When Discord opened his eyes he was back in Fluttershy's cottage, but he wasn't on the bean bag. Instead, he was in a comfortable bed with a warm throw draped over his body. The middle of his body and his goat leg were bandaged and there was a strange sensation in his head.
Granted, there had always been a strange sensation in his head but this one felt different. Rather than being inside his head, this felt like it was on the surface of his scalp. He reached back around with his eage hand and felt another, smaller bandage there. He winced as the movement caused his ribs to give sharp protest and collapsed back down on the soft mattress. As long as he kept still, he felt like he was floating, happily. Any movement destroyed that illusion and the pain returned, so he lay there, happily basking in the warmth and post-anaesthetic haze. Yes--as long as he kept still he could die happy.
"You can't stay," Fluttershy was saying. "I'm very grateful for the offer, but if Discord wakes up I don't want him to be startled. He's only just getting used to me."
Discord had been moved from the hospital to her home in the early hours of the morning. Everyone was clearly tired and hungry but they were reluctant to her leave her alone with the draconequus.
"What if he wakes up and regains his powers?" asked Rainbow Dash. "How are we going to get to you in time?"
"Princess Celestia thought of that," spoke up a bleary-eyed Twilight. "There's a tracking spell on each of our Elements. If Fluttershy is in trouble we'll be able to Teleport to wherever she is as long as she's wearing her element." Twilight would have been much more excited about the advanced magic required to use this sort of spell, but right now she only wanted her bed. Or at least, Fluttershy's couch.
"Whoa, I've never teleported before!" exclaimed Rainbow Dash.
"Me either," said Twilight. "Apparently it takes some getting used to."
"An' there's no chance that one of us would end up only half there?" asked Applejack somewhat nervously. "I mean, like if our front ends ended up in Mexicolt while our back ends were still buckin' apples here in Equestria?"
"The Princess assured me it was perfectly safe," explained Twilight. "But I still think we should at least spend the first night with you, Fluttershy. Just to be on the safe side."
"You can't!" she repeated. She knew that if Discord sensed a bunch of ponies nearby he might panic or worse. "The less chance there is the better. After all, he's been through a lot already."
"It sounds like he put Equestria through a lot", said Rainbow Dash.
"We still don't know the full details of that," Fluttershy reminded her friend. "I think we should wait until Princess Celestia tells us more before we jump to conclusions, right Twilight?"
"Mmm?" the unicorn's head shot upright as she heard her name. "Yeah, yeah. Exactly."
Fluttershy looked at her friends sadly. They were all exhausted. She really didn't want them to stay awake any longer for her sake. "Honestly, I'll be okay," she said. "I promise if I ever feel unsafe I'll activate my element."
"Here are all his medical notes," said Seth, stepping forward and handling her a manilla envelope stuffed with documents. "Everything about what to expect should be in there, but if there are any problems please come and see me."
"Thank you," she said, taking the folder.
"Anytime, Fluttershy," he said, smiling softly at her. Her eyes met his and she quickly dropped her gaze as she felt a blush coming on. "I...I have to go," she said. "I'm sure you're all feeling as tired as I am."
After further half-hearted mumbling and offerings they took the hint and their leave.
As soon as the door was closed she broke down in tears. Why her? It wasn't as if she didn't want her friends around her, she just couldn't take that risk with him. She was scared, though. She had a dangerous creature in her house and she'd had no sleep for almost twenty-four hours. Why did Celestia give this task to her of all ponies? Twilight was the competent one!
A loud, metallic clanging sound rang out through the cottage and she nearly jumped out of her skin.
Angel Bunny bashed his dish against the cottage floor once more and looked at her pointedly.
"I'm sorry, Angel," she croaked. "I'll get you a salad right away."
Pull yourself together, Fluttershy. Other beings are relying on you.
She started chopping up vegetables at the kitchen counter. The normal every day task soothed her a little.
After she had put out feed for the other animals and checked on the chicken hutch, Fluttershy made herself a cup of tea and sat down on the couch with the manilla folder. She planned to have a long nap shortly after Discord's next feeding time, but for now she needed to know how best to proceed with regards to his condition. She pulled out the first sheet of the documents and read:
Race: Other (Draconequus)
Weight: 203 lbs
Blood Type: Qa
The patient was admitted to hospital and is severely underweight and suffering from malnutrition. During examination via X-ray, both the patient's rib and hip bone were observed to contain fractures. A foreign object was also observed laying perpendicular to patient's brain. He is lucky to be alive.
It should be noted that post-surgery, patients that sustain these kind of head injuries do not always make a full recovery and the injury can result in temporary, or in rare cases, permanent memory loss. This memory loss can be partial or full and is impossible to predict.
It should also be noted that after taking a blood sample, the patient's blood type actually matches that of a pony, leading me to conclude that he must actually be at least partly pony. Since he is a chimera this is likely.
Post surgery bed rest should be observed until the patient is well enough to walk again without putting undue stress on his ribs and hip, and to avoid the risk of falling while his head injury is healing.
She read through the rest of the documents, carefully. One of them detailed the procedure but used lots of medical terminology that went over her head. One detailed his list of medications and how often he needed to take them. There were painkillers, antibiotics and soothers. She rested her chin on her hoof.
It was just after four in the afternoon when she woke up, and she realized she had nodded off on the couch. Great. She was probably going to have a crick in her neck now. She stretched her sore muscles and made her way up the stairs to check on Discord. Halfway down the hallway she paused. Wht was he going to be like when he woke up? She knew he would be too full of medicine to attack her, but would he realize where he was and what had happened to him? Would he remember Celestia? Would he be able to speak?
She pushed the bedroom door open carefully. Discord was on his side, facing away from her, his head mostly under the wool throw, with only his ears, antler and horn sticking out. His long tail did not fit under the throw, and hung over the edge of her bed. His breathing made the form under the throw rise and fall.
Fluttershy silently cursed the fact that he was not facing the door. The last thing she wanted to do was startle him, but she had to face the draconequus eventually.
"Um...hello?" said as softly as she could, which for Fluttershy meant barely perceptible, but amazingly his ears flexed and he caught the sound. He shifted on the bed with a groan and managed to raise his head a little to look over at her. Fluttershy moved closer and he watched her, his eyes never leaving hers. She moved until she was on his side of the bed.
"Um...how are you feeling?" asked the pegasus, trying not to tremble as she spoke. Discord's ears flexed again but he did not respond.
"I...I know this must all be very confusing. My name is Fluttershy. I'm looking after you because you're sick. You...you had something in your brain, but it was removed at the Ponyville General Hospital. Now you're in my home and you can rest until you're better."
That would do for now. She wasn't about to go into detail about his past and Celestia. She only knew what Celestia had told her so far anyway.
Discord's tail tuft twitched one, but he gave no sign that he understood her words. She wondered if he even remembered the past few days.
"Can you understand what I'm saying?"
He tilted his head at her and she knew then that the answer was most likely "no."
"Are you hungry?" she continued. "I can make us some soup." Another head tilt. "I have a can of tomato soup somewhere. I'll make us that." She hadn't had a chance to pick up groceries and the soup required minimal effort, not to mention it sounded very comforting right now.
A strong gust of wind rattled the windows of the cottage and Discord's ears flattened instinctively. Fluttershy wondered if a storm was on the way. She had forgotten to ask Dash for the forecast. Pegasi could keep an eye on most weather, but once in a while a storm blew through that was too dangerous to attempt to control. It was certainly the right time of the year for them. She decided to have the ferrets and chickens sleep in the living room tonight. The ferrets would behave themselves around the chickens if she told them to. The monitor lizard and Angel Bunny lived indoors anyway. The tortoises were already hibernating.
It was almost time for Discord's round of meds, so she smiled softly at him and began to walk towards the door. He turned to watch her go and grunted at the pain it caused him.
"You have to keep still," she told him, but she knew that if the words weren't sinking it that it was pointless. The only way he was going to keep still was with more sedatives. She gave him one last look before she closed the door and headed down the stairs.
Before she put the soup on the stove to heat, she went outside to collect the animals. The air definitely felt different now and there were cirrus clouds in the distance. When she had been a filly her mother had told her they were called "mare's tails."
For once she was glad she didn't have too many animals at her cottage this time of year, though she wondered how the wild birds were. Some species would have flown South to Mexicolt by now, but others spent the winter here. She made a mental note to fill up the bird feeder soon. The Autumnal berries and nuts would disappear soon.
She was just ushering in the last chicken when she saw a figure coming up the path.
Oh, no! The last thing I need right now is visitors!
Still, part of her felt concerned. The gusts of chill wind were getting stronger and the light was fading and she wondered what pony in their right mind would be out in this weather. As the figure came closer she noticed it wore a cloak.
"Zecora," she whispered.
"Indeed. I know I am late and there's no light in the sky, but I have come to check on you, Fluttershy."
"I'm...fine," she said, gritting her teeth. She didn't mind that Zecora was concerned for her, but she couldn't risk anypony coming into the house. "Di...Mismatch is just upstairs, sleeping."
She felt rude standing in the doorway, but she was still trying to think of a reason that Zecora couldn't stay. "I'm very sorry but now's not a good time," she said, and winced internally. That did sound rude.
Zecora removed her cloak and her blue eyes shone fiercely.
"He isn't giving you any trouble is he? If he is you can tell me."
Fluttershy balked. Zecora seemed to be looking at her with an almost knowing expression. As if there was something she was suspicious of.
"What? No. He's actually doing much better now. He even lets me pet him."
Zecora looked visibly relieved. "Good," she said simply, with a bit more cheer in her voice.
"Zecora," said Fluttershy. "You didn't walk all the way here from the Everfree just to check on me did you?"
The zebra smiled, but not with her eyes. "I did say I would check on you didn't I, Fluttershy?"
"But it's freezing out there! I...I'm really sorry but I can't offer you shelter. I can't have anypony in my house because it might startle Mismatch and he's only just beginning to trust me." There. That was more or less the truth.
"I have a place to spend the night, there is no need to be in such a fright."
"Really? Where?" She assumed Zecora was going to say with Twilight and Spike, but she was surprised when Zecora motioned behind her with her head and said "with him."
Fluttershy could just make out the large bulk of Harry's body in the dim light.
"It is close to the time when bears should be sleeping, surely. I will venture to Harry's cave and shelter. In the morning when the storm passes I will leave early."
This was not something Fluttershy was unfamilar with. The pegasus had done a similar thing when she was younger. In the morning she had tip-toed out of the cave and left the sleeping bear to continue the winter in a deep hiberation.
"I'm really sorry, Zecora," Fluttershy repeated. The zebra laughed.
"You apologize too much, girl."
"I'm so...I mean. I can make you a hot drink at least." Zecora smiled and nodded.
Within minutes Fluttershy had made a flask of tea for the zebra. "I wanted to thank you again for all your help the other day," said Fluttershy. "I don't know what I would have done if you didn't exist." She hugged Zecora and Harry bye and closed the door once more.
"Whew." She realized she had left the cold soup on the stove and forgotten about it, so she turned on the cooker. Soon the smell of hot soup filled the air. She lit the fire and the ferrets, chickens and Angel Bunny huddled around the warmth, then returned to the kitchen and took the soup off the stove. She ate hers while waiting for Discord's portion to cool slightly and his medication to dissolve within it. She added a spoon to his bowl.
While she had never given Discord utensils before, she now felt slightly confused about the situation. How much of his personhood was still in there? Fluttershy treated all creatures with respect, but she knew they all had different needs, and continuing to treat Discord like an animal who ate food out of a bowl without a knife, fork, or spoon seemed wrong somehow. He was a person, wasn't he? She finished her soup, placed Discord's portion on a tray and carried it up the stairs.
The room was dark and she turned on the lamp next to the bed. She didn't need to for his sake. He could see her coming in the darkness. The smell of tomato soup hit his nostrils and his mouth watered. He sat up slightly and winced. Fluttershy reminded herself that there was no way he was going to be able to eat and get painkillers down him unless he sat up. When he was propped up against the headboard, she gently placed the tray on his lap.
"Eat up, it's delicious," she said.
He wasted no time, but it was not at all what she had expected. Discord picked the bowl up, cradling it in his lion paw and eagle hand and began licking the soup out of the bowl. The spoon was completely ignored as he made slurping sounds and the soup dripped down onto the bedsheets. Oops.
Her heart sank slightly at this sight. While she was glad he had an appetite, the fact that he had not shown any signs that he was a sapient being was beginning to make her wonder if his memory would come back. On the other hoof, Seth's notes had said most memory loss was temporary. Maybe she just needed to be patient. But it still ate at her. If Discord never spoke again, or couldn't remember who he was then he was brain damaged and would need to be cared for in a hospital. But would a hospital understand? Or would they just see an animal? Would he be able to go back to Princess Celestia and be cared for in Canterlot? She couldn't release him back into the wild. Not when she knew that deep down he was a person.
Her head shot upwards. "Wh-what did you say?"
He looked up at her matter-of-factly and repeated: "Shy." He flicked his right ear back and forth.
Outside the wind howled.
It didn't occur to either of them that if Fluttershy hadn't found him in the woods days ago, this winter might have been his last.
Discord waking up from general anaesthetic and enjoying the feeling is based on my own experiences when waking up from surgery. I know everyone reacts to GA differently, and some people actually react very badly to it, but for me it was heaven on earth for about an hour (until it wore off and the pain returned that is). Seriously, if someone could bottle that feeling and market it safely I would be very happy. :P
Discord's blood type is an actual Equine blood type. At first I considered giving him a crazy blood type no one else had, but since he needed blood during surgery, I gave him regular pony stuff.