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The Storm, Beloved

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Imagine what it would be like, to be a Fallen Archangel. It’s easy enough to imagine Lucifer, that showboat, that teapot dictator, the big oaf. But not him. Imagine being an Archangel who did not mean to Fall, who was surprised by it, who wanted none of it.

Imagine the first time you see Lucifer-that-was afterwards, how he calls you to his throne room like a brother, and how you have to choke down a laugh. That desperate imitation, that aping of Authority, the petulant toddler playing dress-up as Mommy. Imagine this fool claps you on the back, presumes to anoint you, and now you see how deeply you must hide.

Imagine what it would be like to see a world bifurcated in two, and knowing, from a deep-dark center of your Holy-made being, that it could be divided instead into three, and that you, perhaps you alone, could make the division. And what would it take to make it happen? A careless thought? A wish? A daydream, before you have a chance to catch yourself? What would be the goal to serve, and what would be the price?

Imagine never knowing where the line of rebellion is, but just that, once, you had been on the wrong side of it.

Now imagine meeting him. This fragile, pathetic thing, beautiful and kind and Blessed as Light, backwards and outcast in ways he doesn’t even recognize, brilliant and radiant in ways you cannot comprehend, eternally shocking in his resilience. Imagine how much the joy hurts, that first time you elicit from him his smile. Imagine how much you hate him for it. Imagine that deep-dark center of your rejected being orienting towards him, making him your world (you can make a world, do you want to?). Imagine the yearn, the ache, the vile need to keep this Blessed being, this special one who loves so deeply you think perhaps he could even love you (you can make him love you, do you want to?). 

Imagine what it must be like, to have been an Archangel who despised war.

Imagine all of this. And know that Crowley, unique among demons for his power of imagination, never, ever, ever has.

***

Back before humans made their calendars and clocks, before the pace of time was turned knowable by those machinations, Crawley walked through the nation of Uz. He could sense the familiar form, sitting on a hillside overlooking an industrious farm, and so that is where he went.

“Aziraphale!” he called out, friendly enough by his reckoning. He hadn’t been trying to hide his approach, but he could tell that only now did the angel see him.

“Oh. You,” Aziraphale said, with a familiar glare. “What are you doing here?”

“You know,” Crawley mused, as he took the last several steps up to the angel, “you always say that like there’s someplace else you think I’m supposed to be.”

“There is a place your lot’s supposed to be,” Aziraphale snapped. 

Crawley put on the sweetest smile his demonic form could manage, and he dropped down to sit on the ground beside the angel. “So what’s going on here, then?” he asked.

“Surely, you must know.”

Crawley shook his head. “Haven’t heard anything. Just could smell something strange in the area, and then I saw you here.”

“To be honest, I don’t know, either. Not precisely, at least.”

They sat for a while, looking down at the valley, at the farm. They could see fields and workers tending to livestock. They could hear, just barely in the wind, the delighted shrieks of children playing.

“A good man lives there,” Aziraphale said. His voice was low in a way that got the demon’s attention. “A very good man. Devout. He’s good to his workers. He is good to his wife. And she’s lovely, so clever and kind. They have…” Pain made its way into the angel’s voice. “They have such sweet children.” 

“What is going on, Aziraphale?” Crawley asked, gentle as he could.

The question seemed to pull Aziraphale to himself, turning that exposed ache into a familiar blankness. “I have orders,” he said simply.

“Orders.” 

“I was given orders, and I was told to obey them.”

This statement struck Crawley as odd, and it made his mind prick with questions. But he could tell the angel had more to say, and he would not interrupt.

“First, it’s the fields and the livestock. The food stores. Then, all the workers. Then, the woman, his wife. Then, after that…”

Crawley would not interrupt.

“The children.”

Crawley let out a heavy breath.

“At least I don’t have to kill them, not myself. I just have to put the disease to them.”

For Crawley’s part, he did not see the difference between the two, but he could tell this was something the angel needed.

“And then he’s last, though he is not to die. He will survive, in some manner at least.”

“And you say he’s devout?” Crawley quirked an eyebrow, watching as the angel nodded in response. “What could possibly be the point of all this?” He knew, before the question was even finished, what the angel’s reply would be--or, at least, what it should be. This was the rut they found themselves in, the angel and the demon, time and time again: the question asked, the answer never sufficient.

But the angel did not say what he was supposed to. He did not say, it’s ineffable. Instead, he said nothing. He shook his head, and Crawley saw a tear fall down his cheek.

“You don’t have to do this.” The words tumbled out of Crawley, quick and low, before he could think about what he was doing, just what exactly he was offering. “I’ll do it for you. You don’t have to.”

The angel’s head kept shaking, as he wiped away the tear, sniffed to pull himself together. “No, Crawley, best not.”

“This sounds like demon work, Aziraphale--”

“--Crawley--”

“--So let a demon do it. You don’t--”

“Crawley,” Aziraphale said more forcefully, pushing the demon to silence. “I appreciate the offer. It’s-- Well, let’s just say, I appreciate it. But you don’t understand.” The angel gestured to the space before them, towards the farm. “This place is being watched. It is being watched closely. It isn’t safe for us to be here like this, as it is...” There was something the angel was trying to say, Crawley could feel it. “Both our Masters are watching, here.”

Crawley frowned, and he worked at those questions from before, the ones still pricking at his mind. “Aziraphale… You said, you were given orders and, also, told to obey them...”

“Yes, like I said...” Aziraphale pursed his lips together, and the sorrow that had been hiding in his expression turned now into something hard and deep, something both knew could never be voiced. “ Both our Masters are watching here, Crawley.”

“Oh. Oh, Aziraphale.” Inside Crawley surged an urgent need to do something, anything. To make things better, or at least different, to fix the angel’s pain, or at least to offer comfort. But he couldn’t. He wouldn’t. And, he consoled himself, the angel was likely better for it. “What are They playing at?”

Aziraphale had no answer. Crawley sighed.

“Look,” he offered, an attempt. “I’ll stay here, yeah? I’ll stay. And when you’re done, I’ll be here.”

“No,” Aziraphale responded quick and forceful, but then he returned to something softer. “What I mean is, it’s not safe. This place is watched.” The angel’s eyes flicked over to the demon’s, and then they flicked back away. “And, besides…” He faltered. “Afterwards, I think I might not want to be seen.”

Crawley could understand this. 

They sat together for a while more, upon the hillside, although there was no more to say. They heard the children playing, they heard the bleat of sheep. The sun moved, above them. Finally, the angel stirred, he stood. Crawley took this as his cue to do the same. “Well, I have work to do,” the angel said, dusting himself off.

“Right.”

“There’s a village, over that way.” Aziraphale pointed, in the distance, out beyond the farm. “If you’ve nowhere else to go. You can get decent mead there, at least.”

Crawley shook his head. “No, I think I’m going to go for a walk. I’m going to take some time to myself.”

“Right.”

“Goodbye, Aziraphale.”

“Yes.”

That wasn’t enough. He needed more than that.

“We’ll see each other again, Angel.” 

Aziraphale gifted him with a smile, sad and small and gone too quick. Then he moved away. He moved down the side of the hill, towards the valley, towards the farm that had, up until now, been blessed with all the riches of the Earth. Crawley turned the other way, to the other side of the hill, and moved into the desert beyond.

***

Crowley was familiar with deserts. He didn’t  like them, but he felt he understood them. The cracked, dry ground. The desolation, the barren horizon. The sun’s warmth, turned vindictive. When he thinks of the desert, he thinks of dust brought in through the nose, so devoid of life it has long since lost even the scent of death. 

There is in fact a reason why Crowley was drawn to deserts, but he’s mistaken: a desert is not a lifeless thing. There is life in deserts, great teeming, unquenchable life. It worms its way through the cracked ground, it holds on white-knuckled to survival. The life in a desert does not need the sun’s kindness, doesn’t even think to ask for it, and will continue on if for no other reason than to spite the scorched-white heat of the sky. There are rodents and amphibians, birds and mammals, rats and toads and snakes, vultures and lizards, cockroaches and termites and wolves, all forcing their thriving lives onto the desert dust.

There are plants, in a desert, an immeasurable variety of seeds that will germinate, will eat into any opportunity to grow. These are not the weak-willed, spoiled things that Crowley would later know, once he settled in the damp, soft climate of England. The greenery of the desert takes no nourishment for granted, takes no prisoners. A cactus will gorge itself when given the chance, hoarding all the sustenance it can find, holding every single drop of water available deep within itself, unyielding and vicious, selfishly safe with barbed spines. Desert plants are greedy, unrepentant things. 

You can’t kill a desert. You can’t threaten it in any meaningful way. This is not because the desert is already dead, as Crowley mistakenly thinks. It is instead because the desert has under its belt millennia of practice keeping itself safe and secure, all on its own, without you, without encouragement, without protection from above.

Crowley has always understood the desert, in a way. He’s just mistaken about why.

***

Crawley walked through the desert, on the outskirts of Uz. He let his robes turn ragged, he let his hair turn the color of dust. He let his lips turn parched from the lack of water he did not actually need. He let his feet become calluses. He walked, because movement always made it easier not to think. He had never much been fond of thinking.

He walked through the desert until he ran out of desert. He had made it to the other side, to a town, beige and squat like hardtack. He stood beyond it, regarded it.

The angel had said, all eyes were on Uz. When Crawley sniffed at the air, he could smell it: the attention drawn, that way, out to the other side of the desert. Something was afoot there , which meant that no one was paying attention here.

No one but him.

“Right, then,” he said, firm and resigned, a commandment. 

A commandment of what, he didn’t bother to think through. It was always, from Crawley’s perspective, best to strike fast before one’s thoughts could catch up. He cracked his neck, shook his head, willed away the dust and ruin. He willed his hair clean and vibrant, his robes crisp, his posture as upright as that which he was made to mock. He took a dead tree and willed it into a staff, because it felt right to have a tool. He could not will away the look of his eyes, the curve of his saunter, but he could mimic well enough what he was intent on pretending to be.

The destitute and suffering always cling on to the outskirts of civilization. It was them Crawley passed first. A beggar.

SHOW ME YOUR HANDS, MORTAL.

The beggar gasped--of course he would--but he raised his hands, which were green, leaking things.

LOOK TO THEM, AND SEE YOU ARE HEALED.

The beggar took down his hands, now whole and healthy brown. The red-haired figure turned to another.

WOMAN, RAISE YOUR EYES TO ME.

The woman’s eyes, fogged, turned towards the voice it was impossible to ignore.

LOOK, SEE, FOR YOU ARE HEALED.

The eyes cleared, and she could see. She could see the snake eyes and the red hair and the unnaturally black robes. She gasped, and she fell back.

YOU, STAND UP, FOR NOW YOU CAN.

The man stood, letting the crutches fall from him. He was able to run.

YOU, IN THERE, YOUR BREATH IS NOW FREE.

He could not see the figure inside the house whom he commanded, but he did not have to. He could feel the painful rasp for breath, and then he could feel it ease. He could feel all of it, deep in him, filling him and lashing out, taking with it disease and muck and pus. He willed all of it away, all of it. How many boils would the angel be forced to put into the skin of a devout man, a clever and kind woman, and playful children? Tenfold that, he would take away. How much pain would the angel suffer, fighting to hide grief-filled sobs, alone and friendless in the night? A thousand times that suffering, he would eradicate from this world.

He worked his will onto the town, all of it, making it as he would have it be. Healed. 

Later, when he returned to the desert, he would fall to the ground, shaking and sick. He would vomit out black and yellow bile, surprised by the sensation, surprised to see this was something his form even could do. He would scream at an empty sky, and then he would force himself to hush, to listen, to wait, to see if he was caught, if some new pain was on its way to take him.

But no one had noticed. No one came. All eyes, after all, were on Uz.

In the future, he would be more careful.

***

It is easy to think of the mind as a stable, solid thing. Imagine it like a clock, the cogs and levers all working in pristine harmony. Or imagine it like a tree, the roots firm, the trunk sturdy, the branches fitting a perfect fractal form. These are good metaphors, satisfying and complimentary. But they are completely inadequate, if we are to imagine the mind of the Fallen Archangel, Raphael.

What we must imagine, instead, is unsteady ground and hidden crevices, dark places with secret depths, a disjointed landscape that wind can whistle through. See this niche: it hides the nascent possibility of an Arrangement. Shine light in this burrow: spot the raw relief that a too-quick offer to do demon’s work in another’s stead was rejected. Push a little deeper to uncover untouched questions about the nature of that relief, the nature of the offer, whether he would be willing to offer the same again, and what that might mean for his future. One could spelunk in the winding caves hiding his capacity to heal, this demon’s dual-edged mockery of Others’ plans. 

Be careful not to be distracted by the monuments erected on this craggy ground: vanity, commendations, an apple tree. They are ostentatious and gaudy, hard to ignore, exactly as you should expect in a proper demon’s mind. Focus, instead, on the craters. There are many of them: deep, wide holes in the ground. Look for the craters that house nothing, not even a shadow, these spaces of too-perfectly cultivated emptiness.

Here is one: what would You have me be?

Another: what could I be?

A third: could I break free?

There are two craters, larger than most, but equal in size to each other. The shape of one must be familiar by now, easy to spot, especially by its absence: it is a sword, flaming as anything, missing. The shape of the other is a name, or more accurately two combined as one: Aziraphale.

One might expect the crater of Aziraphale to be filled in with questions and doubts. The shape of it, after all, is a riddle, a barb, a provocation. Who wouldn’t ask, upon learning the Principality’s name, about this recycling of meaning? Aziraphale, Azi-Raphael, the Guardian of the Eastern Gate. Who wouldn’t be compelled to turn their head to the sky, to ask the question, to demand an answer until resorting to beg: why him, why that name, what could You possibly mean by this?

Not Crowley. Not him. Not once. Where those questions should be is instead simply a lack, a pointed and insistent failure of curiosity, a smug refusal to respond to a Bully’s taunts.

Crowley would, if he could, choose simply not to think, to give up on everything in the crowded spread of his mental landscape. It is dangerous to think, to ask questions, to plan ahead. So, he doesn’t. Or he tries not to. Or at least he keeps it all buried. He does what he must, to keep himself safe.

***

Another century, another desert, another human outpost. This night, it was a wild night, the kind of night that gets into one’s skin. A storm was coming, the clouds already low and heavy, crowding out good judgment. It was the kind of night that made for mischief and wickedness. It was the kind of night that Crowley was happy to stay out of.

He was almost, but not quite, sufficiently inebriated, lounging in the darkest corner of an inn’s common room, when he saw the angel walk in. Their eyes met, and Crowley grinned.

“Aziraphale!” he called out. “Come join me. The beer’s no good, but at least they have it.”

“So the refreshments match the company,” Aziraphale said, with arched eyebrow, as he came over.

Crowley could ignore that. The angel went about getting comfortable in the seat across from him. “How long have you been in town?”

“Just passing through. Yourself?”

“On my way out, actually. Set off tomorrow, for…” Crowley double checked his position in the room, then gestured broadly towards the East, “...out that way, somewhere.”

“I see,” Aziraphale said, and Crowley enjoyed imagining that he sounded disappointed. “So we are headed in opposite directions.”

“I’d point you to all the great sights in the area, but I’m afraid this is it.”

Aziraphale sighed, taking in the space. “Not everywhere can be Rome.” 

This was followed by long enough a pause for Crowley to recognize it was going to be his job to keep conversation flowing.

“I just don’t get why humans decide to set up camp in places like this.”

“How do you mean?”

“You know, dusty. Dry. Dull.”

“I suppose they are born here, and then they just stay.”

“Yeah, but… There are better places. They’d do better somewhere with, you know, shrubbery that doesn’t try to stab you. It would make our lives a lot more comfortable, too.” Crowley was talking primarily into his cup, finishing off his drink, and thinking about the last time he encountered a good shrub. When he glanced back up, he noticed Aziraphale was giving him a look.

“What?” He asked.

“I can’t believe you’re serious, Crowley,” Aziraphale said, somehow managing to give him that look even more.

“What!”

“Are you really suggesting, to me, that perhaps it would be a lot more pleasant for all of us if these humans could, I don’t know, live in some sort of garden?”

“Ah.” Crowley reckoned with that. “Alright, I suppose I walked right into that.” At this, Aziraphale huffed out a breath in that special way he manages when he’s satisfied and pretending not to be. Crowley countered by putting on his biggest, grinniest grin.

Aziraphale seemed to notice. “You’re in high spirits tonight, aren’t you?”

“Am I?” Crowley asked, taking the opportunity to introspect just far enough to see if the angel was right. Turns out, he was.

“Just look at you, all smiles and--well, the whole of you,” Aziraphale said, making a motion that was clearly a comment on the demon’s posture. The demon, for his part, had not thought there was anything out of the ordinary about his posture. Though, he had to admit the angel was right yet again; he was feeling at ease.

This was something Crowley had noticed about the angel. The angel noticed things. Crowley liked to notice how the angel noticed him.

It was a wild night. And Crowley was still grinning.

“Let me show you something,” he said. “C’mon.” 

“I haven’t even gotten myself a drink yet,” the angel protested. 

“C’mon, it’ll just be a minute” Crowley said, already standing and moving towards the door. He knew that, with even just the slightest moment of thought, he would have to acknowledge that what he was about to do was, in fact, very, very stupid. He concluded from this, simply, that he just had to get to doing it as quickly as possible. He was gratified to hear that the angel was following.

Outside, the air was thick with the oncoming storm, and the hot wind was starting to pick up. The inn sat at the top of an incline, with the rest of the city down lower. Crowley stopped walking once he was a few yards from the inn’s door, and he looked out at the dark settlement.

The angel had stopped walking several steps behind him.

“Come here,” Crowley said, gesturing to the space beside him. “I’m showing you something.”

“Just what is there for you to show me out here?”

“I can’t show you from back there, you have to come here,” Crowley said, gesturing again, more emphatically this time, to the space beside him.

The angel relented and stepped to the demon’s side.

“There.” Crowley pointed down to the city, out into the distance, but it was clear the angel couldn’t tell what he was pointing at. So, Crowley repositioned himself. He fell back just slightly, so he was standing directly behind the angel’s side. He lowered his head the small amount for his gaze to be level with the angel’s. “There,” he said, pointing again, this time over the angel’s shoulder.

The angel saw. “They’re building something.”

“Yes.” Crowley stayed where he was, close behind the angel. He was close enough that, as he brought down the arm that had been pointing, the knuckles of his other hand could feel the fabric of the angel’s tunic. “It’s going to be a house of healing.”

“Is that so?” Crowley slipped his eyes to the side, so that he could watch his companion’s expression, even if slightly from behind. He had to watch closely, had to maintain exacting focus to spot each minute movement, to see any and all shifts in the angel’s face.

“And that’s not all,” Crowley went on, giving himself in just that much more to the wildness of the night. “The medicine man who is all set to run it? You wouldn’t believe the crazy ideas he somehow got in his head…” Crowley wasn’t paying attention to what his own face was doing. He wasn’t paying attention to the build up of tension rising in his core. He was paying attention to the angel’s face. “Somehow, he got the idea, he should pass his tools through flame before using them, boil water and, would you believe it, even wash his hands.”

Crowley paused, and then made one more offering to the oncoming storm: “There’ll be fewer infections per capita here than you’ve ever seen humans manage before.”

Aziraphale’s expression was serene, calm, thoughtful, and Crowley suddenly had the urge to bite him, just to hear him yelp. He wanted to see the angel smile, but any reaction would be enough.

“Now, how did he get such crazy ideas?” Aziraphale said, his voice containing nothing but a subtle curiosity.

“No clue,” Crowley lied. 

“And how is this something related to you?”

“It isn’t,” Crowley lied again. “Just found out about it, myself. Thought it would be something you’d find interesting.”

“It’ll be quite nice indeed,” Aziraphale said, and finally Crowley saw the smile he had been waiting for. It appeared, and then it was gone. “Although, they’ll run him out of town for witchcraft soon enough.”

Spiders build webs. Wasps swarm. Snakes hiss when poised to strike. Crowley whispered, “Not if you bless him.”

“What?” Aziraphale asked. Crowley could hear the suspicion in Aziraphale’s voice, he could see it dancing subtly in his brow. He knew that voice, he knew that look, and he hoped he knew how to handle it.

“Bless him. The hospital too.” He kept his voice quiet. Close as they were, he knew his breath was hot on the angel’s ear. “You can bless them both.”

“Why?” Aziraphale asked, so suspicious, so maddeningly slow.

“Keep them safe, let the medicine man do his work. Put a blessing on the hospital so it lasts a hundred years, two hundred. You can do that, Aziraphale.”

“Why not bless them yourself? We both know you can.”

“Because…” Crowley couldn’t tell if his thoughts were coming to him in a rush or if his mind was completely blank. “...I want you to do it.” 

The angel’s face went completely still, so Crowley was compelled to move to get a better view of it. What he wanted most of all was to push his hands into the angel’s head, find the secret clockwork hidden within, and feel how it ticks. 

“I’m tempting you, yeah? Tempting you to bless a hospital.” He tried to keep his voice steady and cool. “I tempt you to do it, and then you do it--” He was reaching into a deep and shadowy place, trying to find the meaning he meant to convey. “We both perform our Acts, together, you and me, them mingling together, and bringing about…” And then it was gone, his thoughts hit crater. He couldn’t find the words, and in their place was merely a growing frustration. “...Something, I guess.”

Aziraphale turned his eyes to Crowley and started to pointedly observe him. 

“You’re being peculiar,” Aziraphale said.

“No,” Crowley sighed out, “you’re just sober.” As much as Crowley enjoyed the angel noticing, it was a different thing indeed to be observed. “Come on, let’s go back in.”

But Aziraphale wouldn’t stop observing him. He was observing Crowley like he was a maths problem with too many square roots. It made Crowley’s skin itch. “Come on,” Crowley urged, wanting to get away from the disappointment rising in him, half-formed and far too familiar. “Get drunk with me tonight. We ride out our separate ways tomorrow, yeah? Won’t see each other for a long while again after that, I bet. So let’s get drunk until this storm’s done with. Alright?”

Aziraphale took his time responding, while Crowley ignored a growing urge to twitch and pace. Finally, Aziraphale smiled in a pursed-lip kind of way. Crowley knew that smile, and he hated it. He couldn’t read that smile.

“Fine, Devil,” Aziraphale said, his eyes now glittering. “You have your deal. But you owe me a round.”

They went back in. The storm came. The wind howled, the ceiling leaked, and the angel and the demon got absolutely plastered.

***

Crowley awoke the next morning to a clear sky and no angel. It made sense: Aziraphale likely left as soon as Crowley had fallen asleep. The good news, so far as Crowley could see it, was that he was too busy to stop and notice how he felt about that. He had a long day of travel ahead of him.

The way the inn was situated, Crowley’s most direct route bypassed the city down the hill. It would have been easy for him to have just headed out, away from the city, and gotten on with his travels to the East. But that’s exactly what he didn’t do. Instead, he took a circuitous route, winding down the muddy roads into the city, passing, as if by happenstance, the slightly flooded site of the hospital-to-be.

It was a suspicious route for him to take, but he felt reasonably comfortable that no one was watching. He felt confident no one had noticed, at least not yet, not the way he handled things. Granted, Crowley felt a bit reckless about his antics with the angel the night before, but that was nothing unusual about a night with Aziraphale.

He would be more careful the next time, he promised himself. Crowley was good at making promises to himself.

For now, what mattered to him was that Aziraphale had been right. Crowley had enjoyed tempting the medicine man to accept temporally-inappropriate notions of sterilization, but he had to admit this put the hospital at risk. It would be unsafe, without a blessing. So Crowley just happened to take a strange, circuitous route through the city, rather than bypass it, and he just happened to pause momentarily outside the site of the hospital-to-be.

He had paused in order to perform the surreptitious blessing. He had paused, waiting for a moment he was sure no one was watching. He had paused, to do this work he had wanted the angel to do, and that’s when he noticed. He could smell it, he could feel it: the site was already blessed.

Aziraphale had left before him. Aziraphale had given himself time to do this. And what he had done wasn’t just a simple blessing, it was a major one: rich and thick, heavy in the air, ostentatious and unmistakable, the kind of blessing that was made for occult and ethereal beings alike to take notice.

Aziraphale had done it. Aziraphale, that bastard, had done it for him. There was no way he could have understood why this mattered to Crowley, and he’d taken the time to do it anyway. The hospital--Crowley’s hospital-- Aziraphale’s hospital, though he would never know it--was blessed. Safe and protected and liable to thrive. 

Crowley stood and watched his hospital for as long as he dared--not long--and allowed himself to think about nothing, absolutely nothing, and feel absolutely nothing either, or at least to push any thoughts and feelings there may have been deep down some dark rabbit hole.  And then he went on his way, out of the city, out into the desert.

The desert changes after a rain. All that hidden, tenacious life relaxes itself, unfurls itself, explodes itself up through the ground. The rain in the desert teases out green, so much pulsating green, and all of it blooms: purples and pinks and yellows and orange. The desert throbs with satisfied life, after rain. The sky, in the desert, is transformed, for that morning after a storm: it becomes a deep well of radiant blue, the kind of blue that one can stare into, the kind of blue that almost feels like an embrace. And when it rains in the desert, the air itself becomes absolutely saturated--with petrichor, yes, and also that lingering scent of the storm-brought ozone.

Give Crowley a thousand years, give him six, give him an infinity, and he will never, not ever, find a way to explain this, the feeling of being in the desert after the rain. It nourishes and propels him, it keeps him steady and sustained, but it simply isn’t the sort of feeling amenable to description.

Desert plants have no love for the sun. They have no loyalty to the ground that confines them. Their only real allegiance, eternal and unbreakable, is to the rain.