Like the Smoke of a Furnace (Good Omens, Crowley/Aziraphale,
Title: Like The Smoke Of A Furnace
Fandom: Good Omens
Disclaimer: Good Omens, Crowley and Aziraphale are the property of
Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. No copyright infringement is
Written for the contrelamontre ’this is not
the worst moment of my
life’ challenge in 65 minutes, including spellchecking.
This was not the worst moment of his life. They’d gone through this before; there was no need to panic. Everything would be all right. Aziraphale took his eyes off Crowley, inelegantly sprawled at his feet, and looked around. Where was he? He had to be here somewhere. The humans wouldn’t be able to see him, of course, but it took more than dieing for him to hide from an angel’s sight, especially when it was his turn to pay for dinner tonight, and — Aziraphale blinked and took a deep breath. He was panicking, and that wouldn’t do anyone any good. He was being silly. He knelt down and put a hand over Crowley’s heart. It was quite, quite still. Not that that mattered, not if Crowley didn’t want it to. He took another steadying breath.
Off to one side he could see movement. Unpleasant fellows with silly green and black grease on their faces and unflattering clothing and guns. Crowley, he thought, this isn’t the time to play games. Where are you? He looked up as the men surrounded him.
“Step away,” one of them said.
They all looked terribly similar. A well-oiled piece of machinery, a good integrated team. It was quite hard to tell them apart, which he supposed was the idea, and possibly part of the attraction the whole thing obviously held for the men themselves, and —
“Crowley!” he yelled, “I can’t see you! Please, Crowley, don’t be so irritating!”
“Step. Away,” the man repeated as they all trained their rifles on Aziraphale’s head.
He squinted up at them and froze. He could plainly see what was inscribed on the barrels in a variety of ancient languages, the old old prayers that protected against demons. The rifles themselves were a little strange, now he looked at them closely. They looked lighter than they should and rather as if someone had tried to disguise silver as steel.
“Where did you get those?” he asked in a dazed voice. “You shouldn’t have those.”
The man took out cuffs that looked like they were trying very hard to appear to be steel. They were adamantine. Aziraphale began to feel a hysterical giggle rising up. These people were perhaps on his side. Theoretically. And they’d killed Crowley. That wasn’t theoretical. His hands had begun to shake, he noticed.
“Those aren’t human weapons,” he said, quietly and reasonably. “How did you get them?”
“Hold out your hands,” the man said.
“No,” Aziraphale said firmly.
The men seemed surprised, as if it wasn’t sensible to refuse orders from someone who could have your head exploded with bullets. Aziraphale pulled Crowley into his arms and took a closer look at the wound. He saw what he hadn’t before; the black edging, and the way tendrils of black were snaking their way across Crowley’s flesh, the unpleasant pulpy feeling. There hadn’t been much holy water involved, he supposed, but more than enough for a heart shot to work. Oh, Crowley, he thought, Crowley.
The men tried to grab him and he flung them off. There didn’t seem much point in restricting himself to human abilities. They looked at him more warily, and he settled himself again, glaring at them.
“Why don’t you just shoot me too?” he said.
“You’re under arrest,” the leader said. “Protective custody. Orders were to take the demon down, and to take you in.”
“You bloody fools,” Aziraphale muttered, pulling what was left of Crowley closer. “Don’t you know who he is?”
“A demon. Now hold out your damn hands.”
Aziraphale noted with a great deal of satisfaction that most of them must have thought he was really a human. The blow from his wing caught the leader and knocked him flat, where he lay groaning. Oh well, it had been an awkward angle and Aziraphale was out of practice. He could hardly have been expected to break the man’s neck that easily. The rest of them backed off and he was pleased to see they weren’t holding their rifles as steadily.
“Congratulations,” he said bitterly, “you’re starting a war.”
He pushed the hair out of Crowley’s eyes. He didn’t look asleep. He looked dead. He’ll be so annoyed with me, Aziraphale thought. Of course that wasn’t true. Crowley wasn’t going to be anything anymore. Because someone Upstairs had had the perfect little idea. Arming humans against Hell’s agent. Not even some of the Seraphim could be that stupid, they had to know what Hell’s response would be. Which meant they wanted Hell to sit up and take notice. They wanted Hell running guns too. They mightn’t be getting the Armageddon they’d originally wanted, but one at second remove would be almost as good. The earth would be just as ravaged. Crowley wouldn’t have wanted that, he thought, and his hands stopped shaking.
The man with the cuffs was staggering to his feet as Aziraphale just dropped every vestige of his human appearance. So much for the Christmas cards, chaps he thought giddily as they flinched back, shielding their eyes. He drew his wings protectively around Crowley, holding him safe for the moment, although he knew he’d have to let him go. There couldn’t be evidence. He quailed at the thought. Don’t be such a bloody idiot, Aziraphale he imagined the dear fellow saying. He couldn’t be sentimental; he had to be practical. Crowley approved of practicality. It had been quite some time since he’d had to worry about access codes, and he imagined no one Up There remembered he’d ever had them. There’d be complaints, of course, Infernal Representations, but Heaven would allow a few volcanoes to engulf out of the way villages, and that would be that. He called out the codes, loudly and firmly.
“What was that about?” the men’s leader yelled.
Well. Braver than he’d given the fellow credit for.
“Co-ordinates, mainly,” Aziraphale said.
They looked at him blankly, and he sighed. Really. You’d think they’d at least read the thing for the stories.
“You seem like the sort of people who believe in supernatural vengeance,” he said testily. “Don’t tell me you haven’t heard of Sodom and Gomorrah.”
Their faces went slack with fear. They took one last look at him and most of them turned and ran. Aziraphale was pleased they didn’t waste time calling him a liar or trying to persuade themselves he wasn’t what he appeared. Only the leader remained, staring at him.
“He’s a demon,” the man said numbly. “Why do you care about him?”
“Stupid man,” Aziraphale said, “this isn’t about him.” He paused and then gave a smile he knew would have been more at home on Crowley’s face. “Well, actually it is, in great part. But that’ll be our little secret, all right?”
The man was backing off.
“You’re bluffing!” he called. “You wouldn’t call down fire and brimstone on yourself! You wouldn’t survive either!”
“Well. Let’s see if that’s true,” Aziraphale said, looking calmly up as the clouds laden with lightning began to gather overhead.
The man fled.
Aziraphale spread his wings to welcome the fire.