"There's no such thing as a curse!"
Twilight Sparkle's words from months ago echoed through Rainbow Dash's mind, taunting her. She felt no ill will towards Twilight, of course — the unicorn was just as devastated over what had happened as all her other friends — but Twilight had been wrong. Curses did exist, and, to Rainbow's horror, Pinkie Pie was the victim.
Rainbow Dash had a crush on the party pony for a while now, ever since they started hanging out regularly after the incident with Nightmare Moon. Every time Dash saw Pinkie, she just wanted them to spend more time together. The only obstacle was that Rainbow Dash had a hard time admitting these feelings to herself, and couldn’t tell Pinkie or anyone else about them. She was a proud pony and always viewed such “mushy” stuff as frivolous (she had an image to maintain, after all). Even when Pinkie began to hint that she harbored the same feelings for Dash, the pegasus could not bring herself to ask the pink pony out. Suddenly, this foolishness was becoming something that Rainbow Dash was really beginning to regret.
As Dash looked down at the softly-breathing pink pony lying on the bed, she recalled the events that led to this tragic turn. It had all happened so suddenly: two weeks ago, Princess Celestia asked Twilight to gather the Elements of Harmony and search the ruins of the old castle for some relic or other. Rainbow Dash couldn't remember the details anymore — just that they had found it and were on their way back when she discovered an odd-looking mirror rimmed with polished jet.
Rainbow Dash didn't even know that Pinkie Sense had a combination for "your best friend is about to be hit by a curse," but just as she was about to look at her own reflection, Pinkie ran up and shoved her out of the way. During this heroic act, however, Pinkie caught a glimpse of her own reflection and immediately collapsed. As soon as Twilight determined that Pinkie was still alive and not immediately dying, Rainbow Dash flew her back to Ponyville Hospital as fast as she could.
Pinkie was asleep. That was the diagnosis. The only difference between this and a normal night's sleep was that Pinkie could not be roused. Not by anyone: Rainbow Dash, Twilight, the Doctors, even the Princesses all tried and all failed. Princess Celestia could not even determine what spell Pinkie had fallen under, but told her friends that this was something that only Pinkie could fix (although Dash wondered exactly how her friend could fix anything while she was still asleep). All they could do was take care of her physically.
Being useless was not something that Rainbow Dash just accepted. And so Dash stayed with Pinkie every moment that she didn't have to attend to her weather duties. She did her best to remain strong for her friend; even now, she didn’t want anyone see her crying. When the asked about it, Rainbow Dash replied that she had to be strong; that crying wouldn’t help Pinkie.
However, holding it in was becoming harder by the minute. Tonight, though, it was too much. Just looking at the slumbering pink form reminded her that this was all her fault. That if she wasn’t reckless, Pinkie wouldn’t have had to save her. That she should be the one in an endless sleep, rather than the pony she loved. Yes, she realized that her feelings for Pinkie now ran deeper than a mere crush. Pinkie, the pony who put everything on the line to save Dash from her own foolishness, and who now laid helpless in bed because of it, had become the center of Dash’s world.
Finally, Rainbow Dash couldn't hold it in any longer. No longer able to stem the flood of tears, she grasped Pinkie's hoof and sobbed loudly.
"Pinkie! I love you! I know that now; I love you! Wake up! Please, please wake up!" Rainbow Dash wailed, not caring who heard her. Out of words, she pulled her friend’s body up into an embrace and cried. After Celestia knows how long, the tears ran out and Rainbow Dash released her most precious friend. Looking at Pinkie's face once more, Rainbow Dash saw something. Something wondrous, something that made her hope once more. Pinkie had moved for the first time since she was stricken.
The pink pony’s mouth had curled up into a faint smile.
Deep inside Pinkie's mind, a game of cat-and-mouse was about to end.
For the first time since entering the shadowy dreamscape, Pinkie Pie was unafraid. No longer was she the skittish, exhausted wreck that she had become since she blacked out. Instead, she now acted carefree, hopping down the path and singing to herself. Because, as bleak as things once were, this time she knew that she would win.
"Yoo-hoo! Mister Meanie! Come out!" she called.
The formless void around her echoed back, "You seek me this time, simple fool? Why do you still resist? Laughter has indeed proved far more difficult to conquer than I had anticipated, but it is a hopeless fight. You will fail; why not make it easier on yourself and pass on quietly? It will save you a lot of pain."
"You've been cheating, Mister Meanie!" Pinkie replied. "You're trying to make me think that I have no hope, and that I'll lose this silly game. But I'm good at games! I love games! But I know you’re a sneak and you didn’t tell me all the rules!" Pinkie giggled.
"You still think that this is a game!" the echo returned with the violence of a hurricane. "You pathetic creature. I will claim your life and your soul. I will then claim the life and soul of every pony you have touched. And you think that this is a game?" The darkened sky shook.
"Nuh-uh! I know it's a game! And I know how to win!"
"What makes you think you have any chance?"
Pinkie laughed, louder this time. "I heard something. Something that you tried to keep me from hearing. But you slipped up! I heard it! And now I'll win, because you never said that I couldn't play two-against-one!"
"That is your hope? That you can bring someone else to share your fate? Who would ever do that for you? Your friends know you're useless. The temporary happiness you claim to have brought them has all faded. I have seen your fears, your insecurities. And you are correct. They no longer care about you, now that you cannot dance, or sing, or do whatever silliness you think cheers them up. You are very much alone, little pony. Give up, and accept your fate."
“Oho! Trying that move again, silly? It won’t work this time!” Pinkie smiled. This time, it was a serene smile, filled with pure joy. The smile of somepony who had been on a long, hard journey and is now heading back home to be with their beloved. Pinkie Pie’s very next words cut through the darkness like a knife.
"It won’t work because you're wrong, Mister Meanie. I'm not alone."