"You could have told me," he said afterwards, bitterly. "God's messenger, and you just forget to mention that there's going to be a war? Couldn't you have said?"
"Do you think I didn't try?" If there was one thing Gabriel had always been good at, it was righteous anger. He glowed with it now. "I said to you, "if you're not careful, you're going to fall". What did you think I meant?"
"I thought you meant off the cloud. And I thought, "that's a stupid thing to say, because I've got wings so what does it matter?" Crawly extended his wings as though to demonstrate, spreading them wide. "I never thought you meant that. How could I? God's love is infinite. We all know that."
"You did rather push your luck though." And that wasn't said fiercely, but gently. There were some things that even Gabriel knew did not need to be rubbed in. "You know you did. What did you think would happen?"
"I don't know!" Crawly folded his wings again and hunched up a little, more miserable than Gabriel had ever seen him. "I just... mainly I just wanted something to happen. I just got so bored with the daily routine - flutter from cloud to cloud, sing with angelic hosts, practice the harp a bit. It wasn't as though even the songs were interesting. I just thought it might shake things up a bit."
"And it did," Gabriel said, a little coldly.
"I never meant this way! I thought that maybe the worst that could happen would be that we'd all be sent to the corner to think about what we'd done!" Crawly protested. "That we'd end up with mandatory angelic host attendence for the next few centuries or something. And the next thing I know, Michael's got his flaming sword out and I thought "oh well, there's an over-reaction, someone will tell him to calm it all down in a minute before he puts someone's eyes out"." He rubbed a hand through dark hair, remembering. "And then I saw you there, and I knew that's what you'd be there for - to give the message that we needed to stop all this right now. And then you didn't."
Gabriel closed his eyes for a moment. It had seemed so simple at the time. The word had spread of the uprising, of discord among the angels, and he had been ordered to bring the message that it must be quelled immediately. He hadn't hesitated to bring the message, nor to take up his own sword, sickened by the ugly expressions on angels he had once known well.
And then he'd caught sight of the one face among them; lost, confused, despairing...
"I'm sorry," he said quietly. "But you gave me no choice. Did you think I'd stop the battle just for you? Did you think I could?"
"I thought that eternal, infinite love wouldn't mean celestial war, Gabriel!" That was anger again, and Crawly stood up, starting to pace furiously. "I thought it was about forgiveness, not about sticking flaming swords into people's hands and saying "hey, go to it"! Where does that fit into anything?"
"I don't know," Gabriel admitted. "But it must all be part of the ineffable plan."
It was a well-used answer, repeated every time an angel came across something his mind could not quite grasp, but it was one Crawly had heard one time too many. He turned on Gabriel, face flushed. "That's not an answer! You can't just react to everything you don't understand with "it's ineffable"! What if the ineffable plan is just to drive us all crazy? Did you ever think of that? What if it's to see how long it would take for all of us to Fall? You can't trust in some plan without even knowing what the plan is!"
Gabriel took a step back, back stiffening, expression shifting to cool disapproval. "You know it's thinking like that which made you Fall in the first place. You shouldn't question."
"You would question too, if you had been the one who had fallen!" Crawly retorted. "What do you want me to - just say "oh, well, that's okay then - damned for all eternity it is"?"
The angel softened a little, moving to set a gentle hand on his shoulder. "Belphegor..."
He flinched, pulling away, resisting the gentle touch. "Crawly," he corrected. "Name's changed now. Part of the whole deal, remember?"
Gabriel grimaced. "It hardly suits you."
"I don't see that it's any of your business any more," Crawly snapped, but relented only a moment later. "I'm still thinking about it. Maybe I'll change it again."
"I think you should," Gabriel agreed. He hesitated, unsure how to phrase what he needed to ask. "Look, what's it like down there?"
Crawly's shoulders rose and fell in a shrug. "It's Hell," he said succinctly. He frowned a little, turning to squint yellow-gold eyes at Gabriel. "Not thinking of joining us, are you?"
Gabriel shuddered, averting his eyes so as not to see the change that so clearly marked Crawly out as demon rather than angel. "No," he said firmly. Such a thing was not to be considered, not even for Crawly. "But there's a position coming up on your side you might want to apply for. It would get you out of there."
The way Crawly's face lit up with hope was painful to see. "I could go home?"
"No," Gabriel had to admit, and winced a little to see that hope drain away. He spoke quickly, trying to get the words out before Crawly got angry again, and stopped listening. "But at least it wouldn't be Hell any more - it's going to be a place for the humans apparently, somewhere for them to stay. They've got this great big garden-thing planned. It's probably going to be quite nice." He considered his audience for a moment, and then added the words he considered best-suited to coax Crawly into agreeing. "With the humans there, it'll probably be interesting at least."
Crawly tipped his head to one side and stared at Gabriel for a long moment, considering. "And they want a demon there?"
Gabriel nodded. "Yes - don't ask me why," he said quickly. "It's ineffable again."
"Oh, I am surprised," Crawly said sourly. "I can't wait for the day all this stuff becomes effable. It surely has to happen some time." Still, the idea had been planted. He looked at Gabriel suspiciously. "Were you meant to tell me this?"
The angel shrugged. "Who knows what any of us is meant to do or don't do in the wider scheme of God's plans?"
"But in the much smaller scheme of Heaven's administration, you got the message to give to someone else concerning it, and thought it might be helpful to pass along to me as well," Crawly guessed, and smiled for the first time. "Thank you."
"Well, it might be better not to tell anyone where your idea for your place in this particular part of the plan came from," Gabriel admitted. "I thought it might be a little more your kind of thing there than where you are now."
"It can't hurt to try," Crawly said, then reconsidered. "At least, it can't hurt any more than the last thing I tried." He looked at Gabriel, his smile slowly fading. "I suppose this is goodbye then, hey?"
"It wouldn't really be suitable any other way," Gabriel admitted awkwardly. "Not an angel and a demon."
Crawly went to kiss him then, but Gabriel moved at the last moment, unable to look into those slitted yellow eyes comfortably. Instead he settled for kissing Crawly's forehead, a light chaste kiss as his arms closed around the demon in one last embrace.
As long as he couldn't see Crawly's eyes, it could be almost as though nothing had changed.
"Goodbye then," Crawly's voice was rough, and Gabriel couldn't seem to find the words to answer him. He nodded instead, and turned away, great wings opening to beat a way to the home Crawly could never return to.
Silently, he made a note to himself to ensure he had a hand in selecting the angel who would play Crawly's counterpart in the Garden of Eden. Much as Crawly might question, there was no true evil in him, that much Gabriel was sure of. Someone like Michael would make mincemeat of him in no time.
No, if he had to be stuck as a demon, the least Gabriel could do was try to make that part as easy for him as possible. He might not be able to help overtly, but at least he could choose an angel who wasn't too good at smiting. Who perhaps would not hate for the sake of hating. Who might look at the ineffable plan and wonder just a little.
Wonder maybe just enough to be able to look the enemy in the eye as he thwarted - as he had been unable to do and that could be the last gift he could give for the sake of a memory of a lost heaven.
It was strange, but even as he passed into the realms of paradise Gabriel returning home felt incomplete as if he too had lost a bit of heaven in leaving him behind.
I know my enemy and he is mine.