Esther, Version Two (Angelic Corresondence)

by Kass

Written for daegaer as part of Purimgifts 2012.

Aziraphale lives in a neat little flat in Susa. The walls are whitewashed, the mattress is stuffed with straw, there are urns of water and oil and wine. Though he rarely entertains, he indulges himself in owning two cups of glazed clay. His needs are few, and his tidy dwelling-place supplies all of them. He keeps a clay tablet and a stylus beside his bed so he can jot down notes. Often his dreams contain insights into the texts he's been studying, and he doesn't want to lose them upon waking. This morning, however, the tablet appears to have been commandeered. Scrawled on it are the words

Talked Achashverosh into throwing another party! score one for Crowley.

Aziraphale picks up the stylus and writes below it, neatly,

I doubt a bit more debauchery in Susa is really going to tip the balance, dear.

He leaves the tablet there, knowing that Crowley will see it in time.

That night when he is preparing for bed, there is another scribble in Crowley's familiar hand:

got Vashti beheaded! Go me! +1 Crowley

Aziraphale sighs. "I whispered in Esther's ear," he says aloud. "She's going to join the throngs of women vying for Vashti's place. She's far more level-headed than her predecessor; she will set things right." He doesn't know if Crowley is listening, but he suspects that he is. Or perhaps he just likes to hope so. He prefers not to think too much about why that might be.

The next time a note appears, it says simply

Bigtan & Teresh plotting to kill king +1 C

Aziraphale tuts, wraps his robe around himself, and goes out to find Mordechai. When he returns home, far later than his usual bedtime, he is unsurprised to find Crowley reclining on his bed.

"You'd think eunuchs would be harder to tempt," Crowley muses.

"I wouldn't actually," Aziraphale says tartly. "And the plot's going to be foiled. Mordechai will tell Esther about it in the morning."

"Damn," Crowley says amiably, and disappears.

A few days later, the tablet reads

Haman insisting on obeisance - that'll get your Mordechai's goat +1 C

Aziraphale writes

Mordechai bows only to God, and I count that a point for the side of good - A

That night when he gets home, the message says

Haman building a gallows and casting lots +3 C

Aziraphale responds with

Surely that doesn't net you three points. However, I'm going to keep the king awake until he remembers Mordechai. Points for good. - A

There are no further notes from Crowley. Despite himself, Aziraphale is piqued. Engineering that whole pageant of Haman leading Mordechai through the city on a white horse -- he'd been rather proud of that, though he knows he shouldn't succumb to such emotions, and Crowley hasn't said a word. So he writes on the tablet:

Esther's going to go before the king in the morning. I believe I shall win. - A

Though he tosses and turns for a while, he does eventually sleep. He is woken by the presence of the demon sitting at the side of his bed.

"I could make him refuse to raise his staff to her," Crowley says, as though they'd been conversing all along. Which, in a way, they have.

"I suspect she has more power over his staff than you do, dear," Aziraphale suggests, one eyebrow quirking. Then, hastily, he adds "though I don't intend to slight your charms, which are considerable." It won't do to have Crowley feeling poorly about himself.

"Considerable, are they?" Crowley's smile takes a decidedly wicked turn.

Aziraphale's heart surely doesn't beat any faster at the sight. "Well, best of luck," he says cheerily, and closes his eyes. Crowley's weight lingers beside him for some time. He pretends he is sleeping. Eventually he does fall asleep. When he wakes, the demon is gone.

"I won this round." Crowley leans against the frame of Aziraphale's bedroom door, dressed in his trademark black robes.

Aziraphale peers at him, a bit owlishly. Spectacles won't be invented for many centuries yet, but he can't help wishing he had a pair. "How do you figure?"

"Mayhem!" Crowley grins. "The Jews are prepared to massacre everyone who would have taken up arms against them. It's going to be a bloodbath." He looks positively gleeful.

Aziraphale sighs. "The Jews won. Esther saved the day. That's clearly a win for God."

"God's name isn't even going to be mentioned when the story's written down," Crowley scoffs. "It's all harems and scheming and defiance. And gambling."

"Just because the King isn't mentioned by name doesn't mean He isn't there," Aziraphale notes primly.

"I've clearly scored more points than you!" Crowley sounds annoyed.

"You believe whatever you need to believe," Aziraphale says serenely. And then, forestalling Crowley's objections, he adds, "regardless, I think a celebratory supper is in order."

"I could go for some meat. Lamb with cardamom and lime." Crowley's eyes flash. "And a spot of wine."

"If you insist," Aziraphale says. He can be magnanimous in victory. The look Crowley gives him is nothing short of smoldering. Aziraphale's breath quickens. How lovely. This will be a day of joy and gladness after all.

image borrowed from deadpan snarker, who clearly has awesome taste in tattoos.