Actions

Work Header

Truth is Stranger Than Fiction

Work Text:

Crowley wasn’t really paying attention to the television. 

He was far more focused on mucking about on his phone, starting fights on Facebook and slowly drinking his way through a cheap bottle of wine he hadn’t bothered to miracle into something better because it was only ten in the morning and he wasn’t exactly trying to be classy.  He was only watching Golden Girls reruns, anyway, the familiar show a comforting background noise. 

Crowley smiled with satisfaction as he successfully goaded a bigot into getting themselves banned for multiple TOS violations, and then shut off his phone and tossed it on the coffee table, rolling over on the couch to reach for his glass of wine.  He rolled over the TV remote (Crowley didn’t technically need a TV remote, and in fact he didn’t even use it— It was just, over the years he had kind of gotten the impression that a remote was A Thing To Have) by accident, and the channel flickered from Golden Girls to some daytime news program. 

“—Dowling, here to talk about his new smash hit, The Governess, the Groundsman, and the Antichrist, which has shot to the top of bestsellers lists since its publication in July—“ 

Crowley, who had been raising his hand to snap back to the right channel, froze.  Slowly, he sat up on his couch and said to the TV in a hoarse voice, “Let’s rewind that, shall we?”  The news program jumped back about a minute, and Crowley had to endure an obnoxious opening sequence before the camera zoomed in on a bright studio with two people facing each other— the peppy reporter, smiling widely, and a young man with his long dark hair half tied back and a pair of large-framed, rose-tinted glasses on his nose. 

“Good morning, and welcome to Channel 66 News,” the reporter said, her smile somehow widening.  “We’re here today with author Warlock Dowling, here to talk about his new smash hit, The Governess, the Groundsman, and the Antichrist, which has shot to the top of bestsellers lists since its publication in July.  Warlock, it’s wonderful to meet you.” 

“It's wonderful to be here,” the young man said with a smile.  And it really was Warlock, wasn’t it, Crowley thought— he had the same curious tip of his chin, the same mischievous spark in his eyes, the same slight hunch to his shoulders as though he was expecting someone to tell him any minute that he wasn’t really supposed to be there— and even though it had been nearly fifteen years, Crowley’s heart panged in his chest. 

“Your debut novel, The Governess, the Groundsman, and the Antichrist, has become quite unexpectedly popular, in the eyes of critics,” the reporter said, leaning forward slightly.  She turned her face a little more to the camera and said, “For those of you in the audience who haven’t read the novel, The Governess, the Groundsman, and the Antichrist is about a young boy named Oscar who may or may not be the Antichrist— but he won’t grow up evil, if his governess and the estate’s groundsman have anything to do with it.  I read it with my nephew, and I’ve got to say, it lives up to the hype!” 

“Thanks,” Warlock said with a chuckle, adjusting his glasses a little anxiously. 

The interviewer gave him another blinding smile and then said, “Mr. Dowling, since I have the privilege of being the first to interview you, I get to ask— what inspired you to write your novel?” 

Warlock leaned back a little and shrugged just slightly.  One knee bounced up and down as he said, “You know, like a lot of people my age I grew up on fantasy stories, about seemingly ordinary kids finding out they’re extraordinary, so in some ways I’m continuing a literary tradition.  But…”  His mouth twisted consideringly, a terribly familiar expression— although last time Crowley had seen it, a ten-year-old Warlock had been mulling over the best way to convince his nanny to bring him to the country fair after his parents had already said no. 

“I had a bit of an odd childhood,” Warlock said slowly, his head tilted slightly.  “You can probably tell by my accent I’m an expat— spent my childhood in Britain and my teenage years back in America.  While I was living here I had a nanny who took care of me for a few years, and she… inspired a bit about Ms. Cassandra in the novel.  Likewise, inspiration for Mr. Felix came from my family’s gardener when I was a kid.”  His lips twitched into a tiny, fond smile.  “They were a bit of an odd pair, Nanny Ash and Brother Francis, but they had a pretty big impact on me.  I guess you could say a little of the novel was inspired by what I wish my childhood could have been like— what most kids wish their childhoods could have been like— just a bit special and fantastical.” 

The TV screen went black, and Crowley looked down at his fingers, frozen in a snap.  He had miracled the news off without even realizing. 

Crowley leaned back against the couch, carefully setting his wine glass on the table.  Without really thinking about it, he sobered up and then ran a hand over his face.  “Bloody fucking hell,” he whispered.  


The first thing Crowley did after his mind stopped racing was head down to the nearest Waterstones to see if he could find a copy of Warlock Dowling’s book. 

The place was more crowded than he had expected, and its shelves weren’t nearly as mazelike and circuitous as A. Z. Fell and Co’s, but Crowley hadn’t stepped foot in a bookshop besides Aziraphale’s for more than one hundred years, so he was a bit lost.  Finally, he spotted someone who looked like they worked there, and wandered over. 

“How can I help you?” the employee asked with a smile, turning to face him. 

Crowley stuffed his hands in his coat pockets and glanced down at their nametag (Parker, with far too many little stars around the border) and then said, “Er, I’m looking for The Governess, the Groundsman, and the Antichrist?” 

Parker beamed at him.  “Right this way,” they said, leading him deftly through the crowds and the shelves until they reached a rather showy display on one side of the store.  “Is it for you, or for a friend?” the employee asked as Crowley picked up a copy, turning it this way and that to look. 

“How come?” Crowley mumbled, opening the book to page through it. 

Parker rocked back on their heels and said, “Well, the book’s been marketed as a YA novel, but I’m of the firm opinion that people of all ages can enjoy it.  It’s a bit whimsical, sure, but there are a few jokes and poignant moments that older readers can enjoy as well... I especially liked Ms. Cassandra talking to Oscar about how there are more kinds of people than stars in the sky, and how that helped him come to terms with his sexuality at the end— but I don’t want to spoil too much.  And, it’s a bit subtle, but the romance between Ms. Cassandra and Mr. Felix is cute.” 

Crowley choked on his own forked tongue and then managed to say, “The nanny and the gardener have a thing?” 

Parker smiled slightly, apparently unperturbed by his reaction.  “Like I said, it’s subtle,” they repeated.  “Because the book’s mostly narrated by Oscar, and it starts out when he’s a kid.  But in the second half, when he’s a teenager and there’s more POV switches, it’s definitely a thing.” 

Crowley cleared his throat, closing the book again and looking down at the cover.  The cover art was simple— a shadowy garden at night, with a teenage boy sitting by a rock wall and two adults sitting on either side of him, all three of them looking up at the stars above. 

“Can I help you check out?” Parker asked, and their voice was a little softer. 

“Yeah, thanks,” Crowley said distractedly.  He paid for the book and then left the store, plopping down on a bench just outside.  He considered the novel for just a moment, weighing it in his hands as he looked at the title, the author’s name, the cover design, and wondered why his stomach felt as though it was trying to turn inside out. 

And then he opened the book and began to read.


It wasn’t that Crowley didn’t read. 

Not that he made a habit of it, mind— he did have better things to do with his time, tempting humans into sin and other very demon-y pursuits.  But he had been known to pick up a book or two in his day.  He wasn’t like Aziraphale, not at all, but the angel collected and read books with a fervency not approached even by most humans, so that wasn’t exactly a fair bar to measure against. 

Crowley read, he just wasn’t that loud about it.  It wouldn’t much help his reputation, he figured.  And Aziraphale might expect him to start holding conversations about books, and that just wouldn’t do.  Most of all, though… Crowley read, but not often.  It was a bit hard on his eyes, in all honesty— snake pupils made it a bit difficult to focus on small print.  He had tried audiobooks a few times, but had decided it wasn’t worth the trouble— there weren’t too many books that could capture his attention enough to bear sitting and just listening for hours.  With the advent of large-print books things got easier, but it still wasn’t exactly a habit. 

That said, when Crowley put his mind to it, he could read quite fast.  He had had the presence of mind to snag a large-print copy of The Governess, the Groundsman, and the Antichrist, and the writing was actually quite interesting and fast-paced, so Crowley only sat on the chilly bench outside the Waterstones for about an hour before he was reading the last words on the last page and closing the book. 

And then Crowley sat there a little while longer, the book balanced on his thigh as he stared up at the clouds above him.  Finally, he mustered up the energy to stand, tucking the book under his arm and loping off in the direction of Soho.  As he walked, he thought. 

He and Aziraphale had agreed, after Armageddon, that it would be best if they stayed out of Warlock’s life.  His moving to America would have made it harder to stick around, to be sure, but for an angel and a demon almost nothing was impossible and mortal concerns like travel visas and continental differences were mere trifles. 

But they had decided to stay away.  They had mucked up poor Warlock’s life enough, Aziraphale had pointed out, by treating him like he was going to turn into an out-of-control creature of Hell at any moment.  And the boy had already been showing signs, before he even turned eleven, of not needing a nanny anymore, Crowley had added.  A clean break, where Warlock went back to America and would likely forget about his old nanny and gardener soon enough, would be the best for everyone. 

Except, evidently, Warlock had very much not forgotten about his old nanny and gardener.  He had not forgotten about them so much that he had apparently been inspired to write a best-selling novel based on the two weirdos that had convinced him as a kid that he was extraordinary in a distinctly supernatural way. 

Crowley’s stomach churned with guilt, and shame, and regret.  Had they made the wrong choice?  Had they hurt Warlock even more, by leaving without a word, than they would have by sticking around and eventually spilling the beans about having mistakenly helped raise the ‘wrong boy’? 

Crowley’s jaw was clenched, his fists curled and jammed in his pockets, by the time he reached Aziraphale’s bookshop.  He shouldered into the shop, ignoring the wild tinkling of the bell, and hollered, “Oi, angel, where are you?” 

“Hello, darling, I’m in the back,” Aziraphale replied, his voice cheerful and bright.  Crowley glanced around to make sure there were no customers in the shop (there weren’t, of course— it was noon on a Tuesday, not exactly prime-time for book shopping even at shops that actually sold books), and then snapped his fingers to lock the door.  He stalked into the back to find Aziraphale up to his elbows in old manuscripts, piled on his desk and chair and floor. 

“Ah, hello, love,” Aziraphale said breathlessly, looking up at Crowley with a smile.  His bowtie was untied and loose around his neck, his jacket hung over his desk chair and his sleeves rolled up, and on any other day Crowley would have taken his state of incredible undress as an opportunity to kiss him senseless, but he was too anxious. 

“Angel, have you heard of a novel called The Governess, the Groundsman, and the Antichrist?” he asked abruptly. 

Aziraphale sat back on his heels, hands neatly resting on his thighs.  “I don’t believe I have,” he said.  “But, my, doesn’t that just sound like our life stories?” 

“It is,” Crowley said, and then handed him Warlock Dowling’s book. 

Aziraphale’s eyebrows went up as he took it, and up even more as he saw the title and cover.  He gasped out loud, and then said, “Our Warlock Dowling?” 

“The very same,” Crowley replied grimly.  He moved a pile of mouldering bibles off Aziraphale’s desk chair and then collapsed into it, limbs sprawling.  “Saw an interview on the telly about his book, it’s definitely him.” 

Aziraphale pressed his lips together, flipping the book over to look at the back.  “Do we need to do damage control?” he asked quietly.  “Is there anything in here that our sides could come after us for?” 

“No, no,” Crowley said, sitting up straight.  That hadn’t even occurred to him honestly— after all, Warlock hadn’t known much about what really happened at Armageddon.  “It’s just— well, you’ll see when you read it.  It’s… he didn’t forget us, Aziraphale.  He really, really didn't.  And now I'm afraid we did the wrong thing." 

“You’ve read it?” Aziraphale said in surprise, and Crowley stuck out his tongue. 

“Yeah, it’s a quick read.”  He cleared his throat.  “Aziraphale, uh, look at the dedication.” 

Aziraphale pursed his lips but opened the book to the dedication page.  “To Antonia and Francis,” he read out loud, “Who taught me how to smell the roses and conquer my enemies and love the world even when it’s hard.”  He looked up again, his eyes wide.  “Oh, my,” he whispered. 

“Yeah,” Crowley replied.  His mouth was dry, his heart beating an irregular tattoo against his superficial ribs, and he didn’t know what to think. 

“I’ll read this in its entirety later,” Aziraphale said, closing the book again and running a reverential hand over the front cover.  “But will you give me a rundown?” 

Crowley nodded.  “Starts out with the nanny and the gardener— er, rather the governess and the groundsman— figuring out that somewhere in the world the antichrist has been born.  The governess is a witchy-type person, and the groundsman I think is some kind of occultist, so they’re able to figure out after a few years that he’s in England, a kid named Oscar.  So they go there and pose as, as a governess and a groundsman, and basically raise the kid for ten years to be a nice person, and then when he comes into his power at sixteen he doesn’t go on a rampage.  There’s this whole bit with these Satanists that are also looking for the kid, and they’re the bad guys Oscar and everyone have to defeat at the end to prevent Beelzebub from being summoned to Earth to take over Britain, but— but the governess and groundsman are definitely bloody us.  Are Ashtoreth and Francis, rather.” 

“Crowley, we were Francis and Ashtoreth,” Aziraphale said quietly.  “To him, we were.” 

“The governess and the groundsman— bless it, the nanny and gardener— also definitely get it on,” Crowley blurted, and then blushed a little, unduly embarrassed. 

Aziraphale looked distinctly less scandalized than he had expected.  “Well, that part is entirely true, my dear,” he pointed out. 

Crowley blushed a little harder.  “Yeah, but it’s weird for the kid I nannied to have realized!” he blustered.  “Especially given that we weren’t together fifteen years ago!” 

Aziraphale nodded slightly.  “Fair.”  He gazed down at the book, his brow furrowed.  “What do you think we ought to do, Crowley?” he asked seriously.  “Pretend we didn’t see this, go on as we had agreed without making contact?  Or…?” 

“I want to reach out to him,”  Crowley said a little hoarsely.  “I want to see if he’ll meet us.  I want to talk to him.” 

Aziraphale looked up at him, and there was a small, rueful smile on his lips.  “I was hoping you’d say that,” he murmured.  “I… I’ve missed him.” 

Crowley nodded.  “So’ve I.” 

Aziraphale handed him back the book, getting to his feet.  “Well,” he said in a more robust voice, clapping his hands together.  “Let’s see if we can’t contact our young Master Dowling, shall we?”


To: Warlock Dowling [wtdowling@nutterfampub.co.uk]

From: ajcrowley666@gmail.com

Subject: It’s been a while

 

Hello, Warlock,

It’s been a few years.  I happened to see your interview on TV, I hadn’t realized you’d grown up quite so much.  If you’re interested, Francis and I would love to catch up with you.  We’re both based in London, but travel is fine as well.

Let us know, if you like.

Antonia Ashtoreth + Francis Fell

 

 

 

To: ajcrowley666@gmail.com

From: Warlock Dowling [wtdowling@nutterfampub.co.uk]

Subject: Re: It’s been a while

 

I want to meet too. 

-Warlock


Crowley stared at himself in the mirror in Aziraphale’s bedroom, in the little flat above the bookshop.  His sunglasses were off, tucked into the collar of his black button-up, and he stared at his own yellow eyes suspiciously.  “Maybe I should go as Ashtoreth,” he said out loud. 

Aziraphale, who was sitting on the bed, made a humming sound that didn’t denote any particular agreement or displeasure. 

Crowley tugged at a lock of his hair, which was shoulder-length, but not as long as he’d had it when he was posing as a nanny.  “I know this look is a bit more androgynous,” he muttered, glancing down at his jeans (from the women’s department, because he took a perverse pleasure in the discord that fake pockets had spread) and his boots, and then untucked his shirt.  “But he’s only known me as a woman.” 

“Do you want to go as a woman?” Aziraphale asked. 

Crowley wrinkled his nose.  “No.  But maybe I should.” 

“Crowley, darling,” Aziraphale said, getting up and coming to stand at Crowley’s shoulder.  “I don’t think he’s the sort of person to judge you based on any assumptions he might make about your gender.  We didn’t raise him that way.” 

“We didn’t raise him, period,” Crowley snapped, and then sighed.  “Yeah, I know.  You’re right.” 

Aziraphale smiled just slightly, reaching out to cup his face, caressing one cheekbone with his thumb.  “Besides,” he said softly, “If you go as Ashtoreth then I ought to go as Brother Francis, and I don’t think you want to see a reappearance of that look.” 

Crowley shuddered theatrically and then leaned in and gave Aziraphale a brief kiss.  When they parted, Aziraphale smiled at him again.  “Alright, dear?” he said.  “We’d best get going, if we’re going to make it on time.” 

“You know my style is fashionably late,” Crowley grumbled, even as he unhooked his sunglasses from his shirt and slipped them on. 

Aziraphale chuckled fondly.  “I do know, my dear.” 

They left the bookshop together, walking side by side down the pavement, hands clasped and fingers laced together.  If Crowley’s hand was shaking just a little, Aziraphale didn’t say a word. 

They had agreed to meet Warlock at a small cafe near St. James’s Park, which was long enough of a walk for Crowley to calm himself down but not so long that he had time to talk himself out of going altogether.  The cafe was busy when he and Aziraphale arrived, just at the tail end of the lunch rush, but despite the crowd it didn’t take more than a moment to spot Warlock. 

Their once-charge turned author was sitting at a little table for four, a steaming mug in front of him.  Like he had been in the interview he was still wearing those thick-framed, tinted glasses, but today his hair was down around his face and he was dressed far more casually.  He was slouched in his chair, legs stretched out and crossed at the ankle, but it was a position Crowley sat in enough to be able to read the tension in his shoulders and the anxious jiggling of his leg. 

Warlock spotted Crowley and Aziraphale at the same time they spotted him, and he stood up as they approached.  Crowley took a deep breath and managed a slightly shaky smile before he said, “Warlock, it’s lovely to see you.” 

Warlock’s shoulders relaxed slightly, and he said in a low voice, “Hi, Nanny.  Hi, Brother Francis.”  He laughed a little nervously.  “Gosh, you guys looks really different.” 

Aziraphale smiled slightly.  “Yes, I imagine we do.” 

Warlock bit his lip, glancing back at Crowley.  “You signed your email Antonia,” he said cautiously, “Is that good to call you, or…?” 

Crowley smiled a little crookedly.  “Anything’s fine,” he said.  “Antonia, Ashtoreth… I also go by Crowley, that’s good.” 

“Ah, and I go by Aziraphale,” Aziraphale added quickly.  He squeezed Crowley’s hand quickly, smiling up at him. 

“I still go by Warlock,” Warlock said with a nervous little smile.  “Weird name though it is.”  He shifted, fingers tangled together, and then blurted, “I know this is really weird, and it’s been like fifteen years, but can I hug you guys?” 

Aziraphale smiled so brightly he practically glowed.  “Of course, my dear boy.”  He opened his arms and Warlock fell into them, squeezing him tight.  When they let go Crowley reached out, and then Warlock was hugging him, and he was just slightly taller than Crowley but it was all so familiar, and the distance of the last fifteen years mostly disappeared. 

“I’ve missed you,” Warlock mumbled into Crowley’s shoulder, and Crowley hugged him one more moment (and one more, and one more) before letting go. 

The awkwardness dissipated a little, the three sat at the table before Warlock jumped up again.  “Oh, right, awful manners, do you want anything to eat or drink?” he asked. 

Aziraphale waved an unconcerned hand.  “Oh, don’t worry, we’ve got it covered.”  Crowley squinted at him, eyes narrowed, and was completely unsurprised when a cafe employee came over just a moment later with cocoa and a croissant for Aziraphale, a coffee for Crowley, and a refill for Warlock, despite the fact that this particular cafe didn’t offer table service. 

Once the cafe employee was gone, Warlock said in a wondering voice, “Sorry for harping on it, but wow, you two really haven’t aged a day!  Brother— Um, Aziraphale, you honestly look younger.” 

Aziraphale and Crowley exchanged looks, a silent conversation.  They had talked about what they would tell him, of course, but they hadn’t expected it to come up so quickly— “Thank you, Warlock,” Aziraphale said with a small smile.  “That’s very kind of you to say.” 

“You’ve sprouted up!” Crowley added, grinning slightly.  “No longer the height of my waist, I see.” 

Warlock laughed.  “Yeah, I’ve definitely got a few more inches.” 

They fell into easier small talk after that, catching up after fifteen years.  Warlock told them about his high school and college years in the States, his moving back to London after graduating, his writing and his unexpected fame.  Aziraphale told him about the bookshop, including a long and rambling story about a rare Milton first edition he had acquired a few years back, and Crowley strung some words together about his definitely-real and very successful consulting job. 

Eventually, Warlock drained his drink and then leaned across the table just a little bit, his expression growing serious.  “Listen,” he said in a somber voice, with just a bit of a shake.  “You, ah, said in your email you’d seen an interview about my book.  I’m… I’m really sorry, I shouldn’t have based Ms. Cassandra and Mr. Felix so heavily on you two.  I didn’t realize they were as recognizable but after giving the book some space and reading it again, it’s really obvious.  I sincerely apologize for any adverse effects, I hope it hasn’t caused you too much damage.” 

“Oh, goodness, dear boy, none at all!” Aziraphale exclaimed, surprised.  “There’s no need to apologize!” 

Warlock blinked in surprise.  “Isn’t that… what you wanted to meet with me about?” he asked, an odd mix of apprehension and relief in his voice. 

Crowley absently tapped his fingers on the table, and then said, “We really did honestly just want to see you again.  Seeing you on TV, hearing you talk about your book and its… influences, made us realize that you, ngh, that you still remembered us.” 

“And we owe you an apology,” Aziraphale said in a quiet voice.  “For leaving.  We thought we were making the right choice, at the time, but—“ 

“I never blamed you for leaving,” Warlock interrupted, his eyes wide. 

Crowley raised a silent eyebrow, and Warlock blushed a little.  “Alright.  Maybe I did a bit.  But… but you don’t need to apologize, either.” 

Crowley and Aziraphale looked at each other again.  “We do,” Aziraphale said firmly. 

Crowley nodded just slightly, and then laced his fingers together and set his hands on the table.  “We’ve both read your book,” he said slowly.  “And in it, two, er… supernaturally-inclined individuals raised a boy to be good believing he was the antichrist.  How open would you be to the notion that you’re not too far off?” 

Warlock frowned slightly.  “What… do you mean?” he said.  “I know you always talked about me coming into my hellish powers, but I figured you were talking about, like… puberty, or something.” 

“The antichrist was real,” Aziraphale said in a low voice.  Crowley felt a subtle miracle ripple out over the cafe, quietly guarding them from any eavesdropping.  “Or, rather he is real.  Lovely boy, Adam, lives up in Oxford.  He’s an environmental lawyer, nowadays.” 

Warlock looked between the two of them, as if he expected one of them to start laughing any minute now.  “But you always called me your little antichrist,” he said to Crowley, lips pressed together.  “So, you… made a mistake, and thought I was the antichrist?  Came to try to stop me from being evil, instead of him?” 

“That was quick,” Crowley said wryly.  

Warlock smiled just a bit sarcastically.  “I am a writer.  Good at plots.” 

“We did believe you were the antichrist, yes,” Aziraphale said in a low voice.  “It was a bit stressful, when we realized our mistake.” 

Crowley snorted at that.  “A bit,” he repeated.  “Worst week of my life.  Except maybe the bloody fourteenth century.” 

“It all ended alright,” Aziraphale said fussily, turning up his nose. 

“So you left when you realized I was a mistake,” Warlock said quietly, staring down at the table.  He was biting his lip, and the tension was back in his shoulders. 

Crowley took a deep breath.  “You weren’t who we thought you were,” he confirmed.  “That’s true.  But the time we spent with you wasn’t wasted, Warlock.  It was… it was nice, actually.  Didn’t used to like kids—“ 

“That’s a ridiculous lie,” Aziraphale muttered, and Crowley glared at him. 

“Fine, fine, kids were always alright, but Warlock—“ He turned his attention back to Warlock, opening his body language in the hopes he would be able to tell that Crowley was sincere.  “Warlock, I genuinely cared for you.  So did Aziraphale.” 

Warlock looked up at them again, a small, sad smile on his lips.  “I cared for you, too,” he said.  “Still do, I think.  Why did you leave, though?” 

“We thought it was best,” Aziraphale said, and then sighed.  “In your novel, Warlock, the governess and groundsmen are sort of… occultists, are they not?” 

“Right,” Warlock confirmed with a nod.  His eyes widened, and he exclaimed, “Crowley, are you a Satanist?” 

Crowley shuddered, making a face.  “In the name of everything unholy, fuck no.  I have some standards.”  He let his sunglasses slide down his nose, enough for Warlock to see his eyes.  “I’m a demon.” 

“And I’m an angel,” Aziraphale said helpfully, and the sunlight streaming in the cafe’s windows caught his hair just enough to illuminate the shadow of a halo. 

Warlock gaped at them a moment, and then said slowly, “That… actually makes a bit of sense.” 

“Our goal, when we thought you were the antichrist, was to raise you to be balanced,” Aziraphale explained.  “With Crowley providing the evil influences, and I the good.  But we’re supernatural beings, Warlock, and with our expectations come some level of… power.  Odd occurrences, unnatural abilities, and the like.  Once we realized, we decided it would be best if we weren’t around you anymore.  Because… because we’d already made your childhood strange and fantastical enough, and we were afraid that being around you would attract too much of the wrong sort of attention to you.  The, er, demonic or heavenly kind.” 

“And we knew we’d have to tell you eventually, if we stuck around,” Crowley said in a low voice.  “We don’t age, after all, we’re immortal.  And… a sixteen year old might not take the news that they’re not the chosen one they thought they were a bit worse than a twenty six year old.” 

Warlock looked down at the table again, scratching thoughtlessly at the plastic surface.  “My childhood was fantastical, and I did always hope I’d have the sort of special destiny that never did come,” he said quietly.  “But I think I understand why you left.” 

“Just because we had reasons doesn’t mean we didn’t hurt you,” Aziraphale murmured.  “And we’re… we’re truly, eternally sorry, dear boy.” 

Warlock gave them a small, genuine smile.  “I definitely need to think about this,” he said.  “It’s a lot to take in, after all, the whole… antichrist-is-real, I was part raised by an angel and a demon… thing.  Apology accepted, though.  And for what it’s worth, I’m sorry for basing my book characters off of you two.” 

“No harm done,” Crowley said with a lazy smirk.  Now that everything was on the table, and the kid he had helped raise for a few years hadn’t kicked him out of his life again, he felt like he could relax a little. 

Warlock tilted his head again.  “I have to ask,” he said.  “In my novel, Ms. Cassandra and Mr. Felix ending up falling in love with each other.  That was mostly because it worked thematically and plot-wise, but…” 

“Crowley and I are married,” Aziraphale said, his cheeks going just slightly pink.  Crowley grinned and held up his left hand, showing off his wedding ring. 

Warlock grinned back, wide and excited and boyish.  “I knew it!” he exclaimed, pumping his fist.  “You’ve got to tell me how it happened.  And maybe the rest of the story, with the real antichrist, too.  Ohhh, can I meet him?” 

“I think you two would get along,” Aziraphale said with a small smile. 

Crowley nodded thoughtfully.  “Whole story’s long,” he said.  “Thousands of years long.  Especially the way that one tells it.”  He jerked his chin at Aziraphale, smiling fondly when his husband sniffed. 

“I think it’s a story for another time,” Crowley said cautiously. 

Warlock smiled hopefully.  “There’ll be another time?” 

“We’d like that ever so much,” Aziraphale said quietly.  “Now that… now that you know, and especially now that you’re back in London, we’d be ever so honored to be a part of your life again.” 

Warlock nodded eagerly.  “I’d like that, too,” he said.  “I don’t want to see you leave again so soon.” 

The three said their goodbyes soon, after that, with promises to meet again— Warlock had interviews and signings and work, all related to his newfound literary popularity, but he promised Crowley and Aziraphale he’d come by the bookshop sometime in the next few weeks. 

Crowley and Aziraphale were quiet on the walk back to the bookshop, quietly satisfied to enjoy each other’s company as they strolled hand-in-hand.  They were almost back when Crowley said, “That went a lot better than expected.” 

“It did, rather,” Aziraphale replied happily.  “I’m quite looking forward to telling him the whole story.” 

Crowley grinned.  “Remember, angel, he’s an author now, I wouldn’t be surprised if what we tell him shows up in some form in a book a few years out.” 

Aziraphale chuckled.  “You know, I don’t think I’d mind,” he said.  “It would be quite the story, wouldn’t it?  In our case, truth is a bit stranger than fiction.” 

Crowley smiled, leaning over to kiss Aziraphale’s forehead.  “That it is, angel,” he agreed.  “That it is.”