Kristoph carried a picnic basket while Marion carried a blanket under her arm. They walked barefoot along the warm sands of Tywyn Bay in North Wales. The sun was still warm, though it was already gone eight o’clock in the evening. It was June 21st, the longest day, and it wouldn’t be setting for many hours yet.

“It’s beautiful here,” Marion said. “I am glad we came. I remember… when I was a little girl. My grandparents used to hire a caravan in that big site back there over the other side of the sand hills. Mother loved it. She and I used to walk on the beach. I would play in the water’s edge. I got stung once by a jellyfish. That was horrible. But being cuddled by my mother while my foot was being tended to was nice. And I couldn’t wait to play on the beach again, even though I kept my shoes on after that.”

Kristoph looked at her and smiled gently.

“All the time we’ve been together, you have never talked about your mother before.”

“I know,” she answered.

“Why not?” he asked her.

“Because she seemed to belong to another time. Another life. She died when I was ten. And my grandparents died not long after. And then I was just a foster child, a Human parcel, passed around. I wasn’t the same girl any more. Life wasn’t the same. Even holidays. Sometimes my foster family came to North Wales, but it wasn’t the same. Now I have another life again. And THIS time… for the first time since I was a little girl… it’s the first time it has felt right.”

“I am glad you feel that way,” Kristoph told her.

“It will be the LAST time I come here, won’t it,” she continued. “Two more weeks of exams… then a month until I get my results. Then we’ll be moving to Gallifrey.”

“We don’t have to wait until the results arrive,” Kristoph said. “We could leave as soon as your exams are over. We’ve already made the arrangements for the house and everything here on Earth. It would be easy enough to bring the plans forward.”

“No,” Marion said firmly. “Kristoph, don’t do that to me. You KNOW it is going to be hard for me to give up my whole life, everything I have ever known, to leave this world for yours. You have to give me the time to prepare myself.”

“I know,” he sighed. “I understand.”

“I’m not sure you do,” Marion told him. “This isn’t your planet. As fond as you are of it, it isn’t your home. You’re an exile and YOU are going home. I’m not. I’m leaving MY home.”

“Marion,” Kristoph said. He put down the picnic basket and turned to hold her in his arms. “Marion, you think it’s because I am anxious to get back to Gallifrey?”

“Yes,” she answered. “And I can understand that. I really do. But you promised me you would not make me do anything against my will. And I DO need this time. I’m not ready.”

“It’s not that,” he admitted. “It isn’t because I want to go home. It’s because I WANT you to be my wife in the full sense that I understand it. Ever since… since Kier-Rou, when you were so very ill and I was so afraid I would lose you, I have wished we could bring our Alliance forward. I feel as if waiting is tempting fate. Anything could happen to either one of us…”

“Oh, Kristoph.” Marion wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him lovingly. “I used to think that way. As if our happiness couldn’t possibly last, and something must come along to spoil it. But I started to believe. I started to trust in the future. I believed in it because YOU made me believe in it. You assured me that it was in our future. If you lose faith…”

“I haven’t lost faith,” he assured her. “I am being irrational. And it is foolish of me. To say nothing of unbecoming a Time Lord. And I’ve spoilt this lovely evening for you. Forgive me.”

“Of course I forgive you. Let’s find a good place to sit and have our picnic, and try to get the mood back.” She kissed him and took his hand. He picked up the picnic basket and they walked on again. The anxiety they had both felt for a time passed from them as they relished the feel of warm, dry sand beneath their feet and the sun on their faces.

“This will do,” Kristoph said as they came to a rocky place with a patch of dry sand where the tide rarely came in and would not be coming in this night. He laid the blanket down and they sat. He opened the picnic basket. On the outside it looked like ordinary canvas, but inside it was like a small fridge – except that it was almost weightless to carry. Of course it didn’t come from 1994 and it didn’t come from Earth. But extra-terrestrial or futuristic technology was a part of their lives, enhancing their experiences such as now, as Kristoph opened a perfectly chilled bottle of white wine and poured two glasses. He also brought out an aged stilton cheese and fresh crusty bread and butter that went so well with it, and cured ham and egg salad as well as fresh fruit. A delicious picnic supper that they enjoyed together, reflecting as they ate, on how nice it was to be able to escape from the city on a weekday evening and be sitting here on a beautiful beach waiting for the sun to go down on the longest day of the year.

“It was nice to travel the old fashioned way,” Marion said. “Though I am glad we brought the TARDIS, too. An hour and a half drive across the Wirral and the North Wales coast was nice in the early evening, ESPECIALLY since you used your clever stuff to make sure we didn’t get any traffic jams or red lights. But it would be less fun coming home in the dark, feeling tired. At least it would be for me. YOU never get tired.”

“I don’t think the TARDIS really appreciated having to be towed behind the car disguised as a caravan,” Kristoph laughed. “When we were at the Mersey Tunnel tollbooth I was sure it was going to turn into something more expensive just to spite us.”

Marion laughed at the idea of the TARDIS playing such a trick on them.

“That’s better,” Kristoph said. “I like to hear you laugh.”

“You too,” Marion answered him. “Let’s not let anything make us sad, ever.”

“Ever is a long time,” Kristoph noted.

“At least we’re happy now. On my last solstice on Earth. Unless we come to visit. I suppose we COULD do that. But it will be different. We will both be visitors. But we could visit. We could bring our children. Even if they are born Gallifreyans, they should know Earth, my planet.”

“Yes, they should,” Kristoph assured her. “And we WILL visit. But the next summer solstice we share together we will watch a sun that sets in the East and there will be a grand solstice ball and the dedication of the candidates to enjoy.”

Marion looked out at the sun that was dropping slowly over a western horizon as she thought about that future solstice that Kristoph described so vividly. She had, of course, read about the Dedication Ceremony when the youths of Gallifrey who would become Time Lords at their Transcension would dedicate themselves to that future path. The Ceremony did not take place in the Panopticon as so many other Time Lord rituals did, but in the open air, with the solstice sun at its highest at midday, before great thirteen hour gala balls that began in the open sunshine and ended inside long after the sun had gone down. Marion was not at all surprised to learn that Lady Lily’s Solstice Balls were famously magnificent.

“It seems to be a very important festival on Gallifrey,” Marion said. “Not so much here. I’m glad in a way. It’s nice, just the two of us here, together.”

“Yes, it is,” Kristoph admitted. He sighed with pleasure. He had forgotten, in all his talk about the future, something that his race and humans alike often forgot. To live in the present, and enjoy life as it is, instead of looking back on the past, or longing for the future. He breathed in deeply and hugged his Earth wife close to him and let himself live in the moment that was, to appreciate every minute of the quiet time they had together, every warm kiss from her lips, the feel of her body pressed against his. He poured more wine and they drank together. His Time Lord constitution was not affected by alcohol unless he chose to let it affect him. He let it affect him just a little, as the sun dropped still lower and the clear blue sky turned golden and the sun a red ball of fire in it.

“The Earth sky at this time of day looks like the Gallifreyan sky all the time,” Marion observed. “That yellow tinge it has, instead of blue. And that burnt orange colour it is at sunset and sunrise.”

“Yes,” Kristoph said. “I think it’s why I love sunsets. Our sky is an unusual shade and wherever I am a sunset will always remind me of home.”

“I will miss blue skies,” Marion said. “I suppose I had better make the most of them while I have them. And the stars that I am familiar with, and the Earth moon.”

As the sun went down she watched it as if it would be the last time of all. She kept her eyes on the horizon as the sun became a half and then less than half, then a sliver of light on the horizon, and then that, too, disappeared and it got darker as if a lamp was switched off. As the sky darkened they stayed where they were, lying back to look at the stars.

“We’ve seen so many of them up close,” Marion said. “Earth scientists don’t even know how many of them have planets orbiting them.”

“They will,” Kristoph assured her. “In the future, mankind will spread out from this little planet and make their homes on a lot of those planets.”

“Me first.”

“You first. A pioneer of your race.”

“Yes.” Thinking of it that way, it did seem exciting. The first Human to leave Earth for a new life beyond the stars. Perhaps all the things she was gaining were worth all that she was going to be leaving behind.