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Rosie Rock

By FortuneFavors
Created: 16th July 2021 09:31:33 PM
28th November 2022 05:27:14 AM

  1. >It was a Friday afternoon and you had just signed out from work.
  2. >Letting out a sigh you fall back onto your bed and stare at the ceiling.
  3. “Another week of deskwork, another weekend of just sitting around and waiting for Monday to come.”
  4. >Bar the low hum of your fan, the house is too quiet, you’re used to it being more lively.
  5. >You reach for your phone and open the music app in the hopes you could find something decent to kill the silence and your thoughts, only to be cut off by the ring of your doorbell.
  6. >As you open the door you’re greeted by a delivery man standing next to a crate that stood at about half his height.
  7. >“Is there an Anonymous here?”
  8. ”That’d be me.”
  9. >He hands you an electronic clipboard and pen.
  10. >“Sign.”
  11. >Once you sign and return the clipboard he hands you an envelope and then walks off, leaving the crate on your front porch.
  12. >It takes you a few tries since it was a lot heavier than it looked, but you manage to pick it up and carry it to the living room.
  13. >With a huff you place it in the middle of the floor before sitting on the couch to catch your breath and take a look at the envelope that came with the box.
  14. Turning it over in your hand, you say, “Don’t normally get mail that isn’t bills, sure as hell don’t get any packages.”
  15. >Opening the envelope you’re greeted by a letter:
  16. >“Hey Anon, I just heard about what happened and I’m sorry I couldn’t be there to help you. To make it up to you I thought I’d get you something to help you out since I know how you get when you’re left alone with your thoughts. I couldn’t remember which of the sisters you liked so I got you all of them. I hope it helps. From, G.”
  17. >Your eyes widen slightly, you hadn’t heard from G in...about 2 years now. The two of you had been friends since high school- the last time the two of you had talked he was excited about doing some charity work in a remote village in Europe or something..
  18. >Something else struck you as odd though, what the hell did he mean by “Couldn’t remember which of the sisters you liked so I got you all of them”?
  19. >Setting the note on the coffee table you begin to examine the box. The faces were largely barren, only having an address written on it for what you presumed were potential returns.
  20. You run your hands along the top to try and find a seam to grip, eventually you do and mutter, “This better not be a bunch of sex dolls,” to yourself as you pull the lid of the box off.
  21. >Almost as soon as the lid is removed the sides of the box begin to collapse outward- you reflexively jump backwards, nearly slamming into the tv stand as you do so.
  22. >After you hear them all hit the floor, you slowly open your eyes and look at where the box once stood.
  23. >It looked like a...small horse? It was about the size of a dog and reminded you of one of the characters from that show G had you watch a few seasons of, but you can’t really place which character it most resembled. Though judging from the long eyelashes and what looks like purple eyeshadow, you think it’s more than safe to say that the little pony is female. The long mane that covered half of her face was a pale purple, perhaps more of a lilac shade, and her coat was a dull pink.
  24. >Walking to her side she has some sort of flower on her flank, the edges of it are a pinkish red, the bulk of the petals are various shades of vivid pink, and the center of it yellow.
  25. >Moving back in front of her you’ve noticed that she hasn’t opened her eyes yet. Is she a robot, does she need to be plugged in to charge? You didn’t see any plugs or cables in the box; maybe it’s stored internally?
  26. >You reach towards her to check but before your hand can touch her fur her eyes snap open before quickly resting in a half-lidded state. Her wine red eyes looked at you with seeming disinterest.
  27. “Hey there, little lady,” you say softly, letting your formerly outstretched hand rest on your thigh as you crouch to get eye level with her, “Name’s Anonymous- though you can just call me Anon, everyone else does. How about you?”
  28. >She doesn’t respond, instead slowly turning her head left and right to look around the room. Maybe she can’t talk? Guess it would make sense, horses can’t talk, even if they look like ones that can.
  29. “Since it looks like you’re going to be living here, I guess I should show you around,” you say as you stand before gesturing for her to follow you.
  30. >Taking a quick glance to confirm that she is, you start the tour of the house.
  31. >First was the closest room to the living room, the guest room. It was a little dusty since you hadn’t had a reason to clean it due to a dearth of any company needing to use it.
  32. >You quickly gloss over the garage as it’s largely unimportant, only having your car and tools you didn’t use.
  33. >Across from the garage was your bathroom, a bit on the smaller side but it served its purpose.
  34. >North of the two was the room that served as both your bedroom and office, not much else to say about it.
  35. >With half the house out of the way you make your way to the kitchen, which leads into the rest of the house.
  36. >As you cross the threshold into the kitchen, you point across to the door at the opposite end.
  37. “That leads to the back porch, if you want to get some fresh air just let me know and I’ll open it for you. Next to that is the laundry room, not that you’ll really need it since you don’t wear clothes.”
  38. >She turns her head to the left to the portion of the house you had left out, the master bedroom.
  39. >Godammit, you really don’t want to talk about the master bedroom. The wound still feels fresh in your mind.
  40. “That’s…” you trail off before covering your mouth with your hand, “Just don’t go in there, ever. Maybe I’ll show you in there at some point, just not now...okay?”
  41. >Your hand falls back down to your side and she cocks her head, her brow furrowing as she did so.
  42. >She looks down at her hooves for a few seconds and then looks up at you and nods.
  43. “Thanks.”
  44. >The two of you stand in silence for a few minutes before a loud grumble cuts through the air, you look down and find the little pink pony with her face turned away from you, a little pinker than normal. Guess that answers your question on if she’s a robot.
  45. A chuckle escapes your lips, “Makes sense you’d be hungry, God knows how long you were in that box. Follow me.”
  46. >She gives a small nod as you walk towards the cupboards.
  47. “Unfortunately I don’t have much since I only really buy enough for me.” you say, moving aside the boxes of various pasta and cans of chili in a vain attempt to find something a small horse might be able to consume before sighing and pulling out a package of cookies.
  48. “Know if you can eat these?” you ask her, giving the package a little shake for emphasis.
  49. >Looking back at her, her eyes almost seem to shimmer as she looks at the confections in your hand, a bit of drool forming at the corner of her mouth.
  50. A slight smile forms on your face as you crouch and open up the package, holding out a cookie to her, “I’ll take that as a yes.”
  51. >She snatches up the cookie right out of your hand, devouring it in under a second. Her eyes closed and her face had what looked to be an expression of bliss for a moment before they opened up again and looked at you expectantly. She eats the second as quickly as the first, followed by the third, then the fourth, and after the fifth you just leave the unwrapped package on the floor in front of her to eat from.
  52. >She finished the entire thing in no time, letting out a satisfied exhalation as she looked up at you with a faint smile on her muzzle. Her eyes, however, had returned to that same half-lidded state that you now assumed was her neutral expression.
  53. >Reaching down, you start to gently run your fingers through her mane. She jumped a little at your touch but didn’t pull away, so you continue petting her for a few minutes before ending it with a few rubs behind her ear.
  54. “It’s about time for bed, so I’m gonna get ready for that. Go ahead and make yourself comfortable wherever.”
  55. >With a stack of neatly folded pajamas under your arm you quickly head into the bathroom and turn on the shower; allowing the hot water run over you for a while to try and beat out the chill running through your body, a familiar feeling of fear and emptiness gnawing away at your stomach.
  56. >Trembling hands rub shampoo into your scalp in vain attempts to rub out the thoughts beneath, thoughts of how the little pony that just came into your life could be taken out of it, grim images of everything that could go wrong painting the black canvas inside your eyelids.
  57. >You grit your teeth- you hated this, how your mind always comes to this, to how everything could end. Telling you that everyone you know will leave you, that they will forget about you, they’ll move away, they’ll die, and you’ll be all alone again. That it will always be this way.
  58. >Hot air fills your lungs as you suddenly inhale, for a moment you had forgotten to breathe. You take deep breaths as you wash the shampoo out of your hair, you have to regain control of yourself. Quickly finishing the rest of your wash, you step out and practically rip a towel off of the rack and begin to dry yourself off.
  59. >As you do so you look at yourself in the mirror; your hair brushed against your shoulders, far messier than even being recently washed justified, scruffy beard begging to be combed or trimmed, and the dark circles under your eyes from all of the sleepless nights contrast starkly against your pale skin. If you still had to go into the office for your job you would have been told to get your shit together by now, but since that wasn’t the case you didn’t care enough to do anything about it.
  60. >A defeated sigh escapes your lips as you finish drying yourself and start changing- soon enough you’ll be in bed ready to stare at the ceiling for the next few hours trying to sleep and you can focus on that instead of the possibility of your new housemate vanishing from your life out of the blue.
  61. >Speaking of which; when you open the door to the bathroom she’s sitting on her haunches, likely waiting for you to get out.
  62. “Oh hey, were you waiting for me to get out?”
  63. >“Yeah,” she replies.
  64. >Wait what?
  65. >“If you keep making that face it’ll get stuck that way, y’know,” her voice was a bit raspy but flat in tone.
  66. “And why the silent treatment earlier?”
  67. >“A wake up in a place I don’t recognize confronted by a creature I’ve never seen before reaching towards my head, I do wonder,” she says, tapping a hoof against her chin but neither her expression or tone changing.
  68. “Fair enough. Either way you’re kinda stuck here with me, so I guess we might as well try and get along.”
  69. >“Keep giving me those shortbreads and I might start to like you.”
  70. You start to chuckle before being cut off by a yawn, “I’ll have to keep that in mind when I go to the store and pick up some more food, have someone to feed that isn’t me now after all.”
  71. >“I’ll be sure to hold you to it,” a faint smile forms on her face this time.
  72. “So where are you planning on sleeping? The guest bed and the couch are open.” you ask her, stretching as you do.
  73. >“I was thinking yours,” she replies flatly as she trots towards your room, hooves clip-clopping against wood before she crosses the threshold into your sanctum and onto the tile that makes up it’s floor. She makes her way over to the left side of the bed and quickly hoists herself up and onto it due to your frame being low to the ground; the slats creak slightly under the unfamiliar weight but quiet as she settles onto her side, facing the doorway to look you in the eye before burrowing her muzzle into the pillow with a sigh of mock contentment.
  74. >Another sigh escapes you as you shake your head and decide to just turn the lights off; you climb under the blanket on the right side and lay on your back, hands folded on your chest. She had rolled over to lay on her left side to face away from you. You were just about ready to begin your nightly ritual of staring at the ceiling until sleep finally takes you until a thought crosses your mind.
  75. “Hey, the letter said you were supposed to come with your sisters, where are they?”
  76. >“Don’t have any sisters, parents only had me,” her tone wasn’t flat this time, it seemed more natural.
  77. “That’s odd- guess I’m getting less than what my friend ordered, not gonna look a gift horse in the mouth though.”
  78. >A sound of disgust comes from the left side of the bed in response to your pun, causing you to chuckle.
  79. >“That was awful,” she says.
  80. “There’s plenty more where that came from so you better prepare yourself.”
  81. >She fake shudders, “Then I shall live in a constant state of fear.”
  82. Silence fills the room for a bit and you fidget as you notice the dull hum of your ceiling fan, “You still haven’t told me your name.”
  83. >“Rosie Rock, though back home they just called me Rosie.”
  84. >Her voice shakes on the latter half of the statement; briefly you wonder what it meant before you feel the bed shake gently, combined with the sound of sniffling and quiet sobbing coming from your left side.
  85. >You roll onto your side and pull Rosie closer with your right arm until her head is against your chest, tears now soaking into your pajama shirt. Your hand strokes her mane as she starts bawling, you can take a guess at what’s going through her head and how she feels right now- it’s probably a lot like what’s gone through yours. Alone and afraid, wanting someone, anyone, to connect to. Missing her friends and family, and while you can’t be family, you can try to be the friend she needs, the one that you’ve needed so many times throughout your life.
  86. >At some point she had fallen asleep while you were in your thoughts. Her chest rising and falling slowly, your shirt slightly rustling whenever she exhaled.
  87. You wrap your arm around her a little tighter and whisper, “Welcome home, Rosie,” before closing your eyes, and for the first time in a long while, quickly falling asleep.
  88.  
  89. ...
  90.  
  91. >You are Rosie Rock.
  92. >You open your eyes and rise to get ready for your work on the rock farm.
  93. >Wait no, not rock farm, quarry.
  94. >You don’t farm rocks, you mine them.
  95. >Why would you even get that mixed up?
  96. >You shake the thought from your head, there was work to do.
  97. >Grabbing what you need, you make your way to the quarry.
  98. >It was difficult work to do on your own, as your father was getting on in years and there wasn’t much spare coin to hire anyone else to help.
  99. >Your parents had even tried to get you some siblings to help with the family endeavors but always ended up unfruitful.
  100. >The most you could often get was that young stallion from that family on the other side of town since he often had more time and energy than he knew what to do with.
  101. >Or was he a mare?
  102. >Why can’t you remember his face?
  103. >Why can’t you remember his name?
  104. >You’ve known each other forever, why can’t you remember?
  105. >You shut your eyes and think, trying to conjure up the image of your friend in your mind.
  106. >All you see are images of a flaxen-haired mare with an orange coat and green eyes, along with the name “Applejack”.
  107. >Who is she and why is she taking over the image of your friend?
  108. >Opening your eyes again, you catch your reflection in a puddle.
  109. >The mirror image shifts, from a mare with bright blue eyes and a curly, pink mane, to one with green eyes and a straight, purple, mane with flat edges, then one with light green eyes and a silver wither-length mane that parts to one side, and lastly one with purple eyes and a long, two-toned gray mane.
  110. >They aren’t you.
  111. >They aren’t you but why do you see them?
  112. >A heat builds in your chest, and you strike the image.
  113. >It reforms as if to mock you. In response you hit it harder. Each time it reforms you hit it harder and harder, eventually letting out curse after curse as you do so.
  114. >“Rosie,” a voice called out.
  115. >“Rosie, wake up!”
  116. >Your eyes snap open.
  117. >You’re not back home.
  118. >You’re still with Anon, who’s currently looking at you with concern.
  119. >“You started screaming and kicking in your sleep; even caught me in the chest a few times, pretty sure it’s gonna bruise,” he chuckles, probably so you don’t feel as bad.
  120. “S-sorry, just had a bad dream, is all.”
  121. >He sits up with his back against the headboard then scoops you into his arms before placing your haunches in his lap, your back against his chest and his arms wrapped around your stomach.
  122. >Placing his chin on top of your head he says, “Didn’t seem like a 'teeth fall out' or 'naked at school' kind of nightmare to me, go ahead and lay it on me, little lady.”
  123. Taking a deep breath in an attempt to calm your nerves, you say, “I dreamt I was back home but nothing seemed right. My best friend wasn’t how they were, and when I saw my own reflection my reflection wasn’t looking back.”
  124. >“Seems pretty tame to me.” he says, “Was there anything else?”
  125. “No, just remember that I felt like a fire was lit in me and that’s when I started beating the tar out of the reflection.”
  126. >“Hmm…” is all he says, the low rumble of his voice reverberating through you.
  127. >For a while the two of you just sit there.
  128. >His embrace and steady breathing puts you at ease.
  129. >You squirm slightly at the word.
  130. >“Embrace”...no one’s ever really done that to you before, not even…
  131. >The image of that mare appears in your head again and you feel the fire rise once more.
  132. >Anon seems to notice and runs a hand along the side of your barrel.
  133. >You hadn’t noticed before, but his arms and hands were littered with scars.
  134. >Ranging from the small, curved, scars on his fingers and the back of his hand to thin, straight, lines across his forearms.
  135. >Hoping to take your mind off of the mysterious mare, you open your mouth.
  136. “Anon.”
  137. >“Hm?”
  138. “How did you get all those scars?”
  139. >Momentarily you stop feeling his breath on top of your head before it returns with a deep and heavy exhale.
  140. >Looking upwards, you see that his eyes are closed, seemingly lost in thought, before he breaks the silence with, “I was a dumb kid, made a lot of mistakes.”
  141. >He unwraps his arms from around your waist, then grabs your sides and gently places you on the bed next to him.
  142. >Rising, he says, “I’m uh, going to start making breakfast. You can eat eggs and hash, right?”
  143. >You respond in the affirmative and he heads out of the room.
  144. >For a moment the feeling that you said something that you shouldn’t have fills your mind.
  145. >Mother would have chastised you if you were being rude in the face of someone’s hospitality.
  146. >Though since Anon didn’t say anything to confirm that it was, you brush the feeling off for now.
  147. >Your four hooves make contact with the tile floor as you hop off the bed to follow him to the kitchen.
  148. >By the time you catch up he had already placed a skillet on the stove.
  149. >Various glass jars filled with spices are pulled out of a cupboard and placed on the counter alongside a carton of eggs.
  150. >His hands move quickly as he preps the skillet and begins cooking the shredded potato, mixing in black pepper, garlic, and then paprika.
  151. >He turns towards his room and begins to shout, “How many eggs-” before realizing that you’re behind him, he clears his throat and asks, “How many eggs do you want? Also I hope you like them scrambled because that’s really the only way I know how to make them.”
  152. “Four please.”
  153. >“Someone’s hungry this morning,” he replies flatly and cracks six eggs into a bowl and adds pepper before whisking the contents.
  154. “If that’s too much you can-”
  155. >He raises his hand to silence you, “Just a joke, don’t worry about it.”
  156. >Pointing to the table he says, “Go ahead and take a seat, breakfast will be done in a moment.”
  157. >At the table there was already a chair pulled out for you, you pull yourself up into it with your forelegs and settle in while Anon takes care of the final touches on breakfast.
  158. >Soon enough a plate is placed in front of you, the smell making your stomach growl in anticipation.
  159. >Anon takes his seat at the opposite end of the table, his plate has half the food on it that yours does, but before you can say anything he says, “You don’t need to wait for me to start eating, dig in.”
  160. >It doesn’t take long for you to finish after he says that, you practically inhale your meal, leaving it empty while he’s only gotten through a third.
  161. >He raises an eyebrow before saying, “I can make more, if you’re still hungry.”
  162. “No thank-you,” you respond, stifling a yawn, “I’ve had more than enough.”
  163. >Scooping the last of his meal into his mouth he stands and stacks your plate on top of his before moving to put them in the sink.
  164. >As he begins to wash them he says, “I need to go pick up groceries, I got a feeling you don’t want to tag along somewhere with a lot of people.”
  165. >He takes a towel off a rack to dry his hands and then turns to you, “Unless you want to, that is.”
  166. Shaking your head you respond with, “No thank-you, I’ll stay here.”
  167. >He nods and walks into the living room where you follow him before he turns back to you and says, “Should be back in about half an hour,” Drumming his fingers on the door as he speaks.
  168. “Safe travels.”
  169. >With that he’s gone, leaving you alone.
  170. >You turn back to the living room, you’ll have to find something to distract yourself from the thoughts running through your head.
  171. >You’re alone in a world that isn’t your own, separated from everything and everyone you’ve ever known.
  172. >Even then your memories are muddy at best, extending past just the memories of your friend.
  173. >Turning back to the living room, your gaze falls upon the remnants of a wooden crate.
  174. >It's strange to think that less than a day ago you were in that box; though you don’t remember how you got in it, nor how long you were in there.
  175. >Attempting to remember only brings forth that feeling of fire in your chest again.
  176. >The wooden panel is reduced to splinters as you stomp with all the strength you can muster.
  177. >You’re not as strong as you remember, the muscle gained from years of hard labor must have diminished during the time you spent in that accursed box.
  178. >But that’s not important right now, what’s important is the sheet of paper that was launched along with the debris.
  179. >On it was a colorful logo, the font making it almost incomprehensible.
  180. “Tel...mach...er’s...Toys,” you manage to make out.
  181. >Why would a toy company have sent you to Anon?
  182. >Unless…
  183. >No…
  184. >You’re real, you have to be.
  185. >Your thoughts and memories have to be real, they can’t be fabricated.
  186. >You’re not some toymaker’s creation, meant to be used until you’re no longer of use and then discarded.
  187. >Anon wouldn’t do that, would he?
  188. >You barely know him, is he only keeping you around because you were a “gift”?
  189. >As if on cue, the door to the garage opens.
  190. >“Lines were mercifully short for once, so I was able to-” Anon says, before stopping at the threshold of the door.
  191. >His eyes dart around the room, taking in the bit of carnage you caused.
  192. >Eventually his eyes rest on you, and you shrink under his gaze.
  193. >“What’s wrong?”
  194. >He places the groceries he had in his arms on the coffee table then kneels in front of you.
  195. >His hand slowly runs through your mane, “You look like you’re about to burst into tears, what’s on your mind, little lady?”
  196. “The floor-”
  197. >“Ain’t nothing to worry about, I can always clean that up later. Now tell me what’s got you all worked up.”
  198. >You take your hoof and drag the paper next to him, unfortunately he removes his hand from your mane to pick it up.
  199. He begins to read it as you start to speak, “I found this, and now I worry if I’m ‘me’ or not.”
  200. >You see his brow furrow as he looks down at the paper and then back to you, “Well as far as I’m concerned you’re ‘you’, if that makes any sense.”
  201. >Turning the paper towards you he points at some text, “See this? It’s an address. Says ‘Send any questions or feedback regarding your product to this address’.”
  202. >Your heart drops for a moment before he continues speaking.
  203. >“I was just gonna leave it at that, but looks like we both have questions for them.”, he stands and turns the paper back over, “Like why the hell is the company I work for selling living technicolor horses?”
  204. “You work for them?”
  205. >He nods, “Mhm, been about 8 years now”, he brings his hand up to his chin, “So how’s about we pay them a visit? I won’t be able to go there during a weekday as that’ll be hard to explain to the boss. Gonna have to be after work, Friday after work would be a good bet since with the time it’ll take to get there and back it’d be late by the time we get back. Sound like a plan?”
  206. “Yeah.”
  207. >A grin appears on Anon’s face, “Alright, everything’s set then. Gotta figure out something for you to focus on during the week so you don’t go stir crazy though. I wonder if you’ll like cartoons?”
  208.  
  209. ...
  210.  
  211. >You are Anon.
  212. >Today is Friday, Friday morning, to be exact.
  213. >You stand in front of the mirror, inspecting your face yet again to admire your handiwork- having shaved your jungle of a beard due to company hygiene policies, since you’ll be on company property later today.
  214. >Looking more like the photo on your ID and less of a hobo would probably be helpful as well.
  215. >You breathe a heavy sigh.
  216. >Rosie’s been having nightmares all week, and they only seem to be getting more intense. She hasn’t been thrashing around as much but she’s begun muttering in her sleep, even woken up screaming once.
  217. >To say that the rising feeling of urgency was making you wish that you could end this day faster would be an understatement. But taking off now would likely make you look suspicious, given you never take time off.
  218. >Glancing at your watch, you guess it’s time to check on Rosie to see if she’s awake yet. You take a generous handful of gel and slick your hair back, washing the remainder of it off before reaching for the door.
  219. >Soon as you open the door though, she’s already standing there.
  220. >Her head raises to look at you, causing her messy mane to cover one of her eyes. They look distant and glassy.
  221. >Those wine-colored eyes of hers suddenly focus on you and she simply says, “Am I still asleep?”
  222. In an attempt to lift her mood you give a half-smirk and respond, “A quick shave and I’m dreamy now? If only I’d have known sooner it’d be that easy.”
  223. >Her expression is unmoving as you silently kick yourself. “I am not in the mood for jests or gibes, Anon.”
  224. Your smirk drops, “Nightmare again?”
  225. >She gives a slow nod followed by, “M-hm.”
  226. “Hopefully they can do something about them at wherever this address takes us,” you sigh, “I guess you want to take a bath so I’ll get out of your way.”
  227. >“Thank you.”
  228. You maneuver around her as she steps in, then close the door behind her, “I’ll leave you to it then, gonna get breakfast cooking and start up a show for you in the meantime.”
  229. >A muffled, “Okay,” comes from the other side of the door.
  230. >Luckily you managed to rig up something so that she could draw up the bath herself; you’ve slowly been making the house more “pony-friendly” over the course of this week. Little things like changing out the handles on the doors so that she can press down on them to open them.
  231. >As much as you hate leaving Rosie alone in case something happens again, you’re sure she appreciates you not having to do everything for her.
  232.  
  233. ...
  234.  
  235. >Scanning your library of DVDs, you stop on one of your old favorites and pop the disc in for her.
  236. >You head into the kitchen and set some water to boil as the previews play, oatmeal’s quick and easy and Rosie seems to like it. Maple and brown sugar for you, apples and cinnamon for Rosie.
  237. >Girl seems to have a real sweet tooth, hell, seems like the only time you can get her to smile is if you give her something sweet.
  238. >Another sigh escapes your lips as you set the two bowls out to cool, you should probably treat her to something after you leave wherever that address leads to; maybe IHOP or Waffle House?
  239. >Speaking of which, you should probably look the address up.
  240. >Taking the paper off of the island, you type the address into your phone. It brings up what looks like a factory of some kind, clearly too big for it to have been built recently.
  241. “Great, right on the edge of the opposite side of the metropolitan I’m on,” you groan, “That’s gonna complicate things.”
  242. >It’s gonna add upwards of one to two hours to your travel time depending on how bad traffic is.
  243. >Before you can get more annoyed than you already were, you hear your name being called; Rosie must be done with her bath.
  244. >You slide your phone back into your pocket and go back to the bathroom door, then knock once.
  245. >“You can come in.”
  246. >She managed to shake off most of the water, given the amount of water all over your bathroom, though doing so has left her mane and tail a mess.
  247. >All this prep you’ve done and you didn’t even think of buying a brush; guess you’ll have to use one of your combs and hope for the best.
  248. >Pulling one off the counter, you get to work trying to get her mane in order.
  249. >You remember how you’ve seen it done and mimic the movements as best as you can; hand, then brush.
  250. >Rosie doesn’t say anything, all she does is close her eyes and lean into your movements, like putty in your hands.
  251. >Eventually her mane is straightened back out, and you move to her side so you can start on her tail.
  252. >You don’t run your hand through it as much as you did with her mane, lest you accidentally have your hand brush up against something it shouldn’t.
  253. >The bruise from a unconscious kick was just starting to fade, you don’t want to learn what happens to your ribs when a full-force buck with murderous intent makes contact with it.
  254. >It takes a bit longer, but your slow and deliberate brushing yields results, and no broken ribs.
  255. >As you stand up though, you notice something.
  256. “Your mark’s gone, maybe it was like one of those temporary tattoos you’d get as a kid.”
  257. >She twists to look at her flank, shortly after looking up at you, “Is that what you were taking so long with my tail? I never would have guessed you were the type to take interest in…what was it that you said? ‘Living technicolor horses’?”
  258. Your ears burn with embarrassment as you stammer out a response, “N-now hold on a minute…”
  259. >Her neutral expression gives way to a smirk as she suppresses a giggle, “Consider that payback for earlier.”
  260. >You breathe a sigh of relief and shake your head at letting her get one over on you.
  261. “Well let’s hurry up now, I gotta log in soon and I’m sure the oatmeal is almost cold at this point.”
  262. >She trots out to the living room and hops onto the couch as you go into the kitchen and retrieve her bowl for her before placing it down on the coffee table in front of her.
  263. >If it was cold she doesn’t say anything as she digs in while you start the show.
  264. >You get your bowl and return to your room, logging in after you sit down.
  265. “Well, at least she’s in a better mood now.”
  266.  
  267.  
  268. >You log out of work; removing your work ID and putting it in your wallet, which you slide into your pocket.
  269. >Throwing on a jacket from the hanger mounted on the back of your door, you stop before you step into the living room.
  270. >You remember the few times that Rosie’s gone onto the back porch to ‘try and clear her thoughts’ and how she always comes back in shivering slightly, guess her fur doesn’t protect her as much as either of you thought.
  271. >Finally entering the living room you grab an old hoodie out of the closet; the weathered, grey, zip-up was a combination of too short and too wide for you to reasonably be able to wear it anymore but you never could bring yourself to throw it out.
  272. “Hey Rosie, could you come here for a second?”
  273. >She takes her attention off of the show to look at me, before hopping off the coach and trotting over.
  274. >“What is it that you need?”
  275. “It’s almost time for us to head out and it’s only gonna get colder; so I figured you could wear one of my old hoodies to try and keep warm.”
  276. >Her eyes give it a once over before she says, “Oh…thanks.”
  277. >She sits down and you kneel to get level with her before bringing the hoodie behind her over her shoulders.
  278. “Alright now put your leg through the sleeve.”
  279. >You snort at the sentence, it feels like a weird thing to say.
  280. >Though after a try or two she does manage to slip both of her legs into the sleeves.
  281. “How is it,” you ask. “Does it fit alright?”
  282. >She stands up and twists from one side to the other, then trots in a small circle. After stopping and twisting again, she flicks her tail before furrowing her brow.
  283. >“It sits wrong around my tail.”
  284. >You nod, should be a quick fix with a pair of scissors. After grabbing the pair off of your desk you position yourself behind Rosie to begin cutting. She stands still, presumably to make sure you don’t accidentally cut her tail.
  285. >Something’s been on your mind so now’s as good a time as any to bring it up.
  286. “If you don’t mind me asking, you seem a bit nonplussed about losing your mark. What’s with that?”
  287. >She cocks her head to the side and closes her eyes, lost in thought.
  288. >Eventually she opens her mouth to speak, “I am not sure what to feel, in all honesty. Part of me feels as if it’s something that I should have, but I do not remember having one until waking up here.”
  289. >You nod while moving back in front of her, that makes enough sense to you.
  290. “Alright, how does it feel now?”
  291. >She looks at you puzzled before realizing you meant the hoodie. She does her twists and little trot again before replying with, “Good.”
  292. Tossing the scissors back where they were, you quickly grab your keys, “Good, because we’ve got to leave now if we want the best chance of avoiding the worst of traffic.”
  293. >The garage door opens and you let Rosie hop into your car before securing her seatbelt.
  294. >You follow suit soon after and start the engine, which causes Rosie to jump in her seat. A quick assurance puts her at ease.
  295. >You pull out of the garage and into the driveway, having the garage door shut behind you before pulling out into the street and taking a right out of the neighborhood. Soon you’re on the access road, then on the highway.
  296. >Only took you about 15 minutes, since you managed to get ahead of the kids getting out of school.
  297. >Once you reach the city, Rosie stares out of the window in silent wonder.
  298. >Right, Equestria was pre-industrial from what you remember, so she’s never seen anything like this before. Or well, at least you assume she’s supposed to be “from” Equestria.
  299. >You’ve been looking into the show to refresh your knowledge of it from when you watched it with G, and to see if the character Rosie was based on had something to do with her issues. Again, assuming she’s even based on someone from the show.
  300. >Either way, you haven’t had any luck in that department. You only ever got to the end of season two with him and you didn’t see anyone that looked like Rosie, and it wouldn’t make sense for G to send you a pony based on a character you’ve never seen before…
  301. >A gentle tap is felt against your elbow, rousing you from your thoughts.
  302. >“Are you well? You seemed to be lost in thought.”
  303. You reach over and run a hand through her mane, “Yeah, guess I was.”
  304. >She nods before turning to look out the window to city gaze again, a small smile forming on her face as she does so.
  305.  
  306.  
  307. >The two of you finally reach your destination.
  308. >You get out of your car and let Rosie out afterwards.
  309. >After she hops out she stretches, letting out a groan as she does so.
  310. >“I will never understand how you can stay in those things for so long.”
  311. You chuckle, “Trust me, I try to avoid long drives as much as I possibly can.”
  312. >As you approach the front of the building, you notice it isn’t as ornamented as other Telmacher-owned stores. It lacked the vibrant, often garish, colors you were familiar with- only having the company logo on an off-white exterior.
  313. >Inconspicuous is the first word that comes to mind.
  314. Reaching the front door, you turn to Rosie, “You ready?”
  315. >She breathes in before exhaling deeply, “As I will ever be.”
  316. You grab the door handle, “Well, time to see just what little ponies are made of.”
  317. >The buzz of phosphorescent lighting greets you as you enter what looks like a lobby of sorts.
  318. >Behind a desk sits a woman with an auburn pixie cut, tapping away at her phone. Noticing your presence, she looks up from her phone and looks at you with hazel eyes, “There something I can help you with?”
  319. Digging out the paper from the box Rosie came in, you hand it over to her and say, “Said to send questions or feedback here, figured that since I have so many I’d just come here instead of sending a chain of emails or letters,” you fish your work ID out of your wallet and show it to her before putting it back in your pocket, “Also wanted to check out the place since I hadn’t heard about it when I started working for Mr. Telmacher.”
  320. >She types something into the computer in front of her, her eyes scanning what’s on the screen before pressing a button on a nearby intercom, “Hey boss, we have an ‘Anonymous Chambers’ with some questions about the ‘Pony Pal’ he received.”
  321. >“Ah, a man is it? Is he cute?” The voice is feminine, mellifluous even. Enough so that it distracts you from her question and the woman behind the desk giving you a quick look up and down.
  322. >“Not worth getting yourself in trouble again, I’d say.”
  323. “Again?”
  324. >They both ignore you, her boss speaks again, “Damn, maybe next time then. Well thanks for telling me, Faye. I assume you’ll be putting him through to me then?”
  325. >“He’s here now, boss.”
  326. >A sputter followed by coughing is heard on the other end, once she stops she says, “So sorry you heard that, dear. I’ll, uh.. I’ll send Dawn and Damon to come get you, in the meantime I need to wash this out before it sets,” followed by a click, and then silence.
  327.  
  328.  
  329. Rosie and you take a seat while waiting for Dawn and Damon to show up, you lean back and say, “Well that was certainly…something, wasn’t it?”
  330. >Rosie doesn’t respond, glancing over, you notice she’s shaking.
  331. “Rosie, you okay?”
  332. >“I-I’m nervous. Back home I was never good with strangers, always got so tongue-tied.”
  333. “Don’t seem that way with me.”
  334. >She leans against you, closing her eyes, “I do not know how to explain it. But there is something I can feel within my soul, something that tells me you are someone I should trust despite us only knowing each other for a week.”
  335. Instinctively you reach up to stroke her mane, “Huh, wonder if that’s something we should ask them about. You sure it’s not because of my good looks?”
  336. >A quiet laugh escapes her lips followed by a blunted jab to your ribs, “Not worth getting in trouble over.”
  337. Chuckling, you reply, “Oof, guess I’ll have to add a bruised ego to my growing list of injuries.”
  338. >Your two’s banter had to be cut short however, as you caught something out of the corner of your eye- something was standing in the open door. When you try to look at it proper though it retreats back in a blur of white, the door swinging shut.
  339. >You stare at the door, managing to hear what sounded like, “Alright, I’ll go out first.”
  340. >Out steps a man, tan-skinned and with messy, dirty blonde hair that makes him look like a surfer. He waves at you and due to the fact that his sleeves are rolled up you notice that his arms are covered in tattoos.
  341. >“Hey man, name’s Damon, boss sent me to come get you.”
  342. He sticks his hand out for you to shake, which you stand up and reciprocate, “Anonymous, though you can just call me Anon,” you gesture behind you, “And that’s Rosie. Also, who was that I just saw?”
  343. >He lets go of your hand and turns back to the doorframe, calling out, “You can come out, he doesn’t bite.”
  344. >The edge of the door begins to glow orange, slowly creeping open before revealing a pony that other than her grayish-white fur, amber eyes, and the streak in her slightly messy mane and tail being peach and orange instead of hot pink and purple, was a dead ringer for Twilight Sparkle.
  345. >You couldn’t see her mark past the edges of what looks like a lab coat made for ponies but you’d be willing to bet it looks like Twilight’s but with different colors.
  346. >She pushes up the rectangular glasses poised on her muzzle, “Pleasure to meet you, I’m Dawn Glow.”
  347. >Even sounds just like her too.
  348. >As she walks over to Rosie, you notice that Dawn’s noticeably taller than her, though you’re not sure if Rosie’s short or if Dawn’s just tall. Alicorn are supposed to be pretty tall, right?
  349. >“Hello again, Candy Quartz, we met before but you weren’t… awake at the time.”
  350. >Rosie backs up, “W-who?”
  351. >Dawn looks at you quizzically, “Is this the issue? Is she having memory problems?”
  352. “What? No, she’s having nightmares- and don’t fucking talk like she’s not standing right in front of you.”
  353. >Rosie’s taken aback by your sudden display of anger, Dawn however either didn’t notice or didn’t care, “My apologies, let’s go back to my office; I think I could answer your questions better than Sonata could.”
  354. “I take it that’s who Fae called?”
  355. >She nods, “Correct, now please follow me.”
  356. >Her horn alights in orange, before enveloping the door handle in orange as well. The door opens, and Dawn gestures to you to go in.
  357. >Damon goes in first, beginning to whistle a tune as he heads towards wherever Dawn’s office is. You follow suit, with Rosie sticking close to you. Dawn closes the door after Rosie and trots to catch up to Damon.
  358. >As you follow behind them your mind begins to race, what you just saw looked like magic. But did she actually use magic, or was it just a form of telekinesis?
  359. >You were always a bit superstitious, some would say too superstitious, but you just felt like some things couldn’t be explained rationally.
  360. And whatever you saw couldn’t be explained rationally, so you decided to open your mouth, “So…was that magic?”
  361. >She laughs, “Ha! Magic? That was child’s play.”
  362. You scoff, “And that’s a cliché. Answer the question; unless you think Sonata would answer it better?”
  363. >A groan reverberates against the walls, “Fine, if you’re going to be so asinine. Yes it is magic, it gives unicorns their ‘spells’, pegasi their flight, and earth ponies their strength. Our bodies convert it from the food we consume into magic; sugary foods are the best for it and that’s why it seems so many of us have a ‘sweet tooth’, as you humans tend to call it- though some just naturally prefer sweets. Is that a sufficient enough explanation?”
  364. “Yeah actually, it is.”
  365. >“Good now let’s continue on our way, hopefully without further disruptions.”
  366. >Something about this mare really bugs you, but you’re not quite sure what it is exactly.
  367. >That question gives you something to mull over however as you continue to Dawn’s “office”.
  368. >Just how big was this place anyways?
  369.  
  370.  
  371. >After what feels like another 15 minutes of walking, you reach Dawn’s office.
  372. >It was fairly spacious, bathed in sepia light by the lamps inside it.
  373. >In one corner there was a simple bed next to a desk that was littered with papers and notebooks, opposite to the bed was a cot surrounded by barren walls.
  374. >Dawn hops into the chair by her desk, using the momentum to have it spin to where she’s facing her desk.
  375. >Stacks on stacks of paper are shuffled around and moved aside before she finds what she’s looking for.
  376. >She levitates the notepad in front of her alongside a pen, before pushing herself around to face us using her front legs, “Rosie, please have a seat on the cot over there.”
  377. >Rosie nods, trotting over to the cot before climbing up on it; you sit next to her, your combined weight depressing your mutual sitting arrangement enough to cause her to fall into you.
  378. >Damon decides to just lean against the doorframe.
  379. >Dawn adjusts her glasses again, glancing at her notes and then up at Rosie, “So you’re been having nightmares?”
  380. >“Y-yes,” Rosie replies, meekly.
  381. >“Would you mind describing them for me?”
  382. >Rosie recalls the first nightmare, how the faces of unfamiliar mares showed up instead of her own reflection, how she reacted and the aftermath of it.
  383. >”And what about the rest,” Dawn inquires, “I’ll need as much information as I can to discern and diagnose the issue.”
  384. >Rosie looks down at her hooves, she opens her mouth before shutting it again, trying to gather her nerves.
  385. You reach over and rub her back, “Hey, don’t worry. I’m right here.”
  386. >She looks up at you and you give her a reassuring smile, she takes a deep breath before finally speaking, “My home is ablaze and I am inside. Above the roar of the fire and crackle of burning wood I can hear laughs of murderous glee mixed with blood-curdling screams of fear, pain, and death. I’m looking desperately for my mother and father in the growing inferno. I call out to them, the ash and smoke sting my lungs. A ceiling beam finally gives out from under its own weight and breaks across my back, I wake up screaming.”
  387. >You can feel her heartbeat start to pick up in speed, so you start petting her mane.
  388. >Dawn finishes writing in her notebook and looks up at Rosie, “Continue.”
  389. >“I find myself in my home again, and I’m lying on the ground. I try to stand but I collapse, unable to move my hind legs. I cough as more smoke and ash fills my lungs as I call out to my mother and father again. I drag myself across the ground, my legs feel like…lead weights behind me. Eventually I am just outside of their room, which had been blocked off by wooden debris. I hit it as hard as I can with my front legs, but to no avail. Panicking, I lift myself as much as I can and slam my head into it- once, twice, three, four, five, six times. I keep going until it finally crumbles and I can feel blood pour down my face.”
  390. >Her eyes are watery now, so you wrap your arm around her and pull her closer; she leans into you, her heart feels like a jackhammer.
  391. >“I-I see them,” she starts choking up, “I see them on the floor and…and…”
  392. >She wraps her forelegs around your torso as tight as she can, burying her head into your shoulder where you can feel a growing wetness on your shirt. You pull her into a hug.
  393. >After a few minutes, she starts again, “They lay motionless surrounded by red smears, eyes vacant and dull, skin pale. I cry out for someone, it comes out warped so I don’t know who, before I collapse; I feel helpless, tired, any willpower I had left was drained out of me. After what felt like hours I could feel myself growing cold despite the heat around me, my breathing grew slow and heavy, then everything started to blur before being engulfed in a blanket of darkness.”
  394. >You rest your head on top of Rosie’s and pet down her spine. She starts to calm down a little, as you can feel her heart slow a bit.
  395. >“It feels so real. Even now I am not sure if I actually died and this is some sort of hereafter or if all of these are just bad dreams,” she says, her face still buried in your shoulder.
  396. >You turn your head towards Dawn who has a look of what appears to be jealousy on her face, however noticing that you’re looking at her she goes back to her usual detached expression.
  397. >She quickly scribbles something into her notepad before levitating it back onto her desk and hopping down to the floor and walking over to Rosie and you, “I think that’s more than enough. Rosie, would you mind looking at me for a moment?”
  398. >Rosie does so, only giving a weary, “Hm,” in response.
  399. >Dawn’s horn lights up before pressing it against Rosie’s forehead, which causes her to go slack in your arms. Your stomach drops.
  400. “What did you just do?!”
  401. >She waves a hoof dismissively, “Relax, I just put her to sleep using something my au- I mean Selene taught me. I figured she could use some nice, dreamless sleep for a little bit.”
  402. >Begrudgingly you have to admit that Rosie’s heartbeat has gone down to a resting rate.
  403. “Could have at least warned us.”
  404. >“Perhaps,” she replies, grabbing another notepad off of her desk and tucking a pen behind her ear, “But I have a feeling that what we’ll be discussing next won’t improve her headspace. You could let her lie down on the cot if you want, Damon will watch over her while we talk with Sonata.”
  405. >You shake your head.
  406. “No offense but I don’t trust you enough for that,” you say, standing as you adjust Rosie so that you could carry her comfortably.
  407. >“Fair enough,” she sighs, “Damon, it’s getting late, go ahead and head home for today.”
  408. >He gives a little salute, “Aye, aye, captain. Gonna take Fae somewhere nice after this, see you Monday!”
  409. >After he leaves, Dawn turns to you, “Let’s head out now, we’ll discuss what I believe is happening on the way there.”
  410. >Just what did she have in mind that she thought she would have to knock Rosie unconscious to say?
  411.  
  412.  
  413. >Man are your legs going to be sore tomorrow, you really should start going on walks again.
  414. >Rosie’s still fast asleep in your arms; her head rests on your shoulder, causing her breath to tickle your ear when she exhales.
  415. >You have one arm under her rump and the other across her back.
  416. “So,” you say, looking at Dawn, “What do you think is going on here?”
  417. >“Do you know what my job is, Mr. Chambers?”
  418. Shaking your head, you respond, “No, can’t say I do.”
  419. >“I play God,” the tone in her voice is not one of arrogance, but bitterness, “I mold their bodies from the ‘ichor’ as Mr. Telmacher calls it, then impart upon them their personalities, their souls.”
  420. >She gives a heavy sigh before continuing, “The process isn’t wholly consistent- sometimes the bodies don’t form properly and have to be melted back down before trying again.”
  421. “Jesus Christ,” you mutter.
  422. >“At that point they’re still little more than soulless husks, so they feel nothing. Still…I would be lying if I said that I didn’t find the sight of them sinking back into the ichor unnerving.”
  423. “Well if you make them, who made you?”
  424. >“Telmacher himself,” she replies, “He made me for this purpose and nothing else. Just as he did with Sonata.”
  425. “Sonata’s a pony too?”
  426. >Dawn nods, “You’ll see soon enough, but back to the point- While the process is inconsistent, one thing is: and that’s me. I don't make mistakes, I follow the procedure as I was taught and fulfill orders down to the letter.”
  427. You had a suspicion about Sonata, but it’s nice to have some confirmation. You arch an eyebrow at her statement however, “How are you so certain this isn’t just your first screw-up?”
  428. >“Because if I made a mistake with her then I made a mistake with every other pony I’ve made.”
  429. “So what exactly is going on then?”
  430. >“According to my hypothesis, Rosie shouldn’t exist-”
  431. “Choose your next words carefully,” you interject, making no effort to mask the venom in your voice.
  432. >At least you understand why she didn’t want Rosie to be awake for this now.
  433. >“As I was saying,” she continues, undeterred, “Rosie isn’t the personality I put in that body; I put Candy Quartz, and approximate amalgam of Pinkie, Marble, Maud, and Limestone Pie, in there- not ‘Rosie Rock’.”
  434. >She stops and starts tapping her chin with her hoof, “It’s a bit pseudo-science but I think her nightmares might be memories of wherever she’s actually from being weaponized by Cloudy Quartz’s consciousness in a sort of psychic immune response- since Cloudy Quartz is a nascent mind and has no memories, she attacks with what is there; or it could be that Rosie’s mind is just trying to make sense of her death and subsequent resurrection…maybe a mix of the two, maybe neither, I’m not sure.”
  435. “Well is there anything you can do about it- maybe separate the two and put Cloudy Quartz in another body?”
  436. >Dawn shakes her head solemnly, “Unfortunately something like that is beyond my capabilities at the moment, maybe I could after some help from Selene but the only thing I could do now would be to erase the two of them and start from scratch.”
  437. “Absolutely not, that is out of the question,” you say, firmly.
  438. >You don’t think your heart could survive something like that happening again.
  439. >“Of course it isn’t,” she snaps, “despite what you think I’m not callous and heartless. Do you really think I’d be so cruel as to effectively kill what I consider two of my own daughters!?”
  440. >You have no response as something clicks in your head, so she continues, “It’s so much easier to pretend to be detached than to face the fact that I’ll never see the ponies I bring into this world again! That I can never see them grow and to love because I’m stuck in this…prison!”
  441. >Tears begin to run down her face, “Damon and Fae, Magdalene and Selene, Abraham and mom, they all have each other. I’m stuck here with Sonata, who’s too…insouciant and lascivious to care about how we’re trapped in this damn factory.”
  442. >She buries her head between her hooves, “Sometimes I wish I could just disappear, leave this all behind and just…”
  443. >She doesn’t finish the sentence, instead just staying silent.
  444. >You adjust Rosie so you can hold her up with one hand before crouching and placing your hand on Dawn’s mane.
  445. >As you start petting she murmurs, “What are you doing?”
  446. “Trying to make you feel better, figured if it worked for Rosie it’d work for you,” you say, “Also I wanted to apologize for being so…antagonistic.”
  447. >She lifts her head, her eyes are still red and puffy but she’s no longer crying, “Why?”
  448. “I treated you unfairly because of what someone else did to me, and I shouldn’t have. For that, I’m sorry.”
  449. >Wiping her eyes with her sleeve before sniffling, she replies, “Thanks.”
  450. >The two of you spend a few more minutes in silence as she closes her eyes to let herself enjoy your ministrations. Unfortunately for her Rosie isn’t exactly a lightweight and your arm strength isn’t what it used to be so you pull your hand back to make sure your hold on Rosie doesn’t slip, causing Dawn to lean into your hand to get a few more fleeting moments of your touch.
  451. >Adjusting her glasses, she says, “Sorry, this was all rather unprofessional, so let’s just pretend this didn’t happen and go finally see Sonata.”
  452. You nod as you both start walking again before saying, “Hey, so…”
  453. >“Yes?” she says, turning her head to look at you.
  454. “I could give you my number before we leave, in case you just need to vent to someone or if something happens to Rosie. I also have a guest room that we aren’t using, so maybe if you can get it approved with Mr. Telmacher or whoever, you can even come over on the weekends or something and just decompress.”
  455. >Her ears fold back against her head, “I wouldn’t want to impose…”
  456. “It’s the least I can do if you’re going to help Rosie.”
  457. >“Okay, I’ll see what I can do,” she responds, ears perking back up.
  458. >With that, the two of you continue in silence.
  459. >You’re guessing it shouldn’t be too long before you reach Sonata’s office now.
  460.  
  461.  
  462. >Dawn and you finally reach Sonata’s office.
  463. >They should really invest in carts or something, maybe one of those moving floors you’ve seen at airports.
  464. >The doors are metal, but painted to look like wood.
  465. >Dawn holds it open for you with her magic, “After you.”
  466. >You nod to her before stepping in; the first thing you notice is that the room is much more furnished and much larger than Dawn’s- about two to three times larger with an oak desk in the center and a canopy bed off to the side.
  467. >“Dawn, is that you? I was wondering if the three of you had gotten lost,” called out a familiar voice, “Go ahead and take a seat, I’ll be out in a moment.”
  468. >A couch from the other side of the room is wreathed in a purple aura before being lifted into the air and placed in front of the desk.
  469. >You glance over at Dawn who rolls her eyes in response, as if Sonata did this every time.
  470. >Dawn and you take your places on the couch; even if your arms are getting tired you decide against laying Rosie down in favor of continuing to hold her in case Sonata decides to try and move the couch again for some reason.
  471. >Sonata hums to herself from behind a screen, her silhouette backlit as she dresses herself.
  472. >You can see she has a set of wings and a horn, meaning that she’s another alicorn.
  473. >Though after what you’ve seen today you doubt it’s an impossibility- the lack of a flowing tail and mane gives away that she isn’t based off of Celestia or Luna.
  474. >Stepping out from behind the screen with a pose she says, “Sorry to keep you waiting dear, I had to make sure I was decent.”
  475. >Her fur was navy blue, the unfurled wings on her back transitioning into a vibrant purple near the tips. A long, flowing mane composed of the colors of the night sky and ending with large, tight curls parted slightly at the base of her horn, which from a glance you guessed was about twice as long as Dawn’s. The colors of her eyes were mismatched, one red and the other blue, but they both shone like cut gemstones. She was trying to show herself off, you were sure of it- especially if she called what she was wearing “decent”.
  476. >Unlike the coat that Dawn had, the black silken robes didn’t appear to be tailored for her, instead looking to be one meant for humans that she threw on. Either way, it left an ample view of her flank and the mark upon it, which looks like a treble clef with the swirl at the bottom changed to be in the shape of a heart.
  477. >She glances at Dawn, Rosie, and you, confused, “Oh, you weren’t the three I was expecting. Dawn dear, whatever happened to Damon?”
  478. >“I let him go early, from the sounds of it he was taking Fae on a date.”
  479. >That steely tone in Dawn’s voice was back again, her guard’s up for some reason.
  480. >Sonata gives a disappointed look before sighing, “Shame, I had something I needed the two of them to help me with later. So I guess we’ll go straight to the questions then.”
  481. >Dawn shakes her head, “We’ve already determined the root of the issue and I will be giving Mr. Chambers a temporary solution for it, I just need you to send a message to Magdalene and Selene for me so I can develop a permanent one- since for some reason my requests for my own personal computer keep getting ignored so I can’t send my own messages…”
  482. >Her tone is accusatory, something Sonata picks up on, “Very well, I’ll send it right after our little meeting. Now with Damon and Fae gone and Mr. Chamber’s questions answered, I’ll ask a few of my own.”
  483. >She presses herself against you, the scent of vanilla overwhelming your sense of smell; with her muzzle next to your ear she whispers, “So tell me, Mr. Chambers, how do you feel about ponies? Did you enjoy the show?”
  484. >You have a feeling you know what exactly what she means by that with the tone she’s using, so you’ll play dumb, it’s always worked before.
  485. “Rosie and Dawn are nice, and I never really got into the show, only watched it with one of my old friends.”
  486. >A frustrated sigh is let out beside you, and she leans away, “Great, he’s as thick as a brick.”
  487. “Nah, I’d say I’m actually a bit scrawny. After today I think I might have to start working out again.”
  488. >This time she groans, before sitting on her haunches and rubbing her temples with her hooves.
  489. >“Need I remind you that Telmacher told you not to get yourself in trouble again?” Dawn chimes in.
  490. >Sonata huffs, “I know, but I have needs. Not all of us can maintain your monastic lifestyle.”
  491. >“It’s not by choice…” She mutters in response.
  492. You clear your throat, causing both of them to look in your direction, “Besides, I’ve been informed that I’m ‘not worth it’ by multiple women; shoot, it’s even happened twice today.”
  493. >Might have tipped your hand with that, but you couldn’t resist the temptation.
  494. >Sonata leers at you, “You…”
  495. You chuckle, “What about me?”
  496. >“You are beyond frustrating,” she stands up and walks behind her desk, quickly pouring a glass of wine and levitating it to her lips, “Dawn, hurry up and finish your business with him so I can send your email and I get started on this lonely Friday night.”
  497. >Dawn hops down from the couch, and you stand up as well, “Will do.”
  498. As both of you reach the door, you turn to Sonata and say, “Nice meeting you.”
  499. >“Whatever,” she replies flatly, head slumping against the desk.
  500.  
  501. >After the doors close behind you, Dawn starts to giggle, “That’s probably the most enjoyable conversation I’ve had with her, thanks to you.”
  502. With an arched eyebrow you respond, “Why are you two at each-other’s throats anyways?”
  503. >“It feels like she has it out for me,” she sighs, “I don’t know why- she’s tall, charismatic, and beautiful, and I’m…”
  504. >She trails off.
  505. >“I’m not those things.”
  506. “Eh,” you utter, mouth moving faster than your brain, “You have your own appeal.”
  507. >Dawn’s ears fold back and she looks away from you while letting out a timid laugh.
  508. “If it’s just the four of you here, perhaps she envies that your position doesn’t seem to be ‘sit around and look pretty’, or how you ‘bring life into the world’ as you said earlier. Filling the void with…indulgences.”
  509. >“When’d you become a psychoanalyst?” she scoffs.
  510. “Got a minor in psychology.” You state, matter-of-factly.
  511. >Now it was her turn to arch an eyebrow, “Oh, and your major?”
  512. Taking a hand off of Rosie, you start to rub the back of your neck, “Well I uh…I have an M.D. but I…never started my residency.”
  513. >She does a double-take, “Why in the world are you working for a toy company?”
  514. >Your hand returns to Rosie, before starting to slowly stroke from about halfway down to the base of her mane. You briefly wonder if she actually likes when you do this or if she finds it patronizing, not that you can really ask her right now.
  515. A long, aggressive, sigh leaves your lips, “Something happened that made me realize I don’t have the heart for what the job entailed; but we’re straying from the point I was trying to make- earlier you called someone your mom and it sounded like you were about to call Selene your aunt, though given what you’ve told me about your origins I doubt they’re related to you, or each other, by blood. That would be correct, wouldn’t it?”
  516. >Dawn gives a slow nod, “Mom and Selene were the first two that were made, formally known as the ‘Alpha series’. Sonata and I were made from the same vats as ichor they were- Sonata from Selene’s and me from mom’s, together we make up the totality of the ‘Beta series’. Everyone else, and subsequently Rosie, are part of the ‘Gamma series’...”
  517. >Stopping herself, she sighs before continuing, “Sorry, I was about to go off on a tangent. But you’d be correct; so what’s your point exactly?”
  518. “My point,” you emphasize with a gesture of your head, “Is that even if you aren’t related by blood, you consider her family. She’s your mom, Selene’s your aunt, and that would make Sonata your…cousin? Whatever, it means that Sonata’s technically your family too, so you should at least try to find some common ground with her.”
  519. >“Why would I want to do that?”
  520. “Because you never know when you might lose her, then you’ll be left with all these ‘what-ifs’ running around in your head until you start going crazy as it gnaws away at your soul because it’s too late to do anything about it.”
  521. >“Sounds like you’re speaking from experience.”
  522. “Perhaps.” Is all you say in response.
  523. >An uneasy silence falls between the both of you as you continue to traverse back to the entrance.
  524. >Your mind wanders, beginning to think about how long it’s been since it happened, almost three years by now; surely you should be able to move on by now, so why does the thought of doing so hurt so much?
  525. >Pulling Rosie closer to your chest, you close your eyes and press your forehead against the top of hers.
  526. >It’s been less than two hours and you’re already starting to miss her, you don’t even want to think about what you would do if you lost her too.
  527. >But you do think, and the thought makes you sick to your stomach.
  528. >“Hey, are you okay? You’re making a face.” Dawn says, a touch of concern in her voice.
  529. You don’t open your eyes to look at her, but you try to force the grimace off your face, “Dawn, promise me you’ll save Rosie. I think…I think she’s the only thing keeping me here.”
  530. >Judging by how long it takes her to respond, it took her a moment to understand what you meant.
  531. >“I promise.”
  532. >You know that a promise is meaningless if the cruel wheel of fate decides to try and break you, though it does reassure you slightly when she says that.
  533. Nonetheless, you respond with a somber, “Thank-you.”
  534. >The doors to the lobby are in sight.
  535. >Soon you’ll have Rosie back.
  536. >The mask will go back on, for her sake.
  537. >It shouldn’t have slipped with Dawn, but it did.
  538. >They both have more important problems than you do, and yours are yours alone to bear.
  539. >When Rosie wakes up, they’ll just be a little easier to carry.
  540. >You can’t stop a chuckle from escaping your lips, causing Dawn to give you a quizzical look.
  541. Turning to her, you say, “Rosie really is a rock, isn’t she?”
  542.  
  543.  
  544. >As you return to consciousness you notice that your head is propped up on something and feel someone stroking your mane.
  545. >Your eyes flutter open as you turn your gaze upwards.
  546. >Anon looks down at you and smiles, “Hey, little lady, how was your nap?”
  547. >Stretching your legs out with a groan, you reply, “It was the best sleep I have had since I arrived here.”
  548. >The smile on his face grows a little wider, “That’s great.”
  549. >He looks away from you to the space in front of him, you do so as well and see Dawn Glow standing there.
  550. >She adjusts her glasses with a hoof, “Now that Rosie’s awake, I can tell you what the temporary solution I mentioned earlier is.”
  551. >A vial of silvery-white fluid levitates out from her coat before suspending itself in front of Anon, who gingerly takes the presented item, “That is what Selene calls ‘liquid moonlight’, one dose and you’re guaranteed to have 8 hours of dreamless sleep.”
  552. >Anon grips below the lip of the vial with his index finger and thumb and starts to move the vial in small circles, causing the contents to swirl around inside.
  553. >Satisfied with whatever he was doing, he turns his attention back to Dawn, “Any side-effects to look out for?”
  554. >Dawn shakes her head in response, “Magdalene used it for almost a decade, and I’ve been using this version on and off for the past few years and we haven’t experienced any side-effects yet.”
  555. >He gives a slow nod as an answer, before slipping the vial into the breast pocket of his jacket, “Can’t say that entirely puts my mind at ease but we’ve really got no other options. So how many doses are in this then?”
  556. >“It should last you from tonight to next Friday night,” she giggles, “I intend to take full advantage of your offer, Mr. Chambers, so I’ll refill it when you come and pick me up.”
  557. >A soft chuckle comes from Anon as he looks at you, “Sound like a plan, Rosie?”
  558. You hadn’t been paying attention due to being distracted by Anon smelling of freshly baked bread for some inexplicable reason, so you respond with a simple, “M-hm.”
  559. >“That settles it then,” he says, rummaging through his jacket before taking out a pen, “Mind if I borrow your notepad real quick, Dawn?”
  560. >She turns and lightly grasps the edge of the notebook with her teeth before giving it to Anon.
  561. >Anon quickly writes something down before handing it back to her.
  562. >After Dawn puts the notepad back where it belongs, Anon says, “Well I said I’d give you that before we leave, and now that I have I guess that means it’s time for us to go.”
  563. >He pats the side of your barrel to let you know to get up, to which you oblige after reorienting yourself.
  564. >Before you pass Dawn she rests a hoof on your shoulder, “I know I came off as cold, but I want to let you know that I’ll be trying my hardest to get your nightmares solved as fast as possible.”
  565. >You open your mouth to ask how but she pulls you into a hug.
  566. >She’s warm, warmer than Anon even, and you feel any tension you had left in your muscles from sleep fade away.
  567. >After what feels like a minute she lets go of you and steps back, “Please take care, Rosie.”
  568. >Anon stands by the door and gives Dawn a nod and a small wave, “Stay safe.”
  569. >Dawn nods in response and Anon opens the door for you.
  570. >The chill of the night air greets you once you step out, nearly snuffing out whatever leftover warmth Dawn had left with you.
  571. >You let out an audible shiver and suddenly find yourself lifted into the air; the scent of fresh bread reaches your nose again as Anon holds you against his chest.
  572. As he starts making his way back to the car, you decide to lean your head against his shoulder before tilting it up to look at him, “Care to tell me why you smell like a bakery? Did you and Dawn Glow get something without saving some for me?”
  573. >“Huh,” he says, giving you a confused look, “If anything I’d say I smell like I was doused in vanilla. You sure you aren’t just hungry? Pretty sure you haven’t eaten anything since lunch.”
  574. “I am, but that is not what I am asking.”
  575. >“No, we didn’t eat without you- especially because eating would ruin my appetite for where we’re going for dinner.”
  576. “Where would that be?”
  577. >He opens the door to his car and sits down, placing you in the passenger seat and buckling you in before saying, “Waffle House.”
  578. “But would there not be people there?”
  579. >The engine roars to life as he scratches his beard, “At this hour it’d likely just be us and maybe three people on staff.”
  580. >His words do nothing to assuage your worries, but as he pulls out of the parking lot and back onto the highway you think that maybe this could be a good idea, if you are to live in this world you have to get used to talking to other people besides Anon.
  581. >The free food is nice too.
  582.  
  583.  
  584. >The two of you are bathed in the yellow glow of the Waffle House sign as you arrive.
  585. >As you go in and take a seat you look at the menu; various breakfast foods were displayed upon its surface.
  586. >Noticing you, a woman walks over to your table.
  587. >Her hair was poofy, the top portion of it white, while the rest that reached down to the small of her back was chestnut brown, “Well ain’t you the cutest thing ah’ve ever seen? What’s ya’ name, sugah?” she asks you, her accent was noticeable.
  588. >You look at Anon, and see him move his hands from the table to his lap as he shuffles in his seat.
  589. She looks at you expectantly, so you stammer out, “R-Rosie Rock, miss.”
  590. >You managed to respond at least, which elicits a smile from her, “Well ain’t that ah coincidence, my name’s Roseanne. Ah can tell you’re a little shy, just know you don’t need to fret over nothin’ because I’m gonna be taking care of the two of y’all tonight.”
  591. >She pulls a pen from behind her ear and a notepad from her apron, “Now what can ah get for the two of you?”
  592. >While you ponder what to get, Anon takes the opportunity to tell her his order, “I’ll have an All Star, bacon, eggs scrambled, and a sweet tea for a drink.”
  593. Roseanne nods, then turns to you again, you hadn’t decided on anything so you say, “I’ll uh, have the same, miss.”
  594. >She looks at Anon before saying, “Someone sure is hungry, you not feeding her, young man?”
  595. >As Anon tries to stutter out a response Roseanne titters, “Jus’ messin’ with ya’ darlin’, we’ll get y'all's orders out real soon.”
  596. >With that she tucks her pen back behind her ear and walks away, leaving you and Anon to yourselves again.
  597.  
  598.  
  599. >Anon removes his hands from his lap and folds them on the table, “Something on your mind?”
  600. You look up at him and ask, “What happened between you and Dawn Glow while I was asleep? She seemed to be a different person compared to when I was awake previously.”
  601. >“Ah, that,” he says, beginning to drum his fingers against the back of his hand, “I made a fool out of myself by blaming her for something someone else did.”
  602. Cocking your head, you ask, “Why would you do that?”
  603. >He purses his lips before letting out a sharp exhale, “I spent a lot of time in the hospital when I was a kid. It made me want to be a doctor, to help people get better…”
  604. >He trails off as Roseanne puts your drinks on the table, “Two sweet tea for y’all,” she says before putting a better straw in yours.
  605. “Thank-you,” you say.
  606. >Anon replies similarly before continuing where he left off as she walks away, “So I dedicated everything to studying, read every medical textbook I could get my hands on, took every test I could take, volunteered whenever I could, took every scholarship I could qualify for…and by God, I did it.”
  607. >His voice was somber for those last few words, and he kept that tone as he continued, “I was visiting home before I started my residency, mom looked a bit pale so I suggested we visit her doctor to make sure everything was okay. She laughed and waved it off with a, ‘If I get a little cold I’ll just have my doctor son look after me.’ Not even an hour later she collapsed.”
  608. >A third of his drink disappears before he speaks again, “After she regained consciousness she broke down; told me that while I was away they had found tumors on her lungs. That she didn’t didn’t tell me because she knew how I’d react- that I’d drop everything and help take care of her, and that’s what I did. I stayed with her for the better part of two years before she passed. The whole time her doctors acted all cold and detached, like she was already dead, like trying to help her was a pointless endeavor,” he lets out an exhale that turns into a sigh, “Maybe it was just youthful optimism on my part or an idealized image of what the job is supposed to be, but their terrible bedside manner left me incensed. What happened between Dawn and I were knee-jerk reactions on my part, but we’ve made peace on the matter.”
  609. “O-oh, I see,” is all you manage to say before an awkward moment of silence falls between the two of you, broken by you saying, “D-did Dawn Glow say what she thought was the source of my nightmares?”
  610. >Running a hand through his hair, he looks down at the table and lets out a, “Fuck,” under his breath before looking back up at you.
  611. You shoot him a glare and respond, “I am not a little filly that you need to coddle, Anonymous.”
  612. >He sighs, reaching across the table and cupping your face with his hands, “That may be true but you ARE my responsibility, and I don’t want you to go on some self-destructive spiral over what may just be a theory,” his thumbs rub your cheeks before he returns them to their place on the table, “Dawn thinks that, well, you aren’t supposed to BE here. That…somehow you possessed the body of Candy Quartz, the pony that I was intended to get instead of you…and that your nightmares are either Candy Quartz trying to weaponize your memories against you or your unconscious mind trying to make sense of your death.”
  613. >Looking away he rubs the back of his neck and exhales, “Dawn has an idea on how to resolve all of this, but she’s still a ways off from even attempting it.”
  614. “Oh…” you say, looking down at your hooves.
  615. >The air between the two of you grew heavy as a maelstrom of thoughts began whirling through your head.
  616. ‘I am supposed to be dead, the only reason I am not is because I have all but stolen the life meant for some innocent girl. Does Anon hate me for this? If my problem is that I am not supposed to be alive, will Dawn Glow’s solution kill me again? Will I get to see mother and father again? Would Anon care that I am gone? Would he miss me?’
  617. >Your ruminations are cut short by the feeling of a hand on top of your mane, “Relax, Rosie, I can practically hear your heart beating against your chest.”
  618. “Sorry…” you mutter.
  619. >“It ain’t nothing you need to apologize for, it’s a lot to drop on someone all at once.” he responds.
  620. >“Hope ah ain’t interruptin’ anything.” Roseanne remarks as she places your meals on the table.
  621. >Anon shakes his head, “Nah, just finishing up. Ready to eat, Rosie?”
  622. You nod and turn to Roseanne, “Thank-you, Miss Roseanne.”
  623. >She reaches down and ruffles your mane, “Don’t mention it, sugah.”
  624. >Leaving the two of you to your meal, you eat in silence. When it comes time to leave, Anon tips Roseanne well, and she hopes that the two of you come back soon.
  625. >However in spite of a belly full of food, you can’t help but feel a gnawing pit in your stomach.
  626.  
  627. ...
  628.  
  629. >Friday once again.
  630. >Rosie’s hardly spoken since your visit to Waffle House.
  631. >She assures you that she’s just thinking about what you told her.
  632. >You’ve been keeping an eye on her throughout the week for any side effects- Rosie’s a unique case so you decided to be cautious.
  633. >All you’ve noticed is that she’s starting to fill out.
  634. >...
  635. >That came out wrong.
  636. >She’s not getting fat, in fact she’s starting to develop some muscle.
  637. >From sitting on the couch watching TV and eating sweets…
  638. >You’ll have to ask Dawn about this.
  639. >Speaking of, soon you’ll be heading out to fulfill your end of the bargain with Dawn.
  640. After sliding on your jacket you look at Rosie, “You coming with?”
  641. >She shakes her head, “No thank-you, I want to finish this show.”
  642. “Okay then,” you sigh, closing the door behind you.
  643. >Getting on to the highway took longer than it usually does since work was being done on the road you usually take.
  644. >A mess of static and garbled words comes out of the radio as you try and find something to fill the silence.
  645. >“Welcome back to the Joe Show at 103.5 FM where this evening we have a very special guest, one who’s been capturing the hearts and minds of children for over 50 years, owner of Telmacher’s Toy’s, Mr. Abel Telmacher himself. How’s it going Mr. Telmacher?” says the host.
  646. >Your eyes widen slightly; you certainly weren’t expecting a local radio station to be interviewing your boss today- though given how old-school Mr. Telmacher is, it makes sense.
  647. >“It’s good to be here, Joe. I, uh, appreciate you inviting me on your show today.”
  648. >“It’s nice to have you on, man. First thing I wanted to ask you about; it’s something my daughter's been asking me to buy for her so I wanna know- what’s the deal with these ‘Pony Pals’ of yours?”
  649. >Mr. Telmacher chuckles, “That is the uh, million dollar question, isn’t it? I suppose I could give some background information…”
  650. >He clears his throat, “I made the first two Pony Pals for my grandson and granddaughter after their parents passed in a car accident… see, the four of them would watch the show…’Friendship is Magic’, I think it was, they would watch it together, and so I made the first two to try and remind them of happier days. That was…about 20 years ago and today they are happy and-and healthy adults!”
  651. >Joe says nothing, so Mr. Telmacher takes it as a sign to continue.
  652. >“A little over 10 years ago I found the opportunity to be able to bring the Pony Pals to the public- as you might remember, there was a new show that they called “A New Generation”, like Star Trek… it did not do too well, combined with-with the recession and further… mismanagement of some of their other properties they were forced to sell some of them to avoid going under. I offered them a very generous amount and got the-the rights to several of their properties. I could now officially bring the-the enrichment that my grandchildren received. The Pony Pals are not toys, they’re meant to be…life-long companions,” he stops talking, then lets out a soft chuckle, “Apologies for my rambling, you know how us old people get.”
  653. >Joe chuckles in kind, “Nah man, it’s cool. That’s wild though…actually that reminds me of something- James could you pull up that one story about the firefighter? You know which one I’m talking about.”
  654. >There’s a moment of silence before he speaks again, “That’s the one- ‘Firefighter Jay Stuart Dead at 25 After Rescuing Family Amid Pizzeria Blaze’, Jesus.”
  655. >Another bout of silence, “Look at this- ‘Funeral-goers Shocked as Stuart’s Equine Companion Breaks Into Hysterics’.”
  656. >A long sigh comes from Mr. Telmacher, “Oh, Sally Forth, the poor girl. Situations like hers are why we built Telmacher Ranch; we’re doing all we can to help her but,” he stops again, “Ah, I shouldn’t say any more, it would be rude. How about we talk about something else?”
  657. >“Sure, but first I’d like to talk about our sponsor-”
  658. >You turn your attention away from the radio and back to the road, and notice the factory coming into view.
  659. >As you approach you notice Dawn is already waiting outside.
  660. >She was wearing a cream-colored sweater with a leather briefcase sat beside her, she looked annoyed for some reason.
  661. Stepping out of your car, you say, “Thought you’d be happier to see me.”
  662. >She groans, “I would be, but something came up.”
  663. You cock an eyebrow, “What happened?”
  664. >As if on cue, Sonata bursts through the front door with a, “Dawn dear, I’m ready for our family weekend getaway!”
  665. >She was also wearing a sweater, though hers was velvet in color and more form-fitting, and had a weekend bag slung across her shoulder.
  666. >Sonata looks at you and clicks her tongue, “You cut your hair, that’s a shame, I preferred your old look- made you look more like a stallion.”
  667. You have the feeling that she’s flirting with you again, time to shift subjects, “You were waiting right inside the door for me to show up, weren’t you?”
  668. >A laugh cuts through the air, “A lady needs to make an entrance- men are often oblivious, so subtlety will get you nowhere when you try to seduce them.”
  669. >That was definitely meant to be a jab at you.
  670. >She begins to saunter past you, a flick of her tail revealing that her sweater did nothing to protect her modesty, “Come now, I’d like to meet your little Rosie properly.” she says with a titter, before winking and letting her tail hang behind her.
  671. >Ears burning, you turn to Dawn, who’s muzzle was scrunched up.
  672. >When the two of you make eye contact she sighs, “Let’s just go.”
  673. >She walks towards your car, and you notice that her sweater goes past her haunches.
  674. >You get a vague feeling in your chest…is that…disappointment?
  675. You quickly shake your head then rub the bridge of your nose, “I’m not some sort of pervert…I’m not…” with that thought in the back of your mind you sigh and start to head back to your car, “If Griffin were here he’d have the smuggest grin right now.”
  676. >After unlocking the doors Sonata opens the passenger side and tries to get seated but ends up bonking her horn against the frame, letting out a, “Dammit,” as she does so.
  677. >She leans down and finagles her way inside before planting her hindquarters firmly in the seat with her legs over the dash.
  678. >Her expression twists into one of consternation as she starts to squirm in place.
  679. “Ain’t too comfortable is it,” you ask while rubbing your thumb against where her horn hit, luckily only the paint was scuffed, “I think you’d find that the backseat has a lot more room- besides, don’t need you flashing your business at anyone looking in their rearview whether you intended to or not.”
  680. >She pouts and you move out of the way so she can exit, holding open the rear door for her to crawl in.
  681. >Laying on her stomach, she lets her bag slide off her shoulders and onto the floor before chortling, she turns her head just enough to look you in the eye and ask, “So you were looking?”
  682. Feeling that soon to be familiar burning in your ears you slam the door on her, responding, “Hush, you.”
  683. >You turn to find that Dawn has already situated herself in the passenger seat, her suitcase lying flat against the floorboard.
  684. >She looked slightly less irritated than when you first showed up, but she kept her eyes facing forward.
  685. >Once you get back into your car you rub your hands together to try and heat them up before starting your car again.
  686. >“Griffin… He’s the one who…ordered Rosie for you, right?” Dawn says.
  687. “Huh? Oh, yeah, he is. Why do you ask?” you respond.
  688. >“Why would he be looking smug right now?”
  689. The word, “Fuck,” slips out as you leave the parking lot.
  690. >This is going to be a long drive home.
  691.  
  692.  
  693. >The first few minutes of the drive back are spent with you hemming and hawing while trying to find a response.
  694. You eventually lie and say, “I always told him that I wasn’t that into the show, but look at me now- I’m about to have three ponies in my home.”
  695. >Dawn gives a slow but skeptical nod, “But what about what you said before tha-”
  696. “A-anyways,” you cut her off, internally cursing their excellent hearing, “There’s something I need to ask you.”
  697. >“What would that be?” she replies, cocking her head.
  698. “I’ve been keeping an eye on Rosie to make sure there aren’t any side effects; while I trust your word that there aren’t any you can never be too cautious…”
  699. >You glance over at her and she nods, “Go on.”
  700. “She seems to be…bulking up recently.” you continue.
  701. >“It’s rude to talk about a woman’s weight, dear.” Sonata interjects, suppressing a giggle.
  702. “Hush, you. I mean that she’s developing a noticeable amount of muscle out of seemingly nowhere, and it concerns me.”
  703. >Dawn taps her chin with her hoof, “Well, she’s an earth pony, so she’s supposed to have muscle. Also, last I saw her she looked a little thin, as if she was underfed.”
  704. She gives you a look, to which you sigh and reply, “She only eats when I do; I tell her all she has to do is ask and I’ll whip something up real quick if she’s hungry, but she always insists on only eating during breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’ve been making bigger portions because I think she won’t ask for seconds.”
  705. >“I see.” she replies, “Has she been getting a lot of protein lately?”
  706. You nod, “A lot of eggs and bacon.”
  707. >“What’s likely happening is that now that her body is finally getting enough to keep up with her metabolism, the extra protein is being used to build muscle. You might want to increase her intake of sugars to balance it out.”
  708. Slowly nodding, you reply, “That reminds me, I was thinking of making something for dinner, a family recipe; there anything y’all can’t eat?”
  709. >She’s quick to respond, “Red meats, it won’t kill us but it’ll definitely make us sick; white meats and everything else should be fine.”
  710. >Sonata sticks her head out from the back seat, “You’re cooking for us? You certainly know how to treat a lady.”
  711. “The two of you are my guests, it’s just courtesy.”
  712. >She slumps back and sighs, “My hopes of a romantic dinner dashed, just like that.”
  713. >Turning to look at her, Dawn says, “Laying it on a bit thick, don’t you think?” an edge of annoyance creeping into her voice.
  714. >“I said it earlier, dear, you need to be a little heavy-handed in manners such as these.” she responds.
  715. >Dawn groans and turns towards you, “See what inanity I wanted to get away from?”
  716. >Sonata reaches her forelegs over the passenger seat and across Dawn’s torso, pulling her into a sort of hug, “But we’re family, Dawn, you said it yourself. Would you really just leave your family all by herself?”
  717. >Dawn struggles in vain against Sonata’s embrace, “Despite how you act, you’re a grown mare, you can take care of yourself.”
  718. >In response Sonata pouts, and leans her head against Dawn’s, “Your words wound me, dear. If only there was a handsome young man to console me.”
  719. “Ain’t a young man anymore.” you reply dryly.
  720. >“Just handsome will do.”
  721. “I’m not worth it, remember?” you respond, tapping the side of your head for emphasis.
  722. >“If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you’re deflecting.”
  723. “So what if I am?”
  724. >There’s silence from the back seat, and a sudden sense of dread creeps over you.
  725. >Something wet slides up your neck, causing you to jump in your seat and briefly lose control of the car.
  726. >After quickly grabbing the steering wheel and reorienting the car you touch the back of your neck.
  727. >It’s slick with saliva, she had licked you.
  728. >Dawn glares at her, eyes literally aglow with anger, “What the hell is with you today!? You could have gotten us all killed!”
  729. >Sonata simply shrugs in response, “He needs to loosen up, live a little.”
  730. >“By dying!?”
  731. >The two begin to argue as you wipe your soiled hand on your jeans.
  732. “Sonata,” you say, making eye contact with her through the rearview mirror, “If you can stay still and stay quiet for the rest of the drive, I won’t report you to HR. Deal?”
  733. >Her eyes widen a little at your ultimatum, but she gives a small nod of affirmation.
  734. “Good, I can roll with your flirting but I won’t tolerate you endangering all of our lives.”
  735. >She bristles at the implication that you understood that she was attempting to come on to you, the indignancy on her face clear as day as she opens her mouth to speak but you cut her off with a:
  736. “We had a deal, remember?”
  737. >All she does in response is huff and splay herself across the back seat.
  738. >Dawn’s eyes return to normal and she goes back to staring out the window after adjusting her glasses.
  739. >The rest of the ride is spent in silence.
  740.  
  741.  
  742. >The garage door opens as you pull into the driveway.
  743. >Once you park and kill the engine, Dawn and Sonata magic their doors open.
  744. >After they step out with bags in tow, they both stretch.
  745. >Dawn stretches normally, while Sonata leans forwards and sticks her flanks straight into the air with what sounded like a mix between a groan and a moan.
  746. “This girl, I swear.” you mutter.
  747. >When she finishes she turns and gives you a wink, and as you walk past her to open the door to the house she nudges you with her hip before giggling.
  748. You call out to Rosie, “Hey we’re back, even picked up a stray along the way.”
  749. >A gasp comes out from behind you, “I am not a stray! I’m much too well-kempt to have been on the streets.”
  750. >Rosie cocks her head, “Who is that? I don’t recognize that voice.”
  751. >Sonata pushes past Dawn and you before trotting over to Rosie, the sound of her hooves clip-clopping on the wooden floor echoing off the walls, “Sonata, Midnight Sonata, you weren’t awake when we met previously me so it’s a pleasure to meet you properly, Rosie.”
  752. >She punctuates her introduction by giving Rosie a little half-hug.
  753. >Rosie says nothing, but awkwardly reciprocates the hug.
  754. >Dawn is the next to enter saying, “Hello again, Rosie, I hope you’re feeling better since the last time we met.” with a small smile.
  755. >“No nightmares yet.” she replies flatly.
  756. >“That’s good to hear.”
  757. >With the introductions out of the way, Dawn and Sonata take in their surroundings.
  758. >“This is…nice.” Dawn says.
  759. >Sonata follows up with, “Yeah, you must have put a lot into this place.”
  760. “Got this place from my mom,” you reply, “We moved here after I got out of middle school so we’ve had a lot of time to deck this place out since then.”
  761. >Sonata’s eyes light up, “Oh, is your mother here? Does she know that you brought a couple of cute girls home with you?”
  762. She does that giggle of hers again as you rub the back of your neck, “I probably should have said that I inherited the house from her.”
  763. >Her ears immediately flatten against her head, and with her usual haughty tone missing she says, “O-oh, I’m sorry for your loss.”
  764. “Don’t worry, you couldn’t have known.”
  765. >A somber air fills the room, you decide to break it by giving them a short tour of the house before getting started on dinner.
  766.  
  767.  
  768. >Anon was cooking dinner, leaving you to entertain the guests.
  769. >Sonata offered to help set up the table since she doesn’t know how to cook, to which he agreed to let her do after some convincing.
  770. >She now sat with her eyes closed and humming a song you didn’t know on the opposite end of the couch from you, slowly swaying her head to the imaginary beat.
  771. >In contrast, Dawn sat next to you, about to ask you some more questions.
  772. >“So how was your week, Rosie?”
  773. >You aren’t sure how you feel about Dawn, the first impression you got of her is night and day with the Dawn before you now.
  774. >She certainly seems more pleasant now…
  775. >“Rosie, are you okay? You spaced out.” Dawn says, tapping your shoulder.
  776. “Huh?”
  777. >“Don’t take it personal, Dawn. She hasn’t been too chatty since we went to the Waffle House.” Anon calls out from the kitchen.
  778. >“Oh,” she says, cocking her head, “What happened?”
  779. “I…” you struggle to get out the words.
  780. >“It’s happened to all of us, dear, that feeling of existential dread.” Sonata interjects, not even opening her eyes.
  781. ‘How did she-’
  782. >Dawn places a hoof on top of yours, “He told you about Candy Quartz, didn’t he?”
  783. You nod, “He also told me why he ‘made a fool of himself’.”
  784. >A nervous chuckle escapes Dawn, “A-ah, right, that,” she quickly recomposes herself, “I’m working as fast as I can to fix this- the laptop they ordered for me should be in on Monday and then I can begin correspondence with Selene to try and develop a method of separating the two of you.”
  785. >That’s some good news, at least; one question weighs heavy in your mind, however:
  786. “She’s not suffering right now, is she, or do you at least think she isn’t?”
  787. >A foreleg wraps around you and brings you into a hug, the warmth of coming from Dawn lessening the fear and worry in your mind slightly, “She’s fine, she’s just sleeping.”
  788. >The two of you stay like that for a while until the silence is broken by Sonata speaking, “How about we move onto a less morbid topic? We’ve never been to a Waffle House before, Rosie, how was it?”
  789. >As out of nowhere this line of questioning might be, it should at least take your mind off of Candy Quartz for now.
  790. “It was nice, the lady that took our order was very kind and friendly- her name was Roseanne. The way she talked got a peculiar reaction from Anon.”
  791. >“Oh?” Sonata responds, finally opening an eye to look at you.
  792. Normally you wouldn’t try to imitate an accent, but you respond with, “What’s ya’ name, sugah?”
  793. >“Why would he react to that?” Dawn asks, confused, “What did he do in response?”
  794. “He took his hands off the table and put them in his lap…he might have been blushing?”
  795. >“Oh!” Dawn exclaims, wings suddenly extending to full length before she quickly folds them back against her torso, which elicits a giggle from Sonata.
  796. >“My oh my, Anon, were you hoping for a little southern hospitality?” she says, affecting a similar accent to the one you had put on for the last few words.
  797. >“Hush, you!” Anon shouts from the kitchen, causing Sonata to let out a chortle, “Anyways, dinner’s ready, everyone. Bowls are already on the table so just take a seat.”
  798. >The navy blue alicorn hops off the couch and climbs into the chair closest to Anon, “Made with love, I bet.”
  799. >“You wish.”
  800. >The white alicorn is next, sitting opposite of Sonata, “I hope it tastes as good as it smells.”
  801. You take your usual spot across the table from Anon, “As do I,” you cock your head, “Where’s your bowl?”
  802. >“Wanted to see how y’all liked it first,” he says, waving a hand, “need to have some extra if any of you decide to get seconds.”
  803. >You all start to eat, Dawn and Sonata use the forks given to them while you eat straight from the bowl.
  804. >It’s a combination of noodles, meat, and tomato. The meat was seasoned with black pepper, seasoned salt, and garlic; he called it casserole, but also said that it might be considered a goulash- either way it was a family recipe.
  805. >The three of you finish off your bowls at around the same time, and all ask for seconds.
  806. >“Guess I’ll have to make myself a little something later, probably should have cooked some extra portions in case this happened.” Anon chuckles before picking up and refilling your bowls.
  807. >After placing them back in front of the three of you he retreats to the living room.
  808. >Out of the corner of your eye you see him perusing the movie shelf and muttering to himself as Dawn and Sonata tear into their bowls.
  809. >Sonata finishes hers first, levitating the bowl into the sink before entering the living room, “Be back in a moment, dear, I just need something from my bag”
  810. >Anon just mutters, “Okay.” in response, not even turning to look at her.
  811. >With that she disappears into the guest room.
  812. >Dawn finishes next, but waits for you to finish so that she can put your bowls into the sink.
  813. >“Best meal I’ve had in ages.” Dawn says as you step into the living room.
  814. “Yeah,” you say, “You should make some more soon.”
  815. >He chuckles, “Would if I could, but I’m out of ingredients and it’s too late to go out and get more.”
  816. >“Drat.” Dawn replies with mock irritation.
  817. >You take your place on the couch and Dawn sits next to you.
  818. >The movie Anon puts on is one you haven’t seen before, and judging by Dawn’s expression, one she hasn’t seen either.
  819. >With fortuitous timing Sonata saunters back into the room with a bottle of what is presumably wine and three glasses in tow, all held within a blue aura, “Thought we could use a little something to liven up this evening.”
  820. >“Wine’s not my thing, too bitter for my tastes…” Anon says.
  821. >She lets out a huff in annoyance, “C’mon, at least share a drink with me? It’s rude to have your guests drink alone.”
  822. >“Don’t really drink that much either...”
  823. >Sonata begins to pout which causes Anon to sigh, “But I guess I can make an exception, probably some coolers left in the garage fridge I need to get through.”
  824. >With a groan he gets up from his seat and heads to the garage, leaving Sonata practically giddy as she takes her spot on the couch.
  825. >After a few minutes he returns with a box of green apple malts, the bottles inside clinking against one another when he places them on the coffee table as he sits back down.
  826. >He slides one out and holds it towards Dawn, “You want one? Also can Rosie have one or would that mess with the ‘liquid moonlight’?”
  827. >She pushes it back to him with a hoof, “Oh no thanks, I’d like to keep my wits about me.”
  828. >Sonata leans towards Anon before tittering, “She can’t hold her liquor.”
  829. >“H-hey!” Dawn cries out, indignantly.
  830. >After another giggle from Sonata, Dawn huffs and says, “To answer your other question: yes, alcohol might make it more potent, among other potential effects.”
  831. “Not that I would really want to if I could, there wasn’t a lot of money to spend on alcohol and certainly not enough for us to use what little we had for any festivities- so I never developed a taste for it.
  832. >Anon nods to the information and says, “Well, a lot changes in…however long this will take, maybe once this is all over we can share a drink, Rosie.”
  833. “Perhaps.” you reply.
  834. >He turns towards Sonata with the bottle aloft, “To family.”
  835. >Sonata raises her glass to clink against Anon’s, “To family.”
  836. >With that, the movie begins.
  837.  
  838.  
  839. >The movie draws to a close, and as the credits roll you realize the predicament you’re in- Sonata rests with her eyes closed and her head on your shoulder, with Dawn doing similarly but with a pillow against your thigh, and Rosie leaning against Dawn.
  840. ‘I’m in a big ol’ pony pile.’ you think to yourself.
  841. >Rosie stretches her legs before sitting up, “That was pretty fun, but I think I should get some sleep soon.”
  842. >Dawn sits up next, “I’ll get the liquid moonlight then.”
  843. >She hops off the couch and heads towards the guest room.
  844. “I should probably put the leftover malts back up.”
  845. >Sonata lets out a quiet whine as you stand but doesn’t try to stop you.
  846. >The pounding in your head is abated momentarily as the fridge air hits your face.
  847. >You return to your spot on the couch and Sonata gets back in position.
  848. >Dawn comes out with the vial held in her orange aura.
  849. >She uncorks it and Rosie takes the vial between her teeth, tilting her head back to swallow the contents.
  850. >Dawn takes the vial back, wiping it down with a cloth before stowing it behind her ear.
  851. >It takes a moment for it to kick in, but you recognize when it does.
  852. >Her breathing slows down, to the point your heart skips a beat in the worry it might stop.
  853. >Relaxation of muscles when the wave of cool washes over as it runs its course.
  854. >And with that relaxation of the muscles comes the heaviness of the eyelids as she drifts to sleep.
  855. >The pearlescent pony hops onto the couch before laying next to Rosie, “I’ll put her in bed in a bit, just some things I want to check.”
  856. You polish off the leftover malt you had and set the bottle on the table. “Alright, think I’ll head to bed then.”
  857. >Sonata moves so that you can stand, however when you do so the blood rushing to your head causes you to stumble, to which Sonata immediately steadies you with a wing, “Easy there, don’t need you falling and breaking something.”
  858. >She stands, still with her wing against your back, “How’s about I walk you to bed?”
  859. “Sure.” you say, not wanting to move your head for a nod.
  860. >She guides you to your room, careful as to not let you lean too far.
  861. >Once you cross the threshold, you decide to sit down in your chair for a minute to let your head stop pounding.
  862. >With a hand on your forehead you hear the door to your room closing, looking up, you see Sonata approaching you.
  863. >She throws her forelegs over your shoulders, pushing your back against the chair with her weight before pressing her muzzle against your face.
  864. >Her tongue, broader and longer than yours, breaks past your lips and entangles with your own.
  865. >The malt on your breath mix with the wine on hers, creating a bittersweet taste. Combined with her usual vanilla scent, it's enough to make you dizzy as your tongues wrestle each other.
  866. She pulls away so the two of you can breathe, you manage to get out a, "Why me?" between ragged breaths.
  867. >In contrast to you, her breaths are quiet and smooth, she giggles at your question, "Look at me," she says, running her wings across her flanks and up her sides, "I am made in the image of the Princess of Love, Mi Amore Cadenza. I know she's showered with love by her subjects and family; even fawned after by many even in this world."
  868. >She tilts her head to the side to move a lock of her mane that had fallen in front of her face, then looks you directly in the eye, "That love- I want it, I NEED it. I have her beauty, her elegance, her wit, her power, her passion; do I not deserve it? I'm not some inferior imitation. I'm just as good as she is- in fact, I'm better, because I'm real and can be so, so, much more."
  869. >Having been entranced by her eyes, you hadn't noticed that your belt and pants had been undone, only finally noticing when you feel your member being exposed to the open air.
  870. >Sonata looks down at it with a predatory intensity, quickly shifting to a look of disappointment when she sees her efforts only resulted in leaving you at half mast.
  871. >You could blame whisky dick, but you aren't sure you're drunk enough for that to be the case.
  872. >After a moment her face goes from disappointed to determined as she looks at you with half-lidded eyes, "There's also something else I wanted to tell you about myself, Anon," she says, leaning forward until her mouth is next to your ear, "I always get what I want, sugah."
  873. >And like that, you're at full mast, causing her to grin.
  874. >She licks her lips, and her hot breath tickles your face at an increasing pace as she descends to accept your length; only stopping when the door to your room opens again and the two of you look at the source of the sudden influx of light.
  875. >Dawn stands in the doorframe, silhouetted by the light of the living room.
  876. >"Sonata, just what do you think you're doing?! He's drunk!"
  877. >Having the blood diverted away from your brain was actually making it easier to think, ironically. You could have stopped her at any point, hell, you probably should have.
  878. >But you didn't.
  879. >You didn't secretly want this to happen, right? Surely you weren't into ponies?
  880. >Your worries cause your stomach to churn, before your worries are supplanted with another as you taste bile.
  881. >You did eat before you started drinking, right?
  882. >The argument brewing between Sonata and Dawn was cut short as you rush past them to the bathroom and begin vomiting into the sink.
  883. >After cleaning up you slump against the wall and let yourself slide until you’re sitting on the floor.
  884. >Dawn comes and takes a seat next to you, “Are you feeling okay?”
  885. “Better now that I got the booze out of my stomach.” you croak.
  886. >“You know that’s not what I’m talking about.”
  887. Your head slumps a bit and you sigh, “I could have stopped her at any point, but I didn’t…and I don’t know what that says about me.”
  888. >Silence falls between the two of you as she takes in what you said.
  889. >“O-oh,” she stammers, “I didn’t know you were…one of those people who feel that way about ponies.”
  890. “Wasn’t before today, I guess,” you respond with a wheezy chuckle, “But let’s try and not make this more awkward than it already is.”
  891. >She simply nods in affirmation before silence falls between you again.
  892. With your stomach still too unsettled to stand you decide to ask Dawn a question, “Keep forgetting to ask - when we left the factory Rosie thought I smelled like fresh bread, but I know I smelled like vanilla, what’s the deal with that?”
  893. >“It’s Sonata’s perfume, she designed it to smell like ‘what one’s heart desires’. It’s supposed to help make people more agreeable if they came in with complaints…among other things.”
  894. “Ah, I see. My ex had this vanilla shampoo she’d use so that’s why I smell vanilla. Though why does Rosie smell fresh bread, is it a Pinkie memory?”
  895. >She shakes her head, “It doesn’t work that way- I don’t give them memories, as cruel as that might sound, I only give them knowledge and personality.”
  896. “I…don’t like the implications of what that means for Rosie, and I don’t want the headache I’m going to have in the morning be any worse by trying to wrap my head around the metaphysics of it.”
  897. >Dawn nods, “Understandable.”
  898. “If you don’t mind me asking, does it smell like anything to you? I imagine you’d be able to smell it on me right now.”
  899. >Her ears fold against her head, and sheepishly says, “Nothing, I don’t smell anything.”
  900. >You have the feeling that she’s lying, but you’re not gonna push it, not now at least.
  901. >So instead you decide to wrap an arm around her and pull her into a hug which causes her to yelp.
  902. >After about a minute she stops squirming and just sits there in your lap after letting out a huff.
  903. >She’s warm, like holding a heating pad in your arms.
  904. >It’s starting to make your eyelids heavy.
  905. >She probably won’t mind if you close them for a little bit.
  906. >Probably…
  907.  
  908.  
  909. >When you wake you find yourself in your bed.
  910. >A mess of orange and yellow mane in the bottom of your periphery and the gentle warmth that was pressed against your chest signaled that Dawn was lying next to you.
  911. >She stirs as you slowly raise yourself to sit up in an attempt to abate your throbbing headache, settling once you stop moving.
  912. >You notice that she had one of her forelegs over Rosie, now pulling the pale pink pony closer.
  913. >A quiet chuckle escapes your lips as you slide out from under the blanket and step on the cold tile floor.
  914. >When you go to check the time on your phone you find a bottle of aspirin and a glass of water sitting next to it.
  915. >After downing two and taking a swig of water you deduce that it was Sonata that did all this.
  916. >You sneak out of your room and poke your head into the guest room.
  917. >Levitating in front of her is your old hoodie that Rosie had worn to the factory.
  918. >She was stitching where you had cut it to make space for Rosie’s tail, using a needle and thread she had pulled from a sewing kit in her bag to create a new hem along the frayed edges of your shoddy shear job.
  919. >Her eyes go from the hoodie to the front window, watching the snow build up outside.
  920. >The door creaking as you enter causes one of her ears to swivel in your direction before she turns to look at you, “Morning, Mr. Chambers.”
  921. >Her usual tone is gone again, instead she just sounds…deflated.
  922. “Dawn and Rosie are still asleep, and since I don’t have enough on hand to make breakfast for everyone, I figured I’d go pick something up since there’s still time. I was also wondering if you wanted to tag along so we could, uh, discuss what happened last night.”
  923. >She nods and follows you to the car, hopping in when you open the door for her and you enter the driver’s seat soon after.
  924. >There’s an IHOP nearby, you don’t remember if they sell waffles or not but pancakes should be a good enough substitute.
  925. >Once you hit the sideroad, Sonata speaks.
  926. >“About last night…I’m sorry, I took advantage of you, and if you want to report me, I-”
  927. You hold a hand up to get her to stop, “I could have stopped you if I had wanted, I’m still sorting through how I feel about it, so until then you can just forget about it.”
  928. >The light turns red and you slow to a stop, Sonata takes the opportunity to lean forward and give you a peck on the cheek, “Thanks,” she then leans back into her seat, “I’m still worried about you though.”
  929. An incredulous laugh escapes you, “Why would you be worried about me?”
  930. >“Because I can tell what you’re hiding within your heart- it is my gift and curse, much like Dawn’s memory.”
  931. “What do you mean by that?”
  932. >“Dawn remembers everything from the moment she was brought into this world to the moment she went to sleep last night, even if she would rather not. For me, I can always sense the emotions of those around me.”
  933. The light turns green and you ask, “And what does that have to do with you worrying about me?”
  934. >“Because like Dawn, your heart is full of melancholy, a poison that will put you into an early grave if you continue to let it fester; I don’t want that, and with the way Dawn feels about you, neither does she.”
  935. Another red light, once you stop you turn to look at Sonata. “Wait, what do you mean ‘the way Dawn feels about you’?”
  936. >Sonata groans and rubs her temple with a hoof, “Maybe you weren’t playing at being dense… You’re the one closest to her, so it only makes sense, but she doesn’t know how to deal with these feelings- something else the two of you share.”
  937. “Hoo boy…” is all you say, rubbing the back of your neck.
  938. >“Hoo boy, indeed.” Sonata replies.
  939.  
  940.  
  941. >Unfortunately for you, IHOP doesn’t have a drive-thru.
  942. Looking back at Sonata, you ask, “You coming inside, or are you gonna stay in the car?”
  943. >“I think you’re the one that’s supposed to be coming inside.” she replies with a bat of her eyes.
  944. An exasperated sigh escapes you,“I thought we were past this?”
  945. >She titters, “Sorry, sorry, old habits- it’s just fun to tease you. I’m coming with you.”
  946. >You let out another sigh as you open the door for her, and she does a quick stretch after stepping out.
  947. >The inside of the building is only slightly warmer than you had the inside of your car, likely because of the kitchen in the back.
  948. >Turning at the sound of the door opening, the waitress’ eyes widen at the sight of the two of you.
  949. >”C-can I help you?”
  950. >You open your mouth to speak but Sonata cuts you off, “My fiance and I would like to order some takeout.”
  951. >If the waitress’ eyes could get wider they would, “Excuse me?”
  952. “Ignore her, just a coworker who thinks she’s a comedian,” you reply to the bewildered waitress, “Though we were ordering takeout- I’ll get a World Famous Pancake combo with buttermilk pancakes, eggs scrambled, bacon instead of sausage, then an order of double chocolate pancakes, no sides, then…”
  953. >Not knowing what to order for Dawn, you pull a menu off the wall and hand it to Sonata, who holds it in an aura of blue magic.
  954. “What on this would Dawn order?”
  955. >She scans it, turning it over and back a few times to see what all they had before looking up at the waitress, “Cupcake pancakes and the strawberry cream crepes, both with no sides, that will be all.”
  956. >The menu levitates over to the waitress who takes it and puts it back with a trembling hand, “T-thank you, we’ll have your order out shortly.”
  957. >With that the waitress heads back, Sonata takes a seat on the bench in the entryway, you simply elect to stand.
  958. You turn to her, “I would expect crepes for you, but cupcake for Dawn?”
  959. >Sonata gives a dismissive wave of her hoof, “She eats cupcakes like most people drink coffee in the mornings. If you want to do something with what I told you about earlier, I’d suggest you make some for her- I bet she’d really appreciate it.”
  960. “I’ll, uh, think about it.” you respond.
  961. >Silence falls between the two of you, leaving only the murmurs of the few patrons here this early to fill the air.
  962. >Eventually, a family gets up to leave, each of them giving you and Sonata a sideways glance as they leave except the daughter, who stops and stares at Sonata.
  963. >”H-hello…” she says, nervously.
  964. >Sonata titters and gives her a smile though something about it seems off, the edges of it don’t quite reach where they normally do, “Well hello to you too.”
  965. >The young girl fidgets before speaking again, “You’re really pretty, can I pet your hair?”
  966. >”Well my mane is still a little messy, but it should be fine, just mind the horn- I don’t think your parents would be too happy if you accidentally hurt yourself with it.” Sonata replies, before bowing her head down so that the girl could reach it.
  967. >The girl spends a minute or so awkwardly patting and petting Sonata’s mane in the way that children do, murmuring, “Soft.”
  968. >Her father turns to you, “She your’s?”
  969. “Nah, as much as she’d like to, she’s not,” you chuckle, “Belongs to my boss- invited herself along when a coworker asked to crash at my place, ended up the only one awake for a breakfast run.”
  970. >”Huh.”
  971. >Her mother puts a hand on her shoulder, “Time to go, sweetie.”
  972. >The girl pulls her hand away from Sonata’s mane and retreats behind her mother, “Okay, mommy.”
  973. >”What do you say to the nice pony for letting you pet her?”
  974. >“Thank-you, Miss Pony.”
  975. >Sonata just smiles and says, “It was no trouble at all, really. Do take care.”
  976. >Once they exit, Sonata lets out an exhale, as if she was holding her breath the entire time.
  977. “Worried about something?” you inquire.
  978. >”Sorry, I’m not any good with children. Doesn’t help that the poor girl was so nervous it was starting to affect me.” she replies, brushing away a lock of her mane that had fallen in front of her face.
  979. “Looked like you did a fine job to me.”
  980. >”I…Thanks.”
  981. >She relaxes, closing her eyes and letting herself absorb the atmosphere of families sharing breakfast together.
  982. >Out of the corner of your eye you spot the waitress walking out of the kitchen with bags in tow, “Your order, sir.”
  983. “Thank-you kindly,” you tell her, taking them off her hands before turning to Sonata, “Time to head out.”
  984. >She says nothing.
  985. “Sonata?” you call out, concern creeping into your voice.
  986. >Her barrel rises and falls slowly, looks like she’s fallen asleep.
  987. >”Is she okay?”
  988. You sigh, “She was up all night, guess the fatigue finally caught up with her.”
  989. >After adjusting the bags, you walk over and gently shake her.
  990. “Hey, we gotta get a move on, you can sleep in the car.”
  991. >Sufficiently roused, she gets up and begins to trudge to the car.
  992. >Once the two of you are seated, and after Sonata drifts off again in the backseat, you stare at your hand for a moment.
  993. ‘Her fur is actually pretty soft.’
  994.  
  995.  
  996. >Sonata is snoring gently as you pull into the garage.
  997. >Waking her again, the two of you enter the house before she takes the bags with her magic as you go to wake Dawn and Rosie.
  998. >From the looks of it, the two of them haven’t moved an inch, with Rosie still stuck in Dawn’s grasp.
  999. >A quick glance at the clock on your phone says that it's about time for the liquid moonlight to wear off.
  1000. “Hey Rosie, breakfast’s on the table, time to get up.”
  1001. >“Hmm…” she responds, before letting out a yawn.
  1002. >As she goes to stand Dawn lets out a noise before pulling her back down into her embrace.
  1003. >“H-hey!” Rosie cries out as the momentum causes her to land with a thump.
  1004. >She looks at you, pleadingly.
  1005. >You chuckle before walking over and boop Dawn, causing her face to involuntarily scrunch up.
  1006. Another chuckle escapes you, “Up-and-at-em’, sunshine.”
  1007. >Dawn’s eyes snap open, “Mom?”
  1008. A pang of guilt hits you, “N-no, just me, Dawn. Breakfast is getting cold, and you’re holding on to Rosie like a teddy bear.”
  1009. >Her ears fold back as she lets Rosie clamber to the floor, murmuring, “Sorry…”
  1010. >Rosie takes her leave, so you and Dawn are now on your lonesome.
  1011. “You want to talk about it?”
  1012. >Throwing off the remaining blanket she was under, she says, “There’s not much to say, I just miss her.”
  1013. “Well hopefully you can video chat her or something when your computer comes in.”
  1014. >”Technology isn’t exactly in mom or Abe’s wheelhouse…” she replies with a grimace.
  1015. You gently tap her forehead, “You’re smart, aren’t you? Use that head of yours and you’ll figure something out.”
  1016. >There’s a moment of silence before she responds, “Okay…I will.”
  1017. A quick nod is all you give in response, “Alright then; I wasn’t joking about breakfast getting cold though- and I don’t think you want Rosie or even Sonata to eat yours because you didn’t show up to claim it.”
  1018. >She hops off the bed and then squeezes past you, “Rosie wouldn’t, Sonata however…”
  1019. >Another moment passes in silence before she bolts towards the kitchen.
  1020. You give a quick huff in amusement as you start to head towards the kitchen, “Never gonna be a dull moment with these three around, is there?”
  1021.  
  1022.  
  1023. >With breakfast finished and bagged for later disposal, the four of you sat at the kitchen table.
  1024. You sigh, “That was nice, hadn’t had anything from there in a while.”
  1025. >Dawn leans back in her chair, “Yeah, though how did you figure out that I’d like cupcake flavor?”
  1026. “Oh, uh, a little birdy told me…” you reply, taking a sip from your drink with a quick glance at Sonata, who gives you an equally quick wink in acknowledgement.
  1027. >”Mhm, sure…” she responds with a knowing look.
  1028. >Despite how cool it is inside, you feel yourself starting to sweat a little, time to deflect.
  1029. “S-so Rosie, how do you like pancakes compared to waffles?.”
  1030. >She perks up at her name being mentioned.
  1031. >“I’m not too sure, honestly. Pancakes are more bread-like, but you can taste more with waffles since the butter and syrup don’t…” she pauses, trying to think of an appropriate word, “Soak into the waffle as much.”
  1032. >”Speaking of, dear, you have a little bit of butter on your face…” she floats a handkerchief up to Rosie’s face and wipes the dairy product in question before letting the cloth fall in front of Rosie, “There we go; you can also keep the handkerchief if you want- I have plenty back at the factory.”
  1033. >Oh,” Rosie says, “Thank-you, Miss Sonata.”
  1034. >”No need to thank me, just consider it a gift.”
  1035. “Ah right, there’s something I’ve been meaning to ask the two of you,” you say, pointing between them, “Y’all don’t actually live in the factory do you? Those beds are for when you have a long work night and don’t want to fly or walk home, right?”
  1036. >The two of them look at you, confused.
  1037. >”I told you, Anon, we’re all but trapped there.” replies Dawn, her ears folding back and expression growing melancholy.
  1038. >”Even if we weren’t, we wouldn’t be able to buy or rent anywhere- we technically exist in a legal and moral gray area- fully sentient but still able to be sold commercially like a common pet, arguably genetically engineered, not quite considered persons, but not exactly animals either…” Sonata follows up.
  1039. >Your thoughts drift back to the trouble Sonata had apparently gotten into involving Damon and Fae, trouble you now realize could have easily become more legal than civil.
  1040. >Legal trouble that you could have easily gotten into recently.
  1041. >Guess you technically dodged a bullet with how things turned out, thanks Dawn.
  1042. Gathering your thoughts, you start talking again, “Right, just thought that you didn't- the place used to be an old Tesla factory before the head honcho decided to pack up and head somewhere else so that he could further expand his operation. It's not a place you should live out of.”
  1043. >Dawn cocks her head, “What are you getting at?”
  1044. “What I’m getting at is that there was a housing development a little north of there that’s likely vacant now, so you might be able to convince Mr. Telmacher to set one of them up for you two. If he won’t, with how long you two have been working there and your positions, I’m sure you have enough to afford paying for it yourselves as long as you can have him put his name down on it.”
  1045. >”That could work…” Dawn trails off, tapping her chin.
  1046. >”For our sakes I certainly hope it does.” Sonata replies half-heartedly.
  1047. The atmosphere in the room is dour, to say the least, so you decide to try and take their minds off their troubles, “All this talk is defeating the point of your excursion here, you need to relax.”
  1048. >”What do you propose we do then?” asks Dawn.
  1049. You rub the back of your neck, you hadn’t thought that far ahead, “Well, we could watch more movies, or…I don’t know, could probably dust off the old console or something.”
  1050. >All three mares stare wordlessly at you.
  1051. “Board games? Got Aggravation, Monopoly, Murder.”
  1052. >”You’re making those up.” Rosie responds, a hint of incredulity in her voice.
  1053. “Monopoly’s been around for ages and I grew up playing Aggravation and Murder with my mom and grandpa.”
  1054. >”That doesn’t sound any more convincing.”
  1055. You stand, “Alright, how’s about I show y’all the project they’ve had me working on then?”
  1056. >Sonata arches an eyebrow, “Oh?”
  1057. >They watch you retreat into your room and return with a box and four rubber mats tucked under your arm.
  1058. >You place two of the mats side-by-side, then the other two opposite to them with the top of both facing the two you had already placed.
  1059. After placing the box down and pulling out four stacks of cards, you say, “So the game goes like this…”
  1060.  
  1061.  
  1062. “Now that you know the rules, it’s time to pick a deck; unfortunately I only have these four done at the moment, so there’s not much to choose from” you say before laying out the decks so that they can see them, “We have Magicians, focused on spells, Warriors, focused on getting units on the field and then attacking, Machines, focused on units combining into bigger units, and lastly there’s Undead, focused on reviving units. I’ll let y’all pick first.”
  1063. >Rosie slides the Machine deck towards herself, “The characters on these remind me of one of those cartoons you showed me, I think I’ll go with this one.”
  1064. >Sonata hovers the Warrior cards up to her face and starts shuffling through them, “Ooh, I like the art of these!”
  1065. >Dawn leans over, “That’s because it has a bunch of muscular men and curvaceous women on them,” she looks up at you, “Isn’t this supposed to be a kid’s game?”
  1066. You wave off her concern, “Supposed to be marketed to teens.”
  1067. >“Hmm,” she muses, before shuffling through Magicians, “This looks like it could be interesting, I guess.”
  1068. >Nudging Dawn, Sonata says, “Because you’re a nerd~”
  1069. >Dawn’s ears fold back, “No I’m not…”
  1070. “No, no, you are,” you chuckle, “Nothing to be ashamed of though- could be a geek like me, which is much worse.”
  1071. >”Whatever,” Dawn huffs, “Let’s just get this started.”
  1072. >She shuffles her deck, with Sonata following suit.
  1073. >Rosie can’t do the same without getting cards everywhere, so you shuffle hers before shuffling yours.
  1074. >With that, everyone sets their field up and the game begins.
  1075.  
  1076.  
  1077. >Rosie taps two of her cards, “I guess I’ll attack both of you, you with this one and Dawn with this one.”
  1078. You scratch your beard, “How much is that?”
  1079. >She leans forward and squints at the cards, “7 damage to Dawn, and 5 to you.”
  1080. >“Hold on,” Dawn says, before bringing one of the cards Rosie had in the back row up to her face with her magic, “This one says that your units get +1 for every turn this card is in play, when did you activate this?”
  1081. >A look of confusion crosses Rosie’s face as she begins to tap the side of her head, “Turn…two, I believe. I played the unit that looks like a Minicon on turn one.”
  1082. “And since we’re on turn, what, 20? That’s…” you pause, doing a quick calculation in your head, “Oh wow, that’s lethal for the both of us- unless you have any more aces up your sleeve, Dawn?”
  1083. >She shakes her head, “Nope, all out of tricks.”
  1084. “Well then I guess you win, Rosie.”
  1085. >”Oh,” she responds with an edge of excitement, “What do I win?”
  1086. “Dunno,” you reply, leaning back in your seat and pulling out your phone, “Guess you can think about it and we’ll work it out later.”
  1087. >Dawn lets out a frustrated sigh, ”I probably could have won if you weren’t so hellbent on going for my throat, Sonata.”
  1088. >Sonata merely shrugs in response, “In my defense: every time I would suggest I was going to attack Rosie she’d start to look like a sad little puppy, as for Anon…well, you know why.”
  1089. “Hmm,” you grunt, tapping away at your phone as Dawn groans at Sonata’s comment.
  1090. >Rosie pokes you in the elbow, ”You’re making a face again.”
  1091. “Huh?” you say before sliding your phone in your pocket, “Sorry, just making notes for later, nothing serious.”
  1092. >Sonata yawns, “Now that we’re done, I’ll just finish fixing up Rosie’s coat then get some beauty sleep. Don’t have too much fun without me.”
  1093. >She saunters off to the guest bedroom, leaving you alone with Dawn and Rosie.
  1094.  
  1095.  
  1096. The sound of your fingers drumming against the table fills the quiet of the kitchen, “So did y’all at least have fun?”
  1097. >Rosie gives a noticeably enthusiastic, but still uncertain sounding, “Yeah.”
  1098. >In contrast Dawn lets out a long sigh, “I guess, I would probably like it more if I wasn’t getting attacked all game.”
  1099. “Well, there’s always next time, should have some more decks ready by then.” you shrug.
  1100. >”Like what?”
  1101. “The text on all the Dragon cards are done, just waiting on art, Beasts are about three-quarters of the way done on text, which should be done by Wednesday. Once all that’s done they’ll need to be printed for playtesting.”
  1102. >”This is what you do all day?” Rosie asks.
  1103. “They have me as one of the leads- want me to use my psychology background to determine if the ‘game feel’ is good or not, also to see which cards should be ‘chase cards’ once the cards are ready to go gold.”
  1104. >”So part of your job description is ‘fun judge’?” Dawn asks, stifling a laugh.
  1105. “Yeah, not as illustrious as ‘God’, I know, but it’s the best I can do.” you jab back.
  1106. >Rosie just gives a confused look to the two of you.
  1107. “Anyways, I don’t really know what to do, but I know I’m gonna need to head to the store so we have food for tonight and the rest of the week. Y’all want to tag along?”
  1108. >”Not that we have much else to do,” Rosie shrugs, “And I hate lying around doing nothing.”
  1109. >”Guess I’ll join in too.” Dawn adds.
  1110. “That decides it then.”
  1111.  
  1112.  
  1113. >The ride over was quiet, which is normal for Rosie, but you don’t think it is for Dawn.
  1114. >During the drive you had seen her open her mouth to say something but then stop as she watched Rosie gaze at the surroundings, eventually deciding to follow her lead and do the same.
  1115. >You hold the door open for the two of them and they pile out together.
  1116. >Their nervousness is apparent with how they stick close to you, never straying too far behind as you weave through the Saturday crowds to get to the entrance.
  1117. >Once you cross the threshold, Rosie stops, staring at the aisles before her with mouth agape, “T-there’s so much…”
  1118. Turning on a heel, you ask her, “What was that, Rosie?”
  1119. >”I’ve never seen this much food before, I…” she trails off, and you can practically see the gears turning in her head, “I remember there not being that much at the markets, and…”
  1120. >She closes her eyes and inhales before walking towards the baked goods section, Dawn and you quickly follow after her.
  1121. >You find her sitting in front of the bakery, staring at the bakers performing their craft, the occasional look of bemusement crossing their faces at the apparent enrapture of Rosie when they look her way.
  1122. >Rosie continues to stare at them for a few minutes, only stopping when her brow begins to furrow, “His family ran a bakery, that’s why,” she taps the side of her head again and mutters, “Why can’t I remember his name, let alone his face…not an open book, but a blank page, I can feel it on the tip of my tongue…”
  1123. >”Are you feeling okay, Rosie?” Dawn asks, resting a hoof on Rosie’s shoulder.
  1124. >The act causes her to let out a loud yelp and nearly jump out of her skin.
  1125. >With that, the eyes of the other shoppers are on her, and her ears nearly fold flat against her head as she shrinks inward and presses against your leg.
  1126. >”Sorry, sorry, sorry…” she mutters at increasingly quiet frequencies.
  1127. >You reach down and comb your fingers through her mane, she’s so tense she’s shaking even under your ministrations.
  1128. “Hey, don’t beat yourself up over this. You’re just a little…,” you glance back at Dawn, who looks just as worried as you do, before turning back to Rosie, “Overwhelmed, is all, we can talk about this when we get back to the car.”
  1129. >You punctuate the statement by lightly grabbing her head and making it wobble from side to side a bit- it was something your dad would do to you when you were younger, you weren’t sure why he did it or what it was supposed to accomplish since whenever you asked him he would say, ‘Making sure your head’s screwed on straight.’
  1130. >Eventually you just interpreted it as his way to get you to take your mind off something that you shouldn’t worry about at that moment.
  1131. >Once you let go of her head, Rosie lets the momentum carry her forward until she headbutts your leg before giving a quiet, “Okay.” in response.
  1132.  
  1133.  
  1134. >The three of you return to the entrance to get a cart, before setting out to get enough food to last you until at least Thursday, as the plans for next Friday were still up in the air and you didn’t know if you would need to double your food for that weekend or not.
  1135. >As you peruse the aisles, Dawn and Rosie get some curious glances from the patrons that walk past; with your choice of company, you aren’t spared from those glances either, though for you they might be less curious and more concerned.
  1136. >You can’t really blame them, it’s not normal to see a grown man walking around with two technicolor horses in tow.
  1137. “Any cereal you want, Rosie?”
  1138. >She peers around the aisle, a hoof occasionally hovering over a box before glancing at the price tag and stepping back.
  1139. >Her brow furrows, ”The price of these are outrageous, isn’t there something cheaper?”
  1140. “What?”
  1141. >Tapping the price under a box of Frosted Flakes, she says, “Two hundred and thirty of…whatever your money is, for a box of sugary cornflakes!”
  1142. >Dawn readjusts her glasses and squints, “That’s two dollars and thirty cents, Rosie.”
  1143. >”Oh,” Rosie murmurs in response, her ears folding back as she retreats back down the aisle and pulls some chocolate cereal off the shelf, which Dawn grabs and drops into the cart with her magic.
  1144. “My finances are secure enough to where less than a week’s worth of groceries won’t bankrupt me, Rosie- as long as we don’t get too fancy, that is.” you reassure her.
  1145.  
  1146.  
  1147. >With the milk and eggs acquired that’s everything you needed off your list, but you’re gonna swing by the bakery again so you can pick up something a little sweet for Rosie.
  1148. >You see Rosie tense up out of the corner of eye as you round the corner, deciding to walk between you and Dawn to calm herself; though she does give a small smile when you put the baker’s dozen of chocolate chip cookies in the cart.
  1149. “You want something, Dawn? And you know something that Sonata would like?”
  1150. >”Hmm,” she responds, tapping her chin, “In all honesty I’m kind of getting sick of cupcakes, and now that I’ve been given the opportunity I should probably use it to broaden my horizons. As for Sonata, you can just get her something red velvet or Devil’s food cake.”
  1151. >You nod and go look for red velvet as she begins to deliberate what to pick for herself.
  1152. >Around the time that you place the red velvet container in the cart, Dawn places one with cinnamon rolls in it.
  1153. “Oh hey, cinnamon rolls are my favorite.” you tell her.
  1154. >She starts to look sheepish, “O-oh, maybe we can share one?”
  1155. “I mean if you want, I’m getting them for you.”
  1156. >”It wouldn’t be fair if I kept them all for myself since you’re paying for them.”
  1157. >Before you can open your mouth to respond, a voice from behind the bakery counter calls out, “Ay, get a room you two, you’ve all caused enough trouble around here for today!”
  1158. >Turning to the source of the voice, you spot the top of an old lady’s head barely poking out above the counter, her eyes glaring daggers at you.
  1159. >You quickly gather Dawn and Rosie and shepherd them towards the checkout, not wanting to dally any further, or incur the wrath of someone’s ‘abuela’.
  1160. >Your hasty retreat soon finds you back at your car with mares and groceries in tow, and after loading them, you take a deep breath to steady your nerves for the talk about what happened to Rosie that awaits you.
  1161.  

Chrysalis and the King of the Changelings

by FortuneFavors

Rosie Rock

by FortuneFavors