• Published 28th Dec 2016
  • 7,237 Views, 701 Comments

Welcome to Batstralia - Damaged

A mare and her foal. A human family. A buck-load of magic. They are all coming to a sleepy little town.

  • ...

Bats in the Belfry

Language check. All in English (or 'stralian I should say, there are some things in here you may need to google).

Joyce pulled her car in at the end of the street, keeping her lights off in the predawn gloom. She waited and scanned the building as best she could with her narrowed eyes. Then she saw movement and grinned.

Blinking furiously, Steve lifted a hand up to shield his eyes from the car's headlights. "Bloody hell doc!"

Climbing out of her old station-wagon, Joyce pulled her bag out with her. "You missed your appointment." She smiled, like a shark would when it had a fish cornered. "I did a little asking around, found out when you normally go to work. You and David have been giving me the run-around, and that stops now."

"You play dirty, doc." Steve looked at the bag in Joyce's hand. "Uh, so we aren't going—"

"Back inside, I can do this examination in your home." 'I can't decide whether this is more like dealing with children, or herding cats.' Joyce followed the defeated miner back into his house. She had expected a bachelor's house to be a little cramped, dirty, or just cluttered; the house was spick-and-span. 'Cats, my kids at least do what I tell them once in a while.'

"Want a cuppa?" Already walking to the old wood-burning oven, Steve checked the water content of the kettle on it and topped it up. "How do you take it?"

'Whether I wanted any was apparently a foregone conclusion.' "I'll take white, no sugar. So when did you get the ears?" She took out her notebook and her best friend through college, a small Dictaphone, she hit record and set it on the table.

"You want the whole story, don't you?" Steve put the kettle on top of the stove and pulled out a pair of tin cups. A teabag landed in each cup.

Joyce knew he was just working up to it, and knew when to keep her mouth shut and let her patient talk.

"Started a bit after we first broke through. You gotta understand, it was crazy at first." Getting a jug of milk from the fridge, Steve walked back beside the stove to wait for the kettle to boil. "Burrow and Delves are great, were great from the start. I don't really know how it all happened, they watched us mine, we watched them mine; both sides had something to offer." He turned and looked to Joyce. "Uh, can you turn the recorder off for this bit?"

"I can, please don't talk about your condition at all." Joyce clicked the stop button on the recorder. "Okay, it's off."

"Gems, lots and lots of gems. Delves is—you haven't met him, spends most of his time in Equestria—he's a unicorn. Forget all the myths about 'em, he's a pretty cool guy. Anyway, he cast this spell on the rock in our mine, then told us to dig." Steve nearly jumped when the kettle started whistling behind him. "Stones as big as my fist. We had to hit them with a hammer to have a hope of selling them."

"Why is that?" Joyce itched to have the recorder on, but instead she had to make do with writing for all she was worth.

"Okay, so when you mine, you first of all need mineral rights where you're mining, then there will be surveys and assessments… there shouldn't be gems here, but Delves can make them practically jump out of the stone. He doesn't even want 'em, grabs up every bit of the low-grade ore we get, though." As he talked, Steve poured the tea, making sure not to lose the teabag strings as he poured. "So here we are, with probably a million dollars in really high-quality gems that are huge." Slowly stirring both cups, he poured some milk into them. "If we had gone anywhere to sell them, we would have been arrested so fast our heads would spin. So we crushed them up smaller, sold 'em for a fraction of the price."

"I guess that is pretty clever, making some good money out of it?" Joyce smiled when Steve passed her the mug of tea. "Thanks."

"No worries. And yeah, we're makin' pretty good money out of it. And you wouldn't believe what we're finding on their side." Steve didn't leave Joyce hanging on his words for long. "Gold. It's crazy, they don't even care about it, not worth their time compared to the low grade iron we have here." Steve sipped from his own cup, and to both their shock the beanie covering his head fell off, and a pair of green ears first perked forward, then folded back against Steve's head.

"If we are going to move on, I think I need to turn the recorder on again." Joyce smiled over the rim of her cup, liking that Steve was at least being honest. 'Ugh, no, bad girl. He's a patient, not a love interest.' That another voice, softer, pointed out in Joyce's head that everyone in town was potentially a patient, annoyed her. She waited for Steve to nod before reaching out and hitting record again.

"Took a while to learn more'n the basics, so we could chat properly. We were digging for gold on the Equestrian side and that's when…" Steve stopped and stood up from the table. "Uh, doc, I know it's kinda yer thing as a doc and all, but this is…" He gave a sigh and reluctantly pulled down one side of his pants.

"A tail?" Joyce's eyes latched on to the light-red hair stuffed down one leg of Steve's trousers. "That's—" She froze at the look in the man's eye. "What?"

"That." Steve pointed to the bright tattoo of a pickaxe with a rock in the background. "That's what happened."

"You got a tattoo? I don't get it…" Joyce looked at the tattoo, something about it tickling at her thoughts. She crouched down to look closer, her notepad in her hands.

"I mean, it appeared. I was digging as normal, suddenly I got all tingly and felt that… on both sides." Steve turned around, either not realizing or not caring that he swished his tail past Joyce's nose. "See? Both sides."

Connections linked up in Joyce's head, she realized what looked just like that, that she had seen before. "That's just like Candela and Limestone's—"

"Burrow—he's another one of the miners—called it a cutie mark, said it meant that's what I'm really good at. They aren't wrong." Steve grinned and tried to pull his pants up, only for Joyce's hand to stop him. "Uh, doc?"

"Hold on, I need to sketch this. I want to ask Candela what it might mean." Joyce's hand moved quickly, taking a quick impression of the tattoo. "And I need to look at that tail."

"You know, doc, if you wanted to look at my arse you could have just gotten me dinner instea—" Steve nearly fell over from laughter, when Joyce yanked his hips around forcibly. "I was joking!"

"Steve, you know I'm a doctor." Joyce pulled out a pair of latex gloves from her bag. "Anyone happen to mention what else I am?"

"Whoa! Doc! Uh, no offense, but you don't need to check in there!" Steve had to hop to get away, his pants were now firmly around his ankles.

"This is not a joke." Joyce tugged on Steve's tail as he started acting like a child. "I need to inspect you, and I don't want to infect either of us in the process. I would need a lot more glove for a rectal exam." She realized she had a good grip on him, the tail proving quite a good anchor point. "Now, are you going to behave like an adult?" 'Well, he certainly stole any and all romance from this.'

Steve was solidly hit by the one thing most males dreaded, derision by an eligible female. "Sorry, doc." He stepped closer to Joyce. "Just explain what you're doing, please?"

"Measuring, mostly." Joyce had her tape-measure out and checked the length of the red tail, the fullness of it at various points. "Okay, I need to work out how this is attached. I need to press the flesh around your dock."

"My what?" Steve jumped a little when Joyce lightly touched the apparently sensitive base of his tail. "O-Okay. The tail didn't start until recently. I got the ears first." The miner shut up when Joyce's deft fingers squeezed the new extremity, tracing and measuring it from the last vertebrae of his spine to the tip of the dock.

"Well, it seems fully formed, given the size of it." Joyce was stumped. "Can you move it?" Her answer was immediate, in the form of a wag from left to right. "Okay, enough of that. I have all the measurements I could possibly use. Let's get a look at your ears."

Steve yanked his pants up quickly, leaving his tail hanging free in his rush. "So this is all stopped right? I mean, ears and a tail I can deal with." Sitting in his chair, Steve's ears were the focus of Joyce's attention now.

"You have, without a doubt, horse-like ears." Joyce couldn't help herself, the soft, fuzzy ears just inspired a need to be rubbed, and after measuring one she gave into that need. "Okay, so ears, tail, cutie mark—" Joyce froze, not realizing she had still been rubbing one of Steve's ears until he gave a happy sigh. "Oh god, I'm so sorry!"

Blinking a few times, Steve turned and looked at Joyce as if he had just woken up from a nap. "Uh, sorry, I think I spaced out a bit there. So what's the verdict?" His ears perked up and forward.

"They're, well, pony ears. Just like Candela has. I have no idea how or why you have them, or the tail, or even the cutie mark, but I will find out." Smiling, Joyce was playing it off the cuff, she really had no idea what was happening, or if it would keep happening. "And tell Dave to come and see me. You two are as bad as each other."

"Dave? Ah, it will be his missus you need to convince. Not a bad bird, but she definitely isn't happy about his ears." Steve blushed a fraction and tucked his own back a little. "You don't seem to mind them…"

It was awkward, a little desperate, and if Joyce hadn't just spent the last half hour checking his tail and pony ears she might have let it go somewhere. "Sorry, I'm still getting over a bit of a complicated thing…" She was over him, or so she told herself. "But honestly, the ears and tail don't bother me!"

Steve gave a sigh. "But you don't—"

"I'm working with a patient, Steve." Joyce rolled her eyes at him. "Patient-doctor thing is not as sexy as movies might lead you to believe. Ask me again when I haven't just been feeling the muscle changes around your arse for five minutes, okay?" 'Damn damn damn, am I really saying this? I am, aren't I? Maybe I do need to get laid; he's kinda cute, tail and all…'

"We don't exactly see much of each other." Steve shot a grin to Joyce that was easily interpreted as his desire to change the statement.

Joyce sighed. 'Damn it if I'm not going to set myself up on a date. He looks good, he seems nice… what the hey.' "I'm gonna level with you. Mike? He wasn't in trouble, I wanted to get a look at you and Dave to make sure you're okay. I won't lie, I can't stand seeing anything hurting."

Steve cut in before Joyce could continue. "And what? He's going to be up at the mine again?"

"Yeah, actually. This," Joyce pointed at her measurements, "needs to be done regularly, so any changes can be noted. I was going to come in and bug you both for more tests. But if you agreed to more tests now, my bugging could be about something else."

"Then I will talk to Dave, he's being an idiot about it. And you will hear no complaints from me about the… testing." Steve blushed a little. "Not sure about all the tail squeezing, but the rest? I basically slept through."

"Can you write down stuff like that?" Reaching for her bag, Joyce pulled out another notepad. "Everything. I need everything that might be odd, or just seem strange. To be honest it is a little exciting to see something like this." She smiled again, dropping out of fangirl-doctor mode. "Steve, if anything really strange happens, you come and get me. I'm not joking on this, I promise I won't turn you over to any crazy lab or anything."

"Thanks." Steve looked a little like a fish out of water. "But you gotta promise the same. If you need some money, need some help, or just need somewhere to hide a while…"

Joyce could see that, with his counter offer, Steve was back into "being on equal footing" territory. 'Phooey. Why are guys like this? Ugh, egos are stupid.' "I'll do that. Not like I know a lot of people living around here." She started putting her things away in the bag, pulled the top closed, but didn't seal it.

"I guess you need to get your kids off to school?" When Joyce closed her bag, it had been a clear sign to Steve that their time was up. "So how regular are we going to be doing this?" A hopeful note raised the end of his sentence.

"Maybe we will need to make it weekly? Outside of work hours." Joyce gave her best "this is totally professional and not a come-on" smile. "So how about next Monday morning?" She made her way to the front door.

"Yeah. I don't really need to be up there that early, but if I get up there early, Dave can't say anything about me leaving early." Steve moved nimbly for such a big guy, pulling the door open for Joyce.

"I have a feeling Mike is going to sneak through the mine next Saturday, so I will see you then." Joyce made her way out into the early morning, the sound of birds getting louder and louder as they saw to their golden-hour hunting. One sound, however, caught Joyce off-guard. "The heck is that?"

The screeching sound was repetitive, sounding like a small animal that was very angry about something.

"No clue." Steve turned his ears around, then pointed. "That way."

'Well, they certainly seem useful.' Joyce trotted along beside Steve, keeping pace despite carrying her heavy bag. The screeching was growing louder right up until they found the source. "A Flying fox." She crouched down a meter from it. "Don't get closer." Her caution went unheeded by Steve for a moment, until she grabbed his arm. "I mean it. Some of them can carry a nasty virus."

"Well, I would get a shot then, right?" Steve held back from the bat that had, apparently, found some old barbed wire.

"No. If you get bitten or scratched, I would have to kill the bat and send it away for testing. So keep back." Joyce opened her bag and started rummaging through the stuff. "Can you run back to my car, there should be a bigger first-aid kit in there." No sooner had she said the words than Steve was off at a run; she would have admired his rear, but had a new patient. "So, mister bat, are you going to play nice and calm down?" She wrinkled her nose at a slightly musky scent.

The bat seemed to look up at her, and although he still screeched, it didn't seem to be with anger anymore—just fear.

Steve returned with the big case under his arm. "This what you needed?" He set the big first-aid kit down beside Joyce. "It was the only one I could find."

"This is it. Thanks." Joyce wanted to be nice, but her brain was already in "emergency care" gear, and that meant blocking out things that mattered a lot less than the life in front of her. "I need to get his head under control, and give his wings something to grab that isn't me." She started with her hands, wrapping the thickest bandage she could around her palms and first two fingers.

"What about the rest of your hand?" Steve watched as Joyce wrapped both hands up.

"I need to have some use of them." Quickly and efficiently taking out some sterilized scissors, Joyce began the task of cutting the poor bat's wing membrane where it was caught on the barbed wire.

Steve grunted a little. "Will he be able to fly after you do that?"

"Well, if one of his bones loses blood he definitely won't. This gives him a chance." Joyce pulled out the micro-fiber blanket next, bunching it up before throwing it forwards. "Sorry little guy, but I need you to focus all your attention on this." The screaming little bat started again, and Joyce worked quickly to wrap its wings up in the blanket and get one hand locked behind their neck. "Okay, I have him bundled up, and now I have no clue what to do with him." Joyce was literally at a loss.

"Well, what do you need to do with the little guy? Do you need me to drive you home?" Steve backed away a step as the bat gave an angry shriek around the blanket he was biting into. "Bigger than I thought it would be…"

"Huh, look at that." Joyce lifted the bat up into the crook of one arm, holding his head firmly still. "Little tufts on his ears." A memory of similar ears flashed in Joyce's memory, but no matter what she did the source of the insight didn't become apparent. "Let's get you home, and somewhere safe. Then I can see what is wrong with you." She gave a winning smile to Steve. "If you could, that would be great."

"Jump in, you got the keys?" Steve looked down at the mess of first-aid kit and doctor bag, and began packing them up as best he could.

'Oh damn… I had to wear jeans today…' "Uh, sure. Front left pocket." Joyce had her hands well and truly full of the bat-blanket hybrid that seemed to want to screech and bite at the same time. Tilting her hip, she tried to make what she knew was coming as free from social awkwardness as she could. When his hand slipped down the pocket of her slim jeans, Joyce had to fight the feeling of warmth that came. 'Down! He's just getting my keys.'

Steve sighed in relief when he caught the keys to the car and pulled them out. "Okay, got them. Anything I should know?" He circled around to the driver's side.

"It's an auto. Column-shift. Just get it in gear and hit the gas." Joyce managed to wiggle a finger out of the bundle she was carrying to get a back-door open and climbed into the wagon. Pulling the door closed proved harder, and until Steve reached back and did it for her she was almost going to do something silly with her foot. "Thanks, Steve."

"I couldn't leave you standing there with the little guy." Steve turned the key, starting the poor old Falcon wagon.

The ride was only short, but the only one doing any talking was the bat in Joyce's arms. When Steve held the door open for her, Joyce was so glad to get out of the enclosed space that she didn't even think to berate him for his repeated "gallant" work with doors. "Thanks, but shouldn't you be going to work?"

"Shit." Steve shook his head and took off at a run. "Saturday?" He looked back at Joyce and barked a laugh as she was wrestling the angry bat.

"Should I tell him his tail was still out?" Joyce watched the bouncing rear with its cascade of light red hair trailing down. "Nah, it looks cute." 'There you go again. He's a patient…' Carrying her passenger inside, she found a little procession forming at the door. "I'm bat!" She giggled as she neared the house. "Stand back, hurt little guy here."

"Those are some lungs on him." Mike jumped out of the way and held the door open.

Robin reached her head up, only to have it grabbed by Mike. "Hey, what's that for? Mum! Mike's being—"

"Smart. Hands away, he might bite." Joyce shot Mike a thankful-mum look. "Off to school early?" She walked through to the kitchen.

"It's not too early." Candela looked in on her friend, and watched as Joyce set the bundle of angry bat on the kitchen table. "I just wanted Mike to show me how to do some things on the computer, and then figured we might as well all go in early. Who is this?" Candela stepped up to the table, and peeked over the edge.

"I haven't picked a name for him yet, but he hurt his wing on some barbed wire. Could you get me the apple juice from the fridge, please? Mike!" Joyce turned her head and waited for her son to poke his head in. "Large syringe from the first-aid kit in the car. Bring the whole kit!" The last she had to yell because Mike was already racing out.

"This is right?" Candela set the juice on the table. "There are some bats back in Equestria, but they aren't as loud as this one…" She glanced up at the clock. "I really should be going now. If you need him, I could spare Mike for the day?"

"Oh no, I can take care of this guy once he has something in his belly." The sound of running footsteps in the house went without comment by Joyce. "Oh, thank you, hon. Load the syringe from the juice bottle, and warm it up in your hands."

Mike did as instructed, filling the needleless syringe from the bottle and closed his hands around it. "Why do you have a bat, mum?" He passed the syringe to Joyce.

"I'll tell you on the way to school." Candela extended her wing and started herding Mike out of the room. "Have fun batting." She gave Joyce a wink.

'She's getting really good with language…' "Alright. Alright." Joyce got the syringe end up to the bat's mouth and started pushing the plunger down. The screeching stopped immediately, and the bat released the blanket to focus all his attention on drinking the juice. "Oh thank you. Angry and hungry, not a good combination." She pressed down on the syringe until the whole dose of juice was fed to the fuzzy bat. "More?"

Joyce laughed when the bat gave one short screech at her, and looked at the syringe. "Let's see if I can remember your type, Mr. grey-headed flying fox. Average eyesight during the day, better at night. Great smell, average hearing." She noticed the little tufted ears swivel to her voice. "Let me wrap you up so I can keep you under control while I get the juice, okay?"

Talking to animals always worked, at least when the creature could think clearly. Joyce soon had the bat wrapped tight, only his wing-thumbs and head poking out of the tight swaddling. Loading another dose of apple-juice, she warmed it in her hand while the bat stared up at her passively. "Still want more?" The moment the tip was close, the bat lunged up and started lapping at the tip of the syringe. "That's a yes, I take it?"

"Tufts." Joyce flicked one of the bat's odd ears gently with a finger, while her other hand was feeding him. "I think that will be a good name for a handsome bat. What do you think, Tufts?" She wasn't shocked when the bat gave her a good screech this time. "Settled then."

Pressing down on the plunger, Joyce fed the bat the juice at a good rate. Judging him distracted by the food, she reached to her pocket for her phone. "Just don't scratch me or anything, until I can get this sorted…" She trailed off, scrolling through the numbers on her phone and calling an old friend. The quality of her old phone was terrible, made worse with bad reception. "Tommy? It's Joyce."

"Joyce? It's been a while. What's up?" Tom sounded like he was on the other end of a mile of string, with two plastic cups for earpieces.

"It has. Sorry about the call, but I'm in the middle of woop woop and I have an injured bat." Joyce explained her situation, but quickly added, "Hold on, I was really careful, no scratches or bites. But I'm going to need three treatments of rabies, including the IGG. Actually, make it six, but only IGG for three. And better send some epi as well."

"That stuff isn't cheap, Joyce." Tom sounded only a little concerned. "But I can get you enough for… you and the kids, and spares?"

Joyce nodded, then replied. "Yeah. You know how I am, Tommy, injured animals… injured humans…" She pulled the phone away from her ear at the bark of laughter. "I'm going to need more stuff like this, will put together a bigger order inside a week. How fast can you get the vaccine to me?"

"To 'woop woop'?" Tom laughed again. "If you promise to do a big order—at least five thou—I can get this shipped priority and half price."

"Fourteen, Hocking crescent, Cowwarr, Victoria." Smiling at the sound of laughter from her old friend, Joyce noticed that Tufts had finished his drink and was getting clingy. "I gotta go, Tommy. Get that to me by the end of the week and I promise I can get that order in."

"You got it, Joyce." Tom gave a sigh over the phone. "See ya."

"Let me find you something to grab hold of." Joyce spotted the tea-towel on the stove as the first likely target. Leaving Tufts on the table, she walked over and picked it up. Looping the towel over, she tied the ends into a good knot. "This should keep you calm."

The moment the bundled up towel was within reach, Tufts latched on with his wing-claws and pulled it close.

"Okay, now for the dangerous bit. Let me see those wings." Joyce sat down again and pulled out the bottle of antiseptic and popped the top. "The good news is, Tufts, that I have tested this on my own scratches. The bad news is it hurts like all hell." There were three wounds she focused on, the first being a tear in his left wing, near one of his finger bones. Gently teasing his wing out, she drew it out and sprayed the wound.

If Joyce had pony ears, like Candela or Steve, they would have tucked back. Tufts' little lungs shook as he screeched loudly, but the thing Joyce noticed as odd was he didn't try to scratch her, or pull the wing back. The bat's eyes locked on Joyce's, and she felt an odd connection. "I'm doing this to help, I promise."

Letting Tufts fold up his right wing, Joyce started to tease the left out. She spotted the two wounds on this one and clenched her teeth. "Hold on, please. This is going to hurt again." She was quick, getting two squeezes of the bottle's sprayer off before Tufts started to scream again. This time he yanked his wing back in and shook.

Joyce couldn't stop herself, she wrapped the bat back up in the microfiber blanket and tucked him in against her chest. "I'm sorry… I am so sorry. I had to do that." His screeching trailed off quickly; Joyce knew the sting didn't last long. "Come on, if you promise not to scratch me, you can sleep while I work out what I need to order." Clutching Tufts to her, Joyce quickly assembled a sling-bandage to hold him.

"You gonna to be good?" Watching Tufts' eyes blink a few times then close, Joyce felt content she had him settled. "Okay, you rest there and I'll order some supplies." Getting up and moving proved to not wake the bat, and Joyce felt comfortable that she had him well asleep. "Okay, first thing, more antiseptic spray…" She trailed off, grabbing a notepad and pen to start her list.

Author's Note:

Pinkie: what do you see when youre in both worlds at once?

The pink filly sighed and gave a little shrug. "Stuff. It is a bit like I can see each world, and things between them." Pinkamena looked around. "Can I go now?"


So I do this "Ask x" thing, x can be any pony within the story. You can ask them anything and I they will definitely hopefully reply. Keep the questions appropriate to the age-rating of the stories and of course, I they will answer the best question(s) in the author notes of the next chapter. The more votes a comment has the more likely I will get it to the right pony to answer, try and keep it to one answer per post! I They will pick one question per chapter.

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Awesome ponies who are already helping to keep me in keyboards and rum:
Canary in the Coal Mine
Mary Rowland

And special thanks to the following, for careful eyes and friendly words:
Cross Lament