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50 Shades of Bureaucracy: Beginnings

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“What is the meaning of this, young man?” Gabriel demanded, shoulders drawn up tense and chest puffed out. A strange crowd was gathered in a neat little English garden in lower Tadfield. A couple angels, a couple demons, at least one witch, and several human tweens.

“It’s my birthday,” Adam Young said plainly, as if that should be obvious.

“Zzo what?” Beelzebub snapped. “Why should we care?”

“I didn’t know how to send you an invitation, so I figured I’d just have you come over.”

“How in Heaven’s name did you bring us here?” Gabriel asked.

Crowley and Aziraphale looked just as surprised, but less cross than the archangel and prince of Hell who had suddenly appeared in lower Tadfield. “So much for Die Fliedermaus ,” Crowley muttered to Aziraphale. “Sorry, angel, I know you were looking forward to it.”

“Oh, it’s quite alright, dear.” Aziraphale smiled sunnily at Crowley, “You’re the one who prefers the funny operas.” He turned to smile warmly at Adam. “I do love birthday parties.”

“I dunno,” Adam replied to the archangel standing stiffly beside the prince of Hell. He gave a loose, floppy shrug.

“How can a human child just summon uzz? I was in the middle of some very important bizzzness.” Beelzebub looked ruffled and uncomfortable in the blissful, sunny day. The lawn was perfectly trimmed and verdant, scattered with a few games and the detritus of the Them’s usual make believe, and the trees were hung with pennant flags that proclaimed ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ADAM!’.

“Should we be concerned by how many adults were invited to a twelve year old’s birthday?” Mr. Young muttered to his wife as he chewed on the stem of his pipe.

“I think it’s fine, dear,” Mrs. Young said with a tentative smile. “Although, I’m not sure why that couple seem a bit cross with him… Oh! The casserole! I nearly forgot.” Mrs. Young bustled back into the house.

Mr. Young couldn’t think of how to approach the strange mix of adults mingling on one side of the garden. They were all dressed very modern. Looked like posh Londoners. Instead he decided to go over to the young man who had been staying at Jasmine cottage for the past year with that strangely assertive American woman. He had the familiar, comfortably nervous energy of a proper Englishman. Much safer territory. Perhaps he would compare notes with him about lawncare or auto repair.

“We didn’t bring presents,” Aziraphale mourned to Crowley. “Oh, I wish we’d had more time to prepare. We should have left our address with Adam…”

“We hardly know the kid,” Crowley defended.

“But we saved the world together!” Aziraphale insisted. “Perhaps… perhaps I should do something for the party. Some entertainment. Like a…” He swelled with excitement.

“Not a magic show. Please don’t do a magic show. Aziraphale, you know how poorly that went last time, please--”

But it was too late. Aziraphale had already spun around and changed into his ridiculous vintage magic costume with a flourish, replete with that awful drawn-on moustache. “Voila!”

Crowley put his face in his palm with a low groan. “Do not drag me into this.”

“I’ll need an assistant!” Aziraphale said with bravado.

“No. No, I’m not going to indulge this stupidity.”

“The magnificent, magical Mr. Fell, and his beautiful assistant Anthony are going to put on a show!” he proclaimed grandly to his beloved. Crowley found that his comfortable suit had been transformed into a black dress that had gone out of fashion so long ago that it was once again fashionable.

“Oh, come on!” Crowley protested.

“Help me set up!” Aziraphale buzzed with excitement.

Meanwhile, a prince of Hell buzzed with malicious intent. “I will not be a part of thizz silly human tradition.”

“I invited your friends,” Adam said with a nod toward Gabriel.

Gabriel and Beelzebub exchanged dubious looks. “They,” Gabriel looked pointedly at Beelzebub, “are not my friend.”

Beelzebub sneered at Gabriel.

“No, they are. I can tell. You two are friends,” Adam said with calm confidence. 

“Young man,” Gabriel said politely, “you are delusional. That, right there, is a,” he glanced around furtively and lowered his voice, “ Prince of Hell.

“Why does that matter?” Adam raised an eyebrow at Gabriel. “They’re an angel and a demon, and they’re like, really good friends.” He gestured toward Aziraphale and Crowley who were in the process of putting together a small stage that had miraculously appeared, albeit in pieces. Crowley was cursing quietly under his breath, drowned out by Aziraphale’s pleasant humming.

Gabriel and Beelzebub’s expressions were twisted in identical disdain with a hint of caution. To say they were still unnerved by the fiasco of the trials after the Armageddon-that-Wasn't would be an understatement.

“They’re freakzzz,” Beelzebub hissed.

Gabriel nodded and shifted uncomfortably. “We can agree on that, at least.” He offered Beelzebub an awkward smile, which the Prince returned as more of a grimace.

“I met you all around my birthday last year, so I thought it’d be fun to all get together again. There’s going to be cake and soda and games and… whatever it is Mr. Fell is doing.” Adam’s gaze lingered on the cheery wannabe magician, and curiosity drew him to wander off in that direction and find out what it was that he was doing.

Gabriel frowned. “I wasn’t expecting to be summoned to a failed Armageddon reunion.”

“This suckzzz,” Beelzebub growled.

“Seems rude to leave a twelve-year-old’s birthday party, though.” Gabriel winced.

“You’re staying?” Beelzebub snorted. “I’m outta here.” The demon focused on the downward pull of Hell in the soles of their feet, expecting the Earth to rumble and split open at their command. But nothing happened. Beelzebub’s face pinched and they focused harder. It felt as if the connection was cut off. Just… nothing there. Their eyes widened and they stomped a heel into the well-kept lawn. Nothing.

“Changed your mind?” Gabriel asked innocently.

Beelzebub’s face turned an angry red color and they glared up at the angel. “It’s not. Working. That little shit is keeping uzzz here! Uzzz! How the fuck--”

“Language!” Gabriel hissed, looking around. “There are children present. And me. I can’t stand that sort of language.” He crossed his arms over his broad chest and averted his gaze, chin raised. “I break out in hives.”

“You are pathetic,” Beelzebub muttered, hands balled into fists. They dug their heel into the lawn a few more times, then huffed and crossed their arms over their chest. Two ancient entities sulked at a twelve-year-old’s birthday party.

“Mr. Fell’s going to put on a magic show!” Adam proclaimed to the party.

Mr. Young looked up. “Ah. So that’s why they’re all here.” He stroked his moustache thoughtfully. “Did Diedre hire them? Must have done.”

Anathema glanced up from her conversation with Pepper and raised a curious brow. “A magic show? This should be good…”

“Is it going to be real magic?” Wensleydale asked and straightened his glasses.

Brian shivered. “Remember how Adam split that guy from that other lady? Gives me the willies just thinking about it.”

“But wasn’t that Adam doing magic, and not that guy?”

“How do you think that guy got inside that lady?” Brian looked warily at the angel.

Aziraphale finished setting up his table, and made some last minute adjustments under the cloth to set all his mechanisms up. “Right. Now you announce me, Crowley,” he whispered.

No. ” Crowley glared at Aziraphale from behind his glasses.

“Please, my love?” the angel begged.

Crowley was still and silent for a long moment. Aziraphale was giving him those sweet, sappy eyes and that big, hopeful smile and Crowley knew he was done for. “The things I do for you, angel,” he grumbled. 

Aziraphale beamed brighter than the sun.

Crowley stomped onto the small stage in black heels, inelegant motions that disagreed with his pretty outfit. “All the way from London,” he said in a begrudging tone, “I present--”

“Magical, marvelous, magnanimous,” Aziraphale whispered to him quickly.

Crowley gave him a defeated look of ‘come on,’ and his body sagged. Aziraphale just nodded eagerly. “The…” It looked as if it pained Crowley to speak. “Magical… marvelous… magnanimous,” each word drained more life from him, “Mr. Fell!” He swept his arm wide and shuffled from center stage.

The Them clapped with mixed levels of enthusiasm as Aziraphale took the stage. Mr. Young, Newt, and Anathema joined in. Gabriel felt compelled to clap out of sheer politeness, and even Beelzebub could not resist a few lackluster claps.

After the first “trick,” Beelzebub groaned. “I need a drink.” They snapped and with a flick of their wrist produced a shockingly pink drink in a fancy martini glass.

Gabriel watched out of the corner of his eye. “Is that… alcohol?” He pointed at the drink with a confused look.

“Yezz.” Beelzebub narrowed their eyes at the archangel.

“You can’t drink alcohol at a children’s party! There’s… children!” Gabriel hissed.

“I suppose you’re going to stop me?” Beelzebub challenged.

“I- I should.” Gabriel puffed up.

“I dare you.”

Gabriel glanced around the party. Everyone was transfixed by the show going on. No one seemed to have noticed the small, angry demon drinking a cocktail.

Beelzebub pinned Gabriel under their gaze as they took a long drink. With a nasty smirk, they asked, “Want one? It’ll make this shit a whole lot more bearable.”

“I can’t.” Gabriel looked physically hurt by the expletives said in his presence.

“Sure you can.” Beelzebub thrust the drink toward Gabriel. “Try it.” They grinned. Couldn’t resist a temptation when such a good one was presented.

“I do not sully the temple of my body with such sin.” Gabriel turned his nose up and held up his hands.

“What’s the fuzzz? You lot drink in church.”

“That’s the sacrament--the blood of Christ. Completely different.”

“You’re all a bunch of hypocritezz. Juzzt drink the damn thing. We’re both stuck here.”

Gabriel gave the pink drink a nervous look, like it might explode.

“Drink,” Beelzebub demanded and thrust the glass closer to Gabriel.

“Alright, fine. Fine.” Gabriel didn’t like all this pressure, and Beelzebub was right. They were stuck here. Somehow. He took the glass carefully from the demon, his brow heavy and clouded with unease. Slowly, he brought the glass to his lips and took the tiniest of sips. His eyes widened. “Oh.” He took a slightly larger sip. “Oh, that’s quite good, actually.”

“Told you zzzo.” Beelzebub repaired their empty hand with another cosmo.

“This is alcohol?” Gabriel asked.

“It’zz a cozzzmo.”

“What sort of alcohol is a cosmo?” Gabriel asked, taking another sip.

“It’zz got vodka in it.”

“Ahh. A Russian invention, then.”

“No. The Americanzz came up with it.”

“I do like America.” Gabriel smiled.

“Some of our bezzt work, America.”

“Your best work? I’m sorry, but America was founded by puritans.”

“... Bathed in the blood of indigineouzz peoplezz,” Beelzebub corrected him.

Gabriel’s jaw tightened. “Well, there is that… But the faith is strong there.”

“As is the sin.” Beelzebub raised his glass to Gabriel. The angel smiled dubiously. After a moment’s hesitation, he conceded to raise his glass in kind.

“I suppose you could say, it’s some of our best work,” he offered, waving a hand between the two of them. That made Beelzebub frown and shift uncomfortably. Gabriel took a big gulp from his glass and eyed the travesty of a magic show.

“It’s not real magic,” Wensleydale said decisively. “I learned how to do magic like this from a book once, but then Mum and Dad said I shouldn’t waste my time on silly kid stuff.”

“But you are a kid,” Pepper muttered. “Is this the sort of magic you do, Miss Anathema?”

“Not in the slightest.” Anathema was quite enjoying the absurdity of a literal angel doing parlor tricks--and poorly.

Crowley cringed the hardest he had ever cringed. But, nevertheless, he was going through the motions. He would literally do anything for Aziraphale, even utterly humiliate himself.

“Aren’t you ashamed by proxy?” Beelzebub sneered, an arm crossed over their chest to support the cosmo dangling between slim fingers, hip cocked to one side.

“It’s not on me anymore. He burned that bridge with us.” Gabriel shook his head slowly. For some reason, it was beginning to amuse him. He actually laughed at Aziraphale next, “voila!”

Beelzebub looked sidelong at the tall angel beside them. Gabriel was a lightweight. No surprise there. They decided then and there that they had a mission: get this stuffy archangel good and drunk. It was a lot more entertaining than anything else going on.

They swigged down the rest of their cocktail and then looked expectantly at Gabriel. “Are you done yet? It’zz rude not to keep up.”

Gabriel turned and blinked at Beelzebub. “Oh. Oh, right,” he said and drained his glass. Beelzebub refilled both their glasses with a little smile. “I don’t need another one,” Gabriel said with surprise.

“I insist,” Beelzebub buzzed pleasantly.

“You’re quite generous for a demon, you know,” Gabriel chirped.

“What’zz a few drinks between old enemies?”

Gabriel chuckled. “We can agree on a few things. Like, for instance, those two,” he gestured broadly to Crowley and Aziraphale, “are idiots.”

“You’ve got that right.”

 

The afternoon stretched on, but, fortunately for everyone in attendance, the magic show finally came to a close.

“I think that went so much better than last time. See, Crowley? I am good at magic.”

“You’re just lucky that Adam is a good sport,” Crowley muttered. “You are--” He turned to look at Aziraphale and the angel was so pleased with himself that Crowley couldn’t find it in himself to put him down now. “--terrib ly good at magic.” He forced a smile.

“Thank you, dear.”

“Are… Beelzebub and Gabriel still here?” Crowley suddenly noticed that the two were still standing where they had been. He straightened his glasses. “That can’t be good.”

Aziraphale glanced over, eyes wide. “They… seem to be having a… lovely time.” He frowned thoughtfully.

“Are they drinking cosmos?” Crowley actually lifted his sunglasses and squinted at them.

“And… laughing? Oh dear.” Aziraphale pursed his lips.

“Haaappy birthday to you!” Mrs. Young came out into the garden, birthday cake in hand, and started the chorus. The rest of the party chimed in, including Aziraphale and Crowley, drawn back into the orbit of the festivities. The Them got cake first, but Aziraphale was swiftly behind them.

“Thank you for that… lovely little magic show,” Mrs. Young said tentatively. “Did… my husband hire you?”

Crowley stepped in. “You hired us, Mrs. Young. Don’t you recall?”

Her eyes glazed over briefly and Aziraphale shot Crowley a frown.

“Oh, yes…” she said dreamily, then blinked and the haze cleared. “Must’ve slipped my mind. How silly of me. Well, thank you, again, for agreeing on such short notice.”

“My pleasure. Not many people appreciate a traditional magic show these days, you know,” Aziraphale beamed. “Would you cut us a couple slices for our friends over there?”

“Of course.”

Aziraphale and Crowley took an extra slice of cake each and made their way over to the odd couple. Gabriel was gesturing wildly as he told some story. Beelzebub listened and snickered into their cosmo.

“Hey, you two,” Crowley said with a forcibly casual tone.

Beelzebub’s smile ceased and they glared at Crowley.

“Oh hey!” Gabriel said sunnily. “That show was…” Gabriel pressed his lips together and shook his head, then burst out laughing, “ awful. You two are idiots.

Crowley sighed and thrust a piece of cake toward Gabriel. “Shut it.”

“What’s this?” Gabriel asked with a child-like eagerness. “More gross human matter?”

“It’s cake,” Aziraphale provided. He shot a nervous glance at Beelzebub, then offered them a plate. “It’s a human confection. Quite lovely, especially the--”

“Shut up, I hate you,” Gabriel pronounced haughtily.

Beelzebub erupted in laughter.

Crowley’s hackles raised, but his cute little outfit cut his intimidation factor in half.

Aziraphale was unphased, but mildly concerned. He tugged Crowley back by the arm. “Gabriel are you…?”

“Drunk?” Beelzebub offered with a smirk. “Yeah, he izz. He’zz a lot more fun this way.” They gloated over a sip of cosmo.

“Oh my.” Aziraphale frowned.

“Not our problem.” Crowley told his angel. He wanted to be irritated with Beelzebub, but he had to give credit where credit was due. It was pretty great that the Prince of Hell had gotten an archangel drunk at a kid’s party. 

“I don’t… have… enough… hands…” Gabriel muttered as he eyed the fork on the plate and the cosmo in his other hand. “Well, it’s just going in my mouth, right? That’s how you consume this?” The archangel Gabriel brought the cake up to his mouth and chomped down into the icing. Almost as much of it ended up on his lips as in his mouth. “Wow!” Gabriel looked up at Aziraphale, the picture of an utter fool with icing smeared over his mouth. “Wow. Now that is something.”

Crowley choked. Aziraphale snorted.

“How many cosmos has he had?” Crowley struggled out around smothered giggles.

“Juzzt two,” Beelzebub replied with a grin.

While Gabriel was busy devouring more of the cake face-first, Aziraphale turned to Crowley. “Should I tell him how to sober up? It seems wrong, letting him go on like this…”

“Not our problem!” Crowley said happily. “Eat your cake, angel.”

“Oh, your glass is empty,” Gabriel noted of Beelzebub. He downed the rest of his glass. “Have you,” Gabriel burped, “had these?” He waved his empty glass toward Aziraphale. “They are… great.

Beelzebub refilled their glasses with glee.

“You are… too kind,” Gabriel slurred.

“I can’t watch…” Aziraphale murmured. He frowned at both archangel and demon, then turned a worried look on Crowley. “Really, he’s going to be so cross…”

“Not. Our. Problem.” Crowley threw an arm around Aziraphale’s shoulders and steered him away. “You can have my cake, too, angel. I don’t like sweets.”

Beelzebub balanced their little plate on top of their glass so they could eat with a fork. Within the space of a minute, the cake was gone. Beelzebub loved sweets. So much so that the icing smeared across Gabriel’s mouth looked mighty tempting. They licked their lips. It was only the holiness radiating off the archangel that prevented him from cleaning Gabriel’s lips in a similar way.

“You’ve got a bit on you,” Beelzebub said.

“Do I? Where?”

Beelzebub lifted a hand to gesture on their own face, then changed their mind. They reached up, wiping off the sweet stuff with their thumb. They licked their thumb clean, watching Gabriel all the while. The angel was very pretty, wasn’t he? Even with that dumb look of surprise on his face.

Gabriel blinked at Beelzebub and chewed slowly. He couldn’t recall the last time someone had touched his face. Lips were a lot more sensitive than he remembered. The warm press of Beelzebub’s slender thumb left a tingle in its wake. He swallowed. “Did you get it all?”

The corner of their mouth jerked into a smirk. “You got it everywhere.” Beelzebub cupped Gabriel’s jaw to better leverage their thumb, and wiped more of the sugary frosting from the corner of his mouth. Returning the thumb to their mouth, again the prince of Hell was struck with a temptation. A very, very forbidden temptation.

Beelzebub dismissed the thought with a frown. If they tempted Gabriel too much, they might end up stuck with a fallen archangel. Those were nothing but trouble, they thought with a sidelong glare at Crowley.

But still… Holding Gabriel’s chin in their hand, swiping past the other corner of his mouth, the angel looked less of his insufferable self with booze-softened edges. This time, Gabriel caught Beelzebub’s thumb before it drifted away, lips wrapped around the small digit to steal back the sweetness.

Beelzebub’s eyes widened as they felt Gabriel’s tongue pass over and around the pad of their thumb. They withdrew sharply and instinctively slapped his broad cheek. Beelzebub hadn’t even thought the action through. It just happened.

The plate of cake fell from his hand. Gabriel looked affronted, his eyes wide as he staggered back a step. “Ow. You slapped me. Why would you slap me?”

“I didn’t zzzay you could touch me,” the prince snapped.

“You touched me first…” Gabriel touched his cheek. “Ow. That really hurt.”

Beelzebub bristled and half turned away. They felt apologetic, but had never apologized before, so didn’t know what to do with the alien feeling.

“Hey!” Adam shouted in their direction. “We’re going to play croquet now! You two are on a team.”

“Oh, croquet?” Gabriel forgot about being slapped entirely. He started walking toward the group. “I love croquet.”

Beelzebub wanted nothing more than to set the lawn on fire, but felt a tiny feeling of obligation to play the stupid game to make up for their explosive reaction to that hot, wet tongue against their finger. Something stirred inside them, and they resolutely ignored it.

 

The sun began to set, but the conversations had reached their stride and none of the guests seemed in a hurry to leave. The Them asked endless questions about the sorts of things Aziraphale and Crowley had seen through the years. Crowley drifted off to talk to Anathema about her garden. Newt commiserated with Aziraphale about the trials and tribulations of technology--Newt because of his cursed relationship with anything electronic, Aziraphale because of his inability to keep up with the times. Gabriel and Beelzebub were still on the periphery.

“Friends? What was he talking about, friends. We’re not friends. Never could be friends. Never ever, not in a million trillion years.” Gabriel, on his fourth cosmo, rambled and slurred. Beelzebub had started lapping him on rounds, as they required far more alcohol to find this party tolerable.

“I don’t do friendzzz,” Beelzebub muttered, well on their own way to drunk.

“Mortal enemies, more like.” Gabriel leaned into a tree. Suddenly, he laughed. “More like- more like- immortal enemies, amirite?”

Beelzebub found themself laughing. “You’re so fucking stupid.”

“Hey! Language!” Gabriel sang, but couldn’t stop laughing.

“Have you broken out in hivezzz yet?” Beelzebub sneered. “I don’t see any hivezzz.”

Gabriel smiled at the demon. “You know, that’s so cute. That little… buzzy thing you do.”

Beelzebub snarled. “Cute? Nothing about me is cute! I’m the goddamn prince of Hell.”

“God damned, ” Gabriel corrected. “But it is cute. You’re cute. Tiny and dainty and cute.”

“Fuck you. Call me cute again, you shithead.”

Gabriel grinned. “Delicate and sweet and cute.

“I will fucking end you.”

“Do it!” Gabriel swung his arm and sloshed cosmo onto the grass. “I… dare you,” he said in a low voice.

Despite the animosity that came so naturally to the prince of Hell, Beelzebub found that they did not, in fact, want to start a fight. Not the right time or place. It would be messy. Paperwork. All that rot. And maybe they found that drunken smile just a little bit charming, and Gabriel’s playful, combative behavior a little bit interesting.

“We should do this again sometime,” Gabriel said thoughtfully and sipped his drink. “Not the… the… twelve-year-old’s birthday party thing, but the- the us, you know, the head of Heaven and Hell, like, getting together, um… what’s that human phrase? Shootin’ the, um.. Stuff?”

Shit. It’s shooting the shit.

Gabriel made a face. “Well that’s not very nice, is it.”

“Why? Why would we do that? You’re inzzzufferable.”

Gabriel grinned at Beelzebub and let out a little ‘hee.’

The prince of Hell felt their face grow warm. Just the booze. Surely just the booze.

“It’sa good idea,” Gabriel said. “If we worked together--I mean, if we… comp- confla- comb-... if we shared notes, we might avoid another disaster like those two.” He jerked a thumb in Aziraphale and Crowley’s direction.

“You juzzt said we were enemies.”

“We worked together before.” Gabriel shrugged so huge, Beelzebub was impressed his blazer didn’t rip.

“And how well did that go?” Beelzebub narrowed their eyes at Gabriel.

I, for one, am not responsible for those abominations.” Gabriel shot a judgemental look at Aziraphale and Crowley, who seemed to be having a lovely time talking with the Them.

That’zz what happenzz when angels and demons work together,” Beelzebub sneered. Satan forbid they ever end up becoming friends with an angel. Crowley looked so happy around that stupid angel. It was disgusting.

Gabriel sipped his cosmo. These things were sweet. They seemed to be getting sweeter. He’d never seen Aziraphale look so sweet. So sweetly. At anyone. Not in Heaven. He was practically glowing here. Why had he never been so happy in Heaven?

“Am I a bad angel?” Gabriel groused.

“What.” Beelzebub looked flatly at Gabriel, unamused. “You’re the archangel fucking Gabriel. I don’t think it getzz any more holier than thou.”

Something turned Gabriel’s stomach, and his chest felt tight. He felt like he was floating, but not in the usual flying way. The world went blurry, and his throat closed up. He gasped for air and a weird noise came out of his throat. The world came back into some semblance of focus, but there was something wet on his face.

Beelzebub stared in horror. “Are you… crying?”

“Why is Aziraphale so happy down here? Why does he make him so happy? What did I do wrong?” Gabriel blubbered.

“Oh, Satan help me.” Beelzebub rolled their eyes. Of course Gabriel would end up an emotional drunk. “For fuck’zz sake.”

Gabriel struggled with this weight in his chest. He’d never felt this before. It was gross and awful and it hurt, like his whole being was tightening from the inside. His own corporation was betraying him. He heaved up another weird, choking sound that alleviated some of the pressure and felt more tears leave his eyes. “Wh-wh-what is this?” he sobbed.

“Quiet down,” Beelzebub hissed. He grabbed Gabriel by the arm and dragged him to the edge of the garden, stomping through a hedge to give them some cover from the party. Anathema glanced in their direction, confused by the weird, awkward sound of… sobs? All she saw was Gabriel’s tall head disappear into the shadows beyond the hedge.

“Wh-what’s wrong w-with my…” Gabriel sniffled and then found his breath escaping him with these deep, watery sounds.

“You big fucking crybaby. Pull your shit together, archangel,” Beelzebub snapped.

“B-but why? Why is he… so happy? He should be… he should be distraught! He’s lost his Heavenly privileges. But he doesn’t even care. Did he ever care about us? Or has it been that stupid demon this w-whole time!”

“What doezzz it matter?” Beelzebub sighed. It really was pathetic. The great, smug Gabriel, drunk and slurring, moaning about how Aziraphale might have never liked him. Were he literally anyone else, and had Beelzebub been just a tad bit more sober, they would have slapped him or just straight ditched him. But after this hours-long forced interaction, Beelzebub found themself raising a halting hand. Slowly but slowly, they gave Gabriel a pat on the shoulder.

“It matters!” Gabriel cried. “He was our brother. One of us. And he… he was never happy…” The archangel covered his eyes and felt his whole body convulse.

“He’s a shit angel,” Beelzebub muttered.

“Did I fail him?” Gabriel looked up from his hand.

Beelzebub had never seen an angel look so pitiful. His deep purple eyes were shining with tears, and his broad mouth was twisted and trembling. He looked… beautiful. He wore despair like a terrible mask on handsome features. Beelzebub felt drawn to his suffering, struck speechless by the pull.

Finally, Beelzebub found their voice. “Yezz,” they said quietly. “I think you did fail him.” Not an ounce of remorse or sympathy touched their impassive face.

Gabriel was shocked, then angry. His stomach turned as he shoved Beelzebub away from him. “What do you know?” he slurred. “You don’t know anything!” The archangel took a few stumbling steps into the darkness and tripped.

Beelzebub watched the proud angel brought low by a few too many cosmos with dark pleasure. They heard a sudden retching sound and grinned as cosmo and cake came back up. It was tempting to leave him there, miserable and sick. But they had an even better idea.