Mornings always seemed to come slow in Equestria, slower than in any other known world or place. The sun was always consistent in its lethargy, its rays gently lapping against the hills and valleys as it lifted up in its tall heavenward arch. The first flickers of the morning were subtle, like a mother's soft caress against her slumbering child's velvety cheek. It acted as a wakeful lullaby, a soft call to arms for the day's coming events.
"Roseluck? Are you getting up?"
"Mmf..." The mare groaned in half-sleep, eyes flickering against the sun that bled in from the tinted blinds. She lay sprawled in a sea of disheveled covers, her nose twitching as she rolled over to the side. "What?" She peeked open an eye, wincing as the light bit into it.
Carrot Top was standing by her bedside, her creamy yellow hooves placed firmly upon the mussed mattress. Her own bed stood off to the side, its sheets crisp and made neatly despite her frazzled mane and bleary eyes. "You have work today, don't you?" she asked softly. "I know you were out a while last night, sorry." She offered a sheepish grin and dropped back to the floor, her hooves thumping gently against the carpeted ground.
Silently, Rose blinked a few times and moved to lift herself up, her movements stiff and twitchy from grogginess. Her eyes trailed around the room absentmindedly, drinking in the normalcy of her surroundings.
Everything about the room was plain, from the billowing green curtains to the dark emerald of the shaggy carpet. It had been a bit of a blessing at first, a chance to breath and take everything in, but now it all seemed dull to her.
Rose shook her head and forced herself to look at Carrot Top. "W-What?" she stammered, mouth slightly agape. It was a mindless habit of hers, a peculiar tic that forced her lips to part in thought.
"You know what? Never mind," Carrot huffed. She stuck her chin up in the air in a dramatic fashion and stepped forward, only pausing to crane her neck around to face her roommate. "The only reason I got you up was 'cause I made pancakes. Guess you don't want em'." Sighing loudly, she scrunched up her face in a faux pout.
Rose stared at her for a short second before cracking a smile. "Really, Carrot?" she shook her head, laughing softly. "Trying to feed me? Do you honestly think that I'm gonna fall for that kind of bribe?"
Stifling a large yawn with her hoof, the mare slid out from under her sheets to the floor. Wincing, she leaned forwards and stretched herself out to elicit a satisfying series of pops and cracks from her stiffened spine. For a brief second, she looked back at her unmade bed. Her light pink sheets lay in a tattered, crumpled heap near her pillow, which still bore the unmistakable indentation of where her head had lain.
For a short second, the mare jerked towards the hall and then back again, her ears swiveling about in little circles over her own indecisiveness. What was her moral obligation but to try and help clean up house? Of course, the right thing to do would be to neaten up her jumbled up covers, at least by a little so that she didn't look like a slob. Biting her lip, the mare reluctantly shimmied back to her bedside and placed her circular hooves onto the mattress' surface.
Come on, Rose. You can do this!
She spread her hind legs slightly for a better balance, wincing as she felt the rough bristles of the carpet grate against her hooves. With her brow furrowed in concentration, she stretched her neck out and grabbed a corner of a bundled up sheet with her mouth.
"Roseluck? Are you coming or not?!" Carrot called from downstairs. "They're getting cold!"
"Coming!" Rose yelled back, her voice garbled as she tugged at her mussed covers into some sort of order. Grunting in frustration, the mare clumsily brought herself down on all fours and looked down at her hooves. Useless things, the lot of them.
Sighing, she trotted out the bedroom door and down the rickety steps. They were unsteady things, creaking at the slightest touch and made from the cheapest of wood. From what she had gathered, Ponyville had been a town that had sprung up rather quickly from a population boom. Of course the houses would be built quickly, and therefore shoddily in order to meet the mass' needs.
The aroma of freshly cooked pancakes was more than enough to dispel the rambling thoughts from her head. Warm, rich batter with a hint of melting butter trailed up Rose's nose and she found herself positively salivating as she made her way into their little kitchen.
Carrot was at the counter propped up on her hind legs, a cream colored apron laced about her torso. "There you are!" She grinned and gestured towards a tiny table fit for two, her hoof sopping wet from a load of dishes that she had been scrubbing away at.
Rose stared at the two plates on their respective sides, each laden with a modest stack of fluffy brown pastries. A small cube of yellowed butter had been planted on top of each, its refuse gently melting down the sides. A trail of lingering steam rose up, blown slightly to the side from an open window above the sink. For a small moment the mare simply stood in the entrance, taking a deep whiff of sweet smelling air before walking over to take her seat. "Carrot, you really don't have to keep cooking for me like this, you know," she murmured sheepishly, unable to hide a small blush of embarrassment.
"Psh, please!" The mare scoffed from the sink, her tail whipping to the side in dismissal. "You pay the rent to live here, and a hot meal is part of that." She nodded firmly, eyes locked to her work as she scrubbed a soapy sponge against a grease-laden pan, coating it in brownish suds. "I wanna give a good impression to my new roomie and all that. Am I doing a good job?"
"Oh, fabulous!" Rose exclaimed through a mouthful of pancakes. "Still, you don't have to spoil me or anything."
"Nonsense." Waving a shriveled hoof, Carrot Top reared back down on all fours, her hooves gently clicking against the plastic linoleum as she took her own seat. "By the way, that friend of yours came by some time earlier," she announced as she speared a syrupy morsel from her plate. "You know, the brown fellow with the spiky do' and hourglass cutie mark?"
"Mmf? The Dochtor?" The mare placed a napkin against her lips, caked with residue. "Where'd he go?"
"Dunno." Carrot shrugged nonchalantly, squinting as she turned to gaze out the open window above the sink. "He left when I told him you were still asleep. Wanted to tell you to... ah, what was it?" She tapped at her skull in thought, her face scrunched up in concentration. "...Something about a box. It was kinda hard to get what he was saying since he was talking real fast. Wouldn't have been so hard to understand him if he didn't have that weird Trottingham accent, too." She giggled.
"Trottingham?" Rose slowly cupped her hoof about a glass of orange juice, brow knit in concentration as she clumsily brought the drink to her lips. "Oh, um... right."
"What? That is where you're both from, right? I mean, you have that quirky way that they talk and all."
The other mare slowed her drinking to give herself time to think of a proper reply, though as soon as she opened her mouth for an unsteady reply, Carrot interrupted her.
"Actually..." The yellow mare bit her lower lip in reluctance, her fork quietly grating about the base of her plate as she swished it about. "He seemed a little 'off', could be wrong though. I mean, I barely even know the guy, but he seemed not quite right."
"What do you mean?" Rose gently set her glass down, though stiffly. "He's pretty 'off' most of the time anyway, you know." She nearly chuckled at the thought. "You just have to get used to him, that's all."
Carrot looked uncertain as she placed her fork along the rim of her plate, reaching down to grab a napkin that had been settled on her lap. "He just seemed a bit more stressed than before, I guess," she concluded before giving her tenant a reassuring smile as she got up from her chair.
Rose paused, though wasn't all that concerned. Carrot didn't know anything about the Doctor, after all. Why shouldn't she be a little abashed by his uncommon behavior? Pleased with her own conclusion, the mare polished off the rest of her pancakes rather hastily, much to her own gluttonous delight.
Stifling a short belch, she slid out from her chair and took the time to look in front of the reflective refrigerator, just to see if she looked presentable enough for going outside. Her pinkish-red mane was a little scruffy looking, but not overly messy, though the dark bags underneath her eyes had grown progressively larger over the past few weeks. All the stress over finding a means to get home and adjusting to her new quadruped form had taken their tolls onto her. No amount of makeup would have been able to repress the sheer amount of strained stress that lingered in her eyes.
Carrot Top was preoccupied with clearing the table, though she'd occasionally throw Roseluck a few glances here and there. As much as she enjoyed getting the rent money, there was something certainly odd about her roommate. Not in a bad way, no, but odd in a peculiar, foal-like manner. The creamy colored mare could hardly make her bed in the morning, much less be able to utilize a pen onto a piece of paper.
"I'm going out to the stand now, alright?" Rose broke in, breaking Carrot's wandering thoughts as she scraped away the excess syrup from their plates into the wastebin.
"Eh?" She blinked, though managed to fumble a short smile. "Well, okay then! Save one of your roses for me this time, yeah?"
"Will do!" Rose called as she trotted to the door. Without hesitation, she leaned down her head and butted it open, eyes shut so that the sunlight wouldn't bleed into her eyes.
If there was one thing that remained the same between Ponyville and her own home, it was the sheer amount of activity that one could see in the streets. The grass had been long-since trampled into dust, leaving perfectly natural pathways that wound in-between buildings and halls alike. Several of these pathways were dotted with ponies of various hues and appendages. Some had horns, some carried wings, and some ponies like Rose and Carrot had neither such luxuries.
Placed upon the sides of the uneven streets were, naturally, plenty of kiosks and vendors to go around, all carting their own particular wares for sale. Produce, knickknacks, and other paraphernalia all up and on display as pony consumers all gathered round to sample their wares.
Rose herself was far used to such chaotic activity, and she hardly had to brace herself as she melted into the busy streets, weaving her way throughout the large crowds to her own particular stand.
It was always easy enough to find, all bundled up and squared away right next to Sugarcube Corner. It was a rickety old thing, purchased in not-so-wise haste so that she could start earning a few 'bits' to pay for rent and food.
There was an tattered tarp laying across it, and the mare had to struggle in order to fold it over. Underneath lay her wares, fresh Calla lilies that had been so thirsting for sun and nourishment. Without pause, the mare clumsily took up a watering can and sprinkled each bud generously.
Honestly, Rose herself had never known that she even had a green thumb for flowers in the first place until she and the Doctor had stumbled in. Plants had never really appealed to her before in her old life. Mostly she just saw them as pretty, but slightly bothersome in terms of their required maintenance. Not now though, now she was on the verge of finding herself a passion!
"Wonder what Mum would think of this," she murmured to herself as she set the can off to the side. The white lilies seemed to perk up instantly and stretch out their petals, a sort of thing that Rose had never gotten used to. Flowers tended not to be so energetic or, to put it in a word, 'alive'.
Even so, the mare took her place behind the counter. It was an easy enough business to just stand about and smile at anyone that decided to approach. It was certainly easier than retail work.
She kept a sharp eye out for the Doctor, and the thought of looking for him caused for her to turn a bit more worried. Suppose he had gotten into trouble and needed her to go back to the TARDIS on the town's outskirts? Suppose he had found a way to fix it?
"Oh, Roseluck, your Calla lilies look wonderful! I bet you'll take first prize at the flower show!"
A familiar, peppy pink pony trotted in front of her stand, her blue eyes nearly sparkling as she gazed at the tapestry of flora. Roseluck was quick to the beat in offering a pleasant grin at the compliment. "Thanks, Pinkie! Would you like one?" she asked. Of course there was no harm in giving away some freebies every once in awhile, especially for ponies that she could manage to remember the names for.
Pinkie's stance perked up at the proposition, and she nodded. "Absolutely!"
With a small flourish, Rose craned her neck down and picked one of the smaller buds. She threw the flower with a snap of her neck, and it was promptly devoured, much to her own chagrin.
"So much for offering some free stuff," Rose muttered bitterly, watching as the notorious party pony strolled away with a full mouth of careful work. Well, it wasn't like it really mattered in the long run.
The next hour went along as normally as any work day would have gone in her own past. Helping out some poor customer find the right flower for his sweetheart, dressing up bouquets, even just socializing was all part of the game. The Doctor had told her to try and 'immerse' into the pony society to observe their culture and habits, and going right into the field was just the right way to get a good enough picture of the world that they had stumbled into.
It was certainly a nice place, Ponyville. A little rustic, yet with just the right amount of hectic activity for her to stitch herself into. Comfortable, but certainly not viable for a permanent residence.
Sighing, Rose eased herself from her troubled thoughts and focused on the bright purple mare that had taken the time to look over her wares, her hoof brought up to her mouth in careful thought as she scanned over the showcased lilies.
"See anything you like, Miss?" Rose prodded awkwardly towards her. Names were an important aspect of pony culture, as far as she could tell. Knowing and remembering them was just common courtesy, and demanded a lot from one's memory.
"Cheerilee, dear," the mare replied, flashing a her a tiny, reserved smile. "How much are your daisies, here?" she pointed towards a little cluster of them at the side.
"Those? Well, they're just like garnish for the table, really." Rose raised an eyebrow. "Who're they for?"
Cheerilee had nearly opened her mouth to respond before another pony soon trotted, or rather stumbled towards the table. He was a scruffy looking colt, composed of various hues of light brown and chestnut save for the golden hourglass that had been so stamped onto his rump and the thick, tightly bound gauze that was wrapped about his torso, clumsily tied at the top.
He was panting, lightly, his slender body convulsing in an occasional, violent tremor, as if he were suppressing them by his own will. His expression was quite forced, a ridiculously faux smile that tugged at the corners of his lips.
"Oh, goodness!" The purple mare reached out a hoof. "Are you alright? Do you need me to call a hospital?"
"Nope!" the brown stallion chirped, albeit a tad bit too happily for his appearance. "Right as rain! Just a titch under the weather, you see? Weather, weather..." He took some steps forward and looked over Rose's flowers, his smile never once fading off.
"Doctor?!" Rose leaned forward to bring herself closer to get over the counter, scrambling as if to leap over it.
If the Doctor had heard her, he certainly wasn't listening. "Oh, Rose...luck!" he exclaimed, with a titch of delay, as if he had forgotten her 'pony' name. "Lookit all these flowers, eh? All nestling together in their little box." He leaned in as well towards Rose, so that their muzzles were merely inches apart. At that moment, his smile faded, and his expression turned deadly serious.
"You need to come with me. Now."
With those words uttered, he leaned back and turned to Cheerilee with the brightest of smiles. "Looks like Roseluck here is closing shop early! Go on, then. Off you go!" he waved a shaky hoof, dismissing her.
"Um... Well, alright then." The purple mare frowned and reluctantly walked off, casting an occasional confused glance over behind her shoulder.
The two watched her go, silently before Rose walked around her little counter, facing the frazzled stallion with a concerned frown. "Doctor? Are you-?"
"Okay? No, no, not really, but we can't talk here." The Doctor swung his head around to scan the crowds, wincing as another shiver coursed up his spine.
Rose stepped closer to let him lean against her, her legs balancing as he put his weight onto her. "You wanna go to the TARDIS? It's not that far. We can talk in there."
"Y-Yes. Good idea." The Doctor breathed a small, tired groan as his companion gently led him down along the trodden pathways.
As they reached the town's outskirts, the Doctor breathed another sigh. It was different this time, though, for as he exhaled Roseluck watched a cloud of bright, golden particles seeped from his mouth, clouding and distorting the air as they shimmered against the light of the noonday sun.