"A Comedy of Errors"

Author's Note (Warning: this is a long one): Surprise! I'm still here. Without going into detail, I'll tell you guys this much; life threw me three major curve balls at one time, and I felt the need to "disappear" for a while. I was just emotionally burned out, and whenever I tried to write the words wouldn't come. I vanished from the chat arena as well, and for the most part I'm still MIA. I apologize for any hurt feelings there, but things are still crazy around here.

Okay, now for the part people might actually be interested in...the fanfic-related part of the author's note!

I'm taking a break from Care Bears fanfics, and I'm taking another stab at writing a Mario fic. My other story, "Under the Weather", is on a semi-permanent hiatus, and I'm simply out of ideas for it. This story will focus mainly on Bowser and his stormy marriage, and how it affected his family. About half of it will be told in flashback form and from his point of view. There will be certain events that Bowser couldn't possibly have remembered, simply because he wasn't there. These events will serve as character development for his sons, daughter, and wife; such chapters will be titled "(Character Name) Interlude".

If you're expecting wonderful literature or "Evil Bowser" here, you'll probably be disappointed. This is just for fun, and I'm not trying to win any popularity contests with other Mario fans out there; either you'll like it, or you won't. Admittedly, I'm a bit rusty. Now for a shout-out to a friend of mine; a lot of these ideas were inspired by an RP with LadyHexaKnight, and she deserves partial credit for some of the ideas concerning Bowser's past. This may or may not be a prequel of sorts, depending on how it's received, and how much time I'll have to write in the future after this is completed.

Disclaimer: I don't own Bowser or any other character in the "Super Mario Bros" franchise. I don't even own Clawdia, because technically she is a "fanon" character who was just mentioned by name in a Nintendo magazine. Since she's never pictured and hasn't come into the games at all, this is just my take on how things could have happened. Oh, and I don't know who coined the term "Dragon Koopas", since other authors use it as well, but I can't take the credit for that either.

So...if this long-ass author's note didn't scare you guys off, I hope you enjoy the story. Rated M, just to be on the safe side.

"Prologue: Confession"

Isle Delfino. A tropical paradise that boasts the usual 'white, sandy beaches'. The island's Pianta population specializes in tempting its tourists with the promise of luxurious hotels, sumptuous dining, and spectacular panoramic views.

At the moment, a noisy celebration was taking place. The revelers were blissfully unaware that they were being observed. Two Dragon Koopas, one young and one grown, were sitting on a distant 'island' and watching the festivities with jealous eyes.

The older of the two Koopas was none other than Bowser Koopa himself; King of the Darklands, frequent kidnapper of Princess Peach, and longtime rival of Mario. The Koopaling who sat a few feet to his left was his youngest child and namesake, Bowser Koopa Jr. This 'island' on which they were sitting was actually a giant hot tub, and it had previously been on a magically raised platform at the top of Corona Mountain. Mario had crashed Bowser's little 'family vacation', and at the end of the battle the hot tub had plummeted back down, flipping end over end and landing upside-down in the ocean. Now, buoyed by the air that was trapped in the 'bowl' of the tub, it provided a dry sanctuary for the two waterlogged Koopas. Though it bobbed and listed like an over-sized cork, the tub would keep them afloat for quite some time.

Father and son sat in silence on top of the dome, absorbing the heat that the tropical sun left behind as it dipped low on the western horizon. It was an uneasy silence, but neither Koopa seemed willing to break it anytime soon. They knew only too well why the islanders were celebrating, and who the guest of honor was.

'Mario...' Bowser thought bitterly, but his only outward sign of annoyance was a quiet snort. Most people who knew him (and even some who didn't) would have expected him to be furious after such an embarrassing defeat at the hands of that annoying plumber. That was his usual reaction, after all. This time, though, he had something else on his mind. Bowser hadn't been the one to kidnap Peach this time; it had been Junior.

A human child so young wouldn't have been a threat to anybody, but Junior was not a human child. As a Koopa, he matured a bit more quickly...and as a Dragon Koopa, he possessed a size and strength that let him tower over the humans in his age group. Toss in a magic paintbrush and an ensorcelled neckerchief that let him seem to take on other forms, and you have a first-class villain-in-the-making. Junior was only four years old, and already he wanted to prove to the world how tough he was. His father was so proud!

But that pride was tinged with shame, a feeling that most people would think was foreign to 'His Most-Awesome Majesty'. The king's red eyes flicked briefly in his son's direction, then he closed them as if to shut out the sight of his youngest. So hopeful, so easily molded...perhaps the child was a little bit gullible when all was said and done. That didn't excuse Bowser Sr., though, and well he knew it. After a gulp, he opened his eyes and began to speak. "Junior, I've got something...difficult...to tell you about Princess Peach."

Bowser expected his son to be incredulous, maybe to cry or throw a tantrum when he heard the news, but the King never even got that far. Without even bothering to turn his head and look at his father, the Koopa Prince calmly interrupted. "I know; she's not really my mama."

'He knows?' Bowser's mouth sagged open in pure astonishment before his expression softened. Perhaps he wasn't giving his son enough credit when he made assumptions about the boy's gullibility. Young as Junior was, he had figured it out for himself, and yet he had continued to go along with it. But why?

Gazing out over the ocean with his back to his father, Junior's face was unreadable as he began to make a declaration. "Someday...when I'm bigger..."

'I'll get back at you for being such a lousy father.' Bowser's mind finished the statement, unbidden, 'I'll make you sorry.'

But it was already much too late for that. He had said something that couldn't be unsaid, told a disgraceful falsehood that any parent would be ashamed of. And he was, so very ashamed. It was a most 'un-kingly' emotion, but he hardly cared about that. He held his breath and waited with no small amount of dread for his son to continue, positive that he had destroyed something dearly important to the both of them.

After a rather lengthy pause, the Koopaling looked over his shoulder at his father, his impish little face relaxing into a determined smile. "I wanna fight that Mario again!" he announced.

Pride quickly took the place of shame, and Bowser palmed the crown of his son's head, rumpling his little red topknot. "That's my boy!" he chuckled, "Well put, son! The royal Koopa line is as strong as ever! But for now...let's just rest awhile."

Junior frowned, protesting, "But I don't wanna rest. I'm not tired yet!"

"I am." returned Bowser, "Besides, there's nothing else to do until the Doomship comes to pick us up, so we might as well relax."

As Junior stretched out to lie on his belly, Bowser turned his eyes back to Isle Delfino and heaved a great sigh. Some vacation this had turned out to be! Originally, he hadn't known that Peach would be there, nor did he know that Junior had an ulterior motive for suggesting Delfino as a place to unwind. When Junior showed up at the hot tub with Peach, Bowser knew that Mario wouldn't be far behind. On the King's orders, Kamek had cast an enlarging spell on him to increase his chances of success in the coming fight; it wasn't the first time this had been done, and it was unlikely to be the last. Bowser had then dismissed the Magikoopa and the Doomship, confident that he could handle things himself if the plumber actually did show his sorry face. In retrospect, that was probably a mistake. Having nothing else to do but sit and think, Bowser had little choice but to think about why he told his son such a lie in the first place...