Crowley drove his Bentley from London to Liverpool in three hours flat. The drive was cathartic, in a way; he blasted Queen’s greatest hits and sang along, he consumed a copious amount of fast food while steering with one hand – not his usual style, but he found the stuff was starting to grow on him – and he added stupid stickers to the back windows of several people’s cars, just for something to do. He’d never have admitted it out loud, but he was doing all these things not just to entertain himself, but to fill the silence of a car with no angel in it.
He shook his head to clear it and pulled into a miraculously available parking spot near the Liverpool One shopping center. It wasn’t particularly close to his destination, but he needed the walk to clear his head before he met up with his acquaintance.
It was a nice night. The air was mild and there was a light breeze. The sun was going down over the river Mersey in a blur of red and orange. Crowley looked to the sky and thought about how, if things had gone a little differently, he could be up there right now with his angel, doing things he’d dreamed about doing for six thousand years.
He glanced around to make sure no one was watching, then took off his sunglasses and wiped them on his shirt. He put them back on and stuffed his hands in his pockets as he headed toward Lime Street.
He hadn’t been to Liverpool in a few years, but he knew where he was going: a Spanish-style tapas restaurant near the Lime Street station. That was where his acquaintance would be.
When Crowley entered the restaurant, he spotted her immediately: Livinia, the only demon in the universe he could honestly say he liked. She was sitting at the bar with a glass of white wine in her hand and a small plate of meatballs in front of her, idly swiping about on a smartphone. Unlike a lot of demons Crowley knew, she had some idea of modern technology. Also unlike many other demons, she didn’t look…well, like hell, even though that was where she spent most of her time. In her human form she had dark, luxurious hair that tumbled down in waves to frame a pretty face, and her eyes were relatively humanlike. They were black, like Hastur’s, but at least there was a clear demarcation between the pupil and the iris. At least, unlike Crowley, she didn’t have to wear sunglasses all the time in order not to frighten the humans.
“Livinia,” Crowley said in greeting as he approached her.
The female demon nearly spit the wine out of her mouth. She recovered herself quickly and swallowed hard, staring at Crowley.
“Crowley!” she exclaimed. “Fancy meeting you here.”
“I heard you were up here.”
“Hastur mentioned it.”
“Well.” Livinia speared one of her meatballs on a fork and popped it into her mouth. “Since this is all gonna be gone in a matter of days,” she said, talking with her mouth full, “I figured I’d better get up here and see it while I still could.”
“And Below just…let you go? With all the preparations for the great battle going on?”
Livinia shrugged. “They’re so busy I don’t think anyone even noticed me leave. Except for Hastur, obviously, but he’s got his own problems to deal with.” She regarded Crowley with an interested gaze. “You kicked everything off, didn’t you?” she asked. “With…well, with the kid and all?”
“Yeah,” muttered Crowley. He could hardly explain to Livinia that he had no idea where the Antichrist was, or that he and Aziraphale had helped look after the wrong child for eleven years.
Livinia ate another meatball. “I’ve always liked the food up here,” she commented. “You want a glass of wine?”
“Well, what did you come here for, then? This isn’t a coincidence. You wanted to talk to me.”
“No,” Crowley said softly. “No, it’s not a coincidence.”
“Drink, mate?” the bartender asked, stopping across from Crowley. Livinia gave him a meaningful glance.
“I suppose…I’ll have a tequila,” Crowley said.
The bartender nodded. “Another wine, love?” he asked Livinia, who nodded and pushed her glass at him.
“So out with it, Crowley,” Livinia said. “What’s up?”
“I…” Crowley hesitated, unsure exactly what to tell her. “I uh, I thought you might be able to tell me how it’s going? Down there?” He cringed when he heard how uncertain he sounded.
Livinia raised a skeptical eyebrow. “You don’t really care about that,” she said. “I’ve known you a long time, Crowley. You wouldn’t waste your time coming all the way up to Liverpool just to ask me about something that isn’t even important to you, especially not when the world is ending and you could be out there enjoying it.” With a quick flash of her hand, she whipped Crowley’s glasses off and looked into his eyes. Crowley snatched them back from her, but she’d already seen all she needed to.
“Ah,” she said. “I get it. You’re lonely.”
Crowley didn’t bother to deny it. He just kicked back the tequila shot the bartender had just brought for him.
“Where’s your angel?” Livinia asked. “Left you, has he?”
“Yes.” Crowley started morosely into his now-empty shot glass. Livinia signaled the bartender to bring him another.
“Do you want to talk about it?” she asked.
Crowley sighed. “Yeah, I do,” he replied.
“Aziraphale, please. I am begging you. I’m throwing all my demonic pride out the window and begging you. Please get in the car.” Crowley gestured expansively, indicating an imaginary Bentley. “I’ll take you anywhere you want. We can go anywhere; anywhere in the whole universe. You and me. It’s not like we really need to breathe, or live on Earth, or anything like that. We just need each other. Well, I need you.” Distressed, he leaned forward; touching his forehead to the mirror he was pretending was Aziraphale. He looked into his own eyes, gold and reptilian in the dying light of late afternoon.
“Yeah,” he muttered. “I wouldn’t go with me, either. Ah, Heaven, this is pathetic.”
Crowley glanced at his watch. He was running out of time. He took a deep breath, left his flat, and got into the Bentley.
As he drove to Aziraphale’s bookshop, Crowley rehearsed his speech again and again in his head, trying to find the combination of words most likely to convince Aziraphale to run away with him. The depth of his feelings for the angel had become impossible to ignore, though he’d been trying valiantly for centuries. Demons weren’t supposed to fall in love – Crowley wasn’t even sure this was love, having had precious little in his existence to compare it to – but he liked Aziraphale so much, and felt such a strong desire to protect him and make him happy in any way he could, that he couldn’t imagine what else it could be.
Crowley reached the bookshop and got out of the car. He didn’t bother to knock on the door, just pushed it open. Aziraphale was sitting at his desk, glasses on, scribbling something on a piece of paper, and he looked up when Crowley came in.
“Crowley? What are you doing here?”
“I came to talk to you, angel. Look, I’ve been thinking. We can’t stop Armageddon, right; but neither of us really wants to be a part of it, right; so I thought, I mean, let’s just say screw it all, right; bugger it all, and go live in space somewhere!” He was rambling, and he knew it, but for all the time he’d spent trying to come up with something to say, now that he was here, he couldn’t be clever, just desperate.
“We have so many options, Aziraphale; so many possibilities. Look, I brought a map!” Crowley pulled a folded-up diagram of the solar system out of the breast pocket of his jacket and spread it out in front of Aziraphale, smoothing the creases with his palms. “Look; I’ve always thought Saturn was quite nice-looking. Real intricate design work on the part of the Almighty, eh? Or we could go to Neptune, if that’s more your style; I know how much you like a good stiff breeze-”
“Crowley,” Aziraphale interrupted, “you’re talking nonsense!”
“I mean, we don’t have to stick to this solar system, angel, if you don’t want; we could go live in another galaxy, maybe; or-”
“Crowley!” Aziraphale said, louder this time, “we’re not going anywhere!”
Crowley looked Aziraphale in the eyes, then sighed and folded the diagram back up. He slid it back into his breast pocket. “Alright,” he said. “Alright, angel. We’ll stay here and go down with the planet. Make our stand. There might still be something we can do!”
“We’re not going to be able to do anything, Crowley,” Aziraphale said. “There’s nothing to be done. I spoke to the Metatron – that’s the, ah, voice of God – it turns out, Heaven’s not interested in averting the war. They want to fight. This is part of the plan.”
“Of course it’s part of the bloody plan!” Crowley cried. He was getting frustrated now. “I told you Heaven wouldn’t listen! I told you, I told you, that talking to them wouldn’t change anything! Now come on, angel, the world is going to end tomorrow! Either pick a planet or a star or whatever and come with me, or-”
“No,” Aziraphale said, and it was the subtle crack in his voice that made Crowley freeze and listen. Dread crept into his awareness as he realized what Aziraphale was really planning to do.
“Crowley, my dear boy, we’re…” Aziraphale trailed off, swallowed, and stood up straighter. When he spoke again, his voice was stern. “We’ve got to stop kidding ourselves, Crowley. I’m an angel, and you’re a demon. Our very natures are opposed. We can’t work together here. The Arrangement means nothing now.”
“Nothing?” Crowley felt his own voice catch. “Six thousand years of working together and being friends mean nothing now, do they? They still meant something when we found out Armageddon was coming, but now that it’s here, oh no, can’t be seen fraternizing with the enemy-”
“We never had a chance of stopping it,” Aziraphale said with uncharacteristic coldness. “It’s over now. We’ve got to go and join our respective sides before it’s too late.”
“Aziraphale, please,” Crowley begged. “You’re my best friend. I don’t want to go anywhere you aren’t!” He bit his lip. That might have been too much honesty.
Aziraphale’s face softened for a moment, but he quickly schooled it back into a set, unyielding expression. “Get out, Crowley,” he said. “We. Are. Not. Friends.”
Crowley stood, stunned. Demons weren’t even supposed to have feelings, but Aziraphale had just hurt Crowley’s, and judging by the look in his eyes, the angel knew it.
“Fine,” Crowley said. He wanted to say more, but he couldn’t, and he left the bookshop thinking that this must be what heartbreak felt like.
Livinia was nodding at him over her wineglass, her black eyes sympathetic. “That really is shit,” she said.
“Yeah,” Crowley replied.
“I mean, really. What a time for him to break up with you.”
“Break up with-”
“Oh, don’t try to tell me you weren’t together. I’ve seen how you pine for that angel for thousands of years.”
“Too bad he doesn’t know,” Crowley commented. He couldn’t argue with her, because she was right. He’d been trying for ages to figure out how to tell Aziraphale how he felt, but he’d never been able to, and now his chance was on its way out.
“Well, you’d better hurry up and tell him,” Livinia said, as if reading his thoughts. She looked him in the eyes. “Go back to London, Crowley, and tell him the truth. That’s if he hasn’t left for Heaven already.”
“Can’t drive,” Crowley muttered, nodding to the six empty shot glasses on the bar. “’m drunk.”
Livinia rolled her eyes. “You’re a demon. You can sober up like that.” She snapped her fingers, and Crowley felt the alcohol melt out of his system.
Crowley straightened his sunglasses. “Right, thanks,” he said. He stood up. “Uh…I’ll see you at doomsday?”
Crowley nodded at her, then stood up and headed for the door.