"100 Themes Challenge"

Author's Note: Ludwig, Lemmy, and Roy are little kids at this point, and Iggy is still in the egg. Bowser has yet to make a habit of kidnapping Princess Peach. Oh, and just giving fair warning; Bowser drops the F-bomb in this chapter. I think that pretty much covers everything.

"Theme 76: Broken Pieces"

Bowser watched from the doorway of their bedroom as Clawdia packed for a trip, his eyes narrowing dangerously. She was unaware that anyone was watching her, and she was muttering to herself in German. Before announcing his presence, he wanted to be absolutely sure that the red-hot coal that smoldered in his chest would not erupt into an inferno of rage and pain. For, in spite of the way she had treated him during the past few years, he still loved her.

This was not the first time his wife and Queen had taken off without warning, but this was the first time he had caught her in the act red-handed. The first time was about four years ago when Ludwig, their firstborn, had been depriving her of sleep while teething. Even though Bowser was usually the one to get up and care for the boy, Clawdia had still disappeared like a thief in the night without leaving so much as a note. She had returned days later, of course, but not before her stressed and despondent husband had cracked. After three solid hours of enduring his son's pain-filled wailing, Bowser had broken down and cried right along with him. When Clawdia had finally returned, she had nonchalantly strolled in as if returning from the market.

That had only been the first time, and he still had no idea where she went or why she even bothered to come back at all. Clearly, if she kept leaving, she disliked marriage enough to want to take a break from it. What he did know was that every time she left, she stayed away longer. Ludwig didn't cry anymore when it happened, but the younger two didn't understand yet. Lemmy, who was two-and-a-half, still screamed for her when she was gone. Roy, who was only one, screamed too...but it was probably only in response to his brother's cries.

The new one, whichever sex it would turn out to be, was still growing inside the newest egg, which had only been laid a week ago. Smoke curled from Bowser's nostrils at the thought of his wife turning her back on their newest egg before even seeing their child hatch from it, but he still didn't move from his spot.

At least, he didn't move until Clawdia strode over to his dresser and began rummaging through his drawers, probably in search of money in case he put a freeze on his private accounts again. She had access to the treasury, but who has the time or patience to lug heavy bags of gold around? And Clawdia was not known for patience when there was something she desired.

"Looking for something?" growled Bowser, stepping into the room and closing the door ominously behind him.

Clawdia was so engrossed in what she was doing that she gave a small yelp of surprise, then fidgeted guiltily. "I need you to lend me some money, that is all."

"Do you, now?" he sneered, hiding his pain behind a mask of anger. "Why?"

She planted her fists firmly on her hips, and defiantly tossed her mane of long blue hair. "Why the tone? I'm just going on a little trip."

A little trip...Bowser turned and looked at her huge pile of luggage, then shook his head. "I see. So, you have to pack most of your wardrobe for 'a little trip'. And why-hey!"

Clawdia had opened his top dresser drawer, and was in the process of tossing his boxer shorts over her shoulder, one pair at a time. He came over and slammed the drawer shut, and she got her hands out of the way just in time. "Bowser!"

"Don't lie to me." he ground out in a low voice, "You're taking off again, aren't you?"

Clawdia drew herself up to her full height, but she was still more than a foot-and-a-half shorter than her husband; petite, by Dragon Koopa standards. "I am going on a trip!" she slowly enunciated every word, as if she were addressing a fool. "You've never tried to stop me before."

"That's because I've never caught you before!" he roared, his claws digging gouges in the varnished wooden top of his dresser as he leaned on it. "So, how long are you staying away this time?"

Clawdia silently glared up at him, refusing to answer.

Trying another tactic, Bowser leaned in closer and growled, "You're not going!"

His posturing did not have the desired effect. Far from being intimidated, Clawdia was amused, and it showed in her sardonic smile. "Am I a prisoner, then?"

He audibly gritted his fangs. Never in their short, five-year marriage had he raised his hand to her, tempting though it sometimes was, and he wasn't about to start now. Instead, he turned away from her and began picking up his underwear. He heaved a deep sigh, and the fight seemed to just pour right out of him.

"Well?" she prompted, when the silence had begun to be uncomfortable.

"'Well' what?" he grumbled.

"Are you going to lend me some money, or aren't you?" she asked, exasperated.

"No," he said, not looking at her. He shouldered his way past her and put his boxers back in his dresser without bothering to fold them. It was his own misfortune to be the only one in this arranged match to fall in love. He knew she didn't like him very much...but he couldn't understand how she could do this to their children. Damn it, they hadn't done anything wrong! "So, what should I tell the kids this time?"

Clawdia was disappointed that she would actually have to dip into her own private account, and her reply was sullen and waspish. "You're always boasting about your own cleverness, aren't you? Figure something out."

When Bowser only snorted and shook his head, keeping his back to her, she resumed her packing in silence. She was just buckling the last suitcase shut when he asked her something else. She cupped a hand behind her ear-hole, and inquired sweetly, "Wie bitte?"

Bowser kept his shell to her and raised his voice a little, the better to be heard, "What's his name?"

"Oh, Bowser..." she rolled her eyes and went back to what she was doing.

"No, I wanna know. I can't think of any other reason for this, so there's gotta be someone else on the side." His claws dug into the wood again, both hands this time, as he wrestled with his temper.

"You are being ridiculous! Just because I need a little break from snotty noses and-and sticky fingers, and-"

Bowser cut her off in mid-sentence, and demanded in a loud roar that shook with anguish, "What's his fucking name?"

Clawdia finally saw that her husband wasn't nearly as brainless as she had made him out to be, and that she had better make her exit now, while he was more hurt than angry. "There is no one else. I swear it. I just need a break, and I will be back. Now, stop this foolishness and help me take my luggage down."

Bowser snorted again, and kept his now-damp face turned away from her. He would not show any weakness, knowing instinctively that she would remember and exploit it later. "You're the one who's leaving. Take it down yourself!"

She didn't argue with him, but she didn't take her luggage down either. She left the room and sent a servant back to retrieve her cases, and the poor frightened Troopa found the luggage sitting outside of the room. From behind the closed door, he heard a heartbroken roar and the thunderous crash of a large oaken dresser being hurled across the room.