There had been the usual problems of organising a wedding. What church, where to have the reception, what colour dresses the bridesmaids would wear. But very few weddings had the sort of problem this one had.

Should Hillary be chief bridesmaid or Best Man?

She was Marion’s first choice to help her choose the dress and she helped her get ready for the big day, but in the end it was decided that he was needed more as Best Man.

“Easier for me this way,” Hillary said as he and Kristoph straightened each other’s neckties. “The feminine hormones might not have stood up to seeing you married to another woman. Never stopped loving you, old man. You know that, don’t you?”

“The feeling is mutual,” Kristoph answered. “But you and I could never really be more than friends.”

They hugged a manly hug between friends who had seen and done a lot together. Then there was a knock at the door and Mrs Flannery in her own wedding day finery told them that the car was here to take them to the church.

“Thank you,” Kristoph told her with a smile as the lady who had been his housekeeper as long as he had lived in this house came and re-adjusted his tie as only a woman could do.

“You look very handsome, Professor,” she told him. “I’m so proud to see you, this day. Finally getting married to that lovely young woman.”

“I’m feeling rather proud,” he answered. “I’ll see you later in the church. You take care of my Marion until then.”

He picked up the smart silk hat that went with the grey silk wedding suit and he and Hillary went out to the waiting car. Mrs Flannery watched them depart then went up to the room where Marion, along with Hillary’s youngsters, were getting ready.

The two eldest daughters of the Professor’s friend looked very pretty in the pale pink off the shoulder gowns and flowers in their hair. The little girl, Kaye, was a picture of charm as a flower girl with her basket of silk rose petals. The littlest child, Cam, just two, in a sailor’s suit, made the tiniest page boy imaginable.

But Marion, Mrs Flannery thought, was an utterly radiant bride. Her white wedding gown was just about the best that could be bought in the city. It shone as if pure silver was woven into the satin and lace bodice. The wide, floating skirt of several layers of the same rich fabric, decorated with silk flowers all over it, swished as she turned and adjusted the veil over her face.

“A very proper bride, indeed,” Mrs Flannery said. “No need to be nervous, my dear. You’re marrying a very special man in the Professor.”

“Oh, I know,” Marion said. “I know that. He is VERY special.”

Mrs Flannery had always been proud of her employer. Marion often wondered if there was a housekeeper’s club where she went to talk about how marvellous, kind and generous her Professor was. He couldn’t put a foot wrong in her eyes. Mrs Flannery was especially pleased that the two of them, for all the years she had been Kristoph’s fiancée, had kept to their “bedroom arrangements”.

“When you’re with him tonight as his wife, joined in holy matrimony, you’ll be glad you waited,” Mrs Flannery said. “Your wedding night will be all the more special for it.”

“I’m sure it will,” Marion answered and half tuned out of Mrs Flannery’s deprecation of too many women who married in white when they had no right to do so. White maternity wedding gowns were a special cause of ire.

Marion wasn’t EXACTLY nervous. But she did have a feeling that her life was approaching another point of no return. There was STILL the real wedding, the real Alliance of Unity to come. But for her, from this day on she would be his wife.

She remembered the first day they met, when she had been so nervous of speaking to him even. He had done his utmost to make her feel comfortable in his presence. She wondered if he HAD known right then that this was their future. She would never have dared to imagine it. But in such a very short time she was in love with him. And she had begun to think it possible.

She had imagined, in those early days, some kind of registry office, a quick ceremony and then a quiet, simple life. That was never going to happen now. Their life would be neither quiet, nor simple. But she didn’t mind. She was getting used to the idea.

And Kristoph had insisted on a church. A church, he said, was the proper way to do it on Earth, in England. He had looked longingly at the two great cathedrals of Liverpool, but they had barely thirty or forty guests. Either building would have been empty and cavernous.

They found a small Catholic church in Knowsley. Marion had felt a little guilty about the way Kristoph used his power of suggestion to make the priest think they WERE regular members of his congregation who he saw every Sunday. Kristoph admitted that he, too, felt a twinge about doing that. But it saved a discussion about whether or not they WERE church-goers, and he consoled himself with the fact that very many people, including those wearing the maternity wedding dresses Mrs Flannery was so disparaging of, got married in churches they would never set foot in again. Theirs was no worse a lie.

And she was happy that it WAS going to be a REAL wedding. It would be a REAL marriage, in all but the one sense.

Because that wedding night Mrs Flannery hinted at was still to come, after the Alliance of Unity.

But she was sure Mrs Flannery was right. It would be worth waiting.

For now she was happy to be on the verge of becoming Mrs Kristoph de Leon.

“It’s time,” Mrs Flannery said and she took hold of the hands of the little ones. She and the bridesmaids were going ahead in one car. Marion was travelling last of all with the one who was giving her away in the absence of her real father or even any of the foster fathers she had known in her young life. Many of her foster parents and siblings were among the guests at the wedding, but there was only one man who came to mind when they planned the wedding.

“Marion, you look wonderful,” Li told her as he waited at the door to take her arm. “You would outshine any of the princesses I ever married.”

“How many princesses HAVE you married?” Marion asked as she walked with him down the stairs.

“Twenty-five. Plus a dozen who were already married who came to me in secret. And many more who were not princesses but simply my wives or mistresses for a brief span."

Marion smiled. Those brief spans were usually no less than sixty or seventy years. In more than two thousand years Li had rarely been alone. He had been inordinately attractive to Chinese ladies of all kinds and had taken wives and mistresses and lovers to his bed. But never casually. He loved each one deeply. He stayed by her till she died of old age. He was a faithful husband and lover - serially. Marion had asked him once how he dealt with the grief of their deaths. He said he didn’t. Each one hurt him deep in his soul. Each time he vowed not to let his hearts be broken again. But then he had fallen in love all over again.

Time Lords, even rogue ones, love completely when they DO love. Each of his wives and lovers had known that. He was with them even when their beauty faded and they were old and ill.

And so would Kristoph be beside her until the day she died. She knew she would never have a doubt about that.

“I am so lucky,” she said to herself as she stepped out of the house, into a sunlit afternoon and walked the few steps to the wedding car on Li’s arm.

“You deserve it,” Li told her as the car moved off. He squeezed her hand gently and she sighed happily. She wasn’t nervous in the way brides are supposed to be nervous. The only thing that bothered her at all was the traffic build up on the East Lancashire Road and all of its approaches. She looked at her wrist and then realised she wasn’t wearing a watch. She leaned forward and read the clock on the dashboard of the limousine.

“We should have gone by TARDIS,” she sighed as the car shunted slowly forward and reached another set of red lights.

“That would have been a unique way for the bride to arrive,” Li admitted. “But don’t worry. Kristoph and I have ways of dealing with mere traffic.

Li seemed to be concentrating very hard and then she heard the Limousine driver give an exclamation of surprise. The main road they had to turn into was suddenly clear. The lights changed and he turned left. Marion looked behind and saw all of the traffic stopped at the red lights a hundred yards further up. At each junction they passed, again there were red lights holding the traffic back from a clear section of the East Lancashire Road until they reached the place where they turned off to reach the church. Again there was a long tailback of traffic held by red lights.

“You and Kristoph did it!” she laughed. “I won’t ask how.”

“Simple telekinetic manipulation of the traffic control systems,” he answered. “On Gallifrey, in the Capitol, where they have the same problem at certain times of day you can get fined for doing it. But here, I think we have nothing to worry about.”

And they didn’t. The car drew up in front of the church. The bridesmaids were ready and waiting. They stood just long enough to have a photograph taken all together before they went into the church. There, again, there was a pause to check hair and make sure the page boy and flower girl were ready.

Little Cam, who Marion remembering being born, as a girl, stepped forward as a fine little page boy who didn’t trip once. Behind him went Kaye, the flower girl, scattering her petals. Then as the “aah’s” of appreciation for those two died down Marion got ready to step forward, Li holding her arm, she clutching a bouquet of white roses. Her older bridesmaids held the train of her gown. She took a deep breath and glanced at Li’s proud, smiling eyes and stepped forward to the strains of the traditional wedding music played on the church organ.

It wasn’t a very big church, but the aisle seemed endless. Then, suddenly, it was at an end. Li formally placed her hand in that of her bridegroom and the two of them stepped forward to be blessed by the smiling priest.

This was what she wanted, she thought, as the familiar, ordinary, Earth wedding ceremony progressed, interspersed with familiar joyful hymns. The twelve hour ceremony that Kristoph wanted was wonderful in its way. She had read about it in his library. And she would be proud and happy that day. But first, she needed to hear these words spoken.

“To death us do part.” She glanced at Kristoph as those words were said, and at Li, who knew better than any of them just what that meant to a Time Lord. Kristoph would outlive her by a thousand years or more even if she lived as long as a Human could. He had given his hearts to her knowing that they would break one day. And for that she loved him a little more than she already loved him.

Finally, the page boy was called on to do his part again, and everyone held their breaths a little, because he WAS such a very young page boy. If he tripped and dropped the velvet cushion with the two golden rings on it would be disastrous.

But he didn’t. Hillary stepped forward and took the cushion from him and kissed his cheek gently, then one of his older sisters took him in hand and the ceremony continued. The gold band felt cold and heavy on her finger as Kristoph gently slid it in place beside her diamond engagement ring, but she knew it would feel warmer the longer she wore it. She took the second, larger ring and put it on his finger, next to the diamond encrusted Ring of Eternity, symbol of his Time Lord status. A few more words from the priest and then he reached and lifted the veil of lace and kissed her to the unanimous approval of the wedding guests.

Again, as the wedding cars drove into Liverpool city centre for a reception in one of the finest hotels, the traffic that might delay them became trapped behind red lights giving them a clear road straight through. Kristoph and Marion, holding each other’s hands tightly, laughed as the limousine driver expressed his amazement as well as his pleasure at the strange coincidence.

“You don’t work for the council, do you, sir?” he asked. “You didn’t set this up?”

Kristoph laughed in reply and squeezed his bride’s hand all the tighter. He was a happy man for better reasons than the traffic system of Liverpool working his way.

The reception was a joy for Marion. A magnificent meal in the company of all her friends and the man she loved by her side. She talked with Li and Hillary a great deal. She also spent a little time with her old friends from university and her foster parents. They all seemed glad to see her happy, although her last foster mother did express the opinion that Kristoph was a little old for her.

“He is the man I love, and I know he loves me dearly,” she replied. “We’re going to be happy together. We ARE happy together.”

And that settled it. In a delirium of happiness she cut the wedding cake with Kristoph. She danced with him, and finally, she threw her wedding bouquet into the crowd before they set off on their honeymoon. She didn’t even see who caught it. She didn’t really care as she put her head on Kristoph’s shoulder and sighed happily.

Again the traffic was co-operative with their travel plans and they reached Liverpool airport in good time. Kristoph tipped the driver handsomely and they watched him go before they went into the terminal. They didn’t check into any departure desk, though. They had no intention of flying anywhere. The TARDIS was waiting, disguised as a closed tourist information kiosk.

Their Earth friends all thought they were going to Rumania for their honeymoon. And that was true, except not to the modern country. The TARDIS was taking them to Bistriz in 1881, the year the hero of their favourite Gothic novel went there.

But they were taking the scenic route. Out to the edge of the solar system and back. And slower than usual. Kristoph had programme the journey so that they would get back to Earth in the morning. The slow journey meant he didn’t have to pilot them through the asteroid belt, and it meant that they had perfect peace for their wedding night.

Of course it wasn’t their ‘real’ wedding night. They both knew that. But the TARDIS provided a beautifully appointed honeymoon bedroom all the same with a huge bed with satin sheets and champagne on ice beside it. A big ‘window’ looked out on the view of their journey. Of course it wasn’t a real window, but a huge viewscreen.

Marion went to get ready for bed in the en suite bathroom and when she returned Kristoph was already in bed, dressed in black satin pyjamas with golden dragons chasing each other around the shirt front. She was in a deep red silk nightdress that clung to her body sensuously, and when Kristoph reached out to hold her, the touch of his hands through that silk was sensual. But they did no more than hold each other tightly as he turned down the bedside lamp and the reflected light of Jupiter was the only illumination in the quiet room.

“This is for you,” Kristoph said and he pressed a small tissue wrapped package into her hand. She unwrapped it and smiled as she saw the token of his love inside. It was a silver, tear shaped silver pendant on a rope chain. The pendant was studded with white diamonds arranged in the double arrowhead shape of the constellation of Kasterborous. She knew without him telling her that the silver and the diamonds came from Gallifrey. Another piece of his home gifted to her.

“It’s lovely,” she whispered. “And so are you. I love you, Professor De Leon.”

“I love you, Mrs De Leon,” he answered, kissing her lovingly.

And that was all they needed that night to be happy. The rest could wait.

v