"I need love?" I restated tentatively. "I need it to live. Without it, I will starve to death."
"Ain't that just precious!" Rough taunted sarcastically, "Alien come from space, all the way to earth, lookin' for looove."
"Quit it, Ricky! What if its bein' serious? It don't have a reason to lie to us." Soft countered.
"Oh I don't know, maybe it wants to lay eggs in us or somethin' alien and weird!" Rough sneered.
"If you ain't gonna help it, then why don't you just go to your room? I'll take care of our 'guest' here."
"Hey," Rough conceded with a shrug, "If you wanna sleep with the bug-alien thing, be my guest Maria. Just don't wake up Mom when those dogs o' yours come runnin' after it when you open that door to your room."
"Oh crud! I totally forgot about them!" Soft whisper blurted.
"Toodles, Maria." Rough taunted, wiggling his fingers as he ascended the staircase. With creaking steps, it slowly dissapeared from sight. Soft voice then looked at me, sighing.
"What am I gonna do with you?" Soft asked rhetorically.
"Uh... love me? Please?"
Soft rolled their eyes in response and asked, "Do you eat food or anything? Milk, eggs, bread, meat; stuff like that?"
"Love?" I restated.
"You eat love," It deadpanned, "Golly, that sounds like a bad romance novel come to life." Soft shifted how they were holding me a bit, hurting me a little with my chitin moving uncomfortably.
Soft then carried me upstairs, walking past a few adjoining rooms connected by an archway between what seemed like a living room from the couches arranged around some flat... shiny thing. There were a few cups on top of coasters, a book near a night stand and some kind of bag with food spilling out of it on top of a wooden table. Everything in this house was gigantic compared to me. A large metal box with two doors on it loomed in the kitchen next to a stove I could walk into and a sink that I would have to fly up to in order to use. A few other doors lead to different areas of the house, but one of them must have been a pantry if it was connected to the kitchen. Going up the stairs, there was a guard rail made of wood again, intricately detailed and polished to a shine. The stairs were covered in carpeting that had been worn down from frequent traffic, probably white at some point but now bearing a dirty grey. Impossibly detailed paintings were hung along the wall of the staircase, detailing events and gatherings of the giant not-minotaur's family adventures to even more impressive places I had yet to see. One of the pictures was placed in a massive city-scape that I doubted could really exist. The buildings stretched into the sky! That should have been a wonder in itself, like Canterlot's position on the edge of a mountain and not falling off.
We reached the top of the stairs soon enough, not giving me enough time to fully witness the other paintings on the wall. The rooms had been labeled. One was Ricky, to the right of that and further along was named Maria, and opposite the both of those was named Mom. A door was sideways and between those, bearing no label. I motioned to the door with my head and asked, "What is that room for?"
Soft looked from the door it was about to open with their free hand towards me, and then to where I was pointing. "Oh, that's the bathroom."
Oh. Well, that was less ominous than I had imagined.
The door to Soft's room opened with a quiet squeak before they paused. "You know what? I just noticed somethin'."
Uh oh. "Um... what would that be?" I asked cautiously.
"You're covered in dirt."
I squirmed around to try and get a better look at myself, though Soft held tight. "Hey-hey, hold it," they insisted, and I stopped moving. "You ain't allergic to water, are you?"
Allergic to water?
"I can tell from that look on yer face that you're not." Soft grumbled, turning in place and heading towards the bathroom. "Do you think that crack you got can hold up to water?"
I could still maneuver my hooves within the jacket wrapped around me and poked the chitin around my stomach carefully. It didn't move much, and I couldn't feel any blood, so that meant it was probably a surface crack. "I think I'll be fine. What are you planning?"
"Well, if it wasn't obvious, I'm gonna give you a bath." Soft stated in quiet cheer. They were giving off a steady supply of concern and affection towards me, assisting greatly with warding off my hunger for love.
A few moments later, I had been carefully placed inside of a giant tub on by back. While Soft was looking away, I quickly rolled over and stood upright, my head coming up over the rim of the tub itself just barely. "Is this something that 'Not-Minotaur' normally do?"
Soft looked from some bottles they had been deciding between to spot me, her face suddenly lighting up with joy. "Oh my gosh you look so cuuute!" I was nearly knocked off of my hooves from the affection knocking into me like a wave, causing me to stagger and fall onto my flank. Blinking the haze away, I looked up at Soft whom was resting their elbows on the edge of the tub, their head on their hands. "Who knew that aliens from outer space that look like bug monsters could be so gosh darned adorable in a bath tub?"
"Uh... thank you?" I don't think I had ever received a genuine compliment before, even if it was a bit strange.
Soft held a bottle of some kind, labelled 'Shampoo' with tape across it in thick black lettering. "I don't think I wanna risk you getting hurt with that crack you got, now that I think about it."
I looked down at my injury, noticing that the cracks had somewhat mended themselves from the burst of overwhelming affection earlier. "Actually... could you do that thing you just did again? You sent out a wave of affection strong enough to heal me."
Soft paused, looking at me strangely. "Do what now?"
"When you called me adorable and cute? You floored me with affection, and that gave my body enough energy to mend itself. Can you do it again?"
Soft just stared at me, their mouth slightly agape. This continued only for a short moment before their mouth snapped shut, shaking their head. "Okay, I know yer an alien an' all, but that's just plain strange. I can't just give affection on command. It just sorta happens. You know, it's an emotional thing." Soft then paused a moment, placing their hands on their hips. "So that's what knocked you over, huh? Affection?"
I didn't understand the confusion. "Yes?"
Soft scrunched their face in thought before kneeling down with a rag. "Well, I don't know 'bout affection on command or nothin', but maybe gettin' you all cleaned up will do the trick?" They then turned a knob on the edge of the bath, a stream of water soon gushing out and very cold.
"Aaah!" I chittered, my wings buzzing painfully in agitation from the temperature. I backed away into the rear of the tub, as far away from the icy water as I could.
"Hey, don't worry! It's just cold for now, but it'll heat up, okay?" Soft cooed, concern washing over me.
I was keeping every part of me as far away from the cold water as possible, trying not to chitter at the filling tub. Strangely, this was earning me more affection from Soft. I looked to the not-minotaur and saw a thin smile on their face.
"You know, I knew I liked somethin' about you the second I saw you, but this just confirms that you ain't no harm to anybody. I've never seen a monster movie where the baddie is scared o' cold water." Soft chuckled, adjusting the turny knob on the tub a bit after sticking their hand in the running water. "Especially cold water in a bath tub, and bein' small as you are I doubt you'd go on some killin' rampage."
What? "Why would I hurt any-- uh... Humans? I need love to survive, not meat or... plaaants." Now I understood what Eugh felt like.
Soft laughed at that, right as the water began to reach my hooves. It was a mild shock of the cold water that still remained in the tub when it touched me, but it was soon followed by the much warmer water. Hopefully not too warm... otherwise I would cook inside of my carapace.
"Please don't make the water too hot? I don't want to be cooked." I pleaded, looking to the heated water that was now halfway up my legs in concern.
"Oh, right!" Soft blurted, adjusting the spinny thing again. "That should be good. About luke-warm is good, right?"
"Nevermind; it's a figure of speech." Soft sighed, still smiling at me as the water reached my quickly mending stomach chitin. I wanted to see how it was progressing, but that would mean submerging either my head, or my whole body underwater. But... the entire point of this bath was to clean myself, right?
With that logic in mind, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and dunked my head under water, rolling over noisily to see my belly. I opened my eyes and saw that my vision was obscured by all the dirt and mud, but since I didn't have the sensitive eyes of a pony I wasn't bothered by the dirt and grime. Perks of not being overly fleshy. I blinked a few times to clear the dirt from my eyes, scraping off some of the more caked-on dirt with my forehooves before Soft's hands reached into the water and pulled me upright by my forehooves, leaving me to drip above the tub in confusion as water ran down me.
"What're you doin' to your eyes! You're gonna hurt yourself!" Soft complained in a whisper shout so they wouldn't wake 'Mom'.
"Cleaning them?" I offered uncertainly. Now I was confused. This was always how I had cleaned my eyes, and noling had said anything about it being wrong...
Soft looked at me for a bit before sighing. "You know what, you're an alien. This is all probably normal for you; scraping at your eye sockets like they're a sticker that needs removin'."
Soft then set me down in the tub again, and I got to work with cleaning myself once more. Unexpectedly, I felt what seemed like a wet blanket drape itself onto my flank. Looking behind me, there was a dirty rag draped over it. I looked to Soft, whom was smiling again for some reason.
"That look on your face," they giggled, "My dogs do the exact same thing."
Dogs... that name again. "What are dogs?" I asked in her voice, in the exact same tone the Not-Minotaur used to avoid confusion.
Soft shivered a bit, feelings of 'Eugh' smacking into me and causing me to fall into the water. They quickly reached in and held my head above water, thankfully. "I'm sorry," I apologized sincerely, "I didn't mean to make you feel 'Eugh'."
"You what?" Soft asked before stopping herself. "You mean you felt that?"
I nodded. "I used your voice to avoid confusion with-- Eh... that word you used, and you felt 'Eugh'."
Soft looked at me suspiciously. "So you mean you literally feel what I'm feelin'?"
"I am a changeling," I nodded, "I am affected strongly by the emotions of others near me, and I live off of Love and their sister emotions as well, like affection, concern, nurturing, gratitude, pride... things like that."
I felt a very sudden shift in Soft's emotions, from interest to curiosity. "Say, I never actually asked you this before, but what are you?"
I was confused. "I am a changeling?"
Soft smacked themself in the face with their palm. "No, I meant like, are you a boy or a girl changeling?"
Soft scrunched her lips together, somehow biting both of them. "Okay, like..." They started blushing, and now I was even more confused. "If you and another changelin' go out on a date or something, who asks who out?"
"Uh..." I blurted, staring in complete bewilderment at Soft.
Soft was getting frustrated now. "I mean, do you got male parts or female parts?"
"You know what, it ain't important." Soft waved her hand like a fly had been buzzing nearby. "Just get yourself all cleaned up so we can go to bed, alright?"
"What about the... uh, things that Rough talked about before going to their room?" I asked, avoiding using dogs in my question so I wouldn't be struck with a wave of 'Eugh' again.
Soft took a deep breath and sighed. "Right, them. They might be excited to see you, but I don't know how they're gonna treat ya."
"Perhaps I could talk with them?" I offered, "If they live in your home, they must be well mannered, yes?"
Soft was about to say something about that, but then caught themself. "Ya know what? You bein' an alien, I don't think I should judge if you can communicate with dogs or not. We speak to each other just fine, so why not?"
After that had been decided, Soft helped to clean my chitin for a few more minutes, finally draining the tub when I had been fully scrubbed clean from the impact crater dirt I had been covered with. This was probably the cleanest I had been in a long while, given that my carapace was a shiny dark grey and my eyes shone brighter. Though that was possibly more due to the concern and affection I had received from Soft. I placed my forehooves on the edge of the tub and hopped atop of it, though I quickly slipped on the smooth surface.
"Aaah!" I yelped, my wings reflexively buzzing to catch me and lifting me into the air, where I hovered. Soft was startled and quickly backed into the wall, injuring themself from hitting the door knob on accident.
"Ow!" They complained, nursing their elbow... or whatever they called the thing in the middle of their arm that bent.
"Sorry!" I whispered loudly, covering my mouth in shock as I had seen so many ponies do. It seemed to work, as their annoyance with me quickly faded when they saw me. In fact, it earned a smile from Soft as I landed on the floor, coming up to their waist with the tip of my horn.
"You're so tiny!" Soft cooed, picking me up again. My back was to their chest and I was held by an arm wrapping across my belly, underneath my forehooves. My hindlegs simply dangled along with my tail as Soft used their free hand to open the door from the bathroom to their own room. With a soft creak, they opened it once again.
And then we were assaulted by two large, four legged furry creatures with large tongues and sharp teeth. Sharp enough to make me want to be anywhere but where these things were. I struggled and fought against Soft's grasp, eventually prying free and flying above everything in the room next to the ceiling. The things below me were quiet, though they circled and jumped around under me. I flew to a large bookshelf and took refuge away from the swarming things, trying not to hiss at them. My wings buzzed in a display of my fear and annoyance, however, completely out of my control.
"Rust, Nelly, get down from there!" Soft whisper shouted, snapping their fingers and pointing to a corner of the room. The things noticed Soft and quickly retreated, their tails between their legs. "I'm real sorry about that, Changelin'." soft warmly offered.
I was breathing in fear from those things, but I was safe where I lay. "I'll... I'll just sit up here for now. Where those things can't get me. I mean, if that's alright with you?"
"Those things are my dogs, Rust and Nelly. They're good dogs, but they get excited easily." Soft explained. "They just gotta get used to you is all!"
I stared down with my glowing eyes at the two panting things with sharp teeth that looked back to me in return. They didn't look like good. They looked hungry...
"Hey, don't go frownin' up a storm now. Things'll be better in the mornin'." Soft cheerfully whispered to me. "And hey, you got bigger teeth'n they do with them fangs of yours. They're bigger than my thumbs!"
I gulped and squished myself further away from the 'dogs'. "Here is fine, Thank you."
Soft waved me off. "Alright, fine. Sit up there like a cat or somethin'. I'll see you in the mornin', Okay?"