Aziraphael is at a wedding ceremony when he feels it. The shepherd conducting the service is an old friend, but in the angel's opinion he tends to drone, so what should be a joyous occasion of union becomes an interminable exercise in staying awake. A sudden uneasiness makes Aziraphael sit up and look around at his fellow guests still fighting the urge to sleep. As unobtrusively as possible, he stands, edges out of the rickety pew.
He doesn't make it far before the feeling begins to intensify, rapid and choking. The connection between himself and Crowley through the feather that each carries is vague, inchoate, but shock and panic are surprisingly powerful.
He stumbles to the door with vague ideas of waving someone – the Bentley people will know who's closest – and he doesn't give a damn if whoever answers doesn't know him, doesn't know how he knows, they'll find someone who can take care of it and they'll send someone and it will be all--
There is no warning. The injury is sharp and immediate (a gunshot, he can almost hear it), and at the threshold of the building one hand goes to his chest to clutch at the feather beneath his coat. He looks like a man having a heart attack.
He makes it outside, spurred now by a clawing need to escape, to see a fresh blue sky rather than walls, well-loved but now closing around him, stifling his breath. There's a harsh breeze blowing, and then he blinks and there isn't.
(and by the wind--)
There is. There isn't.
(he doesn't know which way is up, which way is down, which way is safe, which way is home)
There's a sound, distant yet frighteningly close, over the noise of rushing air: clanging and stomping and mad and hungry. It's a sound he recognizes; there's nothing else it could be, though Aziraphael tries to deny it, shaking his head nonsensically at the parched earth. Closing his eyes, he tries not to feel blood trickling up (down) into his hair, or see it pooling slowly on the deckplates in the corner of his vision.
(his feet hit the floor, and his legs nearly buckle under him, but he reaches out for - )
Blood, and - and a hand, outstretched. Aziraphael recognizes the watch.
(So far, so far away, too far from his (Crowley's) haze-clouded eyes and there are teeth--)
( - because please, please, he is lost, and the Beam is going, and he does not want to be alone)
He doesn't wave away the novices that run after him. He doesn't see them. He doesn't see the sky, either, or the grass they've so carefully tended or the open plain stretching to a Persephone horizon; he sees only metal and blood and raw, mad faces and blinking lights, feels only a sick terror and a sensation of falling, churning up from a memory that isn't even his own. And, when he can register pain, in some half-imagined amalgam, he crumples to the dusty ground and cries out: a long, nonsensical crescendo of horror.
The novices and shepherds think he's having some sort of visitation (so near and yet far from the truth than Crowley would laugh if he--). They gather around, crossing themselves in something that's part religious devotion, and part fearful, superstitious self-preservation. He doesn't carry on for long, but goes so suddenly still and silent that - a nervous ripple - they nudge one of their own forward to check that he's still alive, that the Prior hasn't died, kneeling there in the dust in front of the Southdown chapel.
O lost, and by the wind grieved. It runs over and over through his mind.
He doesn't respond for some minutes, and the novices are close to panic by the time he rises and, without a sound, returns to his quarters. Conferring quietly, they station someone at the door. For a few hours, there's only silence. Then, noises; the waiting shepherd knocks quietly, and opens the door. Prior Fell looks up, smiles absently, mechanically, and goes back to the business of watering his few flowers, and making tea. He doesn't speak much. His words are kind, as ever, but empty in some fundamental way.