"He'd been an angel once. He hadn't meant to Fall."
~Good Omens, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Six thousand years.
Six thousand bloody years.
In the grand scheme of things, perhaps, six thousand years were insignificant, but Crowley had spent a lot of time amongst humans, and to humans, six thousand years was something to talk about.
A lot could happen in six thousand years. He knew. He'd seen it all.
Crowley had watched as the Earth spun slowly and unerringly on its tilted axis, and he'd watched as billions upon billions of humans lived their short, miserable lives. He'd watched civilizations rise from dust and return to dust. He'd watched as humans loved, and lost, and fought their silly little wars, and lived, and died, and then repeated it all over again.
Humans. How utterly delightful they were.
It got kind of lonely after the first few millennia or so, he mused, watching the rain trickle down the window in lazy abstract patterns. Surrounded by humans, living in their world, pretending to be one of them. Thunder rumbled somewhere in the distance, and the demon shivered the slightest bit, unconsciously hugging the blanket wrapped around his shoulders closer to him.
Okay... if he was going to be completely honest (which was rare, but he did have his moments), it got a lot lonely. Exceedingly so, even. Earth was fun, and humans were an endless source of amusement, but still....
After six thousand years, even a demon's memory starts to go.
Crowley wasn't sure when he had first noticed it. He couldn't put a date to the first time he had sensed the hole in his memories, precious things that he hoarded like treasures. But one day he had realized that something was missing...
It scared him. He didn't want to forget. He had lived a long time and he was isolated from the rest of his kind; sometimes memories were all that he had. Time marched on unceasingly, and there were certain things he didn't want to just leave behind. Some things deserved a special place, even if it was just a metaphorical cardboard box in the rather dusty, rather cobwebby attic of his mind.
But all such boxes must fade and crumble to dust sooner or later, and when he had searched in the back of his mind for it, and not found it, Crowley had realized that he couldn't remember what Heaven was like.
It wasn't that he was pining for white fluffy clouds and pearly gates. He didn't want to be an angel again; far from it. He liked being wicked, and furthermore, he was exceedingly good at it. If temptation was an art, then Crowley was on a level with Picasso.
All the same, he couldn't help but feel something unsettlingly like regret when he realized that he couldn't remember what it felt like to be a heavenly being, radiant and pure, soaring feather-light on angel wings through the celestial plane. A feeling that was magnified a hundred times when he was with Aziraphale.
The angel was supposed to be his enemy, of course, but after a few millennia, the lines did have a tendency to blur somewhat. After all, demons and angels weren't so very far apart, were they? And wasn't it only natural that they would both seek out the company of the only other ageless being around?
Yes. It made sense. They fit together, they complemented each other; two pieces in the giant cosmic puzzle, two parts of a whole.
They'd been through a lot together. It was Aziraphale who had gotten Crowley through the whole horrifically boring fourteenth century. They'd averted the Apocalypse together, for G-- Sa-- well, for Someone's sake, and if that wasn't an intense bonding experience, Crowley didn't know what was.
And he knew, somehow, that if he needed Aziraphale, the angel would be there. If he called, then the angel would answer, and vice versa, which was perhaps the most frightening part yet. The fact that there was no escaping the connection between them, even if he wanted to.
Crowley very nearly, but not quite, smiled at the irony. Could something be frightening and comforting at the same time?
He put his hand on the phone just as it rang.
Crowley stared at it as if it had suddenly grown legs and started walking around. Which, actually, considering the nature of the seemingly inanimate objects in his apartment, might not have been entirely out of place. Finally, slowly, he picked it up and held it to his ear.
"Very perceptive of you, Crowley," Aziraphale said, smiling, if sound waves transmitted across a telephone line as electric impulses can really be said to smile.
"Angel," Crowley said. Then, "Could you... ?"
"Of course, dear boy," said Aziraphale warmly, and Crowley thanked Heaven above and Hell below and everywhere in between for the angel's insightfulness.
"Thank you," was all he said, hanging up the phone, and he knew Aziraphale would come.
When he arrived, the angel opened the door without knocking and stepped inside, wearing beige khakis and a comfortable-looking turtleneck sweater to go with his smile. No words were needed as he walked across the room and sat down beside the demon huddled on the couch. Outside, the rain poured down, painting the sky with a wash of grey.
"So," he said. "Tell me."
"Aziraphale..." he began, "I can't remember."
Aziraphale raised a single eyebrow expectantly, waiting with the kind of patience that only belongs to someone with all of eternity ahead of them.
Crowley stumbled on, searching for the right words even as they eluded him.
"I can't remember what Heaven is like," he said, the words coming out in a rush, lest they escape before he could say them. "I can't remember what it feels like to be in the Divine Presence. I can't remember what it's like to gaze down on the Earth from up above, or the feeling of satisfaction at doing a good deed. I can't remember what it's like to be an angel, Aziraphale, a creature of light. I can't..." He paused.
"I can't fucking remember," he said, finally; slowly, and very quietly, and his voice sounded slightly pained as he said, "I just wish I could remember what it was like... you know, Before."
"Yes," Aziraphale said. "I know."
Then he leaned forward and kissed him.
Crowley was still for a moment, suddenly finding a pair of satin-soft lips on his. Hesitantly, he pressed forward, increasing the gentle pressure of mouth upon open mouth and completing the tentative kiss. His hands seemed to move of their own accord, cupping the angel's face as Crowley ran his fingers through cobweb-fine hair. He felt Aziraphale's hands slide up his arms, coming to rest on his shoulders as he lost himself in silent exploration of the angel's lips. Aziraphale tasted of honey, and cinnamon, and cool lemonade on a warm summer day. His lips were like silk sheets, and crushed velvet, and the all-encompassing love of a mother's touch. He smelled like peaches, and like the air after a light rain, when the harsh light of the sun is softened and sparkling.
He tasted like promise, and his kiss was like perfection.
When they finally pulled apart, after a few moments, or all eternity, Aziraphale smiled softly, and, it seemed to Crowley, a trifle sadly. He looked at Crowley with eyes that held infinite wisdom, heavenly truths and heavenly secrets shining through the mask of a human face. Crowley thought he could almost see the celestial being who had once wielded a sword of flame hidden behind the costume of flesh; the masquerade of the mild, soft-spoken book collector with a penchant for rare bibles cracking to reveal the truth that lay beneath.
"Do you remember now?" the angel asked, and his voice was like the gurgle and splash of a crystal-clear brook.
"Yes," Crowley said wonderingly. His fingers brushed lightly against his lips in something like reverence. Yes. Now he did remember.
It felt like home.