"Make sure his wounds do not fester, nor make flies and maggots feast on his bleeding flesh."
The principality known as Aziraphale waited, but nothing else came but silence and the overwhelming feeling of warmth that came with the Presence. He looked over his shoulder at the man slumped near the riverside, wearily washing the blisters and boils on his arms and chest. Puss and blood seeped through his filthy clothing and the exposed wounds that riddled his body glistened in the sunlight. A fly landed on a freshly peeled wound and he swatted at it instinctively, only to curse in pain under his breath. Tears flooded his eyes and they poured down his cracking cheeks and onto the clear water. He took some water in his hands and pours in onto the fresh wound. He then closed his eyes as he laid a trembling hand over the wound, willing it to stop stinging. It was low and desperate, spoken in barely a whisper, but the angel heard every single word of his prayer. The prayer ended, and still, nothing happened. Aziraphale thought it strange, and the thought of the Lord not hearing it crossed his mind.
"Lord," he began.
"Do not heal him, Aziraphale." Aziraphale folded his wings closer in mild surprise as the Presence felt heavier. He squinted and looked away as the light that shone above him somehow grew brighter without changing at all.
Shame and fear flooded him. He knew that such an act would have meant falling if it was from that time. He was thankful. He knew better than to question the ineffable. "Yes… I won't. I apologize for--"
"H U S H . . . " came the voice that echoed through his thoughts. He took a deep breath and let peace flood over him. Faith. Trust. Peace. Calm. "I know he is in pain."
"All this is a test of faith, my child. I will not let him die. Understand this, Aziraphale." And with that, the Presence slowly faded until it was completely gone.
When he opened his eyes, Aziraphale found himself at the ruins of the clay house owned by his current ward. He was assigned as the guardian of a man called Job, who, if anyone would ask him, was the most deserving of divine healing in the entire world.
Job walked past the unseen angel into what was left of his old home, and there, in a corner where he once kept the jars of wine, the oil, and grain, he attempted to dust some dirt and debris away from the blanket where he slept.
Ever observant, Aziraphale watched him with silent concern. He noted how the man moved methodically, careful to keep his wounds from being rubbed onto rough surfaces or sharp edges. He waited until after a few attempts, Job finally positioned himself into a slightly twisted fetal position which allowed the remainder of the blanket to cover his wounds from the elements and the insects that followed him.
Aziraphale let out a sigh of pity as he carefully laid a hand on an infected gaping wound on Job's shoulder. The ones on his back were festering badly so he sent the flies and their maggots away, somewhere else, to the carcass of a dead lion a few miles to the east. He listened to his breathing and waited until the labored hitches relaxed into gentle sighs of sleep. The angel smiled at that. "Thank God for this", he whispered to Job as he dried the boils on the man's palm, "for the Lord granted you a few hours of peace".
Exhausted, he sat and watched over Job, not needing to sleep but wanting to. He thought of giving Job a long stretch of sleep, maybe at least ten hours, to give him pleasant dreams. I could do it, he thought. It's not healing, it's just a bit of additional rest… right?
The imprint of the Almighty's voice echoed in his head. Aziraphale thought hard over it. The order was to not heal Job. He fiddled with the ring on his finger.
He laid his hand on the man's sweating forehead, all the while thinking, It's just sleep, yes, it's just rest and he needs it. Maybe a minor bonus miracle wouldn't hurt.
An angel can do no wrong.
When Aziraphale sank back into his regular seat near the empty crates, Job's breathing deepened, and the angel knew that he did what was right. He repeated six words in his head, convinced that it was true: God does not punish the good.
"Ugh… stinks here, dunnit?"
Aziraphale looked up to see a familiar red-haired demon saunter through the doorway. The yellow eyes acknowledged the blue ones for a moment, followed by a quick exchange of smiles given to acquaintances. The demon then proceeded to scan the room with his lithe facial features contorted into an expression of pure disgust. Aziraphale would have been happy to see him were it a different occasion. Worry tugged at his chest with every step the demon took.
Crowley, the demon, turned over a pot and picked up a jar, sniffing its content before his face deadpanned. He absently let the jar drop and shatter on the earthen floor. It was water. He proceeded to rummage around what little belongings the house contained, breaking bowls and plates, pushing away half-eaten fruit from where they were left to be eaten later on. Aziraphale blinked and mentally made a note to fix all the damage before Job wakes up.
"Honestly, who in their right mind would keep a dry house?" Crowley whined, tossing another jar to a corner. It didn't break.
"Now is not a good time, Crowley," Aziraphale said, stifling a yawn with the back of his hand. One is bound to pick up a few mannerisms when living among mortals.
"I mean--" Crowley continued, looking through a chest of worn old clothes. Holding a woman's shawl, he turned to Aziraphale. "For a freshly-reassigned bachelor, he is MISSING OUT." He gracefully draped the shawl over his shoulder and it immediately lost its vibrant hue.
Aziraphale watched it sadly succumb to an ashen gray.
Job stirred in his sleep. He mumbled a name, his youngest son's, and told him to be careful. He smiled for a moment and then sank into his dream again.
“He should be having the time of his life,” Crowley continued, “Drinking booze and visiting brothels, diving knee-deep in--”
"That's quite insensitive of you," Aziraphale commented in an attempt to distract the demon away from his ward. Crowley smiled at him wolfishly and began to walk towards Job instead. In a moment of panic, Aziraphale stepped between them and unfolded his wings. "If you don’t stop wreaking havoc I will be forced to--"
Crowley suddenly stopped and stood there, blinking at the faint light emanating from the angel's eyes.
"Alright. ALRIGHT. Stop that already," he said, raising his arms in annoyed defeat. "Seriously, angel, you have no idea how disgusting and weird that looks with all the eyes and the…" He shuddered and turned around to walk to the opposite corner. He sat on the floor like a scolded child, his arms crossed over his chest. "Happy now?"
"Yes." Aziraphale smiled as he returned to his preferred human state.
"Glad I could help," the demon replied sarcastically.
"Why are you here, Crowley?"
Crowley looked up, his yellow eyes reflecting the light that seeped through the dried palm leaves that covered the closest window. Aziraphale, still suspicious, watched his every move. "Why?” he answered innocently, “Is it a sin?"
Aziraphale raised his head and crossed his arms protectively, a picture of confident strength [or so he thought]. He knew that there was only one reason for hell to bring one of its brightest demons to his workplace. "Technically, it is."
Crowley slowly shook his head at the angel. "That's just celestial racism." Taken aback, Aziraphale opened his mouth to explain the situation but before he can, Crowley stood and walked back towards him.
Crowley poked a slender finger at the center of Aziraphale's chest. "Shame…"
"On…" Another poke.
The last poke was the sharpest. Looking down, Aziraphale saw that it left an imprint on his immaculate tunic, along with a dry greyish stain. He sighed and tried to wipe the dust and crease away. Celestial racism. He thought about it for a moment and tried to consider the demon's point although he found it annoyingly difficult. Crowley's face was only inches from his and he could faintly smell the sulfur on the demon's skin. The stray leftover scales on the sharp-edged face, though carefully willed to match the skin tone, glistened the way a reptile who just emerged from the sands’ would.
Aziraphale stopped breathing and held the glare from the dark slits of the serpentine eyes. But as soon as Crowley's bout of indignant rage exploded, it vanished and the eyes darted away distractedly. He looked at the floor, the walls, the ceiling, his mouth slightly opened in that questioning sort of way.
Somehow feeling rather disappointed, Aziraphale watched him with slight curiosity. "Looking for something?"
Crowley shifted his weight on one leg, trying to look at Job over the angel's shoulder. Aziraphale stepped aside and the demon took the few steps to stand over the sleeping man.
Crowley mumbled something.
"Sorry?" Aziraphale said, leaning closer.
Crowley straightened up to turn to him. "Where are all the flies?"
"They're gone now."
"You killed them?" he asked in the tone of a child who missed the last cookie by seconds.
Aziraphale looked eastward and checked on the flies, gleefully feasting on scattered lion innards. Crowley began pacing, hissing under his breath, "ShitshitshitSHITSHI--"
Oh dear. "I sent them somewhere else", Aziraphale quickly told him. Crowley stopped pacing and followed Aziraphale's gaze out the window before turning back to him. He continued, "Were they yours?"
Crowley swayed his head slightly as he shrugged. "They were Lord Beelzebub's," he sighed, clearly less concerned now that the little buggers were alive and well.
"Hmm," Aziraphale nodded. "I suppose that makes sense."
"They were sent here… I brought a jarful of those stubborn shit-eating things a few days ago. Practically did a beeline towards your man. It was supposed to be Hastur's job but you know you can't trust him with flies…"
Crowley rambled on, his hands waving about in a crazy pantomime of hellish events regarding the custody of flies and amphibious demons. Aziraphale decently zoned off at the first mention of excrement digestion. Out of practice, he kept a close eye on the demon nonetheless, smiling and nodding politely. Internally, the angel cringed as he revisited the memory of the very same day.
He was at Job's side at the time, guarding, a steady unfelt hand at the man's shoulder, emanating peace and safety. Everything was slowly settling in, even the unbearable sorrow that the man had to endure. Then suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere a black drone of filthy insects came buzzing towards them. Job didn't move for a while, still sinking in self-pity, but he was already waving his hands around…
"…and that's how I invented the art of making puns. Hastur swore to drive a stick down my throat and out my ass. Says he'd grill and eat me extra-rare when I get back…"
Crowley laughed. Aziraphale smiled a bit and tried to remember the flies. One had the audacity to land on his nose and rub its filthy little feet together. Nasty buggers. Those feet probably stepped on--
He tried to remember more detail.
He didn’t think it strange at the time, but if he indeed thought about it, the flies were purely demonic. The little blue-black things with their hairy bodies and shining red eyes-- they SAW him. No, they practically attacked him. He was thankful for being invisible at the time, else it would have been an amusing sight indeed: A kneeling depressed old man and a white-clad golden-haired angel waving his hands around and flapping his wings frantically in an attempt to shoo a swarm of flies away…
"… and before I could even finish my glass, I looked over and the flies were going at the two of you like nymphomaniacs to a new sex-droid at a porn convention!"
Crowley's story was finished. Aziraphale knew because the demon was looking at him expectantly with that proud flushed smile on his face. Aziraphale didn't even think about what he just said, knowing that he wouldn't understand the demon even if he tried.
If he's happy, Aziraphale thought, then he must have accomplished something inherently evil.
Aziraphale nodded solemnly. "Yes, that was a terrible day for Job. Practically salt in the wound, considering--"
"Nice dance moves," Crowley smiled slyly. Aziraphale felt as if a bucket of cold water was poured over his head. Oh, curses.
Crowley's smile was all teeth. His fangs were showing. Beside him, Aziraphale tried to laugh his shame away. After a moment Crowley looked at Job again, and Aziraphale thought he saw a hint of pity somewhere in his eyes, but no sooner than he could recheck, it was gone.
"You look well," Aziraphale said, protectively steering the conversation away. The demon's hair has been cut shorter this time, almost as short as his. It looked strange, but it fit the demon nicely. His current body was tanned, suggesting more fieldwork. He noted that the demon sported a scar here and there, making him look more human than necessary.
Crowley smiled. "You look tired, angel." It was true. "You've lost weight."
"Ah… yes," Aziraphale said, consciously looking down at his almost-flat middle. "Current assignment and all. No rest for the holy."
Crowley sneezed. He shot a warning look at Aziraphale.
Aziraphale kept his mouth shut. Crowley wiped his nose on the shawl, much to the angel’s dismay.
"That's his daughter’s, you know. I'd like you to return it untainted, please."
Crowley sniffed before he answered. "That's not gonna happen." He flicked a corner of the shawl back over his shoulder. "I like it. I'm taking this."
"That's all he has left of her," Aziraphale pleaded, but Crowley only shrugged. "You can't expect me to believe that you're allowed to play into the Almighty's test of faith too, Crowley. The lives of Job and the righteous are under divine protection-- you can’t just take things from them like this."
"Then smite me," Crowley said. He looked at Aziraphale, arms laid out in welcome. After a few seconds, he looked upwards. Aziraphale half-braced himself for the holy discorporation that was about to take place in front of him. Nothing came, not a roll of thunder, nor a ray of divine light. Nothing. Crowley smiled proudly at Aziraphale, one eyebrow raised.
"Haven't you heard?"
Aziraphale snapped out of his thoughts. "What?"
"Don't you know who this man is?!"
“Of course,” Aziraphale said matter-of-factly. "His name is Job, and he is the most righteous man on Earth."
“Naaah,” Crowley shook his head. A well-knowing smile stretched his face. He loved it when he had to explain new things to idiots. “He's a hell-bound celebrity, that's who he is!” he continued excitedly. “Good old Torment-Me-Job…”
Aziraphale’s brow furrowed. “Torment-Me-Job?” He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He drafted his next report in his head, sure that upper management should certainly be inquired about such an event. He knew that Hell had no right to—
“You should see the posters of him they put up,” Crowley said, “Right next to the DNL signs too!”
Aziraphale was at the brink of annoyed confusion. “D…N…L?!”
“Do-not-lick” Crowley explained quickly. Somehow, Aziraphale managed to look more worried and confused than he was before, so he added, “…the walls. It’s an inspirational poster. It’s a Hell thing, you wouldn’t get it.”
Aziraphale blinked the images in his head away. He made a note to never touch walls in a demon’s dwelling as Crowley continued.
“Anyway--Job is famous,” he said. Aziraphale nodded slowly, clearly not wanting to know why but listening anyway. This made the demon proud. He picked up an empty jar and it brimmed with wine in seconds. “Your boss stuck a huge blinking bring-him-hell sign on his head and all of hell's gone crazy for a chance at the gig. Of course, the lords get to torment him first, with the powers and favoritism and all, but my Boss says everyone's suggestions will be thoroughly considered and reviewed for this one-time opportunity. The place has never been more lit since the Original Sin!”
Aziraphale’s throat went dry. "Your boss…" he whispered, "Hell's involved in this too?"
Crowley laughed. "Pffft… Yes!” He took a drink and passed the jar to Aziraphale. The angel drank as if it was water. "Everyone's involved. Our bosses are currently drunk out of their asses and are trying to see if that man there would lose his faith if the benefits of his righteousness wear off."
"They’re setting a wager," Azirapale said, burping at the last word. Crowley nodded and took the jar from him.
The demon took a swig and offered the jar back to the angel. "Ehhh... If you put it that way... yeah"
Aziraphale’s eyes were fixed on a piece of wall in front of them. He didn’t even look as he took the jar and drank from it. It was full to the brim again. "Over his life…"
Crowley shrugged. "It's more of a chess game, really. Two sets against a pawn." He held out his hand, but the angel held on to the jar.
Aziraphale absently scratched a neatly-trimmed fingernail on the jar’s side. "All the deaths… his children..."
"That was on your side," Crowley replied, exactly when the other started drinking.
Aziraphale stopped mid-drink. "What?" He looked at Crowley in shock. The demon nodded at the jar, and Aziraphale gave it back.
"My boss suggested it,” Crowley explained, shaking the jar. It was almost empty again. Sighing, he refilled it. “Yours approved it. And this," he gestured to Job, "…is a collaboration. Glorious, isn't it?"
Aziraphale thought differently if he wished to be honest, but the Almighty’s will is law. He looked at the jar of wine in the demon’s hand. "All his suffering… is a test."
"Ex…shactly!” Crowley said, swaying a bit, “It's like our own reality TV show and our ss…sides are the main sponsors. It's exciting, really. I can't wait to see what happens at the end…”
No, he thought. Aziraphale knew Job. He was a good man. Memories of the Great Flood reappeared in his mind. God punishes the wicked.
Aziraphale’s head began to hurt. He made his way to a dark corner and sat down. Crowley followed him.
“Are you alright, angel?" Crowley asked, concerned with the way the angel hugged his knees and hid his face.
"I'm fine," came the whispered reply. He blamed the wine.
Crowley sat down next to him. He sobered up, leaned back, and drank some more. "Information overload, huh? You really should start connecting with your superiors…”
Aziraphale looked up at him, his blue eyes shining faintly in the shadows. Crowley took this as a cue to continue. “Maybe ask some necessary questions…"
Aziraphale shot him a look. Crowley smiled, patting the angel on the shoulder. "Oh, come on,” he cooed jokingly, “Black wings are shinier, and they're easier to groom."
Aziraphale straightened his posture, slightly insulted. "If you think that I'd risk falling just for a cheap offer at vanity in exchange for additional knowledge, then you, my dear demon, are entirely mistaken.” After a few seconds, he quickly added, “I'd rather read scrolls."
Crowley nudged Aziraphale playfully on the shoulder. "You sure? We get animal forms. Ever wondered what animal your sins best represent? I have my bet on a quokka. It fits you, angel."
"No, and I would have you know that animal forms are simply party tricks compared to what the divine can do."
"Pfft. I'll believe it when I see it," Crowley said. "You mean the eyes, right? I mean, yeah, that's… interesting and unnerving, sure… it's…” he shrugged, looking for a better word and failing, “Okay… I've seen better though."
"Really?" Aziraphale said. “If I recall earlier, you almost shrunk into your slithering form at the mere sight of me.”
“I was faking it,” Crowley said.
“Keep lying to yourself, dear,” Aziraphale said, smiling lightly.
“Believe what you want to believe. I really have seen something FAR better.”
“Is that so?” Aziraphale gestured politely at the jar. Crowley took a long swig and handed it to him before he began.
"First thing I ever saw after climbing up from the depths. It was all dark earth, and then there it was, walking around the garden bathed in this new thing called Light. Big guy, blasted fucking cherub it was called, two pairs of massive MASSIVE wings… " he spread his arms wide, "and four BLOODY faces. Imagine that-- a lion, an ox, and a… a bird-- a--- an EAGLE, plus his normal face, and he… he was marvelous, angel. Just… perfect design, striking fear and emanating power, and he carried this insane flaming sword that sliced rocks as if it were butter." He shook his head in disbelief, "Remember that?"
He looked over at Aziraphale. The angel was quiet for a while.
"You never told me that story before," Aziraphale said.
"Didn't have an opportunity to bring it up,” Crowley smiled. “I remember it like it was yesterday, you know. It was THAT impressive."
Aziraphale smiled sadly. "I suppose it was."
"You don't remember?"
"I do. Just…” Aziraphale drank, “Some of it's a blur.
"How did you lose it?"
"The rank? The Lord never mentioned it. It just sort of happened after the whole Fall of Man business. I suppose it was because of the sword."
"No,” Crowley raked his brain for the word. “I mean, your form.”
“Hm?” Aziraphale was in the middle of drinking.
“Your wings!” Crowley said, Aziraphale looked back at his wings and Crowley almost slapped himself in frustration. “The other pair! How did you lose them?"
"...They were just gone." Simple as that, Aziraphale added in his head. He returned the empty jar with a small smile.
"Well, that's not dramatic at all."
"Well, there was no need for that.” Aziraphale remembered the Fall. They, as victors, watched their enemies succumb to their fates. It was a lesson for all of them who remained. “I did not fall, Crowley."
"I never said that,” Crowley pointed out. “I did expect you to half-fall though."
"I did not fall in any way." Aziraphale straightened up. "I was demoted."
He groaned. "The freefall to a fiery pit of sulfur was more visually pleasing. Being demoted is the most un-dramatic way to lose your wings. It's a shame, really. Imagine if you became the half-fallen… the semi-fallen…” he tried to think of a fitting term. “…Bi-celestial?"
"I did not fall and I have no desire to be anything else other than what I currently am now. My side is a well-oiled machine of pragmatism. We value well-defined results.” Aziraphale stood and patted the dust off his tunic and cloak. “Your lot invented drama."
Crowley laughed a little. "Did we now?"
"Yes, Crowley,” Aziraphale offered his hand to the demon, “you did."
"Alright," Crowley chuckled, taking the angel’s hand. "I'll remember that." He allowed himself to be pulled to his feet. After nodding his thanks, he asked, "Does it bother you?"
"I have known you since Eden, Crowley. Your minor temptations have lost its charm on me."
Crowley didn’t know what to feel about that, but he continued, "No, not that. I mean him. This… Job… thing. His trial.” Aziraphale raised his eyebrows. “I mean-- you are his guardian and all."
"As I have told you before, I am not in the place to question Policy Decisions, Crowley. Whatever has happened was meant to happen, and whatever shall happen, will happen. It's ineffable."
"That’s just lazy, you know."
"The Almighty is not lazy and you know better.” A tone of warning gently laced the angel’s voice. “Participant or not, I advise you to be careful, unless if you want to be discorporated... permanently."
"I'm not talking about your Boss--" Crowley made a peace sign with his fingers as he looked up. "I'm talking about you."
"I am not lazy," Aziraphale said defensively.
"Of course you are."
"Ineffable,” Crowley mimicked. “You always say ‘ineffable’. Ineffable this, ineffable that. Not everything cannot be described, angel, especially by YOU."
Aziraphale was no longer smiling and he turned so that he was facing the demon directly. "What do you mean by that?"
"Cherubs hold the knowledge of the almighty,” Crowley tried to read the angel’s eyes. “You know things."
"Oh, so you're studying the hierarchy of angels now?" Aziraphale asked flatly.
"Not just me,” Crowley explained, “All of uss... Demonss, we know things."
"Is there a demon academia for celestial knowledge?"
"We're just good at research,” Crowley masked his nerves with a smile. He has forgotten how Aziraphale can be like the other angels if he tried. “Who do you think bit into the forbidden fruit after it was discarded on the ground?"
“That doesn’t surprise anyone,” Aziraphale replied.
"Yeah?” Crowley said, trying to calm himself. He has dealt with worse audiences before. “Well, I, for one, know that your boss cannot control knowledge. That's why the fall of man cannot be undone."
"That is true," the angel mumbled, and Crowley nodded.
"With the same logic, you still have all the knowledge of the universe between those golden cherub curls of yours, correct?"
"I am a principality, Crowley,"
"So you sink into your rank?"
"Yes,” Aziraphale answered. “I should."
Crowley sighed tiredly. "It's a shame you're bound by obedience, angel. If you fall…"
"THAT IS ENOUGH, CROWLEY!” Aziraphale screamed, his carefully-designed form cracking in angelic rage. “I will not fall for knowledge, I will not fall for vanity--"
"Then fall for me then!” Crowley screamed. He paused, his eyes locked with Aziraphale’s. A moment. He looked away and continued, “We've been friends for the longest t--."
"CEASE YOUR TORMENT, DEMON, OR BY THE POWER OF THE ALMIGHTY I WILL SMITE YOU WHERE YOU STAND!"
Crowley waited but the attack never came. He couldn’t bear to look at the form before him, for in Aziraphale’s place stood a soldier, just one of many, all reduced to one identical thought, and following one voice deemed almighty. He cursed under his breath. Aziraphale is still an angel and nothing will change. Sometimes, he forgets this.
Aziraphale saw the pain in Crowley’s eyes but he felt nothing. All he felt was the overwhelming Presence, and it embraced him as it always has. Faith. Trust. Peace. Calm. Faith. Trust. Peace. Calm. It flowed endlessly in his thoughts, and then, it waned.
Crowley risked a glance at Aziraphale's eyes before looking out towards the mountains. "You're disappointing,” he said. And with that, the demon unfolded his wings and flew away in a violent whirlwind that shook pots out of shelves.
Roused by the commotion, Job, half awake and with his head throbbing painfully, reached for a stick and sat up to defend himself. “Who is it?” he hissed. The sudden movement made his wounds rip themselves open again.
He squinted in the late afternoon light and saw the winged man standing still in the middle of the room. “Who are you?” he asked hesitantly.
Aziraphale turned to him with a peaceful smile, “Do not be afraid. I am a friend.”
In sudden realization, Job fell forward in an attempt to bow low at the angel’s feet. Aziraphale rushed to help him lie back down.
“Rest now,” the angel said, muting the pain enough for it to be bearable.
“Did the Lord send you to heal me?”
Aziraphale tried his best to look Job in the eyes and smile. “Yes,” he said. “He sent me to watch over you. I will be with you until everything gets better.”
“Praise the Almighty,” Job whispered, slowly drifting off to dreams of everything he had lost.
Aziraphale sighed sadly. He’d have to make him forget the dreams tomorrow, but it’s a problem for another day. He cleanly ripped off a portion of his cloak and blessed it. In his hands, its white and gold thread turned into a vibrant yellow.
He placed the identical shawl inside the chest. He did this because he knew how it felt. He knew that God can take everything you hold dear and see it as nothing more than a well-deserved test. He knew that God can take away a man’s life at a moment’s thought. God can kill whomever he chooses, God can take away riches, God can take away family, and he knew that God can take away wings. God would allow his own to be pushed down to the ground until nothing but suffering and anguish remains, just to see if they would retaliate or succumb.
…just to see if they would fly or fall.
“There are moments when you’re in too deep that it seems easier to just swim down.” Crowley. He heard him whisper it as they were flying atop Noah's ark, watching everyone drown. Aziraphale was not allowed to do anything. Crowley made the children grow tired and succumb to sleep before they sank.
Aziraphale looked over to where Job slept and he knew. If Job passes the…no. If Job wins, God will return everything that was taken from him. His dead children will be replaced, and God will make them better than the ones he lost. His health will flourish so much that he will live a long and prosperous life. His riches will be returned seven-by-seven-folds. Job's case will fall under the bounds of heavenly justice. He knew about all of it, but he didn’t have a right to think about it. Neither did he have the right to ask. He let the thoughts pass and vanish.
Job was a righteous man, and this was the price of faith.
Aziraphale did what he thought was right, and this was the price of kindness.
He opened his wings and felt its weight on his back. God cannot take away memories. God cannot take away the emotions they carry. God cannot control knowledge once it is acquired for it grows when it is cultivated. He, a principality, knows all this. He always did.
The memory of yellow eyes surfaced in his mind. A bright fanged smile. “Fly or fall, angel.”
Crowley made it sound too easy but the thoughts in his mind kept kept shifting like the earth's seas. He focused until one question rose above all others. What if Crowley is my test?
NO, he thought, closing his eyes tight. This is wrong. Wrong wrong wrongWRONGWRONGWRONGWRONGWRONG—
We wanted to scream and fly away. He wanted to leave the blasted sleeping man and forget the divine cruelties he has witnessed. A faint shudder ran down his spine.
At that moment, unnoticed and unfelt, one perfectly white feather dislodged itself from his wing and fluttered onto the floor.