Nataniel emerges from his office, finished reports in hand, head aching over his multiple attempts to keep Syron’s ideas for the Bunnies’ shoes within the bounds of reason – no wheels, no high-pressure water boosters, no spring-loaded blades for defence – to discover nobody is in the main part of the station. Curious, he follows the sound of laughter and a guitar, along with a half-started, then dropped attempt at singing. Going through the door to the breezeway, then into what people have been calling the Bunnies’ bar, he discovers it is being used as a bar indeed.
Many of the Guardia Popula are crowded in here, and not only them. He spots the one they call Brew, a god of beer, and the delightfully round goddess Kyri. And of course all three of the Dei are here, along with a few people from the neighborhood. Señor Patel’s boy is just dropping off a case of beer, he sees, and he catches a glance between the boy and Inspector Tuma-Sukai. Ah, so that is who is buying the beer, he surmises, but moments later he sees Sgt Machado enter with a case of beer under each arm. A community effort! And as usual nobody tells Nataniel.
He sighs, then makes his way to Machado as the thickset man sets the beer on the bartop, to the cheerful thanks of the lovely Cherry and Rosamaria. He smiles at them – so slender and lively, astonishing really – and then his eye catches Constable Lamore’s. He sees the look on her face as they lock eyes, and it is almost as if he can read her mind: Just like all the rest. He wants to deny it, to tell her what he’s been wanting to say to her for months, but, Hah, what’s the use? With my prospects? Better she think nothing of me.
Dejected, he breaks his gaze away from her and says to Machado, “Here. The autopsy reports on those three corpses.”
“Obrigado, Nate.” The Popula Sergeant flips through then, just glancing at the cover sheets, wanting to get back to the party, but his dark brow furrows. “Porra, Nate...I can barely understand anything you write! It’s all mixed up with Spanish!”
Annoyed, Nataniel mutters in reply, “That’s because I am Spanish, imbécil! I keep telling you that!”
Machado’s ears turn out to be sharper than expected. “Imbécil? It’s pronounced imbecil, idiota! If you can’t manage Urbia, at least you can speak a real language, like Portuguese!”
“Well, I can start with idiota, since it sounds the same! And who said Portuguese is more real than Spanish! Hermano, we’re sons of the same mother! Remember Léon?”
Machado rolls his eyes. “No, I don’t...our little township here came to this land of gods over a century ago from Brasil and… um outro sitio qualquer que não me lembra agora!”
Nataniel is confused until Aliyah calls out the answer, “India, boss! Half this township came from good ol’ India! Whatever that is!” At the same time, he feels a warm breath on his ear, and the welcome voice of Cala whispering to him the meaning of the Portuguese words.
Machado shouts, “Right! I didn’t pay attention to those local history classes in school – I was too busy trying to find a way to feed my family.”
To Cala, he whispers, “Gracias, princesa,” and then to Machado he shouts, “Well, I did! I did, hermanito! And you can shove that mierda you call Urbia donde no brilla el sol! I’m staying with the classic languages! You should too!”
Machado looks shocked at this, and glances nervously at the Dei to see if they’ve heard, and possibly offended. “Hey, hey, now...it’s our lingua comum, it binds us all together…”
At his words, memories of officials enforcing Urbia on small wards flood Nataniel’s mind: old people punished and proud young men and women being imprisoned, treated like members of some rebellious groups. The images in his head throw Nataniel off his anger.
“Well… si, pero…” He works his jaw, holding his silence for a moment, then says more calmly, “You know I was stationed here from elsewhere. Mi barrio is so very far away from this one, you probably never even heard of it. We don’t even use Urbia there unless the policia make us!”
Machado looks abashed. “Ah, mano...it’s been a tough couple of days. I get all rabugento, you know? Perdoa, vai…”
Cala leans forward on the bar, her arm pressing against Nataniel’s. “So...are you going to kiss and make up or do I need to get a pail of cold water?”
Aliyah laughs, hoisting a beer. “Oh yeah! Kiss, you guys! I wanna see that!”
Rosemary bursts in with, “Oh, lovely! Kisses all ‘round!”
Aliyah laughs. “Or wet t-shirt contest! Either way!”
Machado grimaces. “I’m not kissing anybody but my wife!”
Nataniel laughs. “Con cuatro niños pequeños? You’re doing more than just kissing, hermano!”
“Maybe you should try it, cabra da peste!” Machado suggests, slapping Nataniel’s back with as bit more strength than necessary. Leaning closer to the good doctor's ear he whispers. “Especially before your little princesa goes off kissing the other frogs in the pond, heh?”
Cherry suddenly pushes her way between them and shoves a cold beer at each of them. “All right, you two! This here is a party! We all just wanna have fun, and that’s what we’re gonna do! Got it? Startin’ now!” Looking up at them, small as she is, the determination on her face cows them both into obedience.
“Por supuesto que sí, señorita,” Nataniel mutters sheepishly.
“Sim, senhora. Desculpe senhora,” Machado mumbles, avoiding eye contact with the dark-skinned Bunny.
Leaning on the bar, Rosemary giggles. “Ah didnae catch all o’ that, but it sounded most contrite. Well, if ye willnae kiss each other, p’raps a kiss for each’ll do?” She quickly darts her head forward and gives them each a peck on the cheek, then glances at Cala and winks.
“Aawww! Now, ain’t that nice?” Cherry coos. “And now... Beer! Cheers!”