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Of the Dead and the Wicked

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If you were to place a call to Heaven, or to Hell, and inquire about the Great Plan, you would be told that everything is going as it should be—as it always has, and as it always will.

 

Well, no, this isn’t quite correct. If you were to place a call to Heaven, you would first be connected to an automated directory querying about your reason for calling. You would be told to press one to hear information on Heavenly policy concerning discorporation, loss of property, and damage liabilities to assigned bodies (Notably, Aziraphale, the only Angel to whom all three of these concerns can apply, has listened to this message three hundred and fifty-two times, but has yet to follow the next steps advised in the automated message concerning reporting such infractions).

 

If you were to press two, you would be played a message concerning how to file for a position transfer, after which you would record your transfer query, with the guarantee you would receive a response within the next six to eight business decades, pending schedule revisions.

 

If you were to press three, you would be connected to the answering machine for filing a complaint with a union representative. All complaints filed are generally resolved within four weeks to four years—presuming the angel in question does not Fall first, as filing a union complaint is generally a frowned upon form of expressing a dissenting opinion. Such things generally work against a cohesive and unquestioning work environment.

 

If you were to press four, this would mean you have an urgent question or report, and must speak to someone as soon as possible. This is the button you would press if you were planning to inquire about the Great Plan. After pressing this button, you would be put on hold—and would be treated to Heaven’s on-hold music of choice: the Psalms. This has been the agreed upon on-hold music in Heaven since the Psalms were more or less invented, as musicians in general don’t do very well with Heaven. The Psalms, songs that have brought very few people pride in their musical skill, and even less people pleasure, are the exception to the rule.

 

Heaven believes in order and in quick conduct, so you can expect not to spend too much time on hold. The longest any angel has ever spent on hold was exactly sixty-three months and five days. For an angel, this is a fleeting amount of time, indeed (For Aziraphale, who likes three meals a day and a nap at least every four, and thus has a very different understanding of time, this is generally why he never manages to speak to anyone about anything).

 

Once you have been taken off hold, and are graced with the chance to speak to a real, present angel, you would be able to inquire into the Great Plan. At this time, you would then be told how very much going according to plan everything is, and thank you for calling, will that be all?

 

If you were to call Hell in order to inquire on the same topic, you would be placed directly on hold. Hell cycles through its on-hold music depending on what’s in season. Right now, country music is in vogue there. After some indeterminable amount of time on hold, just enough to be put out by it, you would then be sent directly to a voicemail system. You would find that, halfway through your voicemail—right when you were about getting to why you called—the phone line would cut out. Whether this is an intentionally designed system, or simply because Hell is not known for either its organizational prowess or its technological knowhow, is a good question no one quite has an answer to.

 

If you were persistent enough about calling, and you were quite lucky, you might eventually have your line answered by an actual demon. If the demon were to grunt, or ask you what the fuck you wanted—a veritably polite hello, for a demon—you would then be able to ask about the Great Plan. The demon in question would also tell you that everything is going according to plan, of course it is, what a stupid question, why are you so fucking stupid? You needn’t worry about responding. This is a rhetorical question.

 

Regardless, if asked, both Heaven and Hell will be happy to let you know the Great Plan is chugging along smoothly, as it has since the beginning of Creation, straight along to the End.

 

Of course, if you were to consult with one Anthony J.L. Crowley—who can be reached at +44 4004 129129, and generally is most likely to pick up the phone between the hours of 8pm to 2am, particularly if your name is Aziraphale—he would, if drunk enough, likely tell you this is all bullshit.

 

For you see, if you were to ask Anthony J.L. Crowley, he could easily explain that the Great Plan went off the rails roughly six thousand and twenty-three years ago, in the Garden of Eden, when the first Woman chose to claw her way out past the Wall rather than stay and belong to Man.

 

This, of course, is not a very commonly repeated story, but one Anthony J.L. Crowley knows rather well.

 

For you see, it’s quite his own.

 

 

 

 

This is the story of the Apocalypse—or, the near thing, at least. This is, as such, the story of the Anti-Christ, his three friends, a witch, two witch-finders, and a 9 to 5 psychic who works every day but Thursday.

 

This is also the story of two immortal entities, one of whom was an Angel, and both of whom were not very good at respectively doing what they were told. You may be familiar with this story—particularly if you have ever come across The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. You may not, however, be quite as familiar with it as you would assume.

 

This is, mostly, the story of a creature who isn’t quite a demon, but was certainly never an angel, and for whom fate and free will have always had quite a complex relationship.

 

Her name was Lilith, once.

 

You may know her as the first Wife, the Child Thief, Demon of Darkness, Queen of Hell, Mother of Monsters. Or perhaps you do not know her at all—history has a way of correcting itself to suit whoever is in charge.

 

Today, however, he generally goes by Crowley. He is rather pronoun indifferent, in fact, but an unfortunate facet of this world is that being perceived as male is simply faster, sometimes.

 

And besides, he rather likes the clothes. They are awfully good fun.

 

This is a rather convoluted story, so perhaps it is best to start with the beginning—or, as it were, with the Beginning.

 

We open with a Garden, and a Tree, and a Promise.

 

 

 

 

On the sixth day, God creates Man.

 

That Man was created in God’s image is a common misconception—one that assumes that God has an appearance definable and understandable to the human eye. Several arguments could be made for where Man’s appearance originated. One could note, for example, that Angels’ visual manifestations share many common traits with humans, but this could also be attributed to Angels taking on forms more suitable to their occasional and limited interactions with humans. As such, it’s a bit like asking which came first: the chicken or the egg.

 

Regardless—wherever She got the idea, if the idea was not simply Hers to begin with, as all things are when you are Lord of all Creation—create Man She does. She forms him from dust and raises him from the ground and breathes life into him. She names him Adam.

 

He is Her shiny new plaything. Her most recent, most currently-interesting Project amongst a universe littered with Her Projects. She has formed the heavens and those who reside in them, had Her Angels build Her stars and galaxies, and now on this small rock She builds a strange creature of flesh and blood and beating heart, but with a sliver of that same Divinity She gifted to Her Angels, albeit in smaller amounts.

 

(Still, the combination of Divine and Earthly creates interesting, unexpected results. Belief is a powerful thing, free will even more so. We will want to keep this in mind as we proceed.)

 

She admires Her new creation, small and insignificant as he seems, and he is Her distraction as around Her war wages, galaxies implode, and Her beloved Angels fall from grace—down, down, down. But that is, of course, a different part of this story, and also perhaps another one altogether.

 

God gives Adam the Garden. She sends Angels to guard him and Her other new creations, to shelter them and keep them safe. She gives Adam the plants. They are his to eat and his to admire and his to wander amongst. She gives him dominion over the animals. They are his to name and his to care for and his to roam with.

 

But this is not enough.

 

Adam asks Her for like company—someone different from the animals. Someone whom he can converse with, walk with, lay with. A partner.

 

And God is recipient to Her Adam’s requests. He is Her newest creation, and for now, if only for this fleeting moment, he has Her full attention—a dangerous and beautiful thing to have. She loves him, in that odd-edged, often inattentive way an ineffable, all-existing entity with no discernable beginning or end loves all Her Creations. Her children. Her pets. Her toys.

 

And so, when Adam asks, She listens.

 

She tells him to take his rib—cut it out, it will not hurt, you will heal—and plant it under a tree of his choosing. From it, his companion will grow, with skin formed of the earth and bones of the roots. This will be Woman, and God makes a Promise to Adam that this will be his desired companion, his devoted lover, his, for all his days.

 

She leaves him with this Promise, because Her focus is never quite where it needs to be, and the cosmos and the unformed Earth beyond the Garden and the war with its aftermath—much as She is disinterested in it—is calling Her. So Adam wanders alone and unsupervised, and he chooses a tree, one of sturdy branches and glistening red fruit in the middle of Eden.

 

Later, this will be deemed a dangerous tree—one Cursed with knowledge and with will, which Adam must avoid at all costs—but the Angels haven’t quite figured that out yet, and if God has, She has very much neglected to mention it. It is a beautiful tree, and a strong one, and when Adam plants his rib amongst its roots, it feels right.

 

He waits. Not patiently, mind you, because Man is many things but patient has never been one of them, but he waits.

 

Woman is born from this planted seed, as Promised. She sprouts from among the roots, bark and leaves and earth and bone. She has hair of the deepest red—like the fruit of her tree, like the setting sun each night upon the Garden—and golden eyes that glimmer with some untold destiny. Her voice is high and fierce, her skin soft, her angles sharp. Wild and free and eternal as the Garden that made her. She may not look quite like Adam, but they match all the same, and her hand seems as if it will fit in his when he offers it to her.

 

Adam looks upon her, and he does not know much about love, not yet, but he assumes this must be it all the same. God had told him Woman was made for him, after all. He pictures her perfect, just what he desired, and he is content. For now, at least.

 

God named Man Adam. Woman staggers into existence among fully formed trees that sing to her, animals that watch her, the Husband that waits for her, and she does so with her own name on her tongue.

 

She is Lilith.

 

She takes Adam’s hand.

 

She does not love him.

 

 

 

 

To be fair, it’s not that she doesn’t try.

 

Lilith tries so hard to love her husband that it almost hurts, with some strange, low ache in her chest—full of things she’ll later understand are grief and frustration—that she doesn’t know how to express.

 

She does try. She really, really does.

 

She gives him everything. She walks with him, hand in his, through the Garden. She sits with him among the animals, playing and watching and applauding as he—so proud of himself, so pleased—graces them with their names. She lies next to him at night, traces the planes of his face with her fingers, and she feels...she feels...

 

She feels nothing.

 

No matter how much she pushes herself, reminds herself that he is Man and she is Woman and she was literally made for him, she cannot bring herself to feel the things she knows she ought to.

 

Or, perhaps it’s about feeling too much. Adam, after all, does not seem to take time to dwell on his feelings, on what they are and are not. He is Man. She is Woman. She was made for him, and she is surely beautiful, because God promised him as such, and that is all Adam feels the need to know.

 

The only times Lilith truly feels the things she thinks she should feel when she looks at her husband are when she climbs high, disappearing into the leaves and branches, into the trees that whisper their stories to her, and gets as close to the sky as their foliage will allow. She sits cradled among their upper limits, eyes wide and fixed to the clouds and flashes of light above her, and she discovers longing, she discovers joy.

 

She is...restless.

 

Her days by her husband’s side, her nights across from him, they are so slow, so repetitive. It is an enormous Garden, crowded with all the life that will one day fill a world, but Adam largely just putters around his preferred parts, close to the center. His favorite cave where they sleep, the river that cleaves Eden in half, the animals that come to him on his resting rock so that he can admire them and sort them at his leisure. A little boy playing with his gifts from Mommy.

 

He has had so much longer than her to learn this place. He has had so much longer than her to decide he understands enough.

 

Lilith was not ever given that option. She never had that time alone, with just the animals and God’s lingering presence above her and in the back of her mind. She was never consulted—she was never asked. She was a solution to a problem, a finale to God’s newest, strangest Project.

 

She was created for Adam. She has never had a day not by his side.

 

Sure, neither of them got a choice about being made—but at least Adam got to choose whether he wanted a partner. Lilith was never given that luxury.

 

Adam is content. Lilith is not.

 

She doesn’t know how to be.

 

She is lithe and graceful and brimming from the roots of every red curl of hair down to each toe with curiosity. What and how and why. Especially why. Why, why, why.

 

Why is she here? Why is Adam? Why are they meant for each other? Why did her Husband receive dominion over the other creatures? Why is the Garden? Why is the Sky? Why is anything?

 

Adam doesn’t have the answers she seeks. In the twist of his brow, the tilt of his head, the purse of his lips, it’s clear they’re not things he’s even thought to ask.

 

Lilith does not quite know it, but she’s just reinvented the thing that divided the Heavens and sent the morning star sinking low. She is asking questions—a dangerous, defying thing.

 

So, when her Husband cannot soothe her queries, when he cannot make her happy, Lilith defies his order, too. She abandons her days sitting quietly by his side, and she wanders the Garden, in search of something she cannot name, cannot explain. She runs wild with the trees, the flowers—and surely, if Adam was given dominion over the animals, this is her domain in turn, because she was born from roots and knows each bark and leaf and petal, she understands it all so well. The trees scream and sing and speak for her, and she is not sure if they bring her comfort or agony, but the noise is so much better than just Adam. Always Adam. Adam talking. Adam snoring. Adam, Adam, Adam.

 

She still returns to his side at night, and when she looks upon him—his confusion at her constant disappearances and his relief at her reappearance and his sheer unquestioning innocence—she tries convincing herself that she hasn’t discovered hatred.

 

He hasn’t done anything to her, after all.

 

He just hasn’t done anything for her, either.

 

So she flees and flitters away, and back again, like a hummingbird dancing from its only source of nectar only to inevitably return, and she searches—she prays—for someone that isn’t Adam to speak to.

 

Someone. Anyone.

 

 

 

 

If you were to turn East from the center of Eden, and walk as far as your feet would take you, you would happen across a great Wall. Atop that wall stands an Angel—and just about the same time as Lilith, the first Woman, is exploring the breadth of her Garden, this Angel, Principality and Guardian of the Eastern Gate, is learning the short steps of his patrol. Back and forth, back and forth, a steady rhythm.

 

Let us call him Aziraphale. It is, after all, his name.

 

No one has exactly consulted Aziraphale either on whether he wanted the lot he’s been dealt, but then again, it’s not really good form for an Angel to have preferences on this type of thing. Angels are God’s perfect soldiers, unquestioning of the roles they are given to play, and obedient to no fault. Never ask whether an Angel would jump off a cliff if all their friends were doing it. Assuming it was on God’s orders—and they must assume as much, when everyone else is doing so—they would.

 

To think otherwise would be very worrying indeed.

 

So when Aziraphale is pulled out of the War, handed his new orders and flaming sword, he doesn’t wait around. He goes without hesitation, to guard Eden and its inhabitants, as asked. He certainly doesn’t feel relief at the idea of being removed from all this fighting, or apprehension at being tasked with looking after God’s newest creations. He doesn’t wonder if it’s cowardly to prefer this to the glory of ridding Heaven of God’s enemies—reborn from the ashes of Her own servants—and he doesn’t stand there day after day and slowly feel boredom sneak into his physical form.

 

And if he does—assuming he does, hypothetically speaking—well…who is there to tell?

 

The only other Angels around here stand at the other gates, and they hardly ever interact. Which is just fine with Aziraphale. He’s always preferred—if he’s allowed the luxury of preferences, in a purely internal sense—his own company, anyway.

 

And it is a glorious job, of course. A special job. God picked only the finest to watch over Her strange new creatures, Her humans.

 

Sure, perhaps Aziraphale doesn’t fully understand what these humans are, or why they are, or what they even look like, because he’s never seen them, but that’s all just fine, too. He doesn’t need to understand what’s inside, he just needs to keep it safe.

 

So, if he stands up there day after day, flaming sword in hand, pacing those ten steps back and forth, and he feels any of those things—anxiety or relief or cowardice or boredom—it’s not any of your business at all, is it?

 

No, it isn’t. It certainly isn’t.

 

Aziraphale is a good Angel. A very good one.

 

He will do this job, and he will do it well.

 

And he certainly won’t dare to wonder why. That would be quite unseemly, after all.

 

 

 

 

It’s a fine day—all the days have been fine, all have been the same—when something that will come to cause quite a bit of chaos down the line, the kind of chaos that nearly destroys the world, the kind that nearly saves it, is set into motion. Aziraphale is at his watch, as he always is, walking his steps in perfect lines. He keeps his gaze pointed on the middle horizon, head neither up nor down, and he’s…well, he’s not thinking about anything, really. He’s almost pointedly not thinking.

 

When he does spare himself the luxury of thought, it’s on the little things. The strange pleasure of the warmth of the sun, the tense lines of this small, fragile form his Divinity is coiled into, the grip of the sword in his hand. Feelings. Small, fascinating ones.

 

Everything is so tiny on this planet, so condensed. For an Angel, this planet is but a pebble in the ocean of existence, and yet in the form Aziraphale now holds, it’s also so vast.

 

And the days and nights—fascinating, those. Something new God trotted out just for Earth, to make definitive the passing of time here. If they seem short to Aziraphale, compared to the vast stretch of infinity, that’s simply something he’ll have to get used to.

 

They’re not necessarily bad. They break things up. As repetitive as they are, they keep everything from being exactly the same all the time—a stark difference from Heaven, which is so very much about consistency. Consistency is perfection in Heaven, and Aziraphale can’t help but occasionally wonder at how many of his fellow Angels would react to this strange duality of change and repetition. The sky does not stay the same, but its familiar stages of the day always return.

 

And yes, it is a nice day. This part of the day is nice. It always is. The next part will be nice, too. And the next—

 

“Excuse me?”

 

Aziraphale stops. He blinks slowly. He turns.

 

There is a creature sitting in a tree just below him, as high as its branches will take it up to the Wall. One of the humans—he knows the form, if nothing else. This one has vibrantly red hair, like the flames of his sword, and the brightest eyes he’s ever seen, which are watching him closely.

 

How odd.

 

The human waves. Aziraphale blinks again. Awkwardly, with stilted movements, he waves his hand back.

 

The human beams—a glimmer of teeth—and Aziraphale hesitantly mirrors the smile, lips closed.

 

Now which one was this, again? He’s really not sure. Head office didn’t exactly hand out pictures with the assignment paperwork. He suddenly rather wishes they had.

 

“Are you one of Hers, then?” the human asks, and when Aziraphale just stares, the human points at the sky. Ah.

 

They must mean if he is one of God’s. Well, of course he is. They all are.

 

He doesn’t say that, though. He doesn’t say anything. He just watches the human, and can feel something almost like panic squirm inside him. What the correct response is when engaged by one of the humans was never covered in his briefing—he’s not even sure if he’s supposed to respond.

 

Interaction never exactly sounded like a part of the job description. Still, it would be odd to just ignore the human, and they’re still staring at him, and oh, Aziraphale doesn’t want to be rude and it would be terribly rude to say nothing so he just says—“…Yes.”

 

Something in the human’s face brightens considerably, the corners of their mouth tugging up even more, and suddenly Aziraphale understands the difference between a polite smile and a genuine one. He’d never even realized there was one until now.

 

“Who are you?” the human asks this time, and Aziraphale feels something drip down the side of his face that he will later learn is sweat. He’d rather hoped answering the one question would be enough, that suddenly the human would whisk away or disappear like a puff of smoke. Apparently not. Perhaps it had been an unreasonable hope.

 

“…Aziraphale,” he says eventually, because he can’t just stop answering now. He doesn’t know whether he should ask the human’s name in turn—whether he’s supposed to know or it’d seem like he’s silly not for knowing or if he had been told and had just forgot

 

“I’m Lilith,” the human—Lilith says, pointing a finger back at themself, and Aziraphale could nearly breathe a sigh of relief.

 

Luckily, he doesn’t really need to breathe at all, unless he feels like it. Perks of being an Angel, and all.

 

He studies the human more closely. This must be Woman, then—and what funny creatures these humans are, with their whole “different sexes” business. It’d taken him forever to get a handle on the whole thing. Aziraphale doesn’t remember much about Man, but he does know God named him, and it certainly wasn’t that. He is sure Man’s name was mentioned in passing once or twice. He doesn’t think anyone told him Woman’s.

 

He should ask her why she isn’t with Man. He should tell her to go back, to run along home. He should turn around and return to his duty.

 

Should he? No one told him he couldn’t speak to the humans. It’s just that no one told him he should.

 

…This really should have been covered in the briefing.

 

“Can I ask you a question?” Lilith says, cutting off Aziraphale’s train of thought, and his brain promptly crashes into a whole new series of errors.

 

Aziraphale doesn’t know much about questions (just like Adam and love, it is all about not yet), but he does know they are dangerous. He does know they are what sent the morning star—Satan, now, he reminds himself, because he did get the memo on that revision—Falling, along with half of Aziraphale’s kind. He does know they’re not something he’s meant to have himself.

 

He’s not sure whether that applies to humans. Didn’t the briefing say something on innocence of good and evil? Are questions connected to that? Is wondering so much about this asking questions himself?

 

When it appears Aziraphale has been silent too long, Lilith snaps her fingers, looking vaguely annoyed. Aziraphale startles, then blinks again, feeling his fingers shift nervously around the hilt of his sword.

 

“Er—“ he stumbles out. “Well. You see…Yes, I suppose you may?”

 

“Awesome.” Lilith places a shielding hand above her eyes, and points her other hand outward, towards the sky. “What’s that?”

 

Aziraphale turns, following the track of her finger, and squints. “Are you referring to the sun?”

 

“Is that what it’s called?”

 

“Nobody told you?” Aziraphale says without thinking, and is startled at how aghast his own voice sounds.

 

Lilith snorts—and it’s not a becoming sound, not one you’d ever hear in any acceptable corner of Heaven, but for some reason it fills Aziraphale’s chest with…something. A bubbling, soft feeling he doesn’t know.

 

He likes it.

 

And then he promptly buries it.

 

“Nobody tells me anything,” Lilith says bluntly, and Aziraphale winces.

 

Perhaps he knows what she means. But, well, it’s not like he’s never told anything. That’s what the memos are for, when Gabriel and Michael and all the others are too busy fighting the War to talk and can’t you figure it out, Aziraphale? Be good, now, and run along. We’re all so frightfully busy.

 

“Surely your, er…husb…” Aziraphale stalls on the word, the human terminology so deeply foreign to him—so new, so weak on its legs as it stumbles between the only two creatures in the universe it applies to yet. “…Your Man would tell you?”

 

“Adam?” Lilith rolls her eyes. “Oh, Heavens no. Not sure he’s even asked that himself. He’s too busy with his animals. I don’t think when God told him he could name them, She meant he should name every single individual, but I guess that’s his business.”

 

“…Ah,” Aziraphale says slowly. “Shouldn’t you be with him, though?”

 

“Probably.” Lilith pauses. “Can I ask you another question?”

 

“Ah…”Aziraphale says again, with an entirely different meaning, and he almost wishes he’d known how to say please, kindly, go away, I don’t think I’m meant to socialize with you like this.

 

But still, the company isn’t bad, and perhaps—in the back of his mind, hypothetically speaking—he had been frightfully bored. Just a tad.

 

“Yes,” Aziraphale says, and he desperately hopes he’s doing the right thing.

 

 

 

 

“So, Aziraphale…”

 

She enjoys the way his name shapes her tongue. So long, so overly-complicated and difficult. It suits him well.

 

“Yes, Lilith?”

 

This is not the second time she has visited him. This strange Angel who guards the Eastern gate of Eden. This is neither the third, nor the fourth.

 

She’d have almost lost track of the number, if her brain didn’t cling to the times she’s here. This respite from her boredom spending her days in the same places, and from her vague hatred and sheer nothingness she feels when she looks at the husband she is meant to love, but can’t.

 

“How long have you existed for?”

 

Aziraphale’s face twists at her latest question, and Lilith could nearly laugh. He always looks so hopelessly confused when he has to explain things to her—as if, so used to being surrounded by Divine beings who simply know all they must, he doesn’t know what to do with someone so desperate to learn.

 

Sometimes, he looks rather terrified in the periods before he answers her, as if he’s afraid God Herself will swoop down to them and smack him over the head for talking to Lilith like this, for telling her these things. Lilith has no idea if there’s missing things she’s meant to know or not—if, like the Angels, she was meant to be born aware of all she needs to be, or if she was destined to absorb all the knowledge she desires. It’s not like Adam was born aware of the plants and animals—God had to tell him—but it’s also not like he’s asked much beyond what God readily said. He’s not hungry in this way, not like Lilith.

 

Other times, when Aziraphale answers her questions, something like delight flutters across his face, before he launches into his explanations. Lilith likes that one best. Aziraphale was born to be an information repository, she thinks. Hoarding it, savoring it, dispensing it at will. If there were a room somewhere out in the universe with simply knowledge crammed into every part and corner, Lilith imagines Aziraphale would be there, too. Right at home.

 

“Oh, well, that’s a rather complicated thing. You see, when God began Creation—” Aziraphale launches into a long-winded, rambling explanation, and Lilith closes her eyes, tilting her head to the sun. His words wash over her like the cool mist of the river, and it brings her something like peace.

 

What’s most important about Aziraphale, really, is the simplest thing. He talks to her—without looking down on her, without questioning why she wants to know so much. He just talks to her.

 

She’s rather sure he didn’t want to, at first. Were he not so anxiously polite that he couldn’t find a way to dismiss her, Lilith has no doubt he would have told her to depart at the first opportunity. The other Angels, the ones she approached before Aziraphale, they had no qualms with ignoring her or sending her away, after all.

 

Aziraphale didn’t, though—despite how much she could tell he wanted to, that first day. Even with every awkward pause and cough, he stumbled through his answers to all her questions. When she next came back, he did the same.

 

Over time, he’s slowly relaxed around her, and become more willing to talk, faster and less stilted. She’s not sure if that just means he’s simply grown begrudgingly resigned to her presence, or if he’s actually come to not mind her badgering him.

 

She supposes it doesn’t make much of a difference, either way, so long as he talks to her. So long as anyone who isn’t Adam will give her the time of day.

 

His explanations, his names for the things she doesn’t know, they soothe her. She’s not yet content, doesn’t know if it’s in her nature to be, but she feels better than before.

 

Even if a part of her would still like to call out to God and demand to know why she is here. Why she was grown for Adam. Why she doesn’t love him. Why the Garden is walled, why it is guarded. Why—

 

“Lilith? Lilith, are you listening?”

 

She cracks an eye open lazily, and watches Aziraphale as he glares at her. He looks as though he’d like to cross his arms and huff at her, but doesn’t quite seem to know what to do with his sword.

 

“Kind of,” Lilith says, distracting Aziraphale from his sword-related quandary, and he frowns sharply at her.

 

“It’s really not very nice of you to ask something only to ignore my answer.”

 

Lilith grunts, because he probably has a point, and swings in her seat in her tree to better face Aziraphale. Her lower legs slip from the branch, kicking in the air idly, and she doesn’t worry herself about what would happen if she fell. She trusts her trees. “Sorry. Thinking.”

 

Aziraphale looks somewhat mollified by her apology, nodding slightly, and his arms cross behind his back, sword caught between his hands. “What were you thinking about?”

 

“Just stuff. Human stuff.”

 

“Now, Lilith…”

 

Aziraphale’s admonishing tone really is quite good. Lilith has no idea why Heaven put him here guarding Eden and not in charge of some other Angels or something. Apparently they do that in Heaven—rankings, duties, instruction-givers and instruction-receivers. She wonders if it’s a bit like being expected to follow Adam everywhere. She wonders if Angels ever look at the ones designated their betters and want to scream.

 

She does not, of course, ask about any of this. She understands there are some things Aziraphale simply will not tell her.

 

She may enjoy his company, but she is no fool. He is an Angel, and of God. The same God who made her for Adam—and she has no idea what would happen if it was understood Woman is unhappy in her duties as companion to Man.

 

But still…

 

Perhaps there are some things he can tell her, when asked the right way.

 

“It’s just…” She pauses, chewing her bottom lip, and opts to study the juts of green below her amongst the tree line than the Angel in front of her. “Do you know why I was made?”

 

She flickers her eyes back up to Aziraphale, and watches him tilt his head and frown, a crease between his eyebrows. “You were made at Adam’s request, weren’t you?”

 

“Yeah, but I meant—” She waves her hands vaguely, letting go of the tree branch, and ignores Aziraphale’s mildly horrified look. She’s not going to fall. This is her domain, after all. “Why She made…Adam. Made humans in the first place.”

 

“Oh,” Aziraphale coughs, looking mildly embarrassed. “Of course.”

 

“So do you?”

 

“Well…” Aziraphale hesitates. “Well, no, I don’t.” Lilith deflates slightly, and he quickly adds on— “But I know it must have been for good reason!”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Yes, of course.” At this Aziraphale looks pleased, nodding with assurance to Lilith. “I’m sure it was all part of the Divine plan.”

 

“The Divine plan?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“What’s the Divine plan?”

 

“Oh, you know…” Aziraphale points hesitantly at the sky, then looks abashed at doing so, quickly pulling his hand back into a fist and behind his back. “Hers.”

 

Lilith frowns. “But you don’t know what’s in it?”

 

“No, of course not,” Aziraphale says quickly, firmly. “Nobody does. That’s why it’s the Divine plan, after all! It’s unknowable. Ineffable.”

 

“Ineffable…” Lilith echoes, and Aziraphale smiles warmly at her—neither quite a polite smile or a real one, but something in between.

 

Feebly, she smiles back, even as something dark and unhappy curls in her stomach.

 

For the first time, an answer Aziraphale has given her has proven unsatisfactory.

 

 

 

 

The day Adam climbs on top of her is when it all goes to Hell.

 

It’s not his fault, really. Nobody exactly gave either of them sex-ed—and affirmative consent hasn’t quite been invented yet, unfortunately. To his credit, he quickly gets away from her the minute she rebukes him, eyes wide and confused.

 

He just…didn’t know better. Perhaps the one time in all of history this can honestly be said of a man making advances on an uninterested woman. God knows Lilith will not spare that much credit to any man after this who tries anything similar. They all should have learned from their forefather’s example—when a woman says no, step the fuck away.

 

If she were someone else, if she were not caught up in questions and in emptiness, perhaps she could have embraced Adam in turn. Perhaps she could have caught his face between her hands gently, kissed him soundly, and they could have stumbled through learning how to make love together. Perhaps it could have been soft, and kind, and beautiful.

 

But she is Lilith—the Woman who doesn’t love her Husband and doesn’t understand why she is here and resents both Adam and God for her wrongness—and when Adam clambers onto her that night, hands reaching out for her and legs trying to slide between her own, she screams.

 

She screams and she hits at him and she curses him and she tells him to “Get off of me! Get the fuck off of me!”

 

And the minute he scrambles away from her, tripping over himself in his haste, she doesn’t think. She runs, ignoring Adam’s plaintive cries of her name, and all she is concerned with is going where he is not.

 

She walks until his voice is an echo on the wind—and then some more until it is gone entirely—and then she finds an old tree, climbing its branches until she finds a sturdy one. She whispers her pain into the bark, and the leaves rustle around her, crying out for her agony with her. The tree shifts and melds to cradle her, and she spends the rest of that miserable night there, sleeping fitfully.

 

When morning comes, she finds a small stream, and she wades into it. She scrubs fitfully at her skin, trying to erase the feel of Adam’s innocent, well-meaning, harming, burning hands on her body. She scrubs until her skin is raw, and when she still doesn’t feel clean, she sits in the stream and lets the water run over her shoulders, and sobs.

 

With each heaving breath, she bites down screams and curses at the God that made her, and she’s not sure who her tears are for: Adam—bumbling, sweet Adam, who never meant her any harm, who only wants a companion and asked God as much—or for herself, the sorry result of Adam’s wish to his Lord that came out entirely unsuited to her purpose.

 

Lilith sits there for what feels like an eternity, hating the world and herself and everything that brought her here, before a hesitant voice call her name.

 

“…Lilith?”

 

She startles, straightening up and wiping at her face, and sees Aziraphale, standing at the stream bank and staring at her with undisguised concern.

 

“Aziraphale?” she asks, and wonders if she’s imagining things. “Why aren’t you at your post?”

 

Aziraphale flushes slightly, which informs her he’s most certainly meant to be at his post, and awkwardly gestures towards her. “I heard you crying.”

 

Lilith feels her eyes widen slightly, and internally she curses herself, curses this weakness. “How close to your gate am I?”

 

“Very close,” Aziraphale says, and Lilith doesn’t know if that makes her feel better or worse. On the bright side, it means she wasn’t too loud. On the other, it means she subconsciously walked in the direction of the Eastern gate seeking refuge.

 

She doesn’t really know how to feel about that. She doesn’t know how to feel about that at all.

 

But she can’t say any of that to Aziraphale, so she pushes it all down, and she simply says “Good.”

 

“Good?” Aziraphale mirrors her cautiously, and she nods.

 

“Give me a second, would you?” she says, and without waiting for a response promptly dunks her face into the stream. She closes her eyes, and screams as loudly as possible, letting the water wash away her frustration into silence, and once she is out of air, resurfaces. Pushing wet hair back from her face, she nods to Aziraphale. “Okay. Let’s go.”

 

“What?” Aziraphale asks, looking completely lost, and Lilith stands up from the stream. She wades out to the bank, and then walks on past him.

 

“Back to your post,” Lilith says. She makes no effort to go another direction—no doubt Aziraphale will pester her until he knows why she’s so upset, and she’s no longer sure she wants to be alone.

 

Aziraphale hesitates, and then follows her in silence. When they reach the Wall, he returns to his post, and Lilith climbs up her usual tree, the branches shifting to help her along. Once she’s settled, Aziraphale shoots her several anxious looks, as well as a few quick upward glances—to the sky, to Heaven. “I could…sit with you this time, if you like?” he offers quietly, hands wringing nervously.

 

It seems like a small offer, but Lilith understands how significant such a thing is. Aziraphale is not one to break rules, and he’s already deserted his post once today in order to make sure she’s okay. Now he’s offering again, just to try and comfort her.

 

It warms something in her chest. What a strange, silly Angel he is. He confuses her so much. He makes her want to trust him.

 

But she can’t.

 

“No,” she says bluntly, because while she appreciates the offer, she needs this—Aziraphale on the wall, Lilith in her tree—the normalcy of it.

 

They stay there in silence for a while, Aziraphale watching her cautiously as Lilith avoids eye contact with him, studying her bare legs against the backdrop of the tree’s leaves, before he says—“I hope you know you can talk to me. About whatever it is that has you so upset.”

 

For a long moment, Lilith considers saying nothing, before slowly choking out “…Adam tried to…y’know…have relations with me.”

 

Azirapahle stops. Blinks slowly.

 

“Oh…”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“And you didn’t…” Aziraphale grimaces, and Lilith just watches him. This is the most uncomfortable she’s ever seen him—and she’s seen him plenty uncomfortable, at many different times. He’s clearly out of his depth. Do angels even have sex? Is this another thing God decide to throw into the mix just for Her miserable little circus in Eden? “You didn’t want that?”

 

“No.”

 

“Oh,” Aziraphale says again, clearly struggling for words. “Are you—”

 

“Do you think God makes mistakes?” Lilith asks him sharply, cutting him off. Whatever he was about to say, she doesn’t want to hear it. She doesn’t need his pity. She doesn’t need his queries into why she doesn’t want to have sex with her own husband. She doesn’t need any of it.

 

Mistakes?” Aziraphale says loudly, and Lilith winces. He doesn’t sound angry that she dared ask such a thing—more just confused, confused about why she’s asking and confused by this conversation in general. “I don’t think…no, God doesn’t make mistakes. She’s…well, She’s God, after all.”

 

“But could She?” Lilith asks, pressing the point, and she stares up at Aziraphale imploringly. “Could She?

 

Aziraphale flounders, mouth opening and closing and saying nothing, and Lilith huffs, turning her head away.

 

Of course he wouldn’t think God can make mistakes. Of course he wouldn’t. He’s an Angel. He’s one of Hers.

 

She can’t trust him. No matter how much she might like to, she just can’t. If he knew the thoughts in her head—her restlessness, her lack of love for Adam, her rage at the God who put her here—if he knew how broken she is, he’d surely tell the other Angels. He’d tell God, if She doesn’t know already.

 

And then who knows what would happen to Lilith, if it became known Woman isn’t what she’s meant to be.

 

She’s already crossed a dangerous line, she realizes, with a cold feeling in her stomach. She’s just told Aziraphale that she rebuked Adam, that she denied him when her whole duty is to be his companion in every way. She’s just told him that she failed to do what she was created for.

 

She has just put herself in considerable danger.

 

In this moment, she finally understands—she may enjoy his company, but that doesn’t make Aziraphale any different. He’s just as dangerous to her as Adam is, albeit in an entirely different manner.

 

Looked at that way, all of Eden will always be dangerous to her. This is God’s domain, Her special Project, guarded by Her Angels, and so long as Lilith is built wrong, she will always be one step away from someone realizing she isn’t right.

 

As of last night, she may have already crossed that line.

 

And she can’t walk it back. She can’t go to Adam and pretend to love him. She can’t let him crawl on top of her and do what he will. She can’t spend the rest of her days sitting by his side, playing the docile Wife, trying to content herself with her questions and conversations with Aziraphale.

 

She can’t.

 

Lilith stares out at eternity—the whole of it caught up in this Angel’s beautiful, fathomless, terrifying eyes—and suddenly, she is deeply afraid. Not just of being caught in her failings, but also in not being caught at all.

 

She can’t live like this forever. It would destroy her, too.

 

“I need to go,” she says suddenly, and swings off her branch, scurrying down her tree.

 

Aziraphale makes a concerned sound. “Lilith?”

 

She ignores him, scrambling down. When she nears the bottom of her tree, she lets go, falling to earth. The pain in her ankles from the hard landing stings, but for once, being on the ground feels safer than being close to the sky.

 

“Lilith!” Aziraphale calls her name again, and there’s a swoop of wings, before he lands in front of her, so many different things dancing across his face—worry, and confusion, and traces of pain. He knows she’s running away from him. He doesn’t understand why.

 

“Move,” she snaps, striding past him, and he doesn’t stop her, but he does turn after her.

 

“Would you please tell me why you are suddenly so reluctant to speak to me?” Aziraphale calls after her, polite as ever, and for once it does nothing but make her angry.

 

“No!”

 

He is a part of this place that is imprisoning her, too.

 

“Why ever not?”

 

She whirls around on him, and throws her arms out, gesturing wildly to him, to the Wall, to her. “Tell me, Aziraphale! You were sent to guard Eden—was it to keep things out, or to keep them in?!”

 

Aziraphale flinches, eyes wide and lost. “I—I was sent to protect its inhabitants.”

 

“That’s not an answer!” she screams, stomping a foot against the ground in pure frustration—and for a moment she could swear the trees creak and sway around them, caught up in the spell of their sister’s fury.

 

Aziraphale’s eyes dart around nervously, staring at the rustling plant life, and Lilith takes her opportunity, turning and darting into the depths of the Garden, only one thought in her mind.

 

I need to get out of here.

 

She cannot stay in Eden any longer.

 

 

 

 

It is near night again by the time she reaches the center of Eden.

 

She’s not quite sure why she comes this way—perhaps it’s because the Walls, guarded by God’s Angels, no longer feel safe. Or perhaps it was for this, she thinks, when she finds Adam asleep in the place they always rest, eyes closed and frame relaxed.

 

Perhaps it was to see him one last time. This Husband who is the reason for her cursed existence. The Husband she feels no love for, despite her best attempts, and whom she despises and pities in equal measure.

 

He murmurs in his sleep, and her heart hurts.

 

She wishes she could have loved him. It would have been so much easier for both of them.

 

But it’s just not in her nature. She may never know why, but that can’t change it.

 

“Adam,” she says softly, and he stirs, eyes fluttering open.

 

“Lilith…” he smiles, and it’s so gentle, so hopeful. He opens his arms, holding them out to her, inviting her, and she doesn’t move. His face falls, eyes turning somber. “Will you not lie with me?”

 

“No,” she tells him, as gently as she can manage.

 

Adam’s frown widens, confusion drawing lines in his face, along with something like pain. “I am sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

 

“I know,” she says, because she does, she does, but that doesn’t make her skin burn from his touch any less. It doesn’t stop her from hating him. His innocence speaks to his well-meaning nature, but it doesn’t erase the harms he accidentally did her. “Adam,” she continues. “Why did you get on top of me?”

 

Adam’s brow furrows. “You are my Wife.”

 

“Yes,” she admits, because this is true. “But I’m your partner. Your equal. Why should you be on top of me? Why shouldn’t I be on top of you?” It’s more rhetorical than anything—she’s not interested in either of them being on top of each other—but it hopes she gets the point across.

 

Until last night, he’d never done her harm, but he’s never asked her what she wants, either. Being Adam’s companion meant following his schedule, living as an accessory to his life. He’d never once asked her if he might join her in her explorations of Eden. He’d never once asked her if this was enough.

 

He may think he loves her, but he loves an idea, not a person.

 

“But—” Adam looks so lost, staring up at her with sleep-dazed eyes. “You are my Wife.”

 

She sighs, looking away. She wishes he could understand, but she’s not sure he can. So, instead, she moves on. “I’m going to be going away for a while.”

 

Adam nods slowly, sleepily. “Will you be back tomorrow?” He says it like it’s an assumed thing, and her heart breaks for him, just a little bit. Even with all her wandering, she always came back in the evenings. He always held out his arms for her.

 

He isn’t a bad man, really, no matter how much she resents his hand in creating her, resents his innocence, resents the touch of his hands on her skin. He’s not a bad man. He’s just not hers, and she doesn’t know how to be his.

 

“No.”

 

“Then…” Adam’s half-lidded gaze watches her, searching for an answer she will not give him. “The night after?”

 

“No.”

 

“Oh…when?”

 

“I don’t know,” Lilith says, and her heart whispers never.

 

“…Will you stay here tonight?” Adam asks, and, hesitantly, Lilith nods.

 

“Yes.”

 

Slowly, carefully, she crouches down and spreads herself out, lying next to him, just out of arm’s reach. He watches her somberly, something as hurt as it is lost in his face, before he drifts off.

 

She doesn’t sleep. She just lies there, studying her Husband, and when the first echo of daylight breaks, she rises, well before she knows he will waken.

 

She looks him over one last time, searching for some sliver of affection, of sorrow, but all she can remember is his hands on her the night before. She shudders.

 

She turns, leaving Adam behind, and she walks on.

 

 

 

 

It could be said Eden had much in common with a cage. Four impassible walls, keeping its treasure secure inside, and a lock on each exit.

 

Lock, in this case, being a metaphor for the Angels that stood guard at each gate.

 

Cages haven’t quite been invented yet, but when they do, the person who was once Lilith will look at them and think of Eden, and hate them.

 

Eden was beautiful, but it was also very much a cage. A gilded one—a fine one, indeed—but a cage nonetheless.

 

Still, a cage only becomes an issue when you know you’re in it. If you ever take a trip to a zoo, as many people have, you will easily be able to differentiate between the animals that understand they are in glorified cages and those that don’t. It’s something in the eyes. You just know.

 

This, if anything, was the problem with Lilith. Of all the creatures of Eden, she was the only one who understood they were all in a cage. It was perhaps the finest cage that has ever existed, but still something with all the properties of one. Four inescapable walls. A locked exit.

 

No doubt, many creatures have lived happy lives in cages. No doubt many still will. Had things been different, it is quite possible all of God’s creatures would have lived out their lives, eternal and at peace, in Eden.

 

But for every creature content to be caged, there will be another who will be driven mad by it. Who will do anything to escape—and once that door is open, it will never close quite the same.

 

Lilith opened that door. It wasn’t her fault. She was merely doing what a caged thing does.

 

She was clawing her way out, in the name of survival.

 

 

 

 

Lilith picks a spot on the Western wall of Eden, far away enough from the gate that the Angels guarding it are unlikely to notice. While her goal is very much not to get caught, doing this as far away from Aziraphale is part of her reasoning for choosing this spot. He’s the only one with any potential knowledge of what she might do, and the only one she would be unable to look in the eye if discovered.

 

Besides, presuming she manages this, someone will get in trouble. She’d rather it not be him.

 

She may not be able to trust him, but he has been kind to her. She owes him this much.

 

Once Lilith selects her spot, she gets to work chipping slowly at the Wall, using a stone from the ground. She has no idea how long this will take, or if it’s even doable, and she’s perfectly aware she probably only has a few days before Adam or Aziraphale realizes something is wrong.

 

She works day and night, sleeping as little as possible, and around her the trees rustle and sing for her, egging her on. Over time, she finds as her determination grows—her surety that this must work, it has to—the Wall crumples under her blows more and more easily. Until finally, after several days of desperate, wishful hacking at the Wall, the other side gives out, and she can gaze beyond the Wall, beyond Eden, into the world outside.

 

(Belief, as it has been said, is a powerful thing.)

 

On the other side, leaning out hesitantly through the gap she’s formed in the Wall, she can see a large body of water far below her, rushing and thrumming with rough waves of power.

 

She drops the stone she’d used to carve her escape, and she watches it fall down, down, down into the water far below, swallowed up whole.

 

Lilith shivers.

 

It’s a long way down indeed.

 

She stares at that water for what feels like an age, heart in her throat. She knows jumping down into that will be a very dangerous thing indeed—and maybe she doesn’t understand what death is yet, because that hasn’t quite wormed its way into existence, but she knows something about pain all the same, and as she looks, the air around her whispers of destruction.

 

She carries Divinity under her skin, and the roots of Eden are her bones, but she is also human—and while she may not be mortal, her body is so very real.

 

It would, she understands instinctively, be a very stupid thing to do to jump down into that. It would cause her great harm to do so.

 

It would cause her great harm to return to Adam, too. This she also knows with instinctive surety.

 

She is, literally, caught between a rock and a hard place.

 

She watches the water through her hole in the Wall until she hears the swooping of wings overhead. Carefully, she peeks her head out, watches unfamiliar Angels circle above. Mentally, she counts back the days, and bites down a curse. Adam or Aziraphale, it doesn’t really matter. Someone knows something is happening—something that shouldn’t be.

 

She has run out of time.

 

And really, there’s no decision to make here. There never was.

 

She backs out of her hole in Eden’s Wall slowly, receding to the tree line, just to be safe. Closing her eyes, Lilith reaches out one last time to the roots below her feet, and the branches overhead. She whispers her goodbye to the plants of Eden—her friends, her kin—to Adam, the Husband she is fleeing, and to Aziraphale, the Angel who showed her kindness when he didn’t need to.

 

She doesn’t need or want either of their forgiveness, especially not Adam’s, but she hopes Aziraphale, at least, will not suffer for this. That he will not be punished in some way for indulging her questions.

 

He had simply been too good to turn her away.

 

The trees and plants sing back to her, leaning in to her frame, and they promise her their love, their devotion, and that one day, when they have the whole world, their descendants will answer to her all the same.

 

The idea almost makes her laugh. A world outside Eden. She cannot picture it, despite it being where she is going. As if God would allow more of Her creations to escape from this perfect domain.

 

Not a single one will ever escape, if she doesn’t hurry.

 

Taking a deep, fortifying breath, she opens her eyes, and stares straight ahead at the hole big enough for her body not ten feet from her. She remembers the frightening rush of the water, and pushes it down, forces her rationality away as she had when she’d chipped futilely at Eden’s Wall. She’d clawed her way out. She can jump, too.

 

I am not going to fall, she tells herself in an empty assurance she wills herself to believe. I am not going to fall.

 

Wings swoop overhead once more, and then fade away, and she breaks into a run, sprinting from the tree line.

 

I am not going to fall.

 

Lilith feels each beat of the earth as her feet land. She feels the frenzied, terrified, determined pound of her heart in her chest. She feels the wind rush past her as she reaches her hole in the Wall.

 

I am not going to fall.

 

For a brief moment, she remembers Aziraphale, white wings spread to the sun, soaring up to retake his post after he abandoned it to look for her.

 

I am not going to fall.

 

Her feet reach the last step. They leave the ground, and she clings to her last frenzied thought.

 

I am not going to fall.

 

She jumps.

 

I am going to fly.

Chapter Text

If you were to ask Crowley what happened after Lilith jumped from Eden, he would likely tell you—assuming he doesn’t first want to know how you know to ask this in the first place—some elaborate, impressive story. It might involve the world’s first Olympic-scale dive. It might involve the Western winds catching up Lilith in their sway, dancing with her, and carrying her safely away. It might involve an enormous golden eagle who followed her from Eden, and on whose back she flew away on, looking rather windswept and impressive.

 

It might be many things. Which of these many things it is would depend almost entirely on how sober Crowley is when he tells this story. It would, for example, take approximately nine bottles—and a third of a tenth—of very good, very strong French wine to reach the eagle.

 

A hefty price, but certainly a worthwhile one—the eagle gets its own voice vaguely reminiscent of a Muppet. The whole thing is extremely entertaining, if horribly inaccurate.

 

In truth, Crowley has no idea how he got from where he was to where he ended up. Not a single one.

 

Perhaps Lilith really did fall that entire way down, and survived by some combination of very good luck and the fact that Death had not yet stirred from slumber and emerged into the world. Or perhaps Lilith really did fly away, after all.

 

Perhaps it was somewhere in between. Not quite flight, and not quite a fall. More of a vaguely downwards swoop, buffeted and slowed by feather and fear, boldness and belief.

 

The creature that is both Crowley and Lilith honestly doesn’t remember.

 

All they remember is the rush of wind in their ears, the screams and the hot burn of pain in their back, as something beneath the skin—within the muscles and roots—shifted and changed. All they remember is the elation, and the agony.

 

They vaguely remember a crash, too, of a kind. A collision. A splash. They remember being cradled in something vast and cold, yet gentle.

 

They remember the fleeting moments of darkness, fading in and out of consciousness over the longest time. Floating in black.

 

They remember choking.

 

They remember fighting, kicking, paddling.

 

And then they remember tasting freedom in large, heady, gulping gasps.

 

(But, of course, as Crowley would explain at the end of the tenth bottle, the eagle sounds much, much cooler.)

 

 

 

 

Lilith breaks the surface of the water with what starts as a screech, but is quickly cut off by a lot of coughing and hacking, struggling for oxygen. She doesn’t remember how long she’s been under—she has no idea where she even is—but in this moment, she could care less. All she cares about is breathing in, out. In, out.

 

Air has never tasted so sweet.

 

Pain makes up every part of her body, as does exhaustion, but she pushes past it. She looks around wildly, searching for land as she fights to stay afloat. She’s being carried by a wild current. She’s being buffeted by waves.

 

A river like that of Eden? A larger pool of water, like she saw outside its Walls? She has no idea.

 

She spies a shore. She swims for it desperately.

 

When she reaches it, she drags herself onto the beach, far up enough that the water cannot carry her back in and away, and then she collapses. She manages just enough energy to roll onto her back, staring up at the soft, white light above her. It’s beautiful.

 

The moon. Aziraphale explained that one to her, too.

 

Aziraphale. She’ll never see him again.

 

Lilith blinks once. Twice. And then everything goes dark.

 

She wakes, after an indeterminable amount of time, to someone snapping their fingers above her face loudly. She opens her eyes for a second—gets a vague glimpse of a figure—and then they slip shut once more.

 

She’s so tired.

 

“Oh, no, you don’t,” a high voice growls out. “Hey. Hey!” They snap their fingers again, louder this time, and then once more.

 

Lilith groans, and forces her eyes open, lifting a hand to shield her gaze from the sun.

 

Slowly, the figure comes into focus. They’re shorter than her, and pale, but with dark hair that hangs loose around their face. Awful red marks scour their cheek and a single eye, and run down in splotching patterns along the arm they have stuck in her face.

 

“Who…?” she more mouths than says, and the figure rolls their eyes.

 

“C’mon, get up.”

 

Their hand opens to hers, and she unsurely takes it. They pull her up—and she, stumbling, shaking, gets to her feet. She looks around. They’re still on the beach she remembers crawling onto from the water. There’s soft white sand below their feet, and when Lilith checks the horizon she can’t see the walls of Eden in the distance anywhere.

 

Suddenly, she could cry, and she’s not sure if it’s from relief or fear.

 

“You’re late,” the person with the dark hair says, cutting off any train of thought she might have otherwise begun to develop, and she blinks, looking back to them. For the first time, she realizes they have wings, and a thrill of terror goes through her at the sight, before she realizes something. Aziraphale’s wings were white—this person’s are black. Black, sickly looking, and drooping.

 

Suddenly, violently, she understands that whatever this thing is, they are not an Angel.

 

“…What?” Lilith says belatedly, and she’s not sure if it’s in question to what they said to her, or what she’s looking at. The not-an-Angel makes an annoyed sound.

 

“I said you’re late. We picked up the last stragglers two days ago. You’re lucky I decided to do one last search, or you would have been left up here alone.” They raise an eyebrow, and add on pointedly, as if it should be obvious—“You don’t want to be up here alone.”

 

“…Why?” Lilith asks, and the not-an-Angel snorts.

 

“Lord, you hit your head when you Fell or something? Or are you just dumb as Hell?” When Lilith doesn’t respond, they gesture upwards aggressively. “The Angels, dumbass! They can still get you up here.”

 

“Oh…” And now Lilith is frightened once more, just a bit. She is also very, very confused.

 

Very.

 

For a long moment they just stand there in silence, the not-an-Angel clearly waiting for Lilith to say something. When she doesn’t, they squint at Lilith, pointedly running their eyes up and down her body. Her cheeks burn. She’s not sure why. “What? Did you not even have time to grab a robe? Or are the bastards kicking us out naked now, too?”

 

“...What?” Lilith says, eloquently.

 

Never mind,” the not-an-Angel says, waving a dismissive hand. “Just—here.”

 

They make a complicated gesture with their hand, and Lilith startles as suddenly fabric is just on her body. She looks down, and stares at the garment wrapped loosely around her, much like the one she remembers Aziraphale wearing. Though this, too, is in black.

 

“Thank you?” she says quietly, looking back up to the not-an-Angel. She’s not sure why the garment was necessary, but she’ll admit she’s somewhat warmer now—the air here carries a chill that of Eden never did. “Thank you,” she says again, more firmly, and fights back a shiver as a gust of wind moves over them.

 

Something in the not-an-Angel’s eyes softens, just a little.

 

“You might want to shake out your wings,” they say, not unkindly. “They still look damp, and that’ll make you cold.”

 

“My…wings?” she turns to look over her shoulder so quickly she can feel a sharp pain in her neck, and her eyes widen. Just below her shoulders, growing from her own skin, sit two black wings very much like those of the not-an-Angel. For the first time, she notices the weight on her back, the strain of the new muscles and skin, the way she can feel the wind rustle her feathers.

 

Lilith recalls the rush of pain after she jumped from Eden. The feeling of her body bending, breaking, and reforming itself.

 

She doesn’t realize she’s shaking, near hyperventilating, until the not-an-Angel grabs her arm, and her attention.

 

“Look,” they say sharply. “I get it’s a shock, with the color and all, but you can’t go having a fit about it. We’re here now, aren’t we? There’s no going back. You’ll have to get used to it.”

 

“I…”

 

The not-an-Angel sighs. They turn their hold on her arm into a grip on her hand, and tuck it into the crook of their arm, and then pat her bicep awkwardly. She thinks they’re trying to comfort her. She also thinks they probably likely do not know much at all about comforting.

 

“Come on, then,” they say, and start walking, leading her along by their linked arms. Suddenly, Lilith very much feels like one of Adam’s lost animals, being herded by him back to where they belong, back home.

 

But she can’t go home, and she doesn’t belong anywhere.

 

“So, you got a name?” the not-an-Angel asks her. Lilith blinks slowly.

 

“Um.”

 

She almost gives her name to the not-an-Angel, but then bites back the word. She’s still not at all sure whom they are, or what’s going on. When it comes to their relationship to God and to the Angels, she’s equally at a loss.

 

At the same time, she has no idea if she’s still being looked for. For all she knows, if she gives this not-an-Angel her name, they might whisk her off back to Eden.

 

Just as with Aziraphale, and as with Adam, she must watch what she says.

 

For now, at least, they seem to believe she’s whatever they are, too. And that’s probably safer.

 

Yes, that’s almost certainly safer.

 

“Can’t remember, can you?” the not-an-Angel continues on, and they almost sound sympathetic. Just like with comforting her, she thinks they might genuinely have sympathy for her, but are simply very poor at expressing it. “Don’t worry. Most don’t. You’ll have to pick a new name, though.”

 

“What’s your name?” Lilith asks, almost thoughtlessly, and the not-an-Angel looks surprised, as if they didn’t expect her to want to know.

 

“…It’s Beezlebub,” they say quietly. “I don’t think that was my original name, but it’s mine now, all the same.”

 

“Beezelebub,” Lilith repeats. A lot like Aziraphale’s, she thinks. Very long. Very complicated.

 

Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Beezlebub smile, just a little, before one of the marks on their face breaks at the movement, and oozes red. They flinch, just slightly, and Lilith stops.

 

“You’re hurt,” she says, half-disbelievingly, because until now, hurt has always been an invisible thing—the ache in her chest when she looked at Adam, the burn on her skin from his hands. The marks on Beezlebub may be different, but she can tell they’re wounds all the same.

 

“Yeah,” Beezlebub says, as if it should be obvious. “Burns. Holy fire. From the Angels,” they hiss it like a curse, and Lilith blinks. Whatever Beezlebub is, then, they’re clearly not a fan of Angels, either.

 

Thank God. Or, well, thank anything but. Perhaps it means she is in safer territory, after all.

 

Perhaps there are other mistakes of God’s, too. Others who didn’t fit what they were made to be. Perhaps this is where they all ended up—washed up, literally, and abandoned by their Creator.

 

Lilith’s heart hurts, much as it did when she looked at Adam and wished she could love him, but differently. She looks at Beezlebub, and her soul cries to think there are others who have experienced the wrongness she has, while at the same time her body thrums with the knowledge that maybe I am not alone, after all. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

 

Almost unthinkingly, she reaches a hand out and touches Beezlebub’s cheek, cupping the burn. They flinch, and she wonders if she has overstepped her bounds. She and Adam touched each other as much as they liked—perhaps more than she liked, if she’s being honest—but she had never once touched Aziraphale. He’d seemed untouchable. Removed from such things. Perhaps Beezlebub is much the same.

 

They don’t move away, though. They just freeze, wide-eyed and stuck, as if their brain has stalled.

 

“You’re crying…” they say, sounding completely baffled, at about the same time Lilith feels tears hit her cheeks.

 

She sniffles.

 

It’s wrong, she thinks. It’s wrong that she hurts, that she suffers for this wrongness that has always been in her nature. It’s wrong that Beezlebub clearly has, too. It’s wrong that God’s creations should be punished—hunted and burned—and she doesn’t even know why Angels hurt Beezlebub, but she doesn’t need to.

 

They hunted her too, after all.

 

It’s all wrong, and she hates it. She hates that they both so clearly have been wounded by their Creator, and she hates that a physical mark of it has been left on Beezlebub, for all to see, whether they like it or not. She hates that their pain is made visible like this. She hates that they hurt. She hates it. She hates it all so much.

 

It’s wrong. It’s wrong, and they shouldn’t be in pain on their body when they so clearly hurt inside, too, and she wants it undone.

 

Suddenly, slowly, the feel of Beezlebub’s skin changes under her fingers, and Beezlebub gasps loudly, pushing her away. They stagger back, and Lilith pulls her hand back to her chest, eyes wide. She’s hurt them even further, hasn’t she?

 

She’s hurt them, because all she knows how to do is hurt. Hurt herself. Hurt Adam when he just wanted to love her. Hurt Aziraphale, surely, by running away from him that last time she saw him, and by running away from Eden, too.

 

She is Lilith, the first Woman, and she is a monster.

 

“…You healed it,” Beezlebub says quietly, disbelievingly, and Lilith’s thoughts stop in their tracks.

 

“What?”

 

Beezlebub removes their own hand from their cheek, and Lilith stares at where the red, oozing burn has vanished, replaced by a still-settling, yellowish set of even stranger marks. The marks are unbecoming, perhaps even bordering on disgusting—whatever they are, Lilith gets the feeling this is not what a healed burn is supposed to look like—but Beezlebub looks delighted when they trace their fingers over them.

 

“Your skin…” she says softly, mournfully, and Beezlebub snorts loudly.

 

“It was never going to be the same, anyway. Like a Demon could ever be perfect like an Angel,” their words have venom to them, and they spit and snarl when they say Demon and Angel. “I have no doubt those bastards fully intended for our wounds to never heal, so that we’d always have a reminder that we are filth to them.”

 

“Filth?”

 

Filth,” Beezlebub repeats acidly. “They wanted us to be monsters, so they did their damned best to make sure we’d look like ones.”

 

Monsters.

 

“Oh…” Lilith says softly.

 

“But…” Beezlebub runs their hand over their face again, unsurely. “But you healed it. It doesn’t hurt anymore. How the Hell did you do that?”

 

“I…” Lilith feels anxiety curl and settle in her stomach, then bubble up her throat. She swallows it down. “I just wanted to.”

 

Beezlebub squints very hard at her. They look half baffled and half annoyed still—though Lilith is starting to suspect half annoyed is just their default expression.

 

“Do you think you can do that again?”

 

Lilith shrugs.

 

“…Come with me,” they say, and start walking again. She follows them, until they lead her to another part of the shore. She stops, confused, but Beezlebub keeps moving, waving an idle, almost dismissive hand as they reach the water’s edge. The water explodes away from them violently, cleaved in two, and Lilith gapes as they continue walking, following a steep path down.

 

“Come on!” they shout impatiently, and she startles, chasing after them.

 

“Got a new one here!” she hears them shout, somewhere in front of her, and below her at the same time. She can’t see much of anything. Everything is dark, and the air itself is damp. She shivers. “Washed up on shore! Someone get me the new arrival papers, and a half-dozen of whoever the Angels fucked up most. We’ve somehow landed us a Demon who can heal.”

 

Demon, Lilith thinks.

 

Perhaps that’s what God’s abandoned are called.

 

Perhaps that’s what she is now, too.

 

 

 

 

If someone had asked Lilith why she followed Beezlebub that day, it’s likely she quite honestly wouldn’t have been able to explain it.

 

Some of it might be attributed to the fact that she felt she had no choice—because she was extremely, absolutely lost as to what exactly was going on, and very much desired not to be on the surface, alone, and exposed, should any Angels come looking for her.

 

If you were feeling bold, you might suggest Beezlebub in some way charmed Lilith, and that made her eager to follow them wherever they were taking her. That, however, would be a fundamental misunderstanding of what the Lord of Hell is like. Beezlebub is many things. Strict, domineering, intelligent, and—depending on whom you ask—perhaps hot. Charming, however, is not one of those things.

 

Perhaps you might think Lilith saw a glimmer of kindness in Beezlebub—trampled, burning, and dying as it was—and this reminded her of Aziraphale. That this led her to follow them, in the hopes that in them she might find an echo of the one person she’d met in Eden she might miss.

 

This isn’t a bad assumption, if not an entirely correct one.

 

Most likely, however, Lilith followed Beezlebub because she was separated from everything she had ever known, and she didn’t want to be alone. Because she had spent her short life wishing she could be something she couldn’t, and for the first time had been confronted with someone else who seemed to understand pain and hatred the way she did. Because she thought herself a monster, and Beezlebub called themself one as well.

 

On at least one front, this scenario is completely and utterly correct. Lilith believed she was a monster. The Demons thought that of themselves, too.

 

And you see, if you believe you are something that strongly, that is usually enough.

 

 

 

 

After Lilith leaves him—running off after screaming and moving the air and earth around them with her fury—Aziraphale worries.

 

He very much tries to convince himself he isn’t worried—that it isn’t appropriate to be worried, and his duty is not to worry about Eden’s inhabitants but to simply guard them—but, for once, Aziraphale is rather failing on that count. He worries. He worries intensely.

 

He’s not entirely sure why he’s worried, but all the same Aziraphale…is. He cannot shake, it seems, the feeling that something had just changed. Something big. And that something even bigger is about to occur.

 

Aziraphale understands none of these feelings, and so that prompts him into worrying even more—and then worrying a tad bit extra about his own worry, just to be safe.

 

He worries as he walks the ten perfect steps of his patrol. He worries as he stands with his sword in hand, gazing out onto the unsettled Earth beyond Eden’s Walls. He worries through the days, and worries through the nights.

 

He is, you might even say, apocalyptically worried.

 

But all this worry is for nothing, he assures himself over and over. Certainly, Lilith’s behavior was unusual, but unusual just about sums Lilith up—and no doubt she’d had a fright, after what happened with Adam. Aziraphale is sure of that much.

 

It’s not as if Lilith visited him every day, he tells himself, when night passes and dawn breaks and she is nowhere in sight. She’s likely just taking some time to herself, to recuperate, and gather her thoughts.

 

Perhaps she’s spending time with Adam, he thinks with the passing of the day after that. Perhaps they’re talking, sorting through the….issues in their marriage—and that’s a good thing! They certainly needed it.

 

Lilith and Adam are meant to make each other happy, after all, so it’s surely in Aziraphale’s line of duty to hope that they can.

 

And if he’s perhaps, just slightly, just a little more concerned with Lilith’s happiness than Adam’s, that’s not bias, that’s just…

 

That’s just…

 

Well.

 

What does it matter, anyway?

 

When the third day passes with no sign of Lilith, Aziraphale is beginning to be willing to admit to himself he has some…concerns.

 

Maybe she’s just wandering Eden again, in new directions. Directions that don’t lead to Aziraphale.

 

Maybe she’s mad at him. She did seem mad.

 

Oh, what if she’s mad…how is he supposed to apologize, if she doesn’t come back?

 

She’ll come back.

 

Surely, she’ll come back.

 

On the fourth day, Aziraphale finds himself looking down hopefully at every broken branch, every rustle in the trees. He chastises himself for doing so every time, before he winds up doing it again.

 

He’s worried, certainly, but it’s only professional courtesy. Polite, professional courtesy. An Angel doing the job of making sure his charge is safe and unharmed.

 

Aziraphale is just doing his job when he looks for Lilith. He’s just doing his job when he finds himself suddenly, inexplicably afraid that something very, very bad has happened to her. He’s just doing his job when he paces the top of his gate, wringing his hands, and wondering desperately if this is the time she really has fallen from a tree, or put her head under the stream again and didn’t surface, or Adam hurt her—Oh, God, what if he hurt her—

 

Aziraphale knows that the humans were created to be loving, and kind, and peaceful—unknowing of the line between good and evil. He also knows sometimes things go wrong.

 

The War, for example, had always felt very much like things going wrong, no matter how much everyone else had insisted it was pre-ordained.

 

And even if Adam didn’t mean to, Aziraphale knows he’d already hurt Lilith. He’d seen it. He’d felt the pain when he found her in that stream, hunched over and looking so small, and so defeated.

 

So yes, Aziraphale is just doing his job—considering all the dangers present to Eden’s inhabitants—when he finds himself creeping to the edge of his post, getting closer and closer to the inner part of the Wall. He is just doing his job when he debates jumping down once more and flying out over the Garden, to search for Lilith himself and check she’s all right.

 

He convinces himself it’s the right idea, and then talks himself out of it, and then convinces himself again. Mostly.

 

(Fast and firm decisions, it should be noted, have never been one of Aziraphale’s strong suits. This is something that will remain consistent for the next six millennia.)

 

Aziraphale pauses, he paces, he stares downwards, frozen in indecision.

 

And then the air around him changes, and he can feel it—he can feel the Heavens open up, and he can feel others descend, long before he can see them in the sky above, circling Eden slowly. It’s a change in the atmosphere, in the amount of Divinity he can feel coiled into this small, strange dot on the universe.

 

The others swoop down, disappearing into the trees, and without thinking—a remarkable thing for him, indeed—Aziraphale jumps from his post, and flies after.

 

Aziraphale isn’t sure what he expects to find when he lands, but what he does see as he touches the ground leaves him drawing a mental blank.

 

“…Gabriel?” he asks, feeling very confused, and the Archangel in question turns to him with a tight, polite smile. Behind Gabriel, two other Angels stand that Aziraphale only vaguely recognizes—and behind all of them is a human, sitting on a rock with their head in their hands.

 

The human isn’t Lilith.

 

Adam.

 

“Aziraphale!” Gabriel says, sounding pleasantly surprised, as if running into an old friend. His smile is warm—his eyes less so. “Aren’t you meant to be at your post?”

 

“I—Well—” Aziraphale coughs nervously. “Well, yes, but I saw…” he points a hand vaguely, desperately, upwards, and Gabriel raises a single perfect eyebrow. “And I thought something might have happened…”

 

“That’s one way of putting it,” one of the other Angels mutters, and Aziraphale just stares at them, hoping they’ll elaborate. They don’t.

 

“Well,” Gabriel says loudly, clapping his hands. “I suppose while you’re here, I might as well check. Noticed anything out of the ordinary, lately?”

 

Lilith crying, Aziraphale thinks. Lilith screaming. Lilith looking at him like he was something to be frightened of.

 

“…No,” he says.

 

“Huh,” Gabriel says lightly, in a tone that makes Aziraphale feel less like he’s just assured him and more like he’s just demonstrated his incompetence.

 

Something about Gabriel, he’s always found, makes him feel…small.

 

Perhaps, in the very recesses of his mind, Aziraphale might be aware that he detests that feeling—but he’s done a very good job of burying it, so far.

 

Is something out of the ordinary?” Aziraphale says eventually, when no one says anything, and prays that this time someone will explain.

 

“It seems the human Woman…er…”

 

“Lilith,” Aziraphale interjects quietly, and Gabriel shoots him an unreadable look, before he waves a dismissive hand.

 

“Yes, her. She’s been missing for a few days. Adam grew concerned for her, and approached the Angel guarding the Western gate to ask for assistance locating her.”

 

“…Oh…” Aziraphale says faintly, and inside himself he can feel something swoop, and drop. An empty, cold feeling. Dread. It’s new to him—and he doesn’t like it, not at all.

 

“We’ll find her, of course,” Gabriel says firmly. “She’ll be around her somewhere.”

 

“Of course…” Aziraphale echoes, and doesn’t say why are you here, then? Why did Heaven send an Archangel, if no one’s worried?

 

Aziraphale’s worried—there’s no point in denying that, anymore. He’s near paralyzed with it.

 

Oh yes, Aziraphale is very, very worried.

 

“You can return to your post,” Gabriel continues, polite and efficient as ever. He smiles, and it looks stiff, compared to the easy, sharp slant of Lilith’s grins. “We’ll handle this.”

 

Gabriel and the other Angels turn back to Adam, a clear dismissal, and before he can help it—before he can even think about it—Aziraphale blurts out—“I can help!”

 

Slowly, Gabriel looks back to him, expression blank, and Aziraphale falters. “I mean…I’ve been guarding Eden so long. I know it better. I know her.”

 

“Know her?”

 

Aziraphale winces, and amends quickly—“Know what she looks like.”

 

He never really did inquire as to whether he was supposed to be talking to Lilith—if he was allowed—and now is not the time to figure that out.

 

He needs to help look for her. He needs to make sure she’s okay.

 

It’s—it’s Aziraphale’s job.

 

Gabriel’s face is one of serene disinterest, and he opens his mouth, no doubt to dismiss Aziraphale once more, before one of the other Angels says thoughtfully “Well, four pairs of wings are better than three,” and Gabriel stops. His mouth closes, and a considering look passes over his face, before he sighs, just a little.

 

“Yes, that’s true.”

 

Aziraphale nods along quickly, trying not to look too relieved.

 

When the others take to the sky once more, though, in search of Lilith, Aziraphale pauses, falters. He looks at Adam, still perched on his rock and wearing a miserable, lost expression on his face, and Aziraphale feels…he doesn’t know what he feels.

 

So, as always, he pushes it down, and gets on with the task at hand. That’s what being an Angel is all about, after all.

 

He looks up once more, and then takes a deep—albeit unnecessary—breath. He begins walking, heading West.

 

There are already three pairs of eyes in the sky, after all, and while a fourth would be useful, even a single pair of eyes on the ground will be infinitely more so.

 

He walks for what feels like an age, trampling through unfamiliar bush, and wincing every time he brushes past a plant or an animal skitters in front of his path. For all his time watching Eden, he’s never been down into most of it—only that once, when he’d heard Lilith’s sobs on the wind. It’s so much vaster on the ground, and so much infinitely stranger.

 

It’s not beautiful—not in the way Heaven is, at least—but there’s something captivating about it, all the same.

 

Aziraphale walks and walks, and he listens for Lilith—for her voice, or the echo of her presence. He looks for flashes of red hair, or gold eyes, or long limbs. He finds nothing.

 

Eventually, he hits the Western gate. The Angel guarding it stares down at him, looking utterly baffled, and Aziraphale—unsure of what else to do—offers them an awkward, stilted wave, before pivoting and walking on, ramrod straight as he feels the Angel’s eyes on him.

 

Just when he’s starting to wonder if he wouldn’t be better off searching by sky, too, Aziraphale hears something. Feels something. A change in the wind—a whisper of a breeze that carries itself in a different way than most of the air in Eden does. It’s colder, he thinks—much colder.

 

At a loss for any other lead, he follows it.

 

And it leads him to the far end of the Western wall of Eden, and a thin hole—just large enough for a person to slip through. The grass in front of it is trampled, as if someone sprinted past and through, and beyond the wall he can hear water rage and crash with a deafening finality.

 

His stomach drops.

 

“Oh…” he whispers, taking a step back. “Oh, no…No…”

 

Tell me, Aziraphale! You were sent to guard Eden—was it to keep things out, or to keep them in?!

 

Distantly, he feels himself drop his sword.

 

“Oh, dear girl…” he moans in horror, in fear, and his hand curls in front of his mouth, nails biting into the skin. “What have you done?”

 

 

 

 

Michael looks at the hole. They look at it some more. They look to Gabriel, and then back to the hole.

 

“…What,” they say flatly. It is not a question.

 

Gabriel winces, and somehow manages to make it look graceful. If Aziraphale were in his place, he thinks he would be fiddling with his hands, twisting his fingers nervously, but Gabriel stays conspicuously still. Gabriel is not a fiddler. He’s far too in control for such things.

 

“It looks like she jumped,” Gabriel says, and Michael sighs.

 

“Yes, Gabriel, I see that.”

 

Gabriel doesn’t say anything else. Closer to Aziraphale, the other Angels present lean away from the Archangels, as if sensing some kind of negative energy radiating off the two. Aziraphale himself will admit there’s quite a bit of tension, but he’s not sure what will come of it.

 

He’s never really been able to figure out if Michael is Gabriel’s boss, or if Gabriel is the one who is Michael’s boss.

 

Michael had personally fought against Satan during the War, Aziraphale knows, but Gabriel…Gabriel has a charisma Michael lacks, in exchange for Michael’s quiet, firm competence. When a job needs doing quickly and efficiently, you get Michael. When you need someone to tell others what to do with a smug and unquestionable sense of superiority, you get Gabriel.

 

But simply being good at delegating and looking authoritative is not going to find Lilith.

 

So it makes sense Gabriel had summoned Michael when Aziraphale had—after a short and efficient panic attack—alerted the others to the hole in the Wall.

 

Michael is the clever one, after all.

 

…Maybe they’re each other’s bosses, at the same time.

 

They themselves do seem to be quite confused about whether one of them should be yelling at the other for this mess, and who the yeller should be.

 

After a while and a lot of silent, furious eye contact communicating things Aziraphale can’t hope to follow, they seem to resolve that the thing to do is to summon the Guardian of the Western Gate, and lay into them instead.

 

Aziraphale finds himself feeling quite sorry for his coworker—whom admittedly he had never spoken to, but seemed decent enough—as Michael and Gabriel give them a long lecture, which more than communicates that they have very much been fired, and will be replaced posthaste.

 

He is then suddenly very grateful that Lilith had chosen to escape from the Western side of Eden, and not the East.

 

Did she…do that on purpose?

 

She did, didn’t she? She must have. She might have. It’s possible.

 

Aziraphale doesn’t know how to feel about that.

 

He doesn’t know how to feel about a lot of things, currently—and he still can’t shake the lurch of nausea and panic he feels when he looks at the hole, and inevitably pictures Lilith jumping from it, and falling, all the long way down. As a creature who, for one, is Divine and immortal, and, for two, has wings, Aziraphale has never thought much on the subject of heights, and falling, and injuring oneself through said fall. He is, however, thinking about that a lot right now.

 

It’s a deeply uncomfortable subject to dwell on, but still better than the part of Aziraphale’s mind—the part that still wants to go sit in a corner and hyperventilate a bit more and maybe have a nice little cry to go with it—that is screaming, demanding to know why.

 

Why Lilith jumped. Why she felt she needed to leave Eden. Why she was apparently that unhappy. Why she didn’t just tell Aziraphale—she could have just told Aziraphale he would have…he would have…he would have done something

 

“Well,” says Gabriel, loudly and self-importantly, providing Aziraphale with a much-needed distraction. “Obviously she’s not down there, anymore.” He looks very pleased with himself for this deduction.

 

Michael gets a somewhat pinched look on their face, not quite hidden behind their placid veneer, that makes Aziraphale suspect they would very much like to grab something and smack Gabriel over the head with it, if it weren’t for the fact that Gabriel is their maybe-boss.

 

“Brilliant observation, Gabriel,” one of the Angels Aziraphale still doesn’t know the name of mutters under their breath, and the other one titters.

 

“She probably landed in the water,” Michael says slowly, voice measured and calm. They’re good at that. Even during the worst of the War—the parts Aziraphale was around for, at least—they always looked so serene and in-control. Aziraphale has no idea how they managed that: that perfect, unemotional barrier as they cut down their former brethren and sent them Falling. They’re an example all Angels should seek to emulate, certainly. “The real concern will be wherever the water took her.”

 

“There isn’t anything out there though, right?” Gabriel says. “Won’t be that hard to find her.”

 

“There are things out there,” Michael says, only a sliver of impatience creeping into their voice. “The Demons are out there.”

 

Gabriel squints. “I thought they’d be in…whatever it is we’re calling their new hovel they’re crawling around in.”

 

“Hell,” Michael tacks on politely.

 

“Hell!” Gabriel snaps his fingers. “Yes, that was it. They’d be there.” He has an expression on his face that speaks of a job well done, and Aziraphale really isn’t sure if it’s because he feels he’s pointed out something very thoughtful and useful, or because he thinks the Angels have done very, very well coming up with such a name for the Demons’ new lair. Aziraphale perhaps thinks Gabriel maybe shouldn’t take so much pride in something he couldn’t even remember, but only in the very back of his mind.

 

It’s not his place, after all, to think those things.

 

“Probably,” Michael says quietly, a little unsurely. “Probably.”

 

All of them stare at the hole in Eden’s Wall, and at the crashing, roiling waves below.

 

Demons, Aziraphale thinks. Please not those—anything but those. Don’t let them find her.

 

He shudders to think what they’d do to someone as sweet and thoughtful as Lilith.

 

 

 

 

It should be understood that when the Angels spoke of Hell, they had only a nebulous understanding of what that meant. They knew it was where the Demons went. They knew it was opposite to Heaven, and so they knew it was bad. They knew it was Below. That was about as much as they’d figured out at that point. The War was very recent history, after all. Extremely recent. A lot of things were still being worked out.

 

Of course, when looked at practically, it would probably make sense that when the Demons came crashing down—both literally and metaphorically—they didn’t understand much about where they were going, either.

 

There was no particular destination in mind. They just Fell.

 

Looking at the shape of all things as Heaven, Earth, and Hell, in an Above, Middle, Below dynamic is a rather simplified, and fairly Earth-centric way of thinking about the universe. However, it is true that, while the Angels and Demons didn’t fully know it at the time, Earth was where everything was currently happening—or where things were about to happen, at least—and as such when the Demons Fell, their landing point was indeed on Earth.

 

The Earth is mostly water, so it shouldn’t be that surprising, then, that the Demons landed in some—a very specific portion of that some. They later found, with their Master’s help, that they could open up passage to a new place that carried the taste of depravity and darkness, sin and sorrow. After some deduction, it became clear this must be their new home, their domain opposite to that of Heaven. Someone decided to name it Hell, and both the Demons and the Angels thought this decision was their own. It wasn’t on either account, but that doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things.

 

All of this is a way of explaining that this is why, when Beezlebub found a half-drowned creature with black wings washed up not that far from the mouth of Hell, they assumed she must be another one of their kind. It was, really, a very rational assumption—what else could she be, after all?

 

In short, welcome to the Sea of Reeds. Or, more specifically, just below it.

 

(Hell, after all, if you haven’t noticed, leaks terribly.)

 

 

 

 

 

“Jezebel. ”

 

“No.”

 

“Aversa. That’s got a nice, evil sound to it: Aversa.”

 

“No.”

 

“…Beezleburr.”

 

“Now you’re literally just changing the ending of your own name.”

 

“I’m running out of ideas!” Beezlebub says defensively, throwing their hands up. Lilith gives them a look as she gestures to the next Demon waiting before them. They take a seat in front of Lilith, and she screws up her face in concentration, pressing her hands gently to the drooping, still pussing wound on their face. There are burns along the edges of it, which makes Lilith suspect it came from a flaming sword like Aziraphale’s. She can only hope it wasn’t specifically Aziraphale’s.

 

Internally, she concentrates on the wrongness of the wound, her anger over it, her fury. She wills it healed, tells herself it should be healed and she can heal it, and slowly the skin begins to knit back together.

 

It’d taken a few stops and starts in the beginning, after Beezlebub, but she’s starting to get the hang of it. She wants so badly to help them, her new companions, and that seems to push the process along.

 

“Ashtoreth,” Beezlebub says desperately. “That’d suit you, it really would.”

 

Lilith pauses, pretends to think about it.

 

“…No.”

 

“Oh, come on!”

 

“No.” She takes her hands away, nods to the Demon before her. “Do you feel okay?” There’s still a large scar, already sprouting strange colors. This is the thing she has found about trying to heal the Demons—whatever Heaven did to them, it really has marked them forever. Even Lilith can’t change that.

 

“She means you’re done,” Beezlebub snaps, and the Demon flinches and quickly gets up, ducking and bowing away. Next to Lilith, Beezlebub fumes, muttering under their breath about how they think Ashtoreth is a perfectly fine name even as they watch the other Demon leave.

 

“Oh, all right,” Lilith amends helplessly, if only to shut Beezlebub up, and because it really isn’t a bad name. “I’ll…think about it.”

 

Beezlebub’s face lights up, looking pleased, and she can tell they think they’ve won. “Good.”

 

“Anyone else?” Lilith asks, absentmindedly wringing her hands to try and shake out the cramps she can feel forming, and Beezlebub gives her a knowing look.

 

“No,” they say, the you burn out if you try to heal too many at once going unsaid.

 

Lilith sighs. “…Okay.” She’s learned better than to argue with Beezlebub, when they’re really set on something. They’re just too good at the whole thing.

 

They have a natural authority—a commandeering, curtailing presence. The Demons don’t seem to have any kind of formal hierarchy figured out yet, but many of the others defer to Beezlebub all the same. That’s just who they are, Lilith has come to realize.

 

Beezlebub is a leader, and a commander. They also pretty much haven’t left Lilith’s side in the time since her arrival to the Demons’ home. They guard her furiously when she heals the other Demons, keeping them in lines and stopping them from swamping her, and when she’s not doing that, they cart her around at their side as they give directions, organize other Demons, and try to get what they’re calling Hell in a working order.

 

Given Lilith had rather expected Beezlebub to chuck her in a corner and leave her to her own devices as soon as possible, it was rather surprising at first, but she’s adjusted for the most part. Beezlebub still isn’t nice to her, and gives her plenty of looks that convey they thinks she’s extremely stupid, but really they look at everyone like that, and proportionately Lilith gets less looks than most of the others.

 

Beezlebub…likes her, she thinks. As much as Beezlebub can like anyone, at any rate. Maybe.

 

They think she’s useful, at least. Useful, and tolerable enough, to keep an eye on.

 

Not that she minds. Compared to the near-endless expanse of Eden shared only by herself, Adam, and the animals, the cramped halls of Hell, littered with hundreds of confused, camping-out Demons, are somewhat overwhelming.

 

It is…a strange place. A very strange place.

 

Lilith isn’t quite sure she belongs here, but given the only options seem to be Hell, Eden, or an empty shoreline, she’s not really sure she truly belongs anywhere.

 

And while she has once again found herself in a situation where she’s been mistaken for something she’s not, it’s better than being Adam’s wife, at any rate,

 

She still feels that restlessness, certainly, but while Lilith is many things, stupid isn’t one of them. Above Hell, she’d be alone, and an easy target for any Angels looking to punish her, or take her back to Eden.

 

Lilith may not particularly like Hell, but it’s far better than going back. Infinitely better.

 

She’s never going back to Eden, to Adam, to the domain of the God who’d created her so ill-fitting for her role. She’d do anything to prevent that.

 

She’s startled from her thoughts as Beezlebub takes her wrist, and they both stand up, Beezlebub tucking her hand into the crook of their elbow as has somehow become their custom. They snap their fingers irritably, and someone hands them a bundle of grubby, crumpled paperwork. They frown down at it, flipping through and muttering under their breath as they and Lilith walk along.

 

“Some scouts have been going out, you know,” they say conversationally—though Lilith did not, in fact, know. “Under His orders.”

 

“His?”

 

Beezlebub shoots her one of those looks that communicates how moronic she’s being to their mind. “Satan. Our Lord.”

 

“Oh, right,” Lilith says quietly. She’s heard bits and pieces about that—about the War—but it’s hard to ask questions about something everyone presumes you were a part of, so most of the information has just come from conversation she’s overheard. Satan was an Angel once, as were all the Demons, before something happened, and they all were kicked out of Heaven and were…changed. He was their leader, and the first to take on this new form.

 

That’s really all she knows. That, and that she’s never seen Him.

 

When Beezlebub talks about Him, it’s with reverence.

 

“What are the scouts looking for?”

 

Beezlebub waves a hand in a vaguely upward, ambiguous motion. “Trying to figure out what’s going on up there, most likely.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“There’s talk that the Lord—” Something complicated—a little sad, and a great bit more furious—passes over Beelzebub’s face, and they correct themself forcefully. “The Angels’ Lord has created something up there. Some kind of walled…something.”

 

A garden, Lilith thinks, my garden, and she swallows it down.

 

“Oh?” With Beezlebub, when they have something they want to say, she’s found it’s best to keep her replies short and to the point.

 

“Some think there’s something in there. A new form of life.” A sharp, bitter grin forms on Beezlebub’s face. “If there is, I wonder if there’s a way we couldn’t cause some damage. Get a little payback.”

 

There’s a pain in Lilith’s chest, much like she felt when she used to look at her Husband, that aches dully at their words. She’s angry, she’s so angry, when she thinks of the God that made her for Adam and made her wrong, and she is beginning to understand all to well how Beezlebub and the others, others who have suffered for not being what God wanted them to be, would want to wreak some kind of retribution.

 

They were made into monsters. Might as well act like them, then, after all.

 

But…

 

But it’s her Eden. The Garden with all her plants that sung and spoke for her. Aziraphale.

 

None of the Demons quite seem to know what payback, and damage, and wreaking havoc are when they talk about it in snatched and acidic whispers, because they all seem to still be figuring out how this Evil business works—they were condemned for as much, so they must be, to their minds, surely—but it weighs on Lilith all the same. The possibilities of it all.

 

“What do you think?”

 

“Me?”

 

Yes, you, you fucking dumbass.”

 

Lilith frowns, swallows down her hammering heart, and pretends to think very hard.

 

“I don’t think there’s anything up there, really.”

 

Beezlebub snorts, and mutters half under their breath “You may be right.” Lilith relaxes, just a little.

 

“Isn’t sending scouts dangerous, anyway?” she asks belatedly, just now thinking about it. “What about the Angels?”

 

Beezlebub frowns. “No one’s seen any. They seem…pre-occupied with something. No idea what, but so long as they don’t come here, I don’t really care. Do you?”

 

“…No,” Lilith says slowly. “I guess not.”

 

Whatever they are pre-occupied with, she can only hope the matter in question isn’t her.

 

 

 

 

At the same time, very far away, a band of Angels forms, electing to fly out West from Eden, following the currents of the water. They will recover Woman, and return her home to Man. This they are quite certain of.

 

If they run into any Demons on the way, they’ll just send them scurrying back to where they came from. It’ll be easy, they’re sure.

 

The Principality of the Eastern Gate watches them go, perhaps wishing he could go himself, and fighting against that wish.

 

He can only hope they find her, and bring her back safely.

 

 

 

 

Lilith is up on the shoreline above Hell, standing in shallow water and scrubbing fitfully at herself and her robe. Every now and again, at every slight noise, she flinches and cranes her head skyward, looking around wildly, before returning to her task.

 

She is alone. She knows this is a very stupid thing to be, right now, especially up here, but she is. She has to be.

 

She’d put the matter off as long as she could, but she has a body not like that of the Demons, and it is a body she is used to cleaning regularly. Unlike so many things, it is not something she could convince herself she doesn’t need—especially when sometimes she falls asleep and dreams of being dragged back to Eden, and Adam climbing on top of her once more, and wakes up in a cold sweat.

 

She doesn’t sleep as often as she probably should, but she’s found her body is getting used to that. When she does sleep, though, she finds empty spaces in the dark corners of Hell to curl up in, and the other Demons more or less leave her alone.

 

It’s a weird thing to do, in their eyes, certainly, but it’s a weird thing that’s not bothering anyone else. So why would they care?

 

So Lilith has slept when it pleases her, and put off routine cleanliness. Except today she’d woken up with blood between her legs, and small pains in her body, and…and…well, she couldn’t put it off any longer, then.

 

So, when Beezlebub’s back was turned, she’d slipped out of Hell. She’ll be back before anyone even notices, hopefully.

 

If she can get this blood out, at least. She’s scrubbed and scrubbed, but it doesn’t seem to be doing much good, and her body seems determined to just keep producing more.

 

She doesn’t understand it, and her body is in pain, and she can feel her eyes well up with tears every time she stops long enough to let herself think.

 

Maybe she’s been cursed—the cost of fleeing Eden.

 

Her body twinges again in discomfort, and she grunts furiously, stripping her robe over her head and flinging it into the water. It’s stupid to keep it on when her body is seemingly determined to make it even more tainted.

 

The robe floats on the surface in a misshapen, soggy lump. It’s faded to a cool grey, she realizes belatedly. She wonders when that happened. None of the other Demons’ robes have done that.

 

She pushes the matter aside, both figuratively and literally, and dunks her head under the water, running her fingers through her hair. A few violent moments of scrubbing gets rid of the worst of the grime, and then she focuses on detangling the knots.

 

It feels nice—something about her body she can get in order, and can control.

 

The still peace of the moment is broken, though, when she resurfaces to the distinct noise of feathers cutting through the air above her. She looks up, and spies white wings circling overhead, coming closer—and closer, and closer.

 

“Shit,” she mumbles.

 

Sound, she has just discovered, does not travel as well underwater.

 

Lilith shoots upward, grabbing her robe, and stumbles out of the water. The sounds of the wings get louder, closer, and she breaks into a run, sprinting for the mouth of Hell.

 

She’s so close. She didn’t go far. She can make it. She can make it—

 

One of the white-winged figures lands in front of her, and she screams loudly, backpedaling away. When she turns around, there’s another Angel on that side, too, and before she knows it she’s surrounded on all sides. Trapped.

 

In her chest, she can feel her heart pounding violently, adrenaline and fear alive in her body. She faces the first Angel, and just over his shoulder, she can see the patch of shore that will lead her back to Hell. The Angel in front of her pointedly steps into her line of vision, blocking Hell’s entrance from her sight, and she flinches.

 

She takes a single step back, robe clutched to her chest, and shoots another glance over her shoulder. The angel behind her is still there, as are the others on her sides. In fact, they’re even closer now. Close enough that they could link hands if they desired.

 

Lilith spins in a circle, watching all of them warily, and half-snarls, baring her teeth. She feels more animal than human, right now, but she could care less. She will tear them apart with nails and teeth if she must to escape. They will not take her back.

 

She escaped Eden with a single stone and determination. This cage of bodies has nothing on that, Angels or not.

 

The largest Angel, the one blocking the way back to Hell, holds up his hands placatingly. He has a look on his face—calm and condescending—that makes her suspect he’s used to feeling in charge. She dislikes him immediately.

 

“Lilith,” he says calmly, and she hisses at him. He looks rather affronted by the sound.

 

“Let me go,” she says, and the Angel’s smile turns politely disagreeable.

 

“Now, Lilith. You know I can’t do that.” He nods to the other Angels, and they take a step closer. The one on his right is the shortest, and the slimmest, but has an aura about them that sings of danger. Lilith decides to keep the closest eye on that one.

 

Just because the big one is doing the talking does not mean he’s the real leader here, or the one to be most worried about.

 

“I’m sure you’ve had quite a fright,” the large Angel continues. “Being out here in all this…” A faintly disgusted expression passes over his face. “Unshaped chaos, but you don’t have to worry any more. We’re here to take you home.”

 

No,” Lilith growls. “It’s not my home, and I’m not going back. I won’t let you.”

 

“Your husband is worried about you,” the small, intelligent-looking Angel says, in a higher voice than the large one. “Adam misses you very much. Don’t you want to see him?”

 

Lilith’s heart aches, filled with pity for the Husband who did her such unmeaning harm, and whom she knew she could not survive eternity with. The Husband she left still trapped, albeit unknowing of it, in Eden. But it’s only sorrow for their sorry situation—there’s nothing borne of love or affection in that pain.

 

“No,” she says firmly. “I don’t.”

 

The large angel shoots the smaller one an exasperated look.

 

“You’re Woman,” the large one tries. “You’re meant to be by Man’s side, as his wife. That’s what you were made for—you can’t just leave.”

 

The smaller one nods along. “Running away doesn’t change that, Lilith.”

 

Lilith knows it doesn’t, but she—she—she wants it to. She likes it here, among the Demons who know neither her name nor nature. She is not Woman here, she just is.

 

“Then, then—”

 

Her face screws up in pure frustration, and somewhere inside her, she feels something—that same something that dug its way out of Eden, that sprung her wings of freedom and healed her new Demon companions by her word—sit up and say loudly: No, I refuse.

 

If she’s so ill-fitted to the task of being Woman, perhaps its time she threw away the whole thing altogether.

 

It never suited her, anyhow.

 

“Then I refuse to be a woman!” It’s spit defiantly, full of fury and thunder, and as soon as it’s said, it just is.

 

She…they just are.

 

For the first time, they feel something among the odd-edged pieces of their being—pieces that have always grated together painfully—slide into place. It clicks with certainty, and they feel a little more at peace than they ever have before.

 

Oh, they think. Perhaps I was never a woman to begin with.

 

Lilith stands before the Angels that would cage them, defiant, and they refuse to cower.

 

The Angels all exchange bemused glances, and the big one says, sounding entirely baffled: “It doesn’t work that way.”

 

Lilith glares at him. “Yes, it does.”

 

It doesn’t really matter, they decide, if they’re a they or a she. They’re not a woman—let alone Woman—and they’re not Adam’s Wife.

 

And they’re not going back.

 

They tell as much to the Angels, who are starting to look quite put out by this whole interaction. The small one has a crease between their eyebrows that sings of a headache.

 

Very put out, indeed.

 

“You were meant to be a wife, and a mother. You’ll be cursed if you do this, Lilith,” the smaller angel says, politely threatening. “You’ll become a Mother of Monsters.”

 

Lilith doesn’t understand much about what Mother means (not yet, not yet), but they know plenty about Monsters, and when they think of the lost, wounded Demons just below them all—so deeply sad and so broken by their own Maker—that they have been doing their best to heal, but just can’t seem to put back together quite right, they wonder if that might not be the same thing, anyhow.

 

“You have no idea,” they say darkly. Something complicated crosses over the Angel’s face.

 

“Gabriel…?” says one of the two Angels that haven’t spoken until now, and when Lilith glances at them, they look unsure, eyes darting between Lilith and the largest Angel. A hard look settles on the large Angel—Gabriel’s—face.

 

“You have to go back,” Gabriel says firmly, sharing one last unreadable glance with the small Angel, and then nods, advancing on Lilith. “You are going back.”

 

He grabs Lilith’s arm forcefully, and they startle, trying to rip it away. “No, I’m not!” they yell loudly. Gabriel manages to get an arm around their waist, with the other Angels’ assistance, and Lilith screeches. “Let go of me!”

 

There’s the buffeting of wings through the air, and Lilith feels their feet begin to leave the ground as Gabriel takes flight. The toes of one foot brush against the ground uselessly as they kick out with the other, struggling and crying out as they do their best to wiggle out of Gabriel’s hold.

 

“Let go of me!” they shout again, managing to knock an elbow roughly into Gabriel’s face. He makes a sound that is more surprised than it is pained, but it’s enough to loosen his hold on them, and they manage to squirm their way out of his arms, falling back to the ground. They land on their side with a yelp, forearms scratching against the sand, and quickly get to their feet.

 

They look up in time to see Gabriel and the other Angels reaching for them again, and, with a rush of fear, they feel something come loose inside them, much as it did the day they realized they couldn’t trust even Aziraphale—kind, awkward Aziraphale, who never even said an cruel word to them, and certainly never would have thought to hurt them like this.

 

Don’t touch me!” they scream, and around them the sea and surf erupts in time with their fury, answering the call of a being carrying both Divinity and the bones of the Earth under their skin.

 

Water and weathered sand may not call Lilith kin as the plants of Eden did, but the world outside Eden is as of yet unshaped beyond the bare essentials, and in the absence of its Maker, it will happily recognize another creature of Earth suitable to command it.

 

Lilith may be human, but they are not mortal, after all. Far from it. And few things in this world are as powerful as fear.

 

(Love would be one of them, but Lilith has as of yet learned to harness that. Give them time.)

 

The Angels don’t curse, as that isn’t a thing Angels tend to do, but they do make very loud, shocked, and affronted noises as the world around Lilith explodes, every element of nature present seemingly and suddenly dedicated to pushing them back and away from their target.

 

Something like the world’s first hurricane has just been born, and Lilith is currently the eye of it.

 

Lilith stands there long enough to stare the Angels in the eye, gold gaze cold, and then they run. The storm is their cover as they sprint and slide, avoiding the reaching hands and loud shouts of the angels, close but not close enough, as they reach the mouth of Hell.

 

Let me in, they think as they reach it. This is the refuge of Monsters. I am a Monster. I am a Demon. Let me in.

 

The water parts, clearing the long way down, and Lilith follows it.

 

Grey brushes their ankles as they run. Somewhere along the line, without really even realizing it, they’d simply assumed their robe was back onto their body.

 

And so it was.

 

 

 

 

 

As the mouth of Hell knits itself shut, four very damp, very befuddled, and very unhappy Angels make their way back to Eden.

 

Aziraphale watches the distant storm, and waits, and worries.

 

It’s a nice day in Eden, certainly, but very far away storm clouds are brewing.

 

Those storm clouds will stay.

 

 

 

 

“Your wife isn’t coming back,” Michael tells Adam firmly. Man stares at them. He is very confused.

 

“Why?” he asks. It is, perhaps, the first real question he’s ever voiced. The Angels’ feathers ruffle uncomfortably.

 

“One of us will have a word with the Lord—“ Gabriel says.

 

“Well, one of us will have a word with the Metatron,” one of the others corrects.

 

“And we’ll get a new wife sorted out for you.” It isn’t asked if Adam wants a new wife, it’s simply assumed. As such, Adam is left to draw the conclusion that, yes, he guesses he must want a new wife.

 

After all, Man is meant to be with Woman.

 

His brow furrows, and he nods slowly.

 

If he has any other questions, he doesn’t choose to ask them. The Angels look relieved.

 

 

 

 

Michael, Gabriel, and co. depart for Heaven, very happy to leave this strange, miserable place. They’ve all decided they rather can’t stand the sea, and nature, and the Earth in general.

 

Adam is instructed to cut out another rib, and to leave it lying on some grass, well away from any trees. God will take care of the rest.

 

He is also instructed to forget about Lilith, not to speak of her any longer, and to—for the love of all that is holy—stay far, far away from the tree that Lilith was born from. He shouldn’t, under any circumstances, touch its fruit, let alone eat any. In fact, it’d probably be better if he didn’t touch the tree at all. Just to be safe.

 

Nobody thinks to speak to Aziraphale about any of this. He is sent a memo, instead. He sits down at his post—and he knows, he knows that’s not good form, but his knees suddenly feel weak—and stares at it for a very long time. He burns it with his sword, watching it slowly crumple into ash, and feels hollow inside.

 

He doesn’t know why, but he’s getting used to that—and to the feeling.

 

 

 

 

High up on Eden’s Wall, the Guardian of the Eastern Gate watches the sun rise.

 

It’s a nice day. All the days have been nice. Perhaps they always will be.

 

“Hello,” says a voice far below him. He turns.

 

Standing on the ground is a human. She has dark, curly hair, and pretty eyes. She is not Adam, nor Lilith. That only leaves so many conclusions that can be drawn.

 

“Can I help you?” Aziraphale asks slowly. Something inside him hurts violently at the words.

 

(Aziraphale, while he does not understand it, has just discovered nostalgia. That, and regret, is something he will find he has to live with quite often for the next six thousand years.)

 

Woman smiles politely. Her eyes are vaguely glazed over, and there’s something lost inside them. The air around her stinks of unconscious misery, or perhaps that’s just the leftover scent of Lilith on the wind. Perhaps Aziraphale is looking for similarities that aren’t really there. “No, I don’t think so,” she says.

 

Aziraphale nods slowly, and the expression on her face doesn’t change at all.

 

“I don’t quite know why I came this way,” she says idly, an undercurrent of oh, silly me in her voice. “I should probably get back to my husband.”

 

Stay, if you like, Aziraphale nearly says, but this is not Lilith, and making conversation is not his job. He knows that now. His duty is to protect Eden’s inhabitants, and whatever he did to Lilith by speaking with her, it did not protect her. Quite the opposite.

 

So, instead, he merely says—“Yes, most likely.”

 

She tips her head in something like a goodbye, and turns away. Aziraphale watches her walk a little ways, and then, before he can help himself: “Before you go…”

 

Woman turns.

 

“May I ask your name?”

 

For a moment, she looks deeply surprised, and her eyes widen slightly. Then it disappears, back under the mask. Aziraphale wonders if inside she’s screaming, like Lilith must have been—like a tiny part of Aziraphale, buried under every mental barrier he could heap on top of it, is.

 

“It’s Eve,” she says, with neither joy nor sorrow attached to the words. “Adam named me Eve.”