• Published 24th Jun 2013
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Return of the Dawn - pchn00



A substitute teacher with what she's always been told is a mental condition begins to suspect that's not the entire truth when a familiar sun shaped cutie mark appears on her hips.

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Chapter 1: Sunrise

Chapter 1: Sunrise

My favorite time of the day. I’m standing on the old concrete balcony that extends from the patio door of my second floor apartment. It’s a cool spring morning. I can already tell it’s going to be a beautiful day. There’s just the faintest hint of a chill in the air and a slight breeze tousles my still embarrassingly wildly tangled brown tresses. I know I should at least make a token effort at tidying myself up when I first wake up but I have this weird… irrational fear of missing the sunrise.

It’s coming. I can just feel it. I’ve always been able to. My uncle used to call me his little alarm clock. The sky is blanketed in beautiful pastel pinks, oranges, and yellows as the sun begins its ascent. I always have a giddy, childlike smile as I watch the solar orb rise into the sky. More often than not staring at it long enough to make my eyes burn before I’m finally forced to turn away.

“Hey sun girl.”

I let out a soft eep and whip my head to the right. My neighbor’s come out onto his balcony wearing a half smile and carrying a seemingly ever present mug of coffee in one hand.

“Good morning coffee guy.”

I’m smiling now however. We’ve been neighbors for a little more than a year. Like me Jake’s an early riser. More often than not my silent companion to the sunrise. At first it felt like an intrusion of a deeply personal time to me, but as I got to know him I warmed to the company.

“Whaddya think? Gonna be a hot one?”

Another of my curious talents. I could always pretty accurately predict the day’s weather. “Nope! Beautiful spring day. Mid-seventies tops.”

He gives a quiet ‘mm’ in response and sips his coffee. I shift from foot to foot as I watch the sky. Really there were two reasons I was uncomfortable for the morning company. I was never exactly what you’d call ‘fashion conscious’. I’d always enjoy the sunrise in my pajamas, namely a pair of old too-large flannel pants and one of my numerous baggy t-shirts gifted to me by my uncle. The man had such a big heart but he could never get my sizes right.

The mix of wild bed head and admittedly slobby pj’s in the presence of a handsome man was enough to make any girl a little uncomfortable. And Jake most definitely fell into the handsome category. More than a little over six feet with the kind of chiseled jaw and broad shoulders just about any girl could go gaga over, he had the deepest brownest eyes I’d ever seen. It’d taken more than a little effort on his part to get me to feel comfortable around him.

Of course as we bumped into one another in the hall, on the stairs or in the elevator I realized he was a normal person just like anyone else. Even if he had gorgeous wavy brown hair and those incredibly soulful eyes. I blink out of my musing as I realize he’s staring at me. Even worse I’ve been staring at him! He wears a faint grin however and slowly sips from his mug.

About to try and salvage some dignity something catches my eye. Specifically the brightly colored cartoon pony emblazoned across his mug with “Wonderbolts” spelled out in large block letters behind her. “Oh my god! You’re a brony?!”

He does the most hilarious spit take I’ve ever seen in real life. In fact it was probably the first spit take I’d seen in real life. With a grimace he turns the mug around eyeing the picture across its porcelain surface as if IT were somehow to blame. “Shit. I usually keep this one put away; all the others were dirty y’know?”

My grin widens now as he’s the one on the defensive. “I didn’t know you were into that show! My roommate in college was NUTS for it. She’d have viewing parties every weekend. Don’t feel too embarrassed, there were tons of guys there.”

He rolls his eyes and goes back to nursing the coffee. “Yeah I’m a fan. It had that rare blend of great writing that could appeal to kids and adults y’know? It wasn’t one of those brainless cartoons that just had cartoon animals beating each other over the head with a bat or something.”

I laugh gently and wave my hand. “Really you don’t have to explain it to me. I didn’t watch it religiously but what I caught seemed good. And man did it have catchy songs.”

He’s smiling back now. “That’s an understatement. I still have a bunch of them on my iPod.” He rubs the back of his neck. “I suppose this ruins my awesome manly image huh?”

Even being a fan of a cartoon filled with colorful singing ponies would be hard to ruin HIS manly image. Jake went into the air force right out of high school. After serving for six years he entered the police academy pretty quick after leaving the service. “Not to me. You’re still the second manliest man I’ve ever met.”

“Oh yeah? Only second?”

I shrug. “Hard to beat my uncle. He was the rugged out doorsy type. Caught all his own food and the like.”

Jake simply nods at that setting his empty mug down. “The one who raised you right?”

“That’s him. Only family I have so far as I know. He didn’t like to talk about my parents.” Which was the only source of friction between the two of us. I thought the world of the man but his refusal to divulge any information about my family really rankled me.

I note with some interest Jake seems to be looking a bit nervous suddenly. “So Erin… I don’t suppose you have plans tonight? I was thinking you might wanna come by. We could even watch some Pony if you felt up to it. Maybe watch some of the best ones, see which you have and haven’t seen.”

This was a bit of a surprise. He hadn’t invited me over the entire year we’ve been speaking. Of course we our respective homes only had a single wall separating them so it wasn’t like it was any huge distance. “Mmm… I dunno I usually like to just veg out and decompress after work…”

Then he said the magic words. “I’ll have cake.”

“And I’ll see you tonight!”

He laughed and I couldn’t help but blush at my hasty response. Anyone who knew me for any length of time knew my greatest weakness was my sweet tooth. My kitchen was filled with more than a few boxes of various Hostess products. I clear my throat recovering quickly. “What’s the occasion for the cake?”

“It’s my birthday tonight. Didn’t you know?”

Again I can only blink in surprise. “What? It is? It’s my birthday tonight!”

“No way.”

“It is! I’m twenty five today!”

“That is freaky. I’m twenty five today.”

We stare at one another for a few moments trying to tell if one or the other is lying. Almost simultaneously we decide that’d be a pretty stupid thing to lie about and start laughing. “Wow that is a crazy coincidence! Well now I have to come over tonight. And get you a present.”

He hastily raises his hands. “What? No, no! I didn’t mention it to get a gift out of you. Don’t buy me anything, seriously.”

Hands on my hips now I cock my head. “You’re not going to get me anything?”

Instantly his expression gives it away. “W-well…”

“Uh huh.” I glance at the clock on the wall inside. “I need to hop in the shower. I’ll swing by around… your shift ends at seven so I’ll come by eight?”

With a chuckle he nods. “Alright. I’ll see you at eight. Have a great day Princess.”

“You too Spitfire!” We both head back inside sliding our doors shut. It’s not until I’m halfway to the bathroom that the odd exchange comes back to me. “Princess? Spitfire?” Shaking my head I laugh a little. “Maybe I could stand to get a little more sleep.”

Showering is a pretty basic affair for me. Most women’s bathrooms are filled with all manner of beauty products, lotions, conditioner, all that kind of stuff. I inherited more than a solid work ethic from my dear uncle however. I’ve always thought the simplest approach to anything was the best approach, that included hair and skin care.

Still I was a substitute teacher, with hopes of getting a more permanent position. That meant I had to make a good impression on the principal and pretty much every other permanent employee in just about any school I manage to get work in for the day. With a grimace I sit on the edge of the tub shaving my legs for the first time in about a week. Typically I wear long pants or jeans whenever I can get away with it but I’m subbing in a private school today. That meant skirts, which meant people would be able to see my legs and wooly legs do not typically endear a woman to her superiors.

Stifling another sigh at the unfairness of gender stereotyping that even now reared its head I grumpily begin the arduous task of taming my hair. My peers very wrongly assume I take ridiculous care of my hair. The bottle of dollar store, jumbo sized strawberry scented shampoo on the edge of the tub would probably surprise them more than a little. Despite my lack of interest over my hair however, it always seemed thick, lustrous, and luxurious. I could throw it in a ponytail, braid, or just let it flow loose and I’d still turn heads and get numerous compliments about it.

Today I go with the third option. Normally I like to tie it back so it’s out of my way but appearance is everything at these stuffy private schools and while I don’t care about it, I know my hair is one of my best features and looks best unbound. Now free of the numerous kinks and snarls that plagued it before, my mane fell nearly to the small of my back. I think about getting it cut every week but my uncle used to call me his little Rapunzel… it was hard for me to throw away the warm feelings looking at it elicited.

Next come the cosmetics. Another chore I hate with a passion. I own exactly one tube of lipstick, a bottle of clear nail polish, and a very rarely used container of mascara. While a bit late for me to use the polish, the lipstick and mascara see some use this morning. Blinking my brown, (though not nearly as brown as Jakes) eyes at the mirror as I layer on the goop over my eye lashes I grunt in annoyance and head to my room.

My selection of upscale clothing is slim to say the least. I got my degree in secondary education… meaning I specialize in kindergarten to fifth grade. Which had the fortunate upside of letting me dress pretty casually. You didn’t have to impress six year olds. One of my nicer skirt and blouse combos found their way onto my body and grabbing my purse I was out the door and heading downstairs.

Jake’s already in the parking lot cutting a fine figure in his police uniform. He’s just a ‘beat cop’ as he calls it but I think that’s pretty great all the same. He spots me and waves smiling awkwardly. “Hey did you uh… did you call me Spitfire?”

My blush rears its head full force. “I think so! I don’t even know why I did that? What kind of name is Spitfire?”

“Well she’s the Captain of the Wonderbolts. And runs the academy. I figured you were poking fun at my mug. That’s who’s on it.”

“Oh. Yeah I… That must be it. I must’ve remembered her from one of the episodes I saw. That makes sense.” We both smile a bit awkwardly. “…did you call me Princess?”

He urks. No doubt he was hoping I’d missed his little slip as well. “Aha ha! Well y’know... It’s one of those nick names! Like uh, lady…” He trailed off lamely.

I just raised an eyebrow but found it hard to push him too much on the subject what with my own blunder so fresh in our minds. With a bit of a forced laugh I wave my hand dismissively. “It’s fine! Really it was just weird. I guess for both of us?”

He returns my laugh. “Yeah. So! Still on for tonight right?”

I nod firmly. “Still on for tonight. I’ll see you then Jake.”

His smile is wide but a bit nervous. “I’ll see you tonight Erin.”

I quicken my step toward the bus stop. Was he flirting? Is this thing tonight a date? God, when was the last time I was on a date? College I think. Craig… Something or other. It mostly consisted of me watching him and his friends playing Halo. Not my idea of an awesome night.

Resting my chin in my palm I consider tonight’s activities. Watching a bunch of episodes of a decades old cartoon show isn’t exactly my idea of a great time either. It was a cute show though from what I remember. And the company isn’t exactly bad either. Plus cake. Cake makes everything better.

As my bus arrives to take me downtown my thoughts turn toward cake. And all the myriad of wonderful flavors it comes in. Now I’m excited to see what he gets…

***

It takes more than a little effort on my part not to sprint from the building as soon as the school day is over. If there’s one thing worse than a snobby rich guy it’s his snobby rich kids. Good grief I think if their noses were stuck any further up in the air those kids would tip over onto their backs. How anyone can stand to be in the presence of people like that for more than a minute will forever be a mystery to me.

It’s three thirty now so that gives me plenty of time to find a present for Jake and get home. I don’t know as much as I’d like to about my friendly, handsome neighbor. Just that he was in the air force is a police officer, and a closet My Little Pony fan. Smiling slyly now I take to the city streets, silently cursing the fact that I hadn’t brought a pair of tennis shoes to change into after work. Heels and I don’t get along.

My destination was a neat little vintage toy store called Warp 9. While I was pretty sure the show was old enough to be considered vintage I figured it’d be the best place to find something pony related for a gift. It was right where I remembered it being. It’d been sometime since I visited last but it hadn’t changed much save new merchandise on the shelves. It was a sizeable store; fortunately I had little to do that afternoon.

Nodding politely to the woman behind the counter I casually strolled down the aisles. They certainly had an impressive collection to choose from. Old comic books, cartoon shows, and popular movies were represented. I recognized more than a few from my own childhood. Was that stuff old enough to be vintage? Twenty five hadn’t seemed all that old to me but all of a sudden I felt over a thousand. Huffing a bit at the toys as if they were there specifically to mock me I moved on with a quicker pace.

That’s when I saw the unmistakable rainbow hued mane of one of the main characters. Hurrying to the section I knew my quest had ended. There was an entire aisle dedicated to My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. And they had toys, clothes, mugs, lunchboxes… pretty much anything that could have the image of one of the characters they had for sale.

Now came the hard part. What to get for him? We didn’t talk about the show much but he had a mug with that Wonderbolt, Spitfire was her name. Maybe she was his favorite? My roommate said it wasn’t unusual for a fan of the show to have one pony be their favorite character and they were a side or background character just as often as a main one.

Pushing through the rack of t-shirts I started hunting for something with Spitfire on it. I couldn’t hide a smile as I looked at shirt after shirt with the adorable stars of the show, often with cute phrases to accompany them. I almost bought one with Fluttershy’s face all scrunched up and a tiny little ‘yay’ escaping her mouth for myself. I froze at the next one though. An uncomfortable tightness formed in my chest as I stare at the t-shirt.

It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary when I looked closer. It was just a simple black, baby doll tee. A midnight blue mare with an equally dark blue, star studded mane gazed back at me with teal eyes and a look of superiority on her face. The words beneath her read ‘Luna is best Princess’. Carefully I lift the shirt from the rack and hold it up transfixed by the image on it.

“Pony fan huh?”

I nearly jump out of my skin as the clerk pipes up at my side. I hadn’t heard her coming and whip around looking more than a little put out. She hastily backs up a step looking apologetic. “Sorry! Didn’t mean to scare you!”

I calm quickly enough and force a faint smile. “It’s alright. I was just…” I shrug at a loss. “I don’t know. Zoning out I guess.” Hastily I stuff the shirt back on the rack.

“Mmm. Looking for anything in particular?”

“I am! Spitfire. Do you have anything with her? Or I guess Wonderbolts stuff? I’m looking for a birthday present for a… friend.”

She hms softly and walks passed me. “As a matter of fact we do have one thing. Picked a few of them up at a Comicon when the show was still big.” She motions me over to a glass display case. Inside are what I suspect to be more expensive pieces of pony paraphernalia. The one that draws me eye however is a large pair of goggles wrapped in a colorful package that bears Spitfire’s image. ‘Fly with the Wonderbolts with the official Wonderbolt goggles! Approved by Captain Spitfire!’

My eyes go wide at the sight. “Oh that’s perfect! No way does he have a pair of these! How much?”

She laughs a little at my enthusiasm. “Well back in the day they’d go for a couple hundred dollars. But I’ve had these for years without much interest. Forty sound fair?”

I nod. “More than! Thank you so much. He’s going to flip I just know it.”

Smiling she takes them up to the counter ringing me up. I happily hand over a pair of twenties taking the bag. “I don’t suppose you have wrapping paper?”

“Matter of fact we do. Always have a bunch left over from Christmas time. Folk like to have things gift wrapped in the store y’know?” She pauses for a moment then smiles. “In faaaaact…” She disappears into the back room. She’s gone for several minutes before she emerges with a slightly bent, dust covered roll of wrapping paper. But when she unrolls it I know it’s just what I need.

***

A bit too gleefully I kick my heels off back home not caring where they land on the floor so long as it’s far from me. Sighing in relief I drop Jake’s gift off on the table before padding to my room and stripping out of the confining work clothes. A white t-shirt depicting a mountainous landscape with a rising sun takes the place of my blouse as I toss the skirt to the side I pull on my favorite, well-worn jeans.

Feeling very much like myself again I clean off most of the make up and throw my hair in a ponytail. It’s almost six which gives me a couple hours to kill before I head next door. Dinner is starting to sound good so I’m off to the kitchen. Gourmet chef that I am my cupboards not full of bad-for-me junk food are mostly filled with spaghettio’s. Chef Boyardee ravioli, and Kraft mac and cheese. Opting for the ravioli I pop the bowl in the microwave and lean against the counter to wait.

My eyes drift toward the pill bottle beside the wall phone. I chew my lower lip as I consider my options. It’s been months since I’ve had any problems and taking my meds always puts me in a pretty depressing state. It’s why I always take them at night when I’m alone. It’s been quite a long time since I had evening plans. I don’t want to go over to Jake’s and just mope around all night. One evening isn’t going to kill me.

The microwave dings and I sit to eat my (by my standards) delicious meal. Clean-up is just as quick and for a minute I ponder making a cup of tea. Usually an evening ritual of mine. Tea, book, bed. Though the tea tends to mellow me just as much as my medication so I settle for just the book. I made it a few chapters into the latest Forgotten Realms novel before I hear Jake’s door close. Checking the clock it’s seven thirty. I figure he’ll probly grab a shower and want to change before I drop by.

Sure enough I can hear the water running in his apartment within a few minutes. I sit up and start drumming my fingers on the cover of the book in my lap. Am I nervous? I am! I’m nervous. Oh god this is a date! It’s at the very least date-like. That’s more dateish than I’ve been in years. Feeling panicky I consider reapplying the make-up, maybe throwing my nice clothes back on. I stop myself though. Taking a deep breath in and out I force myself to calm down. He sees me almost every morning with my bed head and pajamas. I think the ponytail and day-to-day clothes will do fine.

The water stops and I stare holes in my clock. Five minutes pass and it’s five to eight. Unable to wait any longer I grab his gift and head out, locking the door behind me. He answers his door before I manage to get through the second knock.

“Hey! Uh…” He smooth’s back his hair. “Hey. C’mon in.”

I step inside taking a quick look around as I do. For a single guy living on his own his apartment is surprisingly tidy. With a twinge of embarrassment I realize a good deal cleaner than my own. Vacuuming is a monthly affair at best and my laundry winds up strewn about the couch or floor more than in the hamper. He has a few pictures on the wall. Family I’d guess judging by the closeness. One depicts him in his uniform with a group of other air force soldiers.

He sees me looking and grins. “My unit. Back when I was in the force.”

I nod, not needing to feign my interest. Thinking about it I realize I’d wanted to get to know Jake better for a while now. “Do you keep in touch?”

“Oh yeah. That kinda bond isn’t easy to break y’know? We get together when we can. Most of them are still active.”

“Mmm. Why’d you leave?”

He frowns now heading toward the living room. I fall into step with him. “I got shot down. Banged my head in the crash and it messed up my eye sight a bit. You can’t fly without twenty-twenty. I could’ve taken a desk or maintenance job but… That’d be hard. Seeing them in the air but unable to join them.”

His frown only deepens as we sit. He on one end of the large leather sofa, me on the other. Knowing I’m the cause for his sudden shift in mood I decide it’s my job to bring him back around. Without further delay I thrust his present into his lap.

He blinks down at it, a small smile spreading. “Where did you find this paper?”

The paper in question is bright pink. Cartwheeling across it in various poses is of course Pinkie Pie, wearing her biggest smile. “The old toy store I got your present in.”

“Ha! Oh man now I’m scared to open it.” He sets it on the coffee table heading down the hall. I crane my neck to follow his progress watching him disappear into what I assume is his bedroom. He returns soon enough with a small box that’s clearly from a jewelry store.

I feel a frown spreading on my face. “Jake! How much did you spend?!”

“Not much! Honest. I know the guy who runs the little place downtown. He’s on my beat y’know? He was in the air force back in the day too so I like to stop in and we shoot the breeze when he isn’t busy. Gave me a great deal.”

My frown eases as I accept the box. “Well alright. Should we open them now or after the cake?” I’m grinning as I finish.

With a laugh he shakes his head, heading into the kitchen. “I can take a hint! I know the real reason you’re here.”

“Hope it’s a good one. I’m a very discerning cake eater and a girl has to have standards. She can’t be seen in public with a man who doesn’t know a good piece of cake.”

“Oh? D’you plan to be seen in public with me a lot all of a sudden?”

I let out a little strangled urk at that. “Did I say that?! Ehe he… I just meant… You know…”

He brings a white box tied with an equally white string to the coffee table in the living room. That meant it was from a bakery. Already a good sign. Setting the plates, forks, and a knife down he gave me a warm smile. “I know what you meant. I hope it’s up to your standards then. I think it’d be nice to be seen with you in public. Maybe a restaurant or a movie theatre.”

It takes all of my effort to resist giving a little ‘squee’ of delight. This is a date! And it’s going well! Ugh I better not screw this up. “Well! Let’s see what you have for me.”

Without further ado he smoothly cuts the string and slides the lid open. Instantly the intoxicating aroma of chocolate reaches my nose and my mouth drops open the tiniest bit. Within the box sits the thickest, richest looking chocolate covered cake I have ever seen in my life. My poker face is not very well developed judging by the very amused grin on my companions face.

“Oh but wait, there’s more.” Slowly… Dare I say sensually he cuts into the confection. The knife sliding smoothly and keeping me transfixed all the while. I can tell by the way the cake indents as he presses that it’s delectably moist. As he reveals the rich vanilla cream contained at the center of the cake I don’t bother to hide my ‘squee’ this time, drawing a loud laugh from the cutter.

Wide eyed I sit with anticipation as he slides the slice onto a plate and presents it to me. My hand trembles only slightly as I lift the fork and take my first bite. The flavor explodes in my mouth and my eyes roll back as I let it just melt on my tongue. It’s nearly a full minute before I open my eyes… Only to find Jake regarding me with an expression that’s a mix of confusion and amusement.

“I… I really like cake…”

He laughs again as he cuts his own slice. “I would never have guessed. You want something to drink? I have a few beers in the fridge. Could whip us up some margaritas or something. It is our birthday.”

“Oh um, milk?”

“Milk.”

I nod. “If you have it.”

“Oh I have it.” Again he heads to the kitchen leaving me to take another savory bite in peace. “So is it a cake thing or do you just not drink?”

“I drink all the time. Just not alcohol. It uh…“ I frown. Is this the sort of thing that would ruin a date? He’s known me a long time and it never came up before. Still better to start a relationship off being honest rather than lying. “It interferes with my medication.”

“Oh.” He comes back with a glass of milk for me, a beer for himself. “What do you take meds for? If it’s not too personal.”

I frown now. Not even the mind blowing cake can make this topic comfortable. “Well. When I was little I might have, sorta, kinda had a very… Very mild case of erm… schizophrenia.”

His eyebrows shoot up; likely they’d have kept going off his head if it were possible. “What? Really?”

Heaving a sigh I nod. “Yeah. I had this other personality I guess you’d call it. She’d come out from time to time.”

Jake looks slightly uncomfortable, but always a little intrigued. “Was she uh, crazy or something?”

“No. No I don’t think so. I mean my Uncle never acted like she was. She was just different. Not me you know? Mostly he said she acted confused, scared. The first time it happened I guess I… Or she really, screamed for like ten minutes.”

“Why?”

I shake my head. “I don’t know. My Uncle never asked her. He said she sounded like she was in pain though. After she got over the screaming apparently she was very nice. Polite. If a little nuts. Talking about other worlds and stuff. He took me to see a Doctor, he got me on my meds and that was that. If I’d go a few days without taking them I could relapse but that hasn’t happened since high school.”

He’s staring at me silently now. “Wow.”

I sigh. “Sorry. I uh… You want me to go right?”

“What? No! No, no. Sorry I… It’s just a little surprising. You seem so normal y’know? Well mostly normal.” He tilts his head. “Actually you’re a pretty weird chick now that I think about it. I guess finding out you’re literally nuts isn’t too big a surprise.”

I feel anger welling in my chest, but see that he’s grinning. “Very funny. Here I am opening up and you’re making fun of my very serious medical condition.”

His eyes widen. “Wh-what? No I… Oh jeez I guess I was? I’m so sorry. That was… That was really stupid of me and…”

I cut him off with a smile of my own. “Gotcha.” I take another bite of cake savoring it for a long moment while he recovers. “So did I totally kill the evening?”

“What? No! Not at all. It’s kinda nice you’re talking to me about something so, y’know… Personal. I appreciate your honesty.”

“It IS the best policy they say.”

“So are you going to need your pills forever?”

I nod. “Yeah pretty much. I mean it’s not exactly a huge inconvenience to take a little pill in the evenings before bed. I can’t drink or smoke anything, not that I’d want to. I get by on juice and milk just fine.”

“No soda?”

I shrug. “Not really. I have enough trouble keeping my teeth in pristine condition without guzzling sugar water on top of all the cake and candy I eat.”

He laughs, and I do the same. The uncomfortable moment behind us we begin to relax again. Enjoying the cake he bought, I more than he likely but he still seems to like it. “Alright! I’m full of cake and ready for my present.”

With a grin he hands the box over. I open it carefully smiling as I see what rests within. It’s a simple silver necklace with a topaz cut to look like a stylized sun hanging from it. “Jake this is beautiful.”

“To be honest I’ve had my eye on it for you for a while. What with your sunrise obsession I thought you’d like it.”

“I love it! Help me put it on?”

His smile matches my own as he stands and moves behind me. I flip my ponytail over my shoulder so he can fasten it around my neck. My cheeks begin to burn as his fingers only slightly brush against my skin. The contact ends a bit too soon in my opinion but I smile down at the necklace hanging from my neck now. “Jake it’s fantastic, thank you so much. My present feels stupid now.”

He huffs. “Nonsense. It’s the thought that counts right?” Retaking his seat he picks up his own box. “Gotta admit I’ve been crazy curious since I saw it.” He carefully undoes the tape and removes the paper. I grin at the care he’s taking, no doubt to save the paper for later. I’d hoped he would like it but I wasn’t prepared for his eyes to go as wide as dinner plates.

“Where did you get this?!”

I blink a bit taken aback. “The uh… The old vintage toy store downtown? Warp 9?”

His breathing has picked up pace as he holds the box in his hands. “I can’t believe this! These things go for like a thousand bucks on eBay! How much did you pay for them?!”

“Uh forty? The lady said she’d had them for years and I was the first person to show any interest in a really long time.”

Jake looks like a kid on Christmas as he almost reverently opens the package and slides the goggles out. Resting them in his hands and just smiling down at them for a few moments. Grin never faltering he slides them over his head and settles them around his eyes. “How do I look?”

I can’t help but laugh at his antics. “Ridiculous! They’re huge!”

“Well ponies do have those big huge eyes.” He slides them up resting them on his forehead. “Erin this is amazing. This is literally the coolest present anyone has ever given me in my entire life. I’ve wanted a pair of these stupid goggles ever since I knew they made them. Thank you so much.”

“Well I’m very glad you like them Jake.” This evening is definitely looking up.

“Well! Now we HAVE to watch the show. You have me in a pony mood.”

I laugh again and shrug helplessly. “Why not? In fact let’s start at the beginning. I’ve never seen the first episode.”

“Ooo. It’s a two parter. Some people say it’s only so-so but I always loved it.” He reaches behind a collection of old Blu-ray discs digging out a surprisingly pristine looking Season 1 set.

“Holy cow that thing is what? More than twenty years old by now isn’t it?”

He grins. “More like thirty. These aren’t very easy to track down but I have all seven seasons.” He slides in the first disc and drops back into his seat. I’m only vaguely interested in the show. I remember it being cute and it even made me laugh a couple times but I’ve never been a big TV watcher.

As the intro cues up and the narrator begins her story of the two royal sisters however, I find my attention oddly riveted. The story of the younger sister falling to darkness and the elder having to send her away sends pangs of pain rippling through my chest. I feel my eyes beginning to burn.

Jake looks over in concern. “Erin? Are you… You’re crying?”

I blink. “What?” I lift a hand to my eyes and sure enough I feel the tears there about to run over onto my cheeks. “Oh jeez I am! I’m so lame.”

He shakes his head. “Nah, it’s cute. I mean I guess it is a little sad. Wait til you see how the second episode ends.”

Nodding I settle back, now feeling a little more invested. Watching the main character, Twilight Sparkle is her name… I knew it was something like that… Arrive in Ponyville for the first time and start running into her friends I can’t help but smile. To my further embarrassment I find myself audibly gasping when Nightmare Moon makes her appearance. An irrational anger is welling up inside me at the sight of the silly cartoon villain.

Jake wastes no time starting the second episode. Watching Twilight and the others overcome their various trials in the Everfree forest starts to fill me with the most bizarre sense of pride. This stupid show has my emotions flailing all over the place. Jake was definitely right about the end. As Luna and Celestia reunite for the first time in a thousand years the waterworks are really flowing.

Wordlessly he fetches me some tissues. “Wow you get really into your TV.”

I laugh blowing my nose less than gracefully and throwing the tissues away. “I usually don’t! It’s so weird. I’m more of a reader than a watcher.”

“Huh. Well it is a great show. Except the finale. Man did they drop the ball there.”

“Oh! I’ve seen that one. When Discord uh… Goes nuts and starts disintegrating them all? That was shockingly violent. I remember crying at the last scene where Princess Celestia tries to protect Princess Luna.”

Jake raises a brow at that. “That’s not how it ended. The last scene was the Wonderbolts trying to fend him off and going down in flames.”

“I might not be a big pony expert but that was one of the few episodes I saw. I think I’d remember the end. It was really powerful.”

“Alright. Well I know the easy way to settle THIS argument.” He digs out the final season and slides in the last disc. Our smug grins match one another perfectly as the episode begins. He skips ahead to the final scene and we both lean forward expectantly. Then… The disc freezes.

“…what happened?”

He shakes his head. “I dunno.” With a frown he removes the disc inspecting it critically. “No scratches. Maybe it’s the player. The thing is pretty old.” He retrieves a laptop computer from his room setting it up on the table. Again he skips to the end… And again the disc freezes up. “Oh what the heck?!”

He’s starting to lose his temper. “Now that I think about it you’re right! I must have been remembering a fan episode or something. Let’s not worry about it, that episode’s depressing anyway.”

He frowns at the disc but nods. “Yeah. Yeah let’s watch one of the funny ones huh?”

I nod in agreement, and soon the sounds of cheerful ponies have filled the apartment once more.

***

“Jeez it’s already one a.m. Good thing it’s Friday huh?”

I laugh. “Well I kind of get to make my own schedule since I’m just a sub. Hoping to get a full time gig soon though.”

He walks me to the door. “I had a lot of fun tonight Erin.”

We’re both smiling with a hint of shyness. “Me too. We should do it again soon. Maybe in a restaurant setting. Free of cartoons.”

“As long as they serve cake?”

I laugh and slap him on the arm lightly. “Very funny.”

We stand in the doorway of his apartment. Close enough I can smell his aftershave. It’s a nice smell. I look up at him and he looks down at me. My lips pucker just a little almost on their own as I lean upwards. My heart is hammering in my chest as his own lips move toward mine. Our first kiss is brief but pleasant. I feel a little fuzzy headed as I realize with a start I’m back in my own apartment.

“Jeez I totally zoned out. What a doof.” Still I’m smiling giddily as I change for bed and drop down into my well-worn covers. Tonight… Was a good night.

***

Screaming coming from every direction. Screaming and fire. I hear them crying to me, calling my name. They need me! They always need me and I’m always there to protect them. Sinister laughter rises above the din of pained and panicked screams as I whirl toward my foe. My oldest friend… My oldest enemy.

“Why the long face Princess?” Discord grins widely as he stretches his own face to ridiculous proportions.

“Stop this now Discord! Before you go too far! It’s not too late to make things right again!”

His smile vanishes in the blink of an eye. “Who says things are wrong? I’m the spirit of CHAOS Princess. I’m chaotic… It’s kind of my thing. I played nice for a time. Now I’m being bad again. Maybe in a couple decades I’ll get a puppy farm or something?”

A new voice speaks from my side. “Sister you cannot reason with him. We must try to bind him without the elements.”

I look to my younger sister with a gentle frown. I know she’s right but without the elements of harmony Discord is more than a match for the both of us. Even if Cadence were here I doubt the three of us could overpower him. He’d planned for this moment well, separating Twilight and her friends before striking. Now it was too late. I was blinded by a friendship long ago ended and now my subjects suffer for my oversight.

Still I cannot simply give up. “You’re right. We have to try.”

“Together then!” Luna stands confidently at my side. Her time away has likely softened the memory of our last attempt to defeat the draconequus without the elements. Not so my own memory however.

Our magical aura’s blend together. Yellow and blue as we focus on the spell as one then release a powerful blast with the hopes of once more turning the Lord of Chaos to inert stone. He watches it come with an irksome smirk on his face, lazily swatting it aside with his leonine paw before it strike home.

“I thought about sparing you the fate of your precious elements of harmony, for old time’s sake you know? But I think you two might be just a bit too dangerous to ignore. Who knows what tricks you two might come up with. “Of course! If it was good enough for the vaunted elements of harmony, why not you two as well? In fact… Why not all of Equestria! You ponies have gotten a bit stale. Maybe I’ll play with the griffons or the zebra!”

For Five Score! Divided by Four!

Your memories removed, your body confused!

For your insolence you must pay,

Cast off to a land far far away!

To scatter the six, just the start of my tricks!

Your mind shall be weak, your outlooks bleak!

Forgetting everything and living like a fool,

You have all lost, now no one can stop my rule!

His power dwarfs my own considerable magical might by an alarming degree. The blast tearing apart the ground that rushes at me and my sister is more than enough to destroy us completely. I have no idea what Discord's spell is instended to do but I'm sure it's not pleasant. With no thought to my own safety I futilely leap in front of Luna summoning my last reserves of strength to at least attempt to shield her.

Then I hear screaming. High, shrill, pained screaming. A primal death wail that could only be drawn from an individual perishing in the most horrible pain imaginable.

I am the one screaming.

***

Over my own shrieks I hear heavy hammering coming from my door. I react little as it splinters inward and heavy footsteps thunder toward my room. Jake bursts into my bed room shirtless and wearing a pair of flannel pants that are nearly identical to my own. If I wasn’t curled into a fetal position clutching my knees as tightly to my chest as possible, wailing my lungs out I might have found it funny.

Helplessly he stares at me, looking into my own wide and unseeing eyes. Not knowing what else to do he slips into the bed behind me and gathers me into his lap, holding me close to his chest and stroking my hair. Rocking me back and forth murmuring soft soothing words into my ear.

It feels like I’m burning up. Like some horrible fire is burning in my stomach and eating my out from the inside. It’s a pain I haven’t felt in many, many years. And through the haze there’s one lucid thought pushing its way to the surface.

I should have taken my pills.

Author's Note:

So yeah. Been kinda having a block with my other stuff and I've had this idea rolling around for a while. Here it is! Still a little unused to the first person perspective but I kinda like writing in it.