The One Where Aziraphale Accidentally Trades Places With the Bookshop
“Are you sure someone wasn’t pulling your leg?” Crowley asked, casting a doubtful eye on the book clutched to Aziraphale’s chest.
“It’s authentic!” the angel gushed, hurrying to the desk and setting the book down carefully, reverently. He pulled on a pair of gloves to lift the cover then gasped with near ecstasy at the writing on the fragile papers. “Just look at it! The writing of Nostradamus himself-”
“You’ve already got a signed copy of one of his books.”
“Handwritten by the great prophecier-”
“He didn’t even prophesize, he just… wrote pretty poems about death and disaster.”
“The only one of its kind, oh look at it, Crowley!”
The demon crossed his arms and scowled. “You going to need a minute alone with that book, angel?”
“Oh, thank you, dear.”
Crowley’s glower deepened as he tapped his foot impatiently. “So glad I was here to say hello when you got back from Someone knows where chasing down your stupid- err, your, ah… collector’s items.”
Aziraphale, who had leveled quite the ferocious look in Crowley’s direction, nodded, mollified. “Yes, and thank you for minding the shop, but don’t you see, this is the one and only book of spells Nostradamus ever wrote from his time as an apothecary scholar. His private ledger. This has been lost for five hundred years! It’s supposed to be a myth!”
“And the collector just decided to give it to you, did he?”
“So yes, I would love a few moments to look through it,” Aziraphale replied, which was not at all an answer to the question, and was therefore a blatant answer to the question. His ears turned pink. “How about breakfast tomorrow? Shall we say seven? Very good.”
“But-” Crowley protested, then gave up as Aziraphale bundled him towards the door. “Nostradamus wasn’t a spell-maker, they’ll probably all backfire. Just- promise me you won’t actually try and do any of them?”
“My dear boy, it’s not about the spells, it’s about the book. What on earth would I try doing one for? Good night.” Aziraphale nudged Crowley outside, shut the door, and pulled the blinds.
Crowley sighed. “Good night and good riddance to you, too,” he muttered before jamming his hands in his pockets and going on his way.
The bookshop watched with interest.
Aziraphale’s fingertips trailed lovingly across the vellum, eyes drifting over the pages and mouth moving lightly in time with the words.
“Oh, look at this one,” the angel gasped to no one in particular, then chuckled. “To trade consciousnesses. Quite the irony, finding a spell like that in here, but Crowley and I don’t need a spell for that. But this language… so exquisite!”
Aziraphale glanced around the empty store. “Perfectly safe, no one around for it to work with if I give it a little read.”
Oh… oh, this was probably a bad idea. There was someone else around, but Aziraphale didn’t know it because he’d never realized the bookshop was a sentient mind with a consciousness of its own.
Really, the bookshop ought to stop him but Aziraphale was already reading it and… well honestly, it was going to be hilarious.
So it just let him read.
Aziraphale had better be finished with that stupid book, Crowley thought grumpily as he knocked on the bookshop door then pushed his way right in. Or at least be willing to put it aside for an hour or so for breakfast. Not that Crowley ate “breakfast” but Aziraphale had said they would go.
To Crowley’s surprise and slight relief, the angel wasn’t sitting at his reading desk. To Crowley’s confusion and slight concern, he was walking in a slow, pointless circle around the room as he looked up at the shelves with a dreamy, vacant expression.
“What are-” Crowley started, shutting the door behind him, but Aziraphale whirled towards him before he could finish the question.
“Dear boy!” the angel exclaimed with the widest smile Crowley had ever seen splashed across his face.
He was about to respond, but Aziraphale picked up a nearby book and chucked it straight at Crowley’s head.
Not expecting to be attacked by a book from his best friend, Crowley didn’t react in time to stop it from thudding against his skull, sending him tottering back with a gasp of shock.
“Oh, dear boy, I’m so sorry,” Aziraphale gasped, hands over his mouth but not quite hiding the continued elation in his eyes. “Habit, you know.”
“What do you mean HABIT!” the demon shouted as he rubbed his aching head. “You never throw books at me!”
“Oh, right, right. Of course not, no, you’re right- oh, you brought the Bentley!”
What the hell or heaven was going on with Aziraphale? “Of course I brought the-”
“Bentley!” Aziraphale cried out, rushing right past Crowley out the door to the parked car. “You dear old thing!”
Crowley had no idea what in the red blazes was happening here, but bafflement turned to rage as Aziraphale suddenly hopped in—not to his customary spot in the passenger seat, but right behind the wheel—and pulled away from the curb.
“HEY! What do you think you’re-”
“Sorry, dear boy, but I simply must!”
The car hadn’t even been on, how was he- where was he going? Crowley lunged for the car but somehow Aziraphale must have learned how to drive because he tore off down the street. Bastard even had the nerve to honk the horn in rapid excitement. Slowly, stunned, Crowley sank down onto the curb and stared at where the vehicle had just been.
………Had Aziraphale just stolen his car?
Aziraphale tried to move. But he couldn’t. He didn’t have any arms. He didn’t have any legs. He didn’t have a body.
He was acutely aware of everything around him, from the cars outside on the pavement to the mice scurrying around the foundations of the building. He could see and hear and feel, he just couldn’t move.
The angel exhaled sharply; a breeze blew through the store.
“Crowley,” he tried to say. Nothing came out. “Crowley, help! I… I think I’m a bookshop!”
“Amazing!” Ashopaphale exclaimed, sticking its head out the window while the Bentley roared away from London with unparalleled glee. “Just amazing!”
It looked at its hand, turning it this way and that, then pressed it gently to the center of the steering wheel. The horn blasted and the Bentley thrummed with amusement.
“I have a hand, Bentley! And a voice, do you hear that? You can hear me!”
Bentley’s engine rumbled, half delight but half concerned questioning. Ashopaphale waved it off.
“Of course I’ll trade back. He’ll be no worse for wear, or I never would have let him do it.” It burst into laughter. “But Dearboy’s face was a treat!”
Bentley’s frame vibrated with its laughter, then it shot forward faster than ever so Ashopaphale whooped in joy. The radio turned on. Neither of them knew what was currently in the tape deck, because of course the only think it played was Queen anyway.
You’re my best friend
Oh, you’re my best friend
Ooh, you make me live
You’re my best friend!
Aziraphale had gone off his rocker, there was nothing else for it. Crowley wanted to chase after the Bentley and drag his best friend out of it, but he knew how fast that thing could go and there was no way he was catching up on foot. When had Aziraphale even learned how to drive? Granted, the thing practically drove itself, but still!
Something was wrong. Something was off. And Crowley would have sworn that the angel smelled different. Dustier, somehow, though of course that made no sense at all.
The jangle of his cell phone interrupted his harried thoughts, distracting him as Crowley wrestled the phone out of his front pocket.
“Wh-” He couldn’t even form the question, staring at the number on the phone, then turning to look at the bookshop behind him. Who would be calling him from inside? Pushing the button, Crowley held the phone to his ear. “Hullo?”
Nothing but faint static.
Frowning, Crowley heaved himself to his feet and strode back into the shop, casting a suspicious eye all around. When he got to the desk, the old rotary phone was sitting quite calmly as phones normally did in its cradle. His frown deepened; the call was still active.
“Who is this?” he demanded.
“CROWLEY!” Aziraphale shouted with all his might, desperate to be heard. “CROWLEY, you have to help me! The book, look at the book!”
The disembodied angel groaned as Crowley hung up and glowered around the room. It had taken a lot of concentration to dial out the first time but he had a better hang of it now. Forcing his will and consciousness into the phone on the desk, Aziraphale managed to twist the dial to ring Crowley’s cell phone once more.
The demon growled as his phone went off again, spinning to stare at the stationary bookshop phone. He took the call and shouted, “Who is this?”
“Crowley, it’s me! Oh please, you simply MUST hear me-”
“HULLO? Listen, whoever you are, I’m not in the mood for this!”
“Crowley, no, it’s ME- oh bother.”
Crowley had hung up again with a livid expression. It was no use, Aziraphale had no voice and Crowley would never be able to hear him. He’d have to try something else. Hmm. Aziraphale’s gaze fell on the book he’d been reading from—the one with the spell that wasn’t supposed to have done anything at all but had somehow still managed to backfire horribly. There had to be a way to reverse it but Aziraphale needed Crowley’s clever mind working on the problem as well.
He was still getting the hang of making things move but managed to lift the book a few centimeters off the table then thunk it back down.
Crowley whirled, phone pointed out like some kind of weapon (not sure what it was supposed to do). His mouth twisted when no one was there.
Concentrating, Aziraphale thunked the book again. This time, he saw it on Crowley’s face that the demon had seen it happen.
“What the…” Crowley approached cautiously with phone still extended. He used it to gingerly poke the book, then, when nothing happened, leaned over to scan the page. “Must be what he was so enraptured with.”
“It’s a one of a kind that’s never been made public,” Aziraphale immediately protested. “Of course I’m enrapt- no, we don’t have time for this! Something has walked off with my body! Read the spell, Crowley, you have to realize what’s happened so you can help me fix it!”
“For… trading… consciousness,” Crowley slowly read, tilting his head this way and that and squinting to get the words to focus to his snake eyes.
“Wait, no… NOT OUT LOUD!”
The Bentley pulled to a stop at a city park filled with kids running around and laughing and little old ladies tossing bread crumbs to birds. They actually did things like that! Ashopaphale had thought that was the sort of thing that no one had time for anymore.
“I’ll just be a moment,” it promised its friend, patting the Bentley’s dashboard affectionately. “I have to see this.”
It got out of the car, eyes widening with amazement to feel the sun on skin rather than brick. It grinned widely, turning in a slow circle to take in as much as possible. Sensational, that was the word for it. So many sensations that a brick and mortar building just couldn’t possibly experience.
The bookshop lifted its hand in wonder as a downy feather drifted past in the breeze, delighted that it could actually reach out and touch the beautiful thing. Just incredible. It took in a deep breath just to smell the wind, and its smile grew.
Just down the path, a woman at a small booth was selling something the sign revealed were “ice lollies”, so Ashopaphale stuck its hands in the angel’s pockets to find a bit of money.
Ice lollies were fantastic. The shop licked it slowly, savoring the sweet tartness, beaming with delight when the sticky juice melted and ran down its hand. A group of children watched him eat it, longing expressions on their little faces, so it stuck its now tacky hand back into the pocket for more money and bought ice lollies for the lot of them.
The group of women not far away, which it took to be the mothers, did not seem thrilled with this. The bookshop waved jovially at them before heading back to the Bentley.
The next stop was even better. Ashopaphale successfully bought a bottle of wine to try out (Aziraphale and Dearboy loved the stuff so it had to be good) and, in lieu of having any cups or serious concern about British law, knocked it back straight from the bottle whilst driving along the M25.
At least two police cars tried to stop to say hello when it drove past, but Bentley assured the bookshop that they weren’t always friendly and it would be better to just keep driving until the police were out of sight.
The car seemed a little shifty at the time, but the bookshop went along with things and saluted the police officers cheerily with the open wine bottle before speeding away faster than the police could ever hope to catch up with.
This really was great fun.
The crepes that Aziraphale was always on about were equally delightful. Kids were rowdy and fairly destructive, but also full of life and joy. Ducks made it giggle.
“Where next?” Ashopaphale asked eagerly. “Do you know, I rather fancy meeting the Queen? I wonder if she sounds anything at all like the fellows you’re always playing on the radio.”
The Bentley came to a screeching halt, throwing the shop and its bottle of wine forward abruptly.
“Ouch! Oh drat, now you’ve made me spill my wine… I suppose that was a bit of a silly question, then?”
The Bentley shuddered, then wriggled, ignoring the cars moving around it with angrily blaring horns. A second later, the center console widened for a car phone to appear.
Ashopaphale cocked his head. “Hmm. How odd. What’s this for, Bentley?”
A second later it rang, and the bookshop’s face lit up. “I’m getting a phone call, what fun!” And it picked up the receiver.
Crowley, thankfully, did not read the spell.
“Eh, I hate reading books, damn words not holding still,” he muttered under his breath. “Angel, what have you done? You don’t need a spell to trade consciousnesses. You can just swap bodies with them like we did. Tell me you didn’t read this.”
Thanking someone that Crowley wasn’t actually going to read it and get them in an even more tangled puzzle, Aziraphale focused on blowing a forceful wind through the open room. When it ruffled Crowley’s hair, the demon jumped.
“Er… was that a yes?” he asked to the empty shop.
Aziraphale repeated the move in affirmation. Crowley groaned.
“You’ve got to be- it wasn’t supposed to work! Suppose it didn’t though, did it, or you wouldn’t be disembodied right now. What, something else get in your body and leave you without one?”
Tired of blowing things around, Aziraphale gingerly knocked over a bookend.
The demon dropped his face into his hands with another groan. “Great. Well, that something else just ran off with my car! If anything happens to it, I swear, Aziraphale…”
“Yes, terribly sorry about that,” Aziraphale murmured with chagrin, for all the good it did.
“And how am I even supposed to find him, eh? Do you know how far away he could be by now?”
“Can’t you… I don’t know, get to it through the phone system, like you did with Hastur? If you added a car phone- Oh, this is most inconvenient with you not being able to hear me. How am I supposed to communicate that to you?” Aziraphale’s gaze landed on Crowley’s cell phone he’d set down next to the book. With all his concentration, he shoved it a few centimeters closer to the demon.
“Yes, thank you,” Crowley muttered distractedly, picking the phone up and wrestling it back into his pocket.
Aziraphale huffed. “No, you big buffoon, USE it!” Casting about, he found a pen and tossed it carefully towards his friend so that it bounced off of Crowley’s nose.
“STOP THROWING THINGS AT ME!”
“I haven’t thrown anything at you until just now! That was… other me, before! Your PHONE, Crowley, you have to use it!”
The angel jiggled the nearby rotary phone in its cradle so that it jangled faintly.
“I already tried talking to you through the phone and it didn’t work. What I need is some way to get to the Bentley.”
“Oh, for… you really are remarkably frustrating, my dear.” Aziraphale slammed the phone several times in succession, then grabbed the pen up to point to Crowley’s pocket, then his ear, then out the door.
Crowley glared suspiciously at the pen but pulled out his cell phone once more and looked over his shoulder. “What?”
Again, the pen jabbed towards the phone, then the door. Then it zoomed around in a curving line as though driving.
“…Call the car? Ngh, can’t. It doesn’t have a phone.”
“It didn’t have HALF the things you thought up for it, USE YOUR IMAGINATION, YOU GREAT CABBAGE!” The pen nearly snapped in half, so ferocious was Aziraphale’s fervor in waving itself in the general direction of Crowley’s head.
“What, what? I don’t- oh… oh, right. I can try, but if it’s too far away…”
Relieved that Crowley had picked up on the gist of Aziraphale’s suggestion, the angel huffed a sigh. He had every faith that Crowley could imagine a phone into the vehicle from any distance, what with his connection to the old car and his rather extensive abilities.
Crowley closed his eyes, frowning with intense concentration and power of imagination. Sure enough it was only a matter of moments before a smirk crossed his face. “Oh, I’ve got you now.”
Of course, the only question was whether the body/car thief would actually answer the phone, which Aziraphale supposed was a bit of a long shot. He waited with bated breath as Crowley punched three numbers into his cell phone.
Then the demon’s smirk tightened and he disappeared as the cell phone fell to the floor.
“Hello there,” the voice said on the other end of the line. “To whom am I speak- ah!”
Whoever was inhabiting Aziraphale’s body jolted backwards in alarm as Crowley appeared in the passenger seat and grabbed him by the collar.
“Don’t even think about going anywhere,” Crowley warned. “I know you aren’t Aziraphale.”
“I- I- I… oh, I can’t lie to you, dear boy. I’m not, it’s true, but I promise you-”
“We’re going back, right now. I don’t know who you are or what you’re playing at, but leaving Aziraphale trapped in his own bookshop-”
“Oh but of course I was coming right back-”
“Shut it,” Crowley snipped grumpily, grabbing the wheel and using his power to direct the Bentley to the side of the road. Safely out of traffic, he snatched the car phone up and starting to dial. “Stealing my car. Disembodying my best friend. I told him not to read any of those spells, do you think he listens to me? Oh- DAMN it! It isn’t going to connect if he can’t answer the phone…”
The stranger coughed and leaned conspiratorially towards him. “Try it again. He can knock the phone out of its cradle, it just might take him a few tries.”
Crowley glowered suspiciously at the stranger. “And you know that, how?”
“Oh, ah… well, it’s actually quite a funny story-”
“Who are you? I saw that spell. It was supposed to be a simple swap.” And for that matter… “If Aziraphale isn’t in a body right now, it means you didn’t come out of one. I’m supposed to believe there was another consciousness just floating around the- WAIT a second!”
It was all coming together now. Crowley sat in the passenger seat with the car phone clutched in his hand, staring at the stranger in Aziraphale’s body. Snake eyes widened behind dark glasses. Jabbing a finger in accusation and triumph, the demon gasped,
“It was you!”
“It was, wasn’t it!”
“I, ah… I suppose that depends on what you mean by that.”
His eyes were darting around with guilt though, and Crowley knew he was barking up the right tree.
“You’re that poltergeist! The one from the bookshop, the one Aziraphale freed after that job with Gabriel and Sandalphon.”
“Ugh, you mean Weasel Face? Listen, if I hadn’t stepped in-”
“It IS you!”
The poltergeist was now wringing Aziraphale’s hands, mouth twisting into a look of apology and concern, a near perfect mimicry of the angel’s own expressions.
“I didn’t mean any harm.”
“You left him floating around the bookshop without a body!” Crowley shouted, punching in the number for Aziraphale’s store again. “You stole my car! Now listen, I appreciated the help against the angels, but this is going too far! You’re going to switch back with him, you understand? Because so help me, if you think you’re keeping that body forever-”
“What? No!” the poltergeist gasped with Aziraphale’s look of shock and dismay. “Dear boy, I had always intended to come and switch back, I just… I couldn’t help wanting to enjoy it just for a moment. By all means, we should get back.” It hesitated, then suggested, “We… could always drive-”
“Shut it! That would take too long, and I want this fixed now. I’ll have to leave the car here as it is, and don’t think I’m not pissed about that!” He could make sure no one even gave it a second look, but it still made the demon angry to have to abandon his car on the side of the road, even for a little while.
But until Aziraphale was safely whole again, he’d just have to deal with it. This took precedence.
…Wait… Weasel Face? Crowley shook his head and tried to ring the shop one more time.
Aziraphale must have finally gotten the hang of moving the phone around, because the line connected. Grabbing the poltergeist by the arm, Crowley muttered an apology to the Bentley and dragged them both back through the phone.
The bookshop gazed around the familiar old building with mixed emotions. It truly was terribly sorry to have left Aziraphale here, even for the few hours it had been. It was also a bit disappointed to have had the holiday cut short, but ah well. Comforted and relieved to be in its cozy home once more. Content in the fun day it’d had.
What luck that the silly demon had offered the bookshop an alternate explanation. It could have revealed that it was the sentient spirit of the bookshop, but then it would have lost its bet with the Bentley about how long it would take the angel and demon to figure it out on their own.
“Alright, no tricks,” Dearboy snipped, gesturing to the book and then crossing his arms. “Switch back.”
“Of course,” the bookshop assured him, unaffected by the short temper. That was just Dearboy, and it loved the demon for being so protective of Aziraphale. “It would be best if you waited outside-”
“Not a chance.”
Ashopaphale rolled its eyes. “Dearboy, if you don’t move far enough away, it’s going to switch all three of us around and make an even bigger mess of things. I’ll read that spell, and only that spell, and bring Aziraphale right back to you. You have my word.”
The demon huffed but it had to realize the shop was right. Though he didn’t look happy, Dearboy gave the bookshop a warning look and turned for the door.
“Oh, and,” the bookshop spoke up while it still could. “You should know, I take full responsibility for everything. None of this was the Bentley’s fault so please don’t be angry with it.” Which was perhaps rather generous in Bentley’s favor, given that it actually had been the one to do all the driving and running away…
Crowley, however, threw his hands in the air. “It’s a car!” he snapped. “Of course it isn’t the car’s fault!”
He stepped outside, still muttering under his breath, while the bookshop bit off a grin. It watched as the demon turned right around to stand in the window, glowering in at him in warning.
Such a dear boy.
“Now, then,” the bookshop said, moving to the book. “Let’s set things to rights.”
Aziraphale dusted himself off, looking around the room. He still didn’t know who had been walking around in his body, but everything felt as it should be. He was definitely himself again.
Outside, he saw Crowley standing in the window with arms crossed. Aziraphale waved, gesturing for him to come inside.
“Finally,” the demon griped as he stormed in, though his eyes belied his anxiety. “So you’re you, then?”
“As far as I can tell, yes.”
“Alright then, tell me something only Aziraphale would know.”
The angel huffed. “Honestly, Crowley-”
“Why were you in the Bastille during the French Revolution?”
It was on the tip of his tongue to reply that it was because he hadn’t seen Crowley in a while and had quite wondered what the old devil was up to in those days, and had known even then that if he ever really needed help that Crowley would appear. He’d been right. It’d worked like a charm.
But that wasn’t the answer Crowley would expect from Aziraphale, so he dutifully replied with some chagrin, “Because there is simply nowhere in England one can find the same quality of crepes as in-”
“Yeah okay, you’re you,” Crowley snorted. “And you smell right again.”
“Er… thank you, I suppose. Now would you care to explain what’s going on? I saw whoever that was bring my body back in, but where have they gone now? That rotten thief, I do hope there was no harm done to your car.”
“Ngh. None at all, actually. I thought you had released that poltergeist.”
“What, the one haunting the bookshop?” Aziraphale asked in surprise, baffled at the change in conversation. “I did. Why?”
“Because he’s the one you switched with, you ninny!”
Wait, what? Aziraphale stared at the demon, then at the empty air around them. “But how can that be? Shouldn’t it have gone on to Heaven? Or Hell, I suppose, though it felt too kind a soul for that.”
“Well, it was definitely him. Knew all about Gabriel and that lot. Honestly, angel, you were the one who was going on about how we shouldn’t keep a spirit trapped in here-”
“I didn’t!” he protested, horrified at the thought. “I would never! I don’t understand it, Crowley, I’ve released hundreds of trapped souls in my day.”
“Hmph,” Crowley grumbled, arms crossing again as he looked away. “Well, whatever happened, I’m… you know… glad everything turned out alright. Maybe you should put that book away and not read from it anymore. Didn’t I say not to try any spells?”
“Quite right, I’m afraid,” Aziraphale sighed regretfully. “I am sorry you had to go running around all over London.” He looked up at his friend with pleading eyes. “You’re not too cross with me, are you, my dear? If I had known there was another soul in the shop, of course I wouldn’t have read it out loud. I’ll put it away.”
“You are cross with me,” Aziraphale said, sighing with misery. He lowered his head, but flicked his gaze up to watch Crowley’s expression.
The demon growled in exasperation. “I- no, it’s- you know I’m not mad, I was just…”
Crowley muttered something under his breath, but Aziraphale smiled and took his arm.
“Didn’t I owe you breakfast?” His face lit up. “There’s a new bakery I’ve discovered only just a few streets over. Marvelous Danishes, could tempt the stuffiest angel in all of Heaven. Why don’t we pop on out for a bite, and then we can go track down that car of yours?”
The demon harrumphed but didn’t pull away. “Oh, very well. It is the least you could do.”
Together, the two disappeared out the door, the mishap of the day already half-forgotten in the wake of all the adventure they might yet get up to. Somewhere in the bookshop, a contented breeze brushed over the books and tables with a light, happy sigh.
All was right with the world.