The limousine parked in the VIP section on the roof of the arrivals terminal at the space dock. The chauffer opened the back door and stood to attention as Kristoph climbed out of the car first and reached for his wife’s hand. He, himself, lifted Rodan from her child seat and set her down on her own two feet. Marion took hold of her hand and they walked together towards the turbo lift.

Rodan was excited. She was in new clothes - a red velvet dress and a coat, hat, gloves and shoes in deep blue. New clothes always meant something exciting.

Today her grandfather was coming home.

Marion had prepared her for this day for some weeks. She had shown her pictures of her grandfather, who worked for the Gallifreyan deep space freight service and encouraged her to say his name. She told her how, after her birthday, she was going to go to live in a house of her own with her grandfather, and it would be very special.

Rodan had taken this news without any undue emotion. Marion worried that she didn’t understand, but Kristoph, who also talked to her about her grandfather and her future life with him said that she did. He had promised her that he and Marion would visit often. He had built up the idea of her having her own little house to live in with her grandfather as something to look forward to.

The transition was going to be hard for them all. Marion was going to have the most trouble, Kristoph thought. She had become so very attached to their little fosterling. But she had accepted that it was time for her to move on.

“We’re early,” he said as he consulted the scheduled arrivals in the freight section of the space port. “Let’s go to the café. I think lattes for us and cúl nut cream shake for Rodan.”

The spaceport café wasn’t as nice as the Conservatory or any of the smaller coffee houses Marion frequented in the Capitol, and it was a little crowded, but they got a table with a view of the short haul freight landing zone where minerals from the mines on Karn and Polarfrey were landed. Rodan watched the activity intently as she drank the thick, creamy beverage. Kristoph smiled as she asked him a question telepathically.

“No, my dear, your grandfather’s ship is much bigger than those. He has been to the third galaxy and back while you have grown from a baby into a young lady who he will be proud to meet.”

Rodan smiled back at him. Marion couldn’t help noticing that she had a much more detailed conversation with Kristoph than she did with her. Rodan’s oral skills were less advanced than her telepathic ones. That was one reason why she needed to move on now. She needed to spend more time with her grandfather, who could speak to her telepathically and help her develop those skills.

“Rodan has learnt a lot more with you,” Kristoph assured her. “She would know nothing of the lands of Narnia or Middle Earth or Watership Down without those hours you spent reading to her. They are valuable, too. You’ve given her a colourful imagination and the ability to stretch that imagination beyond her immediate surroundings. And she has better oral skills than most Gallifreyan children of her age. She is advanced in that respect. You have given her a good start.”

“I’m glad,” Marion said. “Even so… I do wish….”

“No,” Kristoph said very quietly but firmly. He knew just what Marion was wishing. She had talked about it last night as they got ready for bed.

“If we could adopt her...” she had said as she brushed her hair at her dressing table. “It is possible now. The case of Garron Thayla and the judgement of the High Council was a precedent. Legal adoption IS possible within Gallifreyan law now.”

“Only if all parties involved are in agreement,” Kristoph had replied. “But Argis Mielles is not in agreement. He wants to take care of his granddaughter himself. And he has the right to do that. We cannot overrule him simply because we are richer than he is. That would be an appalling abuse of our social standing.”

“I know that,” Marion had told him. “But… if you talked to him.. if you explained how much we’ve both come to love her… how we’ve come to think of her as our own little girl.”

“No,” Kristoph had answered. “No, Marion. I won’t do that. Not even for you. I could never have imagined refusing you anything that your heart desires. But I have to refuse you this.”

He had been absolutely adamant. It startled Marion to see just how determined he was not to give in to him on this.

“You knew from the start that the day would come when Rodan would no longer be our child. She must leave us. I know it will be hard for you. It will be hard for me, too. I love her dearly. But so does her grandfather. And I won’t take her from him just to please you, Marion. I would do anything for you, but not that.”

And that was all he had to say about it. Marion had to accept it. She didn’t resent what he had said. She did understand. He was right. But it didn’t stop her thinking about the possibility.

“No,” he said again. He reached out and folded her hand in his. It was as intimate as an Oldblood was likely to be in such a public place as this, but it was enough. She looked into his deep brown eyes and knew that the simple gesture was filled with his deepest love for her. He didn’t want her to be hurt. But he couldn’t do what she wanted him to do. Not this time.

She knew it was a selfish desire. That was just one reason why he was saying no. But she couldn’t help herself. She had taken care of Rodan for nearly two years. The little girl had become such a part of her life. She didn’t know what she was going to do without her.

Kristoph could feel her thoughts. He knew exactly what she was struggling with inside her head. But there was nothing he could say to make it easier for her. She had to accept that Rodan was leaving them.

There was one thing that would make the parting with Rodan easier for Marion. - the prospect of holding her own baby in her arms. It was the one thing that would ease his own hearts,

He was ready. He just wasn’t sure if Marion was. Someday very soon they had to sit down together and talk about that.

It would be painful, because they would both think about Anna.

There wasn’t a day that he didn’t think of her, of course. And he knew Marion often did. But they rarely thought about her together. They hardly ever spoke about her. But they were going to have to do so before they could move on.

“It’s nearly time,” he said, pushing those thoughts to the back of his mind again and returning to the reason for their presence here in a busy space port. He used a napkin to wipe Rodan’s face. She had managed to get plenty of the creamy shake on her as well as in her. He took off the apron that protected her pretty new dress and adjusted the ribbon in her hair. “You look perfect for your grandfather,” he said to her. “He will think you are the most beautiful little girl in the galaxy. Just as we do.”

He lifted her from her seat and held her as they left the café. The deep space docking bay was nearly half a mile away, but there was no need to walk. They took comfortable seats on an automatic hover tram that transported them across the space port.

Deep Space Freight Arrivals was far less ascetically appealing than the main part of the space port. The walls were plain metal and so were the security desks where the freight crews were passed by border control officers. There were only a few seats. Very few people hung around there for long. Men who had arrived back after journeys that lasted for years had far better places to go. But with a freighter due to land any minute, there were quite a few people waiting for their friends and relations. There was a sense of excitement and anticipation.

Most of those waiting were clearly of the Caretaker class. They might have wondered why an Oldblood and his wife were waiting with a very well dressed child. They didn’t think to ask. Though they chatted among themselves, speaking to their social superiors just wasn’t done. Marion and Kristoph sat by a big, wide window. Rodan sat on Kristoph’s knee and looked out onto the huge expanse of tarmac where the freighter was due to land any minute.

When it did, she murmured with delight. It really was a big ship, at least a thousand metres long and nearly as wide. It was grey metallic coloured but with the livery of the Gallifreyan Space Fleet in a bold diagonal stripe from one end to the other. It landed vertically, and the stevedores waiting to attend to its freight stayed well back until it touched down. The air displacement was the equivalent of a localised hurricane. Anyone caught in it would be killed or at least severely injured. Safe behind reinforced windows, Rodan watched happily.

“I think I know what she would like to do when she grows up,” Kristoph said to Marion. “She wants to travel. We’ve already given her a taste of it, of course, with all the TARDIS trips we’ve taken her on. But the idea of voyaging on one of those great ships fascinates her.”

“Really?” Marion was surprised. “But do they allow women in the freight service?”

“They will if she has anything to do with it,” Kristoph answered. “It’s in her blood, after all. Her grandfather has done it all his life.”

It seemed a rough sort of life for a girl who wore velvet dresses, but perhaps Kristoph was right. Rodan would grow up to follow in her own grandfather’s footsteps. And why shouldn’t she?

After the excitement of the freighter landing, there was something of an anti-climax. It was nearly an hour before the crew were finally allowed through to their waiting families. Even then, they had to queue and present their credentials at the security desk before finally being allowed to greet their loved ones.

Argis Mielles was one of the last to be cleared. There was some difficulty with a large box he was carrying along with a bag of his personal belongings. Finally he was given permission to continue. Marion and Kristoph stood waiting. Rodan stood with them at first, then, prompted by Kristoph, she ran on her short toddler legs towards the old man. He put down his luggage and reached to hug her instead. He held her in his arms for a long, long, emotional time. Marion thought if he were Human he would have been crying right now.

Kristoph stepped forward and greeted Argis familiarly. He, himself reached to pick up the luggage. Argis tried to protest that a man of his rank should not be carrying a Caretaker’s bags, but Kristoph insisted that he had his hands full with Rodan.

They walked together to the hover tram that brought them back to the main part of the space port, then to the limousine that waited for them. Argis was, again, surprised at his VIP treatment, but Kristoph insisted that he and Rodan got in before himself and Marion.

Inside the limousine as it headed back towards the Lœngbærrow demesne, the large box was presented to Rodan, a homecoming gift from her grandfather. Her eyes were bright as she pulled open the brown wrapping paper to reveal silvery red paper inside, and within that, a transparent case containing a beautiful doll. It was almost as tall as Rodan herself and, by pure coincidence, was wearing a red velvet dress. When it stood upright blue eyes opened. When it was lying down the eyes closed. That, alone, amused Rodan for quite some time before she settled down to a one way conversation with the doll.

“That must have cost quite a lot,” Kristoph noted. “It’s from Pouyuay, isn’t it? I recognise the workmanship.”

“Yes,” Argis answered. “I bought it almost six months ago, now. I wanted something to surprise her with. I know she has so many toys that you have generously given her. But something from me…”

“Of course,” Kristoph agreed. “As it should be. I am glad you have agreed to be our guest until your new home is ready to move into. Rodan will enjoy spending the time with you.”

That was the first step in her transition, of course. Argis was going to stay at Mount Lœng House, in rooms close to her nursery. He would spend as much of his time as possible with her. He would take her for walks in the cúl nut woods and push her on the swing set up in the west courtyard. He would sit with her in the day nursery and read to her. He would see her to bed at night. All of the things that Marion had done for her were now going to be his responsibility.

And that was how it should be.