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Long Is The Way, And Hard

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The first time Crawley meets the angel, the celestial being is twisting its shining white robe in its fingers and looking wretched. It hardly spares him a glance as he shifts from snake to human, and Crawley is a touch put-out. It’s taken some practice to be able to do it so fluidly.

‘Well that went down like a lead balloon,’ Crawley mutters.

‘Sorry?’ The angel doesn’t look at him, and Crawley takes advantage of its distraction to study it.

The very first heavenly hosts had been neither male nor female, but ever since God made her new favoured creations – her humans, beloved above all else – there has been a gradual shift among some of the angels towards one sex or the other. The demons, of course, adopted the new forms immediately, revelling in their potential for sin, and twisted them to a mockery of what God intended them to be. This angel has chosen to be male, albeit a slightly plump and unassuming specimen. Nothing like some of the visions of divine perfection striding around up Above.

The angel is surprising in more ways than the physical, as Crawley discovers when asking about the sword. And when the rain starts, then it – he – spreads a wing over Crawley without hesitation.

All Crawley can offer in reciprocation is to fish in the depths of his robes and pull out an apple. He hadn’t been lying when he told the woman he had eaten of the tree’s fruit.

He holds it out to the angel, all glossy red skin and tantalising scent. ‘Give you first bite?’

The angel looks at him in shocked disapproval, and Crawley grins and crunches sharp white teeth into the apple’s crisp flesh.