"You can stay at my place." It had been a simple enough offer. One intended on the basis that Aziraphale's bookshop, and the flat above it, was burned into many tiny, tiny ashes. But, then, happy day! It wasn't.
And yet, Aziraphale was living with Crowley anyway. Sure, he would go to the bookshop, frequently, sometimes get caught up with his reading and staying through the night there, but more often than not, when Crowley woke each morning, stretched languidly, and went to water (read: threaten) his plants, he'd find the angel sat at his kitchen table, nursing a cup of cocoa and some kind of breakfast pastry that he'd bought enough of for both of them. Each time greeted with a soft smile and a good morning, and Crowley would merely shrug and take his seat across from Aziraphale and they'd eat together and chat back and forth.
At first it was a bit odd. He'd never lived with anyone, except for one memorable and brief stint where he'd been hanging around just a touch too much with the Czar's family in the early twentieth century. He was used to silence, other than the terrified rustling of his plants and the typical London din outside. Used to waking up and going to bed alone. Used to talking to himself to keep his mind occupied and listening to his music as loudly as he liked without any questioning looks from anyone. Used to parading around naked when he felt like it, sleeping for days at a time. Just...doing whatever the hell he felt like doing.
But now, well. The angel could barely wrap his head around sleeping—Aziraphale had probably slept less in his entire existence than Crowley had in the past month. He didn't share Crowley's passion for oblivion and eight hours thereof each night, and upon the angel taking up residence with him, those eight hours quickly diminished to four or three. Aziraphale was endlessly talkative, especially in the evening, especially with a few glasses of wine in him.
Crowley's inconsistent eating habits vanished as well, replaced by seemingly never-ending bouts of London cuisine, and sometimes more exotic fare when it tickled the angel's fancy. Aziraphale had attempted to cook a few times and failed spectacularly, much to Crowley's amusement.
So, when going out or ordering in didn't appeal to them, Crowley would make something, which all but floored Aziraphale.
"6,000 years, and I never knew you could cook," the angel commented offhandedly one day while watching Crowley idly grilling salmon steaks for the two of them.
Crowley glanced at the angel over his shoulder. "There's plenty of things you don't know about me. I'm dark and mysterious."
"You are at least one of those things," Aziraphale replied with a flicker of an amused smile.
The angel seemed to be making a concerted effort not to whine about Crowley's music, but for Aziraphale's sake, he tried to keep the vinyl to what he and the angel could both agree on. Aziraphale, being almost consistently a hundred years behind the times, was just now getting around to jazz and big band music. The blues were hit and miss with him. Classical always turned a smile out of the angel. And, of course, they could both agree on Queen, but Crowley assumed that was because Aziraphale knew that some things were nonnegotiable.
His quiet flat had turned into a place filled with the smell of hot cocoa, the sound of Chopin, and almost constant conversation.
Yes. He did.
He'd been so used to wide periods of separation from Aziraphale, necessary to maintain The Arrangement to the degree they had. The brief times they spent together over their 6,000 year friendship were a huge risk with both Heaven and Hell breathing down their necks, but now? Well, Above and Below were scared shitless of them both.
Our side, Crowley mused. No more wink-wink-nudge-nudge, no more scrawled notes about suicide measures, no clandestine meeting places. They could just spend time together whenever they wanted, and whenever they wanted was...well, basically all the time.
Crowley rose from bed approximately six weeks after the Almostocalypse, stretching with a pleased groan. He and Aziraphale had spent another late night talking, mostly bitching about Arthur Conan Doyle (long story) and Crowley had only snatched about two hours. Benefit of not physically needing any sleep at all was that he still felt refreshed upon waking. Dressed only in his silk boxers, he stumbled into the kitchen, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
At first he'd kept clothing on constantly, in addition to his sunglasses, but the more Aziraphale was around the more at ease he grew. What hadn't the angel seen, by this point? Never mind the body swapping incident. Certainly intimately aware of one another's corporeal forms nowadays.
Aziraphale was at the kitchen table as usual, cup of cocoa near his hand, glasses perched on his nose, thumbing through what appeared to be a restored copy of The Corsair. Aziraphale glanced up at Crowley's entrance and granted him a small smile. "Did you enjoy your nap?"
"Always do," Crowley yawned, draping himself over one of the kitchen chairs and reaching for the plate of danishes Aziraphale had acquired. "Ooh, apple. How's the Byron?"
"Quite good. I've been looking to get my hands on all of his first editions, but it's been frightfully difficult," the angel admitted wistfully. "All in good time."
"The hell is a corsair, anyway?"
Aziraphale shot him a wry look over his wholly unnecessary glasses, but Crowley could detect amusement in his eyes. "A pirate ship, essentially."
"Always liked pirates. The early 1700s were a wild time. And the parrots. LOVED the parrots. There was this one time, I think I was in Nova Scotia—"
Crowley would have finished his sentence, but it was at that precise moment that he vanished from existence, leaving only a half-eaten apple danish behind.
It had to work. Rowena had torn through every book on soul retrieval and resurrection that existed, visited black witches, white witches, hoodoo and voodoo practioners, necromancers, and everything in-between. This ritual was vetted, practiced, its basis in the Book of the Damned and repeated in earnest by her several dozen times before she was confident in it. It was sure to work. It had taken ages to gather all the proper ingredients—angel feathers were in short supply nowadays, what with all but a slim few of the angels being crow-food—but she'd finally done it.
She was going to get her son back. And this time...this time, things would be different.
"Sit iterum," she chanted, purple energy vibrating maliciously around her. This was dark stuff, the darkest of stuff. Darker than she'd ever attempted before. It would cost her, down the line. She'd be shocked if it didn't. All magic came with a price. "Vivere condemnabitur. Mortem non regnabit. Excitare regem, excitare regem, excitare regem...Crowley!"
She threw a handful of angel feathers into a seething pot of all manner of nastiness, and they were incinerated almost immediately. The new-and-improved and freshly readapted Grand Circle of Solomon she'd drawn in the middle of the abandoned barn she was using for this plot glowed a brilliant purple as well, and the room was saturated with otherworldly power.
This was either going to work, or kill her. She was sincerely hoping for the former. She was too young to die. Not even four hundred yet.
A blast sent her careening backwards into the wooden wall. The windows were all blown out of the barn in one simultaneous explosion of shattering glass. Blood dripped down her nose, and her vision whited out. Oh Lord, here we go. It's going to do me in, isn't it?
Silence, and then..."What in the bloody blue hell?"
Rowena blinked hard and repeatedly, trying to reorient herself. That hadn't been her son's voice, but it certainly sounded like something he'd say. She pushed herself up with effort, noting her torn cashmere dress. When the smoke cleared and her head stopped pounding, she looked into the center of the circle.
A man stood there, tall and dreadful skinny, long goofy limbs, artfully messy auburn hair, and a small snake tattoo sliding down by his right ear. Bare except for boxer-briefs. And then of course there were the yellow snake eyes.
"Fergus?" she asked tentatively. She had no idea what the repercussions of this spell would be—she had assumed it would resurrect the form Fergus had died in, but perhaps it had constructed him a new body?
But those eyes...very far from Crossroads red indeed.
"What? No." The man swung his head around wildly. "Oi, I dunno who you are, but put me back! Summoning a demon before he even finishes his breakfast, that's damned rude, you ask me."
Her ears perked up at the word 'demon', and she managed to force herself back to her feet, ignoring her swimming head. Maybe he was just irritated at being called his human name. "Crowley?" she tried again.
"Crow-ley," corrected the demon. "Like the bird. And please tell me I'm not in Scotland. There's too many people in Scotland who want to kill me."
She'd done it. She wasn't sure about his memory, and those eyes weren't a good sign, per se, but she'd done it. She'd brought her son back. "You don't recognize me?"
"Should I? I'm terrible with faces."
"It's me. Your mother, dear. I brought you back," she said, a tittering laugh escaping her, though that might've been a side effect of the magical exhaustion besetting her.
"Mother? I don't have one. Well, I guess I do, but it's God, and that's a whole...thing," Crowley said unspectacularly. "I think you have me confused with someone else."
Rowena made to respond, but the double-barn doors blew in at that moment, revealing—oh for Hell's sake—the Winchesters, their angel, and their adopted son.
"Rowena, stop! We know what you're trying to do and—" that was Samuel, all abluster with a sawed-off shotgun. He stopped cold when he saw Crowley in the circle.
"Son of a bitch," Dean cursed, predictably. "We're too late."
"Is...that him?" asked young Jack, peering around Sam's massive shoulders at Crowley.
"Yes—" Rowena began, pleased that she'd been able to proceed with her plot before the Winchesters and their ilk could put holes in her plans again, but Castiel cut her off.
"That's not Crowley," the angel said stiffly.
"Crow-ley," the demon insisted again, visibly more irritated this time. "Not a hard name to pronounce, really."
"It's my son," Rowena pressed, though the sneaking suspicion that something had gone awry was creeping on her. Had she really failed again? But what were the chances of another demon named Crowley out in the world, one who had a penchant for British vessels and bitchiness?
"I have no idea what he is, but he's not your son," Castiel informed her bluntly. Castiel stepped past the Winchesters and Jack, coming to a halt just outside the Grand Circle of Solomon. "He's...a serpent."
"Now we're getting somewhere," Crowley said with a smirk. He spread out his arms, unabashed about his near-nakedness. "Anthony J. Crowley, at your service. Care to tell me where the Heaven I am? Because this doesn't look like Peckham to me."
Dean leveled a withering look at Rowena. "You seriously summoned the wrong Crowley?"
"Oh, like I did it intentionally! I've worked for months to put this together! How was I to know there was more than one demon named Crowley?" Rowena raged. What were the odds? All of that work, turned to dust in a matter of moments, left with nothing but a reasonably attractive demon in his skivvies. What a bloody waste.
"Cas, what do you mean by serpent?" Sam asked quietly. "Not...not Lucifer?"
"Words hurt, you know," Crowley said, putting a hand to his chest in mock affront. "Let me spell it out for you: the big winding slither-y snake-y thing in the Garden? With Eve, and the tree, all that—yours truly," he did a little self-aggrandizing bow. "Calling me Lucifer, PLEASE. Do I look half as stuffed-up as him?"
"But Lucifer was the snake in the Garden of Eden," Castiel insisted, brows drawing together in irritation. "Unless..." he narrowed his eyes further.
"You want a closer look?" the demon asked jauntily. To the shock and horror of everyone in the room, he sauntered out of the Grand Circle of Solomon without issue and stopped barely a foot from Castiel. "You really think something like that's going to hold me? I haven't been properly chained in one of those things since Solomon himself carked it. He was the only one who really had the magic touch, know what I mean?"
The Winchesters both raised their guns, Castiel and Jack drew angel blades.
Crowley cracked his neck, unconcerned. He snapped his fingers, and in a blink, he was clad in tight dark skinny jeans, a crimson v-neck, and sleek black jacket. "Ah, much better."
"What the hell are you!" Dean demanded, alarmed.
"Oh, well, look at the time," Rowena said, totally justified fear taking hold of her. She made a show of checking her wrist for a watch that didn't exist. "I really do need to be going, time's gotten away from me—good luck with all of this boys, do tell me how it goes!"
A demon with the eyes of a serpent that couldn't be caught in a devil's trap? She didn't know what she'd summoned, but she really truly did not want to find out. Before the Winchesters or their sidekicks could make the move to stop her, she vanished, leaving nothing behind but a few drops of blood on the barn floor.
Aziraphale stared at the spot Crowley had occupied only moments ago.
"Crowley?" Aziraphale called out, baffled. Surely the demon was playing a joke on him. It wouldn't be the first time Crowley had hid somewhere in the flat to alarm him. He'd dropped down in his snake form from one of his plants just last week onto Aziraphale's shoulders, and when Aziraphale had cursed in surprise, he hadn't heard the end of it for the next three days.
Aziraphale searched the flat from top to bottom, taking extra care to brush past the leaves of Crowley's plants to make sure the wily old serpent wasn't curled in their higher branches waiting for him. He spread out his awareness, focusing as best he could—when he gathered his energies and tuned into the world around him, there was no chance of Crowley hiding from his sight.
He detected no trace of the demon, his distinct aura absent entirely from the flat, the street...all of London.
"Crowley?" he called out again, voice shaking ever-so-slightly. "This isn't funny. It's not. Come out right now!"
"Oh, oh," Aziraphale swung his head around, wringing his hands. "Crowley, where are you!?"