Chapter 8: Off Again

Outside the Home of Twilight Sparkle, Ponyville, Equestria, Gaia, Autumn, 1002 C.E.

The Doctor had gone from a suspected kidnapper to a town hero in less than a period of 24 hours. The Doctor personally thought that this was a pretty good reputation change. That evening, Pinkie Pie threw a huge town party in celebration of their victory. The town repairs had already begun, the wounded were being tended to, and the ponies that Thalia kidnapped, along with Zecora, were returned to their homes in one piece. Caroze reunited with his sister at the celebration party and went on to describe to her what he and the others had done. The New Doctor disappeared right before the big ceremony that honored the present Doctor, Twilight, Derpy, Opal, and the others for their help in defeating Thalia and her army. It wasn't until late that night that the Doctor and Twilight headed back to the library. They were accompanied by Spike and Opal.

"Thanks for letting me stay in your home for the night, Twilight," said Opal as they approached the library.

"Really, it's no problem at all," Twilight replied. "I was able to mend the damaged roof quickly with some help from the future Doctor."

"Speaking of my future self, where has he run off to?" the Doctor asked. Twilight, Spike, and Opal looked amongst each other awkwardly.

"I haven't seen him since the start of the party," Spike replied. Everypony came to a halt as they realized that the lights in Twilight's home were on. "Is somepony in the library?"

Just then, the door leading into the library opened and out walked the New Doctor. He smiled and said, "Did I worry you? I'm sorry. I was busy finishing up the rest of the minor repairs that we didn't get to earlier."

"Thank you, New Doctor," Twilight replied with a sincere smile. It was then that her eyes drifted towards the TARDIS standing next to the library. "I take it that's your TARDIS."

"Correct! You should be happy to know that both my TARDIS and your TARDIS are open and ready for use once again!"

"You're leaving, aren't you?" Opal asked. Everypony fell silent. The New Doctor continued smiling as he nodded in response.

"Yes, Opal. It's time for me to get back to my own period in time. I have...somepony waiting for me."

"I see that you've gotten yourself a super special somepony!" said Spike with a teasing grin as he turned between the future Doctor and the present Doctor.

"Is that true?" asked the Doctor. Twilight looked at the Doctor and could see that he desperately wanted to smile...but he was holding it back for some reason. She then looked back at the New Doctor to see that he was looking at her; that same, warm smile was still on his face. Twilight wanted to ask the New Doctor a question that was burning at the back of her mind but she decided that it was best not to ask, especially in front of the present Doctor.

"Is it true? You'll have to find out for yourself," replied the New Doctor.

"Right, spoilers."

The Doctor chuckled a bit before letting out a loud sigh. The New Doctor then cleared his throat before saying, "Well I better be off then."

"Why don't you stay for a little while longer?" Twilight asked. "Don't you want to say goodbye to the others?"

"It's all well and good, Twilight. Your Doctor can tell the others goodbye for me. I've had to say goodbye to so many of my friends by this point...I've come to loathe that word."

He looked at Twilight and approached her. He looked like he wanted to cry but, due to either being too stubborn or too careful, he refused to show his true feelings. He came to a stop right in front of her and gave her a quick, soft kiss on the cheek. Twilight wanted to smile and cheer like a little filly but all she could do was raise one of her hooves and touch the part of her face that the New Doctor had kissed. The present Doctor was a bit surprised by the act performed by his future self, Spike rolled his eyes, and Opal smiled happily. Twilight looked deep into the New Doctor's eyes and could just make out the echo of the present Doctor's eyes staring back at her.

"Goodbye...Doctor," Twilight said calmly. The New Doctor smiled and gave a small nod before turning around and walking to his own TARDIS. He clapped his hooves and the doors flew open. Before the New Doctor entered the TARDIS, he turned around and faced the present Doctor.

"Do it. Act upon the idea in your head. You're going to need them. Now more than ever," he said. The Doctor simply nodded in return to his future self as the unicorn that he would eventually become smiled and walked into the future TARDIS, closing the doors behind him. The Doctor, Twilight, Spike, and Opal watched in silence as the TARDIS gave its signature call and disappeared from their current position in time.

Sugar Cube Corner, Ponyville, Equestria, Gaia, Autumn, 1002 C.E.

Derpy sat at the table alone while she slowly munched on her blueberry muffin. She hadn't had a blueberry muffin in a long time and, sadly, it didn't taste as good as she remembered.

"Why the long face, silly filly?!" asked the hyper voice of Pinkie Pie. Derpy nearly jumped out of her seat at the sudden appearance of the pink pony.

"Pinkie Pie! Could you please warn me before you do that next time?! It's the morning and I'm not in the mood to have a heart attack!" she snapped. Pinkie Pie shrunk back. Derpy calmed down and smiled warmly at Pinkie. "I'm sorry. I don't know what's wrong with me this morning. I should be happy, like everypony else. Everypony's alright, the town's still here, and Twilight's back in town after being gone for five months. I should be happy...but I also feel a little bit sad."

"Why is that, Derpy?"

"What's going to happen now?"

"What do you mean?"

"I'm talking about the Doctor. What's going to happen now? His future self disappeared without a trace last night during the party, I can only assume that he went back to his own time, and I'm just thinking about what our Doctor's going to do now."

"He's currently staying at Twilight's. I'm sure he'll stay in town for a while."

"Not likely, Pinkie. Look at him. He's a pony that doesn't like to stay still. He'll head off once again and I'm sure that Twilight's going to go with him."

Pinkie could tell that something was wrong with Derpy. She looked like she was holding back a wave a tears. She carefully edged her way towards the gray pegasus and wrapped her leg around her. She tried to comfort the pegasus by saying, "Derpy, I-"

"I just wish I could see the world!" Derpy stated. A few tears were running down her face. "I've been stuck in this town for Celestia knows how many years and I've done next to nothing with my life! When the Doctor arrived and all this mayhem happened, I actually felt like I could do something! The Doctor gave me the taste of adventure! Now it's all going to disappear! The Doctor's going to leave with his companion and life's going to go back to how it used to be: me being alone and useless!"

"You can't honestly believe that!" stated another voice. Derpy looked to see Applejack and Rainbow Dash approaching her. "Do you really see yourself as alone and useless?"

"I guess I should face it by this point. Who would ever want to befriend clumsy, lazy-eyed, awkward Derpy Hooves?"

"I would!" said Pinkie.

"Me too!" said Applejack.

"You helped the Doctor save me and Twilight and you even tried to fight Thalia head-on! That's guts! I never knew you had stuff like that, Derpy!" said Rainbow with a smirk. The cyan pegasus landed on the other side of Derpy and wrapped her leg around her. "Why don't you try hanging out with Pinkie and me sometime? We're pretty good at finding odd and wacky things to do!"

"You...you'd really want to hang out with me?" Derpy asked.

"Why would we not? I'd say that you've definitely deserved to start hanging out with us!" Pinkie replied. Derpy faced Applejack and Applejack nodded in return.

"Thank...thank you," Derpy said with a smile. The door to the shop opened and in walked Twilight, Spike, Fluttershy, Rarity, and Opal.

"What's going on?" Fluttershy asked as she noticed the small group gathering around the table.

"We're just inviting Derpy to join our group!" Pinkie announced. Derpy looked at Twilight and her smile faltered a bit.

"Hi, Twilight," she said.

"Hello, Derpy," Twilight replied.

"So...when do you leave?"

"Huh?"

"I know the Doctor's leaving soon. You're leaving with him again, aren't you?"

"I...I-"

"It's alright if you do, Twilight," said Spike. "I know you'll come back. Just try not to make me and the others wait five months for you to do so."

Everypony laughed and Twilight gave Spike a quick hug. Suddenly, a familiar sound began emanating from outside. Everypony turned to see the TARDIS materialize in front of the shop. Twilight and Derpy were the first to race out the front door and towards the TARDIS. The doors to the TARDIS opened and out walked the Doctor.

"Good morning, everypony! I'm finally starting to get a grasp of this world's dialect!" said the chestnut stallion.

"Doctor, what's going on?" Twilight asked.

"The next chapter, of course!"

"Next chapter?" Rarity asked.

"Of course! I've been giving it much thought and, upon meeting my future self, the realization has just hit me! There's an entirely new universe out there, waiting to be explored! I'm so excited about exploring it that my hooves are shaking! Look!"

The Doctor presented one of his hooves to the group and they were indeed shaking.

"So you're just leaving? Like that?" Derpy asked.

"Yes and no. I came here to take care of something."

"Let me guess. You came to pick up Twilight and to say goodbye to the rest of us."

Derpy's ears fell and Doctor gave a half nod.

"You're half right."

"What do you mean?"

"I have come to pick up Twilight...that is if she wants to come with me. I know that I just got you home, Twilight, and I would hate to take you away again."

"Would you be able to bring me back on time?"

"I promise to return you back to your time within a time span of five minutes following your departure!"

"Then...I accept!"

"Brilliant! Now what about the rest of you?"

Everypony fell silent. Could the Doctor really be suggesting what they were thinking he was?

Opal knew the answer was obvious but she had to ask the question anyway. She asked, "What do you mean by that, exactly?"

"I mean that I'm asking all of you if you want to come with Twilight and I. The TARDIS has enough room for a group."

"That can fit all of us?" asked Rainbow Dash with a smirk. The Doctor stepped aside and smirked back.

"Want to take a look inside?"

The group shrugged their shoulders and cautiously walked through the TARDIS doors.

The only ones not amazed by the interior of the TARDIS were the Doctor, Twilight, and Opal.

Rarity said, "It's bigger on the inside-"

"Than it is on the outside!" Derpy finished. The Doctor, Twilight, and Opal chuckled a bit upon seeing their reactions.

"Same reaction every time," the Doctor sighed as he shook his head. "I swear, the more time I spend with you ponies the more I think of humans. Personality-wise, you're certainly not that different from each other."

"All of this...is inside that little, blue box?" Spike asked.

"Pretty much," Twilight replied.

"Maybe stuff like this can explain that forest I found in that wardrobe that one time," said Pinkie Pie.

"What?" asked Rainbow Dash.

"Forest in a wardrobe. It sure surprised me when I found out that not everypony's wardrobe had a forest inside of it. I tried to prove it but then the wardrobe burned down and-"

Pinkie Pie fell silent as her eyes fell on the controls.

"What do those do?!" she asked as she bounded towards the controls. The Doctor quickly stepped into her path and kindly pushed her away from the controls.

"No touching the controls, Pinkie Pie. I already had a Dalek screw up the TARDIS earlier and that's a particular event I do not want to press the rewind button on!" he said. Pinkie's ears fell a bit but she quickly got over it as she noticed a nearby hallway. She ran down the hallway and disappeared.

"Pinkie Pie!" Rainbow called.

"Don't worry. That just leads to the swimming pool. I don't think she can do much harm there."

"You don't know Pinkie Pie like I do!"

Rainbow then sped off after the pink pony. The Doctor turned towards the other ponies and beckoned them to give him their answers.

"Ah...ah would love to come along!" Applejack replied.

"This is the chance of a lifetime! I would be a fool to turn it down!" said Rarity.

"I bet there's lots of animals out there that I could help," Fluttershy responded.

"I bet there's lots of jewels to munch on!" said Spike with a hungry glare.

"I'D LOVE TO!" cried Derpy as she wrapped herself around the Doctor.

"Derpy! You're crushing my surprisingly-fragile pony body!" the Doctor choked. Derpy let the Doctor go and stepped back, a wide smile was plastered on her face. Rainbow emerged from the hallway and she was followed by a drenched Pinkie Pie.

"Are we giving our answers now? I'm definitely coming! This ship is like twenty degrees of cool and beyond!" Rainbow replied.

"The pool is amazing!" Pinkie complimented.

"Thank you...should I consider that as a yes on your part as well?" the Doctor asked. Pinkie nodded happily, spraying a stream of water onto Rainbow and the other ponies.

"Pinkie!" cried Rarity.

"Sorry!" said the pink pony as she began drying off her mane. The Doctor smiled as he turned to face Opal.

"And you, Opal?" he asked. Opal looked at the Doctor and then towards Twilight, Derpy, Spike, and the others. They all had happy and adventurous looks on her faces. That old feeling was coming back. The feeling of adventure. The feeling of anticipation. The feeling of...running.

Opal turned to the Doctor and calmly said, "No."

Pinkie spat a stream of pool water into Rainbow's face. The Doctor's smile vanished and was replaced by a look of understanding and confusion.

"Don't you want to travel with us?" Fluttershy asked.

"Is something wrong?" Derpy asked.

"Nothing's wrong. Honestly, I do want to travel with you all. You're all amazing ponies and I've loved working alongside you again, Doctor. But the thing is...I can't do this again," Opal replied.

"How could you turn down something as amazing as traveling with the Doctor?"

"Traveling with the Doctor is an amazing experience. I encourage all of your choices one hundred percent. I'm happy that you've invited me along, Doctor, but I just can't accept your offer. Back when I first met you, I was on the brink of uncertainty. Then, when we reunited, I was quick to take up your offer to travel with you. We had many wonderful adventures Doctor, and you've yet to live them. I cherish those memories with all my heart and soul...but I can't go back. I've got a life now. I have a husband and two children waiting for me back in Canterlot and I've got a job. I'm not the unsure, adventurous, desperate 21-year-old that you're going to meet. I've grown up. I've seen the wonders of this world and lands beyond. As much as I would love to say yes and go off with you all...I just can't bring myself to do so. Thank you, Doctor. Thank you, everypony. But now's the time that I say goodbye to you all."

"We'll see each other again soon, right?" asked Pinkie Pie.

"I know the Doctor will certainly see me again. Will you all ever see me again? I guess time will tell."

Opal looked to see that everypony now had disappointed faces. She hadn't known them for that long but she already felt a strong connection to them and she could tell that they felt a connection to her. All because of that one stallion. That wonderful, amazing stallion. Opal proceeded to hug Twilight, Derpy, Spike, Applejack, Fluttershy, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, and Pinkie Pie in that order. Pinkie Pie came back for second hug which Opal accepted. Opal then proceeded to hug the Doctor tightly. She could feel tears running down her own face but she didn't want to focus on her sadness. She drew her muzzle close to the Doctor's ear and whispered, "Cherish them, Doctor. Cherish them all...cherish them both."

The Doctor looked over Opal's shoulder to see that Twilight and Derpy were standing right behind her. Their eyes looked saddened, confused, and happy all at the same time. Opal finally backed away from the Doctor and walked through the TARDIS doors. As she closed the doors, she could hear the voices of the Doctor and his new companions discussing their next destination.

"So where should we go off to next?" asked the Doctor.

"The past?" Applejack asked.

"A planet with lots of friendly creatures," Fluttershy suggested.

"Why don't we let Derpy decide?" Twilight asked.

"Really?" Derpy asked.

"I'm fine with that," said Spike. Opal heard sounds of agreement.

"Okay, Derpy Hooves. Where should we go?" asked the Doctor.

"Hmm...how about...the distant future?" she suggested.

"Excellent! Which year?"

"I don't know."

"Just pick a random year! It's alright!"

"How about...4376 C.E.?"

"Okay then! To 4376 C.E. we go!"

Opal heard excited cheers as she finally shut the doors behind her. She turned around to see two zebras running towards her.

"What's going on?" Caroze asked.

"My brother has told me about what you and the others have done. I just wanted to thank you all and go rest under the sun," Zecora said. Opal was about to respond when the TARDIS began to slowly dematerialize.

Caroze stared at the TARDIS and asked, "What's happening?"

"The Doctor's leaving...along with his new companions," Opal replied. Opal, Caroze, and Zecora stood in silence as the TARDIS dematerialized completely, its call echoing throughout the cool, autumn air.

To be continued...