Luigi huddled beneath the shadow of Bowser’s castle. Even when he stood on his rolling suitcase, he couldn’t quite reach the door knocker. Luigi thought it would be easier after the months of furtive dating, the formal courtship, the extravagant ceremony. But up against the soot-streaked stone, he still felt small. The telltale whir of a propeller rattled his thoughts.
“Papa Luiiiigi!” Bowser Jr. zoomed out of an upper floor window, waving. “Dad said I could give you the tour, since I’m the bus driver today!”
Papa Luigi. The worries and second-guessing faded into the background. Bowser’s son wore a newsboy cap with a small Bowser Castle emblem. Where did it come from? Something new, or dug up from a box in the back of a drafty closet? Luigi noticed a hand-drawn sign taped to the stone, scrawled in marker. BUS STOP. He obediently stood underneath, pleasantly surprised when Bowser Jr. carefully took his suitcase before hoisting him up into the back of the clown car.
“Hold on tight, Papa Luigi,” Bowser Jr. said sternly. “You don’t have a shell, and some of these hallways make sharp turns.” There were small foam cappers on each of his shell spikes, probably to protect Luigi from any sharp points. Luigi nodded, smiling to himself now that Bowser’s—no, their son—wasn’t looking. He grabbed the inside handles as instructed, watching as the clown car carefully ascended through an open window.
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First Stop, Fine Dining
The kid was smart, smarter than people gave him credit for. Bowser’s daily text messages charted his studies, budding fixation on transit lines, favorite snacks. Junior quickly learned how to spot the flaws and redundancies in the warp pipe network. He’d patiently led Luigi through optimal routes and shortcuts with his ever-growing collection of painstakingly drawn maps. As they flew through the castle’s hallways, Junior pointed out major landmarks, puttering to a stop in the dining hall. Bowser Castle denizens went about their business, waving to Luigi and the young master as they carried shining silver trays to the kitchen for meal prep.
“There’s the wobbly chandelier,” Junior said, pointing up. “It falls if there’s too much weight, so Dad says not to jump on it unless there’s an emergency.” Luigi bowed his head gravely, silently noting the well-concealed trap door below. There were always contingencies.
Fireballs and Furnishings
Next was the updated basement showroom, with its ever-shifting assortment of traps and lava pits. The crown jewel of the Bowser portfolio—elaborate, patented dungeons. Every would-be Bowser wanted to cultivate that air of playful menace, so why not design it for them? Junior expertly wound them through a devious array of spikes and spinning fireballs. Thwomps grinned as the clown car passed, adding a little extra oomph to their descent. Luigi loved the breeziness of Bowser’s showroom, the way everything whirled and twinkled like a distant amusement park. He pictured Bowser poring over this particular blueprint in his button-down and reading glasses, a flush creeping up the back of his neck. “Having fun, Papa?” Junior called behind him. Luigi blinked, nodding as hard as he could. This already felt more like home.
There wasn’t anything shameful about living with relatives—that was routine in the perpetually sanctioned Mushroom Kingdom—but Mario had a way of taking up all the space in a room. Luigi felt hemmed in by the stars and trophies on the first floor. He kept the decoration in the attic room minimal, that way he could push everything aside if Mario needed extra storage for the next party, or kart race, or typing seminar. After a few years, the novelty wore off. “Maybe it feels more like an obligation than a vacation,” Bowser said gently as he tucked his spare key into Luigi’s overalls pocket. “The next time you have to pack, bring what you’d need for a sleepover.” And Luigi had.
Sleepovers and Pulling Shapes
Two years ago, when he first thumped his rolling suitcase against Bowser’s door, Bowser answered. “Come on in,” he said softly, padding down the first floor hallway to the game room. Junior’s brow furrowed as he as he added a new part to his onscreen factory, rotating the conveyor belt so it fit just right. Luigi watched the creases at the edges of Bowser’s eyes as he smiled. Junior saw them and ran over, tugging at Luigi’s hand excitedly. “Yay! We can race next. Did you bring your pajamas?” Yes. “Do you want something to drink?” Bowser asked, his gaze piercing. Very yes, but nothing too strong. Just bubbly. “Can do,” Bowser said with a wink, shuffling back down the hall. Soon Luigi was flailing his way through a tricky turn on the racetrack, the bubbles pleasantly fizzing in his throat. Bowser rumbled a laugh behind him. Luigi felt the edges of a smile. He knew he’d return next Saturday.
Luigi snapped back to the present as they hovered at the door to Kamek’s study. “It’s me, Uncle Kammy! I brought Papa along.” There was another BUS STOP sign hanging in the entryway. Kamek ushered them in, giving Luigi a clap on the back. Kamek conjured every letter and shape Junior could name, to his delight. (Junior couldn’t remember what came after dodecahedron, but he was learning fast.)
The Big Man Himself 😉
They zoomed back down the tower steps after, halting outside Bowser’s study. “FINAL STOP,” said the slightly neater sign on the door. Junior rapped on the doorframe pausing until he heard a response. “Dad’s teaching me Morse code,” he said confidentially. A few seconds later, an answering knock, then the sturdy oak door swung open. Bowser lifted Junior from the clown car, giving him a gentle spin in the air before placing him on the plush red carpet. “You brought Papa!” Bowser boomed. “That’s my boy.” He helped Luigi next, strong hands resting on Luigi’s hips for two long seconds before lifting him to the ground. The rolling suitcase was last, resting against one of the inlaid bookshelves. Luigi made sure to tip his bus driver before Junior sped down the hall, covertly passing him a single gold coin.
Bowser looked down at Luigi speculatively, eyebrows raising as Luigi flushed. “Time for my part of the tour. Let’s properly welcome you home.” The study door clicked shut behind the new king of the castle.