Twilight arrived in the waiting area of the hospital, breathing heavily and now feeling pearls of sweat on her brow. Spike was still clinging to her neck after holding on for dear life. Her friends were already there; Applejack and Rarity stood up as soon as they saw her. “What happened?” she asked into the group while her mind continued coming up with ever worse scenarios.
“We don't know,” Applejack said.
“They wouldn't tell us anything,” Rarity continued.
Twilight looked at the other two ponies in the group. Fluttershy was still sitting on the bench at the other end of the room with Pinkie Pie next to her, comforting the nearly crying pegasus. It was early morning and they had all been called to the hospital with the message that something had happened to Rainbow Dash, but it did not mention anything specific.
Twilight saw Nurse Redheart coming around a corner and approaching the group.
“Hello,” she said and offered them a warm smile.
“Howdy,” Applejack quickly replied. “Can ya tell us what happened?”
The nurse sighed. “Now that you are all here, yes. We found her in the street yesterday evening, badly wounded and losing a lot of blood.” Fluttershy let out a quiet gasp. “We took her in and operated, but there was not much we could do except stop her bleeding. You see, she said she was caught in the storm and the last thing she could remember was a bright, white light and a loud explosion. We think a lightning bolt hit her through the wing and burned it. We … had to amputate what was left of it.”
The expressions of the six friends had grown with shock at Nurse Redheart's words. Fluttershy was now visibly crying and Pinkie Pie had stopped stroking her mane.
Applejack gulped. “Amputate?” she asked.
“Can we see her?” was Twilight's question.
“Yes, you can,” Redheart said. “She woke up about an hour ago. That's why we called you all here. I can show you to her room. But please keep in mind that she just woke up from surgery and still has to regain some strength.” With that she turned around and the group followed her to Dash's room in silence.
Once at the room the nurse opened the door and entered. “Good morning, Miss Dash,” she said in the typical half-cheery tone that never did anything to cheer anyone up who had the privilege of hearing it. “You have some visitors,” she continued.
She made space for the five ponies and baby dragon to enter and settle themselves around Dash's bed. The pegasus had sat up as she saw them enter and wiped some last tears from her cheeks. Sniffing and with red eyes she was now regarding each of them with a sad smile. “Hey, guys,” she croaked.
Her friends did their best to put on comforting smiles.
“Are you okay, sugarcube?” Applejack asked, which was regarded as a stupid question by everypony in the room, Applejack included.
Dash snorted softly. “No,” she said with the same expression.
“Oh, you silly willy!” Pinkie Pie cried and hugged Dash, burying her face in the side of the blue neck. “What were you doing outside in a storm?”
“I don't remember. Flying home I guess.”
“Is it true?” Rarity asked her and gulped. “You lost your wing?”
Pinkie Pie let Dash go and the pegasus sighed and pulled over her blanket, revealing a stump on her side with a wide scar over it, where there had formerly been a strong, cyan blue wing. The group gasped. Twilight's heart dropped at the sight and Fluttershy's eyes filled with tears again. “I'm so sorry,” she whispered.
“Ain't there nothin' we can do?” Applejack asked the nurse, but she just sadly shook her head.
“Believe me, we've tried,” the nurse answered. “It was just too badly burned. The lightning hit her almost exactly at the base of her wing.”
“There might be something we could do.” All eyes turned to Twilight who was a bit stumped at the sudden attention she received from everyone.
“What do you mean?” Nurse Redheart asked.
“Uhm, have you heard of Tramping's Method?”
The nurse narrowed her eyes in thought. “Yes,” she responded slowly. She was about to say something, but was interrupted by Rarity.
“What is it?” the fashion designer inquired.
“Well basically it's a way to regrow limbs,” Twilight explained.
Rainbow Dash's eyes grew wide. “You mean I can fly again?”
“You better not be givin' her false hope, Twilight” Applejack said.
“Oh, no,” the nurse responded for Twilight, “I've actually seen it work, but only with small body parts like ears or noses.”
“Then why didn't ya'll try that?” Applejack asked and narrowed her eyes Nurse Redheart.
“The amount of magic it would take for a whole wing is enormous. It can only be performed by one unicorn and none of our doctors is that strong and the princesses won't do it either.”
“Well if anypony is good with magic it's Twilight!” Pinkie Pie exclaimed somewhat happier. Twilight was grateful for the vote of confidence.
“Why wouldn't the princesses help?” Fluttershy asked the nurse.
This time Twilight responded. “Some old law,” she said and waved a hoof. “It argues for a slippery slope – that the princesses can't give such privileges to just some ponies while denying it to others, which they would have to do, because it requires a lot of magic and concentration to regrow body parts. And doing it for everypony would just be too much for them.”
“How does it work?” Dash asked, her wide eyes again focused on Twilight.
“Well, you see,” Twilight started, fumbling her hooves with her heart now beating faster. “How should I explain it …”
“There are two sides to every injury,” the nurse helped her out.
“Right.” Twilight nodded thankfully. “Two sides. The physical wound and the mental damage, or the 'damage of the soul' as Tramping called it. While physical wounds can happen quickly and suddenly the mind is very inert and reacts to change only slowly, mainly because of habits and memories. With Tramping's Method you can sort of …” she scratched her head, “reshape a lost body part. Restore an imprint that was left in the soul?” She looked a bit desperately at the nurse, but she only shrugged and shook her head. “I'm sorry, it's really hard to explain if you haven't studied magic … or medicine,” Twilight added quickly with a look at Nurse Redheart, who just nodded with a slight smile.
“Do you think you can do it?” Dash asked her.
“It sounds like an awful lot of stress,” Rarity said.
“Well it's going to require some studying. And a lot of patience on your part, Rainbow. We're going to need at least two, if not three session. I don't think I could do it in one.”
“What if something goes wrong?” Fluttershy asked quietly, as if dreading the answer.
Twilight gulped and looked at Rainbow Dash again. She knew what could happen. A deformed wing, a large, ugly stump or simply nothing besides crushed hopes if she got lucky. But seeing her friend like this nearly broke her heart. She had to help her; she would do anything to see her smile again. And who knows, a voice said in the back of her mind, maybe I can get a chance to … She quickly pushed that thought away, however. That was not why she wanted to do help her.
“It won't,” she said with a confident smile and looked at Dash again.
“It's okay,” Dash said, “I trust you Twi.” The pegasus touched her leg and Twilight's heart felt ready to leave her chest. “How soon can we start?” she asked eagerly.
“Hold on there for moment,” Nurse Redheart interrupted. “Have you done this before,” she asked Twilight.
“Well, once. I regrew one of Spike's scales after an accident in the lab.”
“But it turned out perfectly,” the dragon threw in from Twilight's back.
The nurse looked skeptically at the pleading faces of Rainbow Dash and Twilight and sighed deeply. “I suppose I can't keep you from trying, can I?” Twilight looked uncertain, but Dash only shook her head with a small smile. “Would you at least accept a medical reference book on the procedure? I doubt you have such specialized material in your library, Miss Sparkle.”
“Oh, of course,” Twilight replied with a wide smile.
“So, when do we start?” Dash asked again.
“Well, the sooner is usually the better,” the nurse said. “But we're going to keep you here for observation until tomorrow. That should give Miss Sparkle enough time to prepare at least the first session. The procedure in and of itself is not that complex if you know what to do. It just requires a lot of energy and the one who performs it has to concentrate for a rather long period of time.”
“We should hold the sessions on weekends, though,” Twilight said to Dash. “They'll be exhausting for both of us.”
“Both of us?” Dash repeated.
Twilight chuckled. “Of course. Where do you think all that energy for the new wing should come from? Not from me, I'll just be guiding the process.”
“So how long is this gonna take?” Applejack asked.
“Hmm. With three sessions and the final refinement a week later I'd say about a month.”
“A month?” Rainbow Dash exclaimed, looking more heartbroken than before. “A whole month without flying?”
Twilight gave her weak smile. “Like I said, you're going to need a lot of patience. But it's better than never flying again, isn’t it?”
“Hehe. Yeah, I guess. Thanks, Twilight.” Dash gave the unicorn a small grin. “But, where will I stay?” she asked.
Twilight saw her chance and carefully said, “Well, you could -”
“Stay with me!” Pinkie Pie proclaimed and bounced up and down next to the bed. “We're gonna have a month long sleepover!”
Twilight sighed and gave a disappointed look to Pinkie Pie who, thankfully, failed to notice it. She saw Rarity give her an emphatic look and returned a small smile. Maybe this was for the best. She could not allow distractions from the treatment, after all.
“Well, I think this is quite enough,” Nurse Redheart said. “Miss Dash needs her rest now. She's just had surgery after all. You can all come back tomorrow afternoon.”
With that she urged everypony out of the room and they all left after saying their goodbyes.