Chapter 15: While the Night is Still Young

"Is that...are you sure you should really try and smoke that without..."

The enormous horse trailed off as Graceful glowered up at him wordlessly, flicking his lighter to life and bringing the flame to the tip of the hand-rolled cigarette. "Yeah, okay, forget I asked," Riffraff mumbled while glancing at Amdusias in some useless attempt at garnering a bit of assistance.

"Do not look to me, gambler," the demon scoffed with a grimace at the pungent odor that arose from their companion's cigarette. "Although I must echo the stupid one's thoughts," he added mildly, fixing Graceful Melody with a deep frown. "It does not have the sweeter aroma of your usual...indulgence."

Graceful remained quiet, his stony features briefly illuminated by the glowing embers as he drew slowly, deeply from the cylinder. It didn't matter how much taller or broader the other two were -- they were muted and hesitant as they both watched him and awaited his response, neither Riffraff nor Amdusias willing to broker the uncomfortable silence.

Graceful held the breath in for several seconds before finally letting thin wisps of smoke out through his nostrils. His features were difficult to discern in the darkness...and Riffraff couldn't resist carefully leaning down to peer at the tiny pegasus.

...He was shocked to find a crooked grin. He blinked and took a step back, staring at Amdusias in confusion, who in turn seemed torn between concern and panic. Riffraff rubbed at a muscular arm nervously before stammering: " okay?"

"Holy fuck my tawdry ass, this shit is divine!" Graceful Melody croaked as he took another massive puff and gave what might have been a tiny giggle. "Oh choruses on high, we found the good shit, boys!"

Amdusias blinked a few times as well and then scowled horribly. "Wait, is this akin to..."

"That's why it smells familiar," Riffraff mumbled, waving an arm as Graceful blew out a thick plume of smoke directly toward his face. " must be like the reefer we got back home..."

"Did not some of you idiotic mortals refer to it as the 'devil's weed'?" Amdusias muttered darkly while trying to ignore the loud, happy sighs coming from Graceful. "This is absurd, we must keep searching and find some other local flora that our angry little cricket can set ablaze and inhale..."

"Hell naw, you need to calm that demonic ass down," Graceful retorted gruffly, even as he stifled a cheerful grin. "You're the one always bitchin' that I'm on edge. So lemme fuckin' calm my nerves, unless you want me sockin' some other Joe in the face?" He jammed the cigarette into the corner of his muzzle and jerked his head at his companions. "C'mon, fellas. Those two gotta be done screwin' by now."

" you know...oh, never mind, of course you would know," Amdusias sighed as he trudged after the pony while Riffraff fell into step behind him. "So, does this mean you are finally in a mood to ponder our project to progress to our penultimate path back home?"

"You're alliteratin'," Graceful snickered, pushing a low tree branch out of his way and letting it slap loudly against the demon's waist as Amdusias hissed. "That ain't ever a good sign. Means you're feelin' outta sorts."

Amdusias sighed loudly again. "Oh, do cease your prattling. As if a mere mortal could fathom the depths of a mind as complex and worldly as my own." He grumbled under his breath, then repeated mildly: "The point stands. What are we doing next?"

Maybe it was the effect of the aromatic plant Graceful puffed on. Maybe it was something more. The pony wasn't sure. They emerged from the tree line and Graceful Melody glanced back to see both Amdusias and Riffraff looking down at him expectantly. After a moment or two in thought, he tapped the cigarette quietly to one side and replied gruffly: "We ain't gonna try 'n jet. Not yet, at least. Partially our fault if those tailless fuckers come knockin' at these folks' door again. I know we ain't exactly at home, but we can't just not do our job if there's work to be done..."

"It is hardly a 'job' considering how rarely we were ever compensated for our endeavors against the supernatural," Amdusias muttered darkly, even as a tiny smile teased the corners of his dour expression. "I suppose I cannot foist blame upon you, however. I raised you well."

Graceful snorted and rolled his eyes before taking another long puff and then offering Riffraff the joint. "There's the arrogant bastard I know 'n love," he chuckled through a thick haze.

Riffraff seemed to be the only hesitant member of the trio even as he awkwardly accepted the cigarette and took a wary drag from it. "I...I don't got nothin' against helping these people, but...what can we even do? We can't just stay here in this canyon forever, waiting for another hole in reality to open up and let more of those guys in." He blinked and coughed as he attempted to exhale, his eyes bulging a bit. "Oh gods, that's strong..."

"An' why not?" Graceful retorted while nimbly snatching the cigarette back out of his companion's thick fingers. "You got somewhere better to be, ya giant pantywaist?"

"Well now you're just being mean," Riffraff sulked, slapping childishly at a branch that Amdusias sent into him.

"I would agree," the demon noted mildly. "Besides, you cannot tell me you have even a quarter of the patience required for such an extended post."

"Both of ya take a beat, let a guy express himself," Graceful grumbled despite the smile he gave as another cloud of the peculiar smoke drifted out of his muzzle. "Been too long since any of us got to show our stripes, le's be honest..."

He led his companions back into the base and then paused near the entrance. The pony sniffed almost delicately at the air. "Hot damn, that smells fuckin' dandy," he rumbled while inhaling deeply from the cigarette and then mashing it out against the concrete doorway. "And goddamn am I suddenly hungry."

"I can only imagine why," Amdusias replied dryly. But as he took his own dainty snuffle, the demon couldn't resist a soft coo. "That...does have an unexpectedly welcoming scent. When was the last time we ate a proper meal?"

"Says the guy who ain't gotta eat no proper meals, let alone no goddamn food at all," Graceful retorted, though his expression was one of entertainment as he jerked his head forward and strode into the base's interior. "Smells like our two poofs made somethin' other'n a sticky mess..." He paused to grin up at Riffraff. "You hungry, hoss?"

"Yes, because unlike Amdusias, I need food and it's been a really long time," the horse mumbled, pushing past the demon and awkwardly shuffling alongside Graceful to make a beeline for the kitchen.

"Just because I do not require sustenance to live does not mean I have no psychological need for it," Amdusias sulked. "Also, it will help me regain my energy faster! And I am sure you would appreciate that, mm?"

"Find it hard to argue, in that case," Graceful Melody chortled as he fell into step behind Riffraff and let the towering mountain of grumpy equine lead the way.

The trio found the kitchen with little issue. Riffraff was the first to approach the table, his eyes locking onto the three plates of what he presumed was the food that smelled so damn good. "Look, they made us each a plate...wrapped it up and everything."

"Wouldn't expect nothin' less of that pink fella," Graceful replied, his usual grumble now more of a throaty chuckle. "Although from what we know of Mahihko..."

"He would be my alternative assumption for providing such domestic arts, yes," Amdusias concluded as he prodded the aluminum foil atop the nearest plate. "They did not leave any additional indicator of their work in the kitchen, however..."

Graceful glanced around. Sure enough, there were no dirty plates or soiled cookware. The sink was empty and whatever cooking implements Donut and Mahihko had put to use were cleaned and neatly lined up in the dish rack. "Wouldn't mind hirin' one of them to keep the office tidied up," Graceful commented with a half grin before unceremoniously dropping into one of the chairs and pulling a plate toward himself.

"Ah yes, yet another excuse for you to skimp out on the meager household chores which you already avoid," Amdusias noted while sitting down next to the pony.

"Grace did get me that fancy vacuum," Riffraff said, seating himself across from the other two. "For new technology, it works pretty damn well!"

"He got it for you so that you might keep his domicile clean!" Amdusias snapped as Graceful snickered next to him. "My gods, you are so blind to the little one's manipulations sometimes, gambler."

Riffraff sulked, but immediately brightened once he removed the foil. "Shit, these eggs look amazing..."

"They are amathing," Graceful replied loudly through a mouthful of the stuff. Amdusias leaned away from him with a scowl, though it did not stop him from delicately taking up a fork and ever-so-cautiously lifting a tiny scoop into his own muzzle.

No demonic mystique could keep him from widening his eyes and then closing them in delight as the pale spikes along his back and upper tail all gently flexed upward in what one would assume was pleasure. "," he murmured as the two mortals shared a glance, then gave the demon an amused look together. He opened his eyes and then huffed defensively at their expressions. "What? I am allowed a trifle or two!"

"Or two," Graceful remarked with a laugh. They soon fell into a comfortable silence, however, and savored the meal quietly.

As Riffraff washed their plates, Amdusias and Graceful relaxed at the table, the gruff pony looking remarkably...serene. He hadn't even excused himself to go have another cigarette, which said something in and of itself.

The demon glanced down at his companion and then prodded his arm gently. "You seem unnaturally content."

Graceful Melody snorted and raised an eyebrow...but only shrugged amicably and laced his fingers behind his head. "Yeah, and? You lookin' healthier too, Dusey. You finally gonna stop fuckin' around and make yourself useful?"

Amdusias spluttered and huffed, nearly tumbling out of his chair in his indignation. "Cheeky mortal imp!" he exclaimed before sniffing disdainfully. "Allow me to demonstrate how much infinitely more capable I am than you, as I must regularly do, it seems!"

He pushed his chair away from the table as Graceful looked on bemusedly. By the sink, Riffraff paused in his brisk cleaning to look over his shoulder in curiosity. The demon ignored their eyes, however, and focused for a few seconds. A gentle hum built up in the air and a faint amber glow appeared around his hands as he held them out as if waiting to catch something...

...And a moment later, a silver saxophone materialized before him to fall smoothly into his fingers. He smiled immediately, gazing affectionately at the gleaming instrument as his entire body thrummed from the contact with the smooth metal. "There, you see?" he spoke, almost reverently. "My powers are coming back to me, oh ye of little faith."

Graceful hid his smile of approval, instead crossing his arms with a mild grunt. "Summoning Fortissimo? That's your idea of gettin' your mojo back? That takes you 'bout as much effort as it does for me to pull the trigger."

"I would ask which trigger but I suppose the same response applies to all variations," the demon shot back coolly.

Riffraff laughed quietly and shook his head, returning to the task at hand while Amdusias and Graceful glared at each other. At least this was typical behavior that he knew how to deal with. Usually it was best to simply stay out of the line of fire.

"Ah, you've come so far to crack jokes 'bout playtime 'tween the sheets. Used t'be I couldn't even mention the word 'sex' 'round you without you gettin' all flustered," Graceful taunted, leaning his chair back on two legs and propping a leg onto the kitchen table. "C'mon then, Dusey. Like you always tried to teach me -- show, don't tell."

Amdusias grumbled, his expression showing that he knew replying would only encourage the fast-talking pony to continue hounding him. He put the mouthpiece of the saxophone between his jaws, his fingers running briefly along the well-oiled keys before he gently tightened down upon the reed and blew a slow, steady breath into the saxophone.

It was as if he was breathing life into an entire symphony, and when the first warm notes trickled out of the instrument's bell, Graceful knew instantly that the demon had, in fact, begun his path toward recovery. But the pony remained silent, closing his eyes as Amdusias proceeded to perform a short warm-up piece. The tune was vaguely familiar, but Graceful could tell the demon was making improvisations and alterations as he played, using his supernatural musical talent to make a whole production out of what was meant to simply be a practice tune.

Riffraff smiled softly while drying the last plate. Amdusias's music had always been a treat to him in the past, but hearing it now, after so much insanity and the stress of the last few was an absolute nirvana for the horse. He found himself standing in place long after the dish was free of even a single water droplet, lost in the swirling melody of Amdusias's effortless performance.

Even Graceful avoided speaking during the musical vignette. He watched his companion closely but did not interrupt. It was a relief to see Amdusias's fingers move as smoothly as they did, for his notes to sound as crisp as they did. The saxophone was more than a finely-built and well-polished musical instrument -- it was an extension of the demon himself, a sort of link between his physical manifestation and the reserves of supernatural energy that defined Amdusias as who he was. The fallen angel, given a new life as a rogue lord of the demonic realm.

As the penultimate note streamed out into a gentle, trembling decrescendo, Graceful finally let his smile stretch across his expression. "Huh. Whaddya know." Amdusias flicked his amber eyes down to the pony with the instrument still between his lips. "Looks like the whiny baby remembered his nursery rhyme."

Amdusias puffed his cheeks out, carefully extracting the mouthpiece and then fixing the entertained pegasus with a contemptible glower. "You are positively recidivous," the demon remarked sourly.

"That ain't even a real word," Graceful retorted around his grin, pushing away from the table and slipping out of his chair.

"It is so!" Amdusias complained, holding Fortissimo with one hand as the other settled on his hip. "It is no fault of mine you choose to keep your minuscule mind so very minuscule!"

"I thought it sounded very nice, Amdusias," Riffraff gently interrupted while wiping his hands dry on his worn dress pants, smiling warmly at the demon.

"Ahh, see? Truly, Riffraff's brutish brawn hardly means he is half the numbskull he appears to be!" Amdusias exclaimed victoriously. "He recognizes lavish talent!"

"Hey..." Riffraff replied awkwardly, rubbing the back of his neck but unable to continue as Graceful cackled and jumped in instead.

"What Riffy recognizes is whoever is less likely to tan his hide in the next sixty seconds!" the feisty pony chortled before he slapped Amdusias's thigh firmly. "Look, I'll give ya this much: you're definitely doin' better than you were. But c'mon, c'n show us more than that, eh?"

He guided the demon into the rec room where they'd all slept earlier, Riffraff mumbling but following behind them."I know you are simply goading me into getting what you desire," Amdusias muttered as he allowed himself to be nudged along. "I am not so blinded with my own impressive talents to avoid noticing your ill-conceived attempts at manipulation."

"Manipulation, my ass -- we need more hardware, you need some new clothes so you stop panickin' every time one'a these other mooks sees ya all naked 'n shit, and you can't tell me you don't get a nasty li'l rush every time you summon somethin' up..." Graceful practically purred the last line, pressing himself into Amdusias's muscular leg and running one finger up along his scaled stomach.

The demon shivered despite himself and then cleared his throat and curled his long, flexible tail around to poke Graceful Melody firmly. "Do not attempt to use your beguiling entrancement upon me," he grumbled, continuing to push the pony back with the twinned tips of his tail. "I am not Riffraff."

"True, he still fucks a tiny bit better'n you," Graceful commented casually, making both of the larger males flush and immediately look away from one another. "Now quit jabberin' about how much you wanna jump my bones 'n get past the curtain call, Dusey."

Amdusias scowled but could not resist proving himself. "Very well, then," the demon growled as he moved his saxophone into place again. Graceful grinned and stood next to Riffraff with his arms crossed, his messy tail flicking a bit in self-assurance.

Riffraff watched the grumpy demon begin a sharper tune before whispering loudly down to Graceful: "You know that whole saying about catching more flies with honey?"

"Oh, please," the pony replied dismissively, his own eyes still locked on Amdusias. "He's just like you. You both perform best under a li'l pressure..."

Riffraff frowned a bit, though was unable to formulate a response before the demon's instrumental suddenly shifted into a rapid series of staccato notes. The air crackled with Amdusias's energy, and then a pale yellow shape began forming just in front of Graceful. The pony's grin widened as he held out his arms expectantly.

And a moment or two later, a sub-machine gun popped into existence and fell into Graceful's grasp. A complex rune glowed on the wooden stock of the weapon, emitting a bit of steam. "There ya go!" Graceful laughed, stomping a hoof cheerfully. "C'mon, Dusey, don't stop there!"

The demon narrowed his eyes but his expression was one of pure determination as he blew a higher-pitched chorus of entwining melodies. The energy reverberating around the room seemed to grow even more powerful and Graceful cackled while jerking his head toward Riffraff. "Arms out, ya giant loaf!"

Riffraff blinked but lifted his arms all the same, staring stupidly down at his bulging forearms. "Uh...why?"

...His question was answered an instant later when a heavy steel box dropped into his outstretched limbs. His impressive strength was the only reason he didn't immediately bowl over, but the masculine horse still wheezed as he stumbled backward in shock and gaped at the metal box. A similar rune to that which marked Graceful's gun was gleaming on the lid of the crate, emanating just enough heat for Riffraff to grimace and move his head to the side.

"Not bad, not bad at all!" Graceful crowed as he shouldered the large gun, winking up at Amdusias. "Keep it goin', pal!!"

Huffing between notes, Amdusias closed his eyes and moved into a steadier pattern of notes. The legato sequence was smooth and yet hardly any simpler, his fingers still a blur as a beautiful, endless run of notes filled the room. A sharply-pressed pair of pinstriped pants seemed to weave themselves up along the demon's legs, followed by a pristine light-blue dress shirt that clung to the reptile's sculpted musculature with ease. And finally, a blazer materialized atop the shirt, black as midnight with tails that extended down past the base of the demon's tail.

It left an impeccably dressed figure that appeared to be a mix of a jazz musician and a suave private eye -- perhaps not all that far from the truth, all things considered.

Graceful gave a rasping laugh as Amdusias's long solo finally trickled down to a stop. "That's more like it," the pony remarked, his eyes tracing the demon's outfit. "'Bout time you looked your part. You're s'posed to be the pretty face of the firm, after all..."

"I am supposed to be a full partner of the firm, but you still insist on introducing me as your assistant to our clients," Amdusias grumbled, though a small smile lightened his features as he reached down to run a hand slowly over the fabric of his shirt. "Gods, this is so much better..."

"You're such a modest sonuvabitch," Graceful observed before glancing back at Riffraff, who was still hefting up the enormous crate with trembling arms. "Ah shit, sorry, Riff -- you c'n set that fucker down."

"What's in here?" the massive horse choked out as he carefully bent his legs and set the box down with a dull thump. "It feels like a ton of bricks!"

"Way more useful'n bricks." Graceful chuckled, using a hoof to kick open the box with a toothy smile. "Only real currency a guy needs in this world..."

Riffraff's eyes widened at the sight. A few loose firearms, but otherwise just...bullets. Lots and lots of bullets -- some loose, but most in clips and drums that were stacked eight, nine high. "Holy shit," the horse muttered, rubbing the back of his head slowly. "You got enough munitions here for a damn small war, Grace..."

"Yeah, well. Come prepared or leave dead," the pony grunted, nodding once. "My sawn-off should be in there somewhere, which means that scattergun Lone left for ya will have some shells, too."

Amdusias sniffed loudly again to get their attention. "Have I proven myself sufficiently yet?"

"Almost," Graceful teased with a twinkle in his eye. "This is all fine 'n dandy for business. What about for pleasure?"

The demon pursed his lips. "I am not going to abuse my abilities for your carnal entertainment, you disgusting little harlot."

"Ain't tryin' to tickle my dick, ya pervert," Graceful replied with mock disgust before he gave a provocative smile. "Got me in the mood to tickle some ivories, instead."

"You must be joking," Amdusias uttered, his expression growing morbid. "There is absolutely no time for such frivolity!"

"You're the one who put the markings on the Steinway," Graceful replied easily. "Unless you're sayin' it's too much for ya to handle."

"The last time those words spilled forth from your maleficent maw, my legs quivered for a week," Amdusias grumbled before flushing in embarrassment as Riffraff eyed him awkwardly. "I-it was due to lifting more weight than was appropriate for me! Whatever you are thinking, I demand you stop!"

"Bet that's what you said back then, too," Riffraff replied under his breath. It earned him a glower, although he couldn't help but notice that the demon lifted his saxophone to his muzzle yet again. Amdusias already looked weary, a bit of sweat beading along his dull navy scales...and all the same, he began an even more feverish solo. "And you say I'm easily goaded," he added mildly.

Graceful elbowed the horse's hip firmly, watching Amdusias with a small grin. "Hush. He's got this."

"Yes, but why?" Riffraff murmured, seeming genuinely confused. "The guns an' bullets I get. What's the point of draining Amdusias for...this?"

The pony simply smiled and moved over a few feet as the atmosphere of the room darkened. Soft yellow arcs of energy crackled in a large, almost-ominous shape directly next to Riffraff and he quickly stumbled away as well, realizing why his nimble companion had shuffled to one side. The piercing notes of Amdusias's saxophone almost hurt their ears -- not for sounding bad, but because they were so forceful. The demon's body trembled with the effort, the amber glow pulsing across his entire form...and at last, with a sharp trill, a scratched baby grand piano appeared a few inches off the floor.

Amdusias gasped for air, sweat running down his muzzle as he threw his head back. The moment he broke the spell, however, the piano thumped firmly down into the ground with a discordant crash.

Riffraff leaped back with a yelp, but Graceful only crossed his arms with a smirk while giving the reptile an appraising look. "Alright, pretty good, but can ya tune the damn thing now that ya dropped it?"

"I...I would like to note that I think this is amazing," Riffraff stammered, staring with disbelief at the still-sparking instrument. He reached out to slowly run a finger along the polished wooden frame. "How...why were you able to...this is just..."

"Use your words," Amdusias retorted sardonically before he grunted and slapped the bottom of the piano with his tail. "Also, you are not free of the little one's ridiculous whims -- cast your gaze beneath, gambler." The demon then glowered at Graceful while opening the lid of the piano with one hand, the other still gripping into his saxophone. "And to answer your question," he continued acidly as he ran his fingers quickly along the keyboard, then closed his eyes and held his hand out over the internal tuning knobs. "Of course I can."

With several twists of his fingers, the demon used his distinctive energy to manipulate the countless knobs in a blur of movement. Graceful Melody grinned shamelessly and sauntered forward to watch the taut strings vibrate and shift smoothly. "Of course ya can," the pony echoed with a chuckle, glancing at the large summoning symbol etched into the inside of the piano's lid.

Riffraff drew closer as well, shaking his head slowly. "I still don't know why the piano has the same rune, though..." And then he dropped to one knee to peer under the baby grand, then blinked when he realized an acoustic guitar was tucked into a pouch sewn into the base of the instrument. "Oh gods..."

"Yes, the little minx insisted your own simplistic stringed sound-maker be attached," Amdusias moodily informed Riffraff. "Go on, Graceful Melody. Explain to your dumbfounded paramour why precisely this is possible."

"Easy," Graceful replied mildly while searching the room for a something he could use to sit at the piano. "Still dunno why you couldn't include the bench, by the way," he noted to an eye-roll from the demon. "Anyway. One day Dusey was braggin' about the fact he'd perfected his summonin' runes, how easily he could enchant shit that we might need to call up out in the middle'a nowhere. So I said 'hey, you call music the most important thing in the world, prove it.' An' well..." Graceful grinned again while sweeping an arm out across the piano while Riffraff gingerly pulled the beat-up guitar free and glanced it over.

"This feels like an immense misuse of your powers, Amdusias," the horse mumbled. "But...impressive, nonetheless."

"Of all the things about which Graceful Melody is incredibly wrong...the importance of the musical domain is not one of them," Amdusias responded stiffly. "Furthermore, if I am forced to join the tiny, angry one in his mildly talented auditory adventures...your mediocre abilities will certainly not avoid the same fate."

"You're a master of the almost-compliment," Riffraff remarked even as he leaned against the wall and quietly ran his fingers across the guitar's strings to check its tone.

Graceful had disappeared from the room while the two had their not-argument, returning with one of the chairs from the kitchen table. "Ain't perfect, but it'll do," he grunted, slamming it down and then plopping into it. A small smile creased his features as he rubbed a finger gently against one of the keys. "Now then...let's make this shitty little world a little more like home..."

Mahihko's eyes were open the moment he heard voices inside the base.

Some instincts died harder than others.

But upon recognizing Graceful's husky timbre and the deep, rich vocals of his towering companions, the wolf relaxed and smiled a bit while glancing down at the top of Donut's head.

The two had dozed off in the soldier's bed after their tiring bout, and somehow the foot-and-a-half-taller chupadore ended up curled against the feminine wolf. Not that Mahihko minded. He held Donut's head tenderly to his chest, one of his paws rubbing along the chupadore's leg as their tails remained intimately entwined.

The muffled conversation of the trio wasn't quite enough to keep him awake, and Mahihko began drifting off again. He trusted them that much, at least.

...The sound of a saxophone, however, was a little bit less normal. One of the wolf's ears swiveled toward the door as he smiled curiously. He remembered seeing the demon perform with the silver instrument in their previous encounters on Grace and Riff's home world. So really, that wasn't so strange, either.

He pulled Donut a bit closer to his slight frame, leaning down to nuzzle affectionately into the chupadore's mane with a smile. The soldier mumbled into his chest and shifted the tiniest bit, tightening the grip of his arm around Mahihko's neck.

He might have been able to snooze through the saxophone, too...but the incredibly distinct sound of a piano dropping into place was a bridge too far. The wolf's ears pricked and he turned his head toward the bedroom door with a confused expression. In his arms, Donut muttered something into his ruff while pushing his face further into the lupine's thick fur. Mahihko thought he might have heard the phrase "need at least an hour before I can bang again", which made him grin amusedly. Gods, Donut made it difficult to even contemplate leaving the bed to investigate.

He continued to listen to the inaudible voices, sensitive ears picking up the strains of a guitar along with a quick run along the piano's keyboard. At last, it was too much noise even for the heavily-sleeping chupadore and one of Donut's eyes cracked open as he huffed quietly into Mahihko's fur. "Did Grif leave the TV on again?" he mumbled, glancing up at Mahihko before attempting to bury his face further against the wolf's chest.

"Naw, I think that's comin' from our three wanderin' amigos," Mahihko replied softly while running his fingers along Donut's spine. "Sounds like they're preppin' up for a li'l jam session..."

"But...we don't have a piano...I don't think..." Donut frowned thoughtfully. "I feel like I would have noticed that. Unless Grif was keeping it in his room! He never lets anyone in there!"

Mahihko grinned slightly. "That might be for the best, t'be honest," the wolf chuckled, bumping Donut's muzzle lightly with his chin. "Anyway, I don't think it's nothin' bad, so you go on back to sleep if ya need, hon."

"Mmmm..." Donut snuggled closer with a happy sigh before peering up at the entertained lupine again. "Tempting. You're so fluffy! But...I do like live performances...and I've had lots of time to get to know you, but I barely know anything about those three! And um...also..."

Mahihko's grin spread slowly. "Those two tall boys are hot as fuck?"

Donut giggled into a hand. "Yeah!"

The wolf shook his head in entertainment. "They sure are. A'right, you convinced me, sweetie. Let's find somethin' that resembles clothin'..."

Graceful's fingers flexed before settling onto the worn ivory keys. Both Amdusias and Riffraff gazed down at him, naturally giving the pony leeway. He gently pushed down a minor chord, letting the warm notes fill the room almost until they faded and then playing another...and another.

A small smile formed on Riffraff's features as he recognized the progression, taking a moment to tweak the tuning knobs on his guitar as Graceful's voice began softly, barely a throaty murmur. "When the rain is blowin' in your' the whole on your case..."

His fingers continued moving with more confidence, the piano ringing out proudly as his husky baritone became more clear. "I could offer you a warm make you feel my love..."

Riffraff's eyes closed but the smile remained as he started to strum an accompanying rhythm, one hoof tapping gently in time to his companion's singing.

When the evening shadows an' the stars...appear

An' there is no one there to dry your tears

Lord, I could hold you for a million years

To make you feel my love...

He held the last note almost blissfully while leaning forward and playing a low, rolling melody on the piano as Riffraff proceeded with his rhythmic addition. It was all the cue the last member of the trio needed, and Amdusias stepped up behind Graceful with Fortissimo already in place. A rich solo streamed out from the saxophone, slow but sensual. Every warm note from the demon's instrument was clear and perfect, yet did not clash or collide with the more impromptu playing from the two equines. The three of them created a unique but not-unwelcome harmony that filled the entire base with the emotionally-drenched song.

Graceful glanced up as they steadily traversed from the instrumental break to see Donut and Mahihko standing together in the doorway. The chupadore had on the standard form-fitting black pants, while Mahihko -- shockingly -- wore only an oversized t-shirt that probably belonged to Donut. A soft red blanket was draped around them both, though it was clearly more for comfort than any kind of modesty.

Graceful snorted in quiet amusement as the three musicians broke into an upward key change, his powerful vocals pouring out once more: "The storms are ragin' on the rollin'' on the highway of regret..."

Donut pulled Mahihko's smaller frame a bit more tightly to his side as he smiled brightly, enthralled with the unexpected performance as any potential fear of awkward tension among the five all but dissipated.

"The winds of change are blowin' wild and free..." Graceful half-smiled, meeting the awestruck soldier's eyes. "You ain't seen nothin' like me yet..."

Amdusias and Riffraff both immediately softened their instruments, the demon blowing a gentle, lilting counterpoint to the horse's gliding decrescendo as Graceful's piano nearly dropped out entirely to leave only his crooning voice. "I could make you happy...make your dreams come true."

...Mahihko almost felt jealous with the way Donut appeared so transfixed, practically sensing the way the chupadore was drawn closer to the pegasus. And yet he himself couldn't deny how easy it was to be blissfully lost in Graceful's allure.

"There's nothin' that I wouldn't do...go to the ends of...the earth for you," Graceful almost whispered, the words drifting across the room like a letter from a distant lover. "To make you feel my love..."

The final chord of the piano hung in the air for a few seconds as Amdusias and Riffraff both relaxed and loosened the grip on their respective instruments. Graceful leaned back from the piano and closed his eyes with a pleased smile, inhaling slowly as his gaunt body appeared almost to glow from the act.

It was Donut who broke the silence first as he gave a cheerful whoop and pranced into the room, dragging Mahihko along with the arm that remained around the smaller male's shoulders. "Oh my gosh, that was amazing! All three of you are so good!! And that song was beautiful...did you write it?!?" He had the blanket clutched around himself with his free hand, his eyes all but popping out of his skull with his effusive excitement.

Graceful chuckled and shrugged easily, breaking into a light improvisation on the piano. "Ah, that ain't much, just a little warm-up."

"The one time you should avoid modesty, and here you are diminishing our musical prowess!" Amdusias complained as Riffraff smiled and then gestured for the chupadore and wolf to make their way to the couch.

"Ah, can it, Dusey. We all know you're the fuckin' cat's meow, me 'n Riffraff just pretend to keep up," Graceful snickered as his hands moved on their own. He glanced over his shoulder as Donut happily dropped onto the couch and pulled Mahihko into his lap, wrapping an arm around his slender waist and securing the blanket around them both. "And nah...that ain't our piece. We didn't have too much time to write our own music, after all," Graceful reasoned, turning his attention back to the piano. "Folks more talented than us got plenty'a good tunes for us to noodle on."

"Speak for yourself, cricket," Amdusias retorted indignantly before looking expectantly at Donut and Mahihko. "But dearest guests! What do your hearts desire? Your wish is our command!"

Mahihko's grin was instantaneous. "Well, we do got five cute guys in one me 'n Donut already got a head start, so..."

"Musically," the demon groaned while scrubbing at his features in annoyance. "What musical desires exist within that phallus-driven soul, you two-toned strumpet?"

"Oh lawd, a strumpet? My honor, it done been besmirched!" Mahihko gasped dramatically before quirking a smile and glancing up at Donut. "Hey, it's your place, hon. We're the perpetratin, penetratin' aliens...what do you wanna hear from these weirdos?"

"Ooh, gosh, I dunno," the chupadore replied while tapping the end of his muzzle and peering up at the ceiling in thought. "Oh oh, I know!! How about a show tune?! Do you have those where you come from?? I bet it would be really good in your style!"

"That is gay as hell," Mahihko announced, although his tone was anything but chiding. If anything, the words were drenched in shameless approval. "Whatcha got, tiny piano pony?"

"Ya got about an inch on me, and I am only talkin' about height," Graceful retorted, even as he planted his fingers firmly into a strong chord that moved quickly into an upbeat melody. The piano sang out cheerfully and the demon seemed unable to resist striding up behind Graceful to join the pegasus with a harmonic part -- Amdusias seemed the type to deride such a secondary piece, but in the name of the performance, it appeared all thought of a hierarchy was tossed to the wind.

Saxophone and piano twisted together beautifully and the duo were supplemented shortly by Riffraff's gentle strumming a moment before Graceful's unexpectedly versatile voice rode over the instrumentation. "Start spreadin' the news...I'm leavin' today..."

Mahihko tilted his head with a half-grin as he and Donut listened to the impromptu concert. "Heh...I recognize this one," the wolf chuckled, one paw tapping silently along. "Whaddya know, there are some weird similarities 'tween our worlds..."

Donut simply nodded happily, leaning down to whisper loudly into his companion's ear: "Uh huh, but what's New-York-New-York??"

The wolf laughed, resting his head back against Donut's chest. "Don't worry 'bout it, sweetie." He closed his eyes as Donut wrapped both arms around him, smiling when the chupadore dropped his head down between his ears. "Jus' enjoy..."

And enjoy they did.

Graceful and his two companions unloaded a rollicking medley of standards on the tails of the jazz-number-cum-show-tune, keeping their two audience members smiling and swaying along. At one point, Mahihko leaped off Donut's lap and offered him a hand, and the pair pulled off an impressive improvised dance together, mixing whatever steps they each knew and moving with enough natural grace and rhythm that it looked almost like they'd practiced.

And after leaving the flushed soldier giggling and flustered, Mahihko insisted he knew another tune just as Graceful broke into it, and the pony smirked and offered him the chair at the piano while marching up to Donut. But rather than look shocked or terrified, the chupadore simply beamed with delight. And with the wolf performing a serviceable job at the keyboard, supported effortlessly by the demon and the gigantic horse, Graceful Melody crooned a sweet love song over a smooth waltz as he and Donut glided around the room with unexpected finesse.

It hardly mattered that, as with Mahihko, Donut had at least a foot and a half over the diminutive pony. Graceful Melody led the flushed, cheerful chupadore effortlessly, guiding him through a twirling routine with all the aplomb of a professional ballroom dancer...all while serenading Donut like he was the only one in the room. And if the chupadore had appeared breathless after the routine with Mahihko, he was downright shuddering as the last notes of the song trickled out of Graceful's maw. He leaned down automatically, the pony's breath washing over his muzzle gently...and after a moment, Graceful smiled and stood on the tips of his hooves to trade a brief kiss with the enervated soldier.

Mahihko propped an elbow on the edge of the piano, grinning easily at the sight. "Not the worst alien world to end up on, eh?"

Riffraff and Amdusias groaned in unison, but Graceful only smiled again as he reached up to idly run his fingers over Donut's bare chest, making the slender chupadore giggle with the tiniest tremor. "I suppose not," he teased before quickly switching gears and stepping away from the speechless soldier and back toward the piano. "Now get outta my seat 'fore I knock your ass flat."

Donut swayed on his paws and Mahihko was swift in trading places with the pony, smirking as he practically flew to the chupadore's side and wrapped an arm around his waist. "His words are like poetry, innit?" Mahihko commented playfully while guiding Donut back to the couch so they could flop down and once more affectionately curl up together. "So while y'all takin' a break from the jam session...mind tellin' me how the hell ya got a damn piano in here? An' what's in that big ol' box yer giant horsey-friend's doin' a shit-poor job of coverin up?"

Riffraff scowled from where he was sitting on the metal box, holding his guitar against his chest. "Hey, I'm not trying to cover it up. Just taking a damn breather."

Graceful snorted and let his hands move gently across the keys, an idle tune tinkling out as he replied: "We ain't runnin' no con -- guns 'n bullets, straight 'n simple."

"Well we have guns and bullets here!" Donut exclaimed, raising a hand for some reason. "I was just polishing the rounds the other day!"

"Of course you were," Graceful snickered while lifting a hand to twirl it gently. "From what I seen so far, you ain't slingin' the same lead we are. Plus...Amdusias put a li'l somethin' special on our hardware, too...packs more of a punch."

"That seems wholly unfair, bein' able to have a damn demon bless yer shit!" Mahihko complained cheerfully. "I demand a refund!"

"Bless? Bless?!?" Amdusias sputtered, clutching his saxophone in both hands as if it were an overgrown pearl necklace. "How dare you ascribe such frivolous, paltry actions to my works of unerring brilliance and sheer ingenuity?"

"Aren't you technically a fallen angel?" Mahihko quickly inquired, grinning at the way the demon huffed at him.

"Also, the first time you enchanted one'a my guns with the summoning rune, it ended up in the fuckin' ocean a thousand miles or so off-shore," Graceful added mildly over his gentle piano improvisation.

"Well...yes, even the greatest performances require practice and a willingness to stumble in the early phases," Amdusias grumbled, his long, forked tail flicking irritably. He turned his glower onto Mahihko. "And I may have fallen from grace, but I daresay my abilities were only suffering a grievous lack of appreciation from my former fellows on high!" he spat out while bringing his saxophone back toward his muzzle. "A blessing might be a gift, but what I offer are treasures!" And with that, he joined Graceful's quiet instrumental.

"Wow, he uses his mouth almost as good as you!" Donut whispered furtively to Mahihko, who grinned even as he glanced up at the chupadore invertedly.

"Damn, hon, I'd be insulted ' ain't lyin'." The wolf laughed quietly before he and Donut both tilted their heads curiously when Riffraff approached and then gestured to the other half of the couch sheepishly. "Oh, like we're gonna say no to an adorable giant horse sittin' down next to us," Mahihko teased, nodding with encouragement all the same.

Riffraff rolled his eyes but let himself fall into the other corner, setting his guitar against the side of the couch. "I'm sure that if you need to use some of the bullets, you could have some."

"No they can't," Graceful grumbled without looking up from the piano.

Riffraff sighed and then smiled awkwardly at Mahihko and Donut. "He doesn't mean it."

"Yes I do. Tell the thief he c'n go scroungin' for his own goddamn ammo."

Mahihko smiled dismissively. "Meh. I do my best work huntin' for my own goods." He winked up at Donut. "Know what I mean?"

"Oh, do I!" the chupadore replied brightly, bumping his muzzle against Mahihko's nose before looking at Riffraff inquisitively. "So...I know a little bit about Mahihko --"

"Ain't all little."

"--It sure isn't!! But what about you guys? So you're from a different world than Mahihko and his friend?"

"Yeah..." Riffraff glanced at his two companions as they continued their easy noodling. "Our worlds are similar. Except...from what I've heard from you and don't have, uh. Demons and angels and stuff."

"Nah, we've come across the occasional semi-mythical monster, but more often'n not it's a guy wearin' a costume," Mahihko replied casually. "Which kinda sucks, 'cause...y'know, when you spend like a month trackin' down some legendary lost kingdom 'n all the supernatural guardians inside end up just bein' crazy fanatics high on fermented tree sap, it's kind of a bummer. Sometimes you just wanna fight an actual yeti."

"No one wants to fight an actual yeti," Riffraff muttered, which made the wolf arch an eyebrow with interest. "Yeah, we got the same myth back home."

"That's weird as shit!" Mahihko exclaimed with a laugh. He nudged Donut gently. "Y'all got any supernatural legends like werewolves or some shit here, too?"

"Oh, we have werewolves," the chupadore replied, nodding somberly. "They're real, though."

Mahihko blinked a few times. "Wait, what?"

"Oh yeah! I know one, actually! One of the Blue guys. He totally tried to kill us all a few weeks ago!"

Both Riffraff and Mahihko stared at each other for a moment before the wolf continued slowly: "So uh. One of. The three guys. That Lone and your buddies are chasing?"

Donut nodded again. "Yup! But don't worry, he's totally harmless when he's not a werewolf. He's got the worst aim I've ever seen!"

Mahihko paused, then grinned. "Oh. I know who you're talkin' about. Yeah, he couldn't shoot a fuckin' fish in a barrel that's all fish 'n no water." He looked back at the horse. "So I've gathered that Shortstop's the gruff private eye. Your cute spiky friend's the secretary."

The saxophone squeaked as Amdusias glowered over his shoulder at the three of them. Mahihko shrugged and winked back. "Okay, okay. He's your girl Friday, then."

Riffraff looked confused. "I'm gonna guess that isn't much better of a comparison?" The wolf's expression was more than enough of an answer and the horse sighed. "Well, before you ask how I fit in --"

"I'm gonna guess very snugly," Mahihko suggested, making Donut titter above him.

Riffraff eyed him warily but continued slowly: "I, uh. Well, I ended up joining those two pretty much by accident." He looked at Graceful and Amdusias, listening to them play for a few moments. "I got accused of cheating at a card game – which was ridiculous, I was just the dealer, it's not my fault their luck ran out, and --"

"It was kinda your fault," Graceful tossed over a shoulder, his messy tail flicking with entertainment. "That's basically your power, beefcake."

"Oh yeah!" Donut perked up and smiled at Riffraff. "I wanted to hear more about your power! It's like something out of a fantasy book. You said yours was the power to get lucky, right?"

Riffraff gave a pained look. "N-no. Not quite. It's a little hard to explain..."

"We got time," Mahihko purred. Donut practically absorbed the wolf's brainwaves, considering the way he immediately slid closer to Riffraff with Mahihko still held in his lap, both of them giving big eyes up to the horse.

He looked embarrassed and tried to squirm away, but the armrest prevented his escape. He gave a resigned sigh and then turned a bit toward the pair. "Um. Okay, so. I'm gonna guess that neither of you live in a world that has natural, um. 'Powers', right?"

"Mahihko has a very powerful se--"

"I'm aware," Riffraff interjected lamely before he widened his eyes as Graceful snorted laughter at the piano. "N-not like that! I absolutely haven't slept with Mahihko!"

"Well, why not?" Donut asked, sounding genuinely shocked. "He's really good at it! And he's even better at sex!"

Riffraff sighed again and rubbed at the bridge of his muzzle, doing his best to ignore their antics. "So I'm taking that as a no. Well, on our world, almost everyone is born with some kind of innate ability or power. It's usually nothing too crazy -- like you might be a natural at painting, or maybe you're a good singer."

"Is that what Graceful's power is?" Donut inquired while gazing toward the pony still dabbling away at the piano. "He has such a beautiful voice..."

"You'd think so," Riffraff replied honestly, his own eyes following the chupadore's. "Maybe in some other life. No, Graceful Melody doesn't use his power very often, at least not to its full extent. He sees things most of us don't. I mean, we can all see Amdusias, but that's because Amdusias chooses to walk with us on the mortal realm. Grace can see the ones who do stay hidden. And he can manipulate supernatural energy, to a degree." Riffraff smiled a bit and looked back to Mahihko and Donut. "But he doesn't do that much. It's, uh. It's intense."

The equine leaned against the armrest, relaxing a bit even as Donut pressed lightly into his side, his eyes glued to Riffraff. Mahihko didn't seem to care much, snuggled back against the soldier while rubbing a hand idly along Riffraff's thigh. "Me, my, uh. Power, if you can call it's a little...odd. It's not really easy to put into words. But if I had to sum it up, it's that I tend to be, um. Fortunate."

The wolf and chupadore shared a look before they both peered back at Riffraff. "Grace was right -- your power don't sound so awful," Mahihko commented, drawing a blunt claw lightly back up along the horse's thigh and making him twitch.

"Everyone says that at first blush," Riffraff muttered, crossing his muscular legs uncomfortably. "But once people find out the details, it's not so fun."

"Well...then spill, Black Beauty! Tell us the deets! This is our group-session-bondin'-time, ain't it? Bond with us!" When Riffraff gave him a side-eyed look, Mahihko snickered. "Now who's bein' depraved?"

"Ha, ha," Riffraff mumbled, going quiet for a moment as the music filled the room. But the horse eventually rubbed at his throat while continuing: "But alright. It's usually easier to explain with a bit of a story."

Both Donut and Mahihko curled up, squishing close to the huge equine as they gazed up at him with matching looks of childish apprehension Riffraff regarded them for a moment before rolling his eyes as he proceeded. "So I'm lucky, right? Things go my way. But here's the thing. It's not a guarantee. I've learned the hard way that I can't rely or expect things to work out for me, every time or all the time or anything like that." He massaged one of his thick biceps silently. "And here's the other thing. It's only my fortune. With no regard to anyone else, whether friend or foe or innocent bystander."

When Mahihko frowned slightly at him, the horse met his gaze with a faint smile. "Take the time I was twelve. A few buddies of mine and I were playing in some woods near school. We were climbing trees to see who could get the highest. I got probably twenty, thirty feet up the damn thing before I slipped. I shoulda...hell, broken a leg, some ribs, maybe died from a fall that high. But as I was falling, one of my friends below me was on a branch that suddenly broke. He dropped just in front of me...I landed on him, I barely got a scratch or two, he..." Riffraff exhaled quietly. "He was paralyzed from the waist down. He never blamed me or anything, but. I knew."

"That sucks!" Donut gasped, clutching Mahihko tighter to his chest. " can't control it at all??"

"Nah. Not one bit," Riffraff murmured, glancing at the way the two smaller males wiggled even closer. "It's uh. It's alright. You don't gotta. You know. I've kinda been used to it for a while."

"Friends reassure friends!" Donut sang out, resting his head on the horse's shoulder while gazing up at him.

"We...we're friends? We barely know each other..."

"Well we know you gotta weird 'n unnatural lucky streak!" Mahihko replied with a wink. "We know Grace's some kinda ghost-bustin', angel-fuckin', supernatural-seein' midget!" Graceful responded by holding up a middle finger over his shoulder. "And your big spiky lizard-hunk's a demon, fell outta Heaven!" Amdusias glowered at the wolf without halting the tune of his saxophone. "Which, honestly, sounds like it worked out just fine 'cause he's way too cool for that fluffy shit!" At this, the demon's creased features relaxed and he flicked his tail in what might have been approval while Mahihko laughed and looked back up at Riffraff. "So fuck yeah, we're friends!"

Riffraff rolled his eyes and then grudgingly draped his arm around Donut's shoulders -- at this point, they were pressed so hard against his side it was too uncomfortable not to do so. "Fine, we're friends." He paused and then fixed Donut with a thoughtful look. "We kind of know about Mahihko. The three of us spent some time with him and Lone before we ended up here. But...what about you, uh. Donut, right?"

"Private Franklin Delano Donut, that's me!" the chupadore answered brightly. "Oh gosh, where to even start. I was born to a farmer and her husband in the beautiful plains of Blarganthia!" Riffraff raised an eyebrow but remained quiet. "And then, one of my first memories was when I was four and a half, and we were having sausage for dinner, and I --"

The soldier's appreciably-detailed life story was put on hold when a new voice echoed hesitantly through the base. "Uh...hello in there? Is there anyone here?!?"

Graceful Melody right hand was still resting on the keys by the time his left had drawn the handgun from his coat, leveling it at the doorway into the room in a blur of movement. Amdusias finally pulled his saxophone away from his muzzle with a slight frown, placing a hand on the pony's shoulder. "Stay your hand, little one. This is not how we greet newcomers."

"Actually, seven outta ten times, it kinda is," Graceful muttered, though he carefully lowered the hammer of the gleaming pistol with his thumb.

Amdusias grunted, unable to properly disagree. Behind them, both Donut and Riffraff twisted their heads around to peer over the back of the couch while Mahihko shifted in the chupadore's lap to look over one of Donut's shoulders. And it was the eyes of these five strangers, only one of which wasn't an alien species, and the muzzle of a large-caliber handgun, that met the interloper as he wandered into the room.

The purple chupadore froze in the doorway, his eyes slowly widening. He wore a green uniform that was considerably different from what the Reds and Blues sported -- his appeared to have no armor, for starters. And if he had a weapon, any serious concern over him using it rapidly deteriorated when he yelled at the sight of so many strange faces, dropping the case he'd been clutching in his hand and quickly raising both arms high. "Please don't shoot...whoever you are!! I'm not in either army, I'm a non-combatant!"

Riffraff glanced back at Graceful Melody and then cleared his throat loudly. "Grace -- his hat, look. His sleeve, too." Despite the chupadore's trembling, the white square with the red cross was unmistakable.

"Yeah, I see it," the pony muttered gruffly, barely lowering the tip of his gun. "Don't mean I trust it."

Donut, however, squealed excitedly and clasped his hands together on the other side of Mahihko. "Ooh, you're a medic, aren't you?? You service both sides, right?"

The newcomer blinked a few times. "I...I don't know if...that's how I'd word it, and is that a dog in your lap, who...what are all of you?!?"

"Wow, I am a wolf, thankyewverymuch," Mahihko replied haughtily before Graceful cut him off with a groan, dropping his head against the frame of the piano.

"Fuck this, I ain't tellin' the fuckin' story of who the fuck we are a third time, nah, you windbags can do whatever the fuck you like, but I ain't losin' my buzz for this." He gestured at the medic with the end of his pistol, making the nervous chupadore wince and shift away.

"Can...can we maybe put the gun away? Even...if it sort of is my job to take care of gunshot wounds?"

"I'll put away my iron when I'm sure you ain't gonna pull a fast one on us," Graceful muttered, jabbing the handgun at the medic to force out another flinch or two. But when the demon at his back prodded his shoulder pointedly, "Oh, fuck off," he grumbled before slamming the gun onto the open frame of the piano, still pointed at the chupadore but no longer in his grip, at least.

"Apologies, friend -- Graceful's a little slow to trust," Riffraff awkwardly explained as he managed to squeeze past Donut and Mahihko in their distraction. He sighed in relief when he was the free of the encroaching duo, wiping hands on his pants and then offering one to the wide-eyed chupadore. "I'm, uh. I'm Riffraff."

The medic stared apprehensively up at the imposing form of the horse, his muzzle opening and shutting a few times. "Are...are you...experiments from the House, or...some kind of...what...what are you?"

"Perhaps we should have the one creature native to this world explain to the other native creature the nature of our existence?" Amdusias suggested dryly. When the newcomer peered past Riffraff to look at the even-larger alien with the smooth scales and multitude of bone-spikes jutting from his body, it didn't do much to calm the chupadore's nervous expression.

It took Donut a few seconds to realize that meant him, but he eventually blinked and then leaped to his paws with Mahihko still latched to his neck. "Oh! That's me!!" He giggled and set the wolf gently down before prancing over to the speechless chupadore. "I know these guys look weird...but they're cleared for duty! Or at least Sarge didn't tell me I had to shoot any of them!!"

"B-but...what...are they?"

"Oh, just aliens!" Donut replied brightly, one arm around Mahihko when the wolf materialized next to him as the other looped casually around Riffraff's waist.

Mahihko grinned at the bewildered expression on the medic's face. "Heh. I mean he ain't wrong. I'm Mahihko! The little pony behind the piano is Graceful' the huge walkin' bag of sexy scales 'n spikes is Amdusias!"

The chupadore looked down at the lupine blankly, then slowly stammering: "A...aliens? I..." He stared between each of the strange creatures before finally meeting Donut's cheerful gaze again. "I'm uh. Medical Officer Frank Dufrense." As Riffraff's hand was still extended, he awkwardly reached out to shake it.

Graceful grunted and frowned toward the medic before wrinkling his muzzle and turning back to the piano. "That shit's way too long to remember. We're callin' you 'Doc' now."

"But...but I'm not a doctor," Doc babbled, trying not to seem too obvious while staring between Riffraff and Mahihko. " was Donut, right?" His eyes shifted back to the beaming soldier, his disbelief impossible to hide. "They're...actual aliens? And you're this calm??"

"C'mon, hon," Mahihko chuckled, sidling close to Doc before the flighty chupadore could backpedal and looping an arm around one of Doc's. "I think it's story time. Again."

Graceful Melody glowered and started to play a lively tune, enticing Amdusias to join him on the saxophone. Mahihko grinned at this, leading Doc toward the couch as Riffraff and Donut followed behind. "Don't worry about those two -- they're just grumpy 'cause they hate tellin' the same story over'n matter how awesome it is! sit right on down here with us 'n lemme spin you a yarn that begins with some pretty li'l crystals me 'n my good friend found back on our home planet..."

Doc blinked a few times, dropping onto the couch if only because he couldn't think of anything else to do at that moment. Donut happily sprawled out next to him as Mahihko flopped onto the other side. Riffraff sat on the armchair across from them, leaving Doc with little choice but to simply accept what he saw in front of him as the wolf began his rambling tale.

"Now, then, you know anything about transdimensional portals? Yeah, me neither. So it all started when we opened our first' since we're idiots, we walked our asses right through. Honey, it was all downhill from there..."