Aziraphale was hot. He was thirsty and dusty and absolutely sick of the relentless sun beating down on his neck. By Heaven, but he hated deserts. He sighed. He knew, as an angel, that he was supposed to love all of the Almighty's creations, but goodness. All this heat was a bit over the top. Granted, he had spent his first few centuries on Earth wandering deserts but he hadn't known any better then, had he? Now what he wouldn't give for some greenery and a breeze.
And of course, his stupid horse had had to bolt from beneath him the first chance it got leaving him to walk across the burning sand on his own. Wretched creature. He was certainly better off without it.
Aziraphale chanced a glance up at the sun. It was nearly at its zenith and the heat was already almost unbearable. He would need to find some type of shelter soon or he'd cook. He looked around hoping for a tree, at least. He hummed happily when he spotted one not too far off. He began to trudge towards it hoping it had the good sense not to be a mirage. He regretted ever learning about those. If this tree knew what was good for it, it wouldn't disappear on him.
"Oh, thank goodness," he sighed and sat down beneath a very real tree, leaning back against the very accommodating trunk. At least he would be out of the sun for a while. He closed his eyes. He'd rest here for a spell, just enough to recover the strength to face the heat once more before continuing on. A blessedly cool breeze found its way across his face.
Aziraphale still didn't know why he was here. Probably some joke on Gabriel's part, he thought unkindly. He had been unnaturally giddy when he'd delivered this assignment. And vague. He'd said something about Aziraphale knowing what the Almighty wanted him to do when he saw it. Aziraphale just had to make his way to the American West and trust in Her plan. Aziraphale scowled and the memory of Gabriel's smug face. He missed his books. He missed London. He missed-
An ominous click sounded inches from his face. His eyes flew open only to cross as his vision centered on the barrel of a rifle pointed directly at his nose.
"Don't move, mister."
Aziraphale followed the muzzle of the gun up and into the small face of a child. She was glaring a storm at him, steadily holding up a rifle that was much too big for her. A wide-brimmed hat sat precariously atop her head, seemingly held on by sheer force of will.
"What are you doing on my daddy's farm?"
Aziraphale frowned as disapprovingly as one could staring down the wrong end of a gun. "Well, my dear girl, I didn't know I was on your daddy's farm. I'm quite lost, you see."
The young girl's face scrunched up in confusion. The gun lowered a fraction which Aziraphale took as a small victory. "Why do you sound so weird?"
"Really, my dear," Aziraphale huffed, playing up his distinctly British accent, hoping he could put her at ease and lessen his chances of being discorporated. He never had been very good with children. That was Crowley's area of expertise. "I'm not the one who 'sounds weird' in this conversation."
A small smile fought its way onto the girl's face. Aziraphale smiled gently back at her and dared to raise a hand to place on the barrel of the gun. Ever so gently, he pushed until the gun was no longer pointed at him. His smile widened. "I'm Aziraphale. What's your name?"
"What kind of stupid name is Aziraphale?" she asked rudely.
Aziraphale stared at her in shock for a moment before laughing loudly. "My Mother gave it to me. You'd have to ask Her."
She frowned at Aziraphale's mirth."My Mama told me not to tell strangers my name," she declared.
"Very good advice," Aziraphale nodded, smothering his grin. "But perhaps you can help me find my way. I'm looking for a town called Persistence."
"Are you the new sheriff?"
Aziraphale blinked. "Pardon?"
"The new sheriff," the young girl continued, eyeing him shrewdly. "The last one died last week, and Mayor Smith said they were gonna send us a new one."
Aziraphale was taken aback by the hope he saw flare in her eyes. He looked her up and down again, taking in her bedraggled appearance. Her dress was clean but threadbare. Her face lined with too much worry for a child to bear. Aziraphale studied her and he made a decision.
"So we are in Persistence, then?"
"It's just over the river," she said pointing west. "Our farmhouse is over there."
"Well, then," Aziraphale said, pushing himself to his feet. "I'd better get a move on. Thank you for your help, young lady."
The young girl eyed Aziraphale from his bowler hat to his dusty shoes. She didn't seem very impressed with his light-colored suit. She held out her hand. "My name's Lucy." Aziraphale took her surprisingly strong grip in his. "If I introduce myself, we're not strangers. Come on."
Lucy didn't wait for Aziraphale but turned to walk in the direction of her farmhouse. Aziraphale followed dutifully behind. "Where are we going?"
"I've got to tell my mama where I'm going."
"Where are you going?" Aziraphale asked stupidly.
"I've gotta take you into town," Lucy said, rolling her eyes. "Without me, you'd probably just get lost again."
A small two-story farmhouse came into view. Its whitewashed walls made it stand out in the muted browns of the surrounding desert. Aziraphale wasn't so sure that he should go to this house before he found the town. "I'm quite sure, I'll be able to find my own way, thank you," he began to protest.
"Lucy Thompson! What have I told you about taking your father's gun?" A harried woman stepped out of the front door, wiping her hands on a towel, but froze when she saw Aziraphale. She motioned for Lucy to join her on the front porch as she glared at Aziraphale with the same vehemence as her daughter had earlier. "Who's this?"
Aziraphale smiled non threateningly at her, making himself seem as innocuous as possible. He could feel the distrust swimming around her. "I'm Aziraphale, uh, Fell." He cringed. He should really think of a better name for humans, but he'd already told Lucy his real name. Aziraphale Fell would have to do.
"He's the new sheriff," Lucy supplied helpfully.
"I was sent here to help," Aziraphale interjected. He wasn't sure he wanted to be a sheriff or even if that was what he was meant to do. Until then, he'd rather not have people making assumptions he wasn't willing to keep. "I didn't know that you needed a sheriff, truthfully."
Lucy's mother looked him up and down shrewdly, seemingly coming to a conclusion much different than her daughter's. "Well, you don't look much like a sheriff, sure enough." She narrowed her eyes. "What, exactly were you sent to help with?"
Lucy's mother was not one easily coddled, Aziraphale realized. He wasn't going to be able to talk his way out of her bad books, not without a miracle. And Gabriel had been adamant that he use those sparingly. He sighed and decided the truth was his best option. He smiled self-deprecatingly. "I'm not quite sure, to be honest. I was told I would know when I found it."
"What are you? Some kind of preacher?"
"Goodness, no!" Aziraphale chuckled nervously. "I just need to get to Persistence, dear lady."
"Well, that's over the river," she pointed. "About three miles."
Hoofbeats sounded on the ground accompanied by whoops and yells. The noise sent Lucy scurrying behind her mother. Aziraphale watched with a frown as a group of riders encircled him, jeering and hissing. They each held a gun of some sort, held threateningly aloft. He pulled himself up to his full height, looking down his nose at them disapprovingly. "Barbarians," he sniffed.
"What did you say?" One of the riders snarled and placed his rifle directly between Aziraphale's eyes. He glared up at the man. After having one gun pointed at his head today, this one was just an annoyance.
"Leave him alone!"
Aziraphale gasped as Lucy ran down from the porch with her mother, slipping between horses to stand in front of him. He pulled her behind him quickly, pushing the gun still pointed at him more firmly into his forehead. Aziraphale kept a firm grip on the squirming girl, silently willing her to stay quiet. This was turning out to be an incredibly tense situation very quickly and he didn't want the girl to be hurt.
"Well, well, well," the man with the gun said. He appeared to be the ringleader of these ruffians and Aziraphale was trying very hard not to dislike him. The man raked his gaze over Aziraphale appraisingly, sending an unpleasant shiver slithering down his spine. He turned to Lucy's mother with a laugh. "Your new man don't seem like much, Mary. Where'd you even find such a soft old codger?"
Lucy's mother, Mary, scowled at the ringleader. She had a tight grip on the shotgun she had taken from Lucy earlier but kept it carefully pointed to the ground. Aziraphale could feel the anger rolling off her in waves. He hoped she didn't do anything drastic. He really didn't want to be discorporated before he even made it to Persistence. He'd never hear the end of it from Gabriel.
"He's not my man," Mary finally gritted out. She turned her glare on Aziraphale as if this was all his fault. "He's just lost."
"Oh, so we've got ourselves a greenhorn, boys!" he laughed to the other men who joined in with cheers. He swung down from his horse, landing gracefully on his feet. He holstered his gun and doffed his hat with an exaggerated bow. "We got off on the wrong foot, mister. The name's Willy Jones and this here's my gang." He swept his arms wide gesturing around to the others still on horseback.
Aziraphale sniffed. "A pleasure, I'm sure."
Willy's eyes nearly bugged out of his head when he heard Aziraphale speak. "You're far from home, ain't ya?" he guffawed. "What's sent you way out here to little old Persistence?"
"Apparently, I'm to be the new sheriff," Aziraphale drawled, ignoring the frantic head shake from Mary.
Willy's eyes hardened into a cold stare. He leaned menacingly into Aziraphale's face, growling. "You should know that this is my town," his lip curled in disgust, "Sheriff. We ain't got no need for a lawman here."
Aziraphale raised a lazy eyebrow. "Is that so?" He let his gaze travel slowly over the group of riders with disdain. He paused on a rather skinny rider in black clothes and sunglasses who looked worryingly familiar. "Then, I suppose that will make my job easier, won't it? If there's no crime for me to thwart."
Willy glared at him, and Aziraphale met his gaze with a flinty stare of his own. Willy flinched first, breaking away to spit on Aziraphale's shoes before swinging himself back into his saddle. "Don't forget what we're owed, Mary. I'll be back once you rid yourself of this milksop."
Willy shot one last cold glare at Aziraphale and then spurred his horse into a gallop away from the farm and towards the town. His lackeys followed, jeering at Aziraphale as they passed. Aziraphale watched them go.
"That was either incredibly brave or incredibly stupid," Mary said once the dust had settled. She looked at Aziraphale with an odd mixture of awe and distrust. She leaned the shotgun against the side of the house and sighed. "Well, make yourself useful, Mr. Fell, and hitch the wagon. Since you're to be the new sheriff, we might as well take you into town." She looked him up and down once again and shook her head. "Just to make sure you don't get lost again."
A/N Hi guys! This was written for the Good Omens AU fest on Tumblr. I've got the first few chapters of this written. I plan on updating weekly. Leave a comment if you like it.
A special thanks to jomipay for being an awesome beta!