Ambition, Part I

Azrael slid into the seat in the diner, waved his hand vaguely towards a waitress to put the idea into her mind to bring him some coffee, and began struggling out of his overcoat.  Just as he’d known, Mephistopheles was late.  The angel had even done his best to move slowly, to not rush to get to the diner on time.  Angels have a hard time violating social protocols, however, even when they’re trying to do so, and Azrael had still ended up walking into the little restaurant exactly on time.

The waitress arrived with the coffee, and she placed it in front of him with a rusty smile.  The angel nodded back politely and began adding his generous rations of cream and sugar.  Twice, he had to pour a little of the coffee out to make room; he guiltily opened up a tiny dimensional pocket to hold the excess liquid.  No sense in making a mess.

Once the liquid in his cup was a light brown in color and a thick sludge of sugar covered the bottom, Azrael raised it to his lips with a satisfied sigh.  And of course, that was the moment that Mephistopheles chose.

The devil came barging in, kicking the door open in front of him with a clatter.  He barreled across the diner, pulling off his coat to reveal the ill-fitting suit beneath, and plopped down into the booth opposite Azrael.  He grinned, showing off his tombstones of teeth.

Azrael glanced up at the clock.  “Only eight minutes late,” he commented.  “You’re getting better.”

Mephistopheles just countered this with a glare.  The waitress, alerted by the man’s banging entrance that he was probably an important person, wandered over with a menu.  Temporarily distracted by this, Mephistopheles quickly leafed through it and ordered something with triple bacon.

“I really didn’t even need to bother showing up,” Mephistopheles complained after he had placed his order.  “Pretty thin itinerary for today.  It’s only because we’ve been meeting for the last couple thousand years at this place that I even bothered to come.”

This put a grin on Azrael’s face.  The devil would never admit it, but Azrael knew that he had grown fond of having some company to chat with.  “Well then, we can just talk,” he offered.  “There’s always time for a relaxed debate.”

The fallen angel rolled his eyes, but his attention was diverted as the door to the diner opened again.  A man came wandering in, looking around with his footsteps a little uncertain.  He hovered at the entrance for a minute, but eventually made up his mind and settled into the booth next to Azrael and Mephistopheles.  He had the vague, mousy, slightly worried look of a home insurance salesman.

Mephistopheles jerked his head back to indicate the newcomer.  “Shall we play a game?” he asked, waggling his eyebrows.

Azrael groaned, but he didn’t say no.  “What are you thinking?” he asked.  “Sodomite?  Whose Claim?  Judgment Day?”

“You know that all of those games are basically the same thing,” Mephistopheles pointed out.  “In fact, every game we have is the same.  I try and ruin him, you try and save him.  Just once, couldn’t we play something different?  Like horseshoes, or Mousetrap?”

“Does that mean you don’t want to play?”

“Now, I didn’t say that!” the devil countered.  “Here, I’ll tell you what.  I’ve got a twist.  I’ll strip some quality out of him, and you try and figure out what it is!  Guess it right, he gets it back.  Deal?”

Azrael looked shocked.  “Of course not!”

“Too late,” Mephistopheles said.  “I’m doing it anyway.”  And the devil snapped his fingers, and a puff of smoke momentarily surrounded the insurance salesman’s head…

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