Chapter 17: No Place Else I'd Rather Be

The next morning I awoke slowly to find my body humming pleasantly. I felt warm and relaxed, though I also felt kind of sore. A few spots in particular felt tender - but in a good way.

I yawned and stretched beneath the soft velvet of the covers, then rolled over, my arms seeking the warmth of my husband...only he wasn't there.

I sat up and blinked my sleepy eyes a moment, but the bed was definitely empty. The room was too, and I felt a little cold as I drew the covers around me. A moment later the doors opened and Bowser backed into the room, pulling something along with him.

I folded my arms and frowned. "I was hoping to wake up in my new husband's arms," I said as he pushed a silver cart over to the bed.

Bowser looked at my expression and chuckled. "Don't pout, little Rose," he said as he pulled a silk cover off the cart. "I only left so I could come right back and spoil you rotten."

As he spoke, he rolled the uncovered cart closer to the bed. It was piled with food; fried eggs, fruit drinks, pastries covered in cream, bowls of diced fruit, slices of toast, pancakes and waffles dripping with syrup. My pouting forgotten, I scooted closer, keeping the covers tightly around me as I reached for the tray. Bowser trapped my hand in his and pressed it back into the warm sheets. "Not this morning," he said slyly. "I'm spoiling you, remember?"

He cupped my chin in one hand and picked up a fork with the other. He stabbed a juicy strawberry smothered in cream and brought it to my lips, which I parted obediently. It felt a little funny - no one had tried feeding me since I was a baby - but at the same time it was kind of...nice.

Bowser seemed determined to make good on his word and spoil me rotten today, and he pampered me all throughout breakfast, feeding me every morsel and holding up drinks for me to sip from. He bestowed soft kisses on my cheeks and hair from time to time, and when I felt full and sleepy he moved the cart aside and sat beside me, taking me into his arms and cuddling me close.

I half-expected him to burp me, but...I think he knew that was pushing it a little. Instead, he stroked my hair until I nodded off, and when I woke up again he was curled up beside me. He was asleep, and faint wisps of smoke were curling out of his nostrils. His face looked so calm, his expression absent of any stress or disappointment. I reached over and softly ran my hand over his hair, wondering absently what kind of fool he had married before he met me.

She must have been. He had his faults, to be sure, but underneath his harsh exterior was someone willing to cherish the woman he loved in every way possible. Make her feel like no one else who lived before her could ever have known such love, such devotion. Not to mention the immense skill he had displayed last night...

I shivered a little as I recalled what we had shared, though my memory seemed a little hazy about a few things. More than once he had filled my body with so much pleasure it robbed me of all rational thought. I had no idea how anyone could share a bed with someone like him enough times to make eight children and not become permanently addicted.

I certainly was. I cuddled against his sleeping form, his breath lingering with mine as I inhaled his deep, musky scent into my lungs. He was so warm, it felt like curling up beside a big, protective oven. He had put his shell back on, but I had come to like the smooth feel of it beneath my hands just as much as the softer touch of his skin.

He was in a deep, peaceful sleep and I didn't want to wake him, so I quietly slipped out of bed and tiptoed to the bathroom. It was huge - nearly as big as the bedchamber itself - with a shower in one corner and a massive sunken tub in the middle. It was all very rustic and masculine, much like the bedchamber. I made use of the toilet, then washed up at the sink.

Then, somewhere nearby, I heard angry shouts. My clothing from last night wasn't acceptable to run around in, but I hadn't brought anything else. In the end I grabbed a large towel and wrapped myself in it before rushing out to the hall.

I found Ludwig running by, with Wendy at his heels. "What do you two think you're doing?" I hissed.

Wendy pulled to a stop and looked at me with teary, beseeching eyes. "Ludwig stole my bouquet," she wailed, pointing.

I had completely forgotten about my wedding bouquet. Ludwig snickered naughtily as he displayed it; it looked a little crushed. "Ludwig, quit being a brat and give it back," I said firmly.

Ludwig 'hmphed' at me. "Just because you're my new mom doesn't mean you get to boss me around," he muttered.

Huffing, I glanced over my shoulder; Bowser slept on, to my relief. I didn't want him to wind up in a sour mood, like I knew he would if he were suddenly pulled from a sound sleep. I tried a different tactic.

"Fine," I sighed. "You can keep it. But just so you know," I went on, as Wendy looked horrified, "the holder of a wedding bouquet traditionally is the next to marry."

Ludwig dropped it like a hot coal and streaked away. Beaming, Wendy scooped it up and cradled it like a priceless treasure. "Thanks, Mom," she said sweetly as she hurried away.

Relieved, I started back for the bedchamber, then paused. I would have to bring my wardrobe over from my room, to avoid embarrassing situations such as this one. But since I hadn't the foresight last night, I had to wave over a maid and instruct her to bring me my new dress before I could roam the castle on my own.

Now garbed in something more than just a towel, I headed to my old room and took a sad look around. I was fond of Bowser's room, but I was much more fond of this place I had helped design myself. I was about to start taking my other dresses out of the closet when I heard the tell-tale rattle that was my husband approaching.

"Now I'm the one pouting," he informed me, thrusting out his bottom lip.

I laughed at the sight and turned back to my closet. "Just moving some of my things to my new room," I said, taking some lingerie I hadn't a chance to wear yet off a hanger.

Bowser eyed the tiny slip of clothing with interest. "I don't mind having a wardrobe brought in for you," he commented, "but you don't have to give your room up completely now that we're married. It's common for a queen to have a room of her own, you know."

I knew this to be true; my mother had her own chamber, a room all white and lace where she slipped away to think and write letters. I hadn't been sure of Darkland tradition in this matter. "I am rather fond of it," I admitted, running my hand over the purple velvet of my bedding.

"And I'm not willing to change the decor of my own room," he said cheekily. "Keep this place the way it is; it'll give you somewhere to go and pass the time when I'm not around."

I thought about spending a night alone it that huge bed of his - ours - and decided it would be rather lonely. And I knew just what I wanted to do to pass the time when he was away. "In that case," I said slowly, "could you do something for me?"

He took my hand and kissed it. "My sweet, you only need to ask. I'll do anything for you."

I had to smile, he sounded so serious. "It's nothing major. I just want a few pieces of sheet music and some pens, for when I get the urge to compose something."

This was my first real request of him. I quickly learned that when I asked for a grain of sand, he would give me a mountain. Instead of a handful of sheets, he soon delivered stacks of paper to my room, more than I would probably ever need, being only a casual composer. He also gave me a music stand, a new stationary set to go with the glossy pens, plus a miniature piano which fit among my d├ęcor nicely.

I noticed that the grand piano had taken up permanent residence in our room. Many a night I would play a lullaby until my husband drifted to sleep, and many a night more we skipped the lullaby and made love until we were both exhausted.

Life was good, but I had a brand new set of responsibilities, too. The koopalings came to me more and more, quickly adjusting to having me as part of their lives. Not having a mother had clearly been a void for them all, and they each reacted to me in their own way.

Naturally it was Junior who clung to me the most. Shortly after the wedding, he took to creeping into our room and climbing into bed with us, nestling between my slender frame and his father's bulky, oven-like form. Sometimes he was so quiet and careful I wouldn't know he was there until I woke up the next morning.

Aside from my new role as a mother, I had an even bigger responsibility; my coronation was coming up soon. I was about to go from not having any duties worth mentioning to being queen of an entire kingdom. The thought made me a little weak in the knees.

Bowser assured me that my duties would be kept light, but I didn't really want them to be. I didn't want to be queen in name only, a mere figurehead. Like Princess Peach; she was the only royal in her kingdom, but it was the high-ranking officials in her castle who made all the decisions while she...

Actually, I'm not really sure what she does. I knew I could do better. I wanted to head out and explore my new kingdom myself, find where things might be lacking, how my future subjects might be in need. I don't like being idle or lazy.

I certainly wasn't idle during the days leading up to my coronation. I spent hours studying the kingdom's history and talked with high-ranking members of the castle. I wanted to know what would be expected of me, how royals here usually behaved. No one seemed to be too worried, and I suspected I was the most well-behaved person to come along in quite a while.

On the day before my coronation, I spent some time outside, getting to know some of the locals who didn't live in the castle. Everyone I met seemed glad to meet me and eager to please. The happy feelings that their king was finally married extended far from the castle, it seemed. That I was willing to marry him seemed to make me well-loved by default.

When the big day finally came, I was a bundle of nerves. Bowser told me to relax, assuring me that everyone would be fine as he massaged my shoulders. I was given a special robe to wear for when I received my crown; green velvet with gold trim and a brocade sash.

The room I was taken to was long and wide, and rows and rows of koopas, goombas, and others lined the sides, watching with excitement. They all chattered in hushed tones as I crossed the room to where my kingly husband was standing with Kamek, the latter of the two holding a small gold crown.

All in all the ceremony was actually quite short. Kamek said a few words, and then I knelt as he asked me if I would swear to remain loyal to my new kingdom and serve it to the best of my abilities until death. I promised I would, and then he passed the crown to Bowser, who gently placed it on my head. I stood to applause and cheers.

After that there was a huge feast, and celebration that was just as extravagant as our wedding day. And like our wedding day, I was awfully tired by nightfall and went to take a nap. When I woke up later, Junior was curled up in bed with me, snuggled up on the pillow near my head.

When he saw I was awake he smiled and said, "I'm so glad you're my new mom. I think you're the best thing to happen around here in a long time."

I wasn't sure what the future held for me, but I knew one thing. "This is the best thing to happen to me, too."


So that's it...sort of. I didn't originally plan on it, but a sequel is currently in the works. Many thanks to everyone who took the time to read and comment. I hope you all enjoyed. UPDATE: The sequel is finished and posted! It's called Incomplete Without Him.