" 'Ello, luv," the tawny man purred, putting an arm around the slim blonde's waist to pull her close and kiss her on the cheek.

She laughed, shoving him off. "Get out of it, you wretch," she said merrily. "That was a terrible excuse for a British accent."

He faux pouted. "You could've given me a lovely accent, but no, you make me sound American!"

"Nothing wrong with that, despite what the Brits think," she retorted. "Besides, you're always talking in a sneering drawl, anyway, which would completely mess up any accent."

"Besides and anyway are redundant," he returned sulkily before stiffening, glowering past Blondie. She turned, her whole face lighting up, but was beaten to speaking by a vicious hiss from beside her. "Bit short for a Loran, aren't you?"

"A come again?" The dashing black-haired young man who had entered, another lovely blonde on his arm, stared blankly.

"Loran," the first man spit out. "Aren't you Loran?"

The original blonde tapped his shoulder. "Eyes, Taun," she said, her tone that of a reminder. "He's got black, all Lorans have grey or pale blue. He's just an Earthen ... well, not just an Earthen, but you get my point ..."*

Looking mystified, the not-Loran shrugged down at the girl on his arm, who was glaring at Taun as though plotting his death. "Easy, Flower," not-Loran said softly, patting her hand. "He didn't do anything."

"Hmph," 'Flower' muttered, turning to peer at the door behind her. "Won't the others be here soon?"

"Probably," her companion said easily, eying a table across the room. "Is that blended sugar, flour, and flavoring I see?"

Flower stared at him a moment before giggling, joined by the original blonde. "You're a little strange, Evan," Flower said affectionately.

"Yes, it's sweet treats, help yourself," Blondie invited warmly. Evan smiled at her before leading his companion across the room. Laughter from outside heralded the entrance of more guests, who appeared a moment later - two tall, dark-haired men, accompanied by a much shorter, black-haired female. Taun was glaring laser bolts and chewing nails. The woman noticed and stiffened, glowering right back with hatred and fear. The hostess stepped between the two of them, giving them both firm looks.

"None of that, now," she admonished severely. "We're all friends here today." Taun turned away and headed for the bar not far from the food table, and the taller of the new-come men gave the girl a gentle squeeze.

A laughing, exquisitely beautiful redhead entered, escorted by a bear of a man, a careworn but once-pretty woman, and a rather nondescript man. A dark-haired young beauty trailed them, apparently listening intently to the conversation, while a bleached blonde in an outrageous sparkly outfit and freakishly tall skinny heels danced in, wiggling past the adults and making a beeline for Flower and Evan. Taun, standing at the bar with a drink in his hand, noticed her at once and started drifting unobtrusively towards the snacks table. The gaggle of newcomers, looking around and spotting the forerunners of their party, went over and mobbed the table themselves. The bleached blonde and Taun were already flirting with each quite competently, while Evan and Flower looked on and sniggered.

A faded blonde drifted in, looked around, and turned to leave, but was arrested before she could exit by an exceptionally short but perky brunette, who shoved her farther in. "Come on, Abby, lighten up," the shorter girl said cheerily. "It's just a party, it won't kill you!"

"I want to finish that holo-novel I've been working on," Abby mumbled, but by then, it was too late. The brunette was homing in on the mischievous-looking Loran man, who returned her interested look. Sighing, her discontented friend trailed behind.

Looking extraordinarily pleased with herself, the hostess glanced about with proprietorial pride. Not social by nature, by a long shot, the only company she could always count on surrounded her here. And as far as her convocations went, this one was going extremely well.

*(In the version posted on here, all Lorans have blue or black eyes - however, in the first and the last drafts, they have blue or grey. Also, two of these characters will never appear on this site ... although they can be found, if you know where to look.)