The move down south had supposed to have been Aziraphale’s big adventure. It had been his idea to go live with Gabriel down to the small town out in the west and it had taken a great deal of convincing and sweet talking to be given permission to go. He had imagined that living with his brother would give him more freedom and had spent the entire train ride down daydreaming and reading over his books. The disappointment he felt when he arrived in the dusty little down was ineffable.
Gabriel and his posse meeting him at the station and immediately escorting him back to Gabriel’s home, a large house just on the edge of town. Shown to his room and told not to leave without Sandalphon Uriel Michael or Gabriel himself. Aziraphale was rather put out by the whole thing and found himself spending most of his time reading. As he always had. Simply dreaming of daring escapes off into the desert.
That had been how it had started. Just daydreams. But now with the prospect of living out said fantasies so close, Aziraphale could not resist the temptation.
His first attempt had gone incredibly poor. It was shameful had bad it had gone and as it turned out, bed sheets made a very poor rope down from one’s bedroom window. It had ended with Aziraphale laying in the dirt nursing a sprained wrist. Sandalphon had been the one to find him and dragged the younger Fairfax brother back inside to Gabriel.
“What the hell were you thinking?” Gabriel asked him, keeping his voice polite to mask the frustration.
“Well,” Aziraphale started to come up with some excuse as to why he had fallen out his window, wrapped up in a bedsheet and nearly broken his arm. However he found himself interrupted by Sandalphon from behind him.
“Don’t you know how dangerous it is out there? Gangs, drought... Someone like you would hardly last two seconds,” he told him and there was a threatening tone to his voice that made Aziraphale shudder.
“He’s right. The Yellow Sign has been more active than ever. You’re lucky your train wasn’t stopped by them,” Gabriel warned. “Just last week they robbed a supply train. The conductor barely made it out with his life.” The engineer and several passengers had not been so lucky.
“And two weeks before that they took the heir to the Pulcifer company for ransom. His poor wife had to give away most of their fortune just to get him back,” Sandalphon added helpfully. All of this was true of course except for the last part. Anathema Pulcifer had not spent their fortune for Newt’s safe return, instead opting to go get him back herself. After the whole ordeal, the pair had moved up north to the city; Anathema deciding it safer for her husband.
“Oh my…” Aziraphale said, not particularly startled by any of this information as he read about these sorts of things all the time. He found it rather exciting. Being swept off by criminals and fantastic rescues and the adventure of it all.
“Can you promise me you’ll listen when I tell you to stay inside?” Gabriel asked him, raising a brow at his younger brother. He only wanted to keep him safe. If anything were to happen to Aziraphale, Gabriel would be absolutely beside himself.
“Of course, Gabriel. You needn’t worry about me, I’ll behave myself,” Aziraphale responded, having no intention of keeping this promise. The concept of staying up in his room did not appeal to him whatsoever.
But his promise seemed to satisfy Gabriel who nodded and clapped his hands together. “Alright then!” he announced and looked at both his brother and his deputy. “Sandalphon, stay here with Aziraphale. See to his wrist, make sure he stays inside,” he said, giving the both of them a warning look at the last bit before going back out to ride into town.
Aziraphale sighed miserably as Sandalphon wrapped up his sprained wrist, putting it in a splint just to be sure before taking Aziraphale back up to his room to leave him to his own devices. There would be no more attempts at escape for the time being. It was no worry though. He could wait out a sprain.
Two weeks later, much to Gabriel’s dismay, he tried again. This time in the dead of night and it turned out that bedsheets could make an excellent rope if one simply tied them together first. Dropping to the ground, this time on his feet and with no injury to his person, he breathed his first breath of freedom. Aziraphale made it into town, investigating his new home quite freely and enjoying himself a great deal more than when he was accompanied by an entourage of guardian angels breathing down his neck.
He decided it wouldn’t be such a terrible idea to introduce himself to people when he noticed down the street, the orange light from the tavern was still on and he could hear the faint sound of piano music and laughter. It hardly seemed like a bad idea at all. Though it hadn’t occurred to him at all that Gabriel had not come home yet.
About four solid seconds after he stepped inside the tavern, he heard a familiar voice. “Goddammit Aziraphale,” came the tired and irritated voice of Gabriel from a table where he sat with the rest of his posse.
He was firmly taken back home and up to his room, only to be sat down and lectured by his brother for making a second escape. The same warnings as before and the promise of a lock on the window in future. Which left Aziraphale feeling particularly distraught, but he could only sigh and agree.
“You need to stay inside,” Gabriel told him. “There’ve been sightings of the Black Viper around here. If he got his hands on you, I don’t think I’d ever see you again,” Gabriel told him, desperate for his brother to actually listen.
This sparked Aziraphale’s interest which was Gabriel’s big mistake. “The Black Viper?” he asked. That name certainly sounded like a character straight out from one of his books. “What have they done?”
“People say he’s killed hundreds of men. That he’s the most notorious outlaw you’ve ever seen and he’s got eyes like a snake. That he dips the bullets in his gun with the venom from rattlesnakes. No man has ever fought him and lived,” Gabriel said, telling Aziraphale about the legends surrounding the outlaw. “He’s wily and clever. I need to keep you safe.”
Aziraphale however, was absolutely enchanted by the idea of such an outlaw. It really was a fantastical idea that a person like that existed. “Oh dear… He sounds like a real villain, doesn’t he?”
“I’m only doing this for your own protection, Aziraphale.” Gabriel sighed, knowing his brother well enough to realize the chances of Aziraphale actually listening were incredibly slim. “Goodnight,” he told him before leaving the room.
This left Aziraphale with his own thoughts. How absolutely romantic it would be to be swept off on some adventure by such a terrifying character. Though he doubted such a thing would happen to him. Nothing interesting ever happened to him and that wasn’t much fun at all.
Still, he went to bed with thoughts of the Black Viper in his head, dreaming achingly of some dark figure taking him away to some extravagant adventures.
The next morning, Aziraphale woke up to the sound of someone at his widow. The locksmith, just like Gabriel had promised. Aziraphale bemoaned the loss of his one route of escape and spent the entire day, wiling away the hours, thinking up ways he could potentially get away from the house and his brother’s constant watch.
It was another week before he tried again, this time using an entirely different approach to ducking out from Uriel’s careful eye. He had been allowed to go into town for dinner with the woman as his guard, sitting in the tavern with her. For once, he only picked at his food as his mind raced along the plan in his mind. He didn’t really have a solid plan other than ‘book it at the first sign of trouble’.
It seemed almost like fate that some man had decided to take it upon himself to flirt with Sergeant Shadwell’s wife. Almost divine intervention that Sergeant Shadwell had too much to drink and was very much in love with his wife. Shadwell was known for starting fights while sober so starting one while drunk and jealous was inevitable. The second the sergeant started swinging, the whole tavern fell into chaos much to Aziraphale’s delight.
Uriel decided that stopping a bar fight was a more immediate threat to Aziraphale, she got up and went to join the fray in an attempt to bring back the peace. Aziraphale himself, could not have been more pleased by this turn of events. Luck seemed to be in his favor, he decided as he got up to his feet and walked out the door. There was a bounce to his step as he strolled down the road, knowing that there would be no Gabriel to stop him this time.
He was just outside the bank when he heard a distinct clicking sound just behind him and the heavy fall of two pairs of footsteps. He stopped in his tracks and was just about to turn around when he felt something pressed up against the back of his head.
“You move an inch and I shoot,” warned a gravelly voice and there was a low chuckle from a second party.
“This is a lot better than a bank robbery, ain’t it Hastur?” came the voice of the second man.
“Practically gift wrapped, Ligur,” said the one holding the gun, presumably named Hastur. “You’re the sheriff’s brother, ain’t you?” he asked, pressing the gun closer against Aziraphale’s skull.
“Oh my, there’s no need to be so rough, gentlemen,” Aziraphale said without turning around. “And yes, I am, I’ll have you know. And if you have any intention of sending me back to him I shall be very cross.”
This answer seemed to surprise the duo and behind Aziraphale they shared a confused look. There was the sound of whispered arguing before Aziraphale felt one of them reach over his head and there was fabric wrapped around his eyes, blindfolding him. “No, you’re coming with us,” Ligur informed him and the feeling of the gun against his head vanished and a rough hand grasped his upper arm, pulling him along.
“If I must,” Aziraphale sighed, trying to seem like he wasn’t excited by the fact that he was being kidnapped.
He could feel himself being pulled onto a horse and the sound of shuffling as one of the pair joined him. “If you fall off, we’ll shoot you,” warned the voice of Hastur who seemed to be the one sharing the horse with Aziraphale.
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Aziraphale said and held on tight as they rode off.