When they said Heimdallr never slept, they weren't fucking kidding! The pale-faced bastard just did not give up! Three weeks and six countries on, it was getting more than a little ridiculous. Or it would be, if it weren't for the constant threat of imminent death.
Gabriel was doing the running, now. Loki had carried them down out of Russia and through most of Germany, and the poor bastard was almost dead on his feet when Gabriel took over in Denmark to get them across the North Sea and into England. Out of Norse territory. Not it that it stopped the freaking Terminator behind them. Nooo. Because the White god didn't need to fucking sleep, and had always been prone to a bit of wanderlust, and could see to the ends of the fucking world, not to mention hear a pin drop during a thunderstorm in Switzerland ...
He dived down a Soho back alley, running more or less headlong, since nothing he might happen to bump into could possibly do more damage than what was following behind him, and because Heimdallr was reasonably law-abiding, as gods went, and was being slowed down by the effort not to kill passing civilians. London was home to any number of neutral entities and no-violence zones ... if they could just shake the bastard long enough to reach one of them ...
And then a pale, ferocious figure appeared ahead of them, blocking the exit to the alley, and Gabriel almost fell on their ass trying to backpedal. Dammit, when had the bastard managed to get ahead of them? Panicking, feeling Loki stirring inside him in exhausted worry as the White God bore down on them, he caught sight of a door. The back door of one of the shops, a door with something funny-looking about it, something that seemed to slide around the edges of his vision, but Gabriel was so past caring about shit like that. Something bounced off the brickwork behind his head, something rather metallic, and Gabriel lunged, mind completely made up. He'd take a strange doorway over an angry Heimdallr any day.
Something buzzed through them as they hit the floor on the other side, something oddly familiar, and Gabriel would probably have taken a second to be paranoid about that, but he was a little busy trying to swing the door shut behind them. A move that was made a little problematic by the sword stuck in the way, and the god behind it hitting the wood with all the speed of a freight train. Or a charging Ram. A move made even more problematic by the fact that Gabriel was then somewhat unexpectedly airborne.
He hit the wall behind him, or rather the very nice set of oaken bookshelves ranged along it, bounced forward off it again, and managed to catch a tome roughly the size of Lithuania on the way down. With his head. That, and the small avalanche of other books falling around him made the world ... rather confusing, for a second, between him and Loki both rattling around a badly abused skull, and by the time it made sense again, Heimdallr stood over them, sword raised and expression set into grim, angry lines.
The White God allowed himself a little smirk as he drew back for the blow. Gabriel, dazed, managed to grab the nearest thing handy as a shield, the same bloody book that had half-knocked him out in the first place, and had only just flung it up in front of the sword when a voice rang out between them that would have given his Father a run for His money in terms of sheer wrath. The very air buzzed around it.
"Harm that book and you had best be prepared to buy it!"
Heimdallr froze. From what Gabriel could see of his face (and he could see a lot, from this position), he looked nothing so much as flummoxed. Actually, he looked a lot like Thor when you'd presented the lug with a particularly challenging problem. Like whether the mead or the woman came first. And yes, that wasn't exactly charitable, but he wasn't in a very charitable mood, right now.
Slowly, like the rotation of the earth towards the sun, Heimdallr turned his head towards the inner doorway, and the stocky, vibrating figure standing in it. Gabriel turned his and Loki's head to follow the look. And ... stared. Oh, that was so not good ...
"This creature is an escaped criminal," the White God growled, sword still poised over their chest, his eyes steely as he looked at the intruder. Well. Technically, they were the intruders, but you got the point ... "He must be killed before he does any more damage."
"And that is a 1578 Geneva Pulpit Bible, which has survived four hundred years unmolested, and if you should damage it, sir, there shall be a reckoning!" The angel (because it was an angel, and as a matter of fact Gabriel even knew which angel, and oh, this was so very, very bad) stalked forwards into the room, one plump finger pointed like a dagger at Heimdallr's chest, and nothing on his features save pure, protective fury. "In fact, given this mess, there is very likely to be a reckoning anyway, but so help me if you cause harm to a book within my sight, I shall not be responsible for my actions ..."
He stopped beside them, standing protectively over Gabriel (well, protectively over the book, really, but even Loki wasn't inclined to quibble at the minute), that shaking finger stabbed almost up Heimdallr's increasingly bewildered nose, his other hand actually reaching out to bat the god's sword aside. As if he hadn't the first thought for his own safety, or the potential costs of challenging a freaking god in his back room. As if knocking swords out of people's hands in a fit of bibliophilic rage was something he did every other day.
Though, from what Gabriel had heard about this particular angel, it could well be.
Heimdallr, meanwhile, looking almost freaked out by the round, furious face glaring up at him, backed up a quick couple of steps, and brought his sword up between him and the angel, instead of between him and a very old book. And as soon as he did so, the angel relaxed his taut, furious stance, and had the nerve to actually look relieved. Because, obviously, threat to life and limb was absolutely nothing to worry about. It was only if there was actual ink and paper in danger that we had a problem.
Loki, peering out at the scene from behind Gabriel's soul, took a second to ask if all of Gabriel's family were certifiable, or just the ones he happened to bump into.
For once, Gabriel had no good answer.
"Thank you," Aziraphale sighed, stretching his neck and shoulders slightly to get the lingering tension out of them, beaming cheerfully at Heimdallr and completely ignoring the sword now that it wasn't pointed at anything important. "You have no idea what I had to go through to get that, my dear! I owe Crowley six dinners and at least one Temptation for those leaves ... not to mention all the hassle I had to go through to get its provenance sorted out and verified after its little journey through demonic channels ... Really, if you had hurt it, I don't know what I would have done ..."
I thought you said he was an angel? Loki hissed, wriggling around inside Gabriel as he jockeyed for a better view. Or possibly just a better angle for poking Gabriel. That didn't sound very angelic ...
Coming from a god with a renegade archangel in his chest, that's rich! he hissed back, still holding the book protectively over them and watching Heimdallr like a hawk. It's a long story, okay? He's ... one of my weirder brothers, and rumour has it he's gone a little ... wrong, down here ...
... That's one way of putting it, his god commented mildly, as the angel moved again, turning around to face them, seemingly not bothered in the slightest that the move left a pissed-off, bewildered, sword-wielding god at his unprotected back. Gabriel could just feel Loki's appreciative grin.
"Now," the angel murmured, clapping plump hands together (ignoring Heimdallr's leap behind him) and narrowing his eyes into a steel-blue stare that bored right through Loki's skull and bounced off Gabriel inside it. He did his best not to flinch, not to panic all over again and start begging, because no way in Father's name that stare had missed his presence here, no way his little brother hadn't noticed the whopping great archangel in the room, but then ... Then Aziraphale's stare moved away from the two souls in the god's body, and zoned right back in ... on the fucking book! Because, obviously, this angel had exactly one priority in life, and archangels weren't it.
"Now?" Loki asked, taking over smoothly while Gabriel was stuck staring. "I do apologise for bursting in here, causing so much havoc, but I was under some threat at the time ..."
Heimdallr snarled, moving forward again, but the angel stepped, entirely accidentally, into his path, hip-checking him sideways into a desk. The White God stared at him in stunned outrage, but Aziraphale simply beamed him an apology, and looked right back at them. Gabriel could feel Loki's disbelief start to stretch limits. His own wasn't all that far behind.
"Now, you put down my book, very carefully," Aziraphale warned, low and stern, and then smiled at them. "And then you can help me tidy up the mess you made, and perhaps afterwards we can have a nice cup of tea and see if we can't come to some ... mutually beneficial arrangement?" Cheerfully casual, as if this was an entirely usual set of circumstances, and that an entirely logical offer, and alright, Gabriel had enough trouble trying to keep up with Loki's circus of a family without his own deciding to go insane(-er) on top of it. He opened their mouth to say something, over-riding Loki ... when Heimdallr took matters into his own hands.
Gabriel managed to cry out, give his brother a bare half-second of warning, and then the White God had Aziraphale by the throat, had picked the angel bodily off the floor and slammed him back into the wall. Into, oddly enough, one of the few patches of wall entirely free of bookshelves, and Gabriel paused a second to wonder about that before scrambling to his feet, the bible held out in his hands like a club as he moved towards the god and the angel ... and then Aziraphale's furious stare froze him in his tracks, and he blinked in amazement.
"That man is a murderer and a criminal," Heimdallr hissed, his arm shoved savagely against Aziraphale's chest to hold him in place, his face inches from the angel's. "He has threatened my people for too long, and I will not allow him to escape me now. Do you understand? He will not be taking tea with you. I am Heimdallr of the Aesir, and that man is not leaving this place alive. Am. I. Clear?"
Gabriel shifted furiously as the god pushed harder, actually pulling a gasp out of his little brother, bouncing on his feet as he wondered if he should attack or run. Loki snarled silently, echoing the thought. Attacking put Aziraphale in more danger, given their positions, and running stood a decent chance of drawing Heimdallr away ...
"You are perfectly clear," Aziraphale interrupted quietly. Softly, very gently, and then he smiled. A small, polite smile, a gentle little twist of his lips, and Gabriel found himself backing away, found Loki in such complete agreement that he wasn't sure which of them was guiding their steps. Found himself scrunching himself up against the far wall, away from that tiny little smile. "But if I might make a point myself, sir?"
Heimdallr, who despite all appearances was not actually an idiot, nodded cautiously. Very cautiously. "Go ahead."
The small smile widened a fraction. "I only wished to point out," the angel murmured, quite gently. His eyes shone with more than temper, now. They shone with Grace, with power, so that the god could have no possible doubt what he was. "That you are in my home, sir. In Soho. London. England, in fact. I only wished to point out that, as such, we are somewhat outside your jurisdiction. That, in point of fact, threatening an angel, an agent of Heaven, in his own home, in front of his guest, causing bodily harm and the destruction of quite valuable property ... well. That might be considered something of an international incident. And the paperwork for such an incident, it really is incredibly tiresome, and more than a little annoying, and if I am to face the prospect of spending the next three weeks buried up to my neck in red tape, I might as well make said international incident worth the bother!"
He paused, mostly to draw breath again, a hard, angry rush of air, and glared up at the suddenly pale-faced god pinning him to the wall. The god who, very, very carefully, moved his arm away from Aziraphale's chest, and backed away. Being careful to make absolutely no sudden movements in the process, and for a second Gabriel felt the rather insane urge to move protectively in front of the poor, shell-shocked bastard.
Luckily, Loki slapped him upside the head before he could actually do anything quite that stupid.
"He is a serpent," Heimdallr said at last, eyes never leaving the angel, hand on his sword as he watched Aziraphale huffily straighten his clothing. "He is a monster and a serpent, and he will bring you harm if you let him stay. He will bring only ruin to this house." Loki bristled, snarling furiously against the memory of the ruin the Aesir had brought to his house, to his family, and Gabriel wrapped Grace and soul around his god, curled him close against the words.
Aziraphale, though, only looked up with a small, tiny smile, eyes going briefly distant and fond. "He will have to wait in line," the angel laughed, very quietly. "There is another Serpent ahead of him, and that one is not inclined to share. Hasn't been for at least nine hundred years. I wouldn't worry about it, if I were you." He paused, smiled at Heimdallr, at the confusion lurking again under the grimness of the White God's expression. "Thank you for the concern, though."
Heimdallr simply stared, for a long moment, frowning in bafflement and anger and frustration. Then the White God turned, slow and cold, and pointed his sword at Loki again. At them.
"I will come for you," he promised softly. "Wherever you run, Laufey's son. I will find you, and there will be an end between us. This I swear."
"Come as you will, Aesir," Loki answered back, with quiet venom, shrugging off Gabriel's soothing touch on his soul. In this, Gabriel was not allowed to interfere. "Come as you will. The end will not be mine."
Heimdallr glared at them for another long moment, for two strained breaths and the beat of a panicky heart ... and then he turned from all of them, turned his back, and walked back out through Aziraphale's shattered door. And Gabriel, entirely unbidden and with Loki's whole-hearted agreement, sank quietly to the floor and just decided to be still for a minute. To be quiet.
"Come with me," Aziraphale said quietly at last, coming over to smile softly down at them, and rest a cautious hand on their shoulder. "Come. Let's get that cup of tea, what do you say? You look like you could use it, both of you. The mess can wait until afterwards."
Gabriel blinked up at him, recognising distantly that they weren't out of the woods yet, that in fact they might be in even more danger, if this angel, this brother, knew what he was, told Heaven where he was, but ... But there was a certain warmth in Aziraphale's eyes, a certain understanding, and he found himself staring up in sudden hope. Found himself almost hoping ...
"And will we regret it, if we come with you?" Loki asked quietly, gently, on his behalf. His god, wrapped so carefully around him. "Will we be safe?"
Aziraphale frowned thoughtfully. Mischievously. "Well, now," he murmured ominously. "That depends." And then, at Gabriel's tiny flinch, the angel reached down, reaching out to gently take hold of the book Gabriel hadn't realised they were still clutching, and smiled. "How about we make a deal, yes? You give me back my book, and help me clean up the mess in a little while, and we can forget this entire meeting ever happened, if you'd like. As I said, the paperwork ... well, it would hardly be worth it, and I really don't have time right now to go reporting on missing archangels ..." He smiled, and held out one plump hand to help them to their feet. "Not that I've seen one, of course. Good heavens, when would I have come across someone like that? Dear me, all these gods running around my shop, it's making me terribly confused, you know ..."
Gabriel blinked at him. Stared, long and hard, at what was almost definitely the most insane angel Father had ever created, and found himself grinning. Almost helplessly, and with Loki's amusement only making it wider. "You really mean that," he said, wonderingly. "You really do mean that."
Aziraphale smiled, shooing them ahead of him through the inner door, deeper into the shop. "Well, naturally, dear. Angels shouldn't lie, you know. Though certain ... omissions ... I'm sure are perfectly fine. After all, it wouldn't do if everyone suddenly started airing other people's little indiscretions, now would it?" He grinned, and then paused, his expression moving suddenly right back into ominous. "Though I will make one, small caveat?"
Gabriel gulped nervously. "Yes?"
Aziraphale smiled that deadly little smile again, and stared a hole through their head. "If you should ever attempt to use one of my books as a shield or a weapon ever, ever again ..."
"We won't!" Loki cut in, with the kind of speed only self-preservation could motivate, and the kind of smile only someone trying to be polite in the midst of terror could pull off. "On my honour as a Jotun! Your treasures will remain unmolested, I swear to you!"
The bibliophilic lunatic narrowed his eyes, stared them up and down and right fucking through ... and then he beamed, happy as a clam, and started chivvying them towards the tea again. And Loki sent Gabriel another incredulous query, another slightly awed comment on the levels of sanity in his family, and, yet again, Gabriel simply had no answer. What could an archangel say? The bugger was simply, inarguably, insane.
On the upside, though? He made a damn good cup of tea.