It began on Sunday.
They'd been in their cottage in the Downs about a year now, everything unpacked and finally settling in. It was a slower, quieter routine than they'd had in London, but there was something to be said for life in the country; the soft intimacy of days spent together doing nothing much at all beyond enjoying one another's company. It wasn't as if they never returned to London on outings, and in any case the city would still be there whenever they tired of their country retreat. They had nothing but time, now.
It was early spring, one of the first really warm days, bright and sunny, with just enough of a breeze to keep from getting too hot. The perfect day for an outing. So Aziraphale packed the picnic basket, and Crowley crooked an arm for Aziraphale to wrap around, and they strolled down the road to the nearby lake and its grassy shores. Aziraphale ate sandwiches and pastries and the first strawberries of the year they'd bought down in the village, and Crowley drank wine and was persuaded to nibble on bites that Aziraphale fed him, and afterwards they lay in the sun for a bit, enjoying the air and the fresh smell of flowers on the breeze.
Eventually they sat up and moved a bit closer to the water, fishing out some seeds and bread crusts to feed the ducks. The ducks here weren't nearly so used to their visits as the ducks of St. James' Park had been, but they were learning fast.
But in among the ducks today, there was also a goose.
The Goose didn't seem to understand what was going on at first, but as it swam closer and realized there was food available, it became quite bossy, flapping its wings and pecking until it drove nearly all the ducks away, gobbling up the food for itself. Crowley smirked. “Cheeky thing, that one,” he said. “A troublemaker. I like it.”
He tossed a chunk of sandwich crust to the Goose, which swallowed it down-- and promptly sank under the water.
“Crowley,” Aziraphale chided.
“Oh, come on, angel,” Crowley said. He rolled his eyes and flicked a finger. The Goose bobbed back to the surface, ruffled its feathers, and swam off. “See? No harm done.”
-have a picnic-
They weren't quite ready to head back to the cottage yet, so Crowley elected to take a nap, head pillowed in Aziraphale's lap while the angel held a book in one hand and combed his fingers through the demon's hair with the other.
Aziraphale was nearly halfway through the book, and starting to feel almost drowsy himself, when he caught a bit of motion in the corner of his eye. Looking over, he saw a flash of white-- the Goose. It had something in its beak, rather large, and was dragging it towards the edge of the water. Aziraphale squinted, trying to make out exactly what it was the bird had grabbed. A moment later he realized – it was a thermos.
What on Earth is a goose doing dragging a thermos?
Aziraphale wondered, staring. Granted he was no expert on birds, but he'd never heard of one doing such a thing. Then he blinked, suddenly recognizing the pattern. This wasn't just any thermos, that was
thermos. He turned, looking to their picnic basket, where the thermos had been safely tucked away-- only to find the basket missing. Stunned, he looked back to the Goose, which had completed its trek to the lake and was now nudging the thermos into the water with a distinct air of malice. Floating beyond it, he could see the picnic basket, and around it, several apples. There was a trail of other foodstuffs scattered all around the shore; sandwiches thoroughly soaked and ruined, even an empty wine bottle bobbing in the water.
“Oh!” Aziraphale gasped. “Well, really .” Huffing, he dislodged Crowley from his lap and strode down to the shore. “What a horrible goose you are,” he said, snapping a finger. The picnic basket reappeared under his arm, dried out and thermos nestled safely inside. The food remained ruined, but had obligingly deposited itself into the nearest bin. No good littering . “I hope you're happy with yourself,” Aziraphale said primly.
“HONK,” said the Goose.
“I'm sure it wasn't pleasant, being dunked by Crowley, but really, that's no reason to ruin someone's picnic,” the angel grumbled.
“HONK HONK,” the Goose replied.
“Such cheek,” Aziraphale sniffed, and went to wake Crowley. It was time they were getting home.
-get into the garden-
On Monday, Crowley went out to work in the garden to find a very familiar looking Goose waiting for him there.
“HONK,” said the Goose.
“Uh,” Crowley said. “Aziraphale?” he called over his shoulder.
“I- are you seeing this?”
Aziraphale looked up from where he sat on the patio doing the crossword, paper in one hand and pencil in the other. “Oh, my. Is that-?”
“I think that goose from the lake followed us,” the demon said. “It's the same goose, right?”
Aziraphale peered at it. “I can't be sure,” he said, “but I haven't seen any other geese around, have you?”
“No,” Crowley glared at it suspiciously. “Weird thing for a goose to do.”
“Perhaps it wants more bread?”
“Well I haven't got any, and I think it got enough yesterday, dragging our picnic into the lake.” He flicked a pebble at the Goose. “Sod off, you. No bread today. And don't even think about going after my vegetables.”
“HONK HONK,” said the Goose.
-get the gardener wet-
“Are we absolutely sure,” Crowley asked, slinking in from the garden some time later, soaking wet and seething, “that this goose isn't some sort of Hellish agent in disguise?”
Aziraphale looked out into the garden, where the Goose was now dragging a large rake away in its beak for purposes of its own. “I don't sense anything Hellish about it, he said doubtfully, “--or Heavenly, for that matter. It seems to be a perfectly normal, Earthly goose, albeit a particularly malicious one.”
Crowley glared at the Goose. “Shoulda thrown them off the Ark when I had the chance,” he muttered.
“If it's being such a pest, why don't you just miracle it away?” Aziraphale asked. “It is only a goose.”
“I'm not wasting a miracle on a bird,” Crowley grumbled. “I'm a demon! Serpent of Eden! Responsible for Original Sin! I'm not going to cheat just to beat some stupid goose. I'm wily enough on my own.”
Aziraphale was too polite to roll his eyes, but he did look up at the ceiling for a rather long moment before returning to his newspaper. “Of course, dear.”
“What I need,” Crowley muttered, “is a plan.” He snapped his fingers, miracling himself dry, and stalked off to some other part of the cottage.
Aziraphale sipped his tea and very wisely said nothing at all.
-steal the gardener's keys-
On Tuesday, Aziraphale was curled up on the couch in the living room, reading restaurant reviews and planning their next outing, when Crowley wandered in.
“Gonna go for a drive,” the demon said. “Have you seen my keys?”
Aziraphale hummed, not looking up from his magazine. “They're not in the usual spot?”
“No. Can't find 'em anywhere.”
“Well, go without them. You don't actually need keys to drive, do you?”
Crowley huffed. “No, but that's not the point . It's the principle of the thing. I like having them.”
“Well, I can't help you, dear.” Still, Aziraphale reached over and caught Crowley's hand, pressing a kiss to his knuckles. “I'm sure they'll turn up.”
Crowley's lips twitched in a fond smile. “Yeah, I guess.”
Feeling slightly mollified, Crowley walked outside to the car park where the Bentley sat, carefully protected from the elements--and immediately realized where his keys had gone.
“HONK HONK,” said the Goose, clutching the keys in its beak. It was sitting inside the Bentley, in the driver's seat, looking (if were even possible for a bird to be) incredibly smug.
“You fucker,” Crowley hissed. “How did you even get in there, you-” He paused, only just now catching sight of a certain glittering in the grass and on the dash inside the car. The glitter of many shards of broken glass.
The Goose, somehow, had shattered the driver's side window in its efforts to gain entry.
“HONK,” the Goose said again, keys jingling in its beak.
“I'm going to pluck every one of your feathers and turn you into a featherduster,” Crowley snarled, yanking the door of the Bentley opened as he grabbed for the Goose.
The fight, Crowley reflected a few minutes later, as he found himself flat on his back in the grass, did not go nearly as well for him as he'd expected. Crowley was fast, Crowley was wily, and Crowley was currently furious at this goose defiling his beloved Bentley, and he had 6000 years of experience spreading evil influence across the Earth-- and yet, somehow, he'd lost to a bird.
Perhaps it was a matter of size, he mused, rubbing at the cuts on his face from a couple nasty pecks. He had experience , but all the Goose's malice was concentrated into a tiny ball of tightly packed muscle, feathers, and barely contained mischief. Maybe that intensified its skill at causing trouble.
Crowley again considered the idea that his enemies had sent this bird specifically to torment him, but had to dismiss it. Neither Heaven nor Hell were anywhere near that inventive.
Meanwhile the Goose waddled off, a pair of sunglasses clutched in its beak.
-make the gardener go to the village-
It was mid-morning on Wednesday, and Crowley was curled up under the rhodedendrons in snake form, feeling very pleased with himself. He had it all planned out, this time. He'd ambush that bloody goose and strangle it. Just a bit. Not enough to kill it-- he didn't want to see the look on Aziraphale's face if he went that far-- but enough to give it a scare and show it who was the boss in this garden.
(Besides, he didn't really want to kill the Goose. As a professional purveyor of mayhem himself, he had to admire the Goose's talent at spreading chaos. It just needed to stop directing that talent at him.)
So Crowley coiled tightly on the dirt under the bushes, tongue flicking out and tasting the air, waiting for the bastard bird to wander by.
There was one crucial detail Crowley had forgotten to consider in making his plan, however, and it was this: he'd never actually done any hunting as a snake.
What Crowley intended to happen, when he scented the Goose and prepared to strike, was launch himself at the bird and wrap it in his coils in one smooth motion, holding it tight and trapping it. Then he could increase the pressure until the Goose was sufficiently intimidated.
What actually happened was this: Crowley launched himself at the Goose, missed, and then proceeded to engage in a hissing, flailing fight that went only marginally better for him as a snake than it had as a human. That is to say: very poorly indeed.
(Crowley had also failed to consider that, despite not being an exact match for any particular Earthly snake species, he best approximated a venomous hunter, and not a constrictor. And also that, if it was quite difficult to grab a very angry, viciously flapping goose when you are many times its size, it is considerably harder when you lack any limbs.)
After several minutes of hissing snake and honking goose wrestling in what could only be described as a cartoon cloud of feathers and flailing, the Goose somehow got hold of Crowley's tail, and yanked.
Crowley let out a yelp that was not, strictly speaking, possible for a serpent to make, and whipped around, trying to strike at the Goose, which was slowly starting to drag him backwards. Nevermind what Aziraphale would say, this goose was dead. But no matter how he tried, he couldn't manage it. There was simply too much distance between his head and his tail, and no matter how he wriggled or twisted himself, he couldn't curl tightly enough to reach the Goose, its beak still firmly clamped around his tail.
“HONK HONK,” said the Goose, as he continued dragging Crowley backwards in the direction of the village. Crowley slumped and went limp, defeated, and hissed grumpily as he resigned himself to this new humiliation.
Some time later, the telephone rang in the living room. Aziraphale, curled up with a cup of cocoa, picked it up without taking his eyes off his book. “Hello?”
“Ah, hello, Mr. Fell? This is Kathy, down at the corner shop. You and Mr. Crowley, ah- you have a pet snake, right? Great big black-and-red one?”
Aziraphale pinched the bridge of his nose. Oh Crowley, he thought, what have you gotten yourself into now?
“Yes, that's him,” he told the young woman. “What about him?”
“Well, ah- he seems to have gotten into the center of town somehow?” Kathy said. “Would you come and collect him, please? He's, ah, he's causing a bit of a commotion...”
“Of course, dear,” Aziraphale said. “Terribly sorry about that. I'll be right along.”
When Aziraphale arrived, he found Crowley curled up on the edge of the fountain in the center of the village square, surrounded by a small crowd of fascinated children, all pushing to get a closer look, and a larger crowd of their parents, who were simultaneously working very hard to keep said children away from the alarmingly large snake.
“Crowley, what on Earth happened?” Aziraphale murmured as he offered his arms, letting the serpent loop his coils over and around his shoulders like a particularly bulky scarf. “However did you get all the way out here?”
I don't want to talk about it, Crowley hissed. Snakes couldn't blush, but he shoved his snout under a coil anyway, embarrassed.
“Did you lose another fight with that goose, then?”
Sssshut it, angel, Crowley muttered. Just get me home.
-read a book-
On Thursday morning, the air was cool and crisp, so Aziraphale went out to the patio with his morning tea and a book . They were meant to go down to the village later, as the church was having a bake sale , but Crowley was sleeping in, likely still sulking over his mishap the day before. Really, Aziraphale thought, things were starting to get a bit out of hand. The Goose was a bit annoying, certainly, and rather more cunning in its tricks than a goose should reasonably be, but it was still just a goose. If it was causing so much trouble, Crowley should just miracle it away and be done with it.
He had just gotten to his favorite part, when he heard a sudden rush of beating wings. He raised his head to see what it was, only to be slammed in the face a moment later by fourteen pounds of wildly flapping goose.
“Oh!” he gasped, knocked backwards by the force of the blow, tea and book flying out of his hands. He batted his arms about, trying to get the Goose, still hammering him with furious beats of its wings, out of his lap. After several minutes of cartoonish flailing and one well-aimed fist from an angel, the bird retreated, fluttering down to the patio and pecking at his book instead.
“HONK HONK,” said the Goose, grabbing at the corner of the book as if it might drag it away.
“Oh, what a mess,” Aziraphale muttered, dabbing at his sweater, which was absolutely soaked with spilled tea and sporting several goose feathers stuck out at odd angles. It was one of his favorites, a soft, sky-blue thing Crowley had knitted for him last autumn. “Oh, you really are a horrible bird.”
“HONK,” replied the Goose.
Aziraphale sighed, miracled the tea out of his sweater, and bent down to retrieve his book. The book-- he noted, with a distant, horrified sort of fury--which was also covered in spilt tea, and grimy with dust and dirt from the patio. The Goose was still examining it, pecking around. As Aziraphale watched, the Goose grabbed a corner of the page in its beak, and looked up at him.
“Don't you dare,” the angel growled.
“HONK!” said the Goose, and tore the page out.
Aziraphale's vision went white.
Crowley stumbled out of the cottage
a few minutes later,
still in his pajamas, to find Aziraphale sitting serenely on the patio, a fresh cup of tea in hand and the miracled-clean book in his lap. There was a smell of ozone in the air, and several bunches of white feathers drifting about the patio.
“...Angel,” Crowley said slowly, “...did you just smite that goose?”
“Don't be foolish, Crowley,” Aziraphale said, taking a long sip of tea, “that would be ridiculous.” He looked down at his book for a moment, before continuing airily, “...I merely singed it a bit.”
Crowley stared a him, a long, slow grin creeping over his face. “You utter bastard.” He leaned down, bracketing the angel's face with his hands and gave him a long, slow kiss.
“Well,” Aziraphale said primly, as they broke apart, wearing a small, satisfied smile of his own, “it shouldn't have messed about with my book.”
The Goose did not bother either of them again.