Marion lay awake. She could hear Kristoph’s soft breathing beside her. She reached out and touched his chest. She felt his two hearts beating strongly. She sighed and tried not to cry. She felt so empty, so emotionally numb.

It wasn’t his fault. He still loved her as much as he ever did. She knew he would do anything to make her happy. The problem was, he couldn’t. For all his power, there was nothing he could do just now to make her happy.

“I do love you, Kristoph,” she whispered. “But…”

She sighed and slid out of the bed. She put on a robe over her nightdress and her slippers and went to the dressing table by the window. Pazithi Gallifreya was full, and in that aspect in which she appeared shining bronze instead of silver. The moonlight shone through the window giving her light enough for what she wanted to do.

She found paper in one of the dresser drawers and a pen. She wrote a simple message and folded it in half. She took a rose from the bunch in a vase on the dresser and laid it with the note on her pillow, held in place by a diamond studded pin that he had given her among many pieces of jewellery.

Then she turned and left the room quietly. She crept along the landing to the spare room where the portal was. She closed the door behind her and sat for a few moments in the chair by the control panel. Then she turned the dial and watched the screen until the view resolved itself into a summer sunset over the ocean on Haolstrom IV.

She stepped out of the portal and looked out at the view. It was beautiful as ever. She truly did miss the sea, sometimes, living where they did on the edge of the Southern Plain. Mostly she didn’t mind. There were other compensations. But just now she appreciated the salt tang of the air and the sound of the waves.

“Marion!” She turned as Hillary called to her. She came from the lighthouse door, running to her. “My dear, it is wonderful to see you. But…” Hillary took in the nightdress and slippers and knew something was wrong.

“Come inside,” she said. “Come on up to the bedroom. You look like you need to rest.”

Marion said nothing. She let Hillary take her by the hand and lead her up the spiralling staircase to the bedroom at the top of the lighthouse. Not the guest room she usually slept in there, but Hillary’s own bedroom. It was a beautiful room, with a huge bed in the middle, round like the room itself, with red satin sheets and a petal pink coverlet. It looked like a flower.

“Get into the bed,” Hillary told her. “I’ll bring you a warm drink.”

Marion didn’t argue. She slipped out of her robe and slippers and slid into the bed. The sheets felt cool, and the pillows slightly scented with the perfume that Hillary used when she was in her female form, and at the same time, the aftershave of her male version.

She came back, presently, with a mug of something that was like milky chocolate flavoured with nuts. It tasted nice. She sat in the bed and drank it. Hillary watched her.

“You’re unhappy, I can see that,” she said. “Can you tell me about it?”

Marion tried. She tried to explain about the emptiness, about feeling nothing even when the man she loved tried his hardest to make her happy.

“We still make love every night,” she said. “And… it’s still … he’s still passionate…. But I feel… for the past few weeks, since we were able to again, lovemaking with Kristoph has felt so much like duty. It was what was required of me according to the words of our Alliance of Unity. I know he loved me. I love him. But it isn’t enough at the moment.

“It’s because of the baby, isn’t it?” Hillary said. “That hurt you so deeply.”

“Anna,” Marion said. “the baby… We named her. We… We both grieved for her. We were all right then. We comforted each other. But now… now, I feel so…”

“Of course you do,” Hillary said, hugging her tightly as she cried out her pain and sorrow. “I’m sure he knows it. Kristoph would never sit back and let you be so unhappy. But you don’t know how to open your heart up to him?”

“That’s it,” she said. “I just feel… cold and empty and numb…”

“I can help with that,” Hillary said. “If you will let me.” She shifted her hold and Marion was surprised when she put her hand on her face and drew her into a kiss. She felt the power of Haollstromnian pheromones overwhelm her and she responded to the kiss. She enjoyed it.

“Hillary…” She sighed softly as she drew back her head. She looked around at the lovely room and realised something about it.

“You bring your lovers to this room, to this bed…”

Hillary’s species never married. They didn’t pledge to love each other for ever. They took lovers for a little while, they enjoyed each other’s company for a time, then moved on and found others. It was a strange concept but one which seemed to work for Haolstromnians.

“I have had a great many lovers here in this room,” Hillary answered.

“Men or women?” Marion asked before she realised that the question was irrelevant. Hillary looked like a woman just now, but she could be a man in a few moments time. Marion tried to imagine what it would be like to be a pair of Haolstromnians making love to each other. Changing gender so that they could each enjoy the experience fully and completely in every way.

“We enjoy each other without anxiety or pressure,” Hillary said. “We have no concept of adultery or unfaithfulness. I never quite made Kristoph understand that. He could only ever think as a Gallifreyan. He couldn’t unwind himself from the strict morals of his kind.” Hillary sighed deeply as she thought of her one unrequited love, then she smiled warmly at Marion. “I think that’s what you need to do, my dear. Unwind yourself in the arms of a gendermorph who adores you.”

“Oh…” Marion wasn’t sure what to make of that. The kiss they had shared was a passionate one. But she couldn’t believe Hillary was proposing anything more than that.

“No, my dear,” she assured him. “I know you would never be unfaithful to Kristoph. Nor would he be unfaithful to you. I have been his loving friend for over a century and you… I knew the first time I met you that I would love you the same way. All I propose, Marion, is to hold you close. I want to keep you safe for your own lover. Will you trust me, Marion? To give you such loving care?”

“Yes,” Marion answered. “Oh, yes. Please… please hold me.”

Hillary held her. She pressed her down into the bed and lay beside her. She held her close and kissed her again while gently caressing her cheek, her shoulders, her arms. She wasn’t trying to arouse her, but quite the opposite. She was calming her, letting her slowly unwind all those frustrations and anxieties. Yes, Hillary had brought many lovers to the lighthouse. She had known nights of unrestrained passion. Even among her passionate species, she was considered a great lover. But it wasn’t all she was about. It wasn’t all that her people were about. Love could be given in ways other than the physical. And this night, she was glad to love Marion, but not in a way that her husband might misconstrue as betrayal – by either of them.

 

Kristoph woke just after dawn. He knew at once that Marion was not in the bed. He sat up and looked at the pillow. He picked up the rose and the note. He read the note and his hearts sank.

“I love you, but I have to go. I have to have time to think. I have to find my heart. Marion.”

“Marion,” he murmured. “Oh, sweetheart.”

He got up out of the bed and dressed himself. He walked quietly through the house. He knew there was no point in looking for her in any of the rooms. He stepped outside and went to the garage. Her car was there, still. She hadn’t gone anywhere in it.

Was she on foot? Walking in the dark? The thought distressed him. But he forced himself to remain calm. He closed his eyes and concentrated. She couldn’t have walked more than five or ten miles in the time she was gone. He cast his mind out that far. He felt for her. He knew he couldn’t communicate with her telepathically. But if she was out there, then he would be able to feel her mind. He would feel her emotions. He would know her.

She wasn’t there.

She could be dead.

The thought occurred to him, but he refused to dwell on it. Besides, there was one other possibility. He went back into the house. He moved up the stairs quickly and along the landing to the portal room. He opened the portal and looked at the settings. He nodded to himself. He understood now.

 

It was near dawn on a warm Haolstromnian summer morning when Kristoph’s TARDIS materialised beside the portal at the lighthouse. He let himself in and walked up the steps to the living quarters. He opened the bedroom door quietly and approached the decadent round bed with its satin sheets, Hillary’s nest where she had seduced so many lovers in her life. He looked at the two women as they lay asleep. Hillary’s arms protectively enfolded Marion’s vulnerable form. The older woman’s lips were on her cheek in a tender kiss.

Should he be angry to see his wife in his former sweetheart’s bed? Jealous? He was neither. He had an overwhelming desire to lie with them both. They looked so comfortable. Marion looked more relaxed than she had done in many weeks.

He touched Marion’s forehead gently. He read the soft dream she was lost in presently. Then he read further back. He saw her crying in Hillary’s arms. He saw her pouring out her troubles to her. He saw Hillary taking her to her bed, not to seduce her into adultery, but to keep her safe for him. He caught that phrase Hillary used – unwinding. Yes, Marion had found a way to do that. And he was glad for her, and grateful to his old friend who had given her that opportunity.

He stepped away for a few minutes. When he returned, Hillary’s arms seemed to have curled even more tightly around Marion’s shoulders, protecting her even in sleep. Before he left them alone he leaned over and kissed both of them on the cheek.

“Sleep on, my sweethearts,” he whispered before he turned and left the room. They neither of them stirred as the TARDIS dematerialised outside.

 

Marion and Hillary both woke at the same time. They both saw the note pinned to the pillow at their side by a diamond pin. There was a fresh rose with it. Marion took the note in trembling hands.

“I understand. Take all the time you need. Come home to me when you are ready. - Kristoph.”

“He was here?” Hillary was surprised. “And he just left a note and never…”

“He understands,” Marion said. “He…”

“Take all the time you need? How much time do you think you need?”

“I think I’m ready,” she answered, pressing the rose to her lips. “I think I can go home to him. We have some things to talk about, but I’m ready.” She looked at Hillary. “It’s those pheromones,” she said. “The ones your people have in abundance. You… don’t just use them to seduce. You can use them to… It was like having my mind gently bathed, all my worries melting away. It’s a wonderful gift, Hillary. I’m so glad you shared it with me.”

“Any time, my dear,” she answered. “Why don’t you take a shower and I’ll make some breakfast before you go?”

“The shower sounds good, but I think… I think I should have breakfast with Kristoph.”

“Yes, even better,” Hillary agreed. She reached and kissed her on the cheek in loving friendship before letting her go.

 

Marion stepped out of the portal into the spare bedroom. She was surprised to see another note, with another rose lying on the floor.

“Hillary called me when you were showering in her bathroom. She said you didn’t want to stay for breakfast. So I ordered your favourite brought up to our bedroom.”

She slipped along the corridor and opened the bedroom door. Breakfast had, indeed, been brought up. Kristoph was drinking a cup of tea and reading in bed. She looked at him hesitantly. He looked up and put down both the book and the cup and held out his hand to her.

“You’re not angry?” she asked as he kissed her lovingly.

“For what? I had that portal built so you could visit your friends when you needed to.”

“But I spent the night with Hillary… in her bed. You saw…”

“I saw the woman I love with both of my hearts being cared for in her need by my dearest friend. Why should I be angry? Even if… you and Hillary… I know she could have seduced you if she had wanted. You could have spent the night in exquisite love-making. And even if you had… I would have no right to be angry with you. I am the one who has failed you, my dear. I would only have myself to blame if you felt such a need. This is my wake up call. I must not fail you again. Or next time you would be perfectly justified in seeking the comfort of Hillary’s love nest.”

“I love you,” Marion insisted. “I never doubted that for one moment. Hillary helped me to see through the fog that was clouding my mind. That’s all.”

“I know that,” he assured her. He kissed her again, gently pulling her close to him. He felt her reciprocate warmly. “Eat your breakfast now, Marion. And then…”

He hesitated. He had felt her thought about their lovemaking being no more than duty. Would it still feel the same?

“I’ll never make you do anything out of duty. If it feels that way, please tell me. But I would like to spend the morning making love to you. There is nothing else either of us is engaged to do, today - at least not until tea time. Hillary said she would pop by and see us both…”

“Yes,” Marion said with a genuine smile that had been missing for so long. “Yes, that’s a good plan for the morning. And I should like us both to have tea with Hillary – whichever one turns up.”