The Doctor's eyebrows raised when he noticed the adult version of Compassion sitting by the bar.
Sitting down beside her, he asked 'So what happened?'
She shrugged. 'It appears the regression to childhood was only temporary... probably because I'm a TARDIS. The others still seem affected.'
Fitz plonked himself on the bar stool next to them 'Don't we know... Shame, though. I thought little Cammy was cute.'
Compassion wrinkled her nose. Then a startled expression crossed her face-
And where she had been sitting was a five year old girl.
Fitz started giggling. '*Cammy?!*'
Compassion gave him a 'you *die* tonight, Kreiner' look, and muttered under her breath. Then, the adult Compassion was sitting back in her place.
'Cammy...' the Doctor muttered. 'Now why---? Ah. The quantum mnemonic's apparently keyed to a word of invocation. Maybe more than one, depending on complexity...'
The five year old Compassion gave him a poisonous look. 'Apparently _so_. And I'm *not* going to tell you the other word; I have no desire to end up like *him*.' She pointed, as best she could, to Number One, currently enjoying a quiet beer in one of the booths.
Fitz was still grinning. 'Your very own secret identity... So what d'you do? Work undercover at a nursery?'
If looks could kill, Fitz would have joined Adric on the 'largest number of times dead' list. '*Unlikely*, Fitz. However, given your propensity for childish humour, I think, for the moment, staying like *this*...' Compassion gestured at her current form with obvious disgust. '...will be necessary.'
'Right...' Fitz grinned. He waved the barman over. 'Hey, Francois? I'll have a whisky, the Doc'll have that... whatever-it-is he has... and the kid here'll have some milk.'
Number One was enjoying his beer, and thanking his lucky stars that a) none of the ADF were here, and b) the Wondrous and Adorable Nyssa's Knights Errant Regiment (aka the WANKERs...) were far, far away, probably trying to find Nyssa 'pics on the Net, so things were nice and _quiet_...
He was contemplating whether or not it was worth asking for another pack of cigarettes when an airborne glass of milk landed on his table. It smashed, spattering him with cold milk.
*Cold* milk. Oh n-
The Jusenkyou Curse activated.
And where there'd been a short, dark-haired man in his early twenties, there was a even shorter, red-haired girl.
Who was now extremely *damp*.
When Chang Lee came on for his shift, Francois was muttering furiously to himself.
'First weird redhead girl who talks to self disappear and get replaced by *little* weird redhead girl who talks to self. Then mirror-eyed man disappear and get replaced by *other* redhead girl. Then both decide to pound shit out of skinny guy who never tips.
And who clean it all up? Francois. Does Francois get overtime? Does hell.'
He left, muttering to himself about 'taking bloody cable job'.
Chang Lee looked after him in bafflement. What was _that_ about?
The Doctor was sitting by the bar.
There appeared to have been signs of a recent brawl.
'Lee. Another, please, if you'd be so kind.'
Chang started polishing the glasses. 'So how's it going?'
The Doctor set his drink on the table and frowned. 'Difficult. I still don't understand what happened in that alt-universe story... and that disturbs me.'
He shook his head. 'Something _else_ is going on, something that involves my companions and I. Something big enough to bring an author to us... And I have no idea what it is. *Again.* And my companions... they want answers. They want to return to normal... And I don't know how...'
Chang Lee chuckled to himself.
The Doctor looked up. 'What?'
'Oh, nothing,' Chang said. 'Just that... when you burst in here the other night, you looked like some whacked-out superteam. Without the costumes, yeah...' He looked at the Doctor's outfit. '...Perhaps not.'
The Doctor cocked his head, looking for a moment like an attentive hound. 'Costume... costume... Lee, you're a *genius!*'
Chang carefully backed over to the other side of the bar, in case the Doctor decided to snog him. 'Yeah?'
'It's _perfect!_ The ideal way to get their minds off the situation.'
The Doctor grinned. 'We're going to visit the Wardrobe!'
'Compassion... Compassion, could you kindly turn yourself _back_ into a TARDIS? Look, I am _not_ about to say the word... and I wouldn't ask unless it was important... And it *is*, believe me.'
And the adult Compassion was standing in front of him. 'You've got my attention.' Her tone of voice suggested very strongly that if it wasn't important, she would be out of there. _Very_ fast.
The Doctor grinned. 'I've got a little proposition...'
Fitz splurted his drink all over the table. 'You're suggesting *what?!*'
'That you get costumes made.' the Doctor repeated. 'Since it looks like this will be a long-term problem, I thought that it might be wise if we at least attempted to _look_ the part while it lasts...'
'Hold on...' Izzy said. '...everyone knows who we are already. Why'd we need costumes?'
Sam gave the Doctor one of her patented _looks_. 'This is a plan to get our minds off the situation, isn't it?'
'No,' the Doctor said, looking innocent. 'Just a way of... leaving an impression, if the need arises. Besides, it's _free._'
'Okay,' Sam said. 'Count me in.' She shook her head despairingly. 'You would not _believe_ how many bad Spock jokes there are...'
'Five thousand, two hundred and thirty.' Kroton looked at the others. 'Sorry, my data-logs are on their own circuit...'
Kroton, Ssard and Fey had declined the offer. Kroton pointed out that a costume on a Cyberman would, basically, look stupid; Ssard decided to hold on to his armour (as he said, it was practical, efficient, and protective. Although, if they could find another pair of gauntlets...?); and Fey turned it down on the grounds that she already _had_ a uniform - it'd been moving her wardrobe to the Matrix that had been the problem.
_This Time Round has a *what?!*_
_Why, in the name of anything that goes 'squick', would a pub need a wardrobe?_
The Doctor coughed. 'Let's just say that the architect needed to unload a few rooms from his TARDIS. *Fast.*'
Fitz raised an eyebrow at this. 'I wonder... Princess Charming not with us today?'
'Who...? Oh, you mean Compassion. She said she had "places to be, people to meet..." ' The Doctor shrugged. 'I wouldn't worry about it; she'll probably be back by the time we finish.'
'So... where is it?' Sam said.
The Doctor coughed. 'Ah. That was one of the problems with it coming from a TARDIS...'
In This Time Round's wine cellar...
It didn't look like much; just a well-lit doorway set into a wall of the cellar. However, there was no doubting that it was...
'I've seen many, many bizarre things with you, Doctor... but a wardrobe in a _wine-cellar?_'
'It was the only area left with any space. With the 'Round not being dimensionally-transcendental...'
'I'll take your word for it.' Fitz said, deftly avoiding the Doctor's long and technobabbly justification.
'So...' the Doctor assumed the position of a servile butler, 'will sir be going first? Or one of the ladies, perhaps?'
_I'll go_ Stacy said. _I always wanted to see one of these twentieth century wardrobes_
'By Stacy's time, the word wardrobe describes something quite different from the present-day word. It still means the same thing, though.' the Doctor explained.
Something had been nagging Fitz. 'Izzy's a hologram, right? So she can't touch anything material. So why does she need to visit the wardrobe?'
Izzy sighed. ' 'Cause I want to see if I can pick up any ideas, 'kay? Grief...'
(A couple of hours later, up in the 'Round's bar)
Business had been starting to pick up, so the 'Round was pretty busy when...
The Doctor hopped on to the impromptu stage that'd been set up at the back of the 'Round and tapped the microphone. 'Testing, testing...' A squeal of feedback came from the speakers. 'Good.'
'If I could have everybody's attention, please?' Practically every eye turned to the stage (bar Benny and Jason, who were arguing somewhere near the door.)
'Ahem. Tonight, we welcome the return of a long-forgotten This Time Round institution.' Some of the older regulars (everyone created before the early '90s) started looking worried as the Doctor continued. 'It's the night where everyone can sing along. The night when _anyone_ can be a star.'
Music started to pound out across the 'Round.
'It's..... Karaoke Night!' the Doctor yelled happily.
Cries of horror and terror came from the audience.
Ignoring them, the Doctor carried on: 'And introducing our first singer... Miss Izzy S!!'
Izzy walked onstage, looking totally and utterly self-conscious (and, to anyone with better than human hearing, muttering 'The Clothes Show *dies* for this.').
Several male jaws dropped. As did quite a few of the female ones.
One: It's definitely Spandex.
Two: It's got a pair of goggles with it too, which look rather good.
Three: The boots don't hurt, either.
Four: Well, let's stop beating around the bush. Basically, leather jacket (with 'The Truth is... ' emblazoned on the back), over a top cut at the midriff and knee-length shorts. Anyone examining closely will notice little symbols all over the top and shorts: 'Star Trek', 'Star Wars', 'X-Files', 'Babylon 5'. The belt, with a sunburst symbol affixed to it, doesn't _quite_ work, but overall...
The Doctor gracefully presented her with the mike, then leaped off-stage.
Izzy, now blushing furiously and looking as if she wanted to throw up, said 'um... hi.'
'Speak up, girl!' Yrcanos bellowed.
'Hi. Umm... for those of you who don't know me...' Izzy looked around at the large number of blank faces. She swallowed and continued: '...my name's Izzy S, and I'm the Eighth Doctor's companion in DWM.'
Much 'aaahing' and nodding from the audience.
Izzy's voice picked up confidence as she went on: 'I'd just like to do a song that... well, I like, okay? So... hit it, maestro!'
The jukebox stopped playing 'Eye of the Tiger', and started blaring out the music to Catatonia's 'Mulder and Scully'.
As Izzy was singing (and, he noted with interest, she had a good singing voice: high, clear, and *loud*, even without the mike), Adric's mobile phone went off.
He apologised to the people surrounding him, and slipped into a back room.
'Mmhmm. Mmm. Ah. Yes. Thank you.'
He switched the phone off. Good, that was _one_ problem out of the way. Now, to see about getting in the people...
The song came to an end. Izzy bowed before the (reasonably) impressed audience.
Then a horrified look passed across her face, she covered her mouth, and rushed for the ladies' toilet. Soon, retching sounds could be heard by those paying attention. Not many were, because the Doctor had hopped back on stage.
'Massive round of applause for Izzy, I see. Let's see if we can do better for our next singer. He's played in clubs around the galaxy, from Earth to Anathema. I present to you... Mr Fitz Fortune!'
Fitz walked on, shaking his head and sighing. He was wearing... something that looked incredibly like an upgraded version of his normal clothes: a shirt that looked like it'd been nicked off the set of 'Flash Gordon', a pair of black chinos, and a massive, light brown trenchcoat. Someone, using black paint, had apparently sprayed a massive 'R' in a circle on the coat's back. And, slung across the coat, was what _looked_ like a jazzed-up guitar from the 22nd century. Which was *exactly* what it was.
He took a sitting position by the mike and looked around. 'It's been some time since I played an audience... and Fitz Fortune's long gone. So, for one night only, it's a song from Fitz *Kreiner...*'
He held up a hand. 'No backing, please. I'm taking this solo.'
And he started to play Simon and Garfunkel's 'The Boxer'.
'I'm just a poor boy, though my story's seldom told...'
If anyone had been in the wine-cellar, they would have noticed the Doctor frantically whispering to a doorway. 'Where *is* she? Stacy's ready to go on, but we need a climax!'
There was a chuckle in the voice that spoke, apparently from the door itself. 'I suspect... she wants it to be a surprise, for you and everybody else in the bar.'
'Well, tell her to hurry up then. We're running out of time!'
'I can't, remember? That's part of the arrangement; no giveaways.'
The Doctor frowned. 'Just get her there on time...'
Fitz took a deep and sweeping bow. 'Thank you. I'm available for rebirths, resurrections, and renewals.' A quick and foxlike grin swept across his face. 'I also take tips. Adios!'
And he was gone.
The Doctor came back on stage, mopping his brow and smiling.
'Big round of applause for Mr Kreiner, folks; you ain't likely to see it again! Now, straight from the 23rd century, the cabaret singer known and feared throughout the cosmos... Ms Stacy Townsend!'
Stacy shot him a dark look as she came up on stage. Any telepaths within hearing would have heard _Thanks *so* much, Doctor..._
She smiled as she picked up the mike.
And this time, the audience's Boggle-Factor wasn't streched *too* far... relatively speaking.
Because Stacy was wearing a spangly, sparkly one-piece catsuit, in neon pink.
With added sequins.
The younger Iris muttered to her older counterpart: 'Nice to see _one_ of them knows something about fashion...'
Stacy was speaking. Or broadcasting; for her, the two were pretty much indistinguishable. _Okay. I'm going to do a classical piece my parents used to enjoy. Some of you may not be familiar with it; it's from the late 20th century, but I hope all of you can sing along... On!_
The jukebox started playing.
_In the silence of the room, I will wrap you up in chains..._
In the darkness behind the stage, the Doctor was pacing frantically, paying half-attention to Stacy's rendition of Shakespear's Sister's 'Stay'. Where _was_ she? Come on, come on, where are you? Time's nearly up...
Stacy finished, curtseyed to the applauding audience, and left the stage. The Doctor prepared to hop on and stall for time, when...
Everything went black.
Then a spotlight came down in the middle of the stage, revealing a figure held in the middle of a pose. The grey fedora was pulled down over its face, and the grey casual suit it was wearing made an unexpected fit with the Greenpeace T-shirt.
It gestured to the jukebox, and started singing.
'Who's bad? Who's bad? You know it, I'm bad...'
The Doctor found he'd been startled into applauding. A smile broke across his face. The incredible _cheek_ it took to pull something like this off...
The figure landed on its knees and finished:
'What the whole world wants to know is: Who's bad?'
Then it flipped up the hat brim to reveal Sam's grinning face.
The audience broke into rapturous applause.
Later, down in the wine cellar, the Doctor was talking to the doorway again:
'You could have at least have _told_ me she'd found the David Banks Doctor's costume...'
'Would it have been a surprise, though?'
The Doctor shook his head, grinning. 'No, no, I suppose not... And where would the fun in life be without a few surprises?'
'Safer and more predictable.' the door said.
'Oh, come on, learn to _live_ a little. Chaos can be _fun_. So long as you know what you're doing, of course... Anyway, I think they're all gone now, so it's safe.'
The doorway folded itself back into the familiar shape of Compassion. She tipped her neck from side to side. 'I think I have a crick in my neck...'
'Really?' the Doctor said. 'I have just the thing for that...'
As they made their way back up to the bar, Compassion was frowning. 'Let's see... in return for deceiving the others into believing I was the 'wardrobe', you agreed that: One. you would not tell the others about this; Two, that you would acquire a jacket that fits me in both forms; and Three, that...' Her voice trailed off as they entered the bar-room.
The tables and chairs had been cleared away. A pair of candelabra stood on the bar, the only illumination in the whole room.
Compassion stared in astonishment. 'What...?'
The Doctor spoke without looking at her: 'Special dispensation. For the next hour, the Round is ours.'
Compassion instinctively looked at the clock over the bar, which stood seconds away from the count of eleven. 'Until midnight? A Cinderella reference...'
The Doctor turned to face her. 'Exactly. And since you couldn't make it to the karaoke...' He swept his arms wide, gesturing all around them, '...I decided you _shall_ go to the ball after all!'
Compassion shook her head in resignation. 'Sometimes, Doctor, I think you pick up too much from humans...'
'Or not enough?' The Doctor clicked his fingers-
-And Compassion found herself wearing a shoulder-length ballgown, soft, pale and cold as moonlight. 'How did...?'
The Doctor took her hand, now in an elbow-length glove. 'Perhaps I'm your fairy godfather. Perhaps I'm Prince Charming. Or perhaps I'm just an old romantic.'
He bent down on one knee. 'Would Milady give me the honour of the last dance?'
Conflicting emotions warred across Compassion's face; shock, wonder, a momentary anger, a memory perhaps, long-buried...
Then finally she nodded, and said 'Yes.'
Just before the Doctor was about to take her in his arms, Compassion turned and gestured towards the jukebox, which started to play.
The Doctor smiled. 'So it wasn't just me...'
That night, they danced. And they talked, and remembered, and spoke of many things. They spoke as TARDIS and Time Lord, man and woman. And the things that passed between them were secret, as such things are.
But occasionally, there is a twinkle in Compassion's eye, or a far-distant look upon the Doctor's face, and the others know that they remember that hour, in the dark of the night.
A time when many things can be spoken, and many left unsaid. And perhaps that is for the best.
And when the midnight hour came, and Chang Lee entered to put things back for the next day, he found nothing.
Nothing, that is, but a single, elbow-length glove.