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i just happen to like apples (i am not afraid of snakes)

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Crowley is an angel who does not Fall so much as Stride Furiously Downward. She does not get caught up with the wrong crowd; she simply lives too many millennia under His thumb, and, anyway, the shoes are better in Hell.

Do yourself a favor: listen, when the heavens open. Come now, sweetheart; did you think the patriarchy was something new?

--

Crowley does not give Eve the apple, though that is what will be written, what will be told. She does not give Eve the apple, because Eve does not need to be given anything; Eve takes from the first, bright smile and curious eyes, renaming the animals as she treks through Eden, marking it as her own. She is naked with a vicious, brutal intensity, unbridled and unashamed, brambles caught forever in the long tangle of her hair.

Man is made in God's image, so Crowley has no use for Adam. Eve, on the other hand…well. Crowley doesn't give Eve the apple, but the temptation business is true enough.

It is Adam who covers them both with fig leaves, Adam who bows his head when Him Above booms his fury, Adam who blames Eve without hesitation. There will be paintings, later, that Crowley will snarl at and set aflame; cast in pigment by those who were not there, Eve will writhe with agony, awash with a shame so vicious that it burns down her spine.

The reality goes like this: Eve casts aside her fig leaf, casts aside Adam, and saunters out of the garden with half the animals trailing behind her. Adam follows when God tells him to--which is pride, probably, he always did vilify his own failings--and Aziraphale gives him the flaming sword out of pity more than anything else.

"Well, I had to," Aziraphale says, her hands flexing nervously against her bare thighs. It's early yet, and Aziraphale wears nothing but her wings when she walks this plane of life; Crowley's still coiled and scaled, her venom singing up from her skin in orange and yellow bands.

"Did you, now."

"They'll be killed otherwise," Aziraphale says, worried, "what with her expecting already and him without an ounce of sense, I couldn't--I couldn't just leave them to it, humanity depends on them, you can't fault me for that."

"I wouldn't dare," Crowley says, and the sarcasm hissing up and out of her mouth makes Aziraphale scowl. "Be funny, though, wouldn't it--me doing the right thing and you doing the wrong one?"

"Not really," Aziraphale says, and turns away from her.

"No," Crowley says, grinning to herself, barely able to keep the laugh out of it, "no, angel. I sssuppose not."

--

History tells one story; religion, often, tells another. There is different story, caught between Crowley's short hair and dark glasses, the fork in her tongue and the yellow in her eyes, the anger she sparks with still--it is a more involved tale, perhaps, but only because it examines every side.

They all have their merits, these stories. They all have their selling points. Only one of them is true. Believe what you will.

--

Delilah is the most beautiful woman Crowley has ever seen, and she is counting Aziraphale. That is, she knows, unfair; Aziraphale is a Principality, not a woman, and in any case Crowley knows that what's going on there is about flint and spark, about power. The Angel does not like Crowley, but tolerates her. The Angel does not like her own energy, the sheer force that screams off of her and lurks behind clear-blue eyes always trying for innocence, but Crowley sure does.

Delilah, though. Delilah is the most beautiful woman Crowley has ever seen, and it has nothing to do with the shape of her body, the perfect bow of her lips. Delilah is she who carves her own power, who cuts it clean off Sampson's head, who rides clear of the mess she's made with her reward in a pouch at her waist. She has been used and abused by the life she's lived, passed about as chattel, as property, and her freedom sings through the air like the shriek of Aziraphale's wings.

Crowley has not bothered with being a snake in a century, but her tongue will always be forked. Delilah gets a happy ending; it's just that no one likes to talk about it.

--

Over the years, Crowley learns quite a bit about humanity--the pettiness, the greed, the fact that left to their own devices they'll do all her work for her.

Mostly, though? Mostly humanity doesn't ask the right questions. Aziraphale calls it an ineffability, and Crowley calls it a failing. In a way, they're both right.

--

"What do you imagine you're going to gain from this?" Aziraphale says, settling down next to Crowley in the bulrushes. She sounds exasperated, which is fine. Crowley prefers her exasperation to the frankly exhausting press of her nerves.

"Silence, Angel," Crowley hisses--and she does hiss it, because it all well and good to play at friendly, but Sides are Sides and all that. "I am busy."

Across from them, Miryam drops her brother's basket into the river, and Crowley breathes prophecy across the rippling surface of the water. It is the least she can do, really, and it's worth it for the way Aziraphale tenses, relaxes, and sighs.

--

There are many names for the power that rules Below; Lucifer and Satan, Iblis and Shaitan, Hades and the Devil. Of all of them, The Adversary is the most telling; of all of them, The Adversary is the most honest.

She prefers Lucy, as it happens, not that it much matters. History is still written by the victors; did we mention about the patriarchy?

--

Eleanor of Aquitaine is tricky, because she's Crowley's favorite queen in a thousand years, but Aziraphale is fucking her. She won't admit to it, of course, lowers her eyes and blushes when Crowley mentions it, pleads ignorance when Crowley pushes it, says the word "ineffable" so many times that it can't be anything but a disguise. Crowley doesn't blame her; Eleanor is gorgeous, and Eleanor is brilliant, and Eleanor has access to the kinds of libraries Aziraphale has been casually rewriting for years.

The business about Persephone being an unwilling victim is particularly galling, but Aziraphale swears she did it on orders, and anyway Lucy doesn't seem to mind.

In any case: Aziraphale fucks Eleanor and lies about it, which is in and of itself a flame to the fire Crowley has been tending for years. She waits as long as she can bear it, and then she acts; a crusade in ruins and Aziraphale bloody furious, a new husband for a wife who deserves better, Crowley's eyes glowing mad beneath her wide-brimmed hat.

"I don't see why that was necessary," Aziraphale snaps, and Crowley smiles.

"Yes you do," she says, and Aziraphale turns the other cheek, which is about par for the course.

--

The word bitch has many meanings. The truest one, however, is Crowley.

--

She tells Aziraphale she sleeps the fourteenth century, because it's easier. It's easier than another century of wanting, another century of waiting, another century of lectures and moralizing and an Arrangement that Crowley agreed to with ulterior motives in mind.

What? She's a demon. Lust is practically in her job description.

In any case: she tells Aziraphale she sleeps the fourteenth century, and it's not a lie, exactly. She certainly spends the fourteenth century in bed.

--

Read it again, the scrolls they handed you, the books you poured over, the tablets written in stone. Read it again, and really try; truth comes in many forms, in many shades of visibility, but it's usually tucked in the one place you weren't expected to look.

What you see is what you get. Where do you imagine that expression came from?

--

In 1776, Aziraphale watches over a revolution that was actually Below's doing and Crowley fucks Catherine the Great into her royal mattress. Aziraphale finds out, of course, because Crowley wants her to; Aziraphale is angry, which is surprising, but more encouraging than anything else.

"An eye for an eye," Crowley says, tongue flicking out between her teeth. "Isn't that your lot?"

Aziraphale slams her up against the wall and pins her there with one arm; she's always been the stronger of them, always will be, she's just so hesitant to use it. Crowley smiles at her, sweetly dangerous, lips sin-red, and Aziraphale's eyes flare with a darkness that's not really dark at all.

"Who," Aziraphale demands, "is talking about eyes," and when Crowley kisses her, it tastes like Falling.

--

It is told that women are cursed; it is told that the pain of childbirth is the fruit of Eve's misguided labors; it is told that the screaming ache of bearing new life is a punishment. Humanity is a vast amalgamation of tales, and every story starts somewhere.

You who have lived, you have worked this earth, you who have walked amongst the masses--you tell us. Is there ever life without pain? Inquiring minds wish to know.

--

The apocalypse almost comes, but doesn't. Aziraphale doesn't quite Fall, but she doesn't quite do anything else. The humans advise each other to make love, not war, and spill each other's blood across the earth like it's water; no story is ever new, though that doesn't make them less worthy of telling.

"I suppose it would be pointless to tell you I love you," Aziraphale says contemplatively, winding their way through London in Crowley's Bentley. Joan Jett's blasting through the speakers, and Crowley's really going to have to get some new goddamn tapes for this car.

"I thought such things were ineffable," Crowley says, teasing, and Aziraphale's lips curve up in a smile. She still wears them ever-so-slightly pinked, still wears her hair long and blonde, still widens her too-blue, innocent eyes, but the feathers on the bottom tier of her wings are grey now. Crowley doesn't mind that they haven't blacked entirely; she doesn't want to drain the goodness from the world, just hoard her piece of it until kingdom come.

All Crowley wants is what she is owed. Human or not, that is all anyone ever wants.

"Perhaps," Aziraphale agrees, "still, the truth is the truth," and Crowley's whole body coils with pleasure as the car drives on without her.

--

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. To hear it told, He made Man in his image, and Woman from Man. Who does this tale favor, exactly? Whose ineffability is left in question?

In any case, it doesn't matter. It is not the beginning; it has not been the beginning for some time. Perhaps Man was created in God's image; who's to say? These days, though, the truth is scrawled clearly wherever you chance to look--history is what you make of it, and Woman creates herself.