“So, what's gonna happen today?”
It was the weekend after Twilight had reinforced the memories of Dash's wing in her mind. The pegasus had come to the library early, just like the weekend before, and could hardly wait to begin the procedure.
“Well, like I said last time, we're going to regrow the main limb. All the bone, muscle, skin and coat, together with the nervous system in it.” Twilight pointed to the blackboard which still showed a fairly detailed anatomy of a pegasus wing's limb.
“And you said that needs a lot of energy, right?”
“Right.” Twilight nodded. “I've made dinner for the both of us.” A light blush spread across her cheeks. “I hope you're fine with hayfries and sandwiches.”
“Sure, why not?” Dash smiled at her.
“I can't cook that well. I usually go out for lunch with Spike.”
“And what do you eat then?”
Twilight looked away in embarrassment. Her voice became a little quiet “Hayfries … and a sandwich.”
Dash was laughing loudly at that. “You need some change in your life, Twi.”
Oh, you have no idea, Twilight thought. “Any more questions before we start?”
“Yeah, how long is this gonna take?”
“Well the book says a doctor trained in the technique can regrow an ear and such in about 15 minutes and a hoof in 30 to 40 minutes. But the time drastically increases with size and, more importantly, complexity. I'm not trained in the technique.” Dash gave her a worried look. “That doesn't mean it won't work,” Twilight said quickly, “or that the result won't be as good. It just means I'll need more time.”
“So how much time are we talking about here?”
Twilight sighed. “About three or four hours, consecutively. I'll probably have to take breaks at some points.”
“And I'll just lie on the couch the whole time?”
“Pretty much, yes.”
“Is there anything I can do to help? Thinking about flying again?”
“You can do that if you want to, but that wouldn't really matter. The memory of your wing is secured inside your mind. Thinking about it just helped me find it last time. I think you can actually sleep during this.”
“So, there's nothing I can do to help.”
“Try not to move too much?” Twilight offered with a helpless expression. She saw the guilt in Dash's face, probably because Twilight would be concentrating for hours, doing all the work, while she would be snoring on her couch. Twilight stepped closer to the pegasus, mustered her mental strength and put a hoof on Dash's shoulder. “Hey, don't worry,” she said with a comforting smile. “I just want to see you happy again.”
The pegasus appeared to be on the verge of tears – a rare sight for Twilight. Dash quickly blinked a few times and collected herself and was her cool self again. “So, we better get to it soon. The wait is killing me. You said I could sleep?”
Twilight removed her hoof from Dash's shoulder and led her over to the couch again. “Yes. I don't expect you to stay awake for hours with nothing to do. I'll be lying down, too. I'm not going to sit next to you for four hours.” She pointed at a pillow lying on the floor next to the couch. “I don't have to be that close to your injury for this.” The pegasus climbed onto the couch and lay down on it. “Can you still feel the wing?” Twilight asked. Dash nodded. “Good. Now, relax. It'll be over before you know it.” She lowered herself on the floor, rested her head on the pillow and closed her eyes. Twilight's horn began to glow as the magic flowed through it and she focused on the stump on Rainbow Dash's side.
Rainbow Dash could hear Twilight breathing calmly on the floor not far from her. She was beginning to feel a slight pressure at the base of her wing. No, at the stump where her wing used to have its base. It was so easy for her to forget that. The sensation became stronger, but after a while reached its maximum. No doubt, that unicorn was doing something she would not understand to that part of her body. She had resisted the urge to ask Twilight what exactly she would be doing, because she knew it would be very hard for the bookworm to explain it to her and even harder for Dash to comprehend it. But she knew she could trust Twilight; the unicorn knew what she was doing and probably worried more about the procedure than Dash herself did.
For now she just tried to relax, maybe sleep and stop thinking about that filly with the wonderful purple eyes. Wait. Where did that come from? She tried thinking about Twilight's eyes again, seeing her smile at her in her head, and her stomach gave her a weird response. She shrugged that off for now. She was probably just hungry. She sometimes got strange thoughts when she had not eaten anything for hours. Although never anything like this. Well, there’s a first time for everything, right? She deeply breathed in and out, careful not to move too much, like Twilight suggested, and tried to doze off.
The procedure had not taken much time in Dash's view. She thought, however, that she had drifted off to sleep more than once during it, while she could feel her body getting weaker and weaker. Twice she had felt the pressure disappear and had heard Twilight standing up and trotting across the room, possibly getting refreshments during her breaks. She had been awake at those times, more or less, but kept her eyes closed and pretended to sleep. Even if she had not been in a sort of drowsy haze, she would have been too weak to do anything else but follow Twilight with her eyes through the room. Instead she had just imagined it, which was much less consuming work.
She imagined her getting up and walking towards the kitchen, her tail and flank wiggling as she … There was that thought again. Why was she thinking that? She had never thought about any of her friends like that. Well, maybe Rarity, but who could have blamed her? Anyway, the session was finally over and she had most likely been lying on this couch for hours, not once changing her position. Her joints felt tingly and her muscles ached. She felt like she had just run another race against Applejack. Her friend had not been kidding; this really was an exhausting exercise. Who would have thought that she could become sore all over from simply lying on a couch?
She could hear Twilight's fatigued voice from somewhere next to her. “Rainbow?” she asked.
Dash only groaned in response, or was trying to. The sound she made resembled more a strained breath, but it was enough to let Twilight know that she was at least awake. She tried to force her eyes open. Her first attempt at that failed and she put more effort into it. With infinite slowness she turned her head and saw the slumped form of her purple friend on the floor, head on a pillow and looking at her through half closed eyes.
“How are you feeling?” Twilight asked her. Dash could only blink in response. A slight smile showed on Twilight’s face as she sat up on her haunches and reached for a glass on the floor next to her. She took it with her hooves and moved it towards Dash's face. The glass was filled with a yellow, semi-opaque liquid and had a straw sticking out of it. “Here, drink this,” she said and held the straw towards Dash's mouth. The thought of drinking something right now seemed like a perfect idea. Dash took the straw in her mouth and slowly began to draw the liquid through it. When the sweet taste of apples, oranges and a hint of lemon hit her tongue she closed her eyes. After she could only pull air through the straw, it left her mouth and she heard Twilight put the glass on the ground again.
Some strength was beginning to come back to her. She moved her forelegs slightly, then her head and her hind legs under her body. She took deep breaths, with each of them pulling in more strength and finally had enough to try and lift herself. She slowly pushed her body up and lifted her head, pushing harder as her legs were starting to shake. Her movement upwards became slower and slower as her legs were shaking uncontrollably and she finally collapsed onto the couch again, out of breath. She heard barely suppressed laughter from beside her and turned her head in that direction. Twilight was holding a hoof to her mouth while chuckling to herself.
Dash found that she had at least enough strength to speak. “What's so funny?” she asked, but a smile crept onto her lips at the sight of the laughing unicorn.
“Nothing,” Twilight answered and her snickering toned down and ended with a soft sigh. “'Exhausting' was probably an understatement from me, huh?”
Now it was Dash's turn to chuckle. “A bit, yeah.”
“Do you want another drink?”
Twilight stood up and went to the kitchen with Dash following her every move with her eyes this time. The purple flank in her mind had been nothing compared to this sight. Dammit, brain, stop it! She tried to hit her head with her hoof, but only managed to prod it.
After Twilight came back from the kitchen she offered her another glass of the yellow liquid, this time using her magic to float it towards Dash's mouth. She saw the motherly smile on Twilight's face as she suckled on her straw and she experienced a strange feeling of … safety? When was the last time she had felt anything like this? Dash could not remember. She finished her second energy drink and finally managed to stand up on the couch. She slowly and thoroughly stretched every leg, trying to ignore the soreness in her muscles. Eventually she climbed off of the couch began cracking her shoulders and neck.
“So,” Dash said. “Let's see what you did.” Dash, for the first time that evening, turned her head towards her injury. Her mouth stood open at what she found. There on the side of her body was a new limb. It looked basically like a rather long and thin leg, folded up at the side of her torso, but she knew this was what her wing looked like without its feathers. She attempted to move it and unfolded it, but took in a sharp breath and released a shrill “OW!” as a stinging pain entered her body's side.
Twilight cringed at the sound and rushed forward, after she had been watching the pegasus stretch, climb off the sofa and regard her new limb. “No, don't try to move it!” she said, panicking, and softly pressed the half-wing back against Dash's chest. “Oh, I'm so sorry. I should have told you before.”
Rainbow Dash shook her head and looked at Twilight. “No, it's … it's alright.” She gave her a small smile. “It was more the surprise than the pain.”
Twilight sighed. “I've only regrown the … foundation if you will. The basic structure. The final … strengthening has to be done by your body itself. I should have told you. I'm sorry.”
Dash turned and was now facing Twilight, putting a comforting hoof on the saddened unicorn. “Hey, it's okay, really.” Dash gave her a friendly smile, which Twilight returned weakly after a second. “So, I guess I shouldn't try to move it?”
“No, you shouldn't. In fact it's probably best if you just keep it at your side until next week. I have some bandages prepared for that if you want them.”
“Yeah, those would probably help. Besides,” she looked at the limb again, “it's not really a pretty sight.”
“I … wouldn't say that.” Twilight looked embarrassedly off to the side, slightly blushing, and began to trot into the kitchen. For some reason Dash did not understand, she, too, was now blushing.
Twilight returned from the kitchen, some bandage rolls and clips floating in the air next to her. She wrapped the rolls around the naked wing, Dash's body and under the other, healthy wing. After she applied the bandage clips Dash looked at her side again. “I guess I shouldn’t take them off until next week?”
“No, you better leave them on, except if you want to wash yourself, then you should take them off. You can ask Pinkie to put them on again afterwards. But very carefully.”
Dash nodded. “Can I sleep on this side?”
Twilight seemed to think for a moment. “With the bandages, yes, that shouldn't be a problem. Just watch out that you don't injure it or try to unfold it again.”
“Okay, no problem. Now, I'm starving. You said something about dinner?” Dash asked eagerly.
“Yes.” Twilight’s lips formed a bright smile. “It's waiting in the kitchen.”
Together they trotted into the kitchen, Rainbow Dash immediately taking a seat at the table, watching Twilight look for their meal in the fridge. Dash caught herself staring at the purple mare’s hind quarter again, but could not bring herself to look away, almost hypnotized by the rhythmic motions it performed only a few feet in front of her. She felt her cheeks heating up and she put her elbows on the table and pressed her head on both her hooves, trying to hide her doubtlessly violent blush.
Twilight turned around and floated two plates onto the table, both of them having a big portion of hayfries on one half and two daisy sandwiches on the other. She put one plate in front of Dash's elbows and sat down on her chair after placing her plate at her usual spot at the table. Dash was still holding her face in her hooves and looked from Twilight to her meal and back to Twilight. She did not want to start eating yet and reveal her massive blush to her friend. The unicorn looked slightly irritated, but an amused smile soon spread across her face. “Oh, right,” she said. “The hayfries are still cold. Hehe. Here, let me just …” Her horn flared up with magic and after a few seconds the unicorn's and Dash's own fries began to sizzle. “There, that should do it.”
Dash was impressed by that trick and forgot about her already fading blush as she lowered her hoof and took one of the hayfries in her hoof and put it in her mouth. It was almost hot enough to burn her tongue, but not quite. It was just the perfect temperature. “Wow,” she said after swallowing. “Is there anything that you can't do with magic?”
Twilight was giggling. Dash found that she liked that sound; the purple filly should giggle more often. “That impressed you, Rainbow? I just made your body regrow a lost limb within five hours, shaped new bones, muscles and skin. But heating up hayfries fascinates you?”
Dash was laughing quietly now and rubbed the back of her head. “Yeah, I guess I'm pretty easy to impress.”
“Well that's a new one for me,” Twilight said with a raised eyebrow. “But to answer your question: yes, there are many things magic can't do. I can't have that connection with nature that earth ponies have, I can't soar through the air like a pegasus. I can't make myself or others smarter. I can't make myself forget things I'd rather not remember. I can't bring back the dead or create new life with it. Magic also does not let you control others' feelings. You can't make them like you or … love you,” she added with a sad smile that quickly vanished. “I'll never share that deep connection with animals that Fluttershy has. I'll never be as skilled at applebucking or farming like Applejack, or at designing dresses like Rarity. I don't have the energy or talent at making friends like Pinkie Pie. And I'll never know what it feels like to perform a sonic rainboom,” she finished with a slight grin.
Dash's face showed a stunned expression. “I … didn't really expect an answer to that.” Twilight only giggled again shortly and began floating a hayfry to her mouth. “But still you can move stuff around with it, even giant things like that Ursa Minor. You can make Spike grow a mustache and heat up these hayfries in no time. You can perform lightshows like that Trixie did. And … you're already the smartest pony I know.” A little embarrassed at her last sentence, Dash turned her head to the side.
The unicorn gave her a bright smile. “Thanks, Rainbow. But to be honest, I have a lot of experience with heating up hayfries.” At that they both shared a long laugh and resumed their meals. Dash was still starving, so she did not speak much. Instead she was just listening to Twilight telling her one of the few noteworthy stories she had to tell from her time in Canterlot. Dash tried to understand the story, but the content of what Twilight was saying did not occupy her nearly as much as her friend’s voice. She was a fast eater, so she had finished her meal long before Twilight who still had to touch, metaphorically, even one of her sandwiches. She found herself staring into Twilight's indigo eyes, her head supported by her hooves again and with a dreamy smile on her lips. She blinked in confusion. What was happening to her? Why was she acting like this?
“Is something wrong?” came a worried voice from across the table. Twilight must have noticed her irritated scowl.
“Hm? Oh, no. I just … noticed the time,” Dash lied and pointed at window.
Twilight followed the cyan hoof and looked outside. It was already nighttime, well past sundown. “Oh, right,” she said. “You must feel very tired after today.”
“Yeah, that's it,” Dash said quickly. “I'm tired.” By Celestia's beard, she was an awful liar!
“I understand. I don't mind if you want to go home and sleep.” Twilight said those words with a caring smile, but Dash saw a hint of something else in her eyes. Was that sadness? Disappointment? Must have been her imagination, she told herself. She had never been that good at reading ponies and, after all, her mind wasn't itself today. They both got up and Twilight walked her to the door, while Dash was somewhat deep in thought. Were those strange thoughts a side effect of the treatment? Well, she could not exactly ask Twilight about it. That would be too embarrassing for her. At the door they said their goodbyes and Dash began her way to her temporary home with the pink party pony. She was struggling to keep her thoughts away from Twilight, but she utterly failed in her attempts. Instead, as she walked through the dark, empty streets of Ponyville, her mind was filled by lilac, violet and streaks of light red and purple.