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then bow your head in the house of god

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Crowley rather liked old churches, and cathedrals in particular. This was, he would readily admit, somewhat stupid of him, given their unfortunate habit of leaving him scorched and in excruciating pain. And this was exactly why he hadn’t told Aziraphale what he was planning, because Aziraphale would no doubt tell him exactly how stupid he was being, and Crowley was not, currently, drunk enough to deal with that. And, more pressingly, because it had only been two days since the world had, quite unexpectedly, failed to end. Since he and Aziraphale had held hands. And now Crowley had all these feelings, and all these questions, and he really didn’t know what he ought to do with them all.

It was stupid of him, though. And dangerous— he still had the little scorched spots from that time in the 1940s to prove it. But he’d slathered the scaly soles of his feet in sunscreen, and then wrapped that slippery mess in three pairs of thick hiking socks, before forcing that into his thickest-soled pair of boots, so he reckoned he’d be all right, for a little while, providing he didn’t touch anything. Or step on a saint, or something.

By the time Crowley was on the road to Durham, he felt almost calm again. Oh, there were closer churches that would have done just as well, he knew, but he needed the drive, the distance, the solitude of him and the Bentley and the blur of the English countryside. And the occasional lorry. A bizarre mockery of a pilgrimage, almost.

If traffic, on this particular Monday morning, had been considering piling up, it swiftly reconsidered, and Crowley sped along happily enough, the car filled with the all-too familiar vocals of one F. Mercury.

He arrived at Durham soon enough— well, not soon, you understand, but when you’re six thousand years old and the world has just miraculously failed to end, five hours really isn’t that much time in the grand scheme of things. He parked the Bentley in a parking space which was sure it had been a double yellow line only moments previously, and made his way up to the cathedral.

It loomed. They always did, that was the point of them, to make it very fucking clear who was in charge, and Crowley supposed that was part of the reason he’d gotten away with spending so much time around them, over the centuries: Norman cathedrals had been intended mainly as a form of psychological warfare against the English, originally. Well, that and all the forced labour used to build the bloody things. Slavery. Whatever you wanted to call it.

Crowley looked up at the towers, the stained glass windows, grey and foreboding from the outside, the sheer detail and sheer size of the cathedral, and then he sighed and walked inside.

He tensed up when he crossed the threshold. He always did. But his thick bundle of socks seemed to be doing the trick, at least for now, and his hands were tucked safely into his pockets, where they couldn’t accidentally brush against any holy relics.

Cathedrals. Yeah.

There was… the scale of them, the towering ceilings and the huge organs and the vast pillars , all specifically designed to be grand and imposing.

But they were beautiful, for all that. Huge and mildly terrifying, but beautiful. And places like Durham… it was the history that really got to Crowley. The millions of people who’d walked over those faded stones, over the years. Wearing them down. And the graves, of course, which Crowley was always skittishly careful to avoid stepping on. Saints and priests and… others. Crowley dragged his gaze away from a marble plaque commemorating a five year old girl, and walked on quickly.

It all made you feel very small, which was the point, of course, but Crowley found that oddly, he liked it. He liked the layers of history pressing in on him, the silent watchers of long-gone centuries, centuries he’d lived through. He liked feeling insignificant, feeling like nothing more than a piece of history himself, because then he felt… less alone, somehow. He liked being surrounded by the remnants of his long, long past, tethered to the moments that time wore away, all the discordant time frames blending seamlessly into one strangely calming whole.

He liked feeling like he was part of it all, the relentless currents that bore them forward. Not the Plan, never the Plan, but part of… them. Humanity. And in the wake of the world not ending, and the future he’d suddenly been handed, he’d needed to come and see it, to make sure that time was still pushing ever onwards. That he’d be going onwards with it.

Crowley very badly wanted to do something with his hands, to release the tight, pent-up ball of nervous energy that coursed through him. But that was dangerous territory, and he also very badly wanted his hands to not have any burn marks on them, so he resisted, digging his nails into his palms in the safety of his pockets.

Mainly, he thought, he very badly wanted Aziraphale to hold his hand again, but currently initiating anything along those lines felt roughly as attainable as Crowley having a nice relaxing bath in a puddle of holy water. So.

It was the Normans who’d built this cathedral. And most of the other good ones, to be fair. He hadn’t liked William the conqueror much— he’d been a right bastard, that one, in every sense of the word. And a bastard with papal approval, at that. And as for the whole Harrying business… well. Crowley stared vacantly through one of the stained-glass windows. Durham was north enough to have been harried, wasn’t it? Crowley thought of fire, and of eerie, emaciated bodies, and salt staining desiccated fields, and shuddered.

His son had been all right, though. William Rufus. A bit more than all right, if Crowley was honest. Very big on both his simony and his sodomy, which were two concepts of which Crowley eminently approved, even if they were a bugger to say without hissing.

Only, then he’d died, of course. They all died, in the end. And then all that was left was churches like this, was faded, illegible graves and no-one but Crowley to remember them all. Well. Not all, because there were so many people, so many lives and entire civilisations that he’d never had the chance to interact with. And never would. And now nobody, nobody was left to remember them. Because they all bloody died.

But the world hadn’t. And they hadn’t. Crowley inhaled sharply.

He was, he realised quite suddenly, terribly tired.

And terribly far from Aziraphale.

And his feet were beginning to sting just a bit, even through all of the socks.

Crowley squeezed his eyes shut, just for a second, and then made his way to the doors. To the Bentley, and the long drive that awaited him.

He went out as slowly as he dared, hands still in pockets. He reached the threshold, and paused before crossing it. Out of the past, and into the present. Towards the future. Towards, if he was being terribly trite, Aziraphale.

There would, later, be a time of clumsy first kisses and awkward confessions of feelings and moments where it felt as though the world consisted of nothing except the spaces where Aziraphale’s warm skin was pressed against his. But for now, he was nobody. A living piece of history.

Crowley pulled his hands out of his pockets, and let time drag him ever onwards.