Technically, when you showed up on earth, you were meant to make a big show of it. Wheel of glowing eyes, pillar of flame, all that jazz. Little human brains needed a shock to let them know they needed to pay attention.
That was for humans, though.
That was why the angel manifested without ceremony in the back room of the old book shop.
A glass smashed when it hit the floor from the opposite side.
The Metatron sighed, rolling his eyes Heavenwards. “For God’s sake… anyone would think you’d never seen a manifestation before!”
The angel was opening and shutting his mouth without a sound, his eyes flicking wildly between the Metatron and the creature on the other side of the room. Said creature had vaulted over the back of the couch and was making a game effort to be invisible.
He gave them to the count of five, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I know you’re not invisible back there.” He glanced at the shell-shocked angel and snapped his fingers a couple of times. “Wakey wakey, already! Give us some wine, will you? I’m getting one hell of a headache.”
Aziraphale, Principality and Guardian of the Eastern Gate, nodded, backing over to the desk. “I– er– I don’t mean to be rude,” he said, as he fumbled through the half-empty bottles of wine, “but why– who are you?”
The Metatron gave him a blank look. “Who am I? Bloody hell. I go on holiday for the first time in millennia and everyone forgets.”
“He’s the sodding Metatron!” The voice came from behind the couch.
The angel blinked. “But you’re– I’ve spoken to the– they didn’t look– are you sure?”
The Metatron groaned inwardly. Bloody understudies getting above themselves. “Like I said, I was on my holidays.” He held out his hand demandingly. “Wine and a bucket, if you don’t mind.” He folded his wings away and sat down on one of the chairs. “And get your arse out from behind the couch, whatever-you’re-calling-yourself-now. I know you’re there.”
The demon reluctantly inched out and to be frank, the Metatron couldn’t blame him. Last time they’d seen one another, the demon wasn’t quite as demonic as he was now. On a scale of bad days, on both their parts, it was pretty high up the chart. Still, for a demon, he didn’t look half-bad. Not as scaly or slimy as some of them. Mostly just a bit of an eye-job, but otherwise still looked like his old self.
“Crowley,” the demon reluctantly said. “My name. Now.”
“Crowley.” The Metatron nodded. “That’s what I’d heard. Wanted to be sure. Best not to offend anyone with name-dropping.” Crowley’s eyes widened in surprise and the Metatron winked. People changed their names for all kind of reasons, even ex-angels.
“Er…” Aziraphale tentatively offered the Metatron a glass of a dark red. “If you don’t mind me asking, why the bucket?”
A glance around the room took in the number of partially-empty bottles and the distinct lack of buckets. “Ah. You’ve had bodies since before the plagues, eh?” He made a face. “You dodged the bullet. The rest of us still don’t get to do any ingesting.”
That shook the demon out of his frozen state. “You what? You can’t? Christ, that’s a bit much, isn’t it?”
“It is,” the Metatron intoned in sepulchral tones, “forbidden. But that’s never stopped the pair of you now, has it?”
“Well–” Aziraphale stammered. “I mean, we never received any memos from head office about anything like a ban and it’s been quite a while and–”
The Metatron gave him a long, slow look. “F’you think I’m here to give you a bollocking about how often you get pissed, you’ve got another thing coming.” He accepted a small bowl from the flustered angel, then swilled a mouthful of the wine before spitting it into the bowl. “Sit down, would you? I’m getting a crick in my neck looking up at the pair of you.”
Both of them sat down like kids in front of a headmaster, demon on the couch, angel on another chair. The angel fidgeted, twisting his hands together, and the demon made a show of sitting upright, a guarded look on his face.
“So,” Crowley said, his hands curling over his knees, “why are you here, then? Hell and Heaven already came for us and punished us.”
“Yeah,” the Metatron chuckled. “I heard about that little shitstorm. Gabriel still won’t come out from behind the throne.” He gave Crowley a knowing look. “Bit over-the-top, but can’t break the habit of a few hundred lifetimes, can you?”
Aziraphale looked between them, puzzled. “What did you–”
“Later,” Crowley muttered, though his ears were turning red.
The Metatron considered them both, swilling some more wine around his mouth. He spat it into the bowl, wiped his mouth, then set the glass down. “Right. Down to business.” He sat up more formally in the chair. “I come,” he said, resonance echoing in every word. Well, he was on duty, wasn’t he? Had to make an impression. “Upon the Command of the Almighty.”
Aziraphale went paler than his hair, but straightened his back, while Crowley swallowed hard, mouth a thin line.
“Wh-what does She say?” The angel’s voice was wavering, although he was trying to keep it steady.
The Metatron unfurled his wings and spread his hands. Divine light illuminated the room.
The light winked out and the Metatron reached down for his glass again.
“Ta?” Crowley echoed.
The Metatron arched an eyebrow. “Did I stutter?”
The Metatron nodded amiably. “Pretty much. She was in a bit of a hurry.”
The demon sagged back in the chair, a stupid grin spreading across his face. “Of course she bloody was. Just like the old days.”
Aziraphale blinked several times. “You mean– when you say ta– that is– doesn’t that mean… thank you?”
“Yeah.” The Metatron grinned at him. “Last time I checked.” He drained the last of the wine, then held out his glass. “Got a top-up?”
“I… don’t understand,” Aziraphale protested. “God said to… thank us?”
“Jesus Christ,” the Metatron groaned theatrically. “I didn’t think being on earth made people this thick.” He blew out a noisy sigh. “Yeah, God sent me to see you. Both of you. And to thank you. And can I have some more sodding wine?”
Aziraphale scrambled up and hurried over to fetch another bottle. Mentally, the Metatron counted down from ten and he’d just got to four when–
“But why?” The angel wailed, clutching the bottle like a security blanket.
The Metatron leaned forward in his chair and plucked the bottle out of his grip. “Reasons,” he replied in as mysterious a voice as he could manage, then sniggered and slouched back in the chair, gargling a mouthful of Bordeaux.
Crowley snorted. “Nice to see you haven’t changed.”
The Metatron tipped the bottle towards him. “Neither have you, all things considered.”
“But really!” Aziraphale interrupted, looking panicked enough that the Metatron felt a twinge of sympathy for him.
“The Armageddon thing,” he clarified. “Good job. Gold stars all round.”
The demon burst out laughing. “Looks like you were right, angel. Ineffable plan and all that.”
Aziraphale went pink. “Oh. Gosh.”
The Metatron gave Crowley an amused look. “S’he always like this?”
Crowley wrinkled his nose. “Yeah, a bit.” He recovered his own bottle of wine from the floor, considering it. “Fancy refilling me? You made me spill all over myself.”
The Metatron made a face. “It’s always work, work, work with you, isn’t it?” Still, he waved a hand and the level of the wine in the bottle rose until it almost overflowed. “Care to join us, Aziraphale? You’ve earned it.”
The Principality stared, wide-eyed, at him. “A drink with the Metatron?”
Crowley laughed. “He’s not that special.”
“Crowley!” The angel sounded appalled. “He’s the Voice of God!”
Crowley grinned over at the Metatron. “He’s an arsehole is what he is.”
The Metatron grinned back at him. God, he’d missed his brother. “Takes one to know one.”