Work Header

Real Fire and Brimstone Stuff

Work Text:

Warlock’s parents were rich. (His dad said “we invested wisely”, his mom said “we’re comfortable”. Warlock knew they were just rich.) Warlock went to a very good (exclusive) English university, far away from his parents after a suffocating undergrad year in the US, to study Economics and Arabic, where he lived in a very nice (expensive) student housing unit, and had a very eccentric (bug-fuck crazy) roommate.

Warlock’s roommate was called Dentworth (Warlock had rolled his eyes but had learned long ago that he had no room to talk when it came to weird names). Dentworth was studying computer science, and was deeply, deeply into conspiracy theories. Not, thank fuck, QAnon or any of that 4chan stuff, but it was all aliens built the pyramids this, Nicolas Cage is an immortal vampire that.

Two semesters in and Warlock was kind of used to the whole conspiracy thing, so he wasn’t too weirded out when he arrived home to find Dentworth setting up for a conspiracy club meeting, chairs in a circle and projector screen up. What did stop Warlock in his tracks were the photos thrown up on the screen -  on the left, a slightly fuzzy and overly exposed Victorian portrait of a man with a top hat and sideburns, wearing weird old-fashioned sunglasses. On the right, a photo of a crowd on a dark street – maybe a parade or protest or something? – everyone in early 2000s clothes, zoomed in on a man with longish red hair and round sunglasses. Something about the shape of the glasses and half-captured profile niggled something at the back of Warlock’s head.

“What’s the theory of the day?” Warlock asked in a blandly casual tone of voice.

Dentworth was only too happy to have the opportunity to educate, and didn’t question the fact that this was the first time that Warlock had ever expressed curiosity about any of his theories. “It’s fascinating, isn’t it? Look at these photos – taken over a hundred years apart, and it’s the same person! It’s the kind of thing that we couldn’t have found ten years ago without some serious manual searching, but there’s all sorts of algorithms now that pick up these things.”

Warlock cocked his head and narrowed his eyes at the photos. “Are you sure it’s the same person? Sure, they look similar but the glasses kind of throw it off. And the photos are kind of fuzzy.”

Dentworth nodded eagerly. “Of course! It could be just family resemblance, but these aren’t all the photos we have of this man. There’s a few more, plus – and this is really exciting – some older artwork, paintings and things. They don’t show here, but he’s got quite a distinctive tattoo on the side of his face-“

Warlock slowly sat down, mind whirring as Dentworth nattered on. Dentworth was kind of bonkers, but there was something about the photos and he did kind of think that it was the same person. Why did Sunglasses look familiar? “What’s the explanation?,” he interrupted Dentworth to ask. “Vampire? Immortal, like that old Highlander movie? Time travel?”

“Like Doctor Who? I suppose he does look a bit like Ten. No, good ideas, Warlock, but I’m actually thinking this one is a little more esoteric.” How much more esoteric can you get, thought Warlock, then thought of some of the books in Dentworth’s room and sighed mentally. A lot. “The symbology in the tattoo actually led me towards some Biblical texts, real fire and brimstone stuff, and my theory is that he’s a-“

“Demon,” said Warlock flatly. That was the resemblance, Nanny Ashtoreth wore glasses just like that, and she had all the stories and rhymes about the demonic armies of hell. God, Warlock was still working out his weird childhood in therapy.

“…yes, actually,” said Dentworth, sounding a little nonplussed at missing out on the breathless denouement he’d planned, then he brightened. Warlock felt immediately wary. “Maybe you can help me! I found a…well, a ritual, a summoning thing, in a scan of an old book. I wanted to try it, but it needs at least two people, and I didn’t want to try it with the club here. I don’t suppose….?” He trailed off hopefully.

Warlock rolled his eyes. This was absolutely ridiculous, and he had studying to do. It was hardly going to work and give him the chance to ask someone about Nanny Ashtoreth and all that weird demonic end-of-the-world stuff she’d been on about. He stood up to go to his room, and was quite surprised to hear himself say “Sure, why the hell not.”

Dentworth, who had never expected Warlock to actually agree, wasn’t going to risk him changing his mind. In no time at all the area rug was pushed back, six candles lit and placed in a circle, the lights turned off and a circle with a pentagram and wriggly sigils was being drawn on the wooden floor.

It looked like a scene in a budget horror movie just before some stupid college students got more than they bargained for and horribly killed. Warlock questioned the life decisions that had brought him to this point.

Dentworth finished copying the last sigil with an artistic swoop and stood back with a pleased, and slightly fanatic, look on his face. “That should do it! Now we just need to kneel at the north and south points, then we use the knife-“

“What the fuck, you didn’t say anything about a knife!”

Dentworth frowned. “We’re summoning a demon. You don’t do that with, with flowers and happy thoughts. You need a blood sacrifice-“ Warlock made a strangled noise. “-and unless you want to behead a chicken, the easiest way to do that is a few drops of our own blood. Hardly anything, really!”

Warlock ground his teeth, but knelt down anyway. In for a penny, in for a pound, or whatever. Dentworth had, with a slightly self-conscious glance at Warlock, changed into black robes with silver embroidery around the hem. Like that’s something you just have hanging in your wardrobe? Black jeans and black t-shirt would be as ceremonial as Warlock was going to get, and oh look at that, that’s exactly what he was wearing anyway. How convenient!

Dentworth knelt on the opposite side of the circle, printout of the ritual and supplies laid out next to him, and picked up a small paring knife from the kitchen.

“No,” said Warlock.

“It’s the sharpest!” protested Dentworth, holding his forearm above a small ceramic bowl.

“That’s the good knife,” said Warlock. “Seriously? We’re not using the good knife for this.” He pulled out his Swiss Army knife from his pocket, a treasured gift from – hah – Nanny Ashtoreth, who had quietly slipped it to him after his mother had absently said “Of course not!” when he’d asked for a pocket knife like the other boys at school had. Nanny, apparently, had different thoughts about the suitability of arming children. Warlock had conscientiously looked after the knife through the years, keeping the hinges oiled and the blades sharp. He pulled open the smallest knife and handed it to Dentworth.

“Right! So, I’m just going to, ah, make a little nick, we only need a few drops each, it’s symbolic, and I’ll read the Latin. Then you do the same and…I guess we’ll see what happens?” He looked nervously at Warlock, who gestured impatiently at him to go ahead. “Right!” Dentworth held the knife to his forearm and gingerly scratched himself, raising a red welt and not even a drop of blood.

“Oh, for-!” said Warlock impatiently, and held his hand out for the knife. Dentworth handed it back obediently, then yelped when Warlock held his wrist firmly and leaned over the circle to make a quick, light cut.

Dentworth hissed and glared at Warlock, but quickly held his arm over the bowl, allowing several drops to fall in before pressing a tissue against the cut, then carefully putting a band-aid on it. (The band-aid had Star Wars characters on it. Warlock chose not to comment.) Warlock took back the knife, wiped the blade clean and quickly cut his own arm to contribute to the bowl while Dentworth started reading in stilted Latin.

When it was his turn, Warlock’s recitation was smoother – Dentworth might have a British private school education, but Warlock had been personally tutored by Nanny, who had firm ideas about how Latin was really pronounced – and as he finished he and Dentworth sat it hushed silence.

Nothing happened.

Warlock made awkward eye contact with Dentworth across the circle, and raised his eyebrows meaningfully. Dentworth tugged at his robes and looked embarrassed.

Nothing continued to happen.

Warlock let his eyes wander across the candles and the chalk circle, then paused. He couldn’t say why, but one of the symbols just looked a little off, the one that looked a bit like a snake looped back on itself. He picked up a bit of spare chalk and drew in the missing loop. Just…there….

“What are you-“ said Dentworth just as the chalk lines suddenly sucked in the flame from the candles and glowed for a moment before dying to leave scorched shadows in the wood, and dark red light burst and swirled in the air about three feet above the middle of the floor.

Warlock scrambled back, eyes wide and heart starting to thump as a shock of adrenalin made his stomach fall in panic. “What the fuck?! Dentworth, what’s happening?”

“I-“ said Dentworth, before his eyes rolled back in his head and he collapsed backwards in a faint.

“Useless arsehole,” muttered Warlock. The red light brightened, then with a horrible slithery thump a huge black snake fell into the middle of the circle. All the light went out, candles and whatever special effect had caused that glow extinguished in a heartbeat.

Warlock was man enough to admit that he whimpered, then pulled his phone out of his pocket and turned on the flashlight, aiming it with shaking hands at the huge fucking snake. The reptile was moving slowly, pulling its heavy body into coils and head lifting to look around, revealing a red belly. It flinched when the flashlight hit its eyes and Warlock quickly aimed the light at the floor.

“Oh my god,” Warlock breathed.

“Wrong ssssssside,” hissed the snake.

“I’m…I’m just going to turn on the lights,” said Warlock. If this was actually some kind of demon – and Warlock wasn’t saying demons were real, but a supernaturally large talking snake was in the middle of his living room, so he wasn’t going to definitively rule anything out – there was no harm in being polite. He edged backwards, not taking his eyes off the snake, until his back hit the wall by the door and he smacked upward until his hand hit the light switch. He and the snake both blinked in the sudden bright light. (Snakes don’t usually have eyelids. Snake also aren’t usually this large, and possess the capacity to talk.)

If Warlock had hoped that things would seem more sensible under nice, modern electric light, he was disappointed. The vague hope he’d had that this was some practical joke and special effect by Dentworth was ruined when the snake was so very real under the lights. Not rubbery, no strings moving it, just a very real corporeal solidness. It was glaring at him from within the chalk circle.

“Who…what’s your name?” asked Warlock. That was a thing, wasn’t it? You got the name of a demon or whatever, and it gave you power over it?

The flicked its tongue at him. “It’sss written right there in your clever little circle. Not that it’s what I’m going by these days. How did you even get it to work anyway? I didn’t think any of the old ritualssss hanging around were actually accurate.”

Warlock shifted closer, horrified and fascinated in equal measures. “Are you a demon?”

“Of coursssse I’m a bloody demon. What else do you expect to get when you make a demonic ssssssummoning circle?” The snake peered around the room. “Oh, are we in America? This sssseems like a very American thing to have happen. Pretty sure I’ve seen this movie.”

Warlock didn’t quite know how to react. He’d sort of thought demons would speak in flowery language. Latin, or all “Thou hast summoned thy doom, foolish mortal.” Not swear in an English accent and talk about horror movies.

“No, England. I’m American, though. It’s just that I thought you’d look like a person. Dentworth had photos, that’s who he thought he was getting.”

The snake peered at the unconscious Dentworth. “Oh, wasss it his idea? And you’re just along for the ride? Suckssss to be you, I guess.”

“Why…why is that? Are you going to…” Warlock tried to convey ‘smite us in a horrible bloody revenge’ with hand gestures. It was only mildly successful, but the snake snorted, sounding amused.

“Me? No, you’ve ssssomehow lucked into constructing a circle that I’m actually ssstuck in. For now. I’ve got a friend who’ll be on his way, though.”

“Another demon?” Warlock asked faintly.

“Ehh. No. But if you keep me all stuck in here, he’ll probably get all…smitey.” The snake moved forward slightly within the circle and came up against the outer border of the circle as if stuck on an invisible wall. It hissed in annoyance. “And don’t even think about trying to get me to, I don’t know, murder your enemiessss or whatever people ssssummon demons for these days. You’d need to let me out of here for that, and I promisssse you that the first person who tries to get me to do ssssomething like that is not going to be happy.” The snake reared up – nearly as tall as Warlock, and half its length was still coiled on the ground – and glared at him.

Warlock took a deep breath. Then another. This was like an episode of Buffy or something, and he had a bad feeling he was cast as the idiot college student who was going to get karmically killed by the demon he’d summoned. Fucking Dentworth! Warlock moved cautiously to sit in the middle of the floor, giving the demon in the circle some personal space.

“The thought hadn’t crossed my mind,” he said, honestly. “I didn’t think this would work. I just…I guess I hoped that if it did I could…ask you some questions?”

The snake settled back. “Oh, fine. I don’t have much loyalty to my old management these daysss, I don’t care about giving up a few of their sssssecrets. But I reserve the right to not anssswer if I don’t want to.”

“Right! Right. Fair enough.” Warlock picked up Dentworth’s laptop, woke up the screen, and pulled up the photos Dentworth had been showing him before. He spun it to show the demon. “Do you know this man? It’s who my roommate thought he was summoning.”

The snake peered at the laptop, then reared back. “Might do,” he said, previously casual tone hardened and suspicious. “What’s your sssstake in this?”

Warlock spoke carefully. “I thought he looked familiar, that’s all.”

“Doubt it,” said the snake. “You said you’re American, aren’t you? Those photosss are all taken in England. Probably just…one of those faces, anyway.”

“I grew up in London. And it sounds weird, but when I was a kid I had this nanny, she left when I was ten, and when Dentworth showed me the photos I thought he kind of looked like her. I was just curious. She said some weird stuff about hell and I guess I thought, maybe….”

The snake had sunk right back as Warlock spoke. “You never told me your name,” it hissed.

“Warlock,” said Warlock. “Why, does that matter?”

The snake peered at him for a moment, tongue flickering out to taste the air. “Hmm! Ssso, you think that everyone who looks sssimilar is a demon? That ssseems….ssspeciest.”

Warlock flushed. “That’s not what I meant! I just…look, Nanny Ashtoreth told me about armies of demons, and my therapist has been encouraging me to-“

“You need therapy?” the snake interrupted, looking vaguely guilty. It was a very odd expression on a snake.

Warlock waved that away. “Well, yeah. All my friends have a therapist. Mom has a therapist. It’s not a big deal. It’s only, I spent years telling myself that Nanny just had a morbid sense of humour, gothic old English nursery rhymes or something, but I couldn’t really believe that. Like, she really seemed to believe it all, you know? And I kind of did too. Not that I really wanted to grind the world under my heel and set the world on fire, but I need…answers. Context for it all.” Warlock pressed his lips tightly together for a moment, feeling churned up. It was probably really stupid to be talking so much to a demon, they could probably use your secrets against you, but Warlock somehow had the feeling that the truth was important. The snake was quiet, waiting for Warlock to continue. “Also…I missed her,” he said in a small voice. “Nanny went away before my eleventh birthday and…” To his horror he felt hot tears pricking at his eyes. “I loved her. My parents were really shitty parents, and Nanny was just so…she wasn’t nice, not to other people, but she listened to me and looked after me, and then she was gone.” Warlock pressed the heels of his hands to his eyes, and sniffed, then sat up straight. “So. That’s what I want to know.”

“Oh,” said the snake, quietly. It looked as if it was about to speak, then a sharp knock at the door shattered the quiet of the flat.

“Excuse me!” called an English voice through the door. “Hello! Is anyone in there?” More knocking, and the handle turned. “I must insist you unlock the door, please, or I’m dreadfully afraid I’ll need to let myself in. I’m looking for a friend of mine.”

Warlock looked sharply at the snake and raised his eyebrows. The snake opened its mouth in a serpentine grin. “Told you a friend was coming,” he said. “Better let him in.”

Warlock shrugged and went to unlock and open the door, narrowly avoiding being knocked in the forehead. “Oh! Thank you!” said the blond man at the door. Warlock gaped as the man gave him a nod then pushed past into the room. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected a friend of a demon to look like, but it wasn’t fussy Englishman with a fondness for Victorian waistcoats. Then again, this entire evening was kind of unexpected.

In a corner, Dentworth snored.

“Aziraphale!” said the snake. “About time!”

The blond man – Aziraphale, apparently, Warlock felt like his name was positively normal in comparison – snorted, and stood inspecting the chalk circle. “It’s not just as easy as all that to miracle oneself to Oxford this quickly, you know. What kind of pickle have you got yourself in to? Young man,” he said, addressing Warlock. “Is this your doing?”

“Well, yes, but-“ Warlock couldn’t continue as he found himself backed against the wall, the middle-aged man having moved faster than he’d thought possible. Aziraphale hadn’t raised a hand to Warlock, but stood in front of him, radiating…not fury, but Warlock had never felt so completely judged. The man’s eyes were extremely blue and stern. Warlock squirmed.

“Angel,” the demon said. “It was mainly the other one, the one snoozing in the corner there. Our friend Warlock-“ and Warlock didn’t think he was imagining the faint stress on his name “-was really just a bystander. We’ve been having a nice chat.”

Aziraphale turned to look at the snake in surprise, then whirled back to look at Warlock. “Warlock…oh! Really?”

The snake nodded. “Seems so.”

“Well!” the man’s demeanour changed immediately, and he beamed at Warlock. “What a lovely surprise! But…” He frowned slightly. “Young man, in this house we do not summon demons. It’s terribly rude.”

Warlock felt like someone had pulled a rug out from under him at the same time he was looking at one of those optical illusions where it’s a rabbit or a duck, as a sense of déjà vu washed over him. It was exactly like a flashback scene in a movie, memories from his childhood, West Country or Scottish accented voices, “Young Master Warlock, in this house we do not throw rocks at frogs,” “Warlock dear, in this house we do not swear at our parents, even if they deserve it,” “Young man, in this house we always put away our toys when we are done playing”… Nanny Ashorteth and that funny gardener with the sideburns, gently and firmly laying down their rules and guidelines. In retrospect, it sounded like they were parroting what some parenting book had told them, but at the time little Warlock had grudgingly appreciated the boundaries – it seemed so much fairer than his parents focussed don’t, stop, not allowed, oh Warlock are you still there.

“Um,” Warlock managed intelligently, but Aziraphale had already turned back to the chalk circle.

“Well, can you get me out?” said the snake impatiently.

Aziraphale pulled out a pair of reading glasses from a pocket and bent to examine some of the sigils. “Actually, you can get out yourself. If you see here, it has summoned and bound the serpent. If you’re not actually a snake, you should simply be able to walk right out.”

The snake made an outraged noise. “Really? Really! Alright, fine.” He wriggled back to the middle of the circle, then paused. “Don’t go anywhere, Warlock. This might, er, be a little odd, but I guess I owe you some answers, so.” The snake nodded firmly at Warlock, then started to change. Warlock stared, jaw dropping, as the snake morphed smoothly into a man – the man from the photos, but completely nude. When he was completely man-shaped again, he shuffled cautiously forward to the edge of the circle, lifted one finger to poke at what had been the barrier, then when it found no resistance, stepped quickly out of the circle.

“Crowley!” said the other Englishman reprovingly, a slight blush on his cheeks. “Really, there is a child here!”

“I’m nineteen,” croaked Warlock. That tone of voice the other man had just used was really quite similar to the way Brother Francis used to say “Ashtoreth” when the Nanny was encouraging Warlock to get up to mischief in the garden.

Crowley snapped his fingers, then signed. “Being summoned takes it out of you, you know.”

“I don’t, actually,” said Aziraphale.

“It’ll take me a little while to manifest anything larger than a sock.” Not that Crowley looked like he was bothered by standing buck-naked in the middle of a room. If anything, he was almost posing, one hip jutting out, arms hanging artfully casually by his sides. Warlock blushed. Aziraphale looked like he wanted to be frowning, but he kept darting looks at the other man.

“Young master Warlock, would you be so kind as to loan my friend here some clothes?”

“Yes, Brother Francis,” said Warlock obediently, trotting off to his room. He was coming back into the living area with soft black trackpants and a t-shirt in hand when he realised what he’d said and stopped dead in his tracks.

Aziraphale and Crowley were standing where he’d left them. They looked…shifty.

“It is, isn’t it?” said Warlock accusingly. “You don’t look the same, but you’re Brother Francis, aren’t you?”

Aziraphale gave an awkward little wave. “Aye, I’ve done a mite of gardenin’ in my day,” he said in that West Country accent. It sounded awful. Crowley elbowed him.

“And Ashtoreth…do you know her? Was she like you?” he asked Crowley.

“You mean you don’t recognise your old nanny?” said the demon in a soft, Scottish voice. Warlock couldn’t help it. His eyes flicked down to the evidence that the person in front of him wasn’t his – slim, a bit pointy, but definitely female – nanny. Crowley smirked at him, making no effort at modesty, and Aziraphale lunged forward to pull the clothes out of Warlock’s unresisting hands. “Honestly, Crowley!” he tutted, shoving the clothes in front of the other man’s waist and frowning at him until he’d taken them and pulled them on.

Warlock sank down towards the sofa, staring at the two beings in his living room. He managed to miss the sofa, and plopped onto the wooden floor. He dragged his hands down his face, then tilted his head back to look at the ceiling. “How does that even…What was my childhood?”

“Warlock,” said Crowley in his normal tone of voice, “you just summoned a demon, and saw me transform from a snake into…” He waved a hand up and down his body, indicating man-shaped being. “A little gender tweaking is nothing.”

Warlock covered his eyes with one hand and wondered if his therapist would be able to schedule him for an extra-long session this week. “Demons, I can understand.”

Really?” muttered Aziraphale. “That’s more than I’ve managed, and I’ve had millennia of practice.”

“But…” Warlock moved his hand and looked at Crowley and Aziraphale. Ashtoreth and Francis? “Why were you my…caretakers? I mean, what the hell was going on?”

“Exactly!” said Aziraphale. He moved to perch on the sofa that Warlock had failed to sit on, and patted Warlock’s shoulder comfortingly. It was the most comforting shoulder-pat Warlock had ever received, actually. “Hell, that’s the crux of it. We thought you were the Antichrist, you see, but Crowley had got it mixed up.”

“Ohhh, I don’t think we need to get into all of that,” said Crowley, slouching over to sit on the other side of Aziraphale.

“We rather owe the poor boy an explanation,” retorted Aziraphale. “He’s quite right that it was a confusing situation.”

“You know what, the bullet point version would be fine,” said Warlock.

“We thought you were the Antichrist so myself, agent of Hell, and my friend here, agent of Heaven, decided to keep an eye on you and influence your upbringing, but it turned out that you were the wrong boy – for reasons we won’t explore at this juncture - so we had to bugger off to stop the actual Antichrist and the end of the world, and we didn’t…resume our employment with your family. So! Here we all are!” Crowley finished cheerily.

Warlock thought about this for a moment. “We-“ started Aziraphale, but Warlock held up one hand in a ‘give me a moment’ gesture.

Warlock eventually pulled in a deep, thoughtful breath. “Mr Aziraphale, ‘agent of Heaven’ – does that mean you’re an angel, like Ashtoreth is a demon?”

“Well, yes,” said the angel. “And it’s just Aziraphale, please.”

“Hmm. Can you both do magic?”

For some reason at this Crowley leaned forward to put his hand over Aziraphale’s mouth when he started to speak. “Of a kind,” said the demon.

“Was I…was I just an assignment to you?” Warlock asked. He was proud at how non-shaking his voice was.

The other two spoke at the same time.

“Oh, no!” protested Aziraphale, looking distressed.

“Absolutely not,” said Crowley, leaning forward to look intently at Warlock. His eyes were…wow, that was a trip. Snake eyes. “Sure, it was a job to start with, but you don’t spend that long with a kid and don’t love them.”

“Oh,” said Warlock. His throat felt thick and choked up. “Then, why didn’t you come back? I tried to figure it out, you know, when I realised you’d both resigned in the same week. Mom said it was a coincidence, but I thought you must have fallen in love and run away together to get married.” He chuckled wetly. “Guess I was kind of off base, huh? Angel and demon. Bit ridiculous.”

Beside Warlock, Aziraphale went quite still.

“Yesssss,” said Crowley. “Ridiculous. Haha.”

“I suppose,” Aziraphale said slowly, “that if you think about it, it’s almost what happened.”

Crowley made a strangled sound. Warlock remembered it from when he was a kid, and Brother Francis had done something that Nanny had considered particularly egrerious to the plants.

Aziraphale had coloured slightly, but turned to look at Crowley. “We’ve spent the last decade living together, Crowley.”

“What are you talking about, you have your shop, I have my flat-“

“When was the last time we spent a night out of each other’s company?”

“But we’re not…you make it sound like…”

“Granted, we’re not…in each other’s company at night. But I would consider you my…my partner. Life partner. For all my existence. Any plans I make include you, take your plans into consideration. You’re the only being I want to be with, I’m happy when I’m with you.”

“Well, of course, you’re my best friend,” protested Crowley, but it sounded weak.

“If you ask me,” said Warlock, happily ignoring the fact that neither of them had, “I have a best friend. We hang out most every weekend and chat every day, but I’m not calling him my life partner.” He tilted his head back to squint at the two beings on his sofa. “And I’m pretty sure I don’t have the whole sexual tension thing with him that you guys have, that would be awkward.”

Both demon and angel tore their eyes from each other to frown at him. Warlock was suddenly and viscerally reminded of when he was a child and managed to do something that both Nanny and Brother Francis considered naughty. The effect wasn’t lessened by the tone of voice Crowley took. “That’s quite enough of that kind of talk, young man!”

Warlock quickly stifled a grin. He’d gone through shocked, circled around slightly traumatised, and was settling into acceptance, aided by the fact that even though he was barely conscious of it, a little part of him felt instinctively safe when he was being reprimanded by these two. “Look,” he said, “this has been the absolute weirdest day of my life, and that includes that day at Megiddo and oh my god was that weird man there a demon too? I need some time – and therapy - to process this because I still have a lot of questions, and I get the feeling that maybe you two have some things to discuss?” Aziraphale and Crowley exchanged a quick look. Warlock noted with quiet delight that Aziraphale had lifted one hand and after a moment of hesitation laid it on top of Crowley’s hand, resting next to him on the sofa. Crowley didn’t react except for spots of colour high in his cheeks, but a second later his hand turned underneath the angel’s so their fingers interlaced.

“Give me your mobile number,” said Crowley. “We’ll be in touch. Honest!” he added to Warlock’s sceptical look.

“Did I mention the abandonment issues I’m working through?” said Warlock ruthlessly.

Aziraphale looked distressed. “We will. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time, but I believe we both regret leaving you in the way that we did. This has been a serendipitous occasion to renew our acquaintance, and I promise we will talk again.”

“Promise from an angel, kid, that’s the kind of thing you can rely on,” said Crowley.

In the corner, Dentworth shifted and suddenly made a loud snore.

“Right, I believe that’s our cue,” said Crowley. He stood, still holding Aziraphale’s hand, pulling the angel up with him.

Aziraphale looked over the mess on the floor. “Better not leave that,” he murmured, and with a wiping gesture with his free hand the remaining marks dissipated, leaving the floor looking untouched.

Warlock stood too, rubbing his hands on the sides of his pants awkwardly. He had, of course, been brought up with excellent manners, but he wasn’t quite sure how to bid farewell to two men who happened to be supernatural beings and also your childhood caretakers.

“Oh, for-“ started Crowley, then darted in to give a surprised Warlock a quick, rough hug. Aziraphale just took his hand and held it for a moment, smiling happily at him.

“It really had been lovely seeing you again, young master Warlock. Here!” Aziraphale dug into a pocket and pulled out a heavy cream-coloured embossed card. (Warlock didn’t realise that the appearance of this card with a minor miracle, as Aziraphale would under normal circumstances never advertise his shop.) “This is the address of my little shop over in London. Write your cellular mobile number on the back of that, Crowley. Warlock, please do get in touch.”

Warlock took the card and nodded to them both. Crowley gave him a soft smile – Ashtoreth’s smile, the one she used when he was about to fall asleep – and pulled Aziraphale out into the hallway as Dentworth snorted and started to sit up.

Warlock quietly closed the door after them, then rushed to the window to watch them exit the building. He half expected to see nothing, that the previous half-hour had been some kind of weird hallucination, but after a moment he saw the two walk out, no longer holding hands but walking closely together, shoulders bumping as they talked quietly.

Warlock sighed and turned back to his rooms. “Wha-“ said Dentworth vaguely. Warlock sighed, and helped the asshole up onto the sofa. He was annoying, but in this case, given the givens, Warlock felt charitable towards him. “You fainted,” he said to Dentworth. “Mumbling all kinds of weird stuff.”

Dentworth frowned. “Did we try to summon a demon?”

Warlock looked at him blankly. “What on earth would we do a thing like that for? I think you’d better lie down. Have a rest.” In his pocket, Warlock fingered the card the angel had given him. For the first time in nearly a decade, he felt like a bit of foundation under his feet was stable again.

A thought occurred to him, and he pulled out his phone, opening up a text message. “Do u have wings?” he sent.

A moment later he got a photo in reply. Warlock bit his lip to hide a smile and angled the phone away from Dentworth. Awesome.