Winter turned to spring and spring turned to summer on the southern plain of Gallifrey but Mount Lœng House was still locked in winter emotionally. Lady Marion was still in a coma. Nobody knew when or if she would ever come out of it. Lord de Lœngbærrow had sent for the best physicians on Gallifrey, and from far beyond there. None of them could help. Most said that she would come out of it in her own time… or not.

Aineytta de Lœngbærrow said she definitely would wake. She promised him that much with a certainty that all of the physicians failed to convey.

Kristoph was tired of hearing it, though. He was disheartened by watching by her side daily while nurses attended to her, feeding and washing her, giving her the medicine his mother prescribed and never seeing the slightest sign that she even knew he was there.

That was at least one reason why he left the house one morning and drove by himself to Maison D’Alba.

The butler admitted him and showed him to the terrace outside the drawing room where Lily D’Argenluna D’Alba was breakfasting alone. She smiled warmly at one of her oldest and dearest friends and bid him sit with her. He refused the offer of food, but he took a cup of a honey-flavoured infusion.

“I don’t keep the English tea that is favoured in your home,” Lily said in apology.

“I haven’t drunk it for months,” Kristoph answered. “There is still a box in the kitchen but… without Marion… it has lost its taste.”

“She’s not dead,” Lily told him. “She will recover. Don’t fear.”

“Is that true, though? I have been told so often that Marion will bear me an heir. And… the child still lives. It’s growing within her, even though she is insensible to it. What if….”

He shook his head sadly. Lily reached out her hand to him. She was shocked to feel him trembling.

“Farewell to fair England, farewell for evermore….For the fair flower of England will never shine more…” he whispered.

“I beg your pardon?” Lily responded.

“It’s a poem… from Earth…. About King Henry… a monarch from many centuries ago. His wife was in labour for many long days…. She begged for the child to be cut out of her. He refused because he loved her and would rather the child had died, though he wanted a son desperately. But in the end the queen died. The child lived but the king was heartbroken because his queen was dead.”

“You think that is going to happen to you?” Lily asked him. “You think you will gain the heir you long for but lose his mother?”

“It happened to Jarrow Reidluum,” Kristoph reminded her.

“Not quite,” Lily told him. “Mia isn’t dead, either.”

“As good as She cannot walk. Her spine was damaged when the fever settled in her bones. She is partially paralysed and needs constant medical attention. That in itself is bad enough in a society that has so little understanding of illness and disability. Then the child had to be delivered by caesarian because a natural birth might have killed her. She is still too sick to care for him. A wet nurse sees to his needs while neither his mother nor father can bear to look at him.”

“That won’t happen to you,” Lily told him. “It won’t, Kristoph. You are not going to lose Marion, and she is not going to be crippled like poor Mia. That was a result of the fever, not the birth.”

“Everyone tells me. But the more I hear it, every day that passes, I feel less certain of it. Lily, I am so frightened. I don’t think I can stand it any longer.”

Lily was shocked. Of all the men she knew, Chrístõ Mian de Lœngbærrow, Kristoph to his friends, was the strongest. He had proved it when he led the whole Gallifreyan people through the crisis of the plague and the quarantine.

But he was exhausted now. His spirit was almost gone. He was torn apart by his wife’s continued illness and he needed somebody else to be strong for him.

“Kristoph,” she told him gently. “Believe me, if you believe nobody else. Marion will get well. You are BOTH going to enjoy being parents when the time comes. It will be all right.”

He nodded, but he couldn’t speak. If he was any species but Gallifreyan he would be crying. She reached for him, embracing him in her arms for a long, silent time. He pressed his face against her shoulder and sighed deeply.

“Lily,” he whispered. “I need you.”

“I am here to be needed,” she assured him. “Come, my dear. Let’s walk for a little while. The garden is beautiful and we will be assured of peace.”

She took his hand as they walked down the steps from the terrace and past the Koi Carp pond with water lilies the size of milk pans growing on giant pads. The golden fish swam between the spreading roots of the plants. Kristoph looked at them idly and tried not to remember that he had courted Marion by the pond when she had stayed with Lily before their Alliance. The rose garden, too, held those kind of memories for him, so Lily took him a different way. There was a topiary maze that emerged into a central place where flowers were formally arranged and a fountain glittered in the sun.

“This was one of Jules’ favourite parts of the garden,” Lily reminded him. “He and I sat here often in perfect solitude, no gardener or servant would bother us if we were here. They won’t bother us, now. We are quite alone.”

Kristoph looked at her. She was dressed in white as she so often was. He was in a simple black robe and a cloak with a small clasp with the Lœngbærrow crest upon it. He took off the cloak and spread it on the grass by the fountain for them to sit.

“You always wore white, for as long as I have known you,” he said to her. “Except when you formally mourned for Jules. When you wore white again, it was as if we who knew you breathe again.”

“Yes,” Lily answered and waited for him to say something else.

“I didn’t see your Alliance, of course. I was still among the lost. You wore white then, too, covered in diamonds.”

“Yes, I did.”

“You must have looked so beautiful.”

“Jules said so. Kristoph… is this… do you really want to talk about me?”

“Yes,” he said. “Yes, I do. Lily, take me back to when we were both young, when we were lovers. When I was certain you would wear diamonds on a white gown for me.”

“That really isn’t a good idea,” she told him.

“Please,” he begged her. “I love Marion with all of my hearts. But they’re both breaking just now. I need… I need for a little while to forget about her. And you are the only woman who could possibly let me do that.”

“I would do anything for you, Kristoph,” Lily told him. “Except… except forget that you are a married man and that you are bound by your Alliance. If you’re asking me to.…”

“I’m not asking for that,” he assured her. “We loved each other with the hottest fires of passion, but never breaking the sacred rules of Chastity before Alliance. Marion was the first woman I ever made love to with my body. But I made love to you so often with my mind when we were young. Let us be young again for a little while.”

“Kristoph, my dear,” she breathed as he reached to kiss her. “Oh, my dear man.”

“My sweet Lily,” he replied.

That first kiss, they were still sitting on the cloak. Then when they leaned back from each other Kristoph gently pressed Lily down onto the soft fabric. Her lady’s maid had patiently pinned her hair into a sophisticated arrangement, but it didn’t take him long to remove the pins and let the snow white hair fall around her face.

“You always did that,” she reminded him. “My mother used to be quite scandalised about it. She thought as girl who would let her hair down for a man would let down her guard, too.”

“I wanted to touch it,” Kristoph answered, running his fingers through her long tresses now. “The golden hair of Lily D’Argenlunna.”

“I used to let you, no matter what my mother thought.”

He leaned over to kiss her again. She reciprocated warmly. Somewhere in the middle of the kiss he stopped seeing the white hair and the lines of an elder woman of Gallifrey. Instead he saw the golden hair and the peaches and cream complexion of the girl he had loved in his youth. He moved his body over hers, no longer the mature, broad-shouldered man with the wisdom of ages, but the slender youth who had loved her with all his hearts and believed she would be his wife in the fullness of time.

In the midst of it all he moved until he was lying on top of her. They kissed passionately, hands reaching to fondle and touch each other through their clothes, but with yearning and desire.

“Lily, my love,” Kristoph whispered. “Lily, be mine.”

“I would, my dear,” she responded. “But we promised.”

“We promised to love each other forever,” Kristoph replied. “And I do.”

“Chrístõ Mian,” Lily whispered. “My first love.”

She felt his hands on her body. She felt him pressing ever closer to him, ever more urgently. She knew that something wonderful and terrible at the same time was moments away from happening. She knew she ought to stop it. Kristoph was with her out of desperation, loneliness, fear, a need to be comforted and loved. But he was still a married man, and she should try to stop him.

“No,” he sighed. She felt the pressure of his body on hers relieved. He lay beside her instead, his face in his hands, breathing in short, uncomfortable breaths. “Lily, I am sorry for what I came so close to doing. I am ashamed that I was so easily tempted away from my Alliance bonds.”

“Easily?” Lily gently pressed his hands away from his face and touched his cheek with her own fingers. “How often since I lost Jules have we been alone together? We could have been lovers a million times over. For a long time I hoped you would. I understood why it never happened between us. And when you brought Marion to us, I was happier for you than anyone. I knew you had found what was missing between us.”

“Then why was I so ready to forget it all?” he asked. “I was inches away from adultery. I wanted you so very much. I wanted the release from obligation, from duty, from….”

“You’re so very tired, Kristoph. It has been a long time since you slept soundly. It has been a long time since you weren’t burdened by worry for others. The chance to be free of all that… that’s what you sought with me. But you knew as well as I do that it would be wrong, and you remembered that in the end. You’re a good man, Kristoph, and a good husband.”

She shifted her hands until they cupped his face. Her index fingers pressed against his temples. She could feel the torment of his conscious and unconscious thoughts already. She gently entered his mind and soothed away the most urgent of his anxieties, starting with the guilt for his near indiscretion with her and then the exhausting and drawn out worry for Marion’s health. Then she filled his mind with memories of warm days when they were young and they had loved each other so passionately that they came close to consummation but stopped short because of custom and tradition and the way they were both raised to respect those customs and traditions. Then she made love to him with her mind the way they had done in those days. He surrendered to her absolutely in that way. It was sensual, it was satisfying, but it wasn’t bodily consummation and he was still within the bounds of his Alliance vows.

In the midst of that lovemaking of the mind he fell asleep. Lily held him close in her arms and made sure that the dreams he dreamt were good ones. They were mostly of their shared youth, when both of them were happy and hopeful. When he woke, he would be ready to face the reality of his life again.

He slept for several hours, warmed by the sun, shaded and cooled by the fountain that rose above their makeshift bed. Lily stayed by him. The servants stayed away. They knew they shouldn’t disturb her in this place.

He woke suddenly and looked up into the sky. He turned and looked at Lily by his side and kissed her gently on the lips.

“Thank you, my dear,” he told her. “For letting me love you… for not letting me love you too fully.”

He sat up and looked around. Lily sat with him, her hand on his shoulder.

“I should go home,” he said. “I should be with Marion.”

“Stay to lunch, first,” she told him. “Let your hearts and mind prepare themselves to resume your vigil.”

He agreed to that much. They lunched on the terrace. He enjoyed the sunshine and the food for the first time since the summer began.

But as they were finishing the meal, Lily’s butler, Cathal, brought a message.

“Lady Aineytta bids you return home as soon as possible,” he said to Kristoph. “She has urgent news for you.”

Cathal looked solemn as he delivered the message. Kristoph’s hearts lurched. This day had been good for him, but if Marion had taken a turn for the worst and he wasn’t there, he would regret it forever.

“I’ll come with you,” Lily told him. “If the news is grave, then….”

If his wife was dying, his former lover would be there to comfort him. There was something not quite right about that, but he hadn’t the will to say no. She came with him as he drove from the D’Alba country estate to the far bigger Lœngbærrow demesne and the house of his ancestors where he was patriarch. The door to which he had never carried a key was opened by his faithful butler even before he reached the top step. He hurried up the stairs to the master bedroom where his wife had lain for so many months without knowing if he was present or not.

Aineytta was at her side. She was breathing, still. He remembered that breathing was important to his species, too, and gave a deep sigh.

“Mama, what has happened?” he asked. “Marion… is she….”

“Marion is fine. But the child… there was a crisis. The labour started prematurely. I have stopped it. But… my son… the child’s hearts stopped for a brief time while the trauma was ongoing. I fear….”

Kristoph almost collapsed on his feet. Caolin placed a chair so that he could sit. For a long time he could not see or hear anything except his wife’s face as she slept on unconscious of anything happening around her. Aineytta waited until he was ready to hear the worst of the news.

“My son, you must know… it is very likely that the child’s brain was affected. Even if the pregnancy continues to full term now, there is a possibility that he will not live… or if he does… he will not be….”

“I understand, mama,” he said. “Thank you for your efforts.”

“It wasn’t you fault, Kristoph,” Lily told him. “It would have happened if you had been here or not. And nor is it a punishment for any moment today when you forgot yourself and let happiness and sunshine into your hearts.”

“I know that,” he told her. “I know that there is no power that would inflict such a punishment on me. It was just co-incidence that this happened on this day. But… I won’t leave her again. Not until it is over, either way. I will be by her side until then. That is my solemn vow before Rassilon himself, as binding as the vows of Alliance that I made in the Panopticon on that blessed day when she became my wife.”

“Of course,” Lily told him. “But that does not prevent any of us being by your side as friends. Never forget that.”

She leaned forwards and kissed him on the lips. Aineytta saw the gesture, coming after such a heartsfelt confession about his day’s activities and knew that something of note had passed between her son and his first sweetheart. But she knew, too, that it was nothing that prevented him being a husband to his wife when this interruption was over and their life resumed again.