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The First Sin (Was Asking Questions)

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Before She created the humans–her final, perfect creation–She created everything else in the universe. She created trees for food and shelter, clouds for shade, soft land for them to rest upon until they learned to create beds from straw and cloth. And of course, She created the Angels. Her first ever creation, who would serve her and create where She asked for their help. The universe was vast and sometimes an extra pair of hands helped move things along. 

Create the stars, She whispered to him. 

And so, Raphael created the stars. 

No, he created more than just the stars. He made stars, and then planets to revolve around the stars, and then galaxies to group the stars together. Sometimes, his siblings would help, adding mass atom by atom until the stars could hold together themselves without divine intervention. Most times, Raphael was left to himself, not because he and his siblings didn’t get along, but because they had their own duties and only helped him in the rare moments they could spare. 

When was not creating, he was watching. Their Mother focused on Her newest creation that had not been created yet. He watched as She ordered the others to bring her clay from the Earth. He watched as She sat, molding the clay, dissatisfied with every shape She achieved. He watched as She pressed down, destroying the previous form to start again. 

And again, and again, and again, never satisfied. 

After all, this final creation needed to be perfect. 

Why, he asked. Why does this final creation need to be perfect?

Because are modelled after Me, She replied. 

And God is perfect, the other angels agreed. 

They will be perfect, She continued, And you will bow to them as you do Me. 

Raphael did not question this. He did everything God asked of him. He knew his purpose. 

His sibling did not agree. 

Lucifer confronted their Mother, demanding why he should ever bow to a lowly creature. They were angels, divine beings of celestial power. The did not bow to anyone but God. In fact, Lucifer suggested, the not-yet-created humans should bow to them.  

Raphael ignored this. He had his own duties, and none of them included listening to Lucifer’s rants. Michael was the one who listened, not to agree but to argue. 

And Heaven, once peaceful, slowly broke. 

Lucifer whispered into the ears of other angels–not that they had physical ears, but the metaphor still stood. Lucifer was the most Beloved, the Brightest of them all in his devotion to their Mother. And if he refused to obey, the others wondered if they should also refuse. 

Raphael ignored this too. 

As the arguments rose in numbers, Raphael watched his Mother knead the clay, again and again. She sat in silence, refusing to acknowledge Lucifer’s growing bitterness and Michael’s growing righteousness. She sat, and he sometimes sat with Her. 

Soon, She told him, you will have a new duty.  

Raphael moved his awareness from the clay to Her. 

This creation will suffer, and you will heal them, as you heal your siblings. 

Suffer? Raphael had healed his siblings before, always with soft words and no any complications, but angels do not suffer. Their injuries were superficial, barely noticed except for the inconvenience. 

Yes. They will be in pain, physical and mental. You cannot heal their minds, but you will heal their bodies when they need. 

Why? If they will be Your perfect creation, why would You let them suffer?

She did not frown at him–She did not exist in a physical form at that moment–but Raphael felt her disapproval. 

Because I will it. 

Raphael nodded and rose to continue his current duties. Once the final creation was complete, he would begin his new duty as the healer of humans. 

Lucifer found him. Despite the recent arguments, his brother was still the brightest among them, and Raphael forgot about the arguments completely. 

“Congratulations on the new appointment,” Lucifer smiled. 

So Lucifer wasn’t here to continue his arguments. Raphael leaned into his brother, relaxing as fingers stroked his wings. 

“Thank you. I’ll begin as soon as they are finished.”

“Hopefully not too soon,” Lucifer reasoned. “Why would She create them only to have them immediately suffer?”

Raphael turned his head into Lucifer’s shoulders, hiding his frown. That… was a good point. Why would She have them suffer at all? They will suffer, of course, because She wills it, but why? Why would She want them to suffer?

He must have been silent too long. Lucifer’s fingers move from his wings to his face, forcing their eyes to meet. 

“Raphael?”

He couldn’t meet Lucifer’s gaze. Lucifer, who did not look victorious or proud, but was concerned at his silence. 

“Everything happens because She wills it,” Raphael murmured, answering an unspoken question. 

Lucifer nodded. There was no argument. Instead, they sat together, silent in their own thoughts. 

In the end, it was the result of horrible timing. 

Lucifer questioned Her in front of the other angels, and She refused to humor him any longer. Lucifer and his supporters were forced from Heaven, Falling in a glorious blaze. 

Raphael questioned her away from the others, but it was too soon.

He didn’t understand what happened. He was speaking to God, asking his questions, and then he was Falling. His wings burned, refusing to help him soar upwards. He Fell looking upwards, watching his home move farther and farther, though it was him who was moving away. 

His back hit the ground. Around him, other angels looked upwards with him. Some were horrified, others carefully blank. 

His brother was standing. Lucifer’s pride always kept him from staying down for too long. He was watching them fall, counting his supporters, his future army. 

Their eyes met. Lucifer looked away first. 

Lucifer changed his name. He became Satan, and the others were quick to follow. 

The names only changed after appearances. 

Lucifer’s beauty, coveted by all, warped into an ugly thing unfit for Heaven. His pale skin turned red, his gentle eyes turned black, and his soft halo turned into curling horns. His wings were gone forever. 

Raphael’s angelic features also burned as he Fell. His figure turned skeleton thin, his green eyes turned sickly yellow, and his halo was gone. Somehow, his wings were still there, but the white feathers charred into a dirty black unfit for flight. 

Lucifer–Satan–invited him to the throne. 

“Rule with me,” Satan offered. 

Despite the Fall, they were still siblings. Oh, the others were siblings too, but the Archangels were closer than the rest. They existed before anything else, and those precious moments of solidarity created a bond. 

But Raphael did not want to Fall. He didn’t refuse orders, he just asked questions. He did not want to Fall, and he did not want to rule. 

His brother knew the answer before anything was said. 

“Go make some trouble upstairs,” Satan said instead. 

Upstairs. The Garden. 

Raphael nodded and left. 

“Crawley,” Lucifer–Satan–drawled. 

“I panicked!”

“Snakes do crawl,” Satan reasoned. 

Raphael–Crawley–crossed his arms and huffed. For a moment, the two brothers teased each other and nothing was wrong. The angel, Aziraphale, asked for a name and Raphael couldn’t just give his own, and he was just in the form of a snake, and like Lucifer said, snakes crawl.  

But something was wrong. They were in Hell, with different names and appearances, and could never go home again.

Satan watched his shoulders and gaze drop.

“Heaven will have angels on Earth, guiding the humans into doing good,” Satan mused. “It’s only fitting that we send a demon up there to… tempt them.”

Raphael–Crawley–nodded. 

“And you are my most trusted demon. Go up there. Create temptations.”

He stared. “What?”

“Go to Earth.”

“And… tempt them?”

“Yes. Send a report every now and then.”

He stared a little longer. But they were brothers, and he did not mean to Fall. 

So went to Earth and tempted the humans and sent some reports when he remembered.

“Not the kids. You can’t kill kids,” Crawley breathed. 

The angel nodded, staring resolutely at the boat.

Aziraphale–angel, celestial being, and protector of humanity–was going to watch as the humans drowned. 

The first drops of rain fell silently. The next drops thundered down. 

This creation will suffer, and you will heal them, God had told him. 

How? Crawley wanted to scream. How can I help them if I Fell? Why are you making them suffer?

“Well this-this is goodbye for now,” Aziraphale tittered. 

“And where are you going?” Crawley sneered. “Back to Heaven so you don’t have to watch them die?”

“Well, yes. This is part of God’s plan.” Aziraphale, who did not ask questions, who followed God blindly, miracled away to watch from the safety of Heaven.

Well, if everyone dying is part of Her plan, then surely saving them is a demonic thing to do. It’s not as if Crawley wanted to do good–demons did not do Good. Going against Her plan is Bad, and so he had to save them. To keep up appearances. 

He used his own demonic miracles to create more boats and food. As the rain continued to fall, the people realized the severity of the storm. Families piled into the rafts clutching whatever bread and fruit they had, holding their children closer. After 40 days and nights of rain, Noah and his family survived. So did some of the locals. 

None of this made it into Crawley’s report, of course. 

“Crowley!”

He jerked backwards, finding Aziraphale. 

“Crowley, you need to leave! Someone from head office is here and they cannot find you!”

Head office…

“Oh, don’t tell me it’s one of the Archangels,” he huffed. “Since when do they come to Earth anyways?” 

Airaphale was glancing around, as if sight is how celestial beings identify each other. St. James’ Park had many visitors ranging from children to ducks, but he couldn’t sense any divine creatures. 

“N-no, it’s-well-it’s been so long that I was surprised too,” the angel rambled. “It really is an honor, but you cannot be here!”

“Yeah, yeah, I get the message. Leave before Michael gets here. How long is she planning on being here anyways? A few hours?”

“Oh, it’s not Michael. It’s Raphael!”

Crowley blinked. “What?”

“Raphael,” Aziraphale repeated, beaming. “Oh, it’s been so long! But there was a miracle at the hospital, and a child was healed when all the doctors failed, and no one but Raphael performs such amazing miracles!”

Raphael. The name he hadn’t heard in millennia. Most demons forgot he was ever called that. Only his brother really remembered, though even Satan wouldn’t inflict that pain on him. 

Crowley wanted to say “Did no one tell you? Raphael Fell millennia ago and is a demon now. He’s gone.”

He also wanted to say: “I performed that miracle. The child was dying and the entire hospital was praying to a God that was not listening and I healed her because that’s what I was meant to do.”

What he actually said was: “Since when is fixing a cough considered an ‘amazing miracle?’”

And Aziraphale, usually a shining example of angelic softness, glared. “It was not ‘a simple cough,’ Crowley. The child was dying. Oh, I do hope I get to say hello...”

“I’m leaving,” Crowley cut in. Aziraphale looked up from his rambling. “You’re right. I don’t want an Archangel finding me. Call me when he’s gone.” 

He sauntered to his Bentley, knowing Aziraphale will never get a chance to say hello to Raphael. 

Armageddon. 

Armaged-don’t. 

The world almost ended, and everything is the same. 

After all this time, he and his brother still stared at each other, one demanding an answer without asking any questions, and the other refusing to speak. 

Satan broke first. 

“How?”

“I could have died!” Crowley defended, watching his brother flinch back. “Were you having a nap as your second in command threw me into Holy Water?” 

“The boy drained me,” Satan replied. “I needed rest. How did you survive?” 

Crowley pressed his lips together. That spot right by Satan’s shoulder was very interesting and needed all of his attention. 

“Crowley, how did you survive?”

“Well… maybe I spent too much time on Earth. Gone native, like Beelzebub says.”

“Crowley,” Satan repeated. “How. Did. You. Survive?”

“It wasn’t me,” he mumbled.

“What?”

“It wasn’t me! I switched places with the angel!”

“What!”

“We-that witch, Anges Nutter, she had this prophecy that said we need to choose our faces carefully because there’s going to be fire, so we just… switched bodies. The angel took a bath in Holy Water and I stepped into Hellfire.”

Crowley had hoped his explanation would’ve been enough. Apparently it just brought more questions. 

“How’s your son,” Crowley asked, desperate for a change of subject. 

“Not my son,” Satan frowned. 

Ah, yes. Adam denounced Satan as his father, and then Satan was never his father to begin with. 

Crowley was never going to hear the end of this. 

Aziraphale. Principality, Angel of the Eastern Gate, and friend of a demon. 

The end of the world took something from them, and all they wanted was a vacation. Retirement. A cottage on the South Downs. Books, plants, and comfortable seating. Aziraphale reread his book collection, Crowley yelled at his plants, and they both lived together. 

The goal was peace. 

Heaven did not appear to get the memo. 

Crowley moved from yelling at his houseplants to inspecting his front lawn. So far, there were no spots, but the height was pathetic. There they were, outside in direct sunlight, and they had the nerve to be stunted. He should cut the palm down and start over again. 

He was detailing the painful process to the shaking palm when he froze. 

The atmosphere shifted, tasting of electricity as two celestial beings appeared. 

They looked around, observing the cottage and then the demon who stood on the lawn. One of the Archangels shifted, ready to smite him. The other rolled his eyes.

“You again. Where is Aziraphale?”

Crowley smiled, just a little too wide. “Archangel Gabriel! What a pleasure! Come to try the Hellfire and Holy Water again?”

“No. That was official business. This is a social call. Where is he?” 

Social call? Since when do angels do social calls? What was social call code for?

Aziraphale must’ve noticed their presence, coming outside with his usual nervousness. “Yes, hello. I didn’t expect to see you so soon.” 

Aziraphale glanced at Crowley, checking for any damage. Seeing nothing, he went back to the Archangels. 

Michael stepped forward and enveloped Aziraphale in a hug. Aziraphale returned the hug. Crowley stared. Never, in the last six thousand years, did he ever see Michael hug anyone. 

To be fair, he hasn’t seen Michael in six thousand years. It was Aziraphale who was at his trial with Holy Water. Before then, Michael had no reason to be near Crowley. The last time he had seen her was… before the Fall. Michael with her sword, ready to strike down Lucifer. 

“I thought you weren’t going to bother us anymore,” Crowley interrupted.

Michael glared at him over Aziraphale’s shoulder. “This is not a bother.” 

Well, Aziraphale didn’t look bothered. He looked calm. As if Michael didn’t try to kill him with Holy Water and Gabriel didn’t try to kill Aziraphale with Hellfire. As if, despite everything that happened during Armageddon, they were still family. 

“Demon Crowley, begone,” Michael ordered without any actual Divine authority. 

“Hold on now. You tried to kill us and now you’re hugging him? Something isn’t adding up. What the fuck, Michael.”

It was Gabriel who sighed, like he was some kind of idiot. “We tried to kill him. He didn’t die. He’s still an angel. I know you demons don’t know how love works–”

“What?! Do you think demons just appeared one day! We know what love is! And you don’t have any!”

The Archangels who threw him out, left him and Lucifer on Earth with no forgiveness or second chances, who never loved him enough to help him. 

Aziraphale stepped out of Michael’s embrace and wrung his hands. “Crowley, dear, they’re not here to hurt anyone. Maybe you should go for a walk?”

“A walk?! I should go for a walk?! And leave you with the people who forced you into hellfire?!”

They were all getting impatient. Somehow, it was Crowley who couldn’t see logic. 

“How do you still like him?! He betrayed you!”

Wrong question. The angels all bristled, wings puffing out. 

“He’s one of us,” Michael said. Ah, yes. Simple. 

Six thousand years of pain broke through. Six thousand years of rejection and no signs of forgiveness. 

“I was one of you, too.”

That made them pause. 

Demons were not created by God. They came into existence when angels Fell. Six thousand years was enough to make them forget, and the reminder was uncomfortable. 

But Michael, Commander of the Heavenly Armies, knew the proper response. “And you betrayed God. You do not deserve forgiveness.”

The other Archangel nodded, standing tall in the sunlight. For a moment, the righteous, divine presence surpassed their physical forms, glowing in the sunlight. 

“I didn’t betray Her,” Crowley insisted. “I just asked questions! I didn’t want them to suffer!” 

“Questions?” Michael’s righteousness faltered.

The angels Fell when they supported Lucifer against God. Angels did not Fall for asking questions. 

It was Gabriel who realized first. Gabriel, who came to him with scraped wings and saw him heal injuries with a simple touch, who helped him create the stars, who heard him wonder why would She do this? 

Gabriel, who stepped forward, eyes wide, lips speaking the name that his throat did not voice. “You Fell…”

“Oh, Gabe, that is old news! You threw me out, remember! I just wanted to know why! And you threw me out!” 

The Archangels moved closer, circling him, eyes wide with realization, going over his thin frame and serpentine eyes, so different from the beauty he was as an angel. Crowley met their gaze, burning with Hellfire. 

And Aziraphale, previously determined to get Crowley away and keep the peace, realized how lost he was. His eyes darted between Crowley and the Archangels, wondering how they knew each other from before. 

The Archangels watched him, searching long enough for Crowley to realize that they can’t find anything. Oh, they wanted some sign that he was Raphael, but they couldn’t see. 

His shoulders slumped forward in defeat. Six thousand years of anger left him, and all that remained was exhaustion. “You’re here for Aziraphale, right? Fine. I’ll leave.” 

He turned to leave, and a hand grabbed his wrist. 

“Stay,” Michael coaxed. “I’m sure Aziraphale will allow us to talk in private.” 

Aziraphale, seeing three pairs of eyes turn to him, nodded. “Oh, yes. I needed to go to the shops anyways, yes! Some, um, things to buy. Yes.” 

He stayed for a moment longer before leaving to wander around town. There was nothing he needed to buy. 

“Shall we go inside?” 

When Crowley didn’t answer, she led him to their living rooms and settled him on the couch. On his other side was Gabriel, trapping him in. 

Michael’s fingers stroked his hair. After his Fall, the red locks were the one feature to remain. Gabriel’s hand drifted on this thigh, the Archangel pressing against his side. Between the physical touch and sorrowful gazes, Crowley wondered how long it would take for him to break. No one had petted his hair like that in six thousand years. His breakdown is inevitable. 

This moment, between Michael and Gabriel, reminded him of back then. He remembered when it was just them. For a few moments, at the very beginning of the universe, there was only God and Her Archangels. Back then, they were young. They had no one but each other to keep entertained, and time was passed in each other’s company. They would carefully preen feathers and braid hair, making sure nothing snagged and caused pain. As the universe grew, they had less and less time to spend with each other. And then everything fell apart. 

“What happened?” 

Crowley leaned into Michael’s side. “I told you. I asked why the humans had to suffer. She had just cast out Lucifer and didn’t want any more questions, so She cast me out too.” 

“Why would you do that?”

Crowley pulled away, eyes flashing at Gabriel. “They didn’t deserve suffering. They hadn’t done anything yet.” 

“You should’ve waited–”

“I shouldn’t have Fallen for just asking–”

“Raphael.” 

Crowley froze. Michael pulled him to her again, resuming her careful stroking as if nothing happened. 

The touches, the sorrowful gazes, the name, it was too much. The first tears were wiped away by Michael, forcing Crowley to realize he was crying at all. He turned and hid his face against her shoulder, giving Gabriel the opportunity to rub his back, right above his hidden wings. Crowley understood the silent message, unfurling his wings. 

The first touch was barely there. The feathers were stiff, charred, nothing like the organic softness of an angel’s wings. Crowley pushed his face deeper into Michael, refusing to look at the horror he knew was there. Once Gabriel made sure that the wings wouldn’t crumble to dust, he set about straightening the feathers as best as he could. Some feathers refused to straighten, charred into a permanent state of dishevelment. 

In those seconds, it was as if he never Fell, as if he was still the Archangel Raphael with his siblings. 

“You can come back,” Michael whispered in his hair. “You never rebelled. You can come back.”

“Back?” Crowley pulled away to look at Michael, but she was serious. He laughed. “I can’t come back. I Fell. You can’t un-Fall.” 

“You’re different,” she pressed. “You’re one of us.” Us meaning Archangel. He wasn’t one of those lower angels tempted by Lucifer, forgotten as time passed. No, he was slightly more important than the others. 

“I was one of you. Now I’m not. Be-sides! Who’s gonna watch over Luci if I leave?”

Between Lucifer’s–Satan’s–selective blindness and his Arrangement with Aziraphale, Crowley accepted that he Fell and was a demon and that there was no going back. Michael offering the possibility changed nothing. Crowley, who didn’t dare dream of this moment, didn’t want to go back.  

“Luficer Fell–”

“So did I–”

“No, you didn’t–”

“Yes, I did! Why can’t you accept this! You didn’t see me for six thousand years after the Fall! Where did you think I was? On some beach, drinking a margarita?”

Michael wasn’t going to drop it. She was stubborn and only the word of God would get her to back down. God never actually spoke at that moment, which Crowley figured was its own sign.

If seriousness didn’t work, Crowley needed to resort to theatrics.

Crowley turned and collapsed into Michal’s lap in a dramatic fall. He used Gabriel as a footstool. 

“Michael. Dude. I’m not going back. I’m going to be here, tempting these humans as a demon. I guess you and Gabriel have no choice but to come and thwart my attempts. A lot. You need to visit a lot. Just in case.”

Crowley wondered if it would work. It did on Aziraphale, but only because he and the angel were so close. Michael and Gabriel were more serious, and his proposed plan was so obviously a set-up, he expected them to roll their eyes and keep trying to convince him to un-Fall. 

Michael went back to petting his hair. “Oh yes. We can no longer trust Aziraphale to thwart you. We need to keep a close eye on you ourselves.”

Gabriel nodded enthusiastically, and Crowley remembered how high-energy the Archangel was before. That office job really killed his spirit. “Yes. We will visit you. To make sure you’re not committing any foul deeds. Because you are a demon.” 

Michael paused her motions to stare at Gabriel. Crowley’s entire body shook with laughter, and he could not stop. It wasn’t that Gabriel was being more awkward than usual, but that the entire situation was so insane and he already cried so laughing was the next course of action. 

Michael was too dignified to laugh at Gabriel, and Gabriel himself didn’t realize why his words were funny, but they both smiled anyways. 

Soon, Aziraphale would return, and Michael and Gabriel would leave. Soon, Crowley would need to explain everything to Aziraphale. Soon, Michael and Gabriel would return, day after day, as if the last six thousand years never happened. 

Until then, Crowley laid on his siblings, laughing at a joke that wasn’t even funny, and everything was alright.