Angelo's Death (PG-13)
Morning with HM (PG)
Heaven's Mafia (not rated)
Morning with Heaven's Mafia
"Good MOOOOOR-ning!" warbled Box. "Coffee?"
"Nnngh." Angelo rolled over and pulled his blankets over his head. "Go 'way."
"But it's a beautiful morning! The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and Fran has fresh coffee brewing!"
The wolf poked his muzzle out and snuffled at Box. "For the love of—! Look, Box, I'm not scheduled to start breathing until ten o'clock. Come back later." With that, he withdrew into the abyss of blankets.
Box grinned, but his voice was very serious.
"Tony says he'll take all the doughnuts if you don't turn up by eight."
"...****." The blankets rose up for one glorious second, then were discarded. "Get my jacket, will ya?"
"Anything for our fearless leader." Fwop. "Is that all?"
"Of course," said the voice of Angelo, the sarcasm only slightly muffled by the coat over his head. "Just remind me to smack you after I've had my coffee."
"Sure thing, boss!" And the incorrigible creature disappeared.
Angelo slowly pulled on his jacket. It was an old article, to be sure, and somewhat the worse for its numerous repairs, but it had serviced him pretty well for all this time. Although, as an anthropomorphic wolf, he had no real need for clothing, Angelo would have felt silly walking around in nothing but his pelt.
Having maneuvered out of bed, the fearless leader stumbled out into the passage. He was halfway to the kitchen when a thought crept up and bopped him belatedly on the noggin.
"Tony... said...?" A pause. "BOX!"
A chorus of sniggers greeted him as he entered the kitchen. Jody sat with a rather irate (and very sleepy) Joe on her lap; Lily dozed on Tony's shoulder. Apart from Francie at the stove, no others were present.
"I'll have you know that Box accused Tony of talking." Angelo collapsed ungracefully into the first empty chair. "And of threatening my breakfast."
"And you fell for it?" said Joe dryly. Tony grunted noncommittally; the chances of soliciting a coherent word from him were about the same as the chances of his doing the Can-Can.
"You rat." Jody cuffed her partner lightly. "D'you hafta start an argument before breakfast is even ready?"
"I ain't not rat!" muttered Joe resentfully. "Put me down, woman. I'm not too short to sit at table by myself."
"Oh, no, you don't! I don't want you two brawling until at least after our coffee."
The mouse looked like he wanted to argue, but he was forestalled by the cup of coffee that Fran thoughtfully gave him. Angelo could not suppress a chuckle.
"Don't worry too much, Jodestone. –No cream for me, Fran. I'll have it black this morning. –If my brain would wake up with the rest of me, then maybe you should be anxious. As it is, I'm too tired to give a rat's *** what the rat says."
Joe growled into his coffee.
At that moment, Box reappeared, leading a zombified Mike; like any true friend, he dutifully steered the squirrel into every door, wall, article of furniture, and kitchen appliance before letting him fall into a chair.
"What's for breakfast, Fran?" Mike mumbled, eyes sealed shut.
"Bagels. We're out of eggs again."
"I can get some more," offered Box, resting his elbows on Mike's head.
"If I didn't know any better," commented Joe tartly, "I'd say you steal those eggs."
"I never steal," said the technicality with a perfectly straight face. "I beg, borrow, and commandeer, but never steal."
The conversation might have taken a turn for the absurd if not for a timely interruption. A note like a blast from a very sweet-toned trumpet rang out through the kitchen, followed by the strains of "Te Deum" played on a harp.
"Virtue," murmured Lily in her sleep.
"That'll be our assignment," said Jody unnecessarily. "Golly! Why can't they send a nice, quiet Princedom or Dominion? Virtues are such loud angels."
"Be thankful it wasn't a Power, or we'd need new windows," Joe reminded her, in much better humor since his coffee. "Someone should get the door before it starts up again."
"I will!" Box literally flew out of the kitchen, gliding on batlike (if greenish) wings. His devil's-tail tapped out some complicated code on the wall as he disappeared.
"I swear he does that just to annoy me," Angelo muttered, applying himself to his coffee.
Tony nodded over his own mug; he gently cuffed Lily's arm, snorting as she started awake.
"No, officer, I swear—" The fox went through an elaborate routine of blinking before her eyes came into focus. "...Oh. I was dreaming of New York."
Angelo raised his eyebrows to an impressive height. "Well, while we're getting personal, I dreamed of marshes last night."
"Not even going to ask," Lily said firmly; she took a sip of coffee from Tony's cup, ignoring his glare. "Did you dream last night, Fran?"
The dishes in the sink clattered. "I...don't remember."
The squirrel paused, his mouth full of bagel. "Mmff?" He swallowed hard. "I dreamed about driving a monster truck."
"Weird." Lily looked sideways at Box as he came trooping back in. "What do you dream about, Box?"
The technicality looked very serious for a moment, even as he solemnly stole Mike's half-bagel and Angelo's coffee.
"I dream of wild strawberries," he said at last. "And sometimes of bats."
"It's obviously divine inspiration," commented Angelo dryly. "Now give me back my coffee, demon."
"Now, is that any way to ask?" Box held the mug over Angelo's head teasingly. "What's the magic word?"
The wolf glowered at him. "Vasectomy."
"Close enough." The coffee was carefully returned. "Here, guys, I've got our assignments."
"Joy." Angelo took the handful of paper slips and set them in the center of the table. The other Mafiosi each took a slip and read it.
"Ah, we'd better give this one to Ernest," announced Mike, holding up his paper. "It's in Cleití Capaill."
Joe snorted. "Oh, horsefeathers. Me an' Jody'll take it. Ernest'll just be mad you got him out of bed."
Mike took a rather shaky breath. "Good. It's... another starvation case."
"Really? Thought that had died out in the Emerald Isle."
"Nowhere is safe these days." The squirrel deposited the paper in front of Joe. "If you'll do this, I'll do some more Africa work."
"No go," Fran interjected. "It's not fair to poor Dolly. Danny and I can do Africa today. Take a break—go to England for a while."
Mike grinned from ear to ear. "Thanks awfully, Fran. Dolly'll be thrilled."
"All right, what have you set me up for?" demanded Danny, walking in stiffly. "What have you done, woman?"
"Just given the poor kids a break!" Francie shot back, crossing her arms. "We've been to Africa before, Daniel. We'll survive."
Danny groaned. "Oh, Frances..."
"Thanks, Danny-boy!" said Mike sweetly. The elderly cat grumbled something in another language; Box snickered.
"Yes, well... Move your derrière, Michael. Make some room for your elders."
"Aye, elders and betters." Ernest stumped in, his rakishly tipped nightcap hardly concealing a severe case of bed hair. "I'll have that seat, Angelo."
"Whisky for my men, beer for my horses," quoth the wolf, casually finishing his coffee. Ernest snorted and looked meaningfully at Joe and Jody; the duo, who got on with the horse like matches with gasoline, quickly abandoned chair, taking a handful of assignments with them.
"All's well that ends," sighed Danny, taking the seat that Mike had so graciously vacated. "Now, how's about coffee, old woman?"
Lily gnawed restlessly on a bagel. "Last time I was that disrespectful," she muttered around it, "I had to wash dishes for a week."
"You haven't earned the privilege, Lilster," explained Mike, reaching over to ruffle the vixen's hair. "Give it another twenty years. Satisfaction guaranteed."
"Is this a face that would lie to you?" As Lily squinted at him skeptically, he hastily added, "Y'know, figuratively."
Tony cleared his throat and tapped his watch meaningfully.
"Right you are, Tash!" said Mike cheerfully. "We should be on our way. I've got to wake Dolly."
The Mafiosi scattered like the four winds in a jumble of bagels and papers. When the dust settled, only Angelo and Box remained in the kitchen; Box was merrily washing dishes (except that they were really mugs), and Angelo was sorting the remaining assignments into two piles—one for Rags, one for him.
"I hope you're not giving us all the hard assignments again," the technicality warned, drying his hands briskly on a dish towel. "You know how much I hate working in the Middle East."
The wolf looked mildly surprised. "I thought you should go with Rags today. He could use you; it's going to be a long day."
"So you're taking Eric."
"Oh, great." Box rolled his eyes like marbles in a jar. "If one of you stopped breathing, the other two wouldn't miss you. What makes you think I'll let you three go out together?"
"This." Angelo held up a slip of paper and waved it meaningfully. "We're going to Iraq today."
Box blinked. "Drat. Oh, well, have fun with Mute and Loopy."
"You know I will." He rose with the grace peculiar to the lupine and the highly caffeinated. "You'd better wake the others."
"Who's Ernest taking?"
"He'll latch onto someone."
"You mean Star."
There was a pause. "We were out late last night. Let her sleep in."
"That reminds me." Box stopped Angelo at the door and caught his eyes. "If Ruby is sleeping in because she worked late, why aren't you?"
"You woke me up, genius."
"You didn't tell me you hadn't slept."
"Don't need to," the wolf insisted. "Let me out, O Green One."
"You're wearing yourself out, Ange."
Angelo shoved past him roughly. "We don't have time for this."
"Then we'll make time." Box pinned Angelo against the wall with little effort. "Take me seriously for a second."
"If I did, I'd thrash you up and down the street. Let me go."
Having reached an impasse, they resorted to glaring at each other. There followed a tense silence, only slightly dented by the background noise of the others fetching coats and scarves and various other articles of clothing. Only the gentle clink of the bottles of black milk seemed to break through their intense concentration.
"Fine." Box loosed his grip on Angelo, though not without a measure of reluctance. "But go easy on yourself, Angelino. No use making Purgatory into Hell."
The wolf saluted silently. Box, satisfied for the moment, trundled off to wake Rags; Angelo, with a singleness of purpose that would have astonished an angel, ambled back into the kitchen and began to put dishes away.
"Welcome to Purgatory," he murmured, peering into an empty mug. "There is no coffee."