Crowley, Aziraphale, and Good Omens do not belong to me, but to their creators, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.
Heaven lost. Badly. True, the angels had superior numbers, but they had neglected to take into account the anger and resentment of their former comrades, and how that resentment would give way to true hatred, and how that hatred would translate itself into a million little insidious maneuvers, each more devious than the last and each almost beyond anything Heaven could imagine when all Hell finally broke loose.
The angels who knew the field survived the longest, and Aziraphale was one of the last to fall. When he finally bowed, exhausted, under the onslaught of a particularly burly and confident demon, he expected no aid. He had not seen another angel in three days, and then only from a distance. He raised his sword - the demon charged -
And a wave of dark energy blasted over Aziraphale's wing, scorching his feathers and slamming into the chest of his attacker, knocking it off-balance just long enough for Aziraphale to slip his sword between the creature's ribs and twist. The holy weapon hissed and flickered as it sank into demon flesh, the sound almost drowned out by dying shrieks of pain.
Satisfied that the creature was dead, Aziraphale turned to look for his unexpected helper, then nearly fell over.
"What are you still doing here?" Crowley grated as he pulled himself to his feet and slapped the dust off, grumbling. The quick release of energy had thrown him to the ground and made his aching head spin. The look Aziraphale sent him - confused, grateful, devastated - only annoyed him. "Thought you'd have been off, by now."
Aziraphale shrugged. "Off where?" he said. "There's nowhere else. It's all like this, you know that as well as I do."
Crowley glanced around at the carnage. Bodies of angels and demons and humans and animals lined the burning streets, piled every which way without regard for race or class. "I know," he replied. He was still wearing his sunglasses, wonder of wonders, but they were made of firmament, not the real thing. He didn't need them, not with the sky so dark; he kept them because they were familiar and he needed that right now. Very little was, anymore.
At least Aziraphale was still mostly unchanged. He seemed smaller than Crowley remembered, and he wore armor instead of tartan and there was blood all over his face and his hair was matted and he looked too tired to lift his sword, but he was still the same old angel he had always been.
Crowley cleared his throat. "So. Jerusalem. Where it all began."
"And where it all ends," said Aziraphale. Crowley sent him a sharp look.
"What do you -"
Aziraphale interrupted. "It ends here, Crowley. The Arrangement. It was lovely while it lasted, but I think, at this point, there's just no use pretending. We can't go on." His voice was dead. Crowley had never heard him sound so worn-out.
He manifested his own sword, but did not move. They had both known, deep down inside, it would come to this someday - Hell against Heaven, demon against angel - but, for Someone's sake, would he really have to fight Aziraphale? He had thought they had left their fighting behind them long ago. And this would be a fight to the death, and Crowley already knew who would win. His options were kill or be killed, and he didn't want to die, but he didn't want Aziraphale to die, either. They were two of a kind, he and his angel. Other demons just didn't get it. He had once tried asking Asmodeus out for drinks and all that happened was awkward conversation about work. The same thing had happened when an angel whose name Crowley couldn't recall had visited Aziraphale.
"I don't want to do this, you know." He hadn't needed to say it - Aziraphale would have understood; he always understood what was left unsaid - but he had to say something to break the silence stretched between them.
Aziraphale only gave him another of those long, tired gazes. There were shadows under his eyes, Crowley noticed, and then his train of thought derailed as Aziraphale suddenly dropped his weapon in the dust and fumbled desperately at the clasps of his breastplate, muttering under his breath. "God - have to - get this - off -" The armor fell to the ground with a clank and a thunk, and the angel let out a little gasp of relief and rolled his shoulders. "Much better," he murmured approvingly, and set to work on the rest of the bloodied metal and leather.
Crowley wondered briefly if Aziraphale had lost his mind. Some angels had. One had seen a companion eviscerated, and had screamed and not stopped as the demons tore into him as well, had not stopped even when they had ripped off his jaw, had kept screaming until he finally died. Crowley had been there, watching. He had not turned away.
"What are you doing?" he asked warily as Aziraphale shed his last bit of armor and raised his blue eyes to Crowley's shaded ones. There was a tiny sad smile hovering around the corners of his mouth, and suddenly Crowley did not want to hear the answer, did not care to know what the smile meant. He wasn't going to like it.
"You owe me a favor, you know," Aziraphale said, and Crowley was so surprised at this reply that he blinked. "You do. Remember, I covered for you that time back in June 4663."
Crowley frowned. "Yes, I remember. I kind of figured you would forgo that particular favor, seeing as how everything's gone kaput."
Somehow the angel managed to shake his head and nod at the same time. "You still owe me," he said, and smiled again. "I thought you'd be proud of me. It's what you used to say, isn't it? No freebies."
Crowley stuck his hands in his pockets. There hadn't been any pockets before, but he wanted them now, so of course he had them. "So, what," he said, as nastily as he could manage. "What, you want me to hide you? You want me to protect you? You just terminated the Arrangement, idiot, what makes you think I'll -" He cut off again, this time in shock at the sound of Aziraphale's helpless laughter.
"Crowley," said Aziraphale when he could speak, sounding almost like his old self, "I don't want you to try to protect me. I want you to kill me."
Crowley blanched. "You what."
"I want you to kill me," the angel repeated reasonably.
Crowley shook his head. "No."
Aziraphale took a step forward, his bloody hands out, supplicating. He was missing a finger and several nails, and Crowley blinked again. That was twice in as many minutes, a new record. He couldn't have cared less.
"Please, Crowley. I'm one of the last, I know I am. Really, I… I'm lucky to have survived this long. Please."
"No," Crowley said again, resisting the childish urge to put his fingers in his ears. He sounded wretched, and he knew it, but blessit, Aziraphale didn't have any business asking him for something like that. "No. I won't, Aziraphale, no. I'm not - fuck. I'm not going to kill you. No."
"I'd do the same for you."
"You'd say no, too, if I asked," Crowley growled.
Aziraphale shrugged again, and sat down heavily where he was. If he had stayed standing he would have collapsed. "Maybe so," he said, his voice quiet, "maybe so. But, Crowley, I'm so tired. I want to rest. I've done my duty and I'm tired, and whether at your hands or anyone else's, one way or another, I am going to die."
"No," Crowley hissed, but Aziraphale only nodded.
"Yes," he said. "You know it's true. And I'd rather you did it. I mean, I'd rather be killed by you than anyone else. I trust you."
Crowley's head snapped up. Aziraphale's gaze was steady, but he was shaking. His eyes were old. They had always looked ancient from some angles (so had Crowley's; both beings were older than time itself, after all), but now they simply looked old. Tired and old and bright with tears.
Crowley stared. He was doing that a lot lately, but couldn't seem to stop. "They didn't - did they - make you watch -" He couldn't say it, wouldn't bother. He knew Aziraphale understood. Aziraphale always understood what was left unsaid.
"What difference does it make," Aziraphale said, and somehow the flatness of his voice was the absolute last straw, and Crowley went and sat down, bump, in the road beside him.
Angel and demon looked out over the scorched city in silence for a long time. The shadows had moved a good bit when Aziraphale finally spoke.
"Do you remember," he said, and Crowley jumped, "that restaurant in Rome, back when Gaius Octavius was in power?"
"Which one? The one with the duck that was all skin and bone?" Crowley privately suspected that that restaurant had been what started Aziraphale's duck-feeding campaign. "Didn't last very long, as I recall."
"No, the good one. With the lamb."
"It was Rome," said Crowley patiently. "They all had lamb."
Aziraphale flapped a hand at him. "Yes, I know, but this lamb was really - look, it was the one where I always got the lamb and you always got the oysters, even when they weren't in season." When Crowley only frowned, Aziraphale rolled his eyes. "The one that always housed those ridiculous orgies you were so fond of upstairs during the Festivus Saturnalia. It had a very interesting mosaic in the courtyard - spectacular, you said it was, and I said it was lewd."
Crowley snapped his fingers in sudden recognition. "Yes, I do remember. You hated those oysters, always made fun of me for eating them. And I never did get you to go to any of those orgies. Fucking proper angel."
Aziraphale made a face. "They were slimy," he muttered, and Crowley chuckled in spite of himself.
"Anyway, I remember that place, sure," he said. "What about it?"
"I miss it," Aziraphale said simply, and Crowley decided that he hadn't really been trying to make a point.
"Do you remember," said Crowley after another, briefer silence, "that time at the pub in Dresden in nineteen forty-five? February, I think it was."
Aziraphale looked at him curiously. "You mean the one where we were both nearly discorporated? I don't think I'll ever forget that. Everything was on fire, burning, dying. It was horrible." He shuddered. "Why bring that up?"
"Because," said Crowley, wondering if he could get his point across, because he actually had one and was going to try to make it. "Because. I remember, we ended up in the same bomb shelter. And those two kids. With the dog."
"They had lost their parents and sister, yes." Aziraphale nodded slowly, his eyes distant. "Horrible," he said again. "Just like this."
"No, not like this." Crowley paused, trying to think where he wanted to go from here. This really wasn't his thing, this 'cheering up' business, but who was around anymore to keep track? Well, he'd give it a go. "It wasn't like this. This is hopeless. Those kids, though, they had hope. You gave them that. I remember, you sang to them, told them silly stories. You made them smile. You were always doing things like that. I used to think it was just because it was your job." He scowled up at nothing in particular. "But you helped me, too," he finally said. "All the other angels tried to kill me, but you, you helped me. Wouldn't let them burn me, that time."
Aziraphale remembered that, the howling mob that had found the demon out and tied him with holy cloths so he couldn't transform and then, to add injury to insult, had anointed him. "You hadn't done anything too awful, you didn't deserve anything like that," he said, dismissing it. "They were being cruel."
"Maybe." Crowley almost let the whole thing drop, but he'd started and come Hell or high water he was going to finish. "I'd been burned before, though. Look, what I'm trying to say is that you didn't have to help those kids in Germany, but you did anyway, and maybe it was just because you thought it was your job. But helping demons is not your job, and you did it anyway, and that makes you different. And maybe you're right about me, maybe I'm the same only backwards," here Aziraphale actually smirked, and in another time and place Crowley might have hit him, "but I think, I think you're it. You're an angel. And so are they, technically, but they don't get it, what that really means."
Aziraphale smiled. "I understand," he said, very quietly, and Crowley thought he probably did, and shrugged.
"Anyways, I guess I'll - do it, if you really want me to," he said. "But I don't want to."
"I know," Aziraphale told him. "And I'm terribly sorry. But."
Crowley waited for him to finish, and when he didn't, turned his head and peered at him. "What?"
Aziraphale looked down at his hands. "Do you know, Crowley, you're the closest thing I have to a friend."
Crowley glared. "You always have to actually go and say it, don't you?"
"Always, dear." Aziraphale sighed and looked up at the sky. It wasn't blue anymore. The third wave of destruction after Hell took the field had scorched the clouds and turned the sky a dark, mottled grey shot through with red.
His breath hitched before he could stop it. "Everything's wrong, isn't it, Crowley?"
"It had to end someday," Crowley pointed out. "Never thought it'd be like this, though. Never really thought it'd affect us." Aziraphale only nodded.
More time passed, and neither being moved. They sat in the street, both more or less covered in gore and smelling of death, until it grew dark. At some point during the long, starless night, Aziraphale said, "Sunrise, do you think?"
No, Crowley wanted to snarl, weren't you listening? But what he said was, "Sure. Sunrise." In the darkness, Aziraphale put a hand on his shoulder and left it there. Crowley did not return the gesture, but he didn't shrug the hand away, either.
When the blackened sky began to grow light around the edges - Earth had long since stopped turning on its axis, and Crowley had decided that the light cycled more out of habit than anything else - Aziraphale sighed again. "Well, I suppose we had better get on with it."
"Yes," said Crowley, "I guess we should."
Still they did not move.
"Make it quick, please," Aziraphale said.
"Of course. Won't even feel it."
Aziraphale looked around blankly, which Crowley took as his cue to reluctantly stand up. "I wonder if I should tie myself to something."
Crowley laughed, his voice bleak. "You what?"
"I want to go out standing," Aziraphale murmured. "I don't have much strength left. You may have noticed."
Crowley offered his associate a brittle sort of smile as he pulled him to his feet and steadied him. "If you fall, angel," he said, "I'll catch you."
Aziraphale's eyes went suspiciously bright but he said nothing, only smiled and put both hands on Crowley's shoulders. The demon pulled a dagger from his belt and looked at it regretfully. "I know I said it wouldn't hurt," he said, "but it probably will. It was forged in Hell."
"I can't feel much of anything, anymore," Aziraphale replied, "so please, don't worry about me." Crowley scowled at him. Blessed angel was trying to sound reassuring - was about to die, and was still trying to reassure him.
"Aziraphale," he began, but stopped. After a moment's consideration he decided that what he had wanted to say wasn't important enough, so he set the point of the blade against the angel's chest and locked eyes with him - that was important, that was vital - and his fingers tightened around the handle. And there he wavered. He couldn't just kill the angel without any goodbye at all. After twelve thousand years together, it felt wrong.
Finally he simply shook his head and swallowed. It was surprisingly difficult to manage. "It - it's been real."
"Yes," Aziraphale agreed, smiling, "it has." Then Crowley's hands moved, and Aziraphale's eyes went wide for a moment and he gasped, winced, wrapped cold fingers around Crowley's wrist to drive the knife deeper. Still smiling, he whispered something very raw in a language that died with him.
And Crowley caught him as he fell.