Summary: Stop me if you've heard this one before - an angel walks into a bookstore and talks about the Apocalypse.
Rating: G for Gen
Spoiler Warnings: In general but not in specific.
Disclaimer: Supernatural is not mine. Good Omens is also not mine.
Notes: There has been a gaping hole in my fandom life where this fic should be. Now, okay, it's entirely possible that someone has already written this - SPN fandom has terrified me for a long while so I've only been active for about a month or so - and if so, well, the more the merrier, honestly. The best way to sum this up is: Castiel and Aziraphale talk about Apocalypses, humans, demons and what it's like to be on Earth. Not necessarily in that order. Beta work by the infinitely lovely oxoniensis ♥ - any remaining mistakes are down to me.
The bell doesn't ring when the man comes into Aziraphale's store. Aziraphale sighs. It means one of two things, of course, both just as tiresome as the other whether his visitor is angelic or demonic. Aziraphale puts on his favourite expression, the one he uses to shoo ne'er-do-wells out of the store, and moves out to greet his guest.
The man who is not a man stands cautiously in the middle of the store, looking up at the towering bookshelves, his features inscrutable. Aziraphale can see what he truly is within the form and sighs again schooling his expression into something a little more polite, though still maintaining the right level of irritation.
“Hello,” he says and the angel doesn't start, just turns to look at him slowly, his head tilted slightly to one side. Aziraphale feels sorry for the vessel – he's going to be terribly stiff when this angel is finished with him.
“Aziraphale,” the angel says, and through the human voice there are enough hints of his own voice for Aziraphale to know with sudden clarity just who is standing before him. All thoughts of shooing and ne'er-do-wells flee from his mind with the knowledge.
“Castiel, isn't it,” Aziraphale says, receiving part of a nod in reply, “the Thursday angel.”
“No-one has called me that for a long time,” Castiel says, something lifting in his expression.
“Well, one must keep to the correct forms,” Aziraphale says, knowing it's utter nonsense as he says it. “Would you like a cup of tea?”
Castiel hesitates, as if this is a question he hasn't been asked before, and Aziraphale resists non-cursing the Americans who have been playing host to Castiel.
“Believe me,” Aziraphale says. “Everything makes a lot more sense after a good cup of tea.”
“Yes,” Castiel nods. “Thank you.”
“No problem at all, my dear boy,” Aziraphale smiles and something like a smile twitches at the corners of Castiel's mouth. That will have to do, Aziraphale adds to himself.
The back room of the store is snug, despite the cold day outside, and Aziraphale makes short work of filling the kettle and turning it on. When ordered Castiel folds himself into a chair, awkwardly, like he's still not used to his vessel.
Aziraphale debates with himself for a moment before retrieving one of his better teasets from the cupboard. He'd found it in Portobello Road and had been immediately charmed by the simplicity of its pattern. He pours a generous measure of loose tea into the pot and feels the aroma wrap around him like an old friend.
He could simply cause the tea to be, of course, but he's always been of the opinion that such an act lessens the flavour. Crowley would laugh at him, Crowley does laugh at him, but Aziraphale is allowed his little quirks.
“You wear that vessel quite badly,” Aziraphale says in an effort to make small talk as he turns to lean against the counter, waiting for the water to boil. Castiel shifts in his seat and looks at his hands as if they can provide him with an answer.
“It has been a long time since I was on earth,” Castiel says finally, “I have not yet become comfortable in human form.”
“You get used to it,” Aziraphale says, touching his chest briefly. “Though perhaps it is a little easier when you can choose your own form.”
“I have grown to like this vessel,” Castiel says quite quickly and Aziraphale only just stops himself from narrowing his eyes. Angelic conversations have a dangerous tendency to come down to slight facial expressions and the truths that are hidden behind human eyes – it wouldn't do to give anything away so soon.
The kettle bubbles brightly behind him and he turns to pour the water as it switches itself off. He barely allows Castiel's tea time to steep – thinking, rightly, that strong tea is not the best introduction to earthly beverages.
“I don't suppose you know if you'd like milk?” Aziraphale asks without turning. “Of course not, if you've not had it before. I'll give you milk, I think, it's just not correct without it.”
He turns back to the table and sets the cup down before Castiel with a small smile. His own tea is strong but quite milky, with a little sugar to off-set the bitterness. He sips and allows it to perform the nigh-miraculous feat of warming him from the inside out. Castiel watches him carefully and then copies his actions – his face is a picture when he tastes the tea for the first time.
“It is most...unusual,” Castiel says, looking down at his milky brown tea.
“You get used to it,” Aziraphale says, wincing as he lumps tea in with vessels. “And if it weren't for tea this whole country would fall apart. So it's worth the effort, in the end.”
Castiel takes a further sip and nods to himself, as if confirming some internal hypothesis, and Aziraphale watches the edges of Castiel's presence colour slightly. A wave of comfort washes across the room and Aziraphale hides his smile behind his cup. Mission accomplished.
“I was told,” Castiel begins and Aziraphale has a feeling that he knows what's coming next, “that you prevented an Apocalypse.”
“Well – not me, myself, you understand,” Aziraphale says, waving away the credit. “It was a wonderfully human prevention. They are truly amazing creatures.”
“Yes,” Castiel says with a fervour most angels would consider unbecoming. Interesting.
“America is ground zero this time, isn't it?” Aziraphale asks, already knowing the answer. It's hard not to notice when half the Host are walking the earth.
“It has been difficult,” Castiel says, staring into his tea. “The losses have been greater than we would like.”
“I know,” Aziraphale says, thankful that his own time in the Apocalyptic trenches is behind him.
“I came to ask – how you did it,” Castiel says in a rush. “How you knew what was right. The whole Host was against you – yet you still prevailed. You protected the earth.”
“I had help,” Aziraphale says, rueful smile spreading across his features. “It's not exactly something one can do by oneself.”
“The demon.” Castiel nods. “There is one in my situation as well – I do not know whether I can trust her.”
“Crowley and I were united on one thing,” Aziraphale says, setting his cup on the table. “We both wanted this world to continue. You can generally trust demons to do what's in their best interests – maybe it's in her best interests to work against her kind.”
“She was once a human,” Castiel expands. “Sometimes I think I can see the spark of her humanity trapped inside the blackness of her form.”
“Then trust in that, old fellow,” Aziraphale says. “You can always count on humans to behave like humans, after all.”
“The human I was sent to save,” Castiel says, and the tension in his voice is almost palpable. “He is difficult to work with – he does not believe, he has no faith in good things and he is a sinner.”
“All humans are sinners to some extent,” Aziraphale says, holding up a hand. “Even that vessel of yours – was it not his pride that lead him to pray for this?”
Castiel sucks in a breath and turns his focus inwards for a moment. Aziraphale knows that it's for show, that there's nothing Castiel wouldn't have known about his vessel before taking possession of it.
“Despite the evidence to the contrary,” Aziraphale continues, “is the human worth having faith in?”
“He is strong, unquestionably passionate about saving people, even his brother who is tainted with demon blood.” Castiel shakes his head, as if wondering how one human could contain so much that he admires. “Yet he defiles himself with alcohol and carnality. And he spent a lifetime in the Pit. I cannot reconcile one with the other.”
“That's humans,” Aziraphale smiles. “Contrary, complex and awkward but their faith, once given, is like nothing else on earth.”
“You have had a long time to learn their ways. I am but beginning to understand.”
“You don't need to understand them, Castiel, all you need to do is believe in them. Let them do the rest.”
Castiel drinks his tea in silence and Aziraphale feels more tension ebb from the room.
“You have been a great help, Aziraphale,” Castiel says, standing.
“Angel, you back here?” Crowley appears in the doorway, unannounced as usual, and Aziraphale barely stifles a sigh. “Oh, a visitor.”
“Castiel was about to leave,” Aziraphale says. Castiel looks at Crowley with undisguised discomfort and Aziraphale worries for a moment that all his good work is about to be undone.
“Castiel,” Crowley's face is thoughtful for a moment, then his lips quirk. “The one who pulled Dean Winchester out of Hell.”
Castiel shifts under Crowley's gaze and Aziraphale catches himself holding his breath. Honestly. Crowley's face shifts into a frightening grin and he takes Castiel's hand between his own to shake firmly.
“You could hear the fallout for days,” Crowley says, letting go of Castiel's hand. “Lilith's anger was pretty vocal. Funniest thing I'd heard all year. I suppose you're trying to stop her Apocalypse next?”
“We are,” Castiel allows, eyes shifting from Crowley to Aziraphale and back again.
“Good luck,” Crowley says and Aziraphale blinks. “I'd hate to have gone through all that solely to have Lilith drag His Darkness out of Hell twenty years later.”
“I am hopeful,” Castiel says and his presence is bright with the hope.
“Just – be careful around the human,” Crowley says, his grin sliding down into a smirk. “Wouldn't do to get too attached, am I right?”
Castiel shivers slightly, just beyond perception, and opens his mouth to say something but stops himself with a shake of his head.
“Really, my dear,” Aziraphale says, with a hint of warning. Crowley makes a face at him but loses his smirk.
Castiel turns his head to look at Aziraphale and Aziraphale is almost certain he didn't misread what he saw in the other angel's eyes earlier. Castiel, it seems, is walking a dangerous line.
“Thank you,” Castiel says, the truth behind his eyes disappearing again. “It has been – informative.”
And with a fluttering of dark wings Castiel is gone.
“That was abrupt,” Crowley says, blinking at the space where Castiel had been standing.
“I don't think he quite has the hang of Earthly manners,” Aziraphale says, knowing that that's the very least of the things Castiel doesn't have the hang of. “Did you mean that – about stopping the Apocalypse?”
“Do we really have to have this discussion again?” Crowley raises an eyebrow as he drops into Castiel's vacant chair. “The highlights were: Elgar, Sound of Music, no theatre.”
“No, no, of course not,” Aziraphale says, shaking his head. He stands up and pours another cup of tea for Crowley, black and heavily sugared.
“Get the biscuits while you're there, won't you?” Crowley asks even as Aziraphale lifts the tin.
“Do you think they have a chance?” Aziraphale asks as Crowley digs through the tin, looking for the hobnobs that only he can find.
“Everyone has a chance,” Crowley says with a wave of his hand. “Just depends whether it's a good one or a bad one. There had to be a reason that Lilith was so angry when Winchester was set free.”
“One can but hope, I suppose,” Aziraphale says, taking a sip of tea. “And pray,” he adds to himself.