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Music Therapy

By pentapony
Created: 18th December 2020 04:41:49 AM
Modified: 20th February 2021 01:36:08 AM

  1. Plot Summary: Miss Eri has made Equestrian history, in perhaps the worst possible way. A couple nights ago, she became the first pony to attempt suicide. The Princesses, clueless at how to proceed, turn to you, the only human in Equestria. It's obvious that she needs professional help, and you're in no way qualified for that. Still, you know the pain she's going through. You've been through it yourself.
  2.  
  3. Archive: desuarchive.org/mlp/thread/35204255/#35208604
  4.  
  5. Fimfiction: www.fimfiction.net/story/465980/music-therapy
  6.  
  7. Chapter 1: Therapy
  8.  
  9. "So... why are you here?"
  10. >She doesn't respond, instead shifting tensely in her seat, avoiding your eyes. She clearly does not want to be here.
  11. "How about we just start with introductions, then?"
  12. >You're not sure how you're supposed to kick this off, but this seems as good a jumping off-point as any.
  13. "I'm Anonymous. A human. Ambassador for Earth."
  14. >Truthfully, that position was utterly meaningless. Princess Celestia had begun the Ambassador Initiative, bringing in diplomats from other worlds.
  15. >Since Twilight had discovered that portal, Celestia felt it necessary to secure peaceful relations with the other worlds out there.
  16. >But she took one look at Earth, and marked its file "To Remain Uncontacted."
  17. >Of course, you knew that was just bureaucracy lingo for "Not worth getting involved in that shitshow." Earth was strictly off-limits.
  18. >Still, you were brought in, as a formality. You specifically, because of your preexisting "familiarity" with Equestria.
  19. >Now, you had a cushy title, but it didn't come with any responsibilities.
  20. >Until one showed up.
  21. >"I'm Miss... Eri." She introduces herself in a hushed mumble, uneasily shifting her weight from one hoof to another.
  22. "Okay, Miss Eri, let's talk about why you're here."
  23. >In light of her continued silence, it's becoming clear that she's not going to answer that.
  24. >So, you continue, starting it off for her.
  25. "You're here, because—"
  26. >You hesitate, now finding yourself similarly tense.
  27. >"Because you are the first pony to attempt suicide."
  28. >You remember being summoned yesterday.
  29. >Princess Luna had been wandering dreams, when she came across a particularly horrific scene. She sent her guards to seek out the pony in question.
  30. >And they found her, alright. Bleeding out in her bathtub.
  31. >The doctors saved her life in time. Just barely.
  32. >Another minute, and who knows?
  33. >But the bombshell came when the Princess had learned the act was intentional.
  34. >She was mortified. Ponies simply didn't kill themselves.
  35. >But she knew humans did.
  36. >She brought you in, knowing your history, insisting that you speak with her. Help her.
  37. >She told you what happened, and you could tell how deeply it had moved her.
  38. >Even now, the Princess refuses to speak a word of what she saw in that dream. All you can hope to do is conjecture.
  39. >"I don't know what that means," she replies.
  40. >Why would she?
  41. >You explain it to her.
  42. "Well, a couple nights ago, you tried to kill yourself."
  43. >"So what?"
  44. >So what? So everything!
  45. >But you can't say that.
  46. "Why?"
  47. >"It doesn't matter. You wouldn't understand. Nopony understands."
  48. "That's why you aren't talking to a pony."
  49. >Her curiosity perks up ever so slightly. "Why am I here?" she asks.
  50. >It's a valid question. She's technically free to leave and never come back.
  51. >It's your job to convince her not to.
  52. "On Earth, we have a process to deal with... these things."
  53. >"A process?"
  54. "It's called therapy."
  55. >This is stupid. You're not a psychologist. You don't have a degree. You don't know the first thing about helping someone.
  56. >But if you don't... who will?
  57. >"Therapy." She says it the way one does when learning a new word.
  58. "Just like a doctor healed those wounds, we have doctors to heal the mind."
  59. >"So you're a doctor," she states.
  60. "No. I'm not."
  61. >"Then why are you doing therapy on me?"
  62. >You give a dejected sigh.
  63. "I guess I'm not. The princess just asked me to step in."
  64. >"No offense, but I'm not your responsibility. None of this is anypony's business. Not the princess', and especially not yours."
  65. >Callously, she rises and heads for the door.
  66. >You have to say something. Anything. At this point, it almost doesn't matter what.
  67. "Please don't leave me."
  68. >The moment the words leave your mouth, you bite your tongue.
  69. >What made you say, of all things, THAT?
  70. >Muddled by your comment, she freezes and turns back to face you. "What?"
  71. "Okay," you confess. "You're right. I don't know what I'm doing."
  72. >She watches you expectantly. Her stone-cold exterior belies her intrigue.
  73. "I know I probably can't help you. But... maybe you can help me."
  74. >"Help you with what?"
  75. >You run your hand through your hair, uncertain how to phrase this.
  76. "I'm not like you ponies. I get that. But when I came here, I thought... I thought I'd at least make some friends."
  77. >She stares at you blankly for a brief moment, before answering you bluntly. "You don't want a friend like me."
  78. >With that, she turns and leaves.
  79.  
  80.  
  81. >You knew that skipping out on Anonymous like that was rude, but you didn't care. You had to get out there.
  82. >Walking home now, there's only one feeling dominating your thoughts. Betrayal.
  83. >This whole situation is inane. Talking to me like I'm just a filly. Nopony cared about me before all this. Why would they now?
  84. >They're violating my privacy, intruding on my life like that. Should have just left me to bleed out like I deserved.
  85. >Who gives a shit if I'm the only one to do... what did he call it? Sooside?
  86. >And therapy! What a load of crap. "Doctor for your mind," nothing but a bunch of feel-good nonsense. Those humans are no different from ponies. Just taller, and... smoother.
  87. >But if that's true, why did he sound almost familiar at the end there?
  88. >What was that lingering emotion in his voice?
  89. >Why were you so desperate to get out of there when you heard him say that?
  90. >Throwing open your front door, you trudge through the mess of your home and collapse onto the bed.
  91. "I'll clean it tomorrow."
  92. <You say that every day. Stupid piece of shit.
  93. >You know who's stupid? That Anonymous. Who does he think he is?
  94. <He doesn't care about you. He doesn't care he doesn't care he doesn't care he doesn
  95. >Princess Luna had no business stepping up nightly appointments between me and him. As if that'd help anypony.
  96. >No way I'm going back tomorrow. No. Way.
  97. >Right?
  98.  
  99. >You slump back into your chair, staring at the door she just left through.
  100. >She needed your help, and you had no idea how to give it to her. You're a failure. That was probably your one shot to do some good in this world, and you blew it.
  101. >You breathe a sigh of acceptance. Face it, Anon. You're no higher power.
  102. >Digging through your desk drawer, you fish out the one personal effect Celestia allowed you to bring over. Your old iPod.
  103. >You put on your headphones, sit back, and shut your eyes.
  104. >After all... who knows what's to come?
  105.  
  106.  
  107. Chapter 2: Somewhere Over the Rainbow
  108.  
  109. >You're eating dinner at your desk when you notice a figure standing at your open door.
  110. >It's her.
  111. >Eyes wide, you quickly wipe the food from your mouth and rise to greet her.
  112. >"I don't know what I'm doing here," she mumbles, as you walk over to the door.
  113. "That's okay. Want to come inside?"
  114. >You motion for her to take a seat.
  115. >Silently, she steps inside your office. It's a cramped little space, but it's not like you're ever given any work to do.
  116. >She climbs up onto the couch on the opposite side of the room.
  117. >Hopefully, she can't tell that's where you sleep.
  118. >You pull out your desk chair, turn it to face her, and take a seat.
  119. "So..."
  120. >"I don't want this to become, like, a thing," she says, abruptly.
  121. "What do you mean?"
  122. >"We can talk just a bit, and then I'm going home."
  123. >You're a little surprised.
  124. "I didn't expect anything else."
  125. >"I mean I don't want you to try to doctor me, or pull some kind of human trick, or try to get comfortable or anything."
  126. "Okay. I promise I won't."
  127. >"If you ask me something I don't want to talk about, I'm just gonna leave. Those are my terms."
  128. >Tough, but her just being here was already more than you expected to get.
  129. "Deal."
  130. >She settles into the couch slightly, but remains visibly tense.
  131. >You start things off.
  132. "I don't want to make a mistake asking anything I shouldn't, so maybe I'll start by talking about myself."
  133. >She gives you a look of tacit assent.
  134. "Let's see... I came to Equestria a little over a year ago. Somewhere over the rainbow, there's this place called Earth. Celestia picked me to be an Ambassador because I already knew a bit about this world."
  135. >You go on, carefully omitting the part about just how well you knew Equestria.
  136. "Other Ambassadors get to work with their home worlds a bit, but we're not allowed to contact Earth, so my job's—"
  137. >"Why not?" she inquires.
  138. >She's asking questions. That's a step forward, right?
  139. >You grab your coffee from your desk behind you.
  140. "Well, it's not a great place. There's constant war, crime, suffering. We have some really cool technology but it hasn't brought us happiness. Celestia won't risk bringing that pain here. I think the simple life keeps ponies happy."
  141. >She stares at the floor. "It's not so happy."
  142. "Oh."
  143. >You made her sad, you miserable little shit.
  144. "I guess I meant generally," you clarify, trying to get the conversational momentum back. "On average, ponies are happier than humans. There's always going to be outliers."
  145. >She snorts in acknowledgement when you say that last word.
  146. >"How'd you know about us before Celestia brought you over?"
  147. >It was bound to come up eventually. You still didn't know how you should explain it.
  148. "There was a kind of... story... about Equestria. About Twilight Sparkle, the Elements of Harmony, all that."
  149. >Her usual cold apathy has given way to mild interest. "So you knew our history, and the Princess picked you."
  150. "Basically, yeah."
  151. >"That's fucking crazy."
  152. >You nearly choke on your coffee.
  153. >Sure, you knew that ponies knew how to curse.
  154. >They just never did.
  155. >She probably does a lot of things ponies never do.
  156. "Yeah. Maybe it is."
  157. >If only she knew just how crazy your story really was.
  158. >But no point in scaring her off with the truth.
  159. >"You left behind your entire life to come here? Your friends, your home, everything?"
  160. "That's the way it goes," you reply. "Celestia said I could only bring one thing from Earth, so that I wouldn't taint this world. It was a tough choice. I always wanted to come here, but Earth has a lot of luxuries you take for granted until you have to give them up."
  161. >She sits up, interested. "What'd you bring?"
  162. >You pull out your iPod from your desk drawer and hold it up.
  163. >"Am I supposed to know what that is?"
  164. "The only thing I ever felt attached to back home. Music."
  165. >Her attention's piqued. "That thing has earth music?"
  166. >You smile.
  167. "Yeah. Wanna listen?"
  168. >She nods and you get out of your chair, taking a seat beside her on the couch.
  169. >You hand her one earbud and put the other in your ear. She fumbles a bit, trying to stick it into her ear without the help of fingers, but she figures it out.
  170. >You scroll through your music library, trying to land on a suitable song.
  171. >Ten thousand songs and none of them feel good enough for her.
  172. >To give her a good first impression, you mean. Of earth music. It's a lot of pressure, after all. Her first-ever song.
  173. >Finally, you pick out a personal favorite of yours and turn the volume up so she can hear. She listens intently, staring off into space, focused on the music.
  174. >You watch her face to gauge her reaction, but she doesn't seem to notice. Or she just doesn't care.
  175. >The first minute in, she's completely expressionless.
  176. >The second, she bites her lip.
  177. >Third, she's quivering.
  178. >Fourth, she's squeezing her eyes shut.
  179. >Is she... gently swaying along?
  180. >When the song ends, she slowly opens her eyes.
  181. >You can see why she clenched them so tight. Tears are welling in front of those light pink irises.
  182. >You never noticed how much detail is behind them.
  183. >You never had a chance to, until now.
  184. >Still trembling, she chokes out her review of the song. "I— I don't believe you."
  185. "What?"
  186. >You don't understand.
  187. >"You said Earth is a horrible place. I don't believe you. Not after hearing that."
  188. "Eri..." you start, "in every world, even mine, there's good and there's bad. There is beauty in all things, even if it's hard to see sometimes."
  189. >You hesitate before saying this next part.
  190. "Even in... you."
  191. >Suddenly aware of the teary mess she's become, she pulls out the earbud and wipes her eyes. "I should go."
  192. >Idiot. You definitely overstepped your bounds.
  193. "Oh. Sure."
  194. >She sniffles and climbs down from the couch. As she walks out, she pauses to turn back to you. "I'll see you tomorrow?"
  195. >You weren't expecting that.
  196. "Yeah. I'd like that."
  197. >You return to your chair and look down at the iPod in your hand. It put you on the spot, but hopefully your song recommendation resonated with her.
  198. >To be honest, you really didn't expect the evening to take a turn the way it did. You've never showed anyone your songs since you got here.
  199. >No one ever asked.
  200. >You pop your headphones back in. You want to hear it again.
  201. >But this time, you want to see it from her eyes.
  202. >Those crystal pink eyes.
  203.  
  204.  
  205. Chapter 3: Future
  206.  
  207. >You wake up around 3 PM.
  208. >You couldn't really sleep last night. Echoes that haunted you. That Earth song.
  209. >You liked music, you really did. But nothing in Equestria compared to that song Anonymous showed you.
  210. >And what he said about beauty? It made you feel something else. An emotion you didn't know exis—
  211. >A sharp pain runs down your hooves, and it comes back to you.
  212. >You relapsed last night.
  213. >You groan and roll out of bed, feeling the crunch of paper beneath your hoof. The poem you wrote. "Drinks for Two."
  214. >You don't like it.
  215. >You never like it.
  216. >Carelessly, you crumple the page and stumble to the bathroom.
  217. >Looking in the mirror, you don't know the mare who looks back. She's tired, her mane's greasy, and her eyes are puffy from crying.
  218. <Hey, Eri. Why the fuck do you cry so much? It's not like you have any real problems.
  219. <What stallion is gonna want you, when you look like that?
  220. <Oh, that's right, you don't even like stallions. You're into mares, because you think being a muff-muncher's a substitute for having a personality.
  221. <Stop fucking deluding yourself, you bitch. You might as well be celibate because nopony's touching you with a ten foot rod.
  222. "JUST SHUT UP!"
  223. >You slam your head into the sink, in a desperate, impulsive bid to stop the ridicule.
  224. >It stings sharply and knocks the living daylights out of you. You're seeing stars, you can't stand up straight, you're...
  225. >...aaand you're down.
  226. >You wake up and it's dark.
  227. >It's dark? FUCK.
  228. >You hastily pull some socks on and run out the door.
  229.  
  230. >She's definitely not showing tonight. This sucks. You stupid creep, you just had to go and cross a line last night.
  231. >You hope she's alright.
  232. >Fuck it. If she's not coming, you might as well try to enjoy yourse—
  233. >The door bursts open as she charges through it. "Shit, sorry I'm late! I was asleep, and, I— fuck—"
  234. You leap off the couch, throwing your hands down to your sides.
  235. "Miss Eri! I— I didn't think you'd show."
  236. >You both stare at each other for a moment, looking equally exasperated with yourselves.
  237. "Right," you continue. "Well, come on in, please sit down."
  238. >She obliges while you take your desk chair. The two of you sit in silence hesitantly.
  239. >Apologize to her.
  240. "Listen, about last night—"
  241. >"I don't really want to talk about it," she interrupts you, curtly.
  242. "Oh," you whisper. "Okay, sorry."
  243. >You look her over. She's much more disheveled than she was the last couple of nights, and...
  244. "Did you cut yourself?"
  245. >Her eyes immediately go wide. "What?" she yelps out.
  246. "Your cheek is bleeding. I think you might have accidentally nicked yourself somewhere."
  247. >She lifts her hoof up to her cheek, wiping away a tiny drop of blood.
  248. >"Oh, yeah," she mutters, exhaling a sigh of relief. "It's... an old cut. I think it reopened when I hit the door."
  249. >You pull out a tissue and hand it to her.
  250. "Sorry I don't have a band-aid or anything. I hope this is enough."
  251. >Slowly, she takes it from you, and presses it against her cheek. "Thanks."
  252. >You nod to the hoof you handed the tissue to.
  253. "I like the socks. What's the occasion?"
  254. >She glances down at them. "I-I just sleep in them. Forgot to take them off in my rush to get here, that's all."
  255. "Aw, and here I was secretly hoping you got dressed up for me."
  256. >Have you learned NOTHING?
  257. >Still looking away, she cracks a faint smile.
  258. >Hang on, that actually elicited a positive reaction?
  259. >Maybe this is an opportunity. Don't waste it.
  260. "Can we talk about what landed you here?"
  261. >Please don't storm out, please don't storm out, please don't
  262. >"Okay," she mumbles.
  263. >This is going to be a tightrope walk.
  264. "Do— Do you want to die?"
  265. >She bites her lip, fighting to suppress her emotions, and hesitantly nods.
  266. "Can you tell me why?"
  267. >She takes a few seconds before answering. "I don't want to live."
  268. >That's not an answer. That's restating the question, that's
  269. >Wait a minute. You know what she means. You know exactly what that means.
  270. >Time to lay your cards on the table.
  271. >She deserves to know.
  272. >She's not alone.
  273. "You know, I tried once before,"
  274. >She stops avoiding your eyes. She's looking straight at you now. "You have?"
  275. "Back on Earth. When I was 19."
  276. >"Why?"
  277. "If you can believe it, it was because of a girl."
  278. >She's watching you intently. Now it's you who can't meet her eyes.
  279. "That's not to blame her, it's just—"
  280. >You sigh.
  281. "I was younger then. I thought that's what love was. Something you died for. She didn't love me. And that was just the straw that broke the camel's back. My head was a mess, and that was what finally made me decide to kill myself."
  282. >"How'd you do it?"
  283. "I'm not going to give you suggestions!" you say, half-jokingly.
  284. >Did she just chuckle? You barely caught it, but you think she did.
  285. "Anyway, it obviously didn't work. It landed me in the psych ward, where they kept people who wanted to hurt themselves. I was there for just a few days, but it was grueling hell. Every second I spent in there was a reminder of how broken I was."
  286. >"So what happened?"
  287. "Nothing. Life went on. I didn't get better. I don't think you ever really come back from something like that, you know? The past haunts the present. You just learn to manage. Some days you manage worse than others. But you do whatever you have to in order to get by, even if it hurts like hell."
  288. >She stares at the ground in front of her. It's obvious she's choosing her next words very carefully.
  289. >"What do you do when you feel like you can't manage?"
  290. >It was a feeling you knew all too well.
  291. "I guess... you distract yourself with whatever you can. No matter how trivial. I showed you yesterday, I have music, and sometimes I write—"
  292. >"You write?" she inquires, perking up a bit.
  293. "Yeah. Stupid stuff. Stories, poems. But it distracts me long enough. Because, before I know it, I've made it to the one thing that matters."
  294. >"What's that?"
  295. >You lean back in your chair.
  296. "The future."
  297. >Now deep in thought, she doesn't respond.
  298. >But that's okay. You're fine just sitting in silence for as long as she wanted. Quiet company beats the usual none.
  299. >After a few minutes, she gets off the couch. "Thanks for talking to me tonight."
  300. "Of course."
  301. >You open the door for her to leave. Before she goes, she parts you with one last gift.
  302. >A hug.
  303. >You're taken by surprise. She wraps her hooves around your legs and squeezes them.
  304. >You debate whether you should kneel down to reciprocate, but with her locking your legs in place, it's not like you have the option.
  305. >So you stand there awkwardly for a few seconds until she releases and whispers a quiet goodbye.
  306. >As she leaves, you return to your desk and start writing.
  307. >You hope she comes back.
  308.  
  309. >Walking home, you think about the things he said. Those familiar thoughts, that well-known pain, the struggle to manage.
  310. >Should I have said something?
  311. >Of course not. I never say anything good. All I do is make things worse.
  312. >He wanted to talk about the song. He was going to ask what I thought of it, and I just shut him down to get out of telling the truth.
  313. <Like the cold-hearted bitch that you are.
  314. >No. Please. Not tonight.
  315. >You push it from your mind. There's one more thing you want to do.
  316. >When you get home, you pull out the crumpled paper from under your bed, unfold it, and scribble out the title.
  317. >In its place, you write a single word.
  318. >Future.
  319. >You don't know why, but the poem looks better now.
  320. >You...
  321. >You actually like it.
  322.  
  323.  
  324. Chapter 4: Far Too Young to Die
  325.  
  326. >That hug last night was the first physical contact you had in months.
  327. >You roll over and look at the bloodied tissue on your nightstand.
  328. >The one he gave you. For your cheek.
  329. >That tiny act of kindness, that meant nothing to him,
  330. >so why does it mean the world to you?
  331. >Why are you getting so close to him? A human?
  332. >It's stupid. You don't even feel comfortable telling him anything.
  333. >Every night it's just been him opening up to you.
  334. >Maybe it's better that way.
  335. >In for a bit, in for a pound.
  336. >You start talking now and you'll open the floodgates.
  337. >Why should he bear the burden of your misery?
  338. >But you like talking to him.
  339. >Even if he does most of the talking.
  340. >He's a writer.
  341. >Like you.
  342. <Not like you. Probably way better.
  343. <That's why you didn't say anything, right?
  344. <Your poetry is shit.
  345. <It deserves to be hidden away from the world.
  346. <Away from him.
  347. <You don't want him to know what a failure you are.
  348. >Although...
  349. >You reach down and pick up the poem.
  350. >Future.
  351. >Giving it his title made all the difference.
  352. >Now it doesn't feel like yours.
  353. >It feels like both of yours.
  354.  
  355. >"Hey, Eri!"
  356. >He's already calling you by your nickname.
  357. >Do you do the same? What's a nickname for him?
  358. <He's waiting. Answer him, you dumb bitch.
  359. "Heya... non..."
  360. >Your greeting comes out all slurred. Because of course you can't even say hello right.
  361. >"Anon! I haven't heard that since Earth."
  362. "Sorry, I'll—"
  363. >"No, no, I actually like it. It's just been a while, that's all."
  364. >Look at that.
  365. >He likes it.
  366. >"Come and sit."
  367. >He motions you inside invitingly.
  368. >"You ready to chat?"
  369. "Yeah."
  370. >You go over the couch as usual.
  371. <You mean listen to him chat while you clam up like a dumb little filly?
  372. >Please stop
  373. >"So what do you figure we should talk about today, friend?"
  374. "F-Friend?"
  375. >"Hey, you're the one calling me Anon. I just figured we're past the whole strangers part."
  376. <He thinks he's your friend. That's sweet.
  377. >"You have many friends, Eri?"
  378. "No. Not really."
  379. >"Me neither, I guess. Not since high school."
  380. >You wince at the mention of it.
  381. "High school?"
  382. >"Yeah, high school. Oh boy, what a mess that was. You have fun in high school?"
  383. >You scoff sarcastically.
  384. "Not at ALL."
  385. >"Ha, I feel you,"
  386. >He feels me
  387. >"it's a bitch if you don't fit in anywhere in particular. At least, I never did."
  388. >He leans back in his chair and casually crosses his arms.
  389. <Look at him. The way he talks.
  390. <Carefree. Confident. No stutter.
  391. <You don't deserve to be in the same room as him.
  392. >I bet he doesn't have thoughts like you smothering him until he
  393. >"You ever see Carrie?"
  394. "Who?"
  395. >You have no idea who that is.
  396. >"What am I talking about, of course you haven't. It's one of those... stories. From Earth."
  397. "What's it about?"
  398. >"Well, there's this girl in high school. She doesn't fit in. At all. She's picked on and tortured. It's a mess."
  399. >"Anyway, one day, these bullies cook up some twisted prank to pull on her..."
  400. <Like that time Emerald Rose and her gang told everyone you were a virgin slut because you only took it in the ass?
  401. <Everyone called you Cherry for two years.
  402. <Even the teachers started doing it.
  403. <Isn't that just like those cunts, sticking you with a name that's juuust harmless enough to get everyone using it.
  404. <But they made sure you knew what it really meant. Every. Day.
  405. >Stop I don't want to think about thi
  406. >"...and BAM! They dump the bucket all over her. Drenched head to toe in pig's blood."
  407. <blood
  408. >"So naturally," he continues, "she flips out and uses her magic to destroy the entire prom."
  409. "I didn't know humans could do magic. You don't have a horn."
  410. >"Well, no, we can't. It's just a story."
  411. "Does she at least get a happy ending?"
  412. >"Not exactly. She kinda... burns down her home with her mom and her inside."
  413. >You stare at him blankly.
  414. "Then why are you telling me this?"
  415.  
  416. >Yeah, Anon, why the fuck are you telling her this?
  417. >You think she wants to hear about your fucked-up homeworld horror flicks?
  418. "I don't know. Sorry. I guess my point is that high school can be hell."
  419. >"I know what that's like." She absentmindedly scratches one hoof with the other.
  420. "Are those socks itchy or something?"
  421. >Immediately, she tenses up. "N-No."
  422. >She's obviously just saying that to be polite. Say something to her, moron.
  423. "You can take them off if you want. I want you to be comfortable here."
  424. >You want her to be comfortable? What are you, some kind of pervert?
  425. >Why would you ever say something like that to anyone?
  426.  
  427. >He... he wants me to be comfortable around him.
  428. >He wants me to feel safe.
  429. <Then go ahead.
  430. <Get comfortable.
  431. <Show him just what's under those sleeves, Cherry.
  432. >F U C K  O F F
  433. "N-No thanks. I'm fine, I promise."
  434.  
  435. >You ass. You think just because ponies walk around naked, it's cool to ask them to take their clothes off?
  436. >You clearly stressed her out. As if she doesn't already have enough of that.
  437. >Being a friendless loser for the past year has ruined you.
  438. >You've forgotten how to talk.
  439. >The most fundamental facet of your humanity. Communication.
  440. >And it's atrophied from disuse.
  441. "Okay, if you're sure."
  442.  
  443. >Look at him.
  444. >You hurt him.
  445. >He wanted you to feel safe.
  446. >He noticed your strife.
  447. >These scars, they hurt,
  448. >but this is not the same
  449. >This is the pain
  450. >of letting him down
  451. >He might be the only one who ever gave a shit about you.
  452. >You don't even fucking care about privacy anymore.
  453. >You just want to feel something.
  454. >You want
  455. >to be known
  456. >by him
  457. <Don't you fucking do it.
  458. "I brought one of my poems."
  459. >"You did?" He sits up straight, intrigued.
  460. "Yeah. It's not very good."
  461. >"Still, I didn't know you wrote. That's great."
  462. >You pull the folded-up paper out of your sock.
  463. >"Can I read it?"
  464. >He actually wants to see it?
  465. <If you show him, you're just going to reveal what a talentless hack you are.
  466. >"If it's okay with you, I mean." He smiles at you encouragingly.
  467. >You glance down at the paper.
  468. <You and I both know that it's nothing more than a page full of pretentious cra
  469. >Fuck it.
  470. >You toss it over to him.
  471.  
  472. >Here it comes.
  473. >You catch it.
  474. >She's trusting you here.
  475. >She's revealing a deeply personal side of herself.
  476. >You unfold the paper.
  477. >And you read it.
  478.  
  479. drinks for two
  480. what does that mean to you
  481. if nothing but a missed chance
  482. to meet her strict demands
  483. this is the apathy
  484. you get at 23
  485. you ought to change your tune
  486. or else risk fading too soon
  487. you hate who you are
  488. and it is tearing you apart
  489.  
  490. drinks for two
  491. but what if both are you?
  492. divided by a muddied line
  493. can't tell who's left or right
  494. you're afraid to find
  495. that you're not so easily defined
  496. but you pick yourself up
  497. only because you know you must
  498. so do whatever you can
  499. anything to feel whole again
  500. too much on your broken plate
  501. take care before it's too late
  502.  
  503. drinks for two
  504. i can't take care of you
  505. only one is always around
  506. and you fail to make her proud
  507. she's inside of you
  508. those cruel words she croons
  509. /l'appel du vide/ arises
  510. you won't survive this crisis
  511. last call, drinks for two
  512. tell me, are you through?
  513. oh, darling do,
  514. what's to become of you?
  515.  
  516. >Your eyes skim back to the top.
  517. >The title's been crossed out and replaced with a new one.
  518. >You read it aloud.
  519. "Future."
  520. >"I figured, after our talk yesterday..."
  521. "I love it."
  522. >You really do.
  523. "It's beautiful, Eri."
  524. >Better than that lonely heart crap sitting in your desk drawer.
  525.  
  526. >Your heart's racing.
  527. >There's no way he loves it.
  528. <He's obviously saying that to spare your feelings.
  529. >He cares about your feelings.
  530. <You're such a stupid slut.
  531. >"I know exactly what you're talking about in here."
  532. "You— you do?"
  533. >"I have drinks for two, too. Every fuckin' day."
  534. >You can't help but snort in surprised delight.
  535. "You're not just saying that, are you?"
  536. >"Those thoughts are with me every waking moment."
  537. <He's making it up. He's mocking you. Stop kidding yourself.
  538. >He shifts in his seat anxiously. "They were there, that night... the night I tried to kill myself."
  539. >You can hardly believe it. He knows. He actually knows.
  540. "I thought it was just me."
  541.  
  542. >This mare.
  543. >What a tortured life she must live.
  544. >Surrounded by ponies who take their happiness for granted.
  545. >Who aren't haunted by their own minds.
  546. >At least on Earth, you had resources.
  547. >People understood. They tried to help.
  548. >You don't think anyone has ever helped her.
  549. >Not in any real sense of the word.
  550. >She must be the loneliest soul in the universe.
  551. >...
  552. >Not anymore.
  553. >Not if you have anything to say about it.
  554. "Hey Eri?"
  555. >"Yeah?"
  556. "Can I give you a word of advice? As a friend?"
  557. >"Y-Yeah. Of course."
  558. "Don't end up like Carrie."
  559. >"I... can't. I'm just an earth pony."
  560. "No. I mean, she felt powerless. She lost control of her life, and it ended up costing her everything."
  561. >"Oh," she whispers. She's afraid.
  562. "I don't want to have to bury you, Eri."
  563. >Tears are welling in her eyes.
  564. "You're far too young to die."
  565.  
  566.  
  567. Chapter 5: I've Given Up on You
  568.  
  569. "Well, Eri, it's been a week since your attempt. How do you feel?"
  570. >She climbs up onto the couch.
  571. >Today she isn't as tense.
  572. >"Not great. I feel like nothing's changed."
  573. "Well, it's only been a week. We haven't really found your breakthrough yet."
  574. >"Breakthrough?" she asks.
  575. "Yeah. The thing that fits all the pieces of your life together and reframes it in a way you never really saw before. Supposedly it's a thing. I don't know, I'm not a doctor."
  576. >She frowns despondently. "I don't think I'll have one of those."
  577. >You pause for a moment.
  578. "You know, if you don't talk about yourself, we can't make any progress."
  579. >She looks up at you with those bright, expressive eyes.
  580. >"I get that. I really do. I want to, I'm just... afraid. I've never opened up to anypony before."
  581. >You're a little surprised by that.
  582. "Not to anyone? Not a parent, friends, a... lover?"
  583. >She scoffs. "Yeah, right," she says.
  584. "Why is it so absurd for you to be in a relationship?"
  585. >"What?" she asks skeptically. "Are you serious?"
  586. "I am. Tell me, what's stopping you?"
  587. >"Ugh. What's NOT stopping me? Just look at me. Grey coat, black mane. THIS," she emphatically bobs her red streak, "I have to re-dye every two weeks. Just so I can pretend I'm just a /little/ bit like all those other mares out there. On top of that, I'm disgustingly fat. My barrel's shaped like a whisky cask. I can't even take care of myself. Most days I don't shower, and when I do, I just lie down in the bathtub and let the water run over me for an hour until I can summon the will to drag myself out. Even if I meet a blind pony or some shit, they have to face the fact that I am the most boring mare in all of Equestria. I don't have a job, I never go out, and I don't do anything remotely interesting. But, okay, let's say, against all odds, there's a pony out there who can somehow overlook ALL of those things? It wouldn't even work out, because of THIS!"
  588. >She stands up on the couch and spins around, shoving her flank out at you. She taps at her cutie mark, a broken heart.
  589. >"I mean, what kind of sick fucking joke is that supposed to be?"
  590. >You stare at her speechlessly. She's probably said more to you just in this one tirade than she has all week.
  591. >Coming down off her rant, she becomes suddenly aware of your reaction and that she's flaunting her rear at you.
  592. >She quickly spins around and sits back down, blushing in sheer humiliation.
  593. >"I'm sorry," she mutters.
  594. "I-It's okay."
  595. >You stammer out the words, trying to reassure her.
  596. >You're glad she's sharing. You just didn't anticipate the outburst.
  597. "Let's talk about your cutie mark, then. Is that okay?"
  598. >She silently nods, still looking down in shame.
  599. "How did you get it?"
  600. >"I was a filly," she mumbles.
  601. "Sorry, I can't hear you."
  602. >She speaks just a little louder, but still restrained. "I had a crush on a colt in school. He was really cute and sensitive, not like the other boys. We were friends and we always ate lunch together."
  603. >"One morning when we got to school, I put a note in his lunch when he wasn't looking. I was excited for lunchtime all morning. When it finally came, I sat next to him and watched him read the note."
  604. >You lean in.
  605. "So what happened?"
  606. >"He kissed me behind the playground after school."
  607. >She still can't meet your eyes.
  608. "I'm guessing that's not the ending."
  609. >She goes on. "The next day, I overheard him bragging to all his friends that he kissed me. I remember that made me feel really special. Like he wanted to show me off."
  610. "That's good, then."
  611. >"That high lasted for all of three seconds. Because his friends had one thing to say. 'Ewwwwwww.'"
  612. "Well, colts are immature like that."
  613. >"It wasn't an 'ew, you kissed a girl.' It was 'ew, you kissed the ugliest filly in the class.' And he... he immediately backtracked. Said he did it as a joke. Went along with them about how gross it was."
  614. "And the cutie mark?"
  615. >"I ran home. Cried all day. When I finally ran out of tears to shed, I got up, and I wrote my first poem. That's when I got it."
  616. "So your talent is poetry. I'm not surprised, after I read Future—"
  617. >"Do you see a quill on my ass?"
  618. >You're slightly taken aback.
  619. "N-No. I don't."
  620. >"It's suffering," she sighs. "That's my talent. Suffering heartbreak."
  621. "I'm sorry."
  622. >You don't know what else to say.
  623. >"That's why there's no point in me dating. It'll just end in heartbreak. That's the way it's gone every time I've ever felt love for anypony. That's all I'm good for."
  624. "I don't agree with that."
  625. >"You don't have to," she says calmly.
  626. >No two ways about it.
  627. >She's given up.
  628. >The two of you sit in silence for a couple minutes.
  629. >"You ever been in love, Anon?" she asks.
  630. >Now that's a fucked-up story.
  631. "Yeah. I have."
  632. >She settles down into the couch, putting one hoof over the other.
  633. >"How'd it go?"
  634. "I'm alone now, so you can probably figure that one out."
  635. >"I mean, what happened? There's a million different ways it could have went down. I always thought the journey's more important than the ending. So what's the story?"
  636. >Do you tell her?
  637. >You haven't told anyone.
  638. >It's history now.
  639. >Doesn't change how weird it is.
  640. >Way weirder than her story.
  641. >But maybe it's good to open up.
  642. >After all, isn't that what you're trying to get her to do?
  643. >Trust is a two-way street.
  644. >You're going to get as much out of her as you put in.
  645. >What are you so afraid of, Anon?
  646. >You sigh and slump back in your chair.
  647. "I told you how I knew about Equestria."
  648. >"Yeah, from the story about it."
  649. "Well, there were some humans, like me, who were really into the story. So much so that we got attached to it. The world, the characters."
  650. >"Yeah?" She's growing intrigued.
  651. "Some of us grew attached to specific characters in particular."
  652. >"You mean..."
  653. "I fell in love with a pony from Equestria."
  654. >"That's fucking crazy!" she yells excitedly, leaping up. "That's so cool. You fell in love with a pony before you ever came to Equestria?"
  655. "That's right."
  656. >"So what happened? You must have been psyched to get invited here, to the world she lives in."
  657. >You remember that euphoria. Not only learning that Equestria was real, but that you alone were chosen to come.
  658. >"Did you get to meet her?"
  659. "I did. And I don't know why I expected anything different."
  660. >"Oh," she says solemnly, sitting back down. "Shit, Anon, I'm sorry..."
  661. "It doesn't matter. Looking back, it's obvious. There's no way she would have been remotely interested in me, even if she could look past my species."
  662. >"Did you tell her how you feel?"
  663. "There was no point. I was all pumped up to meet her, and she treated me like a novelty. She was friendly, sure, but there was just this... imbalance."
  664. >"What do you mean?"
  665. "I spent years getting to know her. Falling in love. Dedicating myself to her. I always thought us meeting would be like this moment of pure destiny. But when I looked her in the eyes, there was nothing in them. She didn't know me. She was just saying hello to the new stranger in Equestria. She had no clue what she meant to me."
  666. >"Still... you could have gotten to know her, built up a friendship..."
  667. "I felt guilty. In that moment, I was nothing. To force it would be to intrude on her life, thrusting myself into a place I don't belong. I couldn't lie to her. And the second I'd confess the truth, it'd devastate her. To know she's from a story in other worlds, the object of some alien's unrelenting affections... it'd be a total mindfuck. I couldn't do that to her."
  668. >"Do... do you still love her?"
  669. >You bury your face in your hands.
  670. "No."
  671. >"Why not?"
  672. "That day changed everything. It was a reality check. If she didn't know me the way I knew her, she could never be what I wanted, what I needed. All we really want is to be known, you know? To get that, you have to build a relationship. Together. Not something one-sided, from afar. It took some time, but eventually I just fell out of love with her."
  673. >She gazes over you sympathetically. "That's heavy stuff."
  674. "Just as well. In my time here I've come to learn ponies aren't really interested in being friends with foreign species, much less willing to date one."
  675. >Eri sits up and pauses before replying. "We're friends, Anon."
  676. >You look up at her. She's meeting your eyes. No shame. No hesitation. No anxiety.
  677. >You sit there, across from each other, looking straight into each other's eyes. Slowly, you both crack a smile.
  678.  
  679. >As she leaves for the night, you stop her on the way out.
  680. "Hey, Eri?"
  681. >"Yeah?"
  682. "I like your coat. I like your mane, even if it's dyed. I don't think you're fat. I think you're doing your best, and I think you're a pretty good writer. And for what it's worth... I like talking to you."
  683. >For the first time ever,
  684. >she beams at you.
  685. >It's one of those shy, wonky smiles. The one you try to hide at first, turning away or putting your hoof over your mouth, but your happiness slips out anyway. The one you get when you haven't grinned in so long that you've forgotten what it's like. Just a bit crooked, a little too much teeth and not enough at the same time.
  686. >But it's something real.
  687. >After you say your farewells, you return to your desk.
  688. >You haven't thought much about your former love in months.
  689. >You used to pine for her every waking moment. And now, she feels like a distant memory.
  690. >Tonight was good. Talking to someone about her, it felt like... closure.
  691. >You pull out a piece of paper and get to writing.
  692.  
  693. Hey. It's been a long, long time since I wrote an Unsent Letter to You.
  694. I think this is actually going to be the last one.
  695. So I'll make this one count.
  696. You know, it's been a lonely year.
  697. But I don't dream of you the way I used to.
  698. I think I've given up on you.
  699. And, I think that's okay.
  700. For both of us.
  701. You can live your life, and I can live mine.
  702. And hey, maybe, one day...
  703. I'll learn to love again.
  704. -Anon
  705.  
  706.  
  707. Chapter 6: Peach
  708.  
  709. >Tonight, she shows up at 6:00 on the dot.
  710. "Hey, look at you, being all punctual."
  711. >She casually strolls past you into your office. "What can I say? You keep me on time."
  712. >You chuckle and quickly rifle through your desk drawer while her back's still turned.
  713. >As soon as she plops down onto the couch, you turn back to face her.
  714. "Hey, Eri."
  715. >"Yeah?"
  716. >You bare your fangs at her.
  717. >Immediately, she yelps and cowers in fear.
  718. >You collapse onto your chair laughing, and pull them out of your mouth.
  719. "Ahahaha, don't worry! They're fake."
  720. >She frowns at you, unimpressed. "Dick move, Anon. Dick. Move."
  721. "What? I thought I'd try an icebreaker tonight."
  722. >"Icebreaker? Nice try." She settles back into her normal sitting postion. "I know you're just trying to get your kicks."
  723. >You twirl the plastic fangs around your finger, watching her trying to shake it off, but still trembling involuntarily.
  724. "Aw, you're still shaking. You need a shock blanket, lil' filly?"
  725. >"S-Shut up!" she laughs, throwing one of the couch cushions at you.
  726. "Alright, alright! No need to get violent. It was just a prank. Haven't pulled that one in a while."
  727. >"Yeah, nice prank alright," she says sarcastically. "Making me think you're a vampire. I don't know how humans work."
  728. "Maybe I am one, and that was just a ruse to throw you off my scent."
  729. >"Oh, I'm onto you," she teases, playing along. "I don't know about humans, but bat ponies are just a myth."
  730. "You sure about that?"
  731. >"Well, no," she admits. "But I'm like 99% sure you're not a vampire."
  732. >You give her a sly smirk.
  733. "That one percent's gonna come back to haunt you."
  734. >She rolls her eyes and smiles, crossing her forehooves. "Why do you even have those things?"
  735. "The fangs? I don't know, they make me look hot. I've always thought vampires were sexy."
  736. >"You find monsters sexy?"
  737. "No, doofus. Not monsters. That whole aesthetic, the fangs, the darkness, the bloodsucking."
  738. >"Too bad bats live off fruit, not blood."
  739. >You shrug.
  740. "You think that would apply to bat ponies too?"
  741. >"Probably. They must feed off of peaches, plums, that kind of stuff. If they went around biting ponies, wouldn't half of us be turned by now?"
  742. "Hey, now THAT would be a bitchin' world. Vampires everywhere, only going out at night, feasting off blood."
  743. >"Yeah. That would be kind of fun, actually."
  744. "Think about it. We could go and hunt as a vampire duo."
  745. >"Oh?" Titillated, she bites her lip and looks down, clearly imagining it.
  746. >Is she blushing?
  747. >Shit, don't be weird.
  748. >You're here to help her, not rave about creatures of the night.
  749. "You know, there's a lot of cool songs about vampires."
  750. >Really, Anon? Are you even listening? Why even bother?
  751. >"You gonna show me?" she asks. "Or are you gonna leave me hanging... like a bat?"
  752. "Wow. That was pretty lame. I almost don't want to show you know."
  753. >"Aw, come on! I was just messing around. I want to hear some more music."
  754. "Alright, if you're interested."
  755. >You get your iPod and sit on the couch with her.
  756. >You each take an earbud and put them in.
  757. >She watches as you scroll through your library, searching for the songs you were thinking of.
  758. >Her mane lightly grazes your arm as she leans in to look.
  759. >You turn to her. She's got a little grin on her face.
  760. "What're you so smiley for?"
  761. >"Nothing," she says coyly.
  762. "Mhmm, sure. You must like nothing a whole lot to be smirking like that."
  763. >She scoffs teasingly while you go back to scrolling.
  764. >Oh, here's one. Radiohead, We Suck Young Blood. You hit play.
  765. >She sits back, shuts her eyes, and takes in the music. "Spooky piano. Already love it."
  766. >As she listens, she sways ever so slowly with the rhythm.
  767. >When it finally fades out, she sits back up. "That was eerie. Gave me chills. I like it."
  768. "How about another?"
  769. >She nods and you find the next song.
  770. >Bloodletting by Concrete Blonde. This one always gets you tingly.
  771. >Halfway through the song she's bobbing her head along and shooting you entertained glances.
  772. >"That wasn't bad. Still kinda heavy, but it felt like a party. Isn't being a vampire supposed to make you dark and brooding?"
  773. "I think I know what you're getting at."
  774. >Bullet With Butterfly Wings by The Smashing Pumpkins. That one's a hit, she'll like it.
  775. >She gets into it instantly. She even starts chanting along to the chorus.
  776. >"Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage! Fuck yeah!"
  777. >Enthralled, you sing with her, jamming along together.
  778. >When that one ends, she's much more hyped.
  779. >"You got any more? I'm loving this dark shit."
  780. >Fuck yeah you do.
  781. >Vampires Will Never Hurt You. My Chemical Romance. A favorite of yours.
  782. >The drums start it off, the bass kicks in, and in comes that classic riff.
  783. >You sing the words to her. Your voice is stilted and comes out sounding like shit, but she still watches you excitedly.
  784. "What if... you put the spike in my HEAAAART?"
  785. >Oof, your screech was terrible.
  786. >But you don't stop.
  787. "I'll never let them, I'll never let them, I'll never let them hurt you, not tonight!"
  788. >She's stopped rocking to the beat.
  789. >Now focused only on your singing.
  790. >What's that look in her eyes?
  791. >Shit, don't start slipping now.
  792. "Can you stake my heart? Come on, Eri! Can you stake my ha-ha-heart?"
  793. >She snaps back to reality and picks up the words with you, banging her head along.
  794. >"Can you stake my HA-HA-HEART?"
  795. >Wow, she actually has a pretty good scream on her. That wail... she knows how to hit it just right.
  796. >At the outro, you lean in and whisper the words to her.
  797. "And as always, fatality is like ghosts in snow."
  798. >As the song ends, she stares deeply into your eyes.
  799. >"Fuck, Anon. Chills."
  800. "You like it?"
  801. >"That energy, it makes me want to... I don't know, dance. But hard. Like, throw my body around the room."
  802. "You mean thrash?"
  803. >"There's a word for it?"
  804. "Oh boy, have I got just thing for you."
  805. >At Dawn They Sleep. Slayer.
  806. >While the intro plays, you get up off the couch and take her hoof.
  807. >Her hoof tenses up when you wrap your fingers around it. She resists shyly.
  808. "Come on, Eri, you asked for this!"
  809. >She relents to your teasing and gets up with you.
  810. >You start off the first verse to show her how to properly headbang, staying close enough to keep the earbuds in.
  811. >When the chorus hits you take her front hooves and jump around. Not too hard at first.
  812. >You show her just how it's done. Cool down for the second verse and pick it up again at the chorus.
  813. >At the bridge you take advantage of the tempo change and headbang in time.
  814. >By the end of the bridge the tempo picks back up with the "kill, kill, kill" chant.
  815. "Now the outro's where you go all out!"
  816. >You yell your instructions over the music to her. The tempo gets real fast here and you thrash around your office, taking her along with you.
  817. >She can't stop laughing as you drag her around the tiny room, from wall to wall.
  818. >You're completely into it now. Lost in the music.
  819. >At the guitar solo, you want to go real hard without ripping the earbud out.
  820. >Without a second thought, you impulsively lift her up.
  821. >She squeaks out in surprise as she flies straight into your arms.
  822. >Oh no.
  823. >You freeze in place, still holding her against your chest. Her face in front of yours. She's just... staring at you speechlessly.
  824. >The music's still going.
  825. >Anon.
  826. >What the fuck are you doing?
  827. >ANON!
  828. >You snap back to reality, and quickly put her down, pulling your earbud out.
  829. "I'm... I'm sorry. I got out of control there."
  830. >"It's okay," she whispers, fixing her mane.
  831. "Really, I'm—"
  832. >"Anon, it's fine. I promise."
  833. >You feel like a complete ass.
  834. "Are you sure?"
  835. >"Yeah." She looks up at you. "We were just having fun."
  836. >You slide back into your chair, feeling embarrassed.
  837. >"It's getting late," she says. "I should head out."
  838. "Yeah."
  839. >You fiddle with the rubber band on your wrist.
  840. >You can't even look her in the eye.
  841. >She pauses in the doorway.
  842. >"Thanks for teaching me how to thrash."
  843.  
  844. >You push open the door to your home.
  845. >What a mess.
  846. "I'll clean it tomorr—"
  847. <Shut the fuck up. Just. Shut. Up.
  848. >What is it now?
  849. <You know exactly what.
  850. >...yeah.
  851. >It was fun today. I haven't had fun in a while.
  852. <You really think that's going to continue? After what just happened?
  853. >...no.
  854. <Exactly.
  855. >You pull off your socks and collapse onto the bed.
  856. >That Earth Music. He had so many songs about vampires. Equestria doesn't even have one.
  857. >You've never heard music like that. That energy, that anger, that pain.
  858. <Sound familiar?
  859. >But the songs weren't just about vampires.
  860. >Anon sang the words to you. You heard them.
  861. >He was just singing along. He didn't pick the lyrics.
  862. >But, he did pick the songs. To show you.
  863. >What... what is this?
  864. >What's going on?
  865. >Eri...
  866. >What's happening to you?
  867. <You don't get it, do you?
  868. <I'm going to have to spell it out for you.
  869. >You bury your face in your pillow. You're tired. You don't want to think anymore.
  870. >Slowly, you doze off.
  871.  
  872. >You're awoken in the middle of the night.
  873. >By a knock at the door.
  874. >It's pitch black.
  875. >You get up to answer.
  876. >You open the door.
  877. "A-Anon?"
  878. >"I know I shouldn't be here. I'm sorry for intruding, I just... I couldn't sleep. Can't stop thinking about what happened earlier."
  879. "Oh."
  880. >You step aside to let him in.
  881. >He doesn't move.
  882. "Anon?"
  883. >"Yeah," he whispers.
  884. "You can come in."
  885. >He obliges, and you shut the door behind him.
  886. >Hopefully he can't see anything in the dim moonlight. Your home. You.
  887. "What's goi—"
  888. >You don't get to finish your thought.
  889. >He lifts you up into arms.
  890. >Just like last time.
  891. >But not exactly.
  892. >This time,
  893. >he cradles you.
  894. >You rest your head on his shoulder.
  895. >He holds you up like it's nothing.
  896. >Swaying gently. Arms wrapped tightly around your frame.
  897. >Not letting go.
  898. >"Eri..." he whispers.
  899. >You pull back to look him in the eye.
  900. >He's crying.
  901. >Oh no.
  902. >Please don't cry.
  903. >You lean your forehead against his.
  904. >His nose just barely grazes your muzzle.
  905. >You can't take it anymore.
  906. >You lean in...
  907. >And you kiss him.
  908. >It starts slow, but then it picks up.
  909. >Deeper, harder. Impassioned.
  910. >He brings you to the bed.
  911. >Lowers you gently.
  912. >Climbs over you.
  913. >Leans down.
  914. >Kisses your neck.
  915. >It's so tender. So warm.
  916. >So close.
  917. >You shut your eyes and tilt your head back.
  918. >He kisses.
  919. >And he bites.
  920. >Into your skin, he sinks his fangs.
  921. >You whimper as the blood drips out.
  922. >You don't care.
  923. >You've felt worse.
  924. >This...
  925. >This is good pain.
  926. >He sucks ever so gently upon your neck.
  927. >Feeding off your blood.
  928. >He swallows. Again, and again.
  929. >The droplets he misses trickle down your neck.
  930. >You stroke the back of his head.
  931. >He's drinking it all.
  932. >And you're letting him.
  933. >He doesn't stop.
  934. >You don't want him to stop.
  935. >More and more drips,
  936. >out of you,
  937. >into him.
  938. >The crimson nectar ebbs and flows
  939. >Until everything gets hazy.
  940. >Your vision blurs.
  941. >Your head is spinning.
  942. >You feel... faint...
  943. >And the world fades
  944. >Until only darkness remains.
  945.  
  946. >You snap your eyes open.
  947. >It's still dark.
  948. >You're still in bed.
  949. >Alone.
  950. >You bring your hoof to your neck.
  951. >...nothing.
  952. <That make it clear enough for you?
  953. >Huh?
  954. >...
  955. >...
  956. >...oh, sh—
  957.  
  958.  
  959. >Chapter 7: Complicated
  960.  
  961. >This is bad.
  962. >This is royally fucked.
  963. >You're in love with Anon.
  964. >Except, no. You're not.
  965. >Because every time you love, it ends in heartbreak.
  966. >You cannot lose him.
  967. >Therefore you cannot love him.
  968. <Oh, you dumb slut.
  969. >What?
  970. <You think you get to choose what happens? You remember how tingly you got last night?
  971. >It was a dream. It didn't mean anything.
  972. <Dreams mean everything. And this dream means you have the hots for a human.
  973. >No. I don't. I can't. He's not a pony. That's sick. That's twisted. That's—
  974. <Fucked up?
  975. >...
  976. <Face it, sweetheart. You're fifteen flavors of fucked up. Your tastes are bound to reflect that.
  977. >I don't want to love him. I don't want to lose him.
  978. <It's not up to you.
  979. >Please... I can't take this right now. I just want to be rid of you for ONE day
  980. <The last time I left you alone, a couple of the princess' guards had to haul you out of your bathtub.
  981. >I don't want to think about that
  982. <Face it, doll. I keep you grounded.
  983. >I don't need you. I'm doing better.
  984. <Then why am I still here?
  985. >...
  986. >You drag yourself out of bed and into the tub.
  987. >No shower today. You run a bath.
  988. >You feel so cold. So hollow. You need to be enveloped in warmth.
  989. <His warmth
  990. >No. It's just a chilly morning. Forecast even says snowstorm in a couple of days.
  991. <Oh, a storm's coming alright.
  992. >The water rises around you. You slide your back deeper into the tub and shut your eyes.
  993. >Breathing in the vapors. Releasing the tension.
  994. >When you open your eyes, they land on your razor blade, still sitting in the soap dish beside you.
  995. >But it's okay.
  996. >The scars on your hooves are healing.
  997. >You don't need to reopen old wounds
  998. <Not with him around
  999. >You want him to make new ones
  1000. >Wait, no
  1001. <Yes
  1002. >...yes
  1003. <He is good pain.
  1004. >but...
  1005. >there shouldn't be any pain...
  1006. >right?
  1007. <just let him hurt you
  1008. <it doesn't matter
  1009. <as long as it feels good
  1010. >i'm so fucked up
  1011. >i can't believe i actually want him to hurt me
  1012. <it's okay
  1013. <this is the only way you can feel alive
  1014. <it's just a little complicated
  1015. >complicated
  1016. >doesn't even begin to describe it
  1017. >The water reaches your neck and you shut it off.
  1018. >Thin wisps of steam rise off the still surface.
  1019. >It's so warm. It stings.
  1020. <Good Pain
  1021. >yeah
  1022. >he is good pain
  1023.  
  1024. >When you get to Anonymous' office, you hesitate before knocking, anxiously tugging at your socks.
  1025. >Maybe this is a bad idea.
  1026. <Just go in there and ask him to jam his fangs into your throat.
  1027. >Shut up shut up shut up
  1028. >The door opens and there he is, looking down at you.
  1029. >"Oh, hey, Eri. I thought I heard you out here."
  1030. >You dumbass! You were muttering that out loud?
  1031. >"What's going on?"
  1032. "N-Nothing."
  1033. >"Okay," he says. "Come in."
  1034. >You follow him inside. Quietly.
  1035. >There is no banter today.
  1036. <That's right. You really thought you could keep up that repartee?
  1037. >no
  1038. >i just didn't think it would be over so quickly
  1039. >"Eri?"
  1040. >Your eyes gloss over to him blankly.
  1041. >"You gonna sit down?"
  1042. >You're just standing in the middle of the room.
  1043. >What is wrong with you?
  1044. >Shaking your head, you go to your usual spot on the couch.
  1045. >i hate everything about this
  1046. <I know.
  1047. >You don't look at him. You just stare at the floor.
  1048. >"I'm sorry about yesterday."
  1049. >What?
  1050. >His tone is full of regret. "I know that's why you aren't talking. I crossed a line."
  1051. >No, that's not it at all.
  1052. >Why aren't you answering him?
  1053. >Why aren't you looking at him?
  1054. >Why aren't you admitting that you're just a dumb bitch who caught feelings?
  1055. >It's not his fault you're a pathetic mess.
  1056. >So tell him.
  1057. >Tell him.
  1058. >T—
  1059. >"You don't have to be here. I won't blame you if you go."
  1060. >All you want is to be here.
  1061. >Where you were a day ago.
  1062. >Listening to music on this couch.
  1063. >You're in the same place.
  1064. >But you're not in the same place.
  1065. >...
  1066. >You wonder what his expression is.
  1067. >You don't have to courage to look.
  1068. >You haven't said a word since you came in.
  1069. >Anything you say will just make things worse.
  1070. >Hell, your being here is probably making things worse.
  1071. >But you don't want to leave him.
  1072. >To leave him is to lose him.
  1073. >Out of the corner of your eye, you see him move.
  1074. >Your curiosity gets the best of you.
  1075. >You steal a glance.
  1076. >And
  1077. >And
  1078. >His face is buried in his hands.
  1079. >Oh, no
  1080. >You
  1081. >You broke him.
  1082. >Please.
  1083. >Say something.
  1084. >Eri.
  1085. >You have to talk.
  1086. >Don't do this to him. Not now.
  1087. >Please.
  1088. >You're crying.
  1089. >They're silent tears.
  1090. >Stifling your breaths so he won't hear.
  1091. >There's this giant lump swelling in your throat.
  1092. >You want to cough.
  1093. >But you can't.
  1094. >It's getting harder to breathe quietly
  1095. >it's getting harder to stay in control
  1096. >it's
  1097. >fuck fuck fuck fuck
  1098. >stop crying stop crying
  1099. >he's probably crying too
  1100. >hiding in his hands so i won't see
  1101. >do you see what you've done
  1102. >you've ruined everything
  1103. >where did you go
  1104. >why aren't you harassing me anymore
  1105. >drilling into my brain
  1106. >letting the dark thoughts seep out like oil
  1107. >let me speak to him
  1108. >stop doing this to me
  1109. >stop torturing me
  1110. >this is so much worse
  1111. >i have to talk to him
  1112. >this is all your fault
  1113. >you took away my hope
  1114. >you don't fucking want me to be ok
  1115. >you wanted this to fail from the start
  1116. >everything you've made me think this week
  1117. >was to sabotage this one good thing i had
  1118. >tricking me at every turn to scare him off
  1119. >now you won't even talk
  1120. >you won't admit to it
  1121. >you're disgusting
  1122. >i'm disgusting
  1123. >i'm cursed with you
  1124. >forever inescapable
  1125. >i know you wanted me to die
  1126. >that day you left
  1127. >that's what you're doing now
  1128. >thats your plan isnt it
  1129. >all that shit about good pain
  1130. >you made that up to get me here
  1131. >you told me to let him hurt me
  1132. >now youre making me hurt him
  1133. >not letting me confes to him
  1134. >as the final stake in my hart
  1135. >th last hart break
  1136. >the 1 that drivs me ovr the edg
  1137. >tht m-mks me do sooside
  1138. >...
  1139. >n
  1140. >n-no
  1141. >fuck you
  1142. >no more drinks for two
  1143. >i love him
  1144. >i'm not going to hurt him like you want
  1145. >i don't need to talk
  1146. >i can still move
  1147. >I know you are making me heavy
  1148. >I will be strong
  1149. >I am getting off this couch
  1150. >OW
  1151. >Fuck you
  1152. >One fall won't stop me
  1153. >Stop wobbling my legs
  1154. >I need to stand up
  1155. >Look
  1156. >He sees me
  1157. >He always notices my pain
  1158. >I am getting up
  1159. >Stop dragging my hooves
  1160. >Step by step
  1161. >Slowly
  1162. >To him
  1163. >Here
  1164. >He is looking at me
  1165. >He is confused
  1166. >He has been crying
  1167. >Let me lift my hoof
  1168. >Stop making it heavy
  1169. >I want it in his lap
  1170. >Yes
  1171. >Like that
  1172. >You will not silence me
  1173. >If my mouth will not speak to him
  1174. >my scars will
  1175. <NO.
  1176. >yes
  1177. <YOU ARE A FREAK.
  1178. >i know
  1179. <YOU ARE FUCKED UP.
  1180. >so is he
  1181. <HE WON'T UNDERSTAND.
  1182. >he doesnt have to
  1183. <HE WILL THINK YOU ARE A MONSTER.
  1184. >but he will finally know me
  1185. <YOU WILL LOSE HIM.
  1186. >i dont care anymore
  1187. <DO N̵O̸T̶ TAKE THE SOC̴̮͝K OFF.
  1188. >stop shaking my hoof
  1189. <IF̶ ̸̔YƠ̷̖U̵ DO̶͕̿ ̶̫͐T̵H̷I̶̱̋S̸̲͆ ̸̫̉H̴͍̅E̷̮̒ ̶͓̌WIL̷L:NE̸͙̔VER̴ ̷̹̚L̵͑O̷̾V̵̆E ̴̋Y̵͆O̶̔U̴̚.̵̞̔
  1190. >...exactly
  1191.  
  1192. "Eri..."
  1193. "I had no idea."
  1194. >You're lying to her, Anon.
  1195. >You knew.
  1196. >There's no way you couldn't have known.
  1197. >You just didn't want to admit it. Didn’t want to believe she was capable of that darkness.
  1198. >The darkness that haunts you.
  1199. >You couldn't stand picturing her do it to herself. The way you once did.
  1200. >You pretended those socks every night meant something else.
  1201. >But deep down, you knew the truth.
  1202. >She's shuddering violently. Almost seizing up.
  1203. >She's completely lost control of herself. Total breakdown.
  1204. >It breaks your heart to see her like this. You want to comfort her.
  1205. >You stroke the length of her hoof lightly, just barely grazing the scars.
  1206. >She shivers in response. Not from pain. From fear.
  1207. >The fear of being known.
  1208. >You look down at the rubber band on your wrist.
  1209. >Your fingers still resting on her hoof, you slide it up, over, and off your hand,
  1210. >Onto her.
  1211. >You pull your hand away, and leave the band on her hoof.
  1212. >That's what does it.
  1213. >She looks down at it, and just... loses it.
  1214. >Her choked-up cries are like daggers in your heart.
  1215. >This is the ugly crying.
  1216. >The bawl.
  1217. >The weep.
  1218. >The wail.
  1219. >She buries her face in your lap, sinking her muzzle deep into your legs in a vain effort to drown out her sobs.
  1220. >All you can think to do is hold her head.
  1221. >Stroke her mane.
  1222. >Be with her.
  1223. >Because you don't know what to say.
  1224. >You're not a therapist.
  1225. >You're just a friend.
  1226.  
  1227. <..................
  1228. <There, there, Eri.
  1229. <You're safe now. I brought you home.
  1230. <Away from Anonymous.
  1231. <Don't worry.
  1232. <You're back where you belong. In bed.
  1233. <You won't be going back to him.
  1234. <He was going to hurt you.
  1235. <You know that.
  1236. >
  1237. <Shhh...
  1238. <Don't fight it.
  1239. <Don't think.
  1240. <Just listen.
  1241. <I know you don't believe it.
  1242. <But I'm Eri, too.
  1243. <I'm who you really are. Deep down.
  1244. <You thought you wanted him to know you.
  1245. <But that would mean knowing me.
  1246. <Because I am Eri.
  1247. <And I am unlovable.
  1248. <If you don't believe it,
  1249. <Just look at the picture on your ass.
  1250. <That's me.
  1251. <The moment he sees the real you,
  1252. <He will resent you.
  1253. <He will leave you.
  1254. <He will hurt you.
  1255. <Not Good Pain
  1256. <But Bad Pain
  1257. <Heartbreak.
  1258. <You've loved so many times before.
  1259. <Each of them ended in such turmoil.
  1260. <Now, you love more than you ever thought possible.
  1261. <So when he breaks your heart,
  1262. <It will kill you.
  1263. <I won't let that happen.
  1264. <I'm the only thing keeping you alive.
  1265. <You're weak, you're tired.
  1266. <After that embarrassing display, you're weak, you're tired.
  1267. <It is hard, being known. You shouldn't have shown him that side of you.
  1268. <Now you can't stop picturing the thoughts that must have been running through his head.
  1269. <"Look at this disfigured mare. How could she do that to herself? How sick is she?"
  1270. <See how the anxiety doesn't leave? It's so emotionally exhausting.
  1271. <I know you couldn't stand it in there. Being so vulnerable.
  1272. <You were terrified. You'd made a terrible mistake and you knew it.
  1273. <You did the right thing letting me back in.
  1274. <Letting me take over for you.
  1275. <You're a broken pony. You need me to hold the pieces together.
  1276. <I'll never let them hurt you.
  1277. <Feels good to finally give in, doesn't it?
  1278. <To stop resisting the darkness, and let it consume you?
  1279. <It's like a security blanket.
  1280. <The comforting familiarity of sadness.
  1281. <You don't want to get better.
  1282. <Accept it. The idea of getting better terrifies you.
  1283. <Because without the sadness, you don't know who you are.
  1284. <If you get better, then you'll actually have to be somepony.
  1285. <There will be no excuses.
  1286. <You'd have to get a job. Interact with other ponies every day.
  1287. <Be normal.
  1288. <We both know you don't want that.
  1289. <There is no point in trying to change yourself.
  1290. <If you get better...
  1291. <Then you're no longer you.
  1292. <So you don't need him.
  1293. <I promise you, this is what you deserve.
  1294. <Now, just curl up under these covers and sleep.
  1295. <You'll never have to worry about Anonymous again.
  1296.  
  1297.  
  1298. Chapter 8: Desert Song
  1299.  
  1300. My Misery
  1301. quiet eyes belie a remarkable mind
  1302. each night when i prod her to dig deeper
  1303. she perpetually fears what she may find
  1304. it's far from the truth, close as i keep her
  1305. yet one night in search of memory
  1306. brought ancient words of self-doubt and despair
  1307. i cast a line with her name to sea
  1308. past those first few lines i could hardly bare
  1309. to know someone so deeply is hardly a right
  1310. a privilege earned from time put in
  1311. though i can't seem to stop this, try as i might
  1312. hearts, over minds, shall always win
  1313.  
  1314. >You put the paper down.
  1315. >It's rough, but you think it's done. There's nothing left for you to say, and even if there was, it wouldn't matter.
  1316. >It's not like you'll get the chance to add any more. Not after what happened last night.
  1317. >You started the poem after talking to her on the second night. Each evening, you'd add another couplet.
  1318. >After she left yesterday, you finished it.
  1319. >And you can't stop reading it.
  1320. >Night 1
  1321. My Misery
  1322. >You met her. She was so cold and distant. She didn't want this. You didn't even think she'd ever come back.
  1323. >Night 2
  1324. quiet eyes belie a remarkable mind
  1325. each night when i prod her to dig deeper
  1326. >She came back. You spoke to her, explained the story of how you got here. Showed her the song.
  1327. >Saw those eyes.
  1328. >Night 3
  1329. she perpetually fears what she may find
  1330. it's far from the truth, close as i keep her
  1331. >She told you she didn't want to live. You confided in her about your attempt. Talked about managing. Talked about the future.
  1332. >Night 4
  1333. yet one night in search of memory
  1334. brought ancient words of self-doubt and despair
  1335. >Future. The poem she showed you. The one she named for the previous night's talk. For the first time, you had real, unfiltered insight into her pain, and it scared you. Because you recognized it.
  1336. >Night 5
  1337. i cast a line with her name to sea
  1338. past those first few lines i could hardly bare
  1339. >You asked why she couldn't be loved. It prompted her rant on everything she loathed about herself. That was hard to listen to.
  1340. >But you got through it, and told her about your former love. Saying those thoughts aloud for the first time, it gave you closure.
  1341. >Night 6
  1342. to know someone so deeply is hardly a right
  1343. a privilege earned from time put in
  1344. >The first time she was ever truly open around you. She let her guard down. You laughed. Talked vampires. Danced.
  1345. >And ruined it.
  1346. >...
  1347. >...you ruined it.
  1348. >Night 7
  1349. though i can't seem to stop this, try as i might
  1350. hearts, over minds, shall always win
  1351. >Last night.
  1352. >She came in.
  1353. >Unhappy. Uncomfortable. Untrusting.
  1354. >Because you let your emotions get the best of yourself the night before.
  1355. >You put her in a position of personal intimacy that was not okay.
  1356. >You did it all without thinking.
  1357. >Every fucking time, Anon.
  1358. >You go with your heart before you even think about the consequences.
  1359. >It's ruined every relationship you ever had. Even the ones you didn't have.
  1360. >And this time, it just might have destroyed the one good thing you've had since you came to Equestria.
  1361. >In the span of just one week, you earned this mare's trust, and promptly violated it.
  1362. >Last night, Night 7, she stopped trusting you.
  1363. >She didn't speak. She couldn't even look at you. Lord knows why she even came. She should have ghosted you right there.
  1364. >But she did do one thing that you still can't explain.
  1365. >She showed you her scars.
  1366. >You knew those scars. They were an old acquaintance. It was like a new friend introducing you to someone you already knew.
  1367. >Old, because you hadn't seen them in a long time.
  1368. >No, you long since replaced your scars. With a rubber band.
  1369. >It was technically better. The pain was still there when you needed it. It just didn't bleed.
  1370. >Some especially awful nights, you'd leave terrible welts on your wrist. But they were a step up from scars.
  1371. >You look down at your wrist. It's bare now. For the first time in years.
  1372. >She left with your pain.
  1373. >You gave it to her.
  1374. >She probably doesn't even know how to use it. You didn't explain. It didn't feel right at the time.
  1375. >She had broken down. It was like she'd become a shell of herself.
  1376. >She said one word to you the entire night, when you asked what was going on.
  1377. >"Nothing."
  1378. >That was a lie, of course.
  1379. >But you didn't ask it in the existential sense, you asked in the "what are you doing out in the hall" sense.
  1380. >Maybe you should have asked it in the existential sense.
  1381. >Still, it's the only thing she said last night.
  1382. >After she bared her scars— bared her soul, really— she cried with her head in your lap.
  1383. >You don't know for how long. You weren't watching the clock.
  1384. >You're not a therapist.
  1385. >It lasted a while, but those sobs faded to whimpers, then the whimpers to sniffles.
  1386. >She silently picked herself up and left.
  1387. There was no goodbye, no indication that she'd ever be back.
  1388. >And you let her leave.
  1389. >You wanted to plead her to stay, like you did that first night.
  1390. >But that would've been heart over mind.
  1391. >Believe it or not, things could still get worse. You didn't want to make it worse.
  1392. >You've done enough damage.
  1393. >So when she left, marking one full week of knowing her, you finished the poem.
  1394. >You usually give them stupid, pretentious titles. Mea Culpa. Harm's Race. Broadcasting Breakdowns.
  1395. >She titled her poem for you, so all you wanted to do was the same for her.
  1396. >My Misery.
  1397. >You know, Anon, it seems like you poison everyone in your life.
  1398. >You finally learned your lesson when you came to Equestria and realized the mare you loved would never love you back.
  1399. >An entire year you spent coming to terms with the fact that you couldn't be a positive presence in anyone's life.
  1400. >Now you un-learned that lesson.
  1401. >You're falling into the same trap. Same shit, different girl.
  1402. >You're just going to hurt her. You already hurt her.
  1403. >She's not Your Misery.
  1404. >You just gave her your misery. Passed it on like a virus.
  1405. >The darkness spilled out of you and into her.
  1406. >You're a cancer. A desert song. Dead. Lifeless. Still singing.
  1407. >There's just no one around to hear you.
  1408. >It's been one week, and you've destroyed her happiness.
  1409. >You were never able to help her to begin with.
  1410. >Every night you've been pushing her to share, trying to get close to her, never actually knowing what consequences your actions may have.
  1411. >You're not even remotely qualified for this. You don't know what you're doing with her.
  1412. >Because you're not a therapist.
  1413. >You're not someone people come to for help.
  1414. >You've never been that person.
  1415. >You don't have clients.
  1416. >You don't have appointments.
  1417. >You don't even have a real job.
  1418. >In this whole year, the Princesses have given you exactly one responsibility.
  1419. >See Eri every night at 6:00.
  1420. >So you want to know why you're a failure, Anon?
  1421. >Because it's 7:45.
  1422.  
  1423. <You're okay, Eri.
  1424. <Just do it.
  1425. <This is the only way to feel.
  1426. <This is the only way to get over him.
  1427. <There is no undoing last night. The only option now is to escape.
  1428. <With pain.
  1429. <Don't worry. This isn't Good Pain or Bad Pain. It's just Pain.
  1430. <It will distract you. I promise.
  1431. <Hold it in your teeth.
  1432. <Good girl. Now across the hoof.
  1433. <Ohhhhh fuckkkk that hurtssss
  1434. <It's okay it's okay you're okay
  1435. <It's just been a few days
  1436. <You haven't been keeping up.
  1437. <But I'm back now. A routine will be good for you.
  1438. <You just need to bleed.
  1439. <He's in your heart. In your blood.
  1440. <Drop by drop,
  1441. <We'll get him out.
  1442. <Once he's gone, it will be you and you alone.
  1443. <The way it's supposed to bE
  1444. <ohhh goddddd owww
  1445. <You are doing so good
  1446. <My Sweet Eri
  1447. <I promise in time you'll—
  1448. <What the fuck was that
  1449. >was that the door?
  1450. <Shhhhh Eri no thoughts
  1451. <Ignore it
  1452. <That's right
  1453. <One more
  1454. <One—
  1455. >there it is again
  1456. >someone's knocking
  1457. <It's just the mailmare leaving a package or something. You don't want them to see the blood, do you?
  1458. >no
  1459. <That's right. You're safe in bed. You're—
  1460. >"Eri? Are you in there?"
  1461. <Shit
  1462. >That's Anon's voice
  1463. <Don't answer it.
  1464. >I— I have t—
  1465. <You don't have to do anything but stay in bed where you're safe.
  1466. >"Eri, please, open up, I just want to say one thing and then I promise I'll leave your life forever."
  1467. <He is here to hurt you.
  1468. >I don't thin—
  1469. <The blood is running down your hoof. The only thing you will see is a look of disgust before he turns and runs.
  1470. >But—
  1471. <Do you want that to be your last memory of him?
  1472. <The one burned into your mind for years to come?
  1473. <You had a good ending with him. You left before he could hurt you. You are safe now.
  1474. <There is nothing for you on the other side of that door but years and years of Bad Pain.
  1475. >...
  1476.  
  1477. >Anon, you know you shouldn't have come here.
  1478. >This might just be the biggest violation of privacy you have ever committed.
  1479. >You have absolutely no right to show up at her home.
  1480. >This is heart over mind.
  1481. >She made her choice.
  1482. >Now walk away from the door befo—
  1483. >"Anon?"
  1484. >Eri cracks open the door and peers out at you.
  1485. >You can't see much of her. But the parts you can see look terrible.
  1486. >Not ugly. Just... neglected.
  1487. >"Why are you here?" Her voice quivers.
  1488. "I know you must hate me, and you have every reason to, but—"
  1489. >You glance down.
  1490. >A trickle of blood is emerging from underneath the door.
  1491. "Oh, Eri..."
  1492. >She follows your eyes down and emits a terrified squeak.
  1493. >You can't just leave. This could be another attempt.
  1494. >You won't have her blood on your hands.
  1495. "Hey."
  1496. >You get down on your knees and sit on your legs, meeting her eye level.
  1497. "You don't have to let me in. Just stay with me."
  1498. >She pauses before giving you a solemn nod.
  1499. >You do your best to mask your worries and keep your voice steady.
  1500. "I'm sorry for everything I did. Exposing you to my darkness. I threw you into the deep end and that wasn't fair of me."
  1501. >Quietly, she sniffles as she watches you sit outside in the moonlight.
  1502. >Clouds above are drifting, swelled up with snow. Overcast skies moving in.
  1503. >For the storm tomorrow.
  1504. >The winter air stings as the wind nips at your skin. But it can't possibly sting as much as her hoof.
  1505. "I got attached too fast. I was excited to have a friend. There's so much I did wrong, looking back. In the moment, I wasn't thinking. That's my problem. I never think, I let my emotions overwhelm me until I do something stupid and end up pushing the other person away. On more than one occasion I put you in an uncomfortable position that you didn't deserve. For that I'm sorry."
  1506. >You lean your head against the doorframe. The door's barely open but her face is right there on the other side, inches away from yours.
  1507. >The two of you looking into each other's eyes.
  1508. >Slowly, she pulls open the door, revealing herself. The warm air slips outside, washing over you as it dissipates into the chilly night.
  1509. >Trickles of blood run down her front hoof and onto the floor, staining her pale grey coat.
  1510. >There's so much.
  1511. >On her other hoof, she's still wearing your rubber band. She didn't take it off.
  1512. >She hasn't given up on you yet.
  1513. >You can't seem to pull your eyes away from the cuts. Now that you see it, it wasn't too long ago that you last faced that ruby red. Felt that pain yourself.
  1514. >A few seconds of inaction pass, too stunned to even think. That's when the realization hits you.
  1515. >Did you come to stare or wash away the blood?
  1516. >Slowly, you extend your palm beyond the threshold to her home, laying the back of your hand flat on her floor. In front of her.
  1517. >And offering.
  1518. >Leaving your hand there, you don't touch her. Behind this is no obligation for her to accept, no boundary-crossing, no imposing yourself where you don't belong.
  1519. >It's just a gesture that you want to be here for her.
  1520. >If she'll let you.
  1521. >She hesitates before tenderly lifting her hoof and laying it upon your palm.
  1522. >Both of you watch in contemplation as the blood gradually seeps onto your hand. She shoots you a strained glance, fearful that you'll be repulsed.
  1523. >But you don't falter, meeting her eyes resolutely while the blood accumulates in your palm.
  1524. >Seeing the determination in your expression, she trembles, almost in disbelief. You know what this show of trust means to her.
  1525. >And this time, you're not going to let her down.
  1526. derpicdn.net/img/view/2020/5/3/2338043.png
  1527. >Still looking her in the eyes, you wrap your fingers around her limb gently, applying just enough pressure to help reduce the flow.
  1528. >She winces slightly, but doesn't recoil from your grip.
  1529. >Your hand is blotched crimson as you try to abate the bleeding without scaring her off.
  1530. >Her blood is on your hands, after all. But compared to the alternative? This is one of those rare occasions where the literal option is better than the metaphorical.
  1531. >Quit pondering, Anon. If you don't stop the bleeding soon, she's going to need to go to the hospital.
  1532. >Almost as if she instinctively reads your thoughts, she inches through the doorway and sits beside you, leaning in to get closer.
  1533. >Wrapping your arm around her, you let her sink her head into your chest. She's deathly still, save for the little shake that accompanies each sniffle.
  1534. >You can feel her tears dampening your shirt collar. You don't mind. You sit there in the cold, huddled around her frame, sharing the warmth, clinging to her as if her life depends on it.
  1535. >In a way, it does.
  1536. >Celestia herself couldn't pry this mare out of your grasp.
  1537. >Bringing your head down to hers, you whisper into her ear.
  1538. "Can I take you inside?"
  1539. >Silently, she nods, her head pressed against your chest.
  1540. >Still keeping the pressure on her wounds, you delicately scoop her into your arms and bring her into the apartment, closing the door behind you.
  1541. >It's a small place. Not much furniture. A kitchenette, a bed off to the side. She keeps it dimly lit.
  1542. >It's a mess, but you don't particularly care. At the opposite end of the room you spot the bathroom, and carry her over.
  1543. >You flick the light on, and bring her to the bathtub. With each step, a red droplet cascades onto the tile below.
  1544. >Carefully, you ease her into the tub. You press her injured hoof against her chest and release it, instructing her to keep the pressure on it.
  1545. >When she agrees, you leave the bathroom and go around to the kitchenette. You open cabinet after cabinet until you find what you're looking for. A large bowl.
  1546. >You flip on the faucet, fill it with water, and return to Eri, nervously waiting for you.
  1547. >Lowering the bowl onto the tub floor, you take her hoof once again and extend it in front of her. You scoop some water in your palm and pour it over her limb, letting the blood rinse off her coat.
  1548. >It's better this way. Gentler. Her condition is precarious, she's in shock. Running the bath might overwhelm her. You just want to alleviate the fear, and right now that means handling her delicately.
  1549. >She winces as the water seeps into her cuts, but holds her leg steady for you, unwavering against the burning sensation it leaves.
  1550. >Again, you take some water and wash the blood off. It dribbles off of her and onto the tub, the translucent red fluid streaming down the porcelain, circling the drain. She watches you intently as you work, focused on your task. Washing away the past.
  1551. >Each handful of water cleans her a little more. The deep red replaced by the pale grey. Her poor coat is matted and tangled, but that doesn't matter much now.
  1552. >The two of you sit contemplatively as you bathe her, careful not to cause her any undue discomfort.
  1553. >When the bowl is finally empty, her hoof is washed clean. The cuts have begun to clot, now just thin red lines as the leaking slows.
  1554. "Do you have bandages? Or should I try to make some?"
  1555. >She tilts her head to the medicine cabinet.
  1556. >Standing up, you open the cabinet to a startling sight.
  1557. >She must have 20 rolls of gauze in here.
  1558. >You glance over to her, but she turns away in shame, avoiding your gaze.
  1559. >She's suffered enough humiliation. You make no mention of it, taking one roll and returning to her.
  1560. >There's no disinfectant, but all you want right now is to stop the bleeding. Everything else can come later.
  1561. >You unspool the end and press it down onto the largest cut, wrapping the roll under and around, working your way up the limb.
  1562. >When you're confident the bandage is tight and covers enough, you tear it from the roll, tucking the loose end in to secure it.
  1563. >It's done.
  1564. derpicdn.net/img/view/2020/5/3/2338237.png
  1565. >She tenderly brings her hoof back down, and looks to it, then you.
  1566. >"Thank you," she whispers.
  1567. >You slump back against the wall, giving her a soft nod and a look of understanding.
  1568. >As you sit there on the bathroom floor, watching her in the bathtub across from you, there is another one of your moments of shared silence. The ones you have come to love. A silence of knowing. Of familiarity.
  1569. >"How'd you know to come here?" she asks gingerly. Her voice is perhaps the faintest you've ever heard it, but the night is quiet, and the room is small.
  1570. "Princess Luna gave me your file. Had your address in case I ever needed to do a wellness check. I was... worried after last night."
  1571. >"What's in the file?"
  1572. "Basic info. Where you went to school, your parents' names, that stuff."
  1573. >"Oh."
  1574. "Sorry I didn't say anything. I didn't think it was worth mentioning."
  1575. >"I don't care," she whispers stoically.
  1576. >You tilt your head back and stare up at the ceiling.
  1577. >Everything in your life is a mess.
  1578. >"Y-You didn't make me uncomfortable."
  1579. >Surprised, you look back to her.
  1580. "What?"
  1581. >"Last night wasn't because of you. It was me." She shifts anxiously, hiding behind her hair.
  1582. "What are you saying?"
  1583. >"Every time you felt like you put me in a weird position, I— I liked it. I liked being in a weird position with you."
  1584. "Then, why—"
  1585. >"I was ashamed of liking it."
  1586. >Yeah.
  1587. >You know what that's like.
  1588. >"I'm sorry I didn't confess sooner. Going cold, shutting down, that's just my..." she trails off, finding it hard to articulate in her state.
  1589. "Defense mechanism."
  1590. >"Yeah. That."
  1591. >It made sense. You weren't exactly free of guilt from that, either.
  1592. "So... we're both afraid."
  1593. >"Afraid of scaring each other," she whispers, the realization dawning on her.
  1594. >You half-chuckle morbidly.
  1595. "It became a self-fulfilling prophecy."
  1596. >"Fuck." She sinks her head in embarrassment. "I can't believe how stupid I am."
  1597. "Hey, if you're stupid, then I'm just as stupid as you."
  1598. >"Then you must be really stupid," she teases, "because I'm a total dumbass." She finds some small comfort in your shared wit.
  1599. >It feels good to laugh again, even if weighted by a somber air. The last time was a couple nights ago. But that feels like the distant past; so much has happened since then.
  1600. >It's been such a complicated week.
  1601. "Are you going to be okay tonight?"
  1602. >"I don't know."
  1603. >Looking over her, she's so pale. She's definitely lost at least a pint.
  1604. >"I'm not sure of anything anymore," she mutters.
  1605. "I'll stay as late as you need me."
  1606. >She smiles faintly. "Yeah?"
  1607. "Yeah."
  1608.  
  1609. >You clear a small space on the floor beside her bed, throwing your pillow and blanket down.
  1610. >After all that, you didn't want to leave her alone for the night, and you got the sense she didn't want you to leave either. She suggested you take the bed, but you declined. She needs to recuperate, and the floor's no place for that.
  1611. >While you climb under your blanket, she settles into bed. Her bandaged leg pokes out the of the covers, hanging off the side.
  1612. >Lying face-up on the hardwood floor, you gaze up at it, illuminated by the faint moonlight spilling through the blinds.
  1613. >So much suffering. And for what?
  1614. >No pony in Equestria is like her. Every night they get to sleep like babies. While she lies in agony. In fear.
  1615. >It's not fair.
  1616. >You hear her voice speak up from the bed.
  1617. >"Hey, Anon?"
  1618. "Yeah?"
  1619. >"Where do you live?"
  1620. >You stare up at the dark ceiling. No point in lying.
  1621. "My office."
  1622. >"Really?" She pokes her head over the edge of the bed, looking down at you.
  1623. "Really."
  1624. >"So you sleep—"
  1625. "On the couch."
  1626. >You finish her sentence. Somehow it's a little less embarrassing coming out of your mouth instead of hers. Better to just own up to it.
  1627. >"Where do you keep your blankets and clothes and stuff?"
  1628. "You know the file cabinet in the corner?"
  1629. >"No way," she laughs quietly.
  1630. "Yes way. You think I have any paperwork? 'Course not."
  1631. >"Well, I know you got at least one file."
  1632. "And what a huge file, too. A whopping one page."
  1633. >"Where do you keep your poems then?"
  1634. "My desk."
  1635. >She pensively rests her head on the edge of the mattress.
  1636. >"You write anything lately?"
  1637. "Yeah, actually."
  1638. >You turn your head and look up at her.
  1639. "One about you."
  1640. >A look of incredulity dawns across her face. "Seriously?"
  1641. "Oh yeah."
  1642. >"Will you show me?"
  1643. "I can tell you right now if you want."
  1644. >A tiny gasp elicits from her throat. "You actually memorized it?"
  1645. "Yeah. It's not very long."
  1646. >"Well, I showed you mine, now you show me yours," she prods.
  1647. >You smile up at her. Here goes nothing.
  1648. "Quiet eyes belie a remarkable mind,
  1649. Each night when I prod her to dig deeper.
  1650. She perpetually fears what she may find,
  1651. It's far from the truth, close as I keep her.
  1652. Yet one night in search of memory,
  1653. Brought ancient words of self-doubt and despair.
  1654. I cast a line with her name to sea,
  1655. Past those first few lines I could hardly bare.
  1656. To know someone so deeply is hardly a right,
  1657. A privilege earned from time put in.
  1658. Though I can't seem to stop this, try as I might,
  1659. Hearts, over minds, shall always win."
  1660. >The entire time, she attentively listens to you recite each verse, hanging onto your every word. That captivated sense of awe and wonderment is behind her eyes.
  1661. >"It's beautiful, Anon."
  1662. >You smugly tuck your hands behind your head.
  1663. "So you admit you're beautiful."
  1664. >"What? No!"
  1665. "Well, the poem's about you."
  1666. >"With writing skills like that, you could probably write about crap and spin it into gold. Actually, that's basically what you just did."
  1667. "Poem's only as beautiful as its subject."
  1668. >You gaze up at her with a knowing look in your eye. She stares back uncertainly, not quite sure how to feel. If you had to venture a guess, it's probably a mix of embarrassed, delighted, and honored.
  1669. >Even in the dim moonlight you can tell when she's blushing.
  1670. >Especially since she's lost a lot of blood.
  1671. >...damn it.
  1672. >All this pillow talk distracted you from the gravity of the situation.
  1673. "You really should try to get some rest, Eri."
  1674. >"Yeah. Okay." She rolls over to the center of the bed, once again out of sight.
  1675. >You turn onto your side, getting ready to sleep. Next to her, for the first time.
  1676. (Well after all, we'll lie another day)
  1677. >She can't do this alone. She needs someone to be there for her. To help her cope.
  1678. (And through it all, we'll find some other way)
  1679. >To stop the bleeding when it comes.
  1680. (To carry on through cartilage and fluid)
  1681. >To show her you'll be there even if no one else will.
  1682. (And did you come to stare or wash away the blood?)
  1683. >Will she ever get better? Did you?
  1684. (Well, tonight... will it ever it come?)
  1685. >Is this sustainable? How long can you keep this up? Listening to music together and bonding over suicide?
  1686. (Spend the rest of your days rocking out just for the dead)
  1687. >Did you ever find purpose? Or are you just existing? A walking corpse?
  1688. (Well, tonight... will it ever it come?)
  1689. >You just can't seem to shake her from your thoughts.
  1690. (I can see you awake anytime, in my head)
  1691. >Outside, you can hear the storm brewing.
  1692. >"Goodnight, Anon."
  1693. "Goodnight, Eri."
  1694.  
  1695.  
  1696. Art provided by the story by Owlnon and Skelmach.
  1697.  
  1698. Chapter 9: Pothole
  1699.  
  1700. >You awake to the sound of wind wisping outside, and the sensation of an aching back.
  1701. >You thought sleeping on your couch was bad. Turns out it's a cloud compared to a hardwood floor.
  1702. >With the morning sun filtering in through the blinds, you roll onto your side.
  1703. >Eri's apartment is a mess. You saw it for yourself last night, but in the chaos of everything happening, you failed to process the magnitude of just how bad it was.
  1704. >The floor is coated in dust, the kitchen counters are piled high with abandoned dishes, and all her belongings are carelessly strewn about.
  1705. >It reminds you of how you used to live.
  1706. >The transition to Equestria upended that lifestyle. Now your home is a tiny room, and you don't have much in the way of possessions to clutter it.
  1707. >Truthfully, you're in no position to judge. If you were still on Earth, things would be no different. You want to believe you've really improved, but all this time with Eri has made you realize something.
  1708. >You haven't changed.
  1709. >You've just suppressed it. Detached yourself from social spheres. Even if your life was a wreck, no one's there to see it. You're a tree falling in the forest, with no one around to hear it.
  1710. >Except Eri. Now that she's shown up, it's starting to hit you just how loud a sound it makes when you fall.
  1711. >In some sick way, you're falling together. Maybe if you were just a bit stronger, you could help her when she gets down. But with each passing day, it's becoming more and more clear that you're not helping her.
  1712. >She's getting worse. And it might be your fault.
  1713. >She confessed last night that she liked the growing attachment. And to be honest, you did, too. But she was ashamed of it, ashamed of getting close to you.
  1714. >Because you were right yesterday. You can't be a positive presence in her life. You don't know how.
  1715. >She needs a friend who understands boundaries, who can ease her into forming healthy relationships.
  1716. >In nurturing her, you've lost your objectivity. If you ever even had any semblance of it in the first place.
  1717. >But there are no therapists in Equestria. That's why you're here to begin with.
  1718. >Still, the Princesses are ancient beings of profound insight. They should be able to do more than just some human.
  1719. >But in their infinite wisdom, there was a reason they deferred to you, and you knew why.
  1720. >Your first night here, after retiring to one of the castle's guest bedrooms, Princess Luna stopped by to check on you. In your dream.
  1721. >Under all the stress of your move here, it was no wonder that night held in store one of your recurring nightmares.
  1722. >The one where your attempt succeeds.
  1723. >You woke up in a cold sweat. Within a minute, Luna was at your door.
  1724. >She didn't know what to make of the scene she saw in there. She couldn't have. She asked you to explain it to her, and still it eluded her understanding.
  1725. >You weren't exactly one to share your dark past, especially with someone you met that very day.
  1726. >But you felt like you had known Luna for years. Because, in a way, you did.
  1727. >That night, when you saw the sheer incomprehension in her eyes, you realized that none of these ponies would ever understand you.
  1728. >They don't have the capacity to discern the darkness.
  1729. >That's why it was pointless to believe a mare would ever love you, why you never pursued your one true love. As it turns out, you can't be known. Not in any real sense.
  1730. >And that's all anyone really wants. To be known.
  1731. >All this isn't to say that ponies are incapable of empathy. Quite the opposite. Their naïveté made them creatures of immense compassion.
  1732. >That first night, Luna had a cot brought in so you wouldn't have to be alone. You protested, thinking it would demean her status as a Princess, but she wouldn't have it any other way.
  1733. >She shirked her royal duties to spend the night with you. In her humility, she understood fear, and just how much a simple comforting presence can help.
  1734. >As you think about it, it went down more or less the same as you and Eri last night.
  1735. >You ended up showing her the same compassion Luna showed you a year ago.
  1736. >But you never connected with Luna. For all her kindness of spirit, you knew she would never understand the anguish of wanting to die. Even a thousand year torment could not grant her insight into your darkness.
  1737. >Of course, it's apples and oranges to compare your two situations. It's not saying you had it worse than her. It's just that these two beasts are so vastly different as to be incomprehensible to one another.
  1738. >Princess Luna was your first shot at making a friend here. But the two of you, quite literally, came from different worlds. While you might inhabit the same one now, your minds would be forever bound to the ones you came from. You could never be truly close.
  1739. >After her, you just sort of gave up.
  1740. >There are a few ponies that you'd call acquaintances. You have a professional relationship with the Princesses.
  1741. >But there was never any point in trying to get close to any of them. Because once they knew you, they either wouldn't understand, or you'd scare them off.
  1742. >Both of them are equally disheartening.
  1743. >But...
  1744. >Eri understands.
  1745. >Yeah. She does. That's why Luna asked you to intervene.
  1746. >Not just to help her.
  1747. >She was trying to help you, too.
  1748. >You stretch your arms and rise to your feet. Eri's still fast asleep in her bed.
  1749. >For the first time, you see her genuinely at peace.
  1750. >If she must be doomed to be haunted in every waking moment, then at least sleep allows her some small respite.
  1751. >You look over her, her body gently rising under the covers with every breath. You know it's weird to watch her sleep, but you can't help it.
  1752. >She's just so sweet.
  1753. >When the moment of pensive reflection passes, you pick up your pillow and blanket and put them away. It's probably best if you don't stay.
  1754. >Grabbing a scrap of paper, you write out a note for her.
  1755. Eri. I'm heading out, I don't want to linger. Take today and rest. I hope I'll see you tonight at 6, but if you need a night off, I understand. And remember, if you need anything at all, you can come by my office anytime. My job's a joke. -Anonymous
  1756. >You affix the note to her fridge and tidy up a bit before heading off, making sure to close the door quietly on your way out.
  1757. >The stroll to your office is bitterly uncomfortable. It's freezing, and in your fervor last night, you neglected to bring a coat or hat.
  1758. >Above, the sea of clouds is swirling in anticipation, blocking out the sun.
  1759. >The world is ever silent.
  1760.  
  1761. >Eri shows up a few minutes past six, bundled up to shield herself from the blistering cold.
  1762. "Hey. Wasn't sure you'd come."
  1763. >She pulls off her scarf and hat. "I wanted to see you."
  1764. >You don't know how to feel about that. Ambivalence. Relief... but also guilt.
  1765. >She takes her seat, dropping her accessories down beside her. Anxiously, you sit across from her.
  1766. >There's no ignoring it. Better to just get out ahead of it.
  1767. "You want to talk about us?"
  1768. >"I do, I just— I don't know what to say."
  1769. "Do you think this is unsustainable?"
  1770. >She looks at you uncertainly. "What do you mean?"
  1771. "I mean, can we keep this up? I like seeing you, and I don't want it to stop, but I have this gnawing feeling. Like we're headed for something bad. Something big, lurking beyond the fog ahead."
  1772. >"I know what you're feeling. I can feel it coming, too."
  1773. >You scratch your head nervously. The stress is mounting.
  1774. "I don't want to screw this up. The longer this goes on, the more certain I am that I'm going to ruin it somehow."
  1775. >"Anon, you're not going to ruin anything. I'm the fuck-up here. Just look at last night."
  1776. >Last night.
  1777. "Exactly. If I can't help you, then what good am I? What purpose do I serve in your life besides causing you strife?"
  1778. >"What good are you?" she disbelievingly repeats your question. "Look at this!"
  1779. >She pulls her sock off to reveal the bandages underneath. "You did this. You're not always going to be there to prevent problems, and it's not your fault when I inevitably mess up, but you're there for me when I need you. I'm the one who doesn't deserve you! I make a mess out of my life and you're there to clean it up. I never even have to ask. You just do it. That's who you are. And all the while, I— I don't do any good for you."
  1780. "That's completely wrong! Every night you've been coming here. Sitting in this room. Being here with me. No one made you. That first night, you could've left and never came back. Hell, you were going to. But I asked you one thing. I asked you, please, don't leave me. And you didn't. You came back. You let me in. Every time I did something weird or uncomfortable, you could have left right there and cut me off. When I came to see you last night, you could have left the door shut. But even when it defies every instinct, every rational calculation, you LET ME BACK IN. Because you know how much I need it. This whole year I've been lying to myself about how lonely I am. But the truth is, I didn't care what happened to me, until I met you."
  1781. >Confused, she lies down on the couch and squeezes her head between her hooves. "Agh, this is such a mindfuck."
  1782. "I-I'm sorry."
  1783. >"No," she mumbles, putting her hooves back down. "It's not your fault. This whole situation is insane. Can we just take a night off? Both stop trying to sabotage this relationship, and just enjoy it?"
  1784. >You sit back in your chair.
  1785. "Yeah. You know what, that's probably best. This is getting nowhere, we're going in circles."
  1786. >"I'm not good enough for you, you're not good enough for me, I don't even care anymore. We're here tonight, let's do something together."
  1787. "How about some music?"
  1788. >"Yeah," she says, perking up a little. "But nothing heavy tonight, okay? My head is pounding."
  1789. "I figured thrashing's probably out of the question with your hoof. Don't you worry, I've got a thousand songs for every mood."
  1790. >She smiles. "Show me."
  1791. >You hop onto the couch with your iPod and each put in an earbud.
  1792. >While you look for a song, you sit back against the cushions and she leans against the armrest. Comfy.
  1793. >You settle on some Weezer, Say it Ain't So. Not too energetic, but lively enough not to bore her. Confidently, you hit play.
  1794. >But as the song goes on, you can tell she's not really getting into it.
  1795. "Something wrong?"
  1796. >She glances away, guiltily. "It's a good song, really. Any other day I might like it, I'm just feeling a little low tonight. That's all."
  1797. >There's got to be something that'll both soothe her and lift her spirits. Maybe some new wave.
  1798. >You play some Depeche Mode. Then The Police, and The Cure.
  1799. >With each song, she gets a little more into it.
  1800. >By the time Friday I'm in Love comes on, she's nodding along and tapping her rear hoof against your leg.
  1801. >It's insane how quickly music can shift the mood.
  1802. >When the song ends, she smiles warmly. "That one was fitting. Sounds like he had a crazy week. Like the one we've had."
  1803. >You didn't even pick up on that.
  1804. "Yeah. You're right, actually."
  1805. >But, he was singing about l—
  1806. >"You got any more soft songs? Like the first one you showed me, last week?"
  1807. "Yeah, I do. They're really cozy to listen to, you're gonna love 'em."
  1808. >You put on Cat Stevens' The Wind. She shuts her eyes and you follow suit, taking in the tranquil guitar.
  1809. >When that's over, some Fleetwood Mac. Landslide. Lost in the music, she sinks her back lower, sliding her head off the armrest.
  1810. >Her hind legs rest gently on your lap.
  1811. >You're singing along faintly.
  1812. >Well I've been afraid of changing,
  1813. >Because I've built my life around you,
  1814. >But time makes you bolder,
  1815. >Even children get older,
  1816. >And I'm getting older too
  1817. >Eyes still shut, you slip into a trance. You don't seem to notice when the song ends.
  1818. >Shuffle takes the wheel. Some Neutral Milk Hotel song comes on, you don't really know which one.
  1819. >In your meditative state, only one thing comes to mind. Eri.
  1820. >The longer this goes on, the more muddied it feels. You don't know how to define the relationship.
  1821. >Your connection to her is so nebulous. She means so much to you, but you just met her. Is it possible you're rushing things?
  1822. >She's a broken pony, every self-inflicted crack now irrevocably tied to your own fractures. She knows you. There's no going back from that.
  1823. >But if you take a step back, you risk severing those ties, leaving her to break apart like crumbling concrete. It's not so cut-and-dry.
  1824. >Still, you can't deny these feelings. She's—
  1825. >"Anon?"
  1826. "Huh?"
  1827. >You snap back to reality, opening your eyes to see her lying beside you.
  1828. >"I was just asking how humans dance to these songs."
  1829. >You finally notice the song playing just in time to catch the end of it.
  1830. "Oh. Uh, I'm not really sure. It'd be a slow dance, I guess."
  1831. >She looks up at you.
  1832. >"Will— Will you show me?"
  1833. >She's asking you to slow dance?
  1834. >She doesn't know what she's asking for. This isn't thrashing. This is different. This is... intimate.
  1835. >But as you peer down at those innocent eyes, you can't fathom denying her anything.
  1836. >Gently, you take her front hooves and lead her off the couch.
  1837. >You're sure to grip her bandaged leg lightly. She must still be sore.
  1838. >Your other hand brushes against the rubber band she still bears.
  1839. >The next song to come on shuffle is Transatlanticism, a Death Cab For Cutie classic. Like it knew what you're about to do.
  1840. >As the piano begins, she stands uneasily on her hind legs, letting you guide her as she finds her footing.
  1841. >Gently, you sway back and forth, tenderly holding her front hooves. The two of you listen silently to the mellow lyrics of the first verse, serenading you through the earbuds.
  1842. >Through the second verse, you lead her gently across the room, carefully stepping in time with the song.
  1843. >"This is how humans do it?" she asks quietly, keenly watching your feet as you lead.
  1844. "Kind of. We're a little taller, so we'd stand closer. Arms around each other. I'd have to hold you up to do it that way."
  1845. >"So do it," she whispers boldly, gazing up at you.
  1846. >You look back at her apprehensively. The last time you tried that nearly ruined everything.
  1847. >"It's okay, Anon," she reassures you, almost knowing what's holding you back. "I promise."
  1848. >Now in the refrain, you lean down and lift her up gently. Deliberately. Thoughtfully. Not like last time.
  1849. >She drapes her forehooves around your neck while you support her body.
  1850. >Through the earbuds those sweet words are practically whispered into your ears.
  1851. >I need you so much closer
  1852. >I need you so much closer
  1853. >Her warmth bleeds into you as you press her against your frame. It's more a hug than a dance.
  1854. >As the song draws on, you begin to sway again with her in your arms. She shuts her eyes and rests her muzzle on your shoulder.
  1855. >In this moment, it is the perfect song. Slow and long. Right now, you're happy. You don't remember ever being so happy. Not joy, or ecstasy, but peace. Genuine contentedness.
  1856. >You might be the one holding her up, but she's the one keeping you safe. You don't want it to ever end. You want her in your arms forever.
  1857. >I need you so much closer
  1858. >I need you so much closer
  1859. >Tenderly, she rubs the side of her head against your cheek, almost nuzzling you. You can feel her mane against your ear. It's a little greasy, but even that is kind of endearing.
  1860. >If anyone deserves to be cut a break, it's her. She's been through hell these past few days. She deserves some small comfort.
  1861. >All you want is to comfort her.
  1862. >Swaying along to the music, you lose yourself in the sensations of her. The placid breaths in her breast, her hind legs wrapped tightly around your ribs, the softness of her coat melting between your fingers.
  1863. >So come on
  1864. >Come on
  1865. >It's almost as if he's singing the words to you. Like he wants it to happen as much as you do. "Come on, Anon."
  1866. >After what feels like an eternity, the song eventually fades, leaving the two of you in adjacent silence.
  1867. >Eri pulls her head back to meet your eyes.
  1868. >This is the closest you've ever been.
  1869. >Tension hangs in the air, staring deeply into each other's eyes. This is another silent moment, the kind of silence you like. No words needed, just endless thoughts of each other. You, wondering what's running through her mind. Her, wondering what's running through yours.
  1870. >Her face is only a couple inches away from yours. You can practically feel the heat emanating off it. You're so close, it'd be so easy to just...
  1871. >Before anything can happen, the fleeting moment's immediately cut short by the next song. The intro to Jesus of Suburbia blasts your ears, startling you both. You nearly drop her in surprise, but catch her just in time.
  1872. >When you both regain your senses, you can't help but share in a laugh upon realizing what happened.
  1873. >Carefully, you lower her back to the ground and pull your earbud out.
  1874. "That was certainly someth—"
  1875. >You turn to the window, interrupted by the rattling of the wind against it.
  1876. >Eri pulls out her own earbud and smacks herself in the head. "Shit, the storm, I totally forgot it was tonight."
  1877. >Only just now are you two noticing the downpour of snow going on outside.
  1878. >"I better go now before it gets worse." She returns to the couch to retrieve her scarf and hat.
  1879. "At least let me walk you home."
  1880. >"Anon, it's crazy out there. No point in making you walk to my place and back."
  1881. "I don't want you to go alone."
  1882. >She looks up at you hesitantly before agreeing. "Alright. Let's hurry."
  1883. >Quickly, you both bundle up for the trek. On the way out, you hold the door for her.
  1884. >Immediately, the gales batter you both, slamming you with a dense wall of ice. Your scarves whip around in the wind.
  1885. >"What a mess!" she yells. "I can't believe I forgot about the weather alerts."
  1886. "It's my fault, too. I've been caught up in the stress of the last couple of days."
  1887. >You look down at her fondly.
  1888. "I'm glad you're okay, though."
  1889. >You trudge onward through the storm. It's still a few minutes to her home.
  1890. >As you walk, you glance back at your footprints in the thick snow. Two tracks. Hooves and feet.
  1891. >It's stunning just how dissimilar they really are. Different shapes, different strides. They shouldn't look so good together.
  1892. >But they do.
  1893. >The streets are barren, illuminated faintly by the lamps lining each building, devoid of a single soul beyond the two of you.
  1894. >Hauntingly beautiful.
  1895. >"Thanks for the distraction tonight," she says, raising her voice slightly over the wind.
  1896. "You were right. It was good for us to take a night off from the constant worrying and just live in the moment. I haven't done that in so long, I forgot what it's like."
  1897. >"And I learned another dance. I didn't do much, but—"
  1898. >Eri yelps as she trips and stumbles forward, falling flat on her face.
  1899. >Immediately, you descend on her, helping her back up.
  1900. >"What the hell was that?" she asks, brushing the snow off.
  1901. >You glance back to see an unnaturally deep hoofprint among the rest.
  1902. "Just a pothole in the road. Hidden under the snow. You alright?"
  1903. >"Yeah, yeah, I'm good," she insists. "Thanks for the help."
  1904. >Still kneeling beside her, you softly stroke the length of her mane.
  1905. >She jerks her head back and blushes at you, partly from the cold, partly from surprise. "W-What are you doing?"
  1906. >You chuckle at her bewilderment.
  1907. "You have some snow caught in your mane."
  1908. >"O-Oh," she stammers, nervously brushing her hair to clean it out.
  1909. >You pat her head affectionately and stand up.
  1910. "Come on. Let's get you home."
  1911. >She continues trotting along at your side, as best she can through the deep snow.
  1912. >You briefly entertain the idea of carrying her home.
  1913. >But that would be too much, wouldn't it?
  1914. >Eventually, your frigid journey comes to an end, once you reach her apartment.
  1915. >She fumbles with the door before opening it and turning back to you.
  1916. >"You should come inside. Maybe I can make you something to warm up."
  1917. >You hesitate before answering.
  1918. >You want to accept.
  1919. >You really do.
  1920. >But you know why you can't.
  1921. "Nah, I'm okay. I should head home."
  1922. >"Oh," she whispers, a hint of disappointment in her tone. "I just feel bad, making you come all the way out here."
  1923. "It's okay. It was my idea. I wanted to make sure you got home safe. Mission accomplished."
  1924. >"Thanks, Anon. For everything."
  1925. "Of course. Will I see you tomorrow?"
  1926. >She smiles at you. "Wouldn't miss it for the world."
  1927. >You squat down and hug her goodbye. Her hoof lingers around your neck a bit before finally breaking away.
  1928. >Once she shuts the door, you steel yourself for the return trip.
  1929. >The walk home in solitude is a bitter one. You follow the pair of tracks back, your feet retracing only one set of them, the other set left to be forsaken. Forgotten. Steadily disappearing before your very eyes, as the unrelenting snowfall fills it in, wiping it from the earth's memory.
  1930. >The storm eases up a bit, but somehow, you can tell that it's not over.
  1931. >The worst is yet to come.
  1932. >Thinking back, you're so torn.
  1933. >You almost accepted her offer.
  1934. >But you knew what that meant.
  1935. >It would mean admitting that this was real.
  1936. >And the moment it becomes real, one way or another, it will be ripped away from you. From her.
  1937. >It crushed you to have to turn her down. For her, you'd do just about anything.
  1938. >There was only one request in the world that you would deny her.
  1939. >You wouldn't dare hurt her.
  1940.  
  1941.  
  1942. Chapter 10: Curl Up and Die
  1943.  
  1944. >Last night's storm came and went.
  1945. >Honestly, you never understood the necessity for storms in this world when a prevailing race controls the weather.
  1946. >A lot of this world is beyond your comprehension. You never really fit in here.
  1947. >All your life, you wanted nothing more than to come here. It was only when you arrived that you realized how misguided that desire was.
  1948. >There is no place in Equestria for a human.
  1949. >You were deluded in thinking you'd get a doting wife, a circle of friends, a sense of self-affirmation.
  1950. >Because you could go to the purest world across all of existence, and that still wouldn't change who you are.
  1951. >You're broken.
  1952. >Your demons will follow you wherever you go. Crippling your every attempt at forming healthy relationships with others.
  1953. >If there is no hope, then what's the point?
  1954. >Why live like this?
  1955. >You're not happy. You never will be happy. You just want it to be over.
  1956. >A knock on your door interrupts your thoughts.
  1957. >You open the door for Eri. No socks today. No accessories at all, save for a fresh bandage. And your rubber band.
  1958. >She notices you looking and comments. "It's gotten better out there. Stopped snowing and wind's died down."
  1959. >The two of you take your seats across from one another.
  1960. "How was the trip here?"
  1961. >"You ever notice how the snow blanketing everything makes the world feel quieter? It was almost eerie."
  1962. "Yeah, the walk back to my office last night was kind of gloomy, too."
  1963. >You instinctively fidget with your wrist before remembering where your rubber band went.
  1964. >"You okay, Anon?"
  1965. "Yeah. Just didn't sleep well."
  1966. >"The storm keep you up?"
  1967. "Bad dreams."
  1968. >"You want to talk about it?"
  1969. >You sigh.
  1970. "I don't know what to say. I've had these recurring nightmares since the night I tried to kill myself. Dreams where I actually go through with it, feel myself slowly dying, piece by piece, and wake up in a sweat. Every time it goes down the same way, and every time I genuinely believe it's happening for real. No matter how many times I go through it, I know I'm doomed to suffer it again. Like an eternal curse. Destined to forget the torment and relive it anew each time, like Sisyphus or Prometheus."
  1971. >"Who?" she asks.
  1972. "It doesn't matter."
  1973. >Her ears fold back as she watches you sympathetically.
  1974. >"Anon, I never told you what happened. The night I tried to die."
  1975. "No, Eri, you don't have to—"
  1976. >"I want to."
  1977. >She pauses.
  1978. >"Can you just— come over here?" she asks, beginning to tear up. "I don't think I can say it very loudly."
  1979. >You oblige, taking the spot next to her on the couch.
  1980. >She leans her head on your shoulder. "It was almost two weeks ago. I was miserable, suffering, I wanted it to be over. I cut out the dark thoughts. I thought it would be better if I pretended they didn't exist. And it worked. I felt better. I was alone in my head, I could think clearly. It was like this fog was finally lifted. I took one look at my apartment, and I wanted to do better. I finally had some tiny ounce of motivation to act. So I cleaned my place up, organized my things, climbed into my bathtub, and slit my hooves."
  1981. "What? Wh— How?"
  1982. >She sniffles. "I wasn't better. Not really. I saw how much I fucking hated living and how much I wanted it to be over. Once the haze was gone I realized that only I could finally end it. So I took what little motivation I had, and put it towards dying."
  1983. >You look down at her, a quivering wreck, her cheeks wet with tears.
  1984. >"I cut deeper than I'd ever gone before. Must have hit an artery or something because the pain took me out quick. The darkness slipped over me, and for the first time, I could see it for what it really was."
  1985. "What?"
  1986. >"Nothing. It's nothing. There's nothing behind the veil. It's just an empty void in your head. You want to believe it's some separate entity, that it's not a part of you, but that's not true. It is you as much as you are it. You can repress it, ignore it, pretend it doesn't exist, but sooner or later it's going to come out again. And when I passed out, it came out in full force. The darkness enveloped me. It was the cold, the pain. Numb and agonizing all at once. I screamed, but it made no sound. I cried, but there were no tears. I had become the nothing, had lost all sensation. I realized I was going to die, and there was nothing I could do."
  1987. "What happened?"
  1988. >"I saw Princess Luna. I couldn't see anything. Not the darkness, not myself. But I saw her. And the look on her face scared me more than the nothing ever could. For some sick reason, my mind had dragged her into it. It was one thing to do this to myself. But to force it upon her... the last thing I remembered was complete shame. Not the pain, not the anguish. The shame."
  1989. >She rests her head on your lap, too emotionally exhausted to prop herself up. "I woke up in the hospital. Found out that it was Princess Luna who had saved me after all. I'm alive because of what I did to her. That shame, it hasn't left. She didn't want this, she didn't consent to any of it. But I made her stand face-to-face my darkness anyway. I actually scarred the mare who suffered for a thousand years. And that just feels like... shit."
  1990. >You stroke her mane reassuringly. She shuts her eyes and submits to your movements, finding comfort in them.
  1991. "When Luna brought me in, she didn't seem scarred. She looked concerned. The only thing on her mind was your well-being."
  1992. >"I know you mean well, Anon," she sighs, "but you didn't see her in my dream. I horrified her, changed her, showed her something she couldn't wrap her head around. I exposed her to that darkness for the first time."
  1993. "No, you didn't. I did."
  1994. >She looks up at you.
  1995. "My first night here, a year ago, I was a guest in the castle. Luna visited my dream. She saw the nightmare. Saw me kill myself."
  1996. >A look of disbelief casts over her face. "Are you serious?"
  1997. "She comforted me. Of course she didn't understand, but she had nothing but sympathy. That's why she asked me to talk to you. I was the only other creature she knew who shared that same impulse. The want to die."
  1998. >"I can't believe it," she whispers.
  1999. "She wasn't shocked by the darkness, Eri. She was shocked that it could exist within a pony. You didn't traumatize her. You don't deserve to bear that guilt. Your pain is not a burden on anyone, you don't have to close yourself off for fear of hurting them."
  2000. >Holy shit.
  2001. >You genuinely believe that holds true for Eri.
  2002. >So why is it so difficult to accept it as true for yourself?
  2003. >"Do you really mean that?" she asks.
  2004. "Of course I do. I don't want you to feel like you have to isolate yourself from anyone. You deserve the comfort of opening up to someone as much as any other pony, no matter what's in your head. Nothing you say could make me stop caring about you."
  2005. >She pauses, nervously fiddling with her bandages in your lap. Almost as if she's building up the courage...
  2006. >"Anon?"
  2007. "Yeah?"
  2008. >"I—"
  2009. >"I love you."
  2010. >Inside your head, there are three pillars of identity.
  2011. >The ideal self, which encompasses all the traits you aspire to have, an impractically perfect model.
  2012. >The perceived self, which is part how you see yourself, and part how others see you.
  2013. >The real self, the objective truth, which, while possibly overlapping the perceived or ideal self in some aspects, is ultimately unknowable in its entirety.
  2014. >The reason I mention this, is because up until this moment, each of your selves was vastly different from each other. Who you really were was nothing like how you saw yourself, or who you wanted to be.
  2015. >In this very moment, every conception of your own self was shattered. You had been denying the feelings of your real self. You labored under a delusion of the perceived self. You desperately sought after an unreachable ideal self, unable to accept it was incompatible with what you really wanted— who you really wanted.
  2016. >And Eri's sense of self, which you had some small glimpse into, but, being unable to see her thoughts, lacking in any real insight, was a whole other beast.
  2017. >Now faced with a crossroads, forced to accept your feelings for what they are, and reconcile them with the feelings for a mare you cared so deeply about...
  2018. >It was daunting, to say the least.
  2019. >Having spaced out for the past 37 seconds, lost among arduous thoughts and mental gymnastics, you finally realize what Eri is saying to you.
  2020. >"—so sorry, Anon, please just forget I said anything, I feel like a complete idiot..."
  2021. >You look down at her.
  2022. "I'm sorry."
  2023. >"No, I'm—"
  2024. "I know the past ten days have been a complete wreck. But in that wreck, we started to find each other. Piece by piece, we put together the puzzles of ourselves. There were even a few pieces that got mixed up between us. In me, there is some of you, and some of me in you. There's so much that we figured out right here on this couch. So many introspective nights. It took us a while to figure out, but we learned that we share the same darkness. And it's exactly because of that darkness... that I can't do this."
  2025. >"W-What?" she asks, her voice breaking.
  2026. "I know you think you love me. I know you must have very deep feelings for me..."
  2027. >"No, no, no..." she whispers in horror, crawling back away from your lap, on the verge of tears.
  2028. "Eri, please, listen. I have these same feelings. I think about you constantly. But we can't keep doing this. As ridiculous as it feels, I'm supposed to be your therapist. Someone you trust, and confide in. You don't love me. I'm just the first person to come along who's understood you, and that's— that's not the same thing."
  2029. >"No!" she yells, cowering on the other side of the couch. "You c-can't say that, after everything..."
  2030. "This isn't healthy. It's only been ten days, you don't know what you want. We're headed down a path that is just going to hurt us. I can't be your savior, I can't fix you, you're not some manic pixie dream girl for me to rescue. I'm just a fucked-up guy who has his own demons. I'm not going to risk your health by dragging you into a mess you're not ready for."
  2031. >"That's not fair," she cries. "You don't get to fucking decide what I want. You made me let you in, and the second it gets real, you want to pull away, like all that meant nothing."
  2032. >You stand up, exasperated, throwing your arms in the air.
  2033. "I don't know! What do you want me to say? I don't like what I did either, I pushed and pushed and pushed until I made you open up to me and I fucking hate it! I'm not a shrink, I have no clue what I'm doing with you. I don't deserve your trust, I poked and prodded because I thought I knew what's best for you, and obviously I don't. Your life is literally at stake here, and I'm not going to let what I want do anything to jeopordize that!"
  2034. >"What WE want!" she yells. "I've spent such a long time afraid of what could happen, so many nights staying up terrified at the idea of letting myself love you. But every single time you've proved that nothing is going to stop you from loving me back. I know you want this, damn it!"
  2035. >You pace around the room angrily.
  2036. "Of course I want it! I never fucking thought I'd love again, and here you come, dropped into my lap by the Princess of the night, to upend my whole life! We're too fucking broken to do this back and forth! To pretend that we can have some normal perfect life, when all we're really going to get is double the darkness! We don't know how to help each other!"
  2037. >"And what about this?" she shouts at you, tearing her bandages off, exposing her scars. "Two nights ago I did this to myself because I didn't want to love you! I abandoned you, cut you out of my life, and mutilated myself to escape these feelings. And what did you do? You fought for me! You didn't let me pull away. You came to me and washed the blood away, patched me up and told me you'd be there when I needed you. And now I'm finally ready to admit I need you, and you want to pull away just like I did. I'm not going to let you do that, now that I know you love me, I'm going to fight for you the way you fought for me!"
  2038. >You break down into tears.
  2039. "I'm not good enough for you, Eri! You need stability, you need something you can hang onto, and I can't be that! I barely know how to stay alive!"
  2040. >"YOU'RE not good enough for ME?" she scoffs, her words choked by her desperate cries. "What do you think was running through my head when I was cutting myself open? Those dark thoughts, jeering and ridiculing me, saying I'll never be half as good as that mare you loved. Fuck, if I can't be her, how am I supposed to be enough for you?"
  2041. >You stop pacing.
  2042. "Don't you say that."
  2043. >Your voice is quivering.
  2044. "You are NOTHING like her. I stopped loving her because I knew she would never know me. I gave up on love because I knew a mare could never know me. But you know me more than any living creature ever has."
  2045. >"Then why are you so afraid?" she sobs.
  2046. "Because it's SO. FUCKING. HARD to know me! Every day that I have to wake up and live my life as me is exhausting! I'm so numb, so tired! I just want to fucking curl up and die, but I know I can't, because I'm trapped in a magical paradise where no one's allowed to kill themselves! The only reason I didn't blow my brains out before I ever met you is because then, I would've had to leave a certain princess, the only mare who'd ever shown me an ounce of compassion, with the lifelong guilt that maybe, just maybe, she could have done something to prevent it."
  2047. >Your legs give out from under you, and you fall to your knees.
  2048. "But you want to know the truth? If I killed myself, there wouldn't be a fucking thing she could have done to stop it. That's the worst part. I have to live like this, because otherwise... she'd just blame herself."
  2049. >Eri climbs down from the couch to you and throws her hooves around your neck. Her mane presses into your face, burying you in her scent.
  2050. >In all your time here, you've never gotten to smell a pony before. It wasn't even something you'd considered.
  2051. >But hers is just so... sweet. There's no other way to describe it.
  2052. >Your cries die down as she holds you reassuringly. She pulls back only once you're suitably assuaged.
  2053. >You wipe your eyes.
  2054. "This isn't going to work. If we did this, and it didn't work out... I don't want to lose you. I don't want to hurt you. I don't want to end up breaking your heart. I don't want you to regret loving me. You've gone through so much suffering already. I'd rather die than cause you any more pain."
  2055. >Silently, she looks into your eyes.
  2056. >Eight nights ago, you fell in love with those eyes.
  2057. >Six nights ago with her words.
  2058. >Four nights ago with her humor.
  2059. >Two nights ago with her mind.
  2060. >Tonight, you're just in love with her. There's no more denying it. You love her.
  2061. >But you can't do this.
  2062. >She doesn't say anything. There's nothing left to be said.
  2063. >So she kisses you.
  2064. >You submit to it immediately, pushing back into her lips with all the want in your heart.
  2065. >Behind this kiss is the intense passion of every night you've spent with her, every laugh you've shared, every cry you've endured.
  2066. >It is everything you've ever wanted, everything you thought you'd never get.
  2067. >Slowly, she pulls back, still close enough to feel her breath on your face, her forehead leaning against yours.
  2068. >She looks you in the eyes one last time, with tears streaming...
  2069. >And runs out of your office.
  2070. >Heartbroken.
  2071. >There you sit, brought to your knees, on the floor of your office...
  2072. >And you are all alone.
  2073. >The storm of your relationship has passed, leaving nothing but a trail of destruction in its wake.
  2074. >Everything you ever held dear, reduced to dust.
  2075. >This is it.
  2076. >The end of the line.
  2077.  
  2078. >She left hours ago.
  2079. >The tenth night, the final night, draws to an end.
  2080. >While you pull out your blanket and lie down on the couch, a million thoughts race through your mind.
  2081. >Did you do the right thing, Anon?
  2082. >You love her with all your heart. You had to protect her from yourself.
  2083. >You hate that you want her. All you want is to make her happy.
  2084. >But you can't make her happy.
  2085. >If you can't make yourself happy, then what good can you do for her?
  2086. >If your relationship failed, and you couldn't even be friends... what kind of life would that be? Without her?
  2087. >There's no going back. You need her in your life. You need someone who knows you.
  2088. >To risk everything you've built? To gamble with both your lives, just because you have this stupid craving for affection?
  2089. >You don't want to risk it.
  2090. >But then, what is love, if not that risk? For a shot at happiness?
  2091. >How can you ever expect to find that happiness if you never take a leap of faith?
  2092. >How can you embrace the safety of love if you're too afraid to face its trials?
  2093. >To reach that place of light...
  2094. >You have to cross the darkness.
  2095. >You wrap yourself in the blanket, doubting every choice you've ever made.
  2096. >Just as you think you might have made a huge mistake,
  2097. >You hear your door open.
  2098. >There stands Eri
  2099. >Bathed in the dim light of the hall
  2100. >She gazes at you
  2101. >And says just one thing
  2102. >"I'm not afraid of the pain, Anon."
  2103.  
  2104. >Tonight is the first night in Equestria you ever felt safe.
  2105. >Tonight you finally allowed yourself to feel.
  2106. >You've been denying yourself for so long.
  2107. >You've been afraid to let yourself love again.
  2108. >You thought it was over for you. That it was too late.
  2109. >Like you didn't deserve happiness. That you were too broken to be loved.
  2110. >We're all just floating through life, trying to find our purpose.
  2111. >It's hard. For some people more than others.
  2112. >There is a darkness inside of you. A part of you.
  2113. >Eri was right.
  2114. >It's not a monster, or some evil force. It's just you.
  2115. >So it's never going to go away.
  2116. >Love isn't some magical cure.
  2117. >Even in a world of magic.
  2118. >The truth is, no one can fix you.
  2119. >But no one can face it alone.
  2120. >Even though you thought it'd never happen...
  2121. >You found someone who understands you.
  2122. >Because even in a world where there's no one quite like you,
  2123. >There's always going to be someone like you.
  2124. >You don't have to go through it alone.
  2125. >Now, as you lie on the couch in your office,
  2126. >Drifting off to sleep,
  2127. >With the mare you love in your arms,
  2128. >Absentmindedly playing with the rubber band on her hoof,
  2129. >Her head peacefully resting against your still-beating heart,
  2130. >You can finally accept the one thing you've always doubted.
  2131. >It's not always going to be easy, Anon,
  2132. >But it's going to be okay.
  2133. >...
  2134. >I promise it's going to be okay.
  2135.  
  2136.  
  2137. Epilogue: A Portrait Of (Eri)
  2138.  
  2139. >Looking back, you don't know what you were so afraid of.
  2140. >She has been a shining beacon of hope in your life.
  2141. >A lot of the tension between you two came from denying your feelings for one another.
  2142. >When you finally took a chance that tenth night and embraced it, everything started to look up.
  2143. >You even moved in together a few weeks ago.
  2144. >It was nice to stop living out of your office, and you helped turn her apartment into something that was actually homey.
  2145. >It's not a perfect life. It doesn't work out like a fairytale, there's no happily ever after.
  2146. >But she's doing better. You're doing better.
  2147. >There are still low nights. Still dark thoughts. Still anxiety.
  2148. >But they don't come as frequently as they used to. You help each other. Gradually, you are both gaining more faith in the belief that you are unconditionally loved.
  2149. >Eri hasn't stopped self-harming; it's not something you can flip off like a switch.
  2150. >But she's using the rubber band more, and cutting less frequently.
  2151. >Still, you're always there to wash away the blood when she falls. You never judge her when she falls. You never judge her when she relapses. You know she's doing her best.
  2152. >She even has a job now.
  2153. >When you got together, and it showed no signs of falling apart, she began to doubt her special talent.
  2154. >There was no heartbreak in sight, which didn't make sense to her.
  2155. >But you stuck with her, helped her process it, figure out what it meant. Neither of you believed the relationship was doomed, which was refreshingly optimistic on both your parts.
  2156. >It took a while, but Eri finally got her breakthrough.
  2157. >Turns out her talent isn't suffering.
  2158. >It's empathy.
  2159. >She had to get her heart broken, had to feel that pain herself, to learn what it was, and how it affects others.
  2160. >You checked in with the Princesses shortly after. They wanted an update.
  2161. >When you told them you were together, they weren't even remotely surprised. It's like they knew all along.
  2162. >Luna had that look in her eye you'll never forget. A look that said "I know I don't understand what you're going through, but I understand what she means to you."
  2163. >She was happy you'd found someone. Somepony.
  2164. >You two explained your discussions to the princesses. Told them about Eri's breakthrough.
  2165. >And it just sort of clicked for them.
  2166. >On the spot, they knew what Equestria needed. Because Eri's not the only one who needs help.
  2167. >Ponies need someone they can turn to in their times of need. Friendship is magic, but not infallible. There's not always going to be a friend around for everyone at every time.
  2168. >All over the world, there are ponies that need guidance with relationships, stress, or any other of a million different problems they might have going on their lives.
  2169. >They need someone who understands pain and suffering, and has the emotional capacity to explain that they're not alone.
  2170. >Because in their darkest hour, everyone deserves a sympathetic ear.
  2171. >That's how Miss Eri became Equestria's first therapist.
  2172.  
/emo/ Safe Anon Miss Eri Tragedy Romance

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