It was another of those grey Monday mornings, and everybody in the bus queue was staring at something around them with that peculiar absentia of attention which shows that they are seeing nothing except some little picture inside their head. Someone could have dropped a bomb right behind them and it wouldn't have woken them up. The arguing couple were certainly doing their best.
"You are out of your tiny little mind. You honestly expected me to stand there and get my ass kicked?"
That was the girl in the mini and leather jacket. She still had what was clearly last night's makeup on, smudged slightly at the eyes and mouth. She was about a foot shorter than the man, which made the way she was scolding at him almost funny.
He snorted. "The days one could expect one of War's people to do a good job are clearly over. I ask you to do one little thing for me, one _tiny_ little job..."
She made a rude noise.
He went on unheeding, straightening off the cuff of his business suit, "...and you make a mess of it. Well. This will go on your record, I'll have you know."
A young man was approaching the bus stop, and he had some sort of archaic sword belted at his waist, like one of the medieval recreation people who had been around the place recently. He made a straight line for the arguing couple.
They totally ignored him. "My record? My record! Let me tell you, you half-spawned drop of Fate, _my_ record is spotless! I have a commendation from Baal himself! You know what he said to me, at my last report?"
The young man coughed, unsheathing his sword. "Hear me now, Fallen: as Servitor to my Lord Laurence.."
She turned to scowl at him. "Do you _mind_? We are trying to have a discussion here."
Her companion prodded at her shoulder. "Go on. Rant some more at me about how you like to bat your eyelashes at Baal."
She nearly spat as she swung back towards him. "You think he's that sort of Superior? He doesn't wander round like a backwards clockface complaining that it's soooo difficult to get people to accept their Fates. He keeps _busy_."
The young man's jaw had dropped. He was quite handsome, in an innocent sort of way. The sword sagged. He tried again. "As Servitor to my Lord Laurence, and Servitor to the Sword, I am bidden now to give you honourable..."
The older man snapped at him, "Not now, we're busy." He turned back to the woman. "You're just demonstrating your own ignorance. My job is the very basis of Hell. We deal with the fundamentals."
The traffic gargled past us in the street, filling the air with that morning petrol perfume. The rest of the queue still mostly gazed into thin air, waiting for the bus to take them to the important business of their day-to-day jobs.
She planted her hands on her hips. "And that's why you need to be led around with a chain through your nose every time you come up here. Was it me who blundered into that Cherub's wine bar? Was it me who tried to sneak round the Malakite? Was it me who..."
He waved a hand. "Yes, yes, yes. And if you had been doing the job that you had been _assigned_ to do, like any reasonably competent..."
The younger man snapped, "Look, if you two can give me a moment, I am trying to challenge you to a duel, as befits a Servitor of the Sword, Seraph of..."
They both turned to him at precisely the same moment, and said, "Shut up." His sword drooped again.
The woman said, "Look. If you'd shown even the sort of common sense that I'd expect of a Djinn, we might have got somewhere. It said quite clearly in the mission briefing that you were to listen to my local knowledge."
Her companion sniffed. "Oh, you mean those strip clubs where your friends like to hang out. That Lilim of Andrealphus... what was his name? Stevie?"
She stiffened, voice going icy cold. "_Stephen_ does a perfectly good job. Better than some people."
The young man looked almost ready to explode. "Filthy honourless Hellspawn, will you listen to me?"
An older woman behind me in the queue clicked her tongue. The bus had drawn up, and we began climbing on board, still neatly in our queue. I managed to get a window seat, and watched the couple still arguing as the bus jolted into movement, edging out into the traffic. The young man was going an unattractive shade of scarlet, and by the look of it he was yelling again. Fat chance. You would have needed a pair of grapples to get that pair apart.
I sighed, and began making notes for my report for the Game. You can't trust Servitors of Laurence to get anything right.
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