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With This Ring

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4004 B.C., Heaven

The world was created on Sunday the 21st of October, 4004 B.C. at exactly 9:15 A.M. We know it now. God was quite fresh and everything was new at that time. There were the early days and you might say ‘Love was in the air’ and you would be right. Love was really in the air also in the Earth, in the water and later in all the flowers and animals. Love was in angels who helped guard it and love was God…

Well… you could say love was so ordinary in that newly created world that there was no need to speak so widely about it.

But then… there was also a different kind of love.

The story about that kind of love began exactly two weeks later in Heaven’s first Action Team Building.

 

“Everybody, cheer up! We are the creators of the world, are we not?” Gabriel exclaimed with his radiant smile and then clapped with his hands. “Now quickly pair up! Hush, hush!”

Aziraphale didn’t feel quite right. Everybody was there, all God's angels, field, and office workers, bosses and their inferiors. Well, not everyone. God herself was visibly absent but otherwise everybody was there and the headquarters felt quite overcrowded.

He missed his quiet corner, his small place with his own chair and table just for him, but Gabriel was really persistent and there was no chance to avoid the first meeting when your boss was like that so…

He sighed and looked around. The possibility that he would find someone to pair with was small. Everyone seemed to already have a friend by their side. Raphael and Uriel were both smiling and talking vividly, Michael was with Sabiel and look - over there Haniel was paired with Chadros from Bariel’s second department. Really, two weeks at work and Aziraphale still couldn’t find a closer friend?

He started to feel quite desperate (well, at that time angels could be only a little unhappy, not desperate, so let’s say he was a little unhappy about this situation) but then he heard his name called.

It was Gabriel.

“Aziraphale! Aziraphale, over there!”

He was waving at him and there was a young angel standing by his side who was looking quite unhappy himself.

“Uhm,” Aziraphale said, “yes?”

“Aziraphale, my good fellow, Nelchael here needs a companion and you seem to be looking for someone. So you are our new team then!” His smile flashed with a white of his teeth and then Gabriel was gone.

Aziraphale cleared his throat. “Nelchael, right?”

The second angel, tall with long red hair and amber eyes, nodded. “You are working for Gabriel?”

“Well… yes. I am. I… um… I am in an office. Making records and that kind of… stuff.”

“Is it interesting?”

“Well… yes!” Aziraphale smiled brightly. “It is, in fact. When you are putting words together and making records you are actually building a story. And sometimes you can even make a whole new story. It’s like… like…”

“Creating new world,” the red haired angel added.

“Yes!” Aziraphale agreed happily. “So you are too? Creating, I mean.”

“I am,” Nelchael said proudly and added a tiny smile of his own.

“And is it… you know.... as interesting is it seems?”

“Sometime it is. Sometimes it is not. But most of the time it is.”

“Hmmm…” Aziraphale said and looked dreamily around as if he could see it in front of his eyes.

“Tell me again, what are we doing here?” asked Nelchael after a while.

“Oh,” Aziraphale said, “it should be a game. A… meeting game or something.”

“But you don’t approve of it.”

“I… er… well… you know I…”

“Aziraphale…” Nelchael said with a twinkle in his amber eyes. “Do I look like I’m enjoying myself?”

“Well... I… maybe now?”

Nelchael hmmed and then smirked. “Maybe.”

 

And that was it, you know… quite simple, two beings paired by chance (or God’s will) and three months’ time spent together. Because at the end of that first celestial quarter there was a war coming. The first war in Heaven. The war which divided all angels into two unforgiving parts.

 

“Aziraphale, I need to go,” Nelchael said and he turned to leave.

“One more second, please. I just… I just…” Aziraphale bowed his head to look at his fidgeting fingers. “Please…” he whispered desperately.

Nelchael sighed and rubbed his face. He was so tired, so conflicted, so… Still he turned to face him one more time. “Aziraphale…”

Aziraphale looked up and his blue eyes were shining with tears. “Please, don’t leave. Please.”

Nelchael shook his head. His eyes were sad. “I’m sorry.”

Aziraphale closed his eyes in pain but then steeled himself and opened them again. “Could I have a lock of your hair?”

“What?”

“Your hair,” Aziraphale repeated and gestured towards his beautiful red curls.

“I…” Nelchael visibly gulped but then nodded curtly. “Yes.”

“Thank you.”

That day two angels exchanged freely given gifts, one red lock of hair for a golden one. And while there were tears on Aziraphale face he spoke his first words of love with a smile on his lips and shine in his eyes.

“Whatever happens, my dear, you will forever stay in my heart...”

Nelchael never forgot.

 

4003 B. C., Eden

It was a nice day. Well, all days were nice. Or should be. Apple tree duty was a little boring but at least Aziraphale was in the fresh air and far away from head office where it was not so nice since the… you know… since the Fall of his brothers and sisters. Since the war. Since… well… suffice to say the guard duty was a welcoming change in his life. There were no Gabriel, no Michael, no others for so many months, only the two humans who were… well… quite smitten with each other. It was comforting to watch them. It was as if he was living their lives a little too.

And then, one day, everything changed.

 

"That one went down like a lead balloon."

“I’m sorry, wha-?”

"I said, that one went down like a lead balloon," repeated the demon - Crawly - who appeared just a second ago by his side and then winked.

“I… yes, you could say so…” answered Aziraphale and looked onto the horizon where heavy clouds were starting to gather.

“Aziraphale…”

“Nel-my dear, please, don’t,” Aziraphale shook his head and closed his eyes for a second.

The demon stayed silent, but then made one more step closer and said: “You will forever stay in my heart. Is it still true?”

Aziraphale turned his head to him and fixed him with his blue eyes. He didn’t hesitate. “Yes.” 

Crawly gave him a sad smile. “Do you still consider me as a friend?”

“Yes.”

Now they stood face to face.

“Do you still want me...?”

“Yes.”

“Do you still…”

“Oh, Crawly, please!” exclaimed Aziraphale and moved his hands into the air between them in frustration.

“Bond with me,” said the demon simply.

Aziraphale blinked. “Again?”

“Yes! After all, I have a new form now.”

“I… I don’t have anything to exchange. I already gave my sword away,” he joked nervously, and then set his eyes on the former angel in front of him again.

“You could kiss me,” whispered Crawly.

“I…” Aziraphale hesitated but then… it was quite simple for him, really, so he answered: “Yes.”

When the rain started to fall on them and the two humans ran through the arid desert for their lives, there on the Eden wall happened a new exchange. A new promise. A new bond to renew the old one.

Aziraphale looked into the warm serpent’s eyes that used to be so different yet similar at the same time and stood on his tiptoes. Crawly bent down to cover his mouth with his.

And it was good. It was nice. It was like being wrapped in a silky blanket on a warm day. Tender and sweet and only a little bitter. An angel and a demon. Two souls as one. Two souls in the divided world.

Aziraphale was shielding them from rain with his white wings, and while the raindrops grew heavier and heavier, he savoured happily his first marriage kiss.

 

2350 B.C., Mesopotamia

When Aziraphale was assigned to Earth, he had quite a lot of time for studying humans - their customs, their developing culture, their attempts of building family and variations of relationships.

At first it seemed very simple. They just wanted to be safe. They gathered into groups and chose the strongest one to be their leader. They were hunters and gatherers. They needed to eat, they needed to have a place to sleep, and they needed to produce enough children to survive. They even tried to capture themselves in pictograms on cave walls. Aziraphale was mesmerised by the pictures of animals and people portrayed on them. He never forgot Adam and Eve, the first two people, and now he was like a guardian of their children.

Around five hundred years after the world creation, everything started to really become interesting. The cuneiform was invented then. Aziraphale was one of the first scribes in Heaven. He was the one who gathered stories. He was the one who dreamed about things, and now humans started to do the same.

The world was still new, and in his headquarters they were very insistent about the amount of work that needed to be done, so there was not enough time to meet with Crawly, nearly not enough time to spot a hair of him. Still… with them both being on Earth it was kind of a comfort to know he was somewhere there as well… Maybe in the close settlement over hill. Maybe even in the same slowly developing town.

After more than one thousand and five hundred years humans were quite advanced. They had towns, they formed families and alliances, they had a usable writing form. They started to make notes, signs and then… even contracts.

It was in Akkad when Aziraphale finished a contract of his own and smiled softly on the clay with pressed marks, the words carefully formulated into sentences. Yes.

 

“Angel.”

“My dear,” breathed Aziraphale. He turned and Crawly was there. He was really there… and he looked like a sunbeam in his eyes despite his dark clothes. In his plain black tunic, with his red hair wildly around his head, there was the halo effect he knew there shouldn't be. But still it was there just for him.

“I…” started Aziraphale but couldn’t bring himself to finish the sentence. So many years. So many years of yearning, so many years of longing. Was it the same for him? Or was he the only one? Could it…?

“Yes, angel?” asked Crawly. And it was there, the warmth in his snake eyes, the little smile on his lips. How would they taste after all those years?

“Thank you for coming, my dear…” said Aziraphale and smiled at him.

They stared at each other and the longing was almost unbearable.

“What is it, angel?”

“I… er…I... I missed you,” he breathed finally. “So very much.”

“I see.”

“...You?”

“Yes.”

Aziraphale lowered his eyes and breathed out. He knew, didn’t he? He knew it. It was somewhere in his heart all the time. They missed each other so very much.

He lifted his head again and made eye contact with him. “Marry me.”

The demon grinned. “Again, angel?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

Aziraphale gulped. “There is a new custom on the Earth. A marriage contract. And I was wondering if you…”

“Yes.”

 

Contract for Marriage, 2334 B.C.

This marriage was proposed by Aziraphale, first of his name, to Crawly the Serpent in Akkad in the first year of the reign of Sargon.

 

I spoke to my Father and he didn’t answer my prayers. I spoke to my heart and it said ‘yes’.

I am one of the nobles. I have brothers and sisters between angels. I was your kin. Now I wish to be your equal. Accept me and my love shall fill your lap. Like the fruit of a garden, I will give you everything what is mine. My joy will be yours; your burden will be mine.

I can’t give you freedom of your soul but what I can I will freely give. Speak ‘yes’ and you will be mine. Speak ‘yes’ and I will be yours.

Signed and witnessed

 

1250 B.C., China

The Great Flood took everything, and for a few centuries Aziraphale left to China. He stayed in the Yellow River Valley where Yin Dynasty ruled, later known as the cradle of Chinese civilization. He had a good life there. Productive too.

In 1256 B.C. Crawly was discorporated. Aziraphale didn’t know where and how but he felt it regardless. It was like a pang right around his heart that eased only after some time. And as he knew Hell’s bureaucracy was hellish, he stayed where he was and waited for the right time to come.

 

“I’m sorry, what is this place again?” Aziraphale asked politely. “There was a note at my place that I should come here.”

“My name is Wen. I am a marriage broker. And you are here to find a proper wife, are you not?”

“Oh I don’t think I need….”

“But you do!” the old woman insisted, and her eyes shone with the strange light of a viper prepared to bite. “A bachelor as you with good status and fortune. Never in your life did you imagine how nice could it be with a wife of your own?”

“Um…”

“So tell me, Fale Azira. What should she be like? What do you like in women?”

“Um… I… she needs to be... brilliant.”

The old woman frowned. “Brilliant you said?”

“Yes, yes, she needs to be brilliant. And cunning too. And she needs to be able to cope with every problem.”

“Uh…”

“And a smile. She needs to have a smile that leaves you with weak knees, a smile like the sun that could burn you by its intensity but never will. She needs to be creative and charming. She should have imagination. She needs to ask challenging questions…”

“Challenging…”

“Yes. It doesn’t matter if she is small or tall, if her hair is long or short, she just needs to know me through and through. That’s kind of wife I’m looking for.”

“Um… I’ll need to look into my records… oh… now when I’m thinking about it I… may have a perfect match for you. Good family too, very old. You might have heard about them - family Li.”

“Truly?”

“Yes. I can arrange an exchange of offers, if you like. Unfortunately, her family was killed so she is under my wings. Right now she’s living here,” she finished the thought but Aziraphale wasn’t listening to her anymore. His eyes were fixed on a woman that appeared at the door.

She was tall, she was thin, her hips were slightly moving from side to side. She had the most beautiful eyes he had ever seen and she wore a black Hanfu with read snakes on the sleeves.

“I accept,” he said and meant it.

“Um. Good. Now we only need to discuss the proposal and of course the birthdates need to be done and…”

Aziraphale couldn’t take his eyes off Crawly that time and with their quite fast wedding he even didn’t have to.

 

487 B.C., Greece

In 487 B.C. you could find Aziraphale in Syracuse. Corax was the father of rhetoric but against a certain angel with a memory of thousands of years he wouldn’t stand a chance. They were competing in the art of speech. It was a heated discussion about the taste of ambrosia. What is important for us to know is that they were competing for a bride as was the custom in Ancient Greece.

And there she stood in her long peplos dress, veiled and unknown, for everybody to watch yet still be hidden for all eyes, calmly waiting for the winner to take her as a prize.

And of course we knew who the winner was.

A few hours passed before Aziraphale removed the veil from Crawly’s face. He smiled then and said: “You look beautiful, my love. But really - what was that for? Now I have to marry you again.”

“I need a ring, angel,” Crawly answered with such an intense stare that Aziraphale had to chuckle.

“Is that so?” he asked teasingly. “Now when you mentioned it I think that after thirty-five centuries you really deserve one, my dear… Shall we then?”

 

33 A.D., Jerusalem

“Aziraphale!”

“Ga-briel, what a pleasure to meet you. Wha-what brings you here?” he asked nervously.

“Aziraphale, Aziraphale…” Gabriel told him amicably. “Been busy all those years I’ve seen. You are our great earthy liaison. I’ve been counting on you in Headquarters all this time.”

“Thank you,” answered Aziraphale and tried to offer him a pleased smile. He failed.

“But as all of us know the Almighty has a plan.”

“A… plan?”

“Of course,” Gabriel beamed. “And everyone of us has an unsubstitutable role in it. And we all want the Almighty’s plan to succeed, am I right?”

“Of course,” Aziraphale assured him as best as he could.

“So you’ll understand your assignment here has to end.”

“Has to? You mean that Yeshua, he…”

“He needs to return to us. Yes.”

“But he is the son of God!” Aziraphale exclaimed before he caught himself.

“Yes,” Gabriel explained patiently, “that’s why he needs to return to the Kingdom of Heaven to his rightful place.”

“But…that means that his life on Earth...” Aziraphale tried one last time.

“Will end. Yes, it’s a pity. I’ve heard he was quite good with people, but everything has its end, don’t you agree, my friend?” said Gabriel and looked at him with his shining smile.

“Yes. Of course, Gabriel. I understand.”

 

But Aziraphale didn’t understand. He had watched this honest young man over the past few years. He saw him with people, he saw him doing ordinary things and saw him doing miracles. He witnessed how good he was for humanity. And now.... everything just had to end?

That day on the hill in Golgoth something precious broke in Aziraphale, one of his connections with Heaven. And when Crawly showed himself, standing so close to him, Aziraphale thought ‘just damn it all’ before he took his slender hand in his and miracled them out.

They found themselves close to Rome or somewhere - Aziraphale really didn’t give a shit about their exact destination because in the next second he took the demon in his arms and kissed him.

“Angel… angel… not that I’m complaining here but what exactly are you doing?”

“I’m kidnapping my bride,” Aziraphale growled into his throat and traced his way adamantly down with more and more kisses.

“Are you… now?”

“Crawly, please, I…”

“It’s Crowley. I changed it. Didn’t think it was me anymore.”

Aziraphale lifted his head and looked the demon in the eyes. There he was. The only one who could understand. The only one who…

“Don’t you… like it?” the demon asked and licked his lips as if he was unsure of the answer.

“I like it,” answered Aziraphale. “I like it very much. And it’s another reason for marrying you.”

“Again.”

“Yes, again. But tomorrow. We can do it properly tomorrow. Right now, now I need…”

“Yes, angel, I know what you need…” Crowley whispered and then he kissed him again.

And then again and again. They kissed and kissed and did some other things, things that left them in the knot of limbs and with their huge wings wide spread under that starry sky.

And for many reasons this moment seemed as if it was their first wedding night.

 

THE END OF PART I