• Published 6th Sep 2013
  • 12,256 Views, 1,047 Comments

Five Score: A New Hive - bossfight1

Chris, on his twenty-fifth birthday, begins going through some inhuman changes. Set in the Five Sco

  • ...

Chapter 21: Family is Forever

Chapter 21: Family is Forever

“You’re a jerk…” Trixie grumbled through the bucket, which I had hung around her head like a feed bag. I was walking by her side, keeping her from stumbling; she seemed to be feeling better—emotionally, at least—but she still had several cans of beer to walk off.

“Hey, look at it this way,” I said cheerfully. “If you vomit, you can lick it up and it’ll be like nothing happened!”

Trixie gagged through the bucket. “You’re not helping…” she said woozily.

We came around the side of the house to find the truck running, the bed closed and everyone—changelings and humans—gathered beside it. Liz and Dane seemed to have been trying to work things out; Liz’s arms were folded and her face was fixed into a forced neutral expression. As we approached, all eyes fell on us. Liz’s eyes fell on the bucket around Trixie’s muzzle. “You get stuck?” She laughed.

Trixie wrestled the bucket off and gave Liz a drunken glare. “I’m just… Just not feeling so hot… I’ll be okay…”

Dane put his hands in his pockets. “So, you guys are going?”

I nodded. “We’re going to Burlington first, to visit Trixie’s—Ray’s family. No reason we shouldn’t; Trixie deserves a chance to keep ties with her human family as much as anypony else. Then we’ll try and get to St. Louis by tomorrow night, assuming traffic isn’t a pile of ass.”

“And assuming you can go without stopping at a McDonald’s every ten miles…” Liz said with a smirk.

“Ha ha! Joke’s on you!” I said, pointing victoriously at her. “I can’t eat McDonald’s anymore--” I froze, then slumped my shoulders. “Awww, I just made myself sad…”

“So…” Dane said, dragging his foot along the dirt. “This is it?”

I looked at him. I was still somewhat unsure how to feel about him now. He’d been a real dick to me and Liz, but he helped us deal with Prima, even after I’d tried to get him arrested in a stupid prank. He was probably just trying to get his dad back to normal at first, but he still seemed genuinely concerned about Liz and I when he found out we were in trouble.

I exhaled deeply; whatever his reasons were, he ended up saving us. I approached him and held out my hand. “Yeah. Thanks for everything, Dane. I know we’ve had our ‘spats’ in the past, but… you still came to our rescue. I won’t forget that.”

Dane stared at my hand for a bit, then finally shook it. “It’s no problem, man… Look, I know I’ve been a complete douche to you guys. I just hope that we can put it all behind us.”

“Maybe,” I said, nodding. “I don’t know if we’ll be coming back, it depends on how things go down in Equestria.” I turned to Lucas, who was staring sadly at Trixie. “Thanks for letting us stay here, Luke.”

“You come back alive, all right?” He asked. “I wanna meet the Mane Six, you can put in a good word for me.”

I laughed, and held out a fist for the obligatory bro-hoof. “Sure thing, man.” Trixie approached Lucas, reared back and wrapped her forelegs around his neck.

“Thank you…” she said. Lucas hugged her tight, and the two parted.

“Let’s get rolling, huh?” I asked as I approached the driver side of the truck. The grubs were already piling all at once into the back seat, giving the expected ‘Ow’s and ‘Watch it’s I’d expected from them. Trixie climbed on the right side of the back, holding the sick bucket close; I noticed the grubs were trying their hardest to squeeze away from her. I climbed into the driver seat while Liz sat in the passenger side.

As I closed the door I noticed just how enormous the steering wheel was. “You okay to drive something this big?” Liz asked.

“...Define ‘okay’...” I said, biting my lip. I took the wheel. “How hard can it be, huh? Just have to take the size of the vehicle into account…” I started the truck and began pulling away. “Yeah, I can do this…” I said, nodding after we’d traveled twenty feet.


I screamed, swerving to the sides for a moment before calming down. I looked back at the cackling Digit and gave her my steeliest glare. “Do that again and I’ll have you turn into a sick bucket for Trixie.”

- - - - -

I glanced around the pitch darkness with my one functional eye. I couldn’t see him, but I knew he was there… I could feel his anger pulsing from him. I tried to lift myself up, but my legs were broken and bent at horrid angles… Not that I had anywhere to go, even if I could run.

“Please… Please, master, I’m--” my pleas were silenced by my screams again as horrible agony pulsed through my body. I convulsed madly, the wounds I’d gained from Chrysalis burning as though they were aflame.

“I had two simple jobs for you, Prima…” Discord said disapprovingly as the pain ceased, momentarily.. “Stop Chrysalis, and stop the Bearers. You couldn’t even stop Chrysalis with all the power I’d given you, how could I ever trust you to do anything else?”

“Please, it’s…” I breathed. “It’s not my fault, she—AAGGGHHH!!!” The pain returned. I rolled on my back, my shattered limbs flailing in agony before he stopped again. I lay on the ground, panting and sobbing, begging for sweet for release. “Please…”

I felt my head being turned to the side, clenched in an eagle talon. “Your excuses serve you no purpose, my dear little insect. Though, to be fair, I should expected this—changelings don’t have a good track record for brilliance, or usefulness.” My head was dropped to the floor, hard. A cloven hoof suddenly fell on my side and pressed down hard. “But that doesn’t mean you’re beyond a fitting punishment. You want to restore your people? To act as queen? I shall grant you your wish…”

There was a snap. There was a sudden rush of warmth—every ounce of pain I’d felt suddenly vanished. My legs mended themselves, I felt my ruined eye suddenly become restored. Shakily, I stood up, peering around the darkness. “Master?” I called.

A pain in my stomach made me lurch. I lay back down, panting as I felt something stirring within me.

It can’t be…

I suddenly knew what was happening, and what I needed to do. With a great deal of effort, I simply… pushed.

After a few painful minutes, I felt it leave me. I turned around and gasped—my first egg… Just like he’d promised! With a joyful sob I fell beside the egg and held it close. “Oh, my precious one… I, I don’t believe…”

Another pain in my stomach. This time I knew what it was, and I welcomed it. I turned around and laid this next egg. Each egg hurt less—it was common knowledge that if a Queen could get over the pains of birth quick, she was destined for greatness. Within minutes I’d laid ten beautiful eggs. I gathered them up and curled up behind them, tears of bliss falling down my face.


I looked at one of the eggs—the first one I’d laid. I gasped in joy and leaned towards it. “Yes, yes little one! Be the first… Be the first born to a glorious new era!”

The top of the egg popped off. A beautiful, healthy grub poked out with a happy chirp. Half laughing, half sobbing, I picked up the grub and held it close. “That shall be your name! Era! The harbinger of our people’s new generation!!”

Era chirped happily and nuzzled against me, her wings fluttering rapidly. I hugged her close, stroking her head.

Her wings stopped buzzing. I looked down at her to see her eyes wide open in shock. Her mouth slowly opened; a low gurgle escaped her throat.


Era twitched. Then she twitched again. The gurgling grew louder, and she flailed madly in my forelegs. “No, Era, no, NO!!” I screamed, holding her up. “No, please, little one, PLEASE, DON’T DO THIS!!”

Era gave one last spasm, and a vile purple liquid poured from her throat and out of her mouth. Then she was still with one rasping groan.

I shook my head. “NO! NO NO NO!!!” I shook Era rapidly. “Wake up!! WAKE UP!! PLEASE!!

Crack Crack Crack Crack

I looked down to see the other eggs beginning to hatch. Several grubs poked out, peering about in wonder.

For a single moment I wondered if any of them could live beyond a single minute.

Then they all twitched, simultaneously. Their heads arched back, and vomited that same purple slime before slumping over, dead. I dropped Era and shook a pair of them, my breathing rapid and shallow.

Another pain in my stomach. I fell over, and felt multiple eggs spawn from me. I looked back to see the eggs, so glorious, so full of such beautiful potential…

They began hatching within seconds. Within ten the grubs within were all poking out, all staring at me, their eyes full of hope.

Within thirty they were all choking on that vile poison that rose from their stomachs. I screamed in anguish, clutching my head in my hooves. Somewhere, in the distance, I could hear laughter…

- - - - -

I was only half-aware of the traffic as I drove down Route 89 towards Burlington. This was, by far, the longest I’d ever driven in my life. If I didn’t have my iPod playing some audiobooks along the way—we’d almost finished listening to Mogworld—I probably would have lost it. We’d only stopped a couple times, both to get food and get a quick piss break. The grubs and I didn’t need to ‘relieve’ ourselves—no digestive tracts meant no ‘output’. Trixie had some trouble, though; we needed to find a specific rest stop and make absolutely sure no one came in while she did her business. While we did that, Liz got her and Trixie some food, which I watched them eat with envy. I’m fucking positive Liz got Swedish Fish just to rub it in my face. We also got Trixie a fair amount of painkillers, to help her get over the hangover she got from sleeping off her inebriation.

It was about three hours into the drive that things got interesting—relatively speaking. Trixie, Shift and Echo were sound asleep while Digit was staring dreamily out the window at the passing traffic. “As much as I love Yahtzee…” Liz said, finally. “Let’s get something potentially useful, huh?” She fiddled with the knobs on the radio and put it on the news.

“...the sighting of an unknown flier, streaking over the US/Canadian border, early this morning…” said the radio. I turned up the volume, my interest piqued.

“The unknown object was traced to a small mansion in Seattle, which was discovered to be the base of operations for the group responsible for the bookstore bombing on the 3rd. The terrorists detonated an unidentified brand of explosive, for an unknown purpose, but were quickly incarcerated and are awaiting questioning. The mysterious airborne vessel, which was reported to be trailing…” The reporter paused. “...I’m sorry, is that…? It is? Okay… Which was reported to be trailing a rainbow-patterned trail…”

I jerked the wheel to the right, in the driving equivalent of a spit-take. I quickly righted myself and listened to the radio again. “Until further notice., the UN has announced that the Canadian border is to be closed. When asked for specifics on the flier, Air Force officials had no comment…”

As the news went on to the more political side of things, I looked to Liz, whose jaw practically reached her knees. “‘Rainbow-patterned?’” I asked, dumbfounded.

Seattle?!” She added.

Canadian?!” Digit asked, mock-dramatically, earning a look from everyone else.

“What is Rainbow Dash doing??” Liz asked.

“Must be serious if she’s risking flying over the damn border…” I mused. “What about that mansion place they mentioned?”

“We can ask when we find them, I guess,” Liz said. I nodded, but I couldn’t help but feel worried about Dash…

And the rest of the Mane Six as a result.

I’m worried, too, Chrysalis whispered in my head.

They stopped us—you—me, whatever—back at the wedding, I thought. It’s not too great a stretch of logic to assume they can deal with a few asshole humans.

And if it’s not humans? Chrysalis asked.

I had no response.

- - - - -

Finally, after four and a half hours of increasing pain in the lower backside for everyone involved, we reached Burlington. Trixie leaned over the back of the front seat and gave us directions as to where her family lived. We found their house on a street not too far from Lake Champlain—a pleasant little place on the street corner. We needed to park in a store parking lot some distance away to avoid drawing attention to the huge-ass U-Haul that was our ride, and surround Trixie as we walked towards her house.

“Okay, this is it…” I said, gesturing at the house. “Nice place to grow up in, huh?” Trixie was silent. I looked over to see her hesitating, only kept in cover when Digit and Shift bumped into her from behind. “Trixie?”

Trixie simply stared at the house, her face unreadable. “...I don’t know if I can…” She said, falling to her haunches. “I just… What if they don’t…?”

I laid a hand on her shoulder. “Hey… Whatever happens, good or bad, we’re here for you, okay?” She didn’t look convinced. Liz knelt beside her.

“How about this for a plan?” She said. “Chris and I will head over, introduce ourselves, and explain that you’ve gone through some… changes. We’ll try and… soften the blow, as it were, okay? Then we’ll come get you. Sound good?”

Trixie was silent for a moment, then she nodded. “...Okay. Okay, I think that’ll work…” She took a deep breath. “Hopefully.”

I looked to the grubs and pulled out my cell phone. “Take this, and we’ll call you when it’s time for you to come, okay?”

Digit immediately snatched the phone from my hand and flipped through the apps. “I’ll handle the phone!”

Shift quickly grabbed it from her. “By that you mean, ‘I’ll be playing Angry Birds’.”

“No…” Digit said defensively. “...Fruit Ninja.”

“Shift’s on phone duty,” I said firmly. “Come in as soon as we text you, okay?” The grubs nodded as Liz and I turned and approached the house.

“So, what do we tell them?” Liz asked as I watched the grubs encircle Trixie and walk her back towards the brush.

“Just tell them that Ray went through some changes, and that while he may not be… human again, he hasn’t changed all that much and loves them just the same,” I said. “It’s not exactly guaranteed to keep Trixie from being disowned, but it should help lessen the shock.”

“And what if they’re not happy with it?” Liz asked as we approached the door.

“...Then Trixie will need us more than ever,” I said solemnly. “We’ll be there for her the whole time.” I took a deep breath as we stood in front of the red-painted door. “Okay, here we go.” I knocked.

There were a few seconds of inactivity before the door opened. In the doorway stood a man with glasses and a very respectable mustache—not Dusty or Mustache Dad levels of awesome, but, still, quite impressive. “Yes?”

“Mr. Bassett?” I asked; he nodded. “I’m Chris, and this is Liz, we’re… friends of Ray’s, back in Augusta. We kinda… need to talk about something.”

“Is he in trouble?” He asked, frowning.

Liz shook her head. “No, sh-- he’s just… This is just something we feel we should discuss inside, you know? It’s really important.”

Mr. Bassett stared at us for a moment before sighing. “All right, come on in.” He turned and led us inside. The place had a fair amount of fancy-looking sculptures lining the walls and furniture, and seemed quite comfortable. We followed Mr. Bassett as he turned left out of the hallway and into a living room, with a couch and three matching chairs.

“Is your wife home, Mr. Bassett?” I asked. “It might be best if we tell you both… And I think Ray mentioned a sister?”

“Please, call me Derek,” he said, waving a hand dismissively. “And yeah, they’re home. Mary! Becky!” He called. “Could you come here, please?”

“Be right there!” Came a voice from the kitchen.

“Coming!” Came another from upstairs. In a few moments a woman with long hair tied into a ponytail and wearing a casual blouse entered. She was followed by a young girl who looked to be about seventeen, with short brown hair and a red t-shirt.

“Who’s this?” The woman asked as she noticed us.

“Uh, I’m Chris Barton,” I said. “And this is my girlfriend, Liz. We’re friends of Ray’s, we’ve come here ‘cause there’s… something we need to talk about.”

The woman nodded slowly while the teen sat in a chair beside her father. “O-Okay, I’m Mary, this is Becky.” Liz smiled warmly at Becky, who gave us an odd look. Mary sat down beside Derek. “So, what’s this about Ray? Is something wrong?”

“No…” I said quickly. “Well, sorta-kinda… I mean, he’s fine at the moment, all things considered, I mean…” Liz laid a hand on my leg; I was never good at giving news like this. “All right,” I breathed. “Over two weeks ago, on Ray’s birthday, he started going through some… changes, okay? He, uh… found a weird... tattoo, let’s call it, on both of his outer thighs, and over the next few days his hair started turning a… pale blue.”

The Bassetts’ faces became lined with concern. “Is he sick?” Derek asked, leaning forward.

“No, not exactly…” I said, wringing my hands. “See, he’s one of… god, hundreds, if not thousands of people who’re turning into…” I’d almost said the ‘P’ word. “Who are affected. You might’ve heard some things, like, uh…” I snapped my fingers. “The border scare, earlier this morning? The Canadian border, and Seattle?”

Derek nodded. “Yeah, we’d heard about that.”

“Well, that’s part of it,” I said. “That was one of the… affected. People across the nation—hell, maybe the planet—are… changing. It took a few days for the changes to… finish, you know, but, as far as we know, it’s… It’s irreversible.”

Mary slowly raised a hand to her mouth. “Does it hurt?” She asked.

I shook my head quickly. “No, no! Ray’s fine, it’s just…” I took a deep breath. “See, the changes are more than physical. He’s had some little… personality quirks as well, but as a whole Ray’s more or less the same.”

“Do you know what caused the change?” Derek asked.

And there was the golden question, the one I dreaded the most. I sighed. “...See, here’s the thing…” I bit my lip. How do I break this to them without making it feel like I’m just taking the piss?

Finally, I decided to bite the bullet. “Your son is… sorta-kinda… a reincarnation of someone from a far-off world. Everyone affected isn’t just turning into… something different, they’re just… more or less shedding a human shell.”

The looks on their faces—a mix of disbelief and confusion—told me I was doing a shit job of explaining things, not that I had my doubts. “I guess this might carry more weight if Ray was here.” I looked to Liz, and she withdrew her cell. She sent a quick text to my phone and put it away.

“What are you doing?” Mary asked.

“Ray’s on his way,” I said softly, wringing my hands awkwardly. There were a few moments of tense silence before the doorbell rang. Derek made to stand up, but I quickly got to my feet. “No, no, I’ll get it.”

I hurried into the entryway and, making sure none of the Bassetts had followed me, opened the door. Trixie was standing stock-still on the top step, the grubs standing behind her. I stood to the side to allow Trixie to pass, but she didn’t move. Her eyes were filled with anguish and terror. Frowning, I knelt down and laid a hand on her shoulder. “Hey…” I whispered. “It’s okay. Whatever happens, we’re here for you. I promise.”

Trixie slowly nodded and took a shaky first step into her childhood home. I took my phone from Shift and gestured for the grubs to stay outside, then stood up and slowly walked Trixie through the hallway, and into the living room.

The moment she came into view Derek shot up and stood beside Mary and Becky. “What is…” he began, but I quickly cut him off with a rapid hand gesture. I looked down to see Trixie screwing her eyes shut, tears leaking through her eyelids.

“Wait…” said Becky. She slowly stood up and tilted her head to the side as she took Trixie in. “You look familiar…”

This could be good, I thought. I quickly nodded. “Yeah, you… might’ve seen her on TV, you know?”

Trixie slowly opened her eyes and looked at her family. “...hi, guys…” she whispered.

Derek relaxed ever-so-slightly and backed off. “I don’t understand…” he breathed.

While Becky sat down I brought Trixie over to the couch and sat her next to Liz before sitting on the other side. “Like I said, she’s gone through some… major changes.”

“Trixie!” Becky said suddenly, pointing at her. “That’s your name!”

Trixie nodded weakly. “Yeah…”

I looked over at the Bassetts. Mary looked like she was in shock and due to faint at any moment, Becky looked more curious than confused, and Derek looked like he was ready to stop Trixie from consuming the faces of his family.

“You’re really…” Mary said quietly, almost in a whisper. “You’re really our Ray?”

Trixie nodded. “Yes…”

“Why don’t you ask him some questions?” Liz asked suddenly. “Help Trix—help him prove he’s really Ray?”

Derek slowly nodded. “Yeah, that… That might help.” He put a hand to his chin and thought for a moment. “...All right. Your first date. When was it, who was it with, and where did you take her?”

Trixie perked up her ears. “Junior year in high school, with Dana Mosely, and I took her to see a movie… Uh, Chronicle. Afterwards we went to Perry’s Fish House” She looked at Derek. “You drove us,” she finished with a soft smile.

Derek’s eyes slowly widened. Mary leaned forward. “When you were three years old, you had a favorite game that you constantly wanted me to play with you. What was it?”

Trixie laughed. “Road Runner… I’d always want you to try and catch me. You always tried, either to play along or to keep me from breaking anything and everything…” She broke into hysterical sniggers, occasionally broken apart by a soft sniffle. Mary stared at Trixie, her disbelief fading.

Becky was last. She got up and marched towards Trixie before kneeling before her. She laid a hand on her hoof. “When I was a baby…” she said. “You were always there for me. You had a song you’d sing to me if I was crying. It always calmed me down.”

“I never was a good singer…” Trixie said sheepishly.

“What was the song?” Becky asked.

Trixie stared at Becky for a few moments before sighing.

No more talk of darkness…
Forget these wide-eyed fears…
I’m here, nothing will harm you…
My words will warm and calm you…

Trixie’s voice was nice, better than I expected, to be honest. I was always a fan of musicals, and I felt this one was a nice choice for a lullaby—gentle and soothing (at the start at least), with, for the most part, fitting lyrics for calming a fearful girl.

Becky’s eyes began filling with tears as a hand came to her mouth. Trixie’s voice trailed off as she took in Becky’s reaction. “...Becky?” She asked.

Becky flung her arms around Trixie’s neck. “It is you!!” She said, her shoulders heaving.

Trixie awkwardly wrapped her forelegs around Becky. “Yes!” She said, breaking down. “Yes, it’s me, it’s me…” She sobbed into Becky’s shoulder.

Derek and Mary slowly stood up, taking in the display—their daughter, hugging a pony that claimed to be their son.

Finally, Mary stepped forward. Liz and I tactfully stood from the couch and allowed the family their space. Derek tentatively approached as Mary sat in Liz’s place and put an arm around Trixie. Liz and I sat in the recently vacated chairs and waited patiently while Derek awkwardly put a hand on Trixie’s shoulder.

Trixie glanced between Mary and Derek. There was a beat, during which the parents looked at each other, before the parents hugged their transformed child, all doubt gone. Trixie cried silently into her sister’s shoulder, her sobs filled with both sadness and joyful relief.

The display gave me a warm feeling—that your family could never leave you, so long as you stayed… you.

It made my impending visit to my own family a bit less foreboding.

After about ten minutes of silence, broken apart by the occasional sniffle or quiet sob, Derek finally looked over to us. “You were telling us how… how this happened?”

I nodded and looked to Becky. “Becky, uh… You seem to know who Trixie is… Does that mean you watched the rest of MLP?”

Becky slipped her arms from around Trixie’s neck and turned to us. “No, I just… I watched a few early episodes, since a lot of guys in school kept gushing about how awesome it apparently was. I thought it was okay, but I didn’t really get into it.”

“That’s okay,” I said, nodding. “Well, see, the series finale involved Discord—an evil spirit of chaos—banishing the ponies from Equestria and conquering it.” I sighed. “The truth is, Equestria—the setting of the show—is real. Everything that happened on the show happened twenty-five years ago. Discord banished every pony he found and, somehow, made them be reborn… as humans.” I nodded at Trixie. “And now, twenty-five years later, the curse is fading, and we’re returning to normal--”

My hands flew to my mouth. Oops.

“‘We’?” Mary asked.

“Not important,” I said quickly, lowering my hand. “See, what I’m saying is… Ray Bassett was… more or less a shell, holding Trixie Lulamoon under a curse. It’s worn off now, and over the course of a few days Ray became less and less human. By the fourth, Ray was a full-blown pony.”

“Is there a way to…” Derek said. “...to make him human again?”

I shrugged. “Short of Discord using his magic on her, I don’t think so.”

“So…” Mary said slowly. “Our Ray is gone?”

Trixie turned to her human mother. “NO! NO, HE’S NOT!!” She cried. “Guys, I may be remembering my past life, more and more as time goes on, but that doesn’t mean the last twenty-five years have been a lie—I know that now!! And I may be different from now on, I may not truly be from… from this world, but… But that doesn’t mean you mean nothing to me. I…” Her breath caught for a moment. “I love you all too much to just forget…” She broke down again. “I don’t want to lose you…”

Mary stared empathetically at her ponyfied child before hugging her close. “...You won’t, sweetie… You won’t…” Becky got up from the floor and squeezed herself between Trixie and Derek before hugging her sibling again.

Derek put his head in his hands. “So… What happens now? I doubt you’ve been able to walk about in public with him like this… Should he stay indoors from now on? Just keep to himself?”

I shook my head. “No. Remember, there are potentially thousands of returning ponies across this nation alone. Odds are, discretion is becoming a less viable option with each passing day.” I shifted uncomfortably. “There’s also something we—the Equestrians, need to do.”

The Bassetts looked up at us, Trixie included. “While Trixie is free to decide for herself,” I explained. “Many other ponies whose memories of their lives are returning, are likely to search for a way home, to stop Discord and… and save Equestria. So while we don’t want to lose track of our human lives, we still have our old home to reclaim.”

“So Ray’s really leaving? Forever?” Becky asked.

I opened my mouth to respond, to quickly tell her we’d come back, but I froze; what if we found Equestria, but found the way there was a one-way road? What if we did have to lose our human lives to reclaim our Equestrian roots? How didn’t I think of this sooner?

“Chris?” Liz asked, breaking me out of my trance.

“It’s fine, I…” I shook my head and looked at Becky. “I don’t know if it would be forever. It could be, I really don’t know.” I looked at Trixie. “But this is your choice, Trixie. We—Liz and I, we’re going to find the other ponies and search for a way home. You don’t have to come with us if you don’t want to.”

Trixie stared at the floor for a few moments. “...I guess I… I need some time, you know? To think.”

I nodded and stood up. “Take all the time you need.” I nodded at Liz, who stood up. I pulled out my cell phone and left it on the table next to the couch. “We’ll be waiting in the truck, just call Liz’s phone when you’ve made a decision, okay?”

Trixie nodded before hugging her family close. “Thank you…” she whispered to us.

- - - - -

“You know one of the perks of being a guy?” I asked, an hour later, while I lay in the truck bed as Chrysalis. The usual stomach pains were returning, but by now I was almost jaded about the affair. Liz was sitting in the far corner reading a book under her cellphone’s light, while the grubs were in the cab, asleep.

“Hmm?” She asked.

“When you’re a guy, you don’t have to put up with this ‘miracle of birth’ crap-- GRAAAGH!!”

Splat. I turned around and counted. “...four, five. Putting us at… thirty-five.”

“So, do we know if you can reduce the number of eggs you lay, yet?” Liz asked, peeking over her book.

“If I’m well-fed, I’ll lay them in greater quantities,” I said.

“Maybe we should… take it easy on the feeding, you know?” Liz asked. “I mean, we’ve been spending a lot of time together, maybe we should slow down a little bit.”

I piled the new eggs closer to the others, giving a small amount of love to each—not enough to hatch them, but enough to keep them fed. “I know, but… The thing about changelings is, love isn’t just our only food source… It’s an addiction. When you left after my stunt with Dane’s car, I started going into withdrawal. I turned into Bedford’s cat and fed off her a little bit, just before Trixie showed up.”

“Maybe, in time, you’ll be less dependent on love,” Liz said, closing her book and standing up. “You’ll be able to more easily manage changeling numbers.”

“Yeah…” I said, nodding. “Though that doesn’t solve the issue of feeding the changelings I do birth. Changelings could live as individuals, find ponies to be with, but if our people get too numerous, we might outnumber ponies overall.”

“...What about humans?” Liz asked.

I was still for a moment. “You mean…” I said. “...Changelings living with both ponies and humans?”

Liz nodded. “Essentially. Spread your people out through both worlds, enough so neither world is blanketed by grubs.”

That could work; I wouldn’t be so much the center of a hive mind, and more of an actual queen, making vital decisions for the good of my people, from a political stance. “This is under the assumption that we can keep coming to and from Equestria,” I said.

The word ‘we’ rang in my head, and I looked at Liz. “...What about you?”

“What about me?” Liz asked.

“I can’t ask you to come to Equestria with me…” I said. “You’ve already given up so much to help me through this…”

“Stop.” Liz approached me and put her hands on either side of my face. “If I wasn’t ready for any of this, I would have left a long time ago. I love you, Chrys. No matter how weird, how complicated this gets… I’ll stick with you.”

I lifted a hoof and pressed it to her hand. “I love you…” was all I could really say.

Liz’s phone rang. Liz pulled it out, looked at the caller, then at me. “It’s Trixie.” She answered the phone. “Yeah? ...Okay… Yeah, we’ll be there in a second.” She hung up. “They want us over for dinner.”

- - - - -

Leaving the grubs asleep in the truck cab, we went to the Bassett’s home a few minutes later. The smell of fresh dinner reached our nostrils as we entered. “In here, guys,” came Trixie’s voice from a room down the hall from the living room. Liz and I followed the voice and entered a dining room. Trixie was sitting next to Becky, while Mary sat across from them and Derek sat at the head. The table had cold cuts, green beans and corn served on large plates.

“We thought we could at least feed you,” Mary said. “From what Ray has told us, you’ve been so much help to him…”

I gave a sheepish laugh as I sat at the end of the table, while Liz sat next to Mary. “Well, all we did was give her a place to stay.”

“You did a lot more than that,” Trixie said earnestly. “You’ve been the best friends I’ve ever had, and I’ve only known you for two weeks.”

“Please, eat!” Mary said, passing the ham to Derek, who took it in stiff hands. He loaded his plate and handed it to Trixie, who took it in her magic. The appearance of a purple haze around the plate made Derek flinch slightly, but Trixie didn’t notice as she immediately passed the plate to Becky.

Becky frowned as she took the plate. “You don’t want ham?” She asked.

Trixie shook her head sadly. “Can’t eat meat anymore… Pony, and all that.” Becky nodded knowingly and loaded her plate before handing the platter to me. I quickly handed it off to Liz, earning a look from the Bassetts.

“I’m… affected the same way Trixie is, sort of. Not exactly a pony, but I can’t eat… well, anything.”

Derek raised an eyebrow. “How have you changed?” He asked.

“I’d rather not say…” I said, looking down at my empty plate.

“Honey, it’s not important…” Mary said to Derek, putting a hand on his. Derek nodded slowly and began to eat as Liz passed the ham over to Mary.

The meal proceeded in silence. I kept looking at Trixie, expecting her to relay her decision, but she kept eating her corn and green beans. She tried to look calm, but there was a sadness still visible, deep in her eyes.

“So, what do you guys do?” Liz asked, breaking the ice.

“Well, I’m a sculptor and part-time architect,” Mary said conversationally. “I’ve helped design a couple places around town, but most of our income comes from the pieces I’ve sold.”

I looked in the corner to see a lovely lamp, built from chrome, looping up from a foot-wide base and into shape like a curved blade of grass. At the point where the shaft ended, the light bulb was screwed in, shining light that reflected off the curved end and illuminating the room. “Did you make that?” I asked.

“One of my first pieces,” Mary said proudly. “People liked the design, so I’ve made some more to sell, but that one’s the very first. I could never part with it.”

“How about you, Derek?” Liz asked as I turned back towards the table.

“I’m a middle-school teacher,” Derek said, not looking up from his plate. “Teaching science, chemistry, stuff like that.”

I glanced over at Becky and smiled. “Were you in his class when you were in middle school?”

Becky nodded. “He didn’t give me any free passes…” she snickered.

“Still, if you needed help with the class, you didn’t have to go far,” I said, nodding. “So, how about you, Becky? You got any big plans for when you’re out of high school?”

“I’m graduating next year,” Becky said. “Afterwards I’m going to college, locally. I wanna be a novelist, like Rowling or Adams…”

“If you say ‘Meyer’, I’m gonna flip,” I said, mock-sternly. Becky broke into snorting laughter while Trixie tried, and failed, to hide her own snickering.

“So, what about you, Chris?” Mary asked. “What do you do?”

I felt my throat become scratchy, as it does when faced with a potentially bad situation. “Er, I was going to University of Maine Augusta. Was looking to get a liberal studies major, just a ‘jack of all trades’ kinda thing to have under my belt while I figure out what I really want to do.”

“You were going?” Derek asked calmly, taking another bite without looking up.

“Yeah, uh, things got… complicated.” I wringed my hands in my lap.

“And you, Liz?” Mary asked, in the loud tone that begs for a change of subject.

“I was going for Psychology,” Liz said. “I like helping people get past the hurdles life throws at you, you know? Sometimes you just don’t know what to do.”

I looked over at Trixie. “And Trixie said she wanted to run track…”


All eyes fell on Derek, who was finally looking up.

Ooohh boy, I thought.

“‘Ray said he wanted to run track,’” Derek said, dangerously.

I nodded. “Yes, Trixie and Ray are one in the same,” I said slowly. “We’ve just… We’ve grown accustomed to calling her that.”

“Dad, it’s fine…” Trixie said carefully. “I don’t care either way…”

I care!” Derek said. “My son—my twenty-five year old son—comes home one day, not only as an… alien, but as a female?!”

“That’s what’s bothering you?!” I asked, aghast.

“Yes! I mean, no!! I just—URGH!!” Derek stood up. “My son’s life is gone, and every time you call him by that name is just another reminder of that, hammered into my skull!! That all the years I spent loving him, supporting him, giving him everything a father could give—they were all for nothing?!”

“Of course they weren’t!!” I argued, standing up. “I mean, yeah, Trixie might not know the life you’d expected, but that doesn’t mean you’ve wasted anything on her!!”

Trixie stood up. “Stop! Please!!”

“Ray had so much going for him!!” Derek yelled. “Graduation, wedding day, kids… And all of that’s been pissed away!!”

“I know!” I yelled. “Believe me, I know!!”


I glowered at him for a moment.

I changed form. In an instant, I stood as Chrysalis before the Bassetts, knocking the chair behind me over. Mary and Becky screamed as Derek stumbled back and collided painfully with the wall behind him. Liz and Trixie stared at me, surprised.

“I may have a few... advantages…” I said slowly, trying to remain calm. “But that doesn’t mean I can just live my human life. I can’t ignore what I’ve become, but I don’t have to forget who I was—who I still am. Yes, our human lives are, as far as I can see, out of reach. But we can’t just give up. We may not live the lives we’d intended, but we’ll live… As happily as we can. Because really, that’s all one can really ask for in the long run.”

I turned back into Chris, put the chair back on its legs and sat down. The Bassetts stared at me for a few agonizing moments. I was worried Derek might go upstairs and get a gun or something, but instead he slowly sat back in his chair, never taking his eyes off me. Trixie sat beside him, staring at her plate.

The six of us remained perfectly still for a few silent minutes. Finally, Trixie spoke up. “Guys? ...I’m going with them.”

Derek, Mary and Becky all turned to her. “What?!” Derek asked.

“I… I can’t just sit idly by. My home—my true home, is being twisted and corrupted by a mad god… I don’t want to just wait here and hope for things to work out. I need to go with them, to help them in any way I can. I don’t know if we’ll be able to find a way there, but I’ll feel better that I tried. I don’t know if I’ll come back—and believe me, I hope I do. But my friends are putting themselves at risk. I owe them nothing less.”

Derek stared at Trixie mournfully. “But…”

“I love you guys more than anything…” Trixie said, looking between her parents and her sister. “But… but I have a duty to Equestria. One way or another, I need to see it through.”

Becky stood up and laid a hand on Trixie’s shoulder. “I think you should go.”

“Becky!” Derek said.

“If this is something you feel you need to do, then we have no right to stop you,” Becky said, ignoring Derek’s protest. “And I know you’ll make every effort to come back home.”

Trixie looked at her sister lovingly before standing up, rearing back and throwing her forelegs around Becky’s shoulders. “I love you, Becky… I love you all so much.”

Mary stood up, walked around the table and knelt beside Trixie, who detached from Becky. “I know you’re still my baby boy…”

To an extent, I thought, opting to keep that thought to myself.

“And even though I’m sad I may not see what every parent hopes to see their children do… I know this doesn’t have to change everything. Just promise me, Ray… Promise me, you’ll come home, safe and sound.”

Trixie nodded quickly and hugged her mother. “I promise,” she said firmly.

I looked to Derek, who slowly stood up, his eyes closed. He walked over to Trixie, breathing deep through his nose. Finally, he opened his eyes, knelt next to Trixie, and nodded. “I…” he began, but his words died in his throat.

Trixie hugged him. “I know, Dad. It’s okay. I love you, too.”

Derek slowly returned the hug. “Just be safe…” he whispered. “For all of our sakes…”

- - - - -

I pulled the truck up the street and parked it in front of the Bassett’s residence. It was about 7PM now; I wanted to get to my parents’ place in St. Louis by the following night. I was in no rush, and I hated to deny Trixie more time to say goodbye to her family, but she seemed to have said everything that could have been said. Liz came out of the house and stood by the front step as the silhouette of Trixie and her family gave one last, tight embrace.

“I think so…” I said. “I can only hope talking to my own family goes this well.”

“How do you think they’ll react to us?” Shift asked.

“Honestly, I envy Trixie, in that her situation was, however marginally, more simple than my own,” I said. “I dunno, maybe things will go smoothly, or maybe Dad will chase us from the house with a 12-gauge that I… don’t know if he actually has. The point is, we won’t know until we get there. Okay, looks like they’re wrapping up.” Liz was walking with Trixie down the front steps, Trixie draped in a coat in a poor attempt at concealment. It was dark, though, and there wasn’t anyone on the street.

The grubs scooted over as the door opened and Trixie clambered in. Liz sat beside me. “Everything okay?” I asked.

Liz nodded. “Yeah, I think so…”

I looked back at Trixie, who was staring out her window at the house. “...You alright?” I asked.

“...Yeah…” Trixie said, nodding slowly. “Yeah, I think I am.” Her eyes were still red with tears, but otherwise she seemed… content, for the most part.

“Hey,” I said, reaching a hand back; Trixie looked at me. “We’re here if you need us, okay?”

Trixie looked at my hand for a moment, then put a hoof in it. “Thanks, Chrys… For everything.”

I smiled, then faced forward again. “Okay, today’s drive was just a warmup. No sleep ‘till Missouri!”

Author's Note:

Another big'un. Next chapter we meet Chris's family. Afterwards, IOWA HO!

Feedback in the comments, as always.