• Published 8th Apr 2017
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Paging Doctor Sparkle! - Quillamore



Twilight Sparkle is one of the foremost doctors in Equestria, but it only takes one mistake to banish her to the worst post possible: Ponyville Hospital.

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Episode One: Diagnostic Duel


Twilight Sparkle, M.D.
Ponyville Hospital, Day 1, late night

Every city has some particular little slogan that defines them. In Manehattan, it’s “everypony for themselves.” In Canterlot, it’s “shape up or ship out,” and from what I’ve seen in Ponyville thus far, theirs has to be “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard the stories before, the jokes about how much of a death trap this place is. I never really paid attention to them, but with the sheer amount of encounters with the Everfree alone today, not taking other factors into consideration, I have just one conclusion.

Ponyville is a place that needs as many doctors as it can get.

Most doctors I know would take this as a noble cause, then. Get sent to Ponyville for a few months, do some charity work, and hope the pathetic city can keep itself standing after you leave. But I haven’t spent years of toil and research to become just any old medic.

Doctor Twilight Sparkle doesn’t make mistakes. Whenever a patient dies on my watch, or any other complication goes by, I tell myself this. It’s not a mistake if I can keep them alive longer than anypony else, and I make sure everypony around me knows. As long as I tell myself this, I’ll keep rising the ranks and basking in Hospital Director Celestia’s approval.

I said that in rapidfire succession as I saw the letter that sent me here. As Hospital Director Celestia did everything she could to prove me wrong in just a few simple words.

Several complaints of bad bedside manner.

And a few after that.

Seems to look down on own patients.

Worse doctors than me have gotten by with a “bad attitude,” so she calls it. But she and I both know I have no intention of becoming those “worse doctors.” She wants the best for me, my new mantra becomes. I don’t make mistakes, and Hospital Director Celestia doesn’t stab me in the back. It’s what makes us, us.

But then, I hear Canterlot’s little message again, and think of what getting sent to a new location really means.

Shape up or ship out.

It was in that moment I knew I wasn’t going back to Canterlot. And since nopony there will ever see any of this, I guess it’s as good a time as any to really admit this to myself.

I tell myself I don’t make mistakes, just to keep myself together.

****

Twilight Sparkle, M.D.
Ponyville Hospital, Day 2, early morning

My first real medical case here starts like any other, with some amazingly gorgeous coworker asking me if I’d like to come with her on her morning muffin run. We’d been the first ponies to show up, even before the receptionist dragon. Of course, I wasn’t surprised by any stretch of the imagination, as I always make an effort to show up before anypony else. But this mare, who appears in every way to be a regular small-town nurse, has me baffled with her extreme punctuality.

To clarify: she is the type of pony who other workers at the Canterlot National Hospital would call “amazingly gorgeous,” not myself. When I say that she is, I’m saying it from a standpoint that she’s the sort society would consider reasonably attractive. Beauty is a societal convention we doctors really shouldn’t abide by, after all. It’s just a biological construct to make the mating process easier—

You know what? Scratch that, I’m embarrassing myself. All I’m saying is that with her white fur and pink mane, she could’ve passed herself off as superstar model Fleur de Lis. Speaking from a strictly professional standpoint.

Strictly. Professional.

“So that’s a no to the muffins, then?” she asks after barely ten seconds of silence. Even as she comes to this realization, she’s still smiling, something that appears to me as intensely fake.

“Considering the exorbitant amounts of sugar and low amounts of protein the average muffin contains, they’re hardly a nutritious food for breakfast or anytime else. With all that in mind, I’ll have to pass.”

Her smile is still firmly painted onto her face, but her eyes are giving me an increasingly blank look. She’s sizing me up for whatever reason, trying to update her tactics.

“You…don’t actually have to eat one,” she says. “The director thought it’d be a good idea for you to at least get to know somepony here. We’ve got at least an hour before the hospital actually opens, so…”

“It’d be better spent on prep time. I still have to make sure all my supplies are in order, even if I have checked them twice already. I intend on giving these ponies the best medical attention possible, even if they’re not used to it.”

While I do sometimes fully intend to make snide remarks at ponies who really deserve it, the minute that one came out, I could feel the tenseness flowing throughout the waiting room. And, in that moment, the smile flew straight off the other mare’s face. It was only for a second, but I swear I saw the smallest of sneers, a sly chuckle hidden underneath everything else.

“Suit yourself.”

The other mare canters out the door as fast as she can, even still with a dainty sort of step. Her medical headband, which she wore even this early in the morning, falls off as she does so, and against my own judgement, I choose to pick it up.

It might as well have been a glove dropped in anger.

She places it back on her head, gives me a strange sort of glare. Gets herself ready to go out in public again, probably with the same sort of act as before.

Is this what Hospital Director Celestia wants from me? To hide everything under this precarious mask I see the other mare wearing?

“Doctor Scarlet Redheart, since you haven’t introduced yourself,” she whispers. “I’m the director apparent here. Everypony in my family has been a nurse, and if you want to keep on my good favor, don’t call me one.”

As she slides out the door, I can’t help but wonder if I’ve already messed that much up. Hospital Director Celestia’s big task was that I was supposed to partner up with some doctor here—like some silly mystery-solving film. Today, I realize that Redheart’s just one partner to cross off the list. Partially because of that. Partially because she doesn’t come back after an hour at the muffin shop.

Not healthy, at least.

****

Twilight Sparkle, M.D.

Ponyville Hospital, Day 2, afternoon

Everypony in town so far has taken to calling me “Doc Twilight,” but I don’t have time to complain. With Redheart out of duty (for whatever reason), I have to take on her patients as well as my own. Proper names, and proper terminology, is only so much of a problem when everypony in town is getting themselves into scrapes.

Scrapes were the first part of the morning, actually, when the rainbow-maned town plumber took three foals in to have their cuts examined. Technically, she told me, she was only guardian to one of them, but they were all under her watch when the shenanigans occurred.

They happen often, according to her, since they’re always out looking for their cutie marks. That’s still no excuse for their only supervision being a mare in the middle of time-consuming labor, always out of sight.

“So I’ll quit the plumbing biz, then,” she muttered. “Been gettin’ bored of it, anyway, doc. There’s only so many times you can stick a plunger down there before you—“

“I get it. There’s no need for all the fascinatingly disgusting details.”

Just as soon as I’d finish talking, though, the mare—Rainbow Dash, her hastily-constructed badge read—began her spiel yet again.

“Anyway, I’ve been thinkin’ of starting up an amusement ride myself, for foals who can’t fly. Send ‘em around town with loop-de-loops galore and a grand finale! ‘Course, it’ll cost extra for the real special effects.”

“And how is that going to help you supervise your foal better?”

“Birds’ eye view, duh! With the flight training I have, I can totally make it work. I can do my thing and watch her at all times.”

By that point, any attempt I had at faking a smile like Ponyville Hospital’s golden mare was just not going to work. There was just too much stupidity surrounding me in one place.

“A pony’s vision, even for a pegasus so awesome as yourself, cannot detect movement from that far off the ground. And you do realize that, should you quit your job as the only plumber in town, ponies will have to go to Canterlot for their bodily needs?”

Rainbow just lined her tongue along her teeth like a particularly strict teacher, shaking her head in disapproval.

“Oh, Doc, first you tell me to quit my job, and now I shouldn’t? Sounds like a personal problem.”

I’ll spare you the rest of the transcripts of the numerous other occasions I had, since they practically all ended the same way. To make a long story short—I’m pretty sure Hospital Director Celestia had me sent here precisely because everypony here is so insufferable, I’d rather change my bedside manner than keep realizing what idiots they are.

At about 2:00 pm Canterlot time, after at least eleven reported cases of food poisoning in one day alone, Doctor Scarlet Redheart finally bothers to show up. If this is how most doctors make their morning muffin breaks, I frankly can’t fathom how they hold a job.

That sentiment stays with me for all of ten seconds. Just the amount of time needed to look Redheart in the eye and know that she’s going to be my twelfth.

Her admittedly somewhat enviable white mane has been twisted into the worst shade of green I’ve ever seen. Whatever’s caused this food poisoning—and nopony in town’s been willing to tell me all day—seems to have hit her the hardest. Nevertheless, I intend to get to the bottom of this by sheer deduction, since I now at least appear to have some lead as to how it could have occurred.

Redheart, on the other hoof, looks particularly angry and embarrassed to be on the examining table, kicking her leg almost as if she can’t be bothered to be here. If she’s supposed to be picking up on the fact that taking her in was my repayment for the utter fool I made of myself earlier, she isn’t doing a thing to indicate that.

“Have you eaten anything besides the muffins today?” I ask, at least trying to be cordial towards her.

Even if she has taken off work, left me with all her patients, and filled my schedule up to the brim, at least she’s incapacitated, I think to myself. That’s a better excuse than running off and deciding to replace Rainbow Dash as the town’s only plumber, at least.

“No,” she says curtly, still mad for no conceivable reason. “I haven’t been able to keep anything else down.”

“Did the muffin seem strange at all to you? If it happened to be doughy, then it might not have been cooked long enough for the various pathogens to be removed.”

She gives off another scoff, seeming to have completely removed her charade in the wake of her illness. Understandable, I tell myself, however reluctantly.

“I know that, and it wasn’t. It was green, but the baker likes to experiment, so I figured it was fine. You live here long enough, you know not to question her. And yeah, it tasted somethin’ terrible, but I hadn’t eaten since last night, so I figured—“

She continues her explanation in much the same manner, so much more detailed than anything the other patients have told me. I barely have room to utter a diagnosis before she practically does it herself, and even with her bad attitude and small-town upbringing, I can’t deny her skills.

“Come to think of it, one of the guest bakers, an apple farmer, seemed pretty fatigued,” Doctor Redheart finishes. “So I figure I’ll tell the team about it, and they’ll take it in. Mystery solved. Impressed at my timing, huh?”

All I can do is stare at her, still so caught up in her job even as her digestion is severely malfunctioning. Hesitantly, I wonder if I have the skills for that, and frankly, I’d rather never be put to that sort of test.

But just as I write her prescription, just as she’s about to amble out the door, she manages to surprise me, too.

“Can I tell you something, Doctor Twilight Sparkle? Here…now that nopony else is around?”

“Sure,” I answer, the only thing that manages to come out of my mouth.

“I don’t think I’m going to be here much longer,” she whispers, her voice turning vulnerable. “It’s been five good years here. It might seem a bit off the wall to you, but it’s all I know. So this morning--”

In that moment, her voice goes from zero to sixty. Not yelling at me, thankfully, but something somehow fiercer. Like a flower with a knife in its center.

“—was a test. And like I expected, you failed. You really don’t see anything in this town except another step in your grand journey. You don’t have room for friends, ‘cause you won’t be staying long.”

I struggle with explanation, trying to get her to realize that I don’t want to be here. She can keep her thankless job, for all I care. Getting back to Canterlot is all I care about.

It’s only then that I realize I’m just giving her ammunition.

“I don’t blame your director for having you go here,” she continues. “You need all the help you can get, and believe me, I had the same problem once, too. With the patients, I still need to hide it all. But with you…you’re going to see the real me. And that pony won’t let Ponyville’s only doctor just surrender to some Canterlot big shot. You’ve seen this place. If you keep impressing ponies, and I end up fired, and you end up leaving…what will Ponyville be left to then?”

She finally leaves, in a much less graceful way than before, but with no warmer words. And that’s when I realize: Doctor Twilight Sparkle may not make mistakes, but neither does Doctor Scarlet Redheart.

“I’m not going to go around Ponyville being your crime-solving buddy cop, no matter what the director says. Either I’ll force you out, or I’ll do everything I can to make you stay here forever.”

Author's Note:

I've really been into a British medical show lately, and I decided with a few tweaks, Twilight could be quite the snarky doctor. Even if it's based on medical procedurals in general, that particular show's influences on this fic explain at least some things--for instance, why Ponyville Hospital is smaller than canon and why the heck I cast Dash as a get-rich-quick plumber. (For the fun of it!) Hope you enjoy--even if it doesn't update much.

For people who have read my past dramas before--this isn't a "heroes and villains" type one like I usually write, but a "rivals to lovers" drama. Rivals to lovers is probably one of the hardest types of romance to pull off, IMO, but I adore it when it's written well. Romance writing is still new to me, so I hope I can portray those great sorts of relationships here with Twilight and Redheart. :heart: