The angel hurried through the garden, carefully pushing aside branches and peering into clearings.
Anyone nearby might have heard the constant muttered, “Damn, damn, damn, damn…”
Finally, he found what he was looking for.
The huge snake was sprawled in a lazy heap in a patch of sunlight near The Tree. It was massive, cream and fawn dappled with gold and black, though its eyes were a pale and astonishingly clear blue. They were also fixed on the angel.
The angel cleared his throat. “Look, I need you to…” He jerked the big stick in his hand in the direction of the Eastern gate.
The blue eyes blinked slowly and the snake’s tongue flicked out.
The angel fidgeted. Did giant demonic snakes even use words? Must do, he reasoned. S’how they talked to other demons. “You know you aren’t meant to be here anyway.”
With clear reluctance and indignation, the snake’s coils unfurled and contracted and all at once, a cream-winged demon was lounging on the ground, giving him a sardonic look. He was plump and pink-cheeked, his hair shockingly white. “Bit late for guard duty now, isn’t it?” he said.
The angel glared at him. “You didn’t really help matters.”
The demon shrugged, smoothing down his tunic. It was ridiculously elegant, the angel noticed enviously. Deep shades of golden brown, embroidery glittering like coiled scales. “You know what it’s like. Boss says jump, you say how high.” He grinned slowly, rolling his shoulders. “I mean, there were guards and everything, weren’t there?”
The angel clenched his hands by his side. “Look,” he said again, trying to keep his tone even. “You’ve made a mess of everything! And if you’re still here when–”
The demon laughed. “I made a mess of everything?” He grinned. “I just told them the fruit looked tasty. I didn’t tell them not to eat it.”
The angel opened and shut his mouth a couple of times. He had wondered about that. Why put the tree in the garden at all? And why specify they couldn’t eat from that one particular tree? Why not put it somewhere far off where it wouldn’t be the easiest thing in the world to get to? And why–
“Why’ve’you got a stick?” the demon inquired.
The angel’s mental meanderings crashed to a halt. “What?”
“The stick.” The demon nodded to the stick in his hand. “Didn’t you have a flaming sword?”
The angel looked down at the stick in his hand. It was almost as long as the sword, but nowhere near as pointy or flamey. “Er…”
The demon sat forward, a wide grin splitting his face. “You lost it?”
“No!” The angel exclaimed hotly. “I didn’t!”
The demon clapped his soft hands together, laughing. “You did!”
“I– it–” The angel wrapped his other hand around the stick. “Um. I gave it away.”
The grin froze on the demon’s face, his brow creasing. “You… what?”
And the angel couldn’t stop himself from babbling. The humans, they’d eaten the stuff they shouldn’t have and well, they couldn’t stay… well, not in the garden, and they were cold and he didn’t know how to knit them anything or weave or anything useful, so he’d done the next best thing and gave them something to keep them warm in the big wide world. I mean, who wouldn’t? Isn’t that what he was meant to do? Look after them? Who would care? No one! Not really! Not at all! So wasn’t it all for the best?
The demon stared at him, round-eyed.
The angel clung onto his stick. “Why are you staring?”
The demon’s lip curled up, but it wasn’t a smirk this time. “Not what I expected, angel,” he said. “D’you have a name?”
The angel did, of course, but that was for the Heavenly hosts, and this was earth. Better to have a more earth-bound name. “Er.”
“Er?” The demon smiled. “Easy to remember that.”
“No! Um!” He cast about frantically and saw one of the birds hopping along the branches of the garden. It was the same colour has his wings. “Crow-ly.” He nodded. “Crowley. Is me.”
The demon rolled to his feet. Somehow, he still managed to move like a snake, even with six extra limbs. He shook out shimmering gold and cream feathers. “Aziraphale,” he said, then looked up, alarm visible in his eyes when there was a crashing sound from the sky.
“What on earth…?” Crowley spun around, staring up through the trees. The sky was turning darker and blacker and he could smell water in the air. “Oh! Oh no!” He ran across the gap between himself in the demon, flinging his wings up over it. “Don’t move!”
The demon’s face was so close to his and he could see the gleaming blue was framed by darker blue like… like…
A crack of white fire tore across the sky.
Around them, water started falling from above and the demon flinched closer to him. Crowley closed his wings over them both as the water – rain, his brain informed him. New, very exciting – fell around them.
The demon tilted his head, watching him. “Giving away swords and playing at umbrellas,” he said with a small, crooked smile. “Didn’t see that coming.”
Crowley frowned at him. “What’s an umbrella?”
The demon huddled closer to him under his wing. “Not a sodding clue.”