Even after knowing him so many years, Kristoph rarely failed to surprise Marion. Today was no exception. She sat back on a comfortable seat on a gondola, of all things, upon a Venetian canal, and watched her husband standing at the prow of the sleek, slender boat and manoeuvring it through the water with a long pole.

“I don’t know where he learnt to do that, either,” his younger brother, Remonte, said with a soft laugh. “A man of many talents.”

“Venice is not the only place in the galaxy with canals,” Kristoph responded. “I once spent some time on the planet Misan X in the Eron quadrant. Its surface is ninety-eight per cent water. The cities are built on stilts and the inhabitants travel in much the same way as Venetians. Except they are descended from fish and frequently abandon their boats in order to swim.”

“Not recommended here,” Rika commented. “This water does not look or smell as clean as it ought to be. Still, it is very beautiful. A perfect place to visit for a weekend.”

“I’ve seen Venice twice before,” Marion said. “Though the first time was only very briefly. Kristoph took me on a trip by the Orient Express. It pulled into Venice station just before sundown. The causeway from the mainland that the train runs along is quite amazing. The other time...” Marion smiled fondly at her Time Lord. “Remember, we celebrated the first anniversary of our engagement by going to the theatre and dinner in New York, in 1996. And then you brought me to Venice in 1924 to meet the composer of the show we had seen. Cole Porter was a very charming man. The only problem was, he hadn’t actually WRITTEN the show we saw, yet. So I couldn’t actually tell him how much I loved it. But his house here in Venice was lovely. Very luxurious. There was a concert band playing in the garden and he had a barge moored on the canal with a dance floor laid out.”

Marion smiled happily as she recalled that evening. It was summer, as it was now, and the party had begun mid-afternoon in bright sunlight and ended long after midnight under the stars. The music and dancing continued non-stop and she and Kristoph had taken a full part in it. Indeed, the future Lord High President of Gallifrey himself had been the toast of the party when he danced the Charleston with Mrs Porter followed by a soft shoe duet with Mr Porter.

“It sounds rather decadent,” Rika said.

“Outrageously decadent,” Kristoph commented. “I am glad I had sealed a Bond of Betrothal with Marion. I think she had about a dozen offers of marriage that night from European playboys and visiting American socialites.”

“Not all of them were offers of marriage,” Marion replied. “Some just wanted to spend the night. And I seem to remember you had some offers, too.”

“Four women and five men,” Kristoph confirmed. “One of them was a prince of somewhere and there was Duke. His Duchess might have been one of the women who took a liking to me.”

“I’m sure I had a Duke as well,” Mation said. “Might have been the same one. But I wasn’t tempted. Not when I had a Lord of Time already.”

“I’m sure I wouldn’t be tempted, either,” Rika commented. “I am quite happy with my own Time Lord.” She smiled happily and leaned back on her seat. Remonte slipped his arm around her shoulders. Marion would have liked to have sat with Kristoph the same way, but as he was busy she had to be content as she was. She watched him at work, and noticed how relaxed he was, far from the duties of the President of all Gallifrey. Remonte was relaxed, too. He enjoyed being the Gallifreyan Ambassador on Ventura, but a holiday away from it all was refreshing.

Kristoph certainly needed it. The government had been in close committee for nearly two weeks, and he had barely been home long enough to eat a meal in the evening and go to bed. He rose early in the morning and ate breakfast before his official car took him away again. Marion had missed him desperately, but she had tried not to let him know that, and the few hours they did have together were peaceful. But when he finally came home and said that the crisis was over and that they were going away for a few days’ holiday she couldn’t have been happier.

This was a perfect place for them all to get away from their responsibilities. There were, it had to be said, many holiday locations in the universe. Kristoph had thought about some of them before deciding that one of the most romantic places on planet Earth would do. Marion was fully in agreement with his decision.

They had spent the past two days exploring art galleries and museums and eating in elegant restaurants. This morning they had watched a high Mass at the Basilica San Marco. Rika and Remonte had never seen a ceremony of that sort before and were impressed even though they knew nothing of the religion.

They had used the motorised water buses called vaporetti to get around the different parts of the city that was built on one hundred and seventeen islands in a salt water lagoon, but that was just transport. The really romantic way to see Venice was by gondola. They had taken a trip on the Grand canal with a finely dressed gondolier in charge who explained the history of the city to them as they travelled. But this evening, Kristoph had decided to make his own travel arrangements. It had cost him quite a few Euros to arrange the hire of the gondola and quite a lot of Power of Suggestion to persuade the owner that he was capable of handling it. But it was worth it. They travelled at a leisurely pace along all of the narrow canals as the sun went down, discovering backwaters crossed over with stone bridges and waving cheerfully to Venetians whose drawing room windows overlooked the canals.

When they finally returned to dry land, they walked in the warm evening to the Piazza San Marco. It was as busy in the evening as it ever was during the day, mainly because there was an open air concert going on. It was a modern rock band, not quite what any of them enjoyed listening too, but the crowds and the excitement and the music on the night air were exciting. They walked around the edge of the Piazza enjoying the atmosphere before they made their way back to their hotel for dinner.

“It’s been a wonderful day,” Marion said as she stood by the balcony of their hotel room, later. It was still warm and she didn’t feel at all cold standing there in her nightdress and gown. Below, she could hear the lapping of canal water, and a starry sky was over her head. She looked up at it and felt slightly surprised by the constellations. She was far more used to the Gallifreyan ones now.

How strange that was, to have forgotten what the Earth sky looked like. She looked at the stars for a long time, remembering them. Kristoph came out on the balcony with her and put his arms around her shoulders. She sighed happily.

“I don’t care what stars I’m under as long as you’re with me,” she said. “But it is nice to be away from Gallifrey for a while.”

“I agree,” Kristoph said, tightening his hold on her shoulders.

“Really?” she was surprised. “But I thought you were happy and proud to be doing your bit for Gallifrey, serving her as president.”

“I am, of course,” he replied. “But sometimes... especially here, back on Earth, I do wonder what it would have been like if we’d stuck with our first plan of living as Professor and Mrs de Leon of Liverpool? We could still have had holidays in Venice. Even parties in the Venice of the 1920s, after all. We had the freedom to go where and when we liked, any time we liked. We don’t have that now. And... just now and again, I do resent it.” He laughed softly. “I actually had a heated exchange with the Premier Cardinal over this trip. He insisted that I should give him my exact travel plans. He wanted to send the Presidential Guard along with us.”

“Oh, dear! That would have been strange. Can you imagine them piling into a gondola to follow us around the canals. Do you think any of them could have managed the pole...”

“Since we have no native born Venetians in the Presidential Guard, they would not have been allowed. I used a bit of Power of Suggestion to get around the rule for our trip!”

The thought of a group of Gallifreyans in full Presidential Guard uniform being ferried around Venice in a gondola was an amusing one. But it was certainly not what they wanted on this trip.

“I hope you explained to the Premier Cardinal that our holidays offworld are none of his business,” Marion said. “Official visits to Ventura and places like that are one thing. But here on Earth... Yes, here we should be Professor and Mrs de Leon.”

“Except when we visit the Porters in their canal-side Palazzo,” Kristoph added. “Then it helps to be aristocracy. Perhaps we should drop in on the way back this weekend. I think Remonte would enjoy a party where he doesn’t have to be the Ambassador for Gallifrey.”

“They’ll probably call him Monty and expect him to sing along at the piano.”

“And Remonte will rise to the occasion. My brother has an excellent singing voice. He isn’t too familiar with 1920s Earth jazz songs, but he can hold his own.”

It was a nice plan. Meanwhile, Marion thought of some of the souvenirs she wanted to buy tomorrow. She had seen several small workshops where Venetian glass was still hand blown and some very fine pieces were made. She had also seen antique shops with older examples of the craft. Lily and Aineytta would both enjoy those kind of gifts. And she had seen another workshop where traditional Venetian point lace was made. Rosanda would love to have a dozen yards or so of that to work with when she began taking orders for autumn gowns. As for her luncheon friends, she knew they would appreciate designer accessories from the Louis Vuitton store.

“Marion,” Kristoph whispered. “Stop thinking about shopping for a while. There is something else I would like you to think about and I don’t want you to be distracted by thoughts of glass blowing and lace making and Louis Vuitton handbags. I want... you to listen to the soft sound of the water lapping in the canals and remember the choral music we heard in the Basilica... and think about... nothing else except how much I love you and... that it’s time we...”

His words died on his lips. He cleared his throat and tried again.

“Marion, my dear,” he said. “May romantic Venice be lucky for us if we try this night for the child we both long for?”

“Oh... Kristoph...” Marion turned to look at him. He embraced her in his arms, still standing on the hotel balcony. She trembled a little. Of course, they made love almost every night, just for the pleasure of it. They had done so last night with the balcony windows wide open and the sounds of the city of canals as a background to their passion. But what he asked now was much more.

And he was right. This was a perfect place for it to happen. Both times before, she had conceived during a night of love-making at home on Gallifrey. Perhaps a different place would be a good start this time.

She let him take her by the hand to the bed. He turned down the lights before reaching to slip off her gown, then loosen her nightdress. She heard his own clothes fall away and then he held her in his arms again, warm flesh pressing close, his hands caressing her body in the way she enjoyed the most.

“Please,” she thought as he pressed her down beneath him on the soft, king size bed. “Please, let Venice be lucky for us.”