Author's Note: Continuation of IPF (Incredibly Pointless Fic). This instalment is not quite what I planned, but that's why we write, isn't it, to be abducted by the fic. Tremendous thanks to Igorina and others who unwittingly introduced me to the slightly odd, abnormally common, strangely sensible pairing of Famine/Pollution. It made tremendous sense to me. That's most likely because I am a loon. This is not news.
Disclaimer: I am currently applying for adoption permits for every single character in this story. However, they currently still belong to the dynamic duo of SuperPratchettMan and ReallyAwesomeNeil. I shall have to think of an archnemesis name.
It's a job. It's a club. It's a way of life.
In the building, there was one room, one table, and nine chairs. There were hors d'eourves. There were little sandwiches.
There was also an awkward silence.
Eventually, War said, "Well?"
"Well what?" said War.
"Who are you?" War retorted.
"War," said War.
"Now you just hold on—"
They all looked at Death.
ER… HOW IS EVERYONE? he tried, desperately.
ER… APPARENTLY THE NAME ISSUE IS CAUSING SOME CONFUSION… DOES ANYONE HAVE AN ALTERNATE NAME THAT MIGHT BE USED, IN THE INTERESTS OF COMMUNICATION?
"No," said War, Famine, and Pestilence, in cold unison.
Death looked at the other four.
"I'm fine with Red," said the woman who was War, with a shrug.
"Black," said the man who was Famine.
"White," said the man who was Pollution.
"Or Chalky," added Black.
Pollution regarded him coldly. "I think I'll stick with Pollution, actually, thank you," he said smoothly.
"I like Chalky," muttered Black.
"It's bloody stupid."
WHAT? said Death, momentarily distracted by the intra-squad tennis-match-style argument brewing.
AZRAEL, said the leather-clad biker. He tapped the table with one finger. It made a plastic sort of noise. th th th
AH. YOU ARE… YES. AZRAEL. ER. Death coughed. ER. PLEASE HELP YOURSELVES TO SOME SANDWICHES.
Red rolled her eyes and uncrossed and re-crossed her legs. There was a choking noise, quickly muffled, from across the table. Death glanced sideways. War was looking distinctly uncomfortable.
ER, I THOUGHT WE COULD START BY… COMPARING TECHNIQUES, DAILY SCHEDULES, THAT SORT OF THING, he offered. I'LL GO FIRST, SHALL I? he said into the silence.
YES, said Azrael.
WELL. Death cleared his nonexistent throat. I GENERALLY BEGIN THE DAY BY GOING OVER THE ACCOUNTS, MAKING SURE EVERYTHING'S IN ORDER, YOU KNOW. THEN I AVOID BREAKFAST BUT POLITELY ACCEPT SOME TEA. THEN I—
"What's wrong with breakfast?" asked Famine, looking offended.
"Oh. Right. I forgot. You don't like grease," Famine muttered sourly.
ALSO I DO NOT ACTUALLY HAVE A STOMACH, Death pointed out.
AND YET YOU DRINK, said Azrael. The grinding tombstones of his voice sounded somewhat disapproving.
YES. OTHERWISE I WOULD BE RATHER RUDE, YOU SEE.
"How d'you do it, then?" asked Red, looking fascinated.
I AM NOT ENTIRELY SURE.
"Huh." She fiddled with her sword, which was strung at her hip, flexing her fingers around the comfortably well-worn handle. War made a choking sound, his eyes bugging out. Red ignored him, pointedly, and said, "Well, then what?"
I GENERALLY GO THROUGH THE DAY'S SELECTED APPEARANCES, CHECK ON BINKY, POLISH THE SCYTHE, AND SET OFF.
WHAT IS A BINKY? said Azrael.
Red coughed. The assorted Horsepersons avoided each other's eyes. From Azrael came a very pointed silence.
"And on the route…?" ventured Red.
USUALLY A FEW HUMANS, THE ODD INVERTEBRATE, PERHAPS A LARGE PLANT, DROWNED KITTENS… THE DAILY ROTA IS RATHER UNPREDICTABLE, OVERALL.
I LIKE KITTENS, said Death defensively.
WHY? said Azrael.
YOU DO NOT NEED TO GO ANYWHERE, said Azrael. He sounded nearly confused. IF YOU ARE ANYWHERE, YOU ARE EVERYWHERE. AND YOU ARE EVERYWHERE. SO WHY DO YOU—?
Death shrugged. I LIKE TO TAKE AN INTEREST.
"Really," said Red. "I had no idea."
MOTHER ADOPTED. FATHER APPRENTICE. GENERALLY PREDICTABLE. PRODUCED A CHILD. SUSAN, said Death, in a weary voice.
"Huh," said Red.
SHE'S A SCHOOLTEACHER, added Death proudly.
Red and Black sat up keenly. Young minds are tremendously fun to play with. White, on the other hand, merely slouched down even further into his seat, muttering something about "crisp wrappers" with a sleepy smile on his face.
"What's that?" boomed War, whose face was currently about ten shades redder than normal, which was an achievement.
"Oh… I was just saying that… I love children," White oozed. "They're simply marvelous. Nappies, to start with… and they simply can't understand the concept of a wastebasket. Constantly washing clothi—"
"I expect you think you're bloody clever, don't you?" hissed Pestilence, who was trembling with rage.
"I beg your pardon?"
"You and your sodding trendy global bloody warming and your Information Age and your vack seens! You think you're better than me, don't you? Admit it! You think I'm ancient history! Your boss should never have—"
"Mm," murmured White, contemplating the grime under his fingernails. Then he blinked, reached into his head, and pulled out a large and clearly malignant tumor.
Pestilence looked quite smug.
THAT WASN'T NECE— began Death.
He was interrupted by a loud squelching noise, which was the result of a barrel being neatly cracked open over Pestilence's head, like an egg, and the oil inside being dumped unceremoniously onto the Horseman's head.
White tossed the tumor into the corner of the room, where it sputtered and vanished. Pestilence glared; Famine nudged him urgently with a pointy elbow and shook his head, but already White had raised his eyebrows and begun to cough up blood. Black rolled his eyes, reached into White's chest, and extracted a wobbly, semi-congealed puddle of blood. He looked at it for a moment, then ate it, licking his fingers. Famine looked nauseous.
White was gazing calmly at Pestilence. "I know," he said, after a moment. "I shall turn you into a polar bear. You would enjoy that, I'm sure. It would be long and slow. It would hurt. And it would be all people, do you know that? It always is. I merely supervise—as do you." He nodded. "Polar bear." He raised one finger—
—and was grasped firmly by the elbow and steered out of the building.
"What d'you think you're doing, Raven?" Death heard White ask peevishly.
"Getting you out of some trouble."
"Oh, honestly! I could handle him!"
"Probably, but lung blood really doesn't taste as good as one might hope. Anyway, I like this place. Nice, dry and empty. Wanted to get out in the fresh air. Hmm? Chalky?"
There came a yelp. "Don't do that!"
"Don't do what, Chalky?"
"Don't call me Chalky. You can do the other thing again if you like."