(Note from the author: With the new year, I am giving up my attempts to continue mangling a beloved song. There are only so many ways you can beat a dead tune till it crumbles like a rolling stone. The story will go on, however, just with little breaks in the middle of the chapters.)
On January second, Dan came back.
Marge and Viv had gotten back on New Years Day (the day before) as planned, but no one knew anything about Dan's return until he walked through the door.
"Hey, honey," he called, "I'm home."
"Dan!" came six voices in reply and Luna, Sal, Nancy, Cat, Viv, and Marge all converged on him.
"Guess what?" Dan asked as he paused from hugging everyone. "I'm legal." He waved a small green piece of paper. "Here it is. I now have one of these little cards and I can stay here pretty much as long as I want as long as I keep getting it renewed."
"That's wonderful," Sal said.
"Awesome," said Nancy.
"I missed you," said Luna.
"Me, too," said Marge.
"Have a cupcake," said Cat.
Everybody was still crowding around Dan when Ken walked in.
"Hey, Ken," said Viv, "Come join us!"
The whole group huddled together.
"This feels so great," said Marge. "We're all finally back."
"The whole bunch of us," said Nancy.
"The commune, the whole commune, and nothing but the commune," said Cat.
"What else could it be?" asked Sal. "It's all of us and there's no one left."
"It's true, it's true," said Dan. "This is the crew."
"For now," said Luna. "I'm sure there will be new people showing up at some point. You know that we're gonna need them."
"Well, there won't be anybody new tonight," said Nancy.
There were a couple of moments of silence as they all cuddled together. There were small murmurs of contentment.
Then the door burst open.
"Hey, everybody! I'm here!" said Stan.
It took a minute or two for anyone to be heard clearly in the hubbub following Stan's announcement. Finally, the commotion died down enough for Stan's booming voice to be heard again.
"Don't worry! I'm not staying! I just brought Darren and Chuck back!"
Slowly people became aware of the two men standing in the doorway, confused by all the chaos.
"Darren!" yelled Viv. She ran over and practically dragged him into the room, with Chuck trailing along behind.
Marge grabbed Darren's other hand. "Are you here to stay?"
"If you'll let me." He paused. "And you gotta let Chuck stay, too."
"You're both very welcome here," said Luna.
"Welcome aboard," said Nancy. "And it's time for dinner."
"Can I stay for dinner???" asked Stan.
"You can stay for dinner and even stay for the night," said Dan. "But you'd better be leaving us in the morning."
"I will!" said Stan. "Don't worry! I've got a noontime bus to catch!"
Fortunately, Nancy and Sal and Marge had prepared a small feast. They had expected to have plenty of leftovers but everything got eaten.
"I've never lived at a commune before," said Chuck. "Is it like a faery gathering?"
"Yeah," said Marge, "except it goes on and on and on."
"And you've got to work hard," Sal said. She looked over at Stan.
"I'll help! Tonite!"
"Is it okay if I wear a dress while I'm here?" Chuck was wearing a red and gold print wrapped around his waist, with a deep blue and purple blouse.
"It's fine with me, as long as you're willing to work in it," said Dan.
"I've never seen men wear dresses before," Ken said.
"Hang around here long enough and you'll see a lot of things," Sal said. "Lots. Hopefully most of them will be good things."
"Dessert," Nancy said, and everyone quieted long enough to eat some lovely squash pie with a vegan custard topping.
"Well, it's good to have you all back," Luna said. "And it's back to work tomorrow."