Marion opened her eyes as the pain wracked her body. She cried out in fear and confusion. Then she felt a cup pressed to her lips and a familiar voice telling her to be calm.

“Aineytta,” she murmured. “What’s happening? Why do I hurt so much?”

“Oh, my dear,” Aineytta replied. “You’re hurting because you’re in the middle of labour. You’re going to have a baby today.”

“What?” Marion stared at her mother in law in astonishment, then touched her own body and felt the distended stomach. “How?”

Then Kristoph was by her side, too. He grasped her hand and kissed her emotionally.

“Thank Rassilon,” he said. “I have hoped, every day, every long day for a year. And at last… you’re back with me, sweetheart?”

“Back with you?” His words weren’t helping to clear up the confusion. Another sharp pain overtook her. He gripped her hand through it. When it was over, Aineytta wiped her brow with a soft, damp cloth that smelt of soothing herbs.

“Marion, you got sick during the Broen’s Plague quarantine. I was ill, too. When I got well, it was to find you almost at death’s door, with mama desperately trying to save you. She kept you alive, but you fell into a deep coma. Marion, my love, the coma lasted for nearly a year. It is autumn again, but a bitter winter and a spring and summer have come and gone since you last opened your eyes to me.”

“That’s not… it’s not possible. I remember going to sleep in Rosanda’s room, because you were sick and I wasn’t allowed near you. Then… yes, I remember being hot and aching, but that’s all. How can I have been gone so long?”

“Broen’s Plague…. Your body simply shut itself down to combat the sickness. But it had no mechanism for starting up again. My dear, you overslept.”

“For a year?”

“A long year for me, but I never gave up hope. And now… We were all worried what would happen when your labour began. It’s a little early. Only fourteen months. But mother says everything is fine so far.”

“Kristoph….” Marion looked at him. There was something about his face when he said that. “Are you hiding something? Tell me. The baby… is it all right?”

“Marion….” Kristoph looked away. He couldn’t say it. Aineytta came to her side and held her hand tightly.

“My dear, we just don’t know. The child has grown normally all this time. But you were infected with the disease so early in your pregnancy, and there have been difficulties. I think it is possible that his brain is damaged. There may be other problems, too. We just don’t know.”

“You think the baby might die?” Marion asked.

“I think it is possible,” Aineytta told her. “But don’t give up hope. I will do what I can.”

“I trust you, Aineytta,” she replied.

“If it is so, then it is fate, that is all,” her mother in law added. “The time will yet come when you will bear a son and heir to our house.”

“Yes,” Marion said. Her head was spinning with the news that it was trying to take in. The last thing she remembered, she was only a little over twelve weeks pregnant. Nothing even showed. She was barely used to the idea that she was having a baby. She had been disappointed so often before that she hadn’t really begun to think about the future. She hadn’t begun to feel any love for the child growing inside her.

The news that this baby might yet die didn’t hurt as much as she expected. She still felt so confused and dazed by it all.

“This is a dream,” she said. “I can’t be… this can’t be happening. Kristoph, tell me it’s not real.”

“I’m sorry, my dear,” he answered. “You must be brave, now. There’s a lot more I have to tell you. But right now, you’re the only thing that matters, and I’m right here with you.”

He grasped her hand as she suffered another labour pain. Kristoph touched her forehead and drew out some of the pain into his own body, sharing the labour with her in every way.

When it was over, Aineytta examined her carefully.

“It’s not going to be long,” she announced. “You’re almost there, my dear.”

Marion accepted that news with a nod of her head. She didn’t know what else to say.

“It isn’t fair,” she said. “To wake up like this… in the middle of it all. I should have had time to enjoy being pregnant, to look forward to this day. We should have enjoyed it together.”

“We will, next time,” Kristoph assured her. “No matter what happens this time, there will be another chance. It will be perfect, just as we both hoped. I promise.”

“You’ve been here, beside me, all the time?” she asked.

“As much as I possibly could,” he answered. He tried not to think of the time, back in the summer, when he had almost forgotten himself in Lily’s arms. That was the day when he first knew the baby might not be what they hoped for. In his lowest, most despairing moments as he sat by his wife’s side, he had sometimes blamed himself for that, feeling it was his punishment for being unfaithful to Marion. In more lucid times he told himself that was foolish. He was a Time Lord. He didn’t believe in fate or superstition. He didn’t have any concept of a god who punished him for straying from the rightful path.

Besides, this was a cruel punishment for one afternoon of happiness.

“Marion, I am sorry,” he told her. “I wanted this baby, too. I am sorry it is going to be another painful disappointment.”

“Is there really no hope?” she asked. “Is it possible the baby will be all right?”

“Mama doesn’t think so,” he answered. “And she is rarely wrong about such things.”

“It just… isn’t fair. I want to give you an heir, Kristoph. I really do. And this child… it’s a boy. But if it doesn’t live….”

“We’ll mourn him together, at least,” he answered. “My worst fear was that I might lose you both.”

The pains came again and this time her waters broke. Aineytta brought some more bitter tasting medicine that she said would dull the pain and she got ready for the birth that was imminent. Kristoph held his wife by the shoulders as she cried and strained and pushed down and the child was slowly born. Marion gave one last final effort and felt a sudden lightness, then Aineytta was holding the baby, cleaning the mucus from its mouth and blowing air into its lungs. Marion gave a whimper of relief as she heard him give a soft cry.

“He’s still alive?” she asked. “It wasn’t for nothing?”

“He’s alive now,” Aineytta answered, placing the baby in her arms. “But you need to be prepared, my dear. His brain isn’t functioning properly, and his other organs will slowly fail. There’s nothing to be done, except hold him, and love him for the little time there is.”

Marion looked at the baby. He had deep brown eyes like Kristoph’s. He looked perfect. It was hard to believe he was so very fragile inside.

“You can feed him,” Aineytta told her. “Let him know you’re his mother and you love him that much.”

Marion did as she said. Kristoph sat at her side, hardly daring to say a word as she put the child to her breast and fed him from her own body. He loved the child, but he was trying not to love him too much, because he was steeling himself for the heartbreak that was coming.

“He should be named, too,” Aineytta said presently. “Kristoph, it is almost dawn.”

“Mama….” He turned to his mother pleadingly. He wasn’t sure he could go through with that rite. It was one that was supposed to be done in joy and hope for the future. They had neither from this birth.

“Do it, my son,” she encouraged him. “The child is entitled to his birthright.”

“He can’t take the name of the primogeniture,” he said.

“Why not?” Marion asked.

“Because we know he isn’t going to live. My dear, I am sorry, but I cannot acknowledge this child as my heir by giving him the name my forefathers gave to me.”

It seemed a cruel thing to say - as if there wasn’t enough heartache to be endured this day. But it was the plain truth.

“Let me choose his name,” Marion said. “If he can’t be named after you in the tradition of this world, then let me choose.”

“Yes,” Kristoph said. “Yes, I will accept your choice.”

Marion gave the child to him, wrapped in a warm blanket and whispered a name. Kristoph held his first born son tightly in his arms and went to the window. Aineytta drew the curtains and opened the window. It was a still morning, with dull grey clouds obscuring the burnt umber dawn, but it didn’t feel as cold as it might.

“A new life, a new day. May the sun’s light always shine on him. May he walk in the good, pure light all his life. May he be brave and courageous and merciful, and true to his heritage. May he know love and give love.” He held the baby in the crook of one arm and with his forefinger traced the intricate curves of the Seal of Rassilon on his forehead. “You are Christian-David-bheannachtain de Lœngbærrow. I name you in the light of this blessed dawn. I acknowledge your soul. I acknowledge your life. I acknowledge you as flesh of my flesh, child of Gallifrey.”

He kissed the baby’s forehead and hugged him close, then he turned from the window and came back to the bedside. He gave the baby back to Marion.

“I don’t think we have much time,” he said. “You hold him now.”

“Thank you,” Marion said. “For giving him a name… for acknowledging him as your son, even if he can never be….”

“He is my first born son, even if he cannot be my heir,” Kristoph said. “I will always remember that.”

Aineytta sat quietly and watched. The child who had no future beyond the next few hours was her grandchild. Her hearts were breaking, too.

“Christian?” she asked, turning the word over on her tongue.

“It’s an Earth name,” Marion explained. “It sounds a little like Kristoph’s Gallifreyan name – Chrístõ… but it means something different there.”

“It’s a good name,” Aineytta said. Then she said nothing else for a while. She watched Kristoph holding the baby while Marion went to bathe and the maid changed the bed and made it fresh and clean again. She didn’t linger in her bath. This day, time was precious. She came back to the bed and took the baby back in her arms. She fed him again and held him close as he went to sleep.

“He’s dreaming,” Kristoph said. “He knows that he’s loved by us both and he’s dreaming happily.”

“Good,” Marion answered.

Kristoph looked at the child, then at his wife. She was holding their son as if he was precious to her. But there was something missing from her eyes.

“It’s all right to love him,” he told her. “Even for a short while.”

“I’m trying,” she answered. “But I don’t… I hardly know him. I woke up in pain… and not long after… he’s here in my arms… and in a little while more he won’t be. I don’t… I don’t know what I should feel.”

Kristoph understood that. For him the months had passed slowly and he had been ready for this. For Marion, it was all so sudden and emotionally confusing.

“It’s all right,” he assured her. “You’re doing fine. Just hold onto him for as long as you can.”

Aineytta made her lie down in the bed with the baby held in the crook of her arm, safe beside her. Kristoph stayed close. Nobody else came near the master bedroom during the morning. At noon, Caolin brought food. Marion said she wasn’t hungry, but Aineytta insisted that she should eat. Kristoph, too. She held the child while they had their food. She felt his hearts, still beating strongly. But his other organs were weak. His kidneys weren’t functioning properly and it wouldn’t be long before he started to look jaundiced. Everything else would quickly follow. There was nothing to be done.

“Beannachtain,” she whispered. Kristoph had given the child a Gallifreyan suffix that meant ‘blessings’. It was a good choice, a reminder that he was a blessing on them both, even if for a short time.

Marion knew just how short it would be. As she lay there, she saw the changes in the baby’s complexion. It had been pink and healthy at first. Now he looked increasingly yellow and sickly. His skin was hot to the touch and when he woke from his sleep his eyes were watery.

“He’s hurting,” she said. “Kristoph….”

Kristoph touched the baby’s head and reached into him, drawing off the pain as he had done for Marion when she was giving birth to him. He drew off the fever that was making his body so hot and dry, too. Marion held him close, knowing it wouldn’t be so long now.

An hour passed before she gave a sob. She had felt it happen. The baby gave a tiny shudder and then his hearts stopped, his breathing, too. He was gone from her. She pressed him close and kissed his forehead, then gave him to Kristoph. Aineytta hugged her as she cried. Kristoph held the baby and looked around as Caolin came to the door. He looked at his master and nodded. He went away and returned a few minutes later with a small casket. Marion looked at it and sobbed louder.

“You… had a coffin made,” she said. “Kristoph, you knew….”

“Yes, I did,” he answered. “The wood… is from one of the cúl nut trees that had to be cut down. It was hand made by one of the gardeners at my request.” He opened the casket and Marion saw that it was lined with silk. “Rosanda finished the inside. The whole household has known that this moment would come for us. They did what they could to make it a dignified moment.”

He placed the baby into the casket. It looked almost as if he was placing it in a crib. Marion reached and wrapped a soft blanket around him. She looked at him lying there for a little while, then bent and kissed his face one more time.

“You… had better….” she tried to say. But she couldn’t say any more. She just nodded sadly. Kristoph knew what she meant. It was all right to put the lid on the casket now. He, too, bent to kiss the child, first.

“Sleep well, my little Christian,” he said. “Sleep in the peace of Rassilon.”

His hands trembled as he fitted the lid and sealed it tightly. Caolin waited for a signal from his master before he picked up the casket and reverently bore it away.

“Where is he taking him?” Marion asked.

“To the hallway for now. So that the rest of the household might pay their respects in the proper way. Then later… after dark….” Kristoph paused. “He was named as a child of Gallifrey… as my son. He should be given the proper rites of a Gallifreyan.”

“You mean cremation on an open pyre?”


“Do I have to be there?” Marion asked.

“No,” Aineytta told her. “That is work for men. You will stay in bed, warm and safe. You and I will mourn together as women.”

“Until then, you should sleep, Marion,” Kristoph told her.

“Haven’t I slept enough?” she asked.

“You need to rest after this morning’s ordeal. Tomorrow, we will both begin to live again. But today, you sleep, my love.”

She didn’t feel as if she wanted to sleep. But when she closed her eyes, she felt a peace she felt she hadn’t known for a long time upon her. She knew either Kristoph or Aineytta was doing it to her, and she was grateful for it.

When she woke, it was dark outside. A lamp was lit in the master bedroom. Kristoph wasn’t there, but Aineytta and Rosanda were. So was Lily, who hugged her fondly.

“He’s gone out to….” Marion asked.

“Yes,” Rosanda said. “Caolin has gone with him. And Gallis Limmon and some of the other male servants.”

“That is kind of them.”

“Everyone in the household feels your grief,” Lily told her. “They share it.”

Marion nodded. She didn’t know what to say or do now. She thought of Kristoph in the dark and cold, bringing that small casket out to the funeral pyre. She was glad not to be with him. She had never really come to terms with that kind of funeral.

She knew when it had begun. The curtains were still open and the orange light of the pyre could be seen, even though it was several fields away. She looked at that flickering light for a few minutes then turned away. Her friends held hands with her and Aineytta recited a keen of mourning that was practiced among the Caretakers of Gallifrey. It was a sad sound, and it perfectly matched how everyone felt.

When it was over, Aineytta drew the curtains. She summoned a maid who brought food, a light but nourishing meal. They all ate quietly and waited for Kristoph to return from his necessary duty.

When he did, all the women withdrew from the room. Marion and Kristoph shared their grief alone.

“I have you, at least,” he said after a while. “I have you, and there is still hope for the future. I was so afraid I might lose you both.”

Marion said nothing. She just clung to her husband and that hope that he believed so firmly in.