It was the weekend at last. The second weekend of the new term. Marion and Kristoph were both happily settled into their work now, as student and teacher. But they were glad when the weekend came around and they could get away from it all.

Marion sighed with pleasure as she walked leisurely with Kristoph through a forest of impossibly tall trees on a planet he called Borogri IV. He had whisked her away to this weekend retreat straight from university, meeting her outside the gate where what looked like a camper van waited.

“I’m glad you seem to be making friends there,” he told her as he recalled the gaggle of young women and some young men, too, that she came to the gate with. As Kristoph held out his hand to her, she had turned and waved cheerfully to them all and exchanged friendly goodbyes before she had stepped into the TARDIS with him. “What happened to the shy young woman who walked alone last term?”

“You happened to me,” she answered. “Thank you for that.”

“You’re so much happier. I’m glad. Are you enjoying the work, too?”

“Very much so. I have to do some preparation for next week over the weekend. I have a love poem by W.B. Yeats to interpret.”

“Ah,” Kristoph smiled. “A pleasant task by the fireside tonight. Reading love poetry.”

“Not my favourite love poetry, though,” she sighed. “Unfortunately Gallifreyan poetry is not on the curriculum.”

“As it was not written in the English language or in an accepted translation from the original, it would be difficult to justify its inclusion,” Kristoph said with a soft laugh. “But if it was, what would you write about?”

“The sacrifice poem. About how it depicts pure love that goes beyond the merely physical. Or the one about the Lord who married the handmaiden and made her his lady, putting aside everything for his love.”

“Those two poems stuck in your mind, didn’t they,” Kristoph said. “Don’t take either too much to heart. Life is not as complicated as poems make it out to be.”


That was certainly true, Marion thought, of the poetry of W.B. Yeats. In the evening, as promised, they sat by an open fire in a log cabin on the edge of the forest. The drank cocoa, read poetry and cuddled up together, pausing in their reading to kiss each other and simply enjoy being together.

The poem she had to write about was pleasant enough to read aloud, but analysing the meaning was more problematic. She voiced the opinion that Yeats was making life seem very much more difficult than it had to be.

“He is completely wrong about one thing,” she said. “It’s a lot easier to be a poet than to be a workman breaking his back at manual labour. All he has to do is think and dream.” She laughed. “If I say that in class people will think I’ve got no poetic soul.”

“Nonsense,” Kristoph answered. “You have plenty of that. And I think you are right. He is moaning far too much. And if he is worried about his lover aging too fast before his eyes, he should get on with loving her and stop prevaricating.”

“He almost sounds as if he won’t love her when she grows old,” Marion said.

“Human life is so fleeting,” Kristoph said. “If it were only about physical attraction then there would be a lot more old, lonely people than there are as it is. People don’t stop loving each other just because youth fades. Not if it’s real love.”

Marion didn’t reply at first. What he said there about real love was reassuring. But there was something else. The way he said ‘Human life is so fleeting’.

“Kristoph," she whispered, feeling it was a question she had to ask, but was afraid of hearing the answer. “How old are you?”

He didn’t answer her straight away. He sat up straight and took her hand.

“If I tell you,” he said. “I don’t want you to feel I deliberately kept anything from you. I honestly never thought about it since I met you. I have FELT as if I truly WAS a 45 year old professor of English literature.”

“But you’re neither in reality.”

“No,” he said. He sighed. “Marion, I am two thousand, eight hundred and fifty four years old.”

“Oh!” Marion stared at him. “Oh. But… oh, are the years shorter in some way or measured differently on your planet?”

“No,” he answered. “They are roughly the same as Earth years."


“I’m the equivalent to 45 in my society. Getting on a bit, but not totally decrepit.”

“It’s an unbelievable time. I thought… I sort of guessed from some of the poems … that Time Lords lived long lives. But I thought maybe you would say you were about a hundred years old. I never imagined THAT much.”

“It frightens you,” he said. “I am sorry.”

“Don’t be,” she assured him. “Kristoph, I don’t love you any less. I just don’t know what to say about that. I can’t get my head around it. I mean. You are older than… you were born before Christ was.”

“If I lived on Earth, yes,” he said.

“It’s… mind-boggling. How do you cope with it? Can you remember everything? All of those years?”

“Some things are distant. Just like any memories. Other things I never forget. I try to remember the good things, if I can. Good friends, comradeships. There is much I would prefer to forget.”

“The war you fought in?”

“Yes. By Rassilon. If somebody could reach into my head and take away some of the memories of THAT, I would be eternally grateful to them.” He paused and looked at her. “I owe you some explanation of all of that, I think.”

“You don’t have to.”

“No, you should know it. You should know something of my past. We agreed no more secrets. The war began just as I was finishing my university studies. I joined the army along with many thousands of young people, determined to fight for my world, for the way of life I honoured. I was taught to kill for Gallifrey’s peace. I went to war. It went badly. I was a prisoner of war for a long time. It was a bad, bad time. When I eventually came home, I was changed by the war, by what I saw. I took a long time to heal, not my body, which healed itself despite the extent of my injuries, but my mind. And even then, Gallifrey still needed me to kill for it. I became an agent. I became a good agent. I did my government’s dirty work, the things that had to be done to protect innocent people. I did what I had to do. Quickly and cleanly. I became their best assassin.” He looked at her. “Understand, Marion, I did not… I never gloried in the work. I took no satisfaction in killing, only in knowing that what I did protected my world and the way of life I cherished.”

“I understand,” she told him. “I’m not judging you, Kristoph. I know there are people who have to do such work. It happens on Earth, too.”

“Assassins don’t tend to have wives,” he continued. “And only a few close friends, usually within the agency. Generally, they choose that life for good. There are few who turn their backs on it.”

“You did?”

“I did. So did one other…”

“The man who you were sent to kill on Earth?”

“How did you know…”

“I didn’t. I guessed. It’s all right. I don’t need to know the details. Anyway, you’ve given it all up.”

“I gave it up two centuries ago. I have been happy as a roving ambassador for my people, making peace in the usually accepted word. You would have liked that, I think. Travelling with me, meeting new people, seeing new worlds. But that life is over, too. The Executioner is dead. The Ambassador has retired. I am The Professor from now on.”

“Good,” Marion said. “Though, yes, that other life does sound nice. But I am happy with you like this. I fell in love with The Professor. Not The Ambassador. And not The Executioner.”

She thought about that. Could she have loved The Executioner? He WAS the same man she loved in the sense that he was the same body, the same mind. But could she have fallen in love with somebody who did such a thing for a job?

“I probably would not have let you love me,” he said. “It would have been too risky. For me and for you.”

“It WAS just a job. It wasn’t YOU. Those labels. Executioner, Ambassador, Professor… just labels. They aren’t YOU. I love the man beneath the labels.”

“Then in part you love all of those men. They are all there in me somewhere. But don’t let it worry you. Marion, what matters is that you understand me, who and what I am. I’ve been to the darkest places any man’s soul could endure, physically and mentally. But I have survived, and I have been able to find contentment, peace, friendship and now, through you, love. And but for the very darkest times, but for a few deep regrets for things that could not be changed no matter how much I wished it, it has been a good life. And I have so much to hope for in the future.”

“How long will you live?” she asked. “If that is only middle age by your standards? Doesn’t that mean you could live another two thousand years at least?”

“Yes,” he said, knowing what she was going to say next and wishing she wouldn’t.

“I can’t.”

“I know,” he told her. “That is why I mean to cherish every day that we have together. And why I know that W.B.Yeats is so wrong to worry about the fleeting moment of youth and perceived beauty. Life is about so much more than that. And life is ALWAYS beautiful.”

“You should write poetry, Kristoph!” She said.

“Perhaps the bards will write about the two of us,” he countered. “An epic poem about the Warrior of Lœngbærrow and the Earth Child who thawed his frozen hearts.”

“Were they really frozen?” she asked.

“I hadn’t let myself feel love for so long. Lilliana broke my hearts. The few brief love affairs since hardly scratched the surface of the shell I put up.”

Yes, he thought. She had been so easy to love. He had almost forgotten how. But somewhere deep inside him it was there. The deep, deep love he once had for his Lady Lily he now gave to her. And he was a more complete man than he had been for a very long time.

It took an Earth Child to do that for him.