It was a cloudy day in London. Although, to be fair, most days were cloudy days in London. In a small, newly established bookshop an Angel was having tea while reading a recently procured original copy of Great Expectations*. Gloved hands carefully flipped over the seventh page of the manuscript and to the Angel’s horror a piece of parchment that was sandwiched between the pages drifted to the ground. Aziraphale reached down with trembling hands, a stain or speck of dirt on a manuscript like this was simply unforgivable. The gloved fingers gently lifted the page from the ground and he was relieved to see that the handwriting was not Charles’ and must have been a note from the publisher that was simply misplaced. Or at least that’s what he thought until his eyes saw his own name at the top.
PRINCIPALITY AZIRAPHAEL FORMERLY OF THE EASTERN GATE,
YOU ARE BEING TEMPORARILY REASSIGNED EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY. THERE HAS BEEN A NOTED INCREASE OF DEADLY SINS IN THE WESTERN PORTION OF THE AMERICAS. YOU ARE HEREBY SENT TO THWART WHATEVER DEMON IS CAUSING THEM.
At the bottom of the note there was a holy sigl that represented the Angelic Assignment Office.
Aziraphale never swore, but in this moment he was dearly tempted to.
After a rushed bit of packing, because immediate really meant immediate to Heaven, Aziraphale was stretching his wings for the 32 hour flight from London to New York. Once in New York he would board the train heading towards St. Louis and from there the great Wild West. If he was being forced into a new culture he may as well experience it fully, and that includes the long train ride. He hoped it may give him a better understanding of why people were committing these sins in the first place. Then when he gets there, he will actually have to begin searching for the source of all the evil and sins that had been taking place.
Bags in hand, the angel ducked into a narrow alley next to his bookshop and snapped open his wings. The feathers rustled slightly in the breeze as Aziraphale eyed the sky and considered the wind direction in the flight patterns of a small nightingale passing by. He bent his knees slightly and then with a sharp crack he was in the air. The flying above the clouds in London would be exhausting but hopefully there would be plenty of thermals to take advantage of over the ocean.
The air above the London clouds was cool and crisp. Moisture from the clouds and fog clung to his feathers and small drops of moisture shed from every wing beat and shimmered in the high altitude air.
Aziraphale would say he’s excited, but that would be a complete lie.
33 Hours and 35 minutes later
The flight had been exhausting. Aziraphale’s wing joints ached like they haven’t in millenia. He was more out of shape than he had thought and had to stop for a very brief rest in the Azore. Thankfully he had made it to New York without any further delays. Aziraphale straightened his waistcoat in the back alley he had touched down in right next to the train station. A bustling crowd passed in front of the entrance to the alley. It was a small miracle that no one saw him*. As he exited the alley a piercing train whistle cut through the roar of the crowd. Aziraphale hurried into the main area next to the tracks.
“Last call for the Western bound train to Council Bluffs!”
Aziraphale (politely) pushed his way through the crowd to a car entrance. Calmly stopping in front of the guard checking tickets.
Aziraphale handed him a ticket that didn’t exist a moment prior for a seat that was previously full***. It was stamped and thus Aziraphale was on his way.
The transfer in Council Bluffs went by with little fanfare as another bench had miraculously opened up on the train going towards Brigham City in Utah. It was there that Aziraphale would truly enter the Wild West.
Aziraphale tucked his luggage into the upper compartment and settled in with a copy of Malaeska; the Indian Wife of the White Hunter that he had gotten cheap, apparently it was very popular among settlers.
He must have been reading for hours before he felt the pressure of eyes watching him, Aziraphale lifted his eyes from the book. The baby sitting across from him was staring at him with its mouth agape. A small glob of drool escaped from its mouth and landed on its mother’s skirts. Trying not to laugh, the Angel grinned at the child and blessed it as subtly as he could. The young mother must either be off to join her settler husband in the west or to make a better life for herself as a single woman. Either way he did not doubt that she would need the help that blessing her child would give. From the chatter at the train station, the West was a dangerous and difficult place, fraught with danger at every step and full of people and animals alike that were looking for a meal and willing to kill to get it.
It was something Aziraphale was very wary of and he prayed that this young mother would be better off than he surely would be.
The train slowed and then shuddered to a stop. There was screaming and shouting from the train car ahead. The mother sitting across from Aziraphale looked terrified and clutched her child close to her breast. A toddler whimpered somewhere in the back or the car as the parents desperately shushed him.
Then there was the horrible crack of gunfire and Aziraphale winced, this was not the introduction to the West that he had planned for himself. Not even close. The gunfire ceased quickly as did the screaming. Well, that certainly was not good. Muffled voices came from the car, they were clearly angry.
“I...no survivors...who gives a shit if they’re... you no good...shoulda drowned you when..”
“They’re just...won’t remember any... nothin valuable...just…”
“Fuckin fine! Get your...next car....while we saddle up...and hurry…”
That certainly did not sound good as ‘next car’ likely meant the one Aziraphale was sitting in. There was a polite knocking at the connecting door before it was kicked straight in. Snakeskin boots clicked their way across the fallen door. The man sauntered in, his black leather chaps had a ridiculous amount of fringe, his black button up was fraught with gaudy yellow stitching, the large black rifle frock throw over top seemed like overkill, and the snake icon on his bolo tie completed the ridiculous motif. What really drew everyone’s eye, however, was the carbine slung across the man’s back and a colt low on his hip in easy drawing distance.
“Howdy folks,” the man spoke, but the words were muffled by a black bandana wrapped around his face, “if ya’ll could do me a favor and just toss all yer valuables into this sack here we’ll see what we can do bout making sure ya don’t end up like our previous guests.”
A large burlap sack was tossed into the middle of the aisle and people rushed to fill it, remembering the horrible silence from the other train car. The man slung the carbine off his back and held it loosely for emphasis. Aziraphale did not move, he had nothing of value after all, well, nothing these thieves would find valuable anyways.
The robber clicked up the aisle, spurs jingling with every step. He seemed to wince at the wimpers of the baby across from Aziraphale but looked satisfied at the rush people were filling the bag with. Aziraphale avoided eye contact, that is he tried to, but the man was now standing directly in front of him. Aziraphale slowly looked up to make eye contact, if he was to get shot he might as well face this head on. The robber’s hat shadowed most of face but he was able to catch a yellow glint in the man’s eyes. The man’s very familiar eyes. No way, there is absolutely no way he would or could be out here...
The thin man lowered his carbine rifle and whistled lowly.
*It should be noted that by original copy the author means original in its true sense. Aziraphale was delicately flipping through looseleaf pages of the original rough draft written by Charles Dickens hand. This copy may have been taken directly from the man's desk but a near replica still lay in its place and it was doubtful that the man would ever notice.
**It really was just a small one
***The previous owners found quite a large sum of money hidden in a suitcase pocket, it was enough to repair their farm that had burned down and they had no need to leave their home now.
The commendation had come in the form of a stained napkin, it was a very suspicious stain and the writing was barely legible but unfortunately Crowley was still able to read it. It was congratulating him for his good evil work in the western portion of the New World*. Apparently things had been moving and shaking pretty well out there and the note expected Crowley to keep it up.
To keep it up?! He hadn’t even been there. He’s nearly mastered the art of tarnishing hundreds of souls at once. Indeed he was on the breakthrough of something huge. There were some bills going through parliament that he could practically taste the unrest they would cause.
And yet he was being shipped off to the American West of all places. Well, no reason he couldn’t be passive aggressive about it thought Crowley as he settled in for a few day nap in order to pretend like he’d never seen the notice in the first place.
He’d get to the west...eventually.
*Hell was very behind the times.
That eventually came a week later as Crowley finally boarded a ship heading to New York. Honestly there was no rush and he really didn’t want to be there anyways. So a long boat ride across the pond and a short train ride later he was in Independence, Misery. He was amazed at the accuracy of the American way of naming things, a whole state of misery? What an amazing idea! Independence was a decent enough name for the city as well considering that’s what most folks were out there for. Not that they’d ever truly find it, only a government created illusion of it.
And Crowley was going to make this state of Misery live up to its name. Well, at least until he found a way out of here, the train ride was awful.
Also he would have to get new clothes, he stuck out like, well, an Englishman in the middle of a ranch. He was here to spread lot of low level discomfort and he refused to look like an idiot while doing it. Crowley had wandered to the edge of the town but hopefully there was some sort of tailor further into the city.
And so the non-resident demon set out to buy some new clothes, or at least get off of the dusty path he was currently on. Or that what he would have done if a strange vehicle of sorts hadn’t caught his attention.
It appeared to be a large wagon but it was covered with a large white cloth securely pinned in a circular pattern at the front and back. It was quite large and Crowley did not fancy meeting whatever beast pulled that thing but nonetheless he shuffled closer to take a better look.
“Howdy partner, you headed out to claim a bit of the unassigned lands?:
Crowley, who had been peering into the back of the odd cloth covered cart turned to grin at the man who had approached him. A weather worn face grinned at Crowley, a beat up cream colored ten gallon hat shaded the man’s tanned visage.
“Actually,” Crowley began, “I hadn’t even heard of such a thing, is that what all the hubbub is with the wagons?” He gestured to the several wagons that had made camp at the edge of town.
“Oh indeed! We’re all just moseying about until the Land Run date to go in our prairie schooners and claim our own little bits of paradise,” a sad look flitted over his otherwise friendly face for a moment, “Some of us ain’t got no reason to stay here anymore.”
Crowley nodded sympathetically, after all he didn’t want to be there either, although he also didn’t want to be in the unclaimed territory but that was beside the point.
The man pulled out his rolling papers and tobacco pouch and set to work on a flat part of the wagon. “Ya see, the ole farm finally got closed in by the bank and my family ain’t got nothin’ to live on,” he lit his quickly made cigarette and took a deep inhale off of it, “Figured if they're jus’ givin’ the land to anybody we might as well take our own bit.” He took another long drag, “We’re just hoping we get there in time, awful lot of people tryna claim their lot and with everyone rushin’ in at once we’re awfully nervous.”
Crowley hummed, considering the man’s problem, “Well,” he began, “I reckon I don’t see what’s stopping you.” He leaned in closer to the man and dropped the volume of his voice to a near whisper. “In fact, what harm could it do to leave a little sooner.”
A glint of excitement entered the man’s eyes, “You know, I do believe you have a point Mister…?”
“Anthony, a pleasure to make your acquaintance, don’t suppose you could tell me where you can get a hat like that around here?”
The older man grinned, “I know just the place!”
The man and man-shaped being shook hands and thus started the beginning of major deadly sin actually being spread by a demon in the US. And thus also began a devastatingly awful series of fashion choices.
Those fashion choices started reasonably enough, a new western cut shirt and thicker black pants, even the long rifle coat could be excused as trying to fit in. The yellow stitching was unnecessary on the shirt but not overly so. What was truly ridiculous were the black leather chaps and the snakeskin boots combined with gaudy silver spurs. Not to mention the hat he got, black suede with a snake patterned band. And the bolo tie really finished off the now walking caricature that was Crowley.
The man who was showing him around just seemed highly amused by Crowley’s enthusiasm and gaudy taste*. The shopkeepers had all been relatively pleasant, even the one who had tried to insist that the whole wagon party needed to buy new square wheels for their wagons, more surface area meant they’d go a lot faster.
Fortunately Joel wasn’t born yesterday (although that Anthony fellow had seemed strangely interested) and they left that shop in a rush with the shopkeeper yelling advice about fording the river behind them.
“Ya know Anthony, could use an extra hand in the wagon train, if you’re interested.”
And Crowley, who never wanted to ride another train ever again, seriously considered the offer. On one hand he’d be traveling with a large group of humans, on the other hand that meant he may finally be able to spread some actual mischief, also he’d get to see what those wagons were about. All things considered, it probably wouldn’t be the worst idea ever.
Crowley tipped his new hat in agreement, “You’ve got yourself an extra hand then!”
*The man in question, Joel, had three children, and Crowley really was just a very large child in his eyes
The wagon train was not as fun as Crowley had thought it might be. There were too many horses and oxen and too little food. Most of what they ate had to be caught whenever they stopped. Although he had seen one young boy eating the jarred food that was meant for the animals when the grass turned to dust. To be fair it was the same boy who had been throwing supplies off the back of his family’s wagon, which was unfortunately at the back of the train. Crowley said nothing, it promised to be absolutely hilarious when the rest of the family picked up on the missing supplies.
In the meantime Crowley ate as little as possible, he wasn’t actually human after all and he never quite got the hang of eating anyways*. He only ate what Joel forced on him, thankfully the man had two children to feed so it wasn’t much. Most of what he did give Crowley was snuck back to the kids anyways. He may be a demon but hungry children was never quite his style.
Nonetheless the wagons moved slow and there was dust everywhere which was dirtying his black ensemble terrible. The only good part was the it was warm, warmer than it ever was in london. Crowley took advantage of any flat rock exposed to the sun that he could. He was sure that his constant sneaking off raised questions but he wasn’t going to stop his sunbathing for anyone or anything. The lack of clouds and rain was something Crowley had not enjoyed for centuries, being a part-time snake this felt like quite the tragedy.
After several weeks of travel it finally came time to cross Arkasas river. Something that both of Joel’s children were terrified of.
“Dad please can’t we just take a ferry?”
“Yeah! Everyone else is going across on the ferry!”
Joel hesitated here, Crowley knew that the man didn’t have the money to transport all of them and the wagon. And abandoning the wagon would be a costly loss.
Crowley interrupted Joel before he could start, “Well, it's about time I start paying y'all back I suppose, get those kids on a ferry, I’ll get the wagon across.”
Joel looked shocked by this but seemed to be relieved at the offer.
“That’s mighty kind of ya Anthony, we’ll help you caulk it, can you handle it from there?”
Despite Crowley having no idea what caulking was he figured that worse case scenario he’d just miracle himself across. Besides the water didn’t look that turbulent or dangerous.
*Apparently it’s weird to unhinge your jaw in the middle of a restaurant.
“Friends don’t let friends ford the river, take a ferry!”
Yeah, real useful advice, thought Crowley, who was currently holding onto a large rock in the middle of the Arkansas River. This had likely been his worst idea yet and the water rushing at him just about proved that. The caulking hadn’t held as well as Joel had planned and as they took the ferry several miles downstream, the wagon had gotten swept under the deceptively calm looking water about halfway through. The ropes holding the horses had snapped and Crowley had gotten a brief glimpse of them shaking off water on the opposite bank before he was dragged underwater.
By some stroke of luck he had been slammed into the large rock and grabbed it about a hundred feet downstream, but he was still being almost pulled under by the currents.
This was really not a great time to get discorporated, there would be far too many questions from hell. Especially since Crowley really hadn’t been doing his job. In fact he had been doing the opposite of his job and making sure those kids were safe and remained so.
As Crowley spluttered he heard shouting from the opposite bank. Several men stood there, the one at the front was pointing at something in the water and yelling at Crowley. It was a rope, oh thank Sat- Someone, they had thrown him a rope. Crowley reached out to grab it just as he slipped from the rock. The rope was rough and hurt his palms as the demon clung to it for dear life, only letting go when his stomach scraped against the sand and pebbles of the bank.
Crowley just layed there for a moment, gasping for breath and trying to stop shaking, The sun was harsh on his squinted eyes. Or at least it was until a shape above him blocked it out. The man reached out a hand to help Crowley up.
“Howdy friend, my name’s Buck Stevens, and I reckon you owe me ‘n my friends a favor.”
“Turns out those folks were the Stevens Gang, Halliday, Butch, Sam, Sparrow, Mortimer, Josey, and Stevens of course! And it turned out that favor was an extra member for their train robbery! They gave me the carbine and everything, pretty neat huh?”
Aziraphale turned to look at Crowley who was riding on a stolen horse next to his. Aziraphale wouldn’t consider his horse stolen, merely liberated from the gang who surely mistreated it*. A quick miracle had the horses wandering off from the camp that the robbers had set up while waiting for Crowley to return with the loot. Which he was never going to do and when they eventually attempted to get back on the train to see what was taking so long, they’d realize that the passengers were all gone and so was Crowley.
They would not be happy at all, but by the time they realized the betrayal, Crowley and Aziraphale would be long gone towards the next town, miraculously leaving no tracks behind to follow.
Aziraphale hummed before speaking, “Well dear, it would be neat, that is if you hadn’t just attempted to rob me and the whole train.”
Crowley grasped at his chest and swooned, as if deeply wounded, “C’mon Angel! What was I supposed to do?” Then under his breath, “Especially since Hell won’t get off my back.”
“Well dear, maybe you should have taken a ferry, and trust me, Heaven has been quite on mine as well.”
The ethereal and occult beings lapsed into silence as the horses plodded through the bushes. The sun had begun to set and was lighting up the sky with peach and vermillion hues. The burst of color in front of them was still in sharp contrast to the light blue behind them. Soon the sky would fade into a deep blue though, and the nearest town was still a good few miles away. Thankfully the horses were energetic even as the sun crept lower and they would likely be able to make it there not long after dark.
The town came into sight just as the stars began appearing in the sky above the plains. A large sign marked the road, welcoming travelers into “No Name City”. Well, both man-shaped beings thought to themselves, not everyone can be good at naming things.
They crossed a small steam as they got closer, Crowley shivered at the thought of water crashing over his head. Aziraphale shot him a worried glance, but the demon pretended not to notice. The stream wasn’t more than a few inches deep but Crowley felt like he wouldn’t like the thought of water for quite a while.
They passed under the sign that announced the town limits before they spoke again.
“Well,” said Aziraphale, “I suppose this is where we part for the evening, I’ll go begin my work and you’ll begin yours I’m assuming?”
“What Angel, too good for a night in the local brothel? Bet they’d let us share a bed.” This was said with a smirk and a wink but internally Crowley was nervous about leaving the angel alone. This was the wild west, Aziraphale could have been killed on that train if it hadn’t been Crowley forced to check that car. Well, inconveniently discorporated, but that would still be bad. Along with that Crowley did hate being alone, there were no plants to keep him company here and he wouldn’t trust any of the men in this town not to rob him blind as he slept.
Aziraphale just took the comment in stride, quite used to Crowley’s odd comments now and then. Really, sharing a bed, the demon knew they could always miracle an extra, what would the point be?
“Thank you for the offer dear boy but I do believe I should have a word with the local minister.”
With that comment Aziraphale wheeled his horse around and set her in a path towards the only building with a cross on it. He would assume that was the church and he would be correct in that.
Crowley sighed as he watched the angel disappear into the dusty night. Tying his horse up for the evening he prepared to argue with the bartender for room without getting price gouged. And maybe to cause a couple of bar fights along the way, after all the night was still young.
*The horse was actually typically just the pack horse of the group, it was quite happy to have a rider instead of the seven packs she usually carried. Especially such a kind rider who didn’t even wear spurs, it was a very pleasant change indeed.
Aziraphale awoke to a buzzing coming from outside the church doors, it was a very odd buzzing, almost musical sounding. It sounded like a choir of bees, a very untrained, talentless choir of bees. Aziraphale sighed, he supposed the sun was starting to rise so he might as well rise with it.
As he was dressing the buzzing continued. It really did sound like music, if the person playing had heard the song once in a very crowded bar and was also trying to hum for the first time. He looked in the small vanity mirror and straightened his pale yellow waistcoat. The color may not be the most sensible for the wild west* but Aziraphale liked this color darnit and he could always miracle it clean anyways.
Aziraphale blew a huff at his mirrored image and deemed himself suitable for another day in the dust and sweltering heat. As he walked towards the door the incessant humming grew louder, it must be coming from right outside the door. He unlocked the door, the minister must not be up yet, and swung open the single wooden door, and thus found the source of the noise.
Crowley was sat leaning up against the wooden wall of the church directly to the right of the door. His eyes were closed and his head was leaned back. His hands held a strange rectangular instrument in front of his lips which seemed to be the source of the buzzing.
“Oh, good morning dear, what on Earth is that contraption you’ve got making that incessant noise?”
One yellow eye cracked open and peered up at the angel from beneath the black Stetson that was tilted at an odd angle due to it being pushed up against the wall
“Howdy Angel, fine morning for a bit of music right?” He gestured with the small rectangular box. “Picked this up from the general store this morning. They just gave it to me after I demonstrated how skilled I was!”
Aziraphale gave the demon a doubting side eye. The visible eye shifted away from his gaze to avoid eye contact.
“Well, he technically did,” Crowley justified, “it was just after I was playing inside the store for half an hour straight and he let me have it as long as I left.”
The demon grinned up at the angel, “Quite frankly he lost out on a marvelous performance so I decided to finish it here.”
The angel gave a long suffering sigh, “Yes, well, it was certainly a performance dear. Now if you’re quite finished I’m sure both you and I have work to do.”
The demon grinned and stood up, dusting the dirt off of his pants as he did so.
“You’re quite right Angel, time to get to work”
Aziraphale sighed, he knew that grin meant trouble.
*There was indeed an overwhelming amount of horseshit
Crowley had only meant to leave town for several hours to cause a bit of trouble. Maybe more trouble than he should be with Aziraphale so near but it was necessary to keep hell off his back.
So he stole a few cows.
Well, not stole, technically they were still on the owner's land, but he separated a few and had them wander away from the herd, just to cause some panic later. A small inconvenience but hopefully the low level wrath would be good enough for Beezlebub.
After the few cattle were a good ways away from the main group Crowley wheeled his horse around and headed back towards town. He was quite a ways off and all that marked his horizon was a lone tree and a cloud of rising dust. The tree had been there when he went out, the dust cloud not so much. And unluckily for the resident demon it wasn’t a dust cloud created by the cattle. It was riders, heading his way fast. And judging by the smudged shapes he could now see, there were at least seven riders.
Seven riders, approaching very fast.
Crowley muttered a blessing, there was a chance that meant the Stevens gang, and since lady luck was never on his side, "a chance" meant definitely. Which meant that Crowley was definitely screwed.
He urged Nightingale on as fast as she would go but it was enough and within minutes and still miles from the town Crowley was surrounded.
"Well boys-" Halliday coughed "and girl, look what we have here," Stevens grinned from his horse that had been pushed too hard and too fast for the past week, going from town to town and campsite to campsite trying to hunt down the traitor.
"Well boss, looks like we got ourselves a slimy little snake," Sam said as he gestured with his six shooter.
"Damn right we do," Halliday's face was twisted up in a nasty grin. In Crowley's opinion she was the scariest of the bunch, blood was constantly dried underneath her nails and a black eye was common. Sam was the human pack horse of the group, he carried plenty of spare guns but his head had gotten rattled one too many times to be of much use.
Crowley was surrounded on every side and none of these people seemed to remember the good times they had. Like when they rescued him from the river, or when he fell asleep on watch and a coyote stole half the supplies, or when he had completely botched a train robbery they had been planning for months.
Oh. Yeah they were probably still pissed about the last one.
"Oh cmon partners, y'all still mad about that train thing, that was just a small miscommunication ya see-"
He was cut off by a bullet whizzing past his right ear followed by an uncomfortable ringing.
Okay, definitely still mad then.
Also an unfriendly reminder that Sparrow was an uncomfortably good shot, at least hopefully he hadn't been actually aiming for the demon's head.
"Look friends I'm sure we can resolve this peacefully? Work something out?"
Judging by the look on Stevens face there was little chance, and his next words brought that down to zero.
"Hang 'em high boys" Another cough from Halliday, "and lady".
And before Crowley could even blink there were two lassos looped around his waist, effectively trapping his arms to his sides, and one hooked around Nightingale. Sparrow had his gun to Crowley's temple, the look in his eyes basically begging for Crowley to try something as Halliday tied a spare rope into a noose.
She grinned wickedly as she looped it around the demon's neck and gave it a sharp tug before tossing the end over a tree branch. It was the same tree that Crowley had been navigating by, he gave it a glare for betraying him. She looped the rope around the branch several times and pulled it tight, leaving Crowley straining upwards to be able to breath. Nightingale shifted uncomfortably beneath him and let out a soft whinny, she did not like these people and was clearly tempted to run. Crowley stilled, if she ran he would fall with nothing underneath him. He would be strangled into a discorporation. Not exactly a fun way to go.
Nightingale pulled back on the rope tied around her neck and he wheezed as his own rope tightened. The gang laughed as his struggles, seemingly content to sit and watch Crowley get strangled every time his horse moved.
Butch grinned savagely, "I say we shoot the horse and watch him die with 'er." There was a spot of dried blood by his hairline and something distinctly fleshy-looking stuck in his hair.
Halliday gave him a glare, "That's a perfectly good horse that we can round up, after we startle it a bit."
With a sudden snap of movement Steven's shot a hole in Nightingales ear, and although she was a good, faithful horse she had had quite enough and reared up before shooting off, trusting her rider to hang on as she got them away from the bad men. Unfortunately she, as a horse, had no concept of nooses and thus her rider was left kicking from the branch, the noose slowly strangling him.
The gang laughed at the struggling demon, a quick miracle insured the rope didn't do too much damage but he would rather not expose the whole occult secret to these people. If anyone would find holy water to kill him it would be Stevens, apparently the man could hold quite the grudge. And so Crowley continued to struggle and flail around, and this went on for several minutes before the gang began to get bored.
"How long can it possibly take for someone to strangle themselves?!" Butch yelled this, greatly angered at the lack of bloodshed. His hands fidgeted on his shotgun, clearly itching to blow something's brains out.
Steven glared at the weakly struggling demon, "You're right, this is taking too long. Finish him off Butch."
At this point Crowley had had quite enough and the man-shaped demon shifted into a snake-shaped demon, easily slipping out of the ropes and slithering away as fast as he could. Crowley was not a terribly fast demon, but these were special circumstances and thankfully the gang was too dumbstruck to even think of chasing him for several minutes and thankfully he was long gone by then.
The gang stared at each other.
“Well shit,” Halliday summed up, “he really was a slimy snake.”
The rest of them couldn’t do much more than nod in confused agreement.
The doors to the brothel slammed open and Crowley stood there looking more than a little disheveled.
"Angel!" This shout caused Aziraphale to look up from where he had been talking to a lovely young woman about her father and the pain he had caused her when he abandoned their family to move out west. She didn't enjoy her current line of work (although the men around her seemed to)* and she was looking for a change. Aziraphale had several noble recommendations that Heaven was sure to love.
Crowley staggered over to the bar and began dragging the angel away from the bar, "Angel we gotta get you a gun and quick."
Aziraphale spluttered, "Crowley what on Earth are yo-"
Crowley interjected, "No time to explain Angel, just a bad feeling."
That bad feeling was a knowledge that the Stevens gang was definitely going to come after him again and he didn't want his Angel defenseless.
And with that though on his mind he dragged Aziraphale into the nearest blacksmith's store, which was right across from the bar, for convenience sake of course. Crowley steered the Angel in the direction of rifles, they were good and reliable. While he looked at those a gun caught Crowley's eyes. The brass on its barrel was beautifully etched and he studied the details intensely.
"It's a .44 rimfire, Henry brass-frame, pretty thing isn't it?" The smith spoke from across the shop. Well, Crowley supposed it wouldn't hurt to have a backup gun. He set it on the counter and then turned to see if Aziraphale had picked out his own gun yet. Hopefully he would get a carbine like Crowley’s, despite it being a gift from Stevens, it really was quite a reliable weapon*.
“Alright Angel grab a rifle and let’s get out of h- What the fuck is that thing?”
Aziraphale set The gaudy Smith and Wesson on the counter. It was a ridiculous this, bright ivory and gold gilding decorated the body and short barrel.
He sniffed, “It’s a gun dear, if you insist I carry one it should at least not clash with my clothing.” He looked disdainfully at the brass on Crowley’s new rifle and the bright yellow thread that clashed terribly together.
“It’s a pistol! A pistol could never outshoot a rifle! And Stevens has a top of the line Winchester!” Crowley spluttered to a halt at Aziraphale’s inquisitive look.
“Crowley dear, who is this Stevens fellow and why should it matter?”
Crowley turned a shade paler, this was not a topic he had wanted to discuss but Aziraphale likely wouldn’t let the topic go. “He’s...not a good man Angel. Him and the gang I was with during the robbery? Well, they ain’t too happy with me. They managed to track me down this morning while I was out messing with the cattle. Managed to get a noose around my neck but I lost a few limbs and hightailed it out of there.”
Aziraphale’s eyes widened, “Oh Crowley, I wish you had told me sooner,” His visage darkened and the temperature of the room dropped a few degrees, “They won’t hurt you again dear, I’ll make sure of that.”
Then, with a cough from the smith, they slapped several bills on the counter and left the building, both feeling more secure and determined to protect the other.
*She was a tailor and sick of fixing holes in all of their pants, however she had always loved embroidery and she was quite talented at it.
**Not that Crowley had ever shot anything besides cans off a fence.
Several hours later saw the Stevens gang sitting around the same tree they had tried to hang to demon under. Several of who were still not fully comprehending what had happened earlier.
“So…” Josey started.
“That happened…” Sam said blankly.
“Yup.” Halliday finished.
Mortimer grunted in agreement. He was never very vocal, a grunt was practically a breathless paragraph of word vomit.
Sparrow spit, “Yes, that happened. Question is what are we going to do about it.”
Butch cackled, “We’re gonna try again of course! Not very hard to kill a snake, you just have to smash in their heads.” He slammed his palm onto the ground for emphasis. Halliday scoffed at this and Butch lept on her, aiming to show her what he meant by stomping on something.
“That’s enough!” Stevens roared, the tussling and arguing ceased immediately, “Y’all are acting like fucking idiots. Clearly this is something we ain’t come across before and we gotta do our research now before we go and do anything too rash.”
Halliday, who was smoothing down her hair and wiping blood from her nose, nodded in agreement, “Stevens is right y’all, that fella ain’t human. But where do we start?”
Sparrow hummed, “We start with the supernatural, spirits and the occult.”
“One of the fancy ladies in the first car had a bible, looked fancy and expensive so I took it. That has occult shit in it right?” Stevens looked at Josey, “What are ya waiting for idiot? Go grab it!”
They all sat around the fire, searching through the copy for information on demons and the occult. There wasn’t much. But there was one thing and that was enough.
Holy Water. Holy Water would do very nicely.
Capturing the demon had been fairly easy. He may have had a fancy new rifle but he was still new at it and not a great shot. Even if he had been, it was seven-to-one, and the seven had a ridiculous amount of ammunition and Holy Water.
Thankfully for Stevens the demon theory had been correct. The demon had been hanging around a chapel at the edge of town. They set fire to it which chased him out well enough. What had been odd was the foul thing screaming for an angel and then praying with a fevor that none of them had even seen in the most devot of their (long-dead) relatives. To be fair they were dragging him with a Holy Water soaked rope around its neck. The gang supposed that could drive any demon to madness.
Aziraphale strode down the dirt road at the center of town. The bastards had Crowley hanging from a signpost. This was not good, not good at all. These corporations were strong but Aziraphale could see Crowley's throat worn red from the coarse rope even from many paces still away. Worn too red for it to be just regular rope. Those bastards had found holy water. Crowley was in danger.
Aziraphales eyes glowed with a righteous fury.
Crowley was in danger.
Stevens raised his gun towards the angel, "Hey! You!" The words carried through the dusty town. All the inhabitants had hidden away, the only visible people besides the gang of train robbers were the poor shopkeep and most importantly, Crowley.
Stevens turned to his men (and one lady), “Shoot to kill and aim for the heart if ya don’t mind, I want these pests gone.”
The gang all held up their various guns, all armed to the teeth, but held their fire, waiting to see what Stevens would do.
"Let him go" it was not an Order or even his true voice, but the words thundered all the same.
Stevens fired his gun in response, the Winchester shot true and had it not been for a minor miracle, the bullet would have ended Aziraphale's current corporation. But a minor miracle insured that the angel barely staggered and he continued to stalk forward towards the gang of men.
"What's wrong Stevens, losing your touch?" This was no longer the kind vision of English propriety that Aziraphale typically was. He looked every inch of a being you would tell your children about at night, ‘Be nice or else Aziraphale will come for you. Eat your greens or you'll regret it when he shows up. Don't touch Crowley or Aziraphale will wipe your miserable stain of an existence from this earth.’
Stevens eyes widened and he fired again, The bullet had clearly hit this fluff of a man and yet he was still standing.The second bullet would put him down, at least that's what he thought. It didn't. Aziraphale's step stuttered only slightly as he continued his path to justice.
"Are you afraid Stevens? Shoot to kill and you better hit the heart, those were your own words Stevens dear"
Another shot rang out, Stevens eyes were wide and terrified and the rest of his gang was much the same.
"The heart Stevens, please don't forget the heart. You'd best aim for the heart, or you'll never stop me"
This of course was a small misguidance on Aziraphale's part as nothing would stop him at this point, not as long as Crowley drew breath. Stevens was clearly sweating, terrified out of his skin and wits alike.
Three more shots and Aziraphale bent over slightly clutching his stomach, he almost had missed the third bullet*. A crazed smirk spread across Stevens face as Crowley wheezed in alarm. If he could have spoke he would have been screaming, begging Aziraphale to stop please, go back to your bookshop and your hot chocolates, I'm not worth this Angel please don't do this to yourself.
However, the rope was tight around his neck and the only sound that escaped was a pitiful "ngk".
The crazed grin on Stevens face did not last long as Aziraphale's shoulders rolled back and he was once again standing tall, no blood or wound in sight.
Stevens frantically raised his gun hoping that finally this bastard would go down, his finger tightened on the trigger as this time he aimed slightly above the heart. As Aziraphale stalked forward Stevens reconsidered. The Winchester rifle drifted to the side.
"You were right, I shoulda known better, your heart ain’t in your chest, no, it's over there, wheezing and gasping for every last breath." Aziraphale's steps stuttered to a halt and his eyes widened. Crowley was in no state to perform miracles.
Stevens smirked, he had guessed right. How this man had survived the bullets he may never know, but he doubted even the demon wouldn’t survive a bullet to the heart if the rope coated with holy water was giving him that much trouble. Especially since he had taken care to coat his bullets with the water as well.
The gun was aimed directly at Crowley's heart now, Stevens had won. Aziraphale hesitated for the first time that day. If Crowley died-
If Crowley died-
What would he do? There would be no one to listen to his Shakespeare rants, no lovely walks in St. James, no one to complain to about the endless bureaucracies of heaven and hell, no one to get crepes with, no drunken nights in the new bookshop, no tender glances from behind new pairs of sunglasses, no hisses at dumb jokes, no more warm laughter in the bookshop, no more glimpses of scales between the shelves, no more joy in his life, no more laughter, no more late nights just spent basking in each others company.
No more Crowley.
No more Crowley
Aziraphale couldn't survive that, he wouldn't survive that.
Time slowed as Stevens' finger tightened on the trigger and pulled.
If Aziraphale actually had a human heart it would've stopped. And then it would have grown to fill his whole chest and may have flown out his mouth from the sigh of relief he wanted to heave.
The gun was out of bullets. Stevens had forgotten to count his shots and that gave Aziraphale the time he needed to draw his own Smith and Wesson and shoot every single one of Stevens gang like the dogs they were**. When the dust cleared only Stevens was left standing. His men lay on the ground, bullets had pierced each and every one of their skulls. It was a painless death and the only mercy that Aziraphale was willing to give at that point.
"You once said that a pistol could never outshoot a rifle my dear boy, I do hope that today shall be the day I prove you wrong."
Aziraphale's gun moved like a lightning strike towards Crowley and the crack of a bullet sounded out before either man could twitch a muscle in response. Crowley dropped to the dirt, the end of the rope smoking slightly from where the bullet had severed it. He took several huge gulps of air, he tried to call out for Aziraphale but his vocal cords were apparently quite damaged and all he could do was croak in worry.
Stevens and Aziraphale stared at each other from a good 14 paces apart. The former was trembling slightly.
“Who-No, what are you?”
Aziraphale tossed him bullets for the Winchester he was holding. “I’m the Angel who is about to erase your miserable existence from this earth.”
Shaking, Steven reloaded his rifle, but inside his mind was steady. Surely he was a better shot than this angel, he resolutely ignored the brain matter of his gang splattered on the ground.
Several moments passed, a bead of sweat rolled down Stevens brow. With barely a twitch of his eyes, he had the gun up and pulled the-
His eyes rolled to the back of his head, facing the same way as the bullet’s exit, before he crumpled to the ground.
Aziraphale wasted no time in rushing to Crowley’s side, “Oh my dear are you alright? I was so worried you have no idea.” His hands gently cradled the demon’s head and body into his lap. The demon was dusty, dirty, and terribly bloodied up.
Crowley reached up a single hand and caressed the Angel’s face before rasping a quiet “Thanks Angel.”
At that moment the only hell was the dusty plains, but in their mutual embrace they each thought privately that it was more of a heaven than they ever thought it would be.
*almost being the key word
**Aziraphale would never shoot a dog and any canine was worth 12 of these men