Sylvia Noble answered the phone just before the answering-machine clicked on.
“Do you consent and gladly give?” asked the voice on the end. It was a man. It was that man, who she didn't especially like.
“Do I consent and gladly give what?” she snapped.
“Do you consent and gladly give please?” tried the Doctor.
“That's not what she means,” said Donna's voice a bit muffled by distance and hopefully nothing else. “Give me the phone.”
“It's my job to ask,” he said.
“I don't care,” said Donna. There was the sound of a struggle and then Donna's voice came through more loudly. “Mum, listen, you have no idea what this phone call is costing, can you just say that you consent and gladly give?”
“What am I giving him?” demanded Sylvia.
“Um..” said Donna.
“Is it money? I'm not giving him money. I don't trust him to pay me back.”
“Me,” said Donna with an irritated sigh. “You're giving him me.”
“No, I am not!”
“Please, Mum, all you have to do is say it.”
“You come home right now, young lady.”
“I'm not a young lady, I'm nearly...” she paused, almost certainly looking at the Doctor, “twenty-one.”
“You're nearly forty,” said her mother. “Have you told him you're only twenty-one? Have you been lying to him?”
“You don't even like him!” cried Donna.
“Not the point, Donna. Now, I want you home by the time I've hung up the phone. I know you can do that, it's a time-machine.”
“I'm busy!” Donna protested.
“Well, I'm not consenting to anything unless you come home and prove to me that you're alright.”
Donna sighed over the phone. “Oh, fine.” The line clicked dead.
Sylvia hung up the phone, checked her hair in the mirror, and went to the front door just as that horrible alien noise started. It was like keys on piano-wire, or an asthmatic elephant playing a trumpet.
Sylvia opened the door to her daughter and that awful man. They were connected to each other by a dark-coloured tie around their hands. Sylvia didn't approve.
“What's that?” she asked, pointing.
Donna shook her hand free. “It's... a bit complicated. I'm not sure how to explain.”
Sylvia narrowed her eyes. “Try.”
“We'resortofgettingmarried,” mumbled Donna.
“Pardon?” Sylvia had heard her perfectly well.
The Doctor stepped in to save her daughter. “Married, Mrs Noble. Donna and I are getting married.”
Sylvia stared at them. “What on Earth for?”
“Because we love each other,” said the Doctor, with dignity.
“And because if we don't then the Shadow Proclamation are going to arrest us for pretending to be married, even though we always put people right when they make that mistake.”
The Doctor looked at Donna. “Don't you love me?”
“Of course I love you, you skinny alien freak.”
The Doctor smiled. “So, Mrs Noble, if you could just say 'I consent and gladly give'...”
“Have you got her pregnant, is that it?” Sylvia didn't know what a Shadow Proclamation was supposed to be, which meant that they were almost certainly making it up.
“I don't think so,” said the Doctor. “We haven't explored the physical aspect of our love yet.”
“What do you mean yet?” she asked, dangerously.
The Doctor stepped back off the doorstep. “I mean I have no plans to do anything like that, ever.”
“You'd bloody better have,” said Donna, dragging him back onto the step.
Sylvia was, of course, appalled. “You're not having sex with him,” she told Donna.
“Mum, I'm old enough to do what I want!”
Sylvia saw a chance to get between them. “How old do you think she is?”
The Doctor looked at Donna for a few moments, then produced a pair of glasses and looked at her more closely. “Thirty-nine years, eight months, fifteen days,” he said, taking off his specs and putting them back in his pocket. “And twelve minutes, if I'm not mistaken.”
Sylvia folded her arms. “Well,” she said, “you're still not getting married.”
“But we have to,” said Donna. “You don't want the Judoon turning up and trampling about all over your garden, do you?”
“What's a Judoon?”
“Intergalactic police force,” said the Doctor.
“They're a sort of space rhino,” said Donna.
There was a loud noise somewhere high in the atmosphere. “Speaking of which,” said the Doctor, pushing past Sylvia into the house and pulling Donna with him. Sylvia followed them into the living room
The Doctor started winding his tie around Donna's hand again. “Right, we're in a bit of a hurry, so if you could...”
“I'm not going to say it.”
“They might blow up the planet as the easiest way to get to us,” the Doctor pointed out.
“I'm still not...” she saw the look in his eyes. “Oh, fine, I consent and gladly give. Happy now?”
The Doctor whispered something in Donna's ear and then said. “Very happy, Mum. Can I call you Mum?”
“No, you bloody well can't.”
Donna was looking strangely at the Doctor. “That's never your real name.”
“Just don't say it out loud and we're good,” he said. “Right. Married. To Donna.” He looked slightly stunned by this turn of events.
“Is there a divorce ceremony?” asked Sylvia hopefully.
“We only just got married!” said Donna.
“I know, but it's always best to plan ahead.”
The Doctor sat down on the sofa. “I'm married now.”
“Yeah, you don't have to look so upset about it,” said Donna.
“I'm not upset,” he protested. “Just a bit... surprised.”
Donna handed him his tie. “Put that back on and shut up.”
“Am I going to be a grandmother?” asked Sylvia, who was still upset but she did have priorities.
“We've only been married five minutes, give me a chance!” cried the Doctor.
Sylvia sat down in an armchair. “My daughter's married to an alien,” she said to the world in general.
Donna patted her back soothingly. “It's okay,” she said, “it could be worse.”
“How could it be worse?”
“Just trust me that it could be.” Donna turned to her new husband. “Honeymoon in Space Vegas?”
“If you like.” He stood up and shook Sylvia's hand. “Thanks for consenting and gladly giving. We really couldn't have done it without you.”
“You're welcome,” said Sylvia, dazed by the whole affair. She'd always imagined a big fancy white wedding for Donna, but apparently she wasn't going to get one. Still, at least it hadn't cost her any money.
There really was a silver lining on every cloud.