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Revenge Omens

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30 Years Later...

The water was cold. 

A body floated in the old, stained porcelain bathtub. His skin was pale. Glassy, half-closed eyes were fixed on the cracked tile ceiling above. He had been there for hours now. Exactly how long was immaterial. No one would find him here. He'd made certain of that. 

On the side of the small, dingy sink lay a pristine white envelope and a single piece of cardstock with immaculate writing in a soft, blue ink:

Don't do anything foolish.
Keep making him proud.

It was the same message, roughly, that had been delivered every year on this date for the past three decades. Somehow, no matter where on Earth he was residing at the time, the message always found its way to where it needed to be. 

The sender had no way of knowing if their messages provided any semblance of comfort, but they continued to send them anyway. The recipient would never have admitted it aloud, but those words had, on numerous occasions, helped prevent him from doing something...drastic. 

After all, today was a...hard day.

The body in the bathtub stirred. Thin, delicate fingers twitched. Long, flaming red hair swirled weightlessly. Rich, golden eyes blinked and shifted. Thin lips breached the surface of the water with a breathless sigh. 

An angel drew himself from bathwater that had begun the day scalding hot - as hot as his skin could stand - and stepped out onto the dirty linoleum floor. He didn't bother reaching for a towel. He was concerned for neither modesty nor the state of the floor. He wouldn't be returning to this apartment anyway. After today's events he'd be moving on to somewhere new.

He moved about the dingy little one-bedroom, nude and dripping, collecting his meager belongings. He could have waved a hand and had them gathered in an instant, but on this day… On this day he preferred to do things the human way as much as possible. 

By the time he'd gathered everything his body had dried enough to dress. He pulled on his clothes with little emotion: white shirt, grey pantsuit, grey necktie. He'd worn almost the same thing for three decades. Handsome, yet plain, quiet, unassuming. Should've been a bit lighter, in all fairness, but he never could quite deal with wearing white. Too...angelic. And creams, well…

No. Never. He'd go full black again before going there…

He brushed out his hair, willed it to lay flat, and accepted the fact that the damp strands in the cool autumn air were going to chill him to the bone. After all, what was a little more discomfort on the anniversary of the worst day of his existence? 

He'd hoped to sneak out unnoticed, but it seemed the universe was going to play games with him today. As he made his way down several flights of stairs, small duffle bag slung over his shoulder, nearly every one of the low-rental's residents appeared to speak to him. He did his best to offer them kind words and a smile. They were only grateful to him, after all...the young woman he'd encouraged to attend a local AA group, the widower father of three he'd found a higher-paying job for, the teenage boy he'd accompanied to the authorities after he'd been beaten half to death by a homophobic classmate… They were all good people who'd been dealt terrible hands, and he'd done everything he could to help them, and to help them help themselves. He hoped it was enough. Enough for them and enough for…

He remembered the words on the cardstock: Keep making him proud.

"You're leaving, aren't you?" 

It was the teenage boy who'd figured it out - or at least been brave enough to bring it up. He gestured with the hand that wasn't in a cast toward the angel's bag. 

Long fingers tightened around the rough texture of the handle. He considered what he could say, excuses he could give, but ultimately settled for an anemic version of the truth. "Yeah. Time to move on. Got things to do elsewhere."

The boy's deep brown eyes shined with intelligence and a maturity well beyond his years. He gauged the older man carefully, curiously. He took note of the way the man's fingers clenched and relaxed methodically, of how tired he looked. He examined the way the man's soft smile didn't reach his eyes, and how he seemed to be struggling to withhold a full-body tremor. 

"You're not okay," the boy eventually decided, and the angel swallowed hard at the choice of words. 

Not 'there's something wrong' or 'you look unwell'. No…he'd settled on 'you're not okay'. How poignant. How heartbreakingly observant. 

"Is there anything I can do to help?" the boy asked, though the sadness on his features seemed to suggest he already knew the answer. "I...I want to help." Sincerity. He was a good boy. 

The angel's smile changed to something more real, more honest, and significantly more painful to look upon. He reached out with his free hand and ruffled it gently through the boy's hair, sending almost imperceptible sparks of warmth and appreciation. "You can help me by becoming the kind of lawyer you dream of being and making sure assholes like the one who did this to you never get away with it ever again." 

The boy cracked a smile, but it was one of somber resignation. "Will do," he promised. 

The angel considered the boy a moment longer. Then he nodded once and, saying nothing more, walked away. 

It was a long walk, but he needed it. He needed the cool autumn air on his face, and the distractions of the city life around him. Getting to his destination was always...well, definitely not the hardest part, but it was always difficult to convince himself to go through with it if he allowed himself to think on it too much. 

It was rush-hour when he reached Soho. 

He kept his eyes forward as he worked through the busy streets, trying not to take notice of all that had changed, nor those things that had remained the same. A few curious looks turned his way - people who recognized him but couldn't quite place where from. One or two of them may have genuinely remembered him, but he was careful not to make eye contact. He knew there were a few people here - long-time shopkeepers and residents - who'd managed to piece together that he showed up here, on this street, once a year on the same day every time. None of them had yet questioned him about it directly, and for that he was infinitely grateful. He could lie, of course, but it didn't seem right. He couldn't lie about anything when it came to…

He was here. 

He gazed at the corner building like it was a sleeping beast he was terrified to awaken. In a way, it was. This building, this hibernated. Nestled among the surrounding city life, it lay at rest, forever awaiting the one who had loved it so dearly. As the angel pressed a trembling hand to one of the pillars that framed the entrance, he could almost feel the building breathing, leaning into his touch, sharing in his pain. 

No one saw the man with the grey suit and lovely red hair enter the old bookshop. Nearly three decades prior the angel had made certain that no other being would ever set foot in this shop again. Human gazes washed over it, as if hypnotised, compelled to move away, forgetting the sight of it the moment their eyes strayed. Demons dared not approach, for the powerful blessings that were performed on the structure yearly, without fail. Angels stayed away partly due to threats that had been made should they dare, partly out of complete indifference for the building's importance. 

So he entered alone, unseen, and no one was there to witness when the jaunty jingle of the bell over the door caused a rush of hot tears to stream down the Archangel Crowley's grief-stricken face.

Crowley howled with rage. 

He pulled at shackles bound tight about his wrists - yanked and ripped and twisted at them until his skin cracked, split, and bled. He beat his wings madly and screamed wordless, incoherent fury at the room around him. Demanding answers. Demanding an explanation. Demanding someone fucking well fix this...this…

When he began he may have been screaming at the other angels. They, after all, had been the ones to chain him like this after he'd been forcibly yanked up to Heaven and dropped there like a discarded mutt. He'd been confused, dizzy, and desperate to get back to Aziraphale, and he vaguely recalled being hit rather hard in the back of the head after catching sight of Gabriel and punching him right in his stupid fucking face. 

But now, having been subdued and left in this room while the angels worked out what to do with him, he found that his rage was being redirected at Her. 

Because he could feel her. For the first time in thousands of years, he could feel, her grace, her power...and it felt more like damnation than Falling ever had because he couldn't feel Az-

"How could you let this happen?!" he cried up to the ceiling, voice raw and hoarse. "He's the only angel in your whole blessed flock that's worth a damn! How could you let him Fall?! Especially when-?" 

He dropped to his knees and glared through wet eyes at the expanse of white feathers that drooped to the floor on either side of him. "Why the fuck would I Rise?" he whispered, almost to himself. "Why would I Rise and he Fall? It makes no fucking sense…" 

"Your guess is as good as ours."

Crowley whirled with a snarl on his lips, indifferent to the way the shackles ripped at his skin and became slick with blood.

The angel who had appeared before him was one with whom Crowley was unfamiliar. They were small, delicate, and feminine in appearance, with skin the color of the richest caramel. Their body was draped in silky white robes similar to an Indian sari and adorned with silver and gold embellishments. The garb was lovely, but was pale and paltry when compared to the angel's breathtakingly beautiful face. 

It was difficult to describe - difficult to even look at, if truth were told - but some combination of melted-chocolate hair and eyes, with lips of which men and women both could only dream, created a visage that was almost too beautiful to bear. 

"Who the fuck are you?" Crowley growled, even as his eyes were drawn down, away from direct contact with the angel's unbearably sublime countenance. 

"Phanuel," they replied without hesitation, arms crossed elegantly across a slightly-pronounced chest. "And before we go any further, I want you to know that I requested to be the one to come speak with you."

Thousands of years worth of instinct told Crowley to suggest the angel step into a pillar of hellfire, but a spark of curiosity and a desperation for information had him gritting his teeth. "Why?"

Phanuel approached with softly swaying hips in a way that suggested both caution and an intent to imply camaraderie. They carefully came to a stop well outside of Crowley's grasp, but close enough to make the conversation feel more intimate. "I understand you must be incredibly confused, and that your emotions are running high." 

Crowley sneered, but somehow Phanuel's lovely face and gentle voice took the sarcastic retort from his throat. Some kind of angelic power was being employed, he was certain, but for the moment he was in no position to combat it. 

"I wanted you to know," Phanuel continued with something that nearly resembled a smile, "that not all of the angels of Heaven were anxious for the War. Indeed, many of us were extremely grateful to Aziraphale and yourself for working so hard to thwart it." The curve of lips that may or may not have been a smile disappeared as Phanuel's hands linked delicately across silky folds of white and gold. "There will always be those of us like Gabriel and Michael who see only side of things, but there are just as many of us who had no desire to once again take arms against those who had been our brothers and sisters. 

To make a long story short, I want you to understand that, while you may not feel like it at this moment, I am an ally, and I want to help you."

A snarl ripped up from deep in Crowley's throat while treacherously white wings flapped in agitation behind him. "You're right, I don't feel like it," he growled. "Why don't you just cut the bullshit and explain what the fuck is going on?"

To their credit, Phanuel didn't so much as twitch at Crowley's generous use of profanity. There was, however, an infinitesimal droop in their shoulders. "The God's honest truth-" Their right hand was raised to drive the words even further home. "-is that we have absolutely no idea. Top brass have been scrambling to get some kind of information, but as near as we can tell there were no official orders for Aziraphale's Fall, which is obviously disturbing given there hasn't been a Fallen angel since The Fall. Just as disturbing is the fact that we can find no official orders for your Rise, nor an explanation of how it occurred, as there's never been any indication to any of us that a Risen demon was even possible."

Time seemed to have ground to a halt. He'd already worked it out himself, of course, but to hear it said so casually by an angel… 

"I can't have Risen," Crowley hissed, though it came out as more of a disturbed whimper. 

Phanuel's eyes were understanding, but their words were firm. "There is no shortage of angels out there right now saying the same thing, but I assure you that you have. While we may not understand it, we cannot deny it. You've been returned to the Heavenly host. Your grace has been restored and so too shall be your angelic name of-"

"Crowley," the Risen demon growled, and the venom in his voice left no room for argument. "My fucking name is Anthony J. Crowley. It's the name I chose and it's the name I'll use until I decide to change it."

Phanuel's eyebrows twitched upward. They considered Crowley for a long time as he stared back with cold, stubborn, unblinking eyes. Finally, there was a small inclination of their head. "Very well. I'll ensure that the official records are amended." 

There was a snap of fingers. Crowley nearly stumbled, having been pulling against his binds to glare at the angel, but he managed to catch himself. He held Phanuel's eye suspiciously while rubbing at his torn wrists. 

Phanuel did not smile, but the sincerity in their words would have been evident to the most paranoid of celestial beings. "Welcome back to Heaven, Archangel Crowley."

The use of the honorarium had Crowley flinching. "I don't give two shits about Heaven," he snapped, though less savagely than before. "All I want is to find Aziraphale. I can't leave him down-"

The change in Phanuel's face was minuscule. Hardly even noticeable by human standards. Even a particularly observant angel may not have picked up on it. But Crowley saw. Crowley saw and felt a distinct and terrifying shift in the fabric of the universe. Before his conscious was even able to compute the sudden visceral change in his perception of existence, his body had begun to tremble. 

"I'm very sorry, Crowley." Phanuel's voice was horribly, overwhelmingly gentle. "We...we contacted Hell as soon as we discovered what had happened, but…"

Crowley's knees struck the floor hard enough to crack the bones of his human corporation. Violent spikes of hormone-induced pain shot through his legs, but they were like the buzzing of mosquitoes compared to the anguish that was clawing its way up his chest and into his throat. 

" seems they were rather unwilling to...welcome...the angel who helped stop the Apocalypse…"

He could hear Phanuel's words, but they were a soft whisper being spoken at the end of a long tunnel. His heart, beating much harder and louder than it had any right to, worked to drown out the angel's voice. 

"...I am very sorry."

There had never before been such a sound in all of Heaven as the scream that was heard then by every angel that resided on the holy plane. Never before had so many angels trembled at once, their essences struck through with the sound of true agony, true misery, true suffering. Angels who had buried their emotions millenia ago suddenly curled in upon themselves in pain, desperate to banish the violent, unconstrained swell of pure grief. 

He had no idea how he'd gotten there, but Crowley stared down at Phanuel with his shaking hands fisted in their lovely robes, pinning them to the floor. Small wet blotches appeared on their caramel skin as they looked back up at him with nothing but sympathy. 

"You're lying." It should have been a furious roar, a demand for the truth. Instead it was a pathetic plea, a timid whimper, begging for the claim to be a falsehood, some horrible, sadistic joke. 

Phanuel's hand slowly rose to lay itself, ever-so-gently, on top of one of Crowley's trembling fists. "You're an Archangel again," they breathed, soft and quiet. "Your reach should be significantly greater now. Can you feel him?"

It wasn't meant to be cruel, but the question felt like a knife twisting in the center of Crowley's being. His fists loosened from Phanuel's robes as the blow to his heart seemed to push him back physically. Phanuel's hand on his tightened just a bit at his reaction. 

"Let us be thorough," they suggested, and raised their other hand. 

The flash was like a small star exploding in his eyes, the crash of thunder like a hundred mountains crumbling, and suddenly he was enveloped in the scent of dust and books. It made him gasp like a drowning man breaking through the water's surface. He fell backward as Phanuel stood and offered him a hand. He didn't take it. He felt like the smell of the bookshop was pressing in on him, smothering him, because the most important facet of the oh-so-familiar scent was missing. 

The celestial presence that defined was gone. Gone as though it had never been. 

Crowley couldn't breathe. Couldn't think. Couldn't speak. He could almost feel the flames licking at his body as the bookshop burned around him. Had he ever really even left the burning shop? Had everything since then been a cruel dream? A monstrous trick to make him believe he'd gotten his angel back only to have him ripped away all over again? 

"I can't-" he gasped, fingers scrabbling at hollow chest. "I can't-!"

It was unclear how long he spent on the floor of the shop, arms around knees that were curled in against his shattered heart. The passage of time meant nothing. Existence meant nothing…

Phanuel's fingers on his chin burned. They carefully lifted his head to examine his eyes and saw that the light had gone out of them. They sighed, a sound that was far too empathetic for the majority of angels. 

"I've seen this look before," they said kindly. "I saw it in the eyes of many angels who lost their precious ones in the first War, and I know what it means." They carefully lowered their knees to the burnished hardwood floor and let their hand fall to Crowley's shoulder, flexing the fingers just enough to let the other know they were there. "I know what you're considering, Crowley. I know, and I don't blame you, and I won't stop you if that's the path you choose to take. But-" The fingers squeezed again, amicable and pleading. "-I implore you to reconsider. I urge you to think of what he would have wanted. I'm sure Aziraphale wouldn't have wanted you to-"

Fury. Cold, inexpressible, apoplectic wrath. Without intending to move Crowley found his fingers wrapped around Phanuel's throat, squeezing, squeezing , until his nails were sunk deep into the flesh. Hot tears were streaming down his face. "Don't you dare fucking speak about what Aziraphale would have wanted." The name caught in his throat and his fingers squeezed harder. "Don't you fucking dare!"

Phanuel stared, unblinking, unbreathing, unconcerned for the state of their corporation. Their windpipe was crushed, so they projected the following words directly into Crowley's mind, as tenderly as they could manage: I don't. I don't presume. But you, who knew him should. 

A hard swallow. A shudder. "He'd want… He'd want…" 

Crowley's fingers fell from the angel's ruined throat as an anguished wail ripped through his body. 

His hands and head pressed to the floor as the shocks wracked through his celestial core, heavy sobs shaking his body, the whole of the cruelty of the universe as She'd created it pressing in on him from every angle. Without care for the angel who stood and bore witness to his pain, the Risen demon wept and wept, while the bricks and mortar, books and memories that surrounded him offered no tiny reprieve to his incalculable agony.

Crowley moved through the bookshop like a ghost, fingers feathering the spines of tomes that hadn't been read in three decades. He felt the heart of the books reaching out for his touch, desperate to have him, to keep him. He longed to give them that care, that comfort, hurt too much. 

The Archangel had performed innumerable blessings and miracles in the years since his Rise, but the greatest magnitude of celestial energy he spent occurred once for every rotation of the Earth around the sun. The spells he cast, the power he sacrificed, kept the precious bookshop protected in its own little pocket of time and space. It existed now as it had then, never aging, never changing. Not pristine, no, for it had never been pristine. His angel wouldn't have loved it so much if it had been. No, Crowley kept the beloved space pleasantly dusty, bewilderingly organized, delightfully cluttered. Exactly as its owner had last left it. 

Effectively invisible to humans. Deadly to demons. Untouched. Safe. He would keep the bookshop safe. 

A fist curled around the lip of a shelf. A breath caught. A memory of love and laughter, as vibrant and real and painful as ever it had been. 

He would keep the bookshop safe.

Hours passed surrounded by heartbreak. The ghost who was an Archangel haunted the stacks, the backroom, the cellar, the upstairs flat. He whispered blessings and prayers. He pressed his celestial power into the structure and pressed tear-drenched kisses to cherished belongings. By the time the sun was deep in the sky the shop was protected for another year and the Archangel Crowley was weak with overexertion and dispondance. 

He needed to rest. Needed a place to lay and recuperate. But he couldn't - wouldn't - stay here overnight. He'd tried that only once, the first time, that first year, and the heartbreak of laying in the angel's bed, surrounded by the smell of his cologne, had nearly destroyed what little sanity was left within him. 

He gathered his bag and headed toward the door, thinking that perhaps he'd catch a taxi directly to the airport and do his best to rest on the flight to Korea that had just had a seat miraculously open up. 

Despite almost unmanageable fatigue, Crowley's golden eyes lit with divine fury when the shop's door opened and a shadowed figure walked in without hesitation. He dropped his bag and lifted his hands, unsure what he was going to do, only knowing that the other would regret their indiscretion. 

"Stand down, Crowley," Phanuel ordered. 

Crowley's eyes narrowed. His stance did not change. "You do not command me, Phanuel," he snapped. "And you know the consequences of setting foot in this shop. Not even you are exempt in this." 

The corners of Phanuel's mouth turned down. They heaved a heavy sigh as they smoothed down the folds of their soft purple pantsuit. "I am well aware, Crowley," they assured him, "and believe me when I say that I would not have come here, especially on this day, if it weren't of great importance."

Crowley's anger at the intrusion did not abate, but for what they had done for him in the past he waved a hand to allow Phanuel to speak. 

"We need to move fast," they told him, the set of their jaw the only thing betraying their concern. "And I knew you would be most displeased with me if I didn't bring you on board with this one. 

The Angel Slayer has been spotted."