Marion sighed contentedly as she relaxed on the TARDIS sofa and watched what was almost a familiar sight to her now – the orbit of the Earth. It had been a pleasant day. More so than she expected. The all day Shakespeare workshop had been fun. Kristoph had proved a more than able teacher as the mysteries of the Bard were unlocked by 20th century students who discovered there was nothing to be scared of after all. She laughed as she remembered how he had so skilfully brought out the best in all of the performers in an outdoor production of Merchant of Venice. There had been criticism of the young man playing Shylock. Several students had criticised his Manchester accent as being wrong. Kristoph had laughed and asked Marion to explain why it was perfectly all right for Shylock to come from Manchester.

“Because Shakespeare wrote for the common people in their own accents,” she replied, paraphrasing what he had told her that time on the train, another lifetime ago, it seemed. And Kristoph had smiled at her and then turned back to the young man and gently teased him for wearing a Manchester United shirt in a summer school of students from Liverpool. Then he winked and paraphrased Shylock’s passionate speech.

“I am a Mancunian. Hath not a Mancunian eyes? Hath not a Mancunian hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Liverpudlian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?”

Everyone had fallen over laughing, especially as he did the speech in the very accent the young student spoke with. Kristoph had then spoken very passionately, in his own accent, or what she supposed was his own accent, about being a stranger in a strange land, whether a Manchester United supporter in Liverpool or a Jew in Venice or a….

He had broken off there and then moved on, but he made them think again about that unsympathetic character of Shakespeare’s and about their own selves. They had continued the lesson in the afternoon sunshine in the beer garden of the pub they all went to for lunch. She was almost sorry when it was over. But only a little. Because as soon as the other students had gone their way they went to his study together. Inside the stationery cupboard she settled down on the sofa while he set the TARDIS in motion and did some mysterious things at the console.

“What IS your own true accent?” she asked turning and looking at him. “Since you’re not really English.”

“My accent?” He looked at her and smiled. “Well, when I speak English, this is my accent. When I speak in my own language…” He locked off a switch on the console and came to her side. He took her hand in his and began to speak. She knew it must be some kind of poetry. The rhythm and cadence of it sounded poetic. And his voice sounded so magnificent, deep and rich and stirring her heart.

“What was that?” she asked when he finished. He was sitting by her now and he enfolded her in his arms and kissed her passionately before he answered her.

“An Ancient Gallifreyan love epic,” he answered. “So ancient the TARDIS doesn’t even translate it for you. But look…” He gently turned her head towards the viewscreen. It was no longer showing the orbit around the Earth. Instead there was a sort of tunnel of blue light through which they seemed to be moving. “The time vortex,” he said. “It doesn’t really look like that. But the TARDIS produces a sort of colour representation, blue for backwards and red for forwards in time.”

“We’re going back in time?” she asked. “To when?”

“1601. There is a performance of Merchant of Venice at the Globe that I thought you might enjoy.”

“You’re taking me to the original Globe Theatre?” She looked at him in utter astonishment. “I know you said time and space… but REALLY? You can do that?”

“I can. And in a little while we shall go and see what the wardrobe has in 1601 fashions. I think you will look lovely in a farthingale. But for now… As much as I enjoyed the lessons today, I have missed being able to hold you.”

Marion happily accepted his plan. As the TARDIS span back through time, she let him hold her in his arms again and kiss her lovingly. Something else she was starting to take for granted.

“I mustn’t do that,” she thought. “I mustn’t forget how lucky I am. Or that this may not last. It is a beautiful interlude. But I cannot take any of it for granted.”

“But you can,” Kristoph whispered. “I want you to take all of it for granted. Think of the TARDIS as your second home. Think of all of this as yours for the taking. The travel, me… Take me for granted, Marion. Know that I will always be here for you.”

“You’re reading my mind again.” She thought.

“It's a beautiful mind,” he answered.

The TARDIS provided well for her. She emerged from the wardrobe in a royal blue dress with gold trim and real pearls on the bodice and front of the skirt. Her hair was fastened up with pieces of gold fabric. She breathed in as deeply as she could, with some authentic Elizabethan corsetry making the dress fit in the right places. Then she looked at Kristoph in black and silver doublet and hose and smiled. He swept off the feathered hat and bowed formally. She knew the response was to curtsey and remembered that he had taught the girls to do that during the lesson in the afternoon session. She had not realised at the time that he was training her for this trip. She made the curtsey now, to him and smiled widely again when he took her hand and raised her up.

“Let us go to the theatre, my lady,” he said.

 

And for all of that magical evening she WAS his lady. He was the Marquess de Lœngbærrow and she his Lady. They watched the play from a covered box near the stage and afterwards she not only was introduced to William Shakespeare but…

“Queen Elizabeth!” she laughed as she changed from her dress behind a screen in the wardrobe. She couldn’t stop laughing as she slipped out of the beautiful but uncomfortable clothes and put on a red and gold kimono style gown that fastened with a tie belt. It was a relief to be free of the corset and she reluctant to put on tight clothes again yet, but the kimono over her usual modern underwear was just as suitable as a dress. “Have you been there many times? How is it that the Queen KNEW you?”

“A little Power of Suggestion,” he answered. “For the time we were there, she and her attendants and Shakespeare and his people all believed that I was the Marquess, a favourite of her court, and you my lady, and that they all knew me well.”

“That’s an amazing gift.” She stepped out from behind the screen. She was in her bare feet. The TARDIS floors were warm under foot and she didn’t need shoes for now. She smiled as she saw Kristoph in a pair of trousers and a white shirt, open at the neck. She had not seen him without a tie before. He looked so much less the professor, but every inch a man.

“You have a lot of other gifts, too, don’t you,” she said as she relaxed on the sofa again and he set their course home to 1992.

“We’re taking the scenic route,” he told her. “Not just an orbit of the Earth. I thought we’d slingshot out to Sedna and back.”

“To where?”

“Sedna is the tenth planet of your solar system. I’m cheating. It hasn’t been discovered yet, let along named. But when it is, it will be called Sedna, after the Inuit goddess of the sea. It isn’t a very remarkable planet, but it does mark the outer limit of the solar system that you were born in, my lovely Marion, so that makes it special to me.”

Marion watched the view for a long time. she was fascinated by what she saw. The planets that she had seen only in pictures, close up as the TARDIS passed them. He left her on the sofa as they came to the asteroid belt. The asteroids could be unpredictable, he said. He needed to check their route through them.

“Would they damage the TARDIS?” she asked.

“Not likely. But a collision might send debris out of orbit and it could be dangerous. I don’t want to cause a crisis on Earth or any other planet.” He looked up at the view and nodded. “You know, there is a story, I don’t even know if it is true. The Asteroid Belt was a planet destroyed by my own people in order to prevent a terrible evil from getting out into the universe.”

“Really?”

“It is a story. I don’t know for sure. It happened before Earth was even an inhabited planet. Long, long ago.”

“Your people had time travel and the power to blow up a planet while we were still… before Humans…”

He came to her side now and they watched Jupiter come into view. She wondered if he was going to address the question.

“My people are very powerful. We are called by many names. The Guardians of Eternity, the Lords of Time, the Princes of the Universe.”

“Seriously?” She stared at him. It sounded so grand. But she didn’t love him for being a prince or a lord. It was too much.

He saw the doubt in her eyes as she wondered if it was all a bit too much, too soon.

“But this Lord, this Prince, is humble in your arms, Marion,” he assured her. And believe me, I AM the same man you fell in love with.”

“It’s scary,” she said. “It’s amazing, wonderful, magnificent.” She stared at Saturn for a long time. “VERY magnificent. YOU are humble… I feel like…” She looked at Saturn’s rings and its moons. “I feel like one of those little moons next to that giant planet. That’s what you are.”

“I still love you, Marion,” he assured her. He kissed her lips and felt her respond to the kiss. She DID love him. But she was still adjusting to it all.

“Shakespeare was great. The solar system, wonderful. But…” She bit her lip as she looked at him. “Prince of the Universe… Oh Kristoph, I need time to get used to that. Just let me have my wonderful, gentle professor back for a bit.”

“Oh, my dear,” he told her. “I have never gone away. I am here.” He kissed her gently. “But look,” he said. “That cold blue ball there. That is Sedna. Your 10th planet. You’re the first Human to see it for what it is. The scientists are still trying to decide if it’s a moon or a planet or a speck of dust on the lenses of their telescopes.”

She laughed at his little joke. It relaxed her and drove away the doubts.

This is my gift to you, Marion, and I don’t want it to scare you. I want you to be able to enjoy it.”

“Thank you,” she said. “It IS a precious gift. Thank you, Kristoph.” She smiled. It WAS The Professor that she had fallen in love with before she knew about any of this. Granted, there was an air of mystery about The Professor, and a power beyond his physical appearance, and perhaps, in fact, she HAD fallen for the Prince of the universe without realising it, but it was still easier to think of him in those more Human and Earthly terms yet.

And on those terms she loved him until her one heart was as full as his two.

She reached out then and hugged him. Relieved, he put his arms about her. As his TARDIS turned around and re-crossed Sedna’s erratic orbit and headed back towards Earth, and its night time parking space by the halls of residence, to everything normal and ordinary, he was the professor she loved. But one who could give her a world as a gift, who meant, in time, to give her the universe itself.

But a world was enough for now.