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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.

Chapter Text

Something felt wrong. Out of place. Bad. Aziraphale could feel it, deep within the pit of his stomach, but what exactly wasn’t right remained yet to be determined. It was quite late at night (three in the morning, to be exact, so perhaps it was more ‘early’ than it was ‘late’) and the angel sat leisurely back in an armchair with a book in his lap. He’d been reading until the feeling of badness came across him, and now Aziraphale felt like the words on the page just wouldn’t register with his mind anymore. With a sigh of frustration, he closed the book and set it on the side table next to him, taking his reading glasses off as well.

The night for him had been going well enough up until a few hours ago, when the first hints of feeling-offness began to creep across the principality’s consciousness. At first, he thought it was just a simple stomach upset; a quick few minutes later and he had some tea to soothe his nerves. It worked, but only for a while. Some time later, the feeling was back and stronger than before, so Aziraphale decided the next best thing to do was play some old Chopin records he had laying around. The sound of piano was only of help to him for so long, though, and soon the angel found himself resting with his head pressed into the back of the armchair in frustration.

‘Perhaps I need to get some sleep,’ He thought to himself. Though he didn’t technically need to sleep, Aziraphale found that more often than not he felt refreshed after a good night’s rest. ‘Yes, that seems right. I should just lay down for a bit, and then I shall feel better.’

But this overall badness was different than the exhaustion the angel had felt more than a few times in the past. This felt…wrong, as though some impending doom was fast approaching, but surely he was just imagining things. After bringing on the apocalypse failed one time, it would be quite the stretch to say that such a short time later they’d make a try for it again, especially after the little body-swap show the two performed for the other’s respective head office. Oh, how long he’d waited until then to be able to sass others around the way he had been able to in Crowley’s form, and to have the nerve to ask the archangel Michael for a bath towel! He remembered with a chuckle how positively nonplussed they’d seemed by the “demon”’s request. That had, pun intended, felt hella good.

Recounting the incident to Crowley in the aftermath over lunch had been quite an experience as well. The demon listened intently to everything Aziraphale had said, laughing aloud when he said he’d asked for a rubber duck and bath towel.

“Angel,” Crowley had said to him, a lopsided grin on his face and a glass of Dom Perignon in hand, “I almost want to say you did a better job at being me than I do at being me.”

Aziraphale felt his face flush pink at the remark. “Don’t be silly,” He’d replied with the shake of his head, “I couldn’t possibly be better at being you because I’m not you.”

Crowley rolled his eyes. “Whatever. Let’s not discuss this any further, I don’t wanna end up stuck in some sort of weird conversational loop that leads to one of us getting all existential or whatever.” But Aziraphale could see the hints of a smile on Crowley’s lips, could see ever so slightly behind those dark sunglasses that his eyes turned up at the bottom like half-moons, and it made the angel’s heart skip a beat. Strangely, though, the demon himself refused to elaborate on what he’d experienced when he’d played the role of the angel.

“Oh, it was nothing too grand, really,” Crowley had insisted with a dismissive wave of the hand when Aziraphale brought it up some time later. “It was just, you know. About what you’d expect. Those bastard archangels tried to burn me, but obviously that didn’t work out.” Crowley tipped his glasses down to the edge of his nose, that charming smile of his spreading across his lips and making Aziraphale’s heart ache. “Rest assured, angel, I’ve made sure that Heaven’s never gonna bother us. Not ever again.”

With a coy smile, Aziraphale raised his champagne glass to his lips. “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t appreciate that.” He said, and that much was true, but inside, the principality was quite confused. He’d expected Crowley to be a lot more forthright about his endeavors in heaven, expected him to be going off about how boring it was up there, asking how could Aziraphale possibly live with working for them, but Crowley never went there. “But surely, knowing you, there must be more to the story than just that, right?”

Crowley snorted. “Well, now that you mention that…I may or may not have spat hellfire at the archangel Gabriel.”

Aziraphale almost choked to discorporation on a mouthful of champagne, coughing and sputtering for a moment before he could muster any words. “You’re kidding.”

The demon looked like he’d stepped in quicksand. Fumbling over his words, he tried to backpedal immediately. “Uh…yeah, yeah sure, it was just a joke, ‘Ziraphale, I wouldn’t actually--”

Aziraphale burst out laughing, the type of laugh that started in the stomach and came heartily bubbling out through the mouth. Crowley stared at him in shock for a moment until his own amusement escaped his lips, and soon the two were doubled over laughing like idiots in the center of the Ritz.

“Oh, dear, Crowley,” The principality wiped a tear from the corner of his eye with a napkin. “I should have liked to have seen the look on his face.”

The demon smirked. “I should have liked the same for you. His expression was priceless.” Crowley tipped his glasses downward and pulled a mocking impression of Gabriel’s face in the moment, jaw agape and eyes wide with feigned terror. “’Oh, Aziraphale,’” He fumbled over his words purposefully and in a mockingly high tone, “’So sorry to have bothered you, then! I s’pose now we’ve just got no other choice than to leave you alone, lest you smite us back into the dust that we are!’”

More laughter.

Aziraphale shook his head, lips pursed but still molded into a smile. “You really shouldn’t talk about them like that, Crowley.” He said, though if the angel was being honest with himself he wasn’t sure if he minded Crowley’s remarks about Heaven anymore. “They could be listening to us even now.”

The demon snorted. “Right. As if that’s something that’ll happen anytime soon.” He said it so casually, but there was a hint of worry to his voice. Aziraphale decided not to press any further; they had an averted apocalypse to celebrate, after all. Their lunch went on tamely as expected, and by the end of the day they’d gone their separate ways for the time being so Aziraphale could enjoy some time in his newly-reconstructed bookshop, thus bringing us to the present time.

The phone rang and Aziraphale jumped in his seat, surprised. Who in their right mind would be calling at such an obscure hour? The angel got up and lumbered over to the phone, ready to politely inform whoever was on the other end of the line that the bookshop was closed for the time being and wouldn’t be open for quite some time.

He picked up the receiver. “I’m terribly sorry,” Aziraphale began, not about to wait for whoever was on the other end of the line, “But we’re quite closed. We’ll be open from--”

“’Ziraphale?” A shaky, unsure voice uttered from the other end of the line. “You, uh…you there?”

“Crowley?” Aziraphale’s eyes went wide. The demon sounded absolutely wasted. “Why on Earth are you calling at this time of night?”

“Listen,” He slurred, “I know it’s late as fuck. But, uh. Could ya…” There was a pause. Crowley groaned. “Could ya come over fer a lil’ bit? I’m. Not doing so well. Y’know how it is.” Another pause, followed by a sniffle. Aziraphale’s gut wrenched.

“Oh, Crowley, of course.” The angel replied without a second thought. He’d never heard Crowley sound so dejected before, so broken, save for two specific moments in the 6,000 years they’d known one another. One had been when the Great Flood covered the earth and the two among the stars, mourning the deaths of what no doubt had to be thousands of innocent people in the storm. The other was when the discorporated Aziraphale encountered his best friend at that bar, drunk to the high heavens and sobbing about the loss of his best friend. (It had taken the angel an embarrassingly long time to realize who Crowley had meant by that.) “I’ll be right there.”

He slammed the phone back down onto the receiver. A few moments and one brief angelic miracle later, he was in the demon’s flat. Everything seemed just fine at first, though the bad feeling from earlier still nipped slightly at Aziraphale’s gut. The place was spotless as always, not even the leaves of Crowley’s many plants seemed to be out of place.

And then he heard the crying.

It was a heartbreaking sound, not unlike that of keening. Aziraphale immediately recognized the heaving, shaky cries and almost started to panic when he didn’t see his friend right away.

“Crowley!” He called, looking about for the source of the sound. There he was, just across the hall from Aziraphale, draped over his desk in his office. Wine bottles laid all about him on the floor, the contents clearly having made their way into the demon’s bloodstream. His black wings, enormous and black like fine ash, splayed out from his back and were wrapped around the front half of the demon’s body, cradling himself in an awkward self-hug. Dark feathers littered the floor in a very messy fashion, much unlike anything sober Crowley would ever allow. If Aziraphale had somehow had any doubts in his mind that the demon was intoxicated, they’d been smashed into nothing but a small brown stain in that very instant.

Crowley lifted his head, poking it just over the top of the broad bones of his wings. His face was wet and tear-streaks ran down his cheeks, mostly fresh. “Angel?” He slurred, slitted amber eyes squinting. Aziraphale apprehensively stepped into the office area.

“Just how much have you had to drink?” He asked, noticing the menagerie of papers littered about the floor. “And what are these?” The angel knelt down and picked one up, flipping it over to reveal a large image of a swirling mass of celestial bodies and stardust, a label underneath indicating it to be the Andromeda Galaxy. Crowley’s eyes followed him to the page.

“Oh, that,” He mumbled, lopsidedly pointing a finger at it. “Michael made that one. I remember it. I think…Uriel may’ve helped? Not sure. But it was real pretty.” Crowley hiccuped. “Wish you could’ve seen them make it, angel.” Aziraphale stared at him.

“How did you…?” It was common knowledge that the archangels helped shape the universe as it was now, but Aziraphale wasn’t aware that the knowledge of who made what was available enough for Crowley of all people to know it. The demon shrugged indifferently.

“Come on, angel,” He said, rather insistently, “You know.” But Aziraphale did not know, and just as he was about to press further on the matter he noticed the bottle of ‘liquor’ currently settled in the curved grasp of Crowley’s hand.

“That doesn’t look like any wine I’ve ever had before.” The angel remarked. “What is it?”

“Oh, uh,” Crowley folded his wings behind himself, a few bones crackling uncomfortably into place and sending more feathers cascading onto the floor. Good lord, are those in need of grooming, Aziraphale thought. “Ran out of my normal stuff so I just kinda miracled up th’ strongest thing I could think of.”

Aziraphale took the bottle and read the label. Turns out, the strongest thing Crowley could think of was 100% ethanol.

“Sober yourself up this instant!” The angel gasped and Crowley rolled his still-damp eyes. “How your inane drinking habits haven’t discorporated you yet is beyond me!”

Crowley groaned, leaning forward to try and wrestle the bottle from Aziraphale’s hands. “Fuck that noise, I’m staying drunk as long as I can manage it, angel.”

“At least tell me what’s eating you, Crowley!” By this point, Crowley had gotten up from his seat and was now leaning uncomfortably close across the desk from Aziraphale to get his literal alcohol back, never mind the fact that their hands were touching in a way the angel had low-key been wanting for literal centuries. In any other situation he knew he would surely be melting from the contact. “Stars, I’ve never seen you in such a wretched state!”

At this, Crowley recoiled and stared back at Aziraphale. For an awkwardly long while, he was silent, and the angel thought for a moment he would start to cry again any second now. “Stars…” He repeated back in a murmur. “Funny you should mention those, angel.” And with that, he collapsed gracelessly onto his desk, his head hitting Aziraphale on the shoulder.

“You’ve got to be--” Aziraphale came dangerously close to saying ‘fuck’ a second time and sighed impatiently. “Crowley.

No response. The angel put a hand to the demon’s forehead and, finding the skin there cold and damp with sweat, knew he was going to have to get Crowley to sober up whether the demon wanted it or not.

“Damn fool’s gone and given himself alcohol poisoning.” The angel mumbled, awkwardly shuffling around the side of the desk to pick the unconscious demon up. The trouble with intoxication among celestial and occult beings was that sobering up could usually be accomplished only by voluntary action of the drunken deity in question. Crowley, in this case, was too far gone to be able to carry out such a task on his own, so Aziraphale was going to have to do it for him. Interestingly, this sort of design flaw is the exact reason why it is declared in the Bible that excess drinking is a sin; the Almighty wasn’t so concerned with the humans drinking themselves to death as She was the angels. After all, humans have livers. Angels, fallen or otherwise, do not, so if they can’t sober themselves up then they remain unconscious for a very long time unless someone is there to help them.

Aziraphale carefully slipped one hand underneath Crowley’s body, wrapping his arms around his stomach and lifting him up so the demon leaned against the angel’s shoulder. He knew where Crowley’s bedroom was, and luckily for him it wasn’t so far off from here that he couldn’t simply carry his friend to bed for him to sober up. Crowley made a noise that sounded like a soft groan and the angel positioned him so that he was leaned into the angel’s side, making it easier to maneuver him down the hallway and into his bedroom. Stepping over bottles and pages and discarded black feathers, all of which Aziraphale considered leaving for the demon to clean up on his own, he half-dragged Crowley to his room and tossed him onto his bed. The demon hit the mattress with a graceless thud and stray feathers were knocked out of his wings, almost blending into the silk sheets below him. Aziraphale placed a hand on the demon’s forehead and knelt by his side, keeping an intent eye on his friend for any signs of consciousness.

“Oh, Crowley…” The angel murmured, brushing loose strands of copper-colored hair off Crowley’s forehead tenderly. “Why do you do these things to yourself?”

No response, as expected, though Crowley did stir slightly. Aziraphale sighed.

“You’re such a fool, you know that?” He continued, his free hand resting atop one of Crowley’s own, grasping it gently and running his thumb over the bony knuckles. “Such a fool, and yet with each passing day I find it harder and harder to hide my feelings for you.” The angel bit the inside of his cheek. Technically, technically nobody was there to stop him anymore. Heaven and Hell had presumably lost interest in him and Crowley, and they’d both been able to live quite a peaceful life without nagging from either side for several weeks now. It was, in the end, nothing more than his own cowardice keeping Aziraphale from finally saying those three words to his best friend after all these years of pining.

The angel tilted his head to the side. “I suppose I should be sobering you up now, hm.” He said to no one in particular, really, and placed his hands on the demon’s chest. Aziraphale closed his eyes and concentrated on removing the excessive amounts of alcohol from Crowley’s blood, and by the end of the endeavor he found himself quite tired with the start of a headache coming on. Aziraphale pinched the bridge of his nose with a groan and looked his friend over, putting a hand to his forehead again. Already the skin felt less cold, less damp, and the demon stirred slightly at the touch with a bit more energy than the last time he’d moved.

“Oh, good,” The angel mused, “Doing better already, I see.” The urge to kiss Crowley on the forehead quickly overcame Aziraphale but he repressed it, his face reddening at the thought. Not now, he chastised himself, not while he’s asleep. That’s a bit weird, don’t you think?

Moonlight from beyond the tall, broad windows of Crowley’s flat painted the room in a soft, silvery glow. It was enchanting, almost, and the angel felt himself growing tired quite quickly. He decided going home would be too much effort, and besides, Crowley surely wouldn’t mind if he stayed the night. With a satisfied sigh, Aziraphale rested his head on the side of the mattress next to his demon, and before the angel knew it he, too, was fast asleep.

 


 

“Gabriel, Michael, what are the two of you doing?”

Quite some time had passed. Gabriel had gotten bigger; he now barely surpassed his older brother in height, his blonde hair coming down past his ears in shaggy ringlets and generally having the appearance of perhaps a young adult. His wings had grown substantially as well, a sign that his abilities as an archangel were becoming more and more potent with the days. Raphael felt an insurmountable amount of pride and happiness in seeing his brother grow so fast so quickly. On this day, he approached Gabe as he sat alongside Michael just on the edge of the atmosphere of the third planet from the sun in what they called their ‘official’ galaxy, simply known as the Solar System. This particular planet was called ‘Earth’.

‘Earth’, at this time, was naught more than a barren cluster of rock and magma, its surface cooling and heating up as She so willed it to, and some of the other angels of varying ranks were helping prepare it for the creation of new life upon it by the archangels and the Almighty herself. Gabriel and Michael looked up at Raphael and Michael motioned for him to sit.

“Just watching the others work on this planet. Look,” Gabriel pointed out a river of flowing magma that a cluster of angels worked to keep from overflowing onto the flat, rocky land beside it. “This planet is such a mess! I wonder how in all creation we’ll be able to make life on this.”

Michael tutted. “Gabriel, we’ve made entire universes thus far. Making work of Earth is absolutely nothing compared to that.”

One angel was unlucky enough to be in the way of a bubble forming in the stream of lava, which promptly popped and sent hot liquid flying all over him, even singeing the feathers of his wings. A scream of pain could be heard shortly after, followed by a group of angels hurrying to miracle it better. Gabriel drew in a sharp breath.

Riiight.” He winced. Raphael and Michael laughed.

“We’ll be fine, Gabe.” Raphael reassured, patting his brother on the back. “I’m sure that stuff will all be under control by the time She decides it’s time to get to work on it.”

“I’m told it’s called ‘magma’,” Michael remarked, toying with a loose strand of their hair. They’d not yet decided to take on a strictly female appearance and instead looked more androgynous, their hair in a low bun and their robe decidedly baggier than both Gabriel and Raphael’s. “It’s hot, and rather painful to the touch even for us, yet I can’t help but wonder what would happen if I decided to dip my foot in it.”

Raphael grinned. “I think I’d like to go for a swim in some of that.” He joked. Gabriel and Michael stared at him in horror.

“Don’t even think about it, Raphael!” Gabe begged, tugging the sleeve of his brother’s robe, “You’ll burn all your feathers off if you do that, idiot!” Raphael snorted and playfully pushed Gabriel away.

“As if I’d ever actually.” The redhead said with a roll of his eyes. “I’d much prefer being able to fly, thank you.” His eyes flickered back down to the planet below and his breath caught in his throat. Standing with a group of younger angels was an angel Raphael had never seen before, though to be fair it wasn’t like he knew many of the deities outside of the other archangels and the Almighty. He was, in a word, radiant, with soft blonde hair and a sort of glow about him that made Raphael’s heart skip a couple times. Gabriel eyed him.

“I see you’ve finally noticed Aziraphale.” He remarked, making Raphael’s head snap upwards.

“Who?” The redhead asked. Michael snickered.

“Aziraphale. He’s a principality, one rank above us.” Gabriel explained. “I’ve heard that once the Almighty builds the garden she plans to put here, he’ll be sent to guard the eastern gate of it.”

“But a job like that wouldn’t normally be given to such a low rank, would it?” Michael raised an eyebrow. “Sounds more like something She would assign to, I don’t know, a Cherubim perhaps? But not a principality.”

Raphael shrugged. “I guess it’s all just a part of Her great, ineffable plan.” He said, looking back down at where the principality Aziraphale played with a few smaller angels that looked a good deal younger than even Gabriel. He couldn’t help but notice, even from this ludicrous distance upwards, how kindly the angel looked upon those children, how he helped guide them with gentle hands through menial tasks like moving about some of the igneous rock laying about the place. Before Raphael knew it, he was transfixed on the other angel so intensely that it took quite a few snaps from Gabriel to get his attention.

“Raphael. Raphael.” The archangel in question jumped and looked at his brother like a deer in headlights. “Don’t go fixating on that guy, now. He’s a principality. He’s way out of our league, especially if he’s being given a job so important as to guard the gates of the First Garden.” Gabriel said with a laugh. Raphael smiled sheepishly.

“Oh. Uh, yeah. Of course. Good for him, you know?” He said, awkwardly rubbing the back of his neck.

“Angel of the Eastern Gate,” Michael murmured, looking down at the working angels tidying up the planet below, “I should like to hold a title like that some day.”

Gabriel thought for a moment. “Same here,” He said, looking back out at Earth as well. “It sounds cool, at the very least.”

Raphael didn’t say anything else. Instead, his eyes followed those of his brothers, falling back down to view the surface of the earth, but no matter how hard he tried he just couldn’t seem to stop focusing on that angel, Aziraphale.

Chapter Text

The day was still young, the sun was slowly rising in the sky, and Crowley was resting contentedly in his bed. The morning sun poured in through the window, warmed his face, heated the very blood in his veins, and slowly the demon began to stir. He opened his eyes slowly, golden sunlight pouring over him from the window and bathing him in a soft glow. Groggily, the demon blinked a few times, his vision blurry and overwhelmed. Something warm and familiar pressed into his back, holding him closer to what Crowley could tell now was a person. They smelled familiar, like bookshops and vanilla and warm candles, like…

“Aziraphale?” The demon mumbled as he felt a pair of hands snake around his waist. The angel nuzzled into the back of Crowley’s neck.

“Good morning, sleepyhead.” He whispered, voice heavy with sleep. “Did you sleep well?”

Crowley’s face reddened as he felt Aziraphale take one of the demon’s hands in his own from behind. He shivered; never did he think contact from this special person would feel so good, so wholesome. Not even the forces of Hell itself could get him to admit it out loud, but the demon absolutely loved it, so much so that he ran his thumb over Aziraphale’s knuckles with an unashamed smile on his face.

“Mmhm,” He murmured. “’N you?”

“I slept just fine, my dear.” The angel pressed a tender kiss to the other’s neck. Crowley shivered.

“Oh, angel.” The demon’s heart was in his throat. This scenario was so perfect, so right. Oh, how long had the demon waited for a moment like this, one in which he and Aziraphale could wake up beside one another and exchange such sweet words without fear of reparation from either Heaven or Hell? He wanted to see his angel’s face just then, kiss him gently in the glow of the early morning with their bodies pressed against one another and their hearts full of unabashed affection for the other. Carefully, Crowley propped one arm up against the sun-warmed mattress beneath him, prepping himself to turn around and face his beloved angel in this wonderful dream-like state, and just as he was about to turn around--

 

“Motherfucker!

A sharp pain shot up Crowley’s back, snapping the demon out of the pleasant dream he’d been having. His eyes opened and he bolted upright, his upper back throbbing, as well as his…wing? Crowley looked over his shoulder to see his pair of raven-black wings were indeed splayed out behind him, feathers bent and skewed all about the place from having been slept on, and there was a spot on his right wing from where he’d tried to put his arm down.

‘So,’ he realized, ‘that’s what woke me up.’ Great. How had his wings even come out, anyway? Crowley rolled on his side, folding his messed-up wings behind him enough so he could lay as comfortably as possible, though doing so did take a bit of effort. They felt stiff and achy from having been left open all night and slept on, and oh, how the demon hated it. The bones connecting them to his back popped, like how a human would pop their shoulder for example after waking up, and the sound made him wince.

It occurred to him then that he was still wearing his day clothes from earlier, which was odd. Crowley enjoyed sleeping a good deal, so much so that he had a set of black silk pyjamas reserved specifically for the activity, so why wasn’t he wearing those?

‘Oh, Heaven,’ The demon thought in frustration, biting his lip, ‘What did I even do last night? I can’t remember a blessed thing!’

A soft sigh snapped the demon out of his thought process and he turned his head to the side only to nearly discorporate out of shock. Aziraphale was knelt at the side of his bed, head rested on his arms and fast asleep. One of the angel’s hands rested on the mattress close to where Crowley lay, and his expression was tranquil in such a way that the demon felt some of the layers of instinctive coldness around his heart melt away in a second. He was so peaceful, and Crowley remembered the dream he’d woken up from just moments before in which his angel--no, the angel, Aziraphale was by no means his--held him, kissed his neck, spoke to him so tenderly with so much affection in his voice…

Crowley had to stop himself. This wasn’t some self-indulgent dream anymore. Aziraphale wasn’t his partner. Thinking like this about his best friend, someone who was even now far too dedicated to heaven to act upon feelings for a demon should any come about in the first place, was only going to lead him further into despair. Crowley stared down at the sleeping principality, a thousand questions flooding his mind. What was the angel doing here of all places, of all times? Why was he just laying there at the side of the bed? (Hey, if he was going to sleep alongside Crowley, he might as well just suck it up and share the bed with him. It certainly wouldn’t make it the first time they shared a sleeping quarter, not that this mattered at the moment.) What on Earth was going on here and why was there such a nasty taste in Crowley’s mouth all of a sudden?

He considered for a moment waking Aziraphale up to demand an explanation but his better half managed to stop him right as he put his hand on the angel’s arm to shake him awake. The principality stirred slightly and Crowley’s breath hitched, waiting to see if the angel would wake up from the touch, but he did not. He tried not to let his heart melt out of his chest at the soft, contented sigh that left the sleeping Aziraphale’s mouth at that moment, one that made him reconsider waking the angel up at all, and so he folded his damaged wings behind him so he could lay on his side for real this time. The demon no longer cared about the strange situation he’d woken up to find himself in, why his wings were out or why he’d just slept through the night fully clothed with almost no memory of the evening prior. Aziraphale, his best friend and love interest of over 6,000 years, was sleeping peacefully here at his side, and Crowley would sooner be damned again than pass up even second of this moment.

The demon laid down gently, his eyes now level with the sleeping angel’s face, and carefully moved his hand down to where Aziraphale’s free hand rested on the mattress. The closest he’d ever gotten to actually holding this living, breathing work of art’s hand was back in Germany, 1941, when he handed the angel the bag of books Crowley had saved for him in the rubble of a church. Their hands had barely grazed each other for but a second, and yet as soon as he was out of the angel’s sight Crowley was sure he was going to discorporate from the sheer amount of gayness flooding his systems. Even now, that same feeling was all the demon could register, drowning out all his other senses in a sea of affection that was so strong he could no longer resist the urge to do something.

Drawing in a slow, deep breath, Crowley slipped his fingers beneath Aziraphale’s palm and turned his hand over so his fingers curled around his beloved angel’s hand, fingertips resting feather light on his knuckles. Crowley’s heart thrummed in his chest, his pulse so strong he could feel it in his neck and jaw with each shaky, quiet breath he drew in. He nestled into the black sheets beneath him, transfixed on the sleeping Aziraphale, and ever-so-self-indulgently tightened his grip on the angel’s hand.

‘I never want this to end,’ Crowley realized, and the truth of that statement hit him hard. His trembling wings unfolded slightly behind his back, relaxing and flattening against the sheets alongside their owner. He was right; he never wanted this moment, this little bit of his own kind of heaven alongside the only being he ever desired a relationship with, to come to an end. He found himself dreading the moment Aziraphale woke up, the moment he had to let go of the angel’s hand and bury his feelings beneath a sea of general uncaringness with just enough friendly gestures to convey that he considered the angel a best friend only, nothing more. The harshness of his feelings made Crowley choke back a sob and he ran his thumb over the angel’s knuckles, losing himself in the warming presence of his best friend, the love of his life.

In this way, he could show his feelings without fear of reparations from Aziraphale. It was perhaps a bit too indulgent, even for a demon such as himself, so in the end it was probably for the better that it concluded so quickly.

“Mm…” Aziraphale’s head turned slightly to the side and Crowley panicked, quickly pulling his hand back and pretending to fall back asleep. “Crowley?” The angel’s bleary voice was heard a second later and the demon’s eyes fluttered open as though he were just waking up.

“Hm?” He tried his best to sound as groggy and casual as possible. “Oh. Aziraphale. What’re you doing here?”

The angel straightened himself, lifting his arm above his head in a stretch, and yawned. “Dear me, I apologize. Didn’t expect myself to fall asleep like this.” He chuckled. “Last night you called me over at quite an odd time.” Aziraphale said, rubbing some sleep out of his eyes. “You were, erm…” He paused, looking a little troubled, “Rather incapacitated.”

Oh. Well, that explained why he had no memory of last night. Crowley nodded and sat himself upright.

“Right,” he said, “And, uh, might that have anything to do with why I’m still fully clothed, and you’re here?”

"Well,” Aziraphale winced, “You were in your office when I got here, and you passed out a bit after I arrived, so I carried you in here, and helped sober you up, and I suppose I must have fallen asleep here before I could muster the energy to get home.” The angel seemed incredibly nervous all of a sudden and a deep feeling of dread began to spread in the pit of Crowley’s stomach.

‘Oh, Heaven,’ He cursed, trying not to let his anxiety show on his face, ‘Did I say something…bad to him last night?’

“Ah.” Crowley said stiffly, “Well. Sorry about that. I don’t actually remember anything, so…”

Aziraphale looked at him almost incredulously. “Really? You don’t remember any of what you said to me, not a word of it?”

Crowley’s anxiety increased tenfold. “Uh…no?”

The angel bit his lip. “I see.”

“Why, did I say anything out of line?” The demon blurted. Aziraphale raised a brow.

“Oh, no, not really,” He insisted, “But you were rambling quite a bit.” A pause. “And crying.”

In a way, knowing he’d cried in front of Aziraphale over what was probably some petty drunken train of thought was enough to make Crowley feel like he’d been punched in the gut, but at least it wasn’t trying to make out with his best friend whilst hammered out of his mind. He scoffed.

“Well, sorry you had to see that, then,” The demon said with a casual chuckle, but Aziraphale didn’t reciprocate.

“May I sit?” He asked instead, gesturing to the side of the bed. Crowley nodded an ‘of course’ and sat upright, legs hanging off the side of the bed. The angel perched himself quietly next to him. There was a long, awkward pause before he said, “I’m concerned about you.”

“What?” Crowley raised an eyebrow. Aziraphale, concerned about him? That in itself wasn’t a first, but what had the demon done this time to cause such an upset? “Why?”

Aziraphale glared at him as if he were supposed to know already. “Are you kidding me? ‘Why?’ Crowley, I walked in on you drunk off your ass on enough wine to make a Russian go blind. I don’t think I’d seen you that upset since the Great Flood.” He sighed. “I just…I wish you’d at least talk to me when something’s upsetting you that bad before you go almost drinking yourself to death over it.”

Crowley stared for a moment and began to laugh. Granted, it was a shaky and nervous one, but it was a laugh nonetheless, and it was enough to earn him another glare from the angel sitting next to him.

“Oh, angel,” He waved dismissively, “You worry too much. You know this wily old serpent can handle any amount of alcohol, and besides, whatever drunken bullshit I was going on about probably wasn’t all that important anyway. Don’t worry about--”

Crowley,” Aziraphale cut him off coldly, “You were drinking from a bottle of bloody ethanol, something I assume you’d miracled up spontaneously because no sane Crowley I know would ever do something like that without an audience of at least one.” Crowley stopped talking though his mouth remained slightly open, and stared in bewilderment as the angel continued, “Don’t you dare tell me I worry too much when you’re going off doing things like that and crying about the stars. I…” He drew in a breath. “I care about you far too much to just let you wallow in your own sadness like that.”

The two of them were silent for a very long time. Crowley stared down at his lap, fingertips drumming quietly against his knees as he tried to process what Aziraphale had just told him.

“I think I’ve overstayed my visit.” The angel blurted after what felt like an eternity of soundlessness between them. Crowley nodded.

“Right,” he said, “I expect you’ll have to open the bookshop soon.”

Aziraphale’s eyes widened like the idea hadn’t occurred to him, but his expression quickly neutralized. “Yes,” he replied, “I think today will be quiet busy, so I must go. Well,” He stood up and gave a polite smile. “At the very least, it was nice to see you.”

The demon nodded again. “Yep,” He replied curtly, “’Twas lovely. I’ll be seeing you, then?”

Aziraphale hummed in confirmation before turning and leaving the room with a notable amount of haste, leaving the other alone with his thoughts. A rather poor decision on the angel’s part, really, considering the rather unfinished exchange that had just taken place between them, but by the time it occurred to either of them that there was still more talking to be done, Aziraphale had already miracled away the mess in the office area and returned to his bookshop, while Crowley…well. Crowley hadn’t moved an inch from where Aziraphale had left him, but he had rested his elbows on his knees, palms pressed to the sides of his face in a sort of half-moping, half-contemplating sort of way.

‘It’s always something,’ He thought with a scowl, ‘That makes him go over the edge like that. I swear, he’s just getting himself worked up over nothing.’ Crowley scoffed. ‘So what, I got a bit more potted than usual? It’s not like it’s his job to worry himself sick over me.’ But there was something in particular that had stood out about what Aziraphale had said, something that kept replaying itself in the back of the demon’s mind.

“Don’t you dare tell me I worry too much when you’re going off doing things like that and crying about the stars.”

Crying about the stars…

 

 

Crowley got up and decided he’d freshen himself up a bit.

 

 

It was, in some sort of way, kind of like standing at the edge of the sea before a storm. Looking out at the horizon, the line between sea and sky is blurred in a haze of blue-grey-greens brewing together into a frothy mess that laps at one’s ankles every now and again. Crowley stands with his feet in the sand, unable to move himself, powerless as Aziraphale’s words came down on his legs like breaker waves.

 

 

Along the way, he passed through his office area.

 

“...I care for you far too much…”

“...No sane Crowley I know would ever do something like that…”

“...I don’t think I’d seen you that upset since the Great Flood…”

“I care for you far too much.”

 

 

Something about the condition of the room made Crowley stop in its center. Next to the desk, there were four full bottles of cheap Shiraz placed daintily there that the demon didn’t recall ever taking out of the cupboard. The bottle of ethanol Aziraphale mentioned earlier was nowhere to be found, but his sunglasses were. They were folded neatly in the corner of the desk, a place Crowley definitely doesn’t remember leaving them. He noticed another thing, as well. His astronomy book wasn’t in its normal corner of the desk; instead, it was placed right in front of the chair, and a bright yellow sticky paper that wasn’t there yesterday was in there now. Apprehensively, Crowley lifted the book off the desk and opened it to the marked page.

 

 

Salty, bitter sea water pushed about by natural forces and crafted by the Almighty Herself break down the sand dunes in the shallow zone one by one until Crowley is left there, powerless, sitting defeated on his knees in the wet sand beneath him. As he draws in a sharp, heavy breath weighed down by salts and moisture, the water beneath him shifts about, pushes forward and pulls away, with the demon unable to do anything about its movement even as it soaks the very bones within him. It’s the nature of the sea, after all, to be domineering and uncontrollable, full and heavy and beyond anything of human comprehension.

 

 

On the page in front of him, there was a high-definition image of a flat, disc-shaped mass of colorful dust and stars. Crowley’s heart felt like a train slamming on its breaks, though he wasn’t quite sure why. It’s only a picture of a galaxy, the Andromeda Galaxy to be exact. Nothing of relevance came to mind upon seeing the image, until he notices the sticky note is actually a folded, slightly larger paper. It read:

‘Dearest Crowley; you said last night you wished I could have seen the creation of this star system. While it was certainly a kind thing to say, it got me wondering about what exactly you were doing up in Heaven before…you know. You don’t have to tell me now, but I think we need to sit down and talk at some point.’

 

 

The water recedes back, far, far back into the distance as if a tsunami is brewing. Crowley feels his stomach lurch. It’s in that moment that the demon gets an inkling of an idea of what he may have said to Aziraphale the night before, and something deep inside tells him he’s got a lot of explaining to do.  

 


 

 

Aziraphale was right where Gabriel had told him he was.

To be fair, it wasn’t like Raphael had expected his little brother to lie to him about where his new…angel of interest was. At any rate, Gabe had been taught well enough both by his archangel siblings and by their divine mother not to lie, and since he was a good child he never did such a thing anyway. As he got closer to where the principality sat, however, part of Raphael wished he had been lied to, though realistically he knew that avoidance wasn’t going to make his situation any easier.

Raphael bit the inside of his cheek. He was on Earth again, along with his siblings and a good deal of the other angels, including the one he was seeking out today. Though they were technically all supposed to be working on adding vegetation to the new land the Almighty had created for Her planet, the archangel had another task on his mind at the moment, namely getting the attention of this angel he’d been shying away from for the past 3 days. It had taken much prompting from Gabriel and Michael, but they’d finally convinced Raphael to go introduce himself, and so here he was.

Aziraphale, at the moment, seemed to be about as focused on creating as Raphael was. The archangel watched from behind a newly created thing--he’d heard some of the others call it “tree”--as the principality casually sat in the open space, admiring some brightly colored things into another plant called “bush”. One hand rested casually in his lap, pulling at a selected branch that had small buds forming at the ends. These buds slowly, surely, beautifully . The other angel seemed rightfully satisfied with this sight, his face sporting a satisfied smile that made Raphael’s heart swell. As he observed, a new word came to the archangel’s mind, and he loved the way it sounded; “flower.”

He felt like now was good a time as any to introduce himself.

“Hello there!” Raphael greeted as casually as he could muster, stepping out from behind the tree as though he were simply passing by. Aziraphale stopped what he was doing, looking up from the flower-covered bush he knelt in front of to briefly look the other angel up and down.

“Oh, hello.” He responded and Raphael nearly discorporated on the spot. This angel’s voice was so sweet, so soft and kind and full like a million different things conceived by no one else but the Almighty herself. Immediately the archangel knew he simply had to keep the conversation going. Aziraphale gestured for Raphael to come sit by him, and the other complied while trying to keep as much of his cool demeanor together as divinely possible. “Who are you? I’ve never seen you around before.”

“My name is Raphael,” The other angel replied, kneeling down in front of the bush, “I’m an archangel. That’s probably why we’ve never met. I’ve spent most of my time up there, with my brothers.” Raphael pointed skywards and Aziraphale’s eyes widened.

“An archangel! My word, what are you doing down here, then? I thought you’d be up in the cosmos.” The principality remarked.

“I’m doing the same thing as everyone else. Creating, or at least trying to.” The truth was, Raphael had very little interest in creating things on Earth. In space, it was no problem for him to sew together new patchwork designs of universes and for him to hang them up in the skies, but down here he much preferred viewing what the other angels could come up with. “Those are quite lovely, by the way.”

The principality nodded in agreement. “They are indeed. The others are doing a marvellous job down here.”

Raphael smiled genuinely, reaching forward to run his forefinger and thumb over the silky petals of a soft blue flower. “They’re stunning. I believe the Almighty will be quite satisfied with these.”

Aziraphale smiled bashfully but said nothing.

“I heard,” Raphael continued in a casual tone, “That the Almighty has also selected you to help guard her first Garden once its finished.” He looked up at the other angel. “Is that so?”

Aziraphale sputtered, “I-it is, but I didn’t realize anyone else knew! Wherever did you hear that from?”

“One of my little brothers, Gabriel. He likes to chat with other angels a lot. I assume he picked it up from one of them.”

“Goodness, word certainly does spread fast with the younger ones, doesn’t it?” The principality mused. He tugged at a blade of grass and it began to elongate, thinning out into the stem of another type of flower. Raphael watched, transfixed as the bud unfolded into a light red carnation, the petals soft and fresh and new. The archangel reached out to touch it, running his fingers over the silk-soft flower, eyes twinkling in admiration. He looked up at Aziraphale, who still held the flower by its stem and seemed pleased but surprised with what he’d just created.

“Was that…” Raphael murmured, moving a bit closer to the other angel. “You just made that.”

The principality chewed his bottom lip for a moment. “I think I saw an angel named Daniel create something such as this, so in a way it’s not completely ‘mine.’”

Raphael shook his head, “You created it just now, though, with your own hand. As far as anyone is concerned, that’s your creation right there. Look,” He smiled, pointing out the bold red of the flower’s petals, “It’s like the same color as my hair, almost.”

Aziraphale looked up at him with wide eyes. “You’re right,” He said softly, “It looks quite close in color…” The angel trailed off, his eyes moving down to part of Raphael’s wing. “You’ve got a few loose feathers there.”

“Really?” Raphael felt his face go hot. He didn’t like having his wings messed up, and the idea that he looked any less than perfect for this angel in particular made him kick himself internally for not having noticed it sooner. “Oh, dear,” He sighed, “Where?”

“Right about here,” Aziraphale suddenly reached out and gently, gently carded his fingers through a patch of feathers that would normally be just out of reach for Raphael to deal with himself. The archangel felt his breath catch in his throat, the feeling of having another angel grooming his wings so sinfully satisfying that he actually had to hold back a sigh of pleasure. Aziraphale’s fingers glided through the unruly patch of feathers, causing a few that had come loose to fall to the ground, and Raphael shut his eyes in gratification.

“I take it you’re alright with this,” Aziraphale murmured and Raphael nodded. The other angel’s hand pulled away. “That should do it. My, your wings are rather impressive in size.” 

“Are they?” Raphael opened is eyes and asked coyly. “I’ve never noticed.”

“They are.” The principality affirmed, reaching up to touch the hair that fell down over the archangel’s shoulder. He bit his lip in apprehension, the air around them thick with tension. “I think I find that in general, you are quite impressive.”

Raphael’s breath caught again as Aziraphale’s warm fingertips grazed tenderly over his cheekbone, tucking the strand of coppery red curls behind his ear, and the two found themselves leaning in ever closer to one another. The archangel tried to keep his cool, his heart pounding in his throat as Aziraphale closed those wonderful green eyes of his, tilted his head to the side ever so slightly, and--

 

Aziraphale! Where are you?!”

 

The two angels flinched in shock, almost knocking foreheads, and scrambled apart from one another as an unfamiliar angel landed on the ground with a final strong flap of her wings. Her hair was dark in color, so much so that it almost sucked the color out of their skin, and it was tied over her shoulder in a long braid. She looked down at Aziraphale and Raphael with dark almond-shaped eyes.

“Oh! Mebahiah,” Aziraphale stuttered with a shaky wave, “Hello there. I was just--”

“You are needed elsewhere.” Mebahiah cut him off quickly. “I don’t know what you think you’ll accomplish for the Almighty simply by sitting around like this.” She looked down at Raphael. “And who are you?” She asked, her expression distrustful. Raphael cleared his throat.

“Raphael,” He responded, voice threatening to crack, “An archangel.”

Mebahiah scoffed. “Right. I’ll be sure to remember you, should we meet again. Come now,” She said insistently, holding her hand out to Aziraphale. “Let’s go. Nithael and Imamiah are waiting for us.”

Aziraphale nodded and gave Raphael a final apologetic glance as he took Mebahiah’s hand, his wings unfolding beside hers. The two took off, the sounds of their wings at work audible even when they were far away, and as Raphael watched them go he suddenly realized how absolutely empty their departure left him. He’d been so close to kissing that pretty angel, so close in fact that he could feel the other’s blonde curls brush his forehead just before they were so rudely interrupted by that haughty-looking principality. It wasn’t fair, Raphael thought with a scowl, how just a few seconds ago this place he’d sat in with Aziraphale was so tranquil yet loaded with all the sweetest feelings the world could ever offer. Now despite the abundance of colorful life all about him it all felt dull, colorless, and barren.

A set of anonymous footsteps could be heard and slowly grew louder. Someone stopped and stood behind Raphael. The archangel did not notice. Someone cleared his throat. Raphael did not care.

“Hey,” Gabriel said, sitting down next to his brother. “Did you see Aziraphale?”

Raphael nodded mutely, his eyes glued downwards and his hands toying gently with the flower made just for him. Gabriel tilted his head to the side, concerned.

“You’re distressed. Did he perhaps say something unbecoming to you?” He asked, sympathetically placing a hand on his brother’s arm. Raphael pulled away from the touch, much to the surprise of the other angel.

“No,” Raphael responded, voice melancholic and flat. If anything, it was what hadn’t been said between them that was getting him down. Gabriel pursed his lips.

“Well, I know there must be something ailing you, Raphael. Please, I implore you, tell me what it is.” The boy pleaded. Raphael looked up at him, golden eyes clashing with violet, and finally a weak smile crossed over the other archangel’s lips.

“Don’t worry yourself over me, Gabe.” He said, though his tone still lacked its usual warmth, “I’m fine. You know how I am.”

Gabriel bit back whatever he was about to say next. He nodded wordlessly and returned the smile, though he knew his brother was not being genuine. It was obvious in his countenance; the smile did not reach his eyes, and in fact it barely turned up the corners of his lips at all. Nothing at all the way his real smile was. Raphael was pained by something and they both knew it, but rather than address it the brothers took a moment to sit in silence together. The younger angel mulled over what could be on the other’s mind, and the older angel mulled over the newborn emptiness of the morning around him.

Chapter Text

Bear in mind, Raphael was by no means a ‘bad’ angel; quite the opposite could be said about him, in fact. The Lord knew this, Gabriel knew this, all his other miscellaneous brothers and sisters knew this. The problem was, Raphael had become a bit distant from his siblings as of late, and it was starting to get on their nerves. It was Gabriel in particular who was most annoyed at his brother when he began to space out during important conversations, and for good reason. As of late, things were becoming uneasy between the archangels. There was talk of a rebellion, talk of a grand, collective Falling, and it bothered the archangel greatly. He decided on this day, the fourth day of creation, that a discussion with his older brother was in order.

It was a wonderful morning, as all the others had been. Raphael had, unfortunately, not made an effort to see Aziraphale again after the little incident the day prior. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to see him, of course; he felt quite the opposite way. The problem is, despite angels being creatures of love, there’s only so much of it that even they can take, and so when infatuation in particular presents in excess it can cause something like short-circuiting in their divine systems. God, sadly, had yet to do away with this design flaw at this point, and so every time Raphael caught so much as a glimpse of Aziraphale it was safe to say he was out of commission until the other angel was out of his sight. Knowing that he had been so close to Aziraphale, enough to have almost kissed him, was enough to make the archangel feel light and sickly and dizzy all over. Another angel, usually Gabriel, had to snap him out of his daze, and it was that little stunt that finally made Gabe feel like he’d have to give a talking-to to his ever-infatuated older brother.

The archangel found his brother in the Garden of Eden, unsurprisingly. Raphael’s attention seemed to be focused on something crawling through a nearby bush. Gabriel took extra care to land quietly, ducking behind a tree to observe his brother’s antics further (and perhaps to jump out and frighten him in a few moments).

“Oh, hello, there little guy.” Raphael murmured, eyes fixed on something the other angel couldn’t see. He held out his hand and his brother watched as something long and red slithered out from the bush, wrapping itself around the angel’s hand and staring up at him with a pair of beady yellow eyes. “My, you’re lovely.”

Gabriel carefully stepped out from behind the tree, the sound of which drew Raphael’s attention. “What’s that?” He asked, pointing to the creature. The other angel put a finger to his lips.

“Careful, these startle easily.” Raphael said, motioning for Gabriel to sit. “It’s a snake. Look at the scales covering its body,” He said, gingerly raising the snake with two hands so its body caught in the light just so. The scales of the creature glimmered faintly under the light, black scales reflecting a dull red highlight.

Gabe cringed and sat down, keeping his distance from his brother and the snake. “I’m not sure I like it. It looks creepy, and where are its legs?”

Gabriel!” The other chastised, “Don’t be like that! The Almighty said we must have love for all Her creations, big and small.” He smiled down at the snake, who stuck his tongue out at the other angel. “These are my favorite thing in this Garden thus far!” Raphael paused and his face flushed a faint pink. “Well…almost my favorite, anyway.” He sighed and his eyes flickered over to the eastern wall of Eden. Gabriel sighed.

“Right then. Raphael,” He said, sitting cross-legged facing his now spaced-out brother, “We need to have a talk about something.”

“Hm?” Raphael barely acknowledged the other angel, a dreamy smile on his face. Gabriel sighed impatiently.

That. That’s exactly what I’m talking about, Raphael.” Gabriel spoke a bit more tensely than he had meant to and that got Raphael’s attention.

“What do you mean?” The other angel asked, confused.

“You know exactly what I mean!”

“I don’t.” Raphael tilted his head to the side. “Care to elaborate?”

Gabriel had to physically restrain himself from screaming and took in a deep, impatient breath. “Look, I know you like Aziraphale, right? It’s obvious; Michael and Uriel figured it out, too, don’t even try to deny it.” The other angel opened his mouth to speak and then immediately closed it. “But Raphael, oh my goodness, I’m going to absolutely lose my mind if I have to spend another day watching you gawking over the angel of the eastern gate and not make a single move on him. Your inaction is driving you mad, it’s driving the rest of us Archangels mad, and if you keep daydreaming over him all the time you’ll surely get a talking-to from our mother!”

“O-oh.” Raphael blinked. It hadn’t occurred to him that Gabriel might be annoyed somehow by his pining over Aziraphale, especially considering the fact that angels were, after all, made for loving everything in the world around them. “I didn’t realize it was such a big deal.”

The other angel put his hand to his face, rubbing the bridge of his nose in irritation. “Of course it’s a big deal, Raphael. Don’t think I don’t know he’s all you’re thinking about lately. I can practically smell it on you, you’re smitten for that poor principality and yet you won’t make a move on him because…?” The angel made a vague gesture with his hand, waiting for his brother to complete the sentence. Raphael thought about it for a moment and laughed nervously.

“I suppose I’m just too shy to say anything.” He said, smiling sheepishly. “Besides, what if I say something wrong, or we get interrupted?” The redhead thought back to the principality Mebahiah, how she’d interrupted him and Aziraphale without even the slightest bit of remorse.

Gabriel shook his head. “Worrying about it isn’t going to get you anywhere.” He replied curtly. His voice was bitter like strong wine, something that made Raphael wonder if his brother’s irritation had another cause.

“There’s something else bothering you, isn’t there? Something bigger than just my feelings for Aziraphale.” He remarked, sitting forward on his knees, to which Gabriel rolled his eyes.

“Oh! Only took you a bloody day and a half to figure it out!”

Raphael bit the inside of his cheek, not expecting such a sharp response. “Gabriel, talk to me. What’s going on?”

A pause. Gabriel fidgeted with the edge of his robe. The redhead waited patiently, breaths growing ever the more shallow in anticipation. Finally, the first archangel spoke;

“Lucifer Fell.”

Silence. Heavy, deafening silence. Raphael could not even hear the chatter of the land and sky creatures around them. “No.”

Yes, Raphael.” The other angel bit his lip. His violet eyes were filled with worry, his sorrow brimmed at the corners and threatened to pour over. Lucifer was--or had been, as it were--one of the other Archangels Gabriel and Raphael were very well-acquainted with. Word was that Lucifer was one of God’s favorites, Her ‘little morning star’ as he was teasingly called by some of the others, though Lucifer paraded the nickname about with his head held high. Never a day in the archangel’s life had he thought that he of all the Archangels would be the first to Fall. In fact, the thought of such a thing nearly sent him into shock!

“Why?” Raphael sat up straight as a board, his eyes going wide. Gabriel shrugged.

“Rumor has it, he began asking questions. Questioned Her authority, specifically, I’m told. You know how Mother is about transgressions such as those.”

Ah. That made sense, Raphael thought. Lucifer, in his opinion (though it was never one he would express out loud), was always a little bit more full of himself than most angels were supposed to be. Pride cometh before the Fall, as they say.

“It’s likely, then, that he questioned the Ineffable Plan specifically,” He murmured in thought, “Still, that’s terrible. He was one of our best, or at least, he was supposed to be.”

Gabe scoffed. “Yeah, well, that was before he decided free-diving into the pit would be better than keeping his position in the angelic hierarchy. I can’t see that working out now that he’s Down Below, if you get what I’m saying."

“I guess you could say that plan for him’s gone to Hell?” Raphael joked with an uneasy grin. His brother stared back blankly for a moment and then looked up to the heavens, folding his hands in a quick prayer.

“Almighty Mother, I ask that you please forgive me for the language which I am about to use.”

He then turned back to his brother. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”

“What? I saw an opportunity and I took it.”

Gabriel facepalmed. “Aren’t you supposed to be the angel of healing?! I thought you’d at least feel sympathy for him at the very least.”

“Cut me a break, Gabe, I didn’t know he’d Fallen until a few moments ago!” The other retorted. “And besides! I never said I didn’t feel sorry for the fellow!” Though, if he was being honest, Raphael almost felt that if whatever questions he’d asked warranted Falling, then Lucifer probably deserved it. Question God’s authority, get kicked out of Heaven; those had been the rules well before day one. Don’t like it? Join the rest of Hell, then.

Gabriel began to look dangerously frustrated and the other angel began to get a bad feeling in his gut.

“See, that’s part of the problem, Raphael! You’re so busy focused on your angel over there--” He pointed angrily up at the grand wall his brother had been eyeing earlier, “--that you’re not focused on what’s going on up here! And that’s a problem, Raphael, a big one, especially given the images we as Archangels are supposed to uphold!”

Raphael bit his lip. There was absolutely no denying that his brother was right; his absentmindedness was inevitably going to cost him big time if he didn’t pull his act together. His chest smarted somewhat when Gabriel referred to Aziraphale as ‘his angel’, but frankly, that was the least of the redhead’s worry in the moment. Instead he smoothed out his robe and sighed, looking back at his brother with a defeated expression.

“You’re right,” Said he, “I suppose I’ve been woolgathering for far too long now.”

“Oh, now you finally realize it, you lovestruck idiot!”

“Will you quit with the blessed name-calling already! I’m doing my best here!”

“Will you hurry up and start doing your best bloody job as an Archangel already, then!” Gabriel snapped in return. “I’ll bet you’re head’s been so far in the clouds lately that you don’t understand what Lucifer’s Falling even means for the rest of us angels!”

Truth be told, Raphael was indeed in the dark about what it meant for the rest of the angel community, whatever that meant. Sure, it was quite the tragedy to hear that such a potent archangel had gone to waste, but he didn’t quite understand what the big deal was. Rather than admit this aloud to Gabriel, however, he kept his mouth shut and said nothing.

“Of course,” His brother continued, voice sounding strained and painful, “Of course you don’t know what it means! Raphael, if someone as important as Lucifer could Fall before Earth is even finished being built upon, it means others are going to Fall soon after him! Many others, in fact! Others are going to hear of the event, and get the idea in their heads to rebel, and then Hell will have an ever-growing army of demons on their side!” Gabriel grabbed Raphael tightly by the shoulders. “Think about it. What if Uriel, or Michael, or Sandalphon decide to question the Lord’s authority next?! Do you see now, Raphael, why this is such a serious, terrifying thing for me, for all of us?” He sniffled, his body beginning to tremble under the weight of the emotions on his back. “We could lose any one of our siblings any moment now. I could lose you any moment now. I don’t w--”

Gabriel could not finish his sentence before he began to cry.

Raphael bit back some of his own tears as he wiped the ones that fell from his brother’s eyes.

“You will not lose me,” He whispered gently, one hand cupping the other’s face with all the familial tenderness the world had to offer. “You will not lose Uriel, or Michael, or Sandalphon. We will be fine, Gabriel.”

Gabriel let out a muffled sob and the other angel’s heart wrenched. His brother was so grown, so much more than the inexperienced little boy he was on their first day of creation, and so to watch him fall apart in this way, trembling and crying in terror as if he hadn’t changed in the slightest from that day broke Raphael into the smallest pieces God could possibly craft.

“You put up the stars with me, Gabe,” He murmured through into his brother’s shoulder.

Raphael’s own eyes dripped with tears, tears of sorrow for Gabriel and sympathy for Lucifer and anxiety for the future of Heaven. It was such a homely, warm place, one that the archangel couldn’t bear to lose another sibling from. One Fall was enough, he resolved, and so he wrapped his arms around Gabriel’s back, keeping his brother close. “And I will stay by your side until the very last one falls.”

For a long, long while, the two held one another, sobbing quietly until Raphael placed his hands just above his brother’s wings and began to rub small circles into the holy flesh that rested there.

“Be calm now, Gabe,” He murmured and immediately he felt the other angel’s breathing steady, his tears cease to pour. “You will be alright.” Raphael pulled back and said with a reassuring smile, “We will be alright.”

Gabriel tried to smile. “We will be alright,” He repeated, unsteady and unsure. “We will be alright.” But his attempt at a smile did not last, and his face quickly fell again. “Have you heard what Mother has planned for the Garden?”

Raphael laughed. What a silly question! As if he wasn’t aware of what the past several days and not-days’ worth of work he’d done was for! “Of course I do, Gabe. Why?”

His brother did not seem as lighthearted about what he had to say next. “Michael told me about it. Mother’s planning a big creation to be placed in the Garden on the seventh day of creation. They will be made in the image of the Lord, just like us, except they will not have wings the way we do. I’ve heard she has many, many great plans for humankind as they grow and develop independently from Her will.”

Independently?” He’d known about the humans but was not aware they’d have free will. The idea that She would ever create something that would exist with their every action outside of Her direct influence both surprised and excited him greatly.

“Oh, yes. It’s something She calls ‘free will’, but as far as I know the concept’s still a bit of a work-in-progress. And basically, Lucifer…” Gabe sighed and gestured vaguely. “The gist of it was, he didn’t like how much attention the humans were going to be getting over the angels.”

Raphael’s brows raised high enough that they may as well have left his forehead. “You’re kidding me.”

“If only! And that’s not even the most outrageous bit!” The other continued, leaning in and lowering his voice as if there were any risk of the two being listened in on, “Lucifer apparently went on a rant to some of the lower-ranking angels, and a loud one at that, about it right in the middle of Heaven!”

Raphael was completely nonplussed. What sort of madman would ever even think about pulling such an asinine stunt? Gabriel continued,

“He was apparently going on and on about, ‘humans are no more important than we are,’ ‘we are above these humans the Almighty plans to create, and we should band together to destroy them once they are made’, ‘the Almighty will cast us aside once we are done with building this world for the humans,’ just…all sorts of nonsense.” Gabriel sighed. “I do hope no one actually took that fool seriously. Word is the Almighty struck him down on the spot, soon as one of the other angels reported him to Her. Everyone within a galaxy’s radius could hear him screaming when…” Gabriel trailed off and the pair shuddered. To talk about the intricacies of Falling nearly caused enough discomfort among angels to emulate it. “Anyway. It’s crazy, right?”

Raphael was silent for a beat too long before he managed to respond, “Oh, heavens. Absolutely.” And on a conscious level, he knew that what Lucifer had done was utterly crazy, entirely batshit, incomprehensibly stupid beyond any levels of comprehension, human or divine. He was struggling to wrap his head around the fact that someone had the audacity to so boldly defy the Lord their Mother like that, but deep inside his divine subconscious, something about what Gabriel had said made a seed of malice take hold on Raphael’s heart. The idea that the Almighty made all Her angels, especially the other Archangels and especially Aziraphale, as nothing more than servants to complete Her work made the redhead’s blood absolutely boil over. It made Raphael bite his lower lip, made him fidget with the sleeve of his robe and stare blankly down at the ground, eyebrows scrunching in frustration. The leaves of the plants surrounding the pair fluttered nervously as if there were a breeze blowing through, though the air around them remained stagnant.

‘That can’t be true!’ He reasoned with himself desperately. ‘Lucifer was, pardon my tongue, absolutely full of shit! Mother disposed of him for a reason.’

‘But what if,’ Another, darker part of him whispered back, ‘It was true? Lucifer wasn’t called Mother’s Morning Star for nothing. If anyone were to know the truth of our dear Mother’s intentions, it would be him.’

“Raphael? Are you okay?” Gabriel snapped his brother out of his daze with a soft touch on the arm, his violet eyes full of worry once again. His cheeks were still slightly damp from earlier, and the other angel quietly wiped the remnants of past tears off his brother’s face.

“It’s like I said earlier, Gabe,” He murmured with an indifferent shrug, not sure what else there was to say. “We will be alright.”

Chapter Text

Given the opportunity, Crowley would more than willingly punch Gabriel's lights out.

That's what he told himself he'd do, anyway.

There were a number of reasons for why, most of them having to do with the demon's longstanding emotional trauma, but he specifically wanted to give that archangel a good old-fashioned knuckle sandwich as of late because of the way he'd treated who he thought was Aziraphale up in heaven. Crowley's mouth went bitter at the memory of his once-sibling's face (he'd denounced any form of relation to the Archangel Gabriel a long, long time ago) staring at him, the coldness with which he said "shut your stupid mouth and die already" enough to make the demon shiver, and all of it together absolutely boiled his insides.

Crowley took his sweet time grooming his wings out that morning, standing in front of the mirror with them spread behind him and frustratedly combing through the mass of black feathers until well into the afternoon. By the end of it, his wings were a good deal less messy, looking only as though he'd had only a brief nap with them out rather than an entire night's worth of sleep. Feathers littered the bathroom floor, though as soon as Crowley reckoned he was done with grooming himself for the day they were miracled into some obscure plane of existence, followed shortly after by the wings themselves. It was quite annoying, to preen one's own wings; the demon guiltily wished a certain someone had been there to lend a hand.

After all, if he remembered correctly, it wouldn't make it the first time that angel carded delicate fingers through those silk-soft feathers of his.

...

Crowley swallowed back something that tasted vaguely of bile. It was hard not to let one's mind wander when tasked with something as tedious and time-consuming as preening, especially when there are a lot of places for said mind to wander to. Crowley, however, had an impressive amount of restraint where he truly needed it. This included instances in which he had to repress Fall-related intrusive thoughts and romantic feelings for one A. Z. Fell. As such, he was able to fend off thoughts of Aziraphale and the excruciatingly awkward morning they'd just spent together for a staggering hour, before his consciousness gave way and suddenly Crowley was trying not to rip his hair out from the anxiety plaguing his systems. 

'Fuck,' He began to pace the length of his bathroom. 'I guess I've got to tell him, don't I? About my identity before the Fall and whatnot.'

The thought alone made his stomach flip. There was a reason why, in their 6,000-someodd years of friendship, that Crowley opened up about nearly everything except the details behind his fall from God's grace. If he told Aziraphale anything, even the smallest detail, about his time as Raphael, it would get the angel curious to know more. And, given the fact that when prompted for more anything from Aziraphale, Crowley would nine times out of ten give in one way or another, more details would pour out, and then...Aziraphale would know. He'd know it was Crowley who nearly kissed him in the Garden all those years back (if the angel even remembered that at all, but the demon wagered that he did; it wasn't exactly an unimportant event, or at least, it wasn't to him), and then he might figure out that Crowley still liked him all these years later, and then his only real friendship would get all awkward and screwy and--

The demon eventually had to stop himself from going off on an insane internal tangent. His means of doing so involved grabbing a nearby bar of soap and biting down hard.

He had to do something about this anxiety, and fast, so like any healthy-minded vaguely man shaped entity, he took the best course of action and made a beeline straight for the kitchen.

To be clear, Crowley was not like Aziraphale in that he didn't eat nearly as much as his angelic friend did. There were times where he'd indulge in, perhaps, an oyster or two alongside his friend, and there had been the rats lurking in the mobile phone network tower back when he brought that down--what? he was at least partially a serpent, after all. Other than that, the only mortal substance Crowley regularly put in his body was alcohol, and that was exactly what he was going to get.

Or, at the very least, he would have gotten that had there not been a collective of figures standing awkwardly in the corner of the room when he got there.

"What the fu--" Crowley stopped dead in the doorway, his eyes going wide. There were three people standing in his kitchen to be exact, all of which very closely resembled a certain trio of angels that had been acquainted with him in a time he no longer wished to speak about. "How the bloody hell did you lot get here?!"

Gabriel stood in the middle of the group, in between a very tired but solemn looking Michael and a slightly uncomfortable Uriel. It was Gabriel of the three that looked the most uneasy and he cleared his throat.

"Cro--" Gabriel made a muted choking sound and his eyes fell to the floor. "Crowley." Uriel and Michael looked like they'd rather be somewhere else, and the unease between the angels was almost tangible.

"I asked how the fuck you three got in here and I want an answer." Crowley demanded, his eyes practically boring into the three angels standing before him. 

Michael cleared their throat. "It was through a little miracle, you could say, that we were able to gain access to your flat." They said smoothly, though they refused to meet the demon's eyes completely. "So, demon Crowley, we'd appreciate it if you listened to what it is Gabriel has to say." They looked pointedly up at the male angel, their countenance practically screaming 'get on with it you blundering idiot, I can't take another minute standing about like this!'.

Crowley raised an eyebrow, stepping closer, and the tension between the angels rose exponentially. Their fear smelled absolutely divine. "Oh, really. Well I'd suggest miracling your happy asses out of my flat as soon as possible, because I," He got up directly in Gabriel's face, pointing a finger at his chest, "Don't have a damn thing to say to you, especially after what I heard you put Aziraphale through."

Gabriel blinked. "Oh. He...told you about that."

The demon scoffed, raising his voice to a mockingly high pitch, "'Shut your stupid mouth and die already.'"

Gabriel swallowed hard and refused to look directly at him, looking guilty as Crowley had ever seen him in their entire existence.

"Yeah, I'll bet you can imagine how fucking pleased I was to hear about that. Are you kidding me, Gabriel?" He looked between the three angels before meeting Gabriel's eyes again. "Do you understand that if I really wanted to, I could smite the lot of you for your insolence right here, right now?"

The Archangels all shared unsettled glances.

"Yeah. I mean it, you know." Crowley backed up slightly but his glare did not waver the slightest in intensity. He was almost starting to have fun with this. "Don't try any stupid shit. Just get the fuck out of here before--"

"Crowley, please." Uriel blurted suddenly, sounding like she was on the verge of a breakdown, "Can you just let Gabriel speak?!"

That shut the demon up good. Crowley's eyes went wide and he stared at Uriel, shocked that she'd have the nerve to interrupt the demon's spiel like that. "Wh-- I-- You--!"

"I came to apologize to you," Gabriel began, his eyes still not quite meeting the demon's, "You and Aziraphale both."

Silence.

"Apologize?" Crowley asked cautiously, not sure if he was liking where this was going. He waited for any indication from Michael or Uriel that this was some sort of prank, but neither angel broke their stone-faced appearances.

Uriel nodded and gave Gabriel an encouraging nudge on the shoulder. "Go on," She murmured encouragingly, "Tell him."

The other angel swallowed apprehensively. "Yes, apologize. You see, after the whole...'failed execution' schtick, something occurred to me."

Crowley offhandedly wondered if that something was the idea of the angels actually fucking off and leaving him and Aziraphale alone together for the rest of eternity.

"When I--we--saw Aziraphale standing completely unharmed in that hellfire, it couldn't have been more obvious that it was because of you. It was because you two have, I suppose, developed such a deep bond with one another that it changed the very nature of your beings." Gabriel continued, "And I...we knew it had to have been the will of the Almighty, or else something that impossible wouldn't have been able to happen."

Crowley felt a bit nauseated all of a sudden and he had to hold onto the side of a counter to keep himself upright.

"So," The archangel cleared his throat. "I wanted to say I'm sorry. Deeply sorry. The three of us--"

"And Sandalphon," Michael added quickly.

"Yes, and Sandalphon, all thought it over, and perhaps the two of you were right about the Ineffable Plan. I think Her plan was less about Heaven and Hell going at one another's throats, and more about, just...making sure everyone is happy, because I don't think things would have played out like they did if She hadn't truly wanted the two of you together." There were tears faintly present in the corners of the archangel's eyes now. "And I've realized, that's what I want for you and Aziraphale, too, for you two to be happy together. It's been long enough, don't you think?"

At a loss for words, Crowley snapped his fingers and his sunglasses manifested over his eyes. He absolutely refused to let these three see him display even one emotion besides anger.

"Yeah," He said, trying to keep his voice as close to a sneer as possible, "See? I told you we were right."

For a long, long time, the four of them were silent.

"So if I may, how long have the two of you been together?" Michael suddenly asked. Crowley sputtered.

"Whu--? We're not actually together, you idiot! Where'd you get that idea?!"

Uriel rolled his eyes. "Seriously? Fuck's sake, I owe Sandalphon, then." He mumbled under his breath.

Michael scoffed. "Well, it was only a reasonable assumption to make that you were more than simply fraternizing. Aziraphale certainly had no objections to Uriel calling you his boyfriend that one time, right?" They looked over at Uriel, who confirmed this with a nod and a cheeky smile. Crowley's mouth hung open.

"I..." He tried to speak, but no words would come out. He waved them off. "Look, it's complicated right now, okay? I don't even know why it would matter to you so much." The demon crossed his arms indignantly. "My life with Aziraphale is private, end of."

"Well," Gabriel chewed his bottom lip. "I know that, but I just," He sighed. "I simply came to apologize and offer my support for you both. From here, we'll leave you guys alone. That is all." He said, motioning for Michael and Uriel to leave the flat.

"Right." Crowley said dismissively, trying to talk through the stiffness in his throat. He couldn't shake the feeling that this wasn't all to the situation, but he cared a bit more about kicking those three angels out for a seconds  "Fuck off, then, and don't plan on coming back unless you want to be discorporated."

But Gabriel, it seemed, wasn't quite done yet. Though his back remained turned the Crowley, he simply watched as Michael and Uriel miracled themselves out of the flat and then turned himself back around to meet the eyes of a clearly annoyed demon.

"Well?" Crowley crossed his arms. "Get on with it, I've not got the whole day to deal with you!"

"But don't you," Gabriel challenged, his voice noticeably lower and more serious, "Raphael?"

For a brief moment, it felt as though time had been stopped again. Crowley was taken aback so much so that he held even tighter to the side of a counter to keep his composure. He hadn't expected for a second that anyone had remembered who he had been before his fall from grace; nobody remembered the Fallen after a while, or at least, if they did it was never spoken about aloud. Not until now.

"How long have you known?" Crowley asked slowly, raising an eyebrow.

"It only came to me a few Earth days ago," Gabriel responded, taking a few steps closer. "I don't know how I didn't see it sooner, but once I realized it was really you, well...I couldn't get it out of my head." He paused. "That's really why I wanted to come see you today."

A lump began to materialize in the demon's throat. "Oh, piss off with that sappy nonsense." Crowley's voice very nearly broke on the last syllable. "I'll bet you've just come to rub it in my face, haven't you? That you're still in Heaven, living it up being in charge and important and whatnot, and I'm..." He trailed off, gesturing vaguely with one hand. "Not.

Gabriel looked hurt.

"What? No," The angel said, coming closer still, "I just said, I came to wish you and Aziraphale the best. That's all." He looked him up and down. "You've changed."

"No shit I have." Spat Crowley, looking up at the other over the rim of his glasses. If looks could kill, Gabriel would have been discorporated where he stood. "...and so have you."

"You've not stopped loving him since day one, have you?" The angel asked softly. Crowley felt himself relax a little.

"No," He admitted after a while of silence, "No, I haven't."

Gabriel put his hands on Crowley's shoulders, taking the demon by surprise. "Then what's stopping you from telling him, Raphael?" He asked.

Crowley flinched, baring his teeth. "Don't you dare call me that," He snapped, "I'm not R-- not an angel anymore, Gabriel." He looked down at the floor. "It's like you said. I've changed."

"But still," Gabriel sighed, "I don't understand it. You're both so clearly into each other even after all this time."

"Oh, whatever," Crowley suddenly pushed the other angel away without warning. "Do you think I don't want to tell him how I feel or something?"

"I'd be more inclined to believe so if you'd told him sooner." Gabriel responded flatly.

"Ugh." Crowley rolled his eyes, "It never would have worked! Do you honestly think Aziraphale, given the chance, would want to court a demon?! Look at me, Gabriel," He snapped, taking off his sunglasses and tossing them haphazardly onto the counter so the angel could see the reptilian slits in his eyes, "You and I both know he's far too committed to Heaven's whole 'Goodness' bullshit to stoop low enough for that. Besides," He swallowed tensely, "He doesn't...he doesn't remember."

For a while, all Gabriel could do was take in the sight of the fallen angel's face, his violet eyes widened in shock. Purple and gold, two complimentary colors staring one another down with no sign of letting up. 

"But he loves you still, Raphael," The angel insisted, "It's so, so obvious to us. Even though Michael and Uriel and Sandalphon don't recognize you, they know."

The demon stiffened. So Gabriel was the only one out of all of them who knew who he really was, who he used to be. He tried not to admit it to himself, but that hurt him, strangely enough. "I said not to call me that, you blessed idiot." He tried to come off as dismissive and angry but Gabriel could hear his resolve breaking. "But...fuck it, I guess you're right about that, aren't you."

Gabriel smiled pleasantly. "Of course I am. I'm an angel. Love is our specialty." There was a pause. "You know that."

The demon swallowed. "Yeah," He mumbled, "Yeah, I remember."

"Do you at least plan to tell him soon?" Gabriel questioned.

"Dunno. Look, Gabe, can you just--" Crowley, after a moment's deliberation, decided to ignore the fact that he'd just casually addressed the Archangel fucking Gabriel so casually, "Can you just go already? I don't...I'm not...I can't..." Words were beyond the demon at the moment. 

"Oh. Of course." The angel's face fell and the demon pretended not to care, casting his eyes away from Gabriel and focusing instead on one of the walls of the kitchen. He nearly jumped out of his skin moments later, though, when Gabriel suddenly leaned in and wrapped his arms around the fallen angel in a hug. Crowley yelped in surprise.

"Excuse me, what the f--?" He sputtered, but suddenly he caught a whiff of the angel's scent; a hint of vanilla, the dull metallic smell of outer space, the warmth of something like cinnamon but not quite. Suddenly Crowley was back in the Garden of Eden, embracing his little brother as they cried together; suddenly he was standing among the stars of the Milky Way, telling Gabriel how overwhelmingly proud he was of him; suddenly he was standing in Heaven with his siblings, smiling and talking and laughing in a reality so bitterly unattainable and so undesirable to the Crowley he'd become, but oh, what a sweet sight it was. The memories, repressed for a reason, overwhelmed the fallen angel so much so that he instinctively held the angel closer.

"Good luck to you." Gabriel murmured against the shell of Crowley's ear.

And the demon would be lying through his teeth if he said he didn't almost begin to shed tears into Gabriel's shoulder as he pulled his former brother closer in their first shared hug in thousands of years.

"Thanks." He whispered back into the soft material of the angel's suit jacket.

And just as soon as he'd come, Gabriel was gone, leaving Crowley standing alone in the middle of the room clutching at nothing more than empty space.

Chapter Text

"Listen," Raphael said nervously, picking at a nonexistent loose fiber in the sleeve of his robe, "I'm not saying I agree with him or anything, but what if Lucifer was right?"

Michael, Uriel, and Gabriel all stared back at him in disbelief. The quartet of angels were in one of the many plazas of Heaven, angels of varying ranks flying and walking all around them, maneuvering between clouds and finely chiseled white pillars. All of them, it seemed, were completely oblivious to the tension rising between the four Archangels loitering in an obscure corner.

"Not only that," Raphael continued, his speech progressively growing more and more frantic and disordered, "There's the whole deal with that apple tree! Surely you three know about that. You know, I really don't see why the Almighty should place that apple tree there of all places, not that I'm about to question it to Her face. Put the key to knowing the difference between good and evil right in front of their face and of course they're going to take it if they're anything like us! Oh, and while we're at it, what's the issue with knowing what's good and what's not anyhow? Shouldn't humanity be able to learn so they'll know to do good things only?"

"Raphael. You absolutely cannot be serious." Gabriel groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose.

"What?!" The other angel sputtered, "I'm just saying!"

"Frankly, Raphael, I'm disappointed." Uriel remarked bluntly, rolling his eyes. "I always thought if there were an angel to break the rules about asking too many questions, you'd be the least likely candidate. And I'd be careful about how loud you go about 'just saying' things like that."

"I know, I know." Raphael balled his fists at his side, frustrated that his scramble for answers to questions that had plagued him for nearly a whole day now was coming up empty. He thought these three would be a bit less abrasive once the topic was broached, but it seems he had been wrong. "And like I said, I don't agree with what he was going about saying, yeah? I was just posing a few qu--"

"Raphael," Gabriel cautioned, "Stop while you're ahead. You're thinking about the sort of thing that would warrant a Falling should anyone else hear and report you."

"What's got you questioning the Divine Mother's plans for Eden, anyhow?" Uriel questioned, flexing her wings behind her pensively.

"I don't know," Sighed Raphael, "It's just been bothering me ever since Gabe mentioned the whole deal with Lucifer."

Michael and Uriel glared holes into the side of Gabriel's head.

"So," Michael pursed their lips, "You're the one who's been putting these asinine ideas in his mind?"

Gabe sputtered, "Of course not! I simply told him about his Falling, that's all!" He gave Raphael a nasty look and that was enough for him.

"You know what? Forget I said anything." The redheaded angel huffed in frustration, spreading his wings out behind him. There was a heavy, stressful air between the angels, now, and Raphael didn't like it one bit. He was going to go off somewhere alone for a while to clear his thoughts, perhaps saunter downwards to the Garden of Eden to see if he could find Aziraphale and strike up a conversation or something. Yeah, that sounded like a solid plan to him. "I'll just go now, if the lot of you are going to be like that."

"Not so fast," Right before the angel could take off, Michael grabbed him by the arm. Their eyebrows were furrowed in annoyance and their grip on him was like iron. "You think you can just say whatever you'd like and then dip on us? I don't think so, dear." They said it with such a borderline spiteful tone that for once in his existence Raphael almost felt afraid of them. Almost.

"Yeah, um," Gabriel pursed his lips, "I don't quite think you see how you look right now." His eyes scanned the other angel in a brief once-over, eyebrows raised. "The way you're going about this topic is making you sound a bit like a madman. May I ask, are you seeing any other angels who are talking of this subject with you?"

"No?" Raphael narrowed his eyes at him accusingly. "What makes you think I would be?"

There was a pause.

"Well," The other angel shifted uneasily. "I just...I never expected you of all angels to be coming up with this sort of thing wholly on your own. That's all."

Michael let go of Raphael's arm with an unreadable look on their face. "I'm just saying, I don't think Aziraphale would be too fond of hearing the heresy that was coming from your mouth just now."

A fiery anger the same color as his hair began to pool in the other archangel's gut. "Excuse me. Don't you dare bring him into this, Michael!" He snapped with an intensity he honestly hadn't meant to exert, and the other archangel looked at him with wide eyes. For one angel to snap so fiercly at another was almost completely unheard of, and Michael was rightfully offended by it. "And it's not heresy, for someone's sake, it's curiosity! Not like I'm cursing Her name for all of bloody Creation to hear!"

Gabriel noticed that a few other angels stopped what they were doing to watch the argument unfold between Raphael and Michael and he turned away from the group, embarrassed to be seen with them.

"Apologies if it's not my place," A voice Raphael thought was quite familiar but couldn't pinpoint a name to interjected, and a female angel stepped between himself and Michael calmly. It took a moment, but the redhead soon realized it was the stone-faced principality who had interrupted him and Aziraphale in the Garden a few days ago. "I couldn't help but overhear the start of a quarrel between you lot. Is everything okay?"

"Oh, we're fine." Uriel smiled tightly, his voice practically dripping in fake friendliness. The other pursed her lips, clearly not buying it.

"Right," She responded, crossing her arms. "Then I suppose I'm not interrupting anything important right now." The principality turned to Raphael. "You. Archangel Raphael, is it?"

Uriel, Michael, and Gabriel all stared at their brother in surprise. Raphael swallowed.

"Yes, that's my name. Mebahiah, right?"

Mebahiah nodded and spread her wings out behind her, flexing them subtly. "Good. I figured I'd find you around here somewhere. Do you mind coming with me for a chat? It'll be brief, I promise."

Raphael gave his siblings an unsure look and, upon receiving next to no reaction from them, gave the principality a curt nod. "Then, I suppose I'll be back soon." He said to the other three archangels, he unfolded his great white wings to follow Mebahiah off elsewhere. Uriel, Michael, and Gabriel all looked amongst one another as their brother departed from them.

"I wonder," Began Michael, "What sort of business our Raphael has with a principality?"

"I'll bet," Hissed Uriel, almost sounding jealous, "It's got something to do with that Aziraphale he's so bloody into."

"Perhaps," Gabriel mused, "Mebahiah—was that her name?—is going to try and set them up." He crossed his arms in irritation. "I don't see what else it is she would want him for, after all. I can't believe he'd start a fight with us just to run off with some pretty-looking principality without warning."

"Oooh, do you think that angel just now was pretty?" Michael teased, "Well! Suppose we'll just have to set the two of you up next, then!"

"Oh, hush!" Gabriel blushed, "I never said that!"

Uriel murmured under his breath, "You just did," and Gabe pretended not to hear.

"Still. It makes me wonder," Michael continued, "After what Raphael was going on about, maybe they're not going off for some innocuous reason like love after all. Maybe..." They trailed off, but the other two knew precisely what the archangel was getting at.

"Yeah," Uriel agreed, "Something's off with those two."

"Something," Gabriel rubbed his chin in thought, "But I just can't point what it could be."

It wouldn't be long before the three of them learned just what that "something" was.

----

"So," Raphael said with a final stabilizing flap of his wings, "What was it you wanted to discuss?"

Mebahiah, having lead herself and Raphael to the western edge of the Milky Way to perch, settled down on the edge of a cloud-like surface overlooking some clusters of stars. "I overheard what you were saying about the apple tree." She said after a moment's pause. Raphael bit his lip.

"Oh." So she knew that he was beginning to have those sorts of thoughts about their Lord's Plan. A hot flush of shame began to spread across his cheeks and he knew he was in for a serious talking-to. Oh, what had he just gotten himself into?! "Goodness, Mebahiah, don't take a word of that nonsense seriously. I was just overthinking some things, that's all! Nothing to worry about here, if you don't mind I'll just be heading back to my siblings now—"

Mebahiah cut him off with a vice-like grip to his arm. "Sit." She commanded coldly, her dark eyes practically piercing his forehead. With a nervous swallow, Raphael obeyed. "So," The principality began, refusing to let go of the other angel's arm to the extent the her nails dug into his flesh. Raphael made it so he didn't feel the sting. "You're questioning the Lord's plans for humankind, are you?"

Raphael began to ramble nervously, "Oh, no, no no, really, it's not at all what you think--" He shook like a leaf and felt like he was going to be sick. Here he was, fumbling like an idiot trying to justify his words before a comrade of his love interest! Oh why, why had he ever entertained the idea of speaking such stupid words to begin with?! The archangel felt like he was going to be struck down by the Lord Herself for his insolence any second now, no thanks to the look the principality on his arm was currently boring into his soul.

But it seems God was saving Her rage for another time, because Mebahiah's expression suddenly relaxed and she burst out laughing.

"Ah, finally!" She said, her dark eyes sparkling with more emotion than Raphael had seen her perform in the short time they'd known one another, "Someone else with sense! It's not every day you hear an angel speaking freely of what taboos have been on your mind since before day one!"

"I beg your pardon?" The archangel gasped, nonplussed. Surely Mebahiah wasn't insinuating that such a blasphemous train of thought was in the right!

"Then beg!" An unfamiliar voice cackled and a pair of hands brought themselves down on Raphael's shoulders from behind. The archangel nearly phased out of existence right then and there from fright.

"Imamiah! Careful with him, I've only just brought him here!" Mebahiah snapped and Raphael turned to see another female angel, this one with light hair in low pigtails, staring at him intently.

"Hi there!" Imamiah's voice was high-pitched and, admittedly, rather annoying. She sat herself down between Mebahiah and Raphael with the grace of an aardvark. From the way her gold robe was tied about her waist, it was obvious to the archangel that this, too, was a principality. "Are you that Archangel Raphael I've heard so much about? I heard you were talking shit about God in the middle of Heaven, just like Lucifer did!"

Raphael sputtered. "Wherever the hell did you hear that from?" He asked, "And I wasn't, you know, badmouthing the Almighty, yeah? Just asking a few questions to some other archangels, that's all."

"Ohh," The second principality's sky-blue eyes glittered in excitement, "Mebahiah and I, that's exactly what we've been looking for as of late! Smart, sensible angels who know to ask questions, break the rules, not to just take everything at face value!" She gave Raphael an almost painful clap on the back. "And our friends Danny and Ezekiel will be here soon, just so you know! I think you'll quite enjoy them."

And right on cue, two more angels flew over to where the trio sat, both masculine in form and looking about in a rather paranoid fashion as if to ensure no one else were pursuing them.

"Ah. And there they are." Mebahiah waved for the males to sit and they did, side by side. One was a rather androgynous-looking male with shaggy, dark brown hair and eyes of similar coloring; the other, a dark-skinned male with his hair back in a series of braids.

"Hello." The dark-eyed angel said as he extended his hand to Raphael, "Ezekiel."

"Raphael." They shook.

"And I'm Daniel." The dark-skinned male angel offered his hand and once again, Raphael shook it.

"Goodness, are all three of them friends of yours?" Raphael asked Mebahiah, having become quite shaken up and a little confused by now. She shrugged.

"You could call 'em that. We're mostly just a bunch of angels who all share the same beliefs."

"I see. And those are?"

"That the Almighty's 'Great Plan' for humanity and Her angels," Imamiah leaned forward, hands pressed down on her knees, "Is a load of bollocks."

Raphael drew in a sharp gasp. "You mustn't say such wicked things!" He chastised, "The humans have not even been properly made yet!"

"So?" Daniel leaned back casually. "We still hate them. I know I do, anyway."

"Why?!" Asked the archangel, dumbfounded. He couldn't comprehend in the slightest why these four would have such a strong hatred for something not even in existence yet that they'd base their entire friendship around it.

"Because," Ezekiel explained, "Once they've been made, the Almighty plans to have us basically bend over backwards to make the world work for them." He said, voice positively dripping in venom. "We have to sit back and watch as the Almighty plays games behind-the-scenes with them, working to keep them all on Her side and prevent them from getting into any more trouble than they bring upon themselves. I don't know about you, archangel, but I personally do not feel up for acting in servitude to everyone around me for the rest of my existence. A load of bollocks indeed!"

Mebahiah rested her hand on Raphael's shoulder. "This one," She said with a wry smile, "Was questioning the situation with the apple tree in the Garden, weren't you, Raphael?"

The archangel coughed uncomfortably and the other three stared at him with wide eyes.

"Why don't you tell us what exactly it was you said?" The principality prompted. "Go on. None of us will judge you here."

Raphael took in a deep breath. "I said that it was ridiculous how the Almighty is leaving the key to humanity's knowing of what's good and what's evil right in front of them, and then saying they aren't allowed to touch it."

"Oh!" The other three angels gasped.

"And," The archangel added quickly, "That it's ridiculous that they shouldn't know what's good and what's not anyhow."

"You know what," Imamiah nodded in agreement, "I was just thinking about that the other day! Ridiculous indeed!"

"Yeah! You've got a good point going there, Raphael." Ezekiel praised, and against his better judgement, the archangel felt a burst of pride.

"Do you really think so?" He asked, eyes widening in surprise. Raphael knew it was wrong, very wrong, to be looking for validation in a place like this, but oh, to hear words of affirmation from other angels felt so good it hurt.

"Oh, definitely." There was a twinkle in Daniel's eye. "And here I was thinking we four were the only angels who felt this way."

"So, why exactly did you bring me out here again, Mebahiah?" Raphael turned to the principality in question and asked. The angel twirled a strand of hair about her finger.

"I simply wanted to show you that there are other angels here who share the same views as you," She replied, still smiling, "Others who won't judge you the way those archangels do. I overheard Gabriel and Michael speaking to you like they were scolding a child, and really, for something as petty as asking questions that deserve to be spoken in the first place? Just who do they think they are?"

The archangel fidgeted nervously, feeling the eyes of the other three angels on him. Though he was admittedly still cross with his siblings for how they reacted to his little outburst, Raphael still knew inside that he had deserved it. "Well," He stammered, "They are only trying to look out for me, you know. Trying to make sure I don't Fall."

"Listen to yourself!" Imamiah groaned. "You almost say that like you need them to look out for you like you're a newly-born angel."

"I don't," Raphael said defensively, "And, in fact, you've got it a bit wrong. I'm actually the older brother figure to most of them, like Gabriel."

"Oh, are you really?" Imamiah tilted her head to the side, narrowing her eyes in disbelief.

"I wouldn't have noticed from the way they were speaking to you." Mebahiah remarked. "I know I'd never let the other principalities just walk all over me like that."

"Mebahiah," Daniel let out a chuckle, "You wouldn't let anyone walk over you, not even the Cherubim."

"Anyway," The principality continued, "My point is, a bright mind like you should have more respect for yourself. If you can't get the other archangels on your side, at least hold your ground and try to defend your opinions. You're your own angel, and if you Fall for wanting to know what you're getting yourself into by keeping up this pathetic existence, then, well...you Fall, and that's that."

Raphael rolled his eyes. "If only it were that easy. And besides, why are you saying this existence is pathetic? I rather like being an angel."

Imamiah chewed her lower lip. "Mm...I don't know. Being an angel feels almost," Her voice dropped low, so low that the other four had to lean closer to hear her, "Suffocating. Like, we're working and building and creating under this guise that we have all the freedom in the world, but in reality it's the Almighty pulling all the strings here, isn't it? No real autonomy for any of us."

"Huh." Raphael had never thought of it that way before. "Yeah, I guess I can see what you mean."

"To be honest," Ezekiel yawned, "If I were to Fall, I don't think I'd regret it. Would it hurt? Yeah, but I think in the end all the best things for us should so we can look back and say 'hey, this thing really fucking pained me but I'm in a better place now.' If you Fall, sure, you're not really one of Her kiddos anymore, but you've got freedom. Being dropkicked out of Heaven is essentially having the strings cut off your puppet, and you're free to go. I heard it feels amazing once you get over the initial hurt of it all."

Daniel laughed, throwing an arm around the other male angel, "That's my best friend! Brightest bloody angel this side of Heaven, he is!" Ezekiel smiled shyly.

Raphael felt dizzy all of a sudden. Ezekiel did seem to know what he was talking about, and to see his entire existence from the point of view of someone who thought of it like some grand puppet show threw him for a loop. He had quite a bit of thinking to do, he realized, and so he got up to leave rather sporadically.

"Look," Raphael tried to get back on his feet without stumbling and spread his wings for balance, "It was really, really good to meet you all, but this...it's just a lot for me to process."

"Oh, yeah, we totally understand that!" Imamiah nodded. "Well, look. If you ever want to talk with us more about this whole shebang, you can find Mebahiah patrolling the ground of Eden most of the time, and I can be found guarding the southern gate."

"Right. Thank you all, it's been a real pleasure." The archangel gave a curt nod and a smile, "I'll be seeing you!"

And with that, he flew off to rejoin the other archangels in Heaven.

"Right," Mebahiah leaned forward on her knees, her voice low and her eyes narrow, "What's the verdict on this guy?"

"Don't quite trust him." Daniel said lowly. "He seems a bit too nervous. What if he rats us out?"

"He won't!" Assured Imamiah with a chuckle. "Did you even see the guy? He's a total pussy, it practically radiates off of him! The most that'll happen is he'll probably tell the other archangels that he ran off to meet a pretty angel or something!"

The four laughed.

"That being said," Mebahiah's smile dropped, "I'm beginning to wonder if we can get him on board with our plan after all."

"The plan-to-show-all-of-Heaven-that-we're-right-they're-wrong-so-go-suck-a-lead-pipe?" Ezekiel asked. "Because if that's the one you mean, I think it's going to be a while before we'll get him on board with that."

"No kidding." Said Daniel. "But, I think with a bit of patience and some good old peer pressure, we can get him on board with us in no time. After all," He smiled a wide, sly smile, "If we can make an Archangel fall, everything from there will be a piece of cake."

The quartet of angels chuckled darkly, knowing that what was soon to follow was going to be very, very interesting.

 

Chapter Text

Evening came and Raphael felt like shit.

The archangel had become progressively more and more paranoid throughout the day like nothing he'd ever felt before. Reasonably, he understood that if he'd done the wrong thing by going off with Mebahiah and saying what he had, he would have likely received a reparation of some sort for it by now. There was a nagging thought in his mind that for what he'd said alone, he'd be forced to Fall, but as the day crawled on and it never happened, his guilt only grew worse.

The other archangels were of no help to him. As soon as Gabriel spotted Raphael overhead trying to locate his siblings, he flagged his brother down and immediately began bombarding him with questions.

"Where were you just now? What did that angel do to you?" Gabriel took Raphael by the shoulders. "And what was her name? What did she want with you?"

"Woah, woah," The other angel's eyes went wide, surprised that Gabriel had gotten on him this quickly. "Can you at least let me land first?"

Gabriel relented and as soon as Raphael's feet touched down on the grounds of Heaven, he was back at it.

"Start with her name. I've never seen her around before. Who was that?"

Raphael sighed in irritation, pinching the bridge of his nose. It hadn't even been a second of them seeing one another and already Gabe was stressing him to high...well. He'd been scrambling to come up with an explanation for what he'd been doing with Mebahiah and those other three angels without exposing their blasphemy, but thus far had been turning up mostly blanks. Under the sudden pressure Gabriel put on him, however, an excuse came to mind that Raphael knew his brother would buy without a second thought.

"That was Mebahiah, a principality. You've never met her before?" He asked, as if they were supposed to know every angel and their grandmother in heaven.

Gabriel raised an eyebrow suspiciously. "No."

"Yeah, well. She overheard what I was saying to you and Uriel and Michael and gave me a good talking-to. Boy, was she pissed, rightfully so!" Raphael laughed sheepishly, pretending to be embarrassed and doing a scarily good job. "But, we're good now, so there's no reason for you to be worried so much."

"Oh. Well," Gabriel seemed to buy it and lightened up a little, "She did seem to be a bit of a hardass. I'll admit. I'm just glad someone managed to knock some sense into you." He gave his brother a teasing punch on the shoulder. "I was sort of getting worried about you, you know. Had a bad feeling about that other angel for some reason. But I guess I was just getting paranoid, wasn't I?"

Raphael laughed it off. "Yeah," He said, "I guess you were."

It would not occur to him for a little while that he had just lied straight to another angel's face, in cold blood and without a second thought or regret.

There's a difference between angelkind's policy towards lying and humankind's policy towards lying, one you probably wouldn't know about unless you've experienced both sides of the coin so to speak. Humans have been lying practically since the day we were created; take the fiasco with the original sinners and the apple as one example. Over time, we've allowed ourselves to become accustomed to lying even in the smallest of situations. White lies like "oh, yes, Aunt Jane, I thought your casserole was delicious" or "yes, mom, I made my bed this morning" are not at all uncommon, especially among children, and it's to the point where sometimes a human will lie without even meaning to in the first place. Angels, however, are not allowed such a luxury as fabricating the truth.*

(*Or at least, they weren't allowed it on a widespread scale at this moment in time.)

The rules around lying for angels are somehow both clear-cut and vague, mostly because it's known as something not to be done, yet when it happens other angels are completely flummoxed on what to do. Angel communities function in such a way that blind trust in one another are the very foundation of all that they do, from the communication of plans for a creation to disclosing one's whereabouts to another. Creation of entire worlds is an incredibly complex process, after all, so it is mandatory that all the gears in the machine are operating smoothly and in sync without so much as a tiny hiccup in their process.

It is for this reason that other angels are shocked to learn of it when one of their peers has lied, even over something small, because it's simply not something ever expected to happen. Ultimately, it is up to higher-ranking entities in most cases, the Almighty Herself in others, what the punishment for such a transgression should be, but generally the first and foremost reparation to come against the offender is scorn and shame from others.

Whether it was his fear of scorn that made him feel such a way or his fear of punishment that did so, Raphael's later (rather delayed) understanding of what he had just done was enough to make him go stiff with guilt.

He was with Uriel, Michael, and Gabriel when it first dawned on him. They were on Earth, taking a break from their work and lazing around in the southwestern bit of Eden and Uriel was telling some sort of story. Raphael wasn't too sure of what he was saying; all the words were like static, out of focus and incomprehensible. In retrospect, the archangel thought it was quite stupid of him to have not realized his fault sooner, what with angels supposedly being creatures with perfect moral compasses and all, but once it dawned on him it dawned on him hard.

"So I said to Nithael, 'Hey, you can't put that here, I'm literally halfway through building something right now! Sod off!' And then, that guy had the absolute nerve to say to me--" Uriel stopped herself halfway through her angry rant, expression softening. "Raphael, you look awful. Are you well?"

Raphael had yet to notice it himself, but he did indeed look awful, not unlike how we'd call a sick puppy. He tried to force a smile anyway, nodding.

"Oh, don't worry about me," The archangel insisted, pretending as though he'd been listening to the other's angry spiel. "Just a bit...bit frustrated, that's all. Yeah. You know how it is."

To say Raphael was frustrated at himself was certainly wasn't too far off the mark, after all. He felt thankful that his dumbass brain hadn't kicked in and made him impulsively lie a second time; should he do it again, he feared, and it would become a habit. The last thing an archangel needed was making lying into a habit.

"We don't. Why so irritated?" Michael quirked an eyebrow. They picked at a strand of grass, lying on their stomach and kicking their feet behind them idly. Gabriel moved a stray piece of hair out of their eyes for them.

The other archangel paused. He should have anticipated this question, especially knowing how these three angels were with him, but there wasn't a truthful excuse he could think of on the spot that wouldn't expose what he'd done earlier that day. After all, how was he supposed to respond; 'Oh, you know. A quartet of angels that are probably highkey planning to ditch Heaven in favor of Hell tried to sway me over to their side after the whole incident in the plaza thing, and then as if that weren't bad enough of me to do I went and lied straight to Gabriel's face about it. Same shit, different day, am I right?'

Actually, that's exactly what he should have said according to his unspoken moral code, but it never did wind up happening. Instead he blurted out another half-baked excuse, hoping dearly that he wasn't radiating bullshit vibes as hard as he thought he was.

"It's been a hard day on the imagination front, that's all." He sighed. "Haven't had a good idea for an earthly creation in a while."

"Huh. Is that all it is? Well then," Michael suggested, "Why don't you go back up into space for a bit? It's no secret how much you love stars. Perhaps go mess around, make a few more of those. Space is said to be infinite, after all."

Raphael felt relieved. Finally, an excuse to slip away from here!

"Yeah," He said with what was now a genuine smile, "Thanks for the suggestion. Hold down the fort while I'm gone, will you?"

"Sure."

After an exchange of waves and the spreading of a pair of wings, Raphael was off, and Uriel continued her rant as though nothing were amiss.

The expanse of space once he left Earth's atmosphere was cold but welcoming. When he finally exited the Milky Way, he perched himself close to the outer border of it, contemplating the intricate details of the stardust and how it settled in the sky to form the patterns it did. He desperately needed something, anything to take his mind off the sickening guilt inside him, one that he felt eat away at the very essence of his being. Luckily for him, that something had recently landed behind him and was about to scare the living daylights out of him for a second time.

"BOO!" Someone shrieked, making Raphael jump so hard he tumbled off where he perched and whacked his head against a stray asteroid. He whipped himself around to see a certain angel he recognized from earlier doubled over laughing at his shock.

"Ouch!" He groaned. "Imamiah, you're an ass!"

The other angel wiped an amused tear from her eye.

"Shouldn't you be in Eden right now?" Raphael asked, rubbing the now sore spot on his head.

"Oh, screw Eden!" Imamiah waved her hand carelessly, perching where the other angel had initially sat down. "I put Mebahiah in charge for a sec to pop over and say howdy!" She grinned and immediately Raphael could tell she wasn't telling the full truth.

"And?" He raised an eyebrow. The principality smirked.

"And I kinda-sorta-reeeally wanted to see what your thoughts were on what we talked about with those guys earlier. You know, just because." Her voice lost its sugary, high-pitched tone. "You look positively miserable right now, you know? Have you perhaps been a bit of a fallen angel?"

The archangel scoffed. "No more so than you have." Imamiah eyed him knowingly and that broke down the last of the resolve inside of the other. Raphael knew he couldn't keep what he'd done in any longer, and he hung his head shamefully, golden eyes cast downward into the matching sash over his shoulder.

"Oh, Imamiah. Truth be told, I've just done something terrible!" He confessed, "I lied to my brother, Gabriel! In the moment, it just sort of came out, but now I'm regretting it so, so much. And the worst part is, it's too late to take it back! Gabriel thinks I was off getting yelled at by Mebahiah for what I said in the plaza, when in reality...well, you know!" He winced. "I feel so awful about it, just lying to him like that. He loves me and trusts me so blindly. Whatever should I do to make amends?" Raphael looked up at the principality, who thought it over for a long while.

"Hm," Imamiah replied, smiling reassuringly. "Well, I don't suppose you do anything. You were off with Mebahiah, and that much is a stone cold fact. I can testify!" She giggled. "You didn't technically lie if what you said at its core was true, after all. No reason to be so guilty-looking like you just punched him out or something!"

Raphael frowned. That didn't sound right at all, but her words still managed to comfort him somehow.

"I guess you're right," He mumbled, "But I still feel bad."

"Of course you do," The principality rolled her eyes, "You're the goody-two-shoes type. I can practically smell it on you."

"You know, I'd expect a principality like yourself is to be a little more of the goody-two-shoes type than you're being right now." Raphael said bluntly.

"Yeah? And what about it? Besides, at this rate I don't think I'll be an angel for much longer, so why should I care?"

"I'm sorry, what?" Raphael's eyes went wide. He couldn't believe this woman and her arrogant, uncaring tone towards such a ghastly topic.

"Uh, you heard me. In a few days, I won't be an angel anymore. Neither will Mebahiah, or Ezekiel, or Daniel, because we're all going to Fall."

"What?!" The other angel's mouth hung agape, at a loss for words. "How do you know? Is there something you plan to do? You almost sound proud of yourselves!"

"There might be, but..." Imamiah shrugged indifferently. "I don't know. Frankly, I don't even know why I'm telling you this, what with you being an archangel and all. I'll bet you'll snitch on me, on all of us." She looked down at him, her blue eyes dull. "Hell, I'll bet if you really wanted to, you could file a complaint or something and have me Fallen by evening."

"Suppose I could," The archangel leaned back against nothing in particular, "Then what?"

"I hope you don't. That's kind of what I wanted to talk to you about, actually." Imamiah twiddled with a strand of her hair. "Listen. You won't go off telling any other angels about what went on this morning, will you? I mean, we're the only other ones who care enough to listen to your words, after all. We're the only ones who will let you ask your brilliant questions." She pursed her lips. "It would be a real shame if your only confidants suddenly went away."

Raphael hummed. She was right, those four had been the only ones to so much as give him the time of day when he was in the middle of his madman ramblings, but still! This, this entire conversation and this whole matter of Falling was, he realized now, taking things way too far and he was going to tell this angel as much.

"It would, wouldn't it?" He simply responded. Imamiah hummed, her head tilted back.

"I quite think so. And, if you snitched on us, and you made us Fall, then we wouldn't be able to—" She stopped and shook her head. "Nope. Nevermind. I've said enough." She got up, Raphael staring at her in shock. How could she just drop such a spiel like that? "Later, dude."

"Imamiah, wait!" The archangel said and grabbed her wrist before she could stretch her wings for takeoff. "You wouldn't be able to do what? Please, tell me!"

The principality stared at him blankly for a moment. "Do you really want to know?"

Raphael was seconds away from screaming in frustration. "Yes, please."

She smiled down at him. "Promise not to snitch."

"What?"

"You heard me. I wanna hear you promise, or else I won't say anything and just leave you to stew in your curiosity." She bent over so her eyes were nearly level with Raphael's. "My darling Mebahiah has already made sure I'm aware of what curiosity does to you. It makes you mad, makes you babble incessantly like you did this morning in the plaza. Wouldn't it be quite the shame to have to go through that again?"

Raphael bit his lip so hard it drew...not blood, exactly, but something, something red-gold and tasteless and divine in nature. He could not bring himself to respond, but it seemed Imamiah knew that anyway.

"Of course you would. So, would you please do me the favor and make the promise?"

Silence. Raphael could feel his throat pulse, could feel the silent rush of comets and stardust behind him. Finally, he got the courage to say the words he knew he had to say;

"I promise," He said, "And I won't tell a soul."

Imamiah's sugar-sweet smile crept back across her lips. "Perfect!" She sat herself back down. "Well, the gang and I decided on something a while back. I'm actually not allowed to tell you, you know? Mebahiah forbade it, so you could say I'm slipping this to you under the table. Forbidden knowledge, if you would." Her eyes twinkled with mischief and Raphael felt a rush. Who knew something this sinful could feel so good?

"So, as it turns out, pretty much all of Heaven is like your siblings are. Everyone's complacent, no one actually wants what we do, to know the full ins and outs of what we're actually doing here. That's why Lucifer decided he'd had enough. It wasn't that he was a bad guy, oh no. He wasn't bad at all, really! That was just a rumor started by folks who wanted to keep him silent even after he was gone. He was just like you, Raphael. Curious, maybe too much so for his own good. All he ever wanted were answers, and really, why shouldn't he have been able to receive them? He was said to be Her favorite, after all."

The archangel felt sick at first, his stomach wrenching instinctively at the thought of being compared to one of the Fallen. But she also raised a compelling point; why would She not gift knowledge to Her favorite angel? What, really, was so bad about knowing in the end? He listened intently, his eyes never leaving Imamiah's as she continued on,

"We—that is, Ezekiel and Danny—figured out pretty quickly that talking to other angels about it doesn't bode well. They try to get you to shut up with all sorts of nasty words—'Are you insane?!' 'What is wrong with you?' 'Lucifer talked like that, and he Fell, so you'd better shut up unless you'd like to join him!'"

"But Lucifer should have never Fallen over something as simple as curiosity anyway, right?" Raphael blurted. Imamiah stared at him for a moment, looking very pleased with herself.

"Exactly that!" She praised, "And it seemed that no matter what we tried, we couldn't find anyone else to agree with us! Not a single soul in all of Heaven! Can you believe it? Sooo annoying! It occurred to us—well, this was Mebahiah's idea, actually—that maybe using words alone won't be enough to get anyone else on our side."

"What do you mean?" A sickening feeling began to pool in the lowest part of Raphael's gut and he began to think he wouldn't like where this was going. Imamiah's eyes sparkled and she leaned in close to Raphael, so much so that the thin strands of her pigtails nearly brushed his face.

"We thought well, if we could get access to the right folks—and we have, just so you know, connections aren't terribly hard to come by if you know who's who—we could get some stuff."

"Stuff?"

"Hellfire."

"No way." The archangel's mouth went dry as a desert.

"Way!" The principality saw shock on Raphael's face and she waved him off. "Oh, don't worry, it's fairly low-grade stuff! But, set it in the right place and BOOM! We get our point across with some good ol' anarchy and we'll get folks on our side that way!"

Raphael stared at her, mouth agape. "You can't possibly be serious."

"I am!" Imamiah insisted. "Mebahiah drew up a whole plan and everything! She's such an amazing leader, you know that?" She sighed dreamily. "Really, with her wits and our brawn, I don't think there's anything the five of us couldn't do!"

"Five?!" The archangel shook his head. "Oh, no. No, no, no, Imamiah. I take it back, I take everything back. Don't you rope me in with this positively harebrained idea! I don't know what you're gonna do with that hellfire but I genuinely don't think I want to know. Oh," He groaned in despair, hiding his face in his hands. "What have I done, associating with you lot!"

"Dude, come on, just hear me out!" The principality insisted. "It's not bad, I promise! We're not actually gonna sic it on anyone. It'll just be there, yknow, lend some weight to our moral argument while we try to convince the rest of Heaven to join us in this little quest for knowledge. There's a whole speech and everything Ezekiel and I drew up, and Mebahiah and Daniel will deliver it. It's gonna be awesome!"

"Oh." Though he wasn't still fully on board with the idea, Raphael was interested in seeing where this was going. "And what role would I play in this, should I agree to help? Moreover, after all you've just told me, why should I agree to help?"

"Simple," The principality began, "It comes down to a matter of one thing: do you value the comfort of being an angel, of being loved and cared for unconditionally but having no free will or outside perspective of your own, or would you rather have freedom to do and know as you please? For me, it's simple; I want to know things. I need to know things. Not just the whats of life, but the whys as well, and that's what gets Heaven so butthurt; nobody up here can tolerate those who ask why and we're never given a reason for it. I won't stand for it. I'm not a puppet, Raphael, and neither are you. Neither are Mebahiah, nor Ezekiel, nor Daniel—nor your brothers and sisters and siblings all in-between." She paused. "You're the guy in love with Aziraphale, right?"

"Wh—?!" Raphael sputtered. "'In love'!? Well! That's certainly a strong use of words!"

"But you don't deny it, do you?" Imamiah quirked a brow. The other angel said nothing. "That's what I thought. Mebahiah saw you two smooching in Eden that one time. It's cute, really, how we angels can find love amongst one another. So I ask you this, Raphael; think for a moment not about what you want for yourself, but what you'd want for him." Their eyes locked and Imamiah's robins-egg-blue focused on the archangel intently. "Do you want Aziraphale, Angel of the Eastern Gate, a puppet for the rest of time? Would you want to hold that knowledge, those sickly satisfying answers I know you crave inside, from him the way Heaven holds it from you now?"

Raphael could not form words for several moments as he tried to process all Imamiah had posed to him. No, never in a thousand years would he ever want to withhold anything of the sort from Aziraphale. His heart thumped in his chest just thinking about that angel; his bright eyes, his radiant smile, the closeness of him and the brush of those silk-soft gold curls against his forehead in Eden that wonderful day. Just the thought of his presence made Raphael want to scream, "no, no, never; I would give him the world if he asked and so much more!"

But then...

But then.

What would the others say? What would Uriel, what would Michael, what would Gabriel say when they saw their big brother figure Fall as he surely would if he were to side with Imamiah and the others, angels who wanted to sic hellfire of all things upon Heaven? Yes, knowledge was sweet, and the euphoria of love even sweeter! But Raphael loved not only Aziraphale but the other angels as well, and though he knew deep in his heart of hearts that giving to them would liberate them all, there was still the majority of his angelic soul that screamed "What is wrong with you?! If She is withholding things from us, there is reason for it, you heathen! What business do you have questioning that? What is an archangel to a god if he cannot keep himself in line? If we cannot all remain in line, there will be no order in Heaven, and without order we all fall apart! What then, hm? Will it feel good to know you've singlehandedly destroyed the universe in your own selfishness?"

"An archangel insolent to a god is free," Hissed a part of Raphael that he didn't know he had, the part that craved to have the strings on his puppet snipped away already.

"He is selfish and a fool, and we are neither of those!" Raphael's good part, the majority of him as it were, snapped back. To be free was sweet, yes. But what, then, of approval? What of knowing that the highest power in all the universe loves you, even if it cost you your freedom? In the end, it boiled down to two things; was Raphael selfish and seeking of answers perhaps he should never have in the first place, or was he obedient and piteous as he was taught all should be? Was he a good angel?

Well. Raphael was certainly not a bad angel, not by any means, and he knew it. The Lord knew it, his fellow Archangels knew it, and all his other miscellaneous brothers and sisters knew it. He was not about to change their minds.

And with that, Raphael made his decision.

"Imamiah," He said, taking a deep breath, "I'm sorry. As much as I know it needs to be done, freeing knowledge to the rest of Heaven and all, I can't help you. I think, in the end, I care too much about my position as Archangel for that. Maybe there's a reason She doesn't tell us some things, after all. You even said it yourself, it was okay for me not to tell Gabriel the full truth of what we did today, so maybe it's alright if the Lord doesn't tell us everything we need to know about the world. Just what she thinks is appropriate for us to know. And besides, I don't really think we see eye-to-eye on everything, especially the bit with the hellfire. Really, I don't want to hurt your feelings or anything, but--"

"Shut up, Raphael."

The principality suddenly rose to her feet and stretched her wings, bones loudly popping into place as she prepared to take off somewhere. She turned her back to him sharply, refusing to even look him in the eye now.

"Traitor," She said icily, voice dripping in venom, "Don't help. I don't give a shit. But I'll tell you this, Raphael; very shortly, you are going to realize that you've just landed yourself on the wrong end of history."

For a second, she looked over her shoulder at the archangel. She looked furious all of a sudden, the shiny blue of her eyes now stony and cold and unforgiving. It sent a chill down Raphael's spine, but before he could amend any more of what he'd said, she'd already left him behind. A sinking feeling punched the angel in the gut and he began to think he'd made a horrible mistake.

——

This is the part of his story Crowley does not remember well, and he is admittedly quite grateful for that. If one were to ask him what happened after his conversation with Imamiah, he would not react well; he'd grow cold and silent at first, staring off into space for an invariable amount of time, then request you to leave him be. If one were to disobey and press further on the matter, he'd grow quite snappish and angry, and that is not a state anyone likes to see a demon in. It is only appropriate, then, to recount what followed this chat in the way he recalled it, to keep the authenticity of these memories alive and perhaps to keep what his mind has buried in its appropriate place.

What followed was extremely foggy. Raphael could not remember ever returning to Uriel, Michael, and Gabriel, nor could he remember how they ended up in the particular place in Heaven they were in when this event occurred, on the morning of the sixth day of creation. Raphael did not feel well, that much he could say for sure. Even in his memories he recalled nerve-for-nerve how awful he felt on that day, so much so that all he was able to produce for the universe were two measly stars. He'd tucked them away in the Milky Way somewhere, a testament to his guilt for having conspired with and subsequently pissing off Imamiah, and he tried not to think about why he wouldn't let himself report the angels to anyone else.

There is shouting. Lots of it. It drones on in the distance, elsewhere in Heaven and muffled like a song playing in another room, but Raphael can still consciously tell it is there.

Later, the shouting abruptly grows louder. Another loud sound, an 'explosion', quickly follows.

An accident has occurred, it seems, but that doesn't feel like it would be possible. This is Heaven, after all; accidents do not simply happen here.

Gabriel gets scared quickly, even though he knows he shouldn't. He and Raphael both know he shouldn't get scared, he should be brave and try to help, but they allow Gabriel's weakness anyway because they love one another and sometimes vulnerability is a part of being able to love.

He clings to Raphael's side as they hide together, shaking, crying, mumbling words into his brother's sash that Raphael cannot make out even as it is happening because he is so far gone in his own mind, his own guilt. The accident was his fault. He knows it, deep down inside, even though he wasn't there; in the end, he was selfish either way. He chose the right side, but did not do the right thing. Now, something had happened, and the blood was on his hands.

Something pulls at him from the inside. Something tells Raphael he needs to go, needs to be elsewhere. He expresses as much to Gabriel, who immediately dries his eyes and pretends he hadn't been crying, and lets his brother go. They are too old to be acting as they are right now, anyway.

Gabriel lets go of him, and Raphael rises to his feet, closing his eyes and allowing himself to focus on whatever he is being summoned to. Gabe watches as the other angel fades out before his eyes, wondering who could be wanting his brother at a time like this.

And sometimes Raphael thinks back and wonders if Gabe knew it would be the last time he'd ever see him in Heaven.

---

The place Raphael came to in was almost blindingly white.

"Hello?" His voice echoed in the empty room. He got to his feet and looked around. Raphael did not recognize this place; he had never been in this part of Heaven before, wherever it was.

Was he even still in Heaven at this point?

RAPHAEL, A voice boomed, ARCHANGEL OF HEALING, PATRON SAINT OF THE ILL AND OF THE BLIND, I NEED TO HAVE A WORD WITH YOU.

Raphael felt his heart drop to his stomach, his stomach drop to his knees, and the entire rest of his body drop to the ground. He was speaking to the Lord Herself, and from Her tone of voice, She was not happy.

"Oh," He stammered, "Me, specifically, Lord? Of course, anything you wish." He cleared his throat. "So, um, what exactly is this about?"

LIKE YOU DON'T ALREADY KNOW WHAT THIS IS ABOUT.

Raphael swallowed the acid that forced its way up his throat. So this was about...that, it seemed. The whole conspiracy deal and whatnot.

"Heavenly Mother," He immediately fell to his knees, shaking. Though there was no visible being in this strange room with him, he could feel the infinite yet nonexistent eyes of God on him and they practically burned his form away. "I am sorry with all my heart and soul! I've made terrible mistakes today, so many of them, and I beg for your forgiveness!"

There was a pause.

RAPHAEL, God said in a tone that could almost be described as apprehensive. ANSWER ME THIS. YOU ARE AN ARCHANGEL. YOU ARE SET TO BECOME A HEALER FOR MANKIND, SET TO GUIDE THEIR DOCTORS AND LEADERS ON THE RIGHT PATH TO DO GOOD BY OTHERS, AND NOW YOU ARE FRATERNIZING WITH ANGELS WHO WANT TO BRING ABOUT THEIR DOWNFALL?

Raphael felt like he was going to be sick, his guilt and shame so strong it was palpable. "Oh, no," He stammered, "Not fraternizing, I can promise you. They tried to tempt me with their wicked ways!"

BUT YOU'VE STILL HAD DOUBTS, HAVE YOU NOT? DOUBTS ABOUT THE VALIDITY OF MY PLANS FOR HUMANITY. DOUBTS ABOUT PLANS FOR THE WORLD YOU AND YOUR SIBLINGS HAVE WORKED SO HARD TO CREATE.

The archangel swallowed. What else was he supposed to say? He could not lie regardless of how badly he wanted it. Not here. Not now.

"Yes," He eked out quietly, "I have. Please, I hope you can forgive me for that, Lord. I am trying to fight those doubts, I swear, no matter how strong they are."

SHH. There was a sudden warmth on his cheek, like someone had pressed the back of their hand to his face in a comforting gesture. The archangel leaned into the invisible touch instinctively, closing his eyes. RAPHAEL, DO NOT BE AFRAID. YOU ARE SO PALE AND SO NERVOUS.

"I cannot help it," The angel choked out. It seemed a metaphorical chicken egg had lodged itself in his windpipe. "I feel so ashamed, Lord. I have forsaken you. I've enabled fellow angels to do their worst. I made no attempt to stop them because I was afraid."

AFRAID?

"Afraid of what You'd do to me once you learned what I'd done, Lord."

AH.

Again, the angel swallowed hard, anxious out of his mind.

RAPHAEL. YOU DO KNOW I LOVE YOU, RIGHT?

Raphael felt his heart skip a beat. It was obviously common knowledge that God loved all Her angels, but to hear it from the deity Herself! Perhaps, he thought, he had a chance for redemption after all.

"Even after...?" He started, then stopped, chewing his lip nervously.

YES, RAPHAEL. EVEN AFTER YOU'VE SINNED AGAINST ME, I STILL LOVE YOU. I STILL LOVE THE ANGELS WHO YOU CLAIM TRIED 'TEMPTING' YOU AS WELL.

Another pause.

BUT DESPITE THIS, I AM BEGINNING TO THINK YOU SHOULD NOT BE HERE.

"What?!" Raphael's heart sunk. No. Oh, no, no, no. He had a bad, bad feeling things were about to go south fast. His palms began to sweat and his lower lip trembled. This couldn't be happening. Not now, not to him. He hadn't done anything wrong, really. He'd just hung around the wrong people.

"What do you mean?!"

God hummed as though She were thinking over something.

I'M SORRY. She said, ONE DAY YOU MIGHT UNDERSTAND.

And then, before he could ask what was happening, before he could ask to confirm if the worst was truly upon him now, the floor beneath Raphael fell out and he dropped.

There is little in this world more terrifying than the feeling of stability suddenly being yanked out from beneath you.

A scream tore itself from Raphael's throat but he could not hear it; the rush of wind past his ears and through his hair was far too loud. His wings, still white as pearl and heavy against his back now, instinctively spread behind him but they would not move no matter how hard Raphael tried to flap them. He struggled for several half-seconds, panic grabbing him by the throat as he realized he would not be able to fly. He was powerless, doomed to falling downward into what seemed like an empty black void from his surroundings--or, lack thereof, as it were.

There was nothing around him, the angel soon realized, nothing at all but an empty stream of darkness. Raphael tumbled head-over-heels for what felt like ages, his throat soon growing pained from screaming and his hands grasping at emptiness. Suddenly, in the bottom of his vision he saw what looked like a blur of a sickly yellow-orange something. He could do nothing but watch downward in abject horror as the anonymous mass grew closer, and oh, the smell of it was positively repugnant. Even from several hundreds of thousands of feet in the air he could smell it, the smell of rotting eggs and death and burning and sulphur.

Sulphur is the sixteenth element on the periodic table. It is the fifth most common element found on Earth and the tenth most common element found in outer space. At room temperature, it's a crystalline, lemon-yellow solid soluble in water generally regarded to be both tasteless and odorless. In this state, the human body can filter and clear it from its systems with relative ease provided that it's present in small amounts. However, in the form of hydrogen sulfide, it gives off the smell most people associate with the mineral in addition to being significantly more toxic than it is in pure form. Finally, sulphur requires a temperature of at least 446 degrees Celsius to melt, making its molten form not only extremely fucking hot but also very, VERY dangerous and painful to touch.

Raphael had the pleasure of learning that last bit the hard way.

He fell face-first into what he saw too soon to be a boiling pit of liquid, screwing his eyes shut in terrified anticipation for what was about to come. The intensity of the heat could be felt by him a few thousand feet up and Raphael knew that what he was in for was going to hurt. He held his breath, though there was no reason for him to, and seconds later he crashed hard into the pool of melted, bubbling liquid. It burnt him immediately upon contact, the scorching liquid clinging to holy flesh and ripping yet another scream from the archangel's throat. Bubbles surfaced above his head and Raphael knew, though the pain was so strong that it made his head swim, that he had to fight for his life to get out of there. The sulphur was thick, gooey like liquid candy, and he struggled to push himself and his wings to the surface. His wings ached, the muscles of which strained as he tried to flex them against the impossibly heavy and blistering heat of molten goo, and they almost seemed to pull him downwards as Raphael struggled to swim up.

He fought the liquid for what felt like hours. He clawed at the space above him, pulled with all his might until his arms were fit to pull themselves from their sockets, until finally his head broke the surface and he drew in lungfuls of putrid, death-scented air that made him choke. The liquid burned his skin, leaving it hot and sensitive and oh so painful, but Raphael tried desperately to ignore it in favor of swimming as best as he could in hopes of finding some solid surface to rest upon. As he pulled himself haphazardly through the burning fluid, groans and whines of agony clawing through his throat as he did so, he felt the material of his clothing burn away, lost to the impossibly scorching heat that was the sulphur. His wings burned as well, feathers scalding and burning and the skin of which practically frying alive against his back. To call the state he was in 'misery' would be merciful, an understatement of grand proportions.

Finally, finally Raphael's hand crudely collided with the rocky surface of whatever was bordering this disgusting pool of goop. With a sigh of both distress and relief, he tightened his hand around what must have been a rock and attempted to pull himself up. The rock, however, seemed to have other plans for him. It was pockmarked full of holes like pumice but was smooth and hard to the touch like obsidian, and the now Fallen angel's palm slipped against the surface, slicing through the soft flesh there and sending ichor splattering onto the rock wall of the sulphur pool. Raphael screamed, pulling his hand away and inadvertently splashing more sulphur onto the freshly bleeding wound. He was seeing stars, far from the good kind, and the pain resounded up his arm so strongly he felt as though he would pass out.

He knew he had to keep going, however, and thus tried again, blindly scrambling against the rocky walls of the pool and cutting himself up the hands and arms until finally he found a stable place to pull himself out. Ichor and sulfur and sweat and tears soaked Raphael's face and hair as he shakily lifted himself from the pool, scraping himself all up and down the legs and abdomen, but he was so far gone now that he didn't care. When his entire body was out, soaked in fluids and trembling in agony, he rested against the cold, dark rock beneath him, eyes fluttering between open and shut.

Behind him, sulphur ate away at his wings. It chewed away the pearlescent white of his feathers, staining them an ugly charcoal-black, and the flesh connecting them to his shoulderblades stung so badly Raphael could do no more than to let them hang limply upon the ground. The Fallen's eyes fluttered open and shut as he fell in and out of consciousness, pain forcing his entire body into a throbbing rhythm, and slowly but surely the round gold disks of his iris began to re-shape to accomadate for something a little more serpentine.

Oh, good grief and alas! What had he done?! Raphael weakly balled his hands into fists against the pumice. He'd disobeyed God. He'd been a bad angel, and now he had Fallen. The pain ate away his nerves so greatly that all Raphael could do now was cry, cry weakly and softly into the cold stone below, because he had abandoned all he'd ever been made for and for what? For some silly questions? Oh, whatever was wrong with him!

His body soon became wracked with sobs as the realization of what he'd done truly began to hit. Raphael hadn't just abandoned God, he saw now; he abandoned Heaven as a whole. He'd abandoned Earth in favor of whatever this hot, unforgiving nightmare was, he'd abandoned that handsome angel Aziraphale he knew he'd never see again thanks to his selfishness, he'd abandoned Uriel and Michael and...

He'd abandoned Gabriel. Oh, merciful God above. What had he done? Raphael had promised never to leave his side.

There was nobody to blame except himself.

Footsteps came closer. Raphael was not sure how long it had been or where they were coming from, but those sorts of thoughts were long gone from his mind. He laid there limply against the floor as a demon stopped in front of him, looking down at his body and assessing what damage had been done to it.

"I see you've finally made your grand arrival."

Raphael looked up blearily, eyes still watery and throbbing with pain. He could see now that another Fallen stood above him, her midnight-black wings folded elegantly behind her back, and he recognized her after a moment as Mebahiah. Except...she wasn't Mebahiah. Not entirely, anyway.

This demon looked like a mess. Her hair was singed, cut crudely now to her shoulders, and her skin was littered with ugly wounds and abrasions like the ones upon his skin now. And her eyes! Those eyes were once dark and full of light, but now, they were a pale blue that held no light to them, dull as if the sulphur had robbed away the warm browns of her irises and left stones in their place. She looked down at Raphael with a scowl.

"Get up." She barked. "I can't have you simply crawling about like this all day."

"Mebahiah?" Raphael whispered, voice hoarse and raw. Mebahiah looked like she was about to kick him.

"Not Mebahiah anymore." The Fallen Angel said, "And should I ever hear you speak that name again there will be more than Hell to pay for it. I am Beelzebub."

"Right," Raphael weakly tried to lift his body up from the pumice beneath him, arms trembling beneath his own weight, "I'll try to remember it."

Beelzebub scoffed and grabbed him by the arm, snagging ichor-stained hair in the process and digging her fingernails directly into a wound. Raphael screamed again in anguish. "Get off your ass and come meet the others," She said, barely giving a care in the world to the pain she knew she was inflicting, "They'll be glad to see you, I'll bet. So will the rest of Hell. And after that," Beelzebub looked over her shoulder, her unforgiving eyes meeting Raphael's as a smirk crept across her face. "You're going up to Earth to cause some trouble."

"Wha--" Raphael tried in vain to sputter in protest. "I-- Beelz-- I didn't--"

"What?" Beelzebub snapped "What are you whimpering like that for? You should have expected this if you wanted to Fall! You chose this, after all!"

'You chose this...'

Had he? Had he really?

Raphael, though deep inside he knew this was no longer his name, tried not to think about if that was really what he'd chosen or not. For once since his first miserable second in Hell, he chose to focus on the reverberating pains of his wounds instead.

Chapter Text

Aziraphale was not sure what to make of the situation he currently found himself in.

Five minutes ago, he’d finished his third mug of cocoa for the day, pretending like the slow burn of it down his throat was enough for him to forget about the trouble between him and Crowley.

Three minutes ago, he'd given up on finishing the novel he was currently reading through, feeling no motivation to complete it despite being excited at the prospect of it a few days ago.

One minute ago, the bell above his shop door chimed and he’d nearly thrown himself out of his desk chair. He'd been in the back room at the moment and the shop was not currently open to the public, so he knew there was nobody else that could possibly be coming here at this time except his best friend.

As it turned out, however, there was indeed somebody else that could be coming here at this time. Three somebodies in fact. And that was how Aziraphale found himself standing face-to-face with three angels he thought he'd seen the last of quite some time ago.

Gabriel shifted uncomfortably. "Aziraphale," he said, clearing his throat. The principality immediately felt a great swell of disappointment. Of course it wouldn't be Crowley, what had he been thinking ? But then…

"Oh, Gabriel. What on Earth brings you here?" asked Aziraphale, trying not to look as confused as he felt. Uriel and Michael, in contrast to the archangel between them both, did not look as though they wanted to be there, which was rather odd considering their usual assurance. Uriel pointed a thumb at Gabriel.

"This one wants a word with you," she said, "and we're just here to make sure he doesn't pussy out."

Aziraphale was taken aback at this. During the entire time he'd known these three, their relationship had been strictly that of an underling and his superiors, their language towards him always a friendly workplace interaction that drove one insane and reeked of artificiality. Though they were never directly rude to him, never had the principality seen them let their guard down around him either. For each and every one of their actions appeared as though they were scripted, pointedly lacking in friendliness. For him to hear Uriel speak so casually and for her to say something so vulgar threw him for a loop, to say the least.

And that wasn't even touching on their body language. Gabriel, normally high-and-holier-than-thou, actually looked nervous. Well, it was the closest thing Aziraphale had ever seen to nervousness from him at any rate. Gabriel's eyes did not quite meet Aziraphale's, his foot tapped the ground quietly, and he seemed rather fidgety. Incredibly odd. 

"Alright?" the principality looked uneasily at his former boss. He couldn't possibly think of what there was to say to him, especially since Crowley had scared the lot of them so much so while in Aziraphale's form that they were never supposed to bother him again. Something was amiss here, but the principality couldn't pin-point what it was…

"So," Gabriel began after another very awkward moment of silence, "You and Crowley. How's that going?"

Aziraphale almost choked. "Pardon me?" What did Crowley of all people have to do with any of this? He couldn't shake the bad feeling that came over him upon hearing the question and he knew he had to choose his answer carefully. "Yes well, the two of us are just fine, really. Why do you ask?" 

"Oh. Really now," Gabriel looked over at Michael as if they were supposed to know what he should say next. The entire situation was beginning to give the principality an extreme case of secondhand embarrassment, already he wanted this conversation to be over. "It was just something we were curious about, that's all." 

"...Right." Aziraphale knew he must have looked as confused as he felt because Michael suddenly grabbed Gabriel by the arm.

"Pardon us, Aziraphale," they said cooly, exchanging a glance with Uriel. "I'll let Uriel take things from here."  

The principality mutely watched as Michael, with their iron-strong grip on Gabriel's arm, practically dragged the bigger angel out of the bookshop. Gabriel, clearly, had not been anticipating this.

"Wait," He protested, though Michael pointedly ignored him. "What are you doing? I thought you said I was supposed to--?"

Fortunately, before the situation could get more embarrassing, the door was miracled open and shut and just like that, the bookshop was occupied by two angels less.

Aziraphale blinked, pressing the bridge of his nose. "May I ask what on Earth that was about?"

Uriel straightened himself out. "Yeah, I was starting to get the feeling that Gabriel was going to make this whole thing awkward, even though this was his idea."

"Right, I got the first part myself." Aziraphale shuddered. The other angel laughed aloud. "Doing what , though? I couldn't imagine what you three would possibly want from me at this point."

"More or less, he wanted to apologize to you for the whole failed 'execution by hellfire' schtick. And, for once, I actually agree with him." The archangel pursed her lips. "Aziraphale. We are really, truly, deeply sorry for the trouble we caused you those several weeks ago. You, and Crowley both."

"Oh?" Goodness, that was certainly unexpected. Aziraphale wasn't quite sure what to say, especially because he hadn’t actually been there for that particular event and Crowley had never divulged too many details about what they tried to do to him up there. "Huh. Well, I suppose I should say thank you, then."

Uriel nodded curtly, then looked back at the door as if to confirm there was nobody else with them. "Between you and me," she began, her tone notably more hushed than before, "you and him make quite a cute couple. You know? I almost find myself a bit jealous of you. Almost."

Aziraphale's face flushed a shade of red so strong it made the apples in Eden look pale by comparison. "I-I--Uriel, I hate to burst your bubble, but, heh , we're really not..." the principality, in his flustered state, trailed off and was unable to finish his sentence. Uriel smiled smugly.

"What? No way! But seriously? That's a shame, he seems into you, too,” said Uriel with a cheeky smile. Aziraphale managed to calm himself enough to process this out-of-left-field remark and simmered down almost immediately.

"Forgive me for jumping to conclusions here Uriel, but are you now trying to play matchmaker with Crowley and I?" he asked. Uriel pursed her lips.

"I mean...I guess you could say that," she responded with a shrug. "We--Michael and Gabriel and Sandalphon and I--just thought it over and thought, hey, if whatever the Heaven you two have been up to together since the beginning of time made it so that you couldn't be killed by hellfire, then maybe...maybe the two of you would be better off as you are. Together. Whether that's as friends, romantic partners or whatever." She groaned. "Ugh, I'm no good with this sort of thing. Maybe I should have let Gabriel do this after all..."

"No, no, I think that was quite nice!" Uriel was certainly a lot less inept about this topic than Gabriel would have been, if nothing else. "That's...huh. I never really thought of that." The blush from moments ago returned to his face, though it wasn't nearly as boldly red. "That's sweet of you, Uriel."

The archangel's lips turned up coyly at the ends. "Thank you. So sorry to just sort of drop in on you like this," she sighed, "but Gabriel insisted on it for whatever reason. Though I'll at least admit it felt good to get this off my consciousness, and to get out of the office for a bit." She looked around the room they were in briefly. "It's a bloody mess in here, Aziraphale, but there's just something about it that I can't place that makes me think it's nice."

Aziraphale smiled tightly. "Thank you for that. It's appreciated."

Uriel returned the smile, albeit a little more relaxed. "Yep. Well, back to Heaven for us, then. Work never ends up there. You know how it is." She turned and headed for the door, though technically the archangel could just miracle herself out if she so wished to. "We'll be seeing you then Aziraphale! Or not."

The principality chuckled, "Right. Mind how you go!"

A second later the door opened, then shut, and Aziraphale let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding.

"What the Hell was that?" he thought, pulling out his desk chair and seating himself in it. To call what he'd just experienced 'weird' was not much of a stretch. Uriel had been kind to him, for once. Michael...well. Michael was Michael , and it seemed even a botched apocalypse wouldn't be enough to change that. The thing that really blew him away, though, was Gabriel. The archangel had not been at all like the fake-friendly, well-put-together boss Aziraphale had known him as for millenia. Rather, he'd been painfully awkward, but this was different from all those spontaneous meetups and conversations they'd had in front of humans. This time, it had just been them and a few other angels, and the weirdest part of all was that Gabriel actually seemed to have been aware of his own ungainliness for once. To say it was surprising was an understatement.

It was odd to see those archangels act like something other than, well, angels. Aziraphale realized with a start that that had been the most humanlike behavior he'd ever seen from those three. Perhaps stopping the Apocalypse had affected his former side in more than he would have thought, and absentmindedly he wondered if the same could be said for Hell.

"Oh, goodness," he muttered, resting his elbows on the edge of his desk. The remark Uriel had made about him and Crowley being a cute couple was now starting to nag at him, making him feel a number of different emotions. Aziraphale knew he had a good deal to think about, and so that is what he ended up doing for the next several hours; thinking, occasionally murmuring things aloud to himself or jotting down random thoughts on a scrap paper. After much deliberation, his mind was made up as to what he would do and how he would make amends with Crowley after the whole shitshow that had gone down a few nights before. That, after all, would be the first thing to resolve if he was ever going to come clean about loving the demon.

Now, he thought with a satisfied sigh, all he had to do was muster the courage to pick up the phone.