• 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 2: The Doctor Is In

Chapter 2: The Doctor Is In

Deep breaths. In and out. I’m sitting up in my bed, chin resting against my knees as I tune out the rest of the world and focus on my breathing like I was taught. Jake’s in the living room talking to the police officers who were called in response to the screaming and door being broken down. One of the neighbors must have called the cops.

With a grunt I let my head fall back against the headboard with a ‘thunk’. Of course someone called the police, I was screaming like a banshee and a burly man broke in my front door. A gentle knock on my door draws my attention and I lift my gaze. Jake’s standing in the doorway smiling awkwardly.

“So uh… Talked to the guys. Explained what happened to them. Everything’s fine on that end.” He rubs the back of his neck. “Sorry I kicked in your front door.”

I chuckle weakly. My throat is raw and voice hoarse. “It’s alright.”

“Also sorry it took me so long to think of grabbing your meds. I was kinda freaking out.”

My smile is faint and I shrug. “S’fine. You got them and I took them right?” The medication is really powerful stuff. A couple minutes after he got them for me I was already mellowing. Honestly I hate those pills with a passion. I always feel like my mind’s trapped in a thick haze after taking them. It’s why I wait until I’m going to sleep before taking the pills.

He takes a deep breath sitting on the edge of my bed. He looks nervous and awkward. I probably would too if I wasn’t riding the high the medication brought. “So. You’re kinda a slob huh?”

I snort a little burst of laughter. “I am. God this is like the most embarrassing night of my life.”

“Hey don’t feel like that. We all have y’know… Problems. Some bigger than others I guess. I have nightmares too. It’s not all fun and games in the military you know?”

“Really? Stripes makes it look like a blast.”

He nods appraisingly. “Stripes. You’re into classical comedies huh?”

Vaguely I wave my hand, head lolling to the side with the motion. “If it makes me laugh I like it.”

He regards me quietly. The sadness in his eyes makes me feel even more self-conscious suddenly. “Are you alright? I mean really alright?”

With a soft sigh I nod. “Yeah. I mean I will be. Sore throat and stuff but you know how it is with these psychotic episodes.”

He shakes his head laughing softly. “Well you’re cracking jokes so you must be kind of ok. Why don’t I sleep on your couch tonight? What with your missing front door and all.”

Frowning I shake my head. “No, no, no. It’s fine. You don’t gotta do that. M’fine.” My eyelids are starting to feel heavy. “S’fine…”

***

Time to wake up. You’re late.

Wakefulness comes much slower today than normal for me. With a start I realize I’ve missed the sunrise for the first time in years. Frowning I run a hand through my hair and swing my legs over the bed grimacing at the throbbing ache in my throat. Last night comes rushing back to me and I groan flopping back in bed.

“Tell him I’m crazy than show him I’m crazy. This is clearly the secret to getting a man.”

That’s when I smell something. Food? Ugh did I leave something sitting out in the kitchen last night? Grunting softly I heave myself to my feet and plod out to the kitchen to deal with whatever horrific mess awaits me. Instead of half-eaten leftovers I find Jake. Wearing a shirt at least, barefoot and cooking eggs in my kitchen.

“Good… Morning?”

“Morning!” He smiles at me over his shoulder. “I gotta say this is like the saddest kitchen I’ve ever seen. It looks like a mix between what a five year old would pick out at the grocery store and a guy… A GUY mind you, living in a college dorm.”

I’m too confused by his being here to respond to his insults. “Not to worry though. I, being an actual adult, brought some food over from my kitchen. Thought you might like something for breakfast that wasn’t sugar covered marshmallow cereal.”

With a grumpy hmph I plop into a chair at my table. “I like sugary marshmallow cereal.”

“Oh I can tell. Also I gotta ask. How are you not like a five hundred pound behemoth? Eating the way you do and I know you don’t go to the gym or work out or anything.”

“What makes you so sure?”

“Well besides the fact that I’m pretty sure I slept on ninety percent of your wardrobe and not a single thing could be sort of misconstrued as work-out clothing, you usually come right home from work and spend the rest of the night in your apartment.”

I glare a little as he sets a glass of orange juice in front of me. “Have you been spying on me Officer Matsen?”

“Of course not. I just notice things. It’s what makes me a good cop remember?”

I’m about to give him another dissatisfied grunt before he sets a plate of eggs, bacon, and toast in front of me. My ill will toward him dissipates instantly. “Pancakes next time.” I can’t let him off too easily.

Laughing and shaking his head he sits across from me. “You sound pretty sure there’s gonna be a next time.”

Crunching on the bacon I fix him with a quiet stare. “You saw me at my very worst last night. And here you are cooking me breakfast the next morning.” I drop my eyes to my plate and sip the juice. “Or is this just like… A police thing?”

“No Erin, it’s not a police thing. You’re smart, funny, beautiful, and didn’t make fun of a grown man for liking My Little Pony. If that’s not a perfect woman I don’t know what is. We all have our little quirks and problems. Really I feel like I should apologize. Last night was kind of my fault.”

“What? How so?”

“You skipped your meds to hang out with me right?”

“Hm. I did. You’re right I guess it IS all your fault. You’re going to have to make it up to me somehow.”

“Breakfast isn’t enough?”

Shaking my head I pop the last bite of egg in my mouth. “Nope. I think it’s gonna take dinner.”

He frowns as he works on his own breakfast. “Better go all in and do a movie too.”

I nod in mock seriousness. “I think that’s a good start. Might have to take two or three nights out though before I forgive you.”

“Well I’m willing to put in the effort if that’s what it takes.”

A companionable silence descends on the kitchen as we eat and enjoy one another’s company. We take care of the dishes together. It’s not until the last one is put up before he speaks again. “Are you really alright?”

I sigh softly. “Yeah. I’ll have to go see my doctor. He asked me to call anytime I had an episode. It’s not a big deal though. I mostly just go in and talk about what I’ve been up to. See if anything new is stressing me out. Which it isn’t so it should be a quick visit. In fact his office is open now. I might as well call him sooner rather than later.”

“Alright. I’ll head home and get changed. I called the Super and told him what was up with your door. Said he’d have a replacement this afternoon.”

“Thank you Jake. Really. For everything. You’ve been shockingly great about all this.”

He shrugs with an easy smile. “I meant when I said before that I think you’re worth the effort Erin. Call your shrink, lemme know how it goes. I’ll babysit the apartment for you til your new door comes if you want.”

“You’ve done more than enough! I’ll just see if I can get an evening appointment. I can’t ask you to do more for me.”

Jake shrugs as he heads toward the doorway. “It’s sit in my apartment and watch TV all day or sit in yours and watch TV all day. I think my plans won’t be toodisrupted.”

Sighing I laugh a little and shake my head. “Alright, alright. Thank you Jake. Again. I’ll have to find some way to make this up to you.”

He pauses before stepping out. “Normally you’d offer to cook me dinner or clean my apartment or something but…” He looks around my less than tidy living place and severely under stocked kitchen.

I laugh aloud now. “How about dinner on me tomorrow.”

“Deal. I’ll be back.”

He ducks around the corner back to his own apartment. Despite last night’s little hiccup I’m feeling bizarrely cheerful. A bit of rummaging through my purse and I dig out my cell phone, calling up my doctor. It rings a few times before I hear him answer.

“Erin Rockwell! My favorite patient. How are you dear? Happy birthday by the way!”

“Thank you! I’m ah… Well I’m calling because I had an episode.”

I can hear the concern in his voice. “Oh dear. Serious?”

“I’m afraid so. I know you told me to call anytime I have one big or small so…”

“Mmm. Well I have a light schedule today. Can you come in around one?”

“Absolutely sir. Thank you.”

“We’ll see about upping the dosage on your medication. With any luck we can get you down to taking once every couple of days instead of every day.”

“Oh that would be fantastic! I’ll see you this afternoon!”

“See you this afternoon dear.” I’m feeling better than ever as he hangs up. Head high I practically skip into the bathroom for a shower. Humming cheerfully I strip down and hop in the shower, sighing softly as the water hits my body. I tilt my head up toward the shower head letting the water run over my face and down my shoulders.

If I hadn’t been planning on entertaining a guest this morning I’d probly opt for a bath. Nothing beats a nice hot bath after a night of screaming yourself hoarse. Screaming yourself hoarse in the muscular arms of the handsome neighbor you just started dating. Not really sure how to feel about that to be honest. I’m in a good mood so I’ll opt to look at it in a positive light.

My good cheer vanishes in an instant as something catches my eye when I bend over to grab my shampoo. “No. No, no. Not now. You’re not real. You’re not there.”

It’s not the first time I’ve seen it. I scrunch my eyes shut tightly and count backwards from ten. Slowly I peek at my hip. It’s still there. I check the other one. There too. “It’s just in my head. It’s just a hallucination.”

Emblazoned proudly on either hip is a golden sun tattoo. Looking for all the world as if they’ve been there all the time. I used to see them when I was little, before I started getting my medication. They’d show up after particularly bad episodes or when I’d skip my pills.

I close my eyes again taking a deep breath. Flexing my hands open and closed, again I count back from ten. And again when I look they’re still there. “It’s fine! It’s fine. I’m seeing him this afternoon. I’ll go into the office. Get my medication adjusted and they’ll be gone.”

Nodding resolutely I shampoo my hair and make a token effort at focusing on my body wash but my eyes are constantly drawn to the suns emblazoned on my hips. Blowing out a heavy breath of air I turn off the water and hastily towel off. Marching to my room with quick steps I wring my hair out as best I can before throwing on the nearest shirt and pair of pants I can get my hands on.

Swift strides take me to the kitchen where I grab my purse and step over the wooden splinters that were my front door. I nearly smack into Jake as he steps out of his own apartment. “Jake! I’m leaving! Seeing my doctor now! Thanks-for-watching-my-apartment-I’ll-see-you-later-bye!”

If I weren’t in such a rush I may have noticed he seemed more than a little disturbed by something himself. Instead I brushed passed him not bothering with the elevator and taking the stairs two at a time. It was only ten a.m. but I couldn’t wait. I could practically feel those little sun tattoos burning through my jeans.

The bus ride into the city seems to take hours. My leg has been bouncing nonstop and I can’t quit drumming my fingers on my knees. I nearly bowl over the people in front of me when we reach my stop. Bursting from the bus I start running. Not jogging but actually sprinting down the sidewalk toward my psychiatrist’s office. It’s like a shining beacon in the deepest darkness imaginable as his office comes into view.

A relieved smile finds my face as I dash up the stairs and push through the door. The receptionist jumps behind the desk, and the only other occupant of the waiting room just stares at me. Quick steps bring me to her desk. “H-hello. I need to see Dr. Corddis.”

I’m a frequently visiting patient and the receptionist, Elizabeth knows me by name. She frowns taking in my disheveled appearance and wild hair. “Erin your appointment isn’t until one…”

“I know!” I wince at the volume of my voice. Taking a deep breath I force myself to calm down. “Sorry. I know it’s just… It’s really, really important I see him.”

“Have a seat. There’s only one ahead of you. If our eleven o’clock doesn’t show the spot’s yours.”

Not the answer I wanted but it’s better than nothing. “Thanks. Thank you.” I give her a wavering smile and take a seat in the room. My knee is bouncing again and I can’t quit fidgeting with my fingers.

“Now you look like you belong here.”

I start at the voice and look across the room to the patient ahead of me. It’s a man. A young man, maybe my age. He’s very pale, almost unnaturally so. His close cropped black hair is wild and a bit messy looking like he just woke up and wandered out the door without showering. One ear has multiple piercings running along it while the other is bare. A faded black Metallica t-shirt with more than a few holes in it hangs from his somewhat broad shoulders. He’s definitely not as big as Jake but he’s definitely in good shape. A leather studded wristband is around one wrist while his nails are painted black. Faded jeans give way to thick, heavy looking leather boots.

He returns my scrutiny with cool blue eyes. I bristle a little when his comment comes back to mind. “What? What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means you look nuts.”

I open my mouth to give an angry retort, and then stop. Looking down at my rumpled clothes and feeling at my wild hair I laugh suddenly. “Oh god, I do don’t I?”

He smirks as he nods. “You do. But that’s cool. The world would be boring without a few nuts like us right?”

Laughing softly I lean back in the chair letting out a heavy breath. “I guess that’s true! Crazy people do make the world a more interesting place.” There’s something about this guy. I dunno what it is but I feel… Almost instantly comfortable around him. “I’m Erin.”

“Marcus. So what’s wrong with you?”

I blink at the bluntness. “I’ll tell if you tell.”

He shrugs indifferently. “I’m a schizo. Hear a voice, hallucinate. Other personality sometimes, the whole thing.”

“H-huh. Really? Uh… Me too.”

“No shit? Small world. So are you the axe murdering kind or the talks to cat’s kind?”

I can’t help but grin at how blasé he is about all this. “The latter I think? It’s been a long time since I had my uh… Other self come out. But from what I’ve been told she’s just really nice and polite.”

“That’s boring. But me too. Been seeing the doc long?”

“Mmhm. My whole life.”

“Huh. Me too. Pretty weird running into each other like this right? So what’s up you married or what?”

I cough a little and sit up. “What?! No! I mean I’m flattered but I’m dating someone.”

“Huh? No I didn’t mean it like that I’m just…” He shrugs. “Fuck I dunno. Making conversation? Sorry I’m bad at this kinda shit.”

I frown a little. “You shouldn’t swear so much. It makes you look ignorant.”

His eyebrows shoot up. “Thanks mom.”

I blink. “S-sorry. Wow that was kinda momish wasn’t it?” I laugh nervously. “Habit I guess. I’m a teacher. A substitute teacher. I have to y’know… Keep the kids from swearing.”

He shrugs. “S’cool. I sweat a lot I know. I try to reign it in sometimes but other times it’s like fu… F it.”

I grin at his catch. “I like your boots.”

Lazily he lifts a foot eyeing them appraisingly. “Thanks. Ex-girlfriend gave em to me.”

“Oh that makes sense.”

His eyebrow comes up again. “How so.”

“Well they’re women’s boots. I had literally the exact same ones in college.”

He purses his lips looking from them to me. “Bullshit.”

I shake my head. “Nope. No shit of any kind. Why would I make that up?”

Now he looks down at his footwear with a decidedly less than favorable expression. “…well shit.”

I can’t hide a laugh, and to my delight he’s soon joining in. Our laughter is interrupted as the door to Dr. Corddis’ office swings open. My psychiatrist is getting on in years by now. Funny enough he looks the same to me as he did when I was a child. Swept back white hair, a thin beard hanging from his chin. He’s a tall, almost rail thin man. He looks at the pair of us with mild interest.

“Erin? Elizabeth told me you were very distraught. You seem more or less fine to me.”

I blink a couple of times in confusion. He’s right. I was panicking and on the verge of a full on breakdown when I came in. “I was just talking with Markus here. I guess it helped me calm down?”

The Doctor looks even more surprised to hear that. “And here I thought you hated everyone. Come on back and I’ll have you on your way in a few minutes Markus. If you like Erin I should be able to see you before my eleven.”

I smile my thanks as he leads the interesting young man back. Markus gives me a brief glance over his shoulder before the door closes. Sitting back I fold my hands behind my head.

“Happy birthday by the way.”

I glance over at Elizabeth behind her desk. “Thanks!”

“Anything fun last night?”

My smile broadens now. “I had dinner with my super-hot neighbor the ex-air force pilot now cop.”

“Ooo a double whammy of sexy. How was the cake?” She knows me too well.

“I think if he keeps giving me cake like that I’m going to propose in a week.”

She laughs a little checking over some papers. “I can’t believe you got Markus talking like that?”

I tilt my head. “Really? He seems like a nice enough guy. Maybe a little rough around the edges.”

She frowns faintly now. “Between you and me, he’s usually kind of a prick. Doesn’t talk to anyone and goes back to the Doctor’s office for ten minutes tops every time. I’m sure if he didn’t need his medication he wouldn’t come at all.”

Now I’m frowning as I consider her words. He seemed like a nice enough guy to me. “You know it’s funny, yesterday was his birthday too. Twenty five like you right?”

“That is SO bizarre. It was my neighbor’s twenty fifth too.”

Elizabeth laughs. “The world’s a crazy place sometimes. I guess if it weren’t I wouldn’t have a job would I?”

I snort a little laugh of my own. “That’s awful!”

She grins playfully. “But you laughed so that makes it alright.”

Rolling my eyes I can’t help but agree. About to say something else, the door opens and Markus walks right to the desk handing Elizabeth his debit card. She runs it quickly handing it back, along with a pill bottle. I catch a quick glimpse of very familiar, blue pills inside before he stuffs them away in a pocket. Making his way to the door he glances back holding my eyes for a moment with his own. Then he’s gone, out the door and onto the street.

I release the breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding as Dr. Corddis smiles to me. “Come on back Erin.”

Nodding I stand and follow him back to his office. There’s a couch inside but I always opt for one of the arm chairs. I always felt it was rude to lay down while someone was talking to me. He sits across from me smiling kindly. “You’re looking frazzled but surprisingly good considering last night.”

“I guess talking to someone who uh… Knows what it’s like helped? He’s the first person I’ve ever talked to about my condition who knows has the same sort of thing.”

“The exact same thing actually. It’s a little interesting from a medical standpoint. While I know Markus is a patient of mine, I’d have to strongly recommend you avoid socializing with him in the future.”

That takes me by surprise. “What? Why?”

“He’s a very disturbed young man. More often than not he purposefully avoids taking his medication to force episodes. I’ve had more than a few trips to the mental ward at the hospital to see to his care. I’ve been considering having him committed if he pulls another stunt like that again. I just don’t want him to be a bad influence on you. You’re one of my best patients.” His look turns stern suddenly. “And with that, why did you skip your medication last night?”

I knew that was coming. “I had a date. I didn’t want to be all… Out of it.”

To my relief he gives me an understanding smile. “I see. Well you’ll be happy to know I have a new medication for you. It should affect your mental faculties a little less and you’ll only need to take one every other day.”

My smile brightens at the good news. “Doctor that’s amazing! Thank you!”

He returns my smile. “Well it might not be perfect so I want you to be extra careful the next week. Be mindful if things get bad switch back to your old pills or call me right away alright?”

I nod somberly. “I promise Dr. Corddis.”

“Good! Well now that that’s out of the way, would you like to tell me about last night?”

“Well. I left Jake’s pretty late. I guess I wasn’t thinking clearly and went to bed without taking my pill. I had the uh… The fire dream. I woke up the usual way. Jake actually kicked in my front door thinking I was being murdered or something I guess. He got my meds and sat with my while I calmed down.”

“He sounds like a fine young man.”

“He is! We’ve been friends for a while now and last night was our first date.”

“Well I wish you the best. Was there anything else? You don’t usually race out of the house fresh from the shower for a bad dream.”

I rub at my legs through my pants. “I saw… Them again.”

“Ah. Well that’s a bit more serious. You didn’t hear her voice though?”

I shake my head hastily. “No sir. Just the tattoos.”

“Erin you’re a model patient most of the time. I understand you were excited last night and had fun but you can’t ignore your medication. You have a very serious condition. It may be easy to forget since you have so few episodes but just the same. You have to be diligent now more than ever. Your illness is the sort of thing that only worsens with age.”

“I know. I know. I’m so sorry and I won’t skip my pills again. It was a stupid mistake and I definitely paid for it.”

“Now I don’t want to hear you talk like that. We all slip up all the time. After all… We’re only human.”

His smile at that is… Oddly unsettling. I return it uneasily however, feeling suddenly nervous. “R-right. Well did you want to ask anything else?”

“Nope! You are free to go young lady. I’ll have your prescription ready in a minute. You can pay Liz like usual. I’d like you to call me in a week and let me know how the new meds are working out.”

I stand backing toward the door. “I will sir. Thank you again!” Ducking out I shut it quickly behind me. Why am I feeling so nervous all of a sudden? Shaking my head at my foolishness I had back to the front desk making small talk with Elizabeth while I wait for the pills. Soon enough I’ve paid and am out the door slipping them in my purse.

“You ever skip on purpose?”

I yelp and whirl around. Markus steps out from behind the side of the building. “Skip? Skip what? My pills?”

“Yeah. You ever skip them on purpose?”

“Why the hell would I do that? Do you have any idea what happens when I do?” I shake my head walking quicker away from him.

To my annoyance he falls into step with me, drawing a pill bottle from his pocket. “You’re on the same right? Amannakillin? Lemme guess what happens. If I can pick out ohhh… Three things you experience accurately you have to skip your pills for the next two days.”

I scowl at him. I don’t even know why I’m thinking of humoring him. But… “How accurately?”

He shrugs. “I’ll guess something and you decide how close it is.”

“Hmph. Fine.”

“First. Dreams.”

“I roll my eyes. Doesn’t get vaguer than that.”

“You’re someplace else. No idea where. People are screaming a name. It’s not your name but it feels like it is. These people are… Are your people. You were supposed to look after them and you let them down. Now they’re dying and you’re helpless. Someone’s with you. Someone you care about more than any of the others, but you don’t save her either.”

Now I’m staring at him wide-eyed, mouth hanging open slightly.

“Two. You see things. Specifically…” He pokes at my hip causing me to jump. “Tattoo’s maybe? Tattoo’s you never got. But they always show up after the dreams are really bad. Dunno what they are. Mine’s a moon and some black shit.”

My hands snap down to my hips reflexively. “How can you know that?”

“And third. You hear a voice. A woman’s voice. A voice more familiar than your own even. It’s on the tip of your tongue whose it is but you just can’t quite get there.”

My mouth snaps shut with an audible click. “I’m not skipping my pills.”

His smile gets under my skin. I don’t know why but the longer I’m around him I’m feeling equal desire to hug him and strangle him. “Have you ever had other dreams? Nicer ones?”

Frowning I rub my arm self-consciously. “…no. I always have the same one.”

“You just had the one where you die in a horrible fire last night right? And always get these pills in you right after?” He shakes his bottle of identical medication to my own.

“I do.”

“Skip your meds tonight. See what you dream about.”

I feel myself scowling. “One night of screaming enough to lose my voice for the morning is enough thanks much.” I turn to walk away but his hand grabs my wrist. He holds me tightly. Not so tight it hurts but… Tight.

“Please. Just… Don’t take your meds tonight. Please. It’s important. You won’t dream of fire, I promise.”

He stares up at me so earnestly, almost desperately. “What is this all about?”

Now he looks reluctant to answer, letting my wrist go. “Things are going to start happening. Bad things. Wonderful things. I guess it’s going to depend on what you do Erin. Pretty soon a lot is going to depend on you. A lot of people are going to depend on you. If you keep taking those pills you’re not going to be able to help them.”

“…how long has it been since you took your medication Markus?”

He glances back toward Dr. Corddis’ office then looks back at me smiling slyly again. He kneels down by the nearby storm drain, removes the cap on his pill bottle and tips it over letting the pills run down into the sewer.

I stare almost unable to look away as he does this. Straightening up he tucks the empty bottle back into his pocket. “One more night Erin. Don’t take that pill tonight.” He doesn’t say goodbye. Just turns on his heel and walks the other way. I want to call out to him, to stop him and ask him more questions but I can’t find my voice.

My hand slips into my purse squeezing the bottle of pills inside tightly.

***

I feel exhausted as I climb the stairs to the second floor. Shuffling down the hall I’m rewarded with the view of a brand new door standing in place of the old one. My key slides in smoothly and I step inside briefly before slipping over to Jake’s door and knocking.

There’s a pause before the door opens. He smiles when he sees me. “Erin! How’d it go? How are you?”

I shrug. “Went fine, I’m fine. Met a guy crazier than I am.”

He laughs softly. “Glad to hear it. That you’re fine. Meeting a crazy person might not be so good.”

Another shrug. “He was weird but nice. Had an… Interesting conversation.” My eyes are drawn to his hands. He keeps flexing them and rubbing them against his hips through his jeans. “Are you alright?”

Snapping his hands behind his back he smiles weakly. “Yeah I was just worried about you. But I’m glad you’re alright. I was actually on my way out. Can we talk later?”

“O-oh. Sure of course. Sorry I interrupted.”

“No, no I’m glad you stopped by. I’ll talk to you later alright?”

Smiling I nod. “Alright Jake. I’ll talk to you later.”

His return smile seems forced I think, as I head into my own apartment. I’ve never seen him so distracted before. Blowing out a heavy breath I plod toward the bathroom. It’s been a long day already and all of a sudden that bath is sounding fantastic.

***

It’s nine at night. I haven’t heard from Jake and as far as I know he hasn’t come back from wherever he went. I’m in my pajamas, ready for bed. Staring down at the bottle of pills in my hands.

Why am I even thinking about this? My throat was so raw it was nearly bleeding. Am I really willing to go through all that again because someone I share my condition with is certifiably insane… But weirdly compelling? Shaking my head vigorously I open the bottle and roll one of the large blue pills into my hand.

Replacing the cap and setting it back on the nightstand I pick up the glass of water I have waiting. My hand is halfway to my mouth before I hesitate. Markus seems like he hasn’t been taking his medication in a long time. But he seems… Fine. Normal. Well normal as a guy who dresses like him can seem. He definitely doesn’t seem to have split personalities and he wasn’t running down the streets naked.

Again my hand moves toward my mouth… And again I stop. With a swift motion I set the pill and water back on the stand flopping back in bed. This may be the stupidest thing I’ve ever done.

***

“Honestly Twilight, you don’t have to call me Princess anymore.” I smile at the youngest Princess of Equestria as she shuffles on her hooves in embarrassment.

“I know Princess. Ah! I’m sorry! I did it again!”

I can’t help but laugh lightly at her antics. I think a thousand years from now she’ll still refuse to call me by my name alone. “It’s alright. Please, sit.” I motion toward the low table with the waiting tea kettle and cups. A small collection of pastries from the kitchens sits with the tea.

She smiles that smile she always has for me. The mixture of gratitude, awe, and adoration. Slowly she settles herself before the table. I join her pouring the tea with barely a glance toward the kettle as I levitate it. “Flight lessons going well?”

Twilight sips from her cup with a satisfied ‘mm’. “Yes Princess very well. Once Fluttershy gave Rainbow Dash a talking to about pushing me too hard.”

“Was she pushing you too hard, or just harder than you’re used to being pushed physically?”

Her light cough on her sip of tea is answer enough for me. “W-well in my defense I was never a very physical mare.”

“I suppose that’s true. But you’re equal parts earth pony, as well as pegasus and unicorn now Twilight. I wonder if you’d be willing to do something for me?”

She straightens up immediately. “An assignment?”

Again I laugh softly. “No Twilight Sparkle. You’re not my student any longer. But my peer. I’m asking as a favor, not issuing a command.”

She shifts uncomfortably. Thinking back on it Cadence was much the same when she became a Princess. It took her years to get comfortable enough to even call me Aunt Celestia, despite our distant blood relationship. “W-well of course. Anything.”

My smile grows. It is the smile that sends shivers down Luna’s spine when I turn it her way. “I’d like for you to forego all magical studies for the foreseeable future. Instead you should assist Applejack on her farm.”

Twilight’s smile drops in an instant and her wings flare. “What?! Stop studying magic to… To be a farm pony?!”

“You’re still thinking like a unicorn Twilight. You need to embrace all three aspects of yourself. In fact you may wish to remove your horn and wings entirely while you work at the farm. I have a simple spell you can use and set a timer to undo itself at the end of the day.”

With a mild sense of alarm I realize Twilight is rapidly shifting into ‘panic’ mode. The sort of state of mind in which she thinks enchanting a doll to enthrall an entire town is a good idea. “Take a deep breath Twilight. Remember it’s not a command, merely a request.”

She closes her eyes taking a deep breath as instructed. Then another. And another. While she collects herself I help myself to a third cake. I really must send the chef my compliments.

Finally she opens her eyes. “If you think this is a good idea, I can do my best.” She even smiles timidly.

“I think you’ll be all the better for it. In fact if you like you could send me letters about what you’ve learned again. I believe spending oh… Two months as an earth pony would be enough. Are you up to the challenge?”

The determination I’ve come to admire flares in her eyes. “I am Princess. In fact after that I’ll spend some time exclusively as a pegasus. Maybe Rainbow will let me help with the weather.”

My smile is warm as I regard my former student. “I think that is an excellent idea Twilight. And I’m sure Rainbow Dash would be thrilled to have you help with the weather in Ponyville.”

Twilight beams a toothy smile back at me as our conversation turns to Pinkie Pie’s latest antics in Ponyville. We talk well after I lower the sun and my sister has raised the moon. I truly can’t recall the last time I spent an evening just… Chatting with anypony. I find I rather enjoy it and resolve to make it a point to do so again in the near future.

***

Time to wake up.

I blink awake almost immediately and yawn. Stretching my hands over my head and arching my back. With a little frown I sit up. I remember the dream. Every tiny detail from the conversation to the taste of the wonderful apple cinnamon tea. I can almost taste it on my tongue.

Glancing toward the window I see it’s still in the pre-dawn part of the day. Slowly I walk to the bathroom to do my morning business. That’s when my reflection catches my eye and I freeze in my tracks. Numbly I stare at the woman reflected in the glass.

She looks back at me with wide purple colored eyes. Shakily my hand rises to my hair as the woman in the mirror does the same. Running her hand through the pastel rainbow hued locks. Pale pink, blue, green, and violet are all represented. Its thickness hasn’t changed just… The color.

My eyes widen further as my reflection looks at me. It doesn’t just return my look. No. It’s actually looking at me. Then it speaks. “Hello Erin. I think it’s time we talked again