Looking back, the other shoe was bound to drop eventually. He just hadn't expected it to happen so soon.
The demon known as Crowley had spent hundreds of human lifetimes knowing, deep down in what passed for his heart, that he had no right to anything as pure as happiness. For all his bluster and talk of "sauntering vaguely" the plain and painful truth was this: he was Fallen. How he'd come to that point hardly mattered. It all came down to simple facts: he had been expelled from Heaven, cut off from God's grace, and was a damned, miserable thing that did not deserve even the most pathetic spark of joy. From the moment his battered, broken form contacted boiling sulfur for the first time, he'd believed, deep in the blackened husk of his soul, in this one irrefutable truth.
Aziraphale had made him consider otherwise.
Sweet, angelic Aziraphale, who had been on Earth with Crowley since the Beginning. Hereditary enemies, designed to hate and destroy one another, and yet… Aziraphale was different from other angels. The Principality had looked at Crowley, had seen the demonic presence burning all around him, and instead of smiting, he'd smiled.
It may not have happened immediately - and certainly there had been more than a few bumps in the road - but as the two traversed the whole of human history, bumping into one another with greater and greater frequency as the ages went on, they had become friends. By the time the Apocalypse was well and truly cancelled, they'd become something...more. Crowley wasn't entirely certain what that something was, but…
"You look so serious, my dear! Is the wine not to your liking? I could miracle us up some scotch! Though, I'm feeling a bit tipsy, so it might materialize as a rather questionable moonshine."
Aziraphale burst into a series of giggles that soon had him setting down his own glass for fear of making a mess of himself. Even in the throes of drunkenness, the angel had enough presence of mind to protect his precious clothes.
Crowley took in the scene before him and felt something in his chest shift. It was a lovely, mild night in St James park. There was a large, tartan-print blanket spread out on the most comfortable bit of grass, and a picnic basket that miraculously never ran empty of Aziraphale's favorite treats. A thought from Crowley kept any wandering humans (or ducks) at a distance, and a particularly naughty move from the angel (performed some time after the third bottle of wine) had a temporary power outage in the area taking care of the light pollution of the city. The moon was full and the stars were particularly gorgeous. It was, quite possibly, the most perfect night Crowley had ever experienced in his long existence.
What truly made it perfect, however, was the angel himself, sitting mere inches away from the demon. The angel with his soft corporation and cheerful face, cheeks pink from overindulgence. The angel with his stodgy, stuffy clothes, immaculately preserved despite being nearly two hundred years old. The angel with his fluffy, cloud-like hair, his bright, sky-blue eyes, and a smile that made humans feel warm and happy for just being in his presence.
The angel, Aziraphale, who was Crowley's oldest, dearest friend and the only thing that made his existence worth living.
"Wine's fine, angel," Crowley insisted with a soft smile. "Just thinking is all."
Aziraphale's giggles had tapered off, so he lifted his glass again and took another generous drink. His 'tipsiness' (call a spade a spade; the angel was nearer to soused than anything else) had the demon's smile expanding. "Nothing too gloomy, I hope," the angel mock-scolded. "I'll be rather cross if you let yourself get all contem-...contom-...comtem-...?...all mopey, when we're having such a lovely evening." He tipped his glass again and glanced at Crowley out of the corner of his eye. The crooked little smile on his lips made the thing in Crowley's chest flutter again.
"No, angel, nothing gloomy, I promise," said Crowley as he ran a finger along the rim of his own glass. "I was actually just thinking, you know…" He allowed himself a pause and a breath, and used the moment to remove his sunglasses and set them down on the blanket beside the growing collection of empty wine bottles. "I was thinking that, now that the Apocalypse has been shut down and we're on Our Side and all...there's something I'd really like to try. Something I've been wanting to try for a really long time, in fact. And I suppose I'm hoping that you'll indulge me."
If Aziraphale had any inkling as to what Crowley was thinking he didn't let on. He did, however, place his glass down again and shift his body so that he was sitting more comfortably, facing the demon. The breeze made his white curls bounce playfully about his head. His smile was positively infused with all the beauty of Heaven and Earth combined. "I would be more than happy to help you out, my dear!" he said, and Crowley could hear the sincerity in his voice. "As you say, we're on Our Side now, and I want nothing more than to indulge my dearest…"
Friend. That should have been the end to Aziraphale's sentence, but he didn't say the word and gave no indication that he'd ever intended to say the word. Therefore, the somewhat-more intimate feel of the sentence had Crowley leaning forward, hopeful.
"It's just that-" The demon scooted closer, straightened up a bit so that his serpentine eyes captured the angel's Heavenly blue ones. "I don't know if you- That is, I feel like I've been pretty damned obvious, but- And maybe this isn't really the time, I know, but it's been on my mind a lot lately and-"
Aziraphale had leaned closer. His smile had gone from the kind one adopts while in the more pleasant stages of drunkenness to something much more knowing, much more expectant and even excited. It was possible he'd sobered up a bit while Crowley was stumbling through his fractured thought process.
"Crowley, dearest." His voice was barely a whisper, yet it had a commanding nature to it that choked off Crowley's rambling right at the source. "I understand," he said, then added, "and I most definitely think that this is the time." He reached forward, slow and gentle, and placed one warm, soft hand on Crowley's knee. "I think you've waited quite long enough, don't you?"
The something in Crowley's chest wiggled and leapt. Every demonic instinct in him tried to fight back at once, working to pull him away, to do or say something to destroy the moment. It was like a living, writhing thing, squeezing him around the throat and hissing into his ear: You don't dessserve thisss...don't you even dare think for a moment that you dessserve thisss…You’re a demon, a wretched, disgusssting, evil thing, and that’sss all you’ll ever be...
But for the first time since he'd Fallen, Crowley looked that writhing, poisoned thing square in the eye and told it, quite soundly, to Fuck Right Off.
As his long, trembling fingers reached out to caress Aziraphale's cheek, the demon told himself, stubbornly: I do deserve this. I do.
The angel's lips tasted of all things sweet and kind in the world and was everything Crowley had ever dreamt of in the course of six thousand years. The stars in the night sky were dim and lacklustre compared to the stars that burst into life within the demon's heart as his angel's hands found their way to Crowley's arms, shoulders, up into his hair. This kiss could have given birth to an entirely new Universe, and the demon wouldn't have been the least bit surprised. It was everything, everything he'd ever wanted, would ever want, could ever need.
Anthony J. Crowley, demon of Hell, tempter of the Original Sin, Serpent of Eden, was happy .
His eyes had fluttered closed -
How disgustingly romantic... I really have gone native…
- so the little gasp seemed, at first, to certainly be a pleasant sound. Aziraphale had kissed back, had tangled his fingers in the demon's hair and lovingly stroked the back of Crowley's neck, so the gasp was surely a wonderful noise, a desperate little intake of air after having the breath thoroughly knocked from his lungs by a magical moment.
But then the angel's fingers clenched the lapels of Crowley's jacket, tight enough to be worrisome, and that one little gasp became a series of gasps that, together, sounded an awful lot like panic.
Crowley opened his eyes and felt the heart he'd been certain was burning beautifully in his chest crumble to dust in an instant.
Aziraphale's bright blue eyes gazed back at him, wide and filled with fear and pain as a thick, black substance oozed from them to stream like rotted blood down his pale cheeks. "Crowley…?" His lips barely moved to speak the name. His voice was a terrified plea. His entire body was trembling.
Crowley's hysteria was a visceral thing. It coiled around his heart and lungs, dug it's fangs into his throat and ripped him apart without a second thought. His shaking hands scrambled to hold onto his angel, desperately grabbing at his beloved coat, fingers curling into the fabric so forcefully he heard it tear. "No!" the stricken wail escaped him. "No, no, no! This can't-! Please-! Please, no!"
Aziraphale tried to speak, but a gruesome scream was pulled from his lips instead as his wings were forcibly ripped into the Earthly plane. Feathers flew about them like a snow storm, torn from their homes in the violence of the moment, and as they fell to the picnic blanket around them each one burst into an individual pillar of flame.
Crowley's vision swam before him. It couldn't be, it couldn't ! He threw himself at Aziraphale, wrapping long, strong arms around the angel, holding him as close as they could possibly get. "I won't let you go!" he cried over the hissing of the little flashes of flame all around them. "Aziraphale, I swear, I won't let you go!" He could feel the angel's body heaving beneath his grasp as sobs wracked him.
"Why?" Aziraphale wept, tears mixing with ichor to spill disgusting black stains down the angel's pale skin. "I d-don't understand! P-please, Crowley-!"
"I won't let you go!" the demon screamed. He could feel the heat now, rising up through the ground beneath them. Sulfur filled his nose and sparked against his skin. The flames from the burning feathers crept closer, threatening to devour them both whole. "They can't have you!" he bellowed, fangs bared, face drenched in tears. "I won't let them have you!"
There was a pull, a drag, a horrible, heartless force working to separate them, and they clung together tighter, sobbing unrestrained into each other's shoulders. Aziraphale's fingers scrambled for purchase on Crowley's jacket, frantic to hold on. "C-Crowley," he cried, body far too hot, throat burning from the inside. "Crowley, I n-need to t-tell you-!"
Crowley drove his head into the angel's shoulder and screamed, loud and long and infused with enough rage to raze entire cities to the ground. "No!" he growled, though there was a wail buried beneath the sound. "You don't have to say anything because they can't have you! They can't fucking have you!"
At the apex of his howl of fury, a pillar of light sprang to life around them, and for half a heartbeat Crowley felt hope rise up in his shattered heart. They've come! he thought, mind hysterical with the desperation of it. They've come to save him!
Then, disbelievingly, he felt the pull, the inexorable upward drag at his own body, and all hope was burned away to nothing but soot.
The ground beneath them shook, cracked, and split. Whips of flame licked out, snapping at Aziraphale's body, wrapping around his arms and legs, drawing screams of fear and agony as they scorched through his beloved jacket. Crowley held firm, dug his fingers into the angel's soft flesh, screamed out his defiance to the indifferent world around them that cruelly continued to turn, unaffected. Yet no matter how he screamed and clutched and begged to anyone -
- who would listen to make it stop -
Please! Please, he doesn't deserve this, please make it stop!
- the pull dragged them apart inch by inch, until only their trembling, grasping hands held them together. Tears spilled to the Earth beneath them, sizzling as they hit the scorched land.
"I love you, Crowley!" Aziraphale sobbed. "Please, remember that I love you!"
The sound that was wrenched free of the demon's throat could have made the most heartless of men weep. "I love you, Aziraphale!" he cried.
Flames burst up like a burning tsunami to snatch the angel, body and soul. Blinding light wrapped around the demon’s body, smothering him, dragging him away from the one thing that meant anything to him. Crowley screamed until his throat was raw, clutching to Aziraphale's hands as if they were life itself, until the opposing forces ripped them from one another and the two celestial beings were thrown, hurtling - crying out for one another - in opposite directions.