The Bug In The Basement

by Skijarama

First published

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

Shortly after a changeling drone leaves her egg in the human world in a last-ditch effort to save it, a young man named Eventide Oath finds himself struggling to decide what to do with a newborn changeling nymph. He has no idea what it is, where it came from, or anything else about it. But with a little help from a good friend, he commits himself to take care of the little guy. Who knows? Maybe the small, bug-like equine will be just what he needs to make his life a little bit brighter.


(Inspired by the original premise and opening chapters of "I Am A Pet Changeling," with some smaller sources of inspiration coming from the anime movie, "Wolf Children."
This story is also the spiritual successor to 'The Bug in The Herd,' which was the first multi-chapter Fanfiction that I wrote that I also managed to see all the way to completion.)

(Cover art provided by the absolutely wonderful AureliaCharmCutiees. Go and show her some love!)

Editing now provided by Mister Hypothetical!

Featured on 8/7/2018, the same day I posted it! Glad to see people like it!

Prologue: All The Love In The World

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Clypeus’ lungs and throat burned as she screamed out in excruciating pain. Her black, hole-ridden hooves clutched at her abdomen and her wings buzzing furiously on her back. She writhed on the ground, crying and wailing in fear with every explosion of pain that shot through her lower body. She was panicking, her frightened eyes darting all over the thick-walled Canterlot Castle Treasury whenever she was able to open them through the pain. Mounds upon mounds of bits, gems, and other stupidly expensive knick-knacks filled the enormous chamber, a truly mesmerizing mass of the wealth that Princess Celestia had carefully accumulated over the years to run her country.

But all of that beauty was lost on Clypeus when another blast of pain worked its way through her belly and chest, eliciting another scream from her. She felt her hind legs trying to spread apart by instinct, and her fear grew even more.

This can’t be happening, not now! She thought to herself, trying desperately to pull her agony-filled body across the floor to the large, open door. Sadly, she eventually came to the realization she couldn’t go anywhere like this. Knowing it was time, she painstakingly flopped over to rest on her back, her legs apart. Gasping and crying, she was just able to bend her neck and look down with a grimace before, finally, another scream fled her lungs and echoed in the otherwise silent room around her. There was a spine-chilling squelch and plop before, finally, the pain in her body began to fade away, replaced with an ill-fitting sense of euphoria and joy.

That joy was short-lived, sadly, as the reality of her situation came crashing back down on her. Shaking horribly, Clypeus shifted until she could see what had just been dropped out of her body. A little, translucent green egg sat on the ground, glistening with a thin layer of slimy residue, some of which was still connected to her legs. Using her tail to brush the bridges of goop away, she managed to rise back to her hooves and looked down at the egg with a look of horror slowly appearing on her face. “Oh n-no…” she whimpered before reaching down and gingerly picking the egg up off of the floor.

She clutched the small, fragile shell to her chest, and lifted into the air with her wings. Still short of breath, she headed for the massive steel door she had tricked a guard into opening not more than thirty minutes ago and peered out. She had been tasked with scouting out the treasury for possible secret escape routes and, if she found any, she was to seal them off. She had found none and was about to return to the throne room to report to Her Majesty when… everything had gone wrong.

There was an enormous wave of powerful purple magic that had washed over her. It had carried an incredible amount of force and hurled her against the wall hard enough to leave a spider web pattern of cracks in it, and she was pretty sure she might have grown a few new cracks in her carapace in the process.

Had that wall not been there to catch her, she was sure that she would have been flung miles and miles away. However, the wall did catch her, and almost as soon as she had recovered from that spine-crushing force, her abdomen had felt as if it had been struck with a sledgehammer.

Peering out into the hallway, Clypeus cradled the egg even closer to her chest before slowly inching farther out. “The others...” She thought despairingly while listening carefully for any sounds in the hallway outside the treasury. “What happened to the others?

Where there had been the sounds of her fellow drones dive-bombing the city and putting down what little resistance the ponies had managed to put together, there was now only silence. With a terrible hole forming in her heart, she made her way around a corner and to a tall, broken window. She took a deep breath, bracing herself for what she might find, and gazed out onto the still smoking city of Canterlot.

Nothing. All of the other drones were gone. In fact, she could hear the sounds of ponies starting to cheer with victory outside. They had won. But their elation did little more than instill Clypeus with yet more fear and sorrow. They were gone… all of them. The queen, the invasion force, and Lancea, her mate… Whether any of them were alive or dead, she didn’t know, but she did know that they weren’t here anymore. If any drones remained in the city, they would not be here long, soon departing to try and find the others and regroup at Her Majesty’s hive.

And, with tears in her eyes, Clypeus realized that she would not be joining them. Carrying around an egg in such conditions would cause her to be left behind by the rest... and she would die all alone…

She looked down at her egg, barely stifled a sob, and then quickly retreated back to the treasury. As she passed through the frame, her horn sparked to life as she willed the massive door to slide shut, but not lock, itself behind her. She had enough love in her system to last for a few days, and right now it was too dangerous to try and find a better hiding place. She would wait until things calmed down a little bit outside, then leave the vault and, if all went well, the city. Then she could find a nice spot to hunker down and siphon whatever love she could for her nymph...

Still shaking, and with a limp steadily becoming more and more apparent, Clypeus made her way to the very back of the room, curled up behind a massive mound of bits and set her egg against her belly. She did her best to keep it warm with her legs and tail before slowly laying her head down and closing her eyes, eager to get some rest and make her escape when she woke up.


“I’m telling you Charger, nothing’s in here. They all got blasted by the love-bubble,” a young-sounding stallion’s voice cut through the darkness and echoed in the vault. The unexpected sound drew Clypeus out of her slumber with a start and quiet gasp. She lifted her head to look into the darkness, able to discern that night had fallen. She could hear the footsteps of at least two stallions echoing in the large chamber, slowly drawing closer.

“Then how come Spearhead was unconscious by the door after the battle, Dart? And how do you explain the door being left unlocked?” another stallion asked, this one’s voice sounding deeper, older and gruffer. “It’s better to be safe than sorry. Now shut up and help me make the sweep. Sooner we get this done, the sooner we can go to bed.”

There was a reigned chuckle. “Alright, you got me there,” the younger voice replied casually. They were getting closer, and Clypeus could see the light from their horns reflecting off of the coins around the bend of her mound.

“Oh no, oh no, oh no, no no…” she whispered as quietly as she could to herself, pulling her egg closer and looking down at the ground to hide her glowing eyes from the patrol. This was bad. If they found her, what would they do to her? Even worse, what would they do with her egg? Would they crush it? Would they take it away from her? She struggled to keep her breathing under control as scenario after horrible scenario began to play themselves out in her mind, each one worse than the last, each one making her entire body shake more and more.

One errant twitch of her hoof caused it to smack the mound of bits she was hiding behind, sending several of them spilling to the floor in front of her. The jingling sound they made was almost deafening in the relative quiet, and a startled squeak slipped out of her throat alongside an alarmed buzz of her wings. She went absolutely rigid as the rolling sound of the coins died away, and she listened for the ponies.

They had stopped talking, and their hoofsteps were slower and quieter. The light from their magic was getting closer.

They had heard her.

Panicking, Clypeus stood up with her egg held tightly in her hooves before shooting into the air as quickly as possible. She could hear the two guards shouting at her a moment later, and her blood ran cold when she heard the sounds of swords sliding out of scabbards.

“GET THAT BUG!” the gruff one shouted, the beams of light from their horns illuminating her from behind. Crying hysterically, she flew as fast as she could over the mound of coins to head for the door, only for her flight to be stopped near the top by a firm grip on her tail. Turning around, she saw that one of the pony’s had her tail held firmly in his auburn magic aura, while the other climbed up the coins towards her, his horn sparking dangerously with golden light.

“Leave me alone!” Clypeus shouted, kicking the coins under her hooves with both of her hind legs, sending a wave of them cascading down onto the climbing guard. He grunted in discomfort from the onslaught but managed to push through.

“Gah! Stupid little…” He growled angrily when he finally reached Clypeus, lifting his sword up into the air over her head to strike. Clypeus let out a terrified wail and clutched her egg as tightly against her chest as she could, screwing her eyes shut. Any moment now, that blade would bite into her, and she would be dead. Her egg would be in the hooves of creatures that no doubt despised her and her kind. It would be crushed. Her baby would be dead before it even hatched.

However, when several seconds passed without the sharp edge of the pony’s sword carving a new chasm into her chitin, she dared to peek open one of her eyes to look at the stallion. He had stopped mid-swing, his own, green eyes wide open and looking at the egg in her hooves with shock and horror. “Merciful Celestia…” he breathed, sounding mortified.

Clypeus took advantage of his momentary shock to kick out with both of her legs, hitting him squarely in the face. A sickening crunch was heard, and he screamed, a few drops of blood flying out of his nose while the light on his horn winked out. His sword dropped down from the air, though its angle caused its edge to drop right into Clypeus’ shoulder. White-hot agony erupted where the blade fell, drawing an agonized scream from her. She writhed and twisted in the air, the blade finally falling out of her and clattering down onto the bits. The guard, meanwhile, oblivious to her plight through his broken face, began to roll backward down the mound. The other guard let out a grunt of pain when he rolled right into him, causing his magic to sputter and fade.

With her tail now free, Clypeus dropped to the top of the pile before scampering down the slope opposite of the guards. The unstable surface of gold coins caused her to lose her footing halfway down, sending her falling forward. Thinking of her egg, she quickly rolled herself into a ball, holding the precious ovoid shape tightly against her belly to shield it from their descent. More pain rattled her body as it was battered with every impact against the gold, until finally, she came to the bottom. Her head hit the floor at the end of her tumble, and her vision exploded with colors from the impact, a deafening ringing sound flooding her ears.

Dazed and confused, she only realized too late that her beloved egg had slipped out of her hooves and was now rolling across the floor towards an odd vanity mirror that sat secluded in the shadows against the wall, it’s ornate and artistic purple frame coated with cobwebs from, presumably, many years of neglect. Wheezing in pain, Clypeus reached a hoof out to it and her egg, a tiny whimper slipping past her lips.

Then the egg disappeared.

Clypeus’ eyes widened when she saw it touch the surface of the mirror and then pass right through with a small shimmer of magical light. For a moment, she just looked at the mirror, dumbfounded. But as the ringing in her ears died away, allowing her to hear the two guards yelling at one another, she wasted no time in struggling to her hooves. She hissed in pain when her wounded shoulder reminded her of its condition, and she almost fell over once again. But with maternal instincts driving her on, she forced her mind away from the pain and quickly stepped through the mirror after her still unhatched child.

Stepping through that odd portal was a… surreal experience, to put it mildly. The whole world became a kaleidoscope of colors and energy and strange sounds that washed over her from all sides. Unseen forces pulled and plucked at her body as if trying to change it into something else, but her form persisted in spite of those efforts. As if enraged by her changeling physiology and it’s stubbornness, that same force then latched onto Clypeus and began to throw her around like a ragdoll. She couldn’t tell what way was up, what way was down, if she had food or rocks in her stomach, if she had two eyes or seven. Finally, though, the madness ended with a loud snap and a flash of blinding light. She fell forward to the cold, hard ground in a crumpled heap, groaning and gasping in pain and discomfort.

A cold breeze washed over her, and she swore she could hear an owl hooting somewhere in the distance. Was she outside, now? After a few minutes of just catching her breath, she managed to pick her head up off of the stone ground and take in her surroundings. She wasn’t sure how to describe what it was she was looking at… it vaguely resembled a castle or a palace, but it was far smaller than would be expected. Furthermore, there were way too many windows to be tactically sound. The front doors were made up of completely transparent glass with smooth metal supports. The front ‘courtyard’ was filled with lush green grass and a few very carefully maintained bushes and trees, tended to look uniform and beautiful.

Clypeus glanced over her shoulder for a moment as she stood up, inspecting the portal she had just passed through. It was very different on this side, appearing to be the base of an enormous stone statue of a horse rearing up on its hind legs. Beyond the statue, she could see the night sky filled with stars and the full moon. Crickets and night-birds made their sounds known and, for a moment, she was completely entranced by the sudden difference in her surroundings.

That trance ended when she remembered her egg and spun back around, scanning the ground in front of her for it. She saw it soon enough, sitting maybe twenty feet ahead at the edge of the grass lawn of the ‘palace.’ Relieved to see it undamaged, she took a step towards it.

Only for her wounded leg to give out, sending her crumpling to the ground with a cry of pain that echoed around her. Groaning, she lifted into the air on her wings before fluttering forward and gingerly lifting the egg and cradling it in her hooves. Again, her wounded leg burned horribly in protest to even that tiny action, and the pain almost made her drop the egg.

She glanced over her shoulder at the portal again, her ears drooping against her head. What if the ponies saw her going through? What if they found the mirror? What if they followed her…? She couldn’t run away from them for very long, not in her condition, and if she got caught… what would happen to her baby? She looked down at the small thing in her hooves as those horrible scenarios began to play themselves in her mind’s eye over, and over, and over again.

No, she couldn’t take that chance. She couldn’t.

With tears forming in her eyes, she looked back up at palace in front of her, then to the other buildings that rested on the other side of the street in front of it. They weren’t made by ponies, that much was clear. The architecture and proportions were all wrong; too big. A pony would have to stand upright on their hind legs all the time for the height and design of the doors to be justified. The windows were too high, as well. Clypeus looked at the portal again, then at her egg, and then the houses on the other side of that dark, smooth-stone street. Not ponies… or anything she had ever heard of. But if the ponies had a portal to these things just lying around, then, Clypeus figured, the locals here must have been peaceful enough for the ponies… right?

Barely containing her whimpers, she lifted herself over the street and settled down by one of the trees near a relatively nice looking house. She looked down at the egg in her hooves again before leaning down and planting a kiss on it. When she pulled back, she slowly sat down on her haunches and put the egg down in front of her, so it was resting against the tree. “I… I’m going to come back for you. But if I can’t, then... I just h-hope that whoever these creatures are, they shower you with all the love in the world…” she whispered, a tear dropping from her cheek and landing on the smooth surface of the egg.

With those parting words, she stood back up, cried in pain from her injury, lifted into the air on her wings and slowly flew back for the portal. She had to draw those guards away. If they found her egg, she was sure they would break it apart. Once she reached the statue, she paused and looked across the street at the tree she had left her egg under. Her eyes locked on the small thing, and for a second, nothing else existed to her. She silently swore to come back for it one more time before facing the portal and stepping through it, vanishing from the ‘palace courtyard’ and returning to the treasury in Canterlot Castle with another glow of light.

She never did come for it back, though. When the moon reached its peak and began its descent for the horizon, the portal closed without even so much as a sound. The statue was just a statue, the mirror back in Equestria was just a mirror...

And Clypeus’ egg remained under that tree, lost in a different world without its mother.

Chapter 1: Awkwardness

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The alarm clock went off with no mercy or consideration for the man who had set it. A dream-shattering ringing noise breached Eventide’s slumber like the shots of a machine gun, drawing a disappointed grumble from him. He lifted his peach-colored face from the pillow it had been planted in before reaching out and shutting off the outrageously annoying sound coming from his bedside table with a hard slap of his palm. With the blissful silence restored, he spent a few seconds just remaining motionless, not at all wanting to rise from the comforting warmth of his bed or go to work that day.

Of course, someone had something to say about his stillness.

He just caught the sound of four padded feet scampering across the floor of his bedroom before something jumped on him, and his back became host to a crushing weight. He grunted from the impact before a small, mirthful chortle managed to slip out of him. If he had to be honest with himself, this was the best part of his morning, every time. A slightly damp nose thrust itself into the back of his neck, sending blasts of warm air across his head, making his maroon hair dance just slightly. The snout then journeyed to poke and prod at his cheek, before a long tongue started energetically licking every part of his face the creature it belonged to could reach.

Now well and truly awake from the onslaught of early-morning affection, Eventide turned his vibrant blue eyes over his shoulder to look at the happily snuffing and prodding face of his golden retriever, who let a small, hopeful growl out from her throat before licking his chin. He went to say something, only for the dog’s tongue to slide over his lips, nose and left eye in one fell swoop. He recoiled from the slobber and brought up a hand to cover his face. “Uegh! Buddha, girl, easy!” he laughed out loud before finally managing to roll onto his back and sit upright. Buddha, without missing a beat, just kept on nosing at him for a few more seconds before hopping off of his bed and running over to the door, which stood slightly ajar. She stood there in the frame and looked back at him while wagging her tail. She gave an impatient bark to make her intentions clear.

Eventide just gave her a dopey little smile. “Heh… one of these days, I have got to let you be my only alarm,” he said drowsily before stretching out his arms and letting out a quiet yawn. “So much nicer…”

Buddha barked again, his sentiment lost on her.

Knowing that time would not wait for him to get a few extra zs, Eventide slid out of bed, dressed in only a pair of black pajama shorts and an old white t-shirt. Still shaking away the last remnants of the sand-man, he stumbled out of his simple bedroom and into the hallway beyond, while Buddha went scampering ahead of him. She raced over to the front door of the house with great enthusiasm, standing by it and looking back at him with her tongue lolling out. Eventide just nodded and followed after her.

His pursuit of the excited dog led Eventide out of the fairly short hallway and through what constituted as his living room, kitchen and dining room spliced together. On his left was a long counter with a fridge at its side. A stove and oven split the counter roughly in half, while a sink filled with a few cups and small plates sat to the stove’s right. A window sat just behind the sink, letting sunlight stream in through the thin white curtains. Closer on his left, Eventide saw his small, circular dining table pushed up against the wall with a set of three wooden chairs encircling it.

On his right was, perhaps, the most sparsely populated part of his home at this time, save for the basement. There was a single cushioned lounge chair that had lost much of it’s color to time against the front wall of the house. A blocky and uninspired coffee table with his cell-phone resting on top of it alongside last night’s T.V dinner tray was in front of it an angled just so to make sitting down easier. Against the far wall from the chair was a decently sized flat-screen television on top of an entertainment center.

Buddha barked again while scratching at the door, not at all interested in sight-seeing when she had some rather important business to see to.

“Okay, okay, I’m coming,” Eventide replied with a roll of his eyes while walking over. He gave Buddha a small scratch behind the ears before reaching out and throwing the door open. To his delight, he saw a mostly clear and sunny day, with only a few clouds on the distant horizon. Spring birds sang their melodious song from the trees, and a wave of warm air washed over Eventide, making him take a deep breath. He then looked down at Buddha and nodded towards the outside. “Go, answer the call of nature, you spastic little fluff ball,” he ordered playfully. Buddha barked again and did just that, sprinting outside to sniff around, looking for an appropriate spot to do her business.

After a few moments of sniffing around, Buddha came to a stop next to one of the trees in the yard, sniffing something at its base quite incessantly. Eventually, she let out a small half-bark while bouncing back a few paces, her eyes locked on something. Eventide raised an eyebrow before making his way over to his cell phone to check the time. He cringed when he saw it was already 11:00 o’clock and quickly went back to the door.

“Buddha, hurry up! I gotta get ready for work,” He called out to the dog, even though he knew she couldn’t understand him. She did understand the tone of his voice as being his ‘speed up what you are doing’ voice and obeyed without any further complaint. Soon enough, Buddha had relieved herself somewhere on the lawn and came happily frolicking back in.

After that was done, Eventide went and poured some food into her bowl next to the kitchen counter before having a bowl of cereal himself. While he was consuming his first meal of the day at his table, he lifted his phone to check his texts. Nothing exciting or interesting, save for a text from his boss to all of his co-workers, letting everyone know about some hardware issue or something in one of the lunchrooms.

With nothing else of note to be found on his phone for the moment and his cereal consumed, it was off to the shower, where his mind really began to wake up. He spent about ten minutes under the stream of hot water, running through his practiced and rehearsed statements and greetings for when he got to work, repeating each one under his breath meticulously. In short order, he had cleaned himself off and gotten dressed in a pair of blue-jeans, his red work shirt with a brown vest over it. Once clothed, he took a little bit to tidy himself up, running a comb through his short maroon hair and the trimmer over his chin and jaw to clear up a few errant whiskers that stubbornly refused to stay dead. Once all was said and done, he stepped back out into the rest of his home.

Buddha had finished eating for the moment and was now looking up at him with curiosity from the chair. Eventide smiled at her and pointed in her direction as he walked in the direction of the front door. “Okay, Buddha, daddy’s gotta go to work. You don’t chew anything, you hear?” he said simply while picking up his keys from the counter.

Buddha barked and wagged her tail.

Eventide gave her a light-hearted smile. “Heh. Atta girl. I’ll be back in a while!” he said in a theatrical way before throwing open his front door and looking outside. Those clouds he had seen in the distance were a little closer, and they looked like they might be rain clouds. But he figured he could power-walk to work fast enough to avoid the worst of it, if it began putting down at all. After shooting Buddha one last warm smile, he stepped out and closed the door. Locking it behind him, he set off at a brisk pace for the nearby Ginger’s Mart grocery store.


He was wrong about the rain.

Oh so wrong.

The clouds had rolled in faster then he had been expecting, and were now unloading their contents all over the entire region in a torrential downpour. It was so heavy that he almost couldn’t hear his own footsteps over the white noise of the rain. Cars drove by every now and then, adding a bit of variation to the ambiance, even if their passing often marked small splash of water against his woefully undercovered person. Dripping wet, cold and very disgruntled, he at least found some solace in the fact that he was getting close to work, at least. His workplace, the Ginger’s Mart Supermarket, stood out among the other, smaller businesses around it like a sore thumb.

He came to a stop at the next street corner to wait for the light, keeping his head turned down to try and keep the streams of water out of his eyes. A few moments passed like this, his shoulders hunched as a ridiculous amount of rain splashed against his shoulders, weighing him down. He was beginning to think that the red light might be broken when his thoughts were distracted by a subtle, circular shadow passed over his head, cutting the rain off before it could reach him. Eventide blinked in mild confusion before turning around to see who had been so kind as to lend him the canopy of their umbrella.

Of course, who else could it be? Standing in front of him with a sweet, shy smile on her face was Fluttershy. Her smile grew somewhat when he looked at her, a small shimmer of subtle delight shining within those ever gentle eyes of hers. “Hello, Eventide… um… did you lose your umbrella at work again?” she asked in her typically quiet voice, earning a small, disgruntled chuckle out of Eventide.

“Hey, Fluttershy. Yeah, I did. Go me,” he replied with a sarcastic shrug of his shoulders. After a moment, though, he frowned and his brow furrowed with confusion. He shifted to look at her more directly, shoving his hands into his vest pockets. “Wait, aren’t you supposed to be in school right now? It isn’t Saturday yet.

Fluttershy shook her head. “Mm-mm. No school on holidays, remember?”

Eventide blinked. “Holiday…? OH!” he slapped a hand to his forehead in realization. “Dik-Dik Appreciation Day! Right, that’s a thing!” he exclaimed before letting out a small laugh. “Y’know, you’d think they’d only cancel school for important holidays. Dik-Dik Appreciation Day’s about as obscure as they come.”

Fluttershy shrugged without a word. She then glanced past Eventide at the street light and perked up a little. “Oh, um, the light’s green,” she pointed out with a slight gesture with her finger.

Eventide looked and, sure enough, the light had turned, and he could cross. He nodded at Fluttershy in thanks before walking out and following the crosswalk. To his mild surprise, Fluttershy kept following him, keeping him under her umbrella. He looked over his shoulder at her questioningly. “You, uh… you need something else? I’m gonna be late for work.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Fluttershy quickly apologized before looking away, “But, um...I was just wondering, if you don’t mind, that is, but, um…” she lowered her head a little, allowing some of her long, pink hair to fall in front of her face, partially obscuring it. “How is Buddha doing?”

Eventide made an ‘o’ with his mouth in realization. He then put on a warm smile and nodded happily. “Oh, she’s doing good, Fluttershy. Don’t worry. I’m keeping her fed, brushed, and I take her for two one-hour long walks every night; one when I get back from work, and one before I go to bed.”

“That’s good to hear,” Fluttershy said happily, visibly relieved and perking up significantly from her hunched position. “I just know you’ll take good care of her, Eventide. You have always been good with animals.”

Eventide chuckled with an amused roll of his eyes. “Oh, please, Fluttershy. I’m not even close to anything you can pull off. You’re, like, the critter whisperer of CHS or something,” he replied in a slightly teasing tone, earning a small blush from the timid teenager at the praise.

“Oh… um… thank you,” she mumbled out, hiding behind her hair again.

“No problem,” Eventide said before looking ahead towards the store. The two of them came to a stop at the edge of the store’s sizable parking lot, and he realized with some measurement of dread that they were busy today. Deflating a little, he turned to face Fluttershy fully, a small frown on his face. “Anyways, I gotta get to work. See you later?”

Fluttershy looked down at the ground, looking even timider than usual all of a sudden. For a moment, she struggled to find her words. “Um… It’s just that… uh… we haven’t really hung out very much since you graduated a couple years ago…” she began before looking back up at him. “I was thinking that, uh, if it’s okay with you, maybe you’d like to hang out at the animal shelter at some point?”

Eventide subtly stiffened, his eyes suddenly finding everything but Fluttershy to be very interesting. “Uh… what time were you thinking?” he asked reluctantly, shifting back and forth on his heels in very clear discomfort.

Fluttershy, if she noticed, didn’t comment on it. “Maybe later today, after you get off work?” She tried with a hopeful voice, a small spark in her eye and an eager smile on her face.

Eventide rolled it around in his head for a moment, before giving a small shake of his head. “I… can’t. Sorry, Fluttershy. I don’t wanna leave Buddha alone for longer than I have to, and I still have a few bills to pay, so…” he sighed and looked into her eyes apologetically. “Not today. Sorry.”

Fluttershy wilted on hearing this, her gaze shifting to the ground below her. “Oh… okay,” she mumbled sadly, clearly dejected. She still managed to force a tiny smile after a moment, looking at him again. “Well… uh… I hope you have a nice day.”

“Yeah, you too. I’ll see you around.”

With all of that said, Fluttershy turned and began to walk in the direction of the animal shelter, probably planning on doing more volunteer work, as per usual. Eventide watched her go for a minute, taking note of how… disappointed she looked. He shook his head and mentally kicked himself around before turning and jogging across the parking lot and through the doors of the Ginger Mart.

Chapter 2: A Strange Find

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“Man was not meant to deal with holiday rushes,” Eventide grumbled irritably when he finally managed to get to eat his lunch in one of the few break rooms of Ginger Mart. A sandwich nestled firmly in his hand, he thumped himself down into one of the chairs that were still available, pulled his phone out of his pocket and got to checking any notifications. He only had fifteen minutes to try and relax before he had to go back out there into the storm of customers, and he was going to make the most of it.

The room itself was remarkably bland when compared to the rest of the store. The walls were mostly gray, with a dull, dark blue carpet and a white ceiling. A couple of light bulbs emitting a warm orange glow from the ceiling and across the room was one of the few things to make it look and feel even a little inviting. Against the wall to his left was a similarly dull counter with a microwave and coffee maker resting on it. To the left of the counter and nestled in one corner, a fridge freezer combo could be seen with numerous post-it notes and stickers plastered on it. There were two circular tables in the room, each one made to look like wood but were probably made up of some far cheaper material, and each one had four stiff plastic chairs tucked in at them.

The only other person in the room with Eventide, a young man with bright blue skin named Clean Sweep, gave a hearty little snort of amusement at Eventide’s remark while withdrawing his own lunch from the room’s fridge. “Pretty sure man wasn’t meant to go zooming around at many times the speed of sound,” he commented while sitting down at the table across from Eventide and shooting him a sideways look. “And yet, the modern fighter jet.”

Eventide just snorted and took a large bite from his sandwich while checking his texts. At the very top of the list, he saw one from Fluttershy, and he reluctantly pulled it up to study the contents.

“I’m sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable earlier.” was all it said.

Eventide repressed the urge to sigh, set down his sandwich and prepared to send a response. His fingers froze just above the touch-screen keyboard on his phone, though, his face twisting with indecision. What should he say? What could he say that wouldn’t make it more awkward. After several seconds of mentally trying to solve that puzzle, he sighed, backed out of the texting app and lifted his sandwich back up.

Clean Sweep raised a dark blue eyebrow, peering at Eventide with one of those really dark blue eyes he had. “You feeling okay there, bud? You’re acting kinda… tired.”

Eventide sighed and lowered the sandwich again. “I’m alright. Just got something on my mind, that’s all.”

“Like?”

“Why do you wanna know?”

Sweep shrugged casually. “Just curious, and looking out for my coworker,” was his nonchalant response before he took a bite from his own lunch, also a sandwich.

Eventide frowned and bit down into his own meal. After a few seconds of silently chewing, he swallowed and spoke up. “Just ran into one of my friends from school earlier. Kinda awkward…” he said, his voice trailing off somewhat as he recalled just how disappointed she had been.

Sweep gave a slow nod of understanding at that. “Oof. Yeah, that can be kinda awkward,” he agreed solemnly before shaking his head. “But eh. It’s just kinda how things go, isn’t it?”

Eventide shot Sweep a skeptical look. “That’s kinda surprising, coming from you. You’re the guy with an Ogres and Oubliettes campaign he runs every Saturday with friends from school,” he noted with a slight amount of playfulness in his voice. “Including your high school sweetheart. You two still together?”

Sweep smirked happily. “Heh, you know it! Yeah, I made an effort,” he replied before taking in another mouthful of food. Once it was swallowed, he leveled a firm look at Eventide, making the other man feel like he was being interrogated all of a sudden. “I can’t say the same about you, though.”

Eventide almost bit down on his own tongue from that comment and shot his coworker a questioning glare. “And what the heck is that supposed to mean?” he demanded indignantly before taking another bite from his sandwich.

“I didn’t mean any offense,” Clean Sweep was quick to point out, lifting up one hand in a placating gesture. “I’m just saying it how I see it. In all the time we’ve worked together, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you agree to hang out with someone, or go looking for a better job, or even try to get a promotion or ask for a raise, even if the rest of us think you deserve it. You just… kinda…” he gestured vaguely. “Lurk, I guess. You lurk where you are and don’t really try to move up to bigger things. What’s with that?”

That string of observations made Eventide visibly uncomfortable. He shifted in his seat and looked down into his sandwich while he rolled around his response in his head. After several seconds, he managed to figure out something to say that he hoped would be satisfactory. “I’m fine where I am, Clean Sweep. I don’t really need to look for anything better right now.”

Clean Sweep narrowed his eyes skeptically. “Yeah, see, that’s just not true, and you know it. Even if you’re happy where you’re at, there’s no way you can deny that the paychecks for your position are utter garbage here. You’ve got a dog to take care of and a house you’re paying bills for, not to mention keeping yourself fed. You can’t expect to sustain all of that with just this job forever.”

“Look, can we not?” Eventide cut in sharply, his voice sounding more than a little impatient. He winced when he realized just how bitter he had let himself sound and took a deep breath. Once he had collected himself, he tried again. “Look, I appreciate the concern, but Clean Sweep, as my friend, I ask that you not bring it up with me, okay? It’s not…” he sighed and set his sandwich down for a moment. “It’s not your business. I don’t mean offense when I say that, it just isn’t. It’s my problem.”

The awkward silence following that request was enough to almost kill both of their appetites. Luckily, Clean Sweep was always one to know how to break the ice. He gave a small smile before he gave a light-hearted snort, finished off his sandwich and stood up. “Well, at least you’re acknowledging it as a problem,” he jabbed cheekily before stepping over to the door. “The first step to fixing a problem is knowing it’s there.”

Eventide rolled his eyes and shot Sweep a play-punch at the shoulder as he walked by. “Yeah, yeah. You heading back out there?”

”Yeah. Someone’s gotta keep the peace out there. Wish me luck.”

“Good luck,” Eventide called after him halfheartedly before the sound of the door closing plunged the room into another silence. Eventide let out a small sigh before taking another bite from his sandwich. He spent another minute or so in the quiet, just eating his lunch, before picking up his phone and staring at the text message Fluttershy had sent him again. After several moments of indecision, he put the phone away again, finished off his lunch, then got back to work. His shift was only halfway done, after all.


By the time the sun was setting on the horizon and his shift ended, Eventide was beyond exhausted. The rush had not let up at all since it had begun until maybe thirty minutes ago, and several employees who had been scheduled to have the day off wound up being called in just so the store could handle the rush. But at least there would be overtime payments, and a few of the managerial staff had gone out of their way to provide cupcakes to the overworked employees as they were leaving their shifts. They had claimed that it was to make up for the stress they had been forced to endure. A silver lining, if nothing else.

Much to Eventide’s relief as he stepped out of the store and began his return trip to his home (with his umbrella in hand, this time), the rain had stopped. There were still numerous puddles of water all over the place, and there were still plenty of clouds smothering much of the sky, but at least he wasn’t being dunked on. The clouds that did remain in the sky were arranged in a surprisingly dramatic way, creating a dazzling display of contrasting lights and darks from the setting sun’s light.

In combination with everything else still being damp, the whole world had gained something of a surreal quality. Once dull surfaces shimmered and sparkled in the sunlight thanks to the leftover moisture, making everything around Eventide feel… magical, he wanted to say. Magical, surreal, serene. The surprising lack of traffic only added to this feeling of tranquility, and he found himself taking in a deep breath through his nose once he got out of the business part of town and returned to the residential region he called home.

As his walk progressed, though, his mind wandered from the serene beauty of the post-rainfall environment to the words Clean Sweep had said to him at lunch.

“In all the time we’ve worked together, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you agree to hang out with someone, or go looking for a better job, or even try to get a promotion or ask for a raise, even if the rest of us think you deserve it. You just… kinda… lurk, I guess.”

Eventide shook his head at the thought, trying to suppress a shudder. Whether or not it came from the residual cold of the rain or some feeling of emotional discomfort, though, he couldn’t be sure. He tried to force the thought down as he drew near his home, trying instead to focus on what he needed to take care of when he got there. He needed to feed Buddha, take her for a walk, check the mail, check his email, eat some dinner, and so on and so forth.

Managing to get his mind off of Sweep’s prodding, he was smiling when, at long last, he came up to the front door of his home. He could already hear Buddha scampering around beyond, and a small chuckle came to his face as he went fishing for his keys in his pocket. “Hey, girl, guess whose home?” he called leadingly through the door before sliding the key into the lock and throwing it open. In to time at all, the golden retriever came bounding out and reared up onto her hind legs, practically hugging Eventide around the waist while nosing his belly and lower chest, eager to smell all of the new scents he had picked up at work that day.

Her excited response drew a happy laugh out of him, and he reached a hand down to give her a scratch behind the ears. “Hey, girl! Were you good while I was gone?” He asked between his chuckles, then laughing when she shoved her snot into his belly button.

“Bark!”

“I don’t speak woof,” Eventide playfully shot back before lightly nudging Buddha down and starting to head inside. “Now, who wants some dinner?” He called back to her while making his way for the cupboard with the dog food in it.

To his surprise, Buddha didn’t follow him. Instead, she looked out into the yard before walking back over to that tree she had barked at earlier. Once Eventide noticed this, he decided that getting her food could wait for a minute and walked on over and see just what his dog was so fascinated by. As he came closer, though, his face gradually shifted into a look of confusion, then fascination. “Woah… what is that?” he mumbled curiously, squatting down to get a better look at the oddity. Buddha sniffed at it, then backed up to get out of his way.

Sitting just at the base of the tree, leaning against the trunk and glistening in the evening sunlight, was the weirdest thing that Eventide had ever seen. It was green and vaguely egg-shaped with darker green lines swirling around it in a pattern that almost reminded him of the way cabbage leaves folded over each other. Buddha sniffed at it again, then jumped back with a small bark, as if she were nervous. Not as deterred as his dog, Eventide slowly walked closer and looked the odd object over before reaching out and picking it up. It wasn’t as heavy as he had been expecting, though it wasn’t exactly light either. Its surface was remarkably smooth and almost reminded him of a rounded gemstone of some kind, and the way the light seemed to refract through it aided that assessment.

Although, the very, very slight give it had when he held it made him question that assessment. He held it up to the sunlight for a second and found that it was, indeed, translucent.

“Huh… weird. Where did it come from…?” he muttered to himself before, with a shrug, he rose to his full height and went inside. Buddha stayed close to his side, trying to sniff the strange item whenever she could, making little sounds of curiosity every time she got a good whiff. “Eh. Something to look up later, I guess,” Eventide finally decided before setting the smooth object down on his coffee table. He then turned, about ready to go and pour some more food into Buddha’s bowl, when said dog suddenly pawed at it. The object rolled across the coffee table and over the side, thumping onto the carpet where Buddha then began to sniff it almost aggressively.

Naturally, Eventide was not amused. “Buddha, hey!” he snapped, making her back away with a tiny whimper. “Stop bugging the weird rock thing. Jeesh…” with that said, he leaned down and picked it up again. And again, Buddha came closer to him in an effort to sniff at it, making little whines as he lifted it out of her reach. “What the heck has gotten into you?” he questioned incredulously before shaking his head in exasperation. Without another word, he made his way over to the door at the very back of the hallway that separated his bathroom and bedroom. Throwing the door open revealed an unlit set of wooden stairs framed by grey walls leading down to his basement.

Keeping Buddha from following him with his foot until the door was closed, Eventide made his way down the steps and into the only room of the basement. He pulled on a tiny chain that dangled from the roof, allowing the room’s one light build to spark into life and do its job. Now that there was light, Eventide could see just how very little he kept down here; a couple of cardboard boxes, some of which were empty, sat in one corner, while a couple of bookcases rested against the wall on his right. Aside from the dust, and the aforementioned items had collected, that was all there was down here.

Giving the curious item in his hands another thoughtful look, he walked over to one of the bookcases before gently setting the stone down on one of the shelves. He gave a quiet hum and studied it in the dim light for several moments, reaching a hand up to scratch the back of his head. Finally, with a noncommittal shrug, he turned and returned to the rest of his home, turning off the light and closing the door behind him. He’d do a google search about it tomorrow or something, he figured.

Chapter 3: What Are You?

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Four months later…

Screams. That was the sound that roused Eventide from his early sleep, alongside a deafening rumble and blast that reminded him of thunder. But it didn’t sound quite right… it was different, somehow. Off. He wasn’t sure what it was, but the unfamiliar nature of whatever it was he was hearing drove off any hope of ignoring it and going back to sleep. He opened his eyes and looked over at his alarm clock, a frown appearing on his face. It wasn’t even midnight yet.

Groggy, grumpy, and more than a little confused, he sat up to look at his clock more closely. He paused with his hand outstretched, however, when he just caught sight of a faint light peeking out from beneath his bedroom door. It was bright, almost white, but he thought there was a shade of pale blue in there as well. With his brow furrowing, he threw off his covers and climbed out of bed.

Slowly, with a hint of nervousness in his movements, he walked forward and pulled the door open. When he looked down the hall towards the living room, he found himself squinting against a blinding light somewhere beyond his windows. The light was originating from a spot in front of Canterlot High School across the street. Stumbling forward, a feeling of fear slowly building in his chest, he scanned the room for his dog, not catching sight of her on the chair. “Buddha?!” he called out in concern, and much to his relief, he heard the dog whimper from behind the chair. She was okay, good.

With her safety confirmed, Eventide returned his attention to the blinding light outside. Just as he did, the light flared and flickered out all at once, and a vibration in the floor he hadn’t noticed abruptly ended. All was still and silent. His heart rate increased, and he quickly made his way for the front door, uncaring that he had chosen to sleep in just his pajama pants that night. As soon as he reached it, he pushed it open.

As the door tilted away from him to expose the world beyond, he was greeted by the sight of… a demon?! He blinked and rubbed at his eyes, his jaw falling open in abject disbelief. But his eyes did not deceive him. In the air above Canterlot High School, he saw a red-skinned woman wearing a dress made of what looked like fire turned into silk. Two, enormous leathery wings flapped almost lazily at her sides, and her soulless black eyes shimmered with blue pupils. A sadistic grin was on her face as she looked at her body as if seeing it for the first time. Below her, Eventide saw many of the students of Canterlot High slowly shambling forward to stand below her, groaning and moaning like zombies.

“What the heck am I looking at?!” he breathed, horrified, taking a step back and closing his door. He then locked it and shot over to crouch by one of his windows, Buddha not far away. The poor, terrified dog was still cowering behind the chair, whimpering and whining to convey her feelings. Eventide shot her what he hopes was a reassuring glance before peeking up to look out the window again.

To his horror, he saw the she-demon lift her hands over her head while her cold, black eyes glared down on a small group of six students. The bloodthirsty, murderous smile on her face grew wider and sent a chill down Eventide’s face as soon as he looked at it. Her lips were moving while her hands came together above her head, and a colossal ball of fire formed between her fingers.

She then hurled the fireball down at the students, who quickly huddled together to shield each other. Eventide’s eyes widened with shock when he saw Fluttershy in that group. He cried out her name before ducking under the window again, his hand flying up to clasp itself over his mouth as the sound of a loud, fiery explosion reached his ears. Everything shook, and several objects fell off their places on counters and tables from the force. He felt his blood run cold and his heart sank deep into the pit of his stomach.

Buddha, seeing his distress, managed to work up the courage to slink out of her hiding place to press up against him, offering whatever comfort she could. Several seconds of silence came and went outside, and Eventide found himself as-yet unwilling to look at the scene again. He didn’t want to see Fluttershy’s charred body, and he didn’t want to reveal himself to the monster lurking just outside. Buddha pressed closer to him, and his free hand wrapped around her on instinct.

After a couple of minutes, there was another loud blast from outside, and a blinding light made up of all the hues of the rainbow was projected through his windows, illuminating everything in his living room in a kaleidoscope of color. Several seconds persisted before that light, too, faded away, and there was more silence. This time, it was even more deafening than before. Eventide finally managed to shakily remove his hand from his mouth, his breath coming in shaky, horrified gasps even while Buddha cuddled up to him, letting off quiet whines. Still, her presence managed to ease some of his discomforts, and he found the bravery to look outside again.

To his shock, the demon was gone, and Fluttershy was okay. Except… wait; was she sprouting a pair of wings?! Eventide blinked, shook as head, and looked on, watching the scene unfold. Fluttershy, along with the five other students she had huddled with, were standing around a newly-formed crater in front of the school, looking down on something at the bottom. He blinked again and let out a heavy sigh of relief, letting himself slump down until his back was resting against the wall, Buddha once again cuddling up to him.

He took a second to recount everything that had just happened in his head. He had been woken up by a loud explosion, saw a big red demon woman throw a fireball at Fluttershy and a bunch of other students, they all survived the blast, somehow, and now several of them were sprouting weird wings and new ears.

Then he let out a quiet chuckle, reaching over and giving Buddha a few gentle pets behind the ears. “Heh… I get it,” he muttered, giving a slow shake of his head. “This is a dream, isn’t it? Flying demons, big explosions, Fluttershy having wings...… yeah… I think I’m gonna go back to sleep, okay buddy?”

Buddha reacted by craning her neck to shove her snout into his hand, where she began to give him several licks. She definitely seemed to be relieved, as whatever danger there was had passed. And so, with his dog pressing up to him, the adrenaline fading from his system, and his brief moment of emotional turmoil having tired him out, Eventide managed to fall back into a dreamless sleep right there against the wall.

But while those two got in their rest, somewhere just below them, a certain object that had been forgotten, moved. The tiny being within sensed their mutual feelings, and with the surge of energy right across the street, it began to wake up. The egg rocked side-to-side a little bit, the tiny creature within stirring to life...


When Eventide awoke again, it was with a horrible ache in his muscles, especially in his shoulders and neck, and a throbbing in his skull. He groaned quietly in discomfort before his eyes fluttered open, revealing that he was still sleeping next to his window with Buddha resting against him. The gentle glow of sunlight streaming in told him that it was now morning.

But why was he waking up leaning against the wall?

With his face contorting in confusion, he looked down and saw Buddha, still sleeping soundly with her head in his lap, using him as a pillow. Not quite remembering why he was sleeping on anything but his bed, Eventide slowly nudged the dog’s head off of his lap so that he could stand up. As he went, he glanced briefly out his window to take a look at the weather. He froze, and his jaw fell slack when he saw the crater and rubble in front of the High school, and the events of last night came rushing back to him.

“W-w-wait!” he stuttered out in a near panic, stumbling back from the window and the soreness in his muscles forgotten. “All of that stuff was real?!

His exclamation finally roused Buddha from her slumber. She opened her eyes and looked up at him questioningly, an adorable yawn slipping out of her. Eventide saw this, then looked back out the window at the school. Now that he was really looking, he could see that the front doors were missing, too, looking as if they and their frames had been unceremoniously ripped away and hurled off to one side. In fact, now that he was looking, he was pretty sure that that pile of rubble over there was what was left of the main entrance.

For a moment, Eventide just looked on at the destruction, unable to comprehend what he was looking at. Then he remembered.

Fluttershy!

Fluttershy had been there! She seemed to be pretty involved, too, if what he was remembering was anything to go off of. Between being one of the six at the edge of that weird crater, being a direct target of the she-demon, and growing WINGS. With all of that in mind, Eventide turned and quickly made his way for the dining table, where he had left his phone overnight. Sadly, when he went to turn it on, he found it was unresponsive. He tapped it a few more times before a small picture appeared on the screen, telling him what was wrong.

Out of charge.

Typical.

Grumbling impatiently to himself, he walked back to his bedroom where he kept his charger. Buddha followed closely behind him, nervously sniffing at his ankles, and letting out worried whines as they went. She clearly sensed his confusion and was making sure he knew that she was there to make him feel better.

All of their momentum stopped just outside of his room, however, when a sound reached their ears. Eventide froze, his hand mere inches from the door. Buddha also locked up, her hanging ears perking up just a little bit. The two were utterly still for a short time, waiting to see if the sound would come again. And it did after a few seconds, clearer this time. It was a scratching sound, like someone was dragging a few rake-tips across a wooden plank. It was enough to send a disgusting tingle down Eventide’s spine, making him cringe and shudder. When it came again, he followed the sound, and discovered that it was coming from the other side of the basement door.

With a new feeling of trepidation building in his chest, Eventide began to slowly creep towards the door, listening to the sounds as he went. Buddha followed closely, her shoulders hunched and her pupils dilated. She growled low in her throat, glancing up at Eventide as if expecting him to shush her. When he did not, she growled a little louder. There was another scratching sound right on the door that made Eventide flinch back, his hand having been just about to grab the handle. Buddha let out a bark at that moment, and the scratching stopped for a second. Eventide hesitated, eyeing the handle like it would burn him. Just a quick look, he told himself. Whatever it is, get a quick look, then close the door and call an animal expert or something. With that plan firmly cemented in his head, he took a few deep breaths, glanced down at Buddha, and then opened the door.

As soon as he did, he saw two glowing blue eyes looking back up at him from the floor. These eyes belonged to a small grub-like creature covered in a white exoskeleton that was peppered with dark spots. Its face, however, was black and shiny, a pair of sharp, pointy fangs could be seen sticking down from its upper lip. Between and above its relatively enormous eyes was a small stump that came to a fine point. Looking at it, Eventide was sure he could hold the tiny thing in the palm of his hand.

Not that that was his first reaction to the creature, of course. His first reaction was to let out a very high pitched and undignified squeal while flailing backward to the floor as it hissed at him. Buddha, having not expecting his shout, let out a few alarmed barks of her own while glaring and growling in warning at the horned grub. It, in turn, backed away from her, a long and forked red tongue slipping out from between its lips as it hissed. It soon seemed to come to the conclusion that it would not win against her though. It turned and scurried as fast as it could back down the steps, leaving Eventide and Buddha all alone.

The latter, however, was not one to wait for the intruder to come back. She barked and gave chase, following the slimy creature back down into the basement. This was what finally broke Eventide out of his stunned trance. He shook his head and staggered back to his feet before running to the door and gazing down the stairs. “Buddha! You stupid dog, get back here!” he called angrily, though his words fell on deaf ears. He could still hear Buddha barking below, and that creature hissing at her.

Cursing, he began to carefully make his way down the stairs, not exactly wanting to follow a creature with glowing eyes that he had never seen before. But his dog had followed it, and he had to take care of her. He had promised Fluttershy that he would when he adopted her, after all.

Ah, the joys of being a pet owner.

As soon as he got to the bottom of the stairs, he yanked on the light-bulb’s chain, and the orange light flickered into existence. He saw that Buddha had forced the creature into a corner, where it had stopped hissing at her and was now trying to look as small as possible by curling up into a ball. She kept on growling and snarling at it for several seconds. Then it twitched, just slightly, and her angered barks died in her throat. Eventide watched with slowly growing confusion as, instead of tearing into it like he had expected her to, she instead slowly began to edge towards it, sniffing at it.

She was being so gentle…

But she was way too close!

“Buddha, get away from it!” Eventide shouted loudly before sprinting forward to place his hands on Buddha’s hips and drag her back. She growled low in her throat to protest his interference but otherwise did little to resist or fight back. As soon as she was by the stairs, Eventide risked looking away from her to study the bug in his basement. Just one of its enormous blue eyes was looking back at him from behind it’s curled body, glistening in the dim orange light. The look it had… it was enough to give him pause. It was terrified. He could just tell.

What was that sound? The little thing twitched again, the movement coinciding with a high-pitched, two-toned whimper. What was more, its eyes were getting… shinier. It started shaking and trembling, and that whimper evolved into a long, pitiful wail.

This thing… it was crying.

With his fear slowly fading away to be replaced by curiosity, Eventide’s eyes caught sight of something out of their corner and briefly flicked to one of his bookcases. There he saw the green stone he had brought into the house. Or, rather, the shattered remains of it. Raising an eyebrow in surprise, he put a hand on Buddha’s back. “Sit, girl. Stay,” he ordered firmly, and she did as commanded, albeit reluctantly. Slowly, never taking his eyes off of the bug, Eventide made his way over to the shattered stone. The bug did not move, it’s gaze bouncing between him and Buddha in absolute terror. Once he reached the bookcase, he took his eyes off the quivering creature to study the stone.

Not only had the thing been hollow, it had been shattered from the inside. There was some residual green slime pooled beneath it, long since dried. There was also a trail of the green slime slowly descending down the side of the case. Had this thing climbed down from the shelf? To be fair, that wouldn’t be the weirdest thing Eventide had seen in the last twelve hours.

Nevertheless, a realization dawned on him as he looked it over. He reached a hand out to the shell, tracing the edge with a finger. “It was an egg…” he mumbled under his breath, bringing his other hand up to his chin. “But…” he then turned to look at the cowering animal, and he felt a little more of his fear bleed away when he saw it curl up even tighter, another miserable wail slipping out of it. In place of his fear, another emotion was quickly building.

Sympathy.

Eventide slowly walked over to the creature, being careful not to make any loud noises or sudden movements. He kept casting glances in Buddha’s direction to ensure that she stayed put until he was directly in front of the bug. He slowly sat down cross-legged in front of it, studying its reaction carefully. “You’re just a baby… oh, man…” he murmured before looking back at Buddha again. She was still planted on her backside, though she let a few impatient whines escape her throat, and she shifted uncomfortably in place to convey her dwindling willingness to stay put.

When Eventide looked at the bug again, he found that it was slowly uncurling itself, a hopeful look in its eyes. He didn’t move, eyeing it very carefully as it crawled up to one of his partially extended knees. It sniffed at his knee, and then, to his great surprise, brushed its cheek along the bare skin as if to show affection. Its own skin made a small shiver go down his spine involuntarily. It was cold and still slimy, and it made his skin crawl. But he couldn’t deny that, now that he wasn’t freaking out, the tiny thing was almost cute.

Almost.

It looked up into his eyes again, and to his further surprise. Its eyes alone conveyed a remarkable amount of emotion, and if he didn’t know any better, he would have sworn it smiled at him just then. He just looked at it some more before voicing his question in a low whisper.

“So… what the heck are you?”

Chapter 4: Calling In The Expert

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Fluttershy was startled from her sleep when her cell phone sprang into life on her bedside table. It vibrated and let off the sound of singing birds, her signature ringtone. Groggily, she slowly pushed away her blankets, picked up the phone and looked at the name of the caller.

Eventide Oath.

With an audible gasp, she sat bolt upright, her eyes going wide as she remembered a detail she had forgotten during last night’s chaos. Eventide lived right across the street from the school! Chances were that he saw everything that had happened last night. “Oh, dear…” she whispered nervously before swallowing down her anxiety and pressing the answer button. She hesitantly lifted the device to her ear and spoke. “Hello?”

“Fluttershy, thank goodness! I saw the explosions last night at CHS. Are you alright?” his voice came from the other side, sounding decidedly relieved, but also remarkably frustrated and strained.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to worry you. Don’t worry, I’m okay, but I’m really tired. School’s been canceled until they can repair the damage, so…” she replied, shrinking down a little bit. “What about you?”

She could hear movement on the other side of the line before Eventide replied. “I’m, uh… having a, ah... problem of my own. I was kinda hoping you could help me out, if you’re sure you’re alright,” he said, his voice sounding distant whenever he paused, as if he were turning away from his phone.

Fluttershy’s eyebrows lifted a little bit at this. “What’s the problem?” she asked inquisitively, sliding out of bed and standing up. She then paused when she heard Buddha barking in the background, followed by a frazzled groan from Eventide.

“Hey! Buddha, sit! Sit girl, stay!” he shouted before speaking into the phone again, his voice even more strained than before. “Sorry, Buddha’s acting up.”

“At what?”

“What I need your help with. I have a weird animal in my house.”

Fluttershy blinked in surprise before turning and swiftly moving over to her closet. “Oh, really? What kind of animal? Is it a stray dog or cat? A hungry raccoon? An owl that got scared by the explosions?” she asked, no small amount of eagerness in her tone.

Eventide let out a long, uncertain drawl before answering. “Uuuh… I have absolutely no idea what it is. It’s slimy and hard, and it has fangs- you know what, I don’t know how to describe it; just get over here, please. It’s easier to show you than to try and explain.”

Fluttershy’s brow furrowed, and an uneasy feeling began to blossom in her belly. Fangs? Hard and slimy? That sounded dangerous... Still, her friend and an animal both needed her help, and she had no plans whatsoever of denying them. “Okay, Eventide, I’ll be there soon. I just need to take a shower and get dressed… um… if you don’t mind the wait, that is.”

“No, I don’t mind, just don’t take- ah, crud! Gotta go! It’s eating my chair!” he said in a rushed voice before the line went dead. Fluttershy looked at her phone screen for a second, very bemused. Then, with her expression hardening, she reached into her closet and pulled out her favorite sky-blue shirt.


Eventide bit on the tip of his thumb as he watched the tiny thing crawl around his house, sniffing at everything, usually followed by experimentally nibbling on it. He’d quickly move towards it if that was the case, making a loud noise or shout. This was usually enough for it to figure out that biting his furniture was a bad idea, driving it to move on to some other object.

It was just such a shame that this ritual had to be repeated for basically every single object in his home. Already it had nibbled on the basement door, the blankets hanging off of his bed, the leg of his dresser, and more. Right now it was sniffing at his coffee table, with Buddha watching it like a hawk from over her food bowl. Her bark earlier had been when the grublike thing had attempted to eat her food. She had taken a great deal of exception to that, and did not make an effort to hide her contempt. Now she stood guard over her dish and growled at the thing whenever it got too close.

This had been going on for almost forty minutes, with Eventide having called Fluttershy maybe ten minutes after letting the tiny thing out of his basement. The decision had mostly been made because he didn’t feel comfortable leaving such an alien creature completely unattended in his house. He had no idea what this thing could do if he didn’t keep his eye on it, and so he did. Thankfully, it decided that trying to eat his coffee table would be waste of time. It let out another of its weird two-toned squeaks before starting to crawl over to his entertainment center.

More specifically, it was approaching the wires sticking out from behind it that plugged his television into the wall. Moving quick, Eventide walked over and nudged the bug back with a sock-covered foot, shaking a finger at it. “No. Don’t go near wires. They’ll zap you, and then I’ll have a dead alien creature in my house.”

It didn’t seem to comprehend his words, but the nudge from his foot was enough to convince it that the television was off limits. Eventide gave a small sigh of relief when it instead chose to start crawling for his dining table, which would take it a little while to get to.

Then there was a knock on his door, making him jump. After a moment of processing, he jogged over the door and threw it open with a loud sigh of relief. Sure enough, there was Fluttershy, smiling back at him. She had clearly opted to not apply whatever small amount of makeup she normally would, and her choice of attire was also somewhat haphazard. Not that she was ever too keen on heavy makeup or fashionability. She was dressed in a sky-blue t-shirt and a long green skirt with white shoes. “Eventide! It’s good to see you!” she said happily, reaching out and wrapping him in a hug.

He nodded sluggishly and only returned the hug with one arm. “Hey. Sorry, but can we skip the formalities? I’ve still got a wild animal in my house,” he said matter-of-factly, turning on his heel to let her in.

With her expression hardening slightly, Fluttershy gave a quick nod before stepping into the house. Eventide closed the door behind her, then watched with an amused grin as Buddha all but tackled Fluttershy, wrapping her paws around her waist, sniffing at her belly and wagging that tail like there was no tomorrow. Fluttershy just gave a delighted giggle and returned the affection with some energetic pets. “Oh, hello, Buddha! How are you, girl! You being good? Eventide being nice to you?”

Buddha licked Fluttershy’s hand spastically before giving off a happy bark to indicate her contentment. Fluttershy just giggled again before rising back to her full height and looking out into the room. “Okay, where is the poor, lost wild… animal…?” her voice trailed off as she caught sight of it, looking back at her with wide, glowing and frightened blue eyes. It had managed to reach Eventide’s table and was slowly inching to hide behind one of its legs. Stiffly, Fluttershy took a step back so she was side-by-side with Eventide before whispering to him out of the corner of her mouth. “Eventide?”

“Yeh?”

“What is that?”

Eventide looked at her, flabbergasted, then shook his head and threw his arms up in exasperation. He then strode past her to get a better look at the bug. “I thought you’d know. All I know is it showed up in my basement overnight. I brought its egg in a couple months ago thinking it was some kind of pretty rock or something,” he explained before squatting down and looking at it skeptically. “Evidently, I was wrong.”

Fluttershy tilted her head and glanced past him at the door to his basement. “Egg?”

“It’s a newborn baby, yes,” Eventide replied in a grim voice before slowly standing back up. “It’s smart, though. I only need to direct it away from my stuff one time and it gets the message. It also gets kinda clingy if you let it get close.”

Now curious, Fluttershy slowly made her approach, giving Buddha a quick scritch behind the ears as she went. This made the dog happy. As she drew closer to the bug, it began to cower back and away from her even, a few tiny whimpers coming from its lips. She froze on hearing this before very slowly lowering herself down until she was practically flat on her stomach. She then extended her hand towards it, the tips of her fingers coming up a few inches away from the table leg. “Hey, there, little guy,” she whispered in a soothing voice while giving it a reassuring smile.

The bug eyed her hand skeptically. She whispered to it again and began to playfully move her fingers up and down. Seeing the wiggling appendages made it curious, it seemed, and it slowly crawled up to her. It sniffed the tip of her middle finger before lifting itself up to try and grab her hand with it’s two tiny front legs. Fluttershy smiled warmly at it once it had a hold on her. “Hello. I’m Fluttershy. What are you, little fella?”

The bug responded to her words by letting its forked tongue flick out to taste her hand. Her brow became furrowed, and her face grew strained at that, but she did her best to maintain her non-threatening appearance. After a few more testing licks, the grub moved closer, allowing her to very gently brush her fingers along the back of its head. The moment she did that, it all but melted in her palm, a few sounds similar to giggles slipping out of it.

“Well, it likes you,” Eventide commented with an entertained smile. “Makes sense. Like I told you; you are the critter whisperer.”

Fluttershy, as before, blushed at the praise before standing up, holding the tiny creature in her hand as she went. It looked down at the ground as they went, and It’s grip on her hand tightened. It wrapped its front legs around her thumb for security and looked around with wide eyes as it got a birds-eye view of the house. Once she was full height, Fluttershy walked over to Eventide to show it to him. “Aww. The little guy’s kind of cute, isn’t he? Just look at those eyes…”

Eventide slowly nodded. “It would be even cuter without the fangs,” he remarked before extending an index finger towards it. It very slightly uncurled from Fluttershy’s hand to sniff at his thumb. Then it reached out for Eventide with both of its legs, rising up from the teenager’s palm and making needy squeaking sounds.

Fluttershy giggled. “I think it wants you to hold it.”

Eventide cringed. “Er, sure… look, Fluttershy,” he began while gingerly taking it into his hands. Almost immediately it began to crawl up his hand and onto his wrist, ignoring a few sounds of protest he made as it went. He then looked at her with pleading eyes. “You gotta take this thing out of my house, alright? Figure out what it is and get it back to the wild or something.”

Fluttershy slowly nodded while watching it climb on him. “Yeah, I guess so… heh,” she stifled a laugh when it began climbing from his shoulder and up the side of his head, making him grimace. “He really likes you.”

Eventide looked at her curiously, one of his eyes closed. “You sure this thing’s a guy?” he asked through grit teeth.

“No, but it’s rude to keep saying ‘it,’ isn’t it?” she pointed out before clapping her hands together when it finished climbing and set itself on top of Eventide’s head. “Yay, you made it!” she cheered it on in her trademark whisper.

Eventide’s look flattened. “Eh. Fair enough, I guess. It’s still a wild animal in my house.”

Fluttershy nodded in understanding. “Okay, fair enough. Should I take it now, or…?”

Eventide stifled a gasp when it slipped slightly from his head and latched onto the left side of his face, dangling precariously from his eyebrow. He held perfectly still, his speech partially muffled. “Sooner would better, yes.”

Letting out another giggle, Fluttershy then reached out for the bug on his face. “Okay, little guy. C’mon…” she said to it in a gentle, mothering voice. Her fingers curled around it and plucked it off of Eventide’s face with a quiet ‘pop,’ like a suction cup pulled from a hard floor. Once it realized what was happening, it began wiggling its legs at him while letting out squeaks of protest and dismay. Fluttershy’s eyes shimmered with sympathy for it. “It’s okay, little guy. I’m gonna find out what you are and take very good care of you,” she reassured it before smiling at Eventide. “I’ll take care of him, don’t worry.”

Eventide nodded, his eyes not once leaving the small grub as it reached out for him. It looked so sad... “Y-yeah… sure. Go on, then,” he said, stuttering slightly as if he wasn’t quite so sure of this decision anymore. Either way, Fluttershy pulled the creature close to her chest, where it rotated to look over her shoulder. With a nod of farewell, Fluttershy than turned and began making her way for the door. The bug’s eyes just kept boring into Eventide’s as they went, with its legs reached for him and it’s mouth still emitting tiny, protesting squeaks that were getting gradually more desperate.

Then, with no warning whatsoever, it opened its mouth and plunged its pointed fangs down into Fluttershy’s shoulder. She let out a pained shriek when they punctured her skin and sent both of her hands flying to cover the assaulted spot. This, in turn, caused her to drop the bug. It slid from her hands and fell to the floor with a soft thump, seemingly undeterred by the fall.

Eventide’s eyes widened with shock, and he gasped loudly. “Fluttershy, are you alright?!” he asked while rushing over, shooting the bug a hostile glare.

“I’m okay, I think,” she replied in a shaking voice, slowly taking her hands away from the spot. The damage was minimal, thank goodness. Just a couple of tiny red pinpricks that would probably be fully healed in less than a minute. She also turned to look at the bug, watching with now anxious eyes as it crawled over to Eventide… and latched onto his leg with its own, as if hugging him and hiding from Fluttershy.

He blinked at it several times in absolute bafflement before looking at Fluttershy helplessly. “What is with this thing? Why did it bite you?!” he asked, sounding confused, frustrated, angry, worried, and more.

But Fluttershy just had a look of understanding on her face. She took a step back and did her best to look as non-threatening and apologetic as possible. “...I don’t know what he is, but I think that…” she slowly knelt down to a get a closer look at it, and it, in turn, shrank away from her, clinging even tighter to Eventide’s pant leg. Slowly, a smile grew on Fluttershy’s face as it occurred to her. “I think it sees you as it’s dad.”

Eventide’s eyes widened, and for a few seconds, he found himself spluttering incoherently. His eyes darted down to look at the bug clinging to his pajama pants before locking onto Fluttershy in abject confusion. “What?! Are you serious?! It isn’t a duck, you know!” he exclaimed, baffled.

Fluttershy shook her head and stood up tall. “No, but it’s not too far fetched that he might see you as it’s parent. I mean, look at him. He’s clinging to you, and he bit me when I tried to take him away.” she explained before crossing her arms and frowning in thought. “That means that trying to take him anywhere might hurt him more than it would help.”

Eventide stared at her for several moments, trying his best to find a good counter-argument. “But… it’s a wild animal!” he pointed out again, gesturing at it. “You aren’t supposed to just have wild animals in the house! It’s dangerous! And this sucker already bit you!”

Fluttershy pouted and looked at the bug again. “That is true; wild animals can be very dangerous, even if raised around people… you’d need an expert…” as she spoke, a certain glimmer came into her eyes. Then she looked back up into Eventide’s eyes and clasped her hands together over her heart. “I could help you!”

“Fwah?”

Fluttershy seemed to be getting rolled up in excitement at the prospect to acknowledge her friend’s sudden look of objection and frustration. She began walking in place and clapping her hands in childish delight. “Oh! This is going to be so much fun! I can’t wait to see what he grows into! Will he grow wings? He looks like a larva of some kind! Is he gonna molt? Will he shed his skin? Is he poison-”

“Fluttershy, hey!” Eventide cut her off while grabbing her by the shoulders. “I didn’t ask for or agree to this! Get a hold of yourself!” his voice was loud and sharp, immediately ending her excited tirade. The effect was immediate, and she quickly fell silent, backing away from him. The movement allowed several locks of her long pink hair to fall in front of her face and hide her from view.

“I… I’m sorry… I just thought…” she whispered, visibly wilting and backing away. Eventide watched her go with a look of guilt very quickly replacing his frustrated scowl.

“Fluttershy, I’m sorry,” he called after her gently, reaching out. “I’m just frustrated…”

“I know,” she replied softly before taking a moment to look at the creature clinging to his leg. It was eyeing her curiously now, slowly peeking out from behind his pants. “He’s just so afraid… I don’t want to scare him more than I have to… he’s just a baby. However long his infancy lasts, they will be the most important days of his whole life.”

Eventide mouthed like a fish for several moments before letting out a long, tired sigh. “Okay… alright, I’ll meet you halfway. My computer’s in my bedroom, we can do some research and see what we can find. And maybe, depending on what he is…” he looked down at the bug, a look of resignation on his face. “...I might take care of him until he’s ready for the wild.”

Fluttershy nodded, a ghost of a smile gracing her features. “Um, okay… that sounds fair,” she agreed with a timid nod. She then reached into her pocket and pulled out her phone. “Just let me call my parents really quickly. I kinda forgot to tell them I was coming over here.”

Eventide raised an eyebrow at her while reaching down to gingerly pick the grub up off of his ankle. “Really? That’s not like you,” he commented while holding the creature up to his chest. It clung to him and let out a relieved squeak when he heard his heart beating behind his ribs.

Fluttershy, for her part, blushed slightly in embarrassment while looking away. “I was… in a rush,” she sheepishly admitted. Just as she was about to dial her dad’s number, though, there was an audible growling sound. Both people looked around for a moment, before an uncomfortable whine sounded from the chitinous creature in Eventide’s arms. It curled up slightly, it’s tiny legs reaching down to its belly. It then looked up at Eventide, it’s eyes asking him a silent question. Seeing this, a charmed smile spread across Fluttershy’s face. “And while I’m calling my dad, you can give the little guy some breakfast."

Chapter 5: First Meal

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Eventide didn’t waste any time in going to his fridge with the bug curled up to his chest while Fluttershy called her parents to tell them where she was. With her soft voice speaking in the background serving as pleasant white noise, he pulled open the fridge and began looking through what he had. “Okay… let’s see here…” he mumbled while glancing at the sharp fangs hanging from the bug’s upper lip. It grinned at him in return, letting out a tiny squeak and revealing its sharp teeth. “Judging by the teeth, I’m gonna guess carnivore,” he decided before reaching into the fridge. He pulled out a circular package filled with slices of lunch meat, which he then brought over to his counter. Setting the bug down next to his microwave, he used his now free hand to open the package and pulled out a single slice of lunch meat.

To his surprise, however, when he set it down by the bug, it merely sniffed the meat, poked it with one of its legs, then looked back up at Eventide with its stomach grumbling again. He blinked. “...Okay, no to lunch meat. Uh…” he turned and went back to his fridge, pulling open the higher of the two doors that led to his freezer. As he had hoped, towards the back was a big bag filled with chicken nuggets. “Maybe chicken?” he thought aloud while pulling the bag out and tearing it open.

The bug watched him curiously while he worked, tilting its head and making inquisitive squeaks. He placed five of the nuggets in a circle on a paper plate, which he then stuck in the microwave and set to cook for about a minute and a half. While the machine was doing its work, Eventide then pulled open one of the cupboards over the counter to see that he still had a banana left. Curious, he pulled the long yellow fruit out of the cupboard, peeled it, procured a knife from a drawer and cut a small slice off the tip. He then showed it to the bug, hoping for a reaction.

But the reaction he got was the same as before. The bug sniffed at the banana slice, poked it, then looked at Eventide with its face scrunching up with impatience. In response to it’s seeming indignation, he could only take a bite out of the rest of the banana and throw his arms wide in exasperation. “Hey, don’t look at me like that! I dunno what you eat, gimme a break!” he complained through the food in his mouth.

The bug’s face scrunched up a little more from his tone of voice and bizarre body language. It then crawled a little closer to the edge of the counter and held its little legs out to him as if it wanted a hug. Eventide sighed, took another bite of banana and went for the microwave. The nuggets were almost done. Just like before, though, when he presented them to the bug, it seemed remarkably disinterested in the food being presented.

“Meh, fine. Your loss,” he grumbled while popping one of the nuggets into his mouth and chewing on it. The bug watched him, tilting its head again. Sensing an opportunity, Eventide began to heavily exaggerate his chewing motions while putting on a giant smile. He then ran a hand over his belly and gave a content hum. “See? Food is good,” he said once he swallowed it down. “Have some. You’ll feel better.”

The bug held its legs out for him again.

It was at about this point that Fluttershy finished her call and came walking over with a bemused expression. “Um… is everything alright here?” she asked, looking back and forth between the two as they stared at each other.

Eventide sighed and shook his head. “Fluttershy, there is a weird bug creature with a horn and glowing blue eyes on my counter refusing to eat anything I give it, the high school across the street exploded in the middle of the night and needs repairs, you had a giant fireball chucked at you and you grew wings that are now conspicuously missing,” he rattled off before giving her a flat look. “What do you think?”

She put a finger to her chin for a second as if she were actually thinking about it, then she smiled warmly at him. “I think that it could be a lot worse. Somebody could have been seriously hurt last night, but everything turned out just fine,” she said optimistically before looking at the bug. Her smile was lost to a frown. “Doesn’t like meat, huh?”

“Or banana,” Eventide noted while finishing off said yellow fruit. Once he swallowed it down, he sighed and threw the peel at his trash can. “I don’t really have a whole lot of food I can freely drop on this thing to try and figure out what it eats.”

Fluttershy gave a slow nod, folding her arms over her chest and thinking the matter over. “Well… I could run over to the animal shelter and pick up some food we have lying around. Maybe he eats insects or worms or something,” she suggested hopefully, drawing a nod from Eventide.

“Hey, if you think it’s worth it, go right ahead,” he said in agreement before heading back over to his fridge. “I’ve got some more stuff I can still work through here. I’ll try all of that while you’re gone, okay?”

“Okay. I’ll be back soon!” Fluttershy called while turning and jogging for the door. She paused next to Buddha, who was still sitting by her food dish and gave the dog a few quick scratches behind the ears. Buddha barked happily at the affection and leaned into her hand before Fluttershy saw herself out. Once the door swung closed, Buddha let out a quiet, pitiful wine before finally deciding she was done standing guard. She stood up and made her way over to Eventide, who was showing a piece of broccoli to the bug with no new results. She sniffed at his leg where the bug had clung to him earlier, then barked up at him with a wag of her tail.

Eventide looked down at her, saw the look on her face and chuckled. “You hungry, girl?” he asked, already knowing what the answer would be.

“Bark!”

“Alright, have something,” Eventide laughed, taking the slice of lunch meat that the bug was still ignoring and loosely tossing it at Buddha, who happily chomped it out of the air. While she was satisfying herself with that, Eventide went back to the fridge and pulled out an apple. Once he had a small slice of it cut away, he presented it to the bug.

Again, it didn’t seem interested. It looked up at Eventide and held its legs out again while its stomach gurgled. Its eyes glistened slightly, and it let out another few tiny squeaks, sounding distinctly uncomfortable. Eventide, groaning with frustration, placed his hands over his face. “Bug, buddy, I don’t know what you eat! I’m trying!” he wined before taking his face out of his hands.

He did so just in time to see Buddha stand up on her hind legs to put her front paws on the edge of the counter. She began to sniff the bug, who in turn sniffed her back, both of them looking rather curious. For a moment, the two just looked at each other before Buddha opened her mouth and gently picked the bug up by the scruff of its neck like it were a puppy. Eventide’s eyes widened in alarm. “Buddha, hey!” he said sharply, moving to stop her. He froze when she growled loudly at him, though, and took a few nervous steps back. “Woah, hey! Buddha, easy… you’re not supposed to be-”

She growled at him again, then continued with what she was doing before. She picked the bug up and carried it over to the chair in the corner of the room. Once there, she hopped up and lay down, curling up and tucking the bug between her front legs. With it now secure, she then began licking the top of its head, cleaning away some of the grime it had accumulated during its adventures in the basement. The look on its face was first one of utter confusion, then delight. It made a little sound that, if Eventide didn’t know any better, he would have sworn was childish laughter. It shifted, probably to make itself a bit more comfortable, before opening and closing its mouth over and over, like it was chewing on the air.

As he watched them, all Eventide could do was laugh under his breath and shake his head. His hands came to a rest on his hips “Well, glad to see you two have hit it off so well,” he remarked in amusement. Buddha just kept licking the bug to clean it off, and the bug just kept chewing the air. “Congrats, bug. Buddha’s adopted you. Now I can’t get rid of you,” he jokingly commented before heading over to his phone on the dining table. He had a feeling he wouldn’t be coming in for work today.

After a few minutes, he had sent a text that he hopes would be believable. With that done, he set his phone down and turned to look at the two creatures on his chair. Watching them like that, he had to begrudgingly acknowledge that the sight was… kind of adorable. With a small smile on his face, he slowly made his way over to them. Buddha’s eyes trained themselves on him once he got close, and he decided that was far enough. Finding that he was next to his coffee table, he sat down on the edge of that and just watched them some more. “Okay… I gotta admit,” he said with a quiet chuckle. “You two are cute.”

The bug perked up when he said that and reached its legs out to him with another needy squeak. Eventide got the message, and slowly lifted a hand towards it, trying not to upset Buddha. She eyed him like a hawk while his hand got closer, but his slow movements made it perfectly clear that he meant no harm. After a few seconds, he finally managed to place the tips of his middle and index finger on the bug’s smooth head. He stroked them past its horn and down the back of its neck, and it leaned into his ministrations while closing its eyes and… purring? It was an extremely high pitched sound, like a cross between a cat purr and a cricket chirp.

After a few minutes of lightly petting it like this, Eventide finally retracted his hand and let Buddha go back to cleaning it with her tongue. After another few minutes, something occurred to him. Squinting, he leaned down slightly to get a better look at the bug’s happily smiling face. “Hey… are you still hungry?” he asked rhetorically, not expecting an answer. Its stomach had not growled pretty much since Buddha picked it up, so it was either very distracted from Buddha’s loving licks, wasn’t hungry to begin with, or it was fed by physical affection.

If he hadn’t seen a raging she-demon the previous night, Eventide would not have hesitated to dismiss that third one as utter gibberish. But he did see that she-demon, he did see it throw a fireball, and he did see Fluttershy sprout wings. So, with all of that in mind, he found the idea not as ridiculous as it might have sounded twenty-four hours ago.


Eventually, Fluttershy came back with several paper bags filled with various small forms of food for various types of animal life. Grubs, worms, tiny spiders, nuts, small fruits, berries, and more. She was greeted by the sight of Eventide still sitting on his coffee table, watching Buddha and the bug cuddled up on his chair with a charmed expression on his face. He caught sight of her, and the two met up in the center of the room to discuss what had happened while she was gone with a bowl of cereal.

“So, his stomach just stopped growling?” she asked in surprise once he finished getting her caught up, taking a bite from her bowl.

Eventide nodded, resting one elbow on the table and setting his chin in his palm. “Yep. I’m guessing he wasn’t actually hungry and it was some other noise. Gas bubble, maybe. I dunno…” he replied with a shrug before shoveling in some cereal of his own.

Fluttershy tapped the tip of her spoon to her chin in thought for a few seconds before swallowing down her mouthful and looking over at Buddha and the bug, who were still on the chair. “And you said he was chomping at the air?”

“Mhmm,” Eventide replied simply, looking in that direction as well. “No idea what that was about…”

The two were quiet for a few seconds before a quiet sigh slipped out of Fluttershy. “I’m just as lost as you are,” she admitted sheepishly, curling a lock of her hair with a finger.

“I bet,” he replied with a small smile. “But if I have to take care of this thing, I guess I have the best person for the job helping me out, eh?”

Fluttershy giggled while bringing a hand up to cover her mouth. “I mean, I guess? Thank you for the compliment,” she said before setting her hand back down and taking another spoon of cereal.

“No problem,” was Eventide’s simple response. After another few minutes of silence, the only sounds being their eating and the occasional quiet squeak from the bug, he finished off his cereal and stood up. “Alright, I’m gonna grab my computer and see what I can figure out about this thing. It’s in my room, come on in when you’re done eating, okay?” he said simply.

Fluttershy, with a mouth filled with milk and cereal, gave him a thumbs up and muffled ‘mhmm’ before he turned and walked off into his bedroom. Once inside, he went straight for his plain wooden computer desk, sat down and turned on his computer’s monitor. Signing in, he pulled up his search engine and set to work typing in his first search. “Alright, you weird basement bug,” he thought before hitting ‘Enter’ and seeing the results.

“Let’s find out just what you are…”

Chapter 6: A Name For You

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Nothing, nothing and a whole lot more nothing. Eventide let out a heavy sigh, leaned back in his chair, and ran his fingers over his face. There had not been a single picture, reference, theory or even illustration that brought him any closer to figuring out what the bug was. Anything and everything he found that even seemed remotely promising just turned out to be wild conspiracy theories about completely unrelated matters. How could one even leap to the conclusion that cockroaches were government spies? Sure, they were hard to squash, and they were always there, but come on!

Letting out a tired groan, Eventide stood up and made his way back out into the living room to check on things. Once he got there, he saw that Fluttershy was crouched down next to the chair where Buddha and the bug were still resting. She was watching the two of them in silence, her face turned away from him. He paused in the hall for a second to take in the sight before clearing his throat, getting Fluttershy’s attention. She turned to look at him curiously. “Hey. Did you find anything?” she asked while standing up and walking over to him.

“Nope,” was his blunt response. He gave a shake of his head and looked over at the bug on his chair incredulously. “It’s like nobody’s ever seen or heard of a creature like this one before. No sketches, no forum ramblings, no documented encounters. There weren’t even any videos of shaky cam footage, and there’s always shaky cam footage!”

Fluttershy raised an eyebrow at that last point, but chose not to comment on it for now. “Uh, well, what do you think you’re gonna do now?” she asked softly, her expression one of concern and curiosity.

He placed his hands on his hips and studied the bug on his chair with a creased forehead and pursed lips. It looked back at him and made a little gurgling sound. “Well…” he finally sighed, glancing over at Fluttershy in resignation. “I said that I’d take care of him until he’s ready for the wild, depending on what we found. So…”

On hearing that, Fluttershy’s eyes lit up like the night sky on the Fourth of July. An ecstatic grin appeared on her face. “So you’ll do it?!” she asked, clapping her hands together a few times over her chest.

Eventide managed to take some comfort in her display of enthusiasm. He shot her a smile and a thumbs up. “Yeah, I guess I am. You’re helping me, though, don’t forget,” his thumbs up turned into a pointing index finger.

Fluttershy nodded, clearly happy with this arrangement. “Oh, of course! I’ll come over every day to check in on you two and see how he’s doing,” she suggested before glancing over at the bug. Her smile was replaced with a small frown. “Although, uh, if you’re taking care of him, we’re gonna need to name him.”

Eventide snorted with a small smirk. “A name, huh? Sure, I’ll get right on that,” he said before walking up to the chair and crouching down in front of the bug. It smiled back at him and reached its little legs out. Getting the idea, he reached out one of his fingers, and the bug wasted no time in latching onto him and crawling up his arm. Buddha quietly growled in her throat and looked mildly offended by Eventide’s apparent abduction of the tiny creature, but she otherwise did not react except by glaring at him.

He slowly stood back to his full height, watching as the bug climbed up his arm, then his shoulder. It stopped at his neck, where it curled around the back of it to rest its chin on his other shoulder. Fluttershy, from where she stood, watched this transpire before clasping her hands over her heart and letting out an adoring ‘awwww.’ Eventide gave her a deadpan look. “You gonna swoon over there?” he asked tauntingly.

“It’s just. So. Cute!” Fluttershy squealed, hopping up and down a little bit. However, any farther gushing from her was cut short by the tell-tale ding of her cell phone receiving a text. With her lips tightening into a line and her smile fading away, she withdrew the small device and checked her message. As soon as she saw what it was, her eyes widened. “Oh, shoot… I’m so sorry, Eventide, I completely forgot. I’m supposed to be meeting up with the rest of my friends in a little while. We’re going into the city to celebrate, uh, not getting fried by a giant raging Sunset Shimmer,” she explained before stuffing her phone back in her pocket.

Eventide sighed but nodded. “Okay, I understand. Go on; I’m sure I can manage this guy for a while-” he stopped mid-sentence and looked at her in disbelief. “Wait… that demon was Sunset?!”

Fluttershy gave a sheepish nod while heading for the door. “Uh, yeah. It’s a really long story. I’ll tell you about it later if that’s okay? I really gotta go,” she replied in a slightly rushed voice. Eventide, still gobsmacked, just nodded.

“A-alright, go. Thanks for coming by,” he said to her. She smiled back at him, opened the door and stepped out, closing it behind her. Her exit plunged the room into a deep, contemplative silence. For several seconds, Eventide just stood there, looking at the door and pondering his day so far. Then his facial expression morphed into one of exhaustion, and his body slumped in agreement. The bug on his neck, seemingly sensing his dismay, pressed the side of its head against his cheek while letting out another one of those weird chittering purrs. The kind gesture was enough to make him relax, and he reached one hand up to give the bug a few scratches behind the ears.

“Heh. thanks, bug…” he mumbled appreciatively before straightening his posture and clearing his throat. “Okay, I got to name you something. Bug, Basement Bug and ‘it’ just don’t really work well, do they?” he continued before gently prying the bug off of his neck and heading for his room. “Tell you what; I’m gonna hop in the shower real quick and think about it while I’m getting cleaned up. Then, once I’m out, I’ll let you know what I came up with. Deal?”

He wasn’t expecting any understanding responses from the bug, but he took the little squeaks and chirps from it’s smiling face as an indicator that it had no objections to this plan. He set it down on his bed next to his pillow, then backed away to let it explore. It immediately sprang into its survey of this strange, foreign land called ‘the bed’ with great enthusiasm. It crawled around, eagerly sticking it’s muzzle into every single wrinkle in the blanket, sniffing at it and flicking it’s long, forked tongue out in the air. Eventide watched it for a second from the foot of the bed before spotting something on the floor.

Smiling, he leaned down and picked up one of Buddha’s oldest toys, a large plushie of an ant. She hadn’t really had much interest in it before, he remembered, only chewing on it very rarely. When the squeaker inside it died from a particularly enthusiastic chomp, what little interest she had in it had very quickly faded away, and she had soon moved on to newer, better toys. It had just been lying around for months at this point, collecting dust and getting kicked about whenever he walked into the room. Now, though, maybe it would have another use. With an absent shrug, he lobbed it onto the bed near the bug and studied its reaction.

The creature eyed the plushie for a few seconds, then slowly and cautiously approached. It sniffed at one of the ant’s antennae for a second, flinched back, and then tackled the stuffed animal. Eventide was half expecting it to start gnawing on it like a dog, but instead, he saw it curling its legs around the stuffed ant and hugging it tightly. He raised an eyebrow at the curious display. “Huh… you are just full of surprises, aren’t you?” he mused to himself. With a huff of amusement and content that the bug would be alright for now, he grabbed some clothes from his dresser and made his way to his bathroom.

Before long he was under the shower, letting the hot water run over his body to ease his still aching and cramped muscles. Through all of the excitement and confusion of having a weird bug in his house after the school across the street had exploded, he hadn’t really given much thought to how sore he was for sleeping against his living room wall and floor. But now that his muscles were relaxing, the transition they went through could be described as ‘from frozen rocks to warm, rich butter.’ He let out a content sigh and just enjoyed the sensation for a minute before letting his mind drift back to the bug.

He’d need a name for it, of course, since it was sticking around. But what could he call it…? He began to give it some thought. Silky, maybe? It kinda looked like a silkworm, after all, but it also looked like a really big larva or grub. Maybe he could call it that? But then again, if it was a larva, what would happen when it matured? What would it change into? Would it even change? If it did, then he’d basically be calling it a baby every time he said its name, and even if that wasn’t such a big deal for him, he knew he’d catch flak from Fluttershy for it if he named this guy poorly. He could just see it now: Fluttershy flailing her skinny little arms at his head after hearing him utter the bug’s new name for the first time. “Bugsy?! You named him Bugsy?! Shame on you! That’s so demeaning!”

Of course, his immediate retort would be “At least I didn’t call him Buggy McBugface,” and to be fair, he would be right on that account.

But as amusing as those exaggerated idle thoughts were, they didn’t bring him any closer to figuring out a good name for the bug. With a slight grunt of frustration, he set about applying what little shampoo he had left to his hair, closing his eyes in the process. The name had to be something fitting, he knew. So he began to work through everything he knew about it, everything it had done, everything he had seen. He was just about to give up for the time being when he recalled what he had called it when it was on his shoulder a little while ago.

“Basement bug…” he muttered to himself while rinsing the suds out. “Basement Bug…”

A tiny smile began to appear on his face when the name finally came to him. Finishing off his shower with a quick scrubbing of his body with a bar of soap and a rinse, he was soon dry, dressed and stepping back into his bedroom. The bug had gotten rather adventurous in his absence, and it had made a friend. With the stuffed animal somehow sticking to it’s back, the bug was climbing up the back wall of the bedroom, although it’s face was twitching with strain.

Deciding that it had had enough exercise for now, Eventide walked over and pulled the bug from his wall. It seemed startled by his sudden appearance, squirming and squeaking in his hands, but it quickly relaxed when it saw his face. He set it down on the edge of his bed before dropping down to one knee in front of it. “Hi,” he greeted plainly.

The bug chirped at him, holding out its legs as if it wanted to hug him.

“Want a name?” Eventide asked, to which it wiggled its legs and tilted its head in curiosity. With a small grin, he lifted a finger and pointed it squarely at the bug’s nose. “Because I’ve got a name for you.”

The bug set its legs down and tilted its head in the other direction, clearly trying to make sense of the noises he was making. Then, without any other warning, Eventide poked its nose with the tip of his finger. Its entire face scrunched up from the contact, and an indignant hiss slipped out of its tiny mouth when he pulled back. Eventide took the look it was giving him with a wry grin before nodding. “I found you in my basement. You’re the basement bug. But that doesn’t really roll off the tongue, does it?”

The bug didn’t seem to comprehend his meaning, but it was clearly listening with great interest. Well, it was intelligent, that much really couldn’t be denied after everything Eventide had seen it do today. With his smile growing, he reached his hand out for it to sniff. It decided to just latch on with its legs, hugging tightly onto his thumb. “Heh. Basement Bug is too long. So let’s shorten it down…” as he spoke, he gently lifted the bug until it was eye to eye with him. His smile grew.

“Hello… Beebee."

Chapter 7: Learning Curve

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Eight Days Later…

Beebee was turning out to be a much larger handful than Eventide had ever anticipated, and taking care of him presented quite the learning curve. The tiny fella almost always needed attention, be it to keep him from falling off of something, keep him from chewing on something he really shouldn’t, or to try and figure out what was wrong whenever he began crying; which was frequently. Beebee’s cries were remarkably loud and human-like, aside from the fact that they were two-toned. All Eventide could do in those situations was hold Beebee close to his chest and try to calm him down. It was the worst at night. Eventide had had to start keeping Beebee in his room when sleeping just to make sure he could react fast enough whenever Beebee acted up. He would just cry and cry without any provocation, eventually tiring himself back to sleep in Eventide’s arms.

There was also the matter of trying to figure out just what it was that Beebee ate. In the eight days since he had hatched, the grub hadn’t eaten a single bite of food, unless Eventide wanted to count playfully gnawing on a piece of raw, uncooked chicken as ‘eating.’ It really didn’t count, though, as none of that meat wound up actually being swallowed. Beebee just gnawed on it for a while, then held out his legs in that adorable ‘hug me’ gesture. But despite a lack of physical ingestion, Eventide knew that Beebee was getting sustenance somehow. He knew this because Beebee’s stomach would periodically growl, he would display signs of discomfort, but after a little while of being fussed over and worried about by Eventide, Fluttershy or Buddha, he would relax, and the growling would stop.

Just more fuel for the theory that Beebee was fed by affection.

The whole routine wouldn’t have been quite so bad if Eventide didn’t still have to go to work at the Ginger Mart, eating up eight hours of his day every time. He found that he never hesitated to clock out and jog home the moment his shift was ended to check in and take over for Fluttershy. True to her word, she had been coming by every day she could to help Eventide take care of Beebee, usually taking over for him while he was at work if she was able. Sadly, between her volunteer work at the animal shelter, spending time with her reunited group of friends and preparing to resume school once the repairs were done, she wasn’t able to make sure Beebee was always supervised.

Luckily, Buddha seemed only all too eager to fill in for both of them whenever they were both gone. Eventide had come to understand that the golden retriever kept Beebee out of trouble when they were alone, typically by picking him up and keeping him with her on the chair, cleaning him off and standing guard over him like a mama wolf. It was relieving to see those two getting along so well, and it was something of a treat when Eventide would come home to be greeted by both of them. The barks and licks from Buddha and the eager squeaks of Beebee.

That was an event he was looking forward to later on today, standing next to one of the checkout aisles at the Ginger Mart, bagging the groceries of the latest customer while Clean Sweep ran their stuff over the scanner. It was a pretty calm day, all things considered, with only a few people actually in the fairly sizable store at the moment. He had been here for a good few hours, now, just going about his usual tasks. Bagging, shelving, stocking, and answering questions. The usual. Soon enough, the customer had their goods all paid for and bagged, heading for the exit and leaving Eventide and Sweep alone.

The latter man looked over at Eventide with a raised eyebrow, studying him. This passive examination did not go unnoticed, and Eventide looked back at Clean Sweep questioningly. “What is it? Something on my face?” he asked while lightly tapping his own chin and cheek to emphasize his point, making the other man chuckle.

“No, not really,” Sweep denied before pausing, his face twisting with thought. “Ehhh… okay, I lie,” he corrected himself with an absent shrug. He then pointed at Eventide’s face. “Yeah, there is something on your face, kinda. You’re tired.

Eventide conceded the point without even a fight. “Yeah, I am exhausted. Thanks for noticing, bub,” he replied snarkily, eliciting a snort from Sweep.

“You’re usually pretty perky looking, even if you’re lacking something in the enthusiasm department,” he pressed, leaning against the counter a little bit. “Everything okay? I know CHS kinda blew up across the street. Everything alright with that?”

Eventide nodded, looking around a little to make sure there weren’t any more customers on the way. “Yeah, more or less. None of the debris hit my house or anything, and the repair guys usually don’t work when I’m asleep.”

Sweep shrugged slightly. “Alrighty, just making sure.”

With those words, the conversation was closed for the time being. A few more customers came by, and business went back to usual for the next little while. As they worked, Eventide periodically glanced over at the big clock that hung on the back wall of the store. Forty more minutes until he got to go home.

Another pair of customers came in, and after a few minutes of wandering aimlessly around, one of them, a girl, no older than thirteen or fourteen with tannish skin and a well-combed head of light brown hair, came up to Eventide and Sweep. “Um, excuse me,” she called out to get their attention, her voice carrying a thick accent.

Sweep looked up and answered without hesitating. “Yes, miss? What can I help you with?” he asked with practiced friendliness and a cheerful smile.

The girl idly glanced back at the rest of the store. “Do you happen to have a pet supplies section? Stuff for dogs, mainly? I need a new toy for my puppy.”

This time, it was Eventide who answered, cutting Sweep off. “Yes, actually. It’s just over there, aisle two. We have stuff for cats, dogs, and even a few bird cages,” he explained quickly. A small grin grew on his face when he saw the girl brighten up significantly.

She beamed at his answer and gave a happy smile. “Thank you, mister!” with that, she turned and ran off, leaving the two alone again. Sweep gave Eventide another curious look, one which he chose to ignore. After a few moments, Eventide looked at the clock again. Thirty minutes.

All of a sudden, his phone began vibrating in his pocket. Thankful for the lack of customer traffic, Eventide pulled it out to have a look at who was calling him. His brow furrowed with confusion and concern when he saw that it was Fluttershy calling him. “Fluttershy? She’s at my house right now… is something wrong?” He thought before glancing up at Sweep with an apologetic smile. “Hey, can you hold this down for a sec? I gotta take this.”

“Sure thing, man. Take your time,” Clean Sweep assured with a friendly nod. That done, Eventide stepped away from the counter and answered the phone.

“Hello?”

“Eventide, something’s wrong with Beebee. I think he’s in pain,” Fluttershy’s voice came through from the other side all at once, shaking and full of worry.

Eventide blinked and came to a complete stop. He felt his heart go cold at her words. Licking his lips, he leaned his hand against the wall and tried to formulate a response. “Uh… I-I’m sorry, what?” he asked, not quite sure he had heard her right. Now that he was really listening, he could hear her breathing. She was shaking and sounded scared.

“He’s curled up on your bed, twitching, and whimpering. I’ve tried all of the tricks we’ve figured out with him, but nothing’s working. I thought I saw cracks on his back, but he’s hissing and biting at me whenever I get close.”

With his heart rate accelerating, Eventide turned to Clean Sweep with wide eyes. He briefly lowered the phone and called out, “Sweep! I gotta run! Personal emergency!”

Clean Sweep straightened up in alarm, moving from behind the counter and approaching him. “Woah, what? Seriously? What’s wrong?”

Eventide ignored him for a moment, bringing the phone back up to his ear. “Hang tight, Fluttershy, and keep an eye on him. I’m on my way!” he stated before ending the call and putting his phone away. He then turned to start heading for the door.

“Eventide?!” Sweep called after him, making him turn mid-step.

For a couple seconds, Eventide tried to find the right words to explain the situation. But, after a few moments, he found his words. “My… one of my pets is sick,” he said simply, shaking his head. “I gotta go make sure he’ll be alright,” he explained before bursting out of the door at a full sprint, not giving Sweep any time to question him farther about it.

Now standing alone in an awkward silence, Clean Sweep scratched the back of his head in confusion. “One of your pets…? When did you get another one?” he mumbled out. He heard someone clearing their throat and turned around to see there was a new customer waiting for him by the checkout counter. Grimacing, he shot one last glance out the door after Eventide, then reluctantly went back to his place behind the counter, his fingers now nervously tapping against whatever they rested on as he helped the customer with their groceries.


Eventide hadn’t run that fast in years, or for that long, and it showed. By the time he came to a stumbling stop at the front door of his house, his lungs and legs were burning as if someone had poured molten steel into them. Gasping raggedly for breath, he tried the handle and, to his pleasure, found the door was unlocked. He pushed through the door and passed into the living room, where Buddha could be seen sitting in the chair, watching him with worried eyes. He spared a moment to utter a quick greeting to her, then continued on his way for his room. The bedroom door was open, and Fluttershy leaned out of it to look back at him, worry still on her face.

“How is he?” Eventide asked immediately between his pants, coming to a stop by the door. He bent over and rested his hands on his knees, still struggling to catch his breath.

Fluttershy glanced back into the room in concern while waiting for him to steady himself. Once he managed to get some breath back, and his pants quieted down, he began to hear Beebee’s high-pitched whimpers from out there in the hall. Slowly, he stood upright and made his way into the room, Fluttershy stepping aside to give him some space. Eventide’s eyes went wide at what they saw.

Beebee was, as Fluttershy had said, curled on the bed, whimpering in pain. All along his white back was a gigantic, gaping crack, his skin splitting apart to reveal something underneath. It was a hard, dark blue surface made of the same material as Beebee’s face. A face that was currently contorted in an endless grimace of discomfort and pain, his legs twitching sporadically while curled up against his front.

“He isn’t letting me get close,” Fluttershy said softly, looking on helplessly. “I don’t know what to do. It looks like he’s shedding his skin, like a snake or a lobster or something, but I don’t know for sure. It might be natural…”

Eventide grimaced before gingerly approaching the bed, careful not to make too much noise. Beebee’s glowing blue eyes shifted to look at him, and he could see there were tears running down the bug’s cheeks. As he drew closer, Beebee hissed at him, his forked tongue flicking out and writhing in the air. Eventide stopped and very slowly lifted his hands in a disarming gesture. “Hey, it’s okay, Bee…” he whispered in as soothing a voice as he could manage.

Beebee kept hissing at him for several moments, but eventually, his discomfort drove him to whimper and curl up again, squirming in pain where he lay. Eventide took this chance to inch closer, managing to lower himself onto his knees by the edge and reach out for Beebee when he was finally noticed again. Beebee, like before, began hissing at him and bared his fangs, making Eventide hesitate. “It’s just me, Bee,” he assured before very gently easing his hands closer. “It’s just me. I wanna help…”

In the doorway, Fluttershy was holding her breath with a hand clutched to her chest. Inch by inch, Eventide’s hands drew closer to Beebee while he whispered reassurances to the squirming grub. His words and slow movements seemed to be enough to prove to Beebee that he wasn’t being attacked, and he allowed Eventide to slowly pull him closer to the edge of the bed, despite his hisses and whines of protest and pain. Fluttershy took this as her cue to approach, making sure to keep her movements slow and smooth so as to not upset the only barely pacified Beebee.

She settled down next to Eventide and smiled sweetly at Beebee’s face. “You’re gonna be okay, little guy,” she cooed, drawing Beebee’s attention. He twisted his head back and forth, whimpering in yet more discomfort. It was then that Fluttershy noticed something. “His skin is loose…”

“So he is shedding his skin? Or molting or something?” Eventide asked, looking at the gaping split in Beebee’s back. He saw something twitching under the pale white skin, making his eyes narrow with curiosity.

Fluttershy nodded, her expression turning into one of deep sympathy. “Yes, I think so. But something might have gone wrong; these processes don’t usually cause pain for the creature performing them, I don’t think. Not in any animals I know of, at least...”

Eventide glanced at Fluttershy, then at the twitching movement under Beebee’s skin. He slowly reached towards the edge of the crack, curious to see if he could help the process along. When his fingers touched the skin, Beebee suddenly jerked and wailed out in pain, making him retract his hand immediately. When he saw Fluttershy’s questioning gaze, he elaborated. “Something’s moving under the skin on his back. Right there,” he pointed, and Fluttershy looked. “Maybe something got caught on his old skin, making it so he can’t get out?”

Fluttershy eyed the twitching for several seconds before nodding. “It might be…”

Before they could speculate any farther, there was a bone-chilling crunch as the white skin split open even farther, some of it sliding down Beebee’s left side to reveal more black chitin. As it fell away, a single, transparent blue wing with small holes in its filmy surface sprang up and began to buzz wildly in the air, sending a few drops of some indistinct fluid to splatter across their faces. Fluttershy fell back onto her rear, letting out a squeak of alarm and disgust, while Eventide just gasped and wiped the back of his wrist over his face to remove some of the odd-smelling liquid. Once he opened his eyes again, he noticed that some of Beebee’s discomfort faded away, but he still squirmed and groaned in pain.

The twitching was still happening under the skin on his right side and had only gotten worse. As it got worse, so too did Beebee’s pain, his reprieve already over. His cries began increasing in volume to become agonized shrieks that made Eventide’s heart plummet into the pits of his stomach. He looked pleadingly at Fluttershy, gesturing loosely at Beebee. “I think his other wing is stuck,” he said, looking down at the crying creature. “Can you hold him still? Maybe I can get it free.”

Fluttershy’s eyes widened some more, moving back up to her previous kneeling position. “Are you sure? We don’t know his anatomy; what if you hurt him? This might be normal!”

Eventide’s own expression hardened, and he pointed at Beebee’s pained facial expression. “No, it’s not. Pain like this is not normal. And if it is, then normal can shove off!”

Fluttershy gulped but nodded. She looked down at Beebee, took a deep breath, and gingerly reached her hands down to hold him still. He hissed and squealed in protest from her touch, but her gentle voice soothing him and the feather-light touch of her fingers was enough to keep him from biting. Eventide took this chance to very carefully lift up the shedding skin with the tips of his fingers. He heard Beebee wail even louder, and cringed inwardly with guilt. For a second, the skin resisted his pull, and he became afraid that Fluttershy may have been right about this being normal.

But then, all at once, the skin peeled back fully with another sickening squelch, and Beebee’s other wing snapped up, free at last. There was a very clear crease running horizontally across it, indicating that it had indeed been stuck and folded, presumably being the cause of Beebees pain. It buzzed eagerly for a moment before both wings stopped and his cries died down. After several seconds, Beebee audibly sighed in relief, and Fluttershy took her hands off of him. After a few more seconds, Beebee then began to squirm again, tiny squeaks of effort escaping from his face before, at last, he fully slipped out of his old skin, his face receding into the white grub before popping up from the crack, along with the rest of him.

Eventide watched with awe and amazement as Beebee revealed his true self for the first time. He stood on four legs, each one filled with tiny holes. The legs appeared to end with what appeared to be tiny hooves. His body was completely black and shiny, save for an armored pseudo shell along his back, which was colored a dark, rich blue. His twitching and buzzing wings extended out from the shell, and were a lighter shade of blue that was closer to teal. His single horn had gotten slightly longer over the last eight days, now that Eventide looked. Two ears swiveled around on either side of his head, and a fin could be seen running perfectly down the middle of the back of his neck. Above his hind legs was a tail made of the same material as his fin, twitching behind him as Beebee got used to his new appendages.

All in all, he looked like a tiny horse. A tiny bug horse with holes, wings and a horn. Not to mention the long fangs, sharp teeth, and giant, glowing blue eyes.

After a few moments of adjusting to his new body, Beebee looked up at Eventide and Fluttershy before giving them both a big smile and reaching his forelegs out to them as if desiring a hug.

The two of them shared a frazzled look.

They had the feeling that the learning curve for taking care of Beebee just got a lot steeper.

Chapter 8: Sparks Fly

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In the hours following Beebee’s molt, he had been only all too eager to experiment with his new body. He had started off by, yet again, climbing over Eventide, Fluttershy, and then the wall, happily giggling to himself as he explored. All the while, Fluttershy, and Eventide kept themselves out of his way, but in a position to catch him if his grip should fail. Eventually, after maybe six or seven minutes, he began to become short of breath, and he was starting to visibly shake from the effort. Luckily, his wings burst into life before he could fall, keeping him aloft in the air once he let go. He quickly descended back into Eventide’s waiting arms, a few tiny whimpers of pain slipping out of his throat once he was safely secured. Fluttershy deduced that flying like that had probably hurt, given the still very visible crease in his wing.

Once Beebee was curled up in Eventide’s arms though, he soon fell fast asleep. His tiny hooves were curled up into Eventide’s shirt, and his face was hidden against his chest. Eventide took this chance to really get a feel for Beebee’s new body, gently and lightly running his fingers back and forth over the carapace, careful to not wake him up. It was significantly harder than the white grub skin he had been crawling around in before, of that there could be no question. The chitin was cool and smooth, but had just the slightest bit of give if Eventide pressed his fingertips against it. It was strong and sturdy, but flexible.

Now, with the sun having set behind the horizon, Eventide gently set Beebee’s still sleeping form down on his bed next to his pillow, Fluttershy standing in the doorway to watch. There were several seconds of silence where they both just watched the sleeping bug, both of them wondering in their own ways what the future had in store for them and the little guy. Beebee’s hind legs gave a few little kicks, and a tiny murmur worked its way out of him before he curled up even tighter and rested his chin on the pillow next to him. Eventide chose that moment to give a tiny smile before standing up and quietly leaving the room. He headed back out into his living room, making sure to silently close the door behind him as he went. Fluttershy followed closely, a wide, almost goofy smile plastered on her face. “He’s so cute…”

Eventide nodded as he approached the chair, where Buddha was still resting. She saw him approaching and hopped off, knowing that he wanted the seat for himself. She walked a few feet to one side before sitting down and watching him crumple into the seat with a curious tilt of her head. Once he was seated, Eventide let out a long, relieved sigh. “Yeah… he’s adorable and full of holes,” he commented before tilting his head back and closing his eyes. “Ugh… just when I was getting used to him as he was, too…”

Fluttershy narrowed her eyes, detecting some frustration in his voice. She slowly stepped forward until she was right in front of him, where she then crossed her arms over her chest and gave him a stern frown. “Eventide, is something wrong?” she asked, making Eventide open one of his eyes.

He looked back at her for several moments before sighing and nodding. “Yeah, there is. Fluttershy, I have no idea what I’m doing, here. You’ve been helping me out, but I still feel like I’m just making it up as I go. It’s…” he sat forward to rest his elbows on his knees and bury his face in his hands. He took several deep breaths, calming down his frayed nerves, then sat up a bit more and looked back up into Fluttershy’s eyes. “It’s just stressful… and if I’m taking care of Beebee like this, I can’t afford to make mistakes or screw up. He’s a baby, and I can’t let him down.”

Fluttershy’s stern expression softened considerably at those words, and her arms fell from her chest to clasp together behind her back. With a more understanding look on her face, she shuffled forwards before crouching down next to the chair. She gave Eventide a wide, reassuring smile. “Don’t worry too much, Eventide. I know you won’t do anything to hurt him. You’re too gentle…”

Eventide snorted softly at that, a tiny smile appearing on his face. “Maybe I am gentle, but that doesn’t necessarily count as much here as it would with, say, a puppy,” he pointed out while gesturing at Buddha, who was watching the two curiously. She began to happily wag her tail upon being acknowledged while tilting her head to the other side.

Fluttershy nodded slowly in understanding. “I know… but I also know that you’re too scared of failing to do anything but your absolute best.”

Eventide stiffened, glancing up at her with a raised eyebrow. “Scared of failure…?” he muttered, watching her with scrutiny.

She immediately flinched back from that, withdrawing her hand. With her eyes widening, she stood upright as words began to pour from her mouth in an apologetic stream she had no way of stopping. “Oh, I’m so sorry… I didn’t mean to touch a nerve. I’m sorry, I’ll just go-”

“Hey, hey,” Eventide called after her in a gentle voice, making her stop and look at him. He hesitated before slumping back into his seat and sighing. “I guess you’ve got a point, Fluttershy. But... It’s not so much that I’m scared of failing as it is that...” he ran a hand over his face again. “...I’m scared of letting people down… of not being able to do what’s needed of me.”

With some of her bravery returning, Fluttershy began to inch closer to Eventide again. “Hmm… I’ve always been able to see that, now that you mention it,” she said gently before again putting her hand on his shoulder. “But… for what it’s worth, Eventide… you haven’t let me down.”

Eventide managed to smile gratefully at that sentiment, relaxing under her touch. “I’m glad to hear it…” he muttered before closing his eyes. After a few minutes of comfortable silence, a yawn worked its way out of Fluttershy, making Eventide open an eye to look sideways at her. A playful grin appeared on his face, and he nudged her side with his elbow. “You might wanna head home. It’s been a long day, and your parents are probably gonna be getting worried about you.”

Fluttershy nodded slowly, opting to not make any remarks about her yawn. She turned and began to head for the door. “Okay. Goodnight, Eventide,” she called back before quietly pulling open the door and stepping out. It closed behind her, leaving Eventide alone with Buddha and plunging the room into a more solemn and contemplative silence. For several minutes, he remained seated, just letting his mind wander aimlessly from one thing to another. After a while of this, Buddha, who was clearly sensing his discomfort, stood and slowly walked up to him. When he didn’t immediately acknowledge her approach, she opted to nose his leg and let out a worried whimper.

Feeling her prodding his leg, he looked back down at her and saw those pools of brown looking back up at him with worry and curiosity. He exhaled softly and smiled at her. “Heh… hey girl,” he muttered while reaching a hand out to pet her. She was only all too eager to press her nose into it and lick at it while he set about petting her head and scratching behind her ears. They stayed like this for another few minutes before another sound pierced the silence and disturbed the peace.

Beebee was crying again.

Eventide was quick to nudge Buddha back and stand up, and she did not protest his movements. This was nothing new at this point, and she knew not to get in his way when Beebee was making a fuss. Still, she followed along a few paces behind him, her tail wagging slowly as she did so. Without a word, Eventide stepped back to his room where he saw that Beebee was still curled up, but his eyes were tightly screwed shut. There were tears rolling down his cheeks, and his entire body was shaking. His tiny forelegs were flexing repeatedly as if he was trying to grab onto something and pull it close, but it kept drifting away out of his grasp. With nothing else for it, Eventide gingerly picked the wailing bug up and held him close to his chest, slowly swinging his torso to the left and right.

Beebee would stop crying eventually, Eventide knew. And indeed, after perhaps half an hour had passed, Beebee tired himself out, and his cries faded away into silence once more. With a tired sigh, Eventide set Beebee down again near the foot of the bed before turning and heading for his dresser. Buddha watched him go until he was digging around inside one of the drawers, then she lifted her front paws up and rested them on the edge of the bed. She stared sadly at Beebee’s sleeping form with a facial expression of pure sympathy.

Beebee let out a sleepy squeak, his tongue instinctively flicking out to lick at his lips.

At this moment, Eventide came back from his dresser with an unused pillowcase in his hands. Buddha let herself down and backed out of his way, allowing him to carefully drape the pillowcase over Beebee like it were a blanket. The tiny bug smiled appreciatively, his hooves entangling themselves into the fabric and pulling it closer against his body. Eventide just watched him for a moment before deciding it was time that he got some sleep as well. As he set about changing into his pajamas, he couldn’t help but wonder why Beebee kept crying like that. It wasn’t the sound he made when he was angry at being stopped from doing something, it wasn’t the same noise he had made when his wing got stuck in his old skin, and it wasn’t the sounds he made when ‘hungry.’ It was different…

Sadly, as he fell beneath his blankets and allowed sleep to claim him, Eventide was no closer to finding the answers.


The sound of Eventide’s phone ringing on top of his dresser unceremoniously tore him from his slumber and a particularly entertaining dream about beetles and ice cream. With a snort and a grimace, he lifted his face from his pillow, reached over and pulled the blaring device over to see who was calling him. His eyes widened a bit when he saw that the time was not only well past noon but that it was Austere calling him. A chill ran down his spine as he recalled how he had fled from work the previous evening, and now his boss was calling him. “Oh boy…” he mumbled anxiously before answering the phone and holding it up to his ear. “Hello?”

“You forgot to clock out last night, and you left thirty minutes early.” came his boss’s stern and matter-of-fact greeting. “I know that it’s your day off today, but I was hoping you could explain to me why you jumped ship so suddenly and left Clean Sweep all on his own?”

Eventide cringed and slowly slid out of bed, careful not to disturb the still soundly sleeping Beebee. He exited his bedroom and closed the door behind him before leaning against it. “I’m real sorry about that, boss. There was a personal emergency,” he explained simply, running a hand over his face. “Pet got sick, and I needed to take care of him.”

There were several moments of silence, and Eventide began to worry that he might have lost the connection, or that she was about to fire him or something. When he heard her let out a resigned sigh, though, he began to relax a little.

“I see. Well, that’s understandable. Just try to take better care of your pet from now on, you hear me? With classes at CHS as canceled as they are, we are going to see a huge spike in business. I’m going to need all hands ready to go at a moment's notice to keep up with the rush. Get someone to babysit your pets it if you have to.” Austere replied, the intensity and severity in her tone dropping significantly.

Eventide let out a silent breath that he hadn’t realized he had been holding. “Right, I’ll see what I can do. And sorry again,” he apologized, about ready to end this call and see if he could get in some more sleep.

“Don’t be sorry, be better. Now go drink a coffee or something; you sound exhausted,” and with those closing words, there was an almost deafening click, and the line went dead. Eventide just slumped there against the door for a moment before turning off his phone and opening the door to his room again. He was greeted by the sight of Beebee sitting up on the bed and looking back at him with sleepy eyes, the pillowcase he had been using as a blanket sliding off of him when his wings gave a quick little buzz.

A tiny smile appeared on Eventide’s face at the sight. “Hey there, little guy. You were pretty tuckered out last night, weren’t ya?” he stated simply before stepping forward and flopping loosely back down on top of his bed. The action caused the mattress to rise around him, which in turn made Beebee jump slightly where he was. The movement pulled an adorably delighted giggle out of him even as he struggled to stay on his hooves. Eventide found the sound soothing in so many ways, and looked over at Beebee with a wry grin. “Heh. Maybe I should get you a trampoline,” he joked.

Beebee tilted his head as those words were spoken, scrunched up his muzzle in an effort to make heads or tails of them. Then, having made no progress, he proceeded to jump into the air. His wings gave a quick buzz to suspend him there for a second before going still and allowing gravity to send him falling fall back to the bed, where he drove his hooves into it with as much force as his small body could manage. The force of the impact was, regrettably, rather small.

All the same, Eventide got the idea. Now fully surrendered to the fact that he would get no more sleep this morning, he rolled over until he was on his hands and knees, looking directly into Beebee’s curious eyes. “You like bouncing?” he asked in a playful tone.

Beebee drove his hooves into the bed again while making needy little whines.

Well, Eventide didn’t need any more of an answer than that. With a smirk, he began to shove his palms down into the bed alongside his knees, repeating the motion over and over again. The result was immediate, and a series of rises and falls spread throughout the mattress like a wave effect of sorts. The rhythmic rise and fall allowed Beebee to lift into the air with every bob of the mattress, his wings buzzing in short bursts to keep him upright any time he lost his balance. The bouncing motions caused him to start laughing and giggling all over again, a sound that was music to Eventide’s ears. Seeing that Beebee liked the bigger waves, he applied more pressure, sending the bug slightly higher into the air.

Beebee’s laughter only got more intense, and that in turn sped Eventide on to make the bounces and waves bigger, which only made Beebee laugh harder. It was a vicious cycle of bounces and giggles.

Finally, Beebee’s laughs reached a fever pitch, and with an almighty squeal of merriment, the horn on his head began to glow with green light.

Eventide went rigid on seeing that, his eyes going wide and his jaw falling wide open in shock. Beebee looked back at him as the bounces and waves came to a stop, his eyes filled with confusion as to why the fun was suddenly over. Then a stray green spark shot out of his horn, drawing his attention. He watched the small point of green, flickering light drift through the air before fading into nothingness over the mattress. For a moment, all was painfully still. Then Beebee’s eyes crossed and looked up at the horn on his forehead, his mouth forming a little ‘o’ of wonder. That ‘o’ than blossomed into perhaps the biggest, most ecstatic grin that Eventide had ever seen on him.

Now giggling hysterically all over again, more sparks began to shoot out of Beebee’s horn, and all Eventide could do was watch with eyes as wide as saucers and a hanging jaw.

One of the sparks hit his bed.

The spot began to emit smoke.


Fluttershy’s morning had been going alright so far. She had gotten up feeling well rested and rejuvenated after Beebee’s incident from the previous day, she had taken a hot, relaxing bath, and now she was in the middle of enjoying a breakfast of toast, jam, and an apple. Humming a quiet tune to herself, she lifted the apple up to her mouth to take a bite when, to her surprise, her phone began to ring. Curious, she pulled it out of her pocket with her free hand and looked at the caller I.D.

It was Eventide.

Immediately worried that something bad might have happened to Beebee, she answered the phone and held it to her ear. “Hello?”

“Fluttershy, Beebee set my bed on fire.”

There was a moment of silence before Fluttershy put down her apple. “...Um… what?"

Chapter 9: Tired

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It had been an eventful day, of that there could be no question.

Between having to calm Beebee down, put out the fire on his bed, then rush to the store to buy new blankets (and a fire extinguisher, just in case) and explaining the situation to Fluttershy when she basically came sprinting to the house, Eventide was understandably winded when all was said and done. Now in the living room, Eventide watched Beebee waddle around the room with the stuffed ant toy nestled between his wings on his back. Buddha was following closely behind as if to make sure he didn’t hurt himself, occasionally nudging him with her nose if he wandered too close to her food bowl or toys. Satisfied that the two would be safe for the moment, Eventide slumped into his living room chair with a heavy sigh while clasping his hands over his face. Fluttershy, for her part, opted to sit down on the edge of the coffee table to watch the two quadrupeds as they wandered around.

“Well… he doesn’t seem any worse for wear,” she pointed out after a few minutes, sounding relieved.

Eventide snorted. “Yeah, but in his defense, I kinda yanked him off of my bed the second the fire started and put him in the bathroom sink with the water on. Then I had to put out the fire,” he explained before letting his hands fall back to his sides with a tired groan.

Fluttershy blinked and shot Eventide a queer look. “You put him in the sink?”

“It’s been a long day…”

Fluttershy couldn’t help it; she chuckled slightly at his expense, the merry sound being enough to at least ease some of his stress. “Sounds like you had a busy day,” she said lightly. Again, Eventide snorted.

“It’s only half past two! Ugh… I sure hope Beebee doesn’t have any more surprises for me…” he grumbled irritably before turning his eyes to watch the bug tapping his hooves against the bottom of the kitchen counter. The sight of Beebee really starting to get the hang of his new body and additional limbs, as well as the happy smile on his face, was enough to wash away even more of Eventide’s stress. “...He’s more adorable when I know what to expect.”

Fluttershy giggled quietly and nodded in agreement. “Yeah… aw, look at them…” she cooed when Beebee turned to Buddha and playfully swatted her on the nose. Buddha recoiled from the contact with a half bark of protest, then lowered her chest to the ground while wagging her tail. So Beebee smacked her on the nose again with a giggle. Buddha barked in indignation to the touch before scampering back and running in a quick circle.

Eventide’s own smile grew somewhat as he watched the proceeding playtime unfold. “Heh… yeah. The two get along pretty well. A lot better than when they first met, anyway. I had to order Buddha to stay where she was, or she probably would have eaten him...” he mused under his breath.

Beebee went to follow Buddha, stumbling a couple of times as he went, before jumping at her face with a quick buzz of his wings. His toy ant fell to the floor as he went, and Buddha raised her head to avoid the imminent collision. Beebee still impacted her throat, and he wrapped his hooves around her and held on with tiny squeals of delight.

Fluttershy and Eventide watched the two continue to play for several minutes, just trying to relax in the aftermath of the destroyed blankets. However, maybe ten minutes later, the light-hearted atmosphere around them would, sadly, be shattered. Beebee, after climbing all over Buddha, much to her resigned contempt, had started to crawl along her sides. But when he reached up to try and pull himself up onto her back, his hooves began shaking. And then his entire body. A squeak of discomfort tore itself from his lungs before his grip was lost and he fell to the floor with a thud and a cry of pain.

Almost instantly, Eventide shot up from his seat and ran over before Fluttershy had even processed what had happened. She watched as he slid to a stop on his knees, nudging Buddha aside and looking at Beebee on the ground. Her eyes widened when she saw that the bug-like equine was gasping for breath and shaking horribly all across his body like he had just run a marathon and his body had given out.

She stood back up and ran over to join Eventide by his side, similarly falling to her knees to get a closer look. “What happened?!” she asked, reaching down and lightly cupping the back of Beebee’s head with her hand.

“I dunno!” Eventide replied in a raised, worried voice. “He just fell! Oh, jeez… look at him… you alright, bud?”

Beebee could only gasp and pant, looking like he was suffering from an extreme amount of pain. His eyes darting around made it quite clear that he was just as confused as they were. His wings fluttered weakly on his back of a few times, but he otherwise didn’t move. Fluttershy slowly leaned down to press her ears against his chest, listening for his heart. With that close proximity, not only could she hear how quickly his heart was beating, but she could also feel his tiny hooves weakly trying to hold onto her hair. Her brow furrowed and her lips pursed with thought. “Hmmm… It looks like he’s exhausted.”

Eventide blinked in surprise, reached a hand of his own down to gently take one of Beebee’s hooves in his own. “How come? He was climbing on Buddha, sure, but until he fell he was doing fine!”

Fluttershy shrugged helplessly. “I… I dunno. He might have just been excited and didn’t know that he was pushing himself too hard. It would explain why he fell off the wall last night, too.”

Eventide sighed softly and gingerly lifted Beebee up to hold him against his chest. His heart broke a little bit when he heard Beebee’s high-pitched voice groaning in discomfort from the movement. “Alright… I’ll take him back to the bed, let him rest. Buddha?”

The dog, on hearing her name spoken, looked up at Eventide with worry and curiosity. A few quiet whines slipped out of her, and she pawed at Eventide’s leg, clearly worried about Beebee. And really, Eventide couldn’t blame her. Still, he pointed a finger at her and gave a simple command.

“Stay.”

Buddha dutifully sat down and stayed still, watching and whining while Eventide took Beebee back to the bedroom, the little guy’s exhausted panting still clearly audible. After a few moments, Eventide came back out and closed the door all but a crack. Fluttershy rose up to a standing position as he came back out. “I’ll go keep an eye on him; make sure he doesn't burn anything down. You,” she poked him in the chest when he got close. “Sit down and relax for a little while. Put on some TV, pet Buddha. Just… take it easy.”

Eventide didn’t protest in the slightest, marching over to his chair and flopping down into it with a heavy sigh. He gave Fluttershy a nod, and she took that as her cue. Without another word, she turned and disappeared into Eventide’s room, gently closing the door behind her and plunging the house into silence.


Eventide hadn’t realized he had fallen asleep until he found himself waking up several hours later. His eyes slowly opened to see that the sun had started setting outside, casting stripes of gold and orange light across the room. Buddha and Fluttershy were both conspicuously absent, although there was a folded up piece of paper on the arm of the chair. Curious, he unfolded the paper and looked at the words written on it.

Beebee’s sleeping and I am taking Buddha for a walk while you get some rest. I think I know what’s wrong with Beebee, and I’ll explain when I come back. -Fluttershy.

Eventide set the note down and slowly got back to his feet, giving a stretch as he went. He glanced out the window at CHS across the street, seeing a lot of the repair and construction equipment sitting idle, only a couple of people still hanging around them at the moment. Ever since the damage, they had made pretty significant progress on repairs. It probably wouldn’t be a whole lot longer before school was back in session.

Which meant that Fluttershy would have even less time to help him take care of Beebee.

With that somber thought burning a nice new hole in the back of his mind, Eventide made his way for his bedroom. He gently nudged the door open to find that Beebee was still curled up right where he had put him. One of his eyes was open just a crack, watching Eventide curiously.

“Hey, buddy…” Eventide whispered softly while strolling over to the edge of the bed and sitting down. “You okay?”

Beebee chirped drowsily at him, opening his other eye.

Eventide smiled and laughed half-heartedly under his breath. “You gave me a heart attack, man… I was worried about you.”

Beebee blinked at his words, the glow in his eyes pulsing irregularly for a few seconds. A look of sympathy spread on his face, then, before he got up onto his hooves and slowly dragged himself over to Eventide. When he wasn’t offered any resistance, Beebee slowly crawled into Eventide’s lap and rested his chin on his right knee. He draped his forelegs over the limb and nuzzling into it. Somehow, Eventide just knew what Beebee was trying to tell him.

I’m sorry for worrying you.

Smiling softly, Eventide reached a hand down to start petting Beebee on the back of the head, making him relax and murmur with content. His wings gave a few errant twitches here and there, and Eventide felt his heart melting just a little bit at the sight. “But you’re okay, Bee… that’s what matters. I’m glad you’re alright…”

Beebee nuzzled into his knee, his grip tightening somewhat.

They stayed like that for a good long while, and the last flickers of the sun’s waning light were starting to vanish when they jointly heard the doors of the house being opened. After a few seconds of waiting, Eventide smiled when he saw Fluttershy step into the bedroom. A smile that she returned on seeing the tender scene.

“How is he?” she asked in a near whisper.

Beebee lifted his head towards Fluttershy and chirped at her.

“He’s doing better,” Eventide replied softly, not once stopping his petting motions. Beebee couldn’t keep his head lifted for long under that gentle touch, and let his chin rest on Eventide’s leg again, cooing in relaxation. Eventide smiled at that, then gave Fluttershy a more serious look. “What was wrong with him?”

Fluttershy slowly sat down next to them on the bed, her eyes resting on Beebee. “I did some research on your computer and called a few people. I think he had a huge burst of energy when he got out of his larval skin, but… well… look at him.”

Eventide did as he was instructed, watching with curiosity as Fluttershy began to point at various parts of his body.

“He’s skinny,” she began softly, taking one of Beebee’s hooves in her hand. “More than I would expect for his body shape. And based on what happened earlier, he’s physically weak. The poor guy’s probably going to have a hard time being very physically active for more than short bursts from now on…”

Beebee, as if understanding her, pulled his hoof back before throwing himself against Eventide’s shirt, clinging onto him tightly and letting out a few tiny squeaks of distress. Eventide was quick to wrap his arms around Beebee and hold him close. His face was contorted with pity and sorrow from Fluttershy’s diagnosis, and he lifted his eyes to look into hers pleadingly. “Is there anything we can do for him?”

Fluttershy sighed and shrugged. “I dunno. I might be wrong about his condition, too… I hope I am. But if he is weak, then we’re just going to have to be patient and make sure he doesn’t over exert himself.”

Eventide nodded slowly, starting to rock himself and Beebee back and forth. “I understand… thanks, Fluttershy,” he muttered, gently petting Beebee on the back of the head to try and soothe him.

Fluttershy gave a slow nod before standing back up. “I wish I could stay longer, but I have to get back to my house. I’m late as it is,” she explained before heading for the doorway. “I’ll call you in the morning to see how he’s doing, okay?”

Eventide nodded. “Sure thing. I’ll see you around,” he replied softly before turning his attention entirely to Beebee.

Fluttershy watched the two for a few minutes before smiling softly. “Okay… goodnight, Eventide. Goodnight, Beebee,” she called before turning and walking out of the house, leaving the man and his bug to their own devices.

Chapter 10: Dada Queen

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Two Weeks Later.

Ever since Beebee’s frailty had been discovered, Eventide had made doubly sure that the tiny creature didn’t overexert himself. Playtime, be it with Buddha or anything else, was carefully monitored and was swiftly brought to a gentle close at the first sign of overexertion. It had taken a little bit of math and a lot of careful observation, but by now Eventide was confident that Beebee should avoid having any more than thirty minutes of physical activity outside of flying or walking around.

And on the note of flying and walking, Beebee had gotten rather proficient at navigating his home with all of his limbs in the last two weeks. He would often walk all around the house, exploring the corners and darker recesses all on his own, sometimes peeking out at Eventide and Buddha from the shadows so that only his two glowing blue eyes were visible. Other times, he would take to the air on buzzing wings to observe whatever it was Eventide was doing at the time, or pester Buddha by flitting around her head. She would typically retaliate by gently and playfully chomping at him in response. All in all, Beebee was just being the strangest little adventurer that Eventide had ever had the pleasure of observing.

Although, his low stamina, while something he had become keenly aware of, did not stop Beebee from frequently winding up where he was not supposed to, or causing trouble with those errant sparks that would periodically go flying out of his horn if he got excited. Although he seemed to be getting better at controlling those sparks, which Fluttershy had convinced Eventide to call ‘magic.’ To be fair, given all that had happened in recent months, magic was not at all an unbelievable term to describe this guy’s mere existence, much less the crazy things he was able to do.

He had started vocalizing even more in the last few days, too, something which Eventide found rather fun and fascinating to listen to. He would make noises whenever he wanted affection, often sounding like he was saying ‘kiwi.’ He would pick up his favorite ant, and either wrestle with it or hug it, all while making odd babbles that reminded Eventide of a human infant. Even similar to the noises of a human were Beebee’s cries, which were still heard on an almost nightly basis. He would still break out into uncontrollable sobbing fits in the night, only ever going quiet when he tired himself out and fell back into a peaceful sleep. Usually, this would happen in Eventide’s arms, the man sitting on the edge of his bed with Buddha by his side to offer comforting licks or nuzzles wherever possible.

Sadly, Fluttershy had not been able to come by as frequently as she would normally have hoped, as the high school was now repaired enough for class to resume. She would still drop by immediately after school to check in and see if her help was needed for anything before heading home to take care of homework. Thankfully, her help was not as essential now as it had been before. Eventide had a hold of the ropes now, he liked to think. At least well enough that he could take care of Beebee on his own for the most part.

It was approximately noon, now, and Eventide came back into his home from a trip to a small, local grocery store with bags full of produce in his arms. The moment he closed the door behind him, he braced against it in preparation of the inevitable. Sure enough, in came Beebee from the bedroom, zooming through the air while chittering excitedly. Eventide smiled warmly and allowed the small chitinous missile to plow into his chest hard enough to knock the air out of him.

“OOF! Ow… hey, Bee!” was his slightly strained greeting, setting the bags of food down and wrapping his arms around Beebee in a warm embrace. He chuckled slightly when he noticed something. “Ooh, you’ve gotten bigger, haven’t you?” he asked in a cheery voice, reaching his knuckles up to playfully noogie Beebee.

Beebee flinched back from the knuckles, voicing his protest to the action. “Ka! Saa!” came the wordless babble before he swatted at Eventide’s hand with a hoof. A loud smack filled the air, and Eventide withdrew his hand with a chuckle before letting Beebee return to hovering in the air with his wings.

After that, Eventide spent a few seconds just studying Beebee, a small smirk spread on his face. “Yes, you are growing. Nice. Gonna have to start measuring you, huh?” he asked before reaching down and lifting back up the grocery bags. “Well, it can wait for a little while. I gotta put away the groceries.”

Beebee followed closely by his sides, eyeing the bags as they subtly swayed back and forth. His muzzle scrunched up, and his forked tongue poked out of the corner of his mouth. “Ka… Carn… Gars…” he mumbled, lightly poking Eventide’s hand until they set the groceries down on the kitchen counter. It was at about this time that Eventide’s index finger and thumb snatched Beebee’s hoof when he went in for another poke.

“Are my hands really that interesting?” Eventide asked with a cheeky grin, playfully shaking Beebee’s hoof up and down. The bug eventually managed to pry his hoof back before narrowing his eyes at Eventide’s hand. It was either a look of offense at being held or scrutiny, like a scientist carefully watching his latest experiment.

“Ha… Aaa… Ahn…” he muttered under his breath before poking it again. And again, Eventide caught his hoof with his fingers, chuckling as he did so.

“Wow, should I get you a stick?”

Beebee scrutinized Eventide’s hand for a few seconds before again pulling his hoof away and hovering over to sit down on the other end of the counter, plonking down onto his rump and observing with great childish interest. Eventide just smiled and rolled his eyes before getting back to work putting things away. All the while, Beebee watched him like a hawk, his eyes trained mostly on his hands. For several minutes this went on before, finally, Beebee’s face contorted with discomfort at the same moment as a very audible grumble came from his stomach. He placed his hooves over his belly and pouted before looking up at Eventide again. “Kii! Kiiwii!” he chirped out, his discomfort clear.

Eventide looked up at him with a raised eyebrow. “Huh? What is it, Bee?” he asked before moving closer to Beebee to get a better look. “You doing your fake hungry thing again?”

“Kwii!” Beebee piped up again, reaching his hooves out to Eventide in the now recognized ‘hug me’ gesture. A gesture that Eventide did not waste time in answering. He reached down and lifted Beebee up with his hands, holding him close to his chest and petting the growing bug on the back of the head.

“There… that better?” Eventide asked after a few seconds of the quiet, listening to Beebee’s pleased murmurs and coos.

“Dada… Queen.”

Eventide suddenly went stiff, his eyes bulging in his head. Slowly, very very slowly, he pulled Beebee back from his chest to look into his eyes. Beebee looked back at him with confusion and concern, looking like he was afraid he had done something wrong. Already an apology could be seen in his eyes, and he began to frantically babble as if to put it into words.

“Queen? Aa… Sao, sowo, ah… Queen? Queen dada?”

Eventide’s eyes only bulged even more, and his jaw fell uselessly open. He stared at Beebee, completely incredulous for several moments, before gently setting him back down on the counter and taking a step back. A hand flew up to his mouth to cover it while he tried to wrap his brain around what just happened.

“Queen...?” Beebee asked again, stepping up to the edge of the counter with his ears folding back against his head. “Ah zo wo… hug?” He then sat down on his haunches and held out his hooves again, but this time his desire for an embrace was not immediately fulfilled.

“Are… are you…” Eventide tried to voice his question but found himself unable to find his words for the question. He blinked, shook himself and slapped his own face a few times before staring at Beebee in abject bewilderment. “Did you just… talk?”

“Ah… aya?” Beebee tried, his face twisting as he thought back on all of the interactions he had observed between Eventide and Fluttershy ever since he had hatched. He then pointed at Eventide again. “Dada queen? Kee?”

Eventide blinked again. “Oh my God, you can talk…” he whispered in awe and disbelief, his voice shaking. He then shuddered with horror as he thought back on how he had been taking care of Beebee so far. He had been treating him a lot like Buddha… like a lovable but non-sapient creature. An animal. But if Beebee was capable of speech, then... “I’m not raising a wild animal, am I?”

“Aa… Anama…?” Beebee tried to mimic the sounds he heard Eventide making, his face scrunching. After a few moments without any more responses, Beebee looked at Eventide and then very gingerly lifted off from the edge of the counter, his wings buzzing pensively in the air. “Dada queen?”

That finally seemed to draw a more vibrant reaction from Eventide. His heart rate suddenly accelerated, and his eyes and face lit up with a look of absolute shock of the most pleasant of varieties. Slowly, with a new understanding of the creature before him, Eventide reached out with his hands. Beebee let himself be taken, and took note of how gentle Eventide’s touch was, now. He looked into Eventide’s eyes and tilted his head in confusion. “Dada?”

At that, Eventide’s world froze for the third time in two minutes. Dada… Daddy. Beebee just called him his dad. In retrospect, he supposed, it was only appropriate. He had found Beebee as an egg, and had gone out of his way to take good care of him ever since. Granted, that had been with the idea that he was a wild animal, to be released into the wild as soon as he was ready.

But now… Eventide couldn’t help but think back on the words Fluttershy had said to him the day Beebee had hatched.

“...I don’t know what he is, but I think that…” she slowly knelt down to a get a closer look at it, and it, in turn, shrank away from her, clinging even tighter to Eventide’s pant leg. Slowly, a smile grew on Fluttershy’s face as it occurred to her. “I think it sees you as its dad.”

“Dada…” Eventide parroted in barely even a whisper before a weak chuckle slipped out of his throat. “I… I guess I am, huh? I’m your daddy, little guy…”

Eventides heart swelled as he said those words. At the same time, Beebee’s eyes widened, and his forked tongue reflexively licked his lips. His jaw clenched and relaxed many times, a subtle movement that Eventide was used to seeing whenever they were hugging, or whenever Buddha went into mama wolf mode and cleaned him off with a bath of dog licks. After a few seconds, Beebee’s face similarly lit up before he launched himself to tightly hug Eventide around the neck, albeit while being sure not to choke him.

What he said next was almost enough to make Eventide fall to the floor.

“Daddy…”

After another few seconds of processing, Eventide finally found the brainpower to react. He returned the hug as well as he could, holding Beebee close and starting to rock them both back and forth.


A few hours later, out amid the taller buildings of the city, Fluttershy walked along with her friends with a big smile on her face. The group was currently in transit from the mall to a nearby arcade, by request of Rainbow Dash. Next to Fluttershy was the cyan-colored teenager in question, her hands shoved into the pockets of her blue jeans and her long, rainbow-colored hair bound into a ponytail. Not far ahead of them, Applejack and Rarity were jabbering among themselves about something or another, presumably arguing about function over form in clothing and vice versa. Bringing up the rear was Sunset Shimmer and Pinkie Pie, the former wearing a strained smile while the other reached into her backpack to fish for something.

Rainbow eventually broke the silence when she glanced over at Fluttershy curiously. “So, uh, Fluttershy? I've been meaning to ask; how come you keep being late to our after-school hangouts?” she asked bluntly, drawing a surprised squeak from the teenager in question.

Fluttershy was quick to compose herself, however. “Oh, I’m sorry. I, uh… have a project that I have to check up on regularly after school,” she said with a slightly crooked smile. She wasn’t technically lying, after all.

Pinkie Pie shot forwards with a questioning grin. “A project, huh? What is it? Can we know? Is it exciting? Is it boring? Is it red? Does it taste like strawberries? Is it wrapped in a tortilla?! Is it cherry flavored?! Is it covered in cheese?! IS IT A CHERRYCHANGA?!” She asked in a rapid-fire flow of words that barely any functionally sane human being could keep up with, making Fluttershy side-step a few times to re-establish the existence of her personal space.

“Um… it can be exciting, yes,” She replied hesitantly, one of her hands reaching up to grab her opposite shoulder in a display of nervous energy. She turned her eyes away from Pinkie’s prying gaze to look at something, anything else.

Sunset Shimmer’s brow furrowed somewhat with thought. “Does it have something to do with all of those questions about Equestria I keep getting from you?” she asked while stepping forward to be by Fluttershy’s side.

Fluttershy stiffened, a strangled, panicking squeak bubbling up from her throat. “Uh… um…” Thankfully, before she could give an answer that she really did not want to give right now, she was saved by the ringing of her cell phone in her pocket. She capitalized on the distraction to pull the device out and answer it without even looking at the caller I.D. “Hello?”

Eventide’s voice answered her. “Fluttershy, I’m a father.”

All at once, Fluttershy’s walking came to a total stop, her eyes widening and her jaw hanging open. For a moment, she was utterly still, her friends walking ahead a few paces before coming to a stop to look back at her with concern. When she noticed that all of the others were staring expectantly at her and that she had yet to vocalize a reply, she cleared her throat. Bracing herself, she took long, a deep breath, and gave the most dignified and well-thought-out-response she could.

“WHAT?! WHO’S THE MOTHER?!"

Chapter 11: Mama Queen

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If Fluttershy’s initial scream of bewilderment and shock hadn’t been enough to confuse her friends, her follow-up shout only made things worse. “WHAT DO YOU MEAN I’M THE MOTHER?!”

From across the street, several other people that were going about their daily routine looked in her direction with perplexed faces, clearly not sure what to make of her words. Many of them picked up the pace to put some distance between them and the screaming teenager with the butter-colored skin. After a few seconds of quiet, Fluttershy finally noticed the wide range of expressions her friends were giving her. Most of them were either shocked, confused, or in the case of Pinkie Pie, almost playful. Suddenly blushing extremely heavily, Fluttershy gulped to force down the lump in her throat while putting on a crooked, forced grin. “Eheh… um… I’m sorry for shouting,” she apologized to everyone that could hear her.

“My ear will never be the same, but it’s alright. Sorry, I should have dropped this bombshell on you a little more gently. It’s Beebee. He can talk,” Eventide replied from the other end of the line, his tone apologetic.

Fluttershy’s crooked smile immediately disappeared to a blank look when she processed the last three words Eventide had said. Shifted on her feet, she cleared her throat. “He… can what?” she asked hesitantly. Had she heard him right?

It turned out she had, as Eventide’s following response made evident. “Talk. Beebee can talk. He’s been very vocal the last few days and, well… a little while ago he called me ‘daddy.’ Beebee can talk. He’s not an animal.”

For a few moments, Fluttershy was utterly silent. Her free hand subconsciously moved to rest over her heart, which had just increased its tempo dramatically. She rolled this revelation around in her head for a few seconds and was about ready to pass it off as a joke when she heard an indistinct babble from the other end of the line. It was fuzzy and distant like it was far away from the phone. She knew the voice. It was Beebee.

“Oh my…” Fluttershy whispered, her free hand reaching up from her chest to twirl a stray lock of her hair around her index finger. “Um… uh… what all has he said?” she asked after a few more seconds of trying to get her thoughts together and hearing more indistinct babbles from Beebee.

“The only things he’s managed to say properly are ‘dada,’ ‘daddy,’ and ‘queen.’ He keeps trying to emulate the sounds I’m making, so I get the feeling he still doesn’t really know what any of the words mean.”

Fluttershy’s face lit up like a Christmas tree as soon as she heard the word ‘daddy.’ “Ooooh. I see. Now it makes sense why you said ‘I’m the mother,’” she noted with a measure of relief and amusement slipping into her still disbelieving voice.

“Yeah, sorry about that. I’m still kinda trying to believe it myself over here,” Eventide apologized with a sheepish chuckle. Another babble came through, and Fluttershy could hear Eventide chuckle at it. “He just tried to say ‘believe.’ It came out as beef.’”

Fluttershy’s expression continued to soften from what she was hearing, her shock from a moment ago fading away entirely. In its place was a completely new shock. “That’s so amazing…” She breathed before a new sound caught her ear. It was Rainbow Dash loudly clearing her throat. Looking up, she saw that all of her friends were still looking at her expectantly. Her blush returned in full force, as did a swell of mild panic in her chest. “Oh! Uh… can I call you back later, though? I’m kinda…” She glanced at her friends anxiously, some of which were starting to look rather impatient. “...with my friends.”

Eventide was silent on the other end of the line for a few moments. When he spoke again, Fluttershy’s face suddenly hardened with severe disapproval.

“Eventide! Watch your language!”

Rarity perked up at that, her eyes lighting up with recognition. “Eventide? Didn’t he used to go to school with us?” she asked, looking over at Pinkie Pie.

“Yeah! He and Fluttershy got along really well!” The pink teenager replied enthusiastically, clapping her hands together. “I thought you two lost touch!”

Rainbow nodded. “He did graduate a couple years ago. I kinda forgot he existed, if we’re being honest.”

Applejack frowned at her.

Sunset Shimmer just shrugged. “I… never knew him,” she admitted timidly, raising a hand to scratch the back of her head. “Kinda too focused on… uh… plans.”

Before there could be any further commentary, Fluttershy muttered a few hasty farewells before slipping her phone back into her pocket and flashing her friends the widest grin she could. “So… the arcade?” she asked cheerfully, hoping that they would forget she had just had that entire conversation.

Rainbow snorted dismissively. “Fluttershy, come on. You think the first thing on my mind is beating Applejack on a Street Fighter cabinet after all of that?! What even was most of that?” she asked while throwing her hands into the air to help demonstrate her confusion.

Fluttershy shrank back a little bit, a few stray locks of her hair falling in front of her face. “Oh… uh… I, um… don’t want to talk about it right now?” she tried timidly, mentally pleading for them to just drop it. Her eyes darted at Sunset Shimmer especially with that concern, and it only grew worse when she thought about where she came from.

Rainbow, of course, being one of the two most stubborn people in their circle of friends, trounced only by Applejack, did not give up her questioning so easily. “No no no, I’m curious now. You were talking to Eventide Oath, right?”

“Rainbow, let her be,” Applejack cut in before things could go any farther. She reached out and tugged on Rainbow’s hair, pulling her back. “You’re makin’ her uncomfortable,” she scolded before looking back at Fluttershy sympathetically.

Rainbow shot Applejack a dirty glare before yanking her hair out of her hand. She then turned to Fluttershy, her face also bearing an apology on it. “Right… sorry ‘bout that, Flutters. Got carried away, is all...”

Fluttershy shook her head, slowly starting to relax. “It’s… fine,” she assured them.

“Are you willing to talk about it?” Rarity asked softly, stepping a little closer. “You’re not in any trouble, are you?”

Fluttershy was quick to shake her head. “Oh, no! Not at all. It’s the project I was talking about… I just don’t want to talk about it right now because it’s kinda… um… private,” she explained in a slightly more confident tone. Still, the way she allowed one of her legs to lazily swing around bespoke her current discomfort with the topic.

“Oki doki loki!” Pinkie Pie ended any further prodding in her typical fashion. “Now come on! We’ve got arcade games to play! Rarity, I’ll be seeing you at the whack-a-mole stations!” And with that, she broke into a jog down the street, leaving the rest of the group to simply shake their heads or roll their eyes at her and continue on their merry way. Fluttershy’s conversation with Eventide was not forgotten by any means, but the circle of friends was happy to put it out of their minds for now in favor of some ticket collecting.


“This is Buddha. Can you say, Buddha?

It had been almost two hours since Eventide had called Fluttershy to drop the news on her. In that time, he had spent almost every single waking moment showing things to Beebee and seeing if he could say their names. For something under a month old, he was remarkably quick to catch on to sounds. However, the meanings seemed to be utterly lost on him in most cases. The only words he actually seemed to understand properly were ‘Daddy’ and ‘Queen,’ which he used interchangeably or together.

Now, Eventide was standing with Beebee held in her arms, looking down at a curious-looking Buddha, who looked back up at them with her chocolate colored eyes. Eventide gave a small smile and spoke again. “C’mon, Beebee. Buddha. Her name is Buddha.

“Bu… bubba,” Beebee tried to replicate the syllables he was hearing, before bursting into a fit of giggles when Eventide snorted in response.

“No, no, she isn’t Bubba. She’s Buddha.

“Booba!”

“...No.”

Before they could go any farther with that particular line of thought, there was a rapid and heavy knocking on the door. Eventide released Beebee from his grip, allowing the bug to hover in the air while he went to see who it was. The door swung open to reveal Fluttershy standing there, a happy if worn out, smile on her face. “Eventide, hi!” she greeted cheerfully.

A giant smile split his face before he stepped aside to let her in. “Fluttershy, hey! Sorry if I, uh, made things awkward with you and your friends earlier,” he said sheepishly.

“It’s fine,” she was quick to brush him off before looking at Beebee. Her smile only grew when he looked back at her and came zipping forward to tackle her in the chest. She wrapped her arms around him in a warm hug before looking over at Eventide. “So, has he said anything new?”

“He tried to say Buddha just before you came in. He wound up saying Booba,” Eventide replied with a smirk, his eyes locking onto the small chitinous creature with wonder. “You know… I’m still really having a hard time believing that Beebee can talk.

As if on cue, Beebee looked away from Fluttershy to stare at Eventide for a moment, squinting with concentration. “Tu… toog… tauk…” he tried a few times to repeat the word, each time getting just a little bit closer.

Fluttershy giggled happily upon finally getting to hear his efforts clearly for herself. She gently lifted him up, prompting him to look back at her curiously. “Hey there, little guy,” she said softly.

“Ooh, gaa…” Beebee babbled before his hoof reached out to poke Fluttershy playfully on the nose. She recoiled slightly with her face scrunching up, eliciting a delighted bout of laughter from Beebee, who followed it up with another attempt at speech. “Fwo sha!”

Fluttershy’s smile returned in full force at that. “No, no, not fwo sha. Fluttershy. Fluttershy,” she said slowly, making doubly sure to enunciate.

“Fl… Flow ow shii…” Beebee tried again. He pondered the sound for a moment before squirming in Fluttershy’s hands, prompting her to release him. Back in the air, he turned around and shot over for Eventide’s chest, forelegs outstretched, “Dada queen!”

As soon as Beebee collided with him, Eventide wrapped him up in what felt like the millionth hug that day, his face somewhere between overjoyed and terrified. He held Beebee close while looking down at him, then looked up at Fluttershy. “So… uh… Beebee’s a person,” he awkwardly stated the now abundantly obvious.

Beebee, while not understanding the words, still found his tone mildly amusing. He giggled softly before curling up some more in his adoptive father’s protective arms, looking at Fluttershy as he did so. More specifically, once he was settled, he carefully watched her mouth.

“That’s amazing…” Fluttershy breathed out, walked over to gently pet Beebee behind the ears again. “Wow… I suppose we have our work cut out for us, huh?”

Eventide nodded slowly, looking down at the bug in his arms with no small amount of fear developing in his eyes. “Yeah… totally…”

His trepidation slipped into his voice and was not lost on Fluttershy. She gave him a questioning look. “Eventide, are you okay?” she asked softly.

Eventide slowly nodded before gently releasing Beebee, allowing him to fly over to the coffee table for a landing. Once that was done, his face fell into his hands with a long groan. “I signed up to take care of an animal, Fluttershy. I know I can manage that thanks to Buddha, but…”

Fluttershy already knew where this was going and was quick to head him off. “Don’t, Eventide,” she said sharply, causing him to look at her in surprise. That surprise grew exponentially when he saw the intensity in her eyes. “Don’t go doubting yourself now. For not knowing anything about him, I think you’ve been doing wonderfully.”

“But… but he can speak,” Eventide pointed out in exasperation. “And he’s only a few weeks old! How many more surprises am I going to have to juggle?”

“As many as he throws at you, and you will juggle them all beautifully,” Fluttershy rebuked while reaching out to grab his shoulders. “You said it yourself over the phone; you are a father now. And a good father cannot afford to be hesitating now! Not when it comes to his son!”

Eventide winced back from her. His face twisted with shame because she was absolutely right, and shock from how intense she was being right now. He had known she could be incredibly stern and serious, especially when it came to the tiny and innocent. He had seen hints of it here and there over the last few weeks, but this? This was a new level of resolve and ferocity that made him cower away from her. Not quite able to meet her gaze, he gave a sheepish nod. “Right… sorry. I’m just overwhelmed…”

Fluttershy’s expression slowly softened. “I know… but isn’t that why I volunteered to help you?” she pointed out before releasing Eventide and taking a few steps back. “If he throws too many surprise balls at you to juggle, you can always try passing a few of them to me. This is a learning experience for both of us, Eventide, not just you. And right now, WE are the only ones Beebee has. All we can do is our best; together.”

Eventide nodded again, this time more sure of himself. He then turned and looked over at Beebee, who was looking at the two with his head tilted to the side and his glowing eyes squinting at them.

“Tagato,” Beebee babbled out.

Fluttershy looked over at him with a small smile growing on her face.

“Mama queen!” Beebee suddenly declared while pointing at Fluttershy with an enormous grin on his face. She jumped in surprise but soon smiled extremely widely. Beebee’s hoof then shot over to Eventide. “Dada queen!”

“I’m not a queen,” Eventide grumbled under his breath in mock annoyance. He crossed his arms over his chest before giving Fluttershy a sideways glance and smirk. “So… does this mean we’re family now?”

“Wha…” Fluttershy began, her voice trailing off. She looked over at Eventide for a moment before she burst into a fit of giggles. After a few seconds, she composed herself enough to answer, albeit still between small chortles. “No! No, I don’t think so.”

Eventide shrugged. “Eh. Fair enough. Guess that makes you more Aunt Fluttershy more than mom, huh?” he mused absently.

“I dunno. Whatever he wants to call me.”

“Well, he already called you Mama Queen, so I think that’s gonna stick.”

“Hmmm.”

A few moments passed in silence, the two humans looking on at the curious bug on the coffee table with great interest. He looked back at them as well, his jaw repeatedly flexing and clenching while his tongue occasionally flicked out to lick his lips.

“I’m gonna have to buy him kids stuff, aren’t I?” Eventide asked in realization. “Like, a cradle, toys, books…”

“Boogs!” Beebee proclaimed.

Fluttershy chuckled. “Heh. Adopted or not, you’ve got a son. Might be a good idea to go all the way with him.”

Eventide slowly nodded, mulling that around in his head for a few minutes. As the seconds passed him by, an idea slowly began to spring up in his mind. “Alright… well… I think I might be able to throw something together for him…” he muttered, already starting to do the math in his head.

Fluttershy glanced at him curiously. “What are you planning?”

“If he’s my son by adoption, and he’s a fully sapient and intelligent person, then… sooner or later, he’s gonna need his own room. Somewhere to keep his things, a place to be alone if he needs some space, and somewhere to hide if there are strangers in the house,” Eventide turned to face down the hall, where the door to his basement looked back at him, closed and completely unused since Beebee hatched. “It’ll be a lot of work… but what place could be better than where he came from?”

Fluttershy leaned over to look at his basement door, her brow furrowing in thought. “You think you can really make it work?” she questioned skeptically. She quickly regretted her choice of words, though, her expression softening apologetically. “Oh! I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude! I’m sure you can do it!”

Eventide laughed and lightly, playfully punched her in the shoulder while walking for the basement door in question. “Hey, don’t worry about it. As I said, it’s gonna be a lot of work. I’ll probably need some help to get it done, too, but if I can pull it off…” as he finished, he pulled open the door to stare down the old wooden steps. He then looked back at Fluttershy. Beebee was just behind her, hovering over her shoulder and watching him inquisitively. Eventide’s smile grew.

“Then my Basement Bug will really have a place he can call his.

Chapter 12: Slow Day

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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.

“Dwago...”

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

“Beat...”

“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.”

“Bird.”

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.

Chapter 13: A Place Of Your Own

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One Week Later.

Beebee sat on his haunches in the middle of the living room, looking at the tall brown box with wide, curious eyes. His mouth hung slightly open from the angle, and his wings buzzed on his back every so often. Eventide gave him a small smile from his leaning position against the front door before returning his attention to the phone by his ear. “Yeah, think you can get them to help with that?” he asked hopefully.

Fluttershy’s voice responded, slightly reluctant. “Um, I can ask. I don’t know if they’ll actually agree to it, though...” she muttered, her voice slightly raised to be heard over the clamor of the Canterlot High School cafeteria that was blazing on in the background.

“Fair enough. The more hands helping out, the better. Gimme a call as soon as you know, and I’ll put Beebee in my room. Remember, we don’t want him finding out about this, and we don’t want your friends finding out about him. Who knows how quickly Pinkie or Rainbow would throw it up on Facebook or Twitter, and I’m not in the mood to deal with that bit of backlash.

There was a light-hearted giggle from the other end of the line. “Oh, I don’t think you’d have to worry about Pinkie Pie. She’s wonderful at keeping secrets. She wouldn’t be any good at surprise parties if she wasn’t.”

Eventide resisted the urge to facepalm. “Fluttershy… that’s when it’s Pinkie’s secret. I just don’t want to take any risks,” he explained dryly.

Fluttershy’s voice was a bit more solemn when she answered. “Okay, fair enough. I’ll call you again in a little bit.”

“Alright,” Eventide nodded before noticing Beebee rising into the air with his wings to poke the box near the top. Eventide winced. “Ooh, gotta go. Beebee’s poking the bed box.”

“Okay. Bye, Eventide!”

“See you,” he said before turning off his phone and stuffing it back in his pocket. With that done, he turned and quickly walked over to snatch Beebee out of the air. The flying bug squirmed and squeaked in protest, but Eventide was quick to remedy any malcontent by playfully shoving his fingers into Beebee’s side and wiggling them about.

And so Beebee started laughing and kicking, trying to get away from the tickling sensation. Eventide just smirked for a few moments before finally letting Beebee go back into the air. After a few moments of catching his breath, Beebee turned around and pouted indignantly at Eventide, which only served to make the young man laugh. “Oh, don’t look at me like that,” he chided lightly.

Beebee just puffed up his cheeks in annoyance but was quick to get over it. He shifted to one side in the air, squinting curiously at the big brown box. Eventide glanced at it before giving a quick nod. Inside it was housed the pieces for what was soon to be Beebee’s bed. It wasn’t anything particularly large or extravagant, little more than a mattress and a frame fit for a child. He’d already bought blankets and a pillow earlier that week, along with a few other things here and there. Now he just needed to get the bed into the basement and enlist the aid of Fluttershy and her friends to get everything built and put into place, all without letting Beebee know what they were up to, and without letting them know that Beebee existed.

He mentally cringed as he imagined what would happen if Fluttershy’s friends learned about the little guy. While there was a good chance nothing bad would come of it, the more people there were who knew about Beebee, the more likely it was that something bad might happen. He wasn’t exactly fond of seeing his son being taken away by men in black suits and sunglasses, so for now, secrecy was the plan.

Time began to pass while he awaited the return call from Fluttershy, during which he made sure Beebee stayed away from the large box, as well as from the door to the basement. Both of them were starting to get restless and antsy when, finally, Eventide’s phone rang in his pocket. He quickly answered it and brought it to his ear. “Yo.”

“Sunset, Applejack, and Pinkie agreed to help,” Fluttershy’s voice started from the other end of the line. “Everyone else is busy with homework or school activities.”

Eventide nodded along. “That’s fine. I’ll see you guys here after you get out of school, then?”

“Um, yes, if that’s a good time.

“I have literally nothing else going on today. Come over as soon as you are ready.”

“Okay, see you then. Bye!”

“Bye.”

And with that, the line went dead. Eventide pulled his phone away and checked the on-screen clock. They had a couple of hours still before school was out for the day. Stuffing his phone back into his pocket, he looked up at Beebee, who was hovering in the air not far away with a tilted head. “Bai,” he babbled, his face scrunching somewhat.

Eventide shook his head with a smile and sigh. “No, not bye to you, Bee,” he noted before glancing over at the now substantially larger pile of kids books by the chair. An idea sprang into his mind, and he gave Beebee a sideways glance. Well, they needed some way to pass the time, and the chair was right next to the windows. He’d be able to see Fluttershy and her friends coming before they reached the door, giving him ample time to tuck Beebee safely away in his room.

Not the soundest plan in the world, he had to admit. If someone got nosy, Pinkie probably, than Beebee stood a good chance of being found out. Eventide scratched the back of his head and chewed absently on his lip for a moment, his mind briefly loading up on anxiety before something wrapped around his other arm. Surprised, he looked down to see that Beebee had more or less wrapped himself around his arm near the shoulder, hugging it tight and looking up at him with worried eyes.

Eventide’s smile slowly returned. The hand on the back of his head drifted down to give Beebee a few affectionate scratches behind the ears. “Heh… you always seem to know when something’s wrong, don’t you?”

“Sowmy wong,” Beebee echoed before nuzzling into his father’s shoulder, his wings buzzing a few times on his back. Eventide was briefly enthralled by the adorable image, before finally giving himself a soft shake and nudging Beebee off of his shoulder.

“Hey, now, save some hugs for later. Now, wanna read a book?” he asked, a knowing grin on his face. Beebee still didn’t really know what the words meant, save for ‘Book’ and ‘read.’ And upon hearing those words in a sentence, the little guy’s face lit up with delight.

“Book! Reed!” He replied, flitting over and coming to a landing on Eventide’s shoulder. He leaned down to peer intently at the books that they were now walking towards, almost looking like he was about to start panting like a dog in excitement. One of his forelegs reached out to wiggle uselessly in the air at the first book Eventide picked up, a book with a bright yellow backdrop, vibrant red text, and the illustration of a certain monkey on the front cover. “Gorg!”

Eventide nodded. “Yeah, Curious George. You like this little monkey, don’t you?”

“Cuius Gorg! Mun gii! Read!”

“I’ll take that as a loud and resounding yes,” Eventide chuckled before sitting down on the chair. Beebee knew the position by now, and hopped down into waiting arms to be held close up against Eventide’s chest, his eyes wide open and starry as the book turned open to the first page.


Beebee’s mind danced and frolicked enthusiastically while his father read off from the book in his hands. His eyes followed along with Eventide’s finger as he traced it along the lines of shaped ink, speaking slowly and carefully to make sure Beebee could keep up. Any word that was short and simple enough, he was quick to latch onto and repeat, his infantile mind trying to connect the dots and meanings of the words. Each time a new sound slipped out of his mouth, Eventide would briefly stop and encourage him, often while repeating the word again so Beebee could get the pronunciation down.

“Jigsaw” was a hard one. He just couldn’t quite figure out how to get that odd ‘j’ sound out of his mouth. It was always either a ‘g’ or an ‘s.’ Nevertheless, he kept at it, beaming every time his father paused to help him along and encourage his progress. Time flowed slowly by, the two of them taking their sweet, sweet time. Eventually, though, a knocking came to the door.

From Beebee’s point of view, a knocking on the door meant that either Aunt Fluttershy was here to visit, or Eventide was back from work. Given that Eventide was currently holding him, though, that left only one other option in his mind. With excitement springing to life in his chest, Beebee launched from his place on Eventide’s chest, eliciting a pained ‘oof’ from him, before shooting over to the door and waiting expectantly by it.

But something was different, this time. Something was wrong. Eventide stood up from his chair way too quickly, his face twisted with worry and fear. The subtle pink haze that Beebee could sometimes see drifting off of him turned a dark shade of purple while his hands reached out. The grasp wasn’t quite as gentle as Beebee was used to, eliciting a frightened squeak from him as he found himself being hurriedly rushed to the bedroom.

Eventide said something to him as soon as they were inside, setting Beebee down on the bed. It came out fast, rushed, and almost sounding afraid. Beebee looked up at Eventide in confusion and concern and was about to jump up to try and hug him again, to try and make him feel better when he felt Eventide’s hand gently press on his back, holding him in place. The two looked into each other’s eyes for a moment, and Eventide said something else.

“Sorry, Beebee, but you’re gonna have to stay in here for a while, okay?”

Beebee’s face scrunched as he tried to make sense of the sounds. He recognized sorry, but that was about it. Shaking himself slightly, he took a tentative step forward. “Dada?” he asked carefully.

Eventide gave him a small smile, then leaned down to plant a quick kiss at the base of his horn. If nothing else, Beebee was able to take some comfort in the fact that his father was starting to calm down. A brief spike of panic, like when he had tried to nibble on those weird black snake-looking things behind the magic box in the living room, or when his wing had gotten stuck and hurt when he grew out of his grub skin.

To his confusion, though, Eventide then stood up and left the room, never breaking eye-contact with Beebee as he went. The door swung closed, and Beebee was left to his own devices. A click from the door told him that it would not open anymore, and a small, quivering squeak worked its way out of him. Usually, that only happened if he was in trouble, which had only happened two times so far. What had he done wrong? Shaking slightly, his wings buzzed, and he hopped off of the bed before trotting over to the door. He put his ear to it, listening.

There were voices. He recognized the voice of his father, Eventide, and that of Aunt Fluttershy, but he didn’t recognize the other three. One of them was incredibly loud and high pitched, while another one sounded weird and foreign, making all of the words it uttered sound completely alien. The third one was softer spoken than the other two but louder and deeper than Aunt Fluttershy by a hefty margin. The five voices talked back and forth, with Beebee only able to pick out a few words in the mix.

“Box.”

“Move.”

“Nephew.”

“Bedroom.”

“Sunset.”

Beebee’s face scrunched up with thought, and he began to try and mimic the words as he heard them. “Bok. Moo. Nafoo. Bet woom. Sunsud.”

Then came the thumping, making his jump back from the door with a squeak. The thumping continued, and after a minute, he heard the sound of another door opening. Then he heard steps descending the stairs into what he thought of as the nursery hive, the old wooden steps creaking even through the walls. Beebee’s face scrunched up even more, and he put his ear by the door again. What was going on out there?

The sounds continued for a time, and then eventually stopped altogether. Beebee listened for a long while, only occasionally hearing a distant thump or muffled voice, too distant to be properly discerned. He looked up at the doorknob, high above his head and frowned. After a moment, his wings started to buzz on his back, and he lifted into the air to try the knob. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t budge. He tried for several minutes, the smooth surface of his hooves usually just sliding uselessly off of the equally smooth and polished round knob.

Eventually growing tired of this sequence, Beebee simply reached out and knocked on the door a few times with his hoof. They were light taps, nothing at all like the knocks he had heard a few minutes ago. When no answer came, however, he knocked again, this time with a vocalized question. “Dada?”

Nothing.

Beebee tried a few more times before finally giving up and drifting back over to the bed to rest his wings. His breath was slightly heavier than when he had lifted off, and a bead of sweat formed on his brow. He Let out a slow, quiet whine of loneliness before curling up into a ball by Eventide’s pillow and closing his eyes. Eventually, despite his confusion and worry, he managed to fall into a light, dreamless sleep.


When Beebee awoke again, it was with joy and delight as he saw Eventide’s smiling face looking back down at him. He had been shaken awake, it seemed, and Eventide now sat next to him on the bed. “Hey there, Bee,” he greeted, prompting Beebee to launch up and hug him around the throat. He knew not to squeeze too tightly, but he couldn’t quite help himself this time. Daddy was here, and now all of his worries and fears could go away. His body relaxed even more when he felt Eventide’s hand very gently return the embrace. He chirped quietly, just content, and closed his eyes.

After a few minutes, Eventide stood and began moving, his hands very carefully keeping Beebee’s eyes turned towards his father’s chest. At first, this wasn’t anything to be concerned about. But when he felt their altitude descending, and heard the tell-tale creaking of the steps leading to the nursery hive, his attention was diverted. He squirmed in Eventide’s grip, trying to get a better look, but Eventide kept him gently immobilized. This only served to make him more curious and confused. Shortly, though, they reached the bottom of the stairs.

“Ready, Beebee?” Eventide asked in a soft whisper. He then slowly turned Beebee around in his hands, but not before covering his eyes with one of them. Beebee huffed and waited patiently for the veil to be lifted. “Three… two… one…” The hand removed itself.

And Beebee’s jaw nearly hit the floor.

“Surprise!”

The nursery hive had been… changed. It was so completely different, now! The single light that had been on the roof had gone from a dusty gold to a pristine white and had a shade over it. More than that, the walls were no longer a murky gray, but a bright and inviting sky blue. The harsh, gray stone floor had been covered with a soft, richly green carpet. There was a bed in the far right corner, covered with bright blue sheets and darker blue blankets. Beebee was able to spy his favorite ant toy resting against a fantastically plush looking pillow. Next to the bed on the left was a wooden bedside table, on which was a lamp casting orange light throughout the room and giving it a warm, inviting look. On the far left side of the room was a smaller, circular rug made up of splotches of bright, friendly colors, with a large colorful treasure chest sitting on top of it that was filled to the bursting point with toys.

Beebee barely even noticed when Eventide let him go, and just continued to hover in place, staring at it all with a gobsmacked expression. He heard Eventide chuckle quietly to himself, before a finger poked him between the wings, urging him to explore. Which he did, with great enthusiasm. The box full of toys was his first target, naturally, and he threw it open to see toys and stuffed animals and action figures, all just waiting to be played with. Now laughing in excited joy, Beebee then shot over to look at the bed where his ant lay, gently prodding the sheets with his hooves.

They were soft and warm, and he immediately began to jump up and down on it, relishing the bouncing motions for several moments. Eventually, though, he looked over at Eventide, who was leaning against the support beam next to the stairs with a smile on his face. To Beebee’s surprise, Fluttershy stood behind him and to his side, her hands clasped over her chest and a warm smile on her face. She looked at Eventide happily. “I think he likes it,” she said.

Eventide nodded slowly when Beebee went back to bouncing on the bed, laughing merrily to himself. “Yeah… looks like he does,” he replied, happy to put all other thoughts out of his mind for now in favor of just watching his little bug explore his new room.

It still smelled like dust and cobwebs in here. But eh, one thing at a time, Eventide figured. And besides, if it bugged Beebee at all, he certainly didn’t show it. The smile on his face and the laughter bubbling out of him was as pure and sincere as it came.

Chapter 14: First Snow

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2 Months Later.

Beebee counted himself as lucky last night, as he had managed to fall asleep without his dreams being haunted by nightmares. He could never really remember what they were about, just that he woke up terrified and sad, and that his father would always, always be there to calm him down when he began screaming. Even with his own bedroom, Eventide was never late to come and comfort him when he awoke in the middle of the night in a screaming mess.

This had been in large part thanks to what Eventide called a ‘baby monitor,’ which to Beebee just looked like a plastic rectangle with a black circle on it. But apparently, it allowed Eventide to hear Beebee whenever he cried out, no matter where he was in the house. It was a great comfort, to be sure.

Now, as lucky as Beebee’s restful night of sleep had been, he found that his luck ran out very prematurely. He felt a hand on his back giving him a gentle shake, stirring him from his peaceful slumber. Groaning quietly, his wings flicked about at the intruding hand to try and make it leave him alone. “No…” he murmured drowsily when it persisted. “Five more mins…”

“Come on, Bee, wake up,” Eventide’s voice cut through the quiet and what little of Beebee’s sleep remained. Rolling over, he finally opened his eyes just a sliver to look up at his father. He was mildly confused to see that he was wearing the new ‘winter clothes’ he had come home with yesterday, consisting of a thick dark red hoodie, a dark blue beanie, and fuzzy, thick, red gloves. The rest of his attire was pretty much the same as normal.

“What…?” Beebee asked drowsily, finally surrendering to the fact that he wasn’t getting any more sleep at that moment.

Eventide’s smile grew when he heard the question. Beebee had been getting a lot better at talking over the last two months, to the point that he could now communicate relatively well. His vocabulary was still rather small, and most of the time, if he spoke, it was to ask a question, but at least now it was possible to have a conversation with him. “There’s something outside; something amazing. You should see it,” Eventide answered Beebee’s inquiry with a sly smile.

Beebee slowly sat up in the bed to yawn and stretch. His wings twitched a few times on his back before he looked up at Eventide again, blinking the sleep out of his eyes. “What is it?” he asked.

Eventide shook his head and made his way for the stairs leading up from the basement. “It’s a surprise. Now come on, Bee! Buddha’s already waiting for us!” he said while beckoning for Beebee to follow him.

Quietly chittering to himself in wordless disapproval, Beebee did as he was instructed and lifted out of bed to follow Eventide up the stairs and out of his room. When they got to the top, he immediately noticed that it was still dark outside. Why would his dad wake him up when it was still dark out? And why were all of the lights off? His muzzle twitched with confusion. His bewilderment only grew when he saw something white slowly drift down to the ground in front of the window, just illuminated by the street lamps.

Eventide walked right up to the window and looked back at Beebee expectantly. Buddha was sitting next to the door, looking up at the knob with an impatient expression on her face. Beebee, now very curious, flew over. He eyed Eventide with curiosity, before looking out the window to see what all the fuss was about.

His jaw fell open, and his eyes widened. “Wooooaaah… what is that?!” he asked in wonder when he saw that the entirety of the front yard and everything else that he could see was covered in a thick layer of a white substance. If he really looked, he would have sworn it was sparkling at him. More of it was falling from the sky, each one drifting down slowly.

Eventide gave Beebee a grin from the side, before nodding out at the yard again. “It’s snow…” he said quietly, kneeling down, so he was closer to Beebee’s eye level. “I remembered how much I loved the snow when I was a kid… so I stayed up, waiting for it. I knew you’d love to see it.”

Beebee pressed his hooves against the glass, his glowing blue eyes watching one flake slowly fall to earth. “It’s pretty…” he murmured out in awe.

Eventide’s smile grew. “Yeah, it is… and I’ve been thinking…” he released Beebee’s hoof and walked over to the door. “That you’ve been inside my house your whole life…”

Beebee watched him with wide eyes as he opened the door, allowing Buddha to run out into the snow and start bouncing around. Beebee looked between the door and his dad several times, the gears in his head slowly turning. “Daddy? Can I… can I go outside?” he asked hopefully.

That hope was fulfilled when Eventide nodded and gestured with his hand. “Stay close to the house and don’t go out into the street. If you see anybody else, come back inside right away, but yes… you can go outside,” he explained slowly before stepping outside himself. Slowly and carefully, Beebee followed him to the door’s threshold. As he stood in front of it, he felt the cold air on his face and winced back. Beebee had never felt anything so cold before, but it only took him a moment to adjust. After a few seconds, he reached his hoof out into the world outside of his home for the first time in his life.

Granted, he had only been alive for three months, but still!

He spotted a particularly big snowflake drifting down and leaned over to catch it. As soon as it settled on his hoof, it melted, leaving a small spot of water on it. His eyes widened, and with his wings lifting him into the air, he got right in Eventide’s face to show him. “Look! Look! Snow turns into water!”

Eventide just laughed while looking at the hoof. “It sure does, little guy,” he replied warmly. He reached up to hold Beebee’s hoof in his hand, pointing at the water with his finger. “That’s because snow is made of frozen water. It’s kinda like ice rain, but…” he gestured slowly at the world around them, and the layer of snow covering everything. “A lot slower, and a lot more beautiful.”

Beebee looked around some more, then looked up at the sky. For a good few minutes, he was just looking before Buddha went running by again. Beebee watched as the excited dog pounced on the snow wherever it was higher, ran through where it was thick, and bit at falling flakes as if they were balls thrown for her to catch. Beebee noticed the snow clinging to her long fur, and his muzzle scrunched. “How come Buddha isn’t cold?” he asked curiously, shifting a little closer to Eventide for warmth.

“Oh, she has a thick coat of fur to keep the cold out,” Eventide answered with a nod. He pointed at the dog as she went speeding by again. “And it keeps the warm in. Kinda like the clothes I’m wearing right now, and the clothes we should get you someday.”

Beebee blinked. “But Buddha never takes her fur off…”

Eventide chuckled in amusement. “Well, no, that’s because it’s a part of her. I mean,” Eventide took off his beanie and ruffled his hair. “My hair is a lot like her fur.”

Beebee got the idea and nodded before watching Buddha run around a little more. He then poked Eventide’s shoulder. “Can I go play with Buddha?”

Eventide slowly nodded, reaching out to give Beebee a few pets. “Yes, but take it easy and don’t get too excited. We don’t want you to fall down because you were playing too hard. And If you start feeling cold, come back to me, and I’ll warm you right up. Remember not to go out of the yard and hide if you see someone you don’t know, okay?”

Beebee nodded happily with an adorable “uh-huh!” He then looked up into the pitch black night sky again, watching the falling snow as it was illuminated by the bright white street lamps. He then looked down at the snow on the ground and lowered himself down. His hooves brushed through the topmost layer, and he felt how cold it was. But after a few seconds, he touched down fully. The snow crunched under his hooves, and his forelegs felt frightfully cold for a moment.

He took a few steps, then looked up at Buddha, who was bounding up to him. She slid to a stop and began sniffing him all over, wagging her tail and shoving her muzzle all over him. Beebee giggled and tried to pet Buddha's nose, and then squeaked in surprise when she shoved her entire face under his legs and lifted him up. After a brief moment of confusion, he found that he was riding on Buddha’s head.

Eventide chuckled. “Buddha’s giving you a piggyback ride, Beebee. Guess she didn’t want you getting cold,” he commented before walking up to their side and giving the dog a few pets behind the ears. “Good girl.”

Buddha leaned into his hand, then licked it a few times. Then, with Beebee still on her back, she began to start running around the yard again, albeit slower this time to keep him from falling off. Beebee winced every so often when a falling flake of snow hit him in the face, but he was otherwise having the time of his life, giggling and laughing all the while. He lifted one of his hooves and pointed it forward. “Let’s go, Buddha!” he declared, and the dog barked her agreement.

They were at this for a long while, with Buddha exploring the yard and taking Beebee along for the grand tour. They stopped to look at everything, and Buddha sniffed at all of it. They went all around the outside of the house, and Beebee got to see things he had never seen before. It was just wonderful, he thought.

After almost half an hour, Buddha finally began to run out of steam. She came to a stop by one of the trees in the yard while panting for breath, her tongue hanging out. After a few seconds, she sniffed at the base of the tree. She let out a small bark-like noise of recognition, then lay down next to it, not at all caring about the snow she was letting hit her belly. Beebee’s face twisted with confusion, and he began to lightly bat Buddha on top of the head with a hoof, making her face scrunch with mild annoyance. “Hey! Why we stop?” he asked disappointedly.

Eventide came forward, eyeing the tree up and down for a few seconds. Once he reached the two, he crouched down by their sides, a nostalgic smile slowly beginning to grow on his face. He reached out and ran his hand over the bark before giving Beebee a warm smile. “Hey, Beebee. Look at this,” he suggested in a quiet voice.

Beebee turned and looked at it, curious as to why his father would make such a big deal of an ordinary tree. Granted, he had never seen a tree up close before. “It’s a tree,” he stated the obvious, tapping his own hoof against it. “It’s pretty in the snow.”

“Yes, it is, but it's not just any tree,” Eventide said while reached out and gently plucking Beebee from Buddha’s back. He set Beebee on his knee and nodded towards the base of the tree. “That spot? Right there? That’s where I found your egg. This tree, Beebee, is where you came from,” he explained in a whisper.

Beebee blinked, then reached out to touch the tree more gently with his hoof. “So babies come from trees? Like apples?” he asked innocently, and Eventide barely managed to hold in his laugh.

“Uh, no, not quite,” he replied slowly. “Most babies come from… ah, somewhere else…” he pulled Beebee a little closer. “But you aren’t most babies. You’re Beebee, my basement bug, and my son.”

Beebee giggled quietly at the use of ‘basement bug.’ He wasn’t sure why, but he found the little nickname to be funny. Once his tiny laughs died down, he reached out his hoof to the tree again. “Thank you, tree,” he said quietly, making Eventide tilt his head.

“Why are you thanking the tree, Bee?” he asked, genuinely curious.

Beebee smiled back up at him. “Because it gave me to you, daddy.”

“Oh, there goes the heart,” Eventide thought, his smile growing. He looked up at the tree himself and put his hand on it next to Beebee’s hoof. “Yeah… I guess you’re right… thank you, tree.”

Buddha looked at them for a moment, then rested her chin on one of the roots that managed to avoid being smothered in snow so far. The father and his son might be here for a little while, she felt. No need to rush them.

Chapter 15: High Fever

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Two Days Later.

Eventide’s morning had been going good so far, he felt. He had woken up to Buddha licks, enjoyed a nice hot shower, eaten breakfast in the form of a bowl of sweet cereal, and all in all was just thankful for the fact that he had the day off from work. The recently fallen snow would have made the trip to get there a nightmare and a half, he knew that for a fact. Right now, he was sitting down at his computer in his room, idly scrolling through news stories on the internet for anything interesting. A little ways away was the baby monitor, through which he could just make out the sound of Beebee snoring.

A particularly loud snore drew Eventide’s thoughts from his computer, and he stared at the monitor with a raised eyebrow and small frown. Beebee had been pretty sluggish the previous day, moving slowly and acting tired from the moment he had gotten up. He hadn’t even been too keen on using his wings to fly around, and he had gone to bed an hour earlier than usual. Eventide’s brow furrowed as he thought back on that, and feelings of concern were starting to bubble up in his chest.

It wasn’t normal behavior from Beebee, not at all. Eventide had called Fluttershy about it while he was eating his breakfast that morning to get her thoughts, and she suggested that, perhaps, since Beebee was very insect-like in bodily structure and behavior, he was something similar to being cold-blooded. A possibility, Eventide supposed, but it didn’t quite seem to add up to him.

For one thing, Beebee did have his own natural warmth that he always exuded, and aside from when he was asleep, he never stayed put for long. But if nothing else, Eventide accepted that it was a possibility. If nothing else, maybe Beebee just didn’t much care for the newfound cold of winter. The sharp decrease in the temperature could have made Beebee uncomfortable, driving him to seek warmth. The basement was surprisingly warm for being underground, which Eventide largely chalked up to the insulation there being remarkably top-notch. There was also the matter of all of the electronics down there, which provided some heat as well.

His thoughts were torn away from that when a sound caught his ear. Beebee’s voice cut through the baby monitor in a low, uncomfortable groan, and Eventide’s blood instantly ran cold. Something was wrong, he could feel it. Beebee had made sounds of discomfort, even pain, in the past. But this… this was different. He wasn’t just uncomfortable; he sounded miserable. Eventide immediately shot up to his feet and began to make his way for the basement.

Buddha was sitting by the basement door as soon as he came out, and looked up at him with worried eyes. She let out a pitiful whine and pawed uselessly at the door. With the dog’s message received, Eventide opened up the door, allowing Buddha to scamper down the steps while he followed her.

As he descended, he could hear Beebee’s voice clearly, sounding even more distressed. With his worry growing ever more intense, Eventide increased his speed to the point that he was running. He burst into the bedroom without ceremony and pulled on the chain hanging from the ceiling. The white overhead light flared into life, allowing Eventide to look at his son and see what was wrong.

His eyes widened, and a horrified gasp slipped past his lips.

Beebee was resting on his side on the bed, curled tightly into a ball and shaking terribly under the blankets. His chitin was significantly shinier than normal, with beads of sweat, or something similar, rolling down his face. The sheets under and over him were sopping and drenched with moisture, and some sort of green glowing paste was pooling on the pillow by his mouth. His eyes were open only slightly, and his wings lazily wavered up and down on his back at the sight of Buddha by his bedside. “Buddha…”

The weakness in Beebee’s voice finally broke Eventide out of his horrified trance. “Beebee!” he shouted, his voice cracking with concern. He quickly closed the gap and fell to his knees by his son’s bedside, bumping Buddha aside as he did so. When Beebee saw him, his face lit up hopefully.

“Dada…” he mumbled in a weak, queasy voice. The smile he had managed to form fell away, and a few coughs tore past his lips. “I feel bad… I’m hot and cold…” he whimpered before another horrible tremor worked its way through his system.

‘You’re gonna be okay, Bee,” Eventide said shakily, reaching his hand down to touch Beebee’s forehead. The moment his palm made contact, though, he was forced to yank it back with a yelp of pain. The chitin was so hot it was painful to touch.

Beebee’s wings wavered gently on his back. “Dada… I’m scared… and I- hrk!” his words were suddenly cut off as he sealed his lips shut. His cheeks ballooned out, and a strangled groan came from deep in his throat. With his eyes screwing themselves tightly closed, he thrust a hoof against his lips as if to keep something in. Then, with a voiceless gag, more of that awful green paste pushed past his lips to add to the pool, filling the air around it with an awful, bitter stench. Beebee coughed a few times, then looked up at Eventide with watering eyes and a quivering lip. “Help me…”


Fluttershy’s breath came in rapid, ragged gasps as she tore down the street as fast as her legs could possibly carry her, doing her absolute best to not slip on the snow as she went. She went over the symptoms in her mind again, her brow furrowing and her body shuddering involuntarily as she remembered the panic in Eventide’s voice when he had called her over the phone maybe ten minutes ago.

“Hello?”

“Fluttershy! Oh, thank goodness you’re there!”

“Eventide? Is everything okay?”

“N-no, it’s not! Beebee’s sick! Really sick! Please, you have to get over here and help me, I have no idea what to do!”

“Woah, woah, slow down! Sick? What are his symptoms?”

“I just- gah! I dunno what’s wrong with him! He can’t form a sentence long enough to tell me what’s wrong, he keeps throwing up, he’s hot to the touch and, and, and… oh my…. I can’t handle this!”

“Eventide, calm. Down. Take a few deep breaths and tell me everything.”

“Right… right… whew… okay. He’s, uh, he’s got a really high temperature. It actually hurts to touch him. He’s sweating and shaking horribly, his sheets are completely drenched. He’s so weak he can barely move, and he’s constantly throwing up this weird glowing green paste.”

“Oh my… Um… have you cleaned up the p-paste?”

“As well as I can, and I got him a pan to throw up into. It’s pretty constant, and it’s about half full so far. He’s also saying he’s starving and starts crying whenever I leave his side for anything… he’s scared, I’m scared! I have no idea what to do, Fluttershy!”

“Just hang on, keep that… paste… cleaned up and see if you can change his sheets. I’m on my way.”

“Okay… okay, thank you, Fluttershy.”

The call had ended there, neither of them keen on wasting time with goodbyes. Fluttershy had then hurried in throwing on her winter clothes without even bothering to show, telling her parents she was going to be out for a little while and then breaking into a full-on sprint as soon as she was out of sight. She almost regretted her decision to sprint the whole way, as her lungs were burning in desperation for a rest, and her legs felt like they were being filled with molten lead.

Keyword being ‘almost.’ Beebee and Eventide needed her right now.

Only when she finally reached the block that Eventide’s house was on did she allow herself to slow down. Stumbling to a halt, her hand flew up to her chest where her heart beat so hard she was afraid it might break out of her chest and run away from being overworked. Taking a few more wobbly steps, she slumped to one side and leaned against a stop sign for a little bit to rest her screaming legs. Her breaths were still coming in heaving gasps. She didn't let herself stop for long though, no matter how much her body was shouting at her to rest. She shoved off of the post after a moment to continue her trek, this time at a brisk walk instead of at a sprint. Her legs were shaking, and she was still gasping heavily, but she was able to actually reach the house without collapsing now.

She didn’t even bother to knock and pushed the door open. Buddha looked at her from her place on the chair, all of her usual happy and friendly energy gone. She could clearly sense that something was wrong, and was doing her best to keep out of the way while the people did their work. Giving a thankful nod to the golden retriever, Fluttershy continued on her way and descended down into the basement. She cringed when she heard Beebee utter a weak wail of protest, then saw Eventide appear at the bottom of the stairs to look back up at her.

His facial features visibly relaxed on seeing her, though there was undoubtedly still that underlying sense of dread. “Oh, thank goodness. You made it…” he breathed in relief before turning and letting Fluttershy past.

She nodded and stepped by him, coming into the basement proper. She froze, her eyes glued onto Beebee on the bed. Just like Eventide had said, he was in rough shape, and a fresh depositing of green glowing paste left his mouth to splatter into the pan, making a sound akin to that of slushy snow. Fluttershy, despite her exertion, couldn’t find it in herself to breath for several seconds while a hand flew up to cover her mouth.

She pulled herself together after a moment and stepped forward to get a better look at the situation. Beebee saw her coming, and the wings on his back gave a weak flutter. His eyes lit up with recognition, and a tiny smile managed to force its way onto his pained muzzle. “Aunt Shy…” he murmured before going into a hysterical coughing fit, a few more flecks of the paste flying out and smattering against his pillow.

Fluttershy sat down on the edge of the bed and carefully reached her hand out. She saw Eventide wince, and she remembered what he had said about Beebee being painful to touch. But still, she had to know. She rested her on Beebee’s forehead, then yanked it back when she felt how hot Beebee’s exoskeleton was. Eventide hadn’t been kidding, it hurt to touch him. “Oh my goodness… Beebee…” she choked out before looking up at Eventide hopelessly.

“Make it stop…” Beebee cried in a pitiful wail, one of his forelegs uselessly reaching out before falling against his sheets with a soft thump. “I don’t like this… It hurts…”

“You’re gonna be okay, Beebee, I promise,” Eventide said in a shaking voice before joining Fluttershy on the edge of the bed. He buried his face in his hands to take several deep breaths, then looked at Fluttershy with pleading eyes. “What do we do?” he asked quietly.

Fluttershy blinked and looked past him at Beebee again. She considered their options for several moments before letting out a heavy sigh. This was bad. They had very little idea how Beebee’s body functioned, beyond what little they had managed to piece together through trial and error. But with a situation like this and a sickness this bad, there was no room for error. She put a few fingers on her temple and shook her head, trying to suppress a growing headache. “Okay… uh… how did he come down with this? Did anything unusual happen that you can think of? Contact with other animals or something?”

Eventide’s face twisted with thought, his hands wringing themselves together repeatedly in his lap. He looked down at the floor for a few seconds. “Uh… w-well… I’m not sure. The closest thing I can think of it when he went outside for the first time a couple days ago, but…”

“He did?” Fluttershy asked with her eyes widening. She again looked at Beebee before giving Eventide a more stern expression. “Had the snow come down yet?”

“Y-yes…”

“Oh, Eventide…” Fluttershy sighed and shook her head. “That’s probably where this came from, then. Between the cold and his first exposure to the outside, who knows what he might have caught… and…” her expression turned significantly more remorseful. She looked down at the floor, no longer able to look directly at either of them. “And I don’t know if there’s anything we can do.”

Eventide stared at her in shock and horror, stunned. For a few moments, he mouthed helplessly. “Wha.. what do you mean?” he finally managed to ask, shaking. “Y-you’re the medical expert, aren’t you?”

“Well, yes, but-”

“So help him!” Eventide all but shouted while standing up. “Please! I don’t know what to do, but you’ve gotta know something! You always seem to know exactly what to do with him! Can’t you just-” he stopped mid-sentence when he saw her shrinking down under his onslaught and the volume of his voice. They were both utterly quiet for several moments with Beebee looking back and forth between them with wide, fearful eyes. Slowly, eventide sat back down while folding his hands in his lap. “I’m sorry, Fluttershy… I’m just scared…”

Fluttershy winced, then nodded. “I know… and I’m sorry, too, but I don’t know enough about Beebee or how his body works to safely treat him. What if antibiotics are toxic for him? Or vitamins? What if he needs something we don’t even have?” she pointed out before putting her hand on Eventide’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, but we just don’t know enough. The best thing we can do right now, is be there for him.”

Eventide just stared at her for several long seconds, his expression blank. Then, with a resigned sigh and his body sagging, he stood up and walked around to be right next to Beebee. He settled down onto his knees and took his son’s hoof in his hand. “I’m sorry, Bee…” he whispered, not quite able to meet Beebee’s gaze. “This is my fault. I just… I just wanted you to see the snow… I wanted to let you be outside for once when the world was at its most beautiful. You shouldn’t be forced to stay inside all the time, but...”

Beebee coughed a few more times, then managed to weakly reach his other hoof out to place it on top of his father’s hand. He gave a confused Eventide a week smile, a quiet purring chirp coming from somewhere deep in his chest. “It’s okay, Dada… I loved the snow…” he said quietly.

The tender remark was immediately marred when Beebee’s cheeks suddenly puffed up again. He quickly leaned over as yet more green paste was expelled into the pan, which was now almost full. Fluttershy winced at the sight and the awful smell, only now noticing it. Without a word, she gently reached down and took the pan away. She shuddered in revulsion when the glowing contents inside sloshed about

“I’ll go clean it out and be back in a second…” she said quietly before beginning the journey up the stairs. She went right for the sink and poured the pan’s contents down the drain with the assistance of a steady stream of steaming hot water. She then took the cleansed pan back down and returned it to Eventide and Beebee. The two were quiet, with Eventide holding Beebee’s hoof and doing as Fluttershy had said.

She silently excused herself and went back upstairs, giving the two some time to be alone. Leaving the basement door open an inch or two, she went and sat down in Eventide’s computer chair so she could keep an ear on the situation with the baby monitor. After a few moments, she reached into her pocket and withdrew her cell phone. With a few deft swipes of her thumb, she pulled up one specific profile and pushed the ‘call’ button,

She held the phone up to her ear and waited. There was one ring, then another, before the tell-tale click told her her call had been answered. “Fluttershy, Hello,” Sunset Shimmer's voice said from the other end of the line. “What’s up?”

“Hi,” Fluttershy replied. “Um… I have another question about the creatures in Equestria,” she said hesitantly, and she could practically feel Sunset raising an eyebrow from here.

“Uh, sure, I’ve got a few minutes. What do you want to know?” Sunset asked curiously. Fluttershy took in a deep breath, preparing to ask her question, but was interrupted when Sunset suddenly spoke again. “Hey, are you okay? You sound like you just ran a marathon.”

Fluttershy stiffened. “N-No, I’m fine,” she quickly lied, trying to steady her breathing as much as possible. She knew Sunset was unconvinced but was thankful to find that she didn’t press the subject. “Anyways, my question is… um… what kinds of illnesses do the creatures over there have to deal with?”

“Illnesses? Uh… well… there are a few that are almost identical to earth diseases. The common cold, the pony pox, hay fever, horsey hives, the like. We also have a lot that aren’t really here on Earth, like swamp fever,” Sunset audibly shuddered on the other end of the line. “That one is… yeah... anyway…”

This went on for some time, with Sunset listing off various diseases, and giving clarifications when asked about symptoms or causes, whether or not there were counterparts on Earth and more. All the while, Fluttershy could hear the sounds of Beebee suffering coming from the baby monitor.

Chapter 16: Bedridden Beebee

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The next few hours seemed to pass by at a snail’s pace, with Beebee’s fever remaining obscenely high and the paste he was vomiting up continuing to come out in copious amounts. Fluttershy came back down not long after excusing herself with a sealed bag of frozen vegetables in hand, which they used as an ice pack to try and bring Beebee’s temperature down somewhat. It worked, albeit only slightly.

It was getting on towards evening when Beebee’s symptoms slowly began to lose some of their intensity. He was still sweating profusely and shivering uncontrollably, but the amount of puke was starting to decrease, and his fever was starting to drop back down. Eventide could now safely put his hand on Beebee without it burning from the heat, a fact for which he was very grateful. He capitalized on this to give his son many gentle pets on the back of the head, offering whatever comfort he could from his kneeling position by the bed.

After a while, Beebee managed to muster enough strength to lift his head up and lean into his father’s ministrations, a weak chirp coming from deep in his throat. His glowing eyes looked up at Eventide and shimmered softly with gratitude. “Thank you, Daddy…” he muttered before resting his head down and coughing a few times.

Eventide offered Beebee a small reassuring smile. “You’re welcome… how are you feeling now? Your fever’s gone down quite a bit,” he noted in a hushed tone, never once taking his hand away.

Beebee coughed again before speaking. “A little better…” he mumbled before closing his eyes and letting out a tired sigh. “I’m still hot and cold… and my stomach feels really sick, still…”

“Your fever was pretty high,” Fluttershy noted gently from her place by the stairs. She walked forward and sat down on the edge of the bed, looking down at the two with a soft smile. “You’re probably going to be okay. I think the worst has passed.”

Beebee nodded slowly, his face becoming partially obscured as he pulled his blankets a little closer to his body. He lay still for a while, trying to relax under Eventide’s hand, then let out a quiet sniffle. It was almost inaudible, but in the otherwise silent room, both Eventide and Fluttershy heard it. Eventide gently pulled his hand back and leaned down to look into Beebee’s face a little better. “Beebee?”

“Why did I get sick?” Beebee suddenly asked, his voice sounding guilty and reluctant. He opened his eyes slowly to reveal that they were starting to glisten with tears.

Eventide and Fluttershy shared an uneasy glance. The way he had said that was heart-wrenching. After a moment, Fluttershy cleared her throat and offered an answer. “Uh, well, while you were outside a couple of days ago, you probably caught some airborne virus. You had been inside this house for your whole life until then, so your body wasn't able to protect itself from the virus. So you got sick.”

Beebee blinked. Without raising his head, he voiced his next question. “What’s a virus?”

It was Eventide who answered him. “A virus is… well… they’re tiny, tiny creatures that live inside your body. So tiny, in fact, that millions of them could live on the tip of one of my pens upstairs, and you still couldn’t see them.”

Beebee was genuinely intrigued, as was evidenced by how his ears perked up, and his wings gave a weak buzz on his back. “Really? They’re that small?” he asked.

Fluttershy nodded and continued on with the explanation. “Yes, they are. And they are really bad for you. They are one of the things that can make you really sick by getting inside your body and attacking it.”

“That’s mean…” Beebee protested in a murmur, his eyes narrowing somewhat. “Why are they mean?”

“Well… it’s what they have to do to survive,” Eventide reluctantly explained. “When they get inside your body, though, it starts getting really hot with a fever to try and get rid of the sickness. It burns them out and makes them run away to find somewhere else to go,” he explained, glancing up at Fluttershy as if for approval. She gave him a small nod and a look that conveyed her message clearly.

Close enough.

Beebee’s eyes closed part way, and he curled even tighter into a ball. He sat there for several seconds, completely motionless, aside from his shivers. “I’m sorry I got sick…” he said softly, his eyes starting to shimmer even more. “Please don’t be upset at me…”

Eventide recoiled at that, his eyes widening in shock. For a few seconds, he just stared at Beebee in confusion before letting out an exasperated breath. “Wha… Beebee, why in the world would I be upset with you?”

“You’re scared,” Beebee protested weakly, sniffling. “And sad, and it’s all my fault. When daddy isn’t happy, I don’t get to eat...”

Fluttershy raised an eyebrow at that. “Uh… Beebee? What do you mean?” she asked softly, reaching her own hand down to give the quivering bug a few gentle pets through the blanket.

Beebee hiccuped, then burst into another violent coughing fit. A few specks of green paste splattered across his pillow, but nothing more came out of him, thankfully. Once he calmed down, he opened his eyes and tried to speak. “When daddy’s happy with me, and Aunt Shy is happy with me, I can eat. It tastes so good, and it makes me full… but when I do something wrong, you get mad or scared, and I can’t eat anymore. Everything turns red and black, it tastes horrible and it scares me…”

Eventide and Fluttershy shared a confused glance for a long moment while Beebee concluded his explanation. For a while, neither was really sure what to say or do. But when Beebee began to audibly cry, it brought their undivided attention back to the weeping basement bug. “I’m sorry, daddy… please don’t be upset with me…” he whimpered, starting to sob.

Eventide looked on with a blank expression, then gave his son a weak smile. “Hey… I’m not mad at you or upset with you, and you’ve done nothing wrong,” he assured in a whisper while reaching over and giving his son a reassuring pat. “You’re sick and I’m scared for you, yes, but that’s because I love you and I want you to get better. So stop thinking you did something wrong, okay?” to help punctuate his point, he then brought his thumb around and pushed it playfully into Beebee’s nose.

Beebee managed a tiny giggle at the nudge, then reached his little hooves out to grasp the small appendage and hold onto it. His grip didn’t last long, though, and he allowed Eventide’s hand to return to its owner after a mere three seconds. With his hooves uselessly falling back down into the blankets, Beebee stared up at Eventide for a few more minutes before closing his eyes. “I’m sleepy…” he murmured.

Fluttershy smiled softly upon hearing that. “Then you should go ahead and get some sleep,” she advised in a soft voice before standing up and lifting up the puke pan from the bedside table. The contents sloshed around a little, and she grimaced at it before offering Beebee a chirpy smile. “I’ll clean this out and bring it right back. Then…”

Beebee watched her, tilting his head as she went. This small motion caused the frozen vegetables to slide off of his head with the crunch of plastic. Fluttershy giggled at how he looked at the bag incredulously as if it had offended him somehow. “Heh. Then I’ll bring down another ice pack for you.”

“Okay,” Beebee called after her before resting his head on his pillow and slowly closing his eyes. The last thing he saw before sleep claimed him was the softly smiling face of his adoptive father looking back at him. In just a few minutes, he began to snore quietly, his shivers and groans growing quiet.

Eventide barely even noticed as Fluttershy did as she said she would. She eventually returned with a new bag of frozen veggies and without the pan. She placed the vegetables on Beebee’s forehead, then gave Eventide’s shoulder a shake. “We should probably let him be for a while,” she whispered to him.

Eventide nodded stiffly, his smile falling away. He slowly got back to his feet, and the two quietly made their way for the stairs to go back up.


Once they were back in the living room, Eventide made a beeline for the chair. Buddha quickly hopped down and off of it at his approach, slinking off to hide herself somewhere else. Fluttershy watched with a small smile as Eventide then turned on his heel and slumped down into his chair with a heavy sigh. Seeing the sight, despite their situation, was enough to make her chuckle under her breath. Eventide raised an eyebrow and shot her a skeptical look. “What’s so funny?” he asked indignantly.

“Oh, sorry,” Fluttershy waved off his question with another giggle. “It’s just… I’ve lost count of how many times you’ve slumped into that chair when something comes up with Beebee.”

Eventide glanced down at the chair, realized she was right, then gave Fluttershy his best pout. “Har Har. Laugh it up, Fluttercup,” he shot back before adding his own small chuckle to the mix. “I guess I do slump in it a lot, though. don’t I?”

“Fluttercup?” Fluttershy asked with a raised eyebrow. She then gave a shake of her head and began to approach him. “But yes, you do like that chair…” she said before her smile fell away. She sat down on the edge of the coffee table, clasped her hands in her lap and looked at Eventide with concern. It was painfully obvious just how stressed he was. His forehead was wrinkled, there were dark bags under his bloodshot eyes, and his hair had gone completely ungroomed for more or less the whole day after his shower. Still, she just had to ask... “How are you feeling?”

Eventide didn’t even miss a beat. “Like I just got done running a marathon, but all of the strain is in my head and heart and not my legs. I’m Stressed, I’m tired, I’m scared out of my mind for Beebee, I’m worried I might have caught whatever he has, and…” he leaned forward and hung his head. His hands clasped together in his lap, wringing themselves. “...and I’m really confused. Beebee said that when I’m happy with him, he gets fed, right?” he lifted his eyes to meet Fluttershy’s. “What does that mean?”

Fluttershy hummed, her brow furrowing as she mulled the question over for a minute. “Well… uhm… maybe he means that he ‘eats’ love and affection?” she tried with a small smile. “We already know he doesn’t eat physical food.”

Eventide’s brow furrowed, remembering how he had assumed early on that Beebee somehow fed off of affection. This was just more fuel to that fire. Now that he thought about it. He nodded, his expression turning more serious. “Yeah, you’re right about that. He doesn’t eat anything I give him, but whenever his stomach growls, he looks at me and reaches his legs out for a hug…”

“And he also mentioned that it makes him scared whenever you get angry with him…” Fluttershy noted, running a finger over her chin. “Do you get angry with him?”

“Not often, no,” Eventide answered. “Usually when he does something wrong, I tell him it was wrong, you know, typical scolding style, and he never does it again. He always looks…” he paused and puffed out a breath between tightly drawn lips. “...I dunno. He looks guilty, but scared at the same time…”

“Well,” Fluttershy began, her eyes narrowing with thought. “If he gets fed by us being happy with him, that would explain that. If he can’t eat whenever he does something wrong, then he has a very good reason to learn quickly and be good.”

“Ugh… being angry with my kid means he doesn’t get to eat?” Eventide groaned and ran a hand over his face, then flopped back into his chair even harder than before. He stared blankly up at the ceiling, closed his eyes and let his hands hang limply over the sides. “No pressure…”

Fluttershy watched him for a few minutes, allowing the silence to seep in and ease their minds. After a while, she stood up and slipped away, her shoes barely audible on his floor. She came back a moment later, took Eventide’s hand in hers, then put something in it. Eventide opened his eyes and looked to see the baby monitor was now secured in his hand, through which he could just hear the sound of his son’s shaking snores. He looked up at Fluttershy, and she smiled down at him.

“I need to get back home,” she said quietly before releasing his hand and stepping for the door. “I’ve been gone for a long time. My parents are bound to be getting worried about me.”

Eventide nodded and smiled gratefully. “Alright. Thank you for coming over, Fluttershy… I honestly don’t know what I’d do without you,” he said softly. He stood up from his chair, albeit on shaky legs, and walked over to Fluttershy to give her a warm hug.

She returned it happily with a quiet hum. “You’re welcome, Eventide. I’m happy to help. Give me a call if he starts getting worse again, alright?” she asked quietly before backing out of the embrace and heading for the door.

Eventide nodded and waved in farewell. “Of course. I’ll see you later, Fluttershy!”

“Bye,” she called back before stepping out of the house and closing the door behind her.

For a good few minutes after that, Eventide stood there, his mind wandering aimlessly. Beebee’s shaking breaths coming through the baby monitor provided white noise, but also helped keep him grounded in the here and now. Still, after almost five minutes of nothing, something damp shoved itself into the empty hand at his side. He looked down and smiled when he saw Buddha looking back up at him, her chocolate-colored eyes speaking her mind for her.

Is everything okay now?

“Hey girl,” Eventide said quietly while reaching down and giving Buddha a few pets behind the ears. “Beebee’s gonna be alright, I think. He may be small and skinny, but he’s tough.”

Buddha let out a few quiet whines before licking at his hand. Chuckling, Eventide pulled it away and made his way for the counter that he called his kitchen. “I’m starving. I haven’t had anything since breakfast. You want some food, too, girl?”

Buddha’s face lit up with excitement at the word ‘food.’

“Bark!”

“Heh… thought so.”

Chapter 17: Boxes Under A Tree

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One Month Later.

Eventide looked on silently from his place at the bottom of the basement stairs, watching Beebee sleep. The content smile on the little guy’s face was enough to make Eventide hesitate. He really didn’t want to disturb such a peaceful rest; Beebee had woken up crying more frequently than usual ever since his sickness, and only last night had he managed to go the whole night without suddenly waking up with tears in his eyes.

Beebee’s sickness had passed in its entirety about two weeks after catching it. It had been persistent, that was for sure. The worst of it had gone by the start of the second day, but there had been a lingering cough and physical weakness that went well beyond the bug’s usual frailty. Eventide had made sure he got plenty of bed rest and capitalized on his immobile nature as well as he could. He would bring the storybooks down and read to Beebee, sometimes for hours at a time to keep the little guy in a good mood.

And now he was sleeping so soundly, it was almost enough to break Eventide’s heart. Did he really have to do this…?

But, alas, there were things that needed to be done today. It was morning, just a few minutes short of ten o’clock when Beebee was supposed to usually wake up. Eventide had been up for hours already to get things prepared, and was still trying to shake off his own drowsiness. Still, he had a plan, and he wasn’t about to back out now. It was too late, anyway, and he had to make sure it all went perfectly.

Eventide’s thoughts were torn away from his day so far when, finally, his phone began to vibrate in his pocket, telling him that it was time. So, with a warm smile, he sidled up to the bed and reached down to give Beebee a gentle shake. “Hey, Bee, time to wake up,” he called gently, while Beebee groaned in defiance and buried his face deeper into the pillow.

“Daaaadddyyyyy…” The bug whined pitifully when his father didn’t let up, turning a groggy and annoyed pout on him. “I don’t wanna. Five more minutes?”

Eventide rolled his eyes in amusement. “Oh, quit your complaining. I got a surprise for you,” he said with a happy wink. “And no, it’s not more snow.”

Beebee looked at him for a few moments, his eyes narrowing. Eventide could almost hear the tiny cogs turning in his brain, trying to figure out what was going on. “What kind of surprise?” Beebee finally asked while sitting up and rubbing his hooves into his eyes.

Eventide just gave a cheeky little grin and backed away from the bed. “Just come upstairs to the living room. You’ll see… and I promise, you’ll love it~!” he called in a sing-song voice before disappearing up the stairs, leaving the door open behind him. After a few moments of yawning and stretching, Beebee did as instructed. He flew up the steps with his wings buzzing away on his back, rather miffed that his sleep had been disturbed. Granted, he was used to getting up at around this time, but he wasn’t used to his dad waking him up personally. Usually, he was woken up by his voice over the baby monitor, and that was it.

It became apparent why today was different when he came to the top of the stairs and buzzed out into the living room. His wings stiffened, and he fell to his hooves on the floor, looking on with wide eyes and a hanging jaw. In the middle of the living room was a large, lush green tree, covered from top to bottom in spherical ornaments of several bright and vivid colors, namely red and blue. Joining those spheres was a coiling wire of some sort, lit up with green, white, and red bulbs, ascending the tree in a spiral shape. Under the tree itself, was a circular rug colored in green and red, on top of which, six boxes of varying sizes could be seen, all wrapped in multi-colored paper.

Eventide and Buddha both sat under the tree, the former watching Beebee expectantly while the latter busied herself with shoving her nose against one of the boxes and sniffing at it. After a while, Eventide made a beckoning gesture. “Well, Beebee? What do you think?” he asked, finally snapping Beebee out of his stunned trance.

“Uh…” Beebee slowly walked forwards, then sat on his haunches a few feet away to look up at the tree in awe and wonder. “It’s pretty, but… Why is there a tree in the house?”

Eventide chuckled and gave said tree a shake with his hand, making the decorations jingle and the leaves rustle. “It’s a Christmas tree. I would have put it up sooner, but, well…” he flashed Beebee a sideways grin. “I wanted your first Christmas to be a surprise.”

Beebee looked at Eventide in confusion. “Chwis… Chwisa… Chrismu…” he tried several times to say the unfamiliar word. “Christmas?” he finally managed, looking at Eventide hopefully.

“That’s right, you got it.”

“Yay!” Beebee clapped his hooves together a couple of times before looking at the boxes, then the tree, then at Eventide again. His smile faded, and he tilted his head. “What’s Christmas?” he asked, clearly bewildered.

Eventide looked down at the boxes, his smile growing. “It’s a holiday. Once a year, people all over the world give their family and closest friends gifts and presents to celebrate kindness and generosity. It’s all about giving to others. It also tends to come with a lot of chocolate, special songs, and time with the people we care about the most,” he explained before picking up one of the boxes, a wry smirk on his face. “And every Christmas Eve, or the day before Christmas, while children are asleep, Santa Claus himself comes down on a magic sleigh pulled by flying reindeer, to give presents of his own to all of the good kids.”

“Santa Claus?” Beebee asked, his voice filled with fascination and childish wonder. He rose to his hooves and started to trot towards the boxes again. “Who’s that?”

“He’s a wonderful man with a heart of gold who lives in a workshop at the north pole, with his wife and an assortment of elves to help him out. As I said, he brings toys to all the good kids on Christmas Eve, leaving them under the Christmas tree for them to find and open in the morning,” Eventide explained before leaning down towards Beebee, who was now sitting right next to him. “But you’d better not be naughty because he gives coal to the bad kids.”

Beebee gasped quietly, his hooves flying up to his mouth and covering it. “But that’s mean!” he squeaked out in protest.

Eventide grinned, “Well, then don’t be mean. Now, then…” he looked at the box in his hand, then lowered it down towards Beebee. “I found this under the tree… and look!” he pointed at some writing on the top that Beebee hadn’t noticed.

To: The Basement Bug.
From: Santa Claus.

“It’s for you!” Eventide said excitedly before putting the box down in front of Beebee, whose eyes were now as wide as dinner plates and shimmering with excitement. “You’ve been good, right?”

“Yes, yes, I’ve been good!” Beebee replied hastily while putting his hooves on the box. “Can I open it? Can I, can I? Can I?!”

Eventide nodded happily and put a hand on Beebee’s back. “Sure, go right ahead.”

With a happy chirp and purr coming from his throat, Beebee nodded and scrutinized his present for a few moments, trying to find a lid or something he could pull on. When nothing presented itself, he pouted and looked up at Eventide with an adorably helpless expression. “Daddy, where’s the lid?” he whined pitifully.

“Oh, you tear the paper off,” Eventide explained simply while reaching one of his hands down. “Here, let me get you started…” with one swift motion, he pulled a large chunk of the paper away from the box, revealing what was underneath.

Beebee grasped the concept immediately and set to work tearing the remaining paper off with his teeth. When at last it was all torn away, he looked at what had been concealed. It was a nicely made cardboard box, the lid already flapping open. Inside the box was an assortment of various pieces of colored paper. Beebee set about pulling the paper away, trying to find his gift at the bottom, all while Eventide looked over his shoulder. “What is it, Bee? What did Santa get you?”

“It’s a…” Beebee’s muzzle scrunched when, at last, he beheld the present. He studied it for a few moments, trying to find the right word to describe it. He ran a hoof over the soft item within before it clicked into place in his mind. “It’s a coat! I think,” he exclaimed before pulling out the item in question. Sure enough, in his hooves was a vibrant blue coat with a furry inner lining and a thick hood. What was shocking, though, was the fact that it looked like it fit him perfectly. There were even holes for the wings!

Eventide’s smile grew when he saw the jubilant look on Beebee’s face. “It is a coat! And it looks like it fits you, too!” He then looked down into the box and raised an eyebrow. “Oh, look, Santa left you a note, too,” he said while reaching in and pulling out the slip of paper. Beebee knew that look, and immediately put down his coat, sat down on his haunches, and waited for Eventide to start reading.

“Okay, let’s see,” Eventide murmured before clearing his throat. When he began reading again, he made his voice sound significantly deeper and more energetic than normal, giving Beebee the impression of a delightfully jolly man. “Merry Christmas to Eventide Oath’s Son, the Basement Bug: Beebee! I know you can’t read yet, but I’m sure your daddy will be happy to read this to you,” Eventide paused and nodded. “He’s not wrong, you know.”

“Keep going, keep going!” Beebee exclaimed with his grin growing. “What does Santa say?!”

Barely containing his chuckles, Eventide continued. “I couldn’t help but overhear that you recently became sick in bed with a high fever and that you do not like the snow very much. I am so sorry you had to go through something like that, and I do hate hearing about children being cold. So I decided I would help you solve one of those problems with my present to you this Christmas. I made this coat myself; every single thread, stitch, and tuft of fluff was put together with the greatest of care to make sure you don’t have to be cold if you ever go out into the snow again.

“I also put some chocolate into your stocking on the wall. I know you don’t eat food like your daddy does, but I encourage you to at least try it. You might find it tastes delicious. I know I always enjoy a good bit of chocolate in my cookies after a long night delivering presents! Ho, ho, ho!”

Beebee tilted his head at the odd exclamation but did not interrupt.

“Now, then! I must get back to my rounds, as there are many more nice children all over the world who need to have their presents delivered! Be a good boy, Beebee, and have a very merry Christmas! Sincerely yours, Santa Claus.”

Eventide set the letter down and watched Beebee for a moment, curious. The little guy seemed to be processing, his mouth wide open and his eyes glistening. “Woah… he’s nice.”

Eventide burst out laughing at that. “Heh, yeah he is! Now, why don’t you put on that coat and see how it fits, eh?” he suggested cheerfully, scooting a little closer. “I’ll help you if you need it.”

For the next few minutes, Eventide and Beebee worked together to fit him into his new coat. It was, perhaps, a little tight over the wings, but the expertly placed holes had made that a relatively small issue. Once it was on all the way, Beebee looked significantly warmer than normal, and the way his face lit up made it clear he enjoyed it.

Still, Eventide had to ask. “Do you like it?”

“I love it!” Beebee replied enthusiastically, walking in circles a few times while looking at himself all over. “It’s so warm and fuzzy!”

Eventide nodded happily, his grin widening. “I imagine Santa had to go to a lot of trouble to make that for you. I’ll be sure to tell him you liked it.”

Beebee looked up at Eventide with a happy nod. “Yeah! Tell him I said: ‘Thank you very much, Santa Claus! I love the coat very much!”

Eventide laughed again. “I’ll do that, don’t worry,” With that, he reached over and poked at another box. “Anyways, we have some more presents to go through. Fluttershy and I each got you one, and there’s also two for Buddha from Fluttershy and me,” he explained, finally ending Buddha’s silent torture by opening up one of hers. It was a new squeaky toy in the shape of a bone. The dog let out a happy bark, took the toy in her mouth and then ran away into one corner, presumably to mangle it in solitude. The sounds of the toy squeaking could be heard echoing all through the house.

Beebee giggled merrily as the dog went rocketing by him, then looked around in expectation. His smile faded somewhat after a moment, and he looked at Eventide questioningly. “Oh… uh… where is aunt Shy?” he asked, sounding disappointed.

Eventide just smiled and pulled Beebee closer to his side. “She’s with her family right now, celebrating Christmas with them. We won’t be seeing her today. Sorry, bud,” he explained simply.

“Oh…” Beebee looked sad for a second, then watched as Eventide picked up another of the boxes for Buddha. He looked at it for a moment, then looked at Eventide. “Daddy?”

“Yeah?”

“Um… I didn’t get you a present…” he said, his voice coming out quiet and guilty. “I’m sorry… please don’t be mad.”

Eventide shook his head with a quiet laugh. After a moment, he gently lifted Beebee up and looked into his eyes. “Hey, Beebee?” he began in a quiet voice.

“Yeah?”

Eventide’s smile grew. “You don’t have to get me a present this year… for me, the best gift in the world is getting to spend time with you.”

Beebee’s eyes widened in shock. “Really?”

“Really,” Eventide nodded while setting Beebee back down onto the rug. He gave him a few scratches at the base of his fin, then looked up towards the corner Buddha had gone and hidden away in. “But I don’t want you to miss out on the present giving, so…” a conspiratorial smirk appeared on his face. He leaned down and whispered into Beebee’s ear. “Why don’t you go and give Buddha this present from Fluttershy, eh? Our little secret.”

Beebee looked at the box, finding that it was surprisingly small. Still, he took it in his hooves, and while it was a little heavy for him, he could carry it just fine. He looked up at Eventide with a twinkle in his eyes, then ran off to do as his dad had instructed him. After a moment, Eventide could hear Buddha give off another excited bark, and Beebee giggling.

Well, she liked it, apparently…


Later on that evening, Fluttershy found herself sitting on the front step outside of her house, looking out at the snow-smothered landscape with a small smile on her face. She was covered in warm winter clothes, and the warmth in her belly from the hefty dinner she and her family had just finished eating was enough to make her drowsy. There wasn’t much cloud cover outside that day, so the setting sun was fully able to cast long orange streaks across the fluffy white terrain, making the world come alive with the sparkles of snowflakes and the glow of reflected sunlight.

Her attention was drawn away from the serene view when her phone began to ring in her pocket. Curious, she checked the caller ID and found it was Eventide. With a frown, she answered the call and held the phone to her ear. “Hello? Eventide?”

“Hey, Fluttershy. Just calling to say thank you so much for getting that coat for Beebee. I was floundering there for a while, trying to come up with a good gift for ‘Santa’ to give him, but you pulled through for me.”

Fluttershy smiled happily at that and nodded. “Oh, it was no trouble at all. Did he like it?”

“He said, and I quote, ‘Thank you very much, Santa Claus! I love the coat very much!’ Right now he’s playing with Buddha in the living room. I think she liked the fact that you got her a full tin of her favorite dog treats.”

Fluttershy giggled softly at that. “Well, he’s very welcome. Have you two opened the rest of his presents yet?”

“Yeah, we went through them all in the morning. He also wanted me to tell you thank you for giving him that new ant plushie.”

Fluttershy smiled. “I saw how much he liked the old one, but it was getting kind of tattered. Plus, it used to be a toy for Buddha, so I figured he’d like something specifically for him.”

“Oh, he did. Interestingly, he’s taken to weaponizing it to smack Buddha in the face, and then he cuddles it protectively when she goes to retaliate. Those two have a very strange relationship.”

“It works for them, though.”

“Yeah, it does… now, uh, I actually called you because I want to ask… how did you get that coat? The thing is a masterwork! It fits him perfectly and even has holes for his wings! Did you sow it yourself?”

Fluttershy shook her head. “No, I didn’t. And I’m not telling you how I got it. I don’t want to ruin the magic of the day for you,” she replied in a teasing tone, and she was just able to stifle a giggle when she heard Eventide snort on the other end of the line.

“Gee, thanks,” he replied sarcastically before chuckling in amusement. “Alright, well, I gotta go. Beebee’s at the door and I told him we’d spend the day together. I think we might go through some of those Christmas story books I got… anyways, Merry Christmas, Fluttershy. Bye.”

“Merry Christmas to you too, Eventide,” Fluttershy answered before there was a loud click and the line went silent.

Chapter 18: Falling Numbers

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Two Months Later…

Another long day at work, another paycheck in the bank. Eventide let out a relieved sigh as he walked down the sidewalk towards his house, thankful for the fact that most of the snow had melted away by now. Only a few small patches remained, peppering the landscape with stubborn spots of frozen white fluff and compacted ice. Combined with the setting sun, which was already near the horizon, it was enough to add a powerful air of serenity and surreality to the world.

Eventide took in a long, deep breath, savoring the cool air and allowing it to rejuvenate his system. Letting it back out, though, he was reminded of the fact that, even with the snow having melted so much, it was still cold. A fact that Eventide was reminded of as, even with his coat, gloves and fuzzy boots providing him insulation and warmth, his largely unprotected face was assaulted with a chilly wind that made him shiver.

Beebee had been in similar straits for the last two months, he recalled. Even though Beebee basically spent all of his time indoors, the slowly growing bug had been making good use of his new coat to keep him warm most of the time, and often hid down in the basement to complement that, usually playing with his toys, or with Buddha, if she decided to come down.

On the subject of Beebee, Eventide noted, the little guy’s alarmingly rapid mental growth had seemingly crawled to a near-halt when compared to his previous progress. Discussing it with Fluttershy, at just short of four months old, Beebee had had roughly the same mental development as a three-year-old human child. Now, though, even two months after Christmas, and three months after his sickness, Beebee had only made a few very small developments.

At first, Eventide had been worried that Beebee’s illness had somehow caused some damage to his brain, but Fluttershy seemed quick to propose another, far less grim theory. Perhaps Beebee’s species, whatever it was, simply had very rapid early development in the mind when compared to humans, but then tapered off as they grew. Considering how hard his chitin was, his sharp fangs, and how quickly he molted from his larval form, it didn’t seem too far fetched to assume that wherever he came from was a harsh and hostile place, necessitating rapid growth and a hard exoskeleton for protection.

It was a sound enough theory, one which Eventide chose to believe in favor of the alternative. If nothing else, it put his mind at ease, which in turn put Beebee at ease. But without any other evidence to go off of, it was really nothing more than a hopeful shot in the dark.

Eventide was abruptly yanked from his thoughts when a group of three teenagers, looking to be little more than Highschool Freshman, went running past him, the orange one bumping into him as they passed. She uttered an apology in a raspy voice before hurrying to follow her friends. Eventide turned to watch them for a moment, noting that they looked familiar. It didn’t take him long to figure out why. Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo were their names. He’d seen them around school before he graduated to CHS. They’d all been glued at the hip from the moment they had met, and he couldn’t help the small smile on his face.

Even after so much time, they were still the best of friends.

With that encouraging thought in his mind, Eventide pressed on, and soon, he finally came to his home. He could see Buddha looking back at him from the window, her tongue lolling out. She was barking excitedly every once in a while, the sound almost lost in the glass and walls. Eventide could just barely make out a floating silhouette deeper in the home, and Beebee’s glowing blue eyes looking back at him from the darkness, shimmering with recognition and joy. With a quick smile and nod, Eventide picked up his pace to the front door.

He stopped briefly by the mailbox to withdraw its contents. He cringed as he spotted several envelopes that he immediately recognized as bills and rent awaiting his hand. With a quiet sigh of frustration, Eventide took the mail and headed inside. As soon as the door was closed, his pelvis was summarily greeted by the enthusiastic tackling of a happy golden retriever, while his chest was similarly assaulted by Beebee.

“Daddy, you’re home!”

“Bark!”

Eventide just laughed, wobbling on his feet and trying in vain to pet both of them. But, much to their cumulative displeasure, he only had so many appendages to pet with, and one of them was carrying the mail. “Hey, guys, ease up, I only have two hands, and one of them is full!” he pleaded between his chortles. It was enough to get Beebee to back off at least, though Buddha took a bit more convincing. Namely, she would not release him without a few scratches behind the ears. He knew this well enough, and in short order, Buddha had gotten her scritches and backed off to happily wag her tail by her food bowl.

Beebee just offered a sheepish smile. “Sorry, daddy. I missed you today.”

“And I missed you, too,” Eventide replied plainly. He gave his son a poke on the nose as he walked by, heading for the cabinet with Buddha’s food. “Now, Buddha. You hungry?”

“Bark!”

“Okay, hungry it is.”

While Eventide set about giving Buddha her dinner, Beebee set himself down on Evetide’s shoulder to watch. After a few moments, his eyes fell on the envelopes in Eventide’s hand. Tilting his head, Beebee buzzed over to get a better look. “What was in the mail, daddy?” he asked plainly while prodding one of the bills with his hoof.

Eventide winced as he set Buddha’s good bowl down. “Oh, it’s, uh… mostly bills and rent. Grown-up money stuff,” he replied simply before taking a few steps deeper into the house for his room. He glanced back at Beebee over his shoulder and saw the worried look on his face. Now, knowing that Beebee was an empath, Eventide was quick to put on a cheerful smile and offer a distraction. “It’s nothing bad, Bee, don’t worry. I need to take care of these real quick, but after that, how about a story?”

Beebee’s face lit up at the promise of being read to, and he gave a sharp nod. “Okay, daddy! I’ll play with Buddha til you’re ready,” he proclaimed before doing a backflip in the air, swooping down and poking Buddha in the nose, uncaring that the dog was eating.

The dog snorted at Beebee, unamused by the disturbance.

Eventide just nodded. “Alright. Play nice, you two,” he called over his shoulder before heading into his room and closing the door. He sat down at his computer and turned it on. While he was waiting for it to finish booting, he tore open the mail and took a look at the contents.

He cringed and swore bitterly under his breath at the numbers.

While it was true that some of the regular expenses that come with a child weren’t a part of the package with Beebee, specifically food or diapers, the bug was still by no means cheap or easy to take care of. The sheer number of story and picture books that Eventide had to purchase to sate his appetite for stories, the baby monitor, the full conversion of the basement into a functional bedroom… those had all cost him a lot of money, and it was adding up.

He had been scraping by with just Buddha to look out for, able to put some money away each time into his savings. But now… He had pretty much blown through those savings, the basement project having eaten most of it up, and now, with what expenses he still had to make for Beebee, he was losing money each month. He’d already had to cut down on the food he bought for himself and switch to a cheaper brand of dog food for Buddha, but that had only helped so much.

Once his computer was booted up, he wasted no time in heading to the various sites he needed to use to pay his bills and rent. As he did so, he furiously pondered what he could do to cut some costs and get his money back in order. As he did, a memory from almost eleven months ago slipped back into his mind.

Eventide shot Sweep a skeptical look. “That’s kinda surprising, coming from you. You’re the guy with an Ogres and Oubliettes campaign he runs every Saturday with friends from school,” he noted with a slight amount of playfulness in his voice. “Including your high school sweetheart. You two still together?”

Sweep smirked happily. “Heh, you know it! Yeah, I made an effort,” he replied before taking in another mouthful of food. Once it was swallowed, he leveled a firm look at Eventide, making the other man feel like he was being interrogated all of a sudden. “I can’t say the same about you, though.”

Eventide almost bit down on his own tongue from that comment and shot his coworker a questioning glare. “And what the heck is that supposed to mean?” he demanded indignantly before taking another bite from his sandwich.

“I didn’t mean any offense,” Clean Sweep was quick to point out, lifting up one hand in a placating gesture. “I’m just saying it how I see it. In all the time we’ve worked together, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you agree to hang out with someone, or go looking for a better job, or even try to get a promotion or ask for a raise, even if the rest of us think you deserve it. You just… kinda…” he gestured vaguely. “Lurk, I guess. You lurk where you are and don’t really try to move up to bigger things. What’s with that?”

Maybe Sweep had had a point… maybe it was time to- Eventide shook his head, then buried it in his hands with a groan. No, now was not the time to throw a wrench into his lifestyle. Eventide knew this routine inside out, he was comfortable in it, and he knew there was a way he could make all of this work. He just needed some time to think it over. If nothing else, maybe he could ask for a raise... With a grimace, Eventide paid the last bill, watching the numbers in the bank account dwindle to the double digits. He then slumped in his seat and took a few deep breaths to try and calm his nerves.

After a few minutes, a knock came to the door, and a familiar, two-toned voice came from the other side. “Daddy? Are you alright?” Beebee called, his voice laced with concern.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Eventide called back before standing up and opening the door. Beebee was standing on the floor, his wings twitching on his back while his breath was slightly labored. A small sheen of sweat had formed all over his body, and Eventide gave him a worried frown. Kneeling down, he got a closer look at Beebee’s worn out face and cringed. “Oof. What about you? Did you overdo it with the activity again?”

Beebee nodded slowly, looking ashamed. “Yeah… sorry. I wish I could fly longer… or run longer…” he mumbled, despondent. He didn’t have much of a chance to pity himself more, as Eventide quickly scooped him up into a tight hug against his chest.

“Hey, don’t you worry about that right now, okay?” Eventide requested while planting a quick kiss on his son’s head. “We’ve got a story to read, don’t we?”

That seemed to lighten the bug’s mood, as Beebee gave a quick and enthusiastic nod. “Yuh-huh! Are we reading a new one today?” he asked as they began to make their way over to the designated reading chair.

Eventide scanned the veritable mountain range of kids books he had accumulated, and his smile wavered. “Ah… I don’t think we have any new ones,” he admitted softly before sitting down. “But we can always read one we haven’t read in a while. Sound good?”

Beebee’s ears drooped just a little bit, but he still nodded. “Okay,” was his simple answer. Eventide reached down into the books and soon withdrew one in particular. He smiled as he recognized it. It had become something of a favorite of theirs.

“How about this one?” Eventide asked while showing it to Beebee. “Pete, the Big Green Dragon.”

Beebee’s smile grew magnificently with excitement, and he gave a very enthusiastic series of nods. “Oh, yes, yes! I love Pete!” he replied while tapping the cover with his hoof. “This one, this one, yes please!”

Eventide chuckled and settled back while flipping the book open to the first page. “Alright, Beebee. Here we go…”

Beebee snuggled up against Eventide’s chest, eyes glued onto the book while his dad’s arm wrapped around his barrel to hold him close. Beebee draped his forelegs over the arm and nodded. “Ready.”

“Alright. Ahem…” Eventide cleared his throat and began. “Once upon a time, in a tree next to the hill, there was a dragon. His name was Pete...”

Chapter 19: Eye Contact

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The next day.

Beebee let out a discontent huff and bored groan from his place on his father’s bed. His eyes were glued onto the far wall, idly tracing what few patterns were to be seen on the surface. The only sounds to reach his ears were the occasional, muffled laughs of someone playing across the street near CHS, and the electrical humming of Eventide’s computer against the wall. Beebee’s ears twitched at every little sound, hoping for something to come along and chase away his boredom. Sadly, there was nothing, and right now, he was all alone.

He thought back on how he had wound up in this situation. He had been playing with his favorite ant in the air when Eventide had pulled him down and told him he was going to be alone for a little bit. Beebee had asked why, of course, and Eventide had explained to him that he had to take Buddha to the vet for a regular check-up. When Beebee asked about Fluttershy, and whether or not she’d be coming by, he was disappointed to learn that she couldn’t come over to babysit right now. School was in session over at CHS, and her lunch period was being eaten up by a project with some of her friends.

He’d been promised that he would be on his own for only thirty minutes, but for a small, active brain like his, it might as well have been thirty hours or thirty years. He let out another long, quiet groan, his eyes flicking over to his ant plushie next to him on the bed. He idly swatted at it a few times, then gave up and puffed out another breath. “...I’m bored,” he declared flatly.

The laughter outside carried on for a while, and Beebee just continued to drown it out. He’d heard the sound plenty of times before, and had always been told it was just kids playing across the street. Freshmen or something at the school, Eventide had said. Not that Beebee really knew what the term ‘Freshmen’ meant in this context. Did they smell like fresh flowers, but the flowers were men? That comparison put the odd image of a lot of Eventide’s rising up out of the soil like flowers. It was… a weird mental image, to be sure.

A loud thunk against the window snapped Beebee from his thoughts, and he sprang into the air with an alarmed yelp, his wings buzzing into life to keep him suspended. Looking over at the window, he saw a big blue ball rolling away from the house. Curious, Beebee drifted closer to the window to get a better look. He pressed his face up against the glass and examined the ball a bit more closely. It was looking a little saggy, like Beebee’s first ant plushie had looked after he had played with it a lot. Beebee squinted to see if he could pick out any other details. “Huh…?”

Suddenly, something ran in front of his field of vision, a blur of yellow and red and green. Beebee cried out in surprise, his wings falling out of sync. He fell back down onto the bed and landed with an ‘oof.’ Grimacing, he straightened his posture and shook his head before looking up again. He went rigid.

Someone was right outside the window.

She was younger then Eventide, and even younger than Fluttershy. She had yellow skin that was a few shades darker than Fluttershy’s, and long bouncy hair that was the color of healthy red apples. Her peach-colored eyes looked back at Beebee, wide-open with shock, and her jaw hung open. One hand was held over her chest, which was covered in a bright green t-shirt.

The two looked at each other for several long seconds.

Then they both screamed.

Beebee didn’t wait to see what the person did. He immediately turned and dove off of the bed, almost hyperventilating with panic. His hooves hit the floor harder than he had been expecting, as, in his panic, he had forgotten to use his wings to ease his fall. He stumbled and fell forward onto his face with a grunt, and colors exploded across his vision. Still, he got back up and broke into a gallop out of the room and down into the basement. He shot down the stairs and shot under his bed, quivering uncontrollably and struggling to calm his frantic gasping.

After a minute or two, he finally began to get his breathing under control. He lifted his ears up and listened carefully, hoping that he wouldn’t hear anything. He heard a few knocks on the door and went stiff. Another minute passed, and the knocking came again. This repeated once or twice before all fell utterly silent, leaving Beebee to wrap his mind around what had happened.

He swallowed heavily to force down the lump in his throat, and a strangled whimper wormed its way out as the reality of the situation dawned on him. “Someone saw me…” he whispered in horror, a whole new feeling building up inside of him: dread.

He wasn’t supposed to let anybody other than Buddha, Eventide, or Aunt Fluttershy see him. He was supposed to hide whenever someone came to the house. Eventide had told him that strangers were dangerous, and if any of them found out about him, he might be taken away and never see his father again. Beebee whimpered again, curling into a ball. “Daddy… please don’t be mad… I didn’t mean to… I don’t wanna be taken away…” he mumbled to himself before going silent and awaiting Eventide’s return.

The wait felt even longer then it had before.


Eventide had only half listened as the vet listed off a few minor concerns with Buddha’s health, telling him that she was not getting quite enough food and that she was starting to lose more weight than was healthy. He passively absorbed that information while his thoughts remained firmly planted on his son. Beebee had never been left completely on his own before, but Eventide couldn’t have rescheduled this appointment with Buddha. He’d put it off more than a few times already, and the vets had been getting understandably concerned with him.

Either way, he was given the instruction to feed Buddha more per meal before being sent home. Now they were walking back towards the house, Buddha tethered to Eventide’s hand by a lengthy, thick red leash. She sniffed at every little thing she came across on the way, happy to be outdoors again. Eventide glanced at her and managed to smile at her enthusiasm. Thinking about it, he had been neglecting to take her for as many walks as he used to ever since Beebee showed up. Maybe it was time to change that.

He looked ahead as they came onto their block, and his brow furrowed with confusion. He saw Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo all watching him from in front of CHS. Apple Bloom had an expression that could only be described as apprehensive, while Scootaloo looked suspicious. Sweetie, however, was looking at those two with a skeptical frown on her face, as if she were impatient with them, or they were being silly.

Eventide gave them a stiff wave as he passed, putting on a friendly smile. The waves were returned but were only half-hearted. Feeling a little creeped out by the kids just staring at him like he were the culprit of some heinous crime, he returned his attention to his home. A few moments later, he was stepping into the living room with Buddha looking eager to dive for her food bowl.

Eventide unhooked her from the leash, and sure enough, she made a break for her dishes, quickly devouring what food was left in her bowl. Once it was gone, which only took a few seconds, she looked up at Eventide with pleading eyes. Eventide sighed and shrugged. “Sorry, girl, you gotta wait.”

Buddha got the point and gave a disappointed whine before shuffling over to the chair and hopping up for some rest. Eventide smiled softly at her with sympathy, then looked around the front room of the house. He raised an eyebrow in confusion when Beebee didn’t immediately come rocketing from wherever he was napping to tackle hug him. That was odd... “Huh… Beebee?” he called out, but no answer came. Frowning, he stepped deeper into the home towards his bedroom. “Beebee, where are you? I’m home!”

Again, there was no answer. Eventide felt his heart rate increase with concern, even as he tried to force himself to not jump to conclusions. Peering into his room, he found that Beebee was absent, albeit the blankets were a little messed up in the center, indicating that Beebee had been napping there earlier. They looked a bit more disturbed near the window, and Eventide frowned.

“Maybe he’s downstairs…” He mused before stepping back into the hall and heading for the basement. He found the door standing ajar, and a sense of unease crept up his spine. Something was wrong. “Beebee?” he called again, his voice now lines with an edge of concern. He began his descent, noting that the light wasn’t on. “Hello?”

He paused halfway down the steps when a sound reached his ears, making his blood run cold. It was Beebee; crying. It sounded like he was trying to keep it down, too, as opposed to his usual loud wails whenever he woke up from a nightmare. Eventide resumed his descent, moving slowly and carefully, not wanting to startle his son. Soon, he was in the bedroom proper. Flicking on the lights revealed that, while Beebee was not on the bed, his cries were much clearer now. Following the sound, Eventide came to a stop by Beebee’s bed.

Taking a deep breath and bracing himself, Eventide slowly and carefully got down onto his hands and knees. He looked under the bed. Sure enough, there was Beebee. Or, rather, there were Beebee’s eyes, the blue orbs looking back at him as the only part of him that was clearly visible in the dark space. “Daddy…?” Beebee asked weakly before sniffling.

“Beebee,” Eventide greeted in a soft, soothing tone while gingerly reaching out with a hand. “Hey, what’s wrong?”

Beebee inched forwards, and his face steadily grew more visible from the room’s light. Eventide’s heart plummeted when he saw the expression on his son’s face. He wasn’t just crying; he was terrified of something. He had been crying in fear, not sadness. Beebee hiccuped before finally reaching Eventide’s hand and allowing himself to be guided out from under the bed. Eventide cradled him against his chest, turned, and sat on the edge of the bed. He held Beebee close, giving him reassuring pats on the back of the head.

“What happened, Bee? What’s wrong?” Eventide asked again in a soft voice, starting to rock them back and forth.

Beebee sniffled again before looking up at Eventide reluctantly. He tried to speak a few times, but every time his voice failed him. Clearing his throat, he tried again, this time with results. “I… I’m sorry… please don’t be mad at me…” he pleaded in a whimper, reaching up with his hooves and curling them into the collar of Eventide’s shirt. “I didn’t mean to, I swear!”

Eventide was taken aback by the desperation in Beebee’s voice. He paused for a second, then squeezed him closer. “Shh, you’re okay, Bee. Now, what do you mean?” he asked softly, giving Beebee another reassuring squeeze with his hands. “It’s okay, you can tell me. I won’t get mad, I promise.”

Beebee hesitated, then buried his face in Eventide’s chest. He trembled for a moment before revealing what had caused him such distress. “Someone saw me…” he choked out.

Eventide’s muscles tensed, his eyes widening. As much as he would have loved to, he could not stop the sudden onrush of fear and dread that flooded his veins. Beebee must have felt the response because a pitiful wail slipped out of him.

“I’m sorry, Daddy, I-I’m so s-sorry.”

Eventide mouthed like a fish for a few moments before snapping out of it and pulling Beebee closer, trying to comfort him. “Hey, hey… shh… it’s okay. You’re gonna be okay. I got you,” he whispered, spending almost a minute just soothing Beebee until his cries simmered down. Once he was sure Beebee was calm again, Eventide leaned back. “You’re okay. Now... Who saw you?”

Beebee hiccuped again. “Um… it w-was a girl with yellow skin and red hair… she was smaller than Fluttershy, and she was wearing a green shirt,” he managed to say before looking up at Eventide’s face. “Daddy, am I going to be taken away?”

“No, Beebee,” Eventide assured him, his face relaxing somewhat with recognition. He let out a long, heavy sigh of relief. “It’s okay. You’re fine. That was Apple Bloom. She’s just a kid, and nobody believes the kid. Even if she tells anyone, they’ll just think she’s making up stories or something. You’ll be fine, Beebee. Nobody’s coming to take you away.”

Beebee must have felt his dad’s relief because his own expression lit up significantly. There was still an aura of fear and uncertainty about him, though. He swallowed a lump in his throat and asked. “P-promise?”

Eventide smiled and nodded. “I promise.”


Beebee went to bed early that night, as his time panicking under his bed had worn him out, mentally. Eventide tucked him in, read him a bedtime story, then went back upstairs. Now, he sat at his computer desk with a small plate with an even smaller dinner on the table next to him. It was a basic meal, consisting of some boiled broccoli and a couple pieces of chicken meat. Nibbling on his food, he let his mind wander.

Beebee had been spotted by Apple Bloom. The fact that he had been seen at all was a serious problem, and it had happened so suddenly. As he thought on it, it was a miracle that Beebee had gone undetected for this long. There was a full blown high school across the street, after all. It was inevitable that someone would spot Beebee sooner or later. He figured they were lucky that it was Apple Bloom who made the discovery. As young as she was, nobody would believe her, except for maybe her friends.

That would definitely explain why they were staring at him from across the street…

Eventide let out a humorless laugh as he pictured her telling her friends that she had seen some weird creepy bug monster in the house across the street from the school. He could already see Scootaloo jumping on board the idea of trying to prove there was a monster, and Sweetie Belle having to keep them both in check.

His expression darkened when he considered the former two of the three friends. They were a very persistent and stubborn bunch; especially Apple Bloom. Even if the others gave up on finding Beebee again after a while, she’d still be keeping an eye on him for who knows how long, trying to catch another glimpse of Beebee…

Eventide let out a frustrated groan and dropped his fork so he could bury his face in his hands. He took a few deep breaths as he assessed the situation. They were starting to get dangerously low on money, which was causing Buddha to become low on food, and now that someone had seen him once, Beebee was at greater risk of discovery. Eventide sighed and ran his hands over his face before looking through the window at the night sky outside.

After a few minutes of struggling with himself mentally, his expression hardened with a strange combination of resignation and resolve. “No more excuses,” he said to himself in a whisper. “We can’t stay here…”

Chapter 20: First Step Up

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The Next Day.

Beebee watched the back of Eventide’s head with no small amount of worry and curiosity. He could see the orange haze drifting off of him in droves, filling the air with a potent, confusing smell. It wasn’t the same as when he was angry or scared, but it wasn’t the same as when he was affectionate or happy. It was a sharp, fiery taste, one he couldn’t eat, but not one that made him sick or agitated. He couldn’t quite place his hoof on what emotion was flowing out of Eventide, but whatever it was, it was powerful.

The man had been sitting at his computer desk more or less since he had gotten up that morning, reading through page upon page of something without stopping. Periodically he would begin typing on his keyboard, grumbling to himself, checking his phone and a few sheets of paper he had next to him on the desk. He was focused to the point that he hadn’t even noticed Beebee coming in, and that had been five minutes ago.

Finally, Beebee’s patience fell away, and his curiosity drove him on. He lifted into the air with his wings and slowly drifted over to look at the screen from over Eventide’s shoulder. His approach and the sound of his wings buzzing in the air finally drew some attention, and Eventide gave him a small smile. “Oh, hey Bee. You sleep well?” he asked in a voice that betrayed his own drowsiness, barely suppressing a yawn.

Beebee nodded. “Yuh-huh, I slept good,” was his simple response. He looked at the screen for a moment, frowning. There were a lot of words on it that he didn’t know. His face twisted with perplexion before he glanced at Eventide. “Uh… what are you doing?”

Eventide looked at the screen again, his smile falling away. He then sighed. “I’m looking for a new job, Beebee,” he admitted without hesitation before running a hand over his face, letting out a tired and frustrated groan. “But my options are limited… I never went to college, and my only job experience is in retail…”

Beebee tilted his head in confusion at the words. “What does that mean?” he asked curiously, touching down on the desk a foot away from the keyboard and plonking down onto his haunches.

Eventide thought about it for a second. “Uh, well… Okay, let’s say you have something that you need someone to do, and you have a few people who want to do it, right? And let’s say that the something is hard to do, and you can only pick one person to do it. What would you do?”

Beebee tilted his head while his face scrunched up. His wings twitched on his back for a moment. “Uhm… I don’t know?” He finally relented with a small shrug.

“You’d pick the person who could do the job better than the others,” Eventide explained before glancing back at the screen. “That means they have skill and experience. They were taught how to do it and have done it already, so they know what to do. You’d want to get the person who has the best training and done it the most; someone with skill and experience. You following me so far?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Now, I’m one of the guys looking for a new job to do, but I’m not exactly skilled or experienced. I’ve been working at a grocery store as a guy behind a counter for two years. That is pretty simple, and I was never taught anything more advanced. So... my odds of getting anything really great are slim to none…” his face fell, and Beebee’s eyes widened when he saw a hint of black and purple seep into the orange. He knew what those colors meant; fear and dread. He shuddered as he recalled how thick the air had been with those emotions when he had been sick.

Moving quickly, Beebee pressed himself against Eventide’s hand while flashing him a big, happy smile. “Don’t worry, Daddy. I’m sure someone’ll pick you,” he said before nuzzling into his father’s hand with a happy chitter and chirp. The purple and black soon faded, replaced with pink, and Beebee visibly relaxed.

Eventide smiled and gave Beebee a few well-received scratches behind the ears before turning his attention back to the computer screen. “Thanks, Beebee. Now, why don’t you go and play with Buddha for a while? I have to focus right now.”

Beebee deflated in disappointment, but only slightly, and only for a moment. He perked right back up and gave a sharp nod. “Okay, daddy. Will you come out and play with us later?”

Eventide smiled. “We’ll see. Get a move on.”

Beebee nodded and hopped off the table to go galloping back out into the rest of the house. He heard Eventide calling after him.

“And make sure you take it easy! Don’t play too hard! We don’t want you collapsing again!”

“I won’t!” Beebee assured before exiting the bedroom and throwing himself at Buddha. The dog, who was situated on the chair right now, saw him coming, and Beebee could see a specific series of colors around the dog that he interpreted as ‘Oh boy, here we go again...’

He then tackled Buddha in the chest.

They had fun.


The Next Day.

Eventide let out a sigh of relief from his place behind the counter as the latest batch of customers walked out the doors with their bags in tow, marking the end of the rush they had just been blasted with. Clean Sweep was similarly looking relieved from his own check-out station and turned around to give Eventide a small smile. “Whew! Made it!” he declared while giving a big thumbs up.

Eventide returned the gesture. “Yeah, we did,” he replied before looking around at the store. His smile faded away, replaced with a more thoughtful expression. “Austere’s in her office, right?” he asked after a moment of hesitation.

Sweep raised an eyebrow at the question. “Er, yeah, I think so. Why?” he asked, shifting forward a little bit.

Eventide glanced up at the clock on the wall. Ten more minutes until his lunch break. “I just need to ask her about something…” he answered cryptically.

“May I ask what?” Sweep probed, and Eventide shot him a small frown.

“Not right now, no.”

Whatever Clean Sweep’s response was going to be, it went unsaid, as another customer came by to check out with a cart full of groceries, eating up his time. The rush may have been done, but there was still a steady stream of people coming through the store. Eventide carefully counted the minutes, helping each customer as quickly as he could so he wouldn’t be held up. Soon enough, it was time. Sending off another customer, he switched off his lane and stepped away, heading for the manager’s office.

He slowed down part of the way there, though, to glance to his left at the rest of the store. He’d worked here for two years, going on three, and had shopped at it long before then. He knew it like the back of his hand. Now that he was planning on leaving… he couldn’t help but soak in some of the details he had long since taken for granted and tuned out. The color scheme, for one thing; Bright white made up the main color, with the highlights and accents being comprised of a combination of vibrant oranges and deep reds, in keeping with the theme.

The store was pretty thorough, as far as shopping marts go. There was the usual assortment of isles with foodstuffs, there was a pharmacy section in the back, there was a small deli and bakery on one side of the shop, and there was the meat department on the other. Eventide came to a total stop right outside of Austere’s door to look out at the store for a moment longer. Then, with a shake of his head, he pushed the door open and slid inside.

The room itself was bland and remarkably small. A computer desk was shoved into the corner with a filing cabinet next to it. A clock sat on the wall over the desk, ticking the seconds away. Austere sat at the desk, looking over a spreadsheet on her screen intensely. She glanced back at Eventide as he entered and raised an eyebrow. “What is it, Oath? Aren’t you supposed to be having lunch right now?” she asked bluntly while swiveling around to face him.

Eventide closed the door to the office behind him, then took a second to find his words. “Ah, well…” he began before clearing his throat. “I just figured you should know; I’m looking for a new job.”

Austere blinked, her expression otherwise unchanging. “Oh… kay? You do know it’s not usually a good practice to tell your boss that until you have something else lined up, right?”

“I know how much emphasis you put on being punctual,” Eventide replied with the barest hints of a smile. “You’d get annoyed with me if I waited. Plus I’ve been here for a long time now, and I just figured you’d want to know.”

Austere narrowed her eyes for a moment, then let out a small chuckle. “Okay, you’ve got me there,” she admitted before leaning back in her seat. “Anyways; you’re looking for a new job. Reasoning?”

Eventide shuffled uncomfortably in place, pondering just how he should answer this. After a few seconds, he found his voice. “Well, uh, as you know, I have a few pets at home, but ah… I can’t provide for them with the job I have now. Paychecks are way too small, and I’m losing money every month. My savings are being eaten up…”

Austere raised an eyebrow. “So… why not just ask for a raise? I’d happily hand one to you if you asked. You’ve been working here for almost three years and are one of the best workers I’ve had in a long time,” she prodded inquisitively.

Eventide shrugged. “I mean, you got me there. I could just ask for a raise, but… well…” he sighed and shook his head. “I’m just not really satisfied here anymore. Working in retail, even with a bigger paycheck… I dunno. I’m just not as happy here as I used to be. I think it’s time to move on to something else, you know?”

Austere stared hard at Eventide, the room falling into silence. She locked her fingers together in front of her face to look over her knuckled at him. She let out a thoughtful hum, making him squirm in place. She then let out a quiet, amused chuckle. “So… Clean Sweep finally got through to you, did he?” she pondered out loud.

Eventide blinked. “Uh?”

“Your co-workers sometimes don’t know when to shut up,” Austere pointed out with a teasing smirk. “And Sweep thinks pretty highly of you. Apparently, if what he said one time is true, he tried to urge you to get a raise, at least, a ways back, during lunch. He tried to be all sneaky about it by not suggesting you do it, but merely observing that you didn’t. And then you brushed him off.”

Eventide nodded, remembering the event pretty clearly. “Er, yeah, I kinda did.”

“What kind of job are you looking for?” Austere asked, leaning forward a little with interest. “You’re not satisfied here, so I doubt you’re going for more retail.”

Eventide nodded and straightened up. “I’m hoping for something outdoors. I mean, we’ve got the Everfree national park outside of town, and I always loved going there as a kid before my, uh…” he trailed off, his expression turning sour. He shook his head and continued. “A-anyway, I’ve got my hopes, but really, I’m willing to take anything that can help me take care of my pets.”

Austere raised an eyebrow at the way he stumbled in his speech but didn’t press the matter, much to his relief. She leaned back to sit upright in her chair, giving him a long, calculating look. “Well, either way,” her smile softened into something a bit more genuine. “I think you’re making a good call. Just keep me posted, don’t slack off and put in your two-weeks notice before you leave, and you’ll get nothing but a glowing recommendation from me to your new employers - whoever they are.”

Eventide gave a smile of his own. “Thanks, boss.”

Austere waved him off. “Oh, save your thanks. You still need to find a new job, after all. Now go eat lunch,” she dismissed him before rotating in her seat and going back to work on her PC. “And tell Sweep that you’re planning on leaving, you hear? I bet he’s gonna want to know that he did something right.”

Eventide let a laugh slip out at that, gave one more nod, then opened the door to the office. “Sure. See you later.”

“Bye.”

The door closed.


Eventide let out a sigh of relief as the warm air of the inside of his house washed over him, freeing him from the clutches of winter. He took a few steps in, closed the door behind him, and stood up straight. “Beebee, Buddha, I’m home!” he called out.

As he predicted, Buddha came rushing from the chair immediately in her typical fashion, leaping up to sniff all over him and shove her snout into his hand, eager for pets and snacks. Eventide happily gave her the one of those things he could at the moment, happily petting her all over and telling her she was a good girl before looking up and seeing Beebee waking up from the basement with a distant look in his eyes.

Several red flags went off in his mind, and Eventide’s brow furrowed. “Beebee? You okay?” he called, snapping the bug out of his trance. Beebee’s face immediately lit up with a big grin, and he flew forward into the waiting arms of his dad.

Beebee hummed in content once he was safely secured in Eventide’s arms, then nodded up at him. “Yeah, I’m okay. I was just thinking,” he assured simply. He cooed and chittered happily when he felt Eventide’s fingers gently scratching at his chin and throat, and he craned his neck up to give more access to those delightful digits that he lacked.

“What were you thinking about?” Eventide questioned after a moment, releasing Beebee and starting to head for the chair. Beebee buzzed in the air next to him.

Beebee’s face scrunched up slightly, then he shook his head. “Uh, nothing. Just stuff,” he said in a blatant lie, his hooves wringing together over his chest and his ears twitching. Eventide shot him a small frown, wishing that he had the same empathic abilities that his son did, but decided it wasn’t worth it to pry for now. He eased himself back into the chair while Beebee settled onto his lap. “We gonna watch some TV?”

“Sure,” Eventide nodded, reaching for the remote and turning on the television. They flipped through a few channels until they landed on something kid-friendly, and began to watch. It was some silly cartoon or other, an educational show disguised as an action series. While Eventide found it amusing, it was not enough to keep him interested. He must have been more tired then he had thought because before long he fell asleep in the chair with Beebee’s warmth in his lap.

Beebee looked up at Eventide and giggled quietly to himself before snuggling into his father’s lap to be comfier. He returned his eyes to the TV and watched for a while, just soaking up what was going on on screen.

Chapter 21: Why Am I Different?

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Eventide was rudely snapped from his peaceful sleep when an ear-piercing scream sliced through the air from his lap. His eyes shot open and looked down to see that Beebee had just sat bolt upright from his resting position, his eyes wide-open and tears streaming freely down his face. His wings twitched in agitation on his back, and his entire body was shaking. Another loud wail tore out of his mouth, and Eventide was quick to react. He reached down and scooped Beebee up into his arms to hold him close to his chest, a routine both of them were familiar with. “Hey Beebee, it’s okay,” he whispered in a soothing voice. “It’s okay, it’s okay, I got you, Daddy’s here…”

Beebee, like all the other times he awoke from night terrors, didn’t seem to register what Eventide was saying. He was too lost in whatever was going on in his head to notice anything else. Luckily, his muscle memories and instincts kicked in enough that he was able to bury his face into Eventide’s shoulder while his hooves curled into his shirt collar. And all the while, Beebee just kept crying and screaming.

Finally, after maybe ten minutes, his cries tapered off, and he eventually fell back into a deep sleep. Eventide took a few more minutes to calm himself from the rude awakening, then noticed Buddha watching him from a corner of the room, a deeply concerned look on her face. He gave her a reassuring smile. “It’s okay girl,” he called in a whisper. “He’s okay.”

Buddha licked her chops, rose to her paws and slowly walked over. Eventide dutifully lowered Beebee a little so Buddha could sniff at him. Once she was satisfied that all was well, Buddha pressed the side of her head against Beebee’s in an affectionate nuzzle before stepping back to give Eventide some room. He just smiled at her, then stood up. Careful not to wake the bundle of sleeping chitin in his arms, Eventide went down into the basement and put Beebee into his bed. He sat down by his son’s bedside once he was tucked in, looking at his closed eyes, and the faint glow that came from behind the lids.

“Why do you keep crying like that…?” Eventide wondered aloud, reaching out and gently running his thumb over Beebee’s cheek to clear away a stray tear that hadn’t quite dried up yet. “I don’t understand, and I wish I did… I hate it when you’re sad.”

His soothing voice and the touch of his thumb seemed to relax Beebee even more, as a tiny smile appeared on his face. A pleased chirp bubbled up from deep in his throat, and he snuggled under the blankets even more. Eventide just smiled at him for a moment, then leaned down to plant a gentle kiss on the side of his head. With that done, Eventide went back upstairs to his own room.

As soon as he was there, he made sure the baby monitor was turned up, then fell under his own blankets. He heard Buddha enter the room and felt her climb up onto the bed with him, but he found he didn’t have the energy left to protest the action. He fell asleep quickly, allowing the troubles of the waking world to fade away for a while…


The Next Day.

It was cloudy and rainy that day. What little light there was outside the house was blotted and muted by the drawn curtains, forcing Eventide to turn on the lamps to keep the living room lit. He presently sat at his dining table, his hands folded over each other in front of him, while Fluttershy sat across from him, listening as he regaled her with the situation and his plans to fix it. She was quiet and nodded along, soaking up all the information. When Eventide finally finished, Fluttershy gave an understanding nod and smile. “I think you’re making a good decision. Getting a new, better-paying job sounds like a wonderful idea, and it’s even better because you want to move so Beebee can be safe.”

Eventide nodded slowly. “Yeah. I just figured I should get you up to speed. You’ve been a big help, after all, and I’m probably still gonna be needing you for a good long time” he said with a smile.

Fluttershy giggled sheepishly and shrank back a bit, a few strands of her long pink hair falling in front of her face. “Oh, I haven’t done that much. I’ve just helped you here and-”

“Nuh-uh, none of that,” Eventide was quick to counter with his smile becoming a teasing smirk. “You help me a lot, and that’s all there is to it. Just take the compliment, okay?”

Fluttershy blinked a few times. “Uh… okay?” She conceded awkwardly before clearing her throat and leaning forward again. “Anyway, uh, now that you mention it…” she gave him a hesitant look. “Uh… I won’t be quite as available to help you for the next couple weeks. There’s a big school project coming up; a musical showcase, and I’m in one of the bands.”

Eventide raised an eyebrow in surprise. For a few moments, his brain tried and failed to picture Fluttershy in a band. Maybe playing a flute or harp on her own, maybe a piano, but as a part of a group? He shook himself out of his trance and spoke up. “For real? Huh, I never would have guessed. What instrument?” he asked curiously.

“The Tambourine. It’s simple, and it makes a nice jingle sound, like magic sparkles,” Fluttershy answered with an almost dreamy expression coming over her.

Eventide smirked. “Which you’re familiar with now, of course,” he pointed out while pointing a finger at her. “What, with the school blowing up a few months back.”

That got a full-blown laugh out of Fluttershy, the sound music to Eventide’s ears. She quieted her giggles after a few moments. “Yes, I suppose I am,” she replied with a warm smile and a shimmer in her eyes. After a few moments, though, that smile faded, and she glanced over her shoulder towards the hall that led to the basement, which was largely dark, due to the overhead lamp in the hall not being on right now. “You’ll be fine without my help for a while, right?”

Eventide nodded with a reassuring grin. “Sure, Fluttershy. Bee and I should be okay. Thanks for the heads up, though.”

“You’re very welcome,” Fluttershy replied before rising from her chair. “Anyway, I actually need to get going. I’m supposed to be meeting the others in a little while to start our first round of rehearsals,” she explained while heading for the door. “Good luck on the job hunt!”

“Thanks, and you have good luck with the music thing,” Eventide called after her as she went. She gave him an appreciative smile and thumbs up while stepping out through the doors.

“Thanks. Bye!”

“See ya!”

The door closed with a reverberating thunk, leaving Eventide to sit on his own. He remained still for a few seconds, just thinking, before standing up and starting to walk across the carpet for the chair.

“We’re moving?” Beebee’s voice suddenly cut through the air to his right, making Eventide come to a total halt. His blood ran cold, and he turned to see that the bug in question was standing in the hallway, towards the back. With the overhead light turned off, his glowing eyes were the most visible part of him, standing out in the relatively shaded space. “To keep me safe?”

Eventide shifted uncomfortably on his feet and shoved his hands into his pockets to hide his white knuckles. “Uh… w-well…” he stammered uncomfortably for a moment before sighing. He couldn’t lie to him. Beebee was smart; really smart. He was only six months old, but he was on par with a typical three-to-four-year old human child. Even if Eventide lied to him right now, Beebee would probably pick it apart and find the truth before long. So, reluctantly, Eventide nodded. “Yeah, that’s the plan. The High School gets a lot of traffic pretty much all the time, and it’s kind of a wild stroke of luck that you haven’t been found yet. I’m thinking we could move somewhere out of town, in the countryside. Open spaces, not a lot of people… you’d be able to leave the house without worrying about being seen.”

For several moments, Beebee didn’t respond, his eyes shifting with thought. A heavy silence hung in the air before Beebee finally took a few steps out of the hallway. His hooves dragged along the carpet until he reached the light of the rest of the living room, then lifted his eyes to look up at Eventide’s. “We’re moving away from all the other kids so they won’t see me?”

“That’s the plan, yeah…”

Beebee looked down, his wings twitching and his ears drooping. Eventide bit his lip, a sinking feeling forming in his gut. He was about to offer some words of comfort when Beebee suddenly asked a question. “Why do I have to hide from all the other kids?”

Eventide winced. “Uh… b-because, uh…” he struggled to find a convincing answer, but none would come. After a moment, he sighed and knelt down so he was closer to Beebee’s eye level. “Beebee… there’s not really an easy way to put this, but… it’s because you’re… different,” he said, choosing his words carefully.

Beebee went rigid. “I’m... different?” he asked quietly before his wings also drooped at his sides. He looked up at Eventide again, revealing the moisture that was welling up in his eyes. “Like… a monster?”

Silence.

Eventide didn’t dare to move, he barely even dared to breathe. He was shell-shocked, his mind taking a moment to register what his son had just said. A monster…? What? Where had Beebee ever gotten such a horrible idea?! Finally, with a lick of his suddenly dry lips, Eventide found his voice. “Wh...what?” he choked out.

“I’ve been thinking about it since Apple Bloom saw me,” Beebee elaborated, dragging himself over to the television. “She took one look at me, and... screamed… I could see how scared of me she was. She ran away from me she was so scared...” he looked at the T.V, and he wilted further. “A-and… last n-night… wh-when you fell asleep… in one of the cartoons that c-came on…”

Eventide struggled to find words, but all he could do was watch as Beebee sat back on his haunches and screwed his eyes shut.

“I saw the heroes beating up the bad guys, and… the bad guys…” Beebee opened his eyes and looked back at his wings, letting them gently waver back and forth. He then lifted a hole-ridden hoof, staring hard at it. He rotated it left and right, allowing his smooth carapace to catch the lamplight “...The bad guys were bugs. Like…” he choked down a sob and looked up at Eventide. “Like me. You always call me your basement bug… am I like the monsters they beat up on TV?” he looked up at Eventide, his eyes pleading. “Am I a monster?”

“Wha…” Eventide breathed before shaking his head and quickly walking over to scoop Beebee up into a tight embrace. “Oh, Beebee... oh, no, no, no, you’re not a monster,” he said in a gentle but firm voice. “You’re my son.

“But I-”

“Nah-ah,” Eventide quickly cut him off. “No. Don’t you dare say that you’re a monster, don’t even think about it, and don’t you dare say that there is something wrong with you, or that somehow you’re bad because you’re different. Do you understand me? You are not a monster, you’re not the bad guy.”

“Then why do I have to hide from the other kids? Why can’t I go outside and make friends?” Beebee pressed before burying his face into Eventide’s chest. “Why is everyone so scared of me…?”

Eventide held him close and took a moment to formulate his reply. “Well… Like I said, you are different,” he started carefully. As he said those words, he felt Beebee tensing up, and heard a quiet whimper. He quickly gave Beebee a reassuring squeeze. “But that’s not a bad thing. It just means that the people who don’t know you are going to be confused and scared by you, especially if they didn’t know about you first. But you’re not a bad guy, you’re not a monster, and you have nothing, and I mean nothing to be ashamed of...” he then leaned back and ran a thumb under Beebee’s chin. “So chin up, eh?”

Beebee sniffled and let out a few quiet sobs before looking up. ”P-promise?”

Eventide retracted his thumb and used it to draw a big cross over his chest. “Cross my heart and hope to die,” he swore without even a moment's hesitation. “I promise, you’re no monster… you’re different… and between you and me, I love you just the way you are, and I wouldn’t have you any other way.”

That, finally, seemed to be enough to help Beebee calm down. He took a few deep breaths, then gave a shaky nod, trying to smile. “O-okay, Dada… if you s-say so…” He muttered before looking down again and sighing. Eventide gave him another squeeze, then carried him over to the chair. He sat down and held Beebee close to his chest, gently patting the back of his head.

The two stayed like that for a few minutes, with Beebee’s whimpers finally fading away into silence. After a time, though, Beebee’s ears perked up, followed by his head. His blue eyes bored into Eventide’s, a question burning inside them. “So, uh… Daddy?”

“Yeah, Bee?”

“You said I came from the tree outside, right?” Beebee asked, glancing towards the window.

Eventide nodded, his brow furrowing. “Yeah, I found your egg at the base,” he said, following his son’s gaze for a moment. “Why?”

“But... tree’s don’t lay eggs, right?”

“I don’t think so.”

“So…” Beebee turned his eyes back to Eventide. “Where did I come from? And… how come I’m here and not there?”

That question, even if it hadn’t meant to, stung. Eventide’s eyes drifted down for a moment, and he could see Beebee’s face wilt, no doubt sensing his sudden melancholy. Nevertheless, Eventide answered. “I don’t know, Bee. Any number of reasons. It… might just be how your species does things. Maybe you were abandoned. Maybe you’re one-of-a-kind, and there isn’t a single other creature like you. I don’t know, and I have no way to know…”

Beebee let out a quiet sigh, clearly disappointed by the answer. After a few minutes, he extricated himself from Eventide’s embrace and hopped down from his lap. With sluggish movements, Beebee began to head back for the basement. “I’m, uh… I’m gonna go take a nap…”

Eventide watched him go for a few seconds, his heart falling deeper with every step he took. Finally, it became too much, and he leaned forward. “Beebee?” He called after him, making Beebee pause and look over his shoulder.

“Yeah?”

Eventide frowned and took a moment to think of how he wanted to approach this. Then, with a knowing smile, he started speaking. “You remember Pete, right? The big green dragon? Your favorite story?”

Beebee’s ears perked up a little, and his eyes lit up with fond remembrance. “Yeah,” he said, a small amount of energy returning to his voice. “I really like that one. The drawings are so cute…”

Eventide’s smile grew. “Can you tell me what happens, please?” he asked leadingly, and Beebee fully turned to face him. He seemed confused by the request, by didn’t object.

“Uhm… well… Pete lived with a couple of birds, his parents, in a tree next to the hill, right? When he learned that he was a dragon and not a bird, he ran away to live in a cave. He thought he didn’t belong with them,” Beebee began to recite, his little face scrunching up with concentration. “And, um… a couple of kids find him. Jane and Joshua. They made him go back to the birds, and they tell him that they loved him anyway, and they all lived happily… ever...”

Eventide’s smile grew even more when he saw the realization dawning on his son’s face. Beebee looked at him with wide eyes and a gaping jaw, and Eventide just chuckled. He leaned forward. “Beebee, I know that the last few days have been kind of scary for you. Being seen, me looking for a new job, and now finding out we’re moving just as soon as possible to keep you safe… It’s gotten you thinking that, maybe, because of how different you are, you don’t belong with me, right?”

Beebee slowly nodded. “Um… uh-huh...”

Eventide continued. “Well, let me just say that you are very wrong about that, Beebee,” he said before holding his arms out and giving them a good long look. “Hands or hooves, skin or chitin, different or the same, it doesn’t matter. I don’t care what you’re made of, where you came from, or what parts you have that I don’t… you’re my son. Nothing will ever be able to change that. I will always love you, and no matter how different we are, you will always have a place with me, if you want it, or need it. So the next time you’re feeling sad because you’re a little different… just remember: You’re my Pete, and Fluttershy, Buddha and I are your nest of birds.”

Beebee stood there for a few moments, processing what had just been said. After a few quiet seconds, An enormous smile spread on his face, and he gave a quick nod. “Okay, Daddy. I’ll remember that. Thank you very much!” he said, his voice much more optimistic now.

Eventide nodded in return. “You’re very welcome, Beebee. Now, are you still taking a nap?” he asked when he noticed a subtle energy coming back into Beebee’s movements. The bug looked down at himself, then up at Eventide. He shook his head.

“Nuh-uh. I’m feeling better now. You’re glowing with all that pink, and it’s so nice…” he licked his lips and inhaled a few times and gnashed his teeth together before giving his whole body an invigorating shake. “Yum~.”

Eventide looked around, then shrugged. “Sometimes, I wish I could see what you see.”

Beebee just let out a pleased chirp and chitter before turning and spotting Buddha, who had been curled up next to the coffee table to silently watch the whole exchange. Then, after a moment, Beebee lunged at Buddha, and playtime began.

Chapter 22: Seeing Red

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10 Days Later…

Something was wrong.

Beebee looked through the front window and at the school across the street with wide eyes and a hanging jaw, his wings twitching nervously on his back every few seconds. Eventide watched him from the other side of the room, his arms crossed over his chest, and his expression twisted into one of concern. His first clue that something wasn’t quite right had been when Beebee had gotten up hours earlier than normal complaining about a sick stomach and a bad headache. While out of the ordinary, this wasn’t quite enough to set off many red flags.

But then Eventide had noticed that Beebee seemed very… distracted. Throughout the day so far, Eventide had had to call to him more than once to get his attention, even if they were in the same room. More than that, the little guy was having a hard time staying in the air, claiming that it was hard to focus on his flapping.

Neither knew exactly what it was, but something was eating away at Beebee intensely. Even Buddha had seemed unnerved by something, and had opted to hide in the basement, refusing to come out from under Beebee’s bed. And now, in the middle of CHS’ lunch period, Beebee couldn’t take his eyes off of the school across the street. Eventide had tried more than once to get him away from the window, but in the end, Beebee would not be deterred. So, in the end, Eventide had compromised by having Beebee drape the curtains over himself, so he was hidden from prying eyes.

They had remained like this for several minutes, now, and all Eventide could do was watch and wait for Beebee to understand what was happening. “It’s all… red,” Beebee suddenly mumbled before shuddering in his place, his wings giving an agitated buzz on his back. “I don’t like it…”

Eventide perked up, finally having something to go off of. “What’s red?” he asked, stepping closer to Beebee while giving Canterlot High School a cautious glance.

Beebee reluctantly backed off from the window and dropped back to the floor. His legs wobbled upon landing, and he swayed in place before finding his balance. Shaking his head, he turned around to look up at Eventide while pointing at the school. “The school. It’s all red, like when you get angry with me,” he explained before shuffling closer to Eventide, his ears drooping. “It’s scary,” he added in a shaking voice.

Eventide looked at the school some more, scrutinizing it for any changes. It seemed to be more or less the same, so he leaned down to scoop Beebee up into his arms. “Try not to focus on it,” he offered gently while retreating deeper into the house. “Red is bad, right?”

Beebee nodded. “Uh-huh. Red, black, dark blue and purple are all bad when they come from you. They mean I did something wrong…” he explained before resting his chin on Eventide’s shoulder to look back at the school again. “But the school’s bigger than you, Daddy… and there’s so much red.”

“Well, we probably didn’t make the school mad,” Eventide lightly joked with a small chuckle. “Don’t worry about it. There was probably some kind of teenage drama over there, and everyone’s all bitter about it or something. A school can’t be angry, after all. I mean, it’s just a building.”

“I know, but… there’s so much.

Eventide frowned, then shook his head while slipping into his bedroom. He came to a stop by his bed and set Beebee down on the blankets, then went over to the windows to close the curtains. They didn’t want a repeat of Apple Bloom, after all. With that done, he sat down on the side of the bed and gave Beebee a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry, it’ll be okay. Give it a day or two, and I’m sure all the ‘red’ will go away.”

Beebee nodded slowly while moving closer to Eventide. “I hope so… I don’t like the red. It’s awful…” he said before resting his chin on Eventide’s leg and looking up at him. “Can’t you call Aunt Fluttershy? She’s over there, isn’t she?”

Eventide nodded slowly. “Uh, yeah, I suppose. I left my phone out there in the living room, though,” he said before moving to stand. He put a hand on Beebee’s back to keep him in place, though. “Stay here and take it easy, Bee. I’ll be back in a bit.”

Beebee nodded and settled down as well as he could. Satisfied that all would be well here, for now, Eventide left the room and retrieved his cell phone from the kitchen counter. After a few button pushes and swipes, he was calling Fluttershy. He held the device to his ear, listening to the rings.

One.

Two.

Three.

Four.

“Um, hello. I’m so sorry, but I can’t answer my phone right now. Uh, if it’s okay, you can leave me a message at the beep, and I can call you back. But, um… whatever you want is fine…”

Eventide inwardly cursed at that, though he had to admit that he found the message amusing. The moment he heard the beep, he started talking. “Hey, Fluttershy, it’s me. Uh, just out of curiosity, has there been anything… bad going on at CHS recently? Like, are a lot of people angry or upset or something? Beebee’s saying the whole school’s turned red, and red usually means anger, so… yeah. If you could call me back and let me know, that would be awesome. Also, change your answering machine message. That thing is ancient, and you aren’t quite that timid anymore. It’s cute as heck, but come on.”

Before he could go any further, Eventide’s attention was ripped away from his phone when he heard Beebee let out an uncomfortable groan from the bedroom. Wincing, he brought the phone closer to his mouth. “Gotta go, Fluttershy. Call me back, please,” he said quickly before ending the call and shoving his phone into his pocket. He then turned and made his way back for the bedroom. Once he got there, he stopped in the doorway, his eyes widening.

Beebee was standing up again, his back hunched and his eyes wide open. His muzzle was aiming directly down, and the motions he was making resembled dry heaving. His wings were buzzing even more aggressively than earlier, and his legs were shaking with frightening intensity. Eventide immediately rushed to the bedside, sliding to a stop and falling to his knees to be closer to Beebee’s eyes level. “Beebee, what’s wrong?! He asked quickly while reaching out.

Beebee shuddered in revulsion before getting his heaving under control. He looked at Eventide and whimpered. “Th-the r-red. I-it’s in th-the h-house!” he moaned before shoving a hoof against his mouth and screwing his eyes shut. He let out an extremely uncomfortable wail from deep in his throat before opening one of his eyes just a crack. “It’s getting w-worse!”

Eventide curled his fingers for a moment, then gave a shaky nod. “Alright, uh, just hang on! We’ll figure something out!” he said quickly before standing up and backing out of the room to look at the school again. “Is it coming in through the walls or something?”

Beebee took his hoof away from his mouth long enough to shake his head and speak. “No, it’s coming in from under the doors,” he answered before stopping to dry heave again.

Eventide cringed. “Okay, okay, uh, we need a plan…” he muttered desperately before sprinting into his bathroom. As soon as he was in there, he grabbed several towels, then made a mad dash for the front door. He knelt down and pushed the towels against the underside of the door as tightly as he could, then looked back at Beebee. “Is this helping, Beebee?!” he called out.

Beebee stumbled around the corner, looking even worse than before. He shook his head. “N-no. It’s still pouring in through the s-sides and top- Hurk!” Beebee’s words were suddenly cut off when his cheeks bulged. He heaved one more time before a large, thick glob of that awful green paste was expelled past his lips to splatter against the floor. He coughed a few times, before looking up at Eventide with shaking legs and eyes that shimmered with misery. “Daddy, I’m scared! Help me!” he cried out before his legs gave out, and he fell into the paste.

Swearing, Eventide ran over to Beebee and scooped him up. There was a noticeably large smear of the vomit along Beebee’s cheek, chin, and throat, and it smelled horrible. Barely resisting the urge to gag himself, Eventide brought Beebee over to the counter and put him down by the sink. “Okay, if you feel any more puke coming on, aim it in there,” he advised while reaching for one of the cabinets.

“Dad…” Beebee moaned before lurching and throwing up again. Eventide searched the cabinet he had chosen for a moment before coming back with a roll of paper towels in his hand. He gathered up and tore away several squares before turning a handle on the faucet, allowing hot water to flow freely into the sink.

“How you doing, Bee?” Eventide checked while putting his hand under the water, waiting for it to get hot.

Beebee shivered and gagged.

“Don’t answer that,” Eventide added before deciding the water was warm enough. He put the paper towels under the stream for a moment to get it wet, then moved back over to Beebee’s side. “Okay, hold still… lift your chin,” he whispered before gently applying the tissues to the smears on Beebee’s carapace. The paste wasn’t as thick as it had been before, thankfully, and was quick to wash away.

Beebee offered a tiny, grateful smile once Eventide was done cleaning him. “Thanks, Daddy,” he said before another gag ended any further speech.

“You’re welcome. Is it getting any better?” Eventide asked in a soft voice, putting his hand on Beebee’s back and rubbing soothing circles between his wings with his thumb. Beebee shook his head, though he did visibly relax under the thumb.

“No… I’m still-” another gag, followed by more paste flowing down the drain. He lifted himself back up a little and looked at Eventide pitifully. “I don’t need to answer that, right?”

Despite himself, Eventide managed to chuckle. “No, not really. I think I got it…” he said weakly before his smile faded. Beebee looked back down into the sink and slowly settled down onto his belly. Eventide’s heart twisted with fear and confusion in his chest, and his brow furrowed as he tried to think of a solution. When nothing came, all he could do was continue to give his son gentle pets and assurances. “Just hang in there, Bee,” Eventide whispered to him. “We’ll figure this out, okay? Just be brave.”


BEEP.

“Fluttershy, please answer your phone. All of the red that’s coming out of CHS is making Beebee really, really sick. We’re by the sink right now. He’s puking a lot, but it isn’t as thick as before, and he doesn’t have a fever. Call me back as soon as you can, please!”

BEEP.

“It’s me again. We came down to the basement a few hours ago. Apparently, the red isn’t as thick down here, and Beebee started feeling a little better. He’s managed to fall asleep now, though I had to make a trip and get the pan again… Look, it’s getting late, I get it, but can you please call me back when you can? I’m kind of worried. You normally answer your phone when not in class, and… Just call me back, okay?”

BEEP.

“Yeah, it’s me again. Uh… It’s getting really late, and I’m getting sleepy. Beebee’s still asleep, but he’s still not in very good shape. I’m going to be sleeping down here in the basement with him to keep him company. If you can call me in the morning, that would be wonderful. So… ugh. Sorry. Goodnight, Fluttershy.

BEEP.

Fluttershy looked down at the phone in her hands with a wide-eyed look of shock, horror, and guilt on her face. Her phone had been out of charge for pretty much the entire day, leaving her completely oblivious to Eventide’s troubles. Now that she knew, she wanted nothing more than to call him and apologize profusely while offering whatever help she could. She was barely able to suppress a panicked whimper as fear for Beebee encroached in her heart.

Her thumb hovered over the call button for several seconds before she sighed and set the phone next to all of the other ones on the dresser to charge overnight. As much as she wanted to, right now wasn’t the best time. Eventide was sleeping, for one thing. Plus, Fluttershy was with all of her friends, including Sunset Shimmer… and Princess Twilight. She didn’t want either of them to learn about Beebee - not while the portal was active, anyway.

With a sigh, she turned and looked on at Pinkie Pie’s bedroom. Applejack and Rainbow Dash were playing some fighting game or another at Pinkie’s bedroom TV, while Pinkie herself had an equally pink laptop open in front of her on the floor, where she was on her belly. Rarity and Sunset Shimmer were idly chattering to one another, the former of which was holding her phone, which had been full of charge all day. ‘A lady always comes prepared,’ she had said.

Meanwhile, up on the bed was Twilight Sparkle… the pony princess from Equestria, the home of Sunset Shimmer… and Beebee.

Where else could he be from? His generally equine appearance, his admittedly few and limited displays of magic, the way he could speak and communicate, and the fact that there wasn’t a single other creature like him on Earth… all of these traits added up in Fluttershy’s mind a long time ago. Beebee came from Equestria.

Twilight noticed Fluttershy staring and lowered her notebook. “Something wrong, Fluttershy?” she asked, startling her out of her trance.

Fluttershy shook her head. “Oh, no! Nothing’s wrong, just thinking,” she lied quickly in what she hoped was a convincing way before looking down. Twilight watched her for a moment, unconvinced, but then went back to her notebook, leaving Fluttershy to sigh in relief.

Twilight had come back through the portal at Sunset’s behest once the Sirens showed up, finding a way to open it without having to wait. In her hand was a pen, which she used to write in a notebook held in her other hand. She still didn’t seem quite used to using hands and fingers, but she was getting better, for sure. Settled next to Twilight was Spike, her dog, who was apparently a fire-breathing dragon back on the other side of the portal, and who could talk.

It was so strange, seeing those two again… but a welcome relief, what with the Sirens causing trouble. Fluttershy’s face fell somewhat at the thought, knowing full well that the Sirens were responsible for Beebee’s condition. According to Twilight, they spread hatred and anger and then fed off of the negative energy. Something she and her friends had all seen first hand when the Sirens had sung their song in the lunch hall. Everybody, save for Fluttershy and her friends, had been consumed with a fire of vitriol, vindication, and hatred that had led to mass arguments and even one or two physical altercations.

“Fluttershy, darling, care to join us?” Rarity asked, jarring Fluttershy from her thoughts. She gave a quick nod before making her way over to join Rarity and Sunset on the floor next to the bed.

Chapter 23: The School Exploded Again

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Eventide had fallen into something of a routine since Beebee got sick from all of the Red coming out of CHS. He would get up in the morning next to Beebee’s bed and help him to the best of his abilities. This mostly consisted of Replacing the pan, cleaning any excess puke stains. Putting him through the shower even when some was really encrusted onto his carapace. Interestingly, Beebee actually really liked the shower, claiming that it made his wings feel nice. Regardless, once that was done, Eventine would bring Buddha in to show some affection. This was usually enough to lift Beebee’s spirits and get him out of the basement and into the house proper.

But despite all of their efforts, it wasn’t enough to cure Beebee. His demeanor had remained sluggish and queasy for the last day or two, and he still had issues with puking up that paste. When he managed to get the strength, he would park himself by the window to stare at CHS, giving off regular observations of the Red coming off of the school. It seemed to be coming in waves, he noticed, growing intense sometimes, then fading away into being almost non-existent. It was usually at its best at night, when everybody left the school.

Of course, this odd pattern made Eventide even more concerned about what was going on. His need for answers drove him to call Fluttershy several more times, but every time he did, there was no answer, only the answering machine. Her silence was aggravating, and Eventide’s anxiety was not at all lost on Beebee. Worse still was that Eventide had to go to work that day, leaving Beebee alone with only Buddha for company.

Luckily, the dog had been able to keep Beebee from completely losing it. The two had been able to remain more or less calm and secured on the couch while they waited for Eventide to come home. When he did, the first thing he did was give Buddha a treat and Beebee a hug.

Now, the sun had set outside, and Beebee was, just like before, peering through the window at the school. His eyes were focused on the beams of light shooting into the sky from the stadium behind the building, and his wings twitched on his back every now and then. Eventide was by his side, resting on his knees and observing the light show with curiosity.

If he listened really carefully, he could just make out the sound of music and singing, along with a cheering crowd. “Huh… I guess the musical showcase that Fluttershy mentioned is going on tonight,” he muttered to himself in thought.

Beebee winced and shuddered in revulsion. “All of the Red is there,” he mumbled before stifling a heave. Eventide’s found his back in a heartbeat, soothing and calming him. After a few moments, Beebee took in a deep breath and gave a chitter of thanks before returning his attention to the lights.

Eventide sighed and give him a few comforting pats. “You’ll be okay, Bee…” he assured his son before observing the lights some more. “I kinda wish I knew what was going on over there, though…”

“Yeah…” Beebee nodded before scooting closer to Eventide. “Has Aunt Fluttershy called you back?”

Eventide hesitated, his heart rate increasing somewhat. He eventually shook his head. “No. I’ve been trying to call her, but it always goes right to voicemail,” he grumbled in mild frustration.

“Is she okay?” Beebee asked, his enormous eyes looking up and boring into Eventide.

“I hope so…” Eventide replied in a mutter, sagging slightly with concern. “I really, really hope so…”

They didn’t say anything else, instead choosing to watch the lights and listen to the distant, bassy thumps of the music. Whoever was playing clearly had a passion for it, and they were pretty good to boot.

Suddenly, from the direction of the singing, there was a flash of blinding red light. Eventide and Beebee both leaned back, their eyes going wide when they saw the light forming into a dome that expanded in all directions. “What the?!” Eventide shouted in alarm, his hand tightening on Beebee’s back and prepared to shelter him in a heartbeat if need be.

The doom came up short, thankfully, stopping in the middle of the street and fading away. “Wh-what was that?! What’s happening over there?” Beebee asked fearfully, looking up at Eventide.

“I don’t know,” Eventide replied shakily, finally pulling Beebee against his chest and holding on tight. “But whatever it is, if it’s a threat, I’ll protect you.”

“Promise?”

“With my life.”

Any further discourse was cut short when the two of them saw something that they had not been expecting to see that day.

Monsters.

Three monsters made of purple, blue, and golden light, looking like a strange and terrible cross between fish and dragons, rose into the air behind the school. They let out ear-piercing shrieks, making the windows rattle, then swooped around to start circling a hilltop. Beebee squirmed at the sight of them. “They’re making the red… so much red…” he choked out in terror, shrinking back against his father’s chest.

In response, Eventide pulled Beebee closer, using both of his arms to hold him and shield him. “It’s okay, Bee. They’re pretty far away…” he said in what he hoped was a reassuring voice.

“Then why are you scared?” Beebee questioned, his eyes dilating slightly as his vision refocused.

Eventide winced. “...Because I have no idea what’s going on.”

The monsters made more than one swoop, emitting ear-piercing shrieks at the hill, rings of crimson light going with their voices. If Beebee looked really hard, he thought he could see people standing there on the hill, weathering the monster’s onslaught. Once the creatures let up to catch their breath, The people sent back strange lights of their own; red, purple, fuschia, all of which hindered the monsters, driving them back and making them look angrier.

Then, to both of their great shock, something new appeared. A pillar of prismatic light shot into the sky from the hilltop, casting the entire city in a gentle and soothing light. At the top of the pillar, massive, feathery wings emerged, followed shortly by the body of a majestic horse with a horn on its head. It was made up entirely of a divine blue light, and Beebee’s eyes widened. “All the Red! It’s going away!”

Eventide looked down at Beebee for a moment in surprise, then turned his attention back to the giant horse. With a loud and echoing boom, the horse launched a beam of yet more rainbow-colored light from its horn and down towards the obscured stadium of the school. There was a blinding flash, and then another dome of light; this time pale white. Eventide and Beebee both squinted and closed their eyes as the blinding flash passed over them with the sound of wind rushing in their ears.

Following that, all was silent. The music had cut off, and nothing could be heard. Gradually, Eventide and Beebee opened their eyes and looked on at the school, completely and utterly baffled. The horse was gone, the monsters were gone, the stadium lights were gone. It was as if all of the oddities of the last five minutes had suddenly decided they were done for the day and gone somewhere else. Finally, though, Beebee did what kids always do.

He asked an adult.

“What… just happened?”

Eventide blinked, looked at Beebee, the school, the hill where the rainbows came from, then Beebee again. He then gave a weak, bemused chuckle. “I think CHS just exploded again…”

“Again?”

“It’s happened before,” Eventide muttered before setting Beebee back down on the floor and heading for his phone, which was currently sitting on the counter.

There were a few seconds of quiet before Beebee looked through the window again. This time, he let out a gasp, his wings snapping out. “Wait, dada! The Red! It’s all gone!” he exclaimed, causing Eventide to stop.

“Yeah, I remember you mentioning that.”

“Yuh huh! It all went away with the big horse! There’s a lot of pink, bright blue, yellow, and green instead!” Beebee lifted into the air, his wings buzzing in excitement. “Woah… woah. There’s so much!”

Eventide furrowed his brow in thought. “Those colors are good right?”

“Yeah! They’re the best ones, especially pink!” Beebee gleefully stated before latching onto the window like a moth drawn to a light, his wings fluttering and his tongue lolling out of his mouth.

Eventide rolled his eyes and sauntered over. “Okay, Bee, get down and stay out of sight, okay? I’m gonna call Fluttershy and figure out what the heck just happened. Hopefully, she’ll answer her phone this time...”


Fluttershy breathed a small sigh of relief as she slid into an enormous group hug with everyone, and Sunset Shimmer stood comfortably right at the core. The sirens were powerless and defeated, their spell of hatred and vitriol was broken, and they had run away. The threat was dealt with, and Fluttershy and her friends had Sunset Shimmer to thank for it. When all hope had seemed lost, when they were buckling under the pressure of the Siren’s song, Sunset stepped up and helped her friends push the enemy back.

And now, it was peaceful. The crowds of students were steadily dispersing, leaving the seven people and one dog to cuddle and bask in their victory.

All of a sudden, the peaceful atmosphere was shattered when Fluttershy’s phone began to ring in her pocket - quite loudly, too. Everyone else turned to give a wide range of looks, from bemused to exasperated. “Seriously?” Rainbow deadpanned, extracting herself from the hug to cross her arms over her chest. “You couldn’t put it on vibrate?”

Fluttershy backed away with an embarrassed blush on her face. “Sorry, sorry, sorry…”

“Oh, don’t worry about it,” Rarity dismissed with a small smile. “If it’s a friend or family member, go ahead and answer the phone. I’m sure they’ll be wanting to know what the explosions were all about.”

Fluttershy, still repeatedly mumbling an apology, took the device out to check who the caller was. She winced when she saw who it was. With a hint of anxiety, she took a deep breath and pushed the answer button before holding the phone up to her ear. “Hello?”

“Oh, good, you picked up this time. Are you okay? Canterlot High School just exploded again,” Eventide’s voice came from the other end of the line, audibly relieved to hear her voice.

Fluttershy giggled at his description. “Oh, uh, ‘exploded’ might be a bit of an exaggeration…”

“Not the point,” Eventide deadpanned. “Are. you. okay?”

“Yes, I’m okay. A little tired, but okay.”

“Good… so what just happened?”

Fluttershy glanced back at the rest of her friends, who were patiently waiting on her. She grimaced and turned back to her phone. “It’s kind of a long story… and my friends are waiting on me. Do you mind if I tell you about it tomorrow after school?”

“I mean… ugh, sure.”

Before Fluttershy could say anything else, she heard the distant and unmistakable voice of Beebee in the background. “Is that Aunt Fluttershy?”

Eventide chuckled. “Yes, Bee, it is. Do you wanna talk to her for a second?”

Beebee let out what could only be described as a loud chitter of approval. “Yes, yes please!”

“Alright. Hey, Fluttershy, Beebee wants to talk to you.”

Fluttershy giggled again. “I heard. Put him on.”

After a moment of silence, Beebee’s voice came through loud and clear. Although, given it’s two-toned nature, it sounded odd coming through a telephone line. “Hi, Aunt Fluttershy!”

“Hello!” Fluttershy replied, careful not to use Beebee’s name. “Are you behaving yourself?”

“Yeah, I am! I don’t feel sick anymore, either!”

“Well, that’s good to hear. I’m glad.

Beebee gasped in excitement, and his voice became distant. “Wow, it really is her! Can I get a phone so I can talk to her when she’s not here?!”

Eventide let out a loud and hearty laugh, his voice muffled by the distance from the microphone. “Heh, maybe when you’re a little older. We gotta hang up though, so say bye.”

Beebee complied. “Bye, Aunt Fluttershy! See you soon!”

“Of course. I’ll see you two tomorrow. Bye!” Fluttershy replied sweetly before lowering the phone and ending the call. She let out a sigh and turned to face the others with an apologetic grin. “Sorry, a friend saw the lights of the, erm, battle. Wanted to know what happened.”

There were several moments where they were quiet before Twilight Sparkle suddenly spoke up. “So… Pinkie, before I go back to Equestria, do you mind if I sleep at your house again?” she asked hesitantly.

Pinkie gave an excited gasp, tightening her grip on the group as a whole. “Slumber party night two! Who’s interested?!” she asked in an energetic squeal.

Nobody had any objections.

Chapter 24: Why Are You Afraid?

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The Next Day…

Well, Beebee was certainly energetic today. He had been all but unable to sleep the previous night in his sudden onrush of giddiness, and now he was flying all over the place and practically shaking with how excited and hyped up he was. And it wasn’t because Fluttershy was coming over in five minutes, according to him. No, it was due to the overwhelming amount of ‘good stuff’ in the air. He had tried to list off the colors of the lights that only he could see, but eventually gave up because there we just too many.

Right now, he was doing backflips in the air with his wings, giggling excitedly to himself as he did so. Eventide was keeping close and observing Beebee very carefully. They didn’t want him to fall to the ground in an exhaustion fit again. After the seventh consecutive backflip, he chose to intervene. “Come on, Beebee, try not to overdo it. I get it, you’re excited, but we don’t want you to collapse again.”

“I’ll be okay!” Beebee retorted, doing another backflip before spinning in the air to shoot Eventide an enormous grin. “I’ve never felt so happy before! Whatever that light show was last night, it was amazing!

Eventide rolled his eyes with a quiet sigh and charmed smile, before reaching out to unceremoniously pluck his son from the air. Beebee gave a pitiful whine at his aerial performance being cut short, but he was forced to grumpily concede Eventide’s point when he noticed just how out of breath he already was. Eventide set Beebee on his shoulder, where the bug promptly slumped down to rest, using his forelegs to hang on while his rear legs dangled off the back.

“There we go,” Eventide said quietly to him. “Just rest for a little bit,” He then turned and looked over at Buddha, who was currently laying down next to her food and water bowls, both of which were about half consumed. The golden retriever had been watching them curiously as they interacted, her eyes mainly focused on the now heavily panting Beebee. After a few seconds and a reassuring look from Eventide, though, she concluded all was well before going back to her food and taking a few chomps.

Eventide breathed in and out, enjoying the newfound quiet.

Then came a knock on the door.

...Welp, there went the quiet.

Buddha scrambled from her food to run up to the door, and Beebee’s wings were once again buzzing madly, this time right in Eventide’s ear. “It’s Fluttershy, it’s Fluttershy!” Beebee exclaimed eagerly, jabbing his hoof at the door.

“Well, at least he had the foresight to not leave my shoulder,” Eventide mused before lifting Beebee from his shoulder and set him down on the floor. “Probably, but let’s not take any chances. Get to my room and wait for me to call you,” he instructed firmly while pointing towards his room.

Beebee pouted but did as he was told, running off to hide in the bedroom. Eventide gave a nod to himself, then walked over to the door. “Okay, Buddha, move aside,” he said, nudging the dog to one side while grasping the handle and opening the door. Sure enough, there was Fluttershy, looking back at him with a large smile on her face.

“Hey! Sorry, it took me so long to come. Had to say bye to someone,” she said before looking down at Buddha and kneeling down to give the excited and slobbering dog a few pets. “Hello, Buddha! How are you, girl? Oh, Who’s a good girl?”

“Bark!”

“That’s right! It’s you!”

Eventide chuckled and back up, allowing Fluttershy to enter the home once she was done petting Buddha. Closing the door behind her, Eventide than turned back to look down the hall. “Okay, Beebee! It’s safe! Come on out!” he called happily.

The summons were answered immediately. Like a rocket, Beebee did as he was told shooting out of the bedroom, across the living room, and right into Fluttershy’s chest. The impact carried enough force to tear a gasp out of Fluttershy and force her to stumble back a few steps. She thumped into the door and leaned against it for support, managing to wrap her arms around Beebee in a tight hug. With a slight wince, she looked down at him and gave a large, friendly smile. “And it’s good to see you, too, Beebee!”

Beebee beamed up at her for a moment, his eyes alight with joy at seeing his favorite aunt while his wings buzzed excitedly on his back. “Hey, Fluttershy! We saw the light show, and the school exploded, and now everything is so bright and tasty, and I’ve never felt so full!” he announced in one, long, uninterrupted stream before remembering that little thing called breathing. He took in a deep breath, trying to relax. Then, with a weak exclamation, his muscles gave out on him, and he all but fell limp in her arms.

Fluttershy kept him from falling, thankfully, lifting him back up and holding him to her chest with a small frown. “Oh, Beebee… did you wear yourself out again?” she asked sympathetically.

“Uh-huh…” Beebee quietly mumbled before snorting in dissatisfaction. “I hate being tired… I wanna fly more!”

“I know,” Fluttershy said soothingly, giving Beebee a few gentle pats on the back of the head before gingerly handing the little guy back to Eventide. “But you can’t right now. You’re still really skinny.”

Beebee huffed but otherwise said nothing. Eventide took him, and with slow and cautious movements, got Beebee back onto his shoulder. With that, he locked gazes with Fluttershy and smiled. “He’ll be okay.”

“Oh, I imagine so. He’s got you to take care of him,” Fluttershy replied with confidence before clasping both her hands behind her back, her expression turning a touch more serious. “So, everything’s fine here?”

“Yeah, Beebee stopped being sick at about the same time the lights flared up. What was all of that, anyway?” Eventide ventured curiously, his attention briefly shifting to look at Beebee.

Fluttershy’s eyes flicked between Eventide and the nymph on his shoulder a few times before she answered. “Uh, well, you remember how Sunset turned into a giant she-demon a ways back?” she asked hesitantly, her hands beginning to nervously fidget behind her back.

Eventide nodded. “Yeah… you still haven’t told me why that happened. Or why you had wings that night,” he said slowly, noting Fluttershy’s sudden nervousness. “Hey… are you okay?”

“I’m fine!” Fluttershy quickly blurted, a large smile growing on her face. It was clearly strained. “Anyways, uh…” her eyes drifted to and locked onto Beebee, who was now watching her with wide, confused eyes.

“...Why are you so afraid?” Beebee suddenly asked, drawing Eventide’s attention. Once he noticed the confused looks he was getting, he took a breath and clarified. “I mean, there’s a lot of purple and black around you. I think it means you’re scared of something…” he cringed and shifted back a bit, his tongue sticking out. “Dada usually turns purple and black whenever I do something bad that gets me hurt, or whenever I get sick or tired. I don’t like it. It tastes bad…”

Eventide observed Beebee for a second more, considering his words, then turned to look at Fluttershy. She flinched back from his searching gaze, looking genuinely distressed and anxious about something. “Fluttershy, what’s wrong?” he pressed in a tender voice and took a step forward. To his surprise, Fluttershy took an uneasy step back, her eyes no longer able to meet his.

“It’s… it’s nothing,” she said in a quiet, quivering voice that was barely audible. She shrank back, her hair falling in front of her face to hide her. She went completely still as if she were hiding from a large, angry animal. In turn, Eventide took a slow step back.

“It doesn’t seem like nothing,” He observed in a soft and reassuring tone. “Fluttershy, it’s okay. You can tell me what’s wrong.”

She shook her head, one of her teal eyes becoming visible again. “Um… I…”

“Dada” Beebee suddenly interjected, poking Eventide in the face with a hoof. “It’s getting worse. I think you’re scaring her.”

Eventide blinked in surprise and took another few steps back. He watched Fluttershy for a few more seconds, and he had to guiltily admit that Beebee was probably right. He gave off a quiet sigh and held up his hands in a disarming gesture. “I’m sorry, Fluttershy… I shouldn’t have pressured you like that. If you don’t want to talk about it, I won’t force you. But… I’m happy to listen if you need me to.”

Fluttershy gave a wordless mumble of gratitude, slowly emerging from behind her hair. “Thank you… that means a lot… but it’s nothing too serious, don’t worry,” she said softly before taking a deep breath. “Now, uhm… about the light show and Sunset turning into a demon… to cut a long story short, the light show you saw last night was an extension of when Sunset turned into a big demon.

“We’ve, uh… well, actual, real magic has become a thing around CHS, and Sunset started using it first. It messed with her head, made her worse than usual, and turned her into the demon you saw. Some other people who can use magic, called the Sirens, saw it when the school exploded six months ago, and recently began trying to steal all of the magic at CHS for themselves. They did this by using their own magic to spread anger, hatred, and more. They fed off of that negativity, and got more powerful the longer it went on. The light show last night was my friends and I stopping them at the last performance of the Battle of the Bands.”

Fluttershy finished recounting her story, then looked down at the ground. Everyone was quiet for several moments as Eventide and Bee processed this information. They watched Fluttershy, scrutinizing her in surprise. Well… that was quite the infodump. Magic? Magic duels? Sirens? If he hadn’t seen it with his own eyes, or if Beebee wasn’t in his life, he might have claimed she was lying.

But his son was a small emotion-eating bug horse.

Eventide gave a nod and a smile. “Alright… was anybody hurt?”

“No, but the people trying to steal our magic got away. They’re powerless now, though, so don’t worry about them,” Fluttershy assured, a genuine smile on her face this time. Then her expression turned to one of confusion, and she tilted her head. “Wait… you believe me?”

Eventide jabbed a thumb at Beebee. “Look at my son.”

Fluttershy couldn’t help but give a small snort of amusement, conceding his point.

Beebee’s wings twitched on his back, and he tilted his head to go along with an inquisitive chitter. “So… were you afraid we wouldn’t believe you?” he asked curiously, drawing both of their attention. He squirmed a bit and elaborated. “I mean, whenever someone on T.V says they saw a big monster or magic or something, nobody believes them. Dada never believes me when I tell him about the monster in my wall…”

“Because it’s a pipe, not a monster,” Eventide recited with a roll of his eyes.

Fluttershy gave a slow nod at Beebee and visibly relaxed. “Uh, yes! Yes, I was scared you’d think I was making it up… or that I’d gone insane. Kinda silly, I guess, since you, uh, you know… saw it all happen,” she mumbled, one of the long locks of her pink hair falling to conceal her face.

Eventide shrugged. “I mean, my son is a bug horse that hatched from a green egg that I found under a tree three months before the high school across the street from me was blown up by a gigantic she-demon. And he lit my bed on fire once with his face. I’m prepared to believe just about anything at this point.”

“Wait, I did?” Beebee asked, surprised.

Fluttershy giggled at the two, turning her face down. “I guess you’ve got a point, there… Sorry. I was being stupid.”

“You were being shy and unsure of yourself,” Eventide corrected her gently. He came forward and put a hand on her shoulder. “You’re fine, Fluttershy.”

She gave him one more appreciative smile. “Thank you...” she said before glancing over her shoulder. “Well… anyways, I should probably go and get back to the others. We’re supposed to be going into town soon to celebrate, and I’m already holding them up to talk to you.”

Eventide raised an eyebrow, then nodded. “Uh, sure, go ahead. Thanks for filling us in, though I’d like more details later if that’s okay.”

“Of course,” Fluttershy assured, punctuating her sentence by reaching out with a finger to poke Beebee on the nose. The bug immediately went cross-eyed, then glared indignantly at the offending appendage as if it had committed a mortal sin. Again, Fluttershy giggled, then turned for the door. “Bye, you three. And good luck on the job hunt, Eventide!”

With that, Eventide slapped a hand to his forehead. “Shoot! I totally forgot about that!” he yelped before giving an appreciative look. “Thanks for the reminder. I should probably get on that.”

Fluttershy nodded, then stepped out through the door.

Chapter 25: Interviews

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Several Days Later.

Beebee sat at the back end of the hall with Buddha curled up next to him, both of them watching the front door intently. Fluttershy sat next to them with her knees up to her chest, keeping the two of them company. She offered Beebee a small, reassuring smile when he looked at her questioningly. “It’s alright, Beebee. He won’t be too much longer, I don’t think,” she offered in a gentle voice before turning her face back to the door.

Beebee nodded and frowned as he thought back on the day so far. Eventide had suddenly become really excited after a phone call he had gotten the previous day, saying he had gotten an ‘interview.’ He had then gone on to explain that it would help him with his hunt for a new job. This morning had seen him in a frantic rush. He combed his hair far more than usual, he shaved his face, put on some nicer clothes, then left in a hurry. What made Beebee concerned was the combination of colors that Eventide left in his wake.

Pale Yellow and dark purple. He was excited, but he was also scared at the same time. Beebee hadn’t thought that such a state was possible, but there it was. Eventide hadn’t stayed long enough to answer Beebee’s questions, either, saying that he was going to be late if he didn’t go ‘right now.’ That had been about almost an hour ago, and Beebee’s own anxiety was growing with every passing minute.

Luckily, Eventide had had the foresight to ask Fluttershy to babysit for him that day, and as both of them had the day off from their respective obligations, she had been more than happy to comply. She had arrived a few minutes after Eventide had left, keeping Beebee and Buddha company and out of trouble. Her presence and assurances had done wonders to quell Beebee’s anxiety, but still...

“So… where did Dada go?” Beebee finally asked, drawing Fluttershy’s attention. “He said he was going to an ‘interview.’ I don’t know what that is. Where is an interview? Is it down the street or something?”

Fluttershy couldn’t help but giggle in amusement at Beebee’s childish ignorance before shaking her head. “Oh, no, an interview isn’t a place. An interview is a meeting where someone asks someone else a series of questions. Eventide went to be questioned by someone to see if he’s got what it takes to do the job he wants.”

“Oh,” Beebee replied, lowering his eyes and thinking it over. “Uh… what kind of questions?”

“I don’t know. A wide range of things, probably. Why he thinks he’d be the right man for the job, what previous work experience he has, what obligations he has, among other things,” Fluttershy answered, listing each item off on one of her fingers. “Pretty much anything that the boss can use to assess him.”

“Who’s the boss?”

Fluttershy shrugged absently. “I don’t know.”

“Oh… well, do you know where Dada went for the interview? Or when he’ll come home?”

Fluttershy sighed and shook her head in apology. “I’m sorry, but no. He didn’t tell me. He didn’t have enough time.”

“Oh… I see...”

Fluttershy smiled and reached over to give Beebee a few scratches behind the ears, earning a pleased chitter from him and helping him relax somewhat. He leaned into her ministrations and closed his eyes. After a few moments, Fluttershy withdrew her hand and lowered her head to be closer to Beebee’s eye level. “You know, with all of the questions you just asked me, I think that kinda counts as an interview.”

Beebee’s eyes widened in alarm. “Wha… But… I’m not the boss of anything… I can’t hire you!” he protested in a slightly panicky voice. Fluttershy could only openly laughed at that. Beebee’s mind blanked when he heard that noise, the gears turning. After a few moments, he shook his head and pouted at her in indignation. “Hey, stop laughing at me!” he whined while lightly pawing Fluttershy’s ankle with his hoof.

“Oh my, I’m sorry,” Fluttershy apologized, managing to get her giggles under control. She put a hand on top of his head and gave him a few pats. “You’re just too adorable, though. I can’t help it!”

Beebee tilted his head. “I’m adorable…?” he muttered. Then, with a playful look in his eyes, he sat back onto his haunches and clasped his hooves together over his chest. He stuck out his lower lip and made his eyes as big as he could, mirroring what his father had called the ‘big puppy-dog eyes’ look that the orange cat had used in that one movie they had watched last night, called Puss in Boots.

The effect was immediate. A rush of bright blue and vibrant pink came out of Fluttershy while her hands flew up to her chest to cover her heart. Her face lit up with a huge smile, and she let out a long, drawn-out ‘aww.’ Beebee maintained his adorable look as long as he could, hoping to keep the flow of pink coming. Sadly, as it turned out, he could only hold it for a few seconds before the smell of the love in the air overpowered him. He lowered his forehooves back to the floor, opened his mouth and began to suck in all of the pink.

It glided smoothly over his tongue, tickling his taste buds and making them explode with the most delicious flavor he could imagine. The love then swam down his throat and warmed him up as it pooled in his belly. After a moment, he clamped his jaw shut and smiled up at Fluttershy, who was now looking back at him suspiciously. “Did you just act cute to get a snack?” she asked flatly.

Beebee sat back on his haunches, straightened his back and spread his forelegs wide. “Yup!” he declared before crouching and pouncing up at Fluttershy with the intention of hugging her. She let out a surprised squeak, lowering her knees so she could catch him with her arms and hold him against her chest. Once he was safely situated in her grip, he smiled up at her and nuzzled into her chin. “Thank you for the food, Aunt Fluttershy.”

Fluttershy just rolled her eyes and returned the nuzzle to the best of her abilities. It wasn’t the most natural form of affection for her to show, to be sure, but Beebee was adamant about it and seemed to appreciate the gesture nonetheless. After a moment, Beebee turned around and settled down on Fluttershy’s lap, his chin resting on her knee while his eyes bored into the front door. Fluttershy just put a hand on his back and ran her thumb back and forth between his wings. The two went utterly quiet at that point, content to just sit together and wait.

Luckily, they didn’t have to wait for a whole lot longer. After maybe ten minutes of silence, the doorknob began to rattle and jingle, indicating that Eventide had slid the key into the lock. Fluttershy realized only too late what was about to happen, and didn’t have time to brace herself for the inevitable launch sequence. Beebee suddenly kicked off of her, his hind hooves driving themselves into her belly to add to his momentum, while Buddha sprang up and launched into a full sprint for the door, keeping pace with Beebee.

Fluttershy just fell forward to the floor, gasping with her hands on her stomach. That… had hurt.

The door opened, and sure enough, there was Eventide. He had barely gotten through the frame when he was summarily assaulted by a tackle from Beebee and Buddha, who had joined forces. He let out a grunt from the joint impact and did his best to pet the both of them as he waddled a few more steps into the house. “Oof! Hey, you two! Have you been good?” he asked in a strained tone, nudging the door shut with his foot.

“Yeah-huh!”

“Bark!”

Fluttershy wheezed.

That sound caught Eventide’s attention, and he wiggled around until he could get a good look. He saw her in the back of the hall, and his face twisted with concern. “Hey, guys, off me for a sec,” he commanded, brushing Beebee and Buddha back with his hands. It was at about that point that the two excitable quadrupeds noticed Fluttershy’s discomfort, the flying one cringing and withering with guilt.

Fluttershy coughed once, then lifted a finger into the air. “I’m okay!” she called breathlessly while sluggishly trying to stand back up. “Guh. I just wasn’t expecting Beebee to jump like that… ouch...”

Eventide blinked, then looked at Beebee with a hard stare. “Beebee…” he asked in a tone that demanded answers.

The bug shrank back, chuckling sheepishly. “Eheh… sorry… I was just excited to see you, Dada,” he explained before swallowing heavily. “You were gone for so long, and you didn’t say anything when you left. I was worried… Please don’t be mad…”

Eventide let out an exasperated sigh and shook his head. “I’m not mad, but please don’t use us as launch pads in the future, eh? You’re getting bigger you know, and those hooves of yours are hard,” he said before heading for Fluttershy.

“Okay, Dada. I’ll try,” Beebee answered dutifully while flying a few feets behind Eventide. He then shifted his attention from his father to look at Fluttershy. She’d made it to her hands and knees, now.

Eventide reached down and grasped her hand, hauling her back to her feet. “There you go. So, how have they been?” he asked curiously once she was stable and had caught her breath.

Fluttershy took a breath, then smiled. “Oh, they’ve been wonderful. Buddha’s been quiet and patient, and Beebee’s been just the sweetest little thing. Especially ten minutes ago.”

“I did the thing that Puss in Boots does where he makes his eyes all big and looks cute!” Beebee declared excitedly, fluttering over and settling down on Eventide’s shoulder. “Fluttershy liked it.”

“I loved it,” Fluttershy admitted while reaching out to poke Beebee’s nose again.

“Stop that!” he protested weakly.

Fluttershy just smirked at him and looked back at Eventide. “He apparently did it just so I’d find it cute and he could get a snack.”

Eventide raised his eyebrows at that. “Oh dear, he’s learned how to weaponize cuteness,’ he stated in mock despair, a playful smirk on his face. “Whatever shall we do against this menace?”

Beebee grinned widely. “You’ll think I’m cute and I’ll get to eat!” he announced before nuzzling into the side of Eventide’s head. Eventide’s expression went dry for a moment from the motion. He then reached up a hand to lightly nudge Beebee off his shoulder. Pouting, the bug dropped back to the floor and scuttled over to Buddha, who went to lay down in the middle of the living and held Beebee between her front legs once he got to her.

With those two thusly occupied, Eventide chuckled and turned his attention fully to Fluttershy, who now had a curious look on her face. “So, how did your interview go?” she asked casually as the two stepped out of the hall and for the kitchen counter. “You were gone for an awfully long while.”

“Oh, it went well,” Eventide replied before sitting down at the dining table. “It took as long as it did because I had to go out of town for the interview, though. The Everfree National Park Office Building isn’t exactly close.”

Fluttershy’s eyes widened as she sat down across the table from him. “Everfree National Park? You’re right, that’s pretty far out…”

“Yeah. I’m not going to say I’m definitely hired, but the prospects are looking good.”

“What position did you apply for, if you don’t mind?” Fluttershy questioned, leaning forward in her seat.

“I applied for trail maintenance,” Eventide explained before leaning back with a small smile on his face. “Not quite as many hours at the Ginger Mart, but it pays a lot better. If I get hired, and all goes well, I imagine I could start looking for the new house before long.”

“Trail maintenance, huh?” Fluttershy parroted, a fascinated look on her face. She paused and tilted her head. “But it’s so far away… how are you going to get there and back?”

Eventide gave a slow nod, his brow furrowing and his lips pulling into a thin line. “If I get hired, I’ll need to take the bus to get there, unless I learn how to drive,” he affirmed in a disheartened tone with a shake of his head. “Never bothered to learn before. Biting me in the backside, now…”

“Why not?” Fluttershy inquired curiously.

Eventide snorted derisively, more at himself than anything else. “Same reason I stuck with my crummy job at Ginger Mart since before I graduated high school. I was happy enough not knowing how to drive and I had no need to learn. That and, well, I just had no drive to do anything else. I had a system that worked, and I didn’t exactly feel like branching out or taking any risks...” his face fell, his eyes showing some regret. “Didn’t want to let people down, you know?”

“I know,” Fluttershy noted slowly.

Eventide sat up a little straighter, his eyes falling on Beebee. “But, well… then I became a dad, and retail just isn’t cutting it anymore. More than anyone or anything, I can not afford to let him down.”

“I see…” Fluttershy nodded slowly before offering a timid, reassuring smile. “Well, I’m sure you’ll get the job!” she told him confidently.

“Heh. Here’s to hoping,” Eventide replied while raising a hand as if for a toast. He then let it slump down to his side, his eyes once again settling on Beebee, who was currently ignoring the grown-ups to cuddle with Buddha. “...And to hoping we can move sooner rather than later.”

Fluttershy’s expression dimmed with concern. “Oh… that’s right. You’re planning on moving once you have enough money, right?” she asked, her tone somewhat despondent.

“Yeah. We’re too close to CHS, which seems to be ground zero for magical stuff happening way too often. I mean, the school’s exploded twice in… what, six months? And that’s not even mentioning the flood of students coming and going all the time. Like I said before, it’s a miracle Beebee’s gone unnoticed for so long…” his eyes never once left his son, who had convinced Buddha to roll over onto her back so he could give her belly rubs. He got a wistful smile on his face. “The one and only time he’s been outside in his life… I’ve only seen him so happy one or two other times… he can’t stay inside his whole life, but as long as we’re here, I can’t afford to let him leave the house.

“I’m thinking we’ll move out of town,” he continued, his expression going distant and thoughtful. “Somewhere close to the park, with luck. Isolated, remote… an out of the way spot, surrounded by nature, so he can go and explore the outside world… Run free, use those wings of his...”

Fluttershy looked over at Beebee as well, who was now standing victoriously atop the belly of a disgruntled and defeated Buddha. Her expression softened considerably as she imagined it. Beebee running over grassy hills, flying between trees and dipping the tips of his hooves into a river… it was a beautiful image. “I think, Eventide…” she started softly, then looked back at him, her smile growing immensely. “That is the best thing you can do for him. I’m with you all the way.”

Eventide smiled in return, finally looking back at her. “Thank you, Fluttershy. I said it before, I’ll say it again… I really don’t know what I would do without you.”

Fluttershy shook her head in dismissal. “You’d do all you could… your best…” she leaned forward a few inches, her eyes boring into his. “And your best would be wonderful. I know it would be. Beebee couldn’t have asked for a better father.”

Eventide blinked, then gave a weak laugh and a shake of his head. His eyes drifted past Fluttershy once again to watch Beebee, who was now laying down on Buddha’s belly and using her as a bed, much to the dog’s chagrin.

“Well… if you say so."

Chapter 26: Absence Of A Mother

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A short while later, Eventide set about preparing something for them to eat. He had enough leftovers, he said, and it wouldn’t be a problem. In the end, he was able to scrounge up a small plate of two apples and leftover chicken from the previous night’s dinner. While Fluttershy and Eventide ate and talked, Beebee remained nicely situated on Buddha’s belly, resting and listening to them discuss various things over their food. Most of it went right over his head, though. Grown-up stuff, he figured.

Eventually, though, Buddha apparently got tired of being used as a makeshift mattress. With a snort of dissatisfaction, she rolled to the side, sending Beebee sliding off and onto the floor. He landed on his rump with a yelp of surprise, then pouted at Buddha in supreme offense. “Heeey! I was napping on you!” he protested in a whine, lightly thwacking his hoof on her hip.

The golden retriever just looked at him with a flat expression for a few moments, unquestionably unamused by the impact. She then rose up to her paws and began to walk away, leaving Beebee behind on the floor. He watched her go, then spun around so his back was to her. He crossed his forelegs over his chest and huffed in an adorably childish sulk, shoving his nose into the air. “Fine!” he called back at her. “I didn’t wanna nap on your tummy anymore, anyway!”

He then noticed Eventide and Fluttershy looking down at him with charmed smiles. He glanced back at Buddha, then at his dad and aunt. A sheepish smile grew on his face. “Uhm… sorry?”

Eventide chortled under his breath and shook his head. “Yeah, you should leave her alone for a little while. You’ve been so hyper today, I don’t think she can really stand much more of it,” he advised, no small amount of mirth in his voice.

Fluttershy gave a nod of agreement. “Yes, and you should probably keep resting anyway. You’re probably pretty worn out, still.”

Beebee groaned in disappointment, but he had to concede the point. As nice as his rest on Buddha had been, he was still feeling pretty worn out. All the same, he got back up onto his hooves to slowly trudge over to the base of the table. Once he got there, he looked up at the people staring down at him.

They observed him, curious about what he was up to. His eyes danced back and forth between them for a short time, studying them with his own form of curiosity. When Fluttershy took an absent bite out of what was left of the apple Eventide had given her, he knew his course.

After a few moments of figuring out the angle, Beebee crouched and jumped, giving his wings a quick buzz to help him along. He soared up through the air and pulled himself up onto the table without issue, swiftly plonking down onto his backside once he was up. His eyes then fell onto the apple in Fluttershy’s hand. “Um… can I have some of that?” he asked hopefully.

Fluttershy just stared at him, bewildered. After a few moments, she shook herself, cleared her throat and spoke up. “Uhm… Beebee? You don’t usually eat physical food, right?” she asked in confusion.

Beebee nodded in confirmation. “Yeah, but Dada lets me have some of his food every now and then. It doesn’t really fill my tummy, but it tastes good,” he answered before pointing at the apple. “I’ve never had an apple before. May I?”

Fluttershy looked down at her apple, then up at Beebee. She then looked over at Eventide for approval. He just shrugged and gestured vaguely for her to do as she saw fit. With that done, Fluttershy she smiled and looked at Beebee again. “Sure, little guy. Here you go,” she said pleasantly before passing the bug the entire thing.

Beebee’s eyes went wide at first, as he had been expecting only a piece or a slice. Granted Fluttershy had already eaten half of it, but still! He looked at Fluttershy and grinned happily. “Woah! Thank you, Aunt Fluttershy!” he chirped before pulling the apple closer with his hooves and sinking his fangs into it. He let out a thoughtful hum as he ate, clearly giving the taste and texture a great deal of consideration.

Both Eventide and Fluttershy watched him eat, amused and pleased by his demeanor. Beebee couldn’t help but pause briefly in his nibbling as he saw the thick swaths of pink mist falling off of both of them, doubly so from Eventide. He capitalized on it, though, sucking in what he could as he ate with intense inhales. As a result, he began to hiss and snarl through mouthfuls of apple as he ate, surprising both of the adults.

Fluttershy’s mouth formed a surprised ‘o’ at the sound, and she looked over at Eventide in confusion. “Um… does he usually make noises like that?”

Eventide shrugged. “No, not really,” was his response before he turned his attention back to Beebee with an amused smirk. “But I don’t mind. It’s kinda cute.”

Fluttershy couldn’t argue with that and giggled when Beebee let out a particularly loud snort. Sadly, any further discussion was stifled when, suddenly, the sound of singing birds came from Fluttershy’s pocket. She quickly pulled out her phone to check and see who it was that was calling her, and her eyes lit up with recognition. “It’s my mom. Wait a second, please,” she said before answering the device and holding it up to her ear.

Beebee watched her intently as she talked, even as he devoured the apple she had so kindly gifted to him. Her speech was lost on him, though, with one sentence echoing in his mind over all of the others.

“It’s my mom.”

Beebee’s brow furrowed as he swallowed another piece of apple. “Mom…” He watched her for several moments as he gave it some thought, then turned to watch Eventide.

Fluttershy gave a curt nod into her phone. “Okay, Mom, thanks so much for reminding me. I’ll be there soon,” she said before ending the call and stuffing the phone in her pocket. She rose from the chair with an apologetic look on her face. “I’m terribly sorry, you two, but I have to go. I need to be at the animal shelter in a little bit, and my mom was just reminding me to head over there.”

Eventide nodded in understanding. He rose and went to see her to the door “Alright, we’ll see you later, Fluttershy. Thanks for coming over,” he said before glancing at Beebee over his shoulder. “Say bye, Bee.”

Beebee was snapped out of his ruminations at the sound of his name and looked at Fluttershy with a big smile. He waved happily at her as she made her way for the door. “Bye, Aunt Fluttershy! And thanks for the apple!”

“You’re very welcome, Beebee,” came the response. Fluttershy flashed them both one more heartfelt smile, then slipped outside, closing the door behind her.


Shortly after Fluttershy left, Eventide and Beebee set themselves down on the chair to watch TV. They had wound up settling on a nature documentary channel by Beebee’s request and had spent the last few hours just watching whatever came on the channel.

The sun was starting to set now, and the light of the sun had long since turned a deep orange. On the TV screen, a couple of colorful birds could be seen in a tree, tending to their eggs while the narrator talked about what they were doing. Eventide was only paying half-attention to the television if he was being honest. Most of his attention was occupied with his own internal musings, and the feeling of Beebee resting against him.

That all changed when Beebee shifted to look up into Eventide’s eyes. He didn’t say anything, though it was clear he had a question on his mind. Eventide focused on Beebee, sitting upright. “What is it, Bee?” he prodded in a relaxed tone. “Got a question?”

Beebee looked back at the screen for a moment, his wings twitching on his back. “Uhm… Those birds… they’re parents, right?” he said quietly, his voice sounding unsure. “A mama and a dada… taking care of their eggs.”

Eventide nodded slowly. “Yeah. These birds mate for life. They’ll stay together for the rest of their lives.”

“Kind of like you and Aunt Fluttershy?”

Eventide leaned back a bit in surprise, his brow furrowing. “Uh… no. Fluttershy’s your aunt, not your mom. She and I aren’t even in love, so…” he gave an absent shrug.

“So… I don’t have a mama?” Beebee finally asked.

Eventide looked away and let out a heavy sigh. Of course, He had known that this question would come up sooner or later, but he had really hoped it wouldn’t. It was hard enough when Beebee caught on to the fact that he was adopted… Eventide sat up a bit more and muted the TV with the remote.

“I’m sorry, Beebee, but no. At least, not one who’s here. I mean, you never know. Maybe you do have a mom out there, somewhere. But if you do, she isn’t here…” he said gently while holding Beebee close. “Fluttershy’s not your mom, but she does love you. And so do I.”

Beebee gave a slow, hesitant nod, although he visibly relaxed, undoubtedly from the love that Eventide was making an active effort to emphasize internally. Beebee rotated in his father’s arms to return the hug, wrapping his forelegs around his neck and resting his chin on his shoulder. “I love you two, too,” he said in a hushed voice, closing his eyes. Not far away, resting on her side with her back against the coffee table, Buddha turned her eyes to watch them, curious.

Eventide saw this and smirked. “And I think Buddha probably loves you more than the rest of us,” he observed playfully. Beebee leaned back and craned his neck to look at the dog in question, and his face lit up a little with a small smile.

“Yeah, Buddha really doesn’t hold back. She lets out a lot,” he acknowledged with a small laugh. But then, Beebee looked back at Eventide with his somber expression returning. “So… how come I don’t have a mama? Why isn’t Fluttershy my mama?” he asked in a soft, unsure tone, his face falling.

Eventide hesitated for a second, his brain working to find a good way to answer his son’s question. Eventually though, as always, he settled for the truth. “Well… I mean, I guess Fluttershy is kind of your mom. She’s helped me take care of you ever since I found you, and she’s here whenever I can’t be, but, well… we call her your aunt because that’s a somewhat closer equivalent. And you remember how I found your egg under the tree in the yard, right?”

“Uh-huh.”

“At that point, you weren’t my son. But then you hatched, you came into my life as a grub, and, well, six months later, here we are. And don’t forget Pete,” Eventide reiterated with his smile returning. “Maybe you don’t have a full-time mommy, but you do have us. You’re our Pete, and we’re your birds.”

Beebee gave another smile at that, his expression brightening at the memory. He leaned into the hug again, looking past Eventide and out the window. For a time, the two were silent, just enjoying the other’s embrace. Eventide took the opportunity to shut off the TV when the documentary shifted gears to lions on the hunt for some wild elk. Beebee didn’t need to see that, especially not right now.

“Do you have a mama and dada?” Beebee suddenly asked, his question coming completely out of nowhere. Eventide went outright rigid at the question, and Beebee suddenly drew back, a guilty look on his face. “O-oh no! Why are you upset?! I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you mad!” he quickly apologized in a frantic voice, scooting back a little.

Eventide sucked in a breath and shook his head dismissively while forcing down his feelings. “No, no, you’re fine. I’m not upset with you, Beebee,” he assured quickly, though he did gently move Beebee down to the floor so he wouldn’t have to be right in the flow of the emotions.

“But you are upset!” Beebee protested, taking a few steps back once he was on the floor. “Dark blue, black… red,” he shuddered and backed away even more. “There’s a lot of red in there…”

Eventide turned his eyes up to the ceiling, closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Then another, and another. After almost twenty seconds of breathing, he got his rampaging thoughts in order and looked down at Beebee again. Those large, glowing blue eyes were boring up into him, filled with an apology and boundless curiosity. Eventide sighed and slid out of the chair and onto his knees in front of Beebee. “Okay, Beebee, look… I do have a mom and dad, your grandparents. But I would really appreciate it if you didn’t ask me about them, okay?”

Beebee tilted his head in confusion at the tone in Eventide’s voice. “But… why not? Do they know about me?” he asked carefully, flinched back a little, presumably at more outpouring emotions from Eventide.

Eventide shook his head slowly. “No… they don’t. And I’m not going to tell them about you, either. Not anytime soon, at least.”

Beebee inched forwards a little, his ears standing up with curiosity. “Are they… bad people?” he pressed tentatively.

Eventide’s eyes drifted away from Beebee, finding the dull grayish-brown carpet under them far more interesting. “...No. They’re good people. I’m just…” he shuddered at the memory. “I’m just not on the best of terms with my mom. We had a bit of a… disagreement before I moved here.”

“What were you disagreeing about?”

Eventide shook his head. “Beebee-”

“What were you disagreeing about? Why not let them know I’m here?” Beebee asked in a more pressing voice, his eyes pleading. “I have a grandpa and a grandma. Why can’t I meet them? Why don’t you like your mom?”

Eventide screwed his eyes shut and lifted a finger in warning. “Beebee… please stop. I get that you want to know, I do, and I’ll happily tell you when you’re a bit older. But my parents… or, rather, my mother is a very touchy subject. I had to deal with a lot of drama because of her, and you already have a lot to deal with,” he explained before opening his eyes. “So please don’t ask me about her again. Or, at the very least, wait until we’ve moved and gotten settled in wherever we’re going.”

Beebee gave a slow nod and looked down at the floor. “Okay, Dada… I’m sorry I made you mad,” he apologized softly, his ears drooping along with his wings.

Eventide saw the sad sight and visibly wilted. He scooted forwards and gingerly scooped Beebee up into his arms, holding him tight against his chest. “Hey… I’m sorry I scared you…” he whispered quietly into his son’s ear while gingerly stroking the back of his head with a hand.

Beebee hiccuped, then nodded as he clung to Eventide’s chest. “I kn-know… I can s-see it…” he choked out before going silent.

Buddha, at this point, seemed to finally get fed up with just watching them interact. She rose to her paws and quickly made her way over to them, a concerned look on her face. She sat down in front of Eventide and softly put her muzzle between Beebee’s wings, allowing the small bug to know she was there and feel her comforting presence. It seemed to work, too, as within a few minutes, he visibly relaxed. Eventually, he turned around and lifted a hoof to stroke Buddha’s cheek.

“Th-thanks, Buddha… good puppy,” he said weakly before leaning into Eventide again. “I’m tired, Dada. I think I’m ready for sleep…” he mumbled, his voice indeed getting drowsy.

Eventide nodded. “Alright, if you say so,” he said before standing up and tenderly carrying his son down to the basement, tucking him in and wishing him goodnight.

Chapter 27: "If I do, If I don't..."

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Earlier that day…

Fluttershy didn’t waste any time in making her way for the animal shelter, moving at a quick pace all the way. She had missed a lot more time volunteering there then she would have liked since Beebee hatched, and was hoping to make up for it with more frequent visits moving forward. She just had to make sure she wasn’t late or distracted. Luckily, the clear sky and warming air were enough to refresh her mind and kick her brain into gear.

As she went, she began to go over the tasks she imagined she would have to do upon her arrival in her mind. “I’m probably going to have to clean out a lot of animal pens, fill a lot of water and food bowls. I might get to spend some time playing with the cats and dogs to keep them in shape and in high spirits, maybe give them some love and affection…” she thought over each item carefully, crossing a street and taking a left for the shelter that was several blocks down.

She was abruptly torn from her thoughts as her phone began ringing in her pocket. With her face screwing up in mild confusion and impatience, she pulled the device from her pocket and checked the caller I.D. Any malcontent Fluttershy felt melted away and was replaced by a whole new feeling as she saw that it was Sunset Shimmer. She came to a stiff stop in the middle of the sidewalk to stare at the name on her screen for several seconds. She took a deep before swallowing the lump in her throat and answering the call. “Uh, hello?”

“Hi, Fluttershy! How are you doing?” Came the voice of the Pony-turned-human from the other end of the line, happy sounding. There was the very faint thumping of a bassy music speaker spewing rock music in the background.

Fluttershy gave a small smile. “I’m okay. Just on my way to the animal shelter for some scheduled volunteer time,” she explained casually while resuming her walk, albeit at a slower pace. “I’ve been missing a lot of work there, lately, and I want to get back into it.”

Sunset sighed on the other end of the line at that, clearly disappointed. “Oh, I see.”

Fluttershy frowned, slowing her pace as a feeling of guilt bubbled up in her chest. “Is something the matter?” she asked worriedly, again coming to a halt. “I can come over right now if it’s an emergency.”

“No, no, it’s fine. I’m with Rainbow right now, and she just wanted me to call you and the others to see if we could get in some music practice. She would have called herself, but her phone’s out of charge, and she lost her charger,” Sunset explained plainly before saying something away from the phone. Fluttershy could just hear Rainbow’s own groan of frustration and disappointment.

“Oh, uh… I’m so sorry. I can come by after I’m done at the shelter, though.”

“Nah, I have some work I have to do in a couple hours anyway. By the time you get out, we won’t have enough time left in the day. Besides, you’ve been kinda tired lately. Why don’t you go ahead and just rest up when you’re done at the shelter?”

Fluttershy frowned at that but nodded. “Oh, okay, if you’re sure.”

“I’m sure, Fluttershy. We can always practice tomorrow or something.”

“Okay. Talk to you later?”

“Sure. See ya!”

“Bye.”

With that, Fluttershy ended the call. She let out a breath and stared into her phone’s screen with a hard expression on her face. It stared back at her, cold and unfeeling. The bright light of her home screen remained active for a good ten seconds before the screen went dark, allowing Fluttershy to see her reflection in the smooth surface of her touchscreen. Sunset had been right; she was tired, and it was starting to show. Practicing with the band, dealing with the Sirens, and then the aftermath of the Battle of The Bands… all of that was recent. Helping Eventide with Beebee, though… it was all starting to take a toll on her.

There were bags just barely visible under her eyes, and if one were to really look, they would find that they were starting to become a little bloodshot. Her hair had also suffered, though not nearly as much. It had become just slightly more unkempt, with a few extra stray strands and locks that had fallen out of line.

With a sigh, Fluttershy shoved the phone back into her pocket to be rid of her exhausted reflection and kept moving. As she went, her mind began to wander off again. Her conversation with Sunset had sparked a certain chain of thought, and now she was thinking about Beebee and Equestria...

She was so absorbed in her own ruminations that she almost didn’t notice that she had finally reached the animal shelter. With a wordless exclamation of realization, she came to a stop and looked it over. It was a cheerful and inviting building with bright blue walls and an orange roof. The support beams had the motif of puppy paw prints, adding to the identity of an animal shelter. In the front windows, there were fliers and pamphlets to advertise their need for volunteers, the services they did their best to provide, and the general work they did here at the shelter.

Taking a deep breath and shoving her own worries down, Fluttershy stepped into the entrance lobby. Things seemed to be pretty quiet that day, with only a young man and woman standing at the counter and talking to Squirrel Squeak, one of the other regular volunteers. Squirrel gave Fluttershy a look from the corner of her eye and a small smile before returning her attention to the couple.

Deciding it was best not to interrupt, Fluttershy walked deeper into the building to find the director so she could get her tasks for the day.


Maybe an hour later, Fluttershy found herself in the dog kennels, cleaning them out, refilling bowls, and just generally showing the animals some affection as she went. They were thankfully and mercifully quiet today, allowing her to continue thinking as she worked. As she finished up in one pen and moved on to the next, she couldn’t help but giggle a little bit at the puppy inside. He was a young one with a reddish brown coat and low-hanging ears. He was rather small, able to be held quite easily in one’s hands.

The same size as Beebee...

Fluttershy shook her head to dismiss the thought. “Not right now, Fluttershy. You have work to do!”

Curious, she checked the sheet of paper that was clipped to the gate. The dog was a male named Kite, on the grounds that he had been found out in an open field with a lot of people flying kites, and had been trying to chase them whenever they came back down. He was only a year old right now, and according to the paper, he had been six months old when the shelter brought him in. Just a stray, lost puppy… no parents...

Fluttershy sighed heavily and shook her head again before smiling down at Kite, who was standing up on his hind legs to swat at the door, his little tail wagging energetically behind him. “Hey there, little guy,” she greeted while pulling open the kennel door to step in and do her work. She knelt down to pet Kite behind the ears as she entered, and smiled happily at the pleased snorts and snuffs that were now routinely slipping out of the pup. “You doing okay in here?”

He answered by shoving his nose into her hand and looking up at her with beady eyes, making her heart melt a little. She just laughed some more, gave him a few pats and set to work on his pen. It was fairly clean, all things considered, so it wouldn’t take long. As she worked, she began talking. “You know Kite, you remind me a lot of someone else I know. You’re about the same size, you’re cute, you’re energetic…” she paused briefly while pouring food into the bowl. She glanced over her shoulder at the dog, who was now watching her with curiosity.

“And… neither of you knows who your parents were…”

Kite’s tail stopped wagging at once, and he tilted his head to one side while sitting down on his haunches. He must have noticed the change in her tone. If Fluttershy didn’t know any better, she might have thought that the dog was actively listening to and understanding her. But, of course, the only dog who could do that was in another world.

The same world Beebee came from…

It was pointless. She just couldn’t take her mind off of that strange little bug. Fluttershy sighed and set about filling the water bowl. The thought of Equestria and Beebee’s ties to that foreign world had now consumed her thoughts, leaving her almost unable to focus on her task. She just had the presence of mind to stop pouring water and put down the bottle before she overflowed the dish.

She glanced over at Kite, then lifted her head a little bit, listening for anybody else in the area that might be listening. When she heard nothing but the occasional whines or barks of other dogs, she looked down at Kite again before taking a deep breath. “Um… Kite? While I’m working, do you mind if I talk about something personal?”

The dog didn’t respond beyond tilting his head to the other side.

Fluttershy took that as the all clear and began speaking again. “See, that other little guy I know is… something unique. He’s not a dog, he’s not an animal, but he’s not like me either. He’s from a different world. A friend of mine is raising him, and I’m helping however I can...” Fluttershy stopped whatever it was she was doing. Her body had been on autopilot, really. She thought she was trying to scrub down the wall, maybe.

She just stood there for a little while, her head slowly lowering as thoughts and feelings long buried decided they were done being silent. She was alone with only the ears of dogs to listen, and they wouldn’t repeat anything she said today.

She turned and sluggishly sat down on the floor and leaned back against the wall. “They’re both so happy,” she continued, closing her eyes and trying to suppress the tremble that was overtaking her voice. “Eventide hasn’t been so happy in a long time. He’s finally doing something with himself, and he’s doing a wonderful job raising Beebee… he loves Beebee, and I love Beebee, too…”

Kite shifted uneasily on his haunches, tilting his head again as Fluttershy went on.

“I…” Fluttershy curled her knees up to her chest and hugged them tightly, her hair falling in front of her face like a curtain to hide her from the world. “But… we’re not his real parents. What if they’re a mom and a dad who lost their child before he even hatched…? Maybe they abandoned him here, but what if they didn’t? What if he was stolen? What if he was lost and they tried to find him?”

Her lip began to tremble along with her voice, and tears were forming in her eyes. “If they lost him, then…”

And then, a quiet sob tore itself out of Fluttershy. “Then if Beebee stays with Eventide… then that means that his real parents might be grieving on the other side of the portal, missing their child, not knowing if he’s okay… thinking they lost him forever…” she buried her face in her knees and began to openly cry.

“But if Beebee e-ever goes back, then Eventide w-will lose h-his s-son… Beebee will lose his daddy, and…” she couldn’t keep going and, in a very rare act of frustration, slammed the back of her fist down into the floor, her cries growing louder.

After almost a minute, she calmed down enough to speak through her tears, even if only barely. “W-what am I supposed t-to d-do…? No matter what I do, someone loses their family… s-someone loses their child… and it’s going to be m-my f-fault...” another sob coursed through her, and she didn’t even notice that the entire dog enclosure had gone silent, all of the animals hearing her distress and going quiet.

She’d been holding this in ever since she figured out where Beebee came from several months ago. It had been manageable back then, due in large part to the portal being closed for long stretches of time. Even if Sunset had discovered Beebee, they wouldn’t have been able to send him back until the portal opened again, and that was at least two years out.

But that was before the Sirens.

When Sunset had called upon Princess Twilight to fend off the Sirens, she had found a way to open the portal whenever she needed to, using a set of identical journals. One on earth in Sunset’s possession, one in Equestria in Twilight’s. Now they had a direct line of communication with one another, and the portal could open at any time. Now, if Sunset learned about Beebee…

He didn’t belong on Earth. He didn’t become a human like Twilight or Sunset did when they came through, and as such, he would probably never fit in here. Sunset would know this, and she would start pushing to send Beebee back to Equestria.

Fluttershy just couldn’t hold it in anymore. Six months of pent-up stress and pressure was released all at once, in the quiet and isolation of the animal shelter’s dog enclosure, surrounded by animals that did not understand her, but were all willing to try to comfort her all the same. A fact that was brought to light when, with a small whine, Kite walked up to Fluttershy and gently prodded his nose into her shin to get her attention.

With her crying tapering off for a minute, she lifted her head to look at him, tears still in her eyes. He looked back up at her, walked closer and stood up on his hind legs to paw at her arm, whining again.

She got the message.

Without a word, Fluttershy scooped Kite up into her arms and held him tight against her chest, feeling his warmth seep into her and ease her discomfort. She felt him nuzzling into her and trying to offer a few reassuring licks, a gesture for which she was grateful.

They stayed like that for a little while, with Fluttershy crying out her stress and holding the puppy, while all of the other animals listened, wishing to offer some help to their favorite volunteer, but being unable to do so from within the confines of their pens. After an indeterminate amount of time passed, though, the moment had to end. Somewhere, a door opened, and the voice of the Director, Bounding Fox, echoed out. “Fluttershy, are you still working in here?!”

With an alarmed squeak, Fluttershy quickly set Kite down and got back to her feet, dusting herself off as she went. “I’m h-here!” she called back, trying and failing to subdue the emotional tremor that was still in her voice. She stepped out of the kennel just in time to see Fox approaching her at a brisk walk, eyes going wide in surprise.

“Woah… Fluttershy, are you okay?” she asked in a ginger voice, reaching out and putting a hand on Fluttershy’s shoulder.

“I’m fine,” Fluttershy lied with a nod and a forced smile. “Just, uh… just had to let some stress out. I’m sorry, I’ll get back to-”

Fox held up a finger to cut her off and shook her head. “Fluttershy… I was being rhetorical. I thought I heard crying, and, well…” she gestured vaguely at Fluttershy’s face. “I see the tear lines… Do you need to go home?” her voice was so gentle and caring, Fluttershy couldn’t help but relax under it just a little.

Still, she had to protest. “No,” she said quickly while shaking her head. “No, I’m okay now. I can keep working.”

Fox eyed her carefully. “Are you sure about that?” she asked slowly, her eyes analyzing every bit of Fluttershy’s response. “Because if you need to head home, or even just take a little break to calm down and pull yourself together, maybe get some water or a snack, you are more than welcome to.”

Fluttershy tried to take a deep breath to calm herself, but a small half-sob slipped out of her nonetheless, causing Fox to frown. Fluttershy had to concede the point and hung her head. “Okay… a break sounds fine…” she mumbled guiltily. “I’m sorry…”

“Hey, it’s okay. Don’t worry about it,” Fox assured her gently while draping an arm over Fluttershy’s shoulders. With a light tug, she quietly ushering the quivering teenager out of the dog enclosure. “We all have off days…”

As they left, Fluttershy glanced over her shoulder at Kite’s pen, and she saw the puppy standing with his front paws against the chain-link door, watching her go with a disappointed look on his face.

They rounded a corner, and Kite disappeared from view.

Chapter 28: The Last Day

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Three Weeks Later…

Well, this was it. Eventide’s last day at the Ginger Mart.

A week after Beebee had questioned him about his parents, Eventide had gotten a call from the Office for Everfree National Park letting him know that he had been hired, and would be slated to start work in just over two weeks. As such, he had gone in the following day and put in his two weeks notice with Austere. Word spread pretty quickly among his co-workers that he was on his way out, and many of them, especially Clean Sweep, were both sad and happy to know he was leaving soon.

Eventide supposed he couldn’t blame them for feeling that way. He had been working here for years, now, and many of these people thought of him as a friend, if perhaps a somewhat aloof one. Really, though, the only one he really shared that sentiment with was Clean Sweep, and that was largely because that man just could not keep his nose out of other people’s stuff. Eventide had lost count of how many times Sweep had tried to probe him for information. It was an aggravating trait, to be sure, but in a way, Eventide found it endearing.

“He was just trying to look out for me. And he also made me question how I was doing things,” he thought to himself on his last day behind one of the check-out counters, taking advantage of a lull in business to think back on everything that had happened in his time there. “I may not talk to him much, but I do gotta give Sweep credit where it’s due… he kept poking me, kept me thinking. I kinda owe him… I probably wouldn’t be going to this new job if he hadn’t pressed me on the issue…”

A few lanes ahead, Clean Sweep glanced back at Eventide while bagging a customer’s groceries, a small smile on his face. Eventide smiled and nodded back, then stood upright and repeated his memorized greeting as a customer came up with bags in tow.

Finally, the clock high on the wall ticked down, and the lunch break came. Eventide stepped away from the counter and made his way back for the very lunchroom he had used more or less since he started working here. He passed a couple of customers on the way, and even another coworker or two, but he paid them little mind. He was tired and eager to get back to work so he could go home and celebrate with Beebee and Fluttershy, who had the day off.

His brow furrowed for a second at the thought of the timid girl, causing his pace to slow down. She’d been babysitting for Beebee as much as normal, and acted as happy and casual as normal, but there was something… off about her lately. She seemed a lot more tired than usual, and she kept zoning out during breaks in the conversation.

Now, that might have been easy enough to ignore, but not when Beebee frequently gave her worried, even sad glances. Obviously, he could sense something neither of them could, but was choosing not to say anything. Maybe Eventide should ask him about it at some point...

That entire train of thought was brought to a crashing halt when Eventide stepped into the lunch room to find it… shockingly dark. He frowned in confusion and glanced up at the bulb on the ceiling, which was totally dark and unlit. Odd… either it had burned out or-

Click.

“SURPRISE!”

Or that was about to happen.

Eventide let out a startled yelp as the light turned on without any warning, and he was greeted to the sight of many of his coworkers, including Austere and Clean Sweep, standing there in the small lunch room. The tables had been rearranged so there was some standing room in the center of the room, and there were numerous plates of food and even a few wrapped gifts on each one. There was also some fresh confetti lying around, which Austere looked barely tolerant of.

Quite taken aback by this unexpected sight, Eventide shook his head to clear the spots that were dancing in his eyes. “Uh… hi?” he responded awkwardly to the loud shout and odd sight.

Austere raised a quizzical eyebrow. “Kind of a funny response to a going away potluck, don’t you think?” she asked in a flat tone.

Eventide made an ‘o’ with his mouth as the realization crashed down on him like a falling Jenga tower. He then let out a weak chuckle and slapped a hand to his forehead in exasperation. “Oh, that’s what this is?! Ha, see, I thought you guys thought it was my birthday or something. That’s next month,” he laughed before stepping into the room and looking at it all. “But wow… all this… for me?”

Clean Sweep strolled over and punched him light-heartedly on the shoulder. “Well, yeah! You’re our friend and one of the best workers here. We’re sad to see you go, man!”

Another of the people in the room, a young woman with vibrant purple hair and bright pink skin named Sweetroll Burst, nodded along. “Mhmm. Sad to see you go, but happy you’re moving up to bigger, better things.”

Austere’s face got a small smile. “For the record, none of this was my idea, but Clean Sweep and Sweetroll here conspired to make it happen, whether I like it or not,” she said in a faux overwhelmed voice. She then shook her head and nodded at one of the tables. “Anyways, lunch is only half an hour, so we’d best hop to it. What do you say?”

Eventide looked around at it all again, his mind finally processing and registering exactly what it was he was looking at, and what exactly it meant. It finally hit him. This was his last day working with these people. He’d known that previously, sure, but it hadn’t really hit him until just then. He was leaving, and they were seeing him off with a party.

What else was he supposed to do?

With a big grin forming on his face, he gave a sharp and eager nod. “Thank you all very much, that’s what I say! Let’s see what we’ve got!”

“Gifts first!” Sweetroll insisted, shoving a box at Eventide with a happy grin. “I wrapped them myself.”

“She’s not lying,” Clean Sweep added with a smile. “I tried to wrap mine, but it came out looking like, uh…”

“Like you mangled a gerbil and tried to hide the body in wrapping paper,” Austere suggested with a predatory look at Sweep, making him chuckle nervously and look away.

Eventide just laughed at their banter, took the package and looked it over. The tag said that it was from Clean Sweep, coincidentally. It wasn’t a very big box, but it was surprisingly heavy. Curious as to what could be inside, Eventide tore away the packaging paper, revealing the gift piece by piece. His eyes flew wide, and his jaw fell open once all the paper was removed and the box was fully unveiled.

It was a camera. Not a professional photographer camera by any means, but as far as family cameras go, it was about as high quality and expensive as one could get. It came with a few extra lenses, a rotating preview screen, a hand strap, a wide range of settings and filters, and a built-in photo printer. Eventide looked it over for a moment, taken aback. “Woah…”

Clean Sweep came up behind Eventide and glanced over his shoulder at the camera with a big grin. “I remember you buying a lot of kids books and a bunch of toys a few months back. Kinda made me think of my own childhood, and how much I miss it. So, I figured that maybe you’d like to have some way to save your favorite memories without having to use your phone,” he explained happily.

Eventide turned to look at Clean Sweep with wide eyes, then back down at the camera box. “Wow… uh…” he mumbled, trying to get his thoughts in order. He hadn’t really thought about taking pictures much, before. He only had a few photos on his phone, and they were from long before Beebee sprang into his life. But now that he thought about it… now that he held a dedicated, high-quality camera in his hands… a big smile appeared on his face, and he looked over at Clean Sweep. “Thank you very much, Sweep. I really, really appreciate it.”

Sweep just nodded and stepped back. “I thought you might.”

Eventide looked back down at the camera, his thoughts wandering back to his home, and to his son. He traced a thumb over the image of the camera on the box, his smile turning a touch more sentimental. “And I already know what my first picture is gonna be…”

“Mine next,” Sweetroll suddenly chimed in, knocking Eventide back into the here and now. She grinned and picked up another package, this one more flat and square-shaped before handing it to Eventide. As before, he took it, looked it over, and tore away the paper. Again, his eyes widened when he saw what it was.

It was a photo album, and a pretty thick one at that. It had a very nice, rich brown cover that was made of a material to emulate leather, with an intricate and abstract repeating pattern forming a circle in the center, where there was an empty slot for a cover photo, just waiting to be filled.

“I got it to go with Sweep’s gift,” Sweetroll stated before Eventide could ask, leaning over and smiling at him. “A camera with a printer doesn’t do much good if you don’t have anywhere to put the prints, right?”

Eventide gave a laugh and nod. “I guess you’ve got a point. Thank you, Sweetroll,” he said cheerfully. He let out a grunt of surprise when she suddenly lunged at him and hugged him, but didn’t object to the contact. He stood there for a moment before awkwardly returning the gesture. It was short-lived, and she quickly backed off to let a few of the other coworkers bring their stuff forward.


The remaining presents were all great in their own right, but none of them really seemed to stick in Eventide’s memory like the camera and photo album did. It didn’t take long for all of them to be passed into Eventide’s possession and loaded into bags for his trip home. After that, it was on to the food. Everyone had brought some pretty good food, and they all insisted that Eventide take the leftovers home with him. As aware of his financial situation as they were, they said it was the least they could do to help him along.

However, sadly, the lunch break had to end eventually, even if it took a solid twenty minutes longer than normal. Everyone soon scattered back out into the building, many of them saying preemptive goodbyes then in case they weren’t able to be there when he walked out the door. Eventide returned to his shift, but he found it hard to really feel the weight of his work anymore. There was a very clear spring in his step and a happy energy in his movements as he worked, and it went unnoticed by nobody.

It was as clear as day.

Eventide was happy. Happier than any of them had ever seen before. He was moving up in the world, on to a better job, and he was walking away from this one with a very fond farewell, with tools to aid him and remind him of where he started. They could all sense there was more to it than that, of course. But none of them knew what it was, and none of them were willing to pry. As far as they were concerned, it made Eventide happy and gave him the drive he needed to move on.

The end of the day couldn’t come soon enough, but it almost came too quickly. Before Eventide knew it, he was clocking out and heading out the door, presents and boxed leftovers swinging in bags at his sides.

To his surprise, he found Austere and Clean Sweep waiting for him just outside the store, talking quietly amongst themselves. Confused, Eventide approached, and they both raised their eyes to look up at him. Austere nodded slowly and spoke first. “So, you’re heading out?” she asked slowly.

“Yeah, just ended my shift,” Eventide replied, glancing down at his bags.

Clean Sweep nodded slowly, a somewhat solemn look on his face. “We’re gonna miss you here, buddy. Pop in and say hi sometimes, would ya?”

Eventide chuckled and hefted his bags a bit. “I mean, I gotta get my food somewhere. This place seems as good a spot as any to go,” he stated before glancing up at the sky. The sun was going down, and there were storm clouds starting to roll in. His brow furrowed somewhat in concern. They looked like they would be putting down some heavy rain later...

Clean Sweep’s voice cut through the quiet. “Want a lift? It’s gonna rain in a while, and we don’t want any of your stuff to get drenched or anything.”

Eventide blinked and looked back down at Sweep. “Uh, sure, if it isn’t too much trouble,” he said hesitantly, not quite meeting Sweep’s gaze.

“Too much trouble? Pfah!” Sweep dismissed the notion with a wave of his hand. “It’s no big deal. It’ll be my last gift to you, how’s that sound?”

That sentiment struck a chord, and Eventide gave a large smile and a nod. “Well, if you insist… I won’t say no,” he said happily before looking over at Austere. She was being rather quiet, watching the two interact with an odd look on her face. It was as if she was uncomfortable with the entire situation, and the way she was shifting back and forth on her heels only added to that impression. Eventide frowned and cleared his throat. “Uh… boss?”

“I’m not your boss anymore,” Austere quickly replied with a flat look. “I’m just Austere to you, now.”

“Right, sorry,” Eventide apologized before his expression softened. “You just seem kinda… distant.”

Austere shrugged and looked away, finding a nearby lamp post to be very interesting. “Look, Clean Sweep made me come out here, alright? I figured it’s the least I could do. I’m just not good at all of this sentimental garbage. It makes me feel weird.”

Clean Sweep laughed out loud, walked over and gave his boss a playful punch on the shoulder. She shot him a hard glare, and he immediately regretted his decision.

Eventide gave one more laugh before shaking his head at their antics and nodding. “Well, I think it’s time to go…”

Austere turned her venomous glare from Sweep and gave Eventide a more even expression. She nodded and smiled softly. “Right. Take care of yourself, Eventide. And take good care of your pets.”

“I plan to,” Eventide acknowledged before stepping past Austere to fall into step next to Clean Sweep. “I’ll see you around, Austere.”

“See you,” Austere called after him as he walked away, leaving the Ginger Mart behind as he moved on to the next part of his life.


It was surprisingly dark when Eventide walked back into his house a short time later. The clouds had now blotted out the sun, plunging the world into a rapidly worsening darkness, and he had felt one or two drops on his cheek as he had crossed his yard. There was only the hallway light on, while everything else was off. Buddha could be seen ahead, lifting her head from the floor where she had apparently been taking a nap. Her expression brightened upon seeing him, and she slowly rose to her paws to shuffle over.

Eventide would have greeted her vocally, but the sight to his immediate left made him be quiet as he gave Buddha scritches behind the ears. Sitting in his chair with a sleepy smile on her face was Fluttershy, looking back at him. The thing that drew Eventide’s attention more than her was the small bug that was curled up in her lap, sound asleep, his chest rising and falling with each rhythmic breath he took.

Eventide finished greeting Buddha and set down his bags by the door before quietly walking over to the chair. “Hey,” he said in a quiet whisper. “How have things been here?”

“Good,” Fluttershy replied in a similarly hushed tone, lightly patting the back of Beebee’s head with one hand as she spoke. “Beebee fell asleep a little while ago after playing with Buddha. I’ve been trying to let him sleep, and...” an adorable yawn slipped out of her, interrupting her sentence and putting a small red tint on her cheeks. “Um… I might have fallen asleep, too.”

“That explains the lights being out,” Eventide mused before getting down onto one knee and adding his hand to Beebee as well. His face lit up with a subdued smile. “Hey, Bee… I get to go to my new job, soon. It won’t be a whole lot longer before we can move somewhere you can be safe…” he whispered, careful to not disturb the slumbering bug.

Beebee stirred and made a few incomprehensible murmurs before his little hooves reached out and groggily grabbed onto Fluttershy’s hand. He tugged it down against his belly and held it there, a quiet chitter of content coming out of him before he fell still again.

“And what about you?” Fluttershy asked quietly, tearing her attention away from Beebee to look at Eventide. “How was your last day?”

“It was good,” Eventide said while standing and heading back over to his bags. “They threw a big potluck party for me. There’s a bunch of leftover food and some gifts in here,” he said while withdrawing the camera and photo album specifically. As quietly as he could, he opened the camera box and pulled out the device itself.

Fluttershy smiled and held as still as possible as Eventide walked over, already knowing what was about to happen. He knelt down and, after fiddling with the camera for a few moments, figured out how it worked.

With a happy look on his face, he pointed it at his son, sleeping soundly in his best friend’s lap, and took the first picture.

Chapter 29: The First Day

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Two Days Later.

Eventide stared out the window of the bus as it rolled down the road, watching the scenery pass him by. The vehicle had long left the city limits behind, and was now quite a ways out into the countryside. The rolling hills beyond the window were lush and green, hosting an enormous forest of gorgeous evergreen trees. The sun hung overhead in the clear sky, casting it’s bright light on everything and making it all look so alive.

There weren’t many other people on the bus that day, giving Eventide plenty of space for himself to think and get his nerves in order. It was his first day at a new job, one he had no experience with, so he was already a little jittery. To make matters worse, Fluttershy was unable to babysit Beebee due to school. She had promised to go and check on him during her lunch break to make sure all was well, but beyond that, her time was bound.

He’d never been this far away from Beebee before, and it was making him more than a little anxious. If something bad happened, if something went wrong, then his options for getting back to his son were extremely limited. Several scenarios ran through his head at a rapid pace, including the very distinct possibility that Beebee might be seen again.

Eventide started and shook his head as the bus hit a small bump as it turned down another path. Just through the window, he saw a brown sign that read ‘Welcome to Everfree National Park!’ in inviting green letters. A few seconds later, he could already see some waist-high wooden fences deterring people from aimlessly wandering where they weren’t allowed.

The bus driver, a gray-haired man with a kind smile and fabulous glasses, glanced over his shoulder for a moment, then plucked a hand-held microphone from the console. When he spoke into it, his voice was carried over a series of speakers, reaching the ears of everyone aboard with perfect clarity. “We are now arriving at Everfree National Park. Again, that’s Everfree National Park. If this is your stop, please get ready to depart.”

Eventide sat up and made one last check of everything he had with him. He had a backpack, in which was his lunch for the day, his cell phone set to silent, his new camera, his first photo of Beebee, and a plastic water bottle. Satisfied that he had everything he needed, he hefted the backpack onto his shoulders and stood up just as the bus came to a final stop. There was a mechanical hiss from the front of the vehicle before the doors swung open, allowing the sounds of nature to rush inside.

Eventide took a deep breath to steady himself, and then stepped for the front entrance, giving the driver a grateful smile as he passed. “Thanks,” he said, to which the old man smiled.

“You’re very welcome.”

As soon as Eventide’s feet crunched down onto the gravel parking lot, the bus door swung closed behind him. Once Eventide was a few steps away, the bus then went back into motion. Eventide watched as it turned around and drove away down the road before vanishing out of sight amidst the trees.

No turning back now.

With that feeling of trepidation starting to swell in his chest all over again, Eventide took a minute to analyze his surroundings.

The parking lot and adjacent office buildings were situated in the middle of a particularly dense patch of trees, with the sounds of birds singing their songs echoing all around him. The parking lot itself was fairly large and gravel based, with several vehicles and even a few families either coming or going from the trail or nearby constructs. Eventide followed one family with his eyes as they made their way for the buildings, and took note of each one.

Front and center was a hybridization of a gift shop, information center, and central HQ. A large and friendly sign could be seen hanging in front of a neat concrete path that led to the doors. The path split off into three directions underneath the sign; one leading to a public restroom on the right, one to the information center, and the last to a short dirt road with signs and displays along the way, each one going into more detail about some aspect of the park, its history and its wildlife.

Eventide’s eyes eventually settled on the Information Center. That was where he needed to be. He spent a moment to adjust his backpack before he began to walk forwards.

Stepping inside revealed that the front lobby was colored in a very nature-themed palette of lush greens and rich browns, with the lights hanging overhead providing an orange glow reminiscent of a sunrise. Off to his left was the gift shop, where a young woman stood behind the glass display case, watching with a charmed expression as a bunch of kids marveled at the knick-knacks and mementos contained within.

Meanwhile, to Eventide’s right, there were a few more informational signs, a customer service desk, and a hallway for employees only. It was down there that he would find his new boss, who was supposed to be waiting for him to show up to begin his first day of training. With a nod to himself, he set off down the hallway at a brisk pace. The sounds of the people in the lobby faded away the further he went, and an unsettling quiet fell over him.

Still, he pushed on. Thankfully, the friendly and earthy colors were never swapped for anything else, helping to put his mind at ease. In short order, he found the room he was looking for and sized it up. He could hear some muffled discussion back and forth inside. There were at least three voices, and he recognized one of them as the man who had interviewed him. With one last deep breath, Eventide nodded to himself and knocked on the door. The conversation inside abruptly came to a halt, and a few moments later, the door swung open.

On the other side was a tall and well-built man, looking to be in his late thirties. He had bright yellow hair, ocean blue eyes, and dark brown skin. His chin was covered in a well-trimmed beard that matched the color of his hair. He looked Eventide over for a moment, then gave him a big grin. “Well hello there!” he proclaimed in a booming voice that just screamed friendliness and goodwill before looking over his shoulder into the room. “I think the new guy’s here!” he declared before stepping aside. Eventide took that as his cue to enter, doing so without a word.

The room he stepped into was a sizable one, with a few whiteboards, filing cabinets, and maps neatly positioned on the walls. In the center of the floor was an oval-shaped folding table, covered with maps of the park and surrounding countryside in various formats, from topographic to photographic. Scattered among those maps was a series of professional-looking documents, presumably pertaining to recent reports of places along the trail that demanded the attention of the maintenance crews or rangers.

There were three other people in the room, besides Eventide and the man who had opened the door, and he took a moment to look at each one. The first one to catch his attention was his new boss, a man named Pathfinder. He had dark blue skin and green eyes. His hair was short and evenly distributed between stripes of dark purple and silver. Standing to Pathfinder’s left was a woman who was shorter than Eventide by an inch or so. She had peach-colored skin, vibrant golden eyes and long magenta hair, tied into a ponytail behind her head. Lastly, across the table from them was another man with dull yellow skin and a slightly brighter yellow head of hair that was similarly tied back. His eyes were a dark shade of amber.

Pathfinder smiled and spoke up. “Ah, Eventide, there you are! We were just talking about you. Come in, come in!” he greeted happily, stepping out from behind the table with his arms spread in welcome.

“Hi. I’m not late, am I?” Eventide asked with a hint of nervousness as he shut the door behind him, looking at all of the new faces. A small bubble of unease was forming in the pit of his gut from all of the attention that was now squarely on him, and try as he might, he couldn’t quite shove it down.

“Not at all. In fact, I’d say you’re a little early,” the tall brown-skinned man proclaimed with a happy grin before holding out a hand. “I’m Lumberjack, by the way. A pleasure.”

Eventide took Lumberjack’s hand and gave it a small shake, a smile on his face. “Oh, uh, hi Lumberjack. I’m Eventide Oath. Nice to meet you, too.”

The woman walked over as well, a big grin on her face and a bounce in her step. “Hi, there! I’m Fresia Leaf!” she declared before grabbing Eventide’s free hand and shaking it wildly, tearing an alarmed yelp out of him. “It’s so nice to meet you! Pathfinder said you have a lot of potential!”

Pathfinder frowned at the display. “Fresia, come on, ease up on the new guy,” he admonished plainly, causing Fresia to back off with a sheepish grin, leaving Eventide a little bewildered.

“Oh, sorry. I’m just excited. We haven’t had a new guy on the team since Hawk joined,” Fresia apologized before pointing at the last guy in the room. “That’s Faded Hawk, by the way.”

Hawk gave a slow nod and a simple wave. “Hello,” he stated.

Eventide nodded slowly and returned the wave. “Er, hi…” he mumbled, his voice sounding significantly more awkward.

Satisfied, Pathfinder nodded. “Okay, Eventide, we’ve got a few more minutes before we’re supposed to head out, so before we go, do you have any questions? Concerns? Anything we as a team should know?” he asked, crossing his arms over his chest.

Eventide looked at each of them one more time, soaking in his new coworkers for a moment. When his gaze finally settled on Pathfinder, his expression hardened somewhat with conviction. “Only one: What’s the plan?”

Pathfinder gave a pleased smile and short chuckle. “Right to the point eh? Good, I like it,” he said before nodding back towards the table and making his way over. “It’s your first day, so the plan is pretty simple. We have a few spots on the trail that need to be cleared up more than the rest. We’re still dealing with water runoff from the rain a couple days ago, you see. We’ve got a few water bars and rock ditches that need to be tidied, and we need to check on the culverts to make sure they aren’t clogged or anything.”

“A culvert is basically a small water drainage pipe,” Lumberjack chimed in, following Eventide and Pathfinder over to the map.

“Okay…” Eventide nodded along, paying close attention.

Pathfinder pointed to a few points on the trail. “Here, here, and here. For the first two spots, I want you to just watch, listen, ask questions, and learn, Eventide,” he said intensely, flicking his eyes up to the new employee. “This is hard work, and we use a lot of heavy tools and deal with heavy items, like trees and big rocks. We don’t want you to hurt yourself because you didn’t have a good, clear idea of what you were doing.”

“We’re going to have to tidy up the trail corridor while we’re doing this,” Hawk added with a slow nod. “Water coming down from the mountains probably put a bunch of debris on the trail. We also had some heavy winds out here last night, so that probably made things even worse.”

Pathfinder pointed at him with a nod. “Right, good point. We’ll tackle that as we come to it, but I don’t think it’ll be too big of a hassle for now. Right now our main priority is dealing with the water situation. Outside of that, though, it’ll be a pretty mundane hike, I think.”

“Alright. When do we get started?” Eventide asked eagerly, hefting his backpack a bit.

Pathfinder looked up at him. “Eager to get started? Alright, I guess we can head out sooner rather than later. We’ll get your uniform sorted, and then we can hit the trail,” he said before turning his attention to Hawk. “Hawk, you and Lumberjack go and get the tools. Fresia, go get the truck ready.”

“You got it!” Fresia gave a playful salute before heading out the door at a brisk jog, while Lumberjack and Hawk left at a more moderate pace. The former gave Eventide a friendly smile and wave before they disappeared from sight, leaving Eventide and Pathfinder on their own in that room. Eventide watched them go, then turned back to Pathfinder as he straightened up. He gestured for Eventide to follow him, and the two stepped out through a door at the back of the room that led out into another hallway.

After a short time of walking, Pathfinder glanced over his shoulder at Eventide and gave him a warm, reassuring smile. “You nervous, Eventide?” he asked gently.

Eventide started at the question. After a moment, though, he offered a slow nod. “I guess you could say that. First new job in a few years, and I’ve only ever worked in retail. This is kind of a leap for me.”

“Well, don’t worry,” Pathfinder said as they turned into a somewhat smaller room. Against the left wall was a long clothes rack with several duplicates of the same uniform in varying sizes, for both male and female body types. “Like I said, it’s hard work. But it is also really rewarding, and we get to be out in nature a lot. If you stick with it, I’m sure you’ll do fine.”

“Well, here’s to hoping,” Eventide replied with a small chuckle, nodding his appreciation before turning to the clothes rack.

Pathfinder shuffled around him to slip back out into the hall, giving him one more look of encouragement. “Go ahead and find one that fits, then meet us out back. Just follow this hall and take the exit,” he instructed before turning and walking away, his footsteps becoming distant before fading altogether as the door swung closed, leaving Eventide all alone in the quiet of the dressing room.

Several seconds passed where his nerves once again crept up on him. Eventide took a deep breath to stave them off, then set his backpack down on the floor with a heavy thunk. He then turned and made his way over to the rack, examining each uniform and searching for one that fit.

All the while, his nerves continued to eat at him. “Alright, Eventide, you can do this…” he mumbled to himself in a clearly anxious voice while reaching out for the first uniform he saw that looked to be the right size. “New job. New people. New location. It’s scary, yeah, really scary. I mean, what if you let them down, right? What if you come up short, or screw something up? What if this is a bad idea? What if…”

He abruptly slapped himself across the face to stop his rambling and shook himself. “Stop that, Eventide! Yes, it’s scary, but that is no excuse! You…” he looked down at the ground and took a deep, calming breath. “You’ve got a son and a dog to take care of… if nothing else, you can’t let them down...”

He closed his eyes for a moment to picture Beebee and Buddha sitting side by side in their home, staring at him with big, happy eyes and encouraging grins. A small smile graced his lips at the mental image, and he felt his anxiety decrease to manageable levels. “You’ve come this far already. You’re not going to back down now...” He then opened his eyes and took his new uniform.

Chapter 30: Green Light

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Earlier that day…

“Where is your new job?” Beebee asked Eventide with a tilt of his head, hovering next to the young man’s shoulder. It was morning, and Eventide was getting ready to depart for his new job. Presently, he was stuffing things into a backpack.

“It’s a ways out of town,” He responded while placing a water bottle into the backpack alongside a sandwich wrapped in plastic wrap. “I’m going to have to take the bus, and it’s not the shortest drive in the world. So, I’m going to be gone longer than I would at my old job,” Eventide finished before stuffing one last thing, the photo of Beebee resting in Fluttershy’s lap, into the backpack, so it was right next to the new camera.

“Oh…” Beebee’s ears drooped at the news, but he quickly perked back up as an idea came to him. “So, does that mean that Aunt Fluttershy is coming over to babysit?” he asked hopefully, his eyes lighting up at the prospect.

Eventide sighed and gave a slow shake of his head. “Sorry, Bee, but no. She’s got school today, and then she has a few assignments she has to work on and get done. Her grades have been dropping lately, so she needs to focus on that…” he explained before zipping the backpack closed. “She’ll come in and check on you during lunch, but other than that…”

Again, Beebee’s ears drooped. He drifted forward a few inches and put one of his hooves on Eventide’s shoulder. “Dada… does that mean I’m gonna be alone in the house again?” he asked in an anxious voice.

“You won’t be alone,” Eventide said gently while standing up and taking Beebee’s hoof in his hands. “Buddha’s gonna be right here with you the entire time.”

“Okay, but… we’ll be alone. And the last time we were alone, Apple Bloom saw me…”

Eventide frowned in understanding, and he gave a slow nod. “Yeah, I understand… I’ll close up the blinds when I go. Stay away from the windows, and if you think someone you don’t know is getting too close, then go down to your room and stay there until either Fluttershy, or I gets here.”

Beebee nodded reluctantly. “Okay…” he mumbled, still clearly very anxious.

Eventide gave him a reassuring smile, then reached out with his free arm and pulled Beebee close against his chest in a warm embrace. Beebee eagerly returned the hug, happily drinking in all of the love that Eventide was radiating. After a minute or two, though, Eventide pulled back and withdrew his phone from his pocket.

He cringed in dismay when the screen blinked on. “Oh, that’s… uh,” turning the screen off, he shoved the phone back into his pocket and picked up the backpack. “I gotta go, or I’m gonna miss the bus. Behave yourself, be nice to Buddha and stay safe, alright Beebee?” he said in a rushed voice while putting his arms through the straps.

Beebee nodded and smiled up at him. “Okay, Dada. I will, I promise!”

Eventide nodded, leaned over and put a quick kiss on Beebee’s forehead. “Alright, I’m off. Later, Bee. I love you,” he said before turning and making his way for the door at a brisk pace.

Beebee waved at him as he went, smiling as wide as he could. “I’ll see you later, Dada! I love you, too!” he called after his father.

Eventide flashed him one more smile before pulling open the door and stepping outside. With an echoing thunk, the door swung closed, leaving Beebee all on his own with Buddha in the house.

He hovered there for a while, his eyes locked on the door. He could just make out Eventide’s footfalls for a moment, before all was silent. Then, with a quiet sigh, he lowered himself back down to the floor. Touching down gently, he lightly scuffed his hoof over the carpet before blowing out a puff of air from between his lips.

He was already bored.


The seconds slowly ticked away, gradually turning into minutes, and eventually into hours. Beebee did his level best to entertain himself in that time, and for a while, at least, he was successful. He found Buddha napping on Eventide’s bed where she did not belong, and so he tackled her in the side. The two had then played for a while, chasing each other around the house and generally roughhousing. They stopped when they bumped into the table, though, as they almost knocked it over.

After that, Beebee had spent a few minutes just wandering around, poking things and exploring some of the more isolated corners of the house. He had been surprised to find a big ball of dust behind the bathroom sink, and had gasped with excitement upon discovering it.

He then spent the next five minutes sneezing, as his gasp had caused the dust to be sucked up into his nose.

Once his nostrils and lungs were sufficiently cleaned of the invader, he went to the living room chair, sat down, and tried to turn on the TV. He knew that the remote was the key to make the magic box work, as he had seen Eventide use it a lot. But, sadly, Beebee had never been shown which button specifically to push. More than that, his hooves were less than ideal for pushing these tiny buttons.

He did eventually get the sucker turned on, but he had no idea what to do from there to change the channel to the one he liked. He must have wasted twenty minutes pushing buttons, looking at weird boxes that inserted themselves over whatever commercial that was, and watching weird bars change size and color every so often. Eventually, he gave up and fiddled with the remote until he successfully turned the TV off.

With his boredom mounting at an exceptionally rapid rate, Beebee let out a long, low groan. “Uuuuuugh… I’m. So. BORED!” he loudly declared to the heavens. When nothing answered him, he turned and made his way over to Buddha, who was currently in the process of nibbling on what little remained of her breakfast from earlier that morning. “Buuuddhaa… I’m booooored,” he whined to the dog, hoping that maybe they could play again.

Buddha glanced at him while licking her chops. The two made eye contact for a minute or two before Buddha went back to her food, leaving Beebee’s hunt for fun unfulfilled. Beebee grumbled to himself before spinning on his hooves and heading down to his room. He had toys down there. He could play with them.

Once he entered his room, he flew up to the roof and pulled the chain that turned on the light. With everything lit, he turned and started scanning the floor for any loose toys he had left strewn about. He let out a happy little gasp when he spotted his favorite ant plushie in the middle of the floor, belly-up. He thought back on the name he had given in, rubbed his hooves together, and shot down.

“Hey, Wuvvy!” he greeted the plushy once his hooves were on the floor. “We’re gonna go on an adventure! You and me!” He grinned widely and lifted the plushie in his hooves. “We’re gonna have so much fun until Dada gets… gets…”

Everything stopped.

Beebee’s eyes became glued onto the floor where Wuvvy had been. Or, rather, glued onto the terrifying creature that had nefariously used the floor under Wuvvy as a hiding place.

It was horrible.

It was terrible.

It looked right back at him, making his heart beat frantically and his blood as cold as the Arctic. Beebee swallowed heavily and drifted back a few inches in the air, a bead of cold sweat forming on his brow. The horror followed him with its many shiny eyes, never looking away, never blinking, and otherwise remaining completely immobile.

Beebee waited with bated breath for the eight-legged monster to do something.

And so it did.

The spider lifted up one of its legs in a gesture that looked vaguely like a wave.

Beebee screamed at the top of his lungs.

Reacting purely out of instinct, Beebee hurled Wuvvy at the spider as hard as he could. Sadly, in his panic, he lost control of his flight. His wings fell out of synch, and he fell to the floor, landing on his rump with a loud ‘oof!’ He shook his head and looked up, spying the spider as it crawled out from under his improvised throwing weapon.

Beebee then began to scoot back on the floor in terror, his eyes wide and his breath coming in heaving gasps. The spider wasn’t fairing much better, as it had just been suddenly assaulted by a flying stuffed animal. It, too, was scuttling away as quickly as its eight spindly little legs would allow it, desperate for escape and safety.

The worst part, is for it, ‘away’ meant heading for the stairs… which Beebee was in the way of.

“Ew, ew, ew, get away!” Beebee shouted at it before his wings buzzed back into life, sending him rocketing up to the pull-chain for the room’s one and only active light. His hooves wrapped around the chain, but he underestimated his momentum. With a click, he accidentally pulled on the chain, and the room went dark.

“No no! Please don’t get dark!” Beebee cried in desperation, trying to yank on the chain again so he could have some light. Sadly, between his outright panic and the rather perturbing lack of fingers on his hooves, he was unable to mimic the actions that had plunged the room into green-tinged darkness.

Wait a tick...

Green?

Beebee went rigid, his eyes going wide in surprise. Something was lighting up his room in a deep green hue… something coming from him. “...Huh?” Beebee wondered, the spider all but forgotten as this new mystery took hold of his thoughts.

There were several seconds of tense, thoughtful silence before he noticed something unusual. There was a tingling sensation on his horn, and there was something inside of him… well, sort of. He didn’t know how to describe it, but… it was like there was a tiny green flame there, in his chest, flickering and waving about in tandem with his heartbeat.

As his fear faded away and his heart rate decreased, the flame sputtered and faded into non-existence, the tingling on his horn ceased, and the green glow in the room faded away into total darkness, save for the much softer blue light afforded by his glowing eyes. Beebee just stayed there for a second, trying to wrap his head around what had happened.

The door to the bedroom suddenly opened, sending light streaming in and eliciting a startled shout from Beebee. His grip on the chain was lost, and he fell back to the floor with a thud and a loud grunt. Dazed, he was only vaguely aware of a familiar pair of gentle hands scooping him up.

Then he saw Fluttershy’s face looking down at him in concern, framed from behind by the light from upstairs. “Oh, dear! Beebee, are you okay? Are you hurt? You just fell from pretty high up,” she asked in concern, one of her hands briefly leaving Beebee to yank on the chain and turn on the lights.

Beebee blinked, then relaxed with a relieved sigh. He snuggled deeper into Fluttershy’s embrace and nodded. “I’m okay,” he said plainly. “Aunt Fluttershy… I’m glad you’re here…”

Fluttershy smiled softly while rocking the little guy back and forth. “I’m happy to see you, too,” she cooed before her smile was replaced with a worried frown. “But what were you doing down here with the lights off? I know your eyes glow, and you have better night vision then we do, but it’s not that much better, is it?” she questioned while carrying Beebee back up the stairs.

Beebee blushed slightly in embarrassment but answered her question all the same. “I didn’t mean to be in the dark. I was bored and wanted to play with Wuvvy, so I went downstairs and picked him up, and there was this really big and ugly spider under him, so I panicked and threw Wuvvy at it, but it crawled at me, and I got scared and flew to the chain thingy to get away, and I pulled it by accident, and it got dark...” he explained in one, long, uninterrupted spiel before sneaking an anxious glance at the floor. “Is he still down there…?”

Fluttershy froze in place mid-step and looked down. A small smile spread on her face, and she nodded. “Aaw, he’s not that big. And he’s actually quite pretty…” she said before gently releasing Beebee, whose wings immediately buzzed into life. He would opt to stay in the air, thank you very much.

Moving smoothly and gently, Fluttershy lowered herself down into a crouching position while extending her palm out in front of the spider, seemingly unphased by it. “Hey there, little guy. You’re not supposed to be inside,” she called in a quiet voice, holding incredibly still.

“Aunt Fluttershy, No!” Beebee weakly protested, reaching out with his hooves as if to stop her, then putting the hooves over his mouth to try and stifle the sound of his nervous chirping and chittering.

His fears were unfounded, though, as the Spider dutifully crawled up onto Fluttershy’s hand and stood still. She rose back to a standing position and turned to show him to Beebee. “See? He’s not so bad,” she began, then paused when she looked up and found that Beebee was on the other side of the room, pressing himself into the corner of the ceiling. “Beebee?”

“Nope! I don’t wanna meet the nice spider, it’s okay!” he said in a jittery voice while shaking his head.

Fluttershy giggled in amusement. “Alright… I just think it’s a little unfair of you to be so scared of him. You are both bugs, aren’t you?” she pointed out in a teasing voice, giving Beebee pause.

“But… eight legs… so many eyes... he looks so creepy…” Beebee protested in a weaker voice. However, despite his reservations, he was slowly coming away from the corner.

“Yes, and you looked like a giant slimy grub when you hatched from your egg,” Fluttershy reminded him with a coy grin. “But we didn’t let how you looked sway our opinion of you. Eventide took you in as his son, and I help him take care of you however I can, even though you’re a bug and we’re not.”

Beebee let out a huff of air as he conceded the point. Slowly and uneasily, he drifted forwards until he was only a foot away from Fluttershy’s hand. He looked down at the spider, who looked back up at him with barely hidden displeasure. The dull red light seeping off of the spider and putting a foul taste in the air added to the message. Beebee swallowed hard and gave a sheepish grin. “Uh… I’m sorry I threw Wuvvy at you…”

The red decreased, if only slightly.

Fluttershy gave a big smile. “See? He’s not so scary.”

Beebee didn’t look convinced, but he nodded all the same. “I guess…”

Fluttershy just giggled and then went back up the stairs, probably to put the spider somewhere outside. Beebee stayed behind in the basement, though, and turned back around to look at his room. His face screwed up as he thought back on that green light that had filled his room, and he found himself growing more and more curious by the second.

He absently reached up to the pull-chain and gave it a quick yank with his mouth, plunging the room back into darkness.

Chapter 31: A Friend Named Magic

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One Week Later…

“Ooooooowwwww…” Eventide groaned long and loud from his place on his bed, haphazardly splayed out on his back and looking up at the ceiling. Beebee wasn’t far away, standing on top of the chest of drawers next to the bed and watching Eventide with an expression of deep sympathy. He would have gone over to him and snuggled with him to try and make him feel better, but hooves and really sore muscles did not mix well, apparently.

Although, thankfully, this was far from the worst case of body ache Eventide had experienced in the last seven days. No, that honor went to the morning following his first day at his new job. He had seemed fine the previous evening, if perhaps worn out and quick to fall asleep. But when he had woken up, it had been something of a disaster.

He had been hesitant to even move, complaining that he was hurting all over. Trail maintenance was a hard job, apparently, and Eventide’s body was not used to the intense workout. Still, he was getting better with each day he spent keeping at it, thank goodness, and this evening was a clear continuation of that trend.

That didn’t make his groans of discomfort any easier on Beebee, though. It was made even worse because he could see the pain that Eventide was feeling. Or, to be more precise, his misery at having to suffer through it. It came off in thick waves of purple, and it filled the air with a sour and bitter taste.

Beebee saw a fresh wave of the unpleasant colors rising off of his father’s body. His face contorted into an uneasy cringe, and he shuffled uneasily on his hooves. “Are you sure I can’t come over there and hug you?”

“I’m sure…” Eventide weakly replied before lowering his gaze to look at his son. He forced a tiny smile to appear on his face in an effort to appease him. “But thanks for the offer, bud. I appreciate it…”

Beebee shuffled back and forth on his hooves again and nodded, spying just the tiniest bit of love drifting up through the clouds of pain. There was no way for him to get to it through the bad stuff, though, and it soon dispersed, lost forever. With a feeling of profound defeat, he turned and lightly hopped down from the dresser to land on the floor. “I think I’m gonna go to my room and play with Wuvvy, Dada.”

“Alright, Bee,” Eventide called from his bed before another uncomfortable moan slipped out of him. “I’ll be here…”

Beebee hesitated by the side of the bed, looking up at the rising purple clouds. His posture sagged, and he shuffled out of the room. He paused once in the hall to look around the house. He spotted Buddha by her food dish, happily scarfing down some dog food that Eventide had left for her when he had gotten home that day. The setting sun outside cast blocks and stripes of reddish-orange light on everything, and the way it reflected off of Buddha’s blond coat was quite eye-catching.

After a minute of just watching Buddha eat, Beebee turned and flew up to the basement door handle to pull it open. Soon, he was descending into his room, his blue eyes illuminating everything. The overhead light was out, but that wasn’t a problem for the little bug. Not this time. He wanted the lights off for what he was up to...

Thanks to his night-vision, he had no problems navigating into the center of the room. He sat down onto his haunches, only idly taking note of an action figure of a knight by his hoof. He took in a deep breath, licked his lips, and then closed his eyes, plunging the room into total darkness.

Several seconds passed in complete and utter silence. Nothing moved, and Beebee barely even dared to breathe. “Come on, little guy…” he thought to himself, trying to relax and clear his head of anything else. “Come on out… I won’t hurt you… I wanna be your friend…”

Almost a minute ticked by, but Beebee remained completely still and completely quiet, shutting out everything else and focusing on the stubby, sharp-pointed horn that stuck out of his head. He knew that was what he had to focus on...

Then, it happened. The green flame slowly began to emerge within him, flickering dimly in his mind. He couldn’t stop himself from smiling as it appeared, in spite of the small pressure he could now feel in his skull from the effort and the intense tingling building up just inside of his horn.

“Hi there…” Beebee thought in as gentle a voice as he could imagine once he felt the spark’s presence grow a bit brighter. “What’s your name?” One of his hooves twitched reflexively at the excitement of finally finding the spark again, after an entire week of trying and failing to get it to reappear as anything more than a brief shimmer behind his eyes.

The flame did not answer, and upon his hoof twitching, it began to retreat and disappear, the static on his horn flaring and then fading away. Beebee screwed his eyes even tighter. “N-no! Wait, I’m sorry! I…” too late. The flame had gone, and the sensation on his horn had entirely faded. Beebee let out an annoyed huff and briefly opened his eyes to sulk at his toy. “Dangit…” he grumbled before kicking the toy with his hoof and sending it rolling a few feet away.

After a few moments, Beebee took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and tried again. For several minutes he sat there, focusing on his horn and the memory of how it had first appeared. That spider scaring him, the green glow that had followed, and how scared he had been in that moment. Eventually, like before, the spark appeared, and his horn tingled. Being extra careful to not move this time, Beebee tried to relax his body and focus entirely on the spark. “Hey… my name’s Beebee. Do you want to be my friend?”

The spark rippled at the thought, as if enticed, but it did not answer him in any other way. Instead, after several seconds of nothing, Beebee let out a startled gasp as a bead of sweat that had formed on his brow rolled down his forehead and into his right eye, shattering his concentration. All at once, the spark fled and his horn went cold again.

Growling in frustration and with his wings buzzing in furious agitation, Beebee rose to his hooves while rubbing the sweat out of his eye. He’d been so close! He had almost had it! “Gah! Why is it so hard to do this?!” he all but shouted before opening his eyes and driving his hoof into the floor.

What happened next happened so quickly he didn’t have time to process it. Beebee’s eyes narrowed as he growled in frustration, and his horn lit up with a deep, putrid-green light. Now wide-eyed in surprise, he took a step back and gasped as his room was suddenly illuminated. After a moment or two of processing, he let out a yelp as the light fizzled out, a few sparks of emerald light springing off of his horn to drift for the ground.

Beebee cried out as a sharp pain raced through his skull and chest, sending him falling backwards onto the ground in a panting heap. He quickly rolled over onto his hooves, though he kept his belly low to the ground as he watched the green sparks drifting through the air.

They soon came to a rest on his floor, where they sizzled for a second, and then faded into nothingness. Beebee recoiled, and his ears splayed back instinctually as the smell of fresh smoke filled his nostrils only a moment after the sparks disappeared. Finally, after a few seconds, Beebee said all he could think of.

“Ow… that hurt…”

He slowly rose up to a standing position and poked his horn. “Why did you do that, you big meanie?”

The horn and spark within him were both utterly silent, drawing an indignant pout out of Beebee. Still, after a moment, he sat back down, closed his eyes, and focused. He was going to get this right sooner or later. He focused and tried to remember how that had felt when the light had appeared on his horn, how it had felt when the sparks went flying. A few minutes later, the flame appeared to him again.

“Come on…” he thought more to himself than the spark this time, trying to replicate the feeling from before. After a few moments, the spark grew in size, and the sound of a deep static filled the air. He felt the tingling on his horn, and through his closed eyelids, he could just make out a faint green glow. He didn’t dare open his eyes, though, not yet. “Come onnn…”

Sadly, whatever it was he was trying to do, he just couldn’t. He didn't know how. The spark started to recede and fade away, as did the tingling. Already, Beebee could feel his frustration building up alongside a pounding headache, and he rose to his hooves by instinct. “Oh, come ON!” he growled through clenched teeth, his temper flaring.

Something surged in him, like before, but stronger this time.

Beebee’s eyes went wide, and he let out another gasp as something inside clicked into place. There was a sound like a fire whooshing into existence, a snap of electricity, and then a long, gentle hum. It almost reminded him of wind chimes that he would sometimes hear through the window. But instead of several lovely sounds in rapid succession, this was one long droning note that changed up and down in pitch while distorting with static.

Beebee stood there for several seconds, breathing heavily and letting himself calm down. Moving slowly, he turned his eyes up and towards his horn, and was just able to see the edges of the source of the green light. It pulsed and flickered on his horn in a steady rhythm. The glow was bright enough to light up the entirety of his bedroom, even if only slightly.

Finally, Beebee let out a quiet laugh, the realization dawning on him that the flame inside wasn’t going away this time. It was there. Still, he had to ‘hold it’ there, and he could feel the pain in his head getting more intense as he held it. His breathing was getting heavier, too, and it was becoming difficult to stand. Easing himself down to a lying position, Beebee focused entirely on just maintaining this light, memorizing the feeling of it on his horn.

After a few moments, though, he heard a knock on the door to his room before it swung open, casting the glow of the hallway light down the steps. Stifling a startled gasp, Beebee felt his focus slip, and the light on his horn faded away into nothingness. He glared up at his horn, then turned around, spotting Eventide descending the steps. He still looked like he was quite sore, but he was otherwise more focused on Beebee.

“You okay, Bee? I heard you shouting and gasping over the baby monitor,” Eventide explained once he was at the bottom of the stairs. He winced, then leaned against the support beam.

Beebee nodded and offered Eventide a big grin, despite his shortness of breath. “Yep, I’m… I’m okay!” he chirped out between pants. “Just doing stuff.”

Eventide raised a skeptical eyebrow as he reached the bottom of the steps. “What kinda stuff?” he asked slowly, studying Beebee’s clearly worn out appearance. His expression became more worried than questioning at that point. “And why are you so short of breath? Are you okay? You aren’t exerting yourself, are you?”

Beebee tilted his head, thinking about how best to explain this. “No, I’m not. I’m just… Uh… well…” he rubbed his chin and sat back down on his haunches, finally managing to get his breathing under control. “So… uh… um, lemme show you!” he suddenly blurted energetically. “Close the door and just watch, okay?”

Eventide looked at Beebee for a moment, then chuckled and nodded. “Okay, buddy, sure. Lemme just drag my extremely sore body up the flight of stairs, close a door, then walk back down in total darkness,” he responded with a slight edge of playful sarcasm before turning and dragging himself back up the steps. “Ugh, the things I do to myself for my son…” He grunted a few times as he went, but soon enough the door was closed, and Eventide came back down.

“Perfect! Now, just watch!” Beebee stated before closing his eyes and focusing.

“Bee, I can’t see anything. It’s pitch-”

“Shh! I need to concentrate!” Beebee interrupted him. Thankfully, his father decided to humor him, and fell utterly silent. Beebee took a deep breath and focused on the feeling from a minute ago, trying to replicate it one more time.

His headache came back from the strain, even worse this time, and his facial muscles started twitching with effort. Several beads of sweat formed on his forehead, and he couldn’t suppress a small groan of discomfort. But eventually, it came to him. The spark appeared, and he willed it to his horn. There was a snap and a hiss, and his horn ignited with the vibrant green light.

“Woah!” Eventide shouted in alarm, taking several steps back. “Beebee, what are you doing?! What is that?!”

Beebee opened one of his eyes, the other one refusing to comply due to the effort of maintaining the glow. “W-well, uh, you see…” he didn’t get to say anything else. It was too much. All of the strength left him all at once. The glow on his horn fizzled and died, and he slumped onto his side, gasping and heaving desperately for breath. That was it; he was tapped.

“Beebee!” Eventide shouted in concern, racing forwards through the darkness, guided by his sons glowing eyes. He gingerly scooped Beebee up into his arms and held him close to his beating chest, looking fearfully into his eyes. “Hey, are you okay? Are you hurt!? What’s wrong?!”

“I’m okay…” Beebee weakly mumbled, taking in another gasp of that sweet air he couldn’t seem to get enough of when he got like this. “Just… tired…”

Eventide gave Beebee a gentle squeeze, then made his way over to the bed. He set the bug down on top of the blankets before then heading over and turning on the overhead lights, illuminating the room. That done, he got onto his knees by Beebee’s bed and put a hand on his still heaving chest, offering his son whatever comfort he could.

Several minutes passed with the only sound being Beebee’ heaving gasps and occasional groans from his headache. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, he began to settle down, and the pain subsided. Blinking away the last vestiges of his migraine, Beebee offered Eventide a sheepish smile. “I think I’m okay, now, Dada…”

Eventide nodded slowly and withdrew his hand. “You sure?” he asked in a gentle whisper. “That looked pretty painful…”

Beebee nodded slowly, his smile fading away. “It was…”

“What were you even doing?” Eventide pressed, turning to sit down on the edge of the bed. He gently eased Beebee into his lap, where he then started to pet him on the back of his neck.

Beebee chittered in content at his father’s ministrations before looking up at him. The colors surrounding him made it clear that he was confused, worried, and scared. A guilty look spread over Beebee’s face as he realized what he had done. With sluggish movements, he rose onto his hind legs and buried his face in Eventide’s shirt, clinging to him with his hooves. “I’m sorry if I scared you, Dada. I didn’t mean to,” he apologized in a shaky voice.

Eventide hesitated for a moment, and Beebee relaxed when he saw some of the fear fade from the mixture. After a few moments, Eventide returned the hug, squeezing Beebee close against his chest. “You’re okay, but… I still don’t know what you did,” he whispered, stroking the back of Beebee’s head. “Please, tell me…”

Beebee nodded before peering up into his father’s eyes. They locked gazes for several moments before Beebee spoke up. “I… don’t really know, Dada. There’s this… um…” he leaned back and felt at his chest. “It’s like a fire, but it’s in me. I can feel it, and… if I really focus and concentrate on it, or if I get scared and angry, then it comes out and appears on my horn.”

Eventide’s brow furrowed at the explanation. “Huh… I see… I think,” he mumbled before using a finger to turn Beebee’s head, so they were eye-to-eye again. “How long have you been doing this?”

“Since you started your new job,” Beebee replied honestly, his wings buzzing a little on his back. “It happened for the first time when I got really scared by a big creepy spider. I’ve been trying to make it happen again whenever you leave me alone, and Fluttershy isn’t babysitting.”

“Alright,” Eventide’s expression hardened somewhat, and Beebee saw a shade of red coming off of him that told him he was in mild trouble. Before he had a chance to apologize, though, Eventide continued. “That’s fine, but from now on, if you want to practice this, uh, thing of yours, you make sure you have me or Fluttershy with you, and if we tell you to stop, you stop, do you understand?”

Beebee deflated with disappointment. “But Dada-”

“Nah ah, no buts!” Eventide interrupted him sternly while lifting Beebee up and setting him down on the bed again. He rose from the bed and got onto one knee so he could be on Beebee’s eye level. His expression was firm and left no room for debate. “That looked like it really hurt you, and it sent you into a gasping fit for several minutes. So unless one of us is here to make sure you stay safe, then I don’t want you doing that. It might be dangerous. Do you understand me?”

Beebee flinched back but nodded. “Okay, Dada… I understand… I’m sorry,” he answered in a dejected voice.

Eventide slowly nodded. “Alright… now come here and hug me. Wearing yourself out like that, you must be hungry,” he said, his face suddenly lighting up with a smile while he spread his arms.

Beebee’s own face lit up before he complied, lunging forward and wrapping his forelegs around Eventide’s neck while happily gulping down the love that was starting to fill the air. His moment of guilt was all but forgotten when he felt Eventide returning the hug, and even after he had his fill, the two stayed locked together.

Their hug had to end sooner or later, and it was Eventide who finally decided to back out. He winced and hissed in pain as he did so, reminding Beebee of how sore he was. His hooves flew up to his muzzle while his eyes went wide with guilt. “Oh, no! Dada! I’m sorry-”

“Don’t,” Eventide interrupted him through clenched teeth. “Not your fault, mine. Oof, ow,” he managed to open his eyes before slowly standing up. “Ow… okay, now that that’s settled… I think I’m gonna go back to bed.”

Beebee watched as Eventide turned and dragged himself for the stairs. There was a question on Beebee’s mind, and just as Eventide’s foot fell on the bottom step, he found the words to ask it. “Hey, Dada?” he called, giving his father pause and making him turn to look at him. “Do you know what the fire is? And what the light on my horn is?”

Eventide blinked and tilted his head, his face becoming one of deep and careful consideration. Eventually, though, he smiled and gave Beebee a loving smile. “Well, Beebee… I think there’s only one thing it could be…”

He leaned forward, making eye contact with Beebee once again. “Magic."

Chapter 32: Picturing A New Home

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Three Months Later…

“I believe in you!” Fluttershy cheered Beebee on in her characteristically quiet voice, giving him a small wave from her place on the bottom step of the basement stairs. Beebee nodded back at her, grinning confidently, then looked ahead to focus on his target. They were in the basement with the light on overhead, and Fluttershy watching him practice with a small smile.

They had been at this for a while, now, with Beebee trying to do more with his magic than before. Making it appear on his horn wasn’t really a problem anymore. Where he was having trouble was doing anything with it after that point. Surprisingly, Fluttershy had offered him a few points of advice when she was the one supervising, and more often than not, her advice actually helped.

In fact, their current objective was one which she had suggested. ‘Try to move the action figure with your magic,’ she had told him. Considering her track record so far being pretty good, he was inclined to do as she instructed. And so he focused on the old toy he no longer played with, his forked tongue poking out one side of his mouth.

“Okay… here goes…” he said quietly. With only a small wince of discomfort, his horn lit up with a snap and a hiss. Green magic flared into life along its length, casting a soft glow across the room. Fluttershy’s smile widened, and she had to hold herself back from offering a loud cheer at how easily he could summon it up now.

Beebee winced slightly as he felt the beginnings of a headache, the signs that he was pushing himself to his limit, but he ignored it for now. He wasn’t going to stop until Fluttershy told him to. He pushed all other thoughts and distractions out of his mind, focusing on his target and the energy built upon his horn.

His face lit up with a big grin as he felt something shift in the energy on his horn. It was a strange feeling, of that there was no question. It was as if he was reaching out with his hoof, but it wasn't really his hoof. It was an invisible appendage that could change its size and shape at will. Sadly, the larger he made it and the further out he sent it, the more painful it became. He winced as he tried to send it for the action figure, and he realized he couldn’t reach that far.

His headache flared. He grunted in pain, and the light on his horn sparked and fizzled out at the same time. He stumbled back a few steps and fell to his haunches, slightly short of breath. Fluttershy frowned slightly, tensing as if to stand. “Are you alright? What went wrong?” she questioned softly, observing Beebee’s condition with scrutiny.

Beebee shook himself and looked back at her. “I dunno… I just can’t reach that far. And it’s so hard to concentrate on it when I reach out. It keeps getting more painful the more I do it,” he explained while scuffing a hoof on the floor. “It sucks… I wanna do magic tricks!”

Fluttershy couldn’t help the tiny smile that spread on her face at his choice of words. She then gave a low, thoughtful hum while looking over at the figure. “It’s too far away, huh…?” she mused out loud. With a nod to herself, she rose to her feet and walked over to where the action figure was resting. She picked it up and then set it down right at Beebee’s hooves. “Okay, then try from right next to it,” she suggested with a small smile. “You can work on your reach some other time.”

Beebee looked up at Fluttershy with a grateful nod, then looked down at the knight to try again. Like before, his horn sparked into life easily enough, and he began to reach for the figure. It was still a strain, and a bead of sweat was starting to roll down his neck from the effort, even with such a short range. But he was close enough, now. He felt the figure in exquisite detail, enveloping it with his metaphorical hoof.

He could feel every single lump and bump, every nook and cranny, and even the hollow space inside of it. He could feel how the joints connected, how the accessories attached, how the paint was applied. He could feel the tiny imperfections left in the plastic surface by his hooves after months of hard play. Scratches and dents, erosions and bends. He felt everything.

As it turns out, everything is too much.

He let out a sharp gasp, his horn letting off a few sparks and fizzing out again. This time, he fell onto his back in a heap, on the verge of going into one of his hyperventilation fits. Fluttershy’s face grew concerned, and she quickly kicked the knight aside before kneeling down and tenderly scooping Beebee up into her arms. “Are you okay, Beebee?” she asked in a soft voice, rocking him back and forth.

Beebee took a few seconds to catch his breath, taking comfort in the gentle rocking motion then nodded. “I’m alright…” he said between his pants before groaning in frustration. “I almost had it!”

“You did, but I think that’s enough for today,” Fluttershy advised in the voice she used when there was no room for argument. Granted, it was still a really quiet and gentle voice, but… it was the eyes. Beebee could have sworn she looked right into his soul when she looked at him like that.

“Okay…” He agreed in dejected resignation before being set down on his bed. He slumped down and let the side of his head plop onto his pillow, grunting quietly from the impact. He lay there for a few minutes, letting himself back down some more before looking back up at Fluttershy, who was now sitting on the edge of his bed and looking at him with a loving smile.

“I think you’re making good progress,” she complimented him while gesturing out at the room. “You did make the entire figure light up after all. Right before your horn popped.”

Beebee blinked. “I did?” he asked. He didn’t remember that detail...

Fluttershy nodded, then reached out to give Beebee a few scratches behind the ears, making him coo and chitter. “Yes, you did. You’ve gotten so much better! And you can only keep getting better!”

Beebee smiled appreciatively before Fluttershy withdrew her hand, allowing him to speak again. “I kinda wish I got better faster, though…” he muttered, an edge of disappointment and impatience in his voice.

“Well, you made a mistake, and now we can learn from it. Do you think you can tell me what happened there, if you don’t mind? You know, when your horn popped?”

Beebee nodded slowly. His lips drew back into a thin line as he rolled the sensations around in his head, trying to think of how best to describe it. “Uhm… when I reached out and grabbed the knight, I… I could feel everything about him. It was so much.”

Fluttershy gave a slow nod of her head and another thoughtful him. “Hmmm… maybe you shouldn’t have tried to grab the whole thing, then? If it was too much, maybe you should have just gone for one small corner or something at first.”

Beebee rolled onto his back and looked up at the ceiling. “Maybe…” he mumbled before the two fell into a companionable silence. Fluttershy absently reached into her pocket after a short time and withdrew her phone, looking at something on the screen intently. After a few minutes, Beebee sat up onto his haunches, looking at her curiously. “Aunt Fluttershy? How come you know so much about magic?” he asked, causing Fluttershy to jump in surprise, her phone slipping out of her hand to land in her lap.

Beebee frowned when he noticed a small flicker of fear around her from the question. She relaxed quickly, though, and spoke while reaching down to pick her phone back up. “Oh, I have a few friends who know all about magic. I’ve been asking them questions about it every now and then so I can help you.”

Beebee made an ‘o’ with his mouth and then nodded as a memory came back to him. “Oh yeah! I remember! The girl who turned into a demon! Wasn’t it, uhm… Sunset… Sunset Shammie?”

Fluttershy brought a hand up to her mouth in a desperate and failed attempt to keep in a loud bark of laughter. She rocked back and forth for a few seconds, giddily giggling to herself before shaking her head at Beebee in exasperation. “Oh, no! Not that! Her name is Sunset Shimmer. And yes, she’s, uh… been answering my questions about magic for a while, now.”

Beebee gave a big grin and excited nod. “She must really know a lot!” he surmised in a cheerful tone, his wings buzzing a little on his back.

“I think she knows more about magic than anybody else in the world,” Fluttershy agreed with a little twinkle in her eyes and a knowing smile. “More than anyone else in our circle of friends, anyway.”

Any further chatter between the two was summarily interrupted when the sound of Buddha barking happily from upstairs drew their attention. Beebee got onto his hooves and then lifted into the air with his wings, an ecstatic look on his face. “Dada’s home!” he cheered, preparing to bolt for the stairs.

Fluttershy stopped him, however, reaching out and snagging him right out of the air before he could leave. This earned a severe pout from him to accompany a dejected and high-pitched whine. She gave him a stern look in response. “Now, now, you’re still tired. I’ll carry you,” she said firmly before pulling him closer to her chest. Beebee whined again in protest but otherwise complied.

They ascended the steps, and sure enough, there was Eventide, just returned through the front door. He was dressed in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt that day, and his camera hung around his neck. He knelt down in front of Buddha to give her plenty of happy pets and scratches, a cheery grin on his face. “Hey, girl, you been good while I was away?” he asked playfully.

“Bark!”

“Thought so!” Eventide replied before standing upright and looking down the hall at Fluttershy and Beebee. His face brightened up even more, and both Fluttershy and Beebee were somewhat taken aback by just how energetic he looked. “Hey guys, I’m back!”

“Did it go well?” Fluttershy asked hopefully, stepping out of the hall and into the living room proper.

“You’re really happy,” Beebee noted, his eyes widening when he saw the insane amount of joy and delight radiating off of his father. He leaned forward in Fluttershy’s arms. “Like, really happy. What happened? Where did you go? Did you get another present or something?”

Eventide grinned down at his son, a twinkle in his eyes. “You could say that…” he said leadingly before reaching into his pocket and pulling out a few freshly printed photos, catching everyone’s eyes. He sauntered over and presented the photos to Fluttershy first, who used one hand to take them and look while maintaining her hold on Beebee with the other.

Her eyes widened and began to shimmer with wonder. “Woah… it’s really nice…” she said quietly, her lips curling up into a pleased smile. “Is this the one?”

Eventide nodded, his energy dying down to a more subdued, tranquil joy. “Yeah. They’re going to need a couple months to do some small renovations and patch up a few things, but then we’re good to go. We’re all signed off already.”

Fluttershy’s smile widened exponentially. She started to reach out to hug him, then paused when she remembered she had Beebee in her arms. The bug in question was looking at the two of them with a confused look on his face. He shifted in her arms and leaned up to get a look at the photos. “Dada, what is it? What’s on the pictures?” he asked, not quite able to get a good angle from his current position.

With a small chuckle at Beebee’s eagerness, Eventide took one of the photos back from Fluttershy and lowered it down to Beebee’s eye level. “Check it out, Beebee… this is where we’re going to be moving in a few months,” he said softly, watching as Beebee’s eyes widened and his expression became one of awe.

“Woah…” he said quietly, reaching out to gently take the photo between his hooves. “It’s so… big.

Indeed, compared to their current house, this new one looked to be pretty large. It was a two-story house with a stylistic paneling of rich brown wood with a foundation designed to look like cobblestone. The grass in front of the building was surprisingly long, while a beautiful forest of evergreen trees loomed behind the house. There was a fenced-in yard, too. All in all, it looked warm and inviting.

“Where is it?” Beebee asked after another minute of ogling the photo.

Eventide lightly took the photo back into his hand, moving to exchange it with another one Fluttershy had. “It’s a ways outside of town. I could probably walk to work from there in about thirty minutes if I was quick about it. It’s kind of old and beat up, which is why the rent is so cheap compared to its neighbors. But it’s already loads better than this old place.”

He presented another photo to Beebee, this one of the interior. An empty living room could be seen. Off to one side of the room, Beebee could just make out a door at the edges of the photo. He didn’t get to ask any questions, as Eventide then showed him another one. This one of a basement. “And it even has a basement…” Eventide said in a tantalizing voice. “The basement bug needs a basement, after all.”

Beebee’s eyes widened, and he gave a happy little gasp. With giddiness swelling in his heart. “Woah, that’s so cool! It looks a lot bigger than the basement I have now!”

Eventide nodded and reached down to pat Beebee on the head. He then got down onto one knee to look into his son’s eyes. “But the best part of this new place is… it’s far away from here. It’s far enough away from other people that you won’t have to worry about being seen anymore. That forest behind the house might be a little dangerous sometimes, so I don’t want you going out there on your own or at night, but…”

He took one of Beebee’s hooves into his hand and gave it a firm squeeze. “You won’t have to stay inside anymore. You’ll be able to fly for real…”

Beebee blinked at Eventide, his mind reeling. Eventide was starting to worry that he had gone into a trance or something when the bug suddenly kicked off of Fluttershy’s belly, launching himself at Eventide. He wrapped his forelegs around his father’s neck in a tight hug, his wings buzzing in pure joy. “Thank you so much, Dada! Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!” he all but shouted.

Eventide was just able to keep himself from falling back as the excited bug crashed into him. He let out a loud and happy laugh while gladly returning the embrace. He rose back to a standing position and spun in a few circles, eliciting some delighted laughs from Beebee.

A quiet groan coming from the floor caused them to stop and look down, spotting Fluttershy on the floor with her hands wrapped around her gut. There was a moment of silence, and a guilty look slowly started to spread on Beebee’s face. He looked up at Eventide, his ears drooping. “Dada… I didn’t mean to-”

He fell silent as a new sound reached their ears. It was almost inaudible at first, but it quickly grew in volume. It was Fluttershy… laughing. She rolled over onto her back, struggling to breathe through her delighted giggle and chuckles, her eyes screwed shut. Beebee and Eventide watched her for a moment, confused.

Then Eventide started laughing with her, his hands flying to his gut from the volume and force of it. The joy in the room was contagious, literally, and soon, Beebee was joining them in their uproarious laughter.

Chapter 33: Moving Day

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A Little Over One Month Later…

The last month had been a hectic cyclone of activity that left poor Beebee frazzled and unsure. A few days after Eventide had shown him the photos of their soon-to-be new home, the man had started disappearing for a few hours almost every day, stating that he had been taking driving lessons. This had been a part of the routine until a few days ago.

And now, the time had come for them to pack their things and move out. Eventide had taken Buddha out early that morning and came back without her. He told Beebee that he had put the dog in Fluttershy's care while everything was being moved, to make sure she didn’t feel scared and to ensure she didn’t get in their way.

A short time later, a long white vehicle had pulled up outside of the house. The driver had left the vehicle, and knocked on the door, sending Eventide into immediate action. He had scooped Beebee up, raced downstairs, and hid him away under the bed. He ordered him to stay put before racing back up the stairs and closing the basement door behind him.

That was at least a few hours ago, and In that time, Beebee had done as he had been told and had not moved an inch. He was sequestered underneath his bed, while loud noises from upstairs told him that all of the furniture was being picked up and moved outside into something called a ‘moving van.’ Beebee had absolutely no idea what that was, but at that moment, it didn’t really matter. At that moment, all he cared about was doing exactly what his father had told him.

“Stay here, and stay hidden. Under no circumstances whatsoever are you to come out from under here or let anyone but me see you. If someone is coming, even if it’s me, hide until I tell you it’s safe. I cannot stress this enough. Stay. Hidden.”

Beebee was nervous.

Okay, scratch that. Beebee was absolutely terrified.

He could hear Eventide and one other person moving around upstairs, talking loudly to each other while they moved the furniture around, the activity filling the air with a loud cacophony of bangs, thumps, thuds, and scrapes. Even from his hiding place under his bed in his basement, Beebee could make it all out quite clearly.

Beebee shifted uncomfortably in his place under the bed, doing his absolute best to keep his mind occupied with happy thoughts. This was a good thing, he told himself. They were going to be moving to a new place today, and that meant that he could finally go outside and be safe from other people. He was extremely excited, but that actually made it even harder to remain still.

Any temptation to move was swiftly curbed when he heard the basement door swing open, and not one, but two sets of feet descending at a brisk pace. A male voice that Beebee did not recognize spoke up in surprise. “Woah. Do you have a son or something, Eventide?”

“N-No. This is all leftover from when my nephew was staying over,” Eventide replied without missing a beat, though Beebee did not miss the slight hitch in his voice. “I might have to look after him again sometime, so I’m keeping all of this stuff.”

“Huh… I didn’t know you had a nephew. I thought you were an only child,” the other man said thoughtfully.

“Guess you were wrong, then.”

“Mind filling me in?”

”I’d rather not get into my family life, okay Sweep? It’s a long, complicated and messy story, and…” Eventide paused mid-speech, and Beebee noticed a few flickers of red and dark blue in the air beyond the confines of his bed. “...I’d just rather not talk about it, okay? We’ve got enough on our plates without dragging up my old family drama.”

“Alright, fair enough,” Sweep conceded before shifting on his feet. “So, what are we hauling first?” he asked casually, seemingly unfazed by Eventide’s evasiveness.

“Why don’t you go ahead and grab the lamp and toybox?” Eventide suggested, walking over to the bed. “I’m gonna get some of these old kids books into a backpack.”

“Alright, I can do that,” Sweep replied before stepping over and lifting something up. There were a few moments where the two moved around before Sweep spoke up again. “Got it. See you topside.”

With that, Beebee listened as his foot-falls disappeared back up the stairs. Silence filled the room, safe for some quiet rustling, and everything was motionless, save for some shifting shadows. Beebee, against his better judgment, started to inch out from under the bed.

“Daddy?” he asked in a quiet, tense whisper.

Suddenly, an open backpack landed directly in front of his face with a heavy thump, making him flinch back with a startled chirp. He relaxed when he saw that it was filled with a few of his favorite books. Then, Eventide couched down, his face becoming visible. It was stern and tense. “Beebee, get into the backpack,” he said simply.

Beebee blinked in surprise. “Wha… what?”

“Don’t ask me any questions, we don’t have time,” Eventide emphasized sharply before reaching out and grasping one of Beebee’s hooves with his hand. His grip was firm, though not harsh or painful, and he swiftly tugged Beebee out from under the bed. “Sweep won’t be gone for long. Get in the backpack, and be as quiet as possible.

Beebee looked up into Eventide’s eyes, then into the depths of the backpack. He cringed back when he realized just how cramped it was in there. “It’s small…” he noted timidly.

“I know, Bee, and I’m sorry,” Eventide apologized softly while ushering Beebee inside with his hand. “It’s gonna be cramped and bumpy, but there isn’t much I can do about that. Just hold still and be quiet.”

Beebee, once he was fully inside, turned around to look back at his father. He gave a slow and solemn nod before his ears were filled with a loud zip, and the bag was closed. His world was plunged into total darkness, though the blue glow of his eyes quickly compensated and let him see.

He wanted to whimper so badly right now. Every single one of his childish instincts were screaming at him to go to seek a parent, to call out for one for safety and protection. It did not help that the space was not only tight and uncomfortable, but the books he was standing on were less than ideal to rest against.

Suddenly, his stomach fell out of him as the bag was lurched skyward. Beebee couldn’t help but let out a startled chirp from the movement, and his wings instinctively tried to buzz on his back. The claustrophobic space prevented this, and he felt his right wing flare up with a small cramp from the motion. Gravity tipped back, and Beebee slid down a little deeper into the pack.

“You okay in there?” Eventide’s voice came from above, muffled through the fabric. A few faint wisps of his love and concern for Beebee’s wellbeing seeped through the fabric, and the bug was only all too happy to soak it in.

Once he had slurped down the small stream of emotions, he spoke, “I’m scared, Dada…”

“I know, Buddy…”

With that, Eventide made his way upstairs. Beebee knew this because of how bumpy the ride suddenly became, and the sound of his father’s shoes repeatedly thumping against the wooden steps. They passed through the living room, and… out the front door.

Beebee was outside for the second time in his life. He could feel it. He could hear birds singing more clearly than he ever had before, and the backpack began to warm up as the sunlight hit it. He could just feel the tiniest hints of a breeze through the fabric, and the mostly foreign sensation made him shudder.

“Alright, we should probably get that big bed out of the way next,” Sweep’s voice suddenly said from right next to Eventide, making Beebee jump. He held perfectly still, sealing his lips closed and screwing his eyes shut.

“Uh, Sure, head on down and get it into a good spot to lift,” Eventide answered before hefting the backpack for emphasis. “I’ll follow you down once I got this put-away.”

Beebee could hear Sweep walking away, then a clunking sound. Then, the backpack was lifted off of Eventide’s back and set down on something. Beebee let slip a silent sigh of relief as the books were put under his hooves again, gravity returned to normal, and his orientation was once more upright.

The zipper pulled back, and Eventide peaked in through the small opening. “You alright?” he asked in a worried whisper. “I wasn’t too rough, was I?”

“I’m scared, and now I’m sore,” Beebee replied quietly, inching towards the light. “But I’m okay. Can I come out, yet?”

Eventide looked away slightly shook his head in regretful apology. “No, not yet. Just stay put, alright? If anyone opens this door,” he turned and let Beebee see the oddly shaped door that he was leaning through. “Do not move or say anything. Be perfectly and completely still, and don’t make a single sound.”

“You keep telling me to do that,” Beebee anxiously observed before swallowing heavily at the serious look on Eventide’s face.

“Yeah, because this is important. Clean Sweep’s a good guy, but I don't trust anyone but Fluttershy and myself with you. So I’m going to keep telling you to make sure you do it. Stay still, stay quiet. Do you understand me?”

Beebee shied away a little, but still gave a silent nod. Eventide relaxed, if only somewhat.

“Alright… this is still gonna take a while, so hang in there.”

With that, the backpack was zipped shut again, and Beebee was returned to darkness.


The next thirty to forty minutes was spent carefully taking each and every item out of Beebee’s bedroom and storing it in the back of the small moving van that Eventide had rented. They had just enough space in the back to squeeze in everything, thankfully, and as such, would only need to make one trip that day to get everything into the house.

“You got that?” Eventide asked worriedly as Clean Sweep lifted up the last piece of furniture, Beebee’s end table.

The other man gave a nod and a smile. “Yeah, compared to everything else, this is child’s play,” he gloated before starting up the stairs. He wobbled a little on his way up but was quick to catch his balance, chuckle nervously, and continue his ascent. Eventide watched him go, an amused smirk on his face before he turned and looked around at the basement.

It was empty. There was no longer a single piece of furniture inside the basement. Save for the paint on the walls and the rug he had put onto the floor, it was now even more devoid of things than it had been when he had first adopted Beebee almost a year ago. Even the old shelves that had once stored unused knick knacks against the wall were gone.

Eventide leaned against one of the support beams for a moment, just letting it all sink in. Everything that had happened so far in just this one room alone. From the day Beebee hatched, to the times he had become ill, and more recently, his efforts to get better with his magic.

Eleven months, almost twelve… had it really been that long already? It sure didn’t feel like it...

Eventide let out a small sigh of nostalgia before reaching up and pulling on the chain that dangled from the ceiling one last time. “Time flies, huh?” he asked as the basement, Beebee’s former bedroom, was filled with total darkness. Eventide stared into that shade for a few more seconds before turning away, heading up the stairs, and closing the door behind him.

The whole house was in a similar state. Every single piece of furniture that Eventide owned had been moved out into the moving van, leaving the house feeling exceedingly empty. He walked slowly, giving each room a parting look before he stepped outside and closed the door behind him. He hesitated, then, and a soft breeze washed over him.

“This is really happening…” he thought to himself, the realization finally setting in. He’d been building to this for so long now, and yet it had always felt like it would never happen. He backed away from the door and looking at the house. The building that had served as his home for several years, now… the first place he had gone to after leaving his parents behind.

The place where his son had come into his life…

Except that wasn’t entirely true, was it?

Eventide turned around and looked at the tree in the yard, the one where he had found Beebee’s egg. It was still there, standing proud, it’s leaves starting to gain just the faintest of yellow hues as summer began to give away for fall. Eventide smiled softly at the memory and walked over to it. He stood there for a short time, looking up and down its trunk, drinking in the details. He then crouched down by the spot where Beebee’s egg had been resting and placed his hand on the tree.

“I know there’s nothing here that can hear me, but” he began in a near-silent voice, his mind trailing back to the first time he had brought Beebee outside, and how the two of them had jointly thanked this tree for being the place where they came together.

Beebee reached out his hoof to the tree again. “Thank you, tree,” he said quietly, making Eventide tilt his head.

“Why are you thanking the tree, Bee?” he asked, genuinely curious.

Beebee smiled back up at him. “Because it gave me to you, daddy.”

“Oh, there goes the heart,” Eventide thought, his smile growing. He looked up at the tree himself and put his hand on it next to Beebee’s hoof. “Yeah… I guess you’re right… thank you, tree.”

Buddha looked at them for a moment, then rested her chin on one of the roots that managed to avoid being smothered in snow so far. The father and his son might be here for a little while, she felt. No need to rush them.

His smile grew, and he withdrew his hand. “Thank you again. Thank you so much for giving me Beebee…”

With that, he stood tall and took a deep breath.

“What the?!” Clean Sweeps’ shocked voice suddenly rang out from the passenger side of the van.

Eventide’s blood ran cold.


As much as Beebee wanted to follow Eventide’s commands, it was getting increasingly hard to do so. Not only was the backpack significantly smaller than underneath his bed, it was also a lot less comfortable. The hard surface of the picture books he so loved were like stone compared to the carpet of his bedroom, and his complete inability to flex his wings was driving him mad.

Finally, after forty-five minutes of this, he could take no more. “Just a little look around, maybe stretch my wings,” he promised to himself before his horn lit up with green light and he reached out. Being careful not to grasp anything yet, he was able to worm his reach through the teeth of the zipper line and found the zipper itself. Grasping just the tip of it, he began moving it. He could feel his head starting to ache from the effort of using magic, and his lack of familiarity with what he was using it on wasn’t helping.

Thankfully, he managed to pull it open an inch or so, at which point he halted the flow of his magic and let his horn go dark. Sighing with relief, he then wedged his muzzle into the small gap and forced it to open wider. Little bit little, he opened the pack and squeezed out. Soon, he was stepping out and into a new environment. He looked around, and after a moment, was able to identify it as being similar to the cars he had seen in cartoons on TV.

It was bigger, though, and some of the shapes were different. He spun slowly in a circle as he took everything in “This must be the moving van…” he thought to himself. He studied the interior for a moment longer before starting to stretch his incredibly stiff and sore muscles, letting his wings buzz a little on his back. He let out a satisfied groan as his tension was relieved, then turned to head back into the relative safety of the backpack.

Suddenly, there was a loud thunk from the back of the van. The noise sent vibrations through the seat Beebee stood on, startling him. With a cry, he fell backward and off of the seat to crash to the floor below. He hit the ground and let out a grunt from the impact, screwing his eyes shut. He took a second to bite back any vocalizations of pain, then opened his eyes and picked himself up.

His ears twitched as a sound came to them.

Footsteps.

Beebee’s eyes flew wide open, and a surge of fear and adrenaline began to pump through his veins. He looked up at the backpack and hopped up towards it. Whoever it was was getting closer. Beebee tried to squeeze back into the pack but was horrified to discover that he hadn’t opened it enough to make re-entry possible in time to avoid being seen.

Whoever was coming was still drawing closer. Now on the verge of absolute panic, Beebee pulled his head back and quickly dove back down to the floor, hoping for a hiding place. There was none. He was completely exposed. Now hyperventilating, Beebee looked up towards the open window. He could just make out someone’s shadow on the frame, and it was not Eventide’s.

Beebee screwed his eyes shut. “Why did I leave the backpack!? Why didn’t I just do what Dada told me?!” He screamed at himself in his mind. He knew that there was a stranger here, he knew that he wasn’t supposed to let himself be seen. Now, because he was so impatient, he had put himself right in the open.

He was going to be seen. He was going to be taken away by men in lab coats and experimented on with needles or something. He was going to lose his father, and it was all because he couldn’t have waited for another few minutes because he couldn’t just do as he was told!

He was so enveloped in his terror, in his dread of being seen and taken away because he was so different, that he didn’t even notice the green light on his horn, or the sudden swirl of green flames that wrapped around him before vanishing just as quickly as they came. He heard the steps come to a stop, he heard something being set down on the seat, and he fearfully opened one of his eyes.

The man in the window looked down at Beebee, and his eyes went wide. “What the?!” he yelled before taking a step back. Here it came… Beebee watched him apprehensively, expecting the man to reach down and try to grab him. He began to open his mouth to say something but stopped. Something was wrong. His fangs were missing, and his tongue felt a lot shorter and… wider.

The man stared at him for another few moments, and the fear that had been bleeding off of him flickered and changed into something brighter. A combination of pale blue and sunflower yellow. The colors of relief. He let out a chuckle and glanced over as someone else approached. “Hey, I think I found that other pet you kept mentioning,” He said with a big grin before stepping back.

Eventide suddenly appeared in the window, his eyes wide and filled with abject terror. Dread and fear were bleeding off of him in record amounts, putting a terribly rancid and bitter taste in Beebee’s mouth. He stifled the urge to gag and looked up at his father, and the two locked gazes. Eventide’s face went from terrified to confused, and the emotions bleeding off of him shifted colors to match. “Wha… uh…”

Beebee blinked and tilted his head. In doing so, he finally noticed the two long ears covered in thick-black fur that were handing off the sides of his head. He turned his head when he felt them moving, hoping to get a look, and it was then that he realized that his entire body had changed.

Where once there had been a small, chitin-clad quadruped with enormous, glowing blue eyes and insectoid wings, there was now a dog, a black border collie with a triangle of white fur on his chest and striking blue eyes. Beebee looked at himself for another few seconds, then looked into Eventide’s eyes again.

“‘Tide? You alright?” Sweep’s voice asked from behind Eventide, jarring him out of his stunned state.

He spun around and gave Sweep a large grin. “Uh, yeah! My other dog. Heh heh, uhm… he’s uhm, super shy, so, uh… you know, doesn’t like strangers?”

Sweep nodded along slowly, and Beebee could see the suspicion in the air around him. “Ah, I gotcha…” he said slowly. “What’s his name?”

“Oh, uh…” Eventide glanced back at Beebee, then back at Sweep. “Beebee.”

Sweep smiled widely, his skepticism slowly fading away. “Aw, that’s a cute name.”

Eventide chuckled sheepishly. “Yeah, it is... uh… anyways!” he clapped his hands together, swiftly changing the topic. “Do we have everything in the van?”

Sweep hesitated for a second, then gave a nod. “Yeah, everything’s in. Is there anything else you need here?”

Eventide shook his head quickly. “No, no, I think we’ve got it. Thanks for coming over and helping me out, man,” he said, his tone gradually starting to relax.

Sweep gave a nod and a smile. “Sure thing, but are you sure you don’t need any help moving this stuff inside when you get to your new place?”

Eventide shook his head. “No, I already have someone else helping me with that. You’ve done plenty.”

“Alright. If you need anything else, though. Gimme a ring,” Sweep conceded before turning and walking out of Beebee’s line of sight. “I’m gonna head home. I got Ogres and Oubliettes with the girlfriend tonight.”

“Okay. Give her my best. Have fun, and thanks again. Bye, Clean Sweep!” Eventide called after him while waving enthusiastically. There was a muffled response that Beebee couldn’t quite make out before he heard the sound of another car starting up and driving away. As soon as it was fully gone, Eventide spun around and looked down at Beebee with his confusion returning. “Beebee, is that really you?” he asked in a strained and hushed voice.

Beebee nodded slowly, his new tongue rolling out to instinctively lick at his chops. He had to resist the urge to cringe when he tasted his fur and snout. “Ew… doggy snot,”

Nonetheless, he found his voice and answered. “Yeah… I think so,” he said experimentally and was amazed to find that his voice was exactly as it always was, if perhaps without the slight distortion.

Eventide just watched him for a moment, becoming visibly relaxed and relieved as the tension of the situation bled away. He then stood upright and his face formed into a frown. “So… why are you a dog?”

Chapter 34: Welcome Home

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Fluttershy let out a quiet hum while gently petting Buddha on the head. The two were presently in Fluttershy’s bedroom, sitting on the bed together and relaxing. Buddha’s chin was comfortably resting on Fluttershy’s lap, and the teenager took the opportunity to give the golden retriever love and affection for as long as they were to stay like that.

They had been like this for quite a while, now. Buddha had spent the first hour of her time in Fluttershy’s house excitedly sniffing around the unfamiliar environment and playing with a few toys that had been brought over with her. She had then spent a while interacting with Fluttershy’s parents and her brother, all of whom took a liking to the dog and gave her much affection of their own.

However, once her excitement died down a little, Buddha had started displaying signs of uncertainty and anxiety over the absence of her owner. She clearly didn’t know why she was here, and while the presence of Fluttershy did wonders to ease her concerns overall, it did little to assure her of Eventide’s wellbeing. With that on her mind, Buddha had fallen into a state of mild lethargy and had kept close to Fluttershy ever since.

Suddenly, the phone on Fluttershy’s end table began to vibrate and let off the sound of singing birds. Buddha’s head shot up while Fluttershy reached over, took the device, and checked the caller ID. A smile blossomed on her face when she saw that it was Eventide. Excited, Fluttershy answered. “Hello?”

Fluttershy, Beebee can turn into a dog.”

There was a long moment of quiet. Buddha looked up at Fluttershy, and a confused whine slipped out of her throat. She pawed at her other arm for a moment before Fluttershy lightly nudged her off of her lap, stood up, and cleared her throat. “Ahem… could you, uh, say that again, please?” she asked with a hint of strain in her voice.

“Beebee can shapeshift into a dog. A cute black border collie, to be precise. He was almost seen when Sweep went by the passenger seat. I’m guessing he used his magic to do it because he turned back to normal and passed out only a minute later after Sweep left.”

Fluttershy blinked again. She licked her lips, shook her head to clear away the cobwebs that had formed way too quickly, and spoke again. “Okay… is he alright?”

“He’s out cold, but I think he’ll be fine. He doesn’t look like he’s in any pain right now. I’ve got him in the passenger seat and have him under a blanket I got from the back of the van. He’ll be okay.”

“Well, that’s good to hear,” Fluttershy relaxed somewhat, having not realized she had gotten tense. She stood upright, and her smile returned. “So, how goes the move?”

“Oh, I’m gonna be coming over in just a minute to grab Buddha. We’re all packed and ready to go over here.”

Fluttershy perked up even more and looked back at the dog in question with a warm smile. Buddha saw her expression and sat up a bit more, paying attention. Fluttershy turned back into her phone. “Alright, well, I’ll go and bring her out in front.”

“Cool. I’m on my way. And thanks again, Fluttershy. Bye,” Eventide said before the line went dead.

Fluttershy let out a breath and put her phone in her pocket. She straightened out a few creases that had formed in her white shirt before turning to look at Buddha with her grin growing. “Hey, Buddha! Time for you to go to your new home!” she said in a cheerful voice.

Buddha may not have understood words, but she understood tones. This tone only meant good things, and her tail began to wag in anticipation. Fluttershy picked up Buddha’s leash from its place atop her dresser and spent a moment getting it hooked up to her collar. As soon as it clicked into place, Buddha hopped down from the bed and lurched out of the room, pulling Fluttershy along for the ride with a cry of surprise.


Eventide would not say it out loud to anyone, but he had to admit to himself that driving this thing along was more than a little harrowing. He may have taken those driving lessons and passed his tests leading up to the move, but that didn’t make the experience any less nerve-wracking for him. It didn’t help that Beebee was still curled up under a blanket in the passenger's seat, breathing heavily and serving as a distraction.

Luckily, this leg of the drive was fairly short, and Fluttershy’s house came into view up ahead. Eventide relaxed and pulled the van to a stop next to the curb in front of Fluttershy’s house. To his relief, Fluttershy was already waiting outside with Buddha straining against the leash, wanting to get closer.

With a smile, Eventide opened up his door and leaned out a little. “Hey!” he called over to them.

Fluttershy smiled and finally began to approach, allowing Buddha to make more progress in her efforts to reunite with her person. “Hello! Buddha’s quite happy to see you!” she called back, chuckling in amusement.

“I can see that,” Eventide said, adding his own laugh before leaning back and letting Buddha jump up into his lap. He went to say something but was quickly silenced when she set about smothering his face in an onslaught of loving licks. He weathered it as best as he could for well over a minute, laughing wherever he could. Finally, he had had enough and shifted his happy dog off to his right to join Beebee in the passenger seat.

Buddha’s energy quickly died down when she spotted him. She paused, sniffed at the mound of blankets he hid under, and then let out a soft whine. She looked up at Eventide and Fluttershy one more time before gently laying down in such a way that Beebee was resting against her belly.

“Big sister mode activated, am I right?” Eventide quietly noted while using the back of his arm to wipe the excess puppy slobber off of his face. His expression softened into a charmed and happy one.

Fluttershy nodded in agreement. “Oh, yes. Heh, I never really thought of it like that, but they are kind of like siblings, huh?”

“Yeah…” Eventide agreed before looking back down at Fluttershy again. “Thanks for taking care of her today. It means a lot.”

“Don’t mention it, it’s the least I could do,” Fluttershy replied, clasping her hands behind her back and giving her head a sharp nod. She paused, then, and her expression turned a little more solemn. “Although, after today, you know I won’t be able to come and help you as much…”

Eventide’s own expression turned similarly somber, a change that did not go unnoticed by Buddha. She looked over at the two and whined again, lifting her head from its place next to the slumbering bug.

A minute passed in silence, and Eventide adjusted himself in his seat. “Yeah, I know… we’re gonna be too far away, right?”

“Mhmm…” Fluttershy hummed out, looking down to hide the regret in her eyes. “I’m sorry.”

“Nah, it’s alright,” Eventide sighed and looked out the windshield, lost in thought. It made plenty of sense, he supposed. Fluttershy was still a high school student, after all. She couldn’t drive, she had classes and obligations at both the school, and the animal shelter. Not to mention, others would notice if she suddenly started driving out of town every few days. It would draw attention, something neither of them wanted.

Eventide took in a long, deep breath through his nose, and let it out. He then unbuckled his seat belt, rotated in his seat and hopped out of the vehicle, landing right in front of Fluttershy. She saw him approaching and backed up a few paces to give him some space.

“Eventide?” she questioned inquisitively once he was on the ground.

“Don’t worry about us,” Eventide said softly before standing upright and giving her a warm smile. “We’ll be fine, I think. We’ve got the routines down, now, and Beebee learns quick. Plus, Buddha has this wonderful habit of looking after him like he’s her puppy. Even when neither of us is there, they’ll be fine.”

Fluttershy’s eyes widened, and then she visibly relaxed, her smile returning. “I’m happy to hear that. I’m going to miss coming over to see you guys, though.”

“We’ll miss having you over, but you can still visit from time to time, I bet,” Eventide said with an optimistic grin. “Maybe not as often. But I know you won’t be able to stay away from us all the time... After all…” he got a certain glint in his eyes, and he lowered his voice. “Beebee’s birthday is in a week. I’m sure he’d love to see you there.”

Fluttershy’s eyes widened in surprise. She leaned to the side and looked past Eventide’s shoulder to stare at Beebee. He stirred slightly under his blanket, then fell still again. “Wow… He’s almost a year old, now?” Fluttershy breathed, seemingly dumbstruck.

“Yeah… crazy, right?” Eventide replied in a soft whisper, turning to look at his son as well. “It sure doesn’t feel like it’s been that long… it’s been a crazy ride...”

The two were quiet for several moments, letting the thought sink in. Then, Eventide turned to face her again. He reached out and suddenly drew Fluttershy into a tight hug, eliciting a squeak of surprise from her. But, after a moment of processing, she relaxed and returned the hug just as tightly.

The two remained like that for a while before Eventide shifted. “Thank you, Fluttershy,” he whispered to her before pulling back, hands still on her shoulders. “I don’t think we would have gotten this far without you.”

Fluttershy smiled in return and shook her head. “You don’t have to thank me. It was my pleasure, Eventide. But I think you’re right. You don’t need my help anymore. So, you just keep moving forward, and I’ll be cheering you on the whole way,” she said before leaning in and returning the hug one more time. “I’ll be as loud as I can.”

“So, a whisper, then,” Eventide teased, a playful look on his face.

Fluttershy leaned back to look into his face with an indignant pout on her face. “You know what I mean,” she huffed.

“Yeah, sorry,” Eventide apologized before the two slowly backed out of the hug. ”But we will, don’t worry. We’ll keep moving forward,” he said before gradually making his way back up into the van. Once he was seated, he looked back down at her, his smile growing more excited. “And don’t forget; Beebee turns one in just over a week. You gonna be there?”

“I wouldn’t miss it,” Fluttershy chirped in response. She then began to wave as Eventide pulled the door closed and started up the engine. “Bye, Eventide! Bye, Beebee!”

“We’ll be seeing you!” Eventide called back to her. They locked gazes for a few moments before Eventide set his eyes forward. He took a deep breath, adjusted himself one more time, and started the van forwards. Every so often, his eyes flicked to the mirror by his door, watching as Fluttershy’s reflection grew smaller and smaller, before disappearing entirely.


Beebee slowly began to wake up with a quiet groan, his entire body throbbing gently in protest to something while his head pounded with an intense headache. His eyes fluttered open, and he discovered that his entire body was covered in a thin blanket. The surface he rested on was soft and cushioned, but it was also vibrating and rocking unevenly. There was a low rumble all around him, and his stomach didn’t feel quite secure in his belly.

With a groan, he sat up and pushed the blanket off of his head. He was sitting in the passenger’s seat of the van again, and the van was moving. He could just make out the tips of trees in the windows from his low perspective. Buddha was curled by right behind him, her front legs securely wrapped around him and holding him close to her chest.

He slowly looked around and caught sight of Eventide, who briefly looked at him out of the corner of his eye with a smile. “Hey, Bee. How you feeling?” he asked in a soft voice, being considerate of the headache the little guy was undoubtedly experiencing.

Beebee groaned again and leaned back against Buddha’s chest. The dog leaned down and licked the top of his head a few times before he decided to answer. “Kinda queasy… my head hurts… what happened, Daddy?”

Eventide’s smile faded, and he spun the steering wheel in a slow circle, making the van rotate along with it. “Well… you passed out after turning into a dog. You changed back to normal as you did, so I’m guessing you used magic to do that...” he shot Beebee a glance out of the corner of his eye. “How did you do that, anyway?”

Beebee blinked, then his eyes widened as he remembered. “Oh! Uh… I dunno…” he said sheepishly. “I just panicked. I didn’t even feel it happening…”

“Kinda like when you saw a spider and your horn lit up?” Eventide ventured, and Beebee shrugged.

“Kinda, I guess…” he muttered uncertainty.

“If you were well rested, do you think you could do it again?”

“I don’t know.”

Eventide gave a slow nod. “Alright, well, no more magic for today, alright?”

“Okay,” Beebee agreed, his voice disappointed. He let out a breath before looking up at one of the windows. Curious, he wiggled out from Buddha’s paws and lifted himself onto his hind legs while propping his hooves on the door. He had to strain a bit, but he could look out the window and see the world beyond. His eyes widened.

He had never seen so much green before, except maybe on TV. But that didn’t do justice to the great rolling green hills, the beautiful trees, and the clear blue sky that was a perfect accent. Everything had a faint yellow tint, indicating that the sun was slowly starting to set. Some of the leaves on distant trees had turned shades of yellow and orange, a sign of autumn encroaching on the land.

“Woah…” he said in quiet awe, his wings flicking on his back a few times. “This is so cool…”

Eventide smiled, watching him from the corner of his eye. “Yep. We’re gonna be living around all of this from now on.”

Beebee turned back to look at Eventide, his excitement swiftly growing to the point of being palpable. “Wow! It’s so pretty! And big!” he chirped before looking back out the window, his wings buzzing even more. “And I can go outside at this new place?”

Eventide nodded slowly. “Yeah. But I don’t want you going very far from the house without me. There’s a fenced-in yard, though, so you and Buddha can play around out there as much as you like.”

Beebee looked over at Buddha, then giggled ecstatically. He zipped over, poked Buddha on the nose, and then looked up at Eventide. “When will we be there? Huh, huh, huh?!”

“In just a minute,” Eventide replied with a smile. His expression turned a touch more serious, and Beebee noted a few wisps of a dull magenta color seeping out of him. “But I want you to stay inside and take it easy for the rest of the day, alright? You wore yourself out pretty bad when you changed your shape. I’m not going to risk you exhausting and hurting yourself.”

Beebee wilted a little but nodded in understanding. “Okay, Dada…”

Eventide gave a slow nod. Satisfied, he then looked out through the windshield again. There was a minute of silence, during which Beebee went back to looking at the world outside through his window. Then, Eventide began to slow the van and turned it down a driveway to the right. The view was quickly surrounded by trees to the left and right, creating a dense overhead canopy that blocked the sun. For a short time, their world became significantly darker. They then pulled out into a clearing, and Eventide turned the van to the left.

And that was when Beebee saw it.

Their new home. It looked even nicer than it had in the photos Eventide had taken. The grass had been cut, the walls cleaned, and the fence had gotten a new coat of rich brown paint. The van pulled to a stop in front, and for a moment, nobody moved. Then Eventide pulled the key out of the ignition, and the van went still and utterly silent.

He looked over at Beebee and smiled. “Well… welcome home.”

Beebee mouthed silently for a few seconds, just taking in the view. The house was elevated on a small grass-covered hill above the gravel driveway, and the trees behind the house were dense and a rich, rich green. Even through the doors, Beebee could hear birds chirping in the branches. He then looked over at Eventide hopefully. “Can we go inside?”

Eventide nodded. “Sure, let’s go in,” he said before opening his door and stepping out. He walked around the van, opened up the passenger’s side, and let Beebee and Buddha hop out.

The gravel driveway crunched under Beebee’s hard hooves, and his chitin was immediately assaulted by the foreign feeling of a cool autumn breeze. The singing of birds became much louder, and the branches slightly rustled in the wind. The air was fresh and smelled like nothing Beebee had ever smelled before, invigorating his senses. His headache was quickly forgotten amid the slew of new sensations.

Buddha, meanwhile, didn’t waste a second. She began to sniff around the driveway, shoving her snout into every single nook and cranny, though Eventide kept a good hold on her with his leash. He chuckled and nodded at her while looking at Beebee. “I think she liked it.”

Beebee chuckled quietly but did not offer a reply, as he was still entranced. He slowly spun in a circle, just taking it all in. He absently followed behind Eventide as they began to walk up the dirt road that led to the front door of the house. The grass on either side of the path was peppered with the occasional wildflower, and they softly swayed with the countless blades of green that surrounded them.

And then they were in front of the door. Beebee looked up at the house and flinched back, almost intimidated by its sheer size. The photos had not done justice to the scale, and Beebee suddenly found himself feeling small and vulnerable. He instinctively pressed himself against Eventide’s ankle, relaxing from his father’s presence and body heat.

Eventide smiled down at him, then opened the door. It gave off quiet creak, revealing the room beyond as it swung out of the way. The place had been cleaned up pretty nicely, Beebee noted. The floor featured a nice new rug that colored a deep, lively brown. The walls were a shade of green similar to leaves on a tree, complimenting the rug perfectly and making the room feel just like the forest outside.

Directly across from them was a wooden archway in the wall that led to what would soon be their kitchen and dining room. He could see a long wooden counter. A window sat over it, just behind a sink, allowing in the afternoon sunlight. The room walls and floor of that room were also wooden in appearance, making for a very homely and almost handcrafted look.

Off to their left was a partially open door that looked to lead to a bathroom, while just to its side was a recession in the wall. There was the staircase that led down to the basement, descending down into darkness.

Off to their right was another door, this one closed. Beebee didn’t have any clue where that one went.

The family all stood there for a second, just taking in the blank space and letting it sink in. This was where they were going to be living from now on. Buddha bravely ventured in first, sniffing at the floor, then moving on to the walls. Beebee took a hesitant step after her, looking around at the relatively dark interior.

Then Eventide flicked on the overhead light.

The living room sprang into life, and Beebee’s face lit up with joy and delight. His apprehension gone, he spun around to look up at Eventide, practically vibrating. “It’s perfect! I love it!” he shouted before spinning around and breaking into a gallop to explore his new home. He disappeared into the kitchen, and let out an excited squeal. “Dada, there are stairs going up! We have an upstairs!

Eventide chuckled under his breath as he heard his son scrambling up said steps, his hooves clopping quite loudly on the wooden surface. He then passed his gaze around the room one more time and winced.

Beebee came rocketing back in a moment later, racing for the closed door. He noticed Eventide’s expression in passing, though, and slid to a stop. “Dada? You okay? You’re covered in purple,” he asked, a slight hint of worry in his voice.

Eventide sighed heavily and looked back at the van with dread. “I’m fine, It just... occurred to me that I have to lug in all of the furniture myself.”

Beebee frowned and tilted his head in confusion. “But… didn’t you tell that other guy that someone was gonna help you?” he asked, trying to figure out what he had missed.

Eventide chuckled weakly under his breath, then gave Beebee a sheepish look. “Don’t tell anyone I did this, but… I lied to him about that.”

Beebee made an ‘o’ with his mouth, the realization dawning on him. “Ooooh… so I wouldn’t be seen by a stranger, right?”

“Exactly,” Eventide nodded, a pleased smile on his face from his son’s quick deduction. He then glanced back over his shoulder again. “So… getting everything in is probably gonna take me quite a while...” he gave Beebee a meaningful look. “How about we get your room set up first so you can rest?”

Beebee gasped, turned, and rocketed for the basement stairs. Eventide took that as a yes, and followed his son down into the basement.

Chapter 35: One Year Old

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One Week Later…

Beebee stared at himself in the square mirror that leaned against the wall, his eyes narrowed in concentration and his horn glowing with its signature green light. Eventide was sitting on the edge of his bed behind him, keeping a careful eye on the proceedings with a critical, albeit fascinated, look on his face.

They were in Eventide’s bedroom, which was one of only two rooms that made up the second story of the new house, aside from an empty hallway where the staircase was. The other one was a second bathroom that was connected to the bedroom, the door currently hanging partially open.

The bedroom itself was larger than Eventide’s old room, though not by a lot. His bed rested against one wall, the headboard meeting the wall with a window set just over it. His dresser was off to the right of the bed, and his end table was to the left. On the opposite end of the room was his computer desk, and to the wall to the left of that was the doorway that led to the bathroom.

Beebee gave a grunt of effort, and a few flickers of green fire appeared on various parts of his body. He let out a groan, his wings buzzing instinctively with agitation and strain. He almost had it! He threw his head back as the flames swirled around and consumed him. They crackled there for a few seconds, then vanished as quickly as they had come.

Eventide just stared at Beebee for a few moments, seemingly baffled by what he was looking at. Then, one of his hands flew up to cover his mouth, and he started laughing hysterically. Beebee spun around to pout at him indignantly. “Hey, why are you laughing?” he demanded in irritation.

His question was answered when he heard his own voice. It was no longer distorted like it was in his normal state, but it also sounded like he was trying to talk with a few large marbles shoved into one of his cheeks. His brow furrowed, and he turned back around to look at himself in the mirror.

Well… that explained that. He looked like someone had found a bunch of pieces of black border collie lying around somewhere and glued bits of it onto his chitin. One half of his head had become that of a dog, while the other was still his normal self. The two blended into each other in a very uneven manner, vaguely resembling melted plastic.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, one of his forelegs had become that of a dog but was still peppered with tell-tale holes going through them. He had ratty patches of black fur all over his body, one of his wings poked haphazardly out of his shell, and his tail wasn’t even there anymore.

Beebee peeled back his lips to look at his teeth, then cringed when he saw just how wrong he looked. He shook his head, sent a spark of magic through his horn, and there was another swirl of fire. When it faded, he had returned to normal.

With a heavy sigh, he fell to his haunches and reached a hoof up to his chest, feeling the exertion coming on. His heart rate increased severely, and his head began to pound painfully in protest to the spell. Eventide’s laughter finally died down in the background, and he came up behind Beebee to scoop him up into his arms.

“Alright, Bee, heh. I think we’re done for now,” Eventide said in a soft voice, a few last giggles working out of him before he carried Beebee over to the bed and set him down.

Beebee pouted again, giving his dad a rotten look. “You laughed at me…” he grumbled before turning his back on Eventide and sitting down with a childish huff.

“Eh… kinda?” Eventide said sheepishly with a shrug. He scratched the back of his head. Then sat down on the bedside next to Beebee. He reached out and started to lightly scratch him behind the ears, and all was quickly forgiven. While Beebee chittered, chirped, and leaned into his hand, Eventide continued. “I didn’t mean to upset you or anything. I just wasn’t expecting that to be the result after seven days of practice.”

Beebee hummed, still leaning into the pets and scratches. “It’s okay… it did look kinda funny,” he admitted in a kind of drowsy voice.

Eventide chuckled again. He went to say something more, but a sharp sound suddenly cut through the air, killing his sentence in his throat. It was the loud ringing of the doorbell, and Eventide immediately shot up to his feet on hearing it. He spun on his heels and grinned. “About time!”

Beebee turned to watch Eventide and noticed that there was a lot of excitement surrounding him all of a sudden. The man had been excited all day, but it had been contained and suppressed until now. Now it was bursting out of him uncontrollably and filled the air with a taste that Beebee could best describe as similar to a lightly salted peanut butter cup.

“Bee, stay put for a bit, eh?” Eventide called without looking as he ran for the exit to the room.

Beebee frowned at the request and walked to stand at the edge of the bed. He watched as Eventide fled from the room before he had any chance to answer, closing the door behind him.

There were several moments of silence, aside from the thumping of Eventide running down the stairs. Beebee tilted his head, then turned and made a quick buzzing hop over to the window. He propped himself up on the sill and swept his eyes back and forth across the front yard and driveway, looking for the new arrival.

After only a second of scanning the environment, he looked down towards the front door and let out a happy and elated gasp. It was Fluttershy. He could just see the top of her long pink hair from his position, and his wings began to buzz in excitement. “Aunt Fluttershy!”

Down below, Fluttershy lifted some kind of colorful paper bag as if to show it off. She then stepped into the house and disappeared from Beebee’s view. He stayed there for several seconds before spinning around and buzzing over to the bedroom door. He fell to his haunches and looked up at it expectantly, like Buddha whenever Eventide was about to walk back in.

Several minutes passed, and his smile grew when he heard the tell-tale thumping of Eventide’s shoes on the return trip up the stairs. A moment passed, and the door swung open. Eventide stepped back in and grinned down at Beebee. The excitement was even brighter around him, now. “Guess who's here?” he asked leadingly.

Beebee hopped up into the air and did an excited backflip with the help of his wings. “Aunt Fluttershy!” he all but shouted before rising higher and looking past Eventide’s shoulder. “Where is she? I wanna hug her!”

Eventide chuckled and turned, gesturing for Beebee to go on ahead. “She’s downstairs. Go say hi.”

Beebee giggled and did as he was instructed. He rocketed by Eventide’s head with enough speed that the tips of the young man’s maroon hair fluttered at his passing. Beebee could just make out the sound of Eventide following him down but didn’t pay that much attention. He hadn’t seen Fluttershy since the move, and he was not gonna miss out on seeing her!

His active mind ground to an abrupt total halt when he reached the bottom of the stairs. He faltered for a moment and perched on the base of the guardrail. From his position, the archway that led to the rest of the house was on the right, while the long kitchen counter hugged the wall to the left.

Oddly, though, the dining table had been moved from its place against the outer wall of the stairs, and now sat in the heart of the room. It was covered in a series of four boxes, each one wrapped up in colorful paper. In the center of it, there was a large cake with smooth black frosting and bright blue edges, and a heavy coating of green sprinkles. It was in the shape of a heart.

Fluttershy stood next to it, dressed in a warm looking hoodie of a lively pale green and blue jeans. Her hands were clasped behind her back, and she met Beebee’s gaze with a warm and expectant smile on her face. “Surprise!” she cheered, albeit at a moderate volume.

Beebee mouthed uselessly a few times, trying to get his thoughts together. Finally, he shook himself and managed to find his voice. “Uh… is it Christmas again?” he asked tentatively before leaning forward so he could look out the window over the sink. “It’s not snowing.”

Fluttershy shook her head and giggled. “No, it isn’t Christmas. It’s your birthday,” she corrected before looking up the stairs at Eventide as he descended.

He came to a stop next to Beebee, who now just looked confused. Eventide tilted his head, barely able to hide an eager smile. “Did I never tell you what a birthday is?” he asked quietly, and Beebee shook his head. Eventide nodded and crouched a little so his head was next to Beebee’s. He placed a hand on Beebee’s back and looked into his eyes. “Well… exactly one year ago, you hatched from your egg and came into my life. Three hundred and sixty-five days ago, I met my son for the very first time…”

“Every year, people get just a little older,” Fluttershy continued with a nod. “And we celebrate those times. They are special days for everyone, where friends and family come to give presents and spend quality time with the birthday boy or girl.”

Beebee looked up at Eventide with wide-eyed wonder. Eventide continued on. “It’s been a year since you hatched, so, as Fluttershy said, that means it’s time to celebrate. We got you some presents, and she even had one of her friends custom make that cake for you.”

“And don’t worry,” Fluttershy suddenly cut in. “As far as Pinkie knows, this cake could be for just about anyone, and I made her pinkie promise not to ask me about it.”

Eventide chuckled in amusement as he heard that. “Oh, I bet that she’s just bursting with curiosity.”

“Oh, she is. But she made a promise, and she won’t break it.”

Beebee tilted his head, clearly confused. He then looked on ahead at the boxes, again, and pointed. “So… those are all for me?” he asked, his voice timid as if he were worried it was a bad question to ask.

Fluttershy gave a nod. “Mhmm. Eventide and I both got you two presents. It’s your first birthday, after all. It’s a special day,” she said before pointing at the cake. “And we know the cake won’t feed you, but it still tastes good. I know, Pinkie made it.”

Beebee looked at it all for a moment longer, taking it in. Finally, his face lit up in an enormous grin of pure delight. He spun around and launched himself into a hug around Eventide’s neck. Before the embrace could be returned, he spun around and flew over to hug Fluttershy, who was ready. She wrapped her arms around him in return, and the two stayed like that for a few minutes before Beebee squirmed away and set himself down on the table.

He looked at each present and the cake one at a time, studying them curiously. He then turned and smiled up at the other two people in the room. “Daddy, Fluttershy, can we open the presents now?” he asked in a hopeful chitter.

Fluttershy and Eventide shared a knowing look. Eventide came forward until he was next to Fluttershy, and the two looked at Beebee with big smiles. “One thing first, Bee…”

And then, at the same time, Eventide and Fluttershy began to sing.

Happy birthday to you,

Happy birthday to you,

Happy birthday dear Beebee,

Happy birthday to you!

Beebee’s eyes went wide, and he fell to his haunches as the two people that he saw as his parents sang to him. He vaguely recalled a few times when he was still learning how to talk when Fluttershy had quietly sung to him when Eventide was out, but those were wordless lullabies, something to make him relax and fall asleep. This… this was different. It filled him with warmth and joy.

From good friends and true,

From old friends and new,

Happy birthday dear Beebee,

Happy birthday to you!

And many more!

As they finished, they both came down and scooped Beebee into a tight group hug, one which he only numbly returned. They remained like that for several seconds, before Beebee regained his faculties and pulled back, an enormous and ecstatic beam splitting his face. “Oh, wow! You guys have never sung for me like that before!”

Eventide shrugged. “Probably for the best. I can’t sing to save my life.”

“That’s not true! I think you’re singing voice is lovely,” Fluttershy chastised him playfully before getting a thoughtful look on her face. "Although, you could do with just a teensy, eensy bit of practice…”

Eventide slowly blinked, then chuckled in amusement. “You know, I think that’s the closest thing to an insult I am ever going to hear from you.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

Eventide just laughed and shook his head. “Ha, you’re fine. Anyways,” he looked down at Beebee and nodded at him to go ahead. “Pick a present, Beebee.”

Beebee nodded and turned around, surveying his options. They were in various sizes, and he found himself wishing that he could open them all at once. He briefly contemplated doing so with his magic, but in the end, decided it would be better if he did it one at a time. Eventually, his gaze settled on one, and he put his hoof on it. “This one!” he decreed before tearing into the paper and beholding his first gift of the day.


Beebee was more than thrilled with his assortment of gifts. There was a collection of frisbees that was sort of a joint present for him and Buddha both so that Eventide could play with both of them in the yard. The second gift had been a box filled with a series of kids novels about a mouse named Poppy and her many adventures in a wild forest. It came with drawings and had been from Fluttershy.

The third present had been a box of puzzles and toys with moving pieces, including something called a Rubik’s Cube. Eventide had reasoned that Beebee could play with them using his magic to get better at it while also working out his brain. Beebee spent maybe ten minutes on the Rubik’s Cube, then got frustrated and moved on.

The fourth and final gift was a dark blue scarf and a lighter blue dog sweater about the right size for Beebee. His old coat had rapidly gotten too small for him, and so this was to be its replacement. Fluttershy had him put it on, and with a bit of help, managed to cut a couple of holes in it for his wings before stitching the tears to prevent them from growing.

Once all of the presents had been opened, they each ate a slice of cake and then stepped outside with Buddha to try out the new frisbees. They spent almost two hours on this, and they relished every moment of it. Beebee savored the time outside, something he had only gotten to do a little bit since they first showed up. He made sure to land and rest every so often and rest his wings so they could keep playing long into the day.

Finally, as the sun was setting, Beebee ran out of stamina. He came in for a landing, and his legs gave out under him. He collapsed into the grass, panting, but with a large smile on his face. He even managed to let out a few breathless laughs. The little guy was all worn out, and he would not be doing anymore active playing today.

But instead of taking him inside, Eventide and Fluttershy chose to lay down on the grass with him and look up at the sky. The setting sun painted the heavens in many brilliant shades of orange and yellow and the few wispy clouds that floated by turned a vivid and jaw-dropping pink. With time, what few clouds were in the sky faded away, and the stars came out. It was beautiful, and Beebee’s eyes went wide.

Finally, after what felt like an eternity of just staring up at the heavens, Beebee spoke in a soft, mesmerized whisper. “I’ve never seen the stars like this before…”

Fluttershy and Eventide glanced at him, curious. He shifted slightly and lifted a hoof to point. “It’s really pretty. So much prettier than on TV. There’s so many…”

Eventide looked up at the sky as well, his smile growing. “Yeah, it is… it’s even prettier than it was back in town,” he mumbled, seeing that this far from town, he could see so many more stars than he was used to. It blew him away, making him feel small. “It’s beautiful…”

The family was quiet for a good long while before Eventide reached out and took Beebee’s hoof in his hand. The bug looked over at him curiously, and Eventide just smiled back. “Happy birthday, Beebee,” he whispered while giving the hoove a gentle squeeze.

Beebee smiled and nodded slowly. “Thanks, daddy…”


At some point, Beebee fell asleep on the grass. He slept through Fluttershy leaving to go back to her own home and was still sound asleep as Eventide quietly carried him down the stairs and into the basement. Once he reached the bottom of the steps, Eventide flicked a switch, and a single overhead light sprang into life, illuminating the room to him.

It was empty and boring for the most part, save for a few boxes of leftover items from moving day that had yet to be given a proper place. To the left of the stairs was a bland gray wall with an unassuming wooden door. Eventide slowly walked over and opened said door, careful not to disturb the sleeping creature in his arms.

Beyond the door was Beebee’s bedroom. The layout had been carefully arranged to be as close to his old room as possible, with his bed pressed up into the far right corner, his end table and lamp next to it, and all of his toy boxes on the left side of the room. The walls and floor were still drab and boring, but they had plans to liven things up in the near future.

But for now, Eventide’s focus was on the bed. Gingerly, he set Beebee down beneath the covers and tucked him in. Beebee murmured something in his sleep and snuggled into his blankets, but did not wake. Eventide stood and backed away to the open door of the room and just watched his son sleeping for a few minutes.

“Goodnight, Beebee. I love you… happy birthday.”

And with that, he closed the door, leaving Beebee to his peaceful sleep.

Chapter 36: Passing Days

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Almost Two Years Later…

Summer.

The forest was beautiful and alive at this time of the year. The bright and vibrant colors of the plant life were richly and deeply accentuated by the golden glow of the steadily setting sun that peaked through the canopy. A gentle breeze passed between the many lush branches, making them rustle and sway ever so slightly. Birds sang their final songs for the evening in the treetops, and on the forest floor, a lone red fox prowled amongst the shrubs, his eyes hungrily locked onto some unseen prey that shifted in the underbrush.

Meanwhile, up in the branches and obscured by leaves, a single brown-furred squirrel was taking shelter from the fox on his perch. His ears swiveled on his head, listening carefully for predators or anything else that may pose a threat. He heard the fox stalking around down below, and knew he’d be better off staying in place for now.

His tiny stomach had other ideas, though, and growled incessantly at him, reminding him that he hadn’t eaten anywhere near enough in the last few days. His paws weakly held themselves over his belly. He couldn’t remain here for very long, he knew. He had to go and find some food, and quickly.

He cautiously peered over the edge of the tree, hoping against all hope that the fox had gone away. Sadly, it was still down there, it’s attention on something moving in a bush. All the same, it was way too close to the tree the squirrel hid in. There was no way he could safely sneak by right now. So, resigned to his fate, the squirrel settled down and held still, hoping to rest his aching muscles and praying that the fox would leave soon.

He was startled from his rest when something moved and skittered along the wood in front of him. His eyes snapped open, and he looked up, ready to flee from whatever creature had stumbled upon him.

The creature he saw, however, made him tilt his head in confusion. There was another squirrel there, one with black fur and blue eyes, looking back at him. The look on its face was strange, as well, the corners of its lips turned up.

The two remained utterly still for several seconds, just watching each other. Then the newcomer inched forward, reached up into his mouth, and pulled out a large peanut. He rubbed at it with his paws a few times, clearing away his saliva, and then held it out to the brown squirrel.

More than a little confused, the brown squirrel inched forwards and sniffed at the offered peanut. It smelled off, somehow. It wasn’t like the wild peanuts he knew. But the grumbling of his stomach left no room for skepticism or complaint. He eagerly took the peanut right out of the paws of the black squirrel and began to nibble on it with great enthusiasm.

With his hunger fading away for the time being, the brown squirrel allowed himself to relax. All the while, he kept a close eye trained on the black one. It didn’t make any sense to him; why had this squirrel just given him a peanut? Surely the black squirrel needed to eat, too?

Before the brown squirrel’s simple mind could process things any further, a voice rang through the air from some ways away. “Beebee! It’s getting dark, time to come inside!”

The loud noise startled the fox down below, as it turned on its paws and scurried off, disappearing deeper into the shrubbery of the woods.

The black squirrel looked off towards the voice and sagged in disappointment. He then shot the brown squirrel another one of those strange looks. With that, the black squirrel curled his form, then sprang off of the branch. The brown squirrel watched him with wide eyes as he sailed a few feet in the air, and then suddenly exploded in a swiftly expanding sphere of green flames.

The flames vanished as quickly as they had appeared, and an almost three-year-old Beebee emerged from the embers. His wings buzzed on his back, and a large, pleased smile adorned his face as he flew back for his home. He looked over his shoulder at the brown squirrel as he went and gave him a wink before disappearing among the trees.

The squirrel watched him go, completely dumbstruck and unsure of what had just happened. After a few moments of stunned silence, he looked down and saw that the fox had gone. Now was his chance. He stuffed what was left of his peanut into his mouth and scurried down the tree to find somewhere safe to rest.


Only a minute later, Beebee came flying over the fence and into the backyard of his home. He could see that Eventide was waiting for him by the sliding glass door, his arms crossed over his chest. He was dressed in a blue t-shirt and cargo shorts, ideal for the warm weather. His face lit up when he spotted Beebee coming over the fence, and he took a few steps forward. “There you are! Took you a while, didn’t it?” he called out with a wave.

“Sorry dad,” Beebee apologized before coming in for a gentle landing. His hooves touched down in the grass, and he breathed out a thankful sigh for the reprieve. He took a moment to catch his breath before looking up into Eventide’s eyes. “I was giving a squirrel a peanut.”

Eventide cocked his head to one side, at that. He then let out a merry chuckle of amusement. “Ha, of course, you were,” he mumbled with a shake of his head before studying Beebee for a moment.

The bug had grown quite considerably since his first birthday. Back then, he had been no bigger than a small house cat, the tip of his horn only barely reaching Eventide’s ankles. Now though, he was almost all the way up to the bottom of his knees if he stood up tall and stretched himself. His horn had grown several inches and was more of a horn and less of a stump. His wings had also gotten significantly larger.

Eventide frowned slightly when he spotted the straight crease that ran across his right wing. His mind briefly wandered back to the day Beebee had shed his larval skin, and how that wing had gotten trapped and folded in the process. He’d hoped that the mark would go away, but as Beebee grew, the mark remained clearly visible, if more so.

He was still skinny, as well, even by Fluttershy’s most generous estimates. Eventide found himself thinking back on Beebee’s hampered physicality when he noted that he was still noticeably out of breath from the exertion of maintaining a transformation, and the distance he had flown to come back.

Beebee’s muzzle scrunched up slightly at his father’s intense gaze, and his ears drooped a little. “Hey, why are you looking at me like that? Why are you worried all of a sudden?” he questioned, noting the dimly colored glow surrounding Eventide.

Eventide, seemingly taken aback by Beebee’s observation, shook himself and gave a warm smile. “Sorry, Bee. You’re just out of breath, that’s all. You didn’t overwork yourself, did you?” he asked plainly while turning to open the sliding glass door that would take them into the kitchen.

Beebee let out another breath and shook his head. “Nuh-uh. I’m a little tired, but I’m good,” he assured happily before trotting up and falling into step by Eventide’s side.

They entered the home and closed the door behind them without another word. As it clicked shut, a certain golden retriever must have heard his hooves, for she came bounding out of the living room where she had been resting. Her eyes glued onto Beebee and the air around her became filled with sunny yellow and bright pink light. Beebee braced himself and burst into a fit of laughs when the dog all but tackled him, knocking on his back and sniffing him all over.

Beebee was quick to return the affections, reaching out with his hooves and giving Buddha pats and pets wherever he could. “Hey, Buddha! Did ya miss me?” he asked between his chuckles.

“Bark!”

“Yeah, I knew you missed me! Good girl!”

As Beebee spoke, his hooves began to explore a little bit more, trying to find one very specific spot in particular on her neck. If there hadn’t been a wall of fur in his face, Beebee might have stuck out his tongue in concentration.

Then he found it, and he began to scratch. The moment he did, Buddha’s mouth fell open, and her tongue lolled out. She quickly leaned into the ministrations, and soon just fell over to one side, freeing Beebee from his pinned position. He took advantage of his newfound freedom to haul himself up onto Buddha’s side, repeatedly scratching her on and around that oh-so-sweet spot. “I gotcha, girl!” he chanted as he worked. “You like that, don’t you?”

“Bark!”

“That’s right, yes you do! Who’s a good girl?”

From the sidelines, Eventide just watched them, a small and charmed smile adorning his features. Beebee glanced up at him out of the corner of his eye every so often, taking note of the excess pink light that Eventide was radiating. Grinning to himself, Beebee opened his mouth a little and pulled some of the love down his throat.

Eventually, though, Eventide let out a relaxed breath and began to head for the living room. “I’m gonna watch some TV. Wanna join me?” he called over his shoulder as he disappeared through the archway.

Beebee, using Buddha as a launch-pad, scampered after Eventide with a loud and energetic “Yeah!” He quickly hopped up just as Eventide was sitting down on the couch, driving the poor man a little deeper into the cushions. With his spot claimed, Beebee did one spin, then two, and settled down in Eventide’s lap with his eyes glued on the television and his chin on his father’s knee.

Buddha soon joined them, taking a place at their side and resting against Eventide’s shoulder. Every so often, Eventide or Beebee would reach over and give her a pet or scratch, but for the time being, they were happy to just sit there and be together.

This right here. This was Beebee’s favorite part of the routine they had been running for a long time, now. Eventide would get up in the morning, wake Beebee for ‘breakfast,’ (which was really just a prolonged hugging session,) and then he’d head out for work for a long while. In that time, Beebee was not allowed to leave the house. Boring as that stretch of time was, he was able to keep himself busy, most days.

The books that Fluttershy had gotten for him on his first birthday were frequently revisited, and there was now an entire bookcase in his basement bedroom that stored all of his favorite stories. Everything from children’s fantasy and drama novels to something as simple and basic Pete the Big Green Dragon lined those shelves. Sharing the space were several knick-knacks and baubles that Eventide had gotten for Beebee as time went by.

Speaking of time, Beebee had gotten significantly better at magic since they moved here. Not only could he now shapeshift into a wide range of forms for almost half an hour, but he could also make some relatively competent use of his telekinesis. He didn’t exactly have the fine control needed for anything strenuous or time-consuming, so video games were sadly beyond him. But he could flick switches, push buttons, and other basic manipulations with little to no trouble whatsoever.

All in all, they were happy.

...Mostly.

Beebee didn’t know the name of the show on the Television right now, but it looked like it was an older one. The main character looked to be a high school student who had weird superpowers or something. Beebee might have really gotten invested in the wacky adventures and hijinks that kid got into if it weren’t for one very specific element of what was on the screen.

The kid’s friends.

There were several of them, and they all talked and laughed and had fun between the moments of intensity and action. They told jokes, they played games, they helped each other with any number of problems. There were wholesome moments where they talked about something of deep significance, and emotional ones where one had experienced some sort of loss, and the others would come to try and cheer them up. They were there for each other…

Seeing them laughing on the screen over some clever remark, Beebee couldn’t help but deflate a little.

Friends…

He didn’t have any.

He had his father, he had aunt Fluttershy, though she wasn’t able to come by very often anymore, and he had Buddha, who was like a big sister to him. But… that was it. The wild animals he frequently interacted with in the forest were cute, but none of them could talk back at him, and most of them either ran away from him or made him leave them alone. None of them were his friends. To them, he was just another creature in their territory.

Whenever Eventide left for work, Beebee was more or less alone for hours on end. Buddha was fun to be around and play with, sure, but she couldn’t talk back to him. He couldn’t have a meaningful conversation with her about his favorite toys, or the cool plot twist in the book he was reading. He knew; he’d tried.

The simple truth was… he felt lonely.

A fact that he did not want to admit. “Why should I be lonely?” he thought bitterly to himself, his expression turning into a frown. “I’m sitting in my dad’s lap right now. I’m not alone.”

But those thoughts, sadly, did little and less to ease his feelings. No matter how little sense it made to him, he was lonely.

With a quiet hum of melancholy, Beebee cuddled a little deeper into Eventide’s lap, hoping that his warmth and love would stave off the grim thoughts in his mind. Thankfully, when Eventide reached down to lightly scratch at the base of his head-fin, Beebee was able to relax and put his troubles aside, at least for now.

Eventually, Beebee closed his eyes and fell into a deep sleep, surrounded by the warmth of his family.

Chapter 37: Loneliness

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Beebee suddenly awoke with an ear-splitting scream. His eyes snapped wide open, darting around in frantic terror. His mind was racing and foggy, his breath came in ragged and terrified gasps, and his lungs burned as more screams and wails that he was unable to suppress echoed through the pitch dark room.

He was scared- no, he was completely terrified. He was covered in a thick layer of cold sweat, his stomach churned and twisted with revulsion at the bitter and rancid taste in his mouth, and he had no idea what was going on or where he was.

But more than that, he was alone. He screamed out again, some instinct in him driving him to call out for help, hoping that someone, something, anything would come and be with him. His hooves curled up close to his chest, and he tried to make himself look as small as possible, weeping hysterically.

He wasn’t sure how long he was like that before a nearby door suddenly slammed open, and a blindingly bright light flooded the room. He squinted as it flooded his retinas, then scrambled back, when he saw a tall shadow rapidly approaching him from that light. He screamed again and tried to back away, but his spine hit a wall, which only drove his fear to new heights.

He could barely see through the tears that were pouring freely out of his eyes, but he was just able to make out the shadow reaching for him. He cried and cowered away from it, screwing his eyes shut.

He felt something, a hand, wrap itself under his belly and start to lift him. He shrieked in a panic, desperately trying to get away. But when he felt how warm the hand was, instinct took over. He latched onto the arm it was attached to for all he was worth, clinging to it like a lifeline.

The arm lifted him up, and soon, he was being held tightly against the warm skin of someone’s bare chest. The hand that had lifted him up held him in place, while another one came and began to gently pat the back of his head.

Beebee could hear soothing sounds and words being whispered into his ear, and the world slowly rocked back and forth in a gentle, comforting motion. Slowly, ever so slowly, his fear and terror began to subside, and his mind steadily came back to him. Unbounded relief began to flood his system as he realized what had happened.

“It was just a nightmare…” he thought to himself in relief before tightening his hold on Eventide and weeping into his chest. “Just another nightmare…”

All the while, Eventide just held onto him, rocking him back and forth and whispering to him. “It’s okay Bee. It’s all gonna be okay. I’m here. I’m right here. You’re okay…”

They stayed like this for a long while, Beebee’s shuddering breaths slowly calming down and his body relaxing. Finally, after almost ten minutes, he leaned back and looked up into the worried expression of his father with tears still leaking out of his eyes. Eventide offered him a gentle, reassuring smile. “Hey, Beebee. You okay now?” he asked, his voice still hushed and gentle.

Beebee sniffled and nodded, opting to not speak for now. His throat felt absolutely raw from all of his screaming.

“Nightmares again?”

Beebee hesitated when he heard that, and his face fell with shame. All the same, he nodded and gave a quiet hum of acknowledgment.

Eventide sighed before standing up and carrying Beebee out of his room and for the stairs. “Do you remember what happened this time?” he asked in a whisper as he ascended the the the first floor of the home.

Beebee shook his head. He never could remember his nightmares, as they had discovered some time ago. He’d had them for as long as he could remember, but never once was he able to recall anything that happened in them. Just vague feelings and distant sensations…

Whatever he was dreaming of must have been pretty horrific, though, considering how he reacted every time he woke up. At least now he was able to stay awake after one of them.

The two fell quiet as they passed through the living room. Beebee glanced over towards one of the windows and saw that it was still dark outside. Frowning, he gently poked Eventide on the chest with a hoof to get his attention. “Dad? What time is it?” he asked quietly, his voice hoarse.

Eventide paused to glance at a clock. Beebee’s frown deepened when Eventide visibly winced, and the air around him shimmered with disappointment and exasperation. “...Early,” was his simple response before continuing on his way.

Beebee wilted and nuzzled into Eventide’s chest in apology. He started chittering quietly when he felt Eventide squeeze him just a little closer. “...I’m sorry I woke you up.”

“Don’t be sorry, Bee. You needed me, I came. It’s as simple as that,” Eventide rebuffed before stepping into the dining room. He flicked on the overhead lights, then set Beebee down on the surface of the dining table. “Okay, sit down and get comfy. I’m gonna make us both some hot chocolate, okay?”

Hot Chocolate? Beebee tilted his head in confusion, watching as Eventide walked across the room for the counter. “Hot chocolate? Why not go back to bed?” he questioned before a loud yawn slipped out of him. “I’m still sleepy… and hot chocolate doesn’t feed me...”

“I know, and you can go back to bed if you want,” Eventide replied, pausing by the counter. He turned to look at Beebee, his face the definition of worry. “But I just want to make sure you’ll be alright. You haven’t had one of your nightmares in a few months, and, well…” he sagged and looked down a little. The air around him grew dense with worry and undertones of dread. “...You reacted pretty violently this time. I’m worried, that’s all...”

He then reached up and opened up a cabinet to reach for the cocoa mix. “And I know hot chocolate doesn’t feed you, but… well,” he closed the cabinet and gave Beebee a sideways smile. “I know you like it all the same. It’s warm and yummy, right?”

“Right… okay,” Beebee acknowledged quietly. He didn’t say anything else for the time being, instead just watching as Eventide got to work preparing a couple of mugs of microwave hot chocolate. In no time, the appliance thrummed into life. A few minutes later, five loud beeps rang out from the microwave, and Eventide soon returned to the table with two mugs of steaming hot chocolate in his hands.

“So, go through it with me again. What do you remember about it?” he asked in a quiet and soothing voice as he set down Beebee’s mug in front of him.

Beebee chose not to answer at first, instead, flicking out his forked tongue to test the temperature of his drink. It was a little too hot for him at the moment, so he sat back and scuffed the tabletop with his hoof. his frown deepened as he pondered the request. “Um… well...“ he paused and shivered as he thought back on it. The feelings he could remember, however vague and murky, were more than enough to draw another anxious whimper out of him. “Do I… do I have to, dad?”

Eventide took a sip from his mug, set it down, and shook his head with sympathy. “No, but I would appreciate it if you did. I wanna know what you’re dreaming about. The more we know, the more we can do to make it better in the future.”

Beebee nodded before shuffling forward. Eventide got the idea and hefted the bug into his arms and against his chest again. Beebee took a moment to seek comfort in the warmth and love Eventide was radiating, and soon, he was relaxed enough to speak. “Okay, um… W-well,” he began, his voice still shaking. “I remember feeling warm and safe… kinda like whenever you hold me like this. But… then I felt terrified, and I remember being in pain. It was really cold, too…

“I remember tasting anger, hate, sadness, and fear. More than I’ve ever tasted from you, Fluttershy, or even when the school went red a couple years ago. It was so horrible... I felt s-sick, and like I was burning up inside. And I remember feeling… just sad. Sad and alone. Like there was nobody there for so long. I remember feeling like I couldn’t breathe… I remember being lonely…”

Eventide hummed softly while giving Beebee another gentle pet. “Anything else?” he asked in a whisper, squeezing Beebee a little closer.

“No… that’s all I can remember,” Beebee whispered back. “Just like always…”

A heavy silence hung in the air after that. Eventide eventually set Beebee back down by his mug. “Alright, well… if you ever remember anything else, don’t wait to tell me, alright?” he instructed before taking another sip of his own.

Beebee nodded. “Okay, Dad…” and with that, they enjoyed their drinks in peace. Beebee had to admit that, even if the hot chocolate did nothing to satiate his hunger, it was relaxing all the same. The warmth it filled his body with as it pooled in his belly drew a quiet hum of contentment out of him, and he felt his senses liven up a little.

As they finished their drinks, Beebee caught sight of the barest hints of light from outside the kitchen’s sliding glass door. Perking up and curious, he leaned to one side to get a better look and realized that the sun was starting to rise. He could now see the silhouettes of the trees through the glass, and he could just see the first golden glow of the sun between the leaves. “Sun’s coming up,” he noted quietly, not wanting to break the tranquil atmosphere.

Eventide glanced over to look and nodded. “Yeah… I was going to get up in a couple of hours, anyway. If you had to have a nightmare, you picked a pretty good hour for it.”

Beebee pouted and lightly smacked his hoof against Eventide’s hand, making his draw it back. “That’s not funny!” he stated in irritation. “I don’t like having nightmares, dad. They suck, and I wish they’d just stop!

Eventide recoiled from the sharp remark, and Beebee’s own annoyance quickly faded away when he saw Eventide’s regret starting to fill the air around him. Both of them sagged, but neither of them spoke.

They didn’t need to. They understood at this point.


Several hours later.

“Okay, Beebee, I gotta get to work,” Eventide called out as he made his way for the front door of the house, his hair still damp from the shower and his shirt still not tucked into his shorts. He passed by the bug in question, who was currently using the backrest of the couch as a perch to keep a watch over the room.

Beebee had to resist the urge to sigh in disappointment at the news. This was always the worst part of his day, every time. Eventide would be gone for between six and ten hours, and in that time, Beebee would be all alone, save for Buddha. Even now, he could feel that creeping feeling of loneliness and isolation building up in the back of his head, despite his own stubborn insistence that he had no reason to feel that way.

Thankfully, Eventide wasn’t gone just yet, and his voice cut through the air, and Beebee’s concerns. “You know the deal, right?” he called over as he made a few final adjustments to his dark green shirt. He glanced over at Beebee inquisitively.

“Yeah, dad, I know,” Beebee replied, his wings buzzing into life and taking him into the air. He began to recite the rules as he floated closer to his father. “Don’t answer the door for anybody I don’t know, and if someone comes in the house who isn’t supposed to, I’m supposed to turn into a Collie and help Buddha scare them off.”

“Right. And?”

Beebee couldn’t help but roll his eyes in exasperation. “And don’t go outside except to let Buddha use the little girl’s room,” he repeated blandly before increasing his pace. “I know, dad. You make me repeat this every time you go home. I’ll remember, don’t worry.”

Eventide just grinned in amusement before reaching out and tugging Beebee into a hug with his arm. “But I’m your dad. Worried about you is my default state,” he rebuked while giving Beebee a squeeze.

Beebee tried to act indignant, but he found he couldn't. He cuddled deep into Eventide’s hug, chittering quietly and savoring the contact while he still could. “I guess so…”

The two were quiet for several moments, basking in their shared warmth while Beebee soaked up some of the familial love that hung in the air around them. The dull ache of hunger in his belly faded away, and he smiled a little wider.

Sadly, their embrace could not last forever. Eventide lightly nudged Beebee away, the little guy taking back to the air and hovering so he was at eye level. Eventide smiled at him a little more gently, and Beebee frowned. There was no mistaking the small amounts of worry and concern that was flickering in the otherwise pristine aura of love.

“Why’s dad worried about me? Is he still worried about my nightmares?”

Eventide didn’t reveal anything for the time being. Instead, he opened the door and put one foot outside. “Okay, I gotta go, or I’m gonna be late. Be nice to Buddha, and I’ll see you later Beebee. I love you. Bye.”

“I love you, too, dad!” Beebee called after him before the door clicked shut, plunging the house into silence.

Beebee hovered there for almost a minute, listening to Eventide’s footfalls fade into silence, and then the distant and muffled sound of his car driving into the distance. Then, that too gave way to silence. Beebee let himself drift back down to the floor, and he landed with a heavy sigh.

He could hear Buddha slowly walking into the room, and he turned to look at her. The aura around her was a mix of several shades of blue, an indication that she was just as sad and upset that Eventide was gone. Beebee just made his way over to her, and the two brushed up against each other as they passed. A little physical affection to ease their mutual dismay for their situation.

Time slowly began to pass, and Beebee soon found himself settling down on the couch in the hopes of maybe taking a nap. He’d read through all of his books and wasn’t exactly in the mood for TV. He was still a little worn out from his early awakening, after all, and a few extra winks couldn’t hurt.

But as he closed his eyes and relaxed his body, his mind had other ideas. His muzzle scrunched up as the sensations from his nightmare came rushing back into his mind. First the comfort, then the fear and despair, then the anger and rage, then the grief and sorrow, and finally… the quiet and the solitude. Beebee shuddered at the memory, and his eyes opened up again by reflex.

Buddha looked at him from not far away, her head tilted to one side. He could see that she was curious and confused by the quiet chirps of discomfort he was making and made her way over. As she drew near, Beebee lifted his head and reached out a hoof to pet her on the head. “I’m okay…” he told her quietly. “Just remembering a bad dream, that’s all.”

Whether or not Buddha was reassured by his tone was unclear. All the same, she shoved her snout up against Beebee to give his face a few gentle licks. He chuckled quietly from the affection and sat up. “Heh, thanks, Buddha. I love you, too,” he stated with a small smile.

Buddha just wagged her tail at him, her tongue lolling out.

Beebee’s smile soon fell away, though, and was quickly replaced by an irritated frown. He set his chin back down on his hooves and blew out a puff of air. He then closed his eyes to try and sleep again. He was met with similar results as before, and let out an annoyed groan. This was going to be problematic.

Then his eyes shifted to one side and peered out into the kitchen. His mind wandered to the sliding glass door, and to the world outside. An idea began to form in his head, and he tried to force it down. It was a bad idea, and it would be going directly against the instructions that Eventide had drilled into him since day one.

But it was just so tempting...

Chapter 38: New Friend?

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“Just for a few minutes, and I’ll stay by the fence,” Beebee told himself repeatedly under his breath as his magic undid the lock that held the back door shut. With a satisfying thunk, the door was unlocked, and he slid it open with only a slight wince of effort. The warm summer air washed over Beebee’s face, and he took a moment to let it refresh his mind.

He then glanced back over his shoulder at Buddha, who was watching him with curious confusion. He smiled back at her in reassurance. “I’m just heading out for a couple minutes,” He told her, though if he were being honest, he was really trying to assure himself of that. He turned his head to look outside, and for a moment, he hesitated.

This would be the first time in his entire life that he had actively, knowingly, and willfully went directly against Eventide’s wishes, something that he had learned even during his earliest days was a bad thing. Any misstep, any undesired action, any risk-taking resulted in a sudden cut-off from his food supply, and sickening feelings would always take their place until he made amends.

But right now, Eventide wasn’t here, and Beebee was already feeling sick of being not just lonely, but incapable of getting back to sleep. He took a deep breath to steady his nerves and stepped outside. “Dad doesn’t have to know, and it’s just this one time,” he assured himself quietly before using his magic to close the door behind him. He could see Buddha approaching the glass with a concerned look on her face, and the glow in the air reflected this.

Beebee just gave her another small smile, then began to trot deeper into the yard. He made his way right up to the fence, then hopped on top of it. His ascent was aided by a quick buzz of his wings, and his hooves quickly found purchase on one of the many posts that made up the structure.

Once he had his balance, he scanned the area behind the house curiously while running over his plan in his head. It was pretty simple; he would stay by the fence and just explore for a little while, hopefully finding a few small animals to interact with. They may not have been able to speak to him, but at least they could provide some unpredictable entertainment. The squirrel from the previous evening had been a good example of that, and it had felt good to help the poor guy out.

Beebee nodded to himself, and then hopped down from the fence and to the grass on the other side. His wings buzzed and slowed his descent, and his hooves lightly touched down on the cool ground. He idly sniffed at a few flowers that were poking up by his hoof, then stuck out his tongue once he realized that they were dandelions.

He didn’t like dandelions.

So he moved on, holding true to his intent and sticking close by the fence. His eyes scanned the small, narrow field of tall grass that served as the border between his house and the forest for anything of interest. Sadly, it wasn’t exactly a large region to explore, and as it was right next to his house, animals of any kind were scarce.

He did find a small anthill, and quickly ran away from it when he saw the inhabitants going about their business. Creepy crawlies. Nope.

But alas, that was the extent of what he found. Ants. In this small area, there was nothing else for him to find. Beebee gave off a loud, childish and disappointed whine at his little adventure being cut so short. He sagged and turned back to the fence, ready to return home. But then, he turned and looked over his shoulder at the forest.

They were tall evergreens, and their sheer scale was always a source of awe and intimidation for Beebee.

He really shouldn’t go in there unless Eventide was home to supervise.

He really shouldn’t…

Maybe just a few feet wouldn’t hurt?

Beebee swallowed down his anxiety and started towards the edge of the forest at a slow and tentative pace. Just as he was about to cross the threshold, his mind recalled the foxes and the raccoons, and how dangerous Eventide always told him they were. He knew it, too, having seen them hunt other, smaller creatures. He felt a chill run up and down his spine at the thought of being pinned down and bitten by a hungry fox...

Beebee stepped back and then looked up at the trees. After a few moments of searching the branches, he saw one that looked promising. His wings snapped out on his back and buzzed into life, sending him sailing through the air and into a solid landing on his desired branch. It shuddered and swayed under his weight for a moment, and some of the needle-like leaves fell to the forest floor below.

The branch held strong, though, and Beebee breathed out a sigh of relief before gazing ahead again. Now he had a much higher view of the land, and he would be safe from any unfriendly animals. So, with that, he scanned the grounds beneath him, curiously searching for any signs of animal life that would be safe to interact with. A squirrel, a mouse, a chipmunk.

There was nothing, sadly. With a pout, he looked around before leaping from his branch and to another one on the next tree. His wings gave a quick burst of movement as he moved through the air, ensuring he had the airtime he needed. Once he landed, he repeated the previous steps. Search for animals and, if he found none, move on to another spot.

And so it continued. Beebee jumped from branch to branch, and at one point he couldn’t help but think fondly back to that bouncing lemur he would sometimes watch on TV. Zoboomafoo, if he was remembering the name right. That or Tarzan.

In fact… it was actually kind of fun to just jump from branch to branch. Beebee’s eyes widened slightly as he reached this conclusion, and a quiet giggle slipped out of him. He turned his eyes up and spotted a branch that was somewhat above him and farther than the others. His tongue stuck out the side of his mouth, and his rear gave a cat-like wiggle before he leaped for it.

He misjudged his trajectory and the distances involved, and he had to strain his wings to close the gap. His hooves hooked around the branch, and he grunted with effort as his chest thumped into the wood. His hind legs kicked for a second, looking for some purchase, and found it in the form of the trunk. Pushing off, he managed to haul himself up, panting, onto the branch. Once he was sure he was safe, he settled down to catch his breath.

Then he started chuckling.

That had been exhilarating! It had been scary for a second, yeah, and he might have fallen, but he didn’t! And even if he had, he could’ve just used his wings to slow his fall and safely land somewhere else.

His young and impressionable mind feeling emboldened and empowered by those thoughts and his display of acrobatics, Beebee stood back up, his eyes eagerly searching for another target to jump for. He soon found it a little ways below him and grinned. He readied himself, judged the distance, and made the leap.

And that was when everything went wrong.

The branch he had been standing on was not as sturdy as he had first thought. The sudden push of his hind legs kicking out caused it to snap and drop away from under his hooves with a loud and echoing crack. Beebee’s eyes flew wide, and his heart jumped into his throat as he abruptly dropped several feet in the air. He let out a startled shout, and his wings frantically buzzed into motion, trying to stop his downward momentum.

As successful as his efforts were, he forgot to counter his forward momentum.

He saw the trunk of the tree coming for his face too late. His muzzle cracked into it, and searing pain exploded inside of his skull. Beebee screamed, his hooves flying up to his nose. His wings fell out of sync, and his body entered into a free-fall from the air. He didn’t have any time to react before his side crashed into another branch sticking out of the tree, driving the breath from his lungs. He tried to grab onto the branch, but in his dazed state, he was unable to grip it tight enough before his own weight made him slide off the side and fall again.

The next branch got him in the belly, driving what few scraps of air he had left out of his lungs. He wheezed before rolling back and off of the branch, his vision swimming. He fell for several seconds before his right flank cracked against a raised portion of the tree’s roots that stuck up out of the earth. The impact was accompanied by a sickening crunch, and he bounced off of the root to hit the forest floor with a thump and a gasp.

Everything fell quiet and still, and for several seconds, Beebee didn’t dare to move a single muscle. If he was in pain, he couldn’t feel it just then. His mind was swimming and foggy, and his vision was having a hard time focusing on anything. Finally, though, his senses began to return to him, and he groaned in pain when he realized just how sore his entire body was.

He sighed to himself as it occurred to him what just happened, and why. “Ugh… I’m such an idiot…” he moaned dejectedly before putting his front hooves under him and trying to stand.

An ear-splitting scream of agony tore past his lips when incredible pain flared into existence across his right flank, causing him to fall right back down. Gasping rapidly, Beebee shifted to get a look at where it hurt, and to his horror, saw that the chitin had been cracked where it had hit the root. A tiny trickle of blood could be seen seeping out of it. The sight drew another, more terrified scream out of him. He buzzed his wings on his back in an effort to fly, but to his horror, he found it difficult to coordinate their movements through the pain.

No, no, no!” he thought in total panic, trying and, once again, failing to stand up. “I can’t be hurt! Not out here! Dad’s not here to help me! What if some big mean animal comes along?! I can’t run, I can’t fly! Are they gonna eat me?!”

The mental image of the fox from before returned to his mind, and Beebee’s panic swelled several times over. He shouted and began to pull himself along the forest floor, desperately searching for any familiar marks or trees so he could get home.

He would have no such luck. Everything around him was completely unfamiliar, and to his swiftly growing despair, he realized he had gone much further out into the trees than he had first thought. He must have gotten lost in his thoughts and not paid any real attention to where he was going.

He was such an idiot! If he’d just stayed at home and sucked it up, he could have waited for Eventide and played when he got home! But no, he just had to come out here, be a bad son, and get himself hurt! Now he was hurt, all alone, and probably about to be eaten by a hungry and scary animal!

There was nothing else. Beebee did all he could do.

He began to cry.

His pained, frightened and trembling voice echoed throughout the woods around him, announcing his presence to anything and everything nearby. “DAD!” he screamed as loud as he could, hoping against hope that the man was somewhere in earshot, that he would come to the rescue like he always did. “DADDY! HELP ME!”

But, of course, Eventide wasn’t there. He was probably working on clearing off a forest trail a few miles away. Beebee was all on his own. He whimpered and began to cry even louder at the thought as he desperately attempted to pull himself across the forest floor. He needed to find somewhere safe to hide, somewhere where he could wait for Eventide to come looking for him.

Had he looked at the ground instead of at the trees overhead, he might have realized that, as he was rounding the tree, he was crawling right for a small drop in the terrain that marked an overhang of dirt, roots, and moss. He only realized it was there when his hoof slipped over the edge, and he went falling down with another scream of surprise.

He landed on his left side, thankfully, but that did little to shield his right flank from the pieces of dirt that followed him as he fell. They pummeled his side for a moment, making him curl up into a ball and let off a terrified wail. “DAD!”

The dirt stopped falling on him after a moment. He lay there for several seconds, gasping raggedly and frantically trying to quell his frightened cries, now aware of just how loud he was being. But despite his best efforts, he could still hear his own voice echoing in the trees around him for something to hear.

And something did hear him.

“Hello?! Is somebody out there?!” a young female voice with an odd accent called from somewhere in the trees, causing Beebee to go rigid. His cries became caught in his throat, and his eyes went wide. Someone was coming. A person. A human.

His mind began to race like a rocket, a whole new form of panic setting in. He didn’t know this person, and they were about to find him! He wasn’t supposed to let people see him. Not in his real form, at least. He tried to scoot himself a little farther under the overhang for cover, but there wasn’t much space for him. He let a very inappropriate word slip out from under his breath before perking his ears up and listening for the stranger. Maybe, if he held still and didn’t make a sound, they wouldn’t find him?

“Is somebody hurt?!” The voice called again, closer this time. Beebee could hear her feet on the dirt, now. “Ah thought Ah heard screamin’!”

Beebee’s face paled. With the angle they were coming from, there was no way he could hide himself from the stranger. With adrenaline pumping through his veins, Beebee closed his eyes and began to focus on his magic. In his mind’s eye, he saw the green flame emerge, and without direction, he channeled it into his body.

“Please, help me!” he mentally shouted at the fire. “Make me a dog, or a mouse, or a cat! I don’t know! Just turn me into something that will keep me safe from her!”

His magic flickered in response to his request, and his body was engulfed in a swirl of green flames. The familiar sensation of his body changing shape surged through his system, and whatever he became was not a shape he was familiar with. He didn’t dare open his eyes to look and see what he had turned into, though. He was focusing all of his attention on just holding the form and listening to the person coming his way.

They were getting closer… closer…

They stopped.

“Oh mah gosh… hey, little boy?! Are ya okay?!” the voice suddenly called out, filled with worry and concern. Confused, Beebee opened one eye and glanced in the voice’s direction. There, rushing towards him with wide eyes and a hanging jaw, was a teenager who looked stunningly familiar.

She had bright yellow skin and bouncy, curly red hair that reached down to shoulder blades. She had peach-colored eyes that radiated with fear and concern that Beebee found perplexing. She was wearing a green t-shirt, a pair of plain blue jeans, and some sort of brown outdoors shoes. She also had a backpack slung over her shoulders, one which she was in the process of taking off as she approached.

She slid to a stop by Beebee’s side and then knelt down next to him, her eyes glued onto his injury. All the while, Beebee never once took his eyes off of her. In fact, he began to try and squirm away from her, whimpering all the while.

She then looked into his eyes and put on a comforting smile, her hands raising in a placating gesture. “Woah, woah, hey, easy. Easy there, kiddo. It’s alright, Ah’m not here to hurt ya, Ah promise. Yer gonna be alright, okay? Ah gotcha.”

Beebee paused, confused by her words and her tone. Still shaking, he finally looked down at his body to see what she was seeing.

His eyes flew wide open when he saw that he had assumed the form of a young human boy, dressed in identical clothes to what Eventide had been wearing when he left. A dark green t-shirt and thick cargo pants. His feet were adorned in plain white socks and basic brown shoes.

A human… Beebee had turned into a human. In retrospect, he supposed it made sense that he could do that. He had just never thought to do so… maybe he had felt like the shape was off-limits, considering how often he had been told to stay away from other people. Maybe he had feared it would be too complicated, and that he wouldn’t be able to hold it for long enough to be useful.

He winced and hissed in pain through his teeth when he saw his injury was still there, a red stain starting to spread out from the right side of his waist. The girl who had found him saw that then grimaced. “Ooh, oh dear… uh, okay, just hold still!” she then reached over and unzipped her backpack before reaching inside. “Please tell me ah brought it… please…

Beebee just watched her, completely stunned. He swallowed heavily and took the chance to lift one of his newly acquired hands and experiment with it. He tried wiggling his fingers and grimaced at how odd it felt. Sure, he’d had multiple digits before, like his toes when he was in his Border Collie form, but they were limited in their range of motions a lot more than fingers were.

He then reached down and timidly picked at his clothes with the tips of his fingers. He then winced in discomfort when he felt the contact. It occurred to him that the clothes he was wearing were, in fact, not really clothes. They were just another a part of his body that looked like clothes. He was still technically naked.

His mind was drawn away from his new body when the girl emerged from her backpack with an elated ‘aha!’ In her hands was a small first aid kit, which she then set down and popped open. As she began to dig through it, her eyes flicked up to Beebee, meeting his still frightened gaze. “Yer gonna be okay, boy. Ah promise. Ah’m not here to hurt ya, Ah wanna help. What’s yer name?” she asked him.

Beebee blinked and recoiled a bit. “Uh… uh, uhm…” he stammered helplessly before swallowing the lump in his throat. “My dad told me to not talk to strangers....”

The girl smiled softly. “Good advice, that. Would it make ya feel better if Ah told ya mine?”

Beebee nodded slowly in response. “I guess…?”

The girl’s smile widened, and she placed a hand over her chest. “Ah’m Apple Bloom. Pleased to meet ya.”

Apple Bloom? Beebee’s brow furrowed as he gave that name some thought. It sounded familiar too… everything about this girl was just so familiar. Why? Where had he seen her before? Where had he heard the name?

“So what’s yers?” Apple Bloom suddenly asked, drawing Beebee out of his brief reverie.

He blinked a few times, trying to find his voice. “M-my name’s Beebee,” he finally managed to get out. His voice was still weak and trembling.

Apple Bloom raised an eyebrow at that. “Beebee…? Kinda a funny name,” she muttered before she smiled warmly at him. “Oh, but who am Ah to judge? It’s a pleasure to meet ya, Beebee!”

Beebee just continued to watch her, completely mesmerized by what was happening. But more than that, he was just trying to figure out where he knew this ‘Apple Bloom’ girl from. He knew he had seen her before, but where…?

His eyes then widened as a memory from a long time ago resurfaced in his mind…

“Hey, hey… shh… it’s okay. You’re gonna be okay. I got you,” Eventide whispered, spending almost a minute just soothing Beebee until his cries simmered down. Once he was sure Beebee was calm again, Eventide leaned back. “You’re okay. Now... Who saw you?”

Beebee hiccuped again. “Um… it w-was a girl with yellow skin and red hair… she was smaller than Fluttershy, and she was wearing a green shirt,” he managed to say before looking up at Eventide’s face. “Daddy, am I going to be taken away?”

“No, Beebee,” Eventide assured him, his face relaxing somewhat with recognition. He let out a long, heavy sigh of relief. “It’s okay. You’re fine. That was Apple Bloom. She’s just a kid, and nobody believes the kid. Even if she tells anyone, they’ll just think she’s making up stories or something. You’ll be fine, Beebee. Nobody’s coming to take you away.”

Beebee must have felt his dad’s relief because his own expression lit up significantly. There was still an aura of fear and uncertainty about him, though. He swallowed a lump in his throat and asked. “P-promise?”

Eventide smiled and nodded. “I promise.”

“So, Beebee? What were ya doin’ out here?” Apple Bloom suddenly asked in a friendly voice, drawing Beebee’s attention again. She was looking at what looked to be a small bottle of clear, gel-like fluid. “And how did ya get hurt?”

Beebee swallowed heavily again, his shock preventing him from trying to lie. “Uh… I was playing in the trees. I fell…” he answered shakily, taken aback by how his voice was lacking its usual double tones.

Apple Bloom frowned at him in disapproval. “Yer a little small to be playin’ in the trees, aren’t ya?” she pointed out in a deadpan.

Beebee lowered his head in shame, and he visibly wilted under her stare. “I… was being stupid…”

“Hey, ya said it, not me,” Apple Bloom quipped, and Beebee saw a small shimmer of yellow around her. The color of mirth and amusement. He chose not to comment on it for now and watched her work. She took the bottle and held it over his leg injury. “Alright, this is gonna sting real bad. Ya ready?”

“What is it?” Beebee questioned fearfully, his eyes locking onto the bottle with trepidation.

Apple Bloom frowned and looked at it. “Er… Ah’m not even gonna try to pronounce that. It helps kill germs and stuff. Yer supposed to put it on cuts and stuff. Ah mean, we don’t want this to get infected, so if Ah pour some of it on where yer hurt, it’ll help keep you from gettin’ sick. But it really stings. Like, a lot. But that just means it’s workin’.”

Beebee eyed her carefully, scanning the glow around her for any signs of deception. Interestingly, her emotional state remained unchanged and unreadable to him. All he could see from her was a subtle glow of amusement from when he had called himself stupid, and a lot of worry, accompanied by a flicker of determination.

Seeing nothing to make him doubt her, Beebee just nodded. “Okay… do it…” he relented before screwing his eyes shut and focusing on just holding his form as he waited for the pain.

When it hit him, it was incredible. His eyes flew open without his consent, and he screamed long and loud into the air. It felt like liquid fire had just been poured all over his injury, and by reflex, his uninjured leg kicked out to hit Apple Bloom in the hip. She grunted as she fell back, the bottle dropping from her hands and hitting the dirt with a quiet thump.

“Ow! Hey!” She protested before coming forward again to assess the situation. She saw the look on his face, and he saw the air around her shimmer with guilt. “Oh, shoot. Ah’m sorry, Ah’m so sorry. Yer alright, this is normal, this is fine, yer gonna be okay. Deep breaths, okay? Can ya do that? C’mon, deep breaths…”

Beebee followed her instructions. Thankfully, the pain began to die down rather quickly, and Beebee’s scream withered away into a pained whimper. He closed his eyes again to focus on stabilizing his form. A few seconds later, he could hear Apple Bloom digging through her first aid kit again.

“Kay, yer doin’ great. Just hang on… Ah think Ah have some band-aids in here… boy, am Ah glad Sweetie convinced me to take that class now…” she muttered before Beebee felt her setting to work on patching him up.

A few minutes passed where the only sounds were that of her working and occasionally uttering hushed reassurances to him. After a time, she pulled back and cleared her throat. “All done!” “She proclaimed eagerly.

Beebee reluctantly opened his eyes and looked down at his wounded leg. Something had been placed over the wound, a white square of some kind, and a few layers of bandage wrapping had been applied to it, going all around his waist and right leg. Whatever flow of blood there had been was stopped, and the pain was much reduced. He flexed the limb a few times to test it, then hissed between his teeth when it once again flared up with pain.

Apple Bloom frowned in concern. “Ah guess stoppin’ the bleedin’ doesn’t stop the pain, huh?” she remarked before putting her first aid kit away. “You think you can walk?”

Beebee nodded shakily, starting to sit up. He groaned with strain as he did so, but was able to make it. “Uh, yeah, I think so.”

“Okay, good. Do you mind tellin’ me where yer house is?” Apple Bloom inquired gently. “Yer still hurt, and Ah don’t want ya meanderin’ out here all by yerself. Ah can take ya home if ya’d like.”

Beebee blinked and just stared at her for a moment in disbelief. He then looked up and around at their surroundings, hoping that maybe he had missed something in his earlier panic. “W-well… I kinda got… lost…” he mumbled as he realized that he was still hopelessly lost.

“Heh, don’t worry about it. Ya know, Ah know all about what it’s like to be lost,” Apple Bloom revealed as she lifted her now sealed backpack onto her back. “Ah came out here into the woods one day to wander and explore for a while. Ah kinda wanted to get away from mah farm and mah family fer a bit, and just see the world around me.

“And lemme tell ya, Ah got hopelessly lost. Ah was wanderin’ round for what musta been ages, just tryin’ to get back home. It was dark when Ah finally found somethin’ familiar, and Granny Smith grounded me for the rest of the week. It wasn’t fun.”

Beebee managed to offer her a small smile as she told him that. “Well, uh, I’m glad you found your way back…”

“So am Ah,” Apple Bloom agreed. “But that was a couple years ago. Ah kinda know these woods by now. So, tell ya what; Lemme take ya home, and you won’t have to worry about bein’ lost. Sound good?”

Beebee just blinked at her in confusion, and recoiled in surprise when she held out a hand. Beebee thought about the gesture, then lifted one of his own, his fingers curled into a fist to imitate his hoof. Before he had any time to correct himself, though, Apple Bloom firmly grasped his wrist and helped him to his feet.

Once he was in a standing position, a combination of pain and a complete lack of familiarity with being on two legs made him fall forward against Apple Bloom with a yelp. “Woah, Nelly!” she exclaimed as she caught him and helped him back up. “Y’alright?”

Beebee sniffled quietly, but nodded. “I th-think so… thank you, miss…” he planted his feet for a moment, and soon found his balance. Now that he was standing, he could compare himself to Apple Blom properly.

She was definitely bigger than him, standing almost a full head taller. She was also in significantly better shape, as he could see that her muscles were well defined. With some measure of irritation, he realized that his usually scrawny physique had carried over into this form, too, making him look like a twig in comparison.

“Beebee?” Apple Bloom asked, drawing Beebee’s attention. “What’s yer house look like?”

Beebee perked up, then looked around again. “Uh, well... my house is big and brown. It has a nice fence and a big backyard with a lot of green grass. Um… the front is all gravelly and stuff, and it has two floors…”

Apple Bloom’s eyes lit up with recognition, as did the air around her. “Oh! Yeah, ah know where that is!” she said while dropping a closed fist into an open palm. She then smiled and crouched down to be at Beebee’s eye level. “Alright, so, you feelin’ good enough to walk back?”

“I think so, yeah…” Beebee dumbly responded.

Apple Bloom nodded. “Okay…” she lifted up one hand and held it out to him. “Take mah hand, alright? Go ahead and lean on me, that’s it. Ah’ll take ya home to yer mama and papa.”

Beebee timidly reached out, and soon Apple Bloom took his hand in hers. His eyes widened when he realized how much strength there was in her fingers. On top of that, her skin was this strange combination of smooth and rough, as if once pristine hands had gotten roughed up from misuse or overuse.

Apple Bloom rose to her full height, lightly pulled Beebee a little closer to her side, and the two began to walk through the woods. She let him lean on her to take the weight off of his wounded leg, something which he was immensely grateful for. Their journey was made in utter silence for the first several minutes, aside from the exclamations both parties made as Beebee sometimes stumbled.

“How does dad get around with these things?” he asked in frustration while shooting his lanky legs an irritated glare.

“Y’know, Ah don’t think Ah’ve ever seen ya around,” Apple Bloom suddenly piped up, drawing a confused look from Beebee. “You new to the area or somethin’?”

Beebee looked away, his mind racing for an excuse. He then shrugged his shoulders and settled for a version of the truth. “I don’t really leave my house very much… not without Dad, at least…”

“Well, Ah mean, a guy as small and skinny as you? No offense or anythin’ but you really shouldn’t be out in the woods by yerself. Where is yer papa anyway?”

Beebee sagged and let out a quiet sigh. “He isn’t home right now… I had a really scary dream last night, and I couldn’t get back to sleep because it was still scaring me. I just got so bored, and I wanted to play outside for a while. I thought I could make myself tired and go back to sleep.”

“What about yer mama?” Apple Bloom pressed curiously. “Is she not home, either?”

Beebee looked down and away, his mood plummeting extremely quickly. “I… I don’t have a mom…” he said softly, and the air around him immediately turned blue with Apple Bloom’s guilt. “I never did…”

“Gosh… Ah’m so sorry to hear that, Beebee,” Apple Bloom said apologetically, slowing her pace down. “That must be hard…”

Beebee shrugged, looking back up at her. “I don’t know. I never had a mom… but my dad’s a really good man, and I love him a lot.”

Apple Bloom smiled in response to that. “Well, that’s good. What’s he like, if ya don’t mind me askin’?”

Beebee looked ahead, his mind wandering to the man in question. His face began to blossom with a small smile, and he opened his mouth to speak. “Well, my dad is really nice and friendly, and he works at the big park near here. He fixes the trails or something. He hugs me every morning, he lets me nap in his lap when he gets home, and he never lets me go hungry. He’s really-”

Suddenly, Beebee’s explanation was silenced as a sharp spike of pain shot through Beebee’s skull. He stumbled forward with a cry of pain, and was only able to stay on his feet because he was leaning on Apple Bloom. He screwed his eyes shut when he felt his transformation starting to slip away. His heart began to beat frantically in his chest, sending adrenaline pumping through his system. With an inward growl of effort, he was just able to stabilize his spell and hold his shape; for now, at least.

“Woah, are you okay?!’ Apple Bloom asked, helping Beebee right himself. “Are ya alright?! Do ya need to rest?”

He caught his breath after a few moments, and shook his head. “No, no, I’m okay. I just had a headache, that’s all. I get them sometimes,” he half-lied before looking around again. His pained grimace slowly began to turn more hopeful. “Oh… oh! I think I remember this spot! We’re close to my house!”

Apple Bloom looked around, then looked forward with a small smile. “See? Told ya you’d be fine. Lemme at least get ya to the door, okay? We’re not far,” she suggested gently before the two continued walking.

Beebee nodded happily, eager to get back home and get some much-needed rest. “Yeah!”

Apple Bloom smiled appreciatively at his enthusiasm, and their journey resumed.


Beebee had been right; they weren’t very far. In only a few minutes, they stepped past the treeline and came face to face with the familiar fence that enclosed Beebee’s back yard. From there, they walked around and were soon coming up to the front door. Apple Bloom’s hold on Beebee grew somewhat weaker, and then she let him go once they were by the door.

Apple Bloom gave Beebee one more look up and down before she placed her hands behind her back. “Okay, well… are ya gonna be okay?” she asked quietly, her expression concerned. “Ah don’t wanna leave ya here if not.”

Beebee gave her a thankful smile and a nod. “Yeah, I’ll be okay now, I think. I’ll just go inside and wait for my dad to come home. He’ll take care of me… he always does.”

Apple Bloom frowned as she heard that, and Beebee could tell that she was recalling that he didn’t have a mom. She glanced at the door, then at Beebee again, her worry growing. “Are ya sure? Is there anybody else here?”

Beebee shook his head. “No, but I can just nap on the couch for now. I…” he leaned his head back to let out a large and unattractive yawn. Once it had passed, he gave Apple Bloom a sheepish smile. “I think I probably need some nap time.”

Apple Bloom let out a quiet huff of laughter before looking into Beebee’s eyes. It was like she was searching for something. After a moment of silence, she must have found it, because she knelt down a little and put a hand on Beebee’s shoulder. “Ah’m sorry ya don’t have a mom… Lemme tell ya somethin’ - Ah don’t have one either.”

Beebee looked up at her in shock. “Wait, what? You don’t?” he stammered, not sure he really believed her.

Apple Bloom just shook her head. “Nope. Don’t got a dad, neither. They both… er… well, Ah lost em before Ah ever got to know ‘em,” she explained gently, the air around her turning a dark shade of blue with swirls of black. “So Ah get ya, Beebee. At least a little. Mah big sis and big brother take care of me along with our Granny.”

Beebee looked at her for a few moments, his mind reeling. He then swallowed the lump in his throat and gave her a stiff nod. “Well, uh… alright… thank you for very much helping me, miss Apple Bloom,” he mumbled weakly.

Apple Bloom gave him a small smile before pulling her hand back and rising to her full height. “Aw, shucks, it’s just Apple Bloom, or AB fer short. And you are very welcome, Beebee. Ah’ll be seein’ you around!” She said cheerfully before turning and walking back down the path.

Beebee frowned in confusion. “Uh… you will?” he called after her. She paused a few steps down the path and turned to smile back at him.

“Sure Ah will! We’re friends now, ain’t we?”

Beebee’s brain stalled the moment he heard that, and for a second, he just stood there, his jaw gaping open while his eyes bore into Apple Bloom’s. After a moment, he snapped it shut and nodded. “Uh, yeah… friends,” he mumbled.

Apple Bloom maintained her cheerful expression, though Beebee did see a subtle dark-blue tint seep into the air around her again. Was she disappointed by his response? Before he could think to correct himself, though, Apple Bloom spun around and kept going. She waved at him over her shoulder. “See ya ‘round, Beebee! Bye!”

Beebee watched her go, unsure of what to say. His eyes followed her intently until she disappeared around the side of his house. After a few minutes, the sound of her shoes in the grass faded away entirely, leaving Beebee all on his own.

Green fire swirled around him, then faded to reveal he had gone back to his normal self. He collapsed against the door, gasping desperately for breath as his exhaustion reared its ugly head. With a wheeze, he lit his horn and, despite the pain it caused him, undid the lock on the inside and opened the door.

He took a few stumbling steps forwards before collapsing to the floor in a gasping and twitching heap. He just had enough presence of mind to close the door behind him before he was completely and utterly spent. His vision began to grow hazy, and his eyelids heavy. Sleep reached for him, and he found himself unwilling to resist its siren call.

But as he fell away from the waking world and into the world of dreams, one last thought tickled his mind.

Apple Bloom had called him her friend… A smile crossed his face as he fell asleep.

He liked the sound of that.

Chapter 39: Grounded

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“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.”

Chapter 40: Compromise

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Beebee’s eyes were glued onto his bedroom ceiling, and his lips were tightly pressed into a thin line. His cracked flank occasionally throbbed at him as a reminder of its presence, but the pain was dull enough to be ignored for now. Besides, it didn’t hurt nearly as much as the memory of Eventide shouting at him.

Beebee winced and closed his eyes as he recalled just how loud his father had gotten. He had only ever heard the man get that loud once or twice before in his life, and usually, it was out of concern for Beebee’s wellbeing than out of anger or disappointment. Hearing it directed at him like that… it had been more than a little upsetting.

But that was far from the worst of it. It had been scary and saddening, yes, but the shouting was far from the worst part. No, the worst part was the emotions that had been pouring out of Eventide while he had been shouting. He had been angry, sad, relieved, disappointed, frustrated, and many more feelings that Beebee couldn’t name.

If he had to make a comparison to what it was like, he would say that it was similar to being swallowed whole by one of those avalanches he sometimes saw on TV. There had been no way out, no escape, and nothing he could do to protect himself. There was just the rush, and the pain it had brought. Just the thought of it made him shudder uncomfortably, and he rolled onto his side to pull his blankets up to his chest for warmth.

He was abruptly drawn out of his ruminations when he heard a gentle knock on his door. He opened his eyes with a quiet intake of breath, then looked over to see Eventide slipping into the room. He flicked on the overhead lights, allowing Beebee to get a look at his face. He looked calm, thoughtful, and even a little tentative. The hazy lavender hue of his aura displayed his trepidation clear as day.

Beebee released his hold on his blankets and sat fully upright, his eyes trained intently on his father. Eventide paused for a moment under those eyes, then walked over to the bed. He stood there for a moment, just looking at Beebee, who looked right back. Then, with a quiet exhale, Eventide got down on one knee so he could examine the cracks on Beebee’s flank. “Hey,” he greeted quietly. “How’s your leg?”

Beebee winced and glanced back down at his injury as it gave another spark of pain. “It still hurts… but it’s not too bad…” he answered truthfully, his tone quiet and dispassionate.

“Good…” Eventide breathed, his voice sounding a little relieved. He then turned around and sat on the edge of the bed, gingerly scooping Beebee into his lap while he did so. “Have you been thinking about what I said?”

Beebee nodded slowly, his glowing eyes unable to look into Eventide’s. “Yeah… I’m sorry, dad…” he apologized in a hushed voice, burying his face into the man’s chest.

“I know you are,” Eventide acknowledged, pulled Beebee a little closer and sharing his body heat. The warmth soon began to ease Beebee’s muscles and mind, and he started to relax in Eventide’s grip. Then, to his quiet delight. The air around them began to fill up with love and fondness. Beebee peeled his head back from Eventide to look at it, then opened his mouth to pull some of it in. The colors flowed down his throat and tickled his taste buds with flavors similar to strawberry ice cream and lemonade.

He bit back a grunt of disgust when he accidentally sucked down a far more rancid and bitter tasting emotion- leftover guilt and uncertainty that smothered his mouth in a flavor he could only describe as moldy bark on a tree. He stuck his tongue out and shook his head to dispel the rotten flavor before hugging Eventide close again, his wings wavering on his back.

They sat like that in silence for a while, and Beebee’s own fears and worries slowly became more manageable. Yes, he was in trouble, and he knew that. But he also knew that he deserved it. He had made a stupid decision. He’d almost gotten himself killed out there, and the punishment he had received was only fair.

After a few minutes, Eventide slowly nudged Beebee back so they could look into each other’s eyes. His own were slightly narrowed as if he were searching Beebee for some kind of specific sign or clue. Beebee shrunk back a little from that piercing gaze, his hooves fidgeting together.

At last, Eventide broke the silence. His voice was gentle and slow. “Now… Beebee… you mentioned earlier that you left the house because you were lonely, right?”

Beebee grimaced as that was brought back to the forefront of his mind. He looked away guiltily, his upper lip peeling back in disdain. “It’s stupid,” he grumbled, clearly dejected. “Why should I feel lonely? I have you, Buddha, and Aunt Fluttershy. I love you guys, and you love me. I’m not alone.”

Eventide reached out, lightly taking Beebee’s chin in his fingers and turning his head so they were eye to eye again. A flicker of confusion swam in to join his other feelings on the matter when he saw Eventide’s face. It was a thoughtful and unsure one like he was trying to think of how exactly to say something. He shifted slightly and licked his lips. “Beebee… there’s a difference between being alone and being lonely.”

Beebee frowned and tilted his head in confusion at that. His confusion only grew when a small smile of understanding spread on Eventide’s face. In the back of his young and developing mind, Beebee tried to piece it together. “Isn’t loneliness just what you feel when you’re all alone?”

In the end, he couldn’t find an answer on his own. So he tilted his head the other way and gave a wordless, questioning chitter, prompting Eventide to continue.

Eventide nodded sagely, lowering his hand so it was firmly grasping Beebee’s shoulder. “You see, Bee, being lonely doesn’t mean being all by yourself… It means that you are missing something. Something important that you can’t get from me, or Fluttershy, or Buddha. It has to come from someone else.”

Beebee straightened his head out, thinking that answer over. His wings twitched a few times on his back before he looked into Eventide’s eyes again. “What am I missing?”

Eventide sagged slightly before he withdrew his hand. His expression became solemn and regretful. “...Friends.”

Beebee blinked and leaned back a little bit. “Friends?”

“Yes. See, I’m your father, and Fluttershy is about as close to a mother as you’re going to get, I think. But… we’re the only people you really know. We’re your family, and you’ve known us for your entire life. But do you think, when I was growing up, all I had to talk to were my parents and a dog?”

Beebee slowly shook his head. “No… I guess not.”

“Exactly. I had friends growing up, I had friends when I worked at the Ginger Mart, and I have friends I work with on the trails every day. But you…?” he reached out, and gently poked Beebee in the chest, right where his little heart was beating under his chitin. “You don’t have any friends… and if you’re feeling lonely, then I think it means you need some.”

Beebee’s eyes slowly widened as Eventide spoke. And as he finished, Beebee perked up significantly, and his face lit up with realization and excitement. He leaned forward and lifted himself up on his hind legs, planting his hooves on Eventide’s shoulders so they were close to eye to eye. “You mean like Apple Bloom!?” he asked, his wings giving a quick little buzz. “She said we were friends before she went home!”

Eventide shrugged noncommittally. “I don’t know. Do you want her to be your friend?”

“Yes. Yes, I really do! Please, dad? Please?” Beebee all but begged, his heart beating just a little faster at the thought of getting to see Apple Bloom again. What little time he had spent with her had been frightening, to say the least, but it had also been thrilling and fulfilling. He couldn’t help but smile when he thought back on how they had talked when coming back, and what she had said before they went their separate ways.

“Sure Ah will! We’re friends now, ain’t we?”

Eventide took a moment, making a show of thinking over Beebee’s request, and drawing an annoyed and impatient pout from the bug. However, after a minute, Eventide smiled and nodded. “Alright, sure. You two can be friends.”

Beebee jumped off of Eventide to do a quick spin in the air, a visual display of his excitement. “Woohoo, yeah! Thanks, dad!”

“On one condition!” Eventide continued, a bit louder to be heard over Beebee’s wings.

He was quick to stifle his anticipation, coming to a stop in the air before coming in for a landing by Eventide’s side on the bed. He swallowed heavily. “What? What’s the condition?”

Eventide reached out to lightly poke Beebee on the tip of his horn, making the little guy snort and withdraw instinctively from the contact. “You need to be able to hold your human form for over an hour straight.”

Beebee’s eyes went wide again when he heard those words. He staggered back a few steps before falling to his haunches and gaping at Eventide in disbelief. “An hour?! That’s twice as long as I can do it!” he protested, his hooves flying up to his chest. “How am I supposed to do that?!”

Eventide frowned and rotated to face Beebee more directly. “Look at it like this, alright?” he began while leaning forward and clasping his hands together. “Apple Bloom is a regular girl, right? But you are the basement bug. You’re something completely foreign to her, and so leaving any room for her to see your real form is strictly out of the question.

“More than that, she is a teenager in high school. She’s older than you are by probably a decade, or more. Her perspective of time is a little different from yours because of that. She sees things faster than you. So, while thirty minutes is a long while for you, it’s not long at all to her, and it’s nothing to me.

“Besides, we know that your magic puts a strain on your physical body,” he continued, and Beebee nodded along, getting more comfortable on his haunches. “Well, a body under strain is a body that grows stronger, and you’ve gotten at least a little stronger in the last couple of years. Plus, when you first learned how to transform, you couldn’t do it for more than a minute. But now here you are, thirty times that. And, between you and me...” he leaned down towards Beebee and spoke in a quieter voice. “Thirty is a lot bigger than two.”

Beebee sat there for a moment, his mind doing some gymnastics of their own to process this. He didn’t even really notice as Eventide leaned back and watched him. The gears must have been practically visible, because he outright laughed at the sight, and the air lit up with some golden light.

Thinking about it, it made a lot of sense. Eventide was right; when he first discovered that he could shapeshift, he could only hold it for mere moments at a time. But as he had done it more and more, he could hold his shapes for longer and longer. He hadn’t even been trying to extend it, it just kinda happened on its own.

Now, if he made an active effort to get better, if he started training himself like those muscular guys in the action cartoons on TV did, maybe he could get better at holding his forms for longer. And with what Eventide had just put out, if Beebee wanted to be friends with Apple Bloom, he needed to get better.

With that thought firmly cementing itself in his mind, and a flame of determination igniting in his chest, Beebee looked up at Eventide and gave a sharp nod and appreciative smile. “Alright, I’ll try.”

Eventide smiled in return, then snaked one of his hands behind Beebee’s head to scratch at the base of his fin.

Oh, that was so unfair.

The sensation was delightful, as it always was. Beebee was powerless to do anything but let his eyes roll up into the back of his skull, and lean into those heavenly fingernails with a pleased series of chitters and chirps that he couldn’t prevent.

Eventide just laughed again as he abused the ‘Beebee off switch’, his smile growing wider and wider with adoration. “That’s all I need to hear,” He finally said before pulling his hand back.

Beebee quickly regained his composure with the loss of the scratches and stared at Eventide in slight disappointment. He couldn’t hold the pout for long, though, and smiled again. After a few moments, though, a thought occurred to him, and his happy smile became a tentative, yet hopeful one. “So… I can’t see Apple Bloom in person until I can hold my form for a long time right?”

Eventide nodded simply. “That is the deal, yes.”

Beebee shifted uncomfortably on his haunches, trying to think of how best to word his question. It was an odd one, and he had very little experience with the subject matter. But, after a minute, he lifted his eyes to meet Eventide’s again, those glowing blue orbs standing out brilliantly in the room. “Um… do you think that until I can do that, we could sometimes talk using your phone?”

Eventide blinked in surprise. He shifted around a little himself and rotated to face Beebee more directly. “Huh… y’know, I suppose we could do something like that,” he mused thoughtfully, a hand rising up to stroke his chin in thought.

Beebee relaxed all at once, an unseen tension fleeing from his muscles. He had to resist the urge to pump his hoof in victory.

“But I’ll need her number, first,” Eventide continued after a moment. “And I dunno if or when she’s gonna come by. And I’m not going out to look for her personally, at least not now. So you’re gonna have to rely on luck for that.”

Beebee’s face fell a little. Of course, he should have thought about that. “Oh… right.”

“And plus, you’re still grounded. Until you’re out of that, no phone calls for you.”

Beebee sighed heavily in disappointment, letting his face plow right into his covers. He groaned long and loud, feeling utterly defeated. “Aaaaw, man…”

Eventide just chuckled and rolled his eyes before leaning down to plant a gentle kiss on the back of Beebee’s head. When he pulled back, he kept his forehead pressing gently into his son’s. “I know you’re not happy with it, but it’s gotta happen. And no matter what, I will always love you… more than anything else in the world. You know that, right?”

Beebee nodded in response, relaxing somewhat. He sat up a bit and pressed his own forehead back into Eventide’s, reciprocating the pseudo-nuzzle. “I know, dad. I love you, too,” he said softly before leaning back and opening his eyes.

The two stayed like that for a little bit, just relaxing and enjoying the comforting presence of the other. Sadly, the moment couldn’t last forever, and Eventide had to go. He got up to his feet and nodded down at Beebee again. “Anyway, it’s late. Go ahead and get some sleep, okay? I’ll see you in the morning.”

Beebee couldn’t find it in himself to argue with that. He nodded and slowly dragged himself along his bed for his pillow. “Okay, dad. Good night…” he called, realizing only then just how drowsy he was. In short order, he was under the blankets and closing his eyes. The last thing he saw that night was his door swinging closed as the overhead light flicked off, plunging his room into darkness.


The next morning was, unfortunately, a gloomy affair. A heavy blanket of thick, dark clouds had smothered the sky, washing out the colors of the otherwise vibrant countryside. To add to the dreary atmosphere, they had started unloading a heavy torrent of warm summer rain on the world, drenching everything it touched.

Little streams and rivulets ran through the front yard of the house and between the pebbles of the gravel driveway, while water dripped from the roof and off of the leaves of nearby trees in excessive amounts. Puddles had formed practically everywhere, and the loud white noise generated by it all was simultaneously relaxing and unsettling.

Apple Bloom stood there before Beebee’s home, dressed in a bright blue water-resistant hoodie, long blue jeans, and her typical shoes. Over her shoulders was her backpack, same as the last time she had been here. She looked up at the sky for a minute, blinking rapidly as a few water drops splattered against her cheeks. She grimaced after a moment and looked ahead at the house before her. More specifically, the front door.

She had spent the last thirty minutes walking over here, stopping more than once to recall the specific direction she needed to go in. Now that she was here, she had taken notice of the plain blue car that sat in the driveway. Beebee’s father was home, then.

She frowned softly. She had no idea what to expect from the man, or even who he was. Beebee had claimed that he was a good man, and Apple Bloom had no reason to think that Beebee was lying. But still, there was a little bit of uncertainty in the back of her mind, warning her to at least be careful.

With a shrug, Apple Bloom finally pressed on, marching up the incline and sharply knocking on the front door several times. While she waited for an answer, she reached into her pocket and withdrew her phone to check the time. 10:07 AM. She put the device away, then glanced back at the backpack she was hauling along with her. She still had her first aid kit in there, ready to be used if needed.

Before she could think any further, the door of the home clicked and swung open. Apple Bloom faced forward and was greeted by the sight of a man that she hadn’t seen in years. She couldn’t remember his name, but she knew his face, and that Fluttershy was apparently really good friends with him.

He had light pink skin, close to the color of a peach, and he had short maroon-colored hair. His bright blue eyes looked at her in curiosity. He was wearing a grey t-shirt and cargo shorts that he looked pretty comfortable in. He looked at Apple Bloom for a moment before leaning against the frame of his door. “Hello? Can I help you?”

“Oh, sorry,” Apple Bloom shook herself and gave him a hopeful look. “Howdy, sir. Mah name’s Apple Bloom. Ah met Beebee yesterday out in the woods. I just wanted to check and see how he’s doin’, maybe change his bandages if they need changin’.”

The man nodded along slowly, his face lighting up with recognition. “Ah, Apple Bloom. I was kinda hoping you’d swing by. I want to thank you for taking care of Beebee yesterday.”

Apple Bloom just smiled wider. “Yes, sir, it was mah pleasure.”

“Glad to hear it. I’m Eventide,” he introduced himself in a friendly manner before glancing over his shoulder. He frowned and shifted a little to wave his hand dismissively at something moving around inside. “Hey, Buddha! No! Back!” he snapped, but his words were fruitless. A golden retriever dog shoved right by him and moved up to Apple Bloom, sniffing at her with a happily wagging tail.

Apple Bloom just giggled and reached down to pet the dog, Buddha, on the head a few times. ‘Why hello, there, Buddha! Yer a friendly girl, ain’t ya?”

“Bark!” Buddha responded happily before giving Apple Bloom’s hand a few friendly licks, making her chuckle in amusement.

Eventide sighed and shook his head in defeat. Apple Bloom didn’t miss the small smile on his face, though. “Heh. I can never win with this dog,” he grumbled before his expression became serious. “Anyway, you wanted to check in on Bee?”

“Oh, yes please, sir,” Apple Bloom looked back up at him, still giving Buddha a few pets. She didn’t mind that the dog was starting to get wet in the rain. “How is he? His leg was pretty messed up when Ah found him. How are his bandages?”

Eventide sighed heavily. “Well, he’s doing alright. His leg is still busted, so he’s not walking for a while. Don’t worry about his bandages, I changed them when we got up this morning.”

“Can Ah talk to him?” Apple Bloom asked hopefully. “Ya know, just to see for mahself? Ah kinda lost some sleep last night worryin’ if Ah’d done the first aid thing right.”

Eventide shook his head. “Sorry, but he’s grounded. He could have gotten himself killed, and he wasn’t supposed to leave the house without me. No TV, no guests, no games. Not until he’s learned his lesson.” he explained with an almost guilty look in his eyes.

Apple Bloom deflated at the news. Not really a surprise, she figured. Beebee had said it himself, he was going to be in trouble. “Ah understand…”

Eventide sighed quietly. “Sorry to disappoint you…” he muttered before his face lit up with realization. “Oh! Actually, I have an idea. Well, it was his idea, but…” he paused before reaching into his pocket and pulling out his phone. “It’s actually kinda lucky that you came here so soon. Beebee’s been wanting to talk to you again, so how about I give you my cell number? If you wanna talk to him, you could call and see if it’s a good time. And if it is, I can hand you off to him. How’s that sound?”

Apple Bloom blinked, mildly surprised. Then she pulled her own phone out of her pocket with a smile growing on her face. She hadn’t been expecting this, but she wasn’t going to say no. “Well, Ah’d be lyin’ if Ah said Ah wasn’t interested, mister Eventide. And mah big sis always told me to never lie.”

“Ha. That’s a good philosophy to have,” Eventide replied, though there was something odd in the way he said it. Apple Bloom’s smile faltered as she considered it for a moment while copying down Eventide’s number into her contacts list. It was strange, but she just couldn’t put her finger on why.

Either way, once the numbers were copied down, she slid her phone back into its pocket and nodded at Eventide. “Alright, mister, Ah gotta run. Tell Beebee Ah said hi, alright?” she asked before turning to go.

“I will. And really,” Eventide called after her, giving her pause. She looked back at him to see that his face had softened considerably, and he gave her a look of profound gratitude. “Thank you very, very much for taking care of my son… I don’t know what I’d do without him. I owe you big time.”

Apple Bloom just grinned and nodded her head. “Nah, ya don’t owe me nothin’. He needed help, Ah gave it, and it was mah pleasure. Bye, now!” she waved at him before turning and walking off down the street and back for her home, a slight bounce in her step.

From the doorway, Eventide watched her go. Then, with a sigh, he beckoned Buddha back into the house and closed the door with a thunk and click.

Chapter 41: Weakness

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2 Weeks Later.

Beebee sat in the computer chair in Eventide’s bedroom, his gaze locked onto the monitor, where a reflection of him stared back. He wasn’t sure how the piece of technology in front of him was able to show him his own face like a mirror. All he knew was that it had something to do with a ‘webcam,’ as Eventide had called it. Whatever the case may be, he could now really look at himself and his new shape.

He might have used a mirror, but he was also trying to get used to fingers. He couldn’t help but mentally cringe as he recalled trying to make the many wiggly appendages move the way he wanted them too. He had followed Eventide’s instructions to push keys and ‘click’ the mouse buttons to pull up the ‘webcam’ in the first place. It had been a long process.

But it was done, now, and he could see himself. Beebee tilted his head from one side to the other, keeping his eyes trained on his reflection in the screen and taking in all of the details he could and committing them to memory. He wanted to be sure he could accurately replicate this in the future, after all.

He was incredibly skinny, of course. That much would probably stay the same for a long time. He had striking blue eyes, much like he did in all of his forms. His skin was similar in color to Eventide’s, if perhaps a shade or two lighter. On his head was a short and messy batch of black hair with some white highlights scattered about.

Of course, his clothes were also a part of his body right now, as they had been when he first met Apple Bloom. He appeared to be wearing a really simple bright blue t-shirt and darker blue jean-shorts, along with simple white shoes on his feet. The open gash that had appeared on his hip when he first took this form was long gone, now, having finally fully healed up a couple of days ago. This left his shorts appearing clean and pristine.

“So… this is what I look like as a human, huh?” Beebee finally asked quietly while leaving back a little bit and lifting his chin.

Eventide, who stood by his side, gave a slow nod. “Yeah, it is,” he said quietly before his face lit up with a small smile. He knelt down and reached out to ruffle Beebee’s new hair, making the bug-turned-boy chuckle and bat his hand away. “And you are really cute.”

“Cuter than when I’m a bug?” Beebee asked, affixing Eventide with a genuinely curious look.

Eventide just shook his head and poked Beebee on the nose with the tip of his finger. “That, Bee, is not possible. I always think that you are at your best in your natural form. Nothing can beat those glowing eyes, I swear.”

Beebee beamed at Eventide at the praise before looking at himself in the screen again. His face twisted a little, and a thought occurred to him. He then leaned back and closed his eyes. Suddenly, there was a flicker of green flames under his eyelids, and when he opened them again, his eyes had changed to be perfect blue orbs that emitted a soft glow.

He looked over at Eventide and grinned. “Is this better?”

Eventide, to Beebee’s confusion, cringed back, and a flicker of unease filtered into his aura. “Uh, no, that’s just creepy,” he said a little awkwardly, making Beebee wilt a little. “The glowing eyes work for bug you, but, uh… humans don’t usually have glowing eyes.”

“Oh,” Beebee blinked, then nodded in understanding. It made sense, he supposed. The bad guys on TV always had glowing red eyes, after all. Not wanting to become a bad guy himself, Beebee closed his eyes and dispelled the glow with another flicker of fire. When he opened his eyes again and grinned at Eventide, they had returned to their previous, non-glowing state. “Sorry, dad.”

Eventide chuckled and waved a hand dismissively in the air. “Heh. Nah, you’re fine,” He dismissed Beebee’s apology in a casual tone before standing upright again. He stretched his back, then held out a hand to Beebee. “Now, let’s get you better on your feet, eh?”

Beebee’s face fell, and he let off a quiet groan of displeasure. He knew what this meant. He had to walk now. The trip up the stairs to even reach the computer had been awkward and clumsy enough. Add onto that the fact that Buddha had insisted on sniffing the ‘new boy’ all over with great enthusiasm, almost tripping Beebee several times, and he was not eager to be on two feet again.

But, he had to do it. With an overly dramatic sigh, he reached out one of his hands, remembering to unclench his fist this time and let Eventide pull him up to a standing position. His legs wobbled a little once he was upright, and he kept a hand on Eventide’s shoulder for balance.

“You steady?”

“Mhmm.”

”Okay, now, one foot in front of the other,” Eventide instructed in a gentle and patient manner, and the two slowly began to move across the bedroom. “Remember: heel, then toe. That’s it… Try to keep your back straight, you don’t wanna get back pains, and a good posture can help your balance. Try swinging your arms a little when you walk, like this. No, that’s too far, bring it back.”

Beebee listened to each instruction intently, following them to the letter and trying to commit the motions to memory. In all honesty, he was more than a little annoyed that it was this hard to move around on two legs. To make matters worse, his weak muscles made the unfamiliar activity quite taxing. In the back of his mind, he was extremely thankful that Eventide was there to offer him some support.

He was getting better, though! It was slow, but progress was progress! A fact that was perfectly illustrated when Eventide silently withdrew his hands from Beebee and backed up a few feet, giving the kid free rein to stand and walk under his own power. All the while, Eventide maintained his hushed tone and simple instructions, following along from the side.

This carried on for almost five minutes, with Beebee walking in circles in the bedroom and getting somewhat better at walking on his own. Sadly, his progress could not be maintained forever. The combined strain of holding a form as complex as a human boy and walking around without aid soon led to a headache in the back of his head. He tried to ignore it, but it was clearly visible that he couldn’t fend it off for long. He winced and sucked in a small breath between clenched teeth, giving Eventide pause.

“Beebee, you okay?” He asked in concern from the side, stepping a little closer and raising his hands, ready to catch Beebee if he fell.

“Headache,” Beebee replied quietly, his face twisting before he stopped and reached a hand out to catch himself on the wall. His breath was already getting heavy, and a bead of sweat rolled down the side of his head. “Tired… dangit…” he said between breaths.

Eventide’s face softened a little with understanding. “Oh. Uh, maybe you should change back, now?” he suggested, coming forward and letting Beebee rest against his side again.

But Beebee was defiant and shook his head stiffly in disagreement. “No, I can do this. I gotta push myself to get better, don’t I?” he asked, shifting his gaze back up to Eventide, who looked back at him with a frown on his face.

Push yourself, not hurt yourself,” he rebuked, his voice becoming more firm.

“I’ll be fine…” Beebee declined before trying to take another step. He had to get better at this. He had to push through the strain and go until he couldn’t go any further. It was the only way he could be Apple Bloom’s friend.

He let his mind wander to the teenager in question as he stumbled a few paces forward, coming away from Eventide’s side. A small smile appeared on his face as he let himself be distracted by the thought of her, and his body went into autopilot. They had talked a few times over the phone since he had gotten out of being grounded. He had been required to ‘turn off his buzz,’ as Eventide had put it, which more or less meant shapeshifting into another creature, so his voice sounded less distorted.

Their chats had been short and, at times, unbearably awkward, due in large part to Beebee having no idea how to start or hold a conversation with someone he didn’t know. Thankfully, Eventide had sat in on each call so far with his phone on speaker, helping to nudge the dialogue along whenever they started stagnating. Thanks to that, the discussions had been enlightening and enthralling.

For example, Beebee now knew that Apple Bloom’s big sister was named Applejack, and she also knew the names of her Big Brother and Grandmother. Big Macintosh and Granny Smith, to be precise. Beebee had also learned that Apple Bloom had two close friends she spent a lot of time with, named Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle. The first one was, apparently, a bit of a daredevil and stunt enthusiast, while the other had aspirations for singing.

They all sounded so interesting… Beebee really wanted to get to know them, too, someday.

Sadly, before Beebee could give the matter any more thought, his stamina finally ran out. A sharp gasp tore out of him, the last breath he could take of his own accord. His legs suddenly gave out under his weight, all the strength leaving his body at the same time. Green flames snapped into the air around him, and he turned back to his normal form. He almost hit the floor, but thankfully, Eventide was there to catch him.

His breath was coming in rapid, frantic gasps, and his eyes were screwed shut. His hooves were clasped onto either side of his head in a desperate and fruitless effort to push down his headache. A few errant spasms went through his muscles, making his legs kick out and his ears flick around at random.

It was a terrible feeling, just like it always was. He was only numbly aware of Eventide setting him gently down on the bed before everything went still for what felt like an eternity. An eternity where all he knew was severe breathlessness, hazy vision, a hammering heart, a fiery pain in his skull, and clouded thoughts.

At last, after almost an entire minute of this, he began to calm down from his fit. His vision stopped swimming, and his eyes refocused, revealing Eventide’s worried face staring back at him from next to the bed. “Beebee, are you okay?” he asked in a soft whisper, his voice, and aura both putting his anxiety on full display.

Beebee groaned miserably but was able to offer up a weak nod. “Y-yeah… I’m okay…” he mumbled between his still heavy breaths. He went to try and stand, but Eventide was quick to put a hand on his back and gently push him back down into the blankets.

“Woah, there. I think that’s enough for today. Why don’t you go ahead and take a little nap? I think you’ve earned it.”

Beebee frowned at the thought. But he knew better than to argue the matter at this point. He didn’t think he could stand right now anyway, no matter how much he wanted to. So, sagging in defeat, Beebee just gave a wordless hum and a nod.

After a few seconds, though, he let off a loud, frustrated growl before rolling himself onto his back and looking at Eventide in irritation and impatience. “Darnit! I was doing so good!” he whined indignantly, his cheeks puffing up a little.

“Well, keep at it, and you can only get better,” Eventide encouraged him while sitting on the side of the bed. He looked down at Beebee and gave him a warm, reassuring smile.

Beebee groaned again and covered his face with his hooves, blocking out the world. He spent a little while like that, just trying to catch his breath and relax. Almost a minute passed before his forelegs flopped limply to the sides. Staring up at the ceiling, Beebee gave off a long and dejected sigh. “...I hate being weak.”

Eventide’s face contorted with sympathy. He looked down and away for a second, then nodded to himself before laying back on the bed. His weight put a sizable impression in the mattress and caused Beebee to roll into his side. The bug took advantage of the movement to cuddle up to Eventide, who then wrapped an arm around Beebee. He held him there in a side hug, letting the little guy soak up his body heat and affection. “I know you do, Beebee,” Eventide murmured while rubbing soothing circles into Beebee’s shoulder with his hand. “I don’t like it, either.”

Beebee hummed quietly and reached out to cling a little closer to Eventide with his hooves. He buried his face into his side and snuggled up to him as close as he could. “Is there any way we can make me stronger faster?” he asked, though he wasn’t exactly hopeful.

To his surprise, Eventide actually seemed thoughtful. He frowned, his gaze locked on the ceiling, and his petting motions slowed to a halt. Beebee looked up at him in curiosity to see that his lips had pulled back into a thin line, his brow furrowed. After a few seconds, he gave a slow, tentative nod. “I think so… I’ll need a little time to think it over, though, alright?”

Beebee gave Eventide a small smile and nod. “Okay, dad.”

Eventide returned the look before giving Beebee another squeeze. He then stood up and reached down for the edge of the blanket. Beebee rolled over onto his belly and watched in curiosity as Eventide pulled the blankets up and over, tucking the little guy in nice and snug. Beebee chittered inquisitively, looking a little confused before he practically melted into the warmth of the blankets.

Eventide chuckled at the adorable sight, then knelt down in front of Beebee to look into his eyes. “Anyways, you’re tired. Go ahead and take a little nap, okay? I’ll be right downstairs if you need me,” he said in a quiet and tender voice before leaning forward and planting a kiss on Beebee’s forehead.

Beebee giggled from the contact before curling up into the blankets and giving Eventide a slow, drowsy nod. “Alright, dad… g'night…” he mumbled, despite the fact it was still early in the afternoon.

Eventide just laughed under his breath as he leaned back. He gently placed his hand on the back of Beebee’s head, his thumb rubbing a few soothing circles into his chitin. Beebee began to quietly chitter and purr from the contact, and soon, his breaths became slow and rhythmic.

Satisfied that all would be well here, for now, Eventide then rose to his feet and quietly excused himself from the room, leaving the door open just a few inches so Beebee could get out again if he needed to.

Chapter 42: The Long Trail

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A long, loud, and decidedly unattractive yawn slipped out of Beebee’s mouth, his drooping eyes staring out the windscreen of Eventide’s car. The sky outside was still dark, only somewhat lit by the faint blue light of the coming sunrise. Lamp posts by the side of the road gave a little more visibility as the car continued along, but frankly, Beebee was too groggy to really pay attention. With a discontent mumble, he looked up at Eventide over in the driver’s seat.

“Dad, why am I up so early, again?” he asked drowsily, lifting a hoof to rub some more of the sleep out of his eyes. “And why are we in the car?”

Eventide just gave Beebee a small smile and a knowing look out of the corner of his eye. “I got a surprise for you, one that’ll help you get in better shape,” he said in a way that was not cryptic at all.

Beebee was not amused and narrowed his eyes. “Okay, but what is it?”

“Did you miss the word surprise?” Eventide quipped with a small smirk while he turned the car around a curve in the road.

“I didn’t,” Beebee pouted indignantly before leaning over to paw uselessly at Eventide’s resting elbow. “Tell me anyway.”

That drew a merry chuckle out of Eventide. He shook his head and reached over to pat Beebee on the head. “It doesn’t quite work like that, Bee. If it makes you feel any better, you can nap until we get there. It’s gonna be a little bit.”

Beebee just groaned at the lack of answers, but getting a few extra winks was an enticing thought indeed. So, with another yawn, he did as told. He leaned back in the car seat and rested his head against the backrest, closing his eyes. The motions of the car rolling along and the gentle thrum of the engine were soothing if nothing else, and in no time, he began to doze off again. He wasn’t quite able to fall truly asleep, though, as his mind became preoccupied with questioning what was even happening.

He was more than a little confused. All he knew for sure was that Eventide had woken him up an hour or two earlier than usual, then took him out to the car once their morning breakfast hug was over. Now, this wouldn’t be quite so bad, if it weren’t for the fact that Beebee had no idea why they were out here. He was still getting his head in order from his time asleep, too, which was not helping his patience at all.

After a few minutes of pondering and dozing, he felt a damp nose press itself into the back of his shoulder, followed by a few affectionate licks. Mildly perturbed by the disturbance, though not by the source, he opened one eye and glanced over to see Buddha nosing at him from the back seat. Her eyes were shining with curiosity and excitement, and her tail was thumping against the seat in a steady beat. Her overall demeanor was more calm and relaxed, though, signaling that she was probably still a little drowsy herself.

But, Beebee remembered, this was Buddha he was looking at, and a little drowsiness was not enough to dampen her lively spirits. This was made perfectly clear by the excess amount of gold and pink hovering in the air around her, filling it with a lovely scent and taste.

Beebee smiled at her before leaning over to nuzzle against her face. She returned the gesture before he leaned back and opened his mouth to pull in some of that sweet, delicious emotional energy. As the food pooled into his belly, his senses came alive, and he felt himself waking up just a little more. If Eventide drank coffee to wake up, Beebee drank Buddha’s excitement and perpetual joy.

His feat was interrupted when the car began to slow down, and Buddha turned to prop herself up against one of the back-seat windows to look outside. Confused, Beebee looked up at Eventide for answers. The man looked back down at him for a moment before returning his attention to the road. “We’re here,” he declared before pulling the car to a stop and turning off the engine.

Beebee, having not been paying attention to where they were, blinked in surprise before mimicking Buddha’s actions. He undid his seat belt with a quick flicker of magic, then propped himself up against the passenger door to look out the window. His eyes widened slightly as he took in an unfamiliar environment.

They had come to a stop in a large gravel parking lot, and a collection of wooden buildings could be seen a little ways away, sheltered by various trees and the like. A concrete path connected the buildings, and a friendly sign hung over it in front of the building. It read: Welcome to Everfree National Park!

Frowning in confusion, Beebee turned his attention to the windshield. There, he saw that right in front of the car was a wide dirt path that steadily climbed in altitude. The dirt was well-trodden, and various sets of footprints could be seen in the tightly packed soil. Around the trail was a lush and masterfully maintained corridor of plant life and greenery, forming a natural-looking arch. Another sign stood over the start of the path, reading in big, bold, friendly letters: The trail starts here.

“Hop out,” Eventide instructed while undoing his seat belt and pulling open his door. Beebee glanced back at him curiously and remained still for a second even after the door had shut. Why were they here? Wasn’t this where Eventide worked? If so, then wouldn’t there be other people here? After all, Eventide had mentioned before that he had several friends who he worked with when out on the trails.

But Eventide must have known what he was doing. So, with only a little bit of anxious reluctance, Beebee used his magic to open up his door before hopping down to the ground. The gravel crunched under his hooves, and the chilly pre-sunrise air nipped at his chitin, making him shiver a little. In the distance and among the trees, he could still make out the chirping of distant night creatures, like crickets, and he even heard an owl hooting somewhere in the mix.

Eventide circled around the car, leading Buddha along with a red leash hooked up to her collar. She sniffed at the ground in excitement, then looked up at Eventide with a hopeful, eager look on her face. Beebee watched the two of them for a moment before looking ahead at the trail. “So… why are we here, dad?” he asked in genuine curiosity.

Eventide gave him a small smile and then got down onto one knee, petting Buddha as he did so. His eyes remained locked on Beebee, though. “Well, we’ve been trying to figure out a way to improve your stamina, haven’t we? I spend most of my time on this trail every time I come to work. I know it like the back of my hand, I know where it’s safe, I know what to look out for, and I know how far it goes.”

Beebee nodded along slowly. He looked the trail over some more, following it with his eyes as far as he could before it rose and disappeared into the forest. “How far does it go?” he asked, turning to his father inquisitively.

Eventide lifted a finger and pointed up. Beebee followed the indication and soon caught sight of an elevated mountain peak, just poking up into the sky from behind the forest. “It leads to a spot on that mountainside. A big open clearing with flowers and a nice river running through it. It’s about a two-hour hike if you go at a good pace, and it’s mostly uphill.”

“Wow… that’s a long way,” Beebee muttered quietly, his eyes tracing the shape of the mountain. There wasn’t any snow on it right now, leaving it to mostly by various shades of green and, where trees did not grow, gray. He then turned his eyes back to Eventide. “Are we going to walk on it?”

Eventide nodded again, his smile growing. “That’s the plan, yeah. The place isn’t technically open right now, but I managed to pull a favor with my boss. As long as I report any problems with the trail I find to him when I turn up for work later, he doesn’t mind if I ‘walk my dogs’ up here.”

Beebee’s eyes lit up at that, and he looked ahead at the trail again. His wings gave a quick and excited flutter on his back. “Wow! So, is this your surprise?!” he asked before spinning around and looking up at Eventide. “Is it?! Please tell me it is!”

Eventide burst out laughing at the adorable sight, then reached over to give Beebee a few affectionate scritched behind the ears. “Yes, Bee. This is the surprise. Do you like it?”

“I love it!” Beebee answered jubilantly, spinning on his hooves to look at the trail again. “This is such a cool idea! I’ve never seen your trail before!” A moment passed, and his smile fell away, replaced with a confused frown. “Wait, you said ‘dogs.’ Does that mean I have to turn into a Collie?”

Eventide shook his head, much to Beebee’s relief. As much as he loved that form, he wanted to keep his mind as undistracted as possible so he could take in the trail. “Not unless someone we don’t know comes along. If someone does come along, though, you dive into the bushes, change, and come back out, and you don’t change back till they’re gone. Understood?”

Beebee gave a sharp, dutiful nod. “I understand.”

Eventide seemed satisfied with this answer and rose to his feet. “Alright. Now, all that being said, if you want to turn into something else while we’re doing this, go ahead. But I want you to tell me the moment you’re about to lose focus or have one of your attacks, alright? That’s when we'll know it’s time to head home. Like I said last night, you need to push yourself, but I don’t want you to hurt yourself. Deal?”

“Deal.”

“Alright…” Eventide then turned and looked out at the trail. “Well… come on, then. Let’s get started.”

And with that, the man, his son, and their dog set off down the trail. They went at a moderate pace at first, letting Beebee’s hooves get used to the compacted dirt. As they went, his eyes drifted up at the trees, and his mouth formed into a little ‘o’ of wonder. “Woah… these trees have leaves. All the ones at the house have needles or something…”

“Yeah, there are a lot of deciduous trees along the trail,” Eventide nodded along, gesturing at one for an example. “You should see this place in the fall or winter. When the leaves fall, or when it’s all covered in a thin layer of snow, lit up by yellow afternoon sunlight… the best way I can think to describe it is magical.”

Beebee let out a low chitter of wonder, his mind trying to envision the sight. He looked around, envisioning the leaves on the trees as various shades of orange and yellow and red, many of them drifting through the air and for the trail. He knew already that what he could picture could never do the reality any justice, but even the image in his mind was enough to get him excited and enthralled.

Then his ears twitched, catching the sound of the trees overhead rustling in the breeze. He stopped for a second to just listen, his face lighting up with a serene, tranquil smile. “It sounds so pretty…”

“Yeah, it does…” Eventide agreed a few paces ahead, glancing back at Beebee with a smile. “But let me tell you, the best part of this trail is the end.”

Beebee perked up and cantered forward, falling into step next to Eventide as they continued on their way. “Oh yeah? Why?” he pressed eagerly before sweeping his eyes across the trail ahead of them again, drinking in more of the sights.

Eventide looked ahead as they reached the first curve of the trail, the path before them gradually curving upwards. “Well, for one thing, when you come out of the treeline, there’s this big open meadow, covered with grass and flowers of all kinds of colors. You’re so high up that you can see for miles and miles. I bet you we could even see CHS from up there, and our old house right next to it.”

Beebee’s eyes widened, and he lightly bumped into Eventide’s side. “No way! You’re kidding!”

Eventide shook his head. “I am not. I can see CHS from all the way up there. It’s kinda fuzzy, yeah, but it’s there. The wind is strong and cold because of how high up you are, but the breeze makes the flower petals fly through the air in this amazing dance, and... and it’s just beautiful. The river that cuts through it isn’t too big or too small, and it creates this gentle trickling noise that adds to the peaceful atmosphere. The water is really clear, and in the middle of summer, it feels great to dip your toes in for a minute and lay in the grass.”

“It sounds amazing,” Beebee replied quietly, his mind getting carried away with Eventide’s descriptions of the place. A small bounce worked its way into his step, a dreamy smile splitting his face “I wanna see it.”

“Well, that’s the idea,” Eventide reminded with a wink. “If we come out here and walk like this often enough, we’ll make it a little farther every time. And when we reach the peak, I think we’ll know that we’ve beaten your weakness.”

“You really think so?”

“I do.”

Overcoming his weakness by reaching the top of this trail? Beebee liked the sound of that. It was a challenge, a goal, and one that he felt determined to reach. His muzzle opened up into a wide and eager grin, and his pace picked up a little, his energy increased by the flame of resolve in his heart.

The trail began to curve back around the other way, now, the slope leveling back out. A gap in the wall of greenery to their right gave Beebee an unobstructed view of a large clearing, where an old, hollow and moss-covered log could be seen resting on the ground. All around it was a field of thick bushes and blooming flowers of many vibrant colors. He paused for a second to look at it, then moved along.

The trio fell into a companionable silence as they continued their hike. One minute turned into five, five into ten, and ten into twenty. The dull blow glow of imminent sunrise, at last, gave way to a deep, rich gold as the distant orb of light rose above the horizon. A very thin haze hung in the air around them, one that had gone unnoticed in the dark, allowing for brilliant sunshafts to be cast through the leaves and branches. In the distance, birds began to sing a song of welcome to the source of warmth.

Buddha was thrilled, even more than usual. She would routinely pull Eventide aside so she could sniff at some new thing she had seen, like a bush, or a weird looking rock, or a piece of funnily shaped wood. Her tail was wagging incessantly, and the shimmer in her eyes was matched only by the glow of golden light around her. She was ecstatic to be exploring someplace new.

Beebee was just as excited as she was, although he internalized a lot more of it. Furthermore, his breath was starting to get heavy at this point, making it a little more difficult to feel excited. But he could go for a little longer yet. And besides, he was having way too much fun to think of backing down, now! This place was amazing! No wonder Eventide liked his job so much.

After another five minutes or so of walking, a sound reached Beebee’s ears, causing them to perk up and listen. It was the sound of trickling water, like what Eventide had described. Was it the river? Curious, he increased his pace, ignoring the discomfort that grew in his hooves with every step he took.

After another few turns, the path leveled out before them again, heading straight for a considerable distance. Beebee came to a stop when he saw that, there, just ahead of them, there was a river cutting through the trail. It wasn’t very deep, he could probably stand in it and be up to his belly in water, and it was maybe ten feet from one side of the river to the other. A sturdy-looking wooden bridge was in place to let them cross, the rails having a few gaps in them to let smaller people look without the risk of falling in. There were a few bits of moss poking up between the planks, and it was definitely on the older side.

Thankfully, when Beebee’s hoof thunked down onto it, the bridge held firm, and it didn’t even creak under the weight of the group as they all passed onto it. Curious, Beebee stopped halfway across the bridge and squeezed his head through the wooden beams of the rail to peer down into the water. He saw the glow of his eyes reflected in the surface, looking right back up at him. He also saw Eventide’s face reflected next to his, as the man in questioned leaned over the side of the rail.

Beebee’s wings buzzed on his back. “This is the river…?” he asked in a hushed tone, as if afraid to disturb a peacefully sleeping animal.

“Part of it, yeah,” Eventide answered simply with a nod, his voice equally quiet. “The river and the trail intersect at a few points here and there.”

Beebee slowly blinked, transfixed by his reflection. His wings wavered on his back again. “...It’s really pretty,” he whispered in awe. His eyes wandered around as he caught sight of the reflection of the forest over his head in the water’s surface, and he couldn’t help but be reminded of the mirrors or the webcam back at home.

Eventide gave Beebee a questioning look, seemingly perplexed by his absolute mesmerization with something as simple and small as this narrow stream of river. Then his expression became one of dawning understanding, and a knowing smile spread across his face. “Oh, yeah… you’ve never actually seen a river like this up close before, have you?”

“Nuh uh,” Beebee shook his head in the negative before pulling his head back and out of the rail. “The most water I’ve seen is in the shower back at home, or whenever it rains really hard…” He then looked up at the rail Eventide was leaning against. In the back of his mind, he did a few rudimentary calculations. Then, with a grunt of effort, he sprang up into the air with a quick buzz of his wings and a kick of his legs.

He felt a spike of pain in his body, but not enough to send him into one of his fits. It was enough to make him land on top of the rail rather clumsily, though, and he almost overshot his desired perch. He began to tilt forward, about to fall into the water. Luckily, Eventide was quick to reach out and keep him from a decidedly unpleasant descent. “Woah, there! You alright?” he asked, pulling Beebee back and helping him find a spot on the rail.

Panting for breath, Beebee nodded once he was secure. He sat down on the rail and let his wings droop at his sides. “Uh huh… I’m oh… okay… whew…” he gasped between breaths before looking down into the water again.

“You about ready to go back?” Eventide asked him in a far gentler voice, resting his hand on Beebee’s back. “You’re looking pretty worn out, there.”

After a moment of consideration, Beebee gave a sad nod. “Aww… okay… just… let’s watch the water for a bit…? Please…?”

Eventide considered this request for a second, and then, with a smile, went back to looking down into the river with his son. “Sure thing, Bee. We’ve still got some time…”

Buddha looked up at the two of them from her place by Eventide’s side. Somewhere in the depths of her mind, she knew that they wouldn’t be moving again for a little while. And so, with nothing else to do, she joined them. She got a little closer to Eventide’s side, pressing up against his leg, and then sat down before gazing down into the water as well.

They didn’t stay there for very long - maybe ten minutes, at the most. But to the trio, it felt like a lot longer than that. To them, it was a long time of just enjoying the sight below them, and being together with their family.

Chapter 43: Three's The Charm

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Over a month later…

Beebee’s eyes slowly cracked open, revealing the unlit interior of his bedroom. The glowing blue orbs looked around, his mind shrouded in a groggy haze. His gaze soon settled on the alarm clock he had on his end table, reading the time as ten in the morning. With a drowsy grumble, he hauled himself into a sitting position, stretching out his wings as he went.

Up next were his legs and his back, all of which gave a few satisfying pops when he got around to stretching them. He couldn’t help but release a relieved sigh as some of the tension bled out of his stiff muscles. He shook himself and glanced at the clock again, a bewildered frown appearing on his face. “...Wait a minute…” he whispered to himself, taking a moment to think.

10:00 AM. That wasn’t right. He was normally supposed to be up well before sunrise for his walks with Eventide and Buddha at the park. It was a routine he had gotten rather accustomed to at this point, and they had not missed a day yet. So to be waking up so much later than that was baffling and perhaps a little concerning.

He couldn't deny that the extra rest felt great though.

Still, it was unusual, and his muzzle scrunched up. With a simple tug of his magic, he pulled open his bedroom door, revealing that the basement beyond was just as dark as his room. His confusion only continuing to grow, Beebee rose to a proper standing position and squinted through the darkness. Had Eventide just forgotten, Beebee thought?

“Well, I guess I’ll just ask him,” he finally decided before jumping down from his bed and cantering out of his room and for the upstairs living room. He pushed the door open with a quick burst of magic and emerged into the light. His eyes scanned his surroundings, squinting just a little as he adjusted to the change in illumination.

There wasn’t any sign of Eventide. There was, however, a certain pink-haired teenager sitting with her back to him on the couch. An enormous grin appeared on Beebee’s face when he realized that it was Fluttershy. She must have heard the door opening, as she turned around to look at him over her shoulder with a smile of her own. “Good morning, Beebee!” she called out to him.

“Aunt Fluttershy!” Beebee all but squealed, his wings lifting him into the air while his hooves flew up to his cheeks. With an excited laugh, he shot around the couch and directly into Fluttershy’s waiting arms. She let out an ‘oof’ as he plowed into her belly, but all the same, she wrapped her arms tightly around him in a loving hug. “It’s been so long!” Beebee declared, burying his face into her chest.

Taking a moment to regain her breath, Fluttershy gave a weak nod. Her pained expression faded away, and a certain glint came into her eyes. “Yes, it has, and I’m so sorry I haven’t been by in so long. But I would never let myself miss your third birthday, so here I am.”

Beebee’s brain stalled, and he sat back to give her a blank look. “My third birthday?” he asked dumbly, his brain doing a quick reboot.

Fluttershy tittered into her hand. “What, didn’t Eventide tell you this time?”

And then he remembered. It was his birthday today. Eventide had subtly been teasing him about how great his presents were going to be this year for the last few weeks.

“I guess that’s why he didn’t come down and wake me up,” Beebee thought to himself. He was letting Beebee rest up for his big day.

Beebee’s grin returned with gusto at the prospect, and, using Fluttershy as a springboard, he launched into the air to do a few celebratory backflips. “I’m three years old! I’m three years old! DAD! WHERE ARE YOU?! I’M THREE YEARS OLD!”

His joyous shouting and acrobatics were cut short when he heard a pained groan from the only other person in the room. Beebee came to a stop mid-spin to look at Fluttershy while upside down. She was doubled over with her hands clutched to her poor, abused tummy, and she was breathing heavily.

Feeling an onrush of guilt, Beebee’s smile gave way to a little ‘o’ and he flipped right-side-up. “Oh, shoot. I’m sorry, Fluttershy. Are you okay?” he asked while drifting down a little closer to her.

“Fine…” Fluttershy gasped breathlessly. She lifted her head and winced before giving Beebee a more timid smile. “You’re getting bigger, Beebee.”

Despite his Aunt’s discomfort, Beebee couldn’t help but swell up a little with pride at the praise. “Thanks! Dad and I go for long walks every morning so I can get stronger,” he declared before doing one more backflip and touching down on the floor.

Fluttershy, finally getting her breath back, leaned forward and clasped her hands together over her chest. “Oh, I know! He told me all about it over the phone. You’ve been making good progress, too, from what I’ve heard.”

Beebee nodded. “Uh-huh. I can go for about, uh, forty-five minutes, now!” he responded, trotting up and lightly pawing at Fluttershy’s ankle. “You should come with us, sometime!”

Fluttershy’s expression became noticeably more apologetic, and she leaned down to pick Beebee up and set him in her lap. “Oh, I wish I could. But it’s so hard to come all the way out here, and I have school when you guys are out on the trail.”

“Aaaw…” Beebee signed dejectedly before nodding his head. “Okay, I understand…”

Fluttershy reached down to pat him on the head, but luckily, his despondency was short-lived. He perked right back up and quickly grasped her hand with his hooves. He held her hand in front of his face to hide his muzzle, so just his big glowing eyes were visible to her. “But if you ever get a chance, you should totally come with us. It’s a really pretty trail, especially now that it’s becoming fall. There are these really pretty rivers, too, and flowers, and birds, and one time, I met a rabbit!”

Fluttershy’s look of pride and affection grew wider and wider with every word Beebee spoke, and the air around her lit up with a kaleidoscope of wonderful emotions. “It sounds wonderful. I’ll try to come with you someday, I promise,” she swore before holding Beebee back a little further to get a better look at him. She then smiled and nodded with approval. “And it looks like the walks are doing you some good. You’re not so skinny anymore.”

Beebee tilted his head and looked at one of his forelegs. He then curled it like one of those weird bulky people in the action cartoons did, while making what he thought was a manly ‘Hwuuh’ noise.

Fluttershy released Beebee in her lap so that her hands could fly up to cover her mouth. A flurry of delighted giggles slipped past her lips and fingers. “Oh my gosh, you’re just so cute sometimes!” she managed to say between her laughs.

Beebee grinned at her again before looking around. His smile fell away to a more perplexed and thoughtful look as he remembered that Eventide was conspicuously absent. “So… where’s Dad?” he asked, spinning in a slow circle and perking up his ears to listen.

Fluttershy, at last getting her chortles under control, leaned forward a little. “He’s off getting you one more present. He should be back soon,” she explained before spreading her arms out wide. “And that means you haven’t had anything to eat yet today. Want some breakfast?”

Beebee didn’t say anything and just tackled her in the chest.

Well, there wasn’t really a much more clear answer than that.

Fluttershy wrapped her arms around Beebee again, closed her eyes, and began to radiate with a gentle pink glow. Beebee relaxed as it washed over him, and a quiet chattering noise came from the depths of his throat. He then looked up, opened his mouth, and began to drink in all of the pink love.

After almost a solid minute, Beebee had had his fill. He clamped his mouth shut and snuggled into Fluttershy’s embrace, happy that she was there again. He didn’t get to see her nearly often enough, so he was going to make this time count. As if she shared the opinion, Fluttershy squeezed him closer and leaned back on the couch.

The two remained like that for a good long while after that, just enjoying the other’s warmth and embrace. Fluttershy, without even realizing it, absently reached up one of her hands to pet Beebee on the back of the head, right next to his fin. Beebee tried to whine in protest to the blatant act of cheating, but all that came out was a pleased little hum.

Eventually, though, Fluttershy nudged Beebee back a little with her other hand, prompting him to look up at her questioningly. “Fluttershy?”

She smiled down at him. “Eventide told me that you can turn into a human boy now,” she said with a knowing wink, giving him a few more light scratches behind his ears. “May I see it?”

Beebee’s eyes unfocused for a moment from the scratches, but then Fluttershy pulled her hands away from him. He sat there for a moment in a kind of trance, then shook himself and gave a quick nod. “Oh, sure!”

Bursting with excitement to show off his newest transformation, he spun around and hopped down to the floor. Although he made sure to be careful and not use Fluttershy as his own personal launch pad this time. He walked about ten feet away from her, turned around to look at her, and gave a cocky little smirk. “You watching?”

“Yes, I am! Go for it!” Fluttershy cheered him on, holding her hands together just under her chin while her eyes shimmered with excitement and anticipation.

Well, all of her was shimmering with excitement and anticipation, but that's beside the point.

Without further ado, Beebee closed his eyes and lit his horn. Then, in a rush and swirl of green fire, the Basement Bug was replaced with a human boy that looked to be around nine or ten years old. This time, he chose to look as if he were wearing blue jeans and a moss-green t-shirt. He gave his head a little shake to let his dark hair stick out a bit and then opened his blue eyes to meet Fluttershy’s.

Her hands had gone from her chin to her mouth, and her smile had grown even wider. “Oh, my…” she breathed out in a quiet voice, and the pink glow around her began to increase in brightness several times over.

Beebee did a little spin in place to show off his appearance, though he wobbled a little at the end. Once he was sure he had his feet solidly under him, he spread his arms wide and grinned at Fluttershy. “Tada! Do you like it?” he asked while gesturing at himself and looking down.

Fluttershy nodded and lowered her hands to her lap. She looked just so happy and thrilled right then, and it was all thanks to Beebee. His heart beat just a little faster with pride at making her smile like that. “Yes, I love it very much. You look great, Beebee!”

Beebee might have backflipped, but he didn’t have wings right now. So, instead, he pumped his fist in the air with a little laugh. He then stood more upright and made his way over to the couch, maintaining his form for the time being. “I’m gonna stay like this as long as I can, okay? Since Dad and I aren’t walking, maybe holding this can work instead.”

“That’s perfectly fine,” Fluttershy agreed before scooting over to give Beebee some more room on the couch. He sat down next to her, he rested his head on her arm without even missing a beat. In response, she wrapped that arm over his shoulders and pulled him closer. The two gave off quiet, content hums from the contact before Beebee looked hopefully up at Fluttershy.

“Can we watch some TV till Dad gets home?”

Fluttershy giggled, her hand going for the remote on the arm of the couch. “Sure.”


A short while later, the tell-tale sound of keys jingling by the lock could be heard. Beebee tore his attention away from the television and watches as the door swung open. Sure enough, there was Eventide, stepping in with a neatly gift-wrapped box in his hands. “Hey, is the birthday boy up yet?” he called while closing the door behind him with his hip, having not quite gotten a proper look at the couch.

“Dad!” Beebee said in a raised voice before springing to his feet from the chair and practically sprinting across the room. Sadly, he was still not as accustomed to two legs as he probably should have been, and as such, he lost his footing a few steps away and began to topple forwards with an alarmed yelp.

Eventide, having heard his son’s exclamation, was quick. He stepped forward and reached out with one hand, catching Beebee and helping him back up to his feet. “Woah, there! Careful,” he said, albeit with a slight chuckle of amusement from Beebee’s enthusiasm. “You okay?”

Steadying himself on his feet again, Beebee blushed just a little bit. That… was not as graceful as it could have been. “Sorry. I’m alright,” he dismissed before his eyes zeroed in on the present. It was almost as big as he was in his normal form. “Present!”

Eventide gave the box a curious glance, then looked at Beebee with an undeniably teasing expression on his face. “That is what that is, yes.”

Beebee opened his mouth and inhaled to speak.

“No, you can’t have it until cake tonight.”

Beebee let out a disappointed groan, his posture sagging. After a moment, though, he shook his head, perked up, and reached out to give Eventide another big hug, one which was happily returned.

“You decided to be a boy today?” Eventide asked after a few moments while backing out of the embrace.

“As long as I can,” Beebee replied with a nod and a hopeful smile. He raised one of his hands and wiggled his fingers in front of his face. “The longer, the better, right?”

“Well, just make sure you turn it off before you go into an episode,” Eventide warned in a firm tone before his eyes drifted away from his son to Fluttershy, who was now rising from her place on the couch. “He behave himself?”

“He’s been very good, yes,” Fluttershy replied simply while coming up to join the two of them. “Buddha’s been napping up in your room all day, by the way.”

“Alright,” Eventide nodded before lightly nudging Beebee back out of the hug. “‘Kay, gimme some room, Bee. I gotta go put your present away,” he pointed out while wiggling his way out of the hug.

Beebee hesitantly did as he was told, not quite wanting to let go just yet. Of course, he also didn’t want to let the present out of his sights just yet. Fluttershy, probably sensing this, (or just knowing him too well) put a hand on his shoulder to stop him from going anywhere. He shot her an indignant pout before his eyes returned to the colorful box.

Eventide carried it along until he passed out of the living room and went upstairs. Only once the sound of his feet reaching the top of the stairs was heard did Fluttershy release Beebee’s shoulder. In response to being freed, he let out a loud, deliberately melodramatic sigh, before wandering over to sit on the couch again. Fluttershy followed close at his heels, trying (and failing) to hide her amusement.

The two sat back down, and a few minutes later, Eventide came marching back into the living room with a certain golden retriever walking along next to him. Buddha caught sight of Fluttershy and immediately ran up to start sniffing at her ankles, her tail wagging in excitement. Fluttershy reciprocated the affection by reaching down and petting her with great enthusiasm.

Eventide chuckled in amusement, then looked at the television. His face lit up with approval as he saw what was on. He then turned his eyes back to the empty cushion on the couch and gestured at it. “You guys mind if I join you?”

“Not at all,” Fluttershy replied, both her and Beebee scooting over to make a bit more room. Once Eventide was seated, Buddha followed him right up, eliciting a grunt as her paws met his belly. She then turned and lay down, resting her body on Eventide’s lap and her chin on Beebee’s.

And so the four of them fell into a companionable silence, all of them watching the show on TV. It was some action cartoon or other, Beebee had seen it before. In that moment, though, he was a bit too absorbed in something else to really pay attention.

Specifically, he was too absorbed in just being with his family.


And many more~!” Fluttershy and Eventide finished singing a while later, much to Beebee’s mounting joy. The cake had been removed from the fridge and put on full display on the dining table a minute previously, and there were three candles poking out of the top of it, each one lit with a small flame.

Beebee stood by the table, still in his human form, while Eventide and Fluttershy stood across from him. As the two finished their song, Beebee lifted his hands and clapped along with them, giant grins plastered on each of their faces. Even Buddha was getting excited, even though she had no clue what was going on.

Eventide was the one to speak up as the claps and cheers died down. “Hard to believe it’s been three years since you hatched, Bee,” Eventide declared proudly as he walked around the table to clap Beebee on the back. “And even harder to think it’s been more than that since I found your egg under that tree.”

“Yeah, but I’m so happy you were the one who found me,” Beebee added enthusiastically while pressing himself up against Eventide’s side, and basking in his father’s warmth. “Now can we please eat the cake?”

Eventide chuckled at that before giving Beebee a firm squeeze. “Sure, bud. C’mon, let’s get to it.”

Fluttershy had already procured the knife to cut the cake with from a drawer, and Beebee mentally noted that Fluttershy with a cake knife was a far more intimidating image than it really should have been. He watched with wide eyes and a watering mouth as the blade bit into the colorful monstrosity of frosting and sweetness, releasing a small puff of a powerful sugary aroma.

In short order, his slice had been placed on a plate, and Fluttershy held said plate out to him. Beebee eyed it for a second, his face scrunching up as he tried to grab it with his magic. Then he remembered he was currently a human and lifted one of his hands, looking at the fingered appendage. He gave it a small frown before uncurling his fingers and taking the plate.

Eventide watched this process for a moment before a look of realization slowly spread on his face. “Beebee… how long had you been a human when I came home?” he asked in a slow and cautious voice, drawing the attention of everyone in the room.

Beebee blinked at that and gave the question some thought. He hadn’t really been paying attention, though, so he could only helplessly shrug his shoulders. “I dunno…”

Luckily, Fluttershy had a better grasp of time. “He turned into one pretty much since he got up, and we got through an episode of Zoboomafoo before you came in,” she answered before giving Beebee a curious look. “So about thirty minutes. Why?”

Eventide’s face lit up even more, and his lips curled up into a big, happy smile. “Well, then… it’s been almost an hour since I got home,” he spelled out in a knowing voice. His gaze turned fully to Beebee. “And what have you been doing the whole time, Bee?”

Fluttershy’s eyes lit up, while Beebee just tilted his head. “Uh… I dunno…?”

Eventide shook his head with a quiet laugh, then reached out and tenderly took Beebee’s hand in his own. Their fingers became interlocked, and he guided both of them up to Beebee’s eye level. Beebee stared at the hands for a second in confusion. And then, finally, it hit him.

Hands.

“I’m… still a human…” he muttered, his eyes slowly widening as it dawned on him just what had happened. He’d noticed that he’d started to get tired, sure, but in all of the excitement for the cake and party, he hadn’t really thought about it, or how long he’d been in this form. His grip on Eventide’s hand tightened, and he looked up into the man’s eyes, almost not daring to hope. “Dad… does this mean I can start seeing Apple Bloom?”

Eventide crouched down a little so that he could look more directly into Beebee’s eyes. His smile grew wider, and his aura lit up like a Christmas tree. “Of course, Beebee. How about we call her tomorrow to set up a time?” he suggested softly, squeezing Bee’s hand right back.

Beebee couldn’t contain it any longer. His face became split with the most gigantic grin Eventide had ever seen on him. With a whoop and holler of joy, Beebee put his plate of cake down on the table and then jumped into the air while being consumed in a rush of green flames. When they parted, the bug had returned, and he was doing flip and spin after flip and spin in celebration.

“I get to be friends with Apple Bloom! I get to be friends with Apple Bloom! YES! WOOHOO!” he hollered as he came out of one of his flips, his face turned towards the ceiling and his forelegs spread out wide.

From below, Eventide and Fluttershy both watched him do his airborne dance of joy with pleased and amused looks on their faces. Buddha just seemed confused, but she wagged her tail all the same. Then, Beebee did one more twist and rocketed himself into Eventide’s chest, giving him the biggest and tightest hug he could.

Eventide staggered back a few paces with a grunt of pain before returning the hug and letting out a jubilant laugh. “Ha! Those walks are doing you some good! You’re getting strong, Bee!” he complimented between breaths, squeezing Beebee closer.

“That’s thanks to you, Dad,” Beebee pointed out with a small flutter of his wings. “You take me to walk in the woods every day. Thank you so much!”

Fluttershy was unable to restrain an adoring ‘awww’ from slipping past her lips any longer, and soon she walked over to join them in their embrace. She slipped in and wrapped her arms around the two of them, her eyes glued on Beebee. “Congratulations, Beebee! I’m so proud of you!”

“We both are,” Eventide corrected gently, giving Fluttershy an appreciative look as she slid in with them. She nodded back at him, and the two then looked down at Beebee, who had his eyes closed and the side of his head pressed against Eventide’s chest, listening to his beating heart.

Of course, Beebee knew they were proud of him.

He could taste it, after all.

“Hmmm… pride doesn't taste as good as cake.”

Chapter 44: Crusaders

View Online

Several days later…

It was Saturday. Outside the windows of Eventide and Beebee’s home, late morning sunlight could be seen spilling across the trees and landscape, giving the early autumn air a serene and pleasant appearance. It was mildly chilly outside, but inside the home, it was nice and warm. Something like that would, under normal circumstances, help one relax and ease their tensions.

This was hardly any normal day, though. Apple Bloom would be showing up any minute, and the thought of seeing the farm girl again after so long had Beebee pacing back and forth in the living room with an almost manic look on his face. He was still in his normal form, his wings sporadically twitching on his back and his hooves moving stiffly with every step he took.

As he spun around to repeat his route, his eyes were revealed to be glued to the floor, and his teeth were just slightly visible, as his lips had peeled back in an apprehensive grimace. Eventide and Fluttershy were standing off to one side, watching him pace expressions that displayed a mixture of amusement and concern. Buddha, who was comfortably resting on the couch, just looked confused.

After another round of paces, Beebee came to a stop in the middle of the room and stared expectantly at the door. A second ticked by as he waited with bated breath for the dreaded knocking sound. Five seconds. Ten. Thirty.

Just like the last dozen or so times, he had stopped to look, the door did not show any signs of admitting visitors. Disappointed, Beebee let off an impatient huff and went back to pacing, his hooves echoing even louder in the otherwise quiet room.

After another minute or so of this, Eventide must have decided that enough was enough. He stepped forward and placed his foot in Beebee’s path, preventing the little guy from going any further. He blinked at the obstacle, then pouted up at Eventide in confusion. “Dad, what gives?” he whined in a pathetic voice while pawing at his father’s shin.

Eventide rolled his eyes from Beebee’s tone and got down onto one knee in front of him. “Beebee, you need to calm. Down,” he stated matter-of-factly before placing his hand on top of Beebee’s head as if to ruffle his currently non-existent hair. “Nobody’s gonna wanna come see you if you’re all jumpy. Take a deep breath and relax.”

“But I can’t relax, dad!” Beebee protested, pulling his head out from Eventide’s hand and frowning at him. “I’m nervous! I’ve only seen her one time, and she was helping me get home. I’ve never just hung out with someone that isn’t you or Fluttershy before!”

Eventide nodded along in understanding while lifting his hands in a placating gesture. “I know, I understand. But that is exactly why we’re both here,” he responded while gesturing at Fluttershy and himself. “You’re nervous, yes, and you have every right to be. But try to remember that we’re here to help things go smoothly and keep you all out of trouble.”

Beebee looked at Eventide for a moment, then looked over at Fluttershy. She smiled at him and nodded in agreement with Eventide’s assessment. Their auras were both alight with care and confidence, although perhaps a little less with Fluttershy. They believed things would go well, and what reason did Beebee have to doubt them?

Following Eventide’s advice, Beebee sucked in a long, deep breath, and then let it out in a heavy sigh. He let his shoulders loosen up, and gave a nod of his head before looking into Eventide’s eyes again. “Okay… I’ll try-”

A knock came to the door.

Beebee jumped out of his skin. He wasn’t sure if it could be considered literal or not, because as he jumped, he was consumed in a swirl of green fire and turned into his human shape. As the flames parted, he wobbled a bit on his feet before turning to look at the door with a distinctly more uneasy look on his face.

Eventide sighed and shook his head. “So much for relaxing…” he breathed before standing up and heading for the door. “I’m coming!” he called out as he approached. Beebee capitalized on the moment to take one more deep breath and calm his nerves. He watched as Eventide opened up the door and, sure enough, there was Apple Bloom on the other side.

She was wearing a long-sleeved shirt and blue jeans that day, her shirt being a few shades lighter. She smiled happily as the door opened and tipped her head at Eventide in greeting. “Howdy, mister Eventide! Ah’m not late, am Ah?”

“Hello, Apple Bloom. You’re right on time, actually,” Eventide greeted before he looked being Apple Bloom. Whatever he was looking at, Beebee couldn’t see it from here, but it made Eventide’s aura shimmer with shades of purple. “And… I see you came with extra guests?” he questioned in a noticeably more guarded tone.

Apple Bloom shrank back a little, a sheepish smile appearing on her face. She reached a hand up to scratch at the back of her head while looking back at what Eventide was seeing. “O-oh, well, uh, Ah was kinda hangin’ out with a few of my friends when the bus pulled in. They, uh, wanted to come along. Sorry ah didn’t call to let ya know, but Ah didn’t have any service on the bus, and they wouldn’t take no fer an answer.

“Ah’m real sorry, ‘bout that. But they’re mah best friends, and I trust them to be nice. Is this alright?” she finished, turning back to Eventide and clasping her hands behind her back. Her eyes shifted briefly past the older man and caught Beebee’s gaze. The two made eye contact for a moment, and Beebee couldn’t stop himself from giving her a shaky wave.

Eventide, with a raised eyebrow, glanced back at Beebee, then at Fluttershy. After a moment, he gave off a quiet sigh and stepped aside to allow Apple Bloom to enter. “As long as they behave themselves too, then no, it’s no problem,” he relented, his gaze lingering meaningfully on Fluttershy as if to ask for her help.

Beebee turned his attention away from his parent as not one, not two, but three girls, all looking to be in their early to mid-teens, walked in. Apple Bloom was up first, obviously, and her eyes swept across the front room of the house as she entered. It took Beebee a second to remember that she had never actually been in here, before.

She let out a low, impressed whistle as she took in the sights. “Wow. Nice place, Bee.”

“I’ll say,” the second teenager agreed as she walked up to Apple Bloom’s side. She had orange skin and a head of short, messy purple hair that matched the color of her eyes. She was wearing a black hoodie with the sleeves rolled up to her elbows and a pair of baggy green shorts. She looked around and nodded in approval. “Spacious, warm… I like it.”

The third girl had a more demure look on her face as she entered and took a position on Apple Bloom’s other side. She had skin the color of pristine marshmallows, and curly, pastel-purple hair hung down to the small of her back. Her eyes were a rich green color, reminded Beebee of the forest’s outside, and her attire consisted of a white and pink striped tank top underneath an unbuttoned hot-pink t-shirt that matched nicely with the long and flowing yellow skirt that obscured her legs.

“These must be Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle,” Beebee mused as he thought back on his phone chats with Apple Bloom. His eyes moved from one teenager to the next, taking in all of the details and committing them to memory. “The Crusaders…”

After a few seconds of admiring the inside of the home, Apple Bloom’s eyes settled on Beebee, and her face lit up along with her aura. She took a few steps forward, a big grin appearing on her face. “Heya, Beebee! It’s Been a while!” she greeted enthusiastically before holding out her hand to Beebee.

Beebee stared at it for a few seconds before his brain kicked back into gear. “You’re supposed to grab and shake, you idiot!” he screamed at himself mentally. He smiled back at her and reached out to take Apple Bloom’s hand in his. “Y-yeah, it’s good to- yipe!” He was suddenly cut off when he felt just how tight her grip was and lost a little of his balance from the intensity of the shake. His arm was thrown up and down with little to no mercy whatsoever. “W-woah!”

Apple Bloom quickly released his hand after a few more shakes and slid back a few inches, clasping her hands behind her back and bending forward slightly. “So, how have ya been? Yer leg doin’ better?”

Beebee steadied himself on his feet before offering her any reply. “Holy cow does she have strong hands!” he thought as he blew on his now sore hand. After a moment, he gave her a smile of his own and nodded his head. “Uh-huh! It’s all better, now! Look!” as if to prove his point, he jumped up and down a few times, showing that he could, in fact, stand on his own two legs just fine.

Apple Bloom’s aura lit up even more brightly, and she gave a sigh of relief. “Oh, that’s good. Ah was kinda worried that Ah messed somethin’ up. Ah’m only part of the way through my first aid class.”

‘Which you’re taking thanks to me,” The marshmallow girl said in a teasing sing-song voice before taking a step forward and giving Beebee a friendly smile and cursory examination. “So, you must be Beebee,” She said while holding out her own hand. ”It’s nice to finally meet you! My name is Sweetie Belle. Apple Bloom told us about you.”

Beebee gently took her hand in his and was relieved to find that her grip was much more gentle than Apple Blooms. Her skin was also softer and smoother than the farm girl’s, making his mind blank a little as her fingers slid across his. He quickly snapped out of it and smiled. “It’s nice to meet you, too, Sweetie Belle. I really like your hair.”

“Aw, thank you,” Sweetie beamed at the praise, lifting a hand up to idly toy with one of the curls hanging from her head. “My big sister Rarity helped me figure out how to style it, and it’s a lot of work to keep it looking nice.”

“Hey, don’t forget about me!” the third girl piped up while stepping forward as well. “I’m Scootaloo!” she declared before clapping him on the shoulder. “Nice to meet ya!”

Beebee winced from the smack and idly reached a hand up to rub at his now complaining shoulder. “Uh, nice to meet you, too,” he replied in a slightly awkward voice.

“So, did you have any ideas on what we were doin’?” Apple Bloom asked after a moment, glancing back and forth between her two friends. “Ah’m open to just about anythin’, as long as yer dad’s okay with it.”

Eventide, who had remained by the door the entire time, waved his hand dismissively. “Don’t mind me. We’ll cut in if something’s not okay, but just have fun,” he assured before giving Beebee a small wink and a smile.

“Okay, so what’s the plan?” Scootaloo asked curiously, crossing her arms over her chest.

Beebee suddenly went stiff, and his hands began to play with each other over his heart. “Uh… uh-h…” A heavy, awkward silence began to fill the air, and Beebee idly scuffed his foot on the floor. His hands drew back behind his back, and his eyes darted from one teenager to the next as if looking for inspiration. He had been expecting just one new friend, not three. As much as he hated to admit it, he was feeling overwhelmed and had no idea what to do or say.

Talking with Apple Bloom when he was hurt had been one thing, and so was talking to her over the phone. He could manage that, then. But this? He had no idea what to do, now, and so he looked helplessly over his shoulders at Fluttershy.

She looked back at him, and a look of understanding appeared on her face. She gave him a reassuring look, stepped forward and cleared her throat. “Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle said that you talked about Beebee. Do you mind telling us what you’ve been saying about him?” she asked, drawing the attention of the visitors.

The heads of three teenage girls swerved to the side to look up at Fluttershy in surprise, their eyes going wide and their aura’s glowing with confusion. “What the? Fluttershy?” Scootaloo asked with a raised eyebrow. “What are you doing here?”

Beebee frowned and looked back and forth between them. Did they know each other?

“I’m good friends with Eventide,” Fluttershy responded happily while gesturing at the man in question. “And I help him take care of Beebee whenever I can.”

“Ohhh. Okay, I gotcha.” Scootaloo, satisfied with the answer, nodded her head before taking a step back and pointing her thumb at Apple Bloom. “Well, AB told us all about how she found him hurt out in the woods, and how she used all of the lessons she’s learned in her first aid class to help him get better.”

Sweetie Belle nodded and picked up the story from there. “Uh-huh, and she also talked about how interesting she thinks Beebee is.”

That got Beebee’s full attention. “Interesting?” he echoed, finally returning his gaze to Apple Bloom and tilting his head. “What do you mean by that?”

Apple Bloom got a slightly sheepish look for just a moment but sobered up quickly. She cleared her throat and gave Beebee a smile. “Well, Ah just thought that y’all were interestin’. Ah mean, Ah had never seen ya around before, and then suddenly there ya are, out there alone in the middle of the forest with a leg injury. Kind of an interestin’ way to meet somebody, Ah think.”

“Oh…” Beebee said slowly. Well, that made sense, he supposed…

Sweetie Belle leaned forward a little bit, planting her hands on her knees and tilting her head at Beebee with a curious look. “So, tell us a little about yourself. I kinda want to know more about Apple Bloom’s first patient.”

Beebee perked up a little bit, a small smile growing on his face. “Oh, uh, well…” that smile became strained as his brain, for reasons he would never know, decided to go back into its previously awkward state. The silence threatened to return, but luckily, this time, he was able to find his voice. “I, uh… I… like… books?” he finally managed to stammer out with an awkward and crooked grin.

Unbeknownst to Beebee, Eventide’s face found his palm.

Thankfully, Sweetie Belle didn’t seem too put off by the incredible awkwardness of that statement. In fact, if anything, she seemed greatly interested. “Really? What kinds of books are you into? I like romance stories and mysteries myself.”

“Heh, Ah bet a lotta that comes from yer big sister, don’t it?” Apple Bloom noted with a small smirk while crossing her arms over her chest and nudging Sweetie in the ribs with her elbow.

She glanced sideways at Apple Bloom with a pout. “So? You like apples because of your big sister.”

Apple Bloom made to retort, paused, and then shrugged. “Touche.”

Sweetie rolled her eyes at that and looked back at Beebee again. “So? What about you?”

Beebee gave it some thought, a hand coming up to rub at his chin. “Uh… well, I kinda like a lot of stories. I don’t leave the house very often, so books and tv are how I spend most of my day. But, if I had to pick a favorite…” he hummed quietly to himself before a very specific book sprang back into his mind. He perked up and grinned. “Oh, I know! I think I still have a copy of it downstairs!”

“Downstairs?” Scootaloo questioned, her eyes soon finding the staircase that descended into the basement. Her face scrunched up slightly in confusion. “Er, you keep your books in the basement?”

“His bedroom’s in the basement,” Eventide was quick to clarify, taking a step forward. All eyes turned to him, and he continued. “You see, we used to live in a really small house with only one bedroom, and that’s where I slept. When Beebee came into things, though, I needed a place for him to sleep. So I converted the basement into a bedroom for him. He liked it a lot when he was smaller, to the point that Fluttershy and I kinda took to calling him the basement boy. The name stuck, and it’s been something of a tradition that Beebee’s bedroom is in the basement.”

Beebee blinked a few times as he tried to process all of that information and commit it to memory. A cover story wasn’t very good if nobody else knew it, after all.

Scootaloo visibly pondered Eventide’s answer for a minute before shrugging her shoulders noncommittally. “That’s kinda weird, but I like it. Okay, lead the way, Beebs.”

Beebee had started to make his way for the stairs when he heard that. He paused and slowly looked over his shoulder at Scootaloo, his expression filled with complete bewilderment. “...Beebs?” he parroted incredulously.

Apple Bloom shot Scootaloo a deadpan look before her palm rose up to cover her face. “Scootaloo… no,” she scolded slowly.

Scootaloo pouted and crossed her arms over her chest with her cheeks puffing up .“Oh, you guys are no fun.”


A short time later, the group stepped into Beebee’s bedroom. As soon as the lights flicked on, Apple Bloom panned her eyes around to scan the room and get a feel for it. Compared to the other room in the basement they had just passed through, Beebee’s room was surprisingly nice. It wasn’t dusty or anything, and the walls had all been painted a very pretty shade of sky blue.

The bed in the corner looked a little small for Beebee as he was now, but Apple Bloom didn’t pay that much mind. What was more of note was the remarkably large collection of toys and other assorted childish things. Some of them looked more appropriate for toddlers, though judging by how some of them were stuffed into the corners, she could only assume they weren’t getting much use.

Beebee didn’t give her much time to ponder the space, though, as he quickly made his way directly for the tall bookcase that sat against the left wall a little deeper into the room. Apple Bloom went to stand behind him and looked up and down the shelves as well, curious about Beebee’s collection.

It was impressive, by her standards. Though to be fair, she reminded herself, her standards were pretty low. Beebee’s collection was quite varied, too. The various books on each shelf had no form of discernible organization and ranged from short little kids picture books to a few middle school adventure novels, and there was even a young adult novel trilogy held snugly on the top shelf. It gave off the feeling of organized chaos, that Beebee himself knew where everything was, and that it was right where he wanted it.

Apple Bloom gave a small, pleased hum at the sight. She then looked down at Beebee, who was crouched down to pull one very specific book from the bottom shelf.

To the surprise of not just Apple Bloom, but also her two friends, the book was something one might expect a preschooler to enjoy. The thin picture book had a blue hardcover, and on the front was a drawing of a big and cartoony green dragon. It was looking down on an equally cartoony boy and girl, and the text ‘Pete, the big green dragon’ was written over top of them in bold, friendly letters.

Scootaloo barely stifled a snort, though Apple Bloom didn’t miss it, and shot her a warning glance. Still, that didn’t stop Scootaloo from frowning in confusion. “Pete the big green- isn’t that one, like, for really little kids?” she asked, sounding a little incredulous.

Beebee visibly winced under Scootaloo’s tone, and Sweetie Belle was quick to speak up. “Hey, I’m sure he has a reason for liking it so much,” she said before coming up to Beebee’s side and crouching down. “Right?”

Beebee looked sideways at her and gave a grateful smile. “Yeah… See, I know I’m a little old for this book, but…” he slowly stood to his full height and turned around to show it to the others more clearly. “...I like it because of the message in it. I...” A nostalgic and fond smile gradually began to appear on his face, and he ran his hand over the front cover. “...It helped me out. I felt like I didn’t belong with my dad like I was holding him back, and... I like it because it helped me realize that I do belong with him.”

“Aaaw, that’s so sweet,” Sweetie Belle said in an adoring coo, her hands folding together over her chest.

Apple Bloom nodded along in agreement. “So, it’s your favorite because of sentimental value?”

Beebee smiled and nodded. His eyes lingered on the cover for a second before he looked up at the three of them and his smile grew even wider. “Yeah, it is. Do you guys wanna sit down and read it with me?”

While they all seemed a little taken aback by the request, Sweetie was quick to recover. “I don’t mind,” she said with a short nod. “I may not be a little kid anymore myself, but I like a good children's book from time to time.”

Apple Bloom gave Sweetie a sideways glance and smile before turning back to Beebee. “Same here. Count me in.”

All eyes then turned to Scootaloo, who looked more than a little conflicted at the prospect. Beebee got the impression that she was the sort to try and act cool and mature all the time. “Well, er, I mean… I kinda... “ she rambled before letting off a sigh. “Okay, sure. Why not?”

Beebee beamed and quickly ran over to sit down on the side of his bed while flipping open to the first page. Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle followed after and sat down next to him on the bed, while Scootaloo elected to stay standing. Once everything had settled down, Beebee cleared his throat and began to read.

As he did, Apple Bloom had to admit… the little guy had a good voice.

Chapter 45: Grandparents

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One Month Later…

Autumn was definitely underway, now. As the dark red car made its way along the countryside highway, the passengers couldn’t miss how the leaves on the deciduous trees had all begun to turn shades of red and yellow. Many of those trees had already surrendered their leaves to the frigid wind at this higher elevation, leaving many of them as little more than skeletal remains awaiting the coming of spring.

Meanwhile, mixed in among the gold, the evergreens stuck true to their name, remaining blissfully undeterred by the dropping temperatures. It created a powerful contrast, one that was both beautiful and slightly off-putting. An oddly fitting divide, considering the reason for this trip...

Meanwhile, on the left side of the road, rolling foothills could be seen for quite the distance before gradually angling up and transforming into the lowest peaks of another part of the mountain range that wrapped around the region. A few homes, mostly farms, could be seen pocketed around the plains and hills, reminding the people in the car that there was civilization out here.

Evening Light looked out at it all from the passenger’s seat, her dark blue eyes sweeping across the landscape slowly and methodically, taking in every single detail in an effort to distract herself. Her long, curly maroon hair had been combed back that morning, providing a gentle and curving frame around her pale yellow face.

Next to her, in the driver’s seat, Earnest Vow looked ahead at the road, occasionally looking at her from the corner of his eye. He had short dark brown hair that he kept well combed, cyan eyes, and peach colored skin.

They had both elected to say nothing since they left their house, only speaking up to confirm with each other that they hadn’t made any wrong turns and that they were going the right way. Aside from those fleeting exchanges and the low rumbling of the car rolling over the road, though, it was almost completely silent.

It was all quite dreary, and it was not at all helped by the thick blanket of clouds in the sky. They blocked out the sun and painted everything in dull and muted shades that seemed to suck the life and enthusiasm out of the car, if not the world itself.

Evening couldn’t help it. She gave off a quiet sigh, disturbing the silence, and that finally seemed to be what Earnest needed to hear to speak up. Checking carefully to ensure that the road ahead was clear, he looked over at Evening and lightly nudged her knee with one of his hands to get her attention. “Hey. You alright, Eve?” he asked in a quiet voice, briefly meeting her gaze before returning his eyes to the road.

Evening winced and tore her eyes away from the landscape to look ahead at the road in front of them. She placed her hands in her lap, hesitant to answer the question. “I’m okay… I just wish we’d made this trip sooner…” she eventually answered her husband solemnly. One of her hands slowly reached up to anxiously rub at her shoulder. “We waited way too long… we should have-”

Earnest frowned and slowly shook his head. “Hey, don’t beat yourself up over it. We had no way of knowing that he’d moved. I mean, he never told us,” he tried to console her, though it did not work as well as he had hoped.

Eve frowned and leaned back in her seat. “I mean we should have gone to see him sooner. We shouldn’t have waited so long… maybe he would have told us he was moving if we’d-”

“Hey now,” Earnest was quick to say, giving her a sideways look. “Stop that. We all made mistakes, and it’s too late to change them. All we can do now is try to make up for them. Which is why we’re coming out here, remember?”

Evening gave off a quiet hum but otherwise offered no response. A new silence fell over them, and she went back to looking out the window at the trees rolling by. Earnest spared her a worried glance, his expression darkening.

Eventually, Evening spoke up. “...Do you think he’s forgiven me, yet?” she asked in barely even a whisper, her face falling and her eyes losing focus.

Earnest went to say something but closed his mouth after a second of hesitation. He then perked up slightly before turning the car down a more narrow that cut through the treeline. “Why don’t you ask him yourself?” he asked in an optimistic voice, drawing Eve out of her trance. “We’re here.”


“See you later, Beebee!” Scootaloo called over her shoulder as she and the other Crusaders walked away from the house, making their way for the highway and the bus stop they would need to get back into town. Beebee and Eventide were at the front door of their home, waving goodbye from the frame.

“Bye, guys!” Beebee called after them, waving with far more energy than Eventide was while wearing a gigantic grin on his face. “Come visit again soon!”

Apple Bloom looked back at Beebee with a smile before flashing him a wink. “Don’t y’all worry none, we will!” she called back. “Y’all are just too much fun!”

“Heh. I’ll take that as a compliment,” Eventide mused under his breath with a small chuckle before lowering his arm and backing up into the home. “Alright, Bee, come on. You should probably rest up a little,” he continued in a hushed voice.

Beebee delayed answering his father’s request for a few more seconds so he could keep waving. In the end, though, the Crusaders focused on departing, and Beebee could do nothing more but pull back into the home. As soon as the door closed behind him, he wasted no time in swirling back into his normal state with a relieved sigh.

He could hold his form for longer, now. If he didn’t exert himself and only did basic things for most of it, he could hold it for almost an hour and a half. However, as thrilled as he was with his progress, it was still tiring to maintain other forms, and his rate of improvement had seemingly slowed down considerably.

Eventide looked down at Beebee for a moment, a thoughtful look on his face. Then, with a small grin, he reached down and suddenly scooped Beebee up into a warm and tight hug, drawing a startled squawk from the bug. That squeak soon faded into a happy, albeit confused, chirping noise when Eventide held him close. Beebee could hear his father’s heartbeat, and after a moment, became vividly aware of the sheer volume of love Eventide was emitting.

As if sensing the little guy’s confusion, Eventide smirked down at him. “Lunchtime,” he explained simply before leaning down and planting a light kiss on Beebee’s forehead.

Making a cute little ‘o’ with his mouth and giggling at the kiss, Beebee returned the hug and began to greedily drink in the cloud of love. He shuddered slightly at how good it tasted, like it always did, and savored every drop. In short order, it was all gone, and he settled to just relax in his father’s grasp.

A few minutes passed in blissful silence, the two of them content to just cuddle. Eventually, though, Eventide shifted Beebee up so that his lips were by the bug’s ear. “I’m proud of you, Beebee,” Eventide eventually whispered to him, giving him a gentle squeeze.

Confused, Beebee leaned back and tilted his head up to look at Eventide. He raised an eyebrow and tilted his head in curiosity. “Huh? For what?”

Eventide smiled down at him, then released him from the hug. Beebee’s wings sprang into life, buzzing actively in the air and carrying him over to a safe landing on the couch next to Buddha. Then he turned around and watched Eventide in curiosity.

After a few seconds, Eventide smiled even wider and wandered over to sit down next to Beebee. “Well, because those new friends of yours are good friends, and you’re really coming into your own, socially.”

Beebee’s head slowly turned the other way, and his muzzle scrunched up as he pondered the phrase. “Coming into my own?” he echoed, having not heard that particular phrase before.

Eventide rolled his eyes and twirled a hand in the air for emphasis. “Oh, it basically means that you’re getting the hang of it. Every time you hang out with those three, you get better and better at just interacting with them. Talking, answering questions, making jokes, that kinda thing.”

“Ooooh…” Beebee nodded his head while his wings gave a few little twitches on his back. Satisfied with that answer and puffing up from the praise, he then looked over at Buddha with a predatory smirk. She looked right back at him with a look that just said ‘please don’t.’

He ignored her silent plea.

Beebee proceeded to jump from his place on the couch to land on Buddha’s side. Her brow furrowed, and she let off an irritated whine before relenting and setting her head back down. Beebee then buried his muzzle into her fluffy neck and began to chitter and purr in contentment. His wings slowly drifted back and forth on his back, and his whole body relaxed. Not just from getting to cuddle his favorite dog, but also because he didn’t have to hold a transformation any longer.

Eventide wore a warm, charmed smile directed at the two for a few minutes before leaning back and closing his eyes. The family remained like that for a little while, with Buddha begrudgingly serving as a pillow for Beebee, and Eventide just basking in the quiet and resting up a little.

Sadly, the peace couldn't last for long. The quiet was disturbed a while later when a knocking came to the door, and Beebee’s eyes snapped wide open. With his ears springing to attention on his head, he sat up and craned his neck over to look at the door with uncertainty. He didn’t recognize that knock. Strangers?

Growing nervous, he looked over at Eventide for instructions and found him looking back intensely.

“Boy or Puppy, it’s up to you, just pick something and stick with it,” he whispered emphatically before standing up and turning for the door.

Beebee nodded and got off of Buddha, who in turn leaped down from the couch and ran over to the door herself. With no other creatures making contact with him, Beebee closed his eyes, channeled his magic, and transformed into his border collie form. It took less energy to maintain than his human form, and it was easier to move around in. He gave himself a quick look over to check for any problems.

Satisfied that there were none, he turned to Eventide and barked to announce his readiness. Eventide wordlessly nodded at him in confirmation before taking a deep breath and opening the door. “Hello, who is-”

His words died in his throat, and his entire body went stiff. Beebee, from the couch, watched with confusion as a sudden flurry of colors entered his father’s aura. Red, purple, dark blue, black, more red… Wondering who could possibly cause such an intense emotional response, and such a negative one for that matter, he leaned over to try and get a better look at their visitors.

He saw two people he did not recognize. They were a man and a woman, both looking to be significantly older than Eventide. The woman had pale yellow skin, dark blue eyes, and shoulder-length hair that was the same shade of maroon as Eventide’s. The man had short brown hair, peach colored skin — also like Eventide’s — and eyes that were a much lighter shade of blue.

Much like Eventide, their auras were lit up with a wide range of negative emotions. However, there was no red in their spectrums. Just… blues. Lots and lots of blues. So… they were sad?

Eventide licked his lips and didn’t even go to stop her when Buddha shoved past his legs to start sniffing at the new arrivals in friendly curiosity. The woman looked down at the dog and smiled happily in greeting. She reached a hand down for Buddha to sniff and then looked back up at Eventide, making eye contact with him and drawing another rush of emotion out of him.

After what felt like an eternity of staring at each other, Eventide spoke. “...Mom,” He finally acknowledged in a quiet voice before looking at the man. “...Dad.”

“What?!” Beebee thought, his eyes going wide and his ears perking up on his head. “Those are his parents?!”

The woman looked down and away when she heard the sharp edge in Eventide’s voice. She reached a hand up to grasp at her shoulder in a display of nervous energy. “...Hello, Eventide. We didn’t come at a bad time, did we?” she asked, her voice timid and demure.

Beebee’s eyes couldn’t grow any wider when he saw even more waves of sorrow and sadness radiating from who he now knew to be his grandmother. She was so sad… no, it wasn’t quite sadness

She was guilty.

“Why?” Beebee wondered within the sanctuary of his own thoughts. “What happened between you guys, dad?”

Eventide hesitated and looked back over his shoulder at Beebee with a pleading expression. After a moment, though, he sighed, shook his head, and stepped away from the door, allowing his parents to enter. “No… no, it’s fine. Come in, I guess…”

Beebee watched as his grandparents stepped into the home, looking around with approval. He opened his mouth as if to say something, but Eventide shot him a stern warning look, cowing him into silence. Eventide then sat back down on the couch next to him and leaned over to quickly whisper in his ear. “Don’t say anything. Wait until they’re gone. If you get tired, go hide in your room and wait.”

The intensity in Eventide’s voice made Beebee shrink down and quiver even more. But, after a moment, he gave a shy nod before looking at his grandparents again.

His grandmother spun slowly in a circle as she took the home in, and her face softened considerably with a small smile. “It’s a nice place, Eventide…” she said quietly, seemingly pleased with what she was seeing.

“Yeah, it is,” the grandfather agreed before letting off a low whistle. “Kinda impressed… this is a big house-”

“Okay, guys,” Eventide suddenly started in a blunt tone, leaning forward on his chair and resting his hands on his knees. “Look, I’m happy to see you and all, but what are you doing here?”

“He’s lying,” Beebee thought, seeing that the flow of emotions Eventide was letting off was entirely negative and growing more red with every passing second.

His mother flinched and looked away. “I… we just thought we’d come and visit. It’s been so long since we’ve spoken, and we heard from one of your friends at the Ginger Mart that you’d moved, so…”

“Clean Sweep?” Eventide deduced in a deadpan.

Both of the parents nodded along quietly. “Yeah,” the father said before putting a hand on his wife’s shoulder. “Eve was… well, she really wanted to come see you. So did I, mind you, but it was her idea first.”

Eventide’s frown deepened and his gaze returned to his mother, Eve. “That right?” he asked slowly while leaning back and crossing his arms over his chest.

Eve nodded slowly, her face lowering to hide her expression. “Yes… look, Eventide, I... I know that you left home on… er… not good terms, but… I just-”

“I was angry,” Eventide quickly cut her off, the edge in his tone unrelenting. “I was mad, I was bitter, and you know I had every right to be.”

The father frowned at that. “Eventide, please-”

“He’s right, Earnest,” Eve cut him off with a shake of her head. She sighed, her shoulder slumping before she looked up at Eventide again. “Look, Eventide… I… I’m sorry, okay? I am so, so sorry. I hurt you, I hurt us, and I know it’s too late for an apology to mean anything, but... I just…”

Eventide stared at her for a few moments before leaning back in his seat and shaking his head with a heavy sigh. The red began to leave his aura, replace with some of the darkest blue Beebee had ever seen from him. “...I know you are… I just wish you’d caught on to that a little sooner,” he said in a quiet mumble.

The room fell completely silent, and even Buddha seemed to sense that there was something wrong. She let off a quiet and pitiful whine before backing away from Eve and Earnest, her tail falling limp behind her.

Beebee’s eyes danced between his father and his grandparents, and he couldn’t stop himself from whimpering a little himself from the bitter tastes in the air. “What happened, dad?” he questioned again in his mind, his striking blue eyes boring into Eventide. After a few moments without an answer, though, the silence became too much for him to bear.

Without a sound, Beebee rose to his paws and jumped down from the couch, immediately drawing Eventide’s attention. He looked up, his eyes glued onto Beebee’s back as he slowly approached his grandparents. Eve and Earnest looked down at him as he approached, seemingly taken aback by his presence. Beebee was pleased to see a small amount of yellow and pink enter their auras.

“They think I’m cute,” he deduced before coming to a stop right in front of them. He settled down onto his haunches and leaned forward, timidly sniffing at Eve’s leg. His nose wasn’t Buddha’s, so he’d never be able to smell things like the could, but it kept up appearances. Then, with another whine, he pawed at Eve’s ankle and looked up into her eyes, silently begging her to cheer up.

His efforts proved successful, even if only somewhat. With some more positive light slipping into the air around her, Eve knelt down and reached a hand out to Beebee so he could sniff it, a small smile on her face. She looked past Beebee to look at Eventide again. “What’s his name?” she inquired gently before starting to lightly pet Beebee on the head.

Eventide watched them for a few seconds, his expression conflicted. In the end, though, he rose to his feet and slowly began to walk over. “It’s… his name is Beebee,” he answered quietly before also kneeling down next to the bug-turned-dog. “I got him a few years ago. He’s…” a small, tender smile appeared on his face, and he also reached out. “...He’s a real good boy.”

Eventide began scratching Beebee on the back of his neck, right where his neck fin usually was.

“Cheater,” Beebee sulked internally as he lost fine control over his motor functions. He just had the presence of mind to loll out his tongue and fall back against Eventide while wagging his tail as happily as he could.

Earnest knelt down as well, adding his own hand to the mix, scratching Beebee’s belly and making him feel absolutely spoiled. “Heh. He’s really cute…” Earnest said before giving Eventide a curious look and a small smile. “How did you get him?”

Eventide pondered his answer for a moment, and in that time, his scratching slowed down. After a moment, he settled on an explanation and spoke. “He was a stray. I found him as a sick, skinny little puppy hiding under a tree in my front yard,” he explained in a quiet whisper. “I couldn’t just leave him there, and he didn’t have anyone else to go to… I did what I thought was best and took him in.”

“That’s very kind of you,” Eve complimented quietly, her gaze turning away from Beebee to look into Eventide’s eyes again. “I’m glad…”

The two shared a long moment of eye contact, and for a moment, Beebee became worried that the negativity was about to come back. Instead, after a few minutes, Eventide slowly nodded his head and looked back down at Beebee. “I guess it is… I had some help, though…” he muttered, a nostalgic look on his face.

After another few moments of fawning over the black border collie, Eventide rose back to his full height. Beebee rolled back over onto his paws and watched as Eventide seemed to struggle internally for a moment before finally relenting. He turned and began to head for the kitchen. “Okay, how long are you guys gonna be sticking around? I got some food if you want anything to snack on.”

Beebee relaxed on hearing those words and looked back at Eve over his shoulder. She and Earnest both stood and followed Eventide out into the kitchen. “We’ve got some time to kill, an hour or two,” Earnest answered Eventide’s question. “But if you want us to go sooner…”

Eventide glanced back at them, then at Beebee. After a few seconds more of eye contact, he shrugged his shoulders and continued on his way. “Eeh… we’ll see.”

With that, Eventide disappeared fully into the kitchen. Upon hearing the fridge opening up, Beebee quickly got back onto his paws and fell into step next to Eve, occasionally looking up at her with curiosity and hope in his eyes.

She looked back down at him every so often as well, and every time she did, she would smile.

Chapter 46: A Broken Family

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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.

Chapter 47: Family Rift

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About an hour later, Beebee stood by Eventide’s ankles with his tongue lolling out of his mouth. It was taking a lot of effort to keep himself from breathing heavily, and if one looked carefully, the strain he was under would be clearly visible. Having to maintain a form for so long was taking its toll, and despite wishing for more time to get to know his grandparents, he knew it would have to wait until another time.

The two of them were situated in the doorway of their home, watching as Evening Light and Earnest Vow got back into their car to drive away. All the while, Eventide waved at them in farewell, a small smile on his face. Beebee glanced up at his father, suppressing a disappointed whine. He wanted so badly to just lift his paw and wave as well, but his instructions were clear. He couldn’t show himself as being anything more than a dog right now, and dogs didn’t usually wave.

Eventually, the car pulled out of the driveway and vanished behind the dense wall of trees and shrubbery that sheltered the front of the house from the road beyond. As soon as it was out of view, Eventide let his arm fall limply to his side with a tired exhale, and Beebee snapped back into his true form with a sigh of relief. Only when he was back to normal did it dawn on him just how tired he was, and he slumped lazily against Eventide’s leg as he tried to catch his breath.

“You okay?” Eventide asked in concern. He knelt down and looked Beebee over while using his hands to make sure he stayed standing.

Beebee nodded his head before sucking in another lungful of air. “Y-yeah… I’m okay. I’m just… whew… just tired,” he puffed out before falling to his haunches and focusing on breathing.

Eventide nodded solemnly in understanding before scooping Beebee up into his arms and gingerly carrying him back inside. He closed the door behind them and set Beebee down on the couch, where he curled up and buried his muzzle into the cushions.

A silence fell over them, then, one he took advantage of to think back on the day they had just had. The visitation with his grandparents had gone pretty well once they had all sat down to watch TV. It had been quiet for a while, save for the show on the screen, and the occasional, hushed commentary passed around. There was still tension in the air, of course. It had put a very clear strain on everything, and Beebee had forced himself to endure it as well as he could.

Thankfully, trying to make amends outweighed the tension. They had all done their very best to look past whatever had happened to them in the past and just be a family again.

Beebee’s relaxed expression twisted into a grim frown as the thought crossed his mind. What had happened between them? He still had no clue what had gone down between them, other than somehow, Eventide’s mother had done something wrong. But really, he’d known that since before they ever even moved to this house.

He shifted on the cushions and lifted his eyes to look at Eventide, who had taken a seat on the couch next to him. His eyes were closed, and his head was tilted back. He took deep breaths through his nose and let them out through his mouth in a steady, slow rhythm.

It was time for answers.

Beebee lifted his head a little more and brushed his muzzle against Eventide’s side. “Dad…? Can you tell me what happened, now?” he asked in a low, quiet whisper.

Eventide looked down at Beebee upon hearing his voice, his expression wilting with weariness and hesitation. Those same colors began to fill his aura. “Beebee, I…” he stopped mid-protest to just look into his son’s eyes and see the depth of the question.

Finally, after a brief staring contest, Eventide let his head fall back in the seat, his entire body sagging limply against the couch. “Alright… okay, fine,” he finally relented, his voice quiet. He looked over at Beebee again. “Just gimme a minute, okay?”

Beebee nodded slowly, opting not to say anything. He’d waited for a few years to hear this story. What was another minute?

It felt like an eternity that the two of them just sat there. Beebee held true to his word, patiently waiting for his father to finally open up about a subject that had caused him stress and grief for as long as they had known each other. Finally, Eventide sucked in a breath, nodded to himself, and began to retell his story.

“You see, Bee… a long time ago, back when I was just a kid, my mother was happy as could be,” he started, a wistful sparkle in his eyes. Beebee leaned in, his ears pointing forwards and listening intently. “She was… bright, and cheerful, and optimistic about everything. She was kind, compassionate, gentle, caring, and she could see the silver lining in any situation… Dad was a huge dork and liked to embarrass me, but hey, that’s what dads do.”

“You don’t,” Beebee pointed out with a small frown.

Eventide looked at Beebee from the corner of his eye, a sly grin splitting his face. “Well, no, I haven’t… but you have friends now,” he rebutted without hesitation. “Give it time. It’ll happen.”

Beebee pouted indignantly.

Eventide chuckled weakly at that face before his eyes returned to that spot on the floor that they found so, so interesting. “Well… we were a happy family, us three. My mom worked as a gardener in a park in town, watering plants and flowers, you know? And… I would go with her all the time… she also had projects at home. We had this greenhouse in the backyard, a place where she could work on plants and flowers in her own time...”

Eventide’s distant expression lit up with just a tiny smile as he recalled something, and Beebee noticed a gentle golden shimmer sliding into his aura. “That greenhouse… I think that’s where my love for the outdoors came from. In a way, I think that greenhouse inspired me to get my job at Everfree… I even remember the day it happened.”


Many years ago…

“Woah…” a young, bright-eyed and baby-cheeked Eventide breathed when he walked into the greenhouse along with his mother. He spun in a slow circle, or would have if his hand wasn’t being held in hers. Golden rays of sunlight were filtering through the translucent walls and ceiling, bathing his mother’s most recent passion project in a heavenly glow.

Not like her work needed a heavenly glow to be divine in its own right, the boy thought. Eventide’s jaw dropped and his eyes shined with amazement at the impeccable arrangements on display. The flowers and plants that lined the shelves and filled out the center of the building were made up of all the colors of the rainbow. They were perfectly accompanied by a rich and vibrant green that made him feel like he was in a mystical jungle.

Evening Light smiled down at him and giggled in amusement when she saw just how smitten the little kid was. “You like it? I’ve been working on this for months,” she asked in a chirpy voice, unable to keep an edge of smugness from creeping into her words.

Not like Eventide minded. She had the right to brag as far as he was concerned. Unable to hold still any longer, he pulled his hand out of his mother’s and began to run all over the room, gawking at the various plants and flowers, pointing them out and letting off exclamations of awe and delight. “It’s so pretty!” he would yell before moving on to the next. “And this one’s red! I love it!”

“I’m glad you like them. I worked really hard on all of them,” Evening said as she came up to his side, her eyes traveling over her creation. She looked down at Eventide before ruffling his hair, drawing an annoyed pout from him. She just laughed at the look before kneeling down to be at his eye level while pointing out another flower. “See this one? It’s called a Forget-Me-Not.”

Eventide looked at the flower. It was gorgeous, it’s intensely bright blue petals reflecting in his eyes. “Yeah… it’s really pretty…” he murmured, lifting a finger and gently tracing the edges of the nearest petal. It trembled just a little under his touch, and he took a moment to take in the smell.

“It is,” Evening agreed before draping her arm over Eventide’s shoulders and pulling him closer against her side. “And do you know why I grew this one here?” she then asked, her eyes briefly flicking at the flowers above and below it.

Eventide took a moment to try and deduce it himself before he gave up. “Why?” he asked curiously, looking up into his mother’s eyes.

She poked him on the tip of the nose. “Because it matches your eyes,” she explained with a twinkle in her eye and a smirk on her lips. She then stood up and pointed at the row of flowers above the forget-me-nots. “And these ones up here match your hair.”

“Oooooh,” Eventide looked around, the pattern becoming clear. He looked around at some of the other arrangements and displays, and his smile grew. “Wow! All of these shelves are supposed to be us?”

“Mm-hmm!” Evening chirped before moving onto the next one, a bounce in her step. She pointed out each shelf as she went. “This one here is supposed to be your dad, see? Oh, and this one over here is me.”

“It’s smaller than mine and dads,” Eventide noted with a small frown. That didn’t make any sense to him. His mom made all of this herself, why was her section so small? He looked up at his mother and asked her that very question.

She knelt down again, looking into Eventide’s eyes. “Because, Eventide, it just wouldn’t do if you and your father got anything less than the very best,” she explained in a whisper.

Eventide looked at the arrangement again before throwing himself against his mother in a tight hug, burying his face into her shoulder. “That’s so nice of you, Mom…” he whispered, not complaining even a little bit as she lifted him up in her arms. When he pulled back, he giggled at her happy smile.

“Only the best for the best people in my life,” Evening replied without missing a beat, kissing Eventide on the cheek. “I love you, Eventide. You know that, right?”

Eventide nodded, his eyes shining. “Yeah! I love you, too, Mom!”

Evening looked into Eventide’s eyes for a moment before walking a few paces down to the next arrangement, carrying her son all the way. “Ah! Now, this one,” she came to a stop and eyed this specific one with a giant smile and a proud look in her eyes. “This one’s for my mom. Your grandma…”


Beebee’s eyes widened in surprise, and he took the brief lull in Eventide’s story to give it some thought. It made sense, he supposed. After all, Beebee had a grandma, so why wouldn’t Eventide? Still, he had to ask. “You have a grandma?”

Eventide was silent for several seconds when he heard that question. A few subtle waves of blue drifted off of him before he gave a slow nod of his head, a quiet breath sliding past his lips. “I… did…” he answered in a voice that was barely even there.

Beebee felt his heart twist in his chest at the implication. “You… Did…?”

Eventide sat more upright, his expression going distant. “...She died. Years ago.”

Beebee’s ears fell flat against his head, his jaw falling open. “Oh… I…”

Eventide continued before the bug could say anything else. “She was a wonderful woman. The spitting image of the perfect grandma. She came by almost every day, bringing treats, and snacks, and cookies, and…” he trailed off, a nostalgic smile on his face. “She had these big, goofy glasses that we liked to poke fun at her for. She was kind and patient, and she always listened to me if I needed to vent about something. School, bullies at school, computer problems…”

The smile fled his face, and he looked down at the floor again. “It happened so suddenly... There wasn’t any warning, there wasn’t any build up. One day, everything was fine. Then we got a phone call and… she was gone. She got hit by a car. Driver wasn’t looking where he was going…” his words were short and clipped. He shook his head. “...We all grieved, of course. It was awful... But… Mom… she loved grandma so, so much. I don’t think she loved anything or anyone more than that woman… and when she died…”

Eventide’s voice trailed off, and he closed his eyes. Beebee sat there, staring at his father and bearing the silence for as long as he could. After a few seconds, though, his patience was running out. He gave off a weak chitter of curiosity before lightly prodding Eventide's elbow with his hoof. That seemed to be what the man needed because he opened his eyes and kept going.

“...It changed her, Beebee. She’d never lost anyone before then. I mean, yeah, she’d had fights with people she thought were her friends, and she drifted away from people she’d known when she was younger. But she’d never actually lost someone by death, and… she had no idea how to cope with it.

“She fell into a deep depression. When she had no more tears to shed over it, she started shedding everything else. Her passion, her energy, her enthusiasm… her love,” he frowned and let off a breath. “...She shut us out… she retreated into her own little world and barely even acknowledged us. Her career suffered so much that she lost her job… she didn’t talk to dad and I very much... her greenhouse died... and Dad and I were left with no idea what to do…”

Beebee looked down, doing his best to ignore the rancid taste of grief and sorrow that was prodding at his lips. He shook his head and looked up at Eventide again. “...What happened next?” he asked gingerly, reaching a hoof out and letting it rest on Eventide’s leg in an effort to comfort the man.

Eventide sighed and continued his story. “I did the only thing I could… I tried to make her feel better. Whatever had made her smile before, I tried it. I worked as hard as I could to get perfect grades in school, trying to impress her. I joined nature clubs and took gardening electives because I’d felt so inspired by her greenhouse. I brought her gifts, I drew things for her, I…”

He stopped and closed his eyes, his face twitching a little. “...I think I wound up hurting myself. I was so stressed every day, just trying to give her something to smile and laugh about. But... every single time I brought something to her, something that made dad excited or happy, something I had worked so hard on…” he opened his eyes again, and Beebee stifled a gasp when he saw them shimmering with a fresh wave of tears. “...Mom would just say ‘that’s nice, dear,’ and look away…”

Beebee wilted when Eventide suddenly stood up and walked a few paces away from the couch. His hands were curling into fists at his sides, and his shoulders were hunching up. Red was starting to seep into his aura, and when Beebee saw his face, it was contorted with long hidden frustration and resentment. “I felt so useless! It was as if no matter what I did, no matter how hard I tried, everything I did was just not good enough!” he snapped, his voice growing with volume.

Beebee shrank back into the cushions on the couch somewhat, his ears flattening back against his head. He shouldn’t have asked his dad to tell this story, he thought. He could have dealt with not knowing, couldn’t he? Still, it was too late now, and he found the courage to speak. “But… she was sad, wasn’t she?”

Eventide stood rigid for a few more seconds before letting his shoulders slump. He turned around, revealing his expression had gone from angry to dejected and resigned. “Yeah… she was. She was very sad… but she could have pulled herself out of it a lot sooner. I know she could have… she just didn’t.”

“How do you know?” Beebee asked tentatively, ready to retract the question at a moments notice.

Eventide looked down and took a deep breath. “...She told me before I moved out. It was almost like she was wanted to be depressed. I mean…” he turned and looked at Beebee again. “She started to get better here and there, but every time, she’d eventually go falling right back down and get worse again. And it was by her own choice. She chose to let herself fall back down like that. It was like…” he lifted his hands and fidgeted with them over his chest, his brow furrowed. “It was like she was addicted to shutting us out and being miserable…”

Beebee swallowed heavily but nodded. “Okay… I think I understand… what happened next?”

Eventide stood still for a few minutes before shoving his hands in his pockets. “...Eventually, it all came to a head… and I said some things I never should have said…”


Many Years Ago…

A sixteen-year-old Eventide Oath led his quiet mother by the hand out the back door of their two-story home and for the greenhouse at the other side of the yard, a hopeful look on his face. Evening Light, on the other hand, just looked distant and confused. “Eventide… where are we going?” she asked, her voice low and monotonous.

Eventide tried to ignore the spike of pain stabbed into his heart by her tone and looked back at her to give her a big grin. “It’s a surprise! Just follow me, okay?” he insisted, trying his best to sound cheerful and optimistic like he remembered her being when he was a little boy.

He’d been working on this in secret for months. It had to be absolutely perfect; and for it to be perfect, it had to be a complete surprise. How many nights of sleep had he lost setting all of this up? How many times had he had to borrow painkillers for his back? Too many times, he knew that much…

His eyes briefly wandered up to the sky, and an irritated grimace marred his features. Of course it had to be cloudy today, didn’t it? The sun was completely obscured by a thick layer of gray that tried to suck all the joy and color out of the world. He shrugged it off, though, and kept moving.

His free hand soon found the handle of the long underused greenhouse and pulled it open before leading his mother inside. Despite the clearly aged and poorly kept structure, Eventide was able to find some semblance of hope at the sight of his hard work.

He turned around to watch his mother’s face as she stepped inside. The spark of hope in his chest swelled into a candle fire when he saw her eyes widen in awe and her jaw hang open. He gestured widely behind him to show off his hard work, the biggest gift he could have possibly made for her. “Ta-da! Whaddya think, Mom?”

The inside of the greenhouse, which had been a dusty and abandoned wreck about six months ago, was now filled with an assortment of beautiful plants and flowers, all of which had been carefully arranged to match his mother’s colors. The dust that had coated this place had largely been cleared away, though there were still spots of it besmirching numerous spots, usually in the corners.

There were countless signs that the work done in this greenhouse was done by an amateur, of course. But to anyone with an eye to look and think, there was no denying the passion and heart that had gone into making it look as beautiful as possible.

Evening looked around, taking a few steps into the greenhouse, seemingly at a loss for words. “...This is…”

“It’s for you, Mom,” Eventide said in a quieter voice, clasping his hands behind his back. “I remembered how much you used to love coming here, and I remembered the day you showed me all those flowers you made for dad and I. I remembered you saying that we deserved only the best...” he gestured at the flowers again. “I know I’m not really good at this, but… it’s the best I could do… and I did all of this for you. So… what do you think?”

Evening’s eyes found Eventide’s, and the two stared at each other for a good long time. Eve swallowed heavily before looking around again, taking it all in one more time. She did a slow spin in place, her eyes roaming over the shelves and colors of it all. For just a moment, for just the tiniest fraction of a second, Eventide thought it had worked when a tiny smile graced his mother’s lips.

“It’s nice…” Evening whispered before lowering her gaze down to the floor. “You did a good job…”

Eventide waited with bated breath for several seconds, his fingers flexing on instinct as he waited for her to come and hug him, or say thank you, or something positive.

The candle of hope in his chest began to waver and sputter as if in a cold wind when Evening’s smile vanished from her lips...

And it was snuffed out entirely when she turned around to leave.

Eventide’s smile shattered, replaced with a wide-eyed look of stunned shock. His heart felt as if it had broken into a trillion pieces, and he watched helplessly as Evening stepped out of the greenhouse and into the backyard. For a second, he just stood there, trying to process what had just happened.

The last, dying ember of his hope faded away entirely. His hands started to shake, as did his lower lip. “Wha… why…” he choked out, his hands falling to hang limply at his sides. He stood there for what felt like all of time, but was in fact only a few seconds, processing what had just happened.

Somewhere deep inside of him, something snapped. The faded ember suddenly exploded into a red-hot fire that filled his veins. His hands curled tightly into shaking fists, and his lips peeled back into a vicious snarl. “Are you…” he whispered under his breath. With an angry growl, he stomped out through the door. He caught sight of his mother about halfway back to the house and shouted after her. “Mom! What the hell?!”

Evening paused at his voice and turned to look at him. She was clearly taken off guard by his tone, but Eventide couldn’t find it in himself to care at that moment. “...What?”

Eventide stomped up until he was in front of her, his teeth bared in a vicious scowl. “What do you mean ’what?!’ That’s it?! That’s all you have to say to me?! Mom, this was all FOR YOU! AND I DON’T EVEN GET A THANK YOU?!”

Evening took a step back, her hand flying up to hover over her heart. Her eyes had grown wide, and she visibly cowered under her son’s raised voice. “Eventide, I… I just…” she tried to say something, but her words faltered and tapered off into a shame-filled silence.

“You just what?!” Eventide snapped when she didn’t speak up, marching forward until he was right in her face. “You just don’t care?! You’re not interested?! You don’t want flowers?! Is that it?! IS IT?!” he shouted before his hands flew forward and shoved her back. She stumbled before falling onto her rear with a gasp of pain.

She looked up at him and went to scold him, but the words caught in her throat. Eventide wasn’t sure why, though, but he was so blinded by rage and tears that he couldn’t have cared less. “Do you have ANY idea how hard it’s been?! How long I’ve been working on this?! How many times I had to skip out on time with my friends, or with dad, JUST so I could get this done?! WELL?!”

“I…”

Evening didn’t say anything else, driving Eventide to even further heights of anger and indignation. “I worked myself half to death for you, Mom! Is it not enough?! What do you want me to do?! WHAT CAN I DO?!” he screamed at the top of his lungs before spinning around and storming back into the greenhouse.

He only just heard Evening gasp in shock when he reached out and pulled the first arrangement of flowers he saw to the ground with a deafening clatter. He felt a small twinge of guilt at the sight of his hard work being scattered and destroyed, but he just couldn’t stop himself. His mother, the person it was meant for, clearly didn’t care. He’d wasted his time. He’d wasted his energy. He’d just been a waste.

He could hear his mother calling out to him. “Wha- Eventide, what are you doing?!”

Eventide ignored her. With tears pouring freely down his cheeks, he moved on to the next shelf and tore it down, too. He reached for the third, and was about to throw it down when he felt hands firmly gripping his shoulders from behind, trying to pull him back. Angered, he tore himself out of their hold and spun around to glare at Evening. “DON'T TOUCH ME!”

“Eventide, please!” she begged, her own eyes shimmering with tears as they took in the sight of destroyed plants and flowers. Of wasted hard work. “Stop!”

“WHY SHOULD I!?” Eventide shot back before tugging one more shelf down to the ground, watching the soil scatter and the petals go flying into the air. “YOU CLEARLY DON’T CARE ABOUT ANY OF THIS! I WAS JUST WASTING MY TIME!”

“Eventide-”

“Shut up! Just shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!” Eventide bellowed at her, and the two of them fell into a deathly silence. With his chest heaving with every trembling gasp he took, Eventide trudged forwards and forcefully shoved past his mother. “...I hate you,” he seethed right into her ear before stepping out of the greenhouse and heading back for his home. He could see his father staring at him with disappointment from the doorway.

How fitting… That’s all he was capable of, wasn't it? Being a disappointment…


Beebee’s hooves were clasped tightly over his muzzle as Eventide finished recounting the incident, tears in his own eyes. Eventide didn’t look at him, instead looking into the floor while his hands clenched and relaxed over and over again at his sides. “...I’d never felt more useless in my life… I worked so hard… I did so much… and it was never enough. I was a failure…” he concluded before dragging himself back over to the couch and slumping down next to Beebee.

The two were quiet for several seconds as Beebee tried to wrap his little brain around everything he had just been told. Eventually, he swallowed the thick lump that had formed in his throat and scooted a little closer to his father. “...You said you hated her?” he asked in barely even a whisper, barely even able to force the horrible words past his lips.

Eventide nodded, shame and guilt radiating off of him in droves. “...Yes. It was the worst thing I could have said at that point, I think… but I didn’t know what else I could do. I was angry, I was upset, and I felt like I’d spent months of my life breaking my back for her only to learn it wasn’t enough… that I wasn’t enough.”

Beebee nodded along slowly. “...What happened next?”

Eventide closed his eyes and let off an exhausted sigh. “There isn’t much more to tell. I got a part-time job at the Ginger Mart a few weeks later, and I used that as an excuse to get away from home. Mom started to open up again, gradually… dad thinks hearing me say I hated her helped her find the will to climb out of her depression, but I dunno…” he lifted a hand and placed it over his face. “I dropped out of my clubs, my grades suffered… as soon as I turned eighteen and graduated, I took my saved up money from work, moved out of my parents home, and never looked back… and that’s the end of it.”

Beebee looked down and away, a sad chitter emanating from deep in his throat. If he had thought he shouldn’t have asked before, he was positive that he should have never even given it a thought, now. Seeing Eventide this sad and upset over something was something he had never seen before, and it disturbed him on a deeply fundamental level.

But what could he do about it?

After a few seconds, he looked at Eventide again, and saw the blue waves coming off of him, saw the sorrow in the air, and the look of guilt on his face. He saw all of this, and he decided… he would do all he could.

Moving slowly, Beebee climbed up into Eventide’s lap and rested his head against the man’s chest. Surprised, Eventide looked down and met Beebee’s gaze. “Wha… Bee?”

Beebee smiled at him, his wings buzzing briefly on his back. “Dad… it’s okay. It’s over, now… and she’s sorry. Things can get better, now.”

Eventide was stunned by that statement. He just sat there for several seconds, mouthing like a fish and trying to figure out what to say. Then, with a quiet sob, he reached down and pulled Beebee tightly against his chest in a warm, borderline desperate embrace. Beebee returned the hug as much as he could, and though he knew Eventide couldn’t see or eat emotions like he could, he still did his best to think happy thoughts and remind himself of how much he loved his dad.

No matter what mistakes he had made.

“...Beebee?” Eventide choked out, running his hand gingerly over the back of Beebee’s head. “...Do you think I’m a good dad?”

Beebee hugged Eventide tighter and nodded his head. “You’re my dad… and I love you...

He could practically feel it when Eventide smiled. “Right… thank you, Beebee… I’m so glad I found you…” he whispered before putting a light kiss on the top of Beebee’s head. “I love you, too…”

Beebee just closed his eyes and focused on relaxing. He could hear Eventide’s heart thumping heavily in his ear. It was a soothing noise, one that slowly began to relax and soothe his weary mind.

He fell asleep like that, held in his father’s grasp while the clouds parted outside, allowing the evening light to stream in through the window.

Chapter 48: An Honest Apple

View Online

Over A Year Later…

“Okay, Bee, let’s go over the rules one more time,” Eventide said while fussing over Beebee, much to his four-year-old son’s chagrin. The two of them were standing in the living room of their home, with Beebee in his human form and dressed in a pair of plain shorts and a t-shirt. The warm light of the summer sun was streaming in through the windows, bathing everything in a soft glow.

Beebee rolled his eyes at Eventide's words and tried to squirm away from his hands. “Daaaaad, we’ve been over them a dozen times,” he whined in protest before lightly batting away Eventide’s hands with his own to get some personal space back. “Come on, I’m not an idiot.”

“No, but you are my son,” Eventide rebuked without missing a beat. He still managed to offer a smile and reached out to ruffle Beebee’s hair. “Now, repeat it back to me. This is the last time, I promise.”

Beebee tugged his head out from under Eventide’s hand and puffed up his cheeks at him in indignation. After a moment, though, he let off a resigned sigh, knowing all too well that there was no way out of this. “Ugh, okay, fine. I’m supposed to be back two hours after I leave, I’m supposed to call you as soon as we get there and when I’m coming home, and I’m to be on my absolute best behavior,” he recited in a monotone drone.

Eventide playfully punched him on the shoulder with an approving smile. “That’s my boy,” he praised with before his eyes drifted from Beebee’s face to his hair. His smile disappeared. “...Fix your hair.”

Beebee blinked in surprise and lifted a hand to idly toy with a loose strand. “Uh? It’s fine, isn’t it?” he asked, frowning.

Eventide gave Beebee a flat look. He crossed his arms over his chest and shook his head. “It looks like Buddha started licking it with a tongue covered in glue.”

“Oh. Ew,” Beebee cringed at that decidedly unpleasant mental image before closing his eyes and concentrating. A swirl of green flames whipped around his head. His hair, which had been a spiky and greasy mess mere moments ago, was now neatly combed down and cleaned to perfection, making him presentable. He opened his eyes and beamed at Eventide. “That better?”

Eventide nodded, his smile returning. “So much better, yes…” he acknowledged, and Beebee felt brave enough to start relaxing when he saw Eventide’s aura glow with satisfaction. For a moment, just a brief moment, he was expecting all of this fussing to be done and over with so he could be on his way.

But then, coming as a surprise to nobody at all, a little shimmer of anxiety slid into Eventide’s emotions, and his face twisted in a perfect reflection of that. “But… are you sure you don’t want me to go with you? I mean, you’re going over to a girls house, and it’s a new thing for you, and-”

“Dad,” Beebee cut him off in a soft voice before stepping forward and wrapping his arms around Eventide in a gentle hug. “I know you’re worried about me, and it means a lot… but this is Apple Bloom we’re talking about. She’s messier than I am, and she’s my best friend,” he said before backing out of the embrace. “It’s going to be fine. I’ll call you when I get there, I swear.”

Eventide hesitated, raising his hands and opening his mouth to speak. He was no doubt fishing for another excuse he could make to delay Beebee’s departure, some other tiny detail to poke and prod and adjust to perfection. Beebee let his expression flatten in response.

Eventide stopped his fidgeting and let his hands fall to his sides with a defeated sigh. “I know, I know… I’m sorry, Beebee. I’m just worried that something bad might happen, is all. I mean, what if you lose control of your form while you’re there?”

“I can hold it for around four hours if I’m not tiring myself out,” Beebee pointed out, thinking back on the progress they had made at the park. “I think I’ll be good as long as we don’t do anything tiring.”

“And if they do want to do something tiring?” Eventide countered, shuffling uneasily on his feet. “You and I both know you can’t hold it for even one if you’re wearing yourself out. You’re a lot stronger than you were, and the trails have helped, but you’re still kinda…”

Beebee’s expression soured. “I’m still a twig, dad, I know,” he finished for him before crossing his arms over his chest. “I know… but they won’t ask me to do anything tiring. They know I get tired easily.”

“I know…” Eventide relented in turn, his shoulders slumping. “I just want to make sure, that’s all…”

A sudden knock on the door cut off any more conversation, and both Beebee and Eventide turned to face the sound. Beebee looked back at his father and smiled. “That’s my cue,” he stated before lunging in and giving Eventide one more hug. “It’s all going to be fine, dad. I promise. I’ll see you later, alright?”

“You’d better,” Eventide responded, hugging his son back and giving him a firm squeeze. A few seconds later, Beebee tugged himself back and out of the grip.

The two made eye contact for a moment, where Beebee gave Eventide one more nod of assurance before turning and jogging over to the door, leaving Eventide behind. His hand flew out and yanked the door open, and sure enough, there was Apple Bloom on the other side, dressed in a dark green t-shirt and pale blue shorts. She was just putting her phone back in her pocket, and a big grin spread on her face when she saw the boy that had answered the door. “Howdy, Beebee!” she greeted enthusiastically.

“Hey, Apple Bloom!” Beebee replied, stepping forward and throwing his arms around Apple Bloom in an embrace. Apple Bloom grunted from the impact, then chuckled and returned the hug.

“Hoo-wee! Yer gettin’ stronger, ain’t ya?” Apple Bloom commented once the hug broke off. She reached out with one finger and poked Beebee on the shoulder. “Got some actual muscles on ya, now. Those walks doin’ ya some good?”

“Yeah, but I’m still skinny,” Beebee bit back, only mildly annoyed at the second reminder of his frailty. He looked past Apple Bloom in the general direction of the woods, eager to change the topic. “So, we good to go?”

“Long as yer papa’s given the all clear, then yup,” Apple Bloom confirmed before leaning to the side and giving Eventide a friendly wave. “And howdy to you too, mister Eventide!”

Beebee turned to look at Eventide as well and saw the last fragments of trepidation and worry in his aura. All the same, Eventide held himself in check and waved back. “Hello, Apple Bloom. You two be nice, and you make sure Beebee’s home in two hours, alright?”

Apple Bloom gave a curt nod. “Will do!” she confirmed before nudging Beebee in the ribs with her elbow. “C’mon! Let’s go!”

“Right,” Beebee agreed before giving Eventide one last look. “I’ll be home soon, dad! Bye!”

“Bye, Beebee!” Eventide called after him as the door began to shut. Beebee had to resist the urge to roll his eyes and groan when he just made out Eventide shouting ‘remember to call’ through the door as it clicked closed.

He spun away from the door and noticed Apple Bloom giving him an unusual smile. Curious, he raised an eyebrow and started to walk down the path from his front door. “What’s with the face?”

Apple Bloom fell into step beside him, her hands remaining casually behind her back. “Oh, nothin’. Ah just think it’s real nice that yer dad’s lettin’ you leave the house like this fer a change. He’s really protective of ya, Ah noticed,” she explained before her expression softened somewhat. “Ah’m glad for it, honestly.”

Beebee glanced over his shoulder at his house, a brief flicker of uncertainty igniting inside his own chest. He’d walked with the Crusaders in the woods before, yes, and he’d played out here on his own many times. But this would be the very first time he would be at someone else’s house… and it had taken weeks to convince Eventide to let it happen.

As they drew closer to the woods, Beebee was unable to keep himself from feeling a similar wave of anxiety that Eventide had felt a minute ago. What if something did go wrong, he wondered? What if he lost control of his form? What if his only friends saw him for what he actually was?

He quickly snuffed out his concerns and shook his head dismissively. Putting on a small smile, he looked back at Apple Bloom. “Can you blame him? I’m his only son, and we live out in the middle of nowhere.”

Apple Bloom shrugged her shoulders. “Eh, point taken. Applejack’s the same way - er, well, she was when Ah was little,” she quickly corrected herself, her lips pulling back into a line. A small amount of vestigial irritation crept into her emotions. “Real overprotective… didn’t wanna lemme outta her sight for one moment. She’s gotten better as Ah’ve gotten older, though. She knows Ah can take care of myself, now.”

Beebee hummed thoughtfully but did not offer a worded response. He lifted his hands and rested them on the back of his head before breathing in deep through his nose. He let it out with a content sigh and smiled sideways at Apple Bloom. “Alright, so - your house?”

Apple Bloom nodded. “Mah house.”

Beebee had no complaints, and the two made their way into the woods, disappearing amid the trees and foliage. In the privacy of his thoughts, Beebee couldn’t help but think back on how he had met Apple Bloom in these very woods over a year ago. An injured leg, all alone in a ditch, covered in dirt and in so much pain... it had been a scary day. But thanks to it, he had grown a lot, in more ways than one.

He had trained himself to transform for long stretches of time, and as a result, he now had three great friends that he saw on a regular basis, and he was able to spend time with his grandparents on the rare occasion they came over to visit. His eyes briefly looked down at his human legs, and his smile grew. Once upon a time, he’d barely been able to stand under his own power, much less walk like this. He’d had to lean on others for support, but here he was now, walking along like it was nothing.

Although, privately, he still wondered how Eventide got around on these things so easily. To Beebee, it would always be incredibly awkward.

“What are ya smilin’ like that for?” Apple Bloom questioned, craning her head down slightly to appear in the side of Beebee’s vision with a curious look.

He blinked, pulled from his thoughts, and looked over at her with his smile growing even more. “Nothing. Just… thinking about how glad I am I met you,” he replied honestly before looking ahead. “I owe you, Apple Bloom. I owe you a lot.

Apple Bloom hummed contentedly in response to that question but offered nothing further. There was, however, a steady flow of gold and small amounts of pink coming out of her, though.

Beebee was sure to subtly drink some of that down, relishing the taste.


The trip to Apple Bloom’s house had been made in relative silence after that, with only a few moments of small-talk scattered throughout. The forest had eventually thinned out, and they soon came out of it to the sight of a lovely two-story home with a barn house on its left-hand side. The paneling of the walls was a lively red color, with the support beams being colored a bright snow white. The roof tiles were a darker shade of gray.

It was a nice home, and Beebee had to spend a few minutes to just stare at and appreciate it. He only just remembered to borrow Apple Bloom’s phone to call Eventide and let him know that they’d made it, and that was only because the teenager had reminded him to do so.

After that, they went inside. Beebee had been momentarily taken off guard to find a stunning lack of any of Apple Bloom’s family in the building, to which she told him that they were all down in town for the next few hours. The only one who’d be back before Beebee left was her big sister, Applejack.

Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo were there, though, waiting for Apple Bloom and Beebee in the living room while watching - er, playing something on the TV. They said it was called a ‘video game,’ something Beebee had literally no experience in. He expressed as such, much to the shock of all present.

Scootaloo especially had been deeply offended by this revelation. She made Beebee sit down on the floor in front of the television, shoved a weird contraption with buttons and sticks into his hand, and insisted he play a round of ‘Smash Brothers’ with her.

With nothing else for it, he agreed. What’s the worst that could happen? he thought.

...Well, he could fail miserably, apparently.

“Apple Bloom, how do I video game?” Beebee complained, watching in despair as his character, a weird pink ball that he was told ate everyone else, walked uselessly into the wall on the screen.

Sitting next to him, Apple Bloom just giggled and leaned down to poke at one of the sticks on the controller in his hands. “Well, try pushin’ that one the other way so ya stop walkin’ into the wall,” she suggested, smiling sideways at him.

Beebee did as instructed, and to his delight, the pink ball walked the other way. He was so thrilled that he was no longer plowing the thing’s face into a solid surface that he didn’t even notice the gap in the floor… until the pink ball fell through it.

Said pink ball disappeared in a violent explosion as soon as it was off the screen.

Scootaloo, who was to Beebee’s right, raised one of her eyebrows while her aura was filled with abject bewilderment. “Huh… y’know, that’s the first time I’ve ever won a game of Smash without having to do anything,” she commented slowly before scratching the back of her head.

“Not very fulfillin’ is it?” Apple Bloom quipped playfully before her eyes fell on Beebee again. Her smile fell away when she saw the confused look on Beebee’s face, and how he actually looked a little upset.

“...So, I lost?” he eventually asked, lifting the controller and turning it over in his hands, searching it for any sign of what he had done wrong.

“Spectacularly,” Scootaloo confirmed before going about setting up a new match on the game. “Here, lemme get you a level that doesn’t have any holes in the floor…”

Beebee wasn’t really paying much attention. He let out a quiet breath and set the controller down before leaning back. “I’m not sure I like video games…” he grumbled in annoyance, his face dropping to match.

“Oh, come on,” Sweetie Belle urged in soft reassurance from behind him. ‘Don’t give up now! It’s really fun once you know how to play.”

“Honestly, what was your dad thinking, not giving you a console?” Scootaloo asked with a slow, disappointed shake of her head.

Beebee went to retort but ultimately held his tongue. It wasn’t worth it, he figured.

The group fell into an awkward silence as Scootaloo worked on the game, getting the next level set up, whatever that meant. Beebee shrank down a little, the tension in the air from his comment being tangible, especially to him. “...Sorry,” he murmured, closing his eyes.

“...Scoot over, Sweetie,” Apple Bloom suddenly said, shifting around until she was sitting behind Beebee. Sweetie did as instructed, sitting down behind and between the others, her eyes curiously watching Apple Bloom. The farm girl in question leaned forward, her arms reaching past Beebee’s waist and picking up the controller he had put on the floor. “Here, lemme help ya.”

“Wha- hey!” Beebee protested, his eyes snapping open in alarm when Apple Bloom pushed the controller back into his hands. She then layered her fingers on top of his and held them firmly in a comfortable position. He squirmed for a second, but then gave up when he remembered just how much stronger than him she was. So he did all he could and pouted at her. “What are you doing?”

Apple Bloom just let off an amused giggle, resting her chin on his shoulder so she could see the screen. “Teaching ya how to play Smash!” she declared energetically. “What’s it look like?”

Beebee just stared at Apple Bloom for several seconds, completely confused. Eventually, though, he decided to defer to her judgment. These three knew how to video game, and he didn’t, so they obviously knew much better how to teach him. He nodded before returning his attention to the TV, growing curious as to how Apple Bloom was going to teach him while practically hugging him from behind.

In the corner of his eye, he caught sight of Sweetie. He felt a rush of confusion when he saw just the most awful of teasing smirks spreading out on her face, and he inwardly blanched as he realized that her aura was glowing with some mixture of sadism and amusement. Why did he not like the look on her face? Why was it making him feel so uncomfortable? He shrank away from her, an inaudible whimper bubbling up from his throat.

“Sooooo…” Sweetie began in a slow, knowing voice, walking her fingers along the floor until she was leaning closer to Apple Bloom and Beebee. She fluttered her eyelashes at the farm girl and grinned. “That’s so cute… you comfy there, Apple Bloom?” she asked quietly.

Beebee’s confusion grew to new heights when he felt Apple Bloom tense up behind him, and an emotion he was not used to flowed out of her in gratuitous amounts. He thought it was… embarrassment? Apple Bloom sat bolt upright up and shot Sweetie Belle a sour look with a red blush on her cheeks. “S-Sweetie Belle! Shut it!” she commanded, though the slight stutter in her voice killed any authority it might have otherwise had.

Scootaloo shrugged her shoulders and grinned at them, apparently in on whatever the joke was. “Heh, I ship it.”

“SCOOTALOO!” Apple Bloom shrieked, her face turning an even darker shade of red.

Beebee’s expression blanked. “I don’t get it.”

“Then don’t ask,” Apple Bloom quickly stated, putting her chin back on Beebee’s shoulder. He felt the heat radiating off of her face and inwardly noted how much more intense than usual it was. “Just help me beat ‘em up.”

“Heh, sorry, Apple Bloom,” Scootaloo apologized, though the twinkle in her eyes made it clear that she was lying. “But it was just too good to resist.”

Apple Bloom’s cheeks puffed up while her eyes narrowed in indignation. She then spoke quietly into Beebee’s ear. “Y’all just pay attention to what Ah’m doin’ with yer fingers on the controller, and how it makes things happen on the screen, alright?” she whispered to him in a low, sinister voice.

Beebee felt a chill run down his spine, genuinely intimidated. Judging by the uneasy look on Sweetie Belle’s face, he wasn’t the only one. Beebee swallowed heavily and nodded his head. “...Kay.”

The next round began, and Apple Bloom led him by the thumbs into action.

Needless to say, Scootaloo lost that round spectacularly.


After allowing Apple Bloom to use his hands to absolutely demolish Scootaloo, Beebee began to play the game under his own power. He still made plenty of mistakes and errors, but he gradually improved with every match he played in. Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom got controllers of their own after a while and joined in the matches.

Beebee never came in first place, but to be frank, he didn’t mind all that much. He was able to be in third once or twice, and by sheer luck, he got to be in second in this most recent match. He had squared off against Apple Bloom when Scootaloo made an error in judgment and fell off the map. The following duel had been one for the ages.

Beebee had to admit to himself Sweetie Belle was right. Once he had figured out what he was doing with the controller, it was a lot of fun. It was so fun, in fact, that he began to lose track of time, the moments between matches blurring together and the matches themselves feeling much shorter than they actually were.

Time would be reintroduced to the four of them when the sound of the front door opening up echoed throughout the house. Curious, Beebee rotated in place and looked over his shoulder. A taller woman with tanned skin and long blonde hair tied into a ponytail stepped into the living room. She had a brown Stetson hat on her head, and her emerald eyes immediately locked onto Apple Bloom. He paused, one of her eyebrows taking a trip up north.

Beebee offered a weak wave. “Uh… hi?”

The woman nodded slowly. “Uh, howdy…” her eyes then turned to Apple Bloom. “Apple Bloom, is this that Beebee feller ya told me about?” she asked, stepping into the room.

“Oh, yep!” Apple Bloom quickly rose to her feet. She cleared her throat and gestured at Beebee with a smile and a nod. “This is Beebee!” she then looked at him and pointed at the new arrival. “Beebee, this is mah big sister, Applejack.”

Beebee, remembering his manners, quickly stood up and nodded his head. “Hello! It’s very nice to meet you, Applejack. Apple Bloom talks about you sometimes” he said while folding his hands behind his back.

Applejacks considered him for a moment before her face lit up with a small smile, and the tension in her aura was replaced with satisfaction. “Well, howdy, Beebee. Nice to make yer acquaintance. Apple Bloom talks about you quite a bit, too, y’know.”

Curious, Beebee looked sideways at his yellow-skinned friend to find she was looking bashfully to one side while whistling an innocent tune. A small amount of embarrassment was floating off of her. “She does?” he asked, looking back at Applejack inquisitively.

Applejack nodded with a knowing look in her eyes. “She sure does. Although, lookin’ at ya now, Ah get the feelin’ she mighta been exaggeratin’ a little bit.”

Apple Bloom’s cheeks began to change in color to match the family name. She pouted at Applejack indignantly. “Applejaaack, please don’t! Ah just got done shakin’ off Sweetie and Scootaloo!”

“For the moment,” Scootaloo piped up, rising to her feet and clapping Apple Bloom on the shoulder blades with that mischievous look in her eyes again. “But you’re forgetting - we’re us. You’re not getting loose just because you smashed my butt in a video game.”

“I still don’t get it,” Beebee deadpanned, his expression flattening in irritation.

Applejack gave a bark of laughter before stepping closer to the group of four friends. “Well, that’s alright. Ah’m sure ya will when yer a little older,” she assured before her gaze shifted to look at a clock on the wall. Her smile fell away, replaced with a grim frown. “Oh, shucks. Is it that time already?”

Beebee followed Applejack’s eyes and, after a few seconds of squinting at the clock, realized that it was almost time to go. He couldn’t stop the groan of disappointment that escaped his lips. Sweetie, Scootaloo, and Apple Bloom were similarly disappointed if their sighs and groans were anything to go off of.

“Time for me to go home?” Beebee questioned anyway, his voice quiet and resigned.

“Aaaw, but we’re having so much fun!” Sweetie Belle whined before shaking her head. “Ugh…”

“Can’t Beebee stick around a little longer?” Scootaloo suggested hopefully while stepping a little closer to Applejack. “C’mon, just one more game of Smash?”

Beebee glanced at Scootaloo and couldn’t help but smile in appreciation. He went to voice his agreement with the idea, so long as the Apple’s were in favor, but to his surprise, Apple Bloom beat him to the punch.

“Naw. Ah made his dad a promise to bring him home on time. If we stay here any longer, we’ll be late, and Ah’ll be makin’ a liar outta myself,” she said simply with a shake of her head.

Beebee turned to look at her, surprised. She had a look on her face of not just disappointment, but also commitment. Those two emotions were perfectly represented in her aura, adding a strange layer of confusion to Beebee’s own mood. He went to say something, but the words caught in his throat.

“Call yer dad, let him know we’re on our way” Apple Bloom instructed while pulling out her phone and handing it over to Beebee. She then turned to look at Applejack. “Can Ah walk him home, though?”

Applejack thought it over for a moment, humming to herself. She then shrugged and nodded her head. “Ah don’t see why not. Just don’t be gone super long, alright?”

“Ah won’t.”

“We’ll come too!” Sweetie added in eagerly, joining Apple Bloom’s side and nodding her head. Scootaloo took up a position next to both of them in a show of agreement.

“Me, too!”

With that decided, Beebee set about calling Eventide up to let him know they he was coming home.


The light of the sun was slowly starting to turn yellow as the sun began its gradual descent for the horizon. Apple Bloom and Beebee walked in silence while Sweetie and Scootaloo talked to each other in hushed voices. Occasionally, Beebee found himself looking up at the sunlight filtering in through the branches of the forest, appreciating the warmth and the colors.

More often than that, though, Beebee would look over at Apple Bloom with his face scrunching up in thought. She looked a lot happier now than she had back in the house. Maybe it was because she had calmed down from her earlier disappointment. Maybe she was just enjoying the fresh air and the time with her friends like he was. Maybe she was just enjoying the quiet. Either way, she seemed at ease.

So why did Beebee feel so uncomfortable? He looked down at his feet and thought it over some more, running through everything that had happened when Applejack had walked in. Everyone kept teasing Apple Bloom about something, though Beebee, for the life of him, couldn’t quite figure out what. Whatever it was, Apple Bloom had found it embarrassing.

But that didn’t bother Beebee, not really. He thought it over a little more, and finally, after almost a minute of just turning the cogs in his head, it came to him.

“Ah made his dad a promise to bring him home on time. If we stay here any longer, we’ll be late, and Ah’ll be makin’ a liar outta myself.”

Beebee looked over at Apple Bloom, his eyes widening somewhat. This time, she noticed his look, and her brow furrowed with confusion. “...What?”

Beebee quickly looked away, trying to find the words. “Sorry, I was just thinking about what you said before we left,” he explained, putting his hands into his pockets and doing his best to ignore the unusual feeling of his skin sliding inside his skin. He was never going to get used to his clothes being parts of his body, he just knew it.

“Which thing?” Apple Bloom pressed, raising an eyebrow and slowing her pace.

“Well, I was thinking about what you said about making a liar out of yourself,” Beebee replied hesitantly, his eyes darting over to observe Apple Bloom’s response.

Scootaloo answered for her, though, having apparently listened in to their discussion. “Well, that’s just an Apple Family thing,” she explained, moving a little ahead of them to get their attention. “Applejack pretty much drilled it into everyone’s heads to not lie if they could help it.”

Sweetie joined Scootaloo, nodding. “Yeah, and I think that’s really noble of them,” she agreed before looking at Apple Bloom. “Even if I think it can be noble to lie, sometimes.”

“Well, yeah,” Apple Bloom nodded her head slowly. “There’s a time and a place for lyin’. Protectin’ friends and family from a bad guy? That’s as good as time as any. But this wasn’t one of those times,” she explained before looking over at Beebee. “Most of the time, lies are bad. Nothin’ good comes of it if ya tell one when ya don’t gotta. If ya do that, yer likely to just lie again and again, until it spirals outta control and, sooner or later, ya got a disaster on yer hands that started with one little bit of deception.”

Beebee stared at Apple Bloom for several moments, considering her words. He felt his heart rate accelerate, and in his mind’s eye, just for a moment, he saw his true self looking back at him. Glowing blue eyes, ragged wings, long fangs, a forked tongue, holes in his legs… nothing at all like the boy he looked like now.

Nothing like the little boy the crusaders had gotten to know over the last year...

Beebee, feeling very nervous all of a sudden, licked his lips. “O-oh… you take lies pretty seriously, huh?” he asked, his voice hitching for just a moment.

If any of his friends noticed his sudden anxiety, they chose not to comment on it. Apple Bloom gave him a warm and tender smile. “Very.”

Her face was so warm and encouraging right then… under any other circumstance, it would have put Beebee at ease. So why was it that, right now, it made Beebee feel so cold and frightened?

He knew the answer as soon as he asked himself that question. It was simple… he’d been lying to her from the moment she had met him.

Beebee fell silent and looked forwards again, his mind racing at the implications, and his heart stirring in his chest. He was glad that the Crusaders couldn’t see emotions like he could because if they did, they would see the dense cloud of guilt steadily filling the air behind him as they returned home.

Chapter 49: Disagreement

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A few weeks later…

They’d never made it this far up the trail before, Beebee realized. The trees and shrubbery were gradually starting to thin out around the family of three as they continued their gradual ascent, allowing more sunlight to filter down through the gaps in the path’s corridor to light their way.

A few birds sang at each other in the branches before flying from their perch to another one. In the bushes, a squirrel darted along from leaf to leaf, using the greenery as cover to hide its movements. Somewhere far, far away, the sound of an eagle screeching reached Beebee’s ears.

Under any other circumstance, on any other day, he might have been able to feel some sense of awe and wonder at the beauty of it all, and excitement at his progress. But, sadly, his mind was far too occupied with other thoughts, thoughts he wished would just pack their bags and leave him alone.

Even now, weeks after his visit to Apple Bloom’s house, he was unable to shake the feeling of guilt that had found a nice home in his heart. His best friend valued the truth very highly, and here he was, the little bug who was always pretending to be a human. The little liar…

Beebee sighed heavily, slowing down his pace until he came to a total stop. He looked to his left at the forest around him, trying to find something pretty to distract himself with. Maybe a cute animal, or a nest of birds? Heck, he’d take a patch of basic flowers at this point, or just a weird, mangled leaf.

He wouldn’t have to wait for long. The distraction he sought came to him in the form of Buddha suddenly shoving her muzzle into his neck, startling him out of his reverie with a barrage of licks. Beebee lifted a hoof and weakly gave Buddha a few pets, trying to assure her that he was fine. Sadly, if anything, his weak gesture only served to intensify her concern to the point of being visible in the air. The taste hit his tongue like a rotting grape and made him recoil in disgust.

“Buddha, hey, off,” he protested, finally managing to convince Buddha to take a few steps back with a gentle shove. The dog whimpered at him in concern, her head lowering. She then looked over her shoulder at Eventide.

Beebee followed her gaze to look at his father, who had stopped a few paces ahead and was now looking back at the two of them with worry and confusion. “Beebee? Are you okay?” he asked while turning to face his son more directly. “You’ve been really quiet all week.”

Beebee opened his mouth to say he was fine, to assure his father to not worry and that he was just tired. The words caught part of the way up his throat, and he stood there with his jaw hanging open. He didn’t want Eventide or Buddha to worry about him, but if Buddha’s sudden barrage of licks was anything to go on, it was a bit too late for that. And besides… he couldn’t bring himself to lie to them. Not to his family...

He lowered his head in defeat before shaking it back and forth. “No… not really,” he confessed in resignation, his voice reflecting his low mood perfectly.

He regretted saying those words the moment they left his mouth, as the worry radiating off of Eventide completely eclipsed Buddha’s as he drew closer. The taste of rotten grapes was joined by other fruits, making Beebee shudder involuntarily. Eventide knelt down on one knee in front of him, briefly pulling his attention away from the less than pleasant taste. “What’s wrong?” Eventide asked in a quiet voice.

Beebee looked at him for several long seconds, wrestling with his thoughts and trying to decide how to approach it. In the end, he let out a quiet sigh before trudging a little closer. “...Do you remember my trip to Apple Bloom’s house a few weeks ago?”

Eventide frowned, reaching out a hand to rest on the back of Beebee’s head. “Yeah, I remember. You said you had a good time…” his frown deepened, and he tilted his head to one side. “Did something bad happen that day that you didn’t tell me?”

Beebee’s ears stood upright, and he quickly shook his head in denial. “N-no! Nothing bad happened! I just…” he hesitated, then deflated while falling to his haunches. He let his head lean back into Eventide’s hand, taking comfort in the warmth. “...Something my friends said has been making me think, and… It’s got me feeling bad.”

There was a brief silence between the two of them before Eventide reached out and gingerly picked Beebee up. He held the little guy close to his chest and began to carry him further up the trail. “What did they say?” he asked in a soothing whisper while slowly rocking Beebee back and forth in his arms.

Beebee let his eyes droop, and he buried his muzzle into Eventide’s neck, glad for the embrace. “They… it’s Apple Bloom, specifically. She told me that lies are a bad thing and that her family takes the truth really seriously,” he explained slowly, his ears drooping and his wings twitching on his back.

Eventide’s aura shimmered with a sequence of emotions, most noticeably was still concern. “Well… lying is a bad thing, most of the time,” he said before coming to a stop and turning in place. “Why is that bothering you so much?”

Beebee looked in the direction Eventide was, curious about why they had stopped. Had his mind not been so absorbed in his own emotions, he may have been awed by the stellar view of the mountains that greeted his eyes. There was a hole in the wall of greenery, framing the sight perfectly. The summer sun shining down from the rich blue sky on the tree-smothered mountainside and surrounding valleys was truly a stunning sight to behold…

But at that moment, Beebee was unable to appreciate it. He looked up at Eventide again. “...Dad… I’ve been lying to them since the day I met them…” he admitted in a quiet voice of his own.

Eventide’s brow furrowed. “You mean by turning into a human?” he ventured carefully, and Beebee nodded in confirmation.

“Yeah… I’m not a human, dad. I’m… well…” he lifted up one of his hooves and looked at it, his eyes narrowing with scrutiny. “...I don’t really know what I really am. I’m a bug thing, but I’m not really a human. Every time I see them, though, I look like something I’m not, and… and I… I don’t want to keep lying to them...”

“Hey…” Eventide stopped him quietly, his expression turning stern. “I get how you must feel… hiding things from your friends is never easy, especially if you want to tell them. But you know why we can’t let anyone see your real form. It’s too risky. If word got out about you, then who knows what might happen?”

“I know that dad,” Beebee nodded his head dejectedly before looking out at the mountains again. “But… can’t I show the people we know we can trust? I mean, Aunt Fluttershy knows...”

Eventide’s aura shifted from concern to disapproval and… was that fear Beebee tasted? He resisted the urge to gag before squirming out of Eventide’s arms to land on the ground. He then turned and looked back up at his father, seeing the distinctly disapproving look on his face.

Eventide put his hands on his hips and took a deep breath. “Beebee… Look, we’ve talked about this before. The fewer people there are who know about you, the better. Fluttershy only knows because I called her to my house the day you hatched because I thought you were a wild animal. Once we both realized that you’re one of a kind, we decided not to say anything. And we only got more sure of that when you accidentally lit my bed on fire with some stray magic when you were little.”

“But dad-”

“I’m sorry, Bee, but right now, the Crusaders have to stay in the dark,” Eventide stated with finality.

Beebee wasn’t having it. He took a step forward, his eyes pleading. “But dad… They’re my best friends… my only friends. I’ve known them for so long, now. Don’t you think they deserve to know? Even just Apple Bloom?”

Eventide’s expression was steadily starting to become more intense, and a few faint wisps of anger began to drift off of him. “No, Beebee, not even her. Maybe you trust her, but I don’t. She’s still in high school, and I can’t be sure that she’ll keep you a secret if someone starts prodding,” he rebuked before looking ahead at the trail. “Now come on - let’s keep going-”

“What if I made her promise to keep it a secret before I showed her?” Beebee tried, lifting into the air with his wings and arcing around to hover in front of Eventide’s face. “I know Apple Bloom won’t break a promise to me if being honest is so important to her. Come on, please?

Eventide narrowed his eyes, lifting his arms to cross them over his chest. “You have my answer, Beebee. No means no. Now please, just drop it-”

“I can’t keep lying to them, dad!” Beebee suddenly snapped, his ears folding back completely against his head. “Please! You can even be there to supervise if you want! I just want to tell them the truth! I have to!”

“What would it accomplish?!” Eventide suddenly barked, making Beebee recoil when there was a sudden flare-up of red in the man’s aura. “Answer me that! What will telling them what you really are accomplish? What if they get scared and run away? What if they get mad at you for lying to them for so long?! What happens if you lose your friends because you showed them?! What if they think you’re a monster?! Answer me that!”

“They would never do that!” Beebee barked back, his chest starting to tighten in frustration. “I know they won’t! They care about me too much to throw me away like that!”

“How do you know that for sure?”

“I can see what they feel, dad!” Beebee pointed out, his wings twitching in irritation on his back. “I know they care about me! They’re my friends, so why can’t you just trust me about them?!”

“Because you’re still just a child!” Eventide shot back. “You’re small and young, and there are so many things you don’t understand!”

“So help me understand!” Beebee pleaded, his teeth starting to grind together. “Help me understand why I can’t be honest with the only friends I’ve ever had!”

Eventide paused and screwed his eyes shut, taking in a long, deep breath. The red in his aura slowly died down, replaced with a dull, simmering orange before he opened his eyes again. “Okay… fine. Let me ask you a question, and I want you to think about it very carefully.”

Beebee huffed, a blast of heated air flying out through his nostrils before he took a step back. “Fine… what is it?”

Eventide frowned intensely. “Watch your tone, Beebee. Now…” he was silent for a second before looking sideways at the mountains. “You can see your friends emotions, I get that. You’re an empath, so you know what they’re feeling. But you’re not a telepath. You have no way of knowing for sure what they’re thinking, or how they’d take it when presented with your true self.”

Eventide turned to look at Beebee again. “So, if you show them your true form, how can you be absolutely sure that their feelings won’t change? How can you be sure that they will still be your friends?”

Beebee went to respond but lost his voice when he really began to think about it. Eventide had a point. Beebee could see emotions, not minds or thoughts. He could infer a lot from one's emotions, to be sure, but there were limits to what he could tell from colors in the air. In the end, he licked his lips and met Eventide’s gaze. “...I can’t be sure, but I have to try. They’re my friends, dad. Please… they deserve to know… they’ve earned it.”

A heavy silence hung in the air between the two for several seconds. Off to the side, Buddha looked between them with her tail tucked between her legs, and a quiet whimper slipped out of her throat.

In the end, Eventide sighed and shook his head. “You don’t know. And there’s the problem. Look… I understand what you’re feeling, and what you’re saying, but… I still don’t think it’s a good idea, Beebee.”

Beebee’s posture drooped, his heart twisting painfully in his chest. “So… that’s a ‘no’ then?”

Eventide nodded. “Yeah… that’s a no.”

Beebee looked down at the ground, unable to meet his father’s gaze any longer. For several moments, he just stood there, looking at the dirt beneath his hooves and trying to calm his turbulent mind. His body was shaking with frustration and anger… two emotions he had very little experience with feeling for himself.

It made him sick. It made him feel like he was on fire on the inside. His wings twitched involuntarily sporadically on his back, and his forked tongue snaked out to flick at the air a few times.

Eventide shifted on his feet. “Come on, Bee… let’s keep going, okay?” he offered in a soft and gentle whisper.

Beebee looked up at Eventide. There must have been something in his eyes that Eventide didn’t like, because the man suddenly took a step back with a wave of shock and fear flooding his aura.

But in that moment, as frustrated as he was, Beebee couldn’t find the will to really care. With a quiet hiss, he spun around and began to trot up the trail again, his hooves coming down with enough force to leave noticeable tracks in the dirt.

As he went, Beebee’s mind wandered, becoming completely oblivious to his own fast pace or the steadily growing burn in his muscles. He was really just trying to focus on not lashing out. Anger was a foreign feeling to him, but he was familiar enough with it to know that it would be best to try and keep it in, or at least hold it until he could vent safely.

That didn’t stop the thoughts in his mind from raging like a wild forest fire, though. He was so consumed in them that he lost track of the dog and man he was leaving behind until a voice called after him.

“Beebee, slow down!” Eventide shouted, sounding farther away shorter of breath than Beebee had expected.

Confused, he glanced over his shoulder, and only then did he realize just how hard and fast he’d been trotting. Eventide and Buddha were almost jogging to catch up, both of them short of breath. Beebee paused for a second, his mind trying to catch up with this development.

And now that he stopped, and his anger began to dissipate, the weakness decided to remind him of its presence.

All at once, Beebee’s chest painfully tightened, and it felt as if all the air in his lungs just disappeared. With a breathless gasp, he crumpled to the ground with a heavy thud. He was heaving and twitching uncontrollably as he fell into one of his fits, and he began to cough and hack violently when dirt from the path was pulled into his lungs from his frantic gasping. The burning in his legs was much worse than he was used to this time...

“Beebee!” he could just hear Eventide shouting over the sound of blood madly rushing through his ears. His eyes lazily turned to look up, catching sight of Eventide sliding to a stop next to him with a horrified look on his face. Eventide hesitated for a moment, then reached out to lift Beebee in his arms. “Bee, are you okay?”

Beebee just kept coughing before gasping again, his lungs burning in desperation. Yet no matter how much he breathed, no matter how much air he sucked down, it was never enough to satisfy.

With a grimace, Eventide turned and began to carry Beebee back the way they had come, moving at a brisk power walk. “I think we need to go home, now…” he said in a somber voice.

Beebee didn’t bother to offer up a response, just gasping and heaving in Eventide’s arms for the next several minutes before, finally, his episode ended, and he fell into a light, restless sleep.


When Beebee woke up, it was to the sound of the inside of the car. He slowly opened up his eyes and looked around, realizing that they must have been driving back to the house. Eventide was in the driver’s seat, of course, and Buddha was sharing the passenger’s seat with Beebee. She was laying on her side and held Beebee close against her tummy with her paws wrapped protectively around him. Now that he was stirring, her tongue began to slide across the back of his head in a series of light, affectionate licks. He could taste her relief and concern and took a moment to drink in what he could from the conflicting feelings.

Eventide looked over at Beebee out of the corner of his eye, noticing that he had woken up. “You okay?” he asked quietly before his eyes returned to the road.

Beebee hesitated for a moment, unsure of how to respond. He set his head back down against Buddha’s belly and nodded his head. “...Yes.”

“Good. You had a pretty bad fit this time,” Eventide said before falling quiet, letting his emotions speak for him.

Beebee hummed softly and lifted his eyes to look at the world through the window. They’d probably be back home in another five minutes or so, if he remembered the way right. He then looked at Eventide again. More specifically, he examined his aura.

Eventide was tense, that much was obvious. But more than that, he seemed… conflicted. His aura was flickering back and forth between scared, angry, neutral, anxious, and a wide spectrum of other emotions that flashed by so quick that Beebee had no time to identify them.

“He must be upset about what happened on the trail… how I got mad at him...” Beebee thought regretfully to himself before closing his eyes. That was another thing to feel guilty about, he supposed… he’d made his own father angry at him. Of course, he was still a little angry with Eventide, too, but that was no excuse.

...At least he could do something about this guilt right now. He opened his eyes and looked over at Eventide again. “Dad?” he called, his voice weak and timid.

Eventide didn’t even look in his direction. “Hm?”

Beebee hesitated for a second before finding his voice again. “...I’m sorry.”

Eventide’s eyes lowered for a moment, and his aura shifted to a deep, dark blue. He slowly nodded his head but said nothing.

Beebee sighed and closed his eyes again, electing to keep sleeping the rest of the way home.

Chapter 50: Aftermath

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Many hours had passed since they had gotten home. The moment they had gotten back, Beebee had retreated into his room and had not left since, absorbed in his own thoughts. He currently sat on the edge of his bed with a far off look in his eyes, and a morose frown on his muzzle. His wings periodically twitched on his back, and his nostrils flared every so often as he took a sharper than intended breath.

He may have calmed down, but he was clearly still far from happy with the situation. As much as he regretted making Eventide mad enough to yell at him like that, Beebee was still angry with the man for outright denying his request to tell his friends the truth. It was frustrating in the extreme...

If Beebee was being completely honest with himself, coming down to his room for the whole day was as much about wanting to be alone as it was not wanting to make things worse with his dad. If the two went off on each other again, who knew what kind of damage their relationship would suffer?

All Beebee knew was that he did not want to experience anything like what Eventide and his mother had gone through...

Beebee’s thoughts became distracted, and his ears twitched on his head when he heard the tell-tale thumping of Eventide’s feet walking around upstairs. A quiet sigh fled his lips, reminded that his father was right upstairs, no doubt feeling just as down about this whole mess as he was. “...Maybe I should go talk to him,” Beebee whispered to himself, his first spoken words in hours.

What would he say, though? What could he say? Beebee frowned and shook his head in mild frustration, struggling to think of how he could even begin to approach the subject. Would it be a good idea to apologize again? Should he try to more calmly explain his position to Eventide so they could come to a compromise? Should he just accept Eventide’s decision and let it go?

Beebee’s face fell, and his expression became forlorn. Even just the thought of willfully keeping his true self a secret from his friends now was enough to make him shudder. It only got worse when he pictured his friends sitting with him, smiling and laughing as they played one of their silly games or told funny stories…

He didn’t get to give it much more thought before the distraction of Eventide’s movement became worse. Specifically, his voice started coming from upstairs, as if he were speaking to someone else. It was muffled by walls and doors, but in the total silence of Beebee’s bedroom, it was still clearly audible.

His ears perked up to listen, and he lifted his head in curiosity. The words were too muffled to be made out, but he could make out Eventide’s general tone of voice. He sounded tired, confused, and maybe a little hopeful… but he wasn’t talking to Buddha, that much was clear. He must have been on his phone.

With his curiosity growing rapidly, Beebee lightly stepped down from his bed with a small beat of his wings and made his way out of his room. With every step towards the stairs he took, Eventide’s voice became just a little clearer. Soon, as he was climbing the steps, Beebee could make out the words and listened intently.

“He told me that he's been feeling guilty recently. He says he wants to show Apple Bloom and the other Crusaders his true form because of how seriously Apple Bloom takes the truth...” Eventide explained to whoever was on the other end, his voice heavy with exhaustion.

Beebee, muzzle scrunching up, pressed his ear up against the door to listen in to the conversation better. Who was Eventide talking to? Since he was talking about Beebee’s true self, he could only assume it was Aunt Fluttershy.

“What do you think? I told him no. It's too risky to let anyone see him, and Apple Bloom's still a teenager!” Eventide went on, his voice increasing with volume in exasperation as he spoke.

Beebee scowled at that, but quickly forced down any negativity caused by his father’s statement.

“..I know, I know, but still... all of that's calmed down lately, at least around the school. I just don't know if I can trust Apple Bloom or any of them to keep it a secret if someone starts getting nosy…”

There was a moment of silence as Fluttershy spoke back to him.

“Well, yeah, but...”

Eventide fell utterly silent after that, and for a minute, Beebee thought that maybe they had hung up or something. But then he started speaking again, his voice quieter and much more solemn than before. “Just... I'm sorry, Fluttershy,” he began, confirming who he was talking to. “I just love him to death, you know? I don't want anything bad to happen to him. He's my son... and things are different now.

“...Well, for one thing, I didn't realize he was a person back when you met him. I thought he was just some freaky wild animal. I tried to give him away to you, remember?” Eventide went on, sounding like he was replying to a question.

Beebee’s frown deepened at that. He hadn’t realized Eventide had tried to give him away at first. It raised some interesting questions in his mind, but he ultimately chose to dismiss them outright. Whatever Eventide had wanted to do when he first got him, he had chosen to raise Beebee. In the end, that was all that should have mattered.

Eventide continued a moment later. “Yeah... look, the point is, it's been almost five years, and so many things have changed. I just... I just don't wanna risk it. I don't want to lose my son or put him at risk.”

There were a few seconds of silence.

“...Fluttershy, I'm worried. I'm worried that I might have just alienated him, but I don't want anything bad to happen to him either. I have to take care of him, it's my job as his dad, but…” he fell silent again. When he spoke again, his tone suggested that he was responding to a request. “Uh... sure?”

The silence returned as he listened. Growing curious, Beebee used his magic as quietly as possible to open the door an inch or two, allowing him to look at the back of Eventide’s head. He was sitting on the couch with a very conflicted aura surrounding him. There were so many colors, most of them negative, flickering in the air around him that Beebee found he was glad he wasn’t epileptic.

After several seconds, that aura became was suddenly flooded with deep and intense purples and blacks. Eventide sat more upright, his entire body tensing up. “Wha… you’re sure...?” he asked slowly, his voice sounding more than a little uneasy about whatever had just been said to him.

The silence returned, and as the seconds ticked by, Beebee watched as Eventide’s aura slowly lost some of its intensity. The ravaging purple and black slowly dwindled down into a far gentler arrangement of violets and grays. “...Fluttershy…” he whispered, sounding like he wanted to say more, but could not find the words.

After a few seconds, Eventide’s aura suddenly flashed with bright yellow, and he leaned forward with a barely stifled chuckle. “Ha! …Why am I not surprised to learn that?” he asked through his mirth, and Beebee couldn’t help but smile slightly at the sight.

A moment later, the gold filtered away, and his anxiety returned, albeit somewhat lessened. Eventide leaned back in his seat, his tone becoming serious again. “I noticed... ugh, okay, look I... are you sure? Really sure? ...Alright, fair enough... I'll talk to him about it in the morning, I guess.”

With that, Eventide suddenly leaned back and let out a large and rather unattractive yawn. When his mouth clamped shut, he let off a quiet groan. “Yeah, I will. Thanks, Fluttershy. I think I'm gonna go, though. It's getting dark, and I am really tired. Plus, I got work in the morning. ...You, too… Goodnight.”

And with that, Eventide ended the call and set his phone down on the couch cushion next to him. Beebee watched for a few minutes, observing his aura and waiting for something to happen, before eventually closing the door and sneaking back down the steps. As he went, he couldn’t help but let off a quiet whimpering chirp, his ears drooping.

He knew Eventide loved him, of course… but when they had been having their fight, it had never occurred to Beebee that he was as protective as he was because of that love. Now, though, Beebee knew for sure that Eventide felt bad about their fight, too, even if he still stood by his decision to keep Beebee from showing himself.

As Beebee reached the bottom of the steps, a spark of adrenaline pumped into his veins when he heard Eventide’s feet thumping against the floor for the door to the basement. Moving quick, he darted through the door to his bedroom. He slid to a halt and quickly closed it with his magic, being as quiet as possible. That done, he hopped back up onto his bed and settled down on his belly. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes.

A few seconds later, a knock came to the door before it was slowly pushed open with a low creak. Beebee cracked open one of his eyes, and sure enough, there was Eventide, his aura filled with unease and trepidation. He flicked on the lights, illuminating the otherwise dark room, and met Beebee’s eyes. “...Hey,” he greeted gingerly, slowly stepping deeper into the room.

Beebee looked down at his hooves, which were fidgeting in place beneath him. “...Hi, dad…” he murmured quietly. “...What do you want?”

Eventide stood where he was for a moment, hesitant, before coming up to the side of the bed. “Look… I get that you’re mad with me… and I’m sorry you feel that way. We can talk about it in the morning when we’ve had a chance to calm down and get our heads together. But right now, I’m gonna get some early sleep, and I think you should, too.”

Beebee sighed and nodded his head. “Right… so that means it’s dinner time, right?” he asked, his stomach growling somewhat at the prospect. He hadn’t had much to eat all day, after all, and now that he thought about it, he was starving.

Eventide nodded and gingerly sat down on the edge of the bed. “Yeah…” he confirmed before opening his arms in invitation.

Beebee just sat there for a minute, reluctant to move from his spot on the bed. But, after a time, he relented and dragged himself into Eventide’s waiting arms. He was pulled against his father’s chest and returned the hug even if only by reflex.

To say that the hug was awkward would be an egregious understatement. The outpouring of love from Eventide was significantly watered down compared to normal, likely due to residual feelings of doubt and anger from earlier. Beebee did his best to ignore the sour taste, though, and just greedily swallowed what he could. However, as it pooled in his stomach, the feelings that spread throughout him could be considered lukewarm at best.

Finally, after maybe ten minutes, Eventide pulled back and set Beebee back down on the bed. “Alright… you good?” he asked in a hushed voice, to which Beebee stuck out his tongue in a display of distaste.

“Blegh… dinner wasn’t that good today…” he muttered before looking down at his hooves, his ears and wings drooping. “...I’m sorry I made you mad earlier…” he apologized, figuring he might as well while he had the chance.

There were a few seconds of quiet before he felt Eventide lean down and plant a very gentle kiss on the top of his head. “...So am I, Bee. We’ll talk about it in the morning, okay? I promise...” he whispered quietly into Beebee’s ear, giving him a few slow pets with his hand. The air became filled with a little more love, purer than before.

Beebee was silent for several seconds. He then nodded his head in confirmation. “...Okay.”

Eventide leaned back, his eyes scrutinizing Beebee for a second. “Alright… sleep tight, kiddo.”

Beebee grunted and turned for his pillow, barely even casting his father a glance. He felt Eventide’s eyes boring into him as he dragged himself over and slid beneath his blankets. Everything in that underground bedroom fell still for a minute after that, with Eventide continuing to sit there just to stare at Beebee. He occasionally opened his mouth as if to say something, and Beebee could see that he wanted to say something thanks to his aura… But always elected to remain quiet. In the end, he rose to his feet and silently left the room.

The lights were flicked off as Eventide made his exit, pulling the door shut behind him. With an almost deafening click, Beebee was plunged back into the darkness he had grown familiar with over the course of the long day. He lay there for a while, his eyes open as his mind wandered. Then, with a final, heavy sigh, he closed his eyes and tried to fall asleep.


But sleep did not come for him on that night. Instead, the darkness and the quiet dragged on and on and on, disrupted only by the occasional rustling of the blankets as Beebee tossed and turned. However, even that was lost amid the tumultuous storm of thoughts that flooded his mind.

Seconds turned to minutes, and minutes turned to hours. All the while, Beebee tossed and turned, grunting and groaning in frustration, completely unable to find any semblance of peace. His thoughts wandered aimlessly and chaotically from one topic to the next, dragging him wearily along for the rise.

He thought of his father, and how tense things had gotten since the previous morning. He thought of the Crusaders, his friends, and what he was supposed to do now that Eventide had forbidden him to reveal himself. He thought of Aunt Fluttershy, wondering what she had said to Eventide on the phone. He thought of all the time he had spent with them, the people he cared about so much, and the memories they had made together. Finally, he thought of the face of a young human boy with black hair with white highlights and piercing blue eyes… the face he had been wearing as a deception.

His eyes opened, and were one to look carefully through the glow, they would see red veins appearing in those otherwise pristine blue orbs. He let out a long, loud growl of frustration, and pushed himself up with his hooves. With a snarl, he drove his hoof into his pillow over and over again in a series of punches to vent his stress. “Just fall asleep, dangit!” he seethed at himself before ending his assault and flopping down face-first into his pillow.

Much to his swiftly mounting displeasure, he soon came to the realization that his efforts were in vain. He would not be getting any sleep on this night. Resigned and disgruntled, he cracked his eyes open again and sat up in his bed, his blankets sliding uselessly off of him as he rose. He just sat there for a good, long time, trying to calm himself down and collect his thoughts.

Among those thoughts, an idea emerged, one which made him stop in his tracks. All other notions were pushed to the side, leaving just him and this renegade idea. He considered it, and for a moment, he almost outright dismissed it from his conscience. But the longer he thought about it, the more enticing it became. The more he thought about it, the more he remembered…

The last time he had defied Eventide was when he had gone out into the woods unsupervised. He had fallen and gotten himself hurt, yes, and things could have ended much worse than they had… but they didn’t end badly. He had met Apple Bloom, the girl who would then go on to become his first and very best friend.

All of that happened because, just once, he had decided to defy the will of his father. He had met his best friend, discovered he could turn into a human, and had begun the long and still-in-progress journey of conquering his weakness. So many good things happened because he had taken a risk and disobeyed...

If that was the case… what would happen if he defied Eventide again? What if he showed his friends who he was, with or without Eventide’s approval? What if he started to do it… right now?

Slowly, ever so slowly, Beebee’s eyes drifted over to the door to his room, while his mind wandered to his father’s phone...

Chapter 51: True Self

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Apple Bloom was suddenly startled from her peaceful sleep when the cell phone on her nightstand began to blare with the sound of an acoustic guitar being played. Groaning in defiance, she cracked open her eye just a crack and saw through her bedroom window that the sun hadn’t even come up, yet.

“Who the hay is callin’ me so early?” she thought to herself before letting out a long and agitated sigh. Feeling both confused and annoyed, she groggily reached out with her hand and pulled her phone up to her face so she could see the caller ID.

It was Eventide.

Why in the world was Eventide calling her? Especially at such an early hour. Her eyes briefly shot up to the corner of her phone’s screen to check the time, and she almost blanched when she saw it was only five AM.

Wondering why in the world the man would be calling her at such an abysmally early hour, she answered the call and held the phone to her ear. She didn’t make any effort to hide how disgruntled she was in her short, clipped greeting. “Ello?”

To her surprise, The voice that answered her on the other end of the line was not Eventide’s.

“Apple Bloom?” Beebee’s shaking voice came through in a hushed, anxious whisper.

Apple Bloom blinked in surprise, overcome by a wave of confusion. She slowly sat upright in her bed, her brow furrowing and her lips curling down into a frown. “Wha… Beebee? What are ya doin’ callin’ me this early in the mornin’?” she asked, reaching a hand up to rub at one of her eyes and clear away the sandman’s litter.

Beebee didn’t answer right away, and a silence fell over the two. A chill slowly began to seep into Apple Bloom’s body, one that made her distinctly uncomfortable. Something was wrong. Apple Bloom lowered her arm and focused on the phone, trying to pay attention. “...Beebee? Ya there?”

Then she heard Beebee sniffle.

Apple Bloom stiffened, her eyes going wide as the will to sleep fled her. She just sat there for a moment, stunned into silence. She heard Beebee sniffle again, and the way his breaths were coming through made it sound like he was trying to keep himself from crying.

Worried for her friend, Apple Bloom peeled her blankets back and sat on the edge of her bed. “Beebee? Are ya okay? What’s wrong, why are ya crying?” she asked in a softer voice.

After a few seconds, Beebee managed to pull himself together and spoke again. “I… no, I’m not okay… I s-stole my dad’s phone just so I could call you…” he stammered out, his voice lined with dread as he said the words.

Apple Bloom’s eyes widened, and her jaw fell open. “Wha… You stole his phone? Why?”

There was no immediate answer on the other end. Apple Bloom’s expression intensified, and she leaned forward somewhat. “Beebee. What’s. Wrong?” she asked slowly and emphatically. “Are you in danger? Do ya need me to call nine one one?” she asked, ready to do just that at a moment’s notice.

“Wha-?! No, no, nothing like that!” Beebee quickly corrected, sounding genuinely surprised by the idea. Apple Bloom, however, did not feel assured by his words.

“Well, what’s wrong, then? C’mon, talk to me, Bee,” she pressed in a firm but gentle voice.

Beebee took a few shaking breaths before speaking again. “It’s… I… Look, just… can… uh…” he tried to speak, his voice dying in his throat over and over. Eventually, he cleared his throat and managed to form a full sentence. “I know this is asking a lot, b-but I need to talk to you, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo as soon as possible.”

Apple Bloom raised an eyebrow. “Ya do? Uh, well… Ah’m on the phone with ya. Can’t ya just tell me right now?” she inquired, standing up from her bed and starting to pace around her room.

“I… no, I can’t. I have to tell all three of you at once.”

“Tell us what?” Apple Bloom probed, her confusion growing with every passing second. “Beebee, c’mon, what’s-”

“Apple Bloom… please…”

Apple Bloom came to a stop, her muscles going stiff. Beebee… he sounded almost desperate as he said those words. After a few seconds, Apple Bloom regained her faculties enough to nod. “A-Alright, well, uh… Ah guess we could come over later today… when would be a good time?”

“...Can you get them and come now? Before my dad gets up?” Beebee asked slowly, the words sounding strained as if he was physically forcing himself to say them.

Apple Bloom stiffened even more, her worried expression becoming incredulous. “Wha… Ah don’t think they’d be okay with that, and neither am Ah, to be perfectly honest,” she pointed out before shaking her head. “What’s got ya so worked up, Beebee? If somethin’s wrong, Ah can run over right now and help ya. Why wait on them when they might not even come?”

There was another long silence on the other end of the line. “...Apple Bloom… please. I need you three right now,” Beebee finally pleaded, and something in his voice gave Apple Bloom pause. Frowning, she turned slowly in place.

“Ah… Ah don’t…”

Please…

She stood in thoughtful silence for several seconds, one hand resting on her hip while her face twitched in thought and indecision. At last, she let off a quiet sigh and nodded her head in acknowledgment. “Alright… Ah’ll call ‘em. But Ah can’t guarantee that they’ll come along, and if they don’t, Ah’m comin’ over without ‘em, whether you like it or not.”

“Okay… That’s all I can ask,” Beebee agreed, sounding relieved. Yet, somehow, he sounded even more afraid at the same time... “I’ll be waiting by the fence around my backyard… meet me there. And please, don’t knock or let dad know you’re here.”

Apple Bloom frowned, noting the oddity of that last request. She chose not to pry, though. “Alright… Ah guess Ah’ll see you soon…” she said softly before hearing the line go dead with a deafening ‘click.’ She lowered the phone and stared at it incredulously for several seconds, confusion and worry running rampant through her system before she set about calling Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo.


Maybe an hour later, Beebee was pacing anxiously by the fence in his backyard. He was in his true form, and his ears were on attention on the back of his head. His entire body was shaking with mounting anxiety, his wings were twitching on his back, and he couldn’t keep the quiet whimpers of dread from slipping out of him. To make matters worse, there were dark bags under his eyes, putting his sleep-deprived exhaustion on full display.

He hadn’t gotten a single moment of sleep last night… his mind had been too active with guilt and frustration. He’d tossed and turned and groaned, and eventually gave up on sleep entirely. He’d sat there alone in his room for hours, just thinking to himself. Eventually, those thoughts drove him into action, and now… here he was. He glanced through a gap in the fence to look at the house and winced before resuming his pacing.

He’d stolen his father’s phone. He’d snatched it right out from under his nose as he had been sleeping. Now he’d called Apple Bloom, and now she was on her way with the other Crusaders, and they’d be here any minute, and then...

This was such a stupid idea, Beebee thought. A stupid decision and it was only now dawning on him just how much trouble he was going to be in when all was said and done. If he went all the way through with this, he wouldn’t just be in trouble with his dad, but there was also the chance that he might lose his only friends...

He paused and shook his head wildly while gritting his teeth, a frustrated hiss coming from deep in his throat. “Come on, Beebee, keep it together!” he chastised himself internally before resuming his pacing. “You know why you’re doing this. Dad may not like it, but you have to do it… they have to know.”

After another few minutes of pacing, he decided to give his legs a rest and sat down on his haunches with his back to the fence. He lifted his eyes to look up at the sky, seeing that it was steadily starting to light up a gentle shade of yellow with the rising of the sun. A few birds began to sing their songs in the distance, making Beebee wince.

Eventide would probably be up, soon. If he went downstairs and found Beebee’s bed empty, he’d probably start to panic. If that happened before the Crusaders showed up, then all of this would have been for nothing. Beebee shifted uneasily on his haunches and looked to his left and right. “Come on, guys…” he begged within the privacy of his thoughts. “I need you… please get here faster…”

Finally, though, he was snapped out of the tense silence when he heard a few voices not far away, drawing closer. Three of them, all female, and all familiar. With relief, he knew that the Crusaders had arrived.

With his heart rate accelerating dramatically, Beebee shot up to his hooves and allowed himself to be consumed in a swirl of green fire. His human form emerged from the swiftly vanishing embers, looking just as bedraggled and tired as he felt. He wobbled on his feet for a second, having not properly braced himself for the sudden shift in body structure, but quickly found his balance.

Just in time, too, as sure enough, Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo all came walking into view from around the corner. They all looked tired, no doubt having been torn from their sleep far earlier than they had been wanting. The varying shades of disapproval coming from their auras reinforced this assertion, though there was plenty of worry and curiosity in them as well.

He felt another pang of guilt over making his only friends feel that way but quickly dismissed it. He’d be doing enough apologizing soon enough. He instead put on a relieved smile. “Hey…” he called over to them weakly with a slow wave.

His voice silenced their conversation, and all three eyes locked onto him at once. Scootaloo frowned bitterly and looked like she was about to launch into an angry tirade, no doubt to chastise him for calling them so early. But when she made eye contact with Beebee, she must have realized how tired and miserable he looked. Her words died in her throat, and she recoiled. “Woah… Beebee, are you okay? You look like hot garbage - no offense.”

Beebee shook his head, managing a weak chuckle at her accurate assertion. “None taken,” he assured her before smiling at the trio. “I’m glad you could all come… I don’t wanna do this more than once.”

“What’s wrong?” Sweetie Belle asked, stepping forward and critically examining Beebee from top to bottom. “Apple Bloom called us and said you sounded scared and tired, and that you wanted to talk to us right away. Is there some sort of emergency? Are you hurt, or in danger?”

Beebee quickly lifted his hands in a placating gesture and shook his head again, ending Sweetie’s barrage of questions. “No, no, nothing like that. I’m fine, just… tired,” he explained before his eyes settled on Apple Bloom.

“Ah’ll say,” she mused, stepping up to join Sweetie Belle. “What’s botherin’ ya so much ya wanted to see us all this early? Ah reckon it’s somethin’ serious.”

Beebee looked between the three of them, wanting to just say it. However, his mouth just kept clamping shut. A bead of sweat formed on his brow and his heart began to pound against his ribs as if trying to escape. “...I…” he stammered out, and his growing anxiety and fear must have been plainly visible on his face, for his three best friends suddenly grew even more concerned, any and all anger leaving their auras entirely.

“Bee…” Scootaloo called far more gently, joining her friends and putting a hand on Beebee’s shoulder. “Hey, it’s okay. Whatever it is, you can tell us,” she told him while giving his shoulder a firm squeeze.

Beebee wanted to believe her. He so, so wanted to believe her… but Eventide’s warning from the previous day on the trail rang in his mind, making his legs feel weak, and his hands tremble. He swallowed the lump in his throat, though. “Uh… f-follow me, please… it’d be easier to show you…” the words stumbled past his lips before he stiffly turned and began to walk for the woods.

“What the- Hey!” he heard Apple Bloom call after him, but he didn’t stop, and he didn’t look back. He couldn’t bring himself to look at them with his mask again, not until it was time to take it off. He heard them following him, and he could taste their confusion and growing worry in the air.

As they ventured into the woods, the house disappeared behind them, slowly swallowed by the trees and shrubbery. As it faded from view, so too did any chance of Beebee deciding to call this off. He was committed, now, and he had to see it through. He took a deep breath to steady himself and pushed on, his eyes scanning the terrain for one very specific spot.

Soon enough, they found it. The dip in the terrain where he had fallen, where he had hurt his leg... and where he had met Apple Bloom as a boy. He looked down into it and came to a stop, his legs no longer willing to carry him any further. The Crusaders stopped next to him, each one examining the area with confusion and curiosity.

Apple Bloom’s face lit up with recognition a moment later, as did her aura. “This… is where we met, ain’t it?” she asked quietly, looking sideways at Beebee. “Why did ya bring us here?”

Beebee didn’t answer, one last chain of doubt holding him back, screaming at him to just let it go and send them away. But he couldn’t do that, could he? They knew something was wrong, now, and they cared far too much about him to let it go. If he didn’t tell him, they would ask Eventide, and things would just get even more complicated.

No… best to do this now. The longer he put it off, the worse it would get.

He took a deep breath, steeled himself, and stepped forward until he was standing right where he had been when Apple Bloom found him. He then turned around to look up at his three friends. They were all looking back at him, worried, confused, and in Sweetie’s case, a little scared…

“...Apple Bloom… Sweetie Belle… Scootaloo,” Beebee began in a slow voice, looking down at the forest floor. “Before I show you what I have to show you, I need you three to promise me something… I want you to promise me that no matter what, you won’t tell anyone else what you’ve seen here today. It has to be our secret.”

A fresh wave of confusion came from his friends, and he cringed under the feeling.

It was Apple Bloom who spoke. “Beebee… Ah… how come-”

“Just please!” Beebee said more sharply, lifting his gaze to meet hers. She was taken aback by something, her eyes flying wide. Beebee didn’t know what it was she could have found so alarming until he felt something warm and wet rolling down his cheek.

He was crying. Be it out of fear or regret, he couldn’t tell. Maybe it was both…

He swallowed heavily and wiped his wrist over his face to dispel his tears before he spoke again. “Please… I need to know that you won’t tell anyone else. I need you all to promise me that this will stay a secret. Nobody else can know…”

The Crusaders, seemingly at a loss for words, looked back and forth between each other for several seconds. Their auras were flickering with more confusion, curiosity, concern, and anxiety. Beebee curled his hands up at his sides, doing his best to keep himself from panicking.

Finally, Apple Bloom came to a decision. Her aura stabilized, and she took a step forward. “Alright… Ah promise, Ah won’t tell anybody else. Crusader’s honor,” she said softly, putting a hand over her chest.

Sweetie and Scootaloo stared into the back of her head for a second before mimicking the gesture, joining her in the vow.

“Totally. Your secrets are safe with us, Bee,” Scootaloo swore with an encouraging nod.

“We promise,” Sweetie concluded with a small, demure nod of her head.

Beebee stared between them all for several seconds, taking the chance to commit their faces and smiles to memory. If this went badly, he might never get to see them again, after all…

Finally, he nodded his head, satisfied. “...Okay…” he whispered, barely audible even in the quiet morning forest. He slowly lifted up his hands, looking at the fake limbs with distant eyes. “...The truth is… guys… I’ve been lying to you…”

He just saw Apple Bloom, Sweetie, and Scootaloo looking amongst themselves in surprise and confusion. He didn’t wait for them to say anything, though, and instead lowered his hands to look into the eyes of his friends again... Especially Apple Boom. “I never really thought about it before… I always thought it was fine, that I wasn’t doing anything wrong. But... when I heard about how much Apple Bloom and her family values being honest… I just…”

“Beebee?” Apple Bloom asked, taking a step forward and lifting a hand.

Beebee took a step back, shaking his head sharply. “P-please, don’t touch me… don’t say anything… I…” he sniffled and took a deep breath, trying and failing to shove down the tremors rocking his body. “I gotta do this… I gotta show you the truth…”

And with that, it began to happen. A small patch of skin on his left cheek lit up with a green light. That light slowly began to flicker and lick like a flame, spreading out to cover more of his face while embers drifted off of him. More flames began to appear on other parts of his body, filling the air with a gentle, distorted rumble.

Apple Bloom took a few steps back, gasping in shock at the sight. Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle didn’t look much better off, appearing horrified.

Beebee sighed and looked down at his hands again, watching as the flames began to appear in patches on them, too, burning away the lie.

Finally, one of the Crusaders went into action. “Beebee?!” Scootaloo shouted, starting to run forward, probably with the hope of helping put out her friend.

“It’s okay,” Beebee cut her off, lifting his eyes to look into hers even as the flames swallowed his face. She stopped mid-step when she saw him smiling back at her. “It doesn’t hurt…”

His whole body was consumed in flames, now, and everything around them was bathed in a rich green light that made the Crusaders squint and back away. The bipedal shape of Beebee suddenly fell to its knees, then onto all fours. The flames raged brighter for a moment before, to the point that they were blinding. Then, at last, they faded away.

Beebee, now in his true form, slowly opened his glowing blue eyes. He took a slow, deep breath, and braced himself. Moment of truth...

Slowly and reluctantly, he lifted his head and looked up at the Crusaders. They stared back at him in shock, their eyes wide and their jaws hanging open. Their auras were raging with fear and confusion, and Beebee felt his heart wither in his chest at seeing them look at him like that.

Maybe Eventide had been right…

He slowly lifted one of his hooves and looked at it. He sighed as he studied one of the many holes that ran through his legs before he set it down and looked at the people before him. “...This is what I really look like,” he said quietly, his voice having returned to its naturally distorted state. “This… is what I really am… I’m not the basement boy…”

“...I’m the basement bug.”

Chapter 52: True Friends

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Everything was completely silent. The winds had fallen utterly still, and not even the morning birds daw fit to sing their song or spread their wings. Everything held perfectly still as if the whole world had decided to stop what it was doing to let this one moment happen without any interruption.

Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, and Sweetie Belle all looked at Beebee with wide eyes, all of them seemingly at a loss for words. Beebee stared back at them, his true form revealed to them at last. His wings wavered on his back in a display of nervous energy, and he looked between them all for several seconds. His face twitched every so often with building emotion as he saw the way their auras were lighting up.

Purple and black… fear and dread. They were afraid of him… of course they were. How could they not be?

Another tear rolled down his cheek, and a choked sob slid out of his throat. He let his head drop so he was looking down at the forest floor, then fell heavily to his haunches. His ears drooped to rest flat against his head, and his wings lowered to hang limply at his sides. He tried to hold it in… he tried so, so hard to be brave.

But he couldn’t do it. He just couldn’t. He screwed his eyes shut and began to cry then and there, the tears rolling off of his cheeks to hit the ground below.

None of the Crusaders said anything, and he could just picture their faces. Betrayed, angered, confused, horrified… heck, maybe they’d think that their friend had been taken away by some kind of freaky shapeshifting monster, and would start asking him where the real Beebee was… they’d known him as a human boy for so long, he was sure it was possible.

“I… I-I’m sorry,” he finally managed to choke out between his guilty sobs. “I j-just… I c-c-couldn’t keep lying to you… you're the only friends I’ve e-ever h-had… I had t-to tell you the t-truth...”

The silence from his friends dragged on, and he refused to look at them. They probably didn’t want to look at his ugly face, anyway…

He heard one of them slowly walking forward, and his shoulders hunched up. He braced himself to be shouted at, to be scolded or something. He was even prepared for whoever was coming up to him to grab him and shake him or maybe even hit him. His young, naive mind was racing like a Nascar with all of the ways things could go terribly, terribly wrong…

And then he felt the tips of someone’s fingers gently brush against the top of his head. Confused, he opened his eyes, and his breath hitched in his throat. He did not dare move, though. He remained completely rigid as those fingers pressed very lightly into his chitin as if to ensure he was real before they retracted. He waited for several seconds before finally mustering the courage to look up at which of the crusaders had approached him.

It was Apple Bloom, her eyes wide with recognition, and her aura bright with the same thing. There was still fear and shock there, but it was steadily starting to dwindle and fade. “...You…” she whispered, slowly getting down onto one knee and lowering her head to be closer to Beebee’s eyes level. As big as he was now, if he were to stand up on his hind legs, his muzzle would be at about the same height as her belly button.

She stared at him for several long seconds, blinking occasionally as if she were trying to send away some kind of hallucination. “...You were the bug Ah saw…” she finally said, her voice filled with awe.

Beebee’s own eyes widened with recollection, and he stiffly nodded his head in confirmation. “Yeah… Through the window… I was on dad’s bed… you were following a bouncing ball that got away…” he recounted before looking down and away. “...You were so scared of me… you screamed and ran.”

“Ah…” Apple Bloom opened her mouth to speak but then nodded her head. “Yeah… Ah was scared of ya… Ah’d never seen anythin’ quite like ya before… Ah thought you were some sorta monster…”

Beebee shuddered and closed his eyes again. He took a deep breath before looking up into Apple Bloom’s eyes again. “...Well… am I a monster?” he asked, his mind very briefly wandering back to a day many, many years ago, when Eventide had told him why he couldn’t see anyone else.

“Why do I have to hide from all the other kids?”

“Uh… b-because, uh… Beebee… there’s not really an easy way to put this, but… it’s because you’re… different.”

“I’m... different? Like… a monster?”

Apple Bloom didn’t answer for several moments, her face contorting with indecision. Then, though, she managed to get a small smile on her face. “No… no, I don’t think so…”

It was at this moment that, finally, the other Crusaders decided to join in the discussion.

“Woah, woah, woah! Time right the heck out!” Scootaloo exclaimed, rushing over and coming to a stop next to Apple Bloom. “This is what you saw?!” she demanded, gesturing at Beebee. “So, you mean, the bug thing was real?!”

“And it was Beebee?!” Sweetie added in an equally shocked, but somehow excited, voice as she came up to Apple Bloom’s other side. “I thought you were just seeing things!”

Apple Bloom lowered her head and gave off a weak, humorless chuckle. “Y’know, Ah thought maybe Ah was seein’ things too, fer a while, there…” she admitted before looking into Beebee’s eyes searchingly. “But y’all were real…”

The three of them fell into a heavy silence, unsure of what to say or do. Beebee looked between them all, his wings twitching fitfully on his back. He eventually sighed and went to stand up. “Guys… I’m so sorry I lied to you for so long… I’ve had to keep my true form a secret from basically everyone I’ve ever met, aside from dad… he’s told me that I’d probably be taken away or something if word got out that I was here…”

Sniffling, he trotted around them and began to head back for his home. Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle kept their eyes on him, while Apple Bloom kept her eyes locked onto where Beebee had been.

“Beebee?” Sweetie called after him, making him stop in his tracks.

He sighed heavily and looked back at them over his shoulder. “...Now you know… I’ve been lying to you since the day I met you. You probably don’t wanna be my friends anymore, do you?”

There was a long pause when he asked that question, and the winds finally saw fit to blow again. A gentle breeze washed through the woods, creating a distant, eerie whistling noise to accompany the rustling of the leaves. Then Scootaloo gave Beebee an incredulous look and tilted her head. “Er, what? Why would we wanna stop being your friends?” she asked, her face and aura revealing her confusion.

It was like a pin dropped in his heart.

Beebee’s eyes widened, his ears perked up, and he turned to face them all fully. “Wha… I… I’ve been lying to you for so long, though!” he protested, looking at himself. “And look at me!”

“I am looking at you,” Scootaloo shot back before casually strolling forward. “And I gotta say: You look awesome!

Beebee’s mind blanked, and he only had the willpower to offer a very bewildered
“Wha?”

“Awesome isn’t the word I’d use,” Sweetie chimed in, stepping forward and crouching down in front of Beebee with a warm smile on her face. “I think you look kinda cute actually, with how big your eyes are.”

Beebee’s cheeks slowly began to turn a shade of red from the praise, and his already confused mind became that much more scrambled. “Wha- well, I-I… uh… I mean…” he stammered before his eyes settled on Apple Bloom.

The farm girl had stayed where she was, her face contorted with thought. She noticed Beebee looking at her, though, and gave him a tender smile. “Oh… uh, well…” she began awkwardly before standing up and slowly walking over. “Ah mean… Ah’m not happy ya kept this from us fer so long…”

Beebee watched her sit down on her knees, her eyes examining him with curiosity and fascination. “But… Ah am glad ya decided to come clean with the truth on yer own. Thank you for telling us… fer telling me.

Beebee just stared at them, confused. “Guys… why are you so okay with this?” he finally asked, shell shocked. “I thought you’d be scared of me because of how different I am…”

“You? Different?” Scootaloo asked before throwing her head back with a laugh. “Pfft! Ha ha ha! C’mon, Bee! You’re nothing. We’ve seen our high school get blown up at least six, or seven hundred times, we were brainwashed and turned into zombies, we’ve seen holes torn in reality, and we’re friends with a talking dog.”

Sweetie frowned. “Six or seven hundred times? Scootaloo, that’s a bit of an exaggeration.”

“Whatever.”

Beebee’s face blanked, as did his mind. “Wha… wait… wait… hold on,” he lifted a hoof and shook his head, trying to kick the gears back into motion. “You mean… you’ve dealt with magic stuff before?!”

Apple Bloom nodded. “Sure have. We’ve always been on the fringe of magical stuff, but we know it happens. Ah mean, mah big sis is often caught in the middle of stuff like that.”

“So is mine,” Sweetie added with a chirpy nod.

“I don’t have a big sister,” Scootaloo grumbled before smirking all the same. “But Rainbow Dash gets involved in all kinds of magical mayhem, too!”

“And you are friends with a talking dog?” Beebee pressed, his mind doing some very impressive gymnastics at the moment.

Apple Bloom smiled. “His name is Spike.”

Beebee stood there for several seconds, his mind trying and failing to wrap itself around everything that had just been said to him. But, as the seconds ticked by, and his confusion slowly began to drop away, he noticed their auras. His stomach growled when he saw just how much genuine affection was coming from his friends. Seeing this, Beebee’s body began to warm up, and a smile came to his face.

“Guys… I…” he tried to say something, but he couldn’t get anything else out. A wordless, chittering squeal of relief and delight tore past his lips as he threw himself against Apple Bloom, hugging her as tight as he could and burying his muzzle into her shoulder. She tensed up under him for a moment, and he sensed a brief flicker of revulsion in her aura, but it soon faded, and she returned the hug. The others joined the embrace, surrounding Beebee in a loving barrier of warmth and friendship.

How had he ever got it into his head that he could doubt them, he wondered? They were his best friends… they would never let him down like that.

Eventually, Apple Bloom leaned back and gave voice to what all of them were probably thinking. “So… if yer not a human, what are ya?”

Beebee shrugged his shoulders. “Honestly? I dunno. All I know is that my dad found me as an egg under the tree in our old front yard, and when I hatched, he committed himself to take care of me. He has no idea where my egg came from, so…” his wings twitched on his back.

“So you’re adopted,” Scootaloo noted thoughtfully before leaning back. “It makes sense. It always seems kinda odd that Eventide would have a nine- or ten-year-old kid in his house. I mean, he’s what, twenty-five? And I never heard about him having a girlfriend...”

“Yeah… I’m actually only four years old,” Beebee admitted only slightly awkwardly, drawing some confused looks from the others.

“Only four?” Sweetie echoed, raising an eyebrow. “You’re awfully eloquent and deep for a guy whose only one fourth my age.”

Beebee shrugged his shoulders again and shook his head. “I dunno, Sweetie. Dad says I’ve always grown really fast. I mean… I was learning how to talk when I was three months old.”

“Speaking of your dad…” Apple Bloom suddenly spoke up, her tone more serious. “...What are ya gonna do when ya go back?”

A heavy silence fell over the four of them, and Beebee felt his heart almost stop in his chest. He had been so caught up in the relief of not being shunned by his friends that he had completely forgotten the storm of fire that waited for him back home. He swallowed heavily and started chittering in anxiety. “I… uh… I gotta tell him what I did…” he managed to say in a weak, trembling voice. “I gotta tell him I showed you guys what I am.”

“Is he going to be mad with you?” Sweetie asked, her eyes and aura showing her concern at Beebee’s sudden tension.

“Y-yeah… he’s gonna be very mad at me… I’m probably gonna be grounded for a while…” he mumbled before slowly squirming out of the group hug and backing up a few paces. “But he’s my dad… and I won’t lie to him… never to him.”

The Crusaders looked between each other nervously, their auras filling up with a subtle form of dread. Scootaloo cleared her throat. “Uh… you don’t think he’d ask us to stop coming to see you, do you?” she ventured in a nervous voice.

Beebee looked down at the ground and scuffed the dirt with his hoof. “...I don’t know. This has never happened before… and he was already upset with me before I left because we had a fight about this yesterday,” he replied before shuddering.

He was scared all over again, now. He had to confront his father with the biggest act of defiance Beebee had ever committed. The consequences would surely be severe… but he had no choice. He drew his head up and took a deep breath, his eyes taking in the growing sunlight. “...He’s probably awake by now. He’s gonna panic if he finds out I’m not in the house... I need to go back and see him…”

It was an odd thing he witnessed as he said those words. The Crusaders, his best friends, looked between each other. They didn’t say a word or even open their mouths. But somehow, he just knew they were communicating. Their features hardened, and their auras collectively lit up with resolve and agreement. They then looked at him and, as one, stepped forward to join him. “We’ll go with ya,” Apple Bloom declared plainly.

Beebee perked up, surprised. “Huh?”

“You’re our friend,” Sweetie reminded him with a smile and a nod. “And we want to be there to vouch for you and explain ourselves. If Eventide is as serious about your secret as you say, then we should be there to let him know that our lips are sealed.”

“And we want to be there for you to give you support,” Scootaloo added with a cocky look on her face. “We’ll be cheering you on and helping you out the whole way. You don’t gotta be alone today!”

“What?” Apple Bloom asked in amusement when she saw the abjectly bewildered look on Beebee’s face. “Did ya think we were just gonna let our friend go waltzin’ off to face somethin’ like this all on his own? We’re yer friends, and we’re gonna be there for ya. You bein’ a fancy schmancy magic bug creature ain’t ever gonna change that.”

Beebee stared at them all for several seconds, mouthing uselessly like a fish. These people… these three, wonderful, amazing people... He eventually clamped his muzzle shut and smiled at them. “I… I dunno what to say. Thank you… all of you… thank you so much… I don’t think I could ask for better friends...”

“Don’t mention it,” Apple Bloom replied softly before her expression hardened, and she looked off into the woods towards Beebee’s home. “Let’s go… lead the way, Beebee.”

Beebee nodded, his smile still wide before he turned around to face his home. He hesitated, another surge of dread and fear seeping into him, ripping that smile right off of his face. But then he felt the affection and assurances of his friends. Their feelings for him were completely untainted by the revelation of what he was… if anything, their affections had only grown stronger.

He drank it in, letting it pool in his belly and fill him with warmth and courage. He purred quietly before setting his jaw and setting off back for his home at a brisk trot.

All the way, his friends were by his side.

Chapter 53: Growing Up

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The return trip to the house was made in almost complete silence. The light of the morning sun was steadily growing brighter as it rose, warming the air and awakening Beebee’s sleep-deprived senses. He periodically glanced to his sides at the Crusaders, ensuring to himself that they were still there. Each and every time he did so, he was met with the positive glows of their auras and the happy smiles on their faces, assuaging his fears. But still, he just had to check.

His house eventually came back into view through the foliage, and a tiny worm of trepidation and uncertainty began to wiggle its way into his heart again. Beebee came to a complete stop at the edge of the forest, his body tensing up, and his wings wavering on his back.

“Beebee?” Sweetie asked him after a moment, kneeling down by his side to get a good look at his nervous face with concern on her own. “Are you okay?”

Beebee stood still for a few more seconds before giving a stiff nod of his head. “Y-yeah, just… I’m nervous,” he admitted quietly, his eyes drifting down to stare at a small, round stone poking out between the blades of grass.

Sweetie lifted her hand and reached out for him, though she hesitated a little just before she would have touched his shoulder. Beebee grimaced when the faintest taste of disgust tickled the tip of his tongue, and he gave her a sideways look. She saw his glowing blue eyes, and whatever disgust she felt quickly faded away. Her hand settled on his shoulder in a feather-light touch. It was hesitant but no less genuine.

And it was enough to impart some bravery back into Beebee. He leaned into the touch a little with, giving off an appreciative chitter, then set his eyes back on his home. “...Okay, I’m ready,” he told them before once again starting to walk.

He led them around the fence, and the three teenagers and one bug approached the front door of the home. As they drew closer, Beebee’s ears perked up a little bit. There was a sound coming from within the house, just audible through the walls. Beebee strained his ears, trying to discern exactly what it was.

It didn’t take him long to figure it out. Eventide was moving around. Judging by the frequency of his steps, he was moving at a brisk pace. But there was more… he was talking. While Beebee could not decipher the words, he could make out the tone - he was anxious, almost frantic. Between that and the faint glow of purple, black, and dark blue through the windows, Beebee quickly put together exactly what was going on.

Swallowing heavily, he turned back to his friends one more time. “...You guys ready?” he asked, his voice shaking with built up anxiety.

Thankfully, his friends came through for him. “Totally,” Scootaloo replied with a confident nod of her head and her fist thumping into her chest.

Sweetie Belle folded her hands in front of her and smiled sweetly down at Beebee. “We’re here for you, Beebee,” she assured him, her voice setting him a little more at ease.

Apple Bloom nodded as well, though hers was far more reserved than Scootaloo’s. She took a step forward and knelt down to be closer to Beebee’s eye level. She met his gaze, and her smile widened. “...Ah’m as ready as Ah’m gonna be. The question is… are you?”

Beebee looked back at her for several seconds, then nodded his head. “I think so…”

Apple Bloom reached out and ruffled his head like he still had hair. “Then let’s do this thing,” she encouraged him before gesturing at the door.

Beebee stared at her for a few more seconds, then smiled. With a quiet chirping noise, he pressed his forehead into Apple Bloom’s chin in an attempt at a nuzzle. She seemed a little confused by the act, but quickly put two and two together and got four. She returned the gesture as if it were a hug, lifting up one of her hands and patting Beebee on the back of the head.

That done, and with Apple Bloom rising back to her full height, Beebee knew there was nothing else for it. There was nothing else he could use to delay this anymore. So, with one more deep breath, he spun to look at the front door of his home.

Under any other circumstance, it might make him feel safe and comfortable. But now, with what he knew he was going to have to confront beyond, the door seemed tall and imposing. His wings twitched one more time, and he had to force himself to not whimper.

With nothing else for it, he lit his horn and pushed the door open.

It creaked as it went, the sound echoing loudly in Beebee’s ears. Just beyond the door, Beebee could see Eventide coming to a stop mid-step in the middle of the room. He was still in his pajamas, and he was holding his phone up to his ear. His aura, which had been alight with anxiety and confusion mere moments ago, had completely stilled. There was nothing coming off of Eventide… a sign of shock, maybe?

Beebee took a few steps forward, crossing the threshold and entering his home. He heard the Crusaders close behind him, but didn’t look. He didn’t need to see them to know they had his back. He could taste it. So instead, he kept his eyes locked firmly on his father’s as best as he could. Eventide looked back at them, his gaze darting between his son and his company, completely at a loss for words.

Suddenly, Eventide jumped as if he had been startled. He took a moment to compose himself, then spoke into the phone. “Sorry, uh… Fluttershy, can I call you back? I…” his eyes settled on Beebee, and his aura slowly began to light up with… something. Beebee wasn’t sure what, just yet. “...I found him.”

Without saying goodbye, Eventide ended the call with a muted bleep, then let the arm holding his phone fall limp to his side. He just stood there for several long seconds, staring at Beebee like a deer at oncoming headlights.

The silence dragged on and on, and with every second that passed, the tension grew thicker. At last, Eventide cleared his throat and spoke to his son. “...Beebee,” he said in a slow, neutral-toned greeting.

Beebee looked down at the floor, his ears drooping. “...Dad,” he replied, his own voice quiet and meek.

The silence and tension came rushing back in, settling over everyone like an oppressive fog. Beebee could just hear the Crusaders shifting uncomfortably behind him, and he could taste their anxiety and fear overwhelming their confidence and determination from mere moments ago.

“Well? How did it go?” Eventide eventually questioned, his tone completely unreadable.

Before Beebee could speak up, Apple Bloom suddenly stepped forward and took a place by Beebee’s side. “Mister Eventide, if yer worried that we might spill the beans about Beebee, don’t worry, we won’t,” she quickly explained, her voice shaking just a little. “He’s our friend, and Ah swear to you right now, Ah won’t tell anybody what he really looks is.”

“Yeah!” Scootaloo piped up, also stepping forward to Beebee’s other side. “Our lips are sealed!”

Sweetie Belle nodded along, taking her place directly behind Beebee. She spread her arms out and clapped her hands against the backs of the other two Crusaders. “Crusader’s honor!”

A few seconds passed in silence before Beebee, grinning like an idiot from the sudden flood of support, managed to look back up at Eventide. “I think it went good,” he replied optimistically. His smile did not last, though, quickly fading away. His face fell again, as did his tone of voice. “...Dad, I’m sorry. You told me I couldn’t do this, but… I had to… It turned out fine, but…”

Eventide hummed in quiet contemplation. He looked away for a few seconds, then addressed the Crusaders. “Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo… you all wait here. Beebee, come upstairs with me. I need to talk to you in private,” he commanded in a still unreadable voice.

“Is he in trouble?” Scootaloo asked, leaning forward a little. “You’re not gonna ask us to stop being his friends, are you?”

Eventide glanced at Scootaloo, his expression turning stern. “No, I’m not. But I need to talk to my son. Alone,” he repeated firmly before his eyes rested on Beebee.

The two made eye contact, and it was then that Beebee began to see the colors in Eventide’s aura. It was largely a medium grayish blue with a few flickers of violet spread throughout, like flashes of lightning in a cloudy night sky. After a moment’s hesitation, Beebee nodded his head and looked back at the Crusaders. “...I’ll be down soon,” he promised them before lifting into the air on his wings.

“Good luck, Beebee,” Apple Bloom called after him, making him turn around mid-flight. She was offering him an encouraging thumbs up, a hopeful look on her face. Beebee gave her an appreciative smile before spinning back around and flying after Eventide.

The two were completely quiet as they ascended the stairs, the only sounds being Beebee’s buzzing wings and Eventide’s bare feet slapping against the wooden steps. They turned into the bedroom, and Eventide closed the door behind them.

Immediately, Beebee went to speak. “Dad, I-”

“Stop,” Eventide interrupted him, though his voice was remarkably quiet. He looked down at Beebee, and finally, he could make heads or tails of the man’s face. He looked… sad, almost. Like he was resigning himself to something he really did not want to.

Beebee tilted his head to one side. “...Dad?”

Eventide sighed heavily, then turned around and pointed at his bed. “Sit down, Bee,” he commanded simply before walking over and taking a seat himself. Beebee drifted over and did as he had been told, settling down next to Eventide on the edge of the mattress.

To his surprise, he then felt Eventide’s arm draping over him and pulling him against his side. Beebee looked up in confusion and saw Eventide’s face smiling back down at him, albeit still with that edge of resignation visible in his eyes.

They were like that for a short time before Eventide gave off a weak chuckle. “Heh… oh, Beebee… what in the world am I gonna do with you?” he asked quietly before withdrawing his arm.

Beebee’s expression scrunched up in bewilderment. “Wait… am I not in trouble?”

Eventide looked directly ahead, his face slowly shifting to something a bit more stern. “...You did exactly what I told you not to do, Beebee… right after I told you not to do it…” he stated plainly before his eyes flicked to look at Beebee from the side. “ What do you think?”

Beebee wilted and looked down, his ears folding back and his wings drooping. “...I’m sorry, Dad. I’m grounded, aren’t I?” he asked quietly, one of his hooves absently brushing through the fabric beneath it.

Eventide nodded his head. “Yes, you are,” he stated in a firm voice. But then, to Beebee’s recurring confusion, Eventide reached down and lightly pet Beebee right at the base of his fin. “But… that won’t be going into effect until tonight.”

Beebee blinked, too nonplussed to fall prey to the sensitive spot on his neck. He shook his head to send away the invading hand and looked up at Eventide again. “...But… why?”

Eventide looked down, his expression once again becoming unreadable. “...Consider it my apology,” he admitted after a moment.

Beebee’s mind blanked, as did his face. “...Wha?”

Eventide didn’t say anything. He just rose, starting to pace back and forth in front of Beebee. He folded his hands behind his back, and his eyes remained glued to the floor. “...I was on the phone with Fluttershy last night,” he began, speaking slowly and clearly. “And… she told me it would probably be safe to let the Crusaders see the real you if I was there to supervise things. I was going to tell you this morning so we could set up a time.”

Beebee’s eyes widened, and his jaw fell open. So that was what Eventide had been talking with Fluttershy about!

Eventide continued before Beebee could speak. “But then I found your bed empty, and I learned that you weren’t even in the house. You were just… gone,” he continued, his voice shaking somewhat. “I panicked… I thought that maybe I had made you so angry that you ran away. I called Fluttershy, and she was just getting through calming me down enough to think straight when you came back with your friends…”

“I couldn’t keep lying to them,” Beebee repeated for what felt like the millionth time.

Eventide stopped his pacing and looked away, his face contorting with a pained grimace. “...I know… I’ve always figured we could probably trust them, deep down…” he said in a hushed voice, his shoulders sagging.

Beebee’s eyes widened for a moment before narrowing in disapproval. “Wait… if you thought we could trust them, then why did you say we couldn’t? Why did you forbid me from showing them?!” he demanded, his voice incredulous and appalled. Eventide visibly flinched from the questions, and his aura was suddenly flooded with a thick and intense wave of guilt. Beebee froze, his eyes going wide in shock at the sight.

After a moment, Eventide sighed and lifted his eyes back up to his son. “...Let me tell you a little story, Beebee,” he started again, his voice distant. He slowly strolled forward and sat down next to Beebee again, though this time the bug backed away a few steps. Eventide leaned forward, clasping his hands together between his knees.

He sat there for what felt like an eternity but was really only a few seconds. His aura was flickering with so many emotions that it looked stunningly like a wild thunderstorm, and the tension was perfectly reflected in his face. Finally, though Eventide let out a breath and began to speak.

“I love you, Beebee… more than anything or anyone else in the whole world. You know that, right? You’re my son, and you’re easily the best thing that’s ever happened to me…” he glanced sideways at Beebee, a nostalgic look in his eyes. “...Do you remember the old place? The old house where we used to live?”

Beebee’s expression softened into one of curiosity. “Yeah, I remember… I kinda miss it sometimes,” he replied slowly, curious as to what Eventide was getting at.

Eventide gave off a quiet chuckle. “Ha! I don’t. It was small, crummy, and even with that I could barely afford rent because I had such an awful job,” he stated before shaking his head in disbelief. “Yeesh… kinda hard to believe I was happy with that…”

Eventide looked at Beebee again. “Do you wanna know why it was so small, Beebee? Why I lived in such a small and crummy house with such a poorly paying job?” he asked, and when Beebee didn’t answer, he continued. “It was because I was afraid of letting people down. I didn’t want to break my back for someone only to find out I wasn’t good enough. Just like… just like with my mother. I failed her, and I had never felt worse in my life. I never wanted to feel like that again, so I let myself be perfectly content with living a life of mediocrity and borderline poverty. I was poor, had only a few friends, and I never took on any more responsibility than I had to.

“But then, completely out of the blue, you came along…” he continued, and his face relaxed with a nostalgic smile. His aura calmed down as well, simmering to mostly a dim pink shimmer. “Suddenly, I had this new responsibility that, at first, I didn’t want, but couldn’t get rid of. I tried to pass you off to Fluttershy the day you hatched because I didn’t want to look after you, did you know that?”

Beebee nodded his head. “Yeah… I overheard you talking about that last night.”

If Eventide was at all upset by the eavesdropping, it didn’t show. He just looked ahead at the wall, no doubt recalling memories from so long ago. “Right... well, I never got to give you up. You were way too clingy to let that happen. When Fluttershy tried to carry you out, you bit here and scampered right back to me. Buddha and I were the first things you saw, besides the old basement, and… you didn’t wanna be taken away. Fluttershy convinced me to look after you after that, and with no other choice, I did.

“I was still scared, of course. You were adorable, and I was getting used to looking after you, but I thought you were a wild animal. You kept throwing all these surprises at me, what with your molt, your first sparks of magic... Really, I was just waiting for the day you were big enough to be released into the wild so I wouldn’t have to worry about you anymore… But then you showed us that you could speak, that you were a person, and everything changed. I wasn’t looking out for an animal, I was raising a son…

“It wasn’t about me or my happiness, anymore. It was about you and your safety. I couldn’t afford to let you down. I had to devote myself to you, and…” Eventide looked down at the floor, his eyes closing. “...I had to better myself to do that. I had to get a better job, I had to find a new and better home… all to take care of you. For the first time since I left my parents, I had something to work towards, and…” he opened his eyes and looked over at Beebee again with a tear-filled smile. “...Something that made me happy.”

Beebee’s eyes had gone as wide as dinner plates a long time ago. He was silent for a second, trying to find his voice. “...dad…” was all that he managed to choke out.

Eventide took advantage of the silence to keep talking. “I have never loved anyone or anything as much as you, Bee. You came into my life and made it so much better in so many ways…” he looked ahead, and his smile went away, leaving just the tears. “...I don’t want to lose that. Ever… And when I thought you ran away, I… I realized something.

“...I’ve been too hard on you when it comes to showing yourself. I can think of at least six people off the top of my head who could know about you and be perfectly fine. Fluttershy's friends, mainly. They’ve dealt with so much magical stuff in their lives that you wouldn’t even be a blip on their radar.”

Beebee tilted his head slightly, finally regaining enough of his mental faculties to speak. “Uh… so… why not let me, then?” he asked, his voice timid as if he were afraid that being too loud may shatter an immaculate piece of beautiful art.

Eventide sighed and slumped in place. “Beebee… part of what’s made me so happy is that you’ve needed me. I’m raising you because you’re my son, and since day one, you’ve almost always needed me to be there for you. As long as you needed me, I thought, I’d have something to work towards, a responsibility to fulfill…” he lifted his eyes for the door as if he were staring through it. “...I didn’t want to let anything take that away. In the end, I was scared of you not needing me anymore… of you growing up.

“In a sad way, it started being about me again when it should have always been about you. I was just so dead-set on protecting you from anything and everything that might have been a threat, and…” he let off one more sigh. “...And I let your friends fall into that category… so I shut down any desire to show your true self to others because I know… I know it means you’re growing up, and that you won’t need me as much anymore.

“And in doing that, I started making the same mistake my mother did… I started to shut you out… and when I saw your bed empty this morning, I…” he stopped, and to Beebee’s shock, he heard the tiniest echo of a sob coming from his father.

“...Dad…”

“I thought it was too late,” Eventide continued with a sniffle, turning to look at his son again. “I t-thought that I’d already made my big mistake. You grow faster than humans, so, I… I was terrified that I’d driven you away like I felt my mom did to me…” he looked down and shook his head before wiping the back of his hand over his eyes.

With a shudder, Eventide straightened his posture, took a deep breath, and cleared his throat. “..But I learned my lesson. I get it, now…” he declared solemnly before sliding off the bed and kneeling by its side. He faced Beebee directly, locking gazes with him. “I am so, so sorry things got like this, Beebee… but I promise you, right here, right now, it will never happen again. I can’t stop you from growing up… and neither should I try…”

And with that, Eventide finally fell silent. Beebee stared at him, completely shell-shocked by everything he had just heard. His jaw hung open, and he barely had the presence of mind to close it after a solid minute of silence. He then managed to offer his father a tiny, tiny smile. “...I’m sorry, too. I’m sorry I scared you when I left,” he whispered, taking a few steps forward on the bed.

Eventide smiled and nodded his head. “Heh, apology accepted…” he replied before glancing over at the door. “Now… I think you have some friends downstairs to spend some time with.”

At the reminder of his friends downstairs, Beebee’s face lit up with a smile, and his wings gave a short buzz of excitement on his back. “Really?!”

Eventide looked back at Beebee, and a tiny flicker of mirth entered his aura. “Hey, they’re your friends, not mine. This is a big day for you… you should go celebrate. So go on. Play with them, joke with them, laugh with them, talk with them. Just be with them. I won’t get in your way.”

Beebee was still for a second, processing those words. His eyes started to glisten with fresh tears, and his lips began to tremble. Then, with a shaky breath of his own, he kicked off of the bed and launched himself into Eventide’s chest, hugging him around the neck and burying his face in his adoptive father’s shoulder.

The hug was returned immediately, and the love that came pouring out of Eventide this time was pure and untainted. There was just the tiniest edge of sadness left in it, but it was not enough to make the flavor any less appealing. Beebee drank it down, purring with contentment and snuggling closer to his dad.

“...Thank you, dad. Thank you so much. I love you…” he whispered quietly. A low and quiet chitter of unending affection could be heard coming from him when Eventide squeezed him closer.

“I love you, too, Beebee…” Was Eventide’s almost inaudible response.

They stayed like that for almost a minute, basking in their embrace and the peace it brought. Then, with a happy and childish laugh, Beebee suddenly pulled himself up onto Eventide's shoulder and used it as a springboard. He flew right for the door, throwing it open with his magic and shooting down the stairs, his face split by a gigantic, ecstatic grin.


Eventide stayed still for a good few seconds after Beebee left, his eyes distant and his smile gone. He’d committed himself, now. There was no going back. He knew now that Beebee would probably never forgive him if he went back on his promise, thanks to Apple Bloom’s influence.

Apple Bloom… Eventide couldn’t help but smile as he rose back to his feet and started to slowly follow Beebee back down the stairs, thinking on the farm girl and how much things had changed since she and Beebee had met each other. Not in the woods, he reminded himself, but through the window at the old house. That one incident, a meeting allowed only by pure chance, had been the primary motivator for Eventide seeking new and better-paying employment, and a new house.

In a roundabout sort of way, Eventide had her to thank for that decision. He had her to thank for the steps he had taken to finally improve his living situation, all for the sake of his son.

As he arrived at the bottom of the stairs, he could hear Beebee and the Crusaders laughing and cheering amongst themselves in jubilation. He stepped into the archway leading to the living room, and he couldn’t help but smile at the sight. He leaned against the frame and just watched for a while.

Beebee was currently hugging Sweetie Belle around the neck, the pale-skinned girl spinning around in circles while returning the embrace. She looked to be a little off-balance, indicating that she had been tackle-hugged. Scootaloo was in the middle of doubling over while pumping her fists in a victorious pose, and Apple Bloom looked like she had just gotten done being hugged by Beebee herself. She was also laughing while adjusting her shirt.

As she finally got herself straightened out, she looked up towards the archway. Eventide and Apple Bloom made eye contact. For a second, everything else faded away for the two of them. They just stared at each other for a long time, searching the eyes of the other. Before Apple Bloom could say anything, though, Eventide just smiled and nodded his head towards his son.

Getting the message, Apple Bloom nodded her head and went to join her other friends in the rapidly forming group hug. Eventide felt the urge to go and join them, but this time, he held himself back.

...My little boy’s starting to grow up,” he thought to himself, his face falling. “I gotta start letting him go.”

His eyes then drifted over to one of the end tables by the couch, and he saw that his camera was there. Seeing that, and seeing the scene playing out before him, made an idea spring into life in his mind. With his smile returning, he marched over and took the camera up in his hands before turning to the group hug. “Hey, guys!” he called over to them, drawing their attention.

“What is it?” Scootaloo asked, poking her head up from the back of the group.

Eventide held the camera up and over his head in one hand. “Mind if I get a picture of this?”

There was a general and excited vocalization of agreement with that plan, and after some shouting over each other and a lot of scrambling, the Crusaders and Beebee found themselves in a suitable arrangement on the couch.

Beebee sat on his haunches in the middle of the couch, a big smile on his face, and his wings splayed out on either side. Sweetie Belle sat to his right, her hands folded in her lap and a demure smile on her face. Scootaloo stood behind the couch, crouched down with a large and cocky grin. To Beebee’s left was Apple Bloom, one of her hands in her lap while the other rested comfortably on Beebee’s back.

Eventide smiled at the sight for a moment before lifting the camera and taking the picture.

Chapter 54: The Top of The World

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One Year Later…

It was almost Fall. The green color of the leaves and bushes along the park trail had started to dim. The days had been getting shorter and shorter, and school was due to go back into session in just a few days.

Beebee grimaced at the thought, his mind wandering back to the Crusaders and how he wouldn’t be able to spend as much time with them once that happened. He slowed to a halt and looked off to his right through a gap in the shrubbery, taking in the impressive view of the mountains.

Up ahead of him, Eventide and Buddha came to a stop and looked back at him in curiosity. “Beebee? You coming?” the man called over, drawing him out of his trance.

He looked back at his father and gave a quick nod of his head. “Yeah, I am. Sorry.”

Beebee broke into a canter to catch up, then slowed back to his usual brisk trot once he was back at Eventide’s side. As the family resumed their journey, the five, almost six-year-old bug looked up at his dad, noting the difference in height.

Eventide looked back down at Beebee with a raised brow, his aura shimmering slightly with concern. “You okay, buddy? You were kinda spacing out on me there for a sec.”

“I’m okay. I was just thinking about my friends, that’s all,” Beebee replied, his shoulders slumping slightly. “School’s starting back up for them soon, you know?”

“Yeah, I hear you,” Eventide acknowledged with a slow nod of his head and a quiet hum. “But hey, it’s not like they’re going away or anything.”

“I know, I know. Still, I like seeing them.”

“Trust me, I noticed.”

Beebee rolled his eyes at that but chose not to comment any further. Instead, he affixed his eyes to the trail ahead of them and focused on walking.

They’d never made it this far, before. The trees had thinned out considerably around them as they gained altitude. The rocks were more prominent in the terrain, jutting up from the soil at either side of the trail and along the slopes of the mountainside like. The sky was clear, save for a few far-off clouds on the distant horizon. The sun’s place in the sky, if Beebee had to guess, placed the time at a little before noon.

They rounded a bend in the trail. The path curved upwards into a steep incline for several yards, at the top of which was a practical wall of trees. Beebee eyed it with curiosity and was about to ask a question when a sound caught his ears, making them perk up.

Running water.

Eventide and Buddha came to a stop by his sides, hearing the sound as well. Buddha looked between the two of them with her tongue hanging out and her aura alight with cheerful confusion.

“...That’s the river,” Beebee noted in a hushed voice, his eyes slowly going wide. He looked up at his father, a small ember of anticipation drifting into his heart. “Dad, is this…?”

Eventide stood still for a second, eyeing the line of trees up ahead. He then gave Beebee a knowing smirk and nodded his head forwards. “One way to find out. C’mon.”

Beebee had nothing to say to that, and so the three of them resumed their walk, albeit at a faster pace than before. The bug grimaced when he felt the burn in his legs and lungs intensifying from the increased movement, but he forced himself to ignore it for now. if he correctly remembered what Eventide had told him when they first started doing this…

They came to the top of the slope and passed into the wall of trees. It wasn’t a very dense patch, but it was long, winding to the left and right for quite a distance like a snake. Just a few more yards ahead, the wall came to an end. The trees were forming an almost natural gateway, through which Beebee could see an almost blinding light. He squinted against it and kept moving, his anticipation building.

And then, at long last, the family stepped through the gate. Beebee’s eyes took a second to adjust, narrowing against a high-altitude breeze that hit his face. When the wind died down, he blinked a few times and looked ahead. His eyes went wide, and his jaw dropped in awe at the sight ahead of him. “Woah…”

A wide and expansive meadow awaited them, stretching out for a long way ahead. Flowers of several colors could be seen poking up between the blades of grass, wavering gently in the wind. Further ahead, a stream was winding through the meadow, its water perfectly clear. A few dragonflies flitted between some of the flowers before vanishing from Beebee’s sight.

Beyond all that, though, was perhaps the most amazing thing Beebee had ever laid eyes on. As if in a trance, he slowly walked forward, gazing down at what seemed to be the entire world. He could see the town he had been born in, nestled between hills and forests. He could make out the skyscrapers that had always been so distant in the neighboring city, looking like little more than toothpicks from this height.

Everything he had ever known. His entire world. All of it was right there, spread out before him for his eyes alone. He just stood there, dumbfounded by the sight. He was so enthralled that he didn’t notice Eventide sitting down by his side until he put his hand on Beebee’s back and leaned in to whisper in his ear.

“You made it, Beebee. This is the end of the trail…”

The end of the trail… they’d been trying to get here for how long? Beebee had no idea, but it had been a few years at this point. For a good few minutes, he mouthed uselessly like a fish, trying to wrap his head around it all. His thoughts were in a state of wonder-filled chaos, ideas and thoughts and memories all battling for his attention.

But above it all, one thought reigned supreme.

He’d made it. He was here.

A smile appeared on his face, and it steadily began to grow in size. A quiet chitter bubbled out of him, and it soon swelled into an uproarious laugh of abject joy and ecstasy. He turned and launched himself at Eventide, wrapping his hooves around his neck in a tight embrace. “WE DID IT!” He squealed at the top of his lungs, his wings buzzing on his back. “WE DID IT, WE DID IT, WE DID IT!!!”

His father laughed and returned the embrace, holding his son close and, quite literally, glowing with pride. “Ha! No, we didn’t make it,” he said before leaning back and grinning down at his son. “You made it. This was your journey.”

“But I never would have gotten here without you, Dad!” Beebee protested with a shake of his head. He chose not to push the subject any further, though, instead choosing to look out at the view again.

Eventide followed his gaze, his expression turning more serene as his aura glowed with awe and wonder of his own. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” he asked in a soft whisper.

Beebee nodded his head. “It is…”

He swept his eyes slowly across the meadow, taking it in again. He caught sight of Buddha leaping after the dragonfly only to splash into the stream. Luckily, it was pretty shallow and only came up to her elbows. Barking, the aging golden retriever began to bound and prance through the water. Her aura was aglow with joy and euphoria and unbounded levels of excitement.

“Why don’t you go play with her?” Eventide whispered into Beebee’s ear.

He turned to look up at his father in surprise. “Really? Can I?”

“As long as you don’t wear yourself out, yeah. Go on. Have fun, explore a little,” Eventide’s eyes looked out at the meadow. “Celebrate. You’ve earned it.”

Beebee blinked before looking at the meadow again. He hesitated for a second before nodding his head. On his back, his wings began to buzz, lifting him off his hooves. He rose to around Eventide’s eye level, then hovered in place. He looked back at his father one more time as if looking for the green light.

Eventide nodded towards the frolicking dog. “Go on.”

Beebee didn’t need to hear anything more than that. With a delighted giggle, he reared back and shot off, heading in Buddha’s direction. He came up to her side just as she was pulling herself out of the water, her fur dripping wet. She glanced up at him as he came over, and barked at him. He giggled again before his eyes settled on the stream.

He’d never actually felt what the river was like before…

Curious, he moved forward at a decent pace, lowering himself lower towards the surface of the stream. He could see his reflection staring back up at him, and he tentatively reached his hoof down to brush through it. The water parted around it, disrupting his reflection. It was cold to the touch, but not enough to make Beebee pull back. In fact, it was rather pleasant.

He looked to his left. His eyes widened when he saw Buddha sprinting along beside him from the shore, her eyes locked onto him. He slowed somewhat, then yelped in surprise when she bounded at him, her aura erupting with the combo of colors he had long ago learned meant ‘play with me.’

He barely lifted up to avoid being slammed into the water. Buddha plunged into the water, creating a large splash that doused Beebee. He shook himself for a moment and then started laughing. Oh, wow this felt new! The cold drops flowing down his carapace, the energy and affection from Buddha, the wonderful smell of the flowers and the rush of the wind on his face.

He had never felt so alive.

Without a moment’s hesitation, he dove back down into the water next to the dog, kicking up his own splash. She recoiled, and he gave her no room to escape, splashing water at her with his hooves. His holes meant he couldn’t scoop up quite as much as he would like, but that fact did little to quell his enjoyment.

All the while, as he and Buddha splashed in the river, as they ran through the blades of grass and enjoyed themselves, Eventide watched them from afar, a proud and happy smile on his face.


Beebee wasn’t exactly sure how much time he spent playing with Buddha before he finally began to grow tired. But he hadn’t been done exploring, not by a long shot. He had settled down on the dog’s back once it got hard to breathe and let her wander around at a more relaxed pace. All the while, he studied every little thing they walked by, taking it in.

He managed to catch his breath after a while but still chose to take it easy. He explored on his own, trotting around and examining every little thing he could see. Eventide had joined him, taking the time to explain the flowers, insects, and everything else as they went.

Once he felt comfortable enough, Beebee lifted up into the air on his wings as high as Eventide would allow him to go. Once there, he turned and looked down the mountain and at the world below.

And that was where he now found himself, the early afternoon sun coating the world in its wondrous rays and warming his back. He would rotate in place every so often so look at another part of the view, but aside from that, he hadn’t moved in quite some time.

There was no denying it — the view was breathtaking. From so high up, everything looked so small and so manageable. It was like he was standing at the top of the world, looking at everything he had ever seen or done up until this moment. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he imagined showing this view to the Crusaders, or to Aunt Fluttershy, and smiled. They’d love it, he knew.

“Hey, Bee!” Eventide’s voice broke through his thoughts, making him turn to look down. Eventide was waving at him, his camera in his hands. “We need to start heading back! Come down here and let’s get a picture before we go, eh!?”

Beebee smiled and nodded his head. “Sure! One sec, okay?” he called back down before looking ahead at the view, committing it to memory. He wanted to be able to remember everything he saw here, no matter where he was or how much time had passed.

After a moment, he grunted when a chilly breeze swept by, and a twinge of pain went through the base of his wings. His lungs tightened in his chest, and he knew it was time to come down. With one last parting glance at the view, he turned and flew back down to his father, who was already setting up the camera for a shot.

Beebee came down behind his father and draped his hooves over his shoulder. Eventide chuckled at that before lifting the camera in one hand. “Okay, Bee, calm down. Smile for the camera!”

Beebee did so, and to take it one step further, he pressed his cheek against Eventide’s. The man could only let off an exasperated laugh as the camera gave its signature click, telling them the photo had been taken.

Chapter 55: Fall

View Online

A few hours later, Beebee found himself pacing back and forth with his wings outside the front door of his house. Eventide was leaning against the wall with an amused look on his face, though the occasional flickers of worry in his aura caught Beebee’s attention from time to time.

It was the middle of the afternoon, now, and thick clouds could be seen gathering on the horizon. The sun was still shining, but at the rate the clouds were moving, it would probably be smothered in only a couple hours. The forecast had said there would probably be heavy rain later, something nobody was particularly looking forward to. Especially Beebee.

It wasn’t that he disliked water - far from it. He loved it, but the same could not be said of his friends and family. When it rained, everyone’s moods plummeted, and so to did the quality of his meals.

He did his best to ignore that, though, choosing to instead voice his question again. “When is she gonna be here?”

Eventide rolled his eyes and shook his head. “Oh, I dunno… last time you asked me was about a minute ago, and I said ‘around five minutes.’ So, by process of elimination, I think we can safely say-”

“Dad!” Beebee whined pitifully, rotating in the air and puffing up his cheeks at his father’s snark. “Not. Helping!”

The man did not seem at all deterred by his son’s tone of voice. “Maybe not, but it also doesn’t help to ask me the same question over and over again when I told you the answer already.”

“But you, I- GUH!” Beebee did a backflip in frustration and went back to pacing.

Eventide laughed at that before turning his eyes away. Beebee huffed quietly to himself, but otherwise said nothing more.

Impressively, he was actually able to keep his question contained for more than a minute this time. In fact, he had made it to a solid five minutes of silence before the urge to ask became too much to bear. With another groan, he spun around and glared daggers at the corner he was waiting on. “Is she here yet?”

“Eeyup! Ah’m here!”

Beebee blinked, taken by surprise by the shouted response. He drifted forward a few feet, squinting. Then, sure enough, Apple Bloom rounded the corner of the house, dressed in a t-shirt and blue jeans while carrying a red raincoat under her armpit. She raised her hand in a friendly wave. “Howdy! Sorry Ah took so long! Had to spend a few minutes lookin’ for this thing,” she held up the raincoat.

Beebee blinked a few times, then grinned and drifted closer to her. “Finally! Hi, Apple Bloom! How are you?”

“Ah’m good, though Ah’m kinda wondrerin’ why ya called me over with such, uh…” she glanced over at Eventide and raised an eyebrow. “...enthusiasm.”

Eventide shrugged and jabbed his thumb in Beebee’s direction. “Let him explain, it’s his big day.”

Beebee didn’t wait for Apple Bloom to question it. He flew right up to her face, all but pressing his nose against hers. “So! You know how dad and I have been walking on the Everfree Park trail a lot for a long time, right?”

Apple Bloom leaned back slightly from the intrusion into her personal space, then nodded her head. “Er, yeah, Ah remember. Why?”

Beebee did another backflip out of sheer excitement. “I finally made it to the top without getting exhausted! We’ve been trying to get there for two years!

Apple Bloom’s eyes widened up a bit, and her face lit up with a happy grin. “Wow! Really?! That’s awesome, Beebee! Did ya wanna celebrate or somethin’? Ah can call the girls-”

“Er, actually,” Beebee cut her off, suddenly looking a little sheepish. He drifted back another few inches, his hooves starting to fidget over his chest. “I was kinda hoping it could be just you and me. I mean… I met you first. If I hadn’t, then, well, I never would have started trying to get stronger in the first place.”

Apple Bloom visibly hesitated for a minute, her head tilting to one side. She then gave a small nod of her head, a more reserved smile appearing on her lips. “Alright, fair enough. What do we wanna do?”

Beebee relaxed somewhat and opened his mouth to speak. Before he could, however, a twinge of pain shot through his back and between his wings. His lungs tightened, and he dropped back to the ground with a thud. At once, he heard the two people coming up to his sides to make sure he was okay. He sucked in a deep breath and looked up at them with a reassuring smile. “Sorry. I’m okay, just… a little tired. Nothing too bad.”

Eventide and Apple Bloom exchanged worried looks for a minute before relenting. It was Eventide who spoke. “Alright… if you’re sure. Just take it easy, okay? We may have hit that milestone, but you can still have your fits if you aren’t careful.”

Beebee nodded. “Right. I will,” he then turned to look up at Apple Bloom. “Anyways, I was thinking we could just go out into the woods and walk around for a while.”

The farm girl looked at him for a few seconds, raising an eyebrow. After a moment, though, she smiled and stood upright again. “Sure, that sounds pretty relaxin’, actually.”

Beebee turned to his father, his eyes hopeful. “Can we, dad?”

Eventide looked between the two for a few seconds before nodding and ruffling Beebee’s head. “I guess that’s fine,