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i wanted to hurt you but the victory is that i could not stomach it

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In 1755, they spend three weeks circling the same lighthouse. Every night Crowley puts out the lantern with wave of his hand and every night Aziraphale miracles it back to life, over and over, casting shadows. Crowley doesn’t smile, because it wouldn’t become him. Aziraphale doesn’t frown, because it wouldn’t do to judge.

At the end of three weeks, the two men whose job it is to keep the fire lit beat each other senseless. The first believes that they are cursed; the second sees the flickering light as a sign from above. 

“Huh,” says Crowley.

“Um,” says Aziraphale. 

“Well, I suppose…” says Crowley.

“Quite,” says Aziraphale. 

At their feet, both men start to stir. 

“Ineffable,” says Aziraphale, and Crowley says, “Dinner?” 

Too early for calendars, Aziraphale plants forests and Crowley razes them. Crowley digs pits and Aziraphale fills them. Aziraphale clenches his fists against his thighs and his wings shimmer in the desert heat and Crowley sunbathes, doesn’t pity the humans, small and frail and so full of life.

The whole Bathsheba thing come as a surprise to both of them. The whole Babel debacle really, really doesn’t. 

It’s 1020 when Aziraphale says, “This is ridiculous.” 

Crowley grins at him, eyes flashing yellow, and says, “Well, angel, what do you propose we do about it?”

(By mutual agreement, they each claim responsibility for the Crusades that follow. By mutual agreement, they do not discuss the fact that both of them received a commendation; that kind of thing is just embarrassing, really.) 

In 1401, Aziraphale miracles the life right out of a minor government official, eyes cold, hands steady. It’s deserved, but then again it isn’t, and there’s the problem with humanity—once, Crowley is sure, there was a clear line. 

“Ah,” says Aziraphale, “I see you’re awake.” 

Crowley has never once forgotten that his angel is more than the skin he wears, but in that moment he sees the yawning spiral staircase he’d tripped down by accident, a metaphor except for when it’s not. It shudders indistinctly in and back out of the air, and there is no victory to be had here. Crowley is unsure, suddenly, if victory was ever really what he was after. 

“You shouldn’t,” he says, without meaning to.

Aziraphale blinks, sighs. His hands lower. “Oh, my dear. I know.” 

In 1914 Crowley sits on the edge of an iceberg and watches, and it’s strange, how much humanity is like a disease.

(After some hours, Aziraphale’s wings wrap around him from behind, and Crowley says “I didn’t do this,” but for the life of him he doesn’t know why—

Aziraphale opens his mouth, and Crowley hisses, “If you say that word you’re thinking, angel, I swear I will drown you,” as though that’s even a viable threat, how far down the slope he’s already fallen, and isn’t that just like him, doesn’t he always just love a fall— 

Aziraphale’s hands are warm and Crowley’s wrists are cold and he wonders why it matters, why he cares, how long has that been going on—)

2011, and Aziraphale sings along with the chorus of “Under Pressure” on their way out of town. 

“That’s it,” says Crowley, “it’s all over, the end of the world, right here. Shame we put it off only to bring it about again.” 

Aziraphale looks at him over the gearshift, smile fond and exasperated, hair windblown, and Crowley’s long since crossed the line. They laze into the kiss, human as they’ll ever be, circling and circling the same damn lighthouse. 

In deference to their privacy, the car keeps driving.