Crowley sets another box down in front of the flittering Aziraphale, stretching his back as he stands. “Got another box of books for you, angel.” He looks around at the shelves adorning the room, slowly filling up. “You sure the office will hold them all?”
“Oh, goodness no,” Aziraphale answers, pausing his unpacking to peck Crowley on the cheek. “But that’s what miracles are for. I didn’t pick this cottage for the space – I picked it for the garden.”
He flushes, stuffing his hands in his pockets and looking down at the ground. “Angel… you didn’t have to.”
“Of course I did, my dear,” he answers. “I can always miracle more space. Miracling the garden to be larger, however, is much harder.”
“You’re too kind to me,” he mutters, shaking his head before going back out to the Bentley.
A few years have passed since Armageddon. Ever since that fateful day when Aziraphale’s curiosity got the best of him, they’ve been slowly moving in together. From an outsider’s perspective, it didn’t look like that at all. Plants started showing up at the bookshop, lightening the place up and sheltering some of Aziraphale’s most prized collections under their leaves. A few books began to show up at Crowley’s flat, too – enough to warrant the addition of a sleek bookshelf to the small list of furniture there. It was enough for them as their relationship bloomed, but, after the wedding, they decided they needed a permanent place.
The flat was too much like Crowley, and the bookshop was too much like Aziraphale. It was fine for short stays, but they would need something they could fully incorporate each other into. So, Aziraphale sold the bookshop after over a century under his ownership, Crowley kept the flat for storage purposes, and they moved into the cottage in the South Downs together, having picked from a long list that took days to narrow down. Using a small demonic intervention, Crowley made sure the Bentley would have enough room for all of their boxes, and together, they left London.
Crowley heaves another box out of the car labeled ‘bedroom’ in Aziraphale’s perfect handwriting. It’s complete with the little winky face he added after Aziraphale labeled them, even though the only thing in it is sheets and pillows. He smiles at it despite himself, carrying the box to the room in question. It would be a lot easier to miracle everything into place, but Aziraphale wanted to unpack the ‘proper’ way. Crowley obliged, just to see how long Aziraphale would last.
“Do you think you could start to empty those boxes in the kitchen, dear?” Aziraphale calls out from down the hall. “I had a nice bottle of champagne packed away for us to open tonight.”
“You’ve got plans for us to get drunk on the first night in the new house?” Crowley teases, heading to the kitchen anyway. The tape gives way under his sharp claws, folding the box flaps back to start setting up the kitchen. He unpacks porcelain teacups, and shot glasses, and tons of baking utensils he doesn’t think either of them have used. By the time he finds the bottle of champagne, Aziraphale has just entered.
Crowley sets two champagne glasses on the counter and pops the cork, filling the glasses and offering one to Aziraphale. He then picks his own up, raising it in a toast. “To us.”
Aziraphale smiles. “To us.”
The clink of their glasses leads to a sudden, content silence as they sip their drinks.
“So,” Crowley starts, twirling his glass. “What do you want to do on our first night here?”
“Well, I was thinking…”
“Mhmm?” He smirks, eyebrow raised in curiosity.
“I would enjoy a good cuddling session.”
Crowley barks out a laugh, and in a few seconds, Aziraphale joins in.
He takes another sip from his glass before tilting it in Aziraphale’s direction. “Sure, angel. Whatever you want.”
The days pass by peacefully as they continue to set the house up to accommodate them both. Aziraphale does give in to miracling most of the house into shape, but he refuses to let a miracle place his books, so he spends a couple of days in the office unpacking and reorganizing them all. It’s nice, finally sharing the same space, the space that belongs to both of them. When Crowley’s alone, or out setting up the garden, he tends to trace a delicate finger over the lettering on his skin. He still has trouble remembering that this is all real; that it’s more than a dream out of his deepest fantasies. He doesn’t wear his glove around the house – he likes to see the glittering gold catch the light out of the corner of his eye. He respects Azirpahale’s decision to wear his most of the time, though. He doesn’t want to see Raphael on his skin, either, nor the painful reminder it brings him.
Still, Aziraphale always took the glove off before sleeping. Crowley had recently convinced him to try sleeping, and it was nice to fall asleep in each other’s arms. Aziraphale was a heavier sleeper than Crowley was, though, so when he woke up to the sight of the glittering letters etched on Aziraphale’s skin, he gently slid off of the bed, his gut telling him today wasn’t going to be a good day.
Coffee might help clear the bad thoughts from his mind, so he pads his way to the kitchen, pulling out his coffee grounds and turning the pot on. Only once the coffee has started dripping does he notice the envelope nestled in the fake fruit bowl on the table that Aziraphale had insisted on buying.
When he picks it up to inspect it, he sees the flowing, silver lettering spelling out Aziraphale’s name on the otherwise blank white paper. It doesn’t need a return address for him to know who it’s from, so he decides it can wait until he has a cup of coffee in front of him.
Seated at the table, his cup of coffee rests between his arms as his elbows sit on the table, both hands holding up the envelope as he decides on what to do with it. On the one hand, the letter is meant for Aziraphale. It could be seen as a serious breach of privacy if he were to read it. On the other, why would he trust a letter that appeared out of nowhere? His conscious weighs in, deciding if the letter was meant to be a trap, he’d take it instead of Aziraphale. He’s a demon, anyway. Disrespecting someone’s privacy was common for demons.
The paper inside is adorned with the same flowing script in the same silver ink, glittering in the sunlight starting to peek hopefully through the windows.
I am writing to you in hopes that you will see this soon. We have realized we’ve made a mistake, and my fellow archangels and I would like to rectify this. We want a meeting with you as soon as you can fit us into your schedule. We know where your soulmate is – Raphael. He’s locked up in the far recesses of Heaven; the places no one goes anymore. It’s why you could never find him when you searched. Come and meet us, and we’ll give you directions to find and save him, and we’ll let you leave harm-free. We just want to apologize and set ourselves on proper footing once more.
Crowley reads through the letter a few more times, clenching the paper tightly to try and ignore the shaking of his hand. They haven’t heard a thing from either side ever since the body swap, and this the first thing they say? Aziraphale had just folded up the last box yesterday, too. They were finally together. They were finally happy. Why did Heaven have to tear that apart?
He carefully folds the letter back up and stuffs it back in the envelope, staring at the end of his happiness as he sips his coffee. By the time Aziraphale wakes and comes down the stairs, the letter has disappeared; the only thing sitting at the table is a brooding Crowley sipping his coffee.
“Good morning, dear,” he greets when he enters the kitchen. “Is everything alright?”
“‘M tired,” he lies, and Aziraphale nods sympathetically. He knows how long it can take for Crowley to wake up in the morning. He pats his shoulder as he walks by, and Crowley barely conceals his shudder at the touch. He quickly finishes his coffee as Aziraphale prepares a cup of tea for himself, taking the mug over to the sink and filling it with water to let it sit. He stuffs his hands in his pockets before saying, “I think I’m going to spend today in the garden. Got a couple of plants to tend to - trimming down and whatnot from the previous owners. Gotta make them look nice before… well, before I can warrant yelling at them, I guess.”
“Okay, dear. Let me know if you need anything.”
When Crowley is kneeling on the ground with dirt covering his hands, pulling out weeds, is when the tears start. He had held them in for so long, and now that the only things around him were the plants… One of the oldest plants he owns that was recently replanted into the garden seems to shift ever so slightly, pressing a comforting leaf to Crowley’s shoulder.
Why now? Why ever? He should have known it was going to happen eventually – the universe wasn’t exactly very friendly to him. But he let himself forget about it. He let himself be happy. And now, that little piece of paper could rip everything away from him in a matter of seconds. Once Aziraphale found out Raphael was still alive…
There was always the chance that Aziraphale never found out. Crowley had already hidden the letter from him, in the deepest pits of Crowley’s designated coffee shelf, where even he hasn’t touched most of the beans back there besides to move them around. If Aziraphale never finds it, then he doesn’t have to worry, right? He can just continue to live his life out the way he had always dreamed it would be. He wipes his face with the edge of his sleeve to hide any evidence that something was wrong and resolves to keep it hidden.
Of course, this only lasts a few days. Many things weigh in on his consciousness as he keeps his secret, ultimately winning out against the selfish part of his brain. First and foremost is he doesn’t know what Heaven has done with Raphael all these years. If Aziraphale were to find the letter accidentally, and it turns out Raphael was hurt in any way – well, there would go his one chance to have Aziraphale still. Then, there’s always the possibility that Heaven could keep sending letters. Crowley might not be able to intercept them all, meaning Aziraphale would eventually find out. The lying, too, is holding him down. Sure, he’s a demon, and demons are naturally supposed to lie, but he’s never lied to Aziraphale. About anything. His words taste sour on his tongue when Aziraphale asks if he’s alright, and he says everything is fine. How could he keep a secret like this until the real end of times?
“Something smells absolutely divine in here,” Aziraphale says as he walks into the kitchen. “What are you making, dear?”
Crowley continues to stare at the dishes in front of him as he washes them, the heat of the water almost too hot to bear, but he needs it as a focus. “Just wanted to do something nice,” he says. “Thought you’d like some biscuits.”
“Oh, you didn’t have to.” Aziraphale peeks into the oven. “They look wonderful.”
“Oi, get out of there,” he says, frowning at Aziraphale. “You don’t get any until they’re done.”
Aziraphale guiltily closes the oven. “Let me know when they’re done then, dear, and we can enjoy them together.”
“Mhmm.” He listens to the sound of Aziraphale’s footsteps fade further into the cottage before shutting the water off and gently placing the last bowl on the rack to dry. He picks a towel up and dries his hands as he walks over to the cabinet with his coffee, tossing the rag to the side and opening the door. His hand shakes as he pulls the letter out, sticking it up his sleeve as the timer goes off.
The biscuits cool quickly, and Crowley carefully arranges them on a plate when they’re ready. He brings it over to the table and sits down, folding his hands together casually before calling, “Angel, they’re done.”
Aziraphale appears rather quickly, sitting down in the chair next to Crowley. However, instead of digging into the treats as Crowley expected, Aziraphale turns to look at him. “My dear, is everything alright?”
“Why wouldn’t it be? I told you, I just wanted to–”
“I’m not an idiot, Crowley,” he interrupts. “Something happened the other day, and you haven’t quite been okay since. Was it a nightmare you don’t want to talk about? Did I do something you won’t tell me? Please, dear, I only want to help.”
Crowley sighs. He was hoping to get some time before he brought the letter out, but it seems that he can’t hide it any longer. He carefully pulls it back out of his sleeve, holding it by the end between two of his fingers, like it will hurt him. In a way, it already has. “I found this the other day when I woke up before you. Kept it hidden. I’m sorry.”
Aziraphale takes the letter from him curiously, carefully opening and unfolding it before reading it. His eyes grow wider the further in he gets, and when he’s done, he looks up at Crowley again with concern. “Heaven sent a letter? You weren’t hurt, were you? They didn’t do anything to you in the process?”
“It was in the fruit bowl when I got down here. But, can’t really say I wasn’t hurt. As you said, I haven’t been acting right the past couple of days.” He sniffs and pushes his sunglasses up to make sure Aziraphale won’t see the pain in his eyes.
“Your soulmate’s up there, Aziraphale. Who knows what they’re doing to him.”
Aziraphale looks back down at the letter. “Raphael’s been trapped for millennia…”
“I bet Heaven won’t just let him leave either. You – you should go to him.” His voice cracks, betraying the calm demeanor he had tried to keep up.
“I knew I shouldn’t have ever trusted Heaven,” Aziraphale frowns. “It’s probably best to get it over quickly, then. Having to go back up there, I mean.”
Aziraphale looks up with a furrowed brow, confused. “What do you mean?”
“Saving your soulmate. Finding the one you’re meant to be with. Sounds – sounds like everything I ever wanted.” His voice breaks again, and he can no longer keep the tears from falling down his cheeks.
“Oh, I think I see where this is going. Crowley, my dear boy, why would you think I’d ever let this get in the way of us?”
Crowley stands, palm resting on the table for support. “You wouldn’t purposefully. I know. But…” he shakes his head. “It’s ineffable. So I’m leaving before it hurts more.”
Aziraphale protests. “I told you, dear, I don’t want Raphael, I only want you!”
“Guinevere said the same thing to Arthur, didn’t she? About not caring who she’s tied to; she’d always love him. And look where that ended up! Lancelot came, they ran away together, and Arthur died because of it!” He squares his shoulders and ignores the tears still streaming down his face. “I know you. You’re not going to let him suffer. Go and save him, angel. I’ll be in London if you even want to see me again.”
Before he can turn to leave, Aziraphale grips his wrist tightly. “Crowley, I wanted you to come with. You’re right that I can’t leave him there. Who knows what Heaven’s done to him all this time? But I would never dream of leaving you.”
“I’m sure you’ll regret that once you meet him. He’s your soulmate, after all. And I bet you're his. But I was never yours.” He pulls away and picks up the keys to the Bentley and the black glove they rest on top of. “Goodbye, angel. I wish you the best of luck.”
Ignoring Aziraphale’s protests behind him, Crowley walks out of the cottage and slides into the driver’s seat, barely letting the Bentley start before slamming on the gas and pulling onto the road as quickly as he can. It was a good thing they decided to use his flat as extra storage instead of selling it. Now, at least, he had somewhere to go. It would never feel like home – even worse, actually, now that he had had a proper home with Aziraphale. Even though it only lasted a few days. He grips the steering wheel tighter to try and ignore his feelings, bringing into sharp relief the ring on his finger. He stares at the twisting gold for a second before pulling it off and rolling down the window. He means to throw it away, but when he pulls his arm back, he doesn’t have the heart to do so. He slips it into the pocket of his jacket instead before turning on the radio, blasting I Can’t Live With You and other Queen songs as fresh tears fall down his face.
Aziraphale frets with the twisted silver ring on his finger, pacing the kitchen in concern. The plate of biscuits still sits there, untouched. On the one hand, he should rush after Crowley, promising him that all he has ever wanted, all he ever will want, is him. But, clearly, that didn’t work out earlier. He would need something more convincing than empty promises to get Crowley back. No matter how much he knows the promises are true. On the other hand, going to Heaven alone sounds terrible, but he doesn’t want to let Raphael suffer any longer. Perhaps he can save the angel, tell them that, even though they are supposedly soulmates, he belongs, with all of his being, to someone else, and then bring them back to Crowley as proof.
He just hopes it won’t take too long. He knows how Crowley can be.
He calls a taxi to the house, and while he waits, he goes to find his glove. He wants to seem as indifferent about Raphael as he can, so maybe it will convince everyone else, too, that he only wants Crowley. It’s a quiet, slow ride back to London, only causing Aziraphale to fret more about how much he misses Crowley’s speeding and loud bebop, no matter how often he had complained about it. He briefly wonders if he should stop by Crowley’s flat, to leave a note or something, but he decides against it. Giving Crowley some space right now is probably the best thing he can do.
Finally, the taxi lets him out in front of the office building where Heaven and Hell reside. He pays the driver and sends him on his merry way before taking a deep breath and pushing through the doors, his feet carrying him across the watery floor and to the escalator up. He isn’t sure what to expect, honestly, but he knows he should be ready for anything. After they tried to kill him for stopping Armageddon, he really wouldn’t put anything past them.
The white, empty halls leave a pit of foreboding in Aziraphale’s stomach, but at least he doesn’t have to search quickly before finding the archangels.
“Aziraphale,” Gabriel greets with a smile. “Glad to see you received our letter.” He peers behind Aziraphale as if he’s looking for something, even if it’s glaringly empty all around them. “Did you come alone?”
“Yes,” he answers with a frown. He crosses his arms, making sure his gloved hand is on top so they can see it. “What is it that I can do, then?”
Gabriel gestures with his head to Uriel, who rolls her eyes before stepping up, handing Aziraphale what looks to be an ancient, rolled up scroll. “You read the letter, so you know what you’re here for. No one has been out there in centuries, if not millennia, so excuse us if the directions are vague. No one thought to write them out properly.”
He carefully takes the parchment and unfurls it, reading over the messy ink through the glaringly obvious water stains. “Am I to journey alone as well?”
Gabriel nods. “No one’s exactly lining up to travel with an angel who can survive hellfire.” He laughs awkwardly to alleviate the tension. “No one wants to go out on the battlefield, either. And it’s probably best you meet your soulmate alone, isn’t it? Then you can… talk. No one will be in your way.”
Aziraphale nods curtly as he rolls the scroll back up. “I’ll be on my way then.”
He turns around and leaves the archangels behind, disappearing into the large, white maze of offices. The battlefield in question refers to where the demon’s revolution was fought – Azirpahale had not been there since the revolution, so finding the singular door to lead out of the office building styled part of Heaven and back into the clouds would certainly take a while. Especially when the angels all seemed to disappear around him, leaving no one to ask for directions. What is it those humans say in mazes – follow the wall to the right? Well, whatever it is, if he follows one of the walls, he’s bound to find the door eventually. It might take longer, but – whatever gets him to his goal, right?
Crowley pushes the last of the boxes into the empty plant room, closing the door behind him. Now it looked more like a proper flat. But he couldn’t ignore the aching feeling in his chest of how much this wasn’t where he was supposed to be. Of how much this place didn’t feel like home.
He runs a gloved hand down his face as he sighs, and it comes to tangle in the cord dangling around his neck, the weight of the ring it’s tied to bouncing up and down. He could use the place to sleep, yes. But there was no way he could stay cooped up in here. Not even for a day.
There had to be something he could do to keep his mind off of Aziraphale. He’d take anything at this point, honestly. The door opens and closes behind him as his hands make their way into his pockets, the crisp London air soon hitting his face. Hell wasn’t keeping track anymore, so while he could enjoy causing a couple of minor inconveniences, they didn’t really hold the same weight anymore. His feet lead him through the streets as his brain spins, trying to think of what to do, constantly veering away from his goal and towards Aziraphale. His feet stop suddenly and he looks up, standing in front of Kew Gardens. How he walked that far without noticing, he’s not sure, but a small smile slides onto his face. He had left his plants at the cottage, so in the flat, he was completely, utterly alone. Here, he had free range over a ton of plants – including the ones in the Royal Botanical Garden. He could scream his frustration out at them, and, in return, the place would look nicer, and maybe even draw in more crowds.
He walks around first, inspecting the trees and greenery to see who his first victims would be. There was no point in spending all of his energy today on plants that still looked half decent. When he came upon a patch of trees struggling to push out the few leaves along their branches, he knows he’s found his target.
“Look what we have here,” he starts, circling the trees in inspection. “A bunch of slackers. Bet you think you’re doing the best you can, huh? Then why am I the only one over here?” He points across the clearing, where a group of people are busy taking pictures. “They don’t want pictures with you because they don’t love you. You aren’t meant for them.”
He circles the trees once more, glad to see the smallest is starting to tremble. “Yeah, I bet you thought you were putting on your best, hoping for everything to work out. But then the angels – I mean, I had to come over here and point it out to you. You don’t like hearing your flaws, huh? You don’t like me laying your mistakes out for you on a silver platter. Well, if you ever want him – them back, you should be better than this!” A tear runs down his face and he wipes it away angrily. “I expect you to be better when I come back tomorrow!”
Leaving the trees trembling behind him, he storms his way across the grass, looking for his next victim. His hand subconsciously reaches under his glove, rubbing the spot where Aziraphale’s name is etched into his skin. His methods of therapy might be questionable, but screaming at the plants to make them grow better takes the edge off of his pain. A little. For now.
It’s strange, back out on the clouds. Faded streaks of gold still stain the starch white, the last remnants of the battle. The door behind Aziraphale closes with a loud thud as he stares at the endless expanse in front of him. Raphael could be anywhere out here.
He unrolls the parchment again, staring over the ink. It’s not much help, only giving him a vague notion of where he needs to go, so he rolls it back up and pockets it before stepping onto the battlefield. It’s eerily silent – at least in the office part, everyone’s footsteps echo loudly, even if the hallways are wide and the ceilings are almost non-existent. Out here, the only thing remaining is the ghost of a decisive battle – without this, Hell and its demons wouldn’t exist. They’d all still be angels. There would be no good and evil. There would have been no Armageddon.
Aziraphale hasn’t forgotten the fight. He probably won’t ever forget. That was one of the first times he actually had to use the flaming sword. He had cut down so many enemies that day; his hands and robes stained in so many different shades of gold that he couldn’t tell if any of it was his own by the end of the battle when the survivors had Fallen. It’s one of the reasons they sent him to Eden to guard the gates – the archangels trusted him. And yet, he still didn’t harm Crowley when he first showed up, letting him tempt the humans and getting them kicked out of the garden. He doesn’t know why. Perhaps it was fate telling him not to harm his soulmate. Well, not that Aziraphale had Crowley’s name on his skin. He rubs the name etched into his skin before thinking about it, quickly pulling his hand away when he realizes what he was doing.
Raphael wasn’t for him. He doesn’t care what God had intended. The only person he has loved, and ever will love, is Crowley. There is no room for anyone else. There will never be room for anyone else. He’s still willing to be friends with Raphael if that’s what they would want. But nothing more.
The office fades into the distance as Aziraphale continues his lonesome journey, lost in his thoughts. If Raphael really was an angel, did he ever meet him? Did he fight alongside him on the battlefield? Should it have been glaringly obvious who Raphael was all these years? For some reason, when he tries to imagine what Raphael looks like, all he can think of is someone who looks vaguely like Crowley. He chalks it up to his mind crossing the one he’s meant to love with the one he actually loves.
He treks onward, hoping that wherever Crowley is, he’s relatively okay.
Crowley finds himself in the garden every day, threatening new plants, screaming out more of his problems, and overall enhancing the beauty of the park. The first set of trees finally have a decent amount of foliage growing on them, and Crowley vaguely wishes what he had told them would actually come true for himself.
He had planned the big one out, though. Yelling at the plants inside the greenhouse while it was open would only draw attention to himself, so he had to get in there after-hours, and he needed an excuse to be alone. Breaking the piping wasn’t as hard as he thought it would be, and getting in as a plumber was pretty easy too. A quick snap fixes the piping and gives him free rein over the plants inside for a few hours.
Smirking deviously, he starts to address them all at once. “Look at all of you! You all think you’re so special. Getting to live in here in the damp heat; living in the lap of luxury.” He sees a particularly nasty brown spot on one of the nearby plants. “So you all think you can just slack off, huh? That no one will care, huh?” He tsks. “You’re supposed to be the best of the best! Why would you dare have brown spots and look ugly for those lucky enough to be with you?”
The plant he had seen starts to tremble in fear, and some of the others do too, but not all of them, so he continues to yell.
“No one’s going to love you if you’re not perfect! You can do better, and you will do better, or I’ll–” He cuts off as his eyes land on one of the few plants left not shaking in fear. He recognizes it, knowing the name without needing to look it up. An angel plant. “I’ll…” He falters, not willing to yell at this plant. “You all better grow better,” he lowly threatens the rest of the plants before stalking out, amazing the humans with how fast he had fixed the plumbing. For extra measure, a thought makes the pipes more sturdy, so they’re harder for people to break. As he leaves the garden for the day, walking back to the Bentley, his hand comes to rest on the ring hanging from his neck, mindlessly fiddling with it.
Finally, something other than clouds appears on the horizon. At first, it just looks like a strange white lump sticking up out of the clouds. As it grows closer to Aziraphale, he can make out that it seems like a room made of the same white office walls that the occupied Heaven has. Or, almost the same. The other walls aren’t thin enough to show a shadow on the outside.
Aziraphale watches worriedly as the shadow of the angel paces back and forth along the wall facing him, and, once close enough, he calls out, “Raphael?”
He doesn’t react. Whether he can’t hear Aziraphale or just ignored him is unclear. He searches for a door along the wall, but there seems to be none. Turning the corner, Raphael’s shadow has stopped pacing and is now jumping into the air, hovering for a few seconds before dropping, and repeating the cycle. There still isn’t a door. “Raphael, if you can hear me, I’m here to rescue you!”
On the third wall, around the second corner, a simple door stands in the middle of the wall, and the shadow is back to pacing. Hurrying over, Aziraphale pulls the door open. “Raphael?”
There’s no one inside the room. As Aziraphale steps in, he sees the shadows playing over and over on the walls, symmetrical to each other. It wasn’t that Raphael couldn’t hear him, then. It’s that he wasn’t here.
He sighs, disappointed that he still didn’t find him, but yet, something still draws him further into the room. Standing on a pedestal in the middle of the room is a shimmering golden scepter, two snakes intertwining around it, and a pair of wings sprouting from the top. He recognizes it as a caduceus, a symbol typically associated with healing. Something seems special about it – surely there’s a reason it’s locked away in a room with fake angel shadows on the wall.
Aziraphale’s hand grips the staff, and as soon as he pulls it free, everything goes white.
And there doesn’t seem to be anything around, either.
Suddenly, the overwhelming feeling of a familiar, kind presence fills Aziraphale, and someone speaks.
Come now, Raphael. It’s time to wake up.
The blinding light disappears, and Aziraphale nearly cries at the sight he’s only seen once before – the face of God. He only belatedly realizes the staff has disappeared, but his attention is soon recaptured as he notices the angel kneeling before her with shockingly bright red hair.
She smiles at the angel, whos head tilts to look up. “Mother?”
The voice sounds strangely familiar to Aziraphale, who the other two seem not to have noticed yet.
Yes, my child. You have so much potential in your soul, Raphael. She gestures behind him, to Aziraphale’s general direction. Go with your sister, Michael. She will show you how things work.
Raphael turns his head to look behind him, and Aziraphale locks eyes with perhaps the most beautiful golden eyes he has ever seen. They seem familiar as well, and Aziraphale wonders if, somehow, he had met Raphael before.
He’s about to say something when an arm suddenly protrudes from Aziraphale’s chest. He looks down in shock and quickly steps away as Michael helps Raphael to his feet, saying, “Come on, I think I have the perfect thing for you to do.”
Aziraphale’s heart is still beating quickly, but he realizes he isn’t actually there. He’s a ghost among Raphael’s memories. As the two walk away together, Aziraphale hurries after. Maybe, if he stays close, he’ll find out why Raphael is familiar.
A flash of white changes the scene again, and Aziraphale blinks against the harsh contrast of the dark black surrounding him. Raphael hovers in front of him, six wings flapping gently to keep him afloat. An archangel. Aziraphale watches with wonder as he spins his hands and a sparkling ball of light forms. When it’s reached the size he wanted, he hangs it in the air next to him, and Aziraphale realizes it’s a star. Didn’t Crowley mention once that he helped build the stars?
“Raphael,” someone calls from behind them, interrupting Aziraphale’s thoughts and causing them both to turn. It’s Michael again.
“There’s a new archangel coming soon. Care to give him the tour?”
He spins another beam of light into existence, faster this time, and leans against the glittering gold as it hovers with him. Aziraphale recognizes it as the staff he had picked up in the real world. “Sure thing, sis. What’s their name?”
Michael rolls her eyes at his display. “You really don’t need to be so ostentatious, Raphael. His name is Gabriel.”
Aziraphale is shocked – surely, if Raphael was older than Gabriel, he would have met him by now.
“Come on, Michael. Stop being such a wanker.” He starts to follow after her as she turns to leave. “You’re just jealous I have a staff and you don’t.”
Their conversation fades into the distance as Aziraphale remains frozen, heart beating quickly. Crowley had called Michael a wanker before, too, hadn’t he? He looks at the back of Raphael’s fiery red hair and thinks about his golden eyes as things finally click into place. The demons don’t keep their name when they fall. Crowley, Crawly, Anthony; none of them are his true name, the name of his soul. Crowley was Raphael this whole time.
Everything flashes white again as Aziraphale is pulled to another memory, back in Heaven again. There seems to be more angels around now. He distantly wonders if he has been created yet.
Raphael stands watching the distance, holding his staff as it rests on the base of the clouds.
Something is troubling you, Raphael.
He jumps suddenly, turning to face God. “It’s nothing,” he says, rubbing his elbow. Crowley still does that when he’s trying to hide his feelings, too.
Speak your mind, Raphael. She chuckles. I’m always open to suggestions from my favorite angel.
He looks down at his feet, rocking back and forth on his heels. “I was curious, and I went through some of the files on what you’re planning.”
Mhmm. I noticed.
He looks up abruptly. “You did?”
I know everything, Raphael. Your curiosity is a tricky thing, but I suppose even I cannot control what one does with their traits after I give it to them. Just be careful before something bad happens.
He nods, a touch ashamed. “I suppose what I want to ask is a little selfish of me.”
Selfishness does not yet exist, my child. You may ask what you want, but there is no guarantee you shall receive it.
“I read everything you have planned for soulmates. It sounds wonderful, letting the humans find who they are supposed to be with.”
I see I put a little too much romance in you as well, didn’t I? She chuckles again. I know that isn’t all you want to say, Raphael.
Raphael looks down at his feet again, embarrassed. “Is it too wrong of me to ask for one for myself?”
She doesn’t answer for a few moments, studying him curiously. You want a soulmate?
He nods again.
I shall take that into consideration, She finally answers, and he looks up with a smile. It was the closest thing he was going to get.
Of course, my child. Now, don’t you have some stars to build? I heard you were entertaining the young ones the other day with tales of a great archer you were placing into the sky.
“Who told you, Gabriel? He doesn’t seem to like my stories.”
No, Raphael. Remember, I know everything. Your imagination is the best among the other angels. I’m afraid I haven’t been able to recreate it, or even come much close. Gabriel doesn’t like your stories because he doesn’t understand them. But one day, someone will love reading and hearing stories as much as you love making them and the stars.
Aziraphale barely notices the white light changing the memory this time. He was still trying to process that, this whole time, the Raphael he had searched all those years for was right in front of him. His true love was Crowley, just as Crowley’s name said. He focuses back in on his surroundings as Raphael approaches God from behind this time, hoping the memories can hurry up so he can go back to his love.
What is it, my child?
Raphael gulps, clutching his staff. “I don’t think you need me to say.”
True. But I’d like to hear it from you anyway.
“Lucifer knows I’ve been through your files. He wants me to continue; to bring him information.”
She sighs. The days creep by so quickly, don’t they? I knew this would come from the beginning, and yet, I still wish it wouldn’t. Turning around, she addresses Raphael. Go ahead, Raphael. I won’t stop you.
He shuffles nervously, not looking up at Her.
Crouching in front of him, She says, You read what’s going to happen, didn’t you?
He nods, a stray tear falling down his cheek. “If I help him – If I help him, then I lose all of this.”
She gently wipes his tears away before clasping his hands in her own. Oh, my poor child. I’m afraid you have no choice in the matter. Lucifer is conniving and scheming this way – he’ll get you to come around to it eventually. You will Fall with the others, yes. But something will set you apart from the others. I’d feel better about losing them when I know you’re among them.
Raphael sniffs. “But I won’t remember much of this. I’ll barely remember you, and, and, and the stars, and–”
You won’t remember for quite a while, She interrupts. But you will eventually. It will not be pleasant for you, but someone will come along. She looks over at Aziraphale, and his breath stops – it really seems like she’s staring right at him. All they’ll need to do is return your staff to you.
Aziraphale nods quickly. Of course She would know he was nearby, watching these echoes of his memories. She knows everything.
“Is it a friend?”
No, Raphael. It will be your soulmate. She removes Her hands from his, and Raphael smiles in wonder at the name suddenly written in his skin.
“Aziraphale,” he reads, and he holds his hand to his chest. “Thank you.”
Farewell, my dear Crowley.
The white light envelops Aziraphale once more, and the sensation of gripping the staff hits him once more. Finally back to the present and out of the memories, he rips his glove off, rubbing his thumb over the name etched in his skin.
“Interesting, isn’t it? How a few old memories resurfacing can change the way we look at things.”
He jumps and turns around quickly, coming face to face with the archangels. Gabriel smirks at him.
“What kind of trap is this?” he asks, holding the staff in the most threatening way possible.
“We’re angels,” Uriel scoffs. “We don’t back out on our promises. We promised to let you come and leave without harm.”
“We just so happened to make a promise with the demons as well,” Michael smiles. “We promised them we knew a way to get you and Raphael apart so that they could reach him without any hindrance.”
“You knew Crowley was Raphael this whole time?”
“We wouldn’t forget our own brother who betrayed us all,” Gabriel says like it was obvious. “So, we grabbed his staff, set it up all the way out here, and enchanted it so you’d be stuck in his memories for a while and find out about his true nature. I’d assume the demons are collecting him now if they haven’t already.”
Aziraphale frowns and grips the staff tighter, suddenly pointing it towards the angels. They just laugh.
“Do you seriously think you can threaten us with that?” Michael says. “Only Raphael ever knew how to use that wretched thing. There’s no way you know how to.”
Aziraphale pauses as he considers this, but, again, he wasn’t the guardian of Eden for nothing. He swings it like a club, and the angels scatter, quickly freeing the exit for him. Darting out, he unfurls his wings, determined to get back to Crowley before Hell does whatever they plan to with him.
He soars through the skies, stopping in the armory for a brief second to strap a soon to be flaming sword to his side, and he leaves Heaven before the archangels can catch up to him, desperately searching for Crowley.
Ever since Crowley couldn’t yell at the angel plant, he’s been in a sour mood. The plants see the worst of it as he yells and pesters them, but it’s not quite doing it for him now. He finds a coffee shop and orders a large black coffee before isolating himself at a table in the back of the shop. He sits there and sips the bitter coffee, exuding as much of a leave me alone atmosphere as he can. Apparently, it wasn’t enough.
“You alright, mate?” someone asks him from behind, and he sneers.
“I’d rather be alone, thanks.” The man doesn’t leave, though, and Crowley can feel the eyes studying him. “I said, leave me alone.”
“Bad breakup, huh?”
“How did you–” He wheels around, cutting himself off when he sees who’s standing there. “Eric.”
The demon smiles at him. “Bet you thought you had seen the last of me, huh? I’m still not over that time in Africa, you know.”
“I really don’t care. Why are you here?”
He shrugs. “Suppose the others sent me in to distract you as they got ready.”
Crowley blesses under his breath. “You really came for me now? With all these humans around?”
“They’ll only see what they want to see. Besides, we needed to do it now while that angel isn’t around.”
Crowley gets to his feet slowly, looking over his glasses scathingly. “What did you do to Aziraphale?”
“Nothing! We just asked Heaven to distract him for long enough before –” He is cut off as Crowley takes hold of his throat, the yellow of his eyes taking over the white as he lets go of some of his willpower keeping his form as human as possible. A forked tongue darts out as he backs Eric against the wall, and, true to his word, none of the humans react to anything.
“You made a mistake thinking you could get rid of me this eassily,” he says, hissing the last word out. “I hope you brought a lot of back up.” He squeezes tighter until Eric disappears, his human form dissolving as his other form ends up back in Hell, stuck in paperwork processing.
Crowley cracks his knuckles and picks up an umbrella from next to the door – it was the best thing he could find to defend himself. Sure enough, a small cluster of demons stands there waiting for him, swords in hand.
“Looks like I missed the invitation,” he spits, settling into a defensive position. “What have I done to warrant this meeting?”
“Nothing you don’t already know,” Hastur says.
He grips the umbrella tighter. “Glad to see we’re on the same page then.”
There are a tense few moments as the two groups stare each other down, three against one. Surely, they had to be hiding a trick up their sleeves.
Beezlebub makes the first move, and Crowley blocks the sword slash with the umbrella, the fabric tearing, but the metal holding firm for now. Clearly, he was going to need something better as Dagon’s attack cuts through more fabric.
Crowley finds himself overwhelmingly un-prepared as the demons continue their relentless attack, dodging and blocking blow after blow after blow and not getting a chance to get a hit in himself. Not that an umbrella would do much to them anyway if he did get a hit in. Maybe there was no trick up their sleeve after all.
When both Beelzebub and Dagon attack at the same time, he knows something bad is going to happen. He manages to block Dagon’s as he tries to pull his body away from Beelzebub’s sword before it makes contact with his chest. It works, but, unfortunately, the sword still managed to cut something. The cord his ring is tied to breaks easily, flinging the ring away from him. He tries to reach for it before he loses it, but Hastur comes in with another jab, and he has to block that unless he wants to be a snake kabob.
Before the ring can exit his sight though, a hand reaches out and catches it. He recognizes the twisting silver ring on the hand and looks up. “Angel?”
The battle temporarily freezes as everyone takes in the new contender. Aziraphale’s face is as hard as stone when he’s looking at the other demons, but when his eyes rest on Crowley, his expression melts into the same fond expression he always has. “Hello, dear.”
“The archangels were supposed to keep you away from us!” Dagon yells, upset.
“Oh, they did quite a good job of that. Sending me on a wild goose chase like they did. But, they couldn’t keep me long enough, it seems. I’m glad.”
Crowley rubs the spot under his glove. “What about Raphael?”
Aziraphale winks. “I’ll catch you up in a few seconds. For now, catch!”
He tosses the golden staff over to Crowley, who drops the broken umbrella to reach out for it with both hands. As soon as it comes into contact with his hands, the memories come flooding back. The stars. The archangels. God. Raphael.
Aziraphale pulls out his sword, and with a small furrow of his brow, it ignites, the fire quickly growing to a proper fighting size.
“I am going to kill someone,” Crowley says, inspecting the staff. “This whole time? This whole bloody time?”
“I do think you have a couple of options here, dear,” Aziraphale says, coming to stand next to him and tucking the ring in Crowley’s pocket.
“We have a lot to talk about,” Crowley says.
“We have to dispose of this problem first.” They stand back to back, holding their weapons out threateningly as the demons circle them, trying to judge the situation they are in. “Together.”
Crowley squeezes Aziraphale’s free hand. “Together.”
The staff in Crowley’s hand starts to glow, and before the demons can react, Aziraphale and Crowley both attack at the same time. Crowley goes straight for Beelzebub, swinging the staff with lightning speed, and, when they dodge, a burst of crackling, white-hot energy shoots from the tip in Hastur’s direction, exploding against a tree when it misses. Meanwhile, Aziraphale jabs his sword at Dagon, who barely manages to block it. Together, with Aziraphale’s expert swordsmanship and Crowley’s dangerous energy blasts, the demons fall in a matter of minutes, sent back to Hell’s waiting room.
As the last sword clatters to the ground, Aziraphale and Crowley stand there huffing for a few seconds, the glow of Crowley’s staff fading away. He spins it around and slams it on the ground, leaning against it as he smiles at Aziraphale. “We did it.”
The flame extinguishes on Aziraphale’s sword as he frowns. “We only had to because you were an idiot.”
“How can you possibly put all the blame on me?”
“I wanted you to come with me! They clearly wanted us separated! If you hadn’t run away in fear of rejection, their plan wouldn’t have worked!”
Crowley rolls his eyes. “Well, now you don’t have to choose between us.”
Aziraphale returns the eye roll. “I never had to choose. It was always you, no matter what your name is.” He reaches up on his tiptoes and gently kisses Crowley, who wraps an arm around Aziraphale’s waist in support as he kisses back.
When they pull apart, lips flushed, Crowley licks his for the sweet, sugary taste of Aziraphale before saying, “How about Bob?”
“You said whatever my name is, you’d pick me. What if I change it to Bob?”
“I think it’s time to head home, dear.” Aziraphale extracts himself from Crowley’s arms, walking over to the Bentley parked nearby. Sirens wail in the distance as emergency vehicles approach for the fires Crowley accidentally started in the trees.
“You’re avoiding the question!” He yells after him before following.
“Really, dear, we both know you’re not a Bob. Not even a Robert. If you really want a name that starts with R, then I can always start calling you Raphael again.”
He grimaces at that, pulling his glove off and tossing it into the street. He won’t be needing it ever again. “Okay, no.”
“That’s what I thought.”
Crowley sighs. “Just get in the car, Aziraphale. I have some plants at home to terrorize.”
The sword and staff go into the backseat as Aziraphale and Crowley slide into the front.
“Wait, I almost forgot something!” Crowley looks over at Aziraphale with a raised eyebrow, watching as he digs into Crowley’s pocket and pulls the ring back out. He unties the knot, and Crowley automatically holds out his hand, letting Aziraphale slip it back on. “There, now everything is back to normal.”
“I don’t think there’s ever going to be a normal for us, angel. I mean, we both just found out I used to be an archangel for somebody’s sake. Who knows what the future will bring?”
Aziraphale kisses his hand. “Whatever it does bring, we’ll face it together.”
Crowley flushes. “Yeah. Together.”
He starts the car and pulls onto the road, turning the radio on. These Are The Days Of Our Lives starts to play, and when he moves his hand to rest on the gear stick, Aziraphale’s hand covers his, absentmindedly stroking it with his thumb.
Those were the days of our lives. The bad things in life were so few. Those days are all gone now, but one thing is true. When I look, and I find I still love you.