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And the joyful valleys ring

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"To the world," Aziraphale agreed, eyes shining with affection. The piano across the room rang with warm notes as Crowley watched her finish her glass of champagne. Crowley knew full well she was smiling at her like an idiot in love, and she didn't care.

"Neither heaven nor hell could destroy us," Aziraphale said after a moment. She was smiling almost in disbelief, the lines of her face soft with awe. Crowley had told herself that she'd known it would work from the moment Aziraphale suggested the plan, but Aziraphale's giggle of relief on the park bench had unraveled that lie. It was a stunning victory.

They deserved all the time in the world to savor it. They deserved the finest desserts in London, the charming piano tune that seemed to play just for them, and as much alcohol as they wanted.

"You know," Aziraphale began, as Crowley poured them both another glass, "I think it might be nice to travel a bit."

"Thought you liked it here." Crowley leaned back in her chair as the piano's rich melody continued to play underneath their conversation. It sounded romantic, and the kind of thing Crowley didn't usually go in for, but today she felt supremely generous and indulgent. Aziraphale was probably enjoying it, so it delighted Crowley too.

"Yes, well, that's sort of in my nature, but just because I've settled in London doesn't mean I never want to see what the rest of the world has to offer. It feels like I've scarcely left Europe in the past millennium. Did you know humans have even made it to Antarctica?"

"Yes, angel, I read the news sometimes. Where are you thinking you'll go?"

Aziraphale's eyes flitted to Crowley and then back to her glass. "Er, there's lots of parts in the world I wouldn't mind the chance to see.... I just thought it might be nice to go off together for a while."

The affectionate smirk on Crowley's face bloomed into a wide grin. "That sounds like a fantastic idea."

Aziraphale beamed. "You could show me all the kingdoms of the world."

Crowley adored the way Aziraphale was looking at her: delighted, radiant, openly joyful that they were sharing each other's company. Something had shifted between the two of them. Maybe it had been a few hours ago, when they'd returned to Earth after surviving the wrath of Heaven and Hell. Or maybe it'd been the previous night when Aziraphale had decided to stay, or when they'd entrusted each other with their forms. But in any case, Crowley felt more alive than she had in a very, very long time, and she was a little drunk on it. She smiled at Aziraphale fondly, and she wondered if that smile would ever fade.

Someone was singing along to the piano now. "How could he know we two were so in love, the whole darn world seemed upside down?"

Crowley sighed like a besotted fool, as Aziraphale began a digression about stars.


"... we could go to Cairo, or Mumbai, or Kyoto," Aziraphale said brightly, stumbling through the door. After they'd spent far longer than was polite at the table, the waiter had gently suggested they move along, and the Bentley had driven them back to Crowley's flat.

They hadn't discussed coming back here. Crowley had simply decided on a destination, not wanting to interrupt Aziraphale's fond reminiscing about the beginnings of heliocentrism. Aziraphale had been a ball of smiles when she'd seen that they were turning onto Crowley's street, so it had all worked out.

They might have gone back to the bookstore— that was where they usually retired after dinner, whenever they ended up making a night of it. But Crowley's home was where they had been last night. Where they'd lain together (in a literal sense) and explored each other's bodies (also in a merely literal sense, of course). Crowley wanted Aziraphale here again tonight, and she hoped that was what Aziraphale wanted, too.

She'd just felt a certain way, when they'd first traded bodies, even though it had been for practical reasons. Something like, "I'm putting myself entirely in your hands," the act had said. An intimacy that had sharpened the hazy feelings inside her to a keen point.

"If we're going to Japan, I want to visit Tokyo," Crowley said, letting Aziraphale wrap her arm around her shoulders to pull herself up straight. Crowley was certainly drunk herself, but Aziraphale was three sheets to the wind. "Kyoto's nice, but ..."

Aziraphale giggled. "It's alright, dear, you don't have to pretend to be there for the history. We'll visit anything you want to see, too."

The two of them staggered gracelessly across the flat toward the living room. It was the same place they'd left that morning, of course, but Crowley couldn't help but look at it in a new light. There was so much space to work with, and an infinite variety of designs the room could be rearranged into. The Brutalism was getting a bit stale, maybe she could try more of an airy aesthetic next. It really was a lovely place, full of fantastic possibility.

Stumbling onto the couch together was a far more tactile process than Crowley remembered it being. Not even at Aziraphale's most inebriated had her hands wrapped so greedily around Crowley's body, or her weight slouched so heavily against Crowley's frame. It was several long seconds of disentangling and rearranging before Aziraphale leaned back against the couch, gazing at Crowley with what could only be described as adoration. Her eyes glittered.

"I like Japan," said Crowley. "Did some tempting over there, back during the occupation. Met this one boy, Hayao, very bright kid, who last I heard had made quite a name for himself. I think it's a fascinating place."

"You can introduce me, then," Aziraphale said warmly. She looked like she was dancing the bloody gavotte, what with the way her eyes were shining— all joy, affection, eagerness. It was contagious, too, and Crowley could feel a contentedness spreading through her body. She might have dismissed it as just the warm flush of the alcohol, if not for the way it bloomed every time Aziraphale said "we" or "us".

"The stars, too, like you were saying," Aziraphale continued.

Crowley tch'ed. "Stars are lovely, but it takes so bloody long to get anywhere."

"Alpha Centauri is only about a decade, round trip. I'm sure the Earth can take care of itself for ten years."

"It's a decade if you're alright spending years in space only to immediately turn round and go home. If I'm spending that long with nothing to do but stare out into space, I want to enjoy myself there for a while."

"Well, we could go after Adam and the others are gone," Aziraphale suggested.

Crowley shook her head and waved a dismissive hand. "You know there'll be someone else by then. That's the problem with stars, there's never enough of a break from human goings-on to really get anywhere."

"Well, maybe we could, I don't know ..." Aziraphale trailed off with a frown, appearing to cede victory to the alcohol and surrender her hopes of complex thinking. Her gaze drifted to Crowley, and she leaned forward to tuck a lock of Crowley's hair behind her ear, then trailed one curious finger down Crowley's neck to her chest. She tapped one of the buttons there as if they'd only just appeared on Crowley's waistcoat. "Jeans, is it? With a blazer."

"It's fashionable," said Crowley, only a touch defensive. "You don't like it?"

"Oh, no, I didn't mean that at all." Aziraphale looked Crowley up and down, so pointedly that she shivered. "It's very striking. Suits you." The alcohol had reddened her face, but it gave the illusion that she was blushing to look at Crowley. She dropped her head onto Crowley's shoulder and started playing with the end of her scarf.

Crowley coughed. "Since when do you take such an interest in my form?"

"Oh, I've always been interested," Aziraphale said, like it was the most casual thing in the world.

Crowley stared at her, at the wispy white curls that were so close they were tickling her nose. "Have you now?" she said, and she was thankful that the words successfully left her mouth.

Aziraphale nodded.

There was a long moment where neither of them said anything, until Crowley couldn't bear the silence any longer.

"We don't have to go see the stars, you know."

Aziraphale hummed in agreement. "We could find an observatory. Go look at constellations together, if we're not going to visit."

"Constellations," Crowley smiled, privately delighted at how insistently Aziraphale wanted to indulge her interests. "Remember when the humans figured that one out? That the stars were really trillions of miles apart? Nowadays they've even gotten relativity, rather impressive of them, if you ask me."

Aziraphale laughed, a beautiful sound, against Crowley's collarbone. "Maybe the world can end then, after they figure out dinosaurs and particle physics and the oceans and all that. I don't mean murdering them all, of course— just, kind of, starting it all over with different rules. See how long it takes them to figure it out."

"If the Almighty ever talks to me again, I'll pass along the suggestion."

Aziraphale sat up and looked Crowley in the eyes. She took one of Crowley's hands in hers, looking shockingly serious and barely drunk at all. "She will. I know it. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will gather you from all the places whither I have driven you."

"Yes, yes, God makes such lovely promises," Crowley said, turning away with a roll of her eyes. "But scripture's not why you believe that, is it?" she added softly.

Aziraphale pressed a kiss to Crowley's knuckles. "You're right. It's not."

She looked back up at her, and Crowley was startled by how close she was. So close she could kiss her.

Aziraphale noticed too. Her breathing stuttered just slightly, and her eyes flicked away in a moment of embarrassment. "I ... I had better sober up for this, hadn't I?"

Crowley squeezed Aziraphale's hand, her mind struggling to keep up. She'd been waiting for this kiss for 6,000 years, never quite sure it would ever actually happen. She knew she should sober up, too, but she didn't think she could manage it, not with all the weight and meaning in the way Aziraphale was looking at her. She took a breath and forced most of the alcohol out, leaving enough to take the edge off her nerves.

Distantly, the kitchen sink splashed and drained as it disposed of several bottles' worth of wine. Then the house was silent again.

Still flushed, Aziraphale looked at her with new clarity. Her eyes were wide, her lips slightly parted as she reached up to cup Crowley's cheek. A few seconds passed, and they were the longest seconds of Crowley's life.

"Is it quite alright?" Aziraphale asked.

Crowley tugged Aziraphale closer by her lapel and let her head start to tilt. "I've wanted this for millennia, angel."

Aziraphale's wide eyes shone, and she pressed her forehead against Crowley's, making contact for the briefest of instants. Then she kept going, and made more than contact.

A being like Aziraphale exists far beyond their material form, of course. Aziraphale's body, down to the last cell, is ultimately only a facade located at the edge where her being intersects with the material world. Turning so that this facade was no longer standing between her and Crowley only required a slight shift.

Crowley's whole being was on fire.

The two of them were touching.The way their bodies had abutted, skin against skin, had been a poor substitute for Aziraphale's existence caressing her own. It burned. It was ecstasy and it burned like holy water, in places no physical substance could touch.

Aziraphale's wings had unfurled, larger (though not in a spatial sense) than Crowley had ever seen them. Light poured out of her, destroying the image of a middle-aged bookseller with the truth of her form. She was covered in eyes— though not eyes, exactly. Windows to the soul. Apertures out of which Aziraphale's holy essence was streaming.

Crowley had only barely noticed that her own physical form had faded into irrelevance as well. Her wings filled the house and blotted out all light but Aziraphale. Though Fallen, she was still a being beyond human comprehension, infinite shards of iridescent reflection held together by fire. The light burned her, piercing through her essence in innumerable places, and she twisted so it could burn her more.

Be Not Afraid. Aziraphale didn't so much say the words as willed the meaning into Crowley's essence.

Crowley wept. She was a raging fire, a roaring wind, and reduced to nothingness in the Presence of Aziraphale.

Crowley, are you alright?

She had no answer. She had no thought in her being but the wish to be burned to annihilation in angelic rapture.

Crowley!

All at once it vanished, the two of them receding into their vessels like the reverse of a tidal wave. Only a faint smell of hellish smoke remained, lingering on the air.

Crowley had been knocked back against the armrest, and she shuddered into her body and blinked open her eyes. Her flesh buzzed with something that wasn't quite pain.

A faint halo surrounded Aziraphale, and on her forehead one last eye winked out of sight. Aside from that, she was a bookseller again, albeit one who was shaking so hard she seemed about to burst out of her skin again.

"Oh, thank goodness you're alright! That was much too much, wasn't it? I'm so sorry, my dear." She ran her hands down Crowley's arms as if checking to make sure she was still there, leaning into her space with such frenetic energy that she was almost climbing on top of her.

Crowley blinked again and made a vague noise of acknowledgment. She was still reeling. She had an odd sense that she'd almost been destroyed, and a disturbing feeling of being unable to summon any distress around that fact. Surely if Aziraphale had killed her, whatever Aziraphale decided on would have been for the best. But she also had a foggy sense that there was something wrong with that thought.

"Are you alright?" Aziraphale asked more urgently, probably because of Crowley's lack of reaction.

Crowley shook her head to clear it. She could still see in her mind's eye all those points of searing light, and she was still filled with longing for that loving fire of purification. "Yeah, I'm ... I'm all still here, angel. Let's go a little more slowly this time."

"Right, of course," she said, and Crowley saw her shiver. "If it starts to hurt, tell me and we'll stop right away.

Crowley nodded, only half-committing to that plan in her head.

Aziraphale took Crowley's hands in hers, and as soon as she did, Crowley tried to perform the same shift that Aziraphale had initiated last time. It was just a little bit of a pivot, really, just enough to break the illusion of their bodies holding in their essences, and then a slight step forward.

Oh! Crowley felt a bubble of surprise from Aziraphale, and then they were beyond material existence together. It was a softer overlap this time, but still intense enough that Crowley risked losing her mind. It was so much love, radiating through Aziraphale's tens of thousands of eyes. It was so warm, and it ached, and Crowley wanted more.

She swam closer, let the fire start to lick at Aziraphale, and felt the joy that washed over Aziraphale as she did. The light that was pouring through the eyes vibrated like a melody, beautiful and sweet, loving and desiring. It stabbed through Crowley, threatening to unmake every fragment of her being. It was agony, but it was bearable, she could keep it together, she could ...

The light sliced into the heart of the fire, and she spasmed with pain. She felt a flare of panic from Aziraphale in the same instant, and then she understood.

It's alright, I promise. Trust me on this.

A wave of pure emotion broke against her. Of course I trust you.

Trust me with everything.

Crowley quieted any last fragments of herself that had been flinching away in pain, and poured herself into the light. Tens of thousands of eyes became circlets of flame. Aziraphale made a noise like a violin singing.

She felt the light burning her, and she felt the fire burning Aziraphale, but it wouldn't destroy them. She couldn't withstand the light on her own, but she didn't need to. They were one. They could withstand it together.

Oh, love! Oh, Crowley! Aziraphale said, but the sound was the shriek of hurricane winds, the grinding of tectonic plates against each other, the collision of stars. Aziraphale was folded around her and into her, suffusing her with bliss. Love pulsed through them, with no beginning and no end.

The violin hit its highest note, and then Crowley was scattered to pieces.


Crowley came back to reality slowly. She was pressed against Aziraphale, who was stroking her hair gently. Aziraphale's clothes were rumpled and her hair was mussed, but more strikingly, her face was streaked with ash and the edges of her coat were singed. Crowley could feel her racing heartbeat beneath the layers of disheveled clothing.

It was only then that she noticed the glow of pure celestial white coming off her own skin. The rational part of her brain was disturbed, though some other part of her insisted that it felt quite alright.

She decided to set the matter aside for now, and nudged Aziraphale's cheek. "You alright?"

Aziraphale squeezed her in response. "Yes." After a minute, she added, all in a rush, "Are you joking, Crowley? That was the most magnificent experience I've had in all the millennia I've lived on Earth."

Crowley's stomach flipped pleasantly at those words.

"Very wonderful. Very enjoyable," she whispered back. "And very new. It'll take time to get used to."

"Oh, love," Aziraphale said, rolling back on the couch, pulling Crowley with her. "We have all the time in the world."