Warning: Some profanity, used lightly and for artistic emphasis (right...). Slashy. So very, very slashy. Not vague, not subtle, so if you don't like it, I suggest you find another fic, not to mention another category.
Disclaimor: Unfortunently, this fic does not belong to me. It belongs to those wonderfully talented guys Neil Gaimen and Terry Pratchett.
Author Notes: Quote in the summery is from "Christmas in Brooklyn" by FFN writer Heidi Patacki. She is awesome and I suggest everyone goes and reads her fics immediately, even if you've never heard of Hey Arnold. Also, this fic takes place about a decade after the almost-apocalypse, as I'm sure you'll figure out.
Aziraphale sat behind the musty desk, not drunk, at least not yet. Perhaps that would come later in the evening, but for now, it was enough just to soak in the stale air of what he had once owned. The room was empty. Bare, stripped of the cluttered atmosphere of the bookshop. Dust motes hug where light could be seen from the windows, and the walls had been turned to a squalid gray, a shadow of their rich oak paneling.
The store he had owned for so long, centuries at least, was now an abandoned lot, with a loud, red sign over the front window announcing it's availability. Aziraphale hadn't been there in almost a decade, and in the years past it had contained many other owners; none which had stayed.
Angels never heaved, but Aziraphale did now, pulling his weight up from the chair he had sagged into. Never had he wanted to die so much, but that was the funny thing about immortality: suicide wasn't an option. So he stayed on this miserable Earth, not caring anymore to thwart the evils of the world, not caring about each day slipping through into the next, each sunset blurring into the sunrise of tomorrow. His angelic idealism was gone. Crowley would find that funny. He had worked so hard, all those millennia, to make Aziraphale lose even one of his angelic qualities, and now that he was gone he had lost them all.
Crowley. It hurt to think of him. So much had happened since Aziraphale had last seen him, and now-now all that was left was his memories.
No. If your going to follow those memories again, at least get drunk he told himself. He was right. Crowley was always easier to handle while drunk, now that he was gone, and even when-especially when he was here. At least when he was drunk he couldn't think rationally, and it was harder to fall into the pattern of self-doubt and denial that he'd spent most of his time with Crowley in. And he'd promised himself he wouldn't do that if he came back here.
Here. To most people, humans mind you, here meant a place. A tangible area that one felt especially strong about. To Aziraphale that place was Earth. All of it. Well, maybe a few places in particular, but mostly just Earth. It was, after all, the place where he and Crowley had spent millennia together, with out the influences of Heaven and Hell. No God, no Satan. No eternal, yet ephemeral battle between good and evil, right and wrong. Earth was the merging of the two. The radiant plane where there was no difference between black and white, just a swirl of colors and shapes and sounds and-
Love. Earth had love. Heaven may have preached eternal love from God, but it was the affection one would give a small child: pure, innocent. There was nothing innocent about love on Earth. It was lust that threw humans into a passionate embrace. It was flashes of heat and sex, melting together for one suspended moment. And in that moment Love was reached. Real Love. The kind that came from mutual wants and needs and understanding. It wasn't innocent, it wasn't pure, and it wasn't anything Heaven or Hell could understand. But a mix of the two: Earth could understand.
Aziraphale stood up. Humans don't know what they have before them. They wait their entire lives to go to Heaven, in hopes of something better than what they have here. But this is better. Better that all of it combined. Crowley had known. Humans were lucky. God must've been drunk when he created Earth.
A shiny black Bentley roamed through the streets of downtown London. It wasn't in perfect condition. It was used, bought from a Jacob Roberts, and had never been owned by an Anthony James Crowley. But it was close. As close as Aziraphale could find.
The bookshop had been his first real stop since he had returned to Earth. After visiting a few used car lots and finding a Bentley in relatively good condition (the internet- another wonderfully human invention) he didn't know what to do. He didn't feel like ferreting out good deeds to do. He didn't feel like being an angel. So he went to the bookstore, the one place where he was fully human.
He hadn't been there in a decade, since almost a year after the almost-apocalypse. He didn't know why he needed to return so bad. He should have just started over. Bought a yellow Volkswagen instead of the Bentley and moved to Oklahoma. Somewhere where Crowley had never been. Start a life with out Crowley. Move on. That was the healthy thing to do, wasn't it? But he had gone to England anyway. And now, driving away from the bookshop, he had no idea what to do. It had occurred to him when he had first arrived there to re-open the bookshop, a tribute to Crowley, maybe, or just a way to gleam back some of the happiness they had shared. But having been back, he knew he never could. It could never be the same.
So where to now? At the moment, all he wanted to do was get drunk. But that wouldn't do. He still had too much to do here. So the coffee shop. A bright atmosphere, friendly people, brisk java to assault his senses. The perfect thing to jolt him back into what he needed to do.
The Bentley crawled into a parking space next to The Square Donut. Aziraphale decided that it was probably a good thing that there was a parking lot to the left of the café, he didn't know how to parallel park-didn't know how to drive really. He could, if he had chosen to, zap himself anywhere he wanted to be, he still had full angelic powers since his return. But he didn't; choosing, rather, to explore the conventional, human methods. Earth had it good, he'd realized that during his stay in Heaven, and he intended to utilize every luxury they had to the fullest extreme.
The Square Donut was bright-brighter than he remembered coffeehouses being. The yellow and orange tiles lined the walls in what was supposed to be a geometrical pattern, but a few were out of place, the result of a careless repair crew fixing the cracked squares with whatever was available. The florescent lights hung a few feet over head, making those with a taller height wary, and those of the shorter variety claustrophobic from their intense searing. Cheerful smiles lit the counter as two girls in orange and yellow uniforms took orders. Their shift had just started half an hour ago, and the monotonous strain of impatient customers had not worn them down yet.
Aziraphale approached the counter, drumming his fingers along the smooth surface in a false gesture of cheerfulness. His blue eyes reflected the neon menu hanging from the ceiling as he read what they served. Coffee…coffee…coffee… Where was it? But the menu had been replaced with lunch items.
He gritted his jaw in impatience. He was too composed to get mad, but his nerves were wearing thin. This is a coffeehouse. They're supposed to serve coffee! Why else would you name a bloody restaurant The Square Donut? he screamed inside his head. But by the time he had shuffled to the front of the line, all he did was smile politely and order a Coke. It was still caffeine after all.
"Will that be all for you, sir?"
"Huh?" He closed his eyes tightly, trying to piece together his thoughts enough to have a rational answer. Coke. Oh yes. "No, nothing else, thank you."
"Are you alright mister?" she asked, peering at him with wide eyes from behind the counter. She couldn't have been older than sixteen, her freckly face and curly hair betrayed her youth, despite the make-up she wore.
"I'm fine. It's just been a long day."
She glanced at her watch suspiciously. "It's only one o'clock."
He stared at her and she smiled, shaking her head slightly, as if she were the older one, chastising a teenager for a late night of partying. "Sounds like someone's got a case of the Mondays." She said.
He sighed deeply, wishing it were only a case of "the Mondays". But his sort of problems couldn't be left behind as the day switched into Tuesday. She expected an answer, probably an equally amusing quip, but he wasn't up to playing lip service to someone too young to even imagine what he'd been through. If she wanted an answer she could have the truth, all the hundreds of things that were gone, all of the hundred of things that Crowley's absence brought.
But in the end he only named one: "No, just lonely."
And the human couldn't even understand that. She stared at him, wide-eyed in a mix of shock and fear, as if his confession meant he wanted to fuck her. She disgusted him. Humans disgusted him for the first time in 6,000 years. He grabbed his Coke and walked out, not bothering to correct her misinterpretation.
Heaven was a lovely place. A paradise, filled with exotic luxuries and five amusement parks. Every whim was catered to, every need was fulfilled. Ethereal servants came with a mere thought. In Heaven, angels had special treatment, as God's chosen messengers and holiest of creations. Angels were gifted with any amenity they wanted, gourmet food was at their disposal, and the televisions had over 500 channels.
Aziraphale hated it.
He hadn't always. In fact, as a young angel he hadn't wanted to leave. But going there had meant that he had lost. The apocalypse had been averted, but only momentarily in God's time line, and he and Crowley were punished-respectively. He to Heaven, Crowley to hell.
Aziraphale wasn't in trouble; his experience in Heaven was more of a re-education, training, if you will. A decade long refresher course on how to properly conduct God's business on Earth, that had really only lasted an hour or two in Heaven's time. After that, he was given the choice to return back to Earth or stay in Heaven. It was an obvious choice. Heaven was stifling, and besides, Crowley was still on Earth. Or so he thought.
But the demon had received worse than he had. Despite his confidence in not being punished, Satan must have him contacted after Aziraphale left. He was gone when Aziraphale returned, and something was missing on Earth. The peculiar sense of knowing where the demon was at all times, the feeling of comfort he got just thinking about him. There was a void where that once had been.
God and Satan don't play fair. They don't do everything on even terms, making sure the contract agreements are equal to avoid union complaints. They don't have to. God can be forgiving, benevolent, sending Aziraphale back to earth after a little lecture and a warning. Satan will continue to do things his way.
Aziraphale shuddered to think of what had become of Crowley, after the stunts he pulled, the goodness he had failed to thwart and had in fact participated in, the demon was surely doomed. Hastur had his own personal vendetta against him, surely, and as a high-ranking officer in Hell, could see to it that Crowley was never released.
Aziraphale popped a "Best of Queen" tape into the car and pulled into the liquor store. Getting drunk was going to feel good.
In a sewer entrance by lower eastern London a snake emerged. His red eyes slitted above his gleaming fangs and his belly scraped against the cobblestone road without the usual rasp, but a quiet shriek like nails grating over a chalkboard. The serpent's tongue darted out, tasting the air with one smooth slide into the fresh air, and then back into the crevice of his mouth. Sensing that there was no one near he slid into the center of the alley, and in a swift, fluid motion became a tall, dark man. He smiled, and then frowned and reached into his front pocket, drawing out a pair of sunglasses.
He put them on and smiled again. It's time.
For a year he had been Hell's prisoner, the punishment for disobeying Satan and averting the apocalypse. Locked in the dungeons of the fiery underworld and subject to what would make torture look like a stroll in the park. And then, when Hell had decided they were done with him, the passed him to Hastur.
Hastur made every second of those next nine years feel like they were an eternity in themselves. 283,824,000 seconds. Each in excruciating detail. Each stretched to fill every one of Hastur's hateful fantasies. And yet, mixed in with that agony were moments of the purest pleasure. His senses exploded with the earth-shattering joy he experienced and he was left desiring more. But the next second would be agony-the hollow, grief-ridden agony that left him shaking all over, until at last, he couldn't even shake. He was paralyzed, locked in the continuous cycle of pain and pleasure without escape.
And Hastur's eyes stared at him the entire time. There was no executioner's mask to hide the ecstasy he felt in inflicting this torment. And once, when the pain was too much to bear and he had cried out Aziraphale's name in his loss of self-control, the eyes were there. Mocking him.
But now, a decade later, he was free. Redeemed in Hell, and sent back to Earth to inflict the same torture he had received onto the poor, bumbling humans. Already, he had plans to make the race pay for what he had undergone to save them. But first, he had a score to settle.
Aziraphale. Crowley's eyes narrowed in hatred. It was the angel's fault that he was punished. If he had followed Satan's orders instead of agreeing to the angel's virtuous plan, he would have been rewarded instead of locked away like a base criminal. He was the demon, he the one who was supposed to tempt. Damn Aziraphale for reversing the roles and tempting him to the lighter side.
And damn him for not falling for Crowley's temptations. For not realizing how much he had loved him, and wanted him. For not wanting him back. So many times the demon had poured his heart out to him, in the middle of a drunken stupor on those dark nights they had shared. But the next morning Aziraphale had never remembered, attributing all odd behaviors to his drunkenness. 6,000 years, and Crowley could never touch him, could never have him, could never see those innocent eyes turned to him, their pureness tainted with lust.
But all he wanted him for now was revenge. To see the angel screaming from the same torture he had endured and to be able to laugh at him the way Hastur had jeered at Crowley's weakness. He wanted to rip him apart, expose the virginal, sinless nature of his being and watch as blackness overcame it, as evil seeped in, as Crowley won.
And he would.
It's time he repeated again.
It was a litany.
Crowley moved quickly, wasting no time to cars, taxis, or other normal human methods. With a mere thought he was at Aziraphale's flat. A gray stone apartment at the opposite end of town. It was decorated almost shabbily, with dusty brown furniture in Dutch styles and no plants. With a slight twinge of homesickness Crowley remembered his own flat, decorated in sleek modern styles with several leafy, green ferns. But the nostalgia faded quickly as he got back on task.
The apartment was empty as Crowley's slitted eyes roamed the bare furnishings. He glared at the television as if it were responsible for his delay. With a groan, he thought himself to the bookshop, but it was empty, too. Crowley glanced at his watch. Damn. Seven o'clock? When did it get to be so late? Where would Aziraphale be at 7:00, anyway? A millennia with the angel should have made his habits predictable, but the decade apart was blurring his thoughts.
He knew where he would have been, out drinking or observing the nightlife. But Aziraphale was unpredictable.
The Bentley! He realized in a flash of insight. That dithering fool probably would have held on to the car, for sentiment or something. All he would have to do is find the Bentley and Aziraphale would be with it. He focussed on the car's peculiar aura, finally narrowing it down to somewhere in Yorkshire. He went that far? He wondered, but followed the link. Seeing it was somewhere on E. 97th street, he zapped himself there, and went to search on foot.
The sun was setting when he arrived, and he cursed the time he had wasted in trying to think of a way to find the angel. Well, I suppose stalking him will be more fun in the dark anyway. A smile twisted onto his face, and he began to hunt. The street was not the nice brownstone neighborhood that Aziraphale's bookshop was located in, but a downtown strip with gas stations and bail bond houses. Crowley narrowed his eyes-what would Aziraphale be doing here? Probably trying to redeem some prostitute, he answered himself. And probably succeeding.
The thought came unbidden, and he recalled how Aziraphale was always much better than he was at turning people's souls. Despite evil being such an easier path to convert to, Aziraphale had gift at winning people to God. After all, he won me, didn't he?
The sting of the years he had suffered because of Aziraphale's talent kept him going. He was getting closer, he knew. He turned the corner, expecting to run into his shiny black car and its owner any moment.
Instead he ran into a fence. Crowley stepped back in surprise, his nose and cheeks smarting from the metal chain-link. He looked through the fence at heap of dissembled car parts. A car junk.
He was going to be sick.
Crowley felt nothing now except for a cold hate burning at the bottom of his stomach. Standing exposed in the middle of the Yorkshire street, Crowley let his wings slither out, ripping his shirt near the shoulders. The chill night air ruffled the black feathers as he swooped into the black sky. He didn't care if there was enough cloud cover or if someone could see him. He wanted to feel the pressure of wings against the thermals, the steady beat of his muscles flexing and releasing. There was a primordial quality to it, like a heartbeat, the way his wings beat in time to the hatred coursing through him.
It wouldn't take too long to get back to London, not by flying like he was, not with his anger speeding him along. And when he got back and found Aziraphale…
He planned maliciously about what he would do to the angel. Rip every feather from his wings, one by one. Scratch his perfect, goddamn face with his claws. Twist his hands around his neck until there was the satisfying crack of his neck breaking. Watch him beg for mercy.
Soon. The word rippled through Crowley like an orgasm-pleasure that wavered on the edge of hysteria. Soon, he would have his chance for revenge.
He saw the lights of London approaching, and he swooped lower, circling like a vulture on one light in the mass of neon and florescence below him. Aziraphale's flat. Soon.
The window was open and Crowley glided in, surprising the angel who was sitting in the living room in his pajamas.
"Crowley!" the angel yelped, a mix of surprise and joy on his face. He seemed unsure of what to do with himself; his body movement tensing in an attempt to restrain himself from going to the demon.
Crowley let his lips twist into a cruel smile. Happy to see him? That would soon change. The demon closed the space between them, clasping the angels face in one hand, and letting his claws sink slightly into his jaw.
The angel's smile faltered, "Crowley…?"
"Shh, my angel. It's been a long time."
"Er, yes." Aziraphale's eyes darted back and forth, searching Crowley's for something recognizable. "Would you mind letting go of my face, Crowley? I know we haven't seen each other in a while, but it's really starting to-"
"Hurt? Yes, I suppose it would." Crowley's nails tightened on the pale skin. "Pain is such a relative term, angel. What hurts you might not even faze another. And yet, there are certain inflections that are universal. Torture, for instance. Don't you think that would hurt?"
Aziraphale didn't answer, not like Crowley expected him to. He watched the fear begin to grow in his eyes. Have you figured it out yet, angel?
He chuckled and turned his attention back to Aziraphale. "For ten years I suffered while you were cozy here on Earth. And now, dear angel, you will pay for every second of those ten years."
The demon flared, "Is that all you can say, Angel? Just whimper my name? Beg! Beg for forgiveness, beg to be saved, beg, dammit!"
The angel didn't move. His eyes caught Crowley's own in their reflection, and the demon stared. His eyes were nothing more than a slitted yellow orbs. Just glass circles with no depth, no soul. He didn't recognize them. The demon unfocussed, looking at Aziraphale's eyes again. The blue centers reflected more than his own eyes, they showed his pain and his anguish. Though he couldn't possibly of known how he was feeling, Aziraphale understood.
Crowley collapsed, letting go of the angel's face and falling onto the floor in an undignified heap. "Why didn't you love me back, Zira?" his voice cracked with suppressed emotion, "Six thousand years together and all I could think about was you. And you never even cared! Didn't you know? You knew everything else."
Before he could register what was happening, the angel was on his knees next to him, his arms wrapped around Crowley. He didn't speak, just pressed his mouth against the demon's, his kiss powerful enough to tell Crowley what he needed to know.
They separated after a few minutes and Crowley stared wide-eyed at the angel. Aziraphale was flushed, and looked as it he were on the verge of apologizing for his sudden action.
"Don't say you're sorry, Zira. You're everything I ever wanted."
The angel looked into his eyes and smiled before Crowley engaged his lips again and he was too occupied to smile.