Tonight was a night like any other for the young Princess Luna. Her older sister Celestia had sent her to bed just after she had called the moon, and everypony had already gone to sleep. She lay underneath her heavy covers, impatiently listening to the unusual quiet that had permeated through her chambers. Only the repetitive sound of the clock above her fireplace could be heard. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Luna pushed her pillow over her ears in an effort to block out the maddening noise.
The normally quiet instrument seemed to boom with the crash of a thousand drums in the evening silence. Luna opened her eyes to glare at the instrument of her undoing. She would never get to sleep like this. Sighing unhappily, she slowly built up the courage to leave the nice warm comfort of her blankets.
Throwing the covers away with a small pout, she plodded her way over to the offending timepiece. She took it into her hooves, scanning the casing for any sign of an off switch. Her perusal was interrupted by the small stones that began falling down the chimney. As she looked on, the pieces quickly grew in size until, all at once, a pony fell down onto the unlit logs laying in the fireplace.
The intruder choked and coughed on the ashes his fall had kicked up by chance, before crawling out towards Luna. She watched in fascination as he dusted himself off, revealing a small hourglass for a cutie mark. His motions stopped once he realized his intrusion had not gone unnoticed. His mouth slowly grew into an apologetic, heartwarming smile, briefly flashing a row of perfect teeth.
"Hello! I'm the Doctor," he said, resuming his careful cleaning, wiping away the ashes that had alighted on his shoulders last. He paused to collect his thoughts, looking around the room he had ended up in.
"What's your name?"
"My name is Luna. What were you doing in my chimney? Tell me!" Luna's voice bounced off the walls, the only sound being made in the room apart from the Doctor brushing himself off. And that infernal ticking noise.
"Well, please never hurt anypony," he replied, before Luna glared angrily at him. No pony had ever refused to answer her questions. He only responded to her stares in kind, gazing deep into her eyes. She could see hundreds of years of wisdom behind that smiling face. He reminded her of what her sister did to her sometimes, with that unwavering stare. Celestia's look was always daring her to object, but his was much softer and kinder.
"...Please?" she slowly asked. He clapped his front hooves together, creating a small puff of ash and dust as he grinned happily.
"I have a good friend who once told me, if you can think outside the box, then that means you can also think inside a chimney! Never heard that one before, so I just had to try it," he sagely explained, finally turning to the other room's occupant.
"A little too hyper for my tastes, but she makes a good point! I don't suppose that's the culprit then?" He motioned towards the clock held lightly in Luna's hooves.
She offered the clock, watching in fascination as he turned it upside down and shook it carefully in his hooves. He stared at it for quite some time, until finally exclaiming,
"What is it, Doctor?" Luna asked, fascinated by this bizarre pony. She had never seen a pony quite like this one in all her time at the castle. Her sister was always busy with affairs of the land, and only the guards were around all the time. This pony felt different, somehow. As if he could move more freely than she could ever imagine.
"It's broken!" he told her as he looked back towards her with a smile.
His grin suddenly froze. A regretful look passed over him as he looked towards her. She waited for him to continue, but he only stood there in silence.
"It's... broken?" Luna asked carefully, wondering if the guards were still awake. He was looking strangely at her, turning the broken instrument over in his hooves as he focused on something unseen. His eyes were shifting back and forth across the room, looking for something.
"And if it's broken... and this is the only clock in the room..." he continued, motioning her closer. As she leaned in, waiting for this mad pony's explanation, he whispered five simple words that sent a shiver down her spine.
"...Then what's making that noise?"
The ticking noise filled the room, washing over her as she felt two eyes uncomfortably boring into the back of her mane. Adrenaline coursed through her veins as she felt a dangerous... thing, behind her. The Doctor was looking over her shoulder towards the source of the noise now. It was getting closer to her. She could hear it. His hoof slowly moved forward and patted her on the head reassuringly.
"Don't turn around, Luna. I can handle this." He moved around her, lightly pushing her closer to the fireplace. She waited with bated breath as a buzzing noise suddenly went off behind her.
Whirling around, she saw something she could not comprehend happening behind her. The Doctor was holding a buzzing artifact. It was pointed at a pony. On closer inspection, she saw little pieces of metal clicking slowly beneath its clothes. The Doctor noticed her curious looks, and quickly shielded it from her view.
"You don't need to see this, Luna," he said. "Just think of myself as the Grinch, taking away this fabulous present on Christmas." Luna stared at him, unfamiliar with what he meant. He pulled it towards the chimney, pointing the thing in his hoof below his body as he went.
"Not to worry, Luna," he said with a wink. "Even monsters are afraid of something. Something that keeps them up at night and haunts their dreams." He positioned the patchwork pony beside him, inside the fireplace.
"And what's that?" she asked, curious of the answer. The Doctor beamed back at her, before jumping up the chimney, his voice booming down towards her.