“Ambassador!” Kohb ran into the Ambassador’s chamber without pausing to knock. “Ambassador, your son – Chrístõ Cuimhne. He has been found.”

“Alive?” The Ambassador for Gallifrey, Chrístõ Mian de Lœngbærrow, stood up on legs that felt suddenly hollow. He reached out and steadied himself against a comfortingly solid piece of furniture. He calmed his racing hearts and tried to breathe normally.

“Alive, yes….” Kohb paused. He looked at the man he owed so very much to, who had given him a job, given him his life. “Yes, he is alive. He’s on board the hospital ship, SS Grace Holloway. It’s currently in orbit around Callo X.”

“That’s the other side of the Galaxy to where he was lost…” The Ambassador looked at his aide in astonishment. “There’s no mistake? After all this time, even I had stopped hoping. If this is….”

“Sir… I think you ought to go,” Kohb said. “I… I’m sorry sir, it’s not for me to say. I apologise for speaking out of turn… but I do think you should try.”

The Ambassador looked up at the portrait over the fireplace. His son, Chrístõ, painted many years ago now - before the accident. He was dressed in black and silver that made his pale complexion even more remarkable. He was a handsome young man, with so much potential. Such a great destiny.

And in an instant that potential was cut off.

“Yes,” he said. “I will go. But I don’t know if I dare hope. Please… do not say anything about where I am going to anyone else. I don’t want their hopes dashed.”

“Yes, sir.” Kohb answered.


The SS Grace Holloway was a huge space born craft. It had five hundred wards, 50 operating theatres, 4,000 people worked on it full time, and 3 times that many patients could be treated at any one time. The Grace Holloway and her sister ships the Marie Curie, the Florence Nightingale and the Elizabeth Garrett were always on standby to attend wherever in the universe a major disaster had occurred, ready to ease the suffering of victims.

Callo X, a planet with very unstable tectonic plates, had suffered five major Earthquakes on three continents within three days. Rescue ships had come from all over the Callo system and the Grace Holloway and the Florence Nightingale were both there to treat the injured. The staff were working at full stretch. Lists of patients were updated minute by minute.

One patient didn’t come from the disaster below on the planet. Nobody was entirely sure WHERE he came from or HOW he got there. Witnesses said he just appeared out of thin air, in number four cardio theatre in the middle of a transplant operation. He had looked about him in a confused way and then fainted. The first doctor to examine him concluded that every bone in his body was broken, but an hour later when he was re-examined they found nothing wrong with him but extreme shock and dehydration. An hour later, he woke and although unable to speak because his larynx was constricted by the breathing tubes attached, he was able to write his name down.


“Chrístõ Cuimhne de Lœngbærrow,” The Ambassador said. “I was told he was here.”

“Yes, sir,” the nurse said. “Come this way.”

The Ambassador looked with sympathy at the injured people who filled the ward. There were burns and broken limbs, amputees. But his first thoughts were for his own child, his flesh and blood, who he had almost, but not quite, given up hope of seeing again. He had always held that he would KNOW if his son was dead. He always said he would feel it in his hearts, and in his soul. He had not felt that. He had held on to the hope. But if this WAS a mistake, he thought that hope might just die.

As the nurse pulled back the curtains around the end bed in the long ward he drew breath and prepared for disappointment. He closed his eyes as he stepped towards the bed. He opened them and breathed out as he looked at the pale face, framed by tousled black hair. The patient breathed gently through his half-opened lips and his eyelids moved rapidly to show that he was in REM sleep.

“My son,” The Ambassador whispered as he sat by his side and took hold of his hand. “Oh, my son.” He shook with emotion as he clutched the hand to his chest. “Oh, my boy. I have missed you.”

Gallifreyans can’t cry. To those who know anything at all about that self-contained and secretive race it is a well-known fact. They have no tear ducts. Their eyes are kept clean and moist by means of a nictating membrane that acts either with or independent of their eyelids. The Ambassador’s nictating membrane flickered up and down over his eyes rapidly as a pool of what might pass for tears overflowed.

“Father….” Chrístõ spoke hoarsely. His mouth was still dry. His father reached for a carafe of water by the bedside and poured a glass. He held his head and put the water to his lips.

“Father,” he said again. “They told me they had contacted you.”

“How do you feel, son?” his father asked him.

“My throat hurts and I ache all over. But I feel all right.”

“It’s a miracle,” The Ambassador said.

“We’re Gallifreyans,” Chrístõ said. “We don’t believe in miracles.”

“I do now,” The Ambassador told him. “My son was dead, and now he’s alive again.”


“You don’t know what happened to you, do you?”

“I remember being on the shuttle with you, heading back to the Kappa Psi space station. After the trial… after Epsilon escaped. I was thinking about Julia, looking forward to being with her. Then there was… I don’t quite…”

“The shuttle was hit by a time ribbon,” The Ambassador said. “A minor one, but it penetrated the shields. It was like a tornado, hitting people at random. It took one person, left the one sitting right next to him. It… it took you from me, Chrístõ. One moment you were there, by my side. The next…”

“But I’m here. I’m alive. Father… it’s all right. I’m sorry if you were worried. But I’m fine. I was a bit bumped around at first. But I’m fine.”

“Chrístõ, you don’t quite understand. For you it feels like a few days. But a time ribbon. They’re…. well even our own people don’t quite understand what they are…”

They were a rare phenomena, and impossible to predict. Even the Time Lords had never had the chance to study them. It was believed that they were fragments of time accidentally sliced away and floating free through time and space. Where they touched they always caused havoc.

And Chrístõ was probably the first sentient being to survive contact with one.

But he still hadn’t realised the full consequences of what had happened.

“Chrístõ,” his father said. “You have been found again. But… It is TWELVE YEARS since you were taken from me.”


“I’m sorry. There ought to have been a gentler way of breaking it to you. I have missed you so much, my boy. You can’t begin to know the grief. We mourned you as dead. But I never was certain.”

“Twelve years. Father…”

“The doctor says you are fit and well and can leave whenever you feel ready. They only kept you here because you were so exhausted and because there was nobody to take care of you. But I’m here now.” The Ambassador opened the cabinet beside his bed and brought out his clothes. He felt a pang as he looked at the leather jacket that had become almost a part of him. Twelve years since he set eyes on his son wearing that jacket.

The Ambassador helped his son to dress. He said he could manage, but he insisted. When he was done, it was almost as if the long, lonely years had never happened. He looked as he had looked that day when he sat with him on the shuttle.

“Let’s go home, son,” The Ambassador said.

“Home… to Gallifrey?” he asked as he walked with his father. He stopped at a door marked ‘Linen Closet’ but with a symbol of two trees with their branches meeting in the middle underneath. The symbol of Lœngbærrow for the disguised TARDIS of the Lœngbærrow patriarch.

“To Ventura IV. I have been living there this past ten years. The position as Ambassador to that planet came up. The place where we lived when you were a boy, when your mother was alive. I go back to Gallifrey occasionally, but the house… felt too empty.”

“It was empty anyway, father. I haven’t lived there for so long.”

“But I knew you were out there in the universe somewhere,” his father answered as he programmed the TARDIS co-ordinates. “But this time…” He initialised the drive and then he turned to him. “Chrístõ… Your mother almost died giving birth to you. The effort to give me an heir shortened her life exponentially. You have ALWAYS been the most precious thing in my life. For all the gold mines in our family possessions… I would give them all up for you.”

Chrístõ let his father embrace him. He had never seen him so emotional. He was still having trouble taking it all in. For himself he didn’t know what to think. He didn’t feel as if he had been away for twelve years. He had been in the hospital for a few days. He was aware of a lot of pain at first, of not really knowing where he was or why, then being stiff and sore, his bones aching, and being very tired. Somebody, a nurse with a kind face, had told him his father was coming. But he was too tired to care. He went to sleep and didn’t know anything more about it until his father was there by his side, calling his name.

“How do you feel?” his father asked him. And that was a difficult question.

“I’m in no pain now,” he said. “But… I feel… numb. Not… not in my body. But my head. I can’t FEEL anything.”

“They said you were in shock,” his father told him. “Your mind and body went through a dreadful trauma. You’ll feel better when you’re with your family.”

Family. He nodded as if he understood the word, understood what it meant, but there seemed no personal context for it. Faces came into his mind but he couldn’t relate them to any feeling.


He still felt the same emotional numbness, the emptiness, as they landed in the garden of the Ambassador’s residence on Ventura IV. His father held his arm as they walked into the residence. He was surprised how little it had changed in the nearly two hundred years since it had been the first home he remembered. It felt almost like a home-coming. Except that he wasn’t sure where home was any more.

His father brought him to the drawing room. He sat him on a long, soft sofa padded with cushions and rang for refreshments.

“Take some tea,” his father said. “Sit quietly. I have to do something. But I will be back.”

“All right,” Chrístõ said numbly. He watched his father leave the room. He watched the maid bring the tea and biscuits, fine china on a silver tray. The best for the Ambassador’s son. He didn’t pour a cup. He didn’t feel as if he wanted tea. He wanted to understand what had happened to everything and everyone he loved.

The door opened and a boy came into the room, dressed in riding clothes and carrying a crop. Chrístõ looked at him and did the maths and knew who he was.

He was startled to see how LIKE himself at the age of thirteen his half-brother Garrick now was. Brown eyes with long, almost feminine lashes that half hid them, and black hair that no amount of combing could tame. Even the way he carried himself like a young aristocrat reminded him of himself.

“You’re Chrístõ?” he said. “My brother? Father told me to come and see you.”

“Half-brother,” Chrístõ automatically replied. “My mother was a beautiful Earth Child and my father loved her very much.”

“My Father has talked about you so much,” Garrick said, ignoring the dismissal of his parentage implied in Chrístõ’s words. “So does my mother. Even she tells me I should try to be like you… a great Gallifreyan, a noble Time Lord. Father… everything I do… he compares how I do it to you. He doesn’t say it, but he does. In his mind he does.”

“And how DO you compare to me?”

“Badly. I will never live up to you.”

“You know you won’t be primogeniture now.”

“I don’t care about that. I’m glad you’re alive. My father was always so sad when he thought of you. He never stopped loving you. He never loved me as much as you.”

“I don’t believe that. Father never was the sort to have favourites. I’m glad you’re alive, though. When you were a baby you were very sick.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“It doesn’t matter. Do you live here then? I thought your mother wanted you to be brought up on Gallifrey?”

“After you were…. Lost…. My father didn’t want me to be so far away. I have private teachers. But I will go to the Prydonian Academy when I am 25, like you did.”

“You’ll hate it,” Chrístõ said. “I did.” He looked again at the boy. He WAS a lot like him. And he had taken his place in his father’s hearts. He was the one his father wanted near him all the time.

That was a shock. Though one he should, perhaps, have anticipated.

“I’m tired,” he said. “I would like to rest.” He stretched himself out on the long, soft sofa and pressed his face into the cushion. “Please leave me alone.”

He had a feeling the boy wanted to talk more, but he didn’t want to. He wanted him to go away. He wanted to go to sleep and wake up and find this was a dream.

He woke to hear a voice he thought he knew speaking his name. He opened his eyes and looked at a pretty face of a young woman with dark eyes and long black hair. There was something familiar about her.

“Chrístõ,” she said. “I can’t believe it’s really you. My Chrístõ.”

“Who…” he began. Then he knew. He reached out his hand and pressed it against her cheek. “Julia…”

“Yes,” she said. “It’s a miracle. I can’t believe it. I thought you were dead. We all did. We put up a memorial for you in the garden.”

“Is it a nice one?” he asked as he sat up and reached to hold her.

“Yes. I bring flowers every week.”

“You live here, too? You were supposed to go to your aunt and uncle on Beta Delta IV.”

“I did, but after I left school I came to live here with your father and Valena and Garrick. Your father has been so good to me. He has made a financial provision for me as if I was his own daughter. But I work, too. I am a teacher. That’s where I was today. Teaching in the school in the City. But your father called and told me to come home… He told me… Oh, I couldn’t believe it. Chrístõ… You’re alive.”

“If anyone else tells me they can’t believe it, I might stop believing it myself,” he said. “But.. Julia… You are beautiful. You are so beautiful. Are you… do you have a boyfriend? Are you…” He looked at her hands. She had no rings on her fingers and as his eyes turned from them to her face he saw that she still wore the pendant he gave her for her twelfth birthday.

“Of course not,” she said. “I am yours, Chrístõ. I always have been. You told me that we would be married. That it would be our destiny. I never stopped hoping.”

“My Julia.” He clutched her hands. “Thank you for your faith in me.”

“Come and walk with me,” she said. “I want to be with you. I have missed you for so long.”

Of course he was happy to walk with her. He held her hand tightly as they walked in the gardens where he once played as a little boy. She brought him to a quiet corner of the formal garden were there were three memorial tablets erected. The middle and largest one had his own name on it and fresh flowers at the base. On the left a white marble headstone bore the name of Natalie Beech and her death recorded as a few months after he had ‘disappeared’ from their lives.

“Natalie,” he whispered. “I had almost forgotten. My head is so numb. I didn’t even think of her. And…” The other side was a memorial to Li Tuo. He, also, had died within months of his disappearance.

“They both died on Earth, of course,” she said. “But we put these memorials here to remember them by.”

“I promised both of them I would be with them at the end,” he murmured. “I let them down.”

“They both grieved for you. We all did. It was such a shock. Your father came to us in Liverpool, told us the news. Oh, Chrístõ… Even… Even Humphrey… We lost him too. He… was grief-stricken. He cried for days and then he just faded away. I suppose you could call it death. But we never knew what sort of creature he was so it was hard to say.”

“Humphrey…” Chrístõ turned from the memorials to his dearest friends and looked around him. Somehow, the death of that strange creature that haunted the dark corners of his TARDIS hurt even more than Natalie or Li Tuo. And it did what nothing else about this strange, terrible situation could have done. It made him cry. Tears of grief ran down his face unchecked as he knelt by the memorial stones. Julia put her arms around his shoulders and held him tightly until the tears passed.

It was a long time before he was able to compose himself. When he did, he stood. Julia stood with him.

“My Julia,” he whispered. He smiled at her, though his eyes were still wet with tears and he trembled with emotion. “I have so often dreamt of seeing you grown up. A woman. And now…Here you are.”

In his hearts, the Julia he loved was still only twelve years old. He had planned to share the years with her as she grew to womanhood, to be there at her birthdays and Christmas, her gymnastics competitions and ballet recitals. He had planned to see her graduate from school and make a formal contract of betrothal with her. He had planned to wait.

He had planned for those years to be happy ones, for their love to grow as she grew.

But now, here she was. Twenty-four years old, and a beautiful, accomplished young woman who had waited for him all these years, not even knowing if he was alive or dead. She had kept her side of the bargain.

“Julia…” He drew her into an embrace and kissed her. She trembled as much as he did as their lips met. She had kept herself for him, refusing all advances from young men who might have been interested. This was her first real, romantic kiss. Her arms closed around his shoulders as the kiss continued, long and lingering, and all both of them had ever hoped it would be.

“It is so good to be able to do that,” he murmured.

“I’m so happy I CAN do that,” she told him before his lips found hers again.

“I love you, Julia,” he said.

“I have never stopped loving you, Chrístõ,” she answered him.

“My faithful girl. I am sorry for the hurt you went through.” He held her close again. Being able to hold her that way was the one compensation for all he had lost. When he thought of his friends who had died, it was a raw, open wound in his hearts. He missed them so much. He had grown to love Natalie so dearly and Li Tuo had been his friend for so long. It wasn’t his fault, but he still felt guilty for not keeping his promises to them both. And it touched him so very deeply that Humphrey had pined away and died out of grief for him. He knew that the darkness creature needed people to thrive, but he didn’t know, didn’t realise that HE was the chief person that the poor creature needed. He felt almost as if he had KILLED him.

But the compensation WAS Julia, grown into a beautiful woman who still loved him dearly. She was there for him as he struggled to come to terms with what had happened to him. She was at his side in the evening when his father held a reception to welcome him home. The gesture was well meant, but he felt strange still. And he was glad when it was over. Glad to go to bed in the room made ready for him. Glad to lie down in cool sheets and close his eyes on the world he felt out of step with.


Julia lay in her bed and thought about it all. The long years of grief. She recalled the tears she had cried in the first days. They had stayed with Cassie, she and Natalie, and they had all cried. The depth of Cassie and Bo’s love for Chrístõ had been as overwhelming as her own. All three of them mourned him as dead, and at the same time kept telling themselves, and each other, not to give up hope. At first they had expected news daily. Chrístõ’s father stayed in touch and they hoped with every message it might be good news. Or at least bad news that brought closure.

She was sure it had shortened Natalie’s life. Her grief for him had been absolute. She had come to love him in many different ways. As the son she never had, as a dear friend, even, Julia thought, secretly, as a romantic figure in her life. Though that had been hope more than reality.

Natalie’s death, Li Tuo’s death, Humphrey’s fading away, were all absolute. She was able to mourn them properly. She was able to miss them in the ordinary way like so many other people she had lost. But Chrístõ… while she mourned him, she never let go of the hope. Nobody else truly did. So why should she?

It was a little after Li Tuo died that Chrístõ’s father had told her she should go to live with her relatives on Beta Delta IV. It was the legally proper thing to do apart from anything else. And in a new place, away from the memories, he had told her, she might find a kind of peace.

In some ways, that had been true. In the ordinary life of going to school, meeting friends in the town, ordinary growing up, she found a way to get through the days and weeks.

But nobody there really understood her grief. Her aunt and uncle knew she grieved for her family who died. But they didn’t understand fully how much she had loved Chrístõ. How much she missed him. How could they realise that a girl of her age had formed such an attachment, such long term plans as she had.

When she was older, sixteen, seventeen, they had encouraged her to date boys of her own age. They had often commented about ‘nice boys’ with good prospects. When she was eighteen, a boy – a young man, two years older than her - had actually asked her to get engaged to him. She had turned him down flat. Yes, he was nice. Yes, he had prospects. He was training to be a lawyer. He would be well off, could provide for her.
But she didn’t love him.

When she closed her eyes and imagined love, imagined love-making, she could only picture one face. And that face had never dimmed in her memory. She still kept photographs of him. She showed them to nobody, not even her family. She knew they would not understand that so many years later she still held out a hope that he would come back, that he would claim her as his own.

If they had known that she lay in her bed at night and dreamt of the kisses and caresses of a man who the universe thought was dead, they would probably have taken her to see a therapist.

It would have been easier if there had been a body. She would have known he was dead. She could have got on with her life. She might even have accepted the proposal of the young lawyer. And in time she might have come to love him enough to live out a good life with him. Perhaps Chrístõ would have become just a bittersweet memory of her childhood.

But she never gave up hope. His father never did. Nor did Cassie and Bo. They didn’t talk of it often, but when she contacted any of them by videophone or letter, she knew that it was in their minds. She knew they still held onto the hope, even though each year that passed made it less likely.

Even more so after she turned twenty her aunt and uncle began to suggest that it was unnatural for her not to be ‘going steady’ with somebody who she would marry at the proper age of 23. Nice young men were invited to the house on a regular basis. None of them measured up to her ideal of a man.

When Chrístõ’s father asked her if she would like to come and join them on Ventura, she jumped at the chance. The Ambassador and his wife were kind to her. Garrick, Chrístõ’s little brother, now a bright young boy, looked up to her as a sort of sister.

And everywhere in the house there were reminders of Chrístõ. The portrait of him in The Ambassador’s private chamber was only one such memorial of him. In her own room, she felt free to keep framed photos. And her dreams still contained no other face but his. In the Ambassador’s residence she met young men who were even more eligible than the young lawyer, men who would go far. She could have gone far with them if she chose.
But she didn’t.

And her heartache had ended at last. In an instant. It had been a strange reversal of the day Chrístõ’s father had come to tell them he was gone. This time, when she came from the classroom where she was working, to find him waiting in the principals office, he was smiling. He told her the news. She had felt as if her legs wouldn’t hold her, just as they had when he told her the other news. But this time it was tears of joy that overwhelmed her as he embraced her. The car journey to the Residence had seemed endless. She kept wondering if it was a mistake, a dream. After so long, it didn’t seem real.

It still didn’t seem real when she stepped into the drawing room and saw him sleeping on the sofa. He looked so little changed. He looked like the dream she had clung to.

But when she reached out and touched him he was real. And when he had kissed her in the garden it had been real.

She sat up in her bed and looked at his picture on the night table. She didn’t want to go to sleep. She didn’t want to dream of holding him in her arms.

She wanted it to be real.


Chrístõ heard the door to his room open as he lay there, preparing himself for sleep or for a meditative trance. Then he felt the bedcovers drawn back and a warm body encased in silk pressing against him.

“Julia?” he whispered. “What…”

“We’re practically engaged.” She said. “I want to be with you.”

“I want it, too,” he told her. “Stay by me. Let me hold you tight.” He pulled her close to him. Her body pressed against his was comforting. He kissed her lovingly and kept on holding her as he let himself drift into ordinary sleep and dreamt of the woman he loved.

Except he didn’t dream of the woman he held in his arms. He dreamt of the girl he loved. The twelve year old Julia who had existed in his life until a few bewildering days ago was the one he loved. Yes, it was good to hold the woman in his arms. And yes, he felt something for her. But he wasn’t entirely sure if it was the love he was supposed to have for her.

And a week later he was still not sure. She had taken leave from her work and devoted her time to him. They had taken long walks in the Venturan countryside together, holding hands. They kissed often. Deep, passionate, sensual kisses. At night, she came to his bed and slept in his arms. He wasn’t sure if there was more she expected or wanted from him in bed. But if there was, he wasn’t sure he could give it to her.

This woman who gave herself to him to hold and to kiss and to be a comfort to him, was Julia, but she wasn’t HIS Julia.

He wasn’t ready.


He certainly wasn’t ready for what Valena sprang on him on the evening of the day exactly a week after his “homecoming”. He was sitting in the drawing room showing Garrick how to construct a simple particle accelerator. Not an actual particle accelerator, of course. But the table was littered with technical drawings and plans. Julia was sitting with Valena, talking quietly. And then she had looked up at him. “Chrístõ,” she said. “We really should start to plan your wedding.”

“My…” His hand shook and his face turned pale. He hoped Julia didn’t notice.

She didn’t. She was too full of joy that it had even been suggested. Her smile could have illuminated the room. She looked at him with eyes that were so excited.

“Your wedding, Chrístõ. You and Julia. We should start to make plans.”

“But there needs to be a Bond of Betrothal first,” he protested. “I had not even thought…”

“A Bond of Betrothal is a mere formality in a case like this, surely,” Valena said. “After all, you have both waited long enough.”
“Julia has,” Chrístõ said.

“Yes,” Valena answered. “She has. She has waited so patiently and faithfully for you, Chrístõ. And now, I think she deserves to have her faith rewarded. Don’t you?”
“Yes, she does,” Chrístõ agreed. Of course she did.

“So, the Betrothal should be a short one, for the sake of formality. We can have a reception here next week. But in the meantime we really should plan your Alliance. Do you want it here on Ventura or in the Panopticon on Gallifrey? What about your Earth friends? You will want them there, too?”

“The Panopticon,” he replied automatically. “It was always meant to be the Panopticon.” As the heir to a high caste Oldbood family, having his Alliance of Unity conducted by the Lord High President himself in the Panopticon, witnessed by the assembled chapters of Time Lords was his right. The Prydonians, Arcalians, Patrexeans, would all be there. The great Choir would be singing and chanting the ritual songs as he waited in his full Time Lord regalia and Julia came to his side in a dress of white covered in diamonds. That was what he promised Julia as their destiny. That was what he had always looked forward to.

“The Panopticon it shall be,” his father said, he, too, smiling broadly. “No expense spared, no detail left undone. You two will have the most spectacular Alliance the Panopticon has yet seen.”

Julia was thrilled. Chrístõ managed to smile for her and as the talk went into all of the detail that was not to be left undone, he tried to look enthusiastic for it. He thought he had managed to put on a convincing show of it.

But his father wasn’t fooled. Later still, just before bedtime, he found a moment to speak to him alone.

“She loves you, Chrístõ,” he told him. “Don’t hurt her.”

“I don’t mean to hurt her,” he answered. “I have never meant to hurt any of you.”

“You’re hurting still, yourself, aren’t you?”

“No,” he said. “I’m not hurting. I just don’t feel anything. I feel like I don’t belong here. Like this isn’t my life, isn’t my family. She doesn’t feel like my Julia.”

“YOU feel like her Chrístõ,” his father told him. “You are the lover she has waited for all these years, never even looking at another man.”

“I know,” he said. “But I’m NOT. And I don’t think… I don’t know if I can go through with the Alliance.”

“Then you need to talk to Julia about it.”


But Julia wasn’t looking to talk when she came to his room tonight. The lights were already down when she slipped between the sheets beside him. He reached to hold her and was astonished when he felt her.

She had left off her nightdress and come to him naked and ready for him.

“Julia!” he whispered. “Oh, my dear.”

He was excited. Of course he was. He had never been so close to a woman who was giving herself fully to him before. Instincts that the male of every species in the universe would recognise were stirred.

But his head and his hearts were overruling those instincts. He kissed her on the lips tenderly and his arms folded around her, holding her close to him. But he felt incapable of anything more.

“Julia, I can’t,” he told her. “I am sorry, my love. But I can’t.”

“I know it is tradition in your culture to wait,” she said. “But I HAVE waited so long. And we ARE both sure of each other. It won’t be so long until we are married. I hoped…”

“It’s not that. At least not wholly. I did expect we would wait. But Julia, I’m not even sure…”

“We love each other, Chrístõ. Of all the things we’re uncertain of in life, we’re SURE of that.”

“No,” he answered, hating himself for what he was going to say to her. “No, I love a twelve year old girl who I promised to marry when she grew up. She is STILL twelve years old in my hearts and I am still waiting for her to grow up. I’m sorry, Julia, but I can’t. I can’t come to terms with all of this. I have tried. But I can’t do it. I need my life back. I need the girl I love, and the life that was mine before a stupid freak accident took it away from me.”

“Chrístõ!” She sat up in the bed, wrapping the sheet around herself. “How can you say that? I AM your Julia. I WAS that twelve year old. TWELVE YEARS AGO. I have waited and hoped, prayed for you to be returned to us, never believing that you were dead. And now you’re back and… and…” She ran out of words as tears choked her. He tried to reach out to her but she pulled away. She got out of the bed and ran to the door, crying out in pain as she bumped into furniture in the dark. Chrístõ leapt from the bed and ran after her.

“Julia, please,” he called out as she ran down the landing outside, stopping only when Valena stepped out of the master bedroom she shared with his father. Valena took one look at her and enfolded her in her arms, wrapping her own dressing robe around her body. Julia sobbed into her shoulder. Valena looked accusingly at Chrístõ as he caught up with her.

“What have you done to her?” she demanded.

“I haven’t DONE anything to her,” he replied. “THAT’s the problem,” he added meaningfully. Valena looked puzzled for a moment before understanding.

“Oh, I see,” she said. “Julia, it’s all right, dear. He doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love you. It’s just… I thought you understood. In our culture we don’t…”

“He DOESN’T love me,” she cried. “He said so.”

The Ambassador appeared at the door wondering what the noise was. He glanced at his wife and she took Julia into their bedroom. He took Chrístõ by the shoulder and brought him back to his own room.

“I don’t need to ask,” he said. “For somebody intending to join the diplomatic corps I expected you to be more delicate about the matter.”

“Is there a delicate way to tell a woman you DON’T love her as much as you should?” he asked.

“You DO love her,” his father told him. “But this thing has hurt you so much. Your emotions are shredded. I think it was a mistake to begin talking about your Alliance. You DO need time.”

“Yes,” Chrístõ answered with a hollow laugh. “I need twelve years worth of time. I need to go back. I can’t stay here. I don’t belong. You have Garrick now. You don’t need me. No, father. Don’t say it. I KNOW I will always be your first born son. I know you will never forget me. But he is your hope and future now and that’s…. that’s fine. It really is. I’m glad you had these years with him and he was there to ease your sorrow. One thing you’ve got to do though, is let him be himself and not try to make him live up to me. As for Julia…”

“Chrístõ, you CAN’T go back. It is against the Laws of Time. You can’t go back into your own time line.”

“What timeline? I have no time line for twelve years. I didn’t exist. But if I did – if I returned to the Kappa Psi space station, I could get into my TARDIS and Humphrey would be waiting for me. He wouldn’t have pined away from grief. Julia and Natalie and Li Tuo would be waiting for me on Earth. I can keep my promises to all three of them. Natalie and Li Tuo, I promised to be with them when they die. Julia - I promised her she would never have an unhappy birthday for the rest of her childhood. I have to go back to fulfil those promises.”

“The Time Lords are not likely to be sympathetic to such promises,” his father told him. “If you broke the Law just to do that, you would be declared Renegade and punished severely.”

“I don’t CARE,” he said. “My friends are more important to me than the Time Lords and their laws.”

“That’s not YOU speaking, Chrístõ,” his father sighed. “You are a true, loyal son of Gallifrey and you honour our laws and traditions. You would never directly and deliberately go against the law.”

“Yes, I would. For this….”

“No,” his father insisted. “Besides, it wouldn’t work. Chrístõ, if you DID return as you said, to pretend this never happened, in your hearts and in your mind it DID happen. I understand why you feel you don’t love Julia enough now. And I am sure that if this hadn’t happened, if the two of you had grown in love as she grew in years, by the time she was a woman you would be inseparable. Your love would be adamantine and unbreakable. It IS because you still have the restrained feelings for the child that you can’t find the open and unrestrained feelings you should have for the woman. But if you go back with this memory, it will taint your relationship with her. You will always be wondering if you can love her enough. And it will be a self-fulfilling doubt.”

Chrístõ nodded as he realised his father was right.

“Then what can I do?”

“Get dressed. In the clothes you were wearing when the time ribbon struck. Bring whatever possessions you had on you.”

“Father… what are you…”

“There is a way it could be done. If permission is granted.”

At that his father left him. He did as he said. It didn’t take long. The only possessions he had with him were the contents of his leather jacket - his TARDIS key, his psychic paper, a wallet with currency, credit cards and photographs of Julia, and his sonic screwdriver. Everything else was in his TARDIS on Kappa Psi space station, twelve years in the past.

He stepped out of the room. Julia and Valena were there. Julia was properly clothed now in a nightdress and robe. Her face was tear-stained and unhappy. Valena held her hand comfortingly.

“Chrístõ,” his father said. “Make it up with her before we go.”

He nodded and he reached and took Julia in his arms. He kissed her lips lovingly.

“I am sorry for the things I said,” he told her. “My father thinks he knows a way to make this right. I hope he can. Please keep on believing in me as you did all this time.”

“I will,” she said. “I promise.” She held him a little longer, then he stepped back from her. Valena took her back into the master bedroom to sleep what was left of the night with her supervision.

Chrístõ looked around. Garrick’s bedroom was opposite his own. He opened the door quietly and stepped inside. He saw the boy sleeping soundly, unaware of the crisis going on outside his room. He saw the pictures of their home world on his wall, just as he remembered he had when he lived offworld as a boy. Garrick was more like him than he wanted to admit.

“I still don’t love you,” he whispered. “And I will never call you brother. But… look after yourself, boy. Especially when you get to the Academy.” He bent and kissed his cheek quickly then turned away.

“Come on,” his father said at last when he was ready. They walked quickly through the quiet residence. The Chancellery Guard men on duty nodded courteously to them both as they passed. None questioned their nocturnal activities. Why should they? The Ambassador and his son were entitled to wander about the Embassy at night if the fancy took them.

They went out into the garden, cool and quiet in the night, and into The Ambassador’s TARDIS. Chrístõ stood by as his father piloted it to its destination. This was a personal TARDIS, meant to be operated by one man, and his father was skilled in its use. His own TARDIS was more cumbersome, ideally needing at least two people to fly it accurately. But even so he longed to have his own ship back.

“What happened to it, anyway?” Chrístõ asked. “My TARDIS – where is it?”

“It was decommissioned and taken to be scrapped,” The Ambassador said. “The database and flight recorder charting your activities were transferred to the High Council’s classified mainframe, but it was decided that the TARDIS itself should be dismantled.”

Chrístõ felt as if ANOTHER friend had died. The TARDIS meant so much more to him than just a travel capsule. It was in its own right a companion to him in his journeys through the universe.

“I really can’t stay here,” he said. “This is NOT my world.”

“I know, Chrístõ,” his father told him. “I DO understand. Be patient.”

“I hate being told to be patient.”

“That’s because you HAVE no patience. But for once you have no choice. You must sit tight and wait. And hope that I can call upon some favours that are owed to me.”

Chrístõ was surprised when they landed on Gallifrey. Even more so to find they were in the Capitol, and in the Headquarters of the Celestial Intervention Agency.

“WHY are we HERE?” Chrístõ asked. He was rather surprised at the way his father was greeted by the staff there – like a retired general revisiting the troops. It was the first time Chrístõ had even set foot inside the door of the building where Gallifrey’s espionage and counter-espionage agents worked. He was surprised at how quickly they were admitted to the office of the Grand Magister, the head of the CIA.

“Chrístõ Mian,” The Magister said, shaking him warmly by the hand. “Good to see you. And… is this your youngest son? Surely the years have not passed SO swiftly.”

“No,” The Ambassador said. “This is my eldest son, Chrístõ Cuimhne.”

“He is?” The Magister looked at him in surprised. “But I thought he was dead. I remember signing the book of condolences.”

“He isn’t,” The Ambassador answered and quickly explained the freak circumstances that had brought him back from the dead.

“By Rassilon!” The Magister swore. Then he listened intently as The Ambassador outlined what he wanted the CIA to do. Chrístõ was nearly as surprised as The Magister at his father’s request.

“It is very irregular,” The Magister said. “It is not what the Time Portals are usually used for.”

“But they COULD be used for this purpose.”

“If the High Council knew…”

“The CIA does not answer to the High Council,” The Ambassador said.

“It doesn’t?” Chrístõ looked at his father in surprise. “I thought every Gallifreyan citizen answered to the High Council.”

“If the High Council were able to control our affairs then we would not be able to keep our eye on those members of the High Council who are not behaving as they should,” The Magister answered with a smile. Chrístõ looked puzzled at first then he nodded and smiled back in understanding.

“A bright boy. I was surprised not to see your application to join the Agency when you finished your studies. Following in your father’s footsteps.”

“My father never worked for the Agency,” he answered. He looked at his father for confirmation but none was forthcoming. “Father…”

“Magister, my son will follow my footsteps into the Diplomatic Corps. It is what I have groomed him for. But I must press you to consider my request. He cannot serve Gallifrey as he was born to do with this insurmountable difficulty hanging over him. And I believe it is in the best interests of Gallifrey that he should be allowed to do this.”

“Do you understand the consequences of what your father has requested?” The Magister addressed Chrístõ. “You know what will happen to you?”

“Yes,” he said. “I think I do.”

“It will take a few hours to make the arrangements. But perhaps you could use those hours to talk things over with your father.” The Magister looked at The Ambassador. “You have called in several favours today, Chrístõ Mian.”

“For my son’s happiness and welfare, they are worth it.”

“Hmmm.” The Magister smiled wryly. “I thought you said before that this was in the interests of Gallifrey.”

“You have seen what is written in the Codex of Rassilon,” The Ambassador replied. “My son’s happiness and welfare IS in the best interests of Gallifrey.”


“The Codex of Rassilon?”

The Ambassador took his son by the arm and they left the office of The Magister. They left the Headquarters of the Celestial Intervention Agency, by a different door to the one they came in by. They came to a small, enclosed park close to the enigmatic building. They sat and watched Koi carp swimming in an ornamental pond.

“Do you remember when you were about a year old and fell into a carp pond at Lady Lilliana D’Argenluna’s summer solstice garden party?” The Ambassador said.

“No, I was a year old,” he replied.

“Everyone was screaming, your mother louder than anyone. But you just stood up, covered in pond weed, spat a fish out of your mouth, and said ‘Pre-tt-i Phi-sch.”

Chrístõ smiled. He couldn’t remember the incident, though he did remember that Lady Lilliana had kept very beautiful Koi carp in a pond in her formal garden.

But they didn’t come here to talk about fish.

“Codex of Rassilon,” he said again.

“It is a secret, locked file in the High Council’s mainframe. It contains details of the timeline reading taken of a baby born about two hundred years ago now. It IS a tradition of our world that the timelines are read before a boy child is a day old. But this one contained something so important that the details were locked away and there are no more than three people who know what it says. Four including the Magister. But he only knows because the CIA – as you learnt today – are ABOVE the High Council when it comes to secrets.”

“This baby….” Chrístõ said, slowly.

“The one with the Mark of Rassilon, of course.”

“You mean me.”


“Do YOU know what is in the file?”

“No. I don’t want to know. You’re my son. I love you. You are my heir. That’s enough destiny for me.”

“Did you work for the CIA?” he asked next.


“As an assassin? That’s what they do, isn’t it?”


“If I wasn’t about to pass through a time portal and have my memory of everything that happened since I woke up in the hospital wiped away, would you have answered that question?”



“Chrístõ…” The Ambassador began. “I…”

“None of this will have happened once I return,” Chrístõ said quickly, cutting off whatever else he was going to say. “If I DON’T disappear for twelve years you won’t take the post as Ambassador to Ventura. Julia won’t be with you there. It will all be different. I will never have hurt Julia as I did last night.”



“‘Ok’ is a very irritating Earth slang phrase,” The Ambassador said. “I cringe every time I hear you use it. Please don’t do it again in the few hours we have left together before this timeline is wiped out by the paradox that will be created and my life as I remember it no longer exists.”

“Ok…” Chrístõ began to say then amended it to, “Very well, father.”

“That’s better.”

“So…” Chrístõ said. “If I won’t remember any of this in a few hours… Can you tell me… what DID you do in the CIA?”

The Ambassador half smiled. He had vowed his son would never know what he had done for nearly 3,000 years of his life before he had met his Lady Marion and decided that he didn’t want to murder people for a living any more. But he was right. In a few hours the slate was wiped clean. For once he didn’t have to hide his secret.

“I was the best assassin they ever had. Over the years I killed over 1,000 enemies of Gallifrey. And one innocent man.”

“The innocent man….”

“His name doesn’t signify,” The Ambassador said. “He was the then Castellan – the commander of the open security services of Gallifrey. Our information was that HE was about to sell the secret of the Transduction Barrier to the Sontarans. They would have used the knowledge to break through our defences, invade Gallifrey and capture the secret of reliable time travel. It was imperative we stopped that transaction. The evidence pointed to the Castellan. I killed him. Only when it was too late did I discover that it was his senior officer, using the Castellan’s command codes to access the information. I killed him, too. I saved Gallifrey. But I had taken an innocent man’s life. It is a scar on my soul to this day.”

“I’m sorry, father. But… for the good of Gallifrey. You saved our homeworld from invasion.”

“The price was too high. A good man died. He died childless. His House was lost. An even harder blow for our society.” The Ambassador sighed. “If I’d had the opportunity to take it all back that you have been granted…” He smiled. “But then, if things hadn’t happened a certain way I should never have gone to Earth and I would never have met your mother. Destiny is a funny thing, even for those of us who DON’T have strange, secret pronouncements about us.”

“The Codex of Rassilon” Chrístõ shivered. “I wish I didn’t have it. It scares me sometimes. What my destiny might be.”

“Whatever it is, you’ll rise to the occasion, my son. But come. Let’s go back. It is almost time.”

He felt nervous as they entered the time portal room. The glowing opaque cabinets looked rather daunting. They were usually used to return witnesses to their proper time and place after trials or inquiries or sometimes as a means of punishing transgressors of the Laws of Time by exiling them to distant planets with their memories, either wholly or in part, erased.

“What if it erases all of my memory? Chrístõ asked hesitantly. He remembered the last time he had lost his memory, after the explosion on Regia Omnia. It had been a terrifying experience. He didn’t want to repeat it.

“I am going to programme it, Chrístõ,” his father said. “I would not let anyone else do that in any case. You can trust me, my son.”

“Yes,” he said. “I do trust you.” He watched the viewscreen beside the portal as his father programmed it. He saw the Kappa Psi hangar bay in disarray as the shuttle limped in badly damaged. He saw paramedics bringing out people who had been injured by the time ribbon. Parts of their bodies had been caught in it and transported to another time to the rest of them. He saw people with limbs sliced off being sedated. He saw a body with a hole through it where the stomach should be, one headless. He saw the bottom half of a person, cut through at the waist, being quickly covered up and removed.

He saw his father looking extremely agitated, calling for help, trying to get somebody to listen to him.

“This is your cue, Chrístõ,” his father said beside him. He reached and hugged him quickly and Chrístõ felt a kiss on his cheek. Then he told him to go through the portal, to do it quickly and not look back. Chrístõ did so. The Ambassador saw him vanish and reappear on the viewscreen and nodded in satisfaction before the timeline swung back into its proper place and he was no longer standing there, because none of what had happened for the past twelve years ever happened.


The supervisor of the time portal room looked up from his desk. He had the oddest feeling that somebody was using the portals. But there was nobody there. One of the viewscreens flickered as it automatically turned itself off. But when he checked the log, he could see no record of it being used for several days.


Chrístõ swayed dizzily as he looked around at the chaos and heard people screaming and crying and paramedics calling to each other to attend to victims. He tried to remember what had happened. He was on the shuttle, sitting beside his father, thinking about getting back to Julia, missing her terribly. The next moment he felt a sharp, intense pain. He felt a sense of movement, of being dragged away by a force of some kind.

And the next thing he knew, he was here. In the space port. Surrounded by strangely disfigured people being taken away by paramedics.

“Chrístõ!” He turned as he heard his father’s voice. A moment later he was being embraced by him. “Oh, my son! I thought you were lost. One moment you were there, the next, gone. The time ribbon must have pulled you from the shuttle and landed you here. Of all the lucky chances.”

“Time ribbon?” Chrístõ said in a dazed voice. “Is that what it was? I feel strange. I ache all over. But I’m ok…”

“Ok!” His father laughed. “You know, I keep meaning to correct you on the use of that irritating Earth slang. It will never do for the Diplomatic Corps.”

“Yes, father,” he said, laughing.

“I’m afraid we might be held up for a couple of hours,” his father added. “We’ll need to make a statement to the accident investigators. After that you can get on back to your little Julia. I know you’re pining for her.”

“Just a bit,” he said. “I feel like I haven’t seen her for AGES.”


The way Julia hugged him when he stepped out of the TARDIS into Li Tuo’s pleasant meditation garden it felt as if he hadn’t seen her for YEARS. He held her for a long, long time and kissed her fondly. Natalie, too, embraced him, and Cassie and Bo came for their share of hugs from him.

“Why am I getting all this female attention?” he asked, laughing. “You two have men of your own.”

“They’re in the Peak District,” Cassie answered. “They’ve found something funny and they’re having a look. They left a message to tell you and Humphrey to join them when you get back.”

“Me and Humphrey? What is it? A bachelor party?” He laughed.

“Sammie thinks this is something best left to the MEN!” Bo told him with a disgusted tone.

“Well, I’d better find out what it is,” Chrístõ said. “But they can wait a day or so while I spend some time with my ladies,” he added as Julia claimed another kiss from him. All of his ladies agreed to the arrangement.