• 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 39: Grounded

“Beebee?!” Eventide’s voice loudly cut through the silence of Beebee’s sleep, rudely drawing him from his blissful slumber. He let out a quiet and drowsy groan before shifting and nuzzling his face into his forelegs on the floor. Maybe Eventide would get the picture and leave him alone. He was trying to take a nap.

However, when the air around him became filled with fear, dread, and confusion, all of those plans went right out the window. His stomach churned at the assault of putridity, and his eyes blinked open. He groaned and shifted to stare up at his father, who was down on one knee, staring back down at him on the floor with an expression that could only be described as panicked confusion.

Wait… why was Beebee on the floor?

Eventide’s panic grew worse when his eyes roamed lower down Beebee’s body and fixated on his right flank. “Oh my God, Beebee, what happened to your leg?!” he all but shouted, his hands hovering uselessly over Beebee’s injury. A series of red-stained bandages could still be seen bound around him, although they had fallen loose when he turned back into a bug. The cracks in hit chitin were on full display, and as Beebee looked at his injury, the memories of what had happened came rushing back to him.

His ears drooped, his heart skipped a beat, and his throat suddenly went dry. He just stared at his injury for a moment, his mind reeling as he tried to figure out how he was going to get out of it. Of course, his father’s rapidly swelling panic left little to no room to formulate such plans.

“Come on! Beebee, say something! Can you hear me?!’ Eventide was shouting now, his voice getting louder and more distressed by the second. He quickly reached out and scooped the back of Beebee’s head in his hand so he could look into his eyes better. “Are you okay?! Please, answer me!”

Beebee only hesitated for a second longer before the rotten taste of his father’s fear became too much. He groaned quietly in discomfort before he finally began to speak. “I’m... alright, dad. I’m really sore and really tired, but I’m okay,” he said, his voice even weaker than he would have expected from being sleepy. He must have been really tired.

Eventide relaxed somewhat, and relief flowed out of him like river water through a broken dam. His shoulders slumped as all of his built-up tension was released, and his eyes traveled across Beebee’s body and back to his injury. “Good, good… but what happened? How did you get hurt? And…” his eyes narrowed, and he gingerly lifted some of the bandages between his fingertips. “And… where did you get these bandages?”

Beebee winced and looked away, not able to meet his father’s gaze. He found himself glad that Eventide couldn’t see emotions like he could. Had he had that ability, both of them might have gotten sick from the flow of raw, unfiltered shame that Beebee was emitting. “I… I am so sorry, dad...” he choked out, his ears pinning even further back.

Eventide looked back up at Beebee’s face again, his expression becoming confused. “Beebee, just tell me what happened. Please…” he said, his voice becoming softer. “I’m not mad at you… but I am worried.”

Beebee gave a slow, stiff nod, then turned his head to look at Eventide again. He bit his lip for a moment, holding the words back in a last moment of dread, then let out a quiet sigh. He had brought this on himself, and it was time to fess up.

“I… I went outside while you were gone, dad… I was bored and… I’ve just been so lonely lately,” he began in a tiny voice, his eyelids slowly closing so he wouldn’t have to look at Eventide’s face. He didn’t want to see him getting angry, or disappointed, or anything like that.

“Lonely?” Eventide parroted quietly, his tone betraying his bewilderment.

“I know it’s stupid,” Beebee muttered, his face contorting with irritation aimed at himself. “I have no reason to be lonely. I have you, Buddha, and when she can come around, Aunt Fluttershy… but I was lonely, and I went outside... I wanted to see if I could find some friendly animals by the fence and play with them for a while.

“But I went into the forest… deeper than I’ve ever gone before. I was just having fun jumping from branch to branch, and…” he shuddered, and his cracked chitin throbbed to accompany the unpleasant memory. “I fell. I hurt myself falling down… it hurt so much, dad…”

“Oh, Beebee…” Eventide breathed out, and Beebee could taste a flurry of emotions in the air. Anger, disappointment, confusion, sorrow, relief… and that was just to name a few.

Beebee continued, his voice shaking. “I was so scared, dad. I didn’t know where I was, or what I was supposed to do. I couldn't walk, I couldn’t fly, and there might have been hungry animals around. I started screaming and calling for you. I just wanted you to come help me and save me so badly... but you didn’t come, and I knew it was because I left the house when I wasn’t supposed to.”

A heavy silence fell over the two as Beebee made his confession. He didn’t speak further, for now, hoping that Eventide wouldn’t ask any more questions for now.

Sadly, Beebee was let down when Eventide spoke up. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there… And I’m so glad you’re okay… But how did you get back?” He asked in a soothing whisper while gingerly lifting Beebee up and cradling him close to his chest.

Beebee reached out and clutched at Eventide’s shirt, clinging to him for comfort and support. His heart began to beat even harder in his chest at the prospect of telling him about Apple Bloom. “I… I…” he stammered, the words getting caught in his throat. Eventually, though, he had to swallow his fear and speak. Eventide would figure it out sooner or later, and lying would only get him in more trouble. “...Someone helped me.”

All at once, Eventide went rigid. The rush of emotions cooled considerably into dread and confusion, everything else being washed out by those two. Beebee was quick to open his eyes and clarify, his glowing blue orbs boring into Eventide. “They didn’t see me in my real body!” he stated quickly, leaning up a little. “I managed to turn into a human boy! They thought that I was just a skinny little kid who got hurt in the forest. She doesn’t know that I’m a bug, I promise!”

Eventide’s eyes stared deeply into Beebee for several long seconds, making him cower back into the man’s arms. His gaze was intense and critical, and Beebee couldn’t keep himself from whimpering quietly with guilt and shame.

Finally, Eventide broke the silence. He spoke slowly and deliberately, making sure Beebee heard and understood him. “So, a girl found you, patched you up, and brought you home, right?”

Beebee nodded.

“Do you know her name?”

Again, Beebee nodded. “She said her name is Apple Bloom,” he answered in a quiet and broken voice.

A lot of the tension in the air dissipated as Eventide let out a quiet chortle, and his aura lit up with wistful amusement. “Apple Bloom, eh? Why am I not surprised…” he muttered, more to himself than anything, before turning and beginning the descent into the basement.

Beebee took a moment to try and calm down, taking some comfort in the soothing motions of Eventide’s steps. After a moment, though, he peered up into his father’s eyes again. “Apple Bloom is the girl who saw me a long time ago, right?” Beebee asked, not really paying attention to where they were going. “Through the window at the old house, I mean?”

“I think so, yeah,” Eventide replied once they reached the bottom of the stairs. One of his hands reached out to flick on the lights before returning to support Beebee’s weight. “And you turned into a boy to stay safe?”

Beebee nodded, a small amount of excitement entering his voice at that part of the memory. “Yeah. I didn’t even know I could! But I was so scared of what would happen if she saw what I really looked like, so I just changed into anything. And I became a boy.”

“Must have been instinct…” Eventide mused, lightly nudging open the door to Beebee’s bedroom with a foot. He stepped across the floor and knelt down, setting Beebee down on his bed. The two made eye contact, and Beebee managed to weakly smile. He then looked away, his shame returning in full force.

“I’m sorry, dad… you told me not to do it, and I did it anyway, and… and I’ve been a bad son today. I’m so, so sorry. Don’t be mad at me…? Please?”

Eventide stared at Beebee for several seconds, a great conflict raging behind his eyes. Whatever his emotional state was, it was too chaotic for Beebee to make heads or tales of it. Colors flashed into existence and then disappeared as quickly as they came, making him look like the sky on the fourth of July.

Finally, though, his emotions settled down a little with cool resolve and an odd form of regret. Along with it, of course, was an intense and palpable aura of dissatisfaction. His expression sagged. “Well… I’m not mad at you,” he finally said, sounding a lot more tired than Beebee was expecting. He then lifted his gaze to meet Beebee’s again, and the bug shrank back at how intense it was. “But I am disappointed in you. You’re right; you broke the rules and did what you were strictly not allowed to do. There is a very good reason I want to supervise you whenever you go outside.

“I mean, what if Apple Bloom hadn’t been there to save you? You would have been lost and alone in the forest for who knows how long. Or what if you weren’t able to turn into anything when she came by? What if she saw you in your real form? Or, even worse, what if instead of Apple Bloom, there was a hungry animal, like a fox, or a raccoon, or heaven forbid, a bear?!

As he spoke, his voice steadily rose in volume, to the point that he was shouting again. Beebee cowered away from the onslaught, tears breaching his eyes while he struggled to contain his cries.

“What if you had gotten eaten Beebee?! What then?!” Eventide continued, his voice cracking with emotion. He jabbed a finger at the crack in Beebee’s flank. “You see that? That is you getting lucky! If things had turned out any differently, you could have gotten hurt even worse! You might have been lost with no way for me to find you! You could have gotten killed, Beebee! Do you understand that?! You. Could have. Died! And I would be left with no way of knowing what happened to my only son!

“Do you have any idea how that would make me feel?! How that would make Fluttershy feel?! What if we went looking for you and never found you?! She would be devastated- I would be devastated!”

Beebee screwed his eyes shut, unable to take any more. A quiet sob slipping past his lips, and soon swelled into a loud, miserable cry, one that stopped Eventide’s tirade in its tracks.

Beebee, unable to think clearly, turned away from Eventide and planted his face into the blankets on top of his bed. He wasn’t sure how long he lay there, sobbing and weeping uncontrollably into his bed. It felt like forever.

But then Beebee felt Eventide’s hand gingerly resting itself on the back of his head. He felt Eventide settling down on the mattress next to him, felt the man’s body warmth seeping into him from all sides, and tasted the outpouring of regret. He heard Eventide making soothing sounds into his ear, and after another eternity, his wails began to die down.

Finally, once Beebee had calmed down enough to speak, Eventide sat back up, keeping a hand on the back of the bug’s head. Beebee didn’t look back at him, though, even as he sat up. He kept his gaze locked firmly on the blankets beneath his hooves, still fighting down the occasional hiccup and sniffle.

“Beebee… hey, Beebee… look at me,” Eventide called out to him gently, his hand snaking around to turn Beebee’s head to face him. The two made eye contact, and Beebee could see a few tear marks on Eventide’s cheeks as well. The man gave him a weak smile. “Hey... I’m sorry I shouted at you... but you have to understand. What you did is not okay. You did wrong, and so…” he paused, and a quiet huff of mirth slipped out of him. “Heh… first time I’ve done this…”

Beebee tilted his head slowly in confusion. He sniffled, hiccuped, and managed to speak. “First t-time you’ve d-done what?”

Eventide withdrew his hand and stood up to his full height. He crossed his arms over his chest and looked down at Beebee in stern disapproval. “Beebee… you’re grounded.”

Beebee just stared at Eventide for a bit, his mind needing a minute to process and make sure he had heard that right. He slowly tilted his head the other way in confusion. “Uhm… is that a bad thing?”

Eventide chuckled under his breath, only adding to Beebee’s confusion. He shook his head in disbelief before looking at Beebee again. “Bad for you, at any rate. For the next few days, you’re not allowed to leave your room except for emergencies, and you don’t get to use the TV for anything.”

Beebee’s eyes widened in shock. He went to stand, but then winced and fell back to his haunches when his injury violently protested the movement “Ack! What?! But dad-”

“No buts!” Eventide cut him off, his voice gaining an edge of sharpness again. Beebee quickly shrunk back again, any disagreements dying in his throat.

“You screwed up big time, and I need to make sure that you don’t do it again. So, you get to stay down here, no TV, no games, until I think you’ve learned your lesson. Do I make myself clear?”

Beebee looked away again, then nodded.

“Look at me and answer my question, Beebee,” Eventide pressed, his index finger starting to tap impatiently against his arm.

Beebee hesitated, then turned his eyes to Eventide again. “I understand, dad…” he mumbled in dejection and disappointment.

Eventide gave a curt nod. He then bent down a little so his head was closer to Beebee’s eye level. “Good. Now, I want you to think really long and really hard about what happened and why. I’m gonna come back down here in a while to talk to you once I’ve taken care of a few things and we’ve both cooled off a bit…” he said before rising back to his full height.

With a heavy sigh, he spun on his heel and stepped out of the room. He closed the door behind him without looking back.

The click of the door shutting was much louder than normal in Beebee’s ears…


A few minutes later, Eventide let himself lazily flop back onto his bed with a muffled thump. He let out a long, tired sigh while placing his hands over his face. He closed his eyes and tuned the whole world out for a minute. He needed to think.

He stayed like that for almost five minutes, just letting his frayed nerves and pounding heart calm down. Then, with an exhausted groan, he slowly sat up on the edge of his bed. He let his hands fall away from his face so he could stare with an empty look at the wall across from him.

His gaze lowered a bit until it landed on a series of framed photos that were neatly arranged on top of his dresser. A tiny smile appeared on his face. They were almost all of Beebee at various points since they moved into this house, and all of them held a special place in Eventide’s heart. There was one of him playing with Buddha in the living room, one of him mercilessly and messily devouring a strawberry cake on his second birthday. There was one of him and Buddha curled up and napping together on the couch…

The one that stood out the most to Eventide just then, though, was the photo on the far left. His heart sank just a little bit, but his face lit up a little more with nostalgic remembrance. He slowly got to his feet and walked over to lift the frame in his hands. He brought the photo up to his face, studying it intently.

It was a strange feeling… it was as if all of the tension in his body left, but got several times more intense at the same time. Like he was put to rest and thrown into an anxiety attack simultaneously. Eventide closed his eyes and took several deep breaths to calm himself. Once his nerves relaxed a little, he opened his eyes again.

The photo in his hands was special… because it was the first one of Beebee he had ever taken. The picture of the little bug he called his son laying down and sleeping in Fluttershy’s lap over two years ago. Even to this day, it was just as adorable and heartwarming as it had always been. Time had done nothing to numb the feeling.

Eventide just stood there, blankly staring at the photograph for an unknown amount of time, letting his mind wander back to those tentative early days. He let out a quiet chuckle before turning and slowly walking back to the bed. It had really been a ragtag operation back then, hadn’t it? Especially in the days before Beebee could talk.

He sat down on the edge of his bed again, still looking at the photo, though now his eyes were unfocused as he watched memories from back then play before his eyes. So many wonderful memories… so much love and joy… Eventide, Beebee, Buddha, and Fluttershy, all just being happy…

Fluttershy...

Eventide frowned, his mind returning to the present as the thought of the timid young woman entered his mind. His shoulders slumped, and he sighed quietly before setting the photo aside and digging his phone out of his pocket. Fluttershy would want to know what had happened with Beebee. She’d want to know that he had been hurt, that he would be alright, and that he was grounded.

After a few pushes and swipes, he was calling her, and he held the phone up to his ear. The tone dialed twice before being abruptly silenced and replaced with a familiar quiet voice.

“Hello?”

Eventide smiled as he heard that voice. He hadn’t realized just how much he needed to hear it until just then. He didn’t let himself daydream, though, and instead launched right into his greeting with no hesitation. “Fluttershy, Beebee is grounded,”

There was a traditionally long pause on the other end of the line, and Eventide had to resist the urge to snicker. He could just hear Fluttershy shifting on the other end of the life before clearing her throat. “Ahem. What?”

“He’s grounded. I grounded him.”

“...Oh. Uh… why?”

“Meh. It’s complicated… I’ll tell you about it in a minute. But first, how was your day?”

“Oh, uh… I’m okay, I guess. What about you? You sound really, really tired.”

“Oh, you have no idea. Work was a pain in my backside a lot more than usual. Hawk couldn’t come in today, so we were short a guy on the trails,” Eventide replied before letting himself drop back onto his mattress again. “But really? That was the good part of my day. The real stress came when I got home.”

He could practically feel Fluttershy’s concerned frown from here. “What happened when you came home? Was it Beebee? Is everything okay?”

“Well, yeah, more or less…” Eventide replied before sighing quietly. “Okay, that’s a lie. Beebee… he hurt himself.”

“Wait, WHAT?!” Fluttershy shrieked abruptly, forcing Eventide to yank his phone away from his ear and wince in discomfort. A headache he hadn’t even noticed began to get worse, and he inwardly swore.

After a moment, he sighed and brought it back up to his ear. “Not so loud, please. I already have a headache.”

“Eventide!” Fluttershy snapped, her voice intent and impatient. “How bad is it?! Do you need me to come over?! Is he going to be okay?!”

Eventide managed to crack a tiny smirk and gave a nod. “Yes, Fluttershy, calm down. He’s going to be just fine. He banged up his right flank a little, but it’s already been treated and taken care of. He’s going to be just fine,” he explained, allowing himself a quiet chuckle of amusement when Fluttershy audibly sighed on the other end.

“Don’t scare me like that!” she protested indignantly, drawing another chuckle out of Eventide. There was a moment of silence after that before Fluttershy spoke up again. “So… how did he get hurt? And does it have anything to do with you grounding him?”

Eventide’s smile fell away, replaced with a grimace. “Well… that’s the thing. He left the house while I was away at work.”

“He did what? Why?”

Eventide shrugged helplessly. “I dunno, Shy… He said something about being bored and lonely. He went out to try and find some animals to play with and, well, I guess he started playing in the trees instead. According to him, he slipped, fell, and cracked open the chitin on his flank on the roots of one of the trees.”

He heard Fluttershy inhale sharply through tightly clenched teeth, and he could clearly picture a sympathetic grimace on her face. “Ouch…”

“Yeah. But he got patched up and escorted home. I found him passed out on the floor in the living room.”

“Wait… who patched him up? You were at work, weren’t you?”

Eventide sighed and closed his eyes. “I was, yeah. It was Apple Bloom. She helped him, apparently.”

“But, wait… Apple Bloom saw Beebee?!” her voice came through, growing in volume.

Eventide nodded. “Yup… Don’t worry, though. Luckily, Beebee took the form of a little human boy before she found him. She knows nothing, so we’re in the clear there.”

“He… he did what?”

Eventide rolled his eyes. “Yes, you heard me right. He managed to use his magic and turn into a boy. I dunno what he looked like, exactly. He had changed back when I got home. Passed out from exhaustion if I were to guess. But yeah, that’s a thing he can do.”

“Wow… that’s so amazing! You should figure out how long he can keep it up. Maybe if he can keep it going for long enough, he can start heading out and making some actual friends!”

Eventide opened his eyes, his expression morphing into a frown. He sat up intently. “What? I mean, yeah, I guess, but… you know how much of a strain his magic is on him; mentally and physically. He can’t even hold his border collie form for anything more than half an hour before he starts having one of his exhaustion attacks. The fact he held a human shape as long as he did was probably thanks to a rush of adrenaline! I can’t let him hurt himself like that.”

“I’m worried about that, too,” Fluttershy replied in understanding. “But you told me that he said he was lonely. Eventide, he left the house because of that. He went against your wishes for the first time in his entire life. I mean, think about it. He loves you, and me, and Buddha. He’s one of the most socially active creatures I’ve ever met. He’s like a cute, excitable little puppy who's eager to see and meet everyone and everything and be their new best friend.

“But he’s always cooped up in one place unless you’re there to hold his hoof. That can’t be good for a guy as friendly as he is.”

Eventide sighed and leaned forward, closing his eyes again while putting his free hand to his forehead. “I know, I know, but I can’t-”

“Eventide,” Fluttershy cut him off, her voice becoming unusually firm and intense. “A lifetime without friendship will hurt him a lot more than a day of being exhausted. Trust me.”

There were several seconds of silence, and eventually, Eventide had to concede the point. Fluttershy was right about the friendship, at least. She’d told him a few stories about her own exploits when it came to the magical mishaps that sometimes cropped up. Every time she and her friends had to deal with something like that, it was always their friendship that saved the day. “And that’s not even an analogy, it’s freaking literal,” Eventide thought.

He sighed and then gave a slow nod. “Okay… alright, I’ll tell you what. I’ll meet you halfway… I have an idea.”

“I’m listening.”

Author's Note:

“Beebee… you’re grounded."

Well, that's never happened before.

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