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PETITIONS

Chapter Text

DEATH was confused.

He asked Susan, WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS? WHY DID THE BOX SEND ME A LETTER?

Susan sighed. “I set you up with the computer to make it easier for you to look for videos of cats. I thought it would amuse you.”

MANY OF THEM ARE NOT RESPECTFUL TO CATS.

Susan had never had pets, but if she ever had any, it would not be cats. Cats, she thought, were not particularly respectful to other creatures, and she secretly enjoyed the videos of misjudged leaps and lost dignity. I CAN HAZ CHEEZBURGER had been bookmarked long ago. Never mind. She had not been called here to deal with felines.

“I also set you up with an email program—never mind—I set up the box so we could write letters and you wouldn't have to send the rat.”

It hadn't helped. DEATH had learned to type, not much problem for someone who had eternity to learn “the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog,” although he questioned the wisdom of the fox. But now he typed out his letters, and then sent the rat with them.

“You have an email account, even if you've never used it. And apparently the computer decided that you needed to see these letters.”

She turned to glower at the innocent looking desktop which had recently shown a ghost in the machine. If it was going to develop sentience, she'd have to take it away. She hadn't bought it to bother him.

“See here—they don't actually expect you to—it's not serious—well, it is serious, but they don't expect you to interfere, really. Probably.” She pressed her lips together. The petition was one of the oddest tributes she'd seen, but then she was DEATH's granddaughter, and not disposed to appreciate frivolity.

BUT WHY DID THEY ADDRESS THIS TO ME IF THEY ARE NOT SERIOUS?

They both looked at the official change.org petition. “DEATH—bring back Terry Pratchett.”

“Remember when you told me that humans need fantasy to be human? To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape?”

YES.

“He said that first. He wrote about you, very often. You were a character in almost every one of his books. His readers miss him, very much, and this is one of their ways of honoring him. They wish he had lived longer. In their minds, it is injustice that he died so young.”

DEATH could never have a facial expression, but his shoulders bowed a little.

SURELY THEY DO NOT EXPECT ME TO UNDO THE LAWS OF CAUSALITY. THERE IS NO JUSTICE. THERE IS ONLY ME.

“I know. He said that, too. Here, I'll erase the petitions.”

WAIT. I WILL READ THEM.

She was startled. “There are nearly thirty thousand! It will take ages.”

I HAVE AGES. AND SO DOES HE.

They both looked out towards a garden where the only color was a field of wheat, waving in a silent breeze. A man dressed in black, with a black hat, was looking at the field.

“Are you going to let him read them?”

DEATH sighed, even though he had no lungs to sigh. I DO NOT THINK IT WISE. HE CANNOT RETURN. I WILL TELL HIM HE IS MUCH MISSED.

“Why is he here, anyway? He's not going to stay?”

NO. I BROUGHT HIM FOR A VISIT BEFORE HE GOES ON.

The man picked up an orange kitten, holding it gently.

Susan walked out to the garden to stand beside the man, her white hair with its one black streak undoing and reshaping itself. She slipped her arm into his and leaned against his shoulder.

When he was sure she could not see, DEATH pulled out a single piece of paper, finest quality stock with black borders, with worryingly sharp calligraphy letters. He re-read it and then wrapped it around an empty lifetimer, quickly hiding it in his desk drawer. Even anthropomorphic manifestations needed a bit of fantasy occasionally.
AUDITORS: BRING BACK TERRY PRATCHETT.

Chapter Text

Aziraphale and Crowley said, “No,” at the same time.

“But”—and they shuddered to see the trembling lip of Pepper, who was at this moment getting every bit of mileage she could out of being a girl who had been christened “Pippin Galadriel Moonchild.” That is to say, she clasped her hands in front of her, looked up at them with sad, not to say tearful, eyes, and scuffed her shoes together. She'd have wrapped her legs around each other for maximal waif image, except that she knew Brian and Wensleydale would laugh at her later.

She had on a jacket with too short sleeves. Crowley would bet it wasn't the one her mother had expected she'd wear today. It looked like last year's discarded pick which had been wadded up in the mudroom, being worn for increasing waifdom appearance. He silently congratulated a likely winner in the able-to-manipulate-all-the-adults-all-the-time sweepstakes.

Adam wouldn't laugh, but he was standing ten feet back from the others, looking down at his feet. He knew something Pepper didn't. The demon could sense the heaviness of the boy's glance at the ground, a downward gaze which had too much experience ever to be young again. His curls were still golden, but they were longer, and they drooped. His blue anorak was open and he was fiddling with the zipper.

“But, please, couldn't you have a word with...someone? We'd be ever so pleased. We wouldn't get in trouble ever again.” It was a spring day in Tadfield, which was still defying the weather predictions for the rest of southeast England. It wasn't chill and rainy here, just cloudy with reasonable warmth for the season.

Aziraphale continued to look seriously at her. He hadn't heard the cough Crowley had given, or the snort just audible from Adam.

Brian chimed in. “We could, I mean we would, mind our parents better. At least about, about, things like coming in for supper on time”—

Crowley couldn't help thinking to himself, “yeah, like that will be a hard burden for you,” looking at the already pudgy boy.

Then he saw that Brian, also looking up with trembling lip, was someone judging his reactions a bit too much to be completely innocent. He was the teeniest bit cynical already, Crowley thought, probably even more than Pepper.

Brian noticed Crowley looking, and adjusted his facial expression to be more of a sad puppy type. He also made a little 'gulp' sound, although he wasn't as tearful as a person would need to be for this sound to be convincing. All the same, though, he was likely truly as sincere as Pippin, thought the demon.

Wensleydale chimed. “See,” he said carefully, as befitted a child who already had the mind of a forty-five year old, and reads science and history for fun, “we know it's been done before. In some parts of the globe, it seems to be done all the time. In, in, India I think. He really could be reincarnated.” Wensleydale's gray jacket was the proper fit for his size and for the temperature of the day. The jacket's pockets weren't sagging, but they still gave the idea of being filled with normal kid rubbish. Possibly also a smartphone with an astronomy app so that he could pick out constellations in the night sky.

Even though Crowley had told himself he wouldn't be drawn in to these useless petitions, he couldn't help saying, “well, you see, the problem with reincarnation is that you don't keep going on from where you stopped. You have to go all the way back to the start. Rather “sssnakes and ladders. He might not even remember who he usssed to be.”

He truly could not stop himself from hissing the 'esses,' which only showed how much emotion he had about the subject.

Aziraphale said in a very bitter tone, “and exactly how different would that be, if he had lived longer?”

The children all stared at him. Aziraphale's mild appearance had lead them to believe he wasn't the bitter type.

Crowley could hear the underlying sadness in Az's voice, even if the children couldn't.

He put his arm around Az. He hoped that soon they could leave this evil weed-infested, shopping-trolley decaying, tetanus-spawning pit the children evidently regarded as their little slice of heaven.

“They can't bring him back.” Adam spoke for the first time. “It's called causality—called the reason why certain things happen when certain other things are done”—he said to the other children, looking up for the first time.

“They can't bring back Terry Pratchett cos he was sick and he would stay sick if they brought him back, or something. I don't know why. But I do know. Because of”—he waved his hand in the air to cover the idea that he knew a lot of things a boy his age shouldn't, because he was the former antichrist. He looked down again and kicked his foot against a overly-optimistic outcrop of dandelion.

Right, that summed up their positions, so it was time for him and Aziraphale to return to London.

Adam wasn't finished, though.

“Look here, sirs. I did resurrect your Bentley,” nodding to Crowley, “and your bookstore,” with another nod to Aziraphale. “So even if you can't bring him back, could you—give him a message? No matter whether he winds up Above or Below?”

He was also pleading a bit, not as much as the rest of the Them.

Crowley almost said, “we don't know where he is. He's off the board for some reason. Maybe DEATH knows, but we truly don't want to ask. But Sir Terry thought that you get the afterlife you believe in, which would really give a thumb in the eye to our superiors, although they deserve it”—

He opened his mouth, but Aziraphale said smoothly, “yes, we will. As soon as we see him, we will tell him that you miss him very much.”

“Thanks.” Adam gave a little smile, which quickly turned to a big one when his dog Dog came bouncing out of the hedge. Dog was chasing a rabbit, but you knew that he'd never catch up and give it the treatment dogs usually give rabbits. Because still innocent children could be shielded here in this innocent place, and also because Crowley had waved at the grass and opened up two likely rabbit-holes.

“Come on,” yelled Adam, and then Pepper, Brian, and Wensleydale started running, chasing Dog, while a wholly unjustified sun came out to warm them and set yellow crocuses waving.

“Come, on, angel, get in the car. I want to get back to town and try”—

“Not the Ritz.”

“No.” It wasn't a Ritz kind of day.

“Here.” Aziraphale handed Crowley a small box

“What is this? It looks like those juice packs the kiddies put straws in—oh, I see it already has a straw. Az, what?”

“It's not juice. It's wine. It's actually a new thing in the supermarket. American, but I think they'll be big here, too.”

“Big with people who have no better taste than to drink wine out of boxes. I'm sure it tastes hideous.”

“Not a problem. It's already changed and at the perfect temperature. Now, do you want to wait until we get home, or try this out? I thought it might be amusing and that you might like something one-handed, that you can't spill.”

Aziraphale started putting the ghastly thing away.

Crowley sighed. “No, give it back. I need something now. Those kids—even if they did save our lives and the Bentley and the shop—I hope we don't have to see them again soon. Pepper especially.”

“Pippin Galadriel Moonchild.” The angel shuddered.

“What, your side didn't cause that?”

“You think we want to see girls persecuted for their names?”

“She didn't look very persecuted to me.”

“No, she didn't. None of them did. And that's the ending he wrote for them.”

“Yes.” said Crowley quietly. “And he wrote a good ending for us, too.”

They drove in silence back to London, the CD player quietly giving them Handel's 'Water Music.'