Actions

Work Header

To Write A Reprise

Chapter Text

Title Card

Dusk is falling on the city. All is silent for the first time in months, the quiet whistle of the wind the only companion in the encroaching night. In a shadowed street, a lone figure walks towards their apartment, hat pulled low across their eyes. As they make it to their door, a car alarm begins to blare, punctuating the night with its sharp whine.

Beelzebub flinches. It’s been a long, bloody day: more drama is the last thing they need. They slip their key into the lock, and step inside. Home again, finally.
Beelzebub doesn’t bother to turn the lights on, instead heading straight for the secondhand couch where they spend most nights. A blanket and half-eaten granola bar are left on the cushions from their earlier sprint out the door. Crime never sleeps, so neither do the people that fight it.

They slump on the couch and pulls the remote from where it is wedged underneath the coffee table. The soft glow of the television lights up the room as Beelzebub lets their eyes slide shut.

A reporter in a tartan sweater-vest fades onto the screen, his last few words barely audible. “…and with this 20th confirmed victim, the Messenger has been solidified as the deadliest serial killer this city has ever seen. Anyone with information leading to the identification or capture of the Messenger should call—”

-----

Beelzebub jolts awake to their cell phone ringing loudly in their ear. They groggily reach for the phone and hold it to their ear. “You’ve reached Detective Beelzebub.”

“Oh thank god, you’re awake,” the voice on the other side responds. He sounds frantic.

Beelzebub frowns. “What do you mean Crowley, it’s only…” They look at their wrist watch. “4:00 am. Never mind. What’s going on?”

“We found another one. North street, by the park.”

Beelzebub felt their heart drop. “Two days in a row? That breaks every pattern we know.”

“I know. You just clocked out 2 hours ago, but—”

“I’ll be right over.” They hang up. Killing again, just a couple hours after the last attack? It goes against all of their established patterns, but the Messenger’s style is unmistakable and near unimitated. The Messenger is getting bolder.

What’s changed?

They lock up the apartment and run outside. Beelzebub shoves the key into the ignition, probably making Crowley, wherever he was. His love for automobiles doesn’t just extend to his own Bentley. Beelzebub would normally note that down to tease him about later, but today, they just speed off into the night.

-----

The first time the Messenger killed, Beelzebub was the first there.

Five years ago, they were fresh out of grad school and more naïve than they wanted to admit. Beelzebub had managed to swing an entry level job as an officer in the local police force and were working the graveyard shift that night. The call came in, and they headed out with their then-partner, Ligur.

He was the fourth victim a few months later, a warning from the Messenger against the people tracking them. It came out later that Ligur had been smuggling firearms to local gangs through the department: another reason for the target on his back. Beelzebub still had the verse burned into their brain.

But back then, things hadn’t quite gone to hell yet. It was a routine call, some sort of report of a domestic disturbance. Nothing to worry Hastur, the department head, about. Ligur and Beelzebub pulled up to the block in question and haphazardly exited their vehicle to the street. It was late, and they were younger, more foolish. Careless.

Doomed.

“Hope we get to go home soon. I’ve got the exam to end all exams tomorrow. Maybe I can finally wrap up my classes,” Beelzebub said.

Ligur laughed. “Don’t worry. Call like this? Probably just a normal incident report: less work for us, I say! I’ll talk to the residents, check the place out. You hang back, pay attention to the people, in case there is something actually going on.” Beelzebub nodded and Ligur knocked on the door.

A man with rumpled hair and a panicked look in his eyes answered. At the sight of the two officers, he opened the door wider, revealing a small child clinging to his leg. “Oh, thank god, you’re here. You got my call?”

“We’re here for a report of a domestic disturbance. Apartment 1B?”

“God, no, it’s not us. I guess I was too panicked in the text before I had to help out this one.” He gestured to the kid at his feet, now looking at the pair with a gaze of wonder. “There’s been screaming coming from the alley a couple complexes down for the past hour. No one else will go down there.”

“I don’t hear anything now.”

“They just stopped a little bit ago. I would have checked it out myself any other time, but,” he glanced nervously to his kid, who was now attempting to tug on the long edge of Ligur’s coat. He scooped them up. “I can’t leave Adam alone.” He looked devastated.

“You did the right thing.” Beelzebub interrupted, laying a hand on his shoulder. “We’ll check it out.”

“Thank you,” he said and pointed them the direction of the alley. Ligur led the way, and as they got closer, Beelzebub felt a chill go down their back. There was no way this way going to end well. They paused slightly before the entrance.

“Still routine, Beelzebub. Keep your head on straight,” Ligur chastised. “Get your light and watch my back.” The advanced into the darkness together and they clicked on their flashlight.

The alley was grimy and detritus-covered, like most of that part of town. Their footsteps hit softly on the pavement, and Ligur slowly pulled out his gun, safety still on.

“Hello? Police, we’re here to help.”

Beelzebub took the next step and almost slid in the slick. Instinctually, they shone their light down to reveal a pool of blood covering the side of the alleyway. They followed the trail up to a mass slumped against the right wall.

“Ligur. I think I found them.”

He took one look at the body and swore. “Call Hastur. Call Hastur right now. This is so far out of our paygrade I can’t even touch the body.” Ligur holstered his gun and pulled out his light.

Under the beam, the woman could have been mistaken for a part of the alley. Her white shirt was coated in dirt, and the body itself was shoved carelessly to the side of the alley. As a contrast, her arms seemed intentionally stretched in odd positions, almost far enough to break. Her hair was matted with blood, all stemming from… Beelzebub tore their eyes away.

“Christ, they took her legs. They’re just fucking gone. Beelzebub, I’m calling Hastur. We need back-up.” Ligur turned his back on the scene. Despite his attempt to remain reassuring, Beelzebub could see his hands shaking.

The world was static around them, but Beelzebub felt strangely calm. This was their first experience with something like this, and all signs pointed to this being just a random, horrible event. But they had a feeling. They walked closer to the body, skirting the bloody mess of her legs.

There. A small wing was carved on her wrist with light scratches, just deep enough to draw blood. Clenched in her fist was a pale grey piece of paper. Beelzebub checked to see if Ligur was still occupied, pulled on their gloves, then reached gently in between the woman’s fingers to pull on the paper.

It was obviously high quality, despite the wear it carried. Written on the paper were a few simple words:

Ecclesiastes 1:9

Beelzebub wracked their brain for childhood memories from before they’d left the church as a teen.

They paled.

“Beelzebub, Hastur is on the way,” Ligur said as he walked over. “Are you okay?”

They thrust the piece of paper at him. “Found this on the victim.”

“Ecclesiastes… what does this even mean? You shouldn’t have even touched the scene.”

“’What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun,’” Beelzebub recited, quietly. “It means this is only the beginning.

“I think we have a serial killer on our hands.”

-----

Detective Beelzebub is good at their job. They’ve had to be, because any mistake, any time they let their guard down, another person dies. And that was what had happened tonight.

Again.

They pull their car onto the street, lights flashing, next to the yellow tape cordoning off the area. Not like there’s rush hour traffic though, considering the ungodly hour. Crowley is waiting nervously on the sidewalk and jumps when he sees the car arrive.

“Beelz! Thank the devil you’re here. The other officers keep asking me what to do, but I haven’t been on this case near as long as you have. Is it—” he pauses, letting his words catch up to him. He’s usually quite the smooth talker, at least around Beelzebub, but cases always bring out his anxious side. “Is it always this bad?”

Oh. Crowley has only seen victims in the morgue before. It’d taken Beelzebub two to years to concede they needed a partner at all, and another 6 months to find a suitable candidate. This last month, Beelzebub figured he’d finally done enough lab work to come out onto the field. Last night was his first experience with the Messenger’s crime scenes firsthand. The Messenger had only taken a tooth, that time. John 9:4.

Beelzebub realizes Crowley is still fidgeting, awaiting an answer. “It ranges from bad to worse. Some people make it out better than others.” They neglect to mention the post mortem results: the Messenger always takes the parts before they kill their victims.

“This is a major breach of style. Did they leave a verse?”

“Yeah, it was carved on the bench.” Crowley pulls out his phone to show Beelzebub a picture of a scratched and worn wood bench. He’d been careful to keep the body out of frame, but the phone itself has a speck of blood on the lens.

“Proverbs 27:1—'Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.’ I wouldn’t say it’s particularly revealing.” Crowley barely hides the tension in his voice. “Is this going to keep happening like this? Are killings every couple of months suddenly not enough for them now?”

Beelzebub holds their stony expression, but inside, they curse. This jobs gets to everyone eventually. Crowley is no exception. Next thing Beelzebub knows, they hear words come out of their mouth that not even they believe. “We adapt. And we keep going.”

They lift a side of caution tape. “After you.” Crowley nods and they step closer to the flashing lights.

Chapter Text

It’s the closing hour at a rather nice restaurant, and all around, patrons say their good-byes and take their leave. In a small booth tucked away in the back of the dining room, Aziraphale is slumped over a cup of tea, struggling in vain to keep his eyes focused on his laptop screen. In the past month, he’d been promoted to head reporter, which meant more meetings, more articles, and more responsibility.

More status too. But Aziraphale couldn’t bring himself to be anything but numb about it.

“The coroner report states... found at the scene, the police…” he shakes his head. “I don’t think I’m rightly making sense at all anymore.” He takes a large sip of tea, draining the sub to its dregs. It’d been over two hours, and Aziraphale was starting to worry. As much as he doesn’t want to be kicked out of one of his favorite haunts, he can feel his eyelids growing heavy.

Suddenly, there’s a voice to his left. “Excuse me, is this seat taken?”

“Crowley.” Aziraphale smiles. “I thought you wouldn’t be able to make it.”

Crowley’s shoulders slump as he sighs. “Work ran long again. I guess the same for you?” he gestures to the laptop and papers scattered across the tabletop.

“Well, you know this city. It never sleeps for either of us.” He yawns as Crowley slides into the booth, his badge knocked askew on his shirt.

“Angel, did you know that you’ve filled an entire word document with the letter f?”

“I’m well aware. I’ve decided to throw in the towel for the night, or I think I’ll write myself even further into a tizzy. I actually expected you back later. Wrapped up early?”

Crowley’s expression darkens. “I guess you could say that. Not enough body left this time to analyze. The Messenger is fucking insane.” He grabs the other cup to Aziraphale’s left (his traditional order, too much milk to be considered coffee), and dumps a handful of sugar inside. “He’s just been increasing his kills for months. We can’t find a single damn reason.”

As he downs the coffee concoction, Aziraphale shifts in his seat.

“Surely… they wouldn’t do such horrible things without a good reason?” His voice is tentative but grows steadier as he goes on. “This has been going on for almost 6 years. “That couldn’t have all been for naught.”

Crowley tipped his sunglasses down from his eyes. “I don’t believe this. Are you actually insinuating the literal serial killer is doing this all for a good reason? There is absolutely no excuse that works for mass murder!”

“Absolutes don’t exist, Crowley. You can’t just project your own views on the entire world,” Aziraphale counters. “There could be, and probably is, a purpose to their actions.”

Crowley is aghast. “Zira, I just spent the day informing a family that their son wasn’t going to come home. We’re beyond theorizing.”

Aziraphale shrinks in on himself. “Of course. I’m sorry to have suggested such a thing.”

“Don’t you have to write a story about these goddamn murders near daily now?”

“Yes. No other reporter will go near them.” His voice turns bitter. “It’s bloody work, but it’s necessary.”

“You can’t split it with anyone else?” Crowley asked, aghast. “Even I have Beelz. I still can’t believe they handled it themselves for so long after their other partner died.”

“Orders come straight from above, I’m afraid.”

Crowley finishes his coffee and slams the mug on the table. They’re the only two left in the restaurant, with ten minutes ‘til close. “Speaking of that bastard, Gabriel—he’s been working you to death for years. When are you finally going to quit?”

“It’s not that bad.”

“You and I both know it is,” Crowley responded flatly.

“I just got promoted—"

“And why should you care? They’re killing you, even if they smile while they do it.”
Aziraphale’s eyes narrow and he moves to speak when his phone rings. He pulls the battered phone out of his large messenger bag and looks at the caller ID. “Speak of the devil.”

Crowley tugs the phone over to his side of the table. “Don’t you dare answer that. It’ll be him asking you to pull another week’s worth of unpaid work abroad.”

“I have to, Crowley. I can’t just abandon him.”

“Yes, you can. You and I both have a couple weeks of vacation. We could just leave! Travel the world, get out of this goddamn city for a little bit.”

Aziraphale smiles sadly and answers the phone. “Hello? Yes. No, I’m not busy. Again? Of course, I’ll be right over.” He hangs up. “I’m so sorry dear. I know you were looking forward to spending the night together.”

Crowley sighed. “Just go. Don’t work yourself too hard.”

Aziraphale and Crowley bus their table and exit the restaurant, to the immense relief of the staff. At the door, Crowley reaches in for a tight hug. “I love you.”

“I know,” Aziraphale responds. “Be careful.” They separate reluctantly, and Aziraphale gives a small wave. Crowley watches his back as he walks into the dark.

Chapter Text


there is much to be said
about the soft feeling of a knife slipping inbetween ribs
of a puzzle piece carved onto skin
and the truth on the tip of your tounge

you can keep it
the soft click of keys
the scratch of pen on paper
a faint sense of foreboding
and someone else with blood between their fingers.

picking up the pieces
of lives undone
limbs sprawled and twisted
memories born shattered
and wrongs so long un-righted.

Your name is the Messenger, and you have a job to do.

-----

Aziraphale runs to the scene as soon as he gets the news.

His fingers shake as he goes through the motions of packing up his equipment, just careful enough to not be chastised by the higher ups. They've reduced staffing, in order to take more stories, so Aziraphale carts around the full array of live equipment and cameras, which normally wouldn't be a problem, except for today.

He shoves the larger pieces in his van and speeds through a few yellow lights (and one red) before he arrives at the scene. The police had arrived a solid hour or so before, but Aziraphale was across town covering a mayoral speech, and couldn't make it as soon as he would for a routine killing.

Technically, he should have stuck around City Hall even longer to gather B-Roll for his recap later, but nothing in the world could have stopped him when he got the message about...

"Crowley!"
Aziraphale runs towards the two figures hunched by the edge of the caution tape, silhouetted by the flashing lights of the police cars.

"See, I told you we needed to be outside the tape. Ziraphale always shows up to these things." Crowley's voice is fond but raspy, somehow managing to carry across the sirens and general noise of a crime scene.

Beside him, Beelzebub rolls their eyes. "They made us go outside the tape, Crowley. Unless you think you can handle an investigation with a concussion."

"I've handled worse," he brags, rolling his eyes, then immediately winces. "Nevermind. Bad idea."

Aziraphale finishes his run over, out of breath with equipment still strapped to his back. "Crowley! Detective Beelzebub! Are you two alright?!" He looks franticly between the two. "The message... I assumed the worst."

Beelzebub sighs. "Last time I ask Hastur to gently inform the loved ones about an incident." Aziraphale is still stricken and Beelzebub holds up a hand. "We're fine. I probably have a sprained ankle, and Crowley just has a black eye. Possibly a concussion, but before we can get him checked out, we assume he does." Beelzebub's eyes tighten in pain as they shift to let Crowley put more weight on their side. "Technically, when we send out cursory notifications, the emergency contacts aren't supposed to actually show up."

Before Aziraphale can answer, Crowley pipes up. "He was gonna be here anyway. Is his job." He smiles faintly as he leans into Beelzebub. "And it's good to see him, after that shitshow."

"What on earth even happened?! How did you two—"

"We just came the closest we've been in five years to catching the Messenger." Crowley says proudly. He tips worryingly close to the pavement.

"Crowley. Don't share case-information with the press." Beelzebub lightly pulls Crowley back up.

"It's not like it's important. They got away—"

"It's still confidential."

"Don't be such a stickler, Beelz. He already knows everything else."

Beelzebub sighs. "You already tell him everything, don't you?" They hold up their hand. "Don't nod, you'll hurt yourself. You're going to tell him anyways, as soon as you get home. Am I correct?"

"Yes," Aziraphale and Crowley say simultaneously.

Beelzebub's face twists into something resembling sympathy, before reverting back to rather exhausted-looking stone. "Ok. This doesn't make it to press until an official statement comes out, okay?"

"As always," Aziraphale agrees.

"For all intents and purposes, we've had our first physical encounter with the Messenger tonight."

Aziraphale pales. "What."

"Crowley and I were walking from the scene to grab a quick dinner before the lab reports came in, and he noticed something odd."

"A bloke standing in the middle of the road, right off the big intersection with all the lights," Crowley interjects. His eyes seem a little clearer, and his voice slightly steadier. "Which normally wouldn't be anything weird in this city but something just seemed off. And whenever a car whizzed by, he would just step quick as can be to one side and then step back.

"Beelz suggested we leave him alone, but I went for it. Standard protocol, asked how he was doing, if he was okay. I managed to pull him off to the side of the road, but I couldn't get any identifying information."

Aziraphale puts a hand to their chest and sinks to the ground beside them. "There's no way that was them. There can't be. The Messenger would never work that out in the open."

Beelzebub shrugs. "Aziraphale, you'd know as well we: things have been changing drastically in the past six months."

Crowley frowns. "Zira, l swear to god, it was. Just let me finish. We'd just left the scene anyways, and were on the lookout for someone matching his description. Tall white male, mid 40s, wearing some sort of large coat and carrying a duffel. Oh! Ziraphale! There were witnesses this time! Another thing that's never happened before!"

"Wonders never cease," Aziraphale responds faintly.

"And so Beelzebub and I look at each other: someone should probably ask him for an alibi, start getting serious. I pop the question, he refuses to answer anything."

Beelzebub continues, "He's strangely calm, and acts nothing like a person does when stopped for questioning. So I suggest he come with us back to the station. At that, he holds up a hand and says he wants to get his ID. When he unzips the duffel, I put my hand on my gun and motion for Crowley to do the same."

"Next thing I know, he makes a motion towards Crowley and starts running.

"He fucking decked me!" Crowley shouts, the sudden motion startling. "The coward kills in secret for five straight years and he just punches me?! I'm flat on the ground with eight million fucking pieces of paper on my face, ears ringing, head spinning, the whole nine yards and I yell for Beelz to follow him."

Crowley pulls a card with Jeremiah 23:23 emblazoned on the front. "He must have thrown a dozen of these at me. And I get a bunch of time to get mad at his idiotic, unsubtle verse choice: "'Am I a God who is near,' declares the LORD, 'And not a God far off?'" He's got to be shitting me."

Beezlebub cuts back in. "As soon as Crowley said he was okay, I took off running after the suspect. But he ran straight into the rickety parts of town, and right around the construction, I fell into a pit." Beelzebub clenches their fists. "I lost him." They close their eyes.

"But we got closer than we ever have before," Crowley says, placing a hand on Beelzebub's shoulder. "Things have been changing. We're making progress."

Aziraphale feels faint. "I'm quite glad you two made it out alive. I guess... I never thought..."

Crowley looks at Aziraphale with sympathy. "None of us did, Zira. But we made it out alright." His voice grows stronger. "And we're going to catch that bastard eventually. He won't get to hurt anyone else."

"I hope so," Aziraphale says. "I really do."

In place of more words, he pulls himself up to the curb beside Crowley, who already looks exhausted from his speech. He and Beelzebub exchange a look, and they grab either side of Crowley and gently pull him to his feet.

"Come on Crowley, they've ought to have finished up enough to see you back at the precinct."

"I thought we weren't gonna go 'cause you couldn't drive with that ankle?" Crowley slurs.

"And that as well." Beelzebub reluctantly turns to Aziraphale. "I'm sorry to put this on you, but the other officers are busy trying to catch the Messenger while the trail is fresh."

"Of course I'll give you a ride there."

Beelzebub's shoulders relax. "Thank you."

"No problem at all." As they reach his van, Aziraphale opens the door. "Ignore the cameras, please." They all pile in, and haphazardly strap Crowley in between Beelzebub and the camera tripod. Aziraphale approves the set-up and hops into the driver's seat.

As he turns the key in the engine, he can see Beelzebub and Crowley resume their positions of support, reversed for once.

Under his breath, he mutters, "This will not happen again. I promise."

The van speeds off into the night.

Chapter Text

Spending the night in the hospital is never a good way to start the day. Beelzebub had badgered the nurses and front desk until they could limp out of the ER and get back to the station.

Now, they sit at their desk, their ankle propped up on a swivel chair. They've technically been put on bed arrest, due to some probably unhealthily high levels of stress found during the check-up, but Beelzebub would be damned if they wouldn't try to work anyways.

The reports from last night still hold no trace of identifying DNA or prints of the Messenger, but with the whole city on high alert, they're bound to see a breakthrough sooner rather than later. It's exhilarating, feeling like the case is moving somewhere after 5 long years of hoping.

The door to the office cracks open and Crowley sticks his head in. "Anybody home?" He winks at Beelzebub and slides into his position at their right hand.

"Nice to see you again, Crowley. I'm surprised Aziraphale let you out of his sight in that state."

"Well if that's true, it's a good thing he left early for work," Crowley responds, pulling a sheath of papers from thin air. "Can't stop who you never see." His voice takes on a tinge of bitterness.

Beelzebub frowns. "Crowley, you and I are just as busy. That's hard on any relationship." They sigh. "And I'd know. I've lost a few partners to the job."

Crowley looks downcast. "I know, Beelz. I just feel like... he's gotten so much more distant lately. I feel like I've gotten so much more wrapped up in the case in these last six months because I'm out in the field, and then I turn around and I didn't even notice the chasm between us."

"It's a hard job, and not everyone is cut out for it." Beezlebub places a hand on his shoulder. "You and Aziraphale though, you two have something special. You'll make it through.

"Besides, isn't reporting as tough of a job?"

"It would be, if not for Gabriel. The absolute wanker." Crowley grumbles. "I'd trade anything in the world to get that guy out of the Tribune for good."

Beelzebub winces. "I dated him once, way back in high school. Never again."

"Beelz, I'm so sorry for your loss. I hope time made the glare from his stupid teeth fade."

"You'd think so, but no," Beelzebub snickers. "Just that ridiculous hair, all the way down."

They laugh harder than the conversation probably warrants and it's catharsis.

Crowley is the first to stop, wiping tears from his eyes. "Ready to get back to it?" he asks, waving witness testimony in front of their face.

"Let's do it."

-----

By now, Michael is an old hand at weaving in-between the desks of the writers' pool at the Celestial Tribune. She's been working there for the better part of 13 years, and practically runs the place in every way but officially. As the guardian of the front desk, the news station is her domain, and all within her charges.

She reaches a cubicle and peers over the side to see Aziraphale surrounded by a mountain of papers and photos.

"Aziraphale! You've got a note left for you." Michael passes the envelope over the top of the wall and she looks down on Aziraphale as he stands up to grab it.

"From Crowley... what on earth? We have cell phones? Staying in touch was the main reason he dragged me into getting the darn thing!"

Michael shakes her head and gives him a wink. "Maybe he kept in mind your appreciation for physical letters, Zira. He's always been a charmer."

Aziraphale laughs and shakes his head. "Now don't you go on about that again. Next thing I know you'll be suggesting marriage again."

"Three years of a relationship after a decade and half of pining would suggest that better than I, Zira." This banter is routine between them, a comforting ritual of friendship.

"In other news, I'm so sorry about the news."

Aziraphale freezes. "Uh. About what, exactly?" he squeaks out.

Michael continues on, heedless. " I know how much you were looking forward to that interest piece on foreign literature."

Aziraphale smiles sadly. "Yes, I'm afraid I was reassigned. Again."

"Back to those serial killer stories. You'd think Gabriel was trying to run our employees into the ground by having them write the same subject every week. It sells now, but for how long?" Michael shakes their head. "Ridiculous."

"I absolutely agree. All this paper right now is just from last night." Aziraphale motions to the space around him. "It's going to take hours to get through all of this data."

Under his breath, he jokes darkly. "It was a little easier when the Messenger didn't leave so much evidence behind."

Michael gives him a nod of sympathy. She worked the pool (though not as talent) for several years and could remember the grind like it was yesterday. "Hang in there, Zira."

She turns to leave then cocks her head. "Oh! The spouse and I were going to head out to lunch together, did you want to tag along? Uriel says they miss seeing your face."

"As much as I'd love to, I can't, I'm sorry. I have a meeting scheduled with Gabriel."

"Again? I think you've spent more time in that office than at home!"

Aziraphale grimaces. "Fair and probably true. Though hopefully, this meeting will help rectify that, once and for all."

"Well good for you!" Michael says resolutely. "It's about time you took Gabriel to task! You're the hardest worker here, and he's been stepping on you since you started!"

"Ah. Yes. That too," Aziraphale responds faintly. "Though I hope we don't need to come to blows about it."

"Speaking of the time," he says, looking at the clock, "l should head in for that meeting. Have a nice lunch!"

"Have a nice meeting!" Michael responds. She gives Aziraphale a quick squeeze on his shoulder over the wall of the cubicle and walks towards the technical area to pick up Uriel.

"Well, nothing to it then." Aziraphale gently packs his papers into neat stacks to deal with when he gets back. No need to bring anything to a simple discussion. But he still can't help feeling nervous.

Aziraphale makes it to the door of the head office before the panic hits him in earnest. It makes no sense why he's so strongly effected by the door and the concept of seeing Gabriel without him initiating the contact.

"You're just being a coward, Aziraphale. And after 3 years here to boot!" he whispers to himself. Nothing to worry about at all. He knocks and it swings open.

"Ah, Aziraphale." Gabriel says, his consonants sibilant with the careful restraint of certain politicians. "Sit down."

Aziraphale closes the door behind.

Chapter Text

For the last time in five years, the Messenger leaves a body.
For the first time in five years, they catch him.

The news (or rather, lack thereof) comes in the middle of the night. Crowley is slumped over his desk, papers crumpling in time with his snores. The light of the pale moon and resolutely starless night shines on the assortment of tins on the desk, filled with sleek pens and decidedly un-sleek pencils with snake toppers (Aziraphale had selected them specifically for their googly eyes).

The desk sits in the living room, squeezed opposite another one, wood and sturdy instead of sleek modern black. Normally, Crowley wakes himself up by the stove alarm in the kitchenette, but Crowley is so out for the count he misses the key sliding into his lock.

Beelzebub quietly opens the door, and hurries down the hall to the bedroom before they catch Crowley's sleeping figure out of the corner of their eye.

His black eye is still fading on his face, coupled with dark circles that had formed with a vengeance over the long nights. This couples with his messy hair to make a rather tired, particularly worried picture. Beezlebub almost hates waking him, interrupting what's probably his first good sleep in a long time, but there's no putting off the news. Crowley needs to know, and he needs to know now.
God knows Beelzebub owes him that.

"Crowley." He doesn't move.
"Crowley, wake up. Right now."

When he doesn't move, they shake his shoulder. "Crowley. It's the Messenger." Beelzebub's voice betrays a hint of panic. "Please. You need to wake up."

At that, his eyes slowly open and he sits up with a jerk, then tilts slightly the opposite direction. "Beelz? What's going on?" His eyes widen and he pushes his chair back to leap from his seat. "Another Messenger case? We need to get down to the station. Thanks for waking me, satan himself knows I would have slept through the whole thing. Any info so far? I—"

"Crowley." Beelzebub interrupts. "We caught the Messenger tonight. At the parking lot of the church on 3rd Street. Faster than you can say anything."

Crowley stands, mouth agape. "Why didn't you bloody call me sooner?! I could have met you down there while you made sure the idiots on the night shift knew what they were dealing with!" Crowley feels his knees go weak and resists the urge to sink back into his chair. "We need to head out right now."

As Crowley moves to sprint towards the closet and grab his jacket, Beelzebub stops him with a hand. "Crowley. They found a victim too. Alive. That's why I came over here, to tell you—"

"A first-hand witness. Alive! Beelz, that is fucking fantastic!" His words rush out, each fighting to be said first. "We should've already been at the scene to try and ID them from our lists of suspects."

"Crowley." Beelzebub snaps, their voice unsteady. "That's why I came here first. They already ID'd both. It's hard not to, they're the most well-known faces in town."

"You're not making any sense, Beelz."

They shut their eyes. "Crowley. The Messenger is Gabriel. And the victim was Aziraphale."

-----

Crowley fumbles with the ignition in his Bentley. His grip on the steering wheel is tight as death. Beezlebub is silent in the passenger seat.

Technically, they shouldn't even be in the car. The police need someone at the precinct to question Gabriel. Aziraphale is in critical condition.

By all accounts, they should've split up, and Crowley knows it.

But before he could throw himself into a self-sacrificial tizzy about leaving his partner to fend for themselves with the Messenger to be at Aziraphale's side, Beelzebub took the decision out of his hands. They grabbed Crowley's hand and gently tugged him towards the Bentley. "Let's get in then, shall we?"

Crowley looked at Beelzebub with relief. "Defintely. Let's go."

The car starts and suddenly they're on the road again, speeding past the point of no return. Beelzebub is definitely going to get in hot water for being late to the interrogation.

It hurts a little, turning their back on the one person that they'd been hunting for over 5 years. But Crowley needs them more, right now.

Beelzebub remembers when Ligur died.

Despite all his faults, he had become a sort of reluctant mentor in their life. He was the one that guided them through their first years on the beat, that was there when Beelzebub saw the worst and the best in humanity.

They'd carted him down to the morgue and Beelzebub tried to go down to get the coroner reports and just couldn't. They'd doubled down on the investigation and buried themselves in work as if that would make the rest of the universe forget the truth. Even missed the funeral.

It's easy to let the case consume you, sometimes. Easier than they like to admit. Crowley is going to be in the exact same place, pretty soon, and heaven knows Beelzebub could have used a shoulder to lean on back then.

So that's what they do now, as Crowley takes risks on the road he would usually never take with his prize car and skids into the hospital parking lot.

They burst in and Crowley runs in to the emergency room's front desk.

"Is Aziraphale here? We really need to see him, I'm—"

"Oh!" the receptionist cuts him off. "Detectives Beelzebub and Crowley! I remember you from the previous cases. I've got the incident report right here. There seemed to be more signs of struggle than normal." They pass a folder to Crowley, who is barely containing his anxiety.

Beelzebub frowns. "Actually, I can take that today. Crowley is actually here as next of kin for Aziraphale."

Their eyes widen. "Oh my god, I am so sorry." The receptionist glances at the paperwork and has their worst fears confirmed. "I'll send you right in. He's just about to be moved to the ICU, so you should head inside, then take a couple left turns to Room 400B. You can go in to see him, but I doubt he's awake right now." They drop their voice to a whisper used primarily around the dead and dying. "Who would be after that?"

Beelzebub holds up a hand before the poor receptionist talks themselves into a well-intentioned corner. Crowley is becoming more devastated with each word. "Okay, thank you. Crowley, I'll be waiting out here for when you need me."

"But Beelz, the Messenger..."

"The Messenger can wait. He's in custody now. It's over. All that's left is the clean-up. And—" They paused. "You're important to me. You're going to need someone at your back."

Crowley yanks Beelzebub into a hug. "Thanks, Beelz."

He turns toward the double doors and enters the ER. Beelzebub pulls out a book and settles in for the long haul.

-----

Crowley reaches 400B and stops in the doorway. Aziraphale's in there, his bed up close to a corner of the room that seems far too small for his world to break apart in. He's connected to more machines than Crowley wants to think about, his normally light curls damp with sweat and—" Crowley wrenches his eyes away.

It's dark, but Crowley can't help but be relieved the Messenger didn't take anything vital, if this was what happened when he took—never mind.

Aziraphale's tiny against the starkness of the room, with a painting of a dinosaur on the wall to try and liven up the atmosphere.

Crowley appreciates that dinosaur. He's going to name it Frank.

A single nurse stands in the room, taking measurements of Aziraphale's vitals. At Crowley's abrupt stop, she turns her head. "Oh! You must be next of kin. Crowley? I'm Alice."

"Yeah," he says, fighting through a layer of mental fog to answer. He takes a quick, rattling breath, but on the exhale, his voice is steadier. "Anything I need to know?"

"Of course! I have his charts for you, if you want to see."

He nods and she comes up with a clipboard. "These are his vitals as of now, which are decidedly in the worse range. But," she reassures him, "I've seen far worse. He seems a fighter, and there's a very high chance of him making it through. I'm here to help, so if you have any questions, throw them my way."

Crowley feels a little of the tension leave his shoulders. "Alright, thank you." He moves towards on the small chair near the door and pushes it to Aziraphale's bedside on the left. "What would you say is stuff to watch out for right now?"

"Right now, the biggest things we aim to fight are infection, since he was left out in the elements for quite a while, and loss of blood, hence the transfusions."

"Am I allowed to– can I hold his hand?"

Alice smiles. "Of course. He's going to need a lot of support to make it through."

"Yeah. And I'll be there. And," he says, reflecting on Beelzebub in the waiting room, "My friend will be too."

She smiles and continues on with her work.

Crowley reaches out to grasp Aziraphale's hand and finds it abnormally warn to the touch. But he holds it anyways, and makes himself as comfortable as possible. He shoots off a quick photo update to Beelzebub and tries not to think about how pale Zira looks in the stark lighting of the room.

Even if they had been having problems lately, Crowley and Aziraphale have each other's backs. No matter what.

It's going to be a long night, for him and Alice. But he's glad she's here. And Beelzebub too, even if they won't let them in until they move Zira to the ICU.

Good thing too—Crowley doesn't want to be the one to explain when Aziraphale wakes up why he only has one hand.

Chapter Text


If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide.

But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked about among the worshipers.

Psalms 55:12-14

When Aziraphale wakes up, he's resigned, more than anything.

Crowley is half asleep in the chair beside the bed, a magazine about home decoration and houseplants open on his lap. The quiet beeps of the monitor keep him company, and Beelzebub’s coat sits on the chair near the door (they’d just left for coffee). Aziraphale’s right arm is bound in bandages and the soft light of the early morning shines through the window.

There’s a sharp beep and the monitor goes quiet.

He groggily jolts awake to the silence and immediately assumes the worst.
“Hello? Anyone around? I don’t think it’s supposed to do that—"

Crowley looks to his left and Aziraphale is awake, struggling with the cords hooked up to his body. “Aziraphale! You’re awake!"

“I have, apparently, survived.” Aziraphale winces as he attempts to move around in the
bed. “I do I hope I didn’t ruin their setup here.”

Crowley laughs hollowly and moves over to assist him. “Zira, we all thought you were going to die. After what the Messenger did to you.”

Aziraphale’s demeanor shifts. “Oh. Then I suppose I am awake. Any chance of this being a particularly nice hallucination?"

Crowley takes a step back. "What do you mean? You're here. I’m here. And you’re alive, and not lying dead on a street somewhere—” he cuts himself off. “I don't know know what you mean, Angel. I’m real. This is real"

“A fact I’m unfortunately now aware of.” Aziraphale seems to collapse in on himself, brief enough to fold and unfold himself in a blink of an eye. He shakes himself and he might as well be as he normally is, sans a hand. “I’m dreadfully sorry. To be honest, this is… not really what I was expecting to wake up to.

His voice is quieter now, but remarkably steady. “I didn’t think I was going to see you again.” Aziraphale smiles and rests his good hand on Crowley’s police jacket, still stained a little with the grime of a case halfway finished.

“Ziraphale,” Crowley says fiercely, “You’re never going to have to worry about that ever again. Beelz and I, we’re going to make that bastard pay.”

At that, Aziraphale flinches. He shifts back onto the bed proper and pointedly avoids using his hand to push himself up. "I trust that you mean it. I assume the Messenger got away again? Run off into the night?" His tone is simultaneously bitter and threaded with odd bits of resignment.

"Aziraphale. We caught him."

"What."

Crowley lets the words he’s been holding in for days pour out all at once. “I’m so sorry I couldn't have been there, I would have done everything I could have to stop him. But someone in the other division, on patrol, if you believe it, they found you. You and the Messenger. They caught him right after—” he glances down to Aziraphale’s hand and then averts his gaze. “RIght after. They caught him, and he ran, but they caught up with him a few streets later.”

“Uh. He’s Gabriel. If you didn’t know. Your boss. Old boss now, I guess. I’m just now realizing this is probably a lot of information to dump all at once but I keep talking for some reason.”

Aziraphale, for once, is dumbstruck.

Crowley barrels on, with so little restraint It will be physically painful to review this conversation in his head later. “You’ve been in a medically induced coma for a few days. Beelz has been keeping me company. I keep you company. It’s a whole—it’s a whole chain.”

He can feel himself running headfirst towards a breakdown but he can’t stop himself. “Aziraphale, they didn’t think you’d make it. I was on deathwatch, was what it really was.” Crowley rubs his eyes on his sleeve, trying to get rid of the tears before they fall.

“Crowley.” Aziraphale states simply, and the words carry through the fog of guilt and trauma. “It’s okay.”

Crowley squeezes his hand in return. He would hug him right then and there, if Aziraphale wasn’t hooked up to every machine from here to kingdom come.

“God Zira, I’m so sorry. You should be resting, healing, not putting up with my shit.”

“Well,” Aziraphale countered weakly, “If I cared about dealing with your shit, we wouldn't have moved in together. And I certainly wouldn’t keep taking the bathroom shift at home.”

“That was horrible, Ziraphale.” Crowley chuckles in spite of himself. “Absolutely horrible.”

“I do do my best.” He shrugs slightly, but still enough to make him wince in pain.

“I’d kill him for what he did to you. To everyone. But that would be too generous,” Crowley spits.

"Crowley,” he sighs, “we knew this would happen to me eventually. You simply can't work in this business for this long without consequences. Beelzebub lost their partner, you've lost years off your life, and I—" Aziraphale stops himself before he can go any farther. "Well. You know."

“That shouldn’t be how it is. For any of us.”

“But it is. So we live with it.” he yawns. “Crowley, despite all efforts to the contrary, I think I might need to go back to sleep.”

Aziraphale answers the unasked question. “I won’t leave you, dear.”

“Wait, before you go back to sleep.”

Aziraphale blinks at him.

“I’m so sorry, but Ziraphale, you need to tell me everything you can about what you remember. What the Messenger said to you. Your verse, anything, everything. Beelz and I have been delaying the investigation to stay here with you, on account of you being a fundamental witness. And. The most important person in my life.”

“And I thank you for that, but Crowley, I don’t really feel comfortable talking about it.”

“It doesn’t even need to be about him. Anything before it happened, your day, anything you might have done.”

“Well, my dear boy, I spent most of the time afterwards bleeding out on the sidewalk, so forgive me any lapses.

"I didn't mean it like that. Zira.” He meets his eyes. “I’m just worried about you. But you want to see Gabriel taken down just as much as me, right? And for that to happen, I need info. Not right now, maybe not even in the next week, but eventually. Okay?” Crowley looks at him with reassurance, but he’s met with a retreat.

Aziraphale breaks eye contact first as the door creaks open.

“Crowley, I swear to god they didn’t have your ridiculous pineapple raisin muffins, so I saved your life and everyone else’s eyes by getting you actual food. Oh.” They stop halfway in the door. “Aziraphale’s awake.”

He gives a little wave.

-----

Down the long hallway of the detention center, Beelzebub’s shoes tap out a march on the floor. Crowley trails barely a foot behind them, his expression serious and stony. Their very presence echoes.

They stop in front of a solid oak door at the end of the hall. Before Crowley can move to let them in, Beelzebub stops him. “Crowley, before we go in, a word.”

“Beelz, I know. This can’t be personal. I need to watch my tongue. Ask only questions about the case.”

“...Yes. But I was going to ask—are you sure about this?” Unspoken was the barely quantifiable this: talking to Gabriel, the suspicious circumstances of Gabriel’s imprisonment, the case, Aziraphale, everything.

“It is the way it is. So I’ll live with it. Who fucking cares.

“Crowley,” Beelzebub says, an olive branch extended to the self-contained hurricane previously known as Crowley. “I’m here for you. You know that.”

He lets out a deep sigh. “I know, Beelz. Thank you.” His shoulders lighten imperceptibly.

Beelzebub and Crowley enter.

The interrogation room is stark, more so than the hallway, which is almost inhuman to think of. The thin wall of glass that separates the detectives from Gabriel might as well not exist as Beelzebub and Crowley stare down the killer loosely cuffed to the chair.

Two guards watch Gabriel in the room and without. One gives a nod to the two detectives as they sit by the microphone. She moves to the door and signals the other guard, who switches on the signal to the speakers inside the room. There’s a moment of feedback, then their voice crackles through the room.

“Hello,” Beelzebub starts. “I’m Detective Beelzebub and this is Detective Crowley. We’re just here to ask you a few questions.”

The Messenger chuckles. “Oh I know who you two are. Your less-than-sterling reputation has preceded you.”

"It’s protocol,” Beelzebub deadpans. “Just try and answer the questions. Name?"

"Gabriel Alitas. Let’s skip the pleasantries, Detective. I know you’re dying to. As much as your old partner, what was his name? Ligur?”

Crowley glances worriedly over at Beelzebub but they’re unfazed. "Well then Gabriel, I'm not going to mince words. You know why you're here."

"I suppose I do. Though whether it's valid or not remains entirely to be seen. To my knowledge, I haven’t done anything that would warrant such an affair.”

“Now that, I can answer,” Beelzebub says. “As of now, you have charges pending on over 30 counts of manslaughter, which seem to be rather straightforward. Not to mention the confirmed charges of battery with intent to kill, for last week.”

“You mean Aziraphale.” Gabriel rolls the word between his teeth in a way that feels almost possessive.

“Your subordinate, and, as we’ve been informed, your close co-worker. Unless you’d like to elaborate more on the process behind your selection.”

To the guards, and hopefully to the Messenger, Beelzebub appeared the picture of composure. But Crowley could see their hands shaking beneath the table.

Gabriel adjusts himself under the scrutiny of the guard and security cameras. “I’d think my verses do a good enough job at that. Disappointing, Detective. I’d expected more from an old flame. You’ve certainly lost your spark.”

At that, Crowley steps in. “That’s enough of that Gabe. Let’s get off the subject of your own romantic failures and get back onto the subject of why and how you murdered people for over 5 years without being caught.”

“Crowley, is it? A pleasure to meet your acquaintance again. I always did wonder how Aziraphale managed to find someone so much more competent than he. I doubt that man could string together an article without me.”

"You bastard—"

"Crowley."

"Ahem. We’re not obligated, nor compelled, to disclose the status of or discuss your only living victim. Next, please.”

“Ah, as you wish, Detective. No need for formalities, or these poor attempts at mind games. You ask the question, I'll give the answer.”
Gabriel straightens his back in the chair. “Truth is a virtue.”

“I mean, so is not killing people,” Crowley counters. “But hey, your life.”

“Agent, you know as well as I. I only follow the orders of Him above me.”

“That excuse holds so little water I don’t think I could get a drop out of it,” Crowley snaps.

“Gabriel,” Beelzebub interrupts, “What we’d like, is information. How did you managed to single handedly coordinate this whole campaign? The more information we give you, the more likely you are to avoid the death penalty.”

Gabriel raises an eyebrow. “That eventuality, dear Detective, is not exactly at the forefront of my mind. I will meet my Creator if, and when She so decrees it.” He pauses. “And on the first charge—

“Why on earth do you think I’ve been doing this alone?”

Beelzebub pales. Crowley’s eyes narrow and he pushes himself closer to the glass.
“What. The fuck. Are you talking about.”

“Gabriel, if there’s someone you’ve been working with, it would be best for them and best for you if they’re brought in as soon as possible,” Beelzebub interrupts.

Gabriel chuckles. “No, Agent, I really don’t think so. In fact, it might just make things more complicated.”

He eyes Crowley, who is fuming at the revelation. “Though, I do love complications. I think—” he leans back as leisurely as he can with handcuffs, “There’s no need to tell you. No need at all.”

“We can charge you for obstructing justice and resisting interrogation, Gabriel.”

“Open your mouth and sing, Gabe. Or I’ll go in there and make you.”

He chuckles. “I’d be delighted to see you try. Don’t worry yourself a bit. You’ll find out soon enough.

"And on that note, Detectives Beelzebub and Crowley, I'd like my phonecall."

-----

Aziraphale is alone, drifting off to sleep and trying to ignore the gnawing feeling that has appeared, conveniently wedged inside his ribs when the phone in his jacket pocket begins to ring. It’s laid across the side table, but unfortunately, in reach, with a little strain. Too close to be safe, and pretend he had ever had a choice.

Aziraphale’s blood runs cold as the ringtone runs through the beats of his least favorite song. He had picked it out one day at the office, and despite all Aziraphale’s protests, he had kept it, like a talisman. Or a prison. It was such a little thing, but he had to have control of that too. Aziraphale couldn’t tie his own noose, that would mean he wasn’t following the plan.

He tries to rationalize to himself. Don’t pick up, you know what he’ll say. You know what’s going to happen if you do, and it’ll be your fault. He’s gone now, and this shouldn’t mean anything to him.
He decides to ignore it.
He answers.

“Oh good, you’re being smart for the first time in your life. Thank you for picking up the phone, by the way. I’m afraid this might be the only time we get.

“Ga—Gabriel?”

“Who else would I be, you idiot. I’d say it’s a pleasure to hear from you again, but the only way you could have made it was divine intervention. You’ve been blessed, and I will not allow you to waste it, no matter your… less than stellar track record.

“Ah well, let’s hope it taught you your lesson. I daresay it’s one I can’t reasonably teach twice. Lightning doesn’t strike twice unless you’re more than just a cog in the machine of the Plan.”

“Gabriel. It’s over. You’re in jail, and—you can’t do anything to me. Not anymore.”

“Ah. You are still stupid. I guess the usual method can’t forgive pure stupidity.”

“You said, as long as I did everything you asked, that you wouldn’t hurt him. Hurt any of them. You broke your word.”

“Promises of earth are nothing compared to the duties of heaven. Unfortunately, the Detectives were simply on the list. Though, you broke yours first.”

“How so! I’ve followed you like a dog for over two years! Every single thing you’ve said, every favor you’ve asked. You don’t know the things I’ve sacrificed for you! And for what?”

“...”

“I’m. I’m sorry. I got out of hand.”

“You certainly did. If only a few days away and a simple brush with the beyond are enough to cause this… we may need to cleanse you yet.”

“I’m sorry. I really am.”

“Thank you. You’re forgiven, for now. As for your question, I will deign to answer it. You’re lucky, today.”

“I know, and thank you for it.”

“You broke your word by being a fool.”

“...”

“You broke your word by your own, dreadfully human, corruption. You have a shelf life, and you’d expired. The Almighty simply chose to extend it, for reasons outside my control.”

“...Yes. Thank you. For informing me.”

“You’re quite welcome. I’m giving you a second chance. Be ready to resume your duties and mine when I give the word.”

“...Will you make the same promise?”

“No.”

“...I. I understand. When will I know the word?”

“It will will be obvious. And with that, you fat waste of space, I’m out of time. They’re coming back. Goodbye. I expect full compliance.”

He hangs up, and Aziraphale’s shoulders start shaking with laughter.

Chapter Text

Aziraphale had been working at the Tribune for about a year when he first drew Gabriel’s eye.

He was just a low level employee at the time, still working the stories no one else would take. Mostly local events and charity drives. But that was fine. He liked the work, and it gave him more time to spend with Crowley, who was going through a rather rough transition into a research role at the local forensics unit.

A couple friends (back when he was allowed to have them), had advised him to shoot higher, given his knack with words and habit for forming a cult of personality, essentials in any talent’s toolbox. Aziraphale never really considered following their advice: he was happy where he was.

Gabriel had other plans.

When talking about the head of the Tribune to other people, Aziraphale made sure to stress his commanding air. Gabriel knew what he wanted, and demanded it, no questions and no uncertainty involved. It was hard to say anything to, easier just to obey.

Aziraphale knew it didn’t absolve him of anything.

It started easy enough, Gabriel would come out of his office more than he had in months and walk around the floor, greeting employees and reviewing work. It was more attention (and maybe surveillance) than any of them had seen in their careers. Aziraphale got the brunt of it, not that that was a particularly good thing to have.

It caused… friction with his co-workers. Being known as the boss’ favorite didn’t do him any favors.

The praise was infrequent and the insults constant, a barrage he had to face every day coming into work. But when Gabriel was satisfied? It was like the world was made right, and everything was okay, for the brief time it lasted.

But the Tribune (mostly Gabriel) wanted more, and Aziraphale was there to serve.

Aziraphale had just clawed his way into an editorial position (with a side segment running book reviews) when it all came crashing down. Gabriel called him into his office to discuss the promotion, and it felt like a precipice. He was torn. On one hand, having the favor of the boss was just what he should want: more opportunities to impress, a sure way to rise to the top.

But Aziraphale couldn’t quite be rid of his misgivings as he went to meet Gabriel that day.

When he entered, Gabriel was seated commandingly at his desk, his composure enough to make up for the somewhat nicer (but still shabby) furniture at the Tribune. “Ah, Aziraphale. Good to see you. Hopefully this meeting won’t have any impact on the quality of your work.”

“No, of course not sir,” Aziraphale said automatically.

“Come have a seat.” Aziraphale obeyed, slowly taking the chair opposite Gabriel.

“May I ask what specifically you’d like to discuss?”

“No, you may not. Aziraphale, you should know by now that when you’re in my presence, I dictate the course of conversation.” Aziraphale nodded wordlessly.

Gabriel leaned across the desk and placed two glasses and a wine bottle on the wood.

“Sir, it’s the middle of the day.”

“Aziraphale, it’s a celebration. In honor of your promotion.”

Aziraphale held out his hand resignedly and Gabriel placed a glass of blood red wine into it.

“Still, Gabriel, I hardly think it’s proper—”

“Drink,” he said, and his tone brokered no room for disagreement.

Aziraphale took a sip. The sourness was a departure from the sweeter wines he preferred, but it felt traitorously pleasant going down.

“Enjoy?” Gabriel’s voice brought him back from his thoughts. He runs his hand gently through Aziraphale’s hair and he flinches, despite himself.

“For a star reporter, you’re very sloppy. Stop slouching. It’s a testament to your laziness.”

He straightened in his chair. The glass of wine sat half-finished on the desk. “Gabriel, as much as I appreciate this, I really should be heading out.” Aziraphale got up out of the chair. “Thank you for the wine, I appreciate it.”

He headed to the door.

“I don’t know why you spend so much time with that Crowley.”

Aziraphale froze in his tracks. He stiffened. “Gabriel, who I choose to spend my time with is my business.”

Gabriel frowned. “I don’t like it, Aziraphale. Especially not for the new job I’m recruiting you for.”

“What job?!” Aziraphale snapped. “I’m already working overtime on your ‘special projects’ and I’ve tried to be polite, but I’m at my wit’s end!”

Realizing what he just said, Aziraphale clapped his hands over his mouth, but it was too late. Gabriel was thunderous.

He rose from his desk and stalked over to Aziraphale in a flurry of motion. “I wouldn’t cross me, Aziraphale. I’m about to make your life a living nightmare, but trust me. I can make it much, much worse.”

“...wh… what do you mean?”

With a jerk, Gabriel threw open a drawer of his desk and pulled out a small stack of papers clipped together. He threw it at him and Aziraphale scrambled to catch it.

“No surprise I have to spell it all out for you in ink. Luckily, I foresaw the need.”

Despite his better judgement, Aziraphale flipped through the pages. In between grainy photos of landscapes, there were stapled… copies of his articles? When he moved to examine the papers more closely, the clip came undone and the papers scattered across the floor.

Aziraphale flinched, knowing Gabriel would take the clumsiness as an insult, but his boss was busy pacing a rut into the floor.

Gabriel stood opposite him, gesticulating wildly, in a rare moment of no restraint.. “I mean, why do you think I’ve assigned you every single case involving the Messenger? Why do you think the Messenger can so carefully parcel out the sinners from the innocent?”

He chuckled darkly, closer to a scoff than an actual laugh. “We’re the biggest news station in the entire city. We have entire generations of data stored in our archives. What better place to do the Lord’s work?”

Aziraphale felt a chill run down his back. He looked closer at the photographs that had juste seemed to be random locations before: they were all places he’d been to to report the recent string of murders, from the angles of the bodies. He moved the articles aside and behind each was a piece of notebook paper citing the exact verses used, with some seemingly alternate verses marked out in red pen.

“I gave you all the clues, how are you this stupid?”

Aziraphale launched himself at Gabriel before he could continue. He pinned him against the wall and Gabriel finally let a smile cross his face. “I knew you’d get there eventually.”

His voice was shaky. “You—you’re the Messenger.”

“Congratulations Aziraphale. You’re now the accomplice to the greatest serial killer the world has ever seen.

“Those investigations? Your coverage? Every piece of information that has passed through this station has been a cog in the great machine of heavenly justice.

“For the past year, you’ve been helping me scope out sinners for the grand rapture! And you’re going to keep doing it, because I say so.”

“And why the fuck,” Aziraphale spat, “would I do that?”

“Because if you say no, you’ll be next. All sins need to purified eventually.”

Aziraphale’s face was resolute. “I don’t care. Someone needs to stop your insanity!”

“Oh then.” Gabriel’s voice turned sharp. “If you won’t act in self-preservation, how about in protection? Your boyfriend happens to be on the two-man crew investigating me. I’ve been letting them while away their time because it amuses me. I seem to remember a Ligur getting a bit too competent for his own good. What a shame it would be if tragedy struck their team once again.”

Aziraphale pulled his hands away as if Gabriel had burned him. “No. You wouldn’t.”

Gabriel peeled himself from the wall. “Try me. I can do it tonight, if you please.” His voice was unhinged. “I start with the police chief and move my way down, each day you refuse me. Maybe you’ll give in before I reach the detectives.”

He moved towards the door and Aziraphale tugged at his arm. It felt ineffectual. He knew more than anyone: whatever Gabriel said, it would take hell to change his mind.

“Don’t. Please.”

Gabriel let his lips curl into a grin. “What will you give me?”

Aziraphale could see the situation from afar, watched his lips form the words from outside of his own body. “Anything,” he replied desperately.

“Good.”

He felt as if he was underwater, trying to swim through syrup as his boss approached him and circled one hand aggressively behind Aziraphale’s back.

He drowned as Gabriel crashed their tips together and shoved his tongue into his throat.

“Wait,” Aziraphale interjected when Gabriel let him come up for air. “Wait, please. I have one condition.”

Gabriel rolled his eyes, and Aziraphale could feel the air grow icy and he hated himself for it, but the lack of contact sent him into a spiral.

He said the words quickly, to get it over with and deal with the inevitable lastigation that would follow. “Not Crowley. Not Beelzebub. Anyone else, I don’t care. Just, don’t hurt them. Please.”

Gabriel chuckled, and the wine turned sour in his stomach. “How selectively noble of you, Aziraphale. Even you’ll play chess with peoples’ lives, as long as you like the outcome.”

“I—I’ll do what I have to.”

“That’s what I like to hear,” he said, and pulled Aziraphale back into the kiss.

Aziraphale came back to himself a lifetime later, his body leaned against the wall, and Gabriel straightening papers on his desk.

Seeing Aziraphale’s eyes on him, Gabriel shook his head. “This is what you deserve, Aziraphale.”

“I know,” he croaked.

“You say a word, and we go back to the original plan.”

“I know.”

By the end of the repetition, it’s less of a condemnation and more of a benediction. His words colese into a sibilant hiss. “You wouldn't be anything without me.”

“I. Know.” The words came out bitter and choked, but Gabriel didn’t seem to notice the difference.

“Now, head on back to your desk. You’ve got an assignment due at midnight.” And with that, he pushed Aziraphale out of his office and slammed the door shut.

They started a new habit, the two of them, for the next two years. Instead of the previously established cycle of Aziraphale trying his best to hide in plain sight whenever Gabriel entered the floor, using calls and assignments as excuses to stay away, he was kept closer to home. His assignments as a reporter came few and far between, mostly being promoted into a position as the live anchor.

Gabriel called him into the office frequently. He couldn’t escape, no matter how hard he tried.

He called him into the office late one night and immediately locked the door. Gabriel pulled himself up to Aziraphale and groped him against the office wall, too quick to process.

“Late, as usual. Come, there’s work to be done.”

Aziraphale followed in a daze.

He pulled bibles from the shelves and gestured for Aziraphale to sit himself at the bible. “Care to know more about the nature of sin, Aziraphale?”

“Not particularly. But I have a feeling you’re going to explain anyway.”

“That’s my star reporter. Always quick on the uptake, when he finally realizes there’s something going on in the first place.” Gabriel flipped through the pages of the bible and Aziraphale sunk deeper into himself.

It was a reprieve, that night. The next time, it was worse.

Aziraphale did everything from research to selection of verses. He covered Gabriel’s tracks and dodged his blows and came home to Crowley as often as he could. Aziraphale made cups of coffee, let him explain detailed forensics results and police procedure, and pulled blankets over Crowley, half asleep at his desk. It was worth it. It had to be.

The day everything goes wrong, Gabriel came up behind him and laid a hand on his shoulder. Squeezed, tight.

“I’m going to need you again tonight, Aziraphale. Meet me in my office before lunch. Don’t be late.”

“Of course, Gabriel,” he responded, rote. Michael gave them a concerned look, then turned back to her work.

Good. It was better that no one noticed. Better him than anyone else.

But tonight, things would change. He was going to tell Gabriel that he was done with this whole business, that he couldn’t assault Crowley and Beelzebub and uphold his end of the bargain.

No matter what happened.

Chapter Text

As soon as Gabriel demands his phone call Beelzebub and Crowley are ushered outside the room. The officer from their interrogation room follows them into the hallway. The interior of the detention center is eerily quiet, their thoughts too loud.

“So that’s it. He gets to dangle his shtick in front of us, and we don’t even get to investigate his apparent partner?” Crowley throws his hands up in the air and sinks to the floor.

Beezlebub joins him. “I don’t like it either Crowley, but this is just due process. He’s in here now, which is the important part. No more clock to race against.”

Instead of an answer, Crowley doubles down. “You know what really stumps me? The identity of his so-called partner. We never found any data pointing towards a second culprit!”

“Gabriel wasn’t exactly known for his warm and welcoming personality either,” Beelzebub agrees. “I can’t think of anyone that would get close to the man, especially not since he became head of the Tribune.”

Crowley frowns. “I can think of one person, but they’re the least likely candidate in the world.”

“Who?” Beelzebub asks. “Any leads could help.”

“My boyfriend.” Crowley laughs. “A riot, right?”

Beelzebub doesn’t join him. They start, “Crowley—”

“Phonecall’s finished.” The guard standing by the door looks at the door to see a flashing light. “You two can go back inside.” Beelzbub shakes their head and mouths ‘later’ at Crowley.

She gives them a reassuring smile, and opens the door for them. “I’ve gotta head back to the front desk, but if you need anything, let my partner know.”

Beelzebub nods. “Thanks. Ready to continue the interrogation?”

“If you are.” He follows him inside.

The guard and Gabriel sit in the same positions, but if it’s possible, he looks even more self-satisfied than before. The guard clicks the speaker button, and Gabriel speaks. “You know, I think I’ve had a change of heart. Why wait for you two to puzzle out the solution when I can just cut the Gordian Knot right now?”

Beelzbub and Crowley glance at each other.

“Any cooperation would be welcome, Gabriel.” Beelzebub responds.

He winks. “I can give you future victims, my sources for information, or, and this one will definitely make you happy, the name of my assistant?”

Crowley can’t hold himself back. “The last one, Gabriel. If you’re going to say it, get on with it.”

“If you insist.” His neutral smile turns cruel. “I was helped by none other than our dear mutual friend, Aziraphale.”

The world drops out from underneath Crowley’s feet. He presses himself up against the glass and slams his hands on the table. “You’re a fucking liar Gabe.”

“Think about it Crowley, you’re certainly smarter than him. The absences, the odd hours, the fact that I harmed neither you nor Beelzebub despite you two tramping around every crime scene like drunken bulls?” He laughs at the expression on his face. “Why do you think I kept promoting him? Definitely not talent.”

Crowley wants to launch himself at the smug killer in the other room, but Beelzebub lays a single hand on his arm. When he looks their way, Beelzebub is sheet-white.

Gabriel claps behind his back, his arms straining the cuffs. “That was splendid. Better than I could have even hoped. But on that note, I should be going.” Gabriel suddenly hops up and tackles the guard in his room. Before he can get a shot off, Gabriel slams his head into the floor and their eyes roll into the back of their head.

With a jerk, he unlocks the handcuffs. He grabs a silencer from the officer’s belt and attaches it to his pilfered gun. He smiles at the detectives and leaves the room.

Beelzebub swears. “Dammit, the officers took our equipment when we came in here!”

Crowley feels as if he can’t breathe. Aziraphale was working with Gabriel. How could he? And more importantly, how didn’t he notice?.

“Crowley!” Beelzebub shouts, “Get out of your own head and get ready!”

Crowley flinches and swivels to face the door. As soon as he gets to his feet and pulls out his gun, Gabriel shoots out the lock.

“Too dirty. Not my preferred method, but you've forced my hand.” Crowley moves to try and wrest the gun from him, but Gabriel takes aim before he can.

From behind him, Beezlebub shouts. They crumple to the ground and hold their side. Blood pools between their fingers.

Crowley shoots at Gabriel, but he’s already across the room, throwing himself at Crowley. The shot goes into the wall, and Gabriel plows into him worse than the knockback. Crowley switches his gun onto safety as he falls, and lands hard, his head thumping against the ground. Gabriel wrests the handcuffs from his belt and forces Crowley on his stomach, cuffing his wrists together.

He yanks him up and Crowley sees stars, and Beezlebub lying in an ever-growing pool of blood.

Gabrie shoves him out the door and holds a gun to his back. They shuffle out of the room together, and somehow don’t attract any attention until they hit the front room, at which point Gabriel makes the gun obvious to the officers on duty. He sprints out the door, dodging the guards, and although Crowley tries to slow him down, they make it out.

Gabriel drags him down the street, careful to keep him close to walls and in alleyways before he picks a car at random to steal. He throws open the trunk, and Crowley is forced inside.

He can feel the car moving out, farther than he wants to think about, and when he can no longer hear the noises of the city, his heart sinks.

Crowley tries to kick out a light, to signal to the other cars on the road, but no success. He’s about worn himself out by the time the vehicle grinds to a stop on a gravel driveway.

The trunk door is flung open and Crowley is pulled out and roughly thrown onto the gravel. Before his eyes adjust to the light or he can look at his surroundings, Gabriel throws open the door of a small house and takes Crowley with him.

The place stinks of rot, and Crowley can smell it the moment he's dragged inside.

Gabriel yanks his arms and pulls him through the living room. Crowley gets a glimpse of a massive wall of papers, mostly photographs, before he's pulled towards an unassuming wooden door towards the back of the kitchen.

He's terrified.

“Detective Crowley, you should feel flattered. I don’t often let sinners inside such a holy place. Maybe it’ll do you well to gaze upon divinity.”

“Guess my vision of heaven doesn’t involve everything smelling like dead rats.”

“Well,” Gabriel considers, “You called them rats, not me.”

His stomach curdles. “What do you mean by 'them.'”

Gabriel slides his key into the lock and the door creaks open to reveal a staircase descending into darkness.

“Care to join your bretheren, Crowley? I daresay you’ll find some you recognize.” Before he can respond in disgust, Gabriel shoves him down the stairs and it’s all Crowley can do to try and catch himself on the railing.

He falls a few steps with minimal bruising and manages to slowly limp the rest of the way down, Gabriel standing over his shoulder.

“Welcome to my sanctum. A tabernacle, holy ground. Whichever word you wish to use, they all apply.”

Crowley’s eyes adjust to the darkness, and just as he can make out shelves on the wall, Gabriel turns on a single, bare bulb.

While he’s blinded, Crowley can feel Gabriel pulling him towards a grate on the floor. His cuffs are lashed to a chain, and he’s yanked upwards as Gabriel ties him off to a sturdy bar attached to the opposite wall. He falls onto his knees on the cold metal, and he can finally see what covers the shelves.

“That’s a lot of jars you have there. Starting a jam business?” The remark leaves his lips too quickly, as the bulb settles into a steady glow and he sees the floating body parts in the jars.

“How horrifying of you, Crowley. Thinking of consuming offerings to the Lord.” Gabriel sees the realization dawn on his face and grins. He steps over to the shelf and grabs a particularly opaque one. “I have to say, I appreciate dearly my newest addition. We are Her ‘hands and feet’ after all.”

He moves the jar closer to Crowley so he can see the faint outline of Aziraphale’s hand inside. Crowley blanches and jerks backwards into the wall.

“Ah well. Not every sinner appreciates holy work. Speaking of… when will that useless assistant of mine get here,” Gabriel sighs, more resigned than actually curious.

Despite his feelings, Crowley comes to his defense. “You mean Aziraphale,” he growls. “I know he worked with you. You could at least say his name.”

“Still defending him after all that? I’d wrongly assumed being the assistant to your arch enemy would mean more to an officer.”

“I don’t have to discuss my fucking personal life with you,” Crowley spits. Gabriel backs up a step, closer to the jars of floating parts and Crowley doesn’t have the stomach to struggle to follow.

“True,” he concedes. “But it’ll keep me entertained. And you definitely don’t want to know what will happen when I’m bored.”

Crowley says, “Do you think I care about me? Right now, I bet all of my department is headed over here. You don’t stand a chance.”

“You severely underestimate me and my partner, Crowley. A mistake I’ve never made with you and yours.”

“There’s no way in hell Ziraphale is actually going to rejoin you,” he snarls. “If he gets here, he’ll help me.”

Gabriel barks, a sharp sound in the echoing basement. “Crowley, you don’t know anything about him. And,” he smiles chillingly, “Who’s to say there’ll be anything left to save?”

Crowley is struck with the realization that he is never going to see Aziraphale again.

Gabriel hits him over the head and everything goes dark.