'A Precious Rainbow'

by milesprower06

A/N:

Please be informed that this fic is an alternate ending to the grimdark fic 'Cupcakes' by Sgt. Sprinkles. The first few paragraphs are entirely their work, to connect their content to my alternate ending. I'm not allowed to provide a link in the story here, but it's not terribly hard to find. Just google it.


PART 1 OF 3

1.1 - THE RESCUE

"Dash. Daaash. Wake up." Rainbow Dash managed to give her a modicum of weak acknowledgment.

Pinkie reached into the medicine bag and produced a large syringe.

"Alright, time for the last round."

Dash looked at the needle, and Pinkie took that as a question as to what it was.

"Something to take the pain away." she informed as she walked around to Dash's ruined back side. She stuck the needle into the lower part of her spine. Dash flinched.

Coming to the front again, she told her friend, "In a few minutes, you won't be able to feel anything below your ribcage. Then you'll be able to stay awake to watch the harvest."

Dash started to cry again.

"Pinkie." she trembled out.

"Yeah?"

"I want to go home." she openly sobbed.

"Yeah, I can see wanting to do that." the party pony replied. "Sometimes, I just wanna give up, say 'I'm done with this mess' and go to bed. But you know what? You can't shrug off your responsibilities. You got to pull yourself up and meet the challenges head on. That's the only way you're gonna get ahead in life."

Dash cried.

Minutes passed and the drug took affect. Dash was numb from her chest to her flanks. Aware of this, Pinkie approached with her scalpel.

Suddenly, the door to the room burst open, and Pinkie whipped around to face the intruder.

Applejack burst into the basement, and took a split-second to take in scene that greeted her. The room reeked of urine, blood, and death, and there were pony skulls, medical knives and needles all around. And at the center of it all, was Rainbow Dash restrained to wooden planks, and Pinkie, eying her with the scalpel.

"Pinkie, 'ah don't know what you're thinkin', but I'mma give you one chance to drop that knife, now."

Pinkie looked dumbstruck for just a moment; as if AJ was out of line for giving her orders in her basement. After a couple seconds, she blinked, and gave an enraged scream as she charged AJ with the scalpel.

Applejack, remaining collected, took a small leap forward, swiftly rotated 180 degrees on her front legs, and gave the insane Pinkie a full force buck to the chin with both back hooves. The move sent Pinkie airborne, back-flipping wildly towards the back right corner of the room, where her head slammed into a wooden table with knives on it. The momentum broke her neck on contact, and the pink pony landed limp in a heap on the floor, completely motionless.

Dead.

As several knives on the table clattered to the floor from the crash, AJ quickly approached Rainbow, growing more wide-eyed the closer she got.

"Oh, Equestria..." she said disbelievingly. It seemed that Rainbow wasn't aware of anything that had happened in the last few seconds, her eyes wandering aimlessly.

AJ grabbed the dropped scalpel, and went immediately for the leather straps restraining Rainbow to the planks. First the legs, then the arms, and Rainbow collapsed onto the cobblestone floor, where her body began to go into shock.

"Rainbow? Dash? Stay with me, Rainbow, ya hear? Stay with me. Rainbow!"

Applejack desperately fought back the panic. If she didn't do something, and fast, her friend was going to die. Answers for this horrific sight would have to wait. Rainbow needed help, now.

Before dropping the scalpel, she quickly cut through the copper wires that were wrapped around nails that had been hammered into her back hooves and connected to a power box on the far wall.

Spotting a discarded bucket nearby, she resisted the nausea as best she could, and placed Rainbow's dismembered wings and cutie marks into the bucket before placing the unconscious Pegasus on her back, taking the rope handle of the bucket in her mouth, and raced out of the basement as fast as she could.

She came bursting out of Sugarcube Corner into the black of night. Making sure to keep her friend balanced on her back, she galloped as fast as she could to Ponyville Urgent Care.

Minutes later, she came bolting through the doors of the care center, dropping the bucket on the tile floor and screaming for help. The desk attendant quickly alerted two orderlies, and they rolled out a gurney into the lobby, placing the unconscious Rainbow Dash onto it, and rolled her into the ER, quickly signaling for a doctor's immediate attention. Applejack's eyes were locked on her friend all the way to the shutting ER doors; the last sight of her was blood starting to trickle from the Pegasus' mouth.

The events of the night finally catching up to her, Applejack resisted the urge to vomit one last time, and passed out in the lobby.

PONYVILLE LIBRARY

ONE HOUR LATER

Twilight Sparkle's sound sleep was interrupted by a rapid pounding on her front door. Yawning, she made her way down the stairs to greet whoever wanted her attention at 2 in the morning.

She opened the door to a panicked Fluttershy and Rarity.

"We need to get to Ponyville Urgent Care right now! Something serious has happened!" Fluttershy quickly told her.

"What's going on?" Twilight asked, still waking up, and her concern growing.

"We don't know. The messenger pony didn't say anything specific. Just that two of our friends were at the care center, and one of them had been admitted to the ER. I went to get Rarity and then you. Come on, we need to hurry!"

Together, the three of them raced to Ponyville Urgent Care to see what the trouble was. When they ran into the waiting room, it was empty, save for Applejack, sitting in the row of chairs next to the doors to the ER, with her hat resting on the chair next to her.

She looked like she had seen a ghost.

"Applejack? What's wrong? What's happened?"

The farm workhorse turned to her friends with tired, desperate eyes. Tears pricked the corners of her eyelids, and her lips trembled.

"It's Rainbow..."

"What's happened to her?"

"'I...'ah don't know for sure..."

Twilight looked around the waiting room again.

"One of us should go find Pinkie Pie."

"No...no ya don't." Applejack answered.

"Why not? What's going on?"

AJ swallowed hard, and prepared to do her best at describing what she had just seen earlier that night.

By the time she had finished explaining the last hour or so to her three friends in the waiting room with her, each of them looked as confused and horrified as she.

"Wh-why would she do such a thing?" Twilight shakily asked.

"Ah haven't the faintest idea, Twi'. I didn't mean to kick her so hard either. I just saw Rainbow, and when Pinkie came at me with that knife, I just made a split-second decision. And judging from what was in that room, I don't think Rainbow was the first victim. Not even close."

"I just hope they can help her..." Fluttershy said softly.

"Ah really hope so, too, Fluttershy. She didn't look good when they took her in there. Not good at all." AJ said.

It was another 30 minutes before a nurse pony came quietly trotting out into the waiting room. The 4 friends were immediately on their feet, anxious for any news.

They prayed it was good.

"Well?" Applejack asked.

"We managed to stabilize her. You got her here just in time." the nurse reported.

"Oh thank Celestia..."

"But I'm afraid it's not looking good. She was clearly tortured. We removed the nails from her back hooves, and administered antibiotics. Hopefully that will stop any infection. Her heart's been jolted by prolonged electrocution, so we're keeping a very close eye on that, to see if there's any permanent damage to her heart. As for what you...brought in with her...we were able to sew her cutie marks back on. Hopefully those will heal up, and be no worse for wear, and the muscle tissue that was removed from that area will hopefully heal too. But...I'm afraid we weren't able to do anything about her wings..."

"No...are you sure?"

"I'm sorry, I don't know what to say. We smoothed down the jagged edges from where they were broken. If her skin heals up, they'll just be small stubs on her back. She might be able to pass for an earth pony, but...I'm sorry, we've never dealt with anything like this before. We did the best we could. Aside from the doubtless psychological harm, she'll carry some of these physical scars for the rest of her life. But...but at least you got her here alive."

AJ collapsed onto her back haunches, looking like she was about to break down into tears.

"Can we see her?" Rarity asked.

"I wouldn't recommend that. At least not until morning. She's asleep. Once we're sure she's stable enough, we'll move her out of Intensive Care to a private room tomorrow, and then you can see her. And as far as I know, Royal Guards have quarantined off Sugarcube Corner, so hopefully we'll get some answers soon."

"Th-thank you, nurse." AJ shakily said.

The nurse nodded. "Again, I'm so sorry." She then walked back into the ER, and left the four friends alone in the waiting room.

The events of the night finally coming to a climax, AJ's shoulders heaved, and she quietly wept. With there being no words to say yet, Twilight, Rarity, and Fluttershy gathered around her, put their arms around each other, and held each other silently.

1.2 – SEARCHING FOR ANSWERS

PONYVILLE URGENT CARE

7 HOURS LATER

The next morning, Applejack awoke to a gentle touch on her shoulder, and looked up to see the nurse.

"Rainbow's been moved to Room 104. She's still sleeping, but you can go and see her if you want." she quietly said, as the other three were still sleeping.

"Thank you, ma'am."

"And I thought you'd like to know that the investigation at Sugarcube Corner is now underway, and Pinkie's body has been moved to a secure location to be examined. Hopefully they'll get some answers for these atrocities."

With that, the nurse returned to her rounds, and Applejack went about waking her friends, and they immediately made their way down the private wing to Room 104.

Upon entering the room as quietly as they could, they shared a hushed gasp as they looked at their friend.

Rainbow Dash lay silent in the hospital bed; chest slowly rising and falling. An oxygen mask was strapped around her muzzle, and was connected to a wheezing respirator next to the bed. Her mane was still unkempt and frazzled from the electrocution. Suction-cupped wires went from her chest to a slow but steadily-beeping heart monitor. Her entire midsection was wrapped in gauze bandages, joined with her flanks, back hooves and calves.

Applejack slowly approached the side of the bed.

"Oh Sugarcube...if only 'ah had gotten there sooner..."

Twilight came up next to her and placed a hoof on her friend's shoulder.

"You got her out of there alive. That's the best you could do."

"Thanks, Twi'. Would one of y'all mind letting Big Macintosh know to try and do what he can at the farm? If he can't, just put it on hold. I ain't leavin' her side until she's on her feet."

"We'll get another messenger. I don't think any of us want to leave her."

And so they sat there silently, waiting for their friend to come to...and wondering what was next.

Feeling slowly returned to Rainbow Dash's body. Her vision faded in and out, and by the time it cleared completely, she found herself staring at a pasty white ceiling, and she heard a raspy wheezing sound, and steady beeping.

"Hey everypony, I think she's waking up." she heard a familiar voice say.

Rainbow very slowly lifted her head off of the pillow, and saw four of her friends around the bed. She noticed the heart monitor and respirator next to her bed before returning to the pillow. She didn't utter a word yet. No doubt everything was still a haze.

"How ya feelin', sugar?" Applejack asked. Rainbow turned her head to the left side of the bed and locked eyes with her friend, slowly reaching a hoof up and removing the oxygen mask and allowed it to hang around her neck.

"Wh-what...h-happened?" Rainbow asked, her voice hoarse, not even above a whisper.

"Well, ya told me you'd come by the farm for some apple pie last night, and when you didn't show up, I thought somethin' was up. I asked around Ponyville at sunset, and no one had seen you or Pinkie all day. I went to Sugarcube Corner, and found the place dark and empty. I was about to leave when I heard a faint scream come from under the floor. It sounded like you, so I found the trap door under one of the rugs, and I got to you as fast as I could..."

Rainbow took it all in, and shuddered at the all-too-fresh memories of the horror she just experienced.

"P-Pinkie...? Is...she...?"

AJ silently shook her head.

"She's gone, Dash. When I saw what she was doing to you, I took matters into my own hooves. I just hope my hasty decision doesn't keep us from getting answers to why she was doing this."

Rainbow shakily exhaled. She rolled over on her side towards Applejack, and immediately noticed what they were all afraid she'd notice.

"M-my...my wings..." she said, her eyes tearing up.

Applejack swallowed hard, placing her front hooves gently on Rainbow's.

"Ah'm so, so sorry, Rainbow. They did everything they could for ya."

Rainbow's eyes widened at the horrifying, life-changing realization. She shuddered, and rolled onto her other side, looking away from her friends and revealing her bandaged back. There were two round red stains on the gauze where her wings should have protruded from her body. She covered her mouth and tried to suppress a sob, her shoulders heaved.

"Rainbow, ah'm...a'hm so very sorry..." AJ softly said, her voice uneasy, placing a hoof on Rainbow's shoulder, gently rolled her back over and pulled her into a hug.

Rainbow returned the hug, threw her front legs around Applejack, and burst into an uncontrollable sob, burying her face into AJ's shoulder, clinging to the workhorse as if for dear life.

"Now don't you worry none," Applejack shakily told her, beginning to cry herself. "We'll find a way through this. It'll be okay, ya hear?"

Fluttershy, Rarity, and Twilight stood by silently, tears flowing down their cheeks, all of them collectively sharing this pain, watching as the two friends held each other and cried.

When the nurse came in a half-hour later, and suggested that they let Rainbow get some rest, Rainbow was the first to refute her, claiming they could stay for as long as they wanted, and she'd rest easier with them there.

The nurse pony gave in, and said that if all goes well, Rainbow would be out of the hospital in a day or two, and be able to recover abroad.

When that night came, the time came for her friends to insist that she be left alone for some rest, but assured her that they'd be just out in the waiting room, and that they weren't going anywhere. Fluttershy was the last one out, and Rainbow softly called her back.

"F-Fluttershy?" Rainbow softly called her.

The light yellow Pegasus turned, and walked to her friend's bed.

"Yes, Rainbow Dash? Do you need something?"

"I'd like you to do me a favor, if you can."

"Of course, Rainbow. Anything. What do you need me to do?"

Fluttershy was the last one to join her friends out in the waiting room for the night, and they noticed the slightly concerned look on her face.

"What is it, Fluttershy?" Twilight asked.

"Rainbow just asked me to move some stuff out of her home, and have the Cloudsdale movers take it back up.

"Well, that was certainly fast." Rarity commented.

"Maybe she's trying to accept it and move on." Fluttershy offered.

"Or maybe she doesn't want to have to see it when she gets outta here..." Applejack stated.

Rainbow Dash trying to live the life of an earth pony. No one could fathom it yet. But they were going to have to, and quickly.

Then Rarity was hit with an idea.

"Twilight, could you help me with something?"

"Sure, what do you need?"

"I know one of us should be here at all times, but I just had a brilliant idea that would lift Rainbow's spirits when she gets out of here. If Fluttershy is going to be busy at Rainbow's house, could you take the first watch, Applejack?"

"Don't y'all worry. I ain't leavin'." AJ answered.

"Fantastic. Twilight, I'm hoping you could get me a meeting with the Princess!"

"I...suppose that can be arranged. But what can she do?"

"She can set up a meeting with someone who can help me."

"So...you want me to set up a meeting to ask if you can set up a meeting?"

"I know if anyone can do it, it's you, Twilight."

1.3 – GET WELL SOON

PONYVILLE

THE NEXT MORNING

Fluttershy silently walked through the living area of Rainbow Dash's cloud home above Ponyville. She spotted her golden tiara from the Grand Galloping Gala in it's polished oak display box. She picked it up, examined it thoughtfully, and gently closed the box and put it in her saddlebag, joining her neatly folded gala dress and a few Wonderbolts posters.

Rainbow had asked her to gather up a few sentimental items from her home, and then allow the Cloudsdale Movers to take the whole cloud formation back up to Cloudsdale.

She couldn't help but continue to question her friend's decision to do so. It felt like she was giving in. Flying was her passion, her life; it was who she was, and Pinkie had taken it all away, for reasons that were still unknown.

She took one last glance around Rainbow's former home, and exited through the front door. Before taking off from the front step, she took one last item from her saddle bag, an empty glass jar. She took off the lid, and walked over to the gently flowing rainbow fountain, and placed the open jar under the flowing spectrum of colors until it was three quarters full, and then closed the jar and flew back to Ponyville.

CANTERLOT

1 HOUR LATER

"I'm certainly impressed that you were able to schedule a short meeting on a night's notice, Twilight. How do you do it?"

"Being the Princess' protege has it's perks sometimes. But what exactly do you have in mind?"

"Oh, I don't want to spoil any surprises, or get anypony's hopes up."

The two unicorns strolled into the Princess' castle, and were immediately summoned to her audience chamber, where she was waiting at the top of a short staircase lined with a red carpet. They approached and gave a bow.

"Twilight, Rarity; a pleasure to see you two again. I wish it was under better circumstances. My complete sympathies to you and your friends, and especially Rainbow Dash. It seems we've found our source of the disappearances in Ponyville over the past few months. I've got my top investigators working on it."

"Actually, Princess, Rainbow is why we're here. Rarity has a favor to ask."

Rarity stepped forward.

"Your highness, I'm not sure how much you know of what's happened to her, but her life will never be the same. I'd like to make a garment for her to hide her...deformity, and also to lift her spirits. But I need permission to use the pattern, as well as a little help. I'm wondering if you could put me in touch with a certain someone."

"I'll certainly see what I can do, Rarity. Who do you need to see?"

PONYVILLE URGENT CARE

Big Macintosh walked into the main lobby of the care center just after dawn, with a picnic basket, and gave it to a waiting and yawning Applejack.

"Thanks, Mac. I know she'll like this better than the food they're wheelin' around in here."

Macintosh nodded at her sister.

"Eeeyup. Hope she gets out of here soon. We don't want things to start backing up at the farm."

"Well, let it back up, brother. As long as it doesn't get as bad as last year's Applebuck season, Rainbow is the priority right now."

The siblings parted, and AJ headed for Rainbow's room.

The rainbow-maned pegasus looked half-depressed, yet half-grateful to be alive.

"Appplejack, you don't have to do this." Rainbow said, not wanting to be a bother.

"Nonsense. What better way to get you on your feet sooner than to get you some farm-fresh breakfast?" AJ responded, opening the picnic basket on the nightstand, and coming up with a plate of apple cinnamon crisp, and a shiny, freshly picked red delicious apple.

"Did ya sleep well?" AJ asked her friend as she started into the tart.

"No, not really." Rainbow said, taking a second bite of the tart.

"I'm scared, AJ. What...what am I gonna do now?"

"Anything. Anything you want, Sugarcube. Now I know it ain't the easiest thing to do right now, but try and think on the bright side. A fresh start. Try not to view things as how you lived as a true Pegasus. I hope you don't take that the wrong way. I know this is devastating for you."

Rainbow didn't reply to that, and merely continued eating her breakfast.

"Also, Rainbow, where are ya gonna stay when you get outta here?" AJ asked.

Rainbow shrugged, popping the last bit of crisp into her mouth.

"I...I hadn't really given it any thought. I'm sure there's a inn somewhere in Ponyville that'll give me a night or two."

"I just want you to know, that my door is open anytime. Anytime, Rainbow. I'd be honored to have you as my guest. I don't think this is nowhere near a good time for you to be anywhere alone. There'll always be a room available for you. Just keep that in mind, alright?"

Rainbow nodded.

"Thanks, AJ. I will."

CAROUSEL BOUTIQUE

6 HOURS LATER

Twilight watched Rarity as she expertly fed fabric through her sewing machine, preparing her new garment for Rainbow.

"I'm surprised the Princess made it happen so fast. I'd be thrilled if I could finish this in time for Rainbow getting out of the hospital. I don't want everypony looking at her bandages. She'll need to be able to relax, and not worry what all of Ponyville is thinking of her if she's going to make a speedy recovery."

"Even if she's the most relaxed pony in Ponyville, I doubt her recovery will be anything but speedy. Who knows what happened to her down there..."

"Which is why I'm hoping that this will help lift her spirits and make the emotional recovery a bit easier."

"I can't imagine why it wouldn't, Rarity. I know she's gonna love it!"

PONYVILLE URGENT CARE

2 HOURS LATER

Applejack hoped that Rainbow was released from here soon, because she looked bored, depressed, and annoyed by the constant beeping of her heart monitor. She hoped a friendly face would help, when Fluttershy walked in to see how she was doing.

"Hey Rainbow. I gathered up what you wanted me to. I put it at my house until you figure out where you're going."

"Thanks, Fluttershy. I appreciate it."

"Hey, where'd Rarity and Twilight run off to?" Applejack asked.

"They went up to Canterlot this morning. They haven't been seen since."

A nurse on her rounds came in to check up on Dash.

"Heart rate's slowly getting better...blood pressure is normal. If everything stays good, I'd say you could be out of here sometime tomorrow morning. I'll be back in a few hours, let us know if you need anything."

Dash sunk her head back into her pillow with a sigh.

"I want to know what happened to Pinkie. What caused her to do this..."

"I hope they find something," Fluttershy began. "The fact that she did this without any kind of explanation, to so many ponies, is frightening."

"I wonder..." Rainbow began, looking deep in thought for a few moments.

"What is it, Dash?" AJ asked.

"Remember when we threw that surprise party for her a few months ago?"

"Yeah."

"When I went to go get her, something...wasn't right. She had placed all these inanimate objects at the table, and were talking to them and making up their own voices like they were alive. It was just...creepy. I wonder if that had anything to do with it. I'd never seen her like that before."

"At least it's over. Even if we don't get any clear answers, she'll never hurt anypony else." Fluttershy said.

"There had to have been something wrong. She acted like her normal happy and joyful self when she was doing those...things to me..." Rainbow recalled, shuddering, not wanting to think about it.

As evening came, Applejack and Fluttershy were asked by the staff to return to the waiting room, and they encouraged her to try her best to rest, and if all goes well, they'd help her get going in the morning.

But as she left the room, AJ couldn't get that depressed look in Rainbow's eyes out of her head.

1.4 – RAINBOW RELEASED

PONYVILLE URGENT CARE CENTER

THE NEXT MORNING

When Applejack woke up in the waiting room the next morning, Fluttershy was at the desk, making sure everything was good for Rainbow leaving the hospital today, and sitting in the chairs across from AJ, were Rarity and Twilight. Rarity looked like she hadn't gotten much sleep.

In her hooves, was a white gift box.

"Ya got it done that quickly?" Applejack asked, giving out a yawn. Rarity returned one.

"Yes indeed. It took most of the night, but I wanted it to be done in time for her getting out."

Fluttershy returned from the reception desk.

"They just have to do one more check-up, and then she's good to go. I just hope she can walk out of here. Especially with those back hooves..."

"I'm sure she'll do fine. She's stubborn like that." AJ reassured.

A half-hour later, a nurse came from around the corner from the private wing, and behind her, came Rainbow, walking uneasily, but gave her friends a small smile as they came over to her.

"Miss Dash, I still don't know why you won't take a wheelchair for the first few days." the nurse said.

"I can walk just fine, see?" Rainbow responded, wincing at her next step.

"Rainbow, maybe she's right. Maybe a chair would be best until-" Twilight began, only to be interrupted by the Pegasus.

"If I can't walk out of here, then I'm not leaving yet. I'm not letting all of Ponyville see me roll through town in a wheelchair. The bandages are bad enough..." she mused.

"Well then Rainbow, I've got just the thing for you!" Rarity chimed in, presenting her the gift box.

Rainbow gave a small, friendly sigh.

"Rarity, if you've made me another frou-frou, lacey outfit that I have to-" Rainbow began to protest, but then Rarity slowly opened the box, and Rainbow stopped mid-sentence.

Inside the box, was a neatly folded navy blue hoodie, with a yellow lightning bolt pattern going down the back and chest. Rainbow immediately noticed it as the pattern for the Wonderbolt flight uniforms.

On top of the hoodie, was a pair of silver goggles, with a lightning bolt between the two lenses.

"Twilight and Princess Celestia pulled some strings, and got me a meeting with Spitfire. We explained what had happened, and she decided to make you an honorary Wonderbolt!"

Rainbow bit her bottom lip, as tears quickly filled her eyelids.

Dash was absolutely speechless. She looked at Rarity, before tears ran down her cheeks, and she began quietly and joyfully weeping. Rarity handed the box to Twilight, and she came in and gave her a gentle hug.

"You don't need to say anything, darling. I was happy to do it, and so was Spitfire."

Releasing Rainbow from the embrace. Rarity grabbed the shoulders of the hoodie and lifted it from the box, it unfurled as she lifted it, and together with Applejack, they got it over her head and on her without causing any pain to her bandaged areas, and once it was on completely, her back and chest were completely concealed. Only her bandaged back hooves and part of her flanks were visible. Then Applejack gave the goggles black elastic a stretch, put them over Rainbow's head, and let them hang loosely from her neck.

"Perfect. Now, if everypony stares, it'll be because of how amazing you look!"

But the nurse still had a job to do, and instructions to give her newly released patient.

"Now Miss Dash, you need to be back here in 2 days so we can replace all your bandages. And stay off those back hooves as much as you can. Drink plenty of fluids, and get some rest."

Rainbow finally acknowledged the nurse, nodding. But all her friends knew that Rainbow didn't like to sit still for very long. And if she wouldn't be flying, what would she be doing?

"So where are you staying, Rainbow?" Twilight asked as the group exited through the front doors of the Care Center, out into the morning sun. It was the first rays of light Rainbow had gotten in 4 days.

"Well, tonight I'm staying at the Ponyville Traveler's Inn. After that, I...I really don't know where I'm going yet."

"Well, Applejack told us about her offer, and each of us are extending it. You can stay with any of us, Rainbow. We don't care who you stay with, but we don't think it's a good idea for you to be alone." Rarity said.

"Thanks guys, but now that I'm out of there, I need some time to myself, to figure out where I'm going to go from here."

Each of her friends silently disagreed, but it was her choice. They weren't going to force her. The four of them walked her to the Traveler's Inn, and the innkeeper gladly gave her a room for the night free of charge. News was starting to spread throughout town that Rainbow was the first to come back after mysteriously disappearing the past few months.

Then, deciding to honor her request for time alone, they each gave her a hug, and said goodbye, reminding her that she could come to any of them if she needed anything.

Outside the inn, before they went their separate ways to go about their day, her four friends were all still concerned about her well-being.

"It's not a good idea for her to be alone." Applejack protested.

"We all know that, AJ, but we can't force her to spend time with us. No doubt she's still devastated by what's happened to her." Twilight replied.

"Don't worry everyone. She'll come around. I...I hope." Fluttershy unconvincingly said.

PONYVILLE TRAVELER'S INN

THAT NIGHT...

Rainbow rested her chin on her hooves, leaning on the windowsill. The room was a very simple rustic style. Not too many furnishings. A table, nightstand, bed, bathroom and shower.

She had done nothing all day. She was still physically and mentally exhausted, and literally did not know what to do with herself. She felt so limited; felt like she was in the wrong body. Here she was, watching the sun slowly dip below the horizon. She glanced back at the twin bed, neatly made with a red comforter. She might as well try and get some sleep.

All throughout Ponyville, neither Twilight, Fluttershy, Rarity, or Applejack fell asleep easily that night. Before retiring for the night, Applejack stood outside the front door of her farmhouse, as the sun dipped below the hills, offering a stunning silhouette of Ponyville a few miles down the road.

"Rest easy, Rainbow. We're here if ya need us."

PONYVILLE LIBRARY

11:30 PM

Spike was having trouble sleeping soundly due to the constant rapping of hooves on the floor, as Twilight paced by her bedroom window.

"Twilight, honestly, just lay down." he grumpily said from under his blanket.

"I can't sleep, Spike. I'm worried about Rainbow."

"I'm sure she'll come to us if she needs help" the dragon mumbled, still trying to doze off.

"Well, I'm not sure about that. We all know how stubborn she can be. Even with the horrors she just went through..."

After another 15 minutes of pacing, and keeping Spike up, she decided to go down to the ground floor and read a book, as at least that way, Spike could get some sleep.

PONYVILLE TRAVELLER'S INN

"No! Ahhhh!"

Rainbow shot up in her bed, frantically looking around, and realizing where she was. She clumsily went to turn on the lamp on the nightstand, but in her haste, knocked it over, and it hit the floor with a clang, forcing her to sit in the dark until her eyes became acclimated to the dark, the only light available being the moonlight coming in from the window. She curled up in her bed and shivered.

She felt worse here than she did at the hospital. She thought for sure that it would be better once she was out on her own, but it was just worse. The nights were even more sleepless now; there were no sleeping aids the nurses could give her. The nightmares were unfaltering, and every time she woke up in a sweat.

As her eyes adjusted to the dark, she began to cry. She felt so cold...so alone. Then, something in her head clicked.

What was she doing here? Every single one of her friends had offered her a place to stay, and each told her it wasn't a good idea to be alone.

She threw the covers to the side of the bed and got up, and walked to the window, looking at the full moon illuminating Ponyville.

She made up her mind, slowly and carefully tugged on her new hoodie, and left her room, leaving a few bits on the front counter as a thank you for the generosity.

SWEET APPLE ACRES FARMHOUSE

Applejack woke up to a ferociously-barking Winona. After gaining her composure, she realized her dog was barking at a knocking at the front door. She walked down the hall to the small foyer, where Winona finally calmed down now that her master was present. She opened the door, and at her doorstep was Rainbow Dash, tears pricking her eyelids, and overall looking like she had a very rough night so far.

Several seconds passed without a word between the two friends, and Rainbow finally broke the silence.

"I-I'll take that room if it's still available." she said softly, with a small, greeting smile.

Ignoring the fact that Rainbow had walked nearly 2 miles from the inn to the Acres with her bandaged hooves in the middle of the night, Applejack chose not to chastise her recovering, broken friend, and simply smiled in return, and not saying anything, gently embraced the rainbow Pegasus, and welcomed her inside.