Aziraphale crumpled to the floor, one hand barely holding him up, the other hand thrashing at his bow tie. He couldn't breathe. Why couldn't he breathe? He wasn't even supposed to NEED to breathe.
He yanked the bowtie off and threw it across the room and he still couldn't breathe. By this point he wasnt even thinking straight enough to miracle himself okay, he could only think of two things:
One, he was going to discorporate alone in his shop over a single phone call,
Two, the sound of Her voice, echoing everything Gabriel had just said.
He slumped over, arms no longer strong enough to hold him up, and he felt hot tears run down his face as he shook horribly.
'At least Crowley isn't here to see me,' he thought before he passed out.
"Aziraphale?" Crowley called into the empty shop. The door had been locked when he got here, but Aziraphale had given him a spare set of keys in case of an emergency. The lights were still on, but the air was stale, as though nothing in the room had moved in the last few days. Crowley miracles the dust off everything, growing slightly more concerned. "Angel?"
He wove his way to the back of the shop, his worry rising with each silent minute that passed. Finally he reached Aziraphale's study, and he miraculously unlocked the door.
He rushed to the unconscious angel, shaking his shoulder. Aziraphale didn't stir. Not knowing what else to do, Crowley gently lifted his angel off the floor and carried him outside to the Bentley.
Aziraphale had woken several times over the last few days, though he didn't know how much time had passed. He'd barely been aware of his surroundings, his body going back into panic mode the second he came awake. This time, however, things were different. Brighter, louder, and the queasy sensation of moving incredibly fast. This was worse than the floor, and he felt himself spasm, barely registering the voice that tried to call out to him. Everything hurt more than it should have, and he again struggled to breathe. After a few minutes, his body decided it had had enough, and he slipped back into unconsciousness.
The next time he woke, he was again somewhere different, albeit darker, softer, and gently quiet. His breath started to catch as his brain started to try to process where he was, but he felt a hand on his shoulder, turning him around and pulling him into a tight hug.
"Angel, it's okay, you're okay, calm down. Breathe. Its okay."
Aziraphale shuddered, but Crowley hugged him tighter.
"Breathe with me, okay? C'mon. In!"
Crowley took an exaggerated deep breath in, and Aziraphale did his best to follow.
The two breathed out together. They did this a few more times, until Aziraphale could breathe on his own. Once he was sure the angel wasn't going to panic again, Crowley loosened his grip, but still held on to the angel.
"Are you alright?" He asked.
"No," Aziraphale croaked. Why was his voice so hoarse?
"Do you want to talk about it?"
Aziraphale coughed. Crowley pulled a cup of water from off his bedside table and handed it to the angel, who sipped it carefully.
"What can I do for you, dear?" Crowley asked earnestly. Aziraphale focused on not choking on his water before replying.
"Tea?" He asked, throat still sore. He rubbed his throat to get the point across.
"Right, got it. Keep breathing until I come back, okay?"
Aziraphale nodded. As the demon left the room, the angel set the empty cup on his nightstand and sunk back into bed, exhausted. He hadn't realized how tired he was until Crowley came back with the tea to find the angel half asleep. Crowley cuddled up to Aziraphale as the angel tenderly sipped at the honey-lemon concoction in his hands. He felt some of the warmth from the tea glow from his chest, and he sighed contentedly. He put the cup down on the nightstand and lay down again, letting Crowley curl around him like a cloud of smoke.
"Are you feeling any better?" Crowley asked softly.
"Mhm," Aziraphale replied.
"Do you need anything else?"
"Ah. I'll, er,"
Aziraphale was out in a matter of minutes, and Crowley couldn't help but smile at the way the angel clung to him.
Crowley had to admit, he was torn. On one hand, he was incredibly concerned at how the normally bright and cheery angel seemed so...lifeless. On the other hand, the way the angel clung to him for warmth, the way he would reach for him when the demon moved too far away in bed, and the way he would wrap himself in blankets and wander into the kitchen on good days was kind of cute. But it had been a week since he had found his angel collapsed on the floor, and he hadn't seen Aziraphale smile since then.
He'd kept the windows closed and the curtains drawn, because Aziraphale got twitchy when it was too bright. He'd gotten good at making tea for Aziraphale, though the angel, normally a fan of sweets, had turned down cups with even a middling amount of sugar. He'd learned not to say anything whenever the angel did emerge from his blanket fort to shower, but he couldn't help but notice that his angel was a bit slimmer than usual. He hadn't been eating...well, at all. He didn't seem to want to.
"Aziraphale," Crowley had asked one night. "Do you want to have dinner? We could call out for something, maybe some pizza or some chips?"
"Are you sure? You've not eaten anything lately-"
"I'm fine, Crowley."
The angel had wandered back into the bedroom and hadn't emerged until the next morning.
"Aziraphale. Can we talk?"
He'd locked the bedroom door. He hated to do it, but Crowley needed to have this conversation.
"Is everything okay?"
"That's what I want to ask you, Angel. You've barely eaten, you don't go outside, you don't even smile anymore. I don't want to pressure you if you feel like shit, but...I'm worried about you, Aziraphale. I need to know what's wrong, and if I can help, but I can't just watch you mope around anymore. Please. Tell me what's wrong."
Aziraphale looked down at his lap, letting his blanket fall around him.
"Gabriel said that...the only reason I haven't fallen yet is because I'm so useless even Hell wouldn't want me. He said that maybe he should sneak me into Hell, that I'm so...shit at my job that I'd be better off down there, I could muck things up and make our job easier upstairs."
"He blames me for what happened at Tadfield! I know he does. He always teased me before, but now it's worse. 'Aziraphale, if you get any fatter you'll fall out of the sky.' 'Aziraphale, how does it feel knowing you ruined God's plan?' 'Aziraphale, why couldn't you just die when I told you to?' 'Aziraphale, why did God even let you hang around after you lost her sword? What are you good for anyway?' 'Aziraphale, why don't you just jump off a cloud and fall straight to hell? You'd be doing us all a favor-"
"Aziraphale!" Crowley shouted, grabbing Aziraphale's shaking shoulders and catching the angel as he fell forward, sobbing.
"You know that's a load of shit, right? Gabriel's just upset he won't get to fight The Great Battle Against Hell, and he takes it out on you because-"
"Because I'm SOFT!" The angel wailed.
"-because he knows it'll hurt you, angel. He knows he can cut you down by saying all these horrible things, so he does, because it makes him feel better about himself."
"But he's right, my dear," Aziraphale moaned. "I'm soft, and I've mucked up so many jobs..."
"Aziraphale, stop it. You're lovely. And you're far from useless. You helped Adam and Eve after that garden business, while Gabriel would have let them die. You helped save the world from the apocalypse, while Gabriel was looking FORWARD to it. Without you, none of this would still be here. There'd be no Ritz, no ducks, no bookshop-
"But Crowley...Gabriel called me that day to tell me he didn't want me running the shop anymore."
"He said I should go be more useful somewhere else, that clearly staying here in Soho was turning my brain and body to mush...he wants me to find somewhere else to hide out and be of more use...and he said She agreed with him."
"What? Where's his proof?"
"Proof? Crowley, we don't need proof that we've spoken to God. Angels like Gabriel have a more direct line to Her."
"Still, I don't believe that you leaving is part of the Plan."
"I tried to ask Her myself..."
Aziraphale paused, fresh tears welling up in his red-rimmed eyes.
"She didn't answer!" He sobbed. Crowley pulled him into a tight hug, rubbing his back.
"Angel...She was probably just busy. That doesn't mean she agrees with him. Gabriel lies all the time, the git. He's wrong about this."
"I can prove it. Oh God! Lend me just a moment of your time!"
He jumped on top of the coffee table, spreading his arms wide.
"If Principality Aziraphale is not meant to stay in Soho, send me a sign! Turn me into a snake right now!"
"If Gabriel is right, and Aziraphale is a soft, useless oaf who'd be better off in Hell, turn my hair blue!"
"If Aziraphale is twice the angel Gabriel will ever be, flick the lights off!"
The lights flickered off and then came back on.
"Crowley," Aziraphale moaned, reaching out his hands for his demon, making little grabby motions with his fingers.
"If Aziraphale is meant to stay here with me, keeping London safe and thwarting my devilish wiles, conjure up a cuppa! Chamomile!"
A cup with delicate flowering on it appeared next to Crowley on the coffee table.
"Thank you! Thank you very much!"
Crowley stepped off the coffee table, arms still wide as he bowed to Aziraphale.
"You could have done those things yourself," Aziraphale correctly pointed out.
"Alright, one more trick then. If Gabriel is right, and you've mucked so much up you'd be better off in Hell, he wouldn't have been able to tell you, you would have just fallen after Tadfield. Heaven wouldn't have let you stay. Mind pulling out your wings for me?"
Aziraphale did so, a bit uncomfortably since it had been awhile. His brilliant white wings stretched out, a little bit of soot still on them from the airport, which Crowley miracled away and attached to a businessman's suitcase down the street.
"See? You're lovely," Crowley said gently, softly stroking one of the wings.
"Thank you," Aziraphale whispered. He pulled them back in.
"Point made, my dear. I think I'm going to have a nap now."
"Will you come eat with me after you wake up? We can go for a picnic if you feel up to it."
"I don't know, Crowley," Aziraphale said honestly. "I'll see how I feel after I wake up."
Suddenly the lights flickered off and on multiple times, and with a bit of a clatter a golden coffee cup appeared on the table, steaming with tea. Both beings jumped, startled.
"Wasn't me!" Crowley said. Aziraphale started crying again, but happier this time.
"Thank you," he said Upwards, feeling much better already.
Aziraphale slept for the next few days, but he looked better when he woke. He opened one of the windows one day, staring onto the streets below, and taking a deep breath of city air. He let Crowley order food almost every night, and ate, albeit hesitantly. Eventually, he only slept at night, and during the day came out to watch television with Crowley.
One sunny afternoon, Aziraphale turned to Crowley, who was trying to guess the correct answers on Family Feud before the contestants did.
"Can we go for a picnic?" He asked.
"Yeah, f'course," Crowley mumbled. "C'mon, you oaf, it's 'notebook!'"
"Crowley," Aziraphale said.
"Huh? Sorry." The TV turned itself off.
"Can we go for a picnic?" Aziraphale repeated.
"Are you sure?" Crowley asked, sitting up straight.
"I think so," Aziraphale responded. "I can't stay here forever. I need to get some fresh air, at the very least."
"Indeed," Crowley said, standing up. "I'll conjure up some food if you'll get dressed?"
Aziraphale stepped out of the shower, choosing to let his hair dry naturally. He had been forgoing a lot of small miracles he would normally do in favor of letting things happen naturally. At first it had been because thinking about Heaven made him tear up, but as he got used to using fewer miracles on himself he found he liked it. Maybe, when he was well enough to run his shop again, he might actually start selling some books for pocket money, rather than just miracleing the things he wanted into existence.
For now, though, he slipped into the clean clothes Crowley had gotten him. The light blue short sleeved button-up shirt and khaki shorts weren't entirely out of his comfort zone, but they were different enough that Aziraphale was still trying to figure out how much he liked them.
Fully dressed, he stepped into the bedroom to find Crowley, female-presenting and wearing a red sundress, sitting on the bed and slipping on some black flats. "Ready?" Crowley asked, reaching for a ovalish, white-trimmed pair of sunglasses (another change).
"Almost," Aziraphale said, grabbing a pair of sandals and sliding them on.
Crowley stood up and walked into the kitchen, grabbing a picnic basket and meeting the angel at the front door.
"I'm right here with you," Crowley said, looking back at Aziraphale. "If you start to panic, if you feel the slightest bit uncomfortable, grab my hand and let me know and I'll bring us right back. No shame in it at all. Alright?"
"Alright," Aziraphale gulped.
Together they stepped out of the apartment and went down the stairs, stopping just inside the front door.
Aziraphale stepped over the threshold.
It was warm. That was the first thing he noticed. It wasn't too bright, but enough that he closed his eyes, letting the sun wash over him. He listened to the sounds: people talking, cars speeding by, birds chirping.
"You alright?" Crowley asked.
"I think so."
"Okay. Do you want to drive?"
"Walking it is. Hold my hand?"
The two walked, slowly, to the park, holding hands the whole time.
The ground was firm, the grass vibrant, and the air sweet. Crowley had gotten him a popsicle from the ice cream truck, and he was enjoying the flavor. He got up to go throw away the stick, though it was a bit of a walk away. He enjoyed it, though, letting himself fully appreciate the nature. Just as he reached the trashcan he was pushed to the ground by...well, he barely saw who it was. He just felt a hand on his shoulders and a sharp shove and he fell, landing hard in the dirt. He heard a teenager's laugh as his saboteur ran away. Disgruntled. He pulled himself up, tossing his popsicle stick and dusting himself off.
He made his way back to the picnic blanket. On his way there, he passed by the gazebo he and Crowley had once stood in, threatening to never see each other again. Despite knowing things were different now, he couldn't help but feel a twinge in his chest. Especially since there was a trumpet player underneath the gazebo, playing...rather badly. But the playing reminded him enough of the trumpets of heaven, so without thinking he miracled a better trumpet and a different song into the student's hands, which he immediately regretted. He had forgotten how it felt to perform a miracle. It wasn't much, in fact he had barely noticed before, but the small rush of power that flowed through him like a river as he cast a miracle made his breath hitch and his knees wobble.
He moved more quickly now, having to stop every few minutes to catch his breath. At one point a jogger pushed past him, throwing a glare over her shoulder at him.
Now his hands were shaking. He made it back to the blanket and fell onto it, vision going sideways.
"Are you alright?" He heard Crowley ask.
"Tickety-boo," he said carefully, his voice sounding off-color and alien. He lay on his back and stared at the sky, trying to keep his breath from moving too quickly.
He closed his eyes. He could feel the stress taking over now.
"I don't want to leave just yet," he said quietly. "It's so nice out."
"Can I do anything, angel?"
"Hold my hand and lie with me."
And they did. They lay there under the sun, completely silent, holding hands. And while the stress didn't completely fade away, Aziraphale realized he did feel much better.