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The Slime of a New Bureaucracy

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“What,” says Michael, interlacing his fingers as his elbows rest at the edge of his desk, “Do you know about humans?” 

Antony J. Crowley sits in his chair as though the laws of matter were simply the vaguest of ideas- slithering and filling a seat that was not designed for a human-adjacent form. The Icelandic Primitive style had been one of his. He may not have received a commendation for it (Beezelbub did not “get it” and was not inclined to try) and Crowley still considers this a damn shame. 

“A fair bit, as I’ve been there sssince Eden.” He replies, his tone schooled into the self-assured one he uses when he checks in with the home office. “And I’ve stayed abreast of everything, what with the temptations and torture and ‘seven deadly sins.’ All that lot.” Crowley moves as though he has rather too many vertebrae, setting his feet atop the rich wood of Michael’s desk. Crowley’s boots are always snakeskin, but the longer he spends in the headquarters of the bad place bureaucracy, the more his leather trousers begin to take on a reptilian sheen. Hell rather fancies these subtle tortures- even to those who are generally in their good graces. The pants were expensive and there was no way in heaven he’d be able to find another pair without some light miracle-ing. (Fortunately, he had an angel who rather liked his silhouette in well-tailored trousers.)

No one has (as of yet) learned both sides have a Michael. Each side knows better. If asked, angels will say it’s ‘ineffable’ and smile so condescendingly that you cannot help but leave the conversation with the feeling you are wearing something akin to a divine dunce camp. If you ask a demon, it will hurt rather badly. Perhaps something happened in the First War, or the Fall. 

It’s ineffable.

The Bad Place’s Michael wears rather more bowties than heaven’s Michael, and fewer ruffles. Crowly reckons that, nevertheless, the aesthetic ends up being rather consistent. He’ll have to ask Aziraphale. 

“Oh, I’m being so vague!” Michael’s expression is deceivingly open. “I’m not asking about torment. I’m asking about what they’re like; what makes humans tick?” He clasps his hands, eyes bright and beseeching. 

“Why? It’s not like hell is expecting a sudden intake of souls, what with the apocalypse being cancelled and the war being off.” Crowley’s reply is dismissive, a touch sarcastic. He’s on thin ice with hell, the notpocalypse being an exceedingly recent memory. The serpent of Eden doesn’t want to be here, didn’t want to be summoned in the middle of brunch and denied the delectable sight of his angel eating crepes. It took a few centuries, but London finally figured them out.

There is a glint in Michael’s eyes, a hint of hellfire. Crowley knows that look, knows the spark of mischief and malice. The plant on the corner of Michael’s desk begins to tremble.

“Well,” Michael’s tone is conversational, but Crowley feels the undercurrent of something deeply cruel within it. “The head office is letting me try something new.”