The Night Before


This was prompted by Gogol, because she is always guilty.


Flaming swords did not belong in bookshops. As far as fundamental truths went, this one was pretty fundamental. Flaming sword. Flames. Books. I mean, came the unwary thought, it's a very nice flaming sword, nothing against flaming swords as such, in fact I used to own one, in fact probably that one, but –

– and it did complement her hair, that blazing tumble of blood-streaked copper that any epic poet worth his salt would've hammered into an extended simile for a hero's spear (not a shield, and you wouldn't want to see the images on a shield like that) –

– but it was a bookshop. Full of books.

And it wasn't even in the thirty minutes when the shop was open.[1]

"What are you doing?" yelped Aziraphale, a miracle leaping to his fingertips. Behind him, a row of still-uncatalogued Beanoes quivered on the shelf. "Put that out at once!"

War grinned her glamorous scarlet grin. "Just visiting, angel," she purred, her voice the subdued roar of several thousand horsemen hammering towards an anvil of the poor bloody infantry. Or possibly (and this thought surprised Aziraphale, when it appeared uninvited in his head) drums from some wild and uninhibited gathering, the sort where fights break out on the fringes but everyone within the circle of the fires is having far too good a time to notice. There was alcohol in that voice, and sex. And violence, of course, but that was a given.

"There's something about white wings," she added. "White shows up the stains so well..."

She was still waving that flaming sword around!

He said, nervously, "Why don't you put the sword down? And then we can, we can, catch up – yes, catch up – over a nice cup of tea –"

"Over a nice cup of 1982 Romanee-Conti," said War, her grin stretching wider. The sword was quenched with a hiss as she sheathed it. "Dinner's on me."[2]



[1] Aziraphale regretted ever having to flip the sign on the door to 'open' at all, but the tax forms were complicated enough as it was. Precisely when these minutes fell was, of course, arbitrary.

[2] Literally. It was remarkably hard to sober up, Aziraphale later discovered, between the breasts of War.