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Guardian Angel

Chapter Text

As it turned out, life was fairly quiet after the world didn’t end. 

 

It took Aziraphale 6000 years - give or take the length of one bus ride from Tadfield to London - to accept and openly admit that he wanted to share more than a side with Crowley. Halfway to Crowley’s flat, he offered the demon his hand - and with it, his heart as well. 

 

It took him less than two months after that to suggest that they share a home , too. 

 

“I don’t know, angel…” Crowley had cast a doubtful look around the dusty, cluttered little upstairs apartment with its soft, muted colors. “This isn’t exactly my style…” 

 

“Nor is your flat mine,” Aziraphale pointed out, a single brow raised in quiet challenge. 

 

He was secretly elated - because it did not escape his notice that Crowley had only remarked on his dubious taste, and had expressed no hesitation when it came to the underlying suggestion. His hopes were rewarded a moment later when Crowley met his eyes with a warm, almost shy smile. 

 

“S’pose we ought to get to figuring out… what’s our style, then. Hadn’t we?” 

 

A modest little cottage in a sleepy village a couple of hours outside of London, with a generous garden, and more space than either of their previous homes had offered, seemed to be just the place. Over the following few years, Crowley’s plants flourished and spread until the entire garden was lush and vibrant with color. 

 

Aziraphale collected books and rare historical artifacts until he should have run out of room to put them all - and yet, quite mysteriously, he didn’t. The exterior appearance of the cottage never seemed to change - and still somehow, as Aziraphale added to his collection with abandon, there always seemed to be more space. If the cottage had more rooms after a few years than it’d had when they’d moved in, Crowley didn’t mention it - though their occasional guests always seemed to remark that the place seemed to be, inexplicably, bigger on the inside. 

 

The days and nights they passed there were blissfully uneventful. 

 

On one such quiet evening, Aziraphale sat on their overstuffed sofa in the light of the setting sun, sipping a cup of tea and perusing his latest purchase, when Crowley emerged from the bedroom they shared, where he’d been enjoying a long nap - fully dressed and apparently in a hurry to get out the door. 

 

Quicker than was strictly possible in human terms, Aziraphale stood between the demon and the door. Crowley blinked in surprise at seeing him suddenly there, blocking his path. Aziraphale stepped slowly closer, the corner of his mouth twitching with affectionate amusement when Crowley took an automatic step back. 

 

The angel’s voice was low and teasing, as he pressed in close, sliding his hands up Crowley’s arms. “And just where do you think you’re going?” 

 

Crowley grinned as Aziraphale kissed his lips, returning the kiss for a moment before drawing back with an enigmatic little smirk. “Not telling,” he replied, playful. “Can’t make me.” 

 

“I rather think I could,” Aziraphale countered softly, his hands edging slowly into somewhat more adventurous territory. “If I really wanted to.”

 

Crowley’s hands covered his, stilling them. “Yeah, all right, you could,” he conceded with a little huff of laughter. “But I don’t think you want to.” When Aziraphale looked up to meet his eyes, curious, Crowley leaned down to kiss him again, drawing back to explain in a hushed whisper of breath against the side of his mouth, “You’ll spoil the surprise.” 

 

Intrigued, Aziraphale relented at last with an exaggeratedly put out sigh. “Very well, then.” He raised a hand to gently brush back a stray lock of hair from Crowley’s brow. “I shall just have to devise a very special surprise for you as well, when you return.” 

 

“Oh, I’m counting on it, angel.” 

 

The low, desirous tone of Crowely’s voice sent a pleasant little shiver down Aziraphale’s spine, and he resisted the impulse to press Crowley up against the wall and kiss him senseless - among other things that would most certainly lead to his staying in for the evening and never going to retrieve Aziraphale’s promised surprise. 

 

And Aziraphale did like surprises, very much.

 

His demon clearly wanted to give him something special this evening.  

 

Aziraphale settled back into his comfortable spot on the sofa with his tea, smiling a little to himself as he contemplated ways in which he could make Crowley’s evening just as special in return. 

 

*************************************************************************************************

 

The evening air was crisp and cool, and getting cooler as the sun went down over the village square. Crowley only intended to be gone a minute, so he left the Bentley running, with the doors locked, so she’d stay nice and warm until he returned - well aware that she’d grant him (and only him) access, without any need for a key. There were still a fair number of shoppers milling about, hurrying to make their purchases before the shops closed, so he’d had to park a short distance away from his destination. 

 

A favorite spot of Aziraphale’s - the village bakery. 

 

The woman who owned it had called Crowley that morning to give him a heads up that she was preparing one of Aziraphale’s favorites as the special dessert of the day. 

 

“I’ll put a half dozen back for you, if you can make it down here before closing,” she’d promised. 

 

The shops had mostly closed, and there were few cars or people left when Crowley walked out of the bakery. In a particularly cheery mood, he made his way back toward the Bentley, whistling as he went, and carefully balancing the cardboard box containing Aziraphale’s treat, so as not to accidentally upend any of them. He knew Aziraphale well enough to know that - against all logic - the appearance of his food had a great deal to do with how it tasted to him. 

 

He turned the corner, and the Bentley came into view, her shining headlights a beacon leading him toward the quiet, cozy evening he intended to spend with his angel. 

 

All at once, Crowley began to feel… strange

 

A sort of fog seemed to cloud his vision, and his steps became heavy and unsteady, as if he were slogging through thick mud. An unsettling numbness came over him, and he stopped where he stood, shaking his head, struggling to clear it. And then, suddenly, all the strength seemed to drain from his body. His heart thudding in his chest, Crowley dropped to his knees, the box of sweets falling from his hands as everything around him went dark. 

 

The demon had vanished and was gone before the box could hit the ground, crushed against the cold concrete beside the empty spot where Crowley had just been. 

 

************************************************************************************

 

The first thing Crowley was aware of when he regained awareness at all was that he seemed to be lying flat on his back. His feet were flat on the floor as well, his knees drawn up in front of him a bit. The second thing he noticed was how very heavy his limbs felt - how deeply exhausted he was. With a far greater effort than it should have required, he managed to drag himself up to a sitting position, blinking against the artificial light that, even through his sunglasses, was far brighter than the darkening village street had been. 

 

When his vision came into focus, Crowley looked around, trying to regain his bearings and figure out where he was. 

 

The first thing he noticed was the six-foot summoning circle beneath him. 

 

“Oh, bloody…” Crowley muttered his frustrated complaint to no one in particular - the fact that he was rolling his eyes toward Heaven as he spoke being entirely coincidental. “Well, this sucks, I had plans , you know…”

 

“Oh, good, you’re awake, fucking finally !” 

 

Crowley warily lifted his eyes, and found himself face to face with a young man sitting cross-legged on the floor, just outside the circle. He had longish, sandy-colored hair, and wore glasses with thick, black frames. The expression in his cold, dark eyes was about equal parts impatient frustration and eager anticipation and all parts a rather disturbing sort of excitement. 

 

The room they were in was a spacious, elegantly decorated parlor, which looked to be far outside of what Crowley would have assumed to be this young man’s price range. Beside him on the floor were the typical trappings of a spell - herbs and candles and such - fairly basic stuff, Crowley thought at first.

 

And then, his gaze fell on the book that lay on the floor next to the other supplies - and his stomach dropped. 

 

“You, uh… don’t wanna be messing about with that book, kid…” he warned the boy as he climbed carefully to his feet. 

 

The boy moved with him, standing and crossing his arms defensively over his chest. “Fairly certain I know what I can handle.” 

 

Crowley was fairly certain that he very much did not

 

He himself was vaguely familiar with this book that had somehow come into this young man’s possession. He’d heard stories about it, even in Hell - a book that was rumored to be a myth by some, and heavily warned against by others. The magicks in it were said to be very dark and very powerful - and to carry with them very heavy costs to anyone who presumed to use them. 

 

The unfortunate consequences headed toward this boy were not Crowley’s concern. 

 

Getting out of this blasted trap and home to his angel, on the other hand… 

 

Crowley drew himself up to his full height, well aware that his slender frame made it less intimidating than it might have been otherwise. That didn’t matter; he wasn’t relying on his size to make him scary. He closed his eyes for a moment, and when he opened them the slight shift in his vision told him that they had gone full-serpent - completely golden and fiercely inhuman in their natural state. 

 

I know what I can handle, the foolish boy had insisted. 

 

Do you?” 

 

Crowley allowed a slow, menacing smile to slide across his lips, pacing a slow half-circle near the edge of the trap. As he moved, he reached up to remove his sunglasses with a dramatic flourish, taking satisfaction in the boy’s sharp intake of breath as he took an involuntary backward step, his very human eyes going wide with surprise. Crowley shook his head, falsely sympathetic. 

 

“I don’t think so. I think you’ve no idea what you’ve gotten yourself into.” 

 

Abruptly he allowed his most terrifying version of his serpent form to surface, lunging toward the kid with a menacing sound that was half-snarl, half-hiss, fangs extended and dripping venom, eyes blazing with menace. 

 

As he did, he accidentally brushed against the invisible barrier that marked the edge of the circle - and an explosion of agony, like a tremendous electric current, tore through Crowley’s body. It overwhelmed him and knocked him stumbling backward - directly into the other side of the barrier, which shocked him a second time. He collapsed forward onto the floor on his hands and knees, breathless with agony. 

 

And the kid fucking laughed - a vicious smirk twisting his lips, his words low and colored with amusement. “Yeah, I wouldn’t suggest that.” 

 

He took a couple of slow, measured steps to the side, looking down at something on the floor, and it was only then that Crowley realized - at some point he’d lost his grip on his sunglasses, and they’d landed a couple of feet past the barrier. 

 

He couldn’t reach them - but his captor could. And something in Crowley’s face must have given away how much he wanted them back, because the boy looked between him and the glasses for a moment with fresh interest. He leaned down and picked them up, running his hands over them, a slight smile on his lips as he watched Crowley for his reaction. 

 

A reaction that Crowley could have easily hidden as he usually did, if only he had his bloody sunglasses

 

“Summoning circle’s not… s’posed to do that,” Crowley gasped, trying to appear unbothered by the loss, but unable to keep himself from watching unhappily as the kid tucked the sunglasses into the pocket of his shirt. “Just s’posed to be a… a wall , not a… a fucking electric fence !” 

 

He’d been caught in a few summoning circles over the centuries - but the pain-on-contact aspect of this one was a particularly cruel touch that he’d never experienced. 

 

Courtesy of that evil book… 

 

“What were you saying?” the kid taunted quietly. “About… having no idea what I’d gotten myself into?” 

 

Crowley didn’t answer. He stayed on his knees, carefully in the center of the trap - his attention fully absorbed by what he’d just noticed at the edge of the room, along the far wall. He didn’t know how he could have possibly missed it before. Perhaps it was the rather rude, jarring realization of finding himself trapped - or the dread at the sight of the book that had been used to do it. But now that Crowley had seen it, he couldn’t drag his eyes away. 

 

In a spot with no other furnishings that had presumably been cleared for this very purpose, there was a thin, plastic covered mattress, of the sort one might be forced to use in a prison, or perhaps in a summer camp. 

 

And on the mattress lay the body of a young woman. 

 

She was wearing a simple t-shirt and jeans. Her back was turned toward Crowley, her wrists bound behind her. 

 

She wasn’t moving. At all

 

Helpless fury overcame Crowley, as he eyed the reddish substance in the bronze bowl at the center of the circle of herbs laid out before the young man. He rose to his feet again, glaring as he snapped at him, “You do realize there are demon-summoning spells that don’t require sacrificed virgins, right?” 

 

“Virgin?” the kid scoffed, casting a derisive look toward the still, prone form of the young woman on the mattress. “ Please .” He smirked nastily. “Now, if there was a demon-summoning spell that required a sacrificed whore, maybe....”

 

Oh, how Crowley hated him. 

 

His fists flexed uselessly at his sides, itching for impact. He wasn’t usually inclined toward violence - but he was aching to inflict some now. 

 

Then, to his tremendous relief, the girl began to stir, letting out a soft moan of distress. Her voice was muffled, as she was gagged, but she sounded like she was in pain, and probably very confused and afraid. 

 

But she was alive . That was something. 

 

And Crowley decided in that moment that he was going to make sure she stayed that way. 

 

“She’s no sacrifice,” the young man continued, glancing toward her with the sort of smile that made Crowley’s blood run cold. “She’s mine. But - she is the reason you’re here.” He looked back at Crowley, and the expression in his eyes started an unsettled churning in the pit of Crowley’s stomach. “You’re mine, too, now. I’m a powerful warlock, and I’ve summoned you, demon, and you will do as I command you… I’m your master , and...” 

 

Master ?” Crowley grimaced, shaking his head. “Powerful warlock,” he echoed, in a dubious tone that belied his growing unease. “No, no… I wouldn’t say that… I wouldn’t say either of those… no, I think I’d go with…” He lifted his eyes toward the ceiling, exaggeratedly thoughtful, as if trying to come up with precisely the right term, before abruptly pointing a finger at the young man and declaring, “Vile, perverse piece of walking human excrement! Yeah, that’s it. That’s exactly what you are! But I think I’ll call you Pervy for short.” 

 

Crowley took immense satisfaction in the way Pervy’s smile abruptly faded, his dark eyes glittering with fury. His words were quiet, warning. “I’d be a little more careful how you speak to me.” 

 

“I’d be a little more careful how you speak to me,” Crowley echoed in high-pitched mimickry, then sneered with a slow, derisive once-over, “I’m not afraid of you… pathetic human child.” 

 

“No?” Pervy stepped closer to the trap, arms crossed over his chest, his entire body taut with angry tension. “You should be. I fucking own you now. And I own her .” He pointed across the room to the girl, who was struggling to sit up, her efforts hindered by the awkward give of the mattress beneath her. “And you … are going to make sure it stays that way.” 

 

“Why are you doing this?” Crowley demanded, moving a little closer to the edge of the trap, trying to draw attention back onto himself, and away from the girl, who had just managed to turn so that she was facing them - panic in her wide, blinking eyes. He looked away from her with an effort… tried not to look at her again, to keep their captor’s focus on him. “What’d she ever do to you?” 

 

“Nothing. Yet.” Pervy smirked. “But I’m sure I can come up with all sorts of fun things to have her… do to me.” 

 

Crowley wanted to vomit. 

 

No ,” he declared, putting up a hand and turning away from him in disgust. “Not helping you.” 

 

“Just like that.” There was disbelief in the young man’s voice, and Crowley could almost hear his dubiously raised eyebrows. “Not gonna… try to make a deal, or something? Your help in exchange for, like… my soul , or whatever?” 

 

Crowley looked back at him again with clear disdain. “Not sure you’ve got one,” he countered. “Wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole if you did.” 

 

Pervy blinked at Crowley in confusion. “You’re a demon,” he pointed out unnecessarily. “That’s the point of you.” 

 

“Really not.”

 

“What, so you’re telling me out of all the demons in the universe, I managed to summon the one who’s got an actual conscience ?” He let out a startled, bitter laugh, running a hand down over his face and shaking his head. “Oh, fuck me .” 

 

Crowley put as much disgust into his expression as he could as he looked Pervy over, his tone flat and unimpressed. “No, thanks.” 

 

Pervy looked up at him, his lip curled into an expression that was ugly and malicious as he met Crowley’s gaze. “Doesn’t matter,” he concluded coldly. “Because I never intended to make a deal with you, anyway. You’re going to help me - because I’m not giving you a choice.” 

 

“Why do you need my help, anyway?” Crowley sighed, annoyed and impatient. “Why not just… build a freaky torture dungeon in your basement like all the other disgusting predators? Why drag demons and magic into it in the first place?” 

 

Pervy shrugged, the corner of his mouth quirking up into a slight smile. “I’m renting.” His smile faded, a dangerous light in his eyes as he added, more serious, waving a hand down to indicate the evidence of the spell he’d cast. “And why not use what you’ve got? I’m good at this.” 

 

Crowley eyed the book warily. “Not as good as you think,” he countered, low and ominous. 

 

“I thought maybe I could find a spell to keep a woman in here - turn the whole place into my… freaky torture dungeon .” He grinned - then it faded as he shook his head slowly. “Couldn’t seem to find a spell to trap humans. But demons , on the other hand…” 

 

“Right.” Crowley nodded slowly down at the trap surrounding him. “And just how, pray tell, am I supposed to keep her in this house, if I’m stuck in this circle?” 

 

Pervy smiled at him, a creepy, cold smile that made Crowley shiver.

 

“We’ll get to that.” 

 

Crowley laughed darkly, shaking his head. “Oh, no, we won’t. Number one - I don’t take orders from anyone.” He paused, amending, “No, wait. Number one, you’re disgusting . Number two …” He turned to fully face the young man, advancing as much as he could, making his voice as low and menacing as possible. “I don’t … take orders from anyone .” 

 

Crowley’d had a lot of different reactions from humans who’d summoned him over the years. Most of them consisted of mainly shock and terror at the fact that it’d actually worked . Many humans seemed to find that once he was actually there , in front of them, they actually had no bloody clue what they wanted to do with him. 

 

This guy was… different. 

 

Disturbingly different. Too calm, too casual about the whole thing. Well prepared, Crowley had to admit, even if he wasn’t bright enough to know to be afraid of what he might have brought down on himself by using that book. 

 

He wasn’t afraid of Crowley, either. Not even a little bit. 

 

“What’s your name?” he asked, quietly commanding. 

 

Crowley let out a rude little snorting laugh, turning away from him. “ Please, ” he scoffed. “There’s power in a name, and you’re not getting mine.” 

 

Crowley wasn’t anywhere near that stupid. 

 

He immediately regretted turning his back on his captor, as without warning a fiery pain ripped into his side, coursing through his entire body with a powerful jolt of electric agony. Crowley cried out in outraged, pained protest as he dropped to one knee, holding his ribs. When he managed to catch his breath, he glared up at Pervy - who was now holding a cattle prod in his right hand. He smiled as he tapped it lightly into his left hand, calm and unperturbed. 

 

“What’s your name?” he repeated. 

 

Crowley hesitated, and Pervy took a step closer, extending the prod. 

 

“Fine, fine!” Crowley protested, holding up one hand, the other still pressed tight against his side. “It’s Hastur, all right? Bloody hell.” 

 

On the off chance that he managed to get out of here in some way that did not involve Pervy’s gruesome death, Crowley figured that he might as well toss this irritating blighter Hastur’s way. See which one came out on top. 

 

Either way, Crowley reasoned - he won. 

 

Pervy sat down on the floor again, opening the book, and Crowley couldn’t suppress the shiver that went down his spine when he apparently found the spell he was looking for and then reached for the ingredients he needed to set them up around him. When they were all arranged to his satisfaction, he began to read the Latin from the book. 

 

Idiot child. Never read the Latin from the book.

 

Crowley grimaced, braced for the worst as Pervy finished his spell. 

 

And absolutely nothing happened. 

 

Crowley barely had time enough to wonder what was supposed to have happened, before Pervy was clambering to his feet, his movements made clumsy in his furious haste. Crowley tensed as he reached for the cattle prod he’d set down beside him - but he didn’t use it on Crowley. 

 

Instead, he crossed the room with angry, purposeful steps, towering over the bound and helpless young woman. Fully conscious by now, sitting up, she drew back against the corner behind her with a choked, frightened little sound behind the strip of cloth tied across her mouth. 

 

“No,” Crowley protested, horrified when he realized what Pervy intended. “No, don’t !” 

 

Pervy ignored him, pressing the prod into the girl’s side, turning to glare at Crowley with vindictive satisfaction as she let out a muffled scream of pain, and struggled uselessly to get away from him.

 

Stop it !” Crowley snarled, furious. “Stop it, she didn’t do anything!” He took a step forward - in his desperate rage, forgetting the limitations of the circle for a moment, and receiving a sharp, stinging reminder. He stumbled back away from the shock, gasping, frustrated at his own helplessness. “Stop, all right , I’m sorry !” 

 

“You lied to me,” Pervy stated coldly as he finally, finally withdrew the prod. “Tell me your real name.” 

 

The hoarse, pitiful sobs from the mattress tore at Crowley’s heart, and he couldn’t bring himself to look at the girl, his guilt heavy on his shoulders. 

 

“I did,” he insisted. “Not my fault if your spell went wrong.” 

 

“No,” Pervy laughed, a dark, angry sound. “No, if you had, then you’d be the one writhing in pain right now, not her.” His amusement faded abruptly into menace. “ Tell me .” 

 

The implications of his words were not lost on Crowley. The spell was intended to use his name to give his captor some kind of power over him - power to hurt him. Power to control him, probably. 

 

Could lie again… but he’ll just keep hurting her until he gets the truth…

 

Crowley had long since given up even pretending that he didn’t care about a thing like that. 

 

There was little option left to him. 

 

“Crowley,” he admitted with a sigh, rolling his eyes. “It’s Crowley, all right? Just… leave her alone.” 

 

Pervy repeated his previous procedure - laying out his ingredients, reading through the Latin spell from the book. There was an instant just after he finished when it looked as if once again, nothing had happened. Crowley barely had time for a frustrated realization that perhaps this kid just sucked at witchcraft. Perhaps the spell couldn’t work, the way he was doing it, and that poor girl was going to get shocked again because of Pervy’s cruelty and bloody incompetence

 

Coherent thought was abruptly driven from Crowley’s mind as an intense wave of pain ripped through his body. He collapsed, overwhelmed. It was unspeakable, unbearable torment. It felt as if he was being torn apart from the inside. He couldn’t even draw breath to scream. He was vaguely aware of his captor standing over him, silently watching as time stretched into moment after moment of interminable agony. 

 

Then, finally, Pervy spoke - a single, soft word of Latin. 

 

Slowly, the pain faded away. Crowley’s entire body was trembling so hard that it was all he could do to remain upright on his knees. His heart raced, and he struggled to catch his breath as his vision gradually came back into focus. Pervy was crouched down next to him, almost within reach, studying him closely with a calm, curious smile - but his dark eyes were lit with an almost feral hunger, an expression of pleasure that made Crowley’s heart sink with dread. A shiver passed through him when the young man spoke, his voice soft and satisfied. 


Perfect .”

Chapter Text

Aziraphale sipped from a fresh, steaming cup of tea, focused his attention for the fourth time on the page that had been laid open in front of him for half an hour, and tried to ignore the slowly tightening, twisting knot in the pit of his stomach. He glanced up from the book again, looking out the window and down the drive, willing himself to see the Bentley’s headlights coming up the road. 

 

His eyes met only darkness. 

 

Crowley had been gone far too long. 

 

Of course, he couldn’t be sure of that, really, could he? Because Crowley hadn’t told him where he was going, so how could he have any idea how long it was supposed to take? 

 

But I know he was planning on spending the evening here, with me… and whatever his surprise may have been… Surely he’d have let me know if he intended to be gone for hours

 

They’d been left alone for several years now, by both Heaven and Hell - but Aziraphale knew better than to think that they’d been forgotten entirely. It was perhaps unlikely, but certainly within the realm of possibility that some demon or angel might have decided to make a move against them. 

 

Against Crowley

 

He reminded himself that Crowley would be deeply annoyed if he knew how much Aziraphale was worrying right now. 

 

He was a grown demon, wasn’t he? Perfectly capable of taking care of himself. He’d gotten out of plenty of scrapes without any assistance from Aziraphale, thanks ever so much, and gotten Aziraphale out of his fair share, too, for that matter, hadn’t he? 

 

I’m fine, angel, stop your fretting and drink your tea.

 

He could almost hear Crowley’s voice, affectionately frustrated, warm despite his mildly caustic words. 

 

He wished he could hear Crowley’s voice - coming in the door right now, with cheerful, breathless explanations of how he’d been held up and what had taken so long. 

 

He’s been so happy lately… so at peace. We both have… 

 

Aziraphale’s stomach clenched painfully, a heavy sense of dread settling over him. 

 

He’d be off guard… not expecting an attack… I certainly haven’t been expecting one…

 

And wouldn’t that be precisely the right time for an enemy to strike? 

 

He walked to the phone and picked it up, dialing Crowley’s cell phone, his heart sinking when he did indeed hear Crowley’s voice - on his voicemail. 

 

“Hello, darling, it’s me,” he sighed, stretching the telephone’s cord to its limit so as to stare out the window into the darkness again. “Perhaps your errand is just… taking a bit longer than you expected? But - I thought you’d be home by now, and - I’m worried, Crowley. Please, just… call me back. Just to let me know you’re all right…” 

 

**************************************************************************************

 

On the street outside the darkened village bakery, on the seat of a locked but running vintage Bentley, a cell phone lit up… and rang, and rang, and rang, with no one to hear or answer it. 

 

***************************************************************************************

 

Once Pervy’s spell had been successfully put in place, a single Latin word was all it took to invoke the pain that Crowley had felt when it’d first been activated - the all-consuming agony that sucked all the oxygen from his lungs and left him completely incapacitated with suffering, a hair’s breadth from begging, just to make it end

 

And a single Latin word stopped the pain, as well. 

 

Of course… just to be sure it was working properly… the sadistic little bastard had to test it out a time or two. Or three. 

 

Or thirty. 

 

“Any time I want,” he threatened, crouched down, as near to the barrier as he could get without quite touching it. “Are we clear on that, Crowley? I can bring you down in a split second, like that ... ” He snapped his fingers, and Crowley hated himself for flinching. “... if you cross me. Do you understand?”

 

The pain from the last time still lingered in Crowley’s taut, aching limbs, his entire body braced for more - his mind certain that he couldn’t take any more. The barrage of repeated shock waves of suffering left his responses weary and sluggish. He nodded slowly, still gasping for breath. 

 

“Answer me,” Pervy demanded, low and warning. 

 

Yes ,” Crowley hissed out, exhausted, casting a resentful glare in the boy’s direction, taking a moment to try again to catch his breath before grinding out, “I understand .” He turned his face away, adding, muttered under his breath, “ Bastard .” 

 

“Good.” The light, casual tone of the boy’s voice was underlaid with a controlled, tense note of irritation. “We’ll have to work on those manners of yours, won’t we?” 

 

Crowley braced himself as Pervy rose to his feet - but he didn’t use the spell to punish Crowley again. Instead, he just moved back toward his work area, perusing his supplies. 

 

“But for now… on to the next step.” 

 

Crowley settled into a half-sitting, half-kneeling position on the floor, drawing in deep breaths, closing his eyes for a moment as he tried to recover. At last he replied in weary resignation. “Which is?” 

 

Pervy smiled at him. “You’re gonna like this part. Expanding the borders of that trap, so that you can move around in the house. So that you can guard my house when I’m not here.” 

 

Crowley glanced over toward the girl, who was calmer now, as it’d been a good hour at least since Pervy had gone anywhere near her. She was quiet, watching with wide, wary eyes; he could see the intelligence in her face, knew that she was listening closely to everything that was happening around her - even if most of it certainly had to be challenging everything she’d ever thought she knew of reality. 

 

“You can’t just endlessly sit in that circle.” Pervy nodded toward the girl. “And she can’t stay tied up all the time. That way lies loss of circulation and gangrene and limbs falling off, and…” He shook his head with a little grimace. “I didn’t sign up for that level of gross.” 

 

“Just the creepy rapist level of gross, then,” Crowley remarked, staring down at the markings etched into the floor beneath him. “Well, if that’s all…” 

 

Pervy looked up at him again with a taut, tolerant smile, a trace of anger in his eyes. 

 

Careful .” 

 

His tone remained mild, casual - but carried enough warning to send a little shiver down Crowley’s spine. 

 

He went quiet, waiting - thinking - as Pervy explained what he was doing, in an infuriatingly patronizing tone, as if he was speaking to a particularly stupid child. 

 

“When I’m finished, you’ll be able to move throughout the house freely.” He paused, amending, “Relatively freely. Certain rooms are off limits. To you, and to her. The spell will keep you inside this house, and out of the off-limits areas.” He cast a malicious grin at Crowley. “ You’ll keep her inside the house and out of the off-limits areas. If you know what’s good for you. You both belong to me - and there’s nothing you can do about that. So don’t even try.” 

 

Crowley fairly burned with frustrated anger. He was no one’s trained guard dog - no matter how much he might have wanted to rip the boy’s throat out with his teeth. 

 

And he wanted no part of whatever violation Pervy intended to inflict on his female captive. 

 

He stayed silent in the center of the circle, watching closely as his captor performed this new spell - watching, and waiting . Because the one fact that stood out to him among Pervy’s super-villain monologuing was that when this spell was complete, when the barrier was extended… the boy would be within his reach. 

 

He was going to have a chance

 

Crowley remained on his knees, quiet and non-threatening, even as he felt the constant electric crackle of energy, the tension of the barrier around him, begin to ease as it shifted outward. When Pervy finished the Latin and gave him an expectant look, nodding to indicate that he should test his new limits, Crowley climbed carefully to his feet. He stretched his limbs slowly, then edged toward the former limits of the barrier. Carefully, he reached out to touch nothing where it had been… took a single, cautious step out of the circle, looking down at it for a long moment. 

 

Then he lifted his eyes, glowing with menace, and gave the boy a slow, dangerous smile. 

 

With a snarl, fangs extended, he lunged for his throat. 

 

Crowley’s attack was repelled, just before he would have touched his target, the breath driven from his body by a powerful force, like slamming into a brick wall - if said brick wall was somehow electrified, sending a tremendous jolt of agony through his body on impact. Crowley crumpled to the floor, gasping as the pain faded out, nearly as swiftly as it had hit. 

 

“Well, that was stupid,” Pervy glared down at him, smug, perhaps a bit amused despite his anger. “You think I’d give you this much freedom of movement without taking some protective precautions?” 

 

His smile vanished. 

 

A single word of Latin passed his lips, for the thirty-first time. 

 

He let the pain go on far longer than he had yet, watching Crowley with cold, impassive eyes as Crowley’s entire body seized up, choked cries of helpless suffering wrenched from his lips as the searing agony coursed through him. 

 

Finally, he spoke the word to end the punishment. 

 

He crouched down to face Crowley while Crowley struggled to regain his composure, to catch his breath. His vision was swimming, his stomach churning. He flinched as Pervy reached for him, catching a handful of his hair and jerking him in closer. 

 

“You can’t leave,” he reiterated, quiet and emphatic. “You can’t hurt me. If you try - that’s what happens.” He paused, smiling as he added, “I can hurt you, though. And I can hurt her .” 

 

Crowley’s stomach dropped, but he swallowed slowly, staring at the floor between them - unwilling to show his captor how effective the threat was.  

 

Pervy used his grip on Crowley’s hair to tilt his head back, insisting on eye contact, and Crowley’s jaw clenched against the searing pain in his scalp as the boy leaned in closer, his words clipped and measured.

 

“So you’re going to behave yourself. Aren’t you?” 

 

Crowley glared up at him, his chest heaving as he still struggled to regain his breath, but remained stubbornly defiant. 

 

Crowley’s gaze followed the boy’s hand as he reached down to pick up the cattle prod from the floor at his feet. He tensed and braced himself - but then, Pervy cast his gaze slowly, meaningfully, toward the girl across the room. Crowley’s back was turned to her, but he could hear her reaction, heard the choked little sound of terror she made in her throat as she understood the threat. Pervy waited until Crowley met his gaze again, his eyebrows raised expectantly. 

 

“Yes,” Crowley hissed, resentful but defeated. “ Yes , fine, all right…” 

 

The young man studied Crowley for a long, tense moment, eyes narrowed and speculative. Finally, seemingly satisfied, Pervy released his grip on Crowley’s hair and stood up, leaving him there on his knees. “Good.” 

 

Then, he turned and started toward the girl with swift, purposeful steps. 

 

Crowley’s stomach lurched. “I said yes , all right?” he protested. “Leave her alone!” 

 

He got quickly to his feet, as the girl scrambled back into the corner, trying uselessly to put some distance between herself and Pervy before he reached her. With a snap of his fingers, Crowley was across the room and standing between them. Pervy stopped, disbelief on his face, his fist flexing around the handle of the cattle prod. 

 

Crowley glanced down at it for a moment, swallowing hard, and then met the boy’s eyes, his voice low and warning. 

 

“I said leave her alone .” 

 

‘Yeah, you did.” There was a disarming note of amusement in Pervy’s voice, but a malicious light in his eyes. “ Twice .” He jabbed the prod at Crowley, but Crowley caught it, blocking it. 

 

Immediately the searing pain of the spell overcame him, and Crowley dropped like a stone to the floor, his arm wrapped across his torso, his entire body shaking. Pervy crouched down next to him, the prod resting across his knees. 

 

“And then,” he continued speaking, his casual tone utterly unchanged, “you had the nerve to attack me.” 

 

The pain was fading, but Crowley was still too slow to avoid it when the boy pressed the cattle prod into his ribs, right where he’d struck before. He held it there for a few seconds before withdrawing it, giving Crowley a minute to recover - so that he could feel it when he did it a second time, this time putting the weapon to the side of Crowley’s neck. 

 

When the stars faded from before Crowley’s eyes and his vision came back into focus, he found that he’d collapsed with his face to the floor. Each breath felt like inhaling shards of glass into aching lungs. With an effort he pushed himself back up to his knees, to see Pervy waiting with a patient smile. When at last he met the boy’s eyes with a bitter glare, Pervy raised two fingers between them. 

 

“That’s one for trying to hurt me,” he explained, quiet and calm. “And that’s one for thinking you can tell me what to do.” He drew in a sharp little breath as if just remembering something he’d forgotten, and then raised a third finger. “And one more,” he declared, standing up straight over Crowley’s kneeling form. “For trying to keep me from what’s mine.” 

 

Crowley cringed as he took a step forward - but he didn’t shock Crowley again. Instead, he stepped past him, closing in on the girl.

 

“No,” Crowley gasped out, though he lacked the strength to try to get between them again. His limbs felt numb and heavy, and wouldn’t respond to his brain’s frantic demands that he do something, anything to stop him

 

Pervy held the cattle prod against the girl’s arm, and she let out a plaintive, muffled scream. 

 

“Stop it!” Crowley protested, the words anguished and quaking, and not even the slightest bit intimidating. “Leave her alone!” 

 

“Or you’ll what?” Pervy snapped, though as he spoke he finally withdrew the weapon and turned to face Crowley again, towering over him. 

 

Closing the slight distance between them, he grabbed Crowley’s hair and yanked his head back with one hand, holding the cattle prod a bare inch from Crowley’s throat. Crowley weakly snapped his fingers, willing himself across the room and out of the boy’s grasp - but nothing happened. He swallowed convulsively, unable to move, unable to look away from the blue sparks of electric light as Pervy pressed the button… just barely too far from Crowley’s skin to burn him. 

 

“Yeah… you’ve still got access to a few tricks,” the boy conceded softly with a cruel smirk. “What would be the point of a pet demon otherwise? But that spell I put on you… it’s connected to my will .” Crowley’s heart sank as he continued, and he began to understand the truth of the circumstances in which he’d found himself. “Here’s the rock solid, carved-in-stone rules : You can’t use your powers to get away from me. You can’t use them to hurt me. Or to stop me. You so much as touch me - and you go down.” 

 

He released the button on the prod, allowing the electric sparks to fade away, and pressed the hot metal tip of the weapon to Crowley’s throat. Crowley hissed a little at the heat - just enough to be unpleasant, without really hurting him - his body tense, his heart lurching as the boy trailed it slowly up until it rested against Crowley’s face, just below his eye. 

 

“Anything else you do I don’t like… anything at all,” Pervy continued with a cold smile. “All it takes is a single word , and that spell will make you wish for this thing instead - for death instead.” He paused. “Or just maybe … I take it out on her instead. Is that what you want?” 

 

Crowley swallowed slowly, closing his eyes, his heart sinking. Defeated, he shook his head as much as the boy’s tight grip on his hair would allow. “No,” he whispered. He hesitated a moment, wrestling with his own pride, before adding softly, “ Please . No.” 

 

That seemed to please Pervy, because finally, he pulled the cattle prod away, easing his grip on Crowley’s hair, and then releasing him entirely. 

 

“Better,” he remarked with a satisfied nod. 

 

And then he moved toward the girl again. 

 

“Please don’t,” Crowley choked out, raising his voice as much as he could - but he remained where he was, on his knees next to the mattress, feeling helpless and useless. His throat ached, his body weak and ravaged from the multiple shocks he had taken in the past few hours. “Don’t hurt her…” 

 

“I will if I want to,” Pervy declared, his voice low and hard. “Try and stop me. You’ll only make things worse. For you and her.” 

 

It was true. Crowley knew it was. 

 

He could only watch as Pervy closed in on the girl, again, despite her desperate efforts to avoid him. She succeeded only in backing herself into the corner. The boy shushed her, his voice and hands disturbingly gentle as he reached out to stroke her hair. She flinched, but had no room to move any further away, and instead went very still. 

 

“See? This is better,” Pervy said softly. “Much better… good girl…” 

 

Crowley felt sick - and desperately ashamed.

 

To his surprise, and relief, Pervy didn’t hurt the girl again - not right then, anyway. Instead, he just reached behind her head to carefully untie the gag. As he set it aside, Crowley noted a bit absently that it was a scarf, in a floral blend of colors coordinated to the girl’s outfit - probably one she’d been wearing when he’d taken her. 

 

Once her mouth was free, the girl flexed her jaw a little, wincing as if it hurt. She glanced at Crowley, and then past him to the door, swallowing slowly. 

 

“You can scream if you want,” Pervy informed her. “This whole house is supernaturally soundproofed. No one can hear anything from outside.” He glanced back toward the book on the floor. “All kinds of cool things in that book. I’ve taken my whole property and like… well,  basically it’s supernaturally - like, everything -proofed. If you’re outside the house, you wouldn’t even know it existed. So, yeah. Scream all you like. No one will hear you.” 

 

He rose to his feet, looking between his two captives with satisfaction. 

 

“I’ve got to get ready for work,” he informed them. He waved a hand idly across the space that separated them. “Go ahead, get to know each other. You’re going to be spending a lot of time together.” 

 

Crowley watched him warily, surprised when he actually left the room, disappearing into a room off to the side, and closing the door behind him. 

 

The first thing Crowley did was to go to the front door and try opening it - with predictably painful results. Once he’d recovered from the shock and picked himself up off the floor, he began looking around the room for anything that might be useful. There didn’t seem to be any phones or computers or any other electronics they could have used to get help… nothing sharp or heavy that he might have used as a weapon. 

 

He did find a box of tissues on the coffee table. 

 

With a soft sigh, he picked it up and carried it across the room to where the girl sat on her thin, plastic-covered mattress. She had carefully watched his reconnaissance of the room with wide, tearful blue eyes, but had said nothing the entire time. He sat down next to her, and she shifted away just a little, seeming uneasy, but not truly afraid of him.

 

“I’d untie you,” he whispered, “but I think it’s best we wait ‘til he leaves, yeah?” 

 

She considered a moment, and then nodded, a slow swallow visible in her throat. 

 

Crowley opened the box of tissues and held one up for a moment, before tentatively reaching toward her face, pausing and waiting for her permission to go on. When she nodded again, he used it to gently brush the tears from her face. 

 

“Y-your eyes,” she whispered at last, her voice hoarse and breaking. 

 

“Yeah,” he drawled, tossing the damp tissue aside and settling in beside her. “Demon thing.” 

 

“You’re… actually a demon.” She blinked, visibly processing. 

 

“And still not the scariest guy in the room. Go figure.” He offered her a rueful smile - hoping to draw one from her in return. 

 

She just stared. 

 

Crowley’s smile faded, and he lowered his gaze, swallowing against the knot in his throat. “I - I’m sorry,” he whispered. The words felt thick and clumsy and useless. 

 

She was quiet for a moment, before responding in a voice hushed with resignation, “You tried.” 

 

Not hard enough… not good enough… 

 

Crowley ventured to glance up at her again. “What’s your name?” he asked her. 

 

Her lips parted automatically to answer - and then she stopped, frowning as she glanced at him uncertainly. “There’s - power in a name, right?” she echoed his earlier words. “Maybe - I shouldn’t…” 

 

Crowley took that in, mildly surprised, and then let out an appreciative little huff of laughter, nodding. “Smart girl,” he sighed sadly. 

 

Her face fell, her eyes welling with fresh tears. “Not too smart,” she muttered, sniffling. “Should have been watching… shouldn’t have… let him…” Her voice broke, and her shoulders shook with quiet sobs. 

 

“Aww, come now, love, it’s not your fault,” Crowley soothed her, taking out a clean tissue and gently brushing it across her cheek. “‘S all right.” She gave him a baleful glare before looking away, and he grimaced, shaking his head. “Well, it’s not. I know it’s not.” He ducked his head to catch her gaze again, waiting until she met his eyes to smile and whisper, “But it will be .” 

 

At last, he saw a spark of something besides terror and despair in her eyes - perhaps hope… or perhaps simply the beginning traces of connection, of camaraderie in the face of their rather hopeless-seeming shared dilemma. 

 

The door to the room where Pervy had gone creaked open, and the girl visibly tensed, instinctively shifting a little closer to Crowley. He sat up a little straighter, squaring his shoulders, feeling oddly protective - though he knew there was little he could do if their captor decided to hurt her - not without potentially making things much, much worse, anyway. 

 

Pervy had changed clothes, so Crowley concluded that the room he’d gone into must have been his bedroom. He was now wearing some sort of dark brown uniform. Crowley swiftly scanned it for a name tag, or a business name, or some identifying feature, but found nothing of any use. 

 

“I’m off to work,” Pervy announced. “Night shift. I’ll be back in the morning.” He winked at the girl, who shuddered and averted her eyes. “And then we’ll have some fun.” 

 

Crowley felt sick. 

 

The front door closed and locked behind the boy with an audible click - and Crowley immediately turned toward the girl, gesturing with one hand for her to turn her back to him. She swiftly complied, and he untied her wrists, then rose to his feet and held out a hand to help her up. She picked up her scarf from where it lay beside her and tucked it into her pocket. Together they moved to the door. 

 

Crowley winced a little in anticipation of pain, as he hesitantly reached out a faltering hand to try the handle again. 

 

The girl held up her own hand in a halting gesture. “Let me try it,” she offered. “He said there’s no spell keeping me here. At least trying won’t hurt me.” 

 

Crowley appreciated that she’d noticed - and cared - what happened to him when he’d tried it earlier. And, well - he couldn’t argue with her logic. 

 

He waved his hand toward the door with a little flourish, taking a step back and allowing her to take his place. The door was indeed locked, as they’d expected. She pounded at it, yanked the handle, even kicked it - with no success. 

 

“I’m not strong enough,” she admitted at last, dejected. “Maybe there’s a back door?” She turned away as if to go explore the rest of the house. 

 

“Wait.” Crowley frowned critically at the door for a moment, his hand raised, and then snapped his fingers. When nothing happened, he lowered his hand - then raised it again, a smile lighting up his face as inspiration struck. He snapped his fingers once more, then nodded toward the door. 

 

“Try it again.” 

 

“Try what again, exactly?” She frowned. 

 

Crowley gave her a sly, mischievous grin, and a little shrug. “Anything, really. I just turned the bloody thing to cardboard.” 

 

She blinked in surprise. “So… that doesn’t go against his, like, ‘my will be done’ spell, or whatever?” 

 

“Apparently, spell’s a bit on the specific side,” Crowley observed. “I tried using my power to just… blast the door open, first. Nothing.” He paused, his smile widening with satisfaction. “The spell won’t let me - break it or burn it or otherwise open it - but turning it into something else entirely , is apparently not something our supreme overlord of wankers ever imagined.” 

 

She stared at him for a long moment, incredulous, before looking back toward the door. She pushed at the panel in the center cautiously - letting out a startled little squeak when it simply pushed out of the door completely and onto the ground outside. The rest of the formerly metal door fell away just as easily with minimal effort, and in moments they were staring out into the darkness. 

 

Neither of them moved. Her gaze was lowered to the floor, and she bit the corner of her lip, finally looking up at him in anguished uncertainty. Though there was a sinking feeling in his stomach at the prospect of being left here alone, Crowley forced an encouraging smile, nodding toward the empty spot where the door had been. 

 

“Go on, then,” he urged her. “Get out of here.” 

 

She frowned, clearly troubled, though the longing in her eyes as she glanced toward freedom was unmistakable. She shook her head slowly. “I can’t,” she whispered. “When he comes back…” 

 

“You’ll have gotten help by then,” Crowley cut her off firmly, moving in closer to her to take her arms in his hands and meet her eyes. “You’ve got to.” 

 

She glanced past him, back into the house. “Maybe there’s a phone, or…” 

 

“There isn’t,” Crowley insisted, quite certain. “I looked already, and he’d have locked them all up, surely. The only way either of us get out of here is if you get out of here, now .” Her expressive blue eyes were anguished as she looked up at him, but he could see the swelling surrender there, knew her desperation for escape was winning out. “ Go ,” he insisted. “While you can. And when you get out, please call my friend, Mr. Fell.” He gave her Aziraphale’s address and number, performing a quick little miracle to ensure she’d remember. “He can help. But you need to hurry...” 

 

She hesitated just a moment longer, before her shoulders fell in acquiescence, and she leaned in to impulsively hug him. Startled, Crowley stood very still for a moment, just blinking in surprise - but then he softened, returning the hug.

“I’ll get you out,” she promised. “I won’t leave you here.” 

 

“I know,” he assured her. “Now go .” 

 

She went. 

 

Crowley passed the unbearably quiet, lonely hours that followed by exploring what limited portion of the house he was allowed access to - which wasn’t much. Pervy’s bedroom door gave him a similar shock as the front door had done. There was no door leading into the kitchen, just an empty space - but Crowley found that impassable as well. 

 

Too many potential weapons in there, most likely…  couldn’t have your helpless little sex slave fighting back, now could you? No, that might suggest you actually possess a pair of balls…

 

There was a staircase leading to the second floor, and one leading down to a cellar. Crowley found that the stairs were accessible to him, but the moment he reached the reached the floor to which they led, he was blocked. 

 

How’d he expect me to keep that girl from going into off-limits areas, if I can’t go in them myself? he wondered with irritation. 

 

The answer occurred to him a moment later, dark and troubling. 

 

Easy. He didn’t think you’d have any problem with hurting her to stop her. 

 

Eventually, Crowley settled back down on the mattress with a weary sigh. 

 

Surely she must have reached civilization by now. Aziraphale would be here soon. Any time now, really. Pervy had said that his property was magically protected, yeah - but surely he wasn’t prepared to deal with the power of angels. Aziraphale could certainly handle any half-assed human magic… see past whatever warding the boy had put in place… right? 

 

Crowley’s eyes fell on the book from which the boy had apparently taken all of his magical knowledge - and he felt a sick, sinking sensation in the pit of his stomach. 

 

It was a very powerful book. 

 

Although it went against every instinct of self-preservation he had, Crowley very briefly considered attempting to use the book himself. That profoundly terrible idea was swiftly thwarted, however, when he found that attempting to touch the book had an effect very similar to attempting to open the front door. 

 

Doesn’t matter, Crowley reassured himself. He’ll be here. Any time, now. Any minute. 

 

Aziraphale will be here. 

 

****************************************************************************************************

 

Where Aziraphale was, at that moment, was on the street outside the village bakery. 

 

He was staring in dismay at the parked and running Bentley, its bright headlights the only light anywhere on the darkened street. He called Crowley’s phone again - and his heart sank when through the window, he could see it light up where it lay on the passenger seat. 

 

Aziraphale walked a little ways down the deserted sidewalk, focusing his energy and trying to reach out with his mind, his spirit, to try to find Crowley’s and connect with it. Many times, they could feel when the other was near; if Crowley was anywhere close by, then perhaps Aziraphale would be able to feel his presence. 

 

He couldn’t. 

 

“Crowley?” he called out, a note of panic building in his voice. “ Crowley !” 

 

His forceful, urgent cry broke off as he lost his balance a bit when he stepped on something far softer than the sidewalk. Aziraphale glanced around a little. Fairly certain that he was alone, he snapped his fingers. 

 

“Let there be light!” 

 

He backed up a little, bending down to see what it was that had nearly tripped him - and found a crumpled bakery box, still filled with food. His fears only grew stronger when he recognized the abandoned bakery order - a half dozen of his favorite lavender custard tarts. 

 

Aziraphale stood up straight again, snapping his fingers to turn out the unnatural light again. 

 

His heart was racing, a knot in his throat. 

 

Crowley never would have left the sweets he’d come here to get for Aziraphale - and he’d never have left the Bentley, especially running, with the keys locked inside. 

 

Not of his own free will, at any rate. 

 

“Crowley, my love,” he murmured, glancing around the empty streets. “What’s happened to you? Where have you gone?” 

 

**********************************************************************************************

 

At some point during the interminable waiting, Crowley drifted off to sleep, sitting up on the uncomfortable mattress with his back braced against the wall. 

 

He awakened to the sound of crumpling cardboard and heavy, forceful footsteps. His heart leapt up into his throat, even before he opened his eyes. 

 

Aziraphale? 

 

It wasn’t. 

 

Pervy stormed into the room, swiftly closing the distance between himself and Crowley. There wasn’t even time for Crowley to stand to face him; he braced himself for the boy’s rage - but he wasn’t prepared when he tossed something down in front of Crowley. Wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming sense of grief and guilt he felt as he slowly realized what it was that he was seeing, and what it meant. 

 

The soft floral scarf he’d last seen when his fellow captive had tucked it into her pocket - now torn and stained dark with blood. 

 

“Too bad,” Pervy remarked, his words cold and hard as stone. “She almost made it.” 

 

“You…” Crowley shook his head in desperate denial. “Y-you didn’t…” 

 

His lost, broken words were cut off when the boy grabbed his hair and yanked him up onto his knees, closer, leaning down to snarl into his ear, “ Your fault .” 

 

The condemnation echoed in Crowley’s mind, so forcefully that he almost didn’t hear it when the boy spoke just one more word before letting him go. 

 

The searing agony drove all conscious thought from his mind, overtaking even the guilty echo of his captor’s words, until all Crowley could feel was the pain. Pervy stared down at him, cold and impassive for a long moment, before turning and walking into his bedroom and closing the door behind him, leaving Crowley alone with his suffering. 

 

He had no idea how long it lasted. Long enough that he desperately tried to crawl through the empty space where the front door had been. Long enough that he found himself weakly pounding at the closed bedroom door, hoarsely pleading for the boy to come out and make it stop. Long enough that eventually, mercifully, he blacked out, and the pain faded into nothingness. 

 

When he woke up, the pain was gone. Pervy was seated at his desk in the corner of the room, perusing his cursed book. 

 

And there was a new girl, bound and gagged and huddled on the mattress - staring at Crowley with wide, terrified eyes. 

Chapter Text

With a swift, almost absent wave of his hand, Aziraphale turned off the Bentley’s engine and lights. He could see Crowley’s phone on the passenger seat, his keys in the ignition. After a moment’s hesitation, he waved his hand over the entire vehicle in a vague gesture that ensured it would remain unnoticed by any human eyes until its owner returned for it. 

 

With his love’s most prized possession safeguarded to his satisfaction, Aziraphale swiftly made his way back home.

 

Once there, he began searching his expansive library for a handful of specific books that he knew to contain spells for locating missing objects. He was aware of about a half dozen different spells that had proven useful to him in the past when he’d mislaid various items - keys or paperwork or, most often, other books. He’d never used one of these spells to locate a person before, but he was fairly certain it should work the same way.

 

He spent the entire night attempting each of those spells - one after the other, to his increasing, supreme frustration - and ever-deepening dread - as every last one of them proved to be useless. 

 

They shouldn’t have been useless. Aziraphale knew he was performing them properly. He checked and double-checked the supplies and procedure for each in turn, before carrying them out to exacting perfection - only to have every last spell fizzle out without showing him any clear results. 

 

He couldn’t begin to imagine - didn’t want to imagine - what might be the problem. 

 

He briefly considered paying a visit to Heaven, just to see if they knew anything - or if they’d done anything. Angels weren’t typically the best at keeping secrets, and he was fairly certain he’d at least be able to tell by their reactions if they knew anything about Crowley’s disappearance. 

 

But… if they didn’t … the last thing he wanted was to reveal to Heaven that they were vulnerable - that someone had managed to pull off a move against them. He suspected that if Heaven’s authorities reached the conclusion that Crowley had been successfully taken by Hell, there was a very good chance that Aziraphale himself wouldn’t be allowed to leave Heaven at all.

 

And besides, at least two of his attempted location spells, by design, should have shown him if Crowley were in Heaven. 

 

If Crowley were… anywhere at all, in fact. 

 

What if he’s not? A dark, insidious whisper in the back of Aziraphale’s mind taunted him. What if he’s well and truly gone, and not in any place you’ll ever be able to find him… ever again?  

 

That couldn’t be possible, Aziraphale told himself firmly. It just couldn’t

 

Finally, with the early morning sun filtering in through the window, he set aside his books and reached for the telephone instead, dialing a familiar number with a Tadfield extension. His fingers drummed anxiously on the counter as he waited, listening to the ringing on the other end. At last, a familiar voice answered, sounding a bit distant and faint. 

 

“Hello?” Aziraphale could hear a second voice a moment later, questioning and sleepy, and then Anathema answering, quiet and muffled and off of the telephone’s speaker. “I don’t know who it is, honey, just a minute…” 

 

“Anathema, it’s Aziraphale.” It was rare that Aziraphale dispensed with the usual pleasantries. Ordinarily he might have apologized for waking them, or at the very least opened with a “hello” -  but in this case he was simply too frightened and in too much of a hurry to expend any energy on being polite. 

 

“Oh, hi!” Despite his worry, Aziraphale’s heart was warmed by how sincerely pleased she sounded to hear from him - if perhaps a bit confused by the late hour of the call. “It’s been forever! How are you?” 

 

“Not all that well, I’m afraid,” he sighed, anxiously twisting the telephone cord around his fingers as he sat down at his desk. “Anathema, my dear… I need your help.” 

 

“What’s wrong?” she asked, the light, cheerful tone falling away from her voice, replaced with concern. 

 

“I’m not quite sure, but… I think Crowley’s in trouble.” 

 

**************************************************************************************

 

“Okay, it’s ready.” Pervy sounded satisfied as he set out the preparations for another spell. “When this is done, you won’t be giving me any more trouble.” 

 

Crowley didn’t exactly feel up to giving him any trouble as it was, spell or no spell - not like this, on his knees with his wrists locked into heavy iron shackles and fastened to the floor in front of him, his body aching and his head fuzzy from repeated, unwarranted punishments. 

 

Crowley had returned to consciousness to find himself so uncomfortably bound, with a new companion in his captivity, and a very pissed off captor, who vindictively activated the punishment spell every time Crowley made a sound, or shifted his position a little, or in any miniscule way accidentally drew his attention to the fact that he was there at all

 

With a cold smile, the boy approached him, his fist clenched around the handle of a sharp blade, and Crowley tensed, bracing himself for more pain. Pervy took hold of the back of his neck with one firm hand, pressing the edge of the blade to his throat. 

 

“Hold still,” he instructed softly. “You really don’t want to piss me off any more than you already have.” 

 

Crowley did his best to comply. His breath caught in his throat as the blade sliced into his neck - not deep enough to do any real damage, just deep enough to sting. Deep enough to draw blood. Pervy gouged the tip of the blade into the cut he’d made, drawing more, coating the blade with it, and smiling with satisfaction when Crowley bit back a groan of pain. 

 

The boy returned to his spell, placing the bloody knife in the center. He cut his own palm, and then held both hands out over the arrangement, allowing his own blood to drip down and mingle with Crowley’s as he chanted in Latin. The blood began to boil, and the herbs began to burn, higher and higher until they flared brightly and then went out. 

 

Pervy picked up a clean, white cloth from among his supplies and wrapped it carefully around his hand, giving Crowley a speculative look. 

 

“How do you feel?” 

 

Crowley wasn’t quite sure how to describe it, but he definitely did not feel right . His senses felt dull and muted somehow - his power, oddly restrained. Not gone , exactly, but locked away in a corner of his mind, and disconnected from his body. 

 

And his body felt… strange , too. He was acutely aware of the racing of his own heart... his breath that was too shallow and too short and left his lungs aching… the icy, searing sting of the cut on his neck and the weary ache of muscles drawn taut from too many volts of electricity tearing through them, over and over, throughout the past hours. 

 

And then, abruptly, the sharp pain of a hard kick to his ribs, that drove the breath from his lungs and left him gasping, as his captor grabbed a handful of his hair, twisting viciously as he yanked his head back. 

 

“You will answer when I speak to you, demon,” he said, his voice low and warning. “I asked you a question. How do you feel?” 

 

The answer to the question wasn’t worth fighting over - not when Crowley wanted answers, himself. “Weak,” he admitted, grinding out the word in bitter resentment. “Almost…” He considered for a moment before whispering, hushed and horrified with realization, “... human .” 

 

Pervy nodded in unsurprised satisfaction, letting go of Crowley and standing up, moving away a little. “Good.” 

 

“Did you just - make me human? Why is that good?” Crowley demanded, frustrated and increasingly alarmed. “What good am I to you without any powers?” 

 

Pervy acknowledged the validity of the question with a little sideways nod, but then he grinned. “You’re not human. Your powers are still there, they’re just - restricted. And, you know… mine , now.” 

 

Crowley stared up at him, a cold knot of dread in the pit of his stomach. “What’s that supposed to mean?” 

 

“It means that you can still use them. If I want you to.” He paused, watching in gleeful anticipation for Crowley’s reaction. “When and if I command it.” He glanced down at the heavy shackles binding Crowley to the floor, nodded toward them. “Free yourself from those chains.” 

 

Crowley stared down at them for a moment, and began to feel a low surge of power return to him - muted, restrained, but there , just under the surface. His hand trembled as he lifted it and snapped his fingers - and the chains instantly fell away. 

 

“See?” Pervy smirked. “Relax, you’re fine.” 

 

“Nothing about this is fine ,” Crowley muttered. 

 

Pervy ignored his remark. “Get over here, make yourself useful,” he ordered, unwrapping his injured hand as Crowley rose to his feet. He held out the hand, palm up, expectantly, as Crowley warily approached. “Heal this.” 

 

Crowley stared down at the wound for a long moment, before looking back up to meet the boy’s eyes in silent, stubborn defiance. 

 

Pervy’s eyebrows lifted in surprise, and his mouth curved into a slow, amused smile. His eyes flashed with malice as he swiftly uttered the Latin word that sent a powerful jolt of pain through Crowley’s body, driving him back down to his knees, gasping for breath. It was unbearable, searing through his veins and leaving every nerve on fire. It felt as if it went on for hours, before the boy finally crouched beside Crowley and softly spoke the second word. 

 

He waited in patient silence as the pain subsided, the roar of Crowley’s own blood rushing in his ears slowly fading out, the demon’s entire body quaking with the remnants of sheer agony.

 

“Worse now,” the boy observed casually. “Isn’t it?” 

 

Crowley nodded shakily. He was unable to speak just yet, but he knew better than to refuse to answer a second time. But Pervy was not satisfied with his non-verbal response. He grabbed Crowley by the throat, yanking his head up and snarling low in his ear. 

 

Answer , demon.” 

 

“Y-yes,” Crowley gasped out quickly, his stomach lurching with fear. 

 

He couldn’t take another hit from that damned spell, not so soon after the last - not now, when it was indeed drastically more intense and painful than it’d been before his powers were bound. 

 

“I figured.” Pervy nodded once. “And it’s gonna just keep getting worse for you, the more you defy me. I control if you leave this house. I control your powers. I control you .” He was quiet for a moment, before continuing coldly. “And if you don’t like it, well... I don’t even need you. I know how to destroy you if I want. That book gives me at least a couple of different... interesting ways. I could always just… start over. Get rid of you and summon another demon. Maybe one that’s a little more fun. It’d be an annoying amount of extra work, but… it would make things so much simpler ...” 

 

He paused a moment, glancing across the room at the frightened girl who was watching the encounter closely - though judging by the expression on her face, Crowley guessed she was probably finding it more confusing than enlightening. 

 

Pervy leaned in closer to Crowley, his voice dropping to a low, conspiratorial tone as he continued, “And you know… any other demon would probably have a whole lot less hang-ups about hurting her. You think?” 

 

Crowley closed his eyes, letting out a deep, defeated breath. “All right,” he whispered. “Fine, all right.” 

 

He snapped his fingers, and Pervy looked down at his hand in mild surprise, flexing it a little, opening it to reveal perfectly whole skin where the cut had been. 

 

“Much better,” he remarked with quiet appreciation, finally letting go of Crowley and standing up straight again. “Stay down,” he ordered coldly, just as Crowley started to get up. 

 

Crowley settled back onto his knees, his heart racing with the panic he was trying to tamp down at this incredibly disturbing turn of events. Subtly, down by his side where the boy couldn’t see it, he snapped his fingers again, focusing his intent on his own injured neck. Again and again he tried, with increasing desperation. 

 

And yet, he wasn’t in the least surprised when nothing happened. 

 

When Pervy disappeared into his bedroom to get ready for work, Crowley stayed where he was. 

 

He already knew what the non-restricted areas of the house had to offer. 

 

The girl stayed quiet and still on the mattress as well. She didn’t try to communicate with him, but he could feel her fearful gaze locked onto him - just waiting. For what, he wasn’t quite sure He didn’t know if she expected him to hurt her, or to help her, and he couldn’t bring himself to look up at her to try to gauge her expectations. 

 

Whichever she expected - Crowley had no intention of doing either. 

 

When the boy emerged from his bedroom in his work uniform once more, he came near and stood over Crowley for a moment before speaking. 

 

“You can use your powers to keep her here,” he declared. “That’s it. Nothing else.” He glanced over at the girl with a cruel grin, adding in a voice that was deliberately raised to ensure that she heard him, “Let’s see if you can keep from killing this one.” 

 

Crowley looked up at the boy, aghast. “I didn’t …”

 

He was abruptly cut off by the agony of the punishment spell. It was ended after just a few moments, and Crowley looked up, gasping, to see the boy crouched down next to him, studying his face expectantly. Crowley looked away, swallowing slowly. The warning had been received. 

 

“You can untie her as soon as I go,” Pervy said. “But she’d better be here when I get back.” 

 

He seemed to be awaiting a response, so Crowley nodded once, just to get him to leave. 

 

Once he had finally gone, Crowley rose to his feet, hands extended in a non-threatening gesture as he cautiously approached the girl. She seemed very much afraid of him, scrambling back into the corner to put as much distance between them as possible. He supposed it made sense; she’d heard Pervy call him a demon, and his golden serpent’s eyes were on full display at the moment. She’d watched him use his powers to break the chains that bound him and heal Pervy’s hand. 

 

Pervy’s parting words certainly hadn’t helped. 

 

“I’m not going to hurt you,” he assured her, his voice low and soothing. “I just want to untie your wrists, take that gag away, so - so we can talk, yeah? That’s all.” 

 

The girl went still, watching him warily as he slowly closed the distance between them. When he was near enough to reach her, he knelt down beside the mattress, his movements slow enough to give her warning as he reached for the cloth tied in her mouth, and carefully removed it. 

 

“There, now, that’s better,” he said softly, and when he reached for her arm, she turned willingly to allow him access to her bonds. 

 

He settled in beside her on the mattress, a few feet away as she rubbed gingerly at her red, abraded wrists. 

 

“I’m Crowley,” he said. “And - yeah, demon, but - he was lying, I swear it. I didn’t hurt any other girl, and I’m not gonna hurt you. Promise.” 

 

She stared at him for a long moment, suspicion evident in her eyes, before she nodded slowly. “Lucy,” she said at last, her voice hoarse and quiet. She was silent for a moment before she ventured to ask, “Are you gonna help me?” 

 

Crowley winced, looking away. “Can’t,” he said. “If I try…”

 

“He’ll hurt you, right,” Lucy concluded, her expression grim and resigned. “Got it.” 

 

With a short nod, she sprang to her feet and headed toward the door before he could offer any further explanation. 

 

“Wait, what are you doing?” Crowley swiftly rose and followed her. 

 

“Getting out of here,” she declared. “With or without your help.” As she spoke she reached into the pocket of her jacket, and pulled out a small nail file, glancing at it appraisingly for a moment, before focusing her attention on the door. Pervy had replaced it at some point before Crowley had regained consciousness - but it didn’t seem to be quite the same quality as the one Crowley had destroyed. It was wooden instead of metal, and the lock didn’t seem particularly difficult. He really did seem to be relying on Crowley to make sure his prisoner did not escape. 

 

With that thought, Crowley’s stomach lurched, and he moved to stand between Lucy and the door, blocking her way. “No. No, you can’t.”

 

“Like hell, I can’t,” Lucy muttered, trying to move around him and get to the lock. 

 

“You really can’t,” Crowley insisted, his voice trembling, anxious, as he reached for her hand to take the file. “I’m sorry, I can’t let you…” 

 

She spun around to face him, lashing out with the file and jabbing it at him. He ducked away just before it would have stabbed into his arm. “I’m getting out of here, don’t try to stop me!” she warned, her voice trembling, eyes glittering with barely bridled panic. 

 

His own panic was beginning to match hers. “No, you don’t understand, I have to stop you, love, I’m sorry, you don’t know what he’s capable of!” 

 

“I’ve got a few ideas, and I’m not sticking around here to see if they’re right!” she countered. “Back off! You said you won’t help, and I’m not asking you to. Just leave me alone!” 

 

Helplessly, Crowley watched her for a few moments as she turned her focus back to the door, and her efforts to spring the lock with the file. He desperately wanted to just let her go - to help her, even - but as he stood there, miserably uncertain, his gaze fell on the dirty, blood-stained scarf on the floor, half-shoved under the edge of the mattress. His heart lurched as he thought of the girl it had belonged to, and all the good Crowley’s help had done her

 

He’d never even learned her name before managing to get her killed. 

 

With a heavy sigh, he returned his attention to Lucy, who was biting on the corner of her lip, frowning, as she gouged at the metal locking mechanism with the file. 

 

“Do you even know what you’re doing, there?” he asked. 

 

Maybe it didn’t matter. Maybe she wouldn’t be able to get the door open, anyway. 

 

“Yeah, sort of,” she replied, her brow furrowed with concentration, eyes closed for a moment. “I’ve done it before, lots of times.” 

 

Crowley raised an eyebrow. “Successfully?” 

 

She glared at him. “Once,” she admitted. 

 

Crowley’s heart sank. 

 

Once was enough to worry about. 

 

“I’m sorry,” he said softly. 

 

She looked up at him with an expression of severe alarm at his tone. “What, why?” she demanded, as he snapped his fingers - and the file in her hand turned into a single black feather. “What did you do?” She turned on him, furious. 

 

“Lucy, I’m sorry,” Crowley pleaded, shaking his head, unable to meet her eyes. “Please understand, you don’t know what he did to the last girl, I’m trying to save you, he…” 

 

His words trailed off when he realized that she wasn’t paying him any attention at all, but was now kicking and pounding at the door. The sturdy wooden frame didn’t budge a bit. But then, she aimed a rather impressive kick directly at the handle, and he watched with dismay as it shifted a little. If she could manage to break the handle loose, then she could get the door open, and she could get out. 

 

But Crowley knew better than to think that meant she could get home. 

 

“I’m sorry,” Crowley repeated, not sure if she was even hearing him above her own frustrated efforts. “I’m so sorry.” 

 

He snapped his fingers again, and Lucy was back on the mattress, her hands bound behind her back again - albeit this time with softer, well-fitting leather cuffs as opposed to the rough ropes Pervy had twisted tightly around her wrists. She would be more comfortable this way, at least. Until their captor returned. Until he decided to do to her whatever he’d brought her here to do. 

 

Crowley left the gag off. 

 

He deserved to hear whatever she wanted to say, and she deserved to be able to say it. 

 

She raged at him in furious frustration, cursing his cowardice, his weakness, snarling helpless threats and insults and then sobbing, begging him to let her go. Even with her hands bound behind her, she managed to rise from the mattress a couple of times, but any time she got anywhere near the door, Crowley snapped his fingers again, and she found herself right back where she’d started. 

 

“I’m sorry,” he kept repeating, nearly weeping himself with the anguish of the choice he was being forced to make. He wanted so badly to help her - but Crowley’s vivid imagination just kept conjuring up one brutal image after another - possibilities as to the specific fate of her predecessor - and he just couldn’t stand the thought of bringing a similar fate on this girl as well. “I’m sorry, Lucy, I can’t. I can’t let you.” 

 

“You miserable piece of shit!” she screamed at him, “you can’t let me try to escape, but you can let him do whatever sick things he’s going to do to me!” 

 

“I can’t stop him!” Crowley insisted, desperate for her to understand. “He killed the last girl when I helped her get out!” 

 

That quieted her for a few moments. But at last she spoke again, her voice quiet and frightened. “And you think he won’t kill me? When he’s finished? You’re not protecting me from anything. He’ll kill me too if you let him keep me. The only difference is, by the time he does I’ll want him to.” 

 

Crowley flinched, looking away, shaking his head. “I can’t,” he whispered. “I can’t .” 

 

His helpless shame was only intensified in the morning, when Pervy returned. Lucy had finally, finally drifted off into a fitful rest, but she awoke abruptly, struggling as he dragged her up off the mattress. 

 

“Oh, these are fun,” he remarked with a leer, running his hand over the smooth leather cuffs at her wrists. “Crowley,” he teased, as if modestly accepting a gift, “you shouldn’t have.” 

 

“Don’t,” Crowley pleaded, shaking his head. “Please, just…”

 

“Shut up.” 

 

There was a warning edge to the boy’s voice, and Crowley fell silent, his useless fists clenched at his sides, as Pervy dragged Lucy toward his bedroom. Her panic intensified as she realized where they were heading, and Crowley ached with desperation to defend her, to do something to stop what was about to happen - but he knew that any attempt he made to do so would only be met with punishment. 

 

For Crowley, and for Lucy. 

 

That knowledge didn’t do a damn thing to make him feel any less disgusting and worthless as he tried to shut out the sounds of her broken sobs and pleas, muffled from the next room - as he tried not to listen to the revolting sounds of Pervy’s pleasure as he abused her. Crowley told himself again and again that trying to stop him would have only made things worse for her. He withdrew the ragged scarf from under the edge of the mattress, running it through his hands, reminding himself of what could have happened to Lucy if he’d let her escape. 

 

It didn’t help; he still felt utterly disgusted with his own weakness, his own uselessness, as he listened helplessly to her suffering. 

 

She’s right… you should have helped her, should have at least let her try…

 

He stared down at the scarf in his hands, swallowing back a wave of sick revulsion. 

 

Yeah, let her try. Get her killed, too. 

 

He tucked the scarf away into the pocket of his jeans; he didn’t want to look at it anymore.

 

Pervy brought Lucy back to the mattress a little while later - her wrists still bound, her blouse torn, her face tear-streaked. She was weeping softly - heart-rending little sobs she struggled to suppress as she huddled in the corner. 

 

Crowley waited until Pervy disappeared into another room again to carefully edge toward her. He’d barely moved a few inches when she broke the silence, her voice low and furious, filled with disgust that made him cringe. 

 

Don’t .” 

 

Crowley froze where he was, his face burning with shame. “I’m sorry,” he whispered uselessly. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry…” 

 

“If you’re sorry, then let me go !” she demanded in tearful frustration. 

 

“He’ll kill you,” he repeated, desolate and defeated. 

 

“That’d be better !” she spat out at him. She was quiet for a moment, and when she spoke again her voice was soft, broken. “I told you.” 

 

Crowley lowered his face into his hands, shaking his head. “I know, I know, I’m sorry …” 

 

“I can’t go through that again,” Lucy insisted, her voice trembling. “Please, just - you don’t have to help me. Just - untie me. That’s all. He said you could do that. And - I’ll do the rest. Please .” 

 

In the end, Crowley simply couldn’t bear the thought of sitting there helpless and listening to her suffer - not again. And it wasn’t as if she actually could get out, was it? he reasoned. He’d taken the only tool she had, turned it into something that was as harmless and useless as he was at the moment. He couldn’t help her. 

 

But… maybe she could get away… maybe he won’t catch her, this time… 

 

Doesn’t she deserve the choice to try? 

 

At last, with a shaky sigh of defeat, he went to her and silently unfastened the cuffs. 

 

Really ?” she whispered, breathless, hopeful. “Thank you. Thank you .” 

 

She was tense and trembling with anticipation, and fairly leapt up the moment her wrists were free. Crowley just sat on the end of the mattress and watched as she worked at the buckle of one of her cuffs until she’d bent it into a long, thin piece of somewhat twisted metal. He stayed where he was while she went to the door and began working it into the jamb as she had done with the nail file. 

 

And when at last, after hours of frustrated effort and angry, tearful cursing, the door finally opened under her hands - when she ran from the house without even a backward glance, without even giving him time to tell her who to call or where to go - Crowley lowered his head into his arms and prayed , for the first time in years… prayed that Lucy would make it home. 

 

***************************************************************************************

 

She was out. 

 

She couldn’t believe that she was actually out

 

Lucy stood on the porch for a moment, her heart racing as she looked around, trying to gather her bearings. It was difficult to get any sense of her surroundings in near total darkness. There didn’t seem to be any other houses within sight - no lights, at least. It didn’t matter. She had to go , while she had the chance, before her captor returned, or her demon guard changed his mind. She ran from the porch, ran and ran through the cold and the dark, until she made it to the edge of the property, and ran into the fence that surrounded it. She slowed her pace then, following the fence line until she found the gate - unlocked. 

 

She ran, and didn’t stop running when she hit the main road, didn’t stop running when her legs throbbed and her lungs ached, just kept going until she could see the faint lights of a little town in the distance. Relief nearly overwhelmed her, but she fought against her own weariness. She couldn’t afford to allow herself to stop, not until she was actually sure that she was safe. 

 

The only place she found that was open was a pub, and she burst through the front door, collapsing against the bar, gasping for breath. “Please,” she sobbed out, tears streaming down her face. “Please, someone help me…” 

 

“What’s wrong, are you hurt?” the older man behind the bar asked with concern. 

 

He was not the only one; she was immediately surrounded by people, staring at her with worried eyes, all asking questions at once, all wanting to help her. 

 

It was then that she realized - when they started asking questions - that she didn’t know the answers. She tried to think back over the recent memories, but they seemed to be shrouded in a dense sort of fog, just barley out of her reach. 

 

What did the house look like? Where was it?

 

She couldn’t even remember which direction she’d come from. 

 

“I - I don’t know,” she whispered, confused, a tight knot of dread in the pit of her stomach. “I - can’t remember…” 

 

“What did he look like, the man that took you?” an older woman asked. 

 

Lucy shook her head. “I - I don’t know. Why don’t I know?” 

 

“It’s trauma, love, it’ll do that,” the woman assured her, a gentle arm wrapped around her shoulders. “It’s all right, we’ll get you to hospital, yeah?” 

 

Lucy frowned, nodding slowly. “Yeah... wait.” She tried to focus, tried to remember. “There was… someone else there. I think.” 

 

“Another girl?” someone asked. 

 

Lucy bit her lip, struggling to remember. “Maybe? Or… maybe it was a man. I - I’m not sure.” 

 

She wasn’t sure about anything

 

Everyone around her kept asking her all kinds of questions, while they waited for the ambulance to arrive - and Lucy didn’t have any answers for them. 

 

The only thing she knew for certain was that she was free

 

*******************************************************************************************

 

You worthless little piece of shit !” 

 

Crowley could barely hear the words, could barely even feel the blows, through the overwhelming pain of the punishment spell. A fierce kick to his ribs - yeah, he felt that, all right, felt the sharp ache that came with every breath as he tried, uselessly, to crawl away. 

 

Pervy just grabbed his hair and violently yanked him back. 

 

“I go to all the trouble of that summoning spell - used my own fucking blood to do it - and I have to get the most fucking useless demon alive !” 

 

He used the spell to punish Crowley, repeatedly, over the next hour or so - allowing him to catch his breath for just a few moments, just long enough for the pain to start to fade a little, before invoking it again. And again. And again. As Pervy had pointed out before, Crowley’s pain tolerance was far closer to that of a human now. He felt weak, his head foggy, his body consumed with relentless agony. 

 

At one point, Crowley blacked out - and opened his eyes to see that Pervy was dragging him through the door to his bedroom. 

 

His stomach lurched with panic, and Crowley resisted, desperately trying to pull away. 

 

Pervy slammed his head into the door jamb, and Crowley collapsed, dazed, limp and unresisting as the boy hauled him into the room and threw him down on the bed. 

 

“No,” Crowley gasped out, his words heavy and slurred. “No, don’t… don’t…” 

 

“Shut up,” Pervy snarled, bringing his fist down across Crowley’s mouth. He grabbed his hair and jerked his head up, his breath hot, his words malicious in Crowley’s ear. “You let her go? You get to take her place.” 

Chapter Text

Crowley knew better than to fight. He already knew what would happen if he did.

 

He fought anyway. 

 

His serpent form was lost to him at the moment, locked away by some piece of the magic his captor had performed - but he still had his feet and his fists and his teeth and his sheer desperation to not let this happen , and he kicked and snarled and hit and fought like a rabid beast. 

 

For all of five seconds, if one were to estimate generously, before the spell kicked in and he found himself breathless with agony, weakened by the pain that racked his body. The boy took the advantage afforded him and slammed his fist into Crowley’s stomach hard, twice, before grasping his wrists and pinning him down against the bed. 

 

“That was really, really stupid ,” he spat at him, a furious hiss against his ear. 

 

He emphasized his point with a dizzying slap that left Crowley’s head ringing as he struggled to recover from the fresh onslaught of pain. 

 

Pervy didn’t give him time to. 

 

He said another Latin word - one Crowley hadn’t heard him say before - and then backed off, standing beside the bed and watching Crowley intently. No hands were touching him, nothing was pinning him down anymore. 

 

And yet - Crowley couldn’t move. 

 

He could barely even breathe, as if something heavy was exerting a powerful amount of pressure on his body, holding down his limbs and torso no matter how hard he struggled to lift them from the mattress. Panic seized him, and he tried to protest, tried to question - but even the slight motion of his mouth in an attempt to form words was incredibly difficult. He could move his eyes, could follow his captor’s movements as the boy drew near again, grinning with triumphant satisfaction. 

 

“I thought that would work,” he crowed. 

 

He reached down to grasp Crowley’s chin and push his mouth closed. Crowley felt the impulse to pull away, but his body didn’t move an inch. He could feel the rough touch of Pervy’s hand, felt the movement as his mouth closed, but couldn’t offer even the slightest resistance. 

 

“There, now you don’t look like such a fucking moron,” Pervy sneered. “And I can always open your mouth again later if I want to.” His mouth twisted in a malicious smile as he added, “I’ll probably want to.” 

 

Crowley’s heart raced with panic as the boy began to unbutton Crowley’s shirt, roughly pulling it down off of his arms and then yanking it out from under him. Crowley could feel the biting pain of his rough, grasping fingers - could feel the heat of shame color his face - but his limbs remained limp and unresponsive to his mind’s screaming at them to move , to fight , to do something

 

“See, that spell that gave me control over your powers?” Pervy explained as he unzipped Crowley’s jeans. “Gave me control over a lot more than that. Gave me control over your entire body, if I want it. And right now?” He jerked Crowley’s jeans down with a huff of effort, and Crowley closed his eyes, swallowing with a great effort - denied even the small mercy of being able to turn his head away as Pervy groped roughly between his legs, leaning down close to his face. “Believe me, I want it .” 

 

A choked little whimper was the only sound Crowley could make in response to the pain as Pervy’s hand squeezed hard. Pervy smiled, giving a dismissive little shrug. 

 

“No, you’re not my usual type. Not even close. But you have to learn , demon…” 

 

Without warning, he grabbed Crowley’s shoulders and shoved him over onto his stomach, his face pressed uncomfortably into the pillow. He could feel the weight of the boy’s body as he climbed onto the bed, maneuvering Crowley’s arms so that they were on the pillow over his head, gripping his wrists as he leaned in to snarl in Crowley’s ear. 

 

“I fucking own your ass. And I’ll do whatever the fuck I want with you. You wanna be a whiny, disobedient little bitch? Fine . That’s how I’ll treat you, until you learn your place .” 

 

He shoved Crowley’s legs apart forcefully, and there was absolutely nothing Crowley could do to stop him as he shoved his way into Crowley’s body. The explosion of pain was overwhelming, agony tearing up his spine as everything in Crowley told him to resist, to fight against the intrusion and buck the young man off of him and onto the floor. 

 

But he couldn’t move - couldn’t breathe with Pervy’s hand hard at the back of his neck, pressing his face into the pillow. Rough hands pawed at his body, dragging him into whatever position the boy pleased, slapping him, one closing around his throat and jerking him up closer to his attacker as he ruthlessly thrust into Crowley’s body again and again until finally, after what felt like an eternity… it was over. 

 

“Well, look at that,” Pervy laughed, breathless with exertion, soft and cruel, as he brushed a tear off of Crowley’s cheek with his thumb. “You even cry like a little bitch, don’t you?” 

 

He got up off the bed, and rolled Crowley back over onto his back, positioning his arms up over his head again, against the pillow. He smiled with malevolent amusement as he pushed Crowley’s legs apart again, leaving his body fully, obscenely exposed. It was a blessed relief just to be able to breathe again, but Crowley desperately wished to cover himself, or at least to hide his face. He closed his eyes, as Pervy leaned down into his face, grasping his jaw tight. 

 

“Look at me,” he snapped. 

 

Crowley kept his eyes closed, his face burning, awash with shame. 

 

“All it takes is one word,” Pervy reminded him in a whisper, his breath hot and harsh against Crowley’s cheek. “Haven’t you had enough pain for one night?” 

 

Reluctantly obedient, Crowley opened his eyes, to find his captor’s face inches from his, alight with cruel amusement as he held Crowley’s desolate, shell-shocked gaze.

 

“That’s better,” Pervy said softly, his hand easing on Crowley’s jaw and sliding down to cup his throat, pressing just slightly, smiling when Crowley drew in a shallow, shuddering gasp. “You can learn to be a good little bitch, can’t you? Maybe I don’t even need to find another girl right away,” he mused, running a suggestive hand across the bare expanse of Crowley’s chest, trailing teasing fingers down his stomach. “You’d just help her escape again, right? No, for now…” He smacked Crowley’s bare hip lightly as he stood up, setting off a reverberation of pain that shot up Crowley’s spine, and a muffled moan escaped his lips as he closed his eyes, desperately, uselessly willing his body to move

 

“For now…” Pervy repeated as he turned off his bedroom light and opened the door. “... I think you’ll do just fine.” 

 

And he left the room, closing the door behind him and leaving Crowley alone in the darkness.

 

**********************************************************************************************

 

“We’ll come to you,” Anathema had said before hanging up the phone. “Crowley lives there, and some of these spells work better if you perform them in the person’s home.” 

 

Aziraphale had little choice but to take her word for it. After all, it wasn’t as if any of his attempts had succeeded thus far. 

 

But you’ve performed them all here , in Crowley’s home - so what does she know? Perhaps not as much as she thinks. Perhaps not enough

 

Aziraphale sighed, shaking his head, startled by the frustrated resentment in his own thoughts. He appreciated Anathema’s quick willingness to drop everything for him and Crowley, appreciated her knowledgeable assistance, as she most certainly knew a lot more about human magic than he did. He appreciated her help. 

 

He just… wished she’d bring it along a bit faster. 

 

Of course, Tadfield was a fair distance away from their small town, and Anathema didn’t usually drive much, preferring the use of her bicycle, and Newton, well - if Crowley was the fastest, most harrowing driver that Aziraphale had ever ridden with, then Newton was his direct polar opposite. 

 

Aziraphale looked away from the window where his attention had been focused for the last hour, dropping his face into his hands and drawing in a deep, shaky sigh. What he wouldn’t have given to be riding in the Bentley with Crowley right then, fearing for the safety of his mortal corporation - instead of here alone in the quiet safety of their living room, fearing for Crowley’s very existence. 

 

Anathema and Newt arrived around noon, with stacks of books and suitcases full of supplies - all of which Aziraphale swiftly miracled into the house, saving them the work and himself a few minutes more of impatient frustration. 

 

Supplies carefully laid out around them, they attempted a couple of the spells Aziraphale had already tried - with exactly the same results. 

 

“Hmm. I see the problem.” Anathema frowned. “Something’s blocking them from working. It’s as if something’s - protecting him from detection.” 

 

“Not protecting him.” Aziraphale shook his head, a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach as he looked up to meet her troubled eyes. “ Trapping him. Preventing me from finding him - and preventing him from getting home to me.” 

 

Anathema nodded. “Probably,” she agreed softly. 

 

“I’ve tried all these already. Nothing’s worked.” Aziraphale’s words felt thick and heavy, choked with his rising despair. 

 

“Well, magic’s always stronger when there’s more than one working it together,” Anathema pointed out. “And right now we have three.” She took Aziraphale’s hand in one of hers, and Newt’s in the other, sparing a soft smile for her husband before meeting the angel’s eyes again. “Let’s try another one. A stronger one. We’ve got a dozen different spells here. Surely one of them will work.” 

 

None of them worked. 

 

“Let’s try this one,” Anathema said at last, thumbing through an old book with yellowed pages and a thick leather cover. “It works a little differently.” 

 

She turned to the right page and began to lay out supplies, explaining as she went. This particular spell was intended to show a person’s location by visually tracing out the route from the location where the spell was performed. Anathema laid out a fresh map of England on the coffee table - they’d already quite literally burned through three - and smiled a little too brightly up at Aziraphale. 

 

“We know something’s preventing us from seeing him,” she explained. “But if that something is… wherever he is… then maybe this spell can at least give us some clues. Which direction he was taken. What town he’s in. Something more than what we have now.” 

 

Anything is better than nothing,” Aziraphale said, with a grim nod. “Yes, let’s try.” 

 

Anathema performed the spell, reciting the required words, burning herbs and then sprinkling the ash over the map. Aziraphale watched with excitement as the ashes began to shift all on their own, forming a trail that led from the spot on the map that would have been their little cottage, and leading down the main road out of town. 

 

“It’s working!” 

 

Aziraphale’s heart leapt with rising hope, and he impulsively reached out to clasp Anathema’s hand. She gave him a warm, sympathetic smile and squeezed his hand back as she returned her watchful eyes to the map. 

 

The ashen path continued until it reached the edge of a village, about an hour past Tadfield. For a few moments, nothing more happened - and then, the trail branched off into two lines that came together again on the other side of the village, forming a perfect circle around it.  

 

“That’s… that’s something,” Anathema observed, looking up at Aziraphale with a hopeful smile. 

 

Aziraphale was already standing near the door, shrugging into his overcoat. “It’s the most I’ve had to go on yet,” he agreed. “Thank you, Anathema, my dear.” He nodded toward her. “Newton. The two of you have been most helpful.” 

 

“Now hang on,” Newt objected, both humans trailing Aziraphale to the door. “You’re not going alone , are you?” 

 

“I’ll be quite fine, I assure you,” Aziraphale insisted, opening his front door. 

 

“Yeah. Because you’ve managed just fine without the help of an experienced witch so far, right?” Anathema’s flat, dubious tone stopped Aziraphale in his tracks. 

 

He turned back to give her an apologetic little grimace. “I’ve no desire to place the two of you in any danger, and we don’t know what we’re dealing with…”

 

“Just that whatever it is, it was able to hide Crowley from you … but not from the three of us, together,” Newt pointed out, cautious and gentle. 

 

Aziraphale sighed, lowering his head. “Touche,” he admitted. 

 

“Whoever has Crowley, they are apparently skilled in magic,” Anathema reminded him. “You might need my help again.” She picked up her own coat from the back of her chair, pulling it on as she reached for the door and opened it, striding past Aziraphale and out toward her car. “Let’s go.” 

 

It was a long drive, and evening was falling by the time they reached the little village indicated on the map. 

 

“What now?” Newt asked, glancing uneasily down at the map that was now effectively useless. 

 

“First, we find a place to stay,” Anathema stated, her voice quiet and taut, eyes warily glancing around her. “And do a few little protection spells.” 

 

“Protection?” Newt frowned. 

 

“Yes, can’t you feel that?” Her voice was hushed, as if she feared being overheard, despite the enclosure of the vehicle around them. “There’s something here. Something… really bad. In this whole area.” 

 

“I can feel it,” Aziraphale agreed. It was a heavy, oppressive sort of feeling. Deep-seated instinct seemed to be warning him away, telling him to get as far from this place as possible. 

 

But Crowley was there, somewhere. 

 

Whatever the danger, Aziraphale would not leave this place without him. 

 

They rented a room at the village inn, and brought in the supplies Anathema had brought with them. 

 

“So, what’s the plan?” Newt asked in a taut, anxious tone, once they were safely inside, but not even remotely settled. 

 

“There’s a dark, deceptive magic in this place - like, covering the town,” Anathema declared quietly, glancing toward the door as if she half-expected whatever it was to attempt to sneak inside. And Aziraphale realized with a cold, queasy feeling in the pit of his stomach - perhaps she did expect that. “It’s like an aura, almost. I can feel the edges of it here, so I can tell roughly where the center of it would be. It’s dark, and evil, and very, very dangerous. So, we perform some protection spells, over each of us, so that whatever it is we’re feeling can’t get to us. So that we can see through its deception.”

 

“And then?” Newt swallowed slowly, looking between the witch and the angel with anxious, questioning eyes. 

 

“Then,” Anathema said grimly, holding Aziraphale’s solemn gaze. “We head right for it.” 

 

“We - what?” Newt seemed mildly horrified. “No, there has to be a - a more careful approach, that can’t be right...” 

 

“Of course it is,” Aziraphale cut him off, with grim determination. “That’s exactly what we do - because that’s where Crowley is.” 

 

********************************************************************************************

 

As Anathema raced down the road in a manner that would have made Crowley proud, in the vague general direction of the magic that only she seemed to be able to feel clearly, Aziraphale sat alone in the backseat, drumming his fingers lightly against the armrest, impatient to get to Crowley and take him home. But the further they went, the more he realized that he was beginning to feel rather... strange

 

His limbs felt oddly heavy and weak, and an odd haze of confusion began to creep in around the edges of his thoughts. And on top of all of that, as the car lurched around a particularly sharp corner, Aziraphale realized with a sense of mild alarm that he was feeling something he hadn’t felt in centuries, a queasy, roiling feeling in his stomach. 

 

“Anathema, my dear,” he said, his words coming out a little weak and shaky. “Can you - can you pull the car over, please? I’m afraid I’m feeling quite… quite ill.” 

 

Anathema eyed him with alarm, complying with his request so swiftly that Aziraphale’s stomach lurched dangerously as the car came to a stop by the side of the road. 

 

“I didn’t know angels could get carsick.” Newt seemed confused. 

 

“They can’t.” Anathema frowned. “Can they? Aziraphale?” 

 

He shook his head. “No, this is - it’s something else. I - I don’t…” He looked up at her abruptly, blinking with confusion. “ Where are we, again?” 

 

Newt stared at Aziraphale in horror. Anathema gave him a close, severe look, before swearing softly under her breath. “Of course,” she whispered. “I should have guessed…”

 

“Guessed what?” Newt was bewildered. 

 

Aziraphale just wanted everyone to stop talking so loudly and shifting the car with their slightest movements and for someone , for Her sake, to remind him why he wasn’t safe at home in his own bed sleeping off whatever was this horrible feeling. 

 

“Get my bag, please, honey,” Anathema instructed, as she reached past the back of her seat and took Aziraphale’s hand. “You’re going to be fine, give me just a minute…”

 

Aziraphale’s head was spinning, an odd echo in his ears, and he couldn’t hear the words she spoke, though the scent of the potent herbs she had taken out filled the car, and made his stomach roll dangerously. 

 

But then, all at once, the ringing faded, the sick feeling subsided, and Aziraphale’s mind was clear again. He blinked up at her as the world came back into focus around him, and then smiled. 

 

“Oh. Oh, yes, that’s much better. Thank you, my dear. What did you do?” 

 

“I’ve shielded you,” she explained. “Against - whatever was affecting you. It was making you weak - making you forget. I’ve been feeling this - this other layer , to the magic in this village, and - and now I understand. It’s meant for you.” 

 

“For me?” Alarmed, Aziraphale considered the implications of that. 

 

Someone we know, who knew I’d come after him…

 

“Not you specifically … necessarily,” Anathema explained. “But… it’s meant to act against the powers of angels and demons , specifically. There’s like… the overall aura of this magic, this… deceptive force that’s meant to hide it from - probably everyone. That’s whatever is keeping the location spells from working. But then, there’s also something else. Something that’s not meant for humans. The closer we get to it, the worse you were feeling, so I have to assume that means it’s - for angels and demons. To - dampen their powers. To… confuse them, limit them.” 

 

“To limit Crowley ,” Aziraphale surmised, a hot swell of anger forming in his chest. “To keep him … confused, and weak.”  

 

“Maybe,” Anathema conceded with a nod and a sympathetic grimace. 

 

“So… what does that mean?” Newt asked, frowning. 

 

“It means whoever is doing this… knows what they’re doing,” Anathema explained, her eyes grim and resolute as she gazed down the road in front of her. “And it means Crowley’s in trouble. Which means… we should get going.” She gave Aziraphale a concerned, questioning look, reaching for the gear shift. 

 

“Yes, of course, at once,” he agreed, with a wave of his hand. 

 

They’d gone a couple more miles when Anathema carefully pulled the car down a narrow, paved path, and put it into park. 

 

“Why have we stopped?” Aziraphale asked, frowning. 

 

“It’s here.” Anathema stared out the windshield, blinking into the darkness. “I - I can’t see it, but I know. It’s here. It’s - cloaked, somehow.” 

 

She got out of the car, and Aziraphale got out with her, staring into the darkness ahead of them - so thick and complete that it might as well have been a total void. Newt got out as well on the other side of the car, as Anathema closed her eyes and waved her hand across the dark expanse before her, speaking a few words in Latin. Aziraphale recognized that she was performing a spell of revelation. 

 

And what her spell revealed was a large house with a wide, sprawling front porch, light shining out from numerous windows, spilling out into the darkness. The light beckoned Aziraphale onward, drawing him with hurried steps onto the porch and toward the door. 

 

“Wait, be careful,” Anathema whispered, catching up to him and catching his arm. 

 

He pulled away from her, indignant. “ Crowley’s in there!” 

 

“And who knows who else?” she reminded him. “Just… be careful.” 

 

Aziraphale glanced around, forcing himself to calm down and go a bit more slowly. “Right,” he conceded, his voice trembling with tense anticipation. “Right, of course.” 

 

Anathema held out a hand, focusing her energy on the door, and specifically the lock. All at once, they heard a click, loud in the stillness that surrounded them, and the door fell open just a little without being touched. 

 

Aziraphale was fully prepared to attack if necessary as they slowly entered the house - but no response met their trespass. The house appeared to be empty. Looking around, Aziraphale noted that they were in a spacious living area. It was well furnished with a large comfortable sofa and coffee table to one side, a desk in the corner, and well decorated - with a couple of notable exceptions. Namely, the large summoning circle and scattered magical supplies on one side of the room - and the dingy, bare plastic mattress on the floor in the corner.

 

Newt frowned, his voice low and cautious. “Where do you suppose…?”

 

Aziraphale’s gaze locked on a door across the room from them. Anathema had shielded him from the blocking magic that filled this place, and his senses were as acute as ever. He had always been able to feel Crowley’s presence when he was near - and he could feel him now. He was here, and close… and suffering

 

The overwhelming sense of anguish and shame, terror and despair, was stifling

 

“He’s in there,” Aziraphale whispered, heading straight for the door. 

 

“Wait…” Anathema whispered, loud and urgent - but he’d already opened it and stepped inside. 

 

The room was dark, and smelled of blood and sulphur. Aziraphale blinked into the darkness, his eyes slowly adjusting - but they didn’t have to fully adjust to show him what he needed to know. Crowley’s golden eyes gleamed in the light from the open doorway, staring unblinking up at Aziraphale. He was unnaturally still, a soft, pleading whimper the only sound that escaped his lips. 

 

Aziraphale hurried toward him - and then froze when Anathema, following close behind him, turned on the light - and he truly saw the state Crowley was in. He heard Anathema’s horrified gasp behind him, heard the quiet, appalled little sound Newt made - before he had even registered exactly what he was seeing. 

 

Crowley was lying, naked and completely exposed, on the bed. His body was covered with bruises, some in the shape of hard, grasping fingers about his hips, his ribs, his throat. Some looked like teeth marks, gouged into the fragile skin of his shoulders, his neck. His arms lay folded against the pillow over his head, his legs spread obscenely - as if he’d been posed so as to make the most provocative image possible. 

 

There was blood on the sheets beneath him, between his legs. 

 

There were tears on his face. 

 

Aziraphale forced himself into motion, swiftly going to Crowley’s side and pulling the soiled sheets up over his exposed body, in an instinctive effort to preserve what was left of his dignity. 

 

“A-angel?” Crowley’s hoarse, exhausted whisper was slurred, distorted, wrenched from lips that seemed scarcely able to move. 

 

And Aziraphale realized with rising alarm that Crowley had yet to so much as shift his position a bit since they’d entered the room. He was not bound with any chains or other restraints - yet seemed unable to move at all. 

 

“I’m here, my love,” Aziraphale assured him gently, sitting down near the head of the bed and drawing Crowley into his lap - his fears confirmed when the demon’s body remained stiff and heavy in his arms. “I’m here now, it’s going to be all right…” 

 

Angel ,” Crowley repeated with visible exertion, anguished relief in the single whispered word, tears flowing from his eyes even as he closed them. 

 

“I’ve got you, I’m here,” Aziraphale whispered, worried, trembling fingers brushing Crowley’s hair back from his face, his tears from his cheeks. “Oh, what have they done to you? Can you move, my darling?” 

 

“No,” Crowley whispered, choking out the desperate, frightened word, struggling to get out another. “ P-please …”

 

Aziraphale looked up at Anathema sharply, blinking away his own tears. “Can you help him?” he demanded. 

 

Her eyes were closed, her hand extended, as if she were mentally exploring the very atmosphere around them. After a moment she opened her eyes and nodded, frowning slightly. “I think so. There’s some sort of spell in place, binding him to another’s will. That’s what won’t let him move. I think I can break it…” 

 

“Yes, you hear that, Crowley?” Aziraphale murmured, soothing, as he gathered Crowley closer into his arms. “Anathema is going to help you, you’ll be fine, just a few minutes, my darling…”

 

Anathema placed a hand on Crowley’s head, whispering in Latin, her tone and volume intensifying as her efforts seemed to meet resistance. Again and again she repeated the spell, until abruptly, all the tension flowed out of Crowley’s taut frame, his body relaxing into Aziraphale’s embrace. And then, Crowley’s arm slipped weakly around Aziraphale’s body, his face pressed into his lap, as he broke down, sobbing with relief. 

 

“There, now, my darling, it’s all right, I’ve got you, you’re all right,” Aziraphale whispered, drawing Crowley up, encouraging, until his trembling arms were wrapped tight around the angel’s neck, his hot tears soaking into the shoulder of Aziraphale’s coat. “I’ve got you,” he whispered, kissing Crowley’s temple. “You’re all right, Crowley, you’re all right…” Though there was an ache deep in his chest with the words. 

 

He knew it was likely a lie. 

 

He knew what it appeared that Crowley had been through in this place - and that he was unlikely to be all right for quite some time. 

Chapter Text

Aziraphale had found Crowley. 

 

That was all that mattered to him in that moment, the only thing he could allow his mind to process - Crowley, in his arms, clinging to him desperately with trembling hands, weeping with relief. Aziraphale tried not to focus on the livid marks that stood out in stark contrast to Crowley’s pale skin - the blood on the bed, the broken sound of his sobs, the way he shuddered and buried his face against Aziraphale’s shirt in shame. 

 

“It’s all right, I’ve got you,” Aziraphale murmured, cupping the back of his head and pulling him in closer with an arm firm around his waist, trying his best to reassure him that he was safe now.

 

To his dismay, Crowley let out a choked little sound of pain at the slight movement. “ Hurts ,” he whimpered. 

 

“I know,” Aziraphale replied, hushed and tender. “I know, my darling, just a moment and it won’t anymore…” 

 

He closed his eyes, holding out his hand and moving it in a slow arc, just over Crowley’s exposed back, focusing all of his energy and intention on healing the demon’s injuries - but nothing happened. It felt as if his power was obstructed, prevented from touching Crowley by some kind of unseen wall around him. 

 

“I - I don’t understand…” He looked up at Anathema with troubled, questioning eyes. “Why can’t I…?” 

 

She shook her head slowly, frowning. “I’m not sure. There’s a spell in place that’s tying him to the will of someone, whoever left him… paralyzed, like that. Maybe…” She hesitated, wincing as she concluded, “... if they want him hurt, you can’t heal him? Maybe… only they can?” 

 

You can,” Aziraphale insisted. “You broke the paralysis.” 

 

Anathema nodded, glancing anxiously toward the doorway. “Maybe.” She considered, then amended, “Probably. But it took me a minute, to do that much. It wasn’t easy. And… Aziraphale, we need to go ...” 

 

“Right.” Aziraphale drew in a shaky breath, steadying himself. “Right…” 

 

He glanced around the room, his gaze falling momentarily on Crowley’s discarded clothing, in various spots around the room where they’d been carelessly tossed to the floor. With an effort he suppressed the boiling rage that bubbled up in his chest, forcing himself to focus on the problem at hand. 

 

Which was, at the moment, the fact that Crowley could not possibly wear those clothes out of here. 

 

The shirt was one thing, but it made Aziraphale hurt just to think of trying to get Crowley’s battered, bleeding body into the impossibly tight jeans he favored. Even if he could miracle the clothing onto him - which seemed unlikely, given the success of his attempted miracles in this place thus far - they would still likely aggravate Crowley’s injuries. 

 

As he sat trying to figure out what to do, Newt’s gaze followed to where he was looking, and the human began hurriedly gathering up Crowley’s clothing. 

 

“Just bring them,” Aziraphale instructed, holding up a hand when Newt started to hand them to him. “We haven’t time. All right, then,” he continued, softening his tone, while keeping it as bright and optimistic as possible as he directed his words toward Crowley. “Let’s get you out of here, my love...”

 

“Can he walk?” Newt asked, anxious hands twisting in the wrinkled fabric he held. “Do we need to carry him?” 

 

“I’ve got him.” Aziraphale didn’t mean to sound defensive, and he certainly didn’t mean to snap, but his arm tightened slightly around Crowley’s waist. 

 

“‘M all right,” Crowley whispered, nodding shakily. “I c’n walk… all right… I’m all right…” 

 

He wasn’t convincing anyone at all, but Aziraphale heard the valiant attempt at calm control in his thin, trembling words… felt the threadbare shreds of Crowley’s dignity that he was desperately trying to cling to, and he couldn’t bear to snatch them away from him. 

 

“Of course you can, darling, here, just let me…” He somewhat awkwardly managed to wrap the sheet around Crowley’s body so that it hung from one shoulder and wrapped around him, gathering the edges at his side. “There, that’s better. Just let me help you get to your feet, yes?” 

 

Crowley hesitated, biting down on his lip, and Aziraphale’s heart ached, because Crowley didn’t like to admit to weakness, to needing help at all - at least, not in front of anyone else. If they were alone, Aziraphale would have simply lifted his demon into his arms and carried him out - and Crowley would likely have not protested it. 

 

If you were alone, you’d never have found him at all, he reminded himself. They want to help. They just want to help.  

 

He carefully rose to his feet, and then helped Crowley to swing his legs off the side of the bed, supporting him with his shoulder under Crowley’s arm, sparing a taut half-smile for Newt when he swiftly moved in at Crowley’s other side. Crowley tensed at the unexpected contact, and Aziraphale resisted the unwise and unkind impulse to pull Crowley out of Newt’s reach. 

 

Yes, because that’d be so very helpful, wouldn’t it? Causing him further pain, in order to protect him from an accidental frightening?

 

Newton is trying to help. He’s just trying to help. 

 

But then Crowley closed his eyes, swallowing slowly, before giving Newt a slight nod and whispering, halting and broken, “Th-thank you.” 

 

Newt didn’t answer, couldn’t seem to speak for a moment, the look in his eyes one of sorrow and quiet horror as they met Aziraphale’s gaze behind Crowley’s wearily bowed head. At last he forced a faltering smile, shaking his head a little in dismissal. 

 

“No need,” he said at last in a voice that was thick and hushed with emotion. “Helped save the bloody world, didn’t you? Least we can do is save you.” 

 

And just like that, all at once, Aziraphale’s irrationally defensive feelings shifted into something softer and more appropriately appreciative. 

 

There was no way Crowley could have made it out of the room under his own power. The rather slight weight of his body fell almost completely on Aziraphale and Newt, his slim, bare arm heavy across Aziraphale’s shoulder, trembling fingers clinging to the fabric of Aziraphale’s shirt. He winced with every step, his breath shallow and hitching with the slightest impact. 

 

“There, that’s it…” Aziraphale whispered soft encouragement. “Just a little farther, my love… we’re going to get you home…” 

 

But halfway across the living room, Crowley froze, his body tensing, his faltering footsteps coming to an abrupt halt as he let out a choked sob, turning his face into Aziraphale’s neck. 

 

No ,” he cried. “I forgot, I forgot, angel, I’m sorry…”

 

“Forgot? Forgot what?” Aziraphale frowned. “Crowley, what is it?” 

 

“I can’t, it won’t let me, I can’t leave, can’t get out…” 

 

“Nonsense, love,” Aziraphale insisted. “The door is just a few more steps, we’re almost there…”

 

“He did something,” Crowley explained through frustrated, despairing tears. “Some kind of spell, I can’t leave, if I try, it…” He swallowed, letting out a deep, shuddering breath. “... it hurts …” 

 

Alarmed, Aziraphale looked to Anathema, an unspoken question in his eyes. Once again, she closed her eyes, hands extended in front of her as she reached out to try to get a feel for the magic surrounding them. She concentrated for a moment, frowning deeply, before meeting Aziraphale’s gaze, her expression grim and troubled. 

 

“He’s right. There’s some kind of barrier spell in place.” 

 

“Can you break it?” 

 

Anathema did not answer immediately. Instead, she moved to stand facing Crowley, reaching out to gently touch his hand where it was clenched in Aziraphale’s shirt. He flinched away a little, and she winced. 

 

“Sorry, sorry,” she said softly. “Just… do you know what kind of a spell he used? Did you see him do it?” 

 

Crowley shuddered, nodding against Aziraphale’s shoulder. “There’s a book,” he mumbled, his voice raised a little, emphatic as he added, “A very bad book.” He was quiet a moment, thinking. “On the desk, last I saw. Don’t use it.” 

 

Anathema cast her eyes around the room for a moment before locating the desk, and the book laid open across it. Aziraphale and Newt turned toward her as she swiftly made her way to it, glancing at the page in front of her, and then marking the spot with one finger as she flipped through a few pages, and then closed it to examine the cover.

 

“Don’t…” Crowley’s protest was weak with exhaustion, but still carried an unmistakable urgency. “Don’t touch it, love, don’t…” 

 

“I won’t use it, Crowley,” she promised. “I just need to know what we’re dealing with.” She perused it for a few moments. “Yes,” she remarked at last, her tone low and heavy with foreboding. “This is a very bad book. But… I still think I can counteract the barrier spell, bring the barrier down, if I just have a few minutes to…” 

 

“Yeah. You don’t .” 

 

An unfamiliar voice cut her off, and Aziraphale turned toward the sound - all too conscious of the way Crowley tensed, clinging tighter to him and shaking his head in silent denial. A young man stood watching them from the front doorway. As they watched, he slowly walked into the room. He was not all that intimidating in his appearance, not at all what Aziraphale had expected; but there was a malevolent twist to his smile, a cold emptiness in his eyes that set a chill in Aziraphale’s blood. 

 

“Go find your own demon,” the boy said, nodding toward Crowley. “That one’s mine.” 

 

And all at once, it didn’t matter how relatively harmless this human child appeared to be. It didn’t matter how easily Aziraphale could smite him, strike him down almost without effort. All that mattered was the cruelly possessive tone of his voice, and the way Crowley shuddered at his words, twisting his body in closer to his angel as if trying to hide himself away inside him. 

 

Aziraphale’s voice was carefully controlled, cool and dangerous. “He most definitely is not.” 

 

Upon seeing the damage that had been done to Crowley, Aziraphale had assumed that a group of evil-doers of some sort was responsible. Now he knew with certainty, from his words and Crowley’s reaction - this single human was responsible. He had taken Crowley, kept him here against his will and abused and violated him. And a second thing Aziraphale knew with equal certainty:

 

With his last breath, this single human was going to regret ever touching Crowley. 

 

The young man’s eyes flared with anger, though his smile only spread, slow and malicious. “Let’s just see.” A hard note in his voice, he snapped, “ Crowley .” 

 

Crowley flinched, and Aziraphale burned with rage. 

 

“You’ve got five seconds to get over here, or I’m gonna do to your friends here the same thing I did to the little friend you had when you got here. Remember her?” 

 

Crowley shook his head, drawing in a sharp, uneven breath. “No,” he pleaded. “Don’t…”

 

The young man just smiled coldly at Crowley, his voice softly warning. “Five…” 

 

To Aziraphale’s horror, Crowley tried to push both him and Newt away, tried to steady himself on his own feet without their support. Uncertain, Newt let go of Crowley, backing off a little, while watching him with close concern. 

 

Aziraphale just held onto him tighter. 

 

“Four… three…” 

 

No , love, you mustn’t …”

 

“Two…” 

 

Crowley met Aziraphale’s gaze with anguished, panicked eyes. “Let me go , angel, you don’t know what he’ll…” 

 

One .” 

 

The last number was followed immediately by a single word in Latin - and all at once Crowley’s body went rigid, an animalistic cry of agony torn from his lips, just before he collapsed to the floor. He wrapped his arms around his torso, his entire body following to curl around what seemed to be the source of the pain. 

 

Aziraphale instinctively fell into a crouch beside Crowley, reaching out toward him for a moment in helpless concern - before turning his attention toward the actual source of the pain, his eyes blazing with fury as he rose to his feet. 

 

“Stop it,” he ordered, his voice low and menacing. 

 

The boy just grinned. “Make me.” 

 

In hindsight, Aziraphale realized that he should have seen that challenge for the lure it was. In the moment, all rational thought was consumed by the blind rage he felt at the sound of Crowley’s desperate, anguished cries. He rushed the stranger, prepared to take him down with the full weight of his body.

 

Instead, Aziraphale made contact with the protective wall that surrounded his opponent, the impact knocking the breath from his own body and sending him crumpling to the floor. Fiery pain went through him, like an electric current passing through his veins, before slowly fading away, leaving him gasping on his knees. 

 

I’ll make you.” 

 

Anathema’s voice reached Aziraphale’s ears as if from underwater at first, then swiftly becoming clear as the wave of pain passed away completely. He looked up from his knees to see her hand extended, palm up and open, toward the boy, as a powerful wave of energy went out from her, electric sparks crackling in her palm before swelling into an arc of lightning that hit the boy and slammed him into the wall behind him. 

 

He cried out in shock and pain, trying to pull his body away from the wall, as Aziraphale climbed slowly to his feet - but his attempts were useless. His fists clenched at his sides, shaking with the effort, but he could not so much as raise his hand. 

 

“Make it stop,” Anathema commanded, fierce and warning.

 

Let go of me !” he snarled, hate seething in his eyes. “Fucking bitch !” 

 

Anathema responded with another blast that silenced him, choking off his words with agony.

 

On the floor behind Aziraphale, Crowley was still suffering. In his weakness and exhaustion, his screams had given way to choked, despairing sobs. Aziraphale went to him, reaching out to place a helpless hand on his shoulder, his heart aching when Crowley reached up one trembling hand to grasp his wrist. 

 

“Please,” he whispered in mindless desperation, tears streaking his face. “Please, please …”

 

“Make it stop ,” Anathema repeated, extending her hand and sending another powerful, punishing jolt into her captive target. “ Now .” 

 

With a furious groan of pain and frustration, the boy finally yelled, “ Fine !” and uttered the word to stop the effects of the spell. 

 

Immediately the tension began to fade out of Crowley’s body, his shoulders falling… and then shaking with sobs of relief. Aziraphale drew cautiously nearer to him, and Crowley crawled across the slight distance that separated them, burying his face against Aziraphale’s knees, weeping softly. 

 

“Shh, it’s all right, love, it’s over, he can’t hurt you…” 

 

“Like hell I can’t,” the boy snarled, and Crowley shivered. 

 

But another blast from Anathema’s hand silenced the threats, and Aziraphale paid them no mind, choosing instead to focus his attentions on Crowley, running careful fingers through his hair, up and down his back - leaving their enemy to Anathema, for the moment. 

 

She seemed to have matters well in hand. 

 

“You can’t ,” she stated, cold and certain. “I would not suggest you try again.” 

 

**************************************************************************************

 

As the pain slowly faded out of Crowley’s body, he clung to his angel, allowing himself to focus on the soothing, rhythmic slide of Aziraphale’s fingers over his scalp, his back… the soft murmur of his reassuring words, close and familiar and drowning out the snarling threats of his captor. 

 

But he couldn’t stop shaking. 

 

The dread of what he knew Pervy was capable of was a deep pit in his stomach, cold and sick and aching.

 

When he felt that he could breathe again, the pain faded to a dull remnant in his bones, Crowley pulled himself up on unsteady limbs, gratefully sinking into the comforting support of his angel’s arm wrapped around him. 

 

“Careful,” Crowley whispered. “You don’t know what he’s done, he - he’s killed people, innocent girls, he - he’s dangerous .” 

 

Aziraphale kissed his temple, cupping the side of his head in a protective gesture that Crowley found ridiculously reassuring. 

 

So is she ,” he whispered back. 

 

“Drop the barrier,” Anathema demanded. “Let Crowley pass.” 

 

“It’s not that simple, sweetheart,” Pervy sneered. “It’s a whole thing, a big spell like that, undoing it…” 

 

Crowley didn’t know all that much about human magic - but he did know demon summoning. 

 

And he knew that Pervy was lying. 

 

Apparently, so did Anathema. She cut off Pervy’s excuses with a fresh blast of pain, smiling grimly as he groaned and strained against his invisible bonds. She lowered her hand a bit, allowing the pain to fade, and waited until he could hear her to speak again. 

 

“I took a peek at your book over there.” She nodded toward it. 

 

Leave it alone !” Pervy snarled, and she blinked in mild surprise at the violent level of his hostility. “It’s mine !” 

 

“Oh, I have no intention of using that book ,” Anathema declared. “To use it at all is to bind yourself to it in ways that just…” She shook her head slowly with a troubled little grimace. “No. I have no interest in doing anything with it. Just in understanding what it is that you’ve already done. And… it’s basically an extension of a summoning circle, right? Those are always a lot simpler to undo than they are to do in the first place. Usually it’s physical. Breaking the circle. Making a mark through the edge, something like that. But since in this case, the circle is no longer physical… I think it’s most likely a simple verbal command.” 

 

Crowley ventured a glance up to gauge Pervy’s reaction. The clear surprise at Anathema’s accuracy, the hint of fear in his trapped expression, were a tremendous relief - and unspeakably satisfying - to see. 

 

Anathema smiled. “You think you know a little. I’ve been studying magic since before you were born. Which was… not all that long after I was born. My entire life . I’ve forgotten more than you’ll ever know.” Her smile faded, her expression darkening. “Especially if you never get the chance to learn anything more. Like, if you don’t break the summoning circle. Now .” 

 

“Fine, okay !” Pervy’s voice was a bit higher than normal, thin and taut with barely bridled panic. He closed his eyes, and spoke a few words in Latin. “It’s done,” he snapped, resentful and angry. “He can go.”

 

Anathema stared at him with narrowed, suspicious eyes. 

 

Crowley’s stomach lurched with alarm as beside him, Aziraphale climbed carefully to his feet. He tightened his grip on his angel, but Aziraphale gently disentangled himself and moved a little closer to the place where Pervy was bound. 

 

“Yes, but how do we know ?” he mused, and Crowley recognized the cold, restrained tone of his voice - a tone most usually reserved for those who harmed the helpless, or insulted Crowley, or dogeared the pages of books to mark their spots. “Until Crowley attempts to pass through the doorway? At which point, we might find that he’s lying… at the expense of Crowley’s pain.” His mouth was a tight, angry line. “I’m unwilling to pay that price for the answer.” 

 

“I’m not lying,” Pervy insisted. “I powered down the circle.” He craned his neck to peer past Aziraphale at Crowley. “Walk out that door, you’ll see…”

 

Aziraphale very deliberately moved into his line of vision, blocking Crowley off from his sight. “If you’re lying,” he declared, soft and precise. “If we walk through that door… and it hurts him… then your arrival in Hell will be a blessed relief to you.” 

 

Alarmed by Aziraphale’s proximity to the dangerous young man, however bound he might be, Crowley struggled to his feet, aided by an eagerly helpful Newt, who had anxiously kept his distance until it seemed he might be needed. Crowley watched closely, with wary eyes, gratified and relieved to see the fear on Pervy’s face, the slow, convulsive swallow in his throat. 

 

Still, his tone remained defiant as he sneered, “You can’t hurt me. I warded myself a long time ago against attack by demons. And apparently, it works on… whatever you are, too.” He looked Aziraphale up and down, derision almost masking his curiosity. “You’re not a demon…” 

 

Aziraphale’s smile was cold and dangerous. “Close enough, apparently,” he remarked with a little shrug. “No matter.” He leaned in closer, well within Pervy’s reach if Anathema were to have allowed him to move. “ She can hurt you. And she will. The next time he feels so much as a twinge .” 

 

Crowley thought it unwise, no matter how satisfying it might have been, to point out to his angel that he was still in rather a lot of pain right that moment. The point where he would be feeling “just a twinge” was still a fair distance away, he was afraid. 

 

“It’s down , all right?” Pervy insisted, agitated and alarmed, glaring between Aziraphale and Anathema. “Just… get out of here and leave me alone!” 

 

Aziraphale surveyed him a bit longer, before finally nodding slowly and backing off a few steps, then turning and going back to Crowley. 

 

“Come, my love.” He slid his arm around Crowley’s waist, and Crowley gratefully leaned into him, wrapping his arm around the angel’s shoulders again and allowing himself to be led toward the door. “We’re leaving.” 

 

Aziraphale was between him and Pervy, but Crowley still trembled under the weight of the boy’s angry, icy gaze as they passed him. 

 

“You want your demon pet back so bad?” he taunted, venomously lashing out. “Fine. He’s useless , anyway! I could get a better demon, easy!” 

 

Aziraphale did not respond, but Crowley felt the slight, protective tightening of his arm around him, felt the tension in his mood, the slight tremor in his lips as Aziraphale pressed a reassuring kiss into his hair, just above his ear. They had nearly reached the door when Pervy snarled out, 

 

“All that one’s good for is a half-decent fuck!” 

 

Aziraphale froze in his tracks without turning, despite Crowley’s weak efforts to tug him along, to get him out the door. 

 

“Come on , angel,” Crowley urged him in a whisper. “Come on, let’s go…” 

 

Aziraphale stood there for a long moment, eyes closed, waging visible warfare with his own rising rage. Pervy’s cruel laughter made Aziraphale’s mouth twitch with fury and disgust, only intensified by the foolish words that next left his lips. 

 

“Worst bitch I ever had - and I’ve had a few.” 

 

Crowley’s face flushed with shame, and he blinked back the prickling tears that burned in his eyes. He went still in Aziraphale’s arms, just waiting. He couldn’t stop him if he decided to go back - and he wasn’t really sure he wanted to stop him. But Aziraphale just took a moment to compose himself, before speaking, calm and measured, without turning around. 

 

“Anathema, my dear. Keep him here a moment longer? And alive, please.” 

 

“Fine,” Anathema replied without hesitation, her words taut with anger. Still, she managed to maintain an unimpressed expression, holding one hand out toward the boy while she casually inspected her nails on the other, as if the act of restraining him were so easy for her as to be utterly boring

 

It wasn’t really the sort of gesture that suited Anathema; it was quite clearly done for dramatic effect. 

 

Crowley could appreciate that. 

 

He might have appreciated it more under entirely different circumstances. 

 

He didn’t look back, just moved with Aziraphale when he began walking again, supporting Crowley and taking nearly all of his weight as he led him out to the waiting car - parked mercifully close to the house. Newt remained with Anathema, clearly unwilling to leave her alone with Pervy, despite her clear advantage. 

 

Crowley couldn’t blame him in the slightest.

 

Aziraphale’s hands were tender and careful as he helped Crowley get settled into the backseat. But when he drew back to meet Crowley’s eyes with a quiet, fierce intensity, the uneasy feeling returned to Crowley’s stomach. He closed his eyes as Aziraphale leaned in to kiss him, gentle and almost reverent. Crowley clutched the soft hand that cupped his cheek, leaning into the touch, grasping Aziraphale’s waist with his free hand… pleading without words, and then with them, as well. 

 

“Stay,” he implored. “ Please , angel, don’t…” 

 

“I won’t be a minute, love,” Aziraphale promised, soothing, entreating. 

 

“Please, he’s dangerous, he’s…” Crowley swallowed hard, blinking back tears, an icy swell of fear breaking over him when he thought of what Pervy had done, and what he could do to his angel if anything went wrong. “Let’s go home, let’s just go,” he whispered, tremulous and pleading. “Let’s just go, now , not look back…”

 

Aziraphale tilted Crowley’s head up to meet his eyes, compassion mingled with certainty in his own. “You know we can’t do that,” he reminded him, gentle but firm. “And you know why.” 

 

Crowley did. 

 

The thought of Aziraphale being anywhere near that dangerous predator for another moment made Crowley’s skin crawl. He wanted his angel within his sight, preferably at home and safe . But he knew that Pervy couldn’t be left here, unfettered, to take whomever he pleased and do with them as he would. 

 

He had to be stopped

 

And in Aziraphale’s eyes, the fierce eyes of a long-retired warrior, Crowley read the determination to stop him

 

“I’ll be right back,” Aziraphale assured him, leaning in for one more soft kiss, before drawing back, closing the car door, and making his way with a firm, purposeful stride back toward the house. 

Chapter Text

It was incredibly difficult to leave Crowley sitting alone in the car, in the dark - especially at a moment when Aziraphale wanted nothing more than to wrap his arms around him and hold him and never let go of him again. 

 

But the taunting laughter of the human who’d taken him in the first place - the cruelty of his derogatory words - left no doubt in Aziraphale’s mind: he’d violated Crowley, abused and degraded him in horrific ways… and he’d enjoyed it. 

 

And he’d do it again. 

 

He was too powerful to be left to the human authorities. He could most certainly find a magical means of avoiding any significant punishment. He’d get away, and he’d get away with it . And then, he’d perform the summoning ritual again - or a different one, a stronger one, one they wouldn’t be prepared for, and he’d hurt Crowley again

 

Aziraphale had no intention of allowing that to happen. 

 

When he returned to the house, he left the door open behind him, leaving the car more or less within his eyeline, and definitely within reach of a raised voice… just in case Crowley should happen to need him. 

 

Things were much as he had left them, the vile human wretch still pinned, helpless and fuming, to the wall, while Anathema calmly held him there. Newt stood close to her side, unabashedly staring at her with awe at her power, perhaps barely touched by a trace of uneasiness. 

 

Aziraphale could understand. Until this whole affair, he’d sorely underestimated her, as well. 

 

When he entered the room, all eyes turned toward him, expectant and uncertain and defiant all in turn. But the defiance was a mask, Aziraphale could easily see - bravado masking fear, as the pinned predator tried for all he was worth not to look like the terrified child he was - far out of his depth and verging on frantic, and desperately trying to deny it. 

 

“So… I get it, now,” the boy said, his voice rushed and trembling and utterly failing at sounding casual and unafraid. “The demon - he’s a friend of yours. Okay, fine, whatever. I’ll just find another demon… or I won’t!” he swiftly amended in response to whatever he’d just seen on Aziraphale’s face. “I’ll give up the whole demon-summoning thing, you’ll never have to worry about seeing or hearing from me ever again…”

 

“Tell me about these… other bitches you mentioned.” Aziraphale’s tone was mild as he cut him off, and he allowed himself a grimace at the words which tasted bitter in his mouth, and felt terribly wrong coming out. 

 

The boy’s face fell. He shook his head. “Look, I didn’t hurt anyone. I mean, besides the demon, and - he’s a demon , right? How was I supposed to know he had friends ? I never hurt any actual people , I don’t know what he told you…”

 

“I rather think you do,” Aziraphale countered, with an effort managing to keep his words steady and calm despite the heat of fury that rose in his chest with every ill-advised word that left the boy’s lips. “Because you know he told me the truth . You’ve been keeping young women here, as well as Crowley. If you didn’t harm them, then where are they now?” 

 

“They got away,” the boy insisted, urgent. “Look, you’ve got to believe me. I only told him I killed one of them so that he’d help me…” His words broke off abruptly, his eyes wide and trapped as he swiftly closed his mouth and swallowed hard. 

 

“Help you what?” Aziraphale pressed, glancing around the room - taking in the bare mattress against the far wall, remembering the condition in which they’d found Crowley. “Help you… keep the next one?” 

 

The boy looked away, his breath quickening with alarm as he realized that he was most definitely caught. 

 

“But… he didn’t, did he?” Aziraphale realized, beginning to understand, to put the pieces together. When they’d arrived, they’d found no human captives in this place… and his dear Crowley, in their place. “Which is why you chose instead to abuse him .” 

 

“Look, I - I didn’t want to hurt him.” The boy’s eyes were averted, rising panic clear in his voice. “I summoned him to help me.” He glanced up at Aziraphale, resentful and trapped. “He should have just done what he was told,” he muttered, frustrated and plaintive. 

 

“Yes, how very unfortunate for him that he turned out to be a rather decent demon, isn’t it?” Aziraphale retorted with unmasked contempt, moving in closer to their prisoner. “Rather than assist you in keeping these innocent women captive… Crowley helped them to escape you. And you punished him for it.” His clenched fists trembled at his sides as he leaned in close, lowering his head to follow the boy as he turned away, insisting on eye contact. “Tell me, how are you enjoying paralysis?” he asked with a soft, taunting smile. “Is it fun ? Being utterly powerless to defend yourself?” 

 

The boy looked up at Aziraphale again, helpless fury blazing from his eyes, and Aziraphale felt a spark of satisfaction upon realizing that he’d struck a nerve. The boy’s voice was low and challenging when he retorted. 

 

“I wasn’t powerless over your little pet demon. Wouldn’t be powerless against you, if not for this bitch backing you up.” 

 

Aziraphale blinked at him in surprise. His utter arrogance, his foolish contempt for the woman who currently held his very existence within her power was staggering. Aziraphale glanced toward Anathema, whose mouth was twisted in disgust, her fist clenched in front of her - but nothing happened. She was restraining her power, he realized, against her own instincts, her own desires. 

 

“Why alive, Aziraphale?” she asked, her words clipped and taut. “Why alive ?” 

 

He could see the dangerous fury in her eyes, how ready she was to strike. 

 

And every word he exchanged with the boy was fueling her rage. 

 

Aziraphale drew in a slow breath, steadying himself before turning and approaching her. He placed a careful hand over her clenched fist, and waited until she looked up to meet his eyes. 

 

“Because, my dear,” he explained gently. “He is not worth the stain on your soul.” 

 

He was not strictly convinced that eliminating such a vile monster - one who had almost certainly hurt countless others long before he’d encountered Crowley, and would very certainly hurt others if he was allowed to do so - would actually be considered a sin. But he knew Anathema, and he knew that if she took a life, even a life such as this one, it would not be a thing that she could live with. It would eat at her, steal her sleep, take her peace, torment her with guilt - whether she was worthy of it or not. 

 

There were angry tears glittering in her eyes, a heartfelt challenge, and Aziraphale found himself deeply moved by her response. 

 

Crowley is.” 

 

“Yes, he is,” Aziraphale readily agreed. To him, Crowley was worth any sacrifice of anyone, and he was quite certain that that in itself was a sin.

 

But he had no intention of allowing Anathema to sacrifice her soul, or any other piece of herself.

 

Not today. 

 

“If we let him go,” she continued, quiet but intent, “even if we leave… what’s to stop him from summoning Crowley again? From hurting other people? He has to be stopped.”

 

She was only echoing his own thoughts, from the moment he’d left Crowley in the car. He gently squeezed her hand, giving her a solemn, earnest look that he hoped conveyed even the slightest amount of his gratitude for her.

 

“He does. But… you needn’t be the one to stop him.” 

 

“You can’t,” she pointed out in frustration. “He’s protected against demons and… you.” 

 

Aziraphale couldn’t suppress a slight, faltering smile. “I appreciate your discretion,” he acknowledged. 

 

She did not smile in return. “If you can’t… and you don’t want me to… then what ?” 

 

Aziraphale glanced toward the boy, and then back at Anathema, uncertain. And then, his gaze fell on the desk, and the book laid open upon it - and an idea occurred to him. He looked back at the young man once more, holding his gaze as he spoke, level and speculative.

 

“He doesn’t appear to be that much of a threat to me.” 

 

He schooled his expression into implacable non-reaction, though inwardly gratified by the outrage in the boy’s eyes, the way his jaw clenched with anger at the words - and he went on, turning away from Anathema and moving a few steps closer to the boy - and closer to the book, as well. 

 

“He’s nothing more than a foolish child who wishes to control those he secretly… deep down… knows to be of far more value, far more power … than himself. How many times must you have been rejected by women, in order to feel such a need to control them this way?” 

 

“Shut up, you don’t understand…” 

 

“And Heaven help me if I ever do,” Aziraphale retorted with unmasked disgust. “There’s nothing in your nature, in your demeanor, to command a woman’s respect or interest… so instead, you’ve resorted to magic - spells and demon-summoning - to achieve what you want. Power .” He looked back at Anathema, who was watching him closely with narrowed, speculative eyes. “And it seems he draws the majority of it from a single source. Perhaps if we simply… get rid of the book …”

 

Don’t touch it !” the boy snarled, straining against the magical bonds that held him. “Stay away from it!” 

 

Aziraphale didn’t acknowledge him at all, simply held Anathema’s gaze with a slow, satisfied smile, then turned and made his way across the room toward the book. 

 

***********************************************************************************

 

Crowley knew that it was best he wait in the car. 

 

He wasn’t exactly in fighting form at the moment - not that his “fighting form” was all that impressive to begin with - and he’d only be a liability in there right now. For the moment, Anathema seemed to be in control, but it was possible that Pervy could still hurt him… which meant that he could use him against Aziraphale and the others. It was much better that Crowley be out here - out of danger and therefore out of the way. 

 

But he couldn’t stand it - and not just because Newton Pulsifer’s ghastly excuse for a car was an offense to all things even remotely tasteful and stylish. 

 

He wanted, needed to know what was happening - to know that Aziraphale was safe. 

 

He won’t be, not ‘til he’s out of there and you’re on your way back home…

 

Crowley shifted restlessly in his seat - then winced as a fresh onslaught of pain swept through him at the motion. He sank down in the seat, resting his head against the back of it, closing his eyes and drawing in deep breaths until the pain had passed. He opened his eyes at last, his vision coming back into focus - and he realized that at this angle, in just this position, he could see through the windscreen and directly into the house, through the front door that Aziraphale had so thoughtfully left open. 

 

He could see Pervy, pinned to the wall, with Anathema and Aziraphale facing him. He watched as Anathema held him effortlessly. He watched Aziraphale go to her and cover her raised hand with his own, watched as he soothed her, and restrained her from some doubtless deserved act of violence. 

 

He swallowed back the sick feeling in the back of his throat as whatever Aziraphale said made Pervy lunge at him with rage. He closed his eyes for a moment, telling himself again that Anathema had this. Pervy was powerless. It didn’t matter how angry Aziraphale made him, he couldn’t hurt them, couldn’t hurt anyone…

 

Can’t hurt you. You’re safe. It’s all right, you’re safe…

 

Crowley opened his eyes, momentarily alarmed to find that Aziraphale had moved out of his line of vision. 

 

His relief as Aziraphale came back into view was short-lived, and swiftly replaced by sheer, gut-clenching terror. 

 

Aziraphale was holding the book

 

No, no, angel, don’t, don’t use that book, it’s not worth it, no....

 

He didn’t know how Aziraphale could even touch it. When Crowley had tried to pick it up, it’d sent a nasty shock through him, and he’d surmised that Pervy had warded it against all hands besides his own. 

 

Perhaps he had only warded it against Crowley. 

 

Crowley watched in horror, his mouth dry, heart racing, as Aziraphale idly thumbed through the pages, an oddly wistful look on his face. There was a sad resignation in his expression, and Crowley was momentarily aghast and immensely relieved all at once as he understood: Aziraphale intended to destroy it - and he was actually a bit upset about it. It was a dark, evil, dangerous book, and it needed destroying. 

 

But - it was still a book

 

Crowley wasn’t quite certain Aziraphale would be able to bring himself to do it. 

 

He watched with bated breath, Pervy’s screams of protest audible even from this distance, with the car windows rolled up. The young man fought against the invisible restraints, desperately trying to get to the book, and Crowley knew that Aziraphale must have made his intentions clear. 

 

The angel’s eyes flashed with a blue-white light. He slowly took a backward step, removing his hand from under the book - and the book remained where it was, floating in mid-air where it had been, held aloft by Aziraphale’s power. Aziraphale extended a hand toward it, and then snapped his fingers. The book went up in flames. 

 

And so did Pervy. 

 

Engulfed in fire, he let out a horrible, agonized scream, thrashing wildly, but unable to escape. Anathema continued to hold him where he was, though her extended arm was visibly shaking with effort, her face turned away from the light and the heat of the flames. Far more rapidly than was natural, the fire consumed the would-be mage. 

 

By the time the book was burned to ash… so was he. 

 

The moment the flames extinguished, Anathema collapsed to the floor with great, heaving gasps. She’d been holding him there, bound, throughout his death, and Crowley suspected that she’d felt some of his pain through the link between them. Newt, who had been out of Crowley’s line of vision thus far, swiftly came into view, dropping to his knees next to Anathema, arms wrapping around her to steady and comfort her. 

 

All at once Crowley deeply, desperately wanted his angel. 

 

He did not have long to wait. 

 

Aziraphale led the way to the car, Anathema and Newt just behind him, arms around each other. Aziraphale got into the back seat next to Crowley, carefully shifting across to the middle and reaching out to take his hand. 

 

“It’s over,” he declared, soft and certain. “He’s gone.” 

 

Crowley had watched it happen; it wasn’t new information. Still, somehow hearing the words aloud broke something inside him, something brittle and sharp that had been lodged in his chest, keeping him from breathing - now shattered into dust, allowing the deep, swelling sobs that rose up within him to escape his lips as he leaned into Aziraphale, one trembling fist clutching his shirt and pulling him closer as he buried his face against his angel’s chest. 

 

“Shh, love, it’s all right, I’ve got you,” Aziraphale murmured, wrapping Crowley up in the warm, steady softness of his arms, shifting nearer in wordless encouragement for Crowley to nestle in against him. 

 

Crowley quite willingly did. 

 

“We’d best hurry,” Anathema said. “I have a feeling now that he’s gone, and the book’s gone, this place won’t be supernaturally hidden much longer.” 

 

They were quite a ways down the road before Crowley had released enough of his residual pain and panic, and regained enough of his composure to really think about what she had said, to consider the implications of it. 

 

The book had been the key to all of Pervy’s power. All of the spells he had used - to conceal his property, to bind Crowley to him and to that place - all of it had come from that book. Crowley remembered something else Anathema had said about that book - that having used it, Pervy was bound to the book in some very unpleasant ways. 

 

Aziraphale had heard her say that, too. 

 

Crowley looked up at his angel, who was looking straight ahead out the windscreen, calm and serene - rather satisfied , with a hard glint in his ice blue eyes. When Crowley shifted to look at him, Aziraphale looked down to meet his gaze, a wordless question on his face. 

 

“Did you know that would happen, angel?” Crowley asked, hushed and pensive. “That he’d be destroyed with the book?” 

 

Aziraphale was quiet for a moment before answering at last, steady and calm, “One could only hope.” Crowley blinked up at him, processing his answer, and the drastic lengths to which his angel was willing to go for him. Aziraphale’s expression softened with affection, as he slid a hand through Crowley’s hair, leaning in to press a soft kiss to his brow. “Neither book nor boy will be harming anyone, ever again. That’s what matters. You’re safe now.” 

 

***************************************************************************************************

 

Aziraphale waited until they were clear of the circle the location spell had shown them - the boundary of the spell that had kept Crowley hidden from them, and left Aziraphale feeling weak and confused. Anathema’s magic had protected him from that spell, and given him back the use of his powers. Healing Crowley seemed to have been the only thing he couldn’t do. He’d been able to destroy the book with very little trouble. He was fairly certain that with the boy and the book now both gone, any limitations on his powers would be gone as well. Still, he thought it best to wait until they were clear of any residual dark magic before attempting again to heal Crowley. 

 

A mile past the boundary, Anathema pulled the car over to the side of the road. 

 

Crowley was pressed in tight against Aziraphale’s side, his face buried against Aziraphale’s neck. He wasn’t crying - not at the moment - but he was quiet and subdued, clinging to his angel with fierce desperation, as if at any moment he might be torn away from him again. Aziraphale gently, reluctantly pulled back, a hand on Crowley’s shoulder pushing him away just a little. 

 

“You must be in so much pain, my darling,” he said softly, close and intimate against his ear, as he cradled his face with one hand. “Please, let me heal you now…”

 

Crowley let out a shuddering breath, nodding wearily. “Yeah… yeah, please do, angel…”

 

Aziraphale’s head felt clear, his power easily accessible. He focused all of his intention on Crowley, visualizing him whole and well again, and snapped his fingers. The few bruises visible on what little skin was exposed, the livid bite mark on Crowley’s neck, vanished instantly. An immediate, obvious change came over Crowley, his shoulders falling with relief, his breath coming in deep gasps, as he lowered his head against Aziraphale’s shoulder again. 

 

Aziraphale wrapped a steadying arm around his waist, holding him as he snapped his fingers again - and Crowley was wearing his own clothing, the soiled sheet having vanished into non-existence. 

 

Crowley did not lift his head, still clinging to Aziraphale tightly - weeping softly again. 

 

Aziraphale’s heart ached with a heavy sorrow that seemed to have permeated the atmosphere in the entire vehicle. The mood was subdued and quiet. Newt and Anathema, who had watched eagerly to see if the healing would work, now turned around in their seats, earnestly trying not to intrude upon the very personal scene taking place too near to them to be ignored. 

 

Aziraphale knew they’d won, they’d rescued Crowley - but it hardly felt like a victory at the moment. 

 

We got him out… but not in time.

 

“I can drive you home,” Anathema offered, her tone tentative and awkward, but sincerely willing to help in any way that she could. 

 

Aziraphale shook his head with a sad, appreciative smile, reaching out his free hand to touch her shoulder. “No, thank you, my dear. Thank you both. So much .” He paused, gently hugging Crowley tighter to him as he whispered, “ I’ll take us home.” 

 

And with another snap of his fingers, he did. 

 

**********************************************************************************************

 

The young man Crowley had known as Pervy, who knew himself as an expert in the dark arts, a powerful warlock and master of demons, abruptly knew nothing but pain . The mysterious not-human creature who’d invaded his sanctuary with his two human cohorts and stolen his property away had burned the book - and with it, Pervy’s life force that was eternally bound to it. 

 

He’d sold his soul in exchange for the book’s power - but he supposed he’d done that long ago, really, through indulging in his darkest fleshly desires. And he had had no intention of dying, not for a very long time. 

 

Perhaps not ever , with the massive power of such a book at his disposal. He could cheat the deal, cheat the book, cheat even death. 

 

He didn’t like losing. 

 

But he had lost now, he knew… irreparably and completely. 

 

The intense, unbearable burning of the flames that consumed him went out, and for a few blessed moments, he felt... nothing

 

And then, sensation began to return, and he found that he was… in a different place. Very cold, and very dark, and filled with an oppressive sense of terror so thick that he could taste it in the air - so all-consuming, that he was instantly overwhelmed with the heavy weight of despair. 

 

He was shivering with the cold, and all at once realized that he was naked. He could see nothing, all around him, yet somehow felt a certainty that he was being seen - exposed and helpless. A dozen different verbal spells he’d memorized rose to his mind, and fell uselessly from his tongue, without a trace of power sparking inside him. 

 

He was naked and powerless, in the cold, strange darkness that enveloped him. 

 

But he was not alone. 

 

He saw the flicker of light at a distance - two glimmering points of it, shining in the darkness, and shifting slowly nearer. And the faintest trace of hope at the existence of light here vanished, his stomach lurching with dread as the points of light winked out and in again, and he realized that it was a pair of eyes, watching him and gliding nearer to him in the silent darkness. 

 

Then another pair of lights - of eyes , these ones glowing blood red, appeared, approaching him from another direction, accompanied by a rasping, rattling breath that sounded quick and eager and hungry . More and more lights appeared around him, stronger and stronger he could feel their thirst for his blood, for his suffering, for the suffocating panic that was welling up inside him. 

 

The more tiny points of light surrounded him, the more the darkness dissipated, until he could just barely make out the details of their inhuman forms, the expressions on their faces - and he immediately wished for the darkness to conceal them again. 

 

Crowley was not the first demon he had taken. 

 

He was merely the first to survive the particularly brutal summoning spell he had used. The first that wasn’t ripped apart instead of merely confined and weakened by the circle. The first time he’d actually gotten it right

 

But he’d gotten it all so wrong . He could see that now. 

 

Now that it was irrevocably too late

 

As the demons closed in on him, he could feel their fury, feel their gleeful satisfaction at having him within their grasp. He knew those he had tormented in his failed attempts were among this group, ravenous for their vengeance. 

 

His heart sank as he realized with perfect clarity that he was about to be, eternally, master of none

 

There would be no escape, and there would be no end - only time enough in all of eternity for him to face the torment he’d inflicted on others, both human and otherwise. Time for him to be hurt and humiliated, violated and transformed into the perfect, broken little bitch he’d always wanted to create.

Chapter Text

It took Crowley a moment to find his bearings, once Aziraphale transported them home. He blinked into the warm, muted light of the cottage… felt the soft, yielding surface of the sofa beneath them… smelled the familiar mingled scent of strong tea and old books. There was a sense of surreality to it all, a part of his mind that could scarcely believe it was real, he was really home. 

 

He was really home. 

 

Fresh tears slipped from his eyes, in hot tracks down his face. His hands trembled as he clutched at Aziraphale’s jacket. He tried to speak, but all that came out was a choked, anguished sound that in no way resembled words - not that he could even begin to imagine what he would have said. 

 

It was strange, Crowley thought, with some distant part of his mind that wasn’t currently falling to pieces in his angel’s reassuring embrace… strange, how it was the relief of rescue that had finally undone him. 

 

He’d remained reasonably strong in the face of torture and violation, refusing to surrender to his captor’s demands, fighting until the very moment when he was not physically capable of fighting anymore. He’d talked back and tossed insults at the disgusting human, until the power of speech had been taken from him. 

 

That’s the only reason you didn’t fall apart, a nasty, taunting little piece of his brain reminded him, and he shivered in Aziraphale’s arms. Because he didn’t let you. Because you couldn’t cry... couldn’t move... could barely breathe

 

He could breathe now ; he was gasping in deep draughts of cool air, soothing to the roiling sensation in his stomach, reassuring in their simple existence, the simple fact that he could . He felt Aziraphale’s arms firm around him, heard his angel’s voice hushed and calming, very close. 

 

“Shh, my love, it’s all right, you’re safe now. You’re safe. We’re home, and I’ve got you, and you’re safe …” 

 

He allowed the words to resonate around him, to echo in his mind and drown out the ugly accusations, the memory of Pervy’s sneering mockery as he’d violated him. He held onto Aziraphale tighter, sliding one hand up his back to cup his shoulder as he buried his face in Aziraphale’s neck and breathed in the sweet, heady scent of him, relished the soft warmth of his body pressed against him - gentle and comforting and close. 

 

His eyes drifted shut, and he felt himself at last relaxing a little, drifting toward the relief of a temporary oblivion. 

 

Aziraphale shifted slightly, rousing him a little, and Crowley blinked up at him, sleepy and a bit disoriented. The angel’s eyes were concerned and uncertain. 

 

“Would you like to go to bed, my love? You must be exhausted, you probably haven’t slept in days...” 

 

Crowley nearly asked if being driven to unconsciousness by repeated magical electric shocks counted as sleep, but he doubted Aziraphale would see the humor in it. 

 

He didn’t see it, either. There wasn’t any. 

 

He glanced toward the half-open bedroom door. From where they sat on the sofa, he could see the right lower corner of the bed. He closed his eyes, swallowing slowly. The memory was vivid and visceral, the feeling of a soft mattress beneath him, still and undisturbed as he desperately, uselessly struggled to make his body move. The feeling of another body over his, hard grasping fingers at his hips, greedy hands twisting and groping at his exposed, helpless corporation. 

 

He shuddered, turning his head down into Aziraphale’s chest again. 

 

“Better not,” he muttered, trying for a light tone - well aware that he’d missed the mark entirely. “If I go to sleep now, you might not see me for a month.” 

 

Or a year. Or a decade. Wouldn’t be your first century-long nap, would it? 

 

If you could stay asleep. If you don’t dream about… 

 

“Well, I couldn’t have that, could I?” Aziraphale murmured, pressing a tender kiss to the top of Crowley’s head. “I’ve only just got you back.”

 

He, also, was attempting for humor which was utterly undone by the tremor of grief in his voice. He was quiet for a moment, just gently stroking Crowley’s back, before he spoke again, tender and searching. 

 

“Is there anything you need, my love? Anything I can do, or get you, or…?” 

 

Crowley shook his head without lifting it, swallowing slowly and warring to get his voice under control before he replied. “No, just… just you. Just this.” 

 

“All right,” Aziraphale readily agreed, hesitating just a moment before cautiously continuing. “I’ve an idea that might… help you rest a bit. Not in the bed, and not alone,” he assured Crowley before he could protest. “Just… please go get comfortable, change into something you can rest in, and meet me back here in a few moments?” 

 

Crowley didn’t want to leave Aziraphale’s side, and he didn’t want to be in the bedroom - but he nodded dutifully, stifling a weary sigh as he sat up, and then rose to his feet. He made his way on trembling legs to the bedroom they shared. He studiously avoided looking at the bed itself as he stripped off the clothing that Aziraphale had miraculously put back on him, tossing it into the far corner of the room, and struggling to shut out the vivid sense memory of the hands that had torn it away while he had lain paralyzed, helpless to stop it. He shivered, his hands trembling as he hurriedly took from his dresser a soft black cotton t-shirt and red and black patterned pajama pants, and swiftly changed into them. 

 

His heart raced, his mouth dry as he reminded himself again and again that Pervy was dead, that he was home and safe now. Aziraphale had burned the book that had allowed Pervy to capture him, to hurt him. There was nothing to fear. 

 

But… that isn’t the only book. And he wasn’t the only human monster out there. What if someone else gets their hands on that kind of summoning magic? 

 

What if it happens again? 

 

Crowley hurried to make his way back out to the living room, where the warmth of his angel’s presence would at least drive back the worst of his fears. He found Aziraphale no longer on the sofa, but settled comfortably into the soft, overstuffed armchair where he liked to relax and read. It was the same chair as always, well-worn and familiar, except that now, it had been altered somewhat in size. 

 

Aziraphale sat to one side, patting the ample space beside him, giving Crowley a warm, inviting smile. Crowley settled into the space that was miraculously just wide enough to accommodate him as he curled up into his angel’s side, his head resting against Aziraphale’s shoulder, Aziraphale’s arm firm and steadying around him. The high arms of the chair were a soft pressure that held them in on either side. 

 

With a snap of his fingers, Aziraphale materialized a soft, comfortably weighted blanket that settled over both of them. 

 

“I thought that perhaps this might be just comfortable enough to allow you to sleep, but… not for too long?” he suggested. 

 

So close to Aziraphale that he could feel his heartbeat under his palm, the soft warmth of the blanket covering him, Crowley was quite certain that he could sleep for a week just like this, without so much as stirring. Already his eyelids felt heavy, and he could feel the fine tremor of anxious tension slipping away from him as he surrendered to his exhaustion. He glanced at the small side table beside the chair, noting the stack of books that had been there for as long as he could remember, ever varying as Aziraphale added to it, or removed from it as he finished a book. 

 

“And… you’ll read while I’m sleeping?” 

 

“Perhaps a bit,” Aziraphale conceded with a slight shrug, tenderly brushing Crowley’s hair back from his face. “Mostly I intend just to hold you. To watch over you.” Crowley blinked up at him, startled by the quiet, honest intensity of Aziraphale’s answer. “Our home is warded,” he reminded Crowley softly, but the faint desperation in his eyes made it clear that he was reassuring himself as well. “No one can take you from here.”

 

The loving concern, the ache of grief for what he’d come so near to losing, was so starkly bared in Aziraphale’s eyes that Crowley had to look away, and all at once he remembered with dismay his sunglasses, still tucked away in Pervy’s shirt pocket, last he’d noticed. In their absence, he was left with no alternative but to simply tuck his head down against his angel’s chest, swallowing back the aching knot in his throat and closing his eyes against the burning of fresh tears. 

 

“Thanks, angel,” he whispered, trembling fingers finding their way past the buttons of Aziraphale’s shirt and beneath the soft fabric. 

 

Aziraphale said nothing, but his hand covered Crowley’s, and his lips brushed his demon’s temple in a soft breath of a kiss. 

 

*************************************************************************

 

Crowley did not, in fact, sleep for a week. 

 

He did not, in fact, sleep for an hour before awakening with a startled cry of alarm, his body jerking into wakefulness against Aziraphale, who hurried to soothe him, whispering reassurances and holding him close until he drifted back to sleep again. 

 

For another couple of hours, before his rest was ripped away from him again. 

 

His body tensed against Aziraphale, and he drew in a sharp, shuddering gasp, golden eyes wide and blinking and filled with sheer terror. He lowered his head against Aziraphale’s shoulder again in weary defeat, his chest heaving with deep, shaky breaths. Aziraphale ran a hand slowly through his sweat-damp hair, pressing a kiss to his brow - hesitating before finally breaking the heavy silence, his voice hushed and cautious. 

 

“I - I could help you, my love. If you wish.”

 

“You can’t,” Crowley whispered, softly despairing. “It just… is what it is, and there’s nothing you can…” 

 

“I could block out those memories. The ones that are stealing your sleep.” 

 

Crowley looked up at him again sharply, incredulous. “ Take my memories?” He looked away, his gaze distant and pensive, and Aziraphale couldn’t tell whether he was more disturbed or tempted by the suggestion. 

 

“Not… take them, exactly,” Aziraphale hurried to clarify, shaking his head. “They wouldn’t be... gone .” He was quiet for a moment, weighing his words, and when he spoke again, his voice was soft and careful. “As terrible as they are, they’re… they’re yours , Crowley. And I wouldn’t think of compounding one violation with another.” 

 

Crowley was silent, not looking at Aziraphale, a slow swallow visible in his throat, a troubled frown furrowing his brow. Aziraphale instinctively reached up a gentle hand in the desire to soothe it away, his heart aching when Crowley closed his eyes and turned his face into the touch. 

 

“Think of it as…” Aziraphale hesitated, then continued, his tone brightening as he thought of a rather apt comparison. “...taking the phone off the hook, so you can’t be bothered while you’re trying to rest,” he explained.

 

Crowley appeared to be mulling it over a bit. “Or… silencing my mobile,” he amended, the barest upward quirk at the corner of his mouth betraying a touch of tolerant affection, at Aziraphale’s choice of metaphor.  

 

It wasn’t a smile, wasn’t even an indication of true amusement - but it still made Aziraphale’s heart swell with relief to see it - that slight trace of his Crowley, nearly buried beneath the weight of the traumatic images that repeatedly assailed his mind and tore him from sleep. 

 

Aziraphale wanted so desperately to lift that weight and bear it for him - just for a little while. 

 

“Precisely,” he agreed with a warm smile, though Crowley was still looking away, his expression distant and wary. “Just temporary, my love. When you wake, it will be - un-silenced, as it were, and you’ll have full access to all your memories as usual. But, while you’re resting…” He paused, wrestling for a moment with his own emotions before continuing, gently, “... they can’t… assault your mind against your will. Can’t… steal your sleep.” 

 

Crowley considered Aziraphale’s clarification for a few moments, a wistful, longing look in his distant gaze. At last he nodded slowly, lowering his head to rest in the crook of Aziraphale’s neck again - and Aziraphale nearly wept with relief. 

 

“Yeah,” Crowley whispered. “All right, angel.” He swallowed slowly, audibly, as near as he was to Aziraphale. “Just - just for tonight, yeah?” 

 

“Yes, of course,” Aziraphale gratefully agreed. “Just for tonight.” 

 

But it wasn’t. 

 

The following night, Crowley attempted to sleep without that same assistance, pointing out that the angel wasn’t going to sleep, anyway, and there was no reason he should be pinned down by Crowley all night long. He would be all right, he insisted. He’d just sleep on the sofa, and as long as he knew Aziraphale was nearby, he’d be fine. However, his attempt met with much the same results as the first night. After a couple of hours of tossing restlessly, he finally surrendered, getting up and crossing the room to where Aziraphale waited in the chair, which was still comfortably wide enough for two. Aziraphale wordlessly held out his arms for his love. Crowley wrapped himself around his angel, tucked in close to his side.

 

“Just… one more night,” he whispered. 

 

And while Aziraphale hated to hear the shame and defeat in his voice, he was relieved to be allowed to help Crowley again. 

 

He helped him again the next night - and the night after that, and the night after that. Every night, Crowley started on the sofa, alone, and ended up in the chair with Aziraphale. He hardly ever ventured into the bedroom, except when he needed to retrieve something from there. Aziraphale would have gladly gone for him, and Crowley was capable of miracling whatever he needed to him, without actually going into the room; but Aziraphale suspected that either of those options would have felt too much like defeat, too much like surrender, to Crowley. So instead, he would push himself to enter every so often for clothing or whatever it was that he needed, and Aziraphale would pretend not to notice the tremor in his hands, the panicked dart of his too-wide eyes, when he’d come out again. 

 

Crowley seemed unwilling to leave the cottage as well, even to work in his garden - which he did miracle to health from the safe distance of the front window. He cared too much about the vulnerable flowers and vegetables and herbs he tended to so lovingly, to allow them to perish because he couldn’t bring himself to step outside - couldn’t bring himself to so much as leave Aziraphale’s sight, despite the warding that protected the entirety of their property. 

 

Aziraphale helped in every way he could think of, constantly alert and observant to whatever Crowley’s needs might be, and any small way in which he could meet them without drawing attention to what he was doing, or making Crowley feel weak or needy. 

 

But there were still moments - aching, desperate moments when it seemed that Crowley could feel nothing else. 

 

His dreams were guarded by Aziraphale’s protective influence, but that didn’t prevent him from occasionally starting at an unexpected movement too close beside him, or being abruptly overwhelmed with panic when a certain scent, or sound, or mere trick of the light took him back to some dark, secret memory of breathtaking terror and pain. 

 

Aziraphale felt utterly helpless. Most of the time, he couldn’t possibly know just exactly what had triggered Crowley’s reaction, especially when Crowley seemed most unwilling to talk about it. So Aziraphale would just speak to him softly, talking him through it, touching him where he could see it coming, where he knew it was safe, and infusing as much angelic peace and comfort as he dared, hoping that Crowley wouldn’t notice it in the steadying hand against his back, Aziraphale’s gentle fingers through his hair, or tenderly brushing away his tears. 

 

When Crowley was resting, Aziraphale engaged in a painstaking process of examining every single book in his rather extensive occult library, locating every last one that contained any sort of demon-summoning or demon-controlling magic, and then proceeding to obliterate them from existence. He was troubled by the knowledge that many of these books had other copies out there, somewhere, and determined that eventually, he would find a way to destroy those as well. 

 

Over the course of the couple of weeks that followed Crowley’s return, Anathema visited several times. Without fail, Crowley kept his distance, napping on the sofa in the afternoon sunlight, or busying himself somewhere else in the cottage, while she and Aziraphale pored over books she’d brought, or that Aziraphale owned. She helped him to perform a few rituals that would fortify the warding in and around the cottage, and added a couple of new protections of her own. 

 

Their home had long since been well-warded against demons and angels. Now, they were guarded against human threats as well. 

 

During her fourth such visit, after a full afternoon of research and spellwork, they had just about decided that the cottage was as safe as it could possibly get, and were relaxing over a cup of tea, when Aziraphale glanced up with surprise to see Crowley leaning in the kitchen doorway, silently watching them. His hair hung loose and disheveled, his eyes were heavy-lidded, and the blanket he’d been using was draped over his shoulder. 

 

“Hey,” he said, his voice a soft rasp, thick with sleep.

 

He looked so ridiculously warm and relaxed and snuggly that it was all Aziraphale could do not to immediately go to his soft, sleepy demon and wrap himself around him. But he was fairly certain that Crowley wouldn’t appreciate it in the presence of their company, so he settled for a warm smile, as he extended a welcoming hand to his love. 

 

“Come sit with us, my dear,” he invited. 

 

“Yes, it’s good to see you!” Anathema agreed, a little too eagerly.

 

Crowley took Aziraphale’s hand, squeezing it lightly for a moment as he sat down, before Aziraphale let go in order to get up and pour Crowley a cup of tea. He hurried, well aware of the somewhat awkward silence that had descended over the table. Aziraphale knew that Anathema was just glad to see Crowley, to see for herself that he was more or less all right. But he also knew that the last time Anathema had seen Crowley, he’d been huddled, naked and bruised with only a soiled blanket to cover him, in the backseat of her husband’s car - and that Crowley was acutely aware of that fact, as well. 

 

It was likely all he could think about right now. 

 

“I made you a present!” Anathema broke the silence, a hopeful note in her voice. 

 

Aziraphale turned in time to see Crowley’s gaze flicker up from his folded, fidgeting hands with guarded interest, not quite meeting Anathema’s eyes. 

 

“Yeah? What is it?” 

 

Anathema reached into the outer pocket of her bag and produced a slim black band - very flexible, with many thin strands woven together to form a delicate braid, in an intricate pattern that vaguely resembled the spine and quills of a feather. She held it out to Crowley, and he took it from her hand, running his fingers lightly over the soft leather. 

 

“It protects against summoning.” 

 

Crowley went very still, his eyes locked onto the gift. 

 

“When you’re wearing it, summoning spells won’t work on you,” she explained. “Your home is warded. You’re completely safe, whenever you’re here. Aziraphale and I just made sure of it.” She nodded toward the bracelet, before looking up to search Crowley’s face, solemn and certain. “That will make sure you’re safe the rest of the time, too.” 

 

Crowley was quiet for a long moment. He swallowed slowly, and then finally looked up to meet Anathema’s anxious, searching gaze. It was the first time since she’d seen him in that dark room, naked and bruised and humiliated, that he’d actually looked her in the eyes. Then, his expression warmed with gratitude, eyes shining with unshed tears, as he slid the thoughtful offering onto his wrist.

 

And even if it was through tears, Aziraphale was deeply grateful as well; for it was the first time that he’d seen Crowley smile in weeks. 

 

*******************************************************************************************

 

A few days after Anathema’s visit, Crowley made it through the night without needing Aziraphale’s miraculous assistance.

 

A few days after that, he decided to try sleeping in the bed - but only with Aziraphale at his side. 

 

He had not seen the last of his nightmares, or had his last panic attack in daylight; but, reassured by the restoration of his sense of safety, Crowley began to feel a little calmer, a little more secure.

 

He began to feel like he was actually home , again. 

 

One afternoon about a month after his rescue, Crowley actually spent enough time in the bedroom to take notice of the pile of discarded clothing in the corner of the room - once one of his favorite outfits, it was now just a faint reminder of a terrible ordeal. He drew in a shaky breath and let it out in a rush as he picked them up, mentally debating for a moment as to what to do with them. An instant before snapping them into non-existence, Crowley’s mouth went dry, his stomach lurching as he noticed something sticking out of the pocket of the dirty black jeans. 

 

A strip of bright floral fabric, stained with blood. 

 

He let his own clothing fall to the floor at his feet, unheeded, as he pressed the soft material between his fingers, sitting down slowly on the edge of the bed. 

 

Aziraphale found him there, some time later. 

 

“There you are, my darling,” he said, bright and cheerful as he bustled into the room, scooping up the pile of clothing and heading for the laundry hamper in the corner of the room. “I was wondering where you’d gotten off to…” 

 

His words trailed off, and his pace slowed as he turned to take in Crowley’s very still posture, his silent, subdued demeanor, and the soiled scarf twisted between his trembling fingers. He stood there for just a moment, before closing the remaining distance between them, sitting down next to Crowley on the foot of the bed, and reaching out a careful hand to rest on his knee. 

 

“He said he lied,” Aziraphale reminded Crowley, not for the first time. “That he didn’t kill her. He just thought you’d be more cooperative if you believed he had.” 

 

“I was,” Crowley pointed out with a shamed grimace. “If he was lying… it worked. But… maybe it’s you he was lying to. Trying to save his own skin, yeah?”

 

“We can’t really know , Crowley…” Aziraphale’s hand gently squeezed his leg, and Crowley reached down somewhat absently to clasp it in his own. 

 

“Where’d the blood come from?” Crowley asked in a hoarse whisper, shaking his head slowly, sadly. “If he didn’t kill her, then… why did he have it, and where did the blood come from?” 

 

Aziraphale did not have an answer. When he spoke again, his words were quiet and certain. “Whatever did happen to her, it was not your fault, my love. You tried everything within your power to help her.” 

 

“Thought I was helping her,” Crowley retorted, soft and regretful. “Just got her killed.” 

 

“Oh, Crowley ,” Aziraphale gently protested. 

 

But Crowley cut him off before he could repeat the same meaningless reassurances he’d offered him numerous times since his rescue. “Anathema knows a lot of spells. And - we’ve got her blood, and - a personal effect. Maybe there’s a way we could… find out for sure what happened to her, or… at least who she was? Someone’s got to be missing her, yeah? We could at least… find a way to get some word to her family? Give her loved ones some peace?” 

 

Aziraphale frowned, troubled and uncertain. “We could at least find some answers, and… decide what to do with the information once we have it.” 

 

Crowley understood his hesitation. If they did learn beyond all doubt that Pervy had killed the girl, then he wasn’t sure which would be kindest - or cruelest - to her family left behind: knowing the horrific fate that had befallen her, or holding onto a false hope that would never be realized. 

 

They called Anathema, and she came armed with a spell capable of using a person’s blood to find their identity and location. A magic circle drawn in chalk on the kitchen floor, with the scarf in its center and a few words of Latin spoken over it, and they had a name, and a pin point location on a map - more than fifty miles away from the house where she and Crowley had been kept. 

 

“Why would he go so far to dispose of a body?” Aziraphale wondered aloud as Anathema followed the map toward their destination. There was a hopeful note to the question. “You said he was going off to work every night, correct? So when would he have the time?”

 

“He’d make the time, if he’s smart,” Crowley pointed out, grim and resigned - determined to brace himself for the worst. “Keep a bit of distance between his life, and any evidence of his crimes.” 

 

Or ,” Aziraphale pointedly countered, with an encouraging smile and a little nudge. “He didn’t take her there. She did. Because she’s alive .” 

 

Crowley didn’t respond, just gazed out the window at the passing scenery, and tried very hard, despite Aziraphale’s best efforts, not to get his hopes up. 

 

Marie Payton. 

 

The name echoed in his thoughts as the car carried them closer and closer to answers that he wasn’t really sure he wanted. 

 

He was fairly certain that Lucy had escaped. Pervy had produced no evidence of her death, and his uncontrollable rage upon returning to find her missing seemed to indicate that he was surprised that she was gone. Crowley wondered about her from time to time, and felt tremendous regret for the harm that he had allowed to befall her before finally letting her escape - but he felt sure that she was somewhere out in the world, alive , if not well. 

 

He felt no such certainty for Marie Payton. 

 

Crowley could feel the anticipatory tension building, and even Aziraphale’s endless stream of optimism eventually fell silent as they grew nearer and nearer to the point on the map. He expected it to lead them out into the countryside, to some field or cave somewhere, where a body could be easily hidden. 

 

Instead it led them to a residential area in a small village. 

 

“It’s here,” Anathema announced, as she parked the car at the side of the road. “Right here. This house.” 

 

They got out of the car, and Crowley found his gaze drawn to the sprawling field behind the house. Perhaps the body of the young woman he’d failed to save lay in that field. He froze, swallowing hard. His heart was racing. He couldn’t bring himself to go any farther. Aziraphale’s hand on his shoulder momentarily startled him, but then he relaxed into the comforting touch, raising his own hand to cover his angel’s and letting out a shaky sigh. 

 

“Crowley!” Anathema’s voice called, and he looked up to see her standing by the mailbox, indicating the side of it with one hand, a beaming smile on her face. Crowley followed her gaze, and his heart leapt with the first stirrings of hope he’d allowed himself to feel when he read the lettering there. 

 

PAYTON  

 

“She lives here!” Aziraphale clapped his hands with joy. “I knew it!”

 

“Or… lived here,” Crowley suggested, still cautious. 

 

“And he just… delivered her body back home after murdering her?” Anathema lifted a single brow as she met Crowley’s eyes. 

 

Crowley blinked at her. “Well, no,” he admitted, a bit embarrassed. “S’pose that doesn’t make much sense.” 

 

That was when the front door opened, and Crowley looked up - and saw her. Standing in the doorway, staring directly at him in shock - same hair, same eyes he remembered, wearing a scarf in a colorful geometric pattern this time, rather than a floral. A slow, disbelieving smile spread across her lips as she took a single step out onto the porch. 

 

“It’s you,” she said, in wonder. 

 

And then, everyone was looking at him, and Crowley felt abruptly quite awkward. He gave her a slight, self-conscious little wave, and a smile he hoped wasn’t too nervous. 

 

“Crowley,” he reminded her, because she certainly could have been forgiven for forgetting, given the mind-numbing terror of the circumstances under which they’d met. 

 

“Yeah,” she replied in a tone that made it clear she hadn’t forgotten. She shook her head a little in wonder. “You’re alive .” 

 

Crowley let out a startled little bark of laughter. It somehow just seemed funny, given how he’d agonized over whether or not she had survived their ordeal. And once he’d started laughing, he couldn’t seem to stop - until he couldn’t laugh anymore, but only because he was sobbing instead, deep, wrenching sobs that stole his breath and would have driven him to his knees in the grass, if Aziraphale hadn’t caught him, supporting him and holding him up. 

 

Marie Payton came off the porch, hurried and concerned, glancing up and down her street for any nosy neighbors who might have noticed the strange procession that had just shown up at her door. 

 

“It’s all right, I’m all right,” she assured Crowley when she reached him, reaching out to touch his face, and he looked up to see that hers was streaked with tears as well. “Come on,” she said with some urgency, glancing around at all three of them. “Let’s go inside.” 

 

Four cups of tea and the ruination of two handkerchiefs (both the one Aziraphale carried in his coat pocket as a matter of habit, and a second one he’d miracled out of thin air when the need became apparent) later, the four of them were seated around Marie’s kitchen table, as she explained to them what had happened. 

 

“I remember, now,” she said, dabbing at her eyes with the miracled handkerchief that was no less soft and fine than the one that had started the day in Aziraphale’s pocket, and was currently damp and crumpled in Crowley’s fist. “But… I couldn’t, then. Once I got clear of his property, it was like - there was this fog in my mind. I could remember - little bits and pieces. Being - tied up, and - and scared out of my mind.” She shivered, took a warming sip of her tea. But then she smiled up at Crowley, eyes red-rimmed, but bright. “Your eyes,” she said softly. “I couldn’t remember… who you were, but... I could see your eyes, in my mind, and I knew that you were… someone safe . Someone who helped me.” 

 

Crowley felt his face flush, self-conscious under the focus of her warm appreciation, and he wished he’d thought to miracle up a fresh pair of sunglasses before leaving the cottage. He’d scarcely needed them since his rescue, as he hadn’t so much as stepped outside before today. 

 

But the way Marie was looking at him, with something bordering on adoration - the way she talked about how the memory of his eyes had made her feel safe - made him think that perhaps he didn’t need them so badly at the moment, after all. 

 

“I didn’t remember at first, and then - all at once, a few days later… I did ,” Marie continued. “But… I was so confused, and - and I’d told everyone I couldn’t remember what happened to me, and - it was all so strange and unreal, I didn’t think they’d believe me.” She paused, looking away. “ I barely believed me. I went back to that house, and - it had burned to the ground.” 

 

Aziraphale cleared his throat, a bit self-consciously, studiously avoiding the eyes of anyone else at the table. He knew very well exactly when and why she’d gotten her memories back - as well as how the house had ended up obliterated by fire. Crowley suppressed a grin and squeezed his hand under the table. 

 

“I thought maybe I’d… imagined parts of it? Maybe it wasn’t all real?” Marie grimaced, meeting Crowley’s eyes apologetically. “I remembered you’d mentioned… your friend, Mr. Fell, and where to find him…” Aziraphale gave her a little acknowledging nod, and she looked at him as she continued, “But I didn’t know what to tell you if I did find you. The house was gone. The man who took me was gone. You were gone,” she looked back at Crowley, shaking her head helplessly. “I just - I half-believed it was all in my head. Delusions to help explain my amnesia. At least, I knew that’s what anybody else would tell me, if I told them about the guy who held me and a demon prisoner by using magic and then somehow wiped my memory after - until I suddenly got it back for no apparent reason.” 

 

“Well, yeah.” Crowley nodded. “When you put it like that.” He shrugged a little, dismissing her guilty explanations. “They found me. Got me out. ‘S all right.” 

 

Marie shook her head, blinking back tears. “It’s not ,” she quietly insisted. 

 

Silence descended for a few moments, before Crowley broke it, redirecting the conversation, hoping to turn her thoughts from her own failure to help him in return. 

 

“How’d you get out?” he asked with a slight frown. “I mean… all the way out? He showed me your scarf. There was blood on it. He - he said he killed you, and I…” He swallowed hard, looking away. 

 

“He didn’t do that,” Marie explained, a note of contempt in her voice for Pervy’s lies and posturing. “I fell, running through the field. There was a branch, and I tripped, and cut my leg. It was bleeding rather badly, so I wrapped it with my scarf. But I was - really scared, and shaky, and in a hurry to get away, and I guess I didn’t wrap it very well. By the time I got to town, the scarf had fallen off. I never knew just where I lost it.” 

 

“So he must have seen it out there as he was coming in,” Crowley concluded with a slow nod of understanding. “Stopped and picked it up. Used it to - to convince me he’d killed you. That… that I got you killed.”  

 

The sheer relief , the weight of that guilt lifting off Crowley’s shoulders, brought fresh tears to his eyes… even before the soft touch of Marie’s hand, as she reached across the table to place it over his. Reluctantly he looked up to meet her gaze, and was overwhelmed by the awe and gratitude he saw there. 

 

“You saved me,” she declared softly. “He - was going to do terrible things to me. I know he was. But he didn’t get the chance to. Because you helped me get out.” She shook her head, her mouth quirking upward into a wry smile. “He called you a demon…”

 

“He wasn’t wrong,” Crowley confirmed flatly. 

 

Marie shook her head, dismissing his claim. “Not to me, you’re not. To me, you’re like… some kind of angel. Like… my guardian angel.” 

 

Crowley couldn’t suppress the laugh that burst out of him at the irony of her observation - a real laugh, whole and strong, born of the relief and peace he felt at knowing that he hadn’t failed Marie, after all. He hadn’t cost her her life, as he’d feared. In fact, she was alive and more or less unharmed, because of him. She was safe. 

 

And he was safe. 

 

And for the first time since he’d been taken, Crowley was finally certain. He might not be just yet, but he would be all right. He smiled, reaching across the slight space that separated his hand from Aziraphale’s, intertwining their fingers and looking up to meet his eyes with warmth and gratitude. 

 

“Yeah,” he said softly, addressing Marie, but holding Aziraphale’s gaze. “Yeah… I’ve got one of those, too.”