Based on a challenge from Meakh who wanted Rose to be the runaway bride (full details on Doctor Who forum pages)

Disclaimer: Doctor Who is owned by the BBC

Chapter 1 – The Runaway Bride

A vision, that was what the Doctor was sure he must be seeing.

A vision, in white.

For once he'd wiped away the tears and moved around the console one time, setting the Tardis on a new course and fighting to regain his composure, he'd found her standing there.

She had her back to him. Full wedding gown, veil, the lot. He held his breath and blinked, wondering if his grief at saying goodbye to Rose moments before had driven him mad.

"What?" he asked finally, breaking the spell.

She turned to face him quickly, as if he'd stunned her out of some reverie.

To have found anybody suddenly standing there was surprise enough, but once faced with the look of shock on her achingly familiar face, his hearts screamed, 'Rose!'

His head said, somewhat more sensibly, 'Land on deserted planet, large brandy, off to bed with ya.'

She made a rather undignified squeaking noise which confirmed she was as surprised to see him as he was to see her.

"What?" he asked again, brain too stunned to come up with anything more complex, that one word still pretty much summing up all he was struggling to comprehend right now.

"Who are you?" she, Rose, asked warily.

"B - " the Doctor began, his face screwed up in disbelief. But, you're Rose. You know me.

So it looked like Rose, but she apparently had no idea who he was.

"Where am I?" the Rose girl asked, her voice raising a little in volume. She was clearly becoming agitated.

"What?" he repeated, his voice rising to match hers. This was rapidly making less sense than it was making before, and that was saying something.

"What the hell is this place?!" she snapped then, trying to look like she wasn't to be messed with.

"What?!" the Doctor yelled, abandoning all hope of understanding what was happening.

"I mean," she said then, holding a hand to her forehead and another in front of her as though willing him to be quiet a moment. "This has to be a trick, right?" Her voice had calmed, but she'd lost nothing of her cool gaze when she fixed it on him again.

He said nothing, just stood and stared, his frown softening to a look of concern. Well she looked like Rose and she sounded like Rose, although her accent had refined slightly. Less cockney. Rose from the future?

"This isn't real," she told him. "You can't be real," she took a faltering step towards him and he found himself stepping back in alarm.

She stopped speaking at that and lowered her head slightly, pinching the bridge of her nose, her eyes tightly shut. The Doctor took a moment to look her up and down. Skinny, he thought. But strong. Shorter hair, what's that style called? A man's name. Bob, that's it. Still heavy on the peroxide. Dark brows furrowed in concentration. Definitely looks older though, her face not so round. But how much older?

"How long has it been?" he asked gently, breaking the silence that had descended.

Her head shot up suddenly and she seemed to pull her whole self straight, hands on hips, the unwavering gaze back.

"Look," she said. "I don't know who you are, or how you've done all… this," she waved a hand at the console room around her, "or what you're trying to achieve. But I'll tell you one thing, well, two things actually." She stomped forward and poked him in the chest. "One! I have met enough alien scum in my lifetime to know a mind trick when I see one, and two! You – are – not – the – Doctor!" She punctuated each word of her final sentence with a sharp poke through his suit jacket.

"Ow!" he complained, five times. This conversation was starting to remind him of a similar one they'd had right after he'd regenerated.

Rose was standing inches from him now, he could smell her perfume. It was so unbearably familiar that he had to will himself not to move, when all he wanted to do was gather her up in his arms. She continued to stand before him, face set with grim determination, foot tapping on the metal grill beneath her. The Doctor looked down at her feet and regarded the delicate ivory satin shoes peeking out from under the acres of lace that made up the skirt of her wedding gown.

"You're getting married," he told her, still staring at her feet.

"Well done," Rose told him, her voice cold. "Perhaps I should correct you though, I was getting married. Standing outside the church with my Dad in fact, just about to walk down the aisle and poof!" She turned and paced away from him. He watched her. Her skirt swayed as she walked. "What was that?" she asked, whirling around and marching back. "Transmat beam or something?" She stalked slowly closer and regarded him carefully. "You're not… Trill, are you?"

The Doctor shook his head numbly. Rose seemed dubious.

"And then I'm standing here," she went on. The Doctor stared at her mutely. "'Cept I'm not really standing here am I? Where am I really hmm? Lying on some laboratory table somewhere probably, being poked and prodded. Is that what this is all for, you testing people's reactions to their wildest dreams or something?"

"I…No -" the Doctor stammered ineffectually.

"What are you then, if you're not Trill?" She shook her head. "No, they might T-mat me and they might have motive, but they're not in to this kind of stuff. Which race is it screwing up my day this time?"

The Doctor gazed at her. She'd been talking, he knew, but he was going over what she'd said before. "Is that what this is then?" he asked quietly.

"What?" she asked, confused.

"Your wildest dream?"

"Wouldn't you like to know!" she taunted, lifting up her voluminous skirts and twirling back and forth a bit, an evil grin on her face.

"Yes please," he told her honestly.

With all the skirt lifting and bodice heaving she reminded him momentarily of Reinette. It was so, so, so, so weird to see her dressed like that. The Doctor squeezed his eyes tight shut a moment. Concentrate man! What was happening? Was she right, was this all someone's wildest dream? That someone being him? Was she not real? He gave the central console a sly sideways look. Is this you, old girl? The ship hummed in a non-committal fashion in his confused mind, which helped not one jot. The telepathic equivalent of 'No comment.'

Rose had moved to stand by the console and was idly pulling levers and flicking switches. The Doctor winced as her hand hovered dangerously close to the dematerialisation button.

"Have to hand it to you," she mumbled, in a wistful way. "This is very good. Or is it me that's good?" she looked him in the eye. "If this is all in my mind?"

"It's not in your mind," the Doctor told her, trying to sound like he believed it. She blinked once, twice. She was waiting for more. Damn it. "Look, can we start again?" he asked desperately.

"What?" she asked.

"Wasn't that my line?" he teased, attempting a smile.

"What?!"

"And that? Look, let me tell you what is really happening. What is actually, really happening. Or, at least what I think is," he amended, frowning, suddenly less convinced as she glared at him. He wasn't in the least bit sure, to be fair, but all he could go on was what appeared to be reality for him, and trust that the universe was working as it should be.

She stayed silent, mercifully, and he tentatively reached out a hand towards hers. Slowly he moved closer, sure she'd pull away at any moment, but when she didn't he grabbed at her fingers in shock and lifted them to his cheek.

She gasped and tried to pull away, but he had quite the hold and they ended up stood face to face, their clasped hands and outstretched arms a bridge between them. She began to struggle.

"Wait! Rose, listen," he said quickly, making sure he held her gaze completely with his own. "I don't know how, not yet, but you're here. You're really here," he told her, and smiled. "With me," he added, as an after thought.

"I can't be," she whimpered.

"You don't want to be?"

She shook her head. "No. I mean yes! But no, I can't be. I -" she stopped and pulled her hand away from his, stumbling backwards until she plopped in a marshmallow pillow of meringue and lace on the chair behind her.

For the longest time she just stared at him, so he walked over and slowly sank to his knees next to her. He gathered up her left hand in his and spent a little while staring unabashed at the rather large diamond engagement ring on her third finger.

"I have no idea how you got here," he said finally. "But you're here. And I have no idea how I can convince you this is true. But I'm pretty sure it is." Rose just stared at him. "I want it to be," he added, and smiled.

"I want it to be too," she said quickly, sitting forward and covering his hands with her own. "P'raps we could just decide it is and see what happens?"

"OK," he said, and chuckled.

"You're really real?" she asked in a small voice.

"As real as the nose on your face," he told her, poking it gently for emphasis. Then he smiled, and Rose smiled, and so he grinned and she did too, and so his hearts sang. But then her smile faltered and she sighed, sinking back in to her meringue pit.

"I'm supposed to be getting married," she said in a small voice. The Doctor didn't know what to say. "Mum'll be sitting there in that stupid hat, going nuts. Dad … god only knows what he'll think, me disappearing in front of him like that. Jonny's page boy so he'll be causing a fuss and as for Mickey -"

"He'll be wondering where his bride has got to?" the Doctor cut in.

"What?" she gazed at him nonplussed for a moment. "Oh! No," she grinned, "I'm not marryin' Mickey!"

"You're not?"

"God no, although he is married, just… not to me," she smiled a funny smile which didn't last very long.

"So," the Doctor began, not sure he wanted to hear the answer to his next question. "Who are you marrying?" He watched her face intently as he waited for her answer.

"Luke," she said, as if it were obvious. Her face betrayed no emotion at all, which he thought odd for someone who had just been zapped away from her husband-to-be moments before she said 'I do'.

"Luke," he repeated slowly, slightly over-pronouncing the 'k' sound in the middle. He found he was taking an instant dislike to the name.

"Yeah, he's a lovely guy," she said dazedly, "met him at work. He's from Cardiff."

"You don't say?"

"Mmm," Rose confirmed. She seemed to be gazing in to the middle distance somewhere over his right shoulder. "Thing is, I was sure. Absolutely sure and then… I wasn't."

"You wasn't? Erm, you weren't?" The Doctor tried to ignore the excited little flip his stomach gave.

"No. There was all the preparation. All morning, I was so excited." The look on her face had progressed to a faraway and dreamy one. "My mum buzzing round me like a blue arsed fly, hairdresser, make up girl. She paid through the nose for them."

"Don't think you got your money's worth," the Doctor told her seriously. "Not enough, you know." He waved a finger in front of her eyes. "Black stuff, goes on your lashes."

"Mascara," she said and gave a snort of laughter. "Yeah, definitely a bit too demure for me, hey?" They laughed together and the Doctor squeezed her hands. Finally Rose's giggles subsided. "Where was I?" she asked.

"You were unsure."

"Yeah. Well, no. I was completely sure all the months leading up to the wedding. Ever since he asked me really… So excited, everything good. All morning, all that fuss and I couldn't have been happier. In the car on the way there, the bridesmaids giggling, felt like a princess." The Doctor gave her a warm smile and she looked down at her flouncy dress. "Even if this puff-ball was mostly mum's idea. Then suddenly, I'm standing there at the church door with my arm through Dad's and I look up before we walk in and the church… It suddenly reminded me." The Doctor watched as her eyes seemed to cloud over.

"What?"

"It reminded me, of that church. The one we hid in when I saved him." She had been looking up in to the vaulted ceiling of the ship, but she brought her gaze back down and met his. "In 1987."

"Yes," the Doctor said softly.

"When I saved my real father. An' I looked at Dad… Pete," tears immediately rolled down her cheeks then, and the rest came through slightly strangled. "An' he's not real. Not really, although he tries his best… and none of it's real, not work, not home, not London, not the whole bloody planet. Certainly not the church, or this stupid bloody dress," she bounced their hands in her lap. "Not my feelings."

The Doctor had the sense to stay silent, but he squeezed her hands tighter still and her hot tears splashed upon their knotted fingers.

"Stuff I thought I'd dealt with, moved on from, I never had. I was just, going through the motions, day by day." She yanked her hands away from his and stood up, pacing a few steps away. Her dress swung ahead of her when she stopped. "I turned around and I ran away from Dad, back down the steps, towards the car, no idea where I was going and then -" she paused. "That's the last thing I remember before being here," she finished quietly.

The Doctor hauled himself to his feet slowly.

"Oh Rose," he whispered. "I'm so sorry."

"Five and a half hours," she mumbled suddenly.

"What?" he asked. Was that 'Word of the Day' or something?

"Five and a half hours. Always wait five and half hours you told me. Not five and half years!" She sounded angry and she looked it too.

The Doctor was stunned. That long. It had been less than five minutes for him.

"Rose -" he began, but she cut him off.

"Do you know what I went through?" she yelled. "You told me, on that bloody beach, that I could never see you again. And it hurt. Like hell. And I grieved for you. Like you'd died!" She was pacing back and forth beside the console now and it was all the Doctor could do to stay out of her way and not get trodden on. "'Cept it was worse, because you weren't dead, you were out there somewhere living, without me. And you were everywhere. In my past and my future. Just not there, in that universe." She swung around and glared at him. "Do you know what it's like, getting trapped in a parallel universe?"

The Doctor shook his head. "No, I don't," he said, so quietly it was almost a whisper.

"It's like everything you ever thought was constant is gone. And I don't just mean my Dad's alive, or there's air ships everywhere… or there's no such band as Coldplay."

"There isn't?"

"No."

"Oh."

"I mean you think, what's the point? What is the point of my tiny little insignificant existence, if there's a million other universes out there and a million other versions of me doing it differently."

"You do?"

"Yes," she glared at him, but he realised that there was a hint of comedy in it now. "At first anyway," she went on, fighting a smile at how self-indulgent she was being. "It was horrible, but I got through it. I did what you asked me once, or I tried anyway, to have a good life. 'Have a fantastic life Rose'." She gave a very passable impression of his former self.

"And eventually I felt as if I'd healed and when Luke asked me out I said yes, instead of no like I had every time before. And it felt good and normal and safe and that was OK. But now -" she faltered and once again looked sad and angry. The Doctor frowned, that hadn't lasted long. And then he realised she was crying. Strange things humans, their emotions could get so closely associated, you never knew if they'd laugh or cry.

The Doctor regarded his best friend for a moment. Her head had dropped in to her hands. He thought she looked like some broken angel, standing sobbing in her princess dress, lit from behind by the lights of his Tardis. He moved closer and cautiously reached out to touch one shuddering shoulder. She turned on him suddenly, make up running in rivulets down her cheeks.

"And now you're here!" she choked. "How dare you be here!" She swallowed hard on the next sob threatening to wrack her body and suddenly and dramatically closed the distance between them, flinging her arms around his neck.

The Doctor wrapped his arms around her shaking body, just as he had a hundred times before, and just as he'd longed to on the beach in Norway when they could look but not touch. He held her as her sobs subsided and her breathing calmed. She buried her face in his jacket and listened to his heart beats, breathed in his scent. Even he wasn't sure exactly how long they remained that way.