"This is a nice place,” Julia said as they walked along the beach. “I’ve never been to Ireland before.”

“I’ve been here several times, Chrístõ said. “I came here with my father once and had a very interesting time. Nearly married a Celtic mythological figure.”

“You didn’t really, did you?” Julia laughed. “You’re teasing me.”

“No, I’m not. But I met you soon afterwards, anyway. And there’s no other woman for me.”

“Not even Camilla?” Julia teased him.

“Not even Camilla, no matter how much she may try.”

“That’s all right then.” She sighed happily as she looked out to sea. “The sunset was nearly as nice as the one on Lyria.”

“I think it’s better,” Chrístõ said. “Maybe I should make a new category in the Time Lord database of planets. Best sunsets.”

“I don’t think the Time Lords would be interested in that sort of information,” Julia laughed.

“I’m sure they wouldn’t be! They are a boring lot at times.”

They were talking of trivial things, laughing at little jokes, because it took their minds off the fact that Natalie was feeling too unwell even to walk along the beach with them. She was resting in the cottage he had rented for a few weeks to give her a break from TARDIS travel. She had enjoyed the place, and the fact that nothing alarming had happened in the time they had been here.

“Of course,” Chrístõ said. “It is tempting fate. Three weeks with nothing happening! It really is too much to expect that we won’t run into SOME kind of trouble soon.”

Julia laughed at the idea.

But five minutes later, they DID run into something that could be described as alarming, if not trouble as such.

Or rather he walked towards them. They heard his pitiful cries of deep distress before they caught sight of him in the dim light of the post sunset hour.

He was walking out of the surf at the edge of the tide, dressed in some kind of skin-tight suit that covered his torso and his upper arms and thighs. As he came closer Chrístõ thought his height was about five foot one, an inch shorter than Julia, and he was a pale green colour, with webbed hands and feet.

All of which were less important to Chrístõ than the sobbing noise he was making and rthe huge tears running down his pale green cheeks.

“Hey there,” Chrístõ said as he stepped close to him. “You look cold.” He slipped off his leather jacket and put it on him. “Come on. I don’t know what species you are, but I am betting you could use a hot cup of tea.”

He put his arm around the alien’s shoulders and steered him gently. He was still weeping, though he seemed to have taken some comfort from the friendly tone of Chrístõ’s voice and apparently trusted him not to harm him.

“Yeah,” Chrístõ said. “And listen, I’m trusting you to be a good web-footed non-Human and not grow fangs and claws and try to eat me and my girlfriend in a minute, ok.”

“Is he all right?” Julia asked. “Why is he crying?”

“I don’t know. We’ll get him inside and find out.”

“He IS an alien, isn’t he?”

“Yes. But so am I. We can’t hold THAT against him.” The non-Human looked at him with big, rather bulging eyes that he could not believe held any malice. They were green like his skin and had no whites and only a pin-prick of a pupil.

“Does he understand us?”

“I think he does. At least at a basic level. But I’m not sure he can talk.”

“He came out of the sea. Like the Little Mermaid,” Julia said. “Perhaps he can’t talk.”

“THAT is a possibility,” Chrístõ said. “But I don’t think he’s actually a mermaid, or merman either. And he certainly isn’t the Man from Atlantis.”

“The what?”

“Character from a rather silly television programme from 1970s Earth,” he answered. “He wasn’t green, but he did have the webbed hands and feet. Although admitting I have watched that programme rather destroys my credibility as a cool guy….”

Even though he was talking nonsense, the sound of his voice seemed to reassure the alien. He was still crying, but softer now.

“Chrístõ, what on Earth…” Natalie stared as they brought their strange friend into the cottage. Chrístõ sat him down on a soft chair while Julia ran to make a large mug of tea. She put lots of sugar in it. She wasn’t sure, but she had a feeling the alien would like the tea sweet.

“Here you are,” she said, giving it to him. He had a little trouble holding the cup in his webbed hands, but she helped him and he swallowed nearly all of the tea in one gulp without even noticing that it was boiling hot. He drained the mug and Julia took it back from him. The alien looked at her and smiled a watery smile through his tears.

“He seems kind of sweet,” Natalie admitted. “He’s not going to grow fangs and claws and try to eat us, is he?”

“I told him not to do that,” Chrístõ answered her. He looked at the alien again. “Can you talk to me?” he asked.

He shook his head, which proved that he DID understand, but he had no way of answering. Chrístõ nodded and touched his forehead. His skin was cold to the touch still, and very damp. He had an idea he had been in the water a long time.

He looked at him with an expression of surprise as Chrístõ reached into his mind and connected with his thoughts. He knew his gentle probing would not be painful, but he would be aware of him.

His name is Bi’ll’G’Teir’el’U’Hadic’Lo’Hak’Rey,” Chrístõ told Natalie and Julia, pronouncing the strange syllables with a clicking of the tongue that made it sound even more unusual and alien. “I think I’ll call him Billy for short.” Billy nodded his agreement to that idea. “He’s a little confused. He doesn’t entirely know how he got here and I don’t want to probe too deeply yet to find out. He’s in shock. He had a bang on the head and he’s feeling a bit out of sorts. But I don’t think there’s any permanent damage. I think it might all come back to him when he’s feeling better.”

“Look,” Julia said, pointing to his hands. The translucent webbing between them seemed to be dissolving and he was taking on a pinker hue, far more Human. His eyes, too, looked more Human.

“I’m still not sure what his species is,” Chrístõ said. “But it looks like they’re amphibious and morphic. Seems like they look more like us out of the water.”

“And definitely not related to the Little Mermaid – or the Man from Atlantis?” Julia asked with a smile.

“He came out of the Atlantic, but I don’t think that’s his home. He feels a little like I do sometimes. A LONG way from home.”

“I am lost,” Billy said suddenly. His voice wasn’t QUITE Human. It seemed to have an almost aquatic sound to it, like the surf running over the sand.

“You can talk now?” Chrístõ asked him. “Now that you’re dry and you’ve taken on a more Human look, you’re able to talk? Is that right?”

He nodded, as if talking was still something that didn’t come easy.

“Lost,” he said again mournfully.

“Oh, it’s all right,” Julia told him, hugging him tenderly. “We found you. Chrístõ will help you. He’s really clever. And kind. And he looks after people. He looks after me and Natalie, and Humphrey. And he CARES about people, no matter who they are or where they come from.

“Quite right,” Chrístõ agreed. “Julia, he’s near enough your size. Your track suit should fit him. Natalie, dear, do you think you could make some more tea for us all?”

Julia found the clothes and Chrístõ took him into the bathroom and helped him to change. When he returned he looked like a perfectly ordinary Human boy of about seventeen. Julia smiled at him. He smiled back, a little hesitantly.

“He looks much better now,” Natalie agreed. “Poor thing. His family must be missing him. That is… if his kind have families.”

“I’ll try to find out tomorrow, after he’s rested,” Chrístõ said. “Meanwhile, tea, and it looks like Natalie has found the last of the famous Irish barm brack cake we had in the kitchen. A treat for everyone before bed.”

Billy didn’t talk much as he drank more tea and managed two slices of the cake. But he seemed to understand the concept of please and thank you and he managed to ask for another cup of tea. Julia poured it for him. He smiled at her again. She was the only one he DID smile for. He looked worried and lost and frightened still. But he managed a smile for Julia. And that was a start.

Chrístõ made up a bed for Billy on the sofa in the living room and they all had an early night. He went to his own room and kicked off his shoes and pulled off his shirt then laid down on top of the bed. He didn’t want to go to sleep. He planned to get a couple of hours in low level meditation to refresh himself after a tiring and stressful couple of hours.

He had not quite reached the point of mental stillness that allowed him to meditate when he heard Billy crying again. He sighed wearily but he went to see what he could do for him.

He was asleep, but he was obviously reliving something of the trauma that had led to him walking out of the Atlantic on a beach in the west of Ireland. He was crying and murmuring incoherently.

“All right,” Chrístõ whispered to him as he lifted him in his arms and held him gently. He was only a youngster of his species. Chrístõ had felt that when he probed his mind. He was a teenager, vulnerable, inexperienced, and he needed his help.

“Ch…chr…” he stammered as he woke from his nightmare to find himself being held by the one who had been kind to him. “Chr…is...to…”

“Yes,” Chrístõ said. “Yes, that’s me. Chrístõ. And I’m your friend. So don’t cry. I know things are a bit strange for you, but you’re safe with me. I won’t let anyone harm you.”

And people WOULD harm him, he knew. This was the summer of 2007,before Earth had any officially recognised contact with other planets. There had BEEN many incidents of it in reality, but the governments of Earth kept them quiet. And yes, they DID experiment on aliens when they found them. If Billy fell into the hands of the government departments that dealt with such things he would not be treated kindly.

“I’ll look after you,” he promised.

Billy seemed to believe him. But he clung to Chrístõ like a child as his tears subsided. He didn’t want to let go. Chrístõ resigned himself to spending the night on the sofa, cuddling a teenage alien who didn’t want him to leave.

After a while Billy did go to sleep again. Chrístõ closed his eyes and let himself doze gently, ready to be awake again if there were any more nightmares.

He woke a little after dawn to find Billy calm and absolutely fast asleep.

Chrístõ was aware of something though. As he slept pressed against him Billy’s body had warmed up considerably and he had perspired a lot. His perspiration was very strange smelling, very salty, slightly fishy. And he felt as if the smell was on him, too.

He gently laid Billy down on the sofa again and covered him with the blankets, then he headed to the bathroom. He stripped his stale clothes and stepped into the warm shower. It felt pleasant, washing away the dirt and sweat and the fish-smell of whatever species Billy was. He was enjoying himself until he dropped the soap. He bent to pick it up and that was when he noticed something very strange. He stared at his own hands in rising horror for a moment before grabbing the towel and running out of the bathroom.

Billy was standing outside the bathroom. He looked at Chrístõ and stepped closer. He whispered something to him. He breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn’t so bad as he had thought.

“Tell you what,” he said. “How about we go for a swim?”

Natalie and Julia were puzzled and worried to find both Billy and Chrístõ missing when they got up in the morning. Both exhausted their list of innocent explanations quickly and began to think the worst.

“Maybe he WASN’T so innocent after all,” Natalie fretted. “He could have taken Chrístõ and…”

“And what?” Julia looked fearful for a long moment then she shook her head. “No, Billy isn’t a monster. He’s a sweet, lovely boy who needs our help.”

“Then perhaps it is his people – or the enemies of his people – perhaps something came here and grabbed him – and Chrístõ…”

“Chrístõ wouldn’t just be grabbed,” Julia protested.

“If they had weapons, and if he wanted to protect us…”

“Natalie!” Chrístõ laughed softly as he stood by the door listening to them. “Where did YOU get such fanciful ideas? You used to be so down to Earth and practical.”

He watched the relief in their eyes and on their faces and dug his hands into his pockets. He was going to have to tell them, but give him a minute to compose himself.

Billy stood beside him. The water had reverted him to ‘Man from Atlantis’, with his skin pale green and clammy to the touch and his hands and feet webbed. He couldn’t speak yet, though Chrístõ could feel his thoughts. He was elated and happy after their swim together, but he was sorry to have upset the ladies.

“We just went for an early morning swim,” Chrístõ explained, trying not to look as if his feet were killing him, crammed into his shoes.

“Chrístõ, what…” Julia demanded. “There’s something you’re not telling me.”

“Billy is sort of … infectious. Not in a bad way, I mean. But if his body fluids are absorbed by a humanoid like us, it has a very interesting result. The humanoid ‘borrows’ some of his characteristics. Chiefly the ability to breathe underwater and swim like a fish. Wooww-wee it was bracing, I can tell you.” Chrístõ took his hands out of his pockets slowly and held them up. Natalie and Julia both stared as before their eyes the webbing between his fingers was dissolving. He stepped out of the painful shoes and they saw his feet returning to normal, too. Beside him, Billy was also drying out.

“But HOW did you absorb his bodily fluids?” Natalie asked the question both knew they had to ask though finding the right words was tricky.

“He was scared in the night so I cuddled him until he fell asleep again. His body got warm and I absorbed some of his perspiration through my skin. Not much, but enough…”

“Oh!” Julia squealed and, without even thinking she backed away from them both. “Oh, Chrístõ, you mean you’ll turn into a fish person like him?”

“Oh, no, no,” he assured her. “It’s not permanent. Billy says it will work out of my system in a few days. Meanwhile, that was the BEST swim I ever had. It was amazing. I…”

“It was really irresponsible of you to go off without leaving a note,” Natalie admonished him. “We were WORRIED.”

“Sorry,” he said. “But it’s hard to write with webbed fingers. Besides, no harm done. I’m hungry. Lets get some breakfast.

The worst side effect, he noted, was that Natalie and Julia were much cooler towards Billy. Especially Julia, who had been so friendly to him yesterday.

“Stop it,” he said firmly. “Billy is different from you, and me, but he still has feelings. And you’re hurting him. What happened to me is a GIFT. It is beautiful. I am glad it isn’t permanent, but I’m happy to have his ability for a few days and I want Billy to feel he has all our love and affection for as long as he is with us. Because he is still lost and alone and we’re all he has.”

“I’m sorry,” Natalie said fervently.

“Me, too,” Julia said and she got up from her chair and went to embrace Billy, kissing him gently on his cheek. “You’re still our friend,” she assured him.

Billy smiled joyfully. Chrístõ was glad the emotional crisis was over.

But there was a very much more serious problem, and that was what to do with Billy in the long term. He so obviously did not belong on Earth and Chrístõ could not get the thought out of his mind that Earth people generally would not be kind, and would not be understanding, and would certainly not be his friend.

The first objective was to find out where he came from and how. But Chrístõ wanted to do that in as gentle a way as possible. He didn’t want to be his interrogator. After breakfast he packed a picnic basket and found all the necessary paraphernalia and declared that they were going to spend the day on the beach.

At least Natalie and Julia spent it on the beach, under big sunshades, with cold drinks and books to read and a radio tuned to Lyric FM, the Irish classical music channel. Chrístõ stripped down to a pair of swimming trunks and Billy to his skintight suit that seemed to be adaptable to wet or dry like his body itself, and they ran together out into the water. Natalie and Julia watched as they dived under the waves and disappeared.

It was a full hour before they returned to shore. Again, Chrístõ had developed the webbed fingers and toes and he described joyfully how he had felt his lungs adapt so that he could breathe in water and extract oxygen from it before exhaling.

“The Man from Atlantis had gills behind his ears. I wouldn’t exactly fancy that,” he said. “THIS is ok.”

“You are SURE it isn’t permanent?” Natalie asked.

“Not at all,” he answered. “But it is so wonderful swimming underwater. I can hold my breath for a good long time anyway. Remind me to tell you about Aquaria, some time, where the people morph into dolphins. I LOVE swimming with them. But fifteen minutes is my tops before I have to breathe air. THIS is so liberating. We were down there for three hours earlier this morning. We swam right around the bay. There’s actually the remains of a ship from the Spanish Armada down there near the headland. Seeing things like that without scuba gear is unbelievable.”

He kept talking that way until he was dry and reverted to normal hands and feet. Billy, too, dried out and was able to talk, and now Chrístõ began to gently encourage him to tell his story. Billy nodded and began to speak more confidently than before, and it was as if the floodgates opened. His voice had the rhythm of the tide washing onto the beach as he began to tell them about his home. Chrístõ encouraged him by holding his hand gently while his other hand he held palm up in front of him. As Billy talked he created hologram pictures of the scenes in his head. Billy was delighted, so were the ladies.

Billy came from a planet in what would be the Leo constellation as seen from Earth. His people were, indeed, both amphibious and morphic. They were directly descended from fish, not from apes as Humans are. They had great cities underwater. NONE of them, Chrístõ noted, were called Atlantis or anything resembling that name. They had other cities on the land as well and their people seemed equally happy in either environment.

Billy came from one of the land cities. His description of it was a lot like San Francisco, being on a steep hill by a wide bay with graceful bridges spanning it. He loved his home city, and the twin city that lay just outside the bay, in te deep water. He had spent many of his holidays from school there with relatives who lived the undersea life.

“It sounds beautiful,” Julia agreed. “But, then why did you come here? Were you looking for ancestors in Earth’s sea or something?”

But in fact, as he went on to explain, he wasn’t meant to be on Earth at all. He was a student, on a field trip. He was supposed to be with thirty others of his people from the university in that city like San Francisco. They travelled in a flotilla of travel pods, in partial suspended animation, listening to lectures from their tutors and soothing music. They were heading PAST Earth’s solar system to somewhere much more interesting to them when an ion storm hit the flotilla. They were scattered. All of the students were frightened and worried as their tutors tried to gather them back together.

Billy’s pod drifted into the solar system and its guidance system fixed on Earth, mainly because it had so much water. But the splash landing had been too fast and his pod was damaged. It cracked open on impact with the Atlantic and he had been forced to swim for it, alone and hurt from the landing and not sure where the rest of his people were.

“Oh, poor darling,” Julia said, hugging him. “That’s terrible. No wonder you were crying. But it’s ok now. You’re safe with us. Nothing to be scared of.”

Billy smiled and turned his face. He put his arms around Julia and gave her a long, lingering kiss on the lips that surprised even Chrístõ and made him feel momentarily jealous. Then he realised what he was doing.

A long kiss was another way of exchanging bodily fluids.

“Well, ok,” he said. “I’m sure Julia would enjoy it, too. But I think we’d better leave Natalie alone.”

Natalie totally agreed with that, declaring that she really didn’t WANT webbed hands and feet.

But Julia couldn’t wait to try it. She grasped both Chrístõ and Billy by the hand as they ran back to the sea. As they plunged in, the water was cold, it WAS the Atlantic, after all, and the summer sun didn’t warm it VERY much. But as the strange chemistry enveloped them, Julia and Chrístõ both felt warm and comfortable as if the water was their natural environment.

Julia loved it. She didn’t just swim down, she revelled in the freedom of it. She turned cartwheels and performed movements from her ballet and gymnastics, turning and whirling in the water. Even Billy was impressed. When they finally persuaded her to go in a straight line, they took her to the wreck, though she didn’t enjoy that quite so much.

“I know it happened hundreds of years ago,” she said when they came back to land again. “But I felt sad for the people who had died on it. Am I silly?”

“No, you’re not,” Chrístõ assured her. “You are sweet and sensitive. But it’s all right. The sailors on that ship all got off before it sank. There is a story here of how they came ashore and were sheltered by the local people. The Spanish were the enemy of Protestant England. This was Catholic Ireland. The sailors became part of the community, married local women, had families. That’s why there are a few surnames in these parts that sound a little exotic, and if you see anyone with very dark hair and skin that tans rather better than the usual pale Celtic skin, they’re probably descendants.”

“Oh,” Julia said with a smile of relief. “I’m glad to know that. I hated the thought of their ghosts down there with us. But wrecks are sort of sad, really.”

“Yes, they are,” Chrístõ agreed. He looked out to sea thoughtfully. Even earlier, when it was just him and Billy, they had really just gone around the safe area within the bay for exercise.

But somewhere out there was another wreck, a more recent one. Billy’s travel capsule. And they needed to retrieve it.

“Tomorrow,” he said. “I’ll get the TARDIS to run a trace for non-Earth technology and we’ll find it. For today, let’s enjoy each other’s company and the good weather and VERY calm water of this lovely place. Later, I think we’ll all dry off and go out for supper in Carna.”

Carna was renowned for its seafood restaurants. Chrístõ had tentatively asked earlier in the day what people who were descended from fish ate and discovered that like Humans who were mammals descended from apes, but had no problem eating beefburgers that came from another mammal, Billy’s people happily ate a hard-shelled creature not unlike a lobster.

So Chrístõ found some suitable clothes for Billy in the TARDIS wardrobe and Natalie and Julia both dressed up for the evening. Christo himself wore his usual leather jacket but with a smart silk shirt and trousers and patent leather shoes. They looked like four ordinary tourists in a region of Ireland that thrived on visitors. That two of them were from other planets and two from several hundred years into Earth’s future was not immediately obvious to anyone.

Lobster bisque followed by oven roasted lobster served on a fresh salad and a fruit sorbet for desert satisfied them all. Then from the restaurant they moved on until they were attracted by music and went into a hall where a céilidh was going on. Natalie immediately found a corner where she could get a pot of tea and a comfy seat. Just watching the dancing on the floor, fast and furious and enthusiastic, made her feel exhausted. But having ensured that she was all right Chrístõ led Julia and Billy onto the floor. A young girl who introduced herself as Éilis made up the necessary four of a square dance called “Stack the Barley” which Julia and Billy both picked up quickly.

Some of the dances involved changing partners, but Chrístõ kept a close eye on that and made sure that as far as possible Billy danced with Julia. Céilidh dancing did tend to work up a sweat and he didn’t want Éilis or any of her friends to get a nasty shock in the shower later.

That small problem notwithstanding, they had a good evening and returned quite late to their cottage, chosen for its isolation from others. Billy enjoyed the luxurious taste of cocoa with marshmallows before he settled to sleep on the sofa.

“You going to be all right tonight?” Chrístõ asked him as he snuggled under the blankets.

“I think so,” he answered. “Chrístõ… my friend. Tomorrow… my capsule…. Home?”

“I’m not sure about getting you home,” he said. “It sounded as if your capsule was banged up a bit. But as luck would have it I’m a pretty good engineer and I might be able to fix it. Or if not, I should be able to make contact with your people. They can send a rescue ship, perhaps. You’ll be all right.”

“Friends,” he said. “Happy, but, cannot stay here. Must go home.”

“Yes, you must,” Chrístõ said. “Your people will be missing you. Your parents. You have parents? A mother and father?”

“Yes,” he said and Chrístõ, holding his hand, felt in his mind the image of them, and several younger siblings, too.

“You have brothers and sisters?” Chrístõ asked him. He nodded. “That’s nice. I was an only child. It’s lonely. You like having a big family?” He nodded again and smiled joyfully. “We’ll get you back to them. If they can’t come and get you, I’ll take you to them. That’s a promise.”

Billy clutched his hand tightly and smiled again. There was no need for any more words. Chrístõ pulled the blankets around him and left him to sleep peacefully and happily, safe in the knowledge that he was with friends.

They began the morning with another early swim around the bay. Again, Chrístõ found it exhilarating. He loved the feeling of swimming underwater without even needing to recycle his breathing, feeling as if it was his natural environment. But he knew it was a bad thing to mess with his body in that way. His DNA had been changed once already in his lifetime when he transcended and gained the quadruple helix of a regenerative Time Lord. He didn’t want to risk a permanent fusion with a species that was SO different to his own.

That was one of many reasons why Billy needed to go home. The temptation to want to share this gift would be too much.

They returned to the cottage and dried and dressed and Chrístõ made a hot breakfast for everyone before he found his TARDIS key and opened a door from the living room that had been closed for the duration of their stay here in the cottage.

Humphrey was delighted to see them all, and made a fuss over their new friend. Billy, in turn, found being given a ‘hug’ by Humphrey a pleasing experience. Chrístõ went to the console and brought up the short range environmental scanner.

“The Atlantic has a LOT of metallic debris in it,” Chrístõ noted. “Outside the Irish territorial waters there are quite a few wrecks from the two world wars of the 20th century and plenty of fishing boats that have gone down in storms over the years. I don’t think Billy was the first alien to crash-land in it, either. I’m picking up signs of decaying Tripolunium. Humans are about five hundred years away from even knowing the elements of that alloy exist, let alone constructing anything from it. But that’s not Billy’s capsule. His hasn’t been down there long.”

“Can you find it?” Julia asked.

“Course I can,” he answered. Then he smiled in triumph. “FOUND it. Wow, no wonder you were worn out when we found you, Billy. You were a good twenty miles out and swimming against the tide most of the way.”

Billy looked excited as he viewed the flashing blip on the screen.

“It’s his?” Julia asked. “How do you know?”

“Because it’s still trying to send out a communications signal. It’s not working very well. The power is weak and all its probably doing is playing hell with TV reception on the Aran islands. But if we can get it up off the sea bottom I can find the frequency and send out a secure signal from the TARDIS. One that won’t be picked up by any Earth monitoring systems and cause an international crisis.”

Having got the position locked on, he programmed the TARDIS’s destination. There was the familiar sound as she dematerialised and then the low hum of the engines as they moved twenty miles in merely linear distance, a relatively easy task for the amazing machine.

“Are we going to materialise the TARDIS around the capsule?” Natalie asked.

“Er.. no,” Chrístõ answered. “Billy and Julia and I may be able to breath under water, but you can’t and neither can the TARDIS. We’d fill the console room with water. We’re going to materialise on the surface. I’m assuming the TARDIS will choose to disguise itself as a boat like it usually does when it’s on water. And then we’ll dive down.”

He was right. The TARDIS DID choose to be a boat. A small trawler type of vessel with, he was surprised to see, a working winch mechanism at the stern.

“Well done, my TARDIS,” he whispered. “That’s EXACTLY what we need.” He turned to Natalie. He gave her a hand held device and hung an identical one on his belt. “You’re in charge of the winch. Pay it out slowly. When you get our signal on the communicator start it reeling back in, slowly.”

“I know it will be all right,” she assured him. “I’ll be fine. You go help Billy.”

He smiled at her and then he opened the companionway and the three of them jumped overboard together. Again, there was a shock of the cold as they entered the water. But almost immediately they adapted. They began to dive nearly straight down. Julia had the wrist held monitor and confirmed with hand signals that they were heading straight for the wrecked capsule. Chrístõ held onto the winch as it was slowly paid out from the huge reel on the TARDIS boat.

Yes, there was a capsule. It looked like a sleek, grey, enclosed canoe with Delta wings about two foot across each side. One wing was broken as it lay slightly on one side on the sea bed. Chrístõ lashed it with a length of rope so that it would not be lost when they moved it. Then, between the three of them they secured the winch to the main part of the fuselage and Chrístõ sent the agreed signal from his handset. The winch began reeling back, lifting the capsule. They all three helped to keep it steady as they ascended.

“Chrístõ!” Natalie cried out as they broke water. “We’ve got trouble.” She pointed and Chrístõ turned to see a ship with the Irish Naval ensign on it. It was still some way off but with his Gallifreyan eyesight he could make out that it was the LÉ Aisling, one of the older ships of the Irish Defence Forces fleet, that patrolled the waters around the island looking out for illegal activity such as smuggling or illegal fishing. He wasn’t sure which it looked like they were doing, but he didn’t quite want to have to explain themselves.

“Get the capsule on board, quick,” he said. He himself did the most of the heavy lifting. Julia and Billy simply helped guide it and Natalie opened the doors.

“Ok,” Chrístõ said when at last the capsule was inside the console room. “We have a slight problem. I can’t manage the controls until my fingers dry out.”

“Will they fire on us?” Julia asked anxiously.

“Yes, they probably will if we don’t respond. And I have no intention of doing that. I am NOT going to even TRY to explain what I was doing down there, and they’re certainly not coming aboard.

There was a warning shot from the ship. It went right over the TARDIS trawler and he heard a radio communication demanding that they heave to and prepare to be boarded. To his relief his fingers finally freed themselves.

“Dematerialising in front of them isn’t good either,” he admitted. “It PROVES we were up to no good in a big way. But it’s the only way we’ll get away.”

He pressed the dematerialisation switch and the LÉ Aisling’s captain and crew were left to explain what they thought they saw as best they could. Chrístõ could imagine it making a paragraph in some paperback about the mysteries of the sea, an addendum to the Bermuda triangle and the Marie Celeste. But the chances of anyone realising the truth, that the trawler was an alien craft with another alien craft concealed within it, were negligible.

“Ok,” Chrístõ declared as they stepped back into the living room of the cottage. “Tea first, then busted travel capsules.”

And even Billy, as anxious as he was to go home, had no objection to that. It had been a tiring, anxious job and they all needed refreshment. Afterwards, though, they went back into the TARDIS and Chrístõ set to work on the capsule.

“I’m sorry,” he told Billy after several hours of work. This will never fly again. I wouldn’t want you to try. It could break apart before it reached escape velocity.” Billy was downcast. But there was more news. “The one thing that IS working is the communicator. It IS too weak to reach beyond the solar system. But I can boost it.”

He carefully detached the communications panel from the capsule and after some skilful work with the sonic screwdriver patched it into the TARDIS console. Billy sat by his wrecked capsule, Julia and Humphrey both by his side, reassuring him.

“You miss your family, don’t you,” she said. Billy nodded. “Chrístõ will get you to them. He promised he would.” She reached and hugged him gently. He was, Chrístõ said, about seventeen, but they seemed to lead rather sheltered lives where he came from. He was certainly the most emotional seventeen year old she had ever known. Or he really liked being hugged. “You know, I AM Chrístõ’s girlfriend,” she reminded him. He laughed in his own peculiar way. Humphrey’s contented trill seemed to complement it.

“I’ve made contact,” Chrístõ called excitedly in the midst of their laughter. Billy jumped up and bolted to his side as he routed the sound to the main speaker. They all heard the voice speaking in Billy’s own language but translated by the TARDIS. Billy’s face was utterly animated as he heard it.

As ‘captain’ of the TARDIS it was for Chrístõ to reply, and he discovered that this was one of Billy’s teachers. They were looking for him and delighted that he was safe and well. They said they were on their way to pick him up. Chrístõ gave them the location and told them to be discreet since this planet had no official First Contact yet. They responded with an approximate arrival time. Chrístõ worked it out in his head and reckoned it to be about midnight on Sunday evening.

“We have another three days and nights of Billy’s company,” Chrístõ said with a smile as the communication ended. Julia and Billy clutched hands joyfully at the idea.

Chrístõ wasn’t jealous. It wasn’t THAT sort of bond between them. Billy missed his family. Julia had missed hers for a long time. They had become surrogate siblings for a time. And that was no bad thing.

“We’ll make the days fun,” Natalie said. “A holiday on Earth for Billy. He can tell all his friends about it when he goes home.”

“Well, we’re in a very beautiful part of it. And we’re ALL on holiday,” Chrístõ agreed.

In pursuit of that aim of making the days enjoyable for Billy they spent the afternoon on the beach again. But after tea they all changed into their most elegant clothes and although the TARDIS was meant to be on holiday too, Chrístõ used it to take them to Galway city to dinner and a theatre production and home again before midnight, a task that the hire car would have struggled with.

The next day he did use the car, because the TARDIS was not so good at taking in scenery and the coast road from Carna to Clifden was a lovely one. Clifden was enjoying a summer street festival with colourful floats in parade and dancing and theatricals of every kind. Billy told them that they had similar things on his own planet, but not so colourful. His people only ever wore the sort of skin tight suits he was travelling in, and they had only a few variations of pale colours. The brightness of this Earth carnival fascinated him.

He was fascinated, too, by the fact that Ireland was only one country on Earth, and that they all had different governments and forms of administration. He wondered why they didn’t have one global authority.

“Because Earth people don’t all want to live in the United States of America,” Chrístõ told him with an ironic laugh as he considered the current affairs of the day. “But really, we only have your company for a short time. I don’t think I want to waste the time with politics.”

Billy accepted that as an answer and gave his attention to a street artist who was sketching pictures of people who were prepared to stand still long enough. Chrístõ had Billy and Julia stand together while the artist made two copies of a sketch and he paid generously for them.

“One for you to remember us by,” he told Billy. “And one for us to remember you by.”

They returned home after tea by a long, circuitous route taking in the town of Leenane, that was at the head of the only fjord in Europe that wasn’t in Norway and the stunningly lovely Maam Pass through mountains that may not have been the tallest of their kind, but were spectacular, all the same. Everyone enjoyed the trip, even Chrístõ, who was driving.

In fact, he enjoyed the driving a lot. He remembered his father teaching him to drive a hover car on Gallifrey. It had been one of those times he cherished when he and his father had spent time together. He had taught him how to handle an ordinary ground car, too, because he had expressed an interest in visiting Earth in the 20th century, the era his mother came from, and it would be useful to him to have such a skill.

He had NEVER liked driving in traffic. Late 20th century London was a place he avoided like the plague.

But these winding country roads in the west of Ireland were a joy and he felt more relaxed and happy than he had for a long time. There were troubles on the horizon, he knew, but they could wait. He could live for the moment and let the future wait.

They spent Saturday on the beach again. Or that is to say they installed Natalie under her sunshade with plenty of cold drinks and Julia, Chrístõ and Billy spent their time on, in and under the water. Billy had said the effect would likely be worn off by the time he left and they wanted to make the most of the joy of it.

Early the next morning Chrístõ enjoyed what he expected to be his very last chance to swim around the bay underwater without needing to surface. He and Billy raced each other through the water until breakfast time.

The day seemed to stretch before them at that point, but even for a Time Lord time passes steadily and the morning wore on. The afternoon they spent in Carna village again, watching a game of Gaelic Football that was a new experience for all of them, Billy most of all. And then another famous lobster dinner.

Finally with an hour to midnight, they took the TARDIS out to sea again. Chrístõ had chosen a rendezvous where there was little danger of any Human being seeing the UFO that was on its way and causing a fuss.

They sat on the deck together, all of them. Billy and Julia were holding hands. Chrístõ put his arms around them both. Humphrey hovered by them like a faithful dog. Natalie sat by Julia’s side. She held onto the waterproof bag that they had packed a few things in for Billy to take home with him. The sketch of himself and Julia, photographs of them all, some small souvenirs of the places they visited, and some chocolate bars, an unknown delicacy on his world that Natalie thought he ought to have. Remembrances of the precious time they had spent together.

Nobody talked. The silence said it all. They sat close together and watched the clear black, starlit sky for a star that wasn’t a star to arrive, the tutor ship come to collect their accidentally truanting student.

“There!” Natalie spotted it first. They all stood and watched as a shape grew larger in the night sky. Contrary to all myths about UFOs, it had no flashing lights. It was a dull metallic colour that only became visible as it came within the glow of the riding lights of the TARDIS yacht. They watched as it settled on the water, looking, at a casual glance, like a rather flashy catamaran.

Billy turned to Julia and embraced her tightly. He kissed her on the cheek and said goodbye to her. He hugged Natalie who put the bag safely around his shoulder. He turned to Chrístõ and held him for a long time, as Hunphrey hovered through them. Then he turned and dived into the water. They saw him swimming out to the spacecraft and a door opened in the side. He climbed inside and it closed again. They watched as it began to rise up again, becoming nearly invisible in the sky.

Chrístõ waved. They all did, though they knew nobody would wave back.

“Good journey,” Christo whispered as the ship became a distant light in the sky.

“He’s gone back to his own kind,” Natalie said as she felt Chrístõ embrace her and Julia both around the waist. “He’ll see his parents again soon enough.”

“And his brothers and sisters,” Julia added.

“Yes,” Chrístõ said.

“Will we see him again?” Julia asked. “Could we? Do you think?”

“Perhaps,” Chrístõ answered her. “I know where his planet is. We could visit.”

“You two, might, perhaps,” Natalie said quietly. “Not me.”

Chrístõ sighed. It was true enough. But he wished everything they did these days didn’t remind them.

He looked up at the empty sky and waved once more, then turned as he heard Julia shout and point to the starboard side. The riding lights of what he KNEW had to be the LE Aisling again were bearing down on them. He ushered them all inside and quickly set the fast return switch. By the time the navy ship reached their position they would be gone.

Another paragraph in the mysteries at sea.