Julia’s choice of where she wanted to go for her birthday surprised Chrístõ.

She told him she wanted to go ‘home’.

What she meant by ‘home’ was Cambridge, England, on Earth. That was where she and her family had come from when they set off with high hopes for their new life in the Earth colonies of Beta Delta where her aunt and uncle and cousins had already gone.

Chrístõ had been doubtful at first. He was worried that old, bad memories would come back to her. But she assured him it would be all right. In any case, she pointed out, they didn’t need to go to the twenty-fourth century. An earlier time, when it was less built up and overcrowded would be better.

Chrístõ chose the early twenty-first century. It was a period he felt at home in. His clothes fitted. He took Julia to all of the most famous sites in Cambridge, most of them around the old university colleges, of course. They had a picnic lunch sitting on ‘The Backs’, by the River Cam, with the elegant King’s College Chapel as a backdrop to the scene. They contemplated going on the river itself in a punt, but though Chrístõ assured her that he could do it, Julia decided it was just a bit too much of a touristy thing to do.

In the afternoon, they travelled to what was still the suburbs of the city to the Cambridge Observatory. Julia explained why that held such an attraction to her.

“We lived near here,” she said as they walked up the path between well-cut lawns towards the doric portico of the nineteenth century building with the dome of the original telescope housing above it. “On a housing estate just over there beyond those trees. I don’t think the houses would be built yet. But I remember being taken to see the telescope here when I was eight. It was old fashioned. I think it’s a bit outdated even in this century, but it was still used. I got to look through it at the Orion constellation. We were getting ready to leave Earth and go there. We were waiting for the visas and the travel passes. I was thrilled to actually look at the part of space we were going to travel to. I told the man who was in charge of the telescope and he was really sweet and nice to me and let me look twice, even though there was a queue.”

“It’s mid-afternoon,” Chrístõ pointed out. “You won’t be able to see Orion this time, I’m afraid.”

“I know. But the tour is interesting. I’m sure you’ll like it. Lot’s of science history. There might even be something you don’t know. Even if you are a Time Lord and know all there is to know about the universe.”

She was teasing him, of course. She always did. But now he had a defence against her. He turned and kissed her on the lips, gently but insistently. She was sixteen today. A child no longer. And he was enjoying the freedom to do that whenever he chose. She sighed happily as he drew back from the kiss and then reminded him that the tour started in five minutes. He took her by the hand and they hurried towards the entrance.

It was true, of course, that he did know everything there was to know about the universe and how it worked. At least, his mind, having once glimpsed eternity through the Untempered Schism, and having been expanded by the Rite of Transcension, contained all knowledge of the universe within it. In practice, he had to admit some things were not always instantly recalled. And besides, that was just the physics, the dynamics of it. What interested him, and kept him enthusiastic to see so much of the universe for himself, was how other people than Time Lords understood it. It especially fascinated him to see how the Human race’s perception of the universe had come together, piece by piece, through the endeavours of thinking men who observed and calculated and constructed theories that explained the mysteries of the cosmos. And if the spiel the tour guide was giving them, in layman’s terms for the tourists, was of little value to him, he was thrilled to be in a place where that race perception of the universe had been advanced in so many ways.

“We’ve come about a century too late, really,” Chrístõ said later when they stepped out of the observatory and blinked to see how bright the sunshine was outside. “I would have loved to have been here for that lecture when Arthur Eddington proved that Newton was wrong and Einstein was right and there were no simple, easy equations for anything. That was one of the seminal points in the history of the Human race. It’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that your ambitions to break the bonds of Earth and go out among the stars began on that day, when it was proved that gravity wasn’t a constant and immutable thing.”

“You mean... I live on a different planet because of one rather dull little experiment from 1919?”

“It’s one of the factors.” He smiled. “You don’t see it, do you? The way every strand of knowledge comes together. The way one tiny piece of understanding leads to another piece. Like specks of spacedust that will, eventually, become a planet.”

But that was a bit too much of a metaphor. He smiled at her bemused expression.

“How about, like the stipples of colour in an impressionist painting that come together to make a whole picture?”

“Do you mind very much marrying me even if I don’t find that sort of thing exciting?” she asked. “I mean, I think I know enough about gravity from what it does when I mis-time a handhold on the asymmetric bars.” She grimaced with the thought of too many times when gravity had not been her friend.

“Of course I don’t mind,” he answered. “As long as you try not to look too bored when I go on about those things. You’re a born gymnast. I am a born scientist. It’s in my blood, in my very bones, my molecules. Of course, my people knew all about these things millions of years before yours even began to ask what the stars were. You were always playing catch-up. But some Humans are clever enough to impress even us.”

“Some Time Lord’s aren’t as clever as they think they are,” Julia responded. “Don’t forget you’re part Human.”

“That’s why I’m so proud of the things humans do,” he answered her. “I’m proud of my mother’s race. Mind you, it’s frustrating, sometimes, seeing how slow it is, how long it took for you all to gain a full understanding of things. The temptation to drop hints here and there and help you along…. But that would be a very bad thing to do. There are some very severe punishments for Time Lord’s who interfere with natural causality.”

“Don’t do that, then,” Julia told him. She looked at his face and frowned. “Seriously, don’t do it, Chrístõ. I don’t want you to get in trouble.”

“I won’t.” He could see that did worry her, so he sought a way to change the subject. “Did you know that Time Lords are one of the few races in the universe who can actually make their bodies defy gravity. The artron energy we all carry within us… we can control it, make it work against the ordinary laws of physics.”

“You mean you can fly?”

“Not fly, exactly. But I can levitate… it’s a skill… part of the meditative disciplines.”

“I’ve never seen you do it.”

“That’s because you don’t often see me when I practice the deep meditations. It’s something I do alone, when you’re not around me. When I’m in my meditation room. You’re not really meant to see it.”

“Oh, go on,” she said. “Or I won’t believe you. I’ll think you’re just showing off and fibbing to me.”

“Fib? Me, fib? I am a Time Lord. We don’t fib.”

He ought to have known better, of course. He shouldn’t have risen to the challenge. She was only teasing him, after all. He knew he had nothing to prove to her. He blamed it on his Human side, the emotional side that felt the need to show off to her. Though in truth, he had no such excuse. His Gallifreyan discipline should have been strong enough.

Except his Gallifreyan side wanted to show off to her, too.

He looked around quickly to see if anyone could see. Then he stood very straight and still and held his arms out from his side. He closed his eyes and concentrated on the molecules of artron energy within his own body and made them move around his body in the opposite direction.

When he opened his eyes again he was floating a good three feet from the ground and turning slowly around. Julia was definitely impressed as she looked up at him. He could feel her thoughts turning around, wondering if she could incorporate his ability into a pas de deux.

“Get down from there this instant!” shouted an angry voice that distracted both of them. Julia looked around to see a tall, thin man bearing down upon them across the lawn. Chrístõ’s concentration broke and gravity caught up with him, landing him hard on the grass. He stood up, gathering his damaged dignity around him and looked at the angry man.

“What do you think you’re doing, showing off in front of a Human? What Academy graduated one so foolish, so irresponsible as that? Arcalian, Cerulean?”

“Prydonian,” he replied, his injured pride bristling so much that he was incautious. He knew even before he mentioned the names of two rival academies that this was a Time Lord. But even so he shouldn’t have given himself away so easily.

“Never,” the man replied. “The Prydonian Academy breeds Renegades and Rebels, sometimes downright criminals. But it doesn’t breed fools.”

“I’m… not a fool,” he protested. “I was… I was…”

He stopped trying to make excuses. He bowed his head and stretched out his hands in front of him, palms up. “My Lord, I apologise for behaving in a manner unbecoming a Time Lord of Gallifrey. I was acting foolishly, showing off for my girlfriend. I have no plea to make. I admit my fault and beg your forgiveness.”

“That is better,” the tall man said to him. “look up, young man. Look into my eyes. Let me see.”

He was aware of Julia reaching out to hold his hand. He knew she was confused, even a little frightened. But this was a Time Lord matter and for the moment she was outside of his thoughts. He felt the sharp touch of the other Time Lord’s mind on his. He felt the questions in his head. ‘Who are you?’ ‘Of what House are you?’ He answered the questions in his mind.

“Yes, I know you,” the Time Lord said at last.

“I don’t think so, sir,” Chrístõ answered. “You must be mistaken. I am sure we have never met.”

“No, not in your timeline. But in mine, we have met many times. Our first meeting took place after the others. Isn’t that a fine paradox, Son of Lœngbærrow. You’ll have a different name, a different face when your lifetime catches up with mine. But it will still be you.”

“If these meetings are in my future, you shouldn’t speak of them,” Chrístõ pointed out. “That is nearly as dangerous as my foolishness before.”

“Indeed, it is,” the Time Lord conceded. “You are not a fool. Just given to impulsive and hot headed actions…. Something you never quite grow out of, I may add, at risk of compounding the paradox.”

“But who are you?” Julia asked, impatient to remind both Time Lords that she was still there. Even Chrístõ seemed to have forgotten her.

“I am Professor Urban Chronotos,” he answered. “Of St. Cedd’s College in this city of ivory towers and great learning.”

“That’s a very unlikely name,” Chrístõ pointed out. “I’m surprised Humans don’t question it. And I don’t believe for one minute that is your real Gallifreyan name. I wonder…” He thought about what Chronotis had said before. “The Prydonian academy breeds Renegades, Rebels and Ciminals.”

“You may keep on wondering. That is my business. But you… certainly not a criminal. A loyal and law-abiding citizen despite youthful frivolity. A touch of the Rebel, maybe. A Renegade, possibly. Oh, yes… a touch of the Renegade in your soul.”

Chrístõ’s eyes flashed angrily. To suggest that he was a Renegade was to question his loyalty to Gallifrey, to question his whole existence.

And yet, he remembered, another man had said the same of him. His friend and mentor, Mai Li Tuo had said it, and even though he had never explained himself, he always felt that Li was telling him something important about himself.

And it seemed as if the man who called himself Professor Chronotis saw the same thing in him.

“I have not been home for such a long time,” Chronotis said. “And you are the first of our kind I have met since… since you last came my way… it must be twenty years ago. Will you and your young lady come and take tea with me. I should like to hear the news from home.”

Chrístõ looked at Chronotis. His moods seemed positively mercurial. First he was angry and superior. Then insulting. The next, he was pleading with him to come and be sociable. His first thought was to say no. But then curiosity got the better of him. He wanted to know more about this strange exiled Time Lord. And after all, it was getting close to tea time and his only other plan had been to walk back into the city and find a café.

“I think that would be very nice,” Julia said, making the decision for him.

“Do you have transport?” Chrístõ asked. “St. Cedd’s is a fair walk.”

“I do, indeed, have transport,” Chronotis added. “Come along, both of you.”

He brought them to what looked like a small round wooden hut used by the gardeners to store equipment. But he opened it with a key with the seal of Rassilon on the fob.

Of course, Chrístõ knew it was a TARDIS. He felt the dimensional transference as he stepped through the door. Julia guessed as much from the fact that it was so much bigger on the inside. But it didn’t look like a TARDIS. It looked like a drawing room and study combined with a private library. It even had an open fire with soft chairs around it and logs burning in the hearth. It was a pleasant, old fashioned room that felt distinctly cosy.

“Do people worry when you leave an empty hole in the building where your room should be?” Chrístõ asked. “I did that once. I never dared go back to see what anyone thought.”

Chronotis laughed and didn’t answer the question. He went to what looked like an upright piano in the corner of the room and folded back the lid. Beneath was something far more complex than a set of piano keys but he played it like a virtuoso. Chrístõ felt the very slight vibration that told him they had moved. Julia didn’t notice until she looked out of the window and saw the view down to the Cam from St. Cedd’s College.

“Now,” their host said. “Tea… sandwiches, cake. I’ll have them all in a jiffy. Why don’t you both sit down?” He disappeared through an inner door. Julia sat by the fireside. Chrístõ restlessly perused the library, noting a mixture of Earth literature, science, cookery books, and a few leather bound tomes in Gallifreyan text. He opened one and noted that it should have been returned to the Great Library of the Prydonian Academy three hundred years ago. There would be one hefty fine owing on it!

“Who is he?” Julia asked. “And why were you so… deferent to him?”

“He’s a Time Lord. One of great age and learning – if possibly a bit eccentric. I’m not even two hundred. It’s my place to defer to him. Besides… he was right. I was being stupid, showing off in a public place.”

“It was awesome, by the way. You GLOWED. You looked like an angel.”

“I’d better not do it again, though. I don’t want to get into trouble.”

“What was all that about meeting him in your future and his past?”

“That’s perfectly possible,” Chrístõ answered. “I mean, we’re both Time Lords. We are never in the same place for long. He could have met me many times.”

“And the different name, different face? How does that fit in?”

“Different face is obvious. I’m going to meet him much later, when I’ve regenerated. The name… well, he’s not using his own name. Chronotis is not a Gallifreyan family. And I’ve been known by quite a few names already. I was Theta Sigma at school. Li called me Liu Shang Hui. I had another name when I studied Sun Ko Du on Malvoria and another one again once when I was in ancient Egypt. Even on Beta Delta IV, I’m called de Leon, because it’s too much trouble to keep spelling Lœngbærrow to people. I have already had lots of names. Who knows how many I’ll have by the time I’m on my second or third regeneration. There’s nothing sinister in that. Or in him choosing another name, either.

“I never said there was,” Julia pointed out.

No, she didn’t. Chrístõ had been telling himself that much. Because he had been wondering about Chronotis. He wondered why so much of his mind was closed off behind walls that he couldn’t penetrate even when his own mind had been an open book. Even Li Tuo didn’t close off so much of himself.

No, that wasn’t true. Li had hidden a lot when they first met. The trust that he gave came later. And even then, many of Li’s secrets were only revealed at the end.

Chronotis didn’t know him enough to put down his walls for him. Maybe he would in that future time he had spoken of, but not yet.

The old man returned with a large tray groaning under the weight of an English tea for three. Chrístõ wondered if he needed help, but Chronotis was a Time Lord, after all. His frail, elderly appearance belied hidden strength. He put the tray down on a low table and sat to pour.

“So, my boy,” he said pleasantly. “Tell me of Gallifrey. How does she stand?”

“Not as well as she should,” Chrístõ answered. “You… have been a long time away?” He thought of the overdue library book.

“Too long,” he answered. “Before you were born, anyway.”

“Then… the news will shock you,” he said. And it did. Chronotis continued to pour tea and pass around sandwiches and cakes. But Chrístõ’s description of Gallifrey at war, the list of great names that were dead when the reckoning was made, grieved him.

“But… if you knew Chrístõ in the future…” Julia said. “Then all this was in his past. How come you didn’t know of it?”

“Those later meetings we had other things to speak of. This is, indeed, a shock to me. But I have the consolation of knowing that Gallifrey will be back to its old, arrogant, maddening self before this young man reaches his first regeneration. We will both seek saner places from which to view from afar the planet we love but whose laws and customs make us wring our hands with frustration.”

“I am already at that stage,” Chrístõ said. “But my exile is of my own choice. I… suspect it is not so with you.”

“You are observant, boy. But you surely didn’t expect an answer from me?”

“I did not. I only… wanted you to know that I understand. And that… If you don’t wish anyone on Gallifrey to know where you are, I shall not be the one to tell tales.”

Chronotis nodded. Then he smiled warmly at Julia.

“Let us not be so earnest. I understand it is this young lady’s birthday?”

“She is sixteen,” Chrístõ said. “Sweet sixteen and only a year to go now before our Bond of Intent can be replaced with a Bond of Betrothal.”

“Almost a woman,” Chronotis said with a smile. “Old enough for a sweetheart’s kisses, yet young enough for cakes with candles on! We don’t do that on our world, of course. There would not be enough cake for the candles. But… since we are in private, a little of the frivolity that was so inappropriate in a public place might be indulged this once.”

Chronotis winked and then waved his hands in the air. Julia laughed as he created a hologram of a huge birthday cake with sixteen candles. It hung in the air in front of her. She blew on the unreal candles and they went out. So did the cake, turning into sixteen white doves that flew away into the ether. She laughed and her eyes shone as Chrístõ sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to her in his sweet, soft voice.

“There should be presents,” Chronotis said. “That is a tradition on both our worlds, anyway.” He stood and went to a big chest of drawers along the back wall of the room and returned to present her with a small silver box with Gallifreyan symbols on its six sides. Chrístõ looked at them and confirmed that they were ancient Gallifreyan, a dialect only taught to the highest students in the academies for use in the ancient rites. The text was disjointed, but it seemed to be an invocation of protection for its owner.

Protection against what?

“It’s just a pretty trinket,” Chronotis assured her. “A Gallifreyan puzzle box. There is a secret way to open it, and if you work it out without the help of your young Prydonian you’ll be a very clever girl. But if you can’t, it’s a thing of beauty for you to enjoy.”

“I like it. Thank you very much,” Julia said. “Chrístõ gave me this.” She proudly displayed the wristwatch on her arm. It was a silver bracelet with a watch face in mother of pearl and tiny but perfect diamonds marking the hours. There were thirteen of them. It was a Gallifreyan watch, telling Gallifreyan time. It was a step closer to when she and Chrístõ would be married and her days would be twenty six hours long.

“We Lords of Time make very exquisite timepieces,” Chronotis said. “We don’t even need them. We are born with an innate sense of time. It is in our souls. But we love to build beautiful mechanisms that measure it.”

“I love it,” Julia said. “I love all the things Chrístõ has given me. I own more diamonds than anyone I know, except Queen Cirena of Adano-Ambrado. And he intends to give me more of them. I even have a leotard with diamonds woven into the fabric. I wore it for the interschool finals. For my rhythmic floor routine.”

“It dazzled the judges,” Chrístõ said proudly. “So did you.”

“Young love,” Chronotis said. “Even our stoic race needs it from time to time.”

They spent a pleasant hour in company with the Professor. Chrístõ was almost sorry to go at the end of it. But they had plans for the evening. A nice restaurant, a dress that Julia had not yet let him see, fruits of their last visit to Adano-Ambrado. And since she was only sixteen, and starting to tire as she sat by the fireplace, she needed a rest first.

Chronotis watched the two young people from the window and then turned around and stood in the middle of the room. He sighed heavily.

“You’ve seen him?” he asked the apparently empty air. There was a shimmer and a vague ghost of a half corporeal female coalesced in front of him. “Will he do?”

“He will do very well,” replied the female in a voice like the tinkle of breaking glass. “He is young. He has so much life within him. Enough for my needs. The bargain is made. He will be mine. Your soul will be free.”

“My soul is far from free,” Chronotis answered. “You have no idea what I have done. In all these years… I have been a Renegade, a fugitive. I have committed what they call crimes on my world. But I have never, until this moment, felt I was a traitor. Not just to my world, to my people. But to a friend who has saved my wretched life more than once. I am ashamed. I am disgusted with myself. My soul is…”

“There is no going back. You made the bargain.”

“Yes,” he said. “Yes. I did. And may I burn in the Rift of Medusa for it.”

The apparition faded. He shook his head sadly. Free? He hadn’t been free for a long time. But if the boy had the strength he thought he had, if the girl’s love was more than the fleeting fire of youth, maybe they both would be in the end.

Julia took her afternoon nap on the pull out cabin bed in the console room. Chrístõ noted that she still had the Professor’s gift in her hand. She had fallen asleep trying to work out how it opened.

He himself refreshed himself with a light, slow meditation, one where he actually did practice that levitation that had got him into so much trouble with the professor. It was very relaxing, feeling that gravity was nothing to do with him and that no solid part of the TARDIS even touched his body.

He roused himself to bathe and dress. Julia did the same. He chose a black silk suit with silver flecks in it. His shirt was black silk and the tie was silver-grey. He pinned it with a silver ornament representing the silver trees of Lœngbærrow. He had collar studs and cufflinks with Gallifreyan diamonds set in silver. He looked ready to accompany a young woman who would also be wearing diamonds.

When she came through to the console room, though, he was astonished. He was used to Queen Cirena’s dressmaker creating beautiful and sophisticated gowns that nevertheless recognised that she was still a girl.

But this was different. This one did the exact opposite. This dress proclaimed that she was no longer a child. The soft chiffon satin in deep red fell from her trim waist to her ankles in soft flutes while the bodice was sculpted around feminine curves. And it was a halter neck, with a low back. Her first grown up dress.

Her hair, fastened up with feathers and glittering jewels was grown up, too. Her make up was light but distinctive. She wore diamonds around her neck and ears, as well as bracelets and a silver anklet that he glimpsed between the dress hem and the high heeled shoes that made her seem two inches taller.

“You are beautiful,” he said. “You always were. But… you’re even more beautiful now.” He reached to hold her, kissing her carefully made up lips. Twenty-fourth century lip colour didn’t smudge, no matter how much pressure was put upon the lips. And it was just as well.

“Come on, my birthday girl,” he said as she put a cashmere cloak over her dress for warmth and he took her by the arm. He had already brought the TARDIS to Bridge Street, where the restaurant of his choice was.

Of course, Julia had dined with him at banquets on Adano-Ambrado and the SS Isle of Capri, at some of the finest places in the galaxy. She had eaten formal meals at Mount Lœng House, on Gallifrey, where their chef was one of the best. So the fact that Brasserie Chez Gérard offered the finest French cuisine didn’t impress her especially. But she enjoyed being shown to her seat by a maitre-d with a French accent who called her mademoiselle and passed her a wine menu. She looked at it hesitantly and Chrístõ took it from her. He glanced at the list of fine champagnes and thought about ordering a bottle. But this was Earth in the early twenty-first century, and Julia was only sixteen. He would get the restaurant in trouble if they served her alcohol. He ordered a non-alcoholic fruit cocktail for her while they were choosing their food and a Martini for himself and asked for an iced bottle of sparkling water to be served with their meal.

“What would you like for your starter?” he asked Julia as she studied the menu.

“I was thinking of the escargot,” she answered. Then she laughed, softly. “Do you remember the ones that were served at that restaurant on Pi-Lossic. Each one was about the size of a pigeon. Cooked in the shell in a creamy sauce. Remember Cam and Kohb were with us. But Kohb was sick afterwards when we got back to the TARDIS. He said it was the ‘grand escargot’, but nobody else was ill at all. And he had Cam looking after him all night, so it all worked out for the best.”

“Let’s not talk about anyone being ill while we’re about to order food. Two dozen escargot baked in garlic and parsley butter to start. Then I think we should have the chateaubriand - with peppercorn sauce, new potatoes roasted with rosemary, buttered French beans and tomato salad with olives.”

“Then I get to choose desert,” Julia said. “I think the assiette de fraises sounds the very thing.”

Chrístõ summoned the waiter and ordered their food. Their starters were brought presently and they ate, talking about other restaurants in exotic places they had visited over the years. Julia remembered the first birthday she had enjoyed in Chrístõ’s company. They had eaten in Milan, in the 19th century. She was still getting over the trauma of losing her family and being rescued from a dead ship and it had seemed unreal. Chrístõ had seemed like a dream to her. An angel who had plucked her from a nightmare.

He was still her angel. But now he was her boyfriend, too.

“The Professor was strange, wasn’t he,” she said as they waited for their main course to be served. “I liked him, though. Didn’t you?”

“Yes, I think I did,” he said. “I… I strongly suspect he IS a Renegade. The same way Li Tuo was. He does have something to hide. But I think…”

“You want to get to know him in the same way you knew Li, don’t you?”

“Yes,” he admitted. “I… miss Li. Chronotis… seems a lot like him. He’s very old, very wise. And I can’t quite believe that he did anything terrible. Sometimes our laws are very strict. I think sometimes a good man can act in a way that seems wrong.”

“Or he could be a criminal….”

“Yes, he could. But… I want to trust him. I want to believe him. I want somebody I can turn to for advice the way I could with Li. And I think he could be that somebody.”

“I hope so,” Julia said. “Because then we can come back to Cambridge again. It’s nice being here, seeing places I know. This restaurant is still there in the twenty-fourth century. It’s still French. But I’ve never been in. I was too young.”

“Well, maybe we’ll come back just to come to this restaurant,” he promised. “When you’re eighteen, we’ll come here and you can have champagne.”

She smiled warmly and he almost wished they could skip dessert and go somewhere quiet where he could kiss her. But it was her birthday and she wanted the strawberry sorbet and the cheese platter that he ordered to round it all off. And the café au lait that she drank slowly while he had a strong filtered coffee with a dash of Armagnac in it.

Afterwards, as they stepped out of the restaurant into the warm evening, he asked her if she wanted to do anything else. There were some discos and late night music rooms where they could go, though not all of them were suitable for her age.

“I would just like to go for a walk,” she said. “Let’s go across the bridge and walk down past King’s College on the other side of the river. It’s all uplit at night. It’ll be beautiful.”

“Why not,” he said. They walked past the TARDIS. It would be perfectly all right where it was, disguised as a red phone box with an out of order sign on it. They walked hand in hand over the bridge and onto the public footpath.

“My birthday is in February, but we have a summer night to walk in,” Julia said. “That’s the wonderful thing about being with you.”

“I checked the weather for your 16th birthday,” he said. “Cambridge was under two foot of snow with blizzards expected. Not so very nice at all. We are much better here. As long as your shoes aren’t too much trouble. They’re not really made for walking.”

“They feel all right for now. I’ve been practicing wearing heels, so I could wear them with this dress. I wanted to be taller, so I could kiss you.”

He laughed at the idea and put his arm around her waist. In a little while, he intended to find a place where they could sit. Then it wouldn’t matter how tall she was.

There was a bench with a fantastic view over the river to the iconic view of King’s College. He sat down and pulled her gently onto his knee. His arm slipped around her shoulders as she turned her face towards him. His free hand touched her cheek as his lips pressed against hers. There was a hint of strawberry on her breath still and Armagnac on his. It was a pleasing combination as the kiss lengthened.

It wasn’t the first time they had kissed, of course. Not even the first time they had kissed with any kind of passion. But the times before, it had been because he was in some kind of desperate trouble or had to go into some fearful danger. This time, he had all night, if he wanted, to kiss her. And she wanted him to. Her lips parted slightly and he kissed her joyfully, just because he could.

“Have you ever regretted it,” he asked her as he held her in his arms, her head on his shoulder. “All the years you waited, when your friends had boyfriends, did you ever feel… that maybe you’d be better off with that ordinary life?”

“No,” she answered. “Never. You’re my prince. You always have been. Do you remember… when Li Tuo read my timeline and told me I would marry my prince charming. And I said I didn’t want to marry any prince charming. I wanted to marry my Chrístõ. And he laughed and said you were a prince of the universe. And I knew then… I knew I wanted you forever.”

“I always worried… if somebody might take you from me.”

“I always worried about that, too. You meet so many interesting people. Camilla… she was mad about you. She could have… and so many others… beautiful women who could steal you from me.”

“Never,” he said and hugged her close to him again. He was surprised as he did so to feel something in the pocket of her cloak.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“The Professor’s puzzle box. I don’t know why I put it into my pocket. I just had this strange feeling I had to hang onto it.”

“It’s all right,” he told her. “I don’t mind. I was just surprised to find something so solid when I was looking for a soft hug.”

She gave him the hug anyway. He kissed her again, relishing the feeling of being in love and being loved in return. What more could anyone ask for?

He was startled to note that it was midnight. He could identify at least a half dozen different church and chapel bells sounding. He had actually let nearly an hour go by without even noticing it passing. A rare thing for a Time Lord. He really was enjoying himself! He smiled at the young woman who had made him forget what was in the very essence of his being.

Then his smile faded. He cried out in pain and fear as he felt his body being pulled away from her, not in space, but in time. He was being dragged out of the temporal present into something… he wasn’t sure what. He was in too much pain to take it in. All he knew was that he had been taken away from Julia.

Julia screamed as she felt him disappear from her grasp. Then she felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned to see Professor Chronotis standing there.

“Oh! Professor. Please help me. Something happened. Chrístõ… he’s been taken. Something… took him.”

“I know,” he said. “I’m sorry. So very sorry. I am… ashamed of what I did. I deceived him. I deceived both of you. I deceived HER, too. Because I know he will try to escape from her. He’s strong. I’m not. But I am ashamed of it. And… you have the box? The one I gave you?”

“Yes, it’s here,” Julia said. “But… what’s that got to do with anything? What’s happening? What do you mean about deceiving him? Where is Chrístõ? Do you know what happened to him?” She stared at the old Time Lord as she slowly put two and two together. “What have you done? It’s you… you pretended to be his friend… talking about Gallifrey… and then… you did something to him…”

She wasn’t usually violent, and her dress was not really designed for it anyway, but she managed to kick the Professor hard in the shins and she drew her arm back to punch him. He grabbed both arms and held them. She struggled but found him much stronger than she expected an old man to be.

“I’ll scream,” she said. “There are people around. I’ll scream. The police will come. A man… grabbing a girl in the park… they’ll lock you up.”

“Then I won’t be able to complete my plan and bring your young man back. He’ll be HER servant forever.”

“Her… who?”



“He is the servant of Time. That was the bargain.”

“Well… what does that mean? He’s a Time Lord. Time is HIS servant. He says that all the time. It always sounds a bit conceited, but it’s true, all the same.”

“Nevertheless, Time needs companionship. Come… quickly.” He grabbed her hand and pulled her towards a door that had appeared across the footpath, just standing upright in an impossible way. He fumbled for a key and opened it. She tried to resist. She knew it was his TARDIS and she would be a prisoner in it. But he was stronger than she was and he pulled her towards the threshold.

“If you want him back, then don’t struggle any more. Just do as I say,” Chronotis said. “There is very little time.” He laughed at a pun only he thought funny. “There is all the time in Creation, and yet none at all. Come along.” He pulled her into the TARDIS and slammed the door shut. She noticed that it actually looked like a TARDIS now, though one with old fashioned wood-panelled walls and a library in the corner. It still felt a bit like his study while being very distinctly a TARDIS. She watched as Chronotis set it moving very briefly.

She recognised the new location straight away. It was the King Edward Gate at Trinity college, known as the Clock Tower, because there was a clock that chimed the hour. She looked at it. It said it was midnight.

But it couldn’t be. It must have been at least fifteen minutes since she and Chrístõ were on the river bank, kissing, with all the clocks striking. Fifteen minutes since he was snatched from her.

“Time is standing still,” Chronotis told her. “Look…” He pointed to something on the lawn. It was a peacock. The poor creature was frozen in place, with its tail feathers half opened. She looked further. There was a man who looked like a university security guard. He was frozen in mid-step, halfway up the path between the pristine lawns. Beyond him was the fountain, the water unmoving as if it was a photograph.

“A time freeze. Well, Chrístõ can do that. I’ve seen it before. This isn’t clever.”

“I didn’t do it. SHE did. Time has other things on her mind. It’s our respite. We have a short time – half an hour at most – to do what we have to do and get your Chrístõ back into this plane of reality. It doesn’t affect us, of course. I’m a Time Lord. You are protected by that box. It has some other properties, too. You might get to find some of them out in time to come. But for now, hold onto it. It’s the key to bringing your boy back.

He looked at the door just inside the archway of the Clock Tower Gate and then took from his pocket what Julia guessed was a kind of sonic screwdriver, though it was a different style to the one Chrístõ used. He unlocked the door and told her to climb up the stairs inside. She did as he said, even though her shoes were starting to hurt a little now and clambering up dusty stairs in a chiffon dress and high heels was not easy. She obeyed because she had no choice. He seemed to know how to get Chrístõ back and she had to go along with it for now.

“I thought you were a nice man,” she said as she climbed. “This afternoon, when we had tea, you seemed nice. Chrístõ trusted you.”

“I know,” he answered. “Deceiving him… was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I am sorry. More sorry than you can ever know. But please keep going, all the way to the top.”

At the top was a small, glass panelled, octagonal room, the bell tower.

“Why are we here?” she asked.

“We’re here, because this is a place associated with time. It’s full of temporal energy. It’s like a magnet for HER. We can bring Chrístõ back to this world here.”

“You really do mean that time…” Julia shook her head. “Look… I know there are mythological personifications of things like the wind, the sun, Earth, but… Time is a man for one thing. Old Father Time… and it’s not real.”

“She’s a woman. A beautiful, entrancing woman who yearns to have her long, endless days warmed by a lover… a husband.”

“You said servant.”

“Same thing. He would be bound to her… for ever at her bidding, husband, servant, slave, for eternity.”

“And she took Chrístõ because…”

“Because I wouldn’t let her take me. She wanted… but I was afraid.”

“Of dying?”

“No. Of living… of never dying. I’ve lived nearly eight thousand years already. I’m ready to die naturally. I look forward to the peace of it. But if I became her lover… Time’s Consort… I would live forever. I would never die. Eight thousand years is a long time… but eternity… from the beginning of time to the end of it… I couldn’t bear it. So I told her I would find another… one of my own kind who has an affinity with Time. I knew sooner or later one would come. I expected somebody would come trying to take me back to Gallifrey. But instead he came… young, full of life, full of love. She was attracted to him, of course. And I couldn’t refuse her. But I knew that she could be defeated. If I let her take me, I would not be able to escape. I don’t have the strength to break free. But he can.”

“Get him back,” Julia said. “Get him back, now.”

“It’s up to you,” Chronotis said. “How much do you want him back? How much do you love him? Show me the box.”

“What does that have to do with anything?” she asked as she reached into her pocket and took out the puzzle box.

“Hold it in both hands. Hold it up. And tell me how much you love that boy of yours.”

“He’s not a boy,” Julia protested. “He’s a brave, wonderful man. And I love him with all my heart. Since the day we first met… when he saved my life, gave me a life to live, a future, a reason to live. I’ve loved him every moment since then. I have never even thought of any other man. I have always known Chrístõ was mine. I’ve never loved anyone but him. And nobody, nobody can love him more than me, not even some mythological woman who can live forever. She can’t love him more than me even if she has him to the end of time. And he can’t… he won’t love her. Because he loves me.”

She gasped as something clicked at the top of the puzzle box. A piece of it snapped up. Then another piece came out of the side. The whole thing began to open up and a light came out of it that was almost too bright to bear.

“What is it?” she asked.

“It’s time running free again,” Chronotis answered. “SHE stopped it so she could take him out of it. But you’ve restarted it.”

In proof of that, the bells struck the last note of the midnight hour with their high and low notes described by Wordsworth as a male and female voice. Julia’s scream was a pitch higher than the female note as she saw Chrístõ lying face down on the floor. He seemed, for a few moments, to be bathed in the bright light before it slowly faded.

He was unconscious. Julia turned him over onto his back and felt for a pulse under his clavicle. It was very faint. His hearts were hardly beating. She began to massage them in the way she had learned in First Aid class, except that she had to use both hands on his two hearts at the same time.

“That won’t work,” Chronotis said. “His lifeforce is drained. Let me…”

Julia was reluctant to let him touch Chrístõ. This was all his fault, after all. But if he knew how to help him, then what else could she do? She moved away as Chronotis knelt by his side and put his hands over Chrístõ’s hearts. Both of them began to glow and it seemed to Julia as if an energy of some kind was being passed from Chronotis to Chrístõ.

She watched hopefully until she saw Chrístõ shudder and give out a shocked gasp.

“Julia?” he called out. She ran to him. “Oh,, my Julia. I thought I’d never see you again. I’m back…”

“Forgive me,” said Chronotis. “Please forgive me. While there’s time. Forgive me for my deceit, for the ordeal you went through, for betraying you and our blessed world.”

“I… forgive you,” Chrístõ answered.

“Thank you,” Chronotis said and then collapsed. Chrístõ pulled himself upright and reached to help him. But it was too late.

“He’s dead.”

“How?” Julia asked. “What killed him?”

“He killed himself. He gave me the last of his lifeforce. He saved my life at cost of his own.”

Chrístõ lifted the old man’s body into his arms and carried it down the stairs. Julia followed. He kept on going until they were outside, under the archway of the clock tower. He looked around. Time was running normally, now. He waited in the shadows until the security guard had passed by, then he ran to Chronotis’s TARDIS, disguised as a small security post. Julia found the key in the old man’s pocket and opened the door, but Chrístõ told her to go back to the archway and stay out of sight. He took Chronotis’s body inside. A few minutes later he came back outside and ran to her. They watched as the TARDIS dematerialised, disturbing the peacock and bringing the security guard running. But by the time he got to the archway they had gone.

Chrístõ took Julia back to their own TARDIS. He looked at the clock on the console and then brought them forward a few hours. He re-materialised the TARDIS on the river bank where they had sat last night. Only now it was dawn. The new sun glanced off King’s College Chapel as they sat together on the same seat.

“I was sucked into another dimension,” he said. “Another reality, where Time was personified by a very beautiful woman. I’m not sure how she managed to exert her influence on this reality. But she had sought a mate… somebody to share Eternity with. Chronotis resisted her. I don’t know why.”

“He didn’t want to live for eternity,” Julia answered him, and explained what the old man had said to her.

“I see.” Chrístõ nodded. He grasped Julia’s hand tightly. “It’s hard to explain. In one way I was gone no more than a few seconds…. My body clock registers no more than that. I didn’t age at all. But in another… I was there for eternity, from the beginning of time to the end. And if I concentrate, I can feel it, the billions upon billions of years… I lived them all as her consort, her lover. And to make her smile, make her less lonely, it was almost worth it.”

Julia looked disturbed by that.

“When I say lover… I don’t mean in the way we understand it. I’m… I can still marry you with a clear conscience. But she needed my lifeforce. That’s what I gave to her. That’s why I was weak when I returned. I had given her so much - in an eternity of service to her or one incredibly powerful moment – either way, coming back from it would have killed me if he hadn’t been prepared to give himself.”

“He didn’t want to live for eternity. He wanted to die in the ordinary way.”


“He knew… when he got you back he would have to die to save you,”

“He knew before he began. He did it, knowing he would die. That’s… courage of a kind.”

“So he wasn’t evil. He did something very wrong. But… for good reasons.”

“So did she. Time. She was lonely. It made her do a desperate thing. I can still remember how she felt. She was happy when I was with her.”

“So is she lonely again now? Will she try to take another lover?”

“No,” Chrístõ said. “Because… in a way… I’m still there. Like I said… it lasted only seconds… or for all time. For me… seconds… and then I was back with you. For her… she has me for ever. Do you understand?”

“Sort of. It doesn’t matter. You’re here with me.” She hugged him tightly in proof of that, glad to feel his hearts beating as she pressed against him. “What about Chronotis? Where did you send his body?”

“Home. To Gallifrey. I sent him to The Tower, to Hext. I put a note into the databank to explain what happened. He’ll arrange for a proper Gallifreyan funeral. He can also download the TARDIS databanks. He’ll know who Chronotis really was. There’s probably a Celestial Intervention Agency file he can close with the information. Maybe… when I see him again… he might tell me the secret. Or… maybe I won’t ask. Maybe it’s best that way.”

“You wanted him as your mentor.”

“Yes. But… that’s a selfish regret. Besides… I will see him again.”

“In your future… and his past.”

“Maybe I’ll find out the truth about him, then. It can wait. Meanwhile…” He looked at Julia and noticed that she was holding the puzzle box. “Are you going to keep that?”

“Yes. He said it had other secrets. He said I’d understand them in time. Could be exciting.”

“Could be dangerous. Chronotis seemed the sort who didn’t know the difference.”

“Bit like you, then?”

“I know the difference,” Chrístõ answered her. “Put it away. I don’t need any other excitement right now than… than finding out just how kiss-proof twenty-fourth century lipstick really is.”

Julia laughed as he enfolded her in his arms. She surrendered to his kisses as the sun came up on the morning after her birthday.