Blurb: Aziraphale is miniaturized as punishment by Heaven. Crowley helps him get back to regular size and powers, and accidentally reveals how he's been able to find Aziraphale all these centuries.
For historical reference, my kids have already finished their school year - two weeks ahead of schedule due to the pandemic.
Rated T. No one physically harms anyone although Zira does feel very ill. No sexy, smoochy stuff either written or implied. Crowley says the word prick because someone deserved it, but that's the extent of cursing.
THE SMALLEST ANGEL
The days that didn't follow Armageddon started with a toast to the world and transitioned almost seamlessly into a drinking binge in the back of an antique book store in Soho. The building had been rebuilt atom by atom by the Antichrist to be better than new: the collection of wines was as extensive as it ever was; every precious, old tome was there plus a few new volumes; and all the dust and cobwebs that had collected over two centuries had been swept away.
But it was looking ragged again after three days of celebration, so Crowley made himself scarce, going back to Mayfair to yell at some plants and possibly to collect some bottles from his own reserves for the celebration to resume that evening, while Aziraphale tidied up.
It was really only two rooms that had any mess, and most of that was in the form of empty bottles, but it stood in sharp contrast to the pristinely minted condition of the rest of the place. Aziraphale gathered the trash and carried it to the bins in the alley behind his shop. As the angel gently placed the glass in the recycling bin, he heard a voice that he'd rather hoped to never hear again.
"Well, well, if it isn't Heaven's least competent angel."
"Sandalphon!" squeaked Aziraphale as a chill ran down his spine. It occurred to him that the protective wards he had set around his shop and the flat above didn't extend into this alley. He felt dangerously exposed. "What, what are you doing here?"
"I'm keeping an eye on things," said the archangel with a cagey look.
"Well, I shan't detain you," Aziraphale said, inching toward the steps and safety.
"But that's the problem," Sandalphon frowned, creeping closer. "You see, your meddling with the Antichrist has already delayed Armageddon indefinitely. And I know you're immune to hellfire, but that doesn't mean you can't be punished in other ways."
Aziraphale abandoned all pretense in the face of such gleeful malice and raced for his door.
Unfortunately, Sandalphon could snap out a miracle faster than the angel could run.
When Aziraphale regained consciousness, he was lying in a deep puddle that had soaked his clothes and left him cold and uncomfortable. The one thing he understood with disorienting speed was that everything else was so much taller and larger than himself, almost as if Sandalphon transplanted him to a land of giants. But why would the archangel recreate on a Brobdingnagian scale the same alley scene as was behind Aziraphale's shop? Wouldn't it make more sense for Sandalphon to shrink Aziraphale to the size of a child's figurine?
"Oh, bother," he politely swore as the truth hit him. With a resigned sigh he snapped his fingers to undo Sandalphon's shrinking miracle.
His size didn't increase in the slightest but an aggressive headache sprung fully formed in his skull. It was a lot like being hungover.
"This will never do," he muttered to himself and then tried to miracle away the headache.
A more intense pain gripped him and he fell to his hands and knees as a violent light show erupted behind his eyelids. It took him a minute to catch his breath and stand again.
Aziraphale leaned against the rise of the concrete step and took stock of the situation. He was tiny; he couldn't perform miracles; attempting to perform miracles was agony; he was effectively trapped outside the sanctuary of his shop; and the only help he could call on - Crowley - was impossible to reach in his current form. He also realized how exhausted he suddenly felt.
He found a dry bit of ground and sat down to rest. Maybe, after he recovered a little more, something smart and clever would occur to him, like how he could climb the steps to the backdoor when each step was taller than he could reach, or how he could manage to open his door when it was firmly shut.
He shut his eyes and sighed. It was never the time for despair but he could feel the allure. At least, he told himself in a struggle to be optimistic, he was otherwise unharmed.
A low yowl raised hackles down his back. He snapped his eyes open and immediately spied a feral cat stalking toward him, its eyes utterly fixed on him.
"Oh bugger," he whined.
This was how he was going to be discorporated: disemboweled by a cat! And Heaven would never let him go when they got their hands on him again. This was truly the end.
And Crowley! Oh, what would happen to his best friend? What would the poor demon think had happened to him? Aziraphale wished that Crowley would wisely abandon any plans for revenge, but the demon was more than foolish enough to do something rash whether he knew the details or not.
As he fretted, the cat slinked closer.
Angels didn't have the fight-or-flight instinct that was natural to humans. He was an angel after all; whom should he fear? But Aziraphale had been on Earth for a long time, and the cat was menacingly large. And there was a covered bucket that he kept filled with salt and sand for when he was expecting deliveries on icy days.
He darted behind the bucket just as the cat began to pounce. His timing would have to be perfect to avoid the cat's first strike but he knew he wouldn't be able to evade the animal indefinitely.
The cat roared as it launched its attack, only to howl and hiss in frustration when a pair of humanly-large hands grabbed it.
"Hello, Puss," greeted a cranky, red-headed demon.
The cat fought against his hold until Crowley hissed back with enough demonic ferocity to quell the little beast.
"That's better," said Crowley as he absentmindedly scratched the cat behind its ears. "Zira?" he said in a calm voice. "Angel, are you out here?"
Aziraphale crept cautiously around the side of the bucket before seeing his friend. "Oh, Crowley!" he sighed in relief only to have the demon ignore his voice which had apparently shrunk with the rest of him.
"Where did you get to, Angel?" Crowley mumbled to himself as he scanned the alley. He shuffled the cat into one hand and shoved the other in his pocket. "You wouldn't know where my friend has gone?" he asked the cat. "Blond hair, blue eyes, insufferably angelic..." He trailed off, staring at the spot above Aziraphale's head before his gaze began to drop and drop and drop.
"Angel?" Crowley couldn't hide his incredulity.
"Crowley!" Aziraphale shouted at the top of his lungs and waved his hands above his head.
Before the demon could say anything more, the cat attempted to leap from his grasp and pounce on the rodent-sized angel. Crowley twisted his arm slightly and threw the cat, who disappeared before it reached the pavement. He squatted down near Aziraphale to hear the angel better. "What happened to you?" he asked.
"What happened to the cat!" Aziraphale exclaimed.
"Animal sanctuary near Belfast," shrugged the demon. "Now fix yourself back to normal size so we can go inside before something worse happens."
"I can't!" the angel replied. "Sandalphon - when he shrunk me, he made it so that I can't change back."
Crowley sighed, horribly put upon. "Every time, Angel, I have to save you." He snapped his fingers.
The headache, which had started when Aziraphale attempted to miracle himself back to regular height, turned viciously into a migraine. He staggered and fell again.
"Aziraphale?" Crowley didn't wait for an answer before snapping again.
Bile rose up hot and caustic in Aziraphale's throat until he was heaving it onto the ground. "Stop!" he tried to shout over the upheaval in his stomach. "Stop! No more miracles!" He groaned miserably and tried not to fall into the miniscule puddle of sick at his shoes.
"Aziraphale," Crowley repeated with stiffness and concern unbecoming in a demon. He started to reach for the tiny figure then stopped, waiting for the angel to stand up.
The angel straightened at last and wiped his mouth on his cuff. He had kept this outfit carefully preserved for a century and it was completely ruined now. "No more miracles," he groaned hoarsely. "My corporation can't tolerate them like this."
Crowley grunted and held out a hand for Aziraphale to climb on. "Then let's get you inside and figure out what to do next."
There were no direct miracles to get Aziraphale dry and comfortable, not after each successive one left him feeling worse. Crowley did heat a saucer of water with demonic power, and produce a tiny swatch of flannel from the ether, but Aziraphale stripped himself by hand and splashed himself clean before drying off while Crowley worked his power on miracling the miniature clothes clean and dry.
"Feeling better?" Crowley asked when Aziraphale was mostly dressed.
"Better," the angel agreed, "but still exhausted, still headachy. I could sleep for a week." He punctuated that statement with a relatively enormous yawn.
"Maybe a little rest is called for," Crowley frowned. "It'll heal you up so you can figure out how to get back to normal. Shall I go back to my place? Do you want to come with so I can keep an eye on you?"
"I appreciate the offer, my dear," said Aziraphale as he eyed the damp scrap of flannel and wondered if he could use it as a blanket, "but I doubt I'll stay awake that long. Can't you just... stay here?" If there was any pitiful pleading in his voice, it was only because his body was too pathetically small.
Again the demon looked as though he was being asked to make a painful concession.
"I have a perfectly serviceable bed upstairs if you'd rather not sleep on the sofa," Aziraphale offered to sweeten the deal.
"I doubt we have the same opinion on that," Crowley grumbled. The angel only slept under moments of duress, when he was too exhausted to keep his eyes open. The sort of bed needed for that level of fatigue was very different from the sort needed for a luxury napper like Crowley.
Aziraphale gave Crowley carte blanche to change the bed however the demon saw fit. Right now, keeping the demon close and comfortable was more important than preserving an antique he barely used. Besides, he was too tired to argue. His eyelids were growing heavy and he knew he would be fast asleep as soon as he closed his eyes.
Crowley didn't need to be told twice. He snapped out a few discreet miracles and bundled Aziraphale up in a fluffy bit of wool for the walk to the bedroom.
Aziraphale didn't stay awake long enough to see what the demon had done.
He woke up cozily ensconced in the tartan scarf that he kept by the front door year-round. He had liked the scarf because it was soft - both in color and texture - but he had no idea it was so comfortable until now. He laid there drowsily and wondered if he could just fall back -
"You're awake," Crowley observed. "Again."
It was that last word that pulled Aziraphale back from the brink.
"How long was I out?" he asked, rubbing his eyes and sitting up. He was camped out on his bedside table with Crowley's sunglasses serving as headboard and rails to keep him from rolling away.
"Just the night. A long time for you," Crowley said, admitting nothing, "but you looked like you needed it, so I let it go."
The demon was sitting in Aziraphale's bed… Or, rather, in the bed that had replaced Aziraphale's. He had made himself quite at home if the style and color scheme were anything to go on, but so much the better if it kept Crowley close. Aziraphale felt vulnerable in ways he never had before and he didn't want to be abandoned right now even for a night.
"How's the headache?" Crowley asked.
Aziraphale thought about it before answering. "It's gone," he said, relieved. "So is the fatigue and pain from all those miracles."
Crowley grunted. "I suppose that's the first step."
"Yes," the angel mused thoughtfully. "And the next step is to get out of this mess, but I don't know how. All that sleep and no dreams of how to solve my predicament! Angelic miracles don't work; demonic miracles don't work. In fact, they hurt too much for me to try them again unless we're highly confident that the spell is broken. I feel so stupid for getting caught like that, just meters away from the shelter of my shop."
"I'm sure you'll come up with something; your intelligence didn't shrink with your corporation, Angel," Crowley chided as he got out of bed and miraculously changed his clothes from a set of pajamas to the outfit he had worn the day before. "You're not as stupid as you think you are."
"Perhaps. Perhaps not," Aziraphale hedged. "I feel quite helpless, however. You cannot argue with that! An angel without miracles! I couldn't defend myself against a poor cat yesterday. If you hadn't have come along when you did, I don't know what would have happened to me."
"Don't thank me, Angel," warned Crowley. It was a carryover from the old Arrangement as well as due to Crowley's very entrenched stereotypes about demons that he refused to accept gratitude. "Think nothing of it."
"But I am thankful for you," Aziraphale protested earnestly. "You saved my life, or at least my corporation yesterday. And you've done it for years, centuries! I suppose you think that makes it business as usual, dear boy, but it means a great deal to me."
"Let's talk about this after breakfast," Crowley said to change the subject. He shoved his hands in his pockets in irritation.
Aziraphale, however, wasn't hungry in the slightest. He kept talking. "Have you ever wondered why you always find me when I need you most? I've always wondered. Well, I suppose after a while I just thought it was ineff-"
"Sssssstop," Crowley ground out. The only word in his vocabulary more taboo than thanks was ineffable. "I find you because I want to find you. Because, as smart as you are, you have no survival instinct at all! If it wasn't for me pulling your fat out of the fire every single time, you wouldn't be here. And what fun would that be for me if you were discorporated? I'd have no one to tease, no one to bother. No one to listen to me rant endlessly while drunk. I save you, Angel, so I can continue to take advantage of you. I save you because it benefits me to do so."
Aziraphale felt no sting from Crowley's little tirade. After six millennia, he understood his friend's demonic temperament. And as an angel, the moodiness was even easier to forgive.
"Be that as it may," he replied demurely, "it benefits me as well, and you cannot make me ungrateful."
Crowley growled in frustration, scooped Aziraphale up, and dumped him into his jacket pocket. Having effectively ended the conversation (although the growl was too inarticulate to credit him with the last word), he stalked out of the bedroom.
When Crowley reached the kitchen, the kettle was already whistling in anticipation. After some therapeutic banging of cabinet doors, he had filled his mug and was ready to talk with the infuriating angel again.
As he reached into the pocket to pluck out the angel, Crowley felt something downy soft brush against his fingertips. The sensation choked him with dread. He carefully lifted the angel and set him on the kitchen counter without a word.
Aziraphale, he could see, was still gripping a fluffy white feather.
"Crowley," said the angel, "what is this, and why was it in your pocket?"
Crowley briefly considered what lies he should tell. In the end, he decided on a modernly minimalist truth. "It's a feather."
Aziraphale's face was too small to show much expression, but Crowley knew without looking how that tiny face must be scrunching up in disappointment.
"Crowley," he said, sounding like a disappointed school teacher, "of course it's a feather. It's one of mine, if I'm not mistaken. And it's been magicked with a location spell and a jeopardy gauge. That's how you've been able to find me every time I got into trouble, isn't it?" That was purely rhetorical. "The real questions are how long have you had it and how did you apply the spells? They aren't demonic. They feel like human magic."
He'd had that feather since the Fall of Man, but Crowley would be twice damned before he admitted that. As a distraction, he came clean on the spells. "I swapped favors with a witch; she did those magic spells for me, and I tormented some sanctimonious prick who wanted to burn her at the stake. The location spell was easy as falling, but the other one was tricky. I had to snap myself all over Asia for the ingredients for her. But in the end, I had a way to keep track of you and Hell was none the wiser."
"Human magic," Aziraphale breathed as pieces of the answer slid into place. "Crowley, that's what I need! Human magic! Sandalphon protected his curse against my natural angelic powers. And he knew that you and I were teamed up together, so he made sure to guard it against demonic powers as well. But it's impossible to make a curse impervious. That means human magic can free me!"
"Don't we need a witch for that?" Crowley asked.
"Nonsense, not if I know the spell," said Aziraphale with growing excitement. "And I do. At least, I have books upon books of spells in my collection. I'm sure St. Cyprian's Grimoire has to have the sort of spell I need. And it doesn't harm me if you use miracles to gather any supplies I might need so long as you don't try to miracle me directly. Oh, Crowley, this is it!" The angel was practically vibrating with hope.
The grimoire was a fascinating mishmash of spells and prayers that called into question the fundamental assumption that witchcraft was human devilry. It took two days for Aziraphale to painstakingly flip through page after page before he found the right "Spell to Reverse Unjust and Harmful Magic". He spent another day checking and rechecking his translations before compiling the list of ingredients. Most of it would require Crowley to snap himself to northern Africa and other parts of the Mediterranean, but a few items could surely be sourced closer to home, and one could only be found in the shop itself: a piece of Aziraphale from before Sandalphon had applied his cursed miracle.
Over the next few days, Crowley left him for hours at a time to fetch some items while Aziraphale scoured various sections of the flat for traces of himself. Cyprian's notes had been very clear that an article of clothing or some other cherished knick-knack would not work; it needed to be something from Aziraphale's person, like a lock of hair or a nail clipping.
Each evening when the demon returned with various objects and cuttings, Aziraphale felt more frustrated at his own failure. He depended on Crowley to move him to sections of the flat that were otherwise inaccessible in his current size, and had looked into every corner and crevice he could reach, but found nothing. It seemed that Adam Young had apparently recreated the bookshop without any of the dust or dirt from before. This included the hair from his brush and the pile of discarded feathers in the back of his closet.
Without a piece of himself, the spell wouldn't work, and the only piece of himself that Aziraphale could think of was the feather that Crowley kept in his pocket at all times.
Considering all the work Crowley was already doing for him, Aziraphale didn't think he was greedy enough to broach the subject, but the demon asked daily if he'd had any success, and his glum replies must have warned Crowley about the inevitability of the request.
Crowley sauntered into the bookshop, a roll of sod wrapped in burlap tucked under one arm. Had he been susceptible to sunburn, the adventures of the last few days would have put him a shade past pink by now. But he chose to be pale, and so he was, adventures or no.
"Zira!" he called as he made his way up the stairs to the flat above.
It had been a taxing week for Aziraphale. Angels didn't need to sleep but that was because they could miracle away fatigue whenever they wished, and Aziraphale had been forced to rest at least once a day for hours and hours since Sandalphon had punished him. Likewise, he couldn't just wish himself clean after flipping through pages of the grimoire or crawling behind shelves of books. He was learning that there were quite a number of things that he dealt with via miracle that had to be addressed by tediously nonmagical means.
Aziraphale scurried forward to greet the returning demon as he swaggered in victoriously. Unable to contribute more, Aziraphale gave orders on the proper placement of the sod. Crowley rolled it out and adjusted it until it was perfect.
"I certainly hope this is the last of it, Angel," he said, carefully avoiding the chalk marks on the floor as he made his way to the sofa for a well-deserved sprawl.
"Yes," Aziraphale frowned and began arranging items for the spell, "except…" He trailed off, not wanting to point out the one ingredient lacking.
The demon had already done so much to help him, that asking for further sacrifice felt wrong, but if Crowley wouldn't give up that feather, Aziraphale would be trapped.
As it turned out, Aziraphale didn't need to say more. Crowley sat up and shoved a hand into his pocket. "Had a little bet with myself whether you'd get around to asking for it," he muttered before pulling out the precious wisp of down. "If this doesn't work, Angel," Crowley warned without any interest in finishing that sentence.
"It will!" Aziraphale said. "It has to." He carefully took the offered piece of himself, vowing to return it to his friend when the spell was complete.
Shortly before midnight, Crowley lit the candles while Aziraphale climbed into position in the center of the strip of sod. At the correct moment, the angel began to recite the words of the spell, pausing to silently direct Crowley to sprinkle various ingredients after specific passages.
Aziraphale could feel the magic gathering and building potency. It pressed against him like an impending migraine but he didn't dare stop. If this didn't succeed, he didn't know what he could do to return to his normal self.
A mist started to rise from the grass, soon thickening to roll over Aziraphale's head and hide him. Had he not memorized the words, he'd be in a pickle, but he just continued to recite the spell.
"Angel?" Crowley said, an edge of warning in his tone. The danger of human magic or any magic that required more work than a fingersnap was that things could go wrong. Between pronunciation and measurements, precision was key but it was not a guarantee against a spell running awry.
Aziraphale strategically ignored his companion's concern. The mist was too thick to see through and Aziraphale didn't stop speaking the words for fear that he'd lose his place.
The mist began to irritate his throat. As an angel, even a very small one, Aziraphale didn't need to breathe to live, but he did need to breathe to speak and the mist - no, the cloying fog - was getting to him. But the thick haze was surely a sign that it was working and he'd be a fool to stop now. He pressed on, speaking more quickly.
He was in the home stretch now, the spell nearing its end. He paused only long enough to pick up the feather at his feet and to swallow, wetting his dry throat. When he tried to continue, however, he started coughing.
Crowley called to him again, his voice muffled through the fog, which should have been ridiculous since he was standing on the other side of the chalk marks, barely a meter away.
Aziraphale cleared his throat and picked up where he thought he had left off, intent on finishing the spell. As he spoke the last phrase, however, he felt distinctly uncomfortable and wrong.
He could feel Crowley's worry now even though he couldn't see or hear the demon through the impenetrable barrier of the spell. It condensed around him, as thick as malice and as cold as a grudge. It crowded into his mouth and jostled a path down his throat even as it squeezed painfully on his skull. It pressed on him from all directions, inside and out, until he feared it would crush him or simply tear him apart.
Crowley was leaning over him, worry etched in every line and plane.
Aziraphale took a breath just to savor the feeling of being able to do so.
"Did it work?" he asked, trying to gauge the tremor in his voice.
"Did it work?" Crowley mocked condescendingly. "Did it work?" he repeated for good measure. "Idiot, you tell me!"
With that the demon grabbed his hand and pulled him into a sitting position on the little patch of browned and wilted sod.
Aziraphale could only stare at their clasped hands for a moment. Half an hour ago, he had been small enough for the demon to cradle him in the palm of his hand. And now, Crowley held his hand with no room for more. He was back to his regular size! This was wonderful, glorious! He couldn't take it sitting down; he needed to stand, to jump and dance about!
He staggered to his feet, beaming. "Look at me," he laughed, patting himself as if to confirm by touch what he could already see with his eyes. "I'm back to my old self again!"
Now was the time to return the borrowed token. Aziraphale opened his other hand to find the once downy feather had withered away to the rachis. His face fell.
"Oh, Crowley," he breathed. "I'm so sorry."
The demon was clearly distressed but he tried to play it cool. "Don't worry about it. We both knew it was a risk. Maybe now you'll actually get a cellphone so I can keep track of you the human way."
This joke only made Aziraphale feel worse. "I would have been trapped like that until I discorporated without your help. I would already have been discorporated, over and over again for centuries," he whinged. "And I took this from you and ruined it. How thoughtless of me!"
He would have continued in that vein until he exhausted himself had Crowley not grasped his wrist.
"Angel," he stopped him, "I said don't worry." Then, to change the subject, he said, "Go on and try your powers. That's the real test."
"Yes, right," Aziraphale agreed although a look of worry flitted across his features. If the human spell only restored his size, he was about to be violently ill. Still, he wouldn't complain.
"Right," he said again, feeling a spike of apprehension. "Just a little miracle."
He dithered until he got an idea so perfect that it might have been divine inspiration from God Herself. He snapped his fingers. In his hand he held a restored white feather, deeply imbued with human and angelic magics. With profound gratitude, he handed it back to his best friend.
"I sincerely hope that you don't need this again," he told him, "but on the off chance that our lives have a few more unexpected turns, I want… I mean, I'd like it… I suppose what I'm trying to say is… it would benefit me to have you hold onto this."
Crowley grabbed the feather with the brusqueness that one associated with demons, but then he spun it in his fingers with a reverence that his kind didn't naturally display. Satisfied that it was fully restored, he pocketed it. His jaw worked a bit wordlessly before he finally said, "Right, that's sorted. What now?"
In many ways, that question was easy for Aziraphale to answer. He'd had a demon at his beck and call for the last week, running errands and performing miracles all over the globe when Aziraphale was unable to do so. Crowley hadn't complained - well, of course Crowley had complained, but never once had he balked at anything that Aziraphale had requested and that was the part that mattered. It was about time for the shoe to be on the other foot, to pay back the demon in kind.
It was about time for the shoe to be on the other foot, to pay back the demon in kind. It was well after midnight but if Crowley wanted to go out, Aziraphale would go out; the demon would no doubt know all the interesting places to go at this hour. And if Crowley was tired of dashing about, they could stay in and have a quiet night - here or in Mayfair, or anywhere really. The angel had heard glowing reports of Alpha Centauri recently.
With a snap, Aziraphale removed evidence of the spell from the room and changed his outfit for the first time in a week.
"Whatever you want to do, wherever you want to go. My treat!"
/ THE END /
Well how was it? Feel free to comment, favorite, follow (although this is a one shot, so no follow-up is planned), or lurk on over to my other stories.
I know it's been a while and we're all getting stir crazy, but hang on. You've got this. Keep safe, stay healthy, and take care.