Several years had passed since Aziraphale captured the celestial serial killer and the demon Crowley, also a killer of angels, escaped divine custody.
No trace of Crowley had been found. Well, no official trace. Aziraphale suspected the anonymous gifts he occasionally found on his doorstep were from ... an occult source. An umbrella with a halo on top and wings on the handle. A first edition of The Portrait of Dorian Grey. A white mug with angelic wings for a handle.
Aziraphale wasn't close with any humans, and as he was now persona (or angelus) non grata in heaven, he couldn't imagine who else would want to leave him presents. So he accepted the gifts and said nothing to his superiors.
And if he had the occasional customer who possibly resembled a certain demon, but who never spoke and only stayed a few minutes...well, that could be anyone, really.
The bookshop phone rang. "A.Z. Fell and..."
"Yea, I know who you are, Aziraphale. That's why I called you."
Aziraphale forced himself to smile. He had read once that if you smile when you speak, you sound friendlier. "Gabriel, nice to hear from you."
The archangel grunted. "We have an assignment for you, Principality. Some of our seraphim have located a wanted demon. We need a few more bodies to aid in apprehending him."
"Me? I've never..."
The venom in Gabriel's voice was almost tangible. "You did such a great job with that human, surely you can help on this. Nobody better, am I right?"
Aziraphale wondered if Gabriel would ever forgive him for inadvertantly showing him up. Envy is an ugly beast. He wrote down the details. "I'll be there," he sighed.
Gabriel hung up.
"I want the two Principalities, Aziraphale and Salathiel, to make the approach. Everyone else will maintain invisibility until the demon is here," Karael said, poking a map displayed in his celestial iPad. "You two," a gesture at the Principalities, "are the most powerful. Do not hesitate to miracle if you need to. Stay together, and watch each other's backs. He is strong and he is clever." He paused and looked around the group. "Our number one top priority is bringing this demon in. Stay focused on the target."
Aziraphale looked around the small group of assorted angelic beings and felt very out of place. Everyone, besides him, looked like a human police officer or serviceman: big, burly, tough.
He and Salathiel approached the house as directed. It looked like an average American ranch-style home, probably built after the second Great War during the population explosion. Salathiel knocked on the door.
After a few moments, a disheveled human woman answered. She was petite, blond, and young. Bruises decorated her face and exposed skin. Salathiel spoke. "Hello, human female. We are looking for an individual called Angra Mainyu. Is he or she present?"
Aziraphale looked at Salathiel with disbelief, and wondered if he had ever spoken to a human before.
The woman looked terrified. "My dear," Aziraphale began. Salathiel cut him off.
"We are entering your dwelling now to search. Please get out of the way." Salathiel pushed past the woman and Aziraphale reluctantly followed. The human female grabbed his arm.
"Please, he will kill us. Please don't do this!"
Aziraphale tried to comfort her but Salathiel spoke again. "We will apprehend the demon before he can harm you. Step aside." Aziraphale patted her arm and led her to a recliner nearby.
The inside of the house looked as normal as the outside. The small livingroom contained worn, but tidy, furnishings.
Salathiel continued down a hallway deeper into the house. Aziraphale made a frustrated noise and scurried behind him.
They cleared two doors that opened off the hallway, revealing an empty bathroom and a small laundry room. Salathiel moved purposefully towards the last door at the end of the hall, which Aziraphale assumed was the bedroom. He could hear the human woman sobbing behind him.
Salathiel reached the door and kicked it open. In the middle of the small bedroom stood a dark haired man. Aziraphale could sense the true, demonic, nature of the man.
The man who was holding a small human child.
"Put the human down and come with us, Angra Mainyu."
The demon smirked. "Yea, that's not gonna happen, angel."
Aziraphale spoke up. "Everything will go better for you if you cooperate. Please, give me the child." He extended his arms towards the demon.
Angra Mainyu wrenched backwards, keeping his back towards Aziraphale. "The way I see it, this little bitch here is my insurance. You lot aren't going to hurt a human, especially a young one. So I'll just be going now, and if any of you try something, I'll kill her."
He twisted the child's neck and the baby screamed.
Salathiel took a step forward. "My orders are to stop you, regardless of circumstances. I will not hesitate to smite you."
Aziraphale looked at him in horror. If the demon was smited while holding the human baby, the baby would also be killed. He reached out towards the demon again. "Please, give me the baby!" He pleaded.
Angra Mainyu kept his eyes on Salathiel. "Don't think I will." He raised his free hand and Aziraphale acted without thinking. With a gesture, he threw a ball of force at the demon. It impacted at the demon's head, right above that if the human baby. Aziraphale lunged forward and caught the child before her head hit the floor.
He heard Salathiel swear and ducked around the side of the bed, clutching the child. One of the cherubim chose this moment to enter the bedroom. Aziraphale watched in horror as the demon threw a gesture at the angel, who screamed as his body began to smoke . Salathiel extended his wings. Aziraphale could feel the accumulation of power rushing past him to the other Principality. He ducked himself down, covering the human baby as much as he could.