Author: afrai
Summary: "Look, can't we talk about this?"
Disclaimer: Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's, not mine.
Notes: For Nny.

Child's Play

"Look, can't we talk about this?"

Aziraphale looked innocent. It was a look that would have worked somewhat better if he hadn't been waving a whacking great sword at Crowley.

Not that Crowley had anything against weapons, as such. He just didn't like them in the general vicinity of his head. He was an open-minded demon, but there were times when a touch of prejudice could be excused. This, Crowley considered, was one of those times.

"I was under the impression that we were talking," said Aziraphale sweetly, and lunged. Crowley darted out of the way, narrowly avoiding crashing into a bookshelf.

Really, anyone would be annoyed by imminent death or maiming. Crowley wasn't sure if the fact that this particular weapon was currently being wielded by an angelically curly-haired twelve-year-old boy in a laughably old-fashioned school uniform made the situation better, or worse.

"You're being unreasonable," he said, yelping as Aziraphale stabbed at the air around him. "Look, I can see you're annoyed, but how is this my fault? I can't help it if your superiors were running short!"

"I told you," said Aziraphale, his eyes glinting, "I couldn't manage it. They don't give out new bodies at the drop of a hat, I said. I haven't got the time for the paperwork, I said. And what did you do?"

"It was urgent, Hell was breathing down my neck, I didn't have a choice -- the coat, don't touch the coat! -- I had to come up with something fast -- "

"You dropped an anvil on my head!"

"Well, all right, so the anvil was overdoing it," Crowley conceded. "I came down here to meet you when you phoned, didn't I?"

That broad freckled face really shouldn't have been capable of an expression that terrifying. Crowley ducked behind the bookshelf just in time.

"Coward! Blackguard! Come out and fight me like a man, you mountebank!"

"You do realise nobody's used the word 'mountebank' seriously in about two hundred years -- okay, sorry, not the time for historical observations, right. Got that. Aziraphale, calm down. You're letting the body influence you. Would the real Aziraphale do this?"

"The real Aziraphale would have had your bloody head off by now, you bounder!"

"Books! Remember the books!" squeaked Crowley.

The reminder seemed to calm Aziraphale down. He put down the sword, breathing heavily, and glared at Crowley.

"You'll owe me for this," he said.

Crowley considered protesting, but the glint in Aziraphale's eyes made him reconsider. If there was anything pop culture had taught him, it was that it was often a good idea even for Evil to exercise discretion.

"Right," he said heartily. "One angelic deed to make up for the unfortunate incident with the anvil -- "

"One, my dear boy?" said Aziraphale. "Oh no, no. I meant, you owe me for not killing you right now. The anvil is quite a different issue altogether."

He's the one with the sword, thought Crowley. He may be a twelve-year-old boy with the fighting weight of a hamster, but he's the one with the sword.

Anyway, it was Aziraphale. If Crowley didn't accede to his demands now, who knew what the bastard would come up with later? Angels on the whole were an uncreative bunch -- it wasn't so much that there wasn't much variation you could do on the theme of smiting and salvation, as that most angels were creatures of habit and couldn't be bothered to change tactics that had worked for millennia. But Aziraphale had spent six thousand years on Earth. Archaic slang was only one of the many things he'd picked up from humanity.

"Right," said Crowley again. An Aziraphale cooped up in a boarding school in the middle of nowhere wouldn't be able to do much Heavenly grunt work on his own account, anyway. It would probably balance out.

A thought struck him.

"Why put you here, anyway?" he said. "Even if they were running out of bodies, it isn't as if there aren't any kids in London."

Granted, he thought, not many of them looked like Aziraphale currently did. Not many kids anywhere looked like Aziraphale currently did. The only thing bearing even a remote resemblance Crowley had ever seen had been an illustration in a Boys' Own Adventure magazine published some time in the 1930s.

Aziraphale looked dignified.

"They said I was to aid the blossoming of these young men's characters," he said. "Instill manly virtues, all that sort of thing. It's a most dangerous age, you know. Youth is impressionable. A bad influence at this time can be disastrous. Take that grin off your face, Crowley."

"Sorry, was I grinning?"

"Really, dear boy. Smugness is not at all an attractive quality," said Aziraphale. He sat down on the narrow bed, emitting the whistling sigh of an exhausted child.

Crowley ventured out from behind the bookshelf and sat down beside Aziraphale.

"So," he said. "Blossoming? How's that working out for you?"

"Not very well," Aziraphale admitted. "It's astonishing the sort of thing children get up to in the matter of, well ... "


"Violence and abuse," said Aziraphale. "If they would only channel that energy into positive activities, I'd fill my quota for good works within the month."

"Creative buggers, aren't they?" said Crowley. "I sent a memo down once advising the guys on the castigation side to look at the social interaction of school kids from the age of 7 to 16. Got a commendation for that."

"I don't wonder," said Aziraphale. There was the usual token disapproval in his voice, but there was something else as well, something Crowley didn't recognise. He turned to look at Aziraphale. The kid -- angel -- was rubbing his left arm thoughtfully.

Crowley looked closer. The bruise was a virulent purple, the edges shading into green-yellow.

"That's," said Crowley. "Where did you -- ?"

"Creative buggers," said Aziraphale, and gave him a tight smile.

Crowley found, not for the first time in the unending pratfall that was his life, that he had nothing to the point to say.

"Do I need to talk to anyone?" he said finally.

Aziraphale blinked. Then his face relaxed into amusement. He patted Crowley on the hand.

"Thank you, my dear," he said. "But really, I'm quite all right. I'm not a child -- well, all right, yes, but you know what I mean. And after all, it could be worse. It isn't as if I'm in a state school."

"Because government-funded bullying would be so much worse," muttered Crowley.

"Oh, I wouldn't call it bullying," said Aziraphale. "Youthful high spirits, that's all. One soldiers on, you know, one soldiers on.

"Besides," he added dreamily, "you should have seen the other side."

"But it's not like you signed up for -- what?"

"I believe hospitalisation was required," said Aziraphale happily. "Most unfortunate."

Crowley gaped. Then he said, deeply impressed,

"You bastard."

"Ah, well," said Aziraphale. "One does one's best."