At his creation, Aziraphale was made to be a warrior. He was created for a sword in his hand to be an extension of his being. He was granted ingrained skill and assigned a platoon of 42 angels to train and command.
While he may have been made to be a warrior, and was a fighter of flawless technique and incredible skill, Aziraphale never wanted to be a warrior. He had no passion for the fight. But it was his duty, and Aziraphale was nothing of not obedient.
Crawley was surprise when he first noticed the signet ring on the angel’s right pinky. He had taken Aziraphale’s hand and examined the crest.
“You? They gave you a command? You couldn’t even hang on to your sword!”
“It wasn’t my only sword,” Aziraphale replies defensively, snatching his hand back, “that one was only for special assignments, anyway. It wasn’t really for day-to-day use.”
Crawley arched an eyebrow, as if giving away your formal sword assigned to you by the Almighty Herself was somehow better.
While he may not have been gifted with a fighting spirit, Aziraphale did have a lust, as it were, for knowledge. He spent some of his copious amounts of time on Earth seeking out humans who had developed and mastered different sword fighting techniques and absorbed their knowledge like a divine sponge. If it was a blade, Aziraphale could master it.
More often than not, the critiques Aziraphale received from these human sword masters was something along the lines of “technically flawless, but with no passion”.
Once a century, Aziraphale was called back to heaven for a centennial inspection and training of his platoon. Most heavenly warriors hated these times. They were filled with nothing but mindless drills and holier-than-thou commanding officers yelling about needing to be prepared for Armageddon.
The Platoon of the Eastern Gate was the exception. They loved their commander and they loved their training time. Unlike the mindless drills of the other platoons, Aziraphale brought back the new styles and techniques, and adapted them for angelic fighting.
Aziraphale was an excellent teacher. He believed that any weakness could be a strength and worked with each of his soldiers to find their weaknesses and hone them. No two warriors in the Platoon of the Eastern Gate fought the same way and as such, they had a very rag tag appearance from the outside, but they had yet to lose a match or exercise against any other heavenly troop.
Aziraphale has even begun to teach Crawley how to fight.
“Now I am pretty sure you are supposed to be smiting me, not improving my defensive abilities” the demon tried to argue.
But the angel ignored his protests, “It’s hardly angelic to fight something that can’t defend itself.”
Crowley, like Aziraphale, had no passion for fighting. He was a slitherer outer, with his first choice to talk his way out of a situation, and failing that run. Crowley only resorted to a physical fight when backed into a corner.
He also, to Aziraphale’s surprise and confusion, had no weapon. Almost every heavenly body was issued a celestial weapon to be used at Armageddon. If an angel fell, their weapon fell with them, becoming twisted and broken into something demonic. Crowley slithered out of answering any questions on the matter. The most Aziraphale was able to guess over the centuries was that Crowley’s weapon was his will, which was stronger than any will he had ever felt, and that if he had a role to play in Armageddon would not be on the battlefield.
When first given a sword, it was obvious to Aziraphale within a matter of minutes, that no matter how much training, the demon would never be a master of the sword. His lithe, lanky body and serpentine spine made it nearly impossible to have proper form. Like with all of his warriors, Aziraphale was determined to turn the supposed weakness into a strength.
“You need to fight like a snake. Keep on the defensive until you see the moment, then strike fast and hard, and back to the defensive.” Crowley was nothing if not fast, and this technique served him well in the few fights he found himself in. At least well enough to keep himself from being discorporated.
If Crowley and Aziraphale were together when Aziraphale received the call for the centennial trainings, he couldn’t help but question it.
“I mean, honestly Angel, why are you lot even bothering with all this? Don’t you know that hell is just going to go barreling into Armageddon all spit and rage and hope that they’ll come out on top?”
“Yes, and that is precisely why your side will lose.” Aziraphale replied, regarding the demon over a glass from their second, or was it third, or maybe fourth, bottle of wine they had been sharing.
Crowley had what could only be described as a love/hate relationship with these celestial training exercises.
The love was easy and selfish.
After each meeting, Aziraphale never failed to come to Crowley. No matter where he was or what he was doing, every one hundred years Crowley felt that little spark of heavenly energy and Aziraphale would be there. Sometimes at his front door, sometimes on the barstool next to him. Once he even appeared in the middle of a temptation, which Aziraphale finished off quite quickly in a manner that could not be described as either subtle nor angelic.
It was the one time in all their millennia together that Crowley was guaranteed the presence of the angel.
But he hated it too. Because of how Aziraphale came to him. Miserable and broken. He could practically see the droop in the angel’s tucked away wings.
Every century it was the same. The Platoon of the Eastern Gate out preformed everyone, yet somehow the powers that be manipulated the situation so that they did not receive the recognition they deserved.
No matter how many times the rules were changed and the proverbial goal posts were moved, Aziraphale refused to recognize that they were only being moved against him and his platoon.
Crowley had learned early on to bite his tongue on his opinions on the whole situation and just focus on propping Aziraphale back up. The process usually took about a month of eating, drinking, talking, and whatever activities stuck Aziraphale’s fancy, with Crowley handling any assignments came from Above or Below.
In the case of one particularly bad incident, it took almost a full year for him to get back on his feet.
“Six of them!” He repeatedly retold Crowley, “I single handily fought off six of the Archangel Michael’s personal guards. At once! Her guards are supposed to be the best, but they’ve gotten so sloppy over the centuries. I finally break through and I have almost reached her and....and...” it broke Crowley’s heart with each retelling to see the hurt and confusion in the angel’s eyes, “and they just called a halt to the whole thing. The exercises were nowhere near over. I just don’t understand. Why would they do that?”
Crowley merely shrugged, holding back every part of himself that wanted to shout “Because you were seconds away from engaging what is supposed to be Heaven’s greatest warrior in battle and you would have defeated her without even breaking a sweat!”
Crowley often wondered whether heaven knew what they had with Aziraphale and chose to ignore it, or were if they just that blind. Either way they were an idiotic lot. If they put Aziraphale in charge of training more than just his 42 angels, Hell wouldn’t stand a chance, they might as well wave the white flag and save themselves carnage.
Crowley thought of this while in Aziraphale’s form, tied to a chair, glowering at the archangels who chose to be present.
No. They were absolute idiots, with no idea what they had. HAD had Crowley corrected himself. He had to fight the smile that threatened to creep on to Aziraphale’s face. Heaven lost its greatest asset yesterday and they had no idea. They had lost their greatest asset to him.
He managed to contain the smile to a small half smirk. They were lucky he wasn’t Aziraphale and didn’t have Aziraphale’s skills. The guard just outside the door had a sword, and Sandalphon was carrying a dagger. Crowley could feel that both would fly into his hands if Aziraphale’s form called them. Aziraphale could take out the archangels and the guard and slip away before an alarm could be raised.
But Aziraphale wouldn’t. Even though he could, he wouldn’t. Just another on the long list of reasons why Heaven had no idea what they lost in Aziraphale.
And because Aziraphale wouldn’t, Crowley didn’t make a move. He stuck to the plan and got out of there without even being singed.
He almost made it to the elevator when a voice called Aziraphale’s name. He refused to turn, but inwardly groaned when he caught sight of the angel out of the corner of his eye.
While he had never met her personally, he recognized her instantly from millennium of descriptions. Shoulder length jet black hair and ghost grey eyes dressed in her tartan beige uniform. This was Mardan, Aziraphale’s second in command.
The archangels might not have seen through their swap, but he knew she would. He didn’t stop, he didn’t spare her more than a passing glance. He made it to the lifts and was gone.
The Platoon of the Eastern Gate waited. Assembled and ready to fight, they waited, but their commander never came to command them. He appeared briefly; disoriented, unarmed, and without a body, and disappeared just as quickly. The Quartermaster raged. The Platoon of the Eastern Gate continued to await their orders.
Orders never came.
Then the war never came.
The Platoon was dismissed with no answers given.
What happened to the war, and what happened to Aziraphale?
Unlike most troops, the Platoon of the Eastern Gate truly loved their commander. Most soldiers of heaven dreaded their centennial trainings, but Aziraphale's troop looked forward to the gathering. Aziraphale was an amazingly brilliant swordsman, and somehow at the same time, a brilliantly reluctant warrior. He was more interested in the well-being of his angels than the someday war. And he always had the greatest stories to tell from his time on earth.
The day after the warriors of heaven were dismissed, Mardan had spotted Aziraphale in Heaven. He was briskly walking towards the main lifts. She called out, but Aziraphale didn't respond other than to briefly glance in her direction.
There was something wrong. There was a scowl on his face and a darkness in his eyes that have never been there before. The Aziraphale she knew was sunshine incarnate, only frowning at the end of the centennial meetings as he once again failed to receive the recognition he deserved.
He continued his walk to the lifts and was gone.
No one would answer Mardan’s questions. She continued trying to find any information about Aziraphale, but was met with resistance at ever turn. No one in any position of authority would talk about why Armageddon was suddenly called off. In desperation Mardan had gone to the Archangel Michael but got no further than saying “my commander” before she was bruskly told it was none of her concern and roughly escorted out by Michael’s guards.
After almost a month of inquiries Mardan decided that the heavenly bureaucracy was getting her nowhere. The Quartermaster refuse to tell her anything about the possibility of a new assignment. Finally, she decided to take matters into her own hands.
She would go and find Aziraphale on Earth and find out from him what happened.
From his years of stories, she knew he lived in London, specifically Soho, but she had never been to Earth, and London was a big place. But lucky for her there was currently only one angel living in London and it wasn’t too hard to follow his aura to St. James’s Park.
She spotted him across the lake, sitting on a park bench, the picture of contentment in the early morning September sun. Sitting there in a camel colored suit, reading a paper back book, there was not a thing about him that would make you think that he was one of Heaven’s greatest warriors. He had told Mardan that he took on a role among the human that would prevent him from needing to constantly shout “Fear Not!” whenever he encountered one, and he did indeed look innocuous.
“He seems alright.” Mardan thought to herself, then suddenly stiffened. Something demonic had entered the park. In just a few minutes she spotted the demon strolling down the path towards Aziraphale. He held a large paper bakery bag and seemed to be whistling to himself.
She quickly looked back towards her commander, who seemed oblivious to this impending danger. Surely he must sense the demon, or have his senses been dulled from years on Earth as the Archangel Gabriel declared more than once during their exercises.
“I have to do something!” Mardan hissed under her breath, “He’s just sitting there, reading, and I think, humming to himself. He has no idea what that demon is going to do with him! And the look on that demon’s face. So cocky, grinning and whistling. Probably thinking of all the horrible things he is going to do with Aziraphale.”
Mardan was remarkably both completely right and utterly wrong at the same time. Crowley was indeed whistling “Pale Blue Eyes” by the Velvet Underground to himself while thinking of what he was going to do with Aziraphale, but none of his plans were what Aziraphale would describe as ‘horrible things’. Aziraphale was in fact also humming “Pale Blue Eyes” to himself, though he only knew it as a song that Crowley frequently whistled that had wormed its way into his mind and heart, still having never listened to Crowley’s ‘bebop’. And he truthfully had no idea what Crowley was going to do with him because Crowley had declared that today’s activities would be ‘a surprise’.
The day turned into more of a surprise than he had planned when Crowley found his path blocked by a sword wielding angel in a beige tartan kilt.
Crowley let lose a demonic curse under his breath. He really thought they would have had more time. A month was barely anything. Crowley dropped the bakery bag and began to gather his will. He wasn’t going down without a fight, and with any luck they wouldn’t have gotten to Aziraphale yet.
Mardan was closing the distance between herself and Crowley when the air shifted.
Lightning struck the pavement between the two and the ground shook as a celestial body struck the ground with such force that the cement cracked. Aziraphale appeared, crouched low, celestial sword in hand, with electricity arching off his body and blade to the ground.
As he rose, Aziraphale swung his sword, sending out a pulse of power that knocked Mardan from her feet and several meters backwards.
Mardan grinned. This is what she was waiting for from Aziraphale for centuries. He was finally ready to fight. He was filled with passion and heavenly righteousness. Maybe it was missing Armageddon that triggered it, but he finally had fire behind his skill. That demon didn’t know what was coming. This would be the smiting of the millennium.
Mardan’s grin quickly faded as she got to her feet. The demon had kept his feet and he was oozing demonic will. The only sign that Aziraphale’s power had hit him was that his sunglasses were knocked off his face. He appeared to be watching Aziraphale’s back, his eyes darting everywhere as though he were expecting more angels to materialize.
Mardan’s expression turned to shock as she looked to Aziraphale and saw that that passion and righteousness was turned on her.
“You will not touch him.” Aziraphale bit out, calmly, but with power behind his words that broker no argument. His sword, raised, unwaveringly, ready to meet any challenger.
“What is this Aziraphale? Where have you been? Why didn’t you come at Armageddon?” asked Mardan.
Aziraphale sighed, but did not drop his stance. “Crowley, make sure that humans can’t see us.”
“Already on it, Angel”
Mardan gaped. She could feel the demonic will shielding them from the few early morning joggers and dog walkers that wandered through the park.
“What the hell is this Aziraphale? I’ve come to take you home” Mardan said, still unable to believe the change she saw in him.
“I cannot go back.” Aziraphale seemed unnaturally calm, “Heaven is no longer my home, Mardan. Armageddon did not happen, in part, because Crowley and I worked to prevent it.”
For long moments, she couldn’t do anything but stare in disbelief.
Aziraphale continued on quickly, “I could not stand by and allow all of Earth, all of humanity, to be destroyed just to settle some pointless squabble between Heaven and Hell. I broke with Heaven because it was the right thing to do.”
“And the demon?” asked Mardan.
“I have a name you know.” Spat out Crowley, eyes still flying everywhere, searching for more adversaries.
“Crowley saw Armageddon for what it was before I did.”
“Yeah, a paranormal pissing match.”
“There is no need to be vulgar, dear.”
Mardan glanced quickly between Aziraphale and Crowley. “You betrayed Heaven, and abandoned us, for what, some tryst with a demon?”
“If there was some way that I could have done what I had to do without having to give up my platoon, I would have done it. You were the best part of Heaven to me. But there wasn’t. If I had to do it all again, I still would have done the same thing. If anything, I would have done it sooner. I would have listened to Crowley sooner. Heaven hasn’t been a home to me for a long time. My only regret is that it took me so long to see that, and that it cost me what few friends in Heaven I had.” Aziraphale’s face softened slightly. “I hate to do it, but if you are here to kill Crowley and me, or even try to take us in, I will fight you, and I will win.”
Mardan met Aziraphale’s steely blue gaze. She felt the love and protectiveness rolling off of him in waves. She knew Aziraphale would defeat her with very little effort. He knew all of her weaknesses. In all these millennia she had yet to see a weakness in Aziraphale’s fighting other than his lack of drive. Did he truly love the Earth enough to ignite this fire? Mardan flicked her gaze to the demon, whose golden serpentine eyes had finally settled on Aziraphale, and back to Aziraphale.
“You’re in love with him, aren’t you, this demon?” She emphasized the ‘in’. Angels love everything. She wanted to make sure it was clear what asking.
“Yes.” He replied with an emphasis that made it clear that yes, he understood her question, his sword still rock steady.
“Demon Crowley,” Mardan turned and Crowley shifted to stare at her. “Do you love Aziraphale?”
Crowley’s reply came without hesitation, “More than all the stars in the universe.”
On any other being, such a statement might come across as oversentimental claptrap, but there was a weight and truth behind the words that Mardan could feel even if she couldn’t understand it. But Aziraphale understood it, and his sword dipped.
It was a slight dip. Not even a millimeter. A human eye could not have seen it. Most angelic eyes wouldn’t even had registered it, but Mardan’s did.
The demon Crowley was Aziraphale’s weakness. And as always, Aziraphale has managed to turn that weakness into his greatest strength. He had found his home, and he had found something he was willing to fight for.
Mardan sheathed her sword. “I was not sent here. I came on my own. After Armageddon didn’t happen, I didn’t know what had happened to you, they wouldn’t tell me anything. I just wanted to make sure you were alright. Are you alright?”
“Yes” Aziraphale replies, sword still readied.
“Are you happy?”
Aziraphale sighed heavily. “I am very sad to have lost you and the rest of the platoon. I will miss you all, so much. I am still coming to terms with having lost Heaven. I wouldn’t say I am sad about that, but I am not happy either. But I am…” he trailed off, looking for the right word. He finally lowered his sword, holding it lightly, tip towards the ground. “Content. I am content with my decision. And,” His eyes shifted to meet Crowley’s and he smiled, “I am very happy to have Crowley with me, on my side.”
Mardan took all this in, and after a few moments, nodded and reached out to embrace her former commander, “Then be well and do good.”
Aziraphale returned the hug, “Thank you.”
Mardan turned to Crowley, “If you hurt him in anyway…” letting the statement trail off and the leaving the demon’s imagination to fill in the threat.
Crowley just smirked at her.
“Here, you should take this,” Aziraphale tugged the signet ring off his pinky and held it out to her.
Mardan reached out and closed his hand back around the ring. “You keep it. I have a feeling our platoon will be disbanded and dispersed into other units. Who knows, maybe we can even do some good by sharing all that you taught us.” Mardan released his hand, “I better get back before they notice I am gone.”
Mardan turned to go, but turned back. This may be the last time she saw Aziraphale and she had to make sure he knew.
“They’re afraid of you, you know that right?”
Aziraphale hesitated, “Well, yes, I’m sure after everything with Armageddon and the…”
“No, before that. Centuries, millennia before that.” She pressed on, “They have been afraid of you for so long. That’s why they never let us win. That’s why they keep changing the rules so we could never win, so you could never win. You’re the best of all of us Aziraphale. Everyone sees it but you.”
Aziraphale and Mardan both jumped as the Crowley shouted, “Thank you! I have been trying to get that through his thick skull since Eden!”
“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but you should listen to your demon.”
Mardan vanished in a flash of celestial light. Aziraphale sent his celestial sword back to its usual home, in the umbrella stand next to his desk in the bookshop. Crowley snapped the pavement repaired and allowed himself and Aziraphale to be visible to the rest of the park.
Aziraphale stood silently soaking in everything that had just happened. Crowley bent down and retrieved the bakery bag from where he dropped it. He extended his arm to Aziraphale, who took it, and he led the angel out of the park towards the Bentley.
“So, from what I heard, the main takeaway from that interaction is ‘listen to Crowley,’ hmmm.”
Aziraphale hummed and considered for a minute.
“I rather think the main takeaway is that you love more than all the stars in the universe.” Aziraphale smiled as a blush rose on Crowley’s face. “Speaking of takeaways,” Aziraphale reached for the bakery bag, “what did you bring for breakfast?”