“Let’s go home,” Chrístõ had said. He meant, of course, his own home, Mount Lœng House in the peaceful countryside of the Southern Continent. They all returned there together. The graceful rural demesne played host to the King-Emperor and Queen of Adano-Ambrado and the honoured Ambassador of Haollstrom IV as well as their less titled friends. A rather happier meal than they had shared in past days was followed by an early night.

Chrístõ let himself sleep this night. And he was weary enough to sleep soundly, though he woke again before dawn.

He got up out of his bed, dressed himself and crept quietly out of the house so as not to disturb anyone. It was a half hour to the sunrise. He walked through the gardens until he found a place where he could see the sun come up. The black night had already lightened to burnt orange and soon the yellow-orange of morning would lighten the western horizon.

He leant against a tree trunk at the edge of a coppice of Cúl nut trees and waited and watched. He breathed deeply the fresh clean air and looked towards the horizon. He cherished the freedom he had. For a terrifying time yesterday he thought he was going to lose it. He had despaired of breathing this air ever again.

He stayed there long after the sun had risen, the warm rays caressing his face as he stared directly into its brightness. His Gallifreyan DNA meant that the Human eyes inherited from his mother were automatically protected. He was able to look at the rising sun for a long time. He was almost in a trance as he stood there, quiet and still and untroubled.

“Chrístõ…” A female voice disturbed him. He blinked and looked around at the figure in the shadows and it was a moment or two before he recognised Valena.

“It’s very early,” he said to her.

“I haven’t slept,” she answered. “Chrístõ… I….”

Chrístõ looked at her closely. She was clearly upset. If she was Human, or just about any other humanoid species but Gallifreyan she would have had red rimmed eyes from crying. As it was, she was pale and trembling with emotion and her eyes were glassy from the nictating membranes working overtime.

Gallifreyans can’t cry. But they CAN feel. And Valena was feeling a lot right now. Chrístõ knew why.

“My father spoke to you last night, didn’t he?” It was a rhetorical question. It didn’t need an answer. She didn’t have one. She gasped for air as if she was physically hurt.

“Come on,” he said. He took her by the hand and brought her to a warm, sunny place on the other side of the Cúl nut coppice, out of sight of the house. There, two trees had fallen in winter storms. His father had called in a sculptor who worked with natural wood and he had carved the thick trunks into two wide seats, treated and varnished so they would withstand inclement weather and be a pleasant outdoor place when the weather was fine.

He pressed Valena down onto one of the seats and sat beside her. He kept his hand in hers. He felt all of her pain and confusion. Her hearts were breaking. Her head was a fog of confusion, doubt and shock.

“You know?” she managed to say at last. “About… what he did. My father…”

“Not until two days ago,” he answered. “This was not a conspiracy between my father and I to deceive you, Valena. He said he would confess it to you, too. But not in THAT place with the trial still going on.”

“I thought it was just Miniette being her usual nasty self. I never dreamt… I never suspected. How did she know, anyway? How could she know?”

“Father doesn’t think she did. She was just guessing. She just wanted to hurt you… drive a wedge between you and my father.”

“She succeeded,” Valena said bitterly. “Last night… I locked the door to our bedroom, let alone sleep beside me.”

Chrístõ said nothing. What could he say to that?

“He MURDERED my father!”

“He assassinated him,” Chrístõ answered. “There is a difference.”

“You’re his son. You’re bound to think the best of him. Besides, he DID it for YOU. He killed my father because of YOU.”

“That’s what he told me,” Chrístõ said. “But he was thinking of you, also. He used a poison that stops the hearts and leaves no trace. He wanted it to appear natural. Because of his love for you. He wanted you to be spared the shame. Your father WAS guilty. He would have been arrested for treason. Your family name would have been disgraced. And father WOULD have been pressed to set you aside as his wife. He did it that way to protect you.”

“Yes, he tried to tell me that. But I couldn’t… My father… I knew he was hard and narrow. But I never dreamt… I could not believe…” She shook her head. “No, I am lying to myself if I think that. My father put tradition first. He believed in the purity of the ancient blood, in the Twelve Great Houses. When your father and I began courting…” Chrístõ looked away when she said that. “I know that’s not something you want to hear. But it’s true. When your father and I began to see each other as more than just two people of the same social class, he was pleased. Our Alliance WAS for love, Chrístõ. But my father and others all saw the political expediency. And I remember him telling me, that when I have a son, I will be able to demand his right of primogeniture and have you superseded. That was why… I let my father’s ambitions overrule me for a while. I DID demand it for Garrick. It caused rift between us. My father was angry with me for failing to achieve that goal. Yes, I can believe it. I CAN believe my father would have tried to have you killed so that MY son, his grandchild, would be the Lœngbærrow heir. But I cannot… My own husband. I cannot bear it. I cannot… The very thought makes my skin crawl. My own husband killed my father.”

“Valena… I am sorry,” Chrístõ told her. “I truly am.”

“Why should you be? If my father had succeeded… Oh, the irony. There would be NO heir of Lœngbærrow. Without you, Garrick would be dead, too. You saved HIS life. Whatever else, Chrístõ, you have my undying thanks for THAT.”

“I did not ask for thanks,” he answered. “I did what I had to do, to prevent Garrick from suffering. Because he was a child in pain and distress. That is all. I would have done the same for any child of Gallifrey, or any child in the universe.

“You’re a good man, Chrístõ. Your father raised you well. You are a comfort to him. I’m glad..”

“What are you going to do?”

“I will leave. Today. My family own a house in the Capitol. I will live there, with Garrick. I shall have to ask your father for the means to support us. I have nothing of my own. I don’t doubt he will do that. He will not want Garrick to be raised as a pauper. But I will go.”

Chrístõ’s hearts and head fought for an answer to that declaration. He had always resented Valena’s place in his father’s life, usurping his mother from his affections. He should have felt triumphant now. Valena and Garrick both gone from the house. It would just be himself and his father again.

But he didn’t feel anything of the sort. He felt sick. He grieved for his father’s sorrow.

“Does he know?”

“Not yet.”

“Then it’s not too late. Valena, please forgive him. Don’t leave him. Don’t take his child from him. Don’t punish him this way. You would break his hearts.”

“I thought you would be glad. You always hated me.”

“I didn’t hate you. I hated that my own mother died and you took her place. But my father loves you, Valena. And if you leave him he will be so hurt.”

“I love him, too,” she said. “If I didn’t I would stay and sleep in a separate room, remaining his wife in name only, for the prestige of being Lady de Lœngbærrow. And I would find ways to punish him every day. It is because I love him that I cannot stay and live a lie.”

“Oh no, Valena,” Chrístõ begged her. “No, please. If there is love still, then there IS hope. Please think again. Forgive him, please.”

“Chrístõ, dear boy.” Valena put her hand on his shoulder tenderly. “You are so like your mother. She would have said the same, I am sure.”

“You didn’t know my mother,” Chrístõ answered, surprised by that comment.

“Yes, I did,” she insisted. “Gallifreyan high society is a very small community. Of course I knew her. She was… everything you always imagined her to be. I’m sorry you knew her for so little time.”

“You never said.”

“You never asked. I know your memories of her are so few. I have seen you asking people about her. You never asked me. That cold, closed off part of your soul stopped you ever being able to see me as anything but your enemy. I never hoped to replace her in your hearts. But I did hope we could be friends. And you COULD have asked me, any time. I would have been honoured to tell you anything you wanted to know.”

“Then… Valena… let us both have a second chance. Forgive my father, and let me… let me try… Please.”

Valena looked at him for a long time. Then she reached and pulled him close to her. He let her. That in itself was a miracle. In all the years she had been married to his father he had never let her get this close to him. He had never let her BE his stepmother, to love him as a son.

But it was too late. Any hope they had of being a family was gone. There was too much to forgive. As much as he begged her, she couldn’t.

Then she felt something. It WAS Chrístõ who she was holding. But she felt as if she could sense his father there, too. She shifted position. She stared at his eyes. They were so much like his father’s eyes, even if they were the most Human part of him. She grasped his hands and looked at them. She saw the wedding ring he wore on his left hand. The old ring that his father had worn for more than two hundred years since he married the Earth Child he had never stopped loving.

It was an ordinary gold ring. Not a Ring of Eternity that was imbued with certain properties that primitive people might think magical. But it HAD been worn for so long that it seemed, nonetheless, as if it had a fragment of his soul within it. She pressed one hand over Chrístõ’s, touching the ring. The other she pressed against the side of his face and she closed her eyes. And she could feel his father within him. Faintly, it had to be said. Chrístõ’s own soul, and the transfused soul of the old Time Lord he called Li Tuo were both stronger. But there was another soul there. Or the echo of one, through the physical contact of the ring on his finger.

“Chrístõ, concentrate. Show me. Show me that part of him that is there within you.”

Chrístõ’s head was bursting with the effort. A few weeks ago he wouldn’t have dared try for fear of a complete mental collapse. But his telepathic nerves were repaired now and he was able to find that same echo Valena had identified.

“He loves you dearly,” Chrístõ told her. “Can’t you feel that? Can you feel how much it hurt him to do what he knew would hurt you? His hearts were torn between protecting me and hurting you.”

“Yes,” she said. “Yes, I see. Oh, my husband, I forgive you. I do. Yes, I do.”

“Don’t tell me,” Chrístõ whispered. “Tell him.”

Valena opened her eyes and seemed almost shocked to see Chrístõ’s face and not that of her husband.

“I felt so close to him,” she said. “I felt as if he was here.”

“Come on,” Chrístõ said. “Let’s go back to the house.”

It was still early in the morning and they were the only people up. Even the servants were not awake yet. They stepped into the house and through the quiet rooms to the study where his father worked. They saw him kneeling on the floor in a position of deep meditative trance. Chrístõ waited by the door as Valena stepped close. She knelt in front of him and touched him gently. Very slowly he came out of his trance. He looked at Valena. She reached out and kissed him. Very slowly, as if he could hardly believe it was happening, he reached his arms around her and the kiss intensified. There were no spoken words, but Chrístõ felt the power of the emotion in their telepathic messages to each other. He turned and walked away. They neither of them needed him now.

He went outside again and sat in the formal garden where the spray from a fountain cast rainbow colours in the air as the morning light caught it. Gallifreyan rainbows, that is. As he counted the nine different colours in the spectrum he reflected that he HAD been away a long time. The yellow-orange sky of the planet he was born on seemed alien to him. It was good to be home for a while, though he would soon start to feel the ache to travel again.

But that was all right. Because when he felt the other ache, the one for home, for yellow skies and a sun that rose in the west and set in the east, and rainbows with nine colours in them, home would be here. Home and family. His father and stepmother and half brother.

And it was a comforting thought. The first comforting thought he had in a long time. He felt as if a nightmare was over and he could breathe easy again.

The house began to wake up after a few hours. The servants first, then after a while everyone else. He stirred from his seat by the fountain when he judged it to be near enough to breakfast time.

He judged it right. Everyone else was already helping themselves to food at the big dining table. He took a seat and filled his plate with food and ate quietly, listening to the cheerful conversations going on around him and not worrying that none of them involved him.

Then Kohb said something that silenced the general chatter. He addressed it to Chrístõ’s father.

“Sir, do you know the Rite of Alliance?”

Chrístõ’s father looked a little startled to be asked.

“Yes, I do,” he answered. “May I ask…”

“I wondered if you would do us the honour… Camilla and I… We talked about it last night. And we decided… before we leave Gallifrey again. We would like to be joined in Alliance.”

“But…” The Ambassador looked at Camilla. “A Haollstromnian wants to get married? It has never been heard of.”

“It has now,” Camilla said. “I want… We both want…”

“Can I be a bridesmaid?” Julia asked enthusiastically before anyone else could speak.

“No,” Marianna said firmly. “No, you can’t, Julia. We have to go home as soon as possible now the unpleasantness of the trial is over. You have already missed far too much school.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Julia said. “We can go back to the day after we left and I’ll have only missed one day.”

“No, you can’t,” Marianna said. “You can’t keep reusing days. You’ll be thirty before you finish school if you keep on doing that.”

“You’re right about that,” Chrístõ said. “We aren’t supposed to use time travel that way usually. And you’re right about Julia going back to school.”

Julia looked disappointed. The Ambassador smiled at her, then turned to Kohb and Camilla.

“You haven’t much time to hang around, either, have you?” he said. “How would you feel about the Dawn Alliance?”

Camilla didn’t know what that meant. Kohb did. His lips moved momentarily as he worked it out. Dawn was about five o’clock in the morning. So the ceremony would have to start at nine o’clock in the evening.

“Tonight?” he ventured. “That’s only thirteen hours. Could we be ready?”

“If Camilla has a frock that she thinks will do her justice and we don’t have to call in a seamstress at this short notice, no reason why not. The kitchen can lay on a wedding breakfast for the morning. And if Julia wants to be a bridesmaid she needs to get a nap this afternoon. So should everyone who isn’t a born and bred Gallifreyan.”

Valena leaned towards her husband and said something to him. He looked startled but not displeased. Something passed between them telepathically. Then The Ambassador laughed out loud.

“We have just one little problem. I can’t actually perform the ceremony because my wife has requested that as well as joining Camilla and Kohb in Alliance we should renew our vows to each other.”

“I hope you don’t think I can do it,” Chrístõ protested. “I’m not qualified. You’re the Magister.”

“You married us,” Sammie pointed out.

“That was on board the TARDIS. Where I’m a captain. Captains can marry people. But my TARDIS is still at the depot. I can’t pick it up until tomorrow. They’re not quite finished. Humphrey keeps scaring the engineers and delaying the work. So without my TARDIS I can’t marry anyone.”

“I was thinking of a rather higher authority.” He turned his gaze to Penne. “A king can conduct any ceremony he chooses.”

Penne grinned widely. Kohb looked suddenly nervous. He had managed to forget that Penne was a king as they all shared the less than royal experiences of recent weeks. Now he was reminded again and he remembered that he had once been a servant to Valena’s father.

“I’d be delighted to do it,” Penne said.

“That settles it then, a double occasion.”

Chrístõ looked at his father’s face and wondered when he had last seen him THAT genuinely happy.

“The day you transcended, my son,” he answered him telepathically. “I was a happy, proud father when you became a Time Lord in your own right, by your own efforts. I’ve always been proud of you. And with good reason. Look around this table. Most of your friends owe you their lives. They at least owe to you their unique perspective of the universe. You have made their lives better. You have made a good ruler out of Penne, helped him find real love. You have done wonders for Kohb. You’ve given him a chance to be more than this planet of ours would ever let him be. As for the one dear friend who can’t be here with us…. Natalie… you did so much to make her last months happy. You saved Garrick’s life. You… I don’t even know what you did, but you brought Valena back to me. I thought I had lost her. Chrístõ, my son. You make me happy with everything you do.”

“Even what I did to Eps?”

“You did nothing to him. You told the truth. Don’t waste a single moment of your life worrying about him. We’re all free of him.”

“Chrístõ,” Julia said breaking into his conversation. “You didn’t hear me. I asked you if you thought my blue or my salmon pink gown would be best for the wedding.”

He smiled. He hadn’t heard the question and he wasn’t sure how to answer it. She looked lovely in both dresses.

“Ask Camilla. You’re HER bridesmaid,” he said. “This is a Camilla question, anyway. I’m a man. I know nothing about dresses. Except how lovely you women all look in them.”

“Very diplomatic,” his father said to him as Julia went to talk to Camilla and Valena about dresses.

“Well, I’ve been learning about diplomacy,” he answered. “Father, there’s something I would like to do this morning before we begin the wedding preparations.” He didn’t say it in words. But his father saw the image in his mind.

“I’ll come with you,” he said.

It was only a short walk to the secluded place, surrounded by well kept trees, that was the family memorial garden. It was a long time since he had been there. The last two times he had been home he hadn’t done it. But today he did feel the need. His father walked beside him as they passed the memorials to great Time Lords who had lived long lives and done wonderful things. Chrístõ recalled how, when he was a young boy, the sculpture of a fire breathing dragon over the memorial stone of one of his ancestors fired his imagination.

“I remember him, when I was a young boy,” his father said. “My grandfather who slew dragons.”

“Did he really?” Chrístõ asked. “I wonder where he FOUND dragons. I’ve never seen a planet with them. When I was older I always rather thought it was a metaphorical thing. Like the demons of the soul.”

“I’ll tell you the story sometime. Or perhaps I’ll tell your children and you can listen in. It seems, somehow to be a story for an old man to tell to a little one sitting on his knee. You’re too old for it now. But I think we both owe something in our souls to that ancestor. We both felt the need to spread our wings beyond this world of ours and experience the universe’s wonders. Dracœ Fire was in his twelfth life and nearly four thousand years old before he came home and took his place as patriarch of the family, took a wife and had a son. I took nearly as long. You… You’re living it all so fast. You’ll be ready for the responsibilities here at home much sooner than I was. Which is just as well. I can’t wait three thousand years for you to take on the burden.”

“Father!” Chrístõ looked at him in alarm. “You’re not ill are you?”

“No, of course not. I was just doing the mathematics. I’m over four thousands years old, Chrístõ. I was far from a young man when I married your mother. She made me feel young. But I wasn’t. I had already lived a full and eventful life when I found her and discovered that I, too, could know the comfort of a gentle woman in my arms.”

The memorial next to that of Dracœ Fire had a bas relief of Gallifrey’s moon on it and, unlike the others, two names inscribed. The ashes of Chrístõ’s grandfather and grandmother were both scattered in this place. He remembered when his grandfather had died. Chrístõ was a hundred and fifty, a young senior at the Academy. He recalled it had been a very grand funeral with many people coming to see the last rite of a great Time Lord’s life. He remembered the wrapped body placed on top of the pyre and his father being the one to light the pre-oiled kindling. After he had done that duty he had gone to stand with his mother, who seemed so much more frail in the light of that cremation fire than she ever did. She had died not so very long after. Her funeral had been a quieter, private affair and her ashes had been scattered in the same place and her name inscribed on the stone.

“My father broke with tradition and insisted that his wife’s name should be remembered, too. I saw that his wishes were upheld when mama died. All the others, we know they HAD wives, but unless you look deep in the written records of the family they are not known. I don’t know about the rest, but my father, your grandfather, married for love. As did I.” He took hold of Chrístõ’s hand as they stepped towards the last memorial in the garden. It was larger than the others. It bore upon it a relief carving of the silvertrees of the Lœngbærrow house, and between it a bird with wings outstretched and an olive branch in its mouth. The symbol of his Earth born mother. This one, unlike the others, was a grave. She had been buried in the ordinary Earth way, not the Gallifreyan way. His father had obtained special permission for it to be so.

“I’ve got maybe a thousand years more in me, barring accidents,” Chrístõ heard his father say. “Then my ashes shall be buried in the grave with her. My wife, mother of my precious heir.” He looked at his son in a solemn way. “That will be your last duty to me, Chrístõ.”

Chrístõ knew that. It was the duty of all sons of Gallifrey. But he preferred not to think of it. He looked at his mother’s grave and let his few memories of her warm him.

There were roses growing around the memorial stone. They were in bloom and their scent filled the air. Chrístõ sighed as the subtle smell overwhelmed him.

“Roses… They remind me of mama. She always had roses in the house. In her room. In all the rooms.”

“When she first came to Gallifrey the one thing she found here that was familiar, was roses. I don’t know why it is that they grow both here and on Earth, but I am glad they do. They weren’t indigenous to Ventura. But they grew in the soil of the Ambassador’s residence. And we had hothouses to produce them all the year round for her pleasure. My Earth Child.”

“Mama,” Chrístõ whispered. He felt his father’s arms around him and remembered being here on the day the grave was opened to put a white coffin in it. He remembered his father’s arms enfolding him then as he had cried. None of the other mourners had seen tears before. They were puzzled. But his father had not stopped him crying.

“Tears are your mother’s gift to you,” his father had said then. And Chrístõ realised his memory was being echoed by the same words spoken again, and he realised he WAS crying now.

“Sometimes I envy you that outlet for your grief,” his father said. “Our reputation as a stoical race, unburdened by emotion, is based solely on our lack of tear ducts.”

“Do you miss her?”

“Every day,” his father answered. “She died younger than I hoped. Her heart weakened. Bearing you for me was a terrible strain. I feared she would die in childbirth. She didn’t. But her days were numbered. Six precious years of your life, she knew. Then we lost her. You and I who loved her so much.”

“But you love Valena now.”

“I don’t love your mother any less. I wish I could have made you understand that. We wasted a lot of time in bitter recriminations. Then you went away. And I missed you so very much. The years you spent with the Shaolins, when you put your TARDIS in sleep mode and cut yourself off from everything. Even when you were in London, and I was lucky if you responded to my calls once a month. I missed you, my son. Valena was my comfort when you withdrew yourself from me.”

“I didn’t go because of Valena,” Chrístõ assured his father. “I went because… Because I AM the descendant of a man who fought dragons, and one whose hearts were as bright as a diamond. And one…. One who did his duty to Gallifrey in far off parts of the galaxy. And their blood makes me restless to see what they have seen and do what they have done. But I won’t be gone forever, father. I WILL be coming home to stay one day. And I will bring Julia to be my wife.”

“To be Lady de Lœngbærrow, and you the patriarch of the family. And Valena and I, and Garrick, will retire to the Dower House by the river. As it should be.”

“My destiny. To be Lord of all I survey. IS that my destiny? I WANT that. To live in peace here, to marry Julia, and be a father. But was the Mark of Rassilon that everyone talks about in hushed tones put on me merely for that? Is there more I have to do? There must be, surely?”

“Even Time Lords don’t do to probe too much into the future. You’ve seen your life with Julia laid out before you in her timeline. What happens beyond that can wait.”

Chrístõ had a feeling that his father knew something more. But even when he tentatively reached out telepathically, to see what lay behind that inscrutable expression his father gently stopped him.

“I know nothing more than you do,” he told him. “I think you may be right. But for now there is no need to think further than the day your Earth Child makes you as happy as I was the day I held you in my arms for the first time.”

And he would say no more than that. And Chrístõ knew better than to try. He felt his father’s hand over his, touching the wedding ring that Chrístõ knew, now, to be more than a few ounces of gold. It was a connection between father and son, and all that both held precious and dear to their hearts.

Stoical and unemotional? Perhaps that described some Time Lords. But not the House of Lœngbærrow.


They walked back to the house and found the wedding plans well in hand. The joy in the air was almost palpable. Even the servants were caught up with it. The head cook was busy making a wedding cake. Others were preparing a feast. The maids and the butler were organising the place where the wedding would take place. Not inside the house, but in the formal garden.

“Will it be warm enough?” Sammie asked as he watched them fixing up long poles which would support real flaming torches after the sun set, and lanterns all around the fountain and flower beds. “I was thinking of Bo. Do you think she’ll be all right?”

“She’ll be fine,” Chrístõ assured him. “It’s going to be a warm summer night, full moon tonight, too. It will be absolutely beautiful. As for Bo, we all worry too much. She’s strong. So is the baby. I examined her earlier. And if you try to stop her being at this Alliance she’ll never speak to you again.”

“I wouldn’t dare. Even eight months pregnant she could break my arm. But she was very shaken by the trial. Seeing HIM again disturbed her. She was so scared. I’m glad our child will be born into a world – a universe – without him in it.”

“Tonight, the wedding, Camilla and Kohb, my father and Valena. A new start for all of us.”

And so it seemed. The excitement grew as the day progressed. The men were sidelined as the women spent their time trying on dresses. Or in Camilla’s case, experimenting with the empathy suit until she had a style of dress she liked. Wedding dresses were not usual for her species. They didn’t get married. It was a unique experience for her. And one she was enjoying.

Chrístõ spent the afternoon in a workshop by the garage, doing what he did for his other friends when he had married them as captain of the TARDIS. He forged two rings. One for Kohb’s hand, which was easy enough. The other for Camilla was a little harder. It took more than just an understanding of metallurgy that came from being the heir to the family who owned the mines the gold came from. It needed his knowledge of much more advanced sciences and a snippet taken from the inner lining of the Empathy Suit. He bonded the gold with the morphic fabric and produced a ring that would expand when Camilla became Cam. Because Kohb, also, was doing a unique thing. He was marrying Camilla AND Cam, loving them both equally. It was something so far outside Time Lord tradition it was almost impossible to imagine unless you had seen their love for each other grow over the past months as he had.

That done, there was not much else for him or either of the two principle men of the forthcoming Alliance to do. The three of them withdrew to the study. A fully prepared Alliance of Unity called for the groom to spend at least twenty six hours in meditation, purifying himself in mind and body. They had six quiet hours which would have to do. The three of them knelt on the floor together and cleared their heads of all thoughts and worries, expectations or excitement.

When they roused themselves the sun was beginning to set and beyond the calmness they had created for themselves it was almost time. They went to dress themselves appropriately. Chrístõ and his father in the gold and scarlet of old Prydonians.

How Kohb should dress had been a question they had all discussed. He had once been a student of the Prydonian Academy but he had left long before he stood any chance of graduating and to wear the scarlet would have been too much like wearing his master’s second best clothes. In the end he chose a black robe and a cloak with silver trim which suited him well enough. To his surprise, Valena came to the room where he was dressing.

“You were a faithful servant to my father. So was your father in his time. Would you wear this in memory of that service and that loyalty.” And she gave him a cloak pin with the crest of the House of Arpexia inscribed on it. Not a small servant’s pin made of base metal and indicating their servitude. But a large silver one that almost certainly must have belonged to her father.

“I will, Madame,” he said and let her pin it on his cloak. Then she was gone to get ready.

Chrístõ’s role was to be Best Man to Kohb and to his father, too. Penne was to conduct the ceremony. The four of them went down to the garden and waited as the house servants took their places, for they, too,had been invited to be a part of it all. It was nearly sundown, and a golden light bathed the scene.

On the stroke of nine o’clock the rest of the participants arrived. Julia first, in her blue gown, with a basket of flower petals that she scattered along the path between the rows of seats. Then the matrons of honour, Cassie and Bo, and Cirena, all in blue satin, too, Bo’s in a fuller style than the others. Then Valena, accompanied by Sammie, and wearing the wedding gown she had worn the first time, glinting with the diamonds sewn into it, and Camilla, on Terry’s arm, in a backless and strapless dress with a bodice that seemed to defy gravity and a skirt that was long and flowing and very beautiful. Chrístõ saw Julia sigh with pleasure as she watched her.

“Plenty of time,” he whispered to her. “Your day will come soon enough.”

Then she joined the other bridesmaids on the front seat and gave her attention to the ceremony. Chrístõ knew she was half day dreaming of their Alliance, imagining herself in a dress of diamonds, making the solemn vows that took so many long hours to complete. Of course they would not be Joined in the garden. Nothing less than the Panopticon, with the Lord High President of all Gallifrey conducting the ceremony would do. It was his right as an Oldblood heir and hers, too - whatever some people might think about ‘mixed’ marriages.


It was near midnight, four hours into the torchlight ceremony under the bright Gallifreyan moon. Penne was reciting the Laws of Alliance that bound the two couples to each other. Everyone was listening to the beautiful if archaic words. Then Chrístõ became aware of something. He felt his telepathic nerves twinge. There had been a suppressed cry of pain from somebody. He looked around and fixed on Bo’s face. She was distracted from the ceremony and seemed in a world of her own. One with pain in it.

He stepped towards her and put one hand on her forehead and the other on her stomach and he smiled at her.

“I think your little one IS going to be a Gallifreyan citizen after all.” He took her hand and raised her up from the seat. Penne stopped in mid-sentence and around him other people began to murmur as they realised what was happening.

“Carry on,” he said to Penne. "We can handle this. Sammie, you come.” He cast his eyes about and saw Valena’s personal maid. She was a married woman and a mother herself. He’d seen her children about the house sometimes. He beckoned to her and she helped him to walk Bo out of the garden and back towards the house.

“It’s too soon,” Bo cried as another contraction came and she clung to Chrístõ’s arm.

“You’re over eight months,” he answered. “It’s not too soon. It’s about right, give or take a week or two. And you’re going to be just fine.”

As soon as the contraction passed he lifted her in his arms and brought her upstairs to the room where she and Sammie had slept the night before. He let the maid undress her from the satin gown and put her into her nightdress while he went to find what he would need for the birth and made sure it was all clean and sterile. When he returned Bo was lying on top of the bed. Sammie was at her side, caressing her face.

“All right, precious,” he said. “No need to be afraid. I’m here. So is Sammie. And there is nothing wrong AT ALL. The baby is ready. The head is presenting normally. We should be over in time for you to see them exchange rings.”

“I believe you,” she answered.

“But Chrístõ!” Sammie protested. “We ARE on another planet. Can she… will it…”

“I was born on this planet. In this house. Only a few doors away in the very room my father and Valena sleep in. The air here is the same as on Earth, except less polluted. The gravity is about the same. The only difference is the sky is yellow and the sun rises in the west. There is nothing about this planet that can harm your baby. And it is fitting somehow. Cassie’s son was conceived aboard my TARDIS. Yours will be born on my planet.”

Bo laughed softly at the idea. She reached out and touched Chrístõ on the cheek as he bent over to listen to her heart and check her pulse.

“When we met, I hoped we could be lovers. I would have had a Gallifreyan baby then.”

“We’ve none of us regretted the choices we made,” he told her.

“We are both alive because of you,” Sammie reminded him. “Our baby is a miracle YOU made possible.”

Through the open window they could hear the ceremony continuing. There was music just now. Valena was singing a piece of ancient Gallifreyan opera. She had a very nice voice and the sound of it rising on the night air soothed Bo as she went through an intense contraction that told Chrístõ they would, indeed, be done here before dawn.

He wondered if it was the stress of the past weeks that had caused the very slightly early labour. First the TARDIS crash, and then the trial. And maybe the excitement of today had been the final straw. One more emotion on top of the others.

If it was, it couldn’t be helped. And he was confident that it was going to be all right. He felt again, using his telepathic nerves to examine the baby. Its heart was beating fast, but not dangerously so. The birth process was a strain on the child, but it was quite natural.

He felt the next, even harder contraction and reached out to touch her forehead and draw off the pain a little. He could not take it all away. These pains were for a reason. To tell her that something momentous was happening. But he made them bearable as the small hours of this night ticked by, marked out by those regular pains. All the time the ceremony continued below. Penne was holding out well, considering he had memorised the words only a few hours ago. Once he heard his father contacting him telepathically to ask how things were.

“Things are just fine here,” he answered. “You just concentrate on Valena.”

Then after several hours of relative calm, things began to get faster and more frantic. Bo’s waters broke and she cried out loud as the pains intensified and she began to feel the baby moving down through the birth canal. Sammie held her shoulders tightly and did his best to help her through the hardest part. Chrístõ, with help from the maid, got ready to do his part.

“Still more than an hour before dawn,” he said. “You’re doing just fine, precious.”

“Oh, I hope so,” she cried. “Chrístõ…” She screamed with the effort as she pushed down hard and waited for the next contraction. This was the important one. This time she pressed the head of the child out of her. Chrístõ held it in the palm of his hand as he waited for her to gather her strength for the last effort. She screamed and strained once more and he gently eased the little body out. He lifted the child and cleared its mouth of mucus and heard it give its first cry. Bo and Sammie both sobbed with relief as they heard it. Sammie held the baby as the cord was cut and then he placed him into Bo’s waiting arms.

“A beautful baby boy,” Chrístõ told her, and she was so lost in joy she hardly noticed the passing of the placenta, or the maid cleaning her and making her decent while Chrístõ did the necessary tasks immediately after childbirth and then came to look closer at the child he had delivered. Dark, almond shaped eyes looked back at him.

Like Cassie and Terry’s baby, like himself, a product of two different planets, this was a half-blood child, half English, half Chinese. He had Chinese eyes, a Chinese complexion, but he almost certainly had his father’s English nose. It was a pleasing combination, born of the love of two people who both yearned to hold him again once Chrístõ had finished washing him and examining him to make sure he was absolutely perfect in every way. He gave the baby back to Bo who fed him for the first time and looked at them both expectantly.

“You have a name for him?” he asked.

“Li Ang,” Bo said. “Li Ang Thomlinson.”

“Li.” Christo smiled. “Li meaning Powerful. Ang meaning Merciful.”

“Li for our dearest friend who would be so proud right now,” Bo said.

“That he would.”

He left them quietly for another half hour. Bo fed her newborn son and he slept in her arms. Then he took the child from her again and wrapped him up warmly while the maid helped Bo to dress in warm clothes Sammie found in her wardrobe, not the satin gown that would feel cold to her in the open air. Then Sammie took his son in his arms and Chrístõ carried Bo and they went downstairs and outside again. The dawn was close.

The sky to the west was lightening. And beneath the torchlight the Alliance of Kohb and Camilla and the renewal of vows of Lord and Lady de Lœngbærrow were both reaching the climax. The Lord and Lady clutched hands together, their own wedding rings already on their fingers as Terry stepped forward with the two new rings that should have been Chrístõ’s responsibility. Penne looked up and paused before he began this important part of the ceremony. He saw Chrístõ put Bo gently into a seat and Sammie give the child to her to hold before sitting beside her. Then Chrístõ sat beside them and nodded to him to continue. Kohb and Camilla exchanged their vows and exchanged rings, and Lord and Lady de Lœngbærrow exchanged their vows a second time in their married life. As the sun came up Penne declared Kohb and Camilla to be joined in Alliance of Unity and Chrístõ Mian and Valena to have renewed their vows before him. Kohb turned and kissed Camilla. Lord de Lœngbærrow kissed his Lady. Then both couples stood aside. Penne stood aside, too, as Chrístõ stepped forward with the new parents either side of him.

He held the newborn child and turned his face towards the sun. Before the assembled company he began to speak in Ancient Gallifreyan, a dialect of their language known only to the highest scholars. Then he reverted to English, the language of the child’s parents. He held the baby up over his head as he spoke the words of the naming ceremony.

“A new life, a new day. May the sun’s light always shine on him. May he walk in the good, pure light all his life. May he be brave and courageous and merciful, and true to his heritage. May he know love and give love.” He held the baby closer to him and with his finger traced the Seal of Rassilon on his forehead. “You are Li Ang De Lun Thomlinson, born under the full moon that fades as this new day begins. You ARE a child of Gallifrey. May you carry the blessing of Rassilon on his children in your heart your whole life long. I name you, Li Ang De Lun Thomlinson in the light of this blessed dawn. I acknowledge your soul. I acknowledge your life.”

Sammie and Bo looked at each other and at Chrístõ and wondered at the addition of a third name of his own choosing, but neither would have questioned his right or the fittingness of the choice. He turned and showed the child to those watching the ceremony then gave him to his father, who in turn gave him to his mother. Then they slowly walked down the aisle, followed by Kohb and Camilla, the newly weds whose Alliance had been so delightfully upstaged by an unexpected naming ceremony, then by the Lord and Lady who had renewed their vows and reconfirmed their love. Then the bridesmaids followed.

Chrístõ and Penne walked together, one in Prydonian gold and red, the other in gold and deep blue, one wearing a simple golden circlet on his dark hair that marked him out as a king, though one who was, on this occasion, far from the centre of attention.

They all made their way to the ballroom where the wedding reception was held in the first light of morning and nobody except the newest Gallifreyan felt in the least like sleeping.