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Dead Tomes

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"... Angel?" the demon asked, very carefully.

Aziraphale blinked absently, looking up from his stock-taking. "Yes, dear? What ... Crowley! Put that down!"

He stood rapidly, moving to the demon's side and almost slapping the heavy book out of his hands. Crowley let it go handily, in favour of narrowing golden eyes in his direction.

"I thought you'd stopped hunting for that thing," the demon accused, softly, raising one elegantly questioning eyebrow. "Angel, you promised me, after all that fuss in San Francisco in '06."

"That was different," Aziraphale snapped back, dropping the heavy weight of one of the few remaining greek translations of the Necronomicon back onto the table. The tome thudded ominously. "That was the original Arabic copy, al Azif itself. These things are dangerous enough with translations mucking them up and fouling the magics. If someone got the original, untainted ..."

"Yes, I know," Crowley grumped. "That's why I bloody stuck around with you, in an earthquake zone, not to mention the bloody fire, to make sure it was taken care of!" He growled, slapping a hand off the table next to the book. "But this doesn't look like al Azif, does it?" Aziraphale winced guiltily, and Crowley sighed. "Angel ..."

"It's just ... I've been keeping an eye on it since he wrote it," he explained, softly. "I just want to make sure ... well, to keep people from going the way he did."

"Poor sorry bastard," Crowley agreed, gently, but still unimpressed. "Still. Aziraphale."

"I tried to steer him, you know," Aziraphale went on, eyes distant. "Men aren't supposed to look, to see. I tried to at least steer him towards the gentler aspects. But by the time I reached him ... The face of an angel was nothing to fear, by then. And the others ... the poor silly children. I did try, you know. Patriarch Michael, back in Constantinople. Making sure Dee's bloody version never made it to print. You know I hate ruining books, but that bloody stupid man ..."

"No arguments there," the demon said, very softly, reaching out with a wry smile to pat the angel very gently on the shoulder. "Hair-brained bloody Elizabethan. But you have to let this go, angel. So long as Miskatonic and Buenos Aires keep their copies, you're not going to get them all. Once was enough trying to break into those places. We agreed."

"I know," the angel said, slumping tiredly. "I know, dear. But ... there are still the others. I might not be able to ... to stop it utterly, but at least I can hold it back. I can at least ... I can at least try."

And if he'd wheedled, or looked beseeching, or given even the slightest indication that he was playing Crowley, the demon would have shot him down with only a narrowed glare, and nary a blink. But he didn't. Only stared at the floor, one hand resting beside the damned tome, and looked ... vaguely defeated. And Crowley may have been a demon, and a vicious bastard besides, but he did have his limits.

"Just ... be more bloody careful this time, won't you?" he sighed at last, and tried not to feel too much of a warm twinge when the angel offered him a tremulous smile.