Rose was gone. She was gone and he had no way of getting back to her. He hadn't even gotten to tell her. He stood, tears streaming down his face, hoping stupidly that it was just a glitch in the transmission and any second he would flicker back onto the beach and be able to finish his sentence. But he didn't. It felt as if both his hearts were being slowly agonizingly crushed.
The Doctor closed his eyes and wished with all that he was that Rose live a happy life. He told himself she was better off. He couldn't have given her the life she deserved anyway. He buried his face in his hands and attempted to compose himself enough to set coordinates for some random spot in space. Somewhere he could just park the TARDIS and sit in their room missing her for a couple of days. Weeks? Months? It did matter anymore. That was when he noticed it. The white shape out of the corner of his eye. He looked up to see a woman in a bridal gown standing with her back to him. For a moment he had the ludicrous thought that it was Rose. Though the thought wasn't any more ludicrous than the notion that a strange woman in a wedding dress was suddenly standing in his TARDIS millions of light-years from Earth when there was no one a second ago. "What?" the word escaped lips in his confusion.
She turned around. Not Rose. She made a surprised sound. "What?" he said again.
"Who are you?" said the woman.
"Where am I?"
"What?" he reiterated.
"What the hell is this place?!"
"What?!" It seemed to be the only word currently accessible to him.
"You tell me what's going on right now!" she seemed less scared than she did angry. As if he were some incompetent bellhop and she wanted to see his manager.
"Wha- Bu- I- Who are you?! How did you get in here?!" the Doctor asked.
"I'm asking the questions here!"
The nerve of this woman! "No," said the Doctor, finally finding his authoritative tone. "This is my ship, and you're intruding, so the question asking position belongs to me."
"Ship? This is a boat? I've been kidnaped and spirited out to sea!"
"No, it's not that type of-"
"You're going to murder me and dump me in international waters!"
"Will you shut up!" Finally the strange woman was silent. "Thank you. Now, no one is going to murder you. I just want to know how you got here." She opened her mouth, but he cut her off. "As you seem to be panicking, I'll wager you don't know the answer to that yourself. I'll just drop you back where and when you came from and we can forget this whole thing. So, first thing's first. What's your name?"
"Donna. Donna Noble," she replied in a suspicious tone.
"All right, Donna. I'm the Doctor. Now, what year are you from?"
"Just answer the question."
"And where were you just before you were here?"
"Beaconsfield. I was in the park."
"And what was the exact date and time?"
"Look, I'm not answering any more of your questions until you answer some of mine!" she said, back to her grating voice of reprimand.
"I am really not in the mood for humoring ignorant humans today," he said, starting to lose his calm. "I just want to be alone. So just answer my question so I can be in that state sooner!" But the truth was, he didn't want to be alone. He wanted to be with Rose. But he couldn't. And although this very annoying situation provided a momentary distraction from his pain, he felt like wallowing in his misery for a time, rather than deal with things like this.
"What are you on about?"
"Just tell me the date and time!"
"Um, March 15th. Around...oh, I dunno...three 'o clock?"
"You're sure?" he asked as he started setting the coordinates. "Might wanna round up if you're not sure."
"Well, better to be a bit late than run into yourself and create a paradox," he said as if it were obvious.
"What?!" The TARDIS began to move. "What was that? What's going on?!"
"Just taking you home," said the Doctor. "You, uh, might want to hold on to something. Landings can be a bit rough."
"It gets worse?" And then it did, as the TARDIS materialized with a jolt and she was thrown to the floor.
"I told you to hold on," The Doctor strode toward the door. Normally he would have helped her up, but today he wasn't feeling the good samaritan. He stepped outside. "This where you were?"
Donna stepped cautiously out of the TARDIS onto the grass of a park just across the street from an old church. "Y-yes. What is that th- ah!" She had turned around to see the decidedly small blue box that, logically, could not contain the large room she had just left.
The Doctor ignored her wordless pointing and shaking as he checked his watch. "March 15th, 2009, 3:30pm."
"What's going on?!" she shouted "What is that?! Where was I just now?! Have you drugged me?! What are you playing at?!"
The Doctor sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. She was panicking. Humans. Why did they always panic? Well, Rose hadn't panicked. She'd accepted everything about his life fairly quickly. No, his Rose was far too clever to have panicked at the thought of alien invasions and 'bigger on the inside'. There it was again. Every thought led back to Rose. He was going to have to stop that if he wanted to stay sane. Deep down, though, he knew that would never stop. As he pulled out of his thoughts, he became aware that the insufferable bride was still screeching at him. God, he never thought he find someone whose nagging voice was more intolerable than Jackie Tyler's. "Look, it doesn't matter," he said in response to Donna's ranting. "Let's just forget this ever happened, yeah?" he headed back to the TARDIS adding to himself, "The sooner the better."
"Donna!" came a voice from behind him.
The Doctor turned to see Donna running toward a young man in a tuxedo, presumably the groom. Ethan caught Donna in his arms and swung her around. An involuntary smile played on the Doctor's face as he remembered the countless times he swung Rose around the same way. Ethan and Donna kissed sweetly. "I was afraid you'd run off on me. Cold feet and all that," said Ethan.
"Never," Donna replied. She seemed a completely different person now.
"Who is this?" Ethan asked indicating the Doctor.
"Oh, I just gave her a lift is all," said the Doctor. "She got a bit lost. I'll be off now though."
"Why don't you stay?" he said.
"Yeah, stay for the wedding," added Donna.
"What?!" Oh, no. Don't start that again. Hadn't she hated him a minute ago? "Um, I shouldn't, really. I've got... things."
"No, don't be silly," said Ethan, who was walking over to him now. "A couple of our guests didn't show up and we've still got to pay for the food."
"Well, er..." he weighed his options. Escape patterns? The TARDIS was right behind him, but Ethan was standing right in front of him, and there was now a crowd people watching from the church entrance. They'd likely come to see if Donna had indeed left Ethan at the altar.
"C'mon, then," said Ethan, who was now leading him by the elbow. "We have to repay you somehow."
He had no choice. "Oh, alright." He'd sit in the back and sneak out during the ceremony. Going to a wedding was not exactly the best thing for someone who'd just lost the love of his life.
The Doctor sat in the back pew, right by the door. Ready to slip out as soon as the bride and groom were up at the front and everyone's attention was on them. How many bridesmaids and groomsmen did they have? And two flower girls?! Bloody hell! Finally, Donna came out and made her way toward Ethan. She stood in front of him and looked into his eyes, and he into hers.
"You look fantastic," said Ethan.
"You too," said Donna.
"If we may begin," the priest politely interrupted. "Dearly beloved..." and the ceremony began.
The Doctor looked on. And why hadn't he left yet? Then, suddenly, he was imagining that it was not Ethan and Donna up there on that altar, but himself and Rose. Which was stupid really. Neither of them had every really wanted that. They were happy the way they were. Though, when he thought about it; they had been married, sort of. Minus the ceremony, license, and rings. But, when you got down to the core of what marriage really was, or should be, they were. They lived together, slept together, supported each other, had the occasional row, made up. They spent every moment with each other and thoroughly enjoyed each other's company. Not because some piece of paper or reminder on their finger told them to, but because they wanted to, couldn't stand not to.
How was he supposed to go on without her? He'd lost companions before, yes. And many, to much worse circumstances. But this was different. He'd never cried over it before this. He rarely said goodbye, let alone destroy an entire star to do so. But, he never had a companion whom he'd told could spend the rest of their life with him. Never had one that said they'd stay forever and whom he sincerely hoped would.
And suddenly he felt a droplet on his hand. He was crying. He was crying in public! He was crying at a wedding! How cliche! Though, he wasn't crying for the same reason as all the old biddies here. He finally slipped out of his seat and out the door. He had made a decision. He wasn't going to go on without her. He was going to get her back.