Rollin' down the street, smokin' indo
Sippin' on gin and juice, laid back
With my mind on my money,
And my money on my mind.
- Snoop Dogg, Gin and Juice
Tim had never set out to be a drug dealer. He'd been a bright kid, even got into a good university, but university life was expensive and his mum didn't have enough money to help him out, so he'd bit the bullet and asked his flatmate's friend's weed dealer where to sign up.
He was surprised by how much he liked it. Not everyone respected him, but everyone was nice to him because he was the guy who brought them their weed. There was power in that. He didn't have to bring them weed, and if he did bring it there was nothing stopping him from charging them too much for weed cut with skunk or oregano. After a lifetime of working in shops to make ends meet, it was nice to have a customer service job where the customer wasn't always right and wasn't certain how dangerous he was.
At first he'd only dealt to fellow students, but then an overly familiar literature professor had approached him saying a student had recommended him to her and from there he found himself building a network of humanities professionals who had chosen his product as their literal drug of choice. The literature professor had recommended him to the Music Librarian, who recommended him to one of the processing archivists, who then recommended him to the Rare Book Librarian, who recommended him to a number of professionals in the world of rare books, and that was how Tim had met Mr. Fell.
Mr. Fell was as eccentric as Tim might expect a rare book dealer with a connoisseur's knowledge of cannabis strains to be, and he couldn't help being fond of him.
A lot of it was the way he treated Tim compared to the bookshop's customers. As far as Tim could tell, Mr. Fell had no desire to actually sell the books he owned. The shop's schedule made so little sense that Mr. Fell scheduled a drop-off during business hours more than once by mistake. Before he saw him with a customer, he didn't think Mr. Fell had a mean bone in his body. After all, he'd always been so nice to Tim in the way adults were always nice to him when they felt badly supporting his criminal activities. But then he showed up with his rucksack carrying bag full of quality weed so pungent not even an airtight jar could keep the smell in to find Mr. Fell talking to an expensively-dressed woman around his age.
"If I have the money to purchase a book," said the woman through her teeth, speaking with sweet acidity, "I don't see why it matters whether I've got temperature and humidity control. If I buy it, it's mine."
Mr. Fell's face, normally warm and crinkled at the eyes, was smooth stone. "Because, madam," he said coldly, "this book won't be yours forever. One day, unless something in the operations of the universe has gone horribly wrong, this book will continue its existence so long as it's properly cared for, whereas no matter what supplements you take or what overpriced creams you apply to your face, you will eventually die and this book will be someone else's responsibility."
Tim couldn't suppress a loud snort of surprise and amusement, and both of them turned and stared at him.
The woman glared at Tim, and then turned back to Mr. Fell. "Fine," she spat. "You'll be having no more business from me, and I'll be sure to tell my friends the ill treatment I've received here."
"Good," Mr. Fell called through an icy smile as the woman stormed out. "You haven't given me much faith in their preservation standards."
Tim stepped aside to let the woman go, and when the door slammed behind her he just stared at Mr. Fell.
The older man met Tim's eyes and pursed his lips sheepishly. "Did I not tell you Thursday at three?"
He pulled out his planner and checked. "Nope," he said as neutrally as he could. "Wednesday at three."
Mr. Fell sighed. "Oh, dear. I do hope you won't think less of me having seen that."
"Nah," said Tim. "That was pretty wicked, I thought."
"Oh, no," he groaned. "I'm so sorry—"
Tim furrowed his brows. "Wicked's a good thing, Mr. Fell."
"Ah," he said, looking even more embarrassed. "Right. Would you please be a dear and turn the sign to closed?"
He reached back and turned the sign with a deft flick of the wrist, then brought the bag over to the cash register. "I threw in a couple samples I thought you might like," he said cheerfully. "I know you like Strawberry Cough a lot, and I thought this Original Glue strain we just got in would be really nice for you for nighttime when you've settled in. It's got a similar euphoric feeling, but it's also a really good couchlock which I know you like for reading."
Mr. Fell hummed thoughtfully. "Does it make you drowsy?"
"Nope. I know you don't like the drowsy ones. It's just relaxing is all."
He smiled and opened the cash register. "How much?"
Tim told him, and Mr. Fell slipped him an extra twenty pounds. Tim had learned by now not to argue with him; Mr. Fell wanted to make sure that he was fed and that his need for income didn't distract him from his studies.
"You can't do this for a career," he always said, "and one hopes within the next few years it'll be just another legal job."
Tim could respect someone who stuck to his principles, even if the questions about his studies were always a little scolding and the man's schedule was so complicated even he couldn't keep proper track of it.
He came another day and noticed a big, black vintage Bentley parked outside of the shop. This wasn't surprising, as unless a buyer was a curator or a librarian purchasing on behalf of an institution, one had to be pretty rich to buy what Mr. Fell had on offer. Tim knew better than to barge in without checking, but he was still rather surprised when he looked in and saw that the shop was closed.
Frowning, he rapped his knuckles against the glass of the front door. In the distance, he could hear two men laughing, and he thought he heard a low voice say, "…tell them to piss off."
A slight, sleek figure slithered out from the back room of the shop. He was wearing a white buttondown shirt that looked as though it had begun its day crisp, although now the sleeves were rolled up and rumpled and his tie was loose. He was also wearing sunglasses that were an impenetrable black. He opened the door. "We're closed," he said, smirking.
"'We'?" Tim repeated. He scanned through his previous visits to the place and realized he'd only ever seen Mr. Fell alone or with a customer. The man didn't look as though he was related to Mr. Fell in any way, and he'd always given Tim a bit of a gay vibe, so this had to be… "Oh."
The man raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean, 'oh'?"
"Er, nothing. Anyway, sorry to have bothered you, must have had the wrong time, I'll be going now, cheers-" He turned to go, but the man grabbed him by the handle of his rucksack.
"Hang on. Angel!" the man called, confirming Tim's theory. "Could you come out here a sec?"
Mr. Fell poked his head out of the back room and his eyes bugged wide when he saw Tim standing in the doorway. "Ah," he said. "Er, hello, Tim."
"Hey, Mr. Fell," said Tim. He had to think quick. He didn't know if the man knew Mr. Fell liked pot, and breaking up a budding relationship was the quickest way he could think of to lose one of his best customers. "I was just here for that, er. That book. I was going to borrow. For that essay."
"Right!" said Mr. Fell in a high voice. "Yes, of course. For your, er, your book report."
The man looked between the two of them. "A book report," he repeated. "How old are you, kid? Twenty?"
"Twenty-one," Tim admitted.
"And they've got you doing book reports at university?"
"My professor's a bit odd," he said quickly.
The man smirked at Mr. Fell. "Go on, then, Aziraphale. What is he, your drug dealer or something?"
Aziraphale Fell, Tim thought numbly as Mr. Fell began to sputter nervously. What an odd name.
"Oh, he is, isn't he?" the man gasped, looking like the cat who'd caught the canary even behind those fathomless shades. "Angel. I didn't know you still had it in you to break the law like that." He grinned. "What have you got for him, Tim?"
Mr. Fell took a deep breath and composed himself. "Oh, do grow up, Crowley. So I like to indulge in a little blue sage from time to time."
"Blue sage," the man—Crowley—repeated gleefully.
Mr. Fell pointed to the back room. "Do shut up, my dear boy. I'm just going to pay Tim and then you can make as many immature jokes as you like."
Tim didn't hear from Mr. Fell for a while after that, but about two weeks later he was up at two in the morning finishing an essay when he got a text from an unknown number.
Hi, Tim, it said, we met about two weeks ago at A.Z. Fell's. Got your number off you-know-who and I don't usually do this, but I heard weed is good for anxiety. Have you got anything for that?