Kristoph stood by the partially open door of the white drawing room, his wife’s inner sanctum. He listened for a while as Lily told her about one of the misadventures he, Lee and Laegen, Lee’s brother, had got into when they were boys. Marion laughed at the amusing parts of the anecdote and looked suitably worried about the more hazardous elements. He remembered those times very well, though it was a very long time since he was that young daredevil who broke limbs almost daily along with his partners in crime, the two elder sons of Oakdaene.

The anecdote came to an inevitable conclusion with Aineytta giving scoldings and loving care to all three of them. Marion reached to pour a fresh cup of tea for herself and Lily. Kristoph stepped into the room and she poured him a cup, too.

“We’re running short of tea,” he told her as he drank. “Perhaps you should do some shopping.”

“On Earth?” The idea pleased Marion. “But you’re busy all this week and next. I WAS hoping. But I know you don’t have time for a TARDIS trip just now.”

Kristoph smiled as he finished his tea. Marion recognised the glint in his eye. He was planning something. Perhaps they DID have time for a TARDIS trip after all?

Lily caught that glint too, and gently probed. But he was too experienced at hiding his thoughts to be caught out so easily.

“No peeking,” he told her. “Come along, and see. It’s a surprise for both of you. I think you’ll like it.” He stood and reached out his hands to them. Marion and Lily happily let him guide them upstairs to the middle floor of the house, to one of the unused bedrooms. They were quite surprised to see that there was no bed in it. There was nothing in it except a soft carpet and what looked like a big old fashioned wardrobe.

Marion laughed as one of her favourite literary references came to mind.

“Does it have lots of old fur coats in it and a snow-covered forest at the back?”

“No,” Kristoph answered. “But something nearly as wonderful and much more useful to you.”

He opened the wardrobe door and invited them both to step inside. They did so, both intrigued by the mystery.

Inside the wardrobe was a little bit bigger than the outside. It obviously had some of the properties of a TARDIS. It was big enough to contain three leather padded chairs and a small control panel with a video screen that showed the room outside.

“What is it?” Marion asked.

“Is it… oh, my… Kristoph…” Lily exclaimed. “How did you ever…”

Kristoph smiled. “It’s a static portal. It is a method of travelling from one location to another that the government use for making regular inspections of our Dominion planets. Private use is quite rare and has to be licensed. It has taken me months to get permission.”

“Oh, Kristoph,” Lily said with a smile. “What a wonderful idea. You’ve set up a portal on Earth, so she can go home when she wants?”

“Gallifrey is my home, now,” Marion pointed out.

“Yes, I know,” Kristoph told her. “But I know you’ll feel homesick from time to time. This has two designated destinations and three of you are licensed to use it. You two and Hillary. The first portal is set up at her lighthouse on Haollstrom, so you can visit her when you like. The other is in a flat above a Chinese restaurant in Upper Duke Street, Liverpool.”

“Whose flat?” Marion asked.

“Yours,” Kristoph answered. “I bought it for you. It’s not furnished yet, apart from a carpet and a large wardrobe. I thought you might enjoy shopping for it. The restaurant is owned by friends of Li’s and it has a name in Mandarin that means Welcome, Honoured Guest. I think you will be in good company any time you visit.”

“Me, Lily and Hillary? Hillary can come and visit me here, and the three of us can go to Earth and visit Li…”

“That’s the general idea. I couldn’t have the portal at his home. The licensing board would not be happy about that. Li is still persona non grata officially. But it’s only a short walk from his shop.”

He glanced at Lily as he spoke. Her eyes betrayed her. She wanted to try the portal as soon as possible.

“How does it work?” Marion asked. “Can we try it?”

“Three positions on this dial,” Kristoph said. “One is home, two is Haollstrom, three is Earth. Select destination, then press THIS button. The portal will close here and open at your destination. It’s as easy as stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia.”

Clearly, for Lily, going to see Li was BETTER than Narnia. Their plans for the day had simply been lunch and a walk in the garden. Lunch in Upper Duke Street was a good alternative.

“You can’t come?” Marion asked Kristoph. This is just for us?”

“It’s yours, Marion. To enjoy as you wish. We’ll take trips together in the TARDIS, when I am less busy. But this is for you. It works in real time. There’s no relative dimension to it. So… an afternoon in Liverpool, and I’ll see you both for supper?”

He kissed Marion on the lips and smilingly turned to kiss Lily’s cheek before he stepped out and closed the wardrobe door. Marion looked at Lily and then turned to the control. She took a deep breath and reached out to turn the dial, then pulled her hand back.

“I almost feel as if I don’t DARE,” she said.

“I know how you feel,” Lily told her.

“You want to see Li?” Lily didn’t answer. But Marion knew she did. “Let’s see Hillary first. She can come to Liverpool with us… Then I can go shopping with her while you and Li catch up on all the news.”

Lily smiled widely. News was not what she intended to catch up with when she saw Li. She sat in one of the seats while Marion turned and set the dial to its second position and pressed the button. The lights dimmed and brightened several times and the video screen shimmered as the bedroom faded away to be replaced by a white and blue, swirling vortex. There was a very faint vibration and a sound a little like the TARDIS but higher pitched. Marion sat down next to Lily and wondered how long it would take.

It took about ten minutes before the vortex shimmered and resolved into a sea view. Marion ran to open the door and stepped out onto the pier by the lighthouse on Haollstrom IV. The portal here WASN’T a wardrobe, but a small lean to beside the lighthouse.

And Hillary was waiting, looking elegant in a light skirt suit that was perfect for lunch and shopping.

“Kristoph called you?” Marion asked.

“He did,” Hillary replied and that was all that was needed. Hillary stepped inside the shed and sat in the third seat. Marion turned the dial to the third location and came to join her two friends for the short time it took the portal to re-materialise.

“Li!” Lily exclaimed as the video screen showed the inside of a sparsely furnished room where an elderly Chinaman waited patiently. She was the first to reach for the door, and by the time Marion and Hillary stepped out, Li was kissing her passionately. He broke off long enough to hug and kiss them, too, before taking them downstairs to the restaurant where Li’s friend treated them royally for lunch.

Afterwards there was no doubt that they would be going their separate ways. Lily and Li had a hunger in their eyes that had nothing to do with food. They set off back to Li’s shop while Hillary and Marion took a cab to the city centre.

“Hillary,” Marion said. “There is somewhere I would like to go before we shop. I was thinking of it for a while, but I don’t want Kristoph to know. I would like a friend with me, though.”

“I am your friend in all things,” Hillary told her. She was a little surprised, though, when Marion entered an unobtrusive door at the side of a building society on Lord Street, and walked up a flight of stairs to something called a ‘Well Woman Clinic’. Hillary was puzzled by the title, but as Marion gave in her name at the reception and sat to wait her turn, she read the leaflets and posters on the walls and understood what it was about. They had no such places on Haollstrom, of course. There was no need for gender specific health care there, and those of her class would expect a doctor to come to them, not sit in a waiting room. But she understood the concept.

“I’m glad I came as a woman on this trip to Earth,” she whispered.

“I value your friendship as a man just as much,” Marion assured her. “But on this occasion it is probably best.”

She was called and Hillary held her hand as she went into the surgery. She listened as Marion explained to the female doctor that it was several months since she had an early miscarriage and she wanted to be sure it was all right to try again. The doctor nodded as if this was something she dealt with all the time. She gave Marion a thorough medical examination, though. Hillary held her hand as she suffered the discomfort of the internal examination and then sat with her again as The Doctor wrote out a prescription for folic acid and some other vitamins that she thought Marion should be taking.

“Your body has recovered from the miscarriage,” the doctor told her. “There is no physical reason not to try again. You should consider whether you are emotionally ready, however.”

“Yes, I am,” she assured the doctor. “I am more than ready. That is why I came here. Thank you for your time.” She stood up and left the surgery. Hillary walked down the narrow stairs with her. At the bottom, before she opened the door, Marion turned and hugged her tightly.

“Thank you for being here with me,” she said. “I don’t think I could have done it on my own.” Then she kissed her, on the cheek, first, then very briefly on the lips.

“Now I wish I WAS a man, today, so I could appreciate that,” Hillary said with a laugh. Then she shimmered and turned to her male form, a handsome middle aged man with a beard that showed no sign of going grey. Marion smiled and reached around his neck tighter and drew him into a kiss she knew Kristoph would not deny her. He, too, loved Hillary in both forms as a very dear friend.

A woman came in through the door and stared at a bearded man wearing a woman’s skirt suit and engaged in such a passionate clinch. Hillary waited until she had hurried up the stairs to the clinic before reverting to female again. They both laughed as they stepped outside into the summer sunshine and Marion headed towards a department store where she could look at furniture for the Upper Duke Street flat, reminding herself out loud that she had to stop at a supermarket later and buy tea.

During the afternoon she also popped into Boots with her prescription for the vitamins and folic acid, though when Li saw the bottles he was dismissive.

“I shall make you up a packet of herbs to take home to Gallifrey,” he said. “Aineytta will make them into a daily tonic that will be far more useful to you than these. As to becoming with child again… there is no need to rush, my dear. Kristoph’s need to have an heir… he puts your health first, always. There is plenty of time for you both.”

“I know,” she answered. “Yet, even so… I want to try.”

“Then the packet will contain all you need for strength and vigour,” Li said as he poured tea for them all. “And I wish you every blessing, both of you.”

They left Hillary at her lighthouse on the way back, then Marion and Lily stepped out of the wardrobe and into the empty bedroom. They went downstairs and found Kristoph pretending to be doing a little reading before supper. Marion sat on his knee as he set aside the book and kissed him as if she had been away for a month, not merely an afternoon. Lily seated herself on another chair.

“Lily, my dear,” Kristoph said. “If you smile like that all the time your affair with Li will not be a secret for long. “You give too much away.”

“She looks like a woman who has known the love of a Time Lord,” Marion said with a wide smile of her own.

“She does, indeed,” Kristoph agreed. “It is good for her. And for Li. As for you, my Earth Child…”

Marion melted into a kiss that lasted many wonderful minutes. It was only interrupted by Caolin telling them that supper was ready. Afterwards, they waved goodbye to Lily before taking an early night that would begin with a Jacuzzi bath for two.

Lily sighed and laid her head against the back seat of her chauffer driven car. She had spent a wonderful afternoon in the loving arms of her Renegade Time Lord, making up for many lost centuries. She should have been happy. And she was.

The only thing that spoilt the happiness was what Li had told her when they were getting ready to leave his house.

“This isn’t the time. Marion and Kristoph will both be disappointed. Be ready to be as good a friend to them both as you can.”