Chapter 1: I've taken my beating, I've shivered, I've kneeled
They must have drugged him with something. It shouldn't be possible. And yet his movements grew sluggish, he had no strength to fight them anymore.
They dragged him down a dark hallway and stopped at a small room. There they took his glasses. The first sign to be alarmed. Then they started stripping him down. Panic started to simmer in his belly. What were they planning?
They dragged him further down the hallway to a big, heavy door. It was opened. And he was immediately blinded by the sheer brightness inside. When his eyes adjusted a little, he could see the entire room was white, the walls were covered in white tiles. He was thrown inside. He gasped at the shock of the cold air and the even colder tiles. He turned and tried to get to the door. But he could barely see where it was. The lights were so bright.
He blinked, tried to shut the light out, tried to get used to it. But it was too bright. He got up, feeling along the walls until he found the door, hammering against it and yelling as loud as he could.
But of course, no one let him out. Why would they when they had locked him in here in the first place?
He turned and looked around, trying to find anything he could use as shelter. But the room was completely bare.
His eyes started burning, white spots danced across his vision, his head started hurting.
The brutal thrumming in his skull got worse and worse. He reached out, leaned against a wall to steady himself.
It was so cold. He pushed away when the cold got so bad it bit into his skin. But he lost his balance and fell. His ears started ringing. He could hear the rushing of blood, it was so loud, too loud.
He turned onto his side, tried to shield his eyes, but it made no difference. It was like a white veil had been draped over his eyes. He could only see vague movements. Nothing more. Shit shit shit. He was going blind. Way more quickly than he thought he would. Fuck. All he could see was the excruciating brightness.
A rush of warm air. Shuffling, several people came in.
He couldn't even understand them at first because everything was too white, too bright and his ears still rang.
He crawled closer, using what little shade there was at their feet to get the tiniest bit more comfortable. At this point, he didn't even care how humiliating this was. He just wanted the pain to stop.
It did get a little better. He started to catch bits and pieces of what they were saying.
“cowering at our feet .... pathetic th-”
“-you enjoy yourself ..... tempted all ... .good people?”
“-ing hell’s bidding”
“.... no more”
Then one last thing. He thought it might have been a question. But with all their talking the thrumming in his head had gotten worse. It was near impossible to focus.
He didn't answer, he couldn't. He couldn't form words. Not when everything was so bright, so painful.
A sharp kick to his ribs sent him rolling onto his back, facing the bright lights again.
He whimpered and instinctively tried to cover his eyes but two of the humans stepped closer. It burned so badly. They grabbed his arms and closed shackles around his wrists. The shackles are attached to chains, chains which were now being locked into hooks on the wall.
He couldn't move his arms. He was entirely helpless.
The ringing in his ears picked up again, even louder than before. The pounding in his head got worse. How much longer would they keep him here?
It felt like there was a rod being driven through his temples.
How much longer would he have to endure this?
The answer to both questions was the same.
For all eternity.
He could barely see anything anymore. Everything was too bright, blinding, burning.
This was not something he would die of. It wasn't something that would cause his body to die either. He was immortal. And they knew. He wondered what other things they knew about him?
Why were humans so cruel? Why did they hate so fiercely? It took a lot less tempting and demonic miracles to push them to do things like this. Something most angels didn't want to acknowledge.
A sensation pulled him back to reality. A sharp burn on his hip. It was small but it burned- oh, it burned so much.
What could possibly burn like- he heard screaming. Who was screaming? It made his head spin, already heady with the growing pain.
They laughed, he could barely see them, just vague shapes, bent over him, swaying. From time to time the faint sounds of maniacal laughter drifted through the haze.
The screaming stopped.
Had he imagined it? Was the pain making him hear things? If he was hearing things what would be next? Would he start seeing things that weren't there? They were going to make him go crazy in here, weren't they?
It was oddly quiet. Empty. Still. Nothing happened. Where were they?
It felt like every minute the pain couldn't get worse, yet somehow it did. Worse and worse and worse. His head, his mind felt like it was caught in a feedback loop of agony. The pain had long passed the point of what he had thought he could endure. Or what he had thought this body could endure.
A small rush of warm air at his feet. The door must have opened.
They were back.
Blunt pressure against his side. He rolled onto his side, one arm straining against the chain. In the faint shade now covering his face he slowly started to see the vague shapes. Their feet. They were kicking him. The pain got worse with the realisation.
A well-aimed kick landed in his stomach. He doubled over, legs pulling up.
He was pushed onto his back again.
Suddenly there was something wet on his belly. Before he could even wonder what it was, it burned. It burned worse than anything he could have ever imagined. It felt like it ate through his skin, burning him to the bone.
Holy Water? But shouldn't that- The screams were there again.
Another splash of wet. Another wave of excruciating pain ripping through his chest.
The screaming got worse.
So did the ringing in his ears, his head felt like it was about to explode any moment now.
Small specks of wet on his legs. But they didn't burn any less. No. Small pinpricks eating through his flesh.
Wet splashed over his shoulder and left arm. It burned so much. So bad. Why. Why.
The screaming roared up again, louder than ever.
His eardrums felt like they were about to burst.
Suddenly it hit him.
He was screaming. He had been the one screaming the entire time. He was sobbing and screaming and whining.
Because it burned so much. It hurt, it hurt, it hurt. When would it be over? Would it ever be over? Would they ever stop? He couldn't endure another minute of this. He couldn't take it. He couldn't. He couldn't. He couldn't.
Oh but he’d have to, wouldn't he?
Because they wouldn't stop. Not ever.
Someone dragged his head back. Pulled his jaw open. Something was pushed into mouth.
Panic rapidly rose from his stomach to his chest. What were they-
It burned worse than anything before combined. He was screaming, trashing. But it only made the liquid bubble up in his throat. Made it run down his chin, his cheeks, to his chest.
The screaming was gone, only whimpers left. Heavy breathing, ragged, throaty, rattling.
Someone grabbed his face.
No. No. No. Oh no. Please no. No.
His jaw was wrenched open. His nose clamped shut.
No. Please. Stop. No. No.
Wet. It burned, scorching as it ran down his throat. It burned inside his lungs. He couldn't breathe. Fire inside his lungs, burning through flesh and bone. Searing and tearing everything away. Tearing him apart from inside.
He couldn't even move anymore when another wave of burning pain crashed over him. All over his legs.
Surprising that it could even get worse at this point...
Nothing happened for a while. Panic rose in his stomach. His body still spasming as waves of pain wrecked his body.
But then for an even longer time, nothing happened. Had they gone? Were they done with him for now? Must be.
His entire body burned, inside and out.
He couldn't breathe, he couldn't see, he couldn't hear anything but the pain. It was the only thing present. He could feel the pain, he could see the pain, he could taste the pain. Metallic, hot, pounding and burning, white, blinding, searing and tearing, harsh, sharp.
Time was non-existent. The only constant was the pain. It occupied his every thought. Every part of his body screamed. His mind raced in circles. It hurt so much, it hurt, it burned.
Suddenly it was warm. A warm rush of air like every time they had come back. But more. Too warm. The pain flared up again, burning, searing all over his body.
He guessed he had tried to scream because his throat felt like it was being torn open all over again.
What kind of torture were they going put him through now?
Darkness overcame him.
This was it. His body was finally quitting!
There was a pressure against his shoulder, too warm, too harsh. Something rough dragged over his chest, causing the burning to flare up again.
Discorporation had never seemed so welcome.
Chapter 2: I will stay until the morning comes
Aziraphale blinked through the tears as he kneeled next to Crowley’s limp body. His skin was red, burned, his eyes were empty and bloodshot, his lips cracked and bloody.
His chin and chest were crusted with dried blood.
His wrists were rubbed raw from the shackles. The entire floor was wet with pale red.
What had they done to him?
He quickly got up to switch the bright lights off. The faint light from the hallway was just enough.
When he gently touched Crowley’s shoulder, he didn't react. No noise, no movement.
He felt for a pulse. He was alive!
A faint whimper.
No reaction. He bit his lip and forced down a sob.
Crowley just stared into nothing. Unmoving. Quiet.
It broke his heart.
He miracled a big cloth and wrapped Crowley up in it.
As gentle as possible, he picked the limp body up and carried him out of the room. Away from this place. He stepped over the bodies in the hallway. They had paid with their lives for what they had done.
When they finally arrived at the bookshop, he put Crowley down on the bed. He was still limp, entirely unresponsive. The cloth was soaked with red. As he peeled it back, Aziraphale was confronted with the sheer amount of wounds again.
He closed his eyes and looked away. “Oh, Crowley, dear... what did they do to you...”
He hurried to the bathroom and came back with a bowl of cool water and a cloth. Gently, he laid the wet cloth down on his one of Crowley’s shoulders.
His chest rose sharply, but he didn't move, didn't say anything, didn't even make a noise. His eyes were still open, unblinking.
Aziraphale reached up and closed them. Then he took the cloth, turned it and placed it on the other shoulder.
He continued until he had washed and cooled down all the burns. There were so many. He didn't want to think about the amount of pain this must have caused. It was too much to bear. He cleaned the blood of his chin and neck and chest. As he wrung the cloth out for the last time, the water in the bowl was red. It was terrible, he went to pour it out in the bathroom and hang the cloth up to dry.
He stopped in the doorway, frozen for a moment. Crowley lay there on the bed, unconscious, unmoving. It hurt to see him like this. His body bare, vulnerable. He had never seen this much of his skin. Ever. Crowley always wore long sleeves, long pants. Always shielding himself.
With the softest towel he owned, he gently dried him off. He didn't know if it was a good or a bad sign that Crowley didn't make a single noise.
He couldn't keep himself from checking for a pulse again. And he felt stupid doing it... but he needed to know, needed to make sure.
After searching for a few minutes, he found the softest blanket he owned and spread it over Crowley’s body. Only the best for him. He deserved it.
Aziraphale sat by the bedside for hours, hoping he would wake up. But he didn't. And then the sun started to rise, it shone through the window, illuminating Crowley’s pale face. It made him look a little more... alive.
It was almost 8 am when he decided he couldn't spend all his time waiting here. He needed distraction. He opened the window a little and put a glass of water on the bedside table.
Then he went downstairs and opened the shop.
In the end, he ended up checking on Crowley every other hour.
But when the sun had gone down that day he still hadn't woken up.
Because doing nothing felt wrong, he had gone to a pharmacy to ask on how to treat burns. He had left with an aloe vera ointment. The next day he would go buy a few plants as he had been told it was more effective.
Three times a day he applied the aloe vera gel. It went on for a week and a half. The burns had gotten a lot better, they weren't as red anymore, none of them infected. But Crowley was still unconscious. He wasn't dead. Aziraphale regularly checked for a pulse. It had become a habit at this point. Whenever he entered the room, even if it was just to close the window, he’d press his fingers to Crowley’s neck.
At night he sat by the bed in an armchair, reading a book.
Sometimes when there were stories he thought Crowley would like, he read out loud.
He was reading a story from Norse Mythology, one of Loki’s many mischiefs. He was torn from the story when something unexpected happened.
“Angel?” Crowley’s voice was croaky, rough and quiet.
Aziraphale’s head whipped around. “Crowley! You’re awake! Thank Goodness! I was worried you would never-”
Crowley shook his head. “Shhh- shh.”
“What is it?” he asked, immediately worried.
A pained whimper.
“Crowley, talk to me! Tell me what I can do to help you!” his voice got louder, more desperate.
Another whimper, despairing.
“What is happening? Darling, talk to me!”
Crowley whined his hands shot up to cover his ears, his eyes squeezed shut.
“Oh.” he whispered. It was the noises- him talking- that had been too much. He frantically looked around for something to write on. Then he remembered the cheap notebook someone had forgotten in the bookshop months ago. He quickly left to get it.
He wrote down a few words before tapping Crowley’s shoulder.
Crowley jumped at the touch, but slowly cracked one eye open.
Aziraphale held the notebook in front of his face.
Crowley slowly lowered his hands. He blinked, squinting. Then after endless minutes, he nodded.
Aziraphale pulled the notebook back and wrote down another message. “Are you thirsty? Do you want to eat something?”
Crowley nodded. Then he shook his head.
Aziraphale frowned and cocked his head. He wrote, “I don't understand.”
Crowley made a low noise. He pointed at the first question and nodded. Then he pointed at the second one and shook his head.
“Oh.” Aziraphale nodded and smiled. He couldn't help but notice Crowley’s small whimper when he spoke.
As he came back with a glass of water, he froze in the doorway when he saw Crowley.
He lay on his back, eyes staring unfocused at the ceiling, arms spread out beside him. Just like he had when Aziraphale had found him in that chamber.
He closed his eyes for a moment and took a steadying breath.
Crowley jumped when he caught movement in the corner of his eye. But it was just Aziraphale. He sighed and relaxed.
There was hurt and worry in the angel’s expression.
Crowley took the glass that was offered to him with a grateful nod.
He drank slowly, wincing again and again as he swallowed. His throat burned but the cool water soothed it somewhat. He licked his dry lips.
Alarmed, Aziraphale noticed the stain of red that left on Crowley’s pale lips. He reached out and gripped Crowley’s jaw to check where he was bleeding.
Before he could even pull his mouth open, Crowley had pushed his hand away and scuffled all the way to the other end of the bed with wide eyes. His chest heaving, body tense.
Aziraphale came closer, hands raised before he reached out again, trying to reassure him without words.
Panic took over Crowley’s expression and he jumped off the bed and raced out of the room.
Aziraphale sat back on the bed. Wondering what had happened. What he had done to cause such an extreme reaction.
He was torn from his thoughts when he heard a loud crash downstairs. Fear spread in his chest, ice cold. He should have followed Crowley immediately! What if he had seriously hurt himself?
His worst fears seemed to come true and his heart leapt painfully when he found Crowley at the bottom of the stairs. Body limp and way too still, like a discarded rag doll. As he came closer, he saw he was bleeding from a small wound on his forehead.
Without a second thought, he healed it and gathered him up in his arms.
A soft whimper.
He pulled Crowley closer so his head rested against Aziraphale’s shoulder. He gently touched his cheek and planted a soft kiss on his forehead.
“I’m so sorry, dear.” he whispered.
Tears prickled in his eyes, he tipped his head back as he felt them run down his cheeks. It hurt to see Crowley like this. It hurt so much. He was so quiet. So hurt. So weak. So helpless. So scared.
Usually, he was the helpless one who needed to be rescued. Not Crowley. Never Crowley. He couldn't think of a single time Crowley had ever needed rescuing, not a single time he’d ever asked Aziraphale for help.
He sniffled and looked down at Crowley’s limp body in his arms.
His eyes were open again, slightly unfocused. But he wasn't sure Crowley could really see him.
He bit his lip to stifle a sob. Cold spread through his belly, crawling all the way up to his chest, taking his heart in its freezing grip. He raised a hand to wipe his tears away.
When he lowered it again and touched Crowley’s shoulder, Crowley jumped and hissed. He started squirming, trying to get away. He looked so scared.
“Crowley, Crowley, it's me.” He wiped his hand dry on his trousers. “Can you hear me? It's me! Aziraphale!”
Slowly, Crowley stilled. He blinked a few times. Then his eyebrows shot up. “You found me!” his voice was a quiet, broken whisper. He sounded so relieved.
Aziraphale nodded, new tears forming in his eyes. “Yes, I found you. You’re safe now.” He put on a brave smile, hoping Crowley couldn't see how much it broke his heart to see him like this.
Crowley relaxed, his head leaning back against his shoulder, his eyes closed.
And for a few terrible moments, Aziraphale feared he would pass out.
But then he shifted and nuzzled against his shoulder. He was quiet for several long minutes.
Aziraphale still didn't dare to let go. Scared that if he did Crowley would disappear. So he held on.
“-eed to...:” Crowley’s voice died. “nhh... b... bhk.” He grunted and hissed.
“It's okay, dear.” he started caressing Crowley’s back. “What do you need?” he asked softly.
Another frustrated hiss. Then he pointed at the stairs.
“You need to go upstairs?”
A curt nod.
Aziraphale smiled and helped Crowley up. Slowly, they made their way up the stairs.
Crowley leaned towards the bedroom. There he collapsed on the bed. He winced and turned onto his side, one hand dangling off the bed.
Aziraphale pulled the blanket over him again and took the hand. He gently caressed it.
At that, Crowley looked up at him, expression open, surprised even.
Aziraphale cocked his head. “What is it?”
He shook his head and looked away again. His eyes fixed on their hands where they lay entwined on the bed.
Aziraphale gently squeezed Crowley’s hand and watched the tiniest smile appear on his face.
He leaned down and planted a soft kiss on his forehead.