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Angel

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Anthony J. Crowley was not having a good day. It was going to be, in fact, arguably the most important day of his life, but he didn’t know that then, not while he was climbing a ladder in Gabriel’s clothing shop trying to rescue a cat who’d gotten stuck in the ceiling.

The cat’s name was Frances. Crowley called her that because no one else had named her yet and he liked to greet her when she entered his garden and flower shop. She was a stray cat who roamed the row of businesses on Dormand Street, from the cafe on one end to Gabriel’s High-End Heaven to Crowley’s place, Eden, to the jewelry boutique next door called Bee’s, and on down to the bakery on the other corner. Crowley put food out for Frances regularly, and sometimes she ate it, so of everyone on the street, she seemed to like Crowley best. Which was why when Gabriel discovered that he had a cat in his ventilation system, he stormed over and demanded that Crowley remove her before she got any cat hair on his wares.

It wasn’t a very busy morning, just a Tuesday before lunch, and so the cat rescue was the most interesting thing going on in the street at the moment. Bee drifted over from their shop, and one of the bakers came by. Crowley was not terribly pleased to be making a spectacle of himself. 

“What on earth are you doing up there?” he called to the cat. “Come on, Frances, love, it’s just me, you know me. Come down, I’ll take you next door, we’ll have a nice chat over a bit of tuna, you can run about the greenhouse.”

“You sound ridiculous saying sweet things like that,” observed Bee. “Not your nature.”

Crowley shot them a glare. Bee was short, with black hair. They owned the jewelry shop next door which sold expensive, mostly insect-themed jewelry, like dragonflies, butterflies, and the play on their creator’s name: bees. Crowley thought the jewelry was cute enough, and Bee made an okay neighbor. Better than Gabriel on the other side. Gabriel was a tall, handsome asshole who did not possess a sense of humor. He thought he did, though, which is why he took delight in doing things like misnaming Bee’s shop. (If the first two shops in a row were Heaven and Eden, then according to Gabriel, Bee’s place must be Hell. Gabriel did not get on with Bee—Crowley couldn’t imagine why—especially since the height of his wit was to keep with both themes, the insects and the religious nonsense, and call Bee Lord of the Flies.)

So Crowley wasn’t climbing to ridiculous heights in Heaven on this gray Tuesday morning to relieve Gabriel of his troubles. He just figured Gabriel and Frances probably shouldn’t spend too much time together.

In retrospect, Crowley probably should have known better than to climb a ladder today, because so far it had been the kind of day where everything seemed fated to go wrong. Crowley hadn’t gotten his order of cut flowers in that morning, delayed by all the snow they’d had, and he’d broken a pot almost first thing, and later a vase. A customer had yelled at him for no reason Crowley could divine—apparently yelling at shop owners just made some people feel better.

And of course, Gabriel was yelling at him now, telling him to watch where he put his fingers, which, to be fair, were always at least a little bit dirty (hazards of running a garden shop), but also to be fair, Crowley hadn’t actually planned to touch any of Gabriel’s fancy clothes, until Gabriel had started yelling at him about it. Then it seemed quite the idea. In fact, he’d also love it if Frances managed to get quite a lot of cat hair on everything as well.

When Crowley got to the top of the step ladder, he still couldn’t reach the ceiling, so he had to put one foot on a hastily-cleared hat shelf. It wavered a little, but seemed solid enough, so he rested his weight on it and took his foot off the ladder, stretching up toward Frances. 

The next few seconds were a little confusing. Crowley eventually realized that he was lying on the floor of Gabriel’s shop, and so were a couple of other things: the ladder, a broken shelf, and some clothes. Frances was sitting on his stomach, peering at him.

“Decided to come down, did you?” Crowley asked. Or he meant to. But the words didn’t come out. Crowley realized that Bee was peering down at him, looking very concerned. They were talking on the phone.

“You fell, Crowley,” they said, and Crowley guessed it must have been true. It was, in fact, probably why he didn’t seem able to move. Frances stopped sniffing at him and darted away, and then things got hazy again.

When Crowley next woke up, he was lying on a bed, but the bed was moving. This was fairly confusing, as was all the noise and the lights and the people all talking at once.

“Anthony?” someone asked, but he didn’t recognize the voice. That probably made it okay that he didn’t answer, right?

“Not responsive,” the voice said.

Crowley just stared up at the white ceiling with bright white lights, and feeling more and more like he wanted to get up and run away, except his body wouldn’t move— 

And then someone was there above him, looking down at him with the most beautiful smile Crowley had ever seen. In fact, Crowley realized, this person might have been the most beautiful man he had ever seen. He had blue eyes and soft white-blond curls and a rounded face that looked perfect holding a smile like that, like it was made for it, the full cheeks giving the smile more room to grow.

“Hello, Anthony,” said the man. “Not feeling your best, I see? We’ll get you fixed up, my dear, don’t worry.”

The man’s faced tilted up and he seemed to be listening to other people talking to him. Crowley couldn’t really hear what they were saying though. At least the bed came to a stop. He tried to focus on the beautiful man. Was he wearing tartan-patterned scrubs?

The man looked back down at Crowley and smiled again. “You’ve had a nasty knock on the head. You know, if you’re going to chase cats, you really ought to learn to land like them, feet first.” Crowley wanted to laugh, but he made no sound.

The blond man seemed very pleased, though. “Oh! You’ve smiled at that. I’m flattered, my jokes are all terrible. But I’m glad to know you’re hearing me. I’ll clear some things up for you, then. You’re in the emergency ward. I’m one of the nurses here, and my name is Aziraphale. It’s a big silly name, I know, don’t worry, we never ask anyone to spell it. I’m going to check you over to see how things are with your head and neck, all right?”

The man’s hands were soft and warm, and wherever they moved over Crowley’s head and face, the pain seemed to dim a little. Crowley only realized at that point that he was in pain, actually, a rather large amount of pain. Aziraphale frowned slightly, just at the same time. “It hurts, I know. Don’t worry, my dear, we’ll get that taken care of as soon as we can. I believe you’ve got a concussion, but it doesn’t seem serious. You’ve got no dashing battle wound, I’m afraid, not even much of a goose egg. I hope you didn’t have your heart set on a romantic scar across your forehead to charm all the, ah—well, whoever it is you’d like to charm, Anthony.” Aziraphale smiled again, with just a hint of color to his cheeks.

You, Crowley wanted to say, and he wanted to say it so badly, to this beautiful man with the soft hands and soft smile and oh, how soft would the skin of his cheek be, if Crowley could touch that with his own fingers?

Fortunately, Crowley didn’t say any of that. Even more fortunately, he did actually say something. “It’s Crowley.”

If the earlier smile on Aziraphale’s face had been beautiful, this one was glorious. Aziraphale looked absolutely delighted and Crowley nearly shivered with the knowledge that he was the cause of Aziraphale’s happiness. God, if he could figure out how to reliably do that, he would be a blessed man.

“There you are,” Aziraphale said fondly. “I knew you weren’t really the silent type. So you go by Crowley. That’s good to know. How are you feeling, Crowley?”

“Can’t quite—move.”

A look of concern flashed over Aziraphale’s face, very quickly, and then was gone and the smile returned. “Well, they’ve got you strapped down rather well, my dear. Sometimes people with head injuries can be a little combative, and we’re trying to protect your spine. I wouldn’t worry too much about it just yet. I’m afraid I’ve got more questions for you, though. Do you know what day it is?”

“Tuesday. January—I never know what day it is. Sorry.”

“That’s good enough. And do you remember where I said you were?”

“Hospital.”

“Excellent. And what do you do for a living, Crowley?”

“Garden and flower shop. I own a shop.”

This made Aziraphale look delighted again, and now Crowley had done it twice. “Oh, how wonderful,” the nurse said. “I just love flowers. Suppose I have to, working in a hospital, we see enough of them. But they always brighten everyone’s day. All right, one more, my dear. How many of me do you see?”

Crowley told him the truth. “One, thank God. Don’t think I could handle two of you.”

There was a snort of laughter from someone else close by, but Crowley couldn’t see who it was. He could see Aziraphale, see his mouth drop open as he looked at whoever was laughing, see his skin flush a pretty, rather delicate pink. Aziraphale’s eyes flicked to Crowley, and then away, and then back again, and the blush was only getting worse. “Well,” he said. “I can see you’re nothing but trouble, my heavens. It’s lucky for me you’re headed upstairs and out of my arena.”

It was like being told that it was going to rain when you were about to start out for a day at the beach. Crowley felt cold suddenly at the thought of going somewhere else in this building where he knew no one, where he couldn’t even move, where he couldn’t see Aziraphale. 

He startled when he felt a warm hand on his cheek, and looked up into Aziraphale’s face. The man was smiling very reassuringly now. “You’re going to be all right,” he said softly. “Probably walk out of here in an hour or two. They’ve just got to run an x-ray and I’m sure it will show that everything is just fine.”

Crowley knew that everything was not fine, his head hurt and he couldn’t move, and he didn’t want to be lied to, damn it, but when he looked up into Aziraphale’s face, somehow he believed everything the man said.

oOo

As it turned out, Aziraphale had been right. Not long after he went upstairs, Crowley’s headache dropped to a dull pain. And after the x-ray, when they removed the restraints, Crowley’s limbs worked, his hands, his feet, although a little sluggishly. He was even able to sit up.

After a while, a doctor came into the room where they’d stashed Crowley. She had long dark hair caught up at the base of her head and round glasses. “Evening!” she said. “I’m Dr. Device. Heard you took a knock on your head.”

“Yeah, I fell,” Crowley told her. “There was a cat,” he added, as an explanation.

Dr. Device looked at him closely for a second, and then she pulled a set of x-rays out of a folder and put them up on a light board. A nurse stepped into the room as well, wearing pink scrubs. Aziraphale was the only nurse Crowley had seen wearing tartan. The nurse and doctor looked at the x-rays for a moment before the doctor said, “Oh. So the angel’s in the ER today.”

“Yeah, they won the coin toss this morning,” the nurse told her.

Dr. Device turned back to Crowley. “Well, you don’t have a concussion. We’ll get you some discharge instructions, and you need to be more careful on ladders, all right?”

“Angel?” Crowley asked.

The doctor smirked. “Hospital’s got a bit of a good luck charm, that’s all. Nice to meet you, Mr. Crowley, hope I don’t see you again.” And with that, she was gone.

The nurse was more chatty. “He’s a float nurse, so all the wards fight over him. Ambulance crew too. When he’s around, oh, there’s just something in the air. Surgeries go without complications, infections clear up, broken bones turn out to be sprains. Even family members all get along. At the very least he’s lucky to have on your ward. At the most, well—” She nodded toward the x-rays.

There was no doubt in Crowley’s mind. “You mean Aziraphale.”

The nurse smiled fondly. “That’s our angel.”