Joshua was someone who spent his time arguing with rabbis for fun. In retrospect, Crowley didn't stand a chance.
She found him sitting on a ledge in the desert, dusty and brown skinned. "You know, you can just turn these stones into bread or something? You don't have to starve, and you're too skinny as it is," Crowley said hypocritically. She had been told that one too many times by well-meaning humans over the years.
"I am sustained by the word of God."
"Yeah, but does it taste good?"
At this, the kid finally looked troubled. "It does not, but it is what God has given me."
Crowley sat down on the ledge next to the kid. They had a spectacular view of the desert. "You know, not that anyone has told me anything, but I know humans, and this whole messiah business is not going to end well. And let's be clear, it's not going to end well for you in particular."
Joshua smiled at her. "I know. But if I don't do it, who will?"
Crowley got up and began pacing the ledge. She threw her hands up in the air. "Humans will! Granted, some of them are right evil bastards, but there's also a bunch who are nice, self-sacrificing idiots! There's no reason it has to be you." She'd been ordered to tempt him, but she also genuinely wanted to spare this kid from whatever She had in store for him. God was not kind to those she loved or those who loved her.*
*Crowley had only heard about Job well after it happened, but she's glad she was far away from Aziraphale when she did since her railing at God for the death of Job's family – his kids! – would have had her angel not speaking to her for several hundred years.
There's a hand on her arm. Joshua was in front of her. "Sister, there is no one else in heaven or hell who will do this. I do this so they will understand."
"There are other ways to make a point," said Crowley softly. Persuasively. "Let me show you the world. There are so many things you could do to help them."
Joshua looks resigned. "All right."
Crowley doesn't actually transport them anywhere, but suddenly the world around them changes. They're in a crowded marketplace in the Han Empire. At a temple in the Amazonian rainforest. Standing atop the Great Pyramid in Egypt. At a slaver's market at a port in Cyprus. Watching a Germanic tribe feast in honor of the good harvest. In an early Buddhist temple. The places blur together, and Crowley doesn't just stick to the nice places. She shows the human sacrifices, the war, the slaves, the death because if there's anything she knows about temptation, it's that the key to a successful temptation is to give them what they want. And Joshua, the poor, stupid yet clever kid, wants to help people.
Eventually Joshua closes his eyes against the onslaught of images, a look of pain on his face. Crowley stops. They are back on the ledge in the desert and the sun is setting.
Joshua opens his eyes and looks into Crowley's golden ones. "If I were to take over and end all those horrible and wonderful things* you showed me, I could put a stop to it all. But I wouldn't be saving them, I'd be dooming them to an eternity of doing my will. And dooming myself as their keeper as well. Instead, I will show them – and Heaven and Hell – what they can do. It will be up to them." He was smiling, and Crowley was left with the uncomfortable feeling that this kid was much wiser than her.
*Because, let's be fair, many of those wonderful things were built on the backs of horrible things.
"Should have known you'd be too good and nice to go through with it," Crowley muttered, avoiding Joshua's knowing eyes. She was thinking of a different time on the wall of Eden when another being had been too nice and how the consequences of that were still echoing through eternity.
"Well, I'll be off then." There was no way she'd wish the kid well, but she miracled up some bread and olives next to his water skin for him to find once she was gone. Too skinny and too clever by half that kid.
'You're really going to let him go through with this?' she prayed to God. She received her answer several years later, and has been angry and upset about it ever since.