Martha Jones' heart skipped a beat when she heard the phone.
Martha was not the kind of person to assign a unique ringtone to all her contacts, but the Doctor was a unique case. It was a simple, unobnoxious tune; a song she hadn't heard for nearly a year.
She flipped the phone open and looked at the display. A picture of the Doctor gazed back, flashing a smile at her. She grinned as memories of their travels came back. The last time they met, she had joined his current companion, Donna Noble, Captain Jack Harkness, Mickey Smith, and Rose Tyler and her mother to help him stop the Dalek armada from destroying all of reality. It had been a very long and memorable day.
She pressed the phone to her ear. "Hello?"
"Martha Jones!" the jovial voice she knew so well answered.
She gave an inward sigh of relief; from what she could tell, he hadn't regenerated yet. "Doctor! How have you been?"
"Oh, I'm managing. As good as a nine-hundred-and-five-year-old time traveler can, anyway. How about you?"
"I'm doing fine," she replied. "And you'll be happy to know I've quit UNIT. Mickey and I have gone into freelancing."
"Really? Good old Mickey the Idiot, I can always count on him. Anyway, the reason I'm calling is that I'm bringing some off-world companions to Earth for the first time, and I thought, 'You know, I should take them to Martha's, I haven't seen her in a while.'"
"Calling ahead, Doctor? This is a first."
"Well, there's a first time for everything. You see, these
companions of mine are all vegetarians, so if you could hide all your meat and put out a nice vegetable platter, that would be fantastic. Oh, and apples! Lots of apples."
"Veggies and apples got it."
"Brilliant, Martha. We're coming in a few seconds; don't go anywhere, I've got a surprise for you."
Martha was puzzled by the last bit as he hung up. Surprise? What more surprises could he have than dropping in like this and actually telling her beforehand, no less?
She had just finished preparing the platter when she heard the distinctive noise of the TARDIS. With a smile, she ran outside to the blue box and threw open the doors
and was met by a brown miniature horse with gigantic blue eyes wearing the Doctor's clothes.
"Surprise!" said the horse. "I'm a pony now!"
Despite all that she had seen in her days with the Doctor and serving in UNIT, Martha Jones found it very hard to accept that the Doctor was currently a three-foot-tall horse (or rather, pony he had corrected her several times on the distinction.)
"You humans," he said, shaking his head, "Take them around the universe and suddenly a planet full of sentient ponies is harder to believe than murderous angel statues."
While it was an odd experience for Martha, she could only imagine what it was like for the Doctor's six companions. From what she gathered from their conversations, their technology was generally behind theirs by several years, with a few appliances he said were powered by magic (exactly what he meant by that, she wasn't sure). They had entered her house wide-eyed, blown away by everything within it. She gave them permission to explore her house, which quickly went downhill, thanks to Pinkie Pie. Martha still had no idea how the pink pony managed to get her microwave to self-destruct.
When they finally settled down in the living room, Twilight positioned herself next to the bookshelf, switching between the conversation at hand and a book on world history. Rarity wasted no time taking notes on a few fashion magazines she had found, talking animatedly with Martha about what she found. Rainbow Dash attempted to take a nap on one side of the couch, her efforts thwarted by a bouncing Pinkie on the opposite end. Applejack opted to stand up, allowing Fluttershy to curl up on the recliner. The farmer pony's questions centered on earth agriculture and why their apples tasted so different, while Fluttershy, unable to speak up quick enough to bring up a new subject, simply commented on whatever conversation was at hand. The Doctor himself walked all around the living room and kitchen, experimenting with all kinds of objects to see what he could and couldn't do with hooves (which, disappointingly, included peel bananas; he assumed that earth and Pegasus ponies had some other method of doing it and resolved to ask Twilight later.)
"I don't understand, Doctor," Martha said at one point, "How does a Time Lord end up as a pony?"
The other six ponies all looked at the Doctor expectantly; he had not explained it to them, either.
The colt swallowed a piece of celery. "Well, to be perfectly honest, I only have a theory about that, but I'll tell you anyway.
"I actually ended up in Equestria by accident. I was in transit to go to the first Beatles concert it's an earth band; you'd like them, Rarity when something pulled the TARDIS off course."
"Something pulled it?" Twilight asked. "What could possibly do that to the TARDIS?"
"Happens a lot more often than you'd think
" the Doctor muttered. "But my theory is that what pulled me was, in fact you six through the Elements of Harmony."
"That doesn't make a lick o' sense," said Applejack. "We hadn't worn them for months before you arrived."
"Yes, but you are still psychically linked to them! You lot are the only ponies who can use them that we know of. Not only did they protect you from the empathivores, but they also sent out a psychic distress beacon, which the TARDIS picked up on."
"That still doesn't explain why you're a pony," Rainbow pointed out.
"Well, suddenly changing course in the middle of the Time Vortex like that isn't the kind of thing you'd normally do. I think the internal rematerialization circuits the things that put us back together when we land, Dash might have got a little damaged. Either that, or she's playing tricks on me again." Upon noticing the worry in the mares' faces, he added, "Don't worry! I am almost very 90% sure that it won't affect you. Mostly."
A nervous chuckle was shared as Rainbow Dash glanced at the clock. "Hey, Doc. You wanted me to tell you when it was five-thirty?"
"Yes!" The Doctor stood up and made his way to the door. "We'd better be going, or we will be late for the first Summer Sun Festival!"
"Wait a second!" Applejack yelled. "How in tarnation are we going to be late for somethin' that's already happened?"
"Exactly!" the Doctor shouted back.
The six mares filed into the TARDIS, but the Doctor remained within the threshold. "The invitation is still open, you know."
Martha gave him a sad smile. "I'd love to, Doctor, but you know why we can't travel together anymore. I've just started to move on, and I've a job here, with Mickey. Besides," she added with a laugh, "you look like you've got your hands full, yourself."
"Hooves," the Doctor corrected. "Speaking of which, what do you think of them?"
"You've always had a knack for meeting the odd ones, that's for sure. But
they're good people, probably the kindest I'll ever have the pleasure of meeting. The world could definitely use more like them."
"So could every world."
"But they're so innocent," Martha continued. "They haven't seen the darker parts of the universe yet, and travelling with you will put them right into it. So, whatever happens
be careful, Doctor."
The Doctor smiled warmly. "Always, Martha. Always."
He closed the door behind him and gave a happy sigh. It was good to see an old companion again
His smile widened as he was hit with an idea. "Change of plans, girls," he said, already working on the console. "One more stop before we go
The first thing Captain Jack Harkness saw after leaving the Torchwood Hub was a collection of seven pastel-colored ponies.
"You have got to be kidding me