia had ended up standing, facing off with him, her crimson eyes alight with rage. He had nearly been growling, yet his teenage hormones still registered that she was quite the attractive koopa. She had been slender, where most koopas were standard round, her frame giving her hips and bosom a more defined curve. Her electric blue hair had looked almost exactly like Ludwig's, only in a more modern, manageable style. The shell on her back was petite and red, bringing out her eyes- and the fury that danced there.

In that moment, he had forgotten about the crystalline blue eyes that were usually filled with tears.

"Oh." Peach focused on her locked fingers, using one to toy with her ring. Suddenly, she hoped the ring wasn't a hand-me-down, although she didn't dare inquire about that. Although she wasn't sure she wanted to keep talking about Bowser's past, she couldn't stop just yet. "When did you get married?"

"A year after we met. Maybe two," he confessed, tilting his head as if he was trying to get a better concept of time. He had married young, but in that short time, he had eight children. Right before they split, Clawdia had said it had been teenage hormones that drove Bowser on. He had concluded that she was probably right.

Peach nodded, although she was busy trying to figure out the math in her head. How long did it take before they had kids? Why did they have so many? What did koopas use for birth-control? How old were the koopalings during the divorce? How long had he been married? How old was he when he became a father? What happened to Clawdia?

She concluded that he was probably around fifteen when he was married, since she thought Ludwig was at least twelve. But, that would make Bowser a very young father- which was both true and perfectly acceptable for koopas. Peach chose not to ask Bowser to double-check her math; she didn't want to know the specifics.

However, she did want to know about the divorce. "Why did you get a divorce?"

Bowser sighed as she asked the million-coin question. His brow furrowed slightly; he didn't really want to tell her all the details. In the end, it had come down to Peach, honestly. Clawdia felt second to his first "infatuation." She became sick of the way the koopa king collected Toad Town news clippings of Peach's progress, as well as the fact he bought a Princess Peach plush doll in secret. As much as he wanted to say he loved Clawdia after nearly nine years of marriage, he didn't know. He loved his kids, but his heart..

Clawdia always said it was just physical between them. She claimed to love Bowser's personality, his confidence and his brash leadership. But, as soon as Bowser Junior was hatched, she changed bedrooms. Months later, she left, but only after setting fire to his Peach collection. He had never seen her again.

How could he tell Peach that his wife left him because he was "infatuated" with another woman- her?

"Things just didn't work out," he finally surmised, being vague. "I didn't love her, and she didn't really love me."

The blonde merely blinked in response, as if unable to wrap her mind around that answer. After a long pause, Bowser finally looked over at her, blinking himself when he was unable to read her strange expression. "What?" he cautiously asked, crossing his arms as if to shield himself.

"You didn't love her, but you.. you had eight kids together?" Peach felt herself blush at her own train of thought, which caused Bowser to try and hold back impending laughter. The vibrations on the bed gave him away, only serving to deepen the red tint to her face.

"Did becoming a married woman give you a dirty mind?" Bowser teased, his baritone rumble full of suppressed laughter. However, his ribbing made Peach frown instead of giving him the smile he had wished to see. But, then again, when did the Star Spirits ever grant his wishes?

"No!" she protested, turning her head away from him, to face the opposite wall. "It did not. I just don't understand the concept of not loving someone, but.. but still having.. se- kids." Her hands balled into her pajama bottoms, her abashment tinged with irritation. She hoped he didn't catch her slip.

The koopa heavily sighed, hot air blasting from his flared nostrils. Peach was so pure and innocent. She had never really hated anyone, not even him or Mimi or any other countless villains. She was untouched, pure of heart, mind, and body. She had probably never even been kissed, aside from the ones she issued to Mario's cheek.

Bowser, on the other hand, was malicious and somewhat evil. He was brash and didn't think twice about starting an all-out war. He would go to the end of the worlds for a little blonde that only wished for his failure. He was corrupt, had eight kids that loved being bad, and he longed his whole life for that pure and innocent girl.

It was no wonder their marriage unleashed the Chaos Heart.

"It's called lust," he finally said, the bed shifting as he shrugged. "She was hot as far as koopas go. Not as smoking as me, but not half-bad, either."

He saw Peach flinch. "Oh," she murmured, almost under her breath. "Lust."

He nodded slowly. "Yeah. It's what you're feeling right now, just being close to me. Embrace it, Peachy." A grin had spread across his lips, though he doubted his remark would go over well. He just wanted to keep the mood light; this discussion was taking too serious of a turn.

The queen crossed her arms over her chest, still facing away from him. "That is most certainly not what I'm feeling right now." In fact, she wasn't even sure what she was feeling. Her chest was tight, like a coil was wrapped around her, stealing away her breath. She was trying to block out the thoughts of Bowser with his "hot" koopa wife, but they hammered away at her mental wall, shaking loose the foundation. She knew her feelings were absurd- Peach certainly didn't ask to be Bowser's wife; she didn't love him- but the hurt remained. What a silly, fickle girl I am, she mentally chided herself.

Bowser grasped Peach's chin tenderly between his large claws, forcing her to finally look at him. Her gaze flew to his snout, refusing to meet his eyes. "Hey," he started, his grin faltering completely. "What's wrong, Peach?" The question was but a murmur on his lips, soft and soothing. The blonde realized that she was worrying him over something stupid- and she couldn't very well tell him what she had been thinking about- so she finally dragged her crystalline optics to his. The fire in his crimson gaze had been doused, muted by undisguised concern. Peach carefully tucked her disturbing revelations (such as how much it actually bothered her that he had been married before her, and that Bowser- Bowser, of all tyrants!- actually felt things like lust) into a box in the farthest recesses of her mind for later accession.

"Nothing," she replied, wincing at how flat her usually-melodic voice came out. "I was just wondering what ever happened to her. I didn't think our kingdoms assented to things like divorce or annulment." That was how they ended up bound together, after all.

Bowser slowly released her chin, the concern in his gaze melting into relief. A flicker of his usually intensity returned. "Oh, that's nothing. Everyone thinks she's dead. You can remarry if your spouse dies, so that's why I'm a free man."

"Dead?" Peach echoed, frowning at the way he said it so easily, as if her being dead would be a load off his shoulders. "But.. But, she's not dead, is she?" The thought horrified her.

He shook his head, his fiery mane brushing the ivory rim of his shell. "No, no." His hands raised palm-up, as if trying to abate the horrified glaze seeping into her stare. "She knew we couldn't get a divorce. So, she set it up that she was killed in an accident at one of the castles we were constructing. For a moment, I thought she actually had died.. But she wasn't that cruel." Bowser's expression was somber, as he recalled the guilt and dread that had pitted in his stomach like an iron ball upon hearing the news. "She sent a letter afterward, claiming she had gone to another kingdom, changed her name, and was running for a political position or something." She had also added You're free at last. Are you happy?

The news that she wasn't dead after all still hadn't cleared the troubled expression from Peach's face, though. Bowser sighed, heavily enough for a puff of hot air to hit Peach's face. She frowned, her brow furrowing. "If everyone thinks she's dead.. Then how do the koopalings see her?"

Why, oh why, did Peach have to care enough to keep beating the subject, trying to squeeze out as much information as possible? Sure, she was cutting out the more-private questions that shouldn't even burn in her mind—maybe being married did give her a dirty mind?—but certainly Bowser didn't want to have to answer everything about his past relationship. Well, she had the right to know.. didn't she?

Bowser's expression had morphed so suddenly, it startled her. Peach could have sworn she saw him snarl before he checked his burst of anger and tempered it back to a stern grimace. "They don't. She can't come back here. She's supposed to be dead."

Peach didn't quite understand. "So.. she hasn't seen them since then?"

"No," he ground out, his jaw tight.

"But.. she left all eight of them.. just like that?" The idea appalled her to the point that she felt sick. In the time she had spent in Darkland, the koopalings had grown on her. She felt a maternal instinct to protect them, and it wasn't just because they fondly referred to her as 'Mama Peach.' Even if they loved being bad, they weren't bad kids. How could their own mother just.. leave them?

"Yeah. I guess she wanted away from me that bad." His throat was constricted, the words cynical. Peach realized she had just picked at an old wound.

"It has nothing to do with you!" she insisted, reaching out to grab his large hand again, without thinking. His gaze focused, the shadows lurking in the depths seeming to recede. "You're a wonderful father." Had she really just admitted that? He was bringing them up to be 'bad', not to mention completely spoiled. She was stroking his ego, but this conversation was taking a dangerously-dark turn.

His hand turned over, palm-up, gently cupping hers. "I know," he replied confidently, his trademark cocky grin gracing his mouth once more. "And you'll make a wonderful mother."

Peach's expression nearly faltered, but she managed to taper the surge of thoughts back enough to force a smile. He seemed content enough that he didn't notice. "It's.. getting late, Bowser." It may have been a cop-out, trying to end the conversation, but she really was tired—even if she doubted she would get much sleep. There was just too much on her mind.

Her husband nodded sagely. "Yeah, it's pretty late." He released her hand with one last squeeze and then made a show of slowly lying back on the bed. His grin had widened, spreading across his entire face, and he pat the mattress beside him. The blonde royal was already shaking her head. "C'mon, Peachy. We're married. Just sleep beside me! There's plenty of room in the bed," he insisted, though he tried to keep from being too pushy.

Peach's face was alight with abashment; her cheeks nearly matched the color of his gaze. "No, Bowser," she protested automatically.

"The bed's so big that you won't even know I'm here," Bowser pressed, testing to see how far he could push it. He nearly jumped for joy when she hesitated, even if he could still see the conflict in her gaze. She was so innocent.. He was almost positive she would deny him, and the almost merely came from his own burning hope. If she consented, he wouldn't touch her; he would stay on his own side.

At least.. until he was sure she was asleep.

Her blush had intensified; she knew he would start pressing their sleeping arrangements sooner or later. She was considered the 'wife of the awesome king of Darkland', and said awesome king had been dreaming of this moment for many years. Even if he promised to sleep on the other side, she knew if she fell asleep, she would wake up in his muscular arms; she may be naïve, but she wasn't stupid. Agreeing to share the bed with him would mean agreeing to cuddle.

But, after hearing so much about his previous marriage—and how, according to him, his eight children were conceived not of love, but of lust—Peach just couldn't bring herself to consent. It was too big of a step. "No, Bowser.. I.. I can't.."

The burly king sat up, not looking phased in the least. He had expected it, of course, but at least he made his intentions for the future evident. "All right, tomorrow night, then." Just as she opened her mouth to deny it, he continued, "I'll sleep on the floor beside you tonight."

"No, you slept on the floor last night," she stated, thinking of how he had slept next to her charred bed. They had insisted he had still been comfortable, that beds didn't really matter to koopas, but she still felt guilty. "I'll just take a guest bed and let you have yours back."

Bowser was already sliding onto the floor. "No," he replied sternly, making it clear that wasn't even an option. "My wife is going to have only the finest luxuries, and that's this bed."

Peach shifted to the edge, peering over at him. He was lying on his side, facing her so his bulky spiked shell was positioned away from the bed. For a moment, she wondered if he would have taken off his shell to sleep next to her. When he had laid down a moment ago, it had still been on.. and, surprisingly, it hadn't ripped the satin sheets. Did he ever take it off? She could imagine he would look strange without it.. and decided not to voice her train of thought. "Fine, but why do you have to be so stubborn? Why do you have to sleep on the floor?"

He propped his head up with his hand, his bent elbow resting against the floor. "Simple. I want to sleep by you."

His statement didn't shock her; she had expected something like that. But, it did touch her that he really meant it. He was never scared of saying what was on his mind, even if it meant boisterously announcing his intentions of marriage time and time again. All those times, she had rejected him, but instead of getting hurt, her words had glanced off like water and he hadn't given up. Deep down, she admired him for that; she was never as honest about her feelings—or else the kingdom wouldn't have mistaken her and Mario as a couple.

"Oh fine," she finally murmured, lying back to pull the covers around her body. From below, she could hear his chuckle. "Good night, Bowser."

"G'night, my darling wife. Sleep tight, and don't let the goombas bite." She suppressed a laugh with her hand, reaching over to turn off the lamp with the other. Darkness swallowed everything in the room, except for a very faint glow coming from the window of the lava pits surrounding the castle. At one point, there was a neon sign affixed to the castle that used to keep her awake, but thankfully, Bowser grew tired of the glow as well and had it torn down.

Peach closed her eyes. Why couldn't her mind seem to rest? Now, in the darkness of the room, where she and Bowser became nothing but disjoined voices instead of beings, her mind was free to mull over the earlier conversation. She was expected to be a mother to eight koopalings. That, she had already known. But to think that most of them couldn't even remember Clawdia—that she would be the sole maternal influence on their lives—was a little overwhelming. Certainly, it was a lot of pressure. She had always wanted children, of course, but.. she had always imagined her own to be human. Now, she had eight, without even having to go through childbirth—or laying eggs, as she imagined koopas were born.

So, she would have to do her best. That much was already settled. All she had to do now was figure out what she was going to do about Bowser. His last marriage had been more.. fulfilling, it seemed, if that was the word for it. Her face flushed, and she covered it with both of her hands, as if that could erase the thought. Her heart had sped up, the butterflies in her stomach returning to flutter around in their confines. Why did she get so flustered? It wasn't as if she and Bowser would ever..

Ugh, stop thinking. Just stop thinking! Peach pleaded with herself internally. She had never even been kissed, and she was thinking about the prospect of.. of martial activities! Undoubtedly, she should have never read those romance novels she had procured from a Darkland vendor. But, the ones about the Shy Guys and Shy Girls were so juicy!

Stop it! She had to shut her mind down if she was going to get any sleep—and she shouldn't be thinking of this with Bowser right next to her, anyway, even if he was on the floor. Guilt washed over her again; she really didn't want him to be uncomfortable because of her. She knew she could never sleep on the floor.. and even the times when she was a young teenager and he had been a little more maniacal with his kidnappings, she had never been forced to sleep on the floor.

Great. Now she felt like a villain in her very own melodrama. She sighed, dragging her hands from her face to ball at her sides. Taking in a deep breath, she prayed to the Star Spirits that her voice wouldn't come out shaky.

"Oh, fine. Bowser, you can sleep in the bed tonight…"

There was a long pause where she suspected he was fighting the urge to jump up and down, pumping his fists in the air. However, that pause lasted a little too long, her nerves a little too shot to wait.


Her answer was an abrupt, loud snort, followed by some contented sleeping grumbles. Peach jerked at the sudden noise, but when her mind processed it, she felt more embarrassed than ever. He was asleep! How could he sleep so comfortably on the floor while she struggled on the soft, plush mattress?

Sighing, she rolled so she was facing the edge of the bed. "Sweet dreams, Bowser.." she muttered, closing her eyes.

This time, sleep managed to claim her.

"Rise and shine, darling!"

The young blonde queen groaned, pulling the deep crimson-red comforter over her head to block out the sound. The words had lost all meaning; all she knew was that she could not sleep last night, so she planned on staying in bed the entire morning. "Five more minutes," she murmured on impulse, desperately wishing he was not so stubborn just this once!

The bed sank in under sudden, added weight, though the mattress was supportive enough that she did not roll towards her husband. The sudden feeling of something pulling- claws- on the wayward tendrils of blonde hair sticking to the satin pillow case produced a stiffening in her spine, though the young queen kept her eyes squeezed shut.

"Okay, I'll watch you sleep for five more minutes," came the gruff, yet surprisingly tender response. That made her blue hues reveal themselves, ungloved fingers clenching in the fabric of the comforter. With a jerk, she threw back the blanket and propped herself up with an elbow to focus a groggy gaze on his cheerful face.

"Have you been watching me sleep, Bowser?" she inquired, trying to keep her tone even. His smirk was answer enough. "Why are you in such a cheerful mood, anyway? Was it that nice to sleep on the floor?"

Bowser's lips twitched, yet his cockily cheerful expression refused to waver. "Oh, it was an awesome time sleeping next to the warm bed! But Wendy and Junior seem to have something for you."

"..What might that be?" He had her attention now; she was still pretty tired, but memories of Junior rushing away from her still seeped in. Although he had apologized—through Bowser—she still felt as if she had let him down by not taking better care of the bandanna.

"I don't know," Bowser replied, although by his expression, he was obviously lying and obviously pleased at whatever his kids had cooked up. "Why don't you go to Wendy's room and see for yourself?"

Peach stretched her arms above her head, fighting a yawn. "All right. Just let me get dressed, okay?" When he didn't move a muscle, she pointed toward the door. "Out, Bowser!"

"Oh, you wanted privacy? I didn't notice," he feigned innocence with a chuckle and rose to leave. Pausing at the doorway, he tossed, "I'll be in the dining hall when you get finished" over his shoulder, and then shut the door. The blonde shook her head slightly, trying not to laugh, as she slowly got up from the bed to get dressed.

When she emerged from the bedroom, she was refreshed; her hair was brushed, her make-up was expertly applied, and she was wearing her usual pink regal gown, her crown set perfectly atop her head. She made her way to Wendy's room, her heels producing muted clicks along the plush crimson carpet. After a couple of turns down the corridors she sadly knew by heart, she reached the solid-pink door and knocked.

"It's, like, open!" came the muffled reply. Peach pushed the door open, blinking as she noticed Wendy and Junior sitting on the edge of a plush bed, as if they had been waiting on her. Junior was fidgeting, holding a rectangular box in his lap. They both stared at her as she paused in the doorway.

"I heard you wanted to see me?" Peach prompted, and Wendy nudged Junior in the side with her elbow.

"Like, go on!" she whispered loudly, Junior standing, his gaze on the ground.

"I'm.. sorry, Mama Peach. I know it wasn't your fault." Slowly, his crimson optics, so much like his father's, drifted up to tentatively meet Peach's. A small smile curved her lips, and she crouched in front of him, reaching out to touch his cheek.

"I'm sorry, too, Junior. I should have been more careful with it," she murmured, while Junior shook his head.

"No. No, it was that stupid Mario." Peach opened her mouth to protest, to insist that it was both Mario and Bowser, but Junior quickly thrust the box forward. "Here."

The blonde blinked, gently taking the box and lifting the lid. Her gaze flew from the object, back to Junior's face, her expression one of open confusion. "How..?" Wendy laughed from the bed, and Junior grinned.

"Well? Do you like it?" Junior prompted.

Gingerly, Peach lifted a square of white fabric from the box and unfolded it. Some parts were a pristine ivory, while others were marred by fire, gray and black. There were heavy, uneven stitches combining the two sections, and the parts of the design that had been burned away were expertly painted back in place. The sight quickly became blurred, as tears rapidly gathered in her sapphire hues.

"I love it," she managed, drawing the little koopa into her arms.

"Master Mario! I simply cannot thank you enough for coming to our aid!"

The rotund plumber smiled at the elderly toad, straightening his trademark cap. "It's-a no problem-o."

"No—it really means everything to us. We'd be lost without your outstanding services!"

"Don't mention it." Mario's smile tightened beneath his magnificent 'stache. Toadsworth was laying it on unusually thick this morning—perhaps he had figured out the current source of Mario's frustration. Was the toad trying to make him feel better, by boasting his unique skills, making him seem needed by the kingdom? Or was he simply afraid that the hero would move, becoming a vagabond for adventure?

Either way, it didn't make Mario feel better.

"Where is-a the problem?" the hero inquired, ready to boldly face the issue head-on.

"Oh! Yes, yes, of course, right this way," Toadsworth muttered in a rush, turning to lead Mario through the main lobby, to the thick double-doors they both knew so well. Thoughts of an adventure long-since passed hummed through Mario.. How he longed for a world where he traveled through paintings to unseen worlds, collecting Power Stars to unseal doors.

Shortly, they arrived in front of a basement door, to which Toadsworth motioned. Mario nodded briefly and then opened the door, his lips twitching under his mustache at the sight. Inside, a pipe was dripping steadily at its connection to another, a small puddle of water beneath it.

"Again, we can't thank you enough for your prompt response, Master Mario. If this issue had gone unaddressed for much longer, the castle's water bill would have been outrageous!" The steward sounded horrified at the prospect, although they both knew that the drip was so small that the large reserves of the kingdom wouldn't have even noticed the extra charge. Had Toadsworth checked all the pipes in the castle, until he found one barely leaking, just to give Mario something to do?

"It's-a no problem-o," Mario cheerily replied, smiling at the elderly toad, until Toadsworth took his leave. Sighing, the plumber entered the room, pulled a wrench from his toolbox and tightened the connection until there was no longer any signs of the leak. It was a simple, thirty-second fix, one that he never had gotten called about in the past. How had he gone from hero to handyman so quickly?

He sighed, absently checking the other pipes, making sure the job was thoroughly completed. All night, he had thought about how he would get his adventure back, how he would make Peach beg for his help again. Then, it had hit him- the perfect plan. It had come to him in a whisper of his subconscious, something so perfect, that it was foolproof.

That morning, he had sent a letter and started the wheels in motion.

Finally, he left the basement and made his way out of the castle, declining the coins Toadsworth offered him for his services.

All too soon, he wouldn't need them. He would be a hero again.

Peach stood beside the dining hall's table, the koopalings and their father already seated and digging into their food. Bowser quirked a bushy brow as his wife cleared her throat to get his attention, her gaze toward the hallway.

"What is it, love?" he inquired around a mouthful of bacon.

"Why in the world is a koopa dragging my suitcase down the hall?" She slanted a glance his way, watching him grin.

"Because we're going on a trip. All of us!" he announced to his kids, whom all began excitedly yelling out where they wanted to go.

Peach slowly sank into her chair, now looking directly at Bowser. "Without consulting me first? What if I don't want to go?"

The king shrugged, shoving his mouth full of food. After a few chews, he replied, "I know you, Peachy. I know where you like to go."

"Oh?" She quirked a slender brow. "And where might that be?"

He grinned again, as cocky as ever. "The Mushroom Kingdom, of course."

A/N: And that ends this chapter. I know, I know; it wasn't exciting and nothing happened. I wanted to end it before they actually went to the kingdom, however, because it sets up for Mario's plan. It took me forever to actually come up with his plan, but I'm actually really excited to write it- although it's stressful to think about what's going to happen- but hopefully, it won't be a year or two until an update. The next chapter is set out perfectly in my head, so I'm going to start working on it tomorrow. If I make a promise as to when it will be released, I know I'll lie, so I'm just going to project it to be within the next couple of weeks since the chapter is going to be so juicy.

Again, thank you all for your continued reading. I cherish all of your reviews, I really do.

Out of curiosity, who's hoping for them to finally 'consummate' their marriage? xD