Amidst Twilight's library, Pinkamena Diane Pie stared intently at the thick leather-bound book. She watched it so intensely that the pink mare failed to notice the sun's light was fading as Celestia aided its decent.
"Pinkie?" Twilight Sparkle yawned, completely exhausted from a full day of working at the palace. Her glassy eyes blinked in confusion. "Why are you here so late?" This wasn't unusual in itself. Pinkie Pie often dropped by unexpectedly on her friends. But this time, she seemed to have a purpose.
Pinkie snapped back into reality. "Oh my gosh! I found something super-duper exciting I gotta show Flater bye!" The loofa-maned earth pony slammed the book closed and zipped past a startled Twilight.
"Flater? What does my study subject have to do with anything?" Twilight thought aloud. The alicorn stepped over to a row of bookshelves. She scanned the various spines lovingly, running a hoof over the dictionaries with particular fondness. Twilight prided herself in owning a dictionary for every language that ever existed. Her brows furrowed as she neared the 'F' section.
"Huh? My Western Friesian version is gone. Now why would Pinkie be interested in the Friesian dialect?" Twilight tapped her chin before succumbing to another yawn. "That answer can wait for tomorrow." The purple mare trudged up the staircase leading to her room shaking her head all the while.
"Flater! Flater! You won't believe what I just found out! Well, I didn't JUST find it; I looked at it for a long time to make sure it was true first, but I found this!" Pinkie Pie burst into Flater's flat waving the 'borrowed' dictionary triumphantly.
In the dim glow of the setting sun Pinkie could make out Flater's skinny form stretched out on a couch.
"Oh, hello Pinkie. You may turn the lights on if you want. I keep forgetting that they're off."
The party pony happily obliged. "Here we go! I don't want to trip on a table of something." She flicked a switch. A slight hum reverberated as the lights surged to life. Pinkie returned her attention to Flater, then froze in shock.
It wasn't often that Pinkie Pie lost her words due to a surprise. There, in front of her very eyes, lay a malformed creature. She failed every attempt to regain her bubbly mood. "F...Flater?" She eventually choked out.
Flater sensed her disgust. He was a hybrid, the result of an unholy union between a Changeling and a pony. From his fanged jaws all the way down to his swiss-holed legs he knew what a freak he was. "It's okay Pinkie, it's me. Honest." Flater gently consoled the pink mare.
"But you're so weird! Your eyes look like a fly with all those funky squares. How can you see straight?" She chattered, her own blue eyes open wide.
Flater sighed. "I...can't see at all, remember? The whole legally blind thing."
Pinkie Pie ignored her him and her original fear. She bounced up to him, tapping the beetle-like shells that protected his wings. "Oh, that's cool! What's under these? I didn't know you could fly."
"I can't do that either." Flater sighed again. "Look, I can put my disguise back up if you're not comfortable with my real form." He was a little tired of being poked and prodded, ogled at like a sideshow.
"It's no problemo." Pinkie stroked the nasty red scar that ran where a cutie mark should've been.
Flater hissed at the sudden shoot of pain, flattening his ears. He almost snapped at her, but caught himself just in time.
"Pinkie Pie giggled nervously. "Sorry, wanted to see if it was real!"
"It's fine." Flater snorted. He resettled himself onto the couch, his long legs tucked neatly beneath him. "Now that's over with, what did you come bustling in here for?"
"Oh yea, this!" She tossed the book in front of him. "Passage 164."
"Mm, and how can I know what it says?" Flater patiently for Pinkie to correct her error.
"Silly me, I totally forgot! It pretty much says that Flater means mistake in Eastern Friesian!"
"Western Friesian actually." Flater deflated slightly at the reminder.
Pinkie Pie, though forgetful of others' impairments at times, never failed to perceive a mood change. "Hey, what's wrong? It's just a word that is stuck with you for the rest of your life. But what's in a name anyway!"
"Absolutely everything." Flater whispered, shivering. The floodgates he tried so hard to hold back swung open and he was quickly swamped with the memories, scents, smells that he tried so hard to forget.
"Ooh storytime!" Pinkie Pie squealed. She hurriedly squeezed onto the couch beside him.
Flater made room for her. His expression read sorrowful.
"What makes you think that I have a story to tell?" He nudged her with a shoulder.
"Everypony has a story silly. Most just choose not to share and let them fester into a mental breakdown! I feel like you should open up a bit."
"Oh yea? What feeling is that?"
"My Pinkie-sense, that's what!"
"Well it's never been wrong before." He chuckled wryly.
"Yay yay! I just love a good backstory." She tapped her hooves together.
"Right now?" Flater hesitated.
"Why not? The best time is the present time." Pinkie wiggled in anticipation.
"I can't. It's too long, and I'm sure that you have work to do tomorrow. So invite your friends and come back around noon. Sound good?" He knew that nopony in town would appreciate him keeping Pinkie up past her bedtime. Chaos worthy of Discord would surely ensue if she was tired.
"Do you Pinkie-Pie-Promise?" Pinkie demanded hopefully.
"Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye." Flater easily breezed through the motions.
"Then you got yourself a deal mister!" She grabbed a hoof and shook it enthusiastically. "See ya tomorrow!"
Flater blinked. She was gone it seemed. "Ah, she forgot her dictionary." He patted the page longingly with a pang of regret. It must be nice to be normal.
By now, the sun had long set on the horizon. I better rest up, long day tomorrow... Flater got up to turn the lights off. He returned to his couch to drift into a dreamless sleep.
"This is absolutely fascinating! I'll get my weekly report done in no time." Twilight Sparkle gushed, using her grape colored magic to sort pages into a manila folder. "I keep forgetting that you're Equestria's number one cryptozoologist. Your insight on griffons alone would make even Gilda question herself." The purple mare trotted over to where Flater was lazily writing on some loose leaf papers.
Twilight, while still happy to have morning study sessions with him, was a little disappointed that he had his disguise up. To the average eye, Flater seemed to be an off-white unicorn with large pupiless blank eyes and saw-blade shaped locks for a mane. How a pony could have so many shades of white on their body Twilight couldn't fathom. At least he left his scars visible.
Flater seemed to sense her staring at him; He turned nonchalantly and tilted his head. "What? Does my flesh wound offend you?"
Twilight shook her head quickly, coloring slightly. "Ha, no no! Not at all! I was...uh...trying to figure out what you were writing!" She put on a bad poker face.
"Kay. It's just a few things about kelpies." Flater shifted so Twilight could easily read over his shoulder.
Twilight Sparkle leaned over him, breath hitching slightly. She hadn't ever been this close to him before. He smelled glorious, like old paper and binding glue. The words on the page blurred as she blushed harder.
Flater's nostrils quivered as if he was breathing in a foalhood scent. It was the raw tangy aroma of infatuation. A little like love, but more prickly as it traveled through the nose. That was not good.
"Um...Flater, what word is this? Your hoofwriting is too sloppy." Twilight's eyelids lowered slightly, voice dropping an octave. She subconsciously started to close the gap between them. A fuzzy cloud of delirium had dropped hard onto her brain and was in control. Is this what being head-over-hooves felt like?
Flater pulled the blindness card, pretending to not notice her moving in on him. "Well, I have to check." He ducked his head closer to the page. Never mind that she didn't tell him what sentence she had left off on.
Twilight failed to perceive that his head had relocated. So she full-on collided with the wall nearby. The impact cleared her head enough to snap her out of it. "Oh my Celestia I'm so sorry." Her dark purple eyes widened in horror at what almost occurred. "It was like I wasn't in charge of my actions!"
Flater straightened up, a mental lightbulb lighting up his mind. "Stop me if this doesn't make sense; I emit pheromones that attract nearby females into giving me love. But only really at close range?"
"That's a decent theory that I don't want to test again." Twilight's cheeks burned as she scrabbled away from him. Holy hay, did normal Changelings possess this ability as well? Or was it just an accidental mutation thing? Either way, it would be yet another to study about Flater. He probably knew by now that these 'sessions' were really intel-gathering reports concerning him and his possible powers.
She parted her muzzle to speak. At the same time, Pinkie Pie galloped in toting a massive saddlebag stocked with snacks. Behind her trotted Applejack, Rarity, Fluttershy, and Rainbow Dash.
"Story time!" Pinkie hollered claiming the leather loveseat for herself.
"Flater dear, what is the meaning of this?" Rarity objected, completely confused.
"Yea. Pinkie just came through hollerin' about somethin' we had to hear." Applejack frowned at the amount of snacks.
"Will this take long?" Rainbow Dash was already up in the air, hovering like a bored vulture.
Fluttershy just fluffed pillows silently.
"Oh yes, the story. I did promise that didn't I?" Flater smiled slightly, walking over to the group.
"A story?" Twilight echoed trailing him.
"Yuppers! Sit by me Twily so he doesn't have to." Pinkie made room for the alicorn.
"Everypony, thank you for assembling in such a short notice." Flater carefully picked his way into the center near a glass coffee table. "I must admit that I've only been completely honest with some of you."
The mares gave each other perplexed glances.
"Uh, pardon sugercube?" Applejack raised an eyebrow.
"Just try not to scream too loudly." Flater took a deep breath, eyes clenching closed. With a few wispy grey swirls, his disguise went completely down.
Pinkie Pie clapped. "Impressive. I should throw an Unveiling Party!"
The remaining guests gaped in shocked awe. Flater still had the same mane style and coat color but otherwise he was completely transformed. He now stood a few heads taller than them on sturdy swiss-holed legs. His eyes appeared to be very much like a fly's, with each little square glittering a new variation of white. Fangs poked down from his upper jaws. A hard dusky white wing-case concealed his insect wings. The thorax section of his body was well defined by two matching bands that wrapped around his ribcage. For the most part he looked gangly, slightly scrawny. Especially with those still visible cutie scars, angry and glistening.
"Oh...oh my." Fluttershy gasped covering her head with a pillow. "Mr. Changeling thing please don't suck out my love, I need it for my animals. If you don't mind."
Twilight and Pinkie observed their other friends' reactions.
Rarity was forcing a smile, Applejack still gawked, and Rainbow Dash seemed on edge.
"Woah Twilight. You're telling me that this...thing...has taken up all of your time lately?" Applejack refused to break her one-sided eye contact with him in case he attacked.
"He's not a 'thing', that's Flater silly!" Pinkie Pie scoffed at the orange mare's remark.
"Of course Applejack. After my brother's wedding, I had to let go of my anger towards the Changelings. How can we learn from each other if we're fighting?" Twilight Sparkle carefully explained.
"Discrimination tears a nation ah guess..." Applejack relaxed some. That and Flater hadn't harmed any of them for as long as they were acquainted so far.
Flater jumped slightly as Rainbow Dash swooped in for a closer inspection. "Dang Flater! You got a top-notch flank."
"Rainbow! Not lady-like!" Rarity shrieked in embarrassment.
"What? I'm just trying to make the poor guy feel better about himself." Rainbow grumbled, alighting next to Twilight.
In the end the whole group (minus Pinkie and Fluttershy) stole a look to confirm if Rainbow Dash's claim was true.
"Erm, you aren't the first pony to point that out to me." Flater shifted his weight, unsure what to do in this situation. There was nowhere to turn to escape their curious eyes. He awkwardly waited for them to settle down and get over their initial reactions. "You guys good now?"
"Yes!" Chorused five mares.
"No." Whispered Fluttershy.
The hybrid selected a cushion and sat on the table. "I will warn you, my story isn't for the squeamish or lighthearted, nor the busy one. It's quite lengthy."
"That's fine bye." Fluttershy attempted to sneak away.
"Oh no you don't Flutters! I want to hear the part when he gets those cool scars." Rainbow Dash grabbed the yellow Pegasus by the tail and dragged her back.
"Okay, I guess I'll stay." Fluttershy sighed, ears drooping.
Flater smiled supportingly at the shy pony then began.
"It all started on a dreary day in May..."