It all started perfectly innocently.
Okay, well, that's a lie.
It started, actually, like this….
They meet halfway. There is a much larger crackling, and a surge of backwashing electrons zapping madly back down both ends of the open phone connection and threatening to black out communications in both New York and London at once (which would, quite possibly, trap them there although they couldn't be sure as neither had ever experienced it). They don't care. They flow and sparkle and buzz around and into each other like…well, there is no simile here.
When writers of erotica (as opposed to pornography, in which this phrase never appears) type "they became one" it is usually a romantic, if trite, bit of hyperbole and euphemism. In this case, it was literally true. And they, to put it euphemistically, freaked out. Too much. Unsustainable. The little death getting a little bit too big before showing a glimpse of a state of being too huge to comprehend.
This is very hard to describe, but if you can picture an infinitesimal and yet actually sizeless energy vibration that is more or less Crowley having a quick dispute with a similar non-object that is more or less Aziraphale, using something that both is and isn't language (the gist of the argument is "your place or mine?"), and all of this happening in less than the blink of a flea's eye, you will be in the neighbourhood of close.
But when they decided upon New York, they too were still only in the neighbourhood of close, rattled and agitated and imperfectly-separated and as horny as unincorporated animate aether can be.
So you see, there was hardly anything "innocent" about it. But the outcome was innocent, in that it was completely unplanned and unintentional.
No, we're not referring to the humourous episode with interchangeable parts that made an angel and a demon into living Mr. Potato Heads, nor to the subsequent raging acts of carnal delight in a spatially-altered New York phone booth. Something much greater and more profound took place during the overwhelming transferencebeforehand.
Try to think of the phone line as the world's biggest and most surprised super-conducting supercollider. In a controlled and planned situation, using simple atoms that aren't comprised of two separate entities of angelic stock slamming into one another at slightly more than the speed of light, one would get quite a blast of radiation and particles spraying off in millions of directions. If handled properly however, such situations can also produce antimatter which, when it comes into contact with matter, will destroy them both but results in pure energy of the highest possible calibre.
In this case, however… Well, it's not something any human scientist could predict.
And so, another couple of days, another battle in the U.S. Congress later, and Crowley is returning to his beloved England and his belo- rather well-liked angel. And this is where they begin to realise that their hasty and lust-fueled actions have wrought something unusual.
Crowley's trip home was a slow walk across hot coals. If he'd been in Hell he'd have done it with a saunter and a smile, but this time he seemed to have lost his fashionable shoes and was tripping on each coal and now his feet were on fire. Or, more specifically, his lower back. First class was supposed to be about comfort. And he fucking well wasn't comfortable.
Struggling not to snap (with fangs) at the flight attendants, he fought to get comfortable in his first class seat. Deciding the seat itself was to blame, he finagled a change (twice) with no better results. Considering it was only a few days before Christmas, and the flight was seriously overbooked, and he'd already managed to bump God-only-(possibly)-knew-how-many humans just trying to get home for the holidays even though their current moods would be better suited to homicides, getting his seat changed around was close to a miracle. If he hadn't been feeling so utterly bitchy he would have just had a dozen drinks, jammed in the earphones* and fallen asleep for the entire flight. The attendants and other passengers sensed innately, in the way one senses one should not prod a viper with one's bare foot, that it would be best to humour him.
The flight itself was a long ride in a very prickly hand-basket. It seemed the pilots were deliberately seeking out air pockets just to make him queasy. He might as well have flown back on his own power, for all the trouble. And as they landed in London, he ignored the warnings to keep his seatbelt on in order to make a mad dash to the toilet. For the first time since the 14th century and a bad experience with some under-cooked and probably plague-tainted beef, he threw up. Stunned enough that he couldn't think on it, he staggered off the plane and into Heathrow.
Where the expected angel was not waiting.
He stomped to the airport car park, his back still knotted and painful, and made the drive to Soho in record time. There were several small crashes – between other drivers avoiding him, not involving him – and he was in the foulest of moods by the time he swerved into his usual spot in front of the store. Everything was slushy from snow and ice, and he nearly slipped on the pavement as he stormed inside.
Fuming and taking Aziraphale's name in vain, he was ready to bite the angel and not in a fun, erotic way.
It took a moment to realise Aziraphale was upstairs. Resisting the urge to knock precious books around in his current snit, Crowley pounded noisily up the steps to the tiny bedroom where he found the angel sleeping heavily. There was nothing more than a large lump on the bed, a cocoon of five blankets, starting at tartan and moving through floral, stripes, more tartan, and paisley. There was a thin layer of dust on the top blanket, meaning Aziraphale hadn't moved for days. Nor did he seem inclined to wake, even when Crowley kicked him. Finally, the demon shoved his freezing hands beneath the covers and directly against angel skin, and elicited a muffled grunt of displeasure.
"Lemme 'lone," Aziraphale whined, "Don' feel well."
"Oh shut up, and move your wide arse! You can't possibly feel unwell, you're an angel!" Crowley seethed. "You didn't meet me at the airport either."
"Tol' ya, don' feel well." The angel snuggled back under the blankets.
Crowley looked more closely at Aziraphale and saw that his face was flushed. Putting a hand to his forehead, he found the angel was a bit feverish. Could it be possible for them to get sick? He'd had the nausea and the back ache… both of which seemed to have vanished now. His mood was beginning to settle down. Suddenly concerned and solicitous, Crowley asked, "Should I get some tea? Do you need anything?"
"Hmph, jus' sleep," Aziraphale murmured. "Come under wi' me… sleep."
And Crowley realised he was very tired and jet-lagged, so he undressed and crawled into the unfashionable igloo, cuddling up to the warm and softly snoring angel. It was very cozy, and soon he was asleep himself.
But he had a persistent dream of wading through the Trafalgar fountains, and eventually conceded he had to wake up. In the most god-forsaken hours of pre-dawn, he did something else in a toilet that he hadn't done in centuries, not since the first time he'd gotten pissing drunk enough not to be able to sober up on his own. He actually spent a penny. Though it was a bit more like a half-crown and change.
Too startled to speak, he slithered back into bed and finally slept soundly. Whatever was the matter, they could figure it out when the sun was up.
* Provided they didn't start playing Queen and/or Christmas carols at him, in which case there might have been an emergency landing required when the earphones burst into flames.
The next morning, Crowley awoke and poked his head from the pile of blankets like a scruffy yellow-eyed turtle. The angel was already out of bed and looking better, cheerily getting dressed and combing his hair.
"Oh, good morning, dear," Aziraphale smiled. "I'm so sorry about yesterday. I simply couldn't seem to wake up enough for anything. I'm not sure, but I think that little trip through the phone lines exhausted me rather more than I imagined."
"Was thinking the same thing," Crowley yawned. He struggled out from under the blanket shell, then stretched gently. His back was no longer in pain so he extended the stretch until he was nearly a foot taller than normal. "Well, I was a bit off myself. The flight bordered on actual Hell and I didn't eat anything the whole way."
"Then we ought to get breakfast," Aziraphale said, straightening his tie before the mirror. "I am absolutely ravenous."
"Hmm, perhaps we can wait just a few moments," Crowley leered, stalking still naked toward his angel. "I mean, we don't actually need food…" He put his arms around Aziraphale from behind. The angel hummed in pleasure until Crowley's fingers brushed across his chest, then he gave a tiny yelp and cringed away. Crowley frowned. "What was that about?"
"I don't know. I'm sore for some reason." Aziraphale gently rubbed his own hands across his chest, noting the nipples were extremely tender. He winced again, and looked Crowley's reflection in the eye. "Perhaps another side effect of the mix-up? Did I wind up withyours somehow?" Both pairs of eyes flashed down to Crowley's bare chest, and both agreed he seemed to have his own.
"Well… let's just give it some time, I guess," Crowley said a little dubiously. "'Til after breakfast anyway. I'm on the peckish side myself." He didn't mention his strange trips to the toilet. It had to be a fluke, caused by their experimental phone sex, and maybe the devilish flight home. They'd surely be themselves again in no time.
Breakfast was odder than usual, both of them craving a fry-up at a local dive. A little surprised, they both wrote it off with a laugh, saying they must have been hungrier than expected and sometimes it was good to have an old traditional morning meal. They parted and went back to their own homes. Crowley watered / threatened his plants and checked his voice mail** before deleting eighteen messages from solicitors, then settled on the couch for a bit of mindless television. Aziraphale returned to the bookshop, tidied the bedroom, folded all the blankets neatly away, then went back downstairs for tea and books. Everything was ticking along normally.
Afternoon approached and Crowley phoned with the usual request: Meet at St. James for duck feeding, then off to lunch at the Ritz.***
On his standard route to the park, Aziraphale's mouth began to water uncontrollably. His olfactory sense went into overdrive as he passed an eatery, and he went inside to purchase something he'd never have done otherwise, then continued to St. James in a state of confusion.
Crowley arrived to find the angel on a bench near the road, and halted to gawk in sheer horror at the sight before him. Aziraphale was eating fast food. Not just eating it, but shoveling it in. He had a sodden Burger Lord Extra-Loaded Spicy BBQ Rib sandwich in one hand and an Triple-Thick Whippy Chocolate shake in the other, and – dear Someone in Somewhere – was dipping the sandwich into the shake. He had at least taken the time to tuck a napkin into the neck of his coat, otherwise he'd have been covered in the same greasy mauve goop smeared on his mouth.
And the most horrifying part was the dazed expression of joy on the angel's face. Crowley feared he'd been lobotomized. Or worse yet, turned human. And possibly American.
"Oh my GOD, angel!" Crowley shouted, completely forgetting himself in terror. "What are you doing? That's fast food! Holy crap, you've said yourself that fast food is worse than haggis and head cheese combined! That you'd sooner lurk in the filthiest alley in Hong Kong eating suspicious kebabs from a leperous-looking vendor that set foot in a Burger Lord! For fuck's sake, MY people invented fast food! You're gulping down pure, unadulterated evil!And you're enjoying it!"
Aziraphale's eyes, which until that moment had seemed distant but happy, refocused and stared at the items in his hand. Mouth so full he couldn't speak, he scrabbled for the soiled napkin at his chin and spat hastily into it. "Oh my Heavens, I… I don't know what came over me! I was walking down the Strand on my way here, and it just called to me somehow. I didn't think, I just… it… sounded good at the time." With the most horrid distaste, he rose and deposited the bundle of offal in the nearest bin. He miracled the mess from his face and hands – and from inside his stomach, which now felt violated – but he didn't think he'd ever feel clean enough. Some stains just didn't come out.
No longer hungry and more than a bit revolted, he looked at Crowley, who was still gaping. "Er, shall we… feed the ducks now?"
On auto-pilot, the demon followed him to the pond. Aziraphale took the packet of bread from his pocket **** and muttered, "This is all so very strange. Exhaustion, soreness, this bizarre craving for anti-food stuffs… I'm not sure what's going on. Perhaps I have a book somewhere that might shed some light—"
"Oh yes," Crowley drawled, "because so many human authors have written about immortal beings getting their bits mixed-up during disembodied trans-Atlantic phone calls."
"All right, it's far-fetched, but we'll never know… until… we…oh dear." Aziraphale stopped at the water's edge, his face wrinkling in revulsion. He backed away swiftly, covering his nose and looking quite ill. "Oh dear, I feel…" He all but ran from the lake. When he was under the trees he stopped, wheezing and sweating.
"What's happened?" Crowley joined him, patting his back helplessly.
"I'm not sure… I just suddenly couldn't take the smell…"
"The smell of what?"
Aziraphale looked up miserably. "Ducks." Then he all but fainted on the cold, damp ground.
** He'd replaced his older phone with the latest model, thus doing away with the ansaphone. It was comforting to be rid of something that reeked metaphysically like bad perfume. Eau de Hastur was a stench not even Revolutionary French aristocrats would have worn.
***Sometimes the predictability was so comforting, neither of them thought of it as a rut. After all the real rutting had taken the place of variety in other areas of life.
**** The bread was still uneaten simply because Aziraphale had forgotten it was on his person until that moment.
Crowley truly did almost run down multiple pedestrians in his haste to get back to the bookshop. And once having installed a limp Aziraphale in the back room, he could no longer deny the difficulties he'd been dealing with either. Not after another session of kneeling before the porcelain god. Aziraphale sat quietly amazed at the cacophony of retching and cursing. His little toilet had never been so abused. Or used. When the demon returned, pale-faced and angry, the angel bit his lip.
Crowley moaned, "Aziraphale, it's serious. I've barely eaten a bloody thing since I got back, and yet I've tossed my cookies twice and somehow pissed a bucketful. And now," he tugged at the painfully tight waist of his trousers as his eyes glowed in fear, "I seem to have gained a stone. In just the last hour. WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING?"
Quietly, Aziraphale murmured, "I don't think a book will help this time."
"It's going to take a rather drastic measure to sort this out. And it might be a bit dangerous for you. For both of us, possibly…"
"Do it anyway!" Crowley yelled, "I can't take this anymore!"
Aziraphale nodded gravely, opened a drawer in his desk and removed a piece of chalk. Toeing aside the rug, he began to draw on the bare floor.
"Oh, wait, you're," Crowley shook his head in fear, "you're contacting Upstairs about this? Oh fuck, wait just a -"
"I told you it would be drastic." The angel scribbled arcane symbols with great concentration.
"No, wait, I think maybe I shouldn't be—"
"If we don't, then we might never have an answer." Aziraphale said with resignation. "Do you think contacting your people would be of any benefit? Do you think we'll find an answer in any book on the planet?"
"… No." Crowley sat down and grimaced. "Shit. Shit. Okay. I'll just… hang on a second." His fingers made a convoluted gesture and there appeared in his hand a dagger carved with black sigils. "Just for protection, you understand." He grinned manically. "I can trustyou. But only because you're not prone to killing me."
Aziraphale sighed, nodded again, and completed his circle. Standing within it, he cleared his throat hesitantly then spoke. "Er, hello? Um, I was wondering if I might have a brief word with… someone. Not sure who, in this case. It's rather odd, really, and I don't—"
He was interrupted in his babbling by a soft green light from above, which gradually took on the form of an angel. In a gentle voice, the angel said, "Greetings, Aziraphale, Guardian of the Eastern Gate and Principality of England." Turning her head toward Crowley, she smiled without malice. "And greetings to you as well, former Serpent of Eden. I would say your True Name, but I believe you might stab me for it."
Fingers trembling on the dagger handle, Crowley snarled. "Just ask her about this, Aziraphale. She's a bit too holy for me to tolerate long."
"Yes, yes," Aziraphale sighed. "Er, actually, I don't think I know you," he said, furrowing his brow at the other angel.
"I am Armisael."
"Armisael? Oh, but aren't you… the governess of…" Aziraphale gasped, gripping his chest and stepping backward. "No, no, it's simply not possible…"
"What?What?" Crowley snapped. "Governess of what? Smiting angels who do the Boxspring Gavotte with demons? Just backoff, okay, lady?" He limply waved the dagger with very unconvincing menace.
"No, you don't understand-" Aziraphale started.
"Ahem. I bring a message, actually," Armisael said with great pleasure. "Hail, Aziraphale, he who is the Lord's agent upon Earth. Hail also, Fallen one – whose Name I shall refrain from speaking – disobedient to God but not all that bad really. Blesse—well, certainly unique art thou amongst immortals. Fear not, for ye hast found favour with God …Yes, evenyou, demon."
"… This sounds remotely familiar," Crowley said, eyes narrowed. Aziraphale was now whiter than a sheet of parchment.
"Well, I'm not the one who delivered the original speech, that was Gabriel, but I can riff from it, can't I?" Armisael smirked. "Moving along… And behold, together ye hast conceived and shall bring forth a new being…"
Aziraphale was nearly bloodless and ready to collapse on the floor. Crowley, having now caught the gist, was fast approaching the angel's whiter shade of pale.
The demon croaked, "What… the fuck… do you… mean…"
Rolling her eyes, Armisael said reproachfully, "You know perfectly well what I mean."
"But… how… I mean it really, how…?"
Armisael grinned in delight. "The Holy Ghost did not so much come upon thee, as your own Spirits came upon eachother. Er. So to speak. Anyway," she continued in an informal manner, "the power of the Highest overshadows thee both, blah-blah, and there's this – we're not entirely sure whether it's holy or not –Thing which shall be born of thee both, et cetera."
Aziraphale's knees hit the floor with a thud and Crowley dropped the dagger, which fortunately vanished.
"I… we…" Aziraphale's voice sounded breathless because it was. "I'm… we're… "
"Pregnant." Crowley finished the sentence flatly.
"Close enough," Armisael said gently. "It's nothing we've ever seen before. And it's not physically within either of you, even though it's presence has caused some pretty amusing symptoms." At Crowley's ferocious expression, Armisael modified the statement. "All right, not so amusing to you. But as you're both man-shaped, you're not really equipped to carry or bear a child, and so it's sort of stuck between you."
After a few seconds of disbelief and gnashing of teeth, Crowley shouted, "Okay, so is On High's punishment for us playing at all fours? A'reap what you sow' thing? They sent you to speechify with rehashed lines, instead of a burning bush booming out 'Love thy enemy, but kindly do not drop thy trousers to do so' ? Didn't have the budget for special effects this time, did they?"
"For Pete's sake…" Armisael began with a heavy sigh, as it was clear the demon could go on all day.
But Aziraphale slowly raised his head to the ceiling, gazing in wonder and terror at the Unseen. "When He sent you here to tell us… did He at least… smile?"
Armisael smiled herself, and nodded.
And with that Aziraphale burst into tears, leapt to his feet and grabbed Crowley around the neck in a fierce hug. "Oh, Crowley! It's going to be all right!"
Struggling out of the suffocating arms, Crowley gasped at the other angel. "You think you can just fly down here and tell us we're wedged up, and that we'll just accept it like that brainless bint Mary? I want a second opinion!"
Aziraphale gasped in turn. "Crowley, she was sent by God to tell us!"
"She's not a doctor!"
"You want Raphael instead?" Armisael raised an eyebrow.
"I don't want ANYONE!" Crowley shouted. "We've just been put through days of insanity! It's all bollocks and I want an explanation that makes sense!"
Armisael sighed. "All I understand is that you two disembodied yourselves briefly, overlapped in your true forms and, essentially, mated. For real, not just putting your human bodies through the motions of copulation." Demon and angel blushed to the roots of their hair and Armisael grinned again. "Of course this is all highly unusual. Not that your 'playing at all fours' it is exactly usual in the first place. Angels don't have much need for a sex drive, but you," she looked at the beet-red Aziraphale, "being down here in a corporeal form for so long, it was bound to happen eventually. Though who'd've guessed you'd pick such an interesting partner." Crowley coughed as though he would bring up a lung. "For whatever reason, He's okay by it."
More relieved than he could express, Aziraphale ventured, "So what… What do we do about this?"
Armisael shrugged. "I was just sent to tell you because that's what I do; deal with difficult pregnancies. And, as this is probably the most complicated one I'll ever see, I wouldn't have missed it." Her delight made her glow bright green. "Now, would you like to see your child?"
"What?" Crowley choked at the same moment Aziraphale gasped, "Yes!"
"All right, just calm down a second. Look inside your auras. It's between you."
Demon and angel glanced at one another and made an instant decision. They scooted just a fraction of a molecule outside their human forms… and saw.
Between the glistening-blue-white form of Aziraphale and the fluttering-smoky-red form of Crowley was Another. A numinous flower bud clinging to them with misty tendrils, an opal of swirling crimson and lapis and dark and light, waiting to unfold.
Oh… Crowley… Aziraphale's form said without words.
Yeah… Crowley answered. It's…
Ineffable... Neither was sure who'd thought that one.
They returned to their bodies, aware of the presence between them now. Aziraphale removed a handkerchief from some pocket or other, and began to sniffle. He knew he didn't have the proper hormones for it but he felt very motherly at the moment, and it was showing.
Crowley sighed with resignation and turned to his angel. "All right, so we're going to deliver a miracle unto the world, et cetera. But what then? I'm bloody well not changing nappies, no chance in Hel- okay, Hell. I've been put through quite enough already." Then he frowned, fresh panic in his eyes. "Oh… Hell. What happens when Downstairs finds out about this?"
"They won't," was all Armisael said. And they knew it was true.
Crowley relaxed as much as he'd been before. Which wasn't much at all.
Aziraphale wiped his cheeks and looked beseechingly at the other angel. "Crowley's right. What are we to do? I mean, do we even know what it is?"
"Won't be a nephil at least, thank Go- Okay, damn it. God." Crowley grimaced at the thought and the word.
"Hey, I don't know," Armisael shrugged. "New territory here. An angel and a demon. No other such pairing has ever taken place. Unless it was followed by discorporation to prevent anyone finding out. That essence-scrambling trick of yours was a highly irregular and slightly stupid thing to do. But it is certain… there was another factor at work." She glanced ever so briefly upward, then back at the pair. "The creation of this new being wouldn't have happened at all without Lov-"
"Oh no, no," Crowley groaned.
Aziraphale's eyes were shining like watery stars and his lip quivered. "A Love Child."
"I'm going to be sick again," Crowley mumbled but he permitted a bone-crushing hug from his significant other. As Aziraphale nuzzled his neck, his resistance began to melt. "Oh fuck it. Fine. Whatever." The angel beamed. "But you still haven't said what we're supposed to do."
"I think you're about to find out." Armisael pointed to the space around them.
There came a soft chord like a universe taking its first breath, if you can imagine what that sounds like. If not, then just imagine the air tasting dusky-pale, or the scent of crystalline shadows. Think of a tugging at the sleeve of one's soul, the soft footstep in the chamber of one's heart, the gentle laughter of one's mind as it realises a puzzle has finally been solved.
And it was there hovering all around them. It had hair of golden ashes, eyes of a lightning-laced storm cloud, wings of blue flame and body of red starlight.
No one had ever seen anything like it before, and never would again.
It smiled at them both with utter love and joy and far too much knowledge. And vanished.
Moments passed in silence. Then, breathlessly, Crowley said, "… All right. Where did it go?"
With a smile, Aziraphale answered, "Home. I think."
Crowley looked at him, bemused. "And where is its home, exactly?"
Aziraphale smiled, touching the demon's cheek. "I daresay, one day we'll find out."
Armisael faded away, unconcerned about being ignored, determined that all was well and they would sort things out between them. The contract declaring that they would never, under any circumstances, perform such actions again, she left on the desk for them to sign when they were finished being sentimental.