Warlock Dowling had many fond, albeit strange, memories surrounding his childhood. That was mostly because, up until his eleventh birthday, he had been practically raised by his nanny Ashtoreth and the gardener Brother Francis, who had later on been his tutors. That disguise fooled the adults around him and his younger self had never enlightened them. Looking back as an adult, it was very obvious.
Not that Warlock didn’t have a mother and father, he did, they were just very important people. His mum was always busy planning for some sort of social event with his dad. And his dad wasn’t the most attentive person in the world. Seemingly after Warlock left that ‘adorable young child stage’ that could be paraded around for publicity shots, his dad lost interest in him. Especially as he became older and independent.
He didn’t mind at the time, because he had his nanny and gardener. There had always been some sort of tension between them. Looking back on it, the flirting glances they shared, he knew now that they were in love but were trying to hide it. From what or who, he had never figured out.
Then one day, shortly after his eleventh they were gone. It had taken him a long time to realize they weren’t coming back. Warlock still guessed they had eloped and left him behind. He’d tried for a long time to not be hurt by that, they weren’t his actual parents. That being, they didn’t owe him anything. He’d just been a job for them to take care of and make sure he didn't accidentally die. Warlock couldn’t help but feel stung by that. He at least wished he’d gotten to say goodbye before they’d left. But they had just left in a puff of smoke, never to be seen again. Then he had realized just how distant and aloof his parents were.
Warlock grunted as he dropped his bag down onto the train seat then sat down beside it with a huff and tried to get comfortable. Warlock had always been an intelligent boy, Nanny Ashtoreth had always encouraged him to make some trouble. And now he was putting that towards finding the mysterious gardener and nanny of his childhood.
It was quite difficult to get a lead on them to begin with, it was like they hadn’t existed to begin with and simply ceased to be. To say he was able to use a traditional way to find them would be misleading, in fact he hadn’t. They hadn’t even looked the same all the time and their names were dead ends, his parents had been confused as well. Sometimes Warlock wondered if he should try to find them or if they were some sort of secret agents. But that didn’t make sense because his parents would have known.
It came to him in a dream. A very odd dream to say the least. Warlock probably would’ve laughed it off if he hadn’t experienced it himself. There was no mistaking the fact the two men sitting outside the little cottage house in his dreams were in fact his nanny and gardener. He’d ignored it for the first couple of nights, waving off the extremely clear message, a location, and address, a promise. Eventually Warlock had surrendered to his curiosity and bought a round trip train ticket to South Downs England a month in advance. He’d written down the address, just in case he forgot, but he never did.
Now the day had arrived and he had a fifteen hour train ride with nothing better to do than think. If, by some insane, highly unlikely , chance Warlock’s dreams turned out to be true, what would he even say? It’d been over fifteen years since he’d seen either of them, who was to say they hadn’t forgotten all about him in the joy of their own lives together? Warlock’s mind was full of swirling questions and he was starting to grow tired. This past month has been hard on the man, his constant denial was keeping him up late into the night. He didn’t want to sleep, afraid of what he would see.
Well , he thought, I might as well try to get a few hours of shut eye . And to his surprise he managed to drift off with ease, and for the first time in weeks he didn’t dream of the cottage perched on a hill near the ocean.
When he woke, the sun was starting to set, painting the sky a soft orange. He realized the train was stopped to pick up more passengers. Warlock sat up and stretched and was startled when he heard a man’s voice speak.
“This seat taken? I’m sorry, didn’t mean to scare you there.” Warlock looked up to see a man holding a large suitcase pointing to the seat across from him.
“All yours,” Warlock waved away. He checked his watch and was surprised that he’d slept for five hours and disappointed because he still had ten more to go.
“So where are you coming from?”
“London, you?” Warlock said, maybe this would spark some conversation to keep him entertained. He didn’t think he would be falling asleep anytime soon.
“Tadfield. Left the kids with their mum and I’m going to visit a few old friends,” he put his suitcase in the carry-on above him and sat down across from me.
“Where are you going, if you don’t mind my asking,” Warlock asked, tilting his head in a youthful way.
“Ah, no it’s alright. I’m heading over to South Downs. I apologize, but I don’t believe I introduced myself. Adam Young,” Adam offered his hand in greeting.
“I’m taking the line down that way too. Warlock Dowling,” he gave a pleasant smile and shook Adam’s hand as he’d been taught by his father.
It was over the next few hours Warlock started to learn more about his new companion in the train car as they chatted. Adam was an environmental scientist, happily married with three kids of his own, he proudly mentioned that none of them had any hooves, and he was visiting two of his old friends. Then he brandished a small, wallet sized picture to Warlock.
Warlock had to stop his mouth from falling open in surprise when he saw the photo. There was no mistaking who the two men in the picture were. It was them. Nanny Ashtoreth and Brother Francis. Adam seemed oblivious to his shock as he was still talking as he tucked the photo back into his wallet.
“I know those two,” Warlock said before he could stop himself. Adam looked shocked.
“What do you mean?” Adam asked, disbelief in his tone.
“They practically raised me when I was a child. The red haired one was my nanny. And the other was my gardener,” Warlock said, far too shocked to even consider the fact he was exclaiming it.
“Wait… Dowling? I know that name. Crowley and Aziraphale mentioned you. They thought you were me.”
“What? Who’s Crowley and A-zi-ra-fell?” This just kept getting stranger and stranger. Warlock felt like he was diving headfirst into the rabbit hole. “And what do you mean they thought I was you?”
“Well,” Adam started and stuttered for a moment. “I think it’s best that they tell you. I can take you to their house if you want?” The blonde man offered.
“I already know where they’re at.”
Adam blinked. “What?”
“I’ve been having dreams… That’s why I’m here. See?” He handed the slip of paper with the address on it to Adam. The man’s brow furrowed.
“This is… correct. How-?” He trailed off, expression distant as he looked at Warlock.
“I- I don’t know,” Warlock stressed, he was confused. “I didn’t even know if it was true.”
“The universe works in mysterious ways,” Adam chuckled and handed the paper back.
Warlock’s thoughts were interrupted when Adam finally excused himself for the night and went to the fold out beds. Warlock sat back as Adam left, his mind was swirling.
Warlock didn’t really believe in fate, that things happen for a reason. If it was, what’s the point in something that’s always ahead of you? No, everything that happened was random. But, he supposed, that didn’t mean things couldn’t be pushed to the point of actually happening.
All he knew now was his cryptic babysitting pseudo-parents had an awful lot of explaining to do. Warlock sat back in his seat, there was really nothing else to do except wait.
Warlock couldn’t decide if he would be heartbroken or elated at seeing Crowley and Aziraphel- what kind of names were those?- again. It hurt that they obviously only cared for him because they thought he was this Adam fellow. But on the other hand, this was for closure.
When his stop came, Warlock didn’t get off. Adam didn’t press, only gave him a long glance before handing him a number scrawled on a piece of paper, tipping his hat as he got off the train. Warlock knew where they were. He wasn’t ready, and he wasn’t sure if he ever would be. But Warlock had an odd feeling they’d be there, no matter how long he took.
He didn’t have another one of those dreams again.