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No victory without suffering

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Victory Rose Wright was dead. She knew she was dead. She just didn’t know what to do about it.

She hadn’t died in a particularly interesting way, or painful manner. She’d gotten very ill one day, and simply passed away in her sleep with very little fuss about it. It was as simple as that.

Except, Victoty didn’t pass on to anywhere she had been expecting to go. The monk in her village had gone on and on about how the destinations were either Heaven or Hell, but no one from Above or Below had bothered to show up to come and claim her.

Victory just woke up from being alive one grey day in what is now known as December, and ended up staying for her own wake because she couldn’t seem to leave the house. It was a rather dull affair, no one having much to say about her. Victory had led a quiet compliant life of barely seven years, without ever being married off, or grown mature enough to have her own children. Her other older siblings had, but something about Victory had made others constantly overlook her. It would seem that about the only interesting thing about her had been her name.

After that, Victory just stayed in her family’s home much like she had done so before, but without the need to eat, sleep, breath, or go to the bathroom. She found it all really rather boring. Once you took out the survival necessity factor out of your existence, what exactly was left?

So Victory resigned herself to a mediocre afterlife of watching her family and then, her family’s descendants get on with them living out their days. She would be there when one of them would pass, if they should do so in the house, and Victory would watch as they went up or down. Sometimes, they would get a chance to chat beforehand. No one ever had any idea who she was, or any new insight about why she was there.

Heaven would turn up in a bright white light. Victory had even seen an angel or two. They weren’t as nice as the monk had led her to believe. They always seemed upset about something for whatever reason, and they wore funny clothing instead of robes.

Hell bubbled up black from a ground, filthy hands reaching out to pull the damned down into Hell. If a newly departed was being particularly difficult about it, a demon would fully emerge to fuss at them. That’s how Victory got to find out that demons wore funny little animals on their heads. She thought they looked ridiculous.

Given those were her two options, Victory didn’t bother to ask questions about her predicament. The idea of chatting up bored demons or cross angels was not appealing.

Time passed, some improvements to general quality of life for the living was made, and the fashion changed. That’s what Victory noticed most anyway. The day in, day out stuff remained constant. Someone was always being born, learning how to be grown up, working, complaining about working, getting married, getting sick, and dying, over and over and over again, just with a different set of faces.

More time passed, just as dull as the day before, and then one day, all her family’s descendants up and left, every single one of them. Just packed up and left for something called the New World, moved there chasing after a better life. They went away, and left Victory there, who soon came to realize that there was something worse to experience than boredom. To make matters worse, a great fire happened soon after that. There wasn’t much left of a building for her to wander about in anymore. Just ash and dirt, and yet, Victory remained, unable to leave.

Having a lot of time to think and listen in on the living, Victory thought that should have been the end of her. Ghosts were supposed to haunt places because they were attached to something. It obviously wasn’t her family, or anyone who came after, and it wasn’t anything to do with her ancestral home either. Victory was at a loss about what was left for her to be tied to.

Time moved just as slowly for the dead as it did for the living. Victory could watch all the going-ons around her, but she was trapped. No one could see her. No one could hear her. She was alone, and it was that way for a long while.

And then, on one rainy day like so many others before, the strangest thing happened.

A being of pure white light containing itself in a well tailored suit passed by one day, an angel out for a stroll. Victoria didn’t know how the living didn’t see it for what it was. What could only be an angel seemed to be studying her. Victory couldn’t recall the last time she had seen an angel. She tried waving to it to see what it would do. Nothing came of it, not that she had been expecting anything to.

The odd thing was though, the angel came back the next day, and the next, and the day after that, every time with different people until there was quite a few of them. Curious, Victory joined them to find that the human were builders and such, and that the angel was discussing blueprints with them.

That didn’t sound very promising for afterlife options so Victory did what she had always done. She quietly waited.

For once, some place new came to Victory though, the angel having purchased the land, her family’s former plot, to build a shop of sorts. For the first time in a very long time, there was the flurry of life going on all about her. Victory watched with interest as all sorts of people were brought in to create this space for the angel, who turned out to be very particular about how he liked things. He went by the funny name of Mr. Fell, which didn’t seem very angelic to Victory.

The angel wasn’t there when the shop was finally completed, having gone off to France for bread of all things, but Victory knew the exact moment when Mr. Fell returned. Victory felt warm for the first time in centuries.

Unlike the other angels, Mr. Fell was different. First and foremost, he was happy, the feeling coming off of him in waves like a pulse. Drawing nearer, Victory realized that was where the warmth was coming from. She watched the angel walk around his new shop that still smelled of wood and fresh paint, and the little spirit basked in his light.

Like everyone else, Mr. Fell didn’t seem to notice her at all as she followed him around, watching the angel make his own adjustments to the shop. From the roof of the flat upstairs to the bottom most part of the bookshop, Mr. Fell placed strange markings on multiple surfaces. The sigels would glow for a bit before disappearing completely, though Victory could still feel that they were there. Some of them even hummed with the amount of power flowing through them.

At the very least, Victory found existing in an angel’s bookshop to be interesting. It turned that Mr. Fell could make impossible things happen by snapping his fingers. He soon filled his shop full of books, scrolls, and really anything else that had words written down on it, a clay tablet or two in the mix. Victory thought Mr. Fell had quite a lot of things for being an angel, but all of it was new and wonderful to look at so she was not one to complain. Victory was quite done with the whole ‘staring at charred earth‘ thing.

One of the best things about Mr.Fell was that he would read to himself, but also aloud. He apparently enjoyed both hearing how words sounded in his head, and when they were spoken. Mr. Fell also had some very strong feelings about poetry being a vocal art, how it should always be read aloud. It was quite common for him to perform poetry with flair and panache. Her vocabulary was also becoming more greatly varied as she learned about sonnets from Shakespeare, lyrical poems from Sappho, and the epic that was Beowulf.

Suddenly, existence wasn’t so dull. Victory learned how to read over the angel’s shoulder as he read aloud to himself. It hadn’t really been a thing when she’d been alive, and girls certainly weren’t taught to. Mr. Fell never seemed to mind the intrusion, or even notice, Victory his second shadow. Her days were filled with following him around the shop, and sitting behind him in the evenings, learning how to read and listening in

Being an angel, Mr. Fell could read multiple books at a time, the angel opening other eyes on his face, neck, and hands, floating the books around him as he arranged and rearranged the shop how he liked, or was sitting down to enjoy a cup of something called cocoa. Mr. Fell also never slept so now every one of Victory’s minutes had merit. They was filled to the brim with words, glorious beautiful words that took her anywhere and everywhere she wanted to go.

Issac Newton and Robert Boyle made her become interested in her own physics. What were her limitations? How had she never really thought about it before? Victory knew that she could do all the usual ghost things. She could walk through walls, remain invisible, and make a room quite chilly. She had never felt the urge to move a physical object though until now. Learning about science made her want to experiment, and a particular book Victory was dying to read, but kept failing to catch the angel’s attention filled her with a mighty need.

Victory started off small, testing her abilities out on bits of paper and layers of dust first. Once she mastered moving those around, she learned how to pick up books, and flip through pages. That was a pivotal turning point in her existence. For the first time ever, Victory could pursue anything she wanted to know at her own pace and in her own time.

Victory flew with Icarus, traveled to the Far East with Marco Polo, fought side by side with the Three Musketeers, learned about the living human body with the verbose Pliny the Elder, and argued with Plato. It was if all these door had opened up to her at once, and she were a traveler through time and space, a wanderer of so many other rich realities and fertile lands.

And there never seemed to be an end to it. As much as she didn’t like having Aziraphale away from the shop for extended periods of time, his trips out into the world meant that he always returned with more books, more doorways for her to roam through. Whenever a shipment from some estate sale or such came to the shop, Victory’s excitement would match Mr. Fell’s own as more books were revealed.

But then one day, the fateful day the bookshop was supposed to officially open, Heaven came a calling.

It had been such a very nice day so far, one of the best actually, Victory feeling so warm from Mr. Fell’s contentment and joy as he put on the finishing touches. She stayed close to him as the angel whistled while he worked, putting more beautiful leather-bound books on rapidly filling shelves. Neither of them bothered to turn around when the bell over the door dinged.

“I am afraid the shop will not be open until Friday, good people. But we will be having a grand opening after lunch...”

“We are not here to buy books, Aziraphale.” There were other angels in the bookshop, angels that Victory did not like. No, she do not like them at all, although, they were very well dressed. She drew away as carefully as possible to hide and spy.

“Oh. Oh dear. Listen, if it’s about the business in Paris, um, it wasn’t my miracle...” Mr. Fell started nervously.

“I have no idea whereof you speak, oh Angel of the Eastern Gate. We are here with good news.” Said the pompous angel. The other angel just looked mean.

“Oh! How lovely.” Mr. Fell smiled, obviously preparing himself for some good news.

“We’re bringing you home.” Said the pompous angel.

“Promoting you back upstairs.”
Sneered the mean angel. They looked expectantly at Aziraphale who only was able to manage barely contained distressed confusion at the moment.

“But I’m opening the bookshop on Friday. If Master Hatchard can make a go of it, then I think I can really...” Mr. Fell explained to them.

“It’s an excellent idea. Whoever replaces you down here can obviously use it as a base of operations.” The pompous angel said far too carelessly, Victory seeing red as books started to float around her. She noticed before something was flung at the pompous angel’s head.

“Use my bookshop?” Mr. Fell said with unnoticed horror that mirrored Victory’s own. It was not the reaction to others angels were expecting.

“You’re being promoted. You get to come home.” Said the pompous angel.

“I can’t imagine how anyone would want to spend five minutes longer in this world than they had to.” Said the mean angel.

“Aziraphale has been here for almost 6,000 years. We must applaud such devotion to duty.” The pompous angel told the mean angel as he opened a little box, revealing a medal. “And it hasn’t gone unnoticed.”

“I don’t want a medal.” Aziraphale protested, looking desperately about the shop for an out. His gaze landed on a man shaped thing looking through the open door at him, because of course, the other angels were rude on top of being awful. The being was holding a box of chocolates.

“But only I can properly thwart the wiles of the demon Crowley.” Aziraphale said theatrically loud for the man thing’s benefit. It remained unnoticed by the other two angels. The man thing responded by pointing to the box while mouthing the word ‘chocolates’.

“I do not doubt that whoever replaces you will be as good an enemy to Crowley as you are. Michael, perhaps.” The pompous angel countered.

The thing outside didn’t like that.
It didn’t like that one bit as it threw a quiet little tantrum behind the angels. Victory wasn’t sure if it was a particularly bright thing to do, calling the archangel Michael a wanker and such.

“Crowley’s been down here just as long as I have.” Aziraphale desperately committed to his excuse. “And he’s wily, and cunning, and brilliant, and oh...”

“It almost sounds like you like him.” The pompous angel pointed out when Aziraphale paused to fret.

“I loathe him.” Aziraphale said a little too quickly, making Victory sigh into her hands. “And, despite myself, I respect a worthy opponent...Which he isn’t because he’s a demon and I cannot respect a demon. Or like one.”

“That’s the attitude I like to hear. You’ll be an asset back at head office, I can tell you that.” The pompous angel said as he put the medal around Aziraphale’s neck.

“So...We’re going straight back, now? Before the grand opening?” Aziraphale was trying and failing not to sound miserable about it. The other angels didn’t notice or care.

“Well, soon. We’re just going to stroll down to Cork Street to see my tailor.” The pompous angel said in parting. The man thing that had been outside behind them was long gone. After the angels left, Mr. Fell allowed his fake face to completely fall away. Victory wandered after the angel, unsure of what to do, or how to help.

“They can’t do this. I mean, they can, but I can’t leave now.” Aziraphale fretted. Victory worried right beside him. The shop would remain, but she didn’t want any other angel here. Even worse, the new angel might notice her, and send her to Heaven, a dismal prospect. She knew from being around Mr. Fell that there were no books up there, and she had every intention of never ever going to Heaven.

“I don’t want to go back.” Aziraphale admitted very quietly, looking scared while doing so. In that moment, Victory learned that angels shed golden tears, a few strays escaping from the corners of his eyes.

“Don’t cry.” Victory wished the angel could hear or see her. “You’re very clever. You’ll figure it out.”

The ghost girl sat with Aziraphale who didn’t seem to know what to do with himself now. He just kept wandering around the bookshop, occasionally touching the spines of his beloved books. She wandered after him, unsure about what to do with herself as well.

On the day Victory thought that she might lose her angel, she ended up formally meeting a demon. Her Aziraphale, which she thought that was much better sounding name for an angel than Mr. Fell, was given an unexpected reprieve. Soon after that, the man thing from earlier paid the angel a visit.

Victory knew immediately what the man shaped thing was, much like how she knew what Aziraphale was. The demon was the reverse of the angel, in the sense that he appeared to be dark light contained in a suit, and he more than just allowed into the shop. In fact, Aziraphale welcomed such a creature to be near him, Victory growing warm again off of the waves of joy coming from her angel.

“What a nasty shock! They were going to promote me! Can you imagine?” Aziraphale said in greeting, helping himself to the chocolates the demon brought along with him. The angel liked to eat when he was stressed, which Victory thought was an odd trait for an angel, but also very fitting for Aziraphale.

“Bastards! The nerve of it!” The demon said, pouring them both a healthy dose of scotch. They saluted each other before knocking the liquor back.

“They changed their minds very all of the sudden like. Quite unlike Heaven to do that.” Mr. Fell paused before leveling a look at the demon. “What did you do?”

“Who says I did anything at all?” The demon asked, looking like he very much had done something to keep the angel here on Earth.

“You’re welcome to keep your secrets. Whatever you did, I am very grateful for it.” Mr. Fell sighed happily, shaking his head as he gave the demon a fond look.

“Anytime, angel. Just don’t go thanking me for it. I’ve got a wily, cunning, and apparently, brilliant reputation to maintain.”

“Oh, drat. You heard all that?” Aziraphale said, pinking at the ears from it. “Well, never mind that. We need to celebrate! Wait here while I pop out! We need champagne and nibbles!” The angel decided to run off to deal with rapidly growing feelings that were making his face turn as pink as his ears, “Be back in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.”

“He’s so ridiculous.” Crowley said in a tone of voice that was more suited for ‘I love him so much’.

“He is, but then he wouldn’t be Mr. Fell if he wasn’t.” Victory didn’t know why she bothered to say anything at all. It wasn’t like anyone could hear her, but sometimes, it felt nice to be included.

“Good point, ghost girl, but what are you doing here in Aziraphale’s bookshop?“ Asked the dark thing in the fancy suit as the demon turned round to address her. He took off his dark glasses to stare Victory down, revealing bizarre golden eyes that she couldn’t decide belonged more to cats or snakes. The hard gaze softened when the demon took in what he was actually dealing with, Victory realizing that she was huddled down to the floor and trembling. “Come on out, wee bit. I’m not going to hurt you.”

“You can see me?“ It was all very disconcerting and worrisome. What was this demon going to do to her? Victory was quite sure that there were no books in Hell either.

“I’m talking to you, aren’t I?” The demon pointed out, but not unkindly. He crouched down to sit on the floor not too far away from her, but made no other movements towards the child.

“How came you can see me?” Victory moved out from behind the bookcase. She was still scared, but demon didn’t look all that threatening sitting on the floor so awkwardly, his long thin limbs skewed out about.

“I have eyes.” He teased, failing to resolve the sitting situation. Victory thought he looked like a marionette that had its strings cut, and landed jagged on the floor.

“B-but Mr. Fell can’t see me.” Victory resolved to be braver. Aziraphale wouldn’t have let just any old demon into the shop. She’d seen all the spells and such he himself had placed into the foundation.

“Oh, he can see you just fine. There aren’t many things in all of creation that he’s blind to. It’s just that noticing you is an entirely different matter. You don’t register with him yet.“ The demon explained without really doing so. Victory would come to learn that would be an ongoing theme with him. “Now don’t go getting all bent out of shape over it. Nothing to do with you personally. It’s just how he is.”

“I’m not. That’s just how everyone’s been with me, living or dead...except for you, that is.” Victory realized that this was probably the longest conversation she’d had in centuries, living or dead. “Do you think he doesn’t mind me being here because he hasn’t noticed, or he hasn’t noticed me because he doesn’t mind me being here?

“Dunno. Could be a little bit of both really.” The demon waved her over to him. She hesitantly came more out of hiding. To her surprise, Victory was picked up to be plopped into the demon’s lap. She hadn’t thought that was possible, not having an actual body anymore to plop, but there she was. “You never answered my question. What are you doing here, little one?”

“I’ve always been here, for years and years and years before the bookshop was even built.” Was all Victory could think to say. She was feeling a little dazed and confused as she poked at the demon who was very solid under her touch. She didn’t go through him like she did with everyone else.

“Let’s have a look at you...Mmm...I’d say from the ragged smock you’re wearing and the style of it, perhaps around 14th century. Miserable time period. Don’t blame you for dying so young to skip it. You didn’t miss out on much, I assure you, unless you’re a fan of famines, starvation, and plagues.” The demon said as he looked her over. “Oh, I see now. You’re a poltergeist.”

“I am not.” Victory didn’t know how to take that. It left her feeling a little insulted.

“Yes, you are.” The demon grinned down at her.

“I beg your pardon, but I most certainly am not. I’ve never gone out my way to scare anyone.” Victory protesting, making the demon laugh now. His amused rumblings felt nice, even if his lap was a little bony.

“A poltergeist is simply a spirit that is tied to some elemental source. I’ll wager this was your family’s land, yeah?“

“Yes.“

“Probably been your family’s land for generations, all the way back to the time of the Druids and such.“

“I don’t know about all that, but my nan used to say our bones were in this land, and the land was in our bones.“ Victory said, after a moment of giving it some thought.

“She not too far from the truth on that one, at least in your case. This bookshop, what used to be your family’s former ancestral homestead, happens to reside on an extremely powerful intersection of ley lines. Do you know what that is?”

“Yes, I‘ve read about them. They are concentrations of the Earth’s energy, pathways to move it all about. Ley lines are like the veins of the Earth.” Victory answered dutifully.

“You’ve read about them? Where?“ The demon gave her a very surprised look back.

“Here. In the bookshop. I taught myself.“ Victory said, wondering if she was going to in trouble for it. The news had the exact opposite effect, the demon appearing highly amused, even pleased with her answer.

“Of course, you did. He opens a bookshop, and gets haunted by a spirit who teaches herself how to read.” The demon chuckled, “Well, ghost girl, you are tied to those ley lines here hence you are a poltergeist. Doesn’t mean you have to be a bad one. In fact, I would strongly recommend resisting any urge of becoming a bad one if you want to keep existing here.”

“I have no intention of doing that. I haven’t even read half the shop yet, and Mr. Fell keeps adding more so I intend to remain quite busy, thank you very much.“ Victory said as she climbed down off the demon’s lap.

“Glad to hear it.” The demon said, “Where you off to?“

“I’m going to see what I can learn about being a poltergeist now that I know I am one, that doesn’t involve becoming a bad one. They’re supposed to be able to do a great many number of things, and I’m now wondering about it.” Victory told him as she studied the stacks. “I’ve just got to find the right book for it. There should be one in here. Somewhere.”

“Excellent choice, ghost girl.” The demon laughed as he got up again.

“That’s not my name.” Victory pointed out. She suddenly really wanted someone to know her name, even if that someone was a demon.

“If you don’t want me calling you that, you’ll have to give me something else to work with then.”

“I assume you are a demon?” Victory confirmed.

“Well spotted. Yes, I am.”

“How come you don’t have a funny little animal sitting on your head like the rest?” Was not what the demon had been expecting to hear as he laughed in surprise at the question.

“Because I think it looks ridiculous.” The demon tapped his right temple, indicating the snake tattoo there. It wiggled and hissed at Victory when she took a peek at it.

“Oh good. I thought that as well.” Victory nodded, “Are you going to do anything with my name if I give it to you?

“I might use it to get your attention like I would any other name.”

“My village’s monk warned about giving out your name to the Devil.“

“Well, you’re in luck. I’m not him.” Crowley said as he knelt down to Victory’s level again. He wasn’t awful looking like the other demons had been, appearing clean and even somewhat respectable as long as he didn’t walk, or try to sit on the ground. “Look, I’m not trying to rope you into a deal, or drag you to hell. Really not my thing. I’m just trying to be polite.”

“And you’re friends with Mr. Fell?“ Victory asked.

“We have an arrangement.” Was the answer she got.

Well, the monk hadn’t been right about anything else so far, and this demon had kept Heaven from taking away her angel, her Aziraphale. “Victory.“

“Over what?“

“No, that’s my name. Victory Rose Wright.” She clarified.

“Crowley. Pleasure to meet you.” The demon might have been meaning to say more, but he grew very quiet and still when Victory suddenly threw her arms around his neck. It was the first hug for them both in a very long while.

“Thank you for keeping Aziraphale here.” Victory got out of herself. She was surprised to find Crowley looking a bit stunned when she finally let him go. “I would have missed him terribly.”

“As would I.” Crowley said softly after her as the ghost girl ran off to go find her book. Aziraphale soon returned with his arms fully loaded, Crowley needing to help out with it all so they spoke no more that day.

Life went on, and it went on better than ever before because now Victory had someone to talk to, even if that someone was a demon. Aziraphale seemed to really like Crowley though, if all the glowing warmth coming off of him was anything to go by, so she decided not to hold it against him.

“You know you don’t have to keep wearing that.” Crowley told her one day, deep in the stacks while Aziraphale was busy discouraging a very persistent customer who seemed hellbent on buying his Dante.

“It’s all I got.“ Victory said, looking down at her gown, or more accurately, what was left of it.

“What do you think you’re actually wearing? A clothing ghost? That your dress up and died with you in the exact same moment?” Crowley poked fun. Victory could tell that he was pleased by her ability to quickly catch onto things.

“So it’s apart of me?“ Victory said, doing a little twirl. The dress did a sad little whirl in answer back.

“What do you think you are?” Crowley asked in all seriousness.

“Do you mean besides dead?” Was the cheeky answer. She was getting loads better at conversation. “Well, I think I’m energy. Boyle’s law says that matter and energy can neither be created or destroyed. My body, my matter, turned back to earth so that would make the remaining me energy, wouldn’t it?”

“Look at you! Well done!” Crowley broke out into a wide smile. “Now, watch me.”

The demon changed first his suit to a full length dress, and then, their gender. “Just think about what you want, and overlap it over your current form, letting it settle over it. You can look at pictures for reference. In fact, if I were you, I would do exactly that starting out.”

“Well? Give it a go?” Crowley prompted after a few moments of them just staring at each other.

“I can’t.” Victory told their feet.

“Why not?” Crowley asked, kneeling down to study the distressed spirit.

“I don’t know what I look like.” Victory said in a small tight voice.

“Here. This will help, pet.” Crowley said as she made a large standing mirror appear. “It’s all right. Come have a look at yourself.”

Victory nervously shuffled over to it to take a peek. She found out that she was small child shaped blob of pale light, wearing the remnants of a ragged gown. Everything else was muddied over though like a smudged, water damaged painting.

“Oh...” Victory hadn’t known what to expect, but the usual assortment of eyes, a nose, and a mouth would have been nice. “I really don’t remember what I looked like.”

“Mirrors were a rare thing back in your day, and I’m guessing they put a shroud of some sort over your body after you died.” Crowley said gently, giving the poltergeist a side arm hug as they stared into the mirror together. “That’s not a bad thing though.”

“How so?”

“You don’t have any preconceived notions of what you ought to look like. You can be or look like anything you like.” Crowley told her.

Victory concentrated, visualizing a child she’d seen in the shop recently, rarity that was. She opened her eyes, found that she had them to do so with, which was a pleasant surprise. A little girl with waist length brown hair and brown eyes regarded her back. Victory was pleased to see that she’d even managed to change up her gown into a pretty pale blue dress with ribbons on it. It wasn’t perfect, still smudged in places, but definitely an improvement.

“That’s better. Next time I’m in, I’ll bring along some reference material, Vic.” Crowley stood back up to help her out with her hair, and then her ownS

“Who are you talking to, dear?” Aziraphale found them, but only saw Crowley adjusting her own appearance in the mirror.

“The bookshop.” Crowley said, rolling her eyes at the oblivious angel.

“You named my bookshop, Vic?“ Aziraphale looked so appalled by the notion that he made Victory giggle into her newly reformed hands.

“You’d know it’s actually Victory Rose if you ever bothered to pay attention.“ Crowley sighed as she tried to decide what to do with the mirror. Victory would need it for practice. She would have a happy moment later on upon finding it upstairs in the flat.

“I’ll have you know that I am very observant.” Aziraphale told Crowley as he shelved some books over Victory’s head. She peeked up at them.

“He gone and moved Poe and Shelley over here again. Mark my words, he’s not going to remember where he’s put them when it comes time to read them again. Never does.” Victory conversationally told Crowley as Aziraphale continued fussing at the demon for naming his shop.

“What are you laughing about?” Aziraphale asked when it became obvious that Crowley wasn’t listening to him.

“Vic says you’ll forget about putting your Poe and Shelley there.” Crowley pointed out to see what would happen.

“You’d think the bookshop would have more faith in me.” Aziraphale sniffed.

“I don’t. He’s done it twice before already.” Got Crowley kicked out of the bookshop for laughing so hard without explanation. Victory let her back in, much to the angel’s confusion.

Though trail and error, Victory learned that being a spirit tapped into a ley line was a very fine thing. With a little focus and concentration, she could even find the ley lines, which looked like rivers of pure golden light flowing beneath and around the bookshop. She could wade into them, coating herself with gold, feeling almost alive from it.

Brimming with this new energy, Victory started to keep the flat above the bookshop neat and tidy. It was filled with things Crowley liked though he really didn’t seem to be aware that they were up there. Victory wondered if she should tell him, but decided against it. Instead, she learned how Crowley took his tea though, it becoming custom now for her to do so whenever the demon visited the shop.

“You could have made me a cuppa while you were up.” Aziraphale pouted at the demon, the one who was greatly enjoying his tea.

“I would have if I’d bothered to get up in the first place.” Crowley pointed out, “Quit whinging. Your own cup is at your elbow.”

“Oh, so it is! Thank you, my dear.”

“Thank, Vic, not me. Had nothing to do with it.”

“I do wish you’d stop calling the bookshop that.” Aziraphale sighed, “Excuse me, dear, but it would appear I have a customer.”

“Vic’s handling it.”

“Who is this Vic?”

“Have you seriously never ever, not once, noticed the poltergeist existing in your bookshop, right under your very nose? She reads over your shoulder all the time.” Crowley stared at the angel.

“I most certainly do not have a poltergeist.”

“Who do you think I keep talking to? Myself?” Crowley gaped at the obstinate angel. “You’re drinking the tea she made for you. She does chores around the shop. She helps you find the books you’ve shelved in off places. I don’t believe you. You seriously don’t know who I’m talking about?”

“As a celestial being, I believe I would notice a poltergeist of all things in my vicinity.”

“You would think!”

Meanwhile, Victory was handling the customer situation. “I really must insist you can’t have that book.” She told the woman who was getting more and more irritated with every passing moment.

“Why not?”

“I haven’t started reading it.” Victory told her.

“That’s not my problem.”

“Oh, but it is.” Victory said, snatching the book out of the woman’s hands before running off. The angry would-be customer gave chase to find that Victory and the book had simply vanished into thin air. She found only Aziraphale as he puttered his way toward her.

“Your staff is very rude! I’ll never shop here again! Good day, sir!” The woman snapped at the confused angel as she exited the building.

“What staff?” Aziraphale asked, relieved yet perplexed. “Crowley, what in Heaven’s name are you laughing about now?”

It was all going so well until the Apocalypse and all the events that led up to it happened. After delivering the Antichrist, an angel and a demon were very busily getting drunk to cope. As per usual, Victory listened in on their slapdash plan.

“If you put it that way, Heaven couldn’t actually object to me thwarting you...”

“It’d be a real feather in your wing.” Victory wondered if Crowley knew that he swayed like a cobra hypnotizing their prey when he was trying to convince someone into something. “We could be godfathers, sort of. Overseeing his upbringing. If we do it right, he won’t be evil. Or good. He’ll just be normal.”

“It might work. Godfathers. Well, I’ll be damned.”

“It’s not that bad. Once you get used to it.”

That earned the demon a Look, but Aziraphale’s heart really wasn’t into it, not now that they had a plan. “How do you think we should go about this?”

“Busy mum. Busy dad. They’re going to need a nanny. That’s where you come in.”

“That’s all well and good for one of us. What about you?”

“Dunno. Gardener, perhaps?”

“Very fitting for you. Well then, I guess I should poke around to see if I have any literature about human child rearing.” Aziraphale was already lost in thought about it as the angel disappeared into the stacks.

“Hey, Vic. Good to see you. Thanks.” Crowley smiled over at the spirit handing him off some tea with a healthy dash of whiskey in it. “Like the look. Very you.”

“Playing around with shapes and such.” Victory said with a nod, pleased about their appearance as well. They were currently an Asian male with bright blue hair and eyes dark as ink.

“Any thoughts about our current predicament?” Crowley asked.

“I think you should be the nanny.” Victory flat out told the demon. “For the entire world’s sake, you need to do it.”

“Me? What do I know about raising a child?”

“I suspect sweet fuck-all, but you’ll still be better at it than Aziraphale.”

“He’s an angel.”

“Doesn’t mean he’s good with kids.”

“And demons are?”

“I don’t know about other demons. I suspect not, but you’re the exception.” Victory said, “That, and your improv with humans is loads better than his.”

They both grimaced over Aziraphale’s ‘greetings, fellow human’ act that she was certain the angel did out of his own personal amusement. Crowley was the far more kinetic of the two, moving in and out of humanity every single day. If he were so unlucky, Aziraphale rarely dealt with more than two humans a day, when he remembered to open the shop at all. In the past, it was not uncommon for the bookshop to remain closed for months at a time because of a particularly good estate sale unloaded a library upon them, and Aziraphale simply had to read every word of it, completely forgetting about the outside world and store hours.

“You make a good point.” Crowley sighed, turning round to bellow at the stacks. “Oi, angel!”

“Yes, dear?” Aziraphale meandered out.

“New plan: I’ll be the nanny, and you be the gardener.”

“I think that’s an excellent idea. I can’t seem to find any books on the topic.”

“We do, but they’re from more than a hundred or so years ago, when they were still giving babies opium, morphine, and alcohol on a regular basis.” Victory pointed out.

“Yeah, okay. I’m most definitely going to be the nanny. Vic, hide those books.”

“Already on it.”

For the next eleven years, Aziraphale was mostly absent from the bookshop, only occasionally popping in to trade out books. His gardener disguise was satisfyingly ridiculous. It had been the right call, Victory struggling to envision Aziraphale as a nanny. He probably would have turned up looking much like some time-lost Victorian era governess. She wasn’t sure if Crowley’s demonic take of Mary Poppins was much better, but at very least, she looked from this century.

Though she was mostly alone again through all this, Victory didn’t feel lonely. She felt safe and surrounding by the angel, his books, their books well looked after by her. Not that the angel ever noticed, but mail was attended to, and inquires made in his absence responded to. Victory was very good at making herself seen and heard now. Most humans she interacted with really thought she was alive, and actually working here at the shop while Mr. Fell was away. She sold about as many books as he did to the few that did not, but that was intentional on her part.

Victory had been upstairs on that fateful day, cleaning up the flat a bit. She regularly dusted, and laundered the towels and linens in the bathroom and bedroom no one used. Victory wished to remain upstairs while Aziraphale had it out with Heaven, God, or whoever. The up and coming End of Days was not going so well. Somehow, they had managed to misplace the Antichrist. Victory couldn’t say she was terribly surprised by this, but it seemed that Aziraphale was on top of it. She also planned to forever give Crowley so much shit about it if they all survived.

The spirit felt the immense celestial presence of the Metatron, felt it come and pass. She also felt someone picking At the shop’s lock open. Aziraphale was downstairs so the would-be thief was in for a life changing shock. Victory wondered if they were going to get another florist out of it, Soho’s seedy underworld avoiding the odd little bookshop for reasons.

Shouting peeked her interest, Aziraphale yelling at the someone to stay away from the summoning circle. Frowning, Victory left off making the bed to go check in on what was going on downstairs. She was part way down the stairs, just in time to see Aziraphale rise up, his corporation caught in the circle’s energy. Victory didn’t know what that was supposed to do to him, or if she should intervene. She did know that Aziraphale looked frightened, the angel’s eyes meeting her own. In that moment, she was seen for Victory felt Aziraphale’s consciousness wash over her. It was over as quickly as it had begun.

“Fuck!” Aziraphale swore before exploding into a spray of light.

“NO!” Victory screamed, flying down the stairs as little bits of her angel floated down to the floor. There was a man standing in the bookshop, staring in awe at his finger. He was the only being there, so Victory felt it was safe to assume that he was the one Aziraphale was trying to keep out of the still charged circle.

“What did you do?!” Victory screamed at him, her rage bodily picking the strange man up to slam him about. “What did you do to him?!”

Unfortunately for her, the man had the Devil’s own luck, bouncing off a wall near the door. He scrambled out onto the street as fast as he could. Victory went after him, bodily slamming into the invisible barrier that kept her within the confines of the ley line’s intersection, forever tied to that spot. Victory beat her fists on the solid air as the man escaped, screaming after him. She kept screaming long after he was gone.

It was only then when she finally fell quiet that Victory realized that the bookshop was fully on fire.

“Aziraphale! Aziraphale! Where the Heaven are you, you idiot?! For Go- for Sa- for SOMEBODY’S SAKE, where are you?!” Was what brought Victory back to herself. She was sitting in the middle of the shop as it went up in flames, her world burning down all around her. She had been watching it with sightless eyes, clutching a book tightly to her chest. She watched as Crowley burst in, watched him get knocked back on his ass by a jet of water from some well meaning firemen. Watched as the demon sat up to finally see the ghost girl sitting not too far him, the one who was bawling her eyes out.

“Victory?” True horror dawning on the demon.

“He’s dead.” Victory confirmed.

“Bastards! Bastards! All of you!” Crowley howled, “You’ve killed my best friend!”

Victory didn’t have it in her to move so she just slid the book over to the demon. “He wanted you to have this. It’s important.”

“Nothing’s important anymore. I’m done. I don’t care about any bloody angels or humans or anyone. I hate them all. Someone’s killed Aziraphale, and I don’t even care who did it. I just want it to all end.” Crowley muttered as he stood up, but took he book with him any way. Victory couldn’t have agreed more. If she could have, she would have left with him.

Eventually, the fire got put out, but not before every scrap of paper was eaten up by the flames. Eventually, the building, what’s left of it, simmered down to a smolder. The bookshop was a husk of its former self, everything burned up. Victory was back to staring at charred earth as ash fell around her like snow, the spirit waiting for the world to end.

“I wish I could sleep. Or not exist anymore.” Victory said to someone, anyone, even God perhaps. “I’m good with either really.”

“Why would you want to go and do something like that?”

Victory was startled to find a boy standing beside her, one who obviously hadn’t been there before a second ago. He had curly blonde hair, blue eyes, and looked to be about 12 or 13. “Sounds rather boring if you ask me.”

“You don’t understand. My world is gone. My reason for being is gone. My books are gone. My angel is gone. My everything is gone.” She told him, so very done with everything to be bothered by his sudden appearance.

“What if I can give it all back to you? Then how would you feel about living?” The boy said as he offered the spirit his hand, helping her back up.

“I’ll be impressed if you somehow manage that. I’m dead. Not much to be done with that.”

“You seem pretty alive to me. You’re just not human, is all.” The boy told her. “C’mon, you can help make sure I put it back right.”

“Can you? Can you really?” Victory asked, warning off hope from taking a place in her being just yet.

“Yup.”

“Can you make me better as well to go along with it. Make it so I can become a true guardian to this place? Make it so nothing like this happens again?”

“Sure, I can do that too. There’s plenty to work with here. Those two big golden rivers of light will be dead useful.”

“How?” Victory asked, “Are you...are you God?”“

“Nah, I’m just Adam, or I will be. It’s a long story.”

“I like stories.“ Victory said softly, growing warm all on her own as Adam started fix the world around her.

“Brilliant, because I got this great one about a boy detective...”

Good to his word, the bookshop was returned, but its first visitor was not Aziraphale, though it looked like the angel. It might look like a duck, walk like duck, and quack like a duck, but Victory knew a demon in disguise when she saw one.

“Don’t remember those being there.” Crowley said as he did his very best Aziraphale impression.

“It’s good series. It’s got pirates in it.” Victory emerged from the stacks.

“Hey, Vic.” Crowley said softly, wearing Aziraphale’s skin. He brought a certain gravitas to it, which she found charming. Victory wondered how Aziraphale was acting out Crowley.

“Is he..?

“Yeah, but we’re not out of the thick of it yet. Currently, we’re jumping out of the frying pan, and the plan is to miss the fire.”

“So if you’re going up there, that means that he’s going...” Victory pointed down.

“Yup.”

“I’ll keep it safe then. I really can now.”

“I’ll say. Got fully plugged into those ley lines, didn’t you? You’ve got enough juice running through you now to fry off an archangel’s pin feathers.” Crowley said as he gave her a look over.

“You bring him back to me.” Victory nodded.

“You know I will, just like I know you’ll keep this place safe for him while I do, Vic.” Crowley whistled as he studied the guardian. “You’ve learned a lot of new things. Got one hell of an upgrade.”

“I had help.” Victory smiled.

“I bet I know from who.”

Later that night, the demon and the angel stumbled in laughing, her angel and her demon, drunk and happy and so obviously in love.

Stepping inside, Aziraphale stared, taking it all in until his eyes finally landed on the young woman standing in the middle of the shop, illuminated from within. Her skin was as dark as Eve’s had been, with blue green eyes, and long bright pink hair held up and back by a crown of white roses. She was dressed in a light blue blouse, a long skirt sporting the angel’s tartan, and some sensible flats, a pair of round gold glasses perched on her upturned nose.

Aziraphale had never seen her before in his entire existence, and yet, knew everything about her. She was his bookshop after all.

“Welcome home.”