A/N: Before the addition of author's notes, the fic is 1,977 words long. 33 under the limit, bi-otches!
"Good Omens" and all affiliated suchlike are property of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. I'm using it without permission and am not making profit. Doansue!
Not for the "42 Days" challenge, but inspired by it. The fic that's actually in the running is a Saiyuki vignette called "42 Days" - See how inventive I am? But this fic had to be written, and so I did it.
Warnings: death and probable OOC
"Forty-two days. Forty-two bloody days."
The demon Crowley stalked through the night. He usually liked stalking in darkness; it gave him a sense of pride in the uniform, so to speak. This night, though, the effect was mitigated by a low streak of royal blue curses, blessings, and various irked noises issuing from his mouth.
"Not like I'm desperate or anything," muttered Crowley, glaring at the ground before his feet. "But it couldn't kill him to drop a line!"
Behind Crowley, cracks in the pavement jutted further toward the sky at just the right angles to catch shoes of tomorrow's pedestrian. Streetlamps sputtered and died; at certain points in Crowley's litany, the bulbs exploded from the stress. The air around Crowley seethed, steaming from his shoulders and tangling in his hair. A young lady approached him with a lurid smile, but before she came within three yards one of her stiletto heels collapsed, sending her careening into a lamppost. The yellow glow disappeared as soon as Crowley set foot within it, walking on.
There were times when Crowley had gone for decades, nay, centuries without so much as hearing Aziraphale's name. He had functioned in reasonable contentment, with a few glaring exceptions, with or without Aziraphale. Even in the earlier days of the Agreement, they only met once every few years at their most frequent. Sometimes Aziraphale would send him a message detailing the wonderful little mundane practices that Aziraphale thought should appear in a letter to an acquaintance. It was just the sort of thing Aziraphale did. Crowley, more often than not, would slog through the pages of neat script just because it was something to do. And then, to make up for the break, he would wreak some minor havoc with the neighbor's chickens.
As age gave way to age and communication became easier, more reliable, Aziraphale's correspondences grew farther and farther apart. Crowley surmised that it was because they had begun to spend more and more time in one another's company. This, of course, did not mean weekly playdates, but they met often enough and for long enough that each developed a certain understanding of the other.
One of the principle points was that Crowley only really met with Aziraphale for the angel's sake. To create a backlog in the paper and pencil industries that would throw off demand figures and give quite a few economists a massive migraine. To annoy a postman who had walked all the way to Crowley's letterbox to find he had nothing to shove inside. To spare Crowley the waste of time reading those letters had really been.
Crowley had not seen Aziraphale for forty-two days, and he stalked at a human's pace through the streets to build up a really good head of steam. Crowley had survived centuries without the angel, had endured months or years between the neat letters, had functioned perfectly well without a companion that acted as the conscience he wasn't supposed to have.
But these past forty-two days have driven the demon Crowley to distraction. Even when he took special care to craft a really bothersome bit of radio interference, Crowley could only concentrate for a few minutes. Crowley had Ears on his mind.
The kitten's full name was Edgar Winthrop Hershey, out of Crowley's sense of humor, but Aziraphale had taken to calling him "Ears" for short. Aziraphale had, of course, gotten Crowley's joke, but decided not to humor the demon on this count.
Ears was a tiny, white ball of fluff with one clouded blue eye. The tip of his tail was chocolate brown, but his little nose and the pads of his paws were pink. They had found him one day, huddled in a shoebox, emaciated and diseased. Aziraphale had immediately taken the kitten into his hands and into his care, and dragged an unsuspecting Crowley along for the ride.
Aziraphale absolutely refused to use his heavenly powers to heal the kitten, and once Ears got his name Crowley knew the fuzz-ball would be permanently wormed into Aziraphale's welcoming heart. Crowley hadn't wanted the kitten to have a name, knowing the thing didn't have a snowball's chance in The Old Country, but Aziraphale had insisted with that cherubic, pleading look of his.
Ears was christened, or cursed, depending on how one looked at it. And Crowley had gone on his way, letting Aziraphale fret over his adopted charge. That was forty-two days ago.
Crowley stalked past the shop next to Aziraphale's, leering right back at those who leered at him. Crowley's looks were not lustful, but murderous. As a would-be molestor skittered off into the night, Crowley rapped impatiently on Aziraphale's door.
He knew the angel would not be at his flat, knew Aziraphale had clumsily built Ears his own incubator out of a few odd bits of board, some nails, and a sunlamp. This incubator rested in the back room of the bookshop, and Crowley guessed Aziraphale hadn't spent much time out in the front.
"Angel!" Crowley hissed, and the air seething around him made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. Crowley said it once, and only once, listening carefully. Aziraphale wasn't asleep. Aziraphale didn't really see the need to do it more than once a week, sort of like breathing. Crowley listened and waited, clenching his fists.
Finally, slowly and with a bit of a shudder, Aziraphale opened the door to the bookshop. Crowley burst inside and grabbed at the angel's collar.
"I felt it. Why didn't you tell me?" Crowley stared hard through his sunglasses at Aziraphale. The angel's eyes were bloodshot, his nose was red, and his lower lip trembled.
"I...I'm sorry," he whimpered. That made Crowley give pause, lighten his grip. Aziraphale might at some points declare, muse, or intone, but he had never whimpered in Crowley's presence. Aziraphale was continuing on, muttering, "I know I should have called you, but..."
Crowley let Aziraphale go. "He made it a long time," said Crowley, and fell silent. Aziraphale straightened his collar and wrapped his arms about himself.
"I know it was bound to happen sooner or later, but I always forget how absolutely dreadful the whole process is. I was getting some food out for him and..." Aziraphale trailed off for the second time, shaking his head.
Crowley had to suppress a smile at that. Aziraphale must have really cared, to remember to feed Ears so often. The angel often forgot to feed himself. "I know it's bad. But..." Crowley stopped. He really wasn't suited to the whole comforting job and was unsure whether or not he might offend Aziraphale.
Sure, Ears' death was inevitable. But he knew Aziraphale had cared for the kitten as if it might live forever under his hands. And he knew, despite his badder nature, that he wanted to know when Ears went. That was why he was at the bookshop in the first place, wasn't it? To confront Aziraphale about how lax he was in notifying Crowley. When they both knew each could feel the death as well as the other.
Aziraphale was terrible when he cried. Crowley had only seen it once before, under far more dire circumstances, but he never put it past the angel to spare a tear for the unfortunate fauna in his path. The pale, angelic skin would become translucent and pink, his nose raw, his eyes reddened. He looked about to fall apart.
Crowley sighed. Aziraphale could be such an absolute sissy sometimes.
"Hey," he said softly, bending over a bit so he could see Aziraphale's face. "Do you want me to...you know..."
"No!" Aziraphale cried. Guilt flashed over his face. "I mean...you wouldn't..."
Crowley shrugged. "You're right. I wouldn't. How about this, then. We let him rest in his little box for tonight and talk about how to deal with it in the morning." Crowley paused, and when Aziraphale's watery, blue eyes locked on his face, he added, "Okay?"
"It couldn't hurt..."
Crowley smiled as gently as he could. "Right, then." He clapped the angel's shoulder in a way he hoped conveyed comforting camaraderie, and nudged him toward one of the dusty chairs by the bookshelves, kicking the front door shut as he walked.
Aziraphale plopped down and pulled a handkerchief from the breast pocket of his shirt. Even in this state, Aziraphale was well-dressed, his collar and cuffs buttoned and pressed. Crowley gave Aziraphale's shoulders an extra little shove, forcing the angel to relax into the chair. "Sleep. No buts."
And then Crowley sat down on the floor, pulled his knees up, and relaxed against hardwood shelving. Aziraphale stared at him in silence for a few moments, then leaned his head back and closed his eyes.
An angel asleep is the look of a human in death. Without speech, there is no need to breathe. Without consciousness, there are no vital signs of life. Crowley watched Aziraphale for a long time, and wondered what it would be like if that were true. He stopped after a while, realizing he did not like considering life without the angel, and did not like that realization.
Crowley must have fallen asleep, because when he next opened his eyes sunlight was filtering in, in yellow and brown, through the bookshop's windows. He had a terrible crick in his neck and his lower back ached from being held in one position all night, but he forced himself upright to check on Aziraphale.
To make up for his earlier kindness, and to rid himself of the image of a dead angel, he shook Aziraphale awake.
"Mm? Crowley? What are you...oh. Oh." Aziraphale rubbed his eyes. "I haven't...ever slept that long." He took a moment to gain his bearings, running his hand through his hair. "Crowley, I don't think I can go back there."
Crowley rolled his head on his shoulders, stretching out the soreness of his neck. "If you make me do it, I dispose of him my way."
Aziraphale looked about ready to burst into tears again. Crowley held up well for a few moments, but relented when the angel's lip began to tremble.
"Okay. I'll go with you. I'll hold your hand if that works. But I can't possibly give someone proper religious burial rites. Not even a kitten. I'd be flayed." Crowley noticed belatedly that neither of them had yet said the animal's name. He tried it out. "Let's go see Edgar. Let's go see Ears." He grabbed Aziraphale's hand without looking for a reaction to the name, knowing already that it was a mistake.
Crowley did not hold Aziraphale's hand the entire time, but he did spend the day with Aziraphale, did follow him around while he prepared a shoebox with some tissues to be Ears' final home.
Once the sun went down, Crowley walked with Aziraphale to the patch of grass by the duck pond. And he blocked Aziraphale from view, used his power to make a grave, and glared murderously through his sunglasses at any passerby foolish enough to stare.
Aziraphale put the shoebox into the ground, murmuring gently. His voice cracked a few times, and it was not long before the tears came again. Crowley replaced the earth while Aziraphale cried.
When Aziraphale got back to his feet, Crowley walked with him, shoulder-to-shoulder, back to the bookshop.
"I'll deal with the back room," he said, and when Aziraphale dutifully shook his head, Crowley stood firm. He left the angel in the dusty chair that had been Aziraphale's bed and had the back room clean in seconds.
As he boiled a bit of water for tea, Crowley stared at the mug and promised himself he would commit all sorts of sins, orchestrate any manner of troubles, tempt myriad souls. Tomorrow. And Crowley brought the mug of tea out to Aziraphale to help the angel sleep again.
To understand the humor behind "Edgar Winthrop Hershey", we must do a bit of research. Edgar Allen Poe wrote "The Raven", which is black. Winthrop is the second youngest son of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., son of John D. Rockefeller, who made his fortune in oil refinery. Oil is black. Milton Hershey made his fortune in chocolate, which is dark brown. Ears is a white kitten. Ah-hahaha.
I'm on a real symbolism tangent, and I hope some people picked up on some of it. I'm no Salinger, but I practice. XP