Rumors traveled fast in Heaven. And there was a new one making the rounds.
Of course, that rumor being the fact that Aziraphale was courting a demon. And they were certainly more than rumors. The two of them had been seen fraternizing in a park, they had even kissed. Like any former boss would be, Gabriel was rather angry that The Traitor had gotten himself into a relationship with The Enemy.
He was also rather upset by the way his sister and sibling had reacted.
"I am not doing recon." He crossed his arms. Michael slowly pinched their nose and took a deep breath. Uriel opened her mouth to reply but Michael waved at her to be quiet and let them talk.
"We don't know what these two are capable of, they survived Hellfire and Holy water respectively." They said, looking Gabriel in the eyes. He sneered at them, they rolled their eyes in response. "It has to be one of us to keep an eye on them, because we're the strongest of the Angels. And you are Aziraphale's former superior and Head of Earth Affairs. It's your job."
Gabriel tried to give him one of his Glares. The ones that made lesser angels and any demon shake with fear. Of course, it didn't work on his older sibling.
"Gabriel, please. Its just for a year." Michael snapped. "You can handle Earth for a year. And you'll have weekly visits to Heaven during that time."
"But what about R-"
"Gabriel." Michael sighed. "I miss him too, and I'm glad you've been looking for him. But its been over six thousand years, nothing is going to change in one more. And if he does show up, if we do find him, I'll come get you."
Gabriel didn't say anything, he just bit his tongue. Michael was right, but that didn't mean he had to be happy about it.
"Have a nice year, Michael. You too Uriel." He spat out his words. Uriel rolled her eyes, but Michael kept their face steeled.
"Have a nice year, brother."
As it turned out, watching The Traitor and The Enemy was very, very boring.
He had to take precautions at first, of course. Which kept him distracted for a few weeks. He had to keep a close eye on them, but he couldn't get too physically close. So he was kept occupied for a little bit by waiting for them to go somewhere so he could plant spyware. The bugs were an odd cross between ethereal and technological, but they did their job very well. Once The Traitor's bookshop, The Enemy's flat, and their usual table at The Ritz was sufficiently bugged, he had nothing to do.
The thing about The Traitor and The Enemy was that they never did anything.
It was the same old same old, every day.
He imagined that the two of them enjoyed the easy domesticity and routine, but it was so incredibly dull. There was so little variation. Sometimes they would pay a visit to Tadfield, going for a flight in the woods or checking up on The Antichrist. But that was the most variation that there was.
Gabriel was only one month into his recon mission, and it was already looking like it was going to be a very long year.
He learned a lot of useless information about them as well. Such as the fact that The Enemy liked to sleep for absolutely egregious lengths of time. And that The Traitor had an affinity to books of all types, including pulp fiction and trashy romance, not just the classics.
He also began to develop some little theories about them, out of sheer boredom. Like the fact that he was pretty certain that The Enemy had Fallen for the sin of Sloth, which was the most underwhelming of the Seven Deadlies if one were to ask Gabriel. The Enemy did do a lot of sleeping, and even more wandering around doing nothing of importance.
All in all, Gabriel was so bored that he just might discorporate. That was one of the reasons he had been so reluctant to do reconnaissance. It was just plain boring. A lot of sitting around waiting for something that may or may not happen.
The two of them had gone to Tadfield again, giving Gabriel the opportunity to poke around the bookshop for the first time in a week.
Nothing looked out of place. Nothing new. Nothing missing.
He sighed, rubbing his face. His next check-in with Heaven was just tomorrow. He couldn't wait to get this day over with. Gabriel was about to leave the upstairs portion of the bookshop, which he was fairly certain was off-limits to customers, when he caught something out of the corner of his eye. Something new.
A paper box, sitting on an low, easily-accessed shelf. It was very long but narrow, and decently deep. It looked like it may have once been white, but had since slowly faded into a washed out yellow. He picked it up. It felt very light, but something was definitely inside it, as he heard a small thump as something on the inside bumped against a wall of the box.
Curiosity piqued, Gabriel thumbed it open.
Inside were a handful of feathers. And not just any feathers, Angel feathers. And they were such a pure shade of black that they seemed to soak up the light around them, like black holes.
His hands were shaking uncontrollably. Hard enough that the box could have fallen to the ground, if he hadn't set it down on a nearby table. He took a feather out of the box, turning it over in his fingertips. Sure, some angels had dark wings. But nobody else had feathers that were pure black. Nobody except for Raphael. Who nobody had seen since the Fall.
How had The Traitor and The Enemy ended up with a box of Raphael's feathers? He didn't spend long mulling over it when he remembered a conversation a few days ago that one of his bugs had picked up.
"Damnit... Hngh." That was The Enemy.
Papers rustled. "Is something wrong, dear?"
"Agh, my wings. I think I'm going through a molt. Itches like Heaven."
One of them tsked, probably The Traitor. "Could I have a look at them?"
"If you want." There was a moment of silence, followed by feathers rustling.
More silence, for longer this time, then a sigh of relief. "Thanks, angel."
"No problem." Something thumped around, something that sounded like cardboard.
"What are you doing?" The Enemy spoke again.
"If you're going through a molt, it'll be easier to hold onto the feathers until you're done then destroy them all at once." The Traitor said, there was a sound like something being placed on a shelf. "It takes a lot of effort to get everything ready to deal with them."
Gabriel moved with uncharacteristic stiffness. He settled the box, with its cover still on, back in its spot. But he still held the feather he had picked out. A million small details were buzzing in the back of his head. Like the fact that the demon had red hair, just like Raphael. And wore sunglasses wherever he went, Raphael had an unnatural eye color and the demon was an Earth agent, so it would make sense to hide something like that.
He didn't know how he ended up back at the small flat that he had been using as a base of operations. And he still was hardly cognizant up until the point when he was holding a ringing phone in his hand. The person on the other side thankfully picked up.
"Does an Angel's wing color change when they Fall?" He didn't bother to say hello.
"Izzz zzat zze Archangel Gabbbriel? Who gavvvvve you zzzizzz numbbber?"
"Just answer the damn question, Beelzebub." He snapped.
"No. Vvvhy vvvould our vvvings change? Zzatz Zzupi-" He hung up halfway through their reply and slowly set the phone down.
Gabriel glanced back at the feather he still held in his hand, smoothing a finger across its surface. It's jet black color was off-putting compared to the pale grays and lavenders of the flat. It stood out like a sore thumb. Very dark and demonic-looking, now that he thought about it, but he shoved that thought to the back of his mind because this was Raphael. His brother.
What could he do?