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To answer a long-standing and important question: yes, God is omniscient— most religions have got that bit right, more or less. There is, of course, a catch: She hasn't always been omniscient.


Eastern Gate, Garden of Eden, 4004 BC

The first thunder booms; a demon instinctively leans into an angel, who extends a protective wing. They stand together, side by side for the first time, and watch humans begin their great journey, unaware that they stand on the precipice of their own.


In the Time Before There Was Time, She lacked just one key learning, one vital piece of information, which in fairness left Her still pretty brilliant as all-encompassing deities go.


Noah's Ark, Mesopotamia, 3004 BC

Left to his own devices, as he usually is, Crawley rationalizes. His interest in his angelic counterpart on Earth can easily be explained by two facts:

One, the existence of a fallen angel consists of nothing so much as being outside of God's love. But there's a warmth in Aziraphale's presence that Crawley feels is vaguely reminiscent of that divine passion; it's only natural he should be drawn to it. On some level he can even find his way to thinking that he's found a clever loophole, exploited a bug in the system.

Two, no one else lives very long anyway.*

[* And this was during the era of Methuselah, who was in fact 313 years old around this time.]


Oh, God knew the Fundamental Truth of Life well enough, and She knew if there was to be a universe— and She knew there was —She knew she had to build it around this truth.


Crucifixion of Jesus, Golgotha, 33 AD

Left to his own devices, as he usually is, Aziraphale rationalizes. He hoped he'd never have to admit it to anyone else, but this Crawley— now Crowley —speaks plainly the same doubts that Aziraphale hides deep in the most secret pockets of his metaphorical heart. Every act of hatred the angel witnesses chips away, just a bit, at Aziraphale's confidence in the Great Plan, and it is some small comfort, hearing another immortal express his own secret feelings.

Besides which, Aziraphale thought it was short-sighted and perhaps even rude to disregard the death of God's only son on Earth, and Crowley was the only other non-human with the decency to show up, demon or not.*

[* They were also both present at the birth, though each was too caught up by the pleasure-or-pain of the event's massive holiness to notice the other at the time, rendering this fact completely immaterial to you, the reader. But it is nonetheless true.]


The Fundamental Truth of Life, She knew, is love.


Titus' Tavern, Rome, 41 AD

The ease with which they begin to slip into camaraderie makes them both uneasy, ironically, though only Crowley tries to hide it with his usual insouciance. Having finished their drink at the tavern and allowed the alcohol to carry out its pleasantly relaxing effects, the pair make their way to Petronius' restaurant and do, in fact, try out the oysters, along with several more rounds of drinks.

It is the first time in four thousand years on Earth that the pair loosen up enough to really talk, and not just about work— which of course they do discuss, as members of the same industry as it were —but mostly sharing stories of their interactions with humans and bonding over the other species' propensity for trouble.*

When Crowley proposes a toast "to the first supper," Aziraphale quips a hope that it "won't be the last supper," and Crowley bursts into a fit of intoxicating laughter, throwing his head back and with such open delight that it quashes any shame Aziraphale might have felt about the not-all-THAT-blasphemous joke.**

It is not their last supper.

[* These are the sorts of stories that don't make their way into histories or epics; like the time Aziraphale got caught in a compromising position with a drunk monk who wanted to wrestle, or when Crowley inadvertently inspired the placement of series of enormous stones in a field of what would one day be England which caused much trouble then and ever since, or the time they both scurried around Hammurabi's palace influencing his new system of Law, each completely unaware of the other until the laws had already been formally codified.

And that's how you get such a brilliant idea as telling people what is expected of them but also ongoing stupidity about treating people differently based on their gender or wealth, which to be fair has never not been a problem for these ridiculous humans, Aziraphale and Crowley agree.]

[** Aziraphale almost invents a joke 1,950 years too early by following up with "Too soon?" but wisely refrains.]


So She created beings whose fundamental core was love: angels, in several different varieties because just one would be dull and She's going to have them for all eternity.


A Battlefield, Kingdom of Wessex, 537 AD

For six hundred years they've enjoyed meeting socially often but haphazardly, but it is on a battlefield that Crowley first has an Idea that eventually becomes an Arrangement.

He thinks the inspiration comes to him of necessity, because the armor is pinching him in the armpit, the chain mail is heavy, he's utterly stifled wearing all that in the damp air of Wessex, and to top it all off all his efforts are just being countered by his heavenly adversary.

But in fact, some part of him that he doesn't acknowledge just wants to meet Aziraphale more regularly, and if they start to share duties, well, they'd have to meet more regularly, wouldn't they?

He is disappointed but not surprised when Aziraphale rejects his offer out of hand, he knows the angel will take some convincing, and besides, silver armor must not get as hot as black armor.


But it became clear rather quickly— after the equivalent of a hundred million Earth years, roughly —that these creatures, lovely as they were, rather missed the point.


The Globe Theatre, London, 1601 AD

"Yeah, all right. I'll do that one. My treat."

It's not the first time Crowley has done something nice for Aziraphale*, but it might be the first time Aziraphale had thought to hope, or even expect, for him to do so. Who would have guessed that "puppy eyes" could be effective on a demon?

For Crowley, though, it was definitely a bartered exchange; not for the puppy eyes, but for the frisson of pleasure he had felt when Aziraphale expressed concern for Crowley should their arrangement be discovered. No one else ever bothered being concerned for him.

Though he couldn't help but wonder...

[* The very first time that Crowley did something nice for Aziraphale— intentionally —was in fact shortly after the humans were expelled from the Garden, but what it was, he has never told anyone, even Aziraphale himself, leaving us unable to share it with you, dear reader. But we are given to understand that this secret act of kindness was both "epic" and "badass".]


It was at this point that God had Her own Epiphany, becoming well and truly omniscient. Then Her work really began.


The Bastille, Paris, 1793 AD

Aziraphale was not, by nature, a suspicious person, but when Crowley came to his rescue at the Bastille he wondered whether there was more going on than he knew.

There absolutely was, but not in the way Aziraphale imagines.**

It had taken Aziraphale over 5,000 years to consider the idea that Crowley might be a bad influence on him on purpose rather than on accident— that perhaps he was running a "long con" in an effort to drag another angel to Hell, though there had been no more Falling since God made the Earth.

On the other hand, maybe the demon just didn't want to lose someone who covered for him at work.

It was neither of these things, of course; it simply never occurred to Crowley not to help his one and only friend out of a jam when he could.

Just as well; if it had occurred to him Crowley would have had to admit that he was rubbish as a demon, really.

[* To be fair, there being more going on than he knew about is a normal state of affairs for Aziraphale. Not that the angel is stupid; in fact, he's quite smart when he puts his mind to it. He just gets so distracted.]


She created the universe, putting Her loving angels to work crafting galaxies and animals and magic (an iffy idea) and physics (a worse one) while She Herself put the finishing touches on humanity.


St. James' Park, London, 1862 AD

"Out of the question." Aziraphale's clipped tones cuts Crowley to the quick. Wasn't Aziraphale himself the one who had brought up the possibility of getting caught a couple of centuries ago? And aren't they friends? What's a little holy water between friends?

If giving pain were a sport, Aziraphale might have won some kind of award for this particular act, because in addition to Crowley's hurt there is the angel's own. Here it is, he thinks, exactly as he dreaded: Crowley has been buttering him up for this, none of his previous kindness towards Aziraphale was real, the demon probably didn't even really like him, probably thinks he's a big fat joke and laughs about him in secret.*

The pair parts on the worst terms they'd been on for ages, or perhaps ever. Crowley elects to spend the rest of the century sleeping, which doesn't help his relationship with the home office one bit.

[* Aziraphale agonizes over this failed interaction for decades**, eventually realizing that it's not like Crowley could have some truly nefarious purpose for the holy water— it can't be used against angels or humans. And furthermore, that nearly 6,000 years is a long time to set up a scheme and Crowley doesn't really do that kind of slow roll, moves too fast if anything. It's quite wrong of him to assume the worst of Crowley just because he's a demon, especially when said demon has honestly given him no cause for that kind of doubt. And in any case...and so on and so on. In short, the angel talks himself out of his fit of self-doubt.]

[** Crowley just sleeps through all the agonizing.]


Then she gave it all a gentle push .


St. Luke's Church, London, 1941 AD

Oh.

Aziraphale holds the hefty satchel full of books aloft and stares after Crowley. It feels like a lightbulb has turned on inside his head, and it won't be turned back off no matter how many times he pulls at the metaphorical string.

He'd missed Crowley.

He'd missed the demon's humor and style and random acts of kindness. Or not so random, since they are often directed at Aziraphale himself. The angel knows an apology when he sees one, recognizes it implicit in Crowley's appearance at the church, is deeply touched that Crowley went through all that physical and spiritual discomfort to save Aziraphale's stupid face.

But the books...the books aren't apology. They are gift. They are thoughtful, in the very literal sense that Crowley had spent what could have been his last moment before a painful discorporation thinking about what Aziraphale cared about and going to extra trouble making it happen.

Oh, thinks Aziraphale.


Most humans understand that their species is taking a crash course to learn to choose Good of their own free will, whether they believe it to be divine ordinance or simple moral imperative.


A Bentley outside the Drinking Donkey Pub, 1967 AD

Crowley knows an apology when he sees one, and the thermos he gingerly takes from Aziraphale is certainly that. It's the trust that really gets him, though. Aziraphale isn't just giving him a deadly weapon, he's saying as blatantly as if he'd written the words on a poster board and hung it in the window of his stupid bookshop: I TRUST YOU, CROWLEY.

An angel, trusting a demon?

Must be a sign of the apocalypse.

He's not surprised when the angel rejects his offer of a ride, but he is surprised that it still stings, even breaking through the rush of warmth Crowley feels at Aziraphale's gesture with the holy water. The pain ebbs slightly as Aziraphale offers consolation in the form of a picnic, or perhaps in dining at the Ritz. (The Ritz? he wonders. Why The Ritz?)

It isn't until many years later that he hears a cover of a cover of a cover of a romantic old jazz standard and thinks: Oh.*

[* "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" was written and performed in 1939, then performed again and again for almost the entire rest of forever. The version Crowley first hears used on a science fiction TV programme in 2007— one year before the birth of the Anti-Christ —is heavily inspired by the Frank Sinatra, Glenn Miller, and of course Vera Lynn versions of the song, all of which the demon consumes non-stop for nearly a week.]


No humans, and very few non-humans, know that the angel species is auditing the same course.


A.Z. Fell Booksellers, London, 2019 AD

"Don't dawdle," booms Metatron, the Voice of God, and Aziraphale doesn't.

He's made a decision, and has made it so swiftly and instinctively that he hardly realizes it yet, let alone understands the importance of it.

If God and/or the angelic host won't hear him out, there's only one being in the entire universe that he knows will, and he wishes he'd trusted Crowley with this from the start and saved them all a lot of time, but he didn't, and now he has to hurry.

Aziraphale dials a number he knows by heart.

"Hey."

"Hello. I know where the Anti—"

"This is Anthony Crowley."

"I know who you are, you idiot, I telephoned you! Listen—"

"You know what to do. Do it with style."

Voicemail. Lord, he hoped Crowley wasn't already on his way to Alpha Centauri.


Most angels— or former angels —would never even consider this possibility. In fact, exactly two angels have ever suspected that God slipped them a dose of free will, perhaps eons ago.


The Enterprise Pub, London, 2019 AD

"TADFIELD. Air base!"

"I heard that, it was the 'wiggle on'..." but Aziraphale's ghostly presence was gone.

Crowley had said he wasn't going to go there, had even considered whether the vision was some hellish trick, until the "wiggle on".

But really, he knew he'd been lying, knew he'd go wherever Aziraphale said to, as long as the angel promised to be there too, which he had.

You see, Crowley had made a decision too, though longer ago, perhaps at the bandstand the day before, or when he'd stopped at a phone booth to make a call in 2008, or when he'd heard a sappy love song a year before that, or maybe it was at the Globe Theatre in 1601 or the fields of Wessex in 537 or at the Eastern Gate of the Garden of Eden in four-thousand-fucking-four BC.

Like Aziraphale, he doesn't fully realize he'd made a decision, which is why he rather doesn't know when he'd made it.

Crowley gets in the Bentley and drives to Aziraphale, as fast as he can.


Because the epiphany that God had all those eons ago, in the World Before There Was a World, was that love is a choice.


A Bench at Berkeley Square, London, 2019 AD

"For my money, the really big one will be all of us against all of them."

"What? You mean heaven and hell against...humanity?"

Neither of them says it out loud; there are no gestures, no glances up or down or askew, but as they lock eyes they both feel the weight of the decision they've made, deep inside, to change their definition of "us".

And despite all the doubts and questions of their long lives, they both know that they've made the right choice.


To answer a long-standing and important question: yes, God is omniscient— most religions have got that bit right, more or less. There is, of course, a catch: She hasn't always been omniscient.

In the Time Before There Was Time, She lacked just one key piece of information, which in fairness left Her still pretty brilliant as all-encompassing deities go.

Oh, God knew the Fundamental Truth of Life well enough, and She knew if there was to be a universe— and She knew there was —She knew she had to build it around this truth.

The Fundamental Truth of Life as she knew it, is love.

So She created beings whose fundamental core was love: angels, in several different flavors because one would be dull.

But it became clear rather quickly— after the equivalent of a hundred million Earth years, roughly —that these creatures, lovely as they were, rather missed the point.

It was at this point that God had Her own Epiphany, becoming truly omniscient. Then Her work really began.

She created the universe, putting Her loving angels to work crafting galaxies and animals and magic (likely a bad idea) and physics (definitely a bad idea) while She Herself put the finishing touches on humanity.

Then she gave it all a gentle push.

Most humans understand that humans as a species are taking a crash course to learn to choose Good of their own free will, whether they believe it to be the command of a deity or pantheon, or a simple moral imperative.

No humans, and very few non-humans, know that the angel species is auditing the same course.

Most angels would never even consider this possibility; exactly two— or rather, one angel and one fallen angel —have begun to even suspect that God secretly slipped them free will absolute eons ago.

Because the epiphany that God had all those eons ago, in the World Before There Was a World, was that love is a choice.