This chapter's a bit longer, for those of you who complained about the shorter chapters before. Of course, it's also the last for this episode :) Enjoy!

Oh, and there are tiny spoilers for "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" towards the end. Just so you know. Had to do the requisite David Tennant reference; sorry ;)

--

Chapter 7, Time's Fool

"It's kinda weird," Rose told the Doctor as they made their way back to the Globe after breakfast. "We hardly ever stay in the same place like this. Three days in a row--that's almost a record."

"You're really just constantly on the move?" asked Martha from the Doctor's other side.

"More fun that way," the Doctor answered. "And as for this particular delay," he added, "I'd rather like to make sure there aren't any stray copies of the play lying about before we go." He opened the stage door, gesturing for Rose and Martha to enter the theater ahead of him.

Rose saw that Shakespeare was already there, sitting on the stage while the stagehands and even the actors put the finishing touches on the cleanup. No one would be getting a paycheck until it was ready for the next production, she supposed.

"Morning, Will," the Doctor said cheerily, as the group approached Shakespeare.

"Doctor, ladies," he greeted in reply, climbing to his feet.

"How's the cleanup goin'?" Martha asked.

"Nearly done," Shakespeare said.

At that moment, the leader of the stage crew approached to report that they were in fact done. Shakespeare dismissed him, promising a bonus after the next performance.

"No more copies of Love's Labours Won floating around, by any chance?" the Doctor asked.

Shakespeare shook his head. "I asked the troupe first thing; they said they all vanished."

"Still," the Doctor said, "mind if we have a look around backstage?"

"It's all yours, Doctor," Shakespeare told him. Rose followed the Doctor, but Shakespeare took Martha's hand. "Surely, you don't all have to go," he said. "Sit with me for a while?"

Martha looked back at them, and Rose gave her a smirk. "Aright," Martha said, moving with him to the edge of the stage.

"Oh!" said the Doctor. "Don't want to lose this in my pocket," he said, pulling out the Carrionite's crystal and handing it to Martha. "Hang onto that, will you?" he asked, then led Rose backstage.

--

The Doctor searched the dressing rooms while Rose went to work in the props store. He found a few scripts from Love's Labours Lost, but nothing from last night's performance. Joining Rose next door, he asked, "Find anything?"

"Nothin' yet," she said. "Although," she reached back behind a standing rack of cloaks and withdrew a large skull, "remind you of anyone?" she asked.

"Oh," he said with a smile, "the Sycorax!" He took the skull from her and examined it more closely.

"Good, I'm not the only one," she said with an answering grin before turning back to sort through more props.

The Doctor set the skull aside, and began to search as well. He pulled a ruff from a shelf and fastened it around his neck. "What do you think?" he asked Rose. "I look more like Shakespeare than Shakespeare!"

She just shook her head at him, but he could tell she was smiling.

They eventually completed their search, and walked out to rejoin Martha and Shakespeare--who seemed to be getting quite cozy, sitting at the edge of the stage together. "Good props store back there!" the Doctor announced, watching the two back a bit further apart. "I'm not sure about this, though," he said, acting oblivious and holding up the skull Rose had found. "Reminds us of a Sycorax."

"Sycorax," repeated Shakespeare. "Nice word. I'll have that off you as well."

"I should be on ten percent," said the Doctor. "How's your head?" he asked Shakespeare.

"Still aching," he answered.

The Doctor reached up, undoing the ruff he was still wearing. "Here, I got you this," he said, fastening it around Shakespeare's neck, and noticing Martha and Rose grinning. "Neck brace," he told him. "Wear that for a few days 'til it's better; although you might wanna keep it. It suits you."

"What about the play?" asked Martha.

"Gone," said Rose. "We looked all over."

"Every single copy of Love's Labours Won went up in the sky," added the Doctor.

"My lost masterpiece," bemoaned Shakespeare.

"You could write it up again," offered Martha.

"Yeah, better not, Will," countered the Doctor. "There's still power in those words. Maybe it should best stay forgotten.

"Oh, but I've got new ideas," said Shakespeare. "Perhaps it's time I wrote about fathers and sons. In memory of my boy, my precious Hamnet."

"Hamnet?" asked Rose.

"That's him," answered Shakespeare.

"Hamnet?" asked Martha.

"What's wrong with that?" he asked, turning back to her.

"Anyway, time we were off," interrupted the Doctor. He reached down to pick up the crystal ball Martha had set beside her on the stage. "I've got a nice attic in the TARDIS where this lot can scream for all eternity," he said, indicating the crystal. "And we've gotta take Martha back to Freedonia."

"You mean travel on through time and space," Shakespeare corrected.

"You what?" the Doctor asked, innocently.

"You're from another world like the Carrionites," Shakespeare told him, bluntly, "and Rose and Martha are from the future. It's not hard to work out."

"That's . . . incredible. You are incredible," the Doctor told him in awe.

"We're alike in many ways, Doctor," Shakespeare answered him with a smile. "Could I have a word, before you go?" he asked. He looked between Rose and Martha.

The Doctor nodded, and walked with him just out of earshot of the girls, who were now seated and examining the skull.

"Your Rose," Shakespeare said to him. "She's not really your wife."

"No, whatever made you think we were married?" the Doctor asked.

He looked at the Doctor's left hand.

The Doctor looked at his own hand, discovering the wedding ring he'd worn as Mr. Smith when they'd checked into the hospital. "Oh, that, just a bit of a joke, really. Forgot to take it off," he said, but slipped his hands into his pockets without removing the ring.

"And you haven't told her," Shakespeare pressed.

"Told who what?" The Doctor asked, but then sighed, giving up on hiding anything from the man. "I've wanted to," he said. "But she's sort of stuck with me now, and I don't want to pressure her. Besides, I'm not even sure she feels the same."

"I can tell you she does, without a doubt," Shakespeare told him, standing next to him so that they could both observe her. "I don't know how you could miss her smile. But more than that, it's in the eyes."

The Doctor just watched her for a moment.

"But you think you're too different?" Shakespeare asked. "Being from different worlds and times?"

"There's a bit more to it than traveling in time and being from different worlds," the Doctor said. "Time doesn't exactly have that much of an effect on me. But it will on her."

"Mm-hm." Shakespeare nodded, considering. "Love's not Time's fool," he recited, "though rosy lips and cheeks within his bending sickle's compass come--"

"Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks," the Doctor continued for him (he knew the 116th Sonnet by heart, like the rest of Shakespeare's works), but hearing it in a new light, "but bears it out even to the edge of doom. And beyond."

"And beyond?" Shakespeare asked. "That's not how it goes."

"No, but that's how it's happened," said the Doctor, with a smile. "Thanks." He shook Shakespeare's hand, determined to stop procrastinating--eventually--and tell Rose how he really felt--somehow.

They walked back over to the girls. The Doctor helped Rose to her feet, but Shakespeare resumed his seat next to Martha. "Martha," he told her, taking her hand, "let me say goodbye to you in a new verse. A sonnet for my Dark Lady." The Doctor raised his eyebrows. He knew Shakespeare was taken with her, but could Martha be the Dark Lady of the Sonnets? Shakespeare paused a moment, then began, "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" The Doctor looked at Rose, and they could hardly contain their amusement at the familiar words, penned just for their new friend. "Thou art more lovely and more temperate--"

"Will! Will!" A voice interrupted from the doors to the theater. A couple of the actors had returned. "You'll never believe it!" one of them exclaimed. "She's here! She's turned up!"

"We're the talk of the town," the other said. "She heard about last night! She wants us to perform it again."

"Who?" asked Martha.

"Her Majesty," the second actor explained, as if stating the obvious. "She's here!"

The Doctor watched with glee as the Queen entered the theater. "Queen Elizabeth the First!" he exclaimed. Oh, what a bonus.

"Doctor!" the Queen said, seeing him.

"What?" he asked. They hadn't met yet, had they?

"My sworn enemy!" she exclaimed.

"Uh-oh," said Rose, quietly.

"What?" he asked again, feeling Rose's hand slip into his.

"Off with his head!" the Queen ordered.

"What?" Rose was tugging on his hand now, and Martha was on her feet as well.

"Never mind 'what'," yelled Martha, just run!"

"C'mon!" Rose shouted, as she led him out through the back of the theater.

Martha yelled a hasty goodbye to Shakespeare. "See you, Will! And thanks!"

The Doctor snapped out of his stupor, and led the way back to the TARDIS.

"Stop in the name of the Queen!" a soldier shouted from behind them.

"What have you done to upset her?!" Martha gasped out as they ran.

"How should I know?" the Doctor asked. "Haven't even met her yet."

"That's time travel for you!" said Rose, "things don't always happen to you in order."

"Still, can't wait to find out," the Doctor said with a grin at Rose as they reached the TARDIS. He unlocked the door and let the girls in ahead of him. "That's something to look forward to," he said, looking back as a soldier came into view, arrow already nocked. "Oh!" he exclaimed, ducking inside and closing the door, just in time to hear an arrow lodge in the door behind him. He jogged up to the console and quickly put the TARDIS into the vortex.

--

Rather than head off to "Freedonia", the Doctor said he'd like to do a bit of maintenance on the TARDIS first. Rose and Martha said they'd be more than able to amuse themselves for a couple of hours, so he set to work in the console room while they disappeared into the depths of the ship.

After about eight hours--so he'd underestimated, or gotten lost in his work--he heard repeated laughter coming from somewhere within the TARDIS. Rolling down his shirtsleeves and retrieving his jacket, the Doctor moved off in search of the source of the commotion.

He found Rose and Martha in the lounge, surrounded by buckets of popcorn and other snacks, laughing their heads off while they watched a movie. If he knew anything about Harry Potter, and he did, it was the end of "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire", and Barty Crouch, Jr. had just run out of polyjuice potion and reverted to his true form.

"He really does!" squealed Martha, laughing with Rose. "I can't believe it!"

"And he just can't keep his tongue in his mouth!" laughed Rose, as the actor on screen flicked his tongue a couple of times at his captors. What was so funny about that? wondered the Doctor. It's not exactly a cheery ending to the movie, if they'd been paying attention. But Rose continued, "he's always licking things, this him," she said. "Since he first regenerated."

Regenerated? That's not regeneration, thought the Doctor. Polyjuice just produces a temporary transformation. Rose of all people knew what regeneration was like.

"I mean," Rose went on, "one of the first things I saw him do was taste a fingerful of blood." Martha made a face. "And it hasn't stopped since. I once caught him trying to taste my hand lotion."

Oh, thought the Doctor. She was apparently talking about him. But then, why the laughter at the movie?

"But is that him?" Martha asked. "I mean the hair's a bit different, and he hasn't got the sideburns, but did he, I dunno, sneak in and audition or somethin'?"

"What?" the Doctor finally asked aloud, Rose and Martha turning towards him, startled.

"How long've you been standin' there?" asked Rose in an accusing tone.

"What are you talking about?" he countered. "What's this 'auditioning'? And why are you watching these movies," he asked, noticing the stack of eight DVDs on the table in front of them, "when I know you, Rose Tyler, have never read the books?"

"Martha's read 'em," Rose answered, ignoring the auditioning question for the moment, "but she's never seen the movies. And I figured anythin' really world-savingly important'd be in them, so . . . ."

The Doctor just shook his head.

"But is that you?" asked Martha.

"Who?" asked the Doctor.

"Moody--Barty--whatever," said Rose, pointing at the screen. "Martha thinks you snuck into the auditions."

"What?" asked the Doctor, glancing up at the screen, watching the snarling Death Eater held at bay by Snape's wand. "You think that looks like me?" he asked incredulously. He turned his head this way and that, seeing if the different angles lent any different perspective. "I don't see it," he said at last.

The girls just giggled at him. They actually giggled!

--

The end.

New New York is coming soon :)