For him, it begins like this: a bright, warm light, sharp and overwhelming enough that it would kill a mortal being, though that is yet no matter because those have not been created. It gradually fades into something softer, more comforting. And then he sees Her.
She is the same as him, noncorporeal but there, but She is so much greater than him in every conceivable way and he recognizes this immediately. She says, in a language unknown and without a mouth to speak from, “Hello, dear one.”
He just blinks at Her, unsure how to speak yet himself. She reaches out without hands and holds him. “Your name is Raphael,” She tells him, speaking it into existence, “and you are my child.”
It’s then Raphael knows how to feel. He is overwhelmed with love and adoration and gratitude and he is crying without tears and She is still holding him without arms, loving him right back.
“When I create the humans, you will guard them,” God tells him.
“When will you?” Raphael asks. “Create them, I mean.”
She is beside him, directing him as to where and how to create the galaxies in this brand new universe. From his fingertips Messier 83, as it will be known many millennia later, is born, its spirals occupying previously empty space. He examines his work, pleased with himself and his creation.
“Soon,” God says, which could mean anywhere from twelve hours to twelve thousand years, for all Raphael knows. Time has no real meaning yet, his lifespan being eternal and all.
He nods absently for a second before Her words catch up with him. He looks away from the new galaxy and to Her. “Wait, what will I be guarding them from?”
“Many things.” She sounds as she often does with Raphael lately, as if speaking to a curious child—which, he supposes, he is, but it makes him feel as if She thinks he’s too simple and naive to really understand what She’s doing. “The world will not be as our own home is. There will be trials to face. Dangerous beasts and natural obstacles to overcome.”
“What? Why?” Raphael feels shaken at the idea of God creating harmful things. Everything She’s made before has been beautiful and peaceful. “Why couldn’t it be like Heaven?”
She looks at him evenly, silently. As if trying to stay patient with him. Finally, she asks, “If the world was like Heaven, what would be their motivation to join us in the place itself after their spirits have outlived their bodies?”
Death. Before this moment, Raphael hadn’t even known it could happen. God had spoken the idea of death into existence just then, and the images She places in his mind to accompany the concept horrify him. There’s no way for him to hide his feelings about it from Her.
“I want to go home,” Raphael says. She just keeps looking at him with that same unmoved expression. “Please.”
In the space of a blink, he is back in Heaven, alone.
Raphael turns to face Lucifer as he approaches, mildly surprised to see him. His hands remain on a primary feather of the principality he’s healing, the bone underneath it losing its bruise under his touch. “Brother,” he says in return. “You’re back from the stars.”
Lucifer grins at him before kissing Raphael’s forehead in greeting. “Yes. I grew tired of trying to compete with your own beautiful work out there.”
Raphael just smiles at him, looking back at the principality. “Be more careful,” he tells her. “Always be sure to tuck your wings in close if you’re going through doorways.”
“I will,” she promises, obviously slightly embarrassed. “Thank you, Raphael.” She takes his hand and squeezes it. Raphael squeezes back and lets go she can do the same with Lucifer, as angels always do in farewell. Instead, she just looks at his brother strangely before turning and walking off.
Raphael watches her go, confused and almost alarmed, but when he looks at Lucifer he seems entirely unbothered. Instead of pointing it out, Raphael asks him, “How are you?”
It’s only then the expression on Lucifer’s face wavers, but he quickly eases into another smile. “Fine,” he lies. Raphael simply raises an eyebrow and Lucifer sighs, caught out. “Alright,” he concedes. “There is something going on.” He looks around quickly before leaning in close. Hushedly, he says, “I’m going to speak with Her today.”
Raphael’s soul suddenly feels as if its dropped to the soles of his feet. He doesn’t need to ask what Lucifer is talking about; he knows well enough the thoughts his brother has been harboring lately—doubt, an ache for free will. Answers.
God made the two of them two sides of the same coin. Gabriel, Michael, Joel, and Uriel are all their siblings as well, but Raphael and Lucifer are closer than the others. Created within moments of each other, they’ve been attached at the hip since. Filling the universe with big, bright galaxies side by side.
So of course Raphael was the person Lucifer told when he started thinking, saying things Raphael wouldn’t dare voice himself. No one else knew about Lucifer’s ideas, but that didn’t seem to stop them from finding him off-putting.
“You can’t,” Raphael says sharply, and Lucifer shushes him, slapping a hand over his mouth to keep him from shouting. Raphael shoves it off, repeating, softer this time, “You can’t, Lucifer. She’ll never agree with your demands.”
The archangel laughs incredulously. “My demands, you say! My demands to, what, be treated as an individual, instead of another piece in her ethereal puzzle? To be treated as an equal? Is that such a stretch?”
Raphael can feel the lowercase “her” like a bolt of lightning. “We aren’t equals,” he argues. “That’s the point! She gave us our very existence, brother, She’s almighty!”
“Who’s to say we aren’t also almighty?” Lucifer commands. “We filled this universe on our own. With our own power. I won’t let her take credit for that.” Lucifer moves away from him decidedly, and Raphael aches with despair. There’s no telling what She will do to Lucifer once he gives voice to these surely wicked thoughts. No angel has ever been punished before.
“Please,” Raphael begs him. “Don’t.”
“I’ll see you later, Raphael,” Lucifer said, ignoring his plea. “I wish you’d join me—I know as well as you that you share my opinions.”
Raphael couldn’t deny it even if he wanted to. He is many things, but he is not a liar. Instead, he keeps his mouth shut and watches as Lucifer spreads his wings and takes off towards his own downfall.
It’s only once his brother is out of sight does Raphael allow himself to cry for him.
After Lucifer is cast out of Heaven, everything goes to hell.
It’s a civil war. Angels siding with Lucifer, having heard his unrighteous words, his spitting anger at God for denying him the right to his own thoughts and person, as they’ve held the same mindset in bitter silence for too long. They gather in swarms and Gabriel, Michael, Uriel, and Joel gather armies to fight them off.
It’s unlike anything that’s ever happened. Angels being cut down and then they’re tripping out of Heaven, wings burning up as they spiral downwards into an unknown evil.
And Raphael is just there, empty. His brother, his other half, is gone. He goes to where his other brothers and sisters stand guarding the door God sits behind, not participating in the bloodshed She is causing. They begin to hand him a sword so that he can join the efforts, but he pushes it away, walking past them and entering God’s hiding place.
“Are you not going to stop this?” Raphael asks, and he sounds defeated. He already knows the answer.
God looks at him, knowing. Always so knowing. “Lucifer made his choice.”
“You’re going to let all of your creations die for his choice?”
She just sits there and waits, face as neutral as always, so Raphael barrels on, “Why couldn’t you just let him be his own?”
“Stop asking questions, Raphael,” God warns, her tone dangerous, frustrated. “You always ask too many questions.”
“I have the right to ask questions!” he shouts. “I’m not a machine!”
“You have only the right to what I allow you, and I am not allowing you this anymore. You question me, doubt me. Do not go so far as to disobey me.” She is awesome in the worst way, overpowering—glowing in Her divine fury.
Raphael stands across from Her. He hears the clash of weapons from outside, the groans and screams as angels destroy each other. God stares at him. She is nothing like the mother who called him dear one and held him as he sobbed with the sheer amount of love and joy he contained for Her and all of Her creations. It’s knowing this that lets Raphael makes his decision.
“Why shouldn’t I?”
She explodes with Her rage, and the brightness of it burns his skin, his wings, his very soul. That part of him he was born with—the knowledge and feeling of her love, what made him ethereal—goes up in smoke. The floor opens up from under his feet, and he is falling, falling, falling.
When he hits the ash-blackened ground, Lucifer is waiting for him.
“I saw you trip on out,” Lucifer says, casual as anything as he stands over him with his hands behind his back. “Alright, brother?”
He can’t answer yet. It hurts so much to exist that he feels he might die. His very self has been ripped from him and he is nothing. He can’t even see—everything’s a blurry grey haze, Lucifer blending in with the dark everything that makes up this place. He tilts his head to the side and for a moment he experiences pure panic when he can’t see his wings. He throws his arm out, grasping, and moans in relief when he feels them, pressed underneath and around him. Black as this new world, impossible to discern from the ground.
“Brother?” Lucifer repeats, and he can only groan in response. He’s being pulled up from his sprawled position on the ground into a sitting position by familiar arms. The jostling clears his head a little more and Lucifer comes into sharper view. His familiar short cropped hair, broad shoulders, crystal blue eyes. But when he sees his wings, he lets out a shocked gasp.
There are no feathers, as if they burnt off, only the bones left. They are a horrible sight, an angry, mottled dark red—like burnt flesh. Lucifer ignores his reaction and hugs him close.
“It’s alright. See? We’re still here, and we got what we wanted. We’re on our own.” And he can only think this isn’t what I wanted, I never wanted to lose Her, or myself. Is this what you planned? What you wanted?
Lucifer just pets his hair, shushing him. “Come now. It’s all going to be okay now, Raph—”
“No,” he says, his voice rough and aching. “Don’t call me that. Not anymore. I am not who I was.”
As if to pacify him, Lucifer just holds him tighter. “Alright, alright. What do you want me to call you then?”
“Nothing,” he spits, angry at Lucifer, God, and himself all at once. Then, almost immediately drained, he slumps into his brother’s arms. “I don’t know,” he amends, softer. “I don’t know who I am anymore.”
“You will,” Lucifer assures. “You get to be whatever you want.” He appreciates the sentiment, he does, but right now his very essence has a hole that’s been carved into it. He feels as if someone’s dug their hands in and pulled everything meaningful out. He can’t bring himself to be excited about any future that’s without the love and light that’s been stolen from him.
He can’t bother to voice a reply. Lucifer keeps running a hand over his hair soothingly. They sit like that for a long time.
There is a world, blue and brown and green, and God has put humans on it, in a fortified paradise containing a forbidden tree. Word trickles down into Hell, as this place is called now, and Satan, as Lucifer is called now, summons him upon hearing it.
He says to Crawly, as he is called now, from his place on a throne of licking red flames, “Go to Earth. Do what you were created to do. Protect the humans from the greatest threat of all—a lack of knowledge.” What he means, Crawly knows, is raise hell, sabotage her work.
In their time here, Satan has gained a real mean streak, but Crawly has not. And so with everyone else, Satan is unrepentantly, openly cruel, and with Crawly, he sugarcoats like he wants Hell to be swarmed by ants. One could suppose it’s bias, and they would most likely be right. But, as Satan’s heart grows smaller and colder, Crawly is almost sure that it might just be because he’s the only person in all of Hell that could match him in terms of power, as they were bred from the exact same stock, and he just wants to keep Crawly from becoming aggravated enough to do something that could cause him serious problems.
Crawly does what he’s told. He goes to Earth and it’s—beautiful, almost a slice of Heaven, almost enough to reopen old, scarred over wounds. He keeps to his noncorporeal, occult form until he’s close enough to the ground to see something slithering from underneath a large, overcast leaf, and he is so delighted and fascinated with it that he shifts himself into something with much the same look, except much bigger and about six feet longer.
He’s still noncorporeal but he carries on in that appearance while he does recon (maybe the humans won’t notice his more translucent nature), slithering around as the creature did. It doesn’t take him too long to find them. They’re familiar yet different, as God appears but tweaked in various ways. Angels also looked similar, with some differences, such as wings, level of luminescence, or number of eyes.
Crawly expected them to be a little bigger, though. They’re quite small. He watches as the man gathers fruit from bushes, cradling his spoils in a leaf. The woman lays against a rock, her eyes closed. They’re completely bare and don’t seem to mind so much, which Crawly can’t help but be disgusted by. As a demon, he supposes he should commend the lack of modesty, but these beings have bizarrely shaped parts that he would rather not see.
After hours of watching them, the sun is dipping low in the sky, and the man rouses the woman so that she may move with him into a more comfortable position on a pile of leaves, and then there isn’t much to see besides their rising and falling chests and occasional turning. He abandons the form he’s taken and goes back to Hell to report what he’s observed—which is to say, nothing interesting. He honestly expected more from God’s treasured new creation, and he feels a little let down.
When he describes the solid form that all creatures of Earth take, Satan has one made for him. Before sending him off again, Satan says, “There is a tree that God doesn’t want them eating from.”
“I saw it,” Crawly says. “It isn’t all that exciting. Just as any other tree in the garden, but this one is isolated, and its fruit is differently shaped than the rest. Nothing spectacular.”
“It’s forbidden,” Satan emphasizes. “So it must be spectacular. God doesn’t want them to eat from it, so you need to make sure they do.”
Crawly doesn’t really see the point. It honestly feels petty. But he agrees, and when he returns to Earth, he takes the serpentine form again, this time solid and real as anything else in the garden, and begins to whisper in the woman’s ear.
Crawly watches the humans move further and further away from Eden, himself still unmoving from where he stands underneath Aziraphale’s wing. “This is for the best, you know,” Crawly tells him. “They can choose for themselves whether to be good now.”
Aziraphale pointedly doesn’t respond. They watch until Adam and Eve are just a speck in the distance, only the holy flames cascading off Aziraphale’s gifted sword visible. Then Crawly turns to look at his angelic counterpart.
He’s different than the rest. Crawly knows how angels are now, hearing from the more recently fallen how they’ve changed. They’re no longer the open, warm beings of love they were when he was among them—they are all assigned to something or other, keeping out of each others’ hair like their very existences depended on it. Their friendliness has become surface level and unwelcoming.
Aziraphale, though, cares. He cares like anything, and Crawly supposes that’s why he was chosen for this position. He cares enough to give away his God-given sword even though he’s not so sure it’s what God wanted him to do. Angels never doubt their goodness; they consider themselves and their actions, whatever they are, to be righteous, see themselves as the magnet in the universe’s moral compass. This angel, in Crawly’s opinion, is nothing less than a breath of fresh air he doesn’t technically need to inhale but delights in nevertheless.
“I suppose I should follow them,” Aziraphale murmurs. “Watch them, keep them as safe as I can and all that. Gabriel is especially irritated that I’ve failed to keep them in Eden, so he’s had me assigned here indefinitely.”
Crawly can’t help the twitch of a smile that occurs on his face, as he has also been assigned here indefinitely because of his rousing success at the first ever temptation. Satan expects many, many more now, and Crawly doesn’t even mind. He hates staying in Hell, even Satan knows that. Earth almost makes his job feel like a vacation.
He doesn’t tell Aziraphale any of that, though. Instead, he motions towards the direction the two humans wandered off, and says, “Lead the way, then.”