Kristoph stepped out into the sun-drenched courtyard at the back of the rented house. Marion was asleep on the long wooden seat under the shade of the greengage tree that had its roots in the garden next door but at least half of its branches hanging over so that they could pick the ripe fruits freely. There was a bowl of them on the little table by her side, and a saucer where she had put the stones from the fruits she had eaten. A pitcher of home made lemonade and a half filled glass she had been drinking from completed what an artist of the French school might have considered a charmingly arranged still life study.

He stood for a moment appreciating how beautiful she looked lying there, then a cold thought struck him and he moved closer, leaving the basket he was carrying beside the pitcher. He reached to touch her face.

“Stop worrying,” he told himself. “The physician said she was perfectly well.”

But just lately, every time he saw her sleeping he wanted to check that her heart was still beating and that she was breathing easily.

She opened her eyes and smiled up at him.

“Hello, darling,” she said. “Did you beat all the local men at boules?”

“I lost two games,” he admitted.

“Throwing games is terribly deceitful,” she teased him.

“I know. But I didn’t want to look too good at it, since I am a foreigner and I only learnt to play this week.”

“We should have a walk around the town after tea,” Marion decided. “It is very lovely in the late afternoon with the sun shining off the river.”

“I think it’s a rather lovely place any time of day,” Kristoph replied. “It’s a perfect place for a quiet holiday away from all the pressures and responsibilities.”

“The letting agent said this house was up for sale, you know. We could buy it. A place of our own whenever we want it.”

She sat up as Kristoph pulled bread and fresh butter and cheese from the food basket he had brought and simply laid them out on the paper wrappers they came in rather than searching for plates. They helped themselves to the food, washed down with the cool lemonade.

“I might think about that,” Kristoph decided. “It would be nice to own a property on Earth. I never really thought about France, before. But why not?”

Marion was about to reply when her mobile phone bleeped showing that she had a text message. That was surprising only because Kristoph had rented this charming house on the Rue Faubourg St. Jacques in the lovely town of Parthenay in 1959, many years before the invention of the mobile phone. But that didn’t matter when a Time Lord had overridden the phone’s circuits.

“It’s from Hillary. He says he and Jean Claude are having a very pleasant time in Cardiff and we needn’t hurry back on their account.”

“Good, because I don’t intend to hurry about ANYTHING, especially not this delicious cheese.”

“It’s rather immoral, I suppose,” Marion pointed out. “The two of them... and Captain Harkness. Three men...”

“Or one man and two women if the fancy takes them. Or two men and one woman.”

“Whichever combination, it IS scandalous.”

“Not to Haollstromnians, and not to fifty-first century humans,” Kristoph pointed out. “And in the late twentieth century what goes on between consenting adults in private is nobody’s business. Let them enjoy being with each other. I’m not going to condemn them.”

“I enjoy being with you,” Marion said. “Oh, let’s go for that walk, now. Before I get comfortable again and don’t want to go anywhere.”

Kristoph helped her to her feet and brought a shawl to go over the cotton sundress she was wearing. She took his arm as they stepped through the kitchen and the stone-flagged entrance hall and out onto Rue Faubourg Saint-Jacques. They turned south, towards the River Thouet. Before they reached the medieval Pont Saint-Jacques, sturdily built of solid grey stone, there was a half-circle where a watch tower had stood when the bridge had been fortified against attack in those times long gone. Now there was just a low stone wall and a little wooden seat. Marion sat down on it, not because she was tired already, but because she loved the view from there, both up and down river. She loved the pale pink-grey walled houses with their red tiled roofs and the Porte Saint-Jacques at the other end of the bridge, admitting visitors from the north into the town itself. They were staying in the ‘Faubourg’ – the suburb, that came with the later expansion of the town beyond its medieval walls.

After a while she was happy to walk on again. They passed over the bridge and under the medieval gate and onto the narrow cobbled Rue de la Vau Saint-Jacques, which had been around a lot longer than the Faubourg. Many of the houses had the same red tiled roofs, but they were clearly much older, some dating back as far as the bridge and the gate of the once fortified town.

The owners of the houses obviously took pride in them. The pink-grey walls were fresh and clean and the windows bright. There were hanging baskets and window boxes with flowers in even though it was autumn. Housewives sweeping the cobbles outside their doors smiled and greeted them cheerfully as they walked leisurely and carelessly, not minding if they were going anywhere special.

The shops in the commercial district were closing now. Kristoph’s purchases had been near the end of the day for the bakers and dairy produce sellers. They passed along the street, though, and up to the oldest church in the town, the Église Saint-Laurent. They stepped inside and felt at once the peace of the thick eleventh century walls close around them. There were a few people in the church, praying. They didn’t pay any attention to two quiet people who walked around the nave admiring the architecture.

“Let me light a candle,” Marion said. Kristoph put a few sou into the little box by the wrought iron stand and watched as his wife placed a small wax candle and lit it. She whispered a prayer for peace and for the good health of her friends. Kristoph, though he came from a world where nobody believed in supernatural deities, and was, on some other worlds, regarded as a living god himself, lit a candle for the same good reason and dropped some more coins into the receptacle.

“I love you,” he whispered. Then he took Marion’s hand and walked up to the altar rail that separated the high altar and sanctuary from the nave. He knelt there and Marion did the same. She sighed happily as he quietly renewed his wedding vows to her and remembered the words she should say in return. It seemed so long since their Earth wedding in a little church in Liverpool, but the words came back to her and she said them with the same sincerity she did the first time.

When they were done they walked down the centre aisle together. An old woman who had been arranging flowers pressed a deep red rose into Marion’s hand and wished her luck. She smiled and thanked her and kept hold of the flower as she walked out of the church again.

“That was nice,” she said. “I never thought about renewing our vows before. But that seemed like a perfect place to do it.”

“Technically I think there is supposed to be a priest involved, too,” Kristoph told her. “But it felt perfectly fine like that.”

And as if there was some divine approval of their actions, the bells in the Église Saint-Laurent steeple began to sound the six o’clock Angelus. Not very far away the Église de la Croix sounded its bells, too. And there were at least three more distant churches sounding their bells at the same time. The sound went on for nearly five minutes before dying away at last.

“That’s something I don’t hear on Gallifrey,” Marion said. “Church bells. Or on Ventura or Haollstrom, either. Earth is the only place where I hear that sound.”

“There are some Human colonies with churches and cathedrals,” Kristoph said. “And on Plioga II in the Vessian quadrant there is a temple to Plio with a hundred bells in 50 towers. That’s quite a sound to behold...”

Kristoph stopped talking. He knew that Marion would be impressed by the hundred bells of Plioga II, but she would not care about them. It was the bells in churches here on Earth, rung by Human devotees to the religion she was born into that appealed to her. He thought about that as they walked up towards the old ruined castle at the heart of the old fortified town, the Château de Parthenay. It was a magnificent view from beside its high, thick, but crumbling walls, especially now, on a warm autumn day with the sun dropping low and turning the meandering Thouet to a ribbon of gold and making those red roofs of the town practically glow. They had walked up here several times during this holiday from their real life, but Marion never tired of it, and seemed to find something new every time she looked at the panoramic view.

When the view had yielded all it could for one evening, they made their way back down into the town centre where licensed cafes were open for the evening trade. Music spilled from the doors of many of them. They found their favourite in the Rue Jean Jaurés and were served coffee laced with brandy liqueur at a pavement table. They had come back around by the Église Saint-Laurent, and as they sat a single bell called worshippers to an evening Mass there. Its sound mingled with the accordion player inside the café and the voices of people walking in the cobbled streets on a warm, peaceful evening.

“Marion, are you homesick? Do you regret leaving Earth?” Kristoph asked his wife.

“Why do you think I might be?” Marion replied, surprised by the question.

“I wonder sometimes if the life you have on Gallifrey is compensation for being taken so far away from everything you know, be it church bells or... I don’t know, Mars Bars or the Mersey Ferry. Especially since discovering that the very water you drink on my world is hazardous to your health... That was a shock to me. I am sorry for it, Marion. I feel as if I’ve taken you from what was safe and familiar to something that was never going to be right for you.”

Marion put her hand over his gently. She smiled at him.

“I don’t mind living on Gallifrey. We have a lovely home there. I have good friends. And I have the opportunity to visit other places whenever I want. I have Rika and Remonte to visit on Ventura, and Hillary on Haollstrom. And we can come to Earth any time I really feel the need to shop at Tescos or hear church bells. I have everything I could possibly want.”

“So, if I was to buy the house in Rue Faubourg St Jacques, would I be spoiling you?”

“Just a bit,” she answered.

“Good. I like spoiling you. I’ll talk to the agent tomorrow afternoon.”

They finished their coffee and walked back through the town. It was getting darker now in the narrow cobbled streets. An azure sky had silver stars in it over their heads. When they crossed the Ponte Sainte-Jacques, Marion again chose to sit for a while on the little wooden seat. Now the view up and down river was of warm yellow lights in the windows of the houses. She was content to watch the view as the sky darkened and the stars brightened. Kristoph pulled her shawl closer around her and held his arm around her shoulders protectively until she was ready to walk the short distance to the house that she had so fallen in love with. As his feet echoed on the cobbles he reflected that it was a far cry from the mansion on the southern plain of Gallifrey where he was born and raised. It was just an ordinary house, hemmed in on both sides by other houses. It had only a very tiny courtyard at the back and the door opened onto the street at the front. It was a little shabby inside and out from not being occupied for more than a few weeks at a time since the owners left the town during the Nazi occupation of France. But Marion loved it. And that was good enough for him.