• Published 31st Oct 2013
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Citizen Weevil - Magic Man



A changeling immigrant, Weevil, and his family, try their best to live their lives in the savage urban jungle of Manehattan.

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Chapter Four: Growing Family, Part I

Citizen Weevil

Chapter Four

Growing Family, Part I

Saturday mornings were, among many things in his sad, pitiful life, the bane of Weevil’s existence. It was the busiest day of the week for the store. It was good for business, but not so much for the stress vein pounding on the poor changeling’s temple.

“Here you are, Mrs. Tea Cosy.” Weevil hurriedly finished packing her woolly saddlebag and slid it and her change across the counter. “I’m sorry for the wait.”

Tea Cosy rolled her eyes irritably and took off with her heavy bag of prune juice, hardly making a dent in the ridiculously long line of customers, who were growing more aggravated and restless by the minute.

“C’mon, Weevil!”

“This is getting ridiculous!”

“Hey, who touched my flank? Somepony touched my flank!”

“Okay, everyone! Everyone!” he shouted over the customers’ screaming kids who were running up and down the aisles. “Listen, I know this is taking way longer than it should and I’m sorry, but if you’ll all please just bear with me, we can get this done faster—hey! HEY!” He saw a trio of colts going for a joyride on the revolving greeting card stand, throwing greeting cards all over the floor. “You kids stop that! That isn’t a ride! Lady, could you please tell your kids to cut that out?!”

The colts’ mother, who was too preoccupied with reading a gossip rag of which she probably had no intention of buying, dully told her disobedient kids without so much as looking at them, “Kids, don’t mess with the nice bug pony’s things...”

Weevil looked like he was about to wring that dumb, welfare-dependant mare’s neck when he heard somechangeling else call his name from across the store and driving yet another nail into his splitting head.

“Hey, Weevil! Weevil!” Cueball appeared from behind the aisle corner, an open pint of milk in hoof. “I think your milk’s gone bad.” He opened the lid and took a whiff, but immediately recoiled and held his muzzle. “Oh yeah, that’s rank!”

“Cueball, what are you doing drinking my milk?!”

He wiped the white moustache from his lip and shrugged, “But how else am I supposed to know if it’s any good?”

“What are you—you buy it first, then taste it, you idiot!” he growled as he juggled ringing up the next customer’s bag of frozen hayfries and taming the serious urge to glass that mouldy milk in his nincompoop buddy’s face.

“What? Do ya want me drinking spoiled milk?”

“Okay, I’ll deal with it! Just give me a minute!”

Two hours. That was how long the store had been open and already Weevil wanted to set the whole building and everychangeling in it on fire. Echo was upstairs right now with the children, doing Kami knows what during their ‘mommy time’ and left him alone to these wolves. Just as worse, he’d managed to get barely any sleep last night and the stress was already giving him his hundredth headache that month.

And the real icing on the cake? The keys on the cash register were sticking again. It was like that ever since Shroud accidentally spilled his soda on it, which made ringing up hordes of unbearably rude, obnoxious customers even longer.

If he had to clean up one more filly’s spilled juice box or pick up a stand that’d been knocked down for a third time, he swore he was going to... to... okay, he didn’t exactly know what he’d do, but you bet it was gonna be ugly!

“H-Hey, uh, is my milk off, too?” queried the next young, nervous pony customer, donned in very stereotypical nerdish clothing, complete with thick glasses and braces. He looked at his pint with unease as if it were radioactively contaminated. “I’m working on a big college project, right now. I can’t afford to get sick.”

“I don’t know, maybe,” he answered testily, wanting just to bag his groceries and hurry the line along. “I can’t tell; there’s no expiration date on the bottles.”

“Well, that’s stupid!” remarked the old stallion standing next in line.

“I didn’t make the bottles, Pocket Watch!”

“Couldn’t I just taste it like that guy there?” The nerdy pony gestured to Cueball, still standing stupidly like a lost chimpanzee with his own pint, even curiously sniffing it.

“No, because if you open it, I can’t sell it.”

Pocket Watch piped up again, “If it’s off, why would you sell it, anyway?”

The nerdy pony, meanwhile, had already secretly opened and gave his milk a taste. Almost instantly, the poor fool sprayed it out over the counter and clasped his throat, gagging, “Ugh! Oh! That tastes like pee! Dear Celestia, I think I’m gonna hurl!”

Weevil, covered in soured milk and incompletely exasperated at this point, threw his forelegs in the air and barked, “Alright, that’s it! Gimme that!” He angrily snatched the bottle from the nerdy pony and banged it hard on the counter. “There, no milk for anychangeling! Happy?”

“What about my babies’ yoghurt?” demanded a changeling mare at the back of the line who was simultaneously carrying her three crying hatchlings and her week’s supply of groceries. “That better not be off, too!”

“Well, if you don’t like it, why don’t you all just go to Muleshnik’s?!” Weevil yelled, flipping out on the poor bespectacled shmuck still standing in front of him. His cheeks were now burning lime green and his voice was on the verge of cracking. He then snapped his hoof out the door to the store opposite the street. “Unless you mind everything you buy tasting like hoof ointment, you can always go and shop there, you know! Be my guest!”

Perhaps that wasn’t the best suggestion, as a number of customers dropped their groceries then and there and began filing out the store, the frightened nerdy pony being the first to flee in fear as he wiped his soured tongue on his collar.

“Yeah? Well, at least there it doesn’t take half an hour to get served!” Pocket Watch huffed on his way out. “And Muleshink’s got arthritis, for Celestia’s sake!”

An elderly griffin who had the appearance of a shrivelled up turkey added distastefully after he discarded his bag, “Ja, and he doesn’t put the eggs at the bottom. Who does that?”

With most of the customers gone and his line cut half, Weevil buried his face in his hooves and groaned into them cathartically. Great, that was several customers he’d lost to that damn donkey’s store! And after that outburst, it’d be a real struggle getting them back.

“Feeling better?” he heard Gilda’s distinctive voice ask him. Through the holes in his hooves he watched the griffin drop a six pack of griffin-imported beer on the counter, while tapping her talon against her bright banana of a beak gently. “Seriously, Weev, you’ve still got some foam on your lips there.”

The overworked changeling silently rung up her beer with the monotony even a zombie pony would think more lifeless. He didn’t have the will right now to deal with her smart-aleck remarks.

“You should pop an aspirin,” she pointed a talon at the shelves of over-the-counter drugs and cigarettes right behind him.

“I’ve 'popped' four, they don’t do crap,” he replied snappily, repeatedly tapping the uncooperative key to open the cash drawer. It finally sprung open and sent the change scattering over the floor. “Kuso!”

“Oh hey, do you still take IOUs?”

“Get the buck out, Gilda.”


“Okaaay, smile for mommy!”

Shroud’s eyes burned as a blinding light flashed from the bulb of his mother’s oversized camera.

The colt stayed sat down and cross-legged on the hard floor and kept his now very tired foreleg wrapped around the egg, which was nestled comfortably on its purple silk cushion.

The photograph slowly printed out from the camera. Echo levitated up to her face and looked upon it with fondness.

“Wonderful,” she beamed. “This is even better than the last one.” She slid the picture carefully into the open photo album that was already stuffed to the brim and weighed a ton. “Alright, I think we might have enough. You can stop now, sweetie.”

He sighed with relief, dropping his aching leg and nursing his cheeks which were sore from smiling so much. Thank goodness they were finished, because if he had to keep this up, he was going to get wrinkles around his mouth like an old nag.

Little Eggy was scheduled to hatch into his maybe baby brother or sister any day now and their mother couldn’t be more excited. She always adored hatchlings when they were still snuggled innocently in their cosy eggs, and she wanted to save every moment of it while she still could.

He’d been posing like one of those snotty pageant fillies all morning, during which Echo used up a whole film roll on the two. So much for the colt having a fun and carefree weekend at the arcade with his buddies.

“Now we’ve got that done...” As she set the camera down, Echo’s horn lit up and a large trunk dragged itself across the floor to where they were sat. “I think I promised to help you with your school project, hmm?”

Shroud’s face livened up, and he nodded his little head eagerly.

Echo opened up the trunk to reveal an eclectic treasure trove of old clothes inside. They were all genuine Changeling articles too (mostly mare’s kimonos), some bright and colourful like they could have come straight from a noblechangeling’s castle. A few, however, were so dull and plain the lowest peasant wouldn’t be caught dead wearing them.

She pulled out a small colt’s yukata kimono and held it up for her son, showing off the soft cotton texture and its beautiful pattern of white cranes flying across a dark blue sky.

“Handsome, isn’t it?” She grinned proudly as she gave it to him. “Go ahead and try it on.”

As he slipped on the robe and searched through the dark for the collar, he caught a whiff of its overwhelmingly musty smell and coughed. It smelt like an old charity shop, the kind his mother kept buying cheap second-hoof foals’ toys and books for the baby from.

“It was your grandfather’s when he was your age,” Echo pulled the collar over his head so he could breathe and stepped back. She held her hoof to her mouth and gasped in amazement, “And you look so much like him in it, too.” She did a twirling motion with her hoof. “Could you... turn around so mommy can get a good look at you?”

As sick as he was of modelling for one morning, he sucked it up and demeaned himself nonetheless, spinning around on one leg like a little ballerina.

“Oh my goodness, you really do! I... wait a minute...” Her eyes narrowed and peered in on the sleeve, holding it in her hoof. “What’s this?”

A purplish stain stood out on the lower sleeve like a griffin’s snapped talon; a pretty old one at that, going by its darkened colour.

It took a moment for her memory to jog. “Ohhh, that’s right,” she said, endearingly tracing circles around the blotch. “Don’t you worry, darling, it’s only ursa blood.”

Shroud gawked wide-eyed at her. Did she just say...?

“Yeah, your grandfather’s family were in fur trading. His mommy used to take him out hunting ursa minors for their fur when he was only five.”

All colour drained from Shroud’s face and he worriedly inspected the immaculate robe for any more traces of blood. The idea of his granddad, barely out of his hatchling years, violently hunting down and skinning giant bears made him squeamish for some reason.

Echo giggled, not noticing his discomfort, “Oh, he loved hunting ursas with his mommy! He’s never gotten tired of it, heh heh...” She started sounding uneasy and rubbed the back of her neck the more she thought about it. “We’re, uh… we’re kinda worried about him. Aaanyway, I think there might be a fur in here somewhere...” She rummaged through the trunk, wanting to move on from that minefield.

“Echo!” Weevil’s voice bellowed from the staircase. “ECHO!”

She rolled her head towards the creaked living room door and called back irritably, “What now, Weevil?”

“I’m about to blast my brains out down there! I need you to come down and give me a hoof!”

“I’m taking care of the kids!”

“The shop’s really busy!”

“Well, I’m busy!”

The door swung open and a very haggard Weevil marched in, several bottles of milk floating at his side.

“Milk’s out of date,” he grunted in response to their odd looks and set them down by the wall. “We need to start ordering these things in jugs.”

“Weevil, we both agreed Saturday mornings are ‘mommy time’,” Echo explained to him as if she were talking to an idiot. She lovingly stroked their son’s head. “Shroud here’s been playing model with his sister for me.”

“You’re still taking pictures?” he asked incredulously. “Echo, you’ve already got enough to fill a catalogue!”

“Oh, you know what? That reminds me.” She levitated their egg off its cushion and placing it back in its incubator with the greatest care. “We can’t let little Chryssie get cold, can we?”

He might have wanted a filly to pop out that egg, but Weevil still didn’t like the name his wife picked. He didn’t have much of a choice, though. Echo had always been in favour of giving one of her babies a regal name, especially after the reigning Changeling Queen, her idol. It helped that she came from a family of hard-line Changeling royalists where naming a hatchling after a changeling monarch was common practice. And you did not disrespect the Queen in their presence.

“Besides, Shroud’s also got his big ‘International Day’ coming up. Doesn’t he look just like dad in his kimono?”

His eyes fell on Shroud and he was pretty astounded. “Wow, you really do. It’s kinda creepy in a way—wait!” Weevil slapped his forehead frustrated and got back on track. “Echo, please, it’s a jungle down there!” He was about ready to get on his knees and beg. “Just come down for ten minutes?”

“Okay, okay, I’ll be right down,” she promised begrudgingly with her forelegs akimbo. “Just let me finish up here first. Do think you can survive that long?”

The changeling family then heard a loud smashing sound coming from downstairs. All three of them cringed. It sounded eerily a lot like a large bunch of jars breaking...

“Weevil! Uhh, don’t be mad...” Cueball’s nervous voice followed. “But I think somepony knocked over your jars of pickled eggs!”

“Ohhhh!” Weevil’s entire being shuddered with revulsion and he had to channel all the energy to his legs to practically force himself down those stairs.

Echo sighed, “Better make that five.”


Five minutes, she said. Yeah, right.

He’d been waiting twenty minutes now for her to come down. In that time, poor Weevil had to brush up all the shards of glass and put up the wet floor sign before anychangeling saw an opportunity for a lawsuit, all without getting his own hooves cut up. Meanwhile, the flow of customers may have slowed down, but that didn’t stop their brats from still treating his place of business like a playground.

It wasn’t big news Weevil didn’t like kids a whole lot. He adored his well-behaved son and soon-to-arrive hatchling, don’t be ridiculous, it was just everychangeling else’s precious little angels he felt like picking up and punting into heavy traffic.

The only thing he could think of that was worse?

“Excuse me, can we, like, get a sample?” a cyan-coloured teenage pony standing by the slush machine with her candy pink friend asked Weevil in a voice that was dripping with such ‘valley girl’ it was like a red-hot poker being stuck in his ears.

“Girls, this isn’t an icecream parlour,” he informed them unfocusedly. His attention was divided between trying to open a seemingly welded shut bottle of aspirin for his pounding head and on the spiralling trails of mud prints left behind by a group of muddy colts fresh out of hoofball practice. “We don’t do samples.”

“But how am I gonna know what it tastes like?”

“It comes in blueberry and strawberry, so I imagine they taste like that.”

The pink teenager asked, managing to sound even more obnoxious than her friend, “What percentage of fat is it?”

He stared baffled at the two, “It’s syrup and frozen water!”

“Is it high in calories?”

“I don’t know!”

One of the dirty-faced tiny hoofballers rode over on his skateboard, marring Weevil’s precious cleaned floor with ugly black skid marks and blurting loud enough for the whole store to hear, “I heard they found a rat in there!”

The girls’ eyes went wide as dinner plates and their pastel faces turned green.

“A RAT?! Ewwww!”

“NO! No, no, no!” Weevil exclaimed, waving his hooves rather too desperately. “I can guarantee you there was no rat!”

Both he and Echo were lucky the slushy mare was a pal enough to keep schtum about the ‘blockage’ she found between the machine’s gears. If she hadn’t, the unholy formidable force of the Manehattan City Health Department would most definitely have smote them with all their divine power.

“Yes-huh,” the colt retorted. “My big brother said so!”

“Well, you’re brother’s a liar!” he finally popped the bottle open and choked down a couple of pills dry. He glared at the idle pair and said gruffly, “You can either buy something or leave, so what’s it going to be?”

The blue teenager harrumphed, took out a plastic cup and tapped herself a blueberry slushie. Nothing came out the nozzle, except a few blue squirts and a familiar low whirring noise Weevil recognized as a bad omen.

Pfffbt! The nozzle suddenly came to life at full force and sprayed all over the unexpecting ponies in blue slush.

“AAAAIIIIEEEEE!" they both ear-piercingly shrieked.

‘That’s new,’ Weevil mused.

“WHAT THE HAY IS GOING ON?!”

Echo kicked the door shut with a bang. She stood there seemingly frozen as her dumbstrack eyes scanned the store. A messy pile of shattered glass and liquid that made the whole room reek of vinegar; feral ragamuffins running rampant; a pair of shivering teens dripping wet; and her husband, who was on the verge of a nuclear meltdown.

She hollered, “What happened here?!”

Everychangeling beside Weevil dummied up and stopped whatever they were doing in her presence. Even the rowdy hoofballers now looked like a group of deer caught in a train’s headlights.

“What do you think?!” Weevil shouted back. “Cueball happened!”

Her voice lowered dangerously, “Where is that big, bald idiot?”

“He bolted, Echo, you missed him twenty minutes ago!” Thwap! “OW!” A hoofball flew through the air and beaned him hard against his face. He glowered darkly at whichever one of the little punks who did it. “I said no balls in my store!”

The colt on his skateboard whispered to his buddy, “Wow, that guy’s freaking out.”

Weevil’s now glowing eyes pulsated with rage. “I’m not freaking out!” he screeched.

“You’re totally freaking out,” the pink pony said as her friend wrung the syrup from her mane.

“SHUT UP!”

Echo decided to douse this fire before it really got started. “Alright, that does it. Shop-is-closed!” She magically opened the door and directed the young ponies out. “Teenagers, soccer colts, everychangeling out before my husband has a stroke!”

A colt whined, “Aww, but I wanna slushie.”

She reiterated, giving them the deadliest of looks, “Out. Now!”

All the hoofballers were the first out door in seconds, tailed by the more defiant mall brats with their muzzles stuck up, despite their sticky, uncouth appearance.

“We’re so gonna sue you for this!” growled the blue pony as they stormed past the changeling matriarch, tugging on her ruined top.

“Yeah, yeah, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.” Echo incidentally slammed the door so that it unceremoniously hit the little tramps square on their rumps. After flipping the open/closed sign, she turned back to a quite dumbstruck Weevil and firmly instructed him, “Weevil, go upstairs and lay down!”

Weevil didn’t know if it was the headache making him see things, because he couldn’t believe what was happening. Echo closing the store early? And on a Saturday? It could only mean one thing: Tartarus was finally freezing over.

“B-But what about the store? It’s a mess.”

“I’ll deal with it. Upstairs!”

He didn’t bother putting up a fight; he put the aspirin bottle back on the shelf, left his second home behind the counter and trudged back upstairs.

He was probably going to thank her a lot for this later.


Weevil kept his eyes shut and purred softly through tightened lips. He laid flat against his huge belly on the floor rug like the beached whale he was, back straight and forelegs at his side, while Echo knelt over him tentatively.

His wife was a mare of many talents besides being a successful businessmare and an exceptionally talented cook. One of Weevil’s personal favourites had to be her knack for giving the best deep tissue massages he’d ever received.

Her skilled hooves ran smoothly along his coconut oiled daubed back and shoulders, passed his parted wings, kneading his folds of doughy skin with thoroughness but also a surprising amount of care. You could easily tell she’d been doing this for years now.

“Mmmmm, I haven’t had one of these in a long time...” the stallion, clearly enjoying himself, grinned from ear-to-ear. The silky cushion they’d been using for the egg was even tucked underneath his chin for extra comfort.

“Yeah, well, I think you’re long overdue.” She worked harder on his shoulders, where he was carrying the most tension. “This is the worst shape I’ve seen your back in ages.”

Weevil moaned with pleasure the more jellified his muscle became and mumbled something into the cushion.

“What was that?”

He briefly lifted his head, saying, “I said I still don’t know why you didn’t become a masseuse.”

Applying another dash of oil to his lower spine, Echo chuckled, “Hmm, so you’d be alright with me rubbing other fat, sweaty changelings’ backs?”

He winced from the cold touch and a chill ran up his spine and the rest of his body.

“If you ever did, I’d kick those bakas’ teeth in.”

“Wow!” the mare let out a hearty laugh. “Is this you being protective, Weevil?”

Weevil playfully indulged in his swelling pride a bit and smirked, “Nochangeling gets their back rubbed by my Nuzzle Bug except me—ooh, ooh! Easy, easy!” He gritted his teeth in pain when Echo began exerting a lot of pressure with her bent knee.

“Stop whining, it’s for your own good!” She eased off only slightly and added, reprimanding him, “After that performance of yours downstairs, you looked like you were going to pop a vessel.”

Being reminded of the incident caused his muscles to tense up again, and a long exhale left his tar lined lungs.

“I’m sorry, darling. I know I should’ve kept my temper back there.”

“Oh, shush, Weevil. After you had to deal with those dregs all morning, I guess I can’t blame you that much.”

“We gonna—ooh!” He heard a quiet popping from his back. “—gonna reopen the store?"

“Mmm, maybe not for a while,” she said, giggling a bit through her fangs.

He smiled, somewhat relieved, shifting his leg a bit, “Could you... do my neck next?”

Echo returned an alluring grin of her own, and, lowering herself close enough he could feel her breathing against his neck, lifted up her hooves to massage the muscles in his neck under a thick layer of flab. Some of his more tender muscles were located here, and, thanks to her ticklish touch, Weevil’s tongue unfurled limply from the corner of his mouth.

“You know, you’re going to be doing me next,” he heard her nicker close in his ear. They both broke out into soft, mischievous laughter.

In the apartment kitchen, meanwhile, their son was standing on a stool on his hindlegs in a precarious balancing act, busy giving his unhatched sibling a bath in the sink. The bulbous egg buoyed in the warm, soapy water as Shroud dabbed away at the excess slime oozing off the shell with a big yellow sponge.

The family had a rota set up for ‘eggy’s bath times’. You see, changeling eggs had this nasty trait of excreting this mucus-like gunk time and again; a kind of “natural defence mechanism against predators in ancient times”, Shroud remembered reading about in his biology textbook.

It wasn’t just super gross, but a colossal waste of time too: the water in the sink was turning the same icky green colour and the goo just clung to the sponge like strands of mucus to a ball of tissue. Yech!

Shroud carried on dispassionately cleaning the shell and inwardly groaned at listening to his parents’ foalish giggling in the living room; they always got like this after ‘massage time’. For all his mother’s posturing and henpecking, she and his dad managed to have their tender little moments now and then. Too bad their ‘moments’ made him want to stick his hoof down his throat...

The egg suddenly began rocking to and fro in its makeshift bath, taking the colt by surprise and splashing the icky water right in his face; some even got in his mouth!

He heard his father’s yowl of pain from the living room, followed by the drone of his mother’s wings growing louder towards the kitchen. Echo appeared flying through the doorway and was at the sloshing sink before Shroud could even blink.

“Issheokaywhatdidyoudoyoudidn’tdropherdidyoudidyouusetherightsponge?!!” she spoke so rapidly the words practically came out in one ugly blurt. “Let me have a look!” She took the rocking egg in her forelegs and cradled it, panic evident in her violet eyes as she remained hovering in mid-air, looking rather ridiculous doing so.

Echo took a few deep breaths, repeatedly muttering to herself to calm down and levitating over a dishcloth to frantically dry off the dripping water and slime. She looked over her shoulder at the living room, beckoning her husband, “Weevil, get in here, quick!”

“Why?”

“I think the egg might be hatching now!”

“Oh cra—o-okay, I’m coming!” A few strained grunts and a solid thud. “Ugh! No wait... Echo, I can’t get up!”

Hearing this made both mother and son facehoof themselves out of sheer embarrassment, the former cringing, “You have got to be kidding me! I’m gonna have to tell baby her daddy missed her hatching because he couldn’t get off his gut—!” Her ranting broke off once she realized her egg had gradually stopped shaking around, save for the occasional twitch.

The tension in the apartment diffused with that, a lot like a fuse on an explosive that had been snuffed out at the last minute.

“Well,” Echo began disappointedly. “I guess it was a false alarm then. I could’ve sworn...” She reached down and petted her visibly worried son on the head. “Don’t worry, darling, you haven’t done anything wrong.” She then carried the egg back to the sink, shouting back to her husband in the other room as she did, “Don’t pull a muscle, Weevil! It was a false alarm!”

“Phew! That’s a relief...”

Echo carefully settled the egg back in the warm water, before using the same dishcloth to clean away the coconut oil she’d forgot still coated her hooves.

“Thank you, Shroud, but I’ll deal with this now,” she told him soothingly, picking up the sponge and taking over the bath time. “Why don’t you go play outside with your friends?"

Shroud shook the remaining bits of slime from his person, and, eager at the first chance to actually enjoy his weekend like a colt his age should, bowed to his mother and bolted it without a word.

“Shroud? Son, could you help daddy up?” Weevil asked his son as he galloped carelessly past him and out the living room door. “Shroud, wait, get back here! Shroud!” He tried once again pushing himself off his belly, only to flop ungraciously back on the floor. “Grrr, Echo!”


An hour and a dozen cups of tea later, their store was open again and Weevil and Echo were back to the grind. Thankfully, the customer flow was a lot slower this time around and his wife was there to have his back. Now they just had to contend with working with the overwhelming smells of lingering vinegar and gag-inducing cleaning chemicals giving poor Weevil the worst heartburn.

“That was close, you know?” said Echo, biting into her wheat biscuit after dunking it in her tea.

“What was?” asked Weevil, who was holding a tissue to his snout.

“Chrysalis,” she answered as she uncaringly flipped the page of a beauty magazine she’d plucked from the rack. “She could have hatched today and you would’ve missed it.”

“I would’ve been there if you or Shroud helped me,” he argued and gave his belly a gentle slap. “In case you’ve forgotten, you have to help me out of bed every morning.”

“Then start going to a gym,” she prodded the sloshy, low hanging gut in its side, her hoof sinking into the folds like it were made of memory foam. “or better yet, you could get back on the diet.”

There was a snowball’s chance in Tartarus of Weevil joining a gym. Running a family-owned business was a demanding mistress and there were better ways he could think to spend his time and money. Also, to him, losing a few ounces of weight definitely wasn’t worth the emasculating embarrassment of his big flabby hide sticking out in a hot, unbreathable gym crowded with perfectly cut ponies who practically lived their lives there.

The diet idea didn’t sound so bad the first two dozen times, but who was he kidding? Nochangeling or pony kept to those things. His last diet last only two hours before he was shovelling an extra thick slice of chocolate cake down his throat.

Wanting to move the conversation away from this, he said, “You know, I’d nearly forgotten how soon eggy’s gonna hatch.”

“I know what you mean,” said Echo reminiscently. “It feels like only yesterday I was brushing leftover bits of shell from Shroud’s mane.”

“I remember that time he and the other kids got fleas at kindergarten. Heh heh, you went ballistic on those diamond dogs.”

“You bet your flank I did.”

“Just so you know, I was on your side until the police got involved. Things went a little too far at that point, don’t you think?”

“Well, that’s what they get for infecting my son with blood-sucking parasites...” she promptly sighed and cupped her chin with her hooves, staring off reflectively into space. “Where does the time go?”

He frowned, “Oh, just out the window, nowhere special. And when baby hatches, whatever’s left of our free time goes out too.”

A surprisingly mature and independent for a colt his age Shroud had never really been a hoofful for either of them; by the time he was five, the kid was pretty much taking care of himself (which naturally didn’t stop Echo mollycoddling her only son every chance she got). But now, on top of keeping a business afloat, a second mouth to feed was on the way and there was no guarantee he or she was going to give them an easy time like their brother did.

Weevil touched the top of his head and felt through the remains of his parched mane. Whatever was left of his free time wasn’t the only thing he was kissing goodbye.

“It’s all part of being a parent, Weevil,” Echo replied lethargically, taking a sip of her tea. “We signed away our ‘us time’ a long time ago. Drink your tea, it’s getting cold.”

The changeling stallion stared at his long ignored cup of tea with disinterest and simply brushed it aside. A pregnant mare approached the counter (he could tell from the abundance of ice bags, chocolate and pickles she was buying) and he rung her up.

He mulled over their conversation as they went about their work. He regretted his choice of words. Their people’s culture considered parenthood one of life’s most precious gifts, but from the way he and Echo talked about it, they made it sound like it was something worse than horn rot! That wasn’t how they felt; they only pined for easier days.

‘When was the last time we spent a night out together by ourselves?’ he thought. ‘Just as husband and wife?’ Weevil could hardly remember. There was that time they had dinner at a newly opened changeling restaurant while Zigzag foalsat for them - Weevil spent the night holding Echo’s mane as she was throwing up in the bathroom.

A lot of ponies would look at their relationship and probably write off Echo as an overbearing nag, and sometimes, well... they weren’t half wrong. However, there was no way soft-skins could possibly see the softer, gentler side of her like he did. She was a big kitten beneath that grumpy hide, and, as the old bug she’d been married to all these years, Weevil should know.

He smiled as he recalled their earlier, happier years together, back when they were still courting and the first years of their marriage. A favourite pastime of theirs when they walked flank-to-flank around the military compound at night: them gazing at the stars, him giving her whatever gift he could smuggle in, both of them getting wasted and making out in the soaking wet trenches...

‘Wow, we really were a wild pair of kids, weren’t we?’ he thought bemusedly, shaking his head.

What he’d give to get some of that old fiery magic back again. After all, they both still had it; their lip wrestling session following their skirmish with the bat ponies earlier that week was proof. They often just didn’t have the chance anymore.

The changeling had himself a small light bulb moment. He thought it over carefully. Who was to say they couldn’t squeeze in some more ‘us time’ before the endless nights of crying and late night feeding, the round-the-clock diaper changing and overall oozing and sneezing started again?

“... Echo?” he eventually asked.

“Uh-huh?” She’d become engrossed in her magazine by now; she was reading this fascinating article about the changeling mother who’s claimed to have laid the most eggs in one clutch: a whopping thirty healthy eggs!

“What would you say about... you and me going out one night?”

Echo blinked and stared down at him.

“Go out? What... you mean like, go out for dinner or something?”

He shrugged, “Maybe. Something like that, if you want to.”

It was hard to tell from her puzzled expression what she thought of the idea. “We haven’t gone out in—I don’t know, years now?”

“I know.” Weevil pawed at the floor, looking quite bashful as if he were asking her out on a date for the first time. “I was thinking—maybe tonight—we could go out and, I don’t know... go to a nice restaurant and a movie together.”

“Wait, tonight?” At this point, she was analysing his features as if she were searching for some symptom of illness. She asked him, honestly confused, “Why?”

“Well, you know, I...” He was now really regretting opening his mouth in the first place. “You know, it doesn’t matter, forget I said anything. Let’s just get back to work.”

When Weevil was about to turn back to his register, he felt Echo’s hoof take him under his chin and she spoke to him in a softer tone.

“Hey, come on, tell me.”

“It’s just... we probably won’t get another chance for a long time,” he explained sheepishly, but quietly indulging in her touch. “So I figured... we should go out and enjoy ourselves while we still can before number two arrives. You know, like how we used to.”

Whether it was out of pity or genuine intrigue, a sympathetic half smile gradually spread across Echo’s muzzle and she patted him on the cheek, saying, “D’aww, Weevie, that’s very sweet of you to offer, but... I don’t know.” Her smile and his dropped and she gestured around the store front. “We’ve got a lot on our hooves right now, and I’m not sure this is the best time for us to go out having fun.”

“Oh, we wouldn’t have to do anything big.” He shuffled closer to his big bulky wife and looked up at her affectionately, like he was going to rest his head against her like a hatchling. “Think about it, honey: a nice, peaceful night, no kids, no store. Just you and me stuffing ourselves at a five—okay, three star restaurant and a fun movie for afterwards.” He cocked his brow suggestively. “Maybe we could throw in a little candlelight and a few bottles of sake? I know how much you like that.”

“Weevil,” Echo whispered stunned, her cheeks blushing and eyes darting around for anychangeling within earshot. If she had lesser control, she might have giggled like a filly. “My, my, somechangeling’s gotten feisty all of a sudden.”

“You couldn’t blame me, could you?”

She held her hoof to her fangs, squinting her eyes in thought. Weevil inwardly smirked, knowing he’d gotten to her. He could tell from analysing her facial inflictions; it was something all soldiers in the changeling army were trained in, part of the basics even.

“Hypothetically speaking,” she began with an amorous smirk creeping in and coiling a leg around him like a hungry serpent and brought him in closer, tighter. “If I were to say ‘yes’... where would you take me?”

He said, nuzzling against her chest, “Wherever you want, my Nuzzle Bug.”

“Alright, Weevil,” She flashed a set of polished predator’s teeth in a grin that caused his legs to shiver. “I’ll do it. Tonight. And tell you what? You can surprise me.”

Weevil’s ears perked up and his eyes flittered in excitement. “R-Really?”

“In fact, you can even choose the movie if you want, just as long as you give me a fun night. Deal?”

“D-Deal! Of course, you know I will!”

“Good,” She picked her magazine up and returned to her reading. “Though you realize I’ll have to find somechangeling to watch over the children.”

“I’m sure we can find somechangeling—”

“Zigzag.”

“Yeah, that’s who I was thinking.”

They heard a loud clanging noise and looked up and saw that a formerly neatly stacked pyramid of bean cans which Weevil had spent half an hour putting together last night was now in a messy heap on the floor.

And an extremely guilty looking colt was standing right next to the miniature catastrophe.

“I didn’t do it,” was all he said the second he noticed the two changelings glaring at him.

Echo flipped her magazine shut and trudged off. “I think I’ll just call him now,” she groaned.

Author's Note:

(A/N) Hey, everyone, I apologize for the very long time it's taken to upload this chapter. Now we're on to what is essentially the second arc, episode of the story.