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conforming with its worth, the Dark, the Bright

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Even the stars are not immortal, we all must burn. — my 10 word story, steverigers

 

After that, it all happens too fast. Crowley staggers on his feet, turning to see if Aziraphale has got the children to safety. Almost. The summit’s only a short distance away from them; they’ll be safe there, as long as they keep themselves hidden. It’s all up to Aziraphale now.

Or at least, until he manages to heal this worn–out six thousand–year–old corporation of his. Hell certainly wouldn’t be giving out any new bodies, not when he’s in everyone’s bad books [1].

Crowley focuses his attention to the worst injury first, the one Hastur gave him that’s still seeping surprisingly golden ichor on his chest and staining his shirt. Celestial steel, nasty stuff. He probably should’ve put pressure on it, but oh, well. His hands glow with the energy he’s expending to seal the wound, and Crowley sighs, waiting for it to take effect so he can move on with this nasty business.

Nothing happens. The ichor’s flowing out faster now, too.

Crowley tries again. Still nothing.

Fuck.

Maybe he should just ditch this corporation for his occult one. Just for a while. It is six thousand years old, anyway.

Crowley takes in a shaky breath, closing his eyes to focus on changing to one of his aspects, any of them.

And then the darkness.

 

Crowley comes to with his head cushioned on someone’s lap. Aziraphale? But no, this body’s too bony to be his. He hazards one eye open, vision blurry and unused to light.

And his heart sank ever further. Or maybe that’s just the blood loss.

“Uriel?” Crowley says, sounding more like a frog than a serpent. “You shouldn’t be here.”

Great. Just great. The first time he and Uriel properly see each other in six millennia and he’s—

No. He refuses to continue with that string of thought.

Given the choice between his life–mate and his estranged sister witnessing him like this, Crowley doesn’t really know which one hurts him more.

“You should leave, Uri,” Crowley warns, using an elbow to prop himself up, only to be simultaneously pushed back with a groan by a wave of lightheadedness and Uriel’s hands.

“No, I won’t,” Uriel says as her hands continue to fumble and stanch the bleeding. Crowley’s almost forgotten how stubborn this sister could get. “Why isn’t it stopping? You’re not— Why is it— God, you’re not supposed to be bleeding ichor in corporeal form.”

Don’t invoke Her right now,” Crowley groans, glaring at the haziness in his eyes to go away.

But then, Uriel’s right, isn’t she? Standard–issue corporations bleed red blood to fit in better with humans. He hasn’t seen anyone bleed ichor since The War, in the tents he’d pitched that smelled of suffering and the ever–present sulphurous aura of Azrael. Crowley can’t feel him anywhere near right now, but that bastard’s always been sneaky, anyway.

Uriel was there, too, Crowley realizes with a start, a gasp that quickly turns into a choking noise within his throat.

Uriel squeaks very much like a brown–headed nuthatch. “Don’t move, stupid. Do you want to bleed out?”

“Fuck no, of course not,” Crowley says, grinning at his sister with teeth he knows are stained with ichor. “Listen, Uri. You need to go home. The battlefield isn’t a place for you.”

“And it is for you?” Uriel shoots back, hissing in vicious army barracks Enochian as she again attempts to pour healing energy onto his wound, announced by the scent like the atmosphere when lightning had just struck a tree. “I’m not a child anymore. I’ve seen war a hundred times over.”

“If you’re not a child, then stop acting like one,” Crowley hisses. “I’m still older than you and I’m telling you to leave.”

“I won’t leave, not like—”

“Like I did to you?” Crowley cuts in. “I know why you’ve been avoiding me, you know.”

“You all did. You all left me after the war,” says Uriel, facing away from Crowley’s scrutinizing gaze and wiping at her face with one hand while keeping the other pressed on his chest. “I’m not going to do that.”

“Uriel, sweet sister, look at me,” Crowley says as he uses his hand to turn Uriel's face away from his useless corporation that neither of them can heal and towards his own until they’re looking at each other eye to eye. Crowley would really rather imagine that the golden specks on her face are freckles that grew since the last time he saw her, rather than anything else. “Do you remember the Garden?”

“What does that have to do with anything?” Uriel asks irritably.

“Answer the question, Uri.”

“Yes,” Uriel says. “Why aren’t you healing? I can’t heal them, am I doing something wrong?”

“‘S nothing,” Crowley says with a groan, shifting his weight knowing Uriel probably isn’t too comfortable with his current position. “Just tired, I’ll heal it after a nap. Remember when you pestered Gabriel to bless the bird you created the first time we let you go into the Garden?”

“I kept telling him I knew it was going to be a messenger bird!” Uriel replies with a watery laugh. “And then you snuck in and added your own blessing while I wasn’t looking.”

Crowley laughs breathlessly. “Can’t let Gabriel be the favourite brother.”

“Crowley,” Uriel says, weighing his name on her lips. “After that bird, huh.”

“Smart things,” Crowley agrees, fighting the urge to close his eyes via blinking them furiously. Not very snake–like behaviour. “Better than Crawly, at any rate. I thought you were going to be in the Garden, that first day.”

“Couldn’t do it, not while I was waiting for you to come back,” Uriel sighs, whose still–trembling hand is now absentmindedly combing through Crowley’s messy hair. “Don’t leave me again, big brother.”

“Wasn’t planning to,” Crowley says, loathe as he is to make a promise he can’t keep, especially to the sister none of them have been able to deny anything. Sorry, Uriel. “Sister?”

“Yes?” says Uriel in a frail voice, her bottom lip quivering.

“Will you sing for me?”

Uriel hums, in the way she did as a fledgeling who had the entirety of the world’s music at her fingertips and can’t pick which to sing. And then, in a clear voice, she begins:

 

Thy vineyards and thy orchards are

Most beautiful and fair,

Full furnished with trees and fruits,

Most wonderful and rare.

 

Crowley starts. He’d helped write that poem, back in the 16th century, in an uncharacteristic fit of homesickness. It was the Reformation, those sort of upheavals just tended to stir things in his memory. Jerusalem, the song goes, but for the beings who have been here since the Beginning, they’ll be able to tell that it speaks of longing for a different place entirely.

He joins in, startling Uriel in turn, pausing to catch his breath between each line.

 

Our sweet is mixed with bitter gall,

Our pleasure is but pain:

Our joys scarce last the looking on,

Our sorrows still remain.

 

“Crowley—” Uriel objects, only to be cut off by Crowley placing a finger to her lips.

Crowley smiles then, feeling the burden of millennia easing itself off his shoulders. “Let me finish.”

 

There trees for evermore bear fruit,

And evermore do spring;

There evermore the angels be,

And evermore do —

 

“Sing,” Uriel whispers, finishing the song for him as he no longer could.

Around them, the battle rages on.

 

He opens his eyes to the vast expanse before him. There is black sand all around, stretching out in all directions, and strangely not catching fire from his ouroboroi wheels that perpetually rotate, crisscrossing each other like a ball full of snakes vying for dominance amongst themselves.

Above him, the clear night sky is studded with stars, twinkling like beacons in a lighthouse guiding him on his way home.

The tall hooded figure in front of him clears his throat, forcing a dozen or so of his eyes to shift their attention to the figure.

“Azrael?” he asks, though he doesn’t know how he knows the figure, much less the figure’s name.

“I DID TELL YOU WE WOULD SEE EACH OTHER AGAIN,” Death replies.

“I— Huh. You did?” One of his wheels stops spinning as he gets lost in thought, trying to recall details of his life, but without much luck. “Sorry, I guess I forgot my name. I think it starts with an R?”

“YOU’LL FIND IT STARTS WITH A ‘C,’ I’M AFRAID.”

Crowley’s multitude of eyes blink simultaneously. “Right. Of course. How the fuck did I forget that?”

Death stares on, unfazed as Crowley’s wheels start spinning on their axles far faster than they’ve ever done before, as memories start to flood back into his thoughts, good and bad and everything in between.

“Uriel!” Crowley says all of a sudden. “Where is she? Is she alright? I can’t—”

Death makes a sweeping gesture, and the scenery before them shivers as it shifts, showing Crowley Earth as he left it. Uriel, weeping as she cradles the corporation Crowley had shed. Aziraphale, at a distance, looking on but unable to approach and leave vulnerable the children under his care.

Crowley focuses and tries to shift forms. He doesn’t really know if it’s still possible for dead celestial beings to change aspects, but he still tries anyway. Surprisingly, it does work, although now he looks like some ordinary shade of what was once a man–shaped being.

“Can I—?” he begins as he hesitantly approaches his little sister.

“BE MY GUEST,” Death booms. “BUT THEY WON’T FEEL YOU.”

He nods.

“I didn’t mean to leave you, little sister,” Crowley says as he envelops his weeping sister in a ghostly embrace, careful not to pass through her.

Crowley then manifests his wings, all six of them, now smoky wisps that curl up in the air and would be better suited on a wraith. They bear him up to the summit, where Aziraphale is standing rooted to the ground, the flaming sword clattering and extinguished, his wings trembling as they mantle around the children, his face wet from the rain that had just begun to pour.

Crowley plants a kiss on Aziraphale’s forehead, sweet and gentle like Aziraphale is. “I’m sorry, angel,” he whispers. “I guess I do go too fast for you.”

He turns back to Death who’s patiently waiting for him to finish. Crowley imagines not everyone gets this kind of special treatment, but then again, it’s not every day a Fallen Archangel needs to be fetched by Azrael.

“So what now?” Crowley asks. “I’ve been to Heaven, and I’ve been to Hell, and everywhere else in between. Where do I go next?”

It’s only a fair question, Crowley thinks. No one knows what happens when celestials die, and he doesn’t suppose they’d just go back to their native realms, not unless Ligur actually is in hell and just hiding from Crowley.

“WELL FOR STARTERS,” Death replies, already spreading out his wings, dark as night and dotted with stars that should be familiar and yet not. “YOUR MOTHER IS WAITING FOR YOU.”

“My… Mother?” Crowley asks. Maybe he’d just misheard. The Almighty has never taken an interest in him before. Why start now?

“YES,” Death says, dry as, well, a bone. “NOW, ARE YOU COMING OR DO I HAVE TO DRAG YOU WITH ME? A LOT OF PEOPLE DIE, CROWLEY.”

“Yes, yes, fine, not like I can go anywhere else,” Crowley says rather tetchily, flying behind Azrael who has already taken off to the sky.

 

“Mother…” she says, frantically trying to restore warmth into her brother’s pale cheek. “Mother, please.”

“Raphael? Crowley?” Uriel calls out, her voice sounding panicked and oh so lost. “Please don’t—”

Her brother has fallen silent, and Uriel doesn’t know what to do.

It cannot be, he cannot be gone. Discorporated, surely, but not gone. Who will sing with her now, while doing the sacred duties of their rank? Who will indulge her every whim now? Why let her find her brother again, only to lose him once more just as she’s learned to forgive him his faults?

Every little girl needs a big brother, and Uriel had several of them, it’s true, but they’ve all left her, one by one, until she was alone.

The heavens send a downpour that douses all of the fires that still burn around them, heeding their mistress’s desire for a storm that matches the turmoil within, as Uriel herself screams a primal scream that shakes the foundations of the Earth.

Everyone always forgets that of Uriel’s titles, one of them is Lord of the Tempest.

“Let’s go home,” she whispers, creating a momentary vacuum in the air as she spreads three massive pairs of rich emerald wings for the first time in millennia and takes flight against the torrential rain, her brother resting her arms.

 

Mother has left the five of them with a Seed, with the very specific instruction to grant it with a blessing only they could bestow. Not even Michael knows what the Seed is for, which is odd, considering that Michael is God’s First, and as such, has Mother’s implicit trust in all matters. Then again, that’s ineffability for you, as Gabriel might say [2].

Raphael, for what it’s worth, thinks that whatever this Seed is, it’s probably going to be the centrepiece in the Garden Mother is building.

“Right then,” Samael says, the Seed gingerly held out on his palm. “I’ll go first, as the eldest.”

“You’re not the eldest, I am,” Michael protests. “And Mother entrusted the office to me, Samael.”

Samael huffs, but hands the Seed over anyway.

“What did you do?” Michael asks, eyeing their twin suspiciously.

“Nothing, nothing,” Samael says with a smile and a wave of his hand. “But do please carry on. We still have other duties to do after this.”

Michael’s suspicious glare doesn’t leave Samael as they take a deep breath and cast their blessing onto the Seed, filling the air with the scent of brackish water.

Hang on a tic. Brackish?

The siblings blink at once. And then:

“Samael!”

“At least I waited,” Samael grins rather innocently as he shrugs. “And Justice, really, Michael? Pulling a feather from Raguel, I didn’t know you had it in you. I’m impressed.”

“Raguel has Law, that’s completely different,” Michael points out. “And you’re one to talk. Will?”

“Just as well. They’ll need it to deal with you, if this is to be a new sibling,” Samael says, circling around an annoyed Michael to pluck the Seed from their hand. “Here you go, Raphael.”

“Thanks. I guess?” Raphael hesitates. What gift can he bestow? Sure, healing’s his thing, but no one in Heaven ever gets more than a sprained wing, so it’s not really that important, is it?

He realizes that his siblings are expectantly waiting to find out what his blessing would be, so he releases a breath from his mouth and decides, Empathy, before solemnly passing it over to Gabriel without a word.

“What did you bestow, Raphael?” Gabriel asks.

“Empathy,” he answers, absentmindedly scratching at his shoulder blades itching to manifest wings. It’s already frowned upon to have all of your wings out at once, encourages envy or something like that. Raphael hasn’t grasped what the fuss is about but, oh well, a single set it is, then. “I thought it was a nice gift,” he adds.

“In that case,” Gabriel says, a hand on his chin. “Speech,” he declares, running a gentle finger on the Seed’s delicate surface, and the scent of burnished copper surrounds them as Gabriel’s aura hums around it. “Empathy yearns to be expressed, doesn’t it?”

“It does,” Raphael says, surprised at Gabriel’s show of thoughtfulness.

“My turn!” Uriel pipes up, restless as the music that is her domain and thrilled at the prospect of finally being allowed to craft a Seed. She still hasn’t gotten the hand of bringing herself up to her full height, so compared to the rest of them, she looks like a fledgeling.

“Careful, Uri,” Gabriel says, passing over the Seed to Uriel’s waiting hands.

Uriel hums in response, staring at the Seed in bright–eyed wonder. “I guess,” she starts, as the scent of ozone intensifies. “Knowledge.”

“Knowledge, Uri?” Michael asks with a quirk of an eyebrow.

“Well, I thought, since Mother told us to give the Seed the best of us, why not that gift?” Uriel says in a way that makes it sound like she’s singing. “Knowledge is meant to be shared, right?”

“Oh, well, she’s right,” Samael shrugs as he spreads out his own pair of resplendent ruby wings. “And the Almighty also told us to leave the Seed in Her Garden before sundown.”

“Right,” Michael says, their wings manifesting behind them as they take Samael’s hand beside them. “Shall we go?” they ask, offering their other hand to Raphael.

Going back to the Garden would be nice, Raphael thinks, trying to picture how lush his plants would be by now, so he takes Michael’s hand and offers his other one to Gabriel. Gabriel takes Uriel’s hand first, catching her unawares, before holding onto Raphael’s. A moment later, they were all taking off, perfectly in sync.

They haven’t flown together as a flock in a while, ever since their duties began gradually increasing as Mother got around to Creating the Host; Raphael never really liked flying around by himself, too, so this is also nice. There never is a fear of falling when your siblings are there to catch you.

 

“Getting slower in old age, Michael dear?” Lucifer says as he summons another round of hellfire to destroy another horde of the undead. He swears to… himself, what’s the point of being King when no one listens to you about not starting the Rapture?

“We’re literally the same age. If I’m getting old, then so are you,” Michael bites back behind him, raising their flaming sword as if debating which to cut down between him and the undead advancing towards them.

“In your dreams, Michael,” Lucifer says, laughing as he tries to remember when the last time he fought side by side with his twin was. He is about to say some witty retort to that effect, when he is suddenly thrown off–kilter by the sensation akin to getting one of his wings violently yanked off.

“Michael, what—” he says, turning around to check on Michael, but the pain begins anew and comes from all directions this time, knocking the air out of his lungs and hurling him down onto the ground like the force of a tsunami knocking down a paper screen.

Apparently, Michael felt it too, as Michael also stumbles to the ground a moment later, grasping onto Lucifer’s shoulder for support.

“What was that?” Lucifer asks through heaving breaths.

Michael’s expression mirrors Lucifer’s own confusion as they say “I don’t— I thought it was you.”

“Wasn’t me. Hold up,” Lucifer says, holding a finger up as he thought. Finally, he summons his wings, impeccable as he’d preened the main pair of them only a few days ago. Not his wings, then. “Summon your wings, Mikey,” he adds, using a nickname he knows Michael hates just to try and lighten up the situation.

Michael huffs, but the wings manifest in a heartbeat and almost hits Lucifer in the face. “Not mine,” Michael says as they fold their wings while still keeping them visible in this plane. “Then who?”

“You don’t think it’s our siblings, do you?” Lucifer asks, scanning the field before them for any sight of glittering wings.

“Mother forbid,” Michael says in return.

Lucifer stretches out the pairs that haven’t been aired out in a while. “Can you call them? Just to be sure?”

“Do it yourself, brother,” Michael says, twirling in their fingers a down that fell from his wing.

“You know they never listen to me.”

“Fine,” Michael mutters, before rapidly speaking in Enochian words that only the first in all creation, that is, the five of them, would be able to say and comprehend.

It takes a while for Gabriel to find them; that a yawning pit is already forming at the base of Lucifer’s core when he shows up, his cashmere coat covered in a layer of grime, his hair and feathers sticking up at odd angles.

“Where have you been?” Michael demands, before Gabriel could even catch his breath.

“Michael, let him rest first,” Lucifer swiftly defuses, noting the way Gabriel’s face is moments away from crumbling. “What’s wrong, Gabriel?”

“Uriel,” Gabriel says, flicking away at the grime on his coat. “Have you seen her?”

“I thought she was with you?” Lucifer asks at the same time Michael does.

Gabriel snaps his fingers, and his hair rearranges itself. “She flew off when I wasn’t looking. I don’t know what she sensed, but she hasn’t answered my summons since. R— Crowley?”

“They’ll be here,” Lucifer says, more to reassure himself than his siblings. They’re not fledgelings anymore, they can take care of themselves.

They don’t come. They’re not coming, and Lucifer only realizes this when his star is already rising in the skies. Time seems to flow out of order today. Surely Crowley would not be slipping in his duties?

He’s still mulling over this when Michael touches his elbow.

“Listen,” Michael says, shaking their head before Lucifer could protest at the intrusion into his thoughts. “Do you hear that?”

“Hear what?” Lucifer asks. There is nothing to hear on the field they are in, save for the soft crackling of the hellfire he is yet to extinguish.

Michael already knows what he is thinking. “Not around us, Lu. Listen closer,” they say, sandwiching Lucifer’s hand between their own ones.

Lucifer searches for what Michael wants him to hear, and closes his corporation’s eyes to that effect that his real form may be able to find it easier.

And he finds it. A trill surging in his veins, all raw anguish and grief and longing.

Come and see, Uriel’s melodious voice echoes in his blood, filling him with dread.

Uriel never sings like that.

“Something’s happened,” Lucifer says simply.

Michael nods.

Lucifer’s attention turns to Gabriel. “Can you find her?”

“She’s hiding,” Gabriel admits. “Dampening her aura so we wouldn’t be able to pinpoint her location.”

“Or,” Michael counters, still not letting go of Lucifer’s hand. “She thinks we should already know where she is.”

“Somewhere she knows I can go,” Lucifer says, a thousand thoughts whirling around in his mind. “Or she would not have let me receive her message. Not the Silver City then.”

“No,” Michael says, not really focusing on the conversation.

The twins exchange a look.

“There?” Lucifer asks, searching Michael’s eyes to see if they’ve reached the same conclusion.

“Where else can she be?” Michael says, affirming his thoughts.

Behind them, Gabriel clears his throat. “I still don’t know what you’re thinking about.”

He should, Lucifer thinks, probably feel bad at leaving out Gabriel, but Uriel still comes first and it’s so much easier to think without having to verbally communicate them. The boon and the bane of having a twin.

“Just come with us, Gabriel,” Michael says, spreading out their wings in a sharp gust of wing as Lucifer does the same.

“Yes, little brother, we’ll explain later,” Lucifer adds, looking at Michael who nods at him.

A moment later, they’re both taking off, still holding hands. Lucifer tightens his grip on Michael’s hand, both to reassure their twin and to stop his own hand from shaking.

 

They are standing in the Garden. A flutter of wings behind them indicate that Gabriel has landed as well. Uriel’s singing sound closer now, and clearer, that Lucifer can make out the words. Enochian, as he’d thought, but not any song that he’d heard the choirs sing before.

Lucifer starts walking towards the Tree, where Uriel’s singing feels the strongest, but Michael pulls him back with an iron grip.

Lucifer sighs. “Michael—”

“You don’t recognize the song?” Michael says, seemingly rooted to the spot.

“Am I supposed to?” Lucifer asks with the quirk of an eyebrow.

It is then Gabriel approaches, touching a hand to Michael’s shoulder as he shakes his head. “He wouldn’t. We started long after they were gone.”

Lucifer looks at both his siblings, feeling lost. “Am I… missing something?”

“Lucifer,” Michael starts, biting at their trembling lower lip and drawing blood. “It’s a dirge.”

“You’re joking,” Lucifer states, wrenching his hand free. “Why the Hell would Heaven have dirges?”

“Angels died during your war, Samael. I would never lie about that,” Michael says as the temperature takes a sudden drop.

And instantly goes up again as Lucifer’s own temper flares. “My war? May I remind you, Michael, that there wouldn’t have been conflict in the first place had our Mother ever explained Her blasted Plan to any of us!”

“I’m going to find Uriel,” Lucifer says finally, as he leaves them behind to walk towards the Tree. “You’re welcome to join me, but I’d rather you don’t.”

 

Uriel’s song sounds more and more like a keening wail as Lucifer approaches, earth–shattering and terrifying to hear. Michael’s words still ring in his ears, but he’s learned to shut it out, just like every single thing they’ve argued about over the millennia.

The Tree of Knowledge stands strong and eternal on the self–same spot Lucifer and his siblings planted that Seed back in the Beginning, its fruits tantalizingly just out of reach. This was what started everything, the reason for his Rebellion, for his Fall that still has his bones aching on humid days.

As it turns out, this is also where everything ends.

Uriel is sitting under the canopy of the Tree, all of her wings out and mantled around her, as her aura surrounds her like a protective barrier against the world. She is singing still, but her words are garbled now; only the emotion remains, a mournful sound that pierces through Lucifer’s core.

As if the melody isn’t enough, the image before him burns itself into Lucifer’s mind: his middle brother, missing until now, supported on their youngest’s lap, pale and unmoving, wings spread out without the glamour that hides them from sight.

Lucifer searches, but he cannot feel his brother’s aura anywhere. Not in his corporation, not hovering around them in his infernal form. Lucifer even combs through the corners of his kingdom, certain that Crowley is just in there somewhere, being refused a new corporation by Beelzebub out of spite.

There is not a trace of Crowley’s aura anywhere, and it is then Lucifer understands.

Oh, Lucifer wants to rage, a rage that neither Heaven nor Hell will be able to contain, but that would just startle Uriel, and he might lose her too.

Lucifer takes in a deep breath, not that it does anything for immortal beings.

“Uriel,” Lucifer coaxes in a soft and gentle tone he has not used since his siblings were fledgelings. “Sister.”

Uriel looks up at him, her eyes aglow with uncontrolled power. “Samael?” she says in a way that breaks Lucifer’s heart further.

Lucifer’s wings spread out as he tries to look as unthreatening as it is possible for the Devil himself. “Let me in, sister.”

“I—” Uriel hesitates, fresh tears flowing down her cheeks. The force field around her is starting to thin out.

“Please,” says Lucifer, begging for the first time in his immortal life.

The force field fades away with an audible pop.

“Lu…” Uriel sobs, like a fledgeling who’s hurt her wings and is looking at her brothers to make it better.

But that’s wrong, isn’t it? There was only ever one brother who could make any of their ills better, and now…

Lucifer runs, away from the thought and towards Uriel, until his arms are able to reach her and pull her into an embrace as he kneels on the ground beside her, Crowley lying in between them as if he’s just taking one of his naps.

Uriel sinks into the embrace without any resistance, and starts cries anew the moment her chin touches Lucifer’s shoulder.

Lucifer shushes his sister, rubbing circles on her back as he says “Tell me.”

“Hastur,” Uriel chokes out in between. “Revenge for what our brother did to his friend.”

“He’ll pay,” Lucifer says, hellfire already dancing in his eyes as he toys around what punishment would best suit a Duke, one of his hands dropping down to brush a stray lock of hair away from Crowley’s face.

 Uriel tightly grasps the fabric of Lucifer’s suit like a lifeline as her arms finally hug Lucifer back. “I felt it, Lu. I— I tried to help, but there was so much blood.

She saw, Lucifer thinks dimly. She saw and we knew nothing.

“Uriel. Listen to me,” Lucifer whispers into his sister’s ear, with just a smidge of demonic persuasion, only so that she will listen. “It’s not your fault.”

Michael and Gabriel catch up to him, despite Lucifer’s warning not to follow. Uriel startles at the sound of footsteps, but a gentle hand Lucifer places on her head keeps her grounded.

Gabriel understands it first, his face falling into confusion and then shock; as he surges forward, Michael puts their arm out in front of him to stop him from coming close, as Lucifer silently shakes his head.

Lucifer hears Michael’s gasp as the reality of the situation hits them, too, and both their hands fly up to cover their mouth as Michael unsuccessfully tries to contain a scream that reverberates through the Garden, sending birds flying from the treetops.

Lucifer extends his arm, urging both of them to come close. It has been a long time since he and his twin had the same features, but right now, he knows that his face is an echo of Michael’s. Grief has led them to share something once again.

Gabriel comes forward first. It feels like how a collision with a speeding train must do, as Gabriel’s body hits them and his arms try to envelop both Lucifer and Uriel.

Lucifer frowns at Michael, who still remain rooted to where they’re standing, tears spilling from their eyes as they continue to weep from behind their hands. Idly he wonders if Michael wept like this as well, when forced by their Mother to banish first him, and then their younger brother. They must have. Michael has always been the more sensitive of the twins, although they’ve tried to hide it time and time again beneath a calm and cold exterior.

Please, Lucifer mouths for the second time that day, and Michael trudges towards them, dragging their worn–out combat boots through the ground, each step a hurdle to cross.

Michael eventually kneels, in front of Crowley and beside Lucifer, their head coming to rest on Lucifer’s other shoulder as they sigh, hand trembling as they use their thumb to brush away a streak of mud on their younger brother’s cheek.

 

Aziraphale looks back, even if Crowley told him to run, take the children, and never to look back. He is not Lot’s wife, he does not get smote, but the action feels as if it should bring Aziraphale unwanted consequences all the same.

At the same time he looks back, Crowley looks up at them and meets Aziraphale’s eyes. Crowley nods at him, and smiles, an echo of the smile he gave Aziraphale the first time they met, on the ramparts of the Garden.

The scent of petrichor fills his nostrils, and for a moment Aziraphale believes everything will be alright, that Crowley will be able to follow them like he promised to.

And then Crowley falls, like a marionette with its strings abruptly cut off.

Aziraphale’s wings flare out despite himself, and he would have flown down to Crowley’s side had Adam not tapped him on the shoulder and brought him back to the present.

“We have to go, Uncle Z,” Adam says, shaking his head.

“Yes,” Aziraphale says, eyes darting between Crowley’s prone figure, his own flaming sword, and the children under his protection. “I suppose we do.”

The summit feels much farther than it actually is. Aziraphale tries to justify to himself that that’s just because everyone’s too exhausted to be hiking, even when running for their lives. But reach the summit they still eventually do.

“Are you children alright?” Aziraphale asks, deliberately turning so that he doesn’t have to see what’s happening at the mountain’s base. Physically, he hopes they’re fine at least. As for the other aspects, maybe the less said about them, the better. Their Tadfield has just become no man’s land, after all.

“We’re alright, Mr Fell,” Pepper says, managing a grin.

“Actually, I think I lost my glasses,” Wensleydale contradicts, patting at his pockets.

“Aren’t you already wearing them?” Brian points out, tapping a grimy finger to the frame of Wensleydale’s glasses for good measure.

“I meant my spare ones,” Wensleydale mutters.

Adam sighs, and with a snap of his fingers, a noticeable lump forms in Wensleydale’s left pocket.

“Oh, thanks, Adam,” Wensleydale says, looking up.

Aziraphale smiles, still refusing to look down below, until a clap of thunder startles everyone into ducking for cover.

“You’d better look down, Uncle,” Adams tells Aziraphale, too solemnly for a sixteen–year–old not quite mortal.

Aziraphale nods slowly, and turns around.

The first thing he sees is the beauty of the setting sun, blood–red and breath–taking. An ill omen, Aziraphale thinks. And below, surrounded by the swaying grass, Crowley has regained consciousness, his head supported by the Archangel Uriel’s lap. That explains the clap of thunder.

Maybe Aziraphale should be concerned that there’s an Archangel near his beloved, but then, would Crowley’s siblings knowingly hurt him? After Crowley’s long–winded explanation and apology, Aziraphale doesn’t think so. Still, his grip on the flaming sword tightens.

There is still ichor steadily flowing out of Crowley’s wound. Aziraphale’s wings twitch in anticipation of a flight, but he stays still. The children need him. He doesn’t think he’d be able to forgive himself if anything happened to his charges.

Crowley is saying something. Asking for a song, if Aziraphale can read his lips right, and he is. Aziraphale recognizes the melody the Archangel starts singing. A sixteenth–century poem, written in the wake of the Reformation. Eden, Crowley had told him then, preening as he presented Aziraphale an illuminated copy of the poem. The manuscript had burnt up along with the rest of his bookshop during the first Apocalypse, and even though Adam had restored it, it never looked quite the same.

Crowley has taken over the song from his sister, the stubborn fiend, singing even when he can’t catch his breath.

Aziraphale has long tuned out his ability to sense life, since Cain had turned on his brother long ago, but now, Aziraphale taps into it once again.

He regrets it almost immediately, as the truth he refuses to see makes itself heard instead.

Crowley is dying, his husband is dying, essence spilling out along with every drop of ichor that escapes from his corporeal form, and Aziraphale can do nothing but listen, as the beating of his heart slows, as the wheels of his being grow sluggish in their spinning.

And stops, just short of the song’s final word. Aziraphale’s sword clatters to the ground, at the same time the Archangel Uriel wails, powerful enough to summon a deluge.

His husband is gone, so why has the battle not yet ceased, the world still not ended?

Aziraphale’s wings raise upwards without him thinking about it, and beneath them, the children take shelter from the storm, all except Adam. The memory it dregs up, of Crowley taking shelter beneath those same wings at the Beginning, makes Aziraphale flinch and bite down on his cheek, drawing blood.

“I’m sorry, Mr Fell,” Pepper says beside him.

“No, that’s—” Aziraphale shudders, taking in a sharp breath. “That’s alright, my dear. No one is at fault.”

As he says that, the Archangel Uriel takes flight, taking Crowley with her. Aziraphale’s wings twitch again, yearning to join them.

Adam approaches them, his own opalite wings visible and flared out. “You should go with Aunt Uriel, Uncle Z.”

“But—”

“I can take care of us,” Adam says, picking up Aziraphale’s abandoned sword.

“You’re a child, Adam!” Aziraphale protests. Children should not be made to fight.

“I’m sixteen,” Adam says as his eyes start to glow a deep red like the centre of hellfire. “And the Antichrist still. I can do this.”

“Out of the question,” Aziraphale stubbornly persists.

“It’s fine, really,” Adam says, his face unreadable as he starts to take a defensive stance with the sword.

Aziraphale opens his mouth to protest again, but Adam’s expression makes him think otherwise. Adam’s family too, his and Crowley’s own nephew. He’s making a sacrifice, to take charge and give Aziraphale the chance to say goodbye in exchange for his own opportunity to do so.

“Just go, Uncle Aziraphale,” Adam says, smiling sadly.

Aziraphale nods hesitantly. “Take care of yourselves.”

“You too, Uncle.”

Aziraphale takes a moment to shake the water from his feathers, and with one last look at Adam and The Them, he flies away, already knowing where the Archangel is going.

 

“Remember when we made this?” Lucifer asks, knocking on the Tree’s hardwood. “I never would have blessed it with Will, if I knew what it was.”

“Do you still hate humans?” Michael looks up with shining eyes, still sitting up with Uriel who’s only just managed to stop crying. “After all these years?”

“No,” Lucifer admits, leaning on the trunk. Grief is a new sensation, but he’s already so tired of it. “I wouldn’t be fighting against the Rapture if I still did.”

“I want our brother back,” Michael says, letting Gabriel take Uriel as they stand up to stay next to Lucifer.

Lucifer stares at Michael as if they’ve manifested an extra head. “You know that’s not possible,” he says, even as he hopes that it is. Lucifer is eldest, and King of Hell besides, but even he has no power over Death.

Michael stares back, a characteristic stubborn fire in their steel–grey eyes. “Lucifer.”

“Michael,” Lucifer says in the exact same tone.

“You control an entire realm,” Michael points out. “You are more powerful than the rest of us combined.”

In another time, Lucifer would have preened to hear Michael admit his power. But not like this, not in this way.

Time. That is another thing. Their brother is gone. Who has control of time when the Archangel of that domain is no longer there? Did that power revert back to their Mother? It was never a worry before, as Fallen or not, they retained control of their domains, even if it was in twisted ways.

Lucifer doesn’t even want to think of their Mother.

“And you, Michael?” Lucifer says instead. “You are Mother’s heir. You already control Heaven in all but name.”

Michael’s wings flare up, their glare on Lucifer hardening. Clearly, that was the wrong thing to say.

“If I thought I can challenge Death, do you really think I’d ask you to do it?” Michael demands, and in a flash, their flaming sword is in their hand.

“And you think I can?” Lucifer scoffs, sliding a knife of celestial steel out of his sleeve. “I’m only King of Hell because our Mother kicked me out.” He unsheathes the blade, examining his reflection on it. “Speaking of which, why don’t you ask Her? Oh, wait, you can’t, because She never bloody talks to any of us!”

“Would you two stop it?” Gabriel yells, still clutching Uriel tightly within his arms. “Our brother is dead, and you still cannot have peace for even just one moment?”

“Gabriel…” Michael says, flinching, the flaming sword extinguishing.

“Take that back, little brother,” Lucifer continues the thought. Don’t say it, don’t make it real.

“I won’t.” Gabriel takes a shuddering breath. “I won’t, because it’s true. We can’t change it. Raphael is dead.”

Uriel sighs, staring at Gabriel although it has lost its edge. “That’s not his name, Gabriel.”

“I know that!” Gabriel says, Elizabeth Taylor eyes flashing wildly. “But I can’t say his name, not right now. I can’t even mourn him because you—” he swerves to fix a stare on the twins, “—cannot be quiet and stay in the same place without discorporating each other.”

Lucifer sheaths his weapon first, smiling tersely at Michael. Michael lets their sword return to the aether, nodding.

“Oh, Gabriel,” Lucifer says, softly. Lucifer doesn’t do soft.

“I’m sorry, little brother,” Michael adds.

“He was my brother too,” Gabriel mumbles through frustrated tears. “And we haven’t even done the rites yet. Why can’t you two wait until we’ve done the rites?”

“The rites?” Lucifer echoes, looking at Michael.

“I told you,” Michael says, looking very much like they do not want to have this conversation for all the world. “There were casualties in the War. The Host… we developed rites for those who died, but never—”

“Never for one of our own,” Lucifer finishes when Michael’s voice falters.

“I never thought—” Michael says instead. “I thought we were immune, that our closeness to Mother protects us. I thought death wasn’t for us.”

“Michael,” Lucifer starts to chastise, but then stops. Hadn’t he thought the same way too? That death was for lesser beings, not for the Seraphim, for Her First?

Vanity was the first sin, even if his siblings think otherwise. They should have known they’d be punished for it eventually.

“No, no, I’m sorry,” Michael says, shaking their head, and the already messed–up bun of their hair falls free. “We should— We should do this, shouldn’t we?”

“I don’t know what to do,” Lucifer says, turning his gaze back to the younger ones. Uriel is quiet, maybe too quiet, staring at her siblings as they argued over themselves, holding Crowley’s hand in her own. Gabriel is still fuming, an avenging angel from a classical painting.

“We’ll teach you,” Michael whispers, sidling up to him to take his hand.

 

Aziraphale finds all five (four) of the Archangels beneath the shade of the Tree. They’ve got it all wrong, the humans. It was never an apple that caused Mankind to Fall, it was a pomegranate. He can still see it now, Eve picking the juicy seeds at Crowley’s behest and eating them one by one before offering it to Adam.

Crowley is laid out on the grass that is slowly turning into patches of blossoming asphodels, his wings spread out beneath him. Aziraphale has only ever seen his full set of wings once, when he’d admitted who he used to be Before. They’re more iridescent now than Aziraphale remembers them to be, and even though Crowley tells (told) him that they’re more jet black now than lapis lazuli, the light of the setting sun catches on the feathers, making them shimmer in the deepest blue of sapphires.

It makes Aziraphale feel like he’s intruding, to see Crowley’s siblings go through the motions customary to mourning. He hasn’t done it before, either. His first duty was to guard the gates of Eden.

Aziraphale might have left then, allowed the estranged First to mourn one of their own, for what is a lowly Principality to those who stood in Her presence?

Until Lucifer catches sight of him, and alerts the rest of the Archangels. And just like Moses parting the Red Sea, the gathered Archangels part in half, making a way for him.

This Aziraphale realizes: he takes precedence above anyone else, as helpmate, as constant companion, as husband. In this, he ranks higher than even his former celestial superiors.

Aziraphale keeps his gaze trained on Crowley as walks straight ahead, chin held up high.

The Archangels look at him. Aziraphale finds that he doesn’t care much for their opinions regarding his relationship with Crowley anymore. But then his eyes catch a glimpse of Gabriel’s, and Aziraphale realizes that it isn’t judgement that lies beneath, but pity.

Crowley is smiling, peaceful and soft. Aziraphale’s eyes linger on it, almost wishing that it was his usual sneer in its place, if only so Aziraphale could kiss it away as he’d done countless of times before and wake him up from this eternal slumber.

There is a tradition, of making crowns for those members of the Host who have passed on to the great beyond; meant to evoke the memory of the halo they once had while living, and inlaid with precious metals and stones, the designs grow more ornate the higher up in the spheres they belonged to. Well, there are neither metals nor stones to be found in the Garden, and Crowley hasn’t had a halo for six thousand years. Aziraphale will have to make do with what he has on hand, and hope that it is enough.

Aziraphale kneels and sits beside Crowley, picking stalks of asphodel that offer themselves up to him with a gentle blow of the breeze and deftly fashions a garland out of them, the sticky pap staining his fingers. Perhaps it would have been easier to just magick a crown into existence, but Aziraphale finds that the action soothes his aching heart.

The garland finished, Aziraphale holds it gingerly in his hands and places it on Crowley’s brow. He is suddenly reminded of their time in the Dowling estate, when Warlock had made a flower crown of daises for his dear Nanny.

Warlock. What would the darling boy say, when he finds out what happened today?

There is another tradition, older still and far more personal, and Aziraphale is surprised to learn Crowley’s siblings haven’t done it yet before he arrived.

Whispering a prayer, Aziraphale selects a primary on the left wing of Crowley’s main pair and plucks it off. Then, Aziraphale brings his wings forward and plucks off a single cream–coloured primary from his own left wing, leaving in its place the feather from Crowley, effectively imping it.

Aziraphale casts a glance at the feather left in his hand, twirling it once between his fingers before placing it on the empty space in Crowley’s wing. It stands out, light against dark, as Crowley’s feather is sure to stand out on Aziraphale’s wing. Any feather would have done, custom does not dictate which one to imp, but primaries are the most visible, and Aziraphale wants the universe to know what he has lost.

Only after that does Aziraphale step away, turning to Crowley’s siblings and nodding. There isn’t anything else he can do, it is time to let others mourn.

Aziraphale would have thought Lucifer will go first, but it seems he and Michael had already decided to go at the same time. They each approach an upper wing, Lucifer on the sinister and Michael on the dexterous. The movements are calculated, timed at the exact same time, that Aziraphale sees what Crowley meant by saying Lucifer and Michael are mirror images of each other, even when using different forms. The two red primaries they each introduce easily remind Aziraphale of Crowley’s serpentine form, of the glistening red scales on his underbelly.

Gabriel is next, also on the left side, but on the lowermost pair this time. A zircon primary feather, almost golden in the light, like Crowley’s eyes and their penetrating gaze.

Uriel goes last, opposite of Gabriel’s, producing an emerald primary from her own ruffled wings.

And then she looks up.

“There’s one more wing,” she says.

Adam, Aziraphale thinks automatically. It should be Adam who offers a feather last. But Adam is human, whatever half of his parentage is. He will never be able to find the Garden, no matter how hard he tries.

They cannot send him off with an undecorated wing. There must be one more. But whose?

“I’ve got it,” Gabriel says unceremoniously. “Don’t worry.”

Gabriel makes a gesture, like he’s flexing his fingers with a turn of his wrist, and when those fingers open, there is a blue feather resting on his palm, bright as the mantle of Maryam in those medieval manuscripts.

“It’s his. From Before,” Gabriel explains. “Fell from when he ran away. I wanted to give it back to him when he returned but, well. Here,” he says, handing the feather to Aziraphale. “You should do it.”

Aziraphale nods, and walks over to the other side. The feather’s touch burns on his palm, the remnants of Crowley’s former powers still clinging to it. He places the feather in the middle of the row of primaries. Seeing it now, reunited with the rest, makes it easy for Aziraphale to imagine what his wings must have once looked like, and how losing them must have broken his heart.

“Wait,” Michael says, raising a hand. “There’s something else.”

Michael stomps their heel on the ground twice, and a staff materialises in their hand, the snake coiling itself around it betraying its identity. The Staff of Raphael, the symbol of his power that even humans inexplicably know of. It hasn’t been seen in millennia, and most of the Host had assumed the missing Archangel had taken it with him when he left to paint the cosmos with stars. Aziraphale himself thought so, too, until he found out what said Archangel has actually been up to all those years, and Crowley says (said) that he doesn’t know what happened to it after he Fell.

Michael marches forward, placing the head of the staff on the centre of Crowley’s chest, and folds Crowley’s hands over it.

“I should’ve given it back to him sooner,” Michael says simply.

“You know, it should be a sword he’s holding,” Gabriel points out.

“He’s never been one for conflict, Gabriel,” Michael replies, shaking their head.

“Never wanted to choose a side,” Lucifer adds, smiling sadly. “Unlike us.”

He is ready, at last.

Tonight, as the moon rises above the sky, they will have to start a celestial fire, holier than the holiest water, unseen since the War, since the last angel fell in that battle. And tomorrow morning, they shall scatter his ashes, that they may rejoin the Seeds of the cosmos.

A zephyr blows through the Garden once more. It must still be raining outside, as the earthy scent of newly wet mud and grass mingles with it, growing stronger by the moment.

 

They land in some unmapped part of the cosmos, as empty of stars as a blank canvas is of paint. Crowley only closes his eyes for a moment to tuck his wings away, but when he opens them again, Death has already left.

“Raphael,” a voice he’s not heard for six millennia says, clear and melodious as the first time he’s heard it.

“Almighty.” He refuses to call Her anything else. “What did you want?”

“To talk, dear one,” She replies, as She chooses this moment to manifest in a blinding light in front of him.

“Funny, because you haven’t done that in eons,” Crowley says with all the venom he can muster. “Shall I bow to you?”

The Almighty takes on a corporeal form as a blonde woman in a smart white blouse, dark striped pants and Louboutins, ageless and ethereal. Her face betrays the fact that Crowley’s words have found their mark as She says “You are My son, Raphael. We do not need to stand on such formalities. You know that.”

“That’s not my name,” Crowley hisses. “That hasn’t been my name since You took it away from me.”

“Fine. Crowley, then,” the Almighty sighs, like a single mother faced with a toddler on a tantrum. “Anthony? You weren’t very subtle with that one, I’m afraid.”

“Don’t give me that,” Crowley says, balling his hands into fists at his sides. “I am not lost, Mother. I forged my own path.”

The Almighty smiles, warm and maternal. “As you were meant to do. I gave you a choice.”

“Oh, fuck that shit,” Crowley spits out. “Where was the choice in Falling? Did you hear us, did you hear me, when I called out for you? Do you have any idea how badly Falling hurts? What it did to any of us? You abandoned us, Mother.

And fuck, he hadn’t meant to cry, but there it was, the traitorous tears snaking down his cheeks as he punches the empty space between him and his Mother.

“It was a choice,” Mother says, quickly closing in that same gap. “I freed you from the responsibilities you’ve always chaffed under.”

“I never asked to Fall. I only ever wanted to know why.”

“I know,” Mother whispers, as She takes him into Her arms with little resistance. “I’m sorry, dear one.”

“Sorry doesn’t cut it, Mother,” Crowley replies, exhausted to the core. “What happens now?”

“It is your choice, as with everything else,” Mother says simply. “Do you want to go back?”

“I have to,” Crowley says. “I can’t just leave them. And besides…”

“Oh yes, of course, that angel of yours,” Mother says, positively beaming as she claps her hands in delight. “Congratulations, by the way! I knew he’d be perfect for you as soon as I finished Creating him.”

“Mother!” Crowley whines, feeling like a fledgeling once again [3].

“Yes, dear?” Mother asks. “Where was I? Oh, right, you need to come back. Have I ever told you how I convinced him to let Yeshua return?”

Crowley shakes his head. He’s not sure if he really wants to know.

“We both know Death doesn’t do bargains,” Crowley points out anyway.

“No, he really doesn’t,” Mother agrees sagely. “But he does still owe me for that game of bezique [4]. So you know, he’ll allow it. Just this once. Or twice now, I guess.”

“What?” Crowley asks.

“Never mind, dear. You’ll get it eventually,” Mother says, studying and patting Crowley’s face as she lets go of her embrace.

“Mother, I—”

“Well, good luck, dear,” Mother says as she snaps her fingers. “We’ll see each other again. Hopefully not that soon. Oh, and remember that I’m always here for you. You’ll tell your siblings that, as well, won’t you?”

And just like that, the surface beneath Crowley’s feet vanishes. For a moment, he thinks his Fall is about to re–enact itself, but as he scrambles for purchase, he realizes the strange sensation of unconditional love enveloping him as it never did for the past six millennia, so like yet unlike the aura of love Aziraphale has always reserved for him.

It’s not Falling, but neither is it a Rising. A happy sort of midpoint, Crowley decides.

 

Crowley wakes up feeling like he’s just taken the most refreshing nap of his immortal life, and, oddly enough, also the happiest he’s been in quite a while.

The first thing he notices is the tart scent of pomegranates in the air, of the variety he hasn’t seen since the Garden. Which is also weird, because they’re not supposed to exist outside of the Garden, unless he’s somehow ended up in the Garden while sleeping.

He hazards an eyelid open. Yeah, that’s the Tree, alright.

He hears a gasp beside him, followed by a sharp “How—?”

That’s Aziraphale’s voice.

Crowley gets up, and something clatters to the ground as he does so.

That’s his staff, he realises, as it hums with power at its close proximity to him. He’d wondered what happened to it, if it was erased from existence after his Fall, or maybe something else he couldn’t think of.

As Crowley looks around him, trying to regain his bearings, he realizes that Aziraphale is staring at him with tears in his eyes, and that all of his siblings are here as well and strangely not going after each other’s throats.

Oh.

Oh.

“Tell me something,” Crowley says in a croaking voice, keeping his tone casual. “Did I fucking die?”

Aziraphale pulls him into a tight hug, knocking all the air out of his lungs.

“Crowley, dearest,” Aziraphale says through choking sobs. “You’re back.”

“Ngk,” says Crowley, awkwardly hugging back. “Can’t breathe, Angel.”

Aziraphale laughs a watery laugh at the absurdity of the situation. “Darling, you don’t need to breathe,” Aziraphale says, but loosens the hug anyway.

“True enough.” Crowley shrugs. “So, did I? Die? You never answered the question, you know.”

Gabriel makes a face. “You don’t remember.”

“Obviously,” Crowley says, but there is a vague recollection stirring in him. “Hastur?”

“Yes,” Lucifer replies, and someone, Crowley’s forgotten how terrifying his brother can be when he tries. “I’ll take care of him.”

“No,” Crowley says, raising a hand. “You won’t. I will.”

Lucifer smiles, a real one. “As you wish. I am glad you’re back, little brother.”

“We all are,” Michael agrees, mirroring Lucifer’s fond expression.

“Yes, but…” Uriel says, emerging from the shadows she’s been hiding in. “How is he back?”

“Mother,” all the siblings sigh collectively.

“I’m sorry, Angel,” Crowley says in the meantime his siblings are grumbling, running a hand through Aziraphale’s soft curls.

“You scared me, dear,” Aziraphale says, pulling away to have a good look at him. “Never do that again.”

“Fair’s fair. You did the same thing to me with the bookshop,” Crowley says. With Aziraphale’s frown, he adds “I’m not gonna leave you, Angel, not if I can help it.”

Crowley then pulls him back close, kissing Aziraphale’s temple. “I love you too much to do it on purpose, Angel,” he whispers, loud enough for only Aziraphale to hear.

“And I, you,” Aziraphale replies, basking in the warmth of freely–given affection.

Gabriel clears his throat, and Crowley and Aziraphale both blush, but do not pull away. Fuck it, he just died and came back, he can damn well have public displays of affection in front of his siblings.

“Why can’t you remember After, though?” Gabriel persists in asking.

“Maybe it’s because none of us are supposed to know what happens next?” Crowley says, frowning. “Who even knows with Mother?”

As he replies, Crowley catches sight of his family’s wings, with a very familiar set of feathers sticking out of each one. Eyes widening, he summons his own wings and inspects them.

“What did you do to my wings?” Crowley screeches, mock horrified at the mismatched feathers and clashing colours.

“You don’t like it?” Aziraphale asks, hands above Crowley’s wings hovering to pluck off the errant feathers just in case.

Crowley sends his wings back to the aether immediately. “I didn’t say that. I’ll get used to them. Anyway,” he says, doing a summoning gesture with his pointer finger. “Come over here, all of you.”

His siblings approach one by one, youngest to oldest, wrapping him in a hug. Uriel the closest and tightest, Gabriel awkward as ever, Michael and Lucifer back to sniping at each other on who should go first before agreeing they should go at the same time. Aziraphale by his side, always. It in itself may not make up for the missed six thousand years of communication, but it’s a good start.

And in that moment, surrounded by his family under the shade of the Tree of Creation, Crowley feels very, very loved.

 


 

1 Except, of course, Lucifer’s. But his brother’s rather busy trying to keep his own corporation alive to bother with him at the moment. [ return to text ]

2 Raphael would really like to have choice Words with whoever taught Gabriel the word and its meaning because his brother would not shut up about it. At all. [ return to text ]

3 Much like Lucifer, Crowley did not need a Parent’s intervention to find a life–mate, thank you very much. [ return to text ]

4 Bezique is a French card game which reached its peak popularity in the 19th century. The Almighty learned how to play, and subsequently win, a match against Death when getting side–tracked into an explanation of the game's mechanics, after Death had to fetch a soul who expired of an attack of apoplexy in the middle of a heated match. Similarly, Yeshua was grudgingly allowed to return to the land of the living after Death had lost a game of checkers against the Almighty approximately two millennia ago. [ return to text ]