It was was the Saturday after Armagedon’t, and Aziraphale had more or less gotten a grip. Sure, things haden’t exactly gone according to plan, but the plan was ineffable. Plus, it was hard to get upset when the plan had involved so much dying. He hadn't heard anything from his superiors, but that was hardly unusual. Life went on. The world, quite literally, kept turning. Whatever happened would happen, and Aziraphale had decided not to worry about it.
He just wished the same could be said for Crowley. They were in the book shop drinking as usual, but something was off. Alcohol usually made Crowley drowsy and existential. But tonight . . . He’d been agitated all evening–pacing, wringing the napkin in his lap, tapping his foot incessantly. Now he sat across from Aziraphale, fidgeting nervously.
Crowley didn’t seem to hear him.
He stood and put his hand on Crowley’s shoulder.
Crowley lurched upright, relaxing again when he saw Aziraphale.
“Sorry,” he slurred.
“I’m a bit . . . tense. It's this stupid atuonomical–autonomicon– body.” He said, looking down at his hands in disgust. “I try not to think about it but I do, the adrenaline starts, I shut it down, but then I start thinking about it again and the whole thing starts over. ‘S a vicious sickle.”
“What exactly is troubling you?” Aziraphale asked.
“Immediately or existentially?” Crowley shot back.
“Yes.” said Aziraphale.
Crowley sank down in his chair, rubbing his face and groaning.
“I haven’t heard anything from headquarters yet. But it’s only a matter of time before Hastur and Ligur get re-embodied and I feel like I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
He sighed and leaned over, resting on the table.
“And in the big picture. Well.”
He made a broad, sweeping, gesture with his arms to indicate the theological bomb that had detonated on their heads.
Aziraphale made sympathetic noises, leaned back in his chair, and eyed Crowley consideringly. After a moment, he got to his feet and said,
“Sober up, I have something to show you.”
Crowley closed his eyes and shivered. Then he stood and followed Aziraphale out the back door and into the alley where Aziraphale unfurled his soft, mourning dove wings.
“Follow me.” He said.
They took to the air and climbed until London faded into a shining river of headlights below them. A bank of dark clouds materialized on the horizon.
“Are we going through that?” Crowley asked.
“It's just a little rain, nothing to worry about.” Aziraphale said.
Mist clung to their faces as they approached, gradually becoming a light drizzle, and then a driving rain. Crowley spotted the lights of an airplane blinking in the distance.
He grabbed Aziraphale by the wrist. Crowley pointed at the plane.
“Oi, watch this.” He said, his eyes twinkling with manic glee, and dove towards the plane.
“Oh no.” Said Aziraphale, following after him.
Crowley alighted on the wing of the plane and knelt down, tucking his wings close around his shoulders and letting his head hang down.
He reached out and snapped his fingers.
. . .
Will Sterne was leaning against the side of the plane, staring sightlessly out into the black.
A flash of lightning illuminated the sky. That’s when he saw it. A figure hunched on the wing of the plane.
And then all was blackness.
An echoing crack of thunder boomed all around them. A woman swore. A man gave a little shout of surprise. A baby started crying. Will didn’t hear them. He was staring at the window, caught between the fear that he was losing his mind and the terror that what he saw might be real. He leaned in, mashing his face against the window, eyes straining to see in the darkness.
There was another flash of lightning. The figure was standing now. A tall, winged, silhouette backlight with blinding intensity.
“Martha,” Will said, reaching behind him to poke his wife without looking away from the window, “Martha, you’ve gotta see this, there’s a—.”
The lightning flashed once more. He only saw it for for that split second, but he got the impression of a face. A face, and teeth.
“Did you see the look on his face?” Said Crowley, wiping tears from his eyes.
Aziraphale wasn’t sure how he managed to remain airborne bent double like that.
“Crowley you probably scared the poor man half to death.” He said.
But he had one hand covering his mouth, and Crowley could see from the crinkles at the corners of his eyes that he was hiding a smile.
. . .
“There.” Aziraphale said, pointing to cluster of stones somewhere nestled in verdant hills by a lake. As they flew in closer, Crowley could see that it was some kind of an abandoned church. Old enough that it was starting to crumble—new enough to still have walls and a roof intact.
“What is this place?” Crowley asked as they landed on the roof.
“The old church of St. Albert.” Aziraphale said, walking over to lean against the steeple while Crowley sat down.
“It served a town back over the hills there. But there was a fire in the 50’s, and the people decided to rebuild the church closer to the town.”
Crowley looked out at the lake: still and smooth as a mirror, stars reflecting on its surface like velvet decked out in diamonds. It was almost heaven. And he would know.
The corners of Aziraphale’s mouth twitched slightly. He shrugged, and began wringing the water out of his hair.
Crowley watched him, pushing the wet hair out of his face, sending rivulets of cold water trailing down his back. Then he stood and stretched, joints popping, and shed his jacket and shirt-laying them down on the roof where he had been sitting. He took a few steps towards the steeple and shook the water from his wings, showering Aziraphale in droplets.
“Dear.” Aziraphale said.
Crowley snickered. “Let me help you with your wings angel, you’ve got a feather out of place.
Aziraphale tried to look over his shoulder and see his own wings. Crowley put a hand on his shoulder.
“Sit down.” he said.
They settled onto the rooftop. Aziraphale sitting cross legged; Crowley kneeling behind him, fussing with his wings.
Night faded from black, to indigo, to delicate, predawn purple.
“You should really do this more often.” Crowley chided, tugging on a loose feather.
“It's rather difficult to reach your own back, and besides, it's not like I fly that often – oh!”
He went suddenly tense.
“What is it?” Asked Crowley.
Aziraphale pointed out over the lake. The sun had just begun to rise, painting everything pink and gold. Crowley’s breath caught in his throat, and his hands went still in Aziraphale’s feathers. He hoisted himself up to sit next to Aziraphale. The sun climbed in the sky. The placid lake reflected everything so perfectly it looked like someone had caved out a piece of the earth and poured in the sky.
Crowley realized that Aziraphale was looking at him; looking at the way the black feathers of Crowley’s starling wings caught the light and like a prism.
So they sat there for a while: Crowley watching the sun rise; Aziraphale watching Crowley.
“It’s lovely.” Crowley said, leaning to the side to rest his head on Aziraphale’s shoulder as the last of the purple faded from the pale, golden, dawn.
Aziraphale shivered. Crowley turned his head and looked up at him.
“You’re cold.” he said, with an air of innocence.
Then he grinned wickedly.
“You should take off those wet clothes.”
Aziraphale turned his head and looked down at him, looking into his eyes, their noses brushing, reaching between them and taking Crowley’s hand in his.
Then he raised their hands to his chest, letting them run down the front of his shirt, letting Crowley’s fingers come to rest on one of the buttons. Crowley stared at their hands. Then his eyes flew up to Aziraphale’s face. He was smiling softly, his eyes flickering.
Crowley’s face burned; his vision swam; he felt his heart pounding away in his chest. He fought urge to hide his face in Aziraphale’s shoulder for a moment before realizing that he couldn’t. And maybe, he didn’t want to.
“Aziraphale.” He whispered into his neck.
Aziraphale lifted his hands to Crowley’s face, pulling him up to look at him, taking off his sunglasses, nuzzling his cheek.
Crowley’s eyes fluttered shut and he gasped, his hands grasping convulsively in Aziraphale’s shirt .
“Yes?” Aziraphale whispered, a warm breath in Crowley’s ear.
“Dear you’re shaking.” He said, moving to pull away.
Crowley grabbed Aziraphale’s shoulder with his other hand, arresting his motion.
“Don’t stop.” He said.
Aziraphale buried his hands in Crowley’s hair and kissed him. He leaned back against the steeple, pulling Crowley down over him. Crowley unbuttoned Aziraphale’s shirt, his hands shaking so badly that he could barely keep his grip. Aziraphale made quick work of Crowley’s clothing, pulling the shirt from his shoulders and letting it slide off the roof to land where it would. Crowley wrestled Aziraphale’s shoes off and chucked them to the side. Aziraphale laughed as they went clattering down, but Crowley was to busy pulling Aziraphale’s pants off of his legs to notice.
Crowley stopped, rocked back on his heels, and stared. Aziraphale took the opportunity to stretch: letting his eyes fall shut as he arched his back and sighed. When he opened his eyes again, Crowley was blushing and gasping like a fish.
Crowley gulped and crawled onto him, kissed him, ran a hand through his hair.
“I thought I was supposed to be the tempting one.” Crowley said, struggling with the buttons on his trousers.
Aziraphale laughed and pulled him in for another kiss. It was good. For a while they lay on the roof, exploring the sensation. The funny thing about the autonomic nervous system is that it was so good they started to feel the insistent and growing urge to stop so they could do other, equally nice things. Followed by some pretty fantastic things. Followed by some things that were absolutely superlative.
Aziraphale threw his legs around Crowley’s back and pulled him in close. Crowley wasn’t sure which was better: the way it felt to be inside of him, the way his mouth fell open and his eyes flew shut, the sound he made, or the–
Aziraphale opened his eyes and looked up at him, smiling lazily.
“Mm. You can move now, my dear.”
Well. Crowley wasn’t about to say no to him. He gave a an experimental thrust. Aziraphale bit his bottom lip. And another. Aziraphale’s eyes fluttered shut. He tried a third time, but this time, he changed the angle a little and–
“ Oh.” gasped Aziraphale, brow furrowing in a way that suggested pain but was clearly not pain, “Do that again.”
Crowley did that again. And again. And again, until they were rolling hypnotically against each other, Aziraphale’s arms and legs throw around his back like they would float away if he didn’t. And to be fair, Crowley wasn’t so sure that they wouldn’t.
He could feel Aziraphale’s feet arching, toes curling, against his back. It was . . . pretty brilliant. He reached between them and ran his hands over Aziraphale, who gasped and shuddered with ecstatic finality. And then there was an odd, but addictive sensation at the base of Crowley’s spine and he had to close his eyes and grit his teeth–so good it almost hurt.
It was very good.
Crowley was reclining on Aziraphale’s chest while Aziraphale played with his hair.
“ Wow.” Crowley said into Aziraphale’s chest.
“Indeed.” said aziraphale.
“Can you believe that they just . . . walk around like that?”
“From puberty to the grave.” Aziraphale affirmed.
“Just. Trying to carry on with their lives as if they don’t want to jump each other’s bones.”
“It gives you a whole new appreciation for what they must go through.” Aziraphale said.
“I’d like to go through it with you again sometime.” Crowley said.
“I think that can be arranged.” Aziraphale said.
Crowley pushed one shoe off of his foot with the other. It went clattering down the roof tiles. Then they hear a small “meep” from the courtyard.
They stopped. Crowley hauled himself up on his hands. They could look down at the source of the noise.
It was a child. A small child, perhaps seven or eight years old, with dark skin and long black hair. She looked from them, to the shoe, and back to them again.
“Um.” said Crowley.
But Aziraphale had transported them back to the shop in a fit of miraculous panic before he could say anything more.
The child looked around in astonishment. The courtyard of St. Anthony's, although a great place to play, had always been dreary and bare. But something had caused it to bloom to life, literally overnight. The dry fountain in the center had become a bubbling pool where little fish darted in the sunlight. The branches of one dead trees shook their golden leaves in the breeze. Sprouting from the ground, climbing the walls, covering everything, were roses.
. . .
15 years later
“The mission of the St. Anthony's Organization is ‘to spread the love of God.’” The anchorwoman said, standing at the center of a lush garden, “For the past three years they have been running community health programs, education, and aide for the town of St. Anthony’s, as well as the surrounding countryside.”
The camera cut to footage of a bustling construction site, where volunteers were laying brick to build the wall of a house.
“But recently, they have spread their reach further, providing everything from employment to housing for refugees arriving in England.”
The camera cut, and the anchorwoman was in a kitchen, standing next to a young woman with dark skin and long, black, hair. She was wearing an apron, her hands and clothes dusted with flour.
“Ms. Willis is the young visionary who founded the St. Anthony’s group at the tender age of 15. Today, she serves as its director, as well as a cook in the soup kitchen.” The anchorwoman said.
The young woman standing next to her blushed slightly. The anchorwoman turned to her and smiled.
“I’ve been told there’s quite a story behind the founding of St. Anthony’s, Ms. Willis. Our viewers want to know more about the day that changed your life.”
Ms. Willis smiled softly.
“One morning when I was about seven years old, I went to play in the ruins of St. Anthony’s,” she said, getting a far away look in her eyes, “and I had a holy vision.”