Marion woke in a comfortable bed. She felt as if every bone in her body was aching, but none of them seemed to be broken. She lifted her hand to her head and it felt far less painful than she expected.

She heard Kristoph’s voice. He was talking to somebody else in a low voice. Then the other person called him Excellency. There was a swishing sound and a jingle and even without looking she knew that a Presidential Guard had just bowed formally. There was a soft sound of a door opening and closing.

She opened her eyes and looked around at the same moment that Kristoph turned from watching the guard leave to looking at her. He smiled warmly and grasped her hand, kissing it lovingly.

“I was worried for a little while,” he said. “But you’re just fine, now.”

“I feel fine,” she agreed. “Why? I thought I was more badly hurt than that. My legs...”

“Gallifreyan hospitals have very few long term patients. Bones can be mended in minutes with the tissue regeneration machines. Concussions are easily dealt with. Scrapes and bruises and even nasty gashes can be repaired. The ache will go away by the time you’ve had a good long rest. The physicians are of the opinion you ought to stay the night. And I agree. But in the morning, you can go home.”

“As easy as that?” Marion sighed. “The children... they’re all safe?”

“They are here, in a ward set aside for them, just overnight, as a precaution. I’m afraid... your infants were lucky. There were some casualties at the school.”

He held her hand as he told her the names of the dead. She cried softly from grief.

“It’s much worse than that, though, isn’t it?” she said eventually. “I saw the explosion at the mine, moments before the shockwave hit the school. How many...”

“Forty-three dead,” Kristoph replied. “They were in the tunnel where the explosion started. There was nothing to be done for them. The rest... five hundred and twenty men injured. But they will recover. Even the ones with serious burns will mend in a few days. It will be painful for them, but...”

He paused and breathed deeply.

“It is no matter for congratulations that our Gallifreyan bodies can self-mend. That is merely anatomy. Those men still went through a terrible experience and their emotional scars will be long mending. As for the forty-three dead... they were almost all the main wage earners of their families. This is a bitter blow. The worst... one family... A grandfather, father and son, all working together...”

He grasped Marion’s hand tightly. If he was Human, he would surely be crying now. Instead he breathed deeply and looked at a fixed point on the wall for a long time.

“I can arrange for pensions... compensation... ensure the women and children of these families do not suffer financial hardship. All that I can do at a stroke of a pen. But it doesn’t feel like enough. It doesn’t bring back the men they have lost.”

“You always said that Time Lords are not gods. They don’t have power over life and death.”

“Right now... I wish we did. I would have spared my people this grief.”

“What caused it?” Marion asked. “Do they know... has it been investigated?”

“Something that could not have been anticipated,” Kristoph replied. “A geological fault no wider than a strand of hair, but three miles deep and a mile across. It didn’t show up on any survey. The tunnel was cut nearly thirty years ago. Nobody even knew it intersected the fault. Today... a micro-quake occurred. They happen from time to time all over the southern continent. Usually they barely register on the most sophisticated sensors. This one didn’t. But it caused the fault to shift. A volatile gas came from deep beneath the rocks and ignited when it mixed with the oxygen in the tunnel.”

He was simplifying the explanation for Marion’s understanding. He himself had seen and understood the technical reports already produced. He had heard experts tell him it was a freak accident that would almost certainly never happen again even if work continued in that tunnel. He heard them say he, as the owner of the mine, was not responsible for the accident. He had always ensured every possible safety precaution.

Legally, he was not responsible. Morally, he certainly was. They were his people who had suffered. And he was sick in his hearts for that.

“Are there things you have to do, Kristoph?” Marion asked him. “As President... or as Lord de Lœngbærrow... do you have to be anywhere else but at my side?”

“No,” he assured her. “There is precious little to be done, now. The day after tomorrow, by Gallifreyan tradition, there will be a funeral. Just one. For all of the dead of the township. I will attend. You... my dear... will take tea in your white drawing room with Lily and my mother for company, and you won’t let it prey on your mind.”

“I should be there,” she told him. “At your side. That’s my duty to you...”

“You have already had a traumatic time of your own,” Kristoph told her. “You will rest for at least a week. That is an order. If I must... I shall invoke the binding promises of our Alliance and forbid you to leave our home without my permission.”

He was smiling as he said that, and he grasped her hand tightly. He didn’t mean to take such draconian action.

“I will do as you say,” she said. “I promise.”

“Thank you, my dear,” he told her as he leaned forward and kissed her on the lips. “No, there is nothing I need to do right now except sit by your side until you fall asleep. When I know you are resting I shall go and see those wounded men who are also in the hospital and find some words to say to the widows of the dead. And in the morning I will take you home.”

There was no point in arguing. Besides, she did feel tired. She was ready to sleep a little more. She laid her head down on the pillow and closed her eyes. She felt Kristoph’s hand on hers as she fell asleep.

Kristoph didn’t leave her side for quite a while after she went to sleep. He wanted to be absolutely sure she was resting, and besides, he still wasn’t quite ready for that duty. He didn’t know what to say to the injured men. He certainly didn’t know what he was going to say to those widows. He knew he would find the right words. As Lord of the Lœngbærrow demesne, and as President of the High Council of Gallifrey, he would find something to say. But right now his mind was elsewhere.

He was particularly concerned about something the physician who cared for Marion when she came to the hospital said to him. Her injuries had been mostly broken bones and cuts and bruises. They were easily repaired. But he had mentioned something else.

The whole body scans had revealed a very slight amount of damage to the aortic wall of Marion’s heart. He said it was most likely caused by the fall and the stress of being trapped for so long. He also said that the damage had easily been repaired. Kristoph was relieved to hear that.

But the physician also mentioned that the damage had only occurred because that part of the aortic wall was weaker than the rest of the tissue. And it was weaker because there had been previous surgery to repair a rip in the tissue. Kristoph had told him he was wrong. Marion had never had heart surgery before. But the physician insisted it was true. He said it was very good, advanced work, in some ways superior to anything that could have been done on Gallifrey, but any surgery, even the best, left telltale signs.

He wasn’t sure what to make of this information. He certainly wasn’t going to mention the matter to Marion. The one thing she didn’t need was an interrogation from him. But he was certainly puzzled.

A Presidential Guard knocked and then tentatively came into the room. Kristoph told him to go back out again and he would be with him shortly. He leaned over again and kissed Marion on the cheek, then he turned and left the room. He was ready to face those other duties, now.

In the morning, he came back to Marion’s room and was surprised to find it empty. He turned to the charge nurse at her station outside and was surprised to learn that Marion had breakfasted early and then showered and dressed and gone up to the children’s ward.

Kristoph asked directions and then went to the children’s ward, too. A Presidential Guard tried to go ahead to prepare for his visit, but he dismissed the idea out of hand. He didn’t want a fanfare heralding his arrival.

In fact, he walked very quietly into the ward and stood for a long while by the door, unobserved. He watched Marion, sitting on an armchair by the window with a gaggle of youngsters around her, the students who had come through the ordeal yesterday with her. She was reading from that same battered, dusty book that she had held onto all through it all.

“And it was not two minutes before he swallowed the last of his beer and waved his mug solemnly toward the window which took in through the shrubbery a piece of the lawn.

"Look there," he said, "if tha's curious. Look what's comin' across th' grass."

When Mrs. Medlock looked she threw up her hands and gave a little shriek and every man and woman servant within hearing bolted across the servants' hall and stood looking through the window with their eyes almost starting out of their heads.

Across the lawn came the Master of Misselthwaite and he looked as many of them had never seen him. And by his, side with his head up in the air and his eyes full of laughter walked as strongly and steadily as any boy in Yorkshire - Master Colin.”

The children sighed happily to hear the happy ending of the story from her. Then there were dozens of questions about rose gardens and lonely moors in Yorkshire, birds and all manner of things. Marion answered all their questions joyfully before he made his presence known and the children all became quiet and attentive.

“I came to take Lady Marion home,” he said. “But perhaps there is time for milk and biscuits together, first.”

Marion was happy with that idea. Kristoph sat next to her and drank coffee while the children and his wife had cool milk. He listened to the children talking about the story they had been listening to. Some of them were deeply affected by the disaster. They had lost fathers or uncles, brothers, grandfathers in the mine. They knew the same grief everyone else was feeling. But they were children and their hearts and minds were concerned, for now, with a story about a place many million light years away that very closely resembled the southern plain where they lived.

“I talked to Madam Malcuss earlier,” Marion told him. “She told me that the library was unaffected by the shockwave. I suppose because there was so much dimensional technology used in it. So they’re going to use the research rooms for a temporary school.”

“An excellent idea,” Kristoph agreed. “I will be talking to the architect who built the library later today about the design of the new school.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” Marion told him. “But I was thinking... I might make different arrangements for the infants. If Gallis Limmon doesn’t mind being a school bus driver instead of a chauffeur for a while, they could come to Mount Lœng House every day. The White Library will make an excellent classroom, and they can play on the patio in the sunshine...”

Kristoph grimaced as Marion outlined her plan to him. He made a mental note to ask Caolin to remove some of the more breakable ornaments from the White Suite. Other than that, he could see no reason why that plan should not work. The idea of Mount Lœng House ringing with the sounds of children’s voices was a pleasing one. And besides, it allowed Marion to fulfil her desire to teach without having to leave the comfort and protection of her home. Just now, for many reasons, Kristoph wanted that.