Classes ended early on the last day of the Summer School. Everyone wanted to get ready for the ball in the evening. In the residences that meant that everyone wanted to get a bath or shower at the same time.

Marion slipped past the bathroom queue as it stretched down to the kitchen. She didn’t answer her towel and toiletry bag-holding friends when they asked her where she was going. She just smiled and told them she would see them later at the party.

Kristoph was waiting in the TARDIS, outside the side gate. As soon as she stepped aboard he initiated the pre-planned trip. One last TARDIS treat for her. An afternoon of beauty treatments, facial, manicure, hairdo and professionally applied make up at one of the best salons in Paris before she changed into her dress for the ball.

Yes, Kristoph thought as he looked at the finished result. She HAD changed in the six weeks he had known her. The shy girl in which he had first recognised that enticing spark of individuality and unaffected charm would not have dared wear a dress with spaghetti straps. She would have been too self-conscious of her bare arms. True enough she had a shawl over it, but it was a flimsy, gauzy thing that merely set off the dress. She wasn’t hiding behind dull and unadventurous clothes, trying not to be noticed by those who would point and stare. Now she was dressed to BE stared at by anyone who had eyes in their head.

“That will surprise them all,” he told her. “Riviera fashion in Harrogate.”

“Not as much as YOU bringing me to the ball,” she said. “Are you sure about this, Kristoph?”

“I am sure,” he told her. “This is the last night ball. A time for staff and students to, and I quote from the poster on the noticeboard, ‘let their hair down.’”

“I was thinking of wearing mine up, actually,” Marion answered wryly. “But what if…”

“Let us cross those chasms when we reach them,” he said. He paused. “Or is it bridges?”

“Bridges usually, here on Earth,” she reminded him.


“Funny the things you get wrong. Like which direction the sun rises, and chasms and bridges.”

“I should be more careful,” he said. “That sort of sloppy thinking is quite unacceptable for an undercover man.”

“You’re not an undercover man now,” she told him.

“No, but if we are to live in peace here on Earth, I must be accepted as a Human. I shall have to be even more careful not to make such mistakes.”

“I don’t think ‘chasm’ was a huge error. You’re fine.”

She sat and watched him as he finished his own ensemble with silver collar studs and cufflinks and a tie pin, all in a matching design of two silver-trees with their branches meeting in the middle. When he put on the jacket of the black silk suit with a hint of silver thread he stepped towards her. He had a brooch in his hand. It, too, bore that design.

“My family crest,” he told her as he pinned it on her dress. “The House of Lœngbærrow.”

“Why the trees?” she asked.

“Because we have deep roots, an Oldblood house, sired by Rassilon himself.” She looked puzzled but he smiled. “Gallifreyan history is a summer school all of its own. We shall worry about it another time. Are we ready?”

“I think we are,” she answered. He smiled and reached to take her arm and they stepped out of the TARDIS, disguised as a telephone box with an out of order sign on it, just down the road from the Crown Hotel, where the dinner and ball were taking place.

The foyer when they entered was busy with students and staff in their finery. Marion had the feeling that few of either had recognised her at first. They greeted Kristoph politely and glanced at her with a puzzled expression before smiling brightly.

She felt nervous at first, expecting censure of them for being seen together, but it DID seem true that the barriers between teachers and students were being broken down far more on this last night than at any time in the six weeks of the course. Nobody seemed especially concerned about them being together.

Apart from Cath Benning, anyway. Marion had her moment of schadenfreude as they waited to go into the dining room. Cath arrived alone. One of the few people, male or female who hadn’t found a partner. She looked at the professor with a hungry expression and at her with envy that turned to astonishment as she recognised her. She heard Cath give a squeal of annoyance and turn away.

“Everyone ELSE thinks you look fabulous,” Kristoph whispered to her as they went into the dining room. “They’re all saying how beautiful you look. And you do.”

“I feel so nervous. I’m going to spill soup down the dress,” she answered.

“No you’re not,” he assured her. “You’re going to be just fine.”

Her legs felt as if they would collapse any moment. She was glad when they reached the table and sat down. They were at a round table of eight. Two other tutors and four students made up the rest of the grouping. Around them other tables filled rapidly. There was a short welcome speech from the director of the Summer School and then the waiters served the meal.

She didn’t spill the soup. Nor did she find herself sitting dumbly, unable to speak. She didn’t feel socially inadequate at all. She enjoyed herself.

She enjoyed herself later, too, when they moved from the dining hall to the ballroom. She enjoyed dancing with Kristoph. She enjoyed sitting with him and watching others dancing. She even enjoyed being asked, enviously, when she went to the ladies, where she got the dress and how come she and The Professor were so cosy.

“I got the dress in Leeds," she lied. "And The Professor just happened to ask me if I’d go to the ball with him.”

“Lucky you,” somebody said. “He’s a hunk.”

“But she can’t,” somebody else pointed out. “She goes to the same university he TEACHES at. It’s not allowed.”

“We’re not allowed to go to a party together?” she queried.

“You’re not allowed to ‘go’ with him.”

“Well that’s ok,” she answered. “Because he’s a gentleman and he hasn’t ASKED me to ‘go’ with him.”

“People have such dirty minds,” she complained when they stepped out through the big French doors of the ballroom and walked, on a warm, fragrant evening, in the flower garden opposite the hotel. “They ASSUME that we’re…”

“Let them think what they like. We know the truth.”

“As long as you don’t get into trouble,” she told him.

“The reasons why they prevent students and staff having ‘relationships’ are sound ones,” he said. “They are meant to protect both from exploitation. But when we return to Liverpool, you have two years more of your course to run. We will not hide our feelings for that time. There have been lies and subterfuges enough.”


“But nothing. We will find a way. Marion… for you I have given up my world. To live in peace on Earth, I have forsaken Gallifrey and all that it stands for. I shall not let anything stand in the way of our happiness.”

And with that, he enfolded her in his arms and kissed her in such a way that, for all his assurances, the university rules about fraternisation between staff and students were thoroughly infringed. But Marion had forgotten all about the rules by then.

They forgot about everything for a long time as they held each other tightly. They forgot about the party in the Crown Hotel, despite the insistent throb of the ‘clubbing’ music that had taken over from the more formal dancing as the evening wore on.

“I don’t want to go back in there,” Marion said after a while. “Let’s just walk for a bit. It’s nice out.”

“It’s very nice,” he agreed. “But you will get chilled. Here…” He slipped off his jacket and put it on her. Marion sighed. What more could she wish for? He was the perfect gentleman she had dreamt of when she had dared to dream of such a thing. A man who was prepared to make every possible sacrifice for her, be it a coat to keep her warm or…

She looked up at the stars in the sky. She knew she couldn’t see that one that was so precious to him. But he had given up ALL of the stars for her. Given up Gallifrey, his home. And all for her.

“Just don’t….” she began. “Kristoph… don’t give up your life for me. That poem… that man who sacrificed himself for the woman he loved. I would not ask that much of you. I just want you to know that.”

“Does that worry you?” he asked her. “It IS only a story. I’m not even sure if there is any truth in it. The Rite of Transference… The sacred words could be found in the rare and restricted sections of our Academy libraries, accessed only by our most learned scholars. But I don’t think they would be likely to try it.”

“Why not?”

“Because our most learned scholars have spent so long becoming learned and scholarly that they would have trouble remembering there is a female form of our species, let alone falling in love with one of them.”

Marion laughed at that. Kristoph hugged his arms around her shoulders and smiled. Yes, the sacrifices he had made thus far were worth it.

Would he die for her?

Yes, he would. Yes, he would die for her. For love of a woman, yes. He had, after all, already died for love of his homeworld eleven times. He remembered all his deaths like still open wounds on his body. Many things he had forgotten, or if not forgotten, at least their pain had faded with time. But his deaths and regenerations, he remembered keenly. He could almost envy those species that could only die once. Rassilon’s gift to his chosen elite, to the Time Lords, was a curse as well as a blessing.

That was why it was a gift given only to those with the fortitude to withstand it.

“Kristoph…” Marion’s voice, tinged with fear and her hand grasping his tightly brought him back to the present with a jolt. He saw at once what had disturbed her. They had turned along a narrow path with trees and a hedge one side of them and flowerbeds and a wall on the other. Ahead of them was a dark clad figure who raised what was clearly a knife. Kristoph glanced behind him and saw two others were closing behind them.

Just ordinary muggers. This was nothing to do with the traitor. It was certainly not anyone come from Gallifrey to ‘persuade’ him to return. They had more subtle methods than this. It was just three ordinary Humans who spotted them in their rich clothes and took them for an easy target.

“Come on,” the one in front said. “Give us what you’ve got or we’ll slit you both…”

“Marion…” he whispered. “That is a nice dress. I am sorry for this.” And he pushed her firmly. She tripped over the ornamental edging and landed in the flower bed. She gave a soft cry of surprise and then called out his name.

“Kristoph!” Marion cried again as he called to her to stay down. She stayed down and watched him tackle all three of their assailants. The one in front slithered to the ground as he leapt into the air and kicked out with what she thought was the most elegant martial arts she had ever seen. At the same time he span and when he landed he was facing the other way around. The other two would-be muggers went down together as he punched one and kicked the other.

“Look out!” Marion screamed as a fourth man stepped from the shadow of the trees. Kristoph turned and that one, two, was quickly taken down, but not quickly enough. Marion saw the glint of a knife and she heard Kristoph gasp. When she scrambled to her feet and reached him he was clutching his chest. Blood poured from the wound and seeped through his fingers.

“You’re hurt!” she cried.

“Help me reach the TARDIS,” he told her.

“No,” she protested. “We need to get you to a hospital. You’re bleeding. He stabbed you.”

“No,” he insisted. “No hospital, Marion. I’m not Human. I cannot…”

“Oh…” Her hand over his was slick with his blood. “Oh…”

“TARDIS, please, Marion. Please…”

She looked around. They had walked more or less in a circle. They weren’t as far from the TARDIS as she had thought. They just had to turn a corner, back towards the Crown Hotel.

“There will be people around. Others taking air from the party like we were,” she pointed out. “They could help…”

“No,” he again insisted. He stifled a groan. He was hurting badly. His lung was punctured. His left heart was damaged too. It had already shut down. “No…” He sighed a ragged sigh and wiped the blood from his lips before she noticed. “I’m going to… to pretend to be drunk… leaning on you… play along. If anyone asks…”

And he did. Somebody DID call out and ask if they were all right, but he called back, sounding very drunk and incoherent.

Marion wasn’t sure if the incoherent was acting after all as they reached the TARDIS and he began to search for his key. She stayed his hand and found it herself in his pocket. As she put the key in the disguised lock in the corner of the disused telephone box door, he whispered, slowly, and with difficulty, that she had to turn it a certain way or the TARDIS would defend itself from intrusion. She followed his instructions and breathed a sigh of relief as the door opened and she pushed him inside.

“Let me down on the floor, carefully,” he said once the door was closed behind them. She did so and knelt beside him, pulling open his shirt. She was astonished by two things. First, the colour of his blood, a strangely light red-orange, and second, just how much there was of it.

“Tell me what to do…” she said, desperately. “Kristoph, how can I help you? Please don’t die…”

“I’m not going to die, Marion. But… something is going to happen now… It will frighten you. Have faith in me. And it will be all right.”

“What can I DO?” she begged him.

“Just hold my hand,” he told her. “Marion… I love you. I WILL live for you.”

Marion held his hand. She said his name once more, but he didn’t respond. She touched his face. It felt rigid as if in death. But he couldn’t be. It took hours for a dead person to be THAT stiff. Unless that was how it worked with people from his world.

No, she reasoned. He said he wasn’t going to die. He promised her he wouldn’t die.

And he had never broken a promise to her.

But it was hard to see how he was going to keep that promise.

She kept holding his hand. And as she held it she did something she had not done since she was at school.

She prayed.

She wasn’t sure if she could pray for an alien. Did the God she learnt about in school as a little girl actually have any say in the lives of people born 250 million light years away?

Or did that matter?

She had been told that He was a loving God who cared for all of creation. Wasn’t Gallifrey, wasn’t Kristoph, part of that creation?

“Let him live,” she prayed. “It doesn’t matter where he comes from. He’s a good man. And I need him. I love him. And he loves me. And nobody ever loved me before him. Please, please let him live.”

She ran out of words, but she kept on holding his hand, she kept on praying silently, without words, for the man she loved.

She wasn’t even sure how long she was kneeling there beside him. It felt like hours. He had asked her to hold his hand. But she didn’t know how long she should hold it for. Surely it had been long enough. Surely she should get some help.

“Marion… open your eyes.” She gasped in shock when she heard his voice and his hand squeezed hers. She hadn’t even realised she HAD closed her eyes. She opened them and looked at him. His eyes were open. She looked at his chest. She reached out and touched the place where the bloody wound had been. It was closing even as she looked. She reached out and touched him. She felt his heart beating as strongly as ever.

“How…” she asked.

“I’m a Time Lord,” he told her. “We can do this. Our bodies can repair themselves when they’re damaged.” He put his hand on her shoulder and pulled himself up into a sitting position. “That beautiful dress really is ruined now.”

She looked down and saw that he was right. She was covered in his blood. His strange, alien blood.

“I don’t care about the dress. I care about you. You’re really all right? You’re mended?”

“I ache all over,” he answered. “I’ll feel it for a day or two when I breathe. But yes, I’m all right. I’m sorry if that frightened you. The only way to repair such a bad wound is to switch my body into the minimum functioning level. I know it must have looked terrible for you.”

“At least I know now, if that happens again. I know what to do. And…” She glanced at the panelled wall with that story about his ancestor who fought dragons. “I understand now. That’s what happened to him, too.”

“Not quite,” Kristoph answered her as he, too, looked at that dramatic panel. “Marion…”

“Yes,” she answered him, though he hadn’t even answered the question. “Yes, I still love you. If I didn’t, I would not have stayed by you. I love you, my alien lover who IS prepared to die for me. I’m just so very glad that you DIDN’T.”

“So am I,” he assured her fervently. He reached to hold her. He steadied his aching, nearly repaired heart and matched its speed with the other. He breathed steadily with his repaired lung and he held her in his arms. And for all the times that he had woken from repairing a deadly wound sustained in battle, he had NEVER been so glad to be alive as he was at that moment.