Marion sat on the sofa in the TARDIS and relaxed. She realised just how much MORE relaxed she felt at that moment. She DID like her life at Maison D’Alba with Lily. She liked luncheons with her friends. But she was glad to be away from it all, from having to pretend to be a lady all the time, and never really being herself.

Kristoph looked at her as he caught the edge of her thought but he couldn’t do anything about it yet. He had to give his attention to the Transduction Barrier Traffic Control.

“State how many non-Gallifreyans are aboard your craft,” said the voice of the official, a female, he noted, but no less bureaucratic in her tone than any of the men in the Gallifreyan civil service.

“None,” Kristoph replied.

“I beg your pardon, but our scanners detect one non-Gallifreyan lifeform. Humanoid.”

“As you well know,” Kristoph answered. “I am travelling with my fiancée, Lady Marion of Earth. The correct term for a person born on Earth is HUMAN, not humanoid. That is a term for other species of homo sapien origins. And in any case, as my fiancée, Lady Marion is a De Jure citizen of Gallifrey. So there are NO non-Gallifreyans aboard this TARDIS.”

“You are travelling without a chaperone?”

“I don’t think that has any relevance to my passage through the Transduction Barrier,” Kristoph replied, his tone more than a little irritated now. “You have full details of my ship’s complement. Now do your job. Authorise my flight.”

“Very well, SIR,” came the reply and a signal light on the console told him he was clear to pass through the Transduction Barrier that protected Gallifrey from alien incursions. “Have a safe journey.”

“As if you care!” Kristoph said under his breath as he switched off the communicator. He piloted the TARDIS through the Barrier and looked once at the view of Gallifrey from the other side of it. It looked beautiful, as always. But the traffic control section of the civil service always somehow managed to spoil the view by their obstreperous manner.

Most of them were younger siblings from Newblood families or Caretakers who had worked their way up. It was their only chance to act superior to somebody like him, an Oldblood heir with REAL power. Knowing that, however, did not make him feel any more friendly towards them. And he resented the very personal questions that were asked. What business was it of a traffic controller whether he and Marion had a chaperone on this trip offworld?

He glanced at the electronic signature on the Transduction authorisation and had the answer to the question. He sighed.

“Shion Malthis,” he muttered.

“You can get pills for that,” Marion told him.

“No, you can’t,” Kristoph replied with a smile. “That’s Idell’s youngest sister. Working for the Civil Service. And in one of the most thankless jobs within the service at that!”

“Oh, dear,” Marion sighed. “And we hoped to get away quietly. I suppose by the time we get back the whole of Gallifreyan society will know we had a weekend offworld.”

“Unlikely. If Idell is persona non-gratis in social circles her sister is nobody. Sometimes that detestable snobbery can work in our favour.” He set their destination and watched ordinary space dissolve into the swirling vortex then he came and sat by her side. He didn’t say anything more about Idell and her family or about the concerns that clouded her mind before. He simply made the most of this time when it was just the two of them to hold onto the woman he loved. It was only a matter of weeks now until their Alliance, but for now he was happy to enfold her in his arms and kiss her enthusiastically. She clung to him and kissed him with equal fervour and if either of them had anything to worry about it melted in the heat of their passion.

“Make it beautiful,” Marion whispered when he paused from kissing her. He knew what she meant. He pressed her down onto the big, soft sofa and covered her with his own body. The swirling image of the vortex lit her face with a myriad of colours as his hands encompassed it and he reached into her mind. She sighed with delight at the quicksilver feel of his consciousness slipping through hers. It was a sensuous feeling on its own. But then her mind was filled with beautiful images. She was still conscious, still looking up at the face of her lover, but at the same time she was floating, weightless, though a cloud, through a multi-coloured nebula, space dust flashing and sparking with their own energy, reflecting the light of a thousand suns. And her mind felt like it was made up of that same space dust and Kristoph was a sun. She felt her synapses exploding with fire and she heard her own voice cry out in excitement as she reached a peak of rapture and he let her freefall into the soft valley of peaceful satisfaction on the other side of his mental lovemaking.

Marion sighed deeply as she felt herself enclosed in his arms, warm and safe and comfortable. Kristoph sighed, too, as he held her, his consciousness still joined with hers, reluctant to leave, knowing there was no reason why he needed to for a little while. He felt her falling asleep and watched her dreams. Soft, sweet dreams in which he featured often and the anxieties that seemed to dominate her thoughts before were forgotten, at least for a while.

He didn’t sleep. He didn’t need to. But he didn’t move. He lay there beside her, listening to her dreams with his mind, listening to her soft breathing with his ears, his face pressed against her hair, a scent of winter jasmine assailing him. He recognised the smell. His mother made up herbal rinses that the shampoo manufacturers on Earth would die to get the formula for. She used his mother’s herbal astringent on her face, too, and her skin was soft and flawless. She was beautiful. He wondered why she ever thought she wasn’t.

Marion woke feeling relaxed and untroubled and looked around. There was a pot of tea on the table by the sofa and they had dropped smoothly out of the vortex and were in ordinary space.

“We’re just on the edge of the Haollstrom system,” he said. “Thought you might enjoy seeing a different solar system.”

“Yes,” Marion replied as she sat up and poured tea for herself and for Kristoph and they watched the viewscreen as they passed through the outer planets of the Haollstrom system. Haollstrom VII was a giant with, Kristoph said, a frozen chlorine atmosphere. Haollstrom V was a huge planet, too, with a wide ring system. Haollstrom VI, its twin planet had an unstable core that exploded millennia ago. The dust and debris was caught in the gravitational pull of the sister planet and formed the rings.

“Something similar almost certainly happened to Saturn in your Sol system,” Kristoph said. “But you’d have to ask my father. He’s the astronomer. My knowledge of the stars is mostly navigational.”

“It does look beautiful,” Marion said. “But such a terrible violent thing caused it. The planets were uninhabited I suppose? I mean, nobody could live in such conditions anyway, could they?”

“No humanoid,” Kristoph agreed. “There ARE species that thrive in cold conditions. In this case, however, both planets WERE uninhabited. Haollstrom IV and III are the only populated planets. Three is very beautiful if you like deserts and oases. For myself, I prefer the temperate climate of Haollstrom IV.”

“So do I,” Marion agreed as the fourth planet came into view. It was green and blue like earth, but with very different continents, mountain ranges and oceans. “How long till we land? I can’t wait to see Hillary.”

“A few minutes,” Kristoph said. “Are you ready for a fast landing? Come on up to the console with me.”

Marion stood beside him and he put his arm around her waist, gripping the console as he pressed the lever that brought them into a fast dive towards the north-west quadrant of that green and blue planet as it grew bigger and closer. She could feel the speed in the floor beneath her feet as the TARDIS engines hummed. She cried out in excitement as they swooped over the ocean and the land rushed towards them. A lighthouse rose up from the rocky shore and Kristoph was aiming towards it. As they grew closer, Marion saw a figure standing by the lighthouse. She smiled broadly as Kristoph brought them in to land on the narrow strip of land that connected the lighthouse rock to the mainland. She was ready to run out of the TARDIS and she did so. Hillary, dressed in a casual shirt and slacks ran towards her, lifting her up as they hugged as friends who had not seen each other for a long time.

“It’s so good to see you,” Marion said. “Either of you.”

“It’s good to see you, Marion, my dear,” Hillary answered. “You look very well. Gallifrey seems to be good for you.”

“Kristoph is good for me,” she corrected him. “Gallifrey I’m not so sure about. But never mind that, now. Why are we here? Of all places? Do you own a lighthouse?”

“Yes, I do,” he said. “It doesn’t function any more. We have satellite navigation nowadays. But the lighthouse is my own getaway place, when I want peace and quiet. And I thought it would be nice to share that quiet with my dearest friends.”

It was a PERFECT place to do that. They ate lunch in the room at the top of the lighthouse where the lamp used to be. Now it was a dining room with beautiful views all around. Afterwards they spent the afternoon and early evening sailing. Hillary was an excellent sports sailor and ploughing through the waves on his yacht was almost as exciting as Kristoph’s skilled TARDIS flying.

They ate dinner at the top of the lighthouse, too. As Kristoph and Hillary drank brandy and talked politics afterwards, Marion excused herself and went out on the balcony that ringed the lamp room. The sun had set and a bright moon had risen in a sky full of stars. She sighed peacefully as she looked at the stars and listened to the sound of the sea. It was a long time since she had heard the sea. She knew Gallifrey had oceans, but she had not seen any of them yet. She missed the sound of the waves.

“Marion?” She turned as Hillary spoke to her - Hillary as an elegant woman rather than the handsome man she had been through the day. “I thought you might like a little female company for a while.”

“Yes,” she said with a smile. “Yes, I would.”

“You DO look well. But Kristoph thinks you’re worrying about things that shouldn’t matter.”

“Oh.” Marion laughed softly. “So it isn’t just ‘female company’. He asked you to talk to me.”

“Yes, he did. Because he cares about you. What’s all this about ‘pretending’ to be a lady?”

“He told you that?” Marion was surprised. “I didn’t even TELL him. He must have read my mind. I keep forgetting he can do that.”

“Why do you think you have to pretend?”

“Because I’m not like them. Even the ones that are friendly, the nice ones. I still feel different to them. And I am always pretending that I belong with them in their world.”

“You always WILL be different to them, Marion. You’re an Earth Child. That we can’t do anything about. But you’re equal to anyone. You’ve been accepted by most of the ladies, so Kristoph says. You ARE a lady. It doesn’t take any special qualification. It’s just something you ARE. And you always will be. So STOP worrying.”

“Kristoph tells me that,” she said.

“Then believe him. He doesn’t want you to be unhappy. And there is no reason why you SHOULD be. The two of you… A love story that crossed a galaxy.”

Marion laughed. “That sounds like a cheesy Hollywood movie tagline.”

“But it’s true. And you know, he WOULD have given up everything for you. If you had not agreed to go to Gallifrey with him, he would have renounced his right of primogeniture, his birthright, and turned his back on his whole world. For you he WOULD have done that.”

“He told you that?”

“He told me that long ago. Before your Earth wedding. And he would have done it willingly, too. He would have never resented what he gave up for you. That sort of bitterness isn’t in him.”

“He would not have been truly happy, though. I knew that when he was home on Gallifrey the first time. I knew how much it meant to him. And I AM happy there. I really am. I’ll be happier when we’re married and I don’t have to live apart from him and be chaperoned by Lily. But I AM happy. I just have to get used to how different it all is, and get used to being Lady de Lœngbærrow.”

“Do you still need me as your matron of honour on the day you become that for real?” Hillary asked.

“Of course I do,” she answered. “You’ll have to come and be fitted for the dress soon.” Marion laughed, because as she said that Hillary had morphed into her male form again and the thought of him in a dress was ludicrous.

“Don’t do that at the Alliance, will you? Not in front of the Lord High President and everyone.”

“Certainly not. But I wanted to do it now, so that I could do something that Kristoph gallantly gave me permission to do.” And to Marion’s surprise Hillary embraced her and kissed her on the lips. “For all the love I bear for the man you are going to marry,” he said. Then he stepped back, still holding her hand and smiled as Kristoph stepped out onto the balcony. Of course, he had seen everything through the window. He knew there was nothing in that kiss but loving friendship, and he reached his arm around Hillary’s neck and kissed him on the cheek. Hillary, of course, reverted back once more to her female form and embraced them both.

“You’ve been a special friend to me for a long time, Kristoph,” she said. “And I am glad you allowed me to be Marion’s friend, too. Bless you both.”

“Haollstromnians are so passionate!” Kristoph teased. “Not like us stoic Gallifreyans.”

“Stoic?” Hillary laughed. So did Marion as she remembered the passion she and Kristoph had indulged during their journey to Haollstrom.

“Well, some of us!” he admitted.

“It seems to me, after living on Gallifrey for so many weeks now, that you are ALL passionate. But not about each other. You’re passionate about tradition and honour and doing things the right way.”

“That’s no bad thing,” Hillary said. “If honour is high on the priorities. As it always has been with Kristoph. A very honourable man.”

“If more Gallifreyan men were like Kristoph it wouldn’t be so bad,” Marion answered. “And less of them like Lord Ravenswode.”

“There aren’t many as bad as Ravenswode,” Kristoph protested, defending the manhood of Gallifrey. “It’s just he makes himself heard more often. You know the Earth saying. Empty vessels….”

Marion laughed. There, on the balcony, with the soft light from the dining room and the moonlight, a sea breeze in her hair and that sound of the waves crashing against the rocks far below, it was easy not to be worried about Lord Ravenswode and his sort.

“If only I could come here when I’ve had enough of them all,” she whispered, looking out to sea.

“No good reason why you can’t,” Hillary told her. “Come here any time. I’ll always be glad to see you. And if you want to spend a romantic weekend at the Lighthouse, it’s yours for the asking.”

“There, you see,” Kristoph said, folding his arms around her shoulders and holding her close. “When we’ve both had enough of Gallifrey, Hillary’s Lighthouse will always be here for us. Don’t bottle it up. Tell me when it’s all getting too much and we’ll get away in the TARDIS. We’ll come here, or to the Eye of Orion, or to Earth, or just to the Lodge. We can ALWAYS get away from it all.”

“I think I’m going to need to get away from it a lot,” Marion said. “You’d better get a season ticket for the Transduction Barrier.”

“It will give Idell and her sister something to talk about!”

Marion laughed. Kristoph held her tightly and cherished the sound of her laughter. Hillary slipped away and left them alone on the balcony. They stayed there for a long while, enjoying the balmy night and the sound of the waves and each other’s company.

“Let’s go to bed,” Kristoph suggested, at last. Marion let him take her by the hand to the guest bedroom below the dining room. It was round like all the rooms in the lighthouse and had windows on all sides. There was a half circle shaped bed with satin sheets and pillows and a huge fur blanket that looked invitingly comfortable as well as epitomising the decadently sensual Haollstromnian taste. They undressed and put on nightclothes and slipped beneath the soft fur cover. Marion sighed happily as Kristoph enfolded her in his arms in that warm, luxurious comfort.

“We haven’t slept together since we left Earth,” she reminded him.

“I know. You have been very patient, my dear, with my people’s customs. We are so very reserved about love and marriage, compared to Earth people.

“Mrs Flannery would approve,” she answered, remembering their so strait-laced housekeeper from their house on Earth. “Come to that, I think I do, too. We should wait. It will be worth it in the end. Though I do miss being near you like this. It’s nice, for a little while, to lie with you as your wife. As I was on Earth.”

Two nights, tonight and tomorrow, they could lie together this way. Two days of leisure and relaxation. It wasn’t much, but if they made the most of every moment, it would be enough.

She sighed again, happily and tried to stay awake a little longer to enjoy the pleasure of being in a warm, comfortable bed with her husband. He for his part was determined not to miss a moment of the night in her arms. He didn’t need sleep. He needed to hold her much more. He, too, cherished the thought of these two nights before they had to return to Gallifrey and custom and duty.