Marion sat in the comfortable rear seat of the official Presidential limousine in silence. She was extremely annoyed and if she spoke it would be all too obvious that she was.

She felt like crying, but she couldn’t. Not in this amount of carefully applied make up.

Kristoph reached out and squeezed her hand reassuringly. She didn’t feel reassured. She pulled away, turning her face towards the side window. She couldn’t see anything in the dark apart from vague outlines of trees. They at least told her that they were on the edge of the Lœngbærrow estate. The largest plantations of trees on the Southern Plain were established by a Lœngbærrow patriarch some generations back.

She wanted to get home. She was tired of other people and their opinions. She was tired of listening to them and not being listened to.

Kristoph said nothing. He knew she was upset, and nothing he could say right now would change that.

The car slowed and descended from its hover level and stopped with a crunch on the gravel driveway in front of Mount Lœng House. The chauffer got out to open the back door, but Marion had already pushed her side open. She stepped down from the car, stumbling slightly because a gravel driveway and high heeled shoes really didn’t go together. She was halfway up the steps to the front door before Kristoph caught up with her.

She didn’t have a key to the door, of course. It didn’t, in fact, have a keyhole on the outside. It was always opened from the inside by a servant. In this case, it was Caolin who bowed respectfully to her as she stepped over the threshold.

She glanced at the clock. It was two o’clock in the morning. Caolin’s duties as butler began at six when he directed the preparation of breakfast for the household.

“Do you require anything, before you retire, My Lord, My Lady?” he asked as he took their coats.

“Caolin, go to bed,” Marion replied. “It is ridiculous that you should be waiting up at this hour for us. Anything we might need, we are perfectly capable of getting for ourselves.”

Caolin was surprised by that reply. He glanced at his master who nodded to him.

“It is quite late,” he confirmed. “I agree, there is no further need for your attendance, Caolin. You may go.”

“Thank you, Caolin,” Marion added. She watched the butler go to his quarters. She wondered if his wife, Rosanda, was asleep or if she had waited up for him to be relieved of his duties.

“I need a cup of tea,” she said as his footsteps receded.

“You just dismissed our butler,” Kristoph pointed out.

“I am quite capable of boiling a kettle for myself,” Marion replied. She turned and headed towards the narrow corridor and equally narrow stairs that led to the kitchen. It was dark and silent. She switched on a light and looked around. Boiling a kettle wasn’t as simple as it might be in an ordinary kitchen as she knew it. There was no kettle as such. Water for her English tea and the herbal infusions the rest of the household drank was boiled in something like a Russian samovar with its own source of heat underneath it. Operating it wasn’t difficult, but it usually boiled something like four gallons of water at a time. She just wanted enough to make a small pot of tea. That was harder to do without risking it boiling dry. And when it was boiled it was difficult to get the water into the teapot without tipping the heavy apparatus forward so that the water reached the tap. She burnt her hand on it in the process and almost dropped the pot. After all of that, the tea didn’t really refresh and calm her as much as she hoped.

When Kristoph found her, she was sitting at the kitchen table with a cold cup of tea in front of her and crying softly. He said nothing at first. He just put more water into the boiler and then pressed his hand against the side of it for several minutes. When the water boiled through the kinetic energy of a Time Lord with several of his own frustrations burning his blood, he made another pot of tea and sat beside his wife to drink it with her.

“Let me look at that,” he said, taking her hand and soothing the burn with the tissue repair mode of the sonic screwdriver.

“This kitchen needs an ordinary electric kettle,” she said. “We should pick one up in Liverpool.”

“This kitchen has no plug points for an electric kettle,” Kristoph replied. “The appliances are all powered through conduction points.”

Marion made a frustrated noise. Kristoph laughed softly.

“You can’t even take a British hairdryer to France without an adapter. Surely it isn’t such a shock that electricity works differently on a planet two hundred and fifty million light years away?”

That was true, but the differences between Gallifrey and Earth were annoying her on far deeper levels just now and she really didn’t want to hear it.

“Talitha Dúccesci is such a charming woman when we meet at the Reading Circle. I’ve had many pleasant afternoons in her company. But...”

“Talitha is an old fashioned Gallifreyan wife. In the company of her husband she keeps her own opinions to herself.”

“If you ever expect me to behave like that...” Marion said.

“I wouldn’t dare,” Kristoph replied. “Even with the Presidential Guard to defend me from bodily harm. But don’t blame her. Lord Dúccesci is a powerful man, politically and in other ways, too. If Talitha isn’t able to be her own woman in his presence...”

“Kristoph, are you suggesting that he might physically harm her if she was to speak out of turn?” Marion asked. “That is...”

“No,” he assured her. “Not so far as I am aware, anyway. I am quite sure he loves her in his way. And she loves him. But their way is much closer to the strict form of the Alliance than... well, than you and I, certainly. Talitha has a streak of independence in her. Hence her enthusiasm for the reading circle. But she obeys her husband’s commands in all else.”

“Some day, the women of Gallfrey need to stand up for themselves.”

“Yes, they do. But I have enough on my plate right now helping our Caretaker class to stand up for themselves. Lord Dúccesci is proving more of a stumbling block to the Suffrage Bill than I expected. He’s got a hard core of supporters who are persuading far too many of the undecided members of the Council. The pro-Suffrage group is small enough. We need to win over those with no particular opinion, but opinion is hardening against us.”

“I’m not surprised when he comes out with rubbish like he did at dinner tonight. The Caretakers can’t be trusted with the vote. They wouldn’t even know how to register. They would vote for the wrong measures. What utter, total rubbish.”

“And you told him it was in quite certain terms,” Kristoph said. “You completely put him off his moon fruit crème.”

“Good,” Marion replied sharply. “He deserves to be put off much more. The man is a bigot.”

“He’s not, really,” Kristoph told her. “He’s just old fashioned. He really does think that Caretakers are less intelligent than we are.”

“On Earth, people like that used the same arguments to stop women voting, to stop married women owning property or going to university, becoming doctors and lawyers, or MPs. They used the same arguments about coloured people to stop them doing the same things. I’ve even heard it as a reason to stop gay people doing certain jobs.”

“And a hundred years after your time they used the same arguments against people born in clone tanks. Five hundred years after that, it was cyborgs and artificial lifeforms. And yes, we’re just as bad on Gallifrey. Worse, maybe, because we really are slow in changing our ideas. That’s what I mean about Dúccesci. He’s not a bigot. He’s just behind the times.”

“It’s time that times changed,” Marion responded. Then she examined what she had just said. “Or something like that but better phrased,” she added.

“I really hope they will,” Kristoph assured her. “One way or another, history will be made next week. Either we’ll pass the Bill and give male Caretakers over the age of two hundred and thirty the vote... or a Bill introduced by the President will fail to get the assent of the Panopticon. That’s never happened before, either. It might not be a bad thing to set a precedent. A Lord High President of the High Council shouldn’t expect every law he proposes to pass unchallenged. But I don’t want to be known as the President it happened to.”

Marion smiled at his discomforted expression and reached out her hands to him.

“If it fails...would that mean you... would you resign? Would the High Council force you to stand down?”

“Good heavens, no,” he replied. “It would be embarrassing to me. And the triumph of the likes of Dúccesci would put me off my pudding for a while. But embarrassment isn’t a terminal disease, and you can be sure I’d be re-introducing the Bill in the next session. I would like to see it carried first time, though. So wish me luck on that, won’t you?”

“Oh, I will,” Marion promised him. “I will. And I shall be there when the vote is taken. I fully intend to be watching from the Gallery when you succeed. And... and to see the look on Lord Dúccesci’s face when you do.”

“I’d like to see that, too,” Kristoph said. He sipped his English tea and thought about the radical change he was hoping to make to Gallifreyan society next week. It was touch and go whether it would pass. He wavered between cautious optimism and despair every time he thought about it. He had not been entirely honest with Marion. If this Bill that he had pushed hard for so long failed, it was unlikely that he would be impeached. That would require too many High Councillors making a collective decision. But his influence over the government would be so seriously reduced he would be no more than a puppet President. Resignation would be his only way to save any real form of government for his world at all.

His life, his career, his reputation, the good name of his family could all be destroyed if the vote went against him.

And there was something else. Something Lord Dúccesci had said to him after the less than sociable dinner party at the home of the Premier Cardinal. The words burnt in his mind.

“You wouldn’t have suggested such a ridiculous piece of legislation if you weren’t trying to please your foreign wife,” Dúccesci had said to him. The implication was clear. He listened to his wife’s opinions – his foreign wife, at that – and acted upon those opinions. And that not only unmanned him in the eyes of his peers. It was unbecoming of a Time Lord.

He had rejected that implication. He believed himself to be an honourable Time Lord and every inch a man. But it was undeniable that he began this campaign because it pleased Marion. It had not been her idea, exactly, but she had championed the cause of the Caretaker class almost from the first day she arrived on Gallifrey, and he felt obliged to do something to prove he was not indifferent to that cause. Enfranchising Caretaker men was his best idea to help as many of them as possible.

Yes, he was putting his reputation on the line to please his wife.

And he knew he would do it again, any time. Because she was right. Lord Dúccesci and his sort were wrong.

And he would do anything for Marion. Anything, from changing Gallifreyan law to making her happy in ordinary, simple ways.

“We should sit in the kitchen in the middle of the night more often,” he said. “It’s our kitchen, after all. Whatever Mistress Callitha may think.”

“It would be easier with an electric kettle,” Marion pointed out.

“We’ll get one in Liverpool next time we visit. I’ll adapt the plug.”

Anything for Marion.