A Town and a Memory

by Pone-Dancer

Repose From the Flames (part 2)

Flater knew that he was in a strange place as he stirred to life. For one thing, it smelled differently than the sterilized lab did. Oh no the lab! At the thought of the dreadful place his head swam with traumatizing flashbacks. The thick smoke...the screaming....the undeniable rank of fear emitted from terrified creatures... His heart hammered in his ribs as his throat closed up in panic. Taking several desperate inhales of air, his head calmed and heart slowed. There was no trace of smoke or charcoal here. In fact, it kind of smelled like laundry detergent mixed with old newspaper. Flater blinked at his own foolishness.

Familiar hoofbeats rang out nearby. Flater assumed that the cool flooring was wood paneled by the way they creaked as weight was applied. "Flater?" Suga Cane's voice gently called.

"I'm here. Just not sure where 'here' is."

Flater's friend wasted no time in locating him in the poorly furnished guest room. "There ya are silly." She stuck her head down until their eyes were level. "How'd ya even fit under there."

Flater sneezed having breathed in a dust bunny. "I suppose I subconsciously hid beneath a bed. Where are we?"

"Tha screechy scientist's house. He brought us here afta tha doctors refused ta treat ya." Suga Cane shifted a bit.

"That's odd. Why wouldn't they?" Flater was perplexed. A doctor's purpose is to aid healing from what he'd been told. He also never imagined that Whiny Voice would have a house outside of the torture ring, let alone a normal life. He always figured that the scientists lived in the lab.

Suga Cane sighed deeply. She was stumped on how to answer his question. Her friend hadn't been exposed to the real world for a long time. Ponies loved, no, craved, conformity. They feared the unknown. Fear leads to hate. An average citizen wouldn't understand why this tall, pale, fanged creature resided among them. What if it ate flesh? What if it sucked them dry of all emotions? That bit of unease often sparked mistrust. She had to explain how the doctors took one look at his beaten face and ran off. How quick the cops were to pawn him into Whiny's care. But worst of all, they were more than willing to help her. She sucked a breath between her teeth and made a valiant attempt. "Well Flater, some ponies don't lahke weirdos. They shun 'em 'til they need 'em. More often than not we ain't needed."

As her words sunk in, Flater reached an understanding. "Suga Cane you didn't have to include yourself in the mix. I think you're perfectly normal."

"Aw shucks, stawp. Yer makin' me blush." Suga Cane snort-giggled. "They told meh ta git ya so they can monitor yer vitals."

'They' were Whiny Voice and some other official (who had a degree in Nursing). The lack of willing doctors meant that some strings had to be plucked to insure the hybrid's recovery.

Flater yawned.He pulled himself out from under the bed, stretching luxuriously. "Dang that was a tight fit. How did I ever squeeze in there?"

Suga Cane sucked on her lip as he emerged. She never notice-noticed him before, but now that he had saved her life she couldn't help it. His body no longer had the gangly awkward appearance of a colt; His form had now started to noticeably fill out into a stallion's build. Especially the chest and flank areas. His head was well shaped, and the undamaged parts of his pelt were glossy. All of that and he was still extremely tall. She swallowed in an attempt to cool her own pelt down. Her face felt like it was on fire. Thank goodness he remained blind! "Ah dunno how ya managed it." She stalls for time by answering his rhetorical question.

"Are you okay?" Flater's expression read concern.

"Uh yea. Why wouldn't ah be?" Suga Cane deadpanned as she tried to keep herself together.

"Your accent gets thicker when you're upset." Flater tilted his head. Being in a new house was stressful for anypony, so maybe she would feel fine in a few days.

"Ah ain't upset! Ah'm just...tired. Yea, tired." Suga Cane yammered. "Come on, lemme git ya ta tha nurse before they start ta come up afta us." She sidled over beside him to act as guide. At least she could do that without looking to closely again. It'd be fine if she ignored his muscles pressing up against her.

Flater happily obliged. He didn't want to find out the hard way if this house had stairs or not. Something about Suga Cane seemed...off. As his shoulder touched hers a zing shot through his system, speeding to his heart as it passed. Whatever it was sure felt nice. The air around them now hung thick, sweet, pricking his nostrils in a tantalizing manner as it traveled through. "Do you smell that?" He breathed throatily, useless eyes glazing over. It was so wonderful: like powdered sugar and donuts and vanilla.

"Nope. Nuthin' except yer singed hide." She stared intently ahead. Thankfully, there were no steps in this house.

He shook himself to snap out of his daze. Whatever it was had passed for the moment.

The nurse sat slouched at the kitchen table. His patient seemed to have recovered incredibly well, yakking his ear off nonstop. Life was not going so smoothly for him so far. Being an undercover cop really sucked the life out of a pony. Somehow his sibling Tarmac roped him into caring for these fire-scarred creatures. Heck, he actually didn't have a degree in nursing. In fact he barely passed his yearly CPR course. Thank goodness for the instructions printed on one of the air mask's tabs. And this miserable pony was acting like he was mute until this point in life. The only interesting part of this single-sided conversation were details of the lab. With several well placed nods and 'hmms' he was able to piece together a decent mental file on this matter. As the ex-scientist yipped on about highly flammable cosmetics legality, he perceived somepony's approach. IT had arrived. His back shot ramrod straight as the thing entered with aid from a young mare. In all of his life he had never seen such a horribly wonderful creature. A thing fabricated from a twisted foal's nightmares. But no, IT was solid and possibly breathing.

"We're here doc. No need ta gawk." The mare at ITs side piped up.

He scrambled around for his voice, and, grasping ahold of it, managed to croak a reply. "Of course miss. Could you have him please step over there?" His hoof motioned to the tabletop. A stupid, stupid mental decision. The mare's glance stated the obvious. He managed to plaster on a tight-lipped smile as she used a chair to aid her ascent.

"Come on Flater, onta tha table."

Flater? What kind of name was that? Freakin' gender neutral names nowadays. He stewed silently while eyeing his bag of medical equipment. Aw heck please let that be the stethoscope....

Flater balked in momentary confusion as Suga Cane's tail hit his muzzle. Oh right, the table. Whiny Voice ceased his monologue to get out of his chair for Flater to use. There was no need. The hybrid lifted his forehooves, placed them onto the table, and then easily hauled himself up. He could sense the nurse's presence as Suga Cane nudged him into correct alignment.

Now accessible, the nurse slipped a band around one of Flater's hooves. There was a slight pressure that gradualy increased with each puff of air. Flater had been checked up on before as a foal, and he could tell that something was amiss.
"Um sir? Ma'am? I think the blood pressure reader goes farther up the leg."

The nurse softly muttered some unkind words while making adjustments. Whiny Voice and Suga Cane retreated to the living room for a game of checkers. The nurse's breath tickled his side, and his voice reminded Flater of the firefighter he had met. He waited serenely as Nurse pony poked around until he figured out the air release valve. He must be pretty nervous to talk to himself like that.
A circle of cold pressed into his shoulder. The stethoscope. It appeared to be the only tool that the Nurse pony apparently knew how to operate. Flater snorted in amusement at the healer's new struggle as his sensitive ears picked up more murmuring.

"(Indecent choice words). Where the hay are the bucking lungs in this thing?! Too many yearly tax dollars die for me to do this. I could've been a banker like my mama said. But nooo, now I'm stuck here doing Celestia knows what wrong. The buck are the lungs..."

Flater pitied Nurse pony. It's not easy to pretend to be something you're not. "I believe my lungs are located behind my shoulder joints."

"Thank Luna's full moon flanks-I mean-thanks kid." Nurse pony responded gruffly, embarrassed that the hybrid had heard him. Flater dipped his head as the 'healer' found his destination. "Now breathe deeply in....out. In....out."
It was the usual lung test all doctors partook in. After making several official 'hmph' noises, the Nurse pony packed his equipment. "Your airways are back in tip-top breathing condition. The same applies for all your crew."

"That's very reassuring thank you." Flater grinned deciding to voice his suspicions. "You're really not a nurse, are you."

"What tipped you off kid." Nurse pony sarcastically admitted. There was no point in hiding out anymore. "In reality I'm actually a cop."

"Are you here to throw us into an asylum?" Flater sat down as a pang of fear spread through him.

Nurse pony considered this for a minute. "Erm, no. As much as I hate to say this you and the young mare haven't done anything illegal per se. It's your annoying scientist buddy we're taking in." He pulled out a notepad and scribbled what he learned furiously onto the paper. "Got to get this all down before I forget it."

"What?" Flater frowned. They were locking Whiny Voice up? "I know he's done some questionable things but he's changed. Can't you make an exception just this-"

"Kid, several innocent souls have perished by his hooves. That's equineslaughter." Nurse pony violently dotted an I. "And if we turned a blind eye every time a pony has 'changed' we'd have a lot more villains besides Queen Chrysalis to worry about."

"Oh." Flater's ears drooped.

"Sorry kid, life's a beach. An unfair beach." Nurse pony avoided direct eye contact with the hybrid. There seemed to be something offsetting about his insect eyes.

Flater went silent for a moment. "Your walkie talkie is crackling." He pointed out after a bit.

"Huh?" Nurse pony hadn't heard it himself but he dug through his medic bag anyway. "Thanks kid."

Flater shuffled his forehooves as Nurse pony affirmed his location to what he imagined was backup. Why one scientist needed reinforcements to arrest him Flater couldn't comprehend. It wasn't like Whiny Voice was armed or anywhere near dangerous. In fact, he seemed to be having his tail whipped in checkers based on the raucous voices emitting from the living room.

"Alright kiddo. You might want to take your filly friend there and clear out before they arrive. It'll get edgy real fast." Nurse pony clicked the bag shut. "I'm off to secure the premises."

Flater nodded a bit. "Understandable. But...what's to happen to us? We can't live by ourselves and she's definitely not my filly friend."

"Eh, I imagine that you'll stay here for a few nights before being shipped off to foster care or something. Have a nice life kid." And like a lost spirit, the undercover cop was gone.

Flater tapped a hoof on the tabletop. What am I to do? In the far distance a siren wailed. He had but minutes to act. "Suga Cane! Could you be so kind as to escort me back to the room?" His voice almost cracked as he yelled in the calmest manner possible.

"Hmm? Of course Flater. Gimme ah sec." Chair legs screeched against wooden floor. She entered in time to see him just barely avoid a rough fall off the table. "Hold yer horses! Ah'm here!" Suga Cane offered him a steady shoulder.

He accepted it gratefully. "Thanks. That could have ended in a bad way."

"Geez, yer such a klutz." She rolled her eyes good-naturedly as they navigated the house. "Here ya are." Suga Cane escorted him over to his bed.

Flater sensed her moving to leave. "Can you maybe stay for awhile? And please do close the door."

"Ah'll close it as ah leave." Suga Cane replied nonchalantly. "Besides, ah have ah game ta finish."

"Stay." He turned his head to face her. She blinked, shocked at the desperation on his face.

Sirens cried out, closer this time. "Wait..." Her brows furrowed as she caught on. "Are those sirens comin' closer?"

"Just...close the door. Please." Flater now faced the wall his voice drained of all venom. His body seemed bone tired and visibly deflated. Suga Cane swiftly heeded his advice. By the time she returned Flater had already crawled under the bed. With much exertion she managed to squeeze down next to him. Her pelt brushed his sympathetically.

A dry rustle as his head came to rest beside hers. "You forgot about the lights."

Suga Cane was too distracted by his warm breath dancing against her cheek to fully comprehend his words. "Huh?" Was her stellar reply.

"The lights. They'll ransack this place to find us. They're here for just him, but if they catch wind of any more, higher powers would want to bring us in as well." Flater knew that Nurse pony wouldn't rat them out. His higher ranking bosses might. Suga Cane seemed to comprehend the quiet urgency, for she wiggled free in a matter of seconds to complete the task.
Just in time. As soon as the last section of her tail slipped under the bedpost a loud knock reverberated the air.

"Now where'd those kids run off to?" Whiny Voice was muffled but still audible through the thin walls. "I guess I have to get it." Floorboards sighed as he crossed them. A pause. Then: chaos.

"Put your hooves up where we can see them!" A police pony roared with vocals of unbridled thunder. Whiny Voice shrieked some unrecognizable words. The cop bellowed his warning again as many hooves beat the floor in attempt of catching him. What sounded like a vase shattered to the floor. Somepony bolted down the hall. Several heavy hoofbeats followed, but a set lingered outside of their door.

The knob rattled after an uncomfortable silence. The door swung open with a soft thump. Labored breathing as the hyped cop flicked on the lights to scan the drab room. He paced about, poking at the closet.

"Ay man. What are you doing here?" A mare's voice called from the entryway. All three figures inside jolted.

"I saw this in a cartoon once. The villain hides in a nearby alley while the crowd passes by. Then he sneaks out. You know?" The nosey cop replied sheepishly.

"Jay, you're stupid." The mare cop snorted. She desperately wanted to rejoin the squad's chase. "They're cartoons, not real. You know? The part where he gets smushed by a hammer and pops back up?"

"Oh yea? I bet he's under that bed. What'll you give me if he is?" The nosey cop snapped attempting to patch up his injured ego.

"Good night. There's no way he could've fit there in such a small lot of time." Mare cop pondered for a second. "Buut...I suppose I would give you the ramen noodles I was saving for lunch."

"Ha! Get the microwave ready." Jay tip-toed towards the bed in set concentration.

As his hooves neared Suga Cane clenched her eyes shut. This was it. They'd be poked at and interrogated and probably shipped to a zoo. It was fun while it lasted.

Two gunshots sounded from farther down the hall. Jay's head shot up. "Aw what? They found him."

"I hope they used blanks. We had to sit through a whole meeting about that." Mare cop grumbled. "We really need to find a better signal."

"Oh, I suppose cartoons are just cartoons after all." Jay turned away, sadly plodding back.

Mare cop seemed to soften. "For your determination, let's just split the noodles. Fifty-fifty eh?"

"Yea! That sounds fair." His voice perked up considerably.

A horrid screech resonated from where the shots sounded. "Aw hay, they didn't tranquilize him yet?" Mare cop, exasperated, took off to lend aid.

"Yikes. I almost don't want to help." Jay muttered before galloping after her.

The two forms under the bed didn't dare to breathe until the last of the authorities left. When the final cop car rumbled off, sirens blaring, was when Suga Cane released her lips from her teeth's sharp embrace. Rusty metal of blood soaked her tongue. Her heart refused to cease hammering like a trapped rabbit. She longed to be out in the open, running and running, bucking, frolicking her distress away. The rest of her body returned from its numbness only to find a terrified Flater wrapped around it.

His eyes were undefinable, for that's how tightly they were closed. His fanged jaws were slightly agape, enough for shallow rapid breaths to pass through. His sweat-soaked coat trembled still. Every few seconds his whole body shook as light breaths were replaced by deep gulps.

Suga Cane's heart slowed in pity. He's so scared. And he was. Scared of being captured again. Scared of officials. Scared of what could happen. Scared of change. She stroked his damp mane with a gentle hoof until his spazzing stopped and his unseeing eyes opened.

"A...are they gone?" He whispered hoarsely.

"Yuppers." Suga Cane confirmed to him. "That was ah close one. Ah could feel tha cop's breath as his muzzle came at us! Ah little farther an he woulda seen us." She shivered herself. "But now even tha stragglers are gone. He put up quite tha fight ah think."

Flater nodded. "He'll be missed." Ironic in a way. Whiny Voice was the last pony who should be mourned. He untangled his limbs from hers, ears pinned apologetically.

Suga Cane happily ran about the abandoned house a few times, then returned to find Flater sitting in the doorway. She went to take a seat nearby.

"What's to become of us?" Flater asked, face solemn.

"That's ah tricky one." Suga Cane licked her mangled lips. "Ah suppose somepony will be down ta fetch us."

"I mean after that. This might be selfish, but-" He let out a choked sob. "I don't want you to leave me. Nopony has ever even slightly cared for me the way you have. There's no way...no way that they won't separate us. You're perfect. Beautiful. And I'm...me. A mutant." He sniffed head bowed under the weight of unshed tears. "I don't think I'd be able to carry on without you nearby."

Suga Cane's muzzle popped open. Flater, a solid rock wall, calmer than glass, was shattering over her. She was speechless. Fortunately, words never dried up for long. "Flater...Flater. Ya know ah'd never do somethin' like that on purpose. C'mere." She wrapped her fore hooves around his bent neck and hugged him tight. "Let's make ah pact."
Before he could protest she grabbed his head and, using one of his fangs, nicked a tiny bit of her skin open.
Slightly confused, Flater copied her. She rubbed their tiny dots of blood together by the source. Suga Cane was surprised to find that his blood was the exact hue of oil, complete with the multi-colored film.
"There. Now no mattah what we're connected by our life's liquid. Even if ah'm miles away."

Flater gingerly licked at the slight injury to keep its sting at bay. "Although the thought is nice, this still won't keep me from missing you."

Suga Cane grinned. "It's tha thought that counts silly!"

Flater finished his dialogue, drifting off into his mind. Twilight Sparkle tilted her head quizzically.
"So...then what? There's no way you both lived there until now."

"Well, Nurse pony kept to his word. Within the week we were sent off. Of all places we ended up at the Happy Hooves Orphanage." Flater laughed ruefully. "Back to where I started. Life sometimes goes full circle."

Twilight had reached a decision in her heart. "Flater. I'll gladly escort you to Sugar Cane's house so you can invite her to the party."

"You would?" Flater's puzzlement quickly grew into glee. "Oh thank you! I was going to ask you to, but wasn't sure if that was appropriate. I'm sorry if this is hard for you." His face fell.

"It wouldn't make much sense to allow one of my friends to wander aimlessly and bump into things, now would it." Twilight replied. "Besides, Pinkie and Dash ditched us."