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Paradise Lost

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Aziraphale awoke with a start. He could not remember much of his nightmares, though the lingering sense of fear clung to his mind. He took a few deep breaths in an attempt to calm his nerves, and after a moment, his thoughts slowed back to a normal pace. He wished that the last few dreams had been as amazing, though fantastical, as his first one. The idea of Crowley proposing marriage as a way to form a “loophole” so that they could be intimate without Aziraphale falling was utterly ridiculous. The angel’s imagination had clearly gone overboard.

The bedroom was still covered in darkness, as the sun would not begin to rise for at least another hour. When Aziraphale pulled the blankets closer to his chin, Crowley rolled over and wrapped his long arm around the angel’s torso, pressing his naked body against Aziraphale’s side before snuggling his face into his neck.

Aziraphale’s heart skipped a beat at the realization of who was cuddling him. The night before was no dream. It happened. It actually happened. A swarm of butterflies manifested in Aziraphale’s stomach as Crowley’s warm breath flowed over his skin. He rested his face in the demon’s hair, taking in his musky scent, before adjusting his arm so that Crowley’s head rested on top of his bicep. He could not help but smile when remembering the first kiss with his one true love. That first moment between them had been so incredible, Aziraphale could never have imagined that anything would top it. Though with the help of Crowley, he found out that there was such a thing, and it most certainly exceeded his expectations. He had read plenty of novels where there was physical intimacy, and he knew the cold, clinical details of what it would be like, but to experience it himself was something Aziraphale could have never prepared for. To think, they did not even technically have “real sex” yet. That would come in due time, after the wedding, of course.

He was grateful for Crowley’s guidance that night. However, to say he was taken aback when the demon decided to give him a surprise blowjob would be a considerable understatement. At first, he had been furious. How could Crowley risk doing something like that after knowing what was at stake? Still, after seeing that man between his legs, how could he protest?

Aziraphale moved his head back to get a better look at his sleeping fiancé in the dim moonlight. Crowley’s usual flawless hair was now a rogue untamed mass. His arm laid on top of Aziraphale's bare stomach, occasionally petting the thin layer of body hair as if the demon was dreaming about stroking a large cat. His mouth was slightly agape, allowing soft snores to escape his lips. Out of all the ages, Aziraphale had never seen anyone so perfect. He could lay there all day, but if there was one thing that Aziraphale needed to maintain, it was his morning routine. After giving Sleeping Beauty a gentle kiss on the forehead, Aziraphale began to slip out from under the covers. Crowley grunted in protest.

“Don’t go…” Crowley slurred. He barely had the strength to open his eyes, “‘Taking my pillow.”

Aziraphale grinned as he placed a kiss on his lips, which Crowley drowsily returned.

“I’ll be back shortly, dear.” Aziraphale whispered, “We can cuddle all you want then.”

Crowley grunted in acknowledgment before he fell limp and began to snore again.

The cold hit Aziraphale’s body as soon as he pulled the sheets off. With a quiet snap of his fingers, a thick robe manifested around him with matching slippers appearing on his feet. Aziraphale crept out of the bedroom, before heading to the washroom.

Technically, angels did not need to bathe. A minor miracle could efficiently deal with any filth or body odor issues. However, Aziraphale discovered centuries ago that a good bath was an excellent way to start the day. Also, replaying “the switch” in his mind while in the tub always made him chuckle.

Part of him considered waking Crowley to invite him in on the fun. The thought of seeing the demon naked in a steamy tub was certainly tempting, but then again, Crowley looked so peaceful in bed. Aziraphale hated to ruin that for him. He made a mental note to prepare a second bath with his soon-to-be husband later that evening.

When Aziraphale entered the washroom, he turned on the bath and started his routine of picking which scented oils to use. As he was browsing the large cabinet, Aziraphale absentmindedly ran his fingers over the tiny glass bottles when he noticed his fingernails. They were not his usual pristine, perfectly manicured nails. Instead, they were a shade of dull greenish-black and protruded half an inch past his fingers before coming to a sharp point. Aziraphale’s heart began to quicken as his mind flashed back to his nightmares. Faded images of melancholy faces covered in sores and boils, walls covered in damp filth, the terrible grin of Lucifer himself.

“Oh, please, no.” Aziraphale breathed.

Aziraphale rushed over to the mirror, which was already partially covered in condensation. He hastily wiped off enough to see himself before he screamed and nearly staggered into the bathtub.

His eyes were no longer human in appearance. They were now completely covered in a shade of cold blue that resembled the inside of a glacier. His pupils were now long, vertical slits.

How could this have happened? They had taken precautions. They didn’t even have sex! Was acknowledging true love for another all that was needed to fall? Could She be that cruel? Aziraphale’s new demonic eyes began to well up with tears. He looked up at the ceiling, forcing his subconscious upward like he had done so many times before.

“Why?” He asked his Mother, “Why would you punish me for loving him?”

There was nothing. No warm voice of assurance, no guiding hand on his shoulder. For the first time in his long existence. Aziraphale felt completely and utterly alone.

“Everything alright, angel?” Crowley called out from the other end of the hallway, “Thought I heard a scream.”

Aziraphale pulled himself together and made a point to hide the terror in his voice.

“Oh, everything’s fine, dear! Tiptop!” Aziraphale replied in a forcefully cheerful tone, “You must have been dreaming. All’s well.”

“Dreaming, yeah, must have been… Is that a bath I hear?”

“Uh--” Aziraphale closed the door to the washroom. Muffled footsteps were heard coming down the hallway. Aziraphale regretted not purchasing a doorknob with a lock.

“Mind if I join you?” Crowley’s voice grew closer. After a moment, the handle began to turn. Panicking, Aziraphale pressed his shoulder against the door and leaned his weight against the hardwood.

“Did you lock the door? Wait, this doesn’t have a lock. Is the door stuck?”

“I’m uh-- not quite ready to be seen right now. I’m indecent.” Aziraphale flinched at the horrible choice of words.

“I had your cock in my mouth a few hours ago.” Crowley chuckled, “I think I can handle some indecency.”

Aziraphale’s heart began to race as he desperately searched for the excuse that would get Crowley to leave him alone. He was not ready for his love to see him like this.

“Angel, I can smell your fear through the door.” Said Crowley, his voice took a more serious tone, “What’s wrong?”

Aziraphale could not think of an answer as tears continued to run down his cheeks.

“Do you need help? Are you hurt?” Crowley pushed against the door with more force. Aziraphale was barely able to hold him back, but with a final shove, he managed to keep the door closed.

“No, I--” Aziraphale wiped away the tears with the sleeve of his robe, “Crowley, please just leave me alone. I don’t care what you do, just leave me alone!”

There was a long silence. For a moment, Aziraphale thought that Crowley honored his request. That is until he saw a long black and red serpent dash out from under the door and slither across the tiled floor. Within seconds, Crowley transformed from a snake, back into his human form.

Aziraphale pressed his back against the wall as he shoved his hands into his pockets and looked down at the floor, “Damned it, Crowley! I said leave me alone!”

“‘Damn it, Crowley’?” Crowley repeated, “Now I know something’s wrong. Since when do you swear so easily?”

Aziraphale heard footsteps move closer to him but dared not look up. The sound of running water stopped. Crowley must have turned off the facet.

“Look at me, angel.”

Aziraphale gritted his teeth at the sound of that word. The pet name he once found endearing now felt like some cruel joke. He pressed himself harder against the wall, wishing he could faze through it and run away.

“Aziraphale...” Crowley’s voice had lowered to a whisper, almost like a prayer, “Let me see your eyes.”

Crowley was now standing inches away from Aziraphale. The demon had not bothered to get dressed before getting out of bed. For a moment, Aziraphale admired his slender frame. Something inside him yearned to grab Crowley, throw him back on the bed, and fuck him as hard as he could just so that for a moment, he could forget what he had become. He was already a demon anyway. What was the harm? As he contemplated this, an awful thought slithered into Aziraphale’s mind. Crowley was responsible for this. He coerced him into being physically intimate. He followed Aziraphale throughout the ages, gradually putting doubtful thoughts into his mind. He was even the one who initiated their first conversation up on the Eastern Gate. This was all Crowley’s doing.

“Aziraphale, please. Just look at me.” Crowley’s voice was like a drug. He could not resist. When Aziraphale lifted his head to meet Crowley’s gaze, he found himself clenching his fists.

Crowley’s eyes widened as his jaw muscles flexed. Aziraphale thought he saw tears begin to form, though the demon blinked them away.

“Get in the Bentley.” Said Crowley as he snapped his usual attire onto this body.

Aziraphale blinked, “What?”

“Get dressed and get in the car. We’re reversing this.”

“Reversing?” Aziraphale could not believe Crowley could be so daft, “There is no reversing this.”

Crowley had already left the washroom and was making his way to the front of the building. Aziraphale had to jog after him to keep up.

“Crowley, are you listening?” Said Aziraphale. How could Crowley think it was remotely possible for a demon to be redeemed? No such thing had ever happened in the history of creation. That is unless he was bluffing. Maybe he just wanted to trick Aziraphale into going down to Hell with him where he would be forced into Lucifer’s service. His anger showed in his tone. Crowley stopped in the main room of the bookshop and turned around at the sudden aggression in Aziraphale’s voice. His body remained tense, but his voice remained calm. Aziraphale found it to be patronizing.

“Aziraphale, I know what you’re going through right now.” Said Crowley, “I went through it after the Fall. All that hatred, resentment, and paranoia boiling up-- but you shouldn’t let that overwhelm you. You need to think clearly.”

“I’m not overwhelmed.” Said Aziraphale. He felt his new nails break through the skin of his palms as he clenched his fists even tighter, “My mind’s never been more clear.”

Crowley took a step towards him and attempted to take hold of Aziraphale’s hand, but he pulled away.

“You did this to me.” Aziraphale hissed.

Crowley looked as if Aziraphale had just slapped him in the face, “Angel, I’m--”

Aziraphale shoved Crowley, forcing him to take several steps back, “-- Don’t you call me that! Don’t you dare!”

Aziraphale had never been physically violent with anyone before. Adrenaline surged through him as he glared at Crowley, who seemed to be unable to speak. He just stood there in shock.

“I was loyal to Her.” Said Aziraphale as he took a step forward, “I loved Her. I would never have considered loving anyone else if it wasn’t for you.”

“Ang-- Aziraphale-- I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.” Crowley moved towards Aziraphale and tried to retake his hand. Before he could stop himself, Aziraphale pushed against Crowley’s chest as hard as he could, sending him flying nearly five feet before he slammed into the floor with a thud. Crowley coughed and gasped as he attempted to regain the air in his lungs. A flash of regret formed in Aziraphale’s mind, but it was quickly overtaken by pure uncontrolled rage.

“Get out.” Aziraphale’s voice was cold. He did not even recognize it as his own.

Crowley pushed himself up onto his knees while keeping eye contact with Aziraphale. Tears began to stream down his face. “Aziraphale, please, I can hel--”

Aziraphale marched over to Crowley and grabbed him by the arm, forcing him onto this feet, “I want you out. Out of my shop. Out of my life!”

Aziraphale snapped, and the front doors to his bookshop swung open, “Just get out!”

Aziraphale shoved Crowley out onto the street, where he staggered into the side of his Bentley. Aziraphale heard Crowley call out his name as he slammed the door. As he turned the lock, Aziraphale rested his head against the wood and closed his eyes. After a long silence, he heard the familiar sound of the Bentley’s engine burst to life before it quickly faded into the distance.

Aziraphale’s face grew hot as he gritted his teeth. He had never been filled with so much hatred for one person. How could Crowley do this to him? Still, what did he expect? Crowley was a demon, after all. He should never have trusted him. He should never have talked to him back in the Garden. He should have listened to Her. He should have listened to Gabriel. He should have done many things, but it was too late now. Too late to fix his mistakes.

He paced around the bookshop, trying to find some way to vent all the malice that was coursing through him. He found himself staring at his collection of books as he moved around the room. Every book was a memory, a memory of what he once was, something that he can never get back. A flash of red filled Aziraphale’s vision as the picked up the closest book lying on a display table and threw it against the wall. A sense of relief flickered in his mind, and in an instant, it was gone. He picked up another book and threw it, this time at the empty wine bottle from the night before, causing the glass to fly in every direction. Again, he felt a small amount of relief, though it faded just as quickly as it arrived. Aziraphale picked up more books one by one and threw them across the room. The small sense of relief he gained when the antiques smashed against walls or furniture encouraged him to continue. When all the books on the tables had been thrown, he moved to the ones on the shelves, hurling objects he once cherished through the air and letting them crash into framed paintings, statues, and glass cabinets. At one point, Aziraphale realized he was screaming. The sound was primal and unfamiliar. He was no longer crying, though only because his tear ducts were now barren.

After a time, Aziraphale’s legs buckled, and he fell to his knees. His throat was sore. His eyes stung, his body was exhausted. His mind was completely void of thought. He rolled over onto his back and stared up at the ceiling. He laid on the floor in silence for what felt like an eternity.

“Ya’ know out of all the temper tantrums I’ve seen,” Said a depressingly familiar voice, “That one’s definitely in the top ten.”

Aziraphale looked over to the voice and saw perfectly polished light brown dress shoes. He knew who it was before he met their gaze.

Standing a short distance away in the center of the destroyed bookshop, stood Archangel Gabriel. His grey three-piece suit was tailored and ironed to perfection, accenting every inch of his tall, broad frame. His violet eyes seemed to drill a hole through what was left of Aziraphale’s soul. Aziraphale wanted nothing more than to throw a book at his smug face, but he barely had the strength to lift an arm, let alone throw a book.

“I thought we told you to leave us alone.” Said Aziraphale. His voice was raspy and painful.

“Oh, trust me, I want nothing to do with either of you.” Said Gabriel as he walked over to Aziraphale and crouched down at his side, “Especially since you went insane and face-fucked a demon--”

Gabriel wrinkled his face when he settled into a crouching position, “--Good lord, you even smell like him now.”

“We said no more surveillance.” Said Aziraphale, still lying on the floor.

Gabriel raised an eyebrow, “Did you really think that would stop Her?”

Aziraphale flinched at the thought of Her watching him fall.

“She wants to talk to you.” Gabriel continued.

“Beg your pardon?” Aziraphale’s voice cracked at the end of the sentence.

“Though since you cut yourself off, She sent me down here to temporarily reconnect you.”

“Wait, wait, so I can speak to her again?” Aziraphale pushed himself up on his elbows. Gabriel leaned back to keep his distance as if he was infected with a deadly contagion.

“Temporarily,” Gabriel repeated as he firmly placed his pointer finger in the center of Aziraphale’s forehead. A wave of white light crashed into him as Aziraphale felt his consciousness being hoisted upwards towards the heavens.

Aziraphale could not tell how long he flew. It could have been a minute. It could have been a day. Regardless, when he stopped, he could no longer feel his corporeal form. He was not in the part of Heaven that he recognized. There was nothing but white. He could not decipher what was up or down, left, or right. It was an endless void, yet Aziraphale felt entirely at peace.

“Hello, Aziraphale.” Said a voice. Not from any particular direction. It seemed to be coming from everywhere at once.

“Hello, Mother.” Said Aziraphale, though he did not so much as say it, as he no longer had a mouth. It was more accurate to say that he willed the phrase into existence.

God’s voice was calm and soothing, yet void of any emotion.

“You have had quite the journey.” Said God.

“You can say that.” Aziraphale tried to laugh, but he was unable to recreate the emotion necessary to laugh. All emotions were difficult to recreate when one was incorporeal.

“I am sorry for what has happened to you, my child.” Said God, “You must not blame the demon, Crowley. This was inevitable from the moment you met him.”

“So, you knew this would happen?”

“I knew of many different outcomes, all of which were inevitable. All have happened in one realm or another. I did not know which outcome you would have.”

Aziraphale was having difficulty wrapping his mind around the idea of different realms and simultaneous outcomes that were all different, though he decided this was not the time to ask. “Mother, Gabriel said that you wanted to discuss something with me?”

“Yes, my dear.” God continued, “I would like to give you the opportunity to return to us.”

“What? How is that possible?”

“All is possible for me, my child.”

“Then, why? Why are you offering this to me and not the other demons?”

“The others fell out of jealousy and rebellion. You did no such thing. You fell in love. A dangerous road, but one that can be forgiven.”

“I’ll do anything, just tell me what I need to do?”

There was a long silence before God’s voice was heard again.

“If you wish, I can wipe your mind of all memories containing the demon, Crowley. You will be able to start anew with his existence cleansed from your consciousness.”

“I see. Will he remember me?”

“Yes, but you will be given a new body. He will not recognize you, and you will not remember him.”

Now that Aziraphale was free from his new demonic form, he realized how clouded his judgment had become. Crowley was right. He had become paranoid. Guilt began to fill Aziraphale as the sight of Crowley being thrown across the bookshop flashed into his consciousness. Maybe if he had a veteran demon’s guidance, he could learn how to contain these new emotions.

“And what if I refuse these terms?” He asked.

“I will allow you to live the rest of your existence with the demon, Crowley, in your current corporeal state. The two of you will never interact with myself or any other divine being ever again.”

If Aziraphale had a heart, it would be pumping madly in his chest. He had the opportunity to be redeemed, but he would be forced to forget his love, and Crowley would be unable to recognize Aziraphale even if they were standing right in front of each other. If he refused, he would be forced to live his life as a demon, but Crowley would be by his side, that is, if he forgave Aziraphale for attacking him.

“What is your decision, my child?”