• Published 7th Aug 2018
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The Bug In The Basement - Skijarama

A changeling egg is left in the human world by its mother in a last-ditch effort to save it.

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Chapter 12: Slow Day

3 Days Later.

“Welp, I’m bored,” Clean Sweep proclaimed in a flat tone from his position behind the checkout counter, his elbow propped up and his chin resting in the palm of his hand. Eventide nodded slowly with a wordless grumble of agreement from where he stood by the plastic bags. Two hours. There had been maybe five customers in that time, and they were few and far between, leading the two co-workers to just zone out and grow increasingly bored.

They had tried more than once to find a way to pass the time; checking stock, shelving items, etcetera. Sadly, however, the number of things there were to do in order to pass the time were quickly used up, and so the two just stood there, blankly staring off into space, waiting for the next customer to arrive and break up the monotony. Unfortunately, as the seconds ticked into minutes, and the minutes began adding up, any hope for a quick release from this boredom was swiftly fading away.

For his part, Eventide was able to at least occupy his mind by thinking about Beebee, and the progress that had been made on his room. Although, as of now, it was up for debate if what had been done thus far could be called progress. So far, Eventide had only really managed to get a few small things for it, namely a lamp, a wooden end table, and a small, colorfully-painted wooden chest that he planned to fill to the brim with toys. He had also been doing his best to hide what he was doing from Beebee, wanting it to be a surprise.

Of course, Beebee himself had been working hard to learn more and more words, and to help with that, Eventide had gone out of his way to pick up several picture and storybooks, which he had started to read to Beebee when the little guy started to get tired. They had worked their way through two of them, so far, and he planned to go and get some more just as soon as they worked through the rest of the pile.

Maybe he could get him some Curious George books. Those were always a favorite. On that note, perhaps he should buy a bookcase to store all of Beebee’s books….

He had also been looking into ways to leave the T.V running on a customized playlist of educational and entertaining kids shows for when he was at work. He knew that he had to scout each one out before showing them to Beebee, just to ensure that they were good for a creature his age. A few candidates so far were Nanalan, Sesame Street, Zoboomafoo, Blue’s Clues, and a few others.

Nanalan made him shudder though. Those eyes were just… so empty.

Of course, Eventide had absolutely no idea when Beebee would reach maturity, or how quickly his mind developed at all. The guy was still less than a month old and was already learning how to talk, with his vocabulary growing with every passing day. Granted, he still didn’t seem to really know what most of the words meant, but that didn’t stop him from being eager and excited to learn the sounds.

Any other ruminations were summarily cut short when he noticed Clean Sweep looking at him with an expression that could only be described as ‘expectant.’ Eventide stood a bit more upright and raised an eyebrow inquisitively. “Uh… Sweep? What?” he asked, wondering just how long the other man had been staring at him.

Clean Sweep shrugged absently, a tiny smile on his face. “You were zoning out there, bud. You were smiling like crazy, too,” he said simply. “Thinking about something nice?”

Eventide’s smile returned at that, and he nodded. “Yeah, I was. Just remembering some of my favorite shows from when I was a child,” he replied before letting off a quiet laugh. “Nostalgia, you know?”

Clean Sweep nodded along, his smile growing wider. “Aaah, I see. Which shows were you thinking about, if you don’t mind my asking?”

“Zoboomafoo is the big one. Blue’s Clues was pretty fun, too.”

“Oh! Yeah, I remember those shows!” Sweep exclaimed in remembrance while slapping a hand to his forehead. A loud laugh slipped out of him, and a giant, dorky grin split his face. “Wow! Talk about a blast from the past!”

Eventide gave a chuckle. “No kidding.”

The two fell into a somewhat more comfortable silence for a little while after that, and again the creeping feelings of boredom began to seep in. But, after a few minutes, Sweep seemed eager to resume the discussion. “So…” He continued in a slightly more inquisitive tone. He leaned forward over the counter, resting his elbows on it and looking at Eventide critically. “Does your sudden flashback to your childhood have something to do with all those picture books you bought a few days ago?”

Eventide blinked in surprise, standing bolt upright in alarm. He was about ready to deny that he had done that at all but quickly stopped himself. He knew Clean Sweep well enough to know that there was no squirming his way out of this one. Might as well just bite the bullet. So he settled with giving a sheepish laugh and raising a hand to scratch the back of his head. “Oh. You saw that, did you?”

Sweep nodded. “Well, yeah. I’m not that oblivious,” he stated in mock offense before shaking his head. “I won’t pry if you don’t want me to, it’s none of my business, but I am curious.”

Eventide rolled his eyes at the other man, crossing his arms over his chest. “Yeah, you are. And you can just stay that way,” he responded with a cheeky grin, making Sweep roll his eyes right back.

“Okay, man, whatever you say,” he relented before staring down at his cash register and frowning. After a few seconds, he glanced over at Eventide with another question in his eyes. “So, uh… again, none of my business, but I noticed something else recently,” he began in a slightly hesitant voice, as if he were afraid of breaking something fragile.

Eventide cocked an eyebrow. “What would that be?”

Sweep stoop more upright, wringing his hands together and trying to find the right combination of words. “...I dunno, really. You just seem less… grumpy,” he finally said, his voice hitching once or twice with reluctance.

Eventide frowned. “Grumpy?” he asked incredulously, letting his hands fall to his hips. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Sweep raised his hands in a placating gesture. “No offense or anything, dude. But, like, you’ve been a lot more willing to just… I dunno... talk recently. I dunno what it is, man, but you just seem happier than usual. I mean, we’re having this chat.”

Eventide looked down while letting his hands go from his hips to rest against the edge of the counter. For a few minutes, he just stood there, thinking about how to answer. Eventually, he looked up at Clean Sweep again with a small grin on his face. “Yeah… yeah, I guess I am,” he admitted in a soft voice with a satisfied smile.

Sweep visibly relaxed, tension fleeing his muscles at the confirmation. He smiled and reached over to lightly punch Eventide in the shoulder, making him wince. “Well, I’m glad to hear it. You keep being happy, you hear me? Grumpy Eventide is not fun to be around.”

Eventide laughed and swatted the fist away. “Ditto to a nosy Clean Sweep,” he shot back, drawing a similar chuckle from his co-worker.

“Heh. Sorry, man. You know me. Just looking out for my friends.”

Any more banter was cut short by the loud sound of Austere clearing her throat, making both Eventide and Clean Sweep jump in their skin. They both spun around to face her, seeing her approaching their counter from deeper in the shop. She had vibrant orange skin with slightly wavy golden hair that hung down to her shoulders. Her eyes were a very striking shade of violet, and her eyebrows gave her expression a constant look of intensity that commanded attention. She was wearing the same uniform as the two of them; black pants, black shoes, and a t-shirt that was white in front and vibrant orange in the back. She shot them both a small smile as she approached. “Well, I see you two aren’t totally bored out of your minds,” she commented.

Eventide glanced over at Clean Sweep, who shrugged absently. “Eh. Things are slow. We were just making conversation to pass the time. Anything else that needed doing’s already been done, you know?” he explained, scratching the back of his head.

Austere nodded before glancing up at the clock high on the wall. “Hmm… Alright, well,” she then turned her attention to Eventide. “Go ahead and clock out Oath. Head on home. If things don’t pick up soon, I’m thinking we’ll close early today.”

Eventide stood bolt upright in surprise, his eyes widening somewhat. “Uh… okay, boss, but why send me back and not both of us?” he asked, though he cringed the moment the words left his mouth.

Clean Sweep was quick to voice the thoughts in Eventide’s mind. “Dude, don’t look the opportunity to go home early in the mouth!” he loudly whispered in a tone of faux-shock. Austere shot him a sideways look, prompting him to clam up immediately. Satisfied that he wouldn’t interrupt her, Austure returned her gaze to Eventide.

“Because, Eventide,” she continued before poking him in the chest and pushing him back a couple steps. “Clean Sweep doesn’t have pets he has to take care of at home. You do,” she flashed him a small smirk before turning around to look at Clean Sweep. “And for that little remark, Sweep, you’re on bagging duty. Get over here! I’ve got the register.”

Clean Sweep let out a small sigh of disappointment before resignedly repositioning himself where Eventide had been, with Austere taking his place behind the counter. After a few seconds, Eventide managed to find his voice. “R-right. Thanks, Austere,” he said before turning and heading to the changing rooms to switch back into his regular clothes.

Much to Eventide’s surprise, things were pretty quiet when he came back to his home. There were a few signs that Fluttershy had stopped by while he was out; namely, Buddha’s food bowl was filled, and Beebee’s toy ant had been put away on the coffee table. The owner of the toy in question was currently curled up and taking a nap on the chair, resting against Buddha’s exposed belly. On the floor next to the couch was a small stack of five or six children’s picture books, with two others in a separate pile on the other side. A peaceful scene, all things considered.

Buddha looked up when she saw him come in, before carefully sliding off of the chair, being careful to not wake Beebee up in the process. He stirred slightly but did not wake. Once on the floor, Budda bounded over to Eventide and all but tackled him, drawing a small laugh out of him when she assaulted his hands with licks and sniffs.

“Hey, girl, I’m home,” he said in a hushed tone while giving her loving pets and scratches wherever he could reach. She let out a few quiet half-barks and grunts before finally backing off. With the dog taking a few steps back to give him some room, Eventide just smiled and stood upright to look at Beebee again. It seemed the small commotion of puppy love had made him wake up, as one of his glowing blue eyes had cracked open to stare at them. Eventide smiled and nudged Buddha back with his foot before heading over to the chair. “And hello to you, too, Beebee,” he said.

Beebee mumbled wordlessly in response, trying to mimic Eventide’s speech before sitting upright. He blinked a few times drowsily, before opening his mouth wide to let out a spectacularly large yawn. He didn’t protest at all when Eventide reached down to pick him up, simply hanging limply as his adoptive father sat down in the chair, leaning back and setting Beebee on his chest. After a few seconds, Beebee’s hooves reached out to grasp Eventide’s shirt, and he buried his face into his chest. “Dada…” he murmured with a sleepy smile on his face.

Eventide just smiled softly in turn, lightly running the tips of his fingers down the back of Beebee’s head and neck. He had found that Beebee particularly liked the base of his fin, and would often quiver with a dopey smile whenever contact was made there. Eventide continued his ministrations for a good few minutes before carefully reaching down and lifting the next picture book from the lineup. He smiled softly at the cover. The cover was a very vibrant blue color, and there was a very basic and cartoony drawing of a big, friendly-looking green dragon looking down at a young boy and girl, who looked back up at him in awe and wonder. The title was, generically enough, “Pete, the big green dragon.’

Eventide showed it to Beebee, and the sleepy bug instantly got a small spark of energy. His eyes opened, and a few eager, wordless squeaks escaped his muzzle while his hoof poked uselessly at the cover. Eventide laughed. “I’ll take that as a sign you want me to read to you?”

“Reed!” Beebee answered, shifting so he was resting comfortably on his back on Eventide’s chest, his eyes wide with childish anticipation. He poked at the book again even while Eventide wrapped his unoccupied arm around him to keep him from slipping. “Dada! Buk! Reed!”

Chuckling under his breath, Eventide nodded and opened the book to page one. “Okay, Bee, you strange, amazing little creature you,” he said while giving Beebee a few light shakes, making him giggle and laugh. The sound was enough to spur Eventide on, and he leaned down to blow a raspberry into his cheek, This, in turn, elicited even more loud laughs of jubilation from Beebee.

Buddha chose this moment to add herself to the situation, walking forward and curling up to lay down on Eventide’s feet, essentially trapping him there. He briefly paused his assault on Beebee’s failing efforts to keep a straight face and looked down at her with a raised eyebrow. She just looked back up at him and rested her chin on his ankle. For a moment, Eventide just watched her before the needy little squeaks of Beebee trying to poke the book urged him to get back to what he was supposed to be doing. Before shrugging his shoulders and looking back into the book. He didn’t have any pressing need to go anywhere right now, anyway.

With that thought in mind, he began reading in a slow, gentle voice to help not only ensure Beebee could listen to his words, but also to keep him interested in what was being said. “Once upon a time, in a tree next to the hill, there was a dragon,” he began, eyes briefly flicking expectantly to Beebee.


With his smile growing, Eventide continued. “His name was Pete.”


“He was a very big dragon. Even bigger than his parents.”

“Vew bii.”

“One day, though, Pete learned that he was different from his parents, for they were not dragons at all. They were birds.”


Eventide’s grin grew. “Yeah, that’s right! Bird,” he prompted, and Beebee repeated the word again. Eventide turned to the next page of the book and, to his relief, there was an illustration of Pete’s parents there. A couple of bluejays. He pointed. “That’s a bird, Beebee,” he said in a gentle voice.

Beebee reached his hoof down to touch the drawing. “Bird… Sa bird.”

“Yes, it’s a bird,” Eventide affirmed before slowly withdrawing his hand and continuing to read the story, with Beebee listening intently and trying to mimic whatever words stood out to him. They took their time, and before long the late autumn sun had set below the horizon, plunging the home into relative darkness. Eventually, though, Beebee stopped answering Eventide’s prompts, and a quick examination revealed that he had fallen asleep again.

Eventide, smiling, marked their place in the book before taking Beebee back to the bedroom. He tucked him in under the pillowcases that now doubled as his blankets before getting ready for bed himself.

To his relief, Beebee did not cry that night.

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