The Apple of My Eye

    “So, uh...” Nick scratched his head as he watched his new guest skitter across the hardwood floors of his apartment, “Yeah, make yourself at home,” The woman turned to him, a big smile on her face. As her eyes locked with Nick’s, her lips quivered and her face turned red. She hid her face behind the leather journal she carried.
     The woman wasn’t like anything Nick had seen before. A monster girl, or at least that’s what that beautiful pale woman on the TV had said. He wasn’t quite sure what exactly she was. Her human portion started at her chitinous horns. Two protruded from her head on either side. Below that was her long and silvery hair. Her bangs came down to her eyes and were almost in front of her cute, round face. Her big eyes, a solid, dark color unlike most monsters, were difficult to read sometimes. Her exoskeleton covered chitinous hands clasped together anxiously as she watched me. She was examining me just as closely as I was examining her. Her arms and legs were also covered in hardy exoskeleton of a dark greyish brown color, all of it shone brightly in the lights of his home, just like a beetle’s shell. Her body looked humanoid, but for the giant four legged bug’s abdomen she sat atop of. Her ‘human’ half was around five feet tall in size and wore a grey leotard, but she was brought to around six feet by the rest of her.  As far as Nick knew, the abdomen was really attached to her. Just like the rest of her exoskeleton, it looked durable enough to have a piano dropped on it and she would just walk it off. Currently, she had a few bags tied to her back with rope.
Both people blinked awkwardly at each other as they realised they were just ogling one another, “What’s your name?” Nick asked slowly and carefully as he plopped down at his kitchen table. The main room of his home was easily large enough to hold the mystery girl. It had a kitchenette, a little dining table and a living room area with two recliners and a couch around a coffee table with TV on the other side of them.
    The bug lady’s face lit up. She flipped open her journal to the first page and proudly showed it to Nick. Written with charcoal in all uppercase bold letters, it read: ‘PENNY.’
    “Penny, huh?” Nick smirked, “Pretty cute,” He said without thinking. Both blushed again out of embarrassment.
Penny rotated her human-like portion to her back and undid the ropes. She carefully removed her bags and set them on the floor. She quickly dug through them, looking for something. Eventually she found a stick with a piece of charcoal embedded into one end. She opened up her journal to a new page and scrawled something down in all uppercase letters, ‘NAME?’
    “Oh!” He chuckled to himself, “Just call me Nick, alright?” Penny nodded in response. He looked at the bags the woman had brought, “We should get your stuff put away.”
    Penny looked at her bags and grabbed the biggest one. She pulled the drawstring open and pulled out a big red apple that she offered to Nick with a little embarrassed smile. 
    “Thanks, Penny,” He examined the juicy looking fruit. He eyed her again as she pulled out another apple. She grabbed a little knife also made of the same chitinous material and used it to cut open her apple. She used her tongue to lap at the juices that leaked out of the pale flesh of the fruit. Nick searched his head for the least awkward way to ask her exactly what the heck she was. He shrugged, deciding to leave it for now. He brought the apple to his face to take a bite but was interrupted by a loud knock on the door. Penny stood up straight and grabbed a spear and shield. The spear had two sharp prods that matched her horns and the shield was a large kite shield also made out of chitin, “What? Someone is just at the door.”
    Penny shook her head and marched to the little entry hallway where she eyed the door. She shuddered in anticipation as the knock came again. Her strange, big eyes glared at the wooden door as she prepared to fight whoever was on the other side.
    An exhausted and bored voice cried out from behind the “By order of the lord of all monsters and your new leader, open this door citizen or it will be forced open. You have one minute to let us in.”
    “Calm down,” Nick scolded Penny gently, “I can’t afford to replace that door,” He yelped as the bug woman grabbed him, hiding him behind her shield as the knock came again, “Penny!” He hissed.
    She released him as he struggled. Nick looked at her face and saw hints of concern and worry within her big eyes. She shook her head rigorously, trying desperately to dissuade him.
    “Open up!” Another voice barks, “Last chance! The ram is comin’ out!”
    Nick frowned at her, but she refused to budge. He looked back to the door, “Fine. You open it. Just keep them from breaking down the door,” He stepped behind Penny.
    Nervously, Penny stepped up to the door and turned the handle. She stuck her head outside through the partially open door. She silently gazed at the four figures on her ward’s porch. Three armored monster girls prepared to breach the house like they had been for a few hours. 
The fourth was a small squirrel girl, a ratatoskr who looked exhausted and miserable as she fidgeted with a clipboard. She put a new few sheets of paper on the board as she mentally prepared herself to be shouted at again. She glanced up at Penny as she heard her jiggle the door handle again, “Oh!” The ratatoskr’s face lit up as she saw another monster girl, “Hi! Is there a human home, one from this world?” Her soldiers looked disappointed as they put away their hand held battering ram.
Penny nodded, only a little less nervous because they were other monster girls.
    The smaller girl smiled, “May we come in and talk to him?”
    Penny shook her head, unwilling to budge. 
    “P-please?” The ratatoskr was close to breaking down at this point in her horrible day, “I-I just need to talk to him and do my job.”
    The beetle girl blinked and shook her head again, trying to close the door.
    “Penny!” Nick grabbed the door and pried it open during her shock, “Hi, sorry… I don’t know what her deal is. I just met her today.”
    Penny whipped around to face her ward, her usual somewhat blank face was now nervous and upset as she silently begged him to stop.
“You need not worry, ma’am. I won’t take him away from you. Please just let me do my work and we’ll leave,” The ratatoskr pushed past her guards with a little, kind smile on her face as she pleaded directly to Penny.
    “You don’t want him to be hauled off to jail later, do you?” One of the guards, a minotaur, grunted, “You might not see him after that,” She added.
    Penny whimpered and finally relented. She marched back to the living room, waiting for her ward to find a seat.
    “Come in, come in,” Nick, gestured for the four ladies to enter. Unlike Penny, he didn’t feel nervous at all. He plopped himself down on his favorite recliner. Penny quickly scuttled to his side, spear and shield in hand as she acted as his stalwart protector.
    “May I know your names? For my files?” The ratatoskr asked as she plopped herself down in the other recliner. Her guards meandered around, taking a break for once.
    Penny grabbed her journal and opened it to the first page again to silently say ‘PENNY.’
    “Nick,” The man stated his name verbally. He realised she probably needed his last name, “Nicklas Sterling,” He quickly spelled it for her too.
    Penny took her little writing utensil, a stick with a piece of charcoal on one end and added ‘Sterling’ after her name and showed that to the government official.
    The ratatoskr laughed, finally in a good mood, “Looks like she’s claimed you as hers, Nick. I’ll put that down, Penny,” Nick looked confused as Penny nodded in thanks, “Is something wrong, Nick?”
    He blinked, “Nah. Just a little surprised she wants me after knowing me for only an hour or something.”
    “Not too surprising to me after seeing how protective she was being. You’ve only known her for an hour? The Queen of Monsters decreed that all citizens needed to stay within their homes,” The diminutive woman gave him a sly look. 
    “W-well--” Nick was interrupted as Penny put a gentle hand on his shoulder and put a tiny smile on her face. He sighed, his nerves steeled, “Well…”

    <Earlier>
    Nick stomped through the woods behind his condo. He couldn’t believe anything that was going on. Monster girls? Otherworldly invasion? He didn’t believe it. But… Those images he saw on the internet. Guys looking happy and excited with their new demonic, beastial, and wholly beautiful wives. It was like those old internet scams ‘hot singles in your area waiting to meet you.’ But he felt there had been a little truth to it after he saw their leader appear on his TV. She was mostly just addressing her new subjects, but said that all humans should listen to the monster girls and stay home so that things could go smoothly for everyone. It sounded more like a suggestion than an order, the staying home thing at least. Not like he could go anywhere as some form of magic had stopped his car, phone, radio, and, for a short time, even his electricity. He stepped through the woods, not really sure what he was looking for, but he was looking for something. He walked by the lake within the woods near his home. He wondered if there was a mermaid or something in there. He shook his head, not wanting to find out. He didn’t mind the water but being stuck to it all the time didn’t sound so great. 
    Nick was willing to give any woman a chance at this point. Loneliness and working from home was making him a little desperate at this point. His lifestyle made it hard to meet new people and most of ‘the boys’ had moved on to better things at this point. He still spoke to most of his old friend group, but he never saw them much any more. He shook himself and turned his mind to other things. Trekking through the woods with nothing but his clothes and a coat, he kept his ears open for strange noises.
    “Ah!” He heard a woman yelp after some more time walking. She shrieked as well at whatever was happening.
    Nick started to jog towards the noise. He stepped through some underbrush and gazed upon a woman that he would later learn was named Penny. He was immediately enamored by her strange bug like form. She was panicking, desperately trying to keep the apples she had picked off of a tree away from the friendly, fat raccoons that surrounded her. She let out a loud whining noise as she held the apples in her arms. Nick had to stifle his laugh at her expense. He grabbed the two pronged spear she had dropped earlier and used the butt of it to shoo the raccoons off, “Shoo! Shoo!” He cried, startling the raccoons and making them run off into the trees, “You alright? Those raccoons are just a bunch of little beggars.”
    Penny looked at Nick with her big near expressionless eyes. Her heart pounded as her face turned red. Her food and more importantly her life had just been saved. By a human no less. She leaned close to him and smelled the air upon him. She couldn’t smell the stench of another on him nor did she spot any rings. She stared into his concerned face again. He was still waiting for a response from her. She nodded, confirming silently that she was okay. She took her harvest of precious fruit to one of her bags and loaded them into it. She tied it to her back and turned to the man. She grabbed her journal and showed him a page, ‘THANK YOU.’
    He smiled at her, “Yeah, no problem,” He could hear the chittering of the raccoons, “Hey… You, uh, wanna come over?” He asked nervously, “Get away from the raccoons and all.”
    Penny quickly nodded, eager to leave the forest and even more eager to go to her saviors home. She felt a mighty need to return the favor and protect him now, not that he would know that.

    <Current time>
    “That’s really it,” Nick explained, “I don’t know how she ended up in those woods but here we are,” He shrugged.
    The ratatoskr nodded. She was sunk into her seat, glad to be hearing a happy story rather than being yelled at by another terrified human, “Hey, good for you guys. I won’t report this or anything. It would get waived anyways since you two ended up together. Well… I have nearly everything I need. Oh,” Her eyes lit up, “Are you fitting through the doorways, Penny?” The woman asked, “Is the bathroom accommodating?”
    The bug woman shuddered, realising she was being spoken to. She shrugged and looked to Nick to have him answer for her.
    Nick nodded, understanding, “She can squeeze through doors pretty well. But I’m not sure the toilet or the shower will accommodate her very well.”
    “Well, soldier beetles are quite large,” The squirrel girl rubbed her chin, “There is a subsidy right now if you have to renovate your home, Nick. Bigger doors, a new bathroom, bigger bedroom. I highly recommend you do it. Turn your bathroom into a wet bathroom. Make the whole room a shower and give it a bigger toilet for her.”
    “Oh, thank you,” Nick nervously chuckled, “I’ll have to consider it. I need to consider a lot of things if she’s gonna be in my life now. A lot of responsibility, you know?”
    She laughed, “Yes, I understand,” She slowly pulled herself from the comfortable chair with a sigh, “It has been a pleasure, you two. Have a good one and good luck. Here’s my card in case you need to contact someone with the government for whatever reason, especially if you want that subsidy.”
    Nick took it, surprised at how these monster girls who only showed up the other day, pretty much only two days ago, already had all of these things set up, “I will do that. Once my cell comes back online I’ll start looking into stuff.”
    The ratatoskr nodded, “See ya!” She smiled as she left with her three guards.
    Nick sighed as the tension left his body. He must have absorbed some of Penny’s on account of how calm he had been before. She touched his shoulder gently and looked to the other recliner. She set her weapons down and climbed her beetle body onto the recliner. She put all of her weight onto the table and clung her four legs to the pleather chair awkwardly as she tried to get comfortable. She looked at Nick, desperately trying to mimic him.
    He laughed, “Here, this might make it easier,” He reached over and grabbed the reclining handle, making it lean back and the footrest come up.
    Her body rested on the seat and footrest of the recliner and her human body leaned forward somewhat comfortably, lounging on the pleather set. She had a little smile on her face as she beamed at Nick. 
    “Soldier beetle, huh?” He grumbled as he put his own foot rest up. The words meant little to him, really, but that didn’t matter now, “Say, what do you eat? We should go shopping soon.”
    Penny grabbed her little journal again. Using her charcoal pen, she wrote, ‘FRUIT,’ for him to read. 
    “Just fruit?”
    She nodded in response. 
    Nick sighed, “Well… Alright. First, we should get you settled in,” He wanted to get up, but Penny seemed to be having a good time on her seat, “In a bit,” He sighed as he decompressed.

    “Alright,” Nick rolled out a big blanket for Penny in his second room. He used it as a work office. There was a nice standing desk with a chair, a computer and everything else that went with that, a few bookshelves chock full of books and a few nick nacks that were precious to Nick for one reason or another, and a decently large couch. Penny looked around in awe, “You can sleep in here for now. Are you sure you’re fine with sleeping on the ground?” 
    The soldier beetle nodded before scuttling around the room, looking at all the colorful things her host had set around it. She picked up an old model kit of a giant robot that Nick had put together a few years ago.
    “Well, here’s some blankets and pillows, at least. I’m not gonna make you suffer completely,” Nick threw some more bedding down and looked back at Penny, “Be careful with that!” He begged in an exasperated tone.
    Penny made a little whining noise and quickly put it down, laying it down on its back quickly and acting like she hadn’t been doing anything. 
    Nick walked up to the shelf and put it back where it belonged, “You can touch stuff, just be careful, please.”
    Penny nodded and stared at the colorful spines of Nick’s book collection. 
    “Feel free to read anything you want. Uh, good night.”
    Penny watched Nick leave the room. She grabbed a random book, plopped down onto the blanket and threw a second one over her beetle body. She sat silently like she always did and opened up the book. She could hear Nick moving around and doing something through the walls. She felt at ease within the walls of his home, it wasn’t too unlike her cave home. The overhead lights were nice and bright and didn’t make smoke like fires and torches. She played with the light switch, smiling as light came whenever she beckoned it. She excitedly scuttled around the room again, looking at all the colorful pictures and toys. She didn’t dare touch his possessions for fear of invoking his wrath. She stared at displays full of action figures and other toys. She spent what felt like hours enamored by his collection of things.
    Penny, finally tired out by her excitement, got onto her sleeping arrangement. She had already thrown a blanket over her beetle body to keep it warm during the cold hours of night so she merely wrapped a second blanket around her human portion. She let her four beetle legs stretch out and her abdomen plop onto the blanket. Her human looking thorax leaned forward, putting her head onto a pile of pillows she had made. She was face down in the pillows with her arms straight out on both sides-- The quadrupedal monster girl version of spread eagle.
Penny made a few soft noises of contentment to herself. She had bagged a cute man that hadn’t put up a fight AND she didn’t have to sleep in a damp cave with tons of other soldier beetles! She stopped, listening for Nick’s movement. Penny’s heart started to pound. She couldn’t hear him. What if something had happened to him. Penny dropped everything and shook the blankets from herself. She grabbed only her little knife and scuttled into Nick’s room. She looked around at the bed, dresser, chair, lamps and another desk. This one was loaded with tiny buckets of colored liquids. She scurried to the bed and examined the still form of Nick. She watched his chest rise slowly then fall just as slowly. Penny sighed quietly with relief. She didn’t want anything to happen to him, of course. He was hers, he had to be healthy in her care or she would be a failure. She nodded to herself and plopped herself down at his bedside, content to watch him sleep. She yawned and put her hands on her hips, realizing how lucky he was to have someone watching out for him like she was.

    Nick woke up slowly like he did every morning. He rolled to his side towards his nightstand to grab his phone. He stopped as he felt something sharp jab his leg. Startled, he threw the blankets off his bed. Penny was there. She had been laying face down under his sheets. Her bug body was covered by the extra blanket he kept folded up at the end of his bed. A little smile spread across his lips as he realised how delighted he was that the large and strong soldier beetle would come to his room for some comfort after probably getting spooked by some bump in the night. He smirked, grabbed the comforter and threw it over the beetle’s body. He was tempted to pat her head but thought better of it. She had ‘claimed’ him, but he wasn’t sure exactly what that meant. Dating? Married? Some other strange kind of platonic relationship? He shrugged. It didn’t matter to him. He was happy to have her company. He just hoped she was happy as well.
    Penny stretched, still face down on Nick’s mattress. It was a nice place to sleep. It was warm, soft and it smelled like him. She was a little disappointed in herself that she had fallen asleep, but by the noises the man was making, Nick had survived the night. She pat herself on the back for that, at least.
    “Sleep well?” Nick asked as he returned from the bathroom.
    Penny nodded and wrapped herself in his comforter and laid her head back down on the mattress. 
    “Still not talking, huh?” He sighed.
    Penny hid her face in the blanket and mattress. She sniffled quietly at his comment.
    He put a hand on her shoulder. He hadn’t heard her but still felt guilty, “Don’t worry about it. You listen better than the walls at least!” He chuckled.
    Penny put on a tiny smile for him and got up. She liked how understanding he could be. Slowly and cautiously, she pressed herself against him. She was a little taller than him and didn’t know much of what she was doing, but she tried her best as her soft human body pressed against him and her arms wrapped around his shoulders.
    “Uh…” Nick nervously stammered and sweat. He carefully wrapped his own arms around her lower back.
    The two stood awkwardly, neither knowing when to release the other. Penny smelled his hair. He still slightly smelled like his somewhat fruity shampoo. Her stomach grumbled as she thought of the tasty flesh of fruit. She hungered.
    Nick felt the grumble of her tummy and giggled, “You, uh, wanna get some breakfast?”
    Penny nodded and finally let go of him. Nick led her to the kitchenette where she plopped down near the table with her legs tucked neatly under her body. She went for her apples.
    “Toast?” Nick offered as he made some for himself.
    Penny shook her head then showed him her journal again, ‘FRUIT,’ she reminded him and returned to cutting her apples. Nick frowned. Despite her size she didn’t seem to eat much more than him, but eating nothing but apples had to be boring. Although she did seem to like them a lot. He grabbed some of his grandmother’s homemade jam from the fridge and slathered his toast in some. Penny watched intently as she caught the scent of strawberries. She licked her lips as stared at the jar. She hadn’t had any berries in a long time. She watched as her host bit into the toast with a crunch while getting some of the red, glistening jam on his lips. She tugged on his sleeve like a child then pointed to the jam. She had never seen anything like it.
    “Strawberry jam. You want some?”
    She nodded vigorously. She needed to try it. With a smile, Nick grabbed a spoon for her. Penny brought a spoonful of the near gelatinous red stuff to her mouth. She tasted the sugary substance with her tongue first then put the spoon into her mouth. Her face lit up. For once her happy expression was completely obvious to Nick. She grabbed the jam jar, brought it to her lips and used her spoon to slide the rest of it into her mouth.
    “You, uh, really like that stuff, huh?” Nick chuckled to himself, making a silent note to ask his grandmother for more.

    After giving Penny a shower using the garden hose, Nick had checked the news. He was relieved to see that businesses were back open already. He ignored the part about the numerous arrests of ‘unsavory individuals’ and those that attempted to flee. He thought better than to question how this race of powerful women had managed to take over numerous countries nearly overnight with next to no resistance. He assumed it was magic. He had only pleasant interactions with the monster girls he had met and his new room mate or girlfriend or whatever she was. He didn’t know if she would turn on him and tattle on him to the legion of monsters if he spoke out. He wondered if this was going to turn out more like a dystopia or a utopia. The world had been dystopian before, so what harm could they do? They at least seemed keen on dealing with crime and such quickly. Riots and such had been quelled swiftly. He could only wonder if that was a good thing or not.
    He nearly jumped out of his skin when Penny tugged on his sleeve from behind. He hadn’t even heard her scuttle across the carpet. She silently stared at him with a confused expression. She was wearing a fresh outfit. A form fitting white long sleeve shirt and a black cloth skirt.
    “N-nothing,” He chuckled nervously. He turned back to the TV. A woman with blue skin and horns talked in a calming tone. Penny climbed onto her recliner as she ate more jam from a jar. Nick focused on the TV again as the blue skinned woman started to talk about laws and such again. She explained that most laws were still the same, but now humans could go outside only if accompanied by a monster girl, or mamano as she called them. Nick sighed with relief, he wouldn’t have to starve at least, “We should go shopping soon,” He told Penny. 
She just stared with her big eyes.
    “You’re running out of fruit,” He explained as if she didn’t understand, “Thank god I have some money saved up.”
    Penny still stared.
    “Come on, we can take my car and--” He froze. He couldn’t take the car. Even if it would turn on, there was no way Penny would fit, “Well, we can walk, right?”
    Penny hesitantly nodded.
    Nick took a few minutes to grab his wallet, phone, and keys while Penny nervously stared out the window, “You alright?” Nick asked quietly.
    Penny stared at him. She was the protector in this relationship. His bulwark against the unknown. She couldn’t be nervous or scared now. She swallowed the nervous feeling and nodded, confirming that she was okay.
    Nick smiled and threw on his hoodie and a coat over it, “Come on, I wanna get this done before it gets too busy.”
    He stepped out the front door and onto the concrete porch. Penny squeezed her abdomen through the front door. Nick wondered if he should have the door ways expanded. The soldier beetle nervously looked up at the blue sky from the last remaining safe spot she had underneath the wooden roof of the porch. It was strangely calm outside in the little community of condos and apartments. Both had been too enamored with one another to look outside to see if people in this neighborhood had been arrested or taken away. Penny folded her arms as she felt a chilly wind blow through her.
    She stood up straight as Nick threw his coat over her shoulders, “You looked a little cold. I’ll be fine,” He stepped into the sunlight, letting the warmth of it wash over him.
    Penny watched him smile as he let the sunshine fall upon his face. She reminded herself that she was supposed to take care of him. It was her duty as his wife. She should be going out and foraging for fruit by herself... Even if she wasn’t very confident with going outside. She suddenly missed her cave. She made a quiet whining noise as she started to step down the few concrete steps to join Nick on the sidewalk. 
    Nick offered her a hand as a polite and simple gesture, trying to make sure she wouldn’t fall down the stairs as she shakily went down them. 
    Penny’s face turned red. He wanted to HOLD HANDS!? He was going so fast in their relationship! Was he one of those humans that the Mamano Legion had warned her and the others about? A degenerate and fetishist? They were OUTSIDE! How could he just want to hold hands for the world to see? Next he would want to kiss and then perhaps would want to tell her how much he loved her just in front of all to see! These were sacred things. He was so casual and nonchalant about it… If he was a voyeurist, wouldn’t he be panting and blushing from the arousal? Penny stared at him, still looking completely blank faced. She was intent to find out his devious and… SEXUAL drive for doing such an action. But… His skin was so soft. She just wanted to feel that warmth, she told herself. With a blushing face, she took his hand.
    Nick wondered what was going on in her calculating and intense stare as her chitinous fingers felt his dry skin. 
Penny slowly and carefully walked down the steps. She didn’t want to let go of his hand. She clutched it tightly, letting his fingers wrap around the back of her hand. She felt dirty… But it felt so good she couldn’t stop herself.
    “Uh, this way,” Nick smiled as he started to lead her down the street.

    Penny held the black basket that Nick thrust into her hands before grabbing his own. Penny had gripped his hand the entire way to the store, her grip squeezing nearly every time they passed a horse drawn carriage. He could only wonder if she had ever seen a horse before. He also figured that cars must still be out of commission. The store was called Monster Market now, the old name had been covered up with a painted tarp for now, “Let’s look at fruit first. Are you sure that’s all you eat?”
    Penny nodded again. She had shoved her arms through the sleeves of the baggy flight jacket. She liked how it smelled akin to Nick. 
    “Just seems a little boring. But if you’re happy with it, I’ll go along with it,” He led her over to the produce section. There were a few workers like there usually was, but they looked different now. It took him a moment to realise that the two he saw were both monster girls. Some kind of greyish colored mud pile woman slid across the floor, pruning heads of cabbage and such as she went while the other, a young woman with the abdomen of a bee on her backside tried her hardest to make the perfect apple pile on a display.
    Penny stared in awe. Piles of delicious looking and probably juicy fruit that she had never seen before just sitting around, ripe for the taking! She scuttled past Nick, dropping her basket and going for a large tan and green colored fruit. She snatched it up and started to bring it to her mouth.
    “Penny!” Nick shouted as he grabbed the basket she had dropped, “We have to pay for that, plus you’re going to hurt yourself shoving a whole cantaloupe in your mouth!” 
She slowly blinked at him as she wondered what he meant by ‘pay.’ She had never heard of such a thing. The fruit of the earth were usually hers for the taking, and this fruit was huge! She couldn’t just leave it.
    Nick laughed. She must never have seen a cantaloupe before, “They’re called rockfruit for a reason, Penny. Here, we’ll buy one for you to try. It's good. Pick out any other fruits you want.”
    Penny nodded. She understood that, at least. She started to scuttle around the produce area, picking out a lemon for its funny yellow color, a lime for looking like a smaller, greener lemon and an orange for being a fatter, oranger lemon. They also smelled somewhat sour, but she determined they must normally be like that, similar to green apples as all of them smelled that way.
    “Are you finding everything alright?” The bee woman asked as Penny picked up a large ovoid green thing.
    “Ah!” The sudden question startled the soldier beetle, making her yelp and drop the watermelon. It made a wet thud noise as its red innards were spilled across the floor. She reached down to pick up its carcass.
    “No, no, no!” The bee, who was nearly in tears and red faced, insisted. Startled again, Penny stepped back and hid behind Nick, “It’s my fault, I-I’ll clean it up,” The worker apologized profusely with a slight bow.
    Penny held up her journal, ‘SORRY.’ She apologized with her head bowed.
    “How polite,” Nick remarked as he and his soldier beetle stepped away from the mess as the mud lady brought over a wet floor cone, “Want any more fruit?”
    Penny felt embarrassed, but nodded. She still wanted one of those big green melons. As she went back to get one, she spotted something. There were four strange looking fruits. Four large, brown and spiky fruits sat in a corner. She had never seen anything like it. But she wanted it. She excitedly grabbed one and threw it in her basket.
    “A-are you sure?” Nick frowned at the durian.
    Penny went to her journal and scratched something down, ‘FRUIT?’ She asked silently.
    “Y-yeah it is… Do you want it?”
    Penny nodded furiously. She wanted it. It looked interesting, it HAD to taste good.
    “Well. Alright,” He decided. He relented especially since the price was so low. He grabbed a few more fruits for her to try like a pear, peach, grapes and a can of cranberry sauce. He also grabbed a few fruit flavored things for her to try as well as replenishing his own food.
    Penny watched as Nick walked up to a man at the front. He placed his groceries on a counter and the man at the front started to punch numbers into a keypad like she recognized from Nick’s computer keyboard.
    “Strange times, huh?” The man made small talk.
    Nick nodded, “Not much we can do about it though, right?”
    He chuckled quietly, “Right. Not too much to complain about either. Things are… Strangely peaceful. All the girls are lookers too,” Both men smirked in agreement and understanding, “Looks like you’ve already found your match. I should be--”
    “Hey!” A woman chimes in, interrupting the conversation and quickly starts bagging the fruit. She was some form of cat girl with fluffy looking white paws, ears and tail. She gave the cashier a little smile who blushed in response. She started up the small talk, “How are you two? I hope you’re doing well.”
    “Doing well, just hungry,” Nick shrugged, “Right, Penny?”
    Penny wished she could be invisible as the werecat’s eyes turned to her. She looked at Nick and wished she could hide behind him again but the small space within the checkout line prevented her from that. The soldier beetle avoided eye contact and gave a small nod and held up her journal, ‘HUNGRY.’
    The werecat frowned but didn’t think much of it. Nick stepped in, “She’s pretty quiet, don’t think she doesn’t like you,” He explained.
    “The cute silent type, huh? With a certain cat I knew was something like that,” The man smirks. The werecat punched him on the shoulder and they both laughed.
    Penny frowned. She didn’t want to punch Nick like that. She could only wonder why they would want to hit one another. She didn’t understand.
    “Here’s your bags!” The werecat happily gave the bags to Penny, “I hope you two have a good rest of your day!”
    “Thanks, you too!” Nick smiled back and led Penny outside.
    Penny was more nervous in the presence of the werecat than she was outside in the open. She frowned at the now dark and cloudy sky.
    Nick noticed it as well, “Hey. I know a shortcut. We can cut through the park, come on.” 
    The soldier beetle eagerly followed her ward, anxious to get out of the open. She reached for his hand for his warmth and support.
    Nick clutched the beetle’s hand and led her to the aforementioned park. He looked around at all the people that were starting to pack up and leave because of the threat of rain. The two started their trek across the field. There was a little baseball field, a big paved path around the fields, a little forest with a creek off to the side and a children’s play structure near the woods. 
    Penny stared at the play structure as curiosity and longing gripped her beating heart. The two stepped between the play structure and the woods along the path, “Just on the other side of the park, now, Penny.”
    Penny nodded and grabbed his hand a little tighter. Nick let go and put his hood up as the rain droplets started to fall. She whined quietly that he had let go. They were alone. In the rain. She thought about doing something… Naughty with him.
    Nick turned to Penny as she stopped scuttling after him, “What is it?”
    She looked at Nick. Her heart pounded. She could hardly hear the rain and wind over the blood in her ear. She slowly reached out and grabbed his sleeve, tugging gently as her face started to blush. She got closer to him, staring into his eyes with her own. Nick just looked concerned and confused for her. She told herself that he was cute. Very cute. She moved in slowly, going for it. She-- She jumped up as something grabbed her little leather journal from the little bag she carried.
    Both people turned to the snickering voices. Three soldier beetles looked mildly smug at the couple, “If it isn’t Penny,” One of them put on a little smirk. She was the largest one, but all three were quite a bit shorter than Penny. While Penny was a little more than six feet tall, these girls were closer to five feet or less.
    “Still mute, hm?” Another chided.
    “This is our turf, mute. Get out of here,” The last bullied her.
    Penny’s heart was still pounding, but now out of fear. 
    “Oh, so soldier beetles can talk,” Nick said to himself, “And they’re really mean,” He scowled. He couldn’t believe it. Penny was so sweet. Was she an outlier?
    “Come on, mute,” The three beetles taunted Penny, “Just say please and we’ll give it back!” They laughed at one another. They ignored Nick.
    Nick growled and snatched the book from their hands, “Piss off you harlots!” He hissed at them. 
    He held the journal above his head as the mean beetles started to grab at him, “Give that back!”
    “We stole it! Its ours!”
    “Get off me!” Nick struggled to fend them off. They were starting to climb up him.
    One of the girls yelped loudly. Everyone turned to her. Penny had grabbed her by the back legs. Her bangs were almost completely over her eyes. Her face darkened, her usual expressionless look was now gone and in its place was rage and contempt. Penny rotated herself, throwing the beetle to the side sending her tumbling through the mud and wet grass. She got up, whining because of her bruises. 
    The second girl hardly had time to react as Penny lunged at her. The two locked arms as they started to wrestle. Both beetles pounded their legs into the ground for more stability, “P-Penny!” She started to beg, “W-we were just j-joking!”
    Penny glared, gritting her teeth as she put more force into their grapple. The enemy beetle started to skid back, unable to over power the larger beetle. She silently refused to accept her half hearted apology.
The final beetle started to move towards the two grapplers to try and help her friend. Nick shoulder checked her, knocking her onto her back as he took her by surprise, “Oops!” Nick shrugged in a mocking manner.
    Penny grabbed her opponent in a tight bear hug. Using her powerful front legs she launched herself up, careening onto her back as she took her enemy with her. They hit the ground with so much force that the ground shook from Penny’s suplex. She stood to her full height as her opponent groaned in pain.
    “N-no… Please…” The last beetle pleaded. 
    Penny had no mercy for anyone who would harm her precious man. In true beetle fighting fashion, she grabbed the final enemy and hoisted her with all her might, lobbing the beetle over her like she had the first time. She screamed as she sailed through the air and landed in the damp grass and mud with a loud thud. All three girls whined and cried before running away. Penny put her hands on her hips as she swelled with pride.
    “Damn, Penny,” Nick chuckled as he stepped to her side, “You’re strong as hell!” He offered her the journal.
    She took it and stared at Nick’s smiling face. What little doubt was in her melted completely as she stared into her face. She grabbed her writing utensil again, ready to tell Nick something. Something very important. She put the charcoal stick down and looked at him. She had to say it herself, “...You…” She said quietly, most of her words coming out as a jumbled mess, embarrassing her.
    “Huh? Penny? You can talk?” Nick was very eager to hear what she had to say.
    “I… You…” She tried again. Fear of her strange sounding speech made her body tremble.
    “I’m not gonna make fun of you. Slowly now.”
    “I love you…” Penny said, tears welling up in her eyes. 
    Nick smiled back, emotions swelling within him, “I love you too. We should--” He was interrupted as Penny grabbed his cheeks and forced her lips against his. The two stood making out in an empty park while the rain drenched their bodies as they lost track of time.

    “…Are you sure?” Nick asked skeptically as Penny stared hungrily at the durian. It was close to bedtime and Penny was looking for a snack. It had been a week or so and the house had gone through a few changes. New bathroom, bigger bedroom, and the doorways had been widened. Nick had paid very little for it, thankfully. 
    Penny nodded, then held up her journal, ‘HUNGRY.’ Nick opened a few windows. He stood away from her as she took a knife to the fruit. She began to cut into it and winced as she got a strong and putrid whiff of something. She shrugged it off and finished slicing the probably tasty fruit in half. She inhaled and nearly gagged. She tried to figure out where the horrible stench was coming from. It had to be the fruit. How could a fruit smell so rancid? She put it down and backed away.
    “Oh, no,” Nick scolded, “I bought that for you, you’re gonna eat it!”
    Penny shook her head and wrote in the journal, ‘BAD SMELL.’
    “Yeah. Durians smell bad. You didn’t listen to me,” He laughed. He wasn’t mad, just amused by the situation.
    ‘ROTTEN?’ She wrote.
    “Nope. Just smells awful like that. Try it, at least, alright?”
    Penny nodded. It was her duty as his wife to eat the food that he brought home. She took a spoon to the foul smelling fruit. She took a bit of it and put it into her mouth. She gagged again. It wasn’t juicy or fruity as all. It was very bitter with a strange creamy texture that she found unpleasant. She would rather eat a bucket of tart limes than partake of this smelly spiked produce.
    Nick laughed with a deep belly laugh at his wife’s misfortune, “Alright. Throw it out. You’ve been a good sport.”
    Penny huffed at him. She took the fruit straight to the trash bin outside. When she came back in and saw her smug, albeit correct, husband she felt a little angry. With another huff she grabbed her husband,picked him up over her shoulder and carried him to the bedroom. He chuckled and giggled the entire time, much to her chagrin. The bed was now two large mattresses laid on top of one another with multiple blankets. Nick was dumped on the bed unceremoniously. He only had a few seconds to get comfortable before Penny laid out on top of him. As always, she laid out in a spread eagle fashion with her human body laying on top of Nick. Her arms wrapped around his neck before she showered him in kisses. 
    The two cuddled after Penny threw blankets over the two of them. Nick stroked her hair and kissed her scalp, “Love you, honey,” He told her with a loving smile.
    “Love… you,” She told him simply and quietly. Her speech was improving, even if she still said very few words.
    “Good night. Sleep well and all that,” He yawned and let his body relax.
    Penny put her head on his chest, relaxing as well as she listened to his breathing slow down and regulate. He was asleep. Only then did she let herself sleep.

One response to “The Apple of My Eye”

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