Quiet and stillness was the only thing to echo throughout the household long after night had fallen. No noise at all was made through the many rooms of the home. To the untrained eye and ear, it would seem that all was dead, or else asleep, as it should be at this time.
But not all was dead or asleep.
As the clock struck twelve, small shape, unseen in the pitch blackness, emerged from a hole located in a wall, behind the cabinet that held fine, fragile china dinnerware. Fully exiting it, and with apparent haste, the small shadow seemed to scurry over from the living area to the kitchen, leaving scratching noises in its wake as it traveled. Reaching the room, the first thing the being did was jump onto a chair at the table in a mighty leap, and then away, onto the nearby counter in a similar maneuver. It traversed the counter until it reached the edge where the fridge was positioned, and once it latched itself onto the fridge's handle, it pushed off, opening it fully. When that was done, it hopped back to the ground, standing in front of its now-lit entrance.
Had anyone been there to witness it, they would have seen what the boggart looked like in the fridge's light. He was no bigger than a large rat, rotund in girth, short of stature, and had light brown, wrinkled skin going along most of his body. His nose was long and pointed, and his mouth was filled with sharp teeth. Pointing out from holes in the clothing on his back were a pair of insectile wings that were much too tiny, atrophied and useless to allow him flight; somewhat resembling leafy maple seeds.
Covering the creature's form were various bits of clothing and attire he had filched in the past from dolls and other toys in the households it had once haunted, and where the apparel had been worn from its many years of use were sewn or patched up using stray bits of fabric. Over his body was a thick wool coat of a brownish tint that was a shade darker than his skin. Over his whitish-chestnut haired head was a black cap that was held down where it laid on his cranium with two thin strands of white shoelaces that also wrapped around his neck like a scarf. While the coat extended down enough to hide his midsection and knees, his thin and knobby legs were bare, but covering his feet were a pair of stolen doll shoes he had fiddled around with and cobbled into a more convenient shape for them.
Hopping into the fridge, the boggart set to work. Pulling out a pair of scissors from where they sat in one of his coat's pockets, among his other tools, he brought them up to a freshly-bought jug of unopened milk as though they were shears. Placing their sharp tips to the milk ring sealing the jug shut, he quickly snipped it loose and tugged the small, plastic band off, shoving it into his other, empty pocket afterward for later decoration of his lair. Putting his scissors away, he then unscrewed the lid of the jug and poked his ugly little face into it to quench his thirst.
Greedily drinking some of the milk until the taint from its foul fey magics had rendered it sour, the boggart finished his drink with a satisfied sigh, licked his lips, and screwed the lid back on over it. He jumped the fridge and closed it with a clap, then made his way to the pantry next. The fairy looked up to the handle, which was too far up to jump to from anywhere. He did not need to it, for with a flick of his wrist, the knob magically turned on its own and the door opened with a squeak of its hinges.
With supernatural quickness it climbed to one of the middle shelves of the pantry, where its long nose had sniffed out something sweet. Twitching a whisker, he spied a shape resembling a glass cookie jar in the dark, resting nearby. Going to the base of it, he hopped atop of it and placed his fingers on the lid of the jar. The boggart hoisted it off and casually tossed it from the shelf to the floor with a snigger, where it shattered to small bits when it inevitably landed. What the small fey being did next was pull out two cookies and messily devoured them, scattering crumbs everywhere as his teeth tore through their dry flesh.
His appetite sated, what the boggart did next was jump from the shelf to the floor below, landing as though his plump body weighed nothing. Leaving the pantry, his doll shoes crunched uncaringly over the broken shards of glass in his path as though they were thick boots plodding over loose bits of ice, crushing some of the smaller bits into powder.
Snickering maliciously, the creature left the kitchen and made his way back to his hole he previously emerged from. His small wing-appendages twitching in contentment, he approached it, but first took a final look at the current room he was leaving, making sure there no small treasures he wanted to filch just yet. Smiling, he soon turned about and fit his small, fat form through the hole, scurrying through the walls, back to its nest.
Persica sluggishly meandered toward the kitchen when morning came, passing by the two glass cases containing her late husband's and her own suits of armor from their monster-hunting days. Habeas had slipped out of the bedroom unnoticed sometime earlier, and she had only awoken after smelling something positively delicious from where she laid. She knew it had to be him, as he was quite gifted in the art of cooking. Habeas learned his skills from a cookbook he possessed prior to meeting her; the same book that he learned about other methods of gaining love, without having to steal it.
It wasn't a few more seconds before she came to the entrance of the kitchen. There he was, a spatula in hoof, his hips swaying side to side as he hummed a small song to himself, looking over the stove that had a pan containing three pancakes.
"Morning!" Habeas greeted merrily, catching sight of her from the corner of his eye. Judging from the brownness of the pancakes, he looked about done making his marefriend's breakfast. Persica bid a happy "Good morning, sweetie," back, and walked fully into the room.
"Where's Blossom?" she inquired next.
"She left for work about twenty minutes ago," Habeas answered, shifting the pan around.
"Nuts! Just missed her," Persica sighed aloud. She shook her head, but held a smile on it. She walked over to the fridge to get something out of it, opening it with a pull of its handle.
"I wouldn't drink the milk if I were you," the changeling warned after hearing it open, just in case she was going for it. "It's somehow gone very sour."
"Guess who did it," she muttered as her ears suddenly lifted, swearing to herself that she just detected the scant sounds of small feet pattering around briefly in the ceiling above. Shrugging it off and exhaling a deep breath, she took out some creamer, shut the fridge, and approached the active coffee machine they had on the counter. Pulling out a red mug from the cupboard above it, she placed it in front of the machine and filled it with the hot, brown drink most ponies craved in the morning.
"The lid of the cookie jar was also broken in the pantry. Don't worry, I cleaned it up," he also mentioned as the mare added some of the creamer to her drink.
Persica grumbled as she put down the creamer, swished around the contents with a spoon for a few seconds, and took her first sip of coffee. Her nose twitching, she set it down on the counter again and peered at Habeas. "Is there any good news?"
"There is good news, actually," he spoke after plopping the finished pancakes onto a plate and covered them in maple syrup from a nearby jar. He then brought it to the table, reaching for the paper he left there afterward. "Great news, in fact. You'll never believe what I read in the paper a few minutes ago..."
Persica could guess nothing to answer what it was he was talking about. Scooping the coffee cup back up into her hoof, she started over to where he was taking a seat. "What'd you see?"
Habeas smirked, his smile immense and radiant. "Queen Chrysalis, the queen who I fled from the hive to escape from... she's been dethroned. And the changeling hive has declared themselves to be allies of Equestria!"
Persica appeared to not know how to properly react to this sort of information herself, but her expression was still one of joy for him. Habeas continued as he looked back at the paper, and she grew closer. "You know what this means?" he asked her with a smile. "There's a big chance that I won't have to pretend I'm a pony when we're in public any longer. I might not have to change forms and go disguised all the time anymore! I can be myself."
Persica approached him with slow final steps and planted her lips onto his for a good long while when she got to him. She let out a gleeful hum before the kiss inevitably had to end and their mouths separated, leaving the taste of coffee on the changeling's mouth in the process. "That's spectacular news to hear, Habeas."
"We have a new king. He was once a drone named Thorax. Kind of like me," Habeas also revealed.
"The one we heard about a few months ago?" Persica asked. "The one living in the Crystal Empire?"
"The very same!" he smiled, looking to the front-page picture of the changeling king in the paper. "Though I must say, he looks a tad odd, even after apparently undergoing the metamorphosis I went through."
"He looks like a moose," Persica chuckled upon a closer examination, looking directly at the pair of horns on Thorax's head that were shaped like stag beetle mandibles. "At least my love bug's a handsome little devil."
Leaving his side, she trotted over to her own seat and picked up her fork after sitting down; ready to dig into her breakfast. "And what about you?" Habeas then decided to ask her, just before she could begin. "Do you have any sort of good news to share?"
"O-oh, um, no," she was quick to respond, putting the fork down and bringing the coffee cup back to her lips, swiftly downing all of it liquid contents. Placing the now-empty mug down on the table past her plate, she brushed some stray strands of her mane's hair from her face and gave him a shaky smile. Habeas hummed with a hint of skepticism aimed at her odd reaction, but deciding it probably wasn't in her interests for him to delve deeper, he coughed into his hoof and folded the newspaper back up.
"Well then... do you have any ideas on how to deal with the boggart?" he asked next, dropping the paper by her cup. Persica, glad to have the subject changed, was more than happy to answer after taking her first bite of one of the syrup-covered pancakes.
"I'm thinking of setting up a trap," she said in a hushed voice, just on case a third set of ears was in the room to listen in. "It'll have bait that will attract the little beast's attention like an ant to sugar, and that cage it will lay within will be a small, simple one made of iron. Fairies can't stand to touch iron without it burning them, and they can't use their magic while near it."
Habeas nodded once, his expression showing well that he was intrigued by her knowledge of the creatures. "Knowing you, I bet you'll nab it on your first try. But in the small chance of the opposite happening... what if it doesn't work?"
"If it doesn't, then I have more methods to turn to," was all she replied with, shrugging with a smile. "I'm sure this experience will be an interesting thing overall, to say the least."
When Bumble woke up that morning, he did his usual things at its beginning. That entailed taking care of some of the needs of his near-vegetative mother, making her some love-filled breakfast, bringing it to her, then making himself some. But as he left the kitchen after taking care of his dishes, he came upon a very strange sight that made him stop in his tracks.
In the living room stood his father, and nearby was Honey. Her horn was glowing pink, and Bombini appeared to be coaching her through something.
"That's it!" he cheered in a supporting manner. "Now, sum up all the love inside of you as best as you can."
"Am I doing it right, Dad?" Honey asked a second later after doing what he said.
"Yep!" he spoke. "Just feel it build up within you, and once you do-"
"What are you two doing?" Bumble spoke up, unable to contain himself. Honey, giggling, looked to her brother and grinned.
"Dad's teaching me to share my love," she said. "He said it's how he found out about solving our hunger problem. He also told me it's why he looks like that."
Bumble looked less than thrilled. He turned his stare to his father, and furrowed his brow. "Are you crazy?" he asked. "You do know that if a changeling gives up their love to another, they'll be practically starved to death in that one instant, right?"
He looked back to his sister again. "That's not how to solve the hunger problem, Honey."
"That's not true, as it turns out," Bombini said. "To make friends and share their love is the secret to everything a changeling will ever need. It's all about being the best you can possibly be around others, treating them with altruism, and receiving their earned kindliness and care in turn."
"That sounds idiotic," doubted Bumble. Lowering his brow and putting on a mischievously sure look, his father turned to Honey again.
"Honey, could you share your love with your brother, like I showed to you?" he asked.
"Okay!" she eagerly agreed, trotting closer to Bumble. Bumble's expression shifted to one of terror when she faced him, but he was unable to tell her to stop in time before she began with the process. Her chest glowing in a heart shape, Honey's smaller form hovered into the air a short ways, and a sudden, continuous beam of pink, ring-shaped love energy was expelled from her, and streamed into Bumble's direction. He shouted something to her, but was buffeted by the beam before the words could sensibly leave his throat and enter his sister's ears.
The beam ended a few seconds later, and as it did, Bumble realized that he now felt extremely full; as though he had just gorged upon a feast. When he opened his eyes, he could no longer see his sister in his field of vision. What he did see, and what made his heart pump rabidly in his chest with fear, was a small, chrysalis-esque, crystalline object laying on the floor of the household. He rushed up to it without a second to spare and wrapped his hooves around it, cradling the object close to him.
"What happened to her?!" he screeched to Bombini, staring only at the thing his sister had become. "What in the hay happened to her?!"
"It's fine. This is normal," Bombini calmly said back. "Just give it a few seconds, and-"
"My sister is trapped in a crystal... something!" Bumble continued to shriek in horror. "How do I fix this? What do I do?" The young changeling then turned his focus back to the chrysalis. "Honey? Honey can you hear me in there? I-it's going to be okay..."
Without warning, a blinding light covered the chrysalis, forcing Bumble to shield his eyes from it and step back. The light dissipated a second later, and when he took his hooves from his face, he saw an odd being standing before him.
It was Honey alright, but it didn't really look like her. Honey's small body, once dark and hole-riddled like any other changeling Bumble had witnessed, was now smooth and fine. Her chitinous body bore a more golden coloration to it, like honey, and now had a light green shell covering the wings on her back. Her left eye was still red, but her right one, once teal, was now amber in its tint.
"Hey, I look sorta like dad now!" the nymph said upon finishing her examination of herself. Jumping up and down in joy, she bounced around the room singing, chortling, dancing and prancing about in excitement as Bumble could only watch in dumbfounded bewilderment.
"I've got to show Mom!" Honey eventually shouted with glee after getting as used to her new look as she could for the moment, bouncing out of the room on her now-smooth and hole-less hooves, leaving Bumble and their father by themselves. Bumble turned to Bombini, only to see a smug smirk shining on his face.
"Believe now, son?" he said in a light tone. Bumble's brow lowered and he puffed out a stale breath.
"Don't call me that," he mumbled in return.
"What? 'Son'?" Bombini questioned, his smile beginning to disappear. "What's wrong with calling you that?"
"Just... because. Of reasons," was what Bumble said back, shifting his view past the living room and to the front door of the house; thinking of getting some fresh air to lighten his mood after the situation that he had witnessed. "I think I'm going to... go for a walk."
These words startled Bombini. "You end our conversation with that and walk away?" he inquired, walking up to Bumble as the young changeling was already heading for the door. "Bumble-"
"I need some air," Bumble cut in, clearly not in the mood to speak any longer. Shifting his form, he pushed the door open and trotted out before his father could stop him. Bombini wanted to give chase, but sensing the confusion within his son's mind, he halted himself from following and sighed, letting him go.
Bumble was no doubt still very much not used to having a father around. But Bombini wasn't going to leave them again. He never wanted to, and now, he never needed to. Soon thinking back to Honey and how Apini was probably taking the news their young daughter was sharing (and showing) to her, Bombini decided to go join them, still with thoughts on Bumble's reaction fresh in his mind.