The name is a whisper. Hardly more than a breath; and it slips out, a careful caress between split, bloody lips.
Aziraphale has him by the arm, and Crowley’s vision flares white as his broken wrist bends.
Aziraphale has yet to speak, though it’s unlikely Crowley could hear much of anything over the ringing in his ears. Beneath him, sparkling marble is slipping away entirely too quickly. They’ve passed Heaven’s gate. Beyond it is a white marble path, and beyond that, a ledge. Beneath, lies void space. Earth - and then Hell, lie an unfathomable distance below the emptiness.
He won’t survive the fall a second time. Not bound as he is, wings bent and broken at his back.
Aziraphale’s fingers are a brutal pressure around his skin.
And it’s not Aziraphale’s touch. It’s not. But Crowley knows those hands, is intimately familiar with the soft, barely there callus on the inside of his angel’s thumb, of the cool pressure of his rounded, manicured nails. This is not Aziraphale, but Crowley grounds himself in what he recognizes in his touch.
The edge is nearing, and reality is tightening like a rope round Crowley’s neck. Aziraphale’s grip is firm, and Crowley is spent. He can’t fight. Not even if he wanted to.
“Angel,” Crowley says, a hoarse whisper. “Remember yourself. Remember me.”
Aziraphale’s marching steps carry on. Cold marble bites at Crowley’s skin.
He’s hauled up, lifted by hard hands. For a moment, everything spins. The courtyard, the glowing gate, the angel holding him by the lapels of his jacket, dangling him like a wet rag atop the edge.
And then Aziraphale’s icy, unblinking eyes occupy the entirety of his vision.
“You’re gonna do it,” Crowley breathes, and the realization is a heavy sinking thing. He feels it in his very core.
Shuddering, he strains to snap the bonds around his wrists. He can’t - he knows he can’t break free of Aziraphale’s hold, but he’d like to touch him one last time. It seems entirely too cruel that he can’t.
But the ropes hold firm, and Crowley, panting, licks his lips as he stares into the face of the being he loves most in the entirety of the universe.
He should be terrified. Or angry. But there’s only one thought, circling, a remorseless mantra in his mind.
This will destroy Aziraphale.
Demons do not pray. At least, not to God.
At this point, however, Crowley is beyond caring. And he isn’t entirely sure whom he is addressing when he frantically, desperately prays: If - when Aziraphale comes back to himself, please, please let him forget he’s done this.
“It’s time, Aziraphale.”
Gabriel’s voice is hard, pressing. Not an inch is left for argument.
There isn’t, of course, even the slightest risk of argument. Not from Aziraphale as he is now.
Crowley shudders as Aziraphale lifts him up. The tips of his shoes slip off the edge.
Blinking stinging blood from his eyes, Crowley squints, seeking any sign - any hint of the angel, his kind, clever angel in that emotionless face.
If he’s there, Crowley can’t find him, and for Crowley, this is a reality more devastating than that of his impending fall.
He hiccups, blood dribbling over his lips and chin, and wonders if someday Aziraphale will wake up, remember himself, and have this last image of Crowley seared like a cruel brand in his brain.
It is an agonizing thought, and dangling over the edge of space, the demon seeks to remedy it in the only way he knows how.
Relaxing into Aziraphale’s iron grip, he parts his lips, smiling the smile he’s only ever worn for Aziraphale.
“Hey. Hey. S’really not that bad,” Crowley croaks, nodding to his shoulder and back at his wings. “I’ve had worse. Probably.”
Frigid, icy wind gusts up from the void space below, and it burns with the sharp bite of nothingness as it crawls up his back, playing with the back of his blazer.
Aziraphale’s expression is slack, empty.
Behind him, Crowley can make out Gabriel’s hulking figure. His arm is raised, and Crowley knows what his next order will be.
Holding those cool blue eyes, Crowley hisses, hurried, frantic, “Not your fault angel, please. It’s not your fault and I don’t blame you. You know I would’ve done anything for you. Anything. This is okay - it’s -”
The angel’s grip slackens and Crowley jerks, slipping down.
“-angel,” Crowley gasps, “you’re the best thing that has happened to me. In all my life - my long existence. And I don’t regret it. Not one single thing. Aziraphale, I love-”
Aziraphale makes a startled noise, low in his throat, and he blinks, lashes fluttering.
And Crowley catches a glimpse, just a flash of Aziraphale, his Aziraphale in those wide, watery eyes, but it’s enough. It’s enough -
“Aziraphale!” Gabriel barks.
Aziraphale’s fingers reflexively release.
And Crowley falls.
Time is strange.
After the almost apocalypse, they had a year. A year’s worth of walks in the park, of white table-clothed dinners; a year of waking up together, soft sunlight slipping between the curtains, warming twisted sheets and tangled limbs.
In terms of time, it is nothing. Compared to six thousand, a single year is the space of a single breath. A blink. A heartbeat.
And yet, it was everything.
Happiness was suddenly more than a word, more than an idea Crowley conceptually understood. In that year, happiness had crept up on Crowley, crawling up and inside of him, taking up permanent residence within the curve of his ribs. It felt good.
He’d known - of course he’d known, in the bittersweet way that one does, that all good things must eventually come to an end. But he was a demon, after all, and as such, he was more than willing to resort to duplicitous deeds and trickery to steal more time for themselves when the inevitable end came. Though he had expected that inevitable end to be many, many more years yet in coming.
A year really is no time at all.
Crowley wasn’t ready. He’d had no time to prepare.
How could he?
Everything had been wonderful. Unimaginably perfect.
And he’d had no idea of the signs he should be on the lookout for. He couldn’t possibly have known.
One week before Crowley fell, before his wings were broken, before he and Aziraphale once more found themselves bathed in Heaven’s oppressively white light - it had been, looking from the outside in, an unremarkable morning.
Crowley, face-down in bed, his legs tangled in blankets and head buried in pillows, wakes to the sound of shifting and shuffling.
Blinking the bleariness from his vision, Crowley pulls his head free of the pillows.
Aziraphale is puttering around the room, lifting piles of books, checking beneath and around them, setting them back, then turning to lift and look beneath another.
Squinting against the bright morning light, Crowley asks, “What are you doing, angel?”
Or rather, he tries to.
The sound that escapes his lips sounds something more like: “wha’ryou’doin’gel?”
Aziraphale does, of course, understand.
Hands on his hips, he huffs a frustrated breath. “I’ve lost the Babylonian Merchant’s Journal. The one I was studying. Just yesterday.”
Wiggling up, Crowley perches his elbows on the pillows. “You lost a book?” he teases, closing his eyes as the sun falls over his back. “When was the last time you did that?”
“I have never lost a book, my dear. This one, it’s just…misplaced.”
“Where did you have it last?” Crowley mumbles, sinking down into the pillows.
“That just the thing - I can’t remember!”
Crowley squints an eye open. “I do. You were reading it after dinner. With a cup of tea, in the kitchen. Was when I was slithering around the rafters, scaring away your rats.”
Looking triumphant, Aziraphale snaps his fingers, and the book appears in his palm.
“Thank you, dear. I don’t know how I forgot.”
“Don’t see why you couldn’t just miracle it in the first place.”
At that, Aziraphale manages to look more than a bit embarrassed. “You see, I couldn’t seem to imagine it clearly, and you know how badly a summoning can go if you don’t have a clear picture.”
“This is a sign,” Crowley says, with all of the solemnity he can muster.
“You should hold off on reading and join me in bed,” Crowley says, rolling over to make room. “Promise to make it worth your while.”
Aziraphale, looks up from his book, eyes flashing mischievously in the morning light.
“Oh you do?”
“Have I ever not?”
“Yes, a very good point.”
At which point, the book is set aside and Aziraphale’s difficulty finding it forgotten.
At least, until two days later, when Crowley and Aziraphale are on their weekly phone call with Adam and Anathema and Newt, and the angel comes to the abrupt and uncomfortable realization that he’s forgotten their human friends’ faces and names.