Chapter 1: Prologue
They worked well together. Aziraphale and Crowley, Francis and Ashtoreth; they influenced the Antichrist one way and the other, for their own sides and, on occasion, for each other’s, and they kept one another sane in the process.
Warlock was eight years old when the gardener and the nanny admitted their feelings for one another, when they gave into their carnal urges in a way that the angel and the demon never could. If they only had a few years left, if the world was to come crashing down around their ears on Warlock’s eleventh birthday, at least they could cling to one another in the intervening time. If they were to try to save the world together, at least they could also be together. It was a solid plan, and it was working.
Warlock was nine years old when the plan fell apart. He was nine years old when Nanny Ashtoreth disappeared without a trace.
Two years before the end of the world
Brother Francis stabbed his trowel into the dirt with unnecessary force, setting the Busy Lizzies aquiver. He sighed.
“Now, there’s no need for that. I’m not cross with you.”
He was cross, of course, but he was cross with Crowley, and Crowley was nowhere to be found, much less yelled at. When Nanny Ashtoreth had first vanished from her post, he had searched for her in all the places he could think of - the Mayfair flat, where Crowley’s houseplants had trembled just as the Dowlings’ flowers were trembling now; the usual haunts; the less usual haunts. But he’d had duties here on the Dowling estate, and so he’d had to return - with no demon, and no idea where his ancient adversary was.
The Dowlings had been worried and furious by turns; either Nanny Ashtoreth had abandoned her post and vanished without so much as a moment’s notice - she had simply failed to return from her afternoon off, nine weeks ago - or some sort of tragedy had befallen her. Over time, the Dowlings had found themselves leaning towards the former possibility, while Brother Francis - Aziraphale - feared the latter. It was foolish to worry about Crowley; she was both capable and strong, and in no danger from human attackers. Hell needed her where she was, and they knew it; Heaven knew nothing of her whereabouts, or Aziraphale would have been warned of an attack. No, there was simply no way Crowley could have come to harm, unless she’d intended it, and if that was the case then it was entirely too late to stop her now. That left only one conclusion to be drawn; Crowley had abandoned their scheme, abandoned Aziraphale, and abandoned all hope of saving the world. Well, Aziraphale would pick up her slack, but he wasn’t happy about it.
He missed Crowley. He missed being the Francis to Crowley’s Ashtoreth, and he missed the delightful little affair they’d allowed themselves while they were undercover. He’d loved Crowley for so long, and their disguises had allowed them the flimsy semblance of an excuse to indulge what were, apparently, mutual feelings. They’d held each other, kissed each other - things he’d never dared to dream they might one day be able to do - and as a rather fun bonus, they’d had quite a lot of sex. He’d thought it all meant something - and then Crowley had left without a word.
“Nanny Ashtoreth!” Brother Francis dropped his trowel entirely at Warlock’s excited cry. He couldn’t let himself get his hopes up; in the first week after Crowley had vanished, Warlock had picked up on the adults’ distress and become quite frantic about Nanny Ashtoreth’s whereabouts. He’d greeted every pair of sensible heels clacking along the pavement since then with similar enthusiasm, until he came into sight of the woman unfortunate enough not to be his Nanny, and then he always stormed back in. Today, however, his victim responded in a soft Scottish brogue.
“Warlock, lamb. Oh, I’ve missed you.” Brother Francis rounded the corner of the house just in time to see Nanny Ashtoreth step back from the enormous hug she’d just given Warlock, but she didn’t spare the gardener so much as a glance. Instead, she straightened her shoulders like a condemned woman facing a firing squad. “Where are your parents, dearie? It’s quite important I speak with them.”
Mr Dowling was at work, but Harriet video-called him as soon as she saw who'd just walked in. Brother Francis found himself inconspicuously watering the borders outside the kitchen, where the conversation was taking place, and didn't feel he could be blamed for using a quick miracle to peek in once or twice.
"Harriet, babe, I'm just- what the hell is she doing there?"
"I thought she might as well explain herself to both of us."
"Good thinking. Well, Ashtoreth?"
"I'm very sorry for leaving you in the lurch. It's no way to repay your kindness, I know, but I was called away so suddenly-"
"Called away where?" Thaddeus demanded, and Nanny Ashtoreth hung her head.
"A family emergency. I'd rather not go into detail, if you don't mind."
The room was silent for so long that Aziraphale used a slightly stronger miracle so he could stand and press his face to the window without being seen. Nanny Ashtoreth was keeping her gaze demurely on the floor; Harriet was watching her with a slight frown of concentration. Thaddeus, however, seemed only to have gone quiet in order to work himself up to a shout.
"You abandoned your post for over a month! We're going to need more of an explanation than that-"
Ashtoreth looked up, but it was Harriet she locked eyes with.
"It was a family emergency," she repeated softly, and Harriet's mouth formed a tiny o of understanding for the briefest of moments.
"I'll handle this, Tad, you're busy. Talk later, bye!"
Then she ended the call and gestured towards the kitchen table; Aziraphale ducked down behind the windowsill again, despite his concealing miracle.
"I really do need more information, Ms Ashtoreth, but I promise that anything you tell me will stay between us girls, if you prefer."
"I do prefer." Ashtoreth took a deep breath, and Aziraphale could imagine her shaking her head. "I'm terribly embarrassed about the whole thing."
"No need for that," Harriet assured her, "these things come up. Emergencies, that is. I'd just like to know what was so urgent-"
"I fell pregnant," Ashtoreth told her, and Brother Francis sat down with a bump in the soil. He'd no doubt crushed several promising blooms, but that didn't matter. Whatever the true reason for Crowley's absence, he hadn't expected her to use such a complicated excuse. Ashtoreth, after all, could hardly look after the Antichrist for almost two more years if everybody expected her to become a mother within that time. "I'm not married, and it wasn't planned," Ashtoreth continued, voice trembling rather credibly in Aziraphale's opinion, "and I didn't want Warlock to be confused if he noticed I was sick all the time. I'm afraid I panicked."
"Oh, Nanny Ashtoreth. I do understand." But Harriet still sounded puzzled. "What changed your mind?"
"I stopped it." It was barely a whisper, and it took Aziraphale a few seconds to parse the words into something meaningful. Oh. Well, that was certainly unexpected. The Dowlings could be quite conservative, on occasion, and Aziraphale was afraid that the lie Crowley had told might be quite the wrong one to have chosen.
"Oh, my dear Nanny Ashtoreth." Harriet didn't sound disgusted, as he'd feared she might; he popped his head up to find the two woman-shaped beings locked in a fierce embrace. Crowley was giving the performance of a lifetime; Nanny Ashtoreth's barely-contained little sobs shook her body, tears streaming down her cheeks to wet Harriet's blouse. "You know, you made the right decision? If you weren't absolutely sure and ready to be a mom… Don't doubt yourself now."
"It's- it's just a relief to tell somebody- even if it does cost me my job-"
"Of course you must come back. Don't you worry about Tad, I'll handle him. And I'm always here for you, not just as your boss, but as your friend. If you're ever worried about anything, I hope you know now that you can tell me."
Brother Francis returned to his duties, reluctantly impressed. It seemed an unnecessarily risky choice of lie, to him, but then Crowley was a demon, all but made for deception. It seemed that Nanny Ashtoreth had got away with her falsehood, for now - but Aziraphale would be expecting a more accurate explanation when he next got a chance to speak to Crowley.
He expected her to knock on his door that evening, or the evening after that, but their paths didn't cross for a full week. In fact, Nanny Ashtoreth wouldn't even look at him, and he had to leave the traditional unsigned note on her pillow to get her to report to the cottage for a debrief. There would be no debriefing, of course, unless Crowley's explanation for her behaviour was absolutely impeccable. Still, Aziraphale made sure to look his best as he opened the cottage door that evening and ushered her inside.
"This is a bad idea," Nanny Ashtoreth told him without preamble, and Aziraphale saw his opportunity to raise the subject of the lie.
"Because Harriet might get ideas about us? I heard what you told her about your absence; congratulations. She absolutely believed you - a masterful deception."
Crowley stared at him in baffled horror for several seconds, then shrugged.
"Well, I could hardly tell her I was recalled to Hell, could I?"
“No, but you might have warned me. Two months in Hell is a lot, though - was it-?”
“I wasn’t there for two months.” Crowley shrugged. “I had places to be.”
“Yes, well, I must have looked in most of them. You disappeared, Crowley. For what, a handful of temptations? Couldn’t you have kept me informed?”
“You don’t need to know every detail, angel.” The worry must have been clear on Aziraphale’s face, because the demon sighed. “It wasn’t- they weren’t punishing me again, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“It was, a bit.” Aziraphale huffed, torn between warring urges to hold her close and to never speak to her again. “You could have told me-”
“I left in a hurry. I won’t do it again, OK?” It was the closest thing to an apology he was likely to get, so Aziraphale accepted it.
“Fine. Will you stay tonight, dear?”
“No!” It was almost a yelp as Aziraphale reached out for her hand, and then Nanny Ashtoreth pulled herself together. “No, er, better not. I need to stay out of trouble for a while, if I’m to keep this job. I’m sure they’re watching.”
“The Dowlings. I think it’s best we keep things professional, for a little while.”
“Oh. Right.” He could see her point, but he couldn’t help but think he was missing something. “Professional. Got it.”
They did keep things professional, for a couple of months, and then one day Nanny Ashtoreth arrived on his doorstep in the dead of night and kissed him as if she’d been saving it up since the moment she left. Aziraphale let her in and went willingly as she led him to his own bed, as she sank down onto it with him and made him see all the stars she’d once helped to make. The new Arrangement continued, and then - almost before he knew it - Warlock’s tenth birthday had passed, and his eleventh raced towards them, and both nanny and gardener gave in their notice to the Dowlings. With it, they gave their notice to one another; it had been pleasant, while it lasted, but without the shield of their false identities they could no longer continue their romantic relationship.
Warlock’s eleventh birthday came and went, and then it was the end of the world.
Don't worry - we will find out what Crowley was up to! Just... not quite yet. Guesses are welcome in the comments.
Chapter 3: Chapter 2
Couldn't wait to post some more, so...
After the end of the world
“I did feel a little queasy, in your body,” Aziraphale admitted, as they parted ways after their dinner at the Ritz, “did you feel the same in mine?”
“No. But there were bound to be side effects,” Crowley pointed out, “I’m just glad we didn’t discorporate.”
He forgot about that little exchange until about eight hours later, when he found himself curled over the pristine toilet bowl in his Mayfair flat. It was just as well he didn’t eat much, really; he’d sobered up out of habit, once he got home, so there wasn’t even much champagne to bring up. On second thoughts, that was probably worse; he kept retching and heaving, but he didn’t feel better.
Finally, there was a brief lull in the nausea, and Crowley was able to sit back against the cool tile of the wall and think. He didn’t get sick, as a rule. Actually, he didn’t get sick, full stop. The only time he had been sick before had been during his absence from the Dowlings’, and that was probably only because he’d expected to be. It stood to reason, then, that something was strange about this sickness. It was probably a reaction to having an angelic essence walking around in his corporation, he supposed. It would pass.
Three days later, as he curled around the toilet once again and sobbed his breakfast into the plumbing, he had to admit to himself that that wasn’t it. He knew what was happening, and it was time to face that; what he didn’t know was why. What had he done recently that could have caused it?
“Let’s see,” he muttered out loud, when the next wave of nausea receded, “various small miracles, ran into a burning bookshop, drove my flaming car through Hellfire by sheer force of will, stopped time, stopped stopping time, exchanged b- oh.” Stopped stopping time. “Oh, Hea- He- sssssshit. ”
Well, he would have to sort that out, one way or another. He’d have to make a decision, and follow it through. He’d had his reprieve, and he could probably buy himself more time, if he wanted, but there was only so long that one could go on running away from things. He probably had a few weeks to make a plan and execute it; he would spend a few more days in friendly company with his angel, and then he would disappear again, ready to turn his attention to more urgent matters.
Of course, that plan went to pot about ten hours after he came up with it, the moment he had to throw up in Aziraphale’s toilet. He knelt in the bookshop's little bathroom, nausea receding, and sent up a desperate prayer just in case She was listening. Please, don’t let him question it. Don’t let him worry.
“Crowley?” The angel knocked on the door. “Are you all right in there? I’m really quite worried; can I come in?”
He should have remembered; She was a bitch, and She hated him.
“No need, I’m… I’m coming out.” Aziraphale, of course, had a full-length mirror beside his sink; Crowley caught a glimpse of himself as he rinsed his mouth and splashed water on his face, and shuddered. He’d hoped he’d have longer before he began to look different. At least Aziraphale would be focused on the way his face had turned pale and clammy, rather than the other changes beginning to make themselves apparent.
He emerged into the narrow hallway of the bookshop to find Aziraphale holding out a blanket. He allowed himself to be wrapped in it and guided to his usual spot on the sofa, but he couldn’t relax enough to sprawl.
“Crowley,” the angel demanded, “I really must insist that you tell me what’s wrong. Was it me, did I injure your corporation with my divinity, somehow?”
“No. No… well, it’s not. No, not your divinity.”
“Then what, Crowley? Why are you suddenly sick? I’ve never seen you vomit.”
“And you never will,” Crowley assured him, although it had been a close-run thing as he’d sprinted from the bookshop to the bathroom, only minutes earlier. “I don’t suppose you have any biscuits?”
“Of course- Crowley, you don’t eat.”
“Sometimes I do,” he argued, “and… and I think I’d like a cup of tea.”
Aziraphale bustled off to the kitchen for tea and biscuits. He liked to make tea the human way, which Crowley figured gave him a few minutes to get his head straight. Perhaps the angel would get so distracted that he’d stop asking questions - but perhaps not. His angel could be so stubborn, after all. And if he didn’t drop the subject, Crowley would have to tell him something. He had, at best, three minutes left to decide what.
The thing was, Crowley didn’t like lying to Aziraphale. He didn’t do it, ever, if he could possibly help it. He’d never lied to him about this, not directly. And he wasn’t certain he could do it now.
“Here. Tea and biscuits.” Aziraphale smiled gently at him as he handed them over, and then went back to the kitchen for his own cup. Crowley had to choose, now. And, if he wasn’t going to tell the truth, he had to think of a believable lie. There was no time, and he had no energy, and he didn’t want to lie to his angel about this. He just didn't know if he dared tell the truth. “There, I’m back. Take a sip and tell me what’s wrong, dear.”
Crowley managed to eke a few more seconds out of selecting a plain biscuit and dunking it carefully in his tea, a quick miracle saving the biscuit from becoming a soggy ruin at the bottom of the cup. He was good at buying time, after all, wasn’t he? It was what he did. What he’d done at the end of all things, what he’d done in Paris when Aziraphale was in trouble. What he’d done for the whole of the two years since he’d vanished from the Dowlings’. He played for a little more time, and things worked out. Only this time, playing for time wasn’t going to solve anything.
“You’re not going to be impressed,” he warned quietly, “I won’t blame you if you’re angry.”
“Angry with you? For being ill? I hardly think-”
“Do you remember when I left the Dowlings’?”
“When you disappeared for two months without a word?” Aziraphale already seemed cross, despite his earlier protests. “Yes, that rather sticks in the brain for some reason. You told me Hell didn’t punish you.”
“Wh- they- no, they didn’t. They would have, if they’d known what was going on, but they didn’t. Nobody knew, so it was fine. I thought… it was fine, you know. Look, if I’m going to tell you about this… the sickness thing, you’re going to have to listen and not interrupt.”
“You asked a question,” Aziraphale grumbled, “but fine. I’m all ears.”
“Right, well. When I left the Dowlings... what I told Harriet. It wasn’t a lie.”
“You told her you were pregnant.” It took a few moments, Crowley holding the angel’s gaze with difficulty, even through the sunglasses, but then he saw the angel put two and two together. “You-” He slumped back into the chair with a soft thump. “But we were- it… it was mine? Ours?” Crowley nodded. Looking at him was painful, but he didn’t dare look away. For a moment, Aziraphale looked conflicted, torn between fear and excitement - he always had found new curiosities interesting, and what could be more curious than an angel getting a child on a demon? - but then he obviously remembered the rest. “You told her you, ah, got rid of it.”
“Stopped it,” Crowley corrected him quietly, “yes. I did.”
“What difference does the phrasing make?” Aziraphale’s face crumpled into an expression akin to sympathy. “Oh, Crowley, naturally it’s entirely your decision, but I do wish you’d told me before. I must have seemed so callous, so unfeeling- I thought it was all just a ruse-”
“Well, it wasn’t. Only- only now I think I actually have to make a decision.”
Aziraphale stared at him, brow furrowed in confusion.
“What on earth do you mean?”
“It’s started again.”
Chapter 4: Chapter 3
Just as a heads-up, some discussion of periods and anti-choice rhetoric (which Crowley gives no credit whatsoever).
Two years ago
Nanny Ashtoreth didn’t, strictly speaking, need to menstruate. It wasn’t a function she required, although it was certainly easier to go unremarked upon in a house where other women were resident if she allowed it to happen. Besides that, it had the benefit of counting as a blood sacrifice in Hell’s accounting, and that meant she could use it to top up the infernal credit that allowed her to use miracles like they were going out of style. She had even, once - inspired by some of the anti-abortion movement’s more repellant slogans - attempted to claim it as a Deed by logging it as ‘waste of potential life of half a hypothetical baby who might possibly have grown up to do something that was arguably good’, but Beelzebub had called to remind her that she was a demon and inform her that she was pushing her blessed luck. After that, she’d stuck to the blood sacrifices.
The fact that she did menstruate, however, meant that when some of the other members of the household were caught off-guard, she was only too happy to provide them with whatever supplies they might need. This morning, it was Lydia, the bright young cook, who sent her an apologetic text message from the staff bathroom.
My Auntie Flo’s turned up unexpectedly. So quaint, these complicated human ways of saying simple things. Can I beg some supplies until I can get into town later?
Of course, dearie, what’s mine is yours. And Nanny Ashtoreth had popped along the corridor to slide a couple of wrapped pads under the door. She hadn’t left anything in that bathroom since Warlock’s rampage through there three years ago, an incident which still occasionally resulted in the discovery of tampons and toothbrushes in odd places around the house.
It wasn’t until she returned to her room that she realised she ought to have needed those pads by now. It wasn’t as if she needed the infernal credit - she’d racked up plenty of it through various deeds and sacrifices over the years - but she hadn’t made any sort of attempt to disrupt her billing cycle. She tuned the little radio in her bedroom to white noise and hailed Dagon, Lord of the Files.
“Dagon, hi, just checking my accounts- did I make a blood sacrifice recently?”
“Oh, you’re right, Crowley, I have nothing more important to do than remember trivial things you’ve forgotten.” But she shuffled through the ledger - Crowley could hear the pages turning - and then came back with a decisive answer. “Last one was… just over five weeks ago. Problem with your account?”
“No! No. Oh, you know what, I’ve just remembered - doesn’t happen when I’ve got a dick. Which I have, right now, changed it a few weeks back, didn’t think of it.”
“Crowley. I literally couldn’t care less. Leave me alone.” And Dagon was gone.
Nanny Ashtoreth retuned the radio, switched it off, and then removed the batteries for good measure. She had lied to Hell - that was hardly new - but she couldn’t lie to herself. As far as she was concerned, all her internal plumbing should be working as usual. And Crowley’s cycle was as regular as clockwork, because it had never occurred to her that it wouldn’t be. Crowley, in fact, was only aware of one reason that a period could be late, and it wasn’t as if that could apply to her.
Even if she had been indulging in rather a lot of carnal pleasures recently.
Oh, shit. Shit. No. There was no need to panic. It almost certainly wasn’t what she thought; she would just have to rule that out and then she could go on to finding out what really was wrong. She picked up her phone.
Lydia? I need to pop into town at lunchtime. I’ll pick up anything you want if you’ll cover for me with Warlock.
It didn’t take long for the cook to reply with a small shopping list, and a few hours later Nanny Ashtoreth was standing in a pharmacy, pointedly looking at hairbrushes and not the home pregnancy tests in the next section. She had reasonably good peripheral vision; she could see that there were various kinds, for various prices. Some came in packs of two. The moment the shop was empty - she didn't want anyone in the Dowling household getting wind of this - she swept into action, picking up three boxes from across the board and then daring the pharmacist to comment as he rang them up. He ducked his head to avoid her gaze, and she took the opportunity to add one last brand to the pile - just to be on the safe side. Besides, if she decided not to use them all, they might be useful to have on hand for the next time somebody in the house needed her help. She handed over the money with a glare, furiously aware of the faintest hint of a blush making itself known on her cheeks.
“Good luck,” the pharmacist mumbled as he handed over the bag, and Crowley was sure that was an appalling breach of protocol, but she appreciated the thought. She’d take all the luck she could get.
Days passed before Nanny Ashtoreth managed to work up the courage to actually pee on the blessed sticks. The first evening, she read the instructions, then told herself that she hadn’t drunk enough water that day and resolved to do better tomorrow. The following evening, she was tired. The third afternoon, Brother Francis asked her if she’d like to visit him that night, and she panicked.
“Oh, I- I’ve got a lot to do, Brother Francis. Warlock’s been having nightmares.” That was true, but not relevant; Crowley could easily have used a little miracle to keep his sleep sweet, as she had done many times before. As, in fact, she intended to.
She drank three litres of water that evening, then spent a few awkward moments in the bathroom getting rid of it again, and used a swift demonic intervention to clear the corridor so she could dart back to her room, clutching her handful of tests, without being seen. Then she settled down to wait. As it turned out, the kits all took different amounts of time to work; she lined them up and sat to watch the clock.
One minute. She glanced down at the relevant stick and wished she hadn’t. Two lines. Positive. But these tests weren’t infallible, after all. Lots of humans had probably got false positive results - hadn’t Crowley seen that in enough films and sitcoms? It didn’t mean anything. Not on its own.
Three minutes. Two more of the tests were ready. She almost didn’t dare to look, but she’d read the instructions; leaving them too long could also lead to false positives. So she looked. Plus sign. Positive. “Pregnant,” and a smiley face. How presumptuous. Positive. That was… it was fine. The digital test had rave reviews online, she’d discovered in the days since she’d bought the blessed things, but that didn’t mean it was absolutely accurate. It was only a 75% agreement rate. Surely she only needed to panic if they all agreed?
Five minutes. It couldn’t really have been two minutes since the last result, not already. Crowley couldn’t look. She couldn’t. She had to.
Two lines. Positive. Fuck.
Nanny Ashtoreth didn’t sleep that night, though she desperately wanted to lie down and forget about the world until the problem went away on its own. It wouldn’t, of course. This wasn’t going away. She didn’t know how she felt about it, yet, exactly, but she knew she couldn’t stay where she was.
She got up as usual, saw to it that Warlock got his breakfast and settled down with his tutor, and then tidied his room for him. At lunchtime, she supervised the demolition of several peanut butter sandwiches, and then bid him goodbye. Thursdays, after all, were her afternoon off, and she needed this one.
“Bye, Nanny Ash, see you later,” he called, as he wandered back into the room he used for his lessons.
Then she walked out of his life, perhaps forever.
Chapter 5: Chapter 4
Did somebody order a panicking snake?
Crowley has some theories about various metaphysical and theological things in this chapter, which I'm obviously not claiming as fact in any way because all that stuff is very complicated. But it's what Crowley thinks for the purpose of this fic! I'm overthinking this, aren't I?
Anyway, we're still in flashback city (population: Crowley). Enjoy!
Still two years ago
Crowley settled in Jerusalem, knowing it was the very last place Aziraphale would think to look for her, if he came looking. Most of the city was consecrated, to some degree and in one religion or another, and it meant that Crowley could really only move around the outskirts. It didn’t matter; at least this way she could lie low and work out what the Heaven she was supposed to do next.
She didn’t know how to feel about it all. Pregnant. Six thousand years old, and pregnant with an angel’s child. Not that it was a child yet - she was only six or seven weeks gone, at most, and the thing growing inside her wasn’t large enough or developed enough to count as a person. It wasn’t yet alive, nor did it have a soul. Souls, as far as Crowley understood it, were conferred when babies were loved and wanted, or when they reached a level of maturity that allowed them to survive independently of their mothers - whichever came first. Crowley wasn’t there yet. Crowley didn’t know what to think, or how to feel, or what to want. Crowley was not mother material.
How could she have got pregnant now? How foolish, how careless she had been - but she’d never thought that it could happen. Besides the obvious obstacle of their opposing metaphysical properties, she’d never thought that either she or Aziraphale could be able to reproduce, not without meaning to. Of course she was wrong about that. Of course she was. If she could have flown back up to Heaven and punched God for letting this happen, she’d have been sorely tempted. As if the end of the world wasn’t enough to worry about.
No. She couldn’t worry about the end of the world until she’d worked out what the Heaven she was going to do about this. She touched her stomach through the fabric of her dress, then cringed at her own actions. There was nothing to feel, yet, no swelling, no movement. She didn’t need to touch it. She certainly didn’t need to get attached to the idea that one day there would be a bump there, or a kick. If this was going to interfere with the end of the world - with stopping the end of the world - then surely it was her duty to the world - to Aziraphale - not to go through with it. There. That settled it; she would sort the issue out with a discreet miracle and go back to England, ready to take on the apocalypse.
Then again, if she didn’t go back - if she stayed away - maybe Warlock would benefit from uncontested Heavenly influences. Perhaps he could be persuaded away from the end of the world more effectively in her absence. But Heaven were as keen on the war as Hell, so that might not work out, either. And what would Crowley do with a baby, if it came to that? A baby who’d be something entirely new, half angel, half demon - or perhaps it would just be an angel, since they were both of the same basic stock. It might even kill her while it was still inside her, although surely if that was going to happen, it would have happened when the child was conceived. But then, Crowley hadn’t loved it yet, or even wanted it. That would allow its soul to develop, and that might kill Crowley from the inside out.
No. There was an apocalypse to stop. She needed to help Aziraphale stop it. And she couldn’t do that if she was on blessed maternity leave. This couldn’t be allowed to continue; she had to end it. Even if the thought of a child that was hers - Aziraphale’s child, too - was a temptation in itself… No. She had to stop it. Had to destroy all evidence of the happiness she’d briefly shared with the love of her existence, her supposed enemy.
The argument raged inside her for another six weeks - she could have a little miniature Aziraphale to raise and potentially ruin, or she could try to save the whole world and be reunited with the real thing - before she realised that she didn’t have to make a decision yet. Not really. She didn’t have to end her pregnancy; she could just stop it. She had stopped time before, all of time, just to get Aziraphale out of a cell he could easily have escaped himself. She could stop a little bit of it, inside the confines of her own body, to put off making a crucial decision.
Besides, if they failed to save the world, it would be a moot point anyway. She focused her power inwards, using as little as she could to make sure the miracle was sustainable, and stopped the more mundane miracle taking place inside her in its tracks. At least, she hoped so. There was really no way to tell, except to wait a little longer and see if anything changed.
Three weeks later, she’d had enough. Surely she should have been starting to show by now, if things were still progressing? She would risk it; she was bored out of her mind, and the longer she stayed away the harder it would be to get back into the Dowlings’ employment. She had to return.
Harriet was so sympathetic, when she told her what had happened, and Crowley didn’t have time to regret blurting out the truth before Harriet said exactly what she needed to hear.
"You know, you made the right decision? If you weren't absolutely sure and ready to be a mom… Don't doubt yourself now."
And Crowley wasn’t sure, and Crowley wasn’t ready, and she had made the right decision. So Nanny Ashtoreth resumed her post, and if she couldn’t bear to look at Brother Francis, that was probably just because the sight of him in that awful smock of his was repulsive, and not at all the result of guilt or fear that he’d uncover her secret.
He called her to his cottage, of course. He had every right to demand answers. But a visit to his cottage, after the household was in bed, was bound to set Harriet thinking if she caught wind of it, and Crowley didn’t want that.
"This is a bad idea," she told him when he opened the door, but he didn’t even seem surprised.
"Because Harriet might get ideas about us? I heard what you told her about your absence; congratulations. She absolutely believed you - a masterful deception."
For several seconds, that didn’t make sense. I heard what you told her. Aziraphale knew . He knew he’d got her pregnant, and- congratulations? He couldn’t truly think she’d want to have the baby, now, so close to the end of the world and, potentially, a final war between their two sides, their child caught in the middle? Did he want that? A masterful deception, she realised finally. He didn’t know at all. He would be expecting some alternative reason for her absence. Time to think fast.
"Well, I could hardly tell her I was recalled to Hell, could I?"
“No, but you might have warned me. Two months in Hell is a lot, though - was it-?”
“I wasn’t there for two months.” Crowley shrugged. “I had places to be.”
“Yes, well, I must have looked in most of them. You disappeared, Crowley. For what, a handful of temptations? Couldn’t you have kept me informed?”
“You don’t need to know every detail, angel.” But Aziraphale looked so afraid, the way he had the first time she’d come back from Hell battered and bruised for the Antichrist’s supposed failures. “It wasn’t- they weren’t punishing me again, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“It was, a bit.” Aziraphale huffed. “You could have told me-”
“I left in a hurry. I won’t do it again, OK?” She wouldn’t apologise; she’d done the only thing she could. She would keep doing it, keep hiding the truth, because the last thing they needed was Aziraphale getting distracted the way she had.
“Fine. Will you stay tonight, dear?”
“No!” It came out as a yelp, and she yanked her hand back from where Aziraphale had reached to touch it. The comfort of Aziraphale’s arms, of his love, sounded like bliss, but she still wasn’t quite sure if she’d managed to stop her pregnancy from progressing. What if when he touched her, he felt the beginnings of a firm, incriminating bump? She couldn’t risk it. “No, er, better not. I need to stay out of trouble for a while, if I’m to keep this job. I’m sure they’re watching.”
“The Dowlings. I think it’s best we keep things professional, for a little while.”
“Oh. Right.” He didn’t look particularly happy about it, but he nodded all the same. “Professional. Got it.”
Nanny Ashtoreth managed to keep her distance for two months before she was absolutely certain that she’d achieved her goal. She wasn’t showing, the morning sickness was gone, and when she’d taken yet another pregnancy test in a sudden fit of anxiety, it had still come back positive. The decision remained frozen, awaiting her attention when she could spare it, and it wasn’t as if she could get any more pregnant by letting Brother Francis touch her…
She arrived at his door with an apologetic smile, meaning to ask forgiveness for keeping him at arm’s length, but the moment he opened it she pressed into his space and kissed him as though he was the only thing left in the universe that mattered. She was being too eager, she knew, not cool or enticing at all, but she was desperate for him, his lips on hers, his hands, and anything else he wanted to give her. He gave her everything, never holding back, and she knew he’d forgiven her disappearance.
She hoped, if the world didn’t end, he might one day forgive her deception.
Chapter 6: Chapter 5
'Scuse pronouns here, they do hop about a little.
Oh - and I meant to say last chapter, well done if you figured out what was going on!
A few days after the end of the world
Aziraphale didn’t think he could have heard properly. He was already struggling to keep up with the sudden influx of new information about a period of time he’d thought he’d understood, and now Crowley wasn’t making any sense.
Nanny Ashtoreth hadn’t lied to the Dowlings. She’d lied to him - although, now he thought about it, she’d never actually said that she hadn’t been pregnant. Crowley had been pregnant, and they’d been sleeping together at the time, and he knew Crowley hadn’t been with anyone else, so… It followed, then, that the potential baby had been Aziraphale’s as well; Crowley had confirmed it. They had caused the pregnancy together. He had made Crowley pregnant, and she had felt she had to run away. She had felt she had to deal with it alone.
And she had dealt with it. Ashtoreth had come back, and her belly hadn’t swollen, and her body hadn’t changed to accommodate a second being; she hadn’t eaten or slept more than usual, or had to sit down more often. She distinctly hadn’t given birth. Because she had got rid of - no, Crowley was quite insistent, stopped, and if that was how he wanted to think of it then Aziraphale wasn’t going to argue - she had stopped the pregnancy, and that was an end to it. And Crowley, poor Crowley had had to cope with all the emotions of the decision on her own.
He’d meant what he said; it was Crowley’s body, and therefore Crowley’s decision. He just would have liked to know. He would have liked to be able to gather his own thoughts and set them into order before it was all over. Now, there hardly seemed any point in sifting through his feelings on the matter; they were irrelevant. It was done.
“I have to make a decision,” Crowley repeated softly, “because it’s started again.”
It didn’t make any more sense the second time he heard it. Francis and Ashtoreth had said goodbye to the Dowlings - and each other - six months before Armageddon, and they hadn’t been intimate - unless one counted exchanging bodies - since then. He couldn’t possibly have got Crowley pregnant again, and yet it sounded as though Crowley was pregnant again.
“You’re pregnant,” he ventured cautiously, seeking confirmation, and received it in the form of a nod. “That’s why you’re sick?”
“Yeah. I think I only get sick when something happens that I think should make me sick. And She knows I’ve seen enough pregnant people hurling their guts up-” He stopped abruptly, looking a little green around the gills, then bolted for the bathroom again. Aziraphale pitied his friend, of course, but he couldn’t help being a little glad of the opportunity to gather his thoughts.
Crowley was pregnant. It couldn’t be his this time, of course, because they hadn’t slept together. If Crowley had got pregnant that very last time, he’d be huge by now. He’d have known. So Crowley was pregnant by somebody else, and this time he’d told Aziraphale. He hadn’t told him about his own child- the potential of a child, nothing certain, nothing real - and now he was telling him that he was pregnant with somebody else’s. Aziraphale didn’t even know demons could get pregnant, but it seemed Crowley was quite good at it.
He knew he should accept this knowledge as the honour that it was. Two years ago, apparently, Crowley couldn’t trust him with such information; now, he didn’t have to, but he had anyway. That was a good thing, something Aziraphale could cherish. And he’d never had any expectation that Crowley wouldn’t find someone else to be close to, once they’d left the Dowlings; they’d never made any sort of commitment, and until they’d been so thoroughly disavowed by their respective sides there had been no question of their ever becoming romantically involved again. It was perfectly reasonable that Crowley should have found somebody else to make him happy, and that was fine. It was fine, and he hoped that whoever Crowley had found, they did make him happy. Crowley deserved to be happy, and he deserved to have a baby if that was what he wanted, and if Heaven or Hell had a problem with that he’d fight them all.
Crowley returned from the bathroom, looking sheepish, and perched on the furthest edge of the sofa.
“If I’m honest,” he began carefully, “I’d appreciate your opinion. On what… what to do.”
“Oh.” Aziraphale could feel himself giving one of his silly little wiggles, the ones he always regretted the moment he’d finished. “Oh, I’m… I’m very honoured. That you’d ask my advice.”
“Well. Of course I would.” Crowley was looking at him expectantly, as if he should have all the answers, and while Aziraphale did endeavour to have as many answers as possible at any given time, he was somewhat lacking in information here.
“Right. Well, then. I’ll do my best to advise, but I really don’t think I’m the person you ought to be listening to here, Crowley. It is, after all, very much your decision, you and-?” He paused expectantly, but Crowley’s gaze had dropped to the floor and he still seemed to be waiting for Aziraphale to make some grand pronouncement. “Well, then, my dear, I suppose… how far along are you, if I may?”
“Er.” It seemed he hadn’t expected the question; he slumped back on the sofa and stared at the ceiling for a moment, lips moving silently as he worked it out. “Er… I suppose, allowing for… I think about fourteen or fifteen weeks. Nearly… nearly four months. They count it from- yeah, it’d be nearly four months.”
“Right. Have you known for long? No. No, doesn’t matter, don’t worry. I should ask, though… the father, are they going to be… around?”
“I.” Crowley sat up abruptly, turning his face away, and Aziraphale wished he would look at him, wished he wasn’t wearing his sunglasses. He’d do anything to be able to read some answers in those eyes. “I suppose that’s up to him.”
“Yes. Quite. May I ask, er… wh-?” He couldn’t ask him who, it was none of his business. “How did you meet him, anyway?”
Crowley turned slowly, and Aziraphale got his wish as he slowly reached up and removed his sunglasses.
“Angel.” He shifted along the sofa a little, to the end nearest Aziraphale’s armchair, so their knees were almost touching. “Aziraphale, it’s… I thought you knew - it’s yours.” He smoothed his hand self-consciously over his stomach and sighed. “I knew I had to tell you eventually, but… there was no time. The world was about to end, and I- I couldn’t face it, or you, so I stopped it. This- it’s yours, Aziraphale, still yours, there hasn’t been anybody else-”
“Mine.” It was a useless, half-formed response and he knew it; he had to press on. “It’s mine?”
He didn’t understand how it could be true, but he could see the truth in Crowley’s eyes, beyond the hint of apprehension and the shadow of fear. Wait - Crowley was afraid? Afraid of Aziraphale’s reaction? He couldn’t be. It was too much pressure. Aziraphale didn’t know what his reaction would be, what his reaction should be. Should he be delighted? Excited? Keen to support Crowley through the next stages of his pregnancy, intrigued by the prospect of meeting their child? He was. He was all of that. Or should he be frightened? Cautious? Concerned? He was that, too. He had no idea what could happen to Crowley if an angelic child continued to grow inside him, no idea what challenges they might face. More than that, he had no idea if Crowley wanted such a child. He didn’t know if he did. He hadn’t had time to think about it.
Crowley, apparently, had had time. Perhaps he would be better off finding out how that had happened first, rather than galloping on towards the future.
“How?” Crowley flinched, and he reached out to take his hand. “I believe you, my dear. I know you wouldn’t lie to me about something like that. I just… well, I’m afraid I’m rather baffled. I’ve never heard of anything like it. And- and you said four months?”
“I stopped it,” Crowley admitted, “like I stopped time. Exactly like that. There wasn’t- I couldn’t- we couldn’t be distracted. So I stopped it, and I came back to the Dowlings’, and when I was certain I wasn’t going to start showing any minute, I came back to you. I mean- Ashtoreth came back to Francis.” It had always been their polite fiction, their comforting little lie, the idea that Ashtoreth and Francis were their own entities, responsible for their own lives. Now, it seemed, Crowley was afraid to stray from it - but it had always been them . At least for Aziraphale, it had always been them. He loved Crowley, no matter how he was dressing or what name he was calling himself. He squeezed the hand he still held, aware of Crowley’s eyes fixed upon the point of contact.
“It’s all right to come back to me, Crowley. I’m… I’m always here.” The moment seemed to grow heavy, too heavy to bear, and he pressed on. “So… you stopped it. Time. Inside you?” Crowley nodded. “That’s, well, that's very impressive- but- it stopped working. Was it me? When we swapped bodies?”
Crowley looked up at him in surprise; it didn’t seem as though he’d considered that possibility.
“Er. Well, yeah, I suppose it could have been that. But I think… it was me. Stupid, I forgot about it. And, er, when I stopped time, and then I let it start again…” He sighed. “I didn’t even realise that little time bubble inside me had burst until I found myself back on my knees, calling Her on the porcelain phone." Aziraphale didn't bother to protest the blasphemy; perhaps it brought Crowley some comfort. Crowley's comfort justified a multitude of sins, in Aziraphale's opinion. "That’s when… that’s when I realised. And I didn’t know whether to stop it again, or… or do something more permanent about it… and I didn’t know whether I was going to tell you or not. At least, I didn’t think I knew.”
Aziraphale tried not to look hurt, but Crowley must have seen it in his face anyway.
“I knew if I didn’t tell you… either there’d be this secret between us for the rest of time, because I wouldn’t have the first idea how to tell you I’d chosen not to have your child without even asking you… or I’d have to leave before you could notice anything wrong, and never see you again, and I’d be keeping something that was yours from you. I couldn’t have done either of those things, angel, but I was scared. I’m still scared. I don’t know what you’ll say, and I don’t know what I want you to say.”
“That makes two of us, then,” Aziraphale told him softly, “my head is spinning.”
“We’ve got time,” Crowley assured him, “not a lot, I won’t lie, but we’ve got some time.”
“Then… I need to process this. Can we talk about something else, for a little while?”
“Of course, angel. Only-” He grimaced. “Er, when I get back.” And he was gone, racing - thankfully - for the bathroom door, and not the one to the street. Aziraphale didn’t know what he would have done if Crowley had left him again now.
Chapter 7: Chapter 6
Long, talky chapter. Enjoy!
A few hours later
Talking about something else had proven too hard, and they'd ended up playing three games of chess in solemn silence before giving up and staring into space.
“You look exhausted, my dear,” Aziraphale pointed out as Crowley slipped ever lower on the sofa, and Crowley levelled the best glare he could muster at him. It couldn’t have been very good; the angel only raised an eyebrow in response. “Ought you to get some sleep?”
“Probably,” Crowley admitted. “I’ll just go.”
“I- er- that is-”
“Spit it out, angel.” He didn’t know what Aziraphale was trying to say, but the slight flush of colour in his cheeks was intriguing, to say the least.
“I’m not trying to assume anything, Crowley, but- you know it was never about Ashtoreth, for me?”
“Well, I wasn’t exactly losing my mind over Brother Francis, either, ange-”
“Would you sleep here? With… with me?”
That was unexpected. He’d loved Aziraphale since almost the first moment he’d laid eyes on him, but they’d never… it had never been discussed, except in the guise of Ashtoreth and Francis, two independent characters who loved one another independently of Crowley and Aziraphale. He’d never been sure that Aziraphale wasn’t just playing a part, albeit with a great deal of gusto.
“Is this because I’m pregnant?” He didn’t mean it to come out sounding so accusatory; he just wanted to be sure of Aziraphale’s motives. If he meant to be kind to Crowley only in order to be kind to the baby that barely existed, he could shove it; Crowley couldn’t cope with that sort of affection-by-proxy, not tonight.
“It’s because I’ve missed you, and our old sides don’t care any more, and I should very much like to hold you, Crowley.”
He thought about that. The angel seemed sincere, at any rate.
“All right, but - just sleeping. I really am tired.”
“I’ll try to control my urges.” Crowley glared half-heartedly at him, but he knew Aziraphale was only joking. He had always been a perfect gentleman, and Crowley doubted that would change now.
“OK. But if your blankets are tartan-” Aziraphale winced, and Crowley grinned. “Too easy. Come on, then, show me to your abomination of a bed. Tartan! Honestly.”
The blankets were tartan, it was true, but they were soft and warm as Crowley slipped between them in his black silk pyjamas. Aziraphale made some fussy noises for a while, then seemed to decide that he might as well commit to the aesthetic and miracled himself into some tartan pyjamas, as well. Then he lifted the corner of the blankets, making Crowley hiss as cold air crept under them, and carefully clambered in.
“Crowley, my dear, may I…?” His hand was hovering over Crowley’s hip; it didn’t take a genius to read between the lines.
“By all means, snuggle up, angel. You’re warm.” And he did; Crowley felt every muscle in his body tense, then relax as Aziraphale moved closer, moulding his body to Crowley’s back and slipping an arm around his waist. It felt nice. Then Aziraphale’s thumb rubbed gently, curiously over his stomach.
“Oh,” the angel breathed, and Crowley winced. He’d forgotten what he’d noticed in the mirror earlier, in all the emotional upheaval of the hours after that. “You feel different.”
“‘S new,” Crowley whispered back, though there was really no reason to keep his voice down. “I don’t think it was like this yesterday.” He knew, after all, what Aziraphale meant; his abdomen had started to round, just a little - he must have thrown the brakes on the whole thing just in time, in Jerusalem - and it felt distinctly odd. It wasn’t as soft as Aziraphale’s stomach; it felt full, and that was disconcerting. It reminded him of his predicament. It must be reminding Aziraphale, too. “Sorry,” he murmured, and Aziraphale pressed a chaste, gentle kiss to his shoulder.
“Nothing to be sorry for. You don’t mind sleeping like this?”
“No, it’s nice.” Crowley hoped Aziraphale couldn’t see him blushing; how could he, really, when he was behind him? Still, he hoped he didn’t have some sort of angelic sense that let him detect blushes.
He was certain he wouldn’t sleep a wink, and equally certain that if he did fall asleep, Aziraphale would get bored and wander off to find a book, but when he next opened his eyes there was daylight streaming through a gap in the curtains and Aziraphale’s thumb was tracing little circles on his stomach through his pyjama top. Crowley shifted his own hand to rest on top of the angel’s, and the gentle rubbing motion stopped.
“Sorry. Did I wake you?”
“No. No, ‘s nice, don’t stop.”
“I think we need to talk,” Aziraphale reminded him, but Crowley could hear the smile in his voice, and the circles started up again.
“Mm, not yet. It’s too early.”
There was a rather weighted pause, and then Aziraphale moved until his face was next to Crowley’s ear.
“I love you,” he whispered, “I know this isn’t the time to tell you, but I do.”
“Oh, angel. I love you. When'sss better time?” But he knew what the angel meant; with everything that was changing for them, everything changing within Crowley, and with Aziraphale so thoroughly wrapped around him… it was almost too much to add love on top of it all. But then, at least for Crowley, the love had always been there, unacknowledged but definitely present. What was a little confession between the two of them?
Still, perhaps Aziraphale had a point. It was time to get up, to face the day and the decisions that might come with it. Crowley took a few more seconds to savour Aziraphale’s affection, then rolled over with a sigh. He meant to say something sweet, or at least to say something useful. What he actually said was, “Ngk,” as he scrambled to get out from under the blankets and into the bathroom. This morning sickness thing was terrible.
When he emerged, Aziraphale was waiting for him, holding a glass of water and looking deeply apologetic.
“I suppose this is my fault, isn’t it?”
“Takes two, angel,” Crowley pointed out, “shall we talk downstairs?”
“If you’d rather, certainly.” Aziraphale hesitated. “Or would you rather stay tucked up in bed, near the bathroom?”
“Tempting, but I think I need to be properly awake for this. Serious conversation. Downstairs?”
“Of course, dear.”
A couple of clothing-related miracles later, they were downstairs, settled into their usual chairs. Crowley, out of deference to the solemnity of the occasion, was sitting upright rather than slouching, and there was no sign of a bottle of wine, but other than that it might have been just an ordinary day. It wasn’t, though, because they needed to talk about what they were going to do. Crowley was suddenly very conscious of the weight of the decision; he felt as though he might actually have a preference for one course of action over the other, and he was terrified that he would only know which when it was too late.
Aziraphale, too, seemed lost in thought for a while, and then he spoke.
“Crowley, my dear, this isn’t an accusation-” Crowley immediately felt bad about whatever it was he’d done. “-and I don’t want to put pressure on you. I’m not going to hold you to anything you say, here, not just now, but… you’ve had more time to think about this than I have. So… if you didn’t mind… I wondered if you’d share your thoughts on the matter.”
“I don’t-” He stopped; he had thoughts, of course he did. “I… was thinking about different things, before- I wasn’t expecting us to actually save the world and survive- and I was thinking about Warlock.”
“Granted. Well, perhaps you could talk me through your thought process, when you were away?”
“All I knew was that we didn’t have time for this. We didn’t have time to talk about what me getting pregnant might mean, never mind having time for a baby. I figured it was a choice between having a baby to worry about and saving the world, and it didn’t seem fair if the kid was going to die in two years anyway, so- and it wasn’t as if... I mean. I know I’m not cut out for it, and I don’t have- it wasn’t something I planned for. But I couldn’t quite bring myself to make a decision, especially without talking to you, so I just… stopped it. And then I thought about it as little as possible until the throwing up started again.” He shrugged. “See? I don’t know how I feel.”
Aziraphale was frowning thoughtfully to himself, apparently turning Crowley’s words over in his mind.
“Do you know, my dear, you haven’t once said you don’t want it?”
“Oh- I-” Crowley wanted to protest; he didn’t want it, as such, he just didn’t necessarily want to get rid of it, either. He didn’t know what he wanted. He didn’t know. “I don’t. I mean. I don’t not want it. I just don’t… Look, I’m confused. I don’t know. There are probably all sorts of hormones or something going on.” He’d heard that about humans before, people lamenting the stupid decisions their hormones drove them to. He’d thought they were full of it, at the time, but that had never stopped him clutching at a convenient excuse before, and it wouldn’t stop him now. “I don’t know if I can trust what I feel.”
“And what do you feel?” Aziraphale asked, patiently.
“I- er. I feel like I want to know what you’re feeling.” Crowley shrugged. “Like you said. I’m not going to hold you to anything. But you must have some thoughts, now I’ve hit you with all this. Some sort of… gut reaction, maybe?”
“I just can’t believe it,” Aziraphale admitted, and Crowley tried not to show how much that hurt. He must have done a terrible job of it, because Aziraphale shook his head. “I mean, I do believe it- I just- I didn’t know it was possible. For angels, even, never mind… us. Oh, dear. I suppose we should have thought about it more, before we- I didn’t mean to- I’d never want to trouble you like this, Crowley. It must have been terrible, when you left.”
“It wasn’t the most fun I’ve ever had,” Crowley admitted, “but you know that’s not what I mean. However we got here, however we shouldn’t have… how do you feel now?”
“Honestly?” Crowley nodded, and Aziraphale took a deep breath, letting it out in a rush. “Frightened.”
“Right.” Crowley swallowed hard. “Well, same here, but- right, don’t worry about it, angel, I’ll deal with it on-”
“Crowley. I do not want you to deal with it on your own. I’m just telling you how I feel. I’m frightened of this brave new state of affairs, with our former sides backing off, I’m frightened of having the absolute freedom to choose my own course for the first time in my existence, and, yes, I’m frightened of what’s happening to you. I’m frightened for you, Crowley, and more than anything I’m frightened that I’ll say something now and you’ll just go along with it and end up hating me for it.”
“I’m not that much of a pushover.”
“No, dear, but you have made rather a habit of putting my needs first. This can’t be like that. At least at the moment, you’re the one most affected. I don’t mind venturing an opinion, but you mustn’t let it rule you.”
“Oh.” Crowley wanted to argue with that, he really did, but he knew it was a fair point. “And… and your opinion?”
“My opinion… I want us to be certain, Crowley. I want you to be certain, and I want us both to know that we’re following our own hearts, and not each other’s.”
“Well, one of us has to say it first.”
Aziraphale, smug git that he was, snapped his fingers and two pieces of paper, with two pens, appeared on the end table.
“Don’t overthink it. You don’t have to, of course, but I thought… if we both write down what we think and then swap-”
“But what if we don’t agree?”
“Then we’ll know that. At least we’ll know we’ve been honest.”
It made a frustrating amount of sense, loath though Crowley was to admit it. He took his piece of paper and pen and retreated to the end of the sofa furthest from his insufferable angel.
“What are we writing, then?”
“All right. Let’s think… OK. Shall we keep it to yes or no, just for simplicity's sake? Although of course you can write more if you like.”
“Fine. What’s the question?” He was beginning to panic, now, and he just wanted to get it over with. He was certain Aziraphale wouldn’t agree with him, whatever he wrote, and then he was going to have to decide whether Aziraphale was right about him, whether he really was that much of a pushover.
“Well, I suppose… do you want a baby?”
“No, that’s… that’s too complicated, angel.”
“It’s the question we have to answer, though. Unless you can think of a better one?”
“I-” He couldn’t, was the thing. That was the big question. “I mean. We’re not talking generally, here, are we? We’re talking… now?” It was a pathetic attempt to save face, and Aziraphale was kind enough not to call him out on it.
“All right, then. Do you - even if you can’t say why or why not - want this baby, now?” And then, like a smug, insufferable angel who knew what he wanted in life, he set pen to paper.
Crowley couldn’t set his pen to paper; he didn’t know what to write. He still didn’t trust his instincts, distracted and distorted as they were by the beginning of something inside him.
Yes, he wrote, because that felt like the truth, and then, I could want it. There, that wasn’t too revealing, was it? If Aziraphale didn’t, if he didn’t want- because Crowley didn’t think he could choose the unknown possibility of a child over seeing Aziraphale for the rest of eternity. If Aziraphale thought Crowley wanted the baby for certain, but he didn’t, he would have to either stick around and be responsible and resent it, or avoid Crowley and their child for all eternity - because if Aziraphale thought it was what Crowley wanted then he would insist that he should have it, and then Crowley would be powerless to argue with him. Better to leave the option open, surely.
Aziraphale was still writing, and it had been meant as a yes-or-no question with a yes-or-no answer, and surely even the most elaborate calligraphy couldn’t stretch either yes or no until it took five minutes to write. Crowley looked down at his own paper, a little doubtfully.
Yes, I could want it. He picked up the pen again. But not alone. He stared at that for a second, then crossed it out, three firm lines straight through the last sentence. Maybe, he wrote instead. It’s a lot.
And that was all he knew to be true, wasn’t it? So that was how Crowley left it. Then he folded his arms across his stomach, feeling oddly defensive even though his words hadn’t been seen yet, and waited for Aziraphale to finish writing whatever essay of literary criticism he seemed to have decided to draft in the margins of his simple yes-or-no answer.
Chapter 8: Chapter 7
Once again, I don't pretend to understand how souls work. I equally don't mean to suggest that these two are doing *the* right thing - in this instance, they're doing what's right for them and for this narrative.
That said... enjoy.
A few days after the end of the world
Aziraphale had meant to write a single word. He hadn’t known which, exactly, because although his heart fluttered at the thought of Crowley bearing his child, of the two of them getting to nurture someone and watch them grow, of being part of something larger than himself again, it also clenched at the idea of Crowley in pain, Crowley resentful and trapped, Crowley no more free than he had been when he was in Hell’s thrall. It wasn’t a question with a simple answer, he supposed, and it had been foolish to try to make it simple.
I want Crowley to be happy, he wrote, aware that it was exactly the sort of thing he’d have gently chided Crowley for writing. Perhaps that was why it felt easier to write about Crowley than to him.
I want Crowley to be free, and I want to love him, and I want to never let him down. The way he’s never let me down. I want so many things.
He paused for the briefest instant, aware that Crowley had written, and stopped, and started writing again, and he hadn’t even answered the question.
Yes, he confessed to the paper, I would like to meet this child. I would like to raise it, to see what we’ve made. But never, ever at the cost of Crowley’s happiness. And if Crowley doesn’t want this, now or ever, I will be there to support him through the end of it, too. I love you, Crowley. Nothing else matters.
He looked up; Crowley was curled at the end of the sofa, arms crossed over his stomach as though he was guarding something precious, and Aziraphale wondered if that meant anything. If it meant he considered the promise inside himself precious, or if he was guarding that infinitely more valuable treasure, himself. Aziraphale set his piece of paper on the end table, face down, hands held up as if to show that he wasn’t going to tamper with it further, and Crowley followed suit.
“Took you long enough,” the demon grumbled, returning to his previous position, all curled in on himself on the sofa.
“If I said I didn’t want it,” Aziraphale said, watching Crowley carefully, and saw all those long, artful limbs draw a fraction closer into his body. “But you did. Just hypothetically. What would you do?”
“I don’t know,” Crowley admitted. “If I wanted- but I’d want you, too. Can’t imagine that changing. What would you do? If I had it, and you didn’t want it?”
“I don’t know.” Aziraphale sighed. “I would always want you.”
“And what if you wanted it, and I didn’t? What then?” It was a challenge, defiance in every word.
“Then I imagine I would be content with your happiness, my dear. It’s your body that would have to go through it all, and I would never make you.”
“Do you think… oh, Heaven.” Crowley groaned. “Do you just want to look? Might as well get this over with so we can start being miserable, because I doubt we’re going to agree.”
“What makes you say that?”
“When have we ever agreed on anything, angel? Anything at all that mattered.”
“The end of the world,” Aziraphale answered promptly, “I think that was rather important, as it happened. Or rather, as it didn’t.”
“Well, don’t get your hopes up. I won’t.”
Crowley leant over and slid his piece of paper across the end table, so it was on Aziraphale’s side. He made no move to reach for Aziraphale’s.
“Both of us, then.” He didn’t move the paper that held his answer; he needed Crowley to be sure he wasn’t tampering with it. But he waited for Crowley to pick it up before touching the one he’d passed over. “On three?” Crowley nodded. “One, two… three.”
They both looked at the same time, and Aziraphale didn’t notice Crowley’s reaction for a moment, busy deciphering the words in front of him.
Yes, I could want it. Then something crossed out, and then, Maybe. It’s a lot. It certainly was. Aziraphale turned back to the deleted words; they were still quite legible if one put a little effort in. It felt like cheating, reading what Crowley had unwritten, but then it wasn’t as if the demon had made it so that he couldn’t read it. He’d had plenty of time to scribble over it, if he'd wanted; instead, he’d left it for Aziraphale to see if he just looked a little closer.
But not alone.
“Oh, Crowley,” he whispered, so softly that he could barely hear himself. And then he looked up to where Crowley was reading his own words.
“To see what we’ve made,” Crowley murmured, apparently unaware that he was making any sound at all, and Aziraphale watched anxiously as he reached the bottom of the note. “Nothing else- of course it matters, you-!” This last was all too audible. “Of course all of that stuff matters. You want- I mean-” He faltered. “You want this? Me?” His hand slipped back to his stomach, thumb rubbing gently, and Aziraphale wondered if he even knew he was doing it. “Us?”
And like a bolt of lightning, they felt it, a new celestial presence in the bookshop. For a moment, Aziraphale was afraid that Gabriel or Michael had come to try their luck again, but then Crowley’s gasp drew his attention back to him.
“Oh,” he said, clutching his stomach, “oh, no.”
“What’s wrong? What’s happened?”
“I should have thought- we should have- shit.” He scowled vaguely upwards. “You couldn’t have given us some time for second thoughts?”
“I’m sorry, angel. I had a plan, it was going to be- we still had weeks before the local humans stop allowing it, and I figured they were better judges of morals than me, you know, infernal and that, but. Fuck, She’s a bitch.”
“What did She do?” But Aziraphale knew, deep down, what had just happened. He didn’t understand why it had happened, but the sudden introduction of a soul into the world was a hard thing for an ethereal being to miss. Especially when the soul was also ethereal, albeit perhaps in a new way.
“I’m sorry. I- I loved it. I let myself- just for a moment, I thought- and now it’s here, I can feel it, and I don’t think I can change my mind any more.”
“Crowley.” He drew closer, pulled in by the fading sensation of the being now ensouled within Crowley, and reached for his hand. “It’s my fault. I loved it, too.”
“You’re an angel, you love everything- but you can still- I mean. It’s my responsibility, I don’t expect you to stay.”
“Then you don’t know me very well,” Aziraphale told him firmly, “because I could never stay away from you.”
Crowley didn't seem to know what to say to that. After a bit of spluttering, he seemed to settle on, "Well, I'm still here. That's something."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, your baby's holy angelic soul isn't destroying me from the inside."
"Could that happen?" It was an entirely pointless question; this had never happened before. Now he thought about it, it would make perfect sense for an angelic body inside a demonic one to destroy its host; hadn't he worried about the same thing when they'd exchanged bodies, just days ago? "I didn't think-" But Crowley had considered the danger, it seemed.
"Holy Water of the womb, what a way to-"
"Crowley!" His scandalised tone shocked them both. "Don't joke about- how could you choose to risk that?"
"Because I want this." Crowley looked as surprised as Aziraphale felt. "I… I really do."
His expression changed, reminding Aziraphale irresistibly of Eden. You what?
"I want it," he repeated, "do you-?"
"Yes." His mind was racing, suddenly, full of all the terrible dangers this pregnancy could pose to Crowley. “I do, but Crowley-” The demon looked so delighted to have made a decision that he couldn’t bring himself to worry him. It was too late, now; Crowley had made up his mind, and Aziraphale would just have to take care of him as well as he could. “Crowley.” He hoped he could hear the love in his voice, the longing that had been part of him for so many years. He wanted to touch him. He wanted to hold him close and never let him go.
“You’re not going to get all cuddly, are you?” But the glance he darted at Aziraphale was more hopeful than anything, and he sat up, opening his arms. Aziraphale wasted no time in wrapping himself in the demon, breathing in the reassuring scent of him.
“I love you,” he told him, for the second time that day, “and I promise it’s not because of the baby.”
“The baby,” Crowley echoed, as if it was something wondrous, and then, “I love you, too. That’s why the baby- I mean, if I hadn’t loved you, we’d never have-”
“We never have, have we?” He felt Crowley stiffen in confusion, and pulled back to look him in the eyes. “Francis and Ashtoreth had a rather passionate affair, as I recall, but you and I- we’ve never even kissed.”
“Same people,” Crowley told him awkwardly, and then, “do you want to?”
“Kiss you? May I?”
He wasn’t given the chance; Crowley leaned in and captured his lips for the first time since they’d left the Dowlings’. His breath tasted of mint - he’d obviously brushed his teeth after the last wave of nausea - and his mouth was warm and familiar. Before he knew what he was doing, Aziraphale had shifted forwards, pressing his beloved demon down into the sofa as they continued to kiss.
“Angel- Aziraphale.” Crowley sounded quite breathless, and Aziraphale paused for a second to check that he was all right. Had he hurt him, or pushed too far, or- was he reacting badly to the baby? But Crowley moaned as he tried to move away, pulled him still closer. “I’ve missed you.”
“Oh. Oh, yes. I’ve missed you, too- shall we-? I mean-?”
“Take me to your tartan monstrosity,” Crowley growled in his ear, and it shouldn’t have been possible for that sentence to sound arousing, but it did.
Chapter 9: Chapter 8
Short chapter today, sorry - that's just how they worked out. Enjoy!
A few days after the end of the world
Later, they lay in bed, legs tangled together, and the full enormity of the situation crashed down on Crowley.
“We’re really doing this?”
“If you’re sure you want to, yes.” Aziraphale was stroking his hair, and Crowley arched into the touch like a cat.
“I do. You’ll be with me?”
“You’ll be sick of me. I mean, I was planning to spend as much time with you as possible, anyway, once we stopped Armageddon, but now I have a cast-iron excuse.”
“Mm. I like that.” He sighed happily, pressing closer to Aziraphale as he began to feel the cold; Aziraphale pulled the blankets up over both of them and settled them down. “I’m going to get fat, you know.”
“I can’t wait to see it,” Aziraphale told him, and Crowley wondered if the slightly proud glint in his eye ought to bother him. It didn’t. Somehow, the idea that Aziraphale wanted to watch Crowley’s body change, knowing he’d had a hand in it… it wasn’t as uncomfortable as it probably should have been.
“I’ll get moody.”
“Get?” That definitely should have been an insult, but it didn’t sting at all.
“Will you be there, when… I mean, you know, when it all comes to a head?”
“When you give birth, you mean?”
“Don’t-” Crowley winced; he was being ridiculous, and he knew it. “Don’t call it that.”
“I just- I don’t mind doing it, if it means- but I don’t want to think about it too hard.”
“About giving birth?”
“No, Aziraphale, funnily enough, I don’t! I shouldn’t have asked, it doesn’t matter-”
“Of course I’ll be there, Crowley.” Aziraphale tucked a finger under Crowley’s chin and lifted it slightly, thwarting his attempts to hang his head. “Are you scared?”
“No! Well. Yes. Have you actually seen someone go through that? It’s horrible-”
“I’ve attended hundreds of b- hundreds of such events,” Aziraphale told him quietly, “assisted with several, actually.”
“Me, too.” Crowley dared to look into the angel’s eyes, then, at last, knowing he was safe. “I don’t think anyone else can help me. Will you-?”
“Of course I will. And I’ve an impeccable success rate, I’ll have you know.” Aziraphale was smiling, but there was still concern in his eyes. “Crowley, if you’re really- if you don’t want-”
“I’m doing it,” Crowley told him firmly. “Probably easier for an occult being, anyway, right?”
“Probably,” Aziraphale agreed, with more hope than conviction.
Ten minutes passed before Crowley spoke again.
“You’ll be with me?”
“All the way, my dear.”
“Then I’ll be OK.”
Chapter 10: Chapter 9
I'm basing my pregnancy knowledge off of cursory internet research, but I've tried to be accurate to a possible Crowley experience... Apologies if I've got anything wrong.
Anyway, hope you enjoy this chapter!
Six weeks after the end of the world
Crowley was curled over the toilet, knees planted firmly on the cushion Aziraphale had given him when it became clear this was likely to be a regular occurrence. In the brief moments of peace between his retching, he could hear the angel pottering about near the bathroom door, as he always did when Crowley found himself in this position.
He didn't usually knock on the door. They had long established that Crowley didn't want Aziraphale seeing him like this, and the angel usually respected that. So the knock came as a surprise.
“Little busy,” he called, and moved over to the sink to rinse his mouth out.
“Your phone was ringing,” Aziraphale called, “it was Warlock.”
Crowley spat into the sink and wiped his mouth roughly on his sleeve as he emerged from the bathroom in a hurry.
“Is it still ringing? Did you answer it?”
“I’m afraid I couldn’t work out how to,” Aziraphale admitted, “I expect you can call him back.”
“I will.” He cleared his throat and shifted back into Nanny Ashtoreth’s soft accent as he picked up his phone. “I will. There, that’s better.”
“Hello, Dowling residence?”
“Hello, it’s Nanny Ashtoreth calling. I believe young Warlock just tried to ring me?”
He heard a pounding of feet on hardwood floor and then Warlock was on the other end of the line.
“Nanny Ash, you rang me!”
“Warlock, it’s lovely to hear from you. I’m sorry I missed your call, I was just a wee bit tied up.”
“That’s OK, you called me back. I miss you.”
“I miss you, too, lamb, but you were getting a bit too big to need a nanny. How are you, my dear?”
“I’m OK. We got back from the Middle East yesterday. It was mostly boring, we went to all these palaces and things, but at least I got to tell a weird guy he smelled like poo in Israel.”
“Did you, now? Well, that was very-” He faltered; was he supposed to encourage evil now, or good, or neither? In the end, he decided to stick to what he was best at and encourage chaos. “-very brave of you, dear.”
"Will you come and visit me soon?"
"Perhaps, if your parents-" Oh, no. It seemed he wasn't quite over his little spell of vomiting yet. "Oh, Brother Francis wants to talk to you, lamb, let me-" Then he thrust the phone into Aziraphale's hands, mouthed Francis and ran.
When he emerged, pale and shaking, Aziraphale was waiting for him with a glass of water in one hand and the phone in the other.
"Yes, that's a good idea, young Warlock," he assured the phone in his most Francis-ish voice, "you run and ask her, and call Nanny back. It was nice talking to you, too. Bye bye, now."
By the time he found the right button to end the call, Crowley had finished his glass of water and realised his mistake.
Aziraphale grimaced at him.
"I'm sorry, dear. I had to tell him something."
"I should have just hung up, told him the connection dropped. Why would Francis be here, in the same room as Ashtoreth - why now, after they've both moved on?"
"Well… er, Warlock did ask, and I told him the truth."
"What?" Demons, angels, and babies flitted across Crowley's mind in the split second it took Aziraphale to follow his train of thought.
"Not that truth. That… Francis loved Ashtoreth too much to let her go so easily. And he didn't mind, just wants us both to pop in on him soon. Of course I said we'd love to. He's going to ask his mother when it's convenient."
Crowley's phone rang again as he spoke.
Dowling, said the caller ID. Crowley answered.
"Is this a bad time?" Crowley almost dropped the phone.
"Harriet! No, dearie, it's never a bad time to hear from you."
"Warlock said he spoke to Brother Francis, too. He says the two of you are a couple."
"Ah, yes. I apologise for discussing it with him - he rather caught us off-guard."
"He also said you're both coming to visit. How's next Wednesday afternoon?"
"Next Wednesday?" He repeated, and Aziraphale nodded. "Certainly. Shall we say two-ish?"
"Perfect. And we'll have to find time for some girl talk." Very few further pleasantries were exchanged before Harriet said goodbye, and Crowley slipped the phone back into his pocket with a distinct, uneasy feeling that questions were going to be asked.
Aziraphale seemed to share that opinion.
"You didn't mention the baby."
"It's just that… Crowley, if we're to see her next Wednesday… don't you think she might notice?"
Crowley looked down at himself critically; he wasn't as skinny as he had been, but surely it wasn't so obvious?
Aziraphale must have seen the doubt on his face; he led him back to the bathroom and stood him in front of the mirror where he'd first noticed the changes in his corporation.
"It's not that big, yet," Crowley told him, "she might just think I've finally put some weight on."
"Crowley…" It was a contented sort of sigh, but a sigh all the same. "Turn sideways a moment, and really look. It's not the size, it's the shape."
Crowley turned and stared in horror; he hadn't inspected his bump from this angle in the weeks since he'd first discovered it, and now it was all too apparent that he was carrying a child inside him.
"I didn't think it happened this fast," he admitted, "is this why people have been staring at me?"
"They've always stared. I have. You're gorgeous. But yes, I imagine it's now partly the bump."
"Oh. I don't think my Nanny clothes will hide it."
"Then don't hide it. It's nothing to be ashamed of."
"It's- it's the child of an angel and a demon. I'm not ashamed, I just… it's going to be a target, isn't it?" It wasn’t the first time the thought had occurred to him in the past few weeks, and judging by the tension in Aziraphale’s frame, it wasn’t a new idea for him, either.
“I imagine it might be, dear. Although they’re frightened of us, remember.”
“I still… I hoped we could keep it hidden for longer.”
“She’s omnipotent, dear. At least one person on Heaven’s side has probably known since before we did. Before you did, even.”
“If She’s even paying attention. She’s not who I’m worried about, angel.”
“Well, neither are the Dowlings.” Aziraphale obviously meant to distract him with cheerier thoughts, but he remained uncheered. “You know I’ll protect you. Both of you.”
“I don’t need protecting,” Crowley insisted.
“Of course not. But I will anyway.”
They spent more time than they’d care to admit, over the next few days, working out what to wear. Crowley nudged his corporation slightly to resemble Nanny Ashtoreth’s old form, and the bump only seemed more obvious than ever. Aziraphale rearranged his features into the familiar face of Brother Francis, and Crowley was appalled to find himself reacting with lust - a mere Pavlovian response, he was sure, to the facial hair he had once found so ridiculous. Aziraphale was quite happy to indulge that lust, but then came the problem of dressing for the occasion. It was a casual visit, not work, so wearing a gardener’s smock wouldn’t do for Francis; in the end, he decided that he would wear his usual bookseller’s outfit, but - and here he sounded quite scandalised - would forgo the jacket. Crowley supposed he could take the credit for Francis’ abrupt change in style. Aziraphale - or rather Francis - would certainly be taking the blame for Nanny Ashtoreth’s, since she was going to have to wear something rather looser and more comfortable than the Dowlings had become used to.
“Are you sure this looks right?” Ashtoreth asked before they left the bookshop, and Brother Francis smiled fondly at her.
“You look wonderful, my dear.” She’d settled on a black cardigan, despite the lingering warmth of the September day, and a red t-shirt that was just a touch too big for her, to cover the way her belly protruded. She’d wanted to wear a skirt, to stay as close as possible to Nanny Ashtoreth’s old style, but nothing matched the stupid t-shirt, so she’d gone for plain black trousers. Everything she was wearing hung a little looser than Crowley would normally like, just to maintain the feeling of disguise.
“I feel ridiculous.”
“You are ridiculous, my dear, but I assure you you don’t look it.” He leant in close to her ear. “You look absolutely ravishing.”
“Oh, hush.” But Ashtoreth was blushing, the pleasant tingle of the compliment briefly distracting her from the discomfort of walking in her sensible heels. She was beginning to think there was no such thing as sensible heels, at least in her current circumstances. “Stop being nice to me and get in the car.”
They pulled up outside the Dowling residence and Crowley tucked the Bentley into one of the staff parking spaces.
“We’re not staff, Crowley.”
“We were. And it’s Ashtoreth, remember.”
“I’ll stick to dear, I think, my dear.”
“Mm. Yes, I suppose that’ll work.” Brother Francis offered his arm, and Nanny Ashtoreth took it, and they made their way to the door.
There had never been any chance of keeping her condition a secret, Ashtoreth realised, as Warlock threw himself at her for a hug and she gasped.
“Take care, there, young Warlock, Nanny’s carrying something precious.” Francis’ hand on Warlock’s shoulder seemed to steady the boy as he stepped back, but as Warlock gazed up at his former nanny with wide eyes, Ashtoreth felt a little tremor of fear. She didn’t know what Harriet would make of this development, and she didn’t much care, but she didn’t want Warlock to be upset.
“You’re having a baby?” It was barely a whisper, and she nodded. “You and Brother Francis?” Another nod - and then Warlock turned to hug the gardener, as well. “But you won’t forget me,” he told them uncertainly, and Ashtoreth smiled weakly at him.
“How could we ever forget you, lamb?”
“Nanny! Francis! Although I suppose I can’t call you Nanny any more- oh my god.” Harriet had stopped, mid-sentence and halfway down the stairs, her hand flying to her mouth in shock.
“Hello, Harriet.” There was no point beating about the bush. “Er, Francis and I have some news.”
“So I see- Warlock, dear, would you take Brother Francis through to the garden? I’m sure he’d love to see how it’s all doing.”
“I- er-” Francis turned to Ashtoreth, eyes wide, seeking guidance, and Ashtoreth kept that slightly thin smile fixed firmly on your face.
“Yes, you boys have fun in the garden. We’ll just be catching up in here.”
Harriet didn’t seem to know where to look as she poured them each a cup of tea, but the moment they were both settled at the kitchen table - and once Warlock and Francis were well out of earshot - she pounced.
“Yes,” Ashtoreth told her, and she knew her smile had grown into something warm and sincere without her meaning it to.
“And Francis- is he-”
“We’re both very happy, dear.” Harriet seemed relieved by that, but Ashtoreth could see that she still had questions. “Go on.”
“When… when you left us for a while, was that-?”
“Yes.” There was no point in denying it. “Yes, Francis and I were… we were indiscreet. I can only apologise.”
“You were very discreet. I had no idea. Does he know about that pregnancy?”
“Oh. Yes. He didn’t, at the time. I imagine we’ll have words about it at some point.” The sigh that escaped her at that thought was genuine, too. “It all sort of came out at once, and- well, I’m a little concerned that he’s putting his own feelings on the matter aside because I need him now.”
“Well, maybe that’s not the worst idea. You can’t change the past, after all. And you’re sure this is what you want this time?”
“We are,” Ashtoreth confirmed, “although I don’t mind telling you, I’m a bit concerned about, er, the end of the process.”
“The birth?” Harriet sighed. “Well, take any drugs they'll give you, and make sure Francis is in the country, because you’re going to want to strangle him and it’s way easier if you can reach. I’m not going to lie - having Warlock wasn't easy. But once it’s over… it’s so worth it. It hardly even matters, once you get them in your arms.”
"Oh, I hope so." Ashtoreth had her concerns about that, too; she was almost certain humans forgot the pain of childbirth, to some extent, because the species would die out if they didn't, but demons could remember all sorts of horrific and painful memories, even from before the start of time. "I can't wait to meet them."
"How far along are you?" Harriet seemed more relaxed now, as if all she'd ever been worried about was Ashtoreth's feelings on the matter, and Ashtoreth felt the tension leaving her, too.
"Five months, give or take. Did you get sick all the time, too?" Ashtoreth had been feeling queasy all day, but she was hoping not to have to run to the bathroom while they were visiting Warlock.
"At first, yes. I was so glad when it eased up before the four-month mark. One of my friends had it all the way to twenty-one weeks, with her first."
"Well, yes. It usually goes away after the first trimester or so. Are you having trouble with it? What has your doctor said?"
“Oh, it’s just a matter of waiting it out,” Ashtoreth covered quickly. “Nothing to worry about.” In fact, she already felt better than she had in months. A demon’s belief was a powerful thing, after all. “Look, here come the boys.”
Sure enough, Warlock and Francis were approaching the kitchen door, all smiles. The moment they were inside, Warlock raced across the room and scrambled into the chair next to Ashtoreth, leaving Francis to sit beside Harriet.
“So, how are the gardens? And what have the two of you been up to since you left us?” Harriet seemed quite happy to lead the conversation, now that she knew what was going on, and Francis seemed happy to follow, so Ashtoreth contented herself with talking quietly to Warlock.
“Do you remember what we taught you, lamb?”
“Yes, Nanny Ash.”
“Well, forget what I told you. Not the manners, but… the treating other people like they’re nothing. It doesn’t work out very well, you see. Brother Francis had the right of it; don’t listen to me. Listen to him.”
“So I should be nice to people, even when they’re horrible to me?”
“Well…” Ashtoreth was, after all, still Crowley, and besides that she loved Warlock too much to let him be a doormat. “No, if someone’s horrible to you, you make ‘em pay, all right?”
“Yes, Nanny Ash.”
And that was that.
Chapter 11: Chapter 10
Ten weeks after the end of the world
Crowley was sitting in the bookshop’s back room, staring through a book and fidgeting incessantly, when Aziraphale pottered in from the shop itself to check on him. He paused in the doorway to admire the view; Crowley might be irritable and restless, but he was all but glowing, at least in Aziraphale’s eyes.
“Cup of tea, dear?”
“Oh, are you making one?” Crowley looked up at him with a plaintive expression. “Would you- do you have a moment, while you drink it?”
“Of course, dear.” He popped through to change the sign on the door to Closed, then returned to put the kettle on. “So, cup of tea?”
“Oh. Yeah, please.”
Aziraphale brought the two steaming mugs through, handed one to Crowley, and settled beside him on the sofa. Crowley let out a frustrated sigh and all but collapsed against Aziraphale’s side.
“Something wrong, dearest?”
“Fed up, angel.” He swung his legs down from where they’d been tucked up beside him, and shot a glare at the book in his lap. “My eyes keep playing tricks on me, my ankles are swollen, and my wrists hurt. My head aches. Everything bloody aches.”
“Oh, my love.” Aziraphale wrapped his arms around his demon and pulled him close. “But you’re being so patient with it. Just a few more months to go now.”
In truth, there was no way of knowing how long Crowley might be pregnant, considering that he wasn’t human. Aziraphale had done as much research as he could, but there was simply no record of any angel or demon getting pregnant before. He hadn’t voiced this concern to Crowley, however, because if the morning sickness was any indication, the pregnancy seemed to be progressing along normal human lines because Crowley expected it to. Aziraphale had no intention of confusing the issue and plunging them both into uncertainty. They already had plenty of that to contend with.
“Would you read to me for a bit?” Crowley asked, and Aziraphale smiled fondly.
“Nothing would please me more. What were you reading?”
“Fairytales. The baby can hear them now.” Since the morning sickness debacle - which had come to an end the moment Crowley learned that it wasn’t supposed to last the whole pregnancy - Crowley had been looking up what was happening in his body every week or so. "So I thought - fairytales."
“Oh, Crowley, not the gory rewrites?”
“Of course not. I mean, there’s evil and then there’s just plain messed up. Besides, I’m not corrupting anyone any more, least of all our baby.”
“Oh. Good. Well, then. Give me the book and drink your tea.”
The bookshop stayed closed for the rest of the day, the afternoon slipping away as Aziraphale read story after story, his free hand running through Crowley’s hair. The demon had eventually settled with his head in Aziraphale’s lap, his feet up on the armrest at the other end of the sofa, and he looked more contented than he had in days. Perhaps they would have to make this a regular thing.
“...And they all lived happily ever after. The end.” They’d run out of book, at last. “Crowley?” The demon didn’t respond, his even breathing the only sign that he was still present in his corporation. He hadn’t been sleeping well lately; Aziraphale wasn’t going to disturb him now.
He snapped his fingers, and a warm blanket draped itself over the sleeping demon; Aziraphale tucked it carefully around him before snapping his fingers again to summon another book. Then he went back to stroking Crowley’s hair.
An hour later, Aziraphale was just getting to the most fascinating part of his story when Crowley suddenly shot upright.
“Angel.” He grabbed Aziraphale’s hand, the book falling onto his knees, and dragged it across the sofa to rest on his stomach. “Can you-?”
“Oh!” Aziraphale could; Crowley had been feeling fluttery movements inside for a few weeks, now, but they’d never been strong enough for Aziraphale to feel from the outside. Now, Crowley pressed his hands to the bump, and Aziraphale could feel their baby kick. “Oh, Crowley- ”
“You can feel it?” Crowley looked utterly delighted. “You can?”
“I can,” Aziraphale told him, breathless with wonder, “I can feel it, too.”
“There you go,” Crowley told his bump, “now you can aim for your father, not my internal organs.”
“Oh. Yes. Your father.” He couldn’t contain his smile; he felt as if he could light up the whole world with it, just now. “That’s me.”
They went to bed shortly after that, and Aziraphale laid his head against Crowley’s belly.
“Yes, that’s right. Kick Daddy in the face," Crowley hissed. He couldn’t bring himself to mind.
Chapter 12: Chapter 11
Just a short one, sorry!
TW: Brief mention of animal cruelty (not graphic, no snakes or snake-shaped beings were harmed in the writing of this fic)
Fourteen weeks after the end of the world
Crowley swung his legs out of bed with a groan, reluctant to put his weight on his aching feet, but he was hungry and uncomfortable and his back was absolutely killing him. He’d barely made it two steps away from the bed when an angelic presence made itself known at his back, hands fluttering at his elbows.
“Do you want me to get you something? Tea? Biscuits?”
“Fried chicken,” Crowley admitted, “all I can think about right now is fried chicken.”
“It’s 3am, dear,” Aziraphale pointed out, and quailed under the unimpressed look his demon gave him. “But, er- miracled, or purchased?”
“Miracle’s quicker,” Crowley told him, “that’s what matters, just now.”
Aziraphale was quick to oblige, and he let Crowley settle on the sofa and demolish three pieces of chicken before speaking again.
“Is it very bad?”
“I just feel so bloody dizzy all the time.” He’d had to start being careful about his own miracles, finding that they drained his energy to nothing, and even so he was constantly light-headed. “Like, you know when someone finds you slithering through their house, so they grab you by your tail and swing you round their head and let go?” Aziraphale gave him a pointed look that strongly suggested he had never experienced that particular sensation, but Crowley didn’t know how else to describe it. “‘S like that. All the time.”
“That sounds horrible, Crowley, I’m sorry.” He shifted a hand to Crowley’s bump, rubbing gently. “Still moving around a lot?”
“Yessss.” Crowley didn’t bother trying to look pleased about it. “Apparently it’s turning around. Getting ready, for, er. Yeah.”
“Breathe. You’ve a way to go yet.”
“Great.” He closed his eyes. “Looking forward to more of this. Are there chips?”
He felt the telltale rush of a nearby miracle, and then there were chips. And they were good.
Chapter 13: Chapter 12
In case anyone's struggling to keep track, this chapter is set in about week 32 of Crowley's pregnancy (not counting the pause).
Eighteen weeks after the end of the world
Crowley woke with a whimper, clutching at the nearest solid object. It spluttered in shock.
“Crowley! Crowley, what-”
“No- no, don’t let ‘em-”
“Crowley. You’re safe. I’m right here. Oh- let there be light.”
There was something oddly calming about the light Aziraphale called down from Heaven. It should have been unsettling, uncomfortable even; it should probably have burned. Aziraphale's light, however, never burned - at least, it never burned Crowley.
"Crowley, dear. I have you. You're safe."
"Nightmare," Crowley told him, as if that wasn't obvious. "I could do without the weird dreams, I have to say."
"Hmmm. What was this one about?"
"The baby. 'S all I can think about, these days- but I thought Hell-" He scanned the room around him for threats, just to be sure. "Thought Hell took it."
"Well-" Aziraphale rubbed a hand over the dramatic curve of the demon's stomach. "They're still here, dear one. Try to focus on that."
"What if they really do? When it's born, I mean- I won't be able to protect it, not at first-"
"I'll be there," Aziraphale reminded him. "I won't let Hell take them."
"Of course, Crowley. Of course I'll look after you both. I promise I won't let Hell take either of you."
Crowley nodded and settled down again. He'd had precious little sleep, over the last couple of weeks, and his nap earlier had been interrupted by a strange tightening sensation in his abdomen. He'd panicked, afraid that it was time - it couldn't be time - but when he'd managed to haul himself up and into the next room to tell Aziraphale, the feeling had passed.
"Braxton Hicks," Aziraphale had told him, after he'd spent a few minutes leafing through the newest book in the whole shop, "false alarm, my dear. Just your body practicing. We've both seen it before, I imagine."
"Sa- Somebody. I thought those people were getting upset over a stomachache, I didn't realise- it felt-"
"I'm sure it was quite alarming." Aziraphale had run him a warm bath, and sat next to him while he relaxed in it, and then everything had been fine until he'd woken in terror.
"Ready for lights out?" Aziraphale's voice was soft in his ear. Crowley hesitated, just for a moment, afraid that sleep might bring back the dreams he’d been having more and more frequently. Not nightmares, not always, but deeply unsettling scenarios in which the baby was already with them, already alive and real and nestled safely in Aziraphale’s arms. Crowley supposed he ought to be getting used to the idea of having a child, by now, but he’d barely had time to get his head around the pregnancy. He wasn’t sure he could handle dreaming about a full-on baby.
“Yeah. You’ll stay?”
And Crowley, nestled against his angel, slept.
Chapter 14: Chapter 13
Short one again but longer chapters are coming!
Twenty-two weeks after the end of the world
Crowley had never been exactly steady on his feet, nor particularly graceful, but as his pregnancy entered its final month - or at least, they hoped it was the last one - Aziraphale found that he had to support him on even the shortest trips across the bookshop flat.
“It all aches,” the demon told him irritably, “and my blessed hips don’t feel like they’re attached.”
“Did they ever?” He regretted the good-natured teasing immediately; Crowley looked as though he was on the verge of tears. “I’m sorry, dear. That was insensitive of me. I just hate to see you suffering.”
“Can you- take me to the kitchen?”
“Are you sure you wouldn’t rather stay here and I’ll-?”
“Please. I just want to make a cup of tea.”
Aziraphale helped him across the flat, as requested, but then Crowley stopped and stared blankly at the cupboards.
“Tea?” Aziraphale prompted gently, and Crowley nodded, but he didn’t look any more enlightened.
“I… where- what comes first?”
“Crowley, my love. I respect your desire for independence, but you’re absolutely exhausted and, I think it’s fair to say, more than a little distracted. Let me get you settled back on the sofa and I’ll bring you a cup, how’s that?”
“Mm.” Crowley looked rather cross with himself, but he let Aziraphale settle him down and accepted the tea gratefully when Aziraphale handed it to him.
They ended up in what had become their habitual position, with Crowley leaning heavily against Aziraphale, his feet up over the armrest, and Aziraphale rubbing slow circles into his abdomen.
“Baby’s not kicking,” Crowley mumbled after a few minutes, “I dunno if I should be worried. Don’t know what we’d do, even if something did go wrong.”
“Not kicking?” That was a bad sign. “No movement at all?”
“No, it’s moving. Just… rocking, I suppose. Not kicking.”
“I think the poor thing’s probably run out of room to kick,” Aziraphale told him, having read something along those lines only that morning. “As long as they’re moving.”
“Mm. S- G- Somebody.” He sighed. “I’m so tired, angel.”
“Well, you haven’t been sleeping. Is there anything you need from me?”
“I can’t sleep. I can barely breathe. I just… I’d love to sleep, angel. Know any lullabies?” He was joking, but Aziraphale couldn’t believe the thought hadn’t occurred to him before.
“Crowley. I’m an angel. I can- if you’ll let me- I can sing you to sleep.” By force, he didn’t say, knowing that Crowley would understand. An angel’s lullaby could compel a mortal to sleep even in the most adverse circumstances; he could only hope it would work on a demon, too.
“Please. Please do.”
So Aziraphale took him to bed, step by stumbling step, and tucked him in comfortably, and promised to wake him up in a few hours so he could eat something. And then he sang until Crowley’s eyes closed, and his shallow breathing evened out, and he slept.
Chapter 15: Chapter 14
Longer chapter, as promised.
Fair warning that there's a fair bit of pain and terror in this one, though it's not gory at all.
Twenty-three weeks after the end of the world
Aziraphale slid behind the wheel of the Bentley with a deep sigh of relief. They’d been summoned to Tadfield for an urgent chat with Adam - apparently, he’d been messing about with one of Anathema’s occult books, and had needed a demonic talking-to and an angel’s guidance - and Crowley had insisted that they should go.
“You’re thirty-seven weeks pregnant, and it’s a long drive-”
“I’m fine, angel. Really. Feeling much better.” And he did seem better, within himself. He was still struggling to walk without pain, which was why he had stayed in the passenger seat rather than getting up to talk to Adam, but he seemed to be finding breathing easier and some of his appetite had returned. Crowley had never been the glutton of their pair, anyway, so Aziraphale was just glad to see him taking in a little more nourishment than before.
Now, with Adam’s solemn promise not to do anything so stupid and dangerous again - at least until Crowley was back at full strength - Aziraphale was glad to be on the way home. Back in the bookshop, everything was ready for Crowley to give birth in - well, in about three weeks’ time, by their combined reckoning.
They’d been driving for an hour, down winding country roads, when Crowley let out a long, violent hiss.
“Something wrong, dear?”
“No.” He gritted his teeth for a moment longer, then relaxed. “No, just… I’ve been getting those Braxton Hicks things again. Feels like they’re getting worse, somethow.”
“Hang on, my dear. We’ll pull over. They’re supposed to go away if you change position.”
They pulled over at the side of the road, and Aziraphale helped Crowley out so he could waddle around a bit.
“All right. That’s- that should be a bit better,” Crowley told him at last, “let’s just get home. Bath helped, last time, didn’t it?”
“You said it did, yes. I’ll run you one as soon as we get there.”
They’d been driving for another ten minutes when Crowley suddenly went rigid.
“Angel. Another one.” He grabbed the edge of his seat, and Aziraphale glanced down to see that his knuckles were white with the force of his grip. “I don’t- I don’t think this is a false alarm.”
“But- but you’ve got three more weeks-”
“I don’t think I have, angel, please just get us home.”
“But Crowley, if-”
Forty-five minutes later, it was all too clear that they’d taken a wrong turn somewhere, and even clearer that Crowley didn’t have time for them to stop and ask for directions. Aziraphale pulled into a layby on a quiet country road and turned to his demon.
“How far apart are they now?” He’d had to charge Crowley with timing his own contractions on his phone; Crowley just gritted his teeth and passed over the device. The interval times had become very short, while they were driving. Aziraphale did his best to remain calm, to remember that they had always planned to do this alone, to recall all the successful births he’d assisted with. “Crowley, dear-”
“I’ve ruined the upholstery,” the demon whimpered, as if only now regaining the power of speech, “Satan’s bollocks, that hurts-”
“Get in the back,” Aziraphale told him, and Crowley didn’t even question it. He needed a lot of help getting out of the car, and more getting back in, and then he settled himself on the back seat as if they were about to tear away from the curb again.
“Just get us home quickly, angel-”
“I’m afraid it looks very much as though we’re doing this here,” Aziraphale told him, and Crowley turned chalk-white.
“Here-? I can’t- I am not giving birth in my car, Aziraphale!”
“Well you're in no state to fly,” Aziraphale pointed out, “I'm not miracling you anywhere in this condition, and- well, the grass verge is a bit exposed, but that's your alternative.”
“...At least I'm giving birth in a nice car,” Crowley mumbled. “Angel, the seats-”
“I know, dear.” He snapped his fingers, and the front seat was clean; another snap, and the back seat was covered in sterile, waterproof covers. “There.”
“...I was going to say could be bigger.” The demon looked as though he might be trying not to laugh, despite himself.
“Oh.” Aziraphale snapped his fingers again, expanding the seats to a more comfortable, bed-like size. To his surprise, the Bentley’s horn beeped, and Crowley stroked the seat beneath him with a groan.
“I know, I'm sorry, he's made you the size of a bus, but that makes two of us... and it'll all be over soon.” His face was drawn and pale, and Aziraphale could sympathise.
They weren’t ready for this. He couldn’t help but think of all the times Crowley had avoided the subject of labour and birth, desperate not to think about it. Well, now they had to think about it.
“Help me, angel,” Crowley begged, eyes filling with tears as another contraction hit, and his angel squeezed his hand reassuringly. It wouldn’t do to show Crowley that he was frightened, too.
Aziraphale went through the motions of trying to get Crowley comfortable on his side, as if in a daze; he could barely tear his eyes away from his face for long enough to strip him of his trousers and get his legs positioned, to check how far along he was.
“Oh.” They were certainly too far gone to drive anywhere, but it didn’t look as if the ordeal was going to be over very soon. “Right. Just… keep breathing, try to keep it even-”
“I can try to dull the pain,” Aziraphale offered, “but I daren’t take it away completely. You need to be able to feel-”
“Do what you can. Please.” It was such a small miracle, but Aziraphale had to pour all his concentration into it; it couldn’t be healing, because there was nothing wrong, and it couldn’t be too much, or they would lose their best indication of how things were progressing, and it couldn’t be too little, or Crowley might actually murder him. At last, he managed to balance it just right, and was rewarded as some of the colour returned to Crowley’s cheeks.
“Angel.” It had been barely five minutes since the miracle when Crowley interrupted Aziraphale’s soft words of encouragement, clutching at the angel’s hand in his hair. “I feel like I should be pushing.”
“Do you?” He hastened to glance beneath the blanket he’d conjured to protect Crowley’s modesty. It had been a long time since he’d last assisted with a birth, and the fact that it was his own lover, his own child, was throwing him off. He’d miscalculated, it seemed. “I think- I think that might be a good idea, actually. With the next contraction, my dear.”
The next contraction hit, and Crowley pushed, Aziraphale’s hand in his. That turned out to be something of a poor decision on the angel’s part, because it seemed the miracle could only do so much to numb the pain. Crowley all but howled as the contraction died away.
“Why does it have to hurt so bloody much- I swear to Her, Aziraphale, if you answer that I'll break your hand.”
“You're most of the way to that anyway,” the angel pointed out, “but I wouldn't dream of it.'
Aziraphale couldn’t, later, have said how long they spent in that car, Crowley pushing and screaming and sobbing as Aziraphale held his hand and told him how well he was doing. All he knew for sure was that all of a sudden, for one perfect moment, none of it seemed to matter as a scream that was not Crowley’s split the air. Aziraphale’s hands were full of writhing, bloody baby, and he’d scooped the child up and placed them into Crowley’s arms before he could even really think about it.
“You’ve done it, my love, that’s good- I’m just going to cut the cord, are you all right holding-”
“Hello, little one,” Crowley croaked, his voice barely more than a whisper, “you made it.” Aziraphale paused for a moment to drink in the sight of his little family, and then he used a quick miracle to sever the cord between Crowley and the baby.
Lightning flashed in an otherwise blue sky.
Chapter 16: Chapter 15
Again, I'm working off half-assed internet research and what I remember from school sex-ed classes so apologies if anything in this chapter is off.
TW: Still some mild implied childbirth-related squickiness.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Twenty-three weeks after the end of the world
Every cell in Crowley’s corporation hurt, and he was so tired he could barely keep his eyes open, but he made the effort so that he could drink in every detail of his child’s face.
“You made it,” he told them softly, and glanced up at Aziraphale just in time to see the angel’s head smack into the car’s ceiling. He scrambled to sit up - that hurt like Somewhere, but he did it- as Aziraphale was dragged backwards out of the Bentley and thrown aside. Then the Archangel Gabriel was taking his place, reaching in with that cold smile of his.
“You have something that belongs to us,” the archangel told him, as if that settled the matter, “I’ll take that now.”
Crowley fought him with everything he had, the tiny child still cradled protectively against his chest, but Gabriel was strong and the demon was exhausted. Despite his best efforts, he felt the baby being dragged from his arms, and then with another flash of lightning both Gabriel and the baby were gone.
Aziraphale slowly appeared over the edge of the seat, looking as though he’d just regained consciousness. It had all happened so fast; only a few seconds ago, he’d been cutting the cord-
“Why’d he leave?” Aziraphale mumbled fuzzily, and then his eyes seemed to focus on Crowley. “Where’s the baby?”
“He took- he took them- Aziraphale, he took them to Heaven.”
For a moment, Aziraphale’s face creased in grief and fear, but then he glanced down at Crowley and winced.
“You need to lie down again, I think.”
“Lie down-? Angel-”
“You need to deliver the placenta, before we can do anything for our baby.”
“Crowley. This is going to take both of us at as close to full strength as we can manage, this won’t take long, please just help me here.” It was the tremor in his voice that made Crowley obey, made him swing his legs back up onto the seat and push when instructed, but it couldn’t hold back his questions.
“What are they going to do to our baby?”
“They won’t hurt them,” Aziraphale told him firmly, and Crowley wondered if he actually believed it. “They’re an angel.”
“Look at how they treated you!” Crowley, after all, had been at Aziraphale’s execution. Shut your stupid mouth and die already. “They’re not going to be kind to a demon’s child-”
“Little push.” Aziraphale pursed his lips and refused to look up at him. “There. There, you’re done- let me heal you-” But the angel had barely begun to repair the usual damage caused by a smaller being exiting a larger one when Crowley felt that celestial charge in the air again. Aziraphale, obviously feeling it too, turned to face the danger- but the open door he stood in remained empty. For a brief, heart-stopping moment, Crowley thought they were being left alone- and then the door behind his head opened, strong arms hooked under his arms, and he was dragged from the car.
The last thing he saw, before a blinding white glare consumed his vision, was Aziraphale’s distraught face as he realised what had happened.
Well done to Holy_Mels for being altogether too observant. You got me!
...Also, I'm sorry, everyone. :s
Chapter 17: Chapter 16
This won't help. Sorry!
Twenty-three weeks after the end of the world
Crowley was gone.
Their baby was gone.
Aziraphale was alone at the side of the road, staring in bewilderment at the Bentley which had, until very recently, contained two of the most important beings in the universe. He couldn’t quite convince his legs to cooperate, and so there he knelt, staring into the car, desperately trying to think of a plan to make things right again.
I promised I’d protect them.
Mindlessly he snapped his fingers, restoring the Bentley to its former glory, snapping the seats back to their former size and vanishing the covers that had caught all the mess that went along with an impromptu roadside delivery.
I promised I’d protect them.
He dragged himself into the driver’s seat the moment he could see straight, then snapped his fingers one last time and miracled the whole car back to London. He parked it outside Crowley’s flat - barely used, these days - and tumbled out of the door, into the familiar crowds of the city. He needed to get home, to his books, to try to think of something that would allow him to get Crowley back- to get them both back.
I promised I’d protect them.
At least they had taken Crowley, as if they needed him for something. They had waited for Aziraphale to make sure Crowley and his corporation would survive this birth, and only then had they torn him from Aziraphale’s side. Perhaps he was with the baby. God - if God was listening to him - he hoped Crowley was with the baby. He hoped they were both still alive.
I promised I’d protect them.
Chapter 18: Chapter 17
Twenty-three weeks after the end of the world
Heaven was blinding. Crowley wished he hadn’t discarded his sunglasses at some point while he was trying to push a baby out of himself, because his snakelike eyes were suffering. For several moments after the dizzying sensation of movement stopped, he was blind. And then he saw Gabriel, still holding Crowley’s baby as if they were something unpleasant.
“Good job, Sandalphon. Here. Demon.”
He all but threw the child into Crowley’s arms, and Crowley barely caught them, weak and uncoordinated after the stress of giving birth.
“You’ll feed it,” Gabriel told him, “you’ll keep it alive.”
“Feed-?” Crowley stared at him. “I- how?”
“I believe the humans use their mammary glands-”
“I don’t have those, featherbrain.” He shifted the child away from his flat chest and pulled a face. “See?”
“Make them- oh, right, you can’t, you're a demon and this is Heaven.” Gabriel snapped his fingers and suddenly Crowley had a pair of breasts, quite capable of keeping a child alive. “Really, demon, it’s as if you knew this wouldn’t be left up to you. You should have manifested those ages ago. How did you plan to feed it?”
Formula, Crowley thought, but wouldn’t give Gabriel the satisfaction of answering. Human invention. You’d probably hate it.
“What do you want from me?” He asked instead, and Gabriel sneered.
“Nothing. Nothing at all, except that you feed it. And-” Gabriel snapped his fingers again, and Crowley felt himself clothed from the waist down. He’d barely even noticed that he still wasn’t wearing trousers, with all the being kidnapped and such. “Nobody wants to see that.”
The archangels walked away in one direction, and he tried to stumble away in another, but he was in some sort of cage. When he really looked, he could see the faint shimmer of bars locking him and his child into one small area.
“OK. Well, then. This is Heaven, kid. Not where I wanted to raise you, or how, but… this is where your dad used to live.” He kept his voice soft and low, not wanting to spook the child or attract the archangels’ attention. “So now you know why he likes Earth so much. That’s where you’re from. Don’t you forget that. Whatever he says.”
The baby let out a high-pitched whine and started trying to nuzzle into Crowley’s new breasts.
“Hungry. Yeah, that makes sense. Just like your dad. Well, I didn’t want to do it this way, but…” He was about to say they’re not going to give us formula, but thought better of it at the last moment. You never knew who might be listening, and the angels wanted him to keep the baby alive. They seemed to think it had to be him, and that was all that was keeping Crowley here, with his child in his arms. “Alright, then, little one. We’ll work this out together.”
He ended up laying down, propped up against the bars just enough for the child to feed at his breast, afraid that if he tried to stay upright they’d both fall. Crowley had done quite enough Falling last time he was in Heaven, and had no desire to repeat the experience. Well, that wasn’t strictly true; if he thought he could Fall from Heaven a second time, he’d wrap his arms tight around his child and question God until She cast them both down. But he’d already been cast down, and what if the child got left behind?
“I shouldn’t sleep,” he told them quietly, as he felt the heaviness in his eyelids become overwhelming. “I have to protect you… promise you’ll cry… if someone comes…”
As the bright light around him faded out of his awareness, he spared a thought for Aziraphale. Your daddy will come and find us, he told his child in his head, he won’t let us down.
Chapter 19: Chapter 18
I know. I know.
Twenty-four weeks after the end of the world
Aziraphale was running out of ideas.
His first idea had been to simply storm into Heaven, demand the return of his demon and their child, and storm back out again with the pair of them. That had proved more challenging than anticipated when he found that he couldn’t even enter the entrance building.
So he’d gone back to his books, and he’d tried to work out what they wanted from Crowley and the baby. You have something that belongs to us, he thought he’d heard Gabriel say. It had to be the child. Their child. An angel, Unfallen, and in Gabriel’s view, decidedly the property of Heaven. But then what did they want with Crowley? Why not take Aziraphale? Had Gabriel assumed that Crowley would be biologically adapted to care for a child? Or did they just want to remove the potential infernal influence before he could try to reclaim his child for Hell?
He’d gone through all his books on demons, too. He’d harboured a vague sort of hope that, somewhere in those books, there might be some sort of ritual that would summon Crowley. There were - several, in fact - but he had no idea if they’d work on a demon in Heaven, or if they could hurt Crowley. And every one of them needed a name to work. Their child didn’t have a name yet, as far as Aziraphale knew, and with no way of communicating with Crowley, he could hardly expect him to be prepared to take the baby with him if he was abruptly summoned. It was too risky; getting Crowley back without the child could mean never getting the child back at all. Their child.
I promised I’d protect them, Aziraphale reminded himself, and reached at last for the telephone. Perhaps he needed a fresh perspective.
Chapter 20: Chapter 19
I have a sneaking suspicion this is going to need a sequel or an epilogue added. BUT we're not at the end yet.
Er... and I promise the rest isn't all like this.
Twenty-four weeks after the end of the world
Crowley lay still, on the floor of Heaven, baby sprawled out and sleeping on top of him. He had been moved, not long after he arrived, into a more secluded corner of Heaven, where other angels going about their business wouldn’t have to look at him. He hadn’t been fed, not that he technically needed food. He hadn’t really slept, after passing out that first time he’d fed the child. He’d just been lying on the floor, trying to keep his child alive, for- well, She knew how long. Did She know? She must, surely. If She was even here.
“Do you see why I called you?” The voice was quiet.
“No, Xephiel, I don’t.” Gabriel; Crowley felt all his muscles tense as if preparing to flee, but all that achieved was jostling the child on his chest.
“The demon, sir. It’s not right. It barely moves, only to feed the spawn, and it doesn’t seem to be recovering from the birth at all.”
“That’ll be the holiness. You know what holy ground does to demons, and Heaven is the holiest.” Crowley doubted that, personally, but then what did he know? He was just the demon lying on his back in a cage in Heaven, wondering where his own angel was. “Heal it.”
“It’s a demon- ”
Whoever Xephiel was, they didn’t seem to know how to hold back their divinity as they healed; Crowley was almost glad that they’d plucked his child from his chest before they began. Had the baby still been sleeping there, the painful contortions of Crowley’s body as it tried to escape the burning pain of the stranger’s miracle would certainly have woken them, and probably thrown them to the ground.
“It doesn’t seem to be working very well,” Xephiel reported doubtfully, placing the baby carefully back on top of Crowley. “It looked like it hurt more than it helped.”
“Doesn’t matter,” Gabriel shrugged. “Keep doing it as necessary. Once the spawn doesn’t need it any more, neither do we.”
“You’re going to just dispose of it?” Gabriel nodded. “But- Michael said it survived Holy Water.”
“Maybe. But it won’t survive a smiting.”
Crowley lay back against the smooth, cold floor of Heaven and tried to remember how long babies were supposed to need their mothers for.
All their lives, he thought, my child is supposed to always have me, that’s what I want for them.
He suspected that he didn’t have that long.
Aziraphale, where are you?
Chapter 21: Chapter 20
Twenty-five weeks after the end of the world
Anathema’s phone call came after another week of desperation on Aziraphale’s part. He’d tried to get into Heaven again. He’d looked into ever more complicated methods of summoning a demon, of summoning spirits, of summoning nameless entities - but it was all too dangerous. He’d asked for Anathema’s help in the hope that human magic might work, and then he’d called her every day to see if she’d found anything. He’d called everyone who’d been caught up in the events at Tadfield Airbase, and then they’d all called each other, and nobody had any idea how to get Crowley back.
Madame Tracy had come to the bookshop, a couple of days ago, to make sure that he was alright, and had found him resolutely sitting behind the counter, reading a book on the occult and trying very hard not to cry. He couldn’t bring himself to go upstairs, to return to the safe, warm little nest they’d created in anticipation of the baby’s arrival, and he’d almost doubled over in grief when he’d stuck his head into the back room where Crowley had sprawled on so many occasions. Warlock had rung them, twice, and Aziraphale had barely managed to hold it together long enough to be polite before telling him he had to go. It was all too painful; everything about Aziraphale’s life seemed to emphasise the Crowley-shaped hole in it.
Now, Anathema was calling him .
“We think we’ve worked it out. You’ll have to check, of course, but… come to Tadfield.”
“I’m on my way,” he told her, and snapped his fingers.
Anathema nearly dropped the phone when he appeared in her kitchen, but Aziraphale didn’t bother trying to reassure her.
“What’s the plan?”
“A transportation circle, like the one you described in your shop. But to get someone into Heaven, if Heaven’s not expecting them- we think it needs a sacrifice. All the books-”
“A human life,” Newt told him gravely, and Aziraphale realised that he’d been sitting at the kitchen table all along, with Sergeant Shadwell and Madame Tracy, both of whom looked just as grave. “That’s… how you get into Heaven, after all. A human life.”
“Well- yes, but-”
“The book you lent me,” Anathema added, “mentioned occult entities using that sort of sacrifice to get into Heaven, in the past-”
“It’s why we had to start discouraging martyrdom, demons were- it would work, probably, but neither Crowley nor I would ever want-”
“But - Anathema was just telling us - it’s not the death that allows it. It’s the sacrifice of a human life force.” Tracy smiled at him hopefully. “So we thought - there are four of us. We’ll form a circle… We can spare a quarter of the price each, can’t we?”
“Well, it’s not years, it’s energy, you’d recover over time- but we can’t. There’s no way to be sure it wouldn’t just take one of you at random instead.” Aziraphale hated himself for even considering it. A moment of silent contemplation hung over the group.
“Well, then.” Shadwell cleared his throat. “Good luck to all o’ ye. I’ll take my chance.”
“And so will I,” Tracy declared. Newt nodded. Anathema turned to Aziraphale again.
“We’ll do it. So you can get Crowley and your kid back.”
They ignored his protests, incoherent as they were, and settled themselves around the circle they’d drawn on the living room floor.
“You, er, you have tried praying,” Tracy asked, as they all linked hands, “I assume God didn’t personally tell you not to go up there and get them?”
“God’s not behind this,” Aziraphale told her, with a certainty he didn’t feel. “It’s Heaven who’ve taken-”
“But Heaven answers to God, right?” Newt looked as though he was working on a tough maths problem. “And God’s supposed to be all-powerful?”
“Knock, and the door shall be opened unto you,” Shadwell spoke as if the words had a tune, a tune Aziraphale recognised from walking past many a church on a Sunday. It was a quote from the Gospel of Matthew.
“I… I don’t know if She’ll help me,” he admitted, and Anathema looked as though she might be mere seconds away from throwing a book at his head.
“Ask,” she told him firmly, “we’ll wait.”
Aziraphale stared at them blankly for several seconds, then turned and walked into the kitchen.
“God,” he said, “I may be the worst angel ever to have walked the Earth, and I don’t know why You’d still listen to me, but... Heaven has taken Your very best demon and I don’t think they mean him well. They- they have our child. You know this, You must know this, I don’t know why I’m telling- Please, please. Help me to get him back.”
There was no response, not for several terrible seconds - and then something dropped onto the kitchen table with a mighty clang. The humans rushed in to see what was happening as Aziraphale lifted the familiar sword, flames roaring along its length.
“It worked?” Anathema sounded astonished, and relieved, but Aziraphale turned on his heel with new purpose, striding past them all.
“Thank you for your help, I don’t think it’s necessary now. I’m invite-”
He stepped into the circle they’d drawn, and everything went white.
Chapter 22: Chapter 21
Twenty-five weeks after the end of the world
“I’m not sure the spawn even needs to eat,” Gabriel was saying, somewhere nearby. Crowley didn’t move, just wrapped his arms a little tighter around his child and kept his eyes closed. “It’s of angelic stock, surely it doesn’t require gross matter. It’s just taking after the traitor.”
“We’ve never seen anything like it,” Xephiel reminded him quietly. They seemed to be the one responsible for making sure Crowley continued to fulfil his purpose in the cage, that he continued to keep his own child alive. If he’d had more energy, he might have been impressed that they seemed to be trying to keep hold of that easy job for as long as possible. “It might need it. We don’t want to lose our opportunity to study it, do we? Especially if it might be one of us.”
“No.” Gabriel shrugged. “No, I suppose not. But get some sort of alternative up here. I’m sick of looking at the demon. It’s time to try it with real food.”
“But on Earth-”
“The spawn is not on Earth. It is not of Earth. There is no reason it shouldn’t be possible to wean it onto some other matter now. See that it’s done, Xephiel.”
“Yes, sir. I, er, I should heal the demon again.” Crowley's eyes flew open; he hadn’t been healed since that first time. He didn’t need healing; he wasn’t broken or bleeding, he was just drained. And even then… he’d been conserving all his energy, almost enough to pull off just one miracle if he truly, desperately needed it.
“Fine. Then find the spawn some food."
Xephiel stepped into the cage as Gabriel walked away. He tensed, evaluating his chances of overpowering the angel if they tried to take his baby. They were young, and they seemed to have underestimated Crowley, but they were still an angel in Heaven, and there was nowhere for him to run even if he could overpower them. He had to comply, for his child's sake.
But when Xephiel crouched beside him, they made no attempt to take the baby from his arms.
"Be not afraid," they whispered, and Crowley snorted at the old cliché. He was no mortal, to be startled by flaming wheels and infinite eyes. "She loves you still, Crowley. And some in Heaven still remember Her orders."
"He had to ask. But he's coming- be ready." Then Xephiel scrambled back out of the cage, turning to face a furious archangel.
"What did you tell it?" Gabriel demanded, but he got no further as Sandalphon rushed towards them.
"The traitor- he's here-!"
Crowley hardly dared to believe it; he dragged himself upright, clutching the baby close to his chest, and swayed slightly as every part of him protested the movement. Be ready.
Chapter 23: Chapter 22
Last 'real' chapter - I hope you like it!
Twenty-five weeks after the end of the world
Aziraphale was rather pleased by the way Gabriel and Sandalphon ran from him. He supposed, despite his softness, he must cut rather an imposing figure as he stormed through Heaven brandishing his flaming sword. He must look like a being capable of raining down righteous destruction on those who deserved it. He was; they did. He could chase them down and make them pay for what they had done.
But then all that was forgotten as he set eyes on Crowley. He was standing, looking rather unsteady, and in his arms lay a tiny baby, even smaller than Aziraphale remembered. They were alive. That was all Aziraphale could think - they were alive, and he had to get them out. One angel remained, standing between him and Crowley, arms outstretched.
“Stand aside,” he demanded, sword raised in warning, “I just want my family back.”
“The bars,” Xephiel warned quietly, “they can’t pass through them.”
“What bars?” Aziraphale saw the slight shimmer in the air just seconds after he’d spoken, but a swing of the sword shattered them into nothing. “Come on, Crowley.”
To his surprise, Crowley hesitated.
“Thank you,” he whispered at last, to the angel still lingering nearby, “be safe.” And then he was stumbling forwards, and Aziraphale held his sword aside so he could gather his demon into a one-armed hug.
“We have to go,” he told him, “can you run?”
“I can try- angel, take the baby.”
“We’re not going without you-”
“No, but you’re not as likely to fall.” Crowley grimaced. “Let’s go.”
And before he knew it, the baby was tucked into the crook of his arm - the one not holding the flaming sword - and they were rushing back towards the nearest door. Crowley stumbled as they reached the threshold, crashing heavily into the doorframe, and Aziraphale was sure he heard a mumbled I told you so before they finally made it through.
And then they were out, the three of them, safe and together at last. Aziraphale dropped his sword, the flames extinguishing themselves the moment it left his hand, and dragged Crowley into a tight hug, their baby cradled between them. He had to swallow hard around the lump in his throat as he finally looked down to gaze into his child’s eyes.
“Hello, there.” His vision blurred with tears and he blinked them away. He’d barely glimpsed the baby for a couple of seconds as he passed them to Crowley, and that had been two weeks ago. Heaven had taken those two weeks from them, but now he had his family back. “Oh, it’s good to see you at last. Remember me?”
He half expected Crowley to make a sarcastic comment about favouritism, but the demon was uncharacteristically quiet, slumped against his shoulder. Aziraphale turned his head to kiss his hair, and the demon mumbled something incoherent.
“I’ve missed you, too, Crowley. Are you all right?”
“Better by the second,” Crowley told him. “Getting my energy back. Missed you.”
“Does this little one have a name?”
“Couldn’t do that without you,” Crowley told him, “and Heaven didn’t bother, so that’s... for another time, I think.” He stood a little straighter and focused. All at once, his chest flattened out, his clothes became the form-fitting style he preferred, and his sunglasses appeared on his face. “'S better. Why are we in- where are we?”
Aziraphale wrenched his gaze away from his loved ones and realised that four humans were peering at him curiously from the doorway to the kitchen of Jasmine Cottage.
“I think we came out where I went in, somehow. You know how the side entrances are. I, er, I have these lovely people to thank for getting you back. I’m only sorry it took so long, my dear.”
Crowley turned to look, still rather groggy from Heaven’s power-dampening effects, and his lips twisted up into an approximation of a smile. If Aziraphale sensed the embarrassment behind it, he was probably the only one.
“Thank you.” Crowley’s voice cracked on the words; he didn’t use them often. “I-” He seemed to grasp for more, coming up short. “Thank you,” he repeated quietly, “but I think I’d like to go home now.”
The last seemed addressed to Aziraphale more than anyone else, and Aziraphale didn’t have any words, either.
“Thank you all. I’ll- I’ll call soon.” Then he handed the baby to Crowley, wrapped his arms around them both, and blinked them back to London.
Chapter 24: Epilogue
Wow. I've been toying with this idea since late October, and I can't believe we're finally at the end. Thanks to everyone who's followed along, and especially those of you who've left kudos or comments or bookmarked it - I can't tell you how much joy those notifications bring me. I hope you enjoy this final part of the story!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Twenty-six weeks after the end of the world
Crowley woke with a groan and opened his eyes to find Aziraphale sitting next to him on the bed, their child cradled in one arm and a bottle of milk in his other hand.
“Oh, how I love you,” he blurted out, and the angel jumped. Crowley smiled sheepishly at him, still not quite awake enough to be truly embarrassed. “Er. I mean. Good morning.”
“It’s nearly evening again, actually,” Aziraphale told him quietly, “you were asleep for nine days.”
“Nine- nine days?” He shifted to get closer to the baby, smiling down at them. “Good thing Daddy’s a natural, isn’t it?”
“Well, you looked after them for two weeks alone - in Heaven, no less - I thought it was rather my turn.”
“I’m sorry you missed that time,” Crowley murmured, suddenly all too aware of the week he’d now missed. “I’m sorry we missed out on doing it together.”
“Well, we’ve their whole life for that, now. And that may very well be an eternity. Would you like to feed them?”
“Next time,” Crowley promised. “I still feel a bit shaky. We should… that is, have you given them a name?”
“Couldn’t do that without you,” Aziraphale told him. “I would like us to do that as a priority, though. If we ever lose them again, a name is very useful for summoning purposes.”
“We’re never losing them again,” Crowley protested, but he saw Aziraphale’s point. Once the three of them were settled a little more comfortably in the bed - Crowley’s head resting on Aziraphale’s shoulder - the discussion began in earnest.
Two days later, the group who'd met up in Tadfield reunited in the bookshop, greeted by a beaming angel, a proud demon and a child that was a little of both of them.
“We wanted to thank you for all your help, and for the sacrifice you were willing to make for our family.”
“I’m glad you didn’t have to,” Crowley interrupted, and Aziraphale gave him such a painfully fond look that he found himself bending his head over the child in his arms, fussing with blankets that didn’t need fussing with just to try to hide his blush.
“And,” Aziraphale continued, as if there had been no interruption, "to introduce you to the newest member of our family."
"This is Aia," Crowley began shakily, "and Aia, these are… these are our friends."
Later, when everyone had held the baby, with Aziraphale and Crowley hovering anxiously all the while, Sergeant Shadwell gruffly suggested that it was time to leave, and Anathema turned to Aziraphale.
"Can we come and see you all again soon?"
"Of course," the angel assured her, with a quick glance at Crowley. "You're all very welcome."
"After all," Crowley agreed, as he took Aia back into his arms, "we're not going anywhere."
Aziraphale had never looked happier.
PS: I know several of you probably wanted to see some archangels get their comeuppance, but Aziraphale's priority was getting his family home. Sorry!
I make no promises, but I might be tempted to do a little one-shot set a while after this fic. Let me know in the comments if you'd be interested...