Good Omens ; Aziraphale/Crowley ; PG ; 900 words
In which Aziraphale accidentally sells a book, and finds himself dangerously near to parting with another.
for the occasion of melandry's birthday!
There were customers in his shop. And Aziraphale really had been meaning just to hide in the back until they all went away again, but somehow he'd been cornered by a very earnest, very lovely young woman who was desperately searching for a book for her nephew's fifth birthday ("he's well ahead of himself as far as reading age goes, do you have anything about robots?"). Before he knows quite what's going on he finds himself talking to the full half-dozen people who have arrived on the premises, offering suggestions and advice.
It's possible that his ideas are somewhat antiquated, and he leaves a bemused art student with a book on medieval painters and he doesn't really know any stories about robots, but then he found that in fact he stocked three copies of 101 Ways To Seek Out Alien Life From Your Bedroom (thank you, Adam), which apparently would suit little Mikey just fine too.
Aziraphale sits behind the register and carefully types in the price, printing a receipt and carefully placing the book in the bag. It's a new sensation, willingly parting with a book, and it gives him a warm glow of generosity inside. Maybe he can get better at the whole 'selling' part of his job description after all.
It is then disaster strikes. A man (mid-30s, shirt and jeans, looked one of those art director types, Aziraphale really hadn't seen the threat coming) has picked up a first edition of The Importance Of Being Earnest and he's turning it over, examining it with a smile. The smile of imminent purchase.
Aziraphale sits up a little straighter in his chair, his blood running cold. He has a method usually, a way of extracting customers from this place much before this point, but the man looks happy and Aziraphale has been nice to them all for the past half an hour and it's all wrong, wrong, wrong. But ah, look, the man's turning the book over, looking for the price, and it must be something extraordinary, something no sensible human could possibly want to pay for a mere book.1
But his face assumes no predictable crumple, no look of horror. Aziraphale considers whether there is any way he can triple the price in the time it takes for the man to bring his ill-considered desire towards the till.
It is now that a demon swoops in.
"Ah, I see you have my reservation," says Crowley, alleviating the interloper of his would-be purchase. "There must have been a mix-up," he says smoothly, "this got caught up with your other books again, angel?"
Aziraphale nods quickly. "Must be, terribly sorry."
The man glances at them both and smiles a little. "Not to worry."
"Yes, quite." Crowley takes the man by the arm and ushers him out of the shop. "And we're just about to close in any case, though if you're still after first editions I'd just going down to the end of the street, taking a right, then a left, it's dead on the corner, you can't miss it."
"Oh, really? Thanks!"
Crowley shuts the door behind him, firmly closing the blinds over the windowpane.
"Thank you," Aziraphale says, with great sincerity.
Crowley smirks a little. "Clearly, you are growing soft. Next thing I know you'll be inviting them in by the throng."
Aziraphale feels a little pale at the thought. "I should certainly hope not."
"Well, I shall be here to save you from yourself should the need arise. Now come on, grab your coat, let's get out of here."
"I wasn't aware you were in the habit of saving anything from anybody," Aziraphale says as he fumbles with buttons.
"Only in very particular circumstances," Crowley answers. "For instance, I have taken the liberty of saving a particularly exquisite Cabernet Sauvignon from everyone else for this evening."
"How commendable," Aziraphale murmurs, picking up his scarf.
Looking impatient, Crowley reaches forward to pluck the scarf from his hands, throwing it behind Aziraphale and tucking the ends underneath his lapels with a care that belied the look on his face.
"And then there was the occasion you helped save the world," Aziraphale says as they head out the door.
"Also true," Crowley agrees. "See, you're dragging me upwards, I can't be having that."
Aziraphale turns the shop sign firmly over to 'Closed', and locks the door. Inside, the books may now sleep soundly, protected and undisturbed. "You didn't really pack that nice man off to another antique bookshop, did you?" he asks.
"No," Crowley admits. "I suspect he'll get trapped between one of your Bible-thumpers and half a dozen people with obnoxious flyers."
Aziraphale tuts softly, but his arm brushes companionably against Crowley's. "Well then, I can't be doing you too much good. I wouldn't want to rush things," he says.
Crowley laughs at that; a little disbelieving, a little knowing, and a lot fond. "No, that would never do," he agrees.
Aziraphale smiles, takes a breath, inhales the crisp evening air. They walk down the street.
1. Aziraphale does not usually pay for books. He is more accustomed to acquiring them, or having them bequeathed unto him. And Oscar had been such a terribly good friend.