• Published 6th Sep 2022
  • 296 Views, 8 Comments

Lightning Dust's Third Act - Pip232

After a long stay in the hospital, Lightning Dust decides she and her team need a new approach.

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1: Getting Back On Her Hooves

I told you so!

Those four words had echoed in Lightning Dust’s head for weeks, filling her with outrage at the self-righteousness behind them. Spitfire had come to see her once, not to wish her a speedy recovery, but to rub her condition in. Lightning Dust had desperately wished she could have spoken, could have let Spitfire know exactly how she saw things, but the cast across her mouth and jaw stifled her.

She’d lost track of how long she’d been stuck in this hospital. She’d felt every moment pass with excruciating clarity, every second ticking, the days and weeks blurring together as she lay immobilized. If it weren’t for her friends’ frequent visits and Doctor Horse’s attentive bedside manner she was sure she’d go stir-crazy from the lack of stimulation.

Look at you! You’ve ruined yourself, and for what? Some cheap thrill? Sometimes being the best does mean taking risks, but it’s not throwing caution to the wind, and risking absolutely everything on stunts that will cost you your life! Your road to recovery is going to be long and painful, if you ever fully do!

Her teeth clenched, anger welling up in her.

For the first week she’d blamed it all on Spitfire for booting her from the Wonderbolts. Her speed, maneuvering, and athleticism were matched only by Rainbow Dash. She should’ve had it in the bag! She was the lead, partnered with the only pegasus she’d ever met who could keep up with her. The other cadets didn’t have a chance.

Then Twilight and her friends showed up and everything went to Tartarus. If it hadn't been for that the results would've been just a destroyed blackboard and a few dizzy ponies.

My advice is to use this time to think about how you got here, and how you can avoid coming back here again. You’ve got plenty of it, after all.

Even she had to admit that taking Scootaloo’s place without an ounce of thought was a stupid idea. She really wished she’d at least put her helmet on, then maybe she could’ve eaten solid foods. Or any food.

The idea of drinking through a straw was never appealing, but she knew, knew that choking down whatever liquid paste she’d be made to suck through a straw would be preferable to the feeding tube they’d put in her stomach. If Spitfire had warned her she’d wind up immobilized in a full-body wing-and-hoof cast being fed nutrient formula through a hole in her abdomen, that might have been a more effective deterrent.

As much as it pained her to admit, Spitfire was right. It had only been a matter of time before the stunts the Washouts were doing ended up maiming them. It had been nothing but pure luck she’d pulled through. She was glad the impact had knocked her out, the idea of being conscious with how mangled she wound up made her shudder in her plaster prison.

Maybe while you’re thinking about how you got here you’ll rethink that death trap team of yours and the friends you’ve got on it.

Her team may have been a death trap, but she planned to change that, and at least they were friends with healthy group dynamics, not just a bunch of dysfunctional coworkers held together by aligned interests. No degrading nicknames, no going behind each others’ backs, and definitely no trying to frame one another to protect some stupid record. It certainly helped that they’d known each other before forming the Washouts.

A soft click sounded as the door to her room opened. Lightning Dust strained her peripheral vision to see Doctor Horse stepping in, a small metal instrument carried in his magic. “Good morning, Ms. Dust, I have wonderful news. Today’s the big day.”

He held the tool in clear view and explained how it worked and that it wouldn’t hurt, but she began to zone out. Her mind was racing with excitement at the prospect of going home, but it was replaced with nervousness as he carefully took the feeding tube in a gloved hoof.

“One quick pinch is all you’ll feel.”

Lightning Dust winced as he carefully extracted the feeding tube. It was slow, a dull pain rising in her abdomen. As soon as she was about to make a noise of protest it was over, a touch of magic closing the hole left behind. She exhaled in relief, relaxing as much as her cast would allow her.

What if it had been Scootaloo on that rocket? She’d either be where you are, or dead! I guarantee you Dash woulda beat you within an inch of your life, your team would be finished, and you’d be heading to the big house!

That thought had occurred to her without Spitfire’s lecture. Had that happened, no force in Equestria would’ve been able to save her from the backlash. Her reputation would’ve been damaged beyond any reconciliation. Short Fuse and Rolling Thunder would’ve been caught up in it, too, and she wasn’t sure she could live with herself knowing she’d put a foal in the hospital, or worse.

Sleeping had never been easy during her recovery. The uncomfortable position she was in and the incessant itching from her cast would’ve been enough, but knowing that all their dreams would’ve gone down in flames had Scootaloo not lost her nerve and pressed the red button only made it worse. Sleep had only come in restless fits until Doctor Horse started putting a mild sedative in her IV.

She closed her eyes as he began to cut into the cast around her head. As promised it didn’t hurt, though it was slowgoing. Soon she would be out of this bed, soon she would be out of this hospital, soon she’d be able to move on with her life. Knowing how soon be up and about, the suspense waiting for it was the worst of her entire stay.

Doctor Horse finished a cut and used his magic to remove a piece of the cast from her head.

“Finally!” Lightning Dust croaked, her voice hoarse. She looked to see a glass being floated up to her and put her lips to it, taking a few careful sips. The cool water going down her throat was a welcome sensation.

He couldn’t help but chuckle kindly at her enthusiasm. “Don’t get too excited, I’m just getting started,” he advised before beginning to repeat the process on one of her back legs.

She drank her fill before taking her mouth away, the cup carefully levitated over to the bedside table. With some effort she began to work the kinks out of her neck, a resounding series of pops and cracks sounding through the room as she worked to loosen up. She felt the cast around her back leg come off and slowly flexed her stiff joints. She winced, her ankles feeling like they were rusty hinges needing oil.

“Excited to be out of here?” He asked, beginning to remove the cast around her other leg.

“You have no idea. It’ll feel great to be back home again. My bed is going to feel like butter after this.”

Doctor Horse smiled. “Butter, huh? Is that what it’s like?”

“Yeah,” her smile widened with anticipation, “I wish others besides pegasi could try them. They’re softer than anything I’ve slept on, all while perfectly cradling every contour of my body. Then again, anything beats here.”

“Fair enough. Any plans once you get out of here besides that?”

Lightning Dust held still as he peeled away another section of cast. “Oh yeah. Soon as I get out of here I’m going to get my fur groomed, maul a cheesesteak, and then I’m going to put my plans for the Washouts into action!”

Doctor Horse exhaled sourly, shaking his head in disapproval. “I’ll be sure to keep your bed warm, then. When’s your next show so I’ll know when to put a mint on your pillow?”

“Much as I’ll miss you, doc, this time is going to be different.” She stretched what was currently freed. “Besides, the season’s over. We won’t have any shows for close to a year.”

“I should hope so.” He didn’t even look up from his work while he spoke. “And while I’d like to get to know you better, I’d rather our next meeting didn’t follow eighteen hours of emergency surgery.”

“For what it’s worth, I appreciate all you’ve done. If it weren’t for you I’d have gone crazy in here.” While her friends’ visits had been nice, he was the one she saw nearly every day. Sometimes he’d take an x-ray to see how she was healing, or check the fluids in her IVs, but every time he came in he made sure to talk to her. It wasn’t like she could answer him, but she was grateful that he didn’t treat her like just another fixture in the room.

“My pleasure, Ms. Dust. We’re almost there.”

Lightning Dust held still while he cut and peeled away the cast from her torso, taking her first deep, unrestricted breath in weeks. “Alright, here we go.”

With effort she carefully slung her legs over the edge of the bed, slowly pulling herself to her hooves with Doctor Horse ready to catch her in case she fell. “Easy, Ms. Dust.” His aid earned him another grateful smile as she stood on the cool laminate floor.

Now certain she wouldn’t just collapse, Lightning Dust took a few careful steps and slowly unfurled her wings, moving about the room at a leisurely pace. Everything felt rigid, stiff; her ankles especially felt like they were still bound in their casts.

“How do you feel?”

“Heavy.” It was the first word that came to her mind. After limbering up her legs she sat down and began to carefully preen her wings. Her overgrown fur tickled her cheek as she tried to organize her feathers.

“That should get better with time and exercise. You’ve been off your hooves for a while, you need to build up your strength again.” Doctor Horse explained. “But as soon as you’re finished, your friends are waiting for you.”

That news made her heart pound with excitement. “Really?”

“Come on, I’ll take you to them.”

Lightning Dust blushed as he put a hoof between her wings, gently guiding her outside. For the first time she was able to observe her surroundings beyond her small room. For a while she hadn’t been sure if she’d been taken to a hospital in Ponyville or Cloudsdale, but given the lack of cloud architecture and the presence of earth ponies and unicorns, it was clear she was in a ground-based hospital.

She followed along, frowning at the effort it was taking to just put one hoof in front of the other. As they neared a corner he turned to face her. “Just go around.”

Lightning Dust nodded and complied. True to his word, Rolling Thunder and Short Fuse were in the waiting room, though they didn’t seem to notice her right away.

“What’s taking that doctor so long?!” Short Fuse impatiently paced back and forth. “Did he go to the university of ducks? Because he seems like a certified quack!”

Rolling Thunder chuckled and looked up from her magazine. “Don’t have a heart attack. We’re just getting one out, don’t need another going in. Besides, he’s taken good care of her till now.”

“That doesn’t answer my question!”

Lightning Dust smiled, her friends’ back and forth a welcome change of pace. “Hey, guys!”

As soon as those words left her mouth they were hugging her with enough force to nearly knock her off her hooves. She stumbled, but quickly righted herself.

Their warm embrace was exquisite, and she savored the caress of their fur and feathers. She moved to tenderly nuzzle both of them, enjoying the hug for a few more seconds before reluctantly pulling away.

“Come on, race you home.”

Author's Note:

This is a brand new Lightning Dust story that I've been working on for a while. It's going to replace Crashing To Rock Bottom, and we're going to see how Lightning Dust picks herself up, dusts herself off (pun somewhat intended :ajsmug:) and moves forward in her life.

Hope yall have a fun time with this one!