Chapter rating: PG-13
Well, this is the end. After much debate, I picked the ending I felt best fit this story. Thank you so much to everyone whose commentary has helped to build and finish this ever so long fanfic! It's 86 pages long, now, and I hope you've enjoyed this as much as I have.
Crowley wasn't sure whether or not he wanted to open his eyes. He could remember things - so many things - and most of them felt like scenes out of some kind of nightmare. Some of them involved Aziraphale, others....
He tucked himself more tightly against the softness beneath him. What....? "Where am I?"
Okay. Very, very cautiously he reached out with searching fingers, found the edge of what seemed to be his bed, right where it normally was. That was good. His pillow smelled unused, another check, he was wearing clothing.... The light seemed right, gentle and not direct, just how it always felt on nights he bothered staying in his apartment.
So overall, it was safe to bet that he was in his flat.
Crowley opened his eyes.
Yes, it was his room. He sat up, and looked around.
The room was orderly - not the way he'd cleaned and repaired things, but orderly in a manner that suggested it had never been lived in. The picture of Aziraphale that hung across from the bed, painted and pristine, was as perfect as the day it had been posed. Crowley cleared his throat, pleased that his voice was the same it had always been, and frowned. "The dice..."
Dice. God. Aziraphale - a lump rose in the demon's throat. There had been a choice, a final roll - what had the answer been?
~/Now we see where you really belong./~
"Where I really belong..." The possible outcomes, he remembered, were remaining as an angel or getting Aziraphale back.
Crowley leapt out of the bed, scrambling across his carefully made-up room to the telephone settled neatly on the desk. There were no messages blinking.
His hands hesitated.
What if Aziraphale didn't answer? What then? How could Crowley live his..... his time out without the angel's company? The demon pulled away from the phone, staring at the gray-black plastic as if it would bite him. What if he punched in the familiar number and was connected to an utter stranger, in a world where Aziraphale no longer existed? What if it just kept ringing, and ringing, and ringing....
Crowley glared at himself and viciously punched in Aziraphale's phone number. He let the speaker phone ring.
What if Aziraphale did answer, would the angel remember their adventure? The demon shifted and ran a hand through his hair, staring at the blinking 'charge' light on the telephone's stand.
Or more importantly, would he remember Crowley's confession or emotions that he still felt with all of his heart?
A third echoing ring.
What had happened between the two of them? If God had meant to set things back the way they had been before, wouldn't Crowley be unable to remember as well?
What if Aziraphale did answer, but didn't want to see Crowley, because he was afraid of lust - afraid of love - afraid of a demon now that he had actually sinned -
What if Aziraphale had fallen? What if God had sent him back only to punish him for killing Hastur, the Metatron....
Something heavy settled in the demon's chest as the melancholy, blank ring repeated itself, droning on in the buzzing silence of his apartment. "Pick up the phone, angel," he whispered, faintly. "Pick up the phone."
Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring.
Anthony Crowley was not a patient man. After ring twenty-two and a half he knocked the phone sideways across the room and watched without satisfaction as it spontaneously combusted there on the floor. He reached for his jacket.
The Bentley was not outside, and he supposed that was correct - hadn't he left it at the club on his last night on earth? Aziraphale had, he recalled with a faint smile, been a bit put out at having to order a taxi and carry his unconscious friend about. Swearing at his own mistake, the demon began walking - and in seconds, running.
He ran through cold puddles of disgusting, half-melted snow, past city-folk who were moving slowly in the early morning, nursing steaming cups of coffee or hot chocolate and ignoring Crowley completely. That was the way it was, when the demon didn't want to be seen...
Like a bat out of hell - or a demon out of Heaven - Crowley fled his flat and moved through the filling highways. Sometimes on the sidewalks, sometimes jumping over a car and moving in the less crowded street
The bookshop was still there.
'Okay,' the demon told himself, 'It's alright. He probably didn't answer the phone... that's all. He's there.' With shaky hands Crowley tried the door and found that it was locked.
He shortly added breaking and entering onto his list of sins.
Inside was perfectly normal, the books were stacked in what he supposed was their usual order, nothing could be heard save for the occasional shuffle of a ruffled page - Crowley moved through the downstairs, past the dusty cash register and to the stairwell. "Aziraphale?" He called, looking up.
There was nobody in the kitchen, or the study, or the small closet that held only a few moth-eaten coats, so Crowley took to the stairs. Every little creak, every step felt like a mile, filled with doubts and fears - He glanced in the room to the left, where an old workbench was settled in the center of the room, covered with damaged books. The bedroom door was closed. "Aziraphale?"
He twisted the knob, shoved the door inwards, and did a double take.
There was somebody in the bed, but it was definitely not Aziraphale.
Crowley took a few halting steps nearer until he was standing beside the bed, staring down at its occupant. The man was young - very young, and had a head of long, chestnut-brown hair that was splayed across the pillow. The demon wanted to die.
Had Aziraphale been replaced? Erased?
The young man rolled slightly, as if sensing the snake-eyes that were drinking his form in. Moments later his eyelids were flickering open, and he met Crowley's gaze with a sleepy smile. "Good morning, my dear demon."
There was no mistaking those eyes or the prim tone of voice, and Crowley felt his legs give out beneath him. He ended up leaning on the bed, on his knees, staring hungrily up at those beautiful, cerulean eyes.... "Aziraphale....? Is it really you?"
The angel nodded solemnly, fluffing the pillows behind him and leaning up against them. "I asked the Lord to give me a new body... something that wasn't... you know, stained."
Crowley sighed gustily against his hands. There were a thousand questions swirling around in his mind, but none of them seemed to form on his lips - he wound up stammering, unable to break away from the gaze of the angel. "Then... he forgave...."
"Everything," Aziraphale said, happily. "It never happened. He reset things... Hastur and the Metatron were lost, but he tweaked everything just a bit. Said they were too much fun to play games with to lose now," the angel found that a bit distasteful. Crowley felt his heart pound at the faint pout that crossed Aziraphale's suddenly very-young visage. "He has strange taste in bodies, though."
"I don't mind," Crowley said immediately, and wished he hadn't.
Aziraphale stared at him for a moment, then looked down discreetly at his hands. "I didn't think you would... But... Crowley, you could have stayed an angel. You would have been so happy! Why didn't you...?"
"I couldn't live without you." The demon told him very simply. "I'm not cut out to be an angel. I'm cut out to be with an angel - with you."
"Crowley..." Aziraphale looked away.
Here goes, the demon thought miserably. Here's where I get shot down like a duck during open season.
He took a deep breath and prepared to be annihilated.
There was a very soft knock on the door, which the exhausted occupant of the bed attempted to ignore, until it sounded twice more and demanded a response of some sort.
"Go away," Newt shouted into his pillow without moving from the warm covers. "I'm asleep."
"You don't sound asleep," the voice was feminine, and full of secrets and mirth that only a really expert woman can achieve. It was also disturbingly familiar, because the speaker was supposed to be dead. "You sound awake."
Newt's eyes shot open. He exhaled. No, that was not Anathema, he was dreaming, he was imagining it, he was asleep -
The door swung open, and despite himself he rolled over to stare at the woman - who was his wife - standing in the doorway. "A....aaaa...."
Anathema cracked a very wide smile and closed the door behind her with a soft click. For a long moment she stood, hands behind her back, a soft smile on her lips. "I'm home."
Newt jerked up, pulling the covers across his chest in wide-eyed, white-knuckled shock. "You're a g-ghost!"
"No! I've been a ghost. I'm alive again, now. Don't worry, I checked at the hospital, I'm not in their records as a patient, the tracks are covered. Alli is sleeping soundly, I checked on her - that leaves just you. Don't I get a welcome-home kiss?"
"I *was* dead. You'd never believe me if I told you," Anathema stretched lithely and closed the gap between herself and the bed, settling on the edge and smoothing down the dress she was wearing.
Newt rubbed his eyes furiously, and reached for his glasses beside the bed. "I don't believe you anyway... You're dead. I killed you - I was driving - "
"Oh, Newt!" Anathema reached out hopefully, and Newt took her hand, she could feel his trembling and closed her eyes. "You thought it was your fault? No! Not at all! It wasn't time for me to die at all. I was called. remember when Aziraphale came to visit us?"
Newt nodded weakly, running his thumb across her knuckles as if he couldn't believe he was really holding her hand again. As if they might disappear if he so much as blinked. "He went after Crowley, who had been taken down to hell, and then they both went back to Heaven to do battle. God called me up to assist Crowley and Aziraphale in fighting a traitor amongst the angels, I pegged God's Favorite Angel between the eyes with a rock, and we won. So he let me come back."
Newt's jaw fell open - for some reason, this sounded a bit too much like something his lover would get involved with to be a lie, or a mistake, or a dream. "For real."
Anathema moved up against him, and he curled an arm around her shoulders, inhaling deeply. It had to be her, it even smelled like her, soft and a bit like roses....
"Absolutely. Would I lie to you?"
Newt felt like crying and laughing at the same time, and words fell acutely short of describing his situation. He did a little bit of both, pressing the palm of his hand against his forehead and whispering against her neck. "You're back..."
"Yes." If he had been able to meet her eyes, he would have noticed that Anathema was crying, too. "I'm back. And I would very much like a kiss."
Newt pulled her against him like a drowning man clings to a life preserver and gave her precisely what she wanted.
Aziraphale stared at Crowley very hard, licked his lips, and spoke deliberately. "The Metatron forced us into our deepest fantasy when we re-entered Heaven... Do you remember...?"
Crowley nodded, clenching his fists. Of course he remembered, it had been bloody wonderful, and memories like that did not easily fade. "Yeah."
"Um. You were dreaming about me," the angel was blushing furiously as he spoke. "You said my name. Among... other things. Er."
It was Crowley's turn to feel the heat of embarrassment. "Well, yeah. I'm a demon, Aziraphale! For me, paradise is nothing more than you."
The angel thought about it for a moment. "Oh."
"And I'm not sorry," Crowley added, staring moodily at the angel before him. "Not at all. I wouldn't take anything I said back, whether you heard it or not. If you want me to keep my distance, I will, but it will take me a long time to change how I feel... it took long enough for me to fall for you, forgetting will be-"
Aziraphale cut him off, fiddling with the edge of the blanket in his lap. ".....you... you don't.... Don't really have to forget about it..."
The demon stopped cold, mouth half-open in mid-rant. ".....what?"
"Forget about it. I mean, I don't really - want you too - I..." Aziraphale took a deep breath and met his eyes again, turning an even deeper shade of red. Rather like a turnip, or a tomato. "My paradise had you in it, too.... in fact, it was just you. We ate dinner, and walked along a lake, and you..." Redder still, as if there was more that he wasn't saying, "wrapped an arm around my waist and kissed my forehead, and... and took me home.... but... I liked it."
Crowley stared. Aziraphale squirmed.
"When... When I talked to God, I asked, and ... he said he didn't mind. He said he could fix things so that nobody would bother us, and I told him that would be nice ... So... so if you wanted to... maybe.... kiss me now and then, I wouldn't mind so much." His face was hidden by a curtain of silk-brown hair that looked unbearably soft. "If you... wanted..."
Anthony Crowley stood, anticipation coiling in the pit of his stomach like liquid hot iron. Aziraphale didn't move, and the demon took a stumbling half-step towards the bed, licking his lips. "Could I kiss you... now?"
The angel looked up, eyes wide, and Crowley settled himself on the bed, facing the angel. They stared at one another for a long moment. Somehow the demon knew that if he gave in to this - if he kissed Aziraphale - he would never be able to stop. It was the Point of No Return.
He didn't care. He didn't want to return.
Very carefully Crowley reached out and brushed dark bangs out of Aziraphale's eyes, letting his fingers rest on angelic cheekbones with a sentimentality that belied his demonic nature. Very slowly, he pressed his lips to Aziraphale's, and watched the angel's eyes drift closed.
It was a very chaste kiss - until Crowley tilted Aziraphale's chin up and the angel gasped a bit, leaving the demon at an advantage - which he used, utterly.
Kissing Aziraphale was like nothing he had ever done before. It wasn't as much a kiss as an utter sense of everything that he'd ever lost forever, everything he'd never be again. The angel tasted like perfection and purity, and the demon thought if he wasn't careful, he might drown in the sensation... Crowley ran his fingers through the angel's hair, snaking his tongue across untested purity - and enjoying every moment of it.
For Aziraphale, the sensation of being kissed was an indulgence into everything that had always been forbidden to him. Every excess, every tease, every biting comment or fear, every bit of him that had desired to but never strayed - Crowley was all of that in one package, like a perfect compliment to what he had.
The angel was moaning softly by the time the kiss ended and Crowley pulled away, eyes filled with baffled shock.
"Wow," he said.
Aziraphale nodded mutely, and Crowley leaned in for another kiss - but was stopped by a single finger pressed gently to his lips.
"You know," the angel said, as Crowley began to lick his finger with serpentine strokes of a very wet, forked tongue, "I... I'm not sure we need to hurry s-so much."
"I mean, we have forever... and I'm... I mean..." Aziraphale was very distracted by the demon's actions, "It's going to take me a while to sort of get used to this, you know."
Crowley nodded and placed a kiss on the tip of the abused finger. "Well, we're even, because it's going to take a while for me to start thinking of you as a brunette."
Aziraphale smiled a perfect smile, leaning back against the pillow. "You don't mind?"
"Of course not, angel," said Crowley, and kissed him again.
It was better than he had ever imagined.