Kristoph was already dressed in a fine black robe with silver detail, formal wear for the dinner party that was to take place in a few hours time. The guests would be arriving soon and he would receive them. Marion had finally been persuaded to rest for most of the afternoon after spending the morning anxiously overseeing all the details of the menu, table arrangements and even the polishing of the silverware and the crystal chandeliers in the grand dining room. She was awake again now and bathing before dressing for their anniversary celebration.

Kristoph went to the drawing room and poured a glass of the best single malt that he had brought back from his last trip to Earth. A warm log fire warmed and cheered the room but he stood by the window and looked out at the falling snow. A year ago this day it had snowed, too, but he had been mostly unaware of it. The day was so taken up by their Alliance of Unity.

A year. Not the best of years, perhaps. There had been so many difficulties. Marion’s early miscarriage had been the first sorrow they had shared in their marriage. Then there was the worry about his brother’s affair with Rika and the attacks on Marion, the death of Idell and the consequences of that for them all. Remonte’s happy marriage to Rika was the one bright spot in all of that.

And for himself and Marion, despite the problems, a year of blissful love that was consummated by her second pregnancy. He smiled as he looked forward to the birth of his child in the coming year. That happy thought drove away all the less happy memories that had marred this first year of his married life.

At least it did at first. But then he felt something come upon him that had happened two or three times before in recent weeks. Only this time it came much stronger than ever. It was a feeling of terrible sadness that overwhelmed him completely. His hearts pounded in his breast as he felt a grief such as he had never felt before and knew that it was, somehow, a foreboding of future events. He staggered under the emotional strain of it, gripping the velvet drapes at the window. His eyes couldn’t focus on the snow-covered garden outside, and a cold sweat broke out on his suddenly pale, clammy face.

“Kristoph!” From somewhere in the depths of his despair he heard a familiar voice call to him and he was aware of a hand on his shoulder. He turned to see Lily standing by him, dressed in an elegant gown that matched the snow-scene outside. He reached out and grasped the hand she offered and found himself pressing his head against her shoulder as she embraced him willingly.

“Lily,” he whispered. “I…”

“Come,” she said, gently guiding him away from the window and sitting him down in front of the warm fire. She noted that he had spilled a drink by the window. She went to the cabinet and poured a fresh glass of the Earth liquor he enjoyed so much and pressed it into his hand. As the fiery taste burned his throat he managed to tell her what had brought on this strange fit.

“I’ve never been a seer,” he said. “That’s a rare skill even among our kind. Precognition was a skill I never really mastered even at the Academy. But just lately… I have had these flashes of foreknowledge… of something dreadful in my future. And I can only think of…”

“Oh!” Lily’s face paled and she swallowed hard. She wondered what she could do or say to him. Li had warned her already that Marion’s pregnancy was not going to end happily. She had been ready to comfort them both when the time came. But this was something she had not anticipated.

“Lily…” Kristoph’s eyes turned on her, burning into her mind. She tried to block her thoughts, but she wasn’t fast enough. “Lily… Oh, no…”

“It wasn’t to deceive you,” she assured him quickly. “Li didn’t want to keep it from you for any reason but love for both of you…for you and Marion. We wanted you both to be happy for as long as possible.”

“Li saw it? He HAS always been a strong seer. He read Marion’s timeline. He saw…”

“You will have an heir, Kristoph. Marion will be mother to your child. But not yet.”

“This is a hard thing you’re telling me. My baby. I have felt her so often. Her hearts are strong. I’ve touched her unborn mind. She knows me. She has felt my love for her. Is it possible Li is wrong?”

“I have asked that same question,” Lily answered. “It must be possible. I have hoped so. You must, also. Nobody’s destiny is written in stone. There are always variables. But Kristoph… for Marion’s sake… You must be prepared to be strong.”

“Marion must not hear of this. I have not spoken of these visions to her…to anyone. But Lily… how do I pretend? How can I smile when I see her… This anniversary dinner… our friends will all be with us soon to celebrate. Marion has planned a surprise for me. I have a gift for her that I know she will love. This was meant to be a happy occasion.”

“It will be,” Lily assured him. “Kristoph, you must believe that the future is not yet written. Every day your baby grows stronger. Marion is, herself, stronger than anyone on this planet expected her to be. She is coping with the pregnancy well. Believe that even Li’s forecast could be wrong. Smile at your Lady. When you hold her in your arms and feel the child within her, love them both with all your hearts. And don’t let anything but joy fill your hearts.”

“You have faith that I can do that?”

“I have,” Lily told her. Now, sit here quietly for a little while. I will go and help Marion dress for this special occasion. You will greet your other guests joyfully.”

Kristoph nodded. Lily was right. That was the only thing he could do. He reached and kissed her cheek, thankfully. Her friendship had been the saving of him in his moment of despair. He sat and sipped his whiskey and let no thought other than the smile on his wife’s face when they exchanged anniversary gifts trouble him.

The house soon began to fill with those guests. His mother and father and his brother and sister in law who had been staying the past few days at the Dower House were first, followed by his Aunt Thedera and her husband, Lord Niluom de Más??nt?n, the quietest man on Gallifrey, rarely saying a word unless it was to agree with his wife, who more than made up for his silence. Bolar and Hesthor Lundar arrived, of course. As well as Pol and Isolatta Braxietel and Calliope Patriclian with Jarod Hadandrox, who she was rarely seen without lately, though they had not yet formally announced their betrothal. Lady and Madam Arpexia came, too. Kristoph greeted them all joyfully. They were the people who, more than any others, had become Marion’s friends in the past year. She liked them all enough to want to share this special evening with them.

They were all gathered in the drawing room when Marion came in, accompanied by Lily. They all smiled warmly to see her in a gown that was a cleverly designed maternity version of the gown she wore a year ago for the Alliance. The full skirt was higher to go over her stomach but diamonds still covered the bodice and glittered in the skirt folds. She was smiling happily, her eyes as bright as the jewels that adorned her.

“My dear,” Kristoph said as he crossed the floor to be by her side. “You look as lovely as you did a year ago this day.” He pressed a glass of sparkling champagne in her hand and turned to make a toast with their friends. “To my lovely wife who has been my joy through this first year since our Alliance.”

Everyone was glad to make that toast, and when it was drunk it was time to go to the dining room. That room was always elegant. It was often graced by important members of the government who dined with Lord and Lady de Lœngbærrow. But today it was even more beautiful. It was an echo of Marion’s dress. Swathes of white silk were draped across the ceiling, meeting above the great chandelier. More silk went all around the walls, interspersed with real hothouse roses and lilies growing out of season just for Lady de Lœngbærrow to have them here in this room. The table was similarly decorated, and among the flowers were sparkles that caught the light. Diamonds in among the petals.

“The diamonds from your wedding gown!” Isolatta said with a soft laugh. “You found something to do with them – a luxurious table setting.”

“Yes,” Marion answered. “Kristoph gave me so many. I never owned a single real diamond before I met him. And now I have enough to fill a small vault.”

“You are worth more to me than a whole diamond mine,” Kristoph assured her as they all sat in their places. The meal was served and the guests ate and talked among themselves. Marion, a consummate host now, no longer afraid of feeling out of place among a crowd, talked to everyone in turn, but most especially she enjoyed the reunion with Rika. The two talked every day on the videophone, but still had plenty to say when they were sitting beside each other.

Rika, too, seemed to have grown into her role as the wife of a gentleman of power and money. She found it easy to talk to the invited guests as an equal, though Kristoph and Remonte both noticed that she was shy about asking the servants for any small thing. This was her first return to Mount Lœng House since the Alliance, and she was being served by people she used to work with. But she was Madam de Lœngbærrow, now, Remonte’s wife, and they bowed their heads politely to her as they did with all the high born guests.

When the meal was over and the plates taken, they sat at the table, still, with coffee and brandy, and Kristoph signalled to Caolin. He and two of the footmen brought in the anniversary gifts that Kristoph and Marion had got for each other. The guests were as eager as they were to be surprised and pleased. Kristoph presented his wife with her gift, first. It was much smaller than her gift to Kristoph that had to be carried by the butler and the footman, together. The box was only a little bigger than her hand. But she knew it was going to be something special. She unwrapped the silk ribbons and the silver paper and opened up the velvet box inside. There on a bed of black silk was a gold brooch with a diamond on it that made all of the guests around the table gasp in surprise, and these were people accustomed to owning diamonds. It was certainly the biggest Marion had seen outside of the Crown Jewels of England in the Tower of London. It was a good three inches in diameter, cut into so many facets that it caught even the smallest light and refracted it. She looked at it and then at Kristoph and hardly knew what to say.

“Usually diamonds of that size are imperfect,” he said. “They have to be broken up into smaller gems. But a year ago today, the very day that our Alliance was being solemnized, this one was found in the Lœngbærrow mine. The miners who uncovered it received a special bounty, as is always the case. So did the cutters and polishers who have worked on it for the past year. Diamonds of this kind are always named, of course. This is the Marion Stone. For my Lady Marion.” With that he picked up the brooch that Marion was almost afraid to touch, and fastened it on her dress before kissing her lips gently.

“You are still more precious to me than all the jewels yet to be found in the mine,” he told her. Marion blushed and smiled joyfully. That was more important to her than the biggest diamond she had ever seen.

Then Kristoph turned to Caolin and the footman, Sheogin, who still held up the larger, heavier package dutifully. Kristoph slowly tore away the paper to reveal an oil painting of Marion, now in a beautiful crystal glass frame. She was dressed, in the picture, in deep russet red, the colour that suited her so well, and was wearing the red diamond necklace that he had given her on their Alliance day and matching earrings and bracelet. The diamonds shone as if they were real. Marion’s soft smile in the portrait was that of a lady with a secret to keep. And of course, it was quite obvious to anyone looking at that picture that she had the most precious secret of all beneath the folds of her dress.

Kristoph smiled, but beneath the smile was a moment of uncertainty again. Did Marion know, he wondered, of the Earth tradition, in the days when women often died in childbirth, of having a portrait done of a pregnant woman for posterity?

“That isn’t why she had this painted,” Lily assured him telepathically. “Don’t let such thoughts mar this beautiful gift.”

“I won’t,” he replied, glancing at his former lover and thanking her with his eyes for her intervention in that moment of anxiety. He turned to Marion and kissed her on the cheek fondly.

“I think I should like to have that hung in my study. Then when I am weighed down by matters that have little joy in them I will be delighted by the sight of my beloved wife, even when she, herself, is taking tea with Lady Patriclian or has gone off to Earth on a shopping trip. Thank you, my dear. It is very beautiful, as you are, yourself.”

The party continued afterwards for some time, but at last the guests departed and Kristoph was able to turn to Marion and kiss her again as he drew her towards the stairs. A year ago, they had both known for the first time the full passion of married love. Tonight, would be less intense. Their lovemaking now was of a gentler, quieter sort. But they were both ready for it.

Before then, though, each of them had other, intimate surprises that they saved until they were alone. This time Kristoph’s gift to Marion was in a large box and the one from her to him in a small one. Marion sat up, propped by the pillows as she tore away the silk ribbons and silver paper from a heavy, rectangular package. She sighed with delight as she saw the beautifully made jewellery box within. It was fine, polished wood, inlaid with pink and white mother of pearl and luxurious blue lapis lazuli, one of the rarest and most beautiful semi precious stones in the universe. The lapis lazuli was inlaid in swirling designs that at first glance just seemed like abstract designs, but when she looked again were Gallifreyan text spelling out her name and the date and a love message from Kristoph to her.

She opened the box and was pleased to see yet another new set of diamond earrings nestling in one of the velvet compartments. They matched the ‘Marion Stone’ that had been carefully put away in a locked drawer of her dressing table. But the box itself still had joys for her. There was a small button that automatically depressed as the box was opened, and the mother of pearl finish to the inside of the lid turned into a holographic video display. Her favourite Earth song played softly – Across the Universe – and she watched pictures of the Earth solar system that she knew so well receding and a journey across the galaxy until Gallifrey was reached. The music changed, then, to the Pazione Gallifreya, the music that was played at their wedding as beautiful scenes from around Gallifrey were displayed. All of her favourite places to visit, from the Red Valleys to the Mountains of Solace and Solitude, to the great Red Desert and more.

“There are several other settings,” Kristoph told her. “Some of your favourite Jazz tunes, and our favourite Vaughn Williams pieces. And new selections can be added if you wish.”

“It is lovely. But I shall save it for when I am on my own,” she said. “It is so easy to be caught up in it and forget everything else.” She sighed blissfully as she put the box on her beside table. “My gift to you almost seems mundane in comparison. But I had it made especially for you.”

Kristoph opened the small package and found within another velvet box a silver pocket watch. It had the liver bird with wings outstretched etched on the case and when he opened it, the inside of the lid had a miniature copy of the larger painting of Marion in bright enamel paint. He looked at it, then at the watch itself and smiled.

“Yes,” Marion told him. “It’s of Earth make. It doesn’t tell the time on Gallifrey. But you are a Time Lord. You don’t need a watch to tell the time anyway. You always know. This is my gift for you, from my planet. To remind you of me, always, when we are apart.”

“We’re not going to be apart any more than we have to be,” Kristoph assured her. He put the watch on the bedside table and turned down the lights before he reached to embrace his wife. He wanted to make love to her. But first he had something else he wanted to do even more urgently. He touched her stomach gently through the silk nightdress she wore. He touched her forehead with his other hand.

“Share this with me,” he told her as he reached in with his mind and found their child inside her womb. Marion gasped as she saw her in her mind, too, through Kristoph. She was perfectly formed, though still small yet. She had arms and legs, fingers and toes, her eyes were formed, and her nose and tiny mouth. Kristoph said that most of the development in the remaining months, apart from growing a lot more, was in the brain. Their daughter would develop the Gallifreyan brain that was capable of so many extra functions beyond that of most humanoids.

But her brain was already functioning on the simplest level. Kristoph showed his wife their baby’s dreams. Soft clouds made up of primitive, not quite formed instincts, the greatest of which was the instinct to love the two people closest to her. Marion almost wept for joy as she knew her daughter’s love so completely.

“She knows us both,” Kristoph told her. “Our little girl knows that we love her, and she loves us in return.”

“Yes,” Marion managed to say. “Oh, yes.”

He wished he could stay for much longer, but though it didn’t harm the child to be reached in that way, it was better not to overdo it. Gently he withdrew and held his wife in his arms. He sighed contentedly. He wasn’t sure about the future. He didn’t know what it held. But if it held anything other than joy, then at least they would both have the precious memory of this night together, parents of a child who loved them both. It would be a shred of comfort if the worst should happen.

For now, he banished such thoughts and kissed Marion on her lips. She responded lovingly. He would make love to her now, gently, carefully, aware of the most precious gift of all that she held for him.