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Bowsette tugged on her dress, trying to get it to sit right after having to sleep in it. Life on the Mynock hadn’t allowed for much in the way of comfort so far. Her skin felt itchy and dry, but when she touched it, it just felt like smooth, springy mammal flesh. Pleasant enough, in its own way, but not the satiny coolness of scales.

The makeshift bedroom was empty, blankets folded up again and tucked against the walls.

Bowsette kicked off her own blanket, reaching for her shoes: short black boots with thick-treaded soles to approximate the toe claws she didn’t have. Didn’t have anymore. She paused in pulling on the boots, staring at her feet. They looked so fragile. From experience, she knew they were. She’d tried going barefoot for awhile, as she always had before, only to find out that it ended in bleeding and injury.

She held the laces firmly as she tied them, trying to will them into the right kind of knot. Half the time, she forgot how. She tried not to think too hard about the fact that the only thing protecting her from having her flesh torn up was a thing made of leather and rubber, tied on with rope. Absurd.

She liked the dress, though. Dresses were great. Not wearing clothes before had been fine, nothing wrong with it, but it didn’t feel like her. Dresses felt like her.

Although mammal skin...that was still weird. She bumped against the cold metal of the door frame as she tried to pull another shoe on and shuddered as the tiny hairs on her arms stood up. Gross. So gross. She would never get used to that. It just felt creepy, like her skin was alive and separate from her. How did mammals deal with that!?

Nothing against mammals, or whatever. They were pretty and cute in their own way, but being one felt raw and gooey, nothing holding her in. Everything felt too hot, or too cold, or otherwise absolutely the wrong temperature. Or sweat. Sweat! Why hadn’t anyone told her about sweat? No one had mentioned that sweat would actually come out of her skin. Whose idea was sweat, anyway?

A resonant SkREEEEoooOOOnk shuddered through the ship.

Bowsette sat up a little straighter. "Who’s he telling to take a hike?"

Geralt's raised voice echoed off the wall. "You can't claim a lair for yourself, you greedy beast! Ohana means sharing the damned room now and then!"

From the opposite side of the ship, Stitch yelled, "That’s not what it means, Geralt."

"No, but maybe it should. He's being unlivable and we're still another few days from being able to bunk somewhere with room to breathe."

Bowsette folded her blanket and peered out into the hall at Geralt, fist pressed against his forehead, exasperation radiating off him.

"Oh, um, morning."

He grunted. "Sorry to wake you. If you're ready for food, there's something passing for eggs in the kitchen."

“Thanks. I’ll...go do that.” Bowsette moved awkwardly, trying not to crowd him as she passed.

A low hiss sounded from the closed door Godzilla was sulking behind.

“Oh shut up, you scaley bastard,” Geralt muttered.

In the kitchen, Lara Croft was tinkering with the AI that seemed to operate only out of that room for some reason.

“KAT, please make a recipe for nearest safe port.”

“Port is a spirit made of--”

“Disregard last recipe,” she sighed.

Bowsette squeezed into the booth table and filled her plate with the protein chunks and egg mixture laid out. Skeletor sat beside her, absently tapping his fingers against his mug.

“Hey roomie,” Bowsette greeted him. “Any news about what we’re up to today?”

Skeletor waved his hand broadly. “Trying to make this excuse for a ship habitable for the next few days.”

“Are we, uh, supposed to help or something?”

“I don’t know. I’ve been staying out of the way.” He lowered his voice to a murmur. “I wouldn’t say the League and I are on close terms.”

“I don’t think they hate you.”

“I don’t think they hate you either. Although, with do-gooders, who can say?”

Michonne walked past, stepping over Bowsette’s outstretched legs. Bowsette quickly pulled them in, trying to make herself smaller.

Michonne looked up sharply before relaxing again. “Sorry, my mind’s not really on where I’m walking. Geralt and I have been taking turns trying to deal with Godzilla. I’m about ready to send Dante in to talk to him.”

“Yeah, Geralt seemed, um, pretty unhappy with him.”

“Kind of an understatement. I don’t think either of them is used to having someone else trying to call the shots. Either way, we need to get in there and see if there are any supplies we can use. We have another few days before we reach the home base we’re headed for, and we may need to resupply before then.”

“Don’t think Godzilla sees that as much of a priority.”

“Have you talked to him?” Michonne looked at her in surprise.

“No, but he’s not that complicated, is he? Reminds me a little bit of some of my family members. Kind of loud. Determined for things to go his way.”

“Do you understand what he’s saying?”

“Sort of? It’s not like he’s really talking that much. It’s like when people say ‘AAARGH!’ Mostly he’s just saying that.” Bowsette growled from deep in her chest. Michonne reflexively reached for her sword.

“Uh, sorry,” Bowsette said sheepishly. “Powerful lungs.”

Michonne pulled her hand back from where it had settled on the hilt. “No, it’s fine. Sorry about the sword, still getting used to not being constantly ready to, well, deal with threats. Back to Godzilla, though. Maybe you can help. Could you talk to him?”

"Whaddyou mean, talk to him?" Bowsette speared another forkful of the egg mush. "He's just a loud, whiny bully."

"He sure sounds like it. Is he pissed off about something, do you think?"

"He wouldn’t be growling about stuff if he was feeling good. From what I’ve overheard, he seems pretty mad at being trapped here and not having any hams to eat. I definitely wouldn't say he was happy about this whole space thing. Not sure there's anything to talk to him about, though."

"Huh. Well, I just thought you might be able to talk him down. Or at least do a better job of it than Geralt or I have done.”

Bowsette fumbled her fork, dropping eggs into her lap. “I could do what?”

Skeletor nudged her under the table. “I’m sure she’d be happy to help.”

Bowsette reached for a cloth, wiping her dress clean. “Oh, I just—well—it’s not what people usually ask me to do. But yeah, that’s fine. I, um, know a lot about loud bullies.”

“Thanks,” replied Michonne. “It would be good to have Godzilla out of there so we can finally do a real inventory. And maybe it’ll even put Geralt in a better mood. If you need backup, let me know.” Michonne nodded at them and headed for the cockpit.

Bowsette turned toward Skeletor. “What was the nudge about?”

Skeletor stirred his drink calmly. “Trying to make sure they like us enough not to turn on us.”

“Do you think they would?”

“It’s what I would do,” he shrugged.

“Yeah. Me too, I guess.”

 

~*~

 

Bowsette banged a fist against the thick door. “Lemme in.”

The door creaked like someone was leaning their full weight on it. She banged harder, forgetting for a second that her human hands weren’t as up for punching through a door as her Koopa hands had been. The shiny metal of it showed a distorted reflection of her standing there shaking her injured hand. Ugh, she looked just like a human when she did that. Next thing she knew, she’d be biting her lip and saying ‘ow.’

She slammed the door with a booted foot instead, hearing it rattle satisfyingly in its hinges. “I’m serious. I will kick it down and it will suck for you.”

Bowsette heard Godzilla on the other side thumping his tail irritably.

“C’mon. Don’t be a baby. Just open the door and let me in. I got food.”

“...Ham?”

“No.” She dug into one of the pockets of her dress and opened a container. Smelled okay. She tore off a bit of the dense, chalky-looking loaf for a taste. “It’s not bad, though. It’s chewy and stuff.”

“HAM!”

“Pal, unless you have one in there with you, there’s no ham on this ship.”

She heard a heavy snuffling sound and thunks as Godzilla shifted around, the sound of large objects being overturned. “No ham.”

“Then what I’ve got is the closest thing to ham you’re getting.”

WhaAANng. The door loudly snapped mostly back into place. Probably a sign that he was no longer using his own body as a blockade. The door still bowed outward in a subtly Godzilla-like shape. Great, so they could always remember the time his butt was pressed into that door.

“Fine.” Godzilla lumbered around and flicked the handle enough to let Bowsette shove her way in.

The room was about as big as the sleeping quarters on the ship, enough room for a handful of people to sleep comfortably if the floor was the only option. Except that the floor was littered with several large boxes, a partially overturned set of lockers, and some odds and ends of furniture, like lawn chairs. Several of what looked like dog chew toys were piled in the corner. A pink piano was tucked against the far wall.

Bowsette crossed her arms over her chest. “I figured you woulda found a better room than this if you were gonna stake a claim.”

“It’s quiet… was quiet.” Godzilla answered, settling into the middle of what looked like a makeshift bed or nest made of bits of paper, blankets, and an unbelievable number of kimonos.

“You don’t really seem like you love peace and quiet.”

Godzilla shrugged. “No humans. Preferable.”

Bowsette rolled her eyes. “C’mon, they’re not that bad.”

Godzilla let out a hissing laugh. “Wrong.”

“What’s wrong with ‘em? They seem like they want to be your friend or something.”

"They wanna be my friend when there's another big guy around I gotta fight. But when I come on land to have a radiation snack, they start stingin' me with those little exploding things."

“Ooh, full sentences. See, that wasn’t so bad.”

Godzilla issued a rumble from somewhere deep inside that was almost below Bowsette’s ability to hear. It spread over her skin like a million tiny things crawling on her. She jumped away from the wall and slapped at the skin on her arms. “What the--?!” She looked closer; the tiny hairs on her skin were standing up.

“Ugghh, stupid mammal skin!”

Godzilla leaned back, narrowing his eyes, like he was trying to see something out of focus and track its shape through that haze. “You are...the wrong shape.”

“One, you don’t get to tell me I’m the wrong shape. No one does. But especially not someone who used to be stories tall and is now eye-to-eye with me. Two, shut your mouth before I shut it for you.”

Godzilla thrummed in amusement. “I’m the wrong size, right shape. Your shape is wrong.”

Bowsette curled her lip back, showing teeth. “Is this cuz I’m a girl now?"

Godzilla blinked in confusion. “No.”

“It better not be! Or I'll bend you into the wrong shape, spikey!”

“This is wrong.” Godzilla tapped a claw on her shoulder. “You move like a strong animal, but you smell like a weak human.”

“Well, this is what girls look like, dummy! So deal with it!”

Godzilla made a puzzled gurgle. “None I know. Mothra is very big. Strong. Beautiful.”

“Mothra your girlfriend or something?”

“You're not human. You're better. Why disguise yourself as something weak?” Godzilla asked, ignoring Bowsette’s question.

“Because it’s what worked. I tried the crown on and it made me feel like...me. Maybe not a perfect me. But a me that’s closer to who I am in a lot of ways than I was before.”

“But missing the big part.” He looked her over again. “And the strong part.”

“Well, the crown doesn’t work that way. It makes me like her -- like Peach. And I guess I liked Peach well enough. She was pretty and people liked her, probably. Not so soft that she couldn’t kick butt, but yeah, she looked a lot like—like this.”

Godzilla scratched absently at the scales under his chin, looking like he was searching for a word. “Accept?”

“What?

“You accept this shape?”

“Ugh, I dunno, I’m not the sort of person that accepts a lot. I’m more a breaking things kind of girl, not an accepting things kind of girl. This shape is fine if it’s what I’ve got.”

“Break your shape. Remake it. Why be less than you are?” Godzilla snorted derisively.

“Look, if you’re going to try and get me to do something stupid, can you at least speak my dialect for a second so I know what stupid thing you’re trying to convince me to do?!”

Godzilla cleared his throat and vocalized higher in his nasal cavities. “You're locking yourself into this because it's what the crown thinks you should be. If this ain't you, then you're… caged. Don't be less than you because it's what something else wants you to be.”

Bowsette threw her hands up in the air. It was like talking to a big, stupid wall. “Well, what about you, huh? Why are you telling me what to be?”

He shrugged. “Be weak if you want. But do you want that?”

“It’s a pointless question. I can’t change the crown. The crown is what it is. Unless there’s some magic Luna can do or a way Mordin can science it, it makes me like Peach—and that’s all it does.”

Godzilla looked unimpressed. “Anything can be reshaped. Look at us. The crown isn't greater than we are. Than I am, at least. I could make it do what I want, easy.”

“I can’t let you do that. If it breaks...I’m not gonna let it break, is what I’m saying.”

“Then continue this way. Doesn't matter to me.” Godzilla said simply, gesturing to Bowsette as she scratched at the itchy, sweaty skin behind her knees. Humans were always at least a little bit itchy.

Bowsette stopped, vision blurring with rage, flames sparking from her mouth. “I don’t need your permission or approval to do anything, so shut your dumb face! You don’t have any idea what you’re talking about! And get out of this stupid room. If anyone is going to take it over and sulk in here, like a bullying pain in the butt, it’s going to be me. Get out!”

Godzilla straightened up, viewing her in a cold assessment of his odds in a fight against her. Bowsette cracked her neck and glared. His small yet surprisingly expressive eyes looked at her with… pity? He gave her a small head shake and said, "Maybe you're not ready to be a Mothra." He cooly ambled out of the room, his expression returning to predatory indifference.

Bowsette kicked the door shut after him, denting it further. She looked around the storage locker. God, why had she kicked him out to be in here? Why had he wanted to be in here? There was nothing in this room to do; it wasn’t even comfortable apart from the cobbled-together nest. Bowsette settled down into it, growling a little as she plucked a business card from behind her head.

Tryst Valentine
Sex Criminal

 

Ugh, this ship must have been delivering a shipment of business cards to this idiot. Who would order something like this?

She lay back, staring up at the ceiling, and then closed her eyes. What was she doing in this place? She could have been back in the Mushroom Kingdom at that bar, arm wrestling and having a good time. Well, sort of a good time. Stupid Luna, showing up and offering her somewhere to be and a place that was slightly more appealing than living in secrecy for the rest of her life. Stupid Luna being nice. Stupid League for attracting the attention of Phyrexia and sending them to this space backwater. Stupid Godzilla for just being such a giant butthead.

She felt that scratchy, awful tension behind her eyes and curled in on herself, trying to stop tears from coming. She’d never cried much as a Koopa. And it was infinitely worse in this squishy mammal form. She really didn’t want to cry. It hurt and it pulled from the inside like a thing trying to escape. It felt like too much poured into something too small and then trying and trying to pour out whatever it was, but more just kept tumbling in. Her eyes and nose ran, throat clenching heavy with each choked-back sob. Stupid soggy human shape.

It wasn’t fair. And what a profoundly stupid and insignificant thing to complain about. She’d wanted to look the way she felt and now, in many ways, she did. At the time, it hadn’t seemed like leaving everything else behind. Leaving her scales. Leaving her talons. Leaving her shell. The way forward had seemed so simple, but where was the room for the Koopa part of her? The crown only recognized a single part of who she was, and it tried to fit that into the shape of Peach because Peach was, so far as the crown cared, the ideal. And there was a time when she would have done anything to look like Peach. Maybe even, just a little bit, to be like Peach. To be someone people wanted to rescue, someone people cared for.

Her fists clenched at her side, nails making feeble crescents in her skin. In that moment she hated Godzilla for having noticed what she’d tried so hard to ignore. She’d known it, of course, but Godzilla hadn’t left it alone and let her come to it in her own time. Because maybe she would have. Although, some part of Bowsette could admit that she was very good at lying to herself.

The sounds of the ship eddied around her. Dante in the gunnery bay clomping around, the muffled sounds of him arguing with someone. Arguing with Mordin maybe? One of the voices sounded reasonable and measured. Periodically, the sound of Stitch yelling his support at Lace as she slowly practiced piloting would break through.

“GOOD JOB! LOOK! SIGNAL! MIRROR! MANEUVER!”

In the room to the right, Bowsette could hear Skeletor singing loudly in the shower and Luna waiting outside for her turn, humming along.

To the left and a little down was a steady rhythmic thud-thunk-slap, which had her puzzled for awhile until she remembered Jordan. She hadn’t spoken to him much, but she hadn’t seen him yet without that ball so he was probably bouncing it around.

Yeah, it was kind of nice being in here. Maybe that’s what Godzilla wanted: a way to be close to people without being too close. It was sort of like being surrounded but without any of the pressure of actually having to do anything about it. It was a little bit peaceful, even. Everything else was up in the air. No sense of where to go or what to do. She was just adrift, with the vague expectation from the League that it was important she Contribute. And they definitely spelled Contribute with a capital ‘C’, because it meant something to them.

Bowsette wasn’t sure she’d ever Contributed to anything. Led, instigated, destroyed, rebuilt, sure. Contribute seemed different, though. You couldn’t contribute alone. You couldn’t contribute without connection to something outside yourself. Which seemed like a real scam, if you asked her. But maybe like a scam that might be worth trying out. You know, just to see what it was like.

Bowsette wiped her eyes, trying to scrape off every trace of evidence that she’d cried. She’d told Michonne she’d deal with this. She’d dealt with it. Time to go back to awkwardly shuffling out the way of other people on the ship. Fun. It was nice to be away from everyone, though. Safe and secure. She’d go tell Michonne right after she took a nap. Just a little nap.

 

~*~

Bowsette woke hours later to the sound of the ship in action as everyone moved around, rearranging the ship into the order necessary for each cell to have the supplies needed. Each cell would probably be sharing a space too. Bowsette kicked one of the lockers quietly. Where that left her, Skeletor, Godzilla, and the other misfits, remained to be seen. As if a League cell would have someone like her. On top of that, she was hardly at her most powerful anymore.

That was a strange thought. She’d been so strong, unquestionably the strongest in any given room, for years. To suddenly be in a room and not be guaranteed to be the strongest was a strange new reality.

There was a knock on the door and it slowly opened, showing Skeletor’s face.

“Bowsette? Lunch is ready and Luna asked if I would make sure you’re okay...You’ve been in here a long time. Obviously you are okay though. Why wouldn’t you be okay? Why wouldn’t we both be okay? Forget I said anything! Come to the kitchen whenever you’re ready!”

Skeletor awkwardly backed out of the room, leaving the door half open.

“Yeah, I’m coming!” she growled. She didn’t have a reason to take it out on Skeletor. But they rarely had a reason for their moods. Most days together involved griping at one another over toast crumbs and forgetting to water the plants.

She heard him shuffling away and then a loud sigh before his head poked in again. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“No.”

Skeletor huffed irritably. “Do you actually not want to talk about it or are you doing that… you know… thing that Luna talked about. Deflecting?”

“Just leave me alone!”

Skeletor gave her a long stare that, despite his lack of facial features, managed to communicate a tone of being unimpressed.

“Ugh. Fine,” Bowsette scowled. “I don’t really want to talk about it. It’s Godzilla stuff, and trans stuff, and Koopa stuff, and you wouldn’t really get it and even if you did get it, I don’t really feel like talking about it right now because I don’t want to think about it. I want to think about lunch and I want to think about getting rid of this stupid pile of business cards. There. Are you happy?”

“I’m not sure. I’m used to communicating by yelling threats and commands before slamming my fist on something. This is… odd.” Skeletor’s brow pinched nervously.

“S’fine. I’m learning that being in the League is a lot more mushy feelings stuff than I thought it would be,” Bowsette sighed.

Skeletor looked pained. “I know. I can’t say I care for it.”

“Then get out of here and let me get ready, skull face.” Bowsette grinned at him.

He gave a satisfied snort. “Suit yourself, you fiery menace!”

~*~

Godzilla made a low noise of curiosity when she entered the kitchen, but she ignored him. She wasn’t going to talk to that self-important dummy. Godzilla shook his head, moving to settle down next to Lace, making a deep rumble of greeting. Lace ducked her head shyly at him and nibbled at her protein loaf.

Lara Croft cleared her throat and began reading off her datapad. “Alright, tasks for the day and an update on our plans for the next 24 hours will include--”

Bowsette probably should have been listening, but mostly she was thinking about whether or not she was taking up too much space in the booth. Luna was sitting in a ball next to her, chin perched on her knees. Demona was curled up cross-legged on the back of the booth, holding Wexter. Bowsette definitely couldn’t fit in the booth like Luna. And she was too awkward to curl up in a small space like Demona. Wexter gave a happy little chirp at her and waved a stubby arm. Bowsette raised her hand to wave back but nearly knocked over her drink—some sort of thick blue liquid—in the process.

She bit her lip angrily, trying not to fill the entire ship with her frustrated yelling.

The day was a series of small tasks. Stitch and Dante checked for smuggling compartments in every part of the ship while others went around with inventory lists or dividing up supplies. Stitch had gotten into one of the lower rooms and found a large collection of lumpy, reddish-brown lizards covering every surface. Lace and Stitch were discussing whether or not the lizards counted as “Cousins” while the lizards slowly trickled their way out and around the ship.

Bowsette was trying to put Godzilla’s former lair in order with the help of Geralt. They were trying to right the storage locker when she felt a strange swooping sensation and her ankle rolled under her. She collapsed against the wall for a moment, catching the locker in time to keep it from coming down on Geralt’s toes, and managed to body-check it snugly into the corner they’d been aiming for. She grimaced and made a note to herself to remember that body checking was a thing she should avoid doing in a human body.

“You okay?” Geralt grunted.

“Yeah. Stupid human ankles.”

“...Did you not always have human ankles?”

Thankfully, the door to the storage locker gave out then, spilling book after book across the floor. Geralt picked up a handful of them, glancing over the titles.

“Love Under the Suns, huh? Whoever’s ship this was had odd priorities. Business cards, lizards, romance novels, we found a closet full of Christmas lights, and a stash of some stimulant drug.” He held up the book. “I’m taking this one. You want one? I know I can barely sleep on this damn craft.”

“Uh, sure. This looks...fine.” She grabbed one that said Dusk on an Alien World. “I’ll um, be sure to let you know how it is.”

Geralt picked up another one with looping words on the cover reading Double Crossed on Dantooine. “Seems like something Michonne might like,” he said, shrugging and tucking it under his arm.

Archer walked past the door with his arms full of lizards. “It’s nice that the rest of you are taking a break to read, but maybe we should deal with this infestation of actual LIZARDS so we don’t all get salmonella and die of space diarrhea!”

 

~*~

 

When two days of the dry ship air made her skin so dry and itchy that it started to flake, Bowsette was at a loss. “Am I shedding?” she asked, poking at the skin on her elbow.

Luna shook her head. “No. Well, I suppose, sort of, but not a whole skin. It’s just that human skin sheds in small flakes. Sometimes dry air makes it worse.”

“So what do I do?”

“KAT, recipe for moist skin!” Luna shouted.

“For moist skin, apply one cup of oil to human skin,” came the automated response.

Luna looked unsure. “Maybe let’s start with a little bit and see how it goes.”

As it turned out, it was disgusting. Not only was her skin still itchy underneath, but now she had a layer of grease on top of it, which felt even more gross. She’d never missed having scales so badly in her life.

~*~

 

That night, Bowsette tried to get comfortable enough to go to sleep, but the blanket kept sticking to the oil she’d slathered her elbows in and then tangling when she rolled over. Finally, she gave up and left the room, closing the door on a sleeping Skeletor, Roland, and Jordan.

The ship was mostly silent. Dante and Geralt were having a quiet conversation in the hallway. Geralt had one of the lizards perched on his shoulder. Michonne was at the pilot’s seat humming some song Bowsette didn’t recognize.

She wandered into the bathroom, ready to wipe off the greasiness on her elbows and just give in to a life of mammalian itchiness until the end of time. The mirror caught her off guard. It always did--the person in it was her, but so many things were missing. Her claws had been beautiful, thickly dangerous and sharp-edged. She’d been able to dig her claws into rock face. Looking at her her nails now, they’d struggle to cut through paper. Her scales, she missed. Yeah, maybe a little vain, but they had been a beautiful yellow gold and each scale lay smoothly, fitted tight against one another. The green scales around her eyes had been her favorite, the way they set off her flame red hair.

The woman in the mirror was, well, a lot like Peach. Pretty. Pretty had never really been Bowsette’s thing.

In the quiet of the ship at night, all of her racing thoughts bubbled up.The thoughts she resented and silenced at every turn.

I want to be beautiful and perfect and strong and funny and loved.

Which was pathetic. That was stuff you’d want if you were soft and weak, not if you were someone strong like her.

I want to be lovable. I want to be someone people care about.

I hate this. It’s so stupid.

The thoughts formed one continuous litany, bouncing erratically from hope to fear to rage.

And I’m strong, aren’t I? I’m strong. It’s who I am and I don’t need to be loved. I don’t need anyone.

But I want to be loved. I don’t want to be terrified that they won’t like me, the real me.

It’s pathetic! It’s what soft Koopas want. It’s what people who aren’t strong enough want!

The memories of being a child and the moment when she realized that she’d need to have armor, to be tough if she wanted to be liked. The human in the mirror stared back at her.

What if they can’t love all of me? What if this is the only part of me that anyone can ever love?

Why had she even agreed to come with Luna? What had she been thinking? She didn’t belong here with them.

But I want to be trusted. I want them to care and trust and want me to be here. I want it so much.

That admission hurt. It always hurt. It wasn’t the first time she’d had it. But being hurt in the same way didn’t make it easier, it just made a scar.

I don’t want to be loved. It’s too hard and painful and terrifying and awful and I hate it and I don’t want to be loved by anyone.

And that was true too, which was worse. If she’d wanted friends, love, and trust, and wanted them unreservedly, she wouldn’t have hesitated. Bowsette had always, and would always be someone that could get what she wanted. But this was something she hated wanting and despised the feeling of wanting it.

I hate this. It’s so STUPID. I hate it, and I want to scream. If I was better and stronger I wouldn’t want this. But I do. I want to be loved for me.

And what if they don’t?

What if no one can?

As always, the rage of thoughts ended in a stalemate, the scar a little deeper. And the mirror, in all of its brutal simplicity, reflected back the shining and softened image of a woman, tailless, scaleless, clawless.

She wiped the greasiness off, staring blankly at her skin. She opened the door to see Lara Croft standing there. Bowsette realized something in her expression must be off because Lara shifted uneasily as Bowsette moved past her.

“Are you okay, Bowsette?”

Bowsette’s gut clenched. “I’m okay. Koopas are always okay.”

She didn’t bother waiting to see if Lara had anything else to say. Bowsette headed back to the makeshift bedroom and lay down, listening to the sounds of everyone’s breathing until she fell asleep.

~*~

 

The Mynock landed late in the afternoon at the base, greeted by the League cells who’d been making the place habitable and getting supplies in. Bowsette didn’t know most of them and rather than hang around and deal with their confused looks, she stayed in the background of the reunion, content to just lift and carry what needed moving until someone said they were done lifting and carrying.

By the time they’d gotten everything off the ship they needed and stowed everything they didn’t, it was time to eat. Dante had found a smuggling compartment full of wine and margarita mix. That was reason enough to celebrate.

The main hangar was full of boisterous talking as various nodes of conversation formed, melted, and reformed. Everyone was eating the same disappointing food but most everyone had something to drink in hand or had some of the unusual ice cream they’d found hidden aboard the ship.

Skeletor came to stand at Bowsette’s elbow, watching the seemingly effortless camaraderie swirl around them.

He cleared his throat. “Sometimes I don’t think we really belong here.”

“Too late, we’re here now.”

“That we are.” Skeletor clinked glasses with her. “Drink up then. Before Archer drinks it all, the swine.”

Luna came up to them and clinked glasses. “Cheers! I know it’s not the ideal time to have a little bit of celebration, but I suppose it’s worth celebrating that we’re all together.”

Bowsette emptied her drink and offered to go get refills. As she wandered over to the table littered with bottles, she saw Mordin and Dante in a conversation that had Mordin quirking an eyebrow and Michonne watching the two of them, trying to hold in a laugh. Yoshimitsu, Geralt, Gimli, and The Cheat were gathered around a table playing cards and laughing uproariously at something Tuvok said. Tuvok’s lip upturned in the tiniest smile.

She hadn’t thought to ask what Luna and Skeletor were drinking, but it was mostly just bottles of red wine, so she picked three bottles at random and poured a glass of each. She made her way back through the clusters of people to the two of them. Skeletor was clearly at the end of one of his stories.

“You know, I really did like that little creature.”

Luna smiled up at him. “Maybe, when this is over, you can get a pet.”

Bowsette handed each of them a glass of wine and shifted uneasily to look around.

“Are you okay?” Luna asked.

“I’m fine. Just tired. Shared a room with Skeletor last night and he snores.”

Luna snorted into her wine as Skeletor screeched, “I DO NO SUCH THING!”

Bowsette grinned. “No, you don’t. I’m just messing with you.”

“You’re lucky I don’t have any trap doors handy right now,” Skeletor grunted.

As the evening wore on, Skeletor and Luna wandered off with Zelda and Stitch to play something Luna called Exploding Snap. Bowsette declined to join, opting instead to get more food. It wasn’t great, but that was another thing she hadn’t noticed about mammals until she had to live as one. They were always so hungry! No one should have to eat that many times a week.

Bowsette filled a plate with something crunchy and pale green that she tried not to think too hard about and settled onto the couch they’d pulled out of the Mynock.

A pink and white hat hazed up into view from the couch cushion.

“Hey, Vivian,” Bowsette grumbled.

“Hi. You—um—looked like you might want company, maybe. Everything alright?”

Bowsette groaned, “Ugh, is this just what the League is like? Just feelings every single day forever?”

Vivian sank down a little into the couch. “I was just asking. I’ll just leave you alone. Sorry.”

“No! No. It’s nothing. It’s just...crown stuff.”

“Crown stuff?”

“Yeah, Godzilla thinks he could change the crown. Make it so it doesn’t just make me look like, you know.” Bowsette gestured at herself. “Like Peach.”

“Oh. Well, that’s nice, right?”

“I should be over the moon that I look like Peach. I finally got to change how I looked and now I’m mostly everything I’ve wanted. I should be happy. That would be normal! Why can’t I just be normal instead of feeling like something is wrong!?” Dark smoke curled from her nose.

“I-I think what you’re talking about is normal.”

“Then I don’t want to be normal. I want it to be simple and make sense,” Bowsette spat.

“I don’t think you can j-just be someone else. Well, not be someone else and be happy, I mean,” Vivian offered.

“Maybe happiness is overrated.” Bowsette hunched her shoulders.

“Maybe,” Vivan murmured. “Peach would be a terrible Bowsette, though.”

“What do you mean?”

“Peach. Peach couldn’t ever, no matter how hard she tried, be you, and you shouldn’t ever feel like you need to be her. Look at the people around us. If you asked any of them, they’d probably say that someone else is a better version of who they are. No matter what she does, Luna is never going to be Nico. Nico was never going to be Flemeth. Think about Luigi—Luigi is never going to be Mario. And he shouldn’t have to be. You shouldn’t have to be Peach. The multiverse has a Peach in it. It doesn’t need another one. It needs—the League needs a Bowsette. Because no one else can be her except you, no matter what you think.”

“What if Bowsette isn’t someone people like the way they like Peach?”

“What if people don’t think Ash should be Ash? Or think Buffy shouldn’t be Buffy?”

“People like them, probably.”

“You know, I think I like Bowsette. I think other people will too.”

Bowsette sniffled a bit. “You gotta lot of faith in people. I can’t believe I’m having this sappy heart-to-heart with you.”

Vivian smiled shyly. “It’s what friends are for, right?”

Bowsette found Godzilla hunkered in the corner of a lounge area, eyes half-closed.

She planted herself in front of him, hands on her hips. “Look, I fought. I fought hard. And I fought for a really long time to get to be who you’re looking at now.”

Godzilla clicked dismissively. “Yeah, to be someone you don’t even wanna be that much.”

“Whatever. If you ever saw Peach, I think you’d get it, maybe. I guess I thought if I took on the crown maybe I’d get some of that stuff that makes Peach so good at being, you know, the way she is. I’m not Peach, though. I’m Bowsette. I’m a Koopa, and I’m a girl, and I’m strong; I have a shell, and I have spikes, and I have horns, and I have claws, and I could kick the ass of anyone on this ship. Including you.”

Godzilla’s eyes flickered in challenge, but Bowsette continued.

“So I’m going to let you do this. I’m going to let you use your atomic whatever powers and shape me a crown that lets me be me. All of me. And I want you to know something. If you mess this up, I will fight you and I will win, and when that happens, I’m not really sure what I’m going to do to you, but you won’t like it. Don’t mess this up.”

Godzilla snorted. “Me? I’m not doing nothing. You do it.”

“What do you mean I do it?!” Bowsette yelled, leaning into his face. “You said you could make it do what you wanted!”

Godzilla gave her an unimpressed grunt. “How’d you do it the first time? You put it on and stuff happened.”

“Yeah! I put it on and thought about how Peach looked in it and then bam, here I am.”

“Then tell the crown something else. Don’t think about Peach. Think about Bowsette in the crown.”

Bowsette sneered. “And you think that’s gonna work?”

Godzilla raised a brow ridge. “I know I wouldn’t let some shiny piece of metal tell me what to be. Tell it who you are. Don’t be a Peach, be a Mothra.”

Bowsette paused for a second, hand on the crown, then looked Godzilla in the eye. “They don’t need a Mothra. The League needs a Bowsette.”

Godzilla’s mouth split into a toothy grin.“Maybe after you get this crown fixed up, I'll challenge you to a real fight. Didn’t seem fair to fight a puny little human.”

“You’re on, buddy.”

~*~

 

Bowsette came to the mess hall, thunking down next to Luna and digging her toe claws into the dirt floor, just for the satisfaction of it.

Luna beamed at her, “Your scales look very nice today. The green ones are especially lovely, and they look beautiful with your dress.”

Bowsette brushed her long, spiky, red hair off her shoulders. “Thanks, Luna. Can you pass me a plate?”

Lace padded in, followed by Godzilla, both settling on the bench beside Luna. Godzilla took hold of a sizeable chunk of the protein and presented it to Lace who clicked happily before tearing a huge bite out of it. Michonne and Geralt came in from the hangar, walking together hand-in-hand. They rounded the table when Geralt stopped suddenly, looking warily at Bowsette.

Bowsette shrugged, flicking her tail. “What’re you staring at? Never seen a reptile ready to save the multiverse?”

Godzilla screeched loudly.

“Yeah, yeah, thank you and stuff. The important part is that I’m big enough to take you on.”

Godzilla huffed and leaned forward, putting one elbow on the table, holding his clawed hand up for her to take. Bowsette took it, muscles flexing.

Bowsette flashed a smile, red lipstick emphasizing the sharp white glint of her fangs. “Prepare to lose to the arm wrestling queen of the Mushroom Kingdom, buddy.”

 

 

Dedication: I could never have written this without the help of Kit Mulkerin and Claire Mulkerin. Both of them helped nurture this story into being with their ideas, their revisions, and their notes on the characters. Claire’s willingness to be my guide in navigating the complexity of Bowsette’s identity and helping me to better represent experiences of gender and gender identity were critical to this story. Kit’s fantastic insights into Godzilla and rewrites to Godzilla’s dialogue were so appreciated. I also have to thank Marissa Bond for always supporting this fic and cheerleading me when I wasn’t sure if it was any good, and helping suggest brilliant and helpful edits. She’s an amazing writer and her support means the world. As always, thank you to Dan Mulkerin for a final editing pass. Good editors make your work better, and Dan is the most insightful editor I’ve ever had.