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Bless Your Wings and Live Life Eternal

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Prompt: There is nothing more dangerous to a celestial or occult being than love, when a being gives their heart and gives it fully. But Crowley loved Aziraphale, and had loved him from the beginning. So when Gabriel tried to tear Aziraphale's wings from his back, Crowley raged.

---

They got ambushed.

Crowley had been expecting the forces of Above and Below to target him, for Beelzebub or Hastur to seek retribution once the shock faded and the crime remained.

Heaven and Hell packaged it differently. Presented it differently. Justified it differently. But judgment and punishment were the same no matter who handed it out.

Crowley had defended himself with deadly force before, and that was why he’d thought-- when they inevitably came for him-- Hell would come in overwhelming numbers and power so he wouldn’t have a chance to fight back or run. Maybe Heaven and Hell would switch roles, and it would be angels who came for him, but they would still come ready for any trick that could be up his sleeve.

He’d covered his flat in spells and sigils that were ethereal, magical, and occult, some ancient and lost to history, others he’d created himself. He’d subtly added as many of them as he could to Aziraphale’s bookshop, using various slights of hand and misdirection to keep the angel from taking notice. But protectives were just the first step and were probably anticipated, so they’d changed up their routines, created illusions in their likeness to wander England with no set pattern, and they’d spent more time together out in public and crowded places.

They were effectively using humans as shields, which Aziraphale took issue with. Crowley reminded him that if something were to happen, it would only be because either side decided to escalate matters, putting fault entirely on them.

They had been careful. Crowley’d been downright paranoid.

Just not careful or paranoid enough to keep from getting blindsided.

Because when they came, they didn’t come for Crowley.

They took Aziraphale.

Gabriel had dropped out of the sky, powerful wings pushing against the air as he wrapped his arms around Aziraphale and launched them both into the air, vanishing to the plane of Heaven in a single downbeat of wings.

Barely two wingbeats. Not enough time to realize something was wrong, to fight back or run, and then it had been over and Heaven had taken Aziraphale prisoner-- again.

Crowley bared his teeth and roared at the sky, wronged and outraged, before snapping his wings out and launching after them.

If they ended up on the news, video clips from smartphones on the internet that went viral, he didn’t care.

 

 

Apparently, having once been an angel was enough to let Crowley into the Silver City. He’d thought it would hurt. Thought it might burn like when he fell. He’d thought he’d have to force his way inside. But there was no resistance, reality bending around Crowley to let him in, and taking him exactly where he wanted to go.

Had he not been so focused on saving Aziraphale, it would have set off all his self-preservation instincts, suspicious and anticipating a trap, but the threat of losing Aziraphale was enough to make him reckless and not care.

Anyone who got in his way was going to get cut down, even if that meant leaving a trail of bodies in his wake.

Maybe that was why Heaven didn’t fight him. The low-level sentience charged with protecting it from assault recognizing there was only one outcome. Perhaps it was something else.

Either way, he’d shot through the door like a carefully aimed missile, and landed right where he wanted to be.

Six thousand years of subterfuge and war allowed him to land without a sound, rolling and pressing his back to a column before he came to a stop.

A cry of pain-- of agony-- had him shoving away from his hiding spot. Ready to give away his advantage, prepared to offer himself in trade. Crowley had seen horrific things in Hell and on Earth-- most of it things humans thought up themselves-- but he knew none of it would haunt him the same way this was going to.

Aziraphale was on his knees, bound to a gilded altar. The clothes he took so much care of were ruined, the seams ripped and the fabric bloodstained and dirty. His face was bruised and tear-tracked. Fresh blood ran down his face from a cut at his temple and Crowley could see blood on Aziraphale’s lips and teeth when a scream of agony ripped from his throat.

And, fuck, Crowley had forgotten time-- when wielded by an archangel-- could pass differently in Heaven.

What had been seconds for Crowley had been longer for Aziraphale.

He’d been so focused on Aziraphale; it took Crowley’s brain a moment to register the angel responsible for his cries of pain. Behind him, features grotesque with the sadistic pleasure Crowley expected to see in Hell, was Gabriel trying to rip Aziraphale’s wings from his back.

Michael and Uriel stood nearby, hands folded primly and looking bored. Aziraphale screamed again, louder and more terrible than before.

Crowley didn’t remember moving. One moment he was watching in newfound horror-- the next, Aziraphale’s scream cut off to a whimper.

Uriel and Michael froze, something almost like surprise-- but not fear-- flickered across their habitually impassive faces, before it slid off. Their mirroring images of bored disdain, even with a singular brow swept high, still left a lot to be desired from their intimidation attempt.

Crowley’s bony fingers were knotted in Gabriel’s hair, yanking his head back so the demon could press the sharp point of a karambit knife to the delicate skin of his throat.

His lips nearly brushed the shell of Gabriel’s ear as he snarled, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

It wasn’t until then that Aziraphale was aware of him, blue eyes rolling up and straining to glimpse him, even though one eye was nearly swollen shut.

“Crowley--” Aziraphale’s words cut off in a harsh cry as the hand curled around the humerus bone of his right wing tightened

Lips twisted, Gabriel's violet eyes slid to meet Crowley’s reptilian glare. The archangel only seemed somewhat perturbed, tone bored as though explaining the same thing to a child for the hundredth time. “Such an abomination shouldn’t even be capable of approaching Heaven’s door. You would dare come into the Silver City?”

“You took someone from me,” Crowley replied. “I’m just here to collect him.”

“There’s no way you should be able to get here.”

Crowley clicked his tongue, lifting an imperious brow. It was something of a perfected art for him, one he was rather proud of, given how many had tried to replicate it. So few managed. “The prodigal son was always welcome to come home.” Crowley’s voice dropped to a hiss as he pressed the blade firmly against Gabriel’s throat. “But if this is ‘home,’ why would anyone want to? Release the angel.”

“And if I don’t?” Gabriel challenged. “This is Heaven. Did you think you could just come here and leave alive?”

“Yeah,” he said, “I can. Release the angel.”

Gabriel snatched his hands away from Aziraphale’s wings, the gold shackles chaining him to the altar erupting into sparkles.

Aziraphale collapsed with a cry, wings quivering. One of them looked wrong. Aziraphale drew them in, the appendages slowly folding until they disappeared as he lay shaking and panting.

“Angel,” Crowley said. Aziraphale’s head turned, dull blue peeking up at him from his good eye. Crowley never looked away from Michael and Uriel. “Aziraphale, get behind me.”

Trembling, he nodded, clutching at the edge of the ornate altar to pull himself to shaky feet, before stumbling behind Crowley. Aziraphale curled one hand in the back of Crowley’s shirt, breath hot and laboured where he rested his forehead and panted.

Crowley’s black wings spread wide in a defensive posture.

Gabriel chuckled. “Oh, this is touching, but do you think for a second your little knives are going to do anything? I’m a fucking archangel, and that blade’s not big enough to scratch my back.”

“Demonic blades forged in Hell, Gabriel,” Crowley hissed, before shoving away, a knife at the ready in each hand as he manoeuvred both him and Aziraphale backwards. “Got ‘em from a friend. They’d kill even Lucifer.”

Gabriel’s release emboldened Michael and Uriel, and they moved to flank him-- a unified front of posturing-- as he turned.

“What now-- or did you even think that far?” Gabriel challenged, spreading his hands. “Thought you would, what? Walk out? After threatening an archangel for administering Heaven’s divine judgment?”

Bitter, humourless amusement slowly curled the corner of Crowley’s mouth, one brow sweeping high. “You know nothing of divinity, Gabriel. This isn’t judgment. It’s revenge for your wounded pride. Two sins that don't suit an archangel.” He spared a scathing look for Michael and Uriel. “Certainly, not three of them.”

“Oh, you can count,” Gabriel announced with an exaggerated air of surprise. “Your plan was so idiotic; I thought basic math beyond you. You can’t really expect to take all three of us.”

“I can,” he promised, smile widening. “You just don’t remember that.” Gabriel’s mouth wilted at the edges, eyes narrowing. Crowley’s smile morphed into something sharp and biting as his lips peeled back to bare his teeth. “See, that was part of my punishment. Apart from the eyes… I look the same as I did before. But no one recognizes me. Or remembers. Unconsciously, they try to fill the hole with whatever’s lying around.”

Michael sighed, and Gabriel rolled his eyes.

“Look, whatever tactic you’re aiming for--”

“Never questioned why there’s three of you?”

Gabriel blinked. “...what?”

“Three, Gabriel, three. You can count, can’t you? Three… when there’s supposed to be four?”

Aziraphale tugged at his shirt, holding him at bay when Crowley moved to advance, rage singing through his veins, that yes, finally. Millennia after that injustice, after suppressing the seething rage until it festered like a wound--

Crowley,” Aziraphale urged, “we should leave. Now.”

Crowley stilled, the angel’s voice yanking him to the present and throwing ice onto the building fire, snuffing it down to burning embers.

Yellow eyes narrowed, focusing on Gabriel. The archangel almost had a good poker face. His immaculate suit and perfect posture, the shuttered off expression, they could have made him impossible to read if he weren’t emoting his disquiet like a neon sign.

Crowley wanted to flick his tongue out. Taste his doubt. Taste the way he second-guessed himself after underestimating his enemies.

But Aziraphale was hurt, and Crowley needed to get him to safety.

Still.

Crowley had time to gain a small measure of justice.

“Ever look at Sandalphon and think he’s not who you were expecting? Some niggling half-memory like a worm in the brain you can’t quite catch?” His gaze flicked to Michael on a blink, grin a crooked flash of teeth. “Michael, head of security. Gabriel, the glorified secretary. And Uriel…” The razor’s edge to his smile softened for a moment, something nostalgic and almost fond flitting over Crowley’s face. “You helped me create galaxies and hang the stars.”

Aziraphale tugged at him again. “Crowley, please.”

“You used to be four,” Crowley said, voice whip-like. “That’s why you look at Sandalphon and-- for a moment-- are expecting someone else. Think to yourself that this isn’t his department and he’s out of place. Instead, you expected... you expect curling red hair. Expect a staff instead of a clipboard. Expect the Sheppard. The Healer.”

He watched, a preening satisfaction blooming under his skin, as the blankness in their expressions-- in their eyes-- lit with awareness, like sentience in a robot, the curtain was being pulled aside.

Whatever enchantment or curse kept others from seeing him-- from knowing him-- was lifted.

“...Raphael.”

For a moment, he wondered if they would slip back under, sink like pebbles beneath the surface of a pond.

He’d never understood why his falling was different than everyone else’s, but it wasn’t like The Almighty was picking up the phone to answer questions. It was asking questions that led to his fall to begin with.

Aziraphale sunk to one knee, panting.

“I can take all three of you if I have to,” Crowley warned. “Imagine the chaos Heaven would fall into with three dead archangels and no one to lead them. The vulnerable position that would put you in.” He pulled his wings in, folding them to block Aziraphale from sight. “We’re leaving. Together. If you so much as think of looking in his direction-- if an agent of Heaven or Hell ever comes near us-- I will do much worse than kill three archangels, Gabriel. I will raze Heaven to the ground.”

“God would never allow that.”

God drowned the world. Do you really think God would intervene? ...You wanna take that chance?”

Rolling his neck until it popped, Gabriel folded his hands and tried-- failed-- to look unaffected, self-assured. “Such bloodlust is unbecoming of a physician. No wonder you fell, demon.”

Crowley snarled, teeth biting the air. “You kidnapped, tortured, and tried to execute an angel for protecting God’s creation! Tried to tear his wings off for your wounded pride! Do not stand there and judge me, Gabriel!” He shifted, kneeling to slide an arm around Aziraphale’s waist, helping him to stand. He was sickeningly pale, breaths shallow. He clutched at Crowley and sagged, unable to hold himself up any longer. Crowley’s eyes-- colder than the 9th circle of Hell-- found Gabriel’s. The archangel’s throat bobbed. “If he doesn’t make it… I’m coming for you first, and not even God can save you.”

 

 

Their escape was a wild, careening back to Earth. Aziraphale was nearly unconscious, Crowley supporting the angel’s full weight while trying to throw them through the planes of existence and back to Earth as fast as he could.

They crash landed in Aziraphale’s bookshop. Crowley had just enough time to wrap his arms tighter around Aziraphale and twist so that his own back and wings took the brunt of the impact as they smashed through the railing on the second level and into the circular 100-year-old oak table on the ground floor.

Crowley had only had the presence of mind to think ‘home’ when he’d taken flight, letting instinct and gravity do most of the driving in the instant between planes.

Then, as wood cracked into a splintered explosion, he wrapped his wings around them shielding Aziraphale. Years of conditioning had a voice in his head nonsensically yelling, ‘not the books, not the books’.

He grunted loudly, gritting his teeth as his wings and back hit first, a flash of thought ‘Oh, that’s gonna hurt later’ before his head slammed back, sending his glasses flying and making his vision go white with pain, before he was curling tighter around Aziraphale as they slid across the floor.

They slammed into a column and a bookcase. The bookcase rocking precariously, threatening to fall or dump all its books on them-- ‘Please don’t,’ Crowley thought in a sort of exhausted pleading-- before it settled back down, and he punched out a sigh.

Despite the way his ears rang or his body ached and protested, Crowley had enough of his wits about him to register Aziraphale's cry of pain when they’d crashed before he’d gone completely limp.

Pulling himself out from under Aziraphale, Crowley carefully laid him on his back and folded his own wings in. His hands fluttered uselessly, following the same trek as his eyes, checking for injuries, worrying about the extent of damage beneath the ruin of his clothes. Again, a nonsensical part of his brain worried about Aziraphale’s reaction to his ruined coat, the fabric ripped and stained with blood.

Not the time, he snarled. Focus.

Crowley took Aziraphale’s face in his hands, frantically patting his cheek, and tried to shove down the screaming panic and fear threatening to choke him.

“Angel? Angel, wake up. Look at me!” He jerked his gaze around desperately. The shop felt too exposed with Aziraphale so vulnerable. With a snap, he moved them to the back room, the heavy oak door slamming and locking, more bolts and various protection sigils popping into existence as he settled the angel on the couch. He shook Aziraphale’s shoulders. “I need you to wake up, Aziraphale. I need…” He needed to know they were safe. He needed to have been faster when Gabriel came. He needed to have taken insurance measures with Aziraphale. He needed to get to Aziraphale’s injuries and wings. He needed someone who could treat an angel’s injuries. “God, I need help. Aziraphale. Aziraphale. Do you have anyone who can help us? Another angel? A deity? A-a… veterinarian even?”

Crescents of his lashes fluttering, Aziraphale slowly opened his one good eye, the other a bare slit, gaze unfocused.

Crowley pushed himself up and into his line of sight. “Aziraphale?”

“C-Crowley…?”

He softened his tone, tried to reach deep, far back into another life, tried to remember how to be calm in a crisis. “Hey. Yeah, it’s me. It’s me. You’re safe. We’re home.”

“Home?” he echoed, eyes rolling as he tried to push onto an elbow.

“You need to lie still while I get help. You’re hurt. Do you understand?” he tried. Blue eyes swung wildly, looking to Crowley’s left instead of at him. “Aziraphale. Angel. You’re hurt. Badly. Who can help us?”

“We’re on our own side,” he slurred.

Crowley’s throat clenched, eyes welling with the words.“Y-yeah. Yeah, we are, but right now we need someone else on our side, too. Someone who can help you.”

“You can.”

“No, angel, I can’t. It’s why we need someone else. Is there any angel--”

“There’s you,” he slurred.

Crowley took Aziraphale’s hand in both of his, holding it to his chest as he shook his head. “You aren’t thinking clearly. I can’t heal you, Aziraphale. Do you understand? It’s not the same as fixing things. We need someone who can fix you. A-a doctor? Or surgeon? Hell, Aziraphale, isn’t your side chummy with the hospitals? All the miracles you pass out at one of the locals? You must know someone!” He cast his gaze about desperately, picturing the register and rotary phone. “Don’t you have an address book?”

Aziraphale tried to push himself onto his elbow again and Crowley placed his hands on his chest. “You need to lie still--”

“Crowley,” Aziraphale said, voice pressing as his eyes, even the one bruised and swelling, found Crowley’s. They were less disoriented but still dull as he pushed to a sitting position. “You can do it,” he panted. The blood on his face was startling against his ashen pallor. It was so wrong to see him hurt and bleeding and-- “I know you can.”

“Aziraphale, I’m a demon!” he exclaimed, panic mounting as time slipped rapidly through his fingers. “I can’t work those kinds of--”

“You can.”

“I can’t heal an angel!”

God, it might very well kill Aziraphale if he even thought about doing something like that, much less if he attempted something so blasphemous. Crowley was afraid to bloody well touch him under normal circumstances.

This wasn’t just opposing sides unable to mix as though they were oil and water.

A demon trying to heal an angel would be like… like throwing petrol on flames to put out a fire. If they didn’t both explode or get smited, it would still kill Aziraphale.

Hands shaking, Aziraphale’s grip and strength were sure when he curled a hand around the back of Crowley’s neck, pulling him in until their foreheads touched.

“There isn’t anything… you can’t do, Crowley.” He panted, breaths small and warm against Crowley’s mouth. “Just another miracle.”

“I’m not Raphael anymore, angel--”

“I don’t need him--”

“This could kill you!”

“It won’t.”

“And what if it does worse than kill you? W-what i-if you fall, Aziraphale? This would be blasphemy!”

“You love blasphemy.” Aziraphale’s voice was a thin whisper, the attempt at humour little more than a flicker at the corner of his mouth.

Not as much as I love you, Crowley wanted to tell him. I’ve never loved anything as much as I love you.

Slumping forward, Aziraphale nuzzled his forehead against Crowley’s jaw before resting it on his shoulder. “I have--”

“If you say ‘faith’, so help me, Aziraphale--”

“I do have faith,” the angel insisted, breath ghosting across his throat. “In us. I have faith in you… Crowley.”

Face twisting in desperation, a whine crawled up the back of Crowley’s throat. He ran his hand over blond hair, pressing his lips to the tufts in a series of soft kisses, before he set his mouth in a hard, determined line.

“Okay,” he conceded. “Okay.”

God, if you’re listening, if you haven’t abandoned us all…

He shifted, wrapping his arms around Aziraphale to pull him down onto the threadbare oriental rug, both of them on their knees.

Aziraphale gasped and bit back a cry of pain, Crowley murmuring apologies against his skin and into his hair before pulling away.

“Angel, I know this is going to hurt, but I need to see your wings.” Without Crowley to support him, Aziraphale was panting and slowly curling in on himself, eyes turning glassy again. Taking the angel’s face in both his hands, Crowley tilted it up so Aziraphale could see him. Crowley’s voice was so soft and gentle he barely recognized it coming from his own mouth, “Sweetheart... I need to see your wings... Can you do that for me?”

Blue eyes flicked between cognizance and disorientation for a long moment before he nodded.

A breathy laugh escaped Crowley, eyes pricking and welling so fast his vision blurred. He forced a smile that was more unsteady than he was.

“Good. That’s good.”

Crowley let go, rolling onto the balls of his feet and rising to circle around.

Aziraphale curled forward, arms crossed over his chest and fingers bone white where they clutched the ruins of his sleeves.

His wings unfurled, the brushing of feathers mixing with the sound of bones that ground and clipped each other like branches of a barren tree.

The smell of blood hit Crowley before his eyes took it all in.

Aziraphale knelt heaving for breath on the floor, wings quivering and shaking.

One of his wings was bent... wrong. The usually pristine white feathers were matted with blood; the shattered bone structure leaving the wing a disfigured mess that made Crowley’s stomach turn. It sagged at the base where the wing joined with Aziraphale’s back, where Gabriel’s fingers had been, tearing the wing from the angel’s body as Aziraphale threw his head back on a howl of agony.

Heart thudding and tripping over itself, Crowley reached out with hands that shook like the leaves on a tree as he tried to summon every ounce of power he held. Angels and demons had come from the same stock. He could do this. He had to.

They had spent six thousand years walking the Earth, being friends.

Six. Thousand. Years.

Crowley had never lived in a world that didn’t have Aziraphale in it.

Oh, please...

If you’re listening.

I’ll do anything you ask.

I’ll crawl and grovel and plead.

I’ll never question you ever again.

I’ll obey every order.

If one of us has to die, let it be me.

Please.

Please, just don’t take him.

The moment Crowley’s thin fingers curled around each wing where they extended from Aziraphale's back, the moment he reached out with his power, slithering, whip-like, lashing out and curling like vines… he barely had time to form the thought it was too dangerous and a mistake; that he would only succeed in killing the person he held most dear, the person he’d always just wanted to protect…

Power and light and searing agony hit him like he’d grabbed hold of an electric pylon. Crowley felt each kilovolt rip through every cell of his being, felt them burning, felt his wings rip free of their confines and flare wide, the shadow of them superimposed on the walls and ceiling.

He was distantly aware he was screaming as a high-pitched whine rose and filled the room, rattling the walls and furniture. Every item made of glass began to break and shatter, books vibrated off shelves and tables to crash to the floor.

And worse-- so much worse than feeling every nerve ending scream as he burned-- was seeing his hands buried in Aziraphale’s wings, curled around feathers as white as his had once been and being unable to force his hands to obey, to let go before whatever smiting or divine punishment he’d brought down on himself could burn the angel, too.

Paralyzed and voice ruined like red-hot coals were forced down his throat, destroying his vocal cords one broken harp string at a time, he watched as the white of Aziraphale’s wings began to darken where his hands were, spreading like ink in water, the first hint of colour as it bubbled to the surface.

And Crowley couldn’t let go.

The bones in Aziraphale’s wing shifted, unnatural and sickening, sliding and moving beneath the skin of their own accord.

Aziraphale was screaming. Head thrown back, ethereal light pouring from his eyes so bright it would have blinded a mortal. Turned them into a pillar of salt. Tears like liquid gold streamed from the angel’s eyes.

Crowley could feel teardrops fall from his own eyes, felt it as they boiled and evaporated, as though he were already incinerating. His bones felt like logs breaking in the fire.

He felt something snap-- deep inside? In the room? The fabric of reality?-- and an image appeared unbidden in his mind’s eye, the three sisters of Fate cutting the thread of a person’s life with echoing finality.

Then darkness swept in and Crowley saw nothing.

 

 

He stirred, brain sluggish like a turtle navigating through molasses.

Even unable to think… instinct? primal fear? Something… something was blaring inside his head like an emergency siren, red lights glaring and insistent.

Get up. Move. Run.

Something’s wrong.

Something’s terribly wrong.

Move.

Run.

Crowley tried to claw his way to consciousness, trepidation urging him forward with the sense he needed to get to someone. Save someone. Make sure they both got out.

He didn’t even know what was wrong, only that…

Aziraphale.

Yellow eyes snapped open wide.

Crowley’s attempt to push himself up from the floor was thwarted as, to his immense dismay, basic functions-- such as pain sensory-- restarted. He crumpled, fingers in his hair, and head throbbing like someone tossed his brain in the blender and then poured it back into his skull. Trying to push himself up made his stomach lurch as the laws of physics were flippantly disregarded, and the room swung like a vessel about to capsize, his sensibilities sloshing around the inside of his head.

Squeezing his eyes, Crowley dug his nails into his palms, breathing hard through his nose as he tried not to be sick.

The blaring alarm in his head fell into rhythmic step with the debilitating pounding.

Get up.

Move.

Something’s wrong.

Slumping to the side with a miserable whimper, Crowley counted seconds and heartbeats as he willed his stomach back down.

Pieces of memory floated up to him like the ashes of burned photographs.

Pain, screaming, wings darkening.

He stiffened and went cold all over. “No!”

Horrific bits and pieces came back to him. Crowley clamped a hand over his mouth as tears welled up.

Aziraphale. Wing brutalized. Light and tears streaming down his cheeks as he wailed. A terrible, anguished sound. Feathers darkening. Crowley trying to uncurl his fingers but unable to make them obey.

“Oh God. Aziraphale,” he whimpered, fat tears spilling over his lashes. “No. No, no, no, no.” Gritting his teeth, Crowley pressed the heels of his palms to his eyes trying to stop crying.

He just… He just needed to think. Needed his brain free of the clumsy, stumbling effort to function so he could… do something.

Where even was he?

Where did demons go when they died?

Blinking tears from his vision, Crowley swept his gaze around, breaths aborted and uneven.

There was a disconnect between what his eyes saw and his brain's ability to identify and connect it to words, but…

But he knew the room.

The deep burgundy wallpaper. The worn couch he’d been leaning against. The heavy, wooden door covered in sigils and bolted from top-to-bottom.

He shook his head, trying to clear it of the fog and confusion. He had the infuriating sense that clarity and understanding were right there if he could just reach a little further.

The wall sconces were shattered. The built-in shelves littered with broken glass where bottles… wine?... had exploded, their contents pouring out onto the floor, staining the rugs. Books were in piles on the floor.

He was... alive??

He was alive and… still in the bookshop.

“Aziraphale,” he breathed, shoving away from the couch and turning.

He didn’t know what he felt-- too complicated a mix of horror and hope-- when he saw the figure in ruined clothing laying half-twisted on the floor, but he was sure his heart stopped in the instant before he propelled himself forward.

On hands and knees by Aziraphale’s side, Crowley hesitated with outstretched hands as he took in Aziraphale from head-to-toe but was terrified to touch him. To lose all plausible deniability.

Oh God, oh God, oh God, please…

Crowley’s hands shook violently, fresh tears clinging to his lashes as tentative fingers settled on Aziraphale’s coat sleeve.

“...Angel?” His voice was weak and reedy. Barely a whisper. His fingers gripped Aziraphale’s arm, shaking him. “Aziraphale? Aziraphale?”

Nothing.

A whimper, high and broken, slipped past his lips as he shoved himself backwards, clapping a hand over his mouth. He rocked back-and-forth, shaking his head in vehement denial.

No. No, no, no, no.

Not his angel.

Not Aziraphale.

Not like this. In the cruellest, most horrible way possible.

...Not by Crowley’s own hand.

A broken sob escaped him, wet and ugly and gasping as he pushed himself further away. His head shook fervently back and forth, a babble of nonsensical words and pleas and half-voiced prayers spilling past his lips, culminating in another sob-- louder than the first-- that wracked his whole body.

Was this what dying felt like? As if a visceral thing you needed in order to keep living, like your beating heart or the breath in your lungs, had been savagely ripped from your body and tossed aside?

Crowley’s stomach roiled and he twisted sharply, hands planted on the floor as he heaved violently, expelling acrid bile onto the threadbare rug. He continued to vomit and gag until he was gasping for air.

Tears obscured his vision, dripping from his eyes, before he covered his mouth with a trembling hand.

Unbidden, just as they always had, his eyes drifted to find Aziraphale. Gone was the soft warmth and pleasure he normally found, replaced instead by a cold horror Crowley hadn’t experienced since the Fall, when God cast him out and Crowley felt the light of Heaven snatched away, taking with it, the only home he’d ever known.

Crowley began to quake, shaking his head and retreating until his back hit the door. A whimper crawled up his throat and passed his wobbling lips. A sob chased hard after it, tormented and inconsolable. He heaved with the sound of it, knowing nothing would ever be okay again.

No more afternoons in the park or bickering over historical events and philosophy.

No more evenings spent drinking wine in the backroom and swapping jokes and stories.

No more dining at the Ritz or whiling away rainy afternoons in the bookshop.

No more… Aziraphale.

Crowley let loose a ravaged wail of loss that made all of Heaven and Hell fall still and silent. And then tremble as the sound of grief morphed into a far more terrifying roar of outrage.

There was no ineffable plan, Crowley decided, last notes of his cry echoing out. There was no justice.

How could the world dare to spin on its axis when--

A sound, soft and small, made Crowley freeze.

The seconds marched by with indifference as his ears strained to hear, serpentine eyes sweeping the room to determine if it had only been imagined.

There. Again.

A barely there, unhappy noise of pain.

Crowley launched himself across the room, on his knees and curled forward. He had a hand on Aziraphale’s sleeve, the other running over blond hair a few times before Crowley found his voice, albeit small and fearful.

“...Angel?”

When Aziraphale’s eyes moved behind closed lids-- only then did Crowley notice that the bruising and swelling, the blood, were gone-- a laugh too close to a sob bubbled out of the demon and he shook Aziraphale with more urgency.

“Aziraphale, sweetheart, wake up. Please, angel. Don’t leave me now. Not after all this.”

Brow furrowing, Aziraphale groaned, shifting to plant one hand on the floor and push himself up before even opening his eyes.

Crowley swooped in, gently helping manoeuvre Aziraphale until he was leaning back against the sofa. Unable to speak for fear the slightest word would shatter the illusion, Crowley hovered uselessly, breath caught in his throat and heart stuttering back to life.

Blue eyes fluttered open, a hand going to Aziraphale’s head with a low moan like he’d woken up with the worst of hangovers.

A huff of disbelieving laughter, more breath than sound, pushed past Crowley’s lips, his hands trapped in the purgatory of space between them.

The noise caught Aziraphale’s attention and his eyes found Crowley, blue gaze unfocused, at first, but sharpening in a double-take of alarm. Aziraphale’s movements were sluggish as he reached forward to take Crowley’s face in both hands.

“Dear, what’s wrong?” His thumbs wiped gently under Crowley’s eyes, brushing the wetness away only to have more tears dribble over his lashes to take their place.

Crowley closed his eyes, hand coming up to cover Aziraphale’s. He pressed his cheek into Aziraphale’s palm.

“Nothing wrong, angel. Everything’s perfect.”

“Crowley, I have known you for six thousand years and never once seen you cry.”

He spluttered a wet laugh, suddenly exhausted.

It was easy to lean forward, to let his forehead rest on Aziraphale’s shoulder. Yellow eyes slid shut when the angel ran a hand through his hair and let his fingers rest on the back of Crowley’s neck.

“Forgot I could,” he admitted. “It’s like riding a bike-- if you’ve got the motivation.”

Aziraphale shook his head, then leaned his cheek against Crowley’s head and closed his eyes, as well. “I don’t know what that means. Forgive me, I have the most dreadful headache. It’s making it a bit hard to think.” He moved again, then stiffened, and Crowley’s whole body locked tight with tension. Aziraphale looked wildly around the room. “Goodness, what on Earth happened?”

Crowley laughed, but it was as full of sharp edges. “Gonna need you to be more specific, angel. Before we crash-landed or after?”

There was a weighted pause, before Aziraphale carefully picked his words. “...Let’s work our way backwards. Jog my memory.”

“I bloody well threw petrol on a fire, and we survived.”

“Darling, you aren’t making sense.” Aziraphale sounded tired. Weary.

Crowley lifted his head, yellow eyes studying Aziraphale’s features and the blue of his eyes.

Cold reality settled in that they were sitting in the near ruins of Aziraphale’s backroom after attempting what should have destroyed them both.

He rocked back on his heels and straightened, folding Aziraphale’s hands in his and coaxing him to stand, then steadying him when Aziraphale lost his balance and staggered.

“How do you feel, angel?” Crowley worried, turning over Aziraphale’s hands to examine both sides, then circling the angel to take him in from head-to-toe.

Aziraphale tried to follow his path, worry battling with confusion on his face. “...fine?”

“Does anywhere hurt?” Lifting one hand, Aziraphale opened his mouth, and Crowley rolled his eyes. “Aside from your head, sweetheart. This is serious. What hurts, and what do you remember?”

He was blinking again, a fluttering of lashes as a blush rapidly coloured his face.

It was the most exquisite sight after his ashen grey pallor from earlier.

“...you called me ‘sweetheart,’” Aziraphale said, voice small and uncertain. The barest smile warmed Crowley’s features and he reached out to give Aziraphale’s hand a brief squeeze. The angel flushed darker and looked away, stammering. “I-I don’t quite… know what it is y-you’re worrying about. I’m the one who woke up to shattered glass and the sight of you in tears. Goodness, Crowley,” he was taking in the room again, hands pressing to the front of his vest, “what on Earth happened? Why is the door like that? Are we under attack?”

Crowley spluttered a humourless laugh, then raised a hand to trace a complicated sigil in the air. The locks disappeared one after the other, the black marks sinking into the wood like a rock beneath a pond’s surface. “Not anymore.”

He tutted and scowled. “Like that makes me feel any better.” Crowley drew another sigil in the air before slowly doing a sweep of the room, palm flat and fingers spread. Glass began to unshatter and fall in reverse like a film being rewound. Aziraphale stiffened. “...has that... always done that?”

“Done what?”

Aziraphale reached out, none-too-gently bending Crowley’s arm at the elbow and turning his hand palm up. “That.” There was a hard edge to the angel’s voice.

The glowing blue symbol on his palm faded. Aziraphale brushed the pads of his fingers over the unmarred skin.

Crowley’s brows nearly met with his hairline. “No, that’s new.” He curled and flexed his fingers several times, turning his hand this way and that. “That’s definitely new.” His attention snapped in Aziraphale’s direction, voice whip-like and urgent, “Angel, take out your wings.”

“Wha--”

Aziraphale.”

“Alright, alright, don’t get test--” he shook his shoulders, wings stretching to full length, “Crowley?” Crowley had staggered back, serpentine pupil’s dilating as he watched Aziraphale’s wings unfurl. “What’s--”

Crowley’s hand struck out, cupping the side of Aziraphale’s face to keep him from turning his head. “Don’t look,” he insisted, then caught himself, eyes snapping to meet Aziraphale’s. “Not yet,” he amended, voice soft and filled with all the warmth and affection he normally kept reined in and hidden.

He was too raw, too shattered and wide open from having bloody well fucking lost Aziraphale a second time. Twice, the world had been ripped out from under him and destroyed.

It didn’t seem right that the world would turn, that the sun would rise, that life would just continue without Aziraphale there to love every minute detail like he always did.

Taking Aziraphale by the hand, Crowley led him from the room toward the bookshop.

When this was all over, he was going to drink himself stupid and sleep for a week.

And then he would never leave the angel’s side.

If forces were so determined to take Aziraphale out of the world, they were going to have to get through Crowley first.

He couldn’t— wouldn’t— endure a third time.

Aziraphale froze as soon as they stepped out of the back room, hand tightening around Crowley’s so hard it ground his knuckles together.

The demon turned, gaze flicking to their hands and then up to Aziraphale’s bloodless features. Crowley looked over his shoulder at the bookshop, the wrecked table and strewn books Aziraphale treated with such reverence.

“It’s not that bad, honest,” he lied, waving his free hand vaguely. Crowley wasn’t sure how severe the damage was, hadn’t had enough of his wits about him to worry with antiquated first-editions when Aziraphale was grievously injured. “I can fix it, angel, I promise. I’ll fix it.”

The hand curled around his was trembling, Aziraphale’s features displaying open terror.

Crowley whirled, lips peeling back in a snarl and karambit knives in-hand as he stepped into a defensive stance.

But the bookshop was empty.

Yellow eyes flicked to the entrance and every corner, before he turned his head enough to ask, “Angel? What is it?”

A sniff and whimper made him turn, knives vanishing as Crowley's heart sank right through the floor.

Tears ran in rivulets down Aziraphale’s cheeks, hands shaking as he stared at his palms, wrists that had been locked in gold shackles.

“Gabriel,” he choked out before a full-body sob wracked him.

Crowley exhaled soft shushing noises and coos, taking Aziraphale’s face in his hands and ducking to capture his gaze. “You’re safe, angel. You’re safe. You’re alright. Look, see? You and me. We’re home; we’re safe.”

Tenderly, Crowley thumbed away the tears falling from Aziraphale’s eyes, only to have more take their place.

Lip trembling, Aziraphale curled his hands around Crowley’s wrists, trying to blink back tears and failing. “You came for me.”

It was so small and broken. Filled with disbelief and awe, like maybe he’d thought no one could come to his rescue.

Maybe because he’d thought he wasn’t worth rescuing.

Crowley pressed in closer, eyes playing over every line and angle of Aziraphale’s features, his clumped wet lashes, his trembling mouth, the raw emotion too intense for Crowley to parse through.

He brushed away another tear. “I will always come for you, angel. There’s nowhere they could take you that I would not find you.”

Aziraphale made a broken noise, more tears spilling over. Crowley stepped in, wrapping him in a hug as Aziraphale’s face pressed to his shoulder, a sob escaping him.

“I’m sorry,” he babbled in Crowley’s ear. “I’m sorry.”

“For what? You’re safe. That’s all that matters.”

Another sob and whimper. “You came for me.”

Crowley clutched him tighter, throat tight and eyes stinging. “Always.”

Cupping the back of Aziraphale’s neck, Crowley lifted his head, pressing his lips to Aziraphale’s cheek and temple before he thought about it. Then the two of them were standing there, foreheads touching and eyes closed.

“I thought I lost you and the world stopped spinning,” Crowley confessed, the words scraped straight from his heart and spilling off his tongue.

Aziraphale pulled back, blue eyes taking in the demon’s face with such a look of awe it made him blush, all pinpricks and discomfort. He wasn’t worthy of that look.

“You saved me.”

“I told you I--”

No, Crowley,” he breathed, and suddenly it was the angel cupping his face and looking at him with such reverence it stole the air from his lungs, “you saved me.”

Blinding light. Searing agony.

Waking up thinking he’d killed the person he lov--

Swallowing, Crowley tried to smile, pulling Aziraphale’s hands away from his face to guide him into the bookstore. “That may be a matter of perspective,” he murmured.

When they reached the heart of the shop, splintered wood and books scattered everywhere, Crowley lifted his hand to draw another sigil then faltered, staring at the palm of his hand-- remembering the glowing blue symbol.

Flicking his tongue out to wet his bottom lip, other hand holding tighter to Aziraphale’s, Crowley held his palm out flat and breathed out slowly.

A laugh, startled and disbelieving, burst out of him as a series of mirrors appeared, floating in a circle around them with a wave of his hand.

That was… He’d…

He would have said it wasn’t possible, but he had the feeling that their world had become a little more interesting.

“Alright, sweetheart,” he murmured, turning with a crooked smile, “show us your wings.”

No words would have properly described the surprise and awe on Aziraphale’s face-- nor the overwhelming fondness and pleasure it brought Crowley-- as he unfurled his wings and the brilliance of them was reflected at him from every angle.

Hand to his mouth on a gasp, Aziraphale dropped his fingers to his chest, jaw slack with wonder.

His wings were beautiful.

Crowley had always thought so, but now…

They were black nearest his back, then rich, earthy browns, verdant shades of green, streaks and dapples of gold, yellow, and white, and pearlescent white at the tips.

Like you were laying on the sun-dappled forest floor, looking up through the trees at the sky.

Sky blue eyes swivelled to where Crowley leaned against a mirror, arms folded and an unsuppressable smile tugging at his lips and softening the haggard lines of his face.

“Did you do this?”

“I only tried to heal you. I take no credit for...” he gestured wildly with his index finger, “that. I don’t take credit for healing you. I... don’t know what happened. I thought we’d be thoroughly smited. When I woke up, I knew I’d not only failed to save you, but I thought…” he swallowed, folding his arms and dropping his gaze to the toe of his snakeskin boots, “I thought I’d dealt the killing blow.”

The sound of Aziraphale’s punched out breath was lost to the shush and flutter of his wings folding in.

“Oh, Crowley.”

The demon straightened, shoving his hands into his pockets as he spun in a circle to take in the damage.

“But we survived,” Crowley announced. “I’m pretty sure I put the fear of Crowley into both Heaven and Hell, so they shouldn’t be a problem--”

“Show me yours.”

Crowley looked at him over his shoulder. “What?”

Head bowed and biting his bottom lip, Aziraphale cast him a shy glance. “Your wings. If whatever happened… If it saved me. Changed my wings. Did… whatever it has to your powers… what did it do to your wings?”

“My wings are black, angel,” he snapped, the words striking like a whiplash before he caught himself. Forced it down. Shoved and pushed and stomped the old wound back in its container so hard that his voice wasn’t controlled when he spoke, but flat, “Opposite colours, opposite sides. The hero versus the monster. Purity a-and goodness. Damnation for eternity, remember?”

Aziraphale took Crowley’s face in his hands, but Crowley wouldn’t look at him, his gaze sliding off to the side.

There wasn’t a mirror in Crowley’s flat.

He’d spent six thousand years avoiding his reflection. Avoiding the face no one recognized and avoiding the eyes that betrayed him as a monster.

If he didn’t look, didn’t see, he could almost forget. Could pretend.

Aziraphale made it easy to pretend.

Crowley wanted to go on pretending.

Their friendship only worked because they were so far away from their respective sides, because they both loved so many human things, loved food and wine and sunny days at the park. They both loved Aziraphale’s bookshop, with its cosy nooks and endless novels and teas the angel kept on hand because Crowley liked them.

His wings, like his eyes, were a harsh reminder of reality.

He hated them. Wished the angels had torn them off before casting him down.

In his darkest moments, he’d tried to remove them. Had gone to the only demon he considered something like a friend and asked her to help him remove them.

The violent, bloody mutilation wouldn’t stick, though. They healed almost instantly. Over and over and over again. Another punishment.

Crowley swallowed and tried not to lean into the warmth of Aziraphale’s palms on his skin, the thumb tracing his cheekbone.

“I don’t think you’re damned.”

Crowley’s eyes snapped to Aziraphale’s face. The angel’s head was tilted, wearing a painfully fond expression that was agonizing to have directed at him.

Perhaps he’d pretended too well. Well enough that Aziraphale forgot.

“You know I am.”

“I know none can claim to understand God’s ineffable ways,” he murmured. “I know you launched a one-person assault on Heaven, with no thought for your safety, to save me. You have always come to my rescue in my time of greatest need.” His thumb swiped under Crowley’s eye, brushing away wetness without giving it the chance to fall. “I know the look on your face when you thought you’d failed to save me. ...That doesn’t sound like a monster.”

Crowley was afraid of respond. He was afraid he might start blubbering confessions held at bay for six thousand years, that he would crack himself open wide and lay it all at the angel’s feet.

Because he was a monster, but he didn’t want to be. He wanted to be worthy of standing by Aziraphale’s side. Wanted to stay there for the rest of eternity.

He didn’t fight when Aziraphale took him by the hands, pulling him into the ring of mirrors, just rasped, “Keep that up, angel, and I’ll start to think you’re sweet on me.”

“Oh, I’m well beyond that, dear.” His gaze played over Crowley’s features before their eyes met again. “And I think you’re beautiful. Even the parts you hate and try so hard to hide.”

They were still in such close, intimate proximity Crowley wasn’t sure what to do with his hands — wanting to reach out, scared to — wanting to hold, to push away. Wanting assurance he was real, scared he wasn’t.

They settled on Aziraphale’s waist, clutching at the softness there. “What if they are different? What if they aren’t? It doesn’t change anything. We’re still--” he choked on the words and swallowed them down.

Aziraphale shook his head. “It doesn’t change anything. We’re still on the same side. On Earth’s and humanity’s side. We’re on our side. Choices are what matter, Crowley. The ones we make for ourselves, not the ones decided for us.” He smiled sweetly, and Crowley felt his mouth wobble unsteadily. “I’d say you’ve faced more terrifying things than you reflection today, wouldn’t you?”

Crowley wanted to say that wasn’t fair. That it wasn’t the same.

He’d faced down a potential future. He’d fought against it.

This was… this just was. Had been. It was the reality he’d been living with and loathing for more than six thousand years. It was in its box, tucked far away and not acknowledged.

He was what he was, but as long as they were on Earth and together… it was like it didn’t matter. So long as they didn’t open the box and acknowledge it. Didn’t talk about the Apocalypse that wasn’t, didn’t talk about how they’d both bucked what they were and Crowley had no idea what that meant on a cosmic scale. Didn’t talk about how-- when he wasn’t looking over his shoulder-- Crowley anxiously watched for any changes in Aziraphale, any fallen feathers, any signs of stress or that he might have been falling.

Now Aziraphale’s wings were…

And instead of the righteous smiting he’d expected, something else altogether had happened. He could only conclude the Almighty had a direct hand in it, and what that might mean terrified him.

He hadn’t meant to fall, but he had meant what he said about burning Heaven to the ground if Aziraphale hadn’t made it and that was blasphemy. A demon trying to heal an angel, that, too, was blasphemy.

But it had all been done… out of love.

And surely that was cause for forgiveness? It had been a sacred commandment given to the angels, after all, and he had once been counted among their number.

Perhaps a demon in love with an angel could also be forgiven.

He pressed his eyes closed, trying to will himself brave, taking sharp breaths like he was readying to jump off a cliff.

“I don’t want things to change,” he whispered. His eyes opened, yellow and desperately searching. “Aziraphale, the last thing I want is to lose you. Ever.”

“Oh, Crowley,” he sighed, hands smoothing up the front of Crowley’s chest and around his neck, fingers interlocking as Aziraphale tilted his head. “Dear, nothing could ever do that. I’m afraid you’re rather stuck with me unless you tell me otherwise.”

“...What if I never tell you otherwise?”

“I’d prefer you didn’t.”

Accepting that with a jerky nod, Crowley closed his eyes, drawing in a deep breath before he rolled his shoulders, unfurling his wings. It sounded so much louder in the quiet of the bookshop, wings and feathers and the displacement of air. Too big in the cosy space.

Aziraphale gasped, making Crowley flinch. His heart sunk further when Aziraphale pulled away.

The angel’s voice was soft when he spoke, though, filled with quiet wonder. “Crowley, look.”

He didn’t want to. As long as the lid stayed on, things could continue. They could continue.

If things changed…

He blew out a steadying breath between his lips, yellow eyes sliding open like he was waking from a dream, slow and deliberate.

Crowley blinked at his reflection.

Then blinked again, shaking his head as though to clear his head, as if he’d knocked it and was seeing stars.

His wings were still black, but…

“They look like stars,” Crowley whispered, brows knitting together. He shifted his wings, raised and flexed them, watching the way they… glittered and sparkled, tiny pinpoints and ribbons that seemed to reflect an invisible light source.

His throat seized when he followed the line of his wings to their full extent and saw that their tips… were white.

“Oh, my dearest,” Aziraphale whispered, timidly reaching out to touch the inner part of his wing, trailing his fingers over the coverts and secondaries.

A shiver ran through Crowley, and he shifted his wing closer on instinct, a bone-deep primal craving to be touched with anything like softness or reverence. God, he couldn’t remember the last time someone touched him like this. He felt naked and exposed, quivering and gasping for air as his heart tried to beat right out of his chest.

Today had been entirely more than he could take on any level.

Tears welled, dripping from his lashes as he took in wings that looked like the clearest night sky, woven with the same starlight he’d painted galaxies with.

Aziraphale was there, pressing in close, arms wrapping around his back and brushing against his feathers. He hooked his chin over Crowley’s shoulder and held him.

Folding his wings back in when the sight of them became overwhelming, Crowley threw his arms around the angel, pressing his face into his neck.

“What does it mean?” he asked in a small voice.

Aziraphale was rubbing the spot between his shoulder blades. “...I think… I think it means we’re something new. Not of Heaven. Or Hell. But… of Earth, maybe.” He laughed, and it sounded wrong, humour and bitterness and exhaustion all rolled together. “We’re, officially, on our own side.”

“I am going to drink myself stupid and sleep for a month,” Crowley announced, voice muffled by fabric and skin.

Aziraphale gave a breathy, tired laugh and patted his back. “It has been a very long and exhausting day.”

“Mm.”

When Aziraphale pulled away, Crowley heaved a sigh and dismissed the mirrors with a wave of his hand.

And, oh, that was so much easier and more convenient than before.

Aziraphale looked at the mess all around them.

Unable to bear not touching him, Crowley took Aziraphale’s hand just as the angel sighed and shook his head.

“All of this can wait until tomorrow, I suppose. I want a shower and then bed.” His eyes found Crowley’s and the demon wondered if he might sleep for a month, as well. “Just this once: forego the tea.”

A breathy laugh escaped him, and Crowley flicked his gaze away and then back. He cautiously asked, “Would you mind if I joined you?” Aziraphale’s brows shot up, face turning scarlet. Chuckling, Crowley leaned forward, hesitating only a moment before pressing a kiss to Aziraphale’s cheek. “I promise to be a perfect gentleman.” He straightened just enough to rest their foreheads together, weariness settling into his bones like it planned to live there for the next six thousand years. “But I am… if I'm being honest, I'm more afraid of losing you than I am o-of appearing weak and needy because I'm terrified to let you out of my sight. Scared to close my eyes to blink because I might lose you.” He straightened, made himself meet the angel’s gaze as he took Aziraphale’s hands in his, held them to his heart. “Twice now, I lived in a world where you no longer existed. I will try not to be overbearing in my protectiveness and fear, sweetheart, I promise-- I promise-- but please... please suffer me a little while.”

Crowley didn’t say he was already anticipating the nightmares, of waking up in a cold sweat and trapped between dreams and reality unsure which was real yet. He didn’t say, now he thought about it, he was equally afraid of the nightmares Aziraphale might face. It took all the self-control he’d cultivated over the millennia to keep from blurting out the promise to watch over the angel through the night.

They’d already upset the status quo enough, and he was too afraid to do anything else that might send things spiraling out of their favor.

The angel made a soft noise. “Darling, you are hardly a burden to bear, and I’m no less anxious you might be stolen from me. I think proximity will help us to both rest a little easier.”

The corner of Crowley’s mouth curled, voice warm and coaxing. “My shower’s big enough for two. Then it’s silk sheets— silk pyjamas. Falling asleep in a flat that’s… practically a guarded fortress-- and will become even more of one. Then after some much-deserved sleep… I’ll make you tea and help you clean up the shop, yeah?”

Eyes closed and mouth spreading into a pleased smile, Aziraphale sighed. “That sounds lovely. Let’s go home.”

And that was exactly what they did.

END

--

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