The sound of somebody walking across the bedroom floor disturbed Marion. She heard a tray clink by the bedside and then there was a brighter light as the curtains were drawn back. She opened her eyes to see a maid in a trim uniform putting flowers into a vase on the dresser.

“Hello,” she said. ``What time is it?”

“It’s eight o’clock, madam. Lady Lily told me to bring you a pot of… tea… I think she said it was, and to say that if you wish to join her there is breakfast on the terrace in half an hour…”

“Oh.” Marion sat up and reached to pour the tea into the cup. She wondered if Kristoph had told Lily about it. She appreciated the thoughtfulness of making sure she began her first morning on Gallifrey with a taste of home.

As she drank the tea, the maid set out some clothes on a chair by the dresser. Lady Lily, she said, had suggested an outfit she might like to wear.

Marion felt slightly put out that her clothes were being chosen for her by a stranger, but when she looked at the long silk dress and the beautiful underwear that went with it she had to agree that they were clothes she WOULD have chosen if she had been given the choice. She showered in the en-suite bathroom and dressed herself before going to find the ‘terrace’.

That turned out to be what Marion would have called a patio, except the paved area was at the top of a series of wide steps. They led down to a water garden with a lily pond where, even from the top of the steps she could see what looked like Koi Carp swimming.

Lady Lilliana was sitting at a table on the terrace with a fine view over the garden. Marion sat at the spare seat and ate a breakfast of a variety of unusual but delicious tasting fruits and nuts with thick cream and something very like latte coffee.

“What are these fruits?” Marion asked. “They’re nice. But they’re so different.”

“The purple one is called moon fruit. The red ones are called grissa. The nuts are called Cúl nut. They are very nutritious. You should eat as many as you can. You had a tiring day yesterday and you should make up the protein.”

Marion took her word for it. She WAS hungry. She enjoyed the breakfast, sitting outside on a warm, pleasant morning.

As she drank another cup of the latte-like beverage her thoughts fell on Kristoph and his father. She felt a little guilty.

“Is there any news?” she asked.

“It is still touch and go,” Lady Lilliana answered. “You are to spend the day here. And you are not to worry.”

“Kristoph told you to say that?”

“He did.” Lilliana smiled. “Kristoph? That form of his name suits him.”

“I keep forgetting the way everyone here pronounces it. Chrístõ Mian… I can’t quite get the pronunciation. Besides, I have known him for two years now as Kristoph. I don’t think I can get used to anything else.”

“Then no reason why you should call him anything else,” Lilliana replied.

“What should I call you? That long name Kristoph said last night is too much, obviously. Your maid called you Lady Lily…”

“Just Lily will do. I really hope we shall be friends, my dear.”

“Kristoph wants us to be,” Marion replied. “And I think we should be. You have been kind to me. I have felt so…” She sighed. “It isn’t my first planet. Kristoph has taken me to so many exciting places. But being here is so… THIS is Gallifrey. It’s his home world. And… Oh, Lily, I do wonder… Perhaps he won’t want to go back to Earth with me. Now he is home. When I see the lifestyle he has here. That house… We have a nice home on Earth. A nice house with enough rooms for us, and a nice garden, a car. It’s the best house I have ever lived in, and we have been so happy for the past two years in that house. Living as ordinary people. But how can he be happy with that now he has remembered where he comes from?”

“I can’t answer that, my dear,” Lily told her. “But I don’t think he will make any decision that would make you unhappy. He loves you very much. I could see that last night.”

“I know,” Marion said. “But…” She sighed. “I’m being silly. I know he loves me. He isn’t going to do anything horrible like sending me away back to Earth without him.”

“Of course he isn’t,” Lily assured her. “If you’ve had enough breakfast, perhaps we could take a walk in the garden. The moon fruits are past their best, and the Cúl nuts are not ripe, but the roses are doing splendidly.”

“Roses?” Marion was surprised. “You have roses here?”

“You have them on Earth?”

“Yes. That is, assuming we’re talking about the same plant.”

 

They were. Lily brought her along past the lily pond which she said was her own favourite place and presently they came to a walled garden with ateliers and walkways and arches covered in climbing roses before they came into the central part where rose beds surrounded a fountain. There were benches there to sit and they made themselves comfortable.

“I’m thinking of having a conservatory built here,” Lily said. “I like the scent of roses when it rains, but sitting around in the rain is not good for me, so my physicians tell me.”

“I expect not,” Marion agreed. “But it looks lovely now, with the sun shining. I’m so glad there are roses. I don’t know why a planet so far away from Earth has the same flowers growing, and the fish in the pond look just like Earth ones. But I am glad there ARE a few things that are familiar about this place.”

“If you like it here, in the rose garden, feel free to visit any time.”

“Thank you. But I will be going home to Earth when Kristoph is free to leave again. I don’t really expect to get THAT homesick.”

“No, I expect not,” Lily said with a sigh. “Chrístõ Mian has been away so long. He made himself an exile. I think we all hoped he might be coming home to stay.”

“No,” Marion insisted.

Lily diplomatically changed the subject. They talked of easier things for a while. Then Marion looked at Lily and hesitantly broached a subject that puzzled her.

“You look so much older than Kristoph does. That must be because of regeneration I suppose?”

“Yes,” Lily answered. “I am actually a little younger than he is.”

“And when you were younger you were lovers? He told me you were his first love.”

“Oh, indeed we were,” she replied. “From a very young age. Everyone thought we would marry. I loved him very much.”

“But you didn’t. You left him, you married another.”

“I never stopped loving him,” Lily said. “How much did he tell you?”

“That he fought in a war. And he was gone longer than anyone thought he would be, and when he returned you had taken another man as your husband.”

“We had been told he was dead.” Lily sighed as if the memory pained her. “If I had thought for one moment that he was alive, I would have waited. But we thought he was dead. His mother and father and sisters and I mourned him. There was a memorial stone laid and we said our goodbyes to him. His parents… You know, it is unusual to have two sons in an Oldblood House. Remonte was born after they had mourned their first son. He was…”

“To replace him?” Marion looked horrified at the thought. But it made a sort of sense.

“Yes. Remonte was to be the primogeniture, set to inherit everything. Then when he was a little more than twenty years old his brother was found alive, though horribly wounded. Remonte had to take the role of second son. Although… it had to be said… when we saw him first it was hard to believe he was going to live. What they had done to him…”

“What HAD they done to him?” Marion asked.

“Do you need to know?” Lily asked her. “It isn’t pleasant.”

“I love him, Lily. And I know there are things he won’t talk about. Please….”

“Those who were taken prisoner by our enemy were kept in semi-conscious state in great underground chambers, hundreds of them. They were subjected to horrific tortures.. Their captors knew that their bodies repaired so they continually hurt them. Their bones were broken every day. Some of them had limbs severed to see how long it took to grow them back. They were electrocuted and the food tubes were blocked so that they nearly died of hunger and thirst before being given just enough nourishment to keep them alive. And this… it went on day after day for nearly twenty-five years. Until our army finally defeated theirs and the chambers were discovered.”

“Oh…” Marion shivered despite the warm day. “How dreadful. “And Kristoph was one of those prisoners?”

“He was. Though we did not know that. We had received false information that he was among the dead. When we heard of the horrors found in that place… We who had already mourned the death of our dearest one were relieved that he had not suffered so… And then a message came. He WAS one of the prisoners.”

“And all those horrible things were done to him?”

“It was terrible. They butchered him. Both his arms and one leg had been severed and he was blinded. And he was so mentally disturbed he didn’t even know us at first. When he did, I had to break it to him that I had turned to another man’s love while he was gone from us. To inflict that hurt on him after all he had suffered was terrible. It caused a mental relapse. It made his recovery so much harder. But I couldn’t undo what was done. We have no concept of divorce on Gallifrey. We marry for life. I belonged to my Jules. Chrístõ Mian had to remain no more than a friend. But I have felt guilty for betraying him every day until yesterday, when I saw him smile at you, even in the midst of the grief he is suffering. I knew then that he IS capable of loving again.”

“Oh,” The compliment to herself was unexpected at the end of such a dreadful story. But she was thinking about the man she loved as a tortured, half destroyed shell of himself, being tended by Lily and by his mother. “No wonder he couldn’t tell me about the war.”

“He never told anyone very much about it. I think a lot of it was blanked out from his mind. The forced regeneration he underwent to repair his body affected his memory a lot.”

“Forced regeneration?” Marion remembered Li talking of that, but she had not realised what it meant.

“He had not regenerated for the first time when he became a casualty of that war. He wasn’t able to initiate it himself. The physicians had to force his body into regeneration by stopping his hearts and ceasing brain activity until the process began. It was terribly risky. He could have died. I… it is terrible to say it, but I had almost hoped he would. I felt as if he needed to end the agony. But his body was mended by the regeneration and his mind slowly found its way back to us. And he forgave me. He and Jules were good friends. We all were. We were happy. And in a way it was better. You see, Jules and I could neither of us have children. We accepted that. But Chrístõ Mian is the heir to an Oldblood House. He must have a child of his own.”

“Something else I am to fulfil, of course,” Marion said. “It’s as if destiny already planned our lives.”

“Perhaps it has. But if so, then Chrístõ Mian waited patiently for his chance of love. And we who are his friends are delighted that his chance has come at last. Yes, you will be the Lady De Lœngbærrow and mother of his heir.”

“Lily.” Marion said. “Does everyone… his mother, you… do you all think that I’m going to live here on Gallifrey?

“You don’t?”

“No,” she answered. “The thought of it scares me. Leaving Earth… my home. Everything I know that is familiar to me. And living here, on a strange planet…” She laughed softly. “I don’t know much about the planet really. All I have seen so far is two big mansions with servants waiting on me. And that… When I was a little girl I used to dream of being rich and living in a big house. But… But the house Kristoph and I have on Earth is big enough for me. I thought we would spend our lives there. I thought he would go on being a university lecturer and I would be a primary school teacher and we would have children of our own and…”

“You need to talk to him. But, as I said before, my dear, Chrístõ Mian won’t do anything that you aren’t happy about.”

“That I won’t.” Marion looked around as Kristoph came into the rose garden. She ran to his arms joyfully. He embraced her lovingly, aware of Lily’s indulgent smile as he watched them kissing as if they had been parted for weeks, not simply overnight.

“Is it over?” she asked. “Are you… Your father?”

“He is recovering,” Kristoph said. “As I am. The crisis is over.”

“I am glad,” she said. “Does that mean we can go home now? To Earth.”

“Earth isn’t my home, Marion. Gallifrey is. Yes, we will be returning to Liverpool. But not yet. I need to spend some time with my family. My father and I have much to talk about. My mother needs to fuss over her first born son in person for a while, not by videophone. And I have some other business I wish to do while I am here. And besides all of that, Lily is eager to use her skills as a hostess in your honour.”

“I thought a reception,” Lily added. “You two have been betrothed for two years already. It is long overdue. You must be presented to Gallifreyan society, Marion. As the future wife of one of our most highly placed citizens.”

“An engagement party for your friends here on Gallifey?” Marion asked.

“We never really HAD a celebration,” Kristoph reminded her. “And as Lily’s parties are renowned throughout Gallifrey, you are highly honoured, my dear.”

Marion looked at Lily, and at Kristoph. And she knew there was nothing she could say about this. There was going to be a reception whether she wanted one or not.

And she really wasn’t sure that she DID want one.