The yacht called The Christiana was moored in a turquoise cove beside a half moon shaped yellow beach with a tropical forest coming down to the high water mark. It had been there for a week already and nobody had any inclination to weigh anchor, yet. It was a delightful place to spend a holiday.

Kristoph de Lœngbærrow, Lord High President of Gallifrey, accustomed to wearing richly embroidered robes and elaborate headpieces that denoted his high status was wearing absolutely nothing right now. He was lying in the soft sand with his wife, the First Lady of Gallifrey, who was also naked, but pulled a sheer silk sarong around herself as she sat up and looked at the glorious bay. The white sails of The Christiana were folded back while she was anchored, but she still made a lovely detail in the highly coloured living picture she gazed at happily.

Kristoph leaned up on one arm and gazed at her instead of the view. She wasn’t the innocent young thing she was when he first met her. She was coming up to her twenty-seventh birthday. She was experienced and accomplished now, and no longer afraid of her own shadow. That she could lie naked on this beach, knowing that Hillary and Claudia-Jean were not far away, probably making passionate love to each other, was a sign of how much she had changed – and it was all his doing. He had given her that confidence in herself, that knowledge of her own sensuality.

She turned around to him. He reached and touched her face gently. She smiled in response and pulled away the silk she had wrapped herself with. There were some very faint marks on her body that told of the stillbirth that had troubled them both, but otherwise she was as perfect as she was the first time he made love to her.

“What are you thinking?” she asked him.

“That you are beautiful, and I am a lucky man,” he replied, reaching to kiss her. She let him do so gladly. He embraced her in his strong arms and held her as he did so, feeling her single heart beating next to his chest with the two hearts within it. “I am a very lucky man.”

“Will you still think that way forty years from now when I’m old and I’m not beautiful any more?” she asked him.

“Of course, I will,” he answered. “I promised to love and cherish you for the whole of your life in the Bond of Alliance. That wasn’t just idle words. I mean it. I know that these easy years are fleeting enough. That’s why I want to make the most of them with you. Later, when it is harder, we shall have precious memories to share, memories of sweet days like this when we had nothing better to do than make love to each other.”

“I believe you,” she told him. “I really do. But I wonder, sometimes, if you understand what you’ve let yourself in for. Time Lords aren’t used to Human frailty. Or Haolstromnians, either. Hillary is hundreds of years old and still looks middle aged. Stunningly beautiful middle aged. Even Lily has an elegance about her in her late years. You’re not used to people you love being old and feeble. And I will be, one day… and not very far off in your way of thinking.”

“Marion, my dear,” Kristoph said. “Why are you thinking such things when we’re on a beautiful island in the sunshine?”

“I don’t know. I just… I knew you were looking at me, the way you do… with love… and lust… and I don’t mind the lust. I like the way you make love to me so vigorously and completely. But I just felt… suddenly… that it would one day all be over.”

“My love for you will never be over. I shall treasure you for as long as you live and for an eternity after. So don’t let it worry you. Put those dark thoughts from your mind and live in this moment, right here in my arms, where I fully intend you to remain for a good while yet, because it is absolutely true about the lust and I am glad you like my vigorous way of making love to you.”

“What if Hillary and Claudia Jean come back from exploring the island while you are making love to me?” she protested, though laughing at the same time, and ready to surrender to me.”

“That is very unlikely,” Kristoph answered. “When they went off for their ‘exploratory walk’ they were both women. When their exploration led them to a beach as good as this one I have no doubt they would have spent some time enjoying each other’s feminine charms. And then one would have taken the masculine role in their love-making, then they would have swapped around. And if that didn’t completely satisfy them they would both have become men and enjoyed each other thoroughly in that way. It takes a long time for two gendermorphs to get through the permutations of love-making available to them. Besides, even if they did come back early they would discreetly find somewhere else to go until we were done. So don’t worry about that, either. We can enjoy each other in an unhurried, leisurely way.”

Marion surrendered to him. She always did. She enjoyed being possessed by him in that way. He made the feeling last a long, wonderful time.

And by accident or design, Hillary and Jean-Claude returned to the beach five minutes after they were done when Marion was lying back in the sand, shaded from sunburn by the huge parasol Kristoph had erected in the sand. She was sleepy and comfortable and didn’t even feel self-conscious as she waved to her friends.

Jean-Claude went for a swim. Hillary watched him from the rolling surf on the edge of the outgoing tide. Kristoph left Marion’s side as she drifted to sleep and went to walk with his friend. They were both naked, their bodies sun-bronzed and well-toned. Hillary smiled warmly at his closest friend as he kept pace with him.

“You cut a fine figure still, old man,” he said.

“So do you, and less of the old,” he replied. Hillary slipped his arm around his waist familiarly. Kristoph came from a planet where intimacies between men were unheard of, but he had long ago stopped worrying about it when Hillary was around. In male or female form it was the same. Those Haollstromnian pheromones teased him gently.

But this time he resisted them.

“Am I losing my charms?” Hillary asked.

“Not at all, my friend,” Kristoph answered. “But if I give in to you, we’ll be kissing in a minute, and I’ve not long since reassured Marion that I will love her for eternity and never stray even when she is old and grey and I am still in my prime.”

“She knows that, surely?”

“Yes, she does. But she also knows that forty or fifty years from now I will still have a friend who is a handsome man and a beautiful woman rolled into one, who can tempt me almost to the point of breaking all of my marriage vows as well as the honour of my race. And when she is unable to be a wife to me in anything but name… perhaps I would give in to that temptation.”

“You never would. I tried so hard when you were free and single and I could never get anything more than a kiss out of you. There is precious little chance now that you are married.”

“I gave you more than a kiss,” Kristoph responded. “There was the Treaty of Bazze, when we were on the observation deck for nine hours waiting to see the double sunrise from space and we missed it because our eyes were on each other and our hands otherwise employed. You bewitched me thoroughly that night, and I almost gave in. And I think that’s exactly what Marion is afraid of.”

“Are you saying you’ll never let me kiss you again?” Hillary asked him.

“Yes,” Kristoph responded. “Among other things, I think I am saying that.”

“I don’t think you could resist me for that long,” Hillary answered. He looked back. They had walked some way along the beach. Jean-Claude was still swimming, broaching the waves strongly. Marion was asleep under the parasol. If they walked another few yards they would be cut off from sight of both their lovers by an outcrop of rock with one lone tree clinging to it impossibly. Hillary grasped Kristoph’s hand and brought him to that hidden place.

“Jean-Claude and I enjoyed an encore here when we saw that you two were engrossed in each other,” he said with a wicked smile. “But don’t trouble your imagination about that. And don’t go thinking too much about the Treaty of Bazze. That’s not why I’ve brought you here, either.”

“Then why… after all I’ve said? Hillary… this is….”

Hillary embraced him fondly and kissed him long and luxuriantly. Kristoph felt the full power of Haolstromnian pheromones sweeping away every reservation he had about being kissed by another man, especially one whose beard was pressed against his own. All he felt was a deep sense of being loved unconditionally by a friend who wished him well and would never seek to hurt him.

“A friend, Kristoph, my dear, not a lover,” Hillary said when he paused for breath. “We missed our chance for that a long time ago, but for me love is a fleeting thing. Friendship is eternal, and that’s why it is the more valuable to you, and why I won’t allow you to stop letting me kiss you.”

“As if I COULD stop you,” Kristoph conceded before Hillary drew him closer again. Somewhere in the middle of the kiss he became a very shapely she but the sentiment didn’t change. Hillary as a woman was just as much a friend as she was as a man.

“I think you should go and take a swim, too,” she said after a while. “I’m going to lie down with Marion.”

“Be gentle with her,” Kristoph responded. “She has absolutely no defences against your wiles.”

“That’s what I’m counting on,” she told him with a wicked smile. Kristoph dived into the water and swam out into the deep water where he, too, cut through the tide strongly. He swam towards Jean-Claude and they raced against each other. Hillary watched them for a little while then went to where Marion was sleeping. She lay down and curled her body around her in a warm all-embracing hug. Marion stirred and sighed softly, whispering her husband’s name.

“No, not Kristoph,” Hillary whispered in her ear. Marion opened her eyes in surprise before the full force of those pheromones hit her and she responded to the kiss of a friend who loved her unconditionally.

Somewhere in the middle of the kiss she became a he, but Marion didn’t mind either way. Hillary was a delightful friend who had a knack of making any anxieties fall away.

“You know you married a very good man, Marion,” Hillary whispered to her. “He’ll never let you down.”

“I know that,” she answered. “I had a strange kind of doubt a little while ago… but I was wrong.”

“You know I’ll never let you down, either,” Hillary added. “You and Kristoph are my dearest friends, and that’s not something that will ever change. We Haollstromnians are fickle lovers but very faithful friends.”

“I believe that is true, too,” Marion answered her. “Thank you, Hillary.” She looked around to see where Kristoph was and saw him swimming with Jean Claude. Then Hillary claimed her again and kissed her once more. She knew Kristoph wouldn’t mind, even if he saw them. It was just a very special kind of friendship that they both enjoyed in equal measure.