"Jamie said I looked like a siursach," said Zoe. "What does that mean?"
The Doctor glared over the console at Jamie.
"She did, though," said Jamie, only slightly defensive about it.
The Doctor, who had seen the sort of thing Zoe thought of as clothing, had to agree that she probably had, but he'd hoped that his own liberal values would have rubbed off a bit more by now. "Well, you didn't need to say anything about it," he said, huffily.
"I did," insisted Jamie. "She'd have got arrested. Her skirt was right up to here." He waved a hand at a height that was indeed probably a bit too inappropriate.
"Nonsense," complained Zoe, "It wasn't much shorter than your skirt."
"It's no a skirt," said Jamie. "It's a kilt."
"What's the difference?" asked Zoe, batting her over-long eyelashes innocently.
"A skirt's... well, a skirt's different," he said, realising that he didn't actually know.
The Doctor sighed. "Stop provoking each other."
"She started it."
"Well, you did call her a... you did say something rather unkind, Jamie."
"And you really don't have the legs for that skirt." He held up a hand. "Well, you don't. I think you should put on some trousers. How about a nice pair of jeans?"
"I thought we were going to Scotland!"
The Doctor gave him a weary look. "In 1967."
"Look," he sighed, "Zoe changed into something a bit less... a bit more appropriate. Perhaps you could do the same? At least cover those knees of yours."
"Are we nearly there yet?" asked Zoe. "I've never been to Scotland."
"He'll never get us there," said Jamie, wandering off to find something less skirt-like to wear.
The Doctor tried to look competent. "We're going to Ayr or my name's not-" The TARDIS shuddered to a halt and he switched on the scanner to show something that looked very much like the seaside at Ayr. He clapped his hands together happily and smiled. "It'll be lovely."
"Well," said the Doctor, in full silver-lining mode, "at least there's a beach."
Jamie sulked out onto the sand and glowered at him. The Doctor wouldn't have thought that one could sulk as a form of motion, but apparently he'd been wrong about that.
Zoe bounced out after Jamie and the Doctor locked the door behind them. They were at the beach, and they were going to have fun even if killed him. Which it might. "You'd be impressed if you had any real understanding of the size of the universe," he sniffed. "The planet's only eight thousand miles across. It's like throwing a dart from Alpha Centauri and only just missing the treble twenty on your first go." He took a bright pink bucket and spade from Zoe and set off across the sand. "Blackpool's lovely at this time of year," he said, trying not to look too conspicuous as he did some quick calculations about the height of the sun and the position of the tide. Almost certainly summer, he decided. The weather seemed to back that up, but you couldn't always tell with Britain.
"Aye, and what year is it anyway?"
The Doctor sniffed and dropped down onto the sand. "Does it matter? Honestly, Jamie, sometimes you're impossible." He fished some change from his pocket and selected a few that seemed likely to be legal tender. "Why don't you go and get us all some ice-cream. I want one of those little flake things in mine. Zoe? Do you want ice-cream?"
Zoe looked confused.
"Get her one with a flake too," said the Doctor, handing Jamie the money. "No, wait, I want one of those ice-lollies shaped like a rocket. The ones with three different colours of ice on them. See if they have those."
Jamie put the money into the pocket of his jeans. He still wasn't entirely comfortable in them. He felt sure people were staring at his arse. "How old are you, anyway? You're like a wee bairn sometimes, you are."
"I'm older than my teeth and as young as my-" The Doctor frowned. "Actually, I'm older than all of me. Look, just go and help the local economy. I have sand to sculpt and this sun of yours is only going to last another five billion years. I think. I should check that some time."
Jamie sulked off - yes, he really had underestimated that verb - and Zoe looked dubiously at the sand.
"What if I get tiny bits of rock on me?" she asked.
"That's half the fun," said the Doctor. This really wasn't going as well as he'd hoped. All this joylessness was starting to remind him of home, and that was no good at all.
Zoe knelt carefully in the sand and examined her yellow bucket and spade. "What do I do with these?"
"You pick sand up with that and you put it into the bucket," he said, demonstrating with his own sandcastle-building kit. "And then you turn the whole thing upside down and... voila!"
Zoe looked at the sandcastle. Then she looked at the Doctor. Then she looked back at the sandcastle. "And?"
"And then what?"
"And then you have a sandcastle," he said. "I would have thought that was obvious."
"Oh. I see." Zoe started shovelling sand into her own bucket. "And what's the sandcastle for?"
"It's not for anything," he said, digging a little moat around his sandcastle. "It's just what you do when you go to the beach."
Zoe looked around. "We're quite a bit older than the other people who are doing this."
The Doctor looked hurt. "Zoe, don't you think this is fun?"
"We're just moving sand around. I don't see how moving sand around is fun. It's quite relaxing though," she added, in case he got too upset. "We didn't have sand in the city," she said.
"We didn't have it either," said the Doctor, resisting the urge to look over his shoulder in case someone had overheard him. He could be quite paranoid sometimes, but he expected most people would be if they were in his situation.
"Where are you from anyway?" asked Zoe.
Still, a little paranoia was probably a good thing. "Oh, around," he said, noncommittally. You could never be entirely sure, after all. Something had been worrying at him since they'd almost run into that man with the leather jacket and the blonde girl, but he wasn't quite sure what it was. It certainly hadn't left him as optimistic as it should have. It was probably best not to dwell.
He watched Zoe look critically at her sandcastle. "Oh, well," he said, as it collapsed into the hole she'd dug in the sand, "it wasn't bad for a first attempt."
Zoe pouted and wiped sand off her legs. "I don't think I'm enjoying this very much."
The Doctor gave her a sympathetic look and handed her spade back to her. "You could try digging a hole to China."
She blinked at him. "Is that even possible? What about all the magma?"
"What I mean," he sighed, "is that you could dig a very large hole and pretend you're digging all the way to China." He thought for a moment. "Though depending what year it is, I suppose digging your way to China might not be a very good idea anyway. Oh, there's Jamie."
"I'm digging to China," said Zoe, taking her ice-cream cone with her free hand.
Jamie sat down next to her and handed the Doctor the requested ice rocket thing. "I don't think you can dig all the way to China," he said, opening a can of Pepsi. He quite liked Pepsi. It was one of those interesting things no one had thought to invent when he'd been on Earth. Though maybe they'd had it in Edinburgh. He hadn't seen any the one time he'd been there, but he didn't really feel qualified to rule the possibility out entirely.
"I'm not really digging to China," she said. "That would just be silly."
"So why are you digging?"
"Because the Doctor told me to," she said, as though this made perfect sense.
"Oh. Right." Jamie managed not to shuffle away from her slightly. You could never tell with women. He looked over at the Doctor, who was surrounded by sandcastles and onto the orange layer of his ice-lolly. "It's 1998," he said, helpfully.
The Doctor looked thoughtful. "Yes, that seems about right. At least I managed to avoid the 1980s this time."
Jamie nodded. "Aye, they were right dreich. Let's never go there again."
"1998 isn't a bad year," said the Doctor, finishing his ice-lolly and pausing to examine the stick. "There isn't even a joke on this," he complained. "Oh, I know one! Why did the chicken cross the Mobius strip?"
"To get to the same side."
Zoe laughed. Jamie felt like something had just passed right over the top of his head. It wasn't an unusual feeling, but it was annoying nonetheless. "What are you blethering on about now?"
"It was a joke, Jamie," said the Doctor, patiently. "Zoe thought it was funny, didn't you, Zoe?"
"Yes," said Zoe, who was now making quite good progress towards China.
Jamie finished his Pepsi and with barely a thought on the matter handed the empty can to the Doctor, who shoved it in a pocket. Jamie was fairly sure that they weren't that likely to land near a recycling plant anytime soon, but he'd learned from many disapproving looks that it was better just let the Doctor deal with these things. If nothing else it kept him quiet.
"I've never been to 1998," he said, trying to start a conversation. "Isn't this where you're from Zoe?"
Zoe pushed back a loose strand of hair with a sandy hand and shook her head.
"Different calendar," said the Doctor, mid-sandcastle.
"It's nice here, though," chirped Zoe. "I think it's wonderfully quaint."
"No one's wearing tinfoil yet," agreed the Doctor. He produced some little rainbow flags from a pocket and started sticking them into his sandcastles.
"You should build some wee bridges atween those," said Jamie, trying to be helpful and to give an air of being interested.
"I'm bored with them now," said the Doctor, who had reached the end of his attention span. "I'll leave them for someone else to play with." He looked at the bits of Zoe that were still visible. "You can stop digging now," he told her.
Zoe looked up from her endeavour. "But I've barely got started."
"We can go and see the Tower," he said, pointing at it.
Zoe climbed out of the pit and looked over at Blackpool Tower. "It looks a bit phallic," she said.
The Doctor didn't quite know what to say to that. "Only in that it's... well... umm... oh, dear."
"It's like a great big c-"
"Yes, well, I can see why you'd think that," he said, quickly, "but I think you're getting a bit too Freudian. There's only so many things something like that can look like, after all." He stood up and tried to look dignified. "It's a very interesting piece of architecture, and there's a circus. With clowns. I like clowns." He suspected that the clown thing was working against the attempt at dignity.
"Do they have lions?" asked Jamie.
"Heavens, no," said the Doctor, looking slightly scandalised.
"Then can we no just stay here?" Jamie was quite enjoying not having to scurry about all over the place. It seemed quite peaceful here. They hadn't even run into any Cybermen yet. He was getting a bit sick of those things, all told.
The Doctor looked rather like a petulant child. "But I'm bored now." Jamie half expected him to stamp his foot.
"You can help me dig to China," said Zoe.
The Doctor bounced slightly. "We could go to China in the TARDIS. We could go anywhere. There's all sorts of places I haven't been yet and they might find-" He stopped himself and looked at his companions. They seemed quite happy here. They didn't know they should be worried, and they were perfectly content to sit here all day in the sand. Sometimes you just had to let yourself relax, he told himself, and if the Time Lords caught up with him... well, he could burn that bridge when he got to it. At least he'd have this to think back on when they made him go back to the dreary old place.
He sat down next to Zoe's route to China and picked up his spade. "If we dig fast enough," he said, "I bet we could get there in time for tea."