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Of the Dead and the Wicked

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If you were to place a call to Heaven, or to Hell, and inquire about the Great Plan, you would be told that everything is going as it should be—as it always has, and as it always will.

 

Well, no, this isn’t quite correct. If you were to place a call to Heaven, you would first be connected to an automated directory querying about your reason for calling. You would be told to press one to hear information on Heavenly policy concerning discorporation, loss of property, and damage liabilities to assigned bodies (Notably, Aziraphale, the only Angel to whom all three of these concerns can apply, has listened to this message three hundred and fifty-two times, but has yet to follow the next steps advised in the automated message concerning reporting such infractions).

 

If you were to press two, you would be played a message concerning how to file for a position transfer, after which you would record your transfer query, with the guarantee you would receive a response within the next six to eight business decades, pending schedule revisions.

 

If you were to press three, you would be connected to the answering machine for filing a complaint with a union representative. All complaints filed are generally resolved within four weeks to four years—presuming the angel in question does not Fall first, as filing a union complaint is generally a frowned upon form of expressing a dissenting opinion. Such things generally work against a cohesive and unquestioning work environment.

 

If you were to press four, this would mean you have an urgent question or report, and must speak to someone as soon as possible. This is the button you would press if you were planning to inquire about the Great Plan. After pressing this button, you would be put on hold—and would be treated to Heaven’s on-hold music of choice: the Psalms. This has been the agreed upon on-hold music in Heaven since the Psalms were more or less invented, as musicians in general don’t do very well with Heaven. The Psalms, songs that have brought very few people pride in their musical skill, and even less people pleasure, are the exception to the rule.

 

Heaven believes in order and in quick conduct, so you can expect not to spend too much time on hold. The longest any angel has ever spent on hold was exactly sixty-three months and five days. For an angel, this is a fleeting amount of time, indeed (For Aziraphale, who likes three meals a day and a nap at least every four, and thus has a very different understanding of time, this is generally why he never manages to speak to anyone about anything).

 

Once you have been taken off hold, and are graced with the chance to speak to a real, present angel, you would be able to inquire into the Great Plan. At this time, you would then be told how very much going according to plan everything is, and thank you for calling, will that be all?

 

If you were to call Hell in order to inquire on the same topic, you would be placed directly on hold. Hell cycles through its on-hold music depending on what’s in season. Right now, country music is in vogue there. After some indeterminable amount of time on hold, just enough to be put out by it, you would then be sent directly to a voicemail system. You would find that, halfway through your voicemail—right when you were about getting to why you called—the phone line would cut out. Whether this is an intentionally designed system, or simply because Hell is not known for either its organizational prowess or its technological knowhow, is a good question no one quite has an answer to.

 

If you were persistent enough about calling, and you were quite lucky, you might eventually have your line answered by an actual demon. If the demon were to grunt, or ask you what the fuck you wanted—a veritably polite hello, for a demon—you would then be able to ask about the Great Plan. The demon in question would also tell you that everything is going according to plan, of course it is, what a stupid question, why are you so fucking stupid? You needn’t worry about responding. This is a rhetorical question.

 

Regardless, if asked, both Heaven and Hell will be happy to let you know the Great Plan is chugging along smoothly, as it has since the beginning of Creation, straight along to the End.

 

Of course, if you were to consult with one Anthony J.L. Crowley—who can be reached at +44 4004 129129, and generally is most likely to pick up the phone between the hours of 8pm to 2am, particularly if your name is Aziraphale—he would, if drunk enough, likely tell you this is all bullshit.

 

For you see, if you were to ask Anthony J.L. Crowley, he could easily explain that the Great Plan went off the rails roughly six thousand and twenty-three years ago, in the Garden of Eden, when the first Woman chose to claw her way out past the Wall rather than stay and belong to Man.

 

This, of course, is not a very commonly repeated story, but one Anthony J.L. Crowley knows rather well.

 

For you see, it’s quite his own.

 

 

 

 

This is the story of the Apocalypse—or, the near thing, at least. This is, as such, the story of the Anti-Christ, his three friends, a witch, two witch-finders, and a 9 to 5 psychic who works every day but Thursday.

 

This is also the story of two immortal entities, one of whom was an Angel, and both of whom were not very good at respectively doing what they were told. You may be familiar with this story—particularly if you have ever come across The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. You may not, however, be quite as familiar with it as you would assume.

 

This is, mostly, the story of a creature who isn’t quite a demon, but was certainly never an angel, and for whom fate and free will have always had quite a complex relationship.

 

Her name was Lilith, once.

 

You may know her as the first Wife, the Child Thief, Demon of Darkness, Queen of Hell, Mother of Monsters. Or perhaps you do not know her at all—history has a way of correcting itself to suit whoever is in charge.

 

Today, however, he generally goes by Crowley. He is rather pronoun indifferent, in fact, but an unfortunate facet of this world is that being perceived as male is simply faster, sometimes.

 

And besides, he rather likes the clothes. They are awfully good fun.

 

This is a rather convoluted story, so perhaps it is best to start with the beginning—or, as it were, with the Beginning.

 

We open with a Garden, and a Tree, and a Promise.

 

 

 

 

On the sixth day, God creates Man.

 

That Man was created in God’s image is a common misconception—one that assumes that God has an appearance definable and understandable to the human eye. Several arguments could be made for where Man’s appearance originated. One could note, for example, that Angels’ visual manifestations share many common traits with humans, but this could also be attributed to Angels taking on forms more suitable to their occasional and limited interactions with humans. As such, it’s a bit like asking which came first: the chicken or the egg.

 

Regardless—wherever She got the idea, if the idea was not simply Hers to begin with, as all things are when you are Lord of all Creation—create Man She does. She forms him from dust and raises him from the ground and breathes life into him. She names him Adam.

 

He is Her shiny new plaything. Her most recent, most currently-interesting Project amongst a universe littered with Her Projects. She has formed the heavens and those who reside in them, had Her Angels build Her stars and galaxies, and now on this small rock She builds a strange creature of flesh and blood and beating heart, but with a sliver of that same Divinity She gifted to Her Angels, albeit in smaller amounts.

 

(Still, the combination of Divine and Earthly creates interesting, unexpected results. Belief is a powerful thing, free will even more so. We will want to keep this in mind as we proceed.)

 

She admires Her new creation, small and insignificant as he seems, and he is Her distraction as around Her war wages, galaxies implode, and Her beloved Angels fall from grace—down, down, down. But that is, of course, a different part of this story, and also perhaps another one altogether.

 

God gives Adam the Garden. She sends Angels to guard him and Her other new creations, to shelter them and keep them safe. She gives Adam the plants. They are his to eat and his to admire and his to wander amongst. She gives him dominion over the animals. They are his to name and his to care for and his to roam with.

 

But this is not enough.

 

Adam asks Her for like company—someone different from the animals. Someone whom he can converse with, walk with, lay with. A partner.

 

And God is recipient to Her Adam’s requests. He is Her newest creation, and for now, if only for this fleeting moment, he has Her full attention—a dangerous and beautiful thing to have. She loves him, in that odd-edged, often inattentive way an ineffable, all-existing entity with no discernable beginning or end loves all Her Creations. Her children. Her pets. Her toys.

 

And so, when Adam asks, She listens.

 

She tells him to take his rib—cut it out, it will not hurt, you will heal—and plant it under a tree of his choosing. From it, his companion will grow, with skin formed of the earth and bones of the roots. This will be Woman, and God makes a Promise to Adam that this will be his desired companion, his devoted lover, his, for all his days.

 

She leaves him with this Promise, because Her focus is never quite where it needs to be, and the cosmos and the unformed Earth beyond the Garden and the war with its aftermath—much as She is disinterested in it—is calling Her. So Adam wanders alone and unsupervised, and he chooses a tree, one of sturdy branches and glistening red fruit in the middle of Eden.

 

Later, this will be deemed a dangerous tree—one Cursed with knowledge and with will, which Adam must avoid at all costs—but the Angels haven’t quite figured that out yet, and if God has, She has very much neglected to mention it. It is a beautiful tree, and a strong one, and when Adam plants his rib amongst its roots, it feels right.

 

He waits. Not patiently, mind you, because Man is many things but patient has never been one of them, but he waits.

 

Woman is born from this planted seed, as Promised. She sprouts from among the roots, bark and leaves and earth and bone. She has hair of the deepest red—like the fruit of her tree, like the setting sun each night upon the Garden—and golden eyes that glimmer with some untold destiny. Her voice is high and fierce, her skin soft, her angles sharp. Wild and free and eternal as the Garden that made her. She may not look quite like Adam, but they match all the same, and her hand seems as if it will fit in his when he offers it to her.

 

Adam looks upon her, and he does not know much about love, not yet, but he assumes this must be it all the same. God had told him Woman was made for him, after all. He pictures her perfect, just what he desired, and he is content. For now, at least.

 

God named Man Adam. Woman staggers into existence among fully formed trees that sing to her, animals that watch her, the Husband that waits for her, and she does so with her own name on her tongue.

 

She is Lilith.

 

She takes Adam’s hand.

 

She does not love him.

 

 

 

 

To be fair, it’s not that she doesn’t try.

 

Lilith tries so hard to love her husband that it almost hurts, with some strange, low ache in her chest—full of things she’ll later understand are grief and frustration—that she doesn’t know how to express.

 

She does try. She really, really does.

 

She gives him everything. She walks with him, hand in his, through the Garden. She sits with him among the animals, playing and watching and applauding as he—so proud of himself, so pleased—graces them with their names. She lies next to him at night, traces the planes of his face with her fingers, and she feels...she feels...

 

She feels nothing.

 

No matter how much she pushes herself, reminds herself that he is Man and she is Woman and she was literally made for him, she cannot bring herself to feel the things she knows she ought to.

 

Or, perhaps it’s about feeling too much. Adam, after all, does not seem to take time to dwell on his feelings, on what they are and are not. He is Man. She is Woman. She was made for him, and she is surely beautiful, because God promised him as such, and that is all Adam feels the need to know.

 

The only times Lilith truly feels the things she thinks she should feel when she looks at her husband are when she climbs high, disappearing into the leaves and branches, into the trees that whisper their stories to her, and gets as close to the sky as their foliage will allow. She sits cradled among their upper limits, eyes wide and fixed to the clouds and flashes of light above her, and she discovers longing, she discovers joy.

 

She is...restless.

 

Her days by her husband’s side, her nights across from him, they are so slow, so repetitive. It is an enormous Garden, crowded with all the life that will one day fill a world, but Adam largely just putters around his preferred parts, close to the center. His favorite cave where they sleep, the river that cleaves Eden in half, the animals that come to him on his resting rock so that he can admire them and sort them at his leisure. A little boy playing with his gifts from Mommy.

 

He has had so much longer than her to learn this place. He has had so much longer than her to decide he understands enough.

 

Lilith was not ever given that option. She never had that time alone, with just the animals and God’s lingering presence above her and in the back of her mind. She was never consulted—she was never asked. She was a solution to a problem, a finale to God’s newest, strangest Project.

 

She was created for Adam. She has never had a day not by his side.

 

Sure, neither of them got a choice about being made—but at least Adam got to choose whether he wanted a partner. Lilith was never given that luxury.

 

Adam is content. Lilith is not.

 

She doesn’t know how to be.

 

She is lithe and graceful and brimming from the roots of every red curl of hair down to each toe with curiosity. What and how and why. Especially why. Why, why, why.

 

Why is she here? Why is Adam? Why are they meant for each other? Why did her Husband receive dominion over the other creatures? Why is the Garden? Why is the Sky? Why is anything?

 

Adam doesn’t have the answers she seeks. In the twist of his brow, the tilt of his head, the purse of his lips, it’s clear they’re not things he’s even thought to ask.

 

Lilith does not quite know it, but she’s just reinvented the thing that divided the Heavens and sent the morning star sinking low. She is asking questions—a dangerous, defying thing.

 

So, when her Husband cannot soothe her queries, when he cannot make her happy, Lilith defies his order, too. She abandons her days sitting quietly by his side, and she wanders the Garden, in search of something she cannot name, cannot explain. She runs wild with the trees, the flowers—and surely, if Adam was given dominion over the animals, this is her domain in turn, because she was born from roots and knows each bark and leaf and petal, she understands it all so well. The trees scream and sing and speak for her, and she is not sure if they bring her comfort or agony, but the noise is so much better than just Adam. Always Adam. Adam talking. Adam snoring. Adam, Adam, Adam.

 

She still returns to his side at night, and when she looks upon him—his confusion at her constant disappearances and his relief at her reappearance and his sheer unquestioning innocence—she tries convincing herself that she hasn’t discovered hatred.

 

He hasn’t done anything to her, after all.

 

He just hasn’t done anything for her, either.

 

So she flees and flitters away, and back again, like a hummingbird dancing from its only source of nectar only to inevitably return, and she searches—she prays—for someone that isn’t Adam to speak to.

 

Someone. Anyone.

 

 

 

 

If you were to turn East from the center of Eden, and walk as far as your feet would take you, you would happen across a great Wall. Atop that wall stands an Angel—and just about the same time as Lilith, the first Woman, is exploring the breadth of her Garden, this Angel, Principality and Guardian of the Eastern Gate, is learning the short steps of his patrol. Back and forth, back and forth, a steady rhythm.

 

Let us call him Aziraphale. It is, after all, his name.

 

No one has exactly consulted Aziraphale either on whether he wanted the lot he’s been dealt, but then again, it’s not really good form for an Angel to have preferences on this type of thing. Angels are God’s perfect soldiers, unquestioning of the roles they are given to play, and obedient to no fault. Never ask whether an Angel would jump off a cliff if all their friends were doing it. Assuming it was on God’s orders—and they must assume as much, when everyone else is doing so—they would.

 

To think otherwise would be very worrying indeed.

 

So when Aziraphale is pulled out of the War, handed his new orders and flaming sword, he doesn’t wait around. He goes without hesitation, to guard Eden and its inhabitants, as asked. He certainly doesn’t feel relief at the idea of being removed from all this fighting, or apprehension at being tasked with looking after God’s newest creations. He doesn’t wonder if it’s cowardly to prefer this to the glory of ridding Heaven of God’s enemies—reborn from the ashes of Her own servants—and he doesn’t stand there day after day and slowly feel boredom sneak into his physical form.

 

And if he does—assuming he does, hypothetically speaking—well…who is there to tell?

 

The only other Angels around here stand at the other gates, and they hardly ever interact. Which is just fine with Aziraphale. He’s always preferred—if he’s allowed the luxury of preferences, in a purely internal sense—his own company, anyway.

 

And it is a glorious job, of course. A special job. God picked only the finest to watch over Her strange new creatures, Her humans.

 

Sure, perhaps Aziraphale doesn’t fully understand what these humans are, or why they are, or what they even look like, because he’s never seen them, but that’s all just fine, too. He doesn’t need to understand what’s inside, he just needs to keep it safe.

 

So, if he stands up there day after day, flaming sword in hand, pacing those ten steps back and forth, and he feels any of those things—anxiety or relief or cowardice or boredom—it’s not any of your business at all, is it?

 

No, it isn’t. It certainly isn’t.

 

Aziraphale is a good Angel. A very good one.

 

He will do this job, and he will do it well.

 

And he certainly won’t dare to wonder why. That would be quite unseemly, after all.

 

 

 

 

It’s a fine day—all the days have been fine, all have been the same—when something that will come to cause quite a bit of chaos down the line, the kind of chaos that nearly destroys the world, the kind that nearly saves it, is set into motion. Aziraphale is at his watch, as he always is, walking his steps in perfect lines. He keeps his gaze pointed on the middle horizon, head neither up nor down, and he’s…well, he’s not thinking about anything, really. He’s almost pointedly not thinking.

 

When he does spare himself the luxury of thought, it’s on the little things. The strange pleasure of the warmth of the sun, the tense lines of this small, fragile form his Divinity is coiled into, the grip of the sword in his hand. Feelings. Small, fascinating ones.

 

Everything is so tiny on this planet, so condensed. For an Angel, this planet is but a pebble in the ocean of existence, and yet in the form Aziraphale now holds, it’s also so vast.

 

And the days and nights—fascinating, those. Something new God trotted out just for Earth, to make definitive the passing of time here. If they seem short to Aziraphale, compared to the vast stretch of infinity, that’s simply something he’ll have to get used to.

 

They’re not necessarily bad. They break things up. As repetitive as they are, they keep everything from being exactly the same all the time—a stark difference from Heaven, which is so very much about consistency. Consistency is perfection in Heaven, and Aziraphale can’t help but occasionally wonder at how many of his fellow Angels would react to this strange duality of change and repetition. The sky does not stay the same, but its familiar stages of the day always return.

 

And yes, it is a nice day. This part of the day is nice. It always is. The next part will be nice, too. And the next—

 

“Excuse me?”

 

Aziraphale stops. He blinks slowly. He turns.

 

There is a creature sitting in a tree just below him, as high as its branches will take it up to the Wall. One of the humans—he knows the form, if nothing else. This one has vibrantly red hair, like the flames of his sword, and the brightest eyes he’s ever seen, which are watching him closely.

 

How odd.

 

The human waves. Aziraphale blinks again. Awkwardly, with stilted movements, he waves his hand back.

 

The human beams—a glimmer of teeth—and Aziraphale hesitantly mirrors the smile, lips closed.

 

Now which one was this, again? He’s really not sure. Head office didn’t exactly hand out pictures with the assignment paperwork. He suddenly rather wishes they had.

 

“Are you one of Hers, then?” the human asks, and when Aziraphale just stares, the human points at the sky. Ah.

 

They must mean if he is one of God’s. Well, of course he is. They all are.

 

He doesn’t say that, though. He doesn’t say anything. He just watches the human, and can feel something almost like panic squirm inside him. What the correct response is when engaged by one of the humans was never covered in his briefing—he’s not even sure if he’s supposed to respond.

 

Interaction never exactly sounded like a part of the job description. Still, it would be odd to just ignore the human, and they’re still staring at him, and oh, Aziraphale doesn’t want to be rude and it would be terribly rude to say nothing so he just says—“…Yes.”

 

Something in the human’s face brightens considerably, the corners of their mouth tugging up even more, and suddenly Aziraphale understands the difference between a polite smile and a genuine one. He’d never even realized there was one until now.

 

“Who are you?” the human asks this time, and Aziraphale feels something drip down the side of his face that he will later learn is sweat. He’d rather hoped answering the one question would be enough, that suddenly the human would whisk away or disappear like a puff of smoke. Apparently not. Perhaps it had been an unreasonable hope.

 

“…Aziraphale,” he says eventually, because he can’t just stop answering now. He doesn’t know whether he should ask the human’s name in turn—whether he’s supposed to know or it’d seem like he’s silly not for knowing or if he had been told and had just forgot

 

“I’m Lilith,” the human—Lilith says, pointing a finger back at themself, and Aziraphale could nearly breathe a sigh of relief.

 

Luckily, he doesn’t really need to breathe at all, unless he feels like it. Perks of being an Angel, and all.

 

He studies the human more closely. This must be Woman, then—and what funny creatures these humans are, with their whole “different sexes” business. It’d taken him forever to get a handle on the whole thing. Aziraphale doesn’t remember much about Man, but he does know God named him, and it certainly wasn’t that. He is sure Man’s name was mentioned in passing once or twice. He doesn’t think anyone told him Woman’s.

 

He should ask her why she isn’t with Man. He should tell her to go back, to run along home. He should turn around and return to his duty.

 

Should he? No one told him he couldn’t speak to the humans. It’s just that no one told him he should.

 

…This really should have been covered in the briefing.

 

“Can I ask you a question?” Lilith says, cutting off Aziraphale’s train of thought, and his brain promptly crashes into a whole new series of errors.

 

Aziraphale doesn’t know much about questions (just like Adam and love, it is all about not yet), but he does know they are dangerous. He does know they are what sent the morning star—Satan, now, he reminds himself, because he did get the memo on that revision—Falling, along with half of Aziraphale’s kind. He does know they’re not something he’s meant to have himself.

 

He’s not sure whether that applies to humans. Didn’t the briefing say something on innocence of good and evil? Are questions connected to that? Is wondering so much about this asking questions himself?

 

When it appears Aziraphale has been silent too long, Lilith snaps her fingers, looking vaguely annoyed. Aziraphale startles, then blinks again, feeling his fingers shift nervously around the hilt of his sword.

 

“Er—“ he stumbles out. “Well. You see…Yes, I suppose you may?”

 

“Awesome.” Lilith places a shielding hand above her eyes, and points her other hand outward, towards the sky. “What’s that?”

 

Aziraphale turns, following the track of her finger, and squints. “Are you referring to the sun?”

 

“Is that what it’s called?”

 

“Nobody told you?” Aziraphale says without thinking, and is startled at how aghast his own voice sounds.

 

Lilith snorts—and it’s not a becoming sound, not one you’d ever hear in any acceptable corner of Heaven, but for some reason it fills Aziraphale’s chest with…something. A bubbling, soft feeling he doesn’t know.

 

He likes it.

 

And then he promptly buries it.

 

“Nobody tells me anything,” Lilith says bluntly, and Aziraphale winces.

 

Perhaps he knows what she means. But, well, it’s not like he’s never told anything. That’s what the memos are for, when Gabriel and Michael and all the others are too busy fighting the War to talk and can’t you figure it out, Aziraphale? Be good, now, and run along. We’re all so frightfully busy.

 

“Surely your, er…husb…” Aziraphale stalls on the word, the human terminology so deeply foreign to him—so new, so weak on its legs as it stumbles between the only two creatures in the universe it applies to yet. “…Your Man would tell you?”

 

“Adam?” Lilith rolls her eyes. “Oh, Heavens no. Not sure he’s even asked that himself. He’s too busy with his animals. I don’t think when God told him he could name them, She meant he should name every single individual, but I guess that’s his business.”

 

“…Ah,” Aziraphale says slowly. “Shouldn’t you be with him, though?”

 

“Probably.” Lilith pauses. “Can I ask you another question?”

 

“Ah…”Aziraphale says again, with an entirely different meaning, and he almost wishes he’d known how to say please, kindly, go away, I don’t think I’m meant to socialize with you like this.

 

But still, the company isn’t bad, and perhaps—in the back of his mind, hypothetically speaking—he had been frightfully bored. Just a tad.

 

“Yes,” Aziraphale says, and he desperately hopes he’s doing the right thing.

 

 

 

 

“So, Aziraphale…”

 

She enjoys the way his name shapes her tongue. So long, so overly-complicated and difficult. It suits him well.

 

“Yes, Lilith?”

 

This is not the second time she has visited him. This strange Angel who guards the Eastern gate of Eden. This is neither the third, nor the fourth.

 

She’d have almost lost track of the number, if her brain didn’t cling to the times she’s here. This respite from her boredom spending her days in the same places, and from her vague hatred and sheer nothingness she feels when she looks at the husband she is meant to love, but can’t.

 

“How long have you existed for?”

 

Aziraphale’s face twists at her latest question, and Lilith could nearly laugh. He always looks so hopelessly confused when he has to explain things to her—as if, so used to being surrounded by Divine beings who simply know all they must, he doesn’t know what to do with someone so desperate to learn.

 

Sometimes, he looks rather terrified in the periods before he answers her, as if he’s afraid God Herself will swoop down to them and smack him over the head for talking to Lilith like this, for telling her these things. Lilith has no idea if there’s missing things she’s meant to know or not—if, like the Angels, she was meant to be born aware of all she needs to be, or if she was destined to absorb all the knowledge she desires. It’s not like Adam was born aware of the plants and animals—God had to tell him—but it’s also not like he’s asked much beyond what God readily said. He’s not hungry in this way, not like Lilith.

 

Other times, when Aziraphale answers her questions, something like delight flutters across his face, before he launches into his explanations. Lilith likes that one best. Aziraphale was born to be an information repository, she thinks. Hoarding it, savoring it, dispensing it at will. If there were a room somewhere out in the universe with simply knowledge crammed into every part and corner, Lilith imagines Aziraphale would be there, too. Right at home.

 

“Oh, well, that’s a rather complicated thing. You see, when God began Creation—” Aziraphale launches into a long-winded, rambling explanation, and Lilith closes her eyes, tilting her head to the sun. His words wash over her like the cool mist of the river, and it brings her something like peace.

 

What’s most important about Aziraphale, really, is the simplest thing. He talks to her—without looking down on her, without questioning why she wants to know so much. He just talks to her.

 

She’s rather sure he didn’t want to, at first. Were he not so anxiously polite that he couldn’t find a way to dismiss her, Lilith has no doubt he would have told her to depart at the first opportunity. The other Angels, the ones she approached before Aziraphale, they had no qualms with ignoring her or sending her away, after all.

 

Aziraphale didn’t, though—despite how much she could tell he wanted to, that first day. Even with every awkward pause and cough, he stumbled through his answers to all her questions. When she next came back, he did the same.

 

Over time, he’s slowly relaxed around her, and become more willing to talk, faster and less stilted. She’s not sure if that just means he’s simply grown begrudgingly resigned to her presence, or if he’s actually come to not mind her badgering him.

 

She supposes it doesn’t make much of a difference, either way, so long as he talks to her. So long as anyone who isn’t Adam will give her the time of day.

 

His explanations, his names for the things she doesn’t know, they soothe her. She’s not yet content, doesn’t know if it’s in her nature to be, but she feels better than before.

 

Even if a part of her would still like to call out to God and demand to know why she is here. Why she was grown for Adam. Why she doesn’t love him. Why the Garden is walled, why it is guarded. Why—

 

“Lilith? Lilith, are you listening?”

 

She cracks an eye open lazily, and watches Aziraphale as he glares at her. He looks as though he’d like to cross his arms and huff at her, but doesn’t quite seem to know what to do with his sword.

 

“Kind of,” Lilith says, distracting Aziraphale from his sword-related quandary, and he frowns sharply at her.

 

“It’s really not very nice of you to ask something only to ignore my answer.”

 

Lilith grunts, because he probably has a point, and swings in her seat in her tree to better face Aziraphale. Her lower legs slip from the branch, kicking in the air idly, and she doesn’t worry herself about what would happen if she fell. She trusts her trees. “Sorry. Thinking.”

 

Aziraphale looks somewhat mollified by her apology, nodding slightly, and his arms cross behind his back, sword caught between his hands. “What were you thinking about?”

 

“Just stuff. Human stuff.”

 

“Now, Lilith…”

 

Aziraphale’s admonishing tone really is quite good. Lilith has no idea why Heaven put him here guarding Eden and not in charge of some other Angels or something. Apparently they do that in Heaven—rankings, duties, instruction-givers and instruction-receivers. She wonders if it’s a bit like being expected to follow Adam everywhere. She wonders if Angels ever look at the ones designated their betters and want to scream.

 

She does not, of course, ask about any of this. She understands there are some things Aziraphale simply will not tell her.

 

She may enjoy his company, but she is no fool. He is an Angel, and of God. The same God who made her for Adam—and she has no idea what would happen if it was understood Woman is unhappy in her duties as companion to Man.

 

But still…

 

Perhaps there are some things he can tell her, when asked the right way.

 

“It’s just…” She pauses, chewing her bottom lip, and opts to study the juts of green below her amongst the tree line than the Angel in front of her. “Do you know why I was made?”

 

She flickers her eyes back up to Aziraphale, and watches him tilt his head and frown, a crease between his eyebrows. “You were made at Adam’s request, weren’t you?”

 

“Yeah, but I meant—” She waves her hands vaguely, letting go of the tree branch, and ignores Aziraphale’s mildly horrified look. She’s not going to fall. This is her domain, after all. “Why She made…Adam. Made humans in the first place.”

 

“Oh,” Aziraphale coughs, looking mildly embarrassed. “Of course.”

 

“So do you?”

 

“Well…” Aziraphale hesitates. “Well, no, I don’t.” Lilith deflates slightly, and he quickly adds on— “But I know it must have been for good reason!”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Yes, of course.” At this Aziraphale looks pleased, nodding with assurance to Lilith. “I’m sure it was all part of the Divine plan.”

 

“The Divine plan?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“What’s the Divine plan?”

 

“Oh, you know…” Aziraphale points hesitantly at the sky, then looks abashed at doing so, quickly pulling his hand back into a fist and behind his back. “Hers.”

 

Lilith frowns. “But you don’t know what’s in it?”

 

“No, of course not,” Aziraphale says quickly, firmly. “Nobody does. That’s why it’s the Divine plan, after all! It’s unknowable. Ineffable.”

 

“Ineffable…” Lilith echoes, and Aziraphale smiles warmly at her—neither quite a polite smile or a real one, but something in between.

 

Feebly, she smiles back, even as something dark and unhappy curls in her stomach.

 

For the first time, an answer Aziraphale has given her has proven unsatisfactory.

 

 

 

 

The day Adam climbs on top of her is when it all goes to Hell.

 

It’s not his fault, really. Nobody exactly gave either of them sex-ed—and affirmative consent hasn’t quite been invented yet, unfortunately. To his credit, he quickly gets away from her the minute she rebukes him, eyes wide and confused.

 

He just…didn’t know better. Perhaps the one time in all of history this can honestly be said of a man making advances on an uninterested woman. God knows Lilith will not spare that much credit to any man after this who tries anything similar. They all should have learned from their forefather’s example—when a woman says no, step the fuck away.

 

If she were someone else, if she were not caught up in questions and in emptiness, perhaps she could have embraced Adam in turn. Perhaps she could have caught his face between her hands gently, kissed him soundly, and they could have stumbled through learning how to make love together. Perhaps it could have been soft, and kind, and beautiful.

 

But she is Lilith—the Woman who doesn’t love her Husband and doesn’t understand why she is here and resents both Adam and God for her wrongness—and when Adam clambers onto her that night, hands reaching out for her and legs trying to slide between her own, she screams.

 

She screams and she hits at him and she curses him and she tells him to “Get off of me! Get the fuck off of me!”

 

And the minute he scrambles away from her, tripping over himself in his haste, she doesn’t think. She runs, ignoring Adam’s plaintive cries of her name, and all she is concerned with is going where he is not.

 

She walks until his voice is an echo on the wind—and then some more until it is gone entirely—and then she finds an old tree, climbing its branches until she finds a sturdy one. She whispers her pain into the bark, and the leaves rustle around her, crying out for her agony with her. The tree shifts and melds to cradle her, and she spends the rest of that miserable night there, sleeping fitfully.

 

When morning comes, she finds a small stream, and she wades into it. She scrubs fitfully at her skin, trying to erase the feel of Adam’s innocent, well-meaning, harming, burning hands on her body. She scrubs until her skin is raw, and when she still doesn’t feel clean, she sits in the stream and lets the water run over her shoulders, and sobs.

 

With each heaving breath, she bites down screams and curses at the God that made her, and she’s not sure who her tears are for: Adam—bumbling, sweet Adam, who never meant her any harm, who only wants a companion and asked God as much—or for herself, the sorry result of Adam’s wish to his Lord that came out entirely unsuited to her purpose.

 

Lilith sits there for what feels like an eternity, hating the world and herself and everything that brought her here, before a hesitant voice call her name.

 

“…Lilith?”

 

She startles, straightening up and wiping at her face, and sees Aziraphale, standing at the stream bank and staring at her with undisguised concern.

 

“Aziraphale?” she asks, and wonders if she’s imagining things. “Why aren’t you at your post?”

 

Aziraphale flushes slightly, which informs her he’s most certainly meant to be at his post, and awkwardly gestures towards her. “I heard you crying.”

 

Lilith feels her eyes widen slightly, and internally she curses herself, curses this weakness. “How close to your gate am I?”

 

“Very close,” Aziraphale says, and Lilith doesn’t know if that makes her feel better or worse. On the bright side, it means she wasn’t too loud. On the other, it means she subconsciously walked in the direction of the Eastern gate seeking refuge.

 

She doesn’t really know how to feel about that. She doesn’t know how to feel about that at all.

 

But she can’t say any of that to Aziraphale, so she pushes it all down, and she simply says “Good.”

 

“Good?” Aziraphale mirrors her cautiously, and she nods.

 

“Give me a second, would you?” she says, and without waiting for a response promptly dunks her face into the stream. She closes her eyes, and screams as loudly as possible, letting the water wash away her frustration into silence, and once she is out of air, resurfaces. Pushing wet hair back from her face, she nods to Aziraphale. “Okay. Let’s go.”

 

“What?” Aziraphale asks, looking completely lost, and Lilith stands up from the stream. She wades out to the bank, and then walks on past him.

 

“Back to your post,” Lilith says. She makes no effort to go another direction—no doubt Aziraphale will pester her until he knows why she’s so upset, and she’s no longer sure she wants to be alone.

 

Aziraphale hesitates, and then follows her in silence. When they reach the Wall, he returns to his post, and Lilith climbs up her usual tree, the branches shifting to help her along. Once she’s settled, Aziraphale shoots her several anxious looks, as well as a few quick upward glances—to the sky, to Heaven. “I could…sit with you this time, if you like?” he offers quietly, hands wringing nervously.

 

It seems like a small offer, but Lilith understands how significant such a thing is. Aziraphale is not one to break rules, and he’s already deserted his post once today in order to make sure she’s okay. Now he’s offering again, just to try and comfort her.

 

It warms something in her chest. What a strange, silly Angel he is. He confuses her so much. He makes her want to trust him.

 

But she can’t.

 

“No,” she says bluntly, because while she appreciates the offer, she needs this—Aziraphale on the wall, Lilith in her tree—the normalcy of it.

 

They stay there in silence for a while, Aziraphale watching her cautiously as Lilith avoids eye contact with him, studying her bare legs against the backdrop of the tree’s leaves, before he says—“I hope you know you can talk to me. About whatever it is that has you so upset.”

 

For a long moment, Lilith considers saying nothing, before slowly choking out “…Adam tried to…y’know…have relations with me.”

 

Azirapahle stops. Blinks slowly.

 

“Oh…”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“And you didn’t…” Aziraphale grimaces, and Lilith just watches him. This is the most uncomfortable she’s ever seen him—and she’s seen him plenty uncomfortable, at many different times. He’s clearly out of his depth. Do angels even have sex? Is this another thing God decide to throw into the mix just for Her miserable little circus in Eden? “You didn’t want that?”

 

“No.”

 

“Oh,” Aziraphale says again, clearly struggling for words. “Are you—”

 

“Do you think God makes mistakes?” Lilith asks him sharply, cutting him off. Whatever he was about to say, she doesn’t want to hear it. She doesn’t need his pity. She doesn’t need his queries into why she doesn’t want to have sex with her own husband. She doesn’t need any of it.

 

Mistakes?” Aziraphale says loudly, and Lilith winces. He doesn’t sound angry that she dared ask such a thing—more just confused, confused about why she’s asking and confused by this conversation in general. “I don’t think…no, God doesn’t make mistakes. She’s…well, She’s God, after all.”

 

“But could She?” Lilith asks, pressing the point, and she stares up at Aziraphale imploringly. “Could She?

 

Aziraphale flounders, mouth opening and closing and saying nothing, and Lilith huffs, turning her head away.

 

Of course he wouldn’t think God can make mistakes. Of course he wouldn’t. He’s an Angel. He’s one of Hers.

 

She can’t trust him. No matter how much she might like to, she just can’t. If he knew the thoughts in her head—her restlessness, her lack of love for Adam, her rage at the God who put her here—if he knew how broken she is, he’d surely tell the other Angels. He’d tell God, if She doesn’t know already.

 

And then who knows what would happen to Lilith, if it became known Woman isn’t what she’s meant to be.

 

She’s already crossed a dangerous line, she realizes, with a cold feeling in her stomach. She’s just told Aziraphale that she rebuked Adam, that she denied him when her whole duty is to be his companion in every way. She’s just told him that she failed to do what she was created for.

 

She has just put herself in considerable danger.

 

In this moment, she finally understands—she may enjoy his company, but that doesn’t make Aziraphale any different. He’s just as dangerous to her as Adam is, albeit in an entirely different manner.

 

Looked at that way, all of Eden will always be dangerous to her. This is God’s domain, Her special Project, guarded by Her Angels, and so long as Lilith is built wrong, she will always be one step away from someone realizing she isn’t right.

 

As of last night, she may have already crossed that line.

 

And she can’t walk it back. She can’t go to Adam and pretend to love him. She can’t let him crawl on top of her and do what he will. She can’t spend the rest of her days sitting by his side, playing the docile Wife, trying to content herself with her questions and conversations with Aziraphale.

 

She can’t.

 

Lilith stares out at eternity—the whole of it caught up in this Angel’s beautiful, fathomless, terrifying eyes—and suddenly, she is deeply afraid. Not just of being caught in her failings, but also in not being caught at all.

 

She can’t live like this forever. It would destroy her, too.

 

“I need to go,” she says suddenly, and swings off her branch, scurrying down her tree.

 

Aziraphale makes a concerned sound. “Lilith?”

 

She ignores him, scrambling down. When she nears the bottom of her tree, she lets go, falling to earth. The pain in her ankles from the hard landing stings, but for once, being on the ground feels safer than being close to the sky.

 

“Lilith!” Aziraphale calls her name again, and there’s a swoop of wings, before he lands in front of her, so many different things dancing across his face—worry, and confusion, and traces of pain. He knows she’s running away from him. He doesn’t understand why.

 

“Move,” she snaps, striding past him, and he doesn’t stop her, but he does turn after her.

 

“Would you please tell me why you are suddenly so reluctant to speak to me?” Aziraphale calls after her, polite as ever, and for once it does nothing but make her angry.

 

“No!”

 

He is a part of this place that is imprisoning her, too.

 

“Why ever not?”

 

She whirls around on him, and throws her arms out, gesturing wildly to him, to the Wall, to her. “Tell me, Aziraphale! You were sent to guard Eden—was it to keep things out, or to keep them in?!”

 

Aziraphale flinches, eyes wide and lost. “I—I was sent to protect its inhabitants.”

 

“That’s not an answer!” she screams, stomping a foot against the ground in pure frustration—and for a moment she could swear the trees creak and sway around them, caught up in the spell of their sister’s fury.

 

Aziraphale’s eyes dart around nervously, staring at the rustling plant life, and Lilith takes her opportunity, turning and darting into the depths of the Garden, only one thought in her mind.

 

I need to get out of here.

 

She cannot stay in Eden any longer.

 

 

 

 

It is near night again by the time she reaches the center of Eden.

 

She’s not quite sure why she comes this way—perhaps it’s because the Walls, guarded by God’s Angels, no longer feel safe. Or perhaps it was for this, she thinks, when she finds Adam asleep in the place they always rest, eyes closed and frame relaxed.

 

Perhaps it was to see him one last time. This Husband who is the reason for her cursed existence. The Husband she feels no love for, despite her best attempts, and whom she despises and pities in equal measure.

 

He murmurs in his sleep, and her heart hurts.

 

She wishes she could have loved him. It would have been so much easier for both of them.

 

But it’s just not in her nature. She may never know why, but that can’t change it.

 

“Adam,” she says softly, and he stirs, eyes fluttering open.

 

“Lilith…” he smiles, and it’s so gentle, so hopeful. He opens his arms, holding them out to her, inviting her, and she doesn’t move. His face falls, eyes turning somber. “Will you not lie with me?”

 

“No,” she tells him, as gently as she can manage.

 

Adam’s frown widens, confusion drawing lines in his face, along with something like pain. “I am sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

 

“I know,” she says, because she does, she does, but that doesn’t make her skin burn from his touch any less. It doesn’t stop her from hating him. His innocence speaks to his well-meaning nature, but it doesn’t erase the harms he accidentally did her. “Adam,” she continues. “Why did you get on top of me?”

 

Adam’s brow furrows. “You are my Wife.”

 

“Yes,” she admits, because this is true. “But I’m your partner. Your equal. Why should you be on top of me? Why shouldn’t I be on top of you?” It’s more rhetorical than anything—she’s not interested in either of them being on top of each other—but it hopes she gets the point across.

 

Until last night, he’d never done her harm, but he’s never asked her what she wants, either. Being Adam’s companion meant following his schedule, living as an accessory to his life. He’d never once asked her if he might join her in her explorations of Eden. He’d never once asked her if this was enough.

 

He may think he loves her, but he loves an idea, not a person.

 

“But—” Adam looks so lost, staring up at her with sleep-dazed eyes. “You are my Wife.”

 

She sighs, looking away. She wishes he could understand, but she’s not sure he can. So, instead, she moves on. “I’m going to be going away for a while.”

 

Adam nods slowly, sleepily. “Will you be back tomorrow?” He says it like it’s an assumed thing, and her heart breaks for him, just a little bit. Even with all her wandering, she always came back in the evenings. He always held out his arms for her.

 

He isn’t a bad man, really, no matter how much she resents his hand in creating her, resents his innocence, resents the touch of his hands on her skin. He’s not a bad man. He’s just not hers, and she doesn’t know how to be his.

 

“No.”

 

“Then…” Adam’s half-lidded gaze watches her, searching for an answer she will not give him. “The night after?”

 

“No.”

 

“Oh…when?”

 

“I don’t know,” Lilith says, and her heart whispers never.

 

“…Will you stay here tonight?” Adam asks, and, hesitantly, Lilith nods.

 

“Yes.”

 

Slowly, carefully, she crouches down and spreads herself out, lying next to him, just out of arm’s reach. He watches her somberly, something as hurt as it is lost in his face, before he drifts off.

 

She doesn’t sleep. She just lies there, studying her Husband, and when the first echo of daylight breaks, she rises, well before she knows he will waken.

 

She looks him over one last time, searching for some sliver of affection, of sorrow, but all she can remember is his hands on her the night before. She shudders.

 

She turns, leaving Adam behind, and she walks on.

 

 

 

 

It could be said Eden had much in common with a cage. Four impassible walls, keeping its treasure secure inside, and a lock on each exit.

 

Lock, in this case, being a metaphor for the Angels that stood guard at each gate.

 

Cages haven’t quite been invented yet, but when they do, the person who was once Lilith will look at them and think of Eden, and hate them.

 

Eden was beautiful, but it was also very much a cage. A gilded one—a fine one, indeed—but a cage nonetheless.

 

Still, a cage only becomes an issue when you know you’re in it. If you ever take a trip to a zoo, as many people have, you will easily be able to differentiate between the animals that understand they are in glorified cages and those that don’t. It’s something in the eyes. You just know.

 

This, if anything, was the problem with Lilith. Of all the creatures of Eden, she was the only one who understood they were all in a cage. It was perhaps the finest cage that has ever existed, but still something with all the properties of one. Four inescapable walls. A locked exit.

 

No doubt, many creatures have lived happy lives in cages. No doubt many still will. Had things been different, it is quite possible all of God’s creatures would have lived out their lives, eternal and at peace, in Eden.

 

But for every creature content to be caged, there will be another who will be driven mad by it. Who will do anything to escape—and once that door is open, it will never close quite the same.

 

Lilith opened that door. It wasn’t her fault. She was merely doing what a caged thing does.

 

She was clawing her way out, in the name of survival.

 

 

 

 

Lilith picks a spot on the Western wall of Eden, far away enough from the gate that the Angels guarding it are unlikely to notice. While her goal is very much not to get caught, doing this as far away from Aziraphale is part of her reasoning for choosing this spot. He’s the only one with any potential knowledge of what she might do, and the only one she would be unable to look in the eye if discovered.

 

Besides, presuming she manages this, someone will get in trouble. She’d rather it not be him.

 

She may not be able to trust him, but he has been kind to her. She owes him this much.

 

Once Lilith selects her spot, she gets to work chipping slowly at the Wall, using a stone from the ground. She has no idea how long this will take, or if it’s even doable, and she’s perfectly aware she probably only has a few days before Adam or Aziraphale realizes something is wrong.

 

She works day and night, sleeping as little as possible, and around her the trees rustle and sing for her, egging her on. Over time, she finds as her determination grows—her surety that this must work, it has to—the Wall crumples under her blows more and more easily. Until finally, after several days of desperate, wishful hacking at the Wall, the other side gives out, and she can gaze beyond the Wall, beyond Eden, into the world outside.

 

(Belief, as it has been said, is a powerful thing.)

 

On the other side, leaning out hesitantly through the gap she’s formed in the Wall, she can see a large body of water far below her, rushing and thrumming with rough waves of power.

 

She drops the stone she’d used to carve her escape, and she watches it fall down, down, down into the water far below, swallowed up whole.

 

Lilith shivers.

 

It’s a long way down indeed.

 

She stares at that water for what feels like an age, heart in her throat. She knows jumping down into that will be a very dangerous thing indeed—and maybe she doesn’t understand what death is yet, because that hasn’t quite wormed its way into existence, but she knows something about pain all the same, and as she looks, the air around her whispers of destruction.

 

She carries Divinity under her skin, and the roots of Eden are her bones, but she is also human—and while she may not be mortal, her body is so very real.

 

It would, she understands instinctively, be a very stupid thing to do to jump down into that. It would cause her great harm to do so.

 

It would cause her great harm to return to Adam, too. This she also knows with instinctive surety.

 

She is, literally, caught between a rock and a hard place.

 

She watches the water through her hole in the Wall until she hears the swooping of wings overhead. Carefully, she peeks her head out, watches unfamiliar Angels circle above. Mentally, she counts back the days, and bites down a curse. Adam or Aziraphale, it doesn’t really matter. Someone knows something is happening—something that shouldn’t be.

 

She has run out of time.

 

And really, there’s no decision to make here. There never was.

 

She backs out of her hole in Eden’s Wall slowly, receding to the tree line, just to be safe. Closing her eyes, Lilith reaches out one last time to the roots below her feet, and the branches overhead. She whispers her goodbye to the plants of Eden—her friends, her kin—to Adam, the Husband she is fleeing, and to Aziraphale, the Angel who showed her kindness when he didn’t need to.

 

She doesn’t need or want either of their forgiveness, especially not Adam’s, but she hopes Aziraphale, at least, will not suffer for this. That he will not be punished in some way for indulging her questions.

 

He had simply been too good to turn her away.

 

The trees and plants sing back to her, leaning in to her frame, and they promise her their love, their devotion, and that one day, when they have the whole world, their descendants will answer to her all the same.

 

The idea almost makes her laugh. A world outside Eden. She cannot picture it, despite it being where she is going. As if God would allow more of Her creations to escape from this perfect domain.

 

Not a single one will ever escape, if she doesn’t hurry.

 

Taking a deep, fortifying breath, she opens her eyes, and stares straight ahead at the hole big enough for her body not ten feet from her. She remembers the frightening rush of the water, and pushes it down, forces her rationality away as she had when she’d chipped futilely at Eden’s Wall. She’d clawed her way out. She can jump, too.

 

I am not going to fall, she tells herself in an empty assurance she wills herself to believe. I am not going to fall.

 

Wings swoop overhead once more, and then fade away, and she breaks into a run, sprinting from the tree line.

 

I am not going to fall.

 

Lilith feels each beat of the earth as her feet land. She feels the frenzied, terrified, determined pound of her heart in her chest. She feels the wind rush past her as she reaches her hole in the Wall.

 

I am not going to fall.

 

For a brief moment, she remembers Aziraphale, white wings spread to the sun, soaring up to retake his post after he abandoned it to look for her.

 

I am not going to fall.

 

Her feet reach the last step. They leave the ground, and she clings to her last frenzied thought.

 

I am not going to fall.

 

She jumps.

 

I am going to fly.