"...and then we rode off into the sunset." Dustin finished his tale off with a drink from his whiskey.

Violet looked awed from her spot by his feet. The alien child's purple eyes were huge in wonder. "What happened to the others? Colton and Clyde and Dwayne?"

"I come bearing food," Francesca announced as she came in from the kitchen, carrying a plate piled high with gray, wiggling creatures. Violet squealed and scrambled to grab one as soon as the plate was placed on the coffee table.

"Butlerian slug!" she said excitedly, picking up one of the slimy things. Austin sat up, making a face.

"I don't see how you can eat that," he said, wrinkling his nose. "They're still alive, y'know."

"Really, Dustin," Francesca chided gently, taking a seat next to him, "On her home-world they're candy." Violet nodded and slurped one up. Dustin winced as he watched the slug disappear between her green lips.

"Where're the others?" Dustin asked, looking around. He had to divert his attention away from the slugs or else he would get sick.

"Still asleep, I think," Francesca told him. She glanced outside the window. "It's only sunset. You know how they like to sleep late into the night."

"Huh. Yeah." Dustin was interrupted by the familiar feeling of ionized air. All of them looked at the door, where a gray, smoke-like figure was forming.

"Oh, a new guy!" Violet cried, jumping to her feet and abandoning her slugs for a bit. "Cesca, a new guy!"

Francesca smiled indulgently. As the youngest of the tenants, Violet was prone to much excitement, especially whenever the coffee machine was in use. She liked to stare at it as it ground the coffee beans.

"Don't touch him yet, kid," Dustin warned. "Never know what he might be."

Francesca suppressed a sigh. "Can't our muse-bearer slow down in character creation? The house is crowded as it is, and the vampires don't want to move down into the basement."

"The colony of fish-men are there," Violet pointed out. "They smell funny."

Dustin chided her gently, telling her not to judge their merfriends so. Francesca sighed again, watching the gray mass take on a shape of a humanoid. "Think he's human?"

"Who?" Bishop asked, poking his head from the hallway. He glanced around the living room. "Is it safe to come out?"

"I'll get the curtains," Violet chirped. She pulled the heavy damask curtain shut, and then beamed at her favorite vampire to hang around with. "It's safe now."

"That's a girl aft'r my own heart," Bishop grinned, coming into the living room proper. As he passed the window, he tousled Violet's long locks. "Who's the new kid?" he nodded at the still-forming figure. The vampire sat down on the couch arm.

"No idea," Francesca informed him. "He's still forming, as you can see."

"Do you think he'll be a human, Uncle Bishop?" Violet asked, bouncing on the heels of her feet. "Or vampire? Or" — her grin widened — "Butlerian, like me?"

Bishop laughed. "Hold on to your shirt, kid. Let the guy at least have a mouth fist."

"Will it take long?" Violet frowned. They watched the figure, as it finally began to have a face. Or, at least, a semblance of one. It could take their creator some time to figure out how her new characters looked like.

"Don't think so. This one's coming along pretty quickly," Bishop smiled. "Did you know you took ages to form completely? Your hair must've changed color at least five times."

She clung to him, and looked up at her big brother. "Really?"

Francesca nodded. "Oh, yes. The boys had a bet on what color your hair would become." She smiled sweetly at Bishop and Dustin. "I won."

Violet examined some of her blue hair. "You thought my hair would be blue?"

"Well, turquoise, but we let her win because she's a woman, and it's not nice to let a woman lose," Dustin said wisely. Francesca whacked him on the shoulder as Violet and Bishop laughed.

"Look! He has a face!" Violet said suddenly, pointing at the new character. They all turned in that direction and saw that the new addition to the family did indeed have a face. There were no distinguishing features, no sharp nose or eye-color yet. It would take time.

"Cesca, is it a him or her?" Violet asked Francesca quietly.

She considered its bone structure. "Him, I think."

"Go ahead, I know you want to say hello," Bishop smiled, giving her a little push. The little girl bounded up to the new character and smiled up at him.

"Hi," she said sweetly.

"Hey," the figure said shyly.

"What's your name?" She asked. "I'm Violetous-Ufgotunbqbr-Zamandu Beemanqzzzifugatk, but you can call me Violet."

"Algernon," he answered. Frowning: "I...I can't remember my last name."

"You probably don't have one yet, lad," Bishop commented. When Algernon looked up, surprised, he stepped forward and extended a hand. "Bishop. The cowboy over there's Dustin and the lady's Francesca Richards."

"It's nice to meet you," Algernon nodded. "Miss Richards."

She smiled. "Algernon."

"What time period are you from?" Violet inquired. He looked down at her; Algernon found it disturbing that he knew what the purple-haired child was talking about.

"Victorian England," he answered. "In the middle of Her Majesty Queen Victoria's reign." He spotted the slugs on the table. Some of them were crawling off the plate. "What in the world are those?"

Bishop glanced at the plate as Francesca used a fork to poke them off her table and back onto her plate. "Algers...Let's just say you don't really want to know."

"You will not get onto my table!" Francesca whispered. "I will not have slime getting all over my table again! Back! Back onto the plate!" She poked them savagely with the fork.

"Don't mind her. She's a clean-freak," Dustin explained.

"I clean up after all you boys, I have to be a clean-freak," she shot back, threatening him with the fork. He shied away from it; he had no intention of getting Butlerian slug slime on him any time soon. They were difficult to get off fabric.

"There are more?" Algernon asked.

"Oh, yes!" Violet bounced. "There are the merpeople, and Grandfather Zeus and all his family — they went to get dinner — and the vampires are still asleep, Dr. Mason is treating the people down the street, and Uncle Priest and James and everyone else are still asleep, aren't they, Uncle Bishop?"

Bishop smiled at her. "You keep track of everyone in the house remarkably well, you know."

She beamed. "Thank you."

"Vi, go show Algers here your room. You'll have to wait a bit, I'm 'fraid — we weren't expecting anyone new so soon, so we didn't prepare a room," Dustin said.

"I have dolls from the Victorian era," Violet chirped, taking Algernon's hand and leading him out into the corridor. They heard her chattering until they ascended the stairs.

With a vengeful final stab, Francesca got the last slug back onto the plate. She growled at them and they seemed to shake in fear. Poor slugs, Dustin thought. He could almost sympathize for them, even if they were disgusting little creatures.

"We have to talk to the muse-bearer about adding a new wing to the house," Bishop said idly. "We lack space."

"You can say that again," Dustin agreed.

"We lack space," Bishop grinned. The cowboy snorted loudly.

Francesca waved the fork at them. "It's your turn to get the room ready for Algernon. I did it the last time."

Dustin kept himself a safe distance away from the fork, gleaming with slime. "Yes mother," he said, rolling his eyes and standing up. "C'mon, Bishop, let's go."

"Who, me?" Bishop looked shocked. "I need to feed!"

"Come on," Dustin said, pulling at his sleeve. "Priest won't wake up until eight. That's in an hour. It'll take us that long to get the room ready."

Bishop groaned, but trotted after him anyway. "I could wake him up now." They exited the room just as Francesca started poking the slugs again.

"Back! Back onto the plate! Back!" they heard her say.

Dustin glanced at Bishop, who shrugged. He started back up the stairs, shaking his head and thinking, Our muse-bearer always makes the basket cases and wackos.

I love living here.