While Dr. Heartfeld was giving Copperbolt a hasty treatment in the bedroom upstairs, Scootaloo was lying on the sofa in the livingroom in the same manner that a bearskin rug would lay flat on the floor. She was thinking about how the day had gone by, and how Copperbolt's illness somehow managed to ruin every happy moment the young filly would have with her. In just one day, two episodes happened, turning the upside-down frown on Scootaloo's face into a proper frown.
As she spent the time waiting for Heartfeld to come out of the bedroom, Scootaloo simply stared straight ahead into nothing with the eyes of a dead pony, all the while mumbling how she thought her situation was unfair. The sound of hoofsteps on the stairs woke her up though, and she opened her eyes a little wider while she raised her tiny body to look over the back of the sofa. When Heartfeld walked by the door to the livingroom, he seemed to be lost in thought, eyes pointing to the floor while his head was still pointing straight.
"How is she?" Scootaloo asked from the couch, waking the old stallion up from his pondering process. Without saying a word he looked at the orange filly, making contact with her worried eyes and quietly looking deep into them for a moment as if he was studying her mind. He finally decided to go over to her and joined her in the opposite end of the sofa, giving her a quick, but unconvincing smile as he sat down.
"She's the same as always, Scootaloo. No reason to worry," he said with a mixture of medical professionalism and grandfatherly kindness. Scootaloo returned the smile when she heard him say this, but with just as little conviction as the doctor's. She positioned herself like a sitting dog and looked at the cushion beneath her, seeming both sad and tired.
"It's just not fair…" she repeated her mumbling, although this time loud enough for the doctor to hear her, albeit her voice was still low. "Mom's such a kind pony. She's funny, she's tolerant, she's proud… she used to be athletic too. I mean you have to have been athletic to have been a Wonderbolt, right?"
She looked up at the doctor, who answered her by nodding in a slow fashion, telling her to go on. Scootaloo took a deep breath and swallowed the air as if it was a piece of food. "Why'd she have to get this sick?" she continued. "She's the kind of pony everypony should know. She had always dreamt of becoming a Wonderbolt, and when she finally did, it didn't last for more than a couple of weeks. She didn't even get to be on the posters for the grand galloping gala before this… stupid illness hit her like a brick wall. And since she had me and all to take care of all by herself, she… that her wing had to be cut off… it's just not fair…"
Neither of them said anything, leaving an air of silence as the old stallion quietly kept his eyes locked on the depressed filly that could not even find the right words to describe her feelings. He sighed deeply and turned his head a little upwards, moistening his lips as he thought of how to respond to the filly's emotions.
"Well," he began, taking his time phrasing each sentence. "Life's not always fair. Sometimes bad things happen to good ponies that even doctors like me curse at, no matter how many ill ponies we see each day. Your mother is one of those cases, definitely. But that doesn't mean you should let that rule your life. It's not like Copperbolt's life is all bad."
Scootaloo raised her pupils from the cushion and let them rest on the old doctor, who was looking to the side as he was speaking. He seemed to be staring into space, smiling a little as he spoke to cheer her up. "Sure, she became ill almost right after getting accepted into the Wonderbolts, but whenever she speaks of that short-lived career, she does so with pride that she was able to come that far. And sure, your father left her, but she still had you, didn't she? In fact, every time I speak privately with her, she can't seem to stop talking about you. She really loves you, and she definitely doesn't want to see you being so sad because of her illness."
Scootaloo felt like smiling, but her lips were unable to form. Though Heartfeld's words were comforting, they were not convincing enough for the filly to truly cheer up. He probably realized that, seeing as he was looking at her with caring and concerned eyes. He leaned in on the filly, close enough for Scootaloo to be able to see her reflection in the doctor's pupils, and whispered to her: "Have I ever told you about when I first met her?"
Scootaloo shook her head slowly in response, her face showing confusion over why the doctor would bring this up now. Heartfeld simply leaned back, gave her a heartwarming smile and started telling: "When Nurse Redheart contacted me I immediately set off to the hospital. Apparently, one of the Wonderbolts, had fainted during her training. When I arrived, Copperbolt was sleeping in one of the hospital beds, sweating from every pore of her body and breathing heavily. I had to wake her up and ask her what exactly happened. She told me how she had felt ill for weeks, but that it wasn't until that day that she actually collapsed. Amazing, really, how she could tell me all this with such a big grin on her face as if the whole incident was just a silly farce. Even with her body burning from the fever, she kept on smiling and acting cheerful.
I had to be more serious though, seeing as she seemed really ill. After running some tests, we found out that she had been infected with an incurable disease, as you know, and that it was spreading from her wing. We had to remove the wing before the infection could spread to the rest of her body. She was stubborn though. When we told her the truth, she started claiming that she didn't feel sick enough for it to be serious. She even said we must have done the tests wrong. I wish we did, but sadly, that wasn't the case. When she finally came around to the truth, her usual proud nature… well… she started screaming and cursing at me with a tear choked voice. I was even prepared for her to get violent, which she did, though only against a potted plant in the window. It took twenty minutes to calm her down and have her face reality. I know you probably don't want to think about Copperbolt acting this out of character, but I'm telling you so you can understand: Even somepony as proud as Copperbolt can lose it from time to time, if the cause is serious enough.
Anyways, when we finally got her on the operating table, she said something weird to me before I started the surgery. She told me that her trainer was fetching you from pre-school and was bringing you to the hospital, so she wanted me to do something for her. Do you know what that was?"
Scootaloo shook her head again, completely captivated in a sad and frightened way by the story.
"She wanted me to pour water over her before I allowed you to see her. I was puzzled, really, very confused by this strange request. When I asked her why she wanted this she told me: 'Because I don't want my daughter to be able to see that I'm crying'."
Swallowing a lump of spit, Scootaloo began biting her lower lip. She started moving her mouth to speak, but it took a while before she was able to actually phrase a rather simple question: "Why are you telling me this now?"
"Because," Heartfeld said as he leaned back in on the filly. He carefully placed a hoof under her chin and raised her head so their eyes would meet. "She didn't want you to be sad. She wanted to hide her tears so you wouldn't get more scared than necessary in that situation."
"But," Scootaloo said with a wimpy voice. "Why wouldn't she want me to be sad?"
"She's your mother, Scootaloo," Heartfeld gently replied. "She wants you to be happy. She doesn't want something like her condition to make you worry all the time. She wants you to smile and laugh and have fun. I'm telling you this because you're about to cry now. Now, I'm not saying that crying is a bad thing. In fact, it's good to cry every now and then. But don't let it control you. What do you think Copperbolt would feel like if you were miserable all the time? She wants you to be happy, no matter how sick she is. She doesn't want you to lock yourself up in sadness, you understand?"
After having told Scootaloo all of this, Heartfeld maintained eye contact with the silent filly, awaiting a proper response. She did not smile, nor did she cry or show any other form of emotion. Her face was empty, as if her mind was wandering in thought over what had been told her. After a while, she finally nodded and smiled a little; a weak, but definitely sincere smile. The old doctor grinned at her and gave her mane a quick nuzzle, widening her smile if only for a bit, raised his faded tan body from the sofa and did a few short stretches.
"You should go up to her, Scootaloo," he said warmly and with a less serious tone than the one he had maintained throughout their conversation. "I don't think she'd mind seeing you. And if you just keep in mind what I've been telling you, then it would definitely be worth going to her, don't you agree?"
"Yeah," Scootaloo replied with words instead of just nodding like she had been doing while he told her the story.
"I'll be going back home then. Wouldn't want to show up at the hospital sleep drunk tomorrow, right?" he said with a jokingly tone as he walked towards the door.
"Nope," Scootaloo replied as she gave him a heartwarming smile. "Thanks Candyfeld."
Returning the smile while he opened the door, he waved his hoof in goodbye. "I'll see you later then, Scootaloo."
It did not take many seconds for Scootaloo to move towards the staircase after the old doctor had left. Having heard of a side to Copperbolt that she had never even considered might exist, she felt like she had to follow Heartfeld's advice and go talk to her. She wanted to be with her anyways, so this was simply an excuse to enter the bedroom.
She slowly opened the slightly creaky door just enough for her to be able to peek into the darkness of the room. The light from the hallway partly illuminated the big bed, showing movement under the blanket that was probably caused by this very light. After mumbling some sleepy words, Copperbolt's face became more or less visible in the shadow of the darkness, and Scootaloo could just make out that she was looking at her.
"What's up, Scoot?" the tired mare spoke while she yawned, using a hoof to block its path from her mouth.
Scootaloo smiled at her and reached her little hoof to the side of the wall, searching for the light switch on the dark wall. When she clicked it, the lamp that hang from the ceiling flashed a few times before finally bathing the room in its slightly dim light, that nevertheless was bright enough at first for the brown pegasus in the bed to cover her eyes with a foreleg. Scootaloo then proceeded to walk over to the bed and sat down just beside the nightstand. She looked smilingly at the tired pegasus, who returned the smile and nodded a single time before she raised the blanket, inviting the small filly to join her in bed.
"All right, then," the mare said in a semi-whisper. "Come on up."
Scootaloo's face beamed as she did a little jump to the mattress. She positioned herself just beside Copperbolt, so she could burrow her face in the brown mare's coat beneath her neck. The pegasus' single wing cast a shadow over the orange filly as it was gently used to cover her tiny body, enveloping her in a feathery blanket, and shoving the two of them as close to each other as possible.
"So," Copperbolt said with a sweet and motherly voice as she smiled over her shoulder. "What did you wanna talk about?"
Scootaloo rubbed her cheek against the brown coat, noting both the good: How soft it was and how good it smelled, but also the bad: How very cold it felt. She moved her eyes all the way to the side, looking at the brown, fur-wall as she spoke: "I talked a little with Candyfeld downstairs."
"Oh?" Copperbolt replied normally, requesting for the filly to go on.
"He told me about the first time you went to the hospital." Scootaloo said in a low voice, unsure of how Copperbolt would react.
But Copperbolt did not remove the smile from her face. In fact, she widened it and stretched her head to the side, closer to the little filly's mane. "Well, that's a pretty boring story, isn't it?"
"I don't think so," Scootaloo replied. She moved her head to meet Copperbolt's, letting her nuzzle her mane with her mouth. "I liked hearing all that about you. I like to know everything about you. But yeah, I did get a little sad when he told me about how you tried to hide your crying by splashing a bucket of water over your head."
"Oh," Copperbolt said in a slightly lower voice that sounded a little less merry than before. "He even told you that, did he?"
Scootaloo nodded. "Yeah… But I'm glad he did. Though I wish you would've been the one who told me…"
"I see," the brown mare said as she stopped nuzzling the filly, letting her head rest on top of her mane for a few seconds before going on. "Sorry about that. Didn't think you needed to hear."
"He also told me why you didn't tell me." Scootaloo moved her head back a little and caught the brown mare's gaze. She made sure to smile at her, so she would not feel bad about not telling her. "That you did it to protect me."
Copperbolt smiled at the young filly and gave her a single nod, followed by a grin typical to her character. "That doctor just kept up blabbering, huh? Guess I know not to tell him any secrets for a while."
"Yeah," Scootaloo said as she grinned along; though the grin was only for this one joke. She did not feel sad, but she did not feel like laughing either. She kept on smiling the simplest of smiles, but did not want to go any longer than this. She wanted to be open with her mother. "Mom… can I ask you something?"
Seeming a little surprised at the filly's request, Copperbolt answered: "Well sure, honey. You don't have to ask if you can ask."
"I know," Scootaloo replied. She let her gaze drop to the white mattress below her and took her time finding the words for her question: "It's just… Why are you always doing so much for me? I know you're my mom and all, but you don't have to hide your sadness from me. I mean, you always smile and laugh and such, even though you're…"
The young filly had trouble finding the right word here, as if it was somehow taboo to say it, so Copperbolt came to her rescue by saying it herself: "… Sick?"
"Yeah," Scootaloo said with a slow nod of the head. "I don't want you to hide your feelings. I want you to be honest with me."
"Is that so?" Copperbolt answered in a low tone of voice. She looked to the side, averting her daughter's gaze as she thought up an appropriate answer to this question. "Well… Yeah, I might be hiding my tears sometimes, but it's not like I do it all the time. When I laugh and smile around you, it's because you make me do that. I don't feel sad when you're around."
"But you can't be happy all the time, even when I'm around, right?" Scootaloo said with a slightly raised voice, making the brown mare go back looking her in the eyes.
"You're right, Scoot. I shouldn't hide my feelings from you," Copperbolt answered, surprising Scootaloo because of how little a fight she put up, her stubborn nature considered. "But: You gotta stop doing that too, ok?"
This sentence caught Scootaloo off guard. In fact, it surprised her to the point that she was surprised at just how surprised she was. With a face as blank as her flank, she stared at the brown mare, whose smile was increasing as she watched the filly's reaction. "What you mean?" she answered obliviously.
"You know what I mean, Scoot," the mare said with a tone that reminded her of a lecture, yet she kept the sweetness in her voice and the smile on her lips. "Remember what I said earlier today? That you should make some friends? Well it wasn't the first time I've said that, right?"
"So what?" Scootaloo defended, forcing a big and easy to see through grin upon her face. "I don't wanna be friends with the others."
"Why not?" Copperbolt asked with a slightly louder voice.
"Because," she started answering, but she had trouble getting beyond that first word, stuttering as she searched for a reason not to befriend anypony. "Because why would I wanna be friends with any of them? You're wrong. I'm happy. I'm happy as long as I'm with you."
"Scootaloo," Copperbolt said with a deep sigh. "Aren't you just covering up like I was trying to?"
After a short break, where Scootaloo foalishly did her best to avoid looking her mother in the eyes, she stubbornly continued: "… No, I'm not. I don't need anypony besides you."
And with the worst timing imaginable, Copperbolt began coughing wildly. Loud, scary choking sounds as she let air and spit burst out of her mouth from the top of her lungs, trying to block every cough with her hoof. The wing that was covering Scootaloo was trembling lightly in between the grand shivers that every cough brought forth. The filly was even afraid she might see blood, though this luckily did not happen.
"… I'm fine as long as I'm with you," Scootaloo quietly repeated when the coughing stopped, both to prove her point to Copperbolt, but also to somehow prove it to herself.
Copperbolt was panting at this moment, seeming even more tired than she did at the playground. These spasms the illness created were always sudden and tiring, using up every ounce of strength in the pegasus' body. "Sorry about that…" Copperbolt said with a hoarse voice. She smiled to hide her fatigue, but the outburst made her lips shake as she formed them. "But Scootaloo… I love you… I really do, and I would never want to leave you… But I can't be the only pony you rely on. Equestria is full of nice ponies, dying to meet you and be your friends. I don't want to be the only pony in the world to be able to enjoy your company… Please, Scootaloo… Promise me you'll try and be more social… make some friends."
Once again, Scootaloo moved closer to her mother's body, resting her cheek on the soft, cold fur of her chest. "I don't…" she started speaking with a very low volume, but she could not find it in her to finish that sentence.
"Please, Scoot… Promise me," Copperbolt said. She tried to relax her body and lowered her head to the pillow so she could lie down while looking at her daughter. She even tried her best to manually stop her wing from shaking, but it was only able to finally do so when Scootaloo used a hoof to catch it, dragging it further up her body so it completely covered everything but her head.
"Ok, mom," the young filly finally gave in, smiling at her dear mother. "I promise."
A tired, yet sincere smile grew on Copperbolt's face. "I'm glad," she whispered and used a hoof to wave the young filly closer.
Scootaloo dragged her tiny body up to Copperbolt's head and reached her hooves around her neck, embracing the pegasus in a tight hug while she did the same to her. Gently swaying back and forth, they kept their eyes closed and quietly savored the moment. There was no need for words, but instead just the sweet bliss of their motherly and daughterly touches.
"Mom?" Scootaloo whispered into the brown mare's ear, still maintaining the same hug.
And Copperbolt answered with the same sort of tone: "Yes, honey?"
"Can I sleep in here tonight?"
A small kiss was planted on her cheek as Copperbolt slowly retracted from the hug. She gave the filly a heartwarming grin and a nod, and raised her single wing, guiding the orange filly back under the ticklish feather's sweet comfort. Scooting back into position, Scootaloo once again nuzzled against the soft coat of her mother, suddenly finding herself very tired from a long day. She gave off a long yawn, and in a matter of seconds she had ventured into dreamland.
"Sweet dreams, Scoot," Copperbolt whispered so she would not wake her up. "I'll be right next to you all night long."