"God does not play games with the universe."
Yeah fucking right.
It was a cool autumn morning, and a peculiar pair - a demon and an angel, both rogue agents, 'traitors' to their particular causes - were walking down the street together to a certain A. Z. Fell's bookshop.
The angel's - Aziraphale's - hands were full. In one hand, he carried a box, containing a number of small, sweet pastries from the lovely café he and his partner had just finished breakfast at. They were a treat for later - though, not much later, seeing how they just looked far too delicious for him to resist.
The only reason he wasn't currently munching on one as he walked was because his other hand was occupied with holding the free hand of the demon, Crowley, walking beside him. Crowley's other hand was less busy than any of the other three in question, simply resting in a pocket of his tight trousers.
The front door shut quietly behind them as they stepped inside the bookshop, chatting about the morning behind and the day ahead.
"I almost want to head straight back there already!" Aziraphale chuckled. "Oh, the waffles, dear, they were darn near divine!"
Crowley smirked. "Angel, I was there, if you recall. I think I might've been able to tell that they were good based on all your little 'oh, this is really tasty' noises."
"Well, yes..." Aziraphale paused as he set down the box on a nearby table. "...But they were really tasty, I just can't understate that! Perfect, I might even say!"
Crowley pouted exaggeratedly for a second at that. "Never called me perfect before. You like those waffles more than me, eh?"
It was a joking tease, evident from the amused look on Crowley's face, but the angel reassured him anyway, kissing his cheek. "Of course not, darling. I just thought it was obvious enough that you're perfect that it didn't warrant saying out loud. There's nothing I could love more than you."
"And..." Crowley draped his arms around Aziraphale and pulled him closer. "Nothing more than you, either, love."
They were allowed a brief moment to share a kiss before being rudely interrupted by the ring of Crowley's phone in his pocket. He rolled his eyes at the sound (the most generic ringtone possible, for the nuisance factor) and quickly tapped ignore on the call. An unknown number? Expecting him to answer? In this day and age? Not likely.
"Was somebody telephoning you just now?" Aziraphale asked, glancing at the demon's pocket. "Who could that have been?"
"Oh, nobody." Crowley responded. "Nobody worth talking to, 's just gonna be someone asking if I'm getting the best deal on my energy bills or something."
"...You don't pay energy bills."
"Exactly. Not worth talking to."
No sooner than Crowley had spoken, his phone rang again, showing the same unspecified caller, and he denied them yet again with a huff.
"Persistent today, aren't we?" he tutted.
The phone sounded off yet again, and this time, Crowley had barely enough time to put the thing away again before it did. And this time, no ringtone was heard, just the voice on the other end coming through regardless of the lack of answering.
"What on earth is the point of being able to be contacted at any time if we simply have to do things the sort of old-fashioned way?!" a demonic voice snapped.
Crowley's face dropped. "Oh no."
"Oh no?" Aziraphale repeated.
"-only bloody functioning electronic device within your vicinity, where even could you be-" the voice continued to ramble.
Crowley looked to Aziraphale with a grimace. "Hell."
"-first day here at this job and I get to call upon the elusive Crawley, yay me, I know you scared everybody and all, but that doesn't give you an excuse to make my job harder, I'm having a shitty day as is, and you don't scare me, you bastard, you're not better than any of us-"
Crowley answered the call and set it to speaker before they really flipped their lid. "Crowley speaking. Good for you, great to hear there's still someone who's gonna be a challenge to scare after the... the bath thing. Love to give it a try sometime. Um, am I still not on a 'do not call' list down there then?"
The phone went dead silent for a few seconds, then the voice spoke again, far more timidly than before. "...Uh... I... you heard all of... I meant to make it ring again, not-"
"S'alright, people've said worse to me. Just get on with it."
"R-right." The young demon cleared their throat. "Lord Beelzebub has ordered your attendance to a meeting with them immediately."
Crowley's already cold serpentine blood ran even colder. "Wh... what for?"
"They didn't specify. Something big, it seems. And they want you there now."
"...And if I don't want to go? Can't really touch me, can you?"
"We don't know what the punishment will be if you don't turn up, either, considering the... water incident... but we've been assured it'll be worse than attending. So, there's that to keep in mind."
"And if I'm busy?"
"Then be not busy."
"Sounds like an empty threat to me."
"Well... you can believe what you want. None of my business. I'm just delivering the message. Definitely wouldn't recommend skiving though."
"Right," Crowley sighed. "Okay, alright, duly noted."
"Don't keep them waiting, Crawley."
And with that, the phone went silent again.
"You- mph, little cheeky bugger."
"Well," Aziraphale, having heard the entire conversation, piped up. "That's... alarming."
"You're telling me." Crowley frowned. "Ugh, what do they want with me? Months of silence and all of a sudden Beelzebub themself wants an audience with me again."
"You're going now, I presume?" the angel responded with an equally concerned expression.
"Seems like I don't have a choice. But... something smells fishy about it, angel."
"Hmm, yes, I'm certainly not liking this. Oh," Aziraphale took Crowley's hands in his own and kissed them, squeezing them tightly. "Crowley, dear, do be careful, won't you?"
"'Course I will. Oi, love, in case anything happens to me-"
"Oh, perish the thought. But... if so, I'll make sure to raise hell about it." Aziraphale answered with a smile. "Or... heaven. Or both!"
Crowley couldn't suppress a smile of his own. "I was gonna say I want you to know how much I love you, but that works too."
"Ah. Yes, of course. And I love you too, dearest. Immensely."
With a few more moments, one more kiss, and a "Wish me luck!", Crowley had disappeared, on his way down to his old workplace, and Aziraphale had sat down with a book to try and keep his mind off his partner's current predicament.
And very shortly after, someone arrived at the bookshop, disregarding the 'closed' sign, and entered.
It had been some time since Crowley had last been to Hell. Longer still since he himself had actually been there, and not just Aziraphale wearing his visage while he was off in heaven doing the reverse. The place hadn't changed at all in those few months. Still as dim and dank and dingy as ever. Messy, and crowded, and full of the worst folks around.
The throng of demons parted nervously as Crowley made his way through the hallways to Beelzebub's throne room, the lights overhead flickering intermittently. The anxious looks on the other demons' faces upon seeing him served to calm his own worries, if only slightly. It was easier to act the part of the immeasurably powerful demon who was immune to holy water when everyone else already believed him to be exactly that.
This is fine, he convinced himself, so that it might possibly be true. This... is okay. In much the same manner, and with the same intensity, that he made himself believe his car was functional just months prior, he kept believing that everything was going to be just fine. Perhaps his imagination would even work again.
He kept the thought running through his mind all the way up until he stood before Beelzebub, where it quickly disappeared as they spoke and brought him back into the moment.
"So, you actually came."
Crowley nodded in their direction, as nonchalantly as possible. "Alright, Beelzy?"
"No need for the pleasantriezzz, Crowley, let's get straight to it." Their voice held the same cold, unimpressed authority as it always did. On the other hand, their position in their seat was stiff and guarded - still slouching, but noticably off from the lazy way they usually sat.
"Yeah, alright. So, uh, what's the deal, then? Bringing me down here? Thought you wouldn't wanna see me back here after... y'know, last time."
"Yes, well, we don't want to see you here, but there's newzzz, and we've all decided it would be better to tell you on our own turf."
"Whatever you say." Crowley shrugged. "What's the news?"
Beelzebub got straight to it. "It's clear to all of us in Hell, especially after your dealings with the antichrist, that none of us here are all that fond of you,"
"And it would appear the feeling izzz mutual. Am I wrong?"
Crowley paused for a second. "To be honest... nah, mate. Spot on."
"Good to hear. Well then, here's some good news for you." They went silent, leaving him in suspense as they sat up and leaned forward. "For the first time ever, Heaven says they're taking a Fallen angel back in. That being you."
Those few words were enough to leave Crowley speechless, dumbstruck. Beelzebub continued, to try and hasten his processing of the new information.
"You're officially an angel again."
"Um," Aziraphale called out into the nearly-empty shop. "Shop's closed right now, I'm afraid! I'm not sure if you saw the sign, but you'll have to come back later! Goodbye!" He felt rather silly for not having locked the door. Then again, his hands had been full, and his mind was preoccupied.
"Oh, I'm not here as a customer." an all-too familiar voice called back, its source heading closer to the angel.
He knew exactly who it was.
Gabriel stepped into view, his hands clasped together, and his gaze met Aziraphale's own displeased one.
"Aziraphale." he greeted simply, with a synthetic, strained smile.
"Gabriel." Aziraphale closed his book and set it aside. "I wasn't expecting guests today."
"And I wasn't expecting to be a guest. But," Gabriel shrugged. "Business demands it."
Business. As if Aziraphale hadn't wanted the conversation to be over quick enough.
"Right. How are things in heaven, then? Good? Fantastic. What are you doing in my home?"
The archangel was unprepared for Aziraphale's curtness, but managed to keep his surprised reaction to a minimum, just a twitch and a deep breath as he readied himself to speak again.
Gabriel's smile faded to a put-on frown. "I hate to be the bearer of bad news, Aziraphale, but we've received word that you're, uh... well, to put it simply... you're officially Fallen."
"Wh..." Crowley never was excellent with his words. "What if I don't wanna be an angel again?"
"Tough luck. It's been decided already." Beelzebub answered simply.
"The- you- there's- no, there's no way. I stepped out of line, I'm, y'know, unforgivable."
"Evidently, there is a way. Congratulations, forgiveness found. As of today, you're dismissed of your demonic duties. Now," They slouched back again with a hint of a sneer on their face. "Get out before you stink the place out with goodness. Ugh."
The concept almost refused to set in for Crowley. He stood, stunned, yellow eyes fixed on nothing as Beelzebub's words echoed in his head.
Beelzebub spoke up again to bring his attention back. "Do I need to remind you of the way out?"
Crowley shook his head. "N-no. No, I'll... see myself out."
Without another word between them, he turned and left. The short walk to exit Hell felt as though it stretched out into hours as his thoughts filled with fog and confusion, a thousand questions hitting him at once.
Why? And why now? Was this because of the averted apocalypse? He would've thought the reaction would be quicker than the gap of months between then and now if that were the case. What's he done for this? Thousands and thousands of years as a demon, and now... now what? He's just supposed to take up his old role up above again like millennia hasn't passed since before his Fall? What in the fuck?
Before he knew it, he was back up the escalator, stepping off it. He took a second, now free from the stuffy, oppressive environment down below, to take a deep breath. He had to calm himself down. He had to get a grip.
In. Out. In. Out. Breaths he didn't really need to take, but did anyway - they did help with the agitation in his corporeal body, at least somewhat.
He tried to focus on the definite positives to the situation, rather than the potential negatives. Hey, he had another thing in common with Aziraphale again! And he didn't have to work (Well, neither he nor Aziraphale did much work for either side lately - they did still do plenty of blessings and damnings and the like, just more that they carried out on their own terms and less that they were ordered to do - but still.) alongside all the gloomy bastards down there anymore!
Shit, this was a free pass to work closely with Aziraphale - even if they'd 'worked' as closely as they could do for the past few months without regard for any consequences, and actually worked together - fairly closely, considering who they were - for centuries. And-!
His thoughts were cut off by the sound of someone clearing their throat from the top of the other set of escalators. The ones that went up from his current position, that he now knew he'd be climbing soon enough. He turned to face them, and-
"Demo- mmph, Crowley?" They gestured behind them. "Gabriel will be back soon to welcome you to your new position. Or, rather, your old one, I suppose. Head on up, if you would."
Now there's a definite negative. Every other bloody angel.
"I... um..." Aziraphale stuttered. "I'm sorry, I don't quite understand."
Gabriel sighed. "The Almighty's seen fit to... fire you, so to speak. You're being kicked out of Heaven, and deprived of your angel status."
Aziraphale frowned, his brow furrowed. "Wh... No, no, that can't be right... What could I have done to bring this about?"
"We..." The archangel seemed to think hard for a second. "...Can't be too sure, but if I had to guess? It probably has something to do with the whole... 'having a hand in stopping armageddon' thing."
"Well, that definitely can't be right, that was months ago!" Aziraphale protested. "Surely She would've reprimanded me sooner than this, were that the case. And what about... you know, the cancelling of the apocalypse being part of the ineffable plan? If that weren't meant to happen, She... She wouldn't've let it, would she?"
Gabriel shrugged. "God works in mysterious ways, Aziraphale. Her decisions are Her decisions."
Silence hung between them as Aziraphale digested Gabriel's news, almost saying something, and almost saying something again. Any words he came up with got caught in his throat, though, tightening it, choking him, silencing themselves.
Thousands of years spent being afraid of Falling came rushing back to him in an instant. Of course, of course this would happen just after he'd managed to shake that very fear. Yes, he and Crowley were no longer loyal to either side, just themselves, but it was a shock to the system. Words he thought he'd worked hard enough not to hear, an announcement he'd avoided for so long.
He couldn't be sure whether he would've preferred to have the news broken to him long ago or right now. For an Aziraphale of years past, it would've been confirmation that he wasn't good enough, that, careful as he was, he just couldn't reach Heaven's standards. And - though he hadn't yet considered it - for the Aziraphale now, it was a slap in the face, a declaration that all his elaborate efforts to work with Crowley while keeping things the same as always were all for nought.
He was so sure he'd be able to deal with the news better, but it was really the one thing he'd been afraid of most, all this time.
The one thing... alongside...
His eyes blew wide open, and his already-fidgeting hands shook.
"Wait!" he exclaimed. "Um... Cr-Crowley..."
"Your demon buddy? What about him?" Gabriel asked dismissively.
"He was here, just now, um..."
"Yes, I thought it smelled particularly evil in here today. Though, I guess that could be down to the new..." The archangel gestured up and down Aziraphale's form. "Essence, that you're getting. Your new job. All tha-"
"He was summoned away by Hell for something just a moment before you arrived. Is he..." Aziraphale interrupted, urging the conversation back on track. He swallowed hard, too anxious to voice his greatest worries. "Does this have something to do with that? Is- is he alright?"
Gabriel looked around, disinterested. "Hard to say. That's Hell's dealings, not ours."
The answer did nothing at all to assure Aziraphale.
"Anyway!" Gabriel clapped his hands together. "Just came down to let you know. Oh, and, uh, by the way, you've got until the end of the day to finish up any business you've got upstairs, collect any of your things you've still got there, anything like that. Gonna have to close the gates on you after that."
Aziraphale's nails dug into the flesh of his hands with how tight his fretful grip became.
"Well," Gabriel continued, unconcerned with Aziraphale responding. "This is goodbye, I suppose."
Without waiting another second, he turned to exit, and Aziraphale was left alone, trembling.
His body almost felt numb enough from the flurry of confusion within him that he almost didn't notice a tingle running up his spine moments later. It began as a tingle, and escalated. A tingle, a light burn, a searing burn, pain.
He felt his wings burst forth through it all, and caught the reflection of them in a nearby mirror. Flames sprouted from the spot where they connected to his back, and licked outwards across his snowy white feathers. As they spread, they turned darker, darker, until they were entirely black as pitch, and the flames snuffed themselves out on the very tips of the wings.
Then suddenly, when the fire dissipated, he felt, rather than saw, the area of floor below him open up and pull him into emptiness.
And then he was Falling.