The Ambassador arrived back on Gallifrey secretly. Very few Time Lords knew that it was possible to do so. The sky was monitored for unauthorised traffic and so was the time vortex. But he was the father of the inventor of the Dimensional Recognition Device, after all. He was perfectly capable of cloaking his ship so that he materialised in his own home without it being known to anyone other than his old retainer who brought him a single malt and his rest gown as he sat in his drawing room.

Chrístõ smiled as Julia came into the console room. The dress looked beautiful on her. The early Edwardian was a nice era for dresses, he always thought. The pale rose satin evening gown with white lace trim on the bodice and the edge of the full skirt was perfect for her age, denoting a sweet innocence while allowing her to feel grown up in a dress that was not a little girls' dress but a real fashion of the era in her size.

"Here," he said, passing her a cosmetics set. "A little light rouge and some lip colour. Not too much."

"I've never worn make-up to go out before," she said. "Only for playing, dressing up."

"You're twelve now, a young lady. You can wear a little make up for your birthday outing."

She smiled and sat and applied the make up. She looked even prettier and ready to go to an adult outing with him.

"Chrístõ," she said quietly as she looked up at him. "I…" She dropped the make up case and suddenly began to cry. He was at her side in a moment, holding her tightly.

"Hush, my love," he said to her. "Don't cry. It's your birthday. You should be happy."

"I am," she sobbed. "But… I started thinking about my eleventh birthday. It was… I was all alone. Everyone was dead. My tenth birthday, was the day before we set off on the ship. And we had a big party for me, with everyone I knew, because we were leaving Earth. But… but last year I hid in the kitchen and ate the last of the peanuts and there was nobody…. Everyone was dead."

"Oh Julia," he said. "I understand. That was a terrible time. But it's over now. I'm here with you. And we're going to have a beautiful evening. From now on, EVERY birthday you have will be beautiful. I'll make sure of that. And I don't want you to cry again about the past. Of course you will remember your family. You loved them. But remember the happy times. And look to the bright, beautiful future. To lots of really wonderful, happy birthdays."

She smiled. He wiped her tears with a tissue and picked up the cosmetics case and re-applied her rouge and lip colour and just a little eye make up to cover that she had been crying and bring out the brown of her eyes. She still looked twelve, but she looked like a sophisticated twelve year old.

The trouble was, he reflected, that year and a half that she spent hiding from monsters, surviving by her wits, had left her emotionally both a year behind her true age and ahead as well. Sometimes, she seemed still to be the ten year old that boarded the Starship Alduos Huxley with her family. Other times she seemed ahead of her age, quick-witted and self aware. Those times were the easiest. She felt nearly equal to him then. He could teach her new things about the TARDIS. She was talkative and lively and he felt as if she had been his friend all his life. But then moments like this would happen, sometimes out of the blue, sometimes triggered by something she saw or heard, and she would be vulnerable in unexpected ways.

Then all he could do was hold her and reassure her that he would always be there for her.

"I love you, Chrístõ," she whispered and kissed his cheek. And that was the vulnerable little girl who needed somebody to love now that her mother and father and siblings were dead. He hugged her closer to him until she felt ready to stand up again and smile.

She kissed him at other times, too. When she was happy, when the joy of knowing that he WAS the man who would be everything a healthy young twelve year old dreamt of in her future, overcame her and she reached out to hug him just to be sure he was real and not a romantic and wonderful dream. He loved those moments, too. But he was careful not to let them happen too often. He was aware that he was a young man of nearly two hundred and she a Human child of twelve. And he knew what people would think, how their loving friendship would be misinterpreted. And that saddened him. Because when she kissed him and told him she loved him, it was the most pure, unconditional love he had ever known and he would not give it up for the narrow perceptions of the universe.

"There," he smiled back at her. "My birthday girl. Now, let's be off to the opera. Milan awaits."

 

The Ambassador drained his whiskey glass and set it down. He didn't feel the alcoholic effects the way the Humans who invented it did. But he did find the taste pleasurable and he had become accustomed to taking a glass at the end of a long day when he was finally able to relax.

Except this day was far from over and he could not yet relax.

He stood and looked at the portrait that hung over the fireplace. It was 186 years since it was painted. He half-smiled as he remembered how relatively easy it had been to get his five year old son to sit in his mother's arms as the artist sketched out the details. He had expected him to wriggle and try to get away. But Chrístõ had sat there, held by her, and calmly watched the man drawing. It was as if he knew he would not have his mother's love for very much longer and he was making the most of his chance to be in her arms.

Marion and Chrístõ. A friend who knew as much about Earth culture as he did once commented on the fact that the painting looked a lot like a Madonna and Child icon. He had never realised it until then. The name Chrístõ was a complete coincidence, of course. In Gallifreyan it meant "Courageous."

He looked into the gentle grey eyes of his long dead wife, and the deep brown eyes of his son. Chrístõ had HIS eyes as far as their shape and colour were concerned. But they were Human eyes in their retinal pattern and, of course, for those tear ducts that set him apart from the pure blood of Gallifrey.

His eyes dropped from the painting to the ornamental dagger on the mantelpiece below. A family heirloom that dated back several generations. It was razor sharp. It was a formidable weapon, but it had not been used for centuries. It originated long before the first Chrístõ de Lœngbærrow had sired the family line he was now patriarch of and had last been used in anger by his grandson, Chrístõdavõreendiamõndhært - the one who had been living proof that diamonds are not only brilliant and valuable, but also the hardest substance in the known universe.

It had been said of him in the past that he inherited that hardness. Though not since the love of a beautiful and gentle woman had worked it's softening on him.

But that diamond edge was still there within him. And tonight he needed it.

"I know this would dismay you, my dear," he said looking up again at the face of his long dead wife smiling in the portrait. "But I must return to my old life for the sake of our son. The Executioner must do his work."

"Teatro alla Scala," Julia murmured. "Isn't it a lovely building. It looks different in the 24th century. They built a modern front on it."

"Yes, horrible, wasn't it," Chrístõ agreed. "It is only just a hundred years old now."

"Younger than you?" Julia smiled.

"Yes," he laughed. He had never thought of it that way. But she was right. He took her by the hand as they entered the theatre. He presented his ticket and as the Marquess de Lœngbærrow and companion they were escorted to a box overlooking the stage itself. One of the best seats in the house.

"You are really rich enough for this?" Julia asked as she tasted the sweets in a silver dish and looked at the programme. They had been to theatres and concerts before, but not in quite such luxury. She looked at Chrístõ in his own fine gentleman's clothes and thought he really did look like a young Marquess. A Lord.

But still her Chrístõ inside, her hero who had saved her life, her protector and comforter who took care of her.

"I am," he said. "Quite rich. But my father says it is vulgar to talk about money in front of ladies." He reached for the bottle in the iced bucket and poured a half glass of champagne for her. "On your birthday," he said as she looked surprised and took it. He poured a glass for himself and toasted her special day. She sipped it slowly, enjoying the rare taste of a grown up world. He watched her with a smile. The alcohol made her cheeks flush and her eyes shine. He sipped his own champagne and kept his eyes on her as the house lights went down and the overture began. She sat forward gleefully to watch the opera, enchanted by the colour and the costumes and the music, all enhanced by the fact that she understood every word of the libretto without knowing any Italian at all. The TARDIS gave the gift of tongues to all who travelled within it. She had read the programme without even realising she was reading Italian and now she listened to the opera without worrying that it should have been in a language she hadn't even begun to learn yet.

She should learn Italian, he thought. It was a beautiful language. And Spanish and French.

And Gallifreyan. She would need that.

He smiled at himself. He was thinking too far ahead. Planning her education. He wasn't even sure how long he could keep her with him. He wished she could be by his side until she was the woman he was going to marry. But he knew that probably wasn't going to happen. And it was probably better that it didn't.

He pushed those thoughts aside and gave his attention to the opera. History recorded that this opening night of Madama Butterfly in February of 1904 was not well received by the public. And so it proved. But for Julia the magic Puccini had hoped for worked completely. She was enchanted.

Afterwards as he took her to his favourite Milanese restaurant for supper she talked of it joyfully.

"I should have taken you backstage to tell Puccini what you thought. It might have cheered him up a bit. Never mind, his revision went down very well in a few months time. I might take you to see that, too. I think it would be educational to compare the two performances and note the changes made."

Julia smiled when he talked about 'educational'. It was a long time since she had been to school properly. There had been one on the ship at first, when there were other children….

She wondered if Chrístõ knew she ought to go to school. But she wasn't going to mention it. She liked this sort of education better. Wearing beautiful, historical dresses and going to operas in historical times, was far better than sitting in a classroom.

Chrístõ DID know she ought to be at school. That was another problem he was going to have to sort out.

 

It was already getting dark when The Executioner reached the home of his chosen target. His dark-clad figure was barely a shadow as he scaled the wall and crept across the lawns to the house he knew well enough. He had been there as the honoured Ambassador many times. He had been there as the Magister of the Southern Continent. He had been there as a friend and neighbour. And more.

Now he came as The Executioner.

 

Chrístõ let Julia drink another half glass of champagne with their supper. She looked, in the candlelight, so much the sophisticated young lady, and he treated her as one. As a young woman, not a child. She enjoyed being allowed the illusion for a little while.

"I have something for you," Chrístõ said as he drank a glass of brandy at the end of the meal. He put his hand in his pocket and brought out a tissue wrapped package. "This is your special birthday present."

"But you already gave me a present. That lovely doll with the brown eyes like mine."

"That was your little girl birthday present," he told her. "This is a young lady present. Because you're twelve, and you're both a little girl and a young lady at the same time."

She opened the tissue and gasped as she held up the silver rope chain with a pendant on it. It was a teardrop shaped silver medallion, with six sparkling diamonds set into it in a pattern a little like a double arrowhead.

"What is that?" she asked.

"It is the constellation of Kasterborous," Chrístõ said. "The middle star of the inner arrow - that is Gallifrey's sun."

"Oh!" Her eyes shone brightly as she realised at once how very special this pendant was. "Oh, Chrístõ…."

"It belonged to my mother first," he said. "My father gave it to her as an engagement present."

"Does this mean we are engaged?" she asked as he fastened it around her neck.

"No," he said with a laugh. "I'm afraid not. You ARE too young for a formal engagement. It is… I want you to wear it as a promise that when the time is right we WILL be engaged and then, in time, married."

"And I will see Gallifrey?" she said joyfully.

"You will see it before then," he promised.

And Gallifrey would see her. Some of it would be unkind, he knew. She was Human. The pureblood fanatics that made his life a misery all through his childhood would not be happy to see the Lœngbærrow blood watered further. But his family had power and position enough to ensure she was honoured and respected by those who mattered.

 

The Executioner entered the house without tripping any of its alarms and security. He evaded the servants who would raise the alarm as he sought out his target. His skills had not been used for a long time, but they came easily back to him.

Too easily. Did he ever really bury the Executioner? Was he ALWAYS a killer? The thought disturbed him. He had wanted to turn his back on that life. He thought he had. For nearly two hundred years he had not taken a life. He had saved millions of lives in his efforts as a peacemaker. He had atoned for the lives he had taken.

No, not atoned. For he knew that what he had done in the past was the right thing to do. He had done what he had to do for the greater good of his world, his people.

Yes, he still believed that. Even though he had turned his back on that life. He did not regret anything he had done, except that one last mistake that made him resolve to change his life.

No, he would not dwell on that. It would weaken his resolve now.

And this was going to be a difficult enough task.

 

"It WAS a nice birthday," Julia said as they walked through the lamplit streets of Milan, Chrístõ's arm around her shoulders protectively. "Thank you."

"My pleasure," he told her. "We should think about heading home to the TARDIS now, though. It's late. You must be tired."

"A little," she admitted. "I don't want the day to be over."

"There will be other days," he promised.

"Chrístõ," Julia said as they walked. "You can travel in time?"

"Yes," he replied, wondering at the obvious question.

"So…why do you have to wait? You could go forward in time and find me when I'm older and…"

"Not allowed to interfere with causality that way," he said. "I met you as an eleven year old. I'm not allowed to get to know you as a twenty-three year old until you've lived that long."

"Why not?" she asked.

"There have to be rules," he said. "Otherwise we could just mess about with time and it would hurt people. It's all very well if tomorrow we skip from February 17th 1904 to May 28th, 1904 and go see Madama Butterfly's second opening night in the Teatro Grande in Brescia, but if I did anything that actually affected somebody's life, especially my own, that would be totally wrong."

"I think I understand," she said.

"Besides," he added. "I wouldn't want it to be like that. I want to get to know you. I want to watch you grow up. I want to be with you on every birthday you have and make it the best day ever."

She smiled happily at the idea. That was what he wanted most. To see her smile. The rest could wait.

 

His target was in his study, working. He didn't even hear the door open and close. He didn't even look up for a long time. When he did his face froze in fear as he gazed at the dark clad figure in front of him.

"Who are you?" he demanded. "How did you get into my house?"

"I am The Executioner," he replied in a voice that was not his own. "You have been found guilty of crimes against our people and I am here to carry out the sentence."

"Crimes against…. I am loyal to Gallifrey. What nonsense is this?"

"You sent assassins after the one with the Mark of Rassilon who does the will of the High Council. Your assassins are dead, by the way. One accidentally, the other, by my hand."

"They were fools."

"I agree with you there," The Executioner said. "But you were a bigger fool to think you could subvert our future by murdering an innocent man."

"The half-blood!"

"The one with the Mark of Rassilon who does the will of the High Council. While you, Chancellor, seek to subvert it."

"I seek to prevent the High Council from making a foolish mistake, led astray by a half-blood abomination. Mark of Rassilon! On a mongrel."

"Enough," The Executioner snarled. "The only reason you remain alive now is to find out the depth of this conspiracy. Who else is involved? How many of the council have been disloyal?"

"None. The fools are all united. The 'glamour' of the Mark entrances them. They believe this half-blood is touched by our Creator himself. Fools."

"Is that the truth?" The Executioner demanded. "This was YOUR doing alone?"

"That is the truth."

"IS it?" He reached his hand out and placed it on the man's forehead. He forced his way into his mind, breaking down the walls he had placed on his memories and forcing the truth from him.

"Such bitterness!" The Executioner couldn't help betray just a hint of shock at what he saw. "You hid your prejudices well. For many years, it seems. You were at the child's naming. But now you seek to murder him."

"I would do it with my own bare hands to save our world from his poison."

"You are the poison. And speaking of which…"

 

Maybe it was because he was happy and relaxed that he was not on his guard as he should have been. He didn't notice that he was being followed.

Until it was too late.

"Chrístõ!" Julia's scream rang out as he felt the knife stab twice between his shoulder blades. He turned despite the pain and tackled his assailant, bringing the knife wielder to the ground in an easy movement. But there were three more and his arms felt like lead as he raised them to protect himself from another knife fighter. He took another stab to the neck for his pains, while a kick from behind against the back of his knees brought him down.

Julia put up a brave fight, kicking and kneeing those that tried to grab her. But he was unable to help her as they left him for dead and manhandled her into a carriage that was waiting on the street corner.

They obviously thought he was Human. This was not an attack by anyone who understood about his physiology. They had left him for dead in a pool of blood. But they didn't see its strange colour and didn't know that it took more than that to kill a Time Lord. He struggled to his feet and ran as the carriage began to move off at speed. It was a four-in-hand, capable of reaching a fair speed over distance, but it didn't have a clear run. It had to slow for corners, and Chrístõ was fast, too, even hurting as he was. He caught up with the carriage and jumped onto its back.

The pain in his back as he clung on by the arms was excruciating. He needed rest for his wounds to properly heal, and this was NOT rest. The adrenaline coursed through his veins and his hearts were pumping as he climbed up onto the top of the carriage.

 

"I don't understand," The Chancellor said. "If you mean to kill me…."

"I DO mean to kill you," The Executioner said as he returned from the drinks cabinet with two glasses of single malt. "But I am giving you a chance to die without bringing disgrace on your family, and without your treachery being known to the rest of the High Council." He took a mouthful of his own drink and pushed the other glass towards the Chancellor. "It contains a drug that will induce your hearts to fail. You're in your last incarnation. It will be a quick, easy, relatively painless death. Your family will be upset, but they will assume you died of natural causes. The High Council will have an official period of mourning. You will be remembered with honour. Which is more than you deserve."

"You expect me to just…"

"It's up to you. The easiest way is I kill you. I can do that in any number of ways but it would be obviously a political assassination. And people might just wonder why you were a target and the sordid tale might come out. Or I could expose you and you would be arrested and tried and the sordid tale would CERTAINLY come out. Either way you would be disgraced and your family destroyed. THIS way is, you must agree, the best for all concerned."

The Chancellor looked at the eyes of his nemesis. The eyes were the only thing he could see of the masked and hooded features. They were hard, cold, unpitying. And they seemed to look right into his soul. Slowly he reached for the glass. He put it to his lips and drank.

"How long will it take?" he asked.

"A few minutes," The Executioner said. "It's 100% effective."

"Then at least…" The effects were already starting. The Chancellor's breathing became laboured and he held his chest as if it was hurting. "Tell me who you are…"

"Who am I?" The Executioner smiled. "I am The Executioner. That is all you need know. That is all my targets EVER know." He stood up and as the Chancellor's life ebbed away he took the two glasses and cleaned them and put them back in the cupboard. The drug was untraceable even if anyone considered an autopsy necessary. He returned to check that the body slumped over the desk really was dead and then he turned and left as silently as he had come.

 

Chrístõ launched himself forward at the back of the man riding alongside the driver. The movement of the carriage and the pain in his neck and shoulders made his usual precision in his unarmed combat difficult, but he didn't need precision. He had the element of surprise. There was no more than a brief tussle before the man fell forward with a scream that was cut off as he was dragged under the wheels. The bump almost overbalanced Chrístõ as he turned to the driver.

"Jump," he ordered him and the man did so. Chrístõ grabbed the reins and slowed the horses before bringing them to a stop. He heard the side door open and ignoring the jarring pain in his shoulders he swung down over the side of the carriage, knocking the man back. He steadied himself and landed inside, finishing the already dazed man off with a knockout punch before turning and grabbing the one who was trying to hold Julia down. The pungent smell of chloroform suggested he had been trying to knock her out, but she had struggled and kicked bravely against him.

"That's for hurting an innocent girl," Chrístõ said hitting the man square in the face. "The rest can wait. I want to know who sent you? Who sent you to kill me and why did you grab her? What use is she to the Time Lord conspirators?"

"Time Lord?" The man looked at him in surprise. "I don't know… I am… You should be dead by now. I stabbed you three times." The man stared at Chrístõ's neck. There were bloodstains on his collar but the wound was gone.

"I'll be stiff for days," he said. "And I have to admit my punch isn't what it should be. I could have taken your head clean off. But no, you didn't kill me. And I guess that proves you're not from the Time Lords. They would know it takes more than three stab wounds to kill one of us. So what IS this all about then?"

"We procure girls," the man said. "For…." The man stopped talking because Chrístõ had squeezed his neck so hard at that point that he could not speak.

"I KNOW what for," he said angrily. Bo's face flashed into his mind. He remembered how miserable she was as the drugged and beaten bedroom slave of a thug. That was fifty years before this time, and that sick trade continued. Humanity generally he loved. But in some of its individuals there was a perverted cruelty that was unmatched in the universe, if only because most other cruel races turned on other races. The fear and loathing of species unlike them was logical and even understandable, even if it was reproachable. But the way Humans turned on each other and practiced their cruelty on their own kind, never ceased to stun him.

The one thing they had in common with his own race, he reflected bitterly.

"Chrístõ!" Julia screamed. "Let go. You'll kill him." Her voice brought him back to the present. He realised he was still holding the man's throat.

"I WOULD kill you," he said. "But not in front of her. She has seen enough of that to last her a lifetime."

"Chrístõ," Julia said. "They were taking me to a house…. Where there are other girls."

"Where?" Chrístõ asked the man and he said the address. He knew where it was. He had explored Milan many times. He rendered the man unconscious and pushed him out of the carriage. He turned to Julia who was sitting on the seat now looking at him with frightened eyes. "I wouldn't have killed him," he assured her. "Life is valuable, even his. But sometimes it is well to have people think I would."

"I understand," she said. And he thought she probably did. "Those other girls…"

"I'm going to get them. Don't worry. I'm sorry, I promised you the best birthday and…"

"It was after midnight," she said with a smile. "It wasn't my birthday any more."

"Good girl," he said, pleased with the way she reasoned out this less than wonderful outcome of their night. "I'm going up front to drive the horses. You can sit in here and pretend to be a lady in your own carriage or…"

"I'll come with you," she said. And she swung up as athletically as he did, even in her long dress. He gave her his coat to wear and she leaned close to him as he handled the four horses skilfully. He smiled as he remembered learning horsemanship. He forgot which planet it was now, that they took a long summer vacation on, himself and his father, when he was about fifteen. Though he had never ridden a horse in his life, never even seen one except in books, he had taken to riding easily and had learnt to drive them very well, too. A skill that proved useful when he decided to spend so much time in the Victorian era. His dream of driving in the countryside with the lovely Elizabeth at his side never quite worked out, he remembered ruefully. But he looked at Julia, sitting by his side now, and made up his mind that in the near future one of the things he was going to do with her was going to involve a horse and carriage, or possibly a sleigh. Yes, a sleigh. With bells on the harness. She'd like that, for sure. Sleigh-riding in winter in Minnesota, he thought. Across the wide open American prairies under a clear winter sky, both of them warm in fur-lined cloaks and a rug tucked around them.

But for now he was pulling the horses to a stop outside a house in the Via Scaldosole. He was wondering what his next move should be when the door opened and a woman emerged.

"What are you doing with one of the girls up there with you?" she demanded angrily. Chrístõ jumped down quickly and she realised he was NOT who she was expecting. But before she could speak again he had grabbed her by the arm. He was not as rough as he was with the men. But she was a party to the kidnapping of young girls. And he was not kind to her, either. He looked at the house and realised what it was. He turned to Julia.

"Sit in the carriage now," he told her. "Pull the curtains across the window and sit quietly. And don't worry if you hear any strange noises." She obeyed quickly. He turned back to the woman and looked at her. Once she must have been young and pretty and satisfied customers of this or some other similar establishment. Now she was the "Madame" who organised the young and pretty who had no other asset with which to make a living.

For all his experiences this was the first time he had ever entered a brothel. He was not entirely sure what to expect. He DID expect there to be a couple of heavies near the door, on hand in case customers became too unpleasant towards the girls or too much the worse for drink or were reluctant to pay. He dealt with them easily. His wounds had healed themselves now and though he wasn't joking about his back and neck aching it didn't impair him as he applied some carefully controlled Malvorian punches that rendered them unconscious quickly and relatively painlessly.

Most of the women were lounging in the 'drawing room' in various kinds of alluring lingerie. He looked at them and they looked at him. They quickly realised he was NOT a client.

"My name is Chrístõ de Lœngbærrow, and like my namesake I don't condemn you who are more sinned against than sinning. If this is TRULY the way you choose to live it is not for me to say otherwise. But there are girls who were brought here against their will. I will be taking them away from here. Fetch them now."

The Madame nodded and one of the young women stood up, slipping a wrap around herself. She came back a few minutes later with a group of about ten girls, all as young as Julia or a little older. All were dressed quite poorly. The usual haunt of the child traffickers must have been the lower part of the city. There, perhaps, a child disappearing from a house with more mouths to feed anyway might not be reported to the police. Or if they were, little would be done. How stupid of them to imagine they could have taken a girl of the class they were dressed as without a hue and cry, even if they had not made the mistake of trying to kidnap a girl in the company of a Time Lord.

They all looked scared. But he guessed they had not yet been put to work.

"I'm taking you all home," he told them gently. "Downstairs, there is a carriage waiting. Go and get into it. Tell your names and addresses to the girl who is already there." He turned back and looked at the other young women. "Is there anyone else here who would prefer to go home?"

"If I did," one woman said. "I would have to work in the factory, fifteen hours with my back bent over a sewing machine making dresses for other women to wear. Here, I get to wear the nice clothes. It is warm. There is food. And the men who come are kind. Most of them anyway." She seemed to be thinking of the less kind ones for a moment, and her face looked pained. But then she shook her head again. "No," she said decisively. "I am better off here."

"I said before I do not condemn you," he said gently. "I DO condemn YOU," he said turning on the Madame. "You are little less than a slave-driver to these women. You disgust me."

"Those that you have taken. When they are older, many of them will find there way here again."

"When they are older, that will be their choice. It may be their only choice. And I am sorry that is the way in their society. There ought to be a better way. Perhaps there will be one day. But it WILL be by choice. Remember, if you dare to try such a thing again…" He glared at the woman and she seemed to shrivel before him, having felt in her soul that this young man with the bearing of a Lord could bring down the most terrible vengeance on her.

What had he said his name was?

Christo?

She crossed herself as she dropped her eyes away from those deep pools of brown that hardened in hatred when they looked at her. When she looked up again he was gone.

 

The Ambassador again returned to his home without anyone noticing he was gone. He changed back into his rest gown and for once broke a self-imposed rule and poured himself another glass of the single malt that was one of his few indulgences. He sat quietly in his drawing room and looked up at that painting from a life that seemed too long ago now. The painting had not been done here on Gallifrey. Six weeks after Chrístõ was born he had been appointed Ambassador to Ventura VI.

He and his wife and his baby son had lived in the graceful Ambassador’s residence there for the first years of Chrístõ’s life. He had been taught to love two planets he had never seen, his mother’s home on Earth and his own birthplace, Gallifrey. But he didn’t see it until he was six years old, when father and son returned alone. His wife had died on Ventura. She had loved that planet, which was much less alien and more Earthlike than Gallifrey. It seemed appropriate that she had died there, although he had brought her body back here and buried her in the family grave, where she belonged, where he hoped to rest beside her in the fullness of time. He would spend some time by her graveside tomorrow. And maybe he would find time to visit Ventura on his way back to Adano-Ambrado.

"Forgive me for what I had to do," he whispered. "Forgive me, both of you."

 

Whatever the Madame thought the future of these girls would be, for the moment, no matter how poor their home, they were wanted and loved by the parents who had thought them lost. Chrístõ had a hard time convincing the mothers that he was not the Messiah whose name was the same as his in Italian. At last, when the last child was returned to her family he took Julia by the hand. She had looked a little longingly at the reunion scenes. She, of course, had no family to return to.

"I have you, my Chrístõ, she said as they reached the safety of the TARDIS. "You are my family now. And the TARDIS is home."

"Yes," he said, glad that she could accept both so readily. He went to the console. "Brescia, in May," he said. "You can wear that dress again, without the shawl this time. It will be much warmer."

 

The Ambassador was still sitting quietly, half in a light meditation that soothed his busy mind, when his retainer came quietly into the room.

"Lordship," he said. "Your wife is here."

For a moment his eyes flickered to the portrait of his first wife.

"You mean Madame Valena?" he said. "Show her in."

He sat up and put down the whiskey glass as Valena came into the room.

"Did you bring my son with you?" he asked hopefully.

"It is late, Chrístõ," she said. "He is in bed."

"Of course. I should like to see him while I am here on Gallifrey."

"You will," she said. "At his grandfather's funeral. Chrístõ…. My father, the Chancellor, is dead. A heart attack, a few hours ago. He was in his study. He is never disturbed there. We didn't know."

She looked shaken. He reached and held her. Though they had been bitter towards each other in recent months he cared enough for her to want to comfort her in her grief.

"I'm glad you came to me," he said. "You ARE still my wife. No matter what."

"Yes," she said. "I know. And I do love you."

"I'm not sure you do, my dear," he said. "I think you need me now that your father is dead. Garrick, of course, inherits absolutely, as the first born male heir. And as he is only a baby, and I am his father, I will be legally responsible for what is his until he is of age. You NEED me because you are destitute without me."

"Chrístõ Mian, do you hate me do much?" She asked, startled by the coldness in his voice.

"No, my dear," he said. "I love you. But you married me for social position and that is all you have. And you have no idea how close you came to losing even that."

"What do you mean?" She asked. But he said nothing. He never would tell her. How could he tell her that her father had tried to murder his son because he was a pureblood bigot? How could he tell her that HE, her husband, had killed him first?

No. It was in the past. The Chancellor was dead. His secret remained secret, along with those of The Executioner.

And from now on, The Executioner was also dead. That was his last execution.

He meant it this time.

He took her hand in his and kissed it gently. She WAS his wife.

"Stay the night," he said. "I have to leave again in a few days. I'll stay for the funeral. That is to be expected. But meantime, let us have those days together, you, me, our son."

"Yes," she said. "I'd like that."