Chapter warnings: explicit vaginal intercourse
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Crowley peers down into his skyphos, the largest two-handled monstrosity he could find. He tilts his head back and opens his mouth, drinking it down in one go. In Hell, they drink wine from the rankest of grapes, and it boils and burns down to his vestigial stomach. Good thing he’s been discorporated, he thinks.
The music thrums around him, off-key lutes and choral wailing. The room takes on a sullen yellow hue, backlit by the sulfur pools. He has to wait another three months before he gets a new corporation, stuck in a Sisyphian queue, but he’s not exactly eager to head topside after how things went down before. What’s the point anyway? At least the demons are partying in Hell, high off their instigation of the Trojan War. It might be better here than facing a pissed off angel in the middle of a blood bath.
“Bad work up there, Crawly,” Dagon says, slapping his back. It leaves a wet slime on his toga.
“It’s Crowley, and it was mostly Lilith’s doing.”
“Nah, convincing Paris to run off with Helen? It was inspired!” She’s drunk, staggering into his shoulder before teetering away, a long string of mucus connecting them. She snatches a goblet off of a serving tray as a disposable demon passes by and pushes it in Crowley’s hand. “Drink up! Everybody’s talking about you.”
He looks down at the goblet. Something’s swimming in it. Ugh. “Why not,” he says, throwing his head back.
It was a big misunderstanding, anyway. How was he to know stealing Helen from Menelaus would cause a war? She and Paris were in love! In retrospect, he should have realised Lilith possessed the beautiful queen, but he’d been still distracted from that morning, waking up next to a passed out angel with their legs tangled together. The whole debacle earned him an arrow in the chest by an Athenian bower and a one-way trip back to Hades. He was discorporated before his body even hit the water.
He spots a flash of red from the corner of his eye as a chorus of cheers and beating chests resound. The demons clank their goblets and drum the wall as Lilith enters, slinking across the floor: the first wife, the department chair of Lust, and mother to the Lilim. She was the one who convinced Helen to trade her soul for eternal, damning beauty. He shudders when she catches his eye, and he darts away in search of more drink.
She catches up to him eventually, cornering him behind the bar. Looking at her is a bit like looking at a shadow, out of focus and bleary. She solidifies as she gets closer until she’s humanoid, long and lithe, red curling hair cascading down her back. He hates it. She’s a mirror image of himself.
“Hello, Crowley,” Lilith says. Her voice is sultry, musical in the way Hell is not, dark and thrumming. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”
He grins and shows his teeth. The longer he’s stuck in Hell, the more demonic he gets, and his canines cut sharp points, glinting in the shadows. He toasts to her. “Good work up there. Helen, what a beauty.”
“We should celebrate. After all, you convinced Paris to run away with her.”
Aziraphale must have found out by now. He can imagine it, as much as he can imagine Aziraphale disrobed and tangled in the blankets on his straw mattress. He probably startled awake at the resounding toll of war bells with a hangover and a hundred curses on his tongue.
Crowley’s not sure he’s interested in Lilith’s idea of celebration anyway. The other demons have coupled off -- or tripled or quadrupled off -- into groups, rutting and writhing on the ground. Just the very presence of Lilith inspires frenzied lust, and a hundred demons wait in line for a glimpse of her attention.
“What makes you tick, Crowley?” she asks. She tilts her head and stares at him. He’ll never tell, not if he can help it. Every demon desires something, and his wants are the kind that’ll earn him eternal flogging or sulfur-boarding in the fiery pools of Hell. “You’re such a puzzle, a challenge.”
She says it with relish, passing him another goblet of wine before dragging her finger down his chest. It’s meant to be sexy, but her clawed nails sting as they scrape over his toga. He doesn’t desire her, but he’s terminally bored and alone and agitated. He’s the only one apart in a party meant to be celebrating his achievements.
Besides, the one he truly wants is topside, cursing his name from the Aegean Sea to Troy and back. “Why not?” he says, and takes the drink, slamming it back. “Go on, do your worst.” He grabs her by the throat, his nails lengthening with the greediness welling up inside of him, and he bites her mouth until it draws blood.
He doesn’t fuck often, but the last time had been different. Delicate. He doesn’t want to think about it. He wants to erase it. And if anyone can cure him of his chronically soft heart, it’s Lilith.
She grabs his wrist and drags him through the throng of writhing bodies. Her face shifts and changes as she catches the eye of the other demons, from being young and fragile to horrific and monstrous, reading the desires of everyone they pass.
She pulls him into a secluded corner and presses up against him, and he takes her face and draws her up to meet him. The kiss is ugly and bruising, and just what he needs. He’s a demon. He wants it to hurt.
She shoves him down and his back scrapes and stings against the wall. Straddling him, she rucks up his toga and sinks onto him, digging her fingers into his hair. He stifles a shout. There’s no foreplay here, no gentle touches and languid kisses. There’s no softness, no round bellies and thick thighs. She’s all angles and sharp, ragged edges, keeping him keening and angry with every thrust downward.
“C’mon you snake,” she snarls, keeping up an unrelenting pace. His hips snap up to meet her, but he’s uncoordinated and drunk. “What do you want?”
He shakes his head and lets out a pained, hissing groan. He bites his lip to keep his mouth shut from spilling all his secrets.
But he can’t help it, the flashes that pulse in his mind, just glimpses before he squashes it down. It’s a feeling more than an image. He desires warmth and kindness and laughter in the mornings. Just once more, he wants to wake up not alone.
The tightness coils in his abdomen, a clawing wailing urgency. He needs a distraction. He needs something, anything. He reaches up and digs his fingers in Lilith’s hair, fighting off his orgasm.
And then just before he comes, her eyes go wide. She tilts his head back and looks into him, and it’s painful to be seen, to be known like this. He can’t fight off his desire anymore. She shifts her form, curls of hair spilling over his fingers, white as snow caps and light as silk. Her face rounds and her eyes change to blue like the Eastern sky just over the wall of Eden. Her thighs thicken and soften, bracketing his gaunt frame, fingers gentling on his skull. Crowley comes keening, drawing her close, cupping the back of her head with his hand. He presses her face into his shoulder because he can’t look at her. She’s too eerily similar yet different enough. He knows this isn’t real but fucks through it anyway. It’s horrendous.
He shudders, his hips stuttering. His back arches. His fingers twitch. His breath -- needless in a place like Hell -- rasps in short, broken gasps.
When it’s over and he can open his eyes again, Lilith’s shifted back into her previous form, devilish and sultry. “ Oh,” she says and caresses his face with a sharp nail.
“You can’t tell anyone. Please,” he begs. If anyone knew what he wanted, who he truly wanted, they’d destroy him.
“I know a thing or two about wanting things I shouldn’t,” she says. “Your secret is safe with me.”
“What do you want for it?” He knows how demons work, after all.
“I took what I wanted,” she says, pulling away from him. She stands and the glamour slumps off her like dead skin, no longer decadent or desirable. She’s just a demon backlit by the fires of Hell, tired and bitter. She’s him. “I’ll see you around, snake.”
He lifts a hand and waves. “Later.”
His first thought is she’s bald. Babies look bald, but most have at least a smattering of hair. Crowley hasn’t been around a lot of newborns, per se, but he knows this one looks different. He’s careful not to touch her, bundling her tight in her blanket.
Lilith watches him with a look of bemusement, but there’s something else there too, sadness perhaps. Regret. “She won’t bite.”
“What are you going to do with it?” he asks.
It’s been seven months since he’s crawled topside, returning to his clay home in Sparta. Why Sparta? He tries not to think about it, busy with reestablishing himself. If he keeps an ear to the ground for rumours about an angel, then he’s just doing his demonic duty, looking out for his adversary. Lilith finds him ten months after their coupling with a baby strapped to her chest. She almost passes for human, but despite her loose chiton and himation, men and women alike turn to stare at her as she walks past.
“She’s yours,” she tells him. “She can’t stay in Hell. She’s too human.”
She’s not human enough, he thinks, not enough to pass. “She can’t stay here. She can be… one of your daughters.” Your incubi, he doesn’t say. Every demon knows what happens to the Lilim. “It can’t stay here.”
“Then throw her out. What do I care?” She says it, voice casual and unrestrained, but he sees the tight line of her lips. Her shoulders tense. After a moment she lets out a laugh, sharp and jagged, a glimpse of Hell peeking between her teeth. “She’s too nice. She’s the sweetest little girl I’ve ever had.”
Crowley hears the message. She’ll be eaten alive.
“This is your fault,” she says. “You’ve changed. You’re not like the others. You’ve gone native. Worse, you’ve gone and fallen in love with an a --”
“Shh!” he hisses. “Don’t say it out loud. I’ll take it.” He grips the baby in his arms. “I don’t know what I’ll do with it, but I’ll figure it out. Find a nice home for it. Something.”
“She has a name, you know,” Lilith says. “Medusa.”
Crowley looks at her in surprise. “You gave her a Greek name? I expected something a bit more… Hellish.”
“We were celebrating a Greek tragedy, were we not? It seemed fitting. Whoever takes her in, I hope she brings them good fortune.” Crowley will think later what a strange statement that is, a demoness wishing goodwill on humans. He’s too wrapped up in the little bundle in his arms, however, staring at her wrinkled cupid’s bow mouth and narrow nose. “She looks like me,” he says out loud.
When he looks up, he’s alone.
Crowley makes a plan to leave her in the country. There are a few homesteads and farmers who would take in another child in a heartbeat if it meant another working hand in a few years. Then two things happen. One: he unbundles her to change her linens and finds a smattering of black scales where her buttock meets her thigh, and two: she screams.
The scales make him hesitate. The Greeks are a superstitious lot, and they’d greet her with suspicion. They’d equate her with Hades, or -- if she’s lucky -- she’d be mistaken for a god. He runs a curious thumb over the scaly patch. If he gives her up, he won’t be there to teach her how to hide them. She’ll have to figure it out on her own.
But it’s the screams that frighten him. It starts as a whimper, a bit of fussiness, then escalates in pitch and volume, a proper wail. Worse, however, is the undercurrent vibration in her voice, deep and alluring. It does not affect Crowley, of course, but before he knows it, three of his neighbours appear at his door with an offering of goat’s milk as though summoned.
She may look like Crowley, but she has her mother’s gifts of enthrallment.
The neighbours coo over her once she’s settled again. They comment on her lovely complexion, the oddity of her bare head, and the almost yellow sheen to her brown eyes reflecting the candlelight. Crowley shakes through it all until he’s able to shove them out the door.
When they’re gone, he turns to look at her, afraid to touch. Asleep, she’s deceptively ordinary. She’s sweet, her newborn skin soft, and when she turns her head and opens her eyes, she looks almost like any other child.
He clenches his fist and bites down hard on the knuckle, fighting the compelling feeling inside him. He wants to keep her. He should be immune to her demonic thrall -- as natural to her as a heartbeat -- and yet he needs to keep her close. She’s his.
He knows this feeling. It’s an ugly undemonic piece of himself. It comes from before his Fall, this little piece of Heaven he just can’t shake. It’s the same emotion that comes crawling out, unbidden and unwelcome whenever Aziraphale’s in his line of sight.
But he and Aziraphale aren’t like that, and they don’t do those things, not anymore. This will have to suffice.
He makes a plan. He has to get Medusa out of town, somewhere in the countryside, perhaps. He can take cover as a farmer or a toolsmith until she learns to control herself. Crowley has had years of practice pretending to be something he isn’t. He can teach her how to do that.
He scoops her up and brings her close to his chest, running a finger along the delicate skin below her eye. She nuzzles into the touch. Soft and reverent, he curses. “Fuck.”
Crowley moves outside of Sparta, inland deep into Laconia. The terrain changes from salt-kissed seasides to lush greenery and forests encroaching on the main roads. He hires a carpenter to build him a home from clay and brick, a small space appropriate for the likes of a widow and dons the persona of a woman waiting for her dead husband to come back from the Trojan War.
It’s a convenient ruse. As a woman, he doesn’t have to move into the barracks or fight. He can maintain a household, staying close to Medusa.
Playing the widow has its other uses. He can walk about in mourning dress without being harassed about marriage -- after all, there are too many young widows about, though he doesn’t dwell on his role in that -- and no one will question his need to work. He takes a position in the mornings picking olives, strapping Medusa to his chest. It tends to be solitary work and allows him privacy from the other mothers, to protect them from his daughter.
Everyone who meets Medusa adores her. She’s so precious and beautiful, her skin as pale as the gods. People stop him on the roads or in the market, reaching to stroke her hairless head and ask to hold her. He shudders at the glazed look in their eyes, bundling her close to his chest.
Alone, she’s just a babe. Crowley understands what Lilith means when she says she’s too human. She has needs that demons don’t. She falls asleep and begs for milk. She’s curious, not covetous, strong for a baby but not violent. Her sweetness is to her detriment. They’d both be destroyed if they were found out.
Medusa’s first winter is grim and blustery, unusual for Greece. The powerful winds and early frost make Crowley wonder if it’s biblical. He tries not to think about an angry god and punishing floods, wearing a groove in his stone floor from pacing back and forth. They could kill her, either Heaven or Hell. He suffers through the first winter half-awake and on edge, fighting the urge to satisfy the snake inside who wants to bunker down for brumation.
Then he steps outside on an early spring morning and sees a shadow walking down the road, flowers blooming behind her. He snarls, slamming his front door shut. He picks Medusa up and bundles her to his chest, hissing when the knock comes at his door. There’s only one reason why she’d come back.
Giving up Medusa would make life so much easier. There’d be no need to hide away or cover her thralling tears. He could go back to his minor demonic activities and his own pursuits. He’d be free.
But she’s almost walking now. She can pull herself up on the bench at their table. She babbles and points and yearns for things, for Crowley’s attention. He has so much affection for her, try as he might to lock it down.
So when Lilith comes, donning her peplos made from the blackest wool of the hounds of hell, Crowley opens the door and snarls. “No.”
“Oh, Crowley,” she says and pushes her way inside. She mocks him with her glamour, hair white and curled, face round and soft. The sight makes his chest clench with both longing and disgust.
She sits at his table, straddling the bench. She looks at Medusa but doesn’t touch her. “She’s still hairless. What’s wrong with her?”
Crowley hisses at that and turns away. He runs a hand over her smooth skull and draws her close. “She’s still growing. Leave her be.”
“Hmm,” Lilith says. From under the folds of her peplos, she pulls out a pomegranate, cracking it open with her demonic strength, the gel-like arils oozing over her fingers. She scoops out a portion, dripping off her hands, and brings it to Medusa’s mouth.
“Don’t,” he says.
“It’s just fruit. Can’t I feed my daughter?”
Medusa opens her mouth and takes her mother’s fingers into her mouth before frowning and letting out a displeased whine. She spits the seeds out, and the whole house shakes with her displeasure. Lilith stills and looks up at the dust falling from the ceiling. “Well, that’s decided. She’ll stay here.” She frowns as she says it, gently cupping the baby’s face. Medusa’s mostly featureless except for her wide brown eyes and the narrow slant of her nose, still clinging to her baby fat and roundness.
And Crowley, out of pity and fear, says, “You could stay here with us.”
Lilith looks up, wild eyes. It’s a tempting offer. But they’re demons, and they know how to resist temptation, how to deny themselves their greatest desires. “I have a job to do,” she says. “Mouths to feed.” She gestures outside to the green shoots poking through the frost. She curls her fingers, and the flowers sprout upwards, unfurling in bloom, a dozen brilliant hyacinths lining the road.
She scoops out more of the pomegranate seeds and lifts them to Crowley’s mouth. He takes her wrist in one hand and makes a cup with the other to catch the falling juice. He licks it off her fingers and hums.
“What are they calling you these days?” she asks him.
“Anatola. And you?”
He chews the seeds with care, rolling the gel-like texture in his mouth. It’s odd but the flavour is sweet and bright, like sin on a hot summer’s day. He catches a flash of softness, the memory of thick, full thighs and burning skin. He swallows it down with an ache.
“I’ll go,” she says. She pats his cheek with a soft hand, more human-like and tender than he remembers. She follows it with a kiss to his cheek. She’s changed. He says nothing as he watches her go.
Aziraphale is not featured much in this chapter, but I promise he takes on a much bigger role starting next chapter!
This universe abuses both Christian and Greek mythology. Higher-ranking demons and angels take on the roles of the gods to influence good and evil. Lilith is both Adam's first wife and mother to the Lilim (succubi) and Persephone, Queen of the Underworld. Her powers reflect both these roles.
I play fast and loose with the story of Medusa.
In which Aziraphale and Crowley reunite.
Posting a day early. I got this chapter turned around faster than I anticipated. No trigger warnings.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Medusa’s story is short. She grows. She learns to laugh and run, the skirt of her peplos whipping behind her through the grove.
Crowley watches her sprint from his perch in an olive tree. He makes quick work plucking the fruit, his hands deft as he balances his body between the branches. Eneas walks by, chuckling low as Medusa runs past him.
“How old is she now, Anatola? Six? Seven?” he says, shouting from the ground.
“She’d tell you seven-and-a-quarter.”
Eneas laughs, resting his hands on his hips. “I better not forget.” He’s grey around the edges, hands sturdy but not as nimble as they used to be. When Crowley first moved out here, he gave him a job, taking pity on him for being husbandless with a newborn. He himself lost two sons in the Trojan War, and the olive grove will go to the next oldest daughter instead, an unorthodox approach. Crowley approves.
“She’s gotten to be quite the polite little girl.”
“Thank you, Eneas.”
Medusa has gotten much better about her thrall after a long summer of tantrums. Crowley followed her around, snapping his fingers to prevent the humans from doting on her every whim. She’s learning ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ instead, always mindful of her parent who has a knack for popping out of nowhere. Intelligent and quick, she runs between the straight rows of trees, popping olives in her mouth and spitting out the pits. She’s got a bit of snake in her, the way she slithers up trees to the very tallest branches. Corelie, Eneas’ wife, used to fret when she was a toddler, taking to climbing as easily as running and walking.
In the mornings, she sits with Crowley while he brushes out his hair. She giggles when he flips his head to the side, a spill of red waves covering her face. In the polished obsidian mirror, Medusa pretends his hair is her own, framing her face and posing.
He catches her sometimes rubbing her naked head, frowning at her reflection.“Μαμά, where’s my hair?” she asks often. The answer never satisfies her. He doesn’t know why, after seven years, it still hasn’t grown.
“Do you need hair?” he asks. “What’s wrong with you now?”
“Epifania says I’m ugly.”
“Epifania is a year younger than you and half as smart.”
Medusa crosses her arms and tucks her chin, swinging kicking the legs of her chair. She lets her voice deepen and rumble, the candle flames flickering. “I want to have hair!
Crowley hisses and then tuts, waving a hand at the nearby candles. The flames blow out. He learned his lesson once when she was very young after a squalling tantrum over sweets that resulted in a small fire. “That doesn’t work in this house,” he says, and then when he sees her hiccup, blinking her eyes, he slides off his chair and cups her face in his hands, wiping at her tears.
In the last seven years, she’s stretched out. She’s tall and unruly and fairer in skin than the locals. She sticks out amongst the other children. “Meadow, I don’t know why you don’t have hair.”
She sniffs and straightens up, lifting her head high despite the trembling lower lip. “I think we should go to Aphrodite’s temple. She’ll give me what I want.”
“We’re not travelling all the way to Corinth.” He shudders. “I hate boats, and the gods never listen.”
Medusa frowns and picks at her breakfast, bread dipped in oil. “Epifania says if you don’t believe in the gods you go to Hades.”
Lately, all he hears is, ‘Epifania said this, and Epifania said that.’ It’s wearying. “I didn’t say I didn’t believe in the gods. I just don’t believe they’ll respond.” He returns to finish his hair, making quick work of it. “Especially not Aphrodite.”
“Because you’re more beautiful than Aphrodite. You put her to shame. There’s nothing more she could give you.”
She smiles in front of the mirror, wide and toothy, then tilts her head back to look up her nostrils. “One day, when my hair comes in, I’m going to be more powerful than a goddess.”
Crowley hisses. If only she knew. “You already are, Meadow.”
Corelie runs into him one morning on the way to the market, her cart full of fresh-picked olives and jars of tapenade. Crowley likes her. She’s wise and weathered, always kind to Medusa, and is often his first source of rumours around town. “Good morning, Anatola. Have you heard about the new teacher coming to town? He’s coming by way of Athens," she says as she abandons her cart on the side of the road, excited. Crowley appreciates Athens for its beauty and commitment to arts and culture, but he can’t imagine why an Athenian would travel out here. “What’d bring such a man to the outskirts of Sparta?”
She gives him a knowing look and elbows him. “Perhaps Hymenaeus will bless you with a husband.”
He rolls his eyes. Medusa is nearing eight, and the townspeople have opinions about him walking around in his mourning dress still, shifting from pity to impatience. He shuffles his feet and adjusts his peplos.
Corelie, who spends her summer days teaching Medusa how to pit and mash olives, who takes her for walks along the river banks to gather bouquets of hyacinth, says, “And perhaps it’s time to send Medusa to school.”
“Girls can’t go to school,” he protests, not that he’s against educating her. He’d just rather keep her at home because of her unusual talents.
“I bet this new young teacher will make an exception. Your daughter is extraordinarily bright, and it’s not like there are many other children out here who would attend his classes.”
It does raise questions. Medusa is the youngest child in the district besides a newborn on the other side of the olive groves. The other children are much older, already put to work in the fields, especially for the summer and fall harvests. Affluent kids go to school, not farmhands. “We’ll see,” he says, curious about the outsider.
Crowley reaches the grove and wraps his hands. Medusa, who’d run off ahead, is already there, sampling the tapenade as Eneas scoops it into jars for tomorrow’s market.
“Eneas is going to let me run the olive press today!” she says, by way of greeting.
“Just the little one, mind you,” Eneas says.
Medusa has olive on her face and oil all over her hands. She wipes it on her peplos while Crowley huffs. He hands her a basket. “Can you climb that tree for me? I think I’m too big to get up there.”
“But the press, Μαμά!”
Once she scurries away, Crowley settles himself at the large press, a heavy circular stone set in a basin with a wooden crank. He begins to turn it over, enjoying the heavy work. Eneas often comments on his strength for being a woman, and Crowley tamps down a sarcastic remark about the benefits of demonic power. Instead, he says, “Corelie told me about the new teacher in town.”
Eneas hums. “He was scouting out property a few days ago, hired those Pagonis boys to build him a small house down by the wheat fields. A philosopher, they told me.”
Crowley grimaces. A philosopher loves two things, rhetoric and the sound of their own voice. “Why here, of all places?”
“Not sure. Gods know we need some fresh blood around here. Stavros has gone and built a shrine to Ares.”
“To end the war or to continue it?”
Eneas shoots him a look. “What do you think?”
Spartans love their wars. Love their victories. But there are some like Eneas and Corelie who have suffered from it too much from warfare, losing their two sons. “I think it’s needless and senseless,” Crowley says. “She’s just a pretty face.” He means Helen. He means Paris who stole her from the Greeks. He means he’s sorry for the wreckage he wrought on this land. He touches Eneas’ gnarled hand. “I’ll go fetch Meadow and start picking.”
“Thank you, my girl. You’ve been a blessing these past few years.”
He bites down on a hiss.
At home, Crowley pours himself a heavy cup of wine and rubs at his face, weary from having to cast glamours all day to hide his unusual eyes. He looks over at Medusa, curled up under a pile of heavy wool skins despite the heat of summer. He hardly sleeps these days, looking behind him at all times for any signs of Hell. He’s been slacking on temptations, but it’s challenging to foment unrest and dissent in such a small community without it coming back to him, and he can’t just leave her here while he goes off elsewhere. She’d be left defenceless. The fact that he hasn’t heard any complaints from his superiors surprises him, and he wonders if Lilith has been keeping them off his back. It’s a strange thought having an ally so powerful and very much unlike himself.
Still, he’s suspicious, so he keeps his ear to the ground for information about the new philosopher in town and watches the progress being made to his home. It’s a small space for one, smaller even than his house for him and Medusa. It’s a walk across the groves to get there, mostly blocked by rows of trees.
“What do you think?” he asks Medusa over dinner. “Do you want to go to school?”
She makes a face and crams a piece of her bread in her mouth. “Boys go to school.”
“You can do anything you want,” he tells her. “Anything in the world.”
She chews in thoughtful silence for a moment, mulling over his words. “Can I have hair?” she asks, voice flat as she pokes at the rest of her meal.
“No, Meadow. Not that.”
The next morning they walk to Eneas’ grove together, hand in hand. Medusa likes it when he picks her up and swings her in the air. She’s grown tall and waifish, not quite settled into her feet and hands yet, but he’s strong enough to scoop her up like a bundle of straw.
“Again, Μαμά! Please!”
Their usual walk takes twenty minutes as she has to stop and inspect every snail and beetle they come across. She collects several twigs and a few exciting rocks which she will later abandon behind the shed in favour of crushing olives with her bare feet.
At this late hour, Crowley’s surprised to find the grove empty and the mill unattended. He realises they never crossed paths with Corelie on the way to the market either. It’s odd. His pupils widen and his tongue slits, tasting the air. He feels static in the atmosphere, the sting of ozone.
“Stay by me,” he says, grabbing Medusa’s arm, stilling her. She looks up at his face and slows when she sees his thin expression, tight and cautious.
They walk to the front of Eneas’ house and find the door swung open. It’s not unusual for the season. The weather is warm and the breeze light and salty from the surrounding sea. He hears rising voices from the back room and scoops Medusa up in his arms, peering around corners with caution as he follows the noise.
He finds Eneas and Corelie sitting at their table, laughing along with a stranger whose voice is musical and bright. Crowley recognises the slope of those round shoulders and remembers the flex of muscle underneath. He knows that tuft of white hair and expressive hands, can calculate the exact radius of his lilting grin.
Crowley would turn around if he could, but Corelie catches sight of him and says, “Oh! Anatola! You’re here!” She looks outside at the rising sun and stands in a hurry. “I was going to say you’re early, but it’s us who are late!” She begins to gather her things for the market. “We just got so caught up talking to our new neighbour.”
Said neighbour turns to see the newcomer and stops, mouth opening in surprise as he inhales a sharp breath. “Crow -- er --”
“Anatola,” he corrects, pressing Medusa to his chest with a fierce grip. If it hurts her, she says nothing, burying her face in his neck. “And you are?”
“Azarias,” Eneas says. “He’s the new philosopher.” He comes around the table and pats Medusa’s back with a shaky hand. “And this little one will be his new student.”
Aziraphale blinks and clicks his mouth shut. Then he notices the child for the first time. “Oh. You have a son.”
Muffled in his neck, Medusa protests. “I’m a girl,” she says, her voice pitching high. She grabs Crowley’s hand to hide her hairless head, ashamed.
“Oh, oh dear. I’m terribly sorry,” Aziraphale says just as Crowley sets her down.
Corelie grabs her satchel and comes around to peck her husband on the cheek, then Crowley. “I’m off to the markets. A pleasure to meet you, Azarias.”
“Me too!” Medusa says and slips out behind her.
“Is it alright if she goes with you?” he asks, but they’re both out the door before he can finish his sentence. Then he turns to Aziraphale, fixing his gaze left of his ear. “She’s just shy.”
“She’s… a child,” Aziraphale says, surprised. His initial guardedness has morphed into surprise. He looks up at Crowley, searching.
Crowley clasps his hands in front of his waist, mindful that he’s a widow in front of a man of position in addition to being a demon before an angel. The other thing -- the thing they’ve been in the past together -- he doesn’t dwell on. He doesn't begin to know where to look, avoiding Aziraphale's wide eyes.
“I’ll be at the mill,” Eneas says and pats him on the shoulder. “Do you need anything, dear?”
“No, I should follow you out. Work to do and all,” he says, voice hoarse and chest beating. He turns to Aziraphale and nods before darting out the door.
He finds the highest tree he can see in the furthest of the corner of the grove and climbs up, agile and swift. He hangs the bucket on a branch and bangs his forehead on the trunk, hissing slow deep breaths.
It’s been over seven years since he’s seen Aziraphale. And maybe -- maybe -- Crowley had come back to Sparta in hopes of running into him, but confronted with the reality, Aziraphale before him, he’s terrified. The only small comfort he has is the fact that the angel was just as surprised to see him. It means Heaven hasn’t found out about his little indiscretion, yet. That doesn’t mean they won’t, he knows. After all, the angel’s first alliance is to Above, and he and Crowley hadn’t parted on the best of terms.
But Crowley can’t leave. If it were just him, alone in a grove in the outskirts of Sparta of all places, he’d bolt in an instant. Poof. Gone. Αντιο σας. But Medusa needs this place. She has a home and doting almost-grandparents and security from the suspicion of the city-state. She’s safe.
And then there's the look on Aziraphale's face, burned into his mind, mouth open in surprise and what Crowley imagines is hurt. What does he even tell Aziraphale about her? So sorry I didn’t tell you. I woke up to you naked, panicked, and then got pity-fucked by an incubus?
It’s the blessed angel’s fault this all happened anyway. Aziraphale had been the one who wanted to meet those years before, the one who paired their usual quips and barbs with red wine. He was the one who looked flushed and glassy-eyed, tempting and temptable at the same time. Crowley hadn't meant to kiss him, not really, but they'd both been drunk. What does it mean that they had the power to sober up but chose not to, barrelling on that night, too frenzied and hurried to unwrap the metres of linen fabric comprising their togas, too stupid-drunk to miracle their clothes away? Instead, they'd rutted together, hiking up their garments until their flesh met, slick with precome and sweat, nothing left between them but the incomprehensibly fond words caught in the back of Crowley's throat until he came keening, cock pressed against that soft flesh, mouth hot against the angel's throat.
In the morning, he'd woken up, smothered by the cloying dread that Aziraphale would turn over and look at him in disgust. At best, the angel would have smote him. At worst, he would have been kind and told him it was a mistake. He left, too much of a coward to find out which option Aziraphale would choose.
He hides in the tree for the rest of the morning and waits for Corelie and Medusa to return from the markets. Upon their return, he miracles a bucket full of the ripest, roundest olives and dumps them in Eneas’ lap, bundling Medusa in one swift motion.
He takes in her splotchy face and the way that she rubs at her puffy eyes. “Are you all right, Meadow?"
She’s quiet, which isn’t unusual, but she has a pinched look about herself. She folds her arms over her chest and sucks in a shaky breath, fighting off a fresh wave of tears.
“Really, Medusa, it’s fine,” Corelie tells her and cups the back of her head.
Medusa lifts the skirt of her peplos and reveals her knee, covered in blood but already scabbing and shiny. “I broke a jar,” she says.
“No harm was done,” Corelie reiterates. “She slipped and fell on the spilt oil though. There was quite a fuss. Good thing that nice teacher was there. He scooped her right up and kissed her scrape all better.” Crowley bristles. “She was positively star-struck by him. I think she might have a bit of a crush.”
He tuts and hoists her up on his narrow hip, pressing a kiss to her temple. “Off we go. We’d better clean it at home.”
Medusa grimaces as he jostles her and tries to squirm out of his hold. “It really hurts.”
“I know, Meadow.”
There's a pause and then she peeks up at him from behind her hand, the pain forgotten for a moment. “Do you know what would help?” she asks, always the opportunist.
He anticipates her answer before he asks. “What's that?”
“A spoon of custard,” she says, eyes wide and guileless.
“A spoon of custard, please.” Behind his back, he snaps his fingers, ensuring there’s a jar in the ground cellar. “We better be quick. It might be too hot out for it to keep.”
In front of them, Eneas and Corelie share a look, sweet and doting, and all of Crowley shivers. He nods to them both, using Medusa as a shield between him and them, and turns to leave.
He takes her to the stream out back and cleans off the blood, careful not to disturb the healing scabs. In the process, he lifts the skirt of her peplos and stops when he sees the patch of scales on the back of her thigh, creeping down to the inside of her knee. They’re spreading. At every change of the seasons, she starts to itch and dry out. Under every shed there are new, glittering black scales eking out territory on the expanse of her leg.
He hesitates for a moment, then pats the wound dry and wraps it in linen, procuring the little jar of custard he miracled from Stavros’ farm into their cellar. They eat it with their fingers. After, Medusa grows tired, propped against his chest in the sunshine. He wraps her bare head with the rest of the linen to keep it from burning and then reclines in the grass.
Just for a moment, he closes his eyes and snaps his fingers, freezing time. It’s a frivolous, wasteful little miracle that he doesn’t indulge in often, but he knows she’s changing. Whatever the future brings, these quiet moments will be few and far between the older she gets.
Aziraphale finds them just before sundown as they’re loping back inside. He’s waiting in front of their small house, his hands fiddling with his gold ring. Crowley watches him debate whether to turn around and leave. He knows that face so well, can read his thoughts as clear as day. Then Medusa shouts, “Teacher!”
It startles them both. Crowley hasn’t ever heard her shout like that before, quiet as she is. She decides for them both whether Aziraphale should stay as she wiggles out of Crowley’s arm and runs to greet him, slapping his stomach to get his attention.
She pulls up the hem of her peplos and shows him her knee. “Μαμά fixed it for me!”
“Did she?” Aziraphale asks, voice coloured with delight. He leans down so they’re at eye level. “Did you tell her thank you?”
Crowley lingers several paces back and pastes on a smile when Medusa turns and says, “Thank you, Μαμά! Can he stay for dinner?”
Aziraphale protests. “Oh, I don’t mean to impose. I just wanted to… to…” He trails off.
Crowley walks past them both and opens the door, gesturing inside. “Come on, Meadow. Angel.”
They lock eyes for a brief second before Aziraphale looks down and mutters, “Well, all right,” and steps inside.
Medusa beams. She’s usually shy about the townspeople, keeping them at arm’s length. She’s self-conscious about her looks and nervous about strangers. She gets her standoffish disposition from Crowley, and like him, she takes to Aziraphale in an instant. “Sometimes Μαμά has custard she steals from Stavros’ farm --”
“Meadow,” he warns.
“What? He’s a meanie anyway. And Corelie buys me bread at the market.”
“Spoiled,” Crowley mutters but leads them into the kitchen. He excuses himself out back to the cellar where he takes a moment to gather his wits, hands shaking. Aziraphale is here; he chose to walk into his home, he reminds himself. The cool dirt walls of the cellar are calming and he steadies himself, taking a second to smooth the wrinkles from his peplos.
He returns with a stronger resolve and the makings of dinner, unwrapping cured pork and tearing it with his hands. He sets it on the table with crusty bread and tapenade from the grove. “It’s not much but…”
Aziraphale smiles, though it doesn’t quite reach his eyes. “It’s lovely, thank you.”
Crowley swallows down the reflexive don't behind his teeth.
“I really didn’t mean to intrude," Aziraphale says. "I just thought -- well -- the oliver said your daughter is interested in lessons.” He stutters over ‘daughter’ and swallows, pursing his lips. “And we should catch up.”
Crowley’s face darkens, and he drops his food back on his plate. “Meadow, go to bed.”
“If you want lessons, go to bed. I need to speak to the tutor. Take your plate with you.”
She grumbles under breath and snatches her plate off the table. On her way to her room, she looks over her shoulder and gives Aziraphale a little wave.
The second she’s out of sight, he hisses through his teeth, “Oh, you want to catch up? Why are you even here, angel? Hmm? Keeping tabs on me?”
“What? No! I am here with no ulterior motive,” Aziraphale says, affronted. “And -- and you were the one who left. I woke up to… to… madness.” Aziraphale grips the wool fabric of his himation and wrings it in his hands. He takes a deep breath and then lifts his chin, voice full of steel. “I was furious with you, Crowley. You single-handedly started a massacre.”
“It wasn’t single-handed!” Crowley shouts. Then he snarls under his breath, mindful of Medusa in the other room, and swallows down his anger.
Crowley picks up his bread again, then sets it down, going for his cup instead. He lets the silence hang between them, debating over how much he should say. What would Aziraphale do if he told him about Hell’s machinations? And he’s not ready to get into Lilith and how she bought Helen’s soul, cascading Crowley’s simple temptation into a full-blown war. After a beat, he says, “It wasn’t single-handed. There were… multiple strings being pulled that I didn’t know about."
When Aziraphale speaks next, it comes out soft, a little wrenching, like maybe he’s missed Crowley just as much in the last seven years. “It doesn’t matter. I went to look for you the next day, but you were gone. You just… up and left.”
“I was discorporated.”
“Oh! Oh, goodness.”
“Took me months to get back, and I decided I needed a change of scenery.” Crowley pauses, unsteady and uncertain. Aziraphale has set him off-kilter and off-step. He was meant to be righteous. He was meant to be furious. “You still haven’t explained what you’re doing here now, in this region. There’s no need for a teacher out here. You know that.”
And Aziraphale, who loves rhetoric and thrives in Athens, who is quick-witted and clever with his words, full of pride though he can never see it, fumbles for the right words. “Maybe I’m looking for a change of scenery too, or maybe I’ve been sent on a mission by God.”
Crowley laughs. It comes from deep within. It’s hoarse and bitter and fills his mouth with bile. They can never be honest with each other, not really, not when they're bound to opposite sides. “Which of the gods sent you?”
“The Almighty, of course.”
He shakes his head. “Look around you, angel. There is no Almighty here.”
“Then who do you pray to?”
It’s a cruel question. They both know it. Crowley believes in a higher power. They come from the same maker after all. The difference is that he doesn’t believe in forgiveness, sacrifice, and repentance. There’s no coming back for him. “I don’t need the gods. I have myself.”
“She’s a demon.”
She doesn’t know that, of course. Crowley makes every attempt to give her a normal childhood. He’s careful with his miracles, teaches her to eat and work and learn like the humans. She’s already different enough, and he sees it take its toll on her.
Aziraphale folds his hands and places them on the table, resolute. “She’s eager to learn; I’ll grant you. She’d flourish under the right tutelage.” Just like that, their previous conversation ends, and they’re back to playacting, the widow and the philosopher.
“It’s not the done thing for little girls.”
“Since when do you do the ‘done thing’?”
“Fine. Rhetoric, logic, history, and economics,” Crowley says, counting on his fingers. He doesn’t dwell on what this means, letting Aziraphale into his little play-pretend life, greedy to be around him. “Language and culture. That’s it. No talk about religion or the gods.”
“Arguably, that’s part of Greek culture.”
“Fine, but there will be no talk about Her."
“She deserves to understand where she comes from,” Aziraphale says. Then he pauses, looking up at Crowley from under his lashes, tentative and uncertain. “Where does she come from, Crowley?”
Crowley shakes his head, pressing his lips in a thin line. He's exhausted, every nerve in his body alight, torn between alert and desire, suspicion and longing. “I’ve said my piece and no more. It’s getting late.”
There’s no wine to be had, no laughter, and curious glances. They do not brush their hands together nor smile. Crowley ushers Aziraphale to the exit and locks up after he leaves, resting his head against the door.
I realized far too late that Crowley changes his name after the Trojan War by over a millennium. Oops. For the sake of not writing 'Crawly' for 35k words, let's just pretend this never happened. Good Omens is timey wimey wibbly wobbly.
Edited after posting to fix some grammar mistakes and flesh out a scene.
As always, you can find me on tumblr @nieded.
Tension and denial. Crowley and Aziraphale are really bad at communicating, and it takes magical fruit to make them figure things out.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
To both Crowley and Aziraphale’s surprise, Medusa has no interest in learning about rhetoric or economics. “I want to learn how to fight!” she tells them the next morning.
They all stand at the front of the grove, Eneas at the press while Corelie loads up her cart for the market. They look on with bemusement. Crowley slumps against a nearby trunk, arms folded over his chest and out of Aziraphale’s line of sight.
“Oh,” the angel says. “I’m not sure I’m the right one for that.”
Crowley rolls his eyes. Medusa has a fallen olive branch in one hand, her feet apart and knees bent with a maniacal look only children can possess. “Meadow, I don’t think an olive branch is the best weapon. It’s a symbol of peace.”
“Well,” Aziraphale says, “one might argue weapons are necessities when facilitating peace.”
Crowley hisses, half-tempted to hex him. He loathes Aziraphale’s insistence that violence lends weight to a moral argument. He thinks about the flimsy promise of a rainbow after the flood. God drowned an entire civilisation to teach the humans a lesson and thought a broken olive branch and the natural phenomenon of refracting light would absolve everything. “Azarias is Athenian. He doesn’t know how to lift a sword even,” he says, needling.
Aziraphale stiffens but won’t give Crowley the satisfaction of glaring back at him. “Well, I wouldn’t say that. I led a platoon once a long time ago.”
Medusa’s eyes grow wide. “Really? What did you wield? A bow? A sword? A spear? I want to be a proper Spartan!”
Eneas laughs, low and earthy. He pats Aziraphale on the back. “Good luck with that one. She’s a spitfire, just like her mother.”
“Oh, I see that already.”
Aziraphale sends Medusa on a mission to find a sturdy branch for carving into a wooden sword, and he spends the next week teaching her to whittle and cut, the careful way to hold a knife away from her body, how to sand along the grain until it’s smooth yet sharp. He teaches her footwork and posture, encouraging her through her fumbles.
She comes home tired and sore. Crowley rubs salve into her arms and feet while she chatters endlessly. “Azarias says he’ll teach me how to break a phalanx if I get good enough. A whole phalanx!”
In between swords clashing and bandaging scraped knees, Aziraphale educates her on the history of war, about how the city-states formed, about peacekeeping and treaties. He’s good with her -- Crowley’s pained to admit -- and she blossoms under his tutelage. She wakes earlier and earlier in the mornings, often kissing Crowley’s cheek before darting out the door. He’s left to ready himself alone, going through the ritual of tying back his hair without her.
He bites back a smile as Medusa runs by through the grove, her laughter reaching him where he works the mill, ignores the content and possessive snake inside that coils tight at the sight of Aziraphale, catching his breath with his hands on his knees. He doesn’t quite know where they stand with each other, still hasn’t determined the angel’s intentions, but he can’t deny Medusa’s excitement, her building confidence.
“That tutor is single,” Corelie reminds him, “and a great influence on your daughter. No one will judge you for taking on a husband.”
He sputters, hand slipping off the crank, the whole press groaning to a halt. “I’m not… Azarias is…” His hisses at the ricocheting thudding racketing around beneath his sternum. Humans, he thinks, and their stupid notions about marriage. Aziraphale is his enemy, nevermind that they’ve managed to spend several months cohabitating in the same region, chasing after Medusa as if they’re friends or worse. He won’t think about muscled thighs pinning him to his mattress, hands digging in his hair and pulling, won’t think about that impish smile, positively demonic for such a pretty angel. “He’s a good teacher,” he says, blandly.
“If anything, at least get out of these dreadful garments. You’ve been mourning for seven years.”
“I like wearing these clothes. I like black.” It’s his aesthetic. It’s protective.
“You look dreadful,” she says. “He wants to court you. Everyone in town can see it.” She gives him a look before pushing her cart off towards the market.
He watches her go and grunts, reengaging the crank, letting his muscles burn as he works. Has he been that obvious around Aziraphale? They hardly speak to each other except about Medusa, and yet he’s fallen back into his old habits, keeping an ear out for his voice, his throat closing at the sight of him walking through the groves in the early morning fog. He hates and loves how he swings his Meadow high into the air and how she smiles at him, open and unguarded.
He turns the idea over in his head. The next morning he studies himself as he dresses, wrapping his worn linens over his narrow frame. The deep black of his peplos calls a warning to the rest of the villagers as he walks through the market. Coupled with his unusually tall frame, thin and famished, his burning red hair, and the gauntness of his face, he’s a frightening visage. Beware. He’s a raven, a single crow marking death.
But Medusa is the opposite, pale and bright-eyed, curious and sweet. Crowley knows what the townspeople say. How could such a beautiful thing come from such a witch? And Medusa, sensitive to the rumours and muttered glances, knows that their two-unit family is different. Crowley has always worn his clothes as armor but begins to wonder if it’s to Medusa’s detriment.
For the first time, too, he’s faced with a sort of freedom. Hell is off his back. They haven’t sent him a missive or recalled him for the last seven years despite not paying his dues. He waits for Hell to contact him now that his adversary is about, stalking around their home for weeks on high alert, but the days extend and grow warmer; Medusa’s laughter rings brighter and longer, and he hears nothing from Below.
So what if he wears cream-coloured linens or the fine un-dyed wools straight from the sheep’s back? It’s not for Aziraphale, certainly, he tells himself. It’s for his Meadow.
He pulls his long hair back in its traditional tight bun, accentuating the sharp lines of his face, the gravity of his expression. He stares at himself in the mirror.
In Heaven, his hair fell to the floor, a deep rich brown. When he fell, it lit on fire, singeing as he plummeted, and when he woke, his hair had taken on the colour of flames, of the angry spill of blood where his heart used to be. He had hoped -- still hopes -- that Medusa’s hair would grow in as the colour of coffee, of rich soil and soft earth. She comes from his goodness, after all.
Decided, he braids back his hair loosely, letting it soften his face. He studies his garments and lifts his hand, pausing as he stares at himself in the mirror. He breathes. Then he snaps his fingers, the inky fabric bleaching like water spilling over a cliff.
The next morning, Corelie does a double-take when she passes him on her way to the markets. Crowley straightens his shoulders and presses his lips into a tight line. “Don’t say anything.”
“Oh, Anatola,” she says. “I’m so happy for you.”
“Please, that’s not why I’m doing this.” Then he says, “But maybe you’re right. Maybe it’s time to move on.” Things are over between him and Aziraphale. He can’t hold out hope for an angel bound to God, despite the heat the rises in him whenever they cross paths or the gentle way the angel says his name when they greet.
Corelie pats his arm. “There’s a good man out there for you, yet.”
The snake in him bares its fangs. He tastes venom spilling down his throat.
Medusa almost falls out of a tree when she sees him enter the grove. “Μαμά!“ she gasps, eyes wide in disbelief.
“Why aren’t you in your lessons?”
“Azarias is running late, and you look beautiful.”
He huffs and tugs at his garments. “Shush. Get down from there.” He beckons her and she launches herself into his arms. He scoops her up so they’re eye-level.
Medusa touches his face with reverence and tangles her fingers in the loose locks of hair. She’s full of longing, written deep in her expression. “I want hair like you. It’s so pretty.”
In a moment of self-doubt, Crowley squeezes her and asks, “Is it too much? I can change back.”
“Μαμά, no! I love it.” Medusa kisses his cheek.
They’re interrupted by a shout and an aborted greeting. “Medusa! Where are -- oh!” Aziraphale appears from the opposite side of the homestead, stopping as he rounds the corner. He stares for a long moment, mouth opening and closing. “Crowley,” he says in a voice he’s only ever used when they were drunk, lilting and warm. “I mean, Anatola.”
Crowley stares back, flushing. He sets Medusa down. “Go on, Meadow,” he says to her.
She runs to Aziraphale and snatches his hand. Crowley turns away and flees down the grove, head up, hands fisted in the skirt of his ivory peplos. He’s up, quick and fleeting, high in a tree when he hears his daughter from a distance.
“Did you see my mαμά? Doesn’t she look so pretty?”
“Well -- uh -- quite. She’s quite… Yes,” Aziraphale says, a bit breathless.
The snake in Crowley coils tight.
Crowley gets himself sorted and under control by the time he collects Medusa for lunch. He meets them in front of the press while Medusa runs circles around them, shouting battle cries.
“She’s got an arm on her,” Aziraphale says, rubbing his bicep. “Makes me wonder why you’ve never been good with a sword.”
Crowley shoots him a look, disgruntled. “I’m not a brute. I like a more subtle approach.”
“Hmm, indeed,” Aziraphale says, his eyes lingering on him. “You look, ah, nice.”
“No one’s around, angel. You don’t have to lie.”
“I mean, you look different. I don’t think I’ve seen you in white before. You look like --” He pauses and waves his hand at him in some incomprehensible gesture.
Medusa comes around from behind a tree, swinging her wooden sword in the air. “He says you look like Aphrodite!”
Crowley’s eyes widen, and Aziraphale begins to cough, choking on air. “Well, merely I mean that -- um -- you look… very refined.”
“Please, I’m more like the Até, if anything,” Crowley says in a poor attempt to break the tension.
Medusa makes a face. “Who’s that?”
“The goddess of mischief, ruin, and folly.” He says it with relish and bares his teeth. Medusa pulls a face and wrinkles her nose.
“Well, same time tomorrow?” Aziraphale asks, rocking on his feet. Then he turns on his heel before anyone can answer.
Crowley watches him go, off-kilter and unsteady. It’s just a change of clothes for Satan’s sake. He didn’t expect such fervour over a rather plain and ordinary choice of dress. “Azarias,” he says, calling the angel back. “Don’t forget who I really am.”
Aziraphale looks back at him for a long moment. His eyes shutter, the twist of his mouth spilling downwards. “No, my dear, I won’t.”
Medusa wants to know more about the gods and goddesses. Like all little girls, she takes an interest in Aphrodite for her beauty and femininity, but Aziraphale can be observant when he wants to. He reads the downturned moue of her face when he talks about the goddess of beauty and steers the conversation on a different course.
“You remind me more of Athena, dearheart,” he says, “though your footwork still needs practice.”
“Athena is the goddess of war,” Medusa recites.
“Specifically, war strategy. And wisdom. She sprung forth from Zeus’s forehead.” He taps his temple.
She pauses in thought, sitting with Aziraphale at the mill as they remove the pits from olives for crushing. “Is that how you make babies?” she asks.
“Oh, goodness, no. Ah, maybe this is a better question for your mother.”
Crowley teaches her about Persephone. He teaches her about men’s trickery, about the seasons and how the plants grow and die. He teaches her that sometimes people are not as they seem and that she should guard herself carefully, to question the motives of others. He teaches her that the holiest people may be evil, while the most sinister-looking may have pure hearts and good intentions.
In the evenings -- because she begs even though he knows it hurts her -- he teaches her how to do his hair. Her small fingers are clumsy, pulling at the tangles, but he’s patient with her and shows her how to separate the locks and twist them.
She asks him one night, “Where do babies come from?” and it catches him off guard. She works her fingers on one side of his head, undoing his careful updo while he undoes the other side, and he pauses, catching her reflection in the mirror.
“What’s brought this on, Meadow?”
“Well,” she says, “Azarias says Athena sprung from Zeus’s forehead, but Epifania says her mother has a baby in her stomach .”
“And what did Azarias have to say about that?”
“He said I should ask you.”
Crowley lets out an exasperated huff. Blasted angel. He doesn’t even know where to begin or how to explain her birth. She’s his child, and he’s her mother, but he didn’t carry her. He didn’t even know she existed until Lilith showed up on his doorstep.
And what of her birth? Her parentage? There was no love between them or even much respect. Crowley had been seething with anger and loneliness, and Lilith was in a mood for a challenge. They fell together at a drunken party, high on victory and low on morals, just two demons looking for some way to pass the time in damned eternity.
He takes too long to respond, and Medusa huffs, smoothing out the tangles in his hair. “Can I have a brother?”
Crowley spins to look at her, her face round and pale and guileless. “Absolutely not.”
“It’s just that Corelie thinks Azarias wants to wed you, and she says when a husband and wife love each other, then a baby comes.”
He sits up, wrapping his hair back in one swift movement, ignoring how Medusa’s face falls. It’s ridiculous even to contemplate -- an angel and a demon! Nevermind that immortal entities have no use for marriage, no need for binding contracts to secure wealth and lineage. But. Medusa looks so earnest, and it makes him wonder if she needs something more, if he’s enough for her alone.
“Do you… want me to marry?”
Medusa shrugs. “Only if it’s Azarias. Epifania says her older brother is single and a soldier in the navy but also that he smells bad.”
After that, Crowley avoids all discussions of marriage, waking late to avoid running into Corelie on her way to the markets, but he can’t escape it completely. Despite Crowley’s disinterest, the tutor Azarias is fresh blood, a young eligible bachelor, rousing gossip in the village.
Matters are made worse on Medusa’s eighth birthday when the most beautiful woman comes to town. Depending on who he talks to, the stranger is both as fair as marble or golden and sunkissed. She’s tall and lithe or broad and wide-hipped. Even Aziraphale is aflutter, taken with her beauty, which is how Crowley even finds out about her.
“Eneas and Corelie have invited her to dinner,” he says. “They’ve extended an invitation to us as well.”
“They should be careful about extending invitations to demons,” Crowley says.
Aziraphale cuts him a look and passes him a jar of oil which Crowley takes and loads onto Corelie’s cart. “Don’t be rude. They invite you over all the time.”
“I don’t mean me. I suspect I know who this travelling fair maiden is.”
Aziraphale stills at that. “She’s not here to harm anyone, is she?”
Crowley sighs and wipes his hands on his skirt. “The only person she could harm is me. I wouldn’t worry about it.”
His suspicions are confirmed when he shows up for dinner that evening. Aziraphale meets him at the door to Eneas’ house and opens it for him. They enter together and find Lilith already at the dining table. He wonders how she appears to the others, to Aziraphale. To Crowley, she dresses in the finest white wool, blond hair cascading over her shoulders in soft curls, her eyes blue like the heavens. Her skin is as pale as marble with the slightest flush. His mouth burns with acid when he sees her.
“Anatola,” she says, her voice warm as she stands to embrace him.
She pulls back and looks at him. He bites his tongue, his jaw rigid and set. Aziraphale looks between them, curious. “You know each other?” he asks.
She turns to look at him, noticing him for the first time. Her eyes widen, and she says, “Oh! This is -- you’re --”
Crowley cuts her off. He grips her bicep tight in his fingers. “This is Azarias. He’s the village tutor, and he helps on the oliver’s grove.”
“Right,” Lilith says, looking between the two of them. She gives Crowley a pointed look, shaking out of his grasp, before extending her hand to Aziraphale. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Then she turns on Crowley, executing the full force of her gaze and power, and says, “Where is my daughter?”
He lifts his chin and straightens to his full height, though he only has a few inches on her. “Our daughter,” he says, “is helping Corelie outside and won’t be called in until dinner.”
Aziraphale’s eyebrows raise and his mouth parts in a surprised ‘oh.’ He looks between the two demons and his face shutters closed. Crowley grimaces, and he pulls away from them both. What a mess. This was not how he wanted Aziraphale to find out about Medusa’s parentage.
Dinner is a tense affair, though Eneas and Corelie are oblivious. Medusa is curious about the strange woman but says nothing, shying away as she tucks herself up against Crowley’s side. He tries not to feel smug about it, sharing his roasted lamb with her. When she’s full, she wriggles out from under his arm and scoots along the bench until she’s in Aziraphale’s lap. The angel scoops her up gamely and lets her rest her head on his shoulder. The sight of it replaces Crowley’s smugness with something else, a deep pressure in his chest that makes his breath grow shallow and his heart skip.
“Will you tell me a story, Azarias?”
“I have something better,” Lilith says. “How about dessert?” She rummages around in the folds of her skirt to reveal a ripe, blushing pomegranate. She takes it and digs her thumbs into it, prying it open with unnatural force, and everyone at the table looks at it transfixed. “Would you like to try a bite?”
Crowley wants to scoop Medusa up and run, but he can’t. He knows all about the importance of choice. He tries to make eyes with Aziraphale to warn him, but even the angel looks tempted.
“How lovely,” Corelie says. “I’ve never tried a pomegranate before? May I?”
Lilith smiles, all sweet and sultry. “Please.”
“I’ve never been fond of the things,” Eneas says, watching his wife scoop out a bite, chewing it thoughtfully.
Crowley closes his eyes and shudders, knowing Corelie has sealed her fate to the damned. He wants to grab and shake her shoulders, shout at her to spit it out but can’t.
Lilith extends the fruit to Medusa who stares at it, burying her face in Aziraphale’s chest for a moment before her curiosity gets the better of her. She reaches and takes a tiny seed, popping it in her mouth as Lilith’s smile grows wicked.
Then she spits it out, her face crumpling in distaste. “It’s so sour,” she says. She then bats at Aziraphale’s hand as he reaches for the fruit. “Don’t, Azarias. It’s icky.”
Crowley blows out a silent breath of relief, collapsing in his seat. He locks eyes with Lilith. “I think she prefers the olives over pomegranates,” he says.
“Yes, she has grown fond of this place, hasn’t she? What about you, Anatola? Would you like to try?”
Crowley is already damned. He has nothing to fear from her temptations. He uses a little spoon to loosen the seeds and slides them into his mouth. They burst bright and sour on his tongue, and he can taste hellfire in his throat. It burns as he swallows, settling hot in his stomach. He meets her eyes in a challenge.
“Well, this has been a charming evening,” Lilith says, standing. “But I must be off.”
“You don’t mean to travel tonight?” Eneas says in protest. “We couldn’t possibly allow that.”
Aziraphale, glancing between the two demons, stands as well, supporting Medusa on his hip with a hand under her bum despite how big she’s grown. “I have a feeling she will be able to handle herself. She’s quite capable.”
“You flatter me,” she says. “You’re as sweet as an angel.”
Aziraphale purses his lips and holds Medusa tighter.
On her way past, Lilith stops and cups Crowley’s face. She leans in to embrace him. “Enjoy your dreams tonight,” she tells him. “It’s the least I could do for all you’ve done for her.” She pulls away and steps out into the night, disappearing into the dark without a torch to guide her.
“How odd,” Corelie says, beginning to clear the table. “What a lovely but strange woman.”
Crowley reaches for the pomegranate left on the table. “Do you mind if I have this?” he asks, snatching it up.
Aziraphale follows him outside, sending Medusa to help Corelie clear the kitchen. They walk in silence to the end of the grove. “I felt it when Corelie ate it.”
“Yes,” Crowley says, voice heavy. “She’s damned now.”
“Hardly seems fair.”
“Nothing Lilith does is fair.” He holds the fruit in hands, crushing it until the seeds and juice run down his arm. Then he lights it on fire, and they stand there watching it turn to ash in his hands. “Out of curiosity, what did you see when you looked at her?”
Aziraphale puzzles over the question for a moment. They can hear voices from the house and cicadas humming in the trees. “A human, I suppose. Maybe not quite human, but she did an admirable job of passing.”
“But what did she look like?”
“Tall,” he says. “Thin. All limbs and angles. She had the most radiant red hair. If I hadn’t known better, I would have mistaken you for sisters, not lovers.”
Crowley breathes and licks his lips. His heart hammers in his chest. He stares at Aziraphale -- a faint pale glow illuminated by the moonlight in an otherwise dark night -- and feels the arils from the pomegranate unfurl and take root in his stomach. “Angel, we weren’t lovers. Not really,” he says. “It was just a thing.”
“Oh,” Aziraphale says, a hitch in his voice. “Good. That’s good.”
Crowley looks at him for a long moment. It’s dark out. In the distance, he can see the fire roaring in Eneas and Corelie’s hearth, can hear Medusa’s chattering and laughter. Heat grows in his stomach, and he feels himself swaying, pulled to the angel like a magnet.
He leans forward and cups Aziraphale’s face, staining his cheeks with the leftover juice. He presses their mouths together. The rebellious softness in him clamours forth. We could be lovers, he thinks. Aziraphale doesn’t move to kiss him back but opens his mouth for Crowley to explore. His lips are plush but chapped, and he tastes salty from the lamb.
When he pulls away, Aziraphale’s eyes are shut, his mouth parted. Crowley can’t help but drag a thumb over his bottom lip. The angel curls his mouth around the intrusion, sucking the last remnants of pomegranate juice from his skin, sending shivering goosebumps up Crowley’s arm.
“Careful, angel,” he warns, watching him in fascination as his tongue peeks out, seeking more sweetness from the pomegranate.
Aziraphale pulls away, his hand braced around Crowley’s wrist. “I’m all right. I don’t think it can hurt me if it’s from you.”
The door slams and they startle. The sound of Medusa’s tiny footsteps are loud as she walks through the grove. “Μαμά?”
“I’m over here, Meadow,” he calls, eyes fixed on Aziraphale’s grip, his fingers pressing into his skin.
Aziraphale leans in and kisses his cheek, lingering for a moment, his breath warm and tantalizing. His hand reaches up and fists in the demon’s garments for a brief moment before releasing. “Good night, Crowley,” he says, then turns to leave.
He passes Medusa back through the grove, and Crowley watches him swoop down to kiss her forehead. “But you didn’t tell me a story!” she complains.
“Tomorrow,” he promises her, and Crowley can feel that promise radiate through his bones and into the soil. Tomorrow.
Pomegranates are important in Persephone's story. In mythology, when she was taken against her will to the Underworld, she ate six pomegranate seeds off of Hades' table, thus binding her to him for six months out of the year. Since Lilith is a demon of desire, she's put her own little spin on it, infusing lust with damnation.
We will see those consequences in effect next chapter. ;)
As always, you can follow me on tumblr @nieded
The story earns its E rating again and our ineffable idiots figure things out.
TW: explicit vaginal intercourse. Crowley has a vulva.
Also mush. This is utter mush.
Crowley’s abdomen cramps, a persistent flame that burns from his stomach to the flush of his neck and chest. His skin feels tight and sweaty, and his mouth stings where Aziraphale nipped his lower lip, ever so gentle the way he likes, just as they had parted. If he were mortal, he’d melt, evaporate and disappear. He’s on the verge of discorporation.
“That lady was weird,” Medusa says, clambering onto the small yet sturdy table where he sits to take down his hair, already waiting in anticipation.
“Hmm?” Crowley settles in front of the mirror and touches his lips. He looks the same. How does he look the same?
“Persephone,” he corrects. “Careful, you were in the presence of a goddess.”
Medusa swings her feet and plucks one of his plaits loose. “She didn’t look like one.”
“And what did she look like, then?”
She shrugs. Her face twists in a frown as she tries to find the right words. “She wasn’t as pretty as you. Are you a goddess?”
He softens and cups his daughter’s face in his hands. He hardly sees any of Lilith in her, though it’s hard to see a woman who’s very nature is a shapeshifter. Her powers are more potent than Crowley’s but also more specific. He is just a minor player in the big wide world of Hell, capable of many smaller skills, a jack of all trades.
“We come from the same stock,” he settles on, “though she and I are very different.”
“Is Azarias a god too?”
“And what makes you think that?”
She flusters and makes a series of incoherent sounds, tucking her chin to her chest. Crowley doesn’t press the point. Instead, he thinks, yeah, me too. “If Azarias were a god, he’d be Dionysus.”
Medusa purses her lips, running through her lessons. “The god of winemaking and… religious ec-ty?”
“Ecstasy. Also the god of theatre.”
“Azarias thinks your Aphrodite.”
Crowley flushes at that. The fire low in his belly still burns, and he doesn’t have the will to argue. “That’s enough of that talk. Time for bed.”
“But what does Persefee do?”
He lifts her from the table and sets her on the floor. It’s a conversation for later. How does he tell her that her mother is a demon, the very definition of temptation and lust? How does he tell her she’s the spring birth, the fall death, and the rotting winter? She’s the pain and rapture of a scorned woman, the thing the first man feared and discarded, the acidic envy high in one’s throat and guilt settled deep in the belly. She is the hunger for more than food, the longing for more than lust, and the pleading for something greater than love.
“Nevermind all that. Respect her and you’ll be safe,” he says. “Off to bed.”
That night he dreams of Aziraphale standing in the Garden under the shadow of a large bush, plucking pomegranate after pomegranate from its branches. He uses his blunt fingers to pry open the fruit and plunges into the meat, curling his fingers to dig out the arils. He brings the fruit to his mouth and sucks, and all of Crowley’s body bows tight, watching the purple juice stain his skin and drip down his chin.
He wakes shaking, his body teetering on the verge of a precipice, and discovers he’s made an effort. His thighs tremble as he rucks up his skirt, and he plunges two fingers inside of himself, slick and wet with need. He closes his eyes and imagines the angel’s thumbs spreading the folds of his labia, humming low and sweet before diving down with his mouth, sucking at the soft skin and nudging at his clitoris with the flat side of his tongue.
Fuck. His spine bends in half, stomach arching upward. His fingers are too narrow and slender, but he imagines them thicker, curling inside of him, fucking him. He comes fantasising half-about a memory glossed over with desire, Aziraphale’s mouth hot on his neck, fingers curling in his hair and cradling his head. He’d said things that solitary drunk night that he tries and tries again to erase from memory.
He lies there panting, fever hot, and digs his fingers into the sheepskin blankets. His stomach burns. The seeds he swallowed have sown deep within him.
For the rest of the night, his sleep is restless. He gives up just as dawn breaks and stumbles from his bed, readying a tray of cold meats and fruit for Medusa before leaving the house barefoot, tracking through the quiet sleepy grove. The ground is dewy and the air misty. Walking between the trees reminds him of the Garden and does little to clear his thoughts, his dream fresh in his memory, his steps laden with desire.
Before he knows it, he’s walked clear across the olive grove to the modest homestead on the opposite side. He stares at Aziraphale who stands just outside his door with his arms crossed over his chest like he’d been waiting for him all night. His white chiton and himation blend into the fog, and he looks a bit like an apparition.
By wordless agreement, Crowley staggers the final metres to the angel and grabs his collar, possessed. He smashes their lips together, greedy, and Aziraphale stands firm, widening his stance to support them both. His face is stained purple from the night before when they’d kissed, like he couldn’t bear to wash him off.
Crowley licks that spot and bites the soft skin. He backs them up against the outside of the homestead, and Aziraphale -- blessed angel -- braces himself so he can clamber on top, his thighs taught and thick with strength.
Crowley doesn’t hesitate, and Aziraphale doesn’t beg him to wait. He sinks onto him, his thighs wet from his earlier pleasure, and they gasp into it, Aziraphale’s hips jutting upwards to meet each downward thrust.
God and all of Sparta could walk past and see them, but they are possessed. Their bellies are full with seeds of desire, sprouting and vining through their limbs, bursting out of their mouths and fingertips. They fuck into it. Crowley’s nails dig into the brick exterior, searching for purchase. Aziraphale’s back scrapes against the rough stone, his head tilted back, a flush seeping down his neck and under his garments. Crowley wants to chase that blush, to bite the skin hidden from view and breathe in the smell of sweat and salt and yesterday’s filth. He wants Aziraphale to come in him, clutching his hips like the only sanctity he needs is the wet, molten space between Crowley’s legs.
They don’t talk about it. They don’t talk about the short months they fell into each other in Sparta before the war started, how, even before that fateful night, they gentled each other. They were terrified of watching eyes but found themselves meeting again and again, helplessly until it coalesced into a drunken, fervent night of sex. They don’t talk about how things ended when Crowley fled in a panic of fear. Crowley knows his biggest weakness is his heart, that his corporation doesn’t need it but built one anyway from flesh and sinew and blood despite his wishes to be void of it. God would say his weakness is his curiosity. Aziraphale would say it’s his need to pick at things until they bleed. But it’s his heart, fragile and fluttery, hammering inside of him with every thrust and groan, that is his Achilles' heel.
“Come on, angel,” he says, digging his fingers into the soft white curls. “You’ve never had me like this before. I can take it harder.”
Aziraphale’s eyes shutter. He opens his mouth, bitten and panting, but no words come out. He drags his hands over the flat plane of Crowley’s chest, his narrow waist, settling on the sharp crest of his hips. His cock is thick, unmerciful, the strength of his thighs godly. He reaches a hand between them and circles the soft nub of Crowley’s clitoris, deft and gentle in counterpoint to the maddening pace he sets.
Then Crowley moans and buries his face in Aziraphale’s neck. He comes like that, clenching around him in fluttering waves, and Aziraphale follows, thrusting once, twice, before swelling and spilling inside.
“Oh my legs,” Aziraphale says after a moment but makes no move to remove Crowley still seated in the vee of his hips. “Anyone could have seen that. What -- what madness.”
Crowley laughs and presses their foreheads together. “I think we were not our own.”
“No, I fear not.” He tilts his head back against the side of his house and looks up at Crowley, smoothing out the frizzled stray hairs framing his face. “You can be so lovely,” he says.
Crowley looks down at his hand flattened over Aziraphale’s chest and swallows. It’s the pomegranate talking. He can’t decide if Lilith’s gifts are something good or more of a boon. “I best get back before Medusa wakes.”
“Right, of course.” Aziraphale uses the flat of his palms to lift him, cupping his underside. His grip is firm and sturdy, and a shudder courses through them both at the touch, like a transfer of electricity.
Then Crowley stands and straightens his garments. In the aftermath of their fucking, his thighs tremble, slick and sore. He’s never felt shame before but contemplates starting. Madness indeed. “Later, angel,” he says, and stumbles back through the grove.
They catch each other’s eyes several times throughout the next morning. Crowley sits up in a tree, relaxed against the trunk as Aziraphale walks Medusa through her footwork. For her birthday, Eneas had fashioned a makeshift hoplon to work on her shield work, and Crowley had procured fine, flexible leather to craft armour. The summer days are hot, but Medusa insists on trucking all of her gear with her wherever she goes.
Aziraphale flushes when he catches sight of Crowley watching, and he stumbles through his paces. Crowley wonders if he feels it in his thighs still, sore from holding them both up. He’s sloppy and distracted, earning him a whap in the head with a wooden sword.
“Azarias!” Medusa complains. “Pay attention!”
“Oh! I’m sorry, dear girl.”
“I’m not a girl! I’m a warrior!” she says and whaps him again. He gets his shield up just in time. “This is boring. I’m going to go find Epifania.”
Medusa stalks off, all limbs. Her legs and arms are disproportionate to the rest of her, and with her bare head, she looks a bit otherworldly.
“She’ll grow into her legs soon enough,” Aziraphale says, as though reading Crowley’s thoughts. “Though until then…” They watch her trip up the hill and out of sight.
“She’s always bleeding somewhere,” Crowley agrees.
Aziraphale struggles up the tree. He lacks nimbleness but makes up for it with strength. There’s a sheen of sweat on his brow by the time he makes it up to Crowley’s level. “Is this what you do all day? Laze about in trees?”
Crowley smiles and snaps his fingers, and his empty bucket fills with olives as they pelt at them from the branches. He’s eaten more than he’s plucked. “Sloth is a sin, isn’t it? I’d be remiss if I weren’t slacking.” And because their roots are invisible beneath the soil and still unfurling inside him, digging deep, he touches Aziraphale’s collar and asks, “Why? Is there something else you’d rather be doing?”
As far as temptations go, it’s in poor execution and form. He’s clumsy with the desire, their earlier coupling having only quelled his need for a short amount of time. Faced with the angel -- who had climbed a tree of his own volition to sit before him -- Crowley is weak.
They share a branch, straddling it with their legs. It holds steady by a miracle. Aziraphale presses up against him so they’re chest to chest and kisses him, languid and dreamy. The fog rolls in over them and the high noon sun dips and they kiss and kiss and kiss.
Aziraphale pulls away when they hear shrieks of laughter and look down at the dirt road that runs past the grove. Medusa howls, chased by her own sword, Epifania’s short but quick legs pursuing her through the farmland. He rests his chin on Crowley’s head and watches them run past. After a moment, he says, “About Helen.”
Crowley huffs and lets out a growl of protest. “No, we’re not going to talk about it now.”
“I wouldn’t have been mad at you --”
“You would have been furious!” he says in retort.
“Fine, I was livid when I found out, but I was going to come back to you,” he says, voice rising over the demon. “I still don’t know what you were thinking.”
I wasn’t, Crowley thinks. He was frightened and scared and desperate. He hadn’t had a thought at all. They’d both happened to be in Sparta, one there to smooth over trade negotiations between Menelaus and Paris, the other there conspiring to mischief. And he remembers seeing Aziraphale in his glowing white toga, fiddling with his gold ring. The angel had lit up when he saw Crowley for the first time in a century.
The food had been delicious and the wine even better. Spirits were high with celebration, and they’d run into each other night after night, wineskin after wineskin, the barriers between them dissolving from drunkenness and mirth.
And now that he thinks about it, he remembers seeing a woman wandering between the senators with a face like a shadow, grace like a ghost, and the beauty of a polished tomb. He remembers eating pomegranates, chasing the sourness down with wine.
More than that, it was Aziraphale and the way he looked at Crowley, pleased and enamoured like he’d missed his old friend. The look lit him up inside, and at that moment, he wanted more than anything to be good again.
Paris had looked at Helen that way, and when Crowley woke up from his fever dream, tangled up with the angel, he ran knowing they’d be punished for their miscreations, but not before nudging the prince in the direction of the forbidden queen.
“I don’t do good,” he tells Aziraphale, pressed against him in the tree. “I’m a demon.” In the distance, they can hear Medusa’s laughter.
Aziraphale sighs and brushes his nose along the shell of Crowley’s ear, breathing in. “Somehow, I don’t believe you.”
That night, Crowley allows Medusa to stay the night at Epifania’s. “Only if her mother says it’s fine.”
“Yes, yes, yes!” the girls chant, jumping up and down.
Epifania is a year younger, the blacksmith’s daughter. Medusa used to make a fuss about playing with a baby, but it seems to mean less the older they get. It’s rare Crowley lets her out of his sight for more than a few hours, but he can’t help breathe in relief that she’s finally making friends.
He walks with them down the road to confirm with Heo that it’s all right, and when he returns to his house, he findsAziraphale standing in the kitchen. He’s helped himself to some food, and Crowley’s filled with fondness as he watches him shred the bread and use his fingers to scoop soft goat cheese and butter. Is this all part of Lilith’s spell? It’d be a convenient way to write off the pressure in his chest, the twitch of his mouth pulling upwards, but he knows he’s had this fondness forever, from the first day in the Garden.
“Sorry,” Aziraphale says, covering his mouth with his hand as he chews. He digs in for another scoop, not apologetic at all. “Are you hungry?”
“That’s not what I’m hungry for, angel.”
Aziraphale rolls his eyes. “How do you go about tempting people with rubbish like that?”
Crowley scoffs and snatches the bread away, hoarding it close to his chest. Aziraphale lets him and dips his finger into the spread instead. “You don’t seem to mind.”
“Well, no, I know you underneath that veneer.”
That frightens Crowley to hear, and he shoves the bread haphazard-like in a jar and pushes a lid on top, cramming it inside. He makes for the cheese, but Aziraphale holds it out of reach. “C’mon, isn’t there something else you’d rather be doing?” Crowley asks.
Aziraphale smiles, secretive and soft. “Perhaps,” he says. “I think this needs wine.” With a snap of fingers pulling down from the heavens, a jug appears on the table. He snatches it up and extends an arm. “Walk with me?”
They step outside and walk along the bank of the creek on their bare feet, passing the wine back and forth. Crowley tucks his arm in Aziraphale’s elbow and shivers, the summer air cooling in contrast to the angel’s warm body. Aziraphale stops along the bank at some arbitrary spot, and Crowley allows himself to be pushed to the ground, surrounded by the quiet rustle of wind through the hyacinths kicking up the scent of sweetness and nectar. The grass tickles the back of his neck and knees as Aziraphale hikes up his peplos. He shivers when he feels warm knuckles run along the inside of his thigh.
Then Aziraphale settles over him. He’s a strong and heavy weight, a warm comfort in contrast to the cool breeze. The snake in Crowley’s belly slithers in circles, possessive.
“Do you like it?” Crowley asks in a moment of self-consciousness as Aziraphale’s fingers find the folds of his labia, exploring the silky skin.
“Mmm quite. It’s different than your usual, but you’ll find no complaints from me.”
Crowley doesn’t even know how it happened. He just woke up from his fever dream after eating Lilith’s pomegranate seeds. He hasn’t yet decided how he feels about it. “I could change it if you like.”
“And what would you like?” Aziraphale says this with his mouth to Crowley’s ear, his voice pitched low. There’s desire in his caresses yet no urgency.
The list of things Crowley wants is too long to voice out loud. He sighs as Aziraphale’s fingers press between the folds of his vulva and turns his face into Aziraphale’s neck. He feels molten, slow, like slithering in the grass on a hot summer’s day. “Where did you go after the war started?”
Aziraphale hums a bit in thought, choosing his words before speaking. “I waited a bit for you to return, but I received a missive to head to Athens. I acted as an ambassador of sorts between the two city-states, facilitating alliances for Sparta.”
“Doesn’t seem very angelic.”
“You’d be surprised. So far, most of my orders are about the war.” He drags one blunt fingertip down the seam of Crowley’s sex, from the sensitive nub to the growing wetness, pressing a shallow finger inside.
Crowley moans. “How’d you end up here?”
“I had a feeling.”
He scoffs, his hips wriggling against Aziraphale’s fingers. “Really.”
“I woke up one morning and knew I was needed here. Funny how we keep colliding.” Aziraphale’s breath is warm as he speaks and smells of wine from their bottomless jar. His voice has gone low and rough, relaxed and slow. “What about you?”
“Medusa,” Crowley says. He thinks back to the day Lilith found him in the heart of the city-state, holding the little bundle. Aziraphale hasn’t seen her thrall. He wonders if he understands the power she has. What sort of person will she grow up to be, a swordsman, a wife, a demon? “The city was too much, and I needed someplace quiet, but she’s so shy. I wonder if the city would have been better for her.”
“She flourishes out here,” Aziraphale says. “She’s a gem amongst the rest.”
“She hates the way they look at her. She hates the way she looks.”
Crowley huffs. “She sticks out like a sore thumb. Hell knows I think she’s beautiful, but humans are so particular, so judgmental.”
With his free hand, the hand not occupied below Crowley’s waist moving in tentative curious circles, Aziraphale cups the back of his head. “Oh, I know. I know what humans can do. I mean, why does she have no hair at all?”
“It’s me,” Crowley says after a moment, swallowing, the movement loud in the quiet night. “She has snake scales. Did you know that? On the top of her leg.”
“She is a lot like you, isn’t she?” Aziraphale kisses his throat and soothes him, running a hand through his hair, untangling his braids with his careful blunt fingers. “She has your curiosity and cleverness. She laughs like you.”
“And how do I laugh?”
“So open, my dear, and often caught off guard, as though you don’t know you’re happy until it’s spilling out of you.”
“Oh,” Crowley says, startled, and Aziraphale chooses to take advantage of his surprise, leaning in to kiss him, pressing deep. They kiss like that for a long time, languid, laughing against each other’s skin in little short puffs. Aziraphale rolls onto Crowley and presses him into the grass, a heavy solid presence. Crowley has never felt more bound to the earth in his entire existence.
They fall asleep, Aziraphale’s hand loose and relaxed on Crowley’s thigh, his other tangled in his hair. Crowley wakes again just before dawn to a noseful of white-blond hair, the colour of the cliffs of Milos, and the purpling sky above them. Aziraphale smells of wine and salt and vinegar from the grove. The ground smells of petrichor, and the dew covers them, soaking into their garments, a counterpoint to their shared body heat.
He cups the back of Aziraphale’s head, and with the grace of his serpent-self, he slips out from under him, all the while cursing his demon heart. This temptation is too rich for even him. He could do so much to a sleeping angel, and none of what he wants are the evil things he should do.
Instead, he walks barefoot in the grass. There’s a part of him, his old self, who wants to slither, wants to prostrate himself on his belly and crawl. He’s tempted by the dewy wet grass and the sound of the river nearby, everything lush with summer. It harkens him back to a time when summer was constant and the white walls glittered in the sunlight, before Crowley was still too demonic to have a human heart stuttering with every step away from Aziraphale.
“Μαμά!” Medusa shouts, waiting for him outside of Stavros’ homestead. She sprints to him, and Crowley scoops her up, swinging her high.
Heo appears at her door with a smile. “I don’t know how you can still lift her like that. She’s going to be tall someday, like you.”
“I want to be as tall as the mountains!” Medusa says, reaching high into the sky. “I want to be taller than giants!”
“You don’t want to be a giant,” Epifania says, peeking from around her mother’s skirts. “Cyclops is ugly, and he lives in a cave. I’ll never see you if you live in a cave.”
“Oh,” Medusa says, thoughtful. “You can come with me.”
Heo stops Epifania from bolting out the door with a firm grip on her arm. “All right, none of you are tall enough yet to be giants. You have chores to do, and Medusa has her lessons.”
Crowley, who has been silent, face gone soft in the presence of his daughter, thanks Heo for watching Medusa.” They wave goodbye, and Medusa takes off, skipping ahead while chattering about all the things they played that night.
He sends her to the river to wash up and spends an inordinate amount of time combing through his hair, breathing through his nose in a feeble attempt to calm his nerves. The things he wants from Aziraphale scare him. He doesn’t want to tempt him. He doesn’t want to fuck and be fucked. He wants slow listless mornings and breaking bread over wine. He wants him in his bed, and he wants Medusa to curl between them in the middle of the night, startled by the cry of a fox. He wants to cover them both up and hide them with his wings. He looks up at the ceiling and stares. “Let me have this,” he says.
He’s interrupted by the sound of laughter, Medusa’s high-pitched giggle and a low chuckle, her light footsteps followed by Aziraphale’s silent ones, light as a feather.
“My dear, there you are,” Aziraphale says. He’s pink and sunkissed, the tip of his nose a fetching red.
Crowley coughs and turns to stare in the mirror, braiding with adept swiftness. “I had to get Medusa.”
“Mmm, of course.” And then Aziraphale -- in front of Medusa and God Herself -- bends down and kisses his temple, inhaling through his nose like a hound seeking out an alluring scent.
Crowley shudders and his eyes droop. He’s addicted. He’s possessed. He turns and meets Aziraphale’s mouth, warm and sweet, caving to his bellowing heart.
Medusa interrupts them, elbows on the vanity with her chin on her hands. “Are you gonna get married? Corelie thinks you should.”
Crowley coughs and whips to look at her, his eyes wide and irises gone serpentine, yellow to the edges of his lids. He means to protest but stops when he catches Aziraphale’s expression, mirthful and delighted. “Well -- I -- that would be --” He stutters to a stop. What would that even mean?
It’s just a fever dream, he thinks. The whole thing is a spell, some demonic joke from Lilith that they’re both caught up in. And Crowley isn’t good enough, isn’t kind or goodhearted or honest enough to tell Aziraphale to stop. He’s greedy and starved, and he will glutton himself on the angel -- this bright sliver of holiness -- for as long as he can until God Herself smites him.
He kneels at Medusa’s feet and cups her face. “Meadow, I have no dowry and no family. It would be an unsuitable match for someone as educated as Azarias and unfair to his position.”
She listens, brow furrowing as she processes the words. Then her face crumples. Her eyes are wet when she opens them again, and her voice cracks when she says, “But he loves you!”
She tears out of the house, sprinting through the grove. Crowley spins to chase her, his feet caught in the long skirt of his peplos, but Aziraphale grabs his wrist. “Let her go and calm down.”
Crowley looks back at him, his sun-kissed face and blue eyes, and suddenly he is angry, heart-hammering and ears ringing. His throat tightens as he tries to swallow around the bitterness welling upwards. “Why are you even here, angel? What is this?” He gestures between them.
Aziraphale starts at the bite of anger in Crowley’s voice, and his mouth opens in a perfect circle of surprise. “I-I told you. I’m on a mission from Heaven.”
“To do what? To smite me? Tear me down piece-by-piece? Expose my weaknesses? Because it’s working.”
Aziraphale reaches to placate him, gentle and earnest. “No, Crowley! You also being here was just a… happy accident.”
“Happy.” Crowley’s voice goes flat.
“Yes. I have been happy. Haven’t you?” Aziraphale says it with conviction. His voice rings low, the power of the Host of Heaven echoing through him. It’s his own thrall, a harkening. Here comes the Holy Word. It makes Crowley’s skin prickle, and the sensation of fire licks up his arms. He means it.
They stand there for a long moment, and all of Crowley’s furiousness washes out of him, replaced by heavy, sinking fatigue. He reaches for the bench and collapses on it, burying his head between his hands. Aziraphale kneels in front of him at his feet, pulling his hands away to look at him. “You’re not thinking clearly. This isn’t real,” Crowley tells him.
Aziraphale’s face is so open and honest and hopeful that Crowley has to shut his eyes. “I am as clear-headed as ever,” he says, his voice gentle. “I know the reality of this. I know this isn’t meant to last. You and I are just two microscopic players in the cosmic universe, and our wills are not our own. And this place -- this village and Eneas and the war -- will be gone a millennium from now, yet you and I will still be here. But maybe not like this. Maybe not happy. Maybe we’ll be enemies again.”
He takes Crowley’s face in his hand and waits until he opens his eyes before continuing. “I want this now. I know I can’t keep it, but you’re different here. And Medusa. She’s beautiful. She’s like your heart walking free of your body.”
“Satan, don’t say that.”
“It’s true. You poured all your goodness into her.”
“I’m not good. I won’t ever be. I’m a demon.”
“Then pretend with me, just for a little while.”
Crowley will remember this moment in the future when he comes up with the Arrangement. He’ll remember how persuasive -- how tempting -- Aziraphale can be, and he’ll hope that maybe the angel was also right about his own goodness. He’ll turn this memory over in his head for decades, centuries, millennia, long after they are done, separate entities, a demon and an angel again.
He’ll think of it in the back of a bookshop, passing a bottle of wine back and forth on the precipice of Armageddon.
Aziraphale scoots around until he’s sitting on the bench alongside him. He wraps an arm around his waist, tugging Crowley until his head falls to his shoulder, heavy and warm. Aziraphale smells of ozone and sunlight after the rain, rich like the Garden. He’s different from how Crowley remembers the other angels. Grounded. Of the Earth.
“Absolutely terrified, my dear. Together?”
Crowley gets roped into a trip to Athens. He also begins to question where the line is drawn between angels and demons and discovers Medusa may be more like him than he originally thought.
No warnings for this chapter.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“I hear you need a dowry,” Eneas says when Crowley comes back from a day of picking. The fall season approaches, and there are only a few olives left. He miracles them to be a little rounder, meatier, oily and rich.
“And who told you that?” he asks.
“Your little one came knocking on our door last night in tears.”
Crowley sighs and plops himself down on the edge of the mill, unladylike and weary. He and Aziraphale had stayed up late into the night talking, sharing stories, indulging in each other’s wine-soaked kisses and fervent bodies. He’s left aching but satiated. “Ignore her. She’s…” He trails off and shrugs.
“She’s invested in your happiness. Your daughter is quite astute.”
“I can’t get married,” he tells Eneas. He can have whatever this is with Aziraphale for however long it lasts, but neither Heaven nor Hell would approve. They’d both be vilified, fed to the hounds of hell. “It’s philosophical anyway. I have no family and no father. It’d be an unsuitable match for Azarias to marry a widow.”
Eneas sputters. “If Azarias waits any longer, Sparta will come after him for not marrying, and then he’ll be matched off with someone else and expected to produce. How he evaded the war baffles me, though I’m happier that he’s here.”
Crowley tries to imagine Aziraphale in battle. The angel has been gentled, softened by his time away from Heaven, but Crowley still sees some of that ferocity in his posture while giving Medusa her lessons. He’s swift and precise when he chooses, if he chooses. He’d be formidable on the battlefield.
“Azarias is ill-suited to war,” he says instead. “He’s much better as an educator. He’s wasted in Sparta.”
“Suppose you move to Athens with him?”
“Never. We’re not wedding.”
Eneas harrumphs and stands. “You’re as stubborn as a mule. I think you’d make him quite happy, and happier still yourself.”
Crowley tries not to dwell on it. Marriage is for humans, not supernatural beings. Eternity attached to one person sounds dreadful, especially when humans can hardly manage it without avarice and adultery or murder in their short lives.
He tells Medusa not to mention it to Eneas or Corelie again, and she stomps off, kicking at rocks as she storms away. She doesn’t speak to him for a week, bouncing in between spending time in the markets with Corelie and running through the woods and creek with Epifania. She comes home only to sleep, worn out by her days full of adventure in the dwindling autumn sunlight. She sleeps deeply, and he sits on the edge of her mattress and watches her, running a thumb over the soft, delicate skin behind her ear. He wants to give her so much.
Medusa lets go of her anger when she finds out Stavros and Heo are taking Epifania to Athens. “It’s been a long year,” Heo tells Crowley while they walk together through the markets. “We all need a little joy right now.”
The news that Stavros’ son had drowned in battle came early one morning by a messenger from Sparta. The village woke up to crashing as Stavros cleaved his shrine to Ares in two with an axe in one agonising strike.
Despair, Crowley knows, is powerful. It was despair that made him slither and crawl on his belly, his joy turning to ash, his grace stripped.
Heo had suggested the trip to Athens for the Thesmophoria festival to celebrate a fertile harvest and pray for a kind winter ahead in hopes it would distract Epifania from her parents’ grief.
“Μαμά! I want to go too!” Medusa says.
Crowley shudders. “It’s a week’s travel there, and another week back. We’d have to go by horse.”
“I love horses!”
“You’ve never been around a horse. And what about Eneas and Corelie? No one would be around to help on the grove.”
“Surely picking is almost over,” Heo says. “And we could all save a bit of drachma if we shared transport.”
“Can Azarias come too?” Medusa asks.
Crowley protests. “Thesmophoria is for married women only. He wouldn’t be allowed on the mountain. He’d be bored out of his mind.” In truth, he knows Aziraphale would love to return to Athens and would spend the week alone interrogating scholars and dining at symposiums the way he can’t in their small village.
Heo lifts an eyebrow. “Stavros can’t join us either, but he’s hoping to do some trading and explore more of Athens. We’ve never been. And anyway, isn’t your philosopher from Athens? He could be our guide.”
Crowley wants to protest. Aziraphale is not his philosopher, he thinks, rolling his eyes. Then he sighs and shrugs.
Medusa cheers. “Yes! Yes! We’re going to go to Athens!”
“What have I agreed to?” he mutters.
It’s a sudden and rash decision that gives them only a week to prepare if they want to make it to Thesmophoria on time. Eneas gives them his blessing to go and invites Aziraphale for dinner -- alone -- the night before they plan to leave. Crowley hovers from his window, curious, watching across the grove until the angel departs late into the evening to return to his own homestead.
The next morning just as the sun rises, they load up a single cart with two weeks’ worth of supplies and pile in the back. Despite Crowley’s needling, Aziraphale refuses to tell him what he and Eneas had discussed. Instead, he shakes his head and rests his head on the wooden slats, grimacing every time they roll over a rut in the road.
“What’s the matter?” Crowley asks him despite the angel’s apparent hangover.
“Hnng” Aziraphale says. “How long is this trip again?”
Beside them, the two girls cheer up and down up and down, alternating between singing songs with made-up lyrics at the top of their lungs and bursting into fits of giggles.
“A week,” Crowley says. And then because he’s never said no to poking a hornet’s nest, he adds, “and a week back.”
“Infernal damnation,” Aziraphale mutters and presses his forefinger and thumb into his eye sockets.
“You can’t turn back now. You’re their tour guide in Athens. Why didn’t you sober up anyway?”
Aziraphale shakes his head, his mouth a pinched line. He grunts every time Epifania and Medusa shout. “I forgot before I went to bed and woke up like this. Then Medusa…” He trails off and waves his hand.
Crowley snorts with a little too much glee. That morning before departing, Medusa was an endless bundle of energy, bouncing on the straw mattress, running through the house in excitement. To buy himself a moment of peace, he sent her off to go wake Aziraphale, and the angel must not have had time to cast a miracle before her arrival.
They’d agreed to be judicious about their miracles around Medusa, small ones only, nothing showy or flashy. Crowley has the advantage after centuries of practising deception. It’s been harder for Aziraphale who is used to grandiose performances in the name of God. Still, they both have a millennium of bad habits to break.
“I haven’t told her,” Crowly had admitted to him one night in front of the hearth, a jug of wine and the scant space for their breaths between them. “She doesn’t even know who I am, not really.” Aziraphale rested beside him, tracing idle patterns along his arm in slow sweeping gestures, waiting Crowley out. Crowley hated silence and knew Aziraphale was using that to his advantage, that if he just stayed quiet, Crowley would give in and start talking.
In truth, he doesn’t even know why he keeps it a secret from Medusa. Maybe it’s because she’s different from the other demons, especially the Lilim. The Greeks aren’t far off the mark when they tell stories of Athena springing from Zeus’ head or having sex with swans. Demons don’t have a set rule of biology, not really, and are often born from torture and violence. Even when Lilith manipulates lust, she plays off of her victim’s desires for power or revenge. It has never been as simple as just sex and reproduction.
Crowley doesn’t know what it means that Lilith carried her like a human, that she entered the universe as a baby and not a monster. She has needs for hunger and sleep, love and affection. Maybe with time, the Lilim could have beaten it out of her, taught her to walk the path of her siblings, but Lilith had taken one look at her and saw she was different, sending her topside to live with the humans.
Eventually, he spoke, his voice quiet against the sound of the crackling hearth. The hours between late night and early morning felt liminal and distorted, a time to say things he would not otherwise. “She’s not like us,” he said. “She doesn’t fester; she doesn’t hurt, not like demons.” Not like him. “What if she could choose the way the humans do?”
“You mean, between good and evil?”
“It makes you wonder, doesn’t it?” Crowley asked. “About you and me? What if you have the power to tempt and I to… bless?”
Aziraphale frowned and rested his hand on Crowley’s arm. “Careful.” He glanced upward.
Crowley took a fortifying sip from his cup. “One day, she’ll need to know. There are obvious demonic things about her, the scales for one, and she has the power of enthrallment.”
Aziraphale made a noise, startled. “Does she?”
“It was worse when she was little. I don’t think she even knows when she does it.”
“That may be a problem in the future,” Aziraphale said, choosing his words carefully. “Perhaps you should tell her. She might be old enough to understand.”
Crowley hissed and sat up. “She’s eight. Leave her be.”
Aziraphale relented but has since had a difficult time adjusting to a miracle-lite life. Crowley takes pity on him by distracting the girls, pointing out the side of the cart as several deer bound past. Then he turns and brushes a cooling hand over the angel’s head, erasing his hangover. “You need to be better at subterfuge and distraction, angel.”
“I think you’re plenty distracting for both of us.” Then he kisses Crowley’s knuckles. “Thank you.”
Crowley bites back a reflexive hiss.
The first leg of the journey goes from sunrise to sunset, the men taking turns at the reins. Aziraphale mutters about his sore backside whenever it’s his turn to sit upfront, and when they stop for a rest, Stavros half-jokes about having the women have a go at steering the horses.
“Not even Hades could command me to go near one of those things,” Crowley says.
Heo laughs despite looking as weary as the rest of them. “It’s not so bad,” she says. “They’re gentle beasts.”
Aziraphale comes to his defence, standing between Crowley and the horses while the demon gives them a wide berth. “They give her hives, I’m afraid. She’s quite allergic.”
“They give me a kick in the head,” Crowley mutters under his breath.
Aziraphale glares at him and pulls him aside. “Stay away from the horses, or you’ll send us all careening down a cliff somewhere.”
“You don’t have to tell me twice. It’s not my fault they don’t like me.”
Epifania takes to the horses like a natural, having been taught how to care for them since she was small. When they stop for water, she helps her father unbridle them and feeds them fruit from her hands. “I’ll show you how to braid their manes,” she tells Medusa.
Medusa follows her with eagerness before Crowley can protest, skipping after Epifania. The warning lodges in his throat, feet locked in place, knowing if he intervened, it would make it all worse. But there’s a flicker of hope that maybe she hasn’t inherited this from him, the foreboding animals feel when he slithers past, the hair-raising sensation on the back of the neck when he stands just to the left in the shadows. The seconds hang in slow motion, drawing out his sharp intake of breath as Medusa grabs the reins.
And then Aziraphale is there in a blink, grabbing her by the arm and pulling her back when one of them rears up on its hind legs with a disgruntled neigh. It kicks and lands where she stood a second before. She stumbles, tripping backwards into the mud, too surprised to even cry out as Aziraphale grips her by the upper arms and hoists her upward, a shield between her and the frantic protests from the horse.
Stavros moves between them, quick and steadying as he tugs at the reigns. “Whoa, whoa,” he says, gentling the mare. “I’ve never seen her do anything like that before.”
“Best keep your distance,” Aziraphale advises Medusa. “Run along to your mother.”
“Honestly, these are the gentlest horses west of Athens. Proper workhorses they are,” Stavros says. “The only time they act like that is if they’re frightened.”
“Poor dear,” Heo says to Medusa. “They must have seen a snake. It’s not your fault.”
Medusa clings to Crowley’s skirts. She doesn’t cry, but she’s close. Her whole back is caked in mud from her fall. Crowley presses her to his chest and wipes her down with his skirt, gripping it so hard that his knuckles turn white. She complains about the mud on her dress, voice high-pitched and reedy. “Don’t worry about your peplos. It’ll wash right out at the inn.”
“Is she all right?” Epifania asks, running to them. She pulls Medusa away from Crowley and into a hug. “I don’t know what happened with the horse. I bet if we tried again, she’d warm right up to you.”
Crowley puts a hand on Medusa’s shoulder and tugs her back against the sharp point of his hip, his grip firm. “No, best not,” he says, voice calm despite the tight line of his mouth.
From his periphery, he sees Medusa shaking. He looks to Aziraphale who helps Stavros finish wiping and watering the horses and witnesses the same tension across the broad expanse of his back, the way his fingers dig into the brush. Crowley bends down and smiles, and if it’s sharper than usual, the narrow slits of his eyes flickering at the edges of his glamour, Medusa says nothing. “It’s all right, Meadow. I’ve never cared much for horses either. Plenty of other animals out there besides horses.” Nevermind that serpents are solitary, he doesn’t say, that the only creatures they meet are the ones snapped between their teeth.
Back at the cart, Aziraphale holds his hand out for Crowley to take as he helps him inside, his grip tighter than normal. “Thank you,” he says.
“Don’t. I didn’t do anything. I couldn’t stop it.”
“You slowed down time,” he says, keeping his voice low as the others pile in. “I wouldn’t have gotten to her in time otherwise.”
Crowley swallows. He thought it was just in his imagination, a trick of the mind. “I shouldn’t have let her near the infernal things in the first place. Should’ve known.”
Aziraphale doesn’t disagree, but he keeps Crowley’s hand for the rest of the ride, his other arm wrapped around Medusa as her fear and adrenaline shift to exhaustion, and she falls asleep.
They travel for another four hours until they stop at an inn and stable. Aziraphale settles the bill in advance and requests two rooms, earning him a lifted eyebrow from Heo. “You aren’t married. It’s a bit uncouth.”
“Not yet,” Aziraphale says and gives Crowley a look from the corner of his eye. Crowley stiffens when he overhears, just for a moment, before ushering the girls upstairs to their rooms.
The inn is old and worn. The beds are made of slatted olive wood and straw mattresses, and the floorboards creak with every movement. Once in their room, Crowley urges Medusa out of her muddy clothes and into a fresh set. He waits until she’s busy dressing and turns to face away, giving the dirty peplos a quick shake. With a flick, it’s clean again. He shoots Aziraphale a look. “See? Subterfuge.” Then he knocks his head on the ceiling and growls. “Bless this body,” he curses.
Aziraphale comes around and tucks a stray curl of hair behind his ear. “I like it.”
“What?” Crowley asks, holding the garments in his hand like a shield.
“How tall you are. You stand out. You attract a lot of attention.”
“It’s a right nuisance. Between my height and my eyes, it’s a wonder I stay hidden. Mirages take a lot of work, you know.”
“Mmm,” Aziraphale says with a nod. He does know, having his own protections in place to hide the golden lines down his veins and his ethereal glow. “You’re the envy of the town with your beauty. Everybody says so.”
Crowley hisses loud enough for Aziraphale to hear and turns to fuss with their bags. Mindful of Medusa -- tossing and turning on her small cot as she settles down for the night -- he opens them one-by-one, rummaging inside. “Don’t you know how to pack? How deep is this thing?”
“Oh, it’s bottomless,” Aziraphale says, nonchalant as Crowley pulls out several scrolls, a month’s worth of clothes -- some pieces much more lavish than his supposed station -- two loaves of bread, and a bottle of wine.
“Really?” Crowley asks, brandishing a wheel of cheese. “The food better be bottomless too.”
The angel comes around and stills his hands, putting the wine and cheese on the bed. He leans forward and kisses Crowley, deep and a bit forceful, sliding his hands up to his shoulders to hold the demon in place. “What was that for?” he asks.
“Just because I wanted to. If we’re doing this -- us -- then I mean to do it properly.”
Crowley still doesn’t know what ‘us’ means in its entirety, if they’re courting. Whatever it is, Aziraphale commits. This little bubble they’ve created for themselves feels impenetrable from outside forces and the interventions of Heaven and Hell.
“You don’t need to dote on me,” Crowley says. “I don’t need your compliments or your help into carriages.”
“No, you don’t,” Aziraphale agrees, affable. “Are you protesting?”
He pauses, catching his reflection in the small, grimy vanity mirror in the inn. His face is slack with surprise, eyes reflecting the flicker of candlelight as he realises he doesn’t mind the affection even though he should. “No, I suppose not.”
“Mm, good,” Aziraphale says, “because I don’t mean to stop.” The low swing of his voice makes Crowley shudder, and Aziraphale leans over to place a light, lingering kiss on his neck.
Between Aziraphale’s administrations and their lack of privacy all day, Crowley’s nerves catch fire with impatience. Every sidelong look and gentle touch winds him tighter, like an anchor on a pulley yanked from the ocean floor. The next bit of kindness or kiss may be the thing that sweeps him off to sea, caught in the undertow.
He doesn’t understand how humans do it. They don’t have the choice but to make an effort. They can’t turn it off. Do they just live like this all the time? Does it always feel like such a risk, teetering on the edge of a cliff? And if Crowley let go, would he plummet down to the icy crests of the sea, or would he land where he wants to be, broad hands on his waist, warm thighs bracketing his own, kissing slow and languid? Could he slow down time and keep this too?
“Angel, this is madness.”
Aziraphale hums against his throat and breathes in. It’s sheer decadence. They have no need for lungs or air, and yet he lingers on the scent trapped under Crowley’s jaw.
Crowley protests and looks over his shoulder. “Meadow--”
He feels himself caving, fingers tightening in Aziraphale’s himation. “We can’t while she's in the room.”
Aziraphale lets out an undignified snort, his breath hot on his neck. “Obviously not, Crowley. Who do you take me for? I can kiss you, though. There’s no harm in that.”
Crowley relents and brings their mouths together. They kiss with slow presses, their hands between them, bodies held apart. But it feels more intimate than anything else they’ve done. It’s an admission that this is something more profound, no longer a temptation nor drenched in lust. This is something dangerous.
He lies awake for a long time that night in their shared bed listening to Medusa’s soft snores and the quiet rustle of pages as Aziraphale reads by candlelight. They press up against each other, his leg thrown over the angel’s calf, a hand resting warm and solid on his shoulder. Crowley has been denied so much in his long life and always felt like he had nothing more to lose. But this is everything. It’s more than what he could have had if he stayed in Heaven. When they get home, he thinks, he’ll tell Medusa the truth about her birth and depths of her power. He will teach her to be careful with her miracles, to weigh her magic judiciously. He’ll teach her she can have this, warm bright mornings running through the hyacinths and cool summers wading through the creek. He’ll teach himself that this goodness is his to hold and keep. He falls asleep to gentle fingers running through his hair.
I continue to play with Ancient Greece timelines. I wanted to namedrop historical figures like Socrates so many times while writing this, despite the fact that the Trojan War took place 1000 years prior. Could you imagine a conversation between Aziraphale and Socrates? And all the eye-rolling Crowley would be doing in the background waiting for them to finish their endless conversation? Although, maybe Crowley would have gotten along better with the man since they both like asking questions.
Thesomorphia won't take place for several centuries, but it fits so nicely for the purposes of this story. Also, don't @ me. I realized I used the phrase, "Achilles' heel" in a previous chapter when Achilles hasn't technically died yet since the Trojan War is ongoing. Oops.
Next chapter, Crowley will attend the festival and Aziraphale has a surprise when he returns!
Lilith comes to give Crowley a warning, and Crowley learns the truth about why Aziraphale returned to Sparta.
No trigger warnings for this chapter
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Look!” Medusa shouts, a spark of excitement in her voice. They all turn to see the townspeople flooding the streets in celebration as they arrive in Athens. Beyond the city, the waters are aquamarine and glitter against the sun, and the Parthenon’s stone is as white as the clouds above.
The roads are filled with women on pilgrimage to Demeter’s temple for Thesmophoria. “Just in time,” Heo says as she hoists her rucksack onto her shoulder. “You boys have fun. Coming, Anatola?”
“I’m not married. I think I’m barred from the celebration.”
“You’re widowed. It counts. Come on, girls.”
Crowley turns to Aziraphale and lifts an eyebrow. He presses his lips into a thin line and goes to kiss his cheek. In his ear, he says, “I’m not actually widowed. What do I do?”
“Enjoy yourself and bring good fortune on the Athenians.”
He rolls his eyes. “What are you going to do?”
Aziraphale rocks on his feet and looks about the square with a glint of excitement. “I have some old haunts I want to revisit. Stavros has quite an appetite for wine.” Crowley huffs. He’d much rather be drinking with Aziraphale, and his insatiable burning need to be close to him still simmers deep in his belly. “In three days, you’ll return to me,” Aziraphale says. “We can explore Athens together then, and I’ll have something waiting for you.”
Crowley raises his eyebrows, curiosity piqued. With a promise like that, three days feels like an eternity. “What sort of something?”
Aziraphale steps back and smiles, all cherubic, flushed cheeks and dimples. “Not telling. Go! I don’t want to see you for at least three days.”
“Bye, Papa!” Epifania says with a wave.
Medusa wiggles her fingers at Aziraphale. “Azarias, will you buy me a real sword when I come back?”
“Psh,” Stavros says. “If you want a sword, we’ll go into the heart of Sparta. They have the best craftsmanship in all of the city-states.”
Crowley ushers her away and gathers her bags, turning back just once to see Aziraphale squinting into the sun, his shining blond hair a beacon home. The walk to the shrine is long for the girls, but they keep themselves occupied by playing games. There are a few other children present, and they chase through the legs of their mothers, giggling and sprinting ahead.
They make it up to the encampment after a half day’s hike and set up their tents. Crowley sends Medusa to fetch water to boil over the fire, but she protests. “I’m playing with Epifania!”
“Take her with you then.”
They dash off with a pail, their skirts flapping behind them like ribbons rippling in the wind, and their laughter echoes from the top of the hill as they tumble down into the valley. Within an hour, they return, and by then Heo and Crowley have finished setting up their tent. Medusa is spry on her feet, carrying with her a sprig of flowers she must have picked along the way. Behind her, Epifania lugs the bucket. Crowley frowns and accepts the flowers. “Why is she carrying that heavy thing by herself?”
“She wanted to,” Medusa says and shrugs.
Both mothers turn to look at the younger girl. Her hair is matted with sweat. “I wanted to,” she repeats.
Crowley narrows his eyes. He doesn’t like the dull look in Epifania’s eyes. He knows that look. But then the girls drop the bucket outside the tent and dash off, playing again.
“How has Epifania been?” he asks, busying himself with unpacking their bags. He looks at Heo from the corner of his eyes, keeping an ear out for Medusa.
She sighs and sits on the straw mat they brought along with them. Her hands fuss with smoothing the linens of her skirt. “Honestly Anatola, it’s been shit. Not just Epifania. All of it. I have half a mind to just stay up on this hill and not come back down.”
Crowley stills. His brow furrows as he hones in on her, concentrating on her aura. Hurt. Anger. Grief. Mourning her dead son.
“Has Stavros been…?” He trails off. He doesn’t know the man well, but he knows Stavros commits to the Spartan lifestyle. He wants to ask whether he’s been kind to his wife or if she’s taken the brunt of his anger, already running through the ways he could intervene. He isn’t sure what would be worse, damnation from a demon or the wrath of an angel.
“He won’t admit he’s grieving,” Heo says. “He keeps talking about how it’s such a blessing our son had an honourable death. What’s honourable about this war? Over a woman .”
Crowley hums in agreement, though he’s not surprised by the war. He knows humanity’s tenaciousness and pridefulness. “And Epifania? Has she been… different?”
“Oh, of course. She hardly knew her brother, but she knows something’s changed. She’s on edge.” Then Heo reaches for Crowley and takes both of his hands in her own. Her palms are rough and chapped from helping work the farm and wheat mill. “Medusa has been such a help bringing her out of her shell. I’m glad they can be friends. And us too.”
He swallows and nods. He’s never settled in a place this long before, never had humans become attached to him. He fights off the rebellious tightness in his throat and squeezes her hands before letting go.
That’s all it is then, he tells himself. Medusa has made a friend, and Epifania has just been adjusting to her new brotherless world, the world Crowley helped shape. “Epifania needs you,” he tells Heo.
She sighs and wipes at her face, nodding. “Oh, I know. She’s the only thing grounding me here.”
Crowley keeps an eye out for the girl, but nothing seems amiss. He shrugs it off and participates in the festivities. Thesomorphia celebrates Demeter, the goddess of agriculture and fertility, to thank her for the fruitful season. He promised Eneas he would thank the goddess for their unusually abundant harvest, though he knows the real reason why the grove overproduced this season. Not everyone has a resident angel blessing the crops.
They spend the first day preparing for the feast to come on the third and final day. They sacrifice a sheep to Demeter and skin it, using every part of the body for feasting or utility. The girls help shear the wool and twist it into strands for weaving.
The second day they fast in honour of the descent of Persephone, Demeter’s daughter, to Hades. Crowley sneaks Medusa and Epifania pieces of olives he packed to keep them content, pressing a finger to his lips to silence their giggles and keep them quiet. He sends them off to collect more water with a stern missive to share the duties and then closes the tent flaps for a moment of silence to himself.
He tries not to think of Aziraphale, what he might be doing. He can’t imagine Stavros joining him as he pokes around the scholars and barters for a scroll or ten, though he can picture all the wine they’re probably consuming, and he hisses in jealousy. It’s cold up on the Shrine of Thesmophoria, and the settlement has a certain aura, grief masked by celebration, the war heavy on everyone’s minds.
The door flap swishes and a head pokes in. He expects it to be the girls or Heo, but it’s a lithe woman dressed in white, her cloud-white curls pooling around her shoulders.
“Aren’t you supposed to be in Hell?” he asks Lilith. He stands and hisses, his senses ramping in high alert.
She smirks and steps inside, light on her feet. “Why? They’re celebrating me after all.”
“They’re mourning your descent into Hades.”
“Well, someone should. Our mother didn’t.”
He mockingly lifts his empty hand in a toast to her, wishing for a drink. Crowley sometimes forgets that Lilith’s not like the other demons. She didn’t fall from Heaven. God made her human, and Adam dismissed her, too headstrong and independent. She had ideas of her own, her own desires.
He thinks about Heo, the death of her son. “A mother’s grief is a peculiar thing,” he says.
“As is a sister’s.”
Crowley narrows his eyes and looks at her, piercing and astute. She stares back with a determined and intent look on her face. “You know something,” he says. “What is it?” He thinks of Epifania, the glossy look in her eyes, the matted sweat on her forehead as she lugged the heavy bucket by herself.
“I know lots of things. You need to be more specific.”
He doesn’t know how much he should say. Lilith’s involvement in Medusa’s life has been fleeting, and it’s hard to judge the demon’s alliances when she’s covered head-to-toe in glamour. He stands and drops his visage, brown eyes dissipating into sulfur-hued irises and black slits. His teeth lengthen and his white peplos stains black like a stab wound spreading across his chest. He stretches his liminal wings in relief, free of his exhausting mirage.
She watches before sighing and nodding, dissipating her glamour as well. The alluring magnetism fades as well as her mockery of the angel. Where Crowley becomes more demonic, she becomes more human, the only woman ever to be made of clay instead of the marrow of her lover.
“Epifania,” he says.
She purses her lips and shakes her head. “Wrong question. Never mind about her, she’s just a child.”
“Medusa, then,” he says. Lilith’s eyes narrow, her interest captured. “I think she’s enthralled Epifania, but I can’t tell how long it’s been going on. And Heo doesn’t suspect anything.”
“Why would she? Humans don’t go around sniffing for demons.”
“They should,” he says, baring his teeth.
“Who’s side are you even on, anymore?” she asks. “You’re not human, and neither is our daughter. Don’t forget that.”
Crowley closes his eyes and takes a fortifying breath, searching for the right question to ask. “Why did you bring her to me? Hmm? What were you expecting me to do with her that you couldn’t?”
She hesitates, her tongue between her teeth. “I’d heard rumours about you, you know,” she says after a moment, her words quiet and sharp. “They said you’d gone native. You do things the other demons can’t; you think like the humans. I wanted to taste what you knew, what made you so good at temptations, what made you the only demon to survive so long on earth without going mad, but you are mad aren’t you? You’ve gone and forgotten who you are.”
“I know exactly who I am,” he says, snarling. He’s the Serpent of Eden, the fallen star-maker. He is the question-asker and the answer-seeker, the dark crawling sensation walking alone at night, and the chill during the witching hours. He is the adversary to the Guardian of the Eastern Gate.
“I thought maybe you would teach her to be like you, and I guess I wasn’t wrong. It just wasn’t what I expected.”
“And what’s that?”
“You taught her to love. You’ve gone and done the thing the rest of us have forgotten.”
Crowley stills, stomach clenching, the air whooshing from his lungs. “Don’t say that,” he hisses.
Lilith steps towards him and takes his hand, her hands gentle in contrast to when they’d once been rough with each other, punishing. “Crowley,” she says, a plea, “you can’t forget that she’s a demon, that you are a demon.”
“I know who I am,” he says, and he does, piercingly so. It’s an acute sting when he kisses Aziraphale, when he hoists Medusa over his head. He knows this is just a fleeting moment in time, a rubber band stretched tight. Either he’ll spring back or snap.
“You need to be careful.” Her fingers tighten. “The war is escalating between Menelaus and Paris. The Archangel Michael is present here in Athens right now.”
Crowley stills, his breath caught in his throat. “She’s here?”
Shit. This is more serious than he thought. Eight years ago, he tempted Paris to woo Helen in what he thought was a minor temptation. Instead it’s turned into an all-out war with Heaven and Hell playing puppeteer on either side. And apparently, Lilith is still in it, elbows-deep, even though Crowley washed his hands of it.
“Aziraphale’s here,” he says, eyes widening. “He said he was sent back to Greece on a mission.”
“Has he said why?”
Crowley shakes his head. “We don’t… we don’t talk shop. He can’t. I’m --” How does he finish that sentence? He’s his adversary, his lover. “I’m a temptation.”
“You’re more than that.”
“I can’t be. Not with the Archangel Michael present. Not with you here. If you’re still involved in the Trojan War, then who else is here?”
She clicks her tongue and shakes her head. “Don’t go down that rabbit hole. They don’t even know you’re still in Sparta. I told Hastur you went to Egypt.”
His eyes narrow. “So Hastur’s here.”
“He comes and goes. Most everyone’s efforts are in Athens now.”
“Fuck. And Medusa?
Lilith shakes her head. “You have to keep her safe. A demon child amid a bunch of angels is dangerous. The fact that your angel knows about her is worrying enough.”
“He wouldn’t do anything to her.”
“Maybe not directly, but we all still have our sides.”
Lilith stays through the celebrations. It’s a fruitful riotous event, women of all ages playing instruments and singing bawdy songs, so different from their crafted composure around men. Crowley stays off to the side, disjointed and off-centre among all the humans, surprised to find Lilith joining in, singing and feasting.
Some of her shine wears off. She’s not here to tempt. Crowley never asked what exactly her relationship is with Lucifer these days, but here she is, finding peace and comfort in a community of married women.
“A parting gift,” she tells Crowley as they descend from the shrine. She hands him a pouch of pomegranate seeds. “So you can grow your own.”
Crowley opens the pouch and peers inside with trepidation, but they look normal, small and shrivelled, dormant for the winter. “I don’t know if I want these. You’ve put us under a spell.”
She looks at him almost pitying, and it makes his stomach turn. He scowls and holds her gaze. “My pomegranates do instigate lust, but everything else is yours and yours alone.”
He looks at the seeds again, thoughtful. “So, after that first bite…?”
“The effects wore off after you consummated your desires. I just gave you a nudge.”
Lilith squeezes his forearm. It’s delicate, and she is gentle. The more she spends topside, the smoother around the edges she becomes. “May the gods be in your favour, as fickle as they may be.”
“And am I in your favour, oh great Persephone, queen of the damned?”
She smiles, but it’s sad and tired. “You’re in season, but like all things, winter must come. Just remember that spring will come around again.”
Medusa passes them in a full sprint ahead. His throat tightens. “Epifania, hurry up!” she shouts.
Behind her, the younger girl frets, bundling her skirts in her hands to stop from tripping, her face in pain. “I’m trying!” she yells back.
Crowley looks at Lilith in confirmation. Does she hear it? That low thrum? Or is it his own worry -- a mother’s grief -- playing tricks on him? She looks back, straight in his eyes the way humans won’t. “I’m sorry, Crowley,” she says. She departs.
Stavros and Aziraphale meet them in front of the Parthenon, rosy-cheeked with wine-stained lips. It’s both hotter yet milder the closer they are to the shore, and Crowley can smell the salt from the sea. It’s almost like pickling olives, tangy and briny.
Stavros reaches for his wife, and Heo allows him to kiss her on the cheek. She holds her tension in her shoulders and her jaw. Their time away has done little to ease her.
“Anatola, my dear,” Aziraphale says and takes his hands. “And you,” he says to Medusa, picking her up and swinging her high. Crowley’s quick to note privately that his smile doesn’t quite reach his eyes and the corners of his mouth are tight. “Might we catch dinner? I found a lovely little place next to our rooms.”
“I’d like to get settled first,” Heo says, to which everyone agrees.
The girls bubble with excitement as they look around the city. Athens focuses so much more on art and philosophy than Sparta, and it shows in their style of dress and the architecture. Medusa has to touch every sandstone brick and peers for a long moment in the window of a seamstress dying wool and linen.
Aziraphale takes Crowley’s belongings up the narrow stairs to their shared room while the girls promise to not wander too far from their street. Alone, the angel grabs him by the shoulders and hauls him close, kissing him with deep, firm presses, open-mouthed and seeking.
Crowley goes stiff in his arms.
“What’s wrong? Is something the matter?”
He wants to melt into Aziraphale’s arms, his body, but the festival looms over him. “Lilith was at Thesmophoria,” he says.
Aziraphale draws back. “Oh. I see.” He lets go, and Crowley sways, following his hands. “Ah, are you two… together again?”
Crowley snorts. “No, Satan, no. That was a one-off thing. I think she’s involved somehow with Lucifer these days, but I daren’t ask.” He smacks his lips and digs his fingers into the flowing fabric of his peplos. “She said Michael was in town.”
Aziraphale stills except for his eyes which dart once, twice, before settling on the floor. “Mmm, yes. So I’ve heard.”
Crowley knows that look. It’s a look of a liar. “Will you be honest with me?”
His voice comes out flat and monotonous, holding back the fear in his words. “When you came to Sparta, were you sent to spy on me?”
Aziraphale’s eyes widen. Then he lets out a gushing breath of air. “No, no of course not, Crowley! I didn’t even know you were there.” But something breaks in his expression, and he swallows hard. Then he admits, “There’d been rumours about an unexpected string of demonic miracles that were different from Hell’s usual mode of operation.”
Crowley’s blood runs cold. “Medusa.”
“Once I realised you were there with a child, I… I told my superiors it was just a fluke, that there’d been a minor demon and that I had dispelled them.”
Crowley breathes out a long slow breath and looks at the angel. He’s grateful and also terrified that Aziraphale would lie for him, that they’d been so close to being caught. “Why would you do that? You didn’t know anything about her. It was a massive risk.”
Aziraphale wets his mouth with his tongue, a hint of pink between his teeth, thinking. “I didn’t know her,” he says, ”but I did know you. I followed a feeling.”
“A feeling,” Crowley says, incredulous. “I don’t believe you. You’re always careful. You’d never do something so rash.”
“Wouldn’t I?” He looks at Crowley, almost hurt, prideful even. “Wasn’t I the one who gave away my sword? Wasn’t I the one who sought you out in Sparta over and over again, who fed you sweet wine and begged you to have me? I wasn’t the one who fled that night in a panic.”
Crowley swallows, loud in the space between them. He’d always thought it’d been a fluke. It was the wine and an accidental temptation, his desires spilling over onto Aziraphale when he’d been too drunk to control himself. “Why would you… Over me?” Words fail him. What would make Aziraphale do something so reckless over Crowley of all people, a demon?
Aziraphale reads the surprise on his face as Crowley thinks back, rewriting the night they first fell together. His face softens, fond. “It was the Ark.” Crowley looks up at him, questioning. “That’s how I knew Medusa -- a child -- wasn’t a threat. You saved as many children as you could.”
“Heaven doesn’t know about her? You’re certain?” Crowley asks. Medusa is the only thing he can focus on, too overwhelmed by the angel’s revelations.
Aziraphale shakes his head.
“Good. Hell doesn’t know either,” he says, voice choked and far away.
“Crowley, what is this about?”
He doesn’t even know. What is this all for? This fear? This agony? He wants to protect his daughter. He wants to hide her from the consequences of the war -- the results of his actions -- and he wants to stay loyal to Hell but also be faithful to Aziraphale. He wants to keep the angel safe, yet now Aziraphale has lied to his superiors and would be punished if they found out.
“I just want to know how long I can hold onto this. Us.”
“I know this can’t be forever. I know we have our duties, but I’d like to keep you for as long as I can. I was hoping to wait but…” Aziraphale trails off and his eyes dart around the room. “Well since we’re talking about it now.” He holds up a hand for Crowley to wait and turns to begin rummaging through the rickety desk.
Crowley can see he’d been using it frequently while they were at the shrine. He has an open half-used inkwell and a stack of papyrus, fresh ink blots staining the wood. He digs through the small drawer before pulling out a sheaf.
Crowley takes it and unfolds it with haste, stilling as he reads the words. “To Azarias Angelos, I give you one acre of olive grove attached to the eastern property, a calf, and 200 drachmas as a dowry for the hand of Anatola Croiadias. Sincerely, Eneas Dougenis. A dowry? Eneas can’t even write.”
“He took it to the archon. It’s official.”
Aziraphale bites his lip and puts on a smile. “Well, yes. If you wanted.”
“You did tell Medusa you couldn’t marry me because you didn’t have a dowry.”
It clicks in Crowley’s head. She was so upset. She had run straight to Eneas. A chill shivers through him. Did Medusa tempt him into it? “I can’t accept this. He wasn’t in his right mind when he wrote it.”
Aziraphale puts up a placating hand. “I assure you, I asked him repeatedly over dinner if he was certain. It’s… Well, it’s a very generous offer for his station.”
“It’s huge! You can’t accept it. I won’t accept it.”
Aziraphale’s face falls. He lifts his chin and steadies his mouth, pressing it into a firm straight line. “Right. Of course.”
A sort of blossoming hope unfurls in Crowley’s chest as he waves the document in the angel’s face. “Do you want to get married?”
“It does sound rather nice, doesn’t it? I’ve never done anything like it before.” He says it like he wants to go for a picnic or try a new red blend from the vineyards in Crete.
“Nice?” Crowley asks. Because the thing is -- the impossible lunatic thing is -- Crowley wants it too. It would be nice to pretend for a while. They’ve tried all the other human things, eating and drinking and sleeping and fucking. It’s the loving bit Crowley has no real experience with. He’s fresh out of love, or so he thought until he made heaps and heaps for Aziraphale. He’s bottled it up, and now it’s pushing burst free despite his best efforts to seal it away. “We can’t,” he says, voice cracking, Lilith’s words fresh in his mind. “Could you imagine what would happen to us?”
Aziraphale swallows and nods. “I know. It wouldn’t be… it couldn’t be proper. It couldn’t be sanctified, but these humans have such wonderful rituals. I thought we could do something like that.”
“What, pour one out for dear Hymaneus and all that? It’s a bit paganistic for you, isn’t it? Just a bit evil?” He has a picture in his mind of standing in the grove before a small altar at sundown, just a few townspeople to bear witness. He can smell olive wood and hyacinths and the sacrificial lamb they’d roast in celebration.
“I don’t see how love of any sort could be evil.”
“I don't love. I’m a demon.”
Aziraphale smiles, though it’s strained and doesn’t quite reach his eyes. “One day, I hope you see what I see, but in the meantime, I think I have enough to go around for both of us.”
Look, I can't help how soft Aziraphale is for Crowley. He is in love. I just enjoy this idea that Aziraphale is the one who is pushing for this since in the show, he kept running away from his feelings. Crowley is absolutely flabbergasted in the face of all this love.
Also, Menelaus is Spartan, but I set his fleet and most of the war efforts in Athens because it's closer to Troy. It seemed like a good midway point for restocking and for communications.
Next chapter includes celebratory sex, and it is the most wish-fulfilling scene I have written.
As always, you can follow me on tumblr @nieded.
A celebration, devastation. A turning point.
TW: anal sex, rimming
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
That night, Medusa and Epifania convince them to let them share a room. They stay with Heo and Stavros, and Crowley lets her go with reluctance. Aziraphale distracts him by procuring a jug of wine, and they drink straight from the pitcher, laughing as they wipe the errant red trails from their chins with their sleeves.
Aziraphale glows tonight. He’s like a lantern in the night, a yellow beacon in the darkness leading Crowley to a well, and Crowley is so thirsty, insatiable.
“You, my dearest,” Aziraphale says, words drunken and slurred, “are like the first summer breeze after winter.”
“Sappy, angel. It’s too much.” Crowley covers his eyes.
“I saw you come down the hill from the festival, and I just -- I --”
“Mmm.” The angel gestures, waving him over. “Come here. I want you closer.” He sits on the edge of the mattress, just a straw mat in the corner of the floor. Crowley crawls to him, too uncoordinated and exhausted to stand up and walk, and his knees scrape on the wooden floor. Aziraphale’s eyes shutter, growing heavy. “Yes, just like that, if you please.”
The air in the room shifts, staticky and thick. It takes forever for Crowley to reach him, as though Heaven is playing a trick on him, inching him away for every step he takes. He could lie flat on his stomach and crawl, prostrate himself, beg to be smote, but Aziraphale would not do it. Crowley knows this as sure as there’s a God, a blasphemous thought that leaves him hungry. Aziraphale could never smite him; he knows that instead, he’d run his fingers through his hair, kiss him, stroke him, leave him shaking and purified.
Aziraphale looks at him like a feast, his lips red and bitten. He’s unhurried, enjoying Crowley’s slither across the floor. He parts his knees and reclines. When Crowley reaches him, he kisses inside the soft, smooth insides of his thighs, brushing his lips across the fine white hairs he finds there.
“How do you want me?”
“Take me please.”
The words make Crowley shudder. He smooths his hands over Aziraphale’s thighs and shimmies the fabric of his himation and chiton up towards his waist, revealing his erection flat against his belly. Crowley’s mouth waters at the sight, and his hips buck against the mattress, seeking pressure as heat flushes through him. He makes his way up one thigh, mouthing with open lips and flat broad strokes of tongue, seeking the bitterness of salt and sweat and desire. He savours the taste, this very human corporation, his solidness that says they are here in the moment with each other, unbeknownst to their separate warring sides.
Aziraphale pants in anticipation as Crowley takes his cock in his mouth. It’s decadent and velvety, and his lips stretch around it, stinging in the corners. He works his way down the shaft in slow, slight increments, pulling back to suck on the head before dipping down a millimetre further. He goes on like this until Aziraphale’s thighs are shaking, soft, high-pitched gasps escaping from his throat. Crowley takes him down to the root and swallows around the sensitive tip, burying his nose in the coarse curls, no room left for him to breathe.
They both groan in pleasure, caught in a feedback loop of ecstasy. Aziraphale moans when Crowley pulls back and shouts as he’s taken down to the base again. “It’s all right,” Crowley tells him, sliding his arms under his thighs to cup his bum. “I can take it.”
“Oh, oh, yes.” Aziraphale thrusts to meet his mouth this time, threading his fingers into Crowley’s hair. They go like this for some time, over and over, the pace speeding up with each drive upwards and every groan.
Crowley’s mouth hurts. He has drool and precome dripping from his chin, and his scalp stings where Aziraphale pulls. It feels good. Grounding. He grunts in time to his thrusts.
He senses Aziraphale’s impending orgasm, feeling every muscle in the angel’s thighs and abdomen tighten, his moans increasing in volume. He quickens his pace and deepens each plunge downward until Aziraphale bows tight and comes in his mouth.
Crowley pulls off and wipes his mouth with his fingers, tasting them. He pets Aziraphale’s thighs, soothing him as he comes down from his orgasm. “Good?”
“Heavens,” Aziraphale gasps. He puts a hand on his chest and throws his head back on the mattress. “You’re a vision. It’s sinful.”
The demon snorts. “Can I tempt you into another round?”
“I meant it when I said I want you to take me. I hope you’ve conjured the correct equipment.”
“I don’t know. You better inspect it.”
He sounds so corny and lovesick, but Aziraphale just looks at him with the softest expression, a glimmer of hunger in his eyes. “Go on and be good. Give me a show.”
Crowley sits up on his knees, flush with arousal and a bit of embarrassment. For all the times they’ve done this -- stolen nights spread out in the field long after Medusa’s fallen asleep -- he’s never felt so exposed, so in demand. He unties and removes his himation and undoes his peplos, letting it fall from his shoulders to reveal the pale skin underneath and the sharp line of his cock, heavy with arousal.
Aziraphale reaches out and strokes down his flank, slow and appraising. His fingers tickle as they skim over his nipple and make him shiver as they dip into the vee of his hips. “How are you so alluring no matter what form you take? I daresay you give Lilith a run for her money.”
“I couldn’t do what she does,” Crowley says with a shake of his head.
“You do for me.”
Crowley, fond and overwhelmed and aroused beyond anything he’s experienced before, lunges, pressing Aziraphale into the mattress to kiss him. He sighs into his mouth and groans when Aziraphale pulls him down so their bellies touch, their erections trapped between them. They pant into each other, skin hot and slick as they rut, and soon Crowley has to pull before it’s over too soon, his belly tight.
Crowley rolls his eyes and fights off a grin. “Quite,” he mimics, dodging the angel’s playful smack. He slithers back down on the mattress and pulls Aziraphale’s knees up and over his shoulders, pressing his nose to his perineum to lick with firm strokes, inching down to his anus. He tongues at the puckered hole, coaxing it to loosen, dipping inside. Aziraphale moans. His hips snap when he lips at the rim, sucking with slow pressure. The ring of muscle flutters under the attention, and when Crowley looks up, Aziraphale has a smear of precome pooling on his stomach.
He tests the muscle with a finger, pushing it in. It’s smooth and tight inside, and he licks around his digit while working Aziraphel open. He could do this a faster way, just snap his fingers, but hearing Aziraphale moan and grunt is almost as pleasurable as the fucking.
And they’ve never done it like this before. Crowley is used to drunken frottage, maybe a little oral sex if they have the time and are feeling adventurous. He’s much more fluid with his effort than Aziraphale and loves being fucked, but they’ve never done it the other way around. He wants it to be good, wants Aziraphale to experience everything, to take their time. They’re getting married. They’ll have time to hurry later.
He works another finger in, summoning a jar of olive oil from his bag to use as lubricant. And when Aziraphale starts to rock himself back onto three of Crowley’s fingers, he pulls out.
“Shh, we’re almost there, angel.”
Aziraphale looks at him with hooded eyes. He appears relaxed and languid, a well-fed lion, except for the taut muscle in his thighs and his rocking hips.
Crowley lines himself up and pushes in, hips jutting forward as he grips Aziraphale’s waist his fingers digging into the soft flesh. The sensation of tight heat around the head of his cock puts him on edge, and he has to stop and breathe, fighting off his orgasm. “Bless it, you’re tight. How are you doing?”
“Exquisite. You look amazing.”
“Feels good too?”
“Oh yes, and I love watching you experience how you make me feel.”
Has it been like this for Aziraphale? Every time he’s sunk inside with the first thrust? He’s tight and hot, molten, and when he flexes, Crowley inches a little further, his hips fighting and losing control.
“You can go hard if you want.”
“Oh no,” he says, his brow dripping with sweat. “I want to make this last.”
“I can take it all, Crowley. You don’t have to be so kind.”
Crowley hisses. He’s not kind. This is torture. He pushes with one slow controlled movement until he’s flush with Aziraphale’s arse, drawing out with just as much patience. They both groan as they feel the head of his cock catch on his rim, teasing the opening.
“Oh, oh that’s… That’s good.” Aziraphale is breathless, his voice coming out in airy broken gasps. “Do that again.”
Crowley pushes in to the hilt, erection twitching before he pulls out again, rocking against his opening.
They go on like this in agony, slow and tortuous. They both break out into a sweat, their fingers finding each other, tangling together and gripping hard. The head of Crowley’s erection swells in the already snug space, and he groans. “I can’t hold on.”
Aziraphale takes himself in hand, jerking his cock with rough unsteady pulls. “Go on. Let go.”
“Ah, fuck.” Crowley thrusts twice with quick aborted movements before his testicles draw up tight, and his hips stutter. Aziraphale clenches around him, his orgasm imminent, and the intense sensation tips him over. He jerks inside of him, his whole body rolling with pleasure as he releases.
Then Aziraphale spills over himself, back arching. He stripes his chest with come. The sight makes Crowley moan, and his hips buck forward out of his control, over-sensitised and helpless as he pulses inside weakly once more.
He slips out and collapses on top of the angel, the sudden change in heat and his sweat cooling on his skin, causing him to shiver. Aziraphale wraps his arms around him and buries his nose in Crowley’s throat. “Brilliant,” he slurs, languid and relaxed. “I see why you beg for it.”
Crowley grunts. “I don’t beg.”
“With enough wine in you, you do. I quite like it.”
Crowley opens a slitted eye and lifts his head to glare. He melts at the playful flushed look on Aziraphale’s face, happy and content. He fights off a smile, and soon they’re both chuckling, too tired to laugh more than a low rumble.
He closes his eyes, settling back into the warmth of Aziraphale’s arms, ignoring the stickiness cooling between them. He could miracle it away, but the feeling grounds him. It reminds him of their corporations, their earthly vows to one another.
Then he remembers their conversation about the other angels nearby. He tenses.
“Don’t,” Aziraphale says. His voice is low and tired. “Don’t think about it now. I just want to enjoy this with you. Can you do that for me?”
“Yes,” Crowley says because he doesn’t know what else to do or how to say no. “Of course, angel.”
They’re woken from slumber with a pound to the door. Crowley jerks awake and finds it’s already dark out, nightfall sunken around them. He leaps out of bed just as Aziraphale, unaccustomed to long periods of sleep, blinks awake, disoriented. He flicks his hand at both of them, and in an instant, they’re dressed and at the door.
“Anatola, where are the girls?” Stavros looms over him, a large and overbearing presence, an ill-contained panic writ on his face.
“I thought they were with you.”
“No, Medusa said they were coming back here.”
Crowley’s eyes narrow, and he inhales a quick sharp breath. “What did she say exactly?”
Stavros shakes his head. “I can’t remember. It was several hours ago, but Epifania knows she has to be back by sundown.”
“What did she say, word-for-word? Did she ask or did she tell you?” He grips Stavros’ shoulders and digs his fingers, his grip tight. “Think.”
Aziraphale appears behind him. “What is this about? I’m sure they just went down the street. I know it’s an unfamiliar city, but I assure you Athens is very safe.”
Crowley spins around in a frantic hunt for his sandals. “Stay here,” he tells Stavros.
“I should come with you.”
“No, I know my daughter. I can find her. Angel, come on.”
He sprints down the steps with fervour, swinging open the inn entrance onto the street. He holds up a hand when Aziraphale tries to ask him again what the matter is, silencing him with a shush. He closes his eyes.
Think. He knows his Meadow, free-spirited and far too imaginative. Where would she have gone? Crowley calls on his senses and scans the area doing a slow sweep as he walks, tracking. His multiple facades, the parts he tamps down, claw to the forefront, his serpent-self hunting for a familiar scent, earthy and sweet, the taste of salt and sulfur. His demonic-self searches for something sinister, muddled by the passing humans and their desires. He snarls. “What’s of interest to her here in Athens?” he asks Aziraphale.
“She enjoyed the seamstress’ shop, didn’t she? But it’s closed and far too dark to see anything.”
Crowley spins, searching until he spots a lick of flame, the light reflecting against the waters. “The docks,” he breathes. Satan, he curses.
“Oh! Menelaus’ fleet.”
They sprint down towards the docks. It’s a long journey by foot, scaling the stairs over the white cliffs to get to sea level. Crowley’s hair is a tangled mess, whipping in the wind behind him as they speed with the slightest push of power to get there a touch faster.
A fisherman is pulling in his haul, the last straggler at the end of the day. They stop before him panting. “Have you seen two little girls? About seven and eight?”
The fisherman takes in the sight of them, their frantic faces. Aziraphale’s cheeks flush with exertion. There’s a haunted look on the man’s face, and he points down the docks towards the large warships anchored at the end. He shakes his head. “It was the weirdest thing,” he says apropos of nothing. “I couldn’t come ashore as much as I wanted to. I tried and tried for an hour before I finally got my boat to the docks.”
“I just felt like I shouldn’t. I had this urge come upon me to stay in the water, and every time I changed my mind, I couldn’t make my body move.”
Crowley’s eyes shutter and a shiver darts through him. Beside him, Aziraphale furrows his brow. He looks toward the warships where Medusa ran off. “What’s the deal with the ships?”
“No idea,” the man says. “They were meant to depart to Troy two hours ago, but there’s been a delay.”
“Quick, Medusa is there.”
It’s another 500 feet to the edge of the docks. Along the way they pass several guardsmen decked in full Athenian armour, kneeling at the water’s edge. “Please,” one of them begs, his voice hoarse and rasping. “We haven’t moved in an hour. Help us.”
Aziraphale stops and kneels before him. “Are you injured?”
Crowley’s stomach rolls. He hisses between his teeth and clenches his jaw, ashamed and furious. He snaps his fingers at the man. “Whatever thrall you’re in has been undone. Leave this play.”
The man tips forward onto his hands, gasping in relief. He stands in slow, shaky movements, his muscles seizing from sitting still for so long. “But the rest of the crew needs help.”
“I’ll take care of it.”
“No! They’re my brothers. I have to help.”
Crowley grimaces and grits his teeth. His voice deepens, power echoing in his words. “You will not follow us.”
The man groans, fear flickering across his face. “I will not follow you.”
“And you will go somewhere safe.”
“I will go somewhere safe.”
He releases the man, and Aziraphale catches him as he staggers. “Who are you?” the guardsman asks. “Who is she?”
And Crowley crumples, shattered. He shakes his head. “She’s just a child.”
Aziraphale looks between the guardsman and the demon, his eyes widening. “Medusa’s done this? How?”
“You know how, angel. You know what she is.”
He wants to defend her, to plead with Aziraphale. She’s just a kid, not even ten. She’s been so good. He was meant to teach her how to use her gifts with wisdom and discretion, but she’s still so young.
“We can fix this,” Aziraphale says, his jaw firm. “Come on.”
They make it through the last stretch, releasing soldiers from their thrall as they pass. Their feet slam against the wooden slats like a drumbeat in time with the racing pace of Crowley’s heart, high in his throat. He quickens when he hears Medusa’s high clear voice rise above the cresting waves. “Again! Do it again!”
He shimmies up the rope ladder and onto the main deck of the first ship. The sharp clang of metal resounds in the air, Aziraphale on his heels.
The sight before them chills Crowley. There are two men, soldiers in their gear and armour, bleeding from cuts, their breastplates and shields dented as they spar against each other, fatigued and exhausted. They stagger like marionettes, puppets on a string, their heads weighed down by their heavy helmets.
And there Medusa stands on a box, hands clasped over her chest with childish glee. “Show me the footwork again!”
Epifania sits beside her, rigid, bound by some invisible force, her eyes unblinking but moving, aware. She’s frozen in place like the men on the docks, and when Medusa cheers, her hands come up to applaud with stilted wooden movements.
“Meadow,” Crowley says, approaching her with caution. He reaches out to her with a hand. “Please stop.”
She sees him then and smiles, open and childish. “But look at what I can do!”
Her power is immense. She can hold an entire fleet to her will within a quarter-mile. He’s never tried something so grand. He shakes his head. “Meadow, they’re hurt. You’re hurting them.”
“But they want to do it, see?”And the men stop mid spar and turn to look at him. They nod and smile before resuming their fight.
He firms his voice, swallowing hard. “I told you to stop.”
She looks at him then, her face twisting into something ugly. It makes him step back, and he gasps when he sees something slithering down her neck, the chorus of hissing. From behind two dozen snakes appear, curling around her ears and down her shoulders with their hoods flared. Her eyes turn yellow.
Crowley braces an arm in front of Aziraphale, dread curdling in his stomach. His only thought that runs through his head is, she’s me.
He manifests his wings, dark and inky in the night, and they shift the air around them, charging it with electricity. His voice amplifies. His power rises, seeping from his pores and through every breath. “Stop!” he says, forceful enough that the ship creaks and rocks beneath them.
The sparring soldiers drop their swords and collapse in fatigue. Epifania releases from her hold, tipping forward as Aziraphale slows her descent. She’s in tears before she even hits the deck.
And Medusa stares at him, wide-eyed. She’s never seen him like this before, wings spread and scales climbing up his neck, shimmering in the torchlight. He hisses, and the snakes sprung forth from her scalp rear back, receding until they’re out of sight.
She collapses on her knees, frightened. She looks around with frantic eyes at the scene before her, the passed out men, Epifania weeping, and the ugly frightened look on her mother’s face. “Μαμά?” she asks, her voice tight. “What happened?”
He exhales a long slow breath, relaxing his wings. He watches her for a long moment, assessing her state before answering. “You’ve manifested your powers, Meadow.”
“I didn’t mean -- I --” Her breaths come out in short gasps, her tiny body heaving. He feels her fear spilling out of her, her regret, her grief.
Aziraphale looks up from comforting Epifania. “I can undo this,” he says, his voice firm. “No one has to know this happened.”
Crowley knows the immense power that would take. It’d draw the attention of every occult and ethereal being, and they’re already surrounded in the heart of Athens. The consequences would be severe. “You can’t. They’d come after her. You’d light up like a beacon. Every angel and demon would flock here.”
He nods and squeezes his eyes shut. “Certainly, Michael would come. She’d want to know what happened.”
“If they sensed her before when she was a babe, they’ll feel it now. They’re coming for her.” They both know what needs to be done to hide Medusa. Crowley looks at the angel knelt on the deck, his soft features belied by the intense conviction on his face. “You’ll tell them it was me.”
“We’ll have to run.”
“You can’t tell them about Medusa. No one can know.”
Aziraphale nods. “I won’t. You’ll be safe. I’ll make sure of it, but you need to get out of here.”
Once Aziraphale reports to Michael, both Heaven and Hell will be alerted to Crowley’s presence, and all of Lilith’s obfuscation and obstruction will not be able to keep their secret.
The men stir. With Medusa’s spell broken, the soldiers below deck begin to wake. Their time is short. Crowley grabs Aziraphale and hauls him up, pressing their foreheads together. “We were supposed to marry.”
Aziraphale squeezes his hands. He leans in and kisses him chastely on the mouth before leaning their cheeks together. Crowley inhales the scent of him. He smells like fire, the hint of brimstone layered with wool and petrichor, dew in the early mornings. “It wasn’t ever meant to be forever.”
He steps back, eyes watering, his soft white curls illuminated in the torchlight. “Go.”
Crowley doesn’t hesitate. He grabs Medusa around the waist and spreads his wings and runs, launching himself off the lip of the ship’s edge and into flight. He doesn’t look back. He can’t.
I did some rearranging and condensing if the chapters so now there are only 10 chapters, three more to go!
Next chapter, Crowley must find a way to hide Medusa.
The Archangel Michael confronts Crowley and Medusa.
TW: violence, death
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Medusa is mostly quiet, clutching Crowley’s garments as they fly. He’s grateful for the silence and the cover of night, his wings bleeding into the darkness. She’s stunned and confused, terrified. Only once does she say, “Μαμά, I didn’t mean to,” her face pressed into the curve of his neck.
Crowley feels numb. She’s just a child. Of course, she didn’t mean to. “I know, Meadow. It’s not your fault.”
He didn’t think it’d come so quick. Barely days have passed since Lilith’s warning. He’ll have to hide her away, teach her how to control it. Crowley chokes on his grief. He’d once thought Medusa was the best of him, and now he fears she's the worst.
He flies until his wings ache and the joints where flesh meets feather sear from exhaustion. He lands on an outcropping on the other side of the Red Sea, falling and rolling through the dirt more than landing. He cradles the back of Medusa’s smooth head, pressing his mouth to her forehead, smothering her soft cries. She pulls away from him, red-faced and salt-stained from her tears and the whipping sea wind. When she stands, she takes two faltering steps, staggering.
Crowley crawls towards her, weakened. “Listen to me, Meadow. Listen, okay?” he says, in short, gasping breaths. “We have to get to safety. If-if they find you, they will kill you.”
“It’s too late.”
He scrambles on the ground and turns to find Lilith, the outline of her fuzzy in the shadows, like a blur unable to settle on a form. She’s a glimpse of down-feather white hair before flickering from soft shapes to hard lines to something monstrous. “They felt your miracle, Crowley. Michael felt Medusa.”
A shudder runs through him. Medusa curls in on herself, frightened. “Who’s Michael?”
“Aziraphale will stop her--”
“Aziraphale is nothing compared to an archangel.”
He looks at his daughter, the gaunt outline of her shoulders poking from her garments, a shadow like a scar in the night. He pushes up until he’s standing, the tips of his primaries dragging on the ground, and she steps back, shaking. She’s never seen his wings before. “It’s all right, Meadow. You didn’t mean to do it, and it’s going to be all right. You remember my friend, Persephone.” Medusa shivers and glances between the two of them, seeing them for the occult creatures they are, that she is. “She’s going to take you somewhere safe.”
“I can’t do that, Crowley,” Lilith says, voice quiet, soft. The pity in her voice rings like a bell in the night. “There’s no place for her down Below. She’s too human.”
Crowley's voice cracks, a sharp whip in the otherwise quiet night. “Give her the fruit, Lilith,” he says.
Lilith tucks her hands in her dress and reveals a pomegranate, its colour near black in the night. Crowley snatches it from with clawed fingers, digging into the flesh of the fruit before tearing it open. Arils and juice spill onto the dirt. He proffers it to his daughter. “Go ahead, take a bite.”
Medusa shakes her head. “‘m not hungry,” she says. “I don’t like them.”
He swallows hard. He doesn’t want her to take it. He doesn’t want to find out that she’s just as damned as the rest of them, but Hell is the only place safe for her now. He digs his fingers into the flesh and takes her hand, dropping a few seeds in her palm. “You’ll like it,” he says and hates how his voice rings with temptation, a force of magic like an off-key harmony. “Go on, Meadow. Do it for me?”
She nods, uncertain, but she trusts him, loves her mαμά, the one who sings her to sleep and swings her by her ankles, the one who taught her to climb trees and hide in the tall grasses like a phantom. She brings her fingers to her mouth and bites into a seed. The sour taste spills into her mouth and burns her tongue like coals from the hearth. Before she can stop herself, she spits it out.
Crowley lets out a sob before biting on his fist. His sharp nails dig into the palm of his hand.
“It’s decided,” Lilith says. “She stays on earth.”
Then the sound of thunderous wings comes from over the sea, followed by a flash of blinding light. Crowley and Lilith both shield their eyes from the intruder, and Medusa cries out from the searing brightness. They hear soft sound feet meeting the earth, and then the angel’s halo dims, revealing Aziraphale’s weary face.
“Azarias!” Medusa shouts, blinking away the brightness. She sprints forward and wraps her arms around his waist, staining his himation with pomegranate. He gasps when he sees the mess on her hands.
“Oh, Meadow, you--”
“She didn’t,” Crowley says.
A look of relief washes over Aziraphale’s face before he pales once he realises she has no escape from earth after rejecting Hell. “Oh,” he says, voice tight and high. He presses her close to his chest and shakes out his wings. “I’ve come to warn you. Michael is on her way with her sword and shield. You have to go.”
“There’s nowhere to go, angel. Wherever we go, she’ll follow.”
“I scouted a cave nearby as I flew in. We’ll seal the entrance and charm the door.”
“It won’t hold her forever,” Lilith says, “but it could buy us some time.”
Crowley nods, spilling out his wings. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than nothing. He nods to Aziraphale who hoists Medusa up like she’s still an infant, weightless in his arms. Crowley beckons Lilith and wraps an arm around her waist, and then they kick off, flying along the cliff face until Aziraphale finds what he’s looking for and leads them into a deep cave carved into the rock. They stumble inside, and Crowley snaps his fingers once, twice, until a flame flickers to life in his hand.
“Back here, Meadow. Let’s go.” He leads them deep into the cave, just rocks and dust and the clean smell of petrichor. They follow the sound of trickling water until they hit the back wall. There’s nowhere left to run.
Crowley turns to look back to the tunnel entrance and finds Aziraphale beside him, Lilith waiting at the opening. “You’re not staying.”
“I --” Aziraphale says before biting his lip. “You know I can’t. If Michael finds out I was here… I’m already in trouble. She knows now I didn’t smite the demonic energy.” He shuts his eyes and then reaches blindly in the dark until he finds Crowley and pulls him close. “You shouldn’t stay either. She’ll do worse than discorporate you.”
A breath escapes him like being punched in the gut. The flames dancing in his hand flicker out. Leave? “Just as you can’t stay, you know I can’t leave,” he says, voice dim and strained in the echoing chamber.
He feels hands on his face, warm and soft except for a few remaining callouses from Aziraphale’s sword hand. They cup his chin. He feels a forehead press to his own, tastes the soft exhalations of his angel’s breath, warm like wool drying in the sun. His chest clenches and his hands fumble up to bury in Aziraphale’s robes.
In the dark, Crowley sees the outline of Aziraphale’s face, the rounded jaw and upturned nose, his chapped lip bitten with worry. For Hades’ sake, they’d been so happy. He closes the gap and presses in for a kiss, feels Aziraphale stiffen before relaxing into him, then pushing harder, devouring.
“Aziraphale, we have to go,” Lilith says from the entrance, interrupting. She has her back turned, standing guard at the mouth of the cave, her shoulders stiff.
The angel turns then to look at Medusa. He leans down low, and the light of his halo shines like a star. She’s brave in the face of it. She doesn’t know she should be afraid, and so she stands tall and reaches up and wraps her arms around his shoulders. He holds her for a long time, swallowing against her ear before pulling back. “You’re a true Spartan if I’ve ever met one.”
“More than Μαμά?”
“By tenfold, dearheart.”
And then he turns to go. Crowley bites back the bile in his throat. He has the urge to shout out, chase after him and pull him back. This is it, the end of a short summer, a romance that tasted as plush and briny as olives and just as cleansing. At the entrance, the light from the moon disappears as the opening is sealed shut. There’s a pulse of power, sickly and sweet, like eating one more bite of diple, and then a second pulse, cooler and sharper that stings as it passes. Medusa shivers. The way is sealed shut.
Crowley collapses against the floor and then reaches for his daughter. He has so much to say to her, to tell her, to teach her. Instead, she lets herself be scooped into his arms and buries her head in the crook of his neck. “I’m sorry, Μαμά. I didn’t mean to be bad,” she says. “I wanted to be good.”
He lets out a slow, shaky breath. “I know, Meadow. I know. It’s me who’s sorry.”
As a babe, Crowley rocked her to sleep with low lullabies underneath his breath. After Lilith’s first visit with the infant, he fled the heart of Sparta to the outskirts of Laconia, his fingers wrapped in Medusa’s blanket, stiff with fear. She’d barely cried then, and she barely cries now. She’d been so good and so sweet and just a child.
A shiver runs through them both, and they feel the earth shake, a tremor like an earthquake or the precursor to a volcano. The air in the cool cave shudders, the molecules shifting and heating. In his arms, Medusa gasps, and her hair spills over his fingers, sprouting from her scalp in a tangle of snakes, hissing. She lets out a cry, hands jerking upward to touch the writhing mass. She cries then, frightened, reeling away from herself.
Crowley lets his eyes glimmer in the dark cave, lets his fingernails lengthen into claws. His canines fold back into fangs. He feels venom in the back of his throat. The ground trembles again and he reaches for Medusa and brings her back to his chest. “It’s all right, Meadow.”
“What’s happening? Why do you look like that?” She hiccups. “Why--why do I look like this?”
Be not afraid, he thinks.
He closes his eyes and shakes his head. There’s a heavy thud from the outside of the cave entrance where Aziraphale had materialised a heavy boulder. The shields of a Principality and the Lilim do little against the brute force of an archangel. How does he tell his daughter she’s the worst of them both? She has his serpentine scales, his familiar. She has Lilith’s power of seduction and enthrallment. He could teach her to control it, teach her to choose not to use it, if only they had more time.
A shuddering groan vibrates through the cave followed by a crack as loud as thunder. A blast of heat pulses from the entrance followed by the smell of smoke as though Zeus himself has struck a lightning bolt down on them. The seal to the entrance cracks.
Medusa yanks away at the flood of blinding light. Michael uses the hilt of her sword to hammer against the stone, and rock shatters under its force. In an instant, Crowley hisses, harsh and loud from the back of his throat before propelling himself from the wall. He stretches out his wings and lets his fangs protract, barreling at the archangel. It won’t do much, he knows, but he has to try something. He collides against her leather armour and tips her back into the night sky. They plummet over the cliff of the cave entrance down to the Red Sea before both their wings open and catch the wind, jerking their descent to a halt. Michael grabs him by the throat, her eyes luminous, holy grace spilling from the cracks of her corporation. Her hand on his skin burns with holiness. She exalts them upwards and throws him back on the cliff’s edge.
He crashes and slides into the cave entrance, the sand and bits of broken rock digging into his flesh. Groaning, he lifts his head as Michael descends in front of him, wings splayed. She has her holy sword in one hand and a roundshield in the other. “Begone, demon,” she speaks, and her bellowing voice rumbles through the earth, shaking free loose dirt from the cliff’s face.
“Μαμά!” Medusa shouts. Above the ringing in his head, he hears her footfalls, light as a deer’s as she sprints towards the entrance.
“Medusa, no!” He flings out a wing to stop her, but he’s too late. She leaps over him and stops in front of him, shielding him with her small body.
Michael looms over her, her angelic sheen seeping from her skin. Her face twists in disgust. “A demon child.”
At that moment, Crowley sees what Medusa could become, head held high and shoulders back. She’s wingless like Lilith, but her eyes gleam yellow like his, and her arms and neck break out into scales, iridescent black and reds in the light of the halo. Her hair twists, a pulsing living thing, each serpent’s head coiling back from the angel before them. She’s angry, her fists shaking at her sides.
And like he’s transfixed, Crowley does nothing, eyes widening at the sudden sound of creaking stone. Michael looks down at her shield and watches a creeping grey colour spread from the centre outward, locking her in place as her feet turn to marble. The angel grunts as her round shield grows heavy, and when she drops it, it shatters on the ground in fragments.
“You can’t have my mαμά!” Medusa says, a spark of confidence growing in her voice. Crowley staggers to stand, certain his wing is broken where it hangs limply behind him. He means to push past her but freezes when she yells, “Μαμά, no!”
Swallowing hard, he pulls against the ground with his feet but can’t move. He looks down in horror to find his sandals and ankles weighing him down, hardening into rock. “Meadow,” he says, reaching for her. “Let me go.”
A look of panic flickers over the archangel's face as she looks down at her legs, stiffening, marble scaling upwards like parasitic vines. She looks at Medusa, and something settles over her face, a ferocity that makes Crowley renew his fight to free himself, pulling and pulling and pulling as more and more of his body turns stiff. “Medusa, please,” he begs.
But it’s too late. The slow ascent of stone isn’t quick enough to freeze Michael in her place. With her free arm, she swings her holy blade and plunges it deep in Medusa’s chest, howling. It skewers her and her whole frail body arcs for a brief moment before collapsing, sliding off the blade to the earth.
The spell broken, Crowley breaks free and falls to his knees, lunging for his daughter, hands shaking, a sound welling in the back of his throat of its own volition, suffocating on his grief. He shrieks when he feels a hand clamp down on his broken wing, but there’s no fight left in him. It’s gone. Medusa’s gone.
Michael yanks him upward with the strength of the twelve giants combined and throws him over the edge of the cliff. He closes his eyes against the onslaught of stars above him and crashes deep towards the bottom of the Red Sea.
He falls for a long time, the waters swirling around him as he plummets to the bottom. The water turns icy, cloying and thick from the pressure the deeper he goes until suddenly he breaks free and hits hard on the jagged rocks of Hell. He gasps in pain, writhing on the floor.
He lies there for long moments. Time has no meaning down in Hell, where torture feels like weeks in a matter of minutes. Then a face swims into his vision, a disposable demon with sulfur-stained eyes and jaundiced colouring. “Wotcha, Crawly,” it says. “All right?”
Crowley hoists himself upward, hissing at the other demon, too weak to do much else but stalk away, staggering through the tunnels. His sharp nails dig into the rock and soft earth, and he does not think, does not speak, does not let the stabbing agonising grief break through to the surface. He wanders for a long time until he stumbles into a cavern with vaulted ceilings, dripping with moisture and the echoing sounds of moaning. A few demons linger near the entrance, dressed in a variety of scant clothing. There’s a man-like demon with a sculpted chest on display, his heavy erection hanging between his legs, a woman gagged and bound, writhing in invisible pleasure.
He’s in Lilith’s lair, a hundred or more incubi crawling the walls, all a different archetype of lust, born from every demon she’s lain with. There are more topside, he knows, stealing into humans’ dreams and nightmares, forcing them to writhe in agony and pleasure, exhausting them until they submit to their lust.
“Do you see?” a voice says behind him, slow and sultry, not unkind. He turns to look at Lilith. She’s forgone the glamour and stands before him as she did in the Garden when God presented her to Adam, naked and unashamed. “Medusa would never have survived down here.”
His voice cracks and he shudders. “She didn’t survive at all.”
“I know, Crowley.” Demons don’t say sorry, but there’s something in her face, almost stricken. “The Lilim are born from a demon’s deepest desires, and I give them life. I’ve seduced almost every demon here, and yet you evaded me from the Beginning.”
He remembers seeing her in the Garden, Adam’s first wife, cast out because she was too strong and too willful and would not submit. She was built from the same clay to be Adam’s equal. She would not prostrate herself to her husband like the Fallen would not bow to God.
Before him now, she looks more like the girl from the Garden than she ever has, and Crowley sees in her thin lips and arched eyebrows, the soft roundness of her eyes, that she looked so much like Medusa. It’s in her tall posture and steady chin. It’s in the weight of her shoulders, settling in her hips.
“I’ve produced desire. I’ve produced pain and power,” she says, reaching for him. She cups his face and brings their foreheads together. “But she was the first one born from love.”
“You can’t tell anyone,” he says, voice quiet but pleading. “You can’t let anyone find out what we did.”
“No,” she agrees, this woman who was the first to be scorned, who turned her anger into lust and greed and covetousness. Medusa softened her and frightened her. Medusa taught her something Adam could not. “No one can know. It’s our secret.”
I promise, I promise, this has a happier ending. Next chapter, Crowley deals with the fallout of losing Medusa, and he and Aziraphale negotiate their relationship leading to the Apocalypse.
Crowley and Aziraphale in the aftermath of losing Medusa and the long road to the apocalypse.
No trigger warnings
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Crowley makes it topside. He does what he does best, tucking his head and sticking to the shadows. He stays in Egypt, across the Red Sea from Greece where the olive groves soaked their roots deep into the blood-stained earth. He forgoes sleep for a long time, haunted by a peal of laughter and the sounds of small footsteps running down the dirt road. Sometimes, when walking the sandy necropolis of Saqqara, he catches the whiff of salt and vinegar, the taste of olives a heavy memory on his tongue, and he holds himself up by his hands and knees to stop the grief from wretching upwards.
He sees Aziraphale exactly once standing in front of a market stall in a wrap skirt and a loose tunic, a satchel resting across his chest. Crowley watches him look up and around like he knows Crowley’s near. Aziraphale’s face goes from alarmed to hesitant to pinched, and Crowley slips through the shadows away and away and away until his feet bleed and his sandals fall to pieces.
The angel catches up to him in the Serapeum where it’s cool, away from the blistering heat. He’s burnt from the sun, hair bleached even paler than before. Aziraphale looks more otherworldly than he ever has amongst the rich paintings and hieroglyphs, amongst the Egyptian gods. He stops when he sees Crowley on a bench, defeated, and they stare at each other for what feels like long hours.
“Heaven recalled me,” Aziraphale says eventually. His voice is loud in the vaulted stone structure.
“I heard. From Michael.” He takes a shuddering breath. “Crowley, I’m sorry.”
Crowley stills, fingers digging into the meat of his thigh and shakes his head. “Did they hurt you?”
Aziraphale shakes his head and lets out a short exhale. “No, but I was reprimanded and relocated for failing to subdue Me--” He swallows. “The demon child.” Then he takes a step closer, his whole body leaning towards him like he might tip over. “There are things I want to say to you.”
Crowley cuts him off, panic high in his voice. “You can’t. It’s too dangerous. We knew it was too dangerous. We can’t go back,” he says, shaking his head. He can’t bear to imagine the soft things the angel might say, words that would be their downfall. He stands and walks towards him, hesitating when they’re face-to-face. He stares until he has it committed to memory, the upturned nose, white furled hair, and freckled sunkissed skin. Then he closes his eyes and keeps on walking back out into the searing heat and stifling sands.
Crowley knows grief. Crowley fell. It’s never hurt like this before, acute and hot, blazing like a scalding blade, cauterising the wounds with no decency to let him bleed out.
He doesn’t say her name. When the Grecians begin to turn their oral history into written stories, he burns the manuscripts. They distort her memory, turning her into a vicious monster, a hideous beast, not his sweet girl who smelled like warm summer mornings and nectar. When the archangel Michael is exalted in legend as the hero Perseus, decorated in armour, wing-tipped shoes and the shield and sword of the gods, Crowley allows a moment to sink into that cleaving pain, to soak his sorrows in drink.
And then he gets up and pushes it aside, taking on missive after missive from Hell until he’s too exhausted to think.
He becomes an expert at compartmentalising, so much so that when he runs into Aziraphale centuries later in Golgotha, and again when he sees him in the misty fields in Wessex, he can be glib and light and sarcastic. In return, the angel is teasing and scornful, following his lead. They don’t talk about the long summer days spent around the olive press or in the tall grasses by the river. They don’t speak about Aziraphale’s nervous hands -- always fussing -- and how they once tangled in Crowley’s hair.
It’s dangerous, too high of a risk. If Hell or Heaven found out about their coupling or worse, that Aziraphale tried to save a demon’s life, they’d destroy him. They circle each other, passing one another other like electrons in orbit. By silent consensus, they settle for brief meetings, silent nods and furtive glances. It has to be enough.
But centuries -- millennia -- pass and nobody says a word to them from management, and the magnetism between them pulls a little stronger. Eventually, Aziraphale allows the Agreement, but they never touch, and if sometimes Crowley walks away from damp-ridden fields to find clean, warm furs in his tent, and if Aziraphale returns to England to discover the Globe Theatre packed from the pit to the upper levels, they hold it close their chests and say nothing.
They kiss precisely one time in 1941 in the back of the bookshop, dust lingering on their jackets and in the creases of the leather book bag at their feet, the sort of kiss that isn’t much of a kiss but more of a meld, that stokes the lump of coal in Crowley’s chest until its embers burn flames licking up his throat. And only one time on top of a double-decker bus in the peak of summer, 1990, does Aziraphale catch sight of two girls chasing down the sidewalk on their way home from school and turn to Crowley to say, “Do you remember --”
Crowley shakes his head and silences him. “I remember.”
He remembers her little fingers brushing through his hair, her blurry reflection looking back at him in the delicate handheld obsidian mirror. He remembers the way they went traipsing through the fields picking hyacinths before settling in the tall grasses while she wove the fragrant flowers in his braids. He remembers the patch of scales on the back of her thigh, hidden under the drape of her peplos and the high, lilting sound of her voice when she laughed or cried or enthralled in turns.
He thinks of his Meadow on the long walk back to the Bentley, his boots sinking into the soft earth of the graveyard, the weight of the hamper in his hand like a bomb or a bushel of apples, a basket of fresh-picked olives, ripe and oily. Heavy. He’s supposed to think of the Antichrist as a weapon, but instead, he remembers a squalling baby who was too pure for Hell and too damned for Heaven and wonders if the Prince of Hell could be the same.
Back at his flat after delivering the Antichrist to the nunnery, he starts to ask the old questions, picking and digging at a hardened scab. Why was his daughter born like a human? Why did she have human needs and desires, unlike the Lilim or the other demons?
He’s seen what holy and demonic artefacts due to their adversaries. Hellfire disintegrates angels in a matter of seconds; demons melt from holy water, and bodies corrode when impaled by holy blades.
So why did Medusa slump to the ground? Why did she fall like a human?
He grips the edge of his table, eyes blown yellow to the edges with black slivers for pupils. In a rush, he stands, the screech of his seat grinding on the concrete loud in his empty room. He stands and rushes to the door, snapping for his glasses and jacket halfway down the flight of stairs to the ground.
A panicked drive through London later, Aziraphale opens his door to Crowley’s furious pounding, hands folded over his chest. “We’re closed,” he starts to say but stops when he sees the demon.
“I need your help,” Crowley says, and pushes his way inside.
“What--Crowley you shouldn’t be here,” Aziraphale says, protesting. He follows him to the backroom and makes no move to evict him as he sprawls out on the couch.
“Wine, angel. Now.”
After Aziraphale uncorks the Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Crowley paces on the other side of the coffee table, a concrete barrier between them. He’s forgone the wine glass and gone straight for the bottle while Aziraphale sits in his chair with his hands between his knees. “I have this theory,” he says, voice shaking with adrenaline, “that the Antichrist might be human enough to influence. We could deter him from being evil, at least steer him towards being neutral.”
“You know I can’t help you. It’s too dangerous. We’re --” Aziraphale hesitates and takes a drink before gesturing with his wine glass. “-- hereditary enemies.”
“What does that mean, even?” What does enemy mean when that same person holds his heart and the worst of his secrets? What does it mean that Crowley hasn’t been able to look at Aziraphale head-on for millennia?
“It means that you’re a demon. I’m an angel. The Antichrist can’t be anything but evil.”
They’re teetering on the precipice of that unnamable thing. It sets Crowley’s teeth on edge, like a spectre leering over his shoulder, breathing hot on the back of his neck. He fights the urge to beg. Let’s go to dinner. Let’s fuck our way to the end of the world. Let’s go down in flames. But there’s another more dangerous thought clamouring to be said out loud.
“You don’t know that he’d be evil, nature versus nurture. The Antichrist is going to be raised by humans, not demons. There’s nothing inherently evil about that.”
The tension is palpable, like a bell resounding in the middle of the room, loud and blaring. Aziraphale chews his lip and fusses with his waistcoat. “But,” he says, swallowing, “we know what happened to - to… well.”
He can’t even say her name, and it strafes worse than Crowley’s what-ifs that hammer through his head late at night. He throws himself on the sofa and looks up at the ceiling, gulping air in shaky, slow breaths. The place where his heart used to reside burns hot and aching, a hollow cavity for the memories he keeps but cannot look at. They’re loud now, banging to break free.
“The thing is,” he says, and he knows his voice is slurred and wet. He won’t look at Aziraphale, let him see the expression unrestrained on his face. “Th’ thing is that she wanted to be good.”
That’s the crux of it. For every memory of her laughing as she tripped over her footwork, he thinks about the dead look in the soldiers’ eyes as she forced them to duel over and over, captured under her spell. For every day spent chasing across Stavros’ fields, Crowley remembers Epifania weeping, begging to be let free. She was just too young with too much power, bursting out of her all at once. He thinks about her crying, hands shaking as she reached up to touch her hair, the smooth scales of slithering snakes, hissing and striking at the shadows. He thinks of how Michael’s blade pierced her but did not burn her to ash or melt her flesh. She went the way of humans, and like them, she wanted to be good.
The weight shifts on the couch. Aziraphale lays his fingertips on the back of Crowley’s hand, and it’s the first they’ve touched in decades. “She was, Crowley,” he says, voice quiet in the bookshop. He looks over his shoulder -- an old habit born of real fear -- and then settles in closer, fingers brushing the underside of Crowley’s jaw. It’s not a demand but a request to look, and as if he’s helpless, Crowley follows that touch until they’re eye-to-eye in the small space of the sofa.
“So the Antichrist could be too. Isn’t it worth the risk to find out?” He thought he’d quelled this part of him, the hopeful spiritedness looking upwards and outwards, but here it is beating its drum in his cavernous chest.
Aziraphale looks down at the space between their hands, reaching with care to turn Crowley’s palm upwards. He slides their fingers together. “And you say there’ll be no more wine at the end of the world?”
“Mmm. No more gravlax and dill sauce either,” Crowley says around the thrashing beneath his sternum. “No more Regency era snuffboxes. No bookshops.”
“No more chances at… at this.” Crowley stills and his fingers flex and tighten. Aziraphale squeezes back. “All right. I’ll do it,” he says.
The first thought Crowley has when he sees Aziraphale as Brother Francis is not a thought at all but a long, exaggerated eye roll that goes so deep he can see the inside of his skull. It’s followed with choking fondness. They’re introduced in the foyer of the Dowling manor, and Aziraphale charms him when he tips the brim of his stupid gardening hat and takes his hand, rolling “Miss Ashtoreth” off his buck teeth with his clumsy northern accent.
Stupid, Crowley thinks, turning on his heel.
By unspoken agreement, they do not touch each other. They act like they don’t know one another. It’s an old game, and they’re professionals at pretending they are strangers. Crowley could walk the map of Aziraphale’s hand in the dark, every crevice and peak of veins, smooth and soft and manicured. He wants to know what they feel like dried out from the sun with dirt caught under his nails. He wants Aziraphale to dig into him the way he might the soil outside.
His time as Nanny Ashtoreth is just one prolonged exercise in denial. If he’s rigid and severe towards Warlock, it’s just self-preservation. If he’s distant and aloof with Aziraphale, it’s a necessary protection from the watching eyes of Heaven and Hell.
He has one moment of weakness the night of Warlock’s eighth birthday. He excuses himself from the festivities and shuts himself in his quarters, going through the motions of shucking his heels and gloves, discarding his earrings, pulling his hair down with a rough yank. He refuses to look out the window which looms over the back garden where they’ve set up a tent and a fire pit, where he can hear Warlock screaming as he chases the governor’s daughter. Instead, he smears his lipstick off with the back of his hand and throws his glasses on the vanity.
Once, a few thousand lifetimes ago, he’d taken on this form. He’d cared and loved for a child. He’d grieved for a moment and then buried it underground, stomping on the grave of his pretend heart. He doesn’t know if he can do it again, if it’d be better just to let the world burn and take him along with it.
Aziraphale finds him staring in the mirror, fingers gripped around his hairpiece and eyes reflecting the dim light outside. The angel is still in his Brother Francis outfit, and the look on his face is pitying. Crowley hisses and resumes his nightly ritual, ignoring him.
He can feel his presence, however, can hear the soft click of the door shutting. And then Aziraphale stands beside him in the silence, pulling off his buckteeth and his cap, disrobing his gardening smock to reveal his cream-coloured collared button-down and dirty pants. He takes off his goloshes and sets them to the side. He looks more like himself than he has in the past eight years.
Tense, Crowley tuts. “I hate the sideburns,” he mutters. He curses himself under his breath for even acknowledging the angel’s presence.
“I do recall you used to sport quite the pair of sideburns.”
“A century ago,” he protests, deflecting. Despite his instinct to push away, it feels good to have him here.
He feels Aziraphale’s hands at his waist, his thick fingers deft in undoing the clasp of his skirt and goes still, a serpent poised to strike. Aziraphale pulls the zipper down, loud in the quiet of the room, a slow descent until Crowley’s narrow hips can’t hold it up any longer and it falls to the ground. Aziraphale extends a hand, and he allows himself to take it, stepping out of his fallen skirt.
His blouse hangs over the crease where his thighs meet hips, revealing the tops of his lace stockings and the clasps of his garter belt. He shivers, bare and unprotected, and when Aziraphale draws him into an embrace, he allows himself this weakness and does not resist.
Unbidden, he thinks about the wooden shield Eneas made for Medusa’s eighth birthday, how she lit up and snatched it from his hands and took off running. He thinks about how Aziraphale chased after her and brought her back to say thank you. So elated, she started to cry. And Eneas, who had lost his sons in the Trojan War because of Crowley and his stupid temptation, who still could love the way only humans could after so much loss, lifted her in his strong but ageing arms, laughing.
In the Dowling manor, people don’t laugh like that often, open throat, head thrown back. He digs his fingers into Aziraphale’s shoulder and holds on, sinks his sharp fingernails into the only other being who remembers.
“It’s worth it,” Aziraphale says, as though he could read Crowley’s mind, a ring of conviction in his voice. “He’s just a boy, not the devil. He’s human. It’s working.”
Crowley does not shake. He does not cry. He sets his jaw and clenches his teeth, breathing out in low hisses. “And what do we get for it? Hmm? Heaven and Hell survive and the world keeps turning, but what do we get for it?” What has he gotten for wanting? Three thousand years of denial? The ghost of a child?
Aziraphale pulls back and turns Crowley’s head until he can kiss him on the mouth. There’s no heat behind it, just a long slow press full of promise. “We get to have this,” he says.
It’s a risk to take as the apocalypse approaches. Every year, it feels like Heaven and Hell encroach closer, leering over the Dowling manor in the hopes of tasting blood. To kiss him now tests the fragile barriers they’ve built between them.
“Do you remember…?” Crowley asks, his voice a hiss in the quiet room. Does he remember Medusa’s hoplon shield and small leather armour? Does he remember how she outgrew it in the breadth of a summer but still carried it everywhere she went, running along the river bank and scurrying up trees?
Aziraphale swallows. It’s loud in the dark. “I remember,” he says.
The next morning they run into each other in the foyer of the manor. “Miss Ashtoreth,” Aziraphale says.
They greet each other and carry on until the next day and the day after that. And if their stolen meeting fortifies Crowley’s resolve, he doesn’t say. He plaits his hair in the mornings and ignores the memory of a small girl and her swift fingers, longing for her own hair to braid. He cinches his hair clip, tight and severe.
After they leave the manor, he shears his hair short with a bottle of whiskey, a pair of old scissors, and a miracle. He dons his jacket with the blood-red collar and walks out of his flat in Mayfair into the last days of the earth.
Later, Aziraphale will ask him what he remembers most during the whirlwind of the apocalypse, but that’s the thing about trauma. He’s perfected the art of compartmentalising, of forgetting. He is an old hat at burying the corpses of his past selves.
What he remembers most is standing at the airbase, seeing Aziraphale hijack the body of a medium. It was his voice and the movement of his hands, the lilting way he said, “Crowley,” that mirrored the flood of relief he felt deep in his marrow.
It was the moment he first allowed himself to believe they’d be alright.
He remembers sitting on the bench at the bus stop, passing wine back and forth, the feeling of being so close to what he desired most, his mouth on the lip of the glass bottle where Aziraphale had been just seconds before, his broad, smooth fingers gripping the neck. Crowley wanted those fingers to leave bruises on his hips, to take his hand and walk with him wherever they wanted to go. He was so close to tasting freedom, it took everything to hold himself back.
He remembers the tension on the ride home; their hands held fast watching the London streets zip passed. He could almost feel the city beating, a living wailing animal for him to protect, still standing. He remembers crawling into Aziraphale’s body, feeling the angel shake around him and tear him apart atom by atom until they woke up as something brand new.
Crowley remembers walking away from Hellfire, purified.
“Now what, angel?” he asks, standing in the bookshop. His hands are empty, shoulders light. He has no plan for tomorrow. “What do you want to do first?”
“Dinner, I should think,” Aziraphale says, closing the distance between them.
Crowley reaches for his lapels and kisses him first, tugging until the seams strain and Aziraphale protests against his mouth. “Tell me what you want.”
“I want to sit down next to you at the table, not across,” Aziraphale says. “I want to feed you spoonfuls of chocolate mousse and let you take my hand, and I will not give a damn who sees. That is if you’re amenable.”
It sounds so bloody perfect. “Oh, I am. More than.”
Aziraphale gives a wiggle, and Crowley feels immediate embarrassment before he catches himself. He shakes the thought away. He’s allowed to like all of the angel’s idiosyncrasies, no matter ridiculous, to have this love. He opens the door to the bookshop. “After you,” he says, tilting his head as Aziraphale steps onto the stoop. He follows him out into their new world. Free.
I have always wondered why Crowley would think the Antichrist could be swayed toward neutrality. In this universe, Medusa teaches him that a demon's nature is not inherently evil, that they are still able to do good. He tests this theory out with the Arrangement and again with the Antichrist.
Next chapter, Crowley and Aziraphale find their way in a new world by reconciling things left unsaid from their past.
Chapter 10: Epilogue
A happy-ever-after epilogue.
TW: anal sex featuring more pomegranates. I dunno, this story turned into a weird food thing.
After some deliberation, I've decided to post Chapters 9 & 10 on the same day since they go together. Story is now complete!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
After the Ritz, Crowley is drunk, pushed up against the only width of the wall free of books, Aziraphale bracketing his thighs with his own, his breath hot on his neck, fingers tugging at the buttons of his vest. “You, dearheart,” Aziraphale says, voice rough against his skin. “You.” It’s the only he can say, stuffed full with good champagne, a four-course dinner and the pent up desire of three millennia.
They’d lingered over dessert and polished off another bottle of wine after that, and nobody -- not the servers nor the maître d'hôtel nor the other patrons -- said a word while they dined at a luxuriously slow pace for hours.
There was a moment in between dishes when Crowley caught himself staring at Aziraphale’s blunt fingers wrapped around the fine linen napkin, eyes roving upward to study the junction where the collar brushed his throat. The angel was on a mission to convince Crowley to join him at an estate sale next week, and then he stopped mid-breath when he realised there would be the next week to think about. There’d be the week after that and then the next month and the next year and decade. They were free. By God, they were free.
But Crowley had missed most of Aziraphale’s exclamations, and the silence grew thick between them, Aziraphale’s breath hitching in the silence. Then their eyes met through Crowley’s dark shades and the earth’s orbit ground to a halt. Like reaching out to a wild animal, Aziraphale left his napkin in his lap and pressed his fingers against the inside of his demon’s knee, and by their own volition, their chairs inched closer until they were shoulder-to-shoulder.
The chorus of people around them froze in place when Aziraphale leaned in, his breath light and warm against Crowley’s ear, and asked, “Do you remember--”
“I remember,” Crowley said. He remembered those few quiet nights in the dark when he’d sent Medusa off to Epifania’s, how Aziraphale’s mouth found his neck, nosing at the delicate crease behind his ear. He remembered the promise of a calf, a handful of drachmae, and an acre of grove in exchange for their wedding. The memory shivered through him, and he cupped the angel’s jaw and turned his head to face him, closing the distance between their mouths, a confirmation that this was his to keep.
How -- Crowley thought, his fingers digging into Aziraphale’s shoulder -- could he still taste like salt and vinegar, the pungent bite of soft cheese? Licking into the corners of his mouth, he still smelled like the Mediterranean Sea here in the smog of London, four flutes deep in champagne. His lips were soft but firm, pushing back in search of more pressure, more heat, and Crowley lifted from his seat for better leverage.
There was a clatter of sound, metal clinking against porcelain, and in between one breath and the other, the dining room at the Ritz roared back to life. The server stepped around their table, yet there they sat, still frozen, Aziraphale’s hands cupped around the base of Crowley’s head.
Who was there to see? Nobody important. It was just them and the waitstaff, the other diners, and the few pedestrians passing by on the street. “Should we go?” Aziraphale said, voice tight, low amongst the din.
“No, finish your meal.” Aziraphale’s face fell, but Crowley closed the inch between them again, pressing their lips together. “We have time. We have nothing but time. Let’s enjoy it.”
Now, back at the bookshop, Aziraphale works a hand under Crowley’s vest, tugging at the buttons until they come free. Without the tight restraint of fabric, he’s able to press his broad hands under the stretch of that black cotton shirt, claiming an expanse of skin pulled taut as Crowley bows up into the touch. The bookshop is cloying and warm from their damp breaths, their sweat evaporating in the scorching heat between them. It’s neither Hellfire nor the righteous flame of God but this other thing that’s been cultivating between them for millennia, ripe and bursting to be plucked.
Crowley lets himself be dragged upstairs, up the old claustrophobic Victorian staircase into the flat above. He’s been here once or twice, never lingering for long, never allowing himself to memorise the floor plan or the number of steps it takes to get to Aziraphale’s bedroom. He’s not counting now. Tomorrow, he thinks as he’s led to the farthest back room.
His jeans sink low on his hips, unbuttoned and unzipped. As he reaches back to pull his t-shirt over his head, Aziraphale let’s go of his hand, and then says, “Oh,” soft and surprised.
“Angel?” Crowley asks, but Aziraphale is turned away, gaze fixed on his mattress. “Oh,” Crowley says when he sees what’s on the bed. “That’s, uh…”
“What do you think we’re supposed to do with it?”
Crowley shuffles around him and reaches for the rosy, plush fruit sitting in the centre of the duvet. He holds the pomegranate in his hands, and it feels a bit like carrying a heart, round and red and delicate. “It must have come from Lilith.”
“Can we trust it? Her?”
“I think so,” he says, ignoring the welling feeling in his chest. He hasn’t thought about her for a long time. Thinking about Lilith means thinking about Medusa, and he doesn’t do that anymore. Instead, he lets his claws grow into shape and sinks them into the thick flesh of the fruit. He digs in and pries it open, the juice spilling over the edge and onto the carpet below. Transfixed, Aziraphale doesn’t scold him.
He can smell the seeds’ clean and astringent flavour, feels the arils roll off his skin as he digs in and brings a teaspoon’s worth to Aziraphale’s mouth. Aziraphale steadies Crowley’s hand and leans forward, wrapping his mouth around his fingers. He pulls away increment by increment, licking between his middle and forefinger. Then, with his mouth full of seeds, he presses his lips to Crowley’s, sweetening the sour taste of pomegranate with kisses.
Crowley drops the two halves of fruit, hands sticky and stained purple, reaching up to cup Aziraphale’s face. An old familiar heat settles in his gut as he swallows, an amplifier of his desire. And oh, lust is a pretty look on an angel, Aziraphale’s face flush, lips bitten, hands tugging roughly at the waist of Crowley’s pants.
Once naked, Aziraphale pushes Crowley down and clambers on top. He settles his thick weight over him. With the pomegranate seeds growing in their bellies, urgency wins over. Crowley lets his legs spread, breath hitching when he feels the soft down on Aziraphale’s thighs against his skin, the jolt of electricity that spikes from his pelvis to his brain when their erections meet. Aziraphale makes hiccuping moans as he begins to grind their hips together, and it’s all they can do to hold on, the creak of the bed inaudible compared to the hammering of Crowley’s pulse.
Crowley spent a thousand nights imagining this while alone, stretched out on a patch of grass or a straw mattress throughout the greater parts of Western Europe, one hand thrown over his face in the dark, the other pulling himself off with quick and panting gasps. The fantasy always takes place in the brushes along the creek, hidden in tall grasses under the quiet night sky. To have this now in Aziraphale’s bedroom, on his old Victorian mattress surrounded by the smell of cocoa, weathered paper, and the hint of sandalwood from his cologne, is beyond comparison. All too soon, he feels his belly tighten and his thighs tense, and he pushes up on Aziraphale’s chest, begging, “Stop - stop, wait, ah--”
Aziraphale lifts off at once, scooting down so he can work his fingers under Crowley’s knees, getting a good grip on his calves to pull him down the bed, feet on the mattress. He nudges at his knees, and Crowley’s thighs open to display his cock curving towards his stomach, wet and slick at the head, on the verge of orgasm. Then Crowley startles at the deft touch of a finger caressing the underside of his testicles and down toward his anus. He clenches around the intruding digit.
“Look at you,” Aziraphale says, low and quiet against Crowley’s harsh panting. “Come on, dearheart. Open up.”
Crowley spreads his legs further and bears down, squirming as Aziraphale pushes deeper. His cock pulses a stream of precome, smearing a mess across his abdomen. “What are you waiting for?” He means to be glib but stops when he sees the look on Aziraphale’s face, the angel flushed, his mouth open, watching his finger disappear past the ring of muscle into tight, spasming heat. He curls his digit upward and presses, savouring the sound Crowley makes as his hips jerk.
“You don’t know how often I’ve imagined this.”
“Tell me then. Tell me how you imagined.”
Aziraphale moans and shifts his hips, a shudder running from the base of his skull down his spine. It’s a visceral sound that comes from his core, mirroring Crowley’s desire. He slicks a second finger and presses in, a slow tight stretch, punctuating every other word with a thrust that leaves the demon breathless. “You, walking around the manor in your kitten heels, I -- ah -- saw you once lean over to scold the roses, and your skirt rose just so I could see the lace edge of your stockings. I had to leave off for the rest of the afternoon.”
“What did you think about?” Crowley asks, sucking in a breath of air between his teeth as Aziraphale twists his knuckles, teasing his rim.
“Mmm, I thought about taking those stockings off with my teeth, lifting your skirt over your bottom.” He pauses and grips the base of his cock, stripping himself once, twice, before leaving off, as though he can’t help himself, so overcome with need. “I thought about that early morning you stalked across the olive grove and worked yourself off on me where the whole village could have seen us.”
“You were waiting for me.”
“You knew I would come.”
Crowley reaches between his legs and tugs gently at Aziraphale’s fingers until they slide out, shiny and slick. He groans at the sudden empty feeling and lifts his knees and hips, pulling Aziraphale forward until he’s a heavy weight settling over him. The blunt, flared head of Aziraphale’s cock burns as it enters, a slow and steady pressure with no room for relief. Crowley pants through it, fingers digging into the meat of Azirphale’s shoulder, leaving bruises.
Aziraphale holds still once he bottoms out, the damp curls of his hair pressed against Crowley’s arse. Then he withdraws a few centimetres. The sensation lights him up with a sudden burst of desire, and all bets are off. He can’t stop, hips jerking forward again to seek out more of that sweet tightness, hot and slick with lubricant and sweat and his precome. Every thrust is a mission to go deeper, to crawl into Crowley’s body, to claim him. It’s nonsensical. He’s wild and helpless to stop.
And Crowley meets him, thrusting back. He braces himself with one hand against the headboard, the other pulling his cock in long strokes to the rhythm of Aziraphale’s hips. His back arches and his balls tighten, and then he’s coming, clenched tight around Aziraphale who sends shivering, flaring bursts of pleasure every time the head of his cock catches on his rim before barreling forward again.
Aziraphale fucks him through his orgasm and then his own, hips losing all rhythm as he spills inside of him. Then he keeps going until they’re both shaking from overstimulation, weak from pleasure.
He pulls out, and Crowley moans, rolling onto his side, tucking his knees up to his chest. It leaves the perfect view of his arse, slick and puffy from abuse. Thoughtless, Aziraphale takes his forefinger and pushes back inside without ceremony, watching his digit disappear without resistance as Crowley shudders and clenches around him. He works his finger in and out, slick with come, and the sight makes him want to take him again.
Instead, he stumbles off the bed to find a towel. On his way back, he steps on the abandoned pomegranate and jumps back surprised. “Hmm,” he says, his voice low like a rumble.
“Mmm?” Crowley asks, overcome with exhaustion.
Aziraphale picks up the other half of the fruit that he managed not to step on and crawls back on the bed. He rolls Crowley on his back and tilts his chin up before spilling some of the seeds into his mouth, lapping up the excess juice running down Crowley’s jaw with his tongue.
“We should save some of these seeds. Grow a tree full of this stuff.” Crowley slurs his words, rubbing the back of his head against the pillows like a doted upon cat. He thinks about how Lilith once gave him a pouch of seeds, a forest for him to sow his desires.
“I don’t think my genitals could bear it,” Aziraphale protests.
“Don’t think I don’t see that you’re still aroused, angel.”
“Well then, I don’t think your arse could take it.”
Crowley shivers when Aziraphale passes a warm damp cloth over his abdomen, cleaning him, before moving down to trace delicate circles around his hole. “We’ll just have to take turns. There are s’many things I want to do to you.”
“A grove full of pomegranates, then,” Aziraphale says. He discards the towel on the floor and kisses Crowley. “And an eternity to enjoy them.”
Crowley squirrels away some of the arils and lets them dry out on the window sill in Aziraphale’s bedroom for a few days. He goes out and returns with soil and a planter, stalking through the upper flat and the bookshop until he finds the most Southern-facing window. He tries to miracle the grime off the glass pane, but 100 years of smog and dust combined with Aziraphale’s stubbornness refuses to be undone with a snap of his fingers.
Aziraphale emerges somewhere from the stacks, his shirtsleeves rolled up and his jacket discarded, humming in appreciation as he watches Crowley scrub clean the chosen window. His t-shirt rides up, revealing his Dimples of Venus, the flex of his back muscles and the faintest outline of ribs. Aziraphale, enchanted, tugs Crowley off his perch on the windowsill and finds the nearest surface that can support them both where he can kiss him senseless and free him of his flimsy shirt and skintight jeans.
It goes on like this for days. It takes a week for Crowley to get around to planting the pomegranate seeds or for Aziraphale to finish cataloguing his books, and in the times between, they luxuriate over bottles of wine, long dinners, and even longer nights on the old rickety bed upstairs.
The winter after the averted Apocalypse comes, Crowley migrates back to his flat in Mayfair where he can brumate, buried under his Egyptian cotton sheets and an overstuffed duvet. He rouses from sleep every so often for a few scant minutes at a time when Aziraphale slips under the covers, his body warm and soft, lips like silk on the back of his neck. He wakes once for Christmas with the promise of hot toddies and cinnamon sticks, and after, Aziraphale fellates him with long, sensual pulls before letting him drift back to sleep for another few months.
Crowley wakes up alone in March. He groans and stretches, toes curling and arms exalted over his head, and then he buries his face in the pillows next to him. They smell like sandalwood and sweat and the peculiar scent of wood shavings, like stepping into a carpentry shop. Curiosity piqued, he dresses and walks to the bookshop to see what his angel has been up to over winter.
The door chimes. Aziraphale appears around from a bookshelf and grins. “There you are,” he says as if Crowley had just popped off to the shops. It must feel like that, in their long years. What’s one more sleepy winter in six millennia?
Aziraphale meets him at the door and kisses him freely, tugging on Crowley’s lower lip until he’s left breathless.
Then Crowley catches a whiff of that curious smell again, wood chips and mineral oil. He licks the tips of Aziraphale’s fingers and tilts his head, parsing the taste. “What have you been up to, hmm?”
Aziraphale gives him a conspiratorial smile. “Nevermind that. I’ve been craving those miniature Belgian waffles from the bruncheon on the South Bank since January. Take me out?”
“Keep your secrets, then. Don’t think I won’t find you out.”
Aziraphale dons his camel hair jacket and wraps a light scarf around Crowley’s neck. Crowley, whose slow metabolism hasn’t fully woken yet from slumber, the vestiges of sleep loosening from his joints and fingertips, allows Aziraphale to shuffle him out the door. Aziraphale takes his hand and tucks their joined fingers in his pocket, and the warmth from the angel suffuses through his marrow, chasing away the last of the winter chill.
It’s a half-hour walk with a detour through the Victoria Embankment Gardens, the beginnings of crocuses peeking through the mulch like little green spears. Aziraphale chats about the book sale he's been to and the carolers who came around the shop on Christmas Eve, about the new cheese shop opening around the corner, and the 17th-century tome he’s determined to repair. He talks around whatever it is he’s been doing to keep occupied while Crowley hibernated.
Crowley bites his tongue when he spots a bit of wood dust along the seam of the angel’s coat, and then turns so they’re facing each other. He’s not worried, per se, but he is curious. It’s in his nature to poke and prod and stick his nose where it doesn’t belong. “You really won’t tell me what you’ve been up to? C’mon.” He brushes the sawdust off and then tucks his hands back in Aziraphale’s coat pockets.
Aziraphale smiles and rocks back on his heels, impish. “It’s a surprise,” he says. “You’ll know soon enough.” Then he looks up, and his face falls. “Ah, oh. Maybe we should go.”
But it’s too late. Crowley tracks Aziraphale’s gaze along the length of the park and sees a tall marble statue fifteen feet away. He hadn’t given it much thought when they’d entered the park, too tangled up in his thoughts about Aziraphale’s mystery project. His lungs deflate, a punch to the chest. His vision blurs, and Aziraphale has to catch him, hold him up by his shoulders. It’s a seven-feet high art installation of the gorgon Medusa, the monstrous thing written down in the history books. He takes a step closer and then sways, caught between reaching out and running away. If he were in his right mind, he’d appreciate the fine craftsmanship of the thing, the warrior stance, gaze lowered like a huntress, the anatomy perfected and smooth like skin, waves and waves of serpents spilling over her shoulders. The statue doesn’t look like his Meadow, but it’s realistic enough.
She’s holding Perseus’ severed head in one hand, a sword in the other. “That’s not how the story goes,” he says, voice quiet. He doesn’t know what else to say. They don’t talk about this. Never.
“It would have been a much different story.” Aziraphale lets go of Crowley’s hand and steps towards the towering statue. Then he reaches up and cups her marbled jaw.
“I’m glad she didn’t kill Michael,” Crowley says after a long moment. It’s like admitting something horrible, a dark and wrenching secret, piles of skeletons and bones spilling from his closet. He remembers the heavy weight of his legs and feet as they morphed into stone, the furious swift execution of Michael’s holy sword. “I’m glad she couldn’t kill someone. She was just a child. And,” he continues, his tongue thick in his mouth, “sometimes I’m glad she didn’t survive to see the Crusades or-or the Plague or the Holocaust. Her life had been so simple.”
It doesn’t mean he doesn’t miss her, even now three thousand years later. She was a changeling, not fit for Hell nor Earth, but for eight short years, she was his.
Aziraphale reaches for his hand and squeezes. “How do you feel about the country?” he asks, apropos of nothing. When Crowley says nothing, still lost in his thoughts, he carries on. “I found a small home, just a little place south of here. I thought it might be nice to get away from London now and again.”
“You bought a house?”
“A cottage, more like. It’s nothing really.”
Crowley huffs. His hands shake still, but he’s grateful for the distraction. “That’s what you’ve been hiding from me. I’ve been awake for half a day, and you couldn’t keep it secret. It’s a wonder God never found out about your missing sword.”
“Oh, rather, I think She knew,” Aziraphale says. “It’s yours if you’d have it with me.”
“When can I see it?”
They make a plan to drive to the South Downs in the afternoon, and throughout their brunch, Crowley fidgets. He picks at his waffles and samples his espresso. They’re both nervous and a bit on edge after their walk through the park, and the copious amounts of tea and coffee don’t help. Crowley is halfway out the door while Aziraphale settles the bill, and the angel has to jog to keep up. He loops his arm through Crowley’s elbow, fond and thrilled to be able to do so without consequence.
“I didn’t mean to cause distress.”
“Distress? I’m not distressed.” Crowley visibly shakes himself out, from his shoulders to his hips, huffing. “Sorry, angel. I’m just not used to this.”
“Being free, you mean.”
He looks around him at the bustling street, a hundred people pushing past, chins tucked and heads caught up in their solitary worries, as though the world hadn’t almost ended a few months back. “No Heaven. No Hell. Nobody looming over our shoulders. We never talked about… her for millennia and now--” Now they could talk about anything, everything, if only he had the courage. The statue in the Victoria Embankment Gardens is larger than life, as large as all the things he’s never said or allowed himself to think about.
Aziraphale guides him away from the bruncheon towards the Bentley waiting on the corner of its own volition, the soft rumble of its engine a small comfort. Crowley slides in, his hands settling on the wheel, flexing as he gets used to the smooth leather again. He hasn’t driven it much since the apocalypse, and that’s another memory he has to tamp down, the feel of hot flames licking at the back of his neck, the smell of burning leather and oil and polyurethane and the absolute terror that he might lose his Bentley and worse his angel, the bookshop already burned to ashes.
Then Aziraphale touches the back of his hand, a calming balm that breaks his reverie. “Just head down the A3 until we hit the coast,” he says.
“Yeah, right.” Crowley rights himself, engaging the clutch, and shifts into first gear. More than half the time, the Bentley drives itself, but today the movement grounds him.
It’s the little touches that startle him most, a hand on the back of his, an arm looped through his elbow where anyone could see. The sex has been fantastic, explosive and volcanic, but in a way that feels permeable and impermanent. They’ve fucked before, but they were just two sine waves touching in harmony before peeling apart. It was raw and always a bit heartbreaking. It was tenuous. His hand tucked in Aziraphale’s pocket, the angel’s scarf wrapped around his throat, feels cementing.
The drive down is quick and agonising. Aziraphale says nothing, sensing the tension, but he keeps one hand on the back of Crowley’s neck, his thumb tracing in slow sweeps from the base up to the delicate skin behind his ear and down again, over and over. It’s all he can do to keep his hands on the wheel, a warmth gathering in his abdomen and thighs. He’s not aroused but could be with the right word, the right touch. The casual possessiveness is so novel, and he doesn’t know if he’ll ever get used to it.
They pass the national park into a small village with a towering cathedral and a small town square. The houses are all packed together with steep gable roofs and short stone fences. Aziraphale directs Crowley down a narrow dirt road on the outskirts of the city atop a cliff looking out to sea, and they stop in front of a small stone cottage with peeling shingles and a crumbling chimney, the weeds mutinying against the stone path leading to the door. There’s an old weathered For Sale sign out front, creaking in the breeze from rust.
Crowley doesn’t want to be rude, but he is still a demon, and it goes against his nature to bite his tongue. “This doesn’t seem to be your style," he says. "It seems a bit decrepit." They’d passed several other small little cottages on the way down with clean brick fronts and landscaped exteriors. In contrast, this cottage is derelict and on the verge of collapse.
“It needs work, of course,” Aziraphale agrees. “But let me show you inside.”
They exit the Bentley, and on the way to the front door, Crowley glances back at the For Sale sign. It has a red sticker stuck haphazardly on it that says SOLD.
“You’ve been busy while I was asleep.”
Aziraphale beams, waiting for him at the front step. There’s a cloud of anxiety around him, however, in the way he squeezes and unsqueezes his hands, fussing with his ring. He reaches out for Crowley’s hand and leads him into the cottage.
“It’s not much,” he says, “but it has a woodfire stove and a fireplace for the winter.”
“It’s quaint.” Crowley sniffs and roams around the lower flower. It’s an open floor plan. The front door leads them into the foyer-cum-living-cum-dining area, and even without any furniture, it feels cramped. The fireplace does look nice and inviting, cosy, and then he gasps under his breath when he sees what’s on the mantle.
Aziraphale holds his breath, standing off to the side, watching him step hesitantly towards the fireplace. Crowley reaches up with a tentative finger and traces along the hilt of the little wooden sword on display made of olive wood. Its edges are smooth, lacking the hard-earned chips and dents of the original, but otherwise, it’s a perfect replica of the one Aziraphale taught Medusa how to make.
“I went back to Laconia after that night and burnt everything but the houses. I had always wanted to keep something, but it was too great of a risk, what with Michael about in Greece.” He watches Crowley lift the sword off its stand with care as though it were a xiphos made of iron. “I do miss her, Crowley.”
“You never said.”
“It didn’t seem… safe. There is a lot we have not said.” Aziraphale joins him at the mantle and picks up a small leather coin purse set amongst the other knick-knacks. He takes the sword and places it back on its stand, dropping the bag in Crowley’s open hands. It lands with a soft clink.
Crowley frowns and turns it over, feeling the worn and faded leather soft and supple in his hands. Then he loosens the drawstrings and tips the contents out, a handful of old eroded coins in various shapes and sizes spilling into his open palm. “Drachma?” he asks, his throat tight, pitching upwards.
“Two hundred, to be precise,” Aziraphale says, voice quiet, “and there’s something I want to show you out back.”
Aziraphale leads him out the back door and into the garden. It’s a small patch of dirt, disregarded and in need of landscaping, but beyond that is a large meadow and a singular tree, its thick knotted trunk exalting upwards, its branches sprawling and gnarled. In the distance, he can see a few farm animals grazing in the pasture. “Technically the cows aren’t ours.”
“The cows?” Crowley asks in a daze.
“We share the field with a neighbouring hobby farm. It’s quite charming, but I figured you wouldn’t actually want the responsibility of a calf.”
Aziraphale barrels on, determined. “And admittedly a single tree doesn’t constitute a grove, but I looked all over for a property that had an actual olive tree. They have very particular requirements for growing but -- ah -- you know that. You cultivated them for years, after all.”
“An olive tree,” Crowley repeats, stunned.
Then Aziraphale places the coin purse on the ground beside them and takes Crowley’s hands. He has to cup him by the jaw and turn his head away from the field and their singular olive tree. “You were promised a dowry a long time ago, and I believe we’re long overdue.”
“Angel, that was -- that --” Crowley trips over his words, his mouth opening and closing. “That was just a pretence.”
“It wasn’t. Maybe it was temporary, but I meant it. I still do, and I know you do too.” He says it with such conviction, his fingers squeezing Crowley’s hands, but there’s a waver in his voice. “I’ve wanted this life with you if you’ll have me.”
Crowley can imagine it, clear as a tide pool reflecting the morning sun, the small open floor plan stacked to the ceiling with books, a garden blooming full of hyacinths. He imagines climbing the olive tree, of transplanting the pomegranate sapling currently flourishing in front of the bookshop window, feeding Aziraphale fresh-picked fruit by hand. His voice breaks when he speaks. “Yes.”
“Yes, I’ll have you. You’ve had me always, before Troy, before bloody Mesopotamia.”
Aziraphale grabs him by the collar and yanks him close, kissing him with both hands cupping his face. He moans into it, pulling away only to rest his forehead against Crowley’s. “I mean what I said. You went to sleep this winter like you always do, but I missed you more. I had you now, but I still couldn’t tell you all the things I dreamt about and felt, the things I want with you. It invigorated me; you called to me.”
It’s a lot to be on the receiving end of an angel’s divinity. Crowley can feel it, a shimmer of warmth that sparks over his skin. Without the host or missives from Heaven, Aziraphale has turned all of his purpose towards him instead.
And Crowley, who was dormant for so long, awakens, throat tight and eyes stinging. He kisses Aziraphale like he’s the first sip of water after a long sleep, drinks from him in long pulls, drawing closer and deeper. He shivers under Aziraphale’s touch, hands skimming up his sides and shoulders to tangle in his hair grown long over the winter. “I’ve wanted for a long time. You don’t know how long I’ve wanted you,” he tells him. Of all the things he’s desired and hungered for, he’s loved Aziraphale the longest.
“You’ll tell me every day,” Aziraphale says, a command and not a request. “I want to know all your secrets, every thought you had of me that you couldn’t say. And I’ll tell you how my heart ached when I saw you in Golgotha after centuries apart, how I bit my tongue until it bled to stop from telling you I loved you. I’ll tell you about Rome and the dinner we had in Barcelona and everything in between and more.”
Crowley needs time to unpack all he’s felt and dreamt over the last six thousand years, but the shape of the story forms in his mind. It started with a garden, ripe and full of life, and wounded him in an olive grove, flaying open all of his weaknesses for everyone to see. But from it grew a love he had to tuck away, lock up and hide in the hole of his heart where it survived, a tree taking root in the rock of a cliffside. He can transplant his heart to richer soil, a place that smells like sandalwood and cocoa and the tangy burst of olives, where it feels like pomegranate arils slipping through his fingers. It’s a love so strong it’s impossible to quench. He wants to flood the earth with it, soak their garden with it and make it grow into something more beautiful and sweeter than even Eden.
He’s not poetic like Aziraphale, but for once he can be honest. “I loved you on the wall above the Eastern Gate,” he says, feeling the angel’s fingers tighten in his hair. He punctuates his sentences with kisses, fleeting before more secrets spill out. “I loved you standing in the rubble of a bombed-out church and the passenger seat of the Bentley. I love the stupid way you say velocipede when I know you know it’s a bicycle.” Aziraphale exhales, an amused puff of air in the space between their mouths. Crowley’s breath hitches. “I… I loved the way you loved Medusa, the way you still do.”
He can’t quantify his sorrow, what it felt like to fall or to grieve his daughter, and he won’t forget. But Aziraphale can fill the holes of his heart, pockmarked in battle and worn from attrition, with seeds of their own making. He can rewrite their history and fill it with love.
He bends down to scoop the coin purse from the ground and squeezes it in his hand. “Angel, let’s get married.”
“I believe we are long overdue,” Aziraphale agrees.
Crowley intends to grow a garden, a grove full of sleepy mornings and wine-soaked evenings, of questing fingers seeking out every curve and dip of Aziraphale’s skin. He’s not starting over or creating something new. Instead, he means to cultivate what he’s felt for millennia to excess and without restraint.
He turns and looks out over the slatted fence at the cows and the old olive tree, at the meadow below. Then he looks back at Aziraphale, his home.
Thank you for sticking with me. When I first started writing this, I didn't mean for it to get so out of control. Then, like our favorite sauntering demon, I started asking questions. How would the myth of Medusa fit into the Good Omens universe? Why would Crowley be so insistent on raising the Antichrist? What if Aziraphale intended on marrying Crowley for 3000 years?! What if they ate magic sex fruit??? All these different plot ideas collided in my brain. I overindulged in this story, so thank you to both my long-time and new readers for bearing with me!
Edit: I forgot to add, the statue of Medusa is real and is installed across from the building where Harvey Weinstein was tried. Here is more information: Medusa with the head of Perseus
Edit: 2/6/21: Thank you again to @moonflower-marie on tumblr for this amazing artwork!
As always, I appreciate all the kudos and comments! Thank you! <3