On a cold dark winter night, you move down to kneel at your bed, ready to say your prayers. You pray for your best friend, who is trapped in a loveless marriage, desperate to break free. You pray for your housemate, who is struggling to raise her infant daughter on her own. You pray for your ex, who is plagued nightly by panic attacks. You pray for every suffering human, every endangered animal, for every threatened piece of nature. A stray thought about your own loneliness creeps into your mind, but you push it aside, because it is irrelevant, your personal problems are not nearly as pressing as other issues.
You climb into bed, turn off the lights, and stare at the ceiling, brooding for a bit before your eyelids start to feel heavy. You're at the edge of oblivion when you notice that the light seems to have gone back on. When you open your eyes, the brightness almost hurts and you shield your face, looking for the source of the light that is definitely not coming from your nightstand. The sun appears to have teleported to your room, a bright orb of white light right in the center of it, impossible to look directly at. After a few seconds, the room is shrouded in darkness again, as if nothing has happened. You blink a few times, sitting up on your bed and not daring to breathe while you let your eyes adjust to the darkness again.
"Be not afraid." You hear a gentle voice from the dark, and you scramble back against the wall, suddenly very much afraid. A man is standing in your room, a glowing man, with huge feathery wings, clad in white. Your head is spinning; you just stare as he smiles at you, waiting for you to react. Some part of your brain distantly reminds you that you know what this is, you've read about it countless times, but you still can't believe that it would happen here, now, to you of all people.
"You’re... are you ..." Your voice is quiet, trembling, but he understands what you are asking.
"An angel, yes." He beams at you, his wings fluttering slightly behind him.
You take a few deep breaths to calm yourself while he keeps smiling patiently at you.
"You’re real," you breathe, half question, half affirmation.
He nods at you, clasping his hands together. "I imagine you have more questions. Ask ahead, dear."
You sit up more straightly on your bed, trying to gather your confidence. You’re safe, a voice in the back of your mind keeps assuring you, and you concentrate on it. "What's... your name?"
"I am Aziraphale, the guardian of-"
"I know. I... I've read about you," you interrupt him, partly excited, panicked, and in disbelief that all of this is actually happening. "Why are you here? I'm not dying, am I?"
"Oh no, my dear, not at all. I'm here to reward you. See it as... a miracle, just for you." Aziraphale grins, taking a step towards you. You pry your eyes away from his wings for a moment to actually look at the ethereal being in front of you. His hair is white and curly; his eyes are bright, almost shining with an intensity of love that somehow makes you simultaneously want to look away, but also to never look at anything else, ever.
His smile is honest, open, and you find yourself relaxing a bit more under his gaze. He's wearing a white cloak, the fabric laced with golden threads. His exposed hands look soft, but also strong, like the rest of his figure. Even if he didn’t have wings, those eyes alone would have convinced you that he must be otherworldly.
"Reward... for what?" you wonder, snapping out of your quiet admiration.
Aziraphale slowly moves closer again, standing at the edge of your bed. "Well, let's say the Almighty is very pleased with you. You have a kind and generous heart. Although you struggle with your own happiness, you make everyone around you feel loved and supported. It's very rare, you see, and it doesn't go unnoticed," he explains, pointing his index finger upwards, towards heaven.
"I... I'm… t-thank you. But- I'm sorry, but I still don’t understand..." you gasp, thinking that all of this is a bit too good to be true, thinking that someone must be playing a trick on you, that maybe there are hidden cameras and someone will tell you that you're on a TV show any minute now.
"You have nothing to apologize for, my dear. I understand that this is a lot to process." The angel sits down on the edge of your bed, still looking at you with that smile that makes you want to drown in his eyes. "Just know that I am not here to ask anything of you, and you do not need to justify yourself before me. I'm here because you needed me, and you are free to express yourself however you wish. We can talk for a while, if you'd like. Or we could take a walk. It is such a lovely night outside."
Aziraphale’s smile is kind and bright and close, and you find yourself blushing, not quite knowing how to react. You finally attempt to smile back at him but all your face can form is a confused expression. "Thank you... this is... some part of me still thinks I'm dreaming."
"Oh I assure you that I am quite real, my dear," the angel says with a smirk, reaching out to lightly place his hand over yours, which is still clutching the blanket. His skin really does feel soft, and warm; you feel your own hand pleasantly tingle from the contact.
"Can I... can I touch your wings?" you breathe before you can stop yourself.