SUMMARY: "And the Lord spake unto the Angel that guarded the eastern gate, saying Where is the flaming sword which was given unto thee?"
ARCHIVE: Ask and ye shall receive.
DISCLAIMER: Aziraphale and Crowley belong to Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Adam and Eve belong to...well, who knows? Not me, certainly. Please don't sue.
Their possessions were packed. There wasn't much to bring: a bag filled with as much fruit as it could hold (the serpent had casually suggested he take a few more apples from the Tree of Knowledge; he'd kicked the animal to the opposite side of the garden in reply), some crude grooming tools made from branches, and the animal skins God had given them. He was thankful for those - Eve had gotten quite adept with a thread and needle, but her fig leaf clothing had a regrettable tendency to fall apart at the most inopportune times. He didn't know what the conditions would be like outside of Eden, but he had a suspicion that fig leaves wouldn't cut it.
He'd been sitting under one of the trees for a half-hour now, waiting for Eve to return from gathering kindling to take with them. Everything was perfectly still and perfectly silent; the usual birdsong was gone from the sky, and the air was cold against his skin. Goosebumps had been prickling up and down his arms for hours now, but the wind had little to do with it.
Outside of Eden...he'd never really thought about it before. He'd tried to peer over the garden walls once, a few days after his creation, but had seen nothing more than a rolling gray mist. He hadn't done it again; his curiousity had been satisfied, and besides, thinking of a world beyond this one was troubling.
"Troubling" being roughly defined now as "flat-out terrifying."
Trembling hands rose to rub at his eyes. His stomach had been twisting and churning for hours now, and he was mildly surprised he hadn't thrown up yet. Sickness was something he'd never worried about before...he wasn't even fully sure what it was. The Tree of Knowledge had given him some idea of what it was like, but the actual experience was something new. He didn't like it, didn't like the ache and the way his insides felt like they were slowly devouring themselves.
Banishment. It was worse than death. At least with death, you knew where you were going....
His ears picked up the sound of rustling footsteps in the grass. His wife appeared a moment later, grunting under the weight of her bag of kindling. For an instant, he wanted to rush to her side - she was pregnant, she shouldn't be straining herself so - but instead he wrapped his arms around his legs and pressed his face to his knees. There was a thud as she unceremoniously dumped the satchel by his side, and more rustling as she lowered herself to the ground.
"Well," she said, "that should be enough for a while. I'm sure we'll be able to find more once we get out there." A hesitation. "Adam? Are you all right?"
He had to laugh a little at that, a choked and bitter sound that scratched his throat.
"Oh, Adam...." Her arms reached out and drew him close, her hair tickling his cheek and her swollen belly pressing against his leg. He absentmindedly let one hand drift down to rest against her stomach. For the briefest of instants, he thought he could feel the heartbeat of their child.
A child who would never see Paradise. A child forever marked with sin because of the actions of its parents.
For it really was both their faults; he could see that now. There had been angry and bitter fights right after the...incident, where accusations and harsh words were hurled back and forth between them. She'd even disappeared for several days, leaving him alone and shivering, as it had been in the days before her creation. But she had been right: she may have been the first to Fall, but he hadn't exactly resisted temptation either. It was a matter of the wrong place at the wrong time...if he'd happened to saunter by that tree before she did, he could have started the chain of events just as easily as she had.
She was murmuring apologies now anyway, as she curled herself around him in an effort to protect them both. "I'm sorry, Adam. I'm so sorry for everything. You know I didn't mean it, you know that."
"Yes," he mumbled, lifting his arm to half-embrace her. "I know. But don't apologize anymore; it's far too late for that."
She sighed. "Yeah. It is, isn't it." Not a question, but a simple statement of fact.
The pair let go of each other, leaving Adam to sit on the grass and Eve to kneel beside him. She brushed a few strands of dark hair out of her eyes and looked out into the distance. Far away, beyond the borders of the garden, slate-gray clouds were beginning to form.
"Are we supposed to leave on our own?" she asked uncertainly. "Or is He sending some sort of escort to show us out?"
Adam shrugged. "He seems like the type to send an escort. I mean, if He didn't, we could just stay here forever."
It was far from humorous, but she chuckled softly anyway. Scooting closer to her, he draped an arm around her waist and allowed her to rest her head on his shoulder. It was then that he noticed she was shaking almost imperceptibly - she was as frightened as he was.
"Wonder what it'll be like out there," she whispered. "More difficult, I expect. But...." Her fingers fluttered against her belly. "He wouldn't kill us, would He? It - it's the first thing we've done wrong, after all, and I'm sure He doesn't hurt people on their first offenses, but it was such a terrible thing, and - " She broke off and gulped in air, trembling violently now.
Adam pressed her closer to his side. "Shhh," he said in a feeble effort to placate her. "It will be all right. I'm sure of it." It was a complete lie, one that rolled off his tongue with surprising ease. Something else that must have come from the Tree of Knowledge...he'd never lied before; he'd never had a need to.
But they needed comfort, the both of them, and if that comfort could be found in lies...well, it was still wrong, but it was better than the truth.
He began to gently stroke her hair, running his hand over its entire length, and continued his soft lies. "It will be worse, I know, but we'll manage just fine. We have food, and we have firewood, and I'm sure there will be some more fruit out there somewhere. Animals, too...we can hunt, if we need to."
"I don't like the idea of hunting," she mumbled. Her tremors, however, had ceased.
"Neither do I, but we might not have a choice." He shifted position slightly and continued weaving his fingers through her hair. "We won't have to do it that often, though...only every now and then, so we don't have to eat apples all day."
He caught a glimpse of a smile at that. "Yeah," she affirmed. "I've had enough of apples for a while." She looked up at him with large blue eyes. "And our child?"
"Will grow up to be strong and handsome. It might even be easier for him - or her - than for us, because they won't know what they've missed." He smiled down at her. "We'll make it. You'll see."
She closed her eyes and nestled against his shoulder. He gave her a soft kiss on her forehead, swallowing hard against the sudden way his throat clenched up. It hurt more than he would have thought, almost worse than the apprehension that had been gnawing through his stomach. His eyes prickled, and he quickly blinked away the tears before Eve could see.
A polite cough made them jerk their heads upward. There, standing on the slope before them, was an angel. He was clad in the white robe typical of the other heavenly messengers they'd seen, and had drawn his wings close against his back, leaving only small glimpses of white feathers and a strange, ethereal glow. A silver scabbard hung from his waist. If he squinted, Adam thought he could see a faint golden aura encircling his head - though it may have just been his blonde hair frizzing up in the afternoon heat.
"Hello, Adam. Eve," he said with a nod.
Both of them scrambled to their feet. The fear came slamming back into Adam's gut, and it took nearly all his strength to keep standing. There was only one reason why an angel would be here: like he had said, God was the type to send an escort.
This was it.
He never learned how he managed to speak in such an even, measured tone. "You're here to show us out?"
"I am," the angel replied. "Have you, er, gathered all your possessions?"
"Yes," Eve said in a small voice.
"Good." He turned and beckoned for them to follow. "Come with me, then."
Eve bent to scoop up the satchel of firewood. Adam did the same with the bag of food. Then, slowly, they began to trail the angel.
The trio walked in silence beneath the splayed trees, whose branches in perpetual bloom, and took care to avoid trampling the flowers that poked through the soil. Adam tried to concentrate, to study every minute detail of every object they passed on the way to the gates. He had to remember it, not just for himself, but for his unborn child...and possibly even all their descendants to come. For who was to say God wouldn't destroy the garden as soon as they left? After all, no human being could ever step back inside....
They were at the gate. Eve suddenly clung to him, shaking again; he awkwardly placed a hand on top of her head and tried to suppress his own shivering. His stomach had turned into a cold, heavy lump, dragging him down and spreading a chill over his entire body.
The angel turned back to them and withdrew the sword from his scabbard. As he did, the blade went up in a whoosh of flame. The sudden glow tinted their faces orange and outlined Eve's gaunt, pale visage. She looked more frail at that moment than he'd ever remembered her being.
"Right. Er. Off you go, then," the angel said, pointing into the distance with his flaming sword. His formerly confident voice almost sounded unsure to Adam's ears...it was probably just wishful thinking, though, a vague notion that God had changed His mind and would allow them to stay. Settling his arm around Eve's waist, he took a deep breath and stepped over the border that separated Eden from the rest of the world. The unfamiliar ground was barren, and it crumbled under his bare feet.
Eve let out a tremulous sob; he hugged her closer and glanced at the angel, searching for some trace of the empathy he thought he'd heard before. But the divine being was carefully avoiding his eyes, choosing instead to focus on a pebble near his feet. With his own eyes starting to cloud over with tears, he sighed and began to walk.
They hadn't gone more than ten paces when the angel suddenly called, "Adam?"
He looked over his shoulder, hope suddenly rekindling a rush of warmth in his chest. The angel hesitated, swallowing and looking at the sword in his hand before looking up at Adam again.
"Er, listen," he said. "You're not allowed to come back, you know - "
"So we gathered," he snapped. The angel plowed on as if he hadn't heard him.
" - there'll be something of an awful row if you do, and it's, ah, probably not in anyone's best interest to get Him angry." He gestured toward the deepening clouds. "But...uh...." Again he hesitated and glanced down at his sword. Then, to Adam's infinite surprise, he stretched it out toward him. "Here. Take it."
He could only stare at the flames that lapped the blade. Eve's eyes were wide and almost frightened.
"Take it," the angel urged again. "It'll keep you warm, and it'll give you some protection."
Adam carefully reached out and grasped the sword's hilt. For a brief second, his hand overlapped the angel's, and he could sense the intense power coiled just under his skin. It was like lightning - sharp, electric, and hot.
"Thank you, er - " How were you supposed to address an angel? Not "sir" or "mister," certainly, and simply calling him "angel" was far too rude.
"Aziraphale," the angel supplied. "And don't thank me. Just...just make sure you're gone before sunset." He waved them away. "Go."
With one last, wide-eyed look at the angel, Adam turned and began to walk toward their future, with Eve a few paces behind. The sword flickered by his side.
Aziraphale sighed heavily and tilted his head back to gaze at the sky. The stormclouds were still approaching. Fitfully, doubt still written all over his face, he shook out his wings and turned his attention back to the retreating figures.
Hours later, the grass near his feet parted with a swish, admitting a green-and-yellow serpent onto the dusty ground. It coiled itself around Aziraphale's leg and raised its head to peer up at him. He did not acknowledge the creature's presence; he just continued to stare in the direction where Adam and Eve had once been. Giving the serpentine equivalent of a shrug, the snake flicked its tongue into the air, tasting the electricity that had begun to brew.
"Well," it said as thunder growled in the distance, "that one went down like a lead balloon."