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Chapter Text

-Friday, May 31, 2019-

Objectively, the Archangels Residential Facility was quite nice...

... although it really couldn't be called a facility at all. In truth, it was a massive mansion set atop a sloping hill, surrounded by a winding fence that enclosed the property. The road to the place was gravel, with little rocks crunching beneath the wheels of the car. Bushy trees sprouted from every available patch of ground and framed the road. Sunlight filtered through the rustling green leaves and scattered into dozens of flickering sunspots over the road, creating a soft golden glow wherever it struck the undergrowth.

Up ahead, a towering gate of thick, dark iron bars loomed, contrasting sharply with the warm scenery. Beyond the gate was the facility.

Aziraphale sank lower in his seat.

"Isn't it beautiful?" the woman in the front seat asked. She was Aziraphale's mother, but they might as well have been opposite species. She had straight brown hair that fell to her shoulders, with tanned skin and slightly defensive demeanor. Her eyes were a gentle hazel color, but her expression often retracted from the warmth.

On the other hand, Aziraphale had blonde, nearly white hair with a few stray curls. He looked like he never got any sun, and every inch of him radiated friendliness. His eyes were a pale blue, comparable to ice.

"Yes," he replied quietly.

When he didn't say anything more, Ms. Fell glanced back at him, tightening her grip on the steering wheel. "This will be good for you, Zira. It's so open and... outdoorsy."

Back home—where he'd much rather be—was anything but outdoorsy. The interior was bleak and empty, severely minimalistic, and quite lacking in the coziness of most other homes. Large windows gave him opportunities to look outside, but the lawn was properly trimmed and there were no trees. Ms. Fell harbored a great dislike for clutter and regularly rebuked him for it.

He didn't remark on that. Instead, he said, "my name is Aziraphale."

Her jaw tightening, Ms. Fell flipped down the visor and accelerated the car.

The gate somehow grew even taller when they got closer. It was probably over fifteen feet, which seemed a bit excessive to Aziraphale, but he was determined to not comment on anything that might prompt a lecture from his mother.

"Stay here," Ms. Fell said. She opened the car door and stepped out, scowling a bit at the gravel. She walked up to the gate and inspected the sign that was hanging from the bars. After a second, she pushed the gate a bit, and it swung open easily. She climbed back in the car. "It said 'push the left gate'. They don't seem to worry too much about security."

"Isn't that worrisome," Aziraphale said flatly.

They drove in between the open gates and onto the property.

Great swaths of healthy, green grass coated the land, accompanied with large trees that offered shade. Winding trails of roots and earth led from the gate to the facility, and split into several different paths that vanished into the distance. Big bushes of roses framed the facility's base. It was most likely three stories or more.

As they slowly drove, Aziraphale noticed the abundance of wildlife. Birds squawked and fluttered away in startled flocks, while little squirrels and mice scampered along the ground. He was even sure that he'd seen a snake.

Finally, the dreaded moment of arrival was upon him. He stepped out of the car and closed the door. Ms. Fell clasped a hand around his arm, like she feared he would make a break for it. Sighing, he followed her to the door.

Before they could knock, the door swung open.

Standing there was another teenager in all black. Black shirt, black jeans with holes in them, and black running shoes. He had firey red hair that sat atop his head in a tousled mess, and a pair of sleek black shades covered his eyes. He leaned on the doorway in a way that suggested he didn't know how to stand properly, with one leg straight and the other splayed out lazily to the side.

"Hello," Ms. Fell greeted. "Are you Mica?"

The guy regarded them with faint amusement. "No, but I can take you to her. I'm Crowley." He shook her hand, then turned to Aziraphale. "And you are?

"Zira Fell," she interjected before Aziraphale could speak. "I'm Ms. Fell."

"Well, it's a pleasure. Shall we find Mica?"

Crowley closed the door behind him and led them outside, onto a dirt trail that looped around to the back of the house. Behind it, there was a courtyard-type area where a fountain was placed, along with several picnic tables. The property was so large that the fence wasn't visible.

"Scenic, huh?" Crowley remarked. "Yeah, it gets boring real fast."

"So, uh, are you a resident here?" Ms. Fell asked. In her attempt to not be offensive, she ended up sounding like even more of a jerk. Aziraphale sighed heavily.

"Yup. Three years and counting."

"Oh. What's it like here?"

"Mm, like I said, boring." Crowley turned a corner, forcing them to follow. There didn't seem to be anyone in sight, which made Aziraphale wonder exactly where he was taking them, but Aziraphale said nothing. No use in offending someone on his first day. "If you like psychotic roommates, this is the place for you."

"Ah." Ms. Fell gripped Aziraphale tighter.

Aziraphale tried to wiggle out of her grip and failed. "Mother."

"I'm happy to see another teenager here, it means Zira will have a chance to make new friends," Ms. Fell said, ignoring Aziraphale's pathetic plea for freedom.

Crowley, thankfully, didn't acknowledge Ms. Fell. He took a sharp left and started walking back towards the facility.

"Um, I'm sorry, but do you know where you're going?" Ms. Fell questioned.

"Of course I do," Crowley huffed.

"But, uh, we've gone in a circle."

Crowley paused. They had arrived back at the house. "Have we?" He turned around slowly, as if surveying the surroundings, before pushing his sunglasses even farther up and saying, "how peculiar."

Ms. Fell drew herself up and exhaled sharply. "Stop leading us on. Did you ever intend on taking us to Mica?"

"At some point, yeah." The corner of Crowley's lips quirked into a slight grin. "I wanted to see how long I could get you to wander around aimlessly."

Aziraphale liked him immediately.

"Take us to Mica right this moment," Ms. Fell ordered, as if deciding he was a delinquent teen and should no longer be addressed respectfully. Crowley seemed to sense the change in demeanor and frowned.

"I would if I knew where she was," Crowley replied coolly. "As it so happens, I'm not at your beck-and-call. Have fun searching."

Before she could protest, Crowley spun on his heel and walked away in a strange manner that could only be called a saunter; throwing out one leg and sort of dragging up the other one, resulting in a tilted, swaying strut. Aziraphale watched as Crowley tossed open a back door and vanished inside the facility.

"I never," Ms. Fell muttered indignantly, tugging Aziraphale along the path. They walked to the front entrance once more, where an older woman was just walking out.

She was a stern, prim lady, dressed in an impeccable suit and her hands crossed elegantly across her middle. She smiled upon their approach. "Ms. Fell, I assume? I'm Mica. Terribly sorry about Anthony, he likes to mess with the new residents." She shook Ms. Fell's hand and then Aziraphale's. "This must be Zira."

"Aziraphale," he corrected. "Common mistake, shortening the beginning."

"It's Zira," Ms. Fell countered sharply.

Mica glanced between them for a moment. "Okay, Aziraphale, if you could step inside while your mother and I figure everything out? Uriel should be waiting. She'll direct you."

Uriel? Oh, this was good. Finally, someone to help Aziraphale. None of these humans understood the severity of his mission, but an archangel definitely would.

Smiling obligatorily, he bowed his head in acknowledgement and hurried up the stairs, onto the patio, and inside the house.

The interior was, quite possibly, more extravagant than the exterior. 

However, first we must lay out the scene.

Immediately upon entry to the mansion, there were a few notable aspects. The walls were a gentle yellow. The ceiling was tall and directly ahead was a curving staircase that led to a door. The stairs were covered in beige carpet, but the floor itself was polished wood.

To the left, there was a large, brightly lit room with sleek white carpet and a piano in the corner. Lanterns hung from niches in the walls. To the right, there was an office room of sorts with dark red walls and a wide window that allowed in the sunlight. It was furnished and cozily decorated.

A little bit past the office room was a hallway that consisted of one bathroom, one laundry room, and one storage closet on the right hand side. On the left side, there was a door that led to a large, open room with several tall windows lining one wall. The room was filled with plush furniture and comfortable couches that faced a fireplace. The windows bulged outward slightly in one place, allowing a small table and two chairs to be placed in the nook.

If you looked to the left from there, you would find the kitchen, with wooden floorboards and neatly polished cabinets. Even farther left, and you'd see the dining room, which connected to the piano room from earlier. All the way to the right, beyond the couches, was another office room.

Now that we've mapped out the first floor, we'll head upwards.

Back in the entry room, there was a curved staircase that stretched to the second floor. The first door on the left was a bedroom. It was starkly furnished, with grey walls and perfectly folded sheets. The patterned window curtains were drawn closed.

The closest bedroom after that was on the right, and the door was shut and locked. The room felt smaller to any occupants, but only because it had more personal belongings and messes. Parchment paper and quills were scattered over the desk. A few dusty books sat on the shelves, untouched.

Down the hall was a more open space, and it held two doors on the left side and one opening to the right, with another staircase directly ahead. This staircase led up to the third floor.

The first door to the left was another bedroom. The floor was white carpet, the walls were a faint grey, and the bed was covered in white sheets. The blankets and pillows were strewn about carelessly. The blinds were open and the curtains were pulled to the side. Lining one wall was a trough-like structure filled with leafy plants, spilling over their pots and climbing up the wall in flowery vines. A green plant mister sat next to them. On the desk, a tank held a small black snake with slitted yellow eyes.

The second door to the left was unoccupied (though it must be noted: this had a door which connected it to the room nearby).

To the right was a set of double doors, and inside was an open room that was shared by Mica and Uriel. The walls were a dark maroon, and all of the furniture was black.

Up the stairs was the third floor, where you would find only three rooms and a storage closet.

The first room was filled with maps and tape. Detailed diagrams were pinned to the walls, and scrawled handwriting could be found on every stray slip of paper. A large map of the United States of America was plastered over the windows. Big red pen marks were scribbled all over it.

Farther down the hall, two doors were placed parallel to each other. Both rooms were nearly identical in decorating style, as the two occupants spent most of their time with the other. Each room had a desk in the corner, both with a glass tank and two different creatures inside. One room had a frog; the other had a lizard. No one was quite sure what species either of the creatures were, and no one dared to ask.

The storage closet held a few extra blankets and a first-aid kit.

At the very top of the house was the attic, which was mostly dusty and empty.

Of course, from Aziraphale's limited vantage point, he could only see the piano room, a snippet of the office, and a winding staircase. He stood there awkwardly for a moment, gaping at the extravagant decor. He marveled over the golden rails and portraits hanging from the walls, momentarily forgetting about finding Uriel.

"Can I help you?" a woman asked. She stood in the doorway of the office, dressed in a white sweater and grey leggings. Her voice held a slight English lilt. Smiling, she walked over to him. "Zira, right? Mica said we were expecting a new resident."

"It's Aziraphale, actually," he said. He drew himself up to his full height, lacing his hands in a dignified manner. "Aziraphale, Guardian of the East Gate of Eden and angel of the Lord."

Uriel stared at him for a moment, frowning a bit, but recovered quickly. "It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm Uriel."

"Thank goodness. I'm so relieved to have found an archangel. Perhaps you can assist me with my predicament."

"Predicament?"

"Yes. The oncoming Apocalypse."

Uriel's expression softened. "I'm sorry, but I'm not who you think I am. My family was extremely evangelical, and all of my siblings were named after angels."

"Oh." Aziraphale sighed, his shoulders slumping.

After a small pause, Uriel touched his arm and smiled gently. "Would you like a tour? The house is very old, and the design is something spectacular."

Uriel showed him the first floor and the second floor, stopping by the empty room that would be his. It was all rather too large for Aziraphale's taste, but he settled with the idea that he could decorate his room however he wanted. By the time the tour was over, Ms. Fell and Mica were finished, and they were waiting downstairs.

"Go get your things from the car," Ms. Fell told Aziraphale.

Without argument, Aziraphale hurried to the car and dragged his suitcases out. The many bags proved very difficult to haul over gravel, but he struggled his way to the front door anyway, huffing and grunting the whole way there. He dropped his suitcases and clutched the bag over his shoulder as Ms. Fell pressed a light kiss to his forehead.

"You'll be better in no time," she assured him, squeezing his shoulder. "Behave. And no more of this silly 'Aziraphale' nonsense." She straightened and shook hands with Mica and Uriel once more. "Contact me if any problems come up."

"We can handle this," Uriel told her.

"Yes," Mica agreed. "Have a nice flight back to Britain."

The doors clicked shut. Aziraphale breathed out.

"Let's get you settled, huh?" Uriel suggested, picking up one of his bags to help him. As Aziraphale followed her up the stairs, he saw the teenager from before, Crowley, peeking around the corner of the piano room. Crowley lowered his glasses, winked, and vanished around the corner.

Oh, dear. This was all shaping up to be a right disaster.

Chapter Text

-Saturday, June 1, 2019-

The next morning started with a very noisy knock on Aziraphale's door.

Last night, he'd shoved his suitcases underneath the bed, yanked the curtains closed, and locked the extra door in the room. It led to the room beside his, and since he didn't know anyone yet, he didn't want someone to come into his room in the middle of the night or something.

The other residents sort of made him fear for his safety.

Anyway, back to the knock on his door.

He was already awake, looking out his window at the abundance of greenery outside, but it still came as a surprise. Making sure he was presentable, he hurried over to the door and opened it.

Crowley was leaning in his doorway. "Morning. Aziraphale, right?" He was dressed in a black sweater with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows, black pants, and his sunglasses still hiding his eyes. Perhaps black was part of the dress code.

"C-Crowley," Aziraphale stammered. "What are you doing here? It's early."

"You think seven is early?" Crowley scoffed. "Not here. Everyone else is already up, I figured you'd probably want a wake-up call so you aren't the last one to breakfast."

"Oh. Oh, thank you."

"Mm. Can I come in?"

"Yes, um, of course."

Aziraphale stepped back to allow Crowley inside. He didn't close the door. Crowley ambled over to the window and pried open the blinds. After a moment, he released them with a clatter.

"So, there's a schedule here," Crowley said finally, breaking the slightly-awkward silence. With his sunglasses, it was hard to tell if he was looking at Aziraphale or something else. "Breakfast downstairs at seven forty-five, which I why I'm here, so you aren't late. We've all got chores to do. You'll get your list today."

"Okay. Um, what do you do all day?"

"Lots of things. Chores, games, gardening, all that shit. Anything we can think of. We do most of our stuff together, because Mica and Uriel don't want us to be alone all the time. That negates the purpose of the house."

"Ah, that makes sense."

Crowley dusted off the bed and sat down. He didn't sit normally though; he splayed out his legs and tilted his ankles in a way that seemed very uncomfortable, but Aziraphale kept his mouth shut. There was a long pause where Crowley didn't speak, and Aziraphale was quite at a loss for what to say, so they let a tense quiet fall over them.

Clearing his throat, Aziraphale knelt down to unpack his suitcase, occasionally glancing over at Crowley.

"Why are you here?" Aziraphale blurted suddenly. His cheeks flushed with warmth as Crowley's head jerked in his direction. "I mean, why are you interested in me? I know you just wanted to mess with us yesterday, but I'm sure neither of us are here to make friends. I don't even know you."

"Sure you do. I'm Crowley, you're Aziraphale. See? We know each other now."

"No, that's not—" Aziraphale cut himself off with a huff. As he was searching for something to say, a new realization popped into his head. Something that he was ashamed of himself for not noticing before. "I am an angel, you are a demon. We're hereditary enemies."

"Oh, so I'm a demon now?" Crowley asked. He leaned back, not looking offended so much as vaguely curious. Of course, being a demon, he wouldn't question the accusation.

"Yes. I'm shocked I didn't see it before."

"Hm. Interesting." Crowley pushed himself up, tossing his feet under himself. "Well, I'd hoped to talk to someone who's somewhat sensible, but it seems I'm out of luck. Enjoy your room, angel." Halfway out the door, he tossed over his shoulder, "breakfast at seven forty-five!"

And then he was gone. The door slammed behind him.

"Good riddance," Aziraphale muttered to himself, although he also felt as though he'd failed his very first attempt at creating a friendship. "Terrible tempters, those demons."

The room was dreadfully empty with no one else in it.


At seven forty-five promptly, Aziraphale rose from the bed and headed out into the hallway. He had changed into more appropriate clothes—a pale yellow button-up shirt and beige pants. In addition, he wore a gold ring around one finger, which was his halo. They could shrink and become material objects, so that he wouldn't scare humans with his divinity.

In the hallway, he hesitated, unfamiliar with the layout of the house (despite our in-depth explanation in chapter one). However, when he noticed two people chatting and walking down the stairs, he hurried after them.

They were both dressed in varying shades of grey and black. One had a little silver necklace in the shape of a frog, and the other was notably missing his shoes. When Aziraphale caught up to them, they turned to stare at him simultaneously.

The one with the necklace had dark eyes, so dark they were almost entirely black, no pupils. The other's were a strange orange color.

"Who are you?" the first one asked, his voice a low drawl.

"I'm Aziraphale, Principality and Guardian of the East Gate," he introduced himself.

The pair exchanged a look.

"Hastur," the one with the necklace replied. He gestured at his companion. "This is Ligur."

"Lovely to meet you both."

"Hm," Ligur said, tilting his head. "Looking rather... flammable, are we?"

Aziraphale blinked. "What?"

Hastur grinned, all teeth. Ligur's expression didn't change, but his eyes narrowed a bit, tempting Aziraphale to take a step back.

"Never met an angel before," Hastur said. He clicked his tongue, gaze fixated on Aziraphale. "Do you have wings? I know how well feathers burn."

"I—" Aziraphale cut himself off. He drew himself up indignantly, frowning. "You cannot set my wings on fire. They're hidden to protect the humans, so I can't show you, but it would do you well to remember that I will not allow you to test if I'm flammable." Just as before, the realization struck him again. "I should not even be consorting with the likes of demons."

"Demons," Ligur murmured, as if rolling the word around in his mouth. "Flattering."

Before they could torment him further, Aziraphale hurried past them and down the stairs.

There, he found himself in a hallway filled with doors. The first floor, he remembered. At the end, he saw Crowley slip by into another room, so he figured that must be the place to go. Hastur and Ligur followed.

The house was no less grand than it was yesterday. The dining room was sleek and white, with a few extra chairs to fit everyone. Aziraphale counted six people, not including himself or Mica and Uriel. He decided to take a seat at the far end, next to another teen with startling purple eyes.

"You don't sit there," he said, frowning at Aziraphale. "You're new?"

"Yes. I'm Aziraphale." This time, he omitted the extra title, because it didn't seem to be getting him any friends.

"I'm Gabriel."

"Gabriel? The archangel?" Aziraphale nearly collapsed with relief. "Oh, good, I never thought I'd find someone like me. I tried Uriel first, but she's an ordinary human. You must help me."

Gabriel smiled slightly. "Archangel?"

"Yes. I'm a Principality. How did you find yourself here?"

"Well, I just—"

"He's not an archangel," Crowley interrupted loudly, dragging a chair out across from Gabriel. He dropped into it and scowled. "He's messing with you to stroke his ego."

"I am not," Gabriel protested.

"He'd like to believe he's an archangel, but he's just a narcissist. Don't believe a word he says about himself."

Aziraphale crossed his arms. "You're a demon, why should I believe you?"

"Ha, demon," Gabriel said. "I like that."

"Of course you do," Crowley muttered. He turned his stare back to Aziraphale. "I've been here longer than you, yeah? So it stands to reason I know more than you about the other people here. Trust me when I say that Gabriel is not who you think he is."

Despite how reasonable and convincing Crowley was, Aziraphale trusted what he saw with his own eyes. Gabriel had a slight glow to him that wavered and pulsed, cementing the idea that he was, in fact, an angel. His eye color was an indicator too, being an unearthly shade of purple.Just as Aziraphale knew that Crowley was a demon, he knew Gabriel was an archangel.

Angels and demons were quite easy to tell apart. Angels tended to have faint haloes or some sort of other vibrancy, while demons were like black holes. Empty, dark. Aziraphale could feel that emptiness with Hastur and Ligur more than Crowley, but it was still there, a lingering touch of evil. It felt slick and oily, repulsive to be near. On the other hand, angels felt warm and full, like the feeling you get after absolutely stuffing yourself on Thanksgiving.

Click.

Aziraphale shook his head, snapping back to the present. Crowley lowered his hand from snapping his fingers. He stared at Aziraphale curiously.

"Good morning everyone," Mica said at the head of the table, smiling down at all of them. Only a few people responded in kind, which included Aziraphale, Gabriel, and an older woman a few seats away. "You may have noticed we have a new resident. Everyone welcome Aziraphale."

Down the table, Hastur did a slow, mocking clap. Crowley sighed.

"Welcome," the older woman spoke up. She offered a kind smile. "I'm Agnes."

"Lovely to meet you," Aziraphale replied.

"Okay, since it's always a bit difficult to adjust to a new resident," Uriel said, "today will be a free day. The schedule starts up again tomorrow, but today you can relax and get to know each other." Everyone burst into excited chatter. Uriel waited until they calmed down to continue speaking. "Breakfast today is the same as any other Saturday. Hastur, Ligur, it's your day."

Hastur and Ligur rose from their seats and walked into the kitchen. A few moments later, they came back in, bearing several plates with fluffy pancakes stacked on top. They distributed the plates to everyone, but Aziraphale was quite sure that Ligur purposefully dropped Aziraphale's harder than he needed to.

Everyone started to dig into their food. Aziraphale inspected his for a moment, checking to ensure it wasn't tainted by any demonic presence, then took a delicate bite. It didn't match how his mother used to make them, but they were still delicious.

As everyone began to finish, they set their dishes in the sink and vanished into varying places until Aziraphale and Crowley were the only ones left. Crowley was watching him intently.

"Scrumptious," Aziraphale said to Mica and Uriel. "Did you make them?"

"Yes, it's an old recipe," Mica replied with a smile. "So, in regards to how things work around here, Anthony can walk you through what we usually do. Today will be more relaxed, like a day of acclimation."

"Wait, your real name is Anthony?" Aziraphale asked Crowley. "You lied to me!"

Crowley shook his head. "No, my first name is Anthony. I go by Crowley. In the same sort of way that your real name is Zira."

"It's Aziraphale."

Sighing, Crowley scooped up his plate and Aziraphale's, then starting washing them in the sink. Aziraphale reluctantly thanked him. Once he was done, Crowley stepped into the main room. He cast a glance back at Aziraphale.

"Care to join me?"

"R-Right. Yes."


If he was being honest, Aziraphale wasn't quite listening during Crowley's tour. It wasn't boring or anything like that, but Aziraphale couldn't force himself to pay attention, no matter how much he tried. Crowley seemed to pick up on this as he cut his descriptions to the bare minimum. Aziraphale swallowed down his guilt.

"And now, onto the residents," Crowley said.

He'd asked Mica for permission to go outside a few minutes earlier, and now they were walking the grounds. It was a warm, sunny day, with a few stray clouds drifting lazily above. For early June, it was hotter than Aziraphale had anticipated, so he was quickly growing uncomfortable in his clothes. Crowley, however, who was wearing all black, didn't seem bothered at all.

Probably a perk of being a demon, if it could be called a perk.

"You've met Gabriel," Crowley continued, kicking up dust as he walked. "Diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder but doesn't give a shit about getting better. He just wants everyone to like him. Then we have Agnes Nutter, who thinks she can tell the future. She has a bunch of books filled with her prophecies." He cast Aziraphale a side look. "None of them come true. She has a granddaughter, Anathema, who drops by occasionally with her failed attempts at baking."

Aziraphale hummed softly to indicate he was listening.

"On the third floor, there's Hastur and Ligur, who are adopted brothers and like to set things on fire. I'd call them pyromaniacs. I think Hastur is my third cousin's nephew, so we're very distantly related."

Exhaling noisily, Crowley plucked a leaf off of the nearest tree.

"Lastly is Shadwell, who thinks he's a witchfinder."

"Witchfinder?"

"Someone who hunts down and kills witches. I'm sure it's early onset dementia. He's been here for longer than I have, which says something."

"How long have you been here?" Aziraphale asked.

Crowley hesitated, but kept walking. "That's a very personal thing to ask of someone you've just met. Especially a demon."

"Well, you just exposed everyone else's private lives."

"I'm not them, am I?"

Aziraphale let out an irritated huff. He stuffed his hands into his pockets and regretted it a moment later when the hot cloth came into contact with his skin. They fell into tense silence. He swallowed hard and glanced over at Crowley, who's expression was unreadable.

Finally, when the silence became unbearable, Aziraphale said, "I'm sorry about this morning. I didn't mean to offend you. I believe everyone has good inside them, even demons."

"Don't say that," Crowley snapped, startling Aziraphale. "I'm not a good person. If you think I'm a demon, you're probably right."

"You are, but everyone has potential."

Crowley spun on his heel and pointed a finger at Aziraphale, not touching him, but surprising him into stepping back. "Stop. You don't know what you're talking about." Aziraphale drew in a sharp breath, his heart pounding at the outburst. Clenching a fist, Crowley turned back around and continued walking. Aziraphale hurried after him.

"... I'll only be here for the summer anyway," Aziraphale said tentatively. "Then I'll be out of your hair."

"Everyone says that," Crowley muttered. As he glanced back once more at Aziraphale, his lips tugged down into a deep, pensive frown. "I was only supposed to be here for a month, you know. And look how time flies."

"How long have you been here?"

"Three years and counting."

Crowley set his hands on his hips, surveyed the grounds, and suddenly offered a grin.

"Care to see the far end of the property? There's a lovely river with the most gorgeous hyacinths."

Chapter Text

-Sunday, June 2, 2019-

At noon, Mica and Uriel presented the residents with the updates schedules and chores list.

Back at home, Aziraphale had his own list of household chores, so this wasn't going to be difficult for him, though he did internally sigh a bit at the length of the chores. The house was also, regrettably, very large.

"What have you got first?" Crowley asked, skimming his list.

"Um, cleaning the windows. You?"

"Dishes." Crowley crumpled up his list and stuffed it into his pocket, then set off for the kitchen.

Aziraphale was given a rag and a spray bottle for the windows. He started on the first floor, with the piano room. He wasn't tall enough to reach the very top, so he just cleaned what he could and left the rest. As he scrubbed the corner of the window, he became aware of someone whistling lowly behind him, but when he whirled around, the room was empty. Frowning, he turned back to the window, a strange prickling feeling on the back of his neck, as if he was being watched.

He moved to the dining room after that, near where Crowley was washing the dishes.

"You know, we do the goddamn dishes every day when we could be spending our time on more important things," Crowley said suddenly, setting down his plate. "Don't you think? I mean, there's a whole world out there, and I'm washing the dishes."

"We're all doing our part," Aziraphale said. "And shouldn't you be used to this by now, if you've been here so long?"

"That's my point!"

"What is?"

"My point is..." Crowley trailed off a bit, staring at the dish in his hands curiously. "Dolphins."

"What?"

"Dolphins don't do the dishes," Crowley muttered. "They swim and play and live their lives, but I'm stuck in this bloody house all the time."

"Are you feeling okay?" Aziraphale asked, as Crowley dropped the dish in his hands with a clatter. Crowley leaned back against the counter, rubbing his hands down his face, before abruptly turning back to the sink and scrubbing more vigorously than before. "You're acting very strange."

"I'm acting strange? You're the one who thinks he's an angel."

Aziraphale frowned. Crowley twisted the faucet to the side, turning up the water temperature to steaming hot. He hissed a bit but stuck his hands under the flow anyway.

"Crowley!" Aziraphale cried. He grabbed Crowley's arm and tried to pull him back from the boiling heat, but Crowley jerked away from him with a growl.

"Don't touch me," Crowley spat, yanking his sleeve down from where it had pushed up slightly. "If you're so concerned about it, do the dishes yourself." A moment later, he shook his head sharply and shouldered his way past Aziraphale, pushing him away from the sink. "No, no, don't, you'll do it wrong. Let me."

"I..." Aziraphale sighed as he stepped back, allowing Crowley to have his space. "I don't know why you're being so rude, but I..." And with that, he lost his train of thought. Crowley wasn't listening anyway. "I'll go now."

"Probably for the best."

Hurt lodging itself in his chest, Aziraphale gathered his supplies and slipped into the next room.


By the time he'd finished washing the majority of the windows, it was nearly an hour later. There was one room left, on the third floor. He was pretty sure it belonged to Shadwell, the old man suffering from dementia that Crowley had described.

He knocked on the door three times.

"Hello?" Shadwell replied through the door. His voice held a thick accent that Aziraphale couldn't quite place. Scottish, maybe?

"Hello. I'm Aziraphale, I'm the new resident. I'm supposed to be cleaning the windows."

Rustle. Click. The door inched open, revealing a sliver of a man's face with narrowed eyes, greying hair, and wary expression. His suspicious stare drilled into Aziraphale.

"Is anyone with ye?" Shadwell questioned.

"Um, no, I'm alone."

Shadwell grunted. "Come in, quickly."

As he was ushered inside, Aziraphale noticed a few key details about the room. Firstly, it was an absolute mess, filled with cluttered papers and maps pinned to the walls. The windows were covered in a thick sheet of dust. A book, a candle, and a bell sat neatly on the desk.

"Yer the new patient," Shadwell said, eyeing Aziraphale.

"Mm-hm. You're Shadwell, correct?"

"That's Sergeant Shadwell to you."

"Oh, you were in the military?"

"Nae. Witchfinder Army. There are no more higher rankings, I'm afraid, so I alone must bear the mantle passed down to me." Shadwell puffed up a bit with pride, lifting his chin. "I protect this country from the forces of darkness."

Aziraphale spritzed the window and started to rub the rag across the grimy surface. "I suppose we have similar jobs then. I'm an angel. I thwart the wiles of any demons I encounter, and I'm currently working towards stopping Armageddon." He folded the corner of the rag for a clean side, then began working on the top corner.

"Armageddon? The end of the world?"

"Precisely," Aziraphale replied.

Shadwell adjusted a stack of papers on the desk. "Encountered any demons recently? Need any help with an exorcism?"

"Oh, no, nothing like that. There's a few demons here, but they seem mostly harmless. As long as Hastur and Ligur don't set me on fire, I think they're okay."

"Aye, those boys," Shadwell muttered, "always stealing my important documents and using 'em as firewood. Demons! Ha. Shoulda known."

"Don't worry, it's very hard to discern a demon from a human unless you're an angel." Aziraphale sprayed another section of the glass. "Crowley, for instance. If I hadn't been paying attention, I never would have guessed he was a demon. He is very inconspicuous." He folded up the rag and scooped up the spray bottle. "Sorry to be a bother, I'll be going now."

"Come 'round anytime if you need a witch exterminated," Shadwell told him seriously. "I've been working on Nutter downstairs, but she's a slippery one. I'll get her one of these days."

"Oh, dear," Aziraphale murmured to himself as he hurried out of the room.


Next on Aziraphale's list was easier: his own room cleanup.

He hadn't had much time to unpack, so it wasn't yet cluttered or really in need of cleaning.

Instead, he used this time to open up all of his bags and start placing things around the room, wanting to be comforted despite his stay being short and temporary. He set up a line of books on his shelf, then placed a few empty inkwells on the desk. In the window, he hung up a small dream catcher he'd bought several months before. Little blue and purple gemstones twinkled in the afternoon sunlight.

"Mm," he hummed to himself.

There was a large walk-in closet that seemed stark to him, so he unpacked his clothes and hung them on the rack. He also added a silver cross to the interior, liking the feeling it gave the room. He needed to nail a horseshoe above the door, too.

Perhaps Shadwell owned one. It seemed likely.

Knock knock knock.

Aziraphale set down the old Bible he was holding and opened the door.

To his surprise, there stood Crowley, swaying on his feet with an odd look on his face. "Angel, I need you to come with me."

"W-Why?"

"Just come on."

Aziraphale had to practically run after Crowley as the demon hurried outside, tossing open the doors with reckless abandon. Aziraphale gently closed them. Crowley kept going, until they reached the center of the courtyard, in a circle of towering oak trees.

"What's this about, Crowley?"

"Look at that," Crowley said, tilting his head to the sky. "Isn't it incredible? It's a great big universe out there."

"Yes, I suppose so."

"And yet." Crowley threw his hands up briefly, then let them fall back down. He whipped his sunglasses off, and for the first time, Aziraphale got a good look at his eyes. One was a strange, greenish-yellow color, and the other was so hazel it was nearly red.

The sight unnerved Aziraphale, and made him realize why Crowley wore his glasses all the time.

"I'm here in this fucking house!" Crowley shouted. Aziraphale jumped. "Instead of doing anything worthwhile! I could be exploring the galaxy, angel, and yet, and yet—"

"Crowley, please calm down," Aziraphale tried, "I know I've only known you for a few days, but this seems uncharacteristic. What has got you so stirred up?"

"Just the crushing weight of existence, angel." Suddenly, Crowley bent down and picked a dead rose off the ground. "This guy lived and died here, just like we will someday. All of us are gonna bite it here, Aziraphale. This is it. This is our lives!"

"Crowley—"

Crowley let out a growl and dropped the rose. "I hate this. I should be out in the world, but I'm here. I'm here instead of anywhere else."

The sound of footsteps distracted them. Mica and Uriel were walking quickly over to them, both looking worried.

"What are you boys doing out here?" Mica demanded, not unkindly. "We couldn't find you. Aziraphale, I know you're new, but Crowley, you know that you need to ask before coming out here."

"I'm very sorry," Aziraphale said. "He wanted me to come out here, and then he started talking nonsense. I really don't know what's gotten into him."

Mica's expression shifted from concern to understanding. "Oh. Crowley, come here." Crowley reluctantly sidled over to her. Mica looked him over, noting his sunglasses dangling from his hand, before making a soft noise to herself. "Inside, with me."

She led Crowley back up to the house, while Uriel stayed by Aziraphale.

"Where are they going?" Aziraphale asked.

Uriel sighed, setting a hand on Aziraphale's shoulder gently. The simple touch made his skin burn. "Aziraphale, you need to understand that everyone here is sick. Crowley may put on a front, but he can't control his illness. He's going to have bad days, and he's going to have worse days, and really... the only thing that can help him is his medicine, but I have a feeling he hasn't taken it anytime recently."

Aziraphale watched Crowley and Mica vanish into the house. "What's wrong with him? I've never seen an illness that makes people act like that."

"That isn't my information to disclose. Patient confidentiality." Uriel removed her hand, and though it felt like relief, it also left Aziraphale with a hollow feeling deep inside him. "Crowley will tell you when he feels comfortable. Just be there for him, and he'll open up. I can tell you, however, that he does genuinely like you. It'll be good for you both to have a friend."

"... right. Yeah."

Before they left, Aziraphale scooped up the dead rose from the ground and pocketed it.

Chapter Text

-Wednesday, June 5, 2019-

Crowley stared intently at the bottle of medicine sitting on his desk. Filled halfway with little white pills that tasted bad and made him feel worse. The label said 'risperidone' but the words 'mood stabilizer' rang in his ears.

With Aziraphale in mind, Crowley popped one in his mouth and swallowed it dry.

He wanted to be completely rational when he was around the newest resident, especially after his very brief manic episode a few days ago. It hadn't lasted nearly as long as usual, which he was grateful for, but he wished it could've waited at least a few more weeks, until he had time to tell Aziraphale about everything.

Bipolar Disorder. The words felt ugly to him.

Groaning softly, he flopped back down onto the bed and closed his eyes. He'd woken up at four in the morning and couldn't force himself to go back to sleep. It was five thirty-two now, and he was waiting for the sun to rise.

When he tried to change positions for maximum comfort, a twinge of pain in his legs made him stop. Gritting his teeth, he wiggled to the side of bed and swung his legs over the side, breathing heavily at the simple action.

Of course, coupled with his poor mental health, he also had to deal with the constant, chronic pain in his legs.

It hadn't always been this way. Crowley remembered when he didn't ache all the time, when he knew how to genuinely smile, when everything was bright and warm.

Three years and counting, he'd told Aziraphale.

Three years and counting ago, he'd stood on the edge of the Golden Gate Bridge and wondered what it was like to fly.

Shaking his head, Crowley slowly lowered his feet to the floor, willing his legs to hold his weight. The faintest beam of sunlight streamed through his open window, splintering upon contact with the glass cage in the corner. A large black snake blinked, flicking out its tongue. It regarded Crowley for a moment, then went back to its position under the heat lamp.

"Yeah, yeah, just go back to sleep," Crowley muttered.

The snake wasn't that big when Crowley got him, a good year ago. It was about the length of a common garter snake, which was how he'd convinced Mica and Uriel to let him keep it, but within a few months, it had grown to nearly four feet and no longer fit the small tank Crowley had bought. The next time Newton came into town, he also gave Crowley a larger tank for the snake.

It had very interesting markings that Crowley only noticed after a week. There was a single red stripe down the back, and two fainter, whitish lines on each side.

He actually hadn't named the creature until less than a year ago. Hastur had snidely suggested Crawly, and the name, unfortunately, stuck.

Aziraphale would've come up with a better name, Crowley thought absently.

Then he frowned at the idea."I don't even really know him," he groaned, snatching up the green plant mister that was sitting on his desk. He had a large collection of beautiful, verdant plants that spilled over their plots of dirt and snuck up his wall in a winding display of vines. Lifting one leaf, he sprayed the base of a plant. This was a hobby he'd had since before his admission to the residential facility, and Mica and Uriel were very kind to accommodate. Anathema sometimes came by with new plants for him.

"He probably doesn't even like me," Crowley moaned to the plants, running his finger down the side of a hosta bush. "I mean, the guy thinks he's an angel. He's just as delusional as Shadwell." He scowled. "Maybe not that crazy, but still." Sighing heavily, he moved onto the next plant. "I think he's cool, though. Is that weird? I'm weird."

The plants remained silent.

"I don't usually hang out with people like him. He's just... soft, I guess, and sort of a dumbass. I did hear him say something sarcastic to Ligur the other day, so I guess that's a win. I don't know."

Still, the plants didn't reply.

"He listens to me," Crowley murmured. He knelt down to inspect the base of a bugleweed. "He doesn't try to fix me, he only listens. He worries. I don't think I've ever had someone worry about me before."

A small clump of aruncus in the corner was looking a tad wilted. He sprayed it a few times.

"He doesn't think we're friends, and I don't know just yet. Maybe we're friendly acquaintances. Oh, bloody hell, can't anything be simple?" He set down the plant mister with a huff. "I admire him a bit. He's sorta aloof, doesn't really care what people think about him. Not afraid to be harsh if the situation demands it. Jeez, why am I over here analyzing him like a goddamn psychiatrist? That's Mica and Uriel's job."

The clock on his desk beeped once, alerting him to the sunrise. He heaved a sigh, leaning back on the bed to rest his legs. It was too early for him to be in pain.

"Still..."

In his cage, Crawly slithered to the corner and coiled himself into a ball.

"... he'd never want to be friends with someone like me. I'm a demon, after all. That's one thing he got right."

And yet, despite this definitive statement, Crowley couldn't help but think back to yesterday.

Aziraphale was curled up in the living room, an old book cradled delicately in his hands as he perused the pages. A pair of reading glasses balanced on his nose. He lifted each page with great care, minding the fragility of the ancient paper. Sunlight filtered through the large windows and cast Aziraphale in a warm glow. His fluffy mop of white-blonde hair flamed in the light.

"Doing some light reading?" Crowley asked, holding a steaming mug of tea as he stood in the doorway.

"Yes," Aziraphale replied. "It's one of Agnes' prophecy books. She writes them all herself, you know."

"I do."

"Oh, right." Aziraphale chuckled softly, his cheeks growing slightly pink. Crowley resisted the urge to shove his sunglasses farther up his face. "Do you read?"

"Eh. Not really my thing."

"I'm sure I could find you a book. I have a rather extensive collection in my room. Most of them are old; I have a penchant for historical literature."

As Aziraphale continued to talk about his rare signed copies of Shakespearean plays and drafts by Oscar Wilde, Crowley was more focused on the excited hand motions and careful way Aziraphale held the book in his lap. Aziraphale's eyes were such a pale blue they were nearly white.

The very particular memory of icicles clinging to the awnings of his home came to Crowley, reminiscent of the exact same shade of Aziraphale's eyes.

"Ice," Crowley accidentally blurted.

Aziraphale paused mid-monologue to frown in confusion. "What?"

"Oh, uh, ice. That's what your eyes remind me of. Ice."

A small, flattered smile found its way onto Aziraphale's face. "Oh, yes. They don't match my mother's at all. It's really quite peculiar." He slid the book closed, turning all of his attention on Crowley. "Your eyes are very interesting too. I don't know why you wear those glasses all the time."

"I don't like them," Crowley muttered. "They creep people out."

"Not me."

"I didn't mean you, angel."

Now, Crowley slid down to the floor, stubbornly ignoring the ache in his knees. He needed to stop thinking so much. He was confused and frustrated and really just wanted everything to get back to normal.

"None of you are allowed to bring up anything I just said," he told the plants sternly, taking great pleasure in the way their leaves trembled.

Sentient plants probably weren't normal, but what else about him was?

Chapter Text

-Friday, June 7, 2019-

The only time Aziraphale had ever truly argued with someone was a week before he arrived at the Archangels Residential Facility.

His mother had shouted at the top of her lungs, yelling about delusions and angels and how he was putting too much strain on this family and needed to get his act together right this moment or he wouldn't have a roof over his head.

And Aziraphale, anger knotted tightly in his chest, had screamed back that she was completely unconcerned with the fate of the world and if she really didn't care about him, maybe she deserved to die along with everyone else that Aziraphale couldn't save.

They'd both recoiled in shock.

Aziraphale had never felt so guilty in his life, but he couldn't find it in himself to apologize. It was the first time he'd refused to forgive someone.

This also happened to be the only time he'd witnessed a true argument, so on Friday morning, when a shouting match started up downstairs, he was quite at a loss for how to handle it.

"Bloody witch!" Shadwell shouted, his words warped by his accent. "Demon! Tempter! Seducing these poor sick minds for your own devilish desires!"

"I'm not the frazzled old man hopped up on more pills than the teenagers these days!" Agnes shot back. She drew herself up in a dignified manner and continued to respond coolly to Shadwell's accusations.

"Oh, dear," Aziraphale murmured.

The rest of the residents were hovering by the staircase, watching the events unfold. Gabriel sat on the bottom step, quietly observing the proceedings. Hastur and Ligur shared a bag of popcorn and made bets on who would win. Crowley occasionally fished out a buttered kernel from the bag and added his own bets to the pool.

"That isn't helping," Aziraphale scolded. Crowley reluctantly dropped the popcorn. "We should be stopping them, right?"

"Nah, there's no getting in the middle of that," Gabriel said. "It's not our business."

"Yeah, I'm surprised they went this long without arguing actually," Crowley agreed. He rolled his ankle and leaned on the railing. "This isn't as bad as the time Shadwell thought Agnes predicted his death." He shuddered.

"I'm going to get Mica," Aziraphale said. He hurried up the stairs and down the hall to the makeshift bedroom that the psychiatrists used. Uriel was halfway out the door when he arrived. "Oh, thank goodness you're awake. Shadwell and Agnes are going at it downstairs and I fear violence may break out."

"They've never gotten physical," Uriel replied tiredly, rubbing her eyes. "But they can do that for hours. I'll handle it."

When they made it back downstairs, Shadwell and Agnes were arguing, just at a less noisy volume. Crowley had taken a seat at the top of the stairs.

"Watch," Crowley said. "It's magic."

Aziraphale turned his attention to the argument.

Uriel had gotten in between the two and was calmly talking them down. "Shadwell, what initiated this?"

"She's spouting her goddamn prophecies again," Shadwell spat.

"And how is this hurting you?"

"It's—It's—It's evil!"

"What can we do to make it better for both of you?"

Shadwell and Agnes went quiet, each thinking, until Agnes meekly suggested, "I could reserve my prophecies for paper instead of spoken word."

"Yes, that's very good," Uriel praised. "Shadwell, does that work for you?"

"I... I suppose."

"Now," Uriel said, withdrawing a bit, "can you both apologize? This is a crucial step of conflict resolution. Acknowledging that you are not always in the right, and sometimes compromise is necessary."

The first person to break was Shadwell, who muttered a quiet apology. Agnes stiffly did the same.

"Very good. Let's aim to do this on your own next time, okay?"

"Okay," they said in unison.

"Ugh," Hastur muttered nearby, handing off the popcorn to Ligur. "I hate it when they make up. It's not nearly as interesting."

"Well, I'm glad they settled it," Aziraphale said firmly.

"Still boring," Crowley said.

Aziraphale huffed.


Sometime in the afternoon, a car rumbled up the gravel to the house and parked outside.

"Newton's here!" Hastur called from downstairs.

Instantly, the rest of the residents rushed to the main room from their various places in the house, startling Aziraphale. He'd been tidying up the piano room when all the ruckus started.

"Finally," Crowley groaned, leaning closer to the window for a better look.

"What's going on?" Aziraphale asked. "Who's Newton?"

"Pulsifer," Shadwell said. "He'd make a fine witchfinder, dare I say."

"His great-grandfather or something owes Mica and Uriel a favor," Gabriel answered Aziraphale, drawing back the shades to see. "He brings us books and news from the city, since we can't leave the grounds."

Hastur and Ligur yanked open the front doors, allowing Newton Pulsifer inside. He was a stick of a man, tall and scraggly with a nervous disposition. He was carrying a large cardboard box. His apparent nervousness seemed to vanish as everyone greeted him enthusiastically, all clamoring to see what was inside the box.

Off to the side, Mica and Uriel watched the proceedings with matching smiles.

"Good to see you all," Newton said with a half-grin. "Okay, okay, one at a time. I've got two newspapers for you all to share." Hastur took one and Ligur took the other. "An empty notebook for Agnes. I got you the bell you asked for, Sergeant Shadwell." Newton distributed the items. "Uh, Gabriel, here's the new paint tabs you wanted." Newton handed Gabriel a few slips of paper with varying color shades on them.

"What are those for?" Aziraphale asked him.

Gabriel tucked the papers away. "Picking out my room color for next month. I like to change things up once in a while."

"And, Crowley," Newton said, grabbing a black case out of the box. "That radio you asked for."

Crowley took the radio with a quiet thanks, running his hands over the different knobs and admiring the sleek surface. He clicked a button, and suddenly a staticky song was playing. Crowley grinned. "God, I miss Queen."

"I've never heard them," Aziraphale mentioned casually.

Making a choked sort of noise, Crowley turned off the radio and exclaimed, "well what the hell are you doing then? Next chance we get, you're listening to Best of Queen with me."

"Not Queen again," Gabriel groaned.

"Queen?" Hastur and Ligur said in unison. They shared identical crestfallen expressions.

At Aziraphale's questioning look, Agnes explained, "Crowley had a phase where he would only listen to Queen until his last radio broke." 

Newton chuckled a bit. He folded up his box and handed it off to Mica and Uriel, who he exchanged a few words with. He seemed to be comfortable among the residents despite not being one, which put Aziraphale at ease. Newton surveyed the group for a moment, before his gaze landed on Aziraphale. "You're new?"

"Yes," Aziraphale replied. "I've been here for a little over a week, I think."

"Are you adjusting well? Everyone's great once you get to know them."

"Not Gabriel," Ligur piped up, shooting the archangel a smug smirk.

Gabriel scowled darkly. "Bold of you to talk."

"You're not better than us," Hastur added, flipping his newspaper shut. "You like to think you are, but in reality, you're just as screwed up as the rest of us. You're a lot more mean about it though."

"I am better than you," Gabriel snapped. "I'm nearly an adult and you're still what, fifteen?"

"There's a reason your parents ditched you here and never visit."

Aziraphale barely had time to register what was happening before Gabriel clocked Hastur in the jaw. Hastur stumbled backwards and hit the couch, scraping the pegs against the carpet, cradling his bruised face. Instantly, Crowley was on his feet, one hand blocking Gabriel and the other sort of guarding the younger brothers.

"You're a bastard!" Gabriel shouted at Hastur, though he didn't dare make a move with Crowley in front of him.

This was something Aziraphale had noticed multiple times; everyone in the house seemed to share a mutual respect for Crowley. They might make a few sarcastic comments, or engage in banter, but no one ever really crossed any lines with the demon. Aziraphale wondered if it was a seniority thing.

"Cool off," Crowley said firmly. "Gabriel, cool off."

After a second of indecision, Gabriel stepped back, turned, and walked up the stairs without looking back. Meanwhile, Ligur growled under his breath as he checked over Hastur's injuries.

"Dickhead," Hastur spat, rubbing his jaw.

"Language, please," Uriel said sharply. Mica had already hurried after Gabriel. "Hastur, that was very unkind of you. The next chance you get, apologize to Gabriel."

"He's the one who thinks he's the damn gold standard," Hastur muttered.

"I'm not defending Gabriel's actions, but we are all trying to manage. We raise each other up, not tear each other down. If fighting with the other residents is too irresistible, then you and Ligur can pack your bags." Uriel had never looked so calmly angry before, her eyes fixed sternly on the brothers. "This is a place of healing. I will not tolerate any more disruptions like that."

Hastur lowered his eyes to the ground, still tentatively cupping his bleeding lip. "Yes, Uriel. I'm sorry."

"Don't tell me. Tell Gabriel."

Obviously sensing they were treading on thin ice, Ligur practically shoved Hastur in the direction of the kitchen, where they vanished from sight.

There was a hefty, weighted pause.

"Alright," Newton said slowly, awkwardly. "I'll, uh, be going now, if you've got any requests. New guy?"

"Me?" Aziraphale blinked. "Oh, um, I suppose some new books? Any genre besides horror. Thank you."

Newton scribbled something down on his clipboard. Next, Crowley requested some more Queen tapes, and Agnes requested more parchment paper. Shadwell tried to recruit him for the Witchfinder Army. Newton politely declined. And with that, he packed up his things, bid them goodbye, and left.

"Not a horror fan? Can't stomach the darker sides of life?" Crowley asked, sidling up next to Aziraphale.

"Not a reading fan? Can't stomach being literate?" Aziraphale shot back.

Crowley laughed. "Something like that, angel. Seriously, when I get this hooked up, you're listening to Queen with me, regardless of whether you like it or not."

"I'm leaning towards 'not'."

With a sly grin, Crowley said, "there's a reason I said 'regardless'."

Aziraphale felt his face grow warmer.


"My, it's been quite the hectic day, huh?" Mica commented, smoothing out the couch.

Currently, she and Aziraphale were sitting in the room dubbed by the other residents as the ‘Therapy Room’. It was evening now, and dinner was only a half hour away. Aziraphale didn't want to be here, an angel, being uselessly diagnosed by a human psychiatrist, when there were more pressing matters at hand.

He'd somewhat forgotten about the looming end of the world, but the realization hit him earlier that he needed to be working to stop Armageddon. Time was trickling away.

"Yes," Aziraphale agreed with Mica. He wanted this to go as smoothly as possible so he could leave quicker.

"I'm sorry," Mica said suddenly. She sighed a bit, rubbing her temples. "I don't want you to get a bad impression of the others because of a few tense encounters. They're all good deep down, but sometimes we don't always know how to express it. We lash out because we feel frightened or attacked. It's no excuse, but I hope you won't judge them too harshly."

"Oh. I-I admit I've been getting a bad feeling from Hastur and Ligur ever since I arrived."

"They have a lot of misguided anger. They don't know who to blame for their pain and so they take it out on everyone else." Mica seemed to shake herself, and a professional demeanor quickly replaced her tired, gentle persona. "So. Back to the matter at hand. How are you feeling today?"

"Unsettled, I suppose. Just because of all the fighting, I assume."

"Mm. Have you been liking the facility so far? How about the residents?"

"The place itself is lovely. The grounds are quite scenic, and I enjoy the flora everywhere." Aziraphale cast a glance out the window, where the sun was halfway to the horizon, showering golden beams over the lush property. "As for the residents, I have differing opinions. Gabriel seems okay. Hastur and Ligur are a tad concerning, only because they've expressed a desire to set me on fire. Shadwell is... eccentric. Agnes is very kind."

"And Crowley? Has he grown on you yet?" Mica chuckled as Aziraphale smiled slightly, nodding. "Have you found a friend in him?"

"Oh, no, I don't think so. He's a demon, I'm an angel, we're not... compatible. He isn't terrible company, however."

Mica wrote something on her clipboard.

They continued to trade off with questions and answers like that, with Mica scribbling on her clipboard every so often. Some of the questions were aimed at his current state of mind, while others focused more on his past. When questions about his family arose, he became closed-off and a bit defensive. He came here partially to get away from his nagging family, not think about them more. Mica seemed to notice this as she started adjusting her questions to avoid the topic.

By the end of the session, Mica had an impressive bulleted list of everything she'd found noteworthy about Aziraphale, ranging from his relationships with others to moments from his childhood. He was feeling quite drained from all the insistent questions.

"Thank you for speaking with me, Aziraphale," Mica said, tucking away her pencil. "We're going to have sessions like these pretty often, okay? Everyone has to go through the same thing, so we can figure out the best way to diagnose and treat you. If you have any concerns, feel free to voice them."

"I don't need a diagnosis," he said in a way that was more of a sigh. "I'm quite healthy, I can assure you."

Mica's expression softened. "Mental health is a difficult topic to consider, even more so when it may apply to you. Hesitance is normal. The goal of a diagnosis is to identify the issues and begin thinking of a course of action. Keep your mind open, at least."

"I... I think I can do that."

A warm hand settled on his shoulder. Aziraphale flinched at the contact.

Mica gave him a gentle look. "Every step counts."

When she withdrew her hand and stepped out, it left Aziraphale feeling even more hollow and lost than before.

Chapter Text

-Friday, June 21, 2019-

It had been two weeks since Aziraphale officially started therapy with Mica and Uriel. It was a slow, awkward process at first, but things picked up and became more comfortable as Aziraphale settled in a bit more.

He'd gotten a chance to learn more about Newton when the computer engineer dropped in next. Apparently, Newton was also dating Agnes' granddaughter, which was a bit strange to Aziraphale but he didn't comment on it. He'd yet to have met Anathema, but from Crowley's descriptions, she was a Wiccan who liked to bake and couldn't.

On Friday, Agnes had suggested at lunch that they celebrate the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.

Shadwell, of course, vehemently protested witchcraft of any kind, while everyone else gave a sort of dull 'alright' which apparently gave Mica and Uriel the green light to arrange a picnic. They chose the river near the edge of the property.

Flowers and winding vines framed the river, Aziraphale remembered, from when Crowley first gave him a tour of the grounds. They hadn't actually gone near the river, but they'd steered close enough for Aziraphale to get a decent look. It seemed scenic, so he didn't complain.

Sometime in late afternoon, everyone packed up their things and headed down to the river.

It was a lovely summer day, with large puffs of white clouds filling up the sky and casting varying degrees of shade over them as they walked. Bushy trees towered far above them. The river chugged along lazily.

Though the heat wasn't unbearable, Crowley chose this day to wear a black tank top with little tears at the bottom, and skinny jeans. He had his signature sunglasses perched on his nose, a striped black-and-white bandanna tied around his head, and walked barefooted. Aziraphale had to restrain himself from making a very undignified noise of surprise at Crowley's appearance.

"It was much hotter a few days ago, and you were in long sleeves," Aziraphale pointed out.

Crowley shrugged. "I wasn't feeling the sleeves today."

And even though it was none of his business, Aziraphale couldn't stop his eyes from straying to Crowley's forearms, where crisscrossing scar tissue marred his skin.

When they reached the riverside, Mica spread out two blankets on the ground and started unpacking the picnic baskets. Uriel took a seat beside her. Shadwell and Agnes chose separate places to settle down, while Gabriel went down to the edge of the river to admire the river. Crowley tugged Aziraphale's sleeve, pulling him over to a shaded spot beneath some apple trees.

"What are they doing?" Aziraphale asked, sitting down.

Way up the hill, Hastur and Ligur chose a spot far away from everyone else, sitting very close and staring at the river with similar expressions of apprehension.

"They don't like water," Crowley replied. He reached up and plucked a ripe apple from the tree, rubbing his thumb over the shiny surface. "It's part of their therapy though. Being exposed to the triggers and all that."

After Crowley took a generous bite of the apple, he handed it to Aziraphale, who absently bit out of the other side.

"How'd they get here?" Aziraphale asked. "Other than the whole fire thing, they seem kinda normal."

"I don't know if it's my story to tell." But by the way Crowley leaned back against the tree trunk, crossing his arms behind his head, he most definitely was about to tell Aziraphale. "A year or so ago, they got involved with all sorts of bad people. Started skipping school, vandalizing property, getting arrested for underage drinking, all that. One time, they were all screwing around near this house, and one of the guys suggested they break in and mess with the old man living there."

"Oh, don't tell me they did," Aziraphale said, gaping at Crowley.

"Well, Hastur and Ligur tried to say they weren't really okay with it, and the other guys threw them in the river."

Aziraphale gasped softly.

Crowley's expression turned dark. "They nearly drowned. The only reason they aren't dead right now is because I went looking for them. I was scared they'd get into trouble like that, so I was going to bring them home, but instead I had to drag them both out of the river." He tilted his head to the side, looking over at where the brothers were sitting. "I gave Ligur CPR and had to patch up Hastur's broken arm."

"That's terrible!" Aziraphale exclaimed. "Did the other guys get in trouble?"

"Not with law enforcement, no."

"With who?"

Turning to Aziraphale, Crowley slowly took off his sunglasses, revealing his heterochromatic eyes, tight with old anger. "With me, Aziraphale. I found them the next day and made sure they never forgot who I was."

There was a moment of tense silence, as Aziraphale realized how scary Crowley actually was, and Crowley seemed to understand that he'd unsettled Aziraphale with his ominous statement. Crowley pushed his sunglasses up and went back to watching the other residents. Aziraphale tried to not look at Crowley and failed.

While he was trying to not look at Crowley, Aziraphale noticed a small black tattoo right below his ear, in the winding shape of a snake.

"I like your tattoo," he said quietly.

The corner of Crowley's lips tugged up into a smile. "I got it when I was sixteen. Had to pull on my dad's leg for hours to convince him."

"How old are you, Crowley?"

"Just shy of eighteen. You?"

"My eighteenth birthday is October twentieth."

"Mine's August first." Crowley chuckled. "I'm a Leo."

"I suppose I'm a Libra, then."

"Anathema could tell if we're compatible or not."

Aziraphale accepted the apple when Crowley passed it back over. "Compatible? Certainly we're not. An angel and a demon, compatible? It's absurd."

Though Aziraphale didn't see it, Crowley deflated a bit.

A slight breeze brushed by them. Gabriel wandered over at one point and dropped off a few snacks for them, then went back to the riverside. Hastur and Ligur moved closer to everyone else, but they didn't stray any closer to the river than they needed to. The sun steadily dropped closer to the horizon.

Crowley let out a sigh. Aziraphale glanced over at him.

They sat in silence for a long while, simply enjoying the scenery and each other's company.

At one point, Aziraphale watched as Hastur got up from his spot on the hill and carefully picked his way down to the shore, wringing his hands and staring at the river nervously. Ligur hovered a few feet away. Hastur walked over to Gabriel, who looked up at him with an unreadable expression. They exchanged a few quiet words.

"Wow, they're shaking hands," Crowley remarked suddenly, causing Aziraphale to flinch in surprise. "Hastur must've really felt bad."

"I'm glad they resolved it."

A pause. Crowley shifted his position so he was facing the sunset with Aziraphale, their shoulders just a few inches apart. Aziraphale swallowed hard at the near-contact, feeling restless and jittery.

While they were sitting there, a strange whispering started up around them, like someone was speaking from the trees above. Aziraphale twisted around to see the source of the noise, but no one else was there. He frowned. Another whisper echoed nearby, the words unintelligible.

"Who's there?" Aziraphale asked, jerking his head to the side. No one answered.

"What?" Crowley said. "It's just me, angel."

"No, you're not whispering."

Crowley sat up. "Whispering? What are you talking about?"

Right before Aziraphale was going to explain, the whispers died away, and silence fell over them once more. "I..." He rubbed his ear, wondering if he was hearing things right. "Someone was whispering. They're gone now, I think."

"No one was whispering," Crowley said, eyebrows creased in concern. "It's been quiet this whole time."

"... perhaps it was the Antichrist."

"What?"

"The Antichrist, Crowley, it really isn't hard to understand." Aziraphale straightened the collar of his shirt. "He can bend reality. I suppose he must be trying to prohibit me from stopping Armageddon. He's distracting me."

A cold hand settled on Aziraphale's shoulder. Crowley stared at him. "Angel..." He sighed. "Let's talk about something else, please."

"But—"

"Angel," Crowley repeated, firmly this time.

Reluctantly, Aziraphale went quiet. He wondered if Crowley didn't want to talk about Armageddon because he was worried Hell would lose. They would, of course, because Heaven would ultimately triumph. Perhaps it was a sore subject for the demon.

Once he relented, Crowley removed his hand, and Aziraphale immediately felt the loss.

The silence that surrounded them now was tense, no longer comfortable. Aziraphale regretted bringing up the Apocalypse at all.

"I know you saw them earlier," Crowley spoke up after a few minutes, still not looking at Aziraphale. He flipped his wrist over, exposing a multitude of thin scars trailing all the way up to his elbow. Aziraphale winced. "My scars. I wanted to tell you how I got them."

"Oh, don't tell me anything you don't want to," Aziraphale assured him. "I won't push it."

"No, no, I... I need to, I think."

Aziraphale folded his hands in his lap, respectfully listening.

"Near the beginning of eighth grade, I started having these weird moods," Crowley said, his voice quiet at first but slowly growing in strength. "I'd go through weeks of being productive and high-strung, where I would do things like clean the whole house or stay up for days at a time to finish my homework. After that, I'd 'crash' for weeks, and I found it difficult to get out of bed or do simple things like tie my shoes. This went on for a long time. Eventually, I'd get so frustrated with all this pent-up energy, that I started purposefully doing things like burning my hands on hot mugs, and stuff."

Crowley bit his lip. He rubbed his wrist, right over a jagged scar.

"It got really bad. Everyone thought I was just turning into a jerk, and nobody could figure out what was wrong with me, so I just kept spiraling. Towards the middle of April, I went through a high where I was completely and utterly convinced I could fly." Crowley laughed dryly. Aziraphale found no humor in any of this. "I had to prove it, though. I got up on top of a bridge and..."

Inhaling sharply, Aziraphale glanced over at Crowley, who's expression was unreadable.

"... took a flying leap off the edge," Crowley finished softly. "I fell into the river below."

A long silence stretched between them. Aziraphale didn't know what to say, and Crowley didn't seem finished, so the angel remained quiet.

"I got a professional diagnosis after that." Crowley spat out the words like they tasted bad, "Bipolar Disorder." He scowled. "It basically means I get mood swings and a bunch of other stuff, I don't really want to overload you, so..."

"Is that what that was a few weeks ago?" Aziraphale asked.

"Yeah. I'm sorry about that episode, by the way. I don't always remember to take my medication, and you shouldn't have had to see me act like that. I've been taking them regularly now. For you." Crowley added the last bit as an afterthought, shifting his position a bit.

Aziraphale smiled bashfully. "Thank you, my dear. I'm glad I can serve as inspiration for your healing."

Though his statement was heartfelt, Crowley didn't seem to take it the right way (if there was one). Instead, he frowned and pulled his legs up to his chest, resting his chin on his knees. Aziraphale felt his smile fade.

"Thanks for listening, angel," Crowley murmured after a moment.

"Of course."

Crowley pressed his lips together in the barest echo of a smile, sunlight glinting off of his sunglasses, before rising to his feet and holding out a hand for Aziraphale to take.

Chapter Text

"Okay, Aziraphale," Mica said. Uriel sat down on the couch beside her, both psychiatrists facing him with matching expressions of gentle concern. "After consulting with a few associates from out of town, I think we've found a proper diagnosis for you."

Aziraphale kept his hands folded politely in his lap. He knew whatever they diagnosed him with, it wasn't going to change anything. His quest to stop the apocalypse could not be hindered by a few medical professionals who had no idea what sort of battle was going to take place in the future.

"Have you heard of schizophrenia, Aziraphale?" Uriel asked softly.

"I... Yes, I have."

"There are a lot of misconceptions about this disorder," Mica said. "The name typically suggests 'crazy', but that isn't true. For instance, some people can function well with the disorder. Some symptoms include auditory and visual hallucinations, paranoid beliefs, and delusions."

"I'm not delusional."

"Delusions are firm, unshakeable beliefs that don't always follow a rational argument. Would you say you are pretty firm in your beliefs?"

"... I suppose." Aziraphale tapped his foot against the carpet. "I'm not schizophrenic, though. I'm an angel."

Uriel and Mica exchanged a look.

"Can you explain to us why you believe that?" Uriel said.

"I can sense celestial energies, and I can see the haloes of other angels. Gabriel, for instance. I know when demons are around. I've been working to dispel the forces of evil ever since I came to Earth."

"When was that?"

"6000 years ago," Aziraphale answered. "Before that, I was guarding the Eastern Gate of Eden."

"Do you remember it?"

"What?"

"Do you remember Eden?" Uriel repeated. "Do you have a solid, firm memory of it?"

"... Somewhat," Aziraphale admitted, frowning at the floor. "It was so long ago. I tend to mix up everything the farther back it was. I do remember the Garden, though."

The more they talked, the more Aziraphale grew uncomfortable with the prodding. His memory got fuzzy every time they asked him a specific question, and he began to wonder if they were completely innocent with their intentions. After all, this could've been a demonic plot to distract him from the matter at hand. What if they were purposefully confusing him? Working to incapacitate him?

Suspicion itched at the back of his neck. His fingers tightened around the hem of his shirt.

"Can you name your family members for me?" Mica questioned. "Your human family, that is."

"My mother," Aziraphale started, a little nervously. "Frances Fell. I don't know about my father." A headache blossomed behind his eyes, derailing his train of thought. "I have no siblings. All of my cousins live in England, so I don't know much about them."

"What did you mean, you don't know about your father?"

"I don't know. I, uh, I don't know who he was or anything. I just know he's never been around."

After a moment, Uriel laced her fingers together. She was wearing a golden ring. It glinted in the light. "I know you're probably wondering why we're asking all of this." Aziraphale nodded shortly. "Oftentimes, mental disorders are caused by either a culmination of events or one specific instance of trauma, which damaged your psyche so severely that your brain had to find new ways to protect and help you cope. Most likely, you experienced a trauma that resulted in you building this identity for yourself, to help you continue living normally."

Aziraphale pressed his lips together. "But... I d-don't remember anything bad happening to me."

"Sometimes our brains block out particularly painful or traumatic memories," Mica gently added. "It's a last-resort option to protect you. The reason for therapy is to identify the root of the problem and work through it, so your mind no longer has a need for this failsafe.

It will take time, and we'll move at a pace that is comfortable for you. These sessions are for you, Aziraphale. Don't forget that."


"Every day is the same here, huh?"

Aziraphale jumped in surprise. He was standing in the piano room, staring out at the flourishing grounds through the window. Gabriel had walked up behind him in complete silence.

"Yes, I-I suppose it is," Aziraphale agreed.

"I'm shocked you're not tired of it yet."

"Mm. It's a welcome change from my home."

"Mine too." Gabriel's halo was faded today; a sliver of light rather than a beacon, which made Aziraphale worry. "Will you help me with something, Aziraphale?"

"Oh, uh, sure."

Gabriel led him up the stairs into the first room on the left. It was noticeably less furnished than the other rooms, with the minimum of a bed and a single white-painted chair in the corner. The walls were a stormy grey color. The sheets on the bed were expertly folded, and the curtains were pinned closed.

"Welcome to my humble abode," Gabriel said dryly.

"It's very nice," Aziraphale replied.

"Don't lie. It's empty and I can't figure out how to fill it. Kind of like everything else in my life."

Aziraphale frowned, concerned, but Gabriel had already abandoned the topic. He picked up four slips of paper, the sort you would find at Lowe's or Home Depot that advertised paint shades. He brandished them in a card-deck style.

"Which one?" Gabriel asked.

The selections included a vibrant amaranthine, pale purple, white, and baby blue.

"Um, well, I would personally prefer the blue."

Gabriel grabbed the blue card and tossed it to the side. "Pick another."

"White?"

Discarded.

"Okay, the maroon one."

Also discarded.

"Purple it is," Gabriel announced, pocketing the yellow card. At Aziraphale's quizzical look, he explained, "I wanted to change my wall color because Crowley painted his room the same shade last month, and I don't like it when I accidentally match other people. Just a personal pet peeve of mine."

"Ah."

"Speaking of, uh, Crowley," Gabriel continued, sitting down on the bed. "You guys have been getting along pretty well."

"Yes, he's interesting company."

"Just interesting? No other adjectives?"

"Um, I don't know. Why?"

Gabriel looked like he was trying to stifle a laugh. "Aziraphale, Crowley doesn't talk like that to anyone else. He became so chatty the second he met you. Like, what switch did you pull? We've been trying to get him to open up for years, but then he spills his secrets to you instantly? I call foul play."

"What?" Aziraphale said, bewildered.

"I was kidding. About the foul play thing, not everything else. Come on, how have you not noticed? He drapes himself all over you at every opportunity."

"I don't know what you mean."

Letting out a heavy sigh, Gabriel tipped his head back. He laughed shortly. "Alright. Guess you'll have to figure it out in time."

"Figure... what out?"

"Nothing. Forget I said anything."

Aziraphale frowned, but didn't push the subject any further. Crowley was a mystery, and Aziraphale was just trying to unravel it. There wasn't anything else to it. At least, for him there wasn't. He could never quite tell was Crowley was thinking behind those tinted glasses. They made him inscrutable.

"I love it here," Gabriel said suddenly. He had the curtains drawn to one side, gazing out at the scenery. "I really do. It's so much better than where I used to live."

"Which was?"

"In and out of foster homes. My most recent one was probably the worst. They were all so... I don't know, business-like and professional and cold." Gabriel released the curtains, turning to meet Aziraphale's eyes. "They already had a son: Sandalphon."

"Like the angel?"

"He definitely wasn't an angel. He, uh, he was pretty cruel to me. Took advantage of me. I think he's a lot of the reason I'm... well, the way I am."

Aziraphale tilted his head. "I think you're fine."

"You would, wouldn't you?" Gabriel said. "No, I'm not... I'm not fine. None of us are. Not even you, angel."

"... I resent that."

"I should stop talking," Gabriel muttered. "You helped me pick out the color, and that's done, so you're good to leave now." When Aziraphale rose to his feet at the dismissal, Gabriel did too. "Oh, uh, one more thing. It's about Crowley. Don't leave him hanging, Aziraphale. He likes you, genuinely, which is more than I can say for the rest of us."

"I... Okay."

"Seriously. You're so oblivious it's unreal."

"Okay."

"Start paying attention."

"Okay!" Aziraphale cried.

When he glanced back, the only thing he saw was Gabriel's amused smirk before the door closed.

Chapter Text

-Thursday, July 4, 2019-

"The whole holiday is pointless," Crowley announced, flopping down onto the couch in the living room.

"Mm, how so?" Aziraphale asked.

It was the Fourth of July, and Crowley was less than excited. He hated the loud noises, the danger of getting your fingers blown off, and the fact that Hastur and Ligur were insane when it came to fireworks and should never be trusted on this day. Currently, he was sprawled out across from Aziraphale on the couch, watching the sun steadily climb into the sky.

"We hate America every other day of the year, why celebrate it now? And the pollution, you know, with all those poor animals choking on smoke for the next three days."

"All valid points."

Crowley had the vague suspicion that Aziraphale was too engrossed with his book to be listening at all. "Yeah. Shadwell and Agnes are secretly fucking when we think they're in their rooms, and Ligur has a collection of exotic bird feathers from his time as a poacher in South America."

Aziraphale jerked to attention, eyes wide. "What?"

"Knew it. I'm trying to complain, angel, the least you could do is acknowledge my sorrows."

With a huff, Aziraphale shut his book and purposefully turned towards Crowley, expression expectant as he waited for Crowley to continue talking. "Is this enough for you, princess?"

"Yes. Now, as I was saying, it's a stupid holiday and the only reason I like it is because Newton and Anathema always celebrate with us."

"I haven't met Anathema," Aziraphale said thoughtfully. "I recall you mentioning that she is a witch?"

"Something like that, yeah." Crowley kicked his leg up onto the back of the couch, instantly regretting it as a twinge of pain made him wince. "She thinks she can cook but everything always ends up burnt. If she gets here and they're not burnt, it means Newt swapped them out."


"Crowley!" Anathema greeted, holding open her arms for a hug which Crowley obligingly returned. "Oh my gosh, you've gotten so tall. Are those new sunglasses?"

"All of my sunglasses are the same," Crowley replied. He stepped back to allow her inside.

"Yes, but these don't have scratches over the lens like the other ones."

"Damn you and your perception skills."

Once Anathema had strolled in, Newton hurried after her, being dragged by his hand. He also held a basket in the other, which brought a delicious smell with it.

"We made brownies!" Newton said, brandishing the basket. Crowley flipped open one side and found them perfectly baked.

"We?" Crowley asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Yes, we." Newton gave him a helpless look before he was pulled away by Anathema.

Just then, Hastur and Ligur walked down the steps, briefly exchanging greetings with Newton and Anathema, before heading over to Crowley. Hastur rubbed his hands together with a smirk, while Ligur's expression was anything but innocent.

"Can't wait to see what sort of explosives we have in store for tonight," Ligur drawled.

"They aren't going to allow you lot to even get near the fireworks," Crowley pointed out. He glanced between them, sighing defeatedly. "Just don't aim them at anyone."

"No promises," Hastur warned.

They both laughed in a way that made Crowley shiver.

"Alright, alright, psychos," Crowley muttered to himself as he sidestepped them.


When the sun began to dip below the treeline, casting a cool shadow over the facility, everyone went outside to the spot where Mica, Uriel, Newton, and Anathema had set up a few blankets. Everyone but Crowley and Gabriel was wearing some sort of red-white-blue clothing.

"I don't own anything in those colors" was Gabriel's excuse, while Crowley's was a blunt, "I hate this country".

Aziraphale, on the other hand, went with a red and blue checkered scarf, despite the heat. He grinned as he tossed the scarf over his shoulder, the little white tassels bouncing with his movements. Crowley sat down beside Aziraphale on one of the blankets. The warm fabric brushed against his bare feet.

Of course, due to his focus being entirely on Aziraphale, Crowley missed the knowing glance that Gabriel sent their way.

"A scarf? Really?" Crowley said.

"Isn't it quaint?"

At Aziraphale's hopeful little smile, Crowley groaned and said, "fine, fine, it's nice. Fashionable. Trendy. Whatever."

Off to the side, Hastur and Ligur were asking Mica if they could light some fireworks, but Mica skillfully diverted them over to Newton and Anathema's basket of brownies. Crowley snagged one from the basket.

"They're good, I promise," he told Aziraphale, holding out the brownie. For Aziraphale, perhaps it was just a friendly exchange, but for Crowley it represented a lot more.

With a relenting chuckle, Aziraphale accepted the brownie.

Crowley determinedly looked away as Aziraphale took a bite.

"Oh, oh, it's starting," Anathema said. Everyone craned their necks to look up at the sky.

In a stream of smoke and whistling, a firework zoomed into the air and exploded with a deafening boom!, inciting a chorus of oohs and ahhs from the residents. Red sparks fizzled out and died before they hit the ground. At the noise, Aziraphale flinched a bit and scooted closer to Crowley.

"I don't like the red ones," Crowley said conversationally, hoping to distract Aziraphale from the startlingly loud fireworks. "Honestly, white or green is more my style."

"We never watched any firework shows," Aziraphale replied. "My mother hated them."

"Your mother's opinion doesn't count." At Aziraphale's reproachful look, Crowley sighed and said, "I saw the way she treated you on your first day here. She was condescending. Therefore, her opinion doesn't count. It's just the facts."

Crowley took great satisfaction from the way he coaxed a quiet laugh out of Aziraphale.

Another firework, a bright blue one, popped above them. Hastur and Ligur clapped. The sparkling lights reflected in Aziraphale's icy eyes like Christmas bulbs, dyeing the pale hue several different shades of the rainbow. With the warmth in Crowley's chest also summoned a heavy feeling, a sort of apprehension that rooted itself inside his ribcage.

Glancing over, he watched as Anathema curled into Newton's side, head resting on his shoulder, while he carded his fingers through her tangled mess of curls.

Crowley bit his lip.

"Are you alright?" Aziraphale asked, his voice barely audible over the fireworks. "You're looking rather pale, my dear."

"I..." Crowley exhaled. His eyes traced one firework's ascent into the indigo sky. "What are we, angel?"

"Hm." Aziraphale gave Crowley a hesitant smile. "Friends, dare I say...?"

"Well, that's alright with me then. Just to be clear."

"That's alright with me too."

As several fireworks erupted into a shower of white and gold, Crowley could've sworn it formed the shape of a halo and wings.

Chapter Text

-Thursday, August 1, 2019-

POV Aziraphale

Two months had passed since Aziraphale first arrived at the Archangels Residential Facility.

He'd finally acknowledged his and Crowley's tentative, blooming friendship, and found himself growing more comfortable in Crowley's company. He realized quickly how much a touchy person Crowley was; he took every excuse to be close to the people he was standing near, which was a sharp contrast from Aziraphale's old friends and even his family. There tended to be little to none physical contact where Aziraphale was concerned, but Crowley seemed to be determinedly breaking down any boundaries between them.

Not that Aziraphale was complaining. It was just foreign to him.

A couple weeks ago was Gabriel's eighteenth birthday, which made him an official adult. He didn't stop bragging about it all day, to the point where even Crowley was moments from forcibly shutting him up. As a gift, Aziraphale had helped Gabriel paint his walls a soft lavender shade.

Aziraphale had also, at one point, received a strange invite from Shadwell to join the 'Witchfinder Army' that, allegedly, combatted the forces of darkness across the globe. Aziraphale had informed Shadwell that as angel, that was already his job. Plus, he doubted that there were any other members besides Shadwell himself. He simply ended up declining politely.

Becoming closer with the other residents was something that came surprisingly easy to Aziraphale; however, he didn't give himself all of the credit. Crowley actively sought him out at every opportunity. Gabriel occasionally came to him for advice. Hastur and Ligur, though they could be borderline threatening with their remarks about fire, showed their interest in Aziraphale by asking questions about his books, or by purposefully choosing to do their chores in the same room.

The older woman down the hall, Agnes Nutter, often gifted Aziraphale some of her prophecy books, which varied in credibility but were an engaging read nonetheless. To repay her, he bundled up a few doomsday novels and left them outside her door.

Now, Aziraphale was rummaging through his shelves and internally panicking.

It was Crowley's birthday. The date was marked clearly on Aziraphale's calendar, with a large—rather comedic—red circle around August 1st, with a few exclamation points to help him remember.

The day was here, and Aziraphale was at a loss for what to get the demon. Should Aziraphale, as an angel, even be considering getting a demon a gift? Would Heaven be upset with him? Alternatively, was it part of Aziraphale's angelic duty to make Crowley feel appreciated on his birthday? Was Aziraphale indirectly assisting the forces of Hell?

What do you get a demon? Do demons even celebrate birthdays? Hastur and Ligur didn't seem to.

Still, even if Crowley didn't want a gift, it was the thought behind it that counted.

With a sigh, Aziraphale put his last book onto the shelf and headed to Gabriel's room.


"I have no idea," Gabriel said. "Crowley doesn't let anyone into his private life, so none of us have any clue what he might want. Hastur and Ligur are a better bet than me."

So, off to Hastur and Ligur he went.


"He's got a pet snake," Hastur offered. "I don't know what you can do with that."

"Not much," Aziraphale sighed.

"It's named Crawly," Ligur said.

"I named it," Hastur said.

"Not relevant," Aziraphale said.

"He doesn't want to be set on fire, that's for certain," Hastur told Aziraphale solemnly.

"I don't even want to know how you know that."


Shadwell made a comment about filthy demons, and Agnes wisely suggested a copy of her book. Aziraphale wearily turned them down.

Asking Crowley himself was out of the question, so Aziraphale had nothing left to do than take a walk around the grounds to wallow in his failure. He felt like a terrible friend, and dearly hoped Crowley wouldn't bring it up or else Aziraphale might start begging for forgiveness. Which was an odd role swap, but he was no longer censoring his guilt-ridden thoughts.

While he walked, Aziraphale tried to focus on the scenery around him rather than his spiraling mental process.

Birds whistling. The warm breeze brushing against his fingers. The grass dappled with wavering sunlight. Rushing water in the creek. Rotten apples scattered around the base of the apple tree.

Aziraphale paused. Nestled beneath a line of bushes was a small, twisted tree, covered in bright yellow flowers. It was stark against the darker green bushes, and it looked small enough to fit into a pot.

Delighted at his accidental find, he hurried over to the little tree and bent down, pressing the soil to test the firmness. He smiled to himself, feeling a bit ridiculous, before digging his fingers into the dirt and uprooting the tree, attempting to keep most of it intact. The yellow flowers held the same sweet scent as honey.

If he was in Heaven, he'd be able to remove the tree from the ground without damaging it at all, but because he was on Earth, he was mostly disconnected from his angelic abilities and had to rely on unconventional means.

Since he was diagnosed by Mica and Uriel, he found himself occasionally doubting his thoughts and then hating himself for being doubtful. He was an angel, plain and simple, and no matter how much a human psychiatrist tried to break him down, the fact was that humans could not comprehend the divine and therefore could not comprehend him.

He shook his head, clearing his thoughts. He tended to get off track easily like that, with his thoughts veering off into unrelated topics that he didn't care about. It was a bad habit that he needed to break.

Anyway.

He wiggled the little yellow tree completely out of the ground, shaking the dirt off. Now he had to get back into the house without Crowley spotting him.

The tree trembling in his hands, he hurried over to a back door and snuck inside, wincing whenever clumps of dirt hit the floor. Uriel gave him a strange—albeit amused—look as he practically ran up the stairs.

Once shut safely inside his room, he searched for something to put the tree in, but he seemed in be lacking in spare ceramic pots. Right when he was about to give up in despair, Hastur opened his door and closed it behind him. He was carrying a large red pot with a decent amount of dirt inside.

"Don't thank me," Hastur told Aziraphale, and then he was alone.

Aziraphale worked quickly, sticking the tree in the dirt and smoothing it over using his limited gardening knowledge. His hands were caked in soil by the end, much to his chagrin, but he filed all that under the 'Helping Others' section in his mind, where all of his less-than-satisfactory emotions were tucked away.

"Okay," he said to himself. A personal reassurance. "Okay."

Gripping the rim of the pot, he hauled it up into his arms, grimacing at how much dirt was getting on his clothes. He'd need to wash these for weeks. He stumbled over to the door, awkwardly kicked it open, and crossed the distance between his door and Crowley's. He tried to knock and realized he wouldn't be able to.

While he was trying to figure out how to knock, someone tapped on his shoulder.

Crowley gave him a once-over, lifting an eyebrow. "Whatcha got there, angel?"

"It's a tree with flowers," Aziraphale grunted. He struggled to keep the pot straight, his fingers aching from holding it. "For you."

"Oh, you really didn't-"

"I wanted to! Dammit, help me with this before I drop it and ruin everything."

Crowley quickly grabbed the other side of the pot, sharing the weight. Together, they fumbled their way into Crowley's room, which Aziraphale had never seen before.

The walls, as Gabriel had said before, were painted a cozy grey. The bed had rumpled white sheets, and the blinds were drawn up to let in the sunlight. There were no shelves, but in several corners and sides of the room there were large plots of soil filled with plants. Green plants, flowering plants, vines, all sorts of flora spilling over the sides and creeping up the walls.

It gave the whole place an earthy, homey feel.

Next to the bed was a medium-sized glass tank with a sleek black garter snake curled up inside. It blinked lazily upon their entrance.

Crowley guided them over to the side. They set down the pot with similar huffs of relief.

While Aziraphale was taking in the room, Crowley was inspecting the tree, and a steadily darkening blush was spreading over his face. He made a strangled noise as he lifted one gnarled bough covered in little yellow flowers.

"Do you not like it?" Aziraphale asked worriedly.

"No, I... I like it. I do. Thank you, angel."

Aziraphale brightened. "You're welcome! I can help you plant it, if you want."

"I think I've got it from here." Crowley shuffled his feet, looking flustered. "Thanks again. It's really nice."

When he knew Crowley was certain, Aziraphale bid the demon goodbye and left, feeling warm and satisfied with the gift. Steps in the right direction.


POV Crowley

Crowley stared at the acacia tree for a long moment after Aziraphale was gone. The little yellow flowers seemed to be mocking him.

"Bloody hell," he muttered. He shoved the pot over to the window, where it should receive ample sunlight. Next, he grabbed his plant mister and sprayed the tree, trying not to admire the pretty colors.

The stupid acacia would never stop reminding him of Aziraphale now.

Of course, it wasn't Aziraphale's fault that he was unaware of the meaning of the plant that he'd gifted Crowley—that acacias, specifically ones with yellow flowers, symbolized deep friendship and secret love.

Chapter Text

-Monday, August 19, 2019-

When the clock struck ten in the morning, the rain began to fall.

Dark clouds had been brewing on the horizon for hours, but the storm broke soon after Crowley had finished up his chores. He was dusting off the piano when the first drop of water hit the window. Rain often made the pain in his legs worse, so he hurried to lay down before he collapsed where he stood.

Mica and Uriel had, thankfully, let everyone return to their rooms for a break day, which they tended to have a few times every month.

Now, Crowley, intent on relaxing, had dragged Aziraphale into the living room, where the large windows allowed them to see the thunderstorm clearly. The lights were dimmed, so the room was illuminated only by occasional flashes of lightning. The fireplace crackled with yellow flames.

Thunder rumbled. Rain drummed against the windows.

"I used to hate storms," Crowley mused. He was sprawled out across the couch, his head on Aziraphale's lap. Tugging gently, Aziraphale wound another strand of Crowley's hair into a braid.

"Why?"

"One of my aunts died in one."

Aziraphale's hands stilled for a moment, but he continued at Crowley's insistent noise.

"She was annoying as hell and one right bastard," Crowley said, "and yet, she was an incredible artist. She painted a lot of weird things, though, like flies and other insects." He winced as his head ached a bit. Aziraphale softly apologized. "She was driving in a thunderstorm when lightning struck right in front of her car and crashed. Into a ditch, if I remember correctly."

"I'm sorry for your loss."

"Don't be. I still have her ugly fly painting in my room at home."

They both chuckled quietly.

As Crowley's eyes began to slip shut, the gentle thrumming of the rain lulling him to sleep, a feather-light touch trailed down his arm. He cracked open his eyes. Aziraphale was gently tracing his scars. Once he noticed Crowley watching him, he stopped, giving Crowley an apologetic frown.

"I'm sorry," Aziraphale said. "I thought you were asleep."

"No, no it's okay. You're okay. They're just a little sensitive."

When Aziraphale didn't move, Crowley reached up and guided his fingers back to Crowley's wrist, where a particularly jagged scar marred his skin.

"That one was an accident," Crowley murmured. "I slipped in the kitchen because the floor was wet and I was wearing socks."

Aziraphale laughed softly. The sound vibrated in Crowley's head.

"This one," Crowley continued, moving Aziraphale's fingers down, "is a kettle burn. Boiling water and metal will do that to you."

"And this one?" Aziraphale asked. He lightly tapped a scar near Crowley's elbow.

"Razor blade. One of my worse decisions."

On and on they went, Aziraphale's hands ghosting over Crowley's scars as Crowley obligingly explained the story behind each.

"Now you," Crowley said, looking up at Aziraphale. Fluffy blonde hair framed his face, cast in an orange glow from the fire. "What sort of dark secrets are you harboring?"

Aziraphale huffed a laugh. "I don't have many scars."

"Show me."

After a moment, Aziraphale tugged down his shirt collar, revealing a small crescent-shaped scar on his chest. "This one was a cat scratch. One of my friends used to own this big black cat who absolutely hated me." Aziraphale drew back his sleeve. "That's from when I fell off my bike. I was nine."

Thunder boomed outside.

Aziraphale smiled as he tapped a long scar on his shoulder. "My first and only fight scar. There were some pretty terrible bullies in middle school, and I got in between them."

"Did you win?"

"No."

Crowley snickered. Aziraphale rolled his eyes, chuckling. Crowley traced his fingers over Aziraphale's shoulder, creeping dangerously close to his neck. He almost didn't catch it, but Aziraphale squirmed a bit, sucking in a sharp breath.

Sheer delight welled up inside Crowley. "Ticklish, angel?"

"No, no, absolutely not."

"Are you sure?" He slid his fingers down to Aziraphale's collarbone, taking great pleasure in the way Aziraphale twitched, resisting the urge to move away. "Because I'm very good at spotting lies."

"Perks of being a demon," Aziraphale said breathlessly.

Finally, as he was unable to handle it anymore, Aziraphale let out a short, high-pitched laugh that Crowley instantly took advantage of. Aziraphale giggled as he fumbled to escape Crowley, their legs tangled up and pillows being thrown off the couch.

And Crowley didn't know what happened.

He had just managed to grab Aziraphale when the other caught Crowley's ankle with his foot and twisted him around, flipping them upside-down.

Now Aziraphale was on top of him, Crowley's wrists pinned to the couch above his head, Aziraphale's knees straddling his waist. Rain poured relentlessly outside. The room was dark and it was difficult to see Aziraphale's expression, but then Crowley heard it.

Aziraphale was laughing.

Very confused as to how he'd ended up in this position, Crowley laughed too, letting his head fall back. "Angel," Crowley said, "this is the dumbest thing I've done in weeks."

"But I won."

"You didn't. I let you."

"Really?" Aziraphale gave him a look that shouldn't have made Crowley feel as warm as he did. Firelight danced in Aziraphale's irises. "Maybe I'm just better than you."

"Better? Oh no, you're just a cheater."

"Being better is cheating?"

"You—"

And right at that moment, the kitchen light turned on, illuminating the two idiots in a very compromising position.

Gabriel stared at them. He was holding an empty glass, most likely about to get a drink, and he didn't say a word. He just took in the scene with an unreadable expression.

Slowly, he turned the light off again without a word, plunging them into darkness.

His footsteps retreated at a hilariously fast speed.

There was a long beat of silence.

"That," Aziraphale said, "is going to be a strange conversation tomorrow."

Crowley groaned softly, and Aziraphale began laughing again. Gabriel would certainly never let them live this down. Now, Lord have mercy, Crowley was hyper-aware of how close they were, and how warm Aziraphale's skin was against his own. His heart stuttered in his chest.

"It sure will be," Crowley breathed, his voice strained.

They gazed at each other for a while, neither willing to be the first to break away. The firelight framed Aziraphale's head in a flickering halo. Crowley didn't dare move from his position, though he felt completely exposed. Not uncomfortable. Just exposed.

"We ought to get up," Crowley said.

"Yeah," Aziraphale said.

There was a word that Crowley vaguely remembered. Opia. The intensity of eye-contact that felt simultaneously invasive and vulnerable. That was the word he would use for this situation.

Both of them stayed very still.

"Angel," Crowley whispered. "I don't think I have a right to say this, but you're really quite beautiful."

A warm blush spread over Aziraphale's face. "Thank you, my dear."

Suddenly feeling like an idiot, Crowley wriggled a bit, and Aziraphale released him. They sat up, removing themselves from each other. Crowley coughed, running a hand through his hair and rubbing his wrists a bit. Aziraphale picked up a pillow from the ground. Outside, the rain faltered in its intensity.

"I should probably tidy up," Aziraphale said. He tugged a bit at the couch cover.

"Right, yeah, you do that. I'll be up in my room. Holler if you need me."

As quickly as he could without worsening the steadily-increasing pain in his legs, Crowley hurried into the kitchen and fled the scene, his face flushed red and a lingering heaviness in his heart.


Less than an hour later, Hastur and Ligur rudely walked into his room without knocking.

"Really, guys?" Crowley sighed.

"Spill," Hastur said.

"Now," Ligur said.

They both sat down on the floor, giving him twin expectant looks.

"Spill what?"

"About Aziraphale," Ligur clarified. Crowley gulped. "Gabriel's got no filter and you know it."

"So, spill," Hastur ordered. "What happened this morning?"

"We were just messing around!" Crowley exclaimed, letting his head fall back. At their expressions, he added, "seriously. We were talking and then we messed around for a bit and that's all."

"Nothing else... questionable, happened?" Ligur asked.

"NO!"

Hastur and Ligur exchanged a look that screamed 'we don't believe you'.

"Both of you are nosy bastards," Crowley told them.

"We know," they chimed together.

"It's really your fault for screwing Aziraphale in the living room," Hastur said calmly. "This house is a shared space."

Crowley's face burned red. "I did not! We didn't—Absolutely not, I mean—There's nothing—"

"You don't have to explain yourself," Ligur said. The two rose to their feet, looking pleased with themselves. They were relishing in how flustered Crowley was. "Just bang him in private next time."

"There was no ban—" Crowley cut himself off before he shouted the words. He quickly lowered his volume. "—banging going on. We're friends. That's all."

"Whatever you say, Anthony," Hastur said, drawing out his first name. "You two better not keep me up at night though."

"Wallpaper really is quite flammable," Ligur added.

As they shut the door behind them, Crowley called out, exasperated, "stop threatening to burn me alive!"

Chapter Text

-Tuesday, September 3, 2019-

POV Aziraphale

Click. The lamp flicked off, plunging Aziraphale's room into darkness.

He didn't like to sleep, and he really didn't need to, but keeping up appearances for the humans was an art he'd nearly perfected. He dragged back the blankets and climbed inside, ignoring the subtle-yet-persistent murmurs in the back of his head. The Antichrist was antagonizing him on purpose, he was sure of it.

Eventually, the voices quieted down, and he allowed himself to relax.

He was almost completely asleep when his bed dipped and someone collapsed into it, right next to him. He opened his eyes, ready to chew someone out, when he realized who was lying there.

Crowley was dressed in only a black t-shirt and shorts, and he had just flopped down on Aziraphale's bed like it was totally normal.

"My dear, what are you doing?" Aziraphale asked sleepily, shifting to the side so Crowley had more room.

"Heater broke," Crowley mumbled. His face was pressed into the pillow, muffling his voice. "Got cold."

"And you came in here?"

"Yes." Crowley, probably delirious from sleep, rolled over until he was curled up against Aziraphale, who stared at the demon in hazy shock. "You're warm."

They were lying there together for a good ten seconds before Aziraphale forced himself to react. He slowly wound his arm around Crowley's chest. Automatically, Crowley made a soft noise and snuggled closer. His face flushing with warmth, Aziraphale tucked his knees against the back of Crowley's and held him close, feeling ridiculous for noting that Crowley was the little spoon.

When Crowley shivered a bit, Aziraphale reached over and tossed the blanket over them, tucking it around Crowley.

Finally, once Aziraphale had settled into a comfortable position—his chest pressed to Crowley's back, arm wrapped around Crowley and their legs intertwined—he closed his eyes and went back to sleep.


-Friday, September 6, 2019-

POV Crowley

"Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Verona, where we lay our scene."

Quite the only time Crowley was interested in old literature was when Aziraphale was reading it. It usually bored him, but Aziraphale had a way of bringing the story to life.

Now, they were sitting on the front steps of the facility. The sky was overcast, shrouding them in a dull, grey light.

With the onset of September, the weather was progressively becoming colder. Since the facility was nestled in the woods off of Unionville, Montana, it tended to be damp and rainy year-round. This summer had been much more sunny and warm than in the past.

"From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, where civil blood makes civil hands unclean," Aziraphale continued, the ancient copy of Romeo and Juliet balanced across his knees. "From forth the fatal loins of these two foes, a pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life; Whose misadventur'd piteous overthrows, doth with their death bury their parents' strife."

Crowley leaned against the steps, closing his eyes. Aziraphale's shoulder was warm against his own.

"The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love, and the continuance of their parents' rage, which but their children's end naught could remove, is now the two hours' traffic of our stage; The which, if you with patient ears attend, what here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend."

"How long is the rest of this?" Crowley asked, with his eyes still closed.

"Well, it is quite lengthy. We could read a shorter one if you wish."

"No, no, I didn't say that. I don't mind listening to you."

Aziraphale laughed softly. "You are a sap, my dear boy."

"Hey, no, I'm intimidating. Scary."

"Funny, none of those words even closely resemble the truth." When Crowley opened his eyes, Aziraphale was looking down at him, one eyebrow raised and half-grin twisting his mouth. "It's not a bad thing to be a sap, Crowley."

Grumbling weakly, Crowley shifted his position so he was leaning on Aziraphale.

Aziraphale threaded his fingers through Crowley's hair. "Shall we continue, you big sap?"

"Fucking... yes, just continue."


-Sunday, September 8, 2019-

POV Aziraphale

"Why can't you carry the basket?"

"I'm picking the apples, dear."

Late evening had rapidly become Aziraphale's favorite time of the day. With the sun peeking over the top of the trees, the wildlife settling down for the night, and the warm lighting that illuminated the grounds, it was all quite peaceful.

Today was chilly, so Aziraphale was bundled up in a cream colored sweater and one of Crowley's scarves. Crowley wore a sleek black coat and a grey cap that covered up his hair. He also held a woven basket in one hand, which had three shiny red apples rolling around inside. They were picking apples because Agnes had requested some for a pie.

"There's one right there," Aziraphale pointed out.

Crowley craned his neck to look. "It's kinda high."

"I'm sure you can reach it."

Sighing, Crowley bounced on his feet for a moment before jumping up to try and snag the apple. His fingers scraped the branch, missing it, and he fell back down with a hiss.

"Ouch," he muttered, bending down and massaging his knees.

"Oh, I am so sorry," Aziraphale said. "I completely forgot about your pain. I can try and reach it."

"No, no, just give me a sec." Crowley let out a slow breath, straightening, and flexed his fingers. "I think I can do it. I should've landed better."

Aziraphale hovered nearby in case Crowley fell again. Crowley extended his arms upwards, then pushed off and snatched the apple from its perch. He stumbled back and collided with Aziraphale, who tripped over his own feet and sent them both tumbling to the ground. The basket popped open and spilled apples all over the grass.

With a groan, Crowley managed to separate himself from Aziraphale. He scooped up a few apples and put them back in the basket.

"Sorry," Aziraphale said, wincing. He rubbed his palm where he'd caught their fall.

"Don't be." Crowley stayed sitting on the ground with Aziraphale, both of them breathing heavily and checking over themselves for injuries.

Aziraphale sunk his fingers into the grass, feeling the sharp edges grazing his skin. A strange, dizzying sensation swirled around him, making him blink hard to confirm the reality of his vision. The dark aura around Crowley blurred and faded a bit. Aziraphale gritted his teeth and looked away.

"It's getting bad again?" Crowley asked quietly.

"I... I'm sorry, I..."

"Have Mica and Uriel come up with anything for you yet? I think that the medicine I take could work for you too."

"No, I don't need... I don't need medication." Aziraphale curled his fingers into a fist, crushing the grass in his hand. "The faster I stop Armageddon, the faster this will all be over."

"Right. Yeah. We all want this to be over and fast as possible."

Aziraphale glanced over. Crowley was staring at the river, his lips pressed together in a tight line.

"I'm sorry," Aziraphale said again. "I didn't mean you."

"It's fine."

It wasn't. Aziraphale truly hadn't meant his and Crowley's friendship, though he knew Crowley interpreted it that way. In fact, he'd never been so close to anyone before Crowley, and deeply appreciated the bond they'd formed. He just wished he knew how to navigate it. He wasn't good at interacting with others.

And he didn't want this to be over. Despite the fact that he hadn't heard anything from his mother and the summer was already over, he wasn't exactly eager to leave Crowley and the other residents. The notion of abandoning his new friends pained him.

"The river's pretty deep, you know," Crowley said, his voice startling Aziraphale out of his—frankly, muddled—thoughts.

"Yes."

"Easy to drown in, you'd think." Crowley removed his sunglasses and set them in the grass. "You reckon anyone's drowned in there?"

"No, I—that's terrible!"

"It's a good question. I mean, I'm sure this house has had a good deal of suicidal people, and the river is easy to get to. We should know if anyone's bitten it here."

"Crowley," Aziraphale scolded, frowning. "Suicide is not a flippant topic."

"It is for me. I tried."

Aziraphale looked away. That was one thing that they didn't speak of very often, because it must have been a painful memory for Crowley, as well as quite upsetting for Aziraphale. The idea of willingly attempting to end your own life, it was... horrible to imagine. Aziraphale certainly never gave it any consideration.

"Sorry, angel," Crowley murmured.

"Can we talk about something else, please?"

"Yeah. Yeah, uh... think we've gotten enough apples for Agnes?"

"Yes, I believe so." Aziraphale got to his feet before Crowley could and offered his hand for the demon. An olive branch, an apology.

After a pause, Crowley took it.


-Thursday, September 12, 2019-

POV Crowley

"So, how are you feeling today?"

Crowley always found it interesting how easily Mica and Uriel flipped dispositions. Friendly, warm, polite, business-like, back and forth and back and forth. He assumed it was a bit disconcerting to the others, but he was used to it by now.

"I don't know," Crowley replied honestly. Mica's fingers drummed against her clipboard. "Better, I guess."

"Any improvement is better than no improvement," she assured him. "Have you been taking your medication every day?"

"Yeah. For the most part."

Mica raised an eyebrow.

"I forgot a couple weeks ago but it was just one day. I was fine."

"Hm. Try not to forget again." Mica shifted her position on the couch. "Is there anything in particular you'd like to talk about today? Our next session won't be for another week."

Crowley reached up and ran his hands through his hair. "Uh, well, me and Aziraphale have gotten really close."

"Oh? Aziraphale's made some improvement also," Mica said, looking pleased. "I'm glad you two are getting along. Forming bonds with other people is a key part of healing."

"Mm-hm. He's great. Yeah, I uh, I like hanging out with him." Crowley stared down at his hands.

"Is that all?"

His scars were glaringly obvious. He hated wearing short sleeves. "I don't know."

"Would you like to elaborate?"

Yes. Yes he did. He desperately wanted to spill everything about Aziraphale to someone who wouldn't disclose the information to anyone else. His spinning thoughts were inevitably going to boil over, so why not pour it himself? Why not? Really, what did he have to lose? It wasn't like anyone retained any dignity in therapy.

"I guess so," he muttered. Mica smiled gently, encouraging him. "I like him a lot. A lot more than, uh, than friends. I don't know." She remained quiet, letting him gather his thoughts. "But I don't really like him like... oh, bloody—I don't know how to explain it. It feels different than what I thought a crush was supposed to feel like."

"There are different types of attraction. And your feelings towards Aziraphale don't have to fit the stereotypical romantic-slash-sexual interest that is most commonly depicted in the media." Mica clicked her pen and wrote down a few things. "What emotions do you associate with him?"

"Happiness, mostly. Sometimes disappointment. There's good things and bad things and stuff in between."

"Which is completely normal. Why do you think you feel disappointed?"

Crowley glanced over at the window, watching a few birds flutter by. "Because I know he'll never feel the same way. I start to think that maybe he likes me too, but then he says or does something that makes me realize that he's never going to want to be with someone like me. He's too good for me."

A pause. Mica waved her pen vaguely at him. "I think this is less of an issue with Aziraphale and more of an issue with yourself."

"What?"

"In the three years that you've been here, we established that you don't have a very high opinion of yourself, right? You feel as if you've failed yourself and the people around you." Mica gave him an imploring look. "The problem isn't what Aziraphale thinks of you; it's what you assume he should think of you."

"I... I think I get it."

"You tend to immediately assume that people don't like you, even when that isn't true. Therefore, the only way we can fix this issue is if we identify the root of your self-doubt. Where did all this begin, Crowley?"

Where did it all begin?

Crowley bowed his head. The story, the memories, all of it was tied up with a single thin thread in the back corner of his mind, and he feared if he untied it, everything would come crashing down on him. Buried under the rubble of his past. The edges of the knots were frayed already.

He closed his eyes, took in a deep breath, and pulled the thread loose.

Chapter Text

-Monday, July 18, 2016-

There were few places in San Francisco with a prettier view than this.

Vast, rolling green hills on one side and a bustling city on the other. A shimmering blue bay, and a magnificent sunset far off in the distance. This view could only be achieved by standing very high up on the Golden Gate Bridge.

Which happened to be where Crowley was.

He'd climbed up here a while ago, seized by the sudden and frantic urge to scale a lamppost and sit dangerously near the edge of the bridge. The suspension cables were strong enough to hold him, he was certain of it.

People were gathered below, gawking and snapping photos and dialing numbers on their phones. The constant chatter was becoming unbearable.

"There's a kid up there," they murmured amongst themselves, hushed gasps in between. "He's not coming down."

You can all bite me, Crowley wanted to say.

But he didn't say that. He just stared out over the water, fingers gripping metal and strong winds pushing him every few minutes. His feet dangled freely. With one hand, he reached up and tugged at his hair, which was a tangled mess of red that fell to his shoulders. He wished he had scissors so he could chop it all off

He exhaled sharply, gritting his teeth. There was an itch in his legs that made him want to sprint down the length of a football field, or maybe take a running leap off a cliff.

"Hey! Kid!" someone shouted at him from below.

Crowley glanced down.

It was a woman, with wide eyes and an urgent expression. What was there to be worried about? He was safe. "Kid, you need to get down!"

"Why?" he said quietly, not loud enough for her to hear.

"Kid!"

"Shut up!" Crowley snapped at her.

Their voices buzzed in his ears. Pressure was building around him, a sort of squeezing feeling that began to spread into his neck and shoulders. There was a whirlwind in his head that was desperately trying to escape, shredding him apart from the inside out. He was going to rip at the seams.

Music. He needed music. Transfer some of this pressure into music.

Fumbling around his pockets while maintaining a firm grip on the suspension cable, he grabbed his earbuds and stuffed them in. They helped drown out the noise beneath him, but he still didn't have music. Where was it? Why would he leave it at home?

His mouth was dry. He wanted a drink but he didn't want to get down. It was too nice up here anyway.

How long would it take a boat to fish him out of the water? Maybe he'd get run over by one. Would the water be cold? Were there sharks? He doubted it.

Somehow, he knew that if he jumped off, he'd fly instead of fall. He was the only one who knew that. Everyone else was too busy worrying and thinking he was stark raving mad to realize the facts of the situation.

"Alright," he muttered to himself.

Slowly, minding the smooth surface, he brought up one leg, then the other, so he was standing upright.

The people below burst out into anxious chatter.

"Be careful!" someone cried.

"Don't worry," Crowley called down. "I am."

That didn't seem to comfort anybody. He shook his head, raising his gaze to the sun. It was almost completely below the horizon, causing the streetlamp beneath his feet to suddenly flash on. There was too much light pollution to see the stars. What a shame.

San Francisco glittered in the nighttime.

Even if he couldn't see his wings, he silently understood that they were there. They'd lift him up, catch the wind.

Oh, it was such a lovely night.

Baring his teeth in a wide grin, Crowley stepped off the ledge.

Screams rose up behind him, drowned out by the roaring wind in his ears as he spun wildly through the air, buffeted by currents on all sides. The people crowding the bridge turned into tiny specks. The bay rushed towards him, swallowing up his line of sight. His earbuds were ripped out from the force. His hands clawed vainly at the deep purple sky. And then—

Impact.

Shockingly cold water engulfed him. His heart pounded viciously in his ears, his lungs burning and his eyes stinging from the salt. His soaked clothes weighed him down, dragging him farther away from the last hints of sunlight above the surface.

A sort of horrifying panic lodged itself inside his chest.

He sucked in a breath of water instead of air and choked, a little stream of bubbles swirling around him. Quickly realizing he didn't know which way was up, he feebly tried to kick his legs, but pain radiated up his knees and hips and made him freeze, sinking faster.

Black spots blurred the edges of his vision.

That's it, then, he thought blearily.

A wave of calm swept over him. Finally. It was all over.

Everything went dark.


... bright, too bright, too noisy and loud... go away... be quiet...

Crowley groaned softly, his closed eyes registering a faint red haze that indicated bright light beyond his sight.

"Anthony? Anthony, can you hear me?"

Be quiet.

Something was beeping steadily. Drumming the rhythm into his skull, pain blossoming behind his eyes in the first twinges of a headache. He didn't open his eyes.

"Anthony, please."

You're being too loud. You're being too loud.

"Is he waking up?"

"Oh, sweetie, I don't know."

The beeping increased in pace as Crowley tried to lift his arms and found himself rendered immobile. Being trapped incited a fluttery, panicky feeling that rudely dragged him out of the blurred twilight of sleep. He cracked his eyes open, hissing at the light and squinting.

"Sorry, sorry..."

The lights dimmed. A warm hand settled on his arm, making him aware of how cold he was. Shivers raked up his spine.

"Anthony?"

Crowley's vision adjusted. He was forced to comprehend things one at a time, in a way that his muddled and confused brain could handle.

Sleek white walls, riddled with little miniscule flaws. A few yellow lamps. All sorts of foreign equipment sat on a table nearby, along with an I.V. pole that was hooked up to his forearm. Folded white sheets were tucked around him. There was a chair beside him, and in it was his mother.

"Oh, Anthony, my God," she whispered, one hand rubbing circles on his palm and the other cupped over her mouth.

"M-M-"

"Shh, baby, don't try to talk. Just relax." His mother stifled a sob and brushed away her tears, bowing her head to the bed. "Praise the Lord you're alright."

"Ms. Crowley?" someone said.

Crowley shifted his head. A nurse hovered a few feet away, holding a clipboard and wearing a sympathetic expression.

"Yes?" his mother replied, sniffling.

"I just have a few questions for your son, protocol and such. It won't take very long, though I must ask you to step out of the room."

With a cough, his mother rose to her feet. "Yeah, yeah, of course." She squeezed his hand one last time before reluctantly exiting.

"Anthony," the nurse said, addressing him this time. Her name tag read 'Marie'. "Can you hear and understand me clearly?"

Crowley managed a weak nod.

"Can you verbally respond?"

Swallowing hard, Crowley cleared his throat and whispered, "I-I think so."

"Can you spell your first name for me?"

Though confused and still disoriented, Crowley obliged. The questions went on, all very simple and easy. 

What day of the week is it? I don't know.

Do you know where you are? Hospital room.

Do you know who brought you here? No.

Then the questions became a bit more uncomfortable.

Have you had frequent thoughts of death or dying?

Do you experience feelings of hopelessness or extended depression?

Was this your first suicide attempt?

"W-What are you talking about?" Crowley spluttered, taken aback. "Suicide? No, that's not... that isn't..."

"Anthony," Marie said, her voice quiet yet stern. "At least a dozen onlookers watched you jump off of the Golden Gate Bridge. Eyewitness testimonies said that you repeatedly insisted for them to be quiet. Some people on a boat had to pull you out of the water. You've been unresponsive for several hours."

"I..." Crowley let out a slow breath. "I don't really remember."

"Amnesia would not be peculiar after a fall from that height." Marie clipped her pen to the clipboard. "So, was this your first attempt?"

"Yes, I-I suppose so."

"Do you have a history of self harm?"

Crowley's gaze fell to his exposed arms, where several ugly scars were starkly visible. "Yeah."

"Do you have any previous mental health issues?"

"I, uh, I don't know. Why?"

"Mental health issues tend to directly correlate with suicide attempts," Marie explained gently. "The most common disorders are major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and others. I know those words are scary and might not make sense right now, but we should rule out everything else before settling on one type of treatment."

"Treatment? Like medicine?"

"Sometimes medication is effective, yes. We don't want to have to resort to medication, though. We like to try different types of therapy first." Marie flipped her paper over. "Can you please describe how you've felt for the past few weeks?"

Crowley almost said no. Mostly because it was all pretty fuzzy, and when he tried to focus on one particular instance, everything dissolved in his mind. He placed a few random emotions, but that was it.

Marie questioned him a bit more, then wrapped up her survey and bid him goodbye. His mother hurried in a moment later.

"Are you okay? What did she say?"

"Just a few questions." Crowley flexed his fingers, pins and needles rippling over his skin. He resisted the urge to do that stupid movie thing where they tear out the I.V. His mother took a seat and gripped his hand again. She kept biting her lip, glancing from side to side like she was scared he'd vanish if she looked away.

"Can you, um... can you move your legs?" she asked tentatively.

"What?"

"The doctors said, well, they said you damaged some nerves in the impact, and you'll probably have a form of chronic pain." Her eyes glistened with the threat of more tears.

Crowley tried to move his left leg and yelped. Pain shot up his ankle and knee. Breathing shakily, he tested the other, only to find it in the same condition. He clenched his jaw and reached down, rubbing his hips where the pain felt like literal burning needles. A soft whimper escaped him.

His mother made a soothing noise, moving his hand away. "Take it easy, sweetie."

Sucking in a ragged gasp, Crowley went still, squeezing his eyes shut. His mother murmured a quiet prayer under her breath with Crowley's hand clasped in her own.

They stayed like that for several minutes, one unable to move and the other unwilling.

"We're going to get through this," his mother promised him. "You're going to get through this."

When his mother stepped outside the door to discuss some legal and monetary matters with a doctor, Crowley tossed back the hospital sheets and sat up. As if he was watching himself from an outside perspective, he slid off the bed and collapsed to the floor, his legs shaky and weak under him. He awkwardly crawled over to the desk near the wall and hauled himself up onto his knees.

There was a pair of scissors on the desk.

He grabbed the scissors and slumped back to the floor. They were relatively sharp. He could get the job done if he wanted. Finish it off the way he meant to.

But he didn't.

Drawing a lock of his hair to the front, he chopped it off as short as he could bear. Frenzied delight sparked to life inside of him, the scissors snipping off chunks of his hair at a time and covering the floor around him in auburn strands. His movements grew more jerky as the side of the scissors nicked his cheek. Blood dripped down his face.

"Anthony!"

Suddenly the scissors were wrenched away from him, and his hands flew up to yank at his hair, the pain in his legs worse than the pain in his head. His vision blurred.

Hands grabbed at his wrists.

"Don't!" Crowley snarled, scrambling away from the forceful touch. His mother stood over him, eyes wide and horrified at the sight before her. "Don't fucking touch me!" He pressed his forehead into his knees, the uneven strands of hair tickling his neck.

It took him a moment to realize he was crying.

"Stop acting like you care," Crowley sobbed, his fingernails digging into his scalp. "Stop acting, stop acting, because you don't fucking care about me, you never have. You think I don't see it? The pity? The sob story that you're making for me? I don't have a fucking voice of my own with you!"

His mother took a step back. She made a muffled, pained noise that Crowley didn't hear.

"You never listen, you never listen, ever, ever, ever—"

"Anthony, please—"

"—ever ever ever—"

His words trailed off into nonsensicality, a rambling string of nonsense to fill the deafening silence that had taken root in the hospital room. His mother's footsteps hurried away, then back, and then several people in white clothes were talking to him, too many talking at once and everyone just needed to be quiet

The scissors, kicked under the table, glinted like steel in the lamplight.

Crowley wanted to take them and finish what he'd started.


-Wednesday, November 23, 2016-

"It's so scenic, isn't it?"

Unionville, Montana, was a stark contrast to San Francisco. Thick, humid forests, and a thin blanket of snow over the ground. There were hardly any buildings around. It was completely isolated.

"Yeah," Crowley murmured. He was curled up against the window, his head rattling every time they drove over a bump. He wore a long-sleeved black sweater and black jeans. The car heater was broken, so he was freezing in the leather seats.

"This will be good for you," his mother told him, the same phrase she'd been repeating for months now.

"Yeah."

"It's a nice, quiet getaway, and you'll get a chance to make new friends."

"Yeah."

"Are you listening to me?" When her voice rose in volume, Crowley flinched. She bit her lip guiltily. "I'm sorry. You know I just want you to be happy and safe, right?"

"Yeah, mum, I know." Crowley sighed at how flippant he sounded. "It's just... it's so far from California."

"I wish it wasn't, but maybe the distance will be good. You'll have to write me letters."

"Yeah."

They fell into silence again.

A set of tall, dark gates rose up before them. In the distance, a massive mansion sat atop a sloping hill, surrounded by sweeping snowy grounds and a winding fence. The trees were bare, stripped of their leaves. It was only November, and yet this place seemed to have experienced an early winter.

"Oh, it's just beautiful," his mother marveled.

"It's big."

"Yes, it is, isn't it? Very spacious."

They drove up to the front, snow crunching beneath the tires. Crowley stayed in the car as long as possible, relishing in the shelter from the cold, but eventually had to drag his bags up to the front door while his mother knocked. He rubbed his free hand on his shoulder, shivering.

The door swung open.

"Oh, you must be Ms. Crowley," a woman greeted them with a smile. She shook hands with his mother, then with him. "Anthony, right?" He nodded. "Well, don't stay out there in the cold. Come inside."

She closed the door behind them.

"I'm Uriel," she introduced herself. "I'm one of the head psychiatrists of the Archangels Residential Facility. Mica is in her office right now, so I'll get her to talk over the legal matters with you."

Uriel excused herself to go fetch Mica, and Crowley got a chance to admire the interior of the facility. It really was magnificent, way too expensive-looking, and above his usual living standard. He felt like he was trespassing in such a nice place. Like he didn't belong here.

His mother touched his arm. She looked him in the eyes, all compassion and kind worry. "It will get better, baby."

"How do you know?" Crowley whispered. He blinked hard as his eyes began to burn.

"I know because I'm your mother. And because you are so, so strong." She pulled him into a tight hug, letting him bury his face in her shoulder. "Don't give up."

Don't give up.

"I won't."

Chapter Text

-Sunday, October 20, 2019-

With the arrival of Aziraphale's eighteenth birthday, he could firmly say that he felt no difference. He'd been alive for a very long time, but he tended to mark the passage of years in human terms to break his lifespan into simpler chapters. This was the eighteenth year of a new chapter.

At least, that was how he planned to break it up. Sometimes he lost track of the days.

"Happy birthday, Aziraphale," Gabriel told him warmly, looking like he wanted to start talking about himself but was clamping down on the urge.

"Thank you," Aziraphale replied with a smile.

In the past, his birthday was a quiet affair, normally consisting of a present from his mother and a dessert of his choice. Recently, however, he'd grown tired of the festivities, choosing instead to focus on the looming threat of destruction in the future.

Now, he was almost... excited. It marked something important in his life, though he wasn't sure what it was.

"Crowley!" Aziraphale said brightly, hurrying over to the demon. "Good morning."

"Morning." Crowley gave him a strange look, his expression wavering, before bidding him a short goodbye and practically fleeing down the hallway. Aziraphale blinked in surprise.

Oh well. He probably wanted to get a head start on his chores.

Making himself useful was always a surefire way to lift Aziraphale's spirits, so he offered to assist Hastur and Ligur in doing a bit of gardening outside. He was rubbish with plants, he'd always been, but yanking weeds out of the dirt wasn't difficult.

"Ugh," Ligur complained, rocking back on his heels. He rubbed his arms and shivered. "I'ss fuckin' October and there's still greenery. Bullshit, if you ask me."

"There is a bit of a breeze," Hastur agreed.

"I'd warm us up, but, you know," Aziraphale said, adding to his pile of uprooted weeds, "frivolous miracles and such. Wouldn't want to be reprimanded over something as silly as a little breeze."

"Right," Ligur drawled. Hastur bit his lip, as if stifling a laugh.

"We could set a fire," Aziraphale suggested, and immediately regretted it as the brothers' eyes lit up. "No, no, actually, I think we're alright. Nothing flammable to be found."

"Dontcha got feathers or something, angel?" Hastur asked. He said 'angel' in a way that made Aziraphale squirm, not in the way that the word casually rolled off of Crowley's tongue and made Aziraphale's heart beat a tad faster. "We could burn those."

"No. No, I can't show them to you."

"Of course not," Ligur muttered.

After a period of slightly-uncomfortable silence, Aziraphale gave them a smile. "So, what do you two like to do? Other than set things on fire, I mean."

They exchanged a glance with each other.

"I can paint," Hastur said meekly.

"Oh, that's a neat talent!"

Hastur sighed. "It's not like I can paint well. I learned from Aunt Bee. Crowley might've mentioned her."

"The one who lost her life in a thunderstorm?"

"Just the one," Ligur confirmed.

Aziraphale sank his fingers into the cold soil and wiggled free another stringy weed. "What about you, Ligur? Hidden talents?"

Ligur scoffed. "I'm good for nothing, Aziraphale. Everyone knows that."

"Not true," Hastur said sharply.

Rolling his eyes, Ligur pushed himself to his feet and sidled off, leaving Hastur and Aziraphale to their own devices. It really was quite chilly outside, with a strong breeze shaking the trees above them. The trees had mostly lost their leaves at this point, aside from a few evergreens that ringed the property.

"Did I say something wrong?" Aziraphale asked worriedly, watching Ligur vanish into the house.

Hastur's gaze stayed fixed on the ground. His hands were fitted with ripped black gloves that were considerably dirty. "No, you didn't. He doesn't like thinking that he's good at anything. I don't think he believes it."

"Why not?"

"Ligur has always... I don't know. He's always taken things harder than I have." Hastur added a weed to the pile. "He holds the belief that people don't have inherent worth."

"That's quite false."

"I know."

Aziraphale frowned.

Huffing a humorless laugh, Hastur said, "he can paint somewhat too. He's way better at watercolors than me. I like traditional paints."

"Well, that's something." Aziraphale smiled, though Hastur's words earlier had exponentially diminished the easygoing mood. He chose to focus back on pulling weeds, keeping that little note of Ligur's character tucked away in his mind.


Crowley was avoiding him. Aziraphale was sure of it.

All day, Crowley had ducked and dodged Aziraphale's borderline pleading attempts to hang out with him, until Aziraphale finally gave up. Though he felt silly for the thought, it was his birthday, and he knew he wasn't entitled to attention but it would've been nice anyway.

Now, he was moping—ahem, idling—in his room, feeling irrationally upset and wishing he didn't. Crowley didn't owe him anything. He had a right to distance himself from Aziraphale.

But... why?

Aziraphale's own attachment to Crowley was questionable, but he knew it was okay because Crowley was his first real friend and he was allowed to like him more than any other friend in the past. It just didn't make sense how much he was missing Crowley's near-constant company.

"Oh, I'm soft," Aziraphale murmured to himself. "And being quite ridiculous."

Knock knock knock.

"Aziraphale?" a familiar and much-too welcomed voice called.

Aziraphale was ashamed of how quickly he jumped up to answer the door.

Standing in the doorway was Crowley. His hair was combed for once, and he seemed to have dressed up a bit. An apron hung crooked around his neck and his sunglasses were coated in a layer of flour. He gave Aziraphale a sheepish grin.

"My dear, what happened to you?" Aziraphale gasped at Crowley's ruffled appearance.

"I, uh, made something for you."

"Really?"

"Yeah, it's downstairs. Do you want to see it?" At Aziraphale's eager nod, Crowley tugged once on his sleeve and guided him down the stairs, through the hallway, and into the kitchen.

Sitting on the table, which had a freshly ironed tablecloth laid over it, were two plates, two forks, and two slices of pie on each. A delicious smell wafted over to them. Aziraphale inhaled deeply, relishing the scent. Crowley smiled in a hopeful, nervous way that completely retracted from his wannabe edgy demeanor.

"I lived in San Francisco, but sometimes we'd make trips down to San Diego and there was this amazing pie shop called Julian's." Crowley rubbed the back of his neck, noticing that he was rambling. "Anyway, my mom got the recipe once and I learned how to make their apple pie. All the apples are from the trees out back."

"It's lovely, Crowley," Aziraphale told him sincerely. "Thank you so much."

So that was what Crowley was working on all morning. He must've picked the apples himself, even with his pain, and then got all the ingredients together to make this. Aziraphale vaguely suspected that Hastur and Ligur were in on it all along.

They both pulled out a chair and sat down. Crowley waited for Aziraphale to take a bite before trying it himself.

"How is it?" Crowley asked anxiously.

Aziraphale savored the sweet taste for a moment, then swallowed. "Oh, just heavenly. How long did you spend on this?"

"A couple hours, at least. I wanted it to be perfect." Crowley bit his lip. "I know it's not as good as what you got me, but I had to work with what I had and I figured you had enough books, so—"

"It's perfect, my dear," Aziraphale assured him. Crowley flushed pink. "Absolutely wonderful."

And it truly was. It was the perfect blend of crisp apples and warm sugar, and Aziraphale had never appreciated pie more in his life. Somehow, being from Crowley, it tasted better than anything he'd ever tried before. Crowley, as Aziraphale had noticed, tended to forego the savoring process, while Aziraphale allowed himself to linger on each individual bite. This left them with one empty plate and one slowly diminishing plate.

"I meant to ask, where are you from?" Crowley said from where he was scrubbing his plate in the sink. "I know England, 'cause of the accent, but where exactly?"

"Ah, Tadfield. A quaint little village, very scenic."

"I wonder why your mother decided to send you halfway across the world instead of another place in England."

"Well, she wanted me to have a 'change of scenery'. Of course, that didn't entail a long flight all the way to Montana, but she's never been one to tone down the dramatics."

A pause, and they both broke out into laughter.

"I've always wanted to open a bookshop in Tadfield," Aziraphale mused. He thanked Crowley when the demon started washing his plate. "Not a large one, or very extravagant, but one with old editions and prophecy books and dusty windows. I've considered the aesthetic a lot."

"When you get out of here," Crowley said, his smile fading a bit, "I want you to open a bookshop in Tadfield, whether or not I get out with you."

"Crowley?"

With a sigh, Crowley placed the dishes in the sink and turned around, leaning on the counter. His expression was slightly sad. "I'm probably not going to leave this place for a long time. If three years haven't fixed me, maybe I'm just unfixable. So, when you get out of here, and I know you will, I'd want you to follow your dreams. Open a bookshop in a sleepy English village for me."

"Don't be silly," Aziraphale dismissed, though the notion pained him to think about. "You're going to get out. You're not unfixable."

"Just... just promise me, okay?"

The desperate edge to his voice was what made Aziraphale stand up and cross the room, joining Crowley by the sink. He reached over and gripped Crowley's hand comfortingly. "I promise, dear."

Crowley made a distressed noise, staring down at their hands. Assuming that Crowley was uncomfortable with the contact, Aziraphale quickly withdrew.

"Yeah," Crowley said thickly. "Right. Thanks for that."

"Of course. Anything for you."

Perhaps in that moment, they both would've gone a little too far. Perhaps they would've crossed the invisible boundary and into unknown territory. Perhaps they would've done something foolish and lovely and ineffable.

But at that moment, there was a noisy knock on the front door.

They stepped away from each other and headed into the living room, where Uriel had already answered the door.

"Ms. Fell! It's a pleasure to see you again."

Aziraphale froze. Crowley also halted, now tense and worried. Aziraphale's mother looked almost the same, with her straight brown hair and severe expression, but she now appeared healthier, as if time away from her only son had taken off five years of age. She shook Uriel's hand, a slight smile in place.

When her gaze landed on Aziraphale, he resisted the urge to use Crowley as a shield.

"Zira," she said brightly, stepping over to him. She enveloped him in a brief hug. He pushed her away, startled and on edge from the abrupt contact.

"Mother," he replied stiffly.

"You look well. You've been eating alright? Getting enough sleep?"

"Yes. I'm fine."

"Are you?" She gave him a onceover, assessing him.

"Mother, I'm fine," Aziraphale said. His tone was a bit more forceful than he intended, which his mother noticed. Her smile dipped into a scowl. It suited her better.

"Don't snap at me, young man." His mother poised herself, taking in a deep breath. "So. Have you, um..." She turned to Uriel. "How is therapy going?"

"Well," Uriel began, "it's a lengthy process, so we're working on unpacking daily issues as a lead up to the heavier things. We know he has some variation of schizophrenia, and most likely also a dissociative disorder. Unraveling an identity is much more difficult than you might think."

"So he still thinks he's angel."

"I—"

"Not this again," Aziraphale groaned. "Leave it be, mother. I know you can't comprehend the divine, but you could at least be mindful."

"Zira, the adults are speaking," his mother said.

"I am an adult now." Aziraphale felt his teeth grind together from frustration, the expression on his mother's face enough to push him over the edge. "And I have just as much of a say in the conversation as you. I can make decisions for myself. I'm not crazy."

"Yes, you are! You think you're a fucking angel!"

"Ms. Fell," Uriel interjected, voice laced with disapproval. "Please try to maintain a peaceful environment."

"I've told you once and I'll tell you again," Aziraphale said, "my name is Aziraphale, and you will refer to me as such. I'm not going to keep letting you walk all over me." Crowley squeezed his hand comfortingly.

"You can't keep deluding yourself like this, Zira," his mother replied, ignoring him. "You're sick, and you should be getting better, but it looks like you're getting cozy with him instead." She gestured at Crowley, who shuffled closer to Aziraphale with a defiant glare. "You came here to heal. No other reason."

"I don't need to heal. I'm not sick." Aziraphale lifted his chin. "I am an angel. I am Aziraphale, Principality and Guardian of the East Gate of Eden."

"You can't keep saying that to hide from what your father did! I was there!"

Aziraphale stiffened.

—a stormy seaside, a jagged black cliff, rain stinging his eyes and rough fingers grabbing his shoulders—

—the car's headlights suspending water droplets into a sparkling web, a downpour in the dark—

—shouting, panicked voices—

—screaming—

A hand landed on his shoulder.

"Don't!" Aziraphale cried, flinching violently away from the touch. He staggered back and slammed into the wall, shielding his face with his hands. His lungs heaved, unable to draw in a breath, something wet trickling down his cheek. He squeezed his eyes shut. "Don't hurt me, please..."

Silence swallowed up the room.

When he found the courage to peek through his fingers, he found Crowley hovering over him, looking frantic and horrified. Gabriel had placed himself between them and Ms. Fell, his expression dark. Hastur and Ligur stood on the sidelines, ready to intervene if necessary. Uriel watched them defend Aziraphale with something like pride on her face.

"I think you've overstayed your welcome," Gabriel told her quietly.

"Excuse me?"

"Get out."

"You can't—"

"Do what he says, miss," Hastur advised. Ligur narrowed his eyes at her.

After a beat of indecisiveness, she let out a huff and walked out. Gabriel slammed the door behind her.

"Aziraphale?" Crowley said hesitantly, reaching for him.

"Please don't," Aziraphale whimpered. He stumbled to his feet, avoiding direct contact with Crowley, then bolted up the stairs and into his room.


The moon was a waning gibbous tonight. Ghostly beams of moonlight splayed across Aziraphale's floor, illuminating a row of dusty books on his shelf.

It was quiet. Aziraphale knew he'd skipped dinner, and he was probably worrying Mica and Uriel, but he couldn't bring himself to go out. Not yet. Not after everything. They'd laugh at him, he was sure of it.

For being weak.

Pathetic.

Soft.

He stifled another sob.

Footsteps echoed right outside his door. There was a pause. Then, a gentle, "Aziraphale?"

Crowley.

"Yes?" Aziraphale said, ashamed of the crack in his voice. He coughed into his sleeve.

"Can I come in?"

"... yeah."

The door clicked, the knob turned, and Crowley wiggled his way inside. He was bearing two plates with a slice of pie on each. He closed the door with his socked foot.

"Hungry? You missed dinner, so I thought..." He set the plates on the table and sat down on the bed, keeping a respectful distance from Aziraphale.

That just made him feel even more terrible.

"I, uh... I wanted to apologize," Crowley said tentatively.

Aziraphale frowned. "For what?"

"Touching you. I shouldn't have... I know how bad panic attacks are. I shouldn't have touched you without permission. I'm sorry."

Surprising them both, Aziraphale initiated the contact this time, reaching over and setting his hand over Crowley's folded ones. He gave Crowley a grateful little smile. "I forgive you."

Crowley breathed an audible sigh of relief. "Thanks, angel."

"... can I, uh." Aziraphale swallowed hard. His voice came out weak and small. "Can I have a hug please?"

"Always, angel, always."

Aziraphale sank into Crowley's arms, the touch protective instead of possessive. The scent of apples and sugar lingered on Crowley's shirt. Aziraphale inhaled deeply. Crowley's knuckles rubbed soothing circles into Aziraphale's upper arm. Before he knew it, he was crying again, burying his face in Crowley's chest and desperately trying to cover up his sobs.

"Shh, shh, it's okay," Crowley murmured, threading his fingers into Aziraphale's hair and holding him close. "Let it out."

He sobbed harder.

"It's okay. It's okay. It's alright, my angel."

It's alright.

And it was.

Chapter Text

-Wednesday, November 6, 2019-

The moment Crowley opened his eyes in the morning, he knew he was in for it.

Pain throbbed in his hips and knees. There was a heavy fog outside that reflected his mood, and when he fumbled for his medicine bottle on the table, nothing rattled around inside. Empty.

He shivered under his many blankets. Who turned the heat down? The chill was going to be unbearable soon.

"Bastards," he grumbled.

Carefully, he rolled over onto his side, wiggling his feet under the blanket and tucking it around himself. Yeah. He wasn't getting up today.

Sometime later, he began to get frustrated with how he was unable to force himself to move. He had things to do, chores and therapy and stuff. He needed to get up.

... but why?

It wasn't like anyone would come looking for him.

Crowley shifted and closed his eyes with a sigh. He'd made up his mind.


"Crowley?"

"Go away."

Despite his firm refusal, his door swung open anyway.

Hastur stared at him. "What are you doing?"

"Dying."

After a pause, Hastur closed the door behind him and walked over to Crowley. He looked tired this morning, which should've concerned Crowley, but he really couldn't find it in himself to give a damn.

"Bad day?" Hastur asked, a bit more gently this time. Crowley made a muffled noise that could've been interpreted in a few ways. "Ah. So's Ligur. Woke me up at midnight all bent out of shape."

"Nightmares?" Crowley muttered.

He knew that both brothers suffered from nightmares, because he used to be the only one who could make them go back to sleep afterwards. Now they had each other, and he could get a full night's rest. Well, he could try at least.

"Yeah," Hastur said. He rubbed his eyes. "Need anything? Ligur's probably waiting."

"No. 'M fine."

"Obviously you're not. Quit wasting my time and tell me what you need."

"... an orange?" Crowley said weakly, under Hastur's knowing glare.

"Coming right up, sir," Hastur drawled. He swept into a mock bow and left Crowley alone in his room once more.

He was still conflicted on whether company was appreciated or stifling.

When Hastur came back, he was also dragging Aziraphale behind him.

Crowley groaned, pressing his face into his pillow. In his peripheral, he saw Hastur set the orange onto the desk. A weight settled at the end of his bed, and the door closed.

"Crowley, dear?" Aziraphale said.

"What?"

"Are you alright? It's nearly noon and you haven't gotten out of bed."

"Don't wanna get out of bed."

Aziraphale sighed. "At least look at me."

Reluctantly, Crowley rolled over so he was facing Aziraphale. He felt undignified and like an absolute mess, and could only imagine what Aziraphale was thinking right now. He was a disaster. If Hell existed, it would be the pitying look that Aziraphale wore.

"There, I'm looking at you," Crowley muttered.

"You're very snappish today."

"Oh, I hadn't noticed. Thanks for the revelation."

"Quite no need to be rude, my dear."

"I'm being rude? I didn't ask for you to be here. I don't know what Hastur's playing at but he can get fucked."

Aziraphale scowled at him. "Why are you angry with me?"

"Because you're blocking my sunlight," Crowley grumbled. He waved vaguely for Aziraphale to move. Something ugly coiled inside his heart, venom spiking his words. "If you're just going to be a bitch then you're free to leave."

"I..." Aziraphale rose to his feet, folding his arms. A hurt look crossed his face. "Fine. Obviously I'm not wanted."

And with that, he tossed open Crowley's curtains for 'sunlight' and closed the door behind him.

Fuck.

Crowley sank into his sheets, wanting to cry and scream at the same time. The ugly thing inside loosened its grip now that Aziraphale was gone. Crowley breathed out raggedly, his eyes burning. He fucked up everything. Aziraphale would never talk to him again. He ruined it all. He didn't deserve Aziraphale's kindness.

"Goddamnit!" he snapped, throwing a pillow against the wall. It fell to a sad heap on the floor.

Great. Now he had to get up and get it.

He wished this day was over already.


The day dragged on and on.

Crowley forced himself to move at one point, pacing a few times around the room before flopping onto the carpeted floor with a huff. It wasn't comfortable down here, but did he give a shit? Maybe. Was he going to do anything about it? No.

"The walls are grey," he mumbled, tracing his eyes around the room. "The sheets are white. The desk is, eh... mahogany. The plants are green. The plant mister is green too."

A quiet knock sounded at the door. Crowley closed his eyes, then opened them again.

"Yeah?" he called.

"May I come in, Crowley?"

... Aziraphale. Probably back to tell Crowley that their friendship was over and he never wanted to talk again. That was all Crowley deserved at this point.

"Sure," Crowley replied shakily.

Aziraphale stepped inside without looking at Crowley. He was carrying a plate and a few utensils. "Thought you might be hungry since you skipped breakfast and lunch. I'll leave this here."

"Wait!"

Pausing by the door, Aziraphale glanced down at him.

Crowley pushed his elbows under him and propped himself up. "Stay...?"

"If you insist." Aziraphale sat down on the bed. Crowley stayed on the floor. They both watched each other quietly for a while.

"I'm sorry," Crowley blurted. Aziraphale blinked. "I shouldn't've yelled at you, you didn't do anything. I'm sorry. Please don't be mad at me."

"Crowley, dear, I'm not angry with you."

Gritting his teeth to stifle his guilty tears, Crowley pressed his face into the carpet.

Creaky springs, shifting sheets. Muffled footsteps.

He squinted out of one eye and saw Aziraphale lay down beside him.

"Not very comfy down here," Aziraphale said.

"Yeah."

"You know I'm not angry with you."

"... I called you a bitch."

"Well, I always call you a demon. It seems even at this point."

They both chuckled.

Crowley closed his eyes again, exhausted for no valid reason. He wasn't sure he'd be able to get up if he wanted. Too much effort. Aziraphale inched closer to Crowley. It was still too fucking cold in this room.

"I find myself wondering if you're cold-blooded," Aziraphale said.

"Oh yeah?"

"In the summertime you used to bask in the sun like a reptile. Now you gravitate to any heat source. Remember when you found your way into my bed that one time?"

That sentence should not have been as suggestive as it was.

Crowley's face burned. "I was delirious with sleep."

"I didn't mind, dear."

Somehow that made everything worse.

A pause. Aziraphale shifted his position. "While I forgive you for earlier, I would still appreciate an explanation. You've been doing well, right?"

"I ran out of my medication."

"Oh."

"It keeps my emotions in check." Crowley stared at a bug crawling on the wall. "Y'know, that little manic high I had when you first got here. The medication helps with that."

"So what would you call this? What's happening right now?"

And Crowley didn't want to explain. Aziraphale was so painfully naïve, living in a pleasant little world of angels and heaven and happiness. He might not understand depression or the symptoms, or worse, dismiss Crowley as an attention-seeker. That was what Crowley's mother did, after all.

Aziraphale's gaze was gently inquisitive.

"My... disorder," Crowley began, wincing at the word, "isn't just mania. I'll have weeks of high productivity and energy, then a 'crash'. The crash is sort of like you're up on a huge road in the sky, skipping along and minding your own business, when the road collapses beneath you and you land in a ravine with impossibly steep sides."

"That sounds terrible," Aziraphale whispered.

"There's no way out of the ravine. You keep trying to drag yourself out but your handholds keep slipping and eventually you just give up." Crowley was rolling with this analogy now, too deep to back down. Aziraphale listened attentively. "It's dark and foggy and empty. You're alone. You'll always be alone because there's no way out."

Rolling onto his side, Crowley rested his chin on his palm. "Except, after a while, the sides are a little less steep, and you think you might be able to climb out. You start climbing. When you make it to the top, nothing is the same. It's like your absence has wrecked your life. But the road in the sky is still there, and you can't stop yourself from running right back up those stairs. The cycle never ends."

Aziraphale made a sympathetic noise.

"When I take my medication, there's no road and there's no ravine, just flat land. It can be boring sometimes, or feel a bit weird, but ultimately better." Crowley sighed. "I'm sorry. I'm rambling."

"No need for an apology," Aziraphale assured him. "Thank you for the insight. I had no idea."

"Don't know why you would."

Rolling his eyes, Aziraphale smiled. "I won't pretend to understand. But I will try to empathize. I'm not going anywhere, Crowley."

Those few simple words nearly broke Crowley. He needed someone to stay. He couldn't handle anyone else leaving him, even if that person was someone as irritating as Gabriel or as unlikable as Ligur. He needed the other residents as much as they needed him.

He needed a family. And by God, he was building one.

"Thank you," he whispered, his voice breaking.

"Anything, my dear."

"You say that too much."

"You say 'angel' too much."

"Touché."

They fell into silence a little bit later, but it was comfortable instead of awkward. Crowley's lower back ached from staying in the same position for so long, so he had Aziraphale help him collapse into bed. He'd done nothing all day and yet he was tired. Such is the way of things, he supposed.

"Need anything else before I clean up for the night?" Aziraphale asked.

"Ngk, not right now, but I need a haircut," Crowley said. He tugged a bit at his hair, which tickled the skin beneath his ears. "I don't like it long. I had it long a few years ago and it sucked."

"Would it be fair to say that your life quality sucked, and not your hair?"

"... whatever. Fair point."

Aziraphale leaned down and carded his fingers through Crowley's hair. For the first time, Crowley didn't freeze or stiffen up at the contact. "Personally, I like it at any length. But it's your hair. I'll cut it for you if you want. I've been cutting my own for years." Aziraphale made a motion like he was bouncing his curls, and Crowley nearly started choking on his laughter.

"Angel," Crowley wheezed, "you're going to kill me."

"We wouldn't want that, now would we?" Aziraphale tossed a wink over his shoulder as he closed the door.

"Bastard," Crowley remarked fondly.

Chapter Text

-Thursday, November 28, 2019-

Just before noon on Thanksgiving Day, Hastur dragged Ligur into the living room and proclaimed, "we're going to put together a feast tonight."

Aziraphale had been running his fingers across the piano and wishing he knew how to play, while Crowley was banging out some discordant notes that made Gabriel cover his ears.

"Thanksgiving is a dumb concept," Gabriel said.

"I second that," Crowley said.

"I think it's a wonderful idea," Aziraphale spoke over them, shooting Crowley a stern look. "We can all pitch in. It's a way to repay Mica and Uriel for all they've done."

"Only for Mica and Uriel," Crowley said with one eyebrow raised. "Not because of what Thanksgiving was based on."

"Right, yeah, genocide and all that," Hastur muttered. "Alright, let's get started!"

"No," Ligur whined, tugging on Hastur's sleeve. He took a step back, heading for the stairs, but Hastur yanked him back down. "I don't want to. It's pointless."

Hastur wheeled around and hissed, "we agreed on this. You're going to make an effort."

"I hate you."

"No you don't."

"I do."

"Do not."

"Break it up," Crowley said loudly, waving his arms at them. "Somebody needs to keep Mica and Uriel busy while we're doing this. Any volunteers?"

"I will," Agnes replied. She stood at the top of the stairs, looking down on the group. "They need to finish some paperwork, so it shouldn't be too difficult to keep them in their offices."

"Thanks. Oh, and make sure to invite Newton and Anathema."

"Already done."

"Great." Crowley clapped his hands together. "Alright. Let's do this."

The first thing Aziraphale did was unfold a black tablecloth and settle it over the dining table with Gabriel's assistance. Crowley, Hastur, and Ligur pulled out several food items from the fridge and began assembling them in various ways. Aziraphale and Gabriel went to the sink and scrubbed the remaining dishes.

It was vaguely organized chaos.

Everyone dodging each other, weaving around the others and transitioning from one task to another. Really, it warmed Aziraphale's heart to see how close they'd grown and how well they knew each other.

"Excuse me, angel," Crowley said, slipping by to grab some aluminum foil.

Ligur was grumbling, but he contributed all the same. Hastur swept the kitchen and dining room floors, minding the rest of their feet. The brothers never strayed far from the other, working in tandem and closely attuned to each other's movements. As he cleaned the windows, Aziraphale couldn't help but admire their duo.

When Shadwell came down a few minutes later, he begrudgingly offered to help Agnes distract Mica and Uriel for the day.

"That'd be real helpful, yeah," Crowley said, distracted. He checked the time. "Alright, the turkey should be done in a few hours. Just in time for dinner."

"Perfect," Aziraphale said.

"Can I go now?" Ligur asked. Hastur slung an arm around his shoulder and chirped, "no!"


Several hours later, the only thing in the kitchen that indicated they'd been working was the new tablecloth and tidied counters. Mica and Uriel suspected nothing. The two psychiatrists ended up returning to their offices, just in time for a knock to sound at the door.

Crowley rushed to answer it. "Pulsifer, Device, good of you to join us. Keep your voices down, eh?"

"Hello Crowley," Anathema greeted, smiling. "Aziraphale."

"It's been a while," Aziraphale said.

"Yeah," Newton agreed. He and Anathema were both carrying plates and trays wrapped in foil, one of which Aziraphale took from them. "We brought pie and crepes. Agnes' recipe."

"Oh, I love crepes," Aziraphale said brightly.

"We know, angel," Crowley teased, bumping shoulders with Aziraphale.

Hastur and Ligur brought the desserts into the kitchen, where they were stored in the fridge. Gabriel sifted through Newton's box of items from the outside world.

"The more Queen-related things you bring the more I want to throw Crowley out the window," Gabriel groaned. He held up a magazine with the band on the cover. "And if I hear the song 'I'm In Love With My Car' any more, I'm going to throw him out the window." Crowley stuck out his tongue as he snatched the magazine away.

When the oven timer dinged, Hastur helped Crowley slide the turkey out. Everyone else brought out the appropriate number of plates, utensils, and then started setting up the various dishes they'd prepared earlier. Newton and Anathema lit a few candles. Aziraphale stepped back to admire their work.

"This is going to be the best Thanksgiving yet," Gabriel said, looking satisfied. "Good thing I was here to help put it together."

"Don't sell yourself short," Ligur said sarcastically.

"We'll get Mica and Uriel," Anathema offered. Newton laced his fingers with hers and they walked upstairs together. They returned a moment later with the psychiatrists.

"Happy Thanksgiving!" the residents cheered in unison, proudly displaying their collective efforts.

Mica and Uriel broke out into wide grins.

"This is incredible!"

"Did you do this yourselves?"

"Oh, it smells delicious."

Everyone laughed and chatted as they took their spots at the table, Mica and Uriel at the heads. Aziraphale pulled out a chair next to Crowley, with Newton and Anathema next to them.

It truly was perfect.

As they all filled their plates, Aziraphale caught a glimpse of Ligur smiling. It was the first time he'd genuinely smiled in all the time that Aziraphale had known him.

Hastur was laughing, and Gabriel was grinning, and something warm bloomed inside Aziraphale's chest.

Clearing her throat, Anathema waited until everyone had quieted down before speaking. "So, um, Newton and I have an announcement to make." Newton blushed as they held up their hands, showing off two glinting rings. "We're engaged!"

The table erupted into a chorus of congratulations and questions and cooing over the rings. Gabriel knocked back his drink and muttered good-naturedly, "finally." Aziraphale expressed how happy he was for them. The kind little smile on Crowley's face was so endearing that Aziraphale resisted the urge to do something impulsive.

That 'something' was yet to be decided.

For the rest of the dinner, the bubbly mood lingered. The candles cast a warm glow over them. Mica and Uriel didn't allow alcohol, but it certainly felt as though they were all intoxicated.

"Let's go around the table and say what we're thankful for," Newton suggested. "In the spirit of Thanksgiving."

"That's a great idea." Anathema lifted her drink, although it was only water, and said, "I'm thankful that my fiancé saved my pumpkin pie before we lost it."

"Amen."

Everyone giggled.

"I'm thankful for this job," Mica said. Uriel nodded. "And the opportunities it gives me."

"I'm thankful for my granddaughter," Agnes said. She patted Anathema's wrist.

"Erh," Shadwell said uncertainly. "I'm thankful to have lived this long."

Everyone murmured in agreement.

"I'm thankful I'm an adult and don't have to go back to the foster system," Gabriel said. He fiddled with his fork, looking uncomfortable with the attention that was on him. That was a first.

"I'm thankful to be here," Hastur said.

Ligur remained silent, staring at his plate until Hastur nudged him. "I..." He hesitated. "I'm, uh, I'm thankful for... for Hastur, I guess."

Then it was Crowley's turn. He looked up at Aziraphale, his sunglasses off. His eyes glinted. "I'm thankful for the chance to get to know Aziraphale."

Feeling his face grow warm, Aziraphale bit his lip bashfully. He was the last one, which meant he needed to make his substantial. He sucked in a deep breath, mulling over his thoughts, before settling on one. The thing he was most grateful for. "I'm thankful for my time on this earth. And the people who make it worthwhile." He glanced to Crowley as he said this.

"Cheers, angel," Crowley murmured, clinking his glass with Aziraphale's.

Good Lord, Aziraphale was in love.

The realization didn't shock him as much as he thought it would. It felt like finality. Security. It felt like he'd known all along and was only waiting for the right moment.

"Cheers," Aziraphale said softly.

And perhaps, it made the tiniest bit of sense that Crowley wasn't quite a demon after all.


-Saturday, November 30, 2019-

Aziraphale bounced his knee up and down waiting for Mica and Uriel to arrive. The morning was sunny yet freezing, and he'd just gotten a good laugh out of watching Gabriel slip around on the front steps, so he was in a good mood.

"Hello, Aziraphale."

Mica and Uriel sat down across from him as usual, both also in high spirits.

"Hello," he replied.

"Alright, for today," Mica said, "we wanted to bring up something a little sensitive."

As if they didn't do that already. Aziraphale nodded a bit in response.

"We prefer to stick to communication-based therapy," Uriel explained. "Cognitive behavioral therapy, social skills training, psychosocial therapy, et cetera. Sometimes, however, when it seems like those methods aren't working as well as we'd hope, we have to resort to other forms of treatment."

"... like what?"

"Medication, Aziraphale," Mica said. He started to protest, but she gently interrupted, "we won't go with typical antipsychotics as occasionally they can make patients worse, so we wanted to start with some mood stabilizers."

"Like the kind Crowley takes?"

"Yes. Crowley's dosage will be different from yours, but we may want to try his prescription."

Aziraphale was silent. He didn't quite know how to respond to their proposition. Several months of therapy had given him a shaky grip on his reality, and the idea of taking medication was daunting.

His expression must have given him away, because Uriel said, "the medicine we're considering won't cure you, Aziraphale. Risperidone is what's called an atypical antipsychotic, and it restores a balance of natural substances in your brain. It will help you feel better and function easier in daily life."

"Of course, we always require consent," Mica told him. "If you truly don't want this, we can stick to traditional therapy. It's all up to you."

... if making his experience living on earth easier meant taking this medication, then Aziraphale was okay with it. Simultaneously, who knew how his angelic grace would interact with human medicine. Maybe he would get discorporated. That would be a lot of unpleasant paperwork.

"I don't know," he admitted.

"That's completely fine," Uriel assured him. "You decide on your own time."

"And I can stop whenever?"

"If it isn't healing you, you're free to consult us for a discontinuance."

Aziraphale chewed on his bottom lip. "Then... I suppose it wouldn't hurt."

"We're very proud of you, Aziraphale."

Chapter Text

-Monday, December 9, 2019-

Crowley woke up on Monday with a blinding white view from his window.

Sunlight streamed in through the curtains, lighting up his room as if it were noon. He sat up slowly, squinting, as his vision adjusted. The grounds outside were coated in a vast blanket of snow, the stark trees standing frozen and hosting branches of icicles. The sky was a perfect blue, not a cloud in sight.

Snow days were his least favorite.

Cold in general, but when snow was everywhere, he was essentially cooped up inside, unable to bear the temperatures without numerous coverings.

At least Agnes usually made hot chocolate.

"It's beautiful," Aziraphale said when Crowley got downstairs. He was staring out the large front windows, his breath fogging up the glass.

"It's bloody cold."

Aziraphale tsked at him. "Wear a jacket, then, you silly demon."

The way Aziraphale said 'demon' was much more affectionate than it had any right to be.

When Mica and Uriel came down, they were immediately pestered by Hastur and Ligur (mostly Hastur, really) to go outside and mess around in the snow. Chuckling, they gave the brothers permission. Gabriel was quick to follow them out.

"Oh, Crowley, please," Aziraphale pleaded. He widened his eyes, nearly the same pale blue as the ice, and clasped his hands in a classic begging gesture.

Crowley was a sucker for those eyes. "Fine, angel."

Once Aziraphale had forced Crowley into a insulated jacket and two scarves, they headed outside. Cold air stung Crowley's cheeks. Breathing in deeply, he minded his footing on the icy steps and wobbled down the stairs, both of them leaning on each other as they struggled to stay upright.

The snow as already broken by the others' footprints. Hastur and Ligur tripped and fell into a snow bank, while Gabriel scooped up a handful and started rolling it into a ball.

"Don't even think about it!" Crowley warned, as Gabriel's lips twitched into a smirk.

"Snowball fight!" Hastur said with a wide grin, showering Ligur in snow. Ligur flung a broken icicle at him.

Chuckling, Aziraphale bent down to grab some when a snowball hit Crowley and knocked him over, slamming into Aziraphale and sending them both toppling into a pile of snow. They ended up with Aziraphale on his back and Crowley on his side, one arm beside Aziraphale's head and the other still gripping Aziraphale's wrist.

They met each other's eyes, breathing heavily, and started laughing.

Crowley's face ached from the cold and his grin, head thrown back as his body shook with laughter, Aziraphale giggling and turning his gaze to the pale sky.

"God, I love you," Crowley said breathlessly.

Before he even had a moment to regret what he said, Aziraphale's expression shifted into one of relief and delight as he gasped, "I love you too."

"Really?" Crowley choked out, suddenly warm all over despite the chill. "I mean, I don't know what I was going to do if you didn't, and how does this even work if I'm a demon and you're-"

"Crowley, dear, you're rambling."

Somebody kill him. He knew he was probably blushing bright red. "Right, yeah, sorry." He was still grinning like an idiot.

"... how long?" Aziraphale asked, also smiling.

"I, uh... the first day we met, I think."

"Oh dear, I've made you wait that long?"

"I'd wait forever for you, angel."

A pause. Then they both dissolved into laughter again, laying in the snow with a sheet of pale blue above them, but Crowley only cared about Aziraphale's eyes. Aziraphale's face was tinted pink, laugh lines around his mouth deepening as he shifted his wrist so his fingers threaded with Crowley's.

Their hands fit perfectly together.

Crowley was going to spontaneously combust.

Snow crunched above them. Gabriel was hovering over them, one eyebrow raised and his arms crossed. "Get up, lovebirds, Agnes made hot chocolate."

"Fuck off," Crowley said.

Aziraphale patted Crowley's hand. "It is rather cold, my dear. Shall we get warmed up?"

"I'm warm enough," Crowley grumbled, not wanting to move from their little niche, but he allowed Aziraphale to pull him up anyway.

They walked up the grounds with their arms looped and their fingers laced together.

Chapter Text

-Saturday, December 14, 2019-

Crowley often made a point to observe the other residents, noting anything unusual and boxing the information away in his mind. He liked to watch people, as creepy as that sounded. It comforted him, he supposed to acknowledge others' lives, to know that the world existed outside of himself.

Outside of himself, and, of course, Aziraphale.

During breakfast, he paid special attention to Gabriel.

Gabriel was quiet all morning, which was strange in itself. He stared at his plate for a while before handing it off to Hastur and Ligur. He didn't give any indication that he'd heard when Aziraphale thanked him for handing over the syrup.

It wasn't Crowley's place to ask, so he didn't.

Until Ligur couldn't take it anymore.

"What's wrong with you?" he demanded. Gabriel glanced up from where he was being very interested in the carpet. "You're acting weird."

"Weirder than usual," Hastur amended.

Gabriel sighed. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a crumpled envelope. "I got a letter last night. From Sandalphon."

Instantly, Hastur and Ligur sobered up. Crowley let out a sharp exhale.

Sandalphon was Gabriel's foster brother, and he was the biggest jackass Crowley had ever met. The only time he'd seen Sandalphon was when Gabriel first arrived at the facility. Crowley's first impression was anything but good.

"What did it say?" Ligur asked.

"He's visiting today or tomorrow. It says he has something to tell me, though I don't know why he couldn't have included it in the letter." Gabriel stuffed the envelope back into his pocket, then pinched the bridge of his nose. Now that Crowley knew the reason, he could see how upset Gabriel was over it. He had dark circles under his eyes, and his fingers kept tapping random patterns on the chair.

"I'm sure he won't start any trouble," Aziraphale tried to soothe him, but Gabriel shook his head.

"You don't know him. He's... he's mean."

The way Gabriel's voice got quieter towards the end of his sentence made Crowley frown. Aziraphale shot him a look, like 'do something!!'

But Crowley wasn't good at this sort of stuff so he just awkwardly coughed and said, "uh. Yeah."

Aziraphale narrowed his eyes at Crowley, who shrugged helplessly.

"I..." Gabriel pushed himself to his feet with a heavy sigh. "I'm going to my room."

Everyone watched in silence as Gabriel trudged up the stairs and vanished through the doorway. Crowley wilted under Aziraphale's glare. Hastur and Ligur seemed to have a conversation with their eyes before they walked into the kitchen.

"You are rubbish at comforting people," Aziraphale huffed.

Crowley stammered out a few nonsensical syllables. "What was I supposed to say? Whoopsie? Sorry? Gabriel would kill me! And I didn't see you trying!"

"He trusts you! He knows you better! I don't know anything about Sandalphon."

... okay, so Aziraphale had a point. "Don't yell at me, angel," Crowley whined.

Aziraphale crossed his arms.

Feeling pitiful, Crowley tipped his head to the side and scrunched up his eyebrows. Aziraphale exhaled loudly and relented, dropping his arms.

"Stop with that face," Aziraphale lightly scolded.

"I am trying my best, though."

"I know you are, my dear."


By the time Sandalphon actually arrived, Gabriel had worked himself into a panic.

He was pacing back and forth, wringing his hands and freaking out in complete silence, his jaw clenched tight and his eyes trained on the floor. Aziraphale tried to calm him at one point, but it resulted in nothing. Crowley also tried, because Aziraphale wanted him to, and it ended up the same way. Gabriel wouldn't hear any of it.

Two knocks sounded at the door.

Gabriel practically ran to answer it. "Sandalphon!" he greeted, his tone thick with bright enthusiasm and barely-contained anxiety.

"Gabriel," Sandalphon replied flatly.

Stepping back, Gabriel said, "I wish you would've given us more of a heads-up, we'd have had more time to put something together or—"

"I'd rather you didn't."

Beside Crowley, Aziraphale gripped his sleeve, eyes narrowed slightly. Sandalphon's voice was nasally and disdainful, which made Crowley hate him immediately. He hardly remembered Sandalphon, and he was glad he didn't. Must've been awful for Gabriel, to have to play nice for this bastard.

"Do you want something to drink?" Gabriel asked, switching tracks.

"Water, maybe."

Gabriel promptly fled into the kitchen to get a glass of water.

"Crowley," Sandalphon said. His gaze picked Crowley apart, making him feel like a bug under a microscope. "I see you're not off the rails this time."

He must've been manic when Sandalphon was there last. His face burned.

"Your name is Sandalphon, correct?" Aziraphale said coldly. He was rubbing circles on Crowley's palm, soothing him.

"And you are?"

"Aziraphale."

Thankfully, he censored the whole 'Guardian of the East Gate' bit.

Sandalphon stared at them, then at their hands, obviously making the connection. Crowley hated the gleam in the other's eyes. "Gabriel," he said when Gabriel returned, "I didn't know you were friends with fairies."

Aziraphale's grip forced Crowley to stay in his seat.

Laughing nervously, Gabriel said, "well, I am. And they'd prefer you not to label them."

That was exactly right, which meant Crowley owed Gabriel after this whole exchange was over.

Sandalphon scoffed. He accepted the water from Gabriel without thanking him.

"So, uh, what did you need to tell me?" Gabriel asked.

"That required you to fly all the way out here," Crowley added, with a hint of malice.

"Right." Sandalphon set down the glass, having not taken a sip. "Happy eighteenth birthday."

"You're... a few months late," Gabriel said.

"I know. But it costs money to do things, such as house and feed a second son." Sandalphon was shorter than Gabriel, but he somehow managed to tower over him. "So I know you'll understand."

"Understand what?"

"That since you're an adult, you're not welcome in my house anymore."

Aziraphale gasped. Gabriel's hospitable smile faltered.

"What?" Gabriel said faintly.

Sighing as though Gabriel was an idiot, Sandalphon explained slowly, his words dripping with cruelty, "you're not welcome anymore. If you ever get out of this insane asylum, don't bother knocking on our door. My parents are finished with you and quite frankly, so am I. This lowers the monetary burden on all of us."

Silence reigned. Gabriel was speechless.

"Y-Y-You can't do that," he stuttered out eventually, eyes wide.

"We can."

"No, no, I don't have any money, I can't live on my own."

"You'll have to figure it out," Sandalphon told him coolly.

Sympathy struck Crowley like a physical pain. Beside him, Aziraphale was in a similar state.

"This isn't fair," Gabriel pleaded. "Sandalphon, they took my paychecks, they made me quit my job, I can't support myself. What am I supposed to do? You can't, you can't..."

"I don't remember a time where you were allowed to order me around," Sandalphon snapped.

"What the hell did I ever do to you?"

"You sucked my family's money, you took up their attention, and you were a bother for everyone. Not anymore. No one is changing their minds, so get a grip and stop being so pathetic." With that, Sandalphon turned and headed for the door.

"Please—" Gabriel lunged forward and grabbed his foster brother by the sleeve, holding him back.

Whirling around and slapping Gabriel's hand off, Sandalphon raised his arm in a clear threat of physical retaliation.

Gabriel flinched.

He flinched so violently that there was no way this hadn't happened before.

Before Crowley and Aziraphale even had a chance to get out of their seats, Ligur was suddenly standing there, teeth bared in a snarl and eyes glinting.

"Don't fucking touch him," Ligur growled.

Hastur stood at Gabriel's side, gently pushing him away from the scene. Sandalphon narrowed his eyes at Ligur.

"What are you going to do, psycho?" Sandalphon said harshly.

Click. Hastur flicked on a lighter. Where he got it, no one could be sure, but he had it and he was pointing the flame at Sandalphon. Ligur's mouth twisted into a terrible grin.

"In my experience," Hastur purred in delight, "fabric burns very easily."

For the first time, Sandalphon looked uncomfortable. "The hell are you talking about?"

Ligur's fingers found their way to Sandalphon's shirt collar, twisting themselves up in the cloth and yanking Sandalphon down to his level. His voice more of a hiss than words, Ligur said, "if you have the audacity to show up here again, I'm going to stuff a match down your throat and see if you burn or asphyxiate first."

Letting out a terrified noise, Sandalphon jerked away from Ligur as soon as he was released, stumbling backward and practically falling through the doors to escape. Hastur and Ligur stood on the front steps until Sandalphon fled to his car and drove off, the brothers ensuring that he left permanently.

Crowley doubted he would be back.

Inside the house, Gabriel was trembling as Aziraphale gently consoled him. He covered his face with his hands and stifled a sob, abruptly muffling the sound. He stood rigid, fighting desperately against displaying his emotions.

"You need to let it go," Aziraphale murmured. "Let it out, or it'll destroy you."

"I can't," Gabriel choked out.

"The fucking prick is gone," Ligur announced, crossing his arms. He was acting more bold and animated than Crowley had seen him in weeks, as if something was ignited within him.

"I wanted to kill him," Hastur muttered darkly. "Damn bastard."

"You did good," Crowley said quietly, only to the brothers. They nodded solemnly in acknowledgement.

"Gabriel," Aziraphale was saying, "we understand. We understand, okay? You're safe here."

Gabriel started to cry in earnest, hands pressed to his eyes and shoulders shaking with the force of his sobs. Crowley wondered when he had last allowed himself to feel. Really feel.

"There we go," Aziraphale said softly.

"What am I going to do?" Gabriel cried, his voice hoarse. "How am I going to live?"

"We'll help you," Hastur decided. Gabriel's breathing hitched. "My family's loaded. We can help until you're back on your feet."

"And no rush, yeah?" Ligur added, tacking onto his brother's sentence. "Take as long as you like. We'll still be here."

Gabriel sucked in a ragged gasp, a broken laugh coaxed out of him by Hastur and Ligur's shockingly selfless offer. He dried his eyes with his sleeve cuffs, smiling in a strained, tentative way that was more authentic than any smile Crowley had seen thus far.

"I don't deserve you all," Gabriel muttered, shaking his head.

"Of course you do," Crowley said sharply. "Say you don't again and I'll literally fight you. Do you want to square up? Do you?"

"Crowley, dear, I doubt that fighting is going to help," Aziraphale replied, although slightly amused.

"Alright, you got me," Gabriel laughed. "Even though I'd win."

"You would not," Crowley corrected.

"Boys, boys, you're both pretty," Ligur said dryly. Hastur beamed at Ligur voluntarily joining the conversation.

They all laughed.

Watching Gabriel smile in the company of those who cared for him was a heartwarming sight if such a thing existed. And as Crowley took Aziraphale's hand in his own, he knew for absolute certain that this was what they'd needed all along.

And if nothing else, they'd always have each other.

Chapter Text

-Tuesday, December 24, 2019-

Undoubtedly, Christmas Eve was Aziraphale's favorite day of the year.

That morning, everyone woke up bright-eyed and ready to start the day, no hint of the petty resentments that usually simmered beneath the surface. It filled the house with cheer and excitement. Even Shadwell was lacking his trademark grumpiness.

Wordlessly understood, the residents of Archangels Residential Facility dug out old cardboard boxes from the attic and started unpacking the Christmas decorations.

"I'm the peak of fashion, darling," Crowley drawled, tossing silver tinsel over his shoulder like a scarf.

"Yes you are," Aziraphale agreed, laughing.

"I think you're mistaken." They both turned around to see Hastur, draped in Christmas lights with his hands on his hips. Ligur was snickering off to the side. "I'm the peak of fashion."

Crowley gave an affronted gasp.

"I'm not chopping down a tree," Gabriel announced as he pulled out the fake tree.

"Authenticity!" Crowley cried. "It's not Christmas without a real tree!"

"Do you want to go outside and hack one down?"

"... no."

"That's what I thought."

Aziraphale was in charge of unfurling the tree's boughs, so he carefully extracted each one and ran his fingers down the bristles, making them stand up. Meanwhile, in his peripheral, Crowley was putting Christmas stickers on the windows.

"You're going to clean those afterwards!" Aziraphale called.

"I'll suffer for the spirit, angel!"

Ligur helped Aziraphale connect the pieces of the tree, then opened up the box of ornaments.

"Hey!" Gabriel exclaimed. He brandished a little red bauble with a 'G' in messy scrawl. "I made this when I was eight. It was the only thing I took with me when..." He frowned. Swallowed hard. "When my parents died."

Smiling gently, Aziraphale cupped his hands over the ornament and said, "at least you had something to remember them by."

"Y-Yeah. Yeah." Gabriel's face brightened again as he tucked the old trinket into his pocket.

Together, everyone hoisted the tree upwards, helping maintain balance at the base and adjusting it as they went. They decided to place the tree in the living room, so they could all have a place to sit around it.

"I'll take those," Crowley chirped, unwinding the lights from Hastur's shoulders, who grumbled in protest. "Angel, come help me."

They went out onto the back porch, where the windows showed to the living room. Crowley took charge quickly, so Aziraphale was left to follow his instructions. They strung up the blue lights on the left side, the red ones on the right, and some multicolored ones looping over the top.

Crowley mimed a chef's kiss at his handiwork.

"They look lovely," Aziraphale said.

"Oh, angel," Crowley said, pretending to be flattered.

"Let's decorate the tree with the others."

"Right on."

Back inside the house, everyone was finishing up lacing the tree with tinsel. Gabriel fished the red ornament out of his pocket and hooked it on one bough, looking pleased. Hastur and Ligur added their own personal ornaments. Agnes and Shadwell each took a few white snowflakes and scattered them around the tree.

"This one's mine," Crowley said. He showed Aziraphale a bright blue trinket with inscribed devil horns. "I made this last week. With the whole demon thing and all, I thought it was appropriate."

Aziraphale laughed, shaking his head.

"Also, since I assumed you didn't make an ornament..." Crowley dug deep into his pockets and extracted a twin ornament, the same color as his own with wings instead of horns. "You like it?"

"Oh, Crowley," Aziraphale gasped. "It's beautiful."

Crowley blushed.

Holding hands, they hung their ornaments in the middle, where they rested against each other.

"Wanna put up the angel?" Gabriel asked Hastur and Ligur, waving the paper likeness.

The brothers grinned. Gabriel lifted Hastur up onto his shoulders, who accepted the ornament from Ligur and placed it right on top. All the residents cheered.

"We should've put you up there," Crowley teased. He bumped shoulders with Aziraphale.

By the time the tree was completely decorated, it was the flawless image of what a Christmas tree should look like. Silver and red tinsel was looped through the boughs. Every color of ornament dotted the tree. The angel on top glinted in the lights from outside.

It was perfect.

Aziraphale squeezed Crowley's hand.


"We wish you a merry Christmas,

We wish you a merry Christmas,

We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year."

Everyone's voices faded off at different times, resulting in a few wavering notes after the others. They were all lounging in various places around the glowing tree, drinking hot chocolate and singing Christmas songs. Aziraphale and Crowley were curled up together on the couch. Crowley still wore his sunglasses, despite the dim lighting.

"Let's do presents!" Agnes suggested.

Aziraphale sat up. "I almost forgot about that. One second." He hurried up the steps into his room and grabbed a moderately-sized box from his closet, then made his way back downstairs. He set the box on the floor and knelt beside it. "Gabriel, this is for you." He handed Gabriel an agenda.

"Thank you," Gabriel said, surprised. He flipped through the agenda. "I've been trying to be more organized. This is very thoughtful."

Next, Aziraphale gave Agnes a book and Shadwell a map of the UK. He also pulled out two little mini sweaters. "Hastur, Ligur," he said, handing them to the brothers. "You guys have a lizard and a frog, right? I hope these fit."

Hastur made a noise of shock as he admired the sweater. "I... I thought you didn't really like us."

"Of course I like you."

Holding a sweater close to his chest, Ligur muttered, "thanks."

For Mica and Uriel, Aziraphale had new pens and clipboards, which were accepted with warmth.

"What about me, angel?" Crowley asked playfully, raising one eyebrow.

Aziraphale reached into the bottom of the box and brought out a small case in red wrapping paper. He sat down beside Crowley, tucked his knees up, and handed the case to him. "There you go, my dear."

Crowley tore the wrapping paper off and opened the case.

Nestled inside was a brand-new pair of Crowley's trademark Valentino sunglasses. He gasped and immediately shoved them onto his face, grinning widely. "How do I look?"

Chuckling, Aziraphale reached out, gently pushed the sunglasses down, and said, "I think you look perfect."

A dark blush spread over Crowley's face. His eyes were strikingly yellow and red in the light.

"Thanks," Crowley choked out.

Aziraphale smiled as he drew back, leaving Crowley to splutter and cough until he calmed himself down again. Gabriel rolled his eyes at them. Agnes cooed. Hastur and Ligur snickered.

From Gabriel, Aziraphale received a cream-colored suit from Gabriel's closet, which he promised to save for special occasions. Hastur and Ligur gave him an origami angel that was also partially from Shadwell. Agnes gifted him her finished copy, The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch.

"I'm sure these prophecies will be very enlightening," Aziraphale said.

"I've got something special for you, angel," Crowley said, leaning into Aziraphale. He reached into his shirt pocket, pulled out something small and green with red berries, and lifted it over their heads.

It was a branch of mistletoe.

Aziraphale's jaw dropped.

"Suffer for the spirit, eh?" Crowley offered.

"Oh, my dear, this isn't suffering at all."

Before Crowley could respond, Aziraphale leaned over and pressed a light kiss to the tip of Crowley's nose.

Crowley's sunglasses slipped down his face, his eyes blown wide and his face bright red. Hastur and Ligur started clapping and whooping, while Gabriel lifted his drink in their direction. Aziraphale laughed and plucked the mistletoe from Crowley's fingers, tucking it into his own pocket.

"Angel!" Crowley cried eventually, falling back against the couch. "Yo—You can't—This was my gift to you!" He stammered out a few random syllables, halting his words before he could speak in a flustered, embarrassed fashion.

"Dear," Aziraphale said, "I gave you want you wanted, correct?"

"Achkngjk YES!" Crowley buried his face in his hands with a groan.

"That's what I thought."

Chapter Text

-Tuesday, December 31, 2019-

"... angel."

Aziraphale squeezed his eyes shut and made a muffled noise of protest into his pillow.

"Angel."

"Mm."

"Angel."

"... what?" Aziraphale reluctantly opened his eyes to his darkened room, faintly illuminated by beams of moonlight. The door to Crowley's room was cracked, and he was peering through.

"Come here," Crowley whispered.

"Crowley? It's the middle of the night."

"It's actually only like ten." A pause. Quiet footsteps grew louder until Aziraphale's bed dipped slightly. When his vision adjusted, he saw Crowley crouching beside him. "Quickly. I know you're tired, but I worked all day on this and it would be a shame if you didn't see it."

Sighing heavily, Aziraphale tossed back his sheets and got to his feet. Crowley tugged him along to the doors that connected their rooms.

"Eyes closed," Crowley instructed.

"Do you want me to fall asleep?"

"Please?"

Aziraphale closed his eyes, trusting Crowley to guide him. They walked a bit more, then he heard the door knob turning. Crowley shut the door behind them.

"Okay, you can open them now."

His eyes fluttered open.

Crowley's room was completely transformed. Soft pink fairy lights trailed along the walls and draped over his bed, casting the room in a gentle glow. Lush green plants framed the sides and crept up to the ceiling. A small cooler sat next to the bed, filled with ice and two glass bottles. On the desk was an old gramophone and several records.

"Oh," Aziraphale breathed.

"You like it?"

Sleep forgotten, Aziraphale reached up to touch one of the lights, his mouth open in awe. "Like it? This is beautiful, Crowley."

"Made just for you." Crowley sidled over to the gramophone and placed a record on it. After a moment, a slow song began to play, quiet enough so they could talk.

"Sometimes I get to feelin',

I was back in the old days, long ago,

When we were kids, when we were young,

Things seemed so perfect, you know?"

"Queen?" Aziraphale asked, amused.

"Shh, it's a good song."

Aziraphale sat down on the bed while Crowley popped open the cooler, pulling out two bottles. He also revealed two wine glasses from seemingly nowhere, though Aziraphale guessed they might've been underneath the bed.

"Okay, so, since we can't have actual alcohol, I had Newton bring us some sparkling water. It's supposed to taste like champagne."

"Romantic," Aziraphale remarked. He accepted the offered glass, smiling at the bubbly golden liquid that swirled around inside.

Crowley hopped up onto the bed beside him. They both made themselves comfortable, drinking knockoff champagne and listening to Freddie Mercury. The gramophone scratched and the song changed to a slightly quicker tempo.

"I don't know about now," Crowley said, staring into his drink, "but when I was a little kid, I wanted to be an astronaut."

"Really?" At Crowley's bemused scoff, Aziraphale said, "no, no, you gotta paint me a picture. Little kid Crowley, reading about stars and wanting to go to the moon. You must've been an adorable kid."

"Ugh, don't let my mom hear you. She'll bust out the album."

"I dearly want to meet her."

"You're a menace."

"And you're adorable. For the record, I think you'd be a great astronaut."

Crowley knocked back his drink and poured himself another one. "You know, I didn't care all that much about the moon. I thought it'd be boring unless they found aliens on it. No, I always liked the stars more. Polaris, Sirius, Betelgeuse. My favorite out of all of them was Alpha Centauri."

"Any particular reason why?"

"Hm. It's the closest planetary system to our own. Alpha Centauri A and B orbit so closely they make a binary star, and look like one star from Earth."

"That's fascinating," Aziraphale told him sincerely. There was something so endearing about the way Crowley's eyes lit up, his hand movements becoming more passionate as he talked about the stars and his interests. "I never cared much about space, honestly. I liked learning about ancient history and religion."

"Oh? Seduce me with your history knowledge."

Aziraphale shook his head with a laugh, sipping his drink. "I don't know, it's been a while. One thing that's always funny to me is this story about a Roman emperor. His name was Caligula, and he made his horse a member of the Senate. There's many sources that lead most people to believe that Caligula was suffering from some type of psychosis."

"Jeez." Crowley popped open a bottle and filled each of their glasses. "Can you imagine Caligula living here with us? And his senator horse? It'd be a full house."

"You're absolutely ridiculous, but yes."

"If we lived in Roman times, I would probably be emperor. I could rule an empire. I have a skill set."

"I don't believe your skill set includes ruling an empire, dear." Aziraphale tucked his knees up, so his head was resting on Crowley's shoulder. Crowley sank his fingers into Aziraphale's hair. "You could be a gladiator. I would make a good advisor or priest."

"Thou ist the most holy."

"That isn't proper old English."

"Neither are you."

"What does that even mean?"

"Whatever you want it to mean."

They both stared at each other, then started laughing.

The night dragged on.

At one point, Crowley revealed a stash of cookies he had in his bottom drawer, which they shared. By eleven, Aziraphale was feeling warm and content, his stomach full and Crowley's fingers tracing random patterns on the palm of his hand. Pink fairy lights hung over their heads, the glow perfectly subtle.

"Gonna switch the record," Crowley whispered, when Aziraphale complained after he tried to get up. He crossed the room and swapped out the songs. A soft piano melody hummed at the beginning, followed by a familiar trumpet melody. Crowley gasped. "Angel! Dance with me."

"Oh, I really can't dance."

"And you think I can? Come on, please? It's New Years Eve!"

Sighing, Aziraphale stood up. Crowley cupped one hand around Aziraphale's waist, and laced their fingers together. On instinct, Aziraphale set his hand on Crowley's shoulder.

"That's right, angel. We'll go easy."

They started to sway to the music as Louis Armstrong's vibrato filled the room. It wasn't quite dancing, but they didn't care. Moonlight filtered through the window, their dance floor framed with towering plantlife as they held each other, bare footed and laughing softly.

"Hold me close and hold me fast,

This magic spell you cast,

This is la vie en rose..."

Eventually, their hands shifted from proper positions to simply curled around the other. The clock struck eleven fifty-eight.

"Two minutes 'til New Years," Crowley murmured.

"Mm."

The minutes ticked by.

"There is no one in the world I'd rather be with," Aziraphale told him. Crowley's lips curled into a smile.

"You too."

"Ten," Aziraphale said.

"Nine."

"Eight."

"Seven."

"Six."

"Five."

"Four."

"Three." Crowley's voice softened. Pink lights twinkled in his eyes.

"Two."

"One," they said in unison.

The song swelled to its climax.

Aziraphale curled his fingers into Crowley's collar and drew him into a kiss. Crowley's eyes fluttered closed.There were no fireworks, no explosions, only a strange drumming quiet that Aziraphale quickly realized was his heartbeat.

They separated but stayed with their foreheads pressed together, hands clutching each other's arms and both laughing faintly, breathlessly.

"Angel," Crowley whispered. "I love you."

"Happy New Year," Aziraphale whispered back.

"Happy New Year." Crowley shut his eyes, grinning. "Why didn't you do that six months ago?"

"Because I like to make you wait."

"Oh, you devious, angelic bastard."

Somehow, they made their way to the bed, and were now curled up against each other beneath the sheets. Crowley nuzzled his nose into the crook of Aziraphale's collarbone, tickling him.

"I admit," Aziraphale murmured, "I'm not so sure about the whole angel thing anymore."

"Take as long as you need. We've got all the time in the world."

"Yes we do, my dear."

They fell asleep under the glow of fairy lights and slow music easing them into a quiet, comfortable rest.

Of course, as many of us have learned, all good things in life are ephemeral.