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Hepzibah "Eppie" Bix and Feech
Hepzibah "Eppie" Bix  and Feech -- all rights reserved

Sweatshirts came today.

This is a great thing, and cause for rejoicing, as Kent put it when Alexander gave him the carbon and pointed the way to the boxes.

I love it how we're all walking around in the same color sweatshirts.

Lawrence Kelly had them designed by someone out in California so we would have official Theatre Group sweatshirts. They're red, silk-screened in yellow, with "Firehouse Group" in big thick-line, thin-line writing across the front and two masks (Comedy and Tragedy, like in all the traditional Theatre things) climbing or sliding down a firepole by their ribbons on the back.

Alexander put a sweatshirt on his dog, Silence, and the Dalmatian is running around whipping his tail into people's legs and smiling like Dad does when he's really happy, and waiting for people to compliment him.

I bend down by Silence and coo to him and talk baby talk to him and rub his cheeks all in strange directions and his tail just goes harder and harder. I'm wearing Dad's sweatshirt, which hangs off me in a way I like but which gets all of Silence's white hairs on it easily since I didn't push it back up my arms.

I feel someone grab me from behind. "Sank HEa-Vun forr Leetle Muuules," sings Dad. I shriek and kick out at him. He knows I hate it when he teases me with that song, but I can't stop laughing anyway.

November is putting on her shirt over her rehearsal blouse and stops to smile at me. Me and Dad, actually. She does that a lot. Like we remind her of somebody. I grin at her, but this gives Bix-Daddy time to grab my hands and pull his shirt down over my wrists and fingers so I have to fake-bite at him to try to make my escape. He keeps singing like Maurice Chevalier, and he says I should be glad to have a father who sings to his Little Mule. I stick my tongue out at him. Silence goes down into a play-bow, and November laughs.

We're having an overnight tonight, for celebration of the halfway point of a new show.

I like that about us Theatre People: we celebrate everything.

Gabriel always says that we are also tragic about everything, but I told him that's why we have the Comedy and Tragedy masks, to show our dual nature. He nodded and said I was right.

Dad finally lets me go, which he always has to do eventually because I have loads more energy than he does, or so he says. "Whooof," he says, shaking his head quickly, "go torment Kent or somebody; I'm done with you."

"Hmf," I say, "serves you right. And you have to watch your heart. You shouldn't be taxing it that way." I do worry about him, sometimes. It can't hurt to be firm.

"The exercise does it good," he tells me. "Sank Heeav-un--"

I plow into him and jump up onto his feet so he has to stop singing just to get me off. "All right! All right!" he shouts. "I give! I told you I was done, anyway."

"Then quit teeeasing me."

"You got it, Gigi-Eppie."

I just look at him real hard for that one, then let it go.

This is fun; it always is. It might be a quiet night or there might be a lot of rowdy games, or both. I kind of hope for a little of each. I like the time to be with the other actors, because some of them will talk to me like the Friedmanns never did, even though the Friedmanns were nice. They just had so many things and kids to deal with sometimes and they never stayed up all night in a Theatre.

Andrea comes up behind Bix, now, and hugs him around the middle. I watch them carefully. There are things there that I wish I knew more about, but I'm not sure whether Dad knows I want to know. Andrea... I don't know too well yet. I like her, though. And if this really works out then I really will be Hepzibah Bix. I cross my fingers, which is kind of a habit I've gotten into when I watch them together.

What's the difference between them and Murphy and Irina, the good difference that I should be looking for?

Bix-Dad always says not to worry. He says everything's just fine. But didn't my other dad think that? And that didn't work out fine at all.

How can you tell the difference?

Kent Dryer and Gabriel Carter walk into the lobby area in kind of a strange way, for them: Kent is hanging onto Gabriel's arm and looking distracted. I open my nostrils a little wider to get the scent of them, and November and Dad do, too. "You okay, Kent?" Andrea asks, when she sees us all sniffing at him like that.

"Oh, yeah, sure," he tells us. He pulls at the collar to his red sweatshirt a little bit and shakes his head. Then he keeps talking. "I don't know... I'm going downstairs. I have that transform-seizure-thing coming on again... I think. I feel fine, though."

Gabriel looks at me and smiles kind of twitchily. I smile back. I hope he won't need to stay with Kent all night, or at least that I can spend some time with them.

I can charm Gabe into telling me anything.

Besides, at my size, there's only one person in the Firehouse Group here at the Kelly Theatre who can actually let me sit on his lap and snuggle for any kind of reasonable amount of snuggling time. Even Dad would rather hand me over to Gabriel for snuggling, and sometimes I think he knows what we talk about... Sometimes. But I'm not sure. But I wonder whether Dad would tell me, if I asked. Sometimes he smells afraid around me, but I believe him when he says he loves me. Gabriel isn't afraid-- he smells like... Like... A wildebeest, I guess. Andrea... I'm not sure yet. All I know is it's hard to know what's going to work out, sometimes.

Where does Dad get his good feeling about this whole thing, and how can I get one, too? I want to feel like he does-- he smells like a show all the time. Like a feeling-good show, like during the split-second just before all the applause. He knows it's all fine, and I can tell he means it when he says "love".

I know he means it because, the first time he said it to me, it was the middle of the night and he came back down the hallway to my room after he and Andrea had already said good-night to me separately. He did that thing where he makes circles on the carpet with his toe and hides his hands behind his back and finally he said he had something to say to me.

I knew Andrea reminded him to say it, but I didn't care. It felt great. I hugged her without any reason that she could see the next day, and she smelled surprised but then she sort of smiled in a different way than she does for work, and hugged me back very carefully.

That's another reason I like Gabe-- he's not too careful. And if I "turn on the charm" I can get him to tell me things that help when I'm not sure.

I mean, Dad has been wrong before. Dead wrong. What if he's wrong again? But I think I can believe him when he says it's all right... It's all three of us, forever an' ever Amen, but he was wrong... my other dad Murphy was dead...

I still feel good, though. I'm a happy kid. Everyone says so, and I've thought about it and they're pretty much right. I just hope hope hope it can stay this way.

How can you tell without asking if someone is going to get married? I can't tell. I figure most adults would be better at that sort of thing than I am, but I kind of help out where I can. It can't hurt to remind him to kiss Andrea, just like she reminds him to remind me he loves me. I think we make a good team, the three of us, don't you think?

Gabe and Kent have gone downstairs and some of the actors, November included, have started some sort of a tag game in the audience space, so I join them. Dad and Andrea play for a little while, then they just watch, then they play some more, then Dad says that he's going downstairs and see what Alexander and German have on the vid-feed. I go with them to see what Gabe is doing and to find out what's going on with Kent.

Daniel is down there, eating little bits of crackers and spread and crab from a tiny paper plate. He's standing in the corner of Alexander's main room, and Dad and German and Alexander are lined up like Previous Dad Friedmanns' brothers on Thanksgiving for the football games. I take a plate and pile some food on, then pick at it with my legs crossed, sitting in front of the couch.

Silence checks out my plate, but he doesn't touch, which is more than I can say for some big Dalmatians' manners, so I give him a fingertip of crab dip to lick. He smells happy.

There's nothing really good on the vid-feed, but Dad and German and Alexander seem interested. I step over German's legs and go quietly back to Daniel. "Where did Gabe and Kent go?"

"Costume Shop," he says, reaching over and putting my shirt-tag back in for me. Dad's shirt is so big that it keeps folding out backwards.

"Is Lindy coming?"

"No... I went home for dinner with her, remember? When the rest of you ate here? Maybe next time."

He sees that I'm disappointed. I really like Lindy, plus, she's another one that I'm curious about.

Things are pretty slow in here, and the game was on its tenth or twelfth round or something upstairs so more people are getting tired (already...) and coming in a few at a time to talk a little in front of the vid-feed. Before you know it, they'll all be asleep. Well, maybe they'll get their second winds. I've been drinking soda so I can stay up in case anything cool happens.

I go to the costume shop and see Kent and Gabe playing Othello... Well, actually, Gabe is moving the pieces around and Kent is just leaning on the table with his face on his hands and watching. I go and lean on his shoulder and watch, too.

"Want to play, Eppie?" Kent asks after a moment.

I think about it, then shake my head. "Not with you. You'll beat me. I'll play Gabe."

He grins, and says, "Just as well. I don't know how long I'm going to be articulate, anyway."

I take in a deep breath right over him to see if there's really nothing wrong. I know that lots of people who have SCABS change... November can do it, but she just says she's going to do it and then does it. I don't see how Kent can feel perfectly fine and then turn into a wolf, with only a little feeling beforehand to tell him when.

I must smell concerned, because Gabe says, "Here, Eppie, you take this chair and play me a game, while Kent takes care of himself."

Kent growls at me, pretending to be a werewolf changing, but I just laugh and suddenly I feel better. He does feel okay. If anyone in this place is nervous about it, it's Gabe. I decide to help Gabe distract himself with the Othello game.

Eventually, Kent just gets up and leaves. "Be right back," he says, real quietly. Gabriel moves an ear, but he just keeps looking at the green felt on the board and his scent turns a little sour.

"Gabriel," I whisper, holding onto a plastic piece that I'm about to put in the tray, "is he okay? Are you? Does this happen a lot at home?"

"Mm, no," Gabriel says. "No, Ep, he's never changed since he met me, to my knowledge, and while he is okay, I am a little nervous."

I pat the wildebeest-man's hand. "It's okay, Gabe, I'm sure Kent can take care of himself."

"That's what Kent says."

A few moves later, he's back. Just like that. He comes back to the chair he was in and hops in, turning his ears to the board, then leaning over the table to lick Gabe, who is looking at him and forgetting to take his next move.

Kent smells very strongly of himself, except now female, and is very small. He's pretty cute. All light-colored and with the same eyes as he has everyday. I sing quietly to myself because the room is very quiet. Gabe keeps staring at Kent.

Then Kent gets off the chair and goes to sit in Gabe's lap, which he can fit now that he's not much bigger than Silence.

She, I mean. Kent is a she when he's a wolf.

"Um, do you want to play?"

I feel a little shy, asking Gabe to continue like that, when he has Kent-the-wolf on his lap and he's not paying much attention. But he nods to me.

"Sure, Ep, fine, let's play."

After awhile, as we get into the game, Gabe begins to gradually calm down and he even ruffles Kent's light-grey ears once in awhile.

I win. Twice. Kent opens her jaws a little way and makes a dog-smile like Dad's, only it looks like Kent's. It's kind of like... Kent in make-up. I wish I could come up with something more literarily appropriate than that, but it's hard. It's hard describing SCABS.

I'm a red half-mule, by the way. And I'm getting to be quite an attractive young lady, bursting with talent, and that makes me about the easiest person to describe around here.

It gets to be late, and I get that feeling that comes with drinking soda and then getting the caffeine and sugar buzz a few hours later. Kent yawns, and eventually she leaps very softly onto the floor, with even her pads and her claws barely making a sound... One thing I am not, so often, is as quiet as Kent is right now.

The wolf stretches and yawns some more, and flattens her ears back and swivels them around.

"Tired, Kent?" Gabriel asks.

Kent nods. She gives us each a lick on our hands, reaching up to nuzzle us, then finds a spot near the stock rack to sprawl out on the tile like Silence likes to do sometimes. I've laid on tiles, and they're cool and relaxing. It's nice to see Kent laid out and breathing little breaths in through her black nose.

I look at Gabe. He's looking at me, knowing what I'm going to ask for. He always knows, even though sometimes he's distracted with other things. He says he likes to talk to me, even though I ask tough questions. I don't see what's so tough about them. He's had years of being an adult to have them all figured out.

I wait a minute longer. Then he says, "Did you have something you wanted to talk about?"

I nod, and get up immediately and slide my feet across the floor with my hands behind my back so it's not like I'm just jumping into his lap like a terrible flirt, like Andrea says I am with all these poor men, but he just laughs and practically takes me right off my feet anyway and settles me on his strong legs.

Yeah, Dad's strong, but he'd rather not be compared to Gabe too much. And it's nice to be a little girl to someone. It's been kind of like, boom, you have SCABS, all of a sudden you're not the size of kid you can just pick up and kiss anymore. I don't really mind, but sometimes I miss it.

"What's eating ya, Eppie?"


"Yes, Ma'am."

I put a few strands of his wildebeest beard around my finger and twirl them up into a tight curl. Then I do another section. "Gabe... Do you love Kent?"


"In what way?"

"In what way? Um, love, you know, like love."

"No, I don't," I say. "Talk to me."

"Pfff... What do you want to hear? Is this about the homosexuality and human rights issues and Living in Sin discussion that we had last show?"

"No," I say, still twirling the tan hairs, "I think I've got that one figured out. I think I've decided that it's okay for Andrea and Bix to be, you know, to be... living in the same house with one bed and all that."

Gabriel sighs. He sounds relieved. "If you're sure. Because we could talk about it some more. But I was afraid I was getting into areas maybe your dad and you should cover together."

I kind of rock myself in Gabe's lap until he holds onto me and rocks me, taking the hint. "Dad never knows what I want to ask."

"You should tell him. He's crazy about you."

I lift my face up almost to his lips. "Aren't you?"

He chuckles, in his deep voice. "Of course, who isn't."

"So talk to me."

"Kent. Love."


Kent's ear flicks when Gabe says her name out like that, and she lifts her head a little, but then just nods at us and stretches back out under the hems of the stock costumes.

"I love Kent like a person loves a lover..."

I tug at the red collar of his sweatshirt, which has to have a special neckline just so he can get it on. "Not fair. That's using the term in the definition."

"Damn public school grammar, anyway."

"And that's swearing."

"All right, all right, I'm sorry, and I'm getting to the point. You sort of cut me off, there."

I just look at him sweetly and wait.

"We love each other like lovers. We don't date anyone else, for example. We're committed to each other. Remember that part of the talk from last time?"

I nod. I wrap a few more strands from his beard around my fingers and thumbs, and lean into the rocking.

"Okay, Eppie, and I want you to know you should tell your dad what we talk about here, because sometimes he is shy to ask me, and I'm shy to tell him. Okay? We're actors and we're adults and we're professionals and you shame us all with your honesty."

I look up at him. He stares for a minute, then clears his throat and continues.

"Okay. We're committed to each other. We like each other's company. We're best friends. What's the purpose for the question, Ep? Where do you want me to head with this?"

All right, I may as well ask. No use beating around the bush. "Do you have sex?"

He pretends to be very, very interested in untangling his beard from my hands for a second. "Hum. Uhm, Yes. Yes, we do."

I think about that, but it's hard to picture. "Can SCABS really have sex?"

A new scent, one like when he's done a line right for the first time, fills up my nose from the area around Gabe's neck. I like this smell; it means we're on a good wavelength; the same wavelength. "I see," he says. "Okay. Yes. SCABS can have sex."

"But... Gabe."

"Yes, Hon?"

"Irina-- that's my other mother's name-- not the Friedmanns... Irina, she... she had-- had sex. With Murphy, my other dad."

He just nods and listens.

"But, Gabe, she died. Did you know that?"

He nods. "I know."

"You know? Did my dad talk to you?"

"Yes, he did. Bix and I had a long talk about that, and I think I know quite a bit of the story. But, Eppie, I think what is most important for you to know right now is that... Is that..." the wildebeest-man reaches back and scratches behind one of his horns, and smells a little nervous again.

"Is that what?"

"Okay, listen, and if I say something your dad told you is wrong, don't listen, okay?"

I think so... I nod. "Okay."

"All right. What I am not telling you is to go out and have sex--"

I laugh. After a moment, he chuckles too.

"Okay," he says, "I see we've gotten that far. Okay. But it wasn't the sex that... killed Irina, all right? SCABS can have sex, Norms can have sex. Bad things can happen, but it's not because of the SCABS. It's because you have to want the sex and be happy with it, and admit that you want the sex."

He looks surprised at himself for having talked so long, and he also looks as though he isn't sure that made any sense. I work it over in my own mind.

"Like you did," I say. "Just now."


"I asked you and you said you have sex with Kent. Right? Like not telling lies. Essentially."

He looks amused for some reason, but also pleased, with both of us. "Yeah! Yeah, something like that. Honesty. Are we beginning to answer your questions?"

I chew absently on his beard hairs for a moment. He never seems to mind that. He nuzzles the stiff mane on the top of my head.

"I think so," I say. "But how do SCABS have sex?"

Gabe shakes his head a little. "Whoa. Big question. Really want me to try on this one?"

I nod, and rub my head and ears against him to make sure he won't change his mind on account of not enough cuteness to make him go through with it. I figure that's fair. We all have our talents.

"Oooo--kay... Okay."

Daniel walks into the Costume Shop, claiming too many people in Alexander's place.

"You two look comfy," he smiles. "And where's--"

Gabe nods towards Kent under the costumes, and Daniel looks, gets kind of a startled expression on his face, then clears that off and sits down on the floor by Kent. "Hey. Didn't recognize you."

Gabe and I both watch Kent turn herself around a little so she can put her muzzle on Dan's knee. It's a nice thing to see, like some of the things Daniel has been able to do in rehearsal this show. He hasn't hissed at me once. He's really a nice man, and he doesn't even look like a snake.

"Daniel, want to help me answer a question?" Gabe smiles a little.

"What question?" Dan touches the spot between Kent's furry ears. Kent moves her head so the touch will turn into a scratch.

"How," Gabe says like German setting us up for some difficult and dramatic move, "do SCABS have sex."

Dan chuckles nervously, but he grins and I know he's not mad at me for asking and Gabe for bringing him into it.

"That depends on the SCAB," he says.

"Well I could get that far myself," Gabe snorts in his fake-angry way. He looks down at Kent, who looks up at him and grins again. "Lucky bitch," he says to her. "You get out of this one entirely."

"You swore," I say.


"Lindy and I have sex like a man having sex with a male frog," Daniel tells us, as if that's all there is to say.

I wrap my arms around Gabe's strong neck, but I stare at Daniel, wishing he would say more. The rest of us can't even touch Lindy. She's poisonous to touch. But this man goes to bed with her every night.

He sees me looking. "You really want to know, don't you."

I nod. I'm a little embarrassed to say it, but I add, "I may want to get married someday, myself."

Gabe makes a nice sound in his throat, like a sort of grumbling hum, and breathes gently on me. "You'll have no problems there, Eppie-Hon."

"But I won't know what to do."

"There's still something else, isn't there."

"Mm, I'm just curious," I say. But Gabe takes my fingers from his beard again and says, "It's something now."

"Well, sorta."

"I can tell you more," Daniel speaks up again, "but it won't apply to you or anyone else you know except that I never had sex with a frog before, let alone a male of any species, and somehow we manage it." He ruffles up Kent's cheeks boldly, like I did to Silence before, only with a kind of bold expression like he's doing something really brave. And I guess he is. He's scared of a lot of things.

"Dan's right," says Gabe, and Kent-the-wolf nods again and wags her tail a little as she looks up at me. "It's going to come down to what feels right. You'll figure out something. I guess the trick is... Well, the trick is..."

"Oh, watch out, Gabe is going to Dispense Wisdom," Dan grins. I hold my head back from Gabe almost until his hands are the only thing keeping me balanced, and smile, too.

"Okay, be wise, Gabriel," I tell him.

"I was going to say... The trick is, I guess, to listen to the other person. Kent's good at that."

Kent gives kind of a pleased whimper.

The wildebeest-man keeps talking. "If you listen to the other person, and they're any kind of SCAB, they can tell you what they want. Norms, too. Eppie, I don't know how much of this your father told you, probably not much. But he and I have had some of the same problems before and we talked about it... Sometimes, Ep, people don't talk about what they want. They don't... Get creative."

"Like improv," I say.

"Yes! Like improv!" Gabe again has that relieved scent and Dan slaps the floor once with the palm of his hand like we've scored a point in a game or something.

"And... like it changes every time," I say.

"Yes! Good girl. Okay. So if you know your species..."

"Mule," I say.

"Or dog..."

"Dad," I say.

"Right. If you know, then you listen, and you figure it out. Just don't go doing this experimentally or anything, okay? Your dad would try to kill me."

I know he means "try", too. Boy, that would be a fight. I just smirk at Gabe and then pull his forehead down and kiss him. "I won't, Sillybeest."

He shakes away from the kiss and looks very serious. "What did you ask all this for? What do you want to know?"

"Why do you ask me all these questions?" I look at him hard, right back.

"I just want to know what you need, Eppie." He knows how to tell what I'm thinking, all right.

I lean in a little closer to Gabe's ear under one of his horns and whisper, "I don't want to ask Dan. I just want to ask you."

Dan looks up when I lean in, and right away he covers his ears. "I'm not listening!" He starts singing the "Skimbleshanks" song from Cats. I laugh. He quiets down a little, but he still keeps his ears covered. Kent lifts her nose a little way in the air and starts a howl to go with the song. Gabe looks at me. "Sure you can talk with this going on?"


"Okay, what is it?"



"What does sex... Smell like?"

He coughs. "What does sex smell like?"

I wish he would quit trying to repeat what I've asked. I mean, I know it's all part of Good Listening Skills, but I'm sitting right here on his lap, for Pete's sake. "Yes." I nod. "What does it smell like. Can you tell me?"

It's important for me to know. I need some more hints as to what's going on around me. Us little mules need to know, too.

Dan and Kent look at each other, nod, and start in on "Mr. Mistoffelees." Dan is not quite on the right key, though, because he can't hear Kent howl very well with his ears covered. Kent is working on matching him.

Gabriel's voice just naturally hums sometimes, before he starts speaking, kind of like Alexander's vodor crackles before the words. He hums now, and then sighs. "Well, again, Eppie, it would depend on the person and the sex. I take it you want my opinion."

I nod. Why else would I ask him?

He looks off to one side and thinks for a bit. I watch him think. Sometimes the way people's faces look when they think can tell you how to hear the words when they come out. Mostly, Gabe is just telling the truth. I mean, he can be angry, and I've seen him angry before. But then he's still telling the truth.

I turn my ears forward and Gabe smiles. He likes to see me paying attention. "Okay," he says at last. "Fruit peels."

"Fruit peels?"

He shrugs, like he would answer something else if he could, but he says it again. "Fruit peels. Like the insides of the bitter part. But-- and this is a big but--"

I nod.

"But-- nothing really smells like sex. Okay? That's why they write all those desperate poems about how you just can't describe it."

"Okay..." I slide a little, almost off Gabe's knee, and he rocks me backward as if he's going to let me fall and then quickly brings me forward again. "Okay, but it's different for everybody."


"Can I uncover my ears now?" asks Dan, hopefully, still looking very silly with his hands as tight as he can get them against his head.

Gabe looks at me.

"Sure," I say.

We nod to Daniel, and he sighs and leans back against the lowest bar of the stock rack and kicks his shoes off. "Making any progress?"

"We think so," says Gabe.

"Tha's good."

Kent makes some high sound in her throat and rolls partway onto one side.

"Flirt," says Gabe. Kent blinks, a lot the way I do when I have a very important point to make.

"Gabe." I'm whispering again, even though I don't really care if Dan and Kent are listening to me. I kind of am afraid Dad might come in and hear me, and I want to talk to Gabe about this because sometimes Dad does smell scared around me. Scared in a sweet way, but still not so I can ask things like this. At least, not quite.

He whispers back in my mule-ear. "Yes."

"Gabe, I think Bix and Andrea have sex."

He nods a small nod, right by my face. "Mm-hm, yes, I'm almost sure they do, too."

I whisper even quieter. "How?"

He makes me give him eye contact. "Now, remember, we just talked about this. They have sex the way that's right for them, or at least, I hope they do. They have Dalmatian morph and Norm woman sex, all right?"

I press a little closer against Gabe and nod. I think about it a little bit more. "Sometimes, when I see one of them after they've been alone or at night, they smell like that. Like you said."

"Really?" Gabe turns both his ears in towards me. "Cool. I was thinking I probably made a comparison that made no sense."



"They smell best then."

He really smiles, then. "You've been worrying about this."

I kind of push my head down into his neck. For some reason, I'm embarrassed again.

"You wanted to know if you had it pegged right?"

I nod. Our furs kind of rub a little against each other.

"They smell best then," I say, very, very quietly in case Bix or Andrea comes in. "I knew they were happy. But to be married they have to have sex. I mean, I thought they had sex. I mean, but I didn't know..."

"If they smell good to you then, you're probably getting it right. You're a sharp kid, Eppie, you know that. They're likely having what people call 'good sex' and you don't have to worry about figuring it out for them."

I tilt my face a little and look at him. "Sometimes I worry about you adults," I say.

He nods, very seriously. "Good for you. It pays to check into these things. We adults can be very difficult cases."

"Gabe," I say, "I'm proud of you. You handled this very well."

His eyes get wide for a second, but then he gets a sort of surprised smile on his face. "Well, thanks, Eppie. Thanks for this."

"No problem. Thank you."

I pick up his hand and turn it over and kiss it, then jump off his lap and start pulling him to the door. "Let's see what they're doing in the living room again."

Gabe gets up slowly, with me pulling him, but when we look at Dan and Kent we see that Dan has his eyes closed and his mouth open. I go over and kick him (lightly) on the bottom of one of his feet. "Hey, Dan. Get up, Daniel."

Kent rolls over on her back lazily, but Gabe just reaches down and picks her up. She pants happily. Eventually Dan blinks a few times and rubs the sides of his mouth and agrees to go back to Alexander's main room again, even if it is the most crowded place tonight.

"Come on." I take Daniel's hand, since Gabriel is carrying Kent-that-he-loves. My dad's sweatshirt keeps coming down around my wrist and wrapping partway around Dan's hand, too.

The room with the vid-feed is half-loud, where people on one end are talking, and half-quiet, where some people are snacking and watching the vid-feed or sleeping. November Divosijli is in her small tortoiseshell shape, watching the vid-feed while her eyes open and close slowly. She's sitting in Mrs. Casey's seat. I've sat in Mrs. Casey before. She's very nice, even if she is a chair.

German sees me and the others coming in and makes room on the couch, not much, but enough to get us all in if we squash and hug. Dan goes to one end of the couch near an end table and leans his back on it, on the floor. I crawl in with Kent and Gabe between Alexander, who has Silence in the sweatshirt sitting on his lap, and Dad, who is leaning in the other direction on Andrea. I like the feel of Gabe's fur and Kent's fluffy tail on one side and Alexander's rough scales on the other.

Pretty soon I'm all snuggled down in the red "Firehouse Group" sweatshirt with that super-soft layer that new sweatshirts have.

I watch the vid-feed for about four more minutes before that's all I remember of the overnight.

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