Colgate was awakened by the traditional sound of an excessive number of clock alarms. She woke with a yawn and a stretch and, in accordance to instinct, went downstairs to check the clocks's proper function.
She went down the line of shelves, checking tags and turning off the bells and chimes. After going through ten of the twenty-five clocks, she stopped and considered the shelf. She levitated one clock to her and looked it in the face.
"Where'd you come from?" she quietly asked the clock.
Sepia looked over his shoulder from his position hanging up watches, "I brought it in from my wagon," he explained, "call me old fashioned, but I believe a store have something to sell."
Colgate replaced the clock on the shelf, and returned to managing the alarms, "Well, I suppose. If you're intent on tradition."
"I'm sure you could find success by bucking the trend," Sepia replied, "innovation and all."
"Alarms checked, now for the next order of business," Colgate said after setting down the last alarm, then abruptly launched herself across the room to give the senior clockmaker a hug, who stumbled sideways and fell.
"Yes, it's nice to see you too, Colgate," groaned Sepia, "you have my permission to stop crushing my lungs. I need them."
"It was terrible!" Colgate said, tightening her embrace, "I couldn't order parts, and the ledger made no sense!"
"I wouldn't worry about it," Sepia said as he tried to pry the unicorn off him, "Nopony ever really understands ledgers. Economics are their own, private sort of magic."
Colgate finally released the brown-hued pony, "So, about the whole Doctor Whoof thing..."
"I, personally, am excited to see how the town sorts out our mutual presence," Sepia answered, adding new toys to the low table.
"What I want to know is if your father also had to deal with it, or if it's just us."
Sepia paused and considered the inquiry. "No... I don't think Dad was called by anything beside his name," Sepia positioned a boxy tin dog beside a previous version of the same toy, "and 'Dad', of course."
Colgate began to assist with the restocking, and the two worked in content silence until Colgate discovered, wrapped in paper at the bottom of the box of mantle pieces, a pair of tin cylindrical objects. "What're these?" she asked, levitating them over to Sepia.
The clockmaker blushed, "Well, the road was rather long and dull, and I came by a place that sold colored glass bulbs... the bronze one's yours if you want it."
Colgate carefully placed the silver cylinder with blue bulb down, and studied the one offered to her. When she pressed one of the buttons, the talon-like holders of the light sprang open, and the bulb sprang forward a bit on an inner column. "Why are you giving me this?"
"Seems the stories of the most recent Doctor has changed a few details as they spread," Sepia said with a shrug, "how do you feel about fezzes, by the way?"
The front door swung burst open. "Colgate, I found it!" Trixie announced as she entered the Clockshop, levitating a pamphlet for a rock farm, "Pie Family Rock farm has metal, we'll just need to figure out how to turn it into gears and things, but... oh, good morning, Sepia."
"Morning," greeted Sepia.
The unicorn looked at the clocks about the store, "I see you two have gotten the stock situation sorted out."
"For the present," Colgate answered.
Trixie lowered her pamphlet, and smiled to Sepia, "So, about my job?"
The two clockmakers exchanged looks, "Well, we don't actually need any additional hooves around," said Sepia, "I hope that's not a problem."
"Oh no, completely understandable," Trixie looked at the rock farm pamphlet, "I've got a few leads anyways. Though, if you happen to get enough to cover the backpay Colgate owes me, it'd be helpful."
Sepia glanced out the window, "Do you still need a new wagon?"
The traveling magician followed the Clockmaker's gaze towards his portable store, "Well, it'll need some modifications, but if you'll cover them, I'll happily call it even."
"Deal," Sepia shook Trixie's hoof.
The reappearance of the previous Doctor Whoof became, for a time, an issue of much discussion among the gossipy ranks of Ponyville. While Sepia did his best to curve the general consensus towards Colgate's supposed tenure being a case of mistaken identity, the rumors about her would never be quite extinguished, merely left with an undercurrent of doubt.
The workshop was fully restocked within a week, and the Tock Clockshop was back in business shortly thereafter.
"So, the first thing you do next time, Colgate," Sepia instructed has he applied his weight to decompress a spring, "is look for receipts from the previous owner, then ask around about the nearest three rock farms. They'll be a source of sand and they should be able to point you towards somepony who can shape the parts," the spring snapped into place. "I'll be sure assist in any way I can if, when the day comes, you haven't run me out of town again."
"I won't run you out of town," Colgate reassured him as she sorted the wall clocks, "in fact, I never did, you ran out on your own."
"Pfft, don't be silly," Sepia waved a dismissive hoof, "Doctor Whoof would never be so silly."
"Oh, right, of course he wouldn't," Colgate smirked, "I'll keep that in mind if I ever meet him. I wonder if he'll be in need of an assistant."
"As long as you're back in time for work, shouldn't be a problem," said Sepia.
The door creaked open, and in poked the head of a young pegasus colt, eyes wide in curiosity, "Excuse me, sir?"
Sepia smiled at the visitor, "Yes?"
"Are you really the Doctor?"
Sepia considered his answer carefully. "What do you think?" he said with a reassuring smile.
The young pegasus grinned as he entered the store, "Do you really have a magic screwdriver?"
"I have a lot of screwdrivers," Sepia answered as he nodded toward his tool belt besides him, on the sales counter, "not sure about magic. I also have this:" Sepia grabbed the false sonic screwdriver from the belt, and let it whirr a moment.
The young pegasus's smile widened considerably as he let out a quiet "Wow." Then, after a thought, said, "I need to tell my friends!" then ran out of the store.
"That was rather…" Colgate searched for the word.
"Interesting?" suggested Sepia as he returned to working on the clock he had on the sales counter.
"I was thinking something along the lines of 'pandering', but it was interesting," Colgate said as she synchronized the pendulums about the store. "What's been with you? Why've you suddenly started embracing the Doctor Whoof image?"
Sepia shrugged, "I've decided it's just too much effort to fight anymore," he answered, "and really, what does it matter. I know who I am, I'm confident in my work, and I have close friends who recognize me, why should I worry what anypony else thinks?"
His assistant eyed him suspiciously, "Really now? You're sure that's your opinion?"
"And you're feeling alright? No fever or dizziness?" Colgate asked as she placed a hoof on Sepia's head.
"I'm perfectly okay!" Sepia replied, brushing Colgate's hoof aside, "Can't a pony be tired of trying to escape from a fictional identity and choose to just embrace it?"
"In general, yes, I suppose, but you? Never," Colgate said, "Then again, you're the only one I know with that problem, so…"
"Look, if it turns out to be a bad idea, I can always stop," Sepia told his assistant, "until such time, might as well have some fun."
"Mail time, Doctor!" Derpy announced, cardboard box in hoof.
Colgate checked one of the many clocks, "It's a bit late in the day for delivery…"
"Oh, well, maybe, but when this came into processing I thought to myself 'Gee, this looks important, I better get this to the Doctor right away!'" Derpy explained as she put the box down before Sepia, "So I did."
Sepia nodded appreciatively to the mailmare, "Thanks, Ditzy," he said.
The box was nothing special upon casual glance, just a small cardboard box sealed with packing tape with a cheap label indicating it went through the Equestria Postal Service at standard rates, but the wax on the return address line baring the crest of Princess Luna hinted towards its more privileged handling.
"Isn't your name Derpy?" Colgate asked the mail mare.
"I don't know, maybe," answered Derpy, "Sometimes even I'm not sure. Anyways, see you later, Doctor!"
"Hold on for a moment," Sepia stopped her, "I've got a muffin in the back. It's yours if you'd like it."
"That's okay!" Derpy answered as she fluttered backwards towards the door, "I've had more than enough during my morning route," then she turned and flew out.
Colgate watched the grey pegasus go, "Now Derpy's acting strange. Did I wake up in the right Ponyville today?"
Sepia didn't have an answer.
"So, who's the package from?" Colgate asked, trotting over to look, "Ooh, a present from Luna!"
"Not a present," Sepia said as he moved the box carefully and unopened to the safe below the sales counter, "just a loan, part of a project I have going for Hearth's Warming Eve."
"But it's midsummer."
"It's a big project," Sepia offered for explanation, "just something that needs to be done, for me."
Things certainly did change about the clockshop. Sepia began to increase Colgate's duties, mostly in the business sides of things, which thrilled the young unicorn. Sepia even hung a sign in the window declaring "Pieces by Sepia Tock and Minuette", and her works also began bearing her signature as opposed to the name of the store. Neither party commented on these changes, but both welcomed them in silence. Life keeps moving forward, and there was no need to hinder the changes.
The assistant also took notice in alterations in the behavior of her colleague, as he lightened up on the crusade for his identity. He didn't surrender, but he no longer seemed to be bothered by it. He'd correct other ponies when they called by the wrong name to his face, but he now merely smirked as rumors began to appear when he went out. The sonic screwdrivers were rarely given much use; Colgate kept hers in her dresser, while Sepia's lived with the actual screwdrivers, and he'd take it out only to delight the foals. After some discussions, it was agreed that neither clockmaker would reproduce the screwdrivers for sale. It'd just take away some of the magic. In about a month's time, very few ponies identified Colgate as the Doctor, and even when they did, another pony would correct them. Soon Sepia reigned once again as the Ponyville Time Lord. Some things never change.
"This thing seems to have crystalline parts," observed Sepia as he examined the watch borrowed from the Princesses, "I wonder why."
"I still don't understand what you're up to," Colgate said as she levitated in the wood and blue paint. "All this effort to play a prank on yourself seems a little... deranged..."
"I've already done been on the other side of the arrangement," Sepia said as he put the watch back into its box, "so if I don't do it, reality might break." The clockmaker paused as he closed the watch's cover, "Clockwork by Brown Tick and Star Swirl..." he read.
"Who?" inquired Colgate.
"No clue," said Sepia, shutting the watch, then the box lid, then placed the box in the safe. "How about we go out for lunch? My treat. Just hang up the 'Out to Lunch' sign while I find the key."
"So, Colgate, tell me about yourself," said Sepia after the waiter delivered his salad and Colgate's sandwich.
Colgate giggled, "Tell you about myself? I've worked for you for years, what's there to talk about?"
"Well, that's the thing," Sepia inspected his salad and double checked that it included a fair mixture of items, "you've been my assistant for such a long time, and yet I always thought your name was Colgate. It's a little distressing to discover I don't even know that about my closest friend."
Colgate froze midbite into her sandwich, the bread and grass construction hovering at her mouth. Finally, delicately, she finished taking the bite, chewed, swallowed, and said, "I'm your closest friend?"
"Well, yes," answered Sepia, "isn't that obvious? Sure, I occasionally talk to Soarin, when he's about, and Trixie is mostly bearable, but when you get down to it, most days the only pony I have is you."
"Really? I don't think so," Sepia observed, "I'd give up fifty friendships for one great friend."
Colgate ate her sandwich silently. She swallowed her bite. "Well, I was born and raised in Canterlot, and I visit my parents there whenever I have time. I moved to Ponyville so it'd be easier to travel around to educate myself on clockmaking. Then, I was fortunate to discover I didn't have to leave, as the best teacher on the topic just happened to be in Ponyville," Colgate told Sepia, "even if he does have a few identity issues."
"Canterlot, huh?" Sepia ate some of his sandwich, "Never knew that."
"My parents are attendants in the castle," Colgate elaborated, "they usually never directly work under the princesses, but there've been times. For the most part, they just handle the little bits that get overlooked."
Sepia politely ate his sandwich, giving his apprentice an invested stare.
"I rent Ruby Punch's basement," Colgate continued, though she was beginning to feel awkward, unsure what else to say. "I have few friends about town. Anything else?"
"Well, there's the fact your name's actually Minuette," suggested the clockmaker.
"You know that already," Colgate rolled her eyes, but elaborated anyways, "my parents named me Minuette, but I've never really like that name. I got the nickname 'Colgate' from some school friends. I forget the reasoning now, but I've always just gone with it."
Sepia finished the last bite of his salad and pushed the plate away from himself in a small ceremony of concluding the meal.
"How about you, Mr. Nosy?" Colgate asked after finishing her sandwich.
"What don't you already know?" Sepia placed a few bits on the table and began to walk back towards the clockstore, "My name is Sepia Tock, I was born and raised in Ponyville by my dad, who was also a clockmaker, ponies think I'm a time lord, and I have the best apprentice in the world. Everything else is relatively insignificant."
"You should know better, Mr. Clockmaker," said Colgate as she walked beside, "no part is ever insignificant."
"Well, sure," Sepia conceded, then added, "but everything should come in its own time."
"You big softy," Colgate said with a mocking giggle.
"Says the mare named after toothpaste," Sepia shot back.
The two clockmakers returned to work.