Donna is not impressed: “A nice day at the seaside, you said.”

“It’s not that bad?” he tries.

“It’s. Bloody. Freezing.”

He breathes out heavily and the heat clouds around him. She’s right, the temperature is close enough to zero that it makes no real difference. He takes her hand, as though the shared warmth might save her from the cold. The movement is almost automatic by now anyway – he’s used to reaching for her, to being grounded by her presence.

The sky is grey and cloudy, and the sea is equally dark and forbidding. The roar of growing waves is punctuated by the piercing cries of seagulls, coming ashore ahead of the storm. Everything runs from an oncoming storm, he thinks, suddenly as chilled as Donna must be (humans always seem to be more affected by the elements than he is, more at risk).

In the life they live together nothing stays the same for very long – his only constants are the TARDIS and Donna. And Donna (he admits, on occasion) will not be staying forever. Something will tear them apart eventually – love, loss, the cruel hand of fate (not that he believes in fate, or at least not that he’s prepared to let it win). He shivers, like someone just walked over his grave (he knows exactly where his grave will be, and plans to avoid it for as long as possible), and he tightens his grip on Donna, entwining his fingers with hers. He can’t face the idea of losing anyone else, it would break him, or worse it would leave him numb – and if the Doctor stops caring then where does that leave the rest of the universe?

He is drawn back to reality by touch – her free hand is tugging on his sleeve, pulling him out from the darkness of his own thoughts.

“Come on,” she says, gently, “let’s try somewhere else.”

He nods, manages a smile. She pulls him back towards the TARDIS, over the chilled sand of the beach. When the tide comes in their footprints will be washed away, and nothing will be left to prove they were here but their memories.

The Doctor shivers again, and glances up at the sky, out to sea where the storm is waiting. It’s okay, they’re leaving, they’re going to outrun it this time at least.

The door of the TARDIS slams shut behind them.