It is common knowledge among humanity that it is the little things in life that make up the ebb and flow of the universe.
All Good and Bad and uninteresting ultimately come from some small, innocuous event.
A butterfly beats its wings and a town is torn apart by a tornado.
A man leaves out a culture of bacteria over a long weekend and invents modern medicine.
A homeless woman writes story ideas on a spare napkin and becomes a mogul.
It is the tiny bits of stitching in the Tapestry of the Life that create the paths we end up on.
All things come from not the big and flashy places we expect like company boardrooms full of important men wearing important clothing and discussing important things, but rather from humble and unassuming spots like the staff break room of a call center or the janitor's closet of a schoolhouse and from the everyday objects there in.
The humble and unassuming spot in this case was a road.
And the everyday object was a traffic light.
This particular traffic light was a bit old and in need of very slight repair. One of the wires had worn down just enough to upset the rhythms of what a normal traffic light pattern is supposed to be.
It tended to linger on the red.
Not a lot. Not enough for a motorist to think that something was broken.
Just enough to leave him sighing in mild frustration and muttering to any deity that may be listening that he expressly wished for the bloody thing to hurry up.
Which it would usually do immediately, though through no actual Divine or Hellish intervention.
Anthony J. Crowley, servant of Hell and buyer of houseplants, usually paid traffic lights absolutely no attention.
He and his beloved old Bentley would go as fast as they wanted for as long as they wanted and some blinking, tri-color rectangular box hanging between two crossing streets was not going to stop them.
That is, except for tonight.
For the last twenty minutes, Crowley had been driving much less like a demon in a badass classic car that he himself had owned for many decades and more like some newly hired staff intern who had just been told by his boss to take his car and have it washed for him.
Driving as timidly as an adolescent auditioning for his driver’s permit, afraid of doing anything even slightly outside the handbook.
The answer as to why was sitting on the seat next to him.
The Antichrist, also known as the Adversary, Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, etc. etc. etc, had settled into his basket and was snoozing lightly.
His crying, which had begun only a few moments after Crowley had put him in the car, had stopped. Apparently the Adversary, Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, etc. etc. etc. found the activity of crying both tiring and counterproductive and instead resolved to let the gentle motions of the car lull him to sleep.
Crowley was truly grateful for this, as the crying of infants, Antichrist or, much more commonly, otherwise, freaked him out more than a little.
He slowed from his rather uncharacteristically plodding speed at the yellow light, careful to take the Bentley into the most gentle and gradual of stops.
Logically, he knew that the the Adversary, Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, etc. etc. etc. was most likely not going to be harmed in something as ridiculous as an automobile accident.
His Father and all forces under Him were likely to keep events away from that general direction.
And on a less cosmic level, it was 2 am on a Wednesday night and not many people were out driving.
Even so, Crowley remained cautious. As much as he was not fan of upcoming Events, he was not about to muck up this job by inadvertently killing the newborn Antichrist by getting into a fender bender.
The light turned red and Crowley grumbled to himself, trying to avoid looking at his unwanted passenger.
He stared at the light, waiting for it to change.
It did no such thing, just humming and buzzing in that awful red glare that seems to light up a dark evening in all kinds of menacing and unpleasant ways.
Crowley was generally all for menacing and unpleasant, except of course when they were directed at him .
A small sound tugged at Crowley's ears and out of pure reflexive response, he turned and looked at the thing in the basket.
The Adversary, Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, etc. etc. etc. had awakened when the car stopped moving and was gazing up at him with what appeared to be a mixture of confusion and curiosity.
Crowley, swallowing his fear, took the opportunity to get a good long look at the small creature.
He appeared shockingly normal, although Crowley would be the first to admit that he knew very little about babies and his own concepts on what was normal for them might have been way out of the ballpark.
The Adversary, Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, etc. etc. etc. skin was wrinkled and red and he seemed to squint a lot, as if he was not yet used to having his eyes open.
He balled up his little fist and Crowley felt the sudden urge to duck, half-expecting something to explode or for a huge and heavy boulder to fall on top of him through the car roof.
But nothing happened and all the the Adversary, Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, etc. etc. etc. did was shake his chubby little arm, experimenting with the motions that this big, new universe provided for him.
The light was still red and Crowley sighed, less so over the color and more so about the general turn his life had taken.
"What am I going to do?" he murmured to himself. "What am I going to do?"
He reached for the glove box, hoping to grab a tape or some mints, or even a bottle of long forgotten booze, anything to take his mind of the things happening around him, when suddenly something grabbed his sleeve.
He froze, like an animal caught in the sights of some larger, hungrier animal, and looked down.
The Adversary, Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, etc. etc. etc. was peering at him with an expression that could only be described as apprehensive.
Where are you taking me? it seemed to ask. This world is so large and I am so small.
Crowley felt like he had been punched in the gut. Poor little bugger , he thought despite himself.
Though Crowley was a demon, and very proud of that fact, he had always known that he was not a demon like Hastur or Beelzebub. He hadn’t Fallen, or sauntered vaguely Downward, whatever, out of a lust for power or cruelty or even really for personal gain.
He just, frankly, did not like being told what to do.
And while Hell still did it, like tonight for example, they were a lot less dickish about it than Heaven.
Heaven was nitpick-y about every damn detail (no pun intended), whereas Hell was just sort of blase. Get up there and make some trouble had been, after all, his first orders.
The Adversary, Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, etc. etc. etc. pulled at Crowley’s sleeve with the tiniest bit of insistence, clearly asking for comfort in the only way a newborn knows how.
Crowley did nothing for a moment and then, against every rational and perhaps even irrational thought in his mind, reached out with his other hand and lightly stroked the baby’s head, which was covered in a soft, yellow down like a duckling.
The Adversary, Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, etc. etc. etc. gave a happy little hum, as if this was exactly what he had been wanting.
He yawned contentedly and snuggled into his blankets.
To him, thanks to that simple gesture, everything was right in the world.
That was when Crowley got an idea.
The craziest, stupidest, most out-of-his-mind idea he had ever had.
And that included when he had rebelled against Heaven and all other ideas since.
Had the traffic light stayed red for much longer, he may have had time to dismiss the idea as ridiculous, or at least think on it a bit more.
But a moment after the thought entered his mind, the light changed to green and off he sped into the night.
In another universe, Mrs. Deirdre Young gave birth at Saint Beryl Hospital in Delivery
Room 3 to a golden-haired male baby who we will call Baby A.
Mrs. Harriet Dowlington gave birth at Saint Beryl Hospital in Delivery
Room 4 to a golden-haired male baby who we will call Baby B.
And of course the Adversary, Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, etc. etc. etc. was there too.
In that universe, the three would go round and round until no child was with the family of his birth.
Mrs. Deirdre Young got the Adversary, Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, etc. etc. etc, who was named Adam by Mr. Young.
Mrs. Harriet Dowlington got Baby A, who she named Warlock several days later.
And Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, who were sterile and childless, took in Baby B from an adoption agency a few months after his birth.
In this universe, things happened a little differently.
Mrs. Deirdre Young gave birth in at Saint Beryl Hospital in Delivery
Room 3 to a golden-haired male baby who we will call Baby A.
Baby A was never removed from the parents of his birth and named Matthew Young by his father.
Matthew Young grew into a boy who was average in every way that a boy can be.
He liked baseball and banana bubblegum and his bicycle.
He liked to watch cartoons on Saturday mornings and to play outside on Saturday afternoons.
He had a small gang of friends who often got into small skirmishes with other gangs of friends from the same school.
He regularly got into trouble, but he was never cruel or unkind and he loved his family, his friends, and his home.
Nothing else need be said about him.
Mrs. Harriet Dowlington gave birth at Saint Beryl Hospital in Delivery
Room 4 o a golden-haired male baby who we will call Baby B.
Baby B was never removed from the parents of his birth and was named Warlock Dowlington by his mother.
Warlock grew into a boy who was not fat, but very large and somewhat lumbering.
Had he been with some other family, this may have been a problem.
But the Dowlings were Americans and for Americans, bigger was always better.
By the time he was two, everyone who knew Warlock was convinced that he was going to be a football star. (American football that is.)
And by the time he was four, the Secret Service men who guarded the family’s mansion would often use their coffee breaks to play football with him in the yard.
They adored their “little NFL star” and Warlock adored them in return; no child in this world has ever been happier, for Warlock Dowlington had, quite literally, an army of big brothers.
As he grew older, he also developed an interest in tropical fish and when his family, both birth and extended, learned that he could breed them to be the colors of the American flag, their support only grew.
But the Nuns of Saint Beryl never knew any of this.
In their eyes, Baby B had been switched out by another baby brought in by one Mr. Crowley.
What actually happened was this: Mr. Crowley handed something baby-sized and wrapped in a blanket to Sister Mary Loquacious, who then walked to the door of Delivery Room 4, turned around and walked back to the the hospital kitchens.
She set the baby-sized thing in the pantry and put the blanket in the laundry to be washed.
Then she informed the other nuns that the deed was done and they quietly rejoiced.
And Crowley, who had been mentally sitting inside of Sister Mary Loquacious’s rather scattered little mind and directing her motions, climbed back into his car and drove away, the Adversary, Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, etc. etc. etc. fast asleep in the passenger seat.
The baby-sized thing, which was a small bag of flour bought at a nearby convenience store, was used to make a pancake breakfast a few days later.
“You kidnapped the Antichrist?!” Aziraphale’s shrill screech echoed harshly throughout the dingy bookshop.
Crowley looked sheepishly at his expensive, snakeskin shoes. “Kidnap is such a strong word,” he said. “I rather like liberate. The Americans use it all the time and it really seems to-”
“You. Kidnapped. The. ANTICHRIST?!?!?!?!”
Said Antichrist, who had been asleep in his little basket, woke with a start at all noise and whimpered in both fear and anger.
Crowley scooped up the basket and rocked it, albeit a bit awkwardly.
“Shh,” he said. “You’ll scare him.”
Aziraphale leveled him a look that could only be described as glowering.
“I’ll scare HIM?!?!?!” he hissed, though much quieter this time. “You brought the Antichrist into my shop, no phone call or anything, how did you even get him?!?! Don’t they have committees or something for this kind of thing?! Where-”
Crowley cut him off before he could babble himself into a terrified spiral, putting his hands on soft, chubby shoulders.
“Aziraphale,” he said, his voice completely lacking in its usual dry snark and replaced by an uncharacteristic seriousness. “Listen to me. This is an opportunity.”
Aziraphale looked up at his long time friend, deeply and thoroughly frightened.
“How?”, he whispered.
Crowley told him.
They hunkered down in the bookshop for three days, not leaving once except for a short trip on the first day undertaken by Aziraphale to the convenience store down the street to stock up on diapers and baby formula.
Each morning Crowley and Aziraphale would sit at the table in the kitchen, the Adversary, Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, etc. etc. etc. happily fed and now napping away in his little basket by their feet, and dutifully scan every newspaper in the greater London area for anything that might give them a hint to their next move.
Luckily, as two highly intelligent beings who had existed eons before the birth of television or radio, speed reading came rather naturally to them.
Finally, on the third day, Crowley found something.
It was no more than a little blurb, a small paragraph about how Saint Beryl’s hospital, an old and rather historic building, had had a terrible fire the night before.
No one was hurt but the place was in need of some repairs and it seemed that their records department had been thoroughly torched.
Crowley grinned in triumph and showed the article to Aziraphale.
They began to make a plan.
"We are going to have to call him something," Aziraphale said that evening, seated in his reading nook and sipping some wine.
Crowley looked up from the list he was working on. "Huh?" he said, rather eloquently.
Aziraphale gestured to the basket. "The baby," he said. "We are going to have to call him something."
Crowley smirked. "What? Antichrist isn't a good enough name?”, he quipped. “It'll fit well enough on his name-tag at school and all the human parents are naming their kids crazy things these days."
Aziraphale rolled his eyes, looking very put upon for a man ass deep in a leather armchair. "I'm serious, Crowley," he said. "The boy has to have a name. Otherwise we may as well quit right now."
Aziraphale was right.
Crowley put down his notebook and pen and settled on the floor next to the Adversary, Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, etc. etc. etc.
He was watching the ceiling fan with the transfixed gaze of someone both in awe and mildly terrified.
Like the first scientists of the Renaissance looking through early telescopes.
Crowley could not help but smile and he waggled his fingers at the baby, drawing big blue eyes to his own slit-pupiled ones.
The Adversary, Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, etc. etc. etc. did not smile, but he also did not seem especially malicious either.
Just innately rather curious about all things happening around him.
Many years later, Crowley would never be sure exactly what it was.
An expression perhaps or a facial feature, but something in that little face, in those wondering eyes, reminded him of someone else.
A man, both long gone and never forgotten.
A man who Crowley had chatted with while coiled up in a tree branch.
A man who bit into a piece of fruit.
"Adam." Crowley said.
"Pardon?" Aziraphale inquired politely.
"Adam," Crowley repeated. "Let's call him Adam."
The good people of Lower Tadfield were very well aware of the rather boring state of both their community and their lives in general.
The countryside is peaceful but peaceful can get a trifle repetitive after a while.
So it should come as no surprise to anyone that the life’s blood of nearly everyone in the town ran on gossip.
Usually it was little things.
A botched cake at a school bake sale.
A bit of drunken tomfoolery after a sporting match.
A dog who dug up a neighbor’s garden.
Stuff that a true Londoner would not even prick up his ears for.
But in the late summer of 1979, the rumor mill of Lower Tadfield suffered what can only be described as a meltdown.
Anthony J. Crowley was handsome, fit, and, if judging by that old Bentley, exceedingly wealthy.
He moved into one of the larger properties in Tadfield, which had once belonged to English old money but due to the rather flamboyant nature of the last few generations had been sold off to a real estate company some several years before.
Accompanying him were the materials for a state-of-the-art home office, and the rumor mill supplied that he worked for some sort of venture capitalist company in London where he did not even have to physically show up except on occasion, a great deal of simply gorgeous house plants, and a newborn baby.
That had been the real shocker.
Little whispers circulated for a while.
Possibilities of disgraced husband this and pregnant prostitute that.
But finally a single story wormed its way into the mouths of the townspeople, though for some reason no one could quite remember who had been told it first.
It seemed that Mr. AJ Crowley was the godfather to little Adam Smith, the son of his business partner and dear friend.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith had just welcomed little Adam into their lives when tragically they were killed together in an automobile accident.
Crowley had immediately taken in the poor boy as his own, moving from London to the country for a better childhood.
The assorted housewives of Tadfield fussed over the fact that a sweet, and good-looking, man had moved to their fair community and they were all too eager to bring him homemade meals. As, of course, a friendly welcome to the town, they told their husbands.
But Crowley and his godson were not alone in their new home.
Accompanying him was a Mr. Ezra Fell, a bookshop owner also from London.
The two of them were long time friends and had been roommates for many years.
When Adam's appearance in Crowley's life forced him to move, Mr. Fell was right at his side, happy to manage his shop from a distance.
Though it should be noted that anyone who actually went to that shop was met with either a closed sign on the door or a little note that said “Gone fishing” in lovely penmanship.
Many people cooed over how nice it was that two successful bachelors could share a home together, raise a little boy, and still be on the lookout for some lovely ladies to settle down with.
A few people, who were rather in the know, quietly snorted to themselves and muttered "Roommates. Riiiiight. Sure, Carol, that's exactly what they are."
But of course no one heard them.
Crowley had, for the most part, had the same basic routine since he first arrived on Earth so many centuries ago.
Do fun stuff. Eat fun food. Get drunk. And occasionally cause a little Evil.
The fun stuff may have changed, evolving from chariot racing to automobile racing and things along that line, and the food certainly had changed, he rather missed the honey-coated dormice of the Roman Empire they had been quite tasty especially to the snake that he knew he still was deep down, but the rhythms of his life stayed pretty much the same. (Alcohol and Evil never ever change that is for sure.)
But that was before Adam had arrived on the scene.
It was amazing, Crowley would months later think to himself, how much a newborn needed, even one as extraordinarily calm as an Antichrist.
Feeding. Changing. Sleeping. Repeat.
Demons and Angels did not technically need food or sleep, but by the third week of living in Tadfield, both Crowley and Aziraphale sure felt like they did.
Eventually, they fell into the patterns that parents of new babies had been following for centuries.
When Adam ate, they ate.
When Adam slept, they slept.
They took turns on changing him and late night feedings.
Occasionally, one of them would make a run to the shop for supplies.
Even Aziraphale, who might have been a bit more attached to food than Crowley but who had never developed his love of sleep, could be found snoring away in the big bed they shared.
The parts of their lives that seemed so permanent and important suddenly took a backseat.
Aziraphale's books sat on their shelves, unread or rather un-reread.
The Bentley sat in the driveway, engine silent.
And a table at the Ritz found itself missing a pair of gentlemen who had been patrons there as long as the restaurant had been standing.
But, shockingly, neither Crowley nor Aziraphale were bothered too much by these things.
Perhaps if they had sat down and thought about it, maybe they would have, but frankly, they just did not have the time or the energy.
It felt so weird, looking back, how a few simple months could stretch out more than several centuries had.
Crowley had slept right through the 19th century, but he found himself lucky to just get 19 hours of sleep over the course of an entire fortnight.
Time should be rather inconsequential to immortal creatures, but suddenly it seemed so very important to the both of them
Shortly before they moved to Lower Tadfield, Aziraphale had, in perfect personal form, bought a book.
It was not a priceless first edition or an Infamous Bible, as he was usually so fond of, but it was, in all actuality, much more useful than any book he had ever owned before.
It was a baby book, describing in full detail for new parents what to expect from conception all the way to two years old.
He and Crowley, of course, could skip everything leading up to birth as Adam had quite obviously already entered the world.
(Though they did have a rather in-depth discussion one evening over dinner about the mechanics of how Satan had gone about creating an Antichrist. A few ideas were tossed around until one of them, probably Crowley, mentioned the term “reproduction by budding” and both demon and angel ended up on the floor in a fit of hysterical laughter.)
Adam’s infantile development followed the book’s text so closely that occasionally both of his guardians wondered suspiciously if he was reading it somehow.
At a few days old, he was displaying all the Reflexive Stages that any newborn should.
He ate heartily when given a bottle, would hold onto a finger when it was presented to his tiny hand, and all black and white objects fascinated him.
He was also shockingly well-behaved, especially for a son of the Devil.
No colic or any other unnecessary crying.
He ate when food was presented and was very patient when he was being changed.
He did not sleep through the night until he was nearly five months old, but the book did say not to expect him to anyway.
His whole mannerism seemed to suggest that of someone who understood the necessity of his basic activities and felt no need draw them out any longer than was needed.
As he aged into his first month, he began the change that shifts helpless newborns into more active infants.
He could lift his head up for longer stretches of time and liked to grab at things that were textile-y interesting.
(Aziraphale’s curls and Crowley’s sunglasses were particular favorites.)
At two months, colors started to fascinate him and the timing could not be more perfect as autumn had just arrived, painting the English countryside in bright oranges, rich reds, and luminous yellows.
Crowley and Aziraphale would often walk him in his little pram down the lane and he would coo happily up at all the leaves.
Though his godfathers did have to stop him from putting said leaves in his mouth.
That was another thing, too: his godfathers had become a source of the nice and familiar to him.
When either Aziraphale or Crowley would come into his room, Adam would smile happily up at them and hold out his hands, eager to be picked up.
The first time he did this, Crowley had been the one coming in to feed him.
The smile, coupled with the clear comfort Adam had being in his arms, left Crowley in a slightly dizzying state for the rest of the day.
When Adam was six months old, he got his first fever.
He had been sleeping through the night recently and had even begun to try and sit up by himself.
So it came as quite a scare when one grey February morning, he seemed hazy and unable to focus or eat.
Crowley and Aziraphale both panicked, threw on their coats, and rushed to the local doctor's office, the Bentley galloping at speeds that she had not reached in months.
Doctor Babs Jones was Lower Tadfield’s only full-time practicing doctor and she liked it that way.
Little towns had so few medical troubles.
A few stitches here, a broken leg there.
So it was quite rare, without at least calling ahead first to alert the staff of an emergency, that anyone should come flying into her office like a bat outta hell.
Babs’ first thought on meeting Mr. Fell and Mr. Crowley was this: Well they are gayer than the day is long. How nice. I really should invite them over for dinner sometime with me and Veronica.
Her second thought was this: Looks like their baby has that flu bug that’s been going around.
Babs examined baby Adam from head to toe, using all her skills as a country doctor.
He was relatively calm about the whole thing, letting her poke and prod and look down his little throat.
All the while his godfathers hovered around like terrified chickens.
Finally, she pronounced him with a mild case of influenza and that he needed antiviral medication.
“Give him one of these twice a day,” she said, holding up a bottle of tablets. “Make sure he stays hydrated and fed, too. Then his immune system will do the rest.”
Aziraphale and Crowley bought the prescribed medicine and took Adam home.
The next couple of days, neither of them slept and neither of them wanted to.
They gave Adam the medicine as instructed, fed him, bathed him, all that.
But when Adam was asleep in his crib, they would sit in the room with him, watching every breath that went in and out of his tiny body.
If this had happened a few months ago, their reasons would have been simple: If the Antichrist dies, we are screwed.
Now their reasons were still simple, but laced with something much, much deeper: We do not want this child to die. Not because he is the Antichrist, but because he is Adam . Adam who likes oatmeal and laughs at funny faces and who never seems to get scared by anything, not even the barking of that big dog down the street.
They never said it aloud, not even to themselves.
But as they sat together in that dark little room, watching their baby sleep and holding hands with each other, both knew that the other was thinking and feeling the exact same things.
When Adam was 11 months old, he said his first word.
He had been making sounds for many months now and could usually gesture at things that interested him, like a bottle of milk or one of his toys.
Aziraphale and Crowley had had a few discussions on what his first word might actually be.
Perhaps it may give some hint to how his Divine or Demonic heritage was affecting him.
Words like holy or wings or fire or Hell.
Stuff like that.
Adam’s first word was duck.
They were out for a stroll in early July, enjoying the sunshine on a gorgeous afternoon.
They walked over to the nearby duck pond, as they often did, though both Aziraphale and Crowley agreed that it was not nearly as nice as the one at Saint James Park that they so often visited.
Still. Ducks were ducks and they brought along some stale bread to feed them.
The ducks quacked and waddled up to the three of them, eating the bread with great enthusiasm.
Adam watched them curiously from the comfort of his little stroller.
Finally, he lifted up his arm and pointed at a mallard that was closest to him.
“Duck,” he said.
Aziraphale and Crowley stared down at him in utter disbelief, convinced that they had misheard.
Adam looked up at them and, apparently thinking that he had not made his point clear, said it again.
Aziraphale was the one to recover first and knelt down at Adam’s side.
“That’s right, Adam,” he said, smiling cheerily as he always did when talking to his godson. “Those are ducks. We like ducks, don’t we?”
Adam smiled back up at him, happy that one of his guardians was finally listening to him.
“Duck!” he said a third time and with great enthusiasm.
Later that evening, when Adam had been put to bed and Aziraphale and Crowley were having a nice dinner of leftover shepherds pie, they discussed what this first word could mean in terms of Heaven and Hell.
“It seems a good sign to me,” said Aziraphale, pouring himself a second glass of wine. “Love of all creatures great and small. That sort of thing.”
“I dunno,” Crowley argued, chewing his lip thoughtfully. “Ducks are pretty sinful animals. You’ve seen the gluttony they display when eating bread.”
Aziraphale spooned a bit of potatoes into his mouth and flapped his hand in disagreement. “Really, my dear, does that not seem a bit of a stretch? After all, it is humans who are sent to Hell for gluttonous behavior, not ducks or any other animal for that matter.”
Crowley shrugged his lean shoulders. “Eh maybe. But if he likes the gluttony, then that's the Evil part.” He took a sip of his wine. “Did you know that male ducks have corkscrew penises?”
Aziraphale choked on his wine. “What?!” he squawked.
Crowley snickered. “It’s true. Corkscrew penises. Like this thing.” He lifted up their wine cork remover for emphasis. “And the females have false vaginas. Weird little pockets.”
After that, the conversation took a ridiculous detour and the ideas of Good and Evil were forgotten.
It should be noted that Adam’s second word was Batman.
Adam liked Batman and so did Crowley.
They would sit on the sofa together and watch the cartoons as they came on during what the TV people had dubbed “The Saturday Morning Cereal Hour”.
Adam was, of course, a trifle bit too young for the sugar-laden cereals that the network was advertising and even Crowley found their lack of nutrients to be terribly sinful.
So they stuck with scrambled eggs and toast instead.
It was one such Saturday morning that Adam, in a fit of baby brilliance, pointed at the TV and said “Batman.”
Crowley blinked in shock and then patted his godchild lightly on the head.
“Yes, Adam,” he said. “Batman.”
He then proceeded to give the thumbs up to Aziraphale, who was sitting in the next room with his tea, newspaper, and a general distaste for television.
During Adam’s afternoon nap, they discussed it.
As always, Aziraphale felt it was a good sign.
“Batman is a superhero,” he beamed. “Protecting the innocent and all that.”
Crowley snorted. “Batman lives in an enormous mansion, shares his wealth with no one, and beats up both the mentally ill and very low level criminals who, frankly, just want a bit of cash to pay the rent and feed themselves.”
Aziraphale frowned and tried to come up with a response to that.
Admittedly, he knew very little about Batman, or any other superheroes for that matter as they rarely came in written novel form, but he was not going to let that stop him from winning this argument.
Their debate went back and forth for nearly an hour, though always undercut by some little joke or another, and Adam absorbed these sounds as he slept.
He slept deeply as any child ever has, never a doubt in his mind that he was loved and that his guardians loved each other very much.
As Adam grew, Aziraphale and Crowley talked about what it was Adam should call them.
Most babies know to refer to their parents as Mummy and Daddy or Momma and Papa or whatever variant is common in their particular culture, but they know this mainly as a form of mimicry.
Parents refer to themselves as mother and father when talking to their offspring and said offspring learns how to identify them.
Aziraphale and Crowley had never done this with Adam, except of course to talk to each other and even then they used their real names, just as parents would refer to their spouse as Steve or Toni or whatever.
Neither of them were comfortable being referred to as Daddy or an variation on that.
They were not, after all, the boy’s real father and the idea of anyone referring to Satan as Daddy was more than a little appalling.
Besides, the townspeople knew them as Adam’s godfathers, not as an biological relatives.
Being called Mr. Fell or Mr. Crowley just felt wrong, too.
Like they were school teachers or some such.
None of their neighbors even called them that, usually just Fell and Crowley respectively.
Finally, when Adam was 13 months old, he made the decision for them.
Aziraphale came into his room to get him up from his nap and Adam smiled up at him before crowing loudly “Ezr-wa!”
Aziraphale was, of course, quite surprised, but he still picked up the child, mostly out of habit, and walked with him to the kitchen.
It was there that Adam caught sight of Crowley, who was stirring a pot full of noodles, and he wiggled his little feet in happy glee and cried out “C-wow-ley!”
And that was that.
Eventually, as Adam got better at his sounds, “Ezr-wa” became Ezra and “C-wow-ley” became Crowley.
(Though his godfathers sometimes missed the cute way he mispronounced his R sounds. Even if they never said so.)
Some of the older neighbors sniffed in distaste and muttered at the "inappropriate" and "disrespectful" way that Adam addressed his caregivers, usually throwing in the phrase “kids these days” and discussing with one another how a child should never call an adult by their true name.
But Aziraphale and Crowley paid them no attention.
When Adam was two, they sent him off to nursery school.
It wasn’t much, just a small building near the primary school with a playground in the back.
But it was what you were supposed to do with children to get them socialized, according the second book Aziraphale had bought, this one on parenting.
Adam’s teacher was named Mrs. Parkers and she, as far as either Aziraphale or Crowley could tell, was not involved with either Divinity or Wickedness.
She made sure that the children were fed, content, and played relatively nicely with each other.
If a child did anything of particular interest, she would tell the parents when they came to pick them up.
Adam was with her class until he was four and in that time she only spoke to Aziraphale and Crowley twice.
The first was when he helped a little girl who had fallen off the swing by assisting her to walk to the classroom for some band-aids and tissues.
Mrs. Parkers had commended both Adam and his godfathers on what kindness he showed.
Aziraphale had just preened like a proud rooster.
The second was when, a year later, Adam hit another little boy in the head with a small plastic bucket from where both of them had been playing in the sandbox.
Apparently, this other boy had taken the toy truck that Adam had been playing with and, when the boy refused to give it back even after Adam asked him to, Adam had taken matters into his own hands and hit him.
The boy was fine, but he did run screaming for their teacher.
Mrs. Parkers lectured both Adam and his guardians about not hitting people.
Inwardly, Crowley glowed with devilish pride.
When Adam was four, it was time for him to start school properly.
Unlike nursery school, this gave his guardians, especially Aziraphale, a great deal of anxiety.
Elementary school was full of children much older and bigger than Adam.
How would he react if, say, one of them tried to bully him?
On a grand, cosmic scale, there was the threat of his powers emmerging.
On a much smaller scale, and therefore infinitely more frightening, there was the threat of their Adam getting hurt.
Aziraphale fussed and dithered over him for days leading up to September 1st, the start of Kindergarten.
Crowley pried him off and hissed at him that scaring the poor child was not helping matters.
Adam was rather oblivious to all of this, as four year old children often are, and was just excited for this new step in his life.
Finally the big day came.
Adam was dressed in nice polo shirt that Aziraphale had picked out for him and he sported a Spider-Man lunch box that Crowley had swiped from the shop nearby.
Said lunch box contained a tuna-fish sandwich, a small bag of crisps, some baby carrots, and an apple-flavored juice box.
The school bus arrived right on time and Aziraphale covered his godson in kisses, muttering last minute advice about being kind to the other children and minding his teacher.
Crowley, always a much less motherly, and, in his own opinion, cooler , parent, simply ruffled Adam’s golden curls and told him to have fun.
Adam gave them each a short hug, waved cheerily, and skidded off to the bus.
Aziraphale and Crowley spend the next ten hours trying to distract themselves.
They tried reading, making food, and finally they settled on an old friend: drinking.
Over the course of the next little while, several very nice bottles of wine disappeared
Today would mark a pivotal point in young Adam’s life and anything he did could very well set up a pattern for years to come.
Of course, it is very few people who remember their first day of Kindergarten and some habits do end up rusting on the roadsides, rather than becoming the mold for future life.
But still. It was a big step.
That afternoon, the bus pulled up once again right on time and Aziraphale and Crowley both sobered up immediately and put the wine bottles in the recycling bin.
They waited nervously for their little student to get off the bus.
When he did and they saw him, Crowley felt like he was going to vomit for the first time in a good four centuries and Aziraphale fainted straightaway.
Adam marched up to the house, his nose bloodied, his clothes slightly wet, and were those teeth marks in his sneakers?
But on his face was the most beautiful smile that both angel and demon had ever seen.
“School was brilliant!” he proclaimed, rushing inside to hug them both and grab a snack. “We’ve got desks just like the big kids and the playground is enormous and I love the library! Oh and I made three new friends already! Wensley’s kinda a nerd, but he’s real smart and knows how to build things! Brian’s awesome in a fight! Oh and I got into a fight! This girl, Pepper, well we call her Pepper, her real name is Pippin Galadiel Moonchild, funny right, anyway we made fun of her name and then she started fightin' with us! So cool! It took the teachers splashin' a bucket of water on us to get her to stop! I’ve never met a girl who fights like that! I can’t wait to go back to school tomorrow! We are makin' owls in art!”
And off it went like this for another quarter of an hour, with Adam talking animatedly about how much fun he had and what his teacher was like and so on.
His godfathers just sat and listened, outwardly calm and inwardly cheering in triumph.
By the next weekend, Crowley and Aziraphale had gotten phone calls from the mothers of all Adam’s new friends.
Play Dates were scheduled, snack-times approved, and Pepper’s mother seemed particularly invested in showcasing her support of, what she called, Aziraphale and Crowley’s “alternative lifestyle choices”.
The children eventually made their way to Adam’s house and Crowley surprised himself by actually liking them.
Pepper in particular; her four year old feistiness could give even the old school demons down in the Wrath district a run for their money.
The children mainly played among themselves, never really requiring an adult in their games unless they were hungry or needed a band-aid.
Crowley preferred it this way, but Aziraphale was definitely having trouble “letting go”, as the parent book called it.
He often would hover outside the door of whatever room the children played in, listening in in case they needed something.
Crowley did his best to distract him, but ultimately it was Adam who put an end to this behavior.
One evening, after his friends had gone home, Adam marched up to Aziraphale, hands on his tiny hips and looking every bit as displeased as a little boy can.
“Erza,” he said. “Brian asked me today why you keep hangin' around when we are playin'.”
Aziraphale, looking rather like a pigeon that had just had its feathers ruffled, squawked in indignation, but Adam cut him off.
“I know you just want us to be okay, but we gotta do stuff by ourselves sometimes.” He hugged Aziraphale tight, burying his little face in his godfather’s soft sweater. “Doesn’t mean I won’t need you for other stuffs though.”
Aziraphale hugged him back and babbled about how proud he was and Crowley knew that the hovering days were over.
It was amazing really.
To a demon or an angel, time is such a relative concept.
Human lives are so fleeting and to try and focus on a single one just feels like waiting for a fly to end its 24 hour lifespan.
But that was not the case with Adam.
Every day was a new, exciting adventure and every year seemed to pass in a happy blur of school days, weekends, birthday parties, and holidays.
The Crowley-Fell residence celebrated the big three holidays of Christmas, Easter, and Halloween with quite a lot of fanfare.
Aziraphale liked Christmas for the obvious reason and for the food; Crowley liked it because it was technically still a pagan holiday where they could stick a tree in the house and cover it in glitter.
Easter was enjoyed for the same reasons, except with replacing “tree” with “eggs”.
Crowley was stunned by Aziraphale actually liking Halloween, but had to roll his eyes when the reason turned out to be “because it’s the only time of year when young people give their neighbors an option before they cause them any trouble."
Crowley reminded him that it was less of a choice and more of a threat, but Aziraphale paid him no never mind.
Costumes were fun, regardless, and Crowley knew he would never forgot the look on Aziraphale’s face when he came into the living room the Halloween after Adam turned 7, wearing nothing but a really slutty angel costume from a London Halloween store.
With all their days so full, it suddenly came as a shock when Adam’s 10th birthday came and went and Crowley, driving into London for a bit of extracurricular badness, received a message from Hell.
“They are sending him a Hellhound,” he told Aziraphale that night as they sat in the kitchen and listened to the rain on the window panes. “It’ll be here the day he turns 11.”
Aziraphale nodded, his hands trembling just slightly. “What will happen when it does?” he asked.
Crowley stared deeply into into his glass of wine, hoping in vain that it would provide some answers for him. “If he sends it back, we will have done it. If he doesn’t, well… Then it is all over.”
The next year went by incredibly and agonizingly quickly, the days just seeming to leap off the calendar like cliff divers into the ocean until August was upon them.
Crowley and Aziraphale celebrated Adam’s birthday like they always did, with a modest pile of presents at his place at the breakfast table and a small slice of cake next to his bacon and eggs, with the promise of more cake after dinner that night.
As Adam ate, Aziraphale and Crowley watched him like they were expecting some sort of explosion. (Which in many ways was not too far from the truth.)
But they did their best to be discreet, asking on his plans for the day with his friends.
He replied with the usual of hanging out in the chalk quarry and maybe riding bikes and his godfather had nearly let out a silent sigh of relief when he said:
“I’m gettin' a dog today.”
Aziraphale’s fork fell out of his neatly manicured hands and Crowley nearly choked on his sip of tea.
“Why-cough-why do you think you’re getting a dog today, kiddo?” Crowley asked, as Aziraphale gave him a hard thump on the back to stop his coughing.
Adam just shrugged.
“Dunno,” he said. “Just feel like it I guess.”
The day was hot and more than a little dusty as angel and demon frantically paced inside the house that had been their home together for more than a decade.
Adam had given them each a friendly wave as he bolted off to be with his friends and both Aziraphale and Crowley felt dread pour into their insides like molten lead.
By the time early evening was looming over them, they had each smoked two packs of cigarettes and drank nearly the entirety of their wine storage.
The crunch of gravel alerted them to their godson’s arrival.
He walked in the front door and at his side was a dog.
But it was not quite the dog they had expected.
It was small, for one thing, and not at all menacing, with an inside out ear and a goofy, lolling pink tongue.
An angel and a demon looked at the dog and the dog looked at them, somewhere in the back of its little brain saying that there was something unusual about them from the others it had seen today, but it could not quite remember why.
“I… see you found a dog, son,” Aziraphale said slowly, like a hostage talking to someone holding a gun.
“Yeah!” Adam cheered, oblivious to their fear. “He came to me in the chalk quarry when we were hangin' out today! Isn’t he great?! He’s just what I wanted!”
Crowley stepped forward, quietly taking Azirpahle’s soft, soft hand into his own long-fingered one and squeezing it with reassurances that he did not actually feel.
“And what did you name him?” he asked, bravely keeping the quiver from his voice.
Adam just smiled.
“Eh. I’ve been callin' him Dog.”
And that was that.
The arrival of Dog did not immediately spell disaster but it didn’t really spell safety either.
Aziraphale and Crowley could have spent many hours that night discussing the possible ramifications of what this Naming meant, but frankly they were just too damn tired.
So once Adam, and Dog, were sleeping peacefully in Adam’s room, Aziraphale and Crowley flopped into their own bed and were asleep in mere seconds.
If they had stayed up, perhaps going for a midnight stroll that both of them were often fond of, they would have run into a young lady who was doing a bit of ley-lines analyzing.
But that is not this story and they did not meet Ms. Anathema Device until the next day around noon when their godson brought her over, declared proudly that she was a witch, and asked if she could stay for lunch.
Aziraphale nearly fainted when he saw The Book.
Thankfully, Crowley was there to catch him and Adam was there to supply information to a very confused Anathema.
“Erza likes books,” he said.
Newton Pulsifer crashed his car like he was supposed to, although this time it cannot be blamed on a little gentleman from Tibet and rather from something as innocuous as an old, rusty nail getting jammed into one of his tires.
Even so, Adam and company still found him and Anathema was still there waiting with bandages and the rather doomed hope that he would look like Jason Patric.
A storm rolled through Lower Tadfield, one so large and seemingly (and possibly accurately) world-ending that none of the residents could say that they had seen anything like it.
That is, save two.
They sat together at the kitchen table, looking over The Book, and trying to find answers.
All the while the storm ragged about them and they had stop themselves from thinking about how their baby boy was, quite literally, in the middle of it all.
Watching Adam and his little friends defeat the Four Horse Persons of the Apocalypse, and not intervening, was the hardest thing Crowley thought he would ever have to do.
That is, until Beelzebub literally oozed out of the ground like a rather pissed off bit of engine oil and started talking to his godson.
That was way, way worse.
Adam stood between the two men-shaped creatures who had raised him, one hand of each in his own.
“I just don’t see why everyone and everything has to be burned up and everything,” he said to the Metatron and Beelzebub. “I mean, what do you even do afterwards? Both of yous guys, what is it people say? Serve a purpose?”
The Metatron and Beelzebub looked at one another and Aziraphale and Crowley did the same.
“Whatever does tho mean, child?” asked Beelzebub, sounding more than a little perplexed.
Adam shrugged his skinny shoulders.
“Like, both sides do somethin' that’s important,” he replied. “But you’re not so good at doing the other team’s job. Like how Erza always makes me hot cocoa when he knows I’m sad but he’s not so good at tryin' to get me to challenge myself and stuff. But Crowley is real good at pushing me to try stuff and learn cool things, but he’s not the best when I just wanna talk about stuffs.”
Adam straightened up a little and Crowley could tell that he had been thinking about this last part a lot.
“Both groups does somethin' so that people can evolve, just at the places that they need it.”
Aziraphale turned to Crowley.
“Heaven is softness and stasis and Hell is challenges and movement,” he whispered.
“Yeah,” he said. “That’s it. Good and Evil don’t mean nothin’ really, just names. They just gotta be doing their jobs in the right doses, like eating vegetables as well as dessert. Vegetables is healthy, but they’re boring but too much dessert will make ya sick.”
Crowley could not help but snort, even with the circumstances.
“You never want to eat your vegetables, Adam,” he quipped.
Adam stuck out his tongue.
“I’m still right, aren’t I?”
That he was.
The rumbling of the ground is what clued them in.
The Metatron and Beelzebub had vanished in a fit of vague embarrassment and Aziraphale and Crowley were on their knees, their arms around their child.
When suddenly the air changed from the heated breezes of August to something more at home under the earth.
Way under, to be precise.
Aziraphale and Crowley should have run, they should have been scared.
But 11 years of parenting instincts did not go away simply because Satan himself showed up.
Aziraphale grabbed his sword and Crowley grabbed a tire iron from under a seat in the Bentley.
Both of them knew that they no hope at all and neither of them cared: their son needed them.
Their wings were spread, their weapons raised, they cared not if everything ended here.
Adam stepped forward.
He did not say anything, he did not do anything.
Just lifted one arm, twisted his hand, and everything changed.
He turned to his friends and smiled.
“Time to go home, I think, you guys,” he said. “I’ll see ya tomorrow.”
And off they went, whooping and hollering on their bikes as if this had been any other ordinary day.
Adam took the hands of his guardians, looking up at them.
“I’ve already got two great fathers,” he said. “I don’t need another one.”
That night, the three of them, and Dog, sat on their front porch, watching the stars.
They did not talk about what happened that day and chances are they never would.
They didn’t need to.
When Adam finally fell asleep, leaning into Aziraphale’s arms, they scooped him up and tucked him into bed, Dog snoring by his feet.
The warm, summer night wind was blowing in from the open window.
It smelled like apples.