Marion smiled to see Kristoph carrying Rodan on his shoulders as they trekked through the woods. She held onto his hands tightly and laughed joyfully as she named the things she saw from her elevated position in her own baby language.

“Big trees,” she said.

“Lots of big trees,” Kristoph answered her. He reached up to one of them and plucked some fruits from it. He gave one to her and one to Marion. They looked like large plums, but tasted more like Gallifreyan moon fruit. They contained no stone of any sort, so they were safe for Rodan to eat as she walked along.

The only drawback was that they were very juicy and Kristoph began to notice that his hair was getting damp and sticky.

“This is not at all dignified,” he complained as Marion handed him a moist wipe to remove the worst of the mess. Rodan gurgled happily and didn’t seem to notice she was causing her foster father such distress.

“But you look wonderful carrying her like that,” Marion told her. “As if you really were her father.”

“I feel as if I am,” he admitted. “I tried not to, very hard. But I can’t help feeling as if she’s my own little girl.”

“Me, too,” Marion said. “I hate the thought of letting her go. I will miss her so much.”

“We still have nearly a year to be her parents,” Kristoph reminded her. “And afterwards, we will keep in contact with her. I don’t mean for us to forget her, or for her to forget us.”

“You mean that?” Marion smiled happily. “I did hope… but I wasn’t sure… if it would be better if she was left to get used to living with her grandfather.”

“She should get used to that. Most certainly. And I hope she will be happy. But we can always remain a part of her life, as friend.”

“We can buy her presents and take her on trips to lovely places like this?”

“Sometimes,” Kristoph said. “Not too often. She must grow up as a Caretaker child. We must take care not to spoil her. “

“But we CAN buy her presents? And maybe… we can help with her education, that sort of thing?”

“Yes, but it all needs thinking about carefully. And we must discuss it with her grandfather. It is important that he doesn’t feel we are controlling his little girl’s life.”

“Of course,” Marion agreed. She sighed. “Well, for now, there is no need to think of it. She IS still ours yet.”

“She is, indeed.”

They came, presently, to a log-built cabin built in a clearing. It had been their holiday home for the past two days and coming back to it after their walk was nice. It was a beautiful little house with small glassless windows that could be shuttered with wooden panels against the cold of winter, though in this warm summer season on this holiday planet it was not necessary. There was a wide wooden veranda with beautifully carved railings and a perfectly smooth floor. It had a table and chairs around for eating their lunch outside and two wicker chairs where Marion and Kristoph had sat last night in the warm evening while Rodan slept soundly in her cot inside.

Kristoph sat on one of the chairs now with Rodan on his knee while Marion prepared their lunch of cold meat and salad and cool milk. Rodan sat with them at the table, raised up on cushions, and ate the same food they did, cut up small for her to manage. Afterwards, Kristoph played with her on the veranda. He sat on the deck and helped her to make a big floor jigsaw of large wooden pieces. Marion thought she was too young for it, but she was thinking of a Human child of her age. She had much better hand eye co-ordination than a Human at fourteen months, and much better perception of two dimensional colours and patterns. She soon got the hang of fitting the pieces together.

Marion sat in one of the wicker chairs and watched them. She noticed that his hair was still sticky in one patch where the fruit juice had dripped on him. But he didn’t mind. He was thoroughly enjoying himself playing with the little girl. When she put the final piece into the puzzle, he hugged her in his arms and kissed her cheek.

“Well done, my little Rodan,” he said. “So very clever. Let’s see what else we can do to amuse and stretch that quick mind, shall we?”

And Marion was amazed when Kristoph took some sheets of paper and began to fold them in an intricate fashion, making birds and flowers that populated the floor and formed a little soap opera of their own as Kristoph told a completely extemporised story about birds and flowers.

Marion watched and listened and allowed herself to daydream. Because as much as she loved Rodan and treasured every day with her, she still had her hopes for the future. She knew she would have a child of her own. She thought about that vision she had seen at New Year, of the handsome young man who was destined to be their first born son, named after his father. She knew she probably shouldn’t do it, but she couldn’t help it. She often thought about him. In her imagination she pictured what he would look like when he was a little boy. She imagined him about three or four years old, in a blue and white sailor suit and a cap sitting askew upon dark curling hair that no comb could possibly tame. A bright smile would be on his lips and a twinkle in brown eyes that matched his father’s. Marion imagined Kristoph playing the same games with his son, hugging him in the same way, putting a kiss on his innocent cheek. She imagined their little boy coming to sit on her lap, to fall asleep in her arms after wearing himself out in play. She knew nothing would make her happier than to feel his two infant Gallifreyan hearts pressed close to hers as he slept.

“My little Chrístõ,” she whispered as she thought of the name her son would have, according to Gallifreyan tradition.

She let the daydream take hold of her again and she imagined sitting in her white drawing room on rainy days when he couldn’t play out, reading to him the stories she loved to read to her young pupils at the estate school. Her son would love those same stories, she was sure. His imagination would be coloured by the chronicles of Narnia and the heroic doings of Hobbits. He would be a Gallifreyan boy, of course, and learn about things that she would never understand in a million years. But he would be her little boy, too. She would teach him all the best about his Human side, starting with those stories and with songs and poetry and music. She could teach him all of those things.

Perhaps they could visit Earth with him. She imagined going to Liverpool, seeing his face light up with excitement as they travelled on the ferry to the other side of the Mersey, or going up to New Brighton on a sunny afternoon where he could take off his socks and shoes and play in the rock pools on the sandless beach. Or maybe they could go to Rhyl and Kristoph could dig sandcastles with him and they would have big ice creams on the promenade and buy sticks of peppermint rock that he would love to eat.

And back home, Kristoph would teach him to be a young Gallifreyan, a future Time Lord. That idea both frightened her and made her proud. She thought about that rite of passage that the children of this world all took when they were still young and innocent. That mysterious Untempered Schism. When she thought of her child having to go through that she was frightened for him, and at the same time, proud. He would go on that quest with his father. He would go as a little boy. He would come back a young Time Lord candidate, having been changed by the experience.

She shook her head and tracked back a little. She didn’t want to think of her son doing that. She didn‘t want to think of Rodan facing the same thing when she was eight. She didn’t like to think about some of her infant children in the estate school who were going to be old enough this year for the rite. She didn’t want any of them to be old enough for it. She wanted them to stay young forever, to stay innocent little ones who she could cherish in her heart.

So she stopped thinking of that, and went back to the little boy in the sailor suit and imagined him sitting on her knee, his cap falling off altogether so she could run her fingers through his curling hair and try to smooth it down, though of course it wouldn’t.

She felt somebody tugging at her hand and looked down to see Rodan holding onto her knee, trying to attract her attention and demand that she lift her onto her lap. Marion reached out for her. Kristoph, still sitting on the wooden veranda floor looked at her and smiled.

“You seemed to be in a world of your own,” he said. “She’s been calling to you.”

“I’m sorry for neglecting you, Rodan.” Marion said, kissing her and hugging her close.

“My stories aren’t as good as yours,” Kristoph told her. “She wants to hear about the Hobbits.”

“How do you know?” Marion asked.

“I felt it in her mind.” Kristoph answered. “Her latent telepathic skills are developing now. I felt her thoughts. She loves the Earth stories you read to her.”

“When she’s old enough to read them for herself we should make sure she has a set of the books,” Marion said. “That’s something I am sure her grandfather won’t mind. Books for her to read.”

“I think he might be surprised by the colourful imagination of Earth writers,” Kristoph said. “But other than that, yes, indeed, books are something I am sure you can give her any time.”

Marion was pleased to hear that. She sat with the child and talked to her about her favourite fictional characters. She responded in the oral language of a fourteen month old child, though Kristoph assured her that there was far more going on inside her head where her understanding of the things she was told was that of a Gallifreyan child with a far greater capacity for learning than a Human.

Marion thought about her own future child. He, too, would be so very clever. But he would still be her little boy.

She thought about him again as Rodan fell asleep in her arms. Kristoph sat quietly and watched her for a long time before he spoke.

“Marion,” He said in a gentle but insistent tone. “It’s all right… to have those daydreams. I think about the future, too, but try not to miss out on the present. We have Rodan right here, right now. She is a beautiful child and she loves us both as much as we love her. Don’t miss out on the joy she brings us.”

He was right, of course. Even today, she had been thinking about her future child while he was enjoying playing with Rodan. She felt guilty. But Kristoph smiled gently and kissed her reassuringly.

“No need to feel guilty, either. Just take one little bit of advice from a Lord of Time… It’s a precious thing… time… treasure it, every single moment. Don’t rush to get to the next day, the next month. Live in the here and now, and enjoy it to the full.”

“Do you do that?” she asked him.

“Not as much as I ought to,” he admitted. “I need to take my own advice. We both need to do that. Especially these precious days we have with our little fosterling.”

“I’ll try to do that,” she promised. “Although… seeing as she is asleep, now… shall we put her into her cot and you and I can have an hour or so to treasure for ourselves?”

“Yes,” Kristoph agreed. “We should.” He was more than willing to acquiesce to that suggestion. He really didn’t mind her daydreams. What worried him was his own precognition that it was going to be a very long time before her dreams became a reality. He didn’t want her to be discouraged by the wait, wasting her days longing for what could not yet be. Her smile when she rejoined him on the veranda after putting their fosterling to bed for her afternoon nap was reassuring. She was happy and untroubled. And that was how he wanted her to be.