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"Hey guys, look who finally showed up!" Diana called out as she descended upon the Animal House corner, a tall, dark, shambling man in tow.

"Hi, Gareth."

"Hi," Gareth said, his greeting accompanied by a sheepish laugh for no one and nothing in particular. Gareth had the self- effacing manner and shuffling gait of a man who's grown too tall for his image of himself.

"Wondered when you'd show up," Matt said.

"Practically the whole Animal House crew is here now," Lily said.

"Hero's missing," Gareth said, and several members of the "crew" looked at each other and grinned.

"Somewhere in the jungles of Southeast Asia," Diana said.

"Have you heard from her?" Gareth asked.

"The last postcard we got was from India," Diana replied, "and she was heading east."

"Clarissa," Mercy said. She had returned from the kitchen, another beer in hand, and was standing behind Gareth and Diana.

There was a momentary shocked silence among the former inhabitants of the big white house on 11th. "Well, nine out of twelve ain't bad," Adam said with a weak attempt at humor.

In a valiant effort to change the subject, Matt stuck an elbow in Gareth's ribs playfully and asked, "Like to see Hero again, Gareth?"

"Sure," Gareth replied, shrugging and laughing. Despite the bashful-sounding laugh, he was easily the most forward man of their clique, with the possible exception of Matt. Adam had regular adventures, but he didn't run after them, they just happened.

Lily jumped at the opportunity to avert any discussion of Clarissa. "Hero started a tradition, didn't she?" she said with an overly loud laugh and a meaningful look from Gareth to Matt.

"I guess that means you'll end up with Gareth when you're tired of Matt," Adam said to Myrine.

"I wouldn't mind," Gareth said with a good-natured leer.

"Traditions are made to be broken," Myrine said, her eyebrows raised so high they could have chased her bangs away.

Party on



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