happy hour

“Aye, Anders, aren’t you going to order anything?” Amane clapped one burly hand on Anders’ left shoulder, making him wish that he’d worn something a bit nicer than his old gray hoodie. “We haven’t seen you for a grand while! Everybody’s thought that you were dead, and now you won’t celebrate with us!”

“I’ve been… busy.” His Australian friend and the tipsy man to his right tossed a few coins up to the bartender, who promptly returned into the kitchen to start brewing the abomination of mixes together. “You kind of relish having relaxing time when you’re not worrying about convincing the government to nullify your death certificate so that you can make house payments and also testifying that you’re not a murderer.”

“Coming out of that laboratory you’ve holed yourself up in?” Amane’s eyes wandered to Anders’ fidgeting hands and promptly widened when caught by the glint of his engagement ring. Leaning forward and bracing himself against the counter as to not fall over, he remarked, “Ah, so you’ve finally found yourself a woman, Anders! What, is this the first woman you’ve ever taken this much of a fancy to? Enough to buy a house?”

“Not exactly…” He warily glanced behind him at the tables of patrons behind him, all immersed in their own worlds of conversation. “There’s a small blue house on Main Street that I’m in the process of acquiring. The master suite upstairs is getting cramped.”

Amane leaned back and brushed his sandy hair out of his eyes, taking the drink that the bartender placed in his hands. “Pray tell what you mean?”

“Not so fast, Amane,” Ambrose, the man to Anders’ right who’d probably be confused for a lumberjack countered, taking his own drink and downing it in one gulp. As soon as the cherry concoction had traveled down his throat, he sputtered, “No need to fluster the poor reincarnate. Give him a few minutes to pull himself together. Alcohol doesn’t do him any good, remember?”

Anders dug his hands into his pockets, attempting to conceal the trembling that was steadily growing in his arms. He’d ordered a lemon drop in a small glass cup only half an hour before and taken a tiny sip, and he’d immediately almost threw the whole thing back up from the intensity compared to the water and tea that had been available back at the Lab. “I don’t think you’d like her, Amane. She can’t make up her mind whether to play the part of the weak and submissive companion or the strong and independent partner I wanted her to be.”

“You know women. Always so fickle.” Amane waved his fingers at the bartender, who returned a flirty smile as she served somebody else. “One moment they’re shouting about how fierce they are-” he took a swig of his Green Piñata, grimacing as it went down- “and the next they want to be babied simply because they have vaginas. I don’t trust any of them.”

“Maybe that’s why you’ve had seven girlfriends and they’ve all dumped you,” Ambrose gested, tipping his empty glass towards Amane. “One for every three years you’ve been alive.”

“But Miranda is different.” Anders pulled his right hand out of his pocket and grasped the lemon drop glass again, still crystallized but less glittery. “Somehow she’s found a way to be simultaneously attracted to and repulsed by me. And the high school girlfriend experience didn’t help at all since she’s like a comet in the bedroom.”

“Aye, and what exactly do you mean by that?” A steaming glass of Emerald Volcano was delivered to Amane, who attempted to down it on one gulp until his lips met the liquid and he shrank away from the sourness.

“Cold and raw, probably. Number four, Burkela, was like that, remember?” Ambrose tossed his glass to the bartender, who caught it in her skirt. “Except she was soulless and stiff as well, and at that point, you might as well have a good argument with the ethicists lobbying against robots.”

Anyways…” He attempted another sip of the lemon drop, feeling his stomach lurch when the candy bits met his lips and hastily setting the glass back down in its original position. “She’s beautiful enough. Not like someone you’d see on the runway, but not ugly either. You’d have to see her for yourself.”

“Nah, mate, I’m good. I’m not going to risk messing around with your impending marriage.” Amane stepped down from his stool, picking up his winter coat. “I gotta go now. I work the night shift at the police station. It was nice seeing you, Anders. Tell us next time you almost get killed, okay? Then we can plan our nights around that.”

“The police station? Is this a new position?”

“Yeah. They’re investigating some missing teenagers and needed some extra people to take care of the station while the usual officers were out on duty. It’s like they’ve disappeared into thin air, Anders, and there’s no leads whatsoever.”

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