"The world always seems brighter when you've just made something that wasn't there before." ~~Neil Gaiman


Hi all,

My neck of the woods had some severe weather Friday night into Saturday morning.  As a result, I didn't have power, internet, or cell service yesterday.  Thus, I couldn't work on the newsletter at all and now today I need to play catch-up on the chores I intended to do yesterday.

So...  I've had this story on the back burner for several months now and never sent it because I was going to hold it until after the story of how Aziraphale and Crowley came to Dyeland was more fleshed out but...  I have nothing else to send.  Also, season 2 of Good Omens was recently announced so this seemed like a good time to send this. 

Plot-wise, it's already quite dated as it's pre-COVID vaccine.  But I still think it's kinda sweet so here we go!

God bless,
Jenni


The Maiden, the Angel of Death, and the Ineffable Husbands
or
That Time Crowley Talked Andrew Down After a Karen Attacked

Saturday, November 14th, 2020

Andrew stared up at the ceiling as he tried... and failed... to fall asleep.

There were just too many thoughts in his head... too many scenes.  Flashes of his recent assignments, of assignments during previous pandemics.

He'd also become fixated on those old images of "The Maiden and Death."  He saw skeletal reapers embracing and leading away nubile, naked women. 

Feeling a surge of protectiveness, Andrew rested a hand on JenniAnn's hip as she, blessedly, continued to sleep, curled up to him.

Andrew mused about how Renaissance artists might have captured what had happened the day prior...  When he, an angel of death, had ended up in a screaming match with his maiden's cousin because, shockingly, she couldn't see why he didn't like the idea of a medically compromised JenniAnn attending her packed-to-the-gills wedding shower as COVID rates skyrocketed in their city.

It would have been quite the tableau...

*~*~*

The Previous Day

"Maja?  What's wrong?"

Max's question from the front hallway roused Andrew from where he'd been reading a newspaper in the ballroom. 

"It... it's nothing.  Just... drama with my cousin Veronica."

Andrew dropped his newspaper and headed to the hallway.

"Laja..."

JenniAnn swiped at her eyes and forced a smile.

"It's nothing, love.  Don't worry.  Just Veronica again... about me RSVPing no to her wedding shower."

"Still?" Andrew grumbled.  He had hoped two heated phone calls between JenniAnn and her cousin the previous day had put an end to it.

JenniAnn's cell phone beeped.

As she read it, Max gave Andrew a worried look.

JenniAnn gasped.

"What a..."  She shook her head.

"Laja, do you want to show me?" Andrew asked gently.

JenniAnn bit her lip.

"I... I don't...  Probably not."

"I'm gonna go check on Rose," Max excused to give his parents privacy.

Andrew clapped him on the back.

"See you later, Max."

JenniAnn hugged him.

"Sounds good."

Max departed, casting one last fretful glance at his father.

"Laja, do you not want me to see because you genuinely don't want me to see or... because she said something about me?" Andrew carefully pressed.

"The latter..." JenniAnn confessed.

Andrew pulled her towards him.

"I can take it.  I just... I know how she can pester you and get you agitated.  If there's anything I can do..."

JenniAnn put her phone in her pocket. 

"She's just ranting now.  I'm just going to ignore her."

"All right..."  Andrew kissed the top of her head.  "I'm sorry, Laja.  Sorry that she's acting like this... sorry if I've made you feel like... like you can't do something if you want..."

JenniAnn reached up and gripped Andrew's chin, making him look at her.

"It's absolutely not that!" she insisted.  "I feel bad for her.  I do.  She's had a rough few years after the divorce and I'm sure she wants to getting going with her new life.  But...  This is insane!  It'll be too chilly to have the thing outdoors.  That means cramming people into my great-aunt's house.  A house!  Not even an event hall where people could spread out!  Forget six feet worth of distance!  People would be lucky to get a full foot.  It's not a big house!  Of course, that's assuming people are coming...  Veronica could be flipping out because I'm just one of many, many declines...  But giving her a blender is absolutely no reason to risk anyone's health.  I mean we'll all send something, anyway.  It's not like she's not gonna get gifts.  Anyway, given the circumstances, I wouldn't be attending in person whether I had you or not, love.  I told her I'd participate remotely if that was an option... but that wasn't enough.  So... not going.  At all."

Andrew gave JenniAnn a sympathetic smile.

"I'm just sorry you're having to deal with her... again."

"Yeah, well, at least this time she isn't forging my signature and sending you 'Dear John' letters.  So I guess... progress?"

Andrew laughed.

"I mean when you put it that way..."

JenniAnn rose onto her tiptoes and kissed him.

"Truth be told, even without a pandemic, I would have rather stayed home with you and the kids.  I mean I would have gone out of familial obligation... but I wouldn't have wanted to.  I've tried... but I never really got over the letter thing."

"I know, Laja..."  Andrew stroked her cheek.

"Not that it worked...  We've come a long way since 2009..."

"Whatever do you mean, Laja?" Andrew teased as she gave him a coquettish smile and began to tug him towards the stairs.

"I mean we have five kids now and, miraculously, all of them are currently occupied and I want you to come to our room now and dance with me... and then who knows," she tantalized.

"Who knows..." Andrew repeated with a grin.

They made it only a few steps before Andrew's phone started to ring...  And the ringtone made them both freeze.  It was "Toccata and Fugue."

"That's... her..."  JenniAnn shook her head.  "Why... why is she calling you?"

Andrew heaved a sigh. 

"I guess I'll see."

Andrew took a seat on the step and JenniAnn settled beside him.

"Veronica...  Good afternoon," he greeted.

"Andrew."

JenniAnn hugged Andrew's arm and pressed her face into his shoulder.

"I'm calling because I received JenniAnn's... and Allison's... declines to my wedding shower.  And I have a strong suspicion you're behind both of them."

"Veronica, I can understand your disappointment," Andrew consoled... praying he could de-escalate the situation.  "I'm really sorry things are working out as they are.  But JenniAnn made the decision herself.  I didn't push her... but yeah... she knows my feelings on the matter.  We share pretty solid concerns about her health.  Allison does, too."

"She's not even close to the age group most impacted by this thing!" Veronica countered.

Andrew shook his head.  Where had Veronica been?

"I understand that...  But between the epilepsy and the lung damage from when..."

"She looks perfectly healthy!"

"Yeah, well, lots of people look perfectly healthy.  They're called invisible disabilities for a reason."

"Weird how JenniAnn only became 'disabled' after you came along..."

"Veronica...  She's been epileptic since..."

JenniAnn shook her head.

"She thinks I'm faking.  Always has.  In her mind, if you don't convulse, it doesn't count," she grumbled.

Andrew squeezed her hand.

"She's not been any fun since she hooked up with you!" Veronica sneered.  "I think you're controlling and manipulative."

Andrew tensed.  He suspected he knew what the text messages JenniAnn had declined to show him contained.

"I'm controlling and manipulative?" Andrew shot back.  "You're the one who called her in tears, talking about how unloved you felt because she RSVPed no.  She loves you, Veronica!" he insisted, his voice softening.  "She just wants to stay healthy."

He was trying to be the bigger person... trying to remain calm.  But Veronica had gotten to him... quickly.

"I just want my cousin to be able to celebrate with me on my special day!"

"I just want your cousin to continue breathing!"  It was a low blow... Andrew knew it.  But it was so very, very true.

"It's all been overblown."

Andrew's face colored.  Remaining calm was not going to work... not even as JenniAnn began to stroke his back.

"Right...  I'll tell that to my assignments as they struggle to breathe.  'Veronica says it's overblown.  Just a bad cold.  Keep on keeping on!'"

"This whole thing is messed up," Veronica continued.  "You have to know that."

"I am very clear on that," Andrew insisted.

"Not the pandemic.  You.  And her.  It's weird.  It's always been weird.  And sick.  How old are you anyway?"

"Doesn't matter," Andrew replied through gritted teeth.  He was grateful that JenniAnn seemed unable to hear Veronica's side of the conversation.

"Oh but it does.  How the hell is she ever supposed to stand up for herself when a thousands or millions or whatever year old angel is hovering over her?  I don't understand how God allows it."

"Well... you don't have to understand.  Because He does.  And He does allow it."

"I think you're trying to isolate her from her family so you can do God knows what," Veronica accused.

"Absolutely not.  She sees her parents every day.  And our kids!  Because they're taking precautions.  I've seen your Facebook feed, Veronica.  You're flaunting all of the recommendations!  And if anyone's harming JenniAnn... it's you!  She gets upset every time you reach out to her and lay on more guilt."

"Because ever since you got a hold of her she's been a crap cousin!"

"That is NOT true.  Who was on the phone with you at all hours of the night when you were getting divorced?"

"Oh, sure...  Bring up the divorce as I'm preparing to get remarried!  Gee, thanks, Andrew..."

"I'm just pointing out that JenniAnn has been good to you, Veronica.  Don't twist it into something..."

"You'll just come up with anything to keep her wrapped around your little finger.  You know, I've started praying that the archangel Raphael will come down and..."

Andrew's eyes went wide as it occurred to him that maybe Veronica was legitimately mentally unwell.  But then no... she was just prideful and not used to getting her own way.  And she expected Heaven itself to be on her side.

"... yank you away from her so she can be a normal part of this family again!"

"Okay, well, gonna tell you right now that Raphael's not gonna do that for you," Andrew shouted.  "So maybe you can spend that time praying for the over 200,000 people in your country who have..."

"Andrew... just hang up, Andrew," JenniAnn urged, tugging at his arm.

"Oh, shut up!  She needs to stop acting like a child and..."

"I saw her hooked up to machines once... I am not... NOT... doing that again," Andrew bellowed.

Realizing he'd completely lost control, Andrew began to sob and ended the call.

"Love...  Love...  I'm so, so sorry."  JenniAnn wrapped her arms around him.

"I... I'm sorry, Laja.  I... I didn't mean..."

"Shh..."  JenniAnn kissed his hair.  "I know...  She just has a way of making a person crazy...  Let's go upstairs...  I'll give you a nice massage, hmm?  And we'll forget all about this... although you really do need to tell me how the heck Raphael got invoked..."

In spite of his distress, Andrew chuckled.

"Yeah... okay..."

Then, arms around each other's waists, they went to their room to recover.

*~*~*

Saturday, November 14th, 2020

Andrew sighed and gently entwined his fingers in JenniAnn's hair.

They'd both blocked Veronica on their phones... as had Allison once she'd heard.  Then JenniAnn had given him the promised massage... then he had reciprocated... then they'd danced... and then they'd had a pleasant dinner with their family.

But Andrew was definitely not going to get to sleep.

He reached for his cell phone and grunted quietly when he saw it was only 3:27.  No one else would be up for a good while.

Of course... he did know people in another time zone.  A time zone where it would be mid-morning.  And there was one particular someone who Andrew felt would be the appropriate sort to vent to.  He knew what it was to love someone utterly... but his beloved wasn't endangered by COVID.  That's what had kept Andrew from confiding in Adam or Monica or Takoda... or even Eli who, understandably, was shaken by the idea of JenniAnn coming to harm. 

Andrew carefully extricated himself from the bed.  When he was sure he hadn't woken JenniAnn, he quickly wrote her a note and placed it on his pillow so she wouldn't be alarmed by his absence.  Then he crept to the library, sat down, pulled up FaceTime, and dialed.

"Andrew, what're ya doing up?" a familiar, accented voice greeted.  "Can't be more than 3:30 your time."

Andrew smiled and nodded.

"Yeah.  I have a touch of the old insomnia, I'm afraid.  How are you, Crowley?  I'm not interrupting anything, am I?"

"Nope.  Nothin'.  Aziraphale's run off to get some scones for tea later.  Just havin' a bit of lie-in.  You do a look a bit... tuckered out."  Crowley peered intensely at his screen.  "You been cryin', man?"

Andrew flinched.  He sometimes forgot how blunt Crowley could be.

"Earlier... yeah.  Got into an argument with one of JenniAnn's cousins."

"Ngh...  In-laws... or something like it, huh?"  Crowley shuddered.  "What did the man say?"

"Umm... well... she's a she, firstly."

"Ah..."

"Got upset because JenniAnn declined an invitation to her wedding shower."

"She's having a wedding shower?  Now?  In the middle of a bloody pandemic?"

"Uh huh.  Yep.  In Omaha where cases are rising."

"Jesus..."  Crowley cringed.  "Sorry, Josh..."

"Anyway...  She definitely thinks I've somehow... I don't know... brainwashed Laja or something.  And, yes, I have made JenniAnn very clear on my concerns but...  It was her choice."

"Wise one at that."

"Right!?"

Crowley shook his head.

"Amazing how the same family can produce such different sorts.  But... goes way back.  Cain, Abel, all that..."

"Yeah...  Thankfully, I don't think anyone's going to kill anyone in this scenario.  Although..."  Andrew rubbed at his temples.  "Maybe unintentionally..."

"Listen, whether you had any influence or not... JenniAnn made the right decision.  This cousin... she's bein' selfish.  You did nothin' wrong.  If I'd have heard she was going to a wedding shower, I'd be there letting her have it myself."

Fresh tears welled in Andrew's eyes.  It wasn't that he'd doubted JenniAnn's assertion that he hadn't made her decision for her... but it felt good to hear it from someone who wasn't in love with him.

"Yeah... thanks."

"She said something else that got to ya, didn' she?  The cousin, I mean?"

"Well... she asked how old I was."

Crowley's eyes went wide.

"You didn't tell her, did you?  Because JenniAnn's gonna pitch a fit if this woman knows your age and..."

Andrew laughed.  Crowley was truly perceptive.

"No.  I didn't.  But it was why she wanted to know.  She thinks JenniAnn won't stand up to me because, you know, waaay older... an angel.  Said I had JenniAnn wrapped around my finger..."

"Tosh...  I mean pardon me for saying... but if anyone's got anyone wrapped around their little finger...  You made her mouse houses, Andrew.  Mouse houses!"

Andrew continued to laugh.

"Thank you...  I am aware.  And they're very good mouse houses."

"A veritable murine utopia!"

Andrew smiled.

"What else?  Lemme hear it," Crowley encouraged.

"Well... she told me she's been praying for Raphael to come down and yank me away from JenniAnn."

Crowley burst out laughing.

"I'd like to see him try!  Still... the girl's clearly lost the plot, Andrew.  Why would Raphael..."

"They're Catholic.  I think she's thinking of the Book of Tobit.  You know, when Asmodeus was weirdly obsessed with Sarah and kept killing all the guys who tried to marry her.  So Raphael bound him."

"Right... right.  Never cared for Asmodeus.  Bit precious.  And you're no Asmodeus, Andrew.  The idea of it..."  Crowley shuddered.  "You love JenniAnn.  Anyone who has spent more than five minutes with the two of you can see that... unless they're being obstinate... which it seems this woman is."

"Yeah...  But I can't help feeling like I did drive a wedge between JenniAnn and some of her family."

"Can't help it if they don't accept you.  Not healthy for JenniAnn to be around that too much... and I don't just mean with the pandemic.  I mean always.  I know a thing or two about toxic... relatives... getting into the head of the one you love."

Andrew gave his fellow angel a tender smile.

"Yeah...  You do..."

"Speaking of...  I think I heard the bell ring.  Aziraphale must be back."

"I'll let ya go then."

"Nah, nah.  Stay on.  He'll be sorry to miss you.  Sit tight."

Andrew obeyed.

After a few moments, Crowley returned with Aziraphale who was proudly holding a paper bag.

"I got there just in time, Crowley!  Got you the very last dark chocolate raspberry scone!"

Andrew laughed to himself.

"Thank you, angel.  Come sit.  Was just speaking to Andrew."

"Andrew!"  Aziraphale settled into the seat Crowley had abandoned.  "How are you, my friend?  Bit early there, isn't it?"

"Hi Aziraphale.  And yeah...  Couldn't sleep."

"In-law problems," Crowley shared.

"Oh!  I'm so sorry to hear it!  I would offer you a scone to sweeten your sorrows but...  Ah!  I could use the portal key to bring you..."  Aziraphale fumbled for his necklace.

Laughing, Andrew shook his head.

"No, no!  Thank you.  But I'm really not hungry."

Crowley pulled up a second chair.

"And you've been back to your assignments?" he asked.

Andrew nodded.

Both of the angels on the other end of the call frowned.

"That must be so difficult," Aziraphale commiserated. 

"Yeah...  It's tough.  Inspiring... seeing all those doctors and nurses and techs and janitors and everyone working so, so hard...  But tough."

"I imagine especially considering... well..."  Aziraphale's face softened.  "You have human family."

Andrew gave him a teary smile.

"Yeah, exactly."  He brushed the tears away.  "Earlier, I found myself thinking about those old paintings and prints of 'The Maiden and Death,' you know?  Death's leading her away..."  He shook his head.  "I just... I want to keep her safe is all."

"Of course you do!" Aziraphale asserted.  "Although I do..."

"Aziraphale..." Crowley warned, hearing the know-it-all tone in his anam cara's voice.

"I do have to correct you on a minor point..."

Surprised, Andrew peered at Aziraphale.

"Huh?"

"Well... the art theme....  Der Tod und das M├Ądchen...  While there are some exceptions, it's generally 'Death and the Maiden.'  Death first, maiden second.  You said it flippety-floppety."

"Flippety-floppety..." Crowley repeated, holding his head in his hands.

"Huh...  Yeah...  I guess you're right," Andrew admitted.

Crowley sighed.

"But of course he remembers it the other way.  Give him a break, Aziraphale.  It's always going to be the maiden first for him."

Aziraphale considered this for a moment then his eyes glistened.

"Oh!  But, of course!  Oh, Andrew..."

Even Crowley's eyes had gone a bit misty.

Andrew blushed.

"Crowley is quite right, Andrew.  Quite right.  And, going forth, I shall always remember the motif as 'The Maiden and Death' myself," Aziraphale promised in earnest.  "I do see how those images might..."

Crowley lightly elbowed Aziraphale, causing him to go silent.

Andrew wondered why they were both smiling.  Then two arms wrapped around his neck.

"Love... boys...  Didn't realize I was missing what sounds like a very enjoyable Art History class."  JenniAnn smiled at the angels on the screen then kissed Andrew's cheek.  "Wake me next time, hmm?"

Andrew beamed when JenniAnn settled onto his knee.

"Will do," he promised, resting his forehead against hers.

"Bah!  Get a room!" a grinning Crowley shouted as Aziraphale giggled beside him.

JenniAnn smiled at the screen.

"Happily...  So long as he's excused from whatever this is."

"He instigated it," Crowley replied.  "Quite happy to have you take him back."

With a chuckle, Andrew nodded.

"I think we're good here."

"Check back later if anything happens with the, you know, Raphael devotee.  Please," Crowley requested, his genuine concern evident.

"Will do," Andrew promised.  "Hopefully won't need to."

Realizing that Andrew had been seeking support from the two, JenniAnn looked with tenderness at Crowley and Aziraphale.

"Thank you both.  Let's get together sometime soon?"

"Of course, my dear," Aziraphale accepted.

"Happily," Crowley agreed.  "Get some rest... or whatever."

"We will," Andrew assured.  "Thanks for the chat.  Enjoy the scones."

"Thank you!  Take care!"  Aziraphale waved at the couple then hugged Crowley.

"Be well, friends," Crowley wished before ending the call.

JenniAnn wrapped her arms around Andrew's middle as they returned to their room together.

"I'm glad we have them," she murmured.  "For your sake, especially."

Andrew kissed her hair.

"Me too."

"Think you could try for a bit more rest?" JenniAnn asked.

"I think so.  Talking helped."

"Good..."

The two settled into bed together, JenniAnn's head resting on Andrew's chest.

"I love you.  And I feel safe and protected and so, so loved with you.  Don't ever let anyone make you think otherwise, okay?" JenniAnn implored.

Andrew stroked her back and nodded, his lips brushing her hair.

"Okay.  I love you, too, Laja."

JenniAnn sighed with contentment as she nestled against him.  Soon, she was asleep again.

Feeling unburdened, Andrew whispered a prayer of thanksgiving... for his Laja, for Crowley, for Aziraphale... and then he, too, drifted to sleep with his maiden safely in his arms.

The End

Works Cited:
Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by J.S. Bach
Genesis 4- Cain and Abel
The Book of Tobit



This newsletter is dedicated to John Dye for being among the people and things that kept me more or less calm and amused during COVID.

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(Photo Credits: The photographs used on this page are from Touched by an Angel and owned by CBS Productions, Caroline Productions, and Moon Water Productions.  They are not being used to seek profit.)