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Five Things that Never Happened to Aziraphale

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I

'You should build a great city, and civilise the area,' Aziraphale said to the young warlord he'd taken up with. 'Marry a nice girl – like that chap's daughter. He can help finance your wars against the invaders.'

'All right,' said the warlord, who was a pleasant and tractable young man. So he married the girl Aziraphale pointed out to him, and used her father's money to build up an army. He didn't think much of his father-in-law's taste in furniture, but not all wedding presents could be well-armed soldiers.

'Unify the country, dear,' Aziraphale said. 'All these petty kingdoms are a weakness the Saxons can exploit.'

'All right,' said the warlord, and talked some of the neighbouring kingdoms into joining him, and fought the others. Luckily, he had some sisters to hand out as wives to his new friends.

'Sleep with your sister,' Crowley hissed. 'She's awfully pretty.'

'Crowley!' Aziraphale said, shocked. 'This is my project and I won't have you interfering. Go invent a horrid cult somewhere else.'

'I have to tempt and use demonic wiles, it's my job,' Crowley said.

'Go and do it elsewhere,' Aziraphale muttered and went back to work. He was highly irritated to discover that while his attention had been diverted the warlord had slept with his sister, and got her pregnant. 'Blast,' he said. 'Look, um, marry her off to one of the kings far away. The scandal will die down soon enough.'

'All right,' said the warlord gratefully, and found a king who was more or less loyal but who lived a very long way away.

Aziraphale was very pleased to see Crowley head off north with the bridal party. The poor girl was looking awfully peaky. It was really all for the best to have Crowley along in case her health took a turn for the worse.

Aziraphale got back to work secure in the knowledge that as long as Crowley stayed with Morgause, he couldn't do too much mischief. It was quite safe to put him out of mind.

 

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II

 

'Oh, go on,' Aziraphale said drunkenly, clutching in Crowley's general direction.

'No,' Crowley said icily in an offended voice.

'Go on, just let me --,' Aziraphale said, pawing at him clumsily.

'Hands off!'

'It won't be so bad, dear boy, it'll be good for you in a way, broaden your horizons,' Aziraphale giggled, grabbing the squirming Crowley securely.

'No! Stop it! Get your bloody hands --,' Crowley said in a suddenly panicked tone.

'Hah!' Aziraphale squealed, brandishing the car keys he had managed to filch and collapsing more or less into the Bentley's driver's seat.

'Don't you dare start the engine,' Crowley hissed as Aziraphale did just that. With a shriek of mixed fury and fear Crowley sprang into the passenger seat and grabbed at the still giggling angel.

'Is that the accelerator?' Aziraphale asked, stamping down hard on the pedal he was peering at.

'Aaaah!' Crowley screamed, shielding his eyes as they shot off, narrowly missing an oncoming bus. He clung on to the door and gibbered in fear.

Deep in his actually quite sober mind, Aziraphale allowed himself to revel in gleeful spite.

 

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III

 

Aziraphale sipped his brandy and looked idly round his club. Most of the members currently present were happily ensconced in armchairs, reading the paper and smoking cigars. A filthy habit really, smoking. But still, one couldn't understand the human condition if one stayed aloof and disapproving. Aziraphale took another deep drag on his cigar and felt quite virtuous. All these dear chaps smoked continually, and he really did have to fit in. Besides, he liked the smell.

Keeping an eye on the very nice new waiter who was currently going around silently lighting the gas lamps, Aziraphale forced his attention back to the young man who was wittering in his ear. He supposed it was necessary to bring new members in, but this young fellow was frightfully earnest and high-minded. Aziraphale didn't think he really fit in, even if his uncle was keen to propose him for membership.

'Do go on, dear chap,' he murmured, aware that the earnest voice had stopped and he was now being gazed at bashfully from a pair of earnest blue eyes. 'Do go on, Ernest – er, Edmund,' he repeated. 'You were telling me about your service in India?'

'It's all so different,' the young man said. 'It's hard to explain what it's like out there.'

'Lots of elephants?' Aziraphale said brightly, slightly annoyed that he couldn't get rid of his serious young companion.

'I – I hope you don't mind me saying so, but I feel I can really talk to you,' Edmund said, and even more earnest expression crossing his face.

Aziraphale nodded in a very kindly manner and thought about getting a spot of dinner. The club always served a good dinner on a Friday. He rather thought he would like nice rare beef cut so thinly it would be almost possible to see through it if a slice were held up to the light. He dreamed about having lots and lots of nice thin slices, and then found his attention snapping back to the young man who was now leaning in close and whispering.

'I beg your pardon? What did you say?' he asked.

Edmund went scarlet and sat back hurriedly.

'I'm sorry,' he said, 'You must think me quite intolerable, I do apolog—'

'No, no,' Aziraphale said, eyes wide. 'What happened after your friend said he'd lick your hands?'

'Oh, after we'd slept we managed to reach the native regiment we had gone to find, but that's not really what I wanted to talk about,' Edmund said quickly.

'Pity,' Aziraphale said in disappointment.

'I don't think I deserved the distinction I received,' Edmund said. 'Why me, why not him? Because he is a working man? Because officers are assumed to be responsible for things that go well? It's not fair!' he concluded passionately, ignoring the irritated looks from other members.

'You're very loyal to your friend,' Aziraphale said approvingly.

'Oh, he's not my friend,' Edmund said quickly, 'It's not done to have friends in the ranks.'

'Mmmm,' Aziraphale smiled. 'So you just saved each other's lives on a more or less continual basis, you picked him for your secret mission, without any discussion of his abilities, entertained some – um, interesting – suggestions from him and now feel the need to talk at great length about him out of a sense of noblesse oblige? Where is your friend?'

'Still in India,' Edmund said. 'Having received the VC I was granted leave to come home and see my family, but he had to stay behind. He shared all my hardships yet he had to stay while I came home!'

'It's never easy to be parted from a person you love,' Aziraphale said gently and sighed to see the panic in the innocent young face. Silly humans, he thought as the protestations started. He leaned forward and caught Edmund's chin in one hand. 'When you go back, you tell your friend what you've told me about how you feel,' he said firmly.

'Sir, I don't think that I have told you --,' Edmund stammered.

'Oh, I think you've told me quite a lot – it's all right, dear boy. Now, pay attention. You're not immortal, you have only this brief span of life. You can't wait round forever, hoping for the perfect moment when the perfect words will pop into your brain. You just tell him, promise?'

Edmund nodded, his eyes scared and round, and Aziraphale let him go, smiled and stood up.

'Well then. If you'll excuse me?'

'But what if he's disgusted by me?' Edmund said.

'Oh, I don't think that'll be a problem,' Aziraphale said as kindly as he could and left before he started laughing at the poor boy. 'I'll lick yer hands' indeed, he thought, giggling to himself as he went in search of dinner.

 

* * *

 

IV

 

'My name's Aziraphale, and I'm an alcoholic.'

'Hello, Aziraphale.'

'Um. I – er – had a drink yesterday with a friend – er – an acquaintance of mine. I usually go drinking with him. We drink about the same amount, but he doesn't feel he has a problem. Sorry? Oh. About two or three bottles of wine each, I'd say. Or more. No, not every day. Sometimes a long time goes by without us seeing each other. I don't like drinking alone – no one to split the bill with, ha ha. Um. Sorry. Ah – anyway, we've drunk together for a long time – pardon? Oh, since wine was invented really. Er. At least that's what it feels like. But I think maybe I should stop. It's gone on long enough. I want to go out without getting plastered. It's affecting my work, and, and – well I know you won't really understand what I mean, but I don't really feel all that angelic when I'm that drunk. That's all, really.'

'Thank you, Aziraphale. That was very brave. Now if there's no one else? Oh – yes, you. The other new person.'

'Hi. My name's Crowley and I'm your worst nightmare.'

Screams.

Running feet.

Laughter.

A rather disapproving tsk-tsk sound.

'Was that necessary? Do you go out of your way to embarrass me?'

'I rarely have to go out of my way. So. Not all that angelic, huh?'

'Shut up.'

'Want to go for a drink?'

'Oh . . . all right. But you're paying.'

 

 

* * *

 

V

 

It was terrible, being an angel. He was trapped for all eternity with a girl with a sickly sweet smile and a lilting Northern Irish accent. What a faker, he thought. And Michael's hair was awful and he was quite sure the archangel hadn't been quite so mopey in the past, and a large middle-aged woman kept giving him folksy advice until he was yearning for his flaming sword and felt the righteous urge to smite and smite and smite flare up within his heart.

Something shook him, and he opened his eyes with a jolt.

'You were snoring,' Crowley said with an evil grin.

'Not me,' Aziraphale said. 'Let's not watch this programme anymore, it's revolting.'

Crowley laughed and turned the volume up.

 

 

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