Written for Slodwick's A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words challenge.

My picture:

Old Street is the next station from Angel on the Northern Line. It's probably more interesting in dreams, and in London Below.

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Old Street
by afrai

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Aziraphale woke up suddenly, opening his eyes on harsh bright light. He blinked, confused, and opened his eyes again.

It was still there. When he looked out of the -- carriage? Why was he in a carriage? -- he saw acres of sand rolling as he hadn't seen sand roll since he'd decided that the Middle East was, really, a bit too enthusiastic for his tastes, packed his bags and left for more temperate climes. Aziraphale moved, realised something was wrong, and looked down to see something even more horrifying.

He was wearing shorts.

Aziraphale could see his own knees.

In his capacity as an angel, Aziraphale approved of knees in general, as a part of God's glorious creation and a good idea when it came to things like stairs and yoga. As Aziraphale, owner of knees and a mind-set tuned to the aesthetic of the late 1800s, he felt vaguely that knees in the specific were better out of sight, where they couldn't bother anyone.

"You don't like them?" said a pure, sweet voice. "I'm sorry. I thought they would be appropriate attire for where we were going."

Aziraphale turned. It was Islington.

Several things fell into place at once, including the certainty that he was in trouble. He tried not to let this show on his face.

"Where we were -- " He paused. "Where are we?"

That door, he thought. He could have sworn nothing could but God's will alone could have opened that door, except that he wouldn't swear, of course, because it didn't do to swear even when a friendly visit to a run-down former colleague abruptly metamorphosed into a trip to a strange realm with a being who, to be frank, had considerably fewer of its marbles than anyone should have who hadn't overdone it with the sacred mushrooms.

After all that effort he'd gone to, wading through that fetid maze, thought Aziraphale resentfully. It wasn't as if the Beast could hurt him, true, but visiting Islington always meant he had to buy new shoes. You'd think it would appreciate the gesture, instead of breaking out and making for the nearest desert.

"I do not leave my citadel, as you know," said Islington mildly. "But there are ways to certain places that do not involve leaving. Ways of memory, paths of dream. This is one of them."

"Oh, really?" said Aziraphale. "How interesting. But I'm afraid I must have overstayed my welcome, how time does fly when you're having -- " he choked on the enormity of the lie "-- well, yes, anyway, it must be getting late, I really must be -- "

"Time has no meaning here," said Islington, watching the sand flow past. "I have something to show you."

"Oh, lovely," said Aziraphale weakly.

They stopped in a part of the desert that looked exactly like every other part, and descended, Aziraphale squinting in the sunlight, Islington gazing clear-eyed at whatever it thought it saw.

There was a driver sitting outside the carriage. He looked comfortably brown and human, and reminded Aziraphale rather of one of the Apostles -- Luke? Maybe Peter, the poor boy. Aziraphale smiled at him, then staggered when he turned his face and smiled back, blood trickling from his eye.

Or rather, where his eye had been.

"Don't mind that," said Islington, without looking around. "It's just a dream."

The driver shrugged and gave him a grin, resigned and humorous. Somehow it made Aziraphale even angrier. He grabbed Islington by the arm.

"What have you done?" he said. "Where is this?"

Islington laughed, kind and amused and revolting. Aziraphale dropped his arm as if it burned him.

"You need to ask when," Islington said indulgently. "Watch."

"What?" said Aziraphale, but there was a blaze in the sky that put the sun in shadow, coming closer and closer, and he already knew. He hadn't been here, but he knew.

"Watch," said Islington, and the fire hit the ground, the shockwaves rippling through the sand in concentric circles. Aziraphale was running before he knew it, his eyes burning.

He knew the angel struggling in the midst of the fire, even though he had never seen him like this. Aziraphale hadn't met him until after he'd fallen from grace --

"Oh, Crowley," said Aziraphale.

The angel was writhing in the sand like a snake, abandoned to all sense of anything but his own anguish. He was crying, the edges of his distorted face already rippling, turning scale-shiny.

Islington's cool hand landed on Aziraphale's shoulder.

"You and I chose the right side," it said. "He didn't."

Aziraphale shoved it off with absent-minded violence.

"It doesn't matter," he said. "Do you hear me, Crowley? It's going to be all right. You're going to be all right . . ."

The angel looked at him without recognition, and he realised that if Crowley remembered this, he would never forgive Aziraphale for seeing him now, like this, naked and ashamed.

Aziraphale stood up, and turned away. Islington was sprawled on the sand, holding its wrist.

"You were here," said Aziraphale. "We were battling across the heavens, and you were here. Watching them."

"They deserved it," said Islington, and now its voice was nothing like nice.

Aziraphale thought of its dark prison, nothing but the light of the candles and the splash of the waterfall to keep it company. You could go mad, alone in the darkness.

But it had been bright in Atlantis. And it had been bright in the tavern where Crowley had first bought Aziraphale a drink, and said, you know, maybe we could work something out . . .

Crowley knew about being alone in the darkness. He knew something about keeping sane in it, too.

Aziraphale's hand shot out.

"Come along," he said. "We're going home."

"I can't," spat Islington. "And you've forgotten what it is."

"Oh," said Aziraphale, thinking of Crowley, and that cafe he was so fond of in Montmartre. It had been a long time since either of them had been to France. They ought to go again. "I have a pretty good idea."

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