Marion was relaxing in her white drawing room in the afternoon. She had enjoyed a pleasant morning with her infant class at the school and now she was quietly reading a book while soft music played quietly.

She looked up at the sound of voices in the hall. She glanced through the window and saw the limousine Kristoph had taken out this morning being driven to the garage. What could have brought him home so early in the day? Then the door opened and her husband came into the drawing room. Marion was puzzled to see him carefully carrying something wrapped in soft cloth. She was astounded when he leaned over and placed the bundle in her arms and she looked into the face of a baby, no more than two months old, with soft black eyes looking back at her.

“Kristoph!” she exclaimed. “Where did… who is…”

For one surreal moment, she imagined that he had stolen the child from somewhere, to bring home to her.

“She is a child in need of comfort,” he answered. “Her mother is dead. An accident. You need not be troubled with the details. But she has no relatives here on Gallifrey. I took it upon myself… I thought…”

He paused. As his chauffer had driven him home with the child nestled in a basket beside him, he had thought deeply about his decision to take upon himself the care of this child. It was only a few months since they had mourned the death of their Anna. Was Marion emotionally ready to be a foster mother to this little one?”

“We can look after her,” Marion said as she pressed the child close to her. “She has nobody at all?”

“She has a grandfather. He works for our deep space freight service. His ship is being contacted by sub-space message. I have asked to speak to him as soon as possible.”

“He will want her, I suppose? His own grandchild?”

Marion looked disappointed.

“I will assure him that she is being well looked after,” Kristoph told her. “If you think you can… if it’s not too much…”

“Our little Anna would be about her age by now,” Marion said.

“She would be older. This little mite was born in the month of Melcus. Marion… she isn’t replacing our child. She is an orphan who needs your love and affection for a little while. Understand that from the start, Marion, or we cannot do it. She is a child of the Lœngbærrow Estate. I felt it my duty, but there are other ways.”

“I understand,” Marion assured him. “But… didn’t you bring anything for her… clothes… a crib… milk…”

Kristoph admitted he had not brought any of those things, except for a feeding bottle which Caolin had taken to the kitchen to be attended to. The butler came to the drawing room as he spoke, with the warmed bottle on a silver tray. Marion examined it critically

“Cúl nut milk won’t do except as a stop gap,” she said. “We shall have to take a trip in the TARDIS. Mothercare in Lord Street will have what we need.”

“Lord Street… in Liverpool?” Kristoph was on the point of mentioning that there were perfectly good shops in the Capitol, but there was a look in Marion’s eyes. He smiled indulgently and asked Caolin to fetch his Earth credit cards from his desk drawer.

A very short time later the TARDIS materialised in Lord Street, disguised as a closed vending Kiosk for the Liverpool Echo. Marion carried the baby in her arms, wrapped in a warm blanket. She was talking about the things that were needed. It was a long list. Kristoph wasn’t even sure what most of them were for.

“Where does a Kangaroo come into it?” he asked.

“It’s a sort of sling for carrying the baby and leaving your hands free,” Marion explained. “When she’s not in her pram. We’ll need one of those, too, of course. Does she have a name, by the way. I never asked.”

“Rodan,” Kristoph answered,

“Pretty name,” Marion answered. “Very appropriate. She is beautiful.”

“It’s a good Gallifreyan name,” Kristoph said. He looked at the shop front of the Earth shop dedicated to the needs of babies and small children. He was a man of many talents and abilities. He knew countless languages and the customs of thousands of planets. But he felt at a loss now as he looked into that window.

“I am in your hands,” he said as they pushed open the door and stepped inside. “As is my credit card.”

“A pram, first,” Marion said. “And a crib. Oh, one of those sort – the rocking cradle with all the frills around. That will fit beautifully into our room.”

“Our room?” Kristoph was startled. “I expected… there is a perfectly good nursery where I was raised, and Remonte, and our sisters.”

“She’ll sleep by us. She will feel safe and we will know that she is happy,” Marion insisted. “In the daytime… my day bedroom will make a good nursery. But we shall need a second crib.”

“Then we shall have to buy two cribs,” Kristoph conceded. Marion went around the store, followed by a shop assistant who took the order codes for the larger items. Kristoph followed, too, carrying a basket for the clothes and packs of disposable nappies and other sundries. He soon wondered if it might have been easier to have the entire stock transported to Gallifrey. It didn’t seem as if Marion was leaving very much to chance. He wondered exactly how he was going to get it all into the TARDIS without being observed by passers by. He also wondered what his garage staff were going to say about fitting a child seat in the limousine.

Marion was looking at dresses now.

“She has to have this one,” she exclaimed as she looked at a rather lovely baby dress made of pink netting and broderie anglaise. She’ll look beautiful in it.”

“Yes, she will,” Kristoph agreed as he helped the two assistants to carry the more portable purchases to the cash till. He watched the accumulated bill not so much because he was worried about his credit limit as because he was fascinated by how much a baby seemed to cost. He had never realised it was quite so much.

Power of Suggestion got the pram, cradles and other large items brought to the kiosk without the store assistants questioning it. The bags full of smaller items were stored safely aboard. Kristoph watched as Marion dressed Rodan from the skin out with disposable nappy, vest, pants and socks, and then the pink and white dress she so adored. It was in two parts. The net underdress first, then the white broderie anglaise smock with strawberry motifs. A little white bonnet completed the outfit. Kristoph thought the baby looked like a finely made china doll. Or a strawberry dessert. Either way, when Marion fastened her into the newly bought pram and wrapped a new blanket with matching strawberry motifs around her, he felt a warm feeling inside.

They stepped back out into Lord Street again, looking like proud parents with their baby. They walked in the warm afternoon up towards Chinatown.

Li was delighted to see them, of course. And even more delighted by his youngest guest. When Kristoph explained her sad circumstances he nodded in understanding.

“She is in good hands, now. Has there been word, yet, from the grandfather?”

“No, but that is to be expected. The deep space freighters have only sub-space communications. It will take time. I do hope to hear from them soon, though. I need to assure him that his granddaughter is being cared for.”

“Well, of course she is,” Marion said as she held the child on her knee. “Why wouldn’t she be? Dear little Rodan. She has such lovely eyes.”

“She’s a fine child,” Li Tuo agreed. “May I…” The old man reached and touched the child’s fingers. He closed his eyes and his face was strangely impassive for a while. Marion knew what he was doing. He was reading her timeline – her future. She almost held her breath to hear what he would say about her.

“You have already taken her through time in the TARDIS, of course,” Li said at last. “It makes the reading more difficult. But I see her growing up to be a fine young Gallifreyan with the start in life you can give her.”

“I wish we could give her more than a start,” Marion answered him.

“No,” Kristoph told her firmly. “No, Marion. Don’t think of anything more than that which is offered to us now. She isn’t ours. Her destiny is in the hands of others. We will give her the love and care she needs in these coming months. But after that… Marion, please don’t get any ideas about keeping her.

“Why not? We could give her so much as our adopted child.”

“We have no real concept of adoption on Gallifrey. Blood ties are all that counts,” Li explained to her. “We have no legal machinery for making a child belong to any but its biological family. She would never be yours. Her grandfather would always have the final say, and if he wanted her back, his own blood, then he would have every legal right. And though you are Oldbloods and he a Caretaker, and Kristoph a magister, the law would be on his side. And that is as it should be.”

“She is ours for a little while, Marion. Then she must go to her real family. And you will give her back willingly. Let it be understood from the start. I didn’t bring her to you as any substitute for our poor little Anna. Nor did I mean for you to be traumatised by having to part with her in the future. If you feel you cannot look after her knowing that she is to leave us, then this cannot work. I will find some woman in the village and pay her to take care of the child.”

“No,” Marion protested. “She is mine until her grandfather comes for her. Dear Rodan… She is mine until then.”

“Very well,” Kristoph conceded. He put his arm around Marion and looked at the child in her arms with a warm smile and a longing heart. He, too, wished that it were otherwise. He would have liked to have looked on this child as his own, in place of his own daughter who never lived. But he had to be strong. He had to accept that this was only a temporary chance for him to experience parenthood.

“It will happen for you,” Li insisted. “Marion, you will be the bearer of the Lœngbærrow heir. I promise you. It won’t be easy. I sense disappointment, grief, more than once. But in the end there will be joy. And until then, take this child. She is Rassilon’s gift to you as a respite from your emptiness.”

They stayed longer with Li Tuo than they meant to do, but at last they returned to Lord Street and stepped into the disguised TARDIS. As they got under way, Marion changed and fed Rodan again. While she was doing that, the call came that Kristoph had expected. Marion held the baby close to her as she watched Kristoph break the news of his daughter’s death to the man. He was kind to him, expressing his sorrow. He did his best to ease the blow. Of course, the man asked about his grandchild. Kristoph signalled silently to Marion and she brought her to the videophone.

“She is here,” Kristoph assured her. “My wife is caring for her.”

“I have not even seen her until now,” the man said. “She was not born when I left. Sir… I cannot…we are six months out from Gallifrey. We have another two months before we reach our furthest destination, and then we must return. I cannot reach my home sooner than that.”

“I could reach you,” Kristoph answered. “I have a TARDIS.”

Marion was dismayed by that. When the grandfather said he was so many months away from Gallifrey she had thought only one thing – Rodan would be with them for Christmas. She could have one beautiful Christmas with her.

“Ask your captain to give me his co-ordinates and to stand by,” Kristoph said. “There is much to discuss and it should be face to face. That is right and proper.”

“My Lord, that is kind of you…”

“It is nothing less than I owe to you, sir,” Kristoph answered. “We shall talk again when we reach your ship.”

He ended the communication and the turned to Marion.

“We talk to her grandfather. We let him see his granddaughter, let him hold her in his arms. He has that much right. After that, we shall decide… he and I… as men of honour… what shall be done.”

Marion said nothing. What could she say? Of course the poor, bereaved man had to see his granddaughter. But he surely would not want her to stay with him on a freighter ship? She wasn’t sure what Gallifreyan freighters were like, but they didn’t sound like places suitable for a baby.

TARDIS travel, of course, was only for the privileged few. And it was the only way that the freighter could be intercepted. It took only a half hour to cross the distance that the ordinary ship had taken months to travel. The captain of the ship greeted Kristoph with the usual deference to his rank. He bowed politely to Marion, then he brought them to his own dayroom where Argis Mielles, Rodan’s grandfather, waited, relieved of his duties due to his mourning. He looked a sad, bereft man when they stepped into the room, but at sight of the child his eyes gleamed with joy. Marion gave her to him to hold.

“She is so very small,” he said in a broken voice. “My hands… rough from work… I feel afraid to hold her. And these clothes… this dress is so fine…”

“My wife has been indulging a whim,” Kristoph said, almost apologetically.

“I make a good living.” Argis said. “My own needs are few. I have money saved. But I am contracted. This trip and another of fourteen months after it. If I break the contract, I would be penalised… and it would not be easy for me to get work again…”

“I understand that,” Kristoph said. “I have arranged with your captain that you should have two days leave to attend your daughter’s funeral. I will bring you back home and return you to the ship afterwards. It is only right and proper that you should.”

“My Lord…” If Gallifreyans were able to, Marion was sure Argis would be crying now. “Thank you… I had thought it impossible.” He looked then at the child in his arms. He kissed her face and held her tightly, as if he didn’t want to let her go. “What will become of her? This is no place for her… a ship full of working men.”

“My wife, as you have seen, is already fond of her. She would be well looked after in your absence. Indeed, she longs to hold her again now. Rodan will have the best of care until you are in a position to provide a home for her.”

“She would live in your home? An Oldblood house?”

“Is that a probem?” Marion asked. “Surely…”

“The problem,” Kristoph said. “Is that Argis cannot hope to provide a home anything like as grand and rich as ours, and that Rodan will feel cheated if she is taken from our splendour into a more humble place. And that would be a factor if she was going to be with us until she was much older. But two years at the most… she will still be young enough not to be aware of her environment, beyond that she is warm, clothed and fed – and loved. She will not grow up ashamed of her roots, I assure you.”

“Please, let me take care of her,” Marion said. “I promise I won’t spoil her… at least no more than I can help.”

Argis Mielles looked at Marion and smiled. He gave the child into her arms.

“She needs a woman’s care,” he said, bluntly, as if any more words would choke him. But it was settled, at least. Kristoph spoke once again to the captain of the freighter, assuring that it was all right for Argis to come with him for those necessary two days, then they came back to the TARDIS. Marion was glad that Kristoph had put away most of the baby things she had bought at Mothercare. Her grandfather would certainly have been concerned that so much was done before he even had a say in the matter.

When they reached home, Kristoph arranged that Argis would lodge with Caolin, the butler, while he was there. He would be comfortable among his own class of people, rather than in the grand drawing room of Mount Lœng House. But Rodan was with Marion, still. Two Christmases, she had worked out. Two birthdays, as well. That would be enough.

Two years. Marion smiled joyfully at the thought as she put Rodan to bed on her first night as the foster child of the House of Lœngbærrow. She washed her and dressed her in a soft nightgown and fed her, then laid her in the frill-covered cradle that was set up in the bedroom. She watched her as she dropped to sleep.

“Come on, now,” Kristoph said. “Come to bed. You have looked at her enough. She will still be here in the morning.”

“She will still be here at four in the morning, when she wakes for her first feed.”

“It’s a good thing Time Lords don’t need much sleep,” Kristoph commented. “I’ve got an embezzlement case to hear tomorrow.”

Even so, when Marion had dropped to sleep, Kristoph himself lay awake, watching the cradle, listening to the soft breathing of the child, listening to her two hearts quietly beating, and felt a contentment he had not known for many months. Rodan was as much of a blessing to him as she was to Marion.