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Under the Starry Sky

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As night unfurled over the city of London, Crowley’s wings unfurled against the backrest of his throne. See, the demon had a habit of bringing out his wings when he was upset, or stressed, or otherwise feeling too emotionally vulnerable for his own good. On this night in particular, he was feeling a rather unsavory combination of all three, and his medicine of choice for dealing with it consisted of enough alcohol to knock out a horse. Three empty wine bottles lay haphazardly strewn about the floor, a fourth half-empty and being practically strangled by the demon’s grip on the bottleneck.

He hadn’t expected himself to wade this deep into his emotions tonight. Quite the opposite, in fact; It was sheer boredom, really, that drove him to drink in the end, though in a way it also felt like it was a sort of reward to himself for surviving the end of the world. Normally, he would have shared some of his stash of alcohol with Aziraphale, the angel with whom he’d been grateful to share the post-Armageddon’t glow with, but it was rather late in the night and the demon had figured it was best not to interrupt whatever his best friend was doing at this obscure time. Besides, at this point, calling the angel over would just cause a spat between them in the end. The demon could see it clearly as he could through a haze of drunkenness; Aziraphale would start chewing out Crowley for drinking as much as he had and not sobering up almost right off the bat. Crowley, in return, would say something snarky along the lines of “lighten up a little, angel”, and chastise Aziraphale for being so uptight with him.

The evening started off well enough. Crowley terrorized his plants for a bit, made sure everything in the apartment was in working order; as usual, it was. Not even a stray speck of dust could be found in the place, so tidy was the flat the demon kept to himself. He spied some wine sitting in a cabinet that had been there for who knows how long, and bottle of said wine later some of the more repressed emotions he kept inside of him began to creep their way to the forefront of his mind. One thing led to another and at this point any normal person would take a break from what they were doing, maybe lay down and have a nap, but since Crowley was a demon and had an astounding lack of self control he continued to drink. Thus the cycle continued until he got to where he was now.

His legs were kicked carelessly up onto his desk, his astrology book open in his lap and the pages unbound from it, floating in midair all about him. His sunglasses had been discarded quite a bit of time ago. Crowley’s yellow snake eyes focused intently on the papers in his lap until he removed one from the stack and released it into the air, watching it float up towards the ceiling before taking a pause. After downing a long, decisive swig of bitter-tasting wine from his bottle--the brand name was long gone from his mind, all he cared about was its ability to incapacitate him--the demon pulled from the air another random sheet of paper, leaning into the plush backing of his chair with a low sigh.

“The Eagle Nebula,” He slurred out, barely audible even to himself, and furrowed his eyebrows. “That was one--hic--one of Gabriel’s first creations, I think. It’s changed quite a bit since then already.”

Gabriel. Even thinking of that stupid archangel now left a bad taste in Crowley’s mouth. He grimaced, the sight of that jackass’ smile as he sentenced whom he (mistakenly) thought was Aziraphale to death by hellfire still burned into his memory. Just thinking about it made the demon’s face go red in anger. Crowley should have thrown hands with that asshole while he’d had the chance, and yet…

The demon took another heavy swig of wine, letting the fluid slide so slow it burnt against his throat on the way down. And yet, the two of them had helped the Almighty Herself create the universe with their own hands.

The two of them were different back then. Everything was. Once upon a time one could even say they got along well, but now? Crowley wasn’t sure what had happened to Gabriel between his Fall and the last time they met, but the demon was pretty sure he could roll around in a field of cannabis and still not be as high as the horse that guy rode around on. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

He discarded the picture of the Eagle Nebula almost right away, but not without lingering over the photograph on the page first. It was a beautiful shot, for sure, though it was obviously a lot nicer sight to see in person. Smoky black dust against a backdrop of muddy browns, pinks, and blues, all blending together smoothly like watercolor against the vast expanse of space; and, of course, with a generous amount of stars sprinkled in. Crowley winced. He tried not to let himself remember any more than he had to, but creating the stars had been nice. He’d enjoyed it, and once Gabriel got the hang of it--

Enough thinking about Gabriel. Crowley tossed the paper carelessly into the air with a look of disgust and closed his eyes, his head sinking into the plush backing of his throne. His throat burned from the drinks he’d ingested, his tongue almost numb from the amount of alcohol that had passed over it during the course of the past few hours. He made a grab for another paper, this one with an image of the Milky Way on it. Crowley stared down at the paper, resting it between the two leather halves of the astrology book’s cover. His chest tightened; the detail of this photo was arguably even better than that of the Eagle Nebula’s photo and he remembered looking down on it shortly after breathing life into it from his own hands. Well, Michael had a small role in helping form it as well, but they never really took any credit for it, so Crowley had always gone around saying it was entirely his work. And, if he had to be honest with himself, it was probably the creation he was the most proud of producing. In fact, with minimal concentration, he could remember the day it happened as if it were a few moments ago.

 

 

“Raphael!” Gabriel called out to the angel standing at the edge of the newly formed Milky Way, a look of awe on his face. “How did you do that?! That’s so cool!”

Cro Raphael turned and smiled at the boy, still quite young for an archangel as it were. Gabriel spread his wings and flew over to where Raphael stood perched over his creation, landing clumsily at his side. Gabe was, in fact, so young at this point that word among the other archangels was that he’d never created anything more impressive than a star, and he was still small enough that he only came up to Raphael’s shoulder. It would be a very long time before he would take on the appearance he had in the modern day.

“You mean to tell me,” Raphael asked, “That you’ve not yet learned how to make a galaxy?” He chuckled. His voice was so soft, so gentle back then. Even his honey-colored eyes, not yet molded into the thin slits of a snake’s, were kind and full of love. “Oh, Gabriel. How will you ever become a proper archangel if you can’t create like your siblings can?” He teased good-naturedly.

Gabriel made a face at him. “I asked the Almighty to teach me, but She said that it was something for me to learn on my own!” The little archangel’s expression shifted to pleading. “But I just can’t seem to get it right! I’ve tried but all I can make are these tiny little stars. Oh, Raphael, won’t you please show me? Michael and Uriel are too busy to help, and besides, you make it look so easy compared to them!”

Raphael knelt down, taking the younger archangel’s hands in his own with a twinkle in his eyes. “Well, alright. If the Almighty says you must learn it on your own then ultimately you must obey Her, but I suppose I could give you a bit of a guiding hand. Understand?”

Gabriel nodded. “Yes, I understand. Now, show me!” He faltered, “Um, show me please.”

The other archangel laughed again, kneeling down to the boy’s eye level. “Alright. The first step, Gabriel, is to close your eyes. This will make it easier to think of what you’re about to create.” Gabe did so, screwing his face up tightly.

“Not so tightly, now. Hold it there like a blink.” Gabriel’s expression softened.

“Good,” The older archangel continued, “Now, imagine a galaxy for me. It doesn’t have to be the one like what I’ve just made. Make it unique; make it your own.”

Gabriel’s face screwed up again. “But how do I do that? Imagine something so grand, I mean.”

Raphael sighed. “You don’t know how to imagine? Something as simple as that…?”

The other angel paused. “Some of the other angels told me that imagining such complex things is too hard. That it’s not worth it.”

Raphael shook his head, red curls tumbling down past his shoulders. He’d heard such sentiments before himself, but only from whispers between himself and the other archangels. It shocked him to hear that some of the other deities actually believed such a thing. The ones who did were likely younger, and, he realized with a pang of sadness, not very likely to make it as angels for very long. “Gabriel, look at me.” The younger angel obeyed, his violet eyes full of apprehension. “I’ve no idea where you heard such a silly idea, but disregard it immediately. Imagination is so, so important, especially to us archangels. It’s one of the most precious gifts we have. It doesn’t give us the ability to create, but rather, it gives us something to use that ability for, understand?” Raphael continued, squeezing the boy’s hands for emphasis. “Don’t you go believing such silly words, alright?”

Gabriel nodded, biting his bottom lip. “Yes, Raphael.”

The archangel tousled the other angel’s blonde hair. “There’s a good angel. Now, since I know you’re a bit less experienced than most of us, I think we should just start with something relatively small for now. How does a nebula sound?”

The other angel made a face, confused. “What’s a nebula?”

Raphael grinned, eyes turning up in an excited half-moon shape. “You’ll see in just a moment. Now, close your eyes again.” Gabe obeyed. “What’s your favorite color?” Raphael asked. The boy thought for a moment.

“I think red’s rather lovely,” He stated. “What’s that got to do with anything?”

“Imagine, then,” Raphael continued, holding the boy’s hands tighter, “A swirl of red. Bold red, against the dark expanses of space. Don’t think too hard about the details; just imagine that, a simple shape. Make the image clear in your mind, Gabriel.”

There was a heavy pause and Raphael could almost feel the metaphorical gears turning inside the other archangel’s mind. Slowly, surely, a vague red shape came into form between the boy’s hands, and Raphael gasped. For the start of a first creation, it certainly was bright, and bold. There was no doubt in his mind already that this angel was about to make something truly beautiful.

“What?” Gabriel almost opened his eyes. “What is it? Did I make a nebula?”

“Ah, ah, don’t open your eyes just yet!” With one hand, Raphael gently covered Gabriel’s eyes. “Wait until I say so. My, Gabriel, this is quite a lovely start.” He remarked.

The other angel flushed with pride. “Really?” He asked, excited. “What’s next?”

Raphael thought for a moment. “Think of another color, Gabriel, and blend the two. Not all the way, though, let them mix together in your hands.” He watched as the red mass between the other angel’s fingers began to develop streaks of silver through it and held his breath as the motley mass of stardust began to take some abstract shape, the colors of stardust melting together to form all shades of red and pink and gray. Truly a first major creation to be proud of.

Gabriel’s brows furrowed together in concentration. “Feels strange, and cold.” He remarked. “Is it almost done?”

“Almost.” Raphael whispered, eyes glued to the amalgamation of space and light being formed right before his eyes. “You’re doing wonderful, Gabe. A few final touches and it’ll be good to go.”

Gabe drew in an excited breath, anticipating his next set of instructions. Already he could feel his new creation softly flowing in wisps across the pads of his fingers, delightfully chilly and smooth.

“Hm…” Raphael murmured in thought. “Stars. No grand celestial body is complete without them, you know. Sprinkle in a good amount, mix it with the other colors.”

Gabe paused. “How big should they be?”

“Keep them small for now. They will grow bigger on their own in time.” The other angel answered. Seconds later, he watched in amazement as the nebula taking form in Gabriel’s hands became speckled with stars, all varying in shapes and sizes and brightness. “Oh, my.” He breathed, watching the swirling mass of matter with intent. The reds began to break up and form faint oranges and yellows around the fringes, the silver developed a blue tinge to it. Right before his eyes, Raphael witnessed the archangel Gabriel form the most beautiful nebula he’d ever seen in all his time creating.

“Is it done?” Gabriel asked, seemingly about to burst with excitement. Raphael drew in an unsteady breath, holding it.

“Yes, I think it is. But try not to get too excited, or else it may disperse, and we wouldn’t want that happening after all your hard work, would we?” The boy shook his head softly.

“Good. Now, open your eyes and see what you’ve created, Gabriel.”

Slowly, slowly he opened his eyes to see what his creation looked like for the first time. Gabriel gasped softly, mouth holding an ‘o’ shape for several seconds before a prideful smile broke out across his face.

“I did it, Raphael!” He exclaimed. “I made my first nebula! Oh, look, isn’t it lovely?” Gabriel asked, extending his cupped hands forward for the other archangel to see.

“It’s stunning, Gabe.” Raphael breathed. His fingers intertwined with Gabriel’s, and he felt the cool softness of the freshly created star-cloud against his skin. “Though, I’d hardly call this a full nebula right now. This next part is the most important of all, so listen closely, okay?”

Gabe’s wide violet eyes peered up at Raphael’s. “Yes? What is it?”

Raphael stood upright, gesturing out to the vast expanse of blackness occasionally dotted by bright white lights every now and again. The Milky Way was tucked into the corner of his field of vision, “Pick a spot in the sky, anywhere you wish, and fly to it. Then, open your hands, and let your new creation out. It will settle into place on its own, and then it’ll be done.” Gabriel’s eyes followed the older angel’s hands and he looked back up at him apprehensively.

“But, Raphael, what if I drop it?” The boy asked nervously, hands beginning to tremble slightly. “I don’t want to ruin my first ever nebula. Can you help me?”

The other angel thought about it for a moment. “Well, alright. I suppose I could help keep you steady while you release it, though I don’t think it’s possible for you to just accidentally drop your creations wherever.” He chuckled. “But, I’ll only do it just this once.”

Gabriel smiled. He knew from the look in the other angel’s eyes that if he was especially persistent next time around, Raphael would be there to lend him a hand. “Okay, okay. I think,” He paused in thought, eyes scanning the extensive space before them, and he settled on a place tucked away within the starry folds of the Milky Way galaxy born not too long ago. Carefully cupping his nebula with one hand, he pointed out the spot with the other; “That should be a good place.”

Pride swelled in Raphael’s chest, honored that the angel had chosen part of his brother’s creation to house his own. “Yes, I think so too.” He agreed with a nod. “Hold tight to it, now, Gabe.” Raphael suddenly grinned and, before the other angel could say anything, lifted him up into his arms. The archangel’s powerful white wings spread, Gabriel gasped in surprise, and Raphael flew them down to the spot that had been pointed out to him. Gabriel clutched his nebula tightly in his hands, giggling in delight as the force of Raphael’s wings pushed stars and dust and matter out of their way, leaving behind a trail of emptiness that split the Milky Way behind them. Raphael slowed to a stop at the destination and let Gabriel go, the other angel apprehensively unfolding and flapping his wings once or twice to awkwardly hover in place. He looked back up at the older angel, who gave him a supportive thumbs-up.

“Let it go, Gabe!” Raphael encouraged, and with a final apprehensive swallow, Gabriel did exactly that. He pulled his hands apart, letting the nebula tumble out into the space between the stars. To say what followed was breathtaking would be an understatement. In that moment, watching the mass of stars and brightly pigmented dust fall from the younger angel’s hands, Raphael’s heart soared with pride. The two watched in shocked silence as the nebula began to sink into space and unfold itself, stardust wrapping and twisting into thick clouds like pure pigment loose in the air. The stars, speckled in like a mass of fairy lights, twinkled so brightly that for a moment Raphael thought he might go blind looking at it. The last of the stardust slipped through Gabriel’s fingertips like sand and settled into the sky, and just like that, the Eagle Nebula was born.

“Gabriel,” Raphael breathed, watching in awe as the last of the creation relaxed into place, “I am so, so proud of you.”

Gabe’s eyes widened. “Really? You mean that?” He asked, incredulous. Raphael smiled, placing a gentle hand on Gabriel’s shoulder.

“Of course I mean it. Look,” He said, pointing out the mass of radiant stardust floating in the air, “You made that, Gabriel, all by yourself. That’s so incredible for a first time creation.” He looked back at Gabe, who looked at him like he was about to cry. “You are going to make a wonderful archangel, little brother.”

“Thank you, Raphael!” He smiled, voice verging on a sob, and threw his arms around the other archangel in a hug. “You’re the best brother ever!”

An amused chuckle escaped Raphael’s throat and he knelt to hug Gabriel back. “You’re welcome, Gabe. You’re so, so welcome.”

 

 

As the hours ticked away on the clock and the stars in the sky threatened to fall more and more with each passing moment, a fallen angel sat alone in his office, black wings wrapped tightly around his body and thick tears streaming down the sides of his face.