• 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 46: A Broken Family

Over the course of the next minute or two, Eve and Earnest sat down at the dining table while Eventide went to acquire some things from around the kitchen. Beebee watched him as well from his place on the floor, though his attention was far more focused on his grandparents, trying to take note of every single little detail he could.

There was a lot of tension in the air, and the silence only added to it. A whole suite of bad colors was drifting off of everyone, even if in small amounts. Anxiety, dread, sadness, and from Eventide, there was still some anger in his aura.

Eventually, Eventide returned to the table with three mugs of hot chocolate for them in his hands. He shot Beebee an apologetic look out of the corner of his eye, and Beebee got the message. After all, he thought, chocolate was poisonous for dogs.

“Okay, here,” Eventide said, quickly returning his attention to his parents as he set the mugs down in front of them. “Have some hot chocolate. I don’t really have much else right now.”

“Thank you, Eventide,” Eve said in a hushed voice, her fingers gently taking the mug and pulling it closer. She looked down into it for a moment, allowing the steam and the smell to wash over her. She got a small smile on her face and went to stip at the drink.

Earnest, meanwhile, gave a more cheerful nod of his head as he took his. He blew on it and took a sip before humming in delight. “Mmmmm! This is good, son!” he praised while lifting the mug a little over his head, as if for cheers or a salute.

Eventide didn’t really react to the praise, and just watched them for a second. After a few seconds, he sat down on the other end of the table, taking his own mug in his hands. “Hm. Thanks,” he muttered, his voice quiet.

An oppressive and heavy silence blanketed the room, one which Beebee wanted so, so desperately to break. Seeing his family, two of whom he barely even knew, in such a state of unhappiness was enough to make his skin crawl. He had no idea what he could do, though. He wasn’t supposed to talk right now, and he didn’t know enough about what had happened between them to offer any kind of suggestion. So he just settled with watching, his ears perked up and listening to every word.

Eventually, Earnest broke the silence by clearing his throat and leaning forward slightly. “So, uh, Eventide. You work up at the park, now?” he asked awkwardly, clearly trying to push the awkwardness away.

Eventide slowly nodded in response. “Yeah, I do. It pays a lot better than the Ginger Mart ever would…” he said before sipping at his mug. Once he set it down, his expression softened somewhat. “It’s nice getting to do something I like for a living.”

Eve’s aura slowly lit up with a more subdued shade of pride than Beebee was used to. It was marred by wisps of blue and purple, reminding the bug in disguise of the guilt and regret she felt. After a few seconds, Eve sipped from her mug and spoke up, her voice quiet. “So, what do you do there, if you don’t mind me asking?”

Eventide made eye contact with her for several seconds. “...I work with a team to perform maintenance on the path,” he stated matter-of-factly. “We get rid of debris, maintain water channels, repair the bridges, repair stone walls, cut back weeds… that sort of thing.”

“Sounds like hard work,” Earnest noted with a raised eyebrow, trying and failing to hold an interested expression.

Eventide slowly looked down into his mug, a contemplative look on his face. “It is…” he said before his voice trailed off, and the silence returned to the table. Beebee looked back and forth between them for several seconds, wishing that they would just talk to each other. Why was it so hard for them to just do that? What was wrong with them?

He lowered his head, disguising a heavy sigh as a yawn. His eyes wandered aimlessly for a moment and soon settled on Buddha, who had gotten comfortable out in the living room. The two made eye contact, and suddenly, an idea came to him. He shifted a little on his haunches, trying to remember exactly how it went. Once he was sure he had it, he nodded to himself. Then, with a quiet whimper, he stood up and made his way over to the sliding glass door at a brisk pace, keeping his tail tucked between his legs.

He could feel their eyes on him as he went, and their curiosity didn’t take long to fill the room and tickle his taste buds. Once he reached the door, he pawed at it a few times, shifted the weight around on his hind legs, and looked back at Eventide with an absolutely pathetic look on his face. He was met with the sight of Eve and Earnest looking on with amusement, while Eventide just looked bemused.

After a few seconds, Eve turned back to Eventide with a raised eyebrow. “Does he need to use the yard?” she asked, snapping the younger man out of his trance.

He looked at her for a second as if he were trying to process the question. Beebee had heard the term ‘deer in the headlights’ before, and the more he thought about it, the more Eventide’s look matched perfectly. Eventually, though, the man gave a shaky nod. “Er, yeah. Hang on…” he said awkwardly before standing up and walking over to the door, his eyes glued onto Beebee.

In a moment, the door was pulled open, and the two of them stepped outside into the cool autumn air. Eventide closed the door behind him, then followed Beebee as he walked a few feet away from the door to be out of sight. Once he was sure they wouldn’t be spied on, Beebee spun around to face Eventide and looked imploringly into his eyes. “Dad, what’s going on?” he pleaded in a whisper. “Why are you so mad at them?”

Eventide frowned at that question. He looked away for a moment but then got down onto one knee to look deep into Beebee’s eyes. “Beebee, I really don’t think now is the time-”

Beebee, no longer having the patience to hear an excuse, got up onto his hind legs to prop his paws up on Eventide’s shoulders. “Dad, please. You’re all scaring me. Everything’s red and blue in there, and grandma is really really sad,” he implored as emphatically as he could.

Eventide grunted and looked to the side, his expression turning spiteful and severe. “Well, that’s the problem…” he growled under his breath, more anger leaking off of him as he said those words.

Beebee flinched back, having to stifle the urge to gag as the abhorrent taste stabbed him in the tongue. “Dad…?”

After a few seconds, Eventide seemed to notice Beebee’s discomfort. He screwed his eyes shut and grimaced, and the waves of red gradually began to subside as he got his emotions under control. After a moment, he let out a heavy sigh and looked into Beebee’s eyes again, this time with a more resigned look on his face. “Look, Bee… It’s a really long and really complicated story… and I don’t know if you should hear it. It’s-”

“I wanna hear it,” Beebee protested, leaning forward again for emphasis. “Please, dad. I wanna know… and I wanna know my grandparents. I’ve never met them before today… and you never talk about them. It’s like you hate them.”

Eventide went stock still the moment he heard those words. He inhaled quietly, his eyes went wide, and all of the emotions in his aura winked out all at once. Beebee slowly tilted his head to one side, confused. After a few seconds, colors began to seep out of him again. This time, it was the color of regret.

“Dad?”

Eventide didn’t respond for several seconds, his eyes turning down to look at the ground. “...I don’t…” he finally went to say something, but the words caught in his throat. More regret and sadness filtered into his aura, and he closed his eyes tight. “I don’t hate her…”

“Dad? Are you…” Beebee’s eyes widened when he saw something rolling down Eventide’s cheek.

Was his father… crying?

Eventide sniffled and lifted his head back up. Beebee felt his heart stop in his chest when he saw that, yes, Eventide was crying. “I don’t hate her… I don’t…” he whispered in a shaking voice before screwing his eyes shut again and pulling Beebee against him in a tight, trembling hug.

Confused, Beebee clamped his mouth shut and did his best not to inhale the sorrow that surrounded him. It was almost as bad as anger, except instead of making him ill, it just made him feel weak and tired. All the same, despite that, he returned the hug as well as he could in his dog form. He allowed one of his natural chitters to slip past his canine lips and into Eventide’s ear.

After a few more seconds, Eventide pulled back, the deluge of emotions getting under control. He wiped his wrist over his eyes to dispel his tears and gave off a quiet, humorless huff. “Heh… wow… haven’t done that in a long time…” he mumbled quietly before he lowered his hand and affixed Beebee with a meaningful look.

“...You don’t hate her,” Beebee repeated before placing his hoof on Eventide’s chest. “So… why are you so angry at her?”

Eventide sighed and slowly stood up, forcing Beebee to let himself down and back up a few paces. Once he was upright, Eventide stuffed his hands into his pockets, his shoulders slumped. “...Tell you what. Wait until they’ve left, and I’ll tell you all about it. How’s that sound?” he suggested weakly before turning to make his way back for the sliding glass door.

Beebee nodded in agreement. As much as he wanted answers now, he understood enough that Eventide might need a little bit to compose himself. He went to follow after his father, then hesitated. He looked down at one of his paws and looked up at Eventide again. “Dad?” he called, drawing his father’s attention. Once they made eye contact, Beebee swallowed the lump in his throat. “...Can I show them, er, me? Like, me me?”

Eventide visibly stiffened at the question. His expression hardened considerably, and he shook his head with no hesitation. “No. Not today, anyway… maybe someday, if…” he turned around and looked at the door again. The intensity fell out of his expression, replaced with tiredness. “...If we can patch things up…”

Without waiting for Beebee to reply, Eventide walked in front of the door and pulled it open. He then turned back to look at Beebee and waved at him. “Okay, C'mon!” he called with much more energy.

Sliding right back into character as a friendly but quiet collie, Beebee lolled out his tongue and quickly ran back inside. Eventide waited for him to pass before closing the door and turning back to face Eve and Earnest, who had almost finished their hot chocolate at this point. They both had perplexed looks on their faces, and Beebee could see confusion radiating off of them.

“They must be able to tell he’s upset,” he thought, looking back and forth between them for a moment.

Eventide slumped against the sliding glass door and gave off a quiet sigh before making eye contact with his parents again. Specifically, his mother. “So, uh…” he began before faltering and looking down at the floor.

Beebee watched him, tilted his head, and quietly whimpered to spur him on. Eventide looked at him in response, and a tiny amount of gratitude lit up his dull aura. Then, with a nod, Eventide turned back to his family and reseated himself at the table. His hands encircled his mug, and he looked at his distorted reflection in the dark liquid within.

Eve and Earnest shared a concerned look before the latter leaned forward to put his hand on Eventide’s shoulder. “Hey, uh, Eventide... if we’re making you uncomfortable or anything, we can just go,” he said in a soft voice. “We don’t wanna stay if we’re upsetting you.”

Eventide was still for a second before numbly brushing his father’s hand off of his shoulder. He then looked up and directly at Eve, his eyes boring into hers. He then looked past her at Beebee, who had sat down behind her. They made eye contact for a moment before Eventide looked back at Eve and spoke. “Mom… I need to know… are you actually sorry about what happened?” he asked, his voice blunt and intense.

Eve wilted in her seat and pushed her mug aside. Beebee could see the sadness and guilt in her aura again, so intense his eyes began to droop against his will. Still, he forced himself to pay attention.

After a few seconds of thought, Eve nodded her head. “Yes… I am. I shouldn’t have shut you out like that, especially not for so long… It hurt you, it hurt Earnest, and it hurt me. I know there’s no excuse, but still... I am so, so sorry for everything that happened…”

Eventide’s gaze flicked back to Beebee, his aura lighting up somewhat with curiosity. Getting the hint, Beebee looked at Eve for a second, and then gave a sharp nod of his head to answer his father’s silent question. He found himself somewhat glad in the moment that neither of his grandparents could see him from where they were.

After a second, Eventide’s eyes flicked back to his mother’s, the coldness in his expression starting to melt away, even if only a little. “...Why did it take you so long to come and say it, then?” he asked, his voice much softer now. “If you’re so sorry, why did you wait for five years to tell me?”

Eve closed her eyes and sighed. “What was I supposed to say? With how you felt about me when you left, I thought you would never want to see me again… and every time I thought of you, more time had passed, and it got harder and harder to think you would ever forgive me. I thought that, maybe, it would be better to just let you go…”

Eventide leaned back, a sour look on his face. “Well, see, that’s part of the problem… you shut me out,” he said, his voice taking on that bitter edge again. A brief moment of eye contact with Beebee made him relax and tone it down, though. “But… I guess that time it was my fault more than yours.”

Eve opened her eyes and looked up at him in surprise. “Huh?”

Eventide pushed his hot chocolate aside, his appetite gone, and leaned forward. His eyes were downturned, and his fingers were locked together on the table. “Look… before I left, I said some really stupid things. Things I should not have said, and… and it only made things worse. I know that now…” he confessed, his voice low and even as he forced the words out.

He looked up into Eve’s eyes again. “Mom… I can’t ever forget what happened… I can’t forget how helpless and worthless you made me feel, because it stuck with me for a long time after I left. But…” he reached his hand out and very lightly placed it on Eve’s. “If you don’t shut me out anymore… if you’re willing to reach out and make up for your mistakes… then I’ll meet you halfway and make up for mine.”

“Eventide…” Eve whispered with tears in her eyes. She curled her fingers around Eventide’s hand, looking at a loss for words.

Eventide, for the first time since she had shown up, smiled at his mother. “I want things to go back to how they were. Or at the very least… I don’t want them to stay broken like this...” his grip on Eve’s hand tightened, and for a moment, just a fraction of a second, there was a flicker of pink in his aura...

Earnest looked between them for several seconds, his own eyes wide. Then, with a smile growing on his face, he reached over, and his hand joined his wife and son’s. “Don’t forget about me, kid!” he said, sounding almost offended.

Eventide gave him a sideways look, his expression going deadpan. “I’m not. You got a lot to make up for, too.”

“What?”

“Remember the puns?”

There was a delay before Earnest’s face split with a wide grin, and he burst into a fit of deeply joyous cackles. He playfully punched Eventide on the shoulder before his laughs began to come under control. “Ha! You want me to bust em out again?” he said in a teasing voice.

“I’d appreciate it if you stopped thinking everything you are thinking right now,” Eventide shot back in a warning tone before withdrawing his hand from the cluster.

“Oh, fine,” Earnest pouted before throwing one of his arms over Eve’s shoulders, who still looked to be shell-shocked by her son’s words.

Eventide returned his attention to his mother, his expression hardening. “Mom… are you going to make up for what you did?” he asked slowly and deliberately, drawing the words out to ensure that Eve fully understood what he was asking of her. Earnest’s amusement quickly fell away.

Beebee watched with bated breath, his eyes glued onto the woman as her aura flickered and spasmed with every single color he could imagine. It gradually began to slow down, though, until it eventually settled on a strange, bright teal color, intermixed with plenty of love. She suddenly sniffled and reached her hand back out to Eventide. “Oh, honey… yes… of course…” she whispered.

With a tiny smile tugging at his lips, Eventide took her hand in his and stood up. “Then get up and let’s get started. Come with me — We’re going to watch some television.”

“Hah, now you’re talking!” Earnest proclaimed happily while following his wife and son as they rose from their seats.

With that, the family made their way out of the dining room, heading back into the living room and getting comfy on the couch. Buddha had to hop down, sure, but she soon found a place in Eventide’s lap. Beebee hung back in the kitchen for a few moments, just taking in how that had gone.

He then walked up to the door and looked at them for a little while, watching as Eventide turned on the television and got comfy. While they began searching for something to watch, just idly flicking through the channels, Beebee’s eyes settled on his grandma and grandpa.

They’d be leaving soon, no doubt, and who knew when he’d get another chance to spend any time with them…?

Licking his chops in a display of nervous energy, he walked forwards until he was right in front of them. Eve looked back down at him, a warm smile on her face. Then, with a quiet whine, he set his paw on her knee, silently asking for permission to come up.

Eve didn’t even hesitate to answer his question. She leaned back, her smile growing. Beebee didn’t need anything more than that and hopped up into her lap. Her hands soon found places on him and began to pet, and in short order, her nails found that special spot on his neck.

Cursing the fact that she had found it so easily, Beebee contented himself with laying across both Eve’s legs, and Earnest’s, with his chin mere inches from Eventide’s thigh. He looked up at his father, and for a second, the two made eye contact.

Eventide winked at him.

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