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By Sarah Hapgood

Bengo woke up late one morning, face-down on the communal bed in the cabin on the sloop. They had been back at the Bay for about a week, and it felt like they had never been away. Through the open window came the sound from the clearing of a piano being played off-key. Since arriving the others had gone to great pains to keep Hillyard from dragging the piano out of the hold, even to the extent of hiding it under tarpaulins and boxes of provisions, in the forlorn hope that he would eventually forget it was there. No such luck. This morning he had obviously had his wish, and the battered instrument had been carted ashore.

At first Bengo had thought he was alone in the cabin, but then he heard a soft movement from the other side of the room. Kieran was sitting at the desk with his back to him, reading his Bible, turning the pages gently. Bengo felt a momentary panic. He didn't want to disturb Kieran. Also, incredible though it may seem, he wasn't used to being alone with Kieran. None of the younger ones were, with the exception of Tamaz. To them, he was still very much an enigma. Surrounded by the others, his immense presence usually got diluted by their strong personalities. But when met on a solely one-to-one basis, he could still seem very formidable. To the under-30s, who hadn't been with him from the beginning, or known him as a very young man, this was very much the case. The only one who were never awed by his presence in any way at any time were Adam, Joby and Hillyard.

Bengo decided to lie quietly and pretened he was asleep, as though Kieran was a burglar, and prayed that he wouldn't interrupt Kieran's devotions by doing something so prosaic as farting! He was trying so hard to be inconspicuous that he didn't notice Kieran creep up on him until he felt a sharp slap on his rear.

"K-Kieran!" Bengo jumped, startled.

Kieran lay down next to him and stretched out. Bengo noticed that his naked body appeared almost hairless, apart from the hair on his head and his eyebrows. What body hair Kieran had was so fair and downy as to be almost unnoticeable.

"You're so damn cute", Kieran smiled "I couldn't resist coming over when I'd finished. There must be men and women all over the world who'd pay a fortune to have you as a pet".

"I know", said Bengo, without the slightest trace of conceit.

"Don't look so despondent", said Kieran "I always wanted to just be Adam's pet. But somehow we got taken over by events".

"If I was auctioned off", said Bengo "W-would you bid for me?"

"Yes", said Kieran "And I'd know what to do with you too. Just because I enjoy playing the slave doesn't mean I don't know how to be the master".

He leaned over to kiss Bengo on the lips, but Bengo flinched and drew back.

"What's wrong?" said Kieran "Aren't we friends?"

"Yes of course!" said Bengo.

"Are you worried about what Bardin might say?" said Kieran.

"No, I'm sure he won't mind me being with you", said Bengo "It's just ... I-I don't feel good enough for you".

Kieran looked genuinely astonished. He pulled Bengo towards him and kissed him long and slow on the lips. Kieran had very soft, tender lips, like a woman's, a sensation enhanced by the smoothness of his skin and an absence of any kind of facial bristle. Bengo wallowed in the kiss, feeling it fill his body from head to toe.

"I don't want to hear you say anything like that again", said Kieran, eventually "Not ever. You made me angry with that daft comment. I felt like taking Julian's cane and swishing you with it, only I decided to kiss you instead".

"Would you beat me if I was your slave?" said Bengo.

"Yes", said Kieran "I know how disappointed you'd be if I didn't!"

It was all too much for Bengo. The combination of the soft kisses and the stern words brought him to a climax far too soon. When Kieran moved down to suckle him, Bengo ejaculated at once in his face. Bengo was overcome with shame and disappointment. He wanted to spend hours with Kieran, not come immediately before they'd barely started. That he had also squirted sperm into Kieran's face was about the most embarrasing thing he felt he'd ever done. Kieran couldn't ease his mortification, because Bengo just wanted to get away. Bengo grabbed a shirt and ran off the sloop.

"Of course what it really needs is a tuning-fork", said Hillyard, extracting more tortuous notes from the piano.

"What it really needs is an axe putting through it!" said Joby.

"Look, you get on with your garden", said Hillyard.

"If you don't stop carping, Joby", said Lonts "You won't be allowed to join in the singing later".

"That a promise?" said Joby.

He went back to his vegetable plot, which he was putting back into shape, helped by Mieps and Bardin, who were working at the far end of it. Tamaz was watching, bored because no one was taking any notice of him. When Bengo walked past and went into the forest looking meloncholy, Tamaz made to follow him, sensing entertainment in the offing at last. Joby though could see Bengo was disturbed about something and, almost in a reflex action, shot out an arm and hauled Tamaz back by his t-shirt.

"Has Bengo gone into the woods?" said Kieran, appearing in the sunlight.

"Yeah, he looks a bit off to me", said Joby.

"I came onto him in the cabin", said Kieran.

"You dirty old Vanquisher you!" said Joby.

"Is that why he's run off?" said Tamaz "Didn't he want you then?"

"Yes!" said Kieran "He ejaculated too soon that's all".

"That does brass you off when that happens", said Joby, sympathetically "You get all revved up and then don't have a chance to enjoy it 'cos - whoosh - it's all over!"

"Serves him right", said Tamaz, sulkily.

"Why are you still being down on Bengo?" said Kieran "One minute you're letting him jump all over you, the next you haven't got a good word to say about him".

"Take no notice", said Joby "He's still smarting from the walloping Bengo gave him back at the Town House".

"You should have hauled him over the coals for that, not laughed!" said Tamaz "That crazy clown should not be allowed to get ideas above his station".

"Oh come off it!" said Joby "You just don't like it 'cos he gives you as good as you give him. He doesn't follow you around all dopey and adoring like Toppy does, I'm glad to say!"

"We'll get a nice little tune out of this later!" Hillyard shouted.

"I wouldn't raise your hopes too high if I was you", said Joby.

Bengo hadn't gone far into the woods. In fact he had got to the nearest sturdy tree with conveniently low branches and shinned up it, so that he could sit on a branch in total dejection. Farnol had come by soon after, selecting pine-cones for the fire, using Tamaz's torn petticoat as a sack.

"What are you doing up there?" he squinted up through the branches at Bengo.

"How did you know I was up here?" said Bengo.

"I could see your feet dangling down, you daft sod!" Farnol laughed.

"I am daft too", said Bengo, miserably "Sometimes I'm so stupid I even amaze myself!"

"Ah it can't be that bad", said Farnol, dropping the sack of pine-cones on the ground and holding out his arms "Come and rest your head on my bosom!"

Bengo jumped down onto him, and they both rolled back onto the ground.

"What are you worried about?" said Farnol, after Bengo had told him about the premature ejaculation "I expect Kieran was cool about it".

"I came in his face", said Bengo.

"From what I've heard he's had far worse things happen to him", said Farnol "In fact, I should think on the scale of degrading and terrifying experiences, you coming in his face ranks pretty low!"

"Now I feel even more of a fool than ever", said Bengo.

"But that's what we are, oh beautiful Bengo", said Farnol "Fools. Honest fools".

This cheered Bengo considerably. He and Farnol strolled back to the clearing. As they came in sight of the back of the wooden hut nicknamed the Butlin's Chalet, they stopped dead and dropped down into the undergrowth. Hoowie and Toppy were sitting out of sight of the others, both engaged in a long and tender kiss. Farnol and Bengo hid in the long grass and watched this spectacle in astonishment, cramming grass into their mouths to try and keep from laughing out loud.

When they finally got back to the clearing they found that Hillyard had actually succeeded in getting a reasonable tune out of the piano. He was sitting on a long bench in front of it, tinkling the keys with one hand, and the other around Kieran, who was sitting next to him.

"You look a wee bit more cheerful, Bengo", said Kieran.

Bengo gave him a look of abject adoration. Hillyard pulled him onto the bench on the other side of him.

"Wow, what a threesome we make!" he exclaimed.

Kieran and Bengo both laughed, whilst Joby and Bardin watched jealousy from the vegetable patch.

"Hillyard!" Julian roared, having taken in the whole scene with one glance "I don't know how you can play the piano with your arms round those two teasers!"

"Neither do I", said Hillyard "But I can give it a go!"

Bardin had made plans to take all the other under-30s (now a mighty 7 in number) on a long day's route-march through the forest, starting just before dawn and returning at dusk. This was all scheduled to happen the following day. Back on the sloop later that afternoon though, Tamaz announced that he wouldn't be joining them.

"Yes you are", said Julian "It'll do you good, otherwise you only sit around here all day getting petted and spoiled".

"There is no room for me!" Tamaz snapped "I'll be the odd one out, I'll disrupt their tidy little couples pattern. Bengo and Bardin. Farnol and Rumble. Hoowie and Toppy".

Julian had a strong suspicion that Tamaz was jealous of this latest little development in the relationship stakes.

"Then you'll just have to be the joker in the pack won't you?" said Julian, getting up to leave the cabin "I'm not arguing with you, Freaks. In my experience there is nothing wrong with odd numbers in groups, certainly not ones higher than 3 anyway. It stops any ganging-up going on, and also adds a touch of zest".

He left the cabin, leaving Tamaz alone with Bardin and Rumble.

"You're coming with us tomorrow", said Bardin, firmly "If I have to put you in a sack and carry you over my shoulder!"

"And much bloody point that'll be!" said Tamaz, kicking the desk.

"And whilst we're on the subject", said Bardin "I won't be making any concessions for you. Tomorrow you are one of the guys, all male. As far as the rest of us are concerned we're going to forget you're half-female".

"That's not gonna be easy, Bardin", said Rumble, looking at Tamaz's outfit of skimpy vest and lacey drawers.

"Oh yes it will be", said Bardin "There'll be no turning up in his corset and pearls, expecting fancy treatment".

"I haven't got a corset anymore!" said Tamaz "Not since Bengo fucking wrecked it. Something he's never been punished for!"

"Why should he be?" said Bardin "He was only getting revenge on my behalf".

"Hah!" said Tamaz "Revenge for what? I thought you quite liked being spanked, you're such a weirdo!"

"Not in front of fucking Hoowie I don't!" said Bardin.

"I don't regret a thing", said Tamaz, haughtily "In fact I will do it again sometime, anywhere and any place I choose".

He walked out with immense dignity, slamming the door shut behind him. Bardin stormed over to the washstand and began to clean his teeth in a very aggressive manner.

"That threat should keep you on tenterhooks", said Rumble, in his usual laconic manner.

Bardin let off a volley of something unintelligible, hampered by a mouthful of toothpaste.

A short way into the forest the next day, the 7 of them decided to stop for breakfast. They were each carrying provisions in backpacks. Tamaz, although dressed in a functional man's shirt and trousers, was determined to remind Bardin he was half-woman at any given opportunity, if only to simply irritate him.

"These straps are rubbing against my breasts", he said, easing the backpack off his shoulders.

Bardin grumpily ordered him to go and fetch more twigs for the fire. Toppy scampered after Tamaz, desperate to appease his goddess.

"You and Hoowie?" said Tamaz, scornfully "That was never what I expected".

"Neither did I", said Toppy, helplessly "I guess I just started feeling sorry for him. No one wanted him, and ... well it was like that for me when I first joined. I felt in the way. Everyone else was busy ... busy chasing you up the river ..."

Tamaz glared at him.

"And I knew they could do without me along", Toppy continued "Lonts used to give me a really hard time, almost like what Hoowie's been through. And he's been different lately when I've got him on his own. I mean, I know he's not the world's brightest at anything, and he has his own motivations ... but ... oh he's with us now and that's that".

"Nobody had it as bad as me when I first joined", Tamaz snapped.

Toppy could have pointed out that no one else had murdered a President, or kidnapped one of the others, but he was so anxious to get back on the right side of his goddess that he could only smile sympathetically. They collected the twigs and went back to the others. A fire had already been started, and Hoowie was crouched on the ground trying to blow life into it, whilst Bengo held his hair up out of the way. Bardin was making up the mixture for buckwheat pancakes in a billy-can.

"Nice to see he can at least try and make himself useful", said Bardin, nodding towards Hoowie.

"We have to look after Hoowie, Bardin", said Rumble, who was preparing coffee "Because no one else will. If we don't take him in, he'll end up one day like one of those angry old men who shout insults at people in the street, 'cos that's the only way they can get attention from anyone".

"Yeah well I suppose we can't let that happen", said Bardin "There are too many around like that already. That might have been how I would have gone, if I hadn't followed Bengo onto the Indigo. 'Cept I'd have an angry old clown, insulting people from the stage".

"And I'd have ended up driving rickshaws all the time, and trying to stop Farnol giving blow-jobs to the landlord because we couldn't pay the rent", said Rumble, in a low enough voice so that Farnol couldn't hear.

"Did that happen?" said Bardin.

"Yeah, once", said Rumble "He doesn't know I know. He told me he'd paid the rent by doing card-tricks in the street, but I knew what was up. Poor sod, he was quiet for days afterwards, but I thought whatever happens he's not gonna have to do that again".

"He was a right tosser that landlord", said Bardin "He was always trying to get his sweaty paws on Bengo. I used to have to order him to lock himself in our room when I wasn't there, for his own safety. I don't envy Farnol the experience, I'd rather be pushed in a dozen gunge tanks than have that moron's greasy cock in my mouth!"

"Well don't mention it eh?" said Rumble "He still doesn't know I know, and some things are best left forgotten".

Bardin raised his thumb in a goodwill gesture.

After a very hearty breakfast of numerous buckwheat pancakes, they all lay on the ground in a circle, and watched the sun climb the sky through the trees. They spent a good long while at this absorbing activity, and then carried on their journey.

Mid-afternoon they emerged from the forest at the back of Midnight Castle, the grounds of which looked even more lush and over-grown than ever.

"You know it wouldn't surprise me if this place was like the place where we caught up with Dalman", said Tamaz "Everything re-grows overnight, re-groups itself".

"What's it like inside?" said Rumble.

"Nothing much to see", said Bardin "Most of the furniture's long gone".

Rumble wanted to explore though, so they all went inside and ran around the large, empty rooms, making a great deal of noise. Farnol was fascinated by a huge sunken bath on the first-floor, which was entirely decorated in gold paintwork and gold-leaf. He climbed into it and stood in the middle, shouting and making his voice bounce off the walls.

Tamaz went into the bedroom with the four-poster bed, the one that Adam had denuded of its curtains. He found Bengo sprawling around on the dusty coverlet. Tamaz jumped onto it next to him, and grabbed his nuts in one hand, squeezing them through Bengo's leather breeches. Bengo yelped and pushed him off the bed.

"Soft landing, Freak-Face?" he said, leaning over the edge of the bed.

Tamaz answered by slapping him across the nose. Bengo recovered and pulled him up onto the bed, pinning him down whilst he removed Tamaz's trousers. Bardin came in, and knelt on the bed, unhooking his braces.

"Move back, Bengo", he ordered "Obey".

Bengo scuttled back onto his haunches. Bardin undid the crotch buttons on Tamaz's drawers, and then plunged into Tamaz's silky tunnel, which was so well-lubricated by this time that the whole act of penetrating him was monumentally easy. Tamaz grabbed hold of fistfuls of Bardin's thick, honey-coloured hair, and held onto it whilst Bardin screwed him. Very nearby, Bengo shed his leather breeches and wanked.

When Bardin had climaxed and removed his cock from Tamaz's embrace, Tamaz took off his own shirt and wiped his cunt with it, before rebuttoning his drawers. Bardin was delighted by this matter-of-fact attitude. Joby had always called Tamaz a right little tart, and so he was, a perfect, consummate little tart. It was easy to imagine him in brothels right across the centuries, accommodating one client after another, and thinking no more about it than washing his hair! He would have made a perfect whore, sitting around half-dressed or completely naked, waiting languidly for his next customer, and serving as the inspiration for numerous writers, poets and artists. The fact that he also had a small penis and balls would have merely added to his exotic, quirky allure.

"You were very obedient, Bengo", said Bardin "I'll have to reward you later".

He kissed Bengo and rubbed his hand along his legs, pulling up his long shirt as he did so. Bengo relished the feeling of lying there with his lower half exposed and his lover's hands on him.

"We have to go home soon", Bardin whispered "It'll be dark before long, and there's a full moon tonight. We mustn't linger here".

He refastened his clothing and slipped out of the door. Tamaz had rolled onto his stomach. Bengo crawled over to him and spanked him several times on the buttocks. Tamaz hissed (although not immediately!) and sat up.

"You stupid clown!" he said "I suppose you think you can always get away with it now? Well now it's my turn!"

Bengo obligingly remained crouched on all fours, whilst Tamaz dealt stinging blows on his behind.

"Bad dog!" Tamaz cried "Stay like that".

He pulled his cock out of his drawers and rogered Bengo.

"God, I bet you just love being an hermaphrodite don't you?" Bengo groaned, with pleasure.

"As much as you like me being one!" said Tamaz, thrusting away.

Bengo laughed, and gave a moan of acute satisfaction. Whatever amorous magic Midnight Castle possessed, had been well used that afternoon.

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