Chapter 1: Gravity
It had been four years since the world very firmly hadn’t ended, and Heaven, apparently, had had enough. He wasn’t entirely surprised. There was a certain leniency to being a demon; they were expected, at some level, to cause trouble and not listen. It wasn’t unheard of. But angels did not rebel. It was their most prominent character trait, really, since those who did rebel were, by the very definition, the Fallen. Aziraphale hadn’t expected to get away with his demon fire trick forever. So he wasn’t surprised when the bell over his shop rang and he came out to see Michael standing there.
(They say that when a bell rings, an angel gets their wings. This, of course, was wrong. An angel got their wings when the bell played the tune ‘Call Me’ by Blondie, which happened more often than you might think.)
“Michael,” he said, trying to sound happy and failing. Nothing good could from this. “What a surprise. Are you looking for a book?”
Michael looked at the shop around them with a curled lip. “No,” they said. “I came to deliver a message.”
“Most people would just use the telephone,” he muttered. Michael undoubtedly heard, but they ignored him.
“The message comes with a gift,” they said, handing over a thermos. Aziraphale opened it up to see it was filled with holy water. He looked up at Michael, horror etched on his face.
“Surely you don’t mean --”
“Heaven wants you to repent, Aziraphale,” Michael said, in a voice that made it clear that they didn’t care if he repented, they were of the belief that Aziraphale was a loss cause and a disgrace to angels everywhere. “You have been corrupted through… no fault of your own.” Of course, the tone they used for that clearly said you are not fooling me. “The demon Crowley is a formidable foe and has tempted you from your path. But Heaven is willing to forgive you, if you only do one small thing.”
Aziraphale swallowed around the lump in his throat. “You want me to kill him.”
Michael gave a very cruel sort of smile. “One demon will ensure your forgiveness,” they said. “Surely it’s an easy answer.”
Aziraphale looked at the thermos in his hands, and then he looked back up at Michael. “Yes,” he said. “It is.” And then he dumped the contents of the thermos on the floor.
Michael’s very cruel smile became, somehow, even crueler, and Aziraphale realized quite suddenly that they had known he would do this. They all must have known. They had never planned on giving him forgiveness, they were only looking for an excuse to give him damnation.
“So be it,” Michael said, and the shop erupted into light. He was certain that they had doused him in demon fire, that they had figured out the trick he had pulled and was going to watch him burn away to ash. It felt like his essence was being burned away; he was on fire, he was made of fire, and all he had ever known was fire.
And then, just as soon as it had started, it was done. The light faded from his shop, and he was thankful to see that nothing was damaged. Michael was gone; he did a quick check of his body but he seemed to be intact. But then what was this feeling inside of him? Like something had been carved out of him, like he was an empty shell. He felt too big for his body, confined and claustrophobic.
He got to his feet, placing a hand on his chest. He was woozy and off balance and he didn’t know why. He felt… incomplete.
He waved his hand at the shop door to lock up: a lazy miracle, but he didn’t trust his shaky legs.
The shades remained firmly up.
He frowned at them. Aziraphale’s frown, while not as ‘strike fear in the hearts of men’ as Crowley’s, had been known to inspire shades to close and cocoa to heat up once again. And yet the shades remained up, and the sign remained turned to open.
A horrifying thought suddenly crossed his mind. Desperately, he waved his hand at the door, truly concentrating now. The door remained unchanged.
“No,” he said, a quiet word that was less spoken and more ripped from his throat. “It’s not possible.”
But he tried, and he tried, and no miracles happened. He looked around at his shop, wringing his hands.
He held his breath.
Well, that’s not a wholly accurate description. Angels didn’t need to breathe, not really. Their corporal bodies were less like bodies and more like large containers, so there was no real point to having lungs and kidneys and all of that inner stuff. Aziraphale had gotten into the habit of breathing, finding it easier to blend in with humans that way, but if all was as it should be, he should be able to just… stop.
He felt a strange sort of… pressure, inside of him. He was suddenly very aware of the beating of his heart, and there was a strange pulsing in his head. His vision blurred.
He gasped, breathing in deep breaths and clutching his chest. And then, very suddenly, he fell down. His legs just gave out. He couldn’t handle it anymore, this new pressing feeling on his body. It occurred to him that it was gravity, which was a force he followed largely for the same reason he breathed, because it was easier that way. But he felt it weighing on him now, pushing him down, hands on his shoulder that wanted to keep him down. And all of these things came together and he suddenly understood why he felt carved out and empty.
They had taken his angelic force from him. His etherealness, his immortality, his light and connection to God… it was gone. All of it. He couldn’t feel God anymore. He couldn’t feel anything.
He put his face into his hands and screamed.
Crowley found him there hours later, still on the ground, hands pulling at his hair and dry heaving. The bottle of wine slipped from his fingers as he rushed forward.
“What are you doing?” He could tell something was wrong almost immediately, because he couldn’t sense Aziraphale the way he normally did. He was, after six thousand years, acutely aware of every small thing that made up Aziraphale’s presence, and as he ran into the shop, he felt none of that. But he was staring at Aziraphale. He was right there. So why could he not feel him? “What happened?”
Aziraphale lifted his head. His eyes were red rimmed and… empty. There was no spark to them anymore, no light behind them. Crowley took a step back.
“Aziraphale,” he said. “What the hell happened?”
“They wanted me to repent,” Aziraphale said quietly. “They wanted me to prove my loyalty.”
“Are you telling me you disobeyed them?” At Aziraphale’s nod, Crowley grabbed him by the shoulders and forced their eyes to meet. “Angel, what did they do to you?”
“Not anymore,” Aziraphale said quietly.
“You called me angel. Not anymore.”
Crowley had Fallen once before; it had felt a lot like flying, just in the opposite direction. He was feeling like that now. Like the floor had suddenly disappeared beneath him.
“What do you mean?”
“They think I’m immune to demon fire, see,” Aziraphale said, in a slightly airy voice. “So they had to… get creative.”
“Aziraphale, what. Did. They. Do?”
“Can’t you tell?” Aziraphale gave a little laugh. This must be what shock felt like. “Can’t you sense it?” He grabbed Crowley’s hand and pressed it to his chest, so the demon could feel his rapidly beating, very human heart. “I’m a human now, my dear. Very, very mortal.”
Chapter 2: Overflowing
Crowley would kill them all. Every single angel. He would climb up there and drag them all down to Hell, and he would make them pay for this. He would burn all of Heaven.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Aziraphale was sleeping. Crowley had gotten him off the floor and he had stood up on shaky legs and then fallen, quite literally, into Crowley’s arms.
“D’you know,” he had slurred. “M’quite tired.”
So Crowley had to lug him upstairs, to the unused flat on the second floor of the bookshop, and then he had to clear four piles of books off of the bed. There was a thick layer of dust over everything. He had more or less thrown Aziraphale on the bed, snapping his fingers to tuck him in, and then he had sat on the window sill and brooded. He had brooded and he had dwelled, and he might have even pouted a little. He stared out the window at the darkening sky and then he turned to look at the angel in the bed.
Aziraphale didn’t sleep. He had always said it was a waste of time, and think of all the books he could read in that time, Crowley, why should he stop being productive just because the sun has decided it doesn’t want to work anymore? So even though Crowley quite liked the routine of passing out in his bed, especially after a night of drinking, Aziraphale had stayed awake through most of human history.
So to see him now, curled up in bed, eyes shut and steady breathing and lips parted and -- it was wrong, it was, it was… unnerving. He didn’t glow, anymore. There had always been a faint glow around him, a part of his true angel form that couldn’t be contained, but there was nothing, now. Just another human in a bed.
Crowley would kill them all. Every single angel. He would climb up there and drag them all down to Hell, and he would make them pay for this. He would burn all of Heaven.
Aziraphale shifted in his sleep, turning onto his side facing Crowley and the window. Crowley couldn’t stop looking at him. The full, terrifying aspect of Aziraphale’s mortality hadn’t hit him yet. He hadn’t yet thought of what being a human would mean for the two of them, but as Crowley sat there, his mind started to wander. A six thousand year old consciousness stuck in a human body -- would Aziraphale be able to remember everything that had happened over the millennia? And what if he got sick? Human bodies were fragile things, and if Aziraphale got hurt…
If he died --
Crowley ran a hand over his face before closing his eyes and leaning his forehead against the window glass. A world without Aziraphale…
A word without Aziraphale was not a world worth saving. All of that effort four years ago only to end up here, in a world he no longer had any interest in.
No, he thought. He refused. He wouldn’t let them do this, wouldn’t let this punishment stand. He wouldn’t stand by and watch as Aziraphale faded away.
He was a demon, after all. His whole deal was fucking up angelic plans.
Aziraphale slept through the night. He awoke the next morning with messy hair and sleep crusted eyes, and he looked so incredibly vulnerable that Crowley had to look away.
“Crowley,” he said softly. “You’re still here.”
“Of course I am,” Crowley said, pretending to be annoyed so Aziraphale wasn’t made aware of any of the other many feelings swirling around his brain.
Aziraphale sat up, rubbing at his eyes, and then got sort of a funny look on his face.
“What?” Crowley asked. He had never seen that expression before. Aziraphale’s eyebrows knit together.
“I think… I think I have to use the facilities.”
“Oh for --” Crowley had thought it was something important. “Then go use the,” he waved his hand vaguely in the direction of the flat’s small bathroom. “ Facilities.”
“Er, right.” Aziraphale stood up, straightened his shirt, and then said, “I don’t quite know how.”
Crowley’s eyes rolled so far back in his head that he saw the back of his skull. Quite literally; demons are like that. “I don’t think it’s really a skill, Aziraphale. If babies can do it then surely you can work it out.”
Aziraphale walked slowly to the bathroom, shot Crowley one more, deer in the headlights look, and then shut and locked the door. Crowley waited. And waited. And still waited.
“You all right?”
“I, well --” Crowley got up and walked to the other side of the bathroom door, leaning against the wall with his arms crossed. “I think I’m having… performance anxiety.”
“Performance -- performance anxiety?” Crowley’s voice was thick with disbelief. “You have to be kidding me.”
“I’ve never done this before!” Aziraphale said defensively. “I’m… full in places I’ve never been full before.”
Crowley resisted the urge to bang his head, repeatedly, against the wall. “For Satan’s sake, Aziraphale, just… relax and let loose.”
He heard nervous laughter from behind the door. “Relax! Let loose! When was the last time you’ve ever seen me relax or let loose?”
“1537, I think.”
“Crowley please, I can’t do this with you right outside the door.”
Crowley shook his head and walked back to the windowsill. Eventually he heard the sink running and Aziraphale walked out, patting his hands dry on his shirt. Crowley held up his fingers like he was framing Aziraphale for a picture.
“Baby’s first piss,” he said. “I’m so proud.”
Aziraphale gave him a very rude hand gesture.
“Oho, where'd you learn that? Did you wash your hands?”
“Of course I did!” Aziraphale sounded downright scandalized at the idea that he hadn’t. Crowley smirked.
“How are you feeling?”
Aziraphale thought about it. “Heavy,” he said slowly. Crowley shrugged.
“Well you have been eating almost nonstop for six thousand years, it’s bound to catch up to you --”
“I don’t mean like that!” He gave Crowley a disapproving look. “I mean… gravity. I can feel it pushing on me all the time.”
Crowley tried, just for a moment, to shuck off his demonic power and feel the full weight of the earth dragging him down. He couldn’t even do it.
“And I feel too big for my body,” the angel said, in a tone of voice that was clearly distressed but trying not to show it. “The essence that had lived in this body and the essence that had lived in another plane have all been stuffed inside and I am…” He huffed out a small, bitter laugh and closed his eyes. “I am overflowing.”
Crowley swallowed. “So what is the plan?”
“The plan for what?”
“Oh, I thought we could catch an afternoon showing of The Phantom of the Opera in the West End and then possibly go for scones with the Queen.”
Aziraphale got an excited look on his face. “I didn’t know you knew the Que --”
“I don’t know the bloody Queen, Aziraphale, I meant what are we doing about the Human Situation?”
“Oh.” He looked genuinely put out. “So you weren’t being serious about The Phantom of the Opera.”
“No, I wasn’t being serious about The Phantom of the Opera!”
“That’s not fair, you know it’s my favourite play.”
Crowley briefly considered the merits of scooping out his own eyeballs. “This is serious, angel.”
“I know it’s serious,” Aziraphale said defeatedly. “And don’t call me angel.”
“There has to be something we can do,” Crowley muttered, standing up and pacing and completely ignoring Aziraphale’s comment. “I mean, we can’t just give up.”
“There must be some kind of precedent for grounding angels, mustn't there? I mean, has it ever happened before that you know? Other than, well, the first time, obviously, but --”
He turned around to look at Aziraphale, annoyed. “What?”
“Crowley,” he said again, kindly. “I’m afraid I don’t think there’s anything we can do.”
Crowley gave him a funny kind of look, as if Aziraphale had said something in a language Crowley didn’t understand, which was impossible, because Crowley understood every language (theoretically, Aziraphale did too, but against all odds, and against the genetic makeup of an angel, and against God’s plan for creation, he never really could get the hang of French). “Well we’re not just going to give up,” he said. “I mean…” And he looked at Aziraphale here, expecting the angel to give him a look that clearly said well of course we’re not going to give up, I’m not going to stay a human, I just don’t know what we can do about this and am hoping you will have an idea.
Instead, the look Aziraphale gave him was a sad, resigned sort of look. The sort of look someone might give you when they’ve accepted their fate. The sort of look someone might have as you marched them to the guillotine (funnily enough -- or not funny, depending on where you were standing -- Aziraphale had not had this look on his face even while he was being, quite literally, marched to the guillotine).
Crowley deflated. “You’re giving up.”
“I just don’t see what we could possibly do about this,” Aziraphale said softly. “There’s no way to fix it.”
“There is always a way to fix it,” Crowley said, uncomfortable with being sad and so switching to angry instead. “No matter what anyone says, there is always a way to fix it, just as there is always a way to break it.” That’s why he was a demon, after all. They had said there’s no questioning God’s plan and he had questioned it. They had said God’s love is unconditional and he had found the condition. They said you cannot stop Armageddon and he had fucking stopped it. There wasn’t a problem Crowley had ever met that he couldn’t either break or fix, as long as you ignored the Chinese Finger Trap he had gotten stuck in once, but he had vanished that inside of a volcano, so he still counted that as a win. “We just have to find it.”
“Wait, yes or no?”
“I’m not giving up, and neither are you.”
Aziraphale managed to look slightly put out. “I think, given that it’s me, I have a right to --”
“You don’t,” Crowley said simply. “You didn’t give up when the world was supposed to end, and look what happened? We stopped it.”
“I don’t really think we can take credit for that, my dear. It was mostly --”
“Adam,” Crowley said, realization dawning in his voice like a sunrise. “That’s it. Adam.”
“What about Adam?”
“Oh, I thought it might just be nice to pop down for a visit -- he was the bloody Anti-Christ, Aziraphale! He is powerful. He can shape reality. He’s our answer.”
“He was. He reset the world. He’s human.”
Crowley waved his hand, like this was unimportant information. “What eleven year old boy is going to create a world where he no longer has powers? Please.”
“I don’t think --”
“We’ve established that,” Crowley said, which was probably a little mean, but he was still fairly annoyed at Aziraphale for giving up. “Get dressed and let’s go.”
Aziraphale looked down at the rumpled clothes he had slept in and then looked up at Crowley, slightly embarrassed. “I don’t -- well, I don’t really have any other clothes.” And of course he wouldn’t, would he? He’d been wearing the same jacket and waistcoats for almost two hundred years, and if clothes ever needed refreshing all he’d have to do was wave his hand. Crowley sighed and, well, waved his hand.
“I’m not going to keep doing that,” he said, which was a blatant lie, frankly. “You might have to finally enter the new millennium in terms of your fashion, Aziraphale.”
“I suppose we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” Aziraphale said, which was a nice way of saying no. Angels were full of nice ways to say no.
“All right, angel, let’s go,” Crowley said, bounding -- for there was no better word for it -- down the stairs. This was their answer. This was how they would fix it. He didn’t have to worry about Aziraphale getting sick, or hurt, or dying, and he wouldn’t have to think about the rest of eternity spent alone. They could fix this. They were okay.
“Stop calling me that,” Aziraphale said again, but Crowley, in all his excitement, didn’t hear him.
follow me on tumblr at @aravenlikeawritingdesk
Chapter 3: I Was a Teenage Antichrist
Do you remember when you were young and you wanted to set the world on fire?
this chapter is brought to you by the song "i was a teenage anarchist" by against me! because um
I was a teenage anarchist // But the politics were too convenient // In the depths of their humanity // All I saw was bloodless ideology // Narrow visions of autonomy // You want me to surrender my deity // I was a teenage anarchist // The revolution was a lie
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Being a teenager, for what it’s worth, is rough for the best of people. Adam Young had never been meant to reach puberty. The plan had been for him to destroy the world at eleven, and then assume a state of agelessness and terror. Adam, of course, hadn’t gone through with that plan, which left him here. Staring into his mirror, lamenting the large pimple that had decided to grow on his chin.
(In terms of chins to grow on, the Antichrist was an ambitious choice, and also a rather silly one. Adam had the ability to take that pimple and make it so that it grew, instead, on the testicles of a very sweaty basketball player. Luckily for the pimple, Adam had made his new year resolution that he was going to stop misusing his powers on small, insignificant things.)
Crowley had been right, of course. When Adam had reset the world, he had certainly not given up his powers. He had, however, made a pledge to himself and his friends that he would only use them when it was strictly necessary, and only for the Good of the planet. Which meant he wasn’t allowed to magic pimples off of his face, and he wasn’t allowed to use his influence to make cute girls and boys think he was also cute. Life was hard to be a regular teenager, but life was even harder when you weren’t a regular teenager and were pretending, very hard, that you were.
So this was Adam Young’s life four years post-Armageddon. He was 15, now, and his limbs seemed to belong to a person a foot taller than he currently was. If ‘gangly’ was a person, that person would be Adam. The reason for this was that Adam was not supposed to age, and his body hadn’t seemed to all catch up all at once. His limbs were aware that they belonged to a fifteen year old boy, but the rest of Adam still hadn’t appeared to realize that the apocalypse had long been thwarted, and their mortal body was no longer supposed to be a child.
Adam was the president of his school’s Environment Protection Club, as well as a frequent volunteer at a homeless shelter a few towns over from Tadfield. Every single adult who met him thought he was ‘quite a nice young boy,’ and many an older woman lamented that he was not their grandson. If you had told anyone who knew Adam Young that he was the son of Satan, they would tell you in no uncertain terms to fuck off and not speak badly of the nicest young man that had ever lived.
Adam Young was their best chance.
Crowley knocked on the door of the Young residence and leaned against the frame with his hip jutted out in such a way that would inspire a whole dinner’s worth of ranting from Mr. Young, who saw this ‘act of outlandish disrespect’ when he opened the door.
“Is Adam in?” Crowley asked, who had not stopped to think about what a father might think about two adult men showing up on his doorstep asking about his teenage son.
“What do you want with Adam?” And then Mr. Young took a closer look at the two of them and said, “Hang on! You two were at the airbase four years ago, weren’t you?”
Aziraphale glanced at Crowley in concern, who rolled his eyes, snapped his fingers and said, “No.” Then he said, again, “Is Adam in?”
“Oh yes, of course,” Mr. Young said, smiling amiably at them and inviting them in. He gestured up the stairs. “Second door on the right,” he said.
Crowley didn’t knock on Adam’s door before he opened it, which is a dangerous game to play with teenage boys. Luckily for them, Adam was set up on his Xbox, playing an online multiplayer game and trying to explain to the others in the voice chat that using slurs was not an appropriate way to win an argument.
“Mom, I told you to -- oh. It’s you two.” Adam took off his headset and exited out of his game. It would probably cause his team to lose, but frankly they had said some horrible things about Adam’s mother when he had tried to tell them that women were not inherently weaker, so he wasn’t all that torn up about it. “Hello.”
“Hello, Adam,” Aziraphale said kindly. “How have you been?”
Crowley waved this off. “We’re not here for small talk, angel.”
“Not an angel,” Aziraphale said softly. Adam nodded.
“Oh. That’s what happened. I was wondering. You felt… different.”
“We need you to fix it,” Crowley said, cutting right to the chase. Adam looked between the two of them and then, surprisingly, down at his hands.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I really, really am. But there’s nothing I can do.”
The words settled heavily onto Aziraphale, working their way into his new human body, latching themselves onto his bones and nerves and blood vessels. For all that he had tried not to show any enthusiasm, he had been just as hopeful as Crowley had been that Adam would be his ticket back to immortality. But the boy raised his head and looked at him, and Aziraphale saw sadness and regret in his eyes, and he was hit with the realization that there was no hope left. He was stuck like this. He would die like this.
“What do you mean, there’s nothing you can do?” Crowley’s voice was low and dangerous, and if it had been anyone other than the teenage Antichrist, they would have been quite terrified.
“You know who my father was,” Adam said, as if anyone could have possibly forgotten. “Your friend came from Heaven; I can’t restore him. I could help you, if you were turned human,” he said to Crowley. “Because you and I came from the same place. But I can’t touch him.” He looked back to Aziraphale. “I’m sorry, honest. But you’re a Heavenly being. I have no power over you.”
Aziraphale made himself nod, forced a small smile on his face. “Of course,” he said. “I understand.”
“I don’t,” Crowley said viciously. "You can shape reality, and you're going to tell me you have no power? That's bullshi --"
"I think you need to leave, now," Adam said calmly, and just like that Crowley was no longer there. "Sorry," Adam said to Aziraphale. "Didn't want him to upset my mum."
"Of course, of course," Aziraphale said, slightly distractedly. "Where did you send him?"
"He's just outside," Adam said. Aziraphale nodded.
"Right. I best follow, before he tries to terrorize a spruce to make himself feel better." He turned to go, and then turned back. "Four years ago, you separated me from Madame Tracy."
Adam shook his head. "I separated Madame Tracy from you."
Aziraphale wasn't sure he really saw the difference, but he trusted that there was one. "Thank you anyway," he said to the boy. "Er -- goodbye, then." He felt that maybe he should say something along the lines of we really must get together again, like you say to an old schoolmate when you happen to run into them at the coffee shop -- they had stopped Armageddon together, after all. Or, well, Adam had stopped Armageddon; Aziraphale had watched. But it was still certainly a bonding experience. And they were both supernatural beings turned human. But he didn’t say anything, the same way no one ever really does meet up with their old schoolmates. Instead he just nodded at Adam and headed back outside to meet up with Crowley.
Crowley was currently in the middle of staring down a small terrier, arms crossed. He didn’t look up as Aziraphale came up to stand beside him.
“You know,” Crowley said slowly. “Now that I’m thinking about it, I think a yappy little terrier is quite possibly the most accurate form a hell hound could take.”
Aziraphale didn’t trust how calm Crowley was. He looked down at the dog, who barked at him; he jerked away.
“We should head back to London,” Aziraphale said, eager to get out of Tadfield and back to his bookshop, where he could hide away in the back surrounded by books and very firmly not deal with his impending death.
He was doing a very good job of compartmentalizing what had happened and the fact that the teenage Antichrist couldn’t help. It was certainly something he’d have to face eventually, sooner rather than later now that he no longer had eternity spread out before him. But if he thought about his humanity he started to panic, and he didn't want to do that. He didn't want to contemplate mortality and what it meant for him. Didn't want to think about all the things he had to worry about now. The sun was bright above them; what if he got sunburned? Or worse, skin cancer? He could catch any illness now, could get hurt in a million different ways. He had never been so afraid before. For 6000 years his body had just been a vehicle for him to ride around in, and he had been concerned about insomuch as you might feel concern for your car: because you had grown fond of it and getting another one is quite a bit of effort. But now his body was him. He wasn't separate from it anymore. And anything that happened to his body now was permanent.
Permanence. It was a terrifying prospect. How did humans go about their lives like this? How did they get anything done? The world was dirty and germ infested and dangerous . Everything was a threat.
"Oh." He attempted a smile. "Sorry, my dear. Was lost in thought."
"This isn't the end," Crowley said. Aziraphale loved him fiercely for his optimism.
"I do appreciate that you tried so hard," he said, his voice cracking. "But I think I'd like to return home now."
Crowley looked like he wanted to argue, but thankfully he didn't. He just nodded and unlocked his car.
They drove in silence. Aziraphale could practically hear all the thoughts running through Crowley's brain, could see the tension in the way he gripped the steering wheel. He was only driving ten over the speed limit, Aziraphale realized, and he was keeping his eyes more or less on the road.
He was being careful, Aziraphale realized suddenly. For the first time since the invention of the car, Crowley was driving properly. Safely, almost. And he was doing it for Aziraphale, for his new fragile shell.
It should have been touching. He should have been happy, to have this blatant display of affection put in front of him, this tangible proof that Crowley cared. But all it did was hurt, instead, and prove that they were on completely different levels now. Crowley could no longer be himself. Aziraphale could no longer keep up.
"I think," Aziraphale said, as Crowley pulled up in front of the bookshop, "That I would like to be left alone for a little bit, if you don't mind."
Crowley did that thing where he made a bunch of strange noises and then said, "Yeah, sure. Course."
There were so many different things he could say, should say. They had wasted so much time, the two of them. All the years they had had together and they hadn't really gotten very far at all.
And now they never would.
"Thank you, Crowley," Aziraphale said, and he meant for everything. Through all the years Crowley had never faltered; it was always Aziraphale pushing him away, trying until the very end to convince himself that they were on separate sides. He was still doing it now, after everything. Walking away.
"Call me," Crowley said. Aziraphale wished he would take his sunglasses off so he could see the expression in Crowley's eyes, see what he was feeling. He nodded in response and then shut the door.
Crowley didn't wait, just sped away immediately. Aziraphale watched him go and then turned to his bookshop.
He would have to start actually selling books, now. He couldn't rely on every day miracles anymore. The keys felt heavy in his hand as he unlocked the door; he couldn't remember the last time he had actually used them.
He made his way up to the flat above the store. Crowley had gotten rid of most of the dust, although there were now quite a few piles of books littered everywhere. He would deal with that later. There were quite a lot of things he would need to deal with later.
For now what he did was collapse into his bed. It wasn’t that he was tired, particularly; it was that the act of being awake and present and aware was so exhausting that he didn’t want to do it any longer than he needed to. So he crawled into bed and under his blankets and then he stared up at the ceiling.
The lights were still on. He waved his hand absentmindedly, forgetting, for one blissful moment, that he didn’t have any power left. The lights remained on.
“Fuck it,” he muttered, placing a pillow over his face to block out the light and falling into blissful oblivion.
i think it's important to know that i love and cherish adam young
Chapter 4: Subtlety
Let Aziraphale think that it was a leftover habit. Crowley wasn't planning on explaining that it wasn't Aziraphale's literal angelicness that warranted the nickname. That it had nothing to do with his literal etherealness and everything to do with the way the world lit up when he smiled, and how his eyes softened when he looked at Crowley, and how he was the most perfect of God's creations.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
It took Aziraphale three days to call Crowley. During those three days Crowley tried to keep himself occupied; he got another plant to terrorize, he increased the price of London street parking, he watched the entire Star Wars series by himself. But in the back of his mind, constantly, was the angel. What was Aziraphale doing? Was he alright? Was he taking care of himself? Had he remembered to eat? Sure, it was hard to imagine Aziraphale ever forgetting to eat, but wanting to eat and needing to were very different things. Crowley picked up the phone on multiple occasions only to put it right back down again. He didn't want to crowd Aziraphale, and the angel would call him if he needed him, and there was no use worrying, and it was only three days. The two of them had gone three decades without talking.
But not now. Three days didn't seem like a long time, but it was three of a very finite number. They didn't have eternity anymore.
But he didn't want Aziraphale to know how needy he was. So he tried to keep himself busy, and anytime the phone rang, he pounced on it. He had yelled at two telemarketers and one very nice woman asking if he had any donations for the London Diabetes Association, because he got quite testy when he was expecting his angel's voice and got someone entirely different instead.
On the third day Aziraphale finally called. Crowley picked up the phone and tried not to let it show that he had been waiting with bated breath.
"My cocoa is cold," Aziraphale said in lieu of hello. It took Crowley a moment to digest this.
"Your -- what?"
"My cocoa is cold," Aziraphale repeated, sounding completely distressed. He sounded so distressed Crowley couldn't help but wonder if cocoa meant something else.
"I -- what?"
Aziraphale made a very familiar noise of disgruntlement. "My cocoa, Crowley! I made myself a cup of cocoa and then I got engrossed in a book and now it's cold and I don't have any way of warming it up."
"You don't own a microwave," Crowley said, because of course. Of course Aziraphale didn't own a goddamn microwave.
"Why would I own a microwave!" Aziraphale cried, as if it weren't a wildly useful item, as if it were Crowley who was odd for asking and not Aziraphale for not owning one, seventy years after it had been invented. "I've never needed one before."
Crowley pinched the bridge of his nose. "Okay, okay, just… give me thirty minutes," he said. Aziraphale sighed.
"Alright. It's not like it can get any more undrinkable."
Look, Crowley wasn't a therapist, or anything, but he had had a pretty big hand to play in Freud's whole… everything, and he had been around for six millennia. So he was pretty sure that Aziraphale's whole breakdown had much less to do with cold cocoa and more with the fact that he could no longer miracle the world to his liking, and all the implications that came with that. But he wasn't going to say that. He was just going to bring Aziraphale a microwave.
"Right. See you," he said, hanging up and letting out a breath.
Before he left his flat, he grabbed the bag that had been sitting on his table for three days.
Crowley showed up at the bookshop with a microwave oven under his arm. Aziraphale pursed his lips at it, as if it had personally done him harm. Crowley set it up upstairs, taking Aziraphale's cold cocoa out of his hands and popping it in.
"There," he said, trying to sound gentle. "Crisis averted."
Aziraphale watched his mug spin around in the microwave oven. "I suppose I should say thank you," he said, in a soft voice that implied he was feeling rather embarrassed about his outburst. Crowley just raised an eyebrow and handed Aziraphale his hot again cocoa. Aziraphale took it gratefully.
"I suppose it wasn't the end of the world, cold cocoa," he said. "I could have just made another cup."
Crowley jumped up on the kitchen counter. "It's fine, angel," he said, hitting his heel against the cabinets. Aziraphale gave him a sharp look.
"You really must stop calling me that."
"No," Crowley said simply. Let Aziraphale think that it was a leftover habit. Crowley wasn't planning on explaining that it wasn't Aziraphale's literal angelicness that warranted the nickname. That it had nothing to do with his literal etherealness and everything to do with the way the world lit up when he smiled, and how his eyes softened when he looked at Crowley, and how he was the most perfect of God's creations.
Aziraphale looked like he wanted to argue again, but thankfully he didn't. He instead nodded at the paper bag resting on top of the microwave. "What is that?"
Crowley grabbed it and tossed it over. Aziraphale caught it, fumbled it, and then caught it again, reaching inside and pulling out a little pill bottle. He read the label, frowned, and then reached in to pull out another one.
"Crowley," he said, very softly. "What is this?"
"It's just," Crowley said, firmly not looking at Aziraphale. "You're human now, right? So your," he waved his hand at his head, "chemistry is all. Human like. So I thought it might…" he cast around for the proper word and came up short. "Help," he finished lamely.
Aziraphale was looking at him with such a soft, vulnerable expression that Crowley felt the urge to set something on fire.
"You robbed a pharmacy to get me antidepressants," the angel said softly. Crowley attempted to look offended.
"How do you know I robbed them?" At Aziraphale's look, however, he relented. "Okay, yes, I robbed them."
"Crowley," Aziraphale said, in that soft voice of his. And then he stopped. He stopped and he gave Crowley a long, searching look, and then he said, "Guess there's nothing to lose now, hmm?" And then, before Crowley could ask what on earth he was going on about, he stepped forward, situating himself between Crowley's legs, and kissed him firmly on the mouth.
If he had have stripped naked and done a jig, Crowley could not have been more surprised. He was very keenly aware of every part of their bodies that lined up, and he very gently wrapped his arms around Aziraphale as he kissed back, resting his hand on the spot of the angel's back that would have been right between his wings, if he still had any.
"I can do that, now," Aziraphale said, pulling away but not going far. Crowley was looking at him with wide eyes, trying to make sense of what had just happened and trying to remember how to form words. "Never let myself before, always too afraid."
Crowley swallowed. "You knew," he said hoarsely. Aziraphale smiled at him.
"My dear," he said gently. "I could sense love, remember?"
And yes, Crowley knew that. Objectively, he definitely knew that. But somehow it had never crossed his mind that of course, of course, Aziraphale would have been completely aware of the desperate waves of love that had been pouring out of Crowley for six thousand fucking years.
"Oh…" He cast around for the word. Neither God nor Satan seemed well equipped enough to fully handle the level of embarrassment and panic that Crowley was feeling right now. So eventually he settled on, "Gosh."
Aziraphale's nose crinkled up like he was trying not to laugh. "Oh, gosh indeed."
Aziraphale was still standing between his legs, which was distracting, and Crowley spent half of his brain power trying to keep certain -- appendages under control, and the other half going back six thousand years and realizing that Aziraphale had always known.
"So, er. When I first suggested the Arrangement --"
"I knew then, yes."
"And, and when I showed up in Paris --"
"I knew then."
"And --" oh, fuck, "The books. In the church. With the --"
"The Nazi's," Aziraphale finished kindly. "Yes, dear. The whole time."
Crowley considered the merits of transforming back into a snake and slithering away to hide in a hole for the next century or two.
"You never said anything," Crowley said weakly. Aziraphale chuckled.
"Well. It never seemed to come up."
"Oh, it never seemed to come up, did it!"
"Crowley," Aziraphale said, bringing his fingers up to rest gently on Crowley's cheek. "It's not that big a deal."
"It's just -- I thought I was being subtle."
And Aziraphale laughed. It was more than a laugh, it was a full guffaw. Crowley hadn't heard anyone guffaw since the 18th century.
Aziraphale immediately clapped a hand over his mouth. "I am so sorry," he said. "It's just -- subtle? Really? You?"
Crowley started a bunch of sentences and eventually settled on, "I can be subtle!"
Aziraphale cocked his head to the side. "Can you? My dear, you created a highway that directly translates as an ode to -- er, the big Boss downstairs."
"What about the less than subtle way you threaten your poor plants?"
"Oh, plants don't count."
"Crowley. You strolled onto consecrated ground to save me the trouble of discorporating."
"I didn't stroll."
Aziraphale smiled at him. "You slithered right up to Eve and directly told her to eat the apple. No subtlety there."
"Okay, fine. Maybe I'm not as subtle as I think." He moved his legs, hooking his ankles around the back of Aziraphale's knees. "But you're not subtle either. With your -- your books and your sushi and your great flaming sword --" Crowley was aware that he was not making any sense. He would even go so far as to say he was babbling.
"And yet you didn't know," Aziraphale said simply. Crowley felt the need to stand up for himself.
"Well, excuse me if I don't --"
Aziraphale cut him off, kissing him again. Crowley pulled him in close and opened his mouth, aware of the pounding of Aziraphale's heart, of the blood flowing through his veins. He brought his fingers to Aziraphale's wrist, found his pulse point, felt the fluttering confirmation that Aziraphale was alive. He closed his eyes and poured six thousand years of less than subtle courting into this one kiss, wrapping his legs more snugly around the angel's waist.
Aziraphale moved his hands up Crowley's shirt, spreading his fingers along Crowley's ribs, counting the vertebrae of his back. He moved his mouth away from Crowley's and attached it rather firmly to the demon's neck. The directness of it all, of his hands working their way to Crowley's waistband and his hot breath on Crowley's neck ( definitely not subtle) was a surprise -- not exactly an unwelcome one, but a surprise nonetheless.
"But," he said, feeling the need to express just how astonishing he was finding this whole thing, "you're an angel."
Aziraphale snorted. Crowley couldn't quite blame him. In terms of protests, it was a weak one. As if Aziraphale hadn't once popped across the channel for crepes in the middle of a revolution. As if he hadn't once received a strongly worded note after miricaling quite a lot amount of money to purchase a rare edition of bloody Middlemarch, of all things. And besides, Crowley knew about Oscar Wilde, even if he kept that knowledge tamped down and refused to acknowledge it. It's why he disposed of every copy of a Wilde book that Aziraphale brought back to his shop (Christ, he really wasn't subtle at all, was he?). Aziraphale had never shied away from earthly delights. He had been indulging in them since the beginning of time, quite literally.
"Not anymore," Aziraphale said. Crowley nipped him on the ear.
"Weren't you the one who said I went too fast for you?"
Aziraphale did not stop sucking marks into Crowley's skin. "That was before, dear."
God, he was good at that. Crowley's brain was fogged up; Aziraphale kept biting lightly at his neck and then smoothing over the skin with his tongue.
"Before I had a very finite number of days left," Aziraphale said. "We no longer have the time to dawdle."
Dawdle, honestly. Crowley grabbed Aziraphale by the hair and dragged him up so he could look him in the eyes. "I told you, we're not giving up."
Aziraphale gave him a placating smile. "Let's not talk about it right now," he said.
Aziraphale moved back to pressing kisses to Crowley's jaw. "Not right now, Crowley. I have other ideas."
Crowley obediently dipped his head back to expose more of his neck. "Horny little bastard, aren't you?"
"I think part of it is the new humanity," Aziraphale said. "Baser instincts, and all that."
"Tell that to Oscar Wilde," Crowley said, only slightly bitterly. Aziraphale chuckled.
"You really must get over that."
Crowley kissed him, not gently. He kissed him hard, pressing them impossibly closer, using nails and teeth, desperation bleeding out of him. Aziraphale pushed back just as hard; he kissed like he was dying for it. A horrible voice inside of Crowley's brain reminded him that he was.
"Will you tempt me, now?" Aziraphale murmured against Crowley's lips. "Now that I am human?"
He almost laughed. As if Crowley had been doing the tempting over the years. You have always been my greatest temptation, Crowley thought but did not say. More than anything else, that had been it: the idea that somehow he could be worthy of Aziraphale's love.
"Aziraphale," he said, voice cracking with desire and desperation. Aziraphale kissed him quiet.
"I know," he said, pulling Crowley off the counter. "Oh, my dear. I know."
aziraphale fucked oscar wilde no i will not be taking questions at this time
Chapter 5: Blasphemy
So maybe it was the desperation in Crowley’s voice, and the way he gripped Aziraphale so tightly. Or maybe it was the humanity thrumming through him. Or so many thousands of years of love.
please heed the rating change! there is some non-explicit smut at the end -- no dirty words but it is made quite clear that they have sex. if this is not your thing you can stop reading after they leave Jasmine Cottage!
"I must say," Aziraphale said, as Crowley rested on his chest, "that was much better than with Oscar."
Crowley made a noise of derision. "Great pretentious twat," he muttered. Aziraphale smiled.
Aziraphale was running his fingers lightly through Crowley's hair, who was finding it very hard to keep his eyes open.
"I had wanted to do that for quite a while, you know," Aziraphale said quietly. "But I was always too afraid to."
"Afraid of what?"
"Of what they would do to you, of course. If they knew you were… consorting with an angel."
" Consorting." Crowley snorted. "How delicate. Anyway, angel, I would be less concerned about my people and more concerned about your lot."
Aziraphale thought about it. In hindsight, it very clearly would be Heaven who would have had the problem. He had been so concerned about Crowley because he hadn't wanted to admit that it was his side that would have thrown the fit. Crowley might have been commended, even, for seducing an angel, bringing him down to their level of sin. But Heaven? What would Gabriel and the rest of them have done, if they caught him like this?
Aziraphale didn't have to think hard about it. All he had to do was listen to the beating of his human heart.
He had always thought that good and evil were completely separate entities. He had thought their sides had no overlap. But the only difference was that Hell, at least, was upfront about its intentions.
Crowley turned his head, pointy chin on Aziraphale’s shoulder. His long body was wrapped around Aziraphale in a way that was strongly reminiscent of his snakelike form. His eyes lacked any sign of white, like he was so relaxed and content that he didn’t bother putting any effort into attempting to keep a more humanlike appearance.
Aziraphale tried not to feel too smug about that. Pride was a sin, after all.
“I want to go see that weird girl who hit my car with her bike.”
“Crowley, you hit her.”
Crowley waved his hand, dismissing this. “I want to go see her,” he repeated. “I think she might be able to help.”
Aziraphale sighed. “Crowley --”
“We have options. I don’t know why you are so determined to give up --”
“I am not giving up.”
Crowley sat up. His eyes had reverted back to their camouflaged state. “You’re not fighting,” he accused.
“You are throwing rocks at the sea and expecting to do damage.”
“Throw enough rocks --”
“There are not enough rocks!”
Crowley sighed. “Do you remember when I told you about that bird that sharpens its beak on a mountain every thousand years?”
“You told me that even after the bird had worn away the mountain, I still wouldn’t be done watching the Sound of Music.”
Crowley laughed at his own joke. “The point is, the mountain will get worn down.”
“My dear,” Aziraphale said. “I don’t have a thousand years. We shan’t make much leeway with a mountain with a human lifespan that is already half completed.”
Crowley made a face. “Don’t say shan’t, Aziraphale, it makes you sound old.”
“I am old, Crowley.” He closed his eyes. “I am so unbearably old. I can feel it in the space between my bones. I don’t know how humans can stand it.” He opened his eyes. Crowley’s expression was carefully blank. “You don’t know what it’s like, Crowley. The past four days have felt like an eternity. I am so tired. And -- heavy. Rules of the universe that have never applied to me have settled on my shoulders. Do you know --” He gave a humourless chuckle. “I can’t remember so much, now. I remember… well, the big things. The Garden. Paris during the rebellion. Oysters in Rome.”
“All things involving food, it seems.”
“Not all! The garden --”
“I distinctly recall there was an apple involved.”
“That hardly counts, I didn’t eat it. But the point is -- all those memories fighting to fit inside one human head. It is so hard to fight, Crowley. It’s like -- like waking up and not knowing who you are. Like suddenly realizing the sky is not the colour you once thought. Like hurtling through the atmosphere with no parachute. It’s like --” He cut off, staring at Crowley in horror.
“It’s like Falling,” Crowley said quietly.
“Oh, my dear. I have been a fool.” Crowley didn’t answer. Aziraphale took his hand and said, “Let’s go see her. Anathema Device.”
Crowley smiled softly at him; Aziraphale brought their joined hands to his lips and kissed Crowley’s knuckles.
Jasmine Cottage had not changed much, and when Aziraphale knocked on the door, it was Newton Pulsifer who answered.
“Oh,” he said, pushing his glasses up his nose. “Hello.”
“Hello, young Newton,” Aziraphale said brightly. “We are looking for Anathema.”
“Oh, she’s at the store, actually. We needed eggs.”
“Great,” Crowley said, pushing past Newt into the cottage. “Be a good lad and make us some tea, would you?”
“I -- er, yes. Okay.”
Frowning, Aziraphale followed Crowley inside. “You can’t just barge into someone’s home uninvited, Crowley.”
“Why not? I’m not a vampire.”
Aziraphale sat down beside Crowley on the sofa. “Hopefully Miss Device is not too long.”
Crowley made a noise of agreement. “I shudder to think of the conversation we will be forced to have with Newton Pulsifer.”
Aziraphale knocked their knees together. “Be nice.”
A short while later Newt brought in their tea. Aziraphale smiled at him in thanks and took a sip.
Suppressing a grimace, he exchanged a look with Crowley.
“Very nice,” Aziraphale lied.
Just then they heard the sound of a key in the lock. “That’ll be Anathema,” Newt said, standing up. “I should go help.”
As soon as he had left the room, Crowley brought his cup to his lips and spat the tea back into it. “How do you muck up tea that badly?”
“Have you been holding that in your mouth the whole time?”
“Well I wasn’t going to swallow it,” Crowley said, looking at Aziraphale like he was crazy.
Newt came back into the room with Anathema behind him. Her gaze passed right over Crowley and landed on Aziraphale.
Aziraphale gave a tight smile. “Yes, I suppose it would be different, now.”
“What happened to you?”
“Punishment. They made me human.”
Newt looked between the three of them. “Are you human, too?” He asked Crowley, who made a face.
“Lord, no. Heaven is creative in a way Hell is not. Besides, if they made me human I’d die eventually and be sent down there. They’d never be rid of me.”
“I am so sorry,” Anathema said. The gravity in her voice sent shivers down Aziraphale’s spine.
“Do you know anything about this?” Crowley’s voice was brisk and to the point. Anathema’s eyebrows knit together.
“Why would I know anything about it?”
“The book,” Crowley said impatiently. “Obviously. Surely your illustrious ancestor saw this happening.”
“I’m sorry,” Anathema said, and she truly did sound it. “But all of Agnes’ prophecies have played out. She had only predicted up until that day four years ago, when the world was supposed to end.”
Crowley shook his head. “Can’t have been that good, then, if she didn’t even know the bloody world wasn’t supposed to end.”
Anathema and Newt exchanged a look that did not escape Crowley’s notice.
“What was that?” He asked, sitting forward and taking off his sunglasses, fixing the two of them with his eerie, unblinking stare. “What was that look?”
Another look passed between them, and then Anathema spoke.
“Agnes -- well. She did know. The day after the world didn’t end, I got a package delivered. It was from Agnes. It was more prophecies for the… the new world.”
Crowley looked back at Aziraphale who, despite everything, found himself sitting a little straighter.
“Well then?” Crowley asked. “Go get it!”
Another look. Aziraphale really didn’t like those looks.
“I --” Anathema’s fists clenched and unclenched in her lap. “I’m sorry. But I. I burned it,” she said, very quietly. Aziraphale felt his heartbeat in his ears. He sat back.
“Oh,” he said faintly. “Well. I guess that’s that, then.”
“What do you mean, you burned it?” Crowley said through gritted teeth.
“I burned them. All the new prophecies. I thought --”
“You stupid, selfish girl.” Crowley stood up, advancing on the two of them. Newt, in a surprising show of chivalry Aziraphale hadn’t expected from him, put his arm in front of Anathema. “That was not your call to make.”
“Of course it was!” Anathema spat back. Aziraphale admired her courage. “She was my family. The prophecies were my responsibility.”
Crowley seethed. Dark shadows burst out of his back and spread through the room; the cottage grew cold.
Aziraphale grabbed his hand.
“Crowley,” he said quietly. When the shadows remained he stood up, situating himself between Crowley and the humans on the couch. He placed his fingers on Crowley’s face and met his eyes.
“Go outside,” he said. “Before you do something you regret.” When Crowley didn’t move, he said, “Crowley, it’s not her fault.”
Crowley looked at him. The shadows disappeared, the temperature returned to normal. WIth one more look at Anathema and Newt, he stalked from the room.
“I’m sorry,” Aziraphale said quietly. “He is… well. It’s been hard.”
“I’m sorry,” Anathema said once again. “I just didn’t want to live under that legacy anymore. I want to make my own.”
“Of course, of course.” He understood, he really did. He didn’t blame the girl at all. “Now I -- I really must be going. Thank you for the tea,” he said, nodding at Newt.
Before he left he turned back. “What is my aura now, I wonder?”
Anathema closed her eyes. “Weak,” she said. “Dying. I feel nothing but death around you.”
“Well. I suppose that makes sense.” He attempted a smile. “I am six thousand years old.”
Outside, he found Crowley stomping in the flower garden. “Really, Crowley. Did you have to destroy her flowers?”
“If she had her fucking book her roses would still be alive.”
“Crowley. You cannot blame her.”
“Let’s go home. We can talk about it there.”
Crowley gave him a long look and then stomped off to the car.
Without looking back, he waved his hand. Aziraphale gave one last look to the restored garden before following.
The door to the shop had barely closed behind them before Crowley had Aziraphale shoved against the wall, his mouth pressing furiously to the angel’s, his knee between Aziraphale’s legs.
“I won’t let them take you away from me,” he said, pushing Aziraphale harder into the wall, mouth hot and demanding. “They can’t have you.”
Aziraphale’s eyes were closed; he could do nothing but try to keep up with Crowley’s manic kissing. He didn’t want to do anything else. He pushed back against the demon, gripping his shoulders hard.
“They can’t have you,” Crowley repeated. His hands were under Aziraphale’s shirt, and he kept moving his knee. A normal human might have proclaimed that they were in Heaven, but Aziraphale knew better; Heaven didn’t have this. This was something unique to Earth. Unique to Crowley.
Crowley, who had his face buried in Aziraphale’s neck as he rocked against him, saying over and over, “They can’t have you, they can’t have you.”
Aziraphale had gone through six thousand years telling only minor lies and trying to convince himself that they were all for the greater good. He didn’t like lying. So maybe it was the desperation in Crowley’s voice, and the way he gripped Aziraphale so tightly. Or maybe it was the humanity thrumming through him. Or so many thousands of years of love. Whatever it was, it had him pushing Crowley away gently, placing his hands on Crowley’s cheeks, and saying, “I promise.”
Crowley melted into him, and Aziraphale wrapped steady arms around him. “I promise,” he said again, because he had already lied, he may as well commit to it.
He blinked, and they were upstairs. “Lazy,” he admonished, as Crowley drew him to the bed, pulling him down.
“Say it again,” Crowley said.
“I promise,” he said, covering Crowley’s body with his own.
Crowley said, “Aziraphale.” Just that, just his name, exhaled on a shaky breath, and it broke something inside of Aziraphale. He slipped Crowley’s shirt off of his head and slid his pants off, throwing them somewhere behind him and making quick work of his own clothes. Then he pressed his mouth to sharp hip bones and said it again.
He kissed those words into Crowley’s skin, a promise they both knew he couldn’t keep, on hip bones, the inside of his thigh, right over Crowley’s heart. Crowley’s hands were clenched in the sheets, his eyes were closed and his lips were moving, saying the same thing over and over: Aziraphale’s name like a prayer.
Aziraphale ran his hand down Crowley’s body, moved between his legs. “Let me,” he started, and with a jerk of Crowley’s hand a jar of lube appeared on the bed.
“Where is that from?”
“My bedroom,” Crowley said, in a voice thick with want. Aziraphale coated his fingers.
“Do you use it?” He knew the answer; Crowley had it, after all, and it was half used. But he wanted to hear Crowley say it.
“Yesss,” he hissed, a sure sign that he was losing control.
“What do you think about?”
He knew the answer to that too, of course. But he wanted -- needed -- to hear it spoken.
For the first time since he had laid down, Crowley opened his eyes.
“You,” he said, and the word was electricity down Aziraphale’s spine. “Always you.”
Aziraphale worked a finger inside of him and said, “Show me.”
Crowley unclenched his fingers from the sheet and wrapped a shaking hand around himself. He kept his eyes on Aziraphale the whole time. It was intoxicating to watch. Aziraphale thought about him, by himself in his big flat, eyes closed as he pleasured himself to the thought of Aziraphale. Desire like he had never before felt coursed through him like fire, and as he pushed another finger inside of Crowley he leaned over to kiss him.
“Look at you,” he said, leaning back but keeping their lips close. “Oh, Crowley. You are just…”
“Divine?” Crowley finished, lips quirked up at the joke. But Aziraphale just let out a breath.
“Yes,” he said.
“That’s blasphemy, angel.” Again with that term, but he found he didn’t mind it so much anymore. It was the way Crowley said it, with something akin to reverence. Like he did truly believe Aziraphale was an angel, but not because he came from Heaven.
“But worth it,” Aziraphale said. “You have always been worth it.”
Another finger. Crowley let out a long, low moan, shifting his hips, eyes falling shut again. “Please,” he whispered, and who was Aziraphale to deny him? He grabbed Crowley’s hand, pulling it away from where he had been steadily stroking himself and entwining their fingers.
They hadn’t done this, last night. They had been pent up and desperate -- they hadn’t even gotten fully undressed. They had just wanted their hands on each other, frantic and craving release. It had been nothing like this, like the slow press inside of Crowley, the warmth and the feeling, for the first time in his extraordinarily long life, of being complete. Like this was always where he was supposed to be. Here, joined with Crowley, their souls as one.
“Crowley,” he said, pressing their foreheads together. He couldn’t find the words in any language. “Crowley --”
“I know,” Crowley said, squeezing Aziraphale's fingers. "Angel. I know."
Chapter 6: What Happens in Vegas
"Sure, he’s a bit indulgent with certain things, and he did befriend me, and he may perform a few too many frivolous miracles, but he is good. At the heart of him, he is good. He is the best you have."
Crowley was embarrassed. He would have to do something really awful to make up for this. No one would ever fear him if they saw him like this. No one would ever respect him. He would be the laughing stock of all of Heaven and Hell.
He was the little spoon.
It did feel nice, though, having Aziraphale at his back and an arm wrapped around him. It was a nice way to wake up. A very nice way to wake up, threat to his reputation notwithstanding.
Aziraphale must have felt him stir, because he made a happy little noise and said, “Good morning.”
“Technically I think it’s still night.”
“Oh good,” Aziraphale said. “We can go back to sleep.”
Crowley rolled over so they were facing each other, nose to nose. “We should figure out what to do next,” he said.
“Definitely sleeping,” Aziraphale said, closing his eyes.
“No, I mean about your human situation. We need to plan our next move.”
Aziraphale opened his eyes again. “We are out of moves, Crowley. Surely you must see that.”
“I’m not giving up.”
Aziraphale brought one of his hands up and rested it on Crowley’s heart. “Anathema says that my aura is weak. She can sense death all around me.”
Crowley made a face. “I must have hit her too hard.”
“I don’t believe in that nonsense.”
Aziraphale chuckled. “The forces of Heaven and Hell exist, but auras is where you draw the line. Whether you believe it or not, this body is still six thousand years old. You must know it won’t last me much longer.”
“I don’t understand how you have accepted this so easily.”
Aziraphale shook his head. “Accept it? Oh my dear, of course I haven’t. It’s just that I fear if I think about it, I shall never get out of this bed.”
“All the more reason we should be doing whatever we can to figure out how --”
“Crowley,” Aziraphale said, pushing their foreheads together. “I don’t know how much time I have left. I want to spend that time doing what I love, and I want to spend it with you.”
The implication was right in front of him, three unspoken words that hovered in front of Crowley. He wanted to reach out and grab a hold of them, wanted to say them back, wanted to write them into Aziraphale’s skin. But he was too afraid.
Crowley kissed him. It wasn’t an answer, but Aziraphale accepted it anyway.
He waited until he heard Aziraphale’s breathing even out, and then he slipped out of bed.
There was no good place to do this. No good place to debase himself. But he didn’t want to do it in the bedroom where Aziraphale could wake up and see.
He headed downstairs, stopping beside the ratty couch in the back. He took an exaggerated look over each shoulder -- as if anyone would be there -- and then he got onto his knees.
“Er, look,” he started. “I know you’re probably not supposed to answer my calls anymore. No hard feelings about that. Well. Some hard feelings, I suppose. But that’s not the problem. It’s about the angel of the Eastern Gate. The uh, Principality Aziraphale. Not sure if you’re aware what your cronies did, but… Look, I’ll be up front. You have to fix it. Aziraphale doesn’t deserve this. Sure, he’s a bit indulgent with certain things, and he did befriend me, and he may perform a few too many frivolous miracles, but he is good. At the heart of him, he is good. He is the best you have. Punish me if you must, I don’t care. Just please, fix him. For all the galaxies I ever built for you, for the love you claim to have -- make him an angel again.”
"A demon on his knees," said a voice behind him. "How very interesting."
Crowley was on his feet in a second. Michael was behind him, looking incredibly out of place in Aziraphale's homey shop.
"That was quite a performance," they said dryly. "Everyone upstairs was completely enthralled. We didn't realize you still knew how." They clapped their hands in delight. "Quite a show."
"Why are you here?" He asked coldly. Michael picked up a book and flipped through it.
"Is it not obvious? You prayed." They gave a lazy shrug. "I came."
Crowley raised an eyebrow. "I was hoping for someone else."
"What, like the Almighty?" Michael snorted. "Please. She has far better things to do then chase after errant children who ran away."
"Ran away? Is that what forcible ejection from Heaven is being called these days?"
Michael fixed him with a heavy stare. "You rebelled."
"I questioned," Crowley said, staring back, unblinking. "Blind obedience isn't quite my strong suit."
"And how is that working out for you?"
"Why are you here," he said again.
Michael put the book down. "I told you. We are answering your prayer."
Something that might have been hope stuttered to life in Crowley's chest. "You'll fix Aziraphale?"
Michael studied their nails. "The punishment didn't need to stick. He just had to be shown what we were capable of."
"So you can restore him. You will restore him." His voice was thick was distrust. He knew there had to be something else. He was waiting for the other shoe to drop.
"The problem," Michael continued, as if Crowley hadn't spoken, "is that Aziraphale hasn't learned his lesson. We would be more than happy to give him his power back, except Aziraphale does not repent." They looked pointedly at Crowley's naked body. "Obviously."
"Look, Michael, are you planning on reaching the point soon? Only I've had a long day."
Michael's lips pursed. "Let it not be said that Heaven does not forgive. Let it not be said that we don't give chance after chance. Let it not be said --"
"Yes, yes, it's all very grand. The point."
"Your influence is strong. If you were to remove yourself from the picture, he could be forgiven." When Crowley didn't answer, they said, "Demons can't feel love, but whatever misguided affection you may feel for him -- you must know this is the only option. Aziraphale cannot exist as an angel while keeping up whatever this --" they gestured at Crowley -- "is. We were harsh to expect him to kill you. He is an angel, after all. We are willing to forgive his involvement in the failed Armageddon plot and bring him back into our ranks, so long as you remove yourself from the picture."
"Is this a trick?" Crowley asked quietly. Michael gave what was probably supposed to be a reassuring smile.
"I can call the rest of the Archangels down, if you would like."
Crowley made a face. "One of you is more than enough."
Michael sat down on the armrest of Aziraphale's chair. "Feel free to think about it, but be aware this is a one time offer. Once I leave, Aziraphale will be human until he dies. Which, I think, won't be too long, given the age of his corporal form, don't you think?"
Crowley wasn't an idiot. He didn't trust Heaven, and he definitely didn't trust Michael. But what was his other option? Sit back and watch Aziraphale die? Live the rest of eternity without him? If there was even the smallest chance that they would restore Aziraphale to Heaven, he had to take it.
And they were Heaven. Despite everything, there was still a part of Crowley that remembered what it was like, remembered how it felt to be made of love. There was still a part of him that had believed Aziraphale every time he called Heaven the good guys.
"So if I cut off contact, you'll turn him back into an angel?"
"Aziraphale would be a great loss to us. As long as you are not in the picture, we feel he can be redeemed."
"That's not an answer."
Michael smiled. "Leave him. And we will take him back."
"If I find out you're lying --"
"Oh please. I'm an angel. You must be mixing me up with your lot." They bared their teeth. "You should have never befriended him at all, you know. He is out of the league of scum like you."
We were brothers once, Crowley thought. Do you remember when we had the universe at our feet? You wanted to lead an army and I held galaxies in my hands. I helped you clean your wings. Do you remember?
"The deal is made," he said instead. "You won't see me again."
Michael kissed their fingertips and wiggled them at Crowley before disappearing. As soon as they were gone Crowley sank down on the couch.
There had been no other way. If they could really give Aziraphale his powers back, Crowley would do anything. He would rather go the rest of eternity never seeing Aziraphale again but knowing he was alive, then spending however long they had left together and then watching him die.
He pushed his palms into his eyes for a moment before standing up. On quiet feet he headed back upstairs.
Aziraphale was sleeping still. He slept so deeply now. Crowley was grateful.
He gathered up his clothes, dressing in the dark. When he was finished he stood by the bed and just… looked.
It wasn't like he had never let himself look before. He had spent most of his life looking at Aziraphale, confident that the angel would never learn why.
That hadn't exactly worked out as planned.
But he let himself do it openly, now. Drank in Aziraphale, his lips and nose and messy hair, spread out on his pillow like a halo. His arm was still stretched out from where he had been curled into Crowley.
Michael had said that demons couldn't love, but what was this then? The feeling in his chest like an exploding star, like six thousand sunrises all at once. The knowledge that Crowley would do anything for him. The suffocating truth that he would never see him again.
But Aziraphale would he alive. Crowley could live with the hole in his heart so long as that was true.
He turned away. It didn't matter how long he looked; it would never be enough.
He fished the sunglasses out of his front pocket and left them on the side table, and then, with one last look, he left.
Crowley had been drunkenly spilling his guts to the stranger at the bar for a full twelve minutes. The stranger, a lovely young man who was celebrating his bachelor party, had been listening intently to Crowley’s tale of woe, despite the fact that his friends had been trying to drag him away for more drunken shenanigans.
“An’ I just -- I just I wish I knew f’they kept their word, y’know?”
The man -- Aaron, his name was -- nodded in understanding.
“So, okay. Let me see if I understand. Your boyfriend’s family… kicked him out and ostracized him? And then one of them told you that if you broke up with him, they’d forgive him?”
Crowley nodded. He couldn’t exactly have told him the truth, could he?
“Did you ask your boyfriend what he wanted?”
“Well, uh… no.”
Crowley motioned to the bartender for another drink. When he had another one in front of him, he said, “Because I didn’t want to know which one of us he’d choose.”
It was a fear that had lived inside of him, unspoken, for six thousand years. Who would Aziraphale choose, between Heaven and Crowley? He’d been too afraid to find the answer, so for six thousand years he had refused to ask, playing the game they played, hiding from Heaven and Hell so Aziraphale never had to answer the question.
Aziraphale had played double agent until the near Apocalypse, but then he had chosen Crowley -- hadn’t he? He had stayed at Crowley’s, had switched bodies, had gone four years with Crowley at the bookshop nearly every day. And Aziraphale had kissed him, hadn’t he, and fucked him, had whispered things in Crowley’s ear that made him feel like he was going to discorporate on the spot. He had chosen Crowley. Hadn’t he?
Or had he been forced to? It had only been once Aziraphale had turned into a human that he had kissed Crowley. If there was something that could have reversed that… if the option was right in front of him, who would Aziraphale have chosen? Crowley, and certain death, or Heaven, where he would be safe and alive and immortal?
And alone, Crowley thought. He would be alone. But Aziraphale liked being alone; more than that, he reveled in it. There was nothing Aziraphale liked more than being left alone for hours, days -- he could let entire decades pass him by, as long as he had a hefty supply of books and cocoa. Aziraphale would have been fine.
Who would he have chosen? A limited amount of years with Crowley and his obnoxious devotion, or eternity stretching out in front of him, an infinite amount of books and cocoa and no pesky demons to preoccupy him?
It was no question at all.
“Don’t you think that was his decision to make?” Aaron said, pulling Crowley back to the present. Crowley shook his head.
“Aaron! C’mon, man,” someone shouted. Aaron ignored them. Crowley made a mental note to miracle quite a bit of money into his wallet, or rig the lottery.
“Too late now,” he said miserably. “He’ll die if he doesn’t go back to them.”
Aaron made a face that showed he clearly thought Crowley was being dramatic, but he didn’t say anything.
“B’sides, he wouldn’t take me back now anyway. I didn’t even say goodbye.” His voice broke on the last word. Aaron clapped him on the back.
“Come on. Come and party with me and my friends. We’ll take your mind off of it.”
Crowley looked at him and didn’t see him. “I don’t know who I am without him.”
“Maybe this is a good thing, then. You can have a new start. Travel the world, maybe. Or get a dog.”
“Dogs don’t really like me.”
Aaron laughed. “It doesn’t have to be a dog. Come on, it’s my bachelor’s. Come get wasted with me and my friends.”
Crowley threw back the rest of his drink. Now that sounded like a plan. “Alright,” he said. “What the hell.”
Crowley didn’t really like America, but Las Vegas was different. Crowley had a lot to do with Vegas, actually. He was proud of it; it was a hotbed of sin that made Downstairs happy without causing the uncomfortable tension in his stomach that always came whenever he was commended for actual sin, the tension that he refused to think too deeply about.
It had been almost two months since he had left London, and he had spent half of that time drunk, and the other half asleep. Vegas was the perfect place to do this; everyone was either drunk, hungover, or on their way to getting drunk, and no one judged him for stumbling down to the bar at two in the afternoon wearing sunglasses.
He had made friends with a large amount of heartbroken people, who all seemed to gravitate to him. Each of them went home feeling significantly better about themselves, while their exes suddenly found themselves facing insignificant troubles: keys going missing, forgetting passwords, packages never arriving. If Hell were paying attention, they would be satisfied.
His thoughts were almost always on Aziraphale, on what he was doing, of what he thought about Crowley now that he had left. He knew Aziraphale wouldn’t hate him; he was a being made of love. But was he angry? Was he hurt? Did he blame Crowley? Did he lay in bed at night and think about what they had done, remember how it felt to be joined together, how it felt to hold each other? Crowley hadn’t belonged in Heaven, and he didn’t really belong in Hell either, but he had belonged there, with Aziraphale moving inside him. Did Aziraphale miss him?
And the thing that kept him up at night -- had Heaven kept its word? Had they made him an angel again? Was he okay?
He missed Aziraphale so much it seemed impossible to live with, but he had to. And no matter how much it hurt, no matter how much it sat in the pit of his stomach, no matter how much it choked him, it was better than the alternative. A life without Aziraphale was bad -- a world without Aziraphale was no world at all.
If it was for Aziraphale, Crowley could, and would, do anything.
Chapter 7: Fools
Then let us be fools, Aziraphale thought. Together.
my rat stepped on my keyboard when i was naming this chapter and typed in "8/e98ttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt" so that's the unofficial name of this chapter.
also i wanted to add, because some people have expressed concern: if this was a major character death story i would have tagged it as such.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Thursdays meant tea with Madame Tracy. Her and Shadwell had moved out of London, but every week she came down for tea and gossip. Not that Aziraphale gossiped -- thou shalt not covet, and all that. But Madame Tracy certainly gossiped. About the people in her town, about her sister, occasionally, in far too much detail, about her sex life. Every time she got started on one of these tirades he would cut her off, and she would giggle and say, “I guess you don’t approve of pre-marital sex, hmm?” As if that were the problem.
Inevitably, he would think of Crowley.
“Still no news?” Madame Tracy would say, voice kind. Aziraphale would smile sadly.
“I don’t blame him,” he had told her when their visits had first started, after she had called Crowley a rather unkind name. “He goes fast in everything he does. I can no longer keep up.”
“But to leave you in your time of need!”
“I couldn’t have kept him here,” he had lied. “It would have been a waste.”
“Mr. Aziraphale. You’re a man of Heaven, so you’ll have to excuse my language. But that is a load of horse shit.”
Aziraphale had let out a surprise laugh.
“Personally if I ever see him again I’m going to kick his arse.”
“He is a demon from Hell, Madame Tracy.”
“Like that would stop me,” she’d said primly.
That had been eight months ago. Eight months on his own, eight months without Crowley. Every Thursday since she had come for tea, and every Thursday since she started their meeting the same way.
“The snake still isn’t here, then?”
“You know,” Aziraphale said calmly, pouring the tea. “It isn’t much of an insult when he actually is a snake.”
“I never liked snakes.”
Aziraphale handed her the tea. “If I don’t hold him accountable I don’t see why you should.”
“That’s exactly why I do, love.”
Aziraphale was just about to subtly change the subject when the bell above the door chimed. A young man came in, walked up to the counter, and tapped the bell there.
“Yes, yes. I’m coming.”
“Would you like me to --”
“Oh, no,” he said, patting Madame Tracy on the hand. “I’ve got it.”
He grabbed his cane off the back of his chair and stood up on shaky legs.
The eight months had not been kind to him. Outwardly his appearance was that of someone in their mid-sixties who had lived a hard life, but inwardly he felt almost every single one of his six thousand years pressing down on his physical form. His legs did not support him unaided, and the past couple of months he had completely given up on ever seeing his upstairs flat again. Newt and Anathema had replaced the dingy couch in the back of the shop with a rather nice futon, and that was where he spent his nights. His joints ached, his bones popped, each breath shook inside of his lungs. He was so, so tired, all the time. He felt like he was caving in on himself.
The man was a university student who was looking for reccomendations on queer coded texts in pre-20th century literature. Aziraphale gave him a list and directed him around the store, until he had a decent selection in his arms. Aziraphale rang him up, touching each book with an arthritic hand, giving them silent goodbyes.
His bookshop was far emptier now than it had ever been. He was, for the first time, actively seeking vendors to bring in new texts with the intention of selling them. He had started selling books he would never have considered keeping in his shop -- mass market romance, young adult -- just to keep his shop afloat.
(Aziraphale had nothing against mass market romance novels and young adult -- he recognized their value and was of the belief that many of them were written better than many of the things included in the Literature Canon. But Aziraphale lived a life devoted to the aesthetic -- he was completely aware that his outfit choices were out of style, but he liked them like that -- and frankly those books just didn't fit the look.)
“Thank you so much,” the student said gratefully. Aziraphale smiled softly at him.
“If you have any other questions, please come and see me.”
Madame Tracy came over as the young man left to help Aziraphale back into his chair. As she did so, he told her a story.
“The goddess of dawn once took a lover,” he said. “She loved him very much. So she asked Zeus to turn him immortal so she could be with him forever. But she made a grave oversight -- she forgot to ask that her lover also be given eternal youth. So her lover grew older and older, until he could no longer move, or do anything himself, and so she believed that the kindest thing to do was to keep him in a room where he was free to babble endlessly. As he grew older and older he became smaller and smaller, until he was no bigger than a cricket, continually begging for death.”
Madame Tracy raised an eyebrow. “Is there a moral to that uplifting tale?”
Aziraphale smiled wryly. “Perhaps. But I am too old to remember.”
The bell rang again.
“You sit,” Madame Tracy said sternly to Aziraphale, who did as he was told.
“Can I help you, dear?” He heard her ask. He heard someone mumble something, and then Madame Tracy appeared in the back with another young man at her side.
“This young man is looking for the owner of the shop,” she said.
“What can I help you with?”
“I, um. I need a book.”
“Well you have certainly come to the right place,” he joked. “Which book, lad?”
The man stuttered and then looked at his watch. “Oh, is that the time? I’ll uh, have to come back later.” And he all but ran out of the shop.
“Young people keep getting stranger, have you noticed?” Madame Tracy said, sitting back down. “Some of the things my granddaughter says! It’s like she’s speaking a different language. She’s getting married, you know. I think she’s too young, but no one listens to me anymore. You should come, Mr. Aziraphale. Get you out of the house.”
He gave her a placating smile. “Perhaps. If I am still around.”
“Best not to joke about that, love,” she said. Aziraphale was about to tell her that it wasn’t a joke when the bell rang once again.
“Honestly!” He said. “I should close up shop.”
“Hard to make money that way.” Madame Tracy had just stood up to go and greet the visitor when someone ran into the back.
A few things happened at once:
Madame Tracy cried out, “What the hell are you doing here?”
The man in the doorway said, “I don’t understand.”
And Aziraphale said, in a broken, rasping voice, “Crowley.”
Aziraphale could only stare as Crowley and Madame Tracy continued to talk. Crowley hadn’t changed, of course, but Aziraphale had, and he looked at Crowley with greedy human eyes. His hair was longer and unstyled, like he hadn’t been paying attention to it for months. Aziraphale wished he could see behind his glasses. All the feelings he hadn’t let himself feel for eight long months came hurtling to the surface of his heart. He missed Crowley. He wanted Crowley. He loved Crowley. He was mad at Crowley. He was hurt by Crowley. And underneath it all, as steady as his heartbeat, the question: why did you leave me?
Crowley was staring at him in horror; Aziraphale watched in surprise as he dropped to his knees, as if his legs had simply given up. He kept repeating the same things over and over: “I don’t understand. I don’t understand. They promised.”
On top of that, Madame Tracy kept up a steady barrage. “You’ve got some nerve coming back here, who do you think you are? I don’t give a damn if you’re from Heaven or Hell or South bloody Wales, I’m not afraid of you! Showing your face after all these months, I’ll tell you what you are, you’re a damn coward, that’s right, I said it --”
Aziraphale tried to get their attention, but between Madame Tracy’s steadily raising voice and Crowley’s dazed state, they didn’t notice. Aziraphale grabbed his cane and banged it on the table repeatedly until they both stopped and looked at him.
“I do appreciate the support, Madame Tracy, but I assure you I am more than capable of handling this myself.”
Obligingly she shut her mouth, but she continued to glare daggers at Crowley. Aziraphale turned to him next. He took a deep breath that rattled in his lungs and realized he had no idea what to say.
But Crowley spoke first. “I don’t understand,” he said again. “You’re still human.”
Aziraphale blinked. “Of course I am. Why wouldn’t I be?”
“But they said… they promised…”
“Michael,” Crowley said, voice filled with pain. “They said if I left, Heaven would make you an angel again.”
Deafening silence followed this announcement. And then, in the quiet voice of the truly furious, Aziraphale said, “I beg your pardon?” Crowley opened his mouth to respond, but Aziraphale had no intention of letting him speak. “Is that why you left?” He asked, in barely restrained rage. “Because Michael fed you some lie that you were foolish enough to believe? Without even talking to me?”
“I thought you said you weren’t mad at him?” Madame Tracy said, a bit smugly.
“That was before I realized he was an idiot.” Because this -- this was much worse than Crowley deciding he didn’t want Aziraphale anymore, that he couldn’t handle all the hurdles of humanity, that this wasn’t what he signed on for. This was a Crowley who still loved and wanted him, but had stayed away for some bullshit, self-sacrificial reason that he hadn’t even bothered to discuss with Aziraphale first. “Madame Tracy,” he continued. “I think it best that we postpone today.”
“Of course, love.” She patted him on the hand and gave one final, withering look in Crowley’s direction. “Would you like me to lock up?”
He waited until the door closed behind her before speaking again. “Get up,” he snapped. “You look ridiculous. And take those damn sunglasses off.” If they were doing this, Crowley wasn’t going to hide his face.
Crowley did both things, taking his glasses off with a shaking hand and taking Madame Tracy’s seat. “They said they would change you back,” he said quietly. “They said they would make you an angel again.”
“And you believed them?”
“What other option did I have?” He said, in the same broken voice he had used in the pub almost five years ago, when Aziraphale had materialized in front of him. “Is was either that or watch you die.”
“So you decided that you’re important enough to make my decisions for me?”
“It wasn’t that.”
“Did you even think?” Quiet fury was quickly being replaced with loud anger, as his voice got louder and louder. “Did you even think about what I would have wanted? About what I would have chosen? That maybe I didn’t want to spend eternity without you?” It was perhaps the closest he had come to outright telling Crowley how he felt, to speaking aloud what he had tried, for six thousand years, to avoid saying: I love you. I need you. I have and always will choose you.
Crowley, who had been staring rather morosely down at his hands, suddenly looked up sharply at Aziraphale. “What about me?” He said. “What if I don’t want to spend eternity without you? It’s all fine and good for you to say that, Aziraphale, but I’m the one who’s getting left behind.”
And then, before Aziraphale could figure out just what he was supposed to say to that, Crowley put his head down and burst into tears.
Aziraphale had seen a lot of surprising things in his life, but the sight of Crowley completely breaking down shocked him like no other. And despite the hurt and anger that was running through his veins, he couldn’t help but soften.
“They said they would change you back,” Crowley said through tears. “They said they would make you an angel again.”
Aziraphale reached out and grabbed one of Crowley’s hands. Crowley looked up.
“I’m sorry,” he said brokenly.
“Eight months,” Aziraphale said. Crowley’s head dropped again.
Aziraphale let Crowley cry himself out before he spoke again.
“Tell me what happened.”
So Crowley did. Something complicated came alive in Aziraphale’s chest when he told him about going down to pray.
He continued on, about Michael appearing, and all that they had said.
“I’m not an idiot,” Crowley said. “I knew it was possible that they wouldn’t do it. But if there was even a chance… I couldn’t watch you die.” His voice cracked on the last word. He looked completely vulnerable, spread out before Aziraphale, an open book that he could choose to read or shut or burn. Aziraphale thought of eight long months without him.
“Where did you go?”
Aziraphale made a face. Las Vegas meant that Crowley had spent most of the last eight months drunk. Trying to forget.
“You should have told me,” Aziraphale said, trying to sound stern. “I could have told you Michael was lying. There’s no way they would even consider restoring me. This is their best case scenario. They wanted to kill me five years ago; that won’t have changed.”
“I was afraid,” Crowley said softly.
“Afraid of what?”
“That you would tell me to leave.”
Aziraphale squeezed his hand reflexively. “You are so clever,” he said, throwing Crowley’s words from years ago back at him. “How can someone as clever as you be so stupid?” He moved forward and raised his hand, grabbing the back of Crowley’s neck. “I have chosen you. Every time. And I will keep choosing you.”
“You should have killed me when they asked you to.”
Aziraphale shook his head. “Don’t be daft.”
“Would have saved a lot of trouble.”
Aziraphale brought their heads together. “Do not ever say that. I would make the same decision over and over again.”
Crowley smiled weakly. “Guess we’re both fools, then.”
Then let us be fools, Aziraphale thought. Together.
He pulled back, but he kept his hand on Crowley’s neck. “Why did you decide to come now?”
“I just… got tired of not knowing. I needed to know if you were okay. If they’d followed through with it. So I paid some kid fifty pounds to come in here and speak to the owner of the shop, and then he comes back out and tells me it’s some old man. And I panicked a bit.”
“Oh, that’s why he was so odd. I thought maybe that’s just how the youth were these days.”
Crowley rolled his eyes, but then he stopped and gave Aziraphale a serious look. “I know you might not believe me, but… but if you want… well. I won’t leave again. Not unless you explicitly tell me so.”
“Even if God Herself came down and tried to strike a deal?”
Crowley laughed. “We’re not exactly on speaking terms.”
“Answer the question, Crowley.”
“I won’t do anything without talking to you about it first.”
“Oh, good. Miscommunication is a tired villain.”
Crowley rolled his eyes again. It all felt so familiar; Aziraphale felt lighter than he had in months. His heart felt stronger. He could look at the grizzled hand that was curled around Crowley’s neck and not feel quite as sick at the sight.
“I’ll tell you right now, I am not sleeping on that futon,” Crowley said, eyeing it disparagingly. “I’ll carry you upstairs if I have to.”
“If you don’t mind miracling me everywhere, I don’t care where I sleep.” And then he moved his hand to Crowley’s cheek, smiled, and then, without thinking, leaned in and kissed him.
They had been together only one day, and yet it felt so natural. Aziraphale didn’t even think about it, so caught up in having the stupid demon back that he hadn’t bothered to consider the fact that…
He pulled away. “I’m sorry,” he said quickly.
“What’re you apologizing for?”
“I am being presumptuous,” he said, sitting up and away from Crowley. “I shouldn’t assume that things would… be the same. It’s occurred to me that perhaps you are no longer…” he cast around for a delicate way to phrase it. “Interested. In this -- in my -- well. I’m no spring chicken, let us say.”
Crowley was giving him a look like he had grown three heads. “Has being human really buggered your mind that much?”
Aziraphale blinked at him.
“Aziraphale, we are six thousand years old. I don’t give two shits about what your mortal form looks like.”
“But that was before.”
“This mortal form is all I have, now! This is all of me!” He gestured at himself.
“You could be your original form and I wouldn’t care. You know, the one with all the eyes and the weird feet? More wings than anyone needs?”
“They aren’t weird feet --”
Crowley stood up and stepped close to Aziraphale, resting his hands on the chair armrests and leaning down so his face was close. “I will always want you,” he said fiercely. “Until the sun explodes and every feather has fallen out of my wings.” And then he leaned forward and kissed him, and Aziraphale knew and understood what he wasn’t saying, could feel it in the way Crowley held him and kissed him like a dehydrated man who had just been given water, felt it between them and around them and at all the places they joined into one, the words Crowley never said but always shouted: I love you, I love you, I love you.
a note on Az's age and his thoughts about it (i wished i could have included it somehow but it didn't fit in the story):
obviously, if Az were still his angel self, he would not give any thought to the state or age of his corporal form, but two things are different: now his corporal form is all he HAS, and he has lost a significant chunk of his memories, of the life he lived and what it meant to be an angel, to be MORE than just physical. Az is no longer an angel who is riding around in a body that he has a vague sentimental attachment to, now the body IS him. there is no other plane where his true self exists, and he no longer has six thousand years of memories of what it was like to be like that, because his human mind can't hold all of them. so now all he has is this body that he doesn't recognize, and a human brain that can't remember what he was like before. He doesn't know who he is and he can't remember who he was.
so that was my reasoning for why he was like -- uh, i'm old now, do you still want me? he's human now, with human insecurities and a human mind who was left behind and has watched his body fail him for eight months. everything is all fucky and his boyfriend is a dramatic idiot.
Chapter 8: Ice
No, not anger; anger wasn’t a strong enough word for what he was feeling. It was fire -- no, that wasn’t right. It was ice. Ice was simmering inside of him, so cold it burned.
For a while, everything was good.
Or, well. Good adjacent.
“Aziraphale,” Crowley said, heading into the back room with a book in his hand. “Why do you have a copy of New Moon?”
Aziraphale looked up and made a face. “Supply and demand, I’m afraid. Nothing keeps the shop afloat like preteens.”
“I can’t believe you just said the word preteens,” Crowley muttered, flipping through the book. “Hang on, what do you mean keeps the shop afloat? Have you been selling books?”
“Well what was I supposed to do?”
Crowley threw the book on the table and gave Aziraphale a searching look. “I was sending you money.” Every month -- he could have sent Aziraphale money whenever, but most human things happened on the first of the month, and he had thought that maybe Aziraphale would be more likely to accept the money if it was sent in smaller installments instead of all at once.
Aziraphale grew suddenly interested in his nails. “Oh, yes, well. I didn’t really use that, see.”
Apparently, Crowley had been wrong. He threw his hands up. “Are you kidding me? Why the Hell not?”
“I… was mad at you.”
Crowley opened his mouth a few times before he finally settled on, “ What?”
“I didn’t want your break up money.”
“Break up money. Break up money.”
“Well what else was I supposed to think?”
“Are you really that proud?”
“I was upset,” Aziraphale said. “It felt like pity money.”
Crowley climbed into Aziraphale’s lap. Aziraphale put his wrinkled hands on Crowley’s hips as he buried his face in Aziraphale’s neck.
“Why won’t you let me take care of you?” Crowley muttered.
“You do take care of me,” Aziraphale said. “More than you can possibly know.”
“Then why --”
“My dear. I don’t have a lot left that I can do. My body doesn’t listen to me. I can barely do anything for myself. I needed to do something to prove that I wasn’t completely incompetant. I have been taking care of myself for six thousand years. It is not so easy to rely on someone else, even when that someone is you.”
Crowley lifted his head, looping his arms around Aziraphale’s neck. “You don’t need to sell your books anymore. Okay?”
Aziraphale smiled and patted Crowley on the cheek. “Yes, love,” he said, and Crowley leaned forward to kiss him.
One night Aziraphale turned to Crowley and said, “Can I ask you something?”
“Anything,” Crowley said, meaning it. He was far past the point of being afraid to show his true feelings to Aziraphale; now, with so little time left, he regretted the centuries they had wasted, dancing around each other, looking and pretending that they weren’t. He hated Heaven and Hell more than he ever had, hated them for keeping him from this for so many thousands of years -- Aziraphale, beautiful and loving and all his. He wouldn’t hide, he would spread his love out on the table, lay it all out in front of Aziraphale. Every part of Crowley laid bare, confident in the knowledge that Aziraphale would never hurt him, would accept every dirty, demonic part of him.
The knowledge that they could have been living like this for millennia, mixed with the knowledge that it would be ripped from him soon -- Crowley would spend the rest of Aziraphale’s life loving him as best as he could, and then he would tear the Heavens down.
Crowley put the book down. Reading was hard on Aziraphale now; his eyes didn’t work like they used to, and focusing for too long on the small print gave him headaches, so Crowley had started reading to him. Aziraphale would curl up on Crowley’s chest and close his eyes, and Crowley would read until Aziraphale drifted off. Now he placed the book face down on the bed.
When Aziraphale finally spoke, his voice was quiet. “Can you unfurl your wings for me?” When Crowley didn’t speak, he continued on quickly. “It’s only -- well, I miss them more than I thought I would. My wings. Which is almost funny, really, considering they were always -- well, put away. But I do miss them. I miss feeling balanced. I always feel off-kilter, now. And I keep thinking about all the times you yelled at me to take better care of them. And I suppose I just. Want to see them again. Touch them. Won’t be quite the same, because you always took better care of yours, but. If you don’t mind.”
“Of course,” Crowley said quickly. “Yes, yes, of course. Here, buck up.” He lifted Aziraphale off of him; Aziraphale sat with his back against the headboard and watched as Crowley cracked his neck and then summoned his wings. He unfurled them carefully and then drew them around him and Aziraphale.
His face lit up, and the brightness of it filled Crowley’s heart. He brought his hands up -- old, wrinkled, but still his -- and ran his fingers over the feathers in Crowley’s wings. He couldn’t stop himself from shivering; they were incredibly sensitive, and Aziraphale knew which spots felt the best.
They sat like that for a while, Aziraphale tracing Crowley’s wings. It was intensely intimate, and Crowley let his eyes close, enjoying the soft touch.
“Thank you,” Aziraphale said softly. He raised his hand to Crowley’s face, and Crowley wrapped his fingers around Aziraphale’s fragile wrist.
“You know that I --”
“I know, dear.” Aziraphale leaned in and kissed him gently.
Later that night Aziraphale woke him up and said, “Crowley. Crowley. I cut you off, but will you -- will you finish the sentence?”
And Crowley, still half asleep, tightened his grip on Aziraphale’s waist and muttered in his ear, “I love you.”
One year after Aziraphale had been punished, Crowley woke up, stretched, and then pushed his nose into Aziraphale’s hair. “Morning,” he said.
Aziraphale did not answer.
“Alright,” Crowley said. “If you want to be lazy, I suppose I’ll allow it.”
Aziraphale still did not answer. Crowley sat up on his elbows, suddenly feeling very, very scared.
“Aziraphale,” he said, trying to keep the panic at bay. He grabbed Aziraphale’s wrist and, shaking, found his pulse point.
It was there, still, and even though it was faint it was there. There was still colour in Aziraphale’s face, and Crowley could see the shallow rise and fall of his chest. So he was alive. Crowley’s non-existent heart started beating again.
“Aziraphale,” he said, placing a hand on the angel’s chest. “Aziraphale, wake up. I am -- Aziraphale. Aziraphale.”
But Aziraphale did not open his eyes. Crowley didn’t understand what the hell was happening; Aziraphale was alive, his heart was beating, but he wasn’t waking up. Panic thrummed through Crowley like fire under his skin. A heartbeat that wasn’t his was drumming in his ears.
And Crowley understood all at once. It hit him like a fucking train, the realization of why this was happening this way. What had he said to Newt? Heaven is creative in a way Hell is not. Besides, if they made me human I’d die eventually and be sent down there. They’d never be rid of me.
If they killed Aziraphale, he would be sent to Heaven. It wasn’t up to the Archangels -- your soul was judged, the bad in you weighed against the good, and Aziraphale was made of good. He would be given his final place in Heaven, would pass through the Gates to the reward he deserved more than anyone. He would be allowed to rest.
Of course Michael and the rest couldn’t allow that. So this was their solution: a miracle induced coma that Crowley had no doubt would last until Armageddon really did come.
He screamed. His wings burst from his back, and all across London the power flickered on and off. Aziraphale had been a ticking clock and they hadn’t even known it. They had been given one human year. One human year after six thousand.
Red tinged his vision, and along the ridges of his back scales erupted; it was like he couldn’t hold his human form any longer, not with the anger that was coursing through him. No, not anger; anger wasn’t a strong enough word for what he was feeling. It was fire -- no, that wasn’t right.
It was ice. Ice was simmering inside of him, so cold it burned. And it was ice that caused him to stand up and scoop Aziraphale’s warm body into his arms, to bring him downstairs and lay him out on the couch. Then he pulled back the carpet that was covering up the transportation circle.
Aziraphale didn’t know Crowley knew about the circle. Crowley probably wasn’t supposed to know, except one day he had been exploring the shop as a snake, looking for dark corners and mice, and he had slithered under the carpet and burned his damn stomach. Now he threw the carpet away, taking care not to touch any of the lines.
He was going to fire the fucking thing up, and he was going to storm up there, and they were going to kill him but he was damn well going to take as many angels down with him as he could.
“Excuse me?” A voice called. “Do you know how much this book is?”
“We’re closed,” Crowley snapped, looking around the cluttered bookshop for matches.
“It’s just that I’ve been looking for it for a while. I’ll pay anything.”
“Look, lady --” He turned around, and saw the older woman standing in the middle of the shop, and realized, with extreme and sudden clarity, that the doors were locked.
Every being, whether they are supernatural or not, have the same base instinct -- a survival instinct that tends to showcase as fight or flight. Right now, Crowley’s fight or flight instinct was going haywire, with the dial pointed squarely at flight.
“You don’t have to be afraid,” the person standing in the middle of the shop said.
“I’m not,” he lied. His voice only wavered the slightest amount. “What are you doing here.”
God put down the book She had been holding. “You know when you get a text message, and you look at it, and you make a mental note to respond, but then you completely forget until about two or three days later?”
“What is your point?” He tried to keep his voice calm and steady. Tried to stay on even ground. Keep some semblance of control.
She spread her hands. “I heard your prayer.”
Crowley’s hands clenched involuntarily. “Oh, is that what prayers are to you? Text messages you put to the side and forget about?” He gave Her another look. “Hang on. Why do you look like that actress?”
“I don’t,” She said, a tad defensively.
“You do, though. What’s her name -- she won the award for that Billboard movie.”
“Technically, she looks like me. All my children are made in my image.”
“This is more of a direct copy paste though, isn’t it?”
“It’s not really important, Crowley.”
He physically recoiled. “Don’t call me that.”
Her eyebrows raised. “Isn’t that your name?”
“Not to you,” he said, lip curled. “That’s the name I chose after you kicked me out. That’s the name I chose when you ripped my other one away. You don’t get to call me that.”
“What would you rather I call you?”
“I would rather you tell me what the fuck you’re doing here.”
“You’re the one who called me,” She pointed out, to Crowley’s immense annoyance.
“I wanted divine intervention, not a tête-à-tête,” he snarled. He wanted to pace. He wanted to tug at his hair. He wanted to run away. He wanted to be anywhere but here, staring down the entity supposedly made of unconditional love, just not for him. But he would die before he left Aziraphale.
“I know you’re mad at me,” She said gently. Crowley shook his head.
“We are way past that,” he said. “And I don’t want to hear it.”
“You don’t want to hear what?”
“Your forgivenessssss schtick,” he said, hissing and hating himself for him. “I don’t want to hear about how I broke your heart and you love me and you forgive me for what I did and every other bit of nonsense your human followers spout. None of them know you like I did.”
She cast him a long, meaningful look that he didn’t like at all, and then she walked over to where he had laid Aziraphale out. She brushed his hair out of his eyes; Crowley dug his nails into his palms to stop himself from reaching out and dragging Her away from him.
“Put him back,” Crowley said, very softly. “Give him back to me.”
“He was never yours.”
“He’s more mine than yours,” he said, firmly speaking in the present tense. Aziraphale wasn’t dead, and Crowley sure as hell wasn’t going to speak about him like he was.
She smiled. “Aziraphale has always belonged to himself. If I’m being honest, it makes him a rather bad angel.”
“And yet you never threw him out of Heaven.”
She looked at Crowley, keeping a hand on Aziraphale’s forehead. “It makes him a bad angel, but an excellent human liaison.”
Crowley snorted. Human liaison. It didn’t even come close to describing what Aziraphale did, the thousands of years he had spent loving humanity so deeply and thoroughly that Crowley often found himself jealous of them. All of the love and goodness that lived inside of Aziraphale, and here was his boss, reducing him to a human liaison.
“He is so much better than that,” he said.
“I know,” She said, simply.
“Why are you here. Now. What made you suddenly remember this text message?”
“A large miracle was misused,” She said. “I noticed.”
“Oh, good, so a misuse of power you’ll notice, but prayer passes you by.”
“Would it help if I apologized?”
Crowley laughed. “And they say God doesn’t have a sense of humour.”
She turned Her gaze back to Aziraphale, smoothing the hair off his forehead. Her gaze was so soft and tender that it made Crowley feel sick. He wanted to separate them, wanted to get Aziraphale far away. That familial gaze was too much. It sat heavy in his stomach.
He remembered. He remembered flying high. He remembered holding galaxies in his hands. He remembered what it felt like to create instead of destroy. He could almost remember the way it felt like to be made of love. To have that gaze turned to him.
“What do you want?” She asked suddenly.
The question caught him off guard. “What?”
“What is it you want?” She said it kindly, but it still felt like a trap.
“I want you to restore Aziraphale to the way he was.”
She nodded. “Right. Anything else?”
“What, do you want a grocery list?”
“I’m just asking.” Her thumb was still gently rubbing over Aziraphale’s forehead. Crowley thought he might throw up.
“Alright, sure. Can you make a burrito so hot that you can’t eat it?”
“I don’t eat burritos,” She said with a smile.
“Can you just…” He wanted to sit down, but he didn’t want to seem vulnerable. He wanted Her out, but he didn’t want to jeopardize any chance of fixing Aziraphale. It felt like ants were crawling under his skin. He wanted to turn into a snake and hide in a dark corner. “Fix him,” he said, running his tongue over his teeth. “Give him back to me. Please.”
Light pooled in Her fingers. “Is there anything else you want to know? Before I leave?”
He wanted to tell Her no, to sod off, to leave him alone. He didn’t want to give Her the satisfaction. But he couldn’t pass up on the opportunity.
“Did I do the right thing? Giving them that apple. By -- by accident, I mean. Did I accidentally do the right thing?”
“I can’t answer that.”
Crowley rolled his eyes. “So much for omniscience.”
“I can’t tell you if you did the right thing,” She continued. “But I can tell you that you did exactly what I knew you were going to do.”
Before he could figure out what the fuck he was supposed to say to that, She placed her fingers, faintly glowing, to Aziraphale’s temples.
Light spread through him. Crowley took a step forward, and then another, but the light spread and grew brighter and brighter until Crowley couldn’t look at it anymore. He raised his arm to block his eyes as light filled the shop, and then he heard Aziraphale scream.
“Aziraphale!” He cried, but the light was still too much. “Aziraphale!”
The light faded; Crowley dropped to his knees.
Aziraphale was there, but he was himself. Four wings, one pair up and one pair down, and even though they were blocking his face Crowley knew that there were four different faces there, facing each way. His feet were hooves, and spread out all over, on his body and his wings, were hundreds of eyes.
“Aziraphale,” he said, hoarsely. The form in front of him shifted and changed, and between one moment and the next, Aziraphale was there, looking the way Crowley knew him as, the form that Crowley would know blind or deaf or dead.
“Aziraphale,” Crowley said, and it came out like a prayer.
Aziraphale’s eyes opened, and they glowed bright, and he said in a thousand different voices, “Crowley.” He closed his eyes and cleared his throat, and when he knelt down beside Crowley, he was back to normal.
“Crowley,” he said again, and Crowley fell, boneless, into his arms.
Chapter 9: Epilogue
He felt like he was made of light.
well, here we are. thank you to everyone who has read, and left kudos, and commented! it means the LITERAL world, i love you all so much
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The bell over the shop door rang. Aziraphale tried very strongly not to be annoyed about this. He dragged himself away from the first edition Wilde he was poring over (Crowley no longer seemed threatened by them) and headed into the front.
“Can I help you?” He asked, in a tone that very clearly implied be as quick as possible and leave, please.
A young man was at the counter with a pile of books. Aziraphale felt dim recognition stir in his stomach before realizing who the man was.
“Oh, hello!” He said, smiling warmly at the student who had needed the queer texts all those months ago. “You were that student, yes?”
The boy’s eyebrows drew together. “Er, yes. Your dad owns this shop, then?” And Aziraphale realized that the last time this young man had seen him, he had looked much older than this.
“Yes, he does,” Aziraphale, accepting the easy explanation in front of him. “What can I help you with?”
“Well, I was actually wondering if I could return these?” And he placed a bag on the counter that, upon inspection, was filled with all of the books he had purchased from Aziraphale. “I uh -- your dad didn’t give me a receipt, or anything, so I understand if you can’t --”
“That’s not a problem,” Aziraphale said, perhaps too quickly. “Not a problem at all. I’m sure my… father made a note of the prices somewhere.” He hadn’t, but Aziraphale knew how much every single book in his store was worth. He hurried behind the counter and snapped his fingers behind his back, filling the empty cash register with enough money to be able to pay the boy back.
“Thank you for taking them back,” the boy said gratefully. “It’s just, well, I really need the money. Anyway, it’s probably better that you have the books. They’d just sit in my room collecting dust if I kept them.”
A horrifying thought. Aziraphale stroked the books with a loving hand. “Well, I thank you, then.” Aziraphale opened the cash register, which released a great cloud of dust, and got the money together. He very possibly might have given the boy too much, but he didn’t care; Crowley had yelled at him before about how he was going to destroy the economy if he kept miracling money up, but frankly Aziraphale couldn’t bring himself to care much if it meant he was getting his books back. The young man smiled at him, tucked his notes into his wallet, and left the shop.
Aziraphale took the pile of books into the back room and went through them page by page to ensure they hadn’t been damaged. For the most part they were alright, although there were a few places where the man had highlighted certain parts. Aziraphale hated using his powers on books -- he always knew that underneath it was damaged -- but he wasn’t going to just leave the highlighting. But for some reason he found he couldn’t quite be angry at the young man. He was just grateful he had his books back.
He was almost done going through his books when Crowley dragged himself downstairs, wearing a pair of snake pyjamas, his hair messy from sleep. He yawned as he slid into the chair across from Aziraphale.
“Good morning,” Aziraphale said, rather sarcastically, given that it was almost eleven. “Nice of you to wake up.”
Crowley grunted at him. Aziraphale made a cup of tea appear in front of him, and Crowley drank it gratefully.
Once he was looking a little more human -- well, in a manner of speaking -- Aziraphale spoke. “Do you know,” he said, airily, “A young man came in and returned a bunch of books today.”
“Oh yeah?” Crowley said, kicking his legs up so his feet were in Aziraphale’s lap. “That’s nice.”
“Strange, though,” he said. “This is the fifth person who has come to return books they bought.”
“Huh,” Crowley said. Aziraphale shook his head.
“Really, Crowley. I know what you’re doing.”
“M’not doing anything,” he said, rather unconvincingly. Aziraphale sighed.
“Alright, alright. Not like there’s anything wrong with it, is there?”
“Oh, really, dear. You needn’t worry.”
“Wouldn’t have to do it if you had accepted the money I was sending to you.”
Aziraphale rested a hand on Crowley’s boney ankle, tapping his finger against it. “Are we going to have this argument again?”
Crowley took another sip of his tea. “We’re not having an argument.”
Aziraphale pinched him. “Stop using your demonic influence to get people to return my books.”
“No,” Crowley said with a grin. The bell above the shop rang again. “You have a customer.”
Aziraphale stood up and shook his head. “This is a blatant misuse of your powers.”
Crowley grabbed his hand and pressed a kiss to Aziraphale’s wrist. Aziraphale tried to pretend that this didn’t make something flutter to life in his stomach.
When Aziraphale caught sight of who it was that was standing in his shop, he stopped dead. The two of them stared at each other for a moment before Aziraphale finally spoke.
“Michael,” he said. “This is a surprise.”
Michael looked -- well, pretty awful, actually. There was no heavenly glow about them; their skin was pale and clammy, and they stood hunched over. There was no more power about them. Aziraphale couldn’t sense anything from them.
“You’re human,” he said. He laughed again. Michael glowered at him, but he felt no fear. He felt the incredibly petty urge to unleash his wings. “Isn’t that something.”
“The Almighty took notice,” they said sullenly. “And decided that the best punishment was that I live the life I forced upon you. One year as a human, to experience --”
A blur passed by Aziraphale, and suddenly Crowley had Michael up against the wall by the throat.
Michael scratched at Crowley’s hand, but their human strength was no match against Crowley.
“I’m going to kill you,” Crowley said. He said it simply, like they were discussing the weather. “I’m going to fucking kill you.”
“Oh, Crowley,” Aziraphale said, walking over to where he had Michael pinned against the wall. “Let them go.”
Crowley tightened his grip. Michael’s eyes were beginning to bulge.
“Crowley,” Aziraphale snapped. Crowley let out a frustrated noise and released Michael, who collapsed to the ground and put a hand up to their throat.
“What?” Crowley asked, as if Aziraphale had asked him to do something completely absurd, as opposed to not killing one of the most powerful angels in Heaven.
“You can’t kill them.”
Aziraphale wasn’t entirely sure how to answer that, so he turned to Michael again.
“What are you doing here?”
Michael stood up on shaky legs. When they spoke, their voice was hoarse. “I told you. The Almighty has seen fit to punish me by forcing me to live as a human for one year.”
“Okay. That doesn’t tell me why you’re here.”
Michael looked at him; Aziraphale would never forget that look for the rest of his immortal life. Michael was scared.
Good, Aziraphale thought. It suits them.
“I don’t know how to be human,” they said weakly. “I don’t know how this body works, or what it needs to survive. I have nothing here. I don’t know what to do.”
Aziraphale crossed his arms behind his back and rocked back on his heels. “I suppose you’ll have to learn. Eat every few hours. Sleep every night. You’ll get the hang of it.”
Michael shook their head. “I don’t know how to start,” they said. “I don’t understand the feelings, I don’t know what this body is trying to tell me. I’ve no idea how this world works. I don’t have any currency. I’ll starve. Or, or freeze to death.”
Crowley snorted. “I can only hope I get to see it.”
“Aziraphale,” Michael said, ignoring Crowley. “You have to help me.”
Aziraphale gave a little tight lipped smile. “You’ll find, Michael, that I don’t actually have to do anything.”
Any remaining spark left Michael’s eyes. Aziraphale couldn’t help but enjoy the look on their face -- they clearly hadn’t expected Aziraphale to turn them away.
“You… you won’t help me.”
“Oh, I am helping you. I could have let Crowley kill you.”
“I still don’t think we should take that idea completely off the table,” Crowley said, grinning at Michael and resting his arm on Aziraphale’s shoulder, rubbing in Michael’s face the easy contact they were allowed, now. The thing about having God Herself restore you as an angel after a lengthy conversation with your demon partner is that after that, no one could really make any objections. When your company’s CEO tells you, in person, that it’s alright to do something, your supervisor can’t really do anything about it. So Crowley draped his long frame over Aziraphale and smiled wider when Michael’s eyes widened ever so slightly.
“I will die. You are an angel. You have to help me.”
“Like you helped me?” He asked cooly. Michael looked between him and Crowley and seemed to deflate.
“My death will be on your conscience,” Michael said, one last attempt at a guilt trip.
“I think I can handle it,” Aziraphale said. “Now, I’d like to kindly ask you to leave my shop.”
With one last long look at the two of them, Michael left. Once the door closed behind them, Aziraphale let out a breath.
“I can’t believe you wouldn’t let me kill them,” Crowley said, wrapping an arm around Aziraphale’s waist and burying his head in the angel’s neck. Aziraphale wound an arm up Crowley’s back.
“It would have made things far more complicated,” he said.
“You’re boring,” Crowley said, lifting his head and kissing Aziraphale on the side of his mouth. And then he said, “You’re going to help them, aren’t you?”
“Not much,” he said. “Just -- point them in the direction of a homeless shelter, perhaps. Or a small bit of money. Not a lot, but. Just to get them started.”
Crowley sighed. “You are too good, angel. Do you know that?”
“I suppose I can’t really help it, can I?”
“Doesn’t make it any less annoying,” Crowley said, in a drawling voice that Aziraphale knew not to take seriously. “ Please let me kill them.”
“Absolutely not! If you do I will be incredibly cross with you.”
“Oh really.” Crowley leaned against the counter and pulled Aziraphale flush against him. “And what does that entail?”
“It would involve you sleeping on the couch, for one.”
“That’s not fair, you don’t even come to bed most nights.”
Aziraphale kissed him quiet. It was something he did a lot of, now that he could. Having the freedom was utterly intoxicating, and half the time Aziraphale didn’t know what to do with it -- he could hold Crowley, kiss Crowley, love Crowley out in the open. Eternity stretched out in front of them, an eternity spent in the sun.
“Leave them alone,” Aziraphale said. “They’ll suffer enough.”
Crowley touched his cheek gently. “No they won’t,” he said quietly. “Not for what they did.”
They didn’t talk about it, not really. Crowley had given him a rundown of what had happened, of his talk with God, but he hadn’t gone into particulars, and Aziraphale hadn’t pushed. Sometimes Crowley got a faraway look in his eyes, and he would look at Aziraphale like he wasn’t really seeing him, and there wasn’t really anything Aziraphale could do when that happened except place a steadying hand on Crowley’s back, a reminder that he was here, that it was over. And maybe he should let Crowley kill Michael for what had happened, but that wasn’t him, and truthfully that wasn’t Crowley either.
And anyway, he couldn’t help but think that it was worth it, in a way. One year of hell for this. For Crowley. For a love he didn’t have to hide.
“How about we go for lunch,” Aziraphale said. Crowley leaned forward and pushed his forehead against Aziraphale’s shoulder.
“Yes, alright,” he said. “But I’m going to keep thinking of ways to kill Michael.”
Aziraphale laughed softly. Later he’d have to find Michael, set them, if not on the right path, at least in its general vicinity. Aziraphale didn’t think of this as weakness; it was just who he was. He pressed a kiss to Crowley’s jaw and pulled away.
“Come. My treat,” he said. After he locked up Crowley slipped his hand in Aziraphale’s, and he didn’t even feel the need to look over his shoulder.
He felt like he was made of light. He could feel the weight of his wings balancing him, and the weight of Crowley’s hand in his. The grace that lived inside of him was warm, but there was something else there now, too, the human part of him that had been created. He was both old and young. Ancient and new.
Crowley opened the car door for him, and together they set off. They held hands over the gear shift for thirty seconds, before Crowley decided he wanted to race a BMW, and Aziraphale let go in order to grip the seat. Crowley laughed, loud and free and beautiful, and Aziraphale (once Crowley had left the BMW driver in the dust and Aziraphale had stopped praying) knew that it was a new type of beginning. In the beginning there was a garden, and now there was this: them, together, properly.
a reminder that i'm on tumblr @aravenlikeawritingdesk
and twitter @aravenlikea