When they arrived at the hospital, Applejack raced in after Dash. Rainbow Dash was looking exceedingly tired, fatigued, and messy. Her face was red from the crying, and beads of sweat shone all over her body.
"Listen sugar cube, Ah think it would be best if ya' went home and had some sleep. You look horrible . . ." Applejack explained.
"I know AJ. I can't stand leaving her, though. Come on, follow me to Pinkie's room," Rainbow replied hastily.
Rarity chimed in, "Applejack is quite right Rainbow, you should really-"
"Rarity, I'm fine, I promise."
The group stopped talking for a moment, entering the hospital room quietly. Still unconscious, Pinkie Pie was being set into the bed by a nurse. Applejack turned and looked at the others.
"Honestly, I ain't seen anything like this since Mom . . ."
"It's okay, Applejack. You aren't going to lose anypony else . . . It's okay," Fluttershy reassured.
"Ah sure do hope ya'll are right. Pinkie ain't lookin' too good to me."
"Hmm, perhaps it could have been the slight change of temperature since Discord turned good. It could have awakened the species of insect that infected Pinkie. At least, that's my best guess. I'd hate to leave to research further, I can look into it after she wakes up," Twilight said stiffly, noting that anypony could get infected by this disease.
"That sounds like Twi has an idea!" Applejack exclaimed. "Does that mean you can cure Pinkie?"
"I don't know, Applejack. She appears to be in the later stage of whatever it is that she is infected with. I have some idea of how to cure it, but I can't be sure without further research. Any cure I could conjure up right now would most likely do more damage."
"Twiliey? Is that you?" Pinkie coughed, not opening her eyes.
"Y-yes Pinkie . . . it's me," Twilight said, her voice shaking.
"Hi Twiliey, what happened?"
"Um, nothing much, you just took a nap," Twilight said softly.
"Now, don't be lyin' to 'er, Twi. Pinkie, ya had a fit of some sort and ya passed out."
"Yes, I suppose that is accurate," Rarity said. "Isn't it Dash?"
"Yeah, I guess. I was too panicky to really remember much, though."
"Well, it's okay now, right Twilight? Pinkie is better now?" Fluttershy asked.
"Um, Fluttershy, I don't know. You'll have to ask the doctors."
"Mrs. Cake knows where I am, right? I don't want her to-" Pinkie began.
"I left a note on your bed. It's okay Pinkie, don't worry," Rainbow Dash said in an unusually mature manner.
"Thanks Dashie . . . thanks, everypony, for being here for me. I love you guys. I'm sorry I missed the party . . ."
"It's okay Pinkie . . . we-" Applejack started. She was interrupted by a loud 'ahem' from Nurse Redheart.
"Sorry girls, but Pinkie needs some rest and I can't have you all in here. If she likes, she may have one friend stay with her, but that is all I can allow. We cannot crowd the patient," Nurse Redheart said firmly.
"Oh, all right. Sorry for the intrusion, I didn't mean to disturb the peace . . ." Twilight Sparkle apologized.
"Oh my, Princess Sparkle, it is not your fault, it was a pleasure. I am sorry, but rules are rules: you must go. Do have a nice stay in Ponyville," and with that she turned into a corner office and wrote something down on a sheet. "I will call you if anything goes wrong."
Twilight nodded and motioned for everypony to leave. Rainbow Dash waved goodbye, having decided immediately after Redheart had mentioned the rule that she would be the one to stay.
She put her hoof on Pinkie's and looked straight into her graying, blue eyes.
"You promise me you'll get better, and I will never miss one of your parties. We can do whatever you want."
"I'll try Dashie, I promise. All I really want right now is for you to stay with me."
"Of course I'll stay with you! Now you get some sleep, we can talk tomorrow."
"Okay," Pinkie coughed slightly. "Will you read me Daring Do?"
"Of course, I brought her with me just in case," Rainbow Dash paused. "Where were we?"
"Daring Do was just about to leap the fire pit to save the gold from the evil Doctor Moustachio."
"Ah yes," Rainbow Dash smiled as she flipped through the novel. "And so she grabbed the vine and prepared for the-"
"Ooh, ooh! Don't forget to do the voice! I am Doctor MOOOOOOOustachio!! Wahahahahaha *cough* hahaha!" Pinkie laughed.
"Of course, duh!" Rainbow Dash kept reading.
Applejack smiled as she closed the door to the hospital room. Rainbow Dash was such a loyal friend. Applejack walked down the hallway to meet up with her little sister at the Ponyville schoolhouse. The hospital was so white, it was a bit unnerving. She closed her eyes as she departed. She turned to face the school only to find Apple Bloom looking up at her with big, frightened eyes.
"Ah just heard. Is Pinkie gonna' be okay, big sis'?"
"We don't know, we just don't know . . ."
"That's awful . . . Ah hope she'll be better soon."
"So do Ah, sugar cube."
"Can the Cutie Mark Crusaders visit her? Maybe we can make her smile; maybe that's my special talent!"
"Maybe tomorrow, we need to let her rest right now . . ."
"Oh, okay . . ."
Meanwhile, Twilight headed to her library. She needed to look up that insect. She quietly entered the library through the front door to make sure nopony noticed her. Spike was back in Canterlot Castle taking messages for her. The house felt so quiet without him around to brighten things up.
"Parasprites, parasprites. It could have been a hybrid. A slightly smaller, less-cute hybrid. Parasprites book, where are you? Oh, I wish Spike were here keeping tabs on these books," Twilight said under her breath. "Ah, here it is!"
She pulled the parasprite book from the shelf. If only she had read this before that invasion. Twilight remembered how active everypony had been that day; she really could look back on it and laugh. She flipped through the pages of the book, searching for the hybrid she wanted to find. A picture of a small, grayish bug caught her eye, and she stopped flipping.
"Here we are, an unnamed hybrid."
She held the book close to her nose, reading intently.
"I see, it's a Parasprite that has been exposed to extreme dark magic. They are very rare because the dark magic needed to produce such a being is so incredibly strong, so much so that the few around only exist today because of the ancient rule of Sombra. But how did it get here in Ponyville?" Twilight pondered before reading on. "Their bites bring on a deadly sickness that only a few ponies on record have ever survived, and even that was luck. There is no known cure."
Twilight held her mouth wide and dropped the book in horror. "There is no way it was one of those, they are so rare. What would be the chance of it? The symptoms probably don't even match up. Let's see: dizziness, headache, numbness, fits, color change . . . death," Twilight let out a gasp and slammed the book shut. There was still hope that it was something else.
Twilight stood up and wiped a tear from her cheek. She would have to watch Pinkie die, just like she always knew she would. Not only was Twilight immortal due to the alicorn spell, but Pinkie had even less time than Twilight had originally thought. She needed to tell the others; she needed to break it to them in the best way and as calmly as possible. She was already distraught on her own terms, but she still had hope that there was a chance of her information being wrong.
"Twilight, calm down. Jumping to conclusions doesn't solve anything . . . Pinkie could just have some exotic flu and be better in a week. You don't need to scare everypony."
Applejack sat in the Cutie Mark Crusaders' tree house alone. She knew her sister would come up there any minute, maybe with her friends, maybe without. She stared out through the window. It was a beautiful sunset: pink and blue, with splashes of orange. She sighed. She would have to stay strong for Pinkie. If she wasn't strong, who would be? She was afraid, but for Pinkie, she'd be brave. Pinkie wouldn't want her to be sad. Suddenly, she heard somepony climbing up the ladder. It was Big Mac.
"Howdy Big Mac . . ." Applejack said, distracted.
"Listen Applejack, I know what you're going through. This has happened to me before," Big Mac said. He rarely spoke this much.
"Haven't heard you talk that much in a long time."
"AJ, look at me. Please?"
"I'm sorry Big Mac, Ah just don't know what Ah'd do without Pinkie," she sobbed, giving him a hug.
Big Mac patted her softly. "None of us do, but she'll pull through, I know it."
"But what if she don't?" asked Applejack, feeling like a blubbering filly.
"We'll move on, just like we did before."
Applejack nodded, remembering her parents and every other pony who had died on her.
"Ah guess we'll have to . . ." she sobbed, letting go of Big Mac.
Applejack looked back at the window one last time.
"Now let's get you to bed, it's late."
"Okay," Applejack said softly, wiping her tears away.