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Love, And Its Interference With The Nature Of Reality

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Adam Young didn’t know what would happen to him after he died, especially as his situation was a little... unconventional, to say the least.

However, if Heaven was anything like what was happening to him right now he would be doing his best to get in.

There were hands, soft and strong hands, gripping his shoulders, pulling Adam flush against a shirtless, lightly-muscled torso. Adam tipped his head back, exposing more of his throat to the teeth that sucked greedily at the skin. It would bruise spectacularly, but it felt so good that Adam didn’t care. His hips jutted forward, desperate for friction against the bulge of his jeans. The mouth at Adam’s neck drew back, then moved to cover his own, and then they were pressed against the wall and kissing. Yes, thought Adam, he would gladly spend eternity kissing this mouth, and doing more besides, if he could.

And to think he’d only come to this party on a whim, barely knowing anyone except the girl from his seminar group who’d invited him.

A phone rang. The rectangular glow of it cast new shadows in the darkened bedroom. Adam’s companion pulled away with a sigh and crouched to rifle through the pooled fabric of his jeans.

“Hey, Lissa, what’s up?” The voice on the other end of the line was apologetic, panicky, a little drunk. Adam watched as the other man began to gather up his clothes. “For fucks sake, when did you last have them?” The voice on the other end didn’t say much. “Okay, look-- no, of course I’m not gonna leave you hanging outside. I’ll call a cab and be with you in fifteen, all right?” Another pause and more indistinguishable words and then, “No, no, it’s fine. You’ll just have to owe me one.”

Adam sensed that the night was not going to continue how he’d anticipated. He sighed, shrugged his own shirt back up his arms and began to fasten the buttons.

“You’re going, then?” He wished his voice didn’t sound quite so blatantly disappointed, but there he was.

“I’m sorry. My housemate’s lost her keys and can’t get in. Maybe I’ll see you around?”

Adam sighed. “Sure. Enjoy your evening, Warlock.”

 

--

 

Never let it be said that ‘Adam Young’ and ‘interesting summers’ didn’t go hand in hand. It was a perfect pairing that went all the way back to Adam’s childhood. Something exciting always managed to happen to him in the long months of May through August and this, the summer before his final year of study at King’s College London, was shaping up to be no exception.

It had been a few days since the party. Adam whiled away the hours behind the till in Waterstones with very detailed and pleasant daydreams. There was rent to be paid and pre-dissertation reading to do, but everything seemed more vibrant, imbued as it was with the energy of a new crush.

The thing was, reality had spent eleven years warping to Adam’s will and had never quite broken the habit completely. And so, precisely because Adam dreamed of bumping into Warlock again, he did. 

The bookshop door opened, bell chiming to herald the arrival of a new customer.  Adam scrambled for his best customer service smile and slathered it on. It dropped almost immediately, however, as he realised who was standing in front of him. 

“Oh!” said Adam, stupidly. “It’s you!”

Warlock looked around the bookshop and back to Adam, faintly puzzled as his brain tried to work out a few different things at once. Firstly, he could have sworn he had been on his way to a coffee shop and yet, here he was. Secondly, the cute guy behind the cash register clearly recognised him.

“I’m sorry, I’m not sure if--?”

Adam glanced around to make sure no one was watching, then pulled back the collar of his shirt to reveal the purpled bruise there. Warlock’s eyes widened as recognition snapped into place. He flushed in a rather adorable way and leaned over the counter, voice lowered. “Sorry. Bit distracted. It’s you!”

“It is. Fancy seeing you again. I, uh, had a good time the other night.”

“Me too.”

For a minute, they just grinned at one another. 

“Sorry,” said Warlock. “I swear I was on my way to get coffee but I must have taken a wrong turn, I guess?” He sounded unsure himself. “There’s this place I usually go to, they do a great blend of--”

Adam nodded vaguely. Warlock had this cute lilting accent, a bit of London peppered with American mid-Western drawl. A strand of hair had escaped his ponytail and fell over his face in the most adorable way. He barely remembered what they had talked about at the party before they had stumbled drunkenly to the nearest bedroom, but he hadn’t forgotten that cute accent or the endearing way that Warlock fidgeted with the friendship bracelets on his wrists as he talked.

“--Uh, sorry? What were you saying?” asked Adam, when he finally realised had hadn’t been listening to anything Warlock was saying for the past few minutes.

“I said, while I’m here, I wondered if you could recommend any good books?”

Adam’s heart positively soared. “I’m glad you asked.” 

By the end of the shift, Warlock had an armful of books and Adam’s phone number. Not a bad day, indeed.

 

--

 

August sank slowly into September. Adam and Warlock texted more and more.

At work, Adam stacked books with distinctly more cheer than usual. Customers suddenly found books perfectly suited to their needs, even ones Adam’s manager knew they didn’t have in stock. As the leaves changed slowly from summer greens to autumn rust, fresh flowers sprung up along the street where Adam lived. Adam daydreamed through his lectures - on one particularly memorable occasion, his lecturer delivered three Powerpoint slides in song and could not explain for the life of her why.

He even bought a membership for the student Creative Writing Society, determined that he would fill his new Moleskine with all of the words his heart seemed intent on hammering in Morse code against his ribs. He envisioned himself at his desk, staring out of the bedroom window, inspired by the turn of the season and the feeling of new beginnings to write beautiful poetry, maybe start a new novel.

More often, he turned out to be alone in his room with his fist wrapped around his cock, rather than a pen, but the fundamentals were more or less the same.

Adam was thinking about Warlock. A lot.

 

--

 

Warlock was having similar thoughts about Adam, but was also concerned that he might slowly be losing his mind.

The first time it happened Warlock was standing by a newsagents in Acton Town tube station. Nothing exciting about that, just the usual pocket of time in between arriving somewhere and waiting for the friend he was meeting to show up. His gaze drifted lazily over to the newspapers and magazines, and he startled.

Every single one bore Adam’s face.

Warlock grabbed the nearest magazine, a Cosmopolitan. “TOP TEN REASONS TO DATE ADAM YOUNG!” cried the glossy pink cover lines.

Warlock blinked.

In the second it took him to do so, the newsstand corrected itself. The magazine in his hand now read, simply “TOP TEN REASONS TO TRAVEL WHILE YOUNG”, and the glossy smiling model on the cover stared up at him unblinkingly.

“You gonna buy that?” asked the newsagent.

Warlock gave the magazine one more lingering, suspicious glance before he returned it to the rack. He looked over his shoulder as he walked away.

Perfectly normal headlines and photographs, with no trace of Adam in sight.

 

--

 

“So what’s America like?” asked Adam. Warlock had taken to meeting him outside work, and they turned from the bookshop into the crowded high street. The windows were already bright with Halloween displays and every autumn leaf that drifted picturesquely downwards was crisp as a new ten-pound note. It was growing dark. Warlock drew his scarf tighter about his neck and stepped over yet another black cat. It was the fifth he had seen that day. 

“That’s a broad question,” teased Warlock. “America is a huge place.”

“Okay, so what was your favourite bit?”

“New York, obviously. Great in winter. Very atmospheric.”

There was a thoughtful look on Adam’s face as his mind conjured Christmas-card images of New York covered in snow. Growing up, him and the Them had always had a distinct fascination with America that had never quite faded.

"Sounds nicer than our annual trip to Cornwall," said Adam, wistfully, although he had to admit that every week-long holiday spent down by the sea was actually perfect. Warlock could see it in Adam's face, the warmth and nostalgia, and felt a pang of envy. He wasn't sure he'd ever felt so strongly about a place.

They wandered through London and shared their favourite haunts. They talked about their degrees ("Religion, really? You don't seem like the type." "I'm interested in the impact it's had on people, that's all," explained Adam, "And you don't look like an economist either, so I guess we're even") and their childhoods (Warlock's face lit up mostly brightly when he talked about his eccentric Nanny, and seemed most distant when he talked, minimally, about his parents) and books (horror, science-fiction, anything with mysteries). Warlock teased Adam constantly in a fond, good-natured way and Adam, unused to it, blushed. He had always been top of the food chain through his childhood in that sense.

Warlock smiled, leant in and placed a kiss on the pink of Adam's cheek. It was good to take things slow like this, to sneak kisses on street corners and relish the slow build-up to something more. There was no rush after all.

It turned out, despite their very different childhoods, Adam and Warlock had lots in common. The same birthday, even! Warlock liked books just as much as Adam did - “the gardener we had when I was growing up was really into books, always reading” - and even enthusiastically followed the New Aquarian on Twitter.

For Warlock’s part, there was just something about Adam. That smile, that completely open and honest earnestness, the way he still stared in awe at London the way only someone raised in a small village can. It was no small wonder that the guy was playing on Warlock’s mind to the point of uncanny minor hallucinations. Maybe this was Warlock’s brain screaming that he needed to go ahead and finally get laid. 

 

--

 

“Hot American? Boyfriend material?”

Warlock’s head snapped up as the waitress approached.

“Excuse me?”

“I said, hot chocolate and blueberry muffin?" 

“Oh. That’s me, thanks.” 

She set down the items, added a napkin-wrapped spoon and walked away.

Warlock looked down at his drink and his heart skipped a beat. Adam ♥ was written in chocolate dust on the top.

“Hey, excuse me!” he called to the waitress, waving an arm.

But she didn’t hear him, and when he looked again there was nothing but an ordinary chocolate swirl where the name had been. 

Warlock pressed the back of his hand to his forehead. It was pleasantly warm in the cafe, but his own temperature was perfectly fine. He sighed and lifted the drink to his lips.

The stress of third year must already be getting to him.

His doctor told him to get more rest. His father told him that partying was all well and good but it didn't hurt to lay off the substances once in a while, which showed how little he knew about how Warlock spent his time. In short, neither of them were helpful at all.

 

--

 

“Adam?” 

Adam turned around, golden hair catching in the afternoon sun, and smiled. 

“Warlock! What are you doing here?”

“I thought I was headed to Blackfriars, next thing I’m on the Piccadilly line towards King’s Cross.”

It had been chaos in the tube, a cacophony of confused and disgruntled commuters as everyone realised they were inexplicably on the wrong line, and Warlock had cut his losses and decided that this wasn’t the worst place to spend an afternoon of cancelled lectures.

“I have a free schedule today.” Adam’s smile was bright. “I was just wondering what to do with myself. There’s a new exhibit at the British Museum, fancy going?”

He hadn’t even needed to ask. 

“Say, Adam, have you noticed--?” asked Warlock suddenly, then trailed off, aware of the absurdity of it even as the first words left his mouth.

“Noticed what?"

“Never mind. It’s nothing.”

But as they went through their day Warlock watched with fascination as Adam skipped queues, got the last of a particular cake at the library cafe, stepped onto the road just as the pedestrian lights turned green. It was like Adam was a celebrity and reality was a carpet rolled out to meet him at every turn. And, the most absurdly terrifying thing, Warlock thought, was that he didn’t even realise he was doing it.

Adam walked Warlock to his house later that evening. They kissed on the doorstep, their hands winding in the fabric of one another's jumpers, Warlock pulling Adam flush against him and--

The lightbulb in the porch exploded.

They yelled and leapt apart, brushing shards of glass from their hair. Warlock glanced over Adam, checking that he was okay. He seemed fine, if a little sheepish.

"Do you want me to stay and help clean this up?" he asked, even though Warlock knew Adam had a planned dinner with his housemates to go to.

Warlock shook his head, heart still racing from the shock. He watched Adam go, equal parts creeped out by the incident and frustrated at the interruption. Afterwards, he sat in his room and opened up his laptop. 

The New Aquarian had not tweeted any links about how to deal with the guy you have a crush on inexplicably warping reality. Warlock knew this because he had scoured their archives and all of their affiliated websites. Instead he bought salt, garlic and a reproduction print of an ancient Babylonian book of spells intended to ward off evil spirits. There were several chapters on demonic possession and hauntings and Warlock slotted bookmarks between at least a dozen pages. He did all of these things, just in case...

In case what? he asked himself. Adam had never hurt him. Adam didn't even seem to be aware of what was happening around them. Maybe it was up to Warlock to take matters into his own hands. To continue dating Adam (because he would a fool not to), keep a protective eye on him and, if something supernatural was out to get them, save them both.

He blinked. Now there was a sentence he never pictured himself saying.

 

--

 

Anathema had emailed Adam three consecutive New Aquarian articles and several screenshots of conspiracy groups from Facebook. ‘Perfectly seasonal weather strikes London again’, read one. ‘Sudden abundance of black cats appearing in the South of England’, and ‘Strange outbursts of musicality at King’s College London’ said others. 

What are you doing??? Anathema had written underneath.

I ain’t doing anything! Adam replied. Besides, I’m busy. There’s this guy…

He could practically hear Anathema’s groan through her typed reply. Of course there is. Try and reign it in a little, yeah?

Adam could try, but when it came to the strange pull he had on the nature of reality, he had a bit of an unfortunate blind spot.

Hopefully Warlock hadn't noticed anything too weird.

 

--

 

Then, there was the Halloween party. 

“Nice costume,” said Warlock. “Assuming you aren't just trying out a new look.” The smirk he was giving Adam rather implied his preferred ‘look’ at this precise moment might be Adam not wearing any clothes at all. 

Adam took a long sip of his drink to hide his blush.  

He glanced reflexively down at himself. He was dressed in a dark jacket, all tailored with sharp angles, a charcoal grey shirt, the tightest black jeans he owned and a pair of snakeskin boots. The latter he’d found at a charity shop ten minutes before closing time the previous Tuesday. They had inspired the whole outfit.

“I did have contact lenses in earlier, and fangs,” he said defensively. “So I looked a bit more. You know. Demon-ish.” He had taken both out once the novelty had worn off. Around them were various discarded costumes, the inevitable shedding of Halloween skin as people cared less about costume status and more about being as drunk and comfortable as possible. 

“Very twenty-first century demon.” Warlock was grinning. “Is the red hair supposed to be the blood of your enemies, or did you sleepwalk through a Hot Topic?” 

That laughter again. Not unkind, just gently probing, fond. Adam bristled, torn between being flattered by the attention and his natural aversion to being teased, particularly by attractive Americans who pulled off a blood-stained zombie outfit rather well, actually. 

“Yeah, well,” said Adam. “Just tried something a bit different this year. It’s wash-out, anyway, so it’s not like it matters. Looks like you did a last minute Poundland run,” he added, trying to be equal parts sarcastic and sultry in the way he eyed Warlock up and down, but not entirely convinced he succeeded.

Warlock held his free hand up in supplication, then with the other took a long swig of his beer.

“You got me. Zero time this year, honestly. I’m trying to start my uni projects early so I can get some internships in over the new year. And you know, there's this cute British guy taking up all of my time these days.”

"Sounds like a pain." Adam grinned. “Sort of makes you miss the days your mum just made your costume for you though, right?”

Adam’s smile faltered as Warlock’s expression turned into something soft and wistful. "Sounds like a nice thought, but my mom never had time for any of that stuff.”

“Ah.” Adam shuffled his feet. “Sorry.”

“It’s all right. Her and my dad just didn’t really have time for a kid.” He rolled his eyes with the practised look of someone who had handwaved this conversation dozens of times before. “You don’t need this sob story, at least not until we’ve had about ten more drinks. Besides, it’s all good. Remember the nanny I had growing up? Let me tell you, she did a great Halloween costume.”

“Oh? That sounds like a promise to show me some embarrassing photos.” Adam was happy to let the melancholy tone of conversation slip away. He pulled his phone from his pocket once more and swiped the lock screen. “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”

Warlock laughed, which made Adam’s upcoming embarrassment entirely worth it.

“I had some atrocious Halloween costumes as a kid,” Adam continued as he scrolled through his phone. “My mum made them all by hand, she proper loved it but some were definitely better than others. Here, hang on—“ and he was flicking rapidly through an old album. “Look at this one! I must be what, five or six here? Dressed as a little devil, demon thingy.”

“Look at your little horns!” cooed Warlock. “Got to admit though, you’re picking on your mom but at least she remembered that demons have horns. Plain lazy that was, on your part.” 

Adam looked affronted but just shrugged, like he knew something that Warlock didn’t. “Let’s see your amazing costumes then?” he prompted.

Warlock pulled out a picture of his own, obligatory terrible costume from one particularly memorable year. Adam was going to love this.

“Wait for it,” he said. He held his phone to his chest, shielding the screen from view. “First off, I should provide context. So there was my nanny, yeah? Well, we also had a gardener who took on some of the childcare duties. Anyway, they both had very different ideas about what I should do for Halloween.”

“Oh?” 

“Yeah. Here,” and he showed Adam the picture.

Warlock was expecting a laugh. The costume really was ridiculous; young Warlock was hidden under a giant papier-mâché snake head. White feathers clung to his back for reasons Warlock couldn't remember; some compromise between Nanny Astoreth and Brother Francis had evidently taken place. In the photograph they stood on either side of him, Nanny looking stern but undeniably pleased, Brother Francis eyeing Warlock's costume with a look of mild despair.

But Adam’s eyes grew comically wide, and his gasp was almost theatrical. He stared at the photo for a good minute, grabbing Warlock’s phone so he could zoom in closer.

Adam’s brow furrowed, squinting at the screen. Then he seemed to remember himself, shook his head and gave the phone back. Warlock took it warily, eyebrows practically disappearing into his hairline. 

“You all right, bud?”

Adam tilted his head, paused and then took another long swig of his rum and orange.

“Yeah. Yeah, I think so. Just had a weird bit of deja vu about your babysitters, that’s all.”

Warlock shrugged. “I honestly think you’d know ‘em if you met ‘em. They were a weird pair.”

The music drowned out whatever Adam muttered, but if you guessed it to be something along the lines of “you don’t need to tell me,” you would be pretty much correct.

He seemed lost in thought for a long moment, throat bobbing as the last of the rum and orange vanished. Barely even thinking about it, he reached for the bottle and mixer behind him and topped up his mug. He stared into the distance as though Warlock wasn't even there. 

“Well, I thought the costume was funny,” Warlock said eventually. 

“Huh? Oh, yeah. No, it was, definitely, sorry. What were you even supposed to be?"

“Some weird eldritch horror thing, I guess? Our gardener was really weird about occult stuff, got a bit jumpy if you so much as mentioned the devil or said the word ‘damn’ or anything like that. Nanny was basically the opposite, she was so Goth. All leather and red trim, those choker necklaces…” His face clouded over. “Huh. In hindsight, she inspired a lot of my looks as a teen...”

"Listen," Adam said suddenly to Warlock. He seemed unfocused and his face had turned pale. "I need to go." 

He turned and pushed his way through the crowed. The door slammed behind him.

Warlock had been waiting for the inevitable strangeness that occurred whenever he met up with Adam, but this was markedly different than usual.

 

--

 

Adam practically sprinted home.

He unlocked the front door, ignored his housemates, sped upstairs and threw himself down on his bed, pulling his laptop towards him. 

An internet search for Warlock Dowling brought up all of the usual results. Social media accounts, publications he’d written for various school newspapers, articles where Warlock had been mentioned as ‘the son of the American diplomat Thaddeus Dowling’.

Adam spent the night scrolling, his head spinning with fresh revelations and his stomach turning over. He saw Instagram photos of Warlock with various celebrities, holiday photos of exotic places Adam would probably never see. Warlock as a young child, giggling as he waved an oversized American flag. Very rarely there was a photograph of the nanny and the gardener, always a little blurred but nonetheless unmistakable if you knew what you were looking for.

That was supposed to be my life, Adam thought. The last few weeks felt surreal all of a sudden, seen in this completely new light, a dizzying new angle.

How could he face Warlock after this? What would he even say to him?

The Them's group chat was lighting up; Wensleydale, down in Oxford, had found some article whilst prepping for a seminar which was sparking heavy debate. There were several gifs involved. Adam would enjoy reading that back later, but for now more important matters were at hand.

Guys, texted Adam. I’ve met someone— He deleted this and tried again. Something's happened recently— He tapped backspace. Finally, he went with, Remember that whole Apocalypse thing?

Pepper’s replies tended to be both frighteningly instant and reliably sarcastic. Rings a bell.

What’s happened?  That was Wensleydale. Brian simply posted a line of question marks.

Okay, Adam typed, trying to organise his cluttered thoughts. You know the angel and the demon thought another kid was the Antichrist and then it turned out to be me? Normally he would pause here for dramatic effect, but it wasn’t the same over text and besides, Adam was bursting to just tell someone. I met him!! … It's that guy I've been hooking up with.

There followed a series of predictably rude gifs and emojis.

Once the aubergines had died down, Adam continued: No seriously. What do I do???

Tell him. Bet he’ll freak out! supplied Pepper, helpfully.

Dating him might be hard if he doesn't know the truth, was Wensleydale's more measured reply.

Adam hated to admit that he was right.

--

 

Warlock couldn’t figure it out. Things had been going so well, he thought. What the fuck had happened?

Maybe Adam did know about the... weirdness. Maybe he finally knew that Warlock knew, and his... demonic plan, or whatever, (God, Warlock felt stupid even thinking those words) was scuppered. Nothing in the books he'd been reading had prepared him for this. Nothing at all had prepared him for the crushing disappointment that came with Adam's disappearance altogether.

The next few days were lonely ones, with no replies from Adam and no inclination on Warlock’s part to socialise with anyone else. His eyes skipped over his textbooks and his assignments went untouched. When he distracted himself with walks through London, he turned down unfamiliar streets and avoided what had become regular haunts with Adam. He felt inexplicably, bitterly nostalgic.

Warlock was so miserable, in fact, that he did something unusual.

He called his mother.

Mrs Dowling picked up after a few rings. She looked tired, squinting as she held her camera phone in front of her, and behind her he could see an array of pillows. An unexpected sense of relief flooded through Warlock as he looked at her. Here on the corner of a cold London street, Washington felt, for a brief moment, comfortingly close.

“Hey, Mom. Sorry, I should have checked the time difference. Did I wake you up?”

“Hey there kiddo. You’re okay.” Her eyes flickered to something off screen. “What’s up?”

“I just…” He hadn’t really known what he wanted, but then a thought came to him, inspired by thoughts of sudden abandonment. “I wondered… this is random but, do you remember my old Nanny? And the gardener we had around the same time? What happened to them?” 

Harriet’s eyes snapped back to the screen a second too late. Warlock wondered who was there. “Uh, I’m not sure to be honest, sweetie. Heard them say something about moving somewhere in Oxford. Radfield or something?” 

There was a sound on her end, voices. Television?

“Thanks Mom. Do you remember why they left?”

“It was a long time ago. They probably just got different jobs. Was that it? Did you need something else, sweetie?”

“It’s fine, Mom. You’re busy. I’ll let you go.”

She smiled, fond yet distracted. 

“Thanks Warlock. Talk to you soon!”

The screen went black. Warlock sighed. She hadn’t even thought to ask how he was doing, but that was nothing new.

Warlock shrugged, pulled his scarf a little tighter and turned into the next street. A minute later he stopped abruptly in the middle of the road, struck by a sudden thought. 

“Wait a minute,” Warlock said aloud. “Did they move there together?”

There was no one to answer his question of course, so Warlock just grinned and moved on, warm with thoughts of a possible happy ending for the strange duo who had been such a formative part of his childhood.

 

--

 

I need to talk to you was all the message said.

Warlock thought about ignoring it, ghosting Adam as thoroughly as he himself had been ghosted and putting the whole thing behind him, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. 

So when Adam turned up at his flat, Warlock let him in.

They exchanged terse greetings. Warlock took refuge in routine and busied himself with making tea, sliding a cup across the kitchen table as he took a seat opposite Adam. He watched as Adam inhaled the steam. There was a slight tremble to his fingers. He hadn’t removed his coat.

“I’m sorry,” said Adam at last. 

“Good.”

A long silence followed, in which Warlock didn’t take his eyes off Adam’s face and spiralled through an inward cycle of anger, frustration, pity, infatuation and anger again. He was just about to say something, anything to move this awkward situation forward, when Adam spoke again. 

“I have no idea how to say this.”

“Usually, people just send a text saying 'I’m not looking for a relationship right now,' or 'Sorry, this isn’t working out,' or whatever.” 

Adam looked appalled. “I don’t want to break up! If anything, you’re the one who’s going to break up with me.”

That wasn’t quite what Warlock had expected. His mouth worked uselessly, before finally setting on a rather ineloquent “Oh.”

Adam took a long drink of tea and braced himself. “You’re going to have to promise not to freak out. Fuck, when has that line ever worked? Okay, you can freak out a bit, but you have to promise to believe me.” He pressed his face into his palm. “Fuck, I am completely fucking this up.”

“Can you skip to the part where you start making sense?” 

A burst of nervous laughter escaped Adam’s lips, shaky and abrupt. “You might be waiting a while, but sure. Okay.” He breathed deeply, staring into the middle distance between them and lips moving a little, as though rehearsing what he was about to say. Warlock waited. His heart was beginning to hammer quite painfully in his chest as his mind spun through various horrible possibilities. Adam had cancer, Adam was a fugitive on the run, Adam was--

“I was the Antichrist,” said Adam, which was definitely not what Warlock was expecting.

His Babylonian spellbook was lying uselessly upstairs on his bed and his mind had gone so blank that he couldn't recall a single word of it. Any half-formed theories about possessions and hauntings might have been completely on the wrong track, given what he had just been told. However, Adam wasn't currently leeching his soul from his mortal body so Warlock figured he might just be okay, at least for the moment. At any rate, some clarification was required.

“Okay,” said Warlock slowly. “Quick question, but what the fuck?”

“Let me finish! Let me just... say the whole thing, and then you can ask questions and then I can leave if you never want to see me again because you think I’m nuts or whatever.” 

“Yeah, I’m really going to need some follow-up, stat. The Antichrist? As in, the creepy kid in all the horror movies?” 

“Kinda, except the real deal.” Adam drummed his fingers on the tabletop and pushed away his mug of tea. “I don’t want to do it here. Let’s go for a walk.”

“What? But--” Warlock looked out at the darkened sky. “It’s so late.”

Adam was already heading for the door, seeming not to have heard him. Warlock just sighed, grabbed his jacket and stuffed his feet into his boots, following him out into the crisp autumn air. They fell into step beside one another, leaves crunching underfoot. Adam’s hands were fixed his pockets and he watched his breath mist before him with each exhale. 

“It all started almost nine years ago,” said Adam at last. “We were born at the same hospital…” 

The tale took some time to tell. Warlock couldn’t help asking questions, and exclaiming disbelief. When Adam got to the revelations about his old nanny and gardener, Warlock had stopped short on the pavement and began to pace, muttering expletives. Adam thought it might almost be funny, if Warlock wasn’t clearly so distressed. There was a lot of emphatic gesturing, lots of incoherent noises of astonishment and frustration, and Warlock overall had the look of someone who simply didn’t know what to do with himself.

“...So that’s it,” Adam finished at last. “It wasn’t until I saw the photograph of you with Aziraphale and Crowley that I put two and two together. I’ve spent the last few days freaking out.” 

“I’ll say.” Warlock stopped pacing at last. “All right. Prove it. Do some divine magic or something.” A stubborn part of his brain still insisted that all of the recent weirdness was just a coincidence. Some visual proof wouldn't be amiss. Still, it all made some sort of horrifying sense.

“I can’t,” said Adam. “At least, I can’t do it consciously any more. I sort of officially lost my powers when I renounced Satan as my father and gave up the mantle of Antichrist. When I remade the world I didn’t do it exactly right though, so stuff still happens around me sometimes without me even realising it.” 

“You do know how completely fucking crazy that sounds, right?” Warlock’s accent had dipped heavily into mid-Western the more distressed he got. Adam took a brief moment to appreciate how endearing that was. 

“For the last time, yes. I wish I hadn’t found out. I think we’d have been better off not knowing. Now I’m face to face with this entire life that I should have lived, yours, and by the sounds of it, it was kinda shitty. No offence. If we’d been in the right places, the world might not even exist right now.” 

“Your idyllic village life is what saved the world?”

“I suppose so. Warlock, are you okay?”

Warlock let out a long, slow exhale. He hadn’t realised until this moment how much his body was wracked with tension, his shoulders almost up to his ears. He glanced over at Adam, whose gaze was tracked worriedly on him.

“I think I’m okay. I think you’re bullshitting me, but I also think you’re… maybe not? We’ve dated for a good while now. You’re not a liar. I just don’t know why you would say all this if it wasn’t true.” Warlock hid his face in his hands and tried to even out his breathing. When he finally collected himself, he was startled to see Adam’s tearful face. 

“I’m sorry. God, this is such a mess.” Adam rolled watery eyes at the ceiling. “Not that She’s listening, probably.”

She?  Thought Warlock, but that was a question for later. The sight of Adam so visibly upset wrenched at him and before Warlock realised he was doing it, he had reached out and grabbed his hand. Adam broke into a wobbly smile.

“So let’s say I’m playing along, for now,” said Warlock, not unkindly. “I really, really like you and even if you were the Antichrist, that wouldn’t change that. No judgement from me. My nanny literally raised me on vaguely Satanist lullabies.”

“Uh, yeah, because she was a literal Satanist? Does that not bother you a little bit?” 

“Well she's still one of the most badass women I’ve ever met. And Brother Francis genuinely made me appreciate nature and the world.”

“They left you.”

“Well, of course they did!” Warlock laughed. “I like your version, if I’m honest. That they ran off to save the world, rather than just abandoning me because I was an insufferable little shit. That makes me feel a lot better, actually. I was probably just an ant on the microcosm of their existence.” 

Adam’s expression was solemn. 

“Maybe.”

They had stopped walking again.

Warlock hadn’t been paying much attention to where they were going, but realised now that they had walked impossibly far, all the way across London and into a part of Soho he hadn’t seen before. In front of them stood a dark, dingy old bookshop. 

In the streetlights, he could just make out the fading letters A. Z. Fell across the front. There was a light on in the back room.

“Warlock,” said Adam, turning to face him. His hands reached out. Warlock took them in his own, instinctively. They were both cold, but Warlock’s heart was racing. He felt on the edge of something inexplicably important. “Do you trust me?” 

“I think so.”

He had stuck through everything so far, after all. That had to count for something.

“Come on, then,” said Adam.

He climbed the steps to the bookshop and pushed open the door.