He had already passed away before Candy Stripes realized she loved the old unicorn as if he were her own grandfather.
On her first day of work at Celestia's Home for the Infirm and Aged, the cranky head nurse with the inappropriate cutie mark--Who thinks their talent is nursing when their flank sports a picture of a ratchet?--told her, "Just ignore Doctor Caduceus; his mind's too far gone, but at least he doesn't cause trouble." And he had indeed slipped far into the dark recesses of senility.
But there was something about the way he stared intently at his plate while Candy carefully cut up his dinner into bite size pieces that evening; no easy feat considering she was a pegasus and had to wield the knife in her teeth. Suddenly, he pronounced, "Miss Hooves, there are unicorns who cannot make a finer incision than that with all their magic. Well done!"
After that, the dour old pony who had been a fixture just glowering in the corner all day would wait patiently each morning for Candy to arrive, then make the arduous climb out of his chair and slowly set up the chess board. "I know you're better than this, Miss Hooves. You're letting me win, aren't you?" he would pout from under his bushy white eyebrows as she would stumble into check again and again.
Candy often wondered who the original Miss Hooves was. She learned that Doctor Caduceus had been a university teacher from the important Canterlot ponies who came to visit him around the holidays, but none of those ponies knew a Miss Hooves. She couldn't have been a daughter, he was far too stern and almost coldly professional with her. And yet, there was a twinkle in his eye when he addressed her; he would often be stifling a grin despite himself.
So Candy Stripes continued to be Miss Hooves whenever she was in his presence. They would play chess on the good days, and on the bad days, she would just hold his hoof and stroke his mane while the dementia ravaged his aging mind.
"Caduceus doesn't belong in medicine! Finest diagnostician in twelve generations, and we made her deliver the Evening Post!" he would babble through his sobbing, and meet his ersatz Miss Hooves' eyes while his own filled with tears and apology.
This comic feels very *me*. A mixture of doofy sentimentalism and dark humor all in the same place wrapped up in a wistfully melancholic bow. Dinky came out a little dark, but I am far too proud of that Derpy in the last panel. And if you can't tell, the doctor character grew on me over the week it took to bring this from pencil sketch to charcoal drawing.
Original Charcoal posted over at [link]