“What is it like to be an angel?”
Aziraphale took a moment to take off the glasses he didn’t really need, but thought he looks spiffing in anyway as he considered Adam’s question. It was one of those nights where the former infamous son of Satan had turned up quite late at their cottage, the one Crowley and Aziraphale lived in now after Almost Armageddon.
Once Adam found out that the angel didn’t need to sleep, and rarely if ever did, it became a fairly common occurrence for Adam to turn up at any hour of the night if he himself couldn’t sleep, and found himself too bored to try.
Up for any form of rebellion, Crowley was all for it since he was usually asleep anyway, and couldn’t be bothered. Aziraphale only admonished Adam about it until the boy pointed that their cottage was probably the safest place for him to come and visit at 3am, and better here than somewhere else out in the world.
Aziraphale couldn’t fault him there so the angel stocked up on tea and biscuits for Adam’s future impromptu visits. Aziraphale and Crowley got used to the fact that the former Antichrist had decided having an angel and a demon as godparents would be brilliant.
Knowing about all the trouble children could get into, Crowley added another room onto the cottage so that Adam could stay over if he didn’t feel like heading back at some unreasonably hour, or wouldn’t let either of them miracle him back to his bed at home. That, and if Crowley needed to steal Aziraphale back for cuddles, Adam had his own space, other than poking around their cottage’s corners.
“What do you mean?” Aziraphale finally said, unsure of how to answer it, and to what extent.
“I dunno. Like do you feel human, but with powers?” Adam tried again after some thought.
“Adam, I know I look it, but I’m not actually a man, and I am definitely not a human so I don’t really have any point of reference to go by. I just feel like me.” Aziraphale explained the best he could. “And I always have.”
“But how do you feel?” Adam strained, “Like on the inside.”
“Rather annoyed at this point.”
“You’re not even trying.” Adam said with an type of exasperated sigh only children could pull off, the one that hinted that adults were being intentionally thick in the head out of spite.
“This body isn’t real. It’s just a vessel I pour part of myself into. You should know. You gave it to me.” Aziraphale said, putting his book to the side for now. He had a feeling that this was going to be a long conversation.
“Yeah, not sure how I did that.” Adam admitted, “What do you actually look like then when you’re not pouring yourself into vessels?”
“Nothing pleasant by human standards of beauty, I assure you.” Aziraphale smiled. It always amazed him how wrong humans got it.
“I thought angels were supposed to be beautiful.” Adam said, recalling all the sermons he hadn’t slept through when his parents bothered themselves with religion. In Adam’s opinion, his stories were much better, and had pirates in them. “That’s what everyone says anyway.”
“We are, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and humans have a very limited view of what they consider beautiful.” Aziraphale said with a soft chuckle, “To give you a better idea of that, a fellow angel of mine accidentally showed his true form to a writer named Lovecraft. Are you familiar at all with his work?”
“The name sounds familiar, but I don’t think so.” Adam said as the angel got up to start perusing his many, many books. It only took him a moment to find what he was looking for, a task only Aziraphale could do in a timely manner, the angel having his own bizarre filing system. The book title proclaimed itself to be “The Call of Cthulhu", the angel flipping through the pages until he found the artwork he was looking for. “I hope that this doesn’t give you nightmares. It certainly gave Lovecraft the fright of his life and more than enough writing fodder for the rest of his career.”
“Angels have tentacles?” Adam asked after a long moment of studying. He was suddenly very interested in finding out what Aziraphale really looked like now.
“Some do. Some don’t. It depends on what Choir they belong to.” Aziraphale said, “The ones considered closest to God tend to look the most...interesting, at least by human perception.”
“I’ve read a bit about that in Anathema’s magazines.” Adam said, making Aziraphale openly wince with distaste. The angel wondered what kind of dribble had been printed about his kind now. “What are you?”
“I am a Principality, or I was. I’m not entirely sure about that anymore.” Aziraphale sighed. Nothing had changed for him power-wise. He was not cut off from Heaven, but the other angels didn’t bother him anymore either so he was technically an angel without a purpose. Aziraphale wasn’t sure what that made him. “A Principality is from one of the lowest spheres of angels. In the grand scheme of things, I’m not a very impressive angel.”
“Do you miss Heaven?” Adam asked with all the graceful tact of a child.
“No. No, I don’t.” Aziraphale answered honestly, without hesitation, surprising himself. “I’ve made my own version of it here on Earth with Crowley.”
“I dunno...” Adam said in that definite tone of his, the one that had raised Atlantis, and summoned aliens. He might not be the Antichrist anymore, but power like that just didn’t go away, at least not all of it. “You say you’re not impressive, but I think you creating your own Heaven makes you the most powerful angel of all.”
“W-why the sudden interest in the ethereal?” A strange tingling washed over Aziraphale, one he chose to ignore at he moment as he tried to distract Adam. Aziraphale decided it was best not to dwell on tomorrow’s problems.
“One of the magazine’s articles said that angels were covered in eyes. I was wondering if it were true, and what that would be like, seeing everything at once.” Adam said, “How do you avoid getting headaches with so many eyes?”
“Oh, is that all?” Aziraphale laughed, letting a little bit of his celestial form slip out of his skin. His hair turned more feathery as multiple eyes opened all over his face, complimented the lines and structure of it, trailing down his neck, the irises all in shades of blue. “What do you think?”
“That’s brilliant!” Adam shouted, jumping up to take a closer look. He moved around Aziraphale, noting how the eyes followed him. “Can you see out of all of them?”
“Of course I can.” Aziraphale chuckled, winking all the ones on the left side at Adam. “It wouldn’t do me much good if I I couldn’t.”
“And you don’t get headaches?” Adam asked, holding up a finger to move it back and forth. Aziraphale dutifully tracked it.
“No, not the regular kind you’re talking about anyway. Mine tend to be more human shaped with lots of questions.” Aziraphale said dryly as Adam began to run around him, holding his finger out. It caused a ripple effect in all the eyes.
“What are you two going on about now?” Crowley yawned, joining them still dressed for bed in black silk pajamas.
“Sorry, dear. Did we wake you?” Aziraphale smiled. It was the kind of expression Adam noticed that was only for Crowley. That, and the angel began to glow, Aziraphale forgetting himself a bit with all his eyes out in the open.
“You did, going all ethereal like that. You know I can’t resist you when you look this good, angel.” Crowley said with a sly smile, leaning in to press kisses in-between all the Aziraphale’s eyes. Unable to help himself, Crowley ran his fingers through feathery curls, exquisitely soft to the touch. It only made the angel glow more, the outline of his halo beginning to show.
“Do demons do that? Get all eyebally?” Adam asked, studying Crowley’s face when the demon finally pulled himself away from his angel. He looked over at the boy in open amusement.
“Nah. Eyeballs are an angel thing.” Crowley said.
“What do demons do then?” Adam asked, his full daunting attention on the demon now.
“More of a container thing.” Crowley said, trying to wave that kind of attention off. He was extremely unsuccessful.
“What?” Adam proceeded, “What do you mean?”
“Adam, you have to understand that this isn’t a real body.” Crowley tried, but was only digging himself in deeper.
“It looks real enough.” Adam said, poking Crowley in his side. “Feels real enough to me.”
“Well, it’s not. It’s more like a very complex meat puppet than an actual body.” Crowley said, twisting like only a serpent could to avoid more poking. “If you were ever to visit Hell, and that is not a suggestion, you would see most demons down there riding around on top of their bodies, not in them.
“You said most. I’m taking that you don’t then.” Adam asked, reminding Crowley why he begrudgingly like the former AntiChrist. He had to hand it to the kid. Adam was quick on the uptake.
“Hell no. It looks bloody ridiculous. For example-This isn’t a tattoo.” Crowley said as he tapped the side of his face. It caused the little snake there to uncoil itself and shift, the reptile slithering up to the top of the demon’s head. It grew in size as it neared Crowley’s hairline, emerging out from under the skin to curl up on top like some strange living snake crown. “See what I mean? It looks awful, no style to it.”
“You still look like you, but with a snake in your head now.” Adam nodded in agreement. “Even your mouth is still moving.”
“Trust fall.” Was the only warning Aziraphale got before Crowley slithered off his own head, moving to sit on top of the angel’s own, the serpent luxuriating in the feather curls. Leaving his body behind like that cause it to fall back like a puppet whose strings had been cut. Adam startled back as the body’s eye went void, the demon’s golden eyes winking out as the sockets sunk in.
“I hate it when you do that.” Aziraphale said as he caught the body to prop it up, waving Crowley’s lifeless hand at Adam. He easily picked up the demon’s container, setting it neatly aside so Crowley could return to it later.
“Oi, don’t lie me down like that. I’ll get a crick in my neck.” Crowley fussed, supervising how he should be arranged.
“I’m well aware. It’s not the first time I’ve done this, dear.” Aziraphale fussed back, grabbing a small throw pillow for the demon’s head. “Remember Venice, when you had to play the corpse to avoid being executed by that very angry Prince?”
“Vividly! That’s how I know about my neck. I couldn’t get that damn crick out of it for weeks. I tried everything.” Crowley said, “Could you turn down the lighting a wee bit? I don’t want to fry up here.”
“Sorry, dear. Forgot myself there.” Aziraphale’s halo dimming out, though he kept the eyes out for Adam. “It’s your own fault for not asking me for help with your neck.”
“How was I to know that you spent considerable time in the East, and learned how to do healing massages?”
“Learned it? I help create it.”
“I thought demons would look more impressive. You still look like a regular old snake.” Adam said, reminding the two that he was still there. “Where are your horns? And shouldn’t you have a tail? Well, a different tail, different from the one you got now.”
“That’s all made up artistic license. I have neither of those. Most demons don’t unless they’re willing to make an effort for show. You humans have some very odd expectations.” Crowley said, who would have rolled his eyes if were physical possible. Thankfully, Aziraphale did it for him, probably thinking about the misrepresentation of angels as well.
“You’re very disappointing as a demon.” Adam said with his usual direct honesty.
“Everyone issss a critic.” Crowley hissed, leaving Aziraphale so that he could twist and change some more. Adam soon found himself staring up at a ginormous snake, one the filled the cottage to its very brim with armored scales, gleaming sharp fangs that dripped acidic venom, and a long whiplike tongue that flicked out hellfire. “Better?”
“Much.” Adam nodded, definitively more impressed with this version of the demon.
“Crowley, I swear to someone that if you ruin this new carpet showing off...”
“Relax, angel.” Crowley said, shifting himself back into his earthly container. He ended up having to pop his jaw back into place anyway, despite all the angel’s best efforts. It always got quirky when he left his body like that.
“That being said, that’s not what he really looks like either. It’s just an approximation.” Aziraphale said as he inspected the carpet from any acidic or hellfire damage, not that their warranty would cover either. “Our true forms actually reside in the Between.”
“Before you ask, the Between is neither Heaven or Hell. It is a neutral space folded between realities where beings of immense power like ourselves can reside while we are away from the ‘home offices’.” Crowley explained quickly, trying to cut Adam’s next round of questions off at the chase. “And no, you can’t go there so don’t bother asking. For whatever reason, cats can, but humans and other human shaped things aren’t meant to go here, at least not for very long.”
“Why? What happens to them?” Adam asked anyway.
“Nothing pleasant, I am afraid to say. Humans tend to explode on a physical level. If one somehow manages to avoid that outcome, there isn’t any guarantee that their minds will return with them.” Aziraphale said, satisfied with the carpet’s state of being.
“And there you go. Exploding fun, or endless insanity.” Crowley offered up. Of course, the two choice didn’t detour Adam in the slightest.
“But I might not explode, being the son of Satan and all.” Adam mused. Now that he knew that there were other places to go, Adam realized he just had to figure out how to get to them.
“You were the son of Satan. Past tense. Now, you’re just a boy.” Crowley said firmly.
“You know that’s not entirely true.” Adam pointed out.
“Yeah, well, you’re still mostly human so don’t push your luck.” Crowley said with a scowl. “Why do you want to see what we look like anyway? Most humans consider it the stuff of nightmares. Hell, Aziraphale could easily tussle with Godzilla.”
“Crowley, I would never!” Aziraphale said, which Crowley found particularly amusing because he was completely certain that the angel had no idea what or who a Godzilla was.
“Well, maybe Mothra. Nah, you’re enough of a bastard to take Godzilla head-on.” Crowley kept with it.
“Really?!” Adam looked at the angel with newfound respect, his interest in the ethereal peaked again. Aziraphale shot Crowley a very sour look.
“Oh, yeah. He’s got more arms than that lizard by loads.” Crowley ignored the angel.
“Pray tell, why would I be fighting a lizard?” Aziraphale asked, Crowley’s assessment right on the money. The angel was completely lost. All he knew is that he didn’t want to fight any lizard. Seemed quite unfair for the reptile in his opinion.
“How’s many arms do you have?!” Adam asked, imagining Aziraphale momentarily as a centipede.
“More than two.” Aziraphale teased.
“Oodles. Oodles of arms!” Crowley crowed, ignoring the Look his angel was giving him, the one that said if he ended up with even more arms thanks to Adam that Crowley was never going to hear the end of it. “Good thing to, considering all the harps he has to play.”
“Don’t you dare put that into his head, you vile serpent!” Aziraphale ended up throwing a convenient cushion at Crowley’s head, the demon too busy laughing to care. “Adam, don’t believe a word of it. Angel do not play harps.”
“What instrument do you play then if you don’t play a harp?” Adam asked.
“Let me see...” Aziraphale mulled it over, “Well, I did learn how to play the piano fairly well at some point in the late 1800th century.”
“About as well as your magic act.” Crowley grumbled, but not low enough for safety’s sake.
“You can do magic?” Adam asked with too much enthusiasm for the demon’s liking. Aziraphale didn’t need any encouragement in that area, especially not from the likes of Adam.
“No, he can’t!” Crowley quickly intervened, suddenly realizing the folly of his mistake.
“You’re no fun.” Aziraphale pouted, “I just have to get back into practice is all.”
“You can do proper magic. You can literally make things disappear!” Crowley said, dusting off a centuries old argument.
“It’s not as fun.” Aziraphale said, making a coin ‘appear’ out of Crowley’s ear, and then promptly dropped the coin. Not detoured in the slightest, the angel did the ‘trick’ again to the other ear. “Whaaaaa”
“Stop. Please stop. I’m begging you. It’s embarrassing, and if you try anything else, I’ll properly disappear all your books that teach this rubbish.” Crowley said, fingers posed and ready to do just that.
“You wouldn’t dare!” Aziraphale gasped, all his eyes glaring at the demon.
“Can you do human magic?” Adam asked, “Like the kind Anathema does?”
“Yes.” Aziraphale said, suddenly looking quite superior about something.
“No.” Crowley muttered, glaring at the smug angel.
“Well, which is it?” Adam prodded, liking where this was going.
“You have to understand that comparatively to forces of Heaven and Hell, human magic is deeply flawed and quite imprecise, full of misinformation.” Aziraphale lectured.
“Meaning you have to wade through a whole ocean of shit to get to a single nugget of gold.” Crowley grumbled less eloquently.
“Vulgar analogy, but he’s not wrong.” Aziraphale said, giving Crowley a Look, the demon making a face back. “One must have great patience, and be very well read to even attempt that version of magic.”
“You would think, but then they go and try it anyway.” Crowley sighed.
“Don’t mind him. He gets quite tetchy about the subject.” Aziraphale said with a smile just to irk the demon.
“Satanist and teenagers tend to be hasty about such things. Being summoned isn’t the most comfortable of experiences.” Aziraphale explained.
“How in the Nine Rings of Hell would you know?! No one ever summons up an angel!” Crowley fumed, beginning to pace.
“I’ve heard you complain about it enough to live vicariously through the experience.” Aziraphale said in a dry tone.
“All I’m saying is that it’s not fair. Of all the occult beings, why do I get picked on?” Crowley complained to a mostly unsympathetic audience.
“You’ve answered your own question, my dear. Because angels are ethereal, not occult. People pray to angels.” Aziraphale said, looking quite pleased with himself. “You see, Adam, most people don’t know what they are doing when they summon a demon so the spell tends to lock on the closest demon on this plane of existence instead of summoning up one straight out of Hell which is a bit more tricky, and involves a wider variety of bodily fluids.”
“So if Crowley is usually here on Earth...” Adam reasoned out.
“Then he is the demon that gets summoned the most.” Aziraphale finished for him with a little too much amusement.
“It’s not funny.” Crowley sulked, “I mean most witches are alright, and they usually have alcohol with them, but bloody Satanist are always useless wankers who didn’t expect it to work, not really anyways, so they have no idea what to do when I actually show up. Don’t get me started about the teenagers.”
“What’s so bad about teenagers?” Adam asked being almost one himself.
“Everything.” Crowley spat out.
“They tend to think a demon is supposed to act like a genie.” Aziraphale was fighting to keep a straight face, and failing.
“I want what’s-their-face to fall in love with me, I want to be prom queen, I want a bigger cock, I want everyone in my school to get herpes...” Crowley mimicked some of his past request with obvious distaste. “It’s always the same boring thing. The youth of today have no imagination.”
“Thankfully, most of the time they forget to put a circle of protection around the summoning circle.” Aziraphale said, miracling up some tea and biscuits. “Do go on, dear. I’ll play Mother.”
“What happens then?” Adam managed out between mouthful of biscuits.
“After I put the fear of Me into them, I walk out and try to figure out where the Hell I’ve ended up.” Crowley said, turning the tea into something with a much higher alcoholic content. “It’s a miserable nuisance, especially if I was in the middle of something important.”
“What if they do put a protection circle in place?”
“Then I get to waste my time tricking the little idiots into letting me go.” Crowley grumbled into his single malt scotch tea.
“Or I just come fish him out of it if it’s taking too long. After it happened a few too many times in a row, we set up a system.” Aziraphale said, “A cult got their hands on some true forbidden knowledge, and shared it with all their members.”
“And whose fault was that, I wonder?” Crowley said overly loud in a very pointed tone.
“Would you let it go? It was over seven hundred years ago.” Aziraphale sighed.
“What happened?” Adam just knew he was going to enjoy the angel’s answer. Aziraphale and Crowley told the best stories. One just had to be patient, or wait until either were in their cups.
“The greatest hoarder of books here got completely knackered in a busy tavern one night, and left an incredibly powerful tome there, right there out in the open where anyone could take it.” Crowley said, pointing his cup at said greatest hoarder of books who had the audacity, at least in Crowley’s opinion, to look offended.
“And whose fault was that, I wonder? I had help getting drunk enough to forget a book of all things in Creation, you old serpent.” Aziraphale shot back, “And I found it, didn’t I? And all of its copies.”
“Took you a while, during which time I had every little cultist idiot summoning me left, right, and center. I couldn’t get that damn smell out of my hair for months.” Crowley grumbled, refilling his teacup.
“Quit being a heathen, and get a proper glass if you’re going to drink scotch. Don’t you dare go changing my Wedgwood.” Aziraphale said, before turning back to Adam. “Ritualistic magic has a funny smell to it, partly due to combination of the ingredients involved, and the pathways that one is made to travel through.”
“So they take you through the Between?”
“No, they drag you through the mud of folded realities.” Crowley said, miracling up a glass up to appease the angel. Heaven forbid anyone disrespect one of Aziraphale’s many tea sets.
“Quit being so melodramatic.” Aziraphale rolled all his eyes, “There are different versions of reality folded in on one another.”
“Oh, I’ve read about this in the magazines. They’re called parallel worlds.” Adam said, proud of himself for remembering, even if he hadn’t understood everything he had read.
“Yes, and no. That is sort of its own thing, but you’re getting the gist of it.” Aziraphale said, not getting the chance to explain.
“Origami cranes!” Crowley blurted out.
“What about them, dear?” Aziraphale asked, completely unfazed by it. Adam appeared intrigued though.
“Think of reality, this reality, as an origami crane.” Crowley said, looking quite pleased with himself about something. “But not too hard. Don’t want to end up as paper dolls.”
“I don’t follow.” Aziraphale admitted, wondering where this was going.
“Okay.” Adam was here for this.
“Why an origami crane?” Aziraphale asked.
“Cause it’s folded paper.”
“But you can fold paper into almost anything. Why a crane? Why not a duck?” Aziraphale asked. He had seen an origami duck once, and remembered it to be quite cute.
“Not the point!” Crowley growled, “Crane, origami, folded paper, you with me?
“Yes!” Adam said, looking quite ready for the next bit.
“No.” Aziraphale said, looking quite put out.
“Good enough! I’ll take it!” Crowley forged on, “Now imagine a stack of origami cranes, each nestled neatly inside the other! That’s different realities sitting side by side while still on top of each other.”
“That’s amazing!” Adam said, his mind going in many different directions at once with new possibilities. He always had the most informative conversations with his godparents.
“What do cranes have to do with anything?”
“Not a damn thing, angel.”
“Then why bring them up at all?” Aziraphale sighed, changing the tea into cocoa to sooth his mind.
“Never mind all that. It’sss an analogy.” Crowley hissed, flicking his forked tongue at the angel.
“The cheek! I know what an analogy is.” Aziraphale said, looking rather miffed. “It just wasn’t a very good one.”
“I got it.” Adam said unhelpfully.
“Then my work here is done.” Crowley proudly announced, heading back to bed.
“You didn’t really do anything.” Aziraphale pointed out, Adam nodding in agreement.
“That’s the dream, angel.”