Somewhere in the Palestine, 5 b.C.(1)
A haggard-looking shepherd who looked vaguely out of place amidst the bustling urban miscellanea shuffled across crowded streets and slumped down next to a blind beggar, who tensed upon the arrival. After a few seconds of inertia from the shepherd’s part, he finally relaxed, scooting over to make more room. If any curious wanderer had stopped and listened in on the two (though that wasn’t technically achievable by a mortal being), they’d have found their conversation rather odd indeed.
“Gabriel was here,” the beggar said, twiddling with two denarius(2) he’d recently acquired.
“I know,” the shepherd mumbled against his cloak in near exasperation, “paid me a visit, he did.”
“Ah,” the twinge of amusement in the first man’s voice was barely audible, “how’d that go, then?”
The shepherd frowned, the wrinkles on his forehead getting more pronounced as he struggled with a word that could both express annoyance and not get him Felled. Finally, he settled on a half-hearted “Alright.”
“Good alright or bad alright?”
“Alright alright. He asked me about the sword.”
“Oh? So why are you still in possession of a corporation? Unless,” he feigned a gasp, “Oh, angel.”
“I didn’t lie, if that’s what you’re inferring.”
“Never. I was just commenting on how amazingly flexible and understanding Gabriel is about that sort of thing.”
“I merely told him it was in its rightful place,” he sniffed.
“Ah. Twisting the truth. Clearly not a softer form of what is clearly a lie.”
“Don’t push your luck, Crowley.”
The beggar, Crowley, however, was not terribly fond of taking orders, so he inspired just a tiny bit of Envy on the girl who dropped him a dupondius(2). Later, she’d be consumed by it with such force that both her sister and her lover would be dead by dawn.
“You’d be discorporated by now,” the shepherd said.
“I’d be discorporated the moment you sat down, but I’m not. What do you want, Aziraphale?”
Aziraphale sighed and pushed himself even further against the wall. Well. Out with it, then, “Gabriel was here.”
“Look, are we going anywhere with this?”
“Listen, Crowley. Archangels don’t just drop down for a leisurely stroll. Something’s going to happen. Something big. Massive, in fact.”
“Huh. And what exactly do you want to accomplish telling me this?”
“I’m giving you a warning, Crowley. If you mess things up, I’m not going to discorporate you.”
At this, Crowley’s eyebrow shot up from underneath the blindfold, “Oh?”
“No. No, I’m not going to discorporate you. I’m going to douse myself in holy oil – spare me the lewd jokes, Crowley – and set myself on fire.”
“Ooh. Can I watch?”
“No. You’ll be drowning in a tub of holy water.”
“There’s always a catch.”
“I’m not joking, Crowley, this is going to be gargantuan. It may possibly change the very Earth we inhabit.”
“Really, now? And what’s your role in the oh-so-important scheme?”
Aziraphale paused, “I, um, why would I tell you?”
“You don’t have one.”
“Of course I have one. It’s just… not quite clear.”
“It’s okay that they’re not telling you. Nobody tells me anything, either.”
“I do too have a purpose!”
“Oh, fine. I don’t know. But that’s alright, I suppose. With it being ineffable and all.”
“I’m going to slam your head against the wall.”
“Well, it is.”
There’s a long pause until Crowley finally runs his fingers through his dark hair and says, “You know what I am?”
“Bored, Aziraphale. I’m bored.”
“Of being a beggar, mostly.”
“Oh, come on, you were a Patrician just last century.”
“And do I miss it.”
“So what? Start over? What are you going to be next time, a Senator?”
“Tempting, but no,” he bit his lip, “I’m done with Rome.”
“That’s all well and good, but Rome is all there is.”
“Nonsense. I heard North is the way to go, now.”
“How far North?”
“Britannia is getting annoyingly good without a demonic influence, or so I’ve been told.”
“Where do you hear such rumours, Crowley?”
“Made them up, just now. Brittania it is, then. Wouldn’t want to ruin your big, big plans.”
“Or get yourself actually killed, I’d wager,” Aziraphale chimed.
“That too, I suppose.”
“So… we’re going up, then?”
“Yep. Wait, wait. We?”
“Well, obviously I can’t let you run around unthwarted up there. Awfully unprofessional.”
“What about the great role you’re to play in great things to come?”
Aziraphale managed a sliver of a smile, “Oh, I’m sure they can find a replacement.”
“Ah, yes. A replacement for a nonexistent job. I’m sure they’ll manage, yes.”
Aziraphale elbowed him hard in the ribs.
Roughly nine months later, something very big indeed happened. It involved an orbiting rock made of gas, named after a presumably conceited scientist many years later(3), a pregnant woman who wasn’t all that happy about it, a census, a quick migration to Bethlehem that went awfully wrong, and a barn.
Aziraphale and Crowley remained blissfully ignorant.