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Of Tropical Fish And (Supposed) Antichrists

Chapter Text

Around seven years and two proposals after the apocalypse-that-wasn’t a certain Adam Young found himself in a college lecture hall waiting for class to start. The Them had hated saying goodbye to one another after so long a friendship but they knew that come the winter holidays they would see each other again. To be frank, Adam was bored. He had already beat the game on his phone and planned to shoot off a text to Wensleydale when a voice cut through his stupor.

“Adam? Wow, I sure didn’t expect to see you here!” Adam looked up. Towering over where he was seated was Greasy Johnson. He was a tall, blonde boy with harsh features. It had been a while since Adam had seen Greasy and was quite shocked that the large boy was even standing there at all. Greasy had a strange sort of air about him. That’s when Adam realized that he was smiling.

“Adam? Adam? You alright, mate?” Adam realized he had been staring but he couldn't help it. All of the negative feelings that Adam had always seen on Greasy had vanished from his face. Dare he say it but with that wide and clumsy smile, Greasy looked almost handsome.
“Oh. Oh! Oh yeah, I’m alright.”

“Oh good, I was getting a bit worried there for a second. "Hey, can I...uh...can I sit here?” Greasy nervously pointed at the empty seat next to Adam. On Adam’s nod, he stumbled into the chair and dropped his book bag onto the table. Then he turned that damned smile back on Adam. “You know I was a bit upset when I couldn’t catch you after graduation,” he laughed, rubbing the back of his neck as he slouched in his seat as though trying to be smaller. Adam just stared so Greasy continued. “I had wanted to uh...to apologize for how I treated you. But uh...since you’re here I just wanted to ask...could we start over?” Adam was shocked. To be fair it’s not every day your childhood nemesis asks to “start over”. Greasy seemed almost hopeful. Dammit! Adam couldn’t believe he was doing this. Adam couldn’t believe he was actually going to do this.

“Well then. Nice to meet you. I’m Adam Young,” Greasy’s face lit up.

“Nice to meet you, Adam! I’m Greasy Johnson!” and they shook on it. They sat for a few minutes just catching up. Anathema and Newt had gotten married a few years ago and were still living in Jasmine Cottage, Madam Tracy and Sargent Shadwell had been engaged for about a year and were still living happily together. The Them had all gone their separate ways. Unsurprisingly Wensleydale went into accounting, Pepper was trying to get into law school, and Brian was an artist. Then Greasy asked a question Adam wasn’t expecting.

“How are your uncles?” Adam stared. “Your uncles? I see them around town sometimes. One of them drives a really old looking car?” That’s when he got it.

“Oh! Oh yes, they’re doing alright. They live in South Downs now.” Talking about Crowley and Aziraphale as though they were actually related to him was kind of weird. “Pepper, Wensley, Brian and I are going to visit them for Christmas.” Before Greasy could respond an American accented voice spoke up behind Adam.

“Excuse me, boys, can I sit here? Everywhere else is taken.” Adam turned to see one of the prettiest girls he’d ever seen. She had long curly blonde hair pulled back from her face. She was wearing a white floral sundress with a dark red lipstick.

“Yeah! Of course!” Greasy accepted. She flashed a sweet smile before sitting down then held out her hand to shake.

“Hi, I’m Ashtoreth Cortese. You can call me Ash if you’d like.” Soon after introductions were passed around the class began and the three new friends agreed to get coffee after it ended.

 

Adam never really liked coffee. He preferred the mint tea Anathema would make whenever he came to visit. When they got to the small coffee shop he decided that a cup of tea would do him good. Truth be told only Greasy got any coffee. Ash seemed to prefer cocoa. When he got back to the table with their orders Ash was laughing at something Greasy was telling her.

“It’s not funny! It’s serious! I’ve won awards!” Greasy insisted trying not to laugh which only made Ash laugh harder.

“What’s so funny over here?” Adam asked smiling from their shared amusement.

Greasy pouted jokingly, “She’s making fun of my fish!” This statement sent Ash into peals of laughter while Adam tried not to join her.

“Your...fish?” He asked smothering his incredulous tone.

“Yes, my fish! I keep tropical fish!” The confused look on Adam’s face set off the just calmed down Ash for whom it was getting hard to breath around her laughter. Greasy rolled his eyes. “Fine. If you’re only interested in mocking me then I won’t say anything!” he said sounding genuinely put out.

This calmed Ash down. “No no, it’s very interesting Greasy. I’m sorry I laughed. I apologize.” Her eyes were sincere as she reached over the table to grab Greasy’s free hand and give it a squeeze.

“It’s alright. You’re a good friend Ash.” Adam butted his shoulder against Greasy’s from where he was sitting beside him and Greasy gave him a smile. Ash grinned at them over the table.

“So how long have you two known each other?” She hadn't let go of Greasy’s hand. Greasy looked nervously down at the table, obviously thinking about all the years he used to terrorized the Them.

Adam smiled at Greasy fondly and without thinking slipped his arm through Greasy’s bent one. Greasy looked up in shock at Adam, surprised and hopeful. Adam nudged Greasy again and a soft smile curved Ash’s lips. Adam turned his blinding smile on the girl sitting across from him.
“All our lives.”

 

Two past enemies and a stranger sat in a small coffee shop drinking their coffee, tea, and cocoa until night fell. Then like perfect gentleman the once enemies dropped the stranger off where she was staying but not before thanks were given and a kiss was bestowed on two cheeks.

That night one tropical fish owner and two (supposed) antichrists went to bed dreaming of new friendships and perhaps something more.

Chapter Text

Greasy Johnson was born the same day as two other babies (or in one of the cases the same day it was delivered). His mother was the wife of an American diplomat and his father wasn’t even there. Truth be told that didn’t really matter because his place in life was taken by the son of an English accountant and he was secreted away by an order of satanic nuns and discreetly adopted.

His American genes didn’t truly leave him though. He was built like a pro footballer (American football not soccer) and in a town the size of Tadfield the only word synonymous with “big” was “clumsy”.

For the first couple of years of his life, his playground nickname was “Bigs”. He was constantly bumping into or accidentally tripping people and though his apologies were genuine the hard set of his jaw and perpetually turned down eyebrows caused no one to believe him. By kindergarten, he had become the only thing someone of his nature could be in Tadfield. A bully.

Then he met Adam. Adam was blonde-haired, blue-eyed, and perfect. Greasy was smitten. Or he would have been had he known the word “smitten” at the age of five. Adam was kind and humble and he came up with the best games. Not that Greasy was ever allowed privilege to that information. Adam was everything Greasy wanted to be. He was everything Greasy wanted. Greasy liked Adam. Adam did not like Greasy.

When he turned eight he got his first fish. Its was a little, colorful thing and he fell in love. Where he was awkward and mean at school, he was gentle and kind to his fish. His collection grew and he was extremely proud of them. He’d even won awards when he began breeding them. By the age of ten he could explain the genetic outcomes of multitudes of different fish species and his pets were the most colorful and bright specimens you could find this side of London. His favorite was a lovely blue and orange striped manderinfish and if by chance it was named Adam well then that's none of your business now is it?

The only people who tried to understand him were his parents, who loved him dearly and were exceptionally proud of him, and a kind woman down the street named Ms Mary. From what Greasy knew of her she used to be a nun before her order was disbanded. She was an exceptionally kind woman who had the tendency to talk for ages. At least once a week he would go to visit her and they'd talk about anything and everything. She cared about his fish and she never worried about if he may crack her china. He’d tell her about Adam.

When he was fifteen she helped him realize that he bisexual. She was nonjudgemental when she gently laid a hand on Greasy’s knee and asked: “Do you think that you might be in love with Adam?”. That was the only time someone other than his parents or his fish ever saw Greasy cry.

 

Right before graduation he had worked up the nerve. After the ceremony he would find Adam and apologize. Maybe Adam would accept! Maybe they could be friends!

When Greasy was called to get his diploma the only people who clapped and actually meant it were Mr and Mrs Johnson and Ms Mary and her partner Ms Hodges. When Adam was called not only did everyone clap (and mean it) but he even had his two strange uncles, four weird color-coded biker cousins, a strangely dressed old couple, and that weird witch and her husband from Jasmine Cottage in the audience. Greasy wasn’t surprised when he didn’t even get the chance to say hello.

 

He had gotten his own apartment for college and his parents and Ms Mary had just left. Everything was perfect. His fish were set up in their huge tank in the living room and he had set out all his pictures of him with his parents or Ms Mary. He had no pictures of his friends. He didn't even really have friends. The boys who hung around him only did it so they didn't (accidentally or not) become his victim. He didn't even tell them about his fish. He didn't tell anyone about his fish. They were his. His alone. He figured that he might tell Adam about the fish. Or maybe someone else, but he’d have to really feel comfortable around them.

“Be the best you can be.” the phrase repeated in his mind. It was the last thing Ms Mary had said to him before she went home. “Be the best you can be.” He stepped into the lecture hall. This would be the beginning of his new life. He would leave Tadfield behind and be the best he could be.

 

The world hated him didn’t it? His heart plummeted to his shoes. There. Five rows from the front, dead center. The golden curls that had haunted every dreaming moment of Greasy’s life since he was five years old. Adam bloody Young. Ms Mary’s voice rang in his mind.

“Be the best you can be.” you know what? He would. He would be the best he could be. It would all start with apologizing to Adam bloody Young.

 

He’d done it. Adam was his friend. Adam was his friend! They were talking! Then...whoa. The girl was beautiful. Shiny yellow curls and sparkling blue eyes. Just like Adam’s. No. She wasn’t Adam. She was Ashtoreth. Ash. His heart fluttered. Just like it did for Adam. Just like it still did for Adam. Greasy agreed to coffee.

 

He was the only one who asked for coffee. Adam had volunteered to pick up their drinks so Greasy was stuck with Ash.

“What do you do for fun?” her ruby stained lips asked. Greasy muttered something about fish. She laughed. It was kind. Not cruel. Not mocking. Kind. He tried to defend himself halfheartedly then…

“What’s so funny over here?” Adam. He was smiling. Damn him he was smiling! Because of Greasy! Greasy Johnson had made Adam, perfect Adam, smile! Adam slid into the booth next to him. Ash was giggling. Adam was smiling. Greasy felt comfortable. Comfortable. For once in his life Greasy Johnson, “Bigs”, “bully”, felt comfortable. He huffed a laugh and told them about his fish.

Chapter Text

Warlock Dowling’s mother didn’t give a shit about him. It was obvious in the way how after the tutor’s left she had tried to ship him off to boarding school. He had only survived that fate by finding a payphone and leaving an ominous voicemail to his mother in his best Nanny voice. Somehow she bought it. Let me back up a bit.

Warlock was born the son of an Engish accountant. Unfortunately for him I do not play dice with the universe; I play an ineffable game of my own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players [i.e. everybody], to being involved in an obscure and complex variant of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a dealer who won't tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.

Growing up the son of an American diplomat and a mother who couldn’t care less was an interesting experience. His father was never home and his mother never cared so at the young age of six months Warlock Dowling was introduced to Nanny Ashtoreth. Right then and there, somewhere deep in his little baby brain, he decided that he wanted to be just like her.

That is until he met Brother Francis. Where Nanny had harsh features and a strong voice Brother Francis was round and soft. Brother Francis baked the best cookies and Nanny gave the best hugs. Unlike his mother, he knew they loved him. When he was four he used the manners Brother Francis had taught him and politely asked Nanny if he could try on her makeup. She said yes and that was that. He wore that makeup until his mother threw a fit and made him wash it off.

“My Dearest! What has happened?” Nanny rushed to his side when she saw his tears. She had just gotten back from her nightly tea with Brother Francis (they were together Warlock just knew it). “Whatever happened to that lovely red lipstick I gave you?” somehow Nanny always knew what had upset him even if she pretended not to.

“Mama made me wash it off! She said boys don't wear makeup!” He sobbed. Nanny wrapped him in her arms and began to shush him. As his crying began to slow he buried his face in her blazer and spoke, “Nanny, what if I don’t wanna be a boy?”. Nanny smiled.

“No matter what you’ll always be My Dearest.”

When he turned six Nanny and Brother Francis left. Warlock cried for weeks. A couple of days later Mr. Harrison and Mr. Cortese walked into his life. If they looked suspiciously like Nanny and Brother Francis no one said anything. Soon Warlock loved them just as much as he had loved their predecessors.

The only Christmas Warlock had ever known was a stifling family dinner and a frankly obscene amount of gifts from his parents then sneaking out after everyone had fallen asleep to go eat cookies with Brother Francis as Nanny never celebrated Christmas. Brother Francis had never had enough money to get him a present but that didn’t matter to Warlock. Cuddling up by the fire to listen to Brother Francis read A Christmas Carol was all he really needed.

Mr Harrison didn’t celebrate Christmas but Mr. Cortese did. Every year he would get Warlock a little gift and like Nanny’s uncanny ability to know what was wrong Mr Cortese always knew just what to get him.

It started with just a single tube of mascara. From there it escalated. Pale pink blush, nude eyeshadow, eyeliner. Soon Warlock had a whole stash of Christmas gifts hidden under his bed. As he grew he began to realize that what he had said to Nanny hadn't been the ramblings of an upset toddler and when he turned ten he decided to tell Mr Cortese.

“Um...Mr. Cortese. I don’t...I don’t think I’m a boy.” Mr. Cortese gave a confused frown.

“Well then if you are not a boy then what are you?”

Warlock swallowed and gathered up his courage, “Mr. Cortese I think I’m a girl.” Mr. Cortese smiled.

“Well then Dear, what would you like to be called?

Warlock’s face broke into a grin, “Ashtoreth, Sir. I think I’d like to be named Ashtoreth.” Mr. Cortese’s smile grew then he spoke

“Well then Miss Ashtoreth I suspect that Mr. Harrison is waiting for you now.” Without thinking Ashtoreth launched herself into Mr. Cortese’s arms, hugging the life out of him. He huffed and hugged her back before gently releasing her to go to class.

“Now go, Miss Ashtoreth. Run along and be kind.” That Christmas Ashtoreth opened the small gift from Mr. Cortese to find a strikingly familiar lovely red lipstick.

When she turned eleven both her tutors left and with a little ingenuity Ash was just able to stop her mother from sending her to a boarding school as soon as they were gone.

The second Ash could live on her own she moved out and used the money she was given by her father each month to do the things she wanted to. She bought a whole new wardrobe with the cutest, girliest clothes she could find and if she happened to spot a black tweed blazer she bought it for nostalgia's sake. She researched and found the best doctors and began her journey to become who she really was. She legally changed her name in honor of the people who helped her realize who she was. Ashtoreth Cortese became everything she ever wanted to be.

College was going to be her next adventure. Walking into her first class she realized all the seats were taken except for one. The two seats next to it were taken up by two blonde boys who could have been identical if not for the fact that one of them looked like an American football player.
Introducing herself had given her a rush. Just saying her name out loud always made her feel special. The boys were nice and they had chatted a bit before class began and had decided to go get some coffee after class

Only Greasy had ordered coffee. Adam seemed to prefer tea and Brother Francis had gotten her hooked on hot cocoa. Talking to them had been fun. They had grown up together and she could see that they had some feelings blooming between them. Between all three of them! Her heart skipped a beat every time Greasy smiled and the way Adam said her name had her breath catching in her throat.

As soon as she got home she took a deep breath. She thought of Nanny and her demented lullabies. She thought of Brother Francis and his old battered copy of A Christmas Carol. She thought of Mr. Harrison and his biting sarcasm every time her mother had tried to tear her down. She thought of Mr. Cortese and his accepting smile as she told him her deepest secret. She breathed out.

“Run along and be kind.”