A/N: And now, the thrilling (I hope) conclusion to YotW. I really hope you've all enjoyed the story and thank you all so so much for your continued support and dedication. This is the longest chapter by a fair margin and hopefully it answers everything and ties up all those loose ends. I've already written the prologue to my next story, so please keep an eye out for it in the coming weeks! Thanks again for all the support. Please enjoy!

On the early morning of the ceremony, Toadette was busy helping set the tables in the reception area of the courtyard. It was sunny, warm, and just slightly breezy. It was a perfect day for an outdoor event.

In her usual reverie, Toadette gently set plates on the tables, however, this time she was pretending to be a different sort of princess.

Oh Princess Toadette, what a lovely charity event! Is it true that you plan to feed 300 underprivileged children?

"Oh yes, I am going to have a grand afternoon tea party for over 300 poor and sick children who might not otherwise get a chance to go to a tea party."

Will Prince Bowser be at your tea party sitting next to you?

"Of course he will. He loves children, so he's going to bring cotton candy for everyone, just like he did for me when I was an underprivileged child." Toadette was so engrossed in her game of pretend that she did not notice the rumbling sounds in the bushes beside her.

Junior had finally found his way though the forest, though it had taken him much longer than anticipated. He had the foresight and good judgment to sneak around to the backside of the castle; however, he had not anticipated finding Toadette so quickly. He was dirty, starving, and incredibly thirsty; still, he stopped to watch Toadette. He wondered if she had any idea how insane she looked, talking to herself like that while dancing around.

After a short time, when he was sure no one was around to see, Junior leaped out of the bushes and called, "Princess Toadette, I'm a poor child. I'm really thirsty and hungry; will you feed me?"

Toadette's felt her heart jump into her throat; she had no idea anyone had been watching her. Her first instinct was to feel defensive about the violation of her personal space and privacy; however, when she realized the implications of Junior tumbling out of the bushes of the Mushroom Castle looking as if he had traveled to the Underwhere and back, she immediately jumped to action.

"Oh my Stars, Junior, what are you doing here?"

Junior could not think of a good explanation beyond the desires to see Toadette and prove his lineage via disobedience, so he merely smiled and shrugged.

"Well, whatever, let's get you inside; there's tons of food and you can clean up if you want."

Junior trudged behind Toadette; he was tired, but very happy to see her and excited to see more of the inside of Mama Peach's castle.

Pauline took a deep breath as the Toad Town train took her far away to one of Whacka's world-famous spa retreats. The little blue creature had discovered, after numerous blows to the head, that his very essence was healing and purifying. He liked to attribute these mysterious healing properties to the power of positive thinking. He found if he applied physical care with positive thoughts, he could keep himself healthy enough to withstand those who might attempt to exploit his resource. Since this discovery, he opened up numerous retreats in remote locations to educate people on withstanding the hard times in their lives, as well as make a hefty profit on spa services.

Pauline looked out the window with her feet curled under her. She could not decide if she had done the wrong thing. She still loved Mario, but she knew she was not ready to get married just yet. I'm sure he'll understand. I love adventure almost as much as he does, that's part of why we get along so well. Pauline took a sip of her sparkling diet soda and mentally reprimanded herself. She had got to stop drinking that stuff. Perhaps I will write him a postcard and let him know that I am grateful for his love, but I will have to complete the adventure of being single before I can embark on the adventure of being married. Yeah, that sounds right.

When the train stopped, Pauline exited to the dusty Mount Rugged. She would have liked to go to the island retreat in Keelhaul Key, but such an action would have required several days travel, hotel accommodations, and other inconveniences. Now that Pauline was here, she was glad she chose the Mount Rugged location.

Whacka popped out of the ground to greet her with a loud, "Whacka-do! You must be Pauline; I'm Whacka, pleased to meet you. Your first challenge is to grab your luggage and go on a short nature hike towards the spa. Don't be alarmed; the mountain is beautiful! If at any point you get too hot or tired, we have a cart that can take you the rest of the way, but we really do encourage you to try your hardest! Have a super day!"

Pauline looked at her heavy bag, then looked back at the mountain. She gritted her teeth and hoisted her bag onto her shoulder. She was not about to quit on any more adventures.

Bowser sat with his large head in his hands, his claws combing through his shaggy hair. Today was the day of the wedding and he could do nothing. He had tried being angry at Peach, he had tried sulking at Mario, and he had tried to use political influence; nothing worked.

Now, he was at the base level of going on rampages; he would break things and generally mistreat everyone and everything in the castle. Bowser had jailed Kamek for insubordination when the Magikoopa attempted to intervene and put an end to the most recent rampage in the hangar.

Kammy appeared by his side, worried that she too might find herself in the dungeons if she were to say the wrong thing; however, she had important news. "Your Nastiness, it is my displeasure to report that Bowser Junior is still missing. We have scoured the entire castle and surrounding grounds. Furthermore, our magic can't detect that he is anywhere in the kingdom."

Bowser scrunched his face in displeasure. Disobedient brat, when I get my hands on him, he's in a world of hurt. "I know where he went," he growled menacingly.

"You do, My Lord?"

Bowser responded by standing up and stomping down to the hangar. He felt such intense loneliness; would everyone he had ever loved eventually abandon him? The feelings gave rise to another bout of acute anger. He was going to put a stop to this; he would collect his brat, recapture his queen, and roast anyone who got in his way. He knew he could not live like this, constantly tormented with feelings of abandonment and the thought of Peach in love with another.

"Your Highness!" squeaked a green-shelled Koopa engineer. "Our apologies but the Clown Car is not yet ready for use!"

"What?" he bellowed. "Why the hell not?"

"B-because Sire, you…"

"Because you destroyed it," Kammy snapped.

Bowser growled in frustration and anger. Why was everybody always against him?

"Fine! Forget it, you people are as useless as ever. I'll go on foot and I'll stop this wedding even if I have to tear down every tree in the forest." With that, Bowser turned on his heel and stomped toward the exit of the palace.

Kammy bowed her head and muttered, "Good luck, Lord Bowser."

"Can I have another cake?" Junior propped himself against a vanity to see what Toadette was doing with her hair.

"No, we're all out. I can get more later, but right now I have to get ready."

"Get ready for what?"

"There's going to be a ceremony and I'm dressing up because I have to serve drinks."

"Oh," Junior said glumly. He had forgotten that Toadette was just a servant girl. Junior's eyes widened as he remembered the other reason why he came to the Mushroom Castle. "Oh no, Toadette, Kamek told me that Mama Peach was getting married! She can't get married because she's my Mama!"

Toadette frowned in confusion. "I don't know what you're talking about. Princess Peach isn't getting married; I thought she loves your dad."

Junior smiled with hopefulness and relief, "Do you really think so?"

Toadette smiled back, "Yep, I do. She always says nice things about your dad and the Darklands. Lately though, she's been very sad. Maybe your dad will come over and cheer her up like he always does."

Junior shook his head; he did not want to talk about his dad. He was probably in really big trouble when he got home. "So, can I serve drinks too?"

Toadette looked over the Koopaling, noting his menacing appearance and spiked shell. "Uh, I don't think that would be such a good idea. Okay, how do I look?" Toadette twirled around in her pretty blue dress, which was decorated with pink roses and blue ribbons.

Junior replied, "You don't look very much like a servant; you look like you are getting married."

"Nuh-uh, brides always wear white, that's how you know that she's the bride."

"That's dumb."

Toadette rolled her eyes and resumed chatting with the happy Koopaling.

Meanwhile, Daisy heard voices as she walked down the corridor to move some floral arrangements. Curious, she set down the floral arrangements and walked towards the noise. Is Toadette talking to herself again? She's such a strange cookie; I wonder if it's because of what happened to her parents.

Daisy noiselessly opened the door to find Toadette peacefully talking with…Bowser Junior?! "What in the world is going on?" Daisy yelled, "What is Bowser Junior doing in here? Did you let him into the castle, Toadette?"

Toadette's eyes widened as she saw the imposing yellow princess in the doorway. Junior might have saved her once, but she did not think he could save her again. "D-Daisy…I…"

Junior piped up, "I was invited to the party so leave us alone you big Daffodil."

Daisy narrowed her eyes. There was no way Raz and Rani would know Bowser Junior well enough to invite him to their rededication ceremony. Furthermore, how could he mistake her name for Daffodil? What kind of parents would name their kid that? "Don't lie to me! Neither one of you is going anywhere until you explain yourselves!"

The two children looked at their feet. "You first," Toadette mouthed to Junior.

"Princess…Auntie Daffodil, Kamek told me that King Dad was getting sick because Mama Peach was going to get married, so I came to stop it but…when I got here Toadette told me that nobody was getting married and I was really hungry so I stayed for cake. King Dad doesn't know I'm here, so I'm already in trouble and you don't need to punish me again."

Daisy stopped to ponder what Junior had said. Her theory was correct; Bowser really was in love with Peachy! She had no idea how the Koopas had gotten the idea that Peach was getting married, but she was satisfied in knowing that she was right, as usual.

"Please Princess Daisy, please don't tell on me. He came out of the bushes and was dirty and starving. I couldn't leave him outside, I just couldn't! Besides, you know how sad Princess Peach has been. I thought that maybe if she saw Junior, she'd remember how King Bowser always comes by to cheer her up!"

Daisy immediately stopped her musings. "Wait just a minute. What do you mean 'always comes by to cheer her up'?"

"Well, you know, like the night he took her into the sky to see shooting stars, and the weekend she was on his council, and you were there the day they all had a picnic. Maybe everybody else doesn't notice, but Her Highness always returns super happy every time she's been out with the Koopa King. She tries to keep it a secret, but I can always tell."

Daisy sat in stunned silence. Was Toadette saying what Daisy thought she was saying? Of course, when she thought about it logically, it all made sense. Peach and Mario were never a couple; Peach really was "saving all her love for the Koopa King."

"But now King Dad is sick because he misses Mama Peach, so I think she has to go cheer him up this time!"

"So you're saying that Peachy and Bowser are…in love? With each other?" Daisy asked, disbelieving her own ears.

"Yes, yes!" the children cried in unison. Adults could be so slow!

So, Bowser is sad because he misses Peach and…Peachy is sad because…

"Oh my Stars, we've got to do something right away!" Daisy cried. She had no idea why she felt this sudden urgency, but she took both children by the hand and quickly marched to Peach's room.

Inside her room, Peach gazed at herself in the mirror as she pinned her large blue tourmaline brooch to her blue gown. The bridesmaid's dress was serving as a constant, wearable reminder of her complete lack of romantic prospects.

She sighed heavily and felt like crying again. I can't cry anymore, it won't do any good. I must be strong.

Suddenly, Daisy interrupted her thoughts as she came charging in, dragging Toadette and Junior by her side. "Peachy!"

"Daisy, what's going on? Junior, what are you doing here? What is this?"

Daisy nudged the Koopaling forward. "Mama Peach! King Dad is sick! He's really sad and he misses you."

Peach huffed in indignation. Was this Bowser's plan, to play dirty political games and then sent his youngest in to do the sweet-talking? How dare he!

Peach shook her head, "I'm sorry Junior, your daddy said he didn't want to be my friend any more. I don't think he would like it very much if I came to the castle."

Toadette stepped forward, "But Princess, everyone in the Darklands thought you were getting married to Mario! Now that they know it isn't true, I'm sure everything will be okay!"

"Please…I know what they thought. It shouldn't have mattered whether I was getting married or not, it's nobody else's business! I really don't want to talk about this so if you could all just…leave…"

As the defeated children stared at Peach with helpless faces, Daisy stepped forward and put her hands on her hips. "Peachy, we always talked about this. What's always the root cause of any problem in romantic movies?"

"Um, miscommunication, why?"

"Do you remember when we'd promise each other that we'd never be so silly? You're being that silly right now. Who cares whose business it is? Do you honestly want to sit and watch a ceremony about love and marriage while the guy who loves you is feeling miserable because he thinks he's lost you forever?"

Peach bit her lip in surprise and frustration. She did not know whether to agree with Daisy or to be angry with her for butting into her personal business. Was Daisy really suggesting that she pursue a romantic relationship with Bowser, after all of the horrible things that he had said and done? "You don't understand…"

"You know what I understand? I understand that you need to get out of here right now; go on, go. I'm not saying you have to marry the guy, but I am saying that you at least owe him an explanation, if only because it's totally unethical to leave someone in unnecessary misery.

Peach stood with her mouth gaping. Did she just get an ethics lesson from Daisy?! She looked down at her clasped hands and suddenly had a powerful impulse. She felt like her very soul was whispering to her and she knew what she had to do.

"You're right," she started. "You're all right about everything. I behaved like an undignified fool and I should rectify the situation as soon as possible. I'm…I'm going to go now. I don't know how I'm going to get there but…I just need to go."

Toadette smiled, "Before you go Princess, you need your four things!" She thrust Buzzy into Peach's arms. "There's something old."

Junior grabbed his handmade Star Rod from her nightstand and shouted, "Something new!"

Daisy removed a floral comb from her hair and gently placed it into Peach's freshly styled hair. "Something borrowed and…" Everyone looked at Peach's dress. Alright Peachy, you're good to go; get the heck out of here!"

No sooner had Daisy spoken the words than Peach dashed out the door towards the entrance of the castle and the dark forest ahead.

Unfazed by the bustling Mushrooms around him, Mario took another sip of sparkling punch and looked around. There were beautiful streamers, romantic lights and candles, fragrant flowers, and a pristine white altar.

Mario sighed; this was supposed to be for him. It was intended for he and his fiancée, so he could finally marry the girl of his dreams. Mama had been disappointed, to say the least. She broke down sobbing on the telephone when she heard the news.

His "guys night out" with Luigi had not helped at all. Luigi first tried to take Mario to a nice pasta place; unfortunately, Mario had no appetite. Next, Luigi wanted to go play mini-golf; the whole time Mario could only think about his date with Pauline. After that, Luigi suggested a movie: a foreign film that only he would enjoy. As luck would have it, the lovely Pauline actually had a cameo in the movie, so Mario got to see his absent darling looming large on the big screen.

He watched dolefully as some of the elderly guests began to arrive. "Hello Mr. Mario, can I freshen up your drink?" asked one of the Mushroom servant girls cheerfully. Mario shook his head in response.

"Why the long face, you delicious hunk of cheese?" asked a voice from below. Mario looked down to see a cute little white mouser in a red mask and heels. "I heard about your little break-up through the grapevine and since I was in the area, I decided to stop by and chat a little; only…I certainly didn't expect you to look so glum!"

Mario sighed again. It was nice to see the face of an old friend; however, he wasn't sure anything could cheer him up at the moment.

"Well, I wouldn't normally do this; I'm not the type to share, but it looks like you could use a little boost," Ms. Mowz said, flipping open her cell phone.

Ms. Mowz called her good friend from Rougeport, Goombella, to aid in consoling the plumber. Goombella, who was interviewing Kolorado in Koopa Village for her master's thesis, first called Vivian, and then went next door and knocked on Bombette's door. While Vivian traveled through the shadows of Twilight Town, Bombette called Goombaria in the Goomba Villiage.

Vivian first arrived at Madame Flurrie's house in Boggly Woods and told her the news. With a satisfied smirk, the great air spirit posted to her followers on her favorite micro-blogging site before heading out the door with Vivian.

Within an hour, female admirers surrounded Mario, cooing and consoling him with kind words and cuddles. Mario melted with all the praise and attention. Maybe they were right; maybe Pauline was a very silly girl for leaving him. At least he knew that he never had to be alone and there were still plenty of adventures to be had. As the ceremony began, he was already back to his old self, telling stories and laughing along with his entourage of devotees.

Bowser trudged through the forest, ripping branches from their trees to clear a pat with his mighty claws. Crossing the forest had been harder than he thought. I gotta be faster; I gotta stop this thing before it goes too far.

He stepped into a patch of mud next to a creek and sunk into the ground up to his knee. He roared angrily and forcibly pulled his leg out of the muck. He silently cursed himself for wrecking the Clown Car. If I had the dang Clown Car, I'd already be there by now!

The foliage was most dense on the Darklandian side of the forest due to the high mineral content of Darklandian soil. Bowser knew if he could just get though this part of the forest, the rest of the trip would be much easier. C'mon Peach, wait for me. Don't do anything you're gonna regret.

Bowser thought about all of his own regrets. I should have told her that I loved her right away, that way there'd be no question. But then he thought that might have only scared her away. I should have killed that plumber when I had the chance. Then Bowser thought about how unhappy Peach would have been if he had.

Bowser shook his head; he told himself that he was not sure what he could have done to prevent this situation. Instantly, a nearby branch that was blocking his path slipped from his grasp and slapped him across the face, leaving a series of tin scratches across his snout. He initially snapped the branch in anger, and then he sighed and decided to start being honest with himself. I shouldn't have yelled at her; I should have showed her why I was…why I am the better man. I need to… He growled. I need to tell her that I'm…sorry.

Bowser paused for a brief moment as he heard noise in the distance. He heard the sound of wedding bells coming from the west. "No…" he muttered. It can't be! I'm too late? No, no, no, this isn't happening; this isn't how it's supposed to work! Bowser stamped his feet in immense anger. The deed was done and now Peach was gone, lost to him forever. He never even had the chance to make his plea! How could this happen? Everything is ruined!

The more Bowser thought about it, the angrier he became until he began losing control of his consciousness. His body shook violently and his vision clouded over in shades of red and black.

Meanwhile, Peach ran through the lighter end of the forest as quickly as she could. She had already lost both heels at some point in the forest. Sweat beaded on her face and smeared her makeup as she ran. Breathing heavily, she jumped over logs and splashed though brooks with the light footed elegance of a deer.

Branches reached out to scratch her face and snag her hair and clothing. Her beautiful bridesmaid's dress now sported several rips and tears and shimmering strands of hair hung like delicate streamers from the branches that marked her path. Peach rationalized that she never liked the blue gown much anyway.

She could hear the bells chiming in the distance as the golden afternoon sun filtered though the trees. She hoped nobody would be too offended that she had not attended the ceremony. Suddenly, she heard a frightful roar from deeper into the forest. It sounded otherworldly and demonic; she shuttered just from hearing it. Was that…Bowser?

Peach attempted to run faster than ever. Her calves were burning in complaint and her newly recovered ankle was unused to this sort of strain. She stubbed her toe and tripped over an exposed root in the ground. She fell straight into a puddle of dirt and mud and skinned her elbow. She tried not to let the pain get to her as she picked herself out of the mud and continued towards the source of the thumping and bloodcurdling roars, which were coming ever closer.

Eventually, she spotted several trees that appeared to have suffered sudden death due to frost damage. Several trees appeared to have been frozen solid and then shattered, while others looked to have been cut in half by a single swipe.

Peach trembled in fear; what sort of monster was doing this to the forest? She heard another screeching roar from close behind her. She whipped around and stepped into a clearing to find a gruesomely transformed Giga Bowser. The air around him was cold as wintry death and everything about the enlarged Koopa was a thousand times more menacing than before. His horns were longer, his spikes were sharper, his skin looked thicker with a deathly gray sheen, and there seemed to be no trace of sentient thought in his blazing red eyes. Everything about the Koopa who once loved her was cloaked in an aura of murderous hatred.

Giga Bowser turned his attention towards the fair-haired maiden in blue. He let out another anguished roar, threw his head back, and released a jet of fire. Peach backed away slowly as the brutal monster stomped towards her. She knew she could not trust this Bowser; there was no kindness in his eyes.

"Please," she whispered, stepping backwards. Giga Bowser continued to advance upon her, making it clear that he intended her great harm.

What happened to him; this is all wrong. What happened to the Bowser I used to know, the Bowser who warmed me by the fireplace, the Bowser who took me to bazaar to buy presents for his children, the Bowser who…loved me. The Bowser I…"

Peach looked down as she realized she had her own kind of love for the Bowser she used to know. When she tried to back away further, she fell back over a frozen stump and landed hard on the icy ground. The Giga Bowser approached quickly and was nearly upon her. It was too late for her to get up and start running; with his superior size Peach knew that even if she could out-speed him, he would outlast her. She would not want to lure him into her kingdom to cause destruction.

Tears rolled down Peach's cheeks; she felt sure that her game was over. "Please, please, please," she cried. She hugged Buzzy tightly and placed her hand upon the base of Junior's Star Rod. Right before Giga Bowser was about to scoop up the princess in his ferocious claw, she screamed, "I wish for the Bowser that I love to come back!"

A rose-colored wave of magic disrupted the luminous aether of the world, the very fabric of which waved and undulated to accommodate the resulting blast of energy unleashed from the Star Rod. Peach's body began to shudder and glow as she floated up to meet the gaze of the Giga Bowser. A surge of magically charged aether rushed forth and blasted the Koopa King, restoring him to his original form. In recoil, the small crystal in the wand and Peach's large tourmaline brooch shattered into thousands of tiny pieces.

As the magic dispersed and the aether settled back into its rightful position, Peach steadied herself on a rock, breathing heavily and nearly collapsing. On the ground a few hundred feet away was Bowser, who did not appear to be moving or breathing. Oh Stars, please don't tell me, is he…

Peach hobbled over to his limp body and collapsed by his side. She snuggled herself under his arm and kissed him lightly on the snout. She wept softly into his carapace until she fell unconscious, exhausted by her exertion of power.

The royal couple remained unconscious in the clearing on the forest floor as water dripped from the thawing trees. Birds chirped happily, blissfully unaware of Bowser and Peach's presence.

Bowser awoke first, some forty-five minutes later. He opened his eyes to the swiftly setting sun and found Peach cuddled by his side. She was muddied, bloodied, and still beautiful to him.

Peach… He immediately remembered everything that had happened while he was still conscious and himself. He checked her hand. No wedding ring. His spirits rose. Had she run away to be with him? He looked at her dress; in addition to being ripped to shreds, it was also blue! What's going on here? Maybe…maybe she really was telling the truth about not getting married.

Bowser felt awful; he felt like all of this had happened because he had not trusted Peach. He whispered softly in her ear, "I'm sorry Peach. This is all my fault…"

A smile played on her rosy lips as she muttered in reply, "I know."

Bowser's eyes widened in surprise; she was awake! He sat upright. "Peach, you're awake?"

Peach sat up groggily; her head felt awful. "Shh, it was nicer when you were whispering. Just…come back down here so we can talk, I don't feel well enough to sit up."

Bowser leaned back down so Peach could more comfortably rest hear head against his chest. "I really am sorry; I was…I was a big jerk."

Peach sighed, "I'm sorry too. I was being stubborn and it wasn't right."

"So now what?"

"I don't know; I think we're stuck in this forest for a little while until we're both rested so let's just…talk."


"Look a shooting star," Peach said weakly, pointing up at the twilit sky. "Shall we make a wish?"

"I'm alone in the forest holding you, Peach, and you're not married to Mario. I don't know what else to wish for."

"Bowser…" Peach started. Not wanting to get into an awkward conversation while she did not have the ability to walk away, she changed the subject. "It's getting dark, do you think we're in any danger being in this forest at night?"

Bowser wrapped both his arms around her and buried his snout in her hair, "As long as you're with me, you'll never be in any danger. I think it's safe to say that I'm the scariest thing in this forest."

Instead of merely being comforted by his embrace, Peach turned to return it. "But back there…you transformed into this…beast…"

Bowser shook his head. "I don't know what happened, but whatever that was, it wasn't me. But you…you stopped it somehow."

"I don't know how I did it; what if this happens again?"

"It won't," called a voice. Kamek suddenly appeared in the clearing. "My apologies, Lord; Kammy was kind enough to let me out of my cell so I may come find you. Would the two of you like to return to the His Highness' castle so that we may discuss this over a cup of chai?"

The royals nodded affirmatively and were summarily teleported to the Darklandian Castle. After each royal had showered and received medical attention for his or her wounds, the trio reunited for discussion.

"So then, you're saying that Bowser's destructive force cannot be unleashed as long as…"

"Correct, as long as what you said and felt in the forest remains true, Bowser's identity remains attached to this world and he cannot be possessed by Giga Bowser."

"What did she say in the forest?" demanded Bowser.

"Kamek, who exactly is Giga Bowser?" Peach asked.

"It's hard to say exactly. In some regards, it is true that Giga Bowser is a facet of Lord Bowser's personality; an integral part of his soul and being."

"That's great, now what did Peach say to make it stop?"

"So, Giga Bowser is Bowser?"

"Lord Bowser, as you know, is so much more than any single facet of his personality, just like anybody else. We all have undesirable parts of our being; very often, we rely on the care and support of others to keep those parts in check."

"Kamek! We are done talking about this! I'm the king; there's no part of me that's undesirable! Now that we've got that cleared up, I'm still waiting on an answer to my previous question, which I will now restate. What did Peach say in the dumb forest?"

Kamek smiled brightly, "Well, I think this is the part of the conversation where I take my leave. I'll be in the dungeon until His Highness remembers to give me an official pardon. Princess, if I may ask you to remind him sooner than later, I would be forever thankful. Have fun!"

Peach smiled hesitantly as Kamek exited the room. Peach had meant what she said in the forest, but she was not quite sure she was ready to confess her feelings to Bowser. After all, she was not even entirely sure what they meant just yet.


"Um, just…give me a minute. It's hard to articulate and I don't want to say the wrong thing."

"Just say it. If you can say it in a forest, you can say it in a castle."

"Well, the context is different."

"Do you want me to pretend to be big and scary again?"

"No," she said firmly. She drew in a big breath and exhaled. "Alright, I guess, I was just thinking about all of the great things we've done together, how nice you always are to me, and when you had transformed…I thought about how much I missed the real you."

"So you said you missed me?" Bowser asked, excited to know that she liked him enough to care when he was not around her.

"Something like that, I mean not really. I said…I mean I felt like…I--I love that part of you. And I don't want it to change."

Bowser stood silent for a moment. He could not believe what he had heard. She…loved him? "Peach…"

"Don't…please don't take it the wrong way. But it's true."

Bowser smiled in pure bliss. "I gotta show you something," he said. He grabbed Buzzy off the table next to them. "Open up, you dumb thing." Buzzy obediently opened his shell and revealed a ring even larger and more fabulous than the one in Chantoad's. "You probably don't remember, but when we were young, we were supposed to get married."

"Bowser…please…I asked you not to take it the wrong way."

Bowser shook his head, "I'm not asking you to marry me, unless you're saying yes. I'm just asking you to, I dunno, know that I still love you and I always have…and I always will."

Peach stared at him in silence and he continued, "I never felt like I had a chance but I always knew I had to try, so I made the biggest, baddest kingdom in the world and filled it full of smart and loyal followers; I had eight tough kids and…wait a second." Bowser suddenly stood up from his chair. "Where's Junior?" he asked, fearing that his youngest was still lost in the forest.

Kammy entered the room, right on cue. She smirked and said, "I have received word from Prince Bowser Junior. He would like to inform you that a servant of the Mushroom Kingdom has kidnapped him. He claims that this servant demands a five coin raise in Junior's weekly allowance, a year's supply of Gummy Yoshis, an underground tunnel between the Mushroom Castle and the Darklandian Palace, and full exemption from any punishment for either party."

Bowser slapped his palm to his face, "Well, what are you waiting for, Hag? Get the Monty Moles on the horn and start building that tunnel! Meanwhile, see if you can talk her down on the year's supply of Gummy Yoshis; those things are bad for your health!"

"Yes, Sire."

Bowser grinned at Peach who threw her arms around him in embrace. She was so happy that her Bowser was back to his humorous self.

Bowser melted in the warmth of Peach's arms. He wanted to tell her all over again how much he loved her, it felt good to say and even better to hear; but he knew better than to overuse a powerful word like "love", so instead he chanced a peck on the cheek and was exhilarated to receive one in return.

The touching scene moved even Twink up in Star Haven. "Alright," he admitted to Geno, "You were right."

"Of course I was; you saw them at odds with one another, but I saw them when they were working together. They've got powerful energy, those two. They're going to make a great King and Queen together."

"Wait, they're going to rule together some day? How do you know that?" Twink demanded.

"Well, we can't know for sure but…would you care to make a bet?"

A few days later, Toadette and Junior walked through that friendship gardens in Koopa Park, fingers laced, talking about how mean Toadsworth was for forbidding Junior from staying at the castle.

"I'm sorry you have to sleep outside until your dad agrees to build the tunnel," Toadette said.

"Don't worry, it's not your fault. Old people are always like that; it's always rules, rules, rules!"

"Ooh, Junior, look at that!" cried Toadette. Right between Peach's willowy tree with pink blooms and Bowser's shrub with the flaming flowers, a new bush was starting to grow. This bush had lovely dark leaves on elegant curled tendrils. It bore brilliant red flowers with golden pollen-covered stamens. Junior marched over to it, deftly plucked the biggest and most impressive flower right off the bush, and the handed it to his lovely girlfriend. After all, that's what a gentleman was supposed to do!

Toadette gasped, "Junior! You're not supposed to pick the flowers in here; they're symbolic!"

Junior smiled and tucked the flower into her hair, "I'm symbolic," he asserted, "so I can pick whatever I want!" He leaned over and gave her a huge kiss on the cheek. "Tag, you're it!"

Toadette blushed furiously, and then gave chase to her reckless prince charming. She had to admit; she had never had this much fun before in her whole life.