Disclaimer: I don't own Mario. If I did, I wouldn't be writing this story.

Author's Notes: One of the most unexpected developments in the Mario series happened in 2012, and it wasn't a game, a book, a new show or anything like that. No, it was the series' creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, telling an interviewer that Nintendo's "current story" was that the seven Koopalings were not considered to be Bowser's kids anymore. If you're familiar with my fanfics, this doesn't work for me, to put it mildly. This little fic is my response to the news – I came up with it shortly after the interview came to light, but I haven't had time to write it until now.

Say It Ain't So

Wendy's eyes flew open, her last sob still on her lips and her eyes ringed in tears. She sat up and swiveled around in her bed, her breathing still ragged as she slipped her unnaturally tiny feet into her special orthopedic slippers. It was the middle of the night and Koopa Castle was quiet and dark as Wendy ran down the hallway. But the tranquility was not long-lasting.

"DADDY! She screeched, reaching Bowser's door and frantically pounding on the metal. "DADDY! OPEN UP! DADDYYYYY!"

"WHAT'S GOING ON!?" roared Bowser, making his appearance.

Wendy had sprung out of the way when the door swung open, but immediately leapt forward again, seizing Bowser's sides in her little claws and burrowing her sobbing face in his belly. "DADDY! DADDY!"

Bowser looked down at her in confusion, his eyes still bleary from sleep. "Wendy?! What's wrong?! Did something happen?! Are we under attack?!" that last question was directed at the two guards that had come running to investigate the commotion in front of their king's bedchamber.

"Dad-d-d-yyy… I h-had a b-b-bad d-dree-eee-ea-mm-m-m…" moaned Wendy, her quavering voice muffled by her father's scales.

"A bad dream?" Bowser raised an eyebrow. He thought Wendy would have been old enough to deal with nightmares on her own by now – none of the seven elder Koopalings really needed to seek comfort from him in the middle of the night anymore. Just Junior. Waving the guards away with his free arm, he tried giving Wendy a reassuring pat on the head. "Well, it's over now-"

"You're still my daddy, right?" she asked suddenly, looking up at him with pleading reddened eyes.

"Huh? Of course I am! Why would you even ask that?" As tears started spilling out of Wendy's eyes afresh, Bowser stifled a sigh. "Come on, let's talk in here." With Wendy steadfastly clinging to his belly, the Koopa King shimmied backwards into his room and over to his bed. The Koopaling finally released him and hopped up onto the side of the mattress as Bowser took a seat beside her.

"So," he began, "what exactly was this dream about?"

"J-Junior said we're adopted."

"You know that's not true."

"Yeah, b-but, he said that's w-w-why he's always getting special treatment. Because we're not r-r-really your kids!"

"And that's not true either."

"But you DO favour him," blurted Wendy. "He always gets to fight M-Mario. And we n-n-never do anymore."

"That's because I don't want you guys to get hurt-"

"You don't think we're good enough…"

"Yes I do! But I made a promise to keep you out of it-"

"But not Junior?"

"He wasn't around then."

"And you like him better."

"No, I-"

"I used to be your favourite," sniffed Wendy. "B-but now…"

"Shhhh. Please, Wendy, stop crying," sighed Bowser, patting her on her head again as fresh tears slid down her cheeks. It was true: he had favoured her when she was little. The only girl amongst all the boys – he had felt like she needed special treatment. Not because she wasn't as tough as them or anything silly like that, but just because she was different. Everyone told him she only required more attention because he was raising her to be used to her father doting on her, but he never listened. Then Junior came along and the Queen… and Bowser had to raise him alone. The others had at least some time with their mother before… but not his youngest – Bowser had to carry the weight of both parents. He couldn't bring himself to tell the child what had happened, so he lied and said his mother was still in the picture, hoping that one day Peach really would agree to be a new, loving mother for the children – once Mario was out of the way. But until then, Bowser had to do the job of both parents by himself – of course he had to treat Junior special. He couldn't risk neglecting the motherless child who depended on him for everything.

"Y-you said we weren't your children anymore," said Wendy, her voice tiny as she thought back to her dream. "Junior was your only heir, and we were n-n-nothing."

"Wendy…" sighed Bowser, pulling her into a hug. "That was just a dream. I'd never do that to you."

"But you don't let us fight with you anymore," she said, pulling back and looking up at her father. "You made Junior your heir instead of Ludwig and you bring him everywhere and you leave us behind!"

"I didn't think you wanted to go karting," said Bowser defensively.

"But you don't even ask anymore! And maybe it would be fun to enter some of those sports events – I know it'd be fun to fight Mario again, but you always say 'no no noooo'…"

Bowser sighed and pulled the crying child to his chest again. Typical kids – the never want anything until you say they can't have it. Kart racing… sports… The only one who really played sports was Larry and his tennis, but he was too shy to do it in front of an audience… Still, he supposed it was a bit unfair to the others. "Wendy," he sighed. "I'm sorry you had that nightmare – but it was just a dream. I love you – I love all of you, and I would never, NEVER disown you."

"Then let us fight," she said, pushing away again, her eyes now steely. "We want to clobber Mario too! We can help you – and Junior. Just you watch! We won't get hurt – we're all older and stronger and we'll smack those plumbers down so hard!"

"But I promised your-"

"If you really love us the same as Junior, you already broke your promise!" argued Wendy. "You promised to keep your kids out of it, but you're not! Just seven of us, and it's not fair!" She turned away from him. "It's like you're… ashamed."

"No, no… That's not true," insisted Bowser. But it was. He was ashamed, but not at Wendy and the other Koopalings. He was ashamed at himself. Always failing. Always losing Peach – and losing the one he loved even more than her. The one who made him promise to keep their children out of it. He couldn't even do that competently – Wendy was right. He broke that promise long ago. But with Junior it was different – it didn't feel like he was breaking the promise. If he let the Koopalings fight, she really was gone…

"Then let us fight!" cried Wendy, breaking down into sobs again. "P-please! L-let us f-f-figh-h-h-t-t-t! LET US FIIIIIGHHHHHT!"

Wendy's howls echoed in his internal reptilian ears as Bowser turned away from her, staring straight ahead at the wall, his eyes hard and unseeing. He was the king – he didn't owe anything to anybody, yet here he was, sick to his stomach over what he was putting his kids through. He drove their mother away and now he was turning them on each other with his inept handling of the situation.

He sighed. Touchy-feely emotional crap was NOT his forte. Physical conflict was what he was good at. He supposed he should be happy that Wendy and the others inherited his fighting spirit, and thinking about it now, maybe it would be best if he just let them all fight. They didn't have the innate power that let Bowser survive almost anything, and which Junior alone had inherited, but if the Koopa King made sure their castles and ships were equipped with the right safety mechanisms, the risks they would face shouldn't be too high. They might still lose, but Bowser knew they'd have fun trying, at least. More fun than staying home and watching him run around with Junior, for sure. And having more firepower to throw at the Mario Bros. would be a plus too.

"Wendy…" he said, turning back to his daughter. "I think you're right…"

"Wh-what?" she sniffed.

"You kids – all you kids – should be allowed to fight Mario if you want to."

"R-really?" gasped Wendy, squealing with excitement when Bowser nodded. "EEEEEE! I can't believe it! Thank you, Daddy! Thank you!" She nearly knocked him back with the force of her hug, before jumping to the floor and racing from the room, shouting at the top of her voice. "WE'RE GONNA FIGHT MARIO! Guys, wake up! Wake up! Daddy says we can fight again! Ooohhh, this is so exciting! GET UP!"

Bowser did not expect her mood to improve to quite that extent. But as his other kids came spilling out of their rooms, their confused voices joined by the panicking guards thinking they were under attack, he chuckled to himself. He did enjoy the chaos, and come to think of it, the older seven had been rather subdued lately. He hadn't been planning on it, but perhaps this would be a change for the better. With a smile, he pushed himself back onto his feet and walked out to calm down the situation outside – and deliver the good news to the Koopalings.

The End