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the mortifying ordeal of being known (biblically)

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Demons and angels are contradictions made manifest. They are neither physical nor metaphysical. They are neither alive nor dead. Like anything of true divinity, their existence is both a hypothetical and hyperthetical. They are theoretical.

When a human bumps into a theoretical being walking amongst them in the grounded Earth, it is indeed possible for them to perceive their 'true' forms. These true forms aren't visible in the physical spectrum of light. Rather, a theoretical being can be beheld, as an idea can be beheld in the mind's eye. True forms can be seen, felt, or otherwise experienced in a mode of consciousness that is neither divorced nor vorced with reality, and it is a perfectly simple thing to do, since humans are, after all, also creatures of divinity.

But most humans are not practiced in perceiving the numinous quality of their environment. Beholding immaterial reality in the mind's eye is not as simple to practice as seeing physical reality, given that humans mostly live and learn only in the physical reality. And so most humans will not recognize a demon or angel for what it truly is.

Demons and angels, on the other hand, naturally have a much easier time beholding the numinous quality of things, and a more difficult time perceiving the physical realities of those same things. It takes quite a bit of practice, for a theoretical being to see and interact with physical realities. The learning curve is steep.

*

It was a week after the Abotchalypse, and Aziraphale was in his bookshop, taking a slow and steady inventory of the books that Adam Young, The Little Antichrist That Wouldn't, had perfectly restored from ash. Well, mostly perfectly restored. As powerful as he was, he was still an 11-yr-old. Adam had very haphazardly filled in the gaps on the bookshelves with Conspiracy Magazines Masquerading As Encyclopedias, and Telephone Books Masquerading As Historical Nonfictions, and Newspaper Comics Masquerading As Rare First Edition Prophetic Tomes, and suchlike. This called for some rather exhaustive inventory-ing.

It had been a week since Aziraphale had last heard from Crowley.

This in and of itself was not unusual. Days, weeks, years, and sometimes decades passed between interactions with the demon. But the context was unusual. Crowley had been oddly reticent, oddly tractable in the hours after the Armaged-didn't. He'd barely spoken two words on the drive back to London. He'd even wordlessly slowed the newly-restored-Bentley to just five miles over the speed limit after Aziraphale had gasped with horror at a near-head-on-collision with a school bus. He'd dropped Aziraphale off in front of the miraculously untouched bookstore, and said, "see you 'round, angel," and sped off at 95 miles per hour.

Aziraphale had phoned him the next day, but the call went to voice mail.

"Um..." Aziraphale said, into the voice mailbox, "Well, if you'd like to get lunch. There's the Vietnamese place I've been meaning to try. And since it's still there, you know, and not destroyed, would you like to come with me?"

He didn't receive a call back. After waiting for two days, Aziraphale went to the Vietnamese place by himself. The spring rolls were lovely.

Crowley was probably sleeping off the stress of the Armaged-don't. Aziraphale could sympathize with that. And so he sat in his bookshop, making steady progress through his many, many, many, many books, sorting the ones that had passages swapped out for articles about giraffes and pirates.

*

As it happened, Crowley was indeed sleeping off the stress of the Apoca'whoops, or was trying to. What he was actually doing was lying face-down on the finest linens money could buy (but which money had not bought), and having one hazy, half-awake nightmare after the next. These nightmares heavily featured hellfire, and holy water, and the death of a particular angel. And yet, somehow, this unpleasant semi-dreaming was preferable to him than being conscious.

He was doing this because he did not wish to deal with the aftermaths of the Ragnawrong. For the past day (or week, or month, or decade), he had been running high on the fumes of barely-restrained panic. He didn't want to face whatever was happening down in Hell, and he abso-fucking-tootely didn't want to face Aziraphale.

And so, he soldiered on through semi-lucid nightmares.

*

Five years after the C'ain't'aclysm, Aziraphale finished sorting through his books. Heaven had not contacted him even once, which was nice. Crowley had also failed to contact him, which was less nice.

The angel closed his last book, and drummed his fingers against the surface of his desk. The time was half past four in the morning. The city was as quiet as it could get (not very).

Aziraphale was less prone to anxiety than was typical of most intelligent beings. In fact, he was rather atypically anti-prone to anxiety. If he were anxious to a more typical degree – say, to the same degree that a certain unnamed demon was, he may have been very anxious indeed about the long silence from his friend. He would surely not have permitted five years, or even five days to pass without checking up on the well-being of said friend.

But, being atypically anti-prone to anxiety, Aziraphale had reasoned that the longest nap that Crowley has taken was twenty times longer than five years, and surely if something bad were to happen to the demon it would have happened before the A-stopped-alypse, because now the two of them had the very powerful blessing of a very powerful Antichrist, and even if something bad had tried to happen to Crowley as a punishment for disobeying demonic orders, surely a similar punishment would have also tried to befall Aziraphale. Besides. Crowley was very grouchy when being woken up from a nap.

That said, Aziraphale had finished sorting through his books. And he was tired of going out alone for food, and musicals, and walks in the park. It seemed to him rather inconsiderate of Crowley to be sleeping all this time away, when they were finally free of the oversight of Heaven and Hell. Surely the two of them had a lot to talk about. Surely five years was long enough for a restful nap.

Aziraphale put on his coat, and locked up the bookshop, and began to walk over to Crowley's flat.

*

Crowley was five years into a semi-wakeful nightmarish hell of his own devising, when he was almost-fully-woken by the sound of his doorbell buzzing. In his mostly-woken-but-still-partially-asleep state, his more typically anxious brain interpreted the buzzing as the sound of Beelzebub coming to melt him down to goo.

His brain went along merrily in that tangent for about five minutes, and then the doorbell buzzed again. This interrupted the cinematic flow of his nightmare, and he came more fully awake. He sat up in the darkness of his bedroom, hair tangled in his face, drool dried on his cheek. Slowly, he inched over to the edge of the bed, and slid out, bare feet stumbling across the cold concrete floor.

He reached a hand for the door, just as it swung open and smacked him square in the face.

"Ouch!"

"Oh dear," said Aziraphale, "I'm terribly sorry."

"Nngh," said Crowley, as he pinched his nose, which was bleeding.

Aziraphale looked him up and down. "You look awful."

"No thanks to you," said Crowley, sullenly. A little corner of his mind played in the nightmare-realm, still, and was picturing Aziraphale in flames. "Whad're you doing here?"

"Well, I finished sorting through my books," said Aziraphale, "And I imagine you've had long enough to sleep. Why don't you go get cleaned up? I'll put on some tea."

"I hate tea," Crowley said, and sniffed, and snorted. Some more blood dribbled out of his nose.

Aziraphale gave him a look that looked the way the sound 'tsk' sounds like, and snapped his fingers. Crowley's nose stopped bleeding.

He must have fallen asleep again for a bit, because he was dreaming about Beelzebub, except it wasn't Beelzebub, but Aziraphale, who had red eyes and a crocodilian grin, and who was flaying Crowley open, taking his body apart, pulling tendons and vessels out through his ribcage, cracking his sternum open to show his bleeding, beating heart.

And then he woke up, lying on his couch, and Aziraphale was handing him a hot cup of tea.

"Dear," said Aziraphale, and the care and concern in his voice tore Crowley open and raw, a hundred times worse than his dream. "Are you quite all right?"

Crowley took a sip of tea. It was sweet, the way he liked it. Steam blew into his glasses.

"M fine," he muttered, "until you barged in."

"I don't think you are," said Aziraphale, who was sitting on the same couch, at Crowley's feet, and who held his own cup of tea, "You seem rather patently not-fine."

Crowley stuck his tongue out at Aziraphale, and had another sip of tea. He was coming more awake by the second, and was hating it. He felt too hot, his heart rushing, blind panic crawling up and down his spine with nowhere for it to go. He wasn't ready to talk to Aziraphale. He wasn't ready to be flayed open again. He was full-stop going to lose his god-blessed marbles and make a mess of everything.

He sipped his tea.

"Good tea," he grunted.

Aziraphale made a pleased noise, and then started talking about some movie that had come out, that they should go see. Crowley sipped at his tea, and then he ran out of tea, and thereby ran out of one more anchor for his sanity to cling to.

"Angel," he said, interrupting. "Look. I'm really, really not done napping. Thanks for the tea, but let's call a rain check on that movie, yeah?"

"Crowley, dear," said Aziraphale, and the tender way he said it made Crowley want to scream, "What're you not telling me?"

Crowley took a shallow breath. And then another shallow breath. And then a third shallow breath, whereupon he realized that he'd been forgetting to let out the shallow breaths, and couldn't breathe in anymore.

"I thought you were dead," Crowley hissed, and then threw his teacup across the room. It shattered against a dying Sansevieria trifasciata. He clapped a hand over his mouth, hoping to stop himself from vomiting up a flood of emotional bullshit that was pounding at the gates to be set loose. He rolled off the sofa, and made a break for his bedroom.

He made it back to his bed, only to find himself captured in Aziraphale's arms.

"Oh, darling," said Aziraphale, cradling him around the shoulders, one hand warm and soft against the back of his head, and it took everything Crowley had to not start sobbing then and there, "I'm so very sorry. I didn't realize."

Crowley felt himself shaking, but at least he was not screaming, which he decided to count as a victory. He felt Aziraphale lay him down on the linen sheets, felt Aziraphale carefully remove his glasses, felt Aziraphale lie down next to him, in the darkness.

The demon fell asleep, dreamlessly this time.

*

The first time Aziraphale and Crowley had sex with each other was the year 500 AD. They'd both gotten somewhat inebriated at an absolutely over-the-top harvest-season party thrown by a tribe of Goths.

In the eyes of Heaven and Hell, having sex with The Adversary was a more serious crime to commit than having dinner with The Adversary (which Aziraphale and Crowley had already done, many times), but not so serious of a crime as, say, swapping Heavenly/Hellish duties with The Adversary (which Aziraphale and Crowley would do in the future, many times, as per the Arrangement).

Which is to say, a round of slightly drunken fucking after a rowdy Gothic party in the year 500 AD was a fairly logical linear progression in their relationship at the time.

They lay together, afterwards, both of them feeling tranquil and satisfied and uneasy all at once. There was a tear in the fabric ceiling of the tent they lay in, which made it possible to see the dark, shadowy boughs of trees beyond, and the late-summer sky and stars beyond that.

"We probably ought not to have done that," said Aziraphale, a little nervously.

"That's not what you said when I was sucking your cock," said Crowley.

"Shh!" said Aziraphale, as though Heaven might hear them talking.

"Oh, Crowley, please-" moaned Crowley, in a breathless, desperate sort of way.

Aziraphale clapped a hand over the demon's mouth. Or tried too, but missed the mark little, and mostly just smacked him in the ear.

"Ow!"

"Sorry," said Aziraphale, and then giggled, nervously, and covered his own face with his hands. "But this is worse than getting dinner and drinks."

"Relax, angel, it's not much worse. It's just our bodies. It's not like we enfolded or anything."

"Oh. Oh no," said Aziraphale, because he was a long-term-forward-thinker, and he had just started forward-thinking about how one thing might eventually lead to another if they kept at this forbidden relationship of theirs. There might one day be a point when they did become entangled, whether in ten years or ten thousand, and then they would actually be in trouble, because there is no possible way to explain that one away at all.

Crowley sat up, and stretched his arms out over his head, a shadow in the darkness, a silhouette against the starry sky.

"Would you like to go again, angel?" Crowley asked, "I think I wouldn't mind trying mortal sex out with another set of equipment. Hastur told me that vaginas are better, but I don't quite believe him. Seems to me it would be difficult to beat what we just did."

"One's not better than the other," said Aziraphale indignantly, "The Almighty created all creatures in perfection."

"Prove it, then," said Crowley, and leaned in for a kiss.

*

Crowley woke up from his nap four hours later. He seemed to be far more relaxed than when he had answered the door. There was just a little bit of morning light coming in through the blackout drapes.

The demon blinked at Aziraphale, slitted snake-eyes a little bleary and out-of-focus.

The angel took a deep breath. "Crowley. I care quite a lot about you. I didn't realize, that you - " He stopped. He wasn't sure how he could speak his mind. His words seemed insufficient, clumsy, approximate, wrong.

Crowley blinked at him, and slid a hand towards Aziraphale, letting it come to a rest between them. Aziraphale looked at it for a moment, and then covered it with his own. Crowley's skin was cool to the touch.

"Look," he tried again, "We probably need to talk about... about what happened." He then sighed, frustrated.

"Fuck talking," said Crowley, and closed his eyes again. "I hate talking."

Aziraphale sighed, again. "Yes, I know."

"Sometimes," said Crowley, eyes still closed, "I think you know me. But mostly I think you don't know me at all."

Aziraphale swallowed. "I do know you, Crowley. Mostly. I'm just... I can very occasionally be rather self-absorbed, I'm afraid."

Crowley opened one eye. "Finally, he speaks sense."

"Shut up."

They fell silent. Another hour passed.

"But you know me," said Aziraphale, "better than anyone. Better than I do. Don't you?"

Crowley gave Aziraphale's hand a sharp squeeze, and then withdrew. He sat up, and stretched.

"Argh. Enough of this. What do you say we go get some breakfast or something, and enjoy the world not being ended?"

Aziraphale sat up also. "Crowley. I think we may be entangled."

Crowley went very deathly still. Aziraphale might have thought he had actually died right there, if he hadn't been able to sense Crowley's pulse hammering. If he hadn't been able to behold the shifting, slithering, twisting shadow of Crowley's true form, all scales and venom and slitted eyes. A cool summer evening, a sharp bite that comes from every direction, and no direction.

Aziraphale looked down at his own hand, and beheld his own light, felt the flame, the sparks, the open-mouthed jaws full of smooth, white teeth, a hot summer day, and a desperate thirst for water, thirst for knowledge, thirst.

He looked back at Crowley. "Mind, only slightly entangled. But I think we may inevitably wind up fully so."

Crowley was silent.

"If you'd like to try enfolding, sometime," said Aziraphale breezily, "I should think we're beyond consequences by now, wouldn't you say?"

Crowley barked a laugh, uneasy, agitated. "Angel," he said, "You'll have to buy me some dinner and drinks, first."

"Of course," said Aziraphale.

*

They had breakfast at a local hipstery establishment. The place was complete with unfinished brick walls and industrial lighting, rough-hewn wooden tables and chairs that wobbled. But the eggs were good. Crowley ordered five eggs, cooked in various styles, and swallowed each of them in one bite, without chewing.

His leg jittered under the table, causing his wobbly chair to wobble mightily, and the rough-hewn table to tremble. Aziraphale appeared not to notice, his attention focused fully on the gastronomical experience before him.

Entangled, Aziraphale had said. Entangled. Like two physical/metaphysical particles. Surely not. Crowley pinched himself in the thigh, hard. Aziraphale flinched, slightly, but that might just be because the next table had gone up with uproarious laughter.

"I must say, they are far too rowdy for the hour," said Aziraphale, just loudly enough that the table ought to hear him. They apparently didn't.

Crowley rubbed the sore spot on his leg, and scowled. He tried not to feel anxious. He'd mostly succeeded in balling up his five-year-meltdown, and shoving it in his mental safety deposit box, and locking it down. It was probably going to all spill out the next time he needed to stuff something else in there. His internal lockbox of Issues had started pretty full almost six thousand years ago, and by now it was practically bursting at the seams. But that was a problem for Future Crowley.

"If you'd like to try enfolding, sometime," Aziraphale had said. Just. Brazenly. Out loud. Crowley pinched himself in the thigh again.

Aziraphale sneezed, and then dabbed daintily at his nose with a brown paper napkin that proclaimed to be 100% Post Consumer Waste in black, bulky letters. "I was thinking we could visit the child."

"Hm," said Crowley.

"He must be sixteen by now," said Aziraphale.

"We've got no idea where he is," said Crowley.

Aziraphale gave him an odd look. "I assume he still lives in Tadfield."

"Ah. You mean Adam. I thought you were talking about Warlock."

"Oh, Warlock," said Aziraphale, and looked contemplative. "I hope he's all right. You were quite a terrible influence on the poor dear."

Crowley snorted. "It'll take a miracle for that one to turn out all right, all my influence aside. He's the son of an American diplomat; the cards are stacked well against him."

"Be as that may."

They drove to Tadfield. Crowley let the Bentley practically fly, and Aziraphale spoke no word of protest, though his knuckles were white in his lap and his lips were sealed so firmly together they looked superglued.

They pulled up at 4 Hogback Lane, and disembarked the Bentley, and beheld the well-manicured front garden. Though Crowley could not truly sense it, he suspected that the whole house was still enveloped in love. In the past five years, the history of the place had grown, full of drama and angst, fights and curses. The shadows of these events twined around the front gate and hung under the window-sills. But they were at a fairly normal, non-sinister level. On a more physical level, the rose bushes were just starting to flower, and Mr. Young was sitting on his front porch, perusing a newspaper. Mrs. Young was out of sight (but not out of mind), crouched in the corner of the garden, pulling up weeds.

Mr. Young looked up, and spotted two very suspicious men lurking across the street. Well, one of them was lurking. The other waved brightly. Their faces were unpleasantly familiar, but he couldn't quite place them.

"Can I help you?" he called.

Aziraphale took this as an invitation to stride up to the gate, where he paused, politely, so as not to encroach on the mortal's territorial boundaries. Crowley trailed after him, and lurked a bit in his shadow.

"You might not remember us," said Aziraphale, "but we were here about five years ago, when Adam decided not to bring about Armageddon?"

"Oh. You." Mr. Young did not look impressed. Mrs. Young popped up from behind the rosemary.

"Is that the angel?" she asked.

"Yes," said Aziraphale.

"And the demon?"

"Present," said Crowley, and gave a jaunty little wave.

The four of them stared awkwardly at one another. And then, because the Youngs were, after all, quite English, Mr. Young ground out, reluctantly, "Would you two like to come in for tea?"

"That would be splendid," said Aziraphale, beaming.

The four of them settled into the Youngs' overstuffed living room, and Mr. Young brought out the tea.

Crowley accepted a teacup, and sipped it. It was not sweet. He grimaced, and reached for the sugar bowl.

"This house feels very loved," commented Aziraphale, after an awkward pause, during which Crowley dropped ten cubes of sugar into his teacup, causing the liquid to overflow into its saucer. "I daresay the love has only grown in the past five years."

Mr. Young huffed. Mrs. Young smiled uncertainly, and said. "Why, thank you?"

"He means it literally," said Crowley, "Angels can sense love."

"I don't mean it lliterally," said Aziraphale, "That's not what lliterally means."

Crowley slorped down half his tea in one go. "Somebody once told me that language evolves, angel."

"Well yes, it does, and it's beautiful, but in this particular case I won't stand for it."

"This particular case? You mean half of all cases. You still throw a little bitch-fit every time you hear somebody say OMG out loud."

Aziraphale visibly bristled on the physical and metaphysical realms, not at all unlike an offended pufferfish. "It's the same number of syllables!"

Mrs. Young cleared her throat just slightly more forcefully than needed. She exchanged a look with Mr. Young, who said, "So what're you two doing here. We aren't about to have another apocalypse, are we? Because I for one won't stand for it."

Crowley snorted. Aziraphale deflated, mostly.

"Adam has been a little... moody, lately," said Mrs. Young nervously, "And rebellious. He's been such a handful. Just last week he teleported himself and his friends over to see a concert in London even though I told him he ought to stay home and study for his maths exam."

"That's just depressingly normal teen human shit," said Crowley, and slorped down the rest of his tea. He licked his lips. "I've truly got to hand it to you two, thwarting Hell's designs so soundly with halfway decent parenting."

Aziraphale took a leaf out of Mrs. Young's book and cleared his throat with more force than needed. "We just wanted to check in, really. Where's Adam today?"

"Riding 'round the town with his friends causing trouble, most likely," Mr. Young grumbled, "I've told him if I get one more complaint from Mrs. Ponts about them drinking down by the creek, I'd tell his crush on him."

"That's diabolical of you," said Crowley, approvingly, "You make me very grateful to not have parents."

"Well, he refuses to be grounded these days," said Mr. Young heavily, "I've had to get creative."

They had one more round of tea, and then took their leave.

"Do you suppose Miss Device still lives here?" Aziraphale asked, as he settled back into the Bentley.

"Let's find out," said Crowley, and floored the gas.

As it happened, Miss Device did indeed still live in Tadfield. And what was more, she lived with Mister Pulsifer. They weren't home, but Aziraphale and Crowley happened to drive past them at 80 miles per hour down the town's quaint Main Street.

"That was her!" said Aziraphale, craning his neck. Crowley threw the Bentley into reverse and did a casual 70 miles per hour backwards down the street, and came to a screeching stop next to the couple. Aziraphale rolled down the window.

"Hello," he said.

"Oh, hello there!" said Anathema, peering the window. "Newt, look who it is. Remember the angels?"

"I'm a demon," said Crowley.

"You're still an angel," said Anathema, and hitched up her backpack of groceries. "Just Fallen."

Crowley's mental lockbox of Issues emitted an ominous growling noise. He ignored it.

"Would you two like to come to our wedding?" she asked.

Newton Pulsifer startled, and nearly dropped the new bottle of laundry detergent he was carrying. "Wedding?" he asked, nervously, "Theems. Please tell me I haven't forgotten that we talked about a wedding?"

Anathema straightened up from the Bentley's window and patted Newt's arm reassuringly. "Oh, don't worry. I just meant, generally speaking."

Crowley leaned across Aziraphale to give Anathema a proper view of the Judgemental Look™ on his face. "What's general about a wedding?"

Anathema shrugged. "I mean, if Newt's up for it. We might have a wedding."

Aziraphale beamed and clapped his hands together delightedly. Crowley accidentally-on-purpose elbowed the angel in the chest, and said, "Are you two actually just proposing in the middle of the street?"

"I don't know why you're making such a big deal about this," said Anathema. (Newt, meanwhile, appeared to be wobbling on his knees, approximately ten seconds away from a full faint.) "I just wanted to invite the two of you to our wedding, should we have one. It seemed only proper, and I have no way of knowing when we'd run into you again."

"Your boyfriend's about to faint," said Crowley, pointing.

"Ah," said Anathema, and grabbed the bottle of detergent out of his hands, before he buckled. She also just barely managed to stop Newt from doing a full face-plant onto the rain-damp sidewalk, mostly by just allowing him to slide down her side and crumple to the ground.

"Classy," said Crowley, as Aziraphale gasped, horrified.

Anathema clutched the bottle of laundry detergent. "Shoot. Could you give us a ride, maybe?"

"Of course," said Aziraphale.

"Ew, no," said Crowley, "He's all dirty."

Aziraphale issued Crowley a Judgemental Look™.

"Well alright then, fine," said Crowley, and got out of the driver's side to help Anathema push Newt into the backseat.

They went back to Miss Device's house for tea. Newt was laid out on the couch, with a blanket.

"So what have you two been up to?" Anathema asked, as Crowley dropped ten cubes of sugar into his teacup.

"Not much," said Aziraphale, "Mostly just the usual, plus some extra inventory. Adam mixed up all my books when he rebuilt the shop."

"What is the usual, for an angel?" Anathema asked.

"Too many crêpes," said Crowley, and sipped. He'd had quite enough tea for the day, but it would be rude to not have at least one sip.

"I beg your pardon," said Aziraphale, "I eat exactly the correct number of crêpes."

Anathema had her elbow rested upon the kitchen table, and her face rested upon her hand. She glanced back and forth between the two of them. "You know, I've gotten quite accustomed to the Antichrist, but it is still rather exciting to be in the company of angels."

"Demon," hissed Crowley.

"Fallen," said Anathema cheerfully, and Crowley squirmed. "Anyway. How did the two of you wind up as friends?"

Aziraphale smiled faintly. "Oh, I suppose we just got used to each other, after thousands of years."

"I believe the mortals call it called Stockholm Syndrome," said Crowley. Aziraphale looked at him, Affrontment written all over his face.

"Hmm," said Anathema, and tapped the kitchen table with one finger. She squinted at them, a little. "You know, I can see your... well, they're not auras, exactly, are they? They look quite different from auras. They look a little frightening, truth be told."

“Yeah, that’s normal,” said Crowley.

She squinted harder. “And, actually. They look a little bit… hm… entangled?”

In that moment, all the blood in Crowley’s physical body decided to make a break for it. A good quarter of it decided to shoot into his head, and the rest whirled around in a tizzy, confused, but determined to escape somewhere. It left him feeling very nauseous, and also like his brain was going to explode.

“Urghgghlllghll,” he said, and clutched the teacup. The cup cracked, then shattered under his grip, getting hot tea all over his hand and the tabletop.

“Dear,” said Aziraphale reprovingly. This made it worse. Crowley’s vision was fuzzy, and even darker than the glasses warranted.

“Ssss-s-s-she can sssee it, angel,” he hissed, “Fuck. Oh fuck. We’re fucked.”

“Calm down, Crowley,” said Aziraphale. Crowley’s blood was now rushing in his ears, like a windstorm. He could barely hear Aziraphale apologizing to Anathema, could barely feel the broken teacup being miracle’d back into its unbroken state. His whole entire self was busily setting itself on fire and running around in tight circles, screaming.

When he woke up, he was lying on the carpeted floor next to Newt, who was still lying on the couch. Someone had removed his glasses, and folded them up neatly, and laid them on the coffee table next to Newt’s glasses. Someone had also tucked him under a blanket.

He saw that Newt was staring blankly at the ceiling. Newt muttered something that sounded awfully like, “Wedding?”

Crowley swallowed, and also stared up at the ceiling. He could hear Anathema and Aziraphale in the kitchen, talking.

“Yes, he’s quite emotionally constipated,” Aziraphale was saying, “But I can’t really fault him for it. So am I.”

Anathema laughed.

“I’m gonna sue,” Crowley whispered.

“What was that?” Newt asked, blankly.

“I said,” said Crowley, “I’m gonna sue.”

“Oh,” said Newt. He was very clearly not listening. “You know, I love Anathema. I love her so much.”

“O-M-G,” hissed Crowley, “Shut the fuck up, will you?”

*

Crowley was not in a stable enough frame of mind to drive the Bentley back to London, so Aziraphale took the wheel. Well, he didn't actually touch the wheel, but he sat in the driver’s seat and willed the car to move.

As they travelled at safe and legal speeds down the roads, Aziraphale glanced over at Crowley, who was curled up in the passenger-side, knees drawn up to his chest, one foot resting on the dash, the other foot digging into the passenger seat. He had his arms tucked in against his chest, hands curled under his chin. He bore an uncanny resemblance to the corpse of a dead spider, curled up and stiff with rigor mortis.

“I thought getting out a bit would be good for you,” Aziraphale said, slowing to a stop at a yellow light, “I do apologize.”

Crowley emitted a grunting noise.

“You know, we really probably don’t have anything to worry about from our respective Head Offices,” Aziraphale said, “I haven’t heard a single thing from them in the past five years.”

Crowley emitted another grunting noise. The light stayed red for an inexplicably long time. Aziraphale was tempted to miracle it to green, but that seemed a very frivolous miracle indeed. So he just waited.

“Does the prospect of entanglement frighten you?” Aziraphale asked.

Crowley began to emit a quiet, but high-pitched sound, not unlike a tea-kettle just starting to boil.

The light turned green. Aziraphale made the Bentley accelerate at a sensible pace.

“Look,” said Aziraphale, driving five miles under the speed limit in the slow lane, “You’re very important to me, Crowley. Probably the most important. We’ve been through a great deal together.”

Crowley’s high pitched sound became a little louder, not unlike a tea-kettle reaching a full boil.

“That’s a very annoying noise, though.”

Crowley made the noise, louder, for about five seconds, and then abruptly stopped.

“Thank you.”

They drove the rest of the way in silence.

Aziraphale walked Crowley up to his flat, and watched him fumble with the keys to the door. He finally unlocked it, and stepped in. Aziraphale remained outside. There was a sort of warm, heavy confidence inside him. An anti-anxiety. They were here, together. The two of them. And the whole, wide, wonderful, beautiful, terrible world was here with them too. All was well. Mostly. And that’s all that anyone could really ask for.

“I’ll see you around?” Aziraphale asked, as Crowley turned and stared at him from inside his flat, looking a little like when he did when he’d first answered the door that morning, like he’d aged, somehow, despite his immortality.

And then Crowley reached out, and grasped Aziraphale firmly by the lapels of his coat, and dragged him into the apartment. The door shut behind him, and Crowley leaned his warm body against Aziraphale’s, breathing heavily, and Aziraphale could feel the coils of Crowley’s true form twisting around him, cool and smooth and sharp.

“But I haven’t bought you dinner and drinks, dear,” Aziraphale said, lightly, and raised one hand to push Crowley’s glasses up to rest in his hair. “Are you really ready?”

“Oh, ssshut up,” Crowley hissed, and pressed a hot kiss to Aziraphale’s forehead, “How are you alwayssss. Sss. So. Why are you always so infuriating?”

“If I weren’t, you wouldn’t like me nearly as much,” said Aziraphale, and pressed his hands against Crowley’s back, running them metaphysically through his wings, letting the flame of his true self bleed into the coolness of Crowley’s feathers, and was rewarded with the feeling of Crowley’s snake-coils tightening around him, so tight that they pressed into the heart of him, a lovely cool feeling, not unlike drinking water in the desert after dying of thirst.

Crowley gasped, like he was drowning, and Aziraphale pressed a physical kiss into Crowley’s jaw, and enveloped his own wings around them both, bringing them closer, overlapping, enfolding, live wires running current through each other, overwhelmingly sweet, and bright, and sharp. He was shaking, they were shaking, the theoretical particles of themselves coming apart and knitting into one another. Aziraphale cried out, and in some distant physical reality he heard both their voices cry out, a harmony of two unified into one.

*

They woke up the next morning in Crowley’s bed. Physically, they were still merged into one body. Theoretically, they were fully entangled.

“Ohhhhh, fuck,” they said, “This is your fault.”

“It’s our fault,” they said, and tried to crawl out of bed, but got in their own way, which caused them to fall flat on their face.

They lay there for a bit, and then, cautiously, slowly, they sat back up.

“You liked it,” they said to themselves, “You did.”

They covered their face with their hands. “Fuck. OMG. Oh My God.”

“Un-enfolding ourselves is going to be a bitch and a half,” they muttered, and succeeded in getting out of bed. They stumbled over to the window, and pushed open the drapes, and winced at the light. “Well. I don’t know. We could just try this out for a little while, first?”

The phone rang in the next room. They walked unsteadily over to it, and picked up the line.

“Aziraphale,” said an angelic voice on the other end.

“Um, uh, he’s not here,” they said, and then slammed the receiver back down.

They stood there, frozen. “Oh, dear. What if that was important?”

“Important? How dare they call us now, hours after we went and enfolded ourselves, after ignoring us for five whole years?”

“Oh, fuck, they know. They definitely know. They totally know.”

“How are we so fucking anxious right now, how do you live like this? I can’t think straight.”

“What? Shouldn’t we be freaking out much worse than this? You’re the one who’s disturbingly calm. Heaven just called.”

The phone rang again. “Oh, Hell.”

“Ahhhhhhhh, fuck, I can’t think. I can’t think.”

“Count of three.”

“One.”

“Two.”

“Three.”

They braced themselves against the table, and screamed, and broke physically back into two. Aziraphale fell backwards and hit the floor, and cursed a blue streak, and then looked mortified at having cursed a blue streak. Crowley wobbled at the desk, and then sunk down to the floor on his knees.

“Whew,” he said, faintly.

They were silent. The phone kept ringing. Crowley reached up, and picked up the receiver, and said, “Sorry, not a good time,” and hung up.

They looked at each other. Aziraphale snickered a little.

“What?” Crowley demanded.

“Oh, nothing. You're wearing my clothes. You look very cute.”

“Well, you’re wearing my clothes and you’ve gone and borrowed my eyes,” Crowley retorted, “Wait. I mean. You’ve gone and borrowed my whole-ass body. So apparently we’re going to have to do that all over again and swap back without cocking it up so fantastically.”

Aziraphale waved a hand dismissively. “I’m sure it’s fine. We’ll figure it out.” He blinked his snake-slitted eyes, and got back on his feet. “Apparently I’ve got to go deal with my Head Office. Oh goodness. Oh, shit. I mean. Oh, shoot. Meet you for dinner and drinks tonight?”

Crowley huffed, and shrugged out of Aziraphale’s incredibly unfashionable jacket. “Fine.”

“See you later,” said Aziraphale, and headed for the door.

“Wait, give me my body back!”

“See you later!” Aziraphale called again, cheerfully, and shut the front door behind him.

Crowley slumped back against his desk. The phone rang. He reached up with one hand and picked it up.

“Crowley,” growled Beelzebub, “What’s this I hear from Heaven about you fucking entangling with an angel?”

“Buzz off,” said Crowley, and hung up.