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At the oaks of Mamre

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"Oi, angel! Fancy meeting you here!"

Aziraphale had been trudging along the dusty desert road so long that he was actually tired, if that was possible, and actually glad to see the demon, which was more than possible. He understood the logic of having to look like a tired, dusty human traveller when he arrived at Mamre, but he didn't quite understand the logic of not being allowed to transport himself to his destination and then miracle his appearance appropriately. The sand was very hot even with sandals on and itchy besides.

Crowley sauntered up beside him, dressed in the local garb (in black, as usual). He was barefoot, however, and appeared to be carrying--

"Is, is that a waterskin?"

"Why, yes." Crowley let it drop down his arm. "Care for a drink?"

Aziraphale did care for a drink, and didn't care that it was fairly warm and faintly goat-flavored. He drank an inhumanly large amount of it and wiped his mouth on his sleeve. "Er, sorry... thank you. I was parched."

"Not surprising." Crowley looked around at the landscape: desert to the north, east, and south. "What brings you out here again? There are other parts of the world with a lot less sand, you know."

"Er, I'm on an assignment," Aziraphale said, and having said so, he felt he ought to be getting on with it, and began trudging westward again. Crowley, however, strolled along with him. (He would have envied the demon's longer legs and immunity to the heat, had envy not been a sin.)

"Really? What? Blessing a lizard?" Crowley blinked his big serpent eyes, obviously pleased with his won wit.

"No, of course not!" Aziraphale took a few strides to contain himself before answering. "Not far ahead, there's a lovely oasis, and I have a message for a couple who live there. They're going to have a baby."

"A baby? Well, that's hardly news, is it? Having babies is what humans do best." Crowley paused to take a swig from the waterskin. "Except maybe fighting."

"I'm sure I wouldn't know," said Aziraphale, primly. "In any case, they are both quite old, and I may be called upon to help." Before Crowley could leer, he added, "You know, to miracle things along."

A sidelong glance showed the demon nodding quite seriously. Aziraphale bit his lip and then plunged on.

"In fact, it might take rather a lot of miracling to help. I understand they're near the century mark and have never had any children together. The husband has only fathered one child on a concubine--"

"He must not have been trying very hard," Crowley muttered.

"--So it occurs to me that it might help if I had a bit of, how shall I say, a bit of back-up? In the miracle department."

Crowley's eyebrows, always expressive, went and had a little conference with his hairline. "You want *me* to help you do a fertility miracle?"

"Well, yes." Aziraphale stopped, noticing a stand of trees at the top of the next ridge. "In fact, since you're comfortable with that sort of thing, you might speak to the wife? In private?"

"'That sort of thing'? What d'you mean--oh. Right." Aziraphale had made a frantic effort to convey female anatomy with his hands that would be imitated millennia later by Harpo Marx. Crowley shifted right then and there into presenting a female body and began unwinding her turban.

"Well, let's get a move on, angel. Having tits makes me peckish."

By the time they reached the top of the ridge with the trees, Crowley had rearranged her former turban in a respectable (and practical) veil, and the sun had reached its zenith. Aziraphale wondered if the fires of Hell could possibly be hotter than the open desert at noon. They paused for a moment to look down on the rather impressive encampment below: a large oasis with many trees, some ponds, patches of vegetables, quite a few tents, and several large pens for livestock.

"The oaks of Mamre. Home of Abraham and his wife Sarai, I mean, Sarah. I suppose the largest tent is theirs." He gestured toward it with his chin.

"Hallo there."

Even Crowley seemed a bit startled by the unexpected greeting. A man was coming down the slope of the nearby hill, out of nowhere, as it were, and Aziraphale was unsure for a moment whether he was an angel, a demon, or merely human. He was wearing red and blue, not black or white, and he had a beard, which Aziraphale had never managed; on the other hand, there was a curious sort of glow about him, as if a bright light just behind him were shining round his edges.

"Oh! hello! Can we help you?" We? Why did I say 'we', the angel wondered.

"Oh, no, I've been sent to help you." The stranger drew close, smiling in a way that made Aziraphale instantly relax. It was a quite human smile, not like what passed for a smile on an angel who'd never lived among humans.

"They thought you might need a bit of help with this miracle, a little extra touch. You can call me Immanuel, by the way."

He offered a hand and Aziraphale took it. Then he offered a hand to Crowley, his smile unchanged. "Demon, eh? Had any luck tempting this one?"

"Not a bit. He's a pillar of rectitude. Care for a drink?"

"Thanks, that would hit the spot." Immanuel took a long slug from the waterskin, then handed it to Aziraphale, who also drank.

"Oh! how nice!" The water was cool now, and had a flavor of mineral springs rather than of goat. He passed the skin to Crowley, who drank rather more of it than previously.

"Not at all," said Immanuel. "Now, if you don't mind my saying so, this looks like the perfect time to present ourselves as weary travellers and seek hospitality from the son of Terakh. Shall we?"

"Let's," said Crowley, and the three of them headed down the hill together.