"So we're having roast beef, because that's what my mother wants to serve," Anna finishes. "Can you imagine?"
The Doctor blinks and clears his throat, caught by surprise. "No," he says honestly, straightening up in his seat. "I can't."
Anna eyes him suspiciously before pushing the button that will start the computer program.
"I really can't!" he protests.
"What about you, then? What are you going to serve?"
They're in Anna's lab, running some tests on a small alien device that may or may not be useful. The Doctor had built a scanner to help narrow down the device's origin, and Anna was there to feed in the parameters of the search. As they started she had begun talking about her wedding plans, and that was all the Doctor knew for the next thirty minutes or so.
Thirty-two minutes, seventeen seconds, actually.
"Serve at what?" he asks in genuine confusion. "At your wedding?"
"No, idiot. At your wedding. To Rose," she adds just in case he needs more clarification.
"I don't know," he says slowly. "We're just getting married."
"But what about the reception after? Have you decided?"
"No," he says, confusion growing in leaps and bounds.
"Well, what have you two been doing? It's been a week already. By this time my mother had already booked the hotel and my father had chosen the wine to be served."
"Er, we've been working," the Doctor says, thinking back to what he's been doing. Working, really, getting their new house ready to move into. Nothing else to speak of.
"But you've been making plans, right? For the wedding?"
Has he? They've talked about what an adventure getting married will be, but he's been called to the university four nights so far to work on a certain problem with a matter generator that wasn't functioning, and Rose was left on her own. The other nights they were choosing paint for the house.
"I haven't been, I guess," he admits, running his hand through his hair. "Am I supposed to? I was just planning on having someone talk over us. You know. Read the wedding service, pronounce us married?"
Anna shakes her head as the computer printer starts to print out information. "I'd have a talk with Rose if I were you."
Rose is feeling tense and hurried. Her mum is calling her at least four times a day about the wedding - the wedding that Rose has yet to really think about because they just bought a house that needs some work and work itself has gotten very busy and very complicated.
"We're not saying the timelines are off or anything," Pete tells her in the Control room. "But something strange is going on. Here." On the large computer screen, he points out a trail of stardust or smoke or space residue that is trailing across the solar system.
"What is it?" Rose peers closer at the screen, trying to follow it.
"I don't know. It might be nothing at all."
"But we need to find out," Jake finishes for Pete.
Jake glances at Rose. "Where's the Doctor?"
"He's working on the alien device we found."
"Have him come down here," Pete tells her. "We need this taken care of first."
Two long nights later nothing has been discovered about the trail of stardust, and they're no close to a solution.
"I could build something," the Doctor suggests, reading through computer reports covered with mathematical figures and equations. "We could try to retrieve some of whatever it is and study it that way."
Jake looks up from his own computer readings. "Can you do that?" he asks interestedly.
"Margaret's already trying that," Rose points out.
The Doctor wrinkles his brow. "Is she up to the task?"
"She built the dimension cannon," Rose says with some asperity.
He levels a look at her. He's still not pleased that she risked her life that way.
"Margaret's good," Jake says.
"It's coming in closer," Rose says quietly. "Closer to Earth. We may not have a chance to use whatever Margaret is making."
Two days after that Margaret's machine is ready and is launched into space at Torchwood in the dead of night. This serves to both help them find the stuff - easier to do when the sky is dark- and gives them as much cover as possible for the operation.
"That's it, then," Pete says, rubbing a hand over his eyes. "We wait for the readings to come back. If it's alien, we'll know it."
Rose is still kneeling by the launch pad, tracing the path of their device in the sky. "How long before it reaches whatever it is?"
"Ninety-three hours," the Doctor answers. "Let's go home."
"Control will monitor it tonight," Pete says. "You can check in in the morning."
The next morning the Doctor brings up something that's been on his mind for a while now.
"We're getting married," he states. "I asked you to marry me and you said yes."
Rose looks at him over her glass of orange juice. "Yes," she says cautiously. "I did. Change your mind?"
"No, of course not. But I was talking to Anna, and she seems to think that Earth weddings are a big event. A very big event. Is that right?"
"What, you've never been to an Earth wedding?"
"Lots of other species, of course, different planets, different time periods. But not here and now, of course, on this world."
Rose puts down her glass and looks thoughtfully into the distance of the kitchen. "Same as back home, as near as I can tell," she says finally.
"Should we think about that, then?" he suggests. "I don't want to wait a long time."
"I don't, either," she agrees swiftly. "But between the movie and the house and now this alien stuff at work, I haven't had time to think about it much yet."
As if on cue, Rose's mobile rings. She looks at the display and rolls her eyes. "It's Mum."
"I'm not here," he says quickly, and retreats to the guest room to check on the baby TARDIS.
"Coward," she calls after him. "Hi, Mum."
"Rose, we have to talk. I haven't got any idea what you want or what you've got planned, and we need to get started."
Rose gives in. It was inevitable. "Okay, Mum. We'll see you soon, 'kay? We can talk all about it."
Hanging up, she finds the Doctor talking to the TARDIS, encouraging it to grow.
"She's doing really well," he says, proud as any new father. "She's growing. Soon as we get her in place I can start building the circuits and the control console."
Rose glances around at the electronics and wires that are stacked up in the room. "I thought that was what this is for?"
"Oh, it is. I'm waiting until we're in place so I don't have to move anything. Right pain, that is."
Rose looks down at the TARDIS. A lump of orange coral, still growing in Tony's old cot. It is slowly absorbing a nutrient-filled liquid that the Doctor has mixed together. It's a cross between pink and orange, and Rose thinks the color of the liquid is being absorbed by the coral.
"No," the Doctor says in response to her observation. "She'll get more pink as she grows. That's a sign that everything's healthy."
"Mum wants to see us. To plan the wedding."
"There's not to much to plan, is there?" He can't help but feel slightly alarmed. "Anna's wedding sounds like a social event."
"Anna's is," Rose agrees. "Don't worry. I won't let Mum take over."
"She'd better not."
In the end Jackie gets him, just as she always does.
"Something simple." Rose says. "With our friends there. No big party. No one we don't know."
"Something fast," the Doctor adds. Having gotten Rose to agree to marry him, he's not about to wait too long. He knows too well what can happen if you put things off for too long. You end up missing your chance.
"This doesn't sound like a wedding," Jackie complains as she stops writing notes in her notebook and points her pen accusingly at Rose. "A wedding is supposed to be a celebration."
"Not for five hundred of Dad's closest friends," Rose points out.
Jackie throws a guilty look at the quick guest list she's made up. "I'm not saying we have to invite all those people."
Rose looks at her mother and waits. "This isn't about the presents, is it?"
"Presents?" the Doctor asks, speaking up for perhaps the second time since they arrived at Pete and Jackie's that morning.
"People give you presents when you get married," Jackie explains. "Gifts, money, oh, you know!" She frowns at him, like she's cross that he can't manage this simple human custom.
"Of course. Wedding presents." The Doctor glances at Pete, seeing him with a vase in his hand. He quickly shakes his head to be rid of the image. "I like presents as much as anyone, but it seems a bit much to invite people just so they can give us monetary goods."
Exasperated, Jackie sets down her pen. "It's not about wedding presents! You don't want a wedding announcement in the papers-"
"I'm in the papers enough as it is!" Rose complains.
"You don't want a wedding coordinator," Jackie continues.
"We don't need a coordinator for a small wedding," the Doctor says.
"You're so busy right now!" Jackie protests. "You haven't had a moment to think about this, have you?"
"Work is a bit hectic right now," Rose says.
"We don't need to have very much free time," the Doctor adds. "Not to plan something like this."
"We've already told you we would pay for everything," Jackie continues.
"Mum! No. We don't need you to pay for any of it!"
"We want to, Rose," Pete says in a quiet voice. "You're our daughter."
"I always pictured Rose getting married in a church," Jackie says wistfully. "Long white dress and flowers, all our friends round."
"Sorry, Mum, but no."
"Your dad and me didn't have a big wedding," Jackie continues. "Either time." She looks at Pete and takes his hand. He squeezes her hand in response. When Jackie came to this world, returned from the dead, they had a small ceremony ostensibly renewing their vows, while marrying them in actuality, something Jackie had deemed necessary when she realized she was pregnant.
"Exactly. Big weddings are not important." Rose looks to the Doctor for confirmation. "We want something small."
"It won't be the same," Jackie murmurs. "Not seeing you walk down the aisle."
"Something small at the registry office," Rose says.
It's what Jackie doesn't say that makes it obvious to the Doctor how much this does mean to her. Without saying another word, she sighs and closes her notebook, showing how much she loves Rose by abandoning her plans.
They're sitting in the back garden of the mansion. It's a beautiful day, sunny and breezy, and they're finishing up a brunch meal of eggs, fruit and muffins. Jackie sips her juice and changes the subject.
Rose nods once, satisfied. She's given in to her mum a lot in her life, and really, on her wedding day she ought to be able to decide how it will be. She looks at the Doctor for his agreement.
But it's too late. The Doctor, in this human form, is powerless to resist.
"Well, there's nothing wrong with a big wedding, Rose, is there?"
Rose, Jackie and Pete all look at him in surprise.
"Sorry?" Rose asks politely, not sure she's heard him correctly.
"We need to get married either way. If your parents really want to arrange it all and, er, pay for it..." His voice trails off at the look Rose is giving him.
"Oh, it will be lovely!" Jackie cries happily. "Just wait and see!"
This means he's caught directly between the Tyler women, not a place any sane man would want to be.
Rose narrows her eyes at him, silently promising to make him pay.
Pete wisely says nothing at all. He does not usually interfere with Jackie and Rose, and this wise policy has saved him numerous times in the past.
"We didn't want anything big and fancy!" Rose protests that night when they get home. "What are you thinking?"
He stops in the act of packing up some boxes to take to the house they just bought.
"What's wrong with a wedding?" he asks her instead. "It'll be fun, it'll make your mum happy."
"But I don't want a big do!" she complains.
"Because it's not me. It's not us."
He sits down on the bed beside her and wraps his arm around her.
"It's not just you and me anymore, is it?" he says quietly. "We have your family and we have Torchwood and we have friends all over the place. We owe it to them to share this with them."
"Have you been watching Dr. Phil again?"
"No. Well, maybe. Once in a while, during the nightly reruns when you're sleeping."
"Why is this what you want now?" Rose asks. "This morning you wanted to elope."
He smiles at her. "That's because I want to marry you as soon as I can."
He smiles slyly. "You were very pretty in the dress you wore for Sam's movie. Maybe I'd like to see you all dressed up again."
"You've seen me dressed up before."
"Yeah, but this would be different. And anyway, does it matter?" he asks her, smiling winningly. "We let your mum have her way, get married, and skip the dancing afterwards."
She arches a brow at that. "You sure you want to skip the dancing?"
"Stop that," he says repressively.
She shifts from side to side, smiling the smile that drives him crazy, with her tongue poking out from between her teeth. "Thought you liked to dance."
"Oh, I do," he assures her. "I do. It's one of the best things about being human."
Rose's expression changes to one of no humor at all. "Then why are you letting my mother control our wedding? We should be the ones in charge."
"I thought we were in charge."
"The minute you showed a weakness she pounced! Now we'll have some awful catered affair filled with people we don't even know."
"So it's Jackie's party. So what?"
"So, you hate my mum's parties."
"It won't kill us this once."
Rose gets suspicious. "You don't plan on being there very long, do you?"
He draws her close so he can bury his face in her hair. "Not," he says, "when there'll be a honeymoon to get to."
The Doctor relents because Jackie wanted it, and Rose relents because the Doctor wanted it. On one thing Rose will not budge. The wedding will be in six weeks. Anna and Ian are planning a wedding that won't take place for a year. She has no intention of waiting that long. She's waited long enough.
Jackie inundates them with brochures and photos and menus. She faxes Rose details of wedding dresses at work and comes by after dinner one night so they can pick out wedding invitations.
"Is this really necessary?" the Doctor asks, forced to sit down and look through a large book of nearly-identical wedding invitations.
"Do you want me to choose?" Jackie asks innocently. "I was thinking of this one." She shows him a dog-eared page with a white card encircled. The lettering is in pink, and there are small angels in the corner.
The Doctor sits back, revolted. "Never."
"Then pick one."
Rose reaches for the book. "I'll do it," she says with little grace. She flips the book open at random, closes her eyes, and points. When she opens them they're all staring at a plain white card with silver lettering. There are no angels on it.
The Doctor peers over at it, sliding his glasses on to see it better.
"Now that's a bit plain," he complains.
"You'd rather have the angels?"
"Let me see." He takes the book and starts flipping through the pages, his Time Lord acuity making him go much faster than Rose.
Jackie folds her arms, satisfied that they're taking the appropriate interest in the affair.
"Here." He points to a blue card with brown lettering. There is a small brown owl on the top.
Rose and Jackie look from the card he's pointing to to each other and then to him.
"You're mad," Jackie says pityingly.
"What is that?" Roe asks. "That's never something for a wedding."
"Maybe a baby shower?" Jackie suggests.
In the end they go with Rose's choice. Jackie has already composed the wording and takes the book off to the stationer's.
Rose sits and watches the Doctor sulk.
"You really can't choose something because it reminds you of your old suit, you know," she says gently.
"Well, it was better than her angels."
"Do you still want to go through with this?" she asks.
He sighs and slumps against the table, resting his head on his hand. "Bit late now, isn't it?"
"Yep," Rose says, popping her p like he likes to do. "But at least she's paying for it."
Rose submits to three bridal showers. One for the women at Torchwood and at Sam's movie studio, one for Vitex employees, and one just for her girlfriends. This is the most mortifying one of all, because her mum has made it a lingerie shower.
"I'm having fun!" Riley says happily, sitting down beside Rose at the lingerie shower. "Are you?"
Rose looks around at the large room in one of London's fanciest hotels. Jackie rented it out for the afternoon, and it's filled with pink balloons and streamers.
Women fill the room, some of them, like Anna and Riley, actually people Rose knows. The rest are friends of Jackie and Pete.
"No," Rose says glumly. "My mum is torturing me."
"It's fun," Donna corrects her, sitting down on Rose's other side and taking a sip of something bright pink.
"That's because you're not going through this."
"Bridal showers are fun," Donna says. "Sweets, drinks, presents."
"Well, the present part could be reduced," Riley says. "I've been to all three of them now."
"Hey, I didn't make the guest lists," Rose says, snagging a glass of something pink and fruity from a passing waiter. "Mum thought my best friend would like to come to all of them. You're welcome to go home."
"Listen to Miss Attitude!" Donna exclaims.
"How are things with you and Sam?" Rose asks wickedly.
Donna blushes. "My, this drink is very tart."
"Has he kissed you again?" Riley leans in closer to hear. "Or...anything else?"
"Tart but sweet," Donna pronounces. "Yum."
"You'll talk sooner or later," Rose promises.
"I think I'll have another one." Donna stands up, smoothes down her lavender skirt, and walks back to the bar.
"Are they dating?" Riley asks when Donna's out of earshot.
"I don't know."
"She's crazy about him, I could tell. And he never stopped watching her if they were in the same room. It was sweet. Kind of like you and the Doctor."
Rose winces to hear herself described as sweet. This entire day is making her very bitter and hostile.
"Take that back."
"You two are sweet and adorable."
"I am so going to kill you," Rose threatens.
"Oh my gosh," Riley exclaims as a large pink cake is wheeled out. "Don't tell me your mum hired a stripper!"
Rose lurches up, her drink spilling on to her pale green dress.
Riley laughs. "Just kidding. Hey, do I still get to be your bridesmaid?"