Crowley slipped through the house, as silent as a thief. He had a job to do here, and he intended not to get caught. Of course, he could use a few tricks, and he’d already used some, but it was so much more entertaining to sneak.
This job was one which wasn’t appointed by any boss or overlord. Rather, Crowley had an inkling that the man residing in this household was up to something, up to no good, and Crowley wanted to investigate. Already, he knew that the man was embezzling very large amounts of money. What else could he be doing? Where was the money going?
Once upon a time, Crowley would have lied to himself and told himself that it was simply because he could use this knowledge to his advantage, use it to further the forces of temptation and evil and whatever. Even then, it wouldn’t have been true, but now? Well, he wasn’t entirely sure. He told himself now that it was simply a bit of fun, something to pass the time and sate his curiosity, but some part of him in the back of his mind didn’t believe that. Some tiny voice that sounded suspiciously like Aziraphale was concerned about what this man might do.
Of course, even if this man were up to no good, Crowley wouldn’t try to stop him. Surely that would be a step too far even for an independent, not-currently-strictly-associated-with-hell demon like him. Surely.
A small gasp followed by a loud cough caught Crowley’s attention, and he looked through an open doorway into a child’s bedroom. The boy couldn’t have been more than eight, but there were bags under his watery eyes that wouldn’t quite focus on Crowley, and his once-dark skin was deathly ashen. He looked up from where he’d propped himself up on one elbow on his bed, staring at Crowley with fear and perhaps a hint of resignation.
“Are you… are you the Grim Reaper?” the boy asked, his voice quiet and hoarse.
Crowley’s heart did not break at those words, no, because that would mean he had a heart that was capable of breaking, and that was not a reality he was willing to accept, even if he was a more independently minded demon now. He had a conscience, maybe, but a heart that could go out like this to a complete stranger? That was just too… too… too Aziraphale. That was his job, not Crowley’s.
Still, he couldn’t help but pity the kid. It took no exertion of his demonic powers to tell that this child was deathly ill.
“Who, me?” Crowley asked, pointing to himself dramatically. “Why—” The denial caught in his throat, and whether by impulse or instinct, he changed his answer on the fly. “—of course I am! They picked the handsomest bloke around for the job, as I’m sure you can tell.”
That seemed, against all odds, to have been the right choice, as the boy actually smiled a little, just for a moment, before looking at him with trepidation. “Have you come for me? The doctor says I’ll be fine if I take my medicine, but I think she’s lying. Mommy looks at me like I’m going to disappear.”
Crowley’s first impulse was to immediately deny it, but he figured the child had heard enough immediate denial lately to recognize it as a lie. Instead, he stepped forward, scrutinizing the boy from head to toe. He reached out one finger very slowly and watched as the kid recoiled in fear, but all he did was lightly tap his little nose before drawing back. He carefully constructed a look of disappointment as he stepped back and shook his head. “No, no…”
“No?” The boy seemed confused. “No… what?”
Still shaking his head, Crowley heaved a sigh. “No, I can’t take you yet. What a shame, too. I wanted to take a soul tonight, but it just isn’t your time yet.”
The child breathed out a sigh of pure relief, then burst into another short coughing fit. “S-sorry, but… I’m glad it isn’t yet.”
Crowley shrugged with nonchalance. “Oh well. I’m not bothered by it. And I don’t think I’ll be coming back anytime soon. Once your guardian angel finds out I came near, he’s going to be extra careful to make sure I can’t come back.”
The boy’s eyes widened with delight this time instead of fear. “Guardian angel?!”
“Yes.” Crowley nodded gravely while mentally noting that he needed to tell Aziraphale to pay this kid a visit soon and work any miracles he could on him. “Your angel has been working hard to keep any bad spirits away while your body is trying to recover.”
“I see.” The child pondered this gravely. “I still get nightmares, though.”
“Nightmares are harder to fight off, but I bet he’ll figure out a way soon,” Crowley half-promised. He knew Aziraphale could stop nightmares, so he was sure it wouldn’t be a problem anymore once he told the empathetic angel about this boy’s plight.
Seeming much calmer now, the kid snuggled back into the blankets. “Can I meet my angel?”
Crowley smiled, thinking of Aziraphale sitting with this child and comforting him. “Maybe soon, if you wish for it really hard.” He leaned forward and brushed a bit of hair back out of the child’s face, using the movement to disguise a little miracle-working of his own. “But you can do your wishing in the morning. For now, you should sleep.”
“Okay…” The child yawned, suddenly unable to keep his eyes open, which was exactly the effect the tiny miracle was meant to have on him. He laid back and fell asleep almost immediately.
Crowley stayed for a moment longer, just to make sure that the poor boy was breathing alright. He started to turn to go back into the rest of the house and continue his search, but realization hit him with a suddenness that made him slightly queasy. A child this sick… well, even an honest man could be driven to bend the rules if money would help at all. And sure, standard healthcare was freely given, but if, perhaps, he was paying for something a little more experimental, something not quite as legally approved…
No, there was nothing to be concerned about regarding the father’s behavior, Crowley decided, slipping through a window and flying directly toward Aziraphale’s bookshop. It was the son he was far, far more worried about, and he knew Zira would help the moment Crowley told him about the problem.
Crowley wasn’t entirely sure why Aziraphale had dragged him out to this park, but he wasn’t complaining. The sunshine was nice, and the ice cream that Aziraphale had spontaneously decided to buy was also quite nice. The only thing that was off about this was his angel’s behavior. He kept smiling in the way he did when he had an exciting secret and wasn’t ready to tell yet. Bless him, he was too honest to have any kind of decent poker face, not when it came to happy news. Whatever motivated him to bring Crowley out here was clearly something good. The only question was what.
Then, the angel’s face lit up in a joyful and satisfied little smile, and Crowley followed his gaze to see a vaguely familiar child. It took him a moment to recognize the boy, as he looked so different with his dark skin rich with color and his eyes bright and focused. Then, it clicked together in his mind, and he turned to raise an eyebrow at his partner.
Aziraphale was outright grinning now. “He’s improved so much, hasn’t he?”
“You did that?” Crowley knew that Aziraphale could work a few miracles, but this was more than he’d expected. “Angel, I’m impressed.”
“I gave him a nudge in the right direction.” Aziraphale was trying to appear modest and not exactly succeeding. “Of course, I can’t discount the good work of the doctors attending the child. I wouldn’t have been able to do all that on my own. But I’ll admit that I did use quite a lot of my own power to ensure his quick recovery.”
Crowley chuckled, delighted to see that everything had worked out even better than he’d hoped. “I knew you wouldn’t be able to resist helping.”
“Well, it isn’t every day that you decide to take up a charity case,” Aziraphale teased lightly. “But yes, my heart went out to the poor child. I’m quite grateful that you mentioned him to me.”
“All in a day’s work, Angel.” Crowley leaned back, content in a way that he couldn’t quite describe or explain the reasoning behind. “All in a day’s work.”