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Da Capo Aria, pts IV-VI

For headers, see Pts I-III.

Happy holidays, yummycoffee, from your Secret Writer!



Part IV: Glissando

Derived from the French glisser, to slide, the Italianised word is used to describe sliding in music from one note to another. On the harp or piano this is achieved by sliding the finger or fingers over the strings or keys, and can be achieved similarily on bowed string instruments, and by other means on the trombone, clarinet, French horn and pedal timpani among others.

*~*~*~*

3:01 Ante meridiem

There had been a dispute over a drug deal, and since that had brought him to the area, Aziraphale dragged himself into one of the all-night bars in Madrid. The stiffness had settled in his tendons again, so much so that he was finding it difficult to walk properly, and he needed water. Thirst, he had decided, was the ultimate suffering. He had been on Earth since the Beginning, and even knew somebody who had experienced Hell firsthand, so he knew the tortures outside Heaven’s wall, and thirst was the worst. Aziraphale stumbled to the counter and called for several glasses of room-temperature water. Having it cold just made it worse. He downed them with alarming rapidity.

“Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’”

Aziraphale, feeling his bones and muscles soften, turned to look at the man who had spoken. He was sitting on a bar stool, nursing a half-drunk glass of Tahitian Tea. At the sight of his aura, Aziraphale nearly fell backwards in his scramble to place distance between them, leaving his water on the counter.

“Please, drink as much as you like. I’ll even buy you some more,” he said. “There’s no weakness in it—thirst is unbearable. Even LORD the Almighty, through his Son on the Cross, had complained of only one thing: being thirsty. All other discomforts…nope, beared gracefully. But having every cell in the body shrivel and scream for water…why, that’s too much even for God Himself. So drink.”

Aziraphale narrowed his eyes at the man, whose tar-colored hair just graced his shoulders with unevenly cut, jagged edges. He was impeccably dressed in black and gray, with a leather coat that seemed to challenge even the richest men to even be able to afford to look at its price tag. He gave a spider’s smile, perfectly white teeth with canines that were perhaps a bit too sharp to be comfortable glistening with a mother-of-pearl sheen between pale lips.

--Lucifer, Aziraphale breathed. His hand automatically fell to his side in search for his sword, and he unconciously took another step backwards when he sensed it missing. As an angel he had no delusions towards his ability to hold up against the Morningstar in a fight, and his current state left him feeling little better. He was Death, to be sure, but that did not mean that Lucifer could not still damage him severely. He did not know what he could do in return to the Devil, and he decided rather quickly that he would not like the opportunity to find out.

Lucifer watched Aziraphale with eyes the color of newly sharpened knives.

“I’ve heard about you, Angel of the Eastern Gate. Or should I now say, Death? Please, I’m not here to fight. Come sit with me. I’ll even buy you some more water. The money’s even been legitimately gained,” Lucifer said, holding up a business credit card. “Come on, I want to talk to you.”

Nervous, but unable to resist the offer of unlimited water, Aziraphale hesitantly returned to the counter. Lucifer tilted his head, smiling happily.

“Hooray. Now sit. Bartender! As much water as you can charge at a time. And add a Black Russian. Now,” Lucifer said as he turned in his seat to face Aziraphale, leaning to the side so that he could prop up his arm and rest his head on his hand. “Why don’t you tell me about this promotion of yours.”

--It’s only for a day. It should not matter to you.

“Not in the long run, no. But I still want to know when a change has been made, especially when it concerns my new guests. And when it means a new Horseperson is being broken in. I know that His Royal pain in the ass is having His lovey-dovey sugar fest, but what I want to know is why El Elyon picked you to take Azrael’s job. I would have thought that Uriel would be the better choice. Or no, Gabriel. He was always good at killing a party. Which reminds me, does that prick still run the staff meetings?”

A little confused, Aziraphale nodded. Lucifer grimaced and stuck his tongue out in disgust.

“Ugh. Talk about the straw that broke the camel’s back. I’ll tell you, Moloch asked me once about why I staged the Rebellion so soon after I thought it up, and the truth is, is that the week after was the end of the year meeting, and we were all supposed to come up ways to increase our efficiency for the next year and I hadn’t done it yet. I am the ultimate procrastinator.”

--That was the reason? Aziraphale asked, dumbfounded.

“Complete truth, and believe me, take that when you can get it from me. What really made it great though was that, after we were in Hell for a while, I sent Gabriel my work proposal talking about how there should be a suggestion box for a positive outlet in expressing concerns, and that work improvement could be elevated by eliminating stupid staff meetings about work improvement.”

Despite himself, Aziraphale snorted and smiled against the rim of his waterglass. Lucifer laughed loudly and held up his drink.

“Oh how I wish I could have been there to see his face. Trust me, the absence of Gabriel is what makes Hell bearable. But enough of these digressions. Tell me. What was El Shaddai’s reasoning in picking you?”

--You should know, Aziraphale answered, unable to keep a hint of bitterness from his tone. Lucifer regarded him over his glass.

“And why is that?”

--Don’t play these mind games with me, First of the Fallen! Aziraphale snapped. –I know why you’re here. Why else would you be? The Great Punisher of Sins.

“And what would be your sin?”

Aziraphale glared at him.

“What?” Lucifer asked defensively. “I need to know what sin you committed if I am to know where to place you. I can’t have people just running all around Hell just as they please, the paperwork is bad enough as it is. So tell me what you did.”

--You already know! The whole situation with Adam and the end of the world and I—I went against God’s Plan. I defied Him, and now I’m no better than you. But I—the thought of killing all those people—
Lucifer tilted his head back and laughed loudly, his drink nearly sloshing on to the table from the abrupt motion and consequent shaking.

“Oh my,” he said in between gasps. “He must really like you to let you get away with that. Ah, Aziraphale of the Eastern Gate, I could drag you down right with me for that arrogance. Hell, I could even set you up in an official position in Pandaemonium and no one would say a word. You don’t seem to be doing it maliciously, though, or even intentionally. That’s probably the reason why He’s having you do this instead.”

--What are you talking about? Aziraphale asked, worry crawling an icy trail down his spine. Lucifer calmed himself and settled once again against the counter. When he spoke, his voice was low and full, each change in pitch sliding effortlessly into each other.

“Let me tell you something about the day of the Rebellion, Aziraphale. Something that no one else knows. After my duel with Michael and my consequent, and let me assure you, temporary, defeat, he pushed me out. However, before that, literally the second before I Fell, God spoke to me. He said that, if I were truly sorry, that if I didn’t mean it and if I still loved Him, He would forgive me. I didn’t accept, of course, and I Fell.”

--Why are you telling me this?

“The point is, Aziraphale, that God doesn’t really care if you go against Him. He doesn’t care if you disagree or do something differently. That’s what free will is all about. You claim that you’re being punished because you went against the Plan, but let me assure you that if you were going to be punished you would have been sent straight to me and you would currently be working under..well, I guess it would be Belphegor because one of his secretaries fell into the Phlegethon a while back and hasn’t come back yet…he’s short an employee. Anyway, like I said, if it had been a punishment, you would have been sent straight to me.”

Finished, Lucifer twisted back around and called for a Long Island Ice Tea.

”Is this my punishment?”
God halted in His tracks, but did not turn around. “A punishment?” He murmured. Aziraphale waited, hands shaking. “No. You have been on Earth for a while, my angel.


Aziraphale watched a drop of water fall down the side of the glass into the circle of condensation on the counter.

--You were sent to me, he said. Lucifer, his lips to the rim of his glass, paused before he tilted his head back to take a sip.

“Say what?” he asked.

--I wasn’t sent to you. You were sent to me, Aziraphale explained. –You were right. This isn’t a punishment. It’s an admonishment.

“You’re smarter than I first gave you credit. But now it’s time to really impress me. What are you being admonished for?

Aziraphale wracked his brain for the answer, but he only kept coming back to his original thought.

--I…don’t know.

Lucifer sighed.

“Revel—“ he stopped. Aziraphale watched in confusion as a dawning realization crept across Lucifer’s face, and the Devil laughed in disbelief.

“That son of a bitch. I wonder if He didn’t stage the whole thing just for you. He must really, really like you. I’ll have to ask Him later.”

Lucifer shook his head and continued on. “As I was saying. Revelations. Chapter 22, verse 12.”

Aziraphale blinked at the easy reference to the Holy Bible, but he recited the text anyway.

--‘Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the—

Aziraphale cut himself off, and minor hyperventilation pulled at his lungs as he came to an understanding. Lucifer smiled and went back to his drink.

“Now you get it,” he said. “This wasn’t about stopping the Armageddon or ending daylight savings time on His World Clock to gain an extra hour. This was about thinking you had any control over killing people. As of right now, only God has the power of Creation, and since He is the End, it is only He who has the power of Destruction. You cannot kill men, Aziraphale. In the great scheme of things, they’re already dead. As Death, you would understand this. It is only their souls that matter, and how dare you think you could kill those.”

--I put myself on the level of God.

“Which I find myself in begrudging admiration for, by the way. And you weren’t even trying. Let me know if you ever want a different job. Benefits aren’t that great, but the pay is unmatched.”

--I understand…

“Aziraphale,” Lucifer said, regarding his companion seriously. “The real question is why did you really stop the end of the world? Only as Death can you answer it.”

Aziraphale stood.

--Thank you.

He made to leave, but as he reached the door, he turned back around.

--Oh, and, Lucifer?

“Hmm?”

--You aren’t dead. Not all the way, Aziraphale said, and he disappeared back into the world. Lucifer’s brows furrowed, and he frowned as he took up a glass of Sex on the Beach.

“What did he mean by that?” the bartender asked, leaning down on the counter.

“Beats me, Beelzebub. Go figure angels,” Lucifer answered. “And you suck at making drinks. These all taste terrible.”

“Then you should have brought Belial.”

“I wanted to, but he’s busy finishing his quarterly reports. Malachi is giving him grief again. So, I had to get stuck with you.”

“You’re just made to suffer. You know, I’m a little disappointed in you. Those weren’t clues you gave him. Those were billboards. I wanted to see your subtlety and mind games in action, and not on me for once.”

Lucifer shrugged.

“I wanted to get done early. Leviathan brought cake into the break room and I want to get some before everyone else gets it all.”

“Cake? Really? Kick ass,” Beelzebub said as he climbed up over the counter to stand next to Lucifer and help straighten his jacket. “And then what do you want to do after that?”

Lucifer stood and prepared to make the Jump.

“The same thing we do every night, Beelzebub.”

The second in command of Hell rolled his eyes. “You know, Lucifer, the first step in curing an addiction is admitting you have a problem.”

“You shut your mouth,” Lucifer said. He, along with Beelzebub, took a step and vanished.

*~*~*~*

Part V: Aubade

An aubade is a morning song. A well known example is the Siegfried Idyll, a work written by Richard Wagner to be played for his second wife Cosima on the morning of her birthday.

*~*~*~*

9:53 Ante meridiem

Hospitals were hard. People were frightened of death everywhere, and always fought to survive, but in a hospital, even if they were ready for death, they all carried a larger than normal grain of hope. And doctors made his job only that much harder. There were quite a few times where Aziraphale had ended up at a person’s bedside only to be pushed away quite violently by a defibrillator.

And hospitals were the worse when it came to questions, and not just by the dying. Still, feeling better about his position, Aziraphale took a deep breath and walked into Toronto’s finest hospital.

He passed unnoticed, not for any real supernatural reason, but for the mere fact that most people chose not to see him. He was going slowly, taking his time to listen to the people both milling and rushing about, and also to gather his courage. His talk with Lucifer made him feel better, but he was still nervous. Humans had an uncanny ability to be heartbreaking. His next appointment at this hospital was with an eleven year old African-Canadian girl with pancreatic cancer. Normally, the cancer would not attack her age group, but since she was already suffering from diabetes, it had entered in quite easily.

Aziraphale made his way through the labyrinth of hallways towards the oncology ward, ready to face the first human he had gathered up the courage to speak with, when a voice stopped him.

“Well, well, well. So it’s true. Death has taken a holiday.”

Stopping, Aziraphale looked around to see who had spoken, and he found the source in a nearby room. He checked to make sure there was no one else around, and he walked in. An old woman was lying on the bed, attached to several beeping machines. Aziraphale had never understood what all the symbols on them meant—Raphael had always been the one to tell him if the rare occasion ever arose—but he did know that they were not telling the best of news. However, no one would need to check the machines, as a more telling sign was the look of discomfort on the woman’s sleeping face. Sitting at the foot of the bed was the man who had spoken, or at least a being shaped like a man, dressed in a surgeon’s scrubs. Aziraphale knew immediately who it was. Throughout the centuries Aziraphale had encountered him frequently, and the angel would be able to recognize that sickly sweet aroma that hung around the other being like smog anywhere.

--Hello, Pestilence.

The retired Horseman grinned up at Aziraphale.

“Hello. Just checking up on one of my patients. She’s contracted an evolved form of a virus that I’m working on…is it going to work?”

Aziraphale looked at the woman, who shifted in her sleep.

--Not today.

Pestilence slapped his palm against his thigh. “Damn. And here I thought I was going to break my record.” Pestilence stood and brushed long strands of dirty blond hair from his face, and his pale, watery eyes glittered in the flourescent lighting. He was tall, perhaps on par with Lucifer’s intimidating height, but his form was far more slim.

‘Like a snake,’ Aziraphale thought wryly. ‘Or a rat. Able to squeeze in and out of the tiniest opening.’

“So you’ve taken over for Azrael for a day. How are you enjoying it?” Pestilence asked amiably, leaning on the bed’s plastic guard rails.

--I’ve had better days.

“Oh, that’s no fun!” Pestilence scoffed. “Leave it to you to not take the full advantage of a really amazing opportunity. Have you at least met the others?”

--No. But, I have been given a well-rounded presentation on all the different forms of their work, Aziraphale answered. Pestilence nodded.

“Yeah, they’re pretty shy. They aren’t nearly as social and people-friendly as I am. None of them like strangers…it took me forever to get them to accept Pollution into the group. Personally, I think they really need to work on that clique mentality. I always thought it was bad PR.”

--If you’re finished, Pestilence, I need to be going.

“The eleven year old with cancer? Let me walk with you. I want to check the growth rate history on it.”

Aziraphale sighed, fighting the urge to rub circles on his temples.

--I’d rather you didn’t, Pestilence. Go start a cold outbreak or something. You still have yet to perfect that, Aziraphale said and he left the room. Pestilence scrambled after him.

“Hey! I’ll have you know that nothing is more perfect than the common cold! It mutates, lasts for days, sometimes weeks, makes people absolutely miserable, spreads easily, is caused by over 200 different viruses, and I even promote the horrors of big business in Kleenex.”

--But the cold doesn’t cause a great majority of death by virus.

“Exactly! What use is a dead host to a disease?”

--The same use that I have for you?

Pestilence stopped in his tracks, gaping after Aziraphale as the angel continued on. “You know, Aziraphale, that hurts me. And why are you so mean?”

--I’ve been told that I’m a bit of a bastard.

Pestilence jumped forward, catching up to Aziraphale.

“What is it about being Death that makes people so sarcastic? How can you be so mean to me after all that time we spent together in the seventeenth century?”

--We did not spend any time together. Excuse me sir, sorry. It was you that followed me everywhere.

“Oh yes, I remember. And people wonder how the Plague became so widespread. You know, I tried to so hard to get it to be contagious to demons, but I never could figure it out.”

--Stop trying to kill Crowley.

“But he stole you away from me! It would be so much easier if you just left him and came to me.”

--Aren’t you late for some sort of flu outbreak?

“Oh, shit, you’re right! I have to leave!” Pestilence exclaimed, taking a look at his watch. He leaned forward and kissed Aziraphale’s forehead. “Sorry to run off on you my one true love, but I have to keep the vaccine companies on their toes. Bye!” He turned and and quickly strode off, but he stopped when he reached the corner. He looked back at Aziraphale, who was standing and staring at the door in front of him.

“Hey,” he called quietly. Aziraphale half turned, and Pestilence smiled at him. “Don’t worry. There’s nothing to be afraid of, and she’ll be glad to see you. Just be yourself. It’s the best possible thing that you could do.”

Aziraphale nodded, only to roll his eyes a second later when Pestilence placed his thumb against his ear and pinkie against his lips and mouthed the words “call me.” The former Horseman vanished around the corner, leaving Aziraphale alone.

‘Just speak with them, don’t listen,’ Aziraphale mentally recited. One deep breath later, the hospital room door was pushed open.

The little girl was in her bed, propped up on several pillows that her family had brought from home. Hospital pillows were always too flat. She was coloring, the oversized book making her thin dark arms appear much smaller than they already were. Aziraphale looked about the room, which was filled with mylar balloons and get-well cards. He picked one up, and it was covered in signatures signed in crayon and marker.

“My class gave that one to me,” the girl said, not looking up from her book. Aziraphale turned to her, setting the card down.

--You can see me? He asked.

“Yeah. I’ve been in the hospital a lot. I learned when you were around.”

Aziraphale picked the girl’s chart out of its plastic holder on the foot of the bed, and read through the first few lines before returning it to its spot.

--Well, Chioma, you’re a very smart girl.

“God said you’d be nice, so I wouldn’t be scared.”

--He did?

“Yeah. In my dreams last night. He also told me what you would look like. I didn’t believe Him.”

Aziraphale blinked, a little taken aback by that statement.

--You didn’t? Why not?

Chioma stopped coloring and looked up at Aziraphale.

“I never pictured Death in a sweatervest,” she said simply. Her voice was so earnest that Aziraphale could not help but chuckle. He moved to the chair next to Chioma’s bed and sat down.

--I suppose you’re right. I’m not really dressed the part. But you see, all my black robes are at the cleaners, and they can never get my stuff back on time, Aziraphale answered, causing Chioma to giggle. She closed her coloring book and set it carefully on the bedside table.

“I know why you’re here,” Chioma said, and Aziraphale smiled. She was sitting straight and giving off a very professional air. “And I’m glad it will stop hurting. But…I’m scared.”

Chioma looked down at her folded hands, her deep gulps giving away her fight to keep from crying. Without stopping to think about his own fears, Aziraphale reached out and rubbed her shoulders.

--Sweetheart, there’s nothing to be scared of. You’re going to Heaven. And I promise you’ll like it.

Chioma shook her head.

“That’s not it. Momma already talked to me about it. She said that I’ll have all the lemon drops I want there. It’s…something else.”

Tilting his head, Aziraphale waited for her to continue. Chioma sniffled, her hands fidgeting in her lap.

“You see, I always heard that, when a person dies, everything closes around them and goes dark. But I don’t like small spaces. They scare me. Why does it have to be so scary?” Chioma was crying more openly then, and she wiped at the tears with the back of her hand. Aziraphale’s heart went out to her, and he leaned in closer. He grabbed her hands in his and rubbed circles in the back of them with his thumbs.

--Oh, I see. Well, Chioma, I know a lot of people think that’s what happens when a person dies. That the world closes around them like a tunnel. But it’s not true. It doesn’t get smaller. It gets bigger.

“Bigger?”

--Mm hmm. That’s right. Here, let me tell you what really happens. First, to understand what it’s like, you have to lie down.

Chioma nodded and started to lie down halfway on her side. Aziraphale pulled her back up.

--No, no. You don’t have to do it the way the doctors tell you. Lie down in what ever position feels the best, he instructed, and Chioma settled down to rest fully on her back.

--Good. Now, close your eyes and pretend you’re at home, in your bedroom, in your bed with your favorite, warm blanket. Are you pretending?

At Chioma’s affirmative, Aziraphale kept her hand in his and continued. –Okay. Now, breathe. Make sure your breaths are as deep and soft as you can make them. Good. Now, I want you to listen, but not to yourself. I want you to listen to what’s around you, and start close. Um, let’s see. First, there’s a mouse by the wall, scratching at the floorboards, and a clock is ticking on the wall. Listen to them, Chioma, starting close. Then, outside your room, there’s someone walking down the hallway, towards the living room, where there are people talking and laughing. Dinner is cooking on the stove, and you can hear it sizzling. A car drives by your house, and they turn on their headlights. See, they’re driving to the diner down the road, where someone is slicing in to their very first bite of cherry pie. It’s raining outside, and there are telephone wires that go over the roof. Listen to the wind in the wires, Chioma, as it races through to the forest. The trees are growing, and you can hear them growing. They…grow all the way to the edge of a lake, where small waves are lapping at the sand.

Aziraphale moved his other hand to Chioma’s forehead.

--You can hear the waves, right, Chioma? Everything else is quiet. A fish jumps—

The monitors next to the bed screamed in a shrill flatline.

--And it never comes back down, Aziraphale finished. –That, Chioma, is what death feels like. See? Not frightening at all. A tear slipped from his eye, and he removed his hand from Chioma’s nonexistant grip.

--Good girl, he whispered and kissed her temple. He left the room, ignored as he passed by the doctors rushing in.

*~*~*~*

Part VI: Da Capo al Segno

Da capo (Italian: from the beginning), abbreviated to the letters D.C. at the end of a piece of music or a section of it, means that it should be played or sung again from the beginning (Da capo al fine) or from the beginning up to the sign (Da capo al segno). A da capo aria, often found in the later baroque period, is an aria in three sections, the third an ornamented repetition of the first.

*~*~*~*

2:59 Post meridiem

Aziraphale sat in the middle of a clearing, the dark trees surrounding him in a thick cluster of branches and snow. He was in the North, he knew that much, and by his best estimate it was Norway, or Lapland. In any case, it was quiet, with both life and death silenced by winter’s sleep. He could still hear the voices and conversations rustling on the outer edge of his conciousness, but the snow kept them distanced. Sighing, Aziraphale laid back in the snow and outstretched his arms. He smiled and moved his arms up and down, pushing the snow away in a sweeping arc to create the minimalistic lines of an snow angel’s wings.

--God, Aziraphale murmured into the cold, gray air. “I’m ready to go home.”

And Aziraphale let his entire being be pulled to his final stop as Death—a small bookshop in the heart of London.

*~*~*~*

Time was sticky. Tiny pieces of it clung to Aziraphale’s sweater like burrs, and he could feel all of them poking through the fabric. As he pulled himself from the the gelatin of frozen time, he immediately began to try and brush them off, at first not noticing the hand, which was clutching a mayfly, supporting him.

“I know that’s not comfortable, I’ll work on it to see if I can improve the texture,” God said as he helped Aziraphale to stand solidly. Aziraphale looked to God, who had by then turned to beckon the still fully cloaked Azrael to come closer. Aziraphale opened his mouth to speak, but God cut him off.

“All right, let’s switch you both back. Azrael has been driving me nuts for the past few hours. You need serious help, my workaholic friend.”

Without ceremony, God brought both Aziraphale and Azrael close to him and pushed to the sound of pianos.

The clock on the wall ticked.

Everything was right, and time was moving as it should.

Aziraphale climbed to his feet, feeling the warm, heady rush of blood through his body and the deep, fulfilling weight of filled lungs. The muscles flexed easily, he could feel water flowing like a river. Against angelic reasoning, the human body felt good. And comfortable. Aziraphale ran a hand through his hair, relishing the somewhat wiry curls, and checked his surroundings. Azrael was also standing, with God complaining that the black robes were cliché and that the Angel of Death needed something more approachable.

I WOULDN’T LOOK GOOD IN ANYTHING ELSE.

“Fine. Suit yourself. But that’s all your own doing. Don’t come complaining to me if you have people running away from you and not ask you to dinner parties.”

I’LL TRY TO RESTRAIN MYSELF.

“Sarcastic jerk,” God lamented and turned to Aziraphale. He smiled. “Ah, see? Good as new, just as I promised.”

“Thank you,” Aziraphale said, deciding not to comment on the rather copious amounts of dust along the side of his sweater.

IF YOU BOTH WILL EXCUSE ME, I MUST GET BACK TO WORK. YAHWEH, AZIRAPHALE, Death said with a nod of his head and faded away. God moved to the center of the floor and shook His fist at the ceiling.

“And don’t wait another two thousand years to come visit me, or I’ll make your life miserable!...Even if you defect!” He shouted. He looked towards Aziraphale, expression changing from one of dire threat to contentment with somewhat frightening ease.

“Thank you, Aziraphale, for taking over for Azrael. It really helped a lot, and you did a wonderful job. And now I must be going as well, as the end of the year meeting is coming up and Raphael has asked me to try and prevent Gabriel’s speech from passing the two hour mark this year. I have to go and prepare some editing, so I will talk to you later. Thank you again, Aziraphale.”

God shrugged into His light winter coat and had reached the shoe mat by the door when Aziraphale spoke.

“I’m sorry,” he said, his voice cracking slightly as his body so kindly reminded him to use its vocal cords. God froze, His hand stilled on the doorframe.

“For what?” He asked softly.

Aziraphale took a moment to think of his response.

“Earlier today,” he began. “One of my assignments was a little girl named Chioma. She had cancer. She had been sick for a while, and she was ready for the pain to stop. I could have left, after that, but I didn’t. I stayed and waited until her family got there. I listened as the doctors told her parents and siblings that there wasn’t anything anyone could have done. And they cried. Even though Chioma was no longer in pain, or depressed, or frightened, or tired…they were crying. And that made me realize that they weren’t sad for Chioma. They were mourning their loss. And that’s the reason why I did what I did. I stopped the end of the world because I was sad and scared for myself. I didn’t want to lose what I loved. I had just thought about it the wrong way. And that’s why I’m sorry.”

God slowly turned back around, and Aziraphale was stunned to see both tears and a smile.

“There are a lot of people who think that the world isn’t worth the pain,” He said. “And so it means a lot to me that you love it so much. That’s what I like to hear. I’m really glad you like this place.”

“I’d also,” Aziraphale continued. “If it’s not too much, like to spend a day with you too.”

“Yes, that sounds wonderful. I’m available whenever, so, when would be good for you?”

“I was thinking….perhaps next Friday.”

“Next Friday? The winter solstice?” God questioned.

Aziraphale nodded.

“Okay, that sounds wonderful. However, this is a pretty busy time of year for the field agents, so I’ll have to find someone to cover your shift.”

“Maybe….Gabriel could do it? He is my superior, so he would be able to handle the job easily enough,” Aziraphale suggested, trying his best to keep his tone innocent.

“But the solstice is the date of the end of the year meeting, and if Gabriel covered for you, he wouldn’t be able to—“ God stopped and gave a conspiratoral smirk. “I’ll go inform him of his temporary job change right away. See you in a week.”

God turned and left the bookshop, the bell jingling cheerfully.

“It’s about time, oh my God! I’m bloody fuckin’ freezing out here.”

Lucifer stood up from the bench he had been sitting on, brushing the snow off his jeans. It had not dared to fall on his leather coat. “And how the hell did you manage to rope me into this feel-good quagmire of roses and candy bracelets? I don’t want to spend a frickin’ whole day with you.”

“Because you owed me a debt from our card game in 1329.”

Lucifer scowled.

“I was hoping you had forgotten that.”

“Never, my dear. I never forget anything, especially when it comes to you having to do what I say and being, in essence, my ‘bitch’.”

“Blech. But before you drag me around with leash and choke chain, I want to ask you something. Did you really set the whole thing up just for that angel?” Lucifer asked, tucking his hands into his pocket. God stared innocently up at the Morningstar.

“What do you mean?”

“Oh, come on. The Book of Revelations deals with the end of the world, with which subject your darling angel messed up on. The answer to his problem with the end of the world is found in the Book of Revelations, which you had me quote so he could have a ‘revelation.’ That’s a setup with your girly signature written all over it. I doubt it was coincidence, because you don’t do that. So I can only figure that you had this entire thing planned since you dictated the Book to that crackhead John what’s-his-face.”

Lucifer was practically convulsing by the end of his spiel, but something else caught God’s attention farther down the street.

“Oh look! A kitty!” God quickly chased after it, and he was followed by an indignant Devil.

“Oh no you don’t! Get back here and answer me!”

*~*~*~*

In his bookshop, Aziraphale sat at the counter staring at his phone.

‘Come on. You did everything else.’

He took a deep breath, picked up the phone, and dialled. It rang only five times before it was answered.

“Hello, Crowley? I was wondering if you would like to go get dinner with me tonight. You don’t even have to eat.”

*~*~*~*

THE END.



Enjoy!

Comments

( 47 comments — Leave a comment )
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andremeese
Dec. 11th, 2006 03:57 am (UTC)
Oh. My. God.

Secret Writer, you just broke my heart in a good way. This is... this IS. I'm absolutely stunned!

Beautiful. *sniff*
secret_kracken
Dec. 11th, 2006 02:39 pm (UTC)
*picks up the heart pieces* Aw, thank you so much! I'm happy that you liked it. Also, I absolutely love your icon. XD
daughtersofisis
Dec. 11th, 2006 05:26 am (UTC)
I. Jeeba. Whadda. Hey?

This. Gack. Was amazing. Just totally . . . unlike anything I've ever read before. Surreal yet completely realistic. The little humourous touches interspersed with stark, real description . . . made my week, this did. And the section titles are just perfect, just . . . agh. I am so, so incoherent right now.

“Oh look! A kitty!”

While perhaps not the most profound line of the story, this is certainly my favorite. I can just picture God scampering down the street after a cat. And your descriptions of Lucifer, God, Beelzebub, et cetera are completely brilliant. *extolls you*
secret_kracken
Dec. 11th, 2006 02:45 pm (UTC)
I can't tell you how much it means to me when someone says that my stories are "realistic." One of my biggest points that I look for in stories, in all stories, is believability, and I struggle with it myself. So your praise makes me grin like a fool.

Yeah, I liked the kitty line too...I can only imagine what other distractions God had to use the rest of the day to keep Lucifer from asking Him His intentions. ~_^ I'm glad you liked the story!
musegaarid
Dec. 11th, 2006 06:42 am (UTC)
Wow. This is really amazing, though I'm not so sure how secret it is. ;) I only know a couple of people who can write this well...

At any rate, you'll hear about the wonderful plot, rich descriptions, and evocative detail from others, I'm sure, but I wanted to tell you how gripping your characterizations were. I like your interpretations of God and Lucifer, Gabriel, Beelzebub, Azrael, Pestilence, and all the other characters that are generally secondary in GO fic but who make this what it is. I love Aziraphale and Crowley here, too. We rarely get to see Aziraphale so... thoughtful without being whiningly emo and angsty. It's refreshing to see his intelligent compassionate side. Crowley being the lighter of the pair was nice, too, until he proved that he understood what was going on better than Aziraphale. I'm sure I missed an important cameo in that scene, but maybe someone will point it out for me. XD

Anyway, I'll hush now. Fantastic work. I was afraid the exchange was going to be all Christmas fluff this year and I've never been so pleased to be proven wrong.
secret_kracken
Dec. 11th, 2006 03:05 pm (UTC)
Ugh. I just had this nice response typed out and then LJ deleted it when I hit "post comment." Let's see if I can remember what I ranted on.

I'm glad you liked the characterizations. To be honest, that was what I struggled with the most. A lot of times I was ready to delete the whole story in frustration because I kept thinking that they (Aziraphale, mostly) were all wrong, and it was one of my biggest worries when I sent the fic in. I kind of compensated for this by bringing in those secondary characters, who are not seen as often and thus give me a little bit more free reign and confidence. I love working with them...especially Lucifer, who is the easiest. Just wind him up, set him down, and off he goes. He says whatever he wants, with little to no guidance from me. But I can't tell you how happy I am that you liked Aziraphale. ^_^

As for the cameo, don't worry about it. I just thought myself being clever there. Within the section concerning Aziraphale and Crowley, I referenced two songs and one movie (which connects with a whole series of movies, if that helps). There's my hint!

*hugs* I'm absolutely thrilled that you liked the story!
euph_girl
Dec. 11th, 2006 07:18 am (UTC)
I fourth how amazing this is. I teach music, so I adored all the musical tie-ins. The voice of a C-minor scale! The smile of October! Absolutely lovely descriptions. And, of course, Death and his sarcasm that rubs off on Aziraphale. *squees*
secret_kracken
Dec. 11th, 2006 03:07 pm (UTC)
Yay! A music person! I absolutely adore music, and I wish I could have more time to play my clarinet. I suppose I make up for it by including references to it in whatever I am doing. ^_^

I'm very happy that you liked it! *squees with you*
hsavinien
Dec. 11th, 2006 07:57 am (UTC)
Shiny... ^_^ I love your characterisation of God. Azrael is amusing, and Lucifer...well, he makes me think of Spike from Joss-verse. The scene with Chioma is adorable and very bittersweet.
Just lovely.
hsavinien
Dec. 11th, 2006 07:59 am (UTC)
Also, the part about the star... Ooh...
(no subject) - secret_kracken - Dec. 11th, 2006 03:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
mi_guida
Dec. 11th, 2006 11:47 am (UTC)
*melts* in the way that only purely brilliant literature can make me. I just... the characterisation, the contrast - and the pace, oh, lords, the pace and I want to read this out in a crowded hall and have them freeze like they do when I read Shakespeare. Also - the kitty, makes me think of God doing headstands at the end of Dogma *grin*
secret_kracken
Dec. 11th, 2006 03:13 pm (UTC)
Oh no! Don't melt! *comes in with a mop* Ah, you have me floating on clouds right now!

Dogma is an excellent movie, and I loved it when God did the headstand. I love it when He is shown having a childlike side and being quite playful.
sarahsan
Dec. 11th, 2006 01:44 pm (UTC)
*wipes tears*

I can't say anything more than that it was the single most brilliant, heart-breaking thing I have ever read, and I honestly don't think I'll ever be the same for having read it. Thank you. Thank you so much.
secret_kracken
Dec. 11th, 2006 03:16 pm (UTC)
Aw, I'm very happy that you liked it so much. ^_^ Thank you for reading!
(no subject) - sarahsan - Dec. 11th, 2006 03:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - secret_kracken - Dec. 11th, 2006 06:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
quantum_witch
Dec. 11th, 2006 02:46 pm (UTC)
Oh my, how utterly gorgeous. I haven't yet got the proper words to say... gimme a few more minutes and I'll express it properly...
secret_kracken
Dec. 11th, 2006 06:28 pm (UTC)
^_^ If you're speechless, then I consider it a job well done! XD I'm happy that you liked it.
mangy_mongrel
Dec. 11th, 2006 04:17 pm (UTC)
T___T You have made me despondent. This is the most stunning fic I have ever read and I know that in my current incarnation I will never (well, never say never, but nevertheless) be able to achieve this level of quality.

I bow down in recognition of your greatness.

Oh man! All the secondary characters were so rich! Especially that plant! And the demons! XD
secret_kracken
Dec. 11th, 2006 06:34 pm (UTC)
Don't be despondent! I can't tell you how much agony this story put me through (not to mention the lasting side-affects...Why, a few times while typing responses I've tried to hit the ctrl + s button as an automatic response to save what I'm typing). As for the bowing, well, you get a cookie. XD Chocolate chip straight from the oven.

I love that plant. I'm a science nerd, so I couldn't help getting a little geeky there. And demons are just so much more fun to write than angels...can't imagine why....~_^
magicicada
Dec. 11th, 2006 04:17 pm (UTC)
Very nice. I really liked the way it moves so naturally between humor and sadness. Aziraphale was wonderful here- I loved seeing a different side of him, and the god character was so well done. Thanks so much for sharing this with us.
secret_kracken
Dec. 11th, 2006 06:37 pm (UTC)
Thank ya very much! I'm glad you liked the characters...they sure know how to put up a good fight, let me tell you! I'm happy you enjoyed it.
sailorptah
Dec. 11th, 2006 05:09 pm (UTC)
Oh man.

Everything about this was beautiful, from "The same thing we do every night, Beelzebub" to "Oh, look! A kitty!"

On top of that, the descriptions were gorgeous and the conception of Death intriguing, but I just had to quote the punch lines =D

Adored it.
secret_kracken
Dec. 11th, 2006 06:38 pm (UTC)
Lol, I'm glad you liked those lines...they were fun to write. I can so picture Lucifer as a "Pinky and the Brain" fan. Thank you very much!
tiggymalvern
Dec. 11th, 2006 09:41 pm (UTC)
Great use of Pestilence here, and I love his attitude to his work.

“I never pictured Death in a sweatervest,”

Um, no :-) Nice to know there's still Aziraphale holding out on some points XD

The image of him making a snow angel in his last moments as Death is beautiful.

It's a wonderful concept, and you've paced it all brilliantly, with great use of so many characters, but it's the details that really make this fic. The tiny descriptions like the stickiness of time, and Aziraphale and the dying star, so many little touches that the story would have worked without but been vastly less for lacking. Fantastic job.
lady_oneiros
Jan. 6th, 2007 02:35 pm (UTC)
Argh. So sorry for the lateness of this comment...I was away for the holidays and didn't have much internet access. At least I can comment now with my screen name now that the Big Reveal has taken place. Anyway, I'm so glad that you liked the story! And I'm happy that you liked the pacing...I struggled with that as I was writing it, often torn between "too fast! too slow! augh!" Thank you so much!
argyleheir
Dec. 11th, 2006 11:09 pm (UTC)
Oh, but that was absolutely stunning. The pacing was quite perfect -- I felt I was really able to slip into it, and the sections held just the right amount of weight (and vivid description) to make Aziraphale's sense of time/lack thereof ring true.

This line was beautiful: He smiled the way October would smile—secretive and sad... as was the Chioma scene.

And I just loved Lucifer, Beelzebub, and Lucifer's taste for cocktails!
lady_oneiros
Jan. 8th, 2007 07:54 pm (UTC)
Hooray! I'm happy that you liked the story! I had a lot of fun writing it. Lucifer was an absolute blast...I'll have to work with him some more! Thank you! XD
espresso_addict
Dec. 12th, 2006 12:50 am (UTC)
Such a rich & unusual story! I particularly liked your characterisation of the minor characters -- Lucifer, Pestilence... Thank you.
lady_oneiros
Jan. 8th, 2007 07:53 pm (UTC)
Thank ya!! I had a lot of fun writing the minor characters, as they aren't given good workouts too often. I'm glad you liked it!
rinsbane
Dec. 13th, 2006 09:33 pm (UTC)
This is such a beautiful idea and so beautifully written. There are all these lovely moments that go *ping* in just the right way. I love the way we see all these other characters and how they relate to Aziraphale and his unrecognized pride.
lady_oneiros
Jan. 8th, 2007 07:51 pm (UTC)
Thank ya very much!! *squees and bounces* XD
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