The war had been inescapable. Just as Crowley had predicted, it had finally come down to the ethereals versus the mortals. Unlike his prediction, however, it had been completely by accident. The millennia-old battle had just sort of spilled onto earth.
Crowley and Aziraphale had both been recalled. The Metatron had personally come to earth and set the lower angel's book shop ablaze in a holy flame. As it turns out, books still burn no matter how Heavenly the fire is.
The duo had gone back to Aziraphale's shop to find it nothing but brick and ashes. The presence of the Almighty was so strong that Crowley couldn't even follow his friend into the ruin. He'd waited outside, ignoring the pain that came from such close proximity to that much heaven.
Aziraphale had come back out ten minute later, and collapsed against the demon in a wave of shock and grief that rattled Crowley with its intensity. The dark haired being had found himself supporting the blonde angel as they both slid to the ground against Crowley's Bentley.
"They burned everything, Crowley. My own people… they burned it."
Aziraphale had cried all over Crowley's best silk shirt. All Crowley remembered was that he'd never seen his angel cry before.
Two days later, Haster had taken no small amount of pleasure in getting a bit of his own back at the flash bastard tempter, AJ Crowley. He'd blown the black, 1926 Bentley to –literal- Hell and back. The car had glowed red, then white, then melted.
The vengeful duke of Hell hadn't stopped there. He'd gone to Crowley's posh flat and torn every single one of his precious flowers to shreds wit his bare hands.
Unlike Aziraphale, the minor demon hadn't broken down into a sobbing wreck. He'd calmly cleaned his sunglasses off on his shirt and said to the angel, "I'm going to kill him. Slowly."
Crowley had never gotten the opportunity to follow through on his threat. That night, both he and Aziraphale had been recalled by forces more powerful than either of them.
Michael, the warrior Angel had seen to the death of Adam. He'd slain the boy as he slept in his bed in Lower Tadfield.
It had been his thirteenth birthday.
Without any means of protection, what was left of the Them quickly fell to the vengeance of the Horse-persons of the Apocalypse. Turns out, the four beings took badly to the idea of being ousted by a bunch of children.
Aziraphale, in heaven, had been made to do penance for his disobedience, and for his close relationship with a certain dark haired snake.
It was the kind of punishment that had left small, circular scars through the angel's wrists and feet. By the time that Uriel had finally taken him off the cross, he'd have agreed to anything.
He'd been retrained with a flaming sword, and given a mission.
For his punishment, the forces of hell had been less meaningful, and more creative; They'd simply tortured Crowley within an inch of his sanity and told him not to screw up again as they shoved orders at him.
Both Crowley and Aziraphale had been given the same orders. Neither was surprised.
Time had passed on Earth differently than in Heaven or Hell. What had been centuries in both extremities had been only weeks on Earth. But weeks had been more than enough to turn peaceful neighborhoods into war zones. It had been more than enough to kill all plant life, and burn all buildings, and generally wreck civilization as we know it.
Blood and bodies littered the deserted streets of Soho as both angel and demon instinctively made their way to Hyde Park.
Crowley got there first. The pond was dry, the ducks were dead, the grass was brittle and yellow. Crowley stood amongst the splintered rubble that had once been the very bench that he and the angel used to feed the ducks on.
"Really, my dear," the angel had chastised Crowley for the billion and third time for teasing the ducks, "one day, they're going to get sick of your abuse."
The demon had thrown an arm casually around the back of the bench and leaned into the angel, turning the old temptation onto full blast.
"I doubt that, angel," he purred, "you haven't."
Aziraphale had turned his head and for a moment Crowley actually believed that the angel was either going to slap him or kiss him. Aziraphale did neither… he laughed.
"Very nice try, serpent, dear." The angel said, as he tossed the last of the bread to the ducks.
Crowley grinned and stood beside him by the pond, "It was worth a shot."
"Let's get lunch."
Crowley tossed and arm over his friend's shoulder and conjured a bottle of wine, "Lead the way, angel."
Crowley suddenly knew that he and his memories had an audience. The holy presence was familiar, but different. It didn't hurt him, but it wasn't comforting. Hell on earth, what could they have possibly done to the angel to change his Aura?
Aziraphale was having similar issues. The Crowley standing with his back to him was not the same Crowley who had held him as he mourned the loss of his beloved books. Where the angel had once seen a kindred spirit with a spark of goodness, he now felt only the presence of a demon. They'd killed whatever intrinsic goodness the demon had.
Crowley turned, and the two ethereal beings gasped. Crowley hadn't seen the creature in front of him in thousands of years. This man was not the kind, chubby, tweed-wearing angel Crowley had spent six thousand years with. This angel was the ghost of an enemy that Crowley had hoped never to see again.
The angel had most of Aziraphale's features, but none of his comfortable weight or horrible fashion. It's eyes were blue, but not alive the way Crowley's friend's had been. Its hair was like spun gold, but there was a coldness to his handsome features that Aziraphale's never had. In place of comfortable pudge, there was solid muscle. A hardness that well reflected the hardness in his blank eyes. Crowley never thought he'd miss the sight of tweed and tartan, but the angel looked somehow wrong in blue jeans and a white button-down oxford. The problem was, he looked sexy, and for Aziraphale, sexy was just wrong.
This was the Aziraphale from before earth.
The Aziraphale from before Crowley.
This Aziraphale didn't know the taste of wine, or tea, or cocoa. He didn't know the sleek feel of leather seats, or the roughness of tweed. This Angel was not Crowley's angel. He was the Aziraphale from before their friendship. From before a strange kind of camaraderie and companionship had wrapped them in a sense of belonging and love that had transformed them both.
Aziraphale was having trouble coping. The demon he saw standing before him made his heart constrict in his chest, painfully. He wanted to scream at the pure injustice of it all. It wasn't fair. He was supposed to love all things, wasn't he? So why was he being punished because he was more fond of Crowley than of pigeons?
Instantly, he felt a sharp pain echo in his angelic soul that had nothing to do with the demon, and everything to do with his own faith. There was rage in him, and that rage was like a knife twisting in his faith in the Father. He took a deep breath and remembered to never question the Plan. He said a silent prayer to himself, asking that the Father guide him through this holy mission, and give him the courage to see it through. In the back of his mind, another Aziraphale begged him not to hurt Crowley.
He slammed the door on that voice, and looked at his opponent with a measured, angelic, love-thy-enemy contempt.
The demon before him was not his friend, and never had been. The demon was a snake. The tempter of Eden had spun lies in Aziraphale's mind, and pushed him to the very brink of falling. He'd been a fool to ever trust the serpent. The hosts of Heaven had shone a light on the darkness within him, and explained that Crawly – not Crowley, there was no such person as CROWLEY – had manipulated his mind.
The despair and pain in the demon's eye was a very clever ruse, and the small voice in his mind telling him to be merciful of the monster was the monster himself.
Looking at what one another had become filled them both with a hatred rarely seen before on this plane of existence. Crowley, ever the flash bastard, lifted one dark eyebrow and the pain in his eyes turned to yellow fire. His mouth split into a grin that was downright menacing, and with a thought and an effort of will, the angel got a face full of temptation.
Aziraphale's entire body tingled with the force of Crowley's efforts. He'd never felt temptation this way before. Crowley was forcing it on him, turning his own emotions on themselves, and transforming his hatred into angry lust. For love and hate draw a very thin line of distinction.
It made the angel feel sick, and weak. His soul ached under the weight of the mortal sin, and he had to fight to remain standing. He realized he was making small breathless crying sounds, but he didn't know if they were from pain or longing.
As suddenly as the temptation was on him, it stopped. He stood panting, his blue eyes burning with dry tears and the sword in his hand alight with white-hot flame.
The words were familiar, but the meaning was different. What had once been a friendly and affectionate greeting was suddenly one full of condescension and loathing.
"Demon" Aziraphale answered curtly.
He had no interest in making small talk with the bastard, he just wanted to follow his orders and be done with the Snake of Eden, once and for all. He noticed that the demon had a sword of his own, though not flaming, that he'd yet to draw.
"I'm assssuming, sseeins as you're hhhere," Crowley hissed as he spoke, making a rattling noise in the back of his throat that no mortal could have emulated, "You have orders, yesss?"
"Correct." Aziraphale said, "To dispatch the tempter of Eden once and for all. To baptize him in the holy fire and-"
"So, are we gonna do this, or are you gonna talk about it all day?"
Crowley couldn't say much for the Down Below crowd, but at least they got to the point.
"Go kill your buddy, the angel," Beelzebub had said, "and don't fuck this one up, Crawly, if you value your skin."
Crowley drew his sword from the scabbard attached to his expensive black slacks, and prepared himself for the almightiest of rows.
Aziraphale lunged, launching himself through the air with an angelic grace, and aptitude for battle that few would ever have imagined possible from the once mild-mannered book keeper.
Crowley, with equal grace and better style, flipped himself out of the way, blasting the angel (his angel a voice in his mind corrected) with a fist full of hellfire. Demons aren't exactly renowned for fighting fair.
Aziraphale deflected the red orb of demonic flame with a flick of his sword and the hellfire against the holy flame exploded in a flash of pure lightning and a very loud bang.
The sword's flame extinguished, for the moment, at least, Aziraphale opened his hand, palm up, and began a quick chant. His palm filled with a substance very much like liquid silver, if liquid silver could radiate its own light.
Crowley barely had time to get out of the way when the angel released the Holy Light over the park. The shine alone was enough the burn the demon's skin, and Crowley crumpled slightly under the damning presence of the Heavenly Host.
The Light only lasted a few seconds, and when it was gone, Crowley knelt on the yelled grass, burned and panting. Aziraphale retrieved his sword from the side of the dried pond and stalked toward his foe, intent to finish this, forever.
"You almost got me, Anthony." Aziraphale said, using Crowley's preferred mortal name as a kind of curse, "You spent centuries tempting me, and it almost worked. I was fool enough to trust you, and you nearly damned me."
Crowley wheezed a huff of breathless laughter, "I never tempted you, angel. You're just a cowardly little heaven rat who, true to form, can't take responsibility. Blame the Demon, right Zira?
"You manipulated me," Aziraphale said, "nothing I felt was really me. It was your tricks."
Crowley lifted his head and smiled charmingly at the principality, "Wanna see another?"
He lifted his arm and punched the angel right in the mouth, "Ta-da."
Aziraphale stumbled back, dropping his sword. Crowley advanced on him, and the angel threw a punch of his own. It was fist, and direct, and it would have killed a mortal. Crowley barely flinched.
The demon lunged and tackled the angel to the ground. They wrestled on the grass like little boys, hitting, biting, and scratching anywhere they could reach. Given that they were both ethereal beings, they did a lot more damage to each other than mortals would have.
Crowley had Aziraphale pinned to the ground, and was bashing the angel's blonde head off a rock, repeatedly. The demon's snake-like eyes had gone red with fury, and he didn't notice when Aziraphale pulled an ordinary butterfly knife from his pants pocket until the angel rammed it into his side, just above his hip.
Crowley grunted in pain and fell sideways off the angel. He pulled the blade out his flesh. But the wound had gone deep. His mortal body was oozing blood from its newest orifice. The wound wouldn't kill him, but it might discorporate him.
Aziraphale, once again, retrieved his sword, and it burst into flame when he held it. The demon struggled to his feet as blood leaked in a heavy stream from his side.
Crowley stood his ground as the angel came closer. Six thousand years of memories flashed before his eyes. A billion bottles of wine with the angel, Nights at the Ritz, long drives in the Bentley, saving the world, facing off against the devil with a tire iron and a flaming sword, an angel who was just enough of a bastard to be worth liking, days spent drinking in the back room of the book shop. Countless discussions about… well, everything.
Aziraphale had been the one constant in Crowley's very long life. But as the wrathful angel came closer and closer with the flaming sword, Crowley realized that his angel was gone. Earth didn't seem worth it when Crowley thought of being here, alone.
If his Aziraphale didn't exist anymore, then there was really no point in a Crowley, either.
Crowley conjured up every image of his pudgy, middle-aged, kind, bookish, bastard of an angel and held onto them as hard as he could as waves of pain shot up his side from the knife wound.
It was a whisper, not meant to be heard by the intruder. But Aziraphale heard it, nonetheless, and the intensity of four syllables stopped him cold.
There was no temptation in them. Not a trace. There was no mischief, or damnation, or hellish deviance. There was no ploy behind them, because suddenly it was clear; Crowley wanted to die.
The realization cut through the angel's anger like a knife (the very same knife that had cut through Crowley), and the sword suddenly felt impossibly heavy in his hand.
Crowley swayed on his feet and blood oozed thickly down his leg. The demon felt his legs buckle under him, his mortal body giving out. Rationally, he knew that he could have healed the wound, but he refused. In the corner of his eye, he saw the blonde stalking towards him, the flame of his blade glowing brighter with ever step. Crowley raised his head and met the eyes of his angel.
Aziraphale raised the sword, and Crowley nodded, saying goodbye. The sword came down, slicing through the air with precision and purpose. Light flashed, blinding bright in the dull death of the park.
Crowley opened his eyes, and stared at the smoking sword as is scorched the earth inches in front of his knees. He watched as the blade dulled from pulsing red to dormant silver, untarnished by the tremendous heat.
"Oh, dear…" Aziraphale muttered as he looked down at the silver sword and the bleeding demon, "I can't."
The next second, Crowley's arms and mouth were filled with angel. The principality was kissing him with absolutely no skill and more than enough blind passion to make up for it ten times over.
The demon had only ever kissed Aziraphale once before. Back in the twelfth century, before the angel had promptly discorporated him. The kiss had been sloppy, drunken, rushed, and the fuel for several of the demon's guiltiest dreams over the centuries. They had been enemies at that point, only barely beginning to accept the ineffability of their companionship.
This kiss was different. It was as if something had finally broken in the angel, and he was hell-bent and determined to cross that final line, past the point of no return. Crowley, ever the opportunist, was more than happy to let that angel rage against him. To let his lips be scorched and marred and possessed by the virtuous love and sinful lust that radiated from the principality like fire.
Aziraphale loved him, Crowley realized. With absolutely no surprise, Crowley accepted that he loved the angel, too.
A beautiful woman, all in white, stood under a tree at Hyde Park. Beside her, and holding her hand tightly in his own was an equally beautiful man. They watched the angel and demon, and each felt the love that radiated from the young lovers.
"Finally," God said, brushing her blonde hair from her Sapphire-colored eyes, "somebody gets it."
Satan brushed his lips across her knuckles, "I guess that means the game's over."
God laughed, a clear honest sound that lifted hearts and mended the scorched earth around them. "No, love," She sighed, "it's only the beginning."