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Six months, in the grand scheme of things, is a rather short amount of time. When you’re over 6,000 years old, months tend to get thrown to the wayside in favor of the bigger chronological picture, so to speak. Six months is fairly insignificant to an eternal being, Aziraphale figures. But six months, he feels, is still worth counting.

It’s been six months since the Apocalypse That Never Was had befallen them. Short or not in relation to the universe as a whole, Aziraphale thinks that these six months have been significant enough to count. 

At least for him, they have been.

And perhaps, if it’s not too bold of him to assume, they have been for Crowley, as well. 

Six months, he’s thrilled to report, of radio silence from both his and Crowley’s respective celestial sides. Six months of peace. Six months of normalcy and quiet in the company of his dearest companion. Six months of dinners and picnics and drinking too much wine and spending each evening together as though they were trying to make up for the millennia they had spent saying 

          “I don’t think my side would like that…” 

They haven’t actually spoken about it - not yet, at least. Despite the nights where their hands have ventured too close together, where they have fallen asleep leaning against each other on Aziraphale’s uncomfortable couch, where they have spared glances that lingered too long on each other’s lips, eyes, neck, body , where their mouths have brushed and breathed each other... neither of them have quite been able to say what they know needs to be said. 

But after 6,000 years… six months of new touch, new warmth, new tenderness has been far more important than the need to speak the words themselves. 

They’ll get there - Aziraphale is sure of it. And for now, this is good enough. 

It has been, Aziraphale relishes, six months of true comfort. 

But it has been six months, he fears, of complacency

::

Aziraphale has never considered himself a fighter. He supposes, by the very definition of his existence that he surely must be a lover and not a fighter. But just because one refuses one’s own potential, does not mean one’s potential is not embedded deep within one’s soul.

Feeling like a soldier or not, Heaven had always known Aziraphale was to be one.

God Herself had bestowed Her greatest weapon unto him.

The sword was hefty in his grasp when She gave it to him - but its entirety was made to fit his form. It was his Mother’s own design - a design for him, and him alone - and when he had touched it, he had known his hands were to be the only ones to righteously wield it.

The deadly power he would possess, with this token of war, the absolute Divine Terror that would simmer beneath his skin upon his receipt of his sword was - and should always continue to be - far too overwhelming for a being such as himself. 

But Aziraphale was a soldier, like the rest of Heaven’s agents, whether he liked it or not. 

          (He hated it - though he’d never have told Her that. (She knew, of course, how could She not?) )

The day he’d given the sword away - the same day a certain demon had slithered into his orbit - he’d never truly parted with the weapon. 

Oh, yes, of course, the sword itself was gone. Physical steel engulfed in flames, dealt to the hands of the humans, whom Aziraphale could only hope would use it more wisely than he had (quite unwise, he imagines, to just give weapons away). But despite the sword’s physical absence, its essence had never truly left him. 

Somewhere, deep beneath the surface, mixed into the celestial core that made up his soul, the sword’s righteous fire would always burn. 

::

He and Crowley have drunk far too much. 

Aziraphale only thinks this because he and Crowley have spent the last three hours miracling up only the finest of liquors to try. Crowley, the little fiend, had even garnered them a bottle of 25 year Pappy Old Van Winkle Whiskey - an American delicacy that, if memory serves, costs just over 280 pounds per shot . If anyone were keeping track these days, he might have scolded Crowley for such an opulent and obvious demonic miracle. But no one, Aziraphale figures, is bothering to keep track of their Miracle Registry anymore. 

He hopes not, at least. 

Aziraphale has had many, many shots of Expensive American Whiskey by now - at least 2300 pounds worth of shots, if one wanted to talk finances. And each shot was decidedly more delectable than its predecessor. 

And to be fair, the liquor that he has managed to steal from Crowley’s lips has been even more exquisite than the gulps he’s swallowed from his own whiskey tumbler. 

           “I don’t think my side would like that.” - his own words echo in his head. 

           No, he thinks, they certainly wouldn’t. But I will be damned if they try and stop me now. 

Somewhere inside himself - in a deep and hazy place, fogged ever so slightly by the alcohol - something hot and heavy burns within his core. It catches his attention for a brief moment as it flares. It’s a feeling he hasn’t felt in eons, one he’d almost forgotten; a blaze of fire ignites within his chest and peters out in the very next second. 

Aziraphale shakes his head. He chases the burn with a hot sip of Whiskey.

He has most certainly had too much.

Crowley certainly has had plenty, as well. He is having a Heaven of a time making his mouth function in the way he wants it to, attempting to ramble off sweet nonsense to Aziraphale if only his brain and body would cooperate and work at the same time. If Aziraphale were more sober, he might have mocked the demon for his babbling; but when you’re drunk, even nonsense can sound incredible. He decides to stop trying to decipher it and instead opts to just listen to the sound of Crowley's voice. Aziraphale migrates from his desk chair over to the couch and plops himself - rather unceremoniously - next to his demon. Their thighs press together - warm and flushed with heat and liquor - and his head droops ever-so-casually onto his companion’s shoulder. 

“I-I-It’s, no, we, weee are ineffu… Ineffect… Ineffbub… Damnit,” Crowly pauses, searching for another word, “Heavenly… That’s-that’sss all ‘m shayin’, A-Angel.”

Crowley lets his own head settle atop Aziraphale’s. 

“Ye-” hiccup “-yes, of course, my darling…” 

The last thing Aziraphale remembers before drifting into contented sleep is the feeling of Crowley’s hand in his. 

::

Aziraphale startles awake - rather uncomfortably, if he does say so himself - to the overbearing sound of persistent banging on the front door of his shop. 

“Ugh,” he huffs, rubbing his eyes and forehead to shake off the layer of sleep that had so nicely settled over his drunken self.

He can already feel a hangover coming on, so he shakes his head, cracks his neck, and wills the damned thing away before it gets any ideas about who's in charge here.

The banging continues and Aziraphale starts to stand to see what on earth these people think is so urgent they need to break down his door for it. Crowley’s arm clings to his as he tries to stand from the couch. 

“Mmm, Angel, tell them you’re closed.” 

“Of course, love. You should take care to rid yourself of that hangover, too. It’s bound to be a nasty one.” 

"Blah, blah, blah," Crowley smarts back to him. But he still straightens himself on the couch, drags a hand through his hair, and focuses on ridding himself of his emergent hangover. Just like Aziraphale had told him to.

Aziraphale chuckles and shakes his head. With a quick brush of his hands along his clothes, Aziraphale considers himself presentable enough for company, and heads towards the front door.

The banging still hasn’t stopped.

“We are closed , thank you very much!” Aziraphale shouts.

The incessant rapping pauses for a split second and Aziraphale, hopeful that they've got the message, begins to turn back towards the study to rejoin Crowley. But before he can even turn to leave, the doors of the shop fly open with a trembling roar.

A familiar figure stands in the blown-open doorway. 

Aziraphale’s eyes go wide. 

Gabriel...

“We know you’re closed!” Gabriel shouts back at him from the doorway. He’s got a smug grin on his face as he takes a few large, confident steps inside the shop. “Don’t mind us, Aziraphale, just here on official business.” Uriel, Michael, and Sandalphon follow in stride, walking into Aziraphale's shop like it's theirs, making their way towards the back study.

“No need to worry, Zira, my friend. We won’t take much of your time.” Gabriel tells him.

Their footsteps thud through the shop - Heavenly feet pounding against the old wooden floors like soldiers on a battlefield, hunting for the war they missed out on. Aziraphale rushes behind them, following their clamor, as they head towards the room where he knows Crowley has only just woken. With a quick flick of his wrist, Aziraphale slams the door of study closed before they can reach it.

“Now, now, don’t be shy !” Gabriel shouts out into the shop as he approaches the study. He punctuates the final word by giving the closed door a swift kick, dislodging it from its hinges. The door tumbles into the study, and lands with a puff of dust on the rug. Aziraphale sees Crowley jump up from the couch and turn to face their intruders

Aziraphale just barely manages to sprint around the archangels and steps inside the study first. Frantic to serve as a protective barrier, he places himself between the angels and Crowley, his body on guard and defensive.

Gabriel just stares at him and shoots him a smarmy smile. He scoffs. 

“Oh come, come, now, Aziraphale, what are you gunna do?” He enunciates his name with such disdain that Aziraphale can practically feel Crowley riling up behind him in anger. 

“I-I’ll bring Hellfire upon you, that’s what I’ll do. Don’t test me.” 

It’s an unsubstantiated threat but one that he hopes will hold water if only because of his and Crowley’s previous body swap endeavor. It had worked at the time, good enough to outsmart their respective head offices. 

“Heh, I’m sure you will, I’m sure you will.” Gabriel’s voice drips with sarcasm, so thick in the air as it spills from his lips that Aziraphale can all but taste its bitterness. 

“It is finally time for justice, little ones.” Gabriel tells him, arms opening wide as if he were presenting them a gift. “You were clever, I’ll give you that. Very smart, that little switcheroo you pulled,” He pauses and shoots a tight grin towards Crowley, “But not smart enough.”  

Crowley starts to step around Aziraphale, his fangs bared and his eyes heated with rage. There’s a look on his face that Aziraphale recognizes immediately as one of fervid protection. Aziraphale knows the threats that are already on Crowley's tongue, so ready to insist to them that they will not harm a hair on his Angel’s head. But Aziraphale stops him before he can utter a single threat; he understands, perhaps sooner than Crowley does, that the archangels have not come for him .

They’re here for Crowley

“You will not take him,” Aziraphale declares, his arm spread protectively in front of his demon. His wings stir in his back, ready for whatever fight he has to put up, ready for whatever angelic force he will have to show. But in the back of his throat, he can taste the stinging bile of fear. 

“And who, exactly, is going to stop us? You?” Gabriel pauses and glances around Aziraphale to lock eyes with Crowley, “Or perhaps you?” He laughs and shakes his head. 

Gabriel dares a step forward, followed in turn by his brethren, ensuring they close in and form rank around the angel and the demon. He lifts his hands to his mouth, palms pressed together like he's saying a prayer.

“You guys aren't really getting this.... You ," he points to Crowley, "my vile little friend, don’t belong to Hell anymore.” Gabriel’s eyes brighten at the look of confusion that falls on Crowley’s face. “Your head office has - how should I put it - released you . You’re our jurisdiction now.” 

Gabriel snaps his fingers and a set of lengthy, pristine-white shackles clamp themselves around Crowley’s wrists, ankles, and neck. The chains slam to the floor with a rattling clang , yanking Crowley straight down onto his hands and knees with a grunt.

"Crowley!" Aziraphale shouts and drops to his knees at Crowley’s side. His hands attempt to fumble with the restraints, desperate to pry them off, but every touch of Crowley’s bonds shocks him with a quick flash of pain. These shouldn't hurt him, by god, he was an angel too. But the look on Gabriel's face, watching them struggle with amusement, tells Aziraphale that he had all but guaranteed these chains would harm them both.

“No, no,” He mumbles, fingers still desperately yanking on the shackles that bind his demon, even as electric pain jolts through him. He can just barely see that, under the shackle around his wrist, Crowley’s skin is starting to sear, blister, and smoke from the holiness of the cuffs that bind him.

Gabriel takes another step closer, making sure to lord his figure above them both, and he smiles down at them with a positively wretched grin. Aziraphale yanks his gaze up to meet Gabriel's and angles his body into a more protective stance around Crowley's kneeling figure. 

“Don't do this,” Aziraphale whispers, his eyes locked with anger on Gabriel’s violet ones. He tries to sound brave - he truly does - he tries to sound threatening, but his throat is so tight and so sore when he tries to speak. 

He isn’t begging for forgiveness, nor is he asking for mercy - Aziraphale is demanding what is just, and he can only hope that the shine of his eyes and the quiver in his voice don't give away his despair. 

Gabriel tilts his head a little, his smile never faltering. 

“You know... This is almost sweet,” He says and shoots a glance back at his brethren, “don’t you think it's sweet? I mean, just look at him, he loves this pitiful creature. That’s nice.” 

Uriel smirks and Michael lets out a pompous scoff. Sandalphon stays quiet but the judgment of his eyes remains fixated on Aziraphale and Crowley's closeness. 

Aziraphale wraps his arms around Crowley, even as his Heavenly chains pull the demon closer and closer to the floor. 

“Zira,” Crowley whimpers, “Fuck, it… it hurts…” 

“Gabriel,” Aziraphale tries again, “Do not do this!” 

Gabriel just laughs and shakes his head - like it’s the most pathetic request he’s ever heard. Perhaps it is - how many angels have begged to spare the life of a demon?

This isn't just a demon - this is Crowley, for God's sake.

Aziraphale clings harder to his friend.

He was angel once, too...

“Well, I’ve heard just about enough blathering and begging for the day." Gabriel claps his hands together and points at the two of them, "We gotta split, Zira.” 

“Aziraphale?” Crowley mumbles, eyes wide, questioning, and terrified as he stares at his companion. 

He has seen this fear, this uncertainty in Crowley's eyes, but a handful of times over the centuries. Once was in the sixties, after Aziraphale had given him a tartan thermos full of Holy Water. Crowley had stated at him, suddenly uneasy, and had all but begged him, with an open heart, to come with him. Anywhere you want to go...

The other times - the band stand and then outside of his shop - Crowley had pleaded for them to just go. As soon as possible. He'd sworn that they could leave, that they could run away together and that everything would be fine.

He had never known if things would be fine. But he had begged for Aziraphale's trust in him all the same.

Crowley doesn't know anything right now, and he is pleading for Aziraphale's reassurance.

“Crowley, I will not let anyth-” 

Gabriel snaps his fingers before Aziraphale can even finish.Gabriel, his archangels, and Crowley are gone. 

::

All that is left in the wake of the archangels is the slight sensation of electricity buzzing through the air around him. Aziraphale pants, his eyes frantically looking around the now-empty room, searching for something, for anything that might have been left behind to get him back to Crowley. But there’s nothing.

The angels are gone - his demon is gone. 

Something hot flares up in his gut. Aziraphale's face contorts in pain and he crumples to the floor. This heat, this aching, burning sensation is something he hasn’t felt in thousands of years: searing, righteous anger builds up in the pit of his stomach. He curls in on himself, groaning as his corporeal body shakes through the pain. The pressure of his clenched teeth is so strong Aziraphale feels they might crack under his bite - the agony of a feeling so magnanimous and so grandiose is more than his physical form was ever made to withstand. 

His mind is a blur - just a slew of thoughts of Crowley, and torture, and loss, and the grief of having love ripped right from your hands - all interwoven with the sharp ache that is growing inside of him. 

Aziraphale pushes himself up onto his hands and knees. His stomach jolts violently and his whole body heaves and gags. A few drops of dark crimson dribble from his mouth - human blood. He gags again. This is far too much for his human form to bear. He fears he may tear apart at the seams. With a pained scream, Aziraphale pushes himself up off his hands, kneeling now, leaning back on the heels of his feel so he can stare upwards to the heavens. He grits his teeth and with one quivering breath, he reaches his hand straight into his own chest. He grunts and strains with pain and anger and upset, but his hand doesn't stop. He digs and dives, as deep as he can within himself, to clutch at this feeling and pry it out. 

As thick, salty, far too human tears stream down his cheeks, he stares at ceiling, praying he might see his Mother. With one final shout, he wrenches his hand out of his body. His arm is soaked in golden blood, dripping with it, sticky and viscous. In his grasp, he holds a handle he has not touched in thousands of years.

Panting, covered in sweat, his body's human blood and the golden blood of his core, Aziraphale stares in awe at the flaming sword he has snatched from his body. It's heavy in his grip, but the weight of it is so familiar, so fitting, an extension of his own soul protruding from his hand. The radiant heat from its fire swarms across his face - not burning, but embracing him instead. It feels just as right in his hand now as it did the moment the Almighty had first placed it in his care. Her very own design, made for him and him alone.

Suddenly, to his right, a bright circle of white-blue light forms in the middle of the bookshop's floor. The air around him charges - electric and heavy with ethereal power. Goosebumps begin to prickle across his corporeal body's skin. Aziraphale stares at the portal and forces a thick gulp down his throat. His sword in hand, he pushes himself up on wobbly legs to stand, and takes uneasy, unsteady steps towards the gateway.

          Go , a soft voice hums into his head.

          Mother?

Aziraphale closes his eyes and revels in Her - he hasn’t heard Her voice in so long, he’d almost forgotten it.

          Go now, Aziraphale. He can be saved. 

He opens his eyes and focuses his sight on the portal again. His eyes are a little hazy, his brain a little foggy, and is mouth is slack, still panting from the pain and the exertion. But he nods to his Mother, and without a moment’s hesitation, he steps into the gateway and allows it to rend him from his physical form and send him careening towards the heavens. 

::

“You know, Crowley,” Gabriel starts, giving Crowley a swift kick on his back, knocking him to his knees on the celestial plane, “I just want you to know how much I’m going to enjoy this.” 

Crowley groans.

"Guess it'd be a shame if it weren't fun..." He forces out through his teeth.

Gabriel snarls and suddenly, Crowley’s bindings tighten and yank him further to the floor. They drag his body down to kneel in submission in front of the archangels. His skin sizzles and scorches beneath the touch of the shackles - their Might rends his occult body like paper in a flame. The pain is worse than anything he’s felt before - worse than the Fall, undoubtedly. It is so much further reaching, so much more horrific, and he only wishes his body might burn and fade away as quickly as a lit paper might turn to ash. 

But it won’t be quick, and he knows that. 

Gabriel crouches down in front of Crowley and takes his chin in his hand. He roughly yanks Crowley’s head up to look at him.

“I know this isn’t going to be much fun for you, but please, please take solace in knowing that I have wanted to do this for a long time now.” He smiles. “I’m very excited.” 

He’s so clinical, so detached, so holier-than-though - Crowley’s stomach churns. He musters a quick bout of defiance and spits in the archangel's face. 

The spit splatters across Gabriel’s cheek. The fluid is weak, but still demonic, and it leaves a few dark smatterings of black burns across his skin with a sizzle of angelic flesh. Gabriel’s smile drops immediately into a scowl. He shoves Crowley’s head back to the floor and motions for another angel to come to him.

Crowley doesn’t see who it is, but hears Gabriel, as clear as day, tell this unknown Heavenly agent to:

          “Make it hurt . ” 

The angel, made of little more than hereditary obedience, agrees. 

“Aye, sir.” 

Next thing Crowley knows, a whip collides with his back. The whip is holy, and its strikes slice large, tearing gashes into his flesh. 

He doesn’t scream. He doesn’t want to give them the satisfaction. 

One lash, two, then three, then four, then more than he can count, land across his back. Each strike tears more of his demonic flesh from his body, ripping it apart from his soul piece by agonizing piece.

He's bleeding - there's no way he isn't. As he trembles and curls into himself with pain, he feels the thick, sticky blood seep down along his back, so volumous that it dribbles onto the floor. Crowley pries his eyes open and stares blearily at the droplets. They're beautiful, metallic, and golden, a color he never thought he'd see in his own body again.

He'd expected it to be black - like any proper demon's would be.

He coughs a wet, thick cough. Gold drips from his mouth, dribbling down his face and onto the floor with his spit.

Something chokes up in Crowley's throat. He lets out of unsteady sob and clenches his eyes shut so he doesn't have to look at the color anymore. He can't see this - he can't sit here and stare at this remnant, at this one last, flagging piece of the holiness he had once known.  He can't sit here in his agony and wonder why She had ever decided to leave a touch of goodness within him.

“Interesting,” Michael hums. 

“Yes, don’t usually see that color with his type . But no matter.”

Crowley presses his forehead against the floor of the celestial plane and shakes his head.

“Ju-just destroy me already, you bastards,” He grits out. “It isn’t enough for you to-to be powerful, you have to be monsters along the way, too?!” 

Gabriel takes a step closer towards Crowley’s prone figure on the floor. He shoves the toe of his shoe beneath the demon’s chin and lifts his head, forcing him to meet his eyes. 

“This,” He says, gesturing towards the whip-bearer and his fellow archangels, “is the punishment you deserve.” 

Crowly sneers - metallic gold blood in his mouth smears along the whites of his fangs. 

“No,” Crowley shakes his head, “You’ll find your spot in Hell. Don’t you worry.” 

Gabriel’s mouth flicks down into a hard frown, upper lip twitching as he gestures for the whip-bearer. With a swift kick to Crowley's face, Gabriel hisses his order to his underling.

“Carry on.” 

The whip-bear nods and raises his weapon again. Crowley braces himself - this one will hurt more than the others, he knows it. His back is nothing but mangled, torn flesh by now. Bright blood and angry wounds. He prepares for the pain, but the hit never lands. 

Instead, a crackle of electricity echos across the celestial plane.

::

Crowley isn’t entirely sure what happens in the next few moments. He’s far too focused on the horrific pain that is coursing through his body from his bonds and his lashings to notice the details of the scene unfolding around him. But he does notice that before the whip-bearer is able to land another blow across his back, something flashes into existence on the celestial plane.

There's the sound of a struggle - pained, frantic, and angry. Crowley's eyes are blurry with anguish and ache, but he still drags his head up off the floor to try to watch. A severed arm, its hand stilling gripping the handle of a pure-white whip, plops onto the floor by his side. Crowley startles but doesn’t attempt to flee. The severed flesh of the arm begins to leak - harsh, black blood discharging across the floor. Its fingers continue to twitch around its weapon. Crowley closes his eyes, hangs his head, and bows his head to the floor again.

There’s shouting and a voice that roars across the plane. It sounds familiar but it is far too immense, far too tremendous for him to recognize. There are screams and thuds from all around him, and a burning, but comforting, heat that radiates across the plane. He swears, through his tightly clenched eyelids, that he can see a bright blaze of golden-orange fire illuminating his surroundings. 

A voice - one that is distinctly Gabriel’s - begins to beg. 

“Wa-wait! Just wait , we can-” 

But he isn't allowed to finish. His pleas are cut short, followed by a loud thud of something very heavy and very body-like slamming limply onto the floor. 

And then... the room is silent. 

Crowley’s body trembles; he cracks open his eyes but keeps his gaze glued to the floor. He shakes from the pain that surges through his entire being, but if he’s honest, he quivers from the inkling of fear that has begun to build inside him.

The black blood from the whip-bearer’s severed arm is steadily creeping towards him. 

“Crowley,” a transcendental voice echoes around him. 

He is filled with terror, and yet… and yet this voice is so familiar to him. 

Against all better judgment, Crowley lifts his head up off the floor to stare up at the being before him. 

At first, all he can make out is a blinding burst of light, but its brilliance slowly begins to fade, softening as it calms. Crowley watches in awe, body still shaking, eyesight still hazy, as this entity dwindles before him and morphs into an all-too-familiar shape.

Standing before him, in his hand a flaming sword drenched in black blood, is...

“Aziraphale?” 

Aziraphale’s eyes - glowing, radiant, and fiery blue - begin to soften and calm as they shift their focus towards the demon.

Their intensity dwindles until all that’s left is the soft, ocean-blue color that Crowley has learned to love so deeply over the years. Aziraphale locks eyes with Crowley. He shakes his head, as if dragging himself out of a stupor, and slowly uncurls his fingers. He sword clatters against the white floor as Aziraphale drops frantically to his knees by Crowley’s side.

He aches to touch him, to drag him into his arms, but instead, his hands hover over Crowley’s body. 

“Oh, my dear, Crowley, what have they done to you?” 

“Zira,” Crowley whimpers, struggling to push himself up onto his knees. His back aches so thoroughly that he’s sure the sting of it will never truly go away. The wounds are so deep he knows he’ll live the rest of his existence with them raw and carved into his flesh.

Aziraphale, for all his tenderness, tries to help, but Crowley can’t help the way he flinches away in pain from even his Angel’s gentlest of touches. 

“I’m sorry,” Aziraphale whispers, voice beginning to break, “I’m so sorry…”

Crowley, despite every screaming sting of of his injuries, does allow Aziraphale to support him. He leans against his companion and lets his weight relax. Heaving uneven breaths, he glances around the plane around him. It's... it's a massacre. Bodies and body parts are strewn across the floor, pieces and bits of what were once whole entities mangled and scattered without care or concern. Tar black blood - filthy blood - is splattered everywhere, staining what was once a pristine, reflective surface. It also surges from the archangels' assorted body parts in horrible, gushing rivers of black. 

Crowley has seen his fair share of violence - it’s to be expected when one is a demon regularly frequenting Hell. It’s especially to be expected amongst the humans. They’re clever, they are, always finding new and inventive ways to destroy each other. But this... this is another level. 

This is something gruesome and new and he has no idea how to feel.

This had been done for him.

He’s not afraid. But he is in awe of the decimation before him. 

“Aziraphale, how-” 

“Crowley,” Aziraphale starts, “Please forgive me for this but-” and without waiting for Crowley to respond, Aziraphale yanks his demon fully into his arms, enveloping him totally. Crowley shouts in pain as Aziraphale’s arms wrap around him, his hands splaying across the horrendous wounds across his back with force. Aziraphale's wings spread and wrap around the both of them, shielding them from the cosmos around them.

“This will hurt,” Aziraphale whispers into his ear, “But I will make it better.” He tightens his grip on Crowley, digs his hands down into the mangled meat of his back, scooping inside every injury with intent and precision. He clings onto Crowley, even as the demon thrashes and struggles with pain in his arms. Even as he screams and begs for mercy Aziraphale refuses to let him go. 

The wounds in his back sing with agony, but Crowley begins to feel the pieces of his soul that the angels had whipped away beginning to take shape once again. The pieces shift and move and adhere themselves to his essence - it's like being rebuilt, reborn, re-created. It hurts , by fucking God and Satan does it hurt, and Crowley just wants this to be over. And yet... and yet there is something so comforting about being held so ferociously by these arms. 

He aches in ways he never thought possible, and he wonders for a moment, if this is perhaps the End. Is this what dying truly is?

Is this how it feels to end your life?

He hisses in pain and thrashes once before his sweating body eventually stills. He gives in to the pain, collapses in his Angel's arms, and accepts his fat.

I f I have to die, please let it be this way. Please let me stay wrapped up by him until there's nothing left of me. 

The pain continues for an immeasurable, horrific amount of time until suddenly… 

Suddenly...

It stops.

Crowley tenses for a brief moment and then goes limp again, his head lolling onto Aziraphale’s shoulder. Aziraphale holds him - refuses to let him go.

“It’s okay,” Aziraphale whispers into his ear. “You’re okay.”

Crowley stirs ever so slightly, twitches his body, his muscles, his soul, and finds that all his pieces are back to where they should be. The gnarled, mangled lacerations across his body have gone, leaving only golden slivers of scars across his skin in their wake.

He lifts his heavy head from Aziraphale’s shoulder. He looks around the room once more and watches as the remains of the archangels begin to sizzle and burn away into nothingness - black smoke from their corpses begins to fill the air. He turns back to Aziraphale and catches his eyes. 

“How- how did you…” 

Aziraphale drags his fingers through Crowley’s matted, sweat-drenched hair and pulls him close. He lets Crowley bury his head into his neck, and rests his own head against his companion’s. He pets the back of Crowley’s head, along the nape of his neck: comforting, but fiercely protective in his motions. 

“I told them,” Aziraphale hisses through his teeth, “they would not take you…”

::