“Look, if this doesn’t end well--”
He didn’t realize the sun had set until the spots in front of his eyes disappeared. He had been staring at the sun for most of the day, counting the hours that passed based on its position in the sky. He had been sitting in St. James Park for what felt like eons, waiting to see his own body waltz up and sit down beside him, his favorite person smiling his own smile because they had done it. They thwarted Heaven and Hell, again. They were alive and they were free and they were on their own side now.
He pulled the coat he wore closer around him, breathing in the beautiful, familiar scent of the owner of this body. He longed to return to his own body and still be close enough to breath in that scent
He shivered as the park lamps lit up the empty sidewalk, the silent pond. He needed to get up. His legs were stiff, his head ached. His stomach flipped again.
Where is he?
He’s fine, his mind told him, as it had been repeating all day. He’s fine, he’s alright, he just got held up. It would be just like them to have a mountain of paperwork to fill out for your own execution.
The body on the bench finally stood, stretched. Its current inhabitant ran a hand through “his” hair, as he had dreamed of doing for so long under different circumstances. He began walking, and ten minutes later he realized his feet were taking him to the bookshop. Made sense. It’s where they always seemed to end up, especially when things went well. That is definitely where he will be.
He thought about slipping into one of the handful of pubs on his way, just for a drink or two, just to take the edge off. His pace never slowed though.
There is wine at the shop, the voice in his head scolded as if he were a child. You don’t need edge-off wine because there will be plenty of celebratory wine once you both get to the shop.
Right then. To the shop.
He kept walking, but now his strides carried him twice the distance. He slipped through crowds as though they were fog, acknowledging the murmur of voices but not the bodies he would have been plowing through had he remembered they were solid. A sigh of relief escaped him as he caught sight of cream-colored pillars and worn, familiar wood. Almost there. He reached for the brass knob.
A cruel laugh in his ear: hellish, one he had hoped to never hear again. His blood ran cold.
Then another voice, with an American accent. “No, Aziraphale…” It laughed too. They laughed together. They were right on top of him. The plan had failed. “No Aziraphale here…”
They knew. Heaven and Hell knew he wasn’t Aziraphale and they knew he was. They knew he was Crowley and they knew he wasn’t. It was over.
He whirled around, back against the door like a cornered animal. However, Beelzebub and Gabriel were nowhere to be found. He still heard laughter, but as his heart restarted and raced to make up for lost beats he realized the sound wasn’t occult or ethereal. It was just tourists. Loud, sloshed tourists. (Obviously American.) They were still laughing even as one of them stuck a finger in his ear to hear the person he was speaking to on the phone.
“For the last time, we’re waiting for you to catch up outside A.Z. Fell bookshop. A.Z. Fell--NO. For the love of god--”
The door to the bookshop slammed shut, blocking out the sound of the obnoxious tourists but not the sound of the whimper he bit back as he slid to the floor, pulling his legs close and burying his face in them. He breathed deep again, and again, and again, and again, and again.
“You don’t know what it’s like down there.”
“And you don’t know how things have changed up there! All we can do is prepare and have a little faith in one another, and in Agnes.”
“I have faith in you, angel. It’s the horde of demonic bastards with personal vendettas against me that I worry about.”
He fumbled in his coat pocket for his sunglasses. Both had taken a pair with them: Aziraphale for the act, Crowley because he felt naked without them even if he couldn’t wear them. He clutched his pair like a talisman as a bottle of wine appeared in his other hand.
“So, you thought… when the shop was burning--”
“That I was--”
“Just… don’t go dying on me in Hell, angel.”
He drank deeply, straight from the bottle. He hadn’t moved from his spot on the floor.
“You know I didn’t mean it, right? That we aren’t friends. That I don’t like you. Honestly, I don’t know where I’d be without you.”
Empty. Another bottle appeared in his hand, and he gratefully tipped it back.
“Look, if this doesn’t end well--”
“Yes, but if it doesn’t. I need to tell you something.”
Fifth bottle. (Sixth? Did it even matter?) Clambering to his feet, he stumbled through the dark room lit only by the streetlight through the windows. He collapsed on the couch and fell back against the cushions to pull the last drops out of the bottle.
“No, no buts. This is going to work. You tell me what you need to tell me when I see you in the park after. Alright?”
He buried his face in his hands. What were you going to say? He asked, as if the answer hadn’t been screeching through his head the entire evening, as if the same confession hadn’t been perched on his own coward lips as they parted. His vision began to swim.
He released “his” wings and curled up in their embrace, as he had dreamed of doing for so long. Tears caught in those beautiful feathers glistened like stars.
I’m so sorry, I… I love you.
A sob escaped, and to hear it in that beloved voice not his own was the final blow. He pulled those beautiful wings closer, trying to hold the shards of himself together as he broke down completely.
I love you and I should have said it, so many times. You have to come back so I can say it. I love you. I love you. You have to come back! I can’t do this without you.
“Please,” he begged, “Please, don’t leave me here alone.”