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Like a River Flows

Chapter Text

 


Shall I stay?
Would it be a sin
If I can't help
falling in love with you?


 

 

I.

 

            He stood upon the Eastern Gate, the white wing of an angel arced over his head as the first rain began to fall from the heavens above, whetting the appetite of the rolling desert below. Together, they watched the humans pad away, their hands clasped, and Crawley wondered how that felt. He’d never held another’s hand. He’d only just barely had hands at all.

            He glanced over at the angel, whose blue eyes were riveted on the mistakes he may or may not have made. Crawley knew it didn’t matter now; what was done was done. They no longer had the ability to go back to yesterday, not the way they could have done before yesterday existed. Before all of this existed.

            Side by side, they stood until the humans had long disappeared into the distance, until the rain slacked and the clouds parted and the angel tipped his wing to shake off the excess water. Crawley’s robes were damp at the bottom and his feet were reptile-cold against the hewn stone. They hadn’t said a word since Crawley’s last attempt at a joke, and he was desperate to make up for it.

            “Thank you,” he said quietly, drawing the angel’s attention. At the confused look he received, he lifted his own wings and gestured to the angel’s. “For… worrying. I guess it wasn’t holy water, eh?”

            The angel looked appalled at the prospect, as though it hadn’t occurred to him. “You stayed, when you thought it might have been?”

            Crawley shrugged and could not meet the angel’s eyes. “There are worssse thingsss than not exssisssting.” He didn’t admit that he’d gone through them first hand, but he thought maybe they were worth it.

            The angel stared hard at him, emotions Crawley didn’t have names for yet warring in his expression. He wasn’t sure he liked the one it settled on, felt it like a sword blade to his throat, like hellfire in his gut. “You shouldn’t be so careless with your life, Crawley. Even if you are a demon.”

            A long-forgotten feeling rattled under Crawley’s ribs like a bird, threatening to stop his heart. He forced a grin with too many teeth and not enough truth. “Aw, are you concerned about me? Be careful, angel, I might just fall in love...”

            The angel pursed his lips and spread his wings. “As if a demon could,” he said, and the bird in Crawley’s chest fell still in pain. “I have to go make my report. I suggest you don’t linger.”

            Crawley did, petulantly. He lingered another hour, two, staring stubbornly out over the sands. He would need to go back soon as well, to give his own reports, but no one expected him to work quickly. He was fairly certain no one really expected him to work at all.

            “Crawley,” said a fine, soft voice from behind him, and Crawley stiffened taut. Lucifer.

            “Yes, my Lord?” Crawley answered, tense and high. He’d done his job, or he thought he had, but he could feel the worry that he’d done the right thing zinging under his skin.

            “You did well with the humans,” Lucifer said, silky and heated, like the pour of liquid iron.

            “Thank you, my Lord,” Crawley bit out, not daring to turn around.

            “But...” Lucifer continued thoughtfully, “you shouldn’t talk to angels. We left them a long time ago. You do still remember, don’t you? What they did to us? How they hurt us?”

            “Yes, my Lord,” Crawley answered, swallowing thickly at the searing, phantom pain that streaked down his wings. The landing had not been gentle. The recovery afterward even less so.

            “I cannot have you falling in love with one of them,” Lucifer told him. Crawley didn’t argue that it was a joke. He was not sure Lucifer would understand jokes. Crawley had only recently invented them, but he thought they were going to be big someday. “Turn around.”

            Crawley desperately gulped in one more long look over the sands, one more moment before he had to face his punishment, and then he turned to look upon Lucifer. The fallen angel was still scarred from his own Fall, skin dyed red from the blood he’d shed, his halo warped and broken where it sat upon his head like a crown. His claws were out but his wings were not, and Crawley thought maybe there was hope yet.

            Then Lucifer reached for him, clawed hands settling to either side of his jaw, dark eyes catching his and holding them steady as he repeated himself. “I will not have you love an angel, Crawley.”

            “Would it be so bad?” Crawley mumbled, pressing a cheek to Lucifer’s warm palm. There was a reason so many had followed him, once. Even here, even knowing he could be destroyed by the Fallen One in the very next instant, Crawley wanted to do well for him. Wanted to prove himself worthy of Lucifer’s attention and care.

            “I’ll ensure it will be,” Lucifer promised, his soft, sweet tone at odds with the threat. “I will not allow you to love another above me. If you speak of love to him, if you act upon it, I will take it from you. Do you understand?”

            The way She took love away from you? Crawley thought, but he didn’t say it. He didn’t need to. “I understand, my Lord.”

            “Good.” Lucifer’s hands dropped away, and Crawley was released from his gaze. “Then go after the humans, now. Stir trouble for them, where they settle.”

            Crawley nearly answered, but Lucifer had already gone. Instead, Crawley let out a raspy breath and turned his back on the garden. The sands were warm and damp from the first rain, cutting their usual heated shimmer away from them. Somewhere in the distance, out of sight now, walked Adam and Eve, toward the soft curve of the horizon. Crawley spread his midnight wings under the noon sun, and took to the sky to follow in their footsteps like a shadow.