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By Sarah Hapgood

“If anybody had told me”, said Joby “Years and years ago, that one day I’d be doing a little smoochy dance with a clown, I’d have thought they was raving mad!”

“I bet you thought you’d never get that lucky”, Beno giggled.

Everybody else was up on deck, sitting in the hot humid air. Joby and Bengo were dancing together to the gramophone in the dining-room.

“Are you still cross with Bardin?” Joby asked.

“A bit”, said Bengo “I just don’t know what was so fucking fascinating about an old mine-shaft! Sometimes I think I’ll never get him to do as he’s told”.

“There’s no more chance of that than there is of me getting Kieran to do as he’s told”, said Joby.

“Bengo!” came his master’s voice from the doorway “Stop bothering Joby and come to bed”.

“He’s not bothering me”, said Joby “Anyway, are you too scared to go to bed on your own?”

“And it’s high time you turned in too”, said Bardin “Or does Adam not work you hard enough for you to get tired?”

“Bloody cheek”, said Joby “And I don’t like being told when to go to bed at my mammoth age!”

“Umbert and Digby will be down in a minute”, said Bardin “They might want their bedroom back”.

“I was about to go anyway”, said Joby.

But before leaving he yanked Bardin’s dressing-gown down from around his shoulders, exposing him in his boxer-shorts.

“G’night”, said Joby, as he casually left the room.

Bengo suddenly picked Bardin up and carried him protesting (albeit mildly) from the room.

“Well I’m glad to see those two are alright at last”, said Adam, coming in through the other door with Umbert and Hillyard.

“Those two will always be alright”, said Hillyard, proudly.

“Bengo didn’t like that creature they saw though“, said Umbert.

“And yet the creature didn’t sound that monstrous”, said Adam “Not if you go just by appearances alone, merely odd that’s all. It’s more the air it seemed to give off”.

“You know I’m in two minds about this whole area”, said Umbert, setting up his rickety camp-bed “One minute I can’t wait for us to get away from it, the next I wanna stay and find out what the hell it’s all about”.

“Same here”, said Hillyard “Best thing we can do is to find some place to hole up for a while”.

“Houses seem a little short in supply around here”, said Adam “Let alone ones that are conveniently empty for us to move into. We’re not having our usual luck in that department”.

“That’s because we haven’t looked hard enough”, said Hillyard “We need to sail up and explore the coast a bit more”.

“Last time we tried that we got flipped 60 years into the freaking future!” said Umbert.

“No one said it was going to be straightforward did they?” said Hillyard.

“I’m so pleased to see you’ve got your old sang-froid back, Hilly”, said Adam.

“Sailing up the coast in a North-Westerly direction”, said Bardin “Take 2”.

He blew his whistle, and the galleon was underway.

“I hope we know what we’re doing”, said Joby, who had been watching all this with Adam up on the main deck “What if we slip into another time-warp again? Look what happened last time. We might get shoved back to our own time”.

“Oh God forbid”, said Adam “Don’t say things like that”.

“Or summat REALLY weird could happen”, said Joby “Like we get regressed back to childhood”.

“Well at least that won’t make too much difference to us!” said Adam “We’ll just all be a bit smaller that’s all”.

“I bet you was a moody little bugger when you was a kid”, said Joby.

“Like you are now you mean?” said Adam, tartly “I’m going to go and make a start on the lunch. Don’t be too long”.

Joby noticed Kieran draped over the bulwark, looking vaguely disconsolate.

“What’s up?” said Joby.

“Why can’t we find a damn island?” said Kieran “One for us I mean? We’ve sailed all the ocean round”.

“We haven’t sailed all of it have we!” said Joby “I know we’ve been all around the world, but there’s still tonnes of it yet we haven’t come across. Now don’t go all mopey on me. Tell you what, I’ll skive off a bit later and come and look for you, give yer bottom a damn good spanking”.

“I’ll make sure I’m easy to find!” said Kieran.

“We’ve just passed the danger zone”, said Ransey. He was standing in front of one of the trestle tables up on deck, which was strewn with maps and self-penned diagrams, all weighted down with compasses and sextants, and other useful items of nautical equipment.

“How do you mean?” said Hillyard.

“We’ve just got past the fog-bank area”, said Ransey “When we slipped into the time-vortex, or whatever it was”.

“Was it as soon as this?” said Hillyard “From what I remember it seemed to take us longer than this to get there”.

“The fact remains that we’ve passed it”, said Ransey “The air certainly feels a lot cooler anyway”.

“Yeah I’d noticed that“, said Hillyard “I’ll nip below and get you a warmer shirt, and tell Kieran on the way”.

“I wish I had more time to look after you”, said Joby, holding Kieran close in their cabin “But Adam works me so bleedin’ hard I don’t get to spend as much time with you as I’d like. I have to snatch moments like this”.

“You do your best”, said Kieran “And it’s appreciated. I’m just a bit low at the moment because we’re going in the exact opposite direction to what I’d like”.

“Back to the Bay?” said Joby.

“I’m longing to see that place again, Joby“, said Kieran “It’s a hunger in me. It’s a very Irish thing, we get so attached to places”.

“And a cold-blooded English swine like me can’t possibly hope to understand that?!” Joby smiled.

“I shall say something nice about the English now”, said Kieran “Just to shock you. I admire the way you, Adam and Julian have that very English way of making yourselves at home wherever you are”.

“Well I spose with me and Adam in charge of the cookhouse we have to”, said Joby “Everybody still has to eat, wherever we are. And Julian … well it comes of him being an arrogant old bastard I spose. He thinks he owns everywhere anyway!”

“Don’t do yourselves down”, said Kieran.

“I’ll take you back to the Bay one day I promise”, said Joby “Even if I have to nick the skiff and sail off that way like Captain Bligh”.

“It’d be easier to take Bardin hostage in here until he gives in”, said Kieran.

Joby kissed him. Kieran’s lips were as soft and gentle as ever.

“How did I share a bed with you for so long without doing anything?” said Joby, eventually “I must have been a complete nutter”.

There was a knock on the door.

“Oh for fuck’s sake”, said Joby “This place is worse than being on a train sometimes! Who is it?”

“Me. Hillyard”.

“For chrissake Hillyard”, said Joby, opening the door “I would have thought you of all people should know better!”

“I just thought you’d like to know”, said Hillyard “We’ve got past the vortex area”.

“What, already?” said Kieran.

“That’s what I said”, said Hillyard “Anyway that’s all I wanted to say. I’ll leave you to it now. As you were”.

Joby closed and bolted the door.

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