Doctor Whooves and the House of Daring

By Paleo Prints

Chapter 1: State of Decay

John Doo-Smith (formerly known as "the Doctor," "the Oncoming Storm," and "The Lord of the Beepy Thing") always thought the record player hated him.

In the stubbornness with which it kept its secrets, it seemed to mock him. The strange wireless, battery-lacking thing always broke down when he had the largest loads of laundry, leaving him in bored silence. As random events stacked up, John's brain assigned a hostile personality to the little object.

It's a trait shared by every sentient race on the multiverse. Sailors on everything from longships to spacecrafts gave them a personality, anthropomorphizing them (or equimorphizing, or arachnamorphizing, or what have you). The barnacle philosophers of Darwin Seventeen would have understood, saying "Those darn rocks just want to be difficult every time the tide comes in."

Then again, its easy to be defensive when your reproductive organs are nineteen times the size of your body length.

It's possible to take it farther than usual. At that point, you don't have people blaming the oceans or the warp drive for their quirks. Instead, you get a priesthood sharpening their knives and talking about what you can do for your country.

John Smith kept things in perspective. Having spent centuries with what many suspected was an actual intelligent object, he recognized the signs. John realized that objects that malfunctioned didn't actually hate him.

Of course, there was one object in Equestria that hated John Smith with every atom of itself. Sitting in a musty sub-basement museum, it flickered in and out of consciousness for decades. Not alive, it dreamed, proving that even pulp horror writers are correct sometimes if they stop obsessing over tentacles.

To think, John thought later as he ran from that hate-filled thing through places that weren't places, I thought the in-laws were going to be a headache this weekend.

The Ponyville schoolhouse buzzed with excitement and trepidation. Today was the day on which the foals were separated from the true young adults, the haves distinguished from the have-nots. Every student waited with held breath as their time of judging drew nigh.

Today was Show and Tell.

Applebloom nervously fiddled with a jar of something sugary and fruit-related. Diamond Tiara relaxed in her desk, having as always already volunteered to go first. She cast an occasional amused glance at Scootaloo's "Awesome Thing," an irregularly-shaped stick the young pegasus had brought in. Many students assumed she had found it on the playground before school. Scootaloo gave no sign of caring. She played it cool.

Dinky was vibrating in her seat with anticipation. Her hooves fondled a small and slightly worn box. The object inside the box regularly pulsed, mimicking the beat of her heart. She realized it was time to pay attention again as Cheerilee's voice filtered into her consciousness.

"Truffle, that was a wonderful presentation on your Stalliongrad Ushanka."

The proud teacher clapped loudly as the largest colt in the class beamed, nodding underneath a gigantic furry hat.

Dinky was aware of Diamond's commenting to her side. "Is it just me," she whispered to her friend Silver Spoon, "or does his head look like a buffalo's rear?"

Dinky ignored the comment. She knew that there was no way her presentation would fail to impress the critical rich girl.

Cheerilee paused carefully as she made eye-contact with the excited young unicorn. "Dinky? Do you have something to show today?"

Dinky nodded. She leapt off of her seat and strode confidently toward the front of the room.

"Uh oh," Diamond Tiara announced in a stage whisper. "Looks who's up. Hope she finds her way to the board all right."

Dinky ignored her. Her entire social standing would change today. She turned to face the class and carefully placed a small box on the ground. She look at the class and smiled, allowing none of her fear to show. She even stared Diamond Tiara in the eye and nodded.

Let her think she's scaring me, Dinky thought. I've talked alien laser bear thingies down. Why should she scare me? It's not like she's the Smooze or anything.

"I-I've got something really cool my M-mom and Dad were working on."

As her hooves tried to open the apparently well-sealed box (she wouldn't admit to herself that they were slightly shaking), she heard a pony in the audience voice disbelief.

"Your Mom? It's a picture of a hole in a wall, isn't it?"

Dinky stared down at the box, pretending not to hear.

Cheerilee looked darkly at Diamond Tiara. "If you have nothing nice to say, please stay quiet.

We've discussed this. You get one consequence."

Bored, Diamond dropped her head to her desk. "Big deal," she whispered. "I got a warning."

Silver Spoon giggled.

"A-anyway, this is something my Mom and Dad were working on. My Dad doesn't get a lot of time to do fun stuff sometimes. He's really busy, and… "

"Busy? Isn't his shop usually empty?"

Truffle sniffed. "Please, do be ladylike," he remarked to the incredulous heckler. Pipsqueek joined in and shushed her with obvious frustration.

"Diamond," Cheerilee said with an unnerving smile. "That's your second consequence. Please move to the back of the room."

As the sound of hoofbeats retreated, Dinky placed a small metal device covered in wires and buttons onto the floor. "So, this is one of the coolest things my Dad has ever done."

Diamond Tiara snorted. "Coolest? What has he actually done that's cool? He's basically a toaster repair-pony!"

A civil war raged inside Dinky. Her mind reminded her that her Daddy's Rule Number Point Seventy-Five was "No bragging!" Her heart near breaking at the sound of her classmates ridiculing her Dad, she almost started talking about last summer's Father and Daughter Fishing Trip...

The exhausted settler wiped his hoof against his sweating forehead. He squinted at his two mysterious strangers.

"Golly," he said, "I reckon if you two hadn't-a been here them weird fish ponies mighta et me. Or worse."

"Don't mention it, Stinking Rich!" John Smith preened while adjusting his overly-decorated cowboy hat. He suddenly blinked, turning serious. "I really mean that. Don't mention it: the mer-princess, the crab castle, none of it. This is a strict 'No Mentioning Zone!' Just go back to your wagon and forget you met us."

Stinking bowed to the Doctor and Dinky. "Well, if'n there's ever something I can do for you… "

"Y'know," said Dinky, not realizing she was about to get herself grounded for a week, "Could you make sure that if you ever have a great-granddaughter she doesn't become a complete and total… "

Cheerilee leaned over the desk, staring daggers at her class. She turned, her face instantly changing as an emotional mask settled into place. "Dinky? Go on. We're all listening." Dinky stared into her warm eyes and nodded.

"All right. Well, my parents like looking at the stars, so they cobbled together some stuff to remind themselves of the ones they really like. So basically, um, they wanted to make something to find stars."

As Dinky played with buttons on the tiny object, Diamond Tiara raised a hoof. Dinky looked at Cheerilee, who nodded.

"Um. Diamond? What is it?" Dinky relaxed for a moment, the act of calling on someone making her swell with authority.

Diamond stood up. "Why do you need to find stars. They're up there, right? Shouldn't your Mom try to find people's mailboxes?"

In the seconds that followed, the only sounds were intakes of breath and Dinky's rapid hoofsteps out the door.

Pipsqueek glared. "You shouldn't say such things!"

Diamond rolled her eyes. "Shut up, Pip. No one likes you."

Out of nowhere, Cheerilee appeared in front of the sarcastic filly. She had a grin that Nightmare Moon would have been proud of. "Diamond, go to the corner. We'll discuss this with your parents. Applebloom, could you pick up Dinky's… thing? You live closest to her, so you can return it."

Applebloom nodded and trotted to the front of the class. As she picked up the machine in her mouth, it lit up. She fell back in fright as the device flew from her grip. The small widget hovered in mid-air as lines of light emanated in dozens of directions, simulating a spinning globe of the night sky with a bright planet in the center.

The entire class was speechless for seconds on end before someone spoke.

"Um, Miss Cheerilee? Did ah break it?"

Lemon Hearts tapped her hoof impatiently as she leaned against one of Ponyville's merchant stalls. Sniffling, she brushed the wooden stand's dirt off of her yellow coat and sighed. "This is a waste of our time, Minuette."

The blue unicorn next to her was nearly vibrating with excitement. "Hush up! You'll affect the wager." Minuette looked at Lemon with enough visible admonishment to earn a teaching position.

Lemon sighed. "Can't we just simply declare it over?"

The returned stared silenced her.

Minuette smiled, turning back to the show. "Hold on. I got ten bits riding on the next three minutes and fifty-three seconds."

Her attention was focused across the street. Second Chance had always considered himself one of the princes of the Ponyville street venders. His used goods and antique store drew an occasional Canterlot visitor, and the days he chose to close up shop and work a stall were always lucrative. He was the undisputed king of the wheeler-dealers.

He had also never met Sparkler Doo-Smith.

Her athletic build and well-trimmed purple coat gave most ponies the first impression somewhat equivalent to "jock." This might work most of the time for pigeon-holing Ponyville residents. In this case, Second Chance had grossly underestimated Sparkler. Where she spent her pre-teen years wasn't anywhere (or anywhen, for that matter) near Ponyville.

"So, I really don't think I could let this magnificent clock go for less than fifty bits."

Sparkler smiled. Her horn nearly sparked violet in anticipation.

"Fifty bits!" She stamped on the ground, drawing attention Second didn't want. "Fifty bits! Why, I would rather throw myself into a manticore's jaw then admit I paid fifty bits for that. Fifty bits! The shame that I would bring upon my family would last for generations. That clock would become an heirloom, passed down to tell the story of my idiocy! May timber wolves nest in my closet before I pay fifty bits for such an item."

Second frowned the frown of a cocky leopard seal getting its first sight of a killer whale. Nothing in his business history had ever prepared him for negotiating with Sparkler. On the streets that she was born there were three pastimes. You could take in a show at the theater, which was new enough that every play was a first run. Sparkler's people performed proper tragedies. You could practice bargaining skills on the streets of the busy marketplace, learning curses that would make a Saddle Arabia merchant cut deals and a camel trader spit in defeat.

Finally, you could keep an eye around the perimeter of the city for giant wooden horses and active volcanoes, but that had unfortunately fallen out of favor in the city of Sparkler's generation, and geology had assured that hers was the last settlement there except for an occasional archaeologist campsite.

Sparkler smiled the smile her gem merchant biological father had taught her. She almost felt sorry for Second Chance.

"Um," he opined. "Maybe thirty, but- "

"Thirty!" Sparkler threw a hoof dramatically across her brow. Across the street Minuette laughed while Lemon blinked in disbelief at the performance her normally quiet friend was giving. "Thirty! May I be banished to the Sun if I waste my family's money as such. May I be devoured by quarry eels within sight of my parents, for they would rejoice. Why, If you should be so bold to speak such an obscenity again, may your hooves fall off as- "

Second grabbed her shoulders, breathing heavily. "Twenty."

She grinned. "Fifteen."

"Eighteen," he said like a pony at sea negotiating away half of his life raft for timber.

Sparkler bobbed her head back and forth, eyes looking upwards. Second Chances drew in a breath. She returned her gaze to him. "Throw in the watch chain next to it and its a deal."

Second collapsed in relief. "Fine! Take it! Take it, please."

Sparkler counted out the bits with satisfaction. "Thank you kindly, sir. You drive a hard bargain. Would you do me the favor of gift-wrapping the clock?" She asked with batting eyelashes.

By the time she crossed the street Lemon was staring uncomprehendingly while Minuette rolled on the floor laughing. Sparkler deposited her wrapped parcel next to Minuette and winked.

"I told you I could do it." She shrugged. "Fifty bits. Feh. He could have charged sixty, easy. The merchants of Ponyville are no challenge."

Minuette raised herself to her hooves with effort. "Wow, Sparky. I could watch you work all day."

Sparkler blushed as Minuette continued without noticing. Lemon did, and smiled a knowing smile.

"So, where did you learn to barter like that, Sparks? You don't talk about your homeland much. Heck, you've nearly lost that cute accent you used to have."

Sparkler blushed, looking away. "I am still to be having accent pop up sometimes. It is to never be fully going away."

Lemon Drop rolled her eyes.

Minuette levitated the parcel with a shimmering blue field gleefully. She nuzzled Sparkler on the cheek. "Thank you! This is a Tick Counter original! My uncle Placeholder will be so jealous. I'm telling you Sparks, when I first met you at the Gala I would've never believe what an awesome friend you were." She snickered. "Then again," she said playfully nudging Sparkler with an elbow, "you did try to punch me within four point seven seconds of meeting me."

Sparkler looked away. "It was being a case of mistaken... Hold on, girls. I'll be right back."

She ran off, leaving Minuette hugging her new parcel and Lemon slyly smirking. Sparkler ran across the marketplace, dodging terrified customers as she weaved between them. She skidded to a halt in front of a crying Dinky Doo-Smith, sitting on the side of the Ponyville Cafe.

Sparkler loomed over her sister, getting Dinky's attention as she blotted out the Sun.

As an aside, many are in the habit of referring to said sky-hung orb as "Celestia's Sun." The well-traveled Doo-Smith family knew better. They knew that Princess Celestia was merely renting, and had some idea of the terms.

As Dinky wiped her nose, Sparkler rubbed her sister's mane. "Tell me, who am I to be hurting for this crying?"

Dinky snorted something wet and colorful out of her nostrils. "S'okay. You don't need to worry. Why would you want to bother?"

Sparkler lifted Dinky off the ground with her telekinesis. One pony on the street whistled at the ease that Sparkler handled the weight. Dinky was unimpressed. She had seen her sister throw wagons when necessary.

Sparkler pulled Dinky closer to her serious expression. If Second Chances had seen it, he would have paid Sparkler to take away the clock, and quite possibly his stall and gallbladder.

"I am overprotective sister pony," Sparkler intoned like a judicial sentence. She gently shook Dinky, drawing a laugh out of her. "And this is my sister. It cost a bully ten thousands kicks to the head for making my sister cry for twelve seconds. Now, who hurt my sister?"

Dinky wiped the last of her tears away with a smile.

Ditzy Doo-Smith landed on the street just outside Ponyville proper. She wobbled for a second and sighed. Noises her husband would have described as "adorable" leapt from her mouth as she cracked her wing joints and back. She resolved to herself to take some time off as soon as she was willing to tell John why.

Ditzy walked almost out of sight of the town as her home came into view. The cottage sat on the rolling hills between Ponyville and the Everfree Forest. They had moved there scant days after the sudden and honestly karmically well-deserved death of Ditzy's first husband and two days after her marriage with John. After Ditzy's twenty-seven hours of widowhood, many of Ditzy's friends asked her why her new husband would choose such a place.

When she put that question to the Doctor (No, she reminded herself, he really was John by then), he had gazed at the treeline with a challenging look. "Ponyville's my family's town now. Every part of it, and that includes the forest. I swear by the orange skies of Gallopfrey, that woods is going to know it." He snorted. "Someone has to keep the damn thing honest."

Ditzy sighed at the memory. It's a wonder she didn't ask for more vacation time years earlier, she thought.

The cottage was connected to a smaller building. In older years, it might have been a smaller house for the family's youngest couple to move into. Now upon it hung a sign.

Doo-Smith Repair Shop

We Fix Anything. Well, Just About Anything.

Open Anytime You Ring the Bell. Honest.

Except Thursdays.

Bloody Thursdays.

Ditzy walked around the shop, nodding to herself as she double-checked the presence of a blue barn in her backyard. She honestly never expected it to spirit away her husband without her knowledge. Still, her thoughts of the barn were similar to what an average mare's might be if she lived next to another mare with whom her husband was formerly, madly, and passionately in love with.

Truth be told, the barn felt the same way. Still, the two of them had somehow managed to communicate a barely uneasy peace.

She pushed her front door open, nearly collapsing past it as it sped away from her. Ditzy leapt into the air with as much force as she could muster and landed on the couch with a satisfied sigh.

"Muffin," she moaned out. "I'm home."

John's voice rang out from the kitchen. "That's nice, dear."

She rolled onto her side, finding that she had lain on her mailbag's metal belt buckle. "Celestia, that was a long day."

"That's nice, dear."

Ditzy raised an indignant eyebrow. "Honey, the kids are at Carrot's for the weekend and I'm wearing the blue-and-gray socks."

"That's… "

John quickly stuck his head out of the kitchen door. His grin of anticipation turned first into confusion and then guilty blushing.

Ditzy flashed a self-satisfied smile. "Did you mow the lawn?" She paused for a second before adding, "Dear?"

"Um." Only John Doo-Smith could elevate the word "Um" from a conversational statement into a definitive statement that spoke volumes to his wife. Still, she wasn't going to let him off the hook, and under her mismatched gaze he continued. "Well, love, my love, love of loves, the K-9 lawnmower experimental unit seemed to have kind of got… "

She waited. "It got unwieldy? It got stuck somewhere?"

"Um. It got philosophical."

Ditzy groaned. "The dishes, then?"

"Oh!" He smiled. "I did start that. Well, then I paused. Well, I kind of dropped a plate. Maybe two. Well, maybe two-well liked ones."

She stared at him.

He swallowed. "While singing."

Ditzy threw her mailbag into the corner of the living room with a tad more force than normal.

"Okay. Last thing. John, did you keep an eye on my hard light photon generator prototype in the garage?"

He nodded animatedly. "Absolutely. Y'know, if you ever wanted to go back to engineering school, I could… "

"…take care of the lawn and the dishes while I'm away?"

"That's not fair. No points. Penalty box."

Ditzy pulled herself further into the couch, collapsing into the cushions. "Just tell me that you didn't alter the prototype."

There were several seconds of silence.

"John? Tell me you didn't alter the prototype."

The silence trailed on.

Ditzy pulled herself over the couch arm with her forehooves and glared. "John!"

Her husband started backing into the kitchen. "There was a… minor adjustment in the calibration needed."

"John!"

"Well, I saved you a week's work rebuilding it!"

"John."

He spread his hooves helplessly. "I mean, you would have had to rebuild it from scratch again, and…

"Doctor!"

'John Smith' stopped, very nearly completely. A physician would have been astounded at the amount of bodily processes that slowed or ceased when John's wife called him by his old title.

Ditzy fluttered off the couch to land next to him. In her anger she clipped the side of the living room. Rubbing her wing, she glared like a eager Krogan executioner handed a fistful of pardons.

"John Doo-Smith," she said with a tone that had cowed maniacs throughout the cosmos. "What is rule one?"

Without missing a beat, he replied. "Don't ever fly the TARDIS alone."

She sighed, and allowed herself a victorious thought. Point one for me, box."Not Doo-Smith Family Rule One. About my workroom."

He hung his head low. "No advanced civilization hints."

She nodded as she walked past him into the kitchen. "For Celestia's sake, John. It's not like I have a deadline. I don't mind rebuilding." Ditzy rolled her eyes in vastly different directions as she noticed the oven clock and the empty kitchen table. "Just let me get my inner gearhead out with a little tinkering and I'll be happy. At least you didn't screw up dinner." She pulled a tray of zucchini muffins out of the refrigerator, resuming her diatribe after setting it on the kitchen table. "If you have to tinker with something, find a way get more customers at your repair shop. You may say you're rubbish at money, but even if we don't need it I'd like the town to think better of my husband."

She set the entire dinner table, side dishes included, before she realized that he hadn't responded. Cautiously, she peered out of the kitchen archway.

John was standing in the same position she had left him.

Oh, no, she thought. He's thinking. Please don't say something like…

"I'm not very good at being a pony, am I?"

Ditzy sighed. "Listen, I'm sorry."

"You know," he said in a neutral tone as he turned around, "you've been finding a lot more things wrong with me lately."

"I'm… " Ditzy's heart beat faster. "I'm under a lot of stress, and… "

The front door burst open, Dinky squealing with glee as she rode in on Sparkler's back.

Whew. Conversation avoided, Ditzy Doo. You'll have to finish that sentence at some point…

"Girls!" Ditzy clasped Sparkler around her neck. "It's good to see you happy." Dinky jumped down, nuzzling her mother's side.

The Doctor's voice stayed low and neutral as he said, "Dinky, what was wrong with your day?"

Ditzy raised an eyebrow. Sparkler and Dinky exchanged glances. Sparkler's shrugged conveyed the inevitable I-Told-You-So fairly well.

"John, what do you mean?" Ditzy cast a curious glance at her husband.

He sat down on a stool. John slowly pulled a pair of glasses out of his trenchcoat and began polishing them absent-mindedly. "The girl's usually come home happy, just not like this. If there were good news, they'd have rushed in individually. Sparkler only gives Dinky rides to cheer her up. The last three times were on July seventh, May tenth, and October fifteenth."

He put on his glasses, weakly smiling at his wife. "I may have been born a Time Charger, but I'm not too bad at being a pony."

Ditzy heart raced in her chest. "Um. John. Girls. Now that we're all here I think we need to… "

"Mother? Why have you not delivered this letter?"

Interrupted again. Spotted dimple muffins!

Ditzy turned to Sparkler, standing over the opened and harshly deposited mailbag. Her unhelpfully helpful daughter was holding a very professional-looking envelope in her mouth. She walked over to her parents and placed it gently on the family coffee-and-electrical-fires table.

"Oh," said Ditzy. "I must have missed that one. I guess tomorrow I can… "

"Mom!" Dinky pulled herself onto the table. "Mom, Dad, look! It's addressed to us."

Sparkler sat down. "Please make it opened. I am wanting to know."

"It's probably nothing," her mother responded. "Just a bill, mostly likely. Honey, I haven't seen any of the power bills around. Please tell me you've been dealing with those."

The two unicorn scientists held each other tightly, marveling at the devastated generators. Regardless of the damage, they were just happy to be alive.

"Livewire," the mare said, "It's over. It's finally over. Hold me. Hold me forever."

The stallion stared at the stranger in the trench coat. "You saved us. If you hadn't come, that electro-beast would have killed us all and gotten loose. You saved our lives, the dam, maybe even the entire town!"

John nodded, pulling a sheaf of letters out of his front pocket. "Just lucky I had business here today. Don't mention it. Really. Serious about the not mentioning, I am. Now, about my family's bills… "

"They're handled," John said after a moment of reflection. "Paid off. In advance." He pushed his glasses up his nose. "For a while."

Dinky strained as she weakly raised the letter with her glowing horn. Pulling it closer, her eyes went wide. "Mom, you're in the Daring Do Fan Club?"

"What?" Ditzy's face went pale.

Sparkler looked over her sister's back and nodded. "It is to be directly from Daring Do! Mother, you are a big children!"

John chuckled. "What's the point of growing up if you can't be a little childish." He suddenly stopped smiling as he noticed his wife's lack of enthusiasm.

Ditzy held the letter in both hooves and carefully pulled it open with her teeth. The Doo-Smith family held their collective breath. After finishing it, Ditzy dropped it to the floor.

John reached out a tentative hoof to caress his wife's side. "Ditzy?"

"My great-aunt is dying."

The living room remained silent for several seconds before Sparkler snorted. "That is a most inappropriate thing for a fan club to inform you of."

Ditzy fell down onto the floor. "It's not from the fan club, Sparkler."

Her children's eyes pleaded for her to continue. John sat on his stool, uncomfortably shuffling around.

"Girls," Ditzy said as she bit her lip. "My great aunt is Daring Do. Her books are based on a real pony."

Dinky shook her head. "Wait, what? Famous relative but what now?"

"But parents," Sparkler said with confusion, "her last name is spelled differing from ours."

Ditzy weakly nodded. "My family changed their last name at Whoah Nelly's Island when they came from Trottingham. Your great-grandmother was raised in Manehattan, but she wasn't born there."

Her family could hear the story trying to break free, but as they waited the seconds only stretched into a single sentence. "I have to go say goodbye to my auntie."

John stood up, smoothing out his coat as a way to occupy as many brain cells on something aside from the obvious. "Well, I think you should go alone."

Ditzy straightened, her eyes reflecting her disbelief. She would have expected cyborgs hiding in the pantry before she heard such a sentence crawl out of her husband. "I'd rather not go without you."

John ground his teeth. "Ditzy darling, I just… "

"I don't want to hear another word!" As she screamed her daughters' ears drooped. "She asked to see me and my family, and I assumed you were a part of this family! If you want bubble nose doctor that and can kitchen!"

Ditzy ran up the stairs, leaving her husband and children staring at each other.

Dinky's nose quivered. "Daddy, is Mommy having a apy… aphy… "

John nodded. "Aphasia attack, dearling. A case of the word scrambles. I think so. Let me see if I'm capable of helping. I'm not sure... "

John looked at Sparkler. She nodded, enfolding Dinky into her forelimbs. He winked, drawing an uncertain smile out of his teen daughter. With the seriousness of a winner in the Ommnian Matrydom Lottery approaching the Photon Gallows he slowly walked up the stairs.

"Honey?" John stared up at the silence. He found himself half-heartedly wishing for a monster to jump out. He could deal with monsters.

There was silence for the space of several seconds. "Yes, dear?"

He paused. Letting out a long breath, he closed his eyes and prepared himself. "That was cheating."

Their bedroom door slowing unlocked. Ditzy cautiously poked her nose out. "Was it?"

John nodded.

She licked her lips. "How did you know?"

He sat down on his haunches and took a long breath. "Ditzy, when you have an actual aphasia attack you're more random and use mainly nouns. That was mostly stuff you can see. I could make a sentence out of that with enough cider in me."

She slowly pushed the door open and leaned on it. "I'm sorry. I don't… "

As she started to sniffle, John pulled her into a hug. "Hush. I'm not mad."

"You're not? B-but that was a t-terrible… "

He gently pushed her mouth closed. "Love, you've only done it to me three times, and one time you really were wearing the socks. That makes up for it. Heck, you might be owed a few more."

She giggled. "You knew?"

John rolled his eyes.

"If my lovely, lovely, oh-so-lovely wife is wearing socks, what's a little watermelon pineapple alfalfa trousers between spouses? Anyway, I'll get packed. "

Ditzy closed her eyes, cupped her lips over her husband's, and pulled him closer. She slowly moved her hoof down his mane until it rested on his shoulder . John stepped closer, pushing her gently back until her wings spread out against the wall. He whispered a single word in a breathy voice that sent warm air against her throat.

"Children."

Her eyes snapped open. She saw two retreating manes pull themselves backwards down the stairs, shortly followed by the sound of two bottoms hitting the bottom.

Dinky picked herself off of the floor, smirking as her parents laughter echoed through the house. She scratched behind her neck in embarrassment in a gesture her father would have instantly recognized. Regardless of genetics, some things you pick up from your parents. "That was yucky. Hey Sparkler, could you imagine somepony doing that to you?"

"N-n-no," Sparkler said with an blush, looking away at the grandfather clock to avoid Dinky's gaze. "I can be thinking of no one."

John slowly walked down the steps. He knew what he would have to say at the bottom and very nearly started walking every third step backwards just to prolong it. As he finally became level with his children he rubbed his temples.

"So, we're going." He strained to say the next sentence cheerfully, mostly failing. "I believe your grandparents will be there."

"Grammy Topsy!" Dinky skipped in a circle, a habit she picked up from her magic tutor. "Grammy Topsy's going to be there!"

John swallowed. "Yes."

Sparkler clapped her hooves. "Grandpapa will be attending! We get to see Granpapa Storm!"

John Smith dropped his head and stared at the floorboards. "Yes, we will," he whispered. "And, if we're just lucky enough, he'll let me live."

From the landing above Ditzy plummeted on top of her husband, pinning him to the ground. While he sputtered, she cast a look out the back window at the blue barn. Staring at its windows felt like making eye contact.

"D'you hear that," she whispered. "He's all mine for the weekend, and we're traveling without you."

If a small building's doors could bristle, Ditzy would have sworn that the TARDIS doors did.

She smiled, ignorant of the monsters, running, and screaming that lay ahead in the next two days. "Get packed kids!" She stifled tears as she resolve to act brave for the children. "We're going to met Daring Do!"

And in the basement of a hero's house, something started to stir...