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Dance with me, for you are the song

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Heaven, approximately 3,208 years after the Beginning

The Kingdom of Heaven, while not a corporation in a human sense, did operate very much like a large multi-universal firm. God had Big Plans for the universes. Though She could be everywhere at once, it was not Her preferred level of consciousness, thus She formed a Board of Trustees to help manage everything. They were known as the Council of Seven: the Archangels Uriel, Raphael, Ramiel, Michael, Jophiel, Gabriel, and Azrael.

At the time, the universe that humans are familiar with was a flaming eruption of molten matter being expressed in all directions at high speeds from a single point of origin. Some people believe that this part simply didn’t happen at all, that God snapped Her fingers and everything just Was. Some people believe that this was the result of God being moved so much by Her Own image reflected in the vast mirror of space that She made love to Herself and that the universe was born on the waves of Her ecstatic pleasure.

The reality, however, was that our universe was created in one go after a long, headache-inducing meeting. Aziraphale, being a cherub, would not normally have been invited to this particular meeting. However, his boss, the Archangel Ramiel, had sent him a memo requesting that he prepare and deliver an accounting of how the proposed multi-universal changes would manifest on the ground, so to speak. Though the cherubim were normally a competitive lot, excepting Aziraphale himself, no one begrudged him this assignment in the slightest.

That was how he came to the attention of the Archangel Raphael, who wondered what a cherub like him was doing in a place like this…

 

“Let me guess, Ramiel didn’t tell you how to find the office.” The words assailed Aziraphale’s ears, trumpet loud, starfire brightness practically sizzling his divine retinas to nothing. He startled, blinking rapidly as he collected his energy closer about his centre, willing his wings to stay back. It wouldn’t do to insult an Archangel by shielding himself as he so much wanted to do. He must simply endeavour to survive this interaction as best as possible.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” the voice blasted. “I forgot. God likes us to have it turned up to eleven at all times.”

Slowly but surely, the brightness retreated in a mesmerizing swirl until a vaguely humanoid being stood beside Aziraphale, six white wings resolving down to one resplendent pair that fluttered slightly as fiery red hair unfurled from the Archangel’s head and cascaded down one shoulder in a wave of curls.

“Aaa. Eeee. Ooooo.” The Archangel cleared his throat. “Is that better?”

Now the voice was warm and sibilant. It washed over Aziraphale quite pleasantly.

“Yes. Much better,” Aziraphale said, his voice half a croak as the Archangel’s honey-gold eyes fixed on his own.

“Are you Aziraphale?” the Archangel asked. “From Ramiel’s department?”

“Yes. From the East office. At your service.”

The Archangel blinked. “What? Oh...you must think I’m like the others. Heaven forbid an Archangel not be a complete git.”

Panic made Aziraphale’s wings shudder. “No! I didn’t mean-”

“Relax,” the Archangel said. “Like I said, I’m not like the others. I’m Raphael, by the way.”

Aziraphale stared up at him, nonplussed, before he remembered his manners.

“It’s very nice to meet you,” he said, holding out a hand to shake. Raphael stared down at it for a moment before taking it gently and raising it to his lips, his eyes dancing.

“The pleasure is all mine.”

It was a polite kiss, a quick, dry press of lips against the back of his hand, but nevertheless, Aziraphale felt scandalized. He had never met an Archangel in person before, Ramiel always having communicated via memo. He wondered if they were all...like this. Enthralling. Gorgeous. Unconventional.

Raphael grinned, releasing his hand and straightening up. “So, admit it. Are you completely lost?”

“A bit.” Aziraphale tried to keep the bitterness out of his voice. “I haven’t quite gotten a chance to look around yet.”

In reality, Aziraphale had been standing in the same spot since he had arrived from the lower levels of the First Sphere of Heaven not two hours ago. Typical Ramiel. The cherubs were forever having to interpret his cryptic requests and anticipate his unreasonable desires. His memo had merely instructed Aziraphale to “take the escalator,” never even mentioning what to do once faced with the endless, empty hall of the Antechamber to God’s Throne, with its impersonal white tiles and overwhelming panoramic views. Even after Aziraphale worked up the courage to shout an echoey “Haalloooo” down the way, no one came. After some experimental wandering, he posted himself by one of the windows. He had been staring out at the top of the sky for the last hour and a half, and his feet were getting tired.

“No one gave you instructions, of course,” Raphael said, shaking his head. He waved a hand through the air and the hall shivered around them. A portal opened to blinding brightness and the blast of several trumpets.

“Oi! Turn it down, seraphs,” Raphael shouted. “We have a cherub here, remember?”

“Quite,” one of the Archangels blasted. “Aziraphale, so good to meet you in person.” The Archangel continued speaking even as he shrank down to humanoid form, dark hair, dark eyes, his voice resolving down to a honeyed drawl. “I trust that you had no trouble finding us?”

Beside him, an Archangel with purple eyes frowned. “Don’t be an asshole, Ramiel.”

Aziraphale straightened up and let his wings unfurl to their fullest. “Actually, I’ve been waiting for two hours.”

“Oh, what’s two hours in the life of an immortal?” Ramiel asked, his eyes flashing dangerously. “Though I am sorry it took Raphael so long to find you.”

“You didn’t even send me to look,” Raphael said. “I just happened to spot him hanging around by the escalator.”

Ramiel shrugged one liquid shoulder. “I trust you’ll have your report ready to present by six bells tomorrow, Aziraphale?”

“Yes,” Aziraphale said, patting the roll of parchment under his arm. “I have it right here, actually.”

“Oh, but of course, we do expect to see it projected on screen.”

“On screen?“ Aziraphale asked. He’d never used anything but parchment and ink his entire life. He didn’t even know things could be projected anywhere, much less on a screen.

Ramiel smiled toothily. “But you knew that already, of course. Silly me, trying to tell you how to do your job when you already do it so, so well.”

Aziraphale bit back a sharp remark, reminding himself of who this being really was. The Morning Star. A seraph belonging to the Highest Sphere of Heaven. Perhaps he had simply misread the memo…

“Yes, of course,” he said, managing to keep his voice level.

“Good angel,” Ramiel said, while the purple-eyed Archangel rolled his eyes.

“Come on,” Raphael said, a growl reverberating in his voice. “I’ll show you how to work the projector.”

 

The main meeting room was stationed far above any part of Heaven that Aziraphale had ever seen before, overlooking the ever-shifting orbs of the multiverses. After Raphael had shown him how to project his parchment report, he couldn’t help but to be drawn to the great, curved window, staring out at God’s creation with his heart in his throat.

“It’s so...beautiful,” he managed, as Raphael came to stand beside him. He was embarrassed to realise he was crying, two diamond drops clinking to the floor at his feet.

“Hmmm,” Raphael said, his voice far away. “I’d forgotten, to be honest.”

“I will never forget this,” Aziraphale said firmly. “Never.” He couldn’t continue, his voice too unreliable for words. Next to him, he felt Raphael’s energy shift, a shimmering warmth that radiated gently out to him.

“Have you ever seen the star nursery, Aziraphale?”

“No. Cherubs aren’t supposed to go there.”

“You have as much right to go there as I do. It’s where we were all born, after all.”

“Yes, but-”

“Hush,” Raphael said. “You are divine. God would not deny you this.” He held out a hand, his golden eyes bright. “Come with me?”

Aziraphale hesitated. He had never known God to explicitly prohibit access to the star nursery. It was just implied, due to the fact that it occupied the same part of Heaven as the Throne, where no one but the seraphim went to sing Her praises. But Raphael was right. They had all been there at one point or another, being born, being formed into the beings of light that they each came to be. Aziraphale put his hand in Raphael’s.

“All right,” he said. “Let’s go.”

 

There was no one else in the star nursery, just the vast nebula reaching its arms out into the void, a glowing cloud of dust dotted with specks of light. Raphael reached out and drew a thread from the multitude, spinning it into a tiny orb.

“Did you know that I helped make the stars?” he asked, reaching out to take Aziraphale’s hand. He placed the new star gently in the dip of his palm. “This one's for you.”

Aziraphale gasped as the star settled into his hand, burning yet bearable, heavy yet weightless.

“Oh, I really couldn’t…” he began, but at the look in Raphael’s eyes, he closed his fingers around it. “Thank you, Raphael. It’s beautiful.”

Raphael smiled. “Come to the centre.” His body began to unravel, wings melting, until there was no form left, just a wash of golden light. Aziraphale felt his body respond in kind. Looking down, he saw himself as he had been in the Beginning - a spiral of blue light. The tiny star, gift of Raphael, glowed within the tendrils of the spiral.

“Oh,” he said, but he had no voice. The sound travelled as light out of his mouth that was no longer a mouth, blue sparkling and twisting. Beside him, Raphael was unfurling into a long coil of light, drawn toward the centre of the nebula.

“Come on,” Aziraphale felt more than heard. “Come listen to the song.” A spark of golden light reached out, brushed hesitantly against the edge of Aziraphale’s brightness. Aziraphale felt his heart that was not a heart skip a beat. He unwound himself, flowing beside Raphael until they reached the centre.

Aziraphale could never have described the song of the stars even if he wanted to, for it was more than a song. It was a dance, a breath, a command. A prayer, a shout, a whisper. A question, a storm, a wave, a cry, a sigh. It was ordered chaos, chaotic order, the sound of a universe vibrating with existence. In the centre of the nebula, time unravelled, stars being born around them like night-blooming lilies opening under the touch of silvery moonlight, others coming into being so slowly that they appeared to stand still.

Raphael’s presence was unlike any presence Aziraphale had ever felt. Perhaps it was just the effect of the star nursery, though perhaps it was more than that. Perhaps it was something that had always been intended and would always be true. Regardless, he could feel an understanding settling between them, uncomplicated and pure.

There were no thoughts to explain why Aziraphale reached out to Raphael in that moment, but he did, spiralling blue meeting coils of gold. Surprise transmitted back to him at first, then warmth as Raphael returned the touch, warmth that pushed back against the frigid void of space and sparked between them.

Aziraphale spun closer, Raphael coiling around him as if it were the most natural thing in all the universes, the star that he had made for Aziraphale cradled in the space between them.

Closer, Aziraphale sang, I want to be closer.

Dance with me, Raphael breathed, for you are the song.

And so they danced until there was no space between them at all.

 

Afterwards, and it was hard for Aziraphale to believe there was such a thing as an afterwards, they returned to the meeting room. They were both too bright at first, blinding each other with the true measure of their raw essence manifested within the bounds of Heaven.

“Well…” Raphael said. “That happened.” His voice was the rolling thunder of the seraph again, only it didn’t boom in Aziraphale’s ears as it once had done.

“Quite,” Aziraphale managed, fading back to a more manageable level of brightness. He shivered at the memory of golden coils, warmth spiralling around and through him.

He found himself staring blankly at the parchment on the table. He knew it had something to do with him, but he could not for the life of him remember what.

Raphael lifted his hands. “May I touch you?”

Aziraphale tilted his head, confused at the concept for a moment.

“We dissolved together,” he said. “We are always touching.”

“No, Aziraphale. We are back in our angelic forms. Whole unto ourselves. It’s different on this plane, remember?”

“I suppose,” Aziraphale said, not wanting to remember that. The other way was so much better. It made more sense. Now he felt disconnected from everything. Alone. Cold.

Raphael gave him a questioning look, hands still raised. When Aziraphale nodded, he put his hands on Aziraphale’s shoulders, stroking his collarbone with his thumbs.

“I forget how hard it is to come back,” he said.

Aziraphale tried his hardest not to feel betrayed by that revelation.

“I suppose perhaps next time you go...erm...with another angel, you might perhaps warn them?”

“You misunderstand me,” Raphael said gently. “I’ve never visited the star nursery with another angel. And I’ve certainly never done...what we did. I don’t even know anyone who has.”

“Oh,” Aziraphale said, feeling rather foolish.

They stared at each other for an awkward moment, and then Raphael grinned.

“You look absolutely starstruck.”

Aziraphale smiled. “I think I still am, a bit.” That was an understatement. As a matter of fact, he was feeling quite undone, and just a bit sad, if he was being perfectly honest.

“Come back to me, cherub,” Raphael said, running his hands up and down Aziraphale’s arms, coaxing him back. “Just for now. We can go back to the star nursery as many times as you want, but for now, I need all of you here.”

Aziraphale sighed, still mostly out there with the stars, with the memory of Raphael coiled around and through and with him.

“Why?”

“Well,” Raphael said. “I’m afraid we rather lost track of time, and the meeting is coming up quite soon.”

Aziraphale tensed, coming fully back to himself with a sudden and unpleasant wrenching sensation. The meeting! How could he have forgotten about the meeting?

“Good Heavens!” he said, pulling away, his head spinning. “How could I have been so irresponsible? I have to– to prepare myself to present!”

“Aziraphale, you’re going to be brilliant. I know it.”

“I’m sorry,” Aziraphale said, flustered. “I need to review my notes, to be sure of everything, before the Council arrives. You understand?”

“Of course,” Raphael said, an amused look in his eyes. “I’ll leave you to it, then.”

“Ta,” Aziraphale said, smiling at him before he turned back to the parchment on the table.

 

The hour of six bells came rather more quickly than Aziraphale had hoped. He had barely managed to come to terms with being back in his angelic form as the full Council of Archangels flowed into the room, bright and intimidating. Ramiel looked over at him expectantly, and Raphael gave him an encouraging wink. Thankfully, Aziraphale was an industrious angel. He had practised his presentation enough ahead of time that now it just rolled off his tongue, easy and sure, and he barely had to think much about it at all.

Immediately after his presentation, the purple-eyed Archangel, Gabriel, had requested Aziraphale as his personal assistant. Without so much as a by your leave, he found himself permanently re-assigned to the Antechamber. They set up a little cubicle for him in the middle of the empty hall, just outside the portal to Gabriel’s office. While working for Gabriel was somewhat better, since he seemed to be less inclined to playing mind games like Ramiel did, he was still a typical Archangel with a superiority complex. The perk, however, was that Aziraphale got to see Raphael all the time, too.

 

***

 

The Host of Seraphim

 

Lyrics are ineffable.

 

from A Passage in Time by Dead Can Dance

Chapter Text

Heaven, approximately 7,531 years after the Beginning

Aziraphale had lived through a little over four thousand years of paperwork. Four thousand years of trying to meet Gabriel’s exacting standards. Four thousand years of being farmed out to the rest of the Council — to type up Uriel’s annual reports, to take dictation from Michael, to pick up Jophiel’s robes from the dry cleaners, to fetch custom-roasted espresso beans for Ramiel from that little shop in the north corner of the Third Sphere, run as a side-gig by the Principality there. 

Four thousand years of doing all his work the hard way, because the annual quota of miracles for cherubs was outrageously low.

Sometimes, even though Aziraphale never asked, Raphael took care of the extra work for him, if he found out about it before Aziraphale had a chance to get to it. And, of course, he never requested any extra work of Aziraphale himself.

Over four thousand years of completing his angelic duties and other duties as assigned with as much grace as he could muster, and it all passed in the blink of an eye because, through it all, Raphael was there with him.

 

It was a bleary Tuesday morning, and Aziraphale was in his cubicle, immersed in a calculation for Gabriel regarding the exact number of cubits required for the width of a standard city wall. He looked up at the sound of a portal opening, brightening up at the sight of Raphael approaching, a roll of parchment tucked under one arm. It was rare that he came to visit Aziraphale during the work day. Nevertheless, there he was, golden eyes shining with excitement. Aziraphale sat back from his desk.

“Well,” he said, unable to keep what he was sure was a ridiculous smile off his face. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“I need your opinion on the humans, darling,” Raphael said. He unrolled the parchment across Aziraphale’s desk, revealing an array of diagrams in vaguely humanoid shapes.

“What?” Aziraphale pushed his abacus out of the way. “Why ask me? You know I’m just a cherub. This is hardly my area of expertise.”

“Modesty is really not a good look on you.”

“Hush, you.” Aziraphale tilted his head towards the portal to Gabriel’s office, listening intently. Fortunately, it seemed as if he was still out to lunch. “All right, I suppose we have a few minutes.”

Raphael smiled at that. “You actually want to hear this?”

“Of course. I always want to hear your ideas.”

“All right,” Raphael said, giving Aziraphale a fond look. “Well, you see, God asked me to work on designs for the humans. These are the first two. Originally, She wanted only two different kinds, meant to fit like puzzle pieces.” He pointed to the two prototypes on the parchment. Each had long appendages that met in a little v, though one had a rather more complex v than the other, at least going by how it looked on the outside.

“Oh my, they look quite complicated.”

“It’s true,” Raphael said, laughing. “They are a bit complicated, but I thought it was beautiful, and that they could use a bit more complexity, even.” He tapped another section of the parchment. “See there? I convinced Her to allow for more variety. I said it would be too boring, otherwise, and She agreed.”

“She did?”

“She certainly did,” Raphael said, leaning closer and lowering his voice. “And I’ve just had an even better idea. Been thinking they should all have at least one other orifice in common–”

“Good Heavens!”

“–besides the opening on the face. So I gave them all the same hole in the back. It’s not all about penetration, of course,” Raphael added, pointing to a schematic in the corner that looked like a bunch of squiggly lines in the vague shape of a human. “I made sure to leave the potential for the entire construct to become a palace of pleasure, if one should so desire.” Raphael unrolled the parchment further, revealing more extensively detailed diagrams.

“A palace of pleasure?” Aziraphale sputtered, already imagining the looks on the Council’s faces when they caught wind of Raphael’s latest.

“Exactly!” Raphael said. “What do you think?”

“I...” Aziraphale started, his face warming as he searched for just the right words. “Well...that wasn’t what I expected.”

“Oh.”

“It’s a good start,” Aziraphale said, avoiding Raphael’s eyes. “And variety is always good.”

“Really? That’s all you have to say?”

“Well, it’s quite a lot to take in.”

“I see.” Raphael straightened up from the desk, crossing his arms. “You could at least do me the courtesy of saying what you really think.”

Aziraphale watched the parchment curl in upon itself, obscuring Raphael’s beautiful drawings.

“I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to do that.”

“Ugh. This is really not the time for your holier-than-thou routine.”

“That’s not what this is!” Aziraphale turned to look up at him. “You can’t seriously think this is appropriate. Since when has existence been about pleasure?”

“Since we met, obviously.”

There was an awkward silence, during which Aziraphale listened with all of his might, to be sure they were still alone. Gabriel’s office was silent, but one could not help feeling as if all of Heaven had just sucked in a shocked breath at that proclamation.

“Raphael,” he said. “You mustn't speak like that. You know the Precepts say that angels aren’t built to feel anything for each other, only for God.” He said this last bit a little louder, just in case someone actually happened to be eavesdropping on them.

Raphael gave him a bewildered look.

“Raphael, I’m at work ,” Aziraphale continued, motioning frantically toward the portal to Gabriel’s office. “I can’t–”

“You can’t what?” Raphael scoffed. “You can’t admit that you aren’t as dutiful as everyone thinks you are?”

“Will you keep your voice down!” The words tore out of Aziraphale’s mouth before he could help it, his heart hammering as he imagined Gabriel at his desk, listening in, his eyes growing as hard as amethysts.

Raphael sucked in a breath, his eyes widening.

“Bless it, I’m sorry for shouting.” Aziraphale stood up from his desk and reached out, his chair rolling away behind him.

“And I’m sorry to have disturbed you,” Raphael replied, dodging Aziraphale’s outstretched hand. He was already shifting into full seraph form, uncoiling into a fiery, six-winged column.

Aziraphale’s heart sank. “Raphael, wait.”

“I’ll get out of your halo now,” Raphael boomed. Aziraphale winced as echoes of his voice reverberated endlessly across the Antechamber. Heat fanned in a dry wave across his face as Raphael leaned over and snatched his parchment off the desk, knocking over the abacus.

“You know how frightened I get sometimes,” Aziraphale said, so quiet that he was sure Raphael hadn’t heard him. But Raphael froze mid-flight, drifting gently back down to the floor. The wings covering his face lifted enough so that Aziraphale could see his eyes. He began to collapse back down to his angelic form, the quickest Aziraphale had ever seen, brightness receding, wings fading back into one pair.

“You say angels weren’t built to feel anything for each other as if you yourself weren’t an exception to the rule, Aziraphale.”

“That’s exactly what frightens me.” Aziraphale leaned back against the desk, struggling to maintain his composure. It was at times like these that he found it hardest to accept that he couldn’t align himself completely with Heaven’s Generally Accepted Angelic Precepts. Not if he wanted to keep what he had going with Raphael.

“I know we’ve got to be discreet,” Raphael said. “But, you see–” He rounded on Aziraphale, hissing into his face. “–sometimes I don’t want to. Especially when I see how much of a toll it takes on you. It makes me want to shout it from the highest reaches of the firmament. For your sake. For both of our sakes.” He turned savagely, his wings nearly knocking all the paperwork off of the desk as he began to pace. “God must know about us. She knows everything. She would have done something by now if She disapproved.”

“But She must disapprove,” Aziraphale said. “The Precepts make Her expectations fairly clear.”

“Perhaps She just hasn’t gotten around to rewriting them?”

“Well, that’s a lovely thought,” Aziraphale replied, floored by Raphael’s seemingly endless capacity for optimism.

“It can’t be a coincidence that She chose me to lead the development of Project Earth, right?” Raphael asked. “And so I tell myself that She must want me to use what I’ve learned, what I’ve experienced, as inspiration. I tell myself that if the Council ever found out, ever tried to do something to separate us, She would intervene on our behalf.”

“You really believe that?”

“Well...” Raphael shrugged. “It’s sort of just what I tell myself. I suppose I believe it some days more than others. Anyway, how paltry is it to give us the ability to love, and then tell us that we can love only Her, and not each other? And how could this...” he motioned between them “... not be okay if it makes us so happy?”

Aziraphale stared up at Raphael, seeing the echo of all of the times they had dissolved together, their mingled energies, glowing in his golden eyes. He was just so loving. So loyal, in his own stubborn way. So courageous and forthright. So refreshingly real, like nothing else in Heaven seemed to be. It made everything inside of Aziraphale ache with the beauty of it all.

“I wish I could be more like you,” he said.

“Aziraphale, don’t be silly. I don’t want another one of me. I want you. Exactly as you are.”

“Well, you have me,” Aziraphale said. “You’ll always have me. For what that’s worth.”

“Aziraphale…”

“And the palace of pleasure is a lovely idea,” Aziraphale continued, listening in to be sure they were still quite alone before he stepped a bit closer. “It’s very thoughtful of you to do what you’re doing. To give humans the ability to feel so many different kinds of love and to express it in so many different ways.”

“You really think that?” Raphael asked. “Really really?” He was glowing now. Aziraphale could feel his entire being lighting up with the energy of it, the waves of sweet, indescribable Raphael-ness.

“Really really,” he replied, reaching out with his wing to brush Raphael’s shoulder gently. “You truly are the greatest blessing. To me, to Heaven, and to the multiverses.”

“Oh, my darling.” Raphael leaned into Aziraphale’s wing. “You are the sweetest angel.”

Aziraphale frowned. “I don’t much feel it at the moment.”

“No, listen. It’s my fault. I should have waited to show you my ideas in private. I was just so excited and I thought...well, since it was a work thing, I thought it would be okay to talk about it here. You know how impatient I am. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to cause you stress.”

Aziraphale reached out to run his fingers lightly down Raphael’s arm. There was nothing else in the world he wanted to do more than to leave the office, forget about Heaven’s unsettling contradictions, ignore the endless pile of work that was starting to feel more and more meaningless as time passed, and find his way to the simplicity that was just the two of them together.

They stayed close a moment longer, but Aziraphale could feel the tension creeping up his back, the nagging sensation that at any moment Gabriel would return, his head popping through the portal to ask for some inane thing or other.

“We should probably–”

“Yeah,” Raphael said, stepping back and rolling up his parchment. “I’ve, erm, got work to do, or something. I’ll be off then.” He gave Aziraphale a lingering glance. “See you later?”

“I’d like that,” Aziraphale managed, his wings fluttering. He couldn’t help watching Raphael saunter away. Oh, that sinuous roll of his hips! And the way he swung his shoulders! It was too much. Too blessed much. 

Raphael waved open a portal to God’s Throne, looking back over his shoulder, throwing a last-minute smile in Aziraphale’s direction before disappearing in a flash of seraphic light.

“Ah, well,” Aziraphale said to himself, rolling his errant chair back to his desk and sinking into it, a smile plastered all over his face. “Everyone has their weaknesses, I suppose.” He stared blankly at his half-finished report then leaned back in his chair with a sigh, his mind already light years away.

 

Heaven, approximately 10,287 years after the Beginning

The first time Aziraphale heard the title “Lucifer,” it was from Raphael’s lips. They had taken to meeting in an abandoned corner of the Antechamber, a strange little hiding place that seemed to have been created through sheer error on the part of the Great Designer. The hall was supposed to continue infinitely in either direction, but instead, about two light years from the main escalator that connected to the Second and Third Spheres, the hallway warped out of shape, creating an offshoot that spiralled off into a sort of cul-de-sac that hung out over the ever-increasing globes of the multiverses.

Aziraphale went there now, looking forward to some time alone with his Archangel, but when he saw Raphael’s face, he knew that a greater matter was at hand.

“What is it, dear heart?” he asked. “You look as if you’ve seen the Face of God.”

Raphael had been leaning against the wall, feigning nonchalance, an admirable feat considering the walls themselves we so warped out of shape that he might as well have used the polished surface to slide down to the floor.

“The Lucifer doesn’t want to go through with the project,” he said, his tone flat.

“The Lucifer?”

“The Light Bringer,” Raphael said. “Ramiel.”

“The Light Bringer? I’ve never heard him use that title before.”

“He’s just claimed it,” Raphael said. “Announced it today at our meeting.”

Aziraphale eyed Raphael worriedly. “So, he has decided to oppose Project Earth? Why?”

“He says it’s a waste of resources. That Heaven already has its hands full with all the other in-progress worlds in all the other multiverses, not to mention all the projects here. We haven’t even finished paving the roads gold in the Third Sphere yet.”

Aziraphale hadn’t known about any of that. “Gold?” he asked. “That seems rather impractical. Besides, whyever would we need roads?”

“For the spirits of the dead to get around. They won’t have wings.”

“The...dead?” Aziraphale asked, not quite sure he had a handle on the concept. “Do you mean—”

“The people of the multiverses aren’t going to live forever. They’re going to do something called dying. It’s when their vessel and soul separate. The vessel becomes undone and the soul comes here.”

Aziraphale hadn’t known that, either. It made him feel rather uncomfortable.

“Do they know?”

“What? The people?” Raphael asked. “Not really. We’re supposed to let them figure it out on their own.”

“Good Heavens,” Aziraphale said, disturbingly close to actually passing judgment on God’s Plan. “Do they get to see each other again after...dying?”

“That’s the latest thing I’ve been trying to work out,” Raphael said. “No one else has given much thought to how to organize them when they begin to arrive.”

“Who came up with this idea in the first place?”

“Azrael, of course,” Raphael said. “She has a morbid sense of humour. Said if we gave them all a deadline, they’d be more productive.”

Sometimes, being the close companion of an Archangel was very unpleasant indeed, especially when it resulted in being privy to information one would much rather have never heard at all.

“Does the rest of the Council agree with Ramiel — I mean — with the Lucifer?” Aziraphale asked. “About Project Earth?”

“Jophiel and Azrael do,” Raphael said.

“I’m sorry,” Aziraphale said. “I know it’s your favorite project.” He had watched Raphael put so much time and energy into it these last few millennia, working out the design of all the living beings, the ecological systems, the geographical structure, all of it.

Raphael shrugged. “It’s not the first time one of my projects has been shelved. Besides, I have more pressing concerns. You must realise God hasn’t actually spoken to us directly in ages. I haven’t even seen Her on the Throne in just as long. It’s always the Metatron these days.”

Aziraphale blinked. “But you always said it was God speaking to you.”

“I know. And I’m sorry. It wasn’t my intention to be dishonest. I used to think that it didn’t make a difference whether it was the Metatron or God speaking, but now I am starting to doubt that very much.”

Aziraphale always figured God had other things to do, and that the Metatron was very nearly the real thing, anyway. He said as much.

“The Metatron is an arrogant sod, though,” Raphael said. “Haven’t you noticed?”

Aziraphale hadn’t.

“To believe he and God are one and the same is to suggest that God, too, is an arrogant sod,” Raphael continued.

Aziraphale’s heart clenched at his tone. “Please don’t speak that way, Raphael.”

“You see my point, then.”

“Not really,” Aziraphale said. “As I don’t think the Metatron is an arrogant sod. Especially compared to the Council of Seven. Present company excluded, of course. I haven’t had the privilege of interacting with him as much as you have, but the times I have spoken with him, he was perfectly pleasant.”

Raphael snorted. “Perfectly pleasant, indeed.”

“Raphael…”

“I’m sorry, darling,” Raphael said, reaching out a hand. “I don’t mean to upset you. It’s just...things haven’t been going well with the Council for quite some time now.”

Aziraphale took his hand, squeezing gently. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“Yes. But only if you don’t mind.”

“I don’t mind at all.”

Raphael sighed. “There’s been so much tension lately. Factions have formed. Gabriel, Michael and Uriel versus Ramiel and Jophiel. Azrael refuses to acknowledge any of it, and the more I try to stay out of it, the worse I feel. And still, God does not speak in Her own voice. I don’t understand why.”

“Oh, Raphael,” Aziraphale said, drawing him into an embrace. “Have you tried calling to Her directly?”

“Yes,” Raphael said into his shoulder, his voice small and cracked. “And She doesn’t answer.”

“Oh.” Aziraphale ignored the nervous flutter in the pit of his stomach, determined to maintain a strong front. “Well, I’m sure She’ll be back soon.”

“I hope so. Because the Council is completely in the dark. We’ve had no choice but to trust that what the Metatron says is Her Word.”

Aziraphale didn’t quite know what to say after that.

 

Heaven, approximately 10,488 years after the Beginning

When the time came, it was rather hard to miss the voice of the Metatron blasting through all the Spheres of Heaven, but it didn’t sink in until later for Aziraphale.

It was the 196th year of the Great Rebellion.

It had happened just as quickly as Aziraphale had feared. The Council had imploded, splitting into two halves, hosts of angels aligning behind them, Raphael and Azrael hovering at the edges.

Much to Aziraphale’s dismay, as the tension erupted into a full-out war, and as God remained perfectly silent, Raphael began to slip just the slightest bit to one side.

In the end, the Metatron condemned The Lucifer, Jophiel, and their hosts of angels to eternal damnation.

Raphael had been damned, too, for his questions, for his doubts. The last time Aziraphale saw him, he was Falling, a burning star lighting up the Heavens.

The shock would have been fatal, if an angel could actually die.

The paperwork involved in establishing the new realm of Hell was a nightmare, as was the development of the categorization system that would determine which souls would go where. With all the sudden vacancies in Heaven, Aziraphale expected to be considered a candidate for promotion, so it was a great blow when he found himself demoted to the office of Eastern Principality, instead. No one said it, but he knew it must have been because of his “close friendship” with Raphael.

Shortly after the establishment of Hell, a newly promoted seraph, Sandalphon, took Raphael’s place. He took it upon himself to make changes to Project Earth. Raphael was too unconventional, he said. God can be merciful, yes, but only when it’s earned, he said. Wouldn’t it be interesting to put them all on this little planet and shake, shake, shake to see how they fight, he said.

Aziraphale, quite without meaning to, learned what it meant to hate.

Millennia passed.

They say time heals all wounds.

It would be more accurate to say that time makes all wounds easier to bear.

Aziraphale knew God must have a Plan. 

She must.

He knew he would never understand how the Plan was meant to work. He had tried and failed. It was completely ineffable. Everything was ineffable. As a matter of fact, ineffability was the only true Law of the multiverses. Everything else was bound to die, to end, to change. He must simply strive to do his absolute best to accept that.

 

***

 

Love is a Terrible Thing

How to see the sun go down

Is a heart made of gold?

From the land, little children watch it burn

Fortune favours the cold

 

People tell me: "Boy, you got lucky!"

But I feel about as lucky as a snowman in the spring

 

Mind over matter; head over heart

Love's a terrible thing

 

People tell me: "Boy, you dodged a bullet!"

But if only it had hit me, then I'd know the peace it brings

 

It's just mind over matter; head over heart

Love's a terrible thing

 

Out on the water, hear the angels sing:

"Love's a terrible thing!"

 

from Make Way for Love by Marlon Williams

Chapter Text

Garden of Eden, 28 October, 4004 BC, 12:34 P.M.

Aziraphale stood perfectly balanced over the Eastern Gate of the Garden of Eden, worrying over the latest developments on an Earth that should have been too new for such drama. Adam and Eve banished already? He tamped down on the questions already clamouring for attention in his mind and put them tidily away in a box labelled “ineffable.” It was what he had been doing for millennia now, and it served him quite well.

He half turned at the sound of scales scraping on rock, watching as a serpent slithered up next to him. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t just any serpent, but the serpent who had caused all the trouble in the first place. He did a double-take as it rose up beside him, shifting shape into a black-winged demon with a fall of red hair.

“Well, that went down like a lead balloon,” the demon said.

Aziraphale chuckled nervously. “Sorry, what was that?” He could barely concentrate, for underneath the scent of burning ether and wet ash emanating from the demon was the slightest hint of sweetness. Raphael’s sweetness. It had been a long, long time since he had felt it, but as Aziraphale had dissolved with the Archangel rather more times than would be appropriate to say, it was unmistakable to him nonetheless. He barely restrained himself from saying his name.

“I said, ‘Well, that went down like a lead balloon,’” the demon repeated.

“Yes, yes, it did, rather,” Aziraphale said, an old, old pain flaring up in his chest. Love was permeating the world around him, seeping up and out through the wounds in his heart, a bittersweet memory. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the demon didn’t seem to recognize him at all. He resolved to not say a word unless the demon spoke first.

“Bit of an overreaction, if you ask me,” the demon said. Aziraphale met his serpentine eyes. No flicker of recognition, he was sure. “First offence and everything,” the demon continued, then paused, his forehead wrinkling. “I can’t see what’s so bad about knowing the difference between good and evil anyway.”

Aziraphale looked out across the great expanse of sand. He hasn’t really changed all that much, has he? he thought with some measure of wonder. Not that it mattered, of course. Everything was different now. This being was not Raphael. This being was a demon. An enemy. He must strive to draw a line between them immediately, before things got out of hand.

“Well, it must be bad…” he stopped, unsure of the manner of address.

“Crawley,” the demon supplied.

What a name!

“Crawley,” Aziraphale repeated. “Otherwise, you wouldn’t have tempted them into it,” he finished, feeling that his argument rather lacked conviction. He realised he was smiling, dizzy with the sensation of familiarity, and did his best to stop.

“Ah, they just said, ‘Get up there and make some trouble.’” Crawley shrugged, which wasn’t precisely the truth.

The truth was, when Duke Hastur’s minions had reported that Project Earth had been completed, and presented a roster of the angels that had been assigned to guard the gates of Eden, it was all Crawley could do to not beg to be sent up there. Nobody else wanted to incarnate, so Lord Beelzebub had waved languidly at him to move along before they changed their mind.

The truth was, he would have thrown himself at Aziraphale’s feet and reaffirmed his devotion first thing if it weren’t for the fact that the angel clearly didn’t recognize him.

Ah, well. It was an old sadness now. He had learned how to bear the loss before. He would learn how to bear this, too.

“Well, obviously. You’re a demon,” the angel was saying. “It’s what you do.”

Sassy as ever, Crawley thought. Well, that was good. It would have been a shame if they’d both been broken by what had happened.

“Not very subtle of the Almighty, though,” Crawley said. “Fruit tree in the middle of a garden with a ‘Don’t Touch’ sign, eh? I mean, why not put it on top of a high mountain? Or on the moon?” Aziraphale was rolling his eyes now, and it lit Crawley up somewhere far away inside. “Makes you wonder what God’s really planning,” he added slyly. Just a little push and...ah! There it was. Aziraphale’s face scrunched up with that lovely look of irritated incredulity.

“Best not to speculate,” he was saying loftily. “It’s all part of the Great Plan. It’s not for us to understand.”

He spoke with so much more conviction now.

“It’s ineffable,” he added primly.

Oh, now that was too much. “The Great Plan’s ineffable?” Crawley scoffed.

“Exactly,” Aziraphale said, a worrying level of self-assurance in his voice. “It is beyond understanding and incapable of being put into words.”

Oh, this is worse than I expected, Crawley thought, listening carefully. He’s changed rather more than...oh, wait a minute. Perhaps it’s not all bad...

“Didn’t you have a flaming sword?” he asked.

“Uh…”

“You did,” Crawley pushed on. “It was flaming like anything. What happened to it?”

“Uhh…” Aziraphale was shaking his head, clearly flustered.

“Lost it already, have you?”

“Gave it away,” Aziraphale admitted, looking down a bit.

Oh, my darling, Crawley thought, raising his eyebrows. “You what?”

“I gave it away,” Aziraphale wailed, turning to look at him. “There are vicious animals. It’s going to be cold out there. And she’s expecting already. And I said, ‘Here you go. Flaming sword. Don’t thank me. And don’t let the sun go down on you here.’” He paused, looking out over the desert. “I do hope I didn’t do the wrong thing.”

“Oh, you’re an angel,” Crawley said. “I don’t think you can do the wrong thing.”

“Oh…” Aziraphale looked so endearingly relieved. “Oh, thank you. It’s been bothering me.”

Outside the gates of Eden, a lion roared. Crawley could see the flaming arc as Adam swung the sword.

“I’ve been worrying, too,” he admitted. “What if I did the right thing with the whole ‘eating the apple’ business? A demon can get into a lot of trouble for doing the right thing.” He looked over at Aziraphale to see how he was taking the confession. Out on the sand, Adam felled the lion with a meaty blow. “It would be funny if we both got it wrong, eh? If I did the good thing and you did the bad one.”

After all, if there was anything Crawley had learned from Falling, it was that practically everything was in a grey area, until, of course, it very suddenly wasn’t.

Aziraphale chuckled uneasily, then his smile dropped. “No! It wouldn’t be funny at all!”

“Well…” Crawley shrugged. Same old stick in the mud, then, which was a relief. He could definitely work with this. Even if they did have to start over, the worst had already happened, hadn’t it?

A moment later, he received his very first experience of being rained upon as a bolt of lightning broke the sky open, the Earth’s first thunderclap rumbling in on its heels. He inched towards Aziraphale hopefully, and the angel obligingly lifted a wing to shield him.

“You don’t mind it?” Crawley asked, watching droplets bounce off the tip of Aziraphale’s nose and catch in his eyelashes.

“No, I quite like it,” Aziraphale said, blinking through the rain.

“It is the first rain on Earth, I suppose,” Crawley said, holding out a hand to catch raindrops in his palm. “Someone ought to take a moment to appreciate that.”

Aziraphale’s face lit up. “Yes, that’s exactly how I feel.”

Crawley smiled. The wind blew raindrops into his eyes. Aziraphale’s feathers tickled the top of his head. The thunderclouds grumbled above them. He looked out over the vast stretches of sand, catching sight of Adam and Eve huddled together under the rain. He watched the water collect in his palm. He looked over at Aziraphale, and the angel looked right back.

 

 

Sodom, Canaan, 2314 BC

Aziraphale stood at the city gate, watching Lot and his family fleeing across the sand, their belongings piled in haphazard lumps on their backs. He held a flaming sword in his hand, on loan from the Western Principality, who had gladly done anything to avoid being sent to do the dirty work in Sodom and Gomorrah. Next to him, Sandalphon stood with his arms crossed tightly across his chest.

“I just don’t understand why She wants to destroy all of it,” Aziraphale said. “I’ve been coming here for years with no problems at all.”

“Because they’re sinners, obviously,” Sandalphon said. He clicked his tongue. “I warned them not to look back.”

“Wait–” Aziraphale started, but it was too late. Sandalphon tilted his head to one side, and Lot’s wife was transformed into a pillar of salt. Aziraphale closed his eyes at the agonized wail that reached their ears.

“You didn’t have to do that.”

“God’s orders,” Sandalphon said, shrugging.

Aziraphale frowned, the flames on his sword wavering. “Are you sure? Are you sure this is not the Metatron’s doing? Or Michael’s? Or...yours?”

“And if it was?” Sandalphon glared at him suspiciously. “What of it? We are the messengers of God. It’s our job to interpret Her Divine Will.”

“Yes, well, but I mean, is all this business a part of the Plan plan?”

Sandalphon sighed loudly, a drop of spit flying out of his incarnated mouth and sizzling on the sand at his feet.

“I...I really need to know,” Aziraphale said. “Is it or isn’t it? Part of...the Plan? The Ineffable One, I mean?”

“Yes,” Sandalphon said, rolling his eyes. “It’s all part of the Great Plan. Book of Genesis, Verses 18 and 19. The Judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah.”

“Right,” Aziraphale said. He waved the flaming sword experimentally. “Part of the Plan,” he added, mostly to himself, as he still wasn’t quite convinced that the written plan was the same as The Ineffable One.

“Ugh, Michael said you’d be like this,” Sandalphon said, watching him balefully.

“Like this? Like what?” Aziraphale asked. “What exactly are you getting at?”

“Oh, you know,” Sandalphon waved his arms. “Emotional about the humans. About Raphael’s work.”

The sword in Aziraphale’s hand burst into a gout of blue flame, quite without him meaning to do it. Sandalphon had gone half seraph in alarm, his brightness nearly blinding.

“Nothing is as he designed,” Aziraphale said. “None of this would be happening if it was.”

Sandalphon scowled. “Well, it’s all part of the Plan, anyhow, so prepare to do your angelic duty.”

His angelic duty. That’s exactly what this was, Aziraphale was forced to admit, whether he liked it or not. He lowered the sword, the flames receding back. He felt very tired now, and ashamed to have shown such emotional weakness in front of Sandalphon, of all angels.

“Yes, all right,” he said.

“Not a single person escapes through this Gate,” Sandalphon said. “Do you understand?”

“Yes, yes,” Aziraphale said. “You’ve made it perfectly clear.”

Sandalphon glared at him for another moment before unsheathing his own flaming sword, a great, blood-encrusted monstrosity that burned white-hot and mean.

“I’ll be at the Gate of Gomorrah. Come find me when you’re finished.” He looked at his watch. “The fire and brimstone is due any moment now. Be ready.”

“I am,” Aziraphale said. “I’m ready.”

  

Afterwards, even after miracling the blood, ash, and smoke out of his robes, his hair, Aziraphale knew it was there. He would always know.

So he found new robes, and travelled to the sea to purify his incarnate body, and burned his old clothing with the flaming sword before sending it back up to Heaven.

He was sitting numbly by the road, just outside the gates of Zoar, a jug of wine in hand, when Crawley emerged from the crowd of travellers streaming past. It was odd to feel such relief at the sight of those demonic eyes, peering just over the black cloth that covered most of her face.

“Do mine eyes deceive me?” Crawley asked, laughing. “An angel partaking in the base act of drinking?”

Aziraphale shrugged. “What concern is it of yours?”

She stared down at him, and it was all that Aziraphale could do to ignore the dizzying waves of love and affection that were rising up in him again, painful and insistent. He raised the jug and took a long draught.

“Was that your lot over in Sodom and Gomorrah?” Crawley asked, settling down beside him. Her robes were caked in road dust.

“Yes,” Aziraphale said, his tongue thick in his mouth.

“Blimey.”

“I couldn’t,” he added, despite his best intentions to stay silent, to ignore the demon completely. “I was supposed to slay them as they escaped and I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Sandalphon had to manage all on his own. He enjoyed it, too.”

Crawley looked over at him.

“I didn’t stop him,” Aziraphale continued, noting the odd reactions his incarnation was having at the moment. Nausea, vertigo, his voice oddly muffled. “It was all part of the Great Plan, after all. Ineffable. Completely ineffable.” He laughed, but it felt more like choking.

“I think you’d better sober up,” Crawley said. Before Aziraphale could speak another word, his head was clearing, the jug growing heavier in his hand. Crawley sighed and moved as if to put an arm around his shoulders. “Is this all right?”

Aziraphale nodded, still too shocked to feel much of anything at all. The weight of Crawley’s arm across his back was a comfort.

“What...what did you just do to me?” he finally managed to ask.

“Oh, just a little demonic miracle,” she said. “Nothing to worry about at all.” She took the jug gently. “Let’s just put this over here.”

“Thank you,” Aziraphale said. The love persisted in filtering through him, spilling over. It was in the very air, in the soil, in the dust. The essence of it was sweet on his tongue. He prayed Crawley couldn’t feel it.

She’s not Raphael anymore, he reminded himself, even as he found himself leaning against her.

Later on, Aziraphale would worry about having allowed a demon to get so close. He would agonize over why the demon’s touch didn’t even burn. He would remind himself that the love he felt was just the memory of a long dead past. He would resolve to never speak to Crawley again.

All of that complicated nonsense would come later, but for now, in this moment, the world was very simple. Crawley was there with him, and it was good.

 

 

Centuries passed.

Despite his best intentions, Aziraphale continued to see Crawley. Crowley, now.

It seemed that they were destined to keep meeting, for as much as he tried to wander farther afield, Crowley would inevitably end up in the same place. Not often enough to be suspicious, of course. Just every other century, give or take a few decades, and in one memorable instance, three times in the same century.

Aziraphale preferred to think it all a quaint coincidence. Any other reason was too disturbing to contemplate, and the truth was, he did actually like Crowley, in a cautious sort of way. They seemed to understand each other quite well, which was more than he could have ever said about his fellow angels.

So he continued to allow their association to continue, and as the centuries passed, empires rising and falling around them, so too did Aziraphale’s sense of caution begin to wane, almost without his having noticed the change at all.

 

***

 

Calm Walk In The Dark

Calm walk in the dark

A dark you can see

A dark that could lead you to

Shit you don't need

Gonna need a calm walk in the dark

To future

To unity

Strength dear lord is what you gonna need

Gonna need a calm walk in the dark

Calm walk in the dark

If they imprisoned our vision

Our throats

Our thoughts

Free

Free

Freedom a balance of owning our word

Take

Take these reasons put forth the work

 

from Dig On by She Keeps Bees

Chapter Text

The Globe Theatre, London, England, 1601

Crowley watched with a certain measure of affectionate irritation as the Globe Theatre filled up, people pushing and shoving each other in an attempt to get the best view of what was now being called one of the Pre-eminent Plays of the Century, old Shakespeare’s own Hamlet. It figured that Aziraphale would favour this one, of all the works he had to choose from. Despite his angelic Grace, his Heavenly poise, his effervescent personality, the angel did have a melancholic streak. There was no denying it.

“Oh, there you are, Crowley, I’ve been looking for you for hours.”

Crowley turned as the angel in question bustled up to him and gripped his elbow tightly, steering him away from the theatre.

“We’ve got to talk,” he said. “In private.”

“What? Now?” Crowley asked. “The play’s about to start. I reserved you a box in the very front. I thought you would enjoy seeing how popular it's become.”

“Oh, now is not the time,” Aziraphale said, waving one hand to summon a miraculous bubble of privacy, cutting them off from the tumult of the street.

Crowley frowned. “What’s the matter?”

“You must think me quite the fool,” Aziraphale said, releasing his elbow. “But don’t you dare think I haven’t noticed. You’re trying to make me Fall, Crowley.”

“I’m trying to what?” Crowley asked, disbelieving.

“Yes, that’s what this has been all about,” Aziraphale said. “The Arrangement, all the little temptations, your demonic ‘miracles’ in exchange. All of it.”

Crowley could only stare for a moment, panic short-circuiting his thought processes. What could he have possibly done to make his angel so cross at him? A frantic review of his most recent memories yielded nothing.

“Do you have anything to say for yourself at all?” Aziraphale asked.

“No!” Crowley managed. “Yes! I mean, I’m not. I’m not trying to make you Fall.”

“It would be quite a feather in your wing, wouldn’t it?” Aziraphale asked. “To strike down the Eastern Principality?”

“Of course not!” Crowley said, his blood running colder than usual. “Aziraphale, I do insist. This is not about Falling.”

“As if I would believe you. You’re a demon. It’s in your nature to deceive.”

Crowley lifted his chin. “Of all the accusations to level at me, this one is just insulting, angel.”

“Oh, is that so?” Aziraphale asked. Crowley could swear he was purposefully growing taller.

“Well, yes, obviously,” Crowley hissed. “As if I would ever attempt such a clumsy, ham-handed betrayal. No, if I wanted to do such a horrible thing to you, which I really don’t, I would do it with style. As a matter of fact, you wouldn’t even see it coming!”

Aziraphale scoffed. “You flatter yourself.”

“I’ll have you know that I keep the worst of the temptations to do myself,” Crowley said. “While you have me doing all manner of miracles. Have you ever heard me complain about that? Even once?”

“Well, it’s not as if I can make you un-Fall,” Aziraphale said. “You have absolutely nothing to lose.”

“Oh, but I do.” Crowley tore the spectacles from his face, as if somehow it would help to look at Aziraphale without the interference of the darkened lenses.

Aziraphale glared at him. “What could you, of all beings, possibly have left to lose?”

Crowley looked up at the sky, but no, that wasn't quite right. He looked down at the ground, but no, Hell had nothing to offer him, either. Finally, he settled on looking right back at Aziraphale, hating the look of betrayal and hurt he could see reflecting back at him in the angel’s eyes.

“Everything,” he said, feeling all the history of his long life pressing in against his chest. “I could lose everything I’ve worked all these years to win back.”

“Oh.” Aziraphale’s eyes flickered with uncertainty. “Well.” He shifted from one foot to the other. “I hadn’t realised your work was so important to you.”

“My work?” Crowley almost wanted to reach out and shake him. “This isn’t about my work. It’s just a job, angel. I only do it to stay here on Earth. With you.”

Well, that was certainly the wrong thing to say. Aziraphale stumbled back, his eyes widening, and then Crowley saw a sight that he hadn’t seen in millennia. A Heavenly Principality, manifesting into his full form, fuelled by something that bore a suspicious resemblance to panic.

“How dare you speak to me that way,” Aziraphale boomed, as Crowley’s shoulders curled in on themselves of their own accord. He looked around, but the humans remained ignorant of their row, flowing obliviously around the bubble of privacy that still stood around them.

“It’s only the truth,” Crowley said, raising an arm to shield himself against the brightness of Aziraphale’s true form. “This is what I’m here for, Aziraphale. This. Us.”

He hadn’t planned on confessing his feelings. Not today. Not this century. It just hadn’t made sense to risk destroying something that already seemed to be coming along on its own so well.

“Stop,” Aziraphale commanded. “You go too far.” He was using The Voice now, and it was all Crowley could do to keep himself from cowering at the angel’s feet, his incarnate body wavering under the intense pressure.

“When have I ever done you wrong?” Crowley asked, nearly pleading. “Didn’t I keep you company after the horrors of the Flood, of Sodom and Gomorrah, of Golgotha? Didn’t you come to my aid during the Battle of Actium? And at least three times during the Crusades? We could have taken advantage of each other so many times over the years, and yet neither one of us did.”

In the terrible silence, Crowley peeked over his arm, seeking out Aziraphale’s eyes from within the bright shape that was fading back into human form before him.

“I chose to trust you a long time ago,” he continued, his voice raw in his throat. “Haven’t I done enough to earn your trust in return?”

Aziraphale stood there a moment, looking strangely small as he settled back into his human incarnation, his ruffled collar askew. He picked at a loose thread on his sleeve, absent-mindedly miracling it back into place before meeting Crowley’s eyes.

“You’re a demon, Crowley. How can you possibly know the meaning of trust?”

Crowley winced at the the cold finality in Aziraphale’s tone, the hard grey-blue of his eyes.

“The Arrangement stands for now,” Aziraphale continued. “On a probationary basis. One false move, and it’s over, do you understand me, demon? One false move, and I’ll never speak to you again.”

“Angel–”

Aziraphale lifted a hand. “That’s quite enough of that.” With a wave, the privacy bubble collapsed open around them. “Good day, Crowley.”

It was all Crowley could do to stay on his feet as the crowd poured in around him like a wave, buffeting him from side to side, Aziraphale quickly disappearing among them.

 

 

Le Procope, Paris, France, 1793

Aziraphale could have gotten out of the Bastille on his own, he really could have, but it meant so much more that Crowley had been there. By now, he had achieved a certain level of acceptance regarding the feelings of love that permeated him every time the demon was close. As much as he would have liked to forget his life before the Great Rebellion, God hadn’t seen fit to grant him such a wish. All that was left to him to do was to carry the burden of his memories, and to be grateful that he could manage them at all.

After escaping the prison, their search for crêpes led them to a café across the Seine, where they were currently enjoying a bottle of astonishingly delicious cider, a lavishly decorated crêpe adorning the table between them.

Just now, Aziraphale was busy cutting a bit of crêpe, offering it up to Crowley with his fork, but the demon declined with a shake of his head. He had barely eaten at all, and remained unusually quiet, almost brooding as Aziraphale neatly worked his way through the repast.

“Do you think you could see your way to trusting me now?” Crowley asked.

Aziraphale nearly dropped his fork. “What do you mean?”

Crowley stared at him, the darkened panes of his spectacles making his expression look very blank, indeed.

“Have I made any false moves?” Crowley asked. “Have I ever done anything but be at your service all these years?”

It was getting rather uncomfortably warm now. Aziraphale laid his fork carefully by his plate. He fussed with his neckcloth but didn’t remove it. He could tell Crowley was completely serious, and after all the hullabaloo outside of the Globe those few years ago, he could understand why. He’d gotten rather carried away, and perhaps been a bit too harsh. In his defence, however, he didn’t know then what he knew now. The intervening years had proven enough what Crowley had claimed. He was quite sure the demon never intended to harm him, though he knew his own weakness in the matter, his love for Raphael, would always cloud his judgement. It would be terribly foolish not to keep that in mind.

“My dear Crowley,” he began, pausing to collect his thoughts. “I am an angel. You are a demon. Whatever agreements stand between us, they will always be trumped by the truth of our essential natures.”

“You’re avoiding my question,” Crowley said. He ran his finger idly along the top of his glass of cider. It sang a mournful note, and he snatched his hand back as if he’d been cut.

“I am very grateful, of course, that you spared me the hassle of being discorporated.”

“Angel.”

“It would have been quite inconvenient, indeed.”

“Aziraphale.”

“As a matter of fact,” Aziraphale continued. “I was quite surprised to see you. I was sure you were in Constantinople.” He knew that he was just grabbing at straws now, trying to avoid the conversation altogether.

“For the love of all that’s holy,” Crowley said. “Or unholy. Or, rather, secular and completely meaningless. Don’t toy with me, angel.”

And Good Heavens, Crowley was playing his trump card early, removing his spectacles and baring those eyes that bore so much resemblance to Raphael’s own.

“Erm…” Aziraphale said, choosing to plead ignorance. “I’m afraid I’m rather confused as to what you are asking of me.”

“Do you trust me,” Crowley snapped.

“You know I can never,” Aziraphale replied, just as quickly, the words pouring out of their own volition.

“I used to be someone else,” Crowley said. “And you trusted me then.”

It felt like the entire mechanism of the universe, perhaps even the multi-verses, came to a screeching halt. Aziraphale looked into Crowley’s eyes and saw the truth.

“You remember?” he asked. “Being Raph–”

“Don’t say the name,” Crowley said. “It’s not who I am any more.”

“And neither am I who I used to be,” Aziraphale replied.

“At least you still have your name.”

Aziraphale took a breath. “You remember me?”

“You really think I could forget you?” Crowley asked.

“How am I supposed to know? You didn’t seem to recognize me when me met, and I wouldn’t dare presume anything.”

“Oh, of course not,” Crowley scoffed. “That would be insufferably rude, wouldn’t it?”

“Well, it’s not like you ever said anything,” Aziraphale snapped.

There was a tense pause, during which the waiter flitted past and almost stopped by to check on them before thinking better of it. This was all wrong, Aziraphale could see now. He should have never accepted Crowley’s help. He had been feeling so guilty about the way he had talked to him the last time they saw each other, at the Globe. And this had seemed to be such a lovely opportunity to make it up to him… 

He reached across the table and covered Crowley’s hand with one of his own. Crowley met his eyes.

“That was all such a long time ago,” Aziraphale said.

“It was.”

“Everything was different, you understand.”

Crowley’s expression grew wary.

“I’m not sure I can give what you are asking of me,” Aziraphale continued, the words burning bitter in his mouth. “Not any more.”

“All I’m asking for, angel, is your trust,” Crowley said.

The questions were crowding in Aziraphale’s mind now, edging everything else out. Why did Raphael have to Fall, when he really hadn’t done anything wrong? And why can’t I just stay away from Crowley like I’m supposed to?  With effort he pushed them away. There were no answers to be had. It was ineffable. It was all just ineffable.

“I can try,” he said finally. “You are a demon, Crowley. And I am an angel. But nevertheless, I can try to trust you.”

“Well,” Crowley said, sliding his hand out from under Aziraphale’s. “Well...then that’s all I can ask, I suppose.”

It wasn’t enough, Aziraphale knew. It wasn’t nearly enough. But it was all he had to give at the moment, if he expected to be able to continue managing at all. Crowley put his spectacles back on and slouched back against his chair, crossing his arms across his chest.

“You better finish that up,” he said, motioning to the crêpe with his chin. “We both ought to be moving along fairly soon, I think.”

“Right,” Aziraphale said. He picked up his fork again, worrying at the crêpe for a moment before giving up on it completely. He really wasn’t all that hungry anymore.

 

 

Westminster, London, England, 1862

Aziraphale sat in silence. He had been this way for quite some time. Seven hours, perhaps. Or, perhaps 48 hours. It really hadn’t mattered all that much. Everyone knew that A.Z. Fell only opened his bookshop when he felt moved to do so.

Just now, Aziraphale had a lot to think about.

He hadn’t seen Crowley in decades, until being summoned to St. James Park. After some polite conversation – hadn’t Aziraphale started using a typewriter yet? (Why would he do that?) Hadn’t Crowley bothered to read On the Origin of Species yet? (Pffft, read a book?) – Crowley had handed him a piece of paper with two words on it.

Holy water.

He said he wanted it for insurance, but of course, Aziraphale hadn’t believed him.

Things hadn’t been quite the same since Paris. They still saw each other, but Crowley carried himself with a careful sort of distance that Aziraphale had never seen before. He knew he was supposed to feel relieved. After all, it was making his job on Earth a lot easier. Crowley seldom asked him to participate in the Arrangement any more.

He was supposed to feel relieved.

Aziraphale hated these moments, the times that forced him to face the reality of who he had become on Earth.

Yes, he was an angel. He would always be an angel. But he was also a hypocrite. It was a human word. He’d first read it during the 12th century, when he had commissioned a secret copy of the Ancrene Riwle manuscript from a monk at Wigmore Abbey in Herefordshire.

He was an angel, manifested in a body that he should be treating as nothing more than a temple for his spirit, a house left unsullied by the base elements of this world. And yet, and yet...

He savoured the feeling of burnt cream melting on his tongue, the taste of a good crocant with hot peppers, the scent of a florendine of rabbits wafting through the kitchen doors at his favourite restaurant, the tartness of a good Madeira, the feeling of being full and content and sleepy after dinner.

He loved the scent of rain mixing with the dirt, the brisk wind buffeting him in the face and reddening his nose and cheeks, the occasional sun dazzling his eyes, the meowing of cats begging for scraps of fish, the way that birds sang in chorus at dawn, the soft triangle ears of dogs, the sound of laughter, of song, even of crying.

He loved the smooth silk of an elegantly embroidered waistcoat, the heavy assurance of a velvet frock coat, the supple fragrance of a fine pair of leather boats. The feel of old pages turning under his fingers. The aura of dust that crowded around him in his bookshop. The way the door hinges squeaked when a customer came in, the noise of the street spilling in. The cacophony of church bells ringing the hour.

He relished the feeling of a warm towel wrapped snugly around his face at the barbers, the scrape of the razor, the splash of cologne afterwards. He loved the way his mouth felt when he smiled. The way his body felt when he danced. He even loved the funny feeling he would get in his stomach when Crowley looked at him in that particular way, even if it was a bit unsettling, even if it did remind him of the pleasure he could never, ever indulge in with him.

There was no denying it. Aziraphale loved being on Earth. He loved being in a body. And yet nothing could change the Law that was imprinted deeply within him.

He was an angel of God.

Crowley was Fallen. Damned for the rest of eternity. A demon.

He was the enemy.

It was easy enough to make room in God’s Ineffable Plan for almost everything but this one thing. He could accept that perhaps it was all part of the Plan to allow the fruits of the Earth to enter the temple of his body, to allow himself to experience Earth in the fullest sense of the word. But his friendship with Crowley could not possibly be a part of the Plan. If it had been, they would never have been separated in the first place. They would still be together, doing good works, experiencing the world through their bodies, all with the blessing of God.

The decades flipped past, ink spilling across the pages of history, words written in the language of devastating wars, heart-wrenching famines, terrifying epidemics, the beautiful fruits of inspiration, triumphs of the body and spirit and failures, oh so many failures. The human race was growing and changing and so too did Aziraphale.

The humans kept killing each other at unprecedented rates. Friends, acquaintances, neighbours were born and then gone in the next moment. Nothing was permanent. Nothing seemed to mean anything, if it ever even had. By 1919, Aziraphale was struggling to balance on the edge of a blade, teetering between guilt-ridden hedonism and half-hearted attempts at asceticism. The more he tried to attribute his own hypocrisy to the ineffability of God’s Plan, the more he knew he had no right to judge Crowley for his own weaknesses, his own desire to secure for himself a guaranteed exit. Even if he didn’t agree with it. Even if it meant he might never see Crowley again.

 

***

 

I’m Lost Without You

Friends, all ask me about you

You're gone and they want to know why

I've stopped even trying to tell them

Tears fill my eyes, I walk away

 

What can I say, where can I go without your love?

What can I tell them now that you've left me?

What shall I say, what can I do?

I'm lost without you

 

If I've made you unhappy

Well I'm sorry for what I've done wrong

You can't, really mean it's all over

Give me a chance, don't walk away

 

Hear what I say, where can I go without your love?

What can I tell them now that you've left me?

What shall I say, what can I do?

I'm lost without you

 

If you turn and walk away, don't come back now

If you break my heart again, I'll just hate you

Hate you with every beat

With every beat of my heart

Oh, I'm lost without you

Oh, I'm lost without you

 

If you turn and walk away, don't come back now

If you break my heart again, I'll just hate you

Hate you with every beat

With every beat of my heart

Oh, I'm lost without you

Oh, I'm lost without you

Oh, I'm lost without you

 

from Marlon Williams by Marlon Williams

Chapter Text

Soho, London, England, 1941

Crowley slouched lower on the settee, head tilting back onto the unforgiving cushions, legs sprawled haphazardly. A.Z. Fell and Co. had been open for quite a few decades now, but this was the first time he’d really had an opportunity to take in the back room, things having been rather tense with Aziraphale since the beginning of the 17th century. They had just finished taking dinner at a scrappy little pub to celebrate their victory over the Nazi book collectors. There was a part of him that knew it would probably have been better to stay away altogether, but oh! when he entered the church, his feet burning from contact with the sacred ground, the expression on Aziraphale’s face had made it impossible to regret anything.

Crowley drained his wine glass and set it on the floor, sniffling a bit at the aroma of book dust that permeated the air like incense. Aziraphale hadn’t been able to resist putting away his rescued books the moment they’d arrived, and Crowley could hear him bustling about the shop, his contented murmuring punctuated by bursts of cheery whistling of what sounded like an Artie Shaw tune.

“Crowley, dear,” he called. “Have you had a chance to read The Little Prince? It was just published.” He appeared a moment later in the doorway, a copy of the book in one hand, wine glass in the other. Crowley was amused to note that he was more than a little tipsy, his cheeks unrepentantly rosy and his eyes unashamedly bright.

“Eh. Books,” Crowley said, more than a little tipsy himself. “Who needs ‘em.”

“Oh, but it’s absolutely lovely,” Aziraphale said, seemingly unaware that he was tilting to one side until the door frame caught him. “You must read it.”

“Come read it to me, then, angel.”

Aziraphale’s face lit up at the suggestion. “Oh, you’d really let me?”

Crowley smirked. “Depends.”

“On?”

On how close you are when you read it, he thought, but didn’t say, thank somebody. He wasn’t that drunk.

“On whether or not it’s boring,” he said, instead. He sat up quickly as Aziraphale wobbled over to the settee and sat down rather close, the wine nearly sloshing out of his glass. He set it down on the floor and then opened the book, turning to look at Crowley.

“Go on,” Crowley said.

Aziraphale drew a dramatic breath. “Once when I was six years old I saw a magnificent picture in a book, called True Stories from Nature, about the primeval forest. It was a picture of a boa constrictor–”

“You didn’t tell me this book was about serpents,” Crowley said, leaning closer.

“Well, it’s not quite–”

“Wait a minute, what’s that drawing?” Crowley asked, reaching out to tilt the book in his direction. The page featured a drawing of a boa constrictor coiled around a frightened-looking animal that might have been interpreted as a rat by some people. Afterwards, there was a drawing of what looked to be a hat.

“Oh, that’s not even accurate,” he said, insulted. “We certainly don’t resemble hats after eating anything...even hats.”

“Of course not,” Aziraphale said, hiccuping. “That’s not the point.”

“Hmm…”

“It’s not really about the drawing, at all,” Aziraphale continued.

“Well, then, what’s it about?”

“If you would just let me keep reading...”

“Fine, fine. Go on.”

“Right.” Aziraphale sat up a little straighter and cleared his throat. “Once when I was six years old I saw a magnificent picture–”

“No, don’t start over! Just keep going where you left off.”

“I don’t remember where I left off.”

“You can’t be serious,” Crowley said. “It was the part about the boa constrictor–”

“It was a picture of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant,” Aziraphale read loudly.

“An elephant? Since when was there an elephant? You’re not even one sentence in, and you’ve gotten us completely lost!”

“Oh, you wily old serpent!” Aziraphale said. “It’s your fault for interrupting me.”

“Give me the book,” Crowley said. “I might as well read it myself.”

“Absolutely not.” Aziraphale snapped the book shut.

“Gimme–” Crowley lunged.

“No!” Aziraphale threw The Little Prince across the room like a discus before Crowley could snatch it. It hit the opposite wall and landed face-down on the rug, pages crinkling unhappily under the weight of the cover.

“I...I can’t believe you just did that,” Crowley said, his eyebrows nearly up to his hairline.

“I didn’t mean to, really.”

“Oh, you mean you actually didn’t mean to throw one of your precious books?”

“No! Of course not!” Aziraphale said.

“In mint condition, too.”

Aziraphale looked over at him beseechingly. Crowley sighed. He pushed himself to his feet, pausing a moment to let the spinning world settle in around him. He made his meandering way across the room and picked up the book, using just a bit of demonic miracle to smooth out the wrinkled pages before closing it.

“Here,” he said, handing the book over as he collapsed back down next to Aziraphale. “And do keep in mind that this is my last book-related miracle for at least another century or two.”

The look Aziraphale was giving him was prompting the sort of thoughts that were bound to cause nothing but trouble, indeed.

“Crowley,” Aziraphale said, his face flushed. “You’re such a romantic.”

“What?” Crowley scoffed. “No, I’m not.”

“Incurably so,” Aziraphale said, putting the book carefully on the coffee table. “It makes me want to kiss you.”

“What?” Crowley felt pinned to the settee, frozen with disbelief.

“Would you let me?”

Crowley took off his glasses, and in the sudden brightness it seemed as if everything was a blur except for Aziraphale, his angel, the one who stood at the fulcrum of the spinning world and balanced it all out.

“You’re serious?” he asked, for once unable to bring himself to make light of the situation.

“Of course,” Aziraphale said, and he didn’t sound tipsy at all any more.

Crowley knew that some friends made it a practice to kiss each other, but he’d spent the bulk of his last twenty years in Berlin, so his idea of what constituted an appropriate level of physical interaction between friends was hazy at best. Nevertheless, his traitorous mind decided for him that though this was most likely the worst idea in the history of time, it was also the most brilliant one he’d ever heard.

“Erm,” he said, turning sideways on the settee. “All right. Yes. Go on, angel.”

Aziraphale leaned forward, too fast, and their noses bumped together awkwardly as he pressed his lips against Crowley’s.

“I’m sorry,” Aziraphale said, drawing away. “I’m afraid I’m more nervous than I expected to be.”

“That’s all right,” Crowley said, his heart hammering in his chest. “Anyway, that’s how friends usually do it, eh? Short and sweet.”

“I want to try again,” Aziraphale insisted. “I want to do this properly.”

This was really the worst of ideas. It really, really was. Crowley’s mouth opened and more words came out, anyway.

“Well...all right. Let’s try again.”

“Have you done this before?” Aziraphale asked, his voice taking on an oddly resonant timbre.

“A few times,” Crowley admitted. “But it never felt quite right…”

“And now?”

“I wouldn’t be here if it didn’t, angel.”

Aziraphale licked his lips, his eyes skipping down to Crowley’s mouth and then meeting his eyes.

“Show me how you like it?”

Crowley was sure he had just ignited like a sparkler, going by the effervescent feelings zinging out of every pore. 

“All right...well...all right.” He scooted forward and put his hands on Aziraphale’s face, hoping they weren’t too obviously clammy. “Is this all right?”

“Quite,” Aziraphale murmured, gazing up at Crowley through his eyelashes.

Crowley couldn’t help grinning, giddy and unbelieving. They were very close together now, so that he could barely meet Aziraphale’s gaze. He hesitated another moment and then pressed his lips against Aziraphale’s mouth.

He was determined to keep it chaste, but as soon as he felt the wet warmth of Aziraphale’s mouth opening against his, he couldn’t help but do the same. Aziraphale surged against him, and Crowley felt a swirl of energy rise in his incarnate body in response, the potentialities for pleasure that had lain quiescent for millennia taking on a manifested form as he stroked the back of Aziraphale’s neck, dizzy with want. 

But no. It would not do to lose control. With great effort, he pulled back. Aziraphale looked up at him, his expression so dreamy that Crowley couldn’t help running his thumbs across those rosy cheeks. Aziraphale leaned into the touch with a contented hum.

“That was good, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Crowley said.

“One more couldn’t hurt, could it?”

Crowley pushed away the warning voice at the back of his mind, already leaning forward to kiss Aziraphale gently, and oh, two kisses were definitely better than one. But then again, three’s a charm, so Crowley kissed Aziraphale once more, a little more wildly this time, their teeth clashing together.

Aziraphale laughed into his mouth, gripping him by the lapels and collapsing back against the settee, pulling Crowley down with him. When Crowley chased his lips, he tilted his chin up and exposed his neck instead, his eyes closing, a blissful expression on his face. 

Crowley froze, staring down at his angel, all warmth and soft edges, and his heart ached with the realization that Aziraphale must trust him, after all, even if he could never actually manage to say it.

Aziraphale opened one eye to look up at him. “One should never leave an angel waiting.”

Crowley huffed out a laugh. “Sorry.”

“Bad form, that.” Aziraphale’s voice was endearingly soft.

Crowley ducked his head, overcome by the feelings that were threatening to spill out of him. He pressed reverent kisses to Aziraphale’s throat, claiming the soft skin underneath his jaw, licking his way down to that ridiculous tartan collar, loosening the bowtie so that he could push one heavily starched lapel out of the way to nip playfully at Aziraphale’s collarbone. 

“Oh!” Aziraphale’s fingers dragged through Crowley’s hair. He tugged gently, summoning him, and Crowley needed no other excuse to devour his mouth again, any remaining sense of doubt melting away in the flood of that passionate embrace.

The energy sparked so brightly that Crowley was almost blinded by it. He felt his wings unfurling, and feathers brushed against his fingers as Aziraphale’s wings opened below him, manifesting through all the planes of physical matter around them.

“Angel!” Crowley gasped, as something inside of him broke open, and then they were both outside of themselves, or rather, outside of their incarnated bodies. Crowley stared down at his vacated form lying limply on the settee, Aziraphale’s own body slumped underneath his. The lights in the room were flickering madly.

He looked down at himself as he was now, and he was made of nothing but golden starfire, threads of nebula both old, old, old and brand, brand new, a being of pure energy coiling protectively around a star held close in spiral arms of blue light, blue that wound in and around and through him, holding him, and they were merging…

 

Crowley came to on the settee, his legs tangled with Aziraphale’s, face pressed against his neck.

“Did we? Did we just...dissolve?” he asked, his voice cracking. His mouth tasted of stale wine, and his chin felt like it had been scraped raw with sandpaper. “Angel?”

“What have we done?” Aziraphale asked, startling Crowley as he squirmed out from under him, breathing hard. He scooted to the far end of the settee, shaking his head.

“Are you alright?” Crowley asked.

“We went too far, Crowley.”

Crowley tried to ignore the sudden lump in his throat that was making it hard to breathe, that damnable sensation of panic his incarnate body was helpfully supplying him with in the form of a sickening wave of nausea.

He pushed himself up slowly. “I think we had better sober up.”

Aziraphale nodded. Crowley closed his eyes and forced the wine out of his system, shaking as he did so, the nausea growing worse, not better. He leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees, bracing himself.

“We should never have done that,” Aziraphale said.

“Oh,” Crowley said, still fairly stunned. He reached for his dark glasses and put them back on. “Do you think they’ll know? Are you in danger?”

“I really don’t know. What about you?”

Crowley tried to stay focused, but the world was spinning out of control now, nothing to anchor it in place. He managed half a shrug, barely meeting Aziraphale’s eyes.

“Crowley, this is serious!” Aziraphale said. “We did something that I didn’t know was possible. We could have...permanently altered each other. Who knows what the consequences of this will be.”

Crowley didn’t much care about consequences at the moment, or really anything at all other than the fact that Aziraphale so sorely regretted what they had done.

“Are you alright?” Aziraphale asked.

“Well,” Crowley said. “I can’t really tell at the moment. That was...quite a transition.”

“I’m sorry,” Aziraphale said. “I panicked a bit.”

“Just a bit.”

“I’m sorry, Crowley, truly.”

Crowley stood up, an ancient weariness nearly felling him then and there.

“I should probably be going.”

“You needn’t go right away,” Aziraphale said, looking up at him. “Unless you’d rather.”

“I think it would be for the best.”

“Are you sure you’re alright?”

Crowley didn’t even want to answer that. “Are you?”

“Oh, I’m sure I will be,” Aziraphale said, with forced lightness. “I truly am sorry, Crowley. I should never have...suggested such a thing. It was completely irresponsible of me. I’m– I’m sorry.”

“It takes two to tango, angel,” Crowley said, retrieving his hat from behind the settee. He hovered for a moment, unsure.

Aziraphale bit his lip and looked down at the rug.

“All right,” Crowley said. “I’ll be off then.”

The Bentley was waiting for him on the kerb, and he took a moment to just sit behind the wheel, staring blankly through the windscreen. He winced as his incarnate body continued having its physical response. It felt like a sous chef had taken a melon baller to his heart.

How foolish he had been! How could he have thought it was remotely possible to win Aziraphale over — as a fallen angel, a demon — when he could barely manage it before, when they had been on the same side? How could he have ever thought that getting involved with Aziraphale was a good idea at all? 

Crowley growled, resisting the urge to destroy something, and the Bentley’s engine roared to life at his command. He drove home as fast as he dared. He had spent millennia waiting and he was finished with it. Finished with waiting for understanding to come, for some measure of relief, for some kind of answer to all of his questions.

He wanted to feel nothing, or to only feel what a demon was supposed to feel. Joy at pain, at suffering, at the sight of a soul warped out of all recognition by the fires of Hell.

He could discorporate. Go back to Hell. Ask for reassignment in some secluded pit where he would never be at risk of seeing the angel again.

But no. He couldn’t bring himself to do it. This was his world, too, not just the angel’s. He couldn’t just leave it, not when he had fought for so long to stay.

Oblivion was hard to come by as an immortal, but at least there was sleep. Once home, Crowley made a beeline for his bedroom and collapsed on the bed, promptly offering himself up to the gods of sleep for at least the rest of the foreseeable future, if not the rest of eternity. At that very moment, he didn't much care which.

 

***

 

Stardust

 

Instrumental

 

from Begin the Beguine by Artie Shaw and his Orchestra

Chapter Text

London, England, Shortly after the delivery of the Antichrist

Crowley didn’t really think before calling Aziraphale, per say. He just dialed the angel on his mobile, and even when that didn’t work - thanks to his dastardly plot to take down the entire network in London - his body drove the car to the nearest telephone booth without him really having a say in the matter at all.

He’d backed off on initiating contact in the last few decades, leaving it up to Aziraphale to reach out to him as he so desired. But if Armageddon wasn’t a big enough justification to contact the angel, then nothing could be. And, of course, things weren’t so bad. Yes, Aziraphale had hurt him. Yes, he was an impossibly self-righteous and stubborn bastard. 

Yes, but…

Crowley couldn’t help thinking of the tartan flask full of holy water hidden away in his wall safe. It must have been difficult for Aziraphale to get it for him, what with Heaven breathing down his neck. He couldn’t discount the risk the angel had taken in order to make amends in the only way he could. Besides, it was Armageddon. He had just delivered a baby. The baby to end all babies, as a matter of fact. It would be ridiculous not to call Aziraphale.

 

The following day, Crowley found himself on the bench at St. James’ Park, being regaled to yet another round of Aziraphale’s sanctimonious nonsense.

“Heaven will finally triumph over Hell,” Aziraphale was saying. “It’s all going to be rather lovely.”

Crowley gazed at Aziraphale thoughtfully, a vague feeling of resentment lurking at the edge of his thoughts. He pushed it away. This was not the time for feelings. It was the end of world, and the angel was simply the best ally he could muster – nothing more, nothing less – and so he went about his work mercilessly.

“Out of interest,” he began. “How many first-class composers do your lot have in Heaven? Because Mozart’s one of ours… Beethoven… Schubert... Uh, all of the Bachs.”

“They have already written their music,” Aziraphale replied.

“And you’ll never hear it again,” Crowley said. “No more Albert Hall. No more Glyndebourne. Just celestial harmonies.” To put a point on it, he simpered the last bit in a rather churlish imitation of an angel.

“Well…” Aziraphale started, as if he actually had an answer for that.

“And that’s just the start of what you’ll lose if you win,” Crowley said. “No more fascinating little restaurants where they know you.”

Aziraphale’s façade was slipping now, and Crowley supposed that was the benefit of having known him for so long. It did provide quite a bit of ammunition.

“No more gravlax in dill sauce,” he continued. “No more old bookshops.”

It had been a long time since Crowley had felt so...clever. He stood and walked away, an immense feeling of satisfaction – gloating, if he was being honest – inflating him until he could have almost been carried off on a breeze.

Steady now, demon, he thought, as Aziraphale followed him. The key to convincing the angel of anything was to stay calm during the process. As if it didn’t mean the world to him to establish whether or not Aziraphale would be by his side for this last great battle.

By some miracle, the angel was still at a loss for words, and Crowley knew better than to waste the opportunity.

“We’ve only got 11 years, and then it’s all over,” he said. “We have to work together.”

“No,” Aziraphale replied.

“It’s the end of the world we’re talking about. It’s not some little temptation I’ve asked you to cover for me while you’re up in Edinburgh for the festival. You can’t say no.”

“No,” Aziraphale insisted.

“We can do something,” Crowley pushed on. “I have an idea.”

“No!” Aziraphale stopped walking, lifting his hands for emphasis. “I am not interested.”

Crowley paused, noting the angel’s body language. They didn’t have any more centuries to waste running away from each other. He’d have to try another angle.

“Well, let’s have lunch, hmm?”

Aziraphale paused.

“I still owe you one from…” Crowley trailed off.

“Paris,” Aziraphale said, wary. “1793.”

“Yes,” Crowley replied, ignoring the urge to bring up the awkward conversation they’d had in the café. “The Reign of Terror. Was that one of ours or one of yours?” 

“I can’t recall,” Aziraphale replied, smiling brightly now. “We had crêpes.”

Ouch. That hurt. Crowley ignored the ache in his heart, as well as the traffic warden who was attempting to give him a ticket, and got into the Bentley. He couldn’t believe that Aziraphale would have forgotten about that night in Paris, but maybe he had… Or, perhaps he was just relieved that Crowley decided not to mention their past history. Or perhaps he really was just that excited by the idea of crêpes. Regardless, he had sort of been hoping to avoid such a graceless form of manipulation. Desperate times called for desperate measures, though, didn’t they?

He might have to keep playing it cool when it came to Aziraphale, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t find ways to let the pressure off a bit. He floored the Bentley and the car gave a glorious roar, swerving down the road. Aziraphale pressed his palms against the dashboard grimly but didn’t say a word. Crowley grinned, and if the traffic warden’s notebook spontaneously combusted in that moment, well… he was doing everyone a favor there, wasn’t he?

 

Lunch proved to be a terrible mistake on Crowley’s part. He realized his error the moment Aziraphale took his first bite, meeting his eyes with a look that somehow managed to be angelic and carnal at the same time.

Crowley tried his best to look nonchalant while taking a gulp of water from the glass set before him. He’d already finished his pithivier of celeriac, being more of the type to swallow things whole rather than savour. Aziraphale, of course, had ordered a three-course meal, and he was only just finishing up the first.

“Did you enjoy your pithivier?” Aziraphale asked, pausing to eye Crowley’s plate. “It looked absolutely delectable. You really should have saved me a bite.”

“Mmm, sorry,” Crowley said, smashing the crumbs on his plate with one of the forks from his table setting. Probably the wrong one for the job, too.

Aziraphale beamed up at the waiter as the next course was placed in front of him, then scooped up a bit of gravy and licked it off of his finger, wiggling in his chair with delight.

“You simply must try some of this, my dear,” he said.

“Ngh!” Crowley slouched back in his chair in self-defense. “I mean, I’m full. Erm. Thanks, angel.” He didn’t even register when the waiter cleared his plate and replaced it with a cup of espresso.

This had been a terrible idea. Absolutely terrible. By the time the fig leaf mousse appeared, Crowley had completely forgotten the whole point of having asked the angel to lunch. Who would have guessed that a dessert spoon would be his ultimate downfall?

Next thing he knew, he was the one tagging along in quiet desperation as they headed to Aziraphale’s bookshop, all of his formerly-masterful manipulations imploding into that peculiar form of flirting that had been making up the bulk of their conversations for the better part of the last five decades.

And then they were alone together in the back room of A.Z. Fell and Co., for the first time since that time in 1941, and Crowley could only think of one thing.

Alcohol. Extraordinary amounts of alcohol. That was definitely the ticket out of this disaster.

 

Several bottles of wine and bizarre conversations later – Châteauneuf-du-Pape, that is, and something to do with dolphins – they decided to sober up, and that’s when Crowley finally found his opening. He’d been going about it all wrong, of course, by trying to tempt Aziraphale from the narrow way. No, what Aziraphale needed more than anything else was to feel safe. All of the tempting in the world would not shake him if the temptation didn’t align with his principles. There was no helping it. He would have to play by the angel’s rules if he expected to get anywhere.

“I can’t interfere with the Divine Plan,” Aziraphale insisted, waving his hands.

“Well, what about diabolical plans?” Crowley asked. “You can’t be certain that thwarting me isn’t part of the Divine Plan, too. I mean, you’re supposed to thwart the wiles of the Evil One at every turn, aren’t you?”

Aziraphale’s face flickered with uncertainty. “Well…”

“See a wile, ya’ thwart,” he pushed on. “Am I right?”

“I...Broadly,” Aziraphale said. “Actually, I encourage humans to do the actual—”

“But the Antichrist has been born,” Crowley insisted. “But it’s the upbringing that’s important, the influences. The evil influences, that’s all going to be me—”

Crowley felt like he was walking along a tightrope, balance pole in hand, steps as sure as they were cautious, and better yet, the platform at the other end was already in sight.

“It’d be too bad if someone made sure that I failed,” he finished.

The look on Aziraphale’s face shifted from uncertain to worried. Worried was a good sign. When the angel worried, he tended to do things about it.

Oh, yes! Brilliant job, you, Crowley thought. So this is what it felt like to be a competent demon. He’d almost forgotten.

Aziraphale’s face lit up, and for a moment, Crowley thought that just maybe the angel had been waiting for an excuse to consort with him again, rather than being actually opposed to the idea of working together. It was a dangerous thought, however, so he tried not to put too much stock into it.

“If you put it that way…” Aziraphale said. “Heaven couldn’t actually object if I was thwarting you.”

Just a little further now. “No,” Crowley said. “Be a real feather in your wing.”

As if Aziraphale actually cared about such things, but one must keep up appearances when trying not to think of what else could potentially be on the table for negotiation.

You can thwart me anytime, Crowley thought, fighting back the urge to say that out loud.

Aziraphale reached out to shake his hand, a wary look in his eyes, and at the touch of his palm, Crowley felt the world shift and fall into place around him, a weight falling off of his shoulders. He couldn’t help the flush rising in his incarnate body, nor the words chirping out of his mouth.

“We’d be godfathers, sort of, overseeing his upbringing.”

Aziraphale seemed to like that.

“We do it right, he won’t be evil,” Crowley continued. “Or good. He’ll just be normal.”

Aziraphale looked pleased as punch now, and Crowley reeled as much from that as from the realization that all he’d ever wanted was just to be, well, normal, too. Or at least not confined to a predetermined setting. After all, he hadn’t been Evil for centuries. Not really. An argument could even be made that he had never been Evil, at all. What was Evil, anyway? Was it really about asking too many questions? Or was it about who you were asking the questions about? And as far as Aziraphale was concerned...if Good meant behaving like the other angels in Heaven, well then, Aziraphale was more like Crowley than he was like them, so he couldn’t really be said to be strictly Good, either.

“It might work,” Aziraphale said, glowing now. “Godfathers. Well, I’ll be damned.”

Crowley grinned. Oh, this was too easy. “It’s not that bad when you get used to it.”

The look on Aziraphale’s face was priceless.

 

Six years before the End of the World

Five years ago, Crowley had done something she never thought she would ever manage to pull off again, and now she was here, posted up as a nanny for the Antichrist, known as Ashtoreth to the family, experiencing the pleasure of working closely again with Aziraphale for the first time in centuries. (Well, the gardener Francis, technically, but he was still very much the same old angel with a good deal more facial hair.) She hadn’t been prepared for the side effects of such a collaboration, however. Aziraphale a few times a century was manageable, but every day? It had only been two weeks, and she really wasn’t sure how she was going to survive the next six years.

She had just put The Adversary, Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, Prince of This World, and Lord of Darkness down for a nap, and was hovering in the hall outside the nursery, staring out over the estate grounds. Her attention snapped to the single moving point in the distance as Aziraphale came into view, ambling his way across the lawn, a spade balanced over one shoulder, pail in the other hand.

Crowley’s heart soared at the sight of him, an unfortunate response she had given up attempting to control. After all, what mattered is how she reacted externally to the stimulus, not necessarily what happened inside. She turned away from the window with an effort, deciding that it would be a very good time to put the laundry away. Yes, indeed. Finishing the laundry was very much in order.

What she really meant was that there was no better time than now to take the Bentley for a drive, and at the fastest possible speed.

 

She returned a quarter of an hour later, somewhat dishevelled but unrepentant nonetheless, already feeling more like herself, that is, until Aziraphale cornered her in the courtyard.

“Good day, Francis,” she said.

“Hullo Ashtoreth,” Aziraphale replied, with a merry grin. “I thought I’d tell you that I just decanted an elderberry cordial the previous gardener set by last winter. Would you like to try a bit of it, say tonight, after Warlock is asleep?”

Crowley stared down at him a moment.

“You know we’re not supposed to fraternize,” she said. It was a low blow, but bloody hell, it felt good to get it off her chest.

Aziraphale blinked. “Oh...right.”

Crowley instantly felt bad. “Perhaps over the weekend would be better?”

“Oh yes!” Aziraphale brightened up. “Perhaps we can make it a picnic? Under that apple tree in the western corner?”

“Mmmm.”

“I’ll even shave for the occasion.”

Crowley rolled her eyes, mostly to cover up for the intense feelings that statement invoked.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” she said. “You need to keep your disguise.”

“Oh, I can grow it right back on Sunday night,” Aziraphale replied. “To be honest, I wish I hadn’t done the whiskers, at all. It gets quite hot out there in the garden at noon.”

“I can imagine,” Crowley said, trying not to think of every shaving scene she had ever scoffed at in the romantic films she would never, ever admit to having watched.

This was going to be a long six years.

Aziraphale beamed up at her. “Saturday it is, then?” 

Crowley took a breath. “Yes, Francis. Now, if you’ll excuse me...” She made to step around him.

“Is the little one asleep?” Aziraphale asked, turning with her.

She paused. “Warlock is napping, yes.”

“Give them a kiss from me when they wake up, will you?”

“I most certainly will not,” Crowley replied severely.

Aziraphale’s eyebrows tilted in amusement. “Why, I’ll do it myself, then.”

  

The years passed in this fashion, and little Warlock, though having the misfortune of growing up a pawn between two agents half-heartedly endeavouring to do their jobs, at least got to experience what it felt like to be raised by two people who clearly cared about each other. The trouble was, Nanny and Brother Francis didn’t seem to think it was as simple as Warlock knew it was. Any and all attempts to ask questions regarding the subject had been met with gentle evasiveness on Nanny’s side, which was strange considering how much she usually adored answering Warlock’s questions. As for Brother Francis, Warlock had only managed to endure two awkward, long-winded bouts of back-pedalling from the gardener before giving up trying to put a name to their relationship.

Crowley, for her part, couldn’t seem to forget the idea of being normal, and whereas she couldn’t see her way to giving up on her job completely (she had to make sure things stayed balanced between her and Aziraphale, for the angel would certainly never let up on trying to convert Warlock) she at least worked to instil in Warlock the strongest sense of personal autonomy she could muster. She’d be damned (again) if she let the child become nothing but a pawn. No, the Antichrist must have the opportunity to make their own choice, when the time came.

It took Crowley longer to admit as the years went by that she didn’t really fancy the idea of an Armageddon at all. Angels fighting in Heaven was one thing, but angels versus demons? With the Earth and who knew how many other worlds caught in the middle as collateral damage? No, she really couldn’t bear it.

Despite her best (or perhaps worst) intentions, she had grown to love Warlock. Because of that, and perhaps also because they were now more than just an angel and a demon, she and Aziraphale grew closer in a way that she never believed was possible. It wasn’t quite everything she wanted, but it was more than she had ever hoped for, at least. Now it was about more than Good and Evil, Wrong and Right, Heaven and Hell. Now they were Ashtoreth and Francis, partners in work and in life, guardians of childhood, keepers of small treasures, fairy god-people, warriors against nightmares, janitors of messes big and small, and cuddlers of cranky children.

 

One rainy day in April, as Crowley walked through the gardens, umbrella open against the downpour, it occurred to her that she had completely forgotten the point. The point was that Warlock was the Antichrist. The point was to ensure Hell’s ultimate victory over Heaven. The point was that she wasn’t quite who she used to be, or that perhaps being Nanny Ashtoreth had helped her find her way back to who she really was.

And who she was wasn’t really Good or Bad. She was...normal, just as she’d always wished to be. She might have always been normal and never realised it. 

It was hard to see outside of the stories they told in Heaven and Hell, and the ways they viewed the world. But now she was seeing it. She was seeing all of it. Heaven and Hell, two opposite poles balanced precariously on either side of existence, the rest of life just wavering along, doing the best it could to manage some sort of neutrality between the pull of such heavy influences.

So that’s where Crowley was, really. She’d always been in the middle. That’s why she’d Fallen. And that’s why she’d ultimately ended up on Earth, where she had somehow managed to claw her way out of Hell’s influence...

That meant that Aziraphale, her beloved Aziraphale, was in the middle, too. He might not realise it, but he must have at least suspected it, going by how terrified he was of the very idea of not following his Heavenly duties to the letter. He hadn’t Fallen, so he didn’t know what it felt like to leave that serene bubble of Heavenly ignorance and see the world for just a moment as it really was – before Hell sucks you in, of course, and makes it all seem like a dream.

Crowley felt very strange now, weak in the knees, her heart aching. She had dropped the umbrella somewhere behind her, but she didn’t care. She had spent all this time asking questions, never realizing that she had figured it out long ago. Oh, her temptations were enough to keep Hell happy, but she’d always designed them just so, hadn’t she? Not too Evil, but certainly not Good. They just Were. They were Annoyances. Inconveniences. Mixed Messages. Portals and Gates and Vortexes unlocked and hanging open. The Stuff of Life.

And meanwhile, humanity had swung back and forth between two poles of extremism, Heaven and Hell, Good and Evil, neither of which produced much in the way of useful progress. Oh, it was all just so...ineffable. She laughed at the thought, imagining what Aziraphale’s face would look like if he could hear her now.

Obviously, then, Armageddon was bollocks. It was complete and utter insanity coming straight out of Heaven and Hell. It had nothing to do with Earth, with humans, with the multiverses, with the ineffability of existence.

Which meant that Crowley wasn’t really a part of it. She wasn’t a part of Armageddon. Or, at least, she could choose not to be. That’s what she had earned in the past 6,000 years since she had arrived on this Earth. And it was the same for Aziraphale. That’s what they had both fought for without knowing it. The right to choose.

Crowley laughed. She sank to her knees in the mud and cried. She dug her fingers into the dirt, her hair wiggling out of its severely pinned state and melting down around her face.

Knowing this, it didn’t hurt so much anymore that Aziraphale couldn’t love her. The problem had never been that he couldn’t, at all. The problem was that he did love her, and that he didn’t realise he had a choice. He didn’t have to go along with Armageddon. Or with Heaven. He didn’t have to be her enemy, or her cautiously affectionate friend. He hadn’t realised any of it yet, but he would. She promised herself that. She would share this Knowledge with Aziraphale, somehow.

And he would not Fall because of it. Aziraphale already stood in the place that holds it all, Heaven and Hell and everything in between. He was an Earth Angel, just like the song. Crowley was almost certain of it, even as a flicker of doubt lingered at the back of her mind. 

No. No matter what, she would share this Gift of Knowledge, and she would love him as they both deserved to be loved, and she would not let him Fall.

 

***

 

Is What It Is

Bow to the power

Make sure it knows

How heavy it is

Be not completely

Consumed

Do not surrender

Is what it is

It is

It's that kind of life

You are worthy

I am worthy

Put me in the middle

You better push a bit more

How we are now

Do not surrender

Is what it is

It is

It's that kind of life

You are worthy

I am worthy

Needed to have it happen

 

from Eight Houses by She Keeps Bees

 

*

 

Come to Me

Down on the beach with pail and spade

No shelter from the sun and the rain

No, you're spreading the pain

Digging holes just to fill them again

 

Come to me

 

There's nothing sweeter than you when you're blind

Arms out feeling for the holes around you

And I'm high up above you

Looking down with my bird's-eye and lovin' you

 

Come to me

 

And when you find me

We'll share our troubles and fears

They'll wither over the years

And I believe in you

 

Come to me

 

There's nothing sweeter than you when you're blind

Arms out feeling for the holes around you

And I'm high up above you

Looking down with my bird's-eye and lovin' you

 

Come to me

 

Down on the beach with pail and spade

No shelter from the sun and the rain

No, you're spreading the pain

Digging holes just to fill them again

 

Ooh, come to me

Come to me

 

from Make Way for Love by Marlon Williams

Chapter Text

Tadfield, England, A few hours after the Armaggedon’t

Aziraphale’s head ached dully, his body tense with the constant feeling that at any moment, Heaven was going to come and drag him away, or worse, Hell would come for Crowley. He really had reached a point of no return now. There was no coming back from this. His goose was well and truly cooked.

They were on a bus which still advertised passage to Oxford, though it wasn’t stopping to pick anyone else up, and it was going in the wrong direction. Crowley was sprawled in the seat next to him, staring out at the night, one arm lined up against the bottom sill of the window, the other one heavy on his knee. It looked like he was barely holding it together now, exhaustion dragging at his shoulders. It frightened Aziraphale to see Crowley like that, and he reached out without thinking.

“Are you alright?” he asked, his hand hovering over Crowley’s where it lay on his knee.

“I will be,” Crowley said, lifting a finger to stroke the underside of Aziraphale’s hand.

Aziraphale twined his fingers through Crowley’s. He could feel Crowley tensing up, remembered Crowley as Ashtoreth, laughing beneath the boughs of the apple tree at the far corner of the estate, her eyes widening as she caught the look in Aziraphale’s eyes, the feeling that he hadn’t been able to contain, that said he’d been thinking about kissing her.

He thought about the look in her eyes when she realised he’d never dare to do such a thing again.

“Is this okay?” Aziraphale asked. He couldn’t believe how long it had been since they had really touched.

Silence.

“Crowley?”

“‘Suppose it is,” Crowley mumbled.

Well, that wasn’t a good enough answer, Aziraphale decided, feeling even more the cad. He started to unwind his fingers from Crowley’s, stopping when Crowley reached over with his other hand and gripped his wrist.

“Angel,” he said. “You do realise…” He sighed. “We should really wait until we get back to my flat before talking about this.”

“All right,” Aziraphale said, dread pooling in the pit of his stomach.

Crowley let go of his wrist, and Aziraphale untangled his fingers, scooting away from him, feeling smaller and colder with each minute that ticked by on their return to London.

 

Back in Mayfair, Aziraphale waited as Crowley unlocked his front door, trying his best not to hover. Crowley pushed the door open and threw his keys on the sideboard, striding down the hallway, Aziraphale trailing behind him. He shuffled from foot to foot as Crowley peeled off his jacket and threw it over the back of the couch.

“Can I get you anything?” he asked, spinning to face Aziraphale. “I’d rather we not do any more alcohol for the moment. But I think I have some biscuits in the cupboard. And tea? There might be tea. Well, there can be tea if you want. Or anything at all, really.”

“No…” Aziraphale said, not feeling very peckish at all. “I’m all right, thank you.”

They stared at each other for a long moment. Crowley took a breath and removed his sunshades.

“Let’s sober up, angel.”

Aziraphale nodded, pushing the alcohol out of his system, hating the bitter taste that it always left behind. Crowley made a face and shook his head.

“Glass of water?” he asked, already making his way toward the kitchen.

Aziraphale followed him, drinking from the offered glass automatically, his gaze sliding over everything in the kitchen without registering it.

“You do realise I still want this, don’t you, angel?” Crowley asked, putting his glass in the sink.

“This?” Aziraphale asked, blinking out of his daze.

“This,” Crowley said, motioning between them. “Us.”

Aziraphale’s face warmed. “Oh.”

“Just not with the mixed messages,” Crowley continued. “This hot and cold business. I can’t do it that way anymore. Not without talking about it, at least. Not without knowing what you’re thinking.”

It was more than a fair request, Aziraphale knew, but that didn’t keep his incarnate body from swamping him with waves of 

                      anxiety          

                      and 

                      shame. 

He’d really mucked it all up, hadn’t he? 

Blind as a bat, 

                  flying at breakneck speed

         through the bright world of humanity, 

                    thinking it was Crowley who moved too fast. 

         But no. 

                                 No. 

                                                        No.

         It was he 

         who had been 

         too quick to pass 

         judgment. 

            To accept 

            what he had been told 

            was real.  

He keenly regretted that he hadn’t seen it sooner. 

 

He put his glass down on the counter, 

           the click it made against the tile bringing him back into the moment.

“I’ve been   such   a   fool, Crowley,” 

                                  he said.

 

Crowley sighed. “It’s not your fault, angel. Not really. You couldn’t see it. I didn’t understand that until, oh, only about three years ago. You were in thrall. In Heaven’s thrall.”

 

        “What 

                         do you            mean?”

 

“You’ve always had the freedom to choose, Aziraphale, but you didn’t know it. Heaven made sure of that.”

 

                             “Fuck,” 

                       Aziraphale said, startling Crowley. 

                                         He squeezed his eyes shut, 

                                                  dizzy, 

                                            knowing deep down that it was all 

                                                                                         true. 

It was the only thing that could explain, well...everything. 

Oh, but it meant that he was more of a     

                                           hypocrite

                     than he had ever dared to admit. Worse still, he had         

                                                     failed

           not only in his duty as an angel, but as a 

                                                                  friend. 

                                                        Crowley deserved better. 

                                                                       Much better.

 

“Do you understand now?” Crowley asked quietly.

 

    “I 

     think 

     so,” 

Aziraphale said, 

   fighting back a wave of 

           nausea. 

It was there, 

           the understanding, 

but he couldn’t seem to quite      fit      it     all        inside.

 

Crowley hesitated a moment, then stepped closer. “Are you all right?”

 

                               “I              don’t             know,” 

                                                              Aziraphale said,     as the world        spun     

                                                             around him.

 

Crowley opened his arms, and Aziraphale 

           stepped forward 

           into his embrace, 

           choking back his sobs as best as he could.

 

“Just let it out,” Crowley said.

 

    “I 

      can’t,” 

Aziraphale said. 

      “I 

        can’t, 

            Crowley.

                       I can’t.”

He was shaking       now. 

Everything was happening       too fast. 

Crowley’s arms around him felt          like fire          like rain.

 

“It’s alright,” Crowley said. “You’re safe.”

 

For one giddy moment, 

Aziraphale     remembered 

watching       Ashtoreth 

cradling        Warlock 

        in her arms, 

     rocking them gently to sleep, 

crooning underneath her breath, 

                                            and it pushed him over the edge.

He broke open

           great    jagging         sobs, 

his heart 

           tearing,        thousands of pieces flying, 

           grief 

               that had lain unchallenged 

           deep inside of him

             finally rising up and moving through.

 

“Breathe,” Crowley crooned.

 

                                      Aziraphale cried            for all that he had lost. 

                  For all that he had sacrificed           in the name of loyalty and duty. 

                     He cried for the questions                       and for their answers, 

                                 and for the ones that remained             unanswered. 

            He clung to Crowley, 

                      feeling love 

                        threading 

                      through all the facets 

                          of the shining world 

                      he knew so well, 

                         and he cried 

for all that he had found.

 

When the tears left him, 

Aziraphale felt stunned and hollow, 

      the world    shifting      around him, 

the tiny star that Raphael had made for him all those millennia ago 

glowing warm and bright at his very core. 

 

He drew his handkerchief from his pocket, wiping his face and then dabbing futilely at the mess on Crowley’s waistcoat.

      “I’m so sorry,” he said, pressing his forehead to Crowley’s shoulder, 

                speaking the words into his chest, as if perhaps they were best delivered

                                                         directly to Crowley’s heart. 

                                                        “I was so foolish,” he said.

                                                                          “So cruel. 

                                                                  My dear, can you ever forgive me?”

 

“I–” Crowley cleared his throat. “Look, I just need to say that there was a time, Aziraphale, that I wasn’t sure I would be able to forgive you. I was so hurt. So angry.”

 

     ”Oh     God,” Aziraphale said, 

        everything            collapsing     inside     of   him.

 

“Just listen,” Crowley said, squeezing him gently. “I realized none of it mattered, really. I did stupid things, you did stupid things. We did stupid things together. It was all part of the process.”

 

     “But I     was so       horrible...”

 

“Neither one of us knew then what we know now. It happens to everyone. But look at what you did once you figured it out. You rebelled against Heaven and Hell. You made the choice that felt right, that felt true to you. And that’s the only thing that matters.”

 

                      “Is       it?”        Aziraphale    asked. 

 

He was certain he would be              crushed

                           under the weight of it all, 

    his long    past,  all of that   ancient   and     modern    history, 

                      Heaven’s          expectations,

           his      misguided         devotion, his 

                        long 

                        list

                        of

                        regrets

                        and

                        mistakes.

 

Angel,” Crowley said, pushing Aziraphale back gently so he could look into his eyes. “Of course I forgive you. I forgave you years ago. And I hope that soon you’ll be able to forgive yourself, too. Because you did good, angel. You really did.”

                                            

                                                 Aziraphale     felt

                                                                        those words

                                                          filling     his     heart,

                                                                            the     warmth of those

                                                                                    gentle 

                                                                               hands 

                                                                    that had once made 

                                                                                       stars 

                                                                          still resting 

                                                            lightly, politely

                                                                        on his arms.

                                                                                He felt the world

                                                                         falling

                                                                  into place

                                                             around    and    inside

                                                                    of him.

                                                                           But he 

                                                                                wasn’t 

                                                                               falling. He

                                                                               wasn’t

                                                                           Falling.

He wasn’t Falling.

 

He was only waking up.

 

“My dear Crowley,” he whispered. “My faithful one. My brave one.” 

Crowley had never looked as beautiful, as handsome, as divine as he looked in this very moment. Aziraphale simply could not wait any longer. He leaned forward and kissed him.

At first, Crowley kept his hands on Aziraphale’s arms, cupping his elbows, trying to be polite, restrained, gentle. He wanted him too much. Too, too much. He felt very much as if he was in a dream, an iridescent bubble that might burst if he moved too quickly.

“Crowley,” Aziraphale said, pulling away just enough to speak. “Crowley, I want you.”

The words filtered in through the living, breathing cells of Crowley’s body, warming him from the inside out.

“I want you,” Aziraphale repeated, the words intoned like a prayer. “I want you, and I’m afraid...”

Crowley drew in a breath.

“...I’m afraid of losing you,” Aziraphale finished.

“Don’t be,” Crowley said, the words barely easing past the savage ache in his throat. “I’m not going anywhere this time. No one could pry me away. I’m like a barnacle.”

Aziraphale laughed soundlessly, his shoulders shaking.

“I know it sounds stupid,” Crowley added, a trifle defensive.

“It doesn’t,” Aziraphale said. “You are quite like a barnacle when you want to be.”

Crowley tried glaring at him, but Aziraphale just kissed him again, urgent and wild, and they stumbled together out of the kitchen in a tangle of arms and legs. Crowley’s mid-century modern couch wasn’t really built for this sort of thing, and as Aziraphale pushed him down against it, it transformed into a sumptuous velvet monstrosity whose cushions nearly smothered him in marshmallow comfort.

“Whoa.” Crowley looked up at Aziraphale, his eyes wide.

“Your couch really wasn’t working for me,” Aziraphale breathed, two red spots high on his cheekbones. “I’ll change it back after we’re done.”

“I don’t care,” Crowley said. “I don’t ever want to be done.”

Aziraphale beamed down at him, his eyes red, his skin all blotchy, and Crowley felt such a surge of love rising in him that he thought he would burst. He raised his head to catch Aziraphale’s lips, his hands sliding up his back to cup his shoulder blades. Any hesitation, any fear that lingered inside of him dissolved with the taste of Aziraphale’s mouth, the feel of his body. It was all so uninhibited. So joyous.

He felt his body and spirit responding, energy flowing to the pleasure centres of his manifested form, potentialities growing and glowing there. Aziraphale drank the pleasure from his lips, drawing it out long and sweet until Crowley felt as if he would vibrate right out of his body, as he once had done in the back room of Aziraphale’s bookshop.

“Closer,” Aziraphale said, unbuttoning Crowley’s waistcoat. “I want to be closer.”

“Dance with me,” Crowley sighed, hands fitting themselves against Aziraphale’s waist, finding the curve of his lower back. “Dance with me, for you are the song.”

“I want your body, too,” Aziraphale said, as Crowley fumbled with the buttons of his soft waistcoat, pushing it open over his shoulders. “Your body and your spirit, Crowley. I want both at once. Don’t leave your body. Stay with me.”

”Always,” Crowley said. He took Aziraphale’s hand, entwining their fingers together. “Come with me.” 

He led them to the bedroom, to the luxurious four-poster bed that he had always hoped to share, and paused by the bedside. He turned to face Aziraphale as he let his waistcoat slide down his arms and fall to the floor, empty as a shedded skin, then pulled his shirt off over his head, shivering slightly as he tossed it off to the side.

“Oh,” Aziraphale said, stepping forward to press his mouth reverently to Crowley’s throat, palms sliding across his bare stomach. “Oh, Crowley,” he breathed against his chest. Crowley clung to Aziraphale’s shoulders for balance while Aziraphale worked his way lower, his fingers trailing along kiss-dampened pathways.

“Wait,” Crowley said, gathering himself, drawing Aziraphale back up, reaching with trembling fingers to unbutton Aziraphale’s shirt. “Angel, wait for me.”

Aziraphale’s eyes flickered with uncertainty as Crowley pushed his shirt off his shoulders with eager fingers and then peeled his vest up and over his head.

“Crowley,” he whispered, looking down.

“You’re absolutely bloody gorgeous,” Crowley said, running his hands over Aziraphale’s skin, warm and soft, then spinning their bodies together. “Is this what you want?” he asked, as Aziraphale allowed himself to be pressed down to the mattress.

“Yes,” Aziraphale said, his voice soft, crackling in his throat, laden with power.

“Good.” Crowley said, lowering himself down with a sigh. “Good.”

Time dissolved around them until there was nothing else in that moment but the two of them, enthralled by pleasures both human and ethereal, and even if all of Heaven and Hell had gasped collectively at the shock of seeing them together, they wouldn’t have noticed it at all, not at all, not at all.

 

***

 

Longing

Long the morning

Long thoughts sent through trees

Senses heightened

Hair raised up 90 degrees

When you are looking at me

I feel longing, lusting, hunger

Pulling closer

Starving for your attention

 

My eyes pressed closed

Feel every curve of your body

Hang off me

 

Language woven with longing

Pulse raised up faster, it beats in this longing

Hold me

Slow, slow, slowly

 

My eyes pressed closed

Feel every curve of your body

Hang off me

 

from Kinship by She Keeps Bees

 

*

 

Make Way For Love

Make way for love

Make way for love

 

When, by design

You are on your knees

And all wealth of comfort

To afford you

 

Then shall the wonder

Of the ages

Be revealed again

 

Make way for love

Calling for you...

Leading you on...

All through the night

 

Only love...

Deep as the ocean

Here is the will

Here is way, the way in to love

 

Vocal/Instrumental Break

 

Oh, let...

The wonder

Of the ages

Be revealed as love

 

from Make Way for Love by Marlon Williams

Chapter Text

Mayfair, London, A few months after that business with the bathtub full of Holy Water and the hellfire full of Hellish Fire

*    *    * 

(CL) London, UK > community > missed connections

 [Reply]

Ashtoreth and Francis (Somewhere marvelous, probably)

Something tells me you both probably live in London, and I hope I’m right. We both recognized you at the birthday party. The kid is so upset that you didn’t stay to say hello after. If you wanted to see us again, you could have just called. No need to pull that Mrs. Doubtfire nonsense. Though you both looked absolutely amazing. Anyway, please call us. We miss you.

xoxo,

That crazy American woman and her spoiled brat of a kid

P.S. Francis, you should probably avoid doing magic from now on. Take it from someone who knows how to quit while I’m ahead.

P.P.S. Yes, I’m getting divorced. :-(

P.P.P.S. That wasn’t meant as a guilt trip. It’s just that we miss you so much.

 

 

  • do NOT contact me with unsolicited services or offers

 

 

post id: 6990122333  posted: over a month ago     email to friend      best of [?]

 

*    *    *

 

Aziraphale drifted awake to the sound of Crowley’s voice filtering in through the crack in the bedroom door, coming more fully awake when he realized that Crowley was on the phone.

He smiled as he spied the silk robe that Crowley had left hanging on the bedpost for him, cream-coloured and embroidered with celestial dragons, a sprinkle of stars adorning the hems. He slipped it on, sighing at the feel of the cool fabric sliding against his skin, and hurried to find his demon.

“I’m really sorry, darling,” Crowley was saying, perched on his desk in nothing but a pair of black pants, the corded handset from his telephone pressed to his ear. “We’re both really sorry. Let us make it up to you, eh?” He held his mobile out to Aziraphale, his mouth a rueful line. When Aziraphale took it, he found the web browser open to a missed connections post on craigslist. His heart dropped as he read it, and he put the mobile back on the desk, giving Crowley a worried look.

“...of course we’ll go on a picnic,” Crowley continued, giving Aziraphale a smile. “That’s a brilliant idea. Yeah, Sunday’ll work. I can pick you both up. Yep, in the Bentley. Oh… Warlock, I’m so sorry to hear that. Would you message me your new address, then? And be sure to let your mum know our plans. I’ll call her later to confirm everything.”

Aziraphale watched Crowley being so kind, so affectionate, and he couldn’t resist sidling closer, reaching out to run a hand up his thigh. Crowley lifted an eyebrow, hopping off the desk and pulling Aziraphale against him.

“Would you like to say hello to Francis?” he asked, his voice only a little strained. “Yes, he’s right here… Erm, no. We don’t live together. What’s that? Oh, maybe one day.” He met Aziraphale’s eyes. “Right, well, here he is. Goodbye for now.”

Aziraphale took the handset from him and pressed it to his ear.

“Warlock, my dear,” he said. “I am so very sorry we left your birthday party without saying goodbye.”

“It’s okay, Brother Francis,” Warlock replied, their voice tinny over the phone. “Nanny Ashtoreth said you had something important to deal with.”

“We rather did,” Aziraphale said, amused by the understatement.

“Well, so did I. Cuz guess what? I wrote a story about growing up with you and Nan and it won an award. They’re going to publish it in my school magazine.”

“You don’t say,” Aziraphale managed, as Crowley bent to kiss his neck, sliding his hands underneath the silk robe. “What’s the story about, exactly?” He barely restrained a gasp as Crowley squeezed him just there, grinding ever so slightly against his hips.

“Will you behave?” he whispered, covering the mouthpiece of the telephone.

“You started it!” Crowley whispered back.

Aziraphale grinned and shooed him away, blowing him a kiss as he sauntered out of the room.

“—and kidnap you and Nan has to turn her Bentley into a spaceship to go save you,” Warlock was saying. “And I go with her as her co-pilot, even though my mum said I couldn’t.”

“I’m sorry, dear, I missed the first part of what you said.”

“Oh. I just said the story’s about how you’ve been in a relationship for years but were pretending not to be,” Warlock repeated. “Then aliens kidnap you, and me and Nan have to go save you in the Bentley, but it’s a spaceship.”

“My, my, Warlock. You have quite an imagination.”

“I didn’t make it too romantic or anything gross like that,” Warlock added. “And it turns out you’ve been a demon this entire time, and so you show your true self and fly away from the aliens and meet us in space and we all go and have a picnic on the Moon.”

“That sounds absolutely lovely,” Aziraphale said, grinning. “What did we have to eat for the picnic? And how did you know to bring the food if it was a rescue mission?”

“Oh, that was easy,” Warlock said. “It also turns out Nan is actually a magician, like a real one, so she magics up all of our favourite food, and then when you and Nan get tipsy on the wine, you start to kiss each other and I have to drive us all home.”

“You wrote all that?” Aziraphale asked, taking the mug of coffee that Crowley offered him.

“Yes.”

“It sounds absolutely splendid.”

“Thanks. You’re coming to the picnic with Nan?”

“Of course. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

“This Sunday,” Warlock said.

“I’m looking forward to it already,” Aziraphale said.

“Cool. Well, I have to go. Mum says hi.”

“Tell her hello from the both of us, then,” Aziraphale said, before saying goodbye and hanging up the phone. He turned to Crowley. “Did you hear the story that Warlock wrote, Crowley dear?”

Crowley laughed. “Quite eerily on point, I would say.”

“Except for the part about Francis being a demon.”

“Eh, demons are cooler, is all.”

“I beg to differ,” Aziraphale said, puffing up.

“Do you?” Crowley asked, catching Aziraphale by surprise as he swooped in to kiss him, pressing him back against the desk. Aziraphale set his coffee mug down hastily and hitched himself up on the desktop, trapping Crowley between his legs as he kissed him back. He stroked Crowley’s hair, fingers tracing down his spine, all of his senses lighting up with the thrill of it.

“Say…” Aziraphale paused, finally registering where exactly Crowley had found Harriet Dowling’s post. He pulled back to look Crowley in the eye. “What are you doing looking at missed connections, my dear? Is there someone I should know about?”

“No! Of course not,” Crowley said. He bit his lower lip, flushing. “Yeah, it’s not what you think. I...uh…I got into the habit of it a few years ago. Of just reading the ads…”

Aziraphale raised an eyebrow. “Whatever for?”

“Well, you see…” Crowley rubbed the back of his neck, looking down. “Sometimes… well, actually, fairly often, I...sort of help them find each other. If that’s what they both really want.”

Aziraphale wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. He stared at Crowley.

“Oh, angel, don’t look at me like that.” Crowley hid his face against Aziraphale’s shoulder.

“You really are the loveliest person I’ve ever met,” Aziraphale said, stunned. “I… how… I don’t deserve you.”

“Stop it, darling,” Crowley murmured, kissing his neck. “We definitely deserve each other and you know it.”

Aziraphale laughed. “We really do, don’t we?”

Crowley raised his head to look at him. “‘Course we do.”

Aziraphale reached up to cradle Crowley’s face in his hands, wondering at his life now, and how it was so much better than he had ever imagined it could be. Not to say that things weren’t still difficult, or frightening, or worrisome. Not to say that they didn’t still have bad days, even bad weeks. But they were both free now, so it was more than worth it.

He pressed kisses to Crowley’s eyebrows, the sharp tip of his nose, the soft corners of his mouth, his chin, his throat, his jaw, then back to his lips, love like honey rising up and pouring out of him, so that Crowley could feel it everywhere, as Aziraphale had felt his love for 6,000 years…a tiny star glimmering in the dark, an unwavering flame, faithful and sweet in its brightness, a burning beacon to light the way home.

*** 

Earth Angel

Earth angel, earth angel

Will you be mine

My darling dear, love you all the time

I'm just a fool, a fool in love with you

 

Earth angel, earth angel

The one I adore

Love you forever, and ever more

I'm just a fool, a fool in love with you

 

I fell for you and I knew

The vision of your love, loveliness

I hope and I pray that someday

I'll be the vision of your hap–, happiness

 

Oh earth angel, earth angel

Please be mine

My darling dear, love you all the time

I'm just a fool, a fool in love with you

 

I fell for you and I knew

The visions of your loveliness

I hope and pray that someday

that I'll be the vision of your happiness

 

Oh earth angel, earth angel

Please be mine

My darling dear, love you all the time

I'm just a fool, a fool in love with you

 

from The Best of The Penguins by The Penguins

Chapter Text

Crowley pulled up to the block of flats in the Bentley, fingers drumming on the steering wheel as he and Aziraphale waited for Warlock and the former Mrs. Dowling to make an appearance.

“Erm,” Crowley said, as mother and child walked up to the car, and Aziraphale reached out to squeeze his hand.

“Hello,” Harriet said, sliding into the back seat after Warlock. “I seriously didn’t think that craigslist ad would work. Thank you so much for calling.” She paused, blinking, as if seeing them for the first time. “My goodness, you both look fantastic.”

“Nan?” Warlock asked, raising their eyebrows.

“Yeah,” Crowley said, turning in his seat. “I’m still the same old me, just...well. It’s sort of a long story...but this is who I am now. My name’s Crowley. But you can always call me Nan.”

“Crowley,” Warlock said, sounding it out carefully. “That’s cool. So what pronouns should I use?”

“Oh, well,” Crowley said, realizing he’d never really thought about it. “He, him, I suppose. For now. Or really any of them.”

“Alright,” Warlock said. “I use they, them and theirs only.” They nudged their mother.

“What? Oh.” Harriet nodded. “She, her, hers for me, please.”

Aziraphale cleared his throat. “Well, I suppose I should mention that you might call me Aziraphale now, rather than Francis...he, him, his, as well.”

Warlock’s eyes widened. “Azeerafell? So, you really are a demon?”

“Warlock, we talked about this,” Harriet said.

“It’s alright,” Aziraphale said, smiling at her. “It’s A-zi-ra-phale, not fell,” he corrected. “And good heavens, no. Do I look like the type to be a demon?”

“I dunno.” Warlock squinted playfully at him. “You do look more like an angel, but that could be your disguise.”

“For Pete’s sake,” Harriet said.

“Have a look in the picnic basket, will you?” Crowley said, and Warlock whooped with joy.

“I knew it! You made those little sandwiches, didn’t you?”

“Of course I did,” Crowley said. “Who do you think I am?”

“Can I eat one now?” Warlock asked.

“No,” said Harriet and Crowley in near-perfect unison.

“Of course, my dear,” said Aziraphale at the same time.

“Ugh, spoil them rotten, why don’t you,” Crowley muttered, turning the Bentley back into traffic without so much as a flick of the turn indicator. He caught Harriet’s eye in the rearview mirror and grinned.

 

Later that day, as they lounged on a blanket in Kew Gardens, Crowley and Warlock roaming around nearby, Harriet turned to Aziraphale.

“Warlock has been going on and on about angels and demons ever since all that weird biblical stuff happened. I don’t know what to do about it.”

Aziraphale patted her arm gently. “You don’t have to do anything. They’re obviously a gifted storyteller, so it’s only natural. Try not to worry too much about it.”

“You read their story, then?” Harriet asked, flushing. “I had no idea they had even written it until the school called me to say they had won the writing contest. I mean, of course I also suspected that you and Ash– I mean, Crowley – were...an item. But I didn’t want to make any assumptions.”

“I haven’t read it yet,” Aziraphale said. “But I would love to, if they don’t mind.”

“My story?” Warlock asked, as they swooped by to grab another tiny sandwich from the picnic basket. “Wanna hear it right now? I can tell it to you.”

“Yeah, let’s hear it,” Crowley said, flopping down next to Aziraphale. “I’m curious to hear more about this demon version of Brother Francis.”

“Oh, here we go,” Aziraphale sighed, but he couldn’t help smiling, too. “Go ahead, dear,” he said to Warlock. “I’m all ears.”

 

...and for every picnic after that, Warlock always brought a story to share. As they got older, they brought printed copies of their stories for Crowley and Aziraphale to take home, or a poem they’d been working on, and Aziraphale always had helpful things to say. (Crowley just said it was bloody fantastic every time)...

...at their 18th birthday party, Warlock proudly unveiled the certificate that declared them an ordained Universal Life Church minister, acquired at 12:03 that morning on the internet, which meant, of course, that from that day forward, they were authorized to perform marriage ceremonies for –wink, wink, nudge, nudge– nearly anyone.

 

The evening of Warlock’s 18th birthday party, after Crowley and Aziraphale got back to their cottage, Crowley threw A Night At The Opera on the turntable, carefully dropping the needle four tracks in.

“What is this bebop?” Aziraphale fussed, even though he knew the song perfectly well.

“You’re my best friend,” Crowley answered, holding out a hand. “Dance with me.”

“Neither one of us knows how to dance, dear,” Aziraphale replied.

“We’ll figure it out together. Now stop being coy and come here.”

So they made up their own dance, laughing and stepping on each other’s toes, and as the song ended, Crowley kissed him.

“Marry me, angel,” he said, pressing his forehead against Aziraphale’s.

Aziraphale leaned back, blinking. “Excuse me?”

“Did I stutter?”

Aziraphale scrunched up his nose. “You’ve been spending too much time with Warlock and Adam, I see.”

“I’m sorry,” Crowley said, laughing. “I couldn’t help myself.”

“Oh, well, it happens to the best of us, I suppose.”

“I was being serious, though,” Crowley said, dropping to one knee and gazing up at Aziraphale. “Will you marry me?”

“Good Lord,” Aziraphale said, flustered. “The answer is yes, of course. Now get up, you ridiculous demon.”

“Really?” Crowley asked, standing up too quickly and clutching at Aziraphale for balance.

“Of course! Did you actually think I would say no?”

“I didn’t really think that far ahead,” Crowley admitted. 

Aziraphale laughed, tilting his chin up the slightest bit, and Crowley obligingly kissed him again.

 

Much to Warlock’s excitement (and Adam’s...and Pepper’s...and Anathema’s...and, well, everybody’s), Crowley and Aziraphale arranged to be married shortly after that, in the meadow near Adam’s house, right by a gnarled old apple tree. Warlock conducted the ceremony, of course, and even though Shadwell grumbled half-heartedly all the while, a lovely time was had by all.

If you live in Tadfield, you might even remember the day it happened. It was one of those days that started off with rain and heavy clouds, until the sun abruptly cut through at about a quarter to three in the afternoon, bright rays unfurling like banners of light, connecting the sky to the earth. After that, the most glorious triple rainbow that had ever been seen in the entire history of the world spilled out across the sky. 

There might even be video of it online, because Newt couldn’t help himself, though nothing filmed could really do it justice, of course, and besides, the best parts would be missing.

Imagine wings unfurling in a celestial embrace – bright white and glimmering black. Imagine laughter, crêpes and wine. Imagine music playing on tinny little speakers and joyfully awkward dancing, because nobody really knew what they were doing except for Harriet, who had been sent to finishing school, and Madame Tracy, who had collected all sorts of useful skills throughout her life. 

Imagine Crowley and Aziraphale’s shock at receiving Uriel’s gift of a meticulous copy of the Codex Gigas (which only Aziraphale and Warlock were really excited about) and Dagon’s gift of a fancy new label-maker like the ones used in libraries (which resulted in everyone and everything at the wedding being labelled by Adam, Brian, Pepper and Wensleydale by the end of the day). 

Imagine that Gabriel secretly messed with the weather schedule to make it a sunny day when it should have been grey, while Beelzebub convinced all the noxious insects in the meadow to go on a short holiday.

And imagine how thoroughly surprised everyone had been by the rainbow. Naturally, the humans had attributed it to either Crowley and/or Aziraphale, and the angels and demons had just assumed someone else had done it. In reality, however, it hadn’t been a part of any of their plans. Rather, it had appeared in the sky like the ineffable thing that it was, shining and mysterious, coming into existence seemingly of its own volition. Perhaps it was a blessing, perhaps a good omen, or perhaps just a bit of sunlight refracted and reflected thrice...or maybe, just maybe, it was all of that at once.