• Published 16th Mar 2021
  • 33,207 Views, 2,385 Comments

What a Strange Little Colt - Lynwood



Rainbow Dash finds a maimed, unconscious young colt on the edge of Ponyville and rushes him to the hospital, but nopony knows who he is and something about him seems off...

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Overhead

Wednesday morning

Rainbow Dash's mind ground to a halt at the smear of red on the grassy field below. Thoughts about the morning were forgotten. The frustration locked away in her chest, waiting to be kicked into a hapless cloud during the first of two long shifts, drained away like lightning from a thunderhead. Any self-concern evaporated the instant she saw the crumpled little form that lay motionless at the edge of the field.

Consciousness caught up with body and Rainbow remembered to slow down just in time. She slammed into the ground with a barely controlled descent, bending her legs to absorb the impact with unconscious ease, and stumbled to where the colt lay. The still dewy grass reached nearly up to her belly, wetting the fur on her legs.

"No, no, no-no-no..." Her gasp caught in her throat when she saw him up close. Fur matted with dust, legs and wings bent at sickening angles, and far, far too much blood to come from such a tiny little thing. He lay in a puddle of it. It had turned his mane from a light green to a muddied brown and his darker coat fared no better. His breaths came in short, wheezing pants, drawing Rainbow's eyes to his faintly rising and falling side, where it looked like parts of him had simply been... removed. The foal couldn't have been more than twelve.

Rainbow's stomach did a flip in her gut and it took all of her being not to revisit her breakfast right then and there. Instead, she swallowed as hard as she could and stepped closer. Her hoof jerked back at the first touch of the blood-soaked grass, but with another look at the foal, the wide-eyed pegasus shoved the feeling away and forced the limb down. This colt needed her help.

"Hey." Her voice didn't work right. It sounded quiet, wavering. She tried again. "Hey! Hey, can you hear me?" He didn’t make a sound. Rainbow's heart thudded in her chest, threatening to jump right out of her throat. Red crept up the cyan fur at the edges of her hooves.

"Ok, if you can hear me, just..." She shifted from hoof to hoof, readying herself as best she could. "I'm sorry if this hurts, ok?"

Rainbow Dash sucked in as big a gulp of air as she could manage, and, using her wings to keep her body steady, scooped the colt up with her forelegs. She hoped that he would cry or scream or do anything but he simply lay in her forelegs like a ragdoll. His body weighed so little.

"Ok, it's ok, I gotcha..." Rainbow's breaths came quickly. Her eyes darted down to the fur on her chest. "I gotcha..." She could feel it seeping through, staining the skin underneath. When she looked at that ragged, horrible tear in his side, her mind clicked. The hospital. She needed to get him to Ponyville General, now.

A fantastic flap of her wings shot her into the air and she was off, speeding above grassy fields, then rooftops and streets, flying as low and as fast as she could manage, ignoring anypony and anything. The howling wind hid the colt's breathing, and it only pushed her harder.

Rainbow felt the beginnings of a cone forming when she thrust her wings out into the air screaming around her. They wrenched in their sockets, sending a lance of pain up her back. She groaned, but the pegasus came to a messy canter at the hospital entrance, struggling to jar the foal as little as possible, and shouldered the doors open.

"Help! Somepony!"

The front desk mare barely opened her mouth before she saw him. Before the frazzled pegasus knew it ponies swarmed everywhere and her world became a flurry. Somepony swept the colt onto a stark-looking gurney that wasn't white for very long. An angry-looking stallion slammed rapid-fire questions at her but all she could stammer was "I don't know", which only made him look angrier. Then they took him away through the doors underneath the big "EMERGENCY" sign, surrounded by a veritable swarm of ponies all shouting at one another in terms that Rainbow didn't understand, but put a cold feeling around her heart.

It was over as soon as it had started. Rainbow stood in the middle of the lobby, wide-eyed and blinking, surrounded by a wide circle of bloody smears and hoof-prints. Muddied cotton filled her head. The stunned pegasus didn't notice much of anything until the unicorn mare from the front desk walked up to her, eyes full of worry. She said something that didn't register quite right.

Rainbow blinked. "Huh?"

"I asked if you were alright, honey?" She looked even more worried now.

"Uh... Um, I..." Rainbow blinked again. Nothing came to her. She looked around at the room, and then down at herself. A sight straight from a horror movie greeted her—it looked like she had taken a literal blood bath. She was dripping on the off-white linoleum floor, for Celestia's sake.

Drip, drip, drip. "Uh..."

The secretary mare patted her shoulder. "You're all messy, dear. Would you like some help cleaning up?" Rainbow drew her eyes up to meet the mare's own in a blank stare. They were full of concern and a lovely pink. She managed a nod.

The mare set her foreleg across Rainbow's withers with the gentleness of a mother and guided the pegasus away from the EMERGENCY door, down the hall, and into the little filly's room. Its silence let Rainbow hear each squishy hoofstep clear as day. Who had filled her veins with lead? She didn't feel herself moving to the sink or the temperature of the water as it flowed over her fur.

The kind mare had produced a wet cloth. Its whiteness turned a muddy brown before she had even finished scrubbing the caked blood from Rainbow's chest. Her extra pegasus fluff there felt matted and heavy, and it made Rainbow want to lie down on the bathroom floor.

The mare didn't seem to mind getting her cream-colored hooves dirty. She wrung out the now-stained cloth over the sink in her soft pink aura. Its water curled and danced in reddish-brown swirls as it disappeared into the pitch-dark drain.

"Did–... Is he gonna make it?" Rainbow croaked. Her voice came out so low and grimy, it almost sounded like a stranger's.

The mare's face scrunched up. "Oh, honey. The doctors here are very good at their jobs. I'm sure they're doing the very best they can." She kept scrubbing her fur as she spoke, working to return Rainbow's coat to something as close to its normal brilliant cyan as possible.

"But is he gonna be ok? Was I..." She could hardly bear to say it. "Was I too late?"

"You poor thing." The mare leaned in and pulled Rainbow into a tight hug. Rainbow didn't return it, but she leaned into the grip. It felt nice, and her soft green mane smelled like flowers. "You did everything you could," she said, "and believe me, the ponies here are like family to me. I know they won't give him up without a fight."

That lifted Rainbow's spirits a little bit. She took a deep breath. "...thanks," she managed.

The unicorn mare leaned back and wrung the cloth out one more time, then set the reddish-brown rag down on the edge of the sink. "That's the best we can do for now," she said, "you'll need a shower and a good soapy scrubbing to get rid of the rest of it."

The pegasus looked down at herself. Where her fur had been red and slick minutes ago, it was now merely a dull bluish-brown. "Okay."

"Do you know him, dearie?"

Rainbow blinked. "The colt? No, I just... found him."

"Oh, dear." Her face fell and she spoke in a mutter. "We're gonna have to send somepony to the town hall about this." Then she switched back to that comforting, motherly voice. "It'll turn out okay, I just know it."

Rainbow wished she could be as sure as the kind mare. "How, uh... long will it take?"

The mare bit her lip. "I don't know, sweetie. A while."

"Oh..." Rainbow said. Something inside her told her that she didn't like that, that she should be getting annoyed, angry even, but the pegasus found she couldn't summon the energy. Instead, she looked at the bathroom floor and played with her hoof, drawing circles in the muddy brown puddles on the tile. "Is it alright if I stay? For just a little bit?"

The mare gave Rainbow a gentle smile. "You can stay in the lobby as long as you like."

The pegasus followed the front desk mare―she had a cutie mark of a swirl of water around a medical cross―with her head held just high enough to catch the concerned glances that she kept throwing backward. Once they reached the lobby, Rainbow found the seat furthest from everypony else. Then she fell into it with a huff and began to wait.

Not long after she sat down, a pegasus mare with the lankiness of a teenager trotted into the lobby. She wore a hurried look and a set of compact, wraparound saddlebags, the kind couriers used. She half trotted, half flapped to the front desk and began to speak quickly and quietly with the nice mare.

Rainbow watched silently as the courier pulled a note from her bags and hand it to the mare, who lit her horn and jotted something down on it. As she wrote, the courier said something to which the front desk mare only shugged in response.

Then they both looked at Rainbow, whose eyes snapped open. She quickly looked down at her hooves, hoping against hope that they wouldn't walk over. I'm sure it has nothing to do with him. Hospitals need to send messages all the time, it's fine. Her ears twitched at the approaching sound of hoofsteps on linoleum. No, no, please don't say it...

"Miss Dash?" Rainbow looked back up to see the kind mare standing only a few steps away, wearing a reassuring smile, "I've got somepony who needs to ask you a few questions." She still held the note and pen in her magic, floating beside her head.

Rainbow felt her stomach flip in her gut. "What happened? Did something..." it suddenly became very hard to speak. "Did he, um–?"

The courier mare shook her head. "No, as far as I know the colt is still in surgery. We're trying to get word to the town hall, but I need all the information, just to make sure I'm not missing anything. It's important to make sure we know all we can when addressing potential emergencies."

"E-emergencies?" Rainbow stammered. "What's going on?"

"You said you found him outside of town?" she asked. "He was already injured?"

"Um, yeah," Rainbow muttered, trying not to focus on the mental image of a speck of red on green.

"Where, exactly?"

Her mouth felt dry. "Um, I don't know exactly, it was—it must have been the southwest fields, past the park." She rubbed the side of her head. "Sorry, it's just... it happened so fast..."

The courier nodded. "That's fine, thank you. I'm sure the mayor will have somepony fly out there and take a look around." Beside her, the mare from the front desk began writing something on the note.

Rainbow furrowed her brow. "What? Why?"

"Because we have no idea what happened. What if what happened to him happened to other ponies? What if the reason his parents aren't here is that they're out in that field, too?" She nodded her thanks to the front desk mare, taking the note from her aura and tucking it into her saddlebags with a light blue hoof.

Rainbow's eyes widened. "B-but I didn't see anypony else!"

"And I believe you," the mare said as she turned. "Like I said before, it's about having all the information. We just need to be sure that nopony else was hurt."

Rainbow began to get to her hooves but the mare waved her down. "It's alright, Miss Dash. You've done your part, just take a breather. Let us handle the rest, okay?"

On any other day, Rainbow might have taken that as a challenge, but all she could bring herself to say was a soft "okay."

And then the courier was out the door, and Rainbow was back to sitting in silence, listening to the ticking of the clock.

As she watched a custodian pony drag a mop and bucket to the center of the lobby and begin to clean up the mess, her mind refused to do anything but play out the scene for her over and over again. How long had it taken her to notice that little splotch of red? Had she hesitated too long before picking him up? What if she hadn't flown fast enough?

She imagined one of the doctors walking out of those EMERGENCY doors, stony-faced and red-eyed. She'd know what happened before he spoke a word. And what then? The feeling of a colt dying in her forelegs would stay in her brain, just playing over and over, showing her how bad of a job she did, how she failed to save him. Rainbow didn't even notice herself grab her tail and hug it close to her chest until somepony called her name.

Dash blinked and raised her muzzle out of her tail. "Huh?" It was Thunderlane, from the weather control team. The gray pegasus hesitated in the doorway, looking more than a little confused. He hadn't even made it inside, he just stood there with his hoof outstretched, holding the door open.

"Hey, yo, are you ok?"

The familiar face delivered a swift kick in the rear. Right away, Rainbow Dash became acutely aware of the fact that she was currently stroking her tail like a little filly. She pushed it away and straightened up, wiping a foreleg at her eyes. When did I start crying? She sniffed and plastered a cool look on her face, quick as a flash.

"Yeah," she said a bit too quickly. "Yeah, I'm alright. What's up?"

"Oh, um, okay," said Thunderlane. He let the door swing shut behind him and cantered over to Rainbow. "What happened, Dash? We've been lookin' all over for you!"

All day? She looked up at the clock above the welcome desk. Seven minutes past noon. How'd that happen? The kind unicorn mare at the desk noticed her stare and gave her a little smile.

"I’m only here 'cause Mrs. Cake said she saw ya tearing tail here," he said. His eyes dropped to the stains on her chest and forelegs. "Geeze, Rainbow, is―is that blood?"

"Oh, um..." Rainbow didn't know where to start. "Somepony's foal got hurt on the edge of town, I guess. I flew him straight here."

"Was it bad?"

She looked down at herself again. "This... isn't from me."

Thunderlane's face fell. "Oh..." The silence made the air feel heavy. Rainbow swallowed.

"Sorry I missed my first shift," she said, looking down, "I wanted to stay here and make sure he was okay, y'know? Since we, uh, don't know who his parents are."

The stallion blinked. "Oh! Oh no, you-you're all good here," he stammered, "It's all good. We'll get someone to cover your shifts, it'll be fine. The storm doesn't have to be finished 'till next week, anyway."

"I'll make them up, I swear."

"Yeah, of course," he said, "we know you're good for your word, Dash. Just, uh, swing by the office once you're done here, ok? Let everyone know you're alright."

"Yeah..." Dash said, "I'll do that."

"Okay..." Thunderlane took a hissing breath and rubbed his silvery mane. "I'll, uh, tell the others what happened and, um... leave you to it."

"Yeah," Dash said again. Thunderlane gave one final concerned look over his shoulder and disappeared out the door. Rainbow let out a breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding and slumped back over.

The hospital wasn't very busy today. Ponyville General really wasn't very busy at any time. They usually dealt with things like kitchen burns and the odd bungled landing, and not many of them at once. The air hung still.

Something clicked in Rainbow's mind. What about his parents? They hadn't shown by now, but the hospital surely would have sent somepony to the town hall. Maybe they just hadn't heard yet? What if Rainbow had to tell them what had happened to their son? What if they screamed and cried and wailed at her, demanding why she hadn't been faster?

The EMERGENCY doors parted and a ragged-looking doctor walked through and cut his horn's aura, letting them shut behind him. He brushed his messy chocolate-brown mane out of his eyes and swept them over the room before settling his sights on Rainbow. "Miss Dash?"

Now he was trotting over to her. Oh no. Here it came. Rainbow wanted to curl up into a ball, roll over, and–

The doctor stopped in front of her. "That colt you brought in is going to be alright. He'll pull through."

Rainbow's head shot up. The tightness in her chest and the weight on her neck all flowed away at once and her heart soared. "What? Really?"

The doctor gave her a tired smile. "He lost a lot of blood, but his spirit must be very strong. If we'd gotten to him any later, he may not have made it. You very likely saved his life, Miss Dash."

The tightness in Rainbow's chest disappeared and she smiled a wide, relieved smile. She looked to the nice mare at the front desk who gave her a happy wave. For the first time since seeing the colt, it felt easy to breathe.

"So, what's his name?" said the doctor.

Rainbow's train of thought came screeching to a stop. "Oh, um―sorry, I don't know, I just found him."

The doctor's eyebrows furrowed. "That makes him especially lucky, then. I take it you don't know how it happened?" Rainbow shook her head. "Well, foals don't go missing without folks going looking for them, not in Ponyville. Once town hall notifies the parents, I'm sure they'll be here soon enough, if they aren't on their way already." Then he winked at her. "I'm sure you’re going to have two new fans, eh Miss Dash?"

Rainbow chuckled at that, even if she couldn't keep the tiredness from her voice. "Yeah, I bet I will... H-how is he?"

"Sedated," the doctor reassured. "He should be out for quite a while."

"Oh," Rainbow said. "Yeah. I guess that makes sense."

"If you'd like to visit him once he’s awake, I don't believe that would be a problem." He gave her a big smile. "I'd say that colt deserves to meet the mare that saved his life!" They both shared a relieved laugh over that.

"If you like," the doctor continued, "we can send our courier when he wakes up, so you don't have to wait here." He gestured to the dark splotches on Rainbow's fur. "I'm sure you'd like a wash."

Once the doctor mentioned it, the crustiness in her fur felt much more noticeable. "Oh. Yeah, I really do. That'd be great," Rainbow replied.

"Of course. I'll let Miss Flowing Fields know." He nodded at the front desk mare.

Rainbow got up to leave but the doctor stuck a hoof out. "Erm, Miss Dash, before you go, let me say thank you. Really." He gave Rainbow another wide, honest smile. "It's a good thing you did today. I'm glad I didn't have to find out about this colt the way I would have if you hadn't brought him here so quickly."

Rainbow paused for a moment, then smiled back. "I'm just glad I made it in time, Doc." He nodded, and then, with a final wave to the nice mare—no, Flowing Fields, a thoroughly relieved and equally drained pegasus left Ponyville General. She made straight for her cloudominium. Time for a long, hot shower.


Several hours later, Nurse Redheart entered the room of the hospital's newest patient, who lay heavily bandaged and fast asleep in his too-big hospital bed. Celestia's evening sun shone through the slots between the blinded windows, throwing the room into a broken white-and-golden twilight. She yawned, her thoughts on not much else besides checking the still-unclaimed colt. It was a quick job to jot down the numbers on the clipboard at the foot of the little green foal's bed. She quietly hummed to herself as she worked, careful not to wake the little one, and as she turned to leave him be, she gave one last look over her shoulder at the sleeping colt.

He stared right back. "Eep!" The mare jumped in place, nearly knocking the nurse's hat off her head. "I didn't see you were awake, dear!"

His silence brought on a cringe. Any minute now, the foal would start crying for his mommy and daddy, and Redheart would have the sizeable and far-from-comfortable job of calming him down and reassuring him that everything was going to be alright, even though they still had no idea who his parents were. In all honesty, she'd considered the idea that this foal's case in that department was... special, and the thought worried her.

Instead of beginning to wail, however, the colt continued to stare. If anything, his deep brown eyes got even wider. They looked like two painted saucers on his tiny face. Redheart blinked herself out of the impromptu staring contest and rushed to the colt's side. "Are you alright, honey? How do you feel?"

The colt's head swiveled and followed her as she walked around his bed, but still, he didn't make even the tiniest peep.

Redheart's smile grew more strained. Was this foal deaf? "Can... can you understand me, dearie?"

Slowly, almost like he had to focus very hard to do so, the colt nodded his head, those dark brown eyes locked with hers all the while.

It's better than nothing... "Are you okay?"

Again, a snail’s-pace nod. No doubt about it, something was very different about this colt. Redheart began to feel uncomfortable. "Do you know where you are?"

The colt finally took his eyes off her, looking around the room, then down at himself. He raised his forelegs, one splinted, one free, and examined them like he was trying to set them on fire with only his intense stare. His little mouth dropped open as he inspected his own limbs, turning them this way and that. It would have been cute if it hadn't been so amazingly strange.

"Um, dearie," Redheart began. Again, the colt looked at her with those wide, dark eyes. "Dearie, can you tell me your name?"

After a moment's thought, the colt whispered out something raspy and unintelligible. Then he blinked, swallowed hard, and spoke again. "Gabriel."

Even though her now-strained smile remained, Redheart's ears dropped. It’s going to be a long night.