He woke up to a cold and grey morning. A soft mist veiled the outside world from his view as he turned in his fine black sheets to face the window. He could not remember his dream.
A very long time ago, he had managed to convince Aziraphale that beings such as themselves do not dream at all. That was a lie. For both of them. Not that the angel would ever find out, since he never slept anyway.
He could not remember his dream.
It was all in the semantics.
He chose to believe that the heavy feeling of loss and despair was brought about by the rain.
By half past noon he was already restless and wisps of the dream haunted the edges of his mind. He decided on judicious application of all that pent-up energy to his career advancement, he stalked out into the wet and miserable London streets in search of prey. 1
Today he decided he would target the Spirit of Christmas Shopping. It was quite nostalgic to happen upon stores selling the gift cards he had contrived to nurture and spread around until most of the major shopping chains had caught on. 2
By the time rush hour had rolled past and the entertainment from inciting road rage and the general irritation had faded, Crowley was ready to head on home and watch the aftereffects of his Christmas Shopping disruption spree in full HD.
Heading towards the Bentley, he cut across a tiny park with the intent of feeding the pigeons the remnants of his lunch as it was too late to travel across the city to St James Park. Right in the middle of his path lay an apple. 3
He stared at it several long seconds.
Then started running towards his car.
In the beginning was the Word.
He came into awareness of himself in a vast expanse filled with Him. In the spaces below, above and around him, he could feel his brethren unfurling from their own Words. Each Word defined who they were. Each Word defined their purpose. Everything was pre-ordained.
Their Form followed their Function.
The unborn universe spun slowly in the Creator’s grasp, vast realms of possibilities unspooling before them. Warmth, love, infinite wisdom ran from Him through the spaces in between and filled them with life. They broke the very first silence by lifting their voices up in song.
It was as it should be.
“Angel,” he announced decisively upon arrival in the bookshop, “I need a drink. A really strong one.”
Aziraphale was standing behind his perpetually dusty and stained counter, talking on his antiquated telephone. He waved at his general direction with a distracted, “Hello dear,” and promptly went back to his telephone conversation.
Crowley did a slow circuit around the room, idly noting the half-opened boxes of secondhand books stacked near the stool behind the counter, and discreetly nudged several bookshelves straighter and shooed several water stains away from the ceiling.
When he got back to the counter Aziraphale was still on the phone, talking animatedly. From the one-sided pieces of conversation he heard, he presumed that the person on the other end of the line was Adam, who had just recently come home from his gap year touring with the Them. Amused and somewhat soothed by the familiar cadence of Aziraphale’s words and the general feeling of home in the bookshop, Crowley allowed himself to drift towards the boxes of (relatively) new books. A flash of dull purple caught his eye and he shifted the top off of one of the boxes to reveal a familiar looking hardcover.
Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale, a first edition copy. There were also several other James Bond books in the same box.
Looking back at Aziraphale, who was still engrossed by the telephone conversation, he settled himself on the couch which was startled to find itself leather and dust-free. The way it was going, might as well kill a few hours by revisiting the nostalgia of 1967.
The night passed by in a pleasant blur. A cup of hot, sweet tea appeared at his elbow, on top of a table that previously wasn’t there. He could vaguely hear Aziraphale puttering around the shop, heard mutterings about dinner and mumbled generic responses in all the right places. Eventually he noticed that the soft yellow lamp on the wall behind him was the only light on and Aziraphale was nowhere to be found.
He carefully extracted himself from the couch, leaving a warm, Crowley-shaped indentation on it. He frowned momentarily when it made a soft “poof” sound and reverted to the dusty, saggy monstrosity it had been before he’d sat on it.
“Angel?” he called out into the quiet room. Only the silence of the night answered him and he wracked his brains to remember their conversation from earlier, but his mind came up blank. Shrugging, he placed the finished copy of Casino Royale back in the box and turned to leave.
He spent the next few days trying to avoid all the parks in London, which was more difficult than it sounded. Every path he started down on tended to end with him looking over a large patch of greenery which triggered wisps of his dream to float across his mind.
And the most aggravating thing about it was that Aziraphale still wasn’t around in the bookshop.
In the thousands of years they had known each other, Crowley had never felt the urge to unload his nightmares on Aziraphale so badly. It wasn’t fear of judgment, although Aziraphale did tend to take a dim view on demons, especially the fallen angels.
No. It was more that Crowley didn’t want to be dragged through the maudlin memories and half-formed thoughts that had festered in his mind for eons.
He would deny ever regretting the Fall. Deny the impotent rage that had swept through him, deny screaming in loss and sorrow at being cut off from the Heavenly Host. In heaven everything was light and warmth and love. Each and every one of the Malakhim was connected to God and each other.
Crowley did not Fall. It was a choice. He Sauntered Vaguely Downwards. He preferred to be alone.
Once again, he turned on his heel and headed straight for the bookshop.
Aziraphale still wasn’t there, although the book Casino Royale was exactly where he left it. On impulse, he grabbed the copy and after a thorough rooting around the bookshop, found On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
He vaguely remembered that it was the book where James Bond drank all those fine liquors. Crowley needed a stiff drink - several stiff drinks, as a matter of fact. He decided to start with The Vesper since that martini was the one mentioned in Casino Royale.
He remembered the colours.
The older angels had already been at work creating the bare bones on what was to be their Father’s masterpiece. He remembered the soft shades of the darkness and the sharp edges of the light. He remembered the vast vaults of Heaven spreading out above him and beyond him, the wheeling stars and the spinning galaxies, remembered the solidity of the dry land called Earth and the glittering motion of the waters called Sea. He remembered eagerly waiting with his siblings for their turn to serve their Father. Serve their purpose.
And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.
And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
And the evening and the morning were the third day. 4
He remembered his duty.
Aziraphale found him face down on his desk, gesturing angrily to a potted plant which had not been there previously. The poor plant5 was shaking silently in fear as Crowley slurred sullen words in its direction.
“My dear,” Aziraphale coaxed, slowly extricating a bottle of high class claret6 from the demon’s death-grip.
Crowley clung onto it with a fierce kind of tenacity and growled at him, “I designed it you know. It was mine to create. I was rather good at it.”
“Good at what?” Aziraphale asked, blinking in confusion.
“Made cerf … cerfit … made sure the colours were just right! I mean, sure Arariel said I was copying from Jegudiel’s emeralds but I was not! I’wus entirely different. Made them different… I’wus perfectly a deeper shade of green. It had life. “
Crowley curled in into himself, forehead pressed tight against the wine bottle. His knuckles shone white with the fierceness of his grip on the fragile glass.
Alarmed, Aziraphale guided him away from the counter and gently steered him onto the couch in the back room of the shop. He did not know the names of those angels, but they sounded familiar enough. Everyone knew everyone in Heaven. It was hard not to, what with the invasive interconnectedness and all. Heaven’s unforgiving light shined everywhere.
“Angel…” Crowley’s slitted eyes were soft amber in the dim light. “Am I not good enough? I was only doing what I was made to do. Why did He …”
Aziraphale felt his eyes sting as he thought of Crowley throughout the thousands of years on Earth, never understanding why he Fell, striving to do his best anyway despite being on the other side. He thought of Crowley throwing himself into his role as a demon, becoming quite the maestro without really absorbing the fire and brimstone hate of Hell itself.
Words tumbled all over his mind. Words like “ineffable” and “destiny”, though it all boiled down to the convoluted and murky definitions of “free will”. The Apocalypse-that-never-was was a testament to that. Even Aziraphale wasn’t sure anymore who was giving orders.
In the end he merely held Crowley’s hand and watched over him as he drifted off to sleep.
You are. You are more than just good enough for me. And if I had the choice, I would be selfish enough to want to have this all over again.
Up ahead was a huge Tree that towered over the rest of the Garden. The vivid contrast of the rich, juicy red of the fruit against the brilliant deep green of the leaves caught his eye and he smiled in a way that only snakes could. Looking at its beautifully shaped leaves, strong curving branches and solid trunk made a twinge of pride curl around him like a fine mist. Like a fine mist it also rapidly faded away under the heat of the sunlight.
In the beginning was the Word.
But the beginning had long been over and the end was yet in sight. The sky was vast and blue overhead, and the grass beneath his belly was warmed by the sun. It was far better than the dark and dreary pits of Hell from whence he’d come. He curled up on a rock and waited for the angel with the flaming sword to come talk with him again.
It was a nice day.
The valet at the Ritz gave the Bentley some odd looks when Crowley handed him the keys, but since he had woken up hangover-free and in a good mood he let the bewildered boy off with a snake-ish grin.
“Really, my dear?” Aziraphale’s exasperated expression was heavily tinged with fondness.
“I thought it looked dashing myself.” Crowley defended the James Bond bullet-hole-in-the-windscreen transfer that he had re-installed for pure nostalgic reasons. “Shall we do lunch?”
In the Bentley, a copy of Goldfinger was bookmarked with a picture of an apple tree.7
1. Not that anyone Downstairs is likely to notice, but he rather does take pride in doing his job well.
2. He thought it was a rather clever and efficient way of spreading general irritation and sullenness on Christmas by putting a price tag on a person. The best part about it was it was all done through free will.
3. Possibly fallen from someone’s picnic basket from earlier.
4. Genesis Chapter 1 verse 11-13.
5. An Angel Wing Begonia, if you must know.
6. A 1953 Château Mouton Rothschild.
7. “If it happened, it happened. Regret was unprofessional—worse, it was a death-watch beetle in the soul.” (Goldfinger, Chapter 1: Reflections in a Double Bourbon).