Marion walked in the citrus grove by the villa where she and Kristoph were enjoying their holiday in the French Riviera of the 1930s. It was late in the season and only a few fruits hung on the trees, now, but the waxy leaves smelt delicious. She reached and plucked a lemon from the tree. Its skin was still waxy and fresh. She smelt the sharp tangy scent from it and put it into her pocket. Later, when she and Kristoph drank cocktails on the terrace she could slice a lemon plucked from the tree to put into the drinks. How marvellous was that?

Of course, they had fruit orchards at Mount Lœng House. But they grew exotic Gallifreyan fruits that she had come to know only in recent years. There were no lemons there, or oranges and tangerines, either.

Then again, oranges and lemons were hardly native to Liverpool. She knew those fruits only as imported goods in the supermarket. That was why she was so pleased by the fruits she found here. By the time an orange had been picked in the Mediterranean orchards where they grew, packed and imported to Liverpool, the skins were starting to dry out. They weren’t as fresh and fragrant as they were here.

She forgot about fruit as she spotted Kristoph coming through the trees to join her. He looked relaxed and happy, far from the responsibilities of being Lord High President of Gallifrey. It did him good to get away from all of that from time to time.

“My dear,” he said, embracing her fondly and kissing her on the lips. “You looked lovely walking by yourself among the citrus trees.”

“It’s nice here,” she said. “Not that it isn’t nice at home. The moon fruits are ripening in our own orchards.”

Kristoph smiled. She spoke of Mount Lœng House as home, even when they were on Earth. That was good. He sometimes worried about that. Did she still feel like an alien on his world? Did the yellow sky oppress her and remind her of how far away she was from everything she knew and understood?

“It’s nice to come somewhere different,” she said, almost as if she knew his thoughts. “To see lemons on the trees instead of moonfruits.”

“Make sure you don’t have any in your pockets when we go home,” he reminded her. “Your packets of tea and Birds jelly are all very well, but importing fruits would be another matter. It would be very embarrassing to be stopped at the transduction barrier by some over-zealous civil servant over a lemon.”

Marion didn’t bother wondering how he knew it was a lemon in her pocket. Kristoph knew such things.

“I thought of bringing some back for Lily’s gardeners to grow in her hothouses,” she said.

“No,” Kristoph replied. “That is absolutely forbidden without a licence. Growing alien plants is too dangerous. That’s how we lost most of the red grass from the plains. Somebody started a fashion for green lawns in their formal gardens and the seeds blew on the winds.”

Marion knew that, of course. She just didn’t equate it with planting a few lemon pips in a hothouse.

“I know,” he told her. “When we walked in the market yesterday I found myself thinking about buying a couple of crates of oranges to take back.”

“A couple of crates?” Marion was puzzled. “Are you thinking of cornering the Gallifreyan marmalade market?”

“I was thinking of the boys in the camp. It would be a treat for them.”

“I thought those boys were there to be punished, not treated,” Marion pointed out.

“They are,” Kristoph said. “That is fully understood. But even prisoners need comforts.”

The way he said that, even here in the sunlight of the Riviera, Marion was reminded that Kristoph had once been a prisoner of war. She wondered if that was why, even though he had devised the punishment for the young Arcalians, he sought ways to ease their burden.

“The prison I was in makes the camp look like a Villa in the South of France,” Kristoph said. “I would not wish that suffering on any man, let alone those boys. As for easing their burden, I am planning to take them trekking in the Dark Territory with basic provisions. It’s a character building exercise.”

“Led by you?” Marion smiled. The plans were well advanced by now. Her permission for him to spend a fortnight in the desert with the young Arcalians had been given already. “Your protection detail must be having palpitations about the idea.”

“Just a bit,” he answered with a wry smile. “But I’m quite looking forward to it. I’ve been in the Capitol too much, breathing reconditioned air and letting my sinews soften. I trained in that camp, marched through that desert, knowing that the strength of my own body was all that stood between me and death when the training was over and my service as one of Gallifrey’s agents began.”

“Try to remember that those boys are NOT Celestial Intervention Agency trainees, but children.”

“I will,” he promised. Then he turned his thoughts from Gallifrey and its baking desert. They had walked to the end of the orchard. A low wall of rounded pale red bricks marked the boundary. Beyond the wall the ground fell away steeply. Part of the old town lay below, old bricks, a pale ochre colour and deeper red tiles stretched as far as the bay where shades of turquoise took over. Triangles of white sails from pleasure yachts and more business like fishing boats could be seen. It was as idyllic a scene as it was possible to imagine.

“We have guests tonight, I believe,” Kristoph said. “For dinner.”

“You know very well that we do,” Marion answered him. “Just the two of them, not a huge list of guests… drinks on the terrace, dinner… maybe dancing if you can make that gramophone in the lounge work. If it’s warm enough…. Dancing on the terrace with the stars above us, a little time to talk.”

“It is against my better judgement,” Kristoph said. “Meeting them on the train was coincidence. So was the fact that they’re staying at a Villa in Menton, too. But we COULD have got through the week without bumping into them. An invitation to dinner is….”

“You wanted it as much as I did,” Marion told him. “You know the facts as well as I do. A Gallifreyan child isn’t an adult until he is two hundred years old. I won’t be around to see that. How else could I sit and talk to the young lady my son is engaged to? And you want to spend time with him. Of course, you do. I know at least part of the reason you want to spend time in the desert is because those boys… If you’d married earlier, instead of being so busy with work, you might have had a son their age.”

“Yes,” he admitted. “There is a little of that in it. And yes, talking to my grown up son… He’s a very courageous young man. Everything I would hope of him. And I’m pleased to see that he hasn’t waited as long as I did to find true love.”

“There you are, then,” Marion said. “It will be a wonderful evening.”

“It will be a dangerous evening,” Kristoph said. “And remember the conditions. The things we won’t talk to either of them about, and what happens after they go home at the end of it all”

“Yes,” Marion said. She accepted all of his terms in order to have this evening.

Kristoph smiled indulgently. He understood fully why this meant so much to Marion, and despite his reservations, he wanted to do it for her.

The evening was, by the standards of Riviera society in the 1930s a quiet one. The volume of alcohol consumed was light, and there were no scandals or gossip to swap over the dinner table. There WAS dancing, and it was on the terrace. Marion even danced twice with young Chrístõ, who was as delighted to hold her in his arms as she was to be held by him. Kristoph led their son’s young fiancée in a waltz and a foxtrot and congratulated her on being so very accomplished. Later the music from the gramophone was a quiet background as they sat on the terrace and ate very expensive late season strawberries and talked about everything other than the subjects Kristoph had been adamant they should not talk about.

They stretched the evening as long as they could, but eventually it was over. Their two guests left in a taxi cab. Marion sat on the terrace again, without gramophone music this time, but the call of a nightingale somewhere in the distance. She sipped a glass of white wine and thought about it all while she still could.

Kristoph came and sat beside her. He had a single malt that warmed his throat as he listened to that nightingale for a while.

“She is a wonderful girl,” Marion said. “Our son made a good choice. She’ll be a fitting wife for him.”

“Yes, delightful,” Kristoph agreed.

“He’s working as a teacher just now, do you know,” Marion continued. “He’s called Professor de Leon to his students. Just like you.”

“The coincidence was not lost on me,” Kristoph noted. “At least he is able to be a teacher out of choice, not as a cover for darker tasks. He’s like me in a lot of ways. But I wouldn’t want him to have to do the things I’ve had to do.”

“I should hope not,” Marion hastened to add. “I still don’t know what happened on that train, exactly. And I don’t think I want to know. Both of you put yourselves in danger…. And for no other reward than a gilt edged calling card.”

“Neither of us did what we did for any reward other than to see villainy stopped and innocent people protected. I should expect no less from any son of a Gallifreyan House. But rest assured, Marion, I will not encourage our child to become a Celestial Intervention Agency assassin or anything so dangerous. I will… I promise… do all I can to discourage such a career. And I think I may have succeeded. He is fine. They both are.”

“Yes.” Marion smiled and recalled the pleasure of sitting here on the terrace with her son at her side, asking him questions about his work, about the home he had on the Human colony planet he had settled on for a while, about his plans for the future. “Kristoph… I didn’t ask, and neither of them meant to give it away… but he has a brother… half-brother… just a little boy. Julia had some photographs… she forgot that one was among them. He’s a fine little boy. He has your eyes.”

Kristoph didn’t say anything, but he put his hand over hers gently.

“That means… that you must have married again in the future,” she said. “After me.”


“That’s all right,” she said. “Don’t ever think it isn’t. You loved Lily long before I knew you. And I think you and Hillary were closer than either of you ever let on. I certainly don’t expect you not to know love again after me.”

“I pledged to love you for eternity in our Alliance,” he told her. “You have every right to expect me to keep my word.”

“I release you from that pledge,” Marion told him. “I will be satisfied if you love me for as long as I live, and never leave my side… except for excursions into the desert. In the future that is too far away for me to contemplate, I am glad that you can give your hearts to somebody else who will make you happy… and give you another little boy with eyes like yours… a brother for our Chrístõ.”

Again, Kristoph was lost for words, but his hand tightened around hers. He had promised her this evening. He had promised her that she would go to bed thinking about these things. But in the course of the night, he had to take it all away. He wouldn’t erase the memory altogether. She couldn’t have gaps in her recollection. But he had to blur it in her mind, so that she would remember having dinner with a delightful young couple with whom they had a lot in common, but that was all. These things she had learnt tonight about the future all seemed quite innocent, but if she was allowed to dwell on them it would be harmful in the long term.

He wished there was something he could do to blur the edges of his own memory of these events. That he had one son in the future was something he had known for a long time. That he should have another, a half brother to the handsome young man he had enjoyed talking to tonight, was startling news. And already the thought had briefly crossed his mind. What woman could take Marion’s place in his hearts? Was it a Gallifreyan woman? If so, did he already know her? Was she among their social group now? He was glad Marion hadn’t told him the name his second son bore. By tradition, second sons were named from their mother’s family line, and it might well have given him a clue to his future wife’s identity.

He stopped that thought firmly. THAT was exactly why this kind of thing was dangerous, why, indeed, his society frowned upon crossing timelines in this way. He told himself he would never think about this again. Marion was his wife, she was the future mother of his future son and heir. And that was the only thing that mattered.