As the door to room 104 closed, Nurse Redheart let out a depressed sigh and wiped a tear from her eye. Her thoughts were awash with questions. Chief among which was, why this stallion seemed to tug on her heartstrings more than the next. He was attractive, but he wasn’t one of those stallions from the Equestrian Eagle Saddle Company’s advertising. A small smirk emerged from the depths of her mind as she thought back to her past.
“No, he’s definitely not…” she said under her breath.
“Who’s not what?”
Being startled out of her reflection, Nurse Redheart jumped nearly two hooves into the air. Once she landed, she turned to see Nurse Tenderheart laughing into the flat of her hoof.
“Red, I could have sworn you’d grown wings and were going to fly away.”
Nurse Redheart was still trying to catch her breath and control her heartbeat when she responded. “You… huff ... just scared me… huff … is all.” She leaned against the door.
“Why were you just standing here in the middle of the hall looking all distraught?” Nurse Tenderheart had a sincere look of interest on her face.
“There’s something about this patient. When he was first brought in, he died on the operating table, and when I was trying to bring him back, I felt so sad. I hadn’t even met this stallion before, and somehow I felt like the world would be a darker place without him. I still have no idea why I felt that way.” The look of interest on Nurse Tenderheart’s face had changed into something unreadable.
“I didn’t know you had feelings, Red! When did this happen?”
Redheart facehoofed. “Ugghhh, I guess I should have known better than trying to have a heartfelt conversation with you.” Nurse Redheart started walking down the hallway in the direction that took her away from the offending mare as fast as possible.
“Aww. Come on, Red, I was just kidding!” the blue mare yelled. Nurse Redheart simply waved a dismissive hoof and kept going.
“The world would be a darker place.” You repeat the statement that you had just overheard through the door. Why? Why would she she say that? She doesn’t even know who I am. I don’t even know that… Your mind dwells on this fact for what seems like days, but the fading light from the sun tells you that it was much shorter. Outside, you can see the evening sky changing into beautiful shades of the rainbow as Celestia’s sun sets. When the dwindling light of the day finally immerses your room into a state of darkness, your door opens. Nurse Redheart enters your room, and flicks on the lights with a hoof.
“Aauuhh.” As she walks over to your bed, she raises a hoof to her mouth, yawning. Dark bags under her bloodshot eyes betray her state of exhaustion.
“Nurse, are you alright? You look really tired.” The nurse was now slowly flipping through your charts. At first you don’t think she heard you, but after a little while she responds with slurred speach.
“Huh? Oh, yesh I’m quite alright, hun. Jusht a bit tired. Nursh Tenderheart had to tend to an emergenshy. So I had to shtay here until she got back; I’ve probably been awake for a day and a half, now.” Her eyes shut just as she finished her explanation.
You could see her leaning against the side of your bed, her head slowly drooping down and finally laying on the edge of the bed. It was strange to see the pony watching over your convalescence fall asleep at your bedside, but you couldn’t leave her like that. You slowly inch out of your bed without knowing if your hooves will support you. As you drop to your hooves, the wobble slightly, but otherwise, they seem to be fine. You walk around to the far side of the bed, mindful to not tangle your IV around the nurse. Hoping she does not wake up, you reach your forehooves under her body and gently lift her onto the bed. She stirs, and after a tense moment, she adjusts herself to become comfortable lying on her side. You remove her nursing cap, set it on the bedside table, and pull the warm linens up over her body. The expression on her face is so peaceful, and so much different than the one burned into your mind. You’re not sure why, but for a little bit, you can’t take your eyes off of her face.
After breaking your trance, you leave your room for the first time in more than a week, pushing your IV hanger along with you with your good wing. It takes a while to find your destination, the nurse’s station. During your search, you accidentally found the mare’s bathroom. Thankfully, nopony was inside. Taking a seat behind the counter, you’re surprised at the number of gizmos and doohickeys behind the counter. There are at least 2 machines monitoring each patient, and also a nurse’s call button in each room for emergencies.
“Well, I’m here.” You state. Your eyes move back and forth between each of the machines. It’s no small wonder the nurse was tired; this is extremely boring. After a time, you find yourself yawning constantly, and since when were your eyelids made of lead?
You are startled awake by the automagical door to the clinic loudly sliding open. As you lean up, you see a familiar looking mare in front of you, her purple eyes wide in surprise. At first, you think that your sleep addled eyes are simply playing tricks on you. You are sure you are staring at Nurse Redheart, but her color is not right. Her coat is a pale periwinkle blue, and her mane appears to be a muted sea foam green.
“What are you doing out here? And where is Red?” Her voice was stern, but her eyes showed concern.
“Y-you…..” You are still transfixed by the uncanny similarities that this mare had with Nurse Redheart. The fact that this new mare asked about her, would seem to mean that your eyes are fine, and this is simply a mare that looks very similar to Nurse Redheart. “look just like her.”
“Her?” Your statement seems to disrupt the blue mare’s planned interrogation. It takes her a moment to realise of whom you speak, but a moment later, her anger returns. “You mean Nurse Redheart? Where is she? What did you do with her?” As she speaks, her voice becomes shrill, and her face flushes a bright shade of red as she steadily advances to your sitting position. Your stomach ties itself in a knot as the, possibly insane, mare gets closer to you; it would really suck to die… again… You decide to try and calm her down, by answering her questions… Quickly.
“Nurse Redheart is fine!” you blurt out, in hindsight way too loudly. The unnamed mare pauses. Whether this is because you inadvertently deafened her, or because she wants more of an explanation, you cannot tell. Either way, you continue, “She fell asleep in my room, checking on my charts. I put her in my bed, and came here. I figured that if something went wrong with somepony, an alarm would sound here. Just like that day I woke up and freaked out, and if I heard anything go off, I could wake her up.”
Her harsh gaze lingers for a moment before softening. “Well, maybe she was right,” the blue mare remarks to herself. She walks around to the back side of the counter, checking each of the monitors. “Everything looks fine here. You should get back to your room. I’ll be along shortly to collect Red.”
“Uhm…” Before you leave, you want to sate your curiosity. “Who are you, and why were you so mad about Nurse Redheart not being here?” She let out a quiet sigh.
“The answers to those questions are one and the same. My name is Joy Tenderheart. I’m her sister, and I was concerned for her… And for the record, she looks like me. I was born 5 minutes before her!” Her voice bears more than a little resentment in that last statement. A long yawn reminds you that you’re, somehow, still tired.
“Oh. Don’t worry about waking Nurse Redheart; she can stay there until morning. I’ve been in that bed for so long that I could really use a change of scenery. There’s a floor cushion in the room with my name all over it.” You can’t help but chuckle at the irony of that turn of phrase.
“Sorry, but I can’t allow that. Even though you seem nice enough, I can’t take a chance of something happening to her.” The thought of breaking the peaceful look from Nurse Redheart’s face just ate you up for some reason, so you weren’t going to back down, just yet.
“From what I’ve seen and heard, I’ve caused Nurse Redheart a fair number of problems already. Let her sleep, and I’ll just sleep in the hall or waiting room or something.”
“If you really are going to be a stickler about it, you can sleep in the waiting room.” Tenderheart said, rolling her eyes. After she pointed you to the waiting room, you quickly curled up on a very attractive looking floor cushion, and for the first time since this began, you fell asleep of your own will.
“Ahhhh, I love a good night flight,” you say, aware you are talking to somepony, even if you don’t know who.
“The cold wind in your mane mixed with evaporating sweat makes it unlike anything else. It’s such a different sensation." Your coat and skin feel really cold, but the faster you fly the warmer you feel inside. As you fly along under the clear night sky, you look up and gaze on its vastness. “Way up here, away from the lights of civilization, the sky is not the same. It's not dark and ominous. It's filled with millions of points of light as the stars reach out across the heavens in an attempt to touch our hearts with their beauty. The night sky's perfection is something unmistakable, and yet, unfathomable. Even so, it pales in comparison to the feelings that I have for you.” You feel the warmth of another pony as they nuzzle against your neck.
You are taken completely by surprise by this statement. It’s completely pitch black, you are flying along under the moon, and your marefriend says ‘good morning’ to you? That’s when you realise that even though you are flying along gazing at the stars, your subconscious mind is willing you to open your eyes.
Your eyes open to see the morning light filtering past a white pony’s legs. You blink a few times to clear the morning haze from your eyes and look up. Nurse Redheart stands in front of you, smiling; her nursing cap is missing, and her hair is down from the normal bun. It flows around the back of her head and down over her right shoulder.
“Good morning, Nurse Sleepyheart,” you say with a smile. Your legs are stiff from being curled up all night on a small pillow, and as you stand up, a sharp shoots through your left wing.
Her smile droops a little when she replies. “Yeah… Sorry about that. I guess that much stress and lack of sleep can cause a pony to fall asleep anywhere.”
“Don’t worry about it. If I know about anything right now, it’s passing out. I understand explicitly.”
“Thank you for lending me your bed, too,” she says, the smile returning to her face.
“Ever since, I can remember being here you’ve been really kind to me. I suspect that even before I can remember it, you were equally as caring. Giving up my bed was the least I could do.”
“And from what I hear from my sister, it wasn’t all you did, either.”
“I couldn’t leave nopony at the nurse’s station. What If something happened and somepony needed help? I would feel terrible if my own selfishness caused somepony to get hurt or even—” You are interrupted by Nurse Redheart’s stomach rumbling. You laugh, through a smile. “I guess you haven’t eaten recently either?”
“No. Not since breakfast yesterday.” Nurse Redheart rubs a forehoof along her mistreated and unhappy stomach. “Do you want to get some breakfast?”
“I’m not hungry, but I haven’t eaten... Sure, as long as I can.” Nurse Redheart walks over to you and begins prodding your abdomen with her hoof. Each poke brings out a grunt of discomfort. After a few moments, she speaks up with a hint of joy making its way into her voice.
“The swelling in your chest seems to be about back to normal. So you should be fine to eat, since the pressure on your internal organs is down now. That IV you’ve been hauling around is full of water and nutrients, so that’s why you aren’t hungry. We can stop back in your room to remove it. That means, if you feel up to it we can leave the clinic and get something from Sugarcube Corner to eat.” You have no idea what Sugarcube Corner is, but the way Nurse Redheart's smile grew when she mentioned it has you convinced.
“That sounds great.” You both begin to walk back to your room. About halfway there, Nurse Redheart speaks up again.
“You know, you talk in your sleep.” A brick wall, that’s what it feels like your brain just ran into, and it’s now running at a mile a minute to try and figure out what you could have possibly said in your sleep. You remember dreaming of flying, but everything else is just so hazy. You give up.
“What, um, did I say? I hope it wasn't inappropriate.” She raises an eyebrow at your last remark, and then leans in close to you ear. The sensation of her breath on your ear makes your heart race.
She whispers, “It was beautiful.”