“Come back to bed, love, it’s too early,” a groggy voice called from the bedroom.
Aziraphale, not one who was easily tempted, continued to make preparations for tea. Once it was properly steeped and the biscuits arranged just so, Aziraphale picked the tray up and walked into the cave Keith dared called a bedroom. Despite their on-again, off-again meetings Aziraphale hadn’t been able to make the burgeoning musician understand the necessity of a proper sleep schedule. Instead of gratitude, concern was met with laughter and teasing that made Aziraphale feel like an old, out-of-touch biddy for worrying about decorum.
Carefully, Aziraphale balanced the tea on the edge of the only piece of furniture not entirely covered in clothing, paperwork, or drug paraphanelia.
“I’m afraid you are mistaken, my dear boy,” Aziraphale said, pulling open the curtains. Michael groaned and rolled over in a tangle of sheets. “Four p.m. may be early for you musicians, but for the rest of us it’s closer to the end of the day. Tea?”
Michael gave him a crooked grin and sat up, scratching his chest as he went. “You are an angel, mate.”
Aziraphale frowned and poured out the tea into a cup already half full with sugar and milk. “I’d really rather you not call me that,” Aziraphale said with a frown.
Michael reached out for the cup and drank deeply from it. “Angel in the morning, devil at night,” he said with a wicked grin that made even the roots of Aziraphale’s hair blush.
“I hardly think that’s appropriate,” Aziraphale muttered, though he was tickled at the comparison. “Seeing as how I have meet a few devils in my time.”
With a sigh of contentment, Michael leaned against the headboard and beckoned Aziraphale over to him. “Do tell. I love a good story.”
Aziraphale waved him off and tried to ignore the burgeoning need to organize the apartment. “I’m afraid I wouldn’t be the best judge of character. None of them are worth mentioning. Well, save for one, but even then I wouldn’t go about giving them the boost to their ego they so desperately crave. Are you sure you don’t want me to tidy up a bit?”
“Sounds like an interesting character,” Michael said.
He refused to ask anymore and lit up a cigarette that was most definitely not tobacco. Aziraphele refused the hit, but did take a deep breath in and held it for a moment. After all, the big boss created all plants and therefore as a reflection of that image, even Gabriel couldn’t argue against the humans creative consumption.
“Quite. Not that I’m about to put a feather in their cap or anything -“
“- it’s just that, I’ve never meet someone as frustratingly self-centeredly correct. From a philosophical perspective, you see. Also perhaps on some of his fashion choices, though I would really argue against anyone wearing a bustle again.”
Michael nodded and let out a deep exhale, the smoke rushing towards Aziraphale on a plume of gray wings.
“Take the Blitz, for example. Going around trying to convince people that gas masks would do nothing for their safety, yet when the bombs were about to fall they ushered everyone they could into the bomb shelters (the first time the bombs fell, not the second with that terrible business about the book) -“
Michael raised an eyebrow but didn’t interrupt. He set the cigarette between his lips, billowing smoke towards Aziraphale, and rummaged through the mess until he found a pen and paper.
“Then there was that whole business with the Romanovs,” Aziraphale said, hands waving about. Despite the movement, the tea stayed in the cup through sheer force of will. “Always had a soft spot, that one, especially when it came to children. The whole family dead, and there that devil is, sneaking the poor girl out of Russia and setting up a new life for her in France.
“It’s not as if I’m sympathetic to them, by any means, but there have been a few moments where the good of it all outweighed the momentary evil. Almost like a big balance act.”
“Does this devil have a name?”
“Oh, don’t get me started. If I were to list all the names they went by we’d be here until Judgement Day The sheer audacity they have. Do you know he once convinced an entire baptist revival along the Mississippi that they were Lucifer? I’m still gobsmacked that didn’t end in an elevator straight to the pits of bureaucratic hell.”
Handing Aziraphale the cigarette, gladly taken this time, Michael asked, “Even hell’s got bureaucracy? I always thought it was chaos.”
“That’s what they want you to believe,” Aziraphale said, as the ash from the cigarette raining down on the sheets. “They’re the ones who invented the Monday morning meeting, signing in triplicate, and, and… loads of other terrible things. Did I ever tell you about when we meet Pontus Pilate? Boring chap, but nonetheless…”
A few months later, Aziraphale was startled when he heard that nice boy Michael singing on the radio. The drums were a bit much, but it did make the toe jump up in its boot. As Michael crooned on, however, Aziraphale realized with a sudden terror just what the song was about. Quicker than Aziraphale had performed a miracle in three decades, the radio squelched off.
“What’dya go and do that for?” Crowly asked, already sour that they were running late to the theater.
“Terrible music. Very bad for the soul,” Aziraphale snipped. With a snap, Aziraphale had pulled out a handkerchief to blot away the sweat. “Now, you were saying about this Nixon fellow?”